Food & Fitness After 50: Surviving and Thriving the Holidays

Here come the holidays and with them lots of myths and misinformation about food and nutrition.

First, I want to be clear that we don’t need to restrict our enjoyment of traditional foods served during the holidays. But, some of us tend to go overboard and throw out all common sense when it comes to eating and exercising in the period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. How many of us say, “I’ll start healthy eating and exercising on January 2?”

Let’s start with a holiday weight gain. What is the average amount of weight gained during the holidays (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day)?

  • None
  • 1-2 pounds
  • 5 pounds
  • More than 5 pounds

nihms663481f1The most common answer is 5 pounds, but no one really knew for sure. So, in 2000 a small study with about 200 adults was published and reported that the average weight gain was about 1 to 2 pounds.

However small the weight gain, it tended not be lost in the spring or summer and the researchers surmise that about 50% of annual weight gain is tied to the holiday period. One to two pounds doesn’t sound like much, but fast-forward 20 years and the extra weight adds up. During the holidays we might adopt a more carefree attitude when surrounded by so many social events featuring lots of special foods with greater variety and bigger portions. Couple that with less physical activity during the winter months and it is easy to see why we tend to gain a few pounds.

What can we do? A study with 111 adults randomly assigned to daily self-weighing or no weighing during the holiday period found that the group who self-weighed did not gain weight and the control group gained a few pounds. Interestingly, the individuals who were overweight and self-weighed lost a bit of weight. I’m an advocate of self-monitoring of weight. No one needs to obsess over the number on the scale, but for many it can be a motivator to maintain weight.

Is turkey coma a real thing?

We’ve all heard it and some of us have probably said it, the reason we are tired at the end of the Thanksgiving meal…. turkey coma! The origin story is clear. Turkey is rich in protein, protein is made of amino acids, and one of those amino acids is tryptophan which is a starting compound for making the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin has a calming effect. But here is where the connection between tryptophan from our turkey dinner and serotonin in the brain gets murky. First, our Thanksgiving dinner, including the turkey, contains many other amino acids and they compete for entry into the brain by sharing carriers that shuttle compounds across the blood brain barrier. If we only ate a meal with just tryptophan it could make you sleepy, but we don’t. And, chicken has the same amount of tryptophan as turkey, but we don’t talk about “chicken coma!”

5835c3211a00002500cc97f0So, what makes us sleepy? Most likely it is the large meal that we consume. As the big meal gets digested the small intestines stretch sending signals to “rest and digest.” Couple the big meal with a beverage choice for many of alcohol, which also has a sedative-like effect. and a perfect sleepy state is likely! So, don’t blame the poor turkey!

What about the pie?

Dessert abound at holidays, but from a nutritional standpoint, which is the best choice?

  • Apple pie
  • Pecan pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Sweet potato pie

OK, they all taste great, but the pumpkin and sweet potato pies are the nutritional champs. One slice has about 300 calories but about 80% of your daily need for vitamin A. I know, you don’t eat pie for vitamins, buy why not? Choosing nutrient-rich foods is always a smart idea. The apple and pecan pie weigh in at 400 and 540 calories, respectively. Enjoy a taste of any or all but remember that the second half the dessert tastes just like the first, so scale back your portions.

Don’t forget to be active

Keep your activity up during the holidays by engaging family and friends to move away from the televised football games for a game of touch football. And, many of you have pool tables, ping pong tables, or other game tables in your house or garage, so organize a fun tournament to get people off the couch. Check out local organized events, like Turkey Trots. Last year, my niece got us involved in a “Gobble Jog;” running or walking a 5-K event on Thanksgiving morning is a refreshing way to start the day.

Thanksgiving 2018

And, take “activity snacks” throughout the day. Set your fitness watch reminder to get up and move every hour. Even 5-minute activity snacks can add up to help meet exercise goals.

Happy, healthy holidays…from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, here’s hoping you enjoy the festive period. Let me know what you did to stay active or eat healthfully this year by responding to this post!

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.


Food & Fitness After 50: My Favorites from Philadelphia’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo

Every fall about 10,000 dietitians get together for 4 days of education, networking, and fun. The meeting is packed with workshops, breakfast briefings, committee meetings, education sessions, culinary demos, receptions, and hundreds of exhibitor booths. For me, the meeting is more about networking, connecting with old friends, and meeting new ones. While I enjoy the education sessions, I get more science from the specialized workshops than from the general sessions. However, the general sessions help me understand what health professionals are concerned about and what their patients or clients are asking about.

While it is hard to pick favorites, here my highlights from 2019.

My favorite workshop was sponsored by The Beneo Institute on the gut microbiome. Canadian researchers presented data on the progressive loss of diversity of gut microbiota when low fiber diets are consumed. And, Canadians and Americans are woefully short of dietary fiber in their diets. Fiber is not only needed for regularity but maybe more importantly as a source of food for our gut bacteria. We’ve talked about probiotics in previous posts but prebiotics…the food source for gut bacteria is taking on greater interest. One well-studied prebiotic fiber is chicory root fiber or inulin, used as an ingredient in some yogurts, bars, and cereals to boost fiber. And, because chicory root fiber is slightly sweet, it can lower sugar content at the same time as increasing fiber. The workshop concluded with a demonstration of the challenges of adding fiber to our favorite foods (some fibers form gels when mixed with water that would change the texture and palatability of foods) and ended with a taste test of muffins made with chicory root fiber to demonstrate the ability to increase fiber and while decreasing sugar. You might read in the popular press that chicory root fiber or inulin should be avoided because it can cause bloating and gas. Anytime you eat a lot of fiber, especially if your diet is low in fiber, you can experience gas and bloating. That is why dietitians always tell patients and consumers to gradually increase fiber intake. Gradually increasing fiber, including prebiotic fibers, is good for the gut and good for health.

My favorite educational session was “Redefining Aging and Embracing Longevity.” The speaker, Brenda Richardson, is a superstar dietitian in long-term care. Her lecture started with a series of videos on ageism and if you can have a few minutes, watch this video from Australia on how ageism affects us all. “We are not at risk for aging, we are aging,” was a central message. She shared some useful resources on reframing aging initiatives and the Frameworks Academy, offering a free course on communications and aging.

protein noodlesMy favorite new product bite in the exhibit hall was courtesy of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, tasting Trident Seafoods Wild Alaska Pollock noodles; these noodles are fully cooked and have 10 grams of protein per serving. I’m ready to try them in my favorite Pad Thai.



Pistachio crusted chicken with lemony greens

My favorite new recipes from sponsor receptions are included below. As I have said before, I don’t develop recipes, but I love trying new ones. Pistachio Baked Herb Chicken with Lemon Baby Greens, from Wonderful Pistachios, is absolutely mouth-watering! The recipe isn’t online but here’s a picture of the recipe and email me at if you want me to send the recipe. I made this dish when my brother-in-law was in town and it will be in regular rotation of recipes in my house.

Another recipe is from General Mills. Mini chocolate peanut butter bites, a sweet treat, but with the small portions, the calories are kept in check (but, it is so good you might be tempted to eat two or three!) I made a batch to take to a neighborhood cookout tonight but I should have tripled the recipe as they were gone in flash! mini-chocolate-peanut-butter-bites

My favorite reception? Well, that is easy and while I’m not one to brag, my friend and business partner, Stephen McCauley of The Ginger Network hosted a soiree in my honor for receiving the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Medallion Award for lifetime achievement. The reception was held on the 59th floor of The Four Seasons Hotel and the views, the food, the friends were all fantastic! We always say that Stephen knows how to “ginger things up,” and he more than gingered up this event. He even made medallion stickers for everyone to wear! I’ve been a dietitian and an involved volunteer in my professional organization for 45 years. To be honored by one’s peers and celebrated by one’s friends is humbling, exciting, and made this meeting the most special one yet!

Food & Fitness After 50: Keep Active Every Day

Cibola Nat'l Forest
Barbara at Cibola National Forest

I met Barbara through exercise classes at the YMCA and volunteering at our local county library, but I didn’t really know her, and my hunch was that this 65-year old energetic, vibrant, kind woman would have lots to offer on eating well, moving well, and being well. So, I invited her to lunch and my intuition was correct. She was joining me after a visit to the assisted living facility where her father lived until his death about a year ago. She was dropping off home-made banana muffins to the staff and residents because she gained an affection for them for treating her father so well. That is a definition of a kind person!

Barbara spent her working life in administration and moved into sales for a financial product. Like many who live in this small town, she and her husband were weekenders to the lake and when they retired about 5 years ago, they moved into their lake house for full time residence. She says she is busier than ever, a refrain that is frequently heard from retirees. With five children and four grandchildren she still finds time to do the things she enjoys, mainly keeping active every day.

Move Well

shinrinyoku“I’ve always been an outdoor person,” says Barbara. ”I love being in nature and I embrace the Japanese concept of forest bathing (not bathing in the sense that we think of it), but the idea that being surrounded by trees in nature brings peace and rejuvenation.” She is right; being in the presence of trees is part of a public health program in Japan, stated in the 1980s called “shinrin-yoku” or an appreciation of nature. A walker for most of her life she enjoys hiking, pickleball, and rollerblading. “There was an office park near by my office and every day after work I would roller blade 10 miles. It was my absolute most favorite exercise! If I could find a suitable place to roller blade, I would still be doing it.”

gardening-www5At the YMCA, she can be found in 2 classes most days as well as playing pickleball on some days. “Dance aerobics, yoga, and boot camp are my go-to classes…I do one for fun and one for a tough workout.”  As member of the local botanical garden, she has learned enough to care for her garden which she calls “organized chaos,” but it keeps her outdoors, her happy place.

She has also paid more attention to her balance, something we all took for granted when we were younger. “Besides yoga, I try to work on my balance every day. I stand on one foot when brushing my teeth and practice getting up from a seated position on the floor without using my hands. I haven’t mastered that yet, but I’m trying!”

Eat Well

Family Beach 2018About 11 years ago, Barbara became a pescatarian, eating fish and seafood, and avoiding meat. “I didn’t do it for health reasons, but for environmental and ethical reasons.” She enjoys a mostly plant-based diet with lots of veggies. “I love the hydroponic lettuce that is grown here in town and I buy it by the case as a base for my daily salads.” I love to eat, but I try to control my portions and fill up on the good stuff.” She does treat herself every night to something sweet, usually dark chocolate, but is mindful of the portions.

Be Well

I used to tell my sons, “every day when you get up you can choose to have a positive attitude or choose to be a grump. I try to keep a positive attitude and always look for the good in a situation; I surround myself with positive people and have no time for negativity and complaining. That keeps me well.”

pexels-photo-319834She is an active volunteer keeping her connected to her community and provides the social aspect of being well. When we met, I encouraged her to join me in the Friends of the Library and she is now the president of our little group. She also belongs to a neighborhood dinner club and the previously mentioned botanical gardens.


When I asked Barbara what challenges she faces, she laughed and said that number 1 was she loves food! Doesn’t seem like a challenge to me, but she explains that she when dining out or going to parties she wants to eat everything, so she practices restraint, but still enjoys all the foods.

And, despite her love of nature and being active, she says there are some days when she doesn’t want to go to an early morning exercise class. “I have a hard time giving myself permission to listen to my body and take a morning off. But my friends remind me it’s OK and I’m trying to heed their advice.”

Tips for healthy aging

Barbara offers these succinct tips to eat well, move well, and be well.

  1. Say no to diets and enjoy any food you like in moderation.
  2. Do stuff that makes you happy.
  3. Do things with people that you enjoy. The social connection is critical as we age.
  4. Aim for financial freedom; stay within your budget and don’t put yourself needlessly into debt by buying a bigger house or newer car.

I think we can all get on board with those tips!

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.



Food & Fitness After 50: It’s Movember: A Movement to Raise Awareness on Prostate Cancer

Moustaches 3x. His and Hers.MuttsnuttsIn 2003, two friends in Melbourne, Australia were having a beer when they began talking about fashions and fads that have faded with time. The conversation got around to moustaches and they decided to bring back the facial hair in the month of November. Inspired by a friend’s mom who was raising funds for breast cancer research, they decided growing a mustache for prostate cancer awareness would be a unique way to capture public attention. Hence, Movember was born.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. according to the National Institute of Cancer. Since prostate cancer cells grow very slowly there are efforts to reduce growth through chemoprevention, that is compounds in foods or drugs that can slow the growth.  One of the most promising is a naturally occurring red pigment of the carotenoid family called lycopene (lye-co-peen). In plants, lycopene protects their cells from light-induced stress. Apricots, guava, and watermelon contain the compound, but they can’t beat the lycopene content in tomatoes and tomato-based products like canned tomatoes in all forms, including tomato sauce, paste, and marinara sauces. Which brings me to my favorite t-shirt, the one that gets a double take every time I wear it my exercise class. chris

Lycopene is a lipophilic, meaning it has an affinity for fat (lipids) so eating tomatoes with some fat will increase absorption. Maybe that is why a drizzle of olive oil over fresh tomatoes tastes so good. But, another way to increase lycopene absorption is through heat treatment, as in the canning process. Cooking makes lycopene about two and half times more available to the body. While there is no recommended dietary intake (RDA) for lycopene, studies show about 10-20 milligrams/day is a good bet. One cup of tomato sauce has 46 milligrams, while tomato catsup has only 2 mg per tablespoon.

Research presented at the 2016 American Institute for Cancer Research Conference “based on a systematic review of 66 population-based studies conducted over a period of more than 20 years to identify trends that indicated a relationship between tomato and lycopene consumption and prostate cancer incidence found that men who consumed higher amounts of lycopene had an 11 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to those who consumed the least; highest amounts of circulating blood lycopene was also linked to a 17 percent lower risk. There was a 1 percent decrease in prostate cancer risk for each additional 1 milligram of lycopene consumed per day. An average tomato has about 3 milligrams of lycopene.”


Tomato Wellness Line Up

While the research is promising for slowing prostate cancer cells, it is far from conclusive, so please don’t turn to lycopene supplements, but do eat plenty of tomato-based products for not only their lycopene, but for the vitamins A and C, folate, and potassium.

For those of you who say, “I never eat processed foods,” think again when it comes to canned tomatoes. According to Alec Wasson, “chief tomato evangelist” with the Tomato Products Wellness Council, “canned tomatoes are harvested in the field and immediately whisked to a nearby processing plant, where they are sealed within 3-6 hours, capturing the flavor and nutrition of tomatoes at their peak. And since about 85% of the lycopene in our diets comes from tomatoes, canned products are easy, affordable, and versatile.”

So, as November is upon us and prostate cancer awareness is a theme for the month, enjoy eating canned tomatoes in every form this month, and the other 11 months, too. For more information on all things tomatoes and tasty recipes check out Tomato Wellness. And, for those of you who ask where you can get a cool “Legalize Marinara” FNCE 2019 Medly (1)shirt, click here. 

And, 100% of all t shirt sales goes directly to Movember Foundation.

P.S. You might know that botanically tomato is a fruit, but in 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court declared tomato a vegetable (it went to the court based on a tariff dispute!)

For more on foods that fight cancer and other chronic diseases check out Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon or other booksellers.

Disclosure: I have no affiliation with the Tomato Wellness Council or any of the products shown here. I simply love tomatoes!

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.