Beyond Banana Boats: Benefits of Summer Camp

YMCA of Greater Houston Camp Cullen—girls with c'sIt was a great summer at YMCA Camp Cullen – full of memories, friendships, confidence, skills, first-time experiences, cheers and laughter! More than just a retreat, camp was a valuable resource to grow and educate campers.


You’re probably familiar with the summer learning loss. Your children fall prey to it when they spend their summers not engaging in educational activities. Your children can help avoid this…at camp.

YMCA of Greater Houston Camp Cullen—boys huggingCamp Cullen’s priority is equipping children with new skills, opportunities for friendships and tools to become a better version of himself or herself. Character growth learned at camp leads kids to be more well-rounded individuals.

This growth is fun! Campers love the “camp experience.” When they first arrive, their excitement is tangible. They run, scream, take cabin photos, paint their handprints onto the session flag, learn cheers and meet counselors.

Camper Natalie T. says she loves coming to camp because “everyone is so nice and it’s easy to make new friends. The best part is that I get to do all the activities with my friends.”

These friendships provide a support structure children need. In addition, research supports that involvement in positive outside-of-school activities correlates with academic success. Children who are involved in extracurricular activities walk away with better test scores, attendance, homework completion, and grades.

YMCA of Greater Houston Camp Cullen—boy waterskiingACTIVITIES

During time on land, campers can take a film-making program, go horseback riding, climb the high ropes course and zip-line, learn archery or riflery, participate in geology, mineral discovery and more. During their time in the water, they can cut through the lake on Banana boats, learn sailing, kayaking and canoeing, hang on tight for a wild tubing ride, and perfect their balance on the paddle boards.

“Campers are free to choose what they do which develops their independence,” says Camp Director Mish Hood. “Most spend more time in nature than they ever have before.”

“Something I will always remember about Camp Cullen is the feeling of freedom and the outdoors,” says camper Sophia Q. “I will always remember coming here and making memories.”

YMCA of Greater Houston Camp Cullen—boy flying through airTOOLS FOR IMPACT

While the activities and time in nature may sound like all fun and games, they are actually the camp’s tools for impact. “Whether it be a Banana boat ride, a climbing tower or a horse,” says Mish, “we are looking to grow a child’s confidence, equip them to make good decisions, and help them form lifelong bonds with their new camp friends.”

Each activity challenges campers differently. Some push them to the limits of their comfort zone while others allow them to thrive while doing what they love. Camp Cullen’s award system focuses on expanding campers’ horizons and encouraging them to learn new skills they can take from camp to the real world.

YMCA of Greater Houston Camp Cullen—kids on Banana boat“It takes me out of my comfort zone and pushes me to be better,” says camper Audry S. “Being encouraged to participate makes me feel like I’m included in the group.”

This feeling of belonging fosters teamwork and collaboration; kids learn to communicate with one another to work in unison. These lessons are the ones that stick with a child into adulthood and follow them the rest of their lives.

If you’d like to check out YMCA Camp Cullen, come to one of our Weekend and Family Camps, a wonderful way to spend time with your family in the great outdoors and see what Camp Cullen has to offer.

Receive a discount of $100 off when you register your child for summer camp before September 30th!

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Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids: Three Steps to Heart Health

Childhood obesity has become the number one health concern among parents in the U.S. Kids today have health problems usually not seen until adulthood, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and Type 2 diabetes. In almost all cases, these can be avoided by teaching kids healthy eating habits and encouraging exercise. Currently, 23.9 million American children are overweight, and of these 12.7 million are obese.

Summer is a great time to start making changes in your household by developing heart healthy habits to last all year long. Healthy living doesn’t have to be daunting. It’s easy (and free) to start, and the only thing it requires is a commitment from you to create an environment of heart health in your home! Here are three simple things you can do to start your kids on the right track to living a heart healthier life:

Step One: Rethink your drink!heart1

One of the primary culprits of childhood obesity is sugar-sweetened beverages including soda, sports drinks, sweetened waters and teas. According to the American Heart Association, consumption of sugary drinks has increased by 500 percent in the past 50 years and is now the single largest caloric intake for children.

Beverages like energy drinks can be deceiving because they advertise that they are healthy, but are usually loaded with calories and sugar. Common forms of added sugars are sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrups, concentrated fruit juice and honey. Look carefully at labels, as many drinks provide more than one serving, which can double or triple your sugar consumption.

If you have sugary drinks on a regular basis, the American Heart Association recommends cutting out one of these a day. A week later, drink two less a day, until they are cut out completely from your diet. Replace sugary drinks with water.

Step Two: Healthy eating is a family affair!

When you get home from a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is wage war over broccoli at the dinner table. That’s why it’s so easy to fall into the trap of making mac-n-cheese or ordering pizza. It keeps you out of the “eat your vegetables” fight. There is good news: eating a nutritious meal doesn’t have to be a battle! Don’t be afraid to include your kids in the prep work. By being involved in grocery shopping and food preparation, your kids will have more ‘buy-in.’ If they feel some ownership over the meal, they may be more likely to eat it. It may take some effort and creativity to get kids to choose fruits and vegetables instead of the sweet and salty processed snacks they see advertised. Just remember that developing good eating habits early on helps set the stage for lifelong heart health.

heart2Step Three: Get up and get moving!

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits, helps with controlling weight, reducing blood pressure, raising HDL (also known as “good”) cholesterol, reducing the risk of diabetes and reducing the risk of some types of cancer.

Summertime in Houston offers lots of opportunities to keep your children active and moving. Whether it’s spending time at the neighborhood park, going to summer camp, or participating in swim lessons at your local YMCA, there are many inexpensive options available to keep your kids active and engaged. Even if their physical activity is playing in the yard with friends or the family dog, the important thing to remember is by creating a routine that involves physical activity, you are making a difference in your child’s health.

Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. Help your child develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits. The best way to lead your child to a healthy lifestyle is to set a positive example and create an environment of health and wellness in the home. Break the cycle before it starts and take steps today to start your child on the path of living a heart healthier life. For more information on the American Heart Association recommendations and ways to stay healthy this summer, visit

Contributed by Apiyo Obala. Apiyo Obala is the Director of Communications for the American Heart Association Houston Metro Division. The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Our mission is to build healthier lives by preventing, treating and defeating these diseases – America’s number one and number five killers. We fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health.

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Physical Activity Tracking Devices: How to Choose What’s Right for You

There are many devices currently on the market that facilitate the tracking and analysis of physical activity. Most of these physical activity tracking devices are digital and designed to sync with cell phones, tablets, web-based fitness applications and social media applications. These devices are sleek and informative – but are they really worth buying?

PedometersPhysical Activity Tracking Device Synced

Pedometers are essentially “step counters” that, if worn properly, quantify physical activity in terms of the number of steps taken. Often, you can upload information from digital pedometers to applications designed to track activity over time. Pedometers have been around for a long time and are frequently used in research studies related to physical activity. Most are reasonably accurate and provide a nice snapshot of daily activity levels. Accelerometers are similar to pedometers but also assess additional movement characteristics such as acceleration of movement, which can be related to exercise intensity.

Calorie Counters

Devices also estimate caloric expenditure. It is important to keep in mind that these are merely estimates based on the data the devices are reading – they are indirect measures of caloric expenditure. Calories are actually units of energy. To directly measure caloric Physical Activity Tracking Deviceexpenditure, one would assess changes in temperature within a closed chamber to calculate an individual’s energy metabolism. Clearly, wearable activity trackers are not measuring caloric expenditure in this manner (directly). Rather, the devices use algorithms to estimate caloric expenditure based on factors such as height, body weight, age, sex, activity mode, duration, and in some cases, intensity. While less precise than direct calorimetry, this can provide a reasonably accurate estimate of caloric expenditure. It is important to note, however, that, as with indirect estimates of any sort, such as body mass index (BMI), these are based on averages over large populations.

10,000 Steps Per Day
10,000 steps has become the consensus threshold for daily physical activity. (Probably because we have ten fingers and we love numbers with lots of zeroes.) This activity level has been associated with an array of health benefits, including weight, blood pressure and glucose level reduction. It is important to keep in mind that exercise benefits our health in a dose-response fashion – that is, the more we do, the greater the benefits (up to a point – overtraining isn’t healthy). So, increasing your activity likely will result in health benefits even if you aren’t quite making it to 10,000 steps; likewise, adding more steps may lead to additional benefits even if you are already getting 10,000 daily steps.

Sleep Quality Trackers

The current crop of digital activity trackers track not only physical activity and caloric expenditure – many track sleep “quality.” The idea is that the accelerometer tracks movement while the wearer is sleeping, and it uses the movement data to estimate the quality of one’s sleep. While interesting, there is some skepticism regarding the accuracy of sleep “quality” estimates provided by these devices.

Physical Activity Tracking Device

So it is clear these trackers may be thought of as data collection devices, able to provide us with information about our own physical activity habits and goals. This is valuable because many of us do not think much about how many steps we take or how many calories we burn. As such, the ability to quantify and track the data lets us know approximately how active we are, and whether we are on track to meet fitness or weight-loss goals.

There is a strong case to be made that this feedback mechanism may help to motivate us in and of itself. The Hawthorne effect is a phenomenon which dictates that individuals modify behavior as a reaction to being “observed,” generally in the context of participation in a research study. Tracking daily physical activity creates this observation scenario, and may serve as motivation to be active. The motivation may stem from the desire to accomplish daily or weekly goals, or from peer accountability via the social media applications, which can make the tracking “fun” through the ability to create groups and competitions and adding a social element to activity tracking. Whatever the source of motivation, an increase in physical activity is a positive result.

Contributed by Andrew Lorino. Andrew Lorino is the Senior Director of Membership Experience at the YMCA of Greater Houston. He holds a master’s degree in Exercise Science, with an emphasis in exercise physiology and statistics, and has served as an adjunct professor and graduate research assistant at the university and community college levels.

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Too Much Sugar is Not So Sweet for Your Health

sugarA teaspoon of sugar may help your medicine go down, but high intakes often lead to obesity, tooth decay, inflammation, heart disease and unhealthy eating habits. The average American eats about 30 teaspoons of sugar per day which is over half a cup of sugar. This consumption rate adds up to individuals eating 96 pounds of sugar per year. Americans are consuming about 480 calories worth of sugar per day putting sugar consumption at an all-time high. Picture it: 19, 5-pound bags of sugar may match your annual sugar consumption.

Obviously, this is way more sugar than our bodies need. The American Heart Association (AHA )recommends  limiting your added sugars to 6 teaspoons (100 calories) per day for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) per day for men. Added sugars is a form that our bodies don’t need to function properly. Naturally occurring sugars are those found in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose) that provide several healthy nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, in addition to the sweetness. Added sugars offer loads of empty calories and zero nutrients. Most added sugars come from sugary soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pie, fruit drinks, ice-cream and non-nutritious grains.

sodaLook how fast your sugar intake can add up:

  • 6 ounces of non-fat yogurt – 2.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 slice of whole wheat bread – 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 cup of Honey Nut Cheerios – 3 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 chocolate chip cookie – 4-5 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream – 3.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • 10 ounces of soda – 8 teaspoons of sugar
  • 4 chocolate Hershey Kisses – 2.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 slice of cake – 8 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 glazed donut – 3 teaspoon of sugar
  • 8 ounces of orange juice – 5.5 teaspoons of sugar

To calculate the teaspoons of sugar in a product look at the nutrition facts label and identify the grams of sugar per serving. Divide the grams of sugar by four (4) for your answer. One teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams and 16 calories. The label will include natural as well as added sugars. Look at the ingredient list to find added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, fruit juice concentrate, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, and sugar syrup.

chocolate chip cookiesSugar makes taste buds happy and often leaves us craving more sugary goodness. It’s important to keep our sugar intake in check to keep our waistline from expanding and our health from deteriorating. Studies have shown that diets high in sugar are often low in important nutrients like calcium, vitamin A, iron, zinc and fiber. Choose to consume sugar wisely, in moderation and in combination with otherwise nutrient-rich foods.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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10 Must-Grow Spring Vegetables

gardening31. Tomatoes

Best Time to Plant: March-April (transplant)
Tomatoes are one of the most popular home gardening crops. They are a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Slicing tomatoes, also known as beefsteak tomatoes, produce medium to large fruits that are great for burgers and sandwiches. Bite-size tomatoes are packed with flavor and available in a variety of shades from red to yellow. A $2 tomato plant can grow 10 pounds worth of produce!

2. Sweet Peppers

Best Time to Plant: March-May (transplant)
Peppers prefer a long, warm growing season. Peppers will start out green and change color as they ripen. As peppers change from green to yellow, orange, or red, both their flavor and their vitamin content improves significantly. Fully ripened, garden-grown peppers will tempt the taste buds of almost anyone. Peppers are great as a snack or can be grilled, stuffed or baked to accompany a variety of meals.

3. Hot Peppers

Best Time to Plant: March-May (transplant)
Hot peppers are great for bringing bold bursts of flavor to dishes and for making fresh salsa with your home-grown tomatoes. Chili peppers offer a numerous range of varieties that range from mild to fiery hot and ripen through a wide range of colors from yellow, orange, purple and even brown. One plant produces several peppers during a growing season, so it is best to plant transplants instead of seeds.

4.  Cucumbers

Best Time to Plant: March-May
Cucumbers are very easy to grow from seed and can be eaten fresh or preserved as pickles. Even though long, dark green, smooth-skinned cucumbers are most familiar, cucumbers actually come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and textures. There are white, yellow, and even orange-colored varieties that may be short, slightly oval, or even round in shape while the skin can smooth or rough. To keep the trailing cucumber vines from sprawling across the garden provide a sturdy trellis. Cucumbers mature quickly, so be sure to pick cucumbers before they turn yellow and over ripen.

gardening25. Carrots

Best Time to Plant: February-March
Carrots are an excellent source for vitamin A and make a great snack for both adults and kids and add color to your meals. They will grow in small gardens and even flower beds and are able to tolerate a little bit of shade as well. One foot row of seeds will produce about one pound of carrots. Try to avoid skinning carrots to preserve all the nutrients.

6. Squash

Best Time to Plant: March-May
Squash is a popular warm-season vegetable that grows well in most areas and offers several different varieties, including yellow squash, scallop, zucchini, acorn, and butternut. Summer squash offers delicate flavors, soft shells and creamy white flesh that is a perfect addition to any summer meal. Summer squash is more fragile than winter squash and must be frozen if not eaten soon after harvesting. Winter squash is a rich source of plant based anti-inflammatory nutrients. Seeds from winter squash make a great snack food (similar to pumpkin seeds).

7. Beans

Best Time to Plant: March-April
From bush and snap beans to edamame, these are some of the easiest vegetables to grow. Beans germinate quickly and produce bountiful amounts of tasty delights. Choose between a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Some bean plants produce pods, seeds and colorful flowers.

gardening48. Eggplant

Best Time to Plant: March-May
Eggplants are great baked, grilled, roasted, stewed, or stuffed to provide excellent source of fiber along with a fair amount of iron, potassium, and protein. The traditional “black bell” eggplant can produce four to six large fruits. To determine ripeness, remember that skin color and tone (glossy versus dull) is more important than size.

9. Broccoli

Best Time to Plant: February-March
This vitamin rich crop is an ideal choice for your home garden since it produces quickly and can be harvested several times. Broccoli is considered a nutritional superfood that will boost your immune system, help maintain strong bone, and protect against cancer and heart disease. Broccoli is delicious raw or steamed. The stems are also edible. Try peeling away the chewy outer skin, slicing them and then cooking the stems along with the florets. Garden fresh broccoli is very tender, so be careful not to overcook it.

10. Sweet Potatoes

Best Time to Plant: April-May
Make sure to plant in a warm environment with plenty of sun to develop the maximum flavor and sweetness. These flavorful tubers also produce colorful flowers, as well as sprawling vines often used as groundcover. Orange-flesh sweet potatoes aren’t the only variety available. White-fleshed varieties are good sources of B vitamins and minerals, while purple sweet potatoes are fully loaded with antioxidants. Sweet potatoes can be baked, boiled, mashed or stir-fried and can be enhanced with a wide range of spices and seasonings.

Several YMCA’s in the Greater Houston area are home to gardens. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer at one of our community gardens, please contact the D. Bradley McWilliams Family YMCA, Trotter Family YMCAT.W. Davis Family YMCA or Vic Coppinger Family YMCA.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Fast Food No-No’s

fast-foodFast food menus are full of unnecessary calories, artery-clogging fats and blood pressure rising sodium. Here are some of the worst choices and some better options when eating fast food:

WORST: Burrito with your choice of meat, white rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, tomatillo salsa and guacamole over 1200 calories
60.5 grams Total Fat (18. 5g Saturated Fat)
2740 mg Sodium
114 grams Total Carbohydrates

BETTER: Burrito Bowl or Salad with your choice of meat, black beans, fajita vegetables and fresh tomato salsa (minus the rice, sour cream, cheese and guacamole)
under 400 calories
approx. 8 grams Total Fat (2 g Saturated Fat)
960 mg Sodium
25.5 grams Total Carbohydrates

WORST: Spicy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich with a medium order of waffle fries and large lemonade
1240 Calories
44 grams Total Fat (10g  Saturated Fat)
1835 mg Sodium
181 grams Total Carbohydrates

BETTER: Grilled Chicken Sandwich, fruit cup and large diet lemonade
400 Calories
5 grams Total Fat (2g Saturated Fat)
815 mg Sodium
62 grams Total Carbohydrates

WORST: Bacon Double Cheeseburger with mayo
1240 Calories
87 grams Total Fat (35g Saturated Fat)
1690 mg Sodium
44 grams Total Carbohydrates

BETTER: Jr. Deluxe Burger (no mayo)
330 Calories
17 grams Total Fat (6 g Saturated Fat)
480 mg Sodium
30 grams Total Carbohydrates

Taco Bell
WORST: Fiesta Taco Salad – Beef
780 Calories
42 grams Total Fat (10g Saturated Fat)
1590 mg Sodium
74 grams Total Carbohydrates

BETTER: 2 Chicken Soft Tacos
320 Calories
10 grams Total Fat (5 g Saturated Fat)
960 mg Sodium
32 grams Total Carbohydrates

WORST: Big Breakfast with Hotcakes
1090 Calories
56 grams Total Fat (19 g Saturated Fat)
111 grams Total Carbohydrates

BETTER: Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait
150 Calories
2 grams Total Fat (1g Saturated Fat)
30 grams Total Carbohydrates

Panda Express
WORST: Orange Chicken with Fried Rice and a Chicken Egg Roll
1150 Calories
44 grams Total Fat (8.5g Saturated Fat)
1750 mg Sodium
147 grams Total Carbohydrates

BETTER: Broccoli Beef with Mixed Veggies and Hot & Sour Soup
290 Calories
14 grams Total Fat (2 g Saturated Fat)
2080 mg Sodium
42 grams Total Carbohydrates

WORST: 3-pc Extra Crispy Chicken, Coleslaw and Biscuit
1420 Calories
88 grams Total Fat (19 g Saturated Fat)
3090 mg Sodium
85 grams Total Carbohydrates

BETTER: 6-pc Original Recipe Chicken Bites, Corn on the Cob and Green Beans
295 Calories
9.5 grams Total Fat (1.5 g Saturated Fat)
920 mg Sodium
27 grams Total Carbohydrates

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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28 Tips To Prevent Heart Disease

Heart_smallerAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, which is about one in every four deaths. It is believed the number of cardiovascular disease deaths, mainly from heart disease and stroke, will increase to more than 23 million by the year 2030. The numbers truly make you stop and think. Building heart-healthy behaviors into your daily routine can extend your life and improve your quality of life. Staying healthy begins with knowing your risk and taking measures to protect yourself from heart disease. Here are 28 tips to improve your heart health and lower your risk for heart disease.

  1. Eat at least two servings of baked or grilled fish per week, especially oily fish like salmon and sardines.
  2. Exercise, eating a healthy diet and limiting alcohol can help lower your blood pressure.
  3. Check your family history. If a close relative is at risk or has developed heart disease, you may be at risk, too.
  4. The color of your veggies is important. The more colorful, the more likely a veggie has heart-protective antioxidants.
  5. Keep a food journal. You might be surprised at how much you’re eating in a day.
  6. Although red wine may raise HDL (good) cholesterol, don’t overdo it. One glass a day for women, two for men is all you need to reap the benefits.
  7. Lift weights. Strength training lowers blood pressure and helps your heart beat more efficiently.
  8. Green tea can help prevent plaque buildup and relax blood vessels.
  9. Laugh more. Research shows laughing improves circulation.
  10. Avocados are a great source of healthy fat and can help raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.
  11. Get a cholesterol screening. After age 20, it’s important to get your levels tested every 5 years.
  12. Follow Popeye’s lead and opt for spinach. Just ½ cup a day may protect your heart.
  13. Looking for heart-healthy veggies? Broccoli and cauliflower are great because of their fiber content.
  14. Eat dark chocolate, which contains catechins, a potent antioxidant.
  15. Meditate. A calm state helps de-stress and gives your brain a much-needed rest
  16. Vitamins C, E and B-complex as well as folic acid may prevent heart disease. Make sure to get plenty in your diet.
  17. Avoid frying foods. Always bake, broil, grill or steam.
  18. Make half your plate fruit and vegetables.
  19. Drink water instead of a sugary drink.
  20. Avoid trans fats. A high intake of them increases the risk of heart disease.
  21. Use herbs and spices to cut down on sodium intake.
  22. If you smoke, make a plan to stop. Set a quit date and mark it on your calendar.
  23. Aim for 25 grams of fiber a day. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk for heart disease.
  24. Instead of sitting at your computer during your lunch break, get outside and go for a walk.
  25. Know the early signs of coronary heart disease, such as tightness or discomfort in the chest.
  26. Wear a pedometer, like a Fitbit, and aim for 10,000 steps a day.
  27. Don’t neglect your sleep — 6-8 hours a night will help protect your heart.
  28. Need a snack? Opt for nuts. Most of the fat is the healthy kind.

To learn more about heart and vascular services offered at Houston Methodist or to schedule an appointment, visit or call 713-790-3333.  

Information provided by Houston Methodist Hospital.

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Protein Power: How Much is too Much?

How Much Protein Do I Need?

BCA1D9Protein is an important macronutrient that our bodies need to function properly, but our bodies don’t need quite as much protein as people tend to think. Protein is different from the other two macronutrients, carbohydrates and fat, in that the body is unable to store it for later, making it an essential part of one’s daily diet. Protein plays an important role in every cell of the body and is the building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.

It’s recommended that 10-35% of your daily calories come from protein, which equals about 46 grams of protein for the “average” woman and 56 grams of protein for the “average” man. However, most people don’t fit exactly into the average category, so let’s get even more specific. The average adult needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight per day, this equates to approximately 1g of protein per 3 pounds of body weight. Athletes need more protein to repair and strengthen muscle that is broken down during exercise. Endurance athletes need about 1.2 to 1.4 grams/kilogram a day (0.55-0.64 g/lb of body weight), while strength training athletes need 1.2 to 1.7 grams/kilogram a day (0.55-0.77 g/lb of body weight).

proteinThe United States Department of Agriculture recommends the daily amount of protein in one ounce equivalents. Generally, one ounce equivalent amounts to 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish, 1/4 cup beans, 1 egg, or 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds. USDA recommends 2 ounce equivalents daily for children 2-3 years old and 4 ounce equivalents daily for children 4-8 years of age. Older children, women and men sufficiently meet their protein needs with 5-6.5 ounces of protein equivalents each day. These amounts are most appropriate for people who exercise less than 30 minutes per day. More active individuals will have higher protein equivalent needs.

What are Good Sources of Protein?

  • Hamburger patty, 4 oz – 28 grams protein
  • Chicken breast, 3.5 oz – 30 grams protein
  • Fish fillets or steaks, 1 oz – 6 grams protein
  • Tuna, 6 oz can – 40 grams of protein
  • Pork chop, average – 22 grams protein
  • Egg, large – 6 grams protein
  • Milk, 1 cup – 8 grams
  • Cottage cheese, ½ cup – 15 grams
  • Yogurt, 1 cup – usually 8-12 grams, check label
  • Cheese, 1 oz – 6  to 10 grams
  • Tofu, 1/2 cup  –  20 grams protein
  • Most beans (black, pinto, lentils, etc), 1/2 cup cooked  – 7-10 grams
  • Peanut butter, 2 Tablespoons – 8 grams protein
  • Almonds, 1/4 cup – 8 grams
  • Peanuts, 1/4 cup – 9 grams
  • Sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup – 6 grams
  • Flax seeds, 1/4 cup – 8 grams

Are Protein Powders and Supplements Needed?

It is very easy to meet your daily protein needs by diet alone. The use of supplements and protein powders is not necessary, even for elite athletes. Protein supplements are often used for their convenience even though whole foods high in protein are the superior option.  Sometimes it is more realistic to grab a protein shake after a workout instead of grilling up a chicken breast. Only use protein powders, bars and supplements for what they are intended – convenience. Focus primarily on eating nutritious whole foods.

How Much Protein is too Much?

protein3Though high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are often effective for weight management, at least in the short-term, too much protein can cause negative side effects. Keep in mind that there is no Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for protein. High protein eating plans usually help dieters fill fuller longer and delay hunger so that they can easily eat less throughout the day. If more protein and calories is consumed than your body needs, then the body finds a way to store excess protein as body fat. If excess protein is consumed from high-fat sources, then LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels may rise, increasing one’s risk for cardiovascular diseases. People with diabetes and kidney problems need to limit their protein intake to the daily recommended amounts or less since high amounts of protein places more strain on the kidneys.

To have your individual protein needs assessed, speak to a registered dietitian in your area:

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Easy, Healthy Ingredient Substitutions

Healthy cooking can be easy and delicious! Try these simple substitutions to turn your favorite recipes into healthy foods your whole family will love (and likely not notice any difference!).

1. Black beans subbed for flour
Substitute equal amounts of white flour for cooked black beans that have been rinsed, drained and pureed. This will save you a bunch of calories while giving you an extra boost of protein and fiber to make your recipe more satisfying. This recipe substitution works particularly well in brownies.

Wheat-Flour2. Whole wheat flour subbed for white flour
There is no nutritional purpose for white flour besides providing empty carbohydrates. Whole wheat flour offers more fiber and protein compared to all-purpose flour but can make your baked foods denser and heavier. Try these tricks to become a whole wheat fan:

  • Use 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour to replace 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Reduce the butter by one-fifth when making cookies with whole wheat flour
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of liquid when baking a cake with wheat flour
  • Add 1/4 cup of liquid to prepare whole wheat bread
  • Try white whole wheat flour to add fiber and maintain a similar texture to all-purpose flour

3. Unsweetened applesauce subbed for butter or oil
It is often best to combine applesauce with buttermilk to replace oil. Substitute 1/2 cup of vegetable oil with 1/4 cup applesauce and 1/4 buttermilk for the perfect consistency. This is an excellent way to add moisture and flavor to baked goods while decreasing the calories and fat!

mashed bananas

4. Mashed bananas subbed for fat
Swap out 1 cup of oil or butter for 1 cup of creamy, mashed bananas. This consistency is spot-on and provides your recipes with some thickening power and added nutrients like fiber, potassium and vitamin B6.

5. Vanilla subbed for sugar
Most baking recipes are not hindered by cutting the sugar in half. Using 1/2 cup sugar instead of 1 cup will save your waistline 400 calories. If you’re worried about the taste suffering a tad from the sugar shortage, then add a teaspoon of vanilla to bring back some flavor without the calorie cost. Try other flavor enhancers like cinnamon or nutmeg.

greek yogurt6. Greek yogurt subbed for sour cream or mayonnaise
The consistency of nonfat Greek yogurt compared to sour cream or mayonnaise is practically the same. Use this substitute in baking recipes and start using Greek yogurt on top of baked potatoes, soups and in dips. Swap out the mayonnaise in salads like tuna, potato and chicken salad for the much healthier and equally creamy Greek yogurt. Nonfat Greek yogurt will save you from those unwanted calories and grams of saturated fat while providing some extra protein, calcium and probiotics!

7. Pureed Prunes or fruit puree subbed for fats
Replace butter, oil or margarine with pureed prunes to turn batter into a dark chocolate shade with less calories and more fiber. This ingredient swap works best in dark quick breads and brownies. Prunes will make your baked product more dense and moist. Try replacing only half of the oil with pureed prunes and then work your way up to get accustomed to the flavor.

chia seeds

8. Chia seeds subbed for butter OR eggs
It’s easy to make some recipes vegan by substituting the eggs with chia seeds. For a 1-to-1 egg substitute try combining 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 1 cup of water and let it sit for 15 minutes to reach the perfect consistency. It is also possible to substitute half of the fat in a recipe with chia seeds by mixing 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 9 tablespoons of water. This mixture forms the perfect gel in about 15 minutes that can easily replace half of the fat. For optimal results, don’t substitute BOTH eggs and butter for chia seeds in the same recipe!

9. Flax meal subbed for eggs
A tried-and-true vegan trick is to whisk together 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of warm water. Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator 5-10 minutes before adding it your recipe in place of one egg. Add more flax meal and water according to the number of eggs in the recipe.

10. Brown sugar blend subbed for brown sugar
Cut your calories and carbohydrates in half by swapping regular brown sugar with Splenda’s brown sugar blend. Your oatmeal and cookies won’t notice the difference. This brown sugar blend provides the same browning, rising, chewiness and molasses-like flavor as brown sugar but with half the calories and carbohydrates. Just use 1/2 cup of the brown sugar blend to replace one cup of regular brown sugar.


11. Stevia subbed for sugar
This no-calorie sweetener can be used in beverages, baked goods and other recipes to add sweetness without the guilt. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than regular sugar and doesn’t spike your blood glucose levels. However, this marvelous sweetener may induce sticker-shock since it often costs up to five times more than other sugar substitutes (look for coupons!). Luckily it can last for months, and it’s sweeter than sugar so you don’t have to use quite as much.

mini chocolate chips

12. Mini chocolate chips subbed for chocolate chunks or chips
Using smaller chips allows you to cut the amount in half while still tasting the sweet chocolaty flavor in every bite. Choose dark chocolate chips (with at 70% cocoa) to add in some antioxidant-rich flavonoids to your recipe.

13. Marshmallow crème subbed for butter
Switch out the butter in a frosting recipe for marshmallow crème. Two tablespoons of marshmallow crème has no fat or cholesterol and only 40 calories, while the same amount of butter provides over 200 calories and 23 grams of total fat.

14. Oatmeal or crushed cereal instead of breadcrumbs
Bread crumbs are often used as coatings for fish, chicken and casserole dishes. Substituting breadcrumbs for oatmeal or crushed cereal will give you a crunchier coating with fewer calories and more fiber. Bran flakes or shredded wheat are perfect cereals to crush and coat.

15. Fat-free evaporated milk subbed for heavy cream
Canned unsweetened skim milk provides a similar consistency to heavy cream but with 620 less calories and 88 grams less fat per cup – definitely a no-brainer substitute. This is best used in desserts and custard recipes. Do not use this recipe substitute for whipped dessert toppings since evaporated milk doesn’t double in size compared to cream.

skim milk

16. Skim milk subbed for whole milk
Skim off 70 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat by switching from whole milk to nonfat milk. Your taste buds are less likely to notice the difference when making this switch in recipes despite the noticeable difference of these two types of milk when drinking it straight from the carton. Though this swap may slightly affect the richness of your recipe, the skim milk substitute will give you a little more protein and calcium for less calories.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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