Sunday, May 27, 2018

What food manufacturers don’t tell you

Do food manufacturers have secrets they don’t want you to know?  My sister recommended an MSN article on a number of things food manufacturers want to keep secret as outlined in  the article 50 Secrets Food Manufacturers Don’t Tell You That Could Change the Way You Eat.  Some of the changes food manufacturers are making are good for our health.  More manufacturers are cutting back on the added sugar in foods.   Also, manufacturers are reducing the artificial flavors and artificial colors in foods.  For example, Kraft has removed the artificial color in their macaroni and cheese.  Even fast food chains are focusing on healthier options by getting rid of the antibiotics in chicken.   What are some things you should be aware of?

     1.  Crackers – are you being fooled by crackers?  Are crackers healthy?  Most crackers are made from refined flour (white flour) and sugar and salt.  Add some preservatives and you have your typical cracker.  But there are healthier cracker options.  Choosing whole grain crackers is a great way to add some whole grains and nutrition to your day.  Choose Triscuits, Wheat Thins, or other whole grain crackers.  Look at the ingredients for the word “whole” to be sure it is made from whole grain flour.  Don’t be fooled by low-fat.  We were buying low-fat Triscuits for awhile and then my husband noticed the calories per serving weren’t much different than regular Triscuits.  Some Ritz crackers are labeled whole grain but aren’t’ 100% whole grain.  Still they would be a healthier choice than crackers made with enriched flour.  And if you are just starting to eat whole grains, the whole grain Ritz crackers would be a good way to start.  Consumer Reports ranked crackers and some of their recommendations are whole grain options. 
Ritz crackers have some whole grain
     2.  Natural – manufacturers love to fake you out by using the term “natural” on food packages.  Trouble is there is no FDA approved definition of “natural”.  In 2016 FDA polled consumers as to how FDA should define “natural” and how the term “natural” should be used on food labels.  I always think it amazing when white table sugar added to foods can be termed “natural” when it is highly processed and almost devoid of nutrients.  
    3.  Hidden sugar – cutting back on all the added sugar in our diets isn’t easy.  Who doesn’t’ enjoy desserts?  We expect added sugar in our ice cream, cakes, cookies.  But manufacturers sneak added sugar into almost everything.  Look at your catsup bottle, to see the added sugar in the ingredients.  Look at your spaghetti sauce and find the added sugar.  But the label doesn’t have to say “sugar” to have added sugar in the product.  Sugar has many aliases:  high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, invert sugar, malt syrup, sucrose, cane crystals, dextrose, evaporated cane juice.   It isn’t easy to cut back on the added sugar in your every day foods.   We buy the spaghetti sauce with no added sugar.  We buy the catsup with no high fructose corn syrup.  Yes, it has some cane sugar added but we try to avoid high fructose corn syrup.  Enjoy your desserts but try to cut back on the every day foods that have the added sugar.
Spaghetti sauce with no added sugar
     4. Cheese – who doesn’t love cheese?  Cheese pizza is one of America’s favorite foods.  I love cheese sandwiches for lunch.  But are you buying real cheese?  Try to buy some real American sliced cheese.  Not easy.  What most people buy is a “cheese product”.  Food manufacturers take out some of the real milk and “replace it with processed milk protein concentrate or whey protein concentrate”.  FDA won’t let these manufacturers call this product, “cheese” so the label reads “cheese product”.  We like American cheese and we try to buy “real cheese” and often get the 2% American cheese slices.  
Choose real American Cheese
5.   Multi-grain – doesn’t “multi-grain” sound healthy?  So many people are easily fooled by this term.  Yes, the product has more than one grain, but that doesn’t mean any of the grains are whole grain.  Look at the ingredient list.  If the first word is “enriched” it is not a whole grain product.  It may have some whole grains in it but the healthiest choice would be “whole” as the first word and the first ingredient.  Thus, whole wheat flour or whole rye flour.  Barley and quinoa would be other whole grains.  Some multi-grain crackers are whole grain and these would be a healthy choice.
These Multi-Grain Crackers are 100% whole grain
 So, have you let manufacturers fool you? Check out some labels on the foods you eat to see if food manufacturers have a leg up on you.  Try to buy some real American cheese slices.  Buy some whole grain crackers.  For your next barbecue, buy some catsup without the high fructose corn syrup.

Sources:  article,  FDA, crackers, Sugar, Image sources:  cheese, Ritz, crackers, spaghetti sauce

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Enjoy some Fruit and 100-calorie Picnic Foods

Who doesn’t like some fresh fruit?  My husband brought home a watermelon this week.  It was summer sweet.  All kinds of fruit will soon be coming your way as summer approaches; strawberries ripened on the vine, cherries from Washington, blueberries from Michigan.  Not only is fruit delicious it is super healthy, low in fat and low in calories.  Consumer Reports has an excellent article on 100 calorie summer fruits (June 2018) and 100 calorie picnic foods.   If you are going on summer picnics or barbeques soon, read what a 100-calorie serving of barbeque foods look like.  

Enjoy some 100-calorie fruit:  most fruit is so low in calories that you can eat a handful or more and enjoy a number of servings throughout the day.  Yes, fruit has “sugar” but this is the natural sugar, fructose.  It is the “added sugar” that we should be cutting back on, not the natural sugar in fruit.  Some people mistakenly believe fruit will make you fat.  Not true.  Fruit has no high fructose corn syrup and no added sugars which can add on the pounds.  Because we eat the whole fruit including the fiber, the sugar in fruit doesn’t spike your blood sugar as the added sugar in a soda would.  Berkeley notes:  the fiber and other components in fruit slows the absorption of fructose.  Some studies have shown that people who are a healthy weight, eat more fruit than people who are obese.  Even Weight Watchers has revised its stance on fruit.  Fresh fruit now has 0 points so one can enjoy as much fresh fruit at they want and still be adhering to the Weight Watchers diet plan. 

What does a 100-calorie serving of fruit look like?

28 or 2 cups
2 medium
128 or 1 ¼ cups
12 ounces (2 cups diced)
¾ large banana
1 large

For a more comprehensive listing of what 100 calories of fruit looks like, go to Spark People.   They provide a long list of pictures of what 100 calories serving of fruits looks like and 100 calories of many other foods:  vegetables, grains, etc.  
Enjoy watermelon and fresh fruit
Picnics and Barbeques – going on a picnic or to a barbeque soon?  Plan ahead and know which foods pack in the calories and which you can enjoy and not really worry much about the calories.  Fruit and vegetables are always a good choice to fill up on.  Enjoy all the foods being offered but beware of which foods pack in the most calories.   Maxine Siegel, R.D. heads up Consumer Reports’ food lab.  She offers some advice for barbeques:  “We normally don’t think of picnic foods as being good for you, but many of them are.  For example, watermelon is low in calories and a source of potassium and the heart-healthy lycopene.  Corn on the cob is a good source of magnesium and potassium and supplies vitamin A in the form of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants important for eye health.”   Enjoy some vegetables and if you are the host, grill some vegetables:  asparagus (grilled asparagus recipe), corn, mushroom, peppers.  Consumer Reports recommends grilling fruit including peaches, pineapple, plums and even watermelon.

Grill some corn on the cob
 What does 100 calories of barbeque foods look like?

1/3 of a burger – hamburger and bun
Corn on the Cob
1 and 2/3 ears
Hot dog
1/3 hot dog and bun
Shrimp, grilled
5 large
Baked Beans (Bush’s)
1/3 cup
1/3 cup
1 pound (yes a whole pound)
Potato salad
¼ cup

When shopping this week, choose that watermelon or other fresh fruit.  Pack some fresh cut up watermelon in your lunch.  Take along some grapes.  Grilling?  Add some fresh vegetables to the grill.  
Grilled asparagus

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Diet Pitfalls 2

Last week we discussed five diet pitfalls you may be making.   Here are four more diet pitfalls to be aware of.  These are from  9 Things You Should Never Do When Starting a Diet.   If you are trying to take off a few pounds, be aware of some diet mistakes you might be making.  As I noted last week, so many people start a diet, then go “off” the diet.  Rather the focus should be on changing your eating habits and your exercise habits. It is a lifestyle change to a healthier you.   Change your habits and you can be a healthier you.   

Diet Tips – Don’t make these mistakes (continued):

Mistake #6 – Don’t Keep your Diet Goals a Secret
Hiding your “diet” from everyone may actually make it harder to stick to it.  Go out to eat and your friends will keep asking you to “have another bite” or let’s try a dessert.  Get a “diet buddy” or an “exercise buddy” to help you stick to your action plan.  When you are tempted to go off your plan, call your “diet buddy”.  Have someone there to cheer you on.  For many years I walked at lunch with 2 friends.  We almost never missed – rain, we walked.  Snow, we walked.  It really helped having friends to share the walk with.  So, find a “diet buddy” to share your successes with and to help you through the tempting times.  
Find a walking buddy
Mistake #7:  Exercise Yes, but Change Your Diet too
Exercise is so important in adopting a healthier lifestyle.  But exercise alone won’t take off all the pounds.  And choose the right exercise.  You want to add some strength training to keep toned and to change that fat into muscle.  Muscle burns more calories than fat so building up some muscle will actually help you burn more calories all day long.  Ladies – toning up is important for ladies too.  One doesn’t have to lift barbells to be toned.  Work with a personal trainer and do some machines for your legs and some for your arms.  At a recent family get together, I noticed how toned my sister-in-law was.  She said she had been working with a personal trainer.  If you don't want to work out individually, join an aerobics class to not only tone but to burn the calories.  Or add some walking into your day.  At work, take a walk at lunch with friends.  Walk around the office – go talk to someone instead of sending an email.  Build more walking into your day.

Mistake #8:  The Scale Isn’t the Only Measure of Your Weight Loss Success
You may be adding muscle and losing fat, but the scale may not show it yet.  Muscle weighs more than fat.  You also want to focus on health goals like lowering your blood pressure, getting your cholesterol in normal limits.  Focus on your overall health and not just the number on the scale.  Some weight loss diets promise quick weight loss.  These quack diets can result in dropping a few pounds at first. But some of this is water loss.  Go off the quack diet and the water is retained and you are back where you started.  Focus on healthy lifestyle changes and your health will improve, you’ll have more energy and the number on the scale will also show results.

Mistake #9:  Don’t Go ON A DIET
Stop the roller coaster ride of “on the diet” then “off the diet”.  One really shouldn’t go “off” the diet.  Your “diet” should be learning healthier ways of eating. That is why Weight Watcher’s is such a good plan for losing weight.  They teach you better eating habits and promote exercise.  Once you learn healthier eating habits, you won’t need to go “off” the diet as it will be the way you eat everyday and not just on “diet days”. 

We looked at 5 diet pitfalls last week.  If you missed them, go here to read about them:  Diet Pitfalls.  What diet mistakes are you making?  Take one “mistake” or pitfall and try to change it for one week.  The following week, work on another diet mistake or pitfall.  Soon you will have changed a lot of pitfalls and have developed healthier habits.  If you would like to read about more “traps” you may be falling into, check out 16 Diet Plan Pitfalls That Can Be Easily Prevented.  Even more traps you may be falling into that sabotage your healthy eating goals.   

Last week we discussed diets that give up an entire food group.  So many people have given up dairy.  We need dairy for calcium and vitamin D, not to mention the high-quality protein dairy provides.  If you have given up dairy, time to add some back to your diet.  Bring a yogurt to lunch every day this week.  Good for your bones, good for your gut and good for your overall health.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Diet Pitfalls

Thinking of taking off a few pounds before you put on the swim suit?  What are some diet pitfalls to avoid? A recent article, 9 Things You Should Never Do When Starting a Diet, offers a few tips.  Many people start a diet, lose some weight, only to have the weight come back when they go “off”  the diet.  The old, bad habits return and then the weight returns.  

Diet Tips – Don’t make these mistakes:      

Mistake #1 – Don’t set a Diet Start Date
Have you ever heard someone say, “Next week I start my new diet”.  That just gives them the excuse to eat what they want until next week or whatever start date they set.  So the person gains more weight they have to lose once they do start on their diet regimen.

Mistake#2:  Giving Up all the Treats
All of us have heard someone say, “I ate the cookie and I blew my diet.”  Enjoy that cookie, it doesn’t ruin your diet.  People who cut out all the treats, all the desserts, start to feel deprived.  At some point, they give up and then don’t eat just one cookie but the whole box, or whole row of cookies.  A better idea is to allow some treats but portion them out.  Buy the 100 calorie cookie package and enjoy that treat with your packed lunch of healthier foods.  But a small serving size of ice cream and enjoy every bite.  

Mistake #3:  Focusing on Diet Foods
Many diet foods aren’t really diet foods at all.  Low-fat foods may be loaded with added sugar.  To cut back on fat, I asked my husband to buy some low-fat mayonnaise.  I made some egg salad and my husband took one bite of his egg salad sandwich and asked me, “Why did you put sugar in the egg salad sandwich?”  I assured him I did not add any sugar.  Then I looked at the mayonnaise ingredients and it was full of added sugar.  Who wants mayonnaise that tastes sweet?  So we have gone back to regular mayonnaise and once again enjoy our egg salad sandwiches.  Another problem is many people see “low-fat” or “low sugar” and then they think they can eat all they want.  A study at Cornell University found participants ate 28% more M&M’s when they were marked “low-fat” even though they were just regular M&M’s.  If you want to treat yourself, go for the real thing.  Just watch your portions and how often you “treat yourself”.  

Mistake#4:  Excluding a Food Group
So many diets cut out a food group which results in cutting out the nutrients that food group provides.  Each food group in MyPlate provides important nutrients our bodies need.  Cutting out dairy cuts out needed calcium, vitamin D and high quality protein and many other nutrients.  Cut out the carbs, especially whole grains and you are cutting out important trace minerals, fiber, antioxidants.  And we need carbs for energy.  A low carb diet is often a low energy diet.  Last night, my husband was preparing dinner. Drumsticks, baked sweet potato, veggies, fruit salad.  He asked me if I also wanted a roll with dinner.  I said, “of course”.   He responded, “you never turn down bread.”  To me it isn’t a meal if it doesn’t have bread.  Yes, it was a whole grain roll so it packed a nutritious punch.  But at dinner I almost always have bread, whole grain or not.  No low carb diets for me as I want my energy and the nutrients the grain group provides.
Why do some people seem to lose weight on low carb diets?  A dietitian, Rosenbloom, explains that our body stores carbs as glycogen in our muscles.  When you cut down on carbs you lose some of this glycogen which holds onto to water.  The water loss leads to less pounds on the scale but this isn’t fat loss.  Go off the diet, eat more carbs, store more glycogen and you gain back the weight as you store more water. 

Mistake #5:  All or Nothing
So many people are “on a diet” or “off a diet”.  What they should be focusing on is changing their lifestyle.  Eating healthier and exercising more.  You didn’t put on the weight overnight so you shouldn’t expect instant results.  Slow and steady weight loss is much more likely to last.  Learn new eating habits, healthier eating habits.  Add more exercise, after dinner walks, lunch time walks to your day and week.  Keri Gans, R.D.N, author of The Small Change Diet, recommends small changes for big wins.   For example, she suggests starting with one meal such as breakfast.  Eat a healthy breakfast every day.  I suggest 100% juice, some General Mills cereal, low-fat milk and some whole grain bread like a whole grain English muffin with a little margarine and jam.  A healthy breakfast is a very healthy way to start your day.  Or follow dietitian Christy Brissette 80-20 rule which is Choose “healthy” foods 80% of the time and treat yourself to “other” foods 20% of the time.  
Enjoy a Healthy Breakfast
Let’s look at the other 4 mistakes next week.  Think about your eating this week.  What “mistake” are you making? Maybe it is mistake #2 and you need to add some treats back to your diet.  Maybe you need to add back an entire food group.  Dairy is one no woman should be excluding as women need the extra calcium and vitamin D in their diet for strong bones.  Check the label on that low-fat food you bought.  It may be low in fat but have a lot of added sugar.