Sunday, February 23, 2014

Refuel and Recharge with Breakfast!

Are you one of the 6 out of 10 Americans who skip breakfast every day?   I like to tell my students Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day”.    After a night of fasting, you need some food to “Break the Fast” which is what breakfast means.  Your fuel stores are nearly empty and it is time to refuel.  Interesting in the Sochi Olympics the Canadian women’s curling team believes in eating peanut butter toast for breakfast.  They are so insistent on this they often bring a toaster with them.  (Team Canada Sochi 2014 Blog: Jennifer Jones).  They add some fruit and they are ready for a curling match.
The National Dairy Council has found that 18% of Americans skip breakfast, another 20% of Americans eat breakfast away from home.   Disturbing is the teenagers with 40% skipping the most important meal of the day.  Breakfast is a time to pack in many nutrients including calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C and potassium.
Easy breakfast choices:
Smoothie – yogurt, banana or other fruit – make it and take it with you
Peanut Butter toast – easy to fix and has staying power, use whole wheat bread and add some fruit for a healthy breakfast
Real Simple did a great slide show on Easy Breakfasts (9 Fast, Healthy Breakfast Ideas): ( Some adaptations made to improve nutritional value.)

  1. Fruit and Cheese – grab an apple, some cheese, and a handful of walnuts – toss into a plastic bag and go
  2. Waffles and Peanut Butter – choose some whole grain waffles, spread with peanut butter and add some raisins.
  3. Bagel – 100 calorie whole grain bagel thins with some dried fruit and a handful of almonds
  4. Strawberry Shake – strawberries are load with vitamin C and antioxidants – choose strawberry or vanilla instant breakfast packet (no-sugar variety) and add 1 cup low fat or no fat milk.  Add strawberries, banana and blend.  Another to go breakfast.  Those who want  a protein boost can add some protein powder
  5. Pizza – but not last night’s leftovers, but a breakfast pizza.  English muffin, whole grain, add some low fat ricotta cheese, even some tomato slices.  Broil if you have time.
  6. Energy Bars – something is better than nothing for breakfast.  Look for energy bars with 3-5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein.  Some brands to look for:  Kashi, Odwally, GoLean, and TruSoy. 
  7.  Egg McMuffin – my favorite when traveling.  Go to McDonald’s, get an Egg McMuffin, juice and milk and you are good to go.  Only 300 calories in the Egg McMuffin so not really a high calorie food. 
  8.  Cereal – make sure it is whole grain cereal.  Top the cereal with no-fat milk, fresh fruit like super nutritious blueberries or slices of banana.  Or mix the cereal with yogurt, add some nuts for extra fiber and nutrients.  I like regular oatmeal, raisins, a little brown sugar and some diced walnuts.  Great way to start the day.
  9. Huevos Rancheros – similar to an Egg McMuffin but with a whole wheat tortilla.  Roll up a cooked egg, slice 2% or low fat cheese, Canadian bacon or lean ham.  If you wish, add some salsa – low calorie and adds flavor and antioxidants.
So find a way to eat something for breakfast.   Eat breakfast and get REFUELED AND RECHARGED.
Sources:  Breakfast Key for Nutrients- But Many Skip It, Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter, January 2014.  Team Canada Sochi 2014 Blog: Jennifer Jones, 9 Fast, Healthy Breakfast Ideas,
Image Source:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Should sugary drinks carry warning labels?

Why did Senator Monning introduce this bill?  He notes that research has shown a link between sugary drinks and health problems.    The California branch of the American Beverage Association is not apparently in support of the proposed legislation.  They note sugar drinks account for only 6% of our calories.  However, medical groups counter this by saying sugary drinks are a large share of our added sugar calories.   According to medical groups, one soda a day boosts an adult’s changes of being overweight by 27% and a child’s by 55%, and it can increase the risk of diabetes by 26%.   (California lawmaker proposes adding health warning labels to sodas).  

Regardless of whether or not sugary drinks come with warning labels, everyone should focus on reducing the ADDED sugars in our diet.  Note it is the sugar added to foods, not sugar naturally present in foods.   Fresh fruits have fructose, a sugar, naturally present and not added.  Milk has lactose, also naturally present and not added.   So what can you do to cut the Added sugar in your diet?

  1. Read the label – if sugar is the first ingredient, the food is high in added sugar       
  2. Buy low sugar or no sugar cereals.  Look for 5 grams of sugar or less.  Or buy plain oatmeal and if you want to, add a teaspoon of table sugar to sweeten it. 
  3. Drink fewer or no sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks, energy drinks.  Switch to 100% fruit juice, fat-free milk, unsweetened tea, unsweetened coffee or water.
Sources.  California lawmaker proposes adding health warning labels to sodas,   California bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks, Image source:  (George Frey / Bloomberg)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Nutrition In The News

Nutrition has certainly been in the news recently.  Some topics that have been making the headlines:

Added Sugar – the Dietary Guidelines for 2010 recommend all of us:  Reduce the intake of calories from added sugar.  Note it is ADDED sugar and not sugar.   Why?  Many foods such as fruits have the naturally occurring sugar, fructose.   No one is recommending we cut back on fruits because they contain fructose.  But we are to cut back on sugar that is added to foods like sucrose, high fructose corn syrup.

Added Sugar and Fatal Heart Attacks – The headline read:  Sugar is Sweet But Also Deadly, which would attract most peoples’ attention.  Much has been written about the negative health consequences of too much added sugar, but deadly?  Researchers   studied over 30,000 Americans over age 44 and analyzed responses to questions about added sugar in their diets and death.   They found too much added sugar increased the risk of fatal heart attacks even among those of normal weight.  Added sugar included that added to the many processed foods we eat, added to coffee, our cereal.  Those who had diets with 25% or more of calories from added sugar were almost 3 times more likely to die from heart problems than those who consumed less than 10 percent of their calories from added sugars.  The worst offender seemed to be sugary sodas, blamed as the main culprits for heart disease. 

So if your diet is reaching 25% of the calories from added sugars, especially from the sugary drinks, time to think about cutting back.  Those who had more than 15% of their calories from added sugar, which would be just 2 cans of sugared soda a day, also increased their risk of heart problems by 20%.

Subway and Yoga Mat Ingredients:  Subway was on the defensive this week when news broke out that one of the ingredients used in their bread was the same chemical found in Yoga Mats.  Reaction was swift in that Subway agreed to begin removing this “yoga-mat” ingredient from all its bread, Subway sandwich chain to remove chemical found in yoga mats from bread.  So what is this supposedly harmful chemical that FDA says is safe?  The chemical is “azodicarbonamide”, a chemical to aid in the elasticity of the bread.  Although it was Subway in the news, this same chemical is used in bread at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and other fast food restaurants.  Although FDA says it is safe, this ingredient has been banned in Australia ad Europe as the World Health Organization has linked it to respiratory and other health issues like asthma. The Center for Science in the Public Interest noted the chemical has also been linked to cancers in mice, lung and blood cancers. 

We can thank social media for making everyone aware of the yoga mat chemical as the blogger; Vani Hari of brought this to light.  She started a petition to get the Subway chain to remove the chemical from its bread.  She also noted that if you go to a Subway in Europe, the bread is sans the yoga mat chemical.   

I enjoy Subway sandwiches and find them a healthier alternative to many other fast food offerings.  So hearing that Subway will be removing a questionable ingredient from their bread is good news. 

Sources:  Sugar is Sweet But Also Deadly, Subway sandwich chain to remove chemical found in yoga mats from bread.  Image Source:   

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Boost your health with Green Tea

Many of us enjoy a glass of iced tea and some enjoy a cup of hot tea.  All teas have some health benefits but green tea is especially healthy for you.  In fact, in a recent WebMD article,  Health Benefits of Green Tea, Christopher Ochner a research scientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, stated, “It’s the healthiest thing I can think of to drink.  Green tea is beyond a super food.”
What are some benefits of drinking green tea?
  1.  Weight Loss – many of us have made New Year’s resolutions to lose a few pounds.  While adding some green tea every day may help shed those unwanted pounds.  Surprisingly, green tea seems to increase your metabolism so you are revved up to burn more calories from fat.  Those who have lost weight and want to keep it off also should add some green tea to their day.  Studies have found those on weight maintenance can better maintain their weight loss if  they drink green tea.  Not to mention, plain green tea or green tea with some lemon has essentially no calories.  A much better beverage choice than a sugared soda which can add 150 calories or more to your diet.
  2. Brain – yes, green tea is good for your brain.  In a research study those who drank green tea had more activity in the working area of the brain.  Other researchers have found green tea can even help prevent the formation of the plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
  3. Heart Health – yes, green tea is even good for your heart.  It not only improves blood flow it also helps lower your cholesterol.
  4. Cancer – a little mixed on this one but some studies have shown that green tea can help your healthy cells and may help destroy any cancer cells.
  5. Stress Reduction – a chemical in green tea, the amino acid, theanine, seems to have a calming effect.  It may also improve your mood.
  6. Immune System – some studies have shown that the amino acid, theanine, also helps us fend off infections.  This study looked at coffee drinkers vs. tea drinkers and those drinking tea had more antibacterial proteins.
  7. Diabetes – green tea helps with blood glucose control.  For those with diabetes, drinking green tea seems to help keep blood sugar levels stable.
How much to drink?  Try for 4 cups a day health benefits.  Drink the tea with lemon which helps you absorb the healthier compounds found in green tea. 

So the next time you are in a grocery store, pick up a box of green tea.  Or, if you are out and about, most coffee places offer green tea.