Healthy eating: A New Year's countdown

A year in review: The First Lady vows to reduce childhood obesity, New York bans salt, video games steal gym’s market share.

By KATHRYN RUBIN
December 29, 2010 13:00
Michelle Obama Move it

Michelle Obama Move it. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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The end to 2010 is rapidly approaching; however, before we start counting down to midnight on December 31, here's a quick blast from the past: a recap of the hottest (and most controversial) food, fitness and health related stories that captured our attention this last year.

1.    Move it!
Stealing our first spot is none other than the First Lady. All over the world (and particularly in the US) obesity rates continue to rise every year and 2010 was no exception. In an effort to help "fight the bulge" Michelle Obama launched her biggest campaign ever  - "Let's move". Its goal is to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation. The First Lady's action plan called for building more sidewalks, reducing time spent using digital media and removing deep fryers from school cafeterias.

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2.     Wii are getting in shape
Video games have often been accused of causing obesity (especially in children). What’s not to blame? You sit around for hours not moving –with the only exercise coming from running to the kitchen to grab a snack (and usually an unhealthy one at that). So who would have imagined that health-conscious adults across the world would ditch the treadmill, leave the stair master and the elliptical machines behind, pack up the dumb bells – all for a chance to work out with their video game console? The creation of Nintendo's Wii gave birth to a new form of exercise - "exergaming." Now this past year, with the launch of Xbox 360 Kinect, "exergaming" has become more than just a trend – it has become a way to live and the ultimate (entertaining) way to get fit.

3.    The war against Sodium
The battle against salt is definitely not new in this past year - it has been going on for as long as I can remember. However, what is new to 2010 is the small victory that was won in this never ending fight against the ultimate spice - the emergence of a low sodium trend. Excess salt intake has been linked with high blood pressure, which in turn can cause heart attacks, strokes and many other diseases. While the most obvious solution would be to stop sprinkling extra salt on your food, in reality only a fraction of our sodium intake comes from the salt shaker - the other 90% comes from the actual food.

This year started off with a bang when New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, called for a "voluntary" effort to reduce the salt content in restaurants and processed foods by as much as 25%. The entire state of New York followed, partnering with other states and health organizations to promote a program aimed at lowering the sodium content in packaged and restaurant foods by 10 to 25% over the next few years.

4.    One small step for man, one giant step for the restaurant industry:
In an effort to fight the “flab," this past year, restaurants across the United States did the inconceivable – they published the caloric content of their foods.  From Applebee’s to the Outback to even the relatively healthy Europa Cafe, chain restaurants across the US printed the calorie count alongside the items on their menus.

5.    Vitamin D – more or less?
You need extra (Vitamin D) for bones! No you don’t! Yes you do!  The controversy, the arguments, the fights surrounding the “sun vitamin” supplements went on and on this past year. Some doctors and researchers claimed that most people need supplements or they may increase their risk for a wide range of diseases – including certain cancers, autoimmune diseases, depression, heart disease and type 2 diabetes; while others argued that the studies have been inconclusive. A few months ago the Institute of Medicine finally released their new guidelines - suggesting that adults triple their intake of this vitamin (from 200 to 600 IU/day); however, many experts believe that this is still not enough. They continue to suggest that we take between 1000- 2000 IU a day!

6.    iFit:
Can’t afford a personal trainer? Don't have a friend who will motivate you at the gym? Don't worry –because in 2010 all you needed was your iPhone. The next time you visit the app store, have a quick browse through fitness applications and count how many you will find. Today, there are more than 150 apps dedicated exclusively to improving your workouts, exercise plans and keeping track of how many calories you burned off at the gym.



7.     Conflicting shoe philosophies:
Who would have thought that running shoes (or lack thereof) could cause such a ruckus? On one side are the advocates of the barefoot running fad. They claim that running barefoot encourages a more natural pace while decreasing the chance of injury by building up the muscles in the foot. On the other side of the debate are those for the larger than normal running shoe. A few years ago Swiss Masai launched the MBT shoe – a uniquely designed curved sole devised to simulate walking in sand. The idea was, and is, that the shoe creates an uneven surface which forces the body to use all the muscle groups, thus training the entire body and giving you a more intense work out. This past year, it became a full on trend, with Reebok launching their own version (EasyTones) and Puma following shortly after.

8.    Give yourself a health “booster”
Out with the old (diets whose sole objective was to help you slim down) and in with the new – diets that also increase your immunity. With major health scares –such as the H1N1 (aka the "swine")  flu- running rampant across the globe this past year, people turned to Mother Nature’s natural cure to help them fight the flu: Vitamin C, Vitamin E and zinc were major sellers as they all help increase your immune system.

9.    It’s crunch time!
One thing that most people do not have enough of is time. That is why, this past year, one of the biggest fitness trends that dominated in the gym was shorter but higher-intensity workouts. From circuit training (which works the entire body in 30 minutes) to interval training that boosts fitness and destroys fat in 20 minutes to 15-minute mini weights sessions – time efficiency workouts appealed to anyone with a relatively busy schedule in 2010.

10.    A calming effect
After years of consuming “upper” drinks – energy drinks loaded with caffeine and other chemicals to wake us up – 2010 was a big year for the “anti-energy” drinks. Advertised as “ mini vacation in a bottle” these new beverage such as Slow Cow, Ex Chill and Malava Relax, are loaded with chamomile, melatonin, the amino acid L-Theanine and Valerian root – ingredients all known for their calming and stress reduction effects. And after this crazy year, who couldn’t use a “shot of relaxation."

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