Sunday, April 26, 2020

How to choose some healthy carbs

So much carb confusion.  I am always amazed at how someone will take the top bun off a hamburger to cut calories but then eat a large order of fries and a large Coke.  They think the bun is bread so it is fattening while they load up on the added sugars in the Coke and the added fat in the fries.  The Dietary Guidelines don’t tell us to cut the carbs or to cut back on bread.  We actually need grains in our day, every day, every meal.  What are some healthy carbs we should have in our diet and what do the Dietary Guidelines say about carbs?

Dietary Guidelines and carbs – what are the recommendations?

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines have nothing to say about cutting back on bread, even though so many people say they are cutting back on carbs and mean they are cutting back on bread.  The Dietary Guidelines really only advise on added sugars as those are the carbs we should cut back on.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend:  Limit calories from added sugars to no more than 10% every day.  For the average person that eats about 2000 calories a day, that would be 200 calories or about 12 teaspoons of sugar.

What are “added sugars”?  One would think this would be simple but people think orange juice has added sugar, a banana has added sugar when there is no added sugar in fruit.  Added sugar is sugar food manufacturers add to food products like soda, sweet tea, candy, some cereals, yogurt, cake, cookies.  Foods that naturally contain sugar, like fruit, cow’s milk, vegetables do not have added sugar.  But Almond Milk like Silk Almond Milk is high in added sugars as are juice drinks like Sunny D.

 What are the good, healthy carbs we should be adding to our day?

Rather than cutting carbs, our diets should have about 50% of our calories coming from carbs, but healthy carbs. In fact, Harvard notes:  “Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet.”  Why – energy?  It is the carbs that provide the energy, the glucose, every cell in our body needs.  Low carb diets can be low energy diets. 

Whole grains – start your day with whole grains.  So easy to do.  Make some instant oatmeal, choose a General Mills cereal, toast a whole grain bagel or whole grain English muffin.  Going to Chipotle?  Choose the brown rice which is whole grain.  I have written many times about whole grain, healthy chips (Add some whole grain snacks to your day.) I love chips and often have some for lunch.  But usually they are whole grain chips like Sun Chips.  At dinner, enjoy some brown rice or quinoa which are whole grain.
Brown rice is whole grain and a healthy choice.
Fruits and Vegetables – all are healthy.  Fruit juice – enjoy 100% fruit juice and not the many fake fruit juice drinks like Sunny D.  A student in my class recently said they went to the store and bought some “juice” and was surprised to read the label and note it had a lot of added sugar.  She then realized what she was buying was not real juice, but a fake juice drink loaded with added sugar.  The only ingredient in juice is juice.  Find some way to add some vegetables to your day.  And yes, that vegetable can be a baked potato, or beans or some frozen French fries with the skin on.  

Why are whole grains, fruits and vegetables so healthy? 

 They not only are loaded with vitamins and minerals but also fiber which so many people aren’t getting enough of.  Not to mention the healthy antioxidants fruits and vegetables provide.  Vary the color and you vary the antioxidants you get.  

Don’t like vegetables?  Try juicing and add some veggies that way.  Or, drink your vegetable with some V-8 Juice like the V8 Fruit and Vegetable blends which are 100% juice with no added sugar.  

How can you add some healthy, energy-boosting carbs to your day?
Real juice and no added sugars.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Can walking lead to a longer life?

Many of us can’t go to the gym or participate in our usual fitness classes right now, but we can still go for a walk.  And walking is good for your health.  A new study by the National Cancer Institute, CDC and the National Institute on Aging finds the more you walk, the longer your lifespan.  The article in JAMA notes:  “Greater number of steps per day were associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality”. 

What was the study?

Researchers looked at 4840 adults at least 40 years of age who wore a step counter for up to five days over the study period of 2003-2006.  Not just any step counter but an accelerometer that not only measured steps taken but also the intensity of the walking.  

How many steps did study participants take?

The average number of steps taken a day by this group was 9124.  Those taking 8000 steps a day had significantly lower mortality than those taking 4000 steps a day. Going up to 12,000 steps a day further lowered mortality.

Some interesting findings in this study:

Intensity: Walking at a normal intensity is fine.  One doesn’t have to speed walk, or walk fast, then slow, just normal walking is healthy.  You don’t have to run a block, walk a block – just walk.  
Enjoy a walk along a trail.
How many steps do you need?  
In a press release about the study, one of the researchers, Pedro Saint-Maurice, Ph.D, noted, “While we knew physical activity is good for you, we didn’t know how many steps per day you need to take to lower your mortality risk or whether stepping at a higher intensity makes a difference”. 
The study found 4,000 steps a day is too low and considered a low level for adults.  

At least 8,000 steps a day lowered mortality by 51%.  

Taking 12,000 steps a day further lowered mortality.  Compared to taking 4,000 steps a day, taking 12,000 steps a day was associated with a 65% lower mortality risk.  Taking more steps is good for your health as those who were at the higher step count levels had lower rates of death from heart disease (cardiovascular disease) and cancer.
An easy way to count your steps.  Try a Fitbit.
 What are the health benefits of walking and being physically active?

A CDC spokesperson, Janet Fulton, Ph.D., in CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, stated:  “Being physically active has many benefits, including reducing a person’s risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.  And on a daily basis, it can help people feel better and sleep better”.  

Many people are walking, which is a good thing.  When I call one of my brothers, he is often mall walking as is a sister.  Another sister lives in a warmer climate and often calls me when she is taking her daily walk around her neighborhood.  My husband and I enjoy walking the trails at a local National Historical site or at one of our many state parks.  Or just walking in the neighborhood and catching up with the neighbors is a fun way to get in some steps.  Go for a walk every day this week.  If you are at the 4,000 step a day level, work up to 8,000 steps a day.  At 10,000 aim for the 12,000 a day level.  Much easier to do with the warmer weather on the way.  But my husband, noted, what about bicycling? If you take a long bike ride, instead of walking, doesn’t that work too?  Another question for NIH and CDC to answer.    
How many steps a day?

Sources:  study, JAMA,  release  Image sources: Trailside, steps , Fitbit

Sunday, April 12, 2020

What are some unhealthy drinks?

Who doesn’t want to stay hydrated and satisfy our thirst?  There are so many healthy ways to do so.  There are also many not-so-healthy drink choices.  Eat This, Not That! Has a great article on the “50 Unhealthiest Drinks on the Planet”.  Catchy title.  We won’t review all 50 of those unhealthy drinks, but we will review a few and tell you why they are so bad for your health.  But first, let’s review what are healthy drink choices.

What are some drinks one should choose to satisfy thirst and to stay hydrated?
 As noted in a previous blog, Is water the best for hydration? , some of the best choices for hydration are plain water, cow’s milk and 100% orange juice. After exercising, one can skip the sports drink and have a glass of water and eat a banana.    

What should you try to avoid when choosing a healthy drink? 
Basically, avoid drinks with a lot of added sugar.  The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines provide guidance on healthy eating patterns.   They recommend we shoulld “Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars”.   For a 2000 calorie diet that would be limiting “added sugars” to 200 calories a day.  Not easy to do if you are drinking sugar-sweetened beverages during the day.  

What are some of those unhealthy drinks?
1.     Orange Drinks = fake juice, not real juice
The next time you are in a grocery store or Walmart, look at the carts full of food and I am sure you will see carts with gallon jugs of Sunny D.  Eat This, Not That states: “Sunny D isn’t actual juice; it’s just a mix of water, high fructose corn syrup and a few token dribbles of juice concentrates, canola oi, and chemicals”.  Lot’s of chemicals.  Compare the ingredients in Sunny D to the ingredients in Tropicana Orange Juice.  The only ingredient is “100% Orange Juice”.  No chemicals, no high fructose corn syrup, just real, 100% juice.  What about frozen orange juice or orange juice made from concentrate?  All good choices.  Read the ingredients and see if it is 100% juice.  Read the label and avoid any label that reads “juice drink” as these products are not real juice.  Hi-C contains only 10% juice, high fructose corn syrup and added chemicals.  Many Capri Sun drinks are “juice drinks” and not real 100% juice.  For kids, a good choice is Juicy Juice .  All are 100% juice and their product label clearly says, 100% Juice.
100% juice

 2.     Chocolate Drinks – not real milk
Real chocolate milk can be a treat for kids and provides a good quality protein, calcium and vitamin D.  A not so healthy choice are chocolate drinks, like Yoohoo Chocolate Drink  that really isn’t chocolate milk.  A look at the ingredients in chocolate drinks shows water as the first ingredient, then high fructose corn syrup and finally some whey protein.  Basically, the drink is mostly sugar water.  In fact, these drinks can provide 65% of the calories as added sugar calories.  Before you buy a “chocolate drink”, read the ingredients.  Is it chocolate milk or mostly flavored sugar water?  When you get chocolate milk at McDonalds, it is actually real milk and not a chocolate drink and McDonald’s Chocolate Milk is fat free.  Nesquik Chocolate Lowfat Milk is made from 100% real milk.  Not true of the Nesquik Chocolate Non-dairy Oatmilk which would not provide the nutrients real milk provides.  

3.     Sweet Tea
Tea is actually a very healthy drink, full of good antioxidants.  Add all that sugar to Sweet Tea and it is no longer such a healthy choice.  Some of the bottled sweetened teas are full of added sugar, up to 48 grams of added sugar (192 sugar calories).  Order a Large Sweet Ice Tea from fast food like Sonic and you can add 78 grams of added sugar or 312 calories of added sugar to your day.  Instead of sweet tea, go for the unsweet tea.  If you find it hard to give up your sweet tea, then wean yourself from it.  My daughter loved sweet tea.  She would go to a fast food drive through and just order sweet tea.  I finally convinced her it was loaded with added sugar so she started to mix the sweet tea with a little unsweet tea, then up to half sweet tea and half unsweet tea and now she drinks just unsweet tea.

4.     Smoothies in a bottle
A student in my class recently asked me if smoothies were healthy.  It depends.  Make your own smoothie with real fruit, real veggies, real milk or real yogurt and it is very healthy.  Buy a bottled smoothie from the store and maybe not so much.  Before you indulge in that store-bought smoothie, check the ingredients.  How much added sugar are you adding to your day?  With a homemade smoothie, you can be sure there is no added sugar because you didn’t add any. The sweetness comes from the fresh fruit you put in.

5.     Vitamin Water
Students often ask me if vitamin water is healthy.  Most of the “vitamins” these drinks have are common vitamins one gets in their diet.  Even white bread provides some “B” vitamins.  Some vitamin waters not only have added vitamins but added sugar. If you are buying Vitamin Water, look at the Nutrition Facts label to see how many calories it has.  Vitaminwater fire – spicy watermelon has only 20 calories so not a bad option if you are into vitaminwater.    On the other hand, if you choose a 20 ounce bottle of vitaminwater revive fruit punch, this packs in at 120 calories and 32 grams of sugar.  
Read the nutrition facts label for added sugar.
Lots of choices when you are trying to satisfy that thirst.  Stick with the healthiest choices, water, 100% juice or real milk.  The next time you reach for refreshment in a bottle, read the Nutrition Facts label to see how many calories you are getting and look at the ingredients to see if what you are drinking has added sugar.

Not real juice.  Lots of added sugar.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Preventing those added pounds when working from home

So many people are working from home because of the pandemic.  Many people worked one day a week or more from home but often not full-time.  After a few weeks working from home, the weight scale may not be your friend.  This morning on the radio I heard a salesman for exercise equipment saying he was busier than ever selling exercise bikes, weights, treadmills.  People have found that working from home with gyms closed, can result in added pounds when stepping on that scale.
What are some tips to avoid those extra pounds when working from home?  A number of articles have been written on this topic and maybe one or more of these suggestions may work for you.
Some hints from How to stop overeating while working from home during coronavirus outbreak, and How to Avoid Getting Fat When Working From Home as well as: Easy Solutions to Prevent Weight Gain While Working from Home

1.       Stick with your same schedule you had when going to the office

Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same times as you always did.  Don’t sleep in, skip breakfast and munch your way to dinner.  Avoid skipping meals as that leads to snacking, munching and usually on junk food and not real food.

And schedule in your exercise.  Yes, gyms are closed but go for a walk.  Put on some exercise videos, try a free exercise class online.  There are many free exercise routines online.  Schedule a time for exercise every day:   “Schedule times for meals, snacks, and exercise, it will help you stay trim and give you a clear head for work-related matters.”

2.       Hydrate

One doesn’t have to drink watersee to hydrate (Is water the best for hydration?).  Drink water, enjoy a glass of real milk, or a glass of 100% juice.  All are hydrating drinks.  Drink your water or other beverage not just between meals but also during meals.  I drink real milk with meals and this is hydrating.  Why? Because the food you eat with the milk helps your body retain the water in the milk. 

How does staying hydrated help keep those pounds away?  When your body is dehydrated, you might think you are hungry and start eating but what you really need is to boost your fluid intake.  
Hydrate with some real juice. 

3.        Enjoy some healthy snacks

Stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables and other healthy snacks like a handful of nuts, whole grain crackers, whole grain chips like Sun Chips or some popcorn.  Have a bowl of fresh fruit siting out on the counter.  Have some baby carrots, green pepper strips, easy to grab cut up veggies ready to eat. And, most fruits and vegetables are full of water so this helps you stay hydrated.   
Keep fresh fruit out as a grab and go snack.

4.        Stash the junk food

As they say, “out of sight, out of mind”.  Keep the junk food away – way back in the pantry, high on a shelf.  Not the first thing you see when you walk into your kitchen.  I had some great “Milano” cookies in a bag in the pantry.  I ate a few then totally forgot about them.  A week or so later, my husband found them and polished them off.  But once those cookies got buried in the pantry, I had totally forgotten about them.

5.       Eat lunch

You brought your lunch to work or bought some take out but you ate lunch.  Set a time to eat lunch when working from home and stick with it.  Pack your lunch if you need to, but plan for lunch, take a break and eat your lunch at a set time each day.

6.        Move more

Take movement breaks throughout the day.  My watch tells me to get up and move throughout the day.  Walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water.  Do a small chore like take out the garbage.  Build some movement into your work at home day.    

It is not easy keeping the weight off when working from home.  I was surprised how easy it is to put on a few pounds when sheltering in place.  Adding in more walks, more movement breaks can really pay off.  Try some of these hints to see what works best for you.