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Fruit & Sugar: How to Maintain a Healthy Balance

11 Jul

“I can’t eat fruit, I don’t want to get fat.” Does that statement have any truth to it? …..Let’s find out.

Fruit, compared to many other options, is a great choice.  It often contains a decent amount of fiber helping to fill the body and has a variety of nutrients.  The downfall to fruit can be its sugar content.  Sugar is something we should try to limit in our diet, as having too much causes all sorts of issues for us.  So, it’s not to say you can’t have some, it is to say that you keep the amount in check.

There are two types of sugars, those occurring naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and those in dairy (lactose).  Other sugars are those sugars and caloric sweeteners  added during processing.  The American Heart Association (www.Heart. Org)   recommends we limit out sugar intake to 26 grams a day for women and 36 for men.  Those should come from naturally occurring sugars.

So, think about your diet.  I’m guessing the vast majority of us are consuming way too much sugar.  It’s partially habit, lack-of-knowledge, convenience, and let’s face it, it just tastes good.  One thing that helps is to be educated on where you find sugar though, which will aid in beginning to limit our consumption.

Fruit is not all created equally.  When looking at the sugar content, here’s how it stacks up:

Blackberries: 7 Grams Per Serving

Strawberries: 7 Grams Per Serving

Apples: 13 Grams

Pineapples 16 Grams

Bananas: 18 Grams

Grapes: 23 Grams

Here are some simple tips to help you maintain reasonable amounts of sugar intake:

1)      When reaching for fruit, pick berries first.  Overall they seem to be one of the lowest on the spectrum of sugar content.  That and the fact that they are packed full of vitamins make them a good choice.

2)      Don’t drink your food.  It’s easy to throw a bunch of fruit in a blender and feel like you are eating healthy but it’s important to remember that the body craves the sensation that comes along with chewing.  Allowing yourself to actually eat foods rather than drink all of them aids in this desire. In addition, we often consume more than necessary when we drink our calories because it goes down so easily.  This is particularly true of fruit smoothies. Same goes for juicing oranges.  Fresh squeezed orange juice tastes delicious but should be reserved for a treat, as it can easily result in quickly downing 5 oranges, putting us over our daily limit.

3)      Shop the produce section, not the grocery store isles for fruit.  Canned peaches in heavy syrup do not constitute fruit.  There is very little in the way of nutrition in canned fruits and whenever possible the best choices are fresh fruit.  Frozen fruit without any additives is also a good option.

4)      Avoid the attitude of “It has fruit in it, it must be healthy”.  There is nothing farther from the truth.  Fruit is contained in many products and dishes but that does not mean it’s healthy.  Even dried fruit is often coated in sugar and should be avoided unless it’s something you consider your “treat”.

5)      Combine fruit with other things.  Get your fruit intake by adding a bit of fruit to a variety of dishes you eat during the day.  Considering adding blueberries to Greek yogurt, apples to Steel-cut oats and bananas with a tablespoon of all-natural peanut butter.  Doing this can help you combine proteins, carbs and healthy fats to your snacks.

Eat for Health: A Peek Inside My Shopping Cart

4 Jul

Looking fit is partially about exercise, but has a tremendous amount to do with what you eat.  Diet plays a major factor in fitness, and selecting the right foods, as well as combinations of foods at the right times can go a long way toward health, physique and weight management.  All products are not created equally!  When choosing foods it’s best to make every attempt to eat one ingrediant whole foods.  Things that are not packaged or processed including fruits and veggies from the produce section, grains and legumes, lean meats, nuts and seeds and eggs.  Truth-be-told though, we are all going to buy some packaged products.  Sometimes it’s for convince, others times it’s simply because we like the item.

Below I’ve included items from my grocery basket.  Some I eat often, some only once in a while as more of an indulgence with a healthy flair.  This allows me to keep my diet very clean almost all the time.  Check out these items and give them a try.  If you are currently eating a similar products check the labels and compare.  The items I have on here a known to many to be excellent healthy options.

Jennie-O Extra Lean 99/1 Turkey:  This is great on the grill as turkey burgers or chopped, cooked in a pan with PAM and served over a sweet potato.  Typically I season it with a little garlic powder or fresh garlic cloves.

 

 

 

Trader Joe’s Pomegranate Seeds:  These are delicious and nutritious.  Serve them in Greek Yogurt or in a protein shake.  My friend Bath Katz makes the best homemade guacamole with fresh avocados and includes these.

 

 

 

 

Trader Joe’s Raw Creamy Unsalted Almond Butter: All this contains is raw almonds.  There is no added salt and no added sugar.  It tastes great served on the brown rice cakes featured below and topped with blueberries.  You can add it to smoothies, serve it on Ezekiel bread or eat a tablespoon plain.  If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s www.traderjoes.com  near you simply read the label to ensure the only ingredient is almonds.  The same goes if you are eating peanut butter.  Find a brand that has only peanuts.

 

 

 Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Cake: Brown rice cakes are easily portable.  Select brown rice rather than white and check to make sure there is not added sugar.

 

 

 

 

 Starkist Albacore White Tuna in Water: A great recipe for tuna, mix Fage Greek Yogurt with spices, celery, jicama and the tuna and serve on Ezekiel bread.    travel with this tuna and add it to salads if you are eating out.  Tuna contains a good amount of protein, which is essential to include in your diet.

 

 

 

Food for Life 100% Whole Grain Ezekiel Bread: If you are going to eat bread stay away from the white!  Ezekiel bread is excellent topped with chicken and veggies, tuna and nut butter.  This also comes in a low sodium variety.

 

 

 

Manischewitz Balsamic Vinegar: This is a great alternative to high calorie dressings.

 

 

 

 

Green Giant Butternut Squash: This comes in a steamable bag so it’s easy to prepare.  It’s delicious with cinnamon sprinkled in top.

 

 

 

 

Endangered Species All-Natural Dark Chocolate: If you are going to indulge, dark chocolate is a better option that other varieties.  These small squares are the perfect portion ensuring you don’t eat too much.

 

 

 

 

Hopefully this offers a few ideas for you next time you’re at the store.  I’m always looking for good options so please feel free to share your favorites!

Simple Health and Fitness: A Life Approach

24 May

What sells?  Magazine covers that read “5 minutes to a better body.”  Cookbooks that are titled “Eat what you want and lose weight.”  Diet plans that advertise “Take this pill and get fit and firm”.  That sells because it’s an easy fix, but the reality of getting the body you’ve dreamed of and the level of health and fitness you desire is simply not a quick fix.

So, with that said, the first thing you need to decide is do you really want to achieve this?  I’m going to give you some very good reasons why your answer should be yes.

While it’s very challenging to begin, in the long-term you will feel better about yourself, be more productive and able to navigate life more effectively.

Being healthy is not only a positive change for you but also for your family and friends. 

Being fit and healthy helps boost self-esteem which paves the way for success in other areas of your life.  It’s not just a matter of how you look; it’s your ability to realize you are stronger than you think.

Eating better makes you feel better.  We were not designed to eat fast food and chemicals.  Eating healthy and clean allows your body to function more properly.  When your body does that so does your mind.

There are plenty of reasons to work on achieving health, so why aren’t you doing it?  It comes down to this: We live in a faced paced society that has encouraged you to do everything quickly.  We attempt to accomplish ten tasks at once, we go till exhaustion thinking we will get ahead in doing so.  We eat on the run and fitness easily drops off our priority list.  We fall into these patterns and at some point usually step back and say “I’m not sure I’m really happy.”  True happiness is achieved through balance, mindfulness and purposefulness.

If you have read this far you probably agree with what I am saying and want to change this pattern.  You want to live healthier, be happier and more productive.  If you are going to make a life-long change for the better you are going to have to do it in small steps, period!  Here are ways in which you can move forward in achieving this:

  • Stop eating fast food.  Give yourself license in the beginning to keep all your old habits but just stop eating fast food.
  • Change one eating habit per week.  Swap out a product for something healthier; eliminate something from your diet that isn’t good for you.
  • Begin an exercise program that requires you to do ten minutes of cardio at a time.  Ten minutes, that’s it.  You can make ten minutes a day.
  • Simplify your life.  Life gets cluttered and clutter takes up a lot of space.

Example 1: Clutter in your home.  That actually pulls your attention from other things.  It’s hard to manage life when you are surrounded by things, and piles of paper and undone tasks.  Change that pattern and de-clutter your home, car and office space.  This will help you focus.

Example 2: Clutter in your life.  This comes in the form of people, activities, and commitments.  Sometimes less is more.  We tend to give of our time to so many things that then we really are not offering anyone anything much of value.  Or, we are offering a lot to others but in the process neglecting ourselves.  Simplify commitments.  Pick your top 5 priorities and do those!  Make fitness one of them.  Pick the people who you want in your life and make time for them.  You can’t make time for everyone.  The reality is that some individuals are actually a drain on your productiveness.  Begin to recognize that and make the necessary changes.

People often think health and fitness is basic.  You exercise, eat right and achieve it.  That is the foundation, but taking a closer look at what prevents us from doing that is the way we can actually achieve these goals.  Fitness and wellness is a life approach.  It’s a philosophy.  It is less about an act and more about a mindset.  If you can get to that mindset, the rest will come easy.

Eat Clean, Get Fit: 5 Easy Recipes To Help You Get Started

21 Mar

“I exercise because I like to eat”!  Are you someone who says that to people?  Many individuals enjoy satisfying their taste buds, but there are ways to do that while still maintaining healthy eating patterns.  Cooking using fresh ingredients that provide the body vital nutrients it needs to function properly is vital to maintaining a healthy physique and sound mind.

I’m fortunate to have many friends who enjoy cooking.  They frequently cook for the families and have their favorite recipes.  I’ve included five favorites from those I collected.  Give them a try!

Spinach Dip: Submitted by Pam White

Ingredients

1 (16 oz.) container low-fat cottage cheese

10 oz. container frozen spinach, thawed

8 oz. can water chestnuts, chopped fine

2 tbsp. onion powder

1 tsp. dried parsley

2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Step 1 – Using a blender, blend the cottage cheese until it is smooth and creamy.

Step 2 – Put the cottage cheese in a large mixing bowl, and add all other ingredients. Stir well.

Turkey Chili Recipe, Slow Cooker Style. Submitted by Shannon Jay Dougherty

Shannon’s website: www.shannonjaydougherty.com

Ingredients:

2 lbs Lean Ground Turkey

2 Jars (16 ounces each) Your Favorite Chunky Salsa

2 Cans (14.5  ounces each) Diced tomatoes, undrained

2 cans (15 ounces each) Red kidney beans, drained & rinsed

1 bag (16 ounces) Frozen corn kernels, thawed

2 tablespoons Chili Powder

2 teaspoons Cumin

2 teaspoons Garlic Salt

2 teaspoons Dried Oregano

Greek Yogurt

Step 1 –  Spray slow cooker.  Brown ground turkey breaking up large pieces, drain fat and place in slow cooker.

Step 2 – Add all ingredients and stir. Cover on Low for 8 hours. Garnish with your favorite toppings. My choice is a dollop of Greek Yogurt on top!

Leek, White Sweet Potato & Mushroom Soup.  Submitted by Jennifer Zlaket

Jennifer’s website: http://www.holisticzwellness.com

Ingredients:

1 medium onion

1 bunch of leeks

1 large, white sweet potato

2 carrots

2 stems of celery

1 large bunch of mushrooms of your choice

thyme

fresh parsley

celtic sea salt

black pepper

Step 1 – Dice the onion, leeks, sweet potato, carrots, and celery.

Stock:  Sauté the chopped onion, carrot, and celery with a sprig of thyme and the stems of the mushrooms in 1 tbsp of coconut oil, until tender.

Step 2 – Add 6 cups of water, a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of black pepper and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for half an hour.

Step 3 – Sauté the diced leeks and sweet potato with another tbsp of coconut oil for 15 minutes.  Add diced mushroom caps and sauté another 10 min.

Step 4 – Strain the stock and add only the liquid to the leeks, sweet potato and mushrooms.  I run this through the blender to make a soft, silky consistency.  You will have about  4 ½ cups.

Step 5 – Put it back in the pot, add about 1 tbsp of minced/crushed thyme leaves, another pinch of sea salt, another blast of pepper, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Garnish with chopped, fresh parsley.

Protein Quinoa Pancakes: Submitted by Thomas Miller

Ingredients

1-1/2 cup cooked quinoa

2 whole eggs

2 egg whites

Topping Suggestions: Fruit, Honey, Agave syrup, Avocados

Step 1 – In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, eggs and egg whites. Whisk until smooth and creamy.

Step 2 – Mist a non-stick pan with oil and cook as you would any pancake. Do NOT cook these on high heat. The outsides will burn and the insides will still be raw. Use medium heat and cook for a little longer until golden brown.

Step 3 – Top with any clean topping.

Curried Cauliflower: Submitted by Jennifer Zlaket

Jennifer’s website: http://www.holisticzwellness.com

Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower

1 large brown or yellow onion (you can also use leek instead, or in addition to the onion)

Curry powder

Turmeric

Cumin

Black pepper

Step 1 – Finely dice the onion and sauté in coconut oil with few teaspoons each of the curry powder, turmeric, and cumin (about 10 minutes.)

Step 2 – Add diced cauliflower and continue to sauté for another 10 minutes.

Step 3 – Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley.

Just Eat Already: How Eating Regularly and Picking the Right Food Combinations Aid In Weight Loss and Fitness

27 Feb
The Farmer’s Market! A great place to stock up on tasty fruits and vegtables.

I’ve been everywhere in relation to food over the course of my life. I’ve eaten too much, I’ve eaten too little. I’ve eaten without regard and been completely mindful. It’s come down to this. If you don’t eat food, it will eat you! Food and health is all about balance and feeding your body the right foods at the right time is paramount.  If you do this, you will naturally begin to crave these foods and you will be better able to maintain weight. So, here’s what that means to me.

1) You need to eat. I cannot even tell you how many people I know who skip meals. I know, you get busy, you travel, you’re in meetings, I hear it all. You just have to decide you are going to be prepared, pack food if you need to, and take 5 minutes to eat. Wake up, eat breakfast within 30 minutes, and eat every few hours. Let your hunger dictate some of that. Do not allow yourself to get too hungry! As soon as that happens you will find yourself in a bind because you will eat the closest thing you can get your hands on.

2) You need to think very carefully about what you are eating. Your ability to combine the right foods at the right time is important. I used to believe as long as I was eating something healthy I was doing well. Not true! Steel cuts oats are great, for example. Should you have just that for breakfast in the morning? No. Consider these combinations as better options.

A serving of steel-cut oats, 3 egg whites, a few slices of avocado

A serving of steel cut oats, one serving of nonfat Greek yogurt, a small handful of natural almonds

A serving of steel cuts oats, 1 scoop of protein powder, flax seed and one serving of berries

3) You need to hydrate yourself. Thirst often masks itself as hunger. Drink water throughout the day. The side effects of hydration are numerous and sometimes we don’t even realize that we are dehydrated. What helps? Invest in a water bottle or cup with a lid and straw.  Keep that with you and fill it up regularly. Every time you find yourself in a place that serves or offer you water take it.

4) Include vegetables. With your snacks include a vegetable. Carrots are easily able to be packed and add a crunch to your diet. Snap peas are tasty. Adding things like bell peppers and mushrooms to your breakfast isn’t that hard. You can also throw spinach in smoothies and sometimes not even notice it’s there. Veggies help you fill up and offer a wide variety of nutrients.

Focusing daily on eating regularly and combining the right foods will help curb your cravings and prevent you from eating foods you will later regret.  Please feel free to share combinations of foods that work for you.  I’m always looking for new ideas to incorporate in my diet!

Mindful Eating: How to Eat Less and Enjoy More

2 Nov

Freshly prepared meal made from fruits and veggies purchased at the Farmer's Market

What happens when you’re hungry?  For me, it’s easy to find the quickest and most convenient thing I can get my hands on and eat it.  That’s definitely something I had to retrain myself on when I set my goals for improving my health and losing weight.  The goal became not to find myself in a position where I was really hungry, especially in the presence of a fast food restaurant!  As I got better at this, the concept of mindful eating became more present for me. 

What is mindful eating anyway and how can it help you achieve your goals? Mindful eating, according to Center for Mindful Eating (www.tcme.org)  is, “Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food preparation and consumption by respecting your own inner wisdom”.  What does that mean?  For me, it’s about fully enjoying the process and paying careful attention to what food does to my body.  In an effort to ensure I was being mindful of my eating habits, I developed a process of nourishing myself.  Here’s what it looked like: 

 Mindful Eating for Meal Time:

1) Prep for meals and snacks: Doing this rather than just grabbing food on the go allows us to develop a keener sense of our body, how to care for our health, and how to appreciate and respect food.  Look through cook books, find recipes or ideas, and subscribe to blogs or sites on food that give suggestions.  One of my favorites is www.mariamakesmuffins.com  .   Shop local farmers markets and talk to the growers.  Think carefully about what goes into growing and raising food.  Pay attention to nutritional content.

2) Allocate time to prepare meal: This makes you more fully appreciate what you are putting into your body.  Even the art of buying bags of almonds and portioning them out makes me more aware of how much a serving is, what it offers me nutritionally and how much it fills me. When creating meals for my family, I occasionally take some time to concentrate on preparation, making eating an experience rather than just an act.

3) Savor the moment: When you sit down at the table, close your eyes for a moment.  Think about what you are about to ingest and how it will nourish your body. Are you eating empty calories?  If so, that’s okay, just be aware.  Does your plate have a variety of colors on it?  Is the food on your plate a blend of the vital nutrients we need to sustain ourselves?  Take a moment to truly think about what you are eating. 

4) Make eating a ritual: Start by having a glass of water to cleanse the palate.  Ensure you are not going into meal time over-hungry.  Breathe deeply and smell the aroma of the food.  As you eat, pay attention to the flavors.  Eat slowly and intentionally.  Pause between bites to allow your body time to take it in.  This will ensure you don’t overeat.  Before having a second helping, give your body time to digest.  

5) Reflect: After eating, notice how your body reacts.  Did the foods you ingest make you feel good, give you energy, or did they take away from those things?  Many people have food allergies or sensitivities and go years before they ever realize this.  Everyone is different.  You are the best judge of knowing what food works for you!  Some people avoid dairy, others red meat, some are vegetarians, others vegan; some can’t have gluten, some have sugar intolerance….I have seen it all.  You are the owner of your body.  Only you know what makes you feel good.  Pay attention to your body and figure this out.

Eating right and caring for yourself is a skill. Feed the body good whole foods , appreciate the moments of eating, pay careful attention to the process, love yourself, share your successes and tips, learn from your failures, and support others.  This will go a long way toward achieving your goals for optimum health.  Good luck in your journey.

A Love Affair with Food: Ways to Enjoy Treats While Still Maintaining Your Weight Loss Goals

6 Oct
I recently asked the question, “What is the greatest barrier to losing weight?” The answer was, “I love food way too much.”  It’s natural that we tend to love food.  We live in a culture where food is a focus, and often times, not in a healthy way.  The rise of fast food chains, quick and easy on-the-go meals, and inexpensive ways to manufacture food drives our economy.  Let’s face it, in many aspects food is vehicle for creating community.  Much of what we do is centered around food, and not participating often makes us feel left out.

How then do we change our relationship with food in order to better care for ourselves without giving up that sense of comfort and enjoyment.  The answer lies in balancing what we eat by simplifying our choices 80% of the time.

Indulgences are necessary for some people.  If you are one of these people, allow yourself the right to do that.  More importantly though, don’t focus on these occasional moments, focus on what you eat the majority of the time to determine if you are really going to be successful in your weight loss goals.  The simpler you eat during your non-cheat moments, the better off you will be.  Here are ten tips you might consider in order to help you find balance in your food choices:

1.) Sandwiches: Skip the cheese.  If you enjoy cheese save those slices and pair them with almonds and an apple for a snack later in the day.

2.) Hamburgers: Add vegetables such as lettuce, onions and tomato but skip the ketchup which can add sugar to your diet.

3.) Flavored waters: Pass on the additives you dump in your drinks.  Instead, add your own lemon or cucumber for a naturally refreshing drink.

4.) Nuts: Stay away from the bags that add salt and opt for non-salted options.  Better yet, pick non-salted nuts in their raw form rather than the dry roasted brands (which often contain added oil).

5.) Coffee: Try adding soy milk or almond milk as coffee creamer rather than half and half and flavored creamers.

6.) Pancakes and Waffles: Skip the syrups high in sugar.  Add fresh fruit to sweeten the taste.

7.) Vegetables: Veggies should be eaten in their raw form.  If you are dipping carrots in ranch dressing consider that your treat.  The same goes for adding cheese to broccoli, mayonnaise to artichokes, and butter to corn.  The more you eat it plain, the less you will crave the toppings.

8.) Oatmeal: Buy oatmeal in the form of plain oats or steel cut oats.  The prepackaged options may look healthy but they often contain additives.  This goes back to understanding and reading the ingredients carefully.

9.) Pasta: Avoid marinara sauce which can be high in sugar and add unnecessary calories.  Try adding fresh tomatoes and basil instead.  For moisture, you can spritz a bit of pure olive oil to provide you with a healthy serving of fat.

10.) Brown rice: Skip the soy sauce.  Soy sauce is off the charts when it comes to sodium.  Try mixing vegetables in for added flavor.

Ensure that you follow the “simple is better” rule 80 percent of the time when it comes to eating.    What you do EVERYDAY is more important than what you do once in a while!  So concentrate on making good decisions every day and this will allow you to a treat of your choice once in a while!