Sunday, April 29, 2018

Weight loss tips

Trying to drop a few pounds for summer?  Everyone knows that better nutrition and exercise are good ways to burn off calories and drop some pounds.  But are there some easy tips that can enhance weight loss?  Sometimes it is stress that is adding pounds, especially to our stomach area.  How?  According to Dr. David Greuner from New York City Surgical Associates, when we are stressed our bodies produce more cortisol.  This causes our blood sugar to rise and our bodies to store more fat.  Not a good picture. So reducing stress may help reduce those inches around your midsection.  What are some tips to try to lose a few pounds or to keep that weight off? 
1. Kitchens – keeping healthy snacks handy is one way to be sure you are eating healthier.  Researchers have studied snacking behaviors in cluttered kitchens and in a more organized, standard kitchen.  They found people ate more cookies in a cluttered kitchen.  So maybe straightening the kitchen counters and putting out healthy foods will help you reach for a healthier snack.  Another idea is to keep the more unhealthy snacks out of sight but keep the healthier snacks in easy reach.  A bowl of fruit on the counter, cut up vegetables ready to eat.  Nuts in the pantry ready for a quick pick me up.
2. Peppermint – who would think peppermint had anything to do with weight?  Smelling peppermint may actually reduce your hunger pangs and lead you to eat less.  They have actually studied this. People who regularly smelled peppermint ate less calories and less calories from more unhealthy choices like saturated fat and sugar.  But researchers say the peppermint smell shouldn’t come from eating a lot of peppermint candy.
 3.Take a snooze – yes, they have linked more sleep to weighing less.  They even have a book entirely about sleep, “The Sleep Solution:  Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It”, by Dr. W. Chris Winter.  His theory is that if you don’t get enough sleep, your hunger signals are thrown off. So you might eat more calories or indulges in a big bedtime snack.  Another theory is you will be too tired to hit the gym or go for a walk.  Winter noted that when we get enough sleep, we are in a better mood, make better food choices and get in some exercise.
What are some other ways to help control your weight that don’t involve dieting or exercise?  Not that dieting and exercise aren’t good, but it helps to have some tips to keep off any weight you have lost or to keep on the plan you have started.
      4.  Water – drinking a glass of water before and between meals has long been recommended.  Some studies have found that drinking water before meals can help reduce the calories you eat and thus lose more weight.  Other studies have found that soup also works.
      5.  Eggs or protein for breakfast – protein has “staying power” so having some eggs at breakfast leads to less hunger.  One study, Egg breakfast enhances weight loss, compared an egg breakfast to a bagel breakfast.  They found the 2 egg breakfast led to more weight loss.  The study noted that eating foods that keep you feeling full longer, can help you lose weight.  Even compared to eating a breakfast with the same calories.  Nothing wrong with eating cereal or bagels for breakfast.  Just make sure you have some protein like milk, yogurt or eggs in your breakfast to get that “staying power”.
      6. Coffee – for so long many people thought coffee was bad for you. Apparently not.  Coffee has plenty of antioxidants  which are the new thing for healthy benefits.  Drinking coffee can temporarily boost your metabolism.  Not much, about 3-11%, but this increases some fat burning.  But drink it black and not loaded with cream or sugar.  If you do need “cream” in your coffee, substitute some 2% milk.  You will get some extra protein, calcium and vitamin D. 
  7.  Green Tea – another easy thing to add to your day.  Another beverage that is loaded with healthy antioxidants.  Green tea is thought to help burn the fat and lose some weight and help with weight maintenance. Green tea has also been found to suppress hunger and make you feel full.  So if you are trying to drop a few pounds, or want to keep off the weight you have lost, enjoy some green tea.

       8.  Cut down on Added Sugar – sugar is added to so many foods.  Even catsup has added sugar.  But read labels and see if you can cut back on the added sugar.  Buying real, 100% juice, with no added sugar is a better choice than Sunny D or Hi-C.  Switching out soda for plain water would cut out a lot of added sugar.  Also, look at the ingredients and cut back on foods with high fructose corn syrup.   Some studies have shown that high fructose corn syrup seems to favor fat production.  You can buy bread, catsup and many other foods that clearly note that no high fructose corn syrup has been added.

       9.  Eat More Whole Grains -  MyPlate recommends half the grains we eat should be whole grains. Yet, many Americans have no whole grains in their day.  Refined grains like white bread, white crackers, white rice, have been stripped of many nutrients and most of the fiber.  Choose some whole grain cereal like oatmeal, try different brands of whole grain bread to find one you like.  Choose the brown rice instead of white rice or try some Quinoa.
    10.  Spice it up – spices have almost no calories, are loaded with antioxidants, and some spices can boost your metabolism.  The boost is temporary but every little bit helps.  Ever watch someone eat hot, spicy food in a restaurant?  They feel hot and start to perspire as their metabolism gets a boost.  What spices?  Cayenne pepper is one spice.  Dr. Oz has a slide show on 9 Spices That Will Fire Up Your Metabolism”.  Add some cinnamon to your oatmeal in the morning.  Enjoy some ginger tea.  Add some nutmeg and cinnamon to a sweet potato. Turmeric is a hot topic spice as some people take turmeric to reduce inflammation.  The spice may also help lower blood sugar levels and help burn fat.
Some easy weight loss tips to try this week.  Enjoy that cup of black coffee, add some cinnamon to your oatmeal, drink more water, or add some protein to your breakfast.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Food combos to enhance your health

What foods should we eat together?  How do some foods help our health when eaten together?  Environmental Nutrition has an interesting article on Food Synergy Boosts Nutrition.  What food combos should you eat together to boost your nutrition?

1. Add some fat to your salads – so many times we hear, “cut the fat” out of our diets.  Yes, we should cut the fried food but healthy fats we need to add to our diet.  Especially when we are eating salads. 
a.       SALAD + FAT – forget the fat-free salad dressing and reach for reduced fat or full fat dressing.  Why?  Salads, such as mixed spring salad mix are loaded with vitamins like vitamin A, E, K and folate.  They are also loaded with antioxidants. To best absorb these healthy nutrients, we need some fat in the meal.  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that some fat on your salad improved absorption of antioxidants like lutein and the vitamins A,E,K and beta-carotene.  Not surprising since these are fat-soluble vitamins and they need some fat to be absorbed. 
  •    Nuts – sprinkle some chopped walnuts, slivered almonds or other nuts on your salad.  Another way to add some healthy fat.
  •    So when choosing a salad dressing for your salad, make sure it has some fat in it.  Salad dressings made with olive oil are a good choice.
  •  Avocado – full of heart healthy fat.  Add some chopped or sliced avocado for a real nutritional boost.  WebMD notes that adding avocado to a salad increasing absorption of carotene and lutein.  Carotene helps protect against cancer and heart disease and lutein promotes eye health.
      2.   Yogurt + Fruit – eating yogurt for probiotics is a great way to boost your nutrition.  Our gut is full of bacteria, but adding the healthy bacteria in probiotics promotes a healthier gut and a healthier immune system.  But one actually needs to “feed” these probiotics.  What do they eat? FIBER.  When you snack on yogurt or have yogurt with a meal, make sure that meal has some fiber in it.  Fruit is a great way to add fiber to a lunch or a snack of yogurt.  Yogurt + blueberries, yogurt + raspberries.  Or add some whole grain crackers to the lunch or snack.  Add some chopped nuts to the yogurt.  All these choices will add fiber which will “feed” those healthy probiotic bacteria.

     3.  Vitamin C + iron – we all need iron in our day.  Iron essential picks up the oxygen in your lungs and takes it to your cells.  But to better absorb the iron in our foods, we need some vitamin C.  Eating a bowl of Cheerios?  Drink a glass of OJ to help you absorb the iron in the Cheerios.  Many vegetables provide iron but this iron is not as well absorbed as the iron in meats.  Having spinach, a whole grain English muffin?  Add some “C” to the meal to help get that iron in your system.  To add some “C” to a salad, add tomatoes, green pepper, red pepper, broccoli, some tangerine slices.  All citrus provides “C” so a great way to add iron.  When shopping recently, I saw a package of 3 rainbow peppers – yellow, orange and red.  The young mother said her kids loved the rainbow colors and they liked eating the rainbow.  Adding this rainbow of colors to salad would easily boost the “C” and help the iron be absorbed.
Add peppers to salads, omelets
 4.  Blueberries + Strawberries – both of these fruits are full of antioxidants and super healthy.  Many nutritionists call blueberries a “super food”.  But did you know combining these fruits results in even bigger boost to your health?  Other fruit combos also provide health benefits.  Enjoy an apple and a Clementine, make a mixed fresh fruit cup, add combos of fruit to a smoothie.  

5. Green Tea + Lemon – Green tea is an easy way to add some antioxidants to your day without adding any calories.  An even more potent health booster is to put some lemon in your tea.  At a restaurant this week, I choose green tea and then reached for the lemon slices but they were out.  I took the time to ask them to refill the lemon slice container as I not only like the taste of lemon in my tea – I like the healthy boost that a little lemon provides.  The lemon helps our body absorbs more of the antioxidants in the green tea. 
Some easy food combos to try this week.  Strawberries and blueberries will be in season soon so remember to combine these as a super healthy snack.  Reach for the lemon when enjoying a cup of tea. 

When shopping this week, buy some salad dressing with a healthy fat in it like olive oil.  Easy ways to give your health a nutrition boost.
Sources:  Food Synergy Boosts Nutrition, study, avocado, fruits, lemon  Images:  Peppers, walnuts, blueberries                         

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Fast Food – How Much is Too Much?

Fast Food anyone?  Who doesn’t like an Egg McMuffin for breakfast or some grilled chicken at KFC?  Or, a good Subway sandwich and chips?  Can you enjoy Fast Food and still be healthy?  Registered Dietitian, Christy Brissette, has some easy rules to follow for Fast Food.  Her motto is the 80:20 rule.  At least 80% of the time, eat healthy.  Less than 20% of the time, “treat yourself” and enjoy some junk food.  Brissette wrote that a client asked her, “How often can I get away with eating junk food?”  She has given this advice to many of her clients and found that it worked well even with chronic dieters.  You have met these folks.  People who are always “on a diet” and then have one cookie or a Fast Food meal and they have “blown” their diet.  Learning to eat healthy and enjoying “treats” is a way to learn healthier eating habits and get off the on-again, off-again dieting spiral.  Brissette notes that once her clients who are on these “forever” diets are allowed some treats, they find it easier to eat healthy most of the time.  So what did Brissette tell her client?

What is Junk Food?
Everyone seems to know what “junk food” is but many people confuse foods that do supply nutrients with junk food which has little nutritional value.  Here are some foods – which would you say are junk foods?
  • Ice cream
  • Pudding
  • Cheeseburger
  • French Fries
  • Coke
  • Chocolate Milk

Surprising to me, some of my students rate ice cream as a “junk food”.  Yet, MyPlate counts ice cream as a dairy serving.  Both ice cream and pudding can contribute protein and calcium to your day.  Cheeseburger?  Not really junk food as it supplies 3 food groups, protein, dairy and grains.  Yes, you can make a burger at home and use leaner ground beef, but a cheeseburger provides a lot of good nutrients.  Chocolate Milk – a treat many kids enjoy.  Let them enjoy some chocolate milk as you are adding protein, calcium and vitamin D to their day.  Some sugar yes, but also a lot of good nutrients. 
So what is “junk food”?  Most nutritionists define it as foods that have few nutrients but lots of calories from fat and/or sugar.  So Coke would be 100% junk food as the calories are all from sugar and few nutrients are provided.  French fries are loaded with fat and frying the potatoes destroys vitamins like vitamin E.  So most people would put French Fries in the junk food category. 
Some people classify all Fast Food as junk food.  But there are many healthier options.  Subway has the Fresh Fit options, all 400 calories or less.  Choose the whole grain bread, add lots of veggies and choose some Sun Chips and milk and you have a healthy meal.  
Subway - Oven Roasted Chicken
Are there long-term health effects of eating Junk Food?
Brissette cites a study that found eating fast food more than once a week increased one’s risk of obesity.  Those eating fast food more than once a week has a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, and death from coronary heart disease.  Not surprising the obesity risk is higher as so much fast food is loaded with fat and calories.  Choosing grilled options instead of fried, cutting back on the amount of fat in the fast food selections you make would probably change some of these outcomes.

Every good meal helps your health
The good news according to Brisette, is that every healthy meal you eat helps your overall health.  What healthy meals mean is meals with fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meat.  Add a handful of nuts or seeds each day for good health. 
Kids and Fast Food - make your rule for Fast Food - milk with the meal, always ordering fruit. 
The American Heart Association has some recommendations for kids and Fast Food meals:
  • Skip the fries – choose the apple slices or other fruit or veggies as the side
  • Fries  -if you choose fries, order small and share it with your kid
  • Potato – get the baked potato – amazing how many people think a baked potato is fattening but French fries are OK.  Skip the sour cream and choose one topping like cheese or bacon.
  • Choose Grilled – this cuts the fat a lot.
  • Whole Wheat – choose a whole wheat bun/bread when available.  Subway offers this as does Panera.
  • Drinks – choose milk for kids and water or 100% juice for you.  (Milk for adults is also a good idea).  Skip the sugared sodas and make sure any “juice” you order is 100% juice and not a juice drink loaded with added sugar.

Eating healthy most of the time still allows for the “treat yourself” meals and desserts.   So enjoy a handful of nuts every day, eating 5 fruits and veggies a day but also enjoying some junk food.
McDonald's salad

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Weight Loss Tips

Who knew there are things you are doing that can sabotage your weight loss efforts.  Chemicals in food and other substances that may promote weight gain and not weight loss.  What are these chemicals and where are they
  1. Chemicals that may be sabotaging your weight:  What are some things that can sabotage your weight loss progress that you didn’t think about?  Did you know that there are chemicals in your everyday life that may promote the pounds rather than shed the pounds?  The U.S. News & World Report has an interesting article, Chemicals May Be Keeping You Fat.  What are these chemicals and what do they have to do with your weight?
  2. What are the chemicals?  They are called PFASs, substances found in food packaging, and in common household cleaners.  They include chemicals such as BPA and BPS.
  3.  What do these chemicals have to do with our weight?  A study in PLOS Medicine, found that people who lost weight were more likely to regain this weight if they had a lot of PFASs in their body.  These chemicals that promote weight gain are also known as Nutritional Obesogens .  Web MD noted the PFASs may actually slow down your metabolism.
a.       Check your pantry or cupboard for packages, food that may have these PFASs.  What to look for?
  • Added sugar – so many foods have added sugar.  Look at the ingredients of almost any packaged food and you will find added sugar.  Good thing the new food labels will more clearly tell you if sugars have been added to a food item.
  • Monosodium Glutamate – MSG – a flavor enhancer that can be added to foods.
  •  Artificial Colors – so many cereals and other foods have artificial colors added.  Eating real food, and drinking real juice can help you avoid artificial colors.  Many people think Sunny D or Hi-C are 100% juice.  Look at the ingredients and note how little real juice is in these “juice” drinks.  Sunny D has only 2% real juice.  Mostly it is water and high fructose corn syrup.  But it also has artificial colors, Yellow #5 and Yellow #6.  Check out the ingredients in the foods in your cupboard or pantry and look for these artificial colors.  You may find them in cereals, Sports Drinks, frosting, salad dressings.  
Look for artificial colors in foods
b.      Take out foods – who doesn’t like pizza delivered to their door or microwave popcorn?  Apparently, the containers for these foods can have the PFASs chemicals in them.  Hopefully, manufacturers are finding a way to get the PFASs removed as I love microwave popcorn and pizza delivered to your door is something we all enjoy.
c.       Cut back on plastic – the plastic containers for your lunch, the plastic water bottle.  I now try to store leftover food in clear glass containers.  I try to use a metal water bottle as often as I can at the gym.  Look for containers with codes 1,2,4 and 5 as these are the least problematic.  (I checked all my plastic ware and it is coded a “5”.)
Check the number on plastic containers
d.      Receipts – yes, those receipts you get at the grocery store, retail stores or even at the ATM machine.   Some of these receipts have the PFASs that can be absorbed through your skin.  The good news is a number of stores are removing these harmful chemicals from receipts.  Bloomberg reported in January, 2018, that Trader Joe’s  is removing two offending chemicals from receipts:  BPA and BPS.  Bloomberg also reported that a study of receipts found 93% of 208 receipts tested had BPA and BPS in them.  The study they reported on had tested major retailers including gas stations, retailers and banks.  Trader Joe’s also lists on their website which products contain or don’t contain BPA in packaging.  Best Buy is another retailer that has taken these harmful chemicals out of receipts.  If you want to find out how retailers check out on chemicals, go to:  How Retailers Rank on Toxic Chemicals.  

4.   How can you avoid PFASs and chemicals in food and other items?
  • Buy real, unprocessed food.  Fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Use less plastic – store food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers.  Use glass or metal water bottles. 
  • Avoid the food dyes – look at the ingredients to see if artificial colors have been added to the beverage, cereal or other food you are eating.
  • Avoid receipts – get an email or text receipt or shop at stores that have removed BPA and BPS from receipts
  • Look at ingredients and cut back on foods with artificial colors.
  • Look at ingredients and cut back on “added” sugar.  Not easy to do since sugar is added to a lot of foods.  Natural sugars like the lactose in milk, the fructose in real juice are fine.  If the food doesn’t have the  new food label that lists, “added sugars” you need to check the ingredients to see if sugar has been added. And "added sugar” comes in many forms like high fructose corn syrup.
So if someone says they have lost weight but have trouble keeping it off.  They may be right.  There may be chemicals in their everyday life that do make it harder for them to keep the weight off.   Hard to eliminate all these culprits but see if you can cut back on some of them that are in your everyday life.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Nutrition in the News: Chocolate and Coffee

What is this “new sugar” that Nestle has developed?
Nestle researchers have been trying to reduce the amount of sugar in chocolate.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we reduce our intake of “added sugars”.  So it would be a good thing if chocolate candy has less “added sugar”.  What Nestle is doing is changing the actual structure of the sugar molecule.  Basically, it will be hollowed-out sugar molecule so you taste the sugar on your tongue but it will be hollow inside, and thus reducing the sugar content by 30%.  In their press release , Nestle introduced their new Milkybar , their first candy with the reduced sugar content.  Not yet available here in the U.S.A., but will be appearing in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Nestle describes the new sugar as, an aerated, porous sugar that dissolves more quickly in the mouth. This allows someone to perceive the same sweetness as before while consuming less sugar. 
Hopefully, we will be seeing some Nestle reduced sugar chocolate in the U.S. soon.
Reduced Sugar Milkybar
Coffee- what is the fuss about coffee and cancer risk? 
The news this week talks about a judge in California who wants coffee sellers to post warnings about coffee and cancer risk.  Why is the judge making this ruling and should we be concerned about the coffee we drink?  Like chocolate, who doesn’t like coffee?  I enjoy some coffee every morning.
Why do they want coffee sellers in California to post warnings about coffee and cancer risk?  When they roast coffee beans, acrylamide, a chemical is produced.   It is the acrylamide that the judge wants to warn consumers about.

So what are the facts?  Is acrylamide really bad for us?  NPR  wrote a Fact Check article on this topic.  They noted not only is the judge’s decision at odds with science, there is a large body of evidence that drinking coffee is safe and benefits may have health such as reducing the risk for some cancers.  Harvard Medical School in the Harvard Health Letter stated,  "Past studies have suggested that drinking coffee is associated with many health benefits, such as added longevity, lower blood pressure, less weight gain with aging, and a reduced risk of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, several degenerative neurological diseases (like Parkinson's disease), and cancer."

There is a lot of scientific evidence about the health benefits of drinking coffee, both regular and decaf.  If you are concerned about coffee, then keep your intake to 4 cups or less a day.  Apparently, drinking more than 4 cups a day doesn’t add any health benefits.

Look for the new reduced sugar Nestle candy coming soon.  And don’t give up your morning cup of coffee just yet.  I know I will be enjoying some coffee every morning this week.

Sources:  press release, Nestle,  cancer risk, NPR, Harvard Health Letter, health benefits  Images:  coffee. Milkybar, morning coffee