The Heavy Cost of Obesity At Work

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

OK, in the interest of full disclosure I’ve had enough to eat since the beginning of the year to go into hibernation. So I’m entitled a bit to comment on the growing issue of the cost to organizations of leaders and employees who are overweight.

I also have to disclose that I’m married to a registered dietitian who tells me everyday that there are really are no bad foods–only poor diets. At least I still maintain my morning ritual of taking all my inflammatory protective vitamins with Yoohoo and heading out for my morning run at the beach. At long last it seems, CFOs are now my friend when I talk about the cost of poor health habits to the corporate financial waist line.

Here are some things we know about the cost of overweight leaders and talent on absenteeism, presenteeism (being at work but not really being there mentally or physically), disability claims, and health costs:

1. Approximately 44 million American adults (27.6% of men and 33.2% of women) were considered obese in 2005, defined as having a body-mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Baskin ML, Ard J, Franklin F, Allison DB.(2005). Prevalence of obesity in the United States. Obesity Rev. 2005 6, 5-7).

2. The average talent only stays at a job for about 4.5 years, and it actually takes quite a bit longer for health problems due to being overweight to really emerge.

3. Obesity costs U.S. companies more than $13 billion annually in health care costs and is associated with 39 million days lost due to absenteeism, according to the National Business Group on Health (National Business Group on Health

4. Obesity-related claims for short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) indicates a growing health cost to employers. For example, most of the STD and LTD claims submitted to insurance companies in 2005 were directly due to obesity (e.g., gastric bypass procedures) and they were more than double those submitted in 2003.

5. Individuals who are overweight and obese are at much higher risk of chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Annual medical expenditures are $732 higher, on average for overweight adults than for those with average or below average BMI, according to a recent study published in Health Affairs.

6. Obesity is estimated to account for 43% of all health care spending by US businesses on employees with coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and a range of other fat-related diseases, according to health coaching consultancy Leade Health Inc.

7. Obesity is a greater contributor to chronic health problems and medical spending (30% to 50% higher) compared to either smoking or drinking (Roland Sturm, UCLA/RAND Managed Care Center for Psychiatric Disorders, The Effects of Obesity, Smoking and Drinking on Medical Problems and Costs, Health Affairs, March/April 2002).

8. A recent Duke University study analyzing 11,728 employees over eight years found that overweight workers had 2 times the rate of workers’ compensation claims as their more fit co-workers. The most overweight workers had 13 times more sick days and work-related injuries (Østbye, T, Dement, J. & Krause, K. (2007). Obesity and Workers’ Compensation: Results From the Duke Health and Safety Surveillance System . Archives of Internal Medicine. 167, 766-773).

9. The U. S. 6th District Court determined recently that morbid obesity is generally not a disability for employees and can’t be used as a claim for “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disability act (ADA). This judgment came from a suit from 400-pound Stephen Grindle who claimed he was fired as a driver for Watkins Motor Lines because of his weight.

10. A recent meta-analysis by a group of researchers at John Hopkins University suggest that if the rate of obesity and overweight continues at the current pace, by 2015, 75 percent of adults and nearly 24 percent of U.S. children and adolescents will be overweight or obese.

At least in the retail industry, it seems “shrinkage” these days is on an increase….Be well….

1 Comment

Maintaining Good Bone Health

Denise Nowack, RD

While building strong bones started early in childhood, keeping them healthy as we grow older requires attention and care. Good nutrition—particularly daily sources of calcium—is important for maintaining bone health.

Choose nonfat or lowfat dairy products often

  • Substitute yogurt for sour cream in dips, dressings and toppings (240-400 mg/cup)
  • Use milk to reconstitute canned soups, cereals, or instant potatoes (300 mg/cup)
  • “Strengthen” your milk with nonfat dry milk powder. Add 2 Tbsp powdered milk to 1 cup of regular milk for a 290 mg boost to the 300 mg already in milk.
  • Fill a baked potato with ½ cup of cottage cheese and broccoli (cheese/75 mg; broccoli/60 mg)
  • Top casseroles, omelet’s, toast, or steamed vegetables with shredded Swiss or mozzarella cheese (150-250 mg/ounce)

Other calcium-rich sources

  • Any type of fish with edible bones, such as canned salmon or sardines (440-569 mg)
  • Choose low-oxalate dark green vegetables like kale, broccoli, turnip greens, mustard greens. The calcium in these veggies is better absorbed than the calcium found in spinach, rhubarb, beet greens and almonds.
  • Calcium-fortified tofu, soymilk, orange juice, breads and cereals are excellent staples. Check the food labels to see just how much calcium has been added.

Beyond Calcium
Vitamin D also plays an important role in bone health by helping with the calcium absorption. During the summer getting enough vitamin D is easy as it only takes 15-20 minutes of skin exposure to the sun each day. Vitamin D can also be found fortified in foods that contain calcium. Be careful with supplementation as vitamin D is stored in the body and can be toxic in relatively low amounts (>2,000 i.u./day)

Phytates (found in legumes like pinto beans and peas) as well as oxalates (high in spinach, rhubarb and almonds) can interfere with calcium absorption. While these foods have other nutritional benefits, avoid eating them at the same time as your calcium-rich foods.

Calcium Supplements
While foods remain the best sources of calcium, calcium supplements can be helpful for those who are not able to get enough from their diet. Supplements come in many forms. The two most popular are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Start by reading the label for the amount of elemental calcium.

Calcium Carbonate (e.g., Os-Cal, Tums) contains a high amount of elemental calcium and tends to be the best value. Calcium carbonate needs to be taken with food to help with absorption.

Calcium Citrate (e.g., Citrical, Solgar) contains less elemental calcium than calcium carbonate, but tends to be better tolerated. It is absorbed more easily and can be taken on an empty stomach.

The body can best handle about 500 mg of calcium at one time. Split doses of supplements throughout the day. Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist to determine whether a supplement will interact with any prescription medications you’re taking. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends avoiding calcium from unrefined oyster shell, bone meal or dolomite without the USP, as these historically have contained higher lead levels or other toxic metals.


Nutrition S.O.S.

by Denise Nowack, RD

When emergencies strike access to food, water, and power can be compromised for days.  Experts recommend that we all be prepared with a three-day supply of water and food.  Follow these simple tips to help you build an emergency stockpile of the foods you’ll need.







What Does a 3-Day Supply Look Like?

A healthy food supply is more than just packing up a few snack foods in a box.  Based on the Food Pyramid, here’s what a basic 3-day reserve should consist of for each adult in your household:

  • Bread, Cereal, Rice, Pasta – 9-12 servings
  • Fruit – 6 servings
  • Vegetables – 7-9 servings
  • Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Nuts – 16-19 oz
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese – 3-9 servings

Serving sizes will vary by age, gender, activity level and physical condition.

Choosing the “Right” Foods

  • Look for foods you like to eat.  You don’t need to buy unfamiliar items for your emergency supply—in fact familiar foods can help provide a sense of comfort in stressful times.
  • Look for foods that are “shelf-stable.”  These include canned foods, dried mixes and other items that require no refrigeration for storage.  As long as they remained sealed, they could last from 6-12 months. 
  • Look for foods that require little preparation.  Should you lose power, choose items that are ready to eat.  As a rule of thumb, canned foods don’t require cooking before eating.  Consider small can sizes or individual servings that provide just the amount you might consume at one time.

When the Power Goes Out

In the case of a loss of power, a charcoal or propane grill or camp stove can be used for emergency cooking.  (Be sure to use these outdoors.)  Additionally, candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots can also heat foods.  If you don’t have an alternate way to heat water, do not include instant foods in your supplies.

Storage Tips

Pack your food supply up in a covered box or container that can be easily carried out of your home in case of an emergency.  Store these in a cool, dry place that is free from insects and rodents.  Date your foods with a marker and be sure to rotate with a fresh supply every 6-12 months.  Seal cookies and crackers in a plastic container or plastic bag to preserve freshness.

Don’t Forget Water

At least one gallon per person per day should be stored away for drinking, food preparation and hygiene.  Just like your other food, date and rotate your water supplies every six months.

Stock up for Success

Let the Food Pyramid be your guide for your emergency food supply.  (The items with a * require heated water for preparation

  •  Bread, Cereal, Grains—Crackers, pretzels, ready-to-eat cereals, granola bars, rice or popcorn cakes, cookies, instant cereal*, boxed couscous*, noodles in a cup or packaged ramen*
  • Fruits—Canned fruit, fruit roll-ups, applesauce, dried fruits, jelly, canned or bottled fruit juices, powdered juice drinks, or juice concentrates
  • Vegetables—Canned vegetables, canned vegetable soups, canned or bottled vegetable juice, instant vegetable soups,* instant potatoes*
  • Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dried Beans & Nuts—Canned tuna/salmon, tuna lunch packets, sardines, canned chicken/turkey, canned lentil/bean soups, canned chili, canned ham/pork, Vienna sausages, canned stew, canned beans, shelf-stable tofu,  beef/turkey jerky, peanut butter, canned nuts
  • Milk, Yogurt, Cheese—Powdered dried milk or canned evaporated milk, boxed rice or soy milk, process cheese, snack cup pudding, instant cocoa*
  • Other Important Items—Manual can/bottle opener, resealable plastic bags, paper plates, disposable eating utensils, trash bags, waterproof matches or fire starter

 Don’t forget about your pets too!


Hot Ideas for Cool Summer Eating

As the mercury rises, it’s hard to think about eating…much less preparing meals. Try these sizzling strategies to help you keep your cool—and your good nutrition in the months to come.

Look to Mother Nature for help.
The deluge of seasonal vegetables and fruits can help keep you away from the hot stove or oven. Turn the summer’s bounty into crisp salads, refreshing desserts, and easy sandwiches without turning on the heat.

  • Dip raw vegetables—like sugar peas and carrots—into fat-free ranch dressing.
  • Enjoy a sliced tomato and mozzarella sandwich with a cool pesto spread.
  • Put grapes in the freezer and pop them in your mouth for a cool frozen treat.

Use everything but the oven.
Rely on the microwave, slow cooker, and rice steamer to help keep the heat out of the kitchen, or take to the outdoor grill for easy lowfat cooking. Grilling chicken or vegetables? Add extra pieces to the grill and enjoy for other meals throughout the week.

Keep it simple.
Keep meals quick and easy. If you do prepare meals, make them early in the day while the temperature is still cool. Many foods taste better when made ahead and refrigerated.

Drink, drink, drink!
It’s easy to get dehydrated in the hot weather. Put your water bottle in the freezer the night before—as it thaws during the day you will always have cool refreshment at hand. Pour your favorite fruit juice mixed with club soda or sparkling water over ice for a fresh fruit spritzer. Or make a fun fruit shake with your favorite fruit, a frozen banana, and liquid of choice (fruit juice, milk, soy milk). Be creative!

No-Cook Meals Made Easy
Here are a few ingredients to keep on hand—or pick up at the store—to help you put together meals that don’t require cooking.

  • Chicken, rotisserie-style—Store-cooked chickens are available and affordable in many markets. Beyond the basic meal of a leg and thigh, convert them into salads, sandwiches and wraps to be eaten later in the week.
  • Canned Beans—Toss them in salads, puree them for dips or use them in no-cook burritos. A great source of protein and fiber! Rinse before using to reduce the sodium.
  • Frozen Shrimp—Buy pre-cooked and thaw for 5 minutes in a colander under cold running water. Perfect for quick seafood meals.
  • Canned & Bottled Vegetables—Roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, beets—or any other of your favorites. Refrigerate and use to build salads and side dishes.
  • Nuts and Seeds—These can add texture, flavor and a great source of fiber to sauces, salads and desserts. Store in an air-tight container to keep fresh.
  • Frozen Fruit—Berries, like raspberries and blueberries make great additions to cereals, salads and frozen beverages like smoothies.

It’s in the Bag

Denise Nowack, RD

Packing a lunch is a great way to save calories, money and time. The secret to making your brown-bag lunch interesting and nutritious is to plan ahead. Keep lunch in mind as you shop for the week.

The basics
Make fruits and veggies a brown-bag basic. Choose a variety of vegetables that can be enjoyed raw, like cherry tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, jicama, broccoli and celery. Some come pre-cleaned for quick and easy use. Dip them in hummus, low-fat ranch dressing or cottage cheese.

Build a better sandwich
Sandwiches are a sack lunch staple. But there is life beyond peanut butter and jelly. Vary your sandwich options by combining any of the tasty ideas below.

Cook once, eat twice
Make double batches of chili, soup and stews. Pack and freeze in individual serving size containers that can be reheated. Add a salad and a whole-grain roll and you’ve got lunch.

Plan for leftovers. Last night’s roasted chicken can be tossed with spinach, mandarin oranges and slivered almonds for a great lunch later in the week.

Make your own snack packs

Save money and watch your waistline by making your own 100-calorie snack packs. Buy in bulk, pack in sealable bags or reusable containers and you’ll have a nutritious snack you can throw in your lunch bag. Here are a few suggestions:

  • 12-15 almonds
  • 40 pretzel sticks
  • 10 walnut halves
  • 1/3 cup of whole-grain granola
  • 1 ¾ cup reduced-fat popcorn
  • 6 dried apricots
  • 12 mini-cheddar rice cakes
  • 15 chocolate-covered raisins
  • 10 baked corn chips

Grab & go items
No time to pack lunch? Stock up on these items that you can grab & go rather than go without.

  • Reduced-fat cheese sticks
  • Prepackaged salads or lunch kits (complete with all ingredients)
  • Yogurt in a single-serving container
  • Individual packaged veggies—some come complete with dip
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Whole fruit—complete with their natural wrapper

Healthy Eating on a Budget

by Denise Nowack, RD87517833

Eating well doesn’t have to take a bite into your budget.  A little work up front can save you time and money down the road.  Here are some tips to keep a few pennies in your pocket with out compromising your health.

 Have a plan.

  • Look for healthy recipe ideas using budget-conscious ingredients.  (Search the internet using the ingredient as the key word.)
  • Take stock!  Create a master shopping list to keep your refrigerator and pantry filled with staples that are quick and easy to cook, and kind to your wallet.
  • Clip coupons…or go online to look for discounts on the products you use most.

 Shop smart

  • Check your list and stick to it!  Resist the urge to pick up “extra” items from end-of-aisle displays or at the checkout counter.
  • Buy in bulk and store in ready-to-use portions.  If storage space is limited consider splitting packages with a friend to take advantage of volume savings.
  • Look for specials. Stock up on staples when they go on sale.
  • Take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables in season.  For other produce, frozen and canned products can be good choices.  Opt for low-salt products and avoid those prepared in sauces. 
  • Go generic.  Buying the store’s brand of canned, frozen or bagged foods can provide great savings without compromising nutritional value.

 Cook once, eat twice

  • When you have the energy to cook, double up on recipes! Freeze the extra in oven-ready containers, or use later in the week for lunches or quick dinners.
  • Stretch your meals. Leftovers from a roasted chicken at dinner can be reinvented the next night in a chicken pesto pasta or for lunch in a chicken salad.
  • Leftover vegetables can give canned soups, rice or pasta a nutritional boost.

Make the cut

While precleaned and precut produce can save time and energy in the kitchen they can be more expensive than their standard counterparts.  Go for whole fruits and vegetables and cut them up yourself. Chop and package them in common portion sizes for the recipes you use most, or slice and store them for an easy snack. 

Be a savvy snacker

Healthy snacking can be your best friend in managing fatigue.  However, single-serving snack foods can be costly.  Create your own individuals snack packs.  Make them in advance and package in individual snack bags so you can “grab & go.”

Be your own “takeout”

Restaurant and convenience foods can quickly chew into your budget.  Plan ahead and pack lunches in reusable and insulated containers for you and your family to take to work or school.  Here’s where your snack packs can come in handy.

Budget-friendly ingredients

  • Pastas
  • Quick-cooking grains (like quinoa, couscous, brown rice)
  • Canned beans (a great source of fiber and protein)
  • Soups (choose reduced-sodium varieties)
  • Canned & frozen fish
  • Canned & frozen varieties of fruits and vegetables
  • Nonfat powdered milk (use when milk is needed as an ingredient in cooking)

[tags]denise nowack, budget, eating, nutrition, grocery shopping, meals groceries, healthy eating[/tags]


Taking the Stress out of Holiday Meals

Denise Nowack, RD

As we leave Thanksgiving behind, just the thought of another round of holiday entertaining seems overwhelming and exhausting.  Don’t despair.  Here are four simple strategies can help you relax more, stress less and enjoy good times with family and friends the next time around.


Plan ahead

  • Sketch out your holiday “game plan” in advance, including recipes, shopping lists, supplies…and who will help. 
  • Keep your menu simple.  Holiday meals are often times of overwork…and overeating.  Serve one appetizer, a salad and a side dish with the main entrée.  Your guests will thank you, too!
  • Delicious dishes don’t need to be complex or difficult to make.  Look for recipes that have 5 ingredients or less and keep preparation steps to a minimum.
  • Make out a shopping list.  Keep a piece of paper near the refrigerator and note the items you need.  This will save time at the market and ensure you won’t forget key ingredients

Pace yourself

  • You can lighten the load on the “big day” by including dishes you can prepare days, weeks in advance.  Use freezable dishes for part of your menu.  Some sauces or dips even taste better when the flavors get to blend for a few days in the refrigerator.
  • Recruit a partner.  All good chefs have assistants.  Find a family member or friend who will work beside you helping to gather the things you need, clear the clutter and clean as you go.   Enlist the kids to set and clear the table.
  • Collect your stuff.  Avoid running around the kitchen by gathering all your ingredients and equipment before you start meal preparation.  Then take a seat!  Once you collect everything you need, pull up a stool to the counter, or sit down at the table to assemble your ingredients.  This will help keep you from tiring before the meal is even served.
  • Be realistic and take on only what you can comfortably accomplish and ask others to help with the rest.  A potluck can be a great way to share the load and enjoy your time together rather than stressing over the stove.

Purchasing Power

  • Buy ready-to-use.  Purchasing pre-cut produce, shredded cheeses, jars of chopped garlic and other products of convenience can cut cooking time by 15 minutes…and save even more of your energy.
  • Know where you can opt out of cooking.  Instead of trying to make everything from scratch, relax and be merry with the help from your local market.   You can pick up party trays, side dishes—even a complete turkey dinner from the deli section of your grocery store.  Serve them in your own bowls or platters— no one needs to know.
  • Start your grocery shopping in advance.  By purchasing ingredients that can be stored in your freezer or cupboards you can make shopping more manageable and help minimize the time (and wait) in the crowed stores in the week before the holidays.
  • Go online shopping.  The task of grocery shopping can be exhausting.  Save your precious energy by calling on the help of your local supermarket.  Many offer low-cost delivery services and are as easy as a click of a button at your computer. 

Pack it Up

  • Enjoy the fruits of your labor in the days ahead.  Wrap up leftovers right after dinner in meal-sized portions.  Pop into your refrigerator or freezer for instant dinners that can be easily reheated.
  • Do a “Leftover Makeover.”  Have an idea on how to use the extra turkey and vegetables in tasty dishes the following day.  Here’s one that can come to life in just 15 minutes.

Easy Turkey Potpie

½, 15 oz. package refrigerator pie dough
Cooking spray
1/8 tsp kosher salt
2 cups cooked turkey, cubed
1 ¼ cup frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup frozen mushrooms (or fresh mushrooms quartered)
1, 10 oz. can of reduced-fat /reduced-sodium condensed cream of chicken soup
1 ¼ cup water

Cut 3, 4-inch circles out of dough.  Place on greased cookie sheet and spray tops lightly with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt.  Bake dough at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden.

Combine remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.  Spoon 1 cup of turkey mixture into a bowl.  Top each with a pie crust.  Serves 3 (serving size: 1 pie)


[tags]denise nowack, stress, holiday stress, eating, nutrition, healthy recipes[/tags]