Sunday, December 29, 2019

Holiday stress? Enjoy some comfort foods.

Feeling a little overwhelmed after all the holiday hustle and bustle?  Well, there are some foods that can help you de-stress.  WebMD has a great article on Foods That Help Tame Stress.  Are there really foods you can eat to help calm those stressed out nerves?  Yes, there are and here are some suggestions.  
  1.  Comfort foods – no, not the whole gallon of ice cream.  But try a bowl of oatmeal topped with some fresh fruit.  For an extra treat, sprinkle on some brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped walnuts.  How can a bowl of oatmeal help you de-stress?  Believe it or not, oatmeal can raise your serotonin levels – the chemical that helps calm your brain cells.  Oatmeal is also super healthy, full of vitamins and minerals and a good source of heart-healthy fiber.
  2. Enjoy some carbs for comfort – no, not the high sugar carbs that we all have been enjoying, but whole grain, complex carbs.  Choose some whole grain bread at home or when eating out.  Panera and Subway offer whole grain options and Chipotle offers brown rice. Not too many places offer whole grain pasta, but when making spaghetti at home, use at least some whole grain pasta noodles.  Complex carbs like whole grains fill you up as they provide fiber and the fiber slows digestion so you’re not as hungry as fast.  Complex, whole grain carbs are also better for your blood sugar levels since they digest slower, your blood sugar levels stay more stable and not the surge one gets from eating simple carbs like foods high in sugar.
  3. Cut back on Simple Carbs – so much confusion about carbs.  Some people avoid carbs, thinking that cutting back on carbs is a healthy choice. Not so.  I love my carbs and rarely have a meal without a good portion of carbs.  It is the simple carbs like foods high in sugar that are not the healthy choice.  Cutting back on sugared-sodas and fruit punch drinks or Sunny D would be good as these drinks provide nothing but empty calories.  And sugared beverages cause a surge in blood sugar levels because your body digests simple carbs rapidly.  Trying to relieve stress?  Don’t choose the simple, high sugar carbs to do so.
  4. Enjoy some citrus fruit like oranges, Cutie mandarin oranges, tangerines, grapefruit.   Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and minerals.  I enjoy a glass of real Orange Juice or Grapefruit Juice every morning.  Or, eat an orange, a Cutie, or some fresh grapefruit.  Avoid the fruit drinks like Sunny D or Hi-C, which are mostly sugar and little juice.  The vitamins in citrus fruits, like vitamin C, have been found to strengthen our immune system, and curb the amount of stress hormones in our bodies.  About to embark on something stressful, like a test, a presentation, a meeting?  Enjoy some citrus fruit beforehand as taking a vitamin C rich food can help de-stress you.    
Cuties are rich in vitamin C
5. Magnesium – many Americans aren’t getting enough of this important mineral in their diets.  Why?  Whole grains are a great source of magnesium and many Americans have no or few whole grains in their day.  The students I teach keep 3-day food records and many students eat no whole grains at all over the 3-day period.  If you are one of those who don’t eat any whole grains, try adding at least one serving a day.  Other good sources of magnesium are spinach – enjoy that spinach salad or include some spinach when you are juicing.  The National Institutes of Health, NIH has a great overview of why magnesium is important to our health and what foods are good sources of this important mineral.   Besides spinach, enjoy almonds, cashews, peanuts, Shredded Wheat, Peanut Butter, a baked potato, brown rice, milk (real milk, not fake milk), raisins, and chicken.
6. Tea – enjoy a cup of tea to calm those nerves and de-stress.  Black tea has been found to make one feel calmer and after encountering a stressful situation, black tea can actually lower your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.  

So, after the houseful of relatives have left, or after a few very packed days of running around, take time for some “comfort” foods to calm your nerves.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Holidays and Healthy Eating Tips

So much good food over the holidays.  Everywhere you go there are holiday parties with so much delicious food, chocolates, Christmas cookies, and everyone seems to be bringing in homemade goodies to share.  Who doesn’t want to enjoy all that good eating?  Well, enjoy and enjoy every bite.  As Joyce Meyers says, “Eat the cookie..”  On the last day of the nutrition class I teach, I had M&Ms in a glass on my desk as we were talking about the food coloring in food.  At the end of the class, one student asked for the M&M’s.  I gave them to her and another student stated, “You know, those M&M’s have added sugar.”  The student carrying out the M&Ms said, “Yes, but I went to the gym today and I can afford some discretionary calories.”  So true, we can enjoy some “discretionary calories” every day.  What do nutritionists recommend so that you can enjoy the holiday treats but still eat healthy and not overdo eating all the junk food and treats?  As Harvard Health notes, “eating just 200 extra calories a day – a piece of pecan pie and a tumbler of eggnog here, a couple of latkes and some butter cookies there”  and before you know it you’ve gained 2-3 pounds over the holidays.  What are some tips for eating healthy over the holidays?  

Tip 1:  Don’t skip meals or save calories for the holiday meal
Not sure I exactly agree with this tip.  I don’t skip meals as I would get a headache but when I know I am going out for a big dinner; I do cut back on my lunch.  I guess you could say I am “saving calories” for the holiday meal.  But I do agree with the advice, not to go to a big meal being extra hungry as it is too easy to overeat.  

Tip 2:  Stop when you are full
Who doesn’t love to overload their plate with all those goodies at buffets and holiday spreads?  Too often we find we are full and there is still food on our plate, so we overeat.  Or, one keeps eating food higher in fat than we usually eat and it is not until 30 or so minutes later that we feel REALLY FULL.  This is because it takes a while for fat to be digested and then WHAM, one says, “I ate way too much.”  So, fill your plate with a normal amount of food, enjoy it.  Then wait a bit.  Some nutritionists say about 20 minutes after your first filled your plate and then if you are still hungry, go back for seconds.  

Tip 3:  Enjoy a smart, health snack before the big holiday meal
After a light lunch, one may be hungry before going off to that holiday party.  So, enjoy a smart, healthy snack before you go.  I try to have some fresh fruit, popcorn or other snack before the big meal.  Having snacks with protein and fiber are a good idea as both help fill you up and take longer to digest.  Some whole grain crackers with cheese, a piece of fresh fruit and some yogurt.  Harvard Health recommends:  “Don’t go out with an empty tank”.   Check out some snack recipes at healthy snacks.   

Tip 4:  Make a lighter mashed potato
Who doesn’t love fresh mashed potatoes at a holiday feast?  If you are making the mashed potatoes, you can easily lighten them up calorie-wise by halving the butter you use and use some Greek yogurt.  And keep the skin on some of the potatoes for more fiber, and a change of texture.  

Tip 5:  Get moving
Enjoy the meal, enjoy the treats and then think about moving.  Go for a walk with family after a big meal.  If there is dancing at the holiday party, join in.  By moving you can move that sugar out of your blood and into your muscles to be used for fuel.  Better that than storing those extra sugar calories as fat.  Or when you get home go up and down the stairs a few times to keep your body moving. 

Not easy to enjoy those holiday eating healthy.  Follow some of these tips and read more at treats but to also keep “15 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays..”   

Sources:  Meyers, Health, tips, nutritionists, Health, healthy snacks, lighten, 15 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays  Image sources: Meal, Snack, walk

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Fad diets are mostly hype

Who doesn’t want to take off any extra pounds easily and fast?  So many people who want to lose weight fall for the latest fad diet.  A recent article on Popsugar noted that if one wants to take off the fat and the weight, there are 7 basic principles to follow.  Last week we talked about staving off those holiday pounds.  If you already have added a few pounds from the Thanksgiving feast or those holiday parties, here are some of the basics to keep in mind. Popsugar asked registered dietitians and personal trainers’ advice on how to get rid of the extra fat but not the muscle as one takes off some extra pounds. 

      1. Cut out some calories but still eat healthy.  Don’t cut the “carbs” and then decide to cut out bread like whole grain bread.  Not a healthy choice.  And don’t just focus on cutting back on food to lose a few pounds.  A simple fact we cover in the nutrition class is that one pound of weight equals 3500 calories.  So, to lose just one pound, one needs to cut back on 3500 calories.  I always emphasize that one shouldn’t just cut back on calories and thus food but to also increase exercise to help burn off those calories.  Jim White, a registered dietitian and ACSM-certified personal trainer, told Popsugar about how to create a calorie deficit, “This can be done by burning extra calories through exercise or reducing your intake of calories, but the best way is to use a combination of both methods.  This ensures that you’re giving your body enough nutrients during periods of weight loss”.  
Cut calories but ADD Exercise
Never cut back too much on calories as you can slow down your metabolism, making it even harder to lose weight.  And, making it harder to take in the nutrients you need every day.   According to Harvard Health Publications, men should take in at least 1500 calories a day and women at least 1200 calories a day. 

 2.  Cut some fat – but keep healthy fats in your day.  Skip the deep-fried foods like French fries and chicken and go for a handful of nuts, some avocado.  If you do like fried foods, limit them, say to once a week.  Sauté foods with Olive oil, Canola oil, Sunflower oil.  Use more PAM when cooking.  Jim White recommends a macro ratio of 40:30:30 – or 40% of your calories from carbs, 30% of your calories from protein and 30% of calories from fat.  I choose to have less fat calories and eat more carbs.   
      3. Choose healthy Protein – choose lean protein and skip the deep-fried foods.  Choose the grilled chicken over the fried chicken. Fish is always a healthy protein choice.  Emphasize protein at each meal including breakfast.  Protein sticks with you so you won’t be as hungry after a meal containing protein.  Choose that yogurt at breakfast, bring some yogurt for a low-calorie snack.  Drink some milk with your meals. 
 4. Keep the carbs – healthy carbs like whole grains, fruits and vegetables.  Our bodies are fueled by carbs.  Cut the carbs and you could be cutting the energy out of your diet.  I love carbs and I make sure every meal has carbs – bread, whole grain cereal, fresh fruit, vegetables.  Choosing complex carbs like oatmeal, whole grain bread like Dave’s Killer Bread, whole grain English muffins, or Quinoa are healthy choices.  The fiber in these complex carbs helps to fill you up.  Cut out the white bread, white rice but keep the healthy, whole grain carbs in your day.

Dietitians have other suggestions that you may find of value:

     5.  Cut the added sugar foods – there is one carb you should cut back on and that is added sugar.  Look at the foods you eat and find ways to cut back on the added sugar foods: skip the soda, the fruit drinks that are fake juice like Sunny D, Hi-C.  But don’t cut out all the treats.  Enjoy some discretionary calories each day.  Some dietitians recommend limiting your treats and sweets to 200 calories a day.
Look for Added Sugar in foods
      6.  Don’t skip meals – people who skip breakfast, tend to snack throughout the morning and eat more all day.  The National Weight Control Registry reports that of those who lost weight and kept it off, “78% eat breakfast every day”.  
Don't skip breakfast and add some protein
If all of these ideas are too many to try at once, choose one and make it a habit.  Then choose another and make that a habit.  Pay attention to how much sugar is added to the foods you eat.  I was surprised to find high fructose corn syrup in my favorite can of tomato soup.  We now switched brands of soup.  I’ll save my “added sugar” calories for some real treats, like cookies or chocolate. 

Sources:  article, told, Harvard Health Publications, women, ratio, Dietitians, reports   Image sources:  Group  Exercise , Added sugar, Breakfast

Sunday, December 1, 2019

How to avoid holiday weight gain

Who doesn’t enjoy the holidays with all the good food to eat?  Along with that enjoying all that good food can come some unwanted pounds.  What can you do to enjoy the food but not add on the unwanted weight?  Between mid-November and mid-January, Americans gain about 1-2 pounds.  Not all that much except if one doesn’t lose those couple of pounds and they stick around until the next year’s holiday season.  Some experts think this holiday weight gain is responsible for adult weight creep.  Just a few added pounds a year ends up being many pounds over a decade.  Consumer Reports and others have a few recommendations to help avoid gaining weight over the holidays.  Try out what works for you, even try one of the tips each day.

Tip 1:  Know your holiday starting weight – weigh yourself first thing in the morning.  This is your weight goal to maintain over the holiday season.  Then each day or at least once a week, check in on the scale.  Have you gained weight or are you holding steady?  Interesting a 2017 study found that those who weighed themselves more often tended to lose the most weight.  
Check your weight each day or week
Tip 2:  Enjoy your holiday food – yes, enjoy every bite:  Don’t rush through your holiday treats and meals.  Take the time to enjoy them.  This may result in your eating more slowly and recognizing when you are full.  No need to stuff yourself, but do take the time to enjoy the holiday food.

Tip 3:  Eat before you shop – yes, fuel up for your shopping trips or running errands around town.  You will be less tempting go through a Fast Food drive-through for “just a bite” before you get home.  In the morning, take the time for a filling breakfast that includes some fiber – think whole grain cereal and some protein – think real milk or yogurt.  And add a little fat like nuts on your oatmeal.  The fiber, protein, fat combo will keep those hunger pains away while you shop or run those errands. 

Tip 4:  Take Food with You:  the airport food courts, mall food courts, snack machines at rest stops– may not have the healthiest options.  Pack some snacks when you travel.  On car trips we bring a lot of snack foods with us.  Fresh fruit, peanuts, whole grain crackers, cheese in a cooler.  Easy to grab some cheese and whole grain crackers and fruit for a healthy snack when at a rest stop.  Traveling on a plane?  I bring along healthy granola bars or fresh fruit. Choose food items that will make it through the TSA line.  If you go the Fast Food route, there are healthier options. Choose the egg or egg and cheese sandwich on a whole grain bagel.  You will get a high-quality protein (egg and cheese) and some fiber from the whole grain bread.  Choose some real orange juice for a quick pick up.  
Bring some healthy snacks with you
 Tip 5:  Plan some exercise and activities – don’t just focus on the food.  Families can enjoy going for walks, visiting some new trails, enjoying snow sports in the colder climates or a pick up basketball game in warmer climates.  Plan on going to some aerobic or other classes at the gym.  The leftovers may be calling to you, but remember to get out and exercise and keep exercise a part of your routine during the holidays.  
Exercise more than your funny bone (
And if you added a few pounds over a few days of celebration and eating, then focus the next few days on exercise and eating healthier.  Get the added pounds off before the next round of holiday parties and celebrations.  But enjoy the holiday food.  Who doesn’t love all the homemade goodies this time of year?  Just balance the goodies with some days of healthy eating and more exercise to burn off all those extra calories.

Sources: Consumer Reports, others  Image sources:  scale, Snacks, Exercise