5 Tips for Healthier Dining

Chef Daniel helps us make smarter food choices

Eat Like You Have Diabetes

Chef Daniel Thomas serves up 5 tips for making healthier food choices.

En español | When he was a seventh grader in Washington, D.C., Daniel Thomas wrote in an essay that when he grew up, he wanted to cook for the president of the United States. And he’s done exactly that.

The 30-year-old chef first learned to cook from the ladies at his father’s church when he was 3 years old, and he was catering dinners for clients by the time he was 17. He has cooked for members of Congress, former President Obama and Vice President Biden, as well as celebrities from Aretha Franklin to Miss America, while working as a head chef of the U.S. Senate’s executive dining room and the head banquet and catering chef for the U.S. Capitol.

But the thing he’s most proud of has nothing to do with politicians or other boldface names in the news. Rather, it is about helping his father avoid diabetes.

“My grandparents were borderline diabetics, and when I was in my first year of college, my dad [Weldon, now 62] was told he was borderline diabetic,” says Thomas, who calls his father — now retired from the Air Force and a pastor — “my biggest role model and inspiration.”

By 2006, when Thomas was accepted into the Culinary Institute of America, one of the nation’s most prestigious cooking schools, his father needed to test his blood sugar level daily.

So when Thomas began studying nutrition as part of his curriculum, he started helping his father improve his diet. “He would ask me, ‘Is this OK to eat? Can I eat this?’ and I would make suggestions.”

The changes in his father’s health were dramatic: He lost four pants sizes — “no more big papa bear tummy,” Thomas says with a laugh — and began walking regularly on the treadmill and swimming at the Y. “He felt so much better and had so much more energy, he went back to school and earned a doctor of ministry,” Thomas adds proudly.

Best of all, his father no longer needs the daily blood sugar tests.

Thomas, who now cooks for private clients and is AARP’s Healthy Living chef, says he believes that “everyone should eat like they have diabetes. It works.” He offers these five easy tips for making healthier choices:

  • Don’t eat past 7 p.m. It’s better for your digestion and metabolism. If you start feeling hungry later, have a healthy snack such as nuts or fruit.
  • Low-carb your burger. Get rid of the bottom bun and eat the burger open-faced. “That one little change slashes the amount of empty carbs.”
  • Keep nuts in your glove compartment. Stuck in traffic and feeling hungry? High-protein nuts will keep you from stopping for junk food.
  • Do the avocado mash. Spread it instead of mayo on whole wheat bread for healthy fat, fiber, and vitamins.
  • Nix the noodles in your chicken soup. Add quinoa or barley to boost protein and fiber. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, a squirt of lime juice and a little hot pepper

Bad News for Diet Soda Lovers

Study links artificially sweetened drinks with higher risk of stroke and dementia

Bad News for Diet Soda Lovers

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President Donald Trump gulps down a dozen Diet Cokes each day, The New York Times reported Saturday. You might think drinking sugar-free diet soda is better for you than regular soda, which is packed with sugar. After all, experts have been sounding alarm bells for years about the dangers of consuming excessive amounts of sugar, which has been associated with obesity and a litany of health problems.

But research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke earlier this year finds that the artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks are also a cause for concern, as they have been linked to a greater risk of stroke and dementia.

The April 2017 study involved 2,888 adults older than 45 and 1,484 adults older than 60. Researchers asked the participants to answer questions about their eating and drinking habits at three separate points during a seven-year period. Then, for the next 10 years, they kept tabs on the participants, recording which of them suffered a stroke or developed dementia.

In the end, researchers learned that those who drank at least one artificially sweetened drink per day were nearly three times more likely to have a stroke or develop dementia compared to those who drank ess than one a week. Their findings held up even after adjusting for other factors such as age, gender, calorie intake, diet quality, physical activity and the presence of genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

The data collected did not distinguish between the types of artificial sweeteners used in the drinks.

Although lead researcher Matthew Pase of the Boston University School of Medicine acknowledged that the findings showed only a correlation — and not causation — he said they do provide yet one more piece of evidence that diet drinks are not as healthy an alternative to sugary drinks as many people think.

“We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages,” he said in a statement.

Pase added that the study shows a need to direct more research to this area, given how often people drink artificially sweetened beverages.

Responding to the new study, the American Beverage Association released a statement saying that low-calorie sweeteners found in beverages have been proven safe by worldwide government safety authorities.

“The FDA, World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority and others have extensively reviewed low-calorie sweeteners and have all reached the same conclusion — they are safe for consumption,” the statement said. “While we respect the mission of these organizations to help prevent conditions like stroke and dementia, the authors of this study acknowledge that their conclusions do not — and cannot — prove cause and effect.”

Even so, you might want to think twice before gulping down diet soda. A 2015 study of adults 65 and older found that those who drank diet soda daily gained more weight than those who never drank it. Still another previous study found that diet soda could disrupt gut bacteria, leading to glucose intolerance in some people and raising the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Prescriptions Health…Exercise Is The Key

Find the right path to treat your condition

Women power walking exercising on sunny path in autumn park

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Walking can help your blood pressure, sleep patterns, mood and more.

A walk is a proven way to treat a host of ailments, but not everyone should take the same path. Here’s what the experts recommend:

High blood pressure: 25-35 minutes; moderate pace

How walking helps: It can lower blood pressure, according to a 2010 review of 27 trials on the topic. A 2016 report by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that walking reduces your risk for coronary artery disease.

Walking Rx: Shoot for at least 1.75 miles at 3 to 4.5 mph most days of the week to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, says Paul T. Williams, a life sciences researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.

Arthritis: 5-30 minutes; leisurely pace

How walking helps: It strengthens the muscles that support joints, helps you shed pounds and reduces joint stiffness. In a 2015 review of 54 studies, researchers concluded that walking, like other exercises, was as effective as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for pain relief.

Walking Rx: Leigh F. Callahan, associate director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, recommends starting with five minutes of walking and building up to 30 total minutes per day — at once or in separate walks — for five days per week. If the pain is worse two hours after the walk than it was before the walk started, take a less intense walk the next time.

Osteoporosis: 30 minutes; leisurely pace

How walking helps: Walking helps preserve bone.

Walking Rx: Try to walk 30 minutes a day, five days a week. “Three 10-minute walks a day are as bone-strengthening as one 30-minute walk,” says Andrea J. Singer, M.D., of the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Depression: 20-30 minutes; a varied pace

How walking fast helps: It increases the production of serotonin, dopamine and other brain chemicals that lift your mood, says John B. Arden, author of The Brain Bible.

Walking Rx: Start with 10 minutes of strolling, then walk briskly to 75 percent of your maximum effort — a pace that makes talking difficult. Keep that up for two or three minutes, then resume a strolling pace. Repeat these intervals for 20 to 30 minutes.

Insomnia: 15+ minutes; relaxed pace

How walking helps: Morning walks expose your body to essential early daylight. “Bright light inhibits the body’s secretion of melatonin, our natural sleep agent. When you block melatonin in the morning by walking outside, it then bounces back later in the day, helping to promote sleep,” says Donald W. Greenblatt, M.D., director of the Medicine Sleep Center at the University of Rochester in New York. Late-afternoon walks can also help, as we sleep best when our bodies are in cooldown mode.

Walking Rx: In the morning or the late afternoon, aim for a 15- to 30-minute walk. It’s best if you can walk daily. Walk at a comfortable pace, and finish your walk at least three hours before bedtime. Be patient: Some evidence suggests that it can take a couple of weeks to get the full sleep benefit of exercise, so don’t be disappointed if you are not experiencing an immediate effect, Greenblatt says.

Type 2 Diabetes: 45 minutes; relaxed pace

How walking helps: It provides better blood sugar control, especially as we get older and become more resistant to insulin. The benefits are immediate, says Robert Gabbay, M.D., the chief medical officer at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Walking after eating sweets can prevent a blood sugar spike.

Walking Rx: Walk for 15 minutes at an easy pace (about 3 mph or so) about a half-hour after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Research shows that short post-meal walks, three times a day, were as effective as one 45-minute walk in improving blood sugar control over 24 hours. If you’ve been sedentary and haven’t walked for a while, start out with a five- or 10-minute walk after each meal. Because people with diabetes can develop foot infections due to reduced blood flow to the feet, it’s important to get properly fitted for walking shoes. Your podiatrist can help.