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Prairie Fare: Don’t Fill Your Food Bowl So Full

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

The last time a couple of my family members went to their health-care provider, we were informed they needed to lose a little weight. In fact, the recommended weight loss amounted to about 6 percent of their body weight.

I looked them over myself. Sure enough, one of them in particular does not have a noticeable waist. The other one waddles a bit when he walks. Their bellies are getting closer to the floor, too.

I don’t think our future dieters have let the recommendations bother their furry heads. They certainly have not stopped pleading for treats.

Yes, they’re dogs, slightly chubby dachshunds that need to lose 1 pound each. The cold weather does not entice them to run around outside and play. They quickly tend to business and stand barking at the door.

Unfortunately for dogs and humans, extra weight increases the risk for chronic disease, such as heart disease and diabetes, and also puts added stress on the joints. Long-backed dachshunds need to take note of the added stress on their spine, too.

Our dogs are similar to their peers around the country. According to a leading pet food manufacturer, as many as 40 percent of all dogs are overweight.

Our canine friends are doing better than humans in the weight department, though. About 65 percent of people are overweight or obese.

Health-care professionals often use “body mass index,” or BMI, to determine weight status for people. If you have access to a computer, you can determine your BMI by visiting this Web site at and entering your height and weight.

To calculate your BMI by hand, grab a calculator and do these calculations. Divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches. Divide the total by height in inches (again). Multiply the total by a conversion factor of 703.

A normal weight is a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. However, remember that BMI is just one piece of information in the health equation. If you are a highly trained athlete, your BMI may be higher because of the amount of muscle. If you are not an athlete, other factors, such as age and gender, play a role in how to interpret your BMI number.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men. At the same BMI, older people, on average, tend to have more body fat than younger adults.

According to the CDC, if overweight or obese people lose 5 percent to 10 percent of their body weight during a six-month period, they can reduce their risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases. For example, if a 250-pound man decided to lose 5 percent to 10 percent of his weight to potentially improve his health, it would amount to 12.5 to 25 pounds.

Getting out a tape measure and determining your waist circumference is another way to check on your health risk. A thicker waist is associated with diabetes and heart disease. For women, a waist circumference greater than 35 inches is associated with a greater risk for disease. For men, a waist circumference greater than 40 inches is associated with greater risk.

As I was researching weight loss for dogs, I found that pets need similar weight management approaches as their human buddies. Here are some pet weight management techniques that work pretty well for all of us:

  • Don’t fill your food bowl so full. Portion size matters. For humans, measure out a serving on a plate instead of eating right from the container, such as a box of crackers or other snack foods.
  • Lose weight gradually. For humans, that means 1 to 2 pounds per week.
  • Don’t use food as the only reward for good behavior. Put pets in another area while the family is at the dinner table. Pets are adept at persuasion. Nice words and a pat on the back serve as rewards, too.
  • Exercise with a buddy. Playing indoors or outdoors or walking with your dog can help both of you meet physical activity goals.

I heard about the following recipe on TV, but the nutrition change sounded too good to be true. I had to test it myself to see if it was truly edible. When I did some taste tests with family members, one of them asked, “There’s pumpkin in here?”

However, if you have a dog, you will not want to feed it this human-only treat, even if your dog pleads for it. Chocolate contains theobromine, which can be toxic to dogs in certain doses.

A serving (one-twelfth of a box) of unfrosted chocolate cake made with oil and eggs has about 350 calories, 14 grams of fat and 1.5 grams of fiber. See the nutrition analysis for this trimmed-down version.

Chocolate-Pumpkin Cake

1 box chocolate cake mix

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

Mix cake mix and pumpkin. Do not add other ingredients indicated in the directions on the cake mix box. Transfer batter to pan of choice, and bake as directed. (I used a Bundt pan). Note: This tasted great served warm with a dollop of whipped topping and a drizzle of chocolate or caramel syrup.

Makes 12 servings. Without any topping, a serving of chocolate pumpkin cake has 180 calories, 4 grams (g) of fat, 37 g of carbohydrate, 3 g of fiber and a full day’s supply of vitamin A (as beta-carotene).

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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