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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Studies: Why Diet Sodas Are No Benefit to Dieters

Studies: Why Diet Sodas Are No Benefit to Dieters 

More bad news, diet soda drinkers: data presented recently at the American Diabetes Association's (ADA) Scientific Sessions suggest that diet drinks may actually contribute to weight gain and that the artificial sweeteners in them could potentially contribute Type 2 diabetes.

In one study, researchers from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, looked at aggregate data from 474 older adults in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging, or SALSA. At the time of enrollment and at three follow-up exams thereafter, all participants reported their diet soda intake and were measured for height, weight and waist circumference. The researchers wanted to track any association between diet soda drinking and body fat over time.

What they found was that all participants saw their waistlines expand, but those who reported drinking diet soda had 70% greater increases in waistline growth than non-drinkers 9.5 years later. Among frequent drinkers — those who consumed two or more diet sodas a day — waistline growth was 500% greater than among non-drinkers. Researchers said their results were adjusted for other contributing factors like diabetes status, leisure-time physical activity level and age.

The data didn't say why diet sodas might play a role in weight gain, but previous research suggests it has to do with the disconnect between the taste of artificial sugars and their lack of calories. The brain is wired to expect a big load of calories when foods taste sweet or fatty. But because diet foods fail to deliver, it throws the brain out of whack. Studies in animals suggest that artificial sweetener consumption may lead to even more eating and weight gain, perhaps in part because it triggers the body to start storing more calories as fat.
Excess weight, especially around the belly, as measured in the SALSA participants, is a risk factor for a variety of ills, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
In another study presented at the ADA meeting, researchers found an association between consumption of aspartame, an artificial sweetener found in many diet drinks, and elevated fasting glucose levels in mice.
The researchers, also from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, fed 40 mice their typical chow with added corn oil (to make the diet high-fat). For the half the mice, researchers also added aspartame to their food. After three months, researchers found that the mice in the aspartame group had elevated fasting glucose levels, an indication of a diabetic or pre-diabetic condition.

Of course, the findings aren't directly translatable to humans, but the researchers think they're still meaningful. "These results suggest that heavy aspartame exposure might potentially directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels, and thus contribute to the associations observed between diet soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans," said Dr. Gabriel Fernandes, a University of Texas professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology, in a statement.
Maybe it's time to switch to water.

Correction [June 29, 2011]: An earlier version of this article misidentified the research institution as the University of Texas, San Antonio. Rather, the research was conducted at the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. We regret the error.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Calories, Not Protein or Carbs, Are Key to Weight Loss: Study

Calories, Not Protein or Carbs, Are Key to Weight Loss: Study

Diabetics gained similar benefits from low-fat diet emphasizing either proteins or carbohydrates.

Curbing calories is the key ingredient for diabetics seeking to lose weight, and low-fat diets that are either high in protein or high in carbs are equally effective, researchers say.
"I think there are two key messages from this study," said study lead author Jeremy D. Krebs, a senior lecturer with the school of medicine and health sciences at the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand. "The first is that no matter what diet we prescribe, people find it extremely difficult to sustain the changes from their habitual diet over a long time. But if they are able to follow either a high-protein diet or a high-carbohydrate diet, they can achieve modest weight loss."
Krebs said this first message conveys flexibility and allows people to choose the approach that best suits them and "even to swap between dietary approaches when they get bored."
The second point "is that for people with diabetes, if they can adhere to either diet and achieve weight loss, then they do get benefits in terms of their diabetes control and cardiovascular risk," he added.
Krebs and his colleagues are scheduled to report their findings Sunday in San Diego at the American Diabetes Association meeting.
To compare the potential benefits of two popular dietetic approaches, the authors tracked nearly 300 overweight men and women between the ages of 35 and 75 who were on a new, two-year nutritional program.
To start, all the participants had a body mass index greater than 27, meaning they were moderately overweight, and all had type 2 diabetes.
The researchers randomly assigned the participants to one of two groups: a low-fat/high-protein group or a low-fat/high-carb group.
For the first half year, all attended twice-weekly group sessions led by a dietitian; for the following six months, sessions took place monthly.
Weight and waist circumference were measured at six months, one year, and two years. Kidney function and lipid (blood fats) profiles were also assessed throughout.
Food diaries indicated that total calorie intake went down in both groups. Ultimately, both groups lost a similar amount of weight and reduced their waist size in similar measure, the investigators found. And by the end of the two-year period, both groups had similar blood fat profiles.
Krebs and his colleagues concluded that their "real-world" experiment demonstrated that both approaches afford similar benefits, with the principal driving factor behind sustained weight loss being calorie reduction rather than either high-carb or high-protein consumption.
Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said the observations were "not at all surprising."
"This is pretty consistent with other research out there that has conducted other long-term comparisons in the general population," she said. "In the first six months you might see a little better benefit from a high-protein approach. But long-term, the initial benefits from a high-protein diet seem to diminish over time, and the two diets end up being essentially equivalent," Sandon explained.
"The bottom-line is that the issue for weight loss is calories," Sandon added. "Not where those calories come from. You need to create an energy deficit to lead to weight loss, and that happens by decreasing those calories. That's just been shown again and again."
Experts note that research presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary because it has not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny required for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Monday, June 27, 2011

TV ads causing child obesity

Obesity caused by more than sitting on couch

Obesity experts have been saying for years that children who sit in front of the TV screen day in and day out tend to be heavier. It's the sedentary lifestyle. But now experts are finding it's not only the couch potato effect, but the television ads children are watching, along with other factors that can add inches to their waistlines.
According to a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, titled, “Children, Adolescents, Obesity and the Media," junk food and fast food ads increase a child's desire to eat those types of foods. Studies also show that snacking while watching the tube increases. And if kids stay up late at night while watching the tube or playing video games, their lack of sleep can be a major factor in raising their risk for obesity.
“We’ve created a perfect storm for childhood obesity – media, advertising, and inactivity,” said the statement’s lead author, Dr.Victor Strasburger, a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media. “American society couldn’t do a worse job at the moment of keeping children fit and healthy – too much TV, too many food ads, not enough exercise, and not enough sleep.”
The statement recommends a number of tips so parents can help curb their children's weight. They include:
-Discussing food advertising with their children as they monitor children’s TV viewing and teach them about good nutrition.
- Limiting a child's time in front of a TV monitor and avoid putting TV sets and Internet connections in children’s bedrooms.
- And be aware that kids with high levels of screen time also have more stress, putting them at risk not only for obesity but for a number of other conditions such as diabetes, mood disorders and asthma.
"Thirty years ago, the federal government ruled that young children are psychologically defenseless against advertising. Now, kids see 5,000 to 10,000 food ads per year, most of them for junk food and fast food,” said Strasburger.
The AAP also recommends that pediatricians ask two questions about media exposure when parents bring their children in for checkups. How much time is the child spending on screens each day? And is there a TV set or Internet connection in the child's bedroom?
“Having the conversation around these two questions can go a long way toward a thoughtful approach to each family’s – and each child’s – media use, and that can quickly translate into healthier choices and healthier weight,”  Strasburger said.
The policy statement can be found in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Does Juicing Really Help Digestion?

Is Juicing Good for Digestive Health?

Juice from raw fruits and vegetables may be a good addition to a healthy diet. Get some advice on juicing from a nutrition expert.

Fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne was a big advocate of eating raw fruits and vegetables and juicing as part of a healthy life. For many Americans, Jack LaLanne’s Power Juicer was their first exposure to the idea of putting raw produce in a blender and extracting the juice. But does juicing really provide a nutritional advantage?
The philosophy behind the juicing movement is that the juice from raw fruits and vegetables contains special enzymes that are good for digestive health. People who support juicing claim that raw juice can build up your immune system and help you fight off diseases like cancer. Other claims for juicing have included slowing the aging process and removing dangerous toxins from the body.
Juicing is the extraction of juices from raw vegetables and fruit. To do this, you use a juice extractor that grinds up and then spins down the food, separating the juice from the pulp.
Here are some digestive health claims made for juicing:
  • Nutrients from raw juices have the ability to correct imbalances in the body's cells that come from eating foods considered less natural.
  • Enzymes that are important for your digestion are contained in raw fruit and vegetable juices, and these enzymes are destroyed by cooking.
  • Since fruit and vegetable juice is easy to digest, it leaves more energy for the body to fight off diseases and heal itself.
What the Experts Say About Juicing
Debra J. Johnston, RD, director of nutrition services at Remuda Ranch, a program for eating disorders in Wickenburg, Ariz., says there is value in juicing. "Juicing may be a good way for individuals who do not consume enough fruits and vegetables to get important vitamins and minerals by creating tasty concoctions of fruit and vegetable juice,” she says.
But the very process also devalues the fruits and vegetables, she says, because it may eliminate some of the food’s fiber. “Fiber not only plays an important role in digestive health but it also helps us feel fuller for longer," she says.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), a diet high in fruits and vegetables is good for digestive health and may even reduce cancer risk. But there is no evidence that drinking fruit or vegetable juice is better for you then eating whole fruits or vegetables. There is no evidence to support the idea that the enzymes found in raw fruits and vegetables have any special powers. These enzymes are broken down by your stomach juices during digestion.
Risks of Juicing
The ACS warns that juicing should never be considered as a treatment for cancer. Relying on juicing in place of an accepted cancer treatment can be very dangerous. Here are some other cautions regarding juicing:
  • Overuse of juicing can cause sudden weight loss and diarrhea.
  • "By drinking your fruits and vegetables, you may not feel as full as you would if you ate them. This could cause you to overeat in other food groups," says Johnston.
  • "It is easy to drink more calories than we need when our juices are made primarily from fruit, which is high in natural sugars," warns Johnston.

Have digestive problems? Find a gastroenterologist near you.

What Are the Best Juices for Digestive Health?
While there is no evidence that extracted juices are better for you than whole foods, there are some juice tips to keep in mind if you want to supplement your healthy diet with juices:
  • Include pulp in your fruit juices to get the fiber that is important for digestive health.
  • Don't rely too much on fruit juice, because fruit is higher in sugar.
  • The juice of starchy vegetables like carrots and beets is also higher in sugar.
  • Make sure commercially produced juices have been pasteurized to prevent infection.
Despite the claims of juicing advocates, there is no evidence that juicing will do anything for your digestive health that eating whole fruits and vegetables won't. You can add fruit and vegetable juice to a healthy diet for added nutrition, but remember that a diet high in fiber from whole fruits and vegetables is better for digestive health.
"My recommendation is to juice if you want to, but also remember to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables in their whole state to help keep you full and satisfied," advises Johnston.

Friday, June 24, 2011

10 common exercise myths

10 exercise myths that won't go away
By Madison Park

We're all looking to maximize results while minimizing time and effort in the gym. That search for shortcuts has translated into a lot of myths about exercise.

CNN.com asked exercise physiologists, trainers and nutritionists about their most hated exercise myths.

Consider these the 10 persistent myths of fitness.

10) Your cardio machine is counting the calories you're burning.

"It doesn't mean anything," said Mark Macdonald, personal trainer and author of "Body Confidence" about the calorie numbers spit out by the cardio machine.

Some machines don't even ask for your weight or sex.

"It's not asking your body composition," he said. "If you're at 18% body fat, you're going to burn a lot more than if you're female at 35% body fat."

And how many people know their body fat percentage?

The number calculated by your machine is likely not accurate.

9) Women shouldn't lift weights because it'll make them bulky.
This one drives Alice Burron, a former female bodybuilder, crazy. She would spend four to five hours a day when she competed, trying to build muscles.

"You really have to overload those muscles to create bulk," said Burron. "It's very, very difficult."

Women have too much estrogen to build large amounts of bulk. Guys build muscles faster because they have testosterone.

So ladies, don't fear the barbells. Strength training helps decrease body fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently.

The government's 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommended muscle-strengthening physical activity on at least three days of the week for kids and two or more for adults.

8) Heart rate monitors will let you know how hard you're working.

Heart rate monitoring is a flawed science.

The better detector of how hard you're working is not the newest, gee-whiz tech device, but your own body.

"The perceived exertion, your own sense of how hard you're working is a much more reliable of exercise intensity," said Matt Fitzgerald, senior editor of Competitor group.

Perceived exertion means it's your estimation of how hard you are working out and surprisingly, it's very accurate, he said.

"Your perception of your limit can change over time. So yeah, even your own perception isn't perfect. It's still better than heart rate monitor," Fitzgerald said.

Heart rates could falter depending on what kind of exercise you're doing.

The talk test can measure how intensely you're working out depending on whether you can talk in full sentences, short phrases or if you're barely able to muster a few words.

"It's best to learn to recognize your body's signals and get a better control of your effort," said Alex Hutchinson, author of "Which Comes First: Cardio or Weights."

7) Your weight is the end all, be all.
Newbies hit the gym, and then weigh themselves every day on the scale.

Week-after-week, they see nodownward trend on the scale and get impatient.

People starting saying, "I haven't lost any weight. This is pointless, I'm not accomplishing anything," said Hutchinson.

After a few months of increased exercise, they are healthier because they've reduced risk factors such as blood sugar levels. Even though a person may not be losing weight, his health has improved in ways that might not be measured.

"They're stuck in this paradigm that weight is the ultimate barometer for fitness. They don't realize the progress they've made and give up."

6) Low-intensity exercise burns more fat.

In general, low intensity exercise has its place -- it's less stressful on joints.

The myth is that if you exercise too intensely, you end up burning carbohydrates instead of fat.

It's the most dangerous type of myth because there's a kernel of truth in it, Hutchinson said.

The more intensely you exercise, the higher proportion of carbs you burn. You may burn less fat, but the total amount of calories burned is higher and that is the bigger picture.

When your body has burned up all the carbs, it starts burning fat.

"You can ignore zones and pay attention to how many calories you burn, which ultimately determines how much body fat you're going to lose," Fitzgerald said.

5) Chug a protein shake after workout.

"It's eating another meal," said Macdonald, a personal trainer who helped TV host Chelsea Handler get in shape.

Protein shakes, powders and bars are good for emergencies, but "they're the lowest quality food."

"You're better off eating real food," he said.

The products are more processed. The best way to get protein is through foods such as a turkey sandwich, Greek yogurt with nuts and fruit.

Martin Gibala, chairman of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, agrees. "Protein sources in real food are Number 1. Cheaper and real food may provide other benefits, vitamins and minerals. And some of the components in food may act synergistically in ways we don't understand."

"When we isolate the compound we think works, it's not as good as the real foods."

4) You can spot reduce for tight abs or toned arms.

You may have crunched in vain.

You won't see muscle definition or a nice six-pack despite how many crunches you do, because of the layer of fat resting on top of your muscles.

"Don't focus on a body part. Try to get them all," said Burron, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise. "You might have beautiful triceps -- it may not be flopping all over the place. Until the fat is gone, most people wouldn't know it's there."

3) As long as I go to the gym 30-45 minutes, that gives me a pass to do what I want for rest of the day.

The gym doesn't negate a bad diet.

Also, emerging research suggests that if you're sedentary most of the day, it may not matter how hard or often you exercise.

People who spend more time sitting during their leisure time have an increased risk of death, regardless of daily exercise.

In a study of more than 123,000 healthy people, the American Cancer Society found that women who spent more than six hours a day sitting were 40 percent more likely to die sooner than women who sat less. Men who sat more had 20 percent increased risk of death.

Essentially, those who sit less, live a longer life than those who don't.

2) No pain, no gain.
"The ongoing perception is that people need to feel pain through the entirety of their workout or they're not getting the benefit -- that one's very frustrating to me," said Burron, a personal trainer. "You shouldn't be exercising at a level of pain ever."

Feeling discomfort during a workout is OK.

"If it's so intense you're thinking of passing out, you can't continue this session for longer, then it's too difficult and you're at increased risk for injuries or burnout," Burron said.

"You want to exercise smarter, not harder," she added. "That's the premise. You don't have to kill yourself. You just have to be smart about it."

1) Stretching will help prevent injuries.

A growing number of studies challenge the entrenched assumption that stretching helps prevent injuries.

"The way we were taught to stretch, to try to touch your toes -- there's little evidence it prevents injuries," Hutchinson said.

A review published in 2007 of 10 randomized studies about stretching after or before physical activity found that "muscle stretching does not reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness in young healthy adults."

Static stretching is when you stay in place, bend over to touch your toes, or try to pull your ankles towards your hips.

A study presented this year at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that such static stretching before a run neither prevents nor causes injury.

Then a study published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that static stretches that last longer than a minute could be detrimental to performance.

Athletes often swing their arms and warm up before a game. That type of dynamic stretching such as high knee jogs, walking lunges can help move your muscles through different ranges of motions.

This type of dynamic stretching is different from clutching your limbs, because it focuses on movement.

A study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found professional soccer players who practiced dynamic stretching had higher range of motion than when they practiced only static stretches.

While toe-touches and extra flexibility might be required in gymnastics or figure skating, it's irrelevant for more everyday activities like basketball or weightlifting.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is Type 1 Diabetes Being Ignored?

Is Type 1 Diabetes Being Ignored?

Some people believe the type 2 diabetes epidemic is taking attention away from type 1 and needed research. Find out what's behind the controversy.

Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
What do you know about diabetes? If you've read an online news source or watched the nightly report lately, you probably know that this health condition is on the rise. Diabetes currently affects almost 26 million people in the United States, or over 8 percent of the population. However, many may not realize that there are two kinds of diabetes — type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes — and that there are significant differences between them. For this reason, some people active in the field of diabetes are calling for a name change for type 1 diabetes.
As similar as the two types sound in name, only about 7 percent of diabetics have type 1. Type 1 diabetes occurs in all ages, but it primarily develops in children and young adults. Those with type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin, a hormone which is necessary to change food into energy.
Riva Greenberg, author of 50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life and the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It, knows all about type 1 diabetes distinctions. She has been living with type 1 diabetes for 39 years.
Living With Type 1 Diabetes
Greenberg's experience has led her to believe that unless you or a family member lives with type 1 diabetes, it's hard to understand the intense management type 1 diabetes requires. "There's a tape constantly running in your head calculating what you're eating, when you'll exercise, how much insulin you need, and where your blood sugar is at any given moment to stay within a defined target zone to avoid diabetes complications," she says.
Like most people with type 1 diabetes, Greenberg pricks her fingers several times a day to test her blood's glucose level and gives herself multiple insulin injections a day, all to replicate what a normal body does automatically — maintain a relatively normal blood sugar level. And this delicate dance is repeated day after day and year after year to attempt to maintain just the right balance. Too many high blood sugar readings can cause long-term damage, including a shortened lifespan, while low blood sugars can result in immediate danger from hypoglycemia, which leads to confusion, disorientation, and in the worst case, death.
Type 1 diabetes exacts a psychological toll as well. "Living with type 1 diabetes causes emotional stress, a mental exhaustion, and sometimes anguish from doing this every day," says Greenberg. "There's also a certain amount of anxiety about the future and feeling nearly invisible to the public. Some days there is a very human desire to say, ‘Please see me and what I live with and how hard I work at this.'"
Facts About Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is much more common, but also requires less intense management. Unlike type 1 in which the body does not produce any insulin, those with type 2 either produce less insulin than normal or have insulin resistance — their body does not properly utilize insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is often found in people who are overweight, especially around the middle, though not always. Poor eating habits and little or no physical activity are other risk factors along with genetics, ethnicity, and having had gestational diabetes or a larger than normal size baby.
Whereas treatment for type 1 diabetes requires frequent blood monitoring and insulin injections or wearing an insulin pump, most people with type 2 do not need to test their blood sugar levels as frequently and are not nearly as vulnerable to hypoglycemia. Exercise, a healthier diet, moderate blood testing, and sometimes medication make up the usual course of prescribed action. Further, some people with type 2 diabetes are able to cut down on or stop taking medication if they lose weight. This is never the case with type 1 diabetes patients, who must take insulin for the rest of their lives.
What's in a Name?
Clearly, there is a significant difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The question is, should their names be less similar as well?
Those in favor of a name change believe type 1 diabetes may now be overlooked with so much attention on the much more common type 2. By altering the name, proponents hope to change several things.
"Of course no one can predict," says Greenberg, "but the intended benefit of changing the name of type 1 diabetes is greater awareness of the condition for the purpose of gaining more funding to research a cure, gaining respect for what [people with type 1] live with and do on a daily basis to live as full a life as possible, and prompting the health care system to begin looking at ways to provide greater support and education for living with this life-long demanding condition."
The discovery of insulin almost 90 years ago was the last significant medical advance made in managing type 1 diabetes. So it's no wonder many want more research funding and advances for the disease. At the same time, however, there may still be benefits of keeping the name.
"Some say type 1 benefits from being under the media spotlight and umbrella of type 2 diabetes, and they may be right," says Greenberg. "Frankly, I don't know. If we did change the name there would need to be an educational campaign to explain to the public the difference and why type 1 diabetes needs its own urgent stream of funding for a cure."
But there's one thing everyone can agree on: the need for further medical advancement in diabetes research.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Waist Size That's Risky for Men

Men's Waistlines Could Be Key to Health

40 inches put most men in risk zone for serious illnesses, experts say.

Men can gain significant health benefits from watching their waist size and, if necessary, losing some flab around the middle, the American Dietetic Association says.
"Just as it's important to know your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and weight numbers, men need to know their waist circumference. So, get out the tape measure," registered dietitian and ADA spokesman Jim White said in an ADA news release.
For an average male, a waistline of 40 inches puts him into the "disease-risk zone," the experts warned.
Excess abdominal fat, as opposed to fat elsewhere on the body, increases men's risk for health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. This fat around internal organs is known as visceral fat.
To correctly measure your waist size, wrap the tape measure over bare skin on your natural waistline, a little above the belly button at the narrowest part of your torso. Don't hold the tape measure too loose or too tight, White said.
"Eating better, decreasing stress levels, engaging in physical activity and getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep every day can help keep a man's midsection under control," registered dietitian and ADA spokesman Manuel Villacorta said in the news release.
Villacorta suggested reducing portion sizes, cutting back on alcohol and exercising regularly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

For a week, I ate MyPlate and then I ate this

For a week, I ate MyPlate and then I ate this
The joy in eating comes from choosing what to munch on, based on how you feel.
But that “I-eat-whatever-I-feel-like” could mean overeating, mindless, emotional or unhealthy eating.
After a week of following MyPlate’s guidelines on a budget, I learned it takes a lot of planning and calculating. But it's possible.
For a week, I tweeted my meals on my Twitter account, @MadisonCNN. I planned my meals to ensure I had fruits, vegetables, lean protein, grains and low-fat dairy, while sticking to a weekly budget of $61.27.
I tried to eat out as I normally would, instead of eating all my meals at home ,which would’ve been unrealistic.
I ended up caving to a $3.72 frozen yogurt on the last day of the challenge.  I was already 31 cents over budget, but the froyo pushed me way over.  I didn't realize that until Sunday night.
Budget: $61.27
Final tally: $65.30
Here are my observations in bite-sized pieces:
1)   MyPlate took me much longer to eat, because I had to finish  various components. 
One afternoon, my lunch took me two hours to finish because of meetings, interruptions and phone calls.  I felt like I was eating all the time because it took me such a long time to finish.
The big difference was that I wasn’t eating fast, convenient foods that easily fit in my hands like a snack bar or a burger.  So I ate at a much slower pace.
On Twitter, @soccer_jude asked, “So – are you finding your #myplate meals *sufficiently filling* that you're not feeling snacky in-between?”
When I got hungry, I snacked on mostly bananas, apples or grapes.  But I also felt like I was constantly eating.
After a meal, I never felt hungry or uncomfortably full.  Eating MyPlate slowed down my pace and made me more aware of how I felt after a meal.
2)    It gets easier.  Promise.
At first, the challenge seemed daunting.
The first two days, I felt hopeless – especially for a girl who seldom cooks and accidentally cracked a runny, underboiled egg against her table (messy).
I sought advice from foodie co-workers and sections like Cooking Light’s Budget Cooking that estimates how much each serving costs.  I visited the grocery store three times in one week to price shop for the food I wanted.
Menu planning got easier as the week went by. There was some nice encouragement, including  from CNNHealth contributor  @AmandaEnayati who wrote, “I want to tell u that it gets easier with time & practice & also food gets yummier.”
3)    Portion control is key.
Eating from the bento box ensured that I ate only what was in my container and didn’t go overboard on the portions. Having a visual cue helped me control how much I consumed.
On Twitter, @CliffWeightLoss asked: “Are you tracking any variables, such as weight, body fat %, or BP [blood pressure] during this experiment?”
I didn’t want this to be about calories or weight loss, but  I had a doctor’s appointment three days before I started the challenge.
I lost 2 pounds by the end of the week and I wasn’t exercising any more than normal.
4) Your variables matter.
Eating to an ideal can be harder depending on where you live, access to stores/farmer markets, income, time constraints, food allergies or dietary restrictions.
Eating MyPlate might be difficult, but what’s the harm in trying?
Finally, I compiled the best affordable and healthy eating tips from blog readers and Tweeps:
Mollie: The expensive fruits & veggies are usually those that are out of season. Learning what types of fruits & veggies are in season when you go shopping is an easy way to cut costs. Also, if you find a great price on something fresh or you have grown an abundance, you can always blanch and freeze the extra.
Jennifer:  I spend roughly $50/week for myself and my son and we eat a very healthy, well-balanced diet. It's possible to not spend a fortune, depending on your diet. We're not huge meat eaters but I buy extra when it's on sale. We eat seasonal fruits and veggies, don't buy a lot of prepackaged food (except things for bag lunches due to school rules), and don't buy a lot that doesn't get eaten.
Erin: I have found that it is possible to eat healthy, including fruits and vegetables and stay on a budget. When I go to the farmers market, I can get a big tub of organic spinach for $2. The grocery store sells that same tub for $6. That $2 allows me to have spinach salads all week for lunch. I also watch sales ads and watch for coupons (driscolls.com has berry coupons; Earthbound Farms will mail you coupons if you email them; Dole Pineapple puts out coupons every couple of months, etc). My husband and I eat healthy meals at home for $50/week including fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, and organic dairy products. Trust me, it can be done!
Thanks.  And happy eating!