Jen Wyss

Ditch the Diet: Eat Smart

 About the Author Jennifer Wyss is a Fitness & Nutrition Instructor at The Fitness Center at Valley Medical Center in Renton, WA. Jennifer teaches Eat Smart classes at Valley. Learn more at

 Q: What diet plan is right for me?

Learning how to maintain a healthy weight can be complicated and confusing. There’s an entire industry built around weight loss and hundreds of diets: Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, Detox Diet, and so on. Weight-loss gurus tell you what to do, but not necessarily how to do it. And, when sticking to your diet gets hard, many have no advice at all to give.

 Overly specific  meal plans are hard to follow. You’ll have greater success if you ditch the diet and just eat smart.

 Q: What does “eating smart” mean?

Eating smart doesn’t mean you have to follow a diet. Instead, focus on a good nutrition behaviors. Start by mastering these five healthy eating habits – which, when done consistently, can become second nature over time:

1. Eat at least five servings of vegetables per day (one serving may be fruit) to aid weight loss

2. Curb hunger with one serving of lean protein (7g fat or less) at every meal

3. Control calories and cravings by drinking only water or unsweetened tea

4. Slow down when you eat and stop eating when you feel 80% full

5. Include healthy fats  in your diet (e.g. nuts, avocado, olives), limit saturated fat to 15g or less per day (e.g. meat, eggs, butter, dairy) and eliminate trans fats altogether

 Q: What is a healthy fat? Shouldn’t I avoid eating fat?

Understanding fats is important. We’ve been trained to keep a diet low in fat, but new research reveals that isn’t helping obesity rates at all. In acknowledgement, the USDA inverted the food pyramid. Good fats, in moderation, help manage cravings and hunger.

 Q: What about carbs? Are they bad for me?

Carbohydrates have received a lot of attention, but the true culprit is sugar—both simple sugar and sugar broken down from carbohydrates. Many people don’t realize how much sugar they consume each day. Natural sugar found in fruits and other whole foods is fine, but added sugar contributes calories without any added nutritional value.  Also, when sugar is consumed in excess it has been found to lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

 Start reading nutrition labels more closely to get a sense of how much sugar you consume on a regular basis and see what you can do to minimize your daily intake.

 Q: What about sodium/salt? 

Too much sodium in your diet can lead to high blood pressure and life-threatening diseases.

 Q: This seems like a lot… where do I start?

It’s difficult to be successful when you’re trying to incorporate many new healthy habits at once. So, pick one area of your diet and focus your energy there. I recommend that everyone try to set aside an hour each week for meal preparation. Plan each meal, clean and chop vegetables in advance, and brainstorm three “emergency” meals to grab on the go: a smoothie, tuna fish salad, an omelet or two eggs with added egg whites and a side of fruit. The time savings and convenience during the week will help you keep from reaching for unhealthy comfort foods.

 How your body metabolizes food is unique to you. Pay attention to foods which seem to make you feel more energetic or sluggish, or cause negative reactions (breakouts, bloating, headaches, weight gain) and fine-tune your food choices.

 Stay the course. Cravings can be physiological or behavioral. It’s important to recognize the meaning behind cravings and implement strategies to combat them. One bonus: over time, your five health habits will retrain your taste buds so that some cravings disappear.

 For more information about eating healthy, visit

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Chris Schraner

Managing Holiday Feasts When You Are Diabetic


A healthy diet is not only critical to proper diabetes management, but will also help you stay at a desirable weight, control your blood pressure, and prevent heart disease and stroke. The arrival of the holiday season does not have to disrupt your diabetes management. With a little preparation, you can avoid the holiday feast anxiety and enjoy your time at the table.

  • Focus on friends and family instead of food. Remember, the holidays are a time to slow down and catch up with your loved ones. Play games, volunteer, or spend time outdoors enjoying the weather together.
  • It’s a party, but don’t overdo it. Eat slowly, and really enjoy the foods that you may only have once a year. If the meal will be served near your usual meal time, try to eat the same amount of carbohydrate that you normally would for a meal. If you plan to have a portion of dessert, cut back on another carbohydrate food during the main course. Make sure your portions are reasonable and resist going back for second helpings.
  • Eat before you eat. Don’t skip meals or snacks earlier in the day to “save” calories and carbs for the large holiday feast later on. If you skip meals, it will be harder to keep your blood glucose in control. Also, if you arrive somewhere hungry, you will be more likely to overeat.
  • Bring what you like. Don’t spend time worrying about what will be served. Offer to bring your favorite diabetes-friendly dish. If you count carbs, check your recipe’s nutrition facts so you know how big a serving is and how many carbs it has.
  • Drink in moderation. If you drink alcohol, remember to eat something beforehand to prevent low blood glucose levels later. Whether it’s a glass of red wine or a beer, holiday drinks can add a significant amount of calories to your holiday intake. Keep it to no more than 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men.
  • Stay active. One reason that we have problems managing diabetes and weight during the holidays is our lack of physical activity. Sure, the holidays are busy, but plan time into each day for exercise and don’t break your routine. Make the holidays an active time!
  • If you overindulge, get back on track. If you eat more carbs or food than you planned for, don’t think you have failed. Stop eating for the night and focus on spending the rest of your time with the people around you. Include extra exercise, monitor your blood glucose levels, and get back on track with your usual eating habits the next day.

If you are cooking over the holidays here are some healthy tips to lower caloric intake, fats, and sugars:

  • Use nonstick cooking spray instead of oil, shortening, or butter.
  • If you do use oil, use canola, olive, or sunflower oil instead of vegetable oil.
  • Season foods, such as meats and steamed vegetables with herbs and spices (such as pepper, cinnamon and oregano), vinegar, lemon juice, or salsa instead of salt, butter or sugary sauces.
  • Use low- or no-sugar jams instead of regular jams.
  • Eat whole-grain, high-fiber cereals or oatmeal with skim or 1 percent milk.
  • Use low-fat or fat-free dairy products like milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream in place of full fat versions.
  • Avoid drinks with calories. Don’t drink juice, soda or other sweet beverages and limit your intake of ‘diet’ versions.
  • Trim excess fat off meats and eat chicken or turkey without the skin.
  • Always buy lean cuts of meat and choose a healthy cooking method such as broiling, roasting, stir-frying, or grilling.
  • Buy whole-grain breads and cereals instead of processed, refined grains like white flour.

For more information about managing diabetes over the holidays contact our Diabetes Education and Nutrition Clinic.

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Kelli Collins, BS, Exercise Specialist

Exercising for Two is as Important as Eating Healthily for Two!


Gestational diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy, and preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure, are two of the most common pregnancy complications. They are both potentially serious and can result in present and future health risks to you and your child. 

Did you know the risk of these complications may be reduced through regular exercise?* It’s true! Your fitness level goes a long way in keeping you healthy before, during and after your pregnancy.

What’s the skinny on how much I should weigh during my pregnancy?
The average, healthy woman should gain 25-30 lbs during pregnancy; 28-40 lbs if underweight (body mass index (BMI) less than 18.5). If overweight, (BMI of 25 or higher), weight gain should stay within 11-25 lbs.** If you are underweight during pregnancy it can cause malnourishment, low birth weight in your baby, and premature delivery. Weighing too much during pregnancy can cause gestational diabetes, back pain, leg pain, fatigue, varicose veins, high blood pressure, and increased risk of needing a C-section.

Isn’t it bad to jump around while I’m pregnant?
While jumping on a trampoline isn’t recommended, according to The American College of Sports Medicine, during pregnancy you should exercise aerobically at a moderate intensity (moderately hard to hard), for 15-30 minutes, 3 days a week at minimum, and preferably daily.

You should also, at the very least, add low-weight strength training to your routine. This will help to ensure you are strong enough to carry your baby in his or her car seat, along with your diaper bag and everything else you can’t leave the house without! Resistance training during pregnancy should be performed at a modified intensity. The recommendation is 2-3 days per week, with a day of rest in between. It should include 6-10 exercises, and 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions.

You’ve convinced me! I’m going to train for a marathon!
If you are new to regular exercise you should start slowly and increase your workouts gradually. You can continue the activities you enjoyed before pregnancy as long as they don’t involve contact (basketball, soccer, etc.) or being in a supine position (gymnastics).

 SERIOUSLY: Reasons to Stop Exercise While Pregnant***
 If you get a sudden onset of headaches, if you are short of breath before  you start  exercising, if you have vaginal bleeding, chest pain, muscle weakness, calf pain or  swelling, if you sense decreased fetal movement,  or if there is amniotic fluid  leakage  discontinue exercise and contact  your provider promptly.

Ready to give it a try but don’t know where to begin?
Here are some safe exercises that you can do throughout your pregnancy. 

Bicep Curls (great for strengthening your arms to pick up your kids, car seat, groceries…)
Squats or Sit-to-Stands (great for preparing to sit and then stand with a baby in your arms)
Wall Pushups (great prep for pushing a stroller)

Basic exercises with dumbbells are perfectly safe during pregnancy, just remember you are taking care of someone else, and your energy may not be what it was. Decrease or add weight as needed.

Nervous about exercising in a gym?
Pregnant women may hesitate going to the gym, because they feel awkward working out around serious lifters and lots of machismo. Or they may feel like they can’t do the same exercises. There are all types of prenatal group exercise classes that women can participate in during pregnancy, from prenatal yoga to water aerobics. Both prenatal yoga and prenatal water aerobics are modified versions of their original counterparts to avoid twisting, high impact activity, and getting in compromising positions that are not cleared by physicians during pregnancy. Make sure to look into a prenatal yoga class from a certified instructor. Prenatal yoga instructors are trained to learn the proper positions and movement during pregnancy. Prenatal water aerobics is great for those who were not physically active before becoming pregnant because it is very low impact, but still offers a great workout! Valley Medical Center’s Fitness Center offers prenatal water aerobics twice per week!

Congratulations on your pregnancy, and on your new physical fitness!

* 2005 Jul;33(3):141-9.
No need for a pregnant pause: physical activity may reduce the occurrence of gestational diabetes mellitus and preeclampsia.
Dempsey JC, Butler CL, Williams MA
Source: Center for Perinatal Studies, Swedish Medical Center and Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98122, USA

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***Before starting any new exercise programs always consult with your provider, OB/GYN, and/or exercise specialist first. 

Looking for a new physician? Visit or call our free find-a-physician line: 425.277.DOCS (3627).




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