Skip Navigation

"Ask the Experts" Wellness Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

Support Healthy Habits In Children

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Dr. Michelle May does amazing work in the mindful and intuitive eating world.  Please enjoy the article below written by her.   A voice of reason for a society consumed by dieting, weight, food, and eating.  Vol. III Issue 2 

You’re Not the Boss of My Body! Healthy Habits in Children

By Michelle May, M.D. 

We live in an abundant food environment; food is fast, convenient, often highly processed, and relatively inexpensive. As a result, many of our children are overfed but undernourished.

To protect our children from becoming victims of our current environment, we must make sure they have the tools to thrive while maintaining a healthy weight.

The good news is that children are born with the most important skill—the instinctive ability to know how much food their body needs. Instinctively, babies cry to let their parents know when they’re hungry. Toddlers in perpetual motion eat only small amounts of food but manage to eat frequently enough to meet their needs. During periods of rapid growth or activity, they may be hungry all the time. When their calorie requirements decrease, they lose interest in food.

The bad news is that we can destroy their instinctive skills with our good intentions. If parents or other caregivers feed a baby to calm every cry, the baby may learn that eating can soothe any discomfort. When they’re given food to keep them quiet or busy, they learn that they can distract and entertain themselves with food.

Once a child is old enough to sit at the table, well-intentioned parents will play games and praise the child to encourage them to eat. They may say “Good boy! You ate all your dinner!” This is a wonderful time for creating positive feelings about mealtime but it also teaches the child that eating makes mommy and daddy happy.

Parents sometimes coerce older children to eat everything they were served by saying “clean your plate or you don’t get dessert.” Children may decide that since their parents have to bribe them to eat it, the dinner must be the “yucky stuff” and sweets are the reward for eating more than they were hungry for. The result is a lifetime membership in the Clean Plate Club.

The bottom line is that although meeting the basic nutritional needs of your children is critical, it’s important to provide meals and snacks in a way that respects their hunger and fullness cues and teaches them that while eating should be enjoyable, food is primarily for nourishment. If not, the stage is set for food and weight problems in the future.

Here are the keys to helping children thrive in our abundant food environment.

  • Children are born with the ability to naturally regulate their food intake to meet their caloric needs. Pay attention when they say they are hungry or full.
  • Don’t force children to clean their plates or bribe them with dessert for finishing their meal.
  • Never use food as a reward. Reward desired behavior with praise, extra attention, and privileges.
  • Don’t comfort your child with food. Use understanding words and hugs instead.
  • Help your child develop interests and skills that increase their success and pleasure so they will be less likely to turn to food for fulfillment.
  • Teach your children to cope with their emotions effectively so food won’t serve that purpose for them.
  • Don’t impose stringent food rules since this may lead to rebellious eating when your children are out of your control.
  • Avoid labeling some foods as “good” and others as “bad.” Instead, teach your children how to balance eating for nourishment with eating for enjoyment.
  • Involve children in shopping, meal planning, and preparation. This is a great opportunity to teach them about nutrition—and they’re more likely to try new foods they picked.
  • Sit down and eat together as a family. Mealtimes should be a pleasant time to reconnect with one another and model healthy eating and conversation.
  • Help your child build a lifetime activity habit by reducing the amount of time your family spends in sedentary activities like TV and video games.
  • Plan fun activities that provide everyone with exercise, enjoyment, and time together.
  • Be a positive, encouraging role model for your family. When your children see you enjoying healthful foods and physical activity, they are more likely to do the same.

Prevention of food issues and the development of lifetime healthy eating and physical activity habits begins in childhood. It is never too late to learn these skills!

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. Find other articles and resources at

SMART Goals 2011

Friday, January 7th, 2011

A recent informal survey done by a popular press magazine** found that 56% of people enjoy holiday treats moment by moment; 36% tend to “over do” once or twice a season and 8% report “I’m on a diet, so I work hard to stay on it.”  37% of respondents report their exercise doesn’t happen during the holidays and 42% report they may or may not exercise.  If your nutrition or exercise program got lost over the holidays/winter break, now is a great time to “get back on track.” 

  • Decide what area of your life you really want to make changes
  • Set small measurable goals—we call them SMART goals
    • S—Specific
    • M—Measurable
    • A—Attainable
    • R—Relevant
    • T—Time Sensitive

Smart goals help you specify the actual behaviors you want to change; it’s like a road map for your goal.  For example, if you’re goal is to eat healthier, it’s helpful to fine tune that.  What does that mean?  Do you want to eat more fruits?  Do you want to eat more whole grains?  Do you want to eat fewer cookies?  Decide specifically what you want to do.  If you want to increase your fruit you might write a goal as:

I will take two fruit servings with me to work, Monday-Friday.  I will eat one piece for morning break and one piece for afternoon break when I am hungry.

Do you see how that is different than “I’m going to eat healthier”?

If you want to increase your activity you might write a goal as: I am going to walk from 6:30-6:45 p.m., Monday-Thursday evenings. 

Another exercise SMART goal might be:  I am going to do the 30 minute Pilates video on Tuesday and Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m.

  • When writing a smart goal ask yourself how confident you are that you will follow through.  You can use a scale of 1-10. A rating of one (10% confident) means, I know I’m not going to do that (i.e. do the Pilates) and a rating of 10 (100% confident) means I’m convinced I will do that.  If you are below a 7 (70% confident) in your confidence rating, you may want to re-write the goal so that you are at least 70% confident you can accomplish your goal.
  • After a week of working on a specific goal, evaluate the goal.   Ask yourself what went well, what didn’t go so well and is there anything that you need to change to accomplish that goal.  Then you can change or add a goal depending on your success with your previous goals.
  • Behavior change is a series of small incremental changes maintained over time.  If you are taking a 3,000 mile road trip, you don’t expect to be at your destination in an hour.  The analogy can be used for health related behavior change.  Changes occur one step at a time.
  • Call in help if you decide you can’t do it by yourself.  Sometimes we need additional resources to help us on our health and wellness journey.  If you are consistently struggling to meet your weekly goals, it may be time to call in a professional.  Resources including personal trainers, a registered dietitian, fitness classes are available at your Campus Recreation Center.  Call 472-3467 for more information or check out their website at:  

**InStyle Magazine; December 2010, page 50, 52

Fueling Your Workout–It’s not Fitness Without Nutrition

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

As the weather gets nice we take to the outdoors and increase our activity.  It is natural to be more sedentary during the winter months and increase our activity as it gets nicer outside.  If you are increasing your activity to increase your fitness level remember that it is not fitness without nutrition.  This article about fueling your workout was written by senior dietetics major Dana Rybak may help. 

What you eat before and after a workout really matters!  Information about what to eat when it comes time for fitness can be confusing.  No matter what time of day you exercise or what your fitness goals are, the key to an effective workout begins and ends with good nutrition.

The major source of fuel for active muscles is carbohydrates.  Eating a carbohydrate-rich food 30-60 minutes before exercising creates readily available fuel that will keep you energized as you work out.  Higher-fat foods before exercising are slower to digest, stay in your stomach longer and can cause some stomach upset.

Your post-exercise meal or snack is important for muscle recovery, especially if you’ve had an intense workout.  Eat a key combination that pairs protein (for muscle healing) and carbohydrates (for replenishing energy).  Consuming this energy-replacing duo within 30-60 minutes of working out is important since that is when your muscles are most receptive.

Some great examples include:

Pre-workout foods:

  • A piece of fruit
  • Toasted English muffin with jam
  • Peanut butter on ½ bagel
  • Handful of goldfish crackers

Post-workout foods:

  • Glass of chocolate milk
  • Yogurt topped with granola
  • Small bowl of whole grain cereal with low-fat milk
  • Fruit smoothie

And rememeber “It is not fitness without nutrition.”


Whole Grain: Every Little Bit does Help

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

This article was submitted by senior dietetics major Chern Yann Chng

It is still National Nutrition Month and the theme is “Nutrition from the Ground Up.”  And yes, whole grains are from the ground.  And did you know that each additional gram of whole grain consumed can help you maintain a healthy weight?

Recent studies have shown that people who eat whole grains tend to maintain a healthier body weight.  And the fiber in whole grains can reduce overeating because fiber improves satiety.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating at least 3 servings of whole grains per day. One serving of whole grain includes:

  • 1 slice of whole grain bread
  • 1 cup of whole grain ready-to-eat cereal
  • 3 cups of popcorn
  • ½ cup of cooked oatmeal
  • ½ cup of cooked whole wheat pasta 

 Here are some simple tips to help you easily add whole grains to your meal and enjoy eating them.

  • Select whole grain breads or wraps for sandwiches.
  • Eat whole grain cereal for breakfast.
  • Try some whole-wheat pasta in pasta dishes.
  • Add crunchy, whole grain granola to yogurt or fruit cup.
  • Have popcorn or whole wheat crackers as a snack.

Small nutritional changes can improve your health. Try whole grains today, it is never too late.


Whole Grain Council. Health Studies on Whole Grains. Available at:

March Is National Nutrition Month: Nutriton From the Ground Up

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

March is National Nutrition Month. The theme for National Nutrition Month 2010 is “Nutrition From the Ground Up.” It seems like a good time to write about fiber since many of the foods that we eat that are good sources of fiber are from the ground up in some way. Enjoy the article below written by Senior Dietetics Major Emily Estes.

Dietary Fiber: An Important Component to a Healthy Diet

We hear a lot about dietary fiber and the importance of including it into our diet.
What is it exactly about fiber that provides benefits to our health?
How can we ensure we are getting enough fiber in our diet?

Two types of fiber exist as part of plant foods we consume: soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is helpful in lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels.
- Insoluble fiber is beneficial as it promotes the movement of material through the digestive system. This is especially essential in helping individuals who deal with constipation or irregular bowl movement.

What are the recommended levels of dietary fiber to include in your diet?
In general 21-38 grams of fiber a day is recommended, but more specifically:

14grams of fiber for every 1000 calories Consumed Daily:

14g 1000kcal
17g 1200kcal
20g 1400kcal
22g 1600kcal
25g 1800kcal
28g 2000kcal
31g 2200kcal


What are good sources of fiber to include in your diet?
Dietary fiber is mainly found in plant foods such as vegetables, fruit, grains, and nuts. Fresh, canned, and frozen fruits and vegetables contain the most fiber. As foods go through processing they may lose some of the dietary fiber they contain

Dietary Fiber Content in a Variety of Foods
Serving Size Fiber (g)
Apple 1 large :  3.3 grams of fiber
Banana 1 medium:  3.1 grams of fiber
Pineapple 1 cup :  2.2 grams of fiber

Beans (baked, canned, plain) 1 cup:  10.4 grams of fiber
Broccoli 1 cup:   2.3 grams of fiber
Carrots 1 cup:  3.1 grams of fiber

whole Grain Bread 1 slice:  1.7 grams of fiber
Oatmeal 1 cup:  4 grams of fiber
Brown Rice 1 cup:  3.5 grams of fiber

Almonds 1 ounce:   3.3 grams of fiber
Walnuts 1 ounce:  1.9 grams of fiber

Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. 2008.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2 September 2009 [
a/files/ PIIS0002822308015666.pdf]
Dietary Fiber. May, 2007. Colorado State University. 2 September 2009 [http://www.ext.colos]

Dietitians V. Nutritionists

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Registered Dietitians, more than just a “nutritionist.”
By Karen S. Miller, MS, RD, LMNT, CPT

Nutrition is an important part of the physical element of wellness. In fact, often times when people talk about wellness they are talking about the physical aspect of wellness especially nutrition and fitness. A registered dietitian can be an important member of your wellness team.

A registered dietitian has a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a 6-12 month approved supervised internship. They must take a national registration exam and in many states including Nebraska they may be licensed. Many dietitians have advanced degrees in nutrition, dietetics, exercise, public health or related degrees.

You might think, so what? What does this mean for me? A registered dietitian can take the scientific information you read about in the newspaper and translate it to usable information.

You might consult a registered dietitian if:
-You have a medical condition that can benefit from nutrition charges
-You are trying to lose weight
-You are trying to gain weight
-You are a vegetarian and you’re not sure if you’re getting proper nutrition
-You have questions about the latest information in the world of nutrition
-Or you’re trying to make lifestyle changes related to nutrition and don’t know where to start or are stuck
-You are just interested in being sure that you and/or your family is eating in the best possible way

Look for a registered dietitian to help you with your food and nutrition goals and to answer your questions. All registered dietitians are “nutritionists” but not all “nutritionists” are registered dietitians. Get your information from the food and nutrition expert, your registered dietitian (R.D) If you have specific nutrition questions go to and click on “ask the nutritionist.” The question will go directly to me, your registered dietitian.