Healthbeat Report: Food Fight

December 16, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Diet experts say actually eating more and adding certain foods to your day can increase energy, boost mood and even keep those unwanted pounds off. Here's how.

Galter LifeCenter member Leah Benton is a busy mom on a mission. She is determined not to let the holiday season sabotage her waistline and crush her mood.

"It's crazy. With all the shopping and holiday parties," said Benton.

So she's controlling what she can. Part of her plan is to fill her tank with foods that do more than ease hunger pangs.

"I just feel like the more wholesome foods really help me," Benton told ABC7.

Jenny Schwartz, a registered dietitian at the Galter LifeCenter, says a few strategic diet moves can help you fight back when holiday stress strikes. The first rule: don't skip a meal before a big party. One way to guard against overindulging is to have whole foods such as vegetables or whole grains earlier in the day.

"That way when you get there you are not starving and everything looks so amazing," said Schwartz.

Small meals throughout the day are also recommended. And don't try dieting right now. Instead, experts say try to maintain where you are at.

And then there is the fight fire with fire approach. Did you know certain foods can actually affect how your body responds to stress? These so-called super foods can also help shield the body from craving foods high in fat, salt and sugar. Think brain chemical boosters.

"Serotonin, neuroepherine, all of these different neurotransmitters will affect how you feel," Schwartz explained.

Serotonin is a brain chemical thought to boost mood, curb cravings, even help you sleep better. To up this chemical dietitians recommend whole wheat bread or pasta, brown rice, and oatmeal. Also on the list: foods rich in B6 such as poultry, seafood, bananas, potatoes and leafy greens. Foods rich in Omega 3s can also help. Those include salmon, tuna, mackerel walnuts and canola oil.

"If you can work some good fishes and salmon maybe twice a week that can help," Schwartz advised.

Low levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine may cause depression irritability and moodiness. Experts say these neurotransmitters depend on adequate amounts of tyrosine to function. You can find this amino acid in almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products and pumpkin seeds.

Acetyllcholine is another neurotransmitter associated with for good mental function and memory. Boost levels by eating wheat germ, eggs, beef, cauliflower, tofu and peanut butter.

"Doing it one time is to going to make the huge difference, but actually being consistent," said Schwartz.

Finally, exercise also boosts beneficial brain chemicals and a workout can help work off those extra holiday calories. Benton says it helps keep her balanced.

"I feel like I have a lot more energy. My mood is definitely a lot better," she said.

Trying to avoid all the fun party foods isn't a good strategy either. Dietitians say there's no need for deprivation. Have a little and just keep an eye on portion sizes. They say one trick is to put those snacks on a napkin instead of a plate. Then you are less tempted to pile it high.

Galter LifeCenter
5157 N. Francisco Ave.
Chicago, Ave.
Affiliated with Swedish Covenant Hospital
Jenny Schwartz, RD, LD

American Dietetic Association

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