Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tidbit: What if you can’t gain weight?

This time of year is “all diets all the time” on the TV, in magazines and in pharmacies (take this product or join this program to lose all the weight you want!).  I have found that many people who wish to lose weight have a good idea what to do (cut portions down, stop the liquid calories, and move their bodies more), but they need someone like me to help hold them accountable, and to make sure they are not getting off track and harming themselves with extreme measures.  

But what about the people who can’t hold their weight and are too thin? You may think by looking around general society (especially in the U.S.) that everyone is overweight. But I have a number of clients who need to gain weight.  They are in just as much angst about their weight as the overweight person. 
For example, one woman I worked with was 6 feet tall and just 97 pounds (BMI 12). She was a good eater, no problems with appetite, and has had other medical problems ruled out. But apparently she was a high calorie burner.  She wants to get back to her normal weight of between 110 and 120 pounds.
Other clients lost weight due to no appetite from surgery, others have had long-standing dental issues, while others have had GI problems that don’t allow them to absorb nutrients from their food.

So what can an underweight person do to gain weight? And what can a friend or family member do to help?
  • First off, no nagging. Even if I figure a calorie goal, a person can’t start the next day at that level; you have to start where you’re at, and add a little more food each day. I have witnessed family members being so judgmental about food choices (i.e. “you shouldn’t eat that pudding, it has sugar in it, it’s poison”) that I’m sure their loved one is not helped (and is likely discouraged). Sorry, but two days after surgery is not the time to introduce heavy-duty soy protein bars, organic trail mixes and other so-called “healthier” options.

While there are lots of reasons for weight loss, here are other ideas to use as a starting point to help gain weight. Remember, it’s just as difficult for an underweight person to gain weight as it is for the overweight to lose, so they have to keep working at it.
  • Make every calorie count. Drink juice instead of water (you still get the water value).
  • Choose the higher calorie food option, such as real mayonnaise and salad dressing (not the light version).
  • Aim to increase calories by at least 500 per day. This will require keeping a food record for about a week, adding up normal daily calories, then adding 500 to that.
  • Any chance you can, add calories. Put peanut butter on toast, leave a bowl of nuts or dried fruit in full view for random snacking, and always add butter or margarine to bread, rice, noodles and potatoes.
  • Consider adding a liquid supplement between meals such as Ensure, Boost, Carnation Instant Breakfast (or the store brand equivalent).
  • Desserts are OK right now because you need the calories and the calories add up fast (a medium piece of pie or cake can be 400-500 calories, while a medium cookie is about 100 calories).

And if you are the one who would like to gain weight, be sure to check with your physician or health provider to make sure you don’t have other medical problems (thyroid, diabetes, cancer, GI malabsorption, etc.) as the cause of the weight loss.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What's for Dinner: Lasagna bites for Potluck

This past Thursday was our quilt bee's annual potluck. We had a very light turnout this year, not due to the weather, but due to some unplanned quilty conflicts (a new quilt shop in the area hosted their first sleep-away retreat, and we suspect at least three of our members joined them).  So our potluck ended up with 3 salads, tortilla soup, chicken with biscuits casserole and these lasagna "cupcakes" that I brought. The hostess (Vicky R, the "other" Vicky) scrounged up a frozen pumpkin roll leftover from the holidays, as we were in danger of not having dessert (that usually never happens).

I learned about these fun cupcake-sized lasagna bites from Tommy Cooks blog, and I modified the recipe slightly. Very yummy! Plan to have 2 per person or more; this depends on number of dishes at your potluck, and the size of appetite of the guests.

Recipe: Lasagna "Cupcakes"

2-1/2 to 3 cups good spaghetti sauce
3/4 to 1 pound ground beef
Salt and pepper to taste
2 packages wonton wrappers
8 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
4 ounces Ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray muffin tin generously with cooking spray (even better would be non-stick muffin tins, cuz these buggers really stick).

Brown ground beef; season with salt and pepper, and drain.
Mix mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta cheeses together with garlic powder and Italian seasoning.

Cut wonton wrappers into circles the diameter of your muffin openings, using a sharp biscuit cutter. (I didn't have quite enough wrappers the first time through, so used the scraps as the middle noodle layer where they wouldn't be seen).

Reserve 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and 6 tablespoons mozzarella for the top of cupcakes.

Start layering the cupcakes. Begin with a wonton circle, add 1-2 teaspoons cheese mixture, and top with 1-2 teaspoons meat and marinara sauce. Repeat layers, and end with marinara sauce. Top with reserved Parmesan and mozzarella.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until edges are brown. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the lasagna cupcakes and pop each lasagna out.

Note: I made the cupcakes the night before, refrigerated them, then baked them the next afternoon prior to the potluck. Add 5 minutes more baking time if you do this.

Nutrition information per cupcake: 114 calories, 5 grams fat, 8 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 18 milligrams cholesterol, 192 milligrams sodium.