Meadville Tribune

Breaking News

Our Health

December 13, 2013

Sail through the holidays with joy: dos and don’ts

In my work, there is often a lot of disagreement over what the “healthiest diet” is, or the “best way” to eat. Of course there a variety of answers to these questions, but there are clear sets of scientifically supported guidelines for diet and exercise. Yet, with so many people taking on the role of “nutrition expert,” the diet industry continues to grow each year and is a multi billion dollar (yes, billion) industry, promising quick fixes and “new diets.” Do you fall prey to eating poorly from April through December, and then fall into a fad diet trap in the new year?

In general, a healthy diet is without question:

- Balanced for carbohydrate, fat and protein

- Limited in saturated fat, but adequate in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat

- Low in sodium

- High in fiber — full of whole fruits and vegetables

- Low in sugar — but not sugar-free

- Providing adequate calories for maintenance of a healthy weight, which also includes getting enough — and most likely, more — daily physical activity

People are often motivated to “go on diets” not because of health; they just really want to look hot in their jeans (who doesn’t?). Weight control is important to health, however, so if getting into a pair of jeans is what motivates you, go for it.

On the other hand, weight control is an every day obligation that mostly involves managing habitual behaviors. If behavior change wasn’t so difficult, there would be no obesity epidemic. Eating habits are generally formed at a young age but can be fine-tuned as adults. While you may have little control over your God-given body shape, or the natural spare tire that forms in middle age, you do have control over how much weight you gain as you age, and how fit you are, and the types of foods and beverages you consume.

During the holiday season (and all year actually), I like to focus more on “healthy habits” as opposed to arguments over which “diet” or which food is best.


- Stick to a healthy breakfast routine — such as oatmeal with fruit, a slice of whole wheat toast with an egg, or whole grain cereal with low fat milk.

- Enjoy your favorite holiday treats, but eat a “taste” and small portions of them.

- Plan an hour a day of physical activity. Schedule it now.

- Take an extra walk whenever possible. Bring a flashlight and get everyone outside for a fun family walk around the block after dinner, even if it’s just a 15 minute one.

- Weigh yourself a couple of times a week to be sure your weight stays stable.

- Cook from scratch. Not only will it taste better, but it will be better for you.

- Find ways to add fruits and vegetables to your holiday celebrations. A simple fruit or raw veggie plate can help you and your guests get more fiber and healthy antioxidants into the diet, while also helping control portions on high calorie foods. Pack an apple for your next shopping trip.


- Throw in the towel after one bad day (or meal) of eating.

- Get down on yourself for a missed exercise session — just fit it in the next day or hour that you can.

- Skip meals or starve yourself before a party (or ever).

- Over-buy at the grocery store. Make a list, and stick to it. Resist the urge to “stock up” on packaged items such as crackers, holiday candies or cookies, or frozen snacks.

The truth about diet and nutrition is complicated. Please don’t preach about how the way you eat is best, especially if you’ve never taken a biochemistry course. High protein diets, such as the popular “paleo” lifestyle (eating meats, animal products, and vegetables, and shunning dairy, most fruit, and grains), may elicit weight loss initially, but for most people, aren’t sustainable. A balance of complex carbohydrates and dairy foods can have a healthy place in the diet.

If you host someone who has “gone paleo” this holiday season, try to be patient. Don’t try to convince them to eat otherwise (even though this is a scientifically unfounded diet that applauds copious amounts of bacon but keeps dairy, legumes, starchy vegetables, fruit juice, grains, and all sweets, on the “not allowed” list. There is good research, however, that saturated fat is linked to both heart disease and cancer, and more recent research is exploring its link to brain health). Let them do their thing as long as they don’t pronounce it as the only way to eat.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) published a position paper entitled Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating at, which was just updated in February. It states, “It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that the total diet or overall pattern of food eaten is the most important focus of healthy eating. All foods can fit within this pattern if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with physical activity.”

That sums it up. Enjoy the season with good, wholesome food, moderate portions and plenty of exercise. Happy holidays.

Rosanne Rust, a local registered dietitian and author, can be contacted via her website,, or by emailing her at

Text Only
Our Health
  • Don't let a desk job negatively impact your health

    If you’re female, you might want to consider a more physically active career to avoid a variety of cancers.

    July 21, 2014

  • Study focuses on cancer in those who apply pesticides

    This year marks the end of the Agricultural Health Study, a 20-year study of the effects of pesticides on farm workers and their families. Although the study focused on Iowa and North Carolina, there are still some elements that are important for Pennsylvania farmers as well as anyone who handles chemical compounds.

    June 30, 2014

  • Learn to swim and keep drowning at bay

    When you and your family hit the pool or the beach this summer, you need to be aware of a phenomenon known as secondary drowning, or dry drowning.

    June 16, 2014

  • ‘Planting’ the seeds of a better diet this summer

    Summertime is a great time to make improvements to your diet and lifestyle. Despite the conflicting “advice” you may get about diet when reading the popular press (not to mention all of the “food rules”), adding more plants to your diet is always a good idea.

    June 9, 2014

  • Is the idea of drinkable sunscreen worth swallowing?

    Tired of greasy, sticky hands after applying sunscreen? Even the spray-on sunscreens leave you inhaling fumes that you shouldn’t breathe. Well, enter a new era of skincare products: drinkable sunscreen.

    June 3, 2014

  • Survivor stories: Beating cancer with faith and family love

    I recently talked with Rebecca Arbuckle of Meadville to discuss her journey with breast cancer and how she was able to beat it with faith, strength and the love of her family. Although our conversation was upbeat and filled with confidence, there were times that emotion broke through, as it should, for having faced such a battle and won. I am in awe of the people I have had the chance to interview and am honored to share their stories.

    May 27, 2014

  • Uncovering the simple fix to the 'super bug'

    The World Health Organization has identified a serious threat to human health around the globe. Known as a “superbug,” this antimicrobial resistant bacterial infection has been coined “AMR” (Antimicrobial Resistance).

    May 19, 2014

  • Get educated about high blood pressure and eating better

    May is High Blood Pressure Education Month, and one in three Americans have it. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading risk factor for stroke. Hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer” since you may feel no apparent symptoms. Yet, high blood pressure will cause damage to the blood vessels, brain and heart over time.

    May 13, 2014

  • Researchers: colon cleansing health benefits a myth

    Researchers have found that while colon cleansing has been around since ancient times, the health benefits are basically a myth.

    May 5, 2014

  • Prescription for Medical Nutrition Therapy

    Nutrition is a vital part of being well, and an even more important part to getting well (or healing). It’s a critical part of prevention, yet if I surveyed physicians or lay people, and asked them “Does diet therapy work?” chances are at least 70 percent of them would say “No.”

    April 21, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide