Sunday, June 30, 2013

Eating Clean

“Eating Clean” is the latest buzz in the world of Nutrition.  What does it mean?  How are you supposed to do this?  The following are 7 tips to help you “clean-up” your diet. 
1.       Choose whole, natural foods and eliminate or minimize processed foods.  (Processed foods are anything in a box, bag, can, or package.  There are few exceptions, but the majority of your foods should be fresh). 
2.       Choose unrefined versus refined foods (this might not be possible all the time) but when you can, cut back on white flour and increase your intake of brown rice, quinoa, oats…
3.       Include some protein, carbohydrate, and fat at every meal.  Making sure to have a balance when you eat helps you feel full longer.  Instead of having a balance we often have too much carbohydrate at each meal.  Carbohydrates are not “bad” but do need to be in proportion to the fat and protein in order for our bodies to be able to utilize them (and make them not have to work too hard). 
4.       Watch out for fat, salt, and sugar.  I could write an article about each of these alone!  As you start to eliminate processed foods limiting these will become easier. 
5.       Eat small meals, 5-6, throughout the day.  This usually works out to 3 main meals with 2 snacks for the day.  Eating this way helps you from skipping meals and overeating.  It keeps your blood sugar steady, so your energy won’t lag.  This goes along with making sure that you’re including & balancing the carbohydrate, protein, and fat in the right proportions.
6.       Don’t drink your calories.  High calorie drinks like specialty coffees and sodas on average can tack on an extra 400-500 calories a day.  This is typically the first place I tell my clients to look at and see if there are changes that they need to make.  We often forget to include these liquid calories in our total calories for the day.   They can easily add up.  Think your drink.  Choose water first!
7.       Get moving.  Regular physical activity every day is a must for so many reasons.  Not only does it decrease fat, strengthen and build muscle and help you burn more calories when you rest, it keeps your heart, lungs, and bones healthy and strong.  Studies show that even just fifteen minutes a day is the single best way for people to improve their health.  Why stop there?
Follow a clean eating lifestyle to give your body a naturally healthy boost. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Calorie Is A Calorie-or Is It?

A Calorie Is A Calorie—or Is It?

I am reading Robert Lustig’s book, “FAT Chance Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease”.  In his book he addresses this question and others to begin to understand the obesity problem.  So what’s the answer you ask?  Depending on who you ask will depend on the answer you get.  As a dietitian I’m not here to give you the easy answer (or the answer you want to hear).  I’m here to help others to be healthy.  So read on to find out why it’s so confusing and I’ll try to help explain it.

There are three problems with “a calorie is a calorie.”

First let’s be honest.  There is absolutely NO way anyone could actually burn off the calories if you’re eating like the average American is eating.  A chocolate chip cookie has the equivalent calories of twenty minutes of jogging, and if you were to eat a Big Mac that would require four hours of biking.  Do people really do that?   I’ve never been of the mindset to eat something and go work it off through exercise (and again with the way we’re eating it’s next to impossible unless you’re Michael Phelps).  I’ve counseled a lot of clients and I try to explain this concept of calories in = calories out (energy expenditure).  Because the concept is true:  if you take in more calories than you’ll use for that day you will gain weight (and vice versa, if you take in less calories than you need for the day it’s possible you’ll lose weight).  But what I also try to explain is that our energy expenditure is dependent on the quality and the quantity of the calories that you ingest.  You can eat a medium-sized apple for ~95 calories or you can have 2 Hershey nuggets for ~90 calories.  The calories are almost equivalent; however, the apple provides far more nutrients than the chocolate.  (I’m not saying that you can’t ever have chocolate but understand that on a day to day basis we should be getting more quality calories than quantity.)  Therefore “a calorie is NOT a calorie.”

Second, if a calorie is a calorie, then all carbohydrates should be the same, since they release 4.1 calories per gram of energy when burned.  But they’re not.  There are complex carbohydrates and there are simple carbohydrates – completely different in how they break down in your body and what they provide to you (vitamins, minerals, and fiber).   A doughnut for breakfast is not the same as a couple of slices of whole wheat toast.  The same goes for fat.  If they were all the same they’d release 9.0 calories per gram of energy when burned.  They are NOT all the same.  There are good fats (ones that have positive benefits-anti-inflammatory, help clear out the plaque) and there are bad fats (those that can cause heart disease and a fatty liver).  The same concept goes for protein – there is high-quality protein and there is low-quality protein.  They are NOT all the same.  Therefore, “a calorie is NOT a calorie.”

The third problem with “a calorie is a calorie” comes from this concept that we are eating more than we did in years past (the U.S. secretary of health and human services stated this and when you ask what our problem is as a nation people believe this to be true).  Are we eating more of everything or are we eating more of certain things?  The U.S. Department of Agriculture actually keeps track of the nutrient disappearance.  Our total consumption of protein and fat have remained constant (as our obesity pandemic has accelerated).  So if our total calories have increased but our total consumption of fat AND protein was unchanged, that means something else had to go up.  That leads us to look at the carbohydrates.  Our carbohydrates increased from 40 percent to 55 percent.  When you look a little bit closer, yes the complex carbohydrate intake increased a little, but the bigger increase was in the simple carbohydrates, specifically fructose.  If we are to have an answer to this global problem of obesity then we need to understand the causes and effects of this change in our diet – we’re eating more sugar. 

All these contradictions lead us to now understand that a calorie is NOT a calorie.  Maybe a better way to say this is a calorie burned is a calorie burned.  I’m always trying to help my clients understand the keys to weight loss.  I reflect after a nutrition counseling session if I did my best to relay this message.  I know there are some that leave from my office thinking they can eat anything they want (wrong)and just go do some exercise to balance it out (wrong).  And then there are others that really understand that they need to make changes in what they’re eating.  People need to understand that the quality (along with quantity) of the food matters.  This will be key in understanding a part of this obesity problem we have on our hands.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A few products to try...

Celebrity endorsements play a big role in “creating value, recognition, and credibility” for brand name products, according to a study by English researchers.  These same endorsements can prompt your kids to dig into a hefty bowl of high fat, high salt junk food.  That’s great news for advertisers, not so great for kids.  Just this week, Shaquille O’Neal made the announcement on Twitter that he’d be launching a new line of sodas.  Bottom line:  celebrity endorsements can/do influence what we buy. 

While I may not be a celebrity, in some realms of the world I am a nutrition expert.  I’m always trying to educate my clients on label reading and trying to sift through the latest nutrition information to make sense of it all.  Believe me, it’s confusing!  Here are 5 products/foods that I use myself (because I wouldn’t promote something if I didn’t use it myself).  Take it or leave it.  I don’t work for these companies and surely am not profiting from promoting them.  My goal is for people to be eating healthier.  I always encourage people to make one change at a time.  If one of these products is something you can switch out with what you’re using now, I’ll consider that a step in the right direction.

Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock – I know all of us would love to make homemade chicken stock, but the reality is who has time?  Many of the other store-bought stocks are loaded with salt, MSG, and many other ingredients we can’t even name.  Here’s a chicken stock that tastes like homemade (only YOU didn’t have to make it).  The ingredients:  chicken stock, chicken flavor, vegetable stocks (carrot, onion, mushroom, celery), honey, bay, thyme, pepper.   It’s not sodium free but it does only have 150 milligrams per cup (200 mg for their Beef flavor and 240 mg for the Vegetable).  Again other brands can have upwards of 850 mg of sodium per cup-way too much!  This stock is one you’ll want to invest in.
Gia Russa Low Sodium Tomato & Basil – once again, I’d love to make homemade spaghetti sauce, but the truth is I don’t.  I need that go to sauce that I grab to make spaghetti quickly!  In comes Gia Russa’s Low Sodium Tomato & Basil.  The ingredients:  plum tomatoes, olive oil, fresh onions, fresh basil, fresh garlic, spices, xanthum gum, garlic powder, onion powder.  At just 20 milligrams of sodium per ½ cup this spaghetti sauce is delicious without all the sodium!  Some spaghetti sauces out on the market can go as high as 800 mg of sodium per ½ cup.  Sodium is one of those hidden dangers that we need to be aware of.  I’m not sure too many people would think of spaghetti sauce as having sodium, but it does.  Whether I’m making manicotti, lasagna, or just plain old spaghetti (I am ¼ Italian), this is my go to sauce!
 Qrunch Quinoa Burgers – They were taste testing the other day in the supermarket that I was in.  I do love to sample foods, so I thought, why not?  I’m glad I did.  I’m a pescetarian and it’s almost summertime – what’s a girl to put on the grill when they’re grilling up all the hamburgers and hot dogs?  The Quinoa burger!  The ingredients:  Organic Millet, Organic Ouinoa, Organic Coconut oil, Organic Onion, Organic Carrots, Organic Broccoli, Organic Spinach, Arrowroot starch, Organic Apple cider vinegar, Psyllium seed powder, Sea salt, Organic garlic, Canola oil.  This frozen veggie burger is full of flavor without a lot of sodium (just 150 milligrams per burger).  I can’t wait for the 1st bbq of the summer – I’ll have a veggie burger I can put on the grill.  My only beef is that it probably should’ve been called a millet burger (since that is the 1st ingredient).
LӓraBar – Cashew Cookie – I normally make my own version of a Lӓrabar and switch it up by changing the nut that I use - walnuts, cashews, or almonds mixed together with dates.  But again I know not everyone has time for that.  The Lӓrabar is a great fruit & nut food bar to have around, whether it’s a mid-afternoon snack or whether it’s an “energy” bar you’re using on race day.  The ingredients:  cashews and dates.  (There are many flavors of the Lӓrabar out there.   Most are great and with minimal ingredients.  My recommendation is to stay away from the chocolate flavored ones – too many extra calories and no longer minimal ingredients).  There are many “energy” bars/granola bars on the market and many times they start adding in too many ingredients.  Lӓrabar is as simple as simple can be (& they taste good!)  So whether it’s that mid-afternoon snack that you need to fill the void or whether you need a little boost on your race day, Lӓrabar is a great combination of carbohydrate, fat, and protein that will help sustain you.

Papaya – while this isn’t a processed food in a package it is often a fruit that’s avoided in the produce department.  Maybe we’re just more comfortable with our go-to fruits:  apples, oranges, & bananas.  Maybe it’s because you’re not sure what you’re getting on the inside (I’ve been known to pick a not so delicious papaya).  Or maybe it’s because you’re not sure how to eat it.  Whatever the reason, people tend to pass them by.  Don’t.  Papayas are sometimes referred to as nutritional powerhouses.  Each cup of cubed papaya has 2 ½ grams of fiber, ~1 ½-day supply of vitamin C, & 28% of a day’s vitamin A, 14% of a day’s folate, and 6% of a day’s potassium, all for just 60 calories.  Just slice the fruit open, scoop out the seeds, and cut the fruit away from the skin.  Enjoy as is or maybe make a refreshing salsa (diced papaya with black beans, diced red bell pepper, minced red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, and lime juice.  Leave the beans out and you’ve got a great topping for grilled chicken or fish).  Next time you’re in the produce department hopefully you’ll give that papaya a chance!

So there it is.  A few products you’ll actually find in my kitchen that are edible, healthy and won’t contribute to the obesity problem in America.  Now if only I was a celebrity and people would listen J