Wendy: The Dietitian

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell


It is a true privilege to bring you an interview with my wonderful friend, Wendy Howard. Wendy is an author and a registered, licensed dietitian in private practice. She is an energetic, dynamic person and a tireless advocate for health, fitness, and good nutrition. She has been in practice for a total of 32 years, working in hospital dietetics for several years until her first child was born and then transitioning into private practice. Wendy is an empty nester and has been married to her husband Steve for 27 years. She has four daughters and one son-in-law. I know you will learn a lot from my conversation with her.

(Suzy) What are the main health/nutrition issues you see in women age 50+?
(Wendy) Besides weight issues, it would be weight issues! Though I will add that women also do desire to have a strong immune system and genuinely want to be healthy and energetic as they age.

How do you suggest women deal with that seemingly inevitable weight gain that comes with middle age?
It’s amazing that almost every health issue can be summed up by eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed food. This solves weight problems and helps build a strong immune system, balance hormones, give more energy and help heal any bowel issues. Women also need to exercise regularly.  I really mean this—we say it all the time, but we need to consider 4-5 times a week for an hour. Mark it on your calendar FIRST before everything else pushes it out of the way.

How do exercise and nutrition work hand-in-hand?  What type of exercise do you recommend to your clients?
I’ve counseled many people who try to lose weight without watching what they eat and vice versa. It just doesn’t work. When calories burned are greater than calories consumed, weight loss occurs. Cardio is the best for heart health, calorie burning, and weight loss–brisk walking is the simplest and easiest. At our age, we also need to add strength training and flexibility exercises, but cardio should still be at least 30-45 minutes of the 60 minutes you work out. Start fresh today and commit to nutrition and exercise together. It works! (There are no shortcuts!)

We hear lots of buzzwords today associated with eating (Paleo, Vegan, “Clean” eating, Mediterranean, Raw, Juicing, etc.)  Is there any “diet” you like better than others? 
Most of the specially named diets have a gimmick that makes people think that it’s the magic bullet that’s going to give them the results they are seeking. I do like the phrase “clean eating” because it’s simply stating that the diet is free of chemicals such as artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives, and additives. I’m one who likes to keep things simple and natural–the way God created food.  So, again, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and if consuming dairy–low fat and organic as much as possible. I don’t have issues with good clean animal protein sources if consumed in small amounts–no more than 6 ounces a day and having some days that are meat-free just because you can! I recommend eating wild-caught salmon and omega 3 eggs which provide the body with beneficial omega 3 fats for brain health, hormones, immune function and healthy skin, eyes, and hair. I love juicing but am a fan of “whole” juice made in a blender such as a Vitamix and not extracted where the pulp is removed.  Most people will only juice what tastes good—and not things like kale, spinach, beets, cabbage, etc.

We DO love our caffeine!  What are your thoughts about acceptable amounts and what are the best sources of caffeine?
A daily cup of java is fine. The only time I get people off of caffeine is when they’re addicted. Do you get a headache when you go without it? No one needs to have a caffeine addiction! Also, women can have bladder issues including excess urinating at night from too much caffeine. Hot green tea sweetened with stevia is an excellent substitute for coffee with only a fraction of the caffeine.

How much water should we consume daily?  What beverages besides water do you recommend?
Half your weight in ounces–more if exercising–add 16-20 ounces or more. Green tea (hot or iced unsweetened or using a healthy sweetener like stevia) is the only other thing I let people “count” as water.

What’s your advice about vitamins and supplements?
There are two supplements I recommend to everyone. The first is Juice Plus, which is a whole food fruit and vegetable supplement backed by 38 medical studies and comes in capsules and chewables. It has 17 fruits and vegetables that help meet the requirement of 9-13 servings each day. I’ve had my family on it and recommended it to all my clients and patients for years. The results have been amazing and are backed by research. So next to wishing everyone would actually eat 9-13 servings of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables every day, I recommend Juice Plus to help them fill that gap.  The second supplement is Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D3 fish oil.  It provides 1 gram of high-quality omega 3’s and vitamin D in which virtually everyone is deficient.

It is quite the transition to go from cooking for a family to just cooking for two (or maybe even one).  Do you have any specific advice for empty nesters?
I think it’s great to get out of the mindset of what we typically think is a meal–chicken, starch, vegetable–and consider easier things for dinner like scrambled eggs with fresh spinach and tomatoes, sweet potatoes with chopped chicken and spinach, or soup and salad. That just makes life easier! My daughter, Brittany, who is also a registered dietitian, and I wrote a cookbook called 1-2-3 Quick and Healthy Cooking for college students, singles, seniors, and busy families on-the-go, and I’ll now add—EMPTY NESTERS! It has quick and healthy meals and a list of ways to stock your pantry, fridge, and freezer with healthy items. Another amazing product I like is the Tower Garden by Juice Plus, which is a vertical aeroponic growing system that makes it easy to grow your own fruits and vegetables at home. It’s perfect for rooftops, patios, balconies, terraces–just about any relatively sunny place outside (or inside with grow lights).

Many thanks to my dear friend for sharing her expertise! I hope you learned as much as I did! To contact Wendy, click here.