Rethink those 2,000 calories

I have quite a few patients asking for a calorie amount to follow, but I rarely give an actual calorie count to a patient. Instead, I teach patients about the different macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) and how to portion meals and snacks so nutrient needs are being met. Although I do not give calorie amounts often, it is important to be aware of calorie content in the grand scheme of things when trying to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain a healthy weight. 2,000 calories/day has been set as the average need of an adult. However, this number varies greatly depending on sex, activity level, genetics and so on. Let’s say that 2,000 calories per day is accurate for you; do you know what this actually looks like?

A 2014, New York Times’ article, “What 2,000 Calories Looks Like”, provides examples of a 2,000 calorie meals. I’ve selected a few examples of meals from the article that you can find here in restaurants in our area. Click here to view the full article.

  1. Chipotle

This meal combo meal comes in at just under 2,000 calories!

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  1. Olive Garden

This includes the “Tour of Italy Sampler”, 2 bread sticks, side salad, and a glass of red wine for 2,020 calories!

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  1. IHOP

 “Classic Skillet” with orange juice is 2,000 calories.

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Many of these meals (or equivalents) are eaten 2-3 times a day, meaning calorie intake can be far in excess of needs! Calories are generally controlled better at home. I use the #plategoals method to educate patients on food groups and portion control. Cooking at home decreases processed food intake, which in turn decreases calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium—all good things to keep in moderation when trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Lastly is an example of a day’s worth of food prepared at home, filled with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein!

  1. Home

Breakfast: Yogurt with fruit and nuts, 1 slice of toast with jam, and coffee. Lunch: beef stir-fry with farro, pretzels, a pear, and diet soda. Dinner: chicken with arugula, Brussels sprouts and squash, 2 small cookies, 1 glass of wine and water. All of this is 2,000 calories!

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Alana Scopel

Perfect Savory & Sweet Dish

photo 1Sweet potatoes are a perfect combination of filling and healthy carbs that add a touch of natural sweetness to any dish. Typically, I enjoy my sweet potatoes sautéed in some coconut oil with a pinch of salt and pepper or roasted in the oven with garlic and onions. I usually avoid recipes for sweet potatoes that call for additional sweet ingredients like brown sugar and cinnamon because I feel they are then too sweet. But, boy oh boy am I glad I tried this recipe–out it’s became another instant favorite in our household. This dish is a little bit higher on the carb side so make sure you serve it with a lean protein and non-starchy vegetables (green beans, salads, broccoli, etc).

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Raisins, Rosemary and Goat Cheese

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Raisins, Rosemary and Goat Cheese

  • 3 lbs of sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1-2 tbsp of melted coconut oil
  • ¼ c. balsamic vinegar
  • ½ c. raisins
  • 3-4 oz goat cheese, crumbled or cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425oF. Place cubed sweet potatoes in pan and toss with melted coconut oil, salt and pepper. Cook for 30 minutes or until slightly crispy.

2. Meanwhile place raisins and balsamic vinegar in a sauce pan over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes so vinegar reduces and raisins plump up. Be sure not to overcook the vinegar as this can scorch your pan.

3. Once sweet potatoes are done, place in serving dish and toss in raisins, remaining vinegar, goat cheese and rosemary. Serve warm. (But it was also quite tasty cold the next day!)

For more delicious and healthy recipes head to our Pinterest Board.

Figge’s Favorite Groceries

grocery shoppingWith the success of  Figge’s Favorite Things blog post, I thought I would follow up with a list of some of my favorite foods that frequently occupy my shopping list. Years ago, my diet heavily consisted of processed luncheon meats, frozen dinners and snack bars. Today, fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are typically what fill up my grocery cart. This was no overnight process, but slowly, I began to step outside my comfort zone and taught myself how to prepare and cook with fresh ingredients. To stay healthy, I rely on clean, minimally processed foods. Combined with a healthy dose of physical activity each week, clean eating helps keep my cholesterol down, energy up and promotes a good night’s sleep.

  1. Eggs. Eggs have been hounded over the years for their fat and cholesterol content. However, with today’s research on eggs, we are learning that 1) the cholesterol found in eggs is not what is causing high cholesterol in individuals and 2) the benefits of the yolks include a Vitamin B12 source, eye-healthy lutein , zeaxanthin antioxidants, and choline, which is essential for cardiovascular and brain function.
  2. fresh-spinachSpinach. This green giant gets sautéed in with my eggs each morning and makes several appearances in other meals throughout the week.
  3. Peanut or almond butter. If I could eat almond butter every day, I would; but because the cost of it is often more than peanut butter, I tend to go back and forth between these heart-healthy fat and protein snack additions.
  4. Cauliflower. My kitchen often looks like a cauliflower war zone. For those of you that regularly cut up cauliflower, you know what I’m talking about! My preferred way of cooking it is steaming in a sauce pan and then mashing it in my food processor. Add a pinch of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, butter and garnish with chives and you have a great vegetable side dish (not to mention for the cost of $3 or less!)
  5. Spaghetti Squash. We have been having a lot of fun with spaghetti squash this winter. It is a great substitute for pasta in recipes. To me, it is not very tasty when served plain, but if you add mixed vegetables, seasonings, sauces or a homemade mayo to the mix, you’re set-to-go for a delicious meal.
  6. Chicken. This is the most popular protein consumed in our household. For that reason, I am constantly finding new ways to season and prepare it. We also consume beef, pork and fish but chicken definitely takes the podium for most consumed.
  7. Apples. This fruit is a good source of antioxidants and soluble fiber. I usually have at least one and sometimes two apples a day with my peanut or almond butter for heart-healthy, filling snacks.
  8. Whey protein powder. Since both my husband and I do Crossfit, we need a quick source of protein for our post-workout snacks. One scoop of protein powder poured in 8 oz. of almond milk allows my body to quickly refuel after a workout, promote lean tissue growth and speed up recovery time.
  9. Ground flaxseed. This antioxidant powerhouse can be easily mixed into recipes or sauces or can even be sprinkled on top of foods to add fiber, omega-3 and healthy lignans to any dish.
  10. Sweet potato. These Vitamin A giants interestingly are most often consumed with my breakfast meal. I’ll sauté a medium-large sweet potato in 1 Tbsp of coconut oil on Sunday nights and then portion out servings to grab and go for the week. NCI5_POTATO

How Carb Smart Are You?

Carbohydrate-food-shot-carbsWhat do breads, cereals, fruits, juices, milk, yogurt, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans, vegetables, soda and desserts all have in common? If you didn’t already guess it from the title, it’s Carbs. When asked what foods contain carbohydrates, bread, pasta and potatoes are the most commonly identified. Many people do not realize that carbs are actually found in almost our entire food supply with the exception of meats, cheeses and fats.

As Americans, we generally consume way too many carbs throughout the day. Most breakfast meals include toast, Poptarts, pancakes, biscuits or cereal followed by sandwiches, pizza, spaghetti and burger and fries for the rest of the day. These foods are also highly processed menu items that often contain preservatives and other added chemicals.

Do I feel that carbs are contributing to many of our current diseases and illnesses? Absolutely. Does that mean that in order to be healthy, one must cut out all carbs? Not at all.  In fact, many athletes actually need to increase their carbohydrate intake to ensure optimal performance. Research has shown that vegetarians, who are known for having high-carb diets, tend to have reduced risks for obesity, diabetes and heart disease.1

Going “low-carb” is a very popular diet trend to lose weight. While consuming fewer carbohydrates can help decrease circulating levels of insulin, which in turn can help the body switch to a fat-burning mode, weight loss is typically more attributed (but not conclusive in all studies) to the combination of consuming fewer calories, better food choices, less processed foods and improved physical activity habits. Researchers in a 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest that low-carb diets may give individuals a “metabolic advantage” meaning that more weight loss may be achieved per calories consumed (versus the same amount of calories consumed from a standard high-carb meal plan).2  

This is a very controversial subject since these findings somewhat violate the laws of thermodynamics. Since there is no consensus on what low-carb actually is (for some studies it’s a mere 5% of total calories and for others it’s defined as 45% of total caloric intake), the term smart-carb has become more popular.

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Today, research is investigating the health benefits of low-moderate carb meal plans:

  • Following a “smart-carb” diet in addition to exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity and assist in weight reduction in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • A Duke University study found that obese individuals with type 2 diabetes who ate a low-carb diet versus a low-glycemic diet experienced greater weight reduction and greater reduction in HgbA1C. In this same study, most of the subjects (95.2%) in the low-carb group were able to reduce or eliminate their diabetic medications compared to only (62%) in the low-glycemic group.3
  • There also appears to be some variation in low-carb meal plans. A group of Swedish subjects showed greater benefits in waist circumference reduction and improved blood sugar control when following a diet based of meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs and nuts (paleo diet) when compared to a subjects who followed the Mediterranean diet.4
  • The obvious concern with consuming a low-carb diet is the increased fat intake and potential increased risk for heart disease. Fortunately, studies are confirming that higher fat intake when associated with a low-carb diet may not be as big of a problem as once thought.

Low-carb meal plans may not always be the best, but choosing smart-carb lifestyles such as the Mediterranean and Paleo lifestyles are much more suitable for day to day living. Here are a few ways to smarten up your carb choices.

  • Nix pretzels, crackers, chips and granola bars and opt for healthier carb and non-carb snack food choices such as fruits, vegetables, yogurt and nuts.
  • Vary up your breakfast meal. Swap sugar-sweetened cereal and refined white bread for a veggie omelet, turkey sausage frittata or fruit with Greek yogurt.
  • Serve vegetables with a side of vegetables. Many people state that they always have to have a starch with their dinner meals. Why not swap the rice and pasta for vegetable starches such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash or spaghetti squash?
  • If choosing grains, consider whole grain choices such as oatmeal, quinoa or wild rice.

Remember, limiting carbs is not the only way for improved health. The mere reduction of processed foods in one’s diet can have positive health effects.

  1. American Heart Association. Vegetarian Diets. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp
  2. Westman, E., et. Al. (2007). Low-carbohydrate nutrition and metabolism. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86(2), 276-284. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/2/276.full.pdf+html?sid=ac06d160-abd0-4ba6-8a19-8b5560469446
  3. Westman, E.C., Yancy, W,S, Jr., Mavropoulos, J.C., Marquart, M. and McDuffie, J.R. (2008).The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. Nutrition and Metabolism, 5, 36. http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/5/1/36
  4. Lindeberg, S., Jönsson, T., Granfeldt, Y., et al. (2007). A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia,50(9):1795-1807.

Not Just Another Chicken Recipe

At our house we eat chicken…a lot. One goal that I have for this month is to try a variety of new chicken recipes (so my husband doesn’t get burnt out on having chicken five days a week!). You never have to sacrifice good flavor for eating healthy; however, you do need to step outside your comfort zone and experiment with spices, herbs and other fresh ingredients to create delicious, mouth-watering flavors. This is a perfect dish that incorporates natural ingredients and is solid on flavor. Want more healthy recipes? Follow our Pinterest board!

rosemary herb chicken recipeRosemary Herbed Chicken 

For the Chicken:

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic (I am very liberal with this – we love garlic!)
  • 1 Tbsp of minced fresh rosemary
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar

For the Salad:

  • Mixed greens
  • ¼ avocado
  • ¼ cup artichokes (I use frozen artichoke hearts. After heating them up in the microwave, I add flavor by using an Italian seasoning blend on top of the cooked artichokes)
  • 2 Tbsp dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

1. Pre-heat oven to 400oF. Meanwhile, brush olive oil evenly over each chicken breast.

2. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread minced garlic cloves over chicken breasts and sprinkle minced rosemary on top of each piece of chicken.

3. Cook for 20-25 minutes.

4. Toss salad ingredients together while chicken is cooking.

5. Once chicken is done, pour balsamic vinegar evenly over each chicken breast. Serve separately or together as an entrée salad.

Hidden Price You Pay

Dollar Sign

I’ll admit it; I am a huge sucker for deals and saving money. Sometimes I take advantage of spectacular sale prices of items I need and other times, the sheer sale itself provokes me to go shopping. For example, I recently went on a shopping trip to Kohl’s. Did I need anything? Not necessarily, but I had a 30% off coupon and $10 worth of Kohl’s cash that I knew could be put to good use! Sales and deals like this can not only entice us to spend money on clothes, household products and electronics, it can also influence one’s eating habits and food selections.

One deal that always grabs people’s attention is the word FREE. When something is free, we almost feel compelled to give in to the deal as if we would be wasting it if we didn’t take advantage of it. Baker’s Square is now featuring their free pie special. Every Wednesday, customers may enjoy a free piece of pie with an approved menu item purchase. While this deal may be great on one’s wallet, it may not be so nice on the waistline.  According to their website,  one slice of their French silk pie ranks in at 650 calories. This is more calories than what most people need for an entire meal. The lemon meringue slice may seem like a lighter fare coming in at 430 calories; however it contains nearly 72 grams of carbohydrates. For diabetics, this slice of pie would most likely cause their post-meal blood sugars to rise higher than normal.

Other restaurant deals that frequently occur are the “endless” or “unlimited” promotions such as the unlimited stack of pancakes, never-ending pasta bowls and bottomless amount of fries.

Pancakes

Just like when people dine out at a buffet, the whole “I need to get my money’s worth of food” phenomena kicks in. Ask yourself, “Do I really need 2 bowls of pasta or 10 pancakes?” Unfortunately, most of these items are very carb-rich foods. For individuals with diabetes or even pre-diabetes, controlling one’s carbohydrate intake is of high importance for healthier eating habits and better blood sugar control. A stack of 3 pancakes with 2 Tbsp. of syrup at IHOP contains 96 grams of carbohydrates. For some women, this is the amount equivalent to 2-3 meals’ worth of carbohydrates.

We are powerfully influenced by our environment, especially when it comes to how much food we eat. For example, eating with more people has shown to increase the amount of calories one consumes at their meal. When eating alone, we typically stop eating when we are full and get up from the table. However, when eating with a crowd, one often sits and lingers after they are finished eating. The longer one sits around the food, the more likely they are to continue to nibble and drink. Earlier this year, the family had gone out to eat for my mother-in-law’s birthday. It was a delicious meal and I was full at the end of it. Because it was her birthday, she was eligible for a free dessert, which happened to be an ice cream cake. When the waitress brought out the cake with 6 serving spoons, I threw my internal cues of hunger out the window and dug in with everyone else. And sadly, I became yet another victim to overeating.

christmas dinnerRestaurant promotions on free food or large portions may seem appetizing, especially on the wallet; but, consider the hidden price you may be paying in calories and unwelcome extra pounds from these “deals”. This holiday season can bring on extra stress in our lives, but don’t let an increased waistline be one of those stressors!