Sunday, August 25, 2019

Is water the best for hydration?

Who hasn’t heard the recommendation that we all should drink 8 glasses of water a day?  Yes, drinking water is good for our health.  Water is actually a nutrient we need every day.  How much water?  The Institute of Medicine recommends women consume about 91 ounces of a day (about 11.3 cups) from food and beverages and men consume 125 ounces a day (about 15.6 cups) from food and beverages.  Thus, not just water counts but all liquids like coffee, milk, tea, juice and the many foods that contribute water.   Many people don’t think of foods as hydrating, but foods like watermelon are up to 90% water so do contribute water to our daily needs.  In fact, the Institute of Medicine notes, “About 80 percent of people’s total water comes from drinking water and beverages – including caffeinated beverages- and the other 20 percent is derived from food.”  Thus, the Institute doesn’t recommend hydration in terms of the number of glasses of water per day as we can meet our body’s water needs from many different beverages – think milk, juice, coffee, tea as well as many of the foods we eat.  

But for hydration, is water really the best choice?  Well, researchers in Britain have studied the best ways to hydrate.  They came up with a hydration index and found that some fluids stay in your body longer than other fluids.  Thus, would be more hydrating.  They had 72 males drink a liter each of 13 different fluids and measured how much stayed in their bodies after 2 hours.  Water was given a score of 1.0.  What beverages had a higher hydration score than water?  Four beverages:  Pedialyte, fat-free (skim) milk, whole milk, and even orange juice. 

Oral rehydration score
Fat-Free (skim) Milk
Whole Milk
Orange Juice

Surprising to some, drinking milk is a good way to hydrate.  Milk contains protein and some carbs.  Whole milk has fat and milk provides minerals like some sodium and also potassium.  The nutrients slow down absorption and helps the body take up more water and retain more water.  Thus, milk and orange juice are more hydrating than plain water.  I am not surprised.  Often after a walk on a hot summer day, I like to have a glass of orange juice on ice.  It always seemed more refreshing than a glass of ice water and now research shows this may be true.  
Milk: a good way to hydrate
Time magazine had a recent article on, Why Drinking Water All Day Long Is Not the Best Way to Stay Hydrated.  Drinking some water before meals or during a meal is a recommended way to hydrate.  Why?  Because the nutrients in food, the fat, protein, vitamins and minerals all work together to help the body retain water.  This is why milk or fruit juice do well in hydration studies.  The article also noted that eating a banana post-exercise instead of a sports drink may actually be a better way to recover after exercise.  So post-exercise a good way to hydrate is eating a piece of fruit + water.  The fruit will help the body take up and retain the water.  Researchers also found that sipping some water throughout the day was better than guzzling down many ounces at one time.  
Juice is also a good way to hydrate
The take home message isn’t to stop drinking water.  But to also remember to drink some water before meals or drink water with a piece of fruit.  And that other beverages including milk and fruit juices can be more hydrating than plain water.  And think about sipping small amounts of water throughout the day.  I usually carry some water with me throughout the day or have a glass of water on my desk or nearby.  
Drinking water with a fruit is a good way to recover post-exercise

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Food Swaps That May Not Be So Healthy

Most people say they want to “eat healthier” but then are puzzled by all the advertisements and bogus health claims.  Some of us substitute one food for another and think we are making healthier choices.  What are some food swaps that can fool us into thinking we are eating healthier?

      1.. Granola vs. a sugary cereal – Granola can be a healthy choice if you make it yourself or choose wisely by reading the calories per serving and ingredients.  However, many granola mixes are very high in added sugars.  And watch the serving sizes.  Many times, the serving sizes for granola is a mere ¼ to ½ a cup.  Much less than the 1 cup cereal serving size.  By eating more than the ¼ to ½ cup serving of granola, you can easily eat an extra 300 calories.  Fine for an athlete in training but not so fine for a person wanting to lose or maintain their weight.  If you enjoy granola – it can be a healthy choice as most brands do provide some whole grains.  The first ingredient is often whole grain like whole grain oats, quite a healthy choice.  Just watch the serving size unless you are trying to bulk up.  Hotel breakfast bars often offer steaming cooked oatmeal with all the fixings, including granola.  I enjoy sprinkling some granola on my oatmeal.  Yes, a few extra calories but it is whole grain and it makes the oatmeal taste better.  An option for you might be Bear Naked V’nilla Almond Fit Granola.  If you only eat the ¼ cup serving, it provides 110 calories or 210 calories if you eat a ½ cup.  The sugar is less at 3 grams per ¼ cup or 7 grams per ½ cup.  But, it has the same calories as Nature Valley if you eat one cup of it at a time. 
Lower in sugar

a.       Added sugar – many food labels are now noting “added sugar” calories so read the label and see how much sugar has been added.  The granola you choose may have more sugar than a Krispy Kreme Donut.
Watch serving size and sugar grams
b.       Calories – The calories can easily add up if you aren’t careful about the serving size.  Pour yourself a cup of granola and those calories add up fast. 

Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Donut
10 grams
Nature Valley Oat ‘n Honey Protein Granola (1 cup)
24 grams
Nature Valley Oats & Dark Chocolate Protein Granola (1 cup)
28 grams
Bear Naked V’nilla Almond Fit Granola (1 cup)
14 grams

      2.  Veggie Chips Vs. Potato Chips – who doesn’t like a bag of chips with lunch or as a snack?  Many students say they eat veggie chips as they are a healthier choice.  Are they?  Vegetables are certainly good for us but what about veggie chips?  Not so fast. Most veggie chips are low on the veggies but still have the fat and salt.  And potatoes are a vegetable so technically potato chips are veggie chips.  Some veggie chips are better choices like Kale chips.  They often bake the kale leaves instead of frying them so much less fat.  Good Health Veggie Chips contain potatoes but also other dried veggies and are made with heart healthy oils, safflower or sunflower oils.  Quinoa- based chips would be another healthier option.  Try baking some veggies and make your own chips.  Or just choose some whole grain chips like Sun Chips. 

Don’t be fooled by granola or veggie chips.  Read the labels and note the serving size and calories.  Look at the ingredients to see how much sugar has been added.  When looking at chips, look for heart healthy oils like Sunflower or Safflower oil. 

Baked Sweet Potato Chips  (adapted from Martha Stewart) – Homemade – choose a heart-healthy oil like olive oil, safflower or sunflower oil when making these chips.  Click on the link and there is a video demonstrating how to make these tasty and easy chips. 
Slice sweet potatoes into thin slices.  Spread on a cookie sheet in a thin layer.  Cook about 10 minutes, turn over and cook about another 10 minutes.  Watch carefully as thinner chips will turn brown faster. Remove any chips done and finish cooking the rest.  In 22-25  minutes, all chips should be done.
                2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed

                1 Tablespoon oil (olive, sunflower or safflower oil)

                2 teaspoons dried Rosemary or try 1 lime cut into wedges

                ½  teaspoon sea salt  

Directions:  “Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in center and lower positions.  Divide sweet potatoes between 2 rimmed baking sheets.  Drizzle with oil, toss, and spread them in a single layer on sheets.  Bake, flipping once, until centers are soft and edges are crisp, 22-25 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt, and serve with lime wedges.”  Or, try baking with some dried or fresh Rosemary for a different flavor. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sports Nutrition 2: Maintaining Weight and Muscle Mass

Sports – so fun to have your kids play a sport.  Last week we noted that sports not only require skill but also fuel.  We noted how important it is to stay hydrated and how important carbs are to an athlete as carbs fuel the body.  What about maintaining weight?  Many teenagers lose weight when participating in sports as they not only need calories because they are growing, they need calories to fuel their sports activity.  A local basketball coach was alarmed when one of his players kept losing weight and lost 11 pounds over the basketball season.  And this was 11 pounds the teenager didn’t want to lose.  What are some ways an athlete can maintain their weight and muscle mass while playing sports?  What are some nutrition goals student athletes should focus on to “eat better, play better”?

1.       Maintaining Weight – Not surprising, maintaining weight involves calories.  Athletes, especially growing teenagers, need the calories for growth plus the calories to fuel their sport.  Focus on foods that are energy dense but also provide a lot of nutrients.
  •  Shakes – Instead of water or a glass of milk with a meal, enjoy a shake.  Can be a milkshake, a protein shake or a smoothie.
  • Trail Mix – a great snack to add to your day.  Trail mix can provide lots of nutrients and lots of calories.  Look for trail mixes packed with dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and even chocolate.  Nuts are high in calories but are heart healthy as they provide the heart-healthy unsaturated fats.  Dried fruit can vary from raisins, apricots, apples, cranberries, to dried mangos. Choose a mix that one likes.  But check out the calories and choose a mix that provides a good amount of calories for weight maintenance.   Kirkland has a trail mix providing 160 calories per 3 Tablespoons but there are many brands to choose from.
Snack on Trail Mix
  • Peanut Butter – add peanut butter to your morning toast or bagel, spread it on waffles, pancakes, apples.  Bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as a mid-afternoon or pre-practice snack.  Spread some peanut butter on a granola bar.
  • Cheese – have the cheeseburger, have cheese and crackers as a snack, add cheese to your egg salad sandwich. 
  • Pudding – not as popular as it used to be but pudding provides nutrition as well as calories.  Top with some fruit or some whipping cream. 
  • Salads – think egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad – good nutrition and more calories than other salads.
  • 3 meals a day plus snacks, snacks, snacks.  Playing on a sports team is no time to be skipping breakfast or snacks.  Breakfast – think oatmeal, any General Mills cereal, fruit and peanut butter on a bagel.  Lunch- milkshake and a tuna salad sandwich, fruit.  Bring a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich or trail mix to eat before practice.  Think in terms of 3 meals plus some mini-meals as snacks throughout the day. 
  • Other ways to add calories:  Add an instant breakfast mix to your glass of milk, drink more juice.  Six cups of cranberry juice adds about 1,000 calories.  But drink real juice, not fake juice.  Snack on dried fruits, mixed nuts, or have a handful of seeds like sunflower seeds.  Enjoy some avocado dip on your veggies.

2.       Maintaining Muscle Mass – an athlete that is losing weight is not only losing fat but probably also losing muscle mass.  Yes, protein is needed but high quality protein. 
  • Dairy at meals and snacks – have a high quality protein at every meal.  Milk provides a high quality protein.  Add milk to your meal but having a glass of milk, a glass of chocolate milk, a milkshake, a protein shake, Greek yogurt, pudding, or some ice cream.  If the lactose in milk is a concern, try Almond milk, Fa!rlife milk, or soy milk.  Add Parmesan cheese to your spaghetti, cheese to your sandwich.  Have some cottage cheese and fruit as a snack.  Add dried fruit to the Greek yogurt to add more calories and nutrients. 
Chocolate Milk - a good source of protein
  • Lean protein – grilled, baked or roasted chicken, turkey, fish, beef, pork are all quality protein choices.
  • Eggs – another high quality protein source.  Enjoy that egg salad sandwich with a slice of cheese.  Have some scrambled eggs with cheese for breakfast or an omelet.  Enjoy some boiled eggs.  
Egg Salad Sandwich with Whole Wheat Bread

It is so important not to skip meals or snacks when playing sports.  Mangieri, who works with teen athletes , has advice for those who skip meals and snacks and head straight to practice or a game.  “You will feel weaker, tired, slower.”   WebMD recommends: “Keeping your body fueled with good food and plenty of fluids will help keep you playing at your best.”  If you know a student involved in some athletics, share this information with them.  Share this information with someone coaching student athletes.  Review some of the articles cited in this blog as all provide good and reliable information on nutrition and athletic performance.

Sources:  eat better, play better, Nuts, peanut butter, Fa!rlife milk, athletes , WebMD  Image Sources:  Chocolate Milk, Egg salad sandwich, Trail mix                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Classic Egg Salad Sandwich adapted from
·         2 hard boiled eggs          
·         1 Tablespoon chopped celery
·         1 Teaspoon sweet pickle relish
·         ½ Teaspoon Dijon mustard
·         1 Tablespoon chopped green onion
·         3 Tablespoons Mayo
·         Salt and pepper to taste
·         Lettuce or spinach leaves or avocado or add a slice of cheese to your sandwich
·         2 pieces of bread – use whole wheat bread or whole wheat English Muffins for a nutrition boost

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sports Nutrition 1

Are you or your kids playing some sports this coming school year?  Will they be playing football, playing basketball or soccer?  Sports require not only skill but fuel – healthy nutrition to have energy for the game.  There is a lot of information on nutrition but what is reliable and what isn’t?  How important is just drinking enough water to performance?  What about salt and other electrolytes?  What should student athletes eat before games?  How can a student athlete prevent losing weight during the sports season?  I’ve known student athletes that struggle to maintain their weight during the sports season.  This week I was advising a coach on nutrition for students playing football but most of the same advice applies to students playing basketball or soccer.  In the next few weeks we will focus on sports nutrition.  

What are some nutrition goals student athletes should focus on? 

1.       Stay hydrated – so much fluid is lost in workouts and during games- especially for those training or playing in hot weather.  Many coaches have the students weigh themselves before and after practice sessions.  Why?  This is a way to tell how much water is lost in sweat at the practice.  For each pound of weight lost, the student needs to replace from 16-24 ounces of fluid or about 2-3 cups of fluid. (Note:  A gulp of water is bout 1-2 fl. ounces)
Not just after practice or a game, but an athlete wants to be fully hydrated before practice and before games.  A trainer studied “college football players preparing for a major NFL scouting event, she found that 98% of them were dehydrated at the beginning of their morning evaluation”.  Why would this be concerning to a coach?   This trainer notes, “Your ability to perform athletically can decline with a very small amount of dehydration… Just losing 2% of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25%”.  What are some recommendations on how much water a person should drink before, during and after they workout? A good article to review is Hydration for Athletes which outlines the hydration recommendations of the American Council on Exercise.  But everyone is different and how much fluid is needed depends on the age of the athlete, how much an athlete sweats, how hot it is, and how much and how long one is exercising.  Remember to hydrate before, during and after exercise. 
And think chilled.  WebMD notes that chilled fluids are more easily absorbed and can help you cool your body.  
Drink water before, during and after exercise
2.       Salt – electrolytes like sodium, chloride and potassium are lost when sweating.  Some foods can help replenish electrolytes and have a high-water content to aid in hydration such as fruits (watermelon, oranges), and vegetables.  To help replace electrolytes with food, enjoy soup, pretzels, salted nuts, have some beef jerky, add some pickles to your burger or sandwich, enjoy some cheese and crackers, add mustard to your hot dog, choose marinara sauce on your spaghetti, have some salsa and chips.  (Tomato soup, marinara sauce, salsa – all good ways to replace potassium.)   Many experts say those going to the gym for a 45 minute workout will only need water to rehydrate.  But those exercising in hot weather or at a high intensity for an hour or more, may find a sports drink helpful or want to eat some of the foods noted above to replace lost electrolytes.  

3.       Carbs, carbs, carbs – too often people are cutting back on carbs.  Not a good idea for the student athlete. Carbs are what fuels the body and athletes need fuel.  WebMD has a great article, 5 Nutrition Tips for Athletes.  Their 1st recommendation: “Load up on Carbohydrates” as “Carbs are an athlete’s main fuel.”  What carbs to focus on to fuel practice or the big game?  Focus on starches like bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, and vegetables like potatoes.  Fruits can provide quick energy sources.    Healthy carb choices would include any General Mills cereal as all are whole grain, whole wheat bread, whole grain crackers like Triscuits, Wheat Thins, or whole grain chips like Sun Chips.  Try adding some whole grain pasta to your regular pasta when making spaghetti. 

If you know a student involved in some athletics, share this information with them.  Share this information with someone coaching student athletes.  Review some of the articles cited in this blog as all provide good and reliable information on nutrition and athletic performance.  For students playing football see some great nutrition tips at Nutrition For the Football Student Athlete written by sports registered dietitians.  
Fuel up for sports with carbs