Changing Your Food Environment

GroceriesMaybe you have great plans to eat right, but not everyone around you shares those plans. At work, Cheryl brings candy to share with the office, Joe likes to go out to lunch and your spouse likes to keep ice cream (your weakness!) in the house at all times. There are temptations everywhere and the more temptations you have, the more likely you are to eventually give in to those temptations. We only have so much willpower and when you’re continually bombarded with temptations, it’s only a matter of time before you may give in to temptation!

What are you supposed to do? Change your food environment! Make it as easy as possible on yourself to make the healthy choices and avoid the unhealthy ones. Are you tempted by the Starbucks on your way to work? Drive a different way to work so you don’t have to see it. Are you tempted by the snacks on Cheryl’s desk? Ask her to put them away so you don’t have to see them or, if you’re not comfortable with asking her to do that, try avoiding her desk. Joe wants to go out to eat, but you know that dining out you are almost guaranteeing that you will consume more calories than you should. If it’s just about getting out of the office for a while, try bringing your lunch and having it picnic style at a nearby park. You have control over what you’re consuming and you still get to clear your head and de-stress from the work environment.

You’re tired at the end of the day. Fast food or a frozen pizza sure sounds like a quick, easy dinner so you can get straight to relaxing for the evening. Well, of course you know these aren’t the healthiest choices. Keep some pre-cooked chicken at home for evenings like this or freeze leftovers from previous nights, so all you have to do is pop the food in the microwave for a few minutes and your dinner is ready. Plan ahead and throw dinner in the slow cooker before you leave the house for the day. By doing this, you’ll have a healthy dinner ready to go and you don’t even have to put forth much effort to have it. Steamer bags of vegetables are quick and easy additions to the meal as well. By keeping your refrigerator and freezer stocked with these items, you are more likely to make the healthy choice.

Make a list of your personal temptation foods or temptation situations. Then, write an action plan for how you’re going to lessen the temptation. By putting this in writing, it makes it a little more official and you’re more likely to stick with it. Hang it up on the fridge or somewhere that you see it on a daily basis so you are constantly reminded to make the best choices. If you need more suggestions on how to improve your food environment, contact our office.

Making Wise Choices This Cinco de Mayo!

MargaritaStacey Newsletter PicPost Submitted by: Stacey Brouk, MS, RD, LD

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

This holiday typically includes alcoholic beverages and Mexican food. You could easily consume hundreds, if not thousands, of extra calories today! Does one day of indulgence ruin all your progress? No, but it can certainly slow you down, so I urge you to be smart about your choices today.

While I’d say your healthiest option is to avoid the traditional happy hour foods and drinks, realistically, some of you may opt to celebrate with some of the traditional foods and drinks anyway. So, here are cinco (five!) suggestions for a healthier Cinco de Mayo celebration.

  1. Keep portion control in mind. If you’re going to have a margarita, go with the small one instead of the giant one they serve you in a fish bowl.  To give you a rough idea, a 4 ounce margarita is roughly 168 calories, while a 20 ounce margarita would be more like 840 calories. Skip out on the salt or sugar on the rim, too. Instead of the regular margarita, many restaurants will offer a skinny margarita that contains significantly fewer calories than their original. This would be a much better alternative.
  2. Alternate any alcoholic beverages you plan to have with water. This will help you drink fewer calories. Remember that the calories from drinks don’t help fill you up and they don’t have any significant nutritional value, so it is really good to limit them as much as possible.
  3. Remember that most restaurants are more than happy to allow substitutions, so it is ok to ask them NOT to bring out the chips and salsa or to leave off the sour cream. Ask for your taco salad to be on a plate instead of served in a fried taco shell. Skip the rice, too.
  4. Look for items that are grilled, rather than fried. Most Mexican restaurants will have grilled chicken and veggies, so if you don’t see it on the menu, just ask!
  5. If you’re having your own Cinco de Mayo party at home, you are in control of the food. You can get the “Mexican” flavor using things like lime juice, cilantro, chilies or just a little salsa. There is no need to fry anything to get the flavor. You may find some inspiration for your healthy Cinco de Mayo dishes at

Enjoy the day and be proud of the healthier choices you make today! 🙂

Why Exercise?

All tportrait of a mid adult woman jogging in a parkoo often, we focus on exercise for the sole purpose of helping you burn calories and achieve your weight loss goals. While exercise is great for this reason, there are so many reasons you should be exercising. If weight loss isn’t enough to motivate you, perhaps some of these other reasons might get you to lace up those jogging shoes!

  • Physical activity can help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Did you know that heart disease and stroke are the two leading causes of death in the United States? It’s true. Regular exercise can help manage your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which all impact your heart health.
  • Reduce your risk for diabetes and metabolic syndrome by getting regular exercise.  If you already have diabetes, exercise can actually help you control your blood glucose levels better and help lessen your risk for future diabetes-related health complications.
  • Physical activity can help reduce your risk for colon, breast, endometrial and lung cancer. If you’re a cancer survivor, physical activity can also help you improve your overall quality of life.
  • When you are physically active, you are strengthening your bones and muscles. This can help prevent falls, fractures and other injuries. It also helps make every day activities much easier to complete.
  • Improve your mental health and your mood by exercising. When you exercise, endorphins (also known as the feel good chemical in your brain) are released, making you feel better able to handle the stresses of the day. Exercise can reduce your risk of depression and even help you sleep better.

The key take-home message is this: exercise is important for everyone at every stage of life. It helps keep us healthy and allows us to lead a healthier life in the long run. Find something you enjoy doing and make time for it at least 150 minutes per week. If you don’t plan for it, you won’t find the time. Schedule it into your day and make it happen.

See more about the benefits of exercise at

Creative Ways to Squeeze in a Workout

BikePost Submitted by: Stacey Brouk, MS, RD, LD

If you’re busy juggling work, school, kids, a social life and more, you are not alone! With so much going on, how are you supposed to find the time to get your exercise in every day? It would be so nice to somehow build in an extra hour every day to make it happen! But, since that’s not an option, let’s talk about some realistic, creative ways to get your workout in, while still keeping up with everything else in your life.

  • Instead of going to happy hour or dinner with friends, why not take a fitness class together or go to the gym with friends? You can still have social hour, but instead of consuming lots of calories, you can burn them.
  • While your kids are at their Boy Scout meeting, soccer practice or gymnastics, bring workout clothes and walk around the building, the track or even up and down the stairs. You can get a good workout in while waiting for your kids activities to be over and it is a lot more productive than sitting and playing games on your phone.
  • Do you live somewhat close to your work? Consider biking or walking there instead of driving. Save yourself money in gas and get your workout in twice a day.
  • Keep a pair of shoes, some socks and headphones at work. Take your lunch break to go for a walk. This is great for those of you that feel like you literally have zero spare time. Perhaps you can even walk for your entire lunch break and eat at your desk as you work.
  • If you can’t figure out how to leave your kids to work out, bring them with you. If they are small enough, invest in a jogging stroller, a bike seat attachment or a baby carrier to add extra weight to your workout and make it just a little tougher! That way there is no need to find a babysitter while you work out.
  • Do you normally find time for TV, social media or web surfing throughout the day? If so, consider doing these activities while on a treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical. If you don’t have any of that equipment, jog in place, jump rope, do sit-ups or use a fitness app to give you a workout to do while you watch TV.
  • While not always a popular option, you can always try waking up a little extra-early to grab some exercise time before you start your day.
  • Don’t have time for 30 – 60 minutes of exercise at a time? Try waking up 10 minutes earlier and getting 10 minutes of exercise in first thing in the morning, taking 10 minutes of your lunch break to break a sweat and then taking 10 minutes in the evening to exercise as well.

Proper time management is key in making sure you get your exercise in.  Most of you CAN make exercise happen at some point throughout the day, but it may take a little creativity. There are people that work full-time, go to school full-time, have families to take care of and still find time to work out. They manage their time very efficiently and often utilize creative techniques to make it happen. Think very hard about how you could make it happen. If you make exercise a priority, I’m confident that you can find the time for it.

Avoid Late-Night Snacking

PretzelsStacey Newsletter PicPost Submitted By: Stacey Brouk, MS, RD, LD

Do you catch yourself looking for food at night? You ate your dinner an hour or two ago and now you find yourself digging through the cabinets and refrigerator to find something to satisfy the urge you are now getting to eat. Are you really hungry? Chances are, no.  Oftentimes, late night snacking is more of an old habit. You associate watching your favorite TV show with eating a snack. Sometimes it is due to stress or boredom. Whatever the case may be, nighttime snacking is typically not due to physical hunger. Nighttime snacking can add up to a lot of extra calories and can easily hinder your weight loss.

This is not an easy habit to break, but it is essential for your overall health and weight loss. When you feel the urge to have a nighttime snack, distract yourself instead with exercise, calling a friend, working on a hobby or drinking a glass of water or sugar-free beverage instead. Don’t expect yourself to master this in a day. You’ll probably slip up a time or two, but keep working at it. Practice makes perfect when it comes to forming a new nighttime routine.

Just Say "No" To Soda

SodaStacey Newsletter PicPost Submitted by: Stacey Brouk, MS, RD, LD

I get a lot of questions about sodas, so I thought I’d share my professional opinion on the issue along with recent studies and information I’ve run into lately to help you make healthy decisions. With sodas, the concern is often the amount of sugar and calories that they contain or the artificial sweeteners and a whole lot of debate surrounding them. My opinion is that you’re better off without all of it, even including the diet options. Let me explain…

After having bariatric surgery, the carbonation found in sodas can actually cause a lot of discomfort and is not recommended for that reason. We also do not want you drinking your calories, so regular sodas, fruit juices, sugary flavored beverages, etc. are all off limits. By drinking these high-calorie, sugary beverages, you are sure to slow down your weight loss progress and that is not the goal for anyone going through this process. In addition, some of you may have an adverse reaction to the high sugar content found in these items (Dumping syndrome, anyone?!).

Some other reasons why you should say “no” to soda are in this video about the hidden costs of drinking soda. Take a moment and watch it at: It’s very interesting to see how drinking soda negatively impacts not only you and your health, but also the economy and environment. I also ran across this related story the other day at Basically, their research indicated that overweight study participants that drank diet sodas ended up eating more throughout the day than those that drank regular sodas. That essentially means that, contrary to popular belief, drinking diet sodas does not really contribute to weight loss. So why bother?

Certainly the debate about artificial sweeteners may play into your decision as well, but be aware that the research against artificial sweeteners is conflicting and there is no reason to avoid them based on solid scientific research. The FDA considers many of the artificial sweeteners on the market as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). The FDA also has established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) level for each artificial sweetener, which represents the maximum amount that is safe to consume on a daily basis with no health concerns. Generally speaking, incorporating some artificial sweeteners into your diet is fine. If you’re consuming large quantities of it all day every day, then there may be more cause for concern. But remember, the research is not clear at this point in time. For more info about the ADI’s for artificial sweeteners and all sorts of information on artificial sweeteners, check out this great resource from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association):

As always, water is your BEST beverage choice. It has no artificial junk in there, no calories and no sweetener of any kind. That’s about as safe as you can get. And remember that beverages don’t come any cheaper. Turning on your faucet and getting a glass of water costs you practically nothing. That sure beats the cost of soda.  When presented with options of what to drink, remember to just say “no” to soda and make a healthier choice!

Battling A Sweet Tooth?

LollipopStacey Newsletter PicPost Submitted by: Stacey Brouk, MS, RD, LD

Do you find yourself battling a sweet tooth? This problem is unfortunately very common and can be difficult to fix. It seems like if you have a little something sweet, you just end up wanting even more. So what do you do? Do you tell yourself to have no sweets altogether? Do you allow yourself a set portion and cut it off beyond that portion? What’s the best way to handle it?

The best way to handle this will vary from person to person. Some of you may be able to completely eliminate sweets from your diet. That’s great if you can do that, but that method often backfires for many people and only makes them crave sweets even more. Sometimes it helps to choose a healthier sweet, such as a piece of fruit. Not only is fruit naturally sweet, but it is also typically lower in calories than that candy bar, cookie or ice cream, and it contains many nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber.  While fruit may not always be your first choice, it is a much healthier alternative to other sweets and can do the trick. Try some frozen grapes, apple slices dipped in vanilla yogurt or a baked pear topped with cinnamon and Splenda.

Another option is to set some boundaries and limitations with sweets, such as one Hershey Kiss per day, a latte per week, etc. Then, stick with it! Find a buddy to help you be accountable to for this. Peer pressure can certainly help in this situation as long as your accountability buddy is supportive of your plan and serious about helping you! Consider also having a reward system for when you have achieved your goals for a certain amount of time. For example, if you have limited yourself to one sweet treat per week for the entire month, treat yourself to a pedicure, a massage, a night at the movies or something else that you would enjoy that doesn’t involve food!

Quick & Healthy Lunch Ideas

MP900303004[1]Dining out for lunch can add up to excessive calorie intake and could really slow your progress when trying to lose weight. Many meals you could make at home could save you several hundred calories (and some money, too!) when compared to what you get when you order out. We understand that you need items that are quick to prepare and easy to bring along with you. Here are just a few suggestions to get you started.

  • Stock your office with a few healthy, non-perishable items (canned tuna, canned chicken, canned fruits or veggies) so when you forget your lunch or when you don’t have time to pack one, you have a healthy option available to you already and there is no need to go out for lunch.
  • Grab some lean lunchmeats and low-fat cheese and wrap it around a pickle spear for a delicious, high-protein lunch. Add a piece of fruit or some veggies to complete the meal.
  • Portion your leftovers from dinners into individual servings in storage containers. Throw them in the freezer and when you need a lunch in a hurry, you can grab one of your frozen meals on the way out the door in the morning.
  • Create your own boxed lunches in the evening, so they are ready to just grab and go the next morning. You can include egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad or some other form of protein, sliced raw veggies and healthy dip (mix fat-free Greek yogurt and Hidden Valley Ranch packet), some cut up fruit and perhaps a few whole grain crackers.
  • If you’re still going to dine out for lunch, do your homework! Go online and research the nutrition information for your restaurant selections before you go. Try to find something that is lower in calories and have a few go-to meals that you can pick up when you’re in a pinch and want to/need to go out for lunch.

Support After Bariatric Surgery

As you are well aware, bariatric surgery is merely a tool. Your success depends on how well you use this tool and the effort that you put into making healthy lifestyle changes. Studies have shown that those who do not show up for regular follow-up visits are less successful with weight loss. If you are having problems and make regular follow-up appointments, we can work towards resolving those problems as they arise rather than after they have gotten out of hand.  For our band patients, we recommend following up once every month for your first year after surgery and once every two to three months in subsequent years. For patients who had the gastric bypass or sleeve procedures, we recommend following up every three months for the first year and once per year after that.

A registered dietitian is now part of the Heart of America Bariatrics team and can help you with a variety of issues, such as coming up with healthy breakfast options, tips for increasing your protein intake, or deciding which vitamins are right for you. We also have this newsletter, our Facebook page, blog and Twitter pages to provide you with extra tips and support. The hospitals we work with have support groups that can be helpful for you, as well. We encourage you to take advantage of all of these great resources. As always, we are accessible to you by phone or e-mail, so please don’t hesitate to call with any questions or concerns. Get the support you need and be successful with your weight loss and health!

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