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You must have healthy foods available in order to eat them. Bringing foods into your environment that have the lowest calorie “price tags” is a great starting point. By doing this, you are essentially making healthier food choices earlier than you might normally because you are being proactive in your environment instead of reactive.
So let’s begin this environmental control for your home and work by asking yourself…
Do you have foods/snacks that don’t provide a lot of food for the calories?
What is something you ate at home or work that gave you a lot of food for the calories?
Identify a specific time(s) of day or situation when you more likely to eat higher calorie foods.
Learning to anticipate your challenges and then reducing your caloric intake by the choices you make can help to reduce your calories for the whole day. Without structure, there’s’ almost no ceiling as to how high the calories can go.
Try bringing these healthier foods into your home and work environment…
Place a bowl of mixed fruit on the counter, on your desk or eye level in your fridge
Buy several bags of frozen fruit to mix into different foods
Stock your car and desk drawer with ‘hand fruit’ – apples, bananas, plums, grapes, etc.
Prepare a large bowl of cut up fresh, frozen or canned fruit salad
Purchase several bags of frozen vegetables
Purchase ‘pop top’ canned fruit
Peal and cup up fruit and put in ready to go containers.
At work, bring the fruit and vegetables with you daily. I encourage you to strive to bring a minimum of 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables to work daily.
The more supportive foods you have on the counter at home, in the fridge, on your desk at work, in your car…essentially, anywhere you are, the more likely you’ll be able to prevent the higher calorie/higher fat foods from sneaking in your diet. Removing temptation/triggering foods and replacing them with some suggestions above, will have you feeling more in control of your environment and diet.
What 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.
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-carblifestyles 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.
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
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.
It’s that time of year again. Group fitness classes are packed, parking spots are limited and time limits on cardio equipment are more heavily enforced. It’s the New Year and everyone is hitting the gym. The New Year’s gym trend occurs all over. When I was teaching in college, students would line up outside the fitness studio at least 30 minutes before class began to ensure they would get a spot. Instructors loved having the large class participation and, quite honestly, it was a huge adrenaline rush. However, after spring break had come and gone, class sizes usually dropped down to less than 50% of the previous quarter’s numbers.
First and foremost, I commend anyone who is focusing on making their life healthier by becoming more physically active. But a healthy, long life is not made by only going to the gym three months out of the year. If you are embarking on a new fitness journey, here are some key tips to remember:
Do NOT compare yourself to others. Even to this day, I still catch myself doing this from time to time at Crossfit. I’ll watch fellow crossfitters, whom I see as equal athletes to myself, deadlift more, row faster and perform more burpees than me. Something I tell my fitness participants in spinning class is “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20” and these words could not be any truer in my situation. Comparing oneself to othersis one of the biggest fitness/health mistakes one can make as it often overshadows our own accomplishments and feats. When I started Crossfit 6 months ago, I needed a band in order to do a pull-up. Today, I can knock out 5 unassisted, strict pull-ups and I often overlook these strength gains I have made by too frequently comparing myself to others. When you’re in a class or working out on your own, don’t compete against the person exercising next to you. If you’re going to compete against someone, compete against yourself. See if you can push a little harder or match your previous workout’s accomplishments and remember the person working out today is much healthier than the person who was sitting on the couch yesterday.
It’s okay NOT to do what everyone else is doing in class. In any fitness class, you are going to have a wide variety of people with different fitness and experience levels. A great fitness instructor will demonstrate several modifications for an exercise so that everyone can equally participate in class. Stick with the variation that comfortably challenges you. Typically there are at least three levels of modifications for most exercises, and your instructor should show all varieties and perform the middle modification for the majority of the class. If you feel that there were not enough modifications given, talk to your instructor during one of the drink breaks or after class. Their job is not to “get paid to work out” rather they should be providing guidance, knowledge and motivation to group fitness participants.
Bring water. Water is essential when someone is exercising. A good rule of thumb is to take a drink of water every 10-15 minutes (or even more often when exercising intensely) when working out. Remember to continue to drink water after your workouts since a large amount of fluid is lost through perspiration. I took my first spinning class over 7 years ago. I specifically remember thinking, “This can’t be that hard, I ride my bike outside all the time. Why would I need a water bottle?” Four minutes into class, I was seen racing to the vending machines to purchase a water bottle.
Wipe down equipment before and after you use it. You are never guaranteed that the person before you wiped down the piece of equipment after they had used it. This is why I always wipe down my weight or cardio machine before I begin my exercise. With cold and flu season in full swing, the gym is a breeding ground for sickness with so many people together in an enclosed setting.
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!
Looking to make something healthy and creative for your friends and family this holiday season? Watch this video to learn about healthy choices plus see how easy it is to whip up this fun holiday treat.
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 T tahini (sesame seed paste found in the ethnic food section, or use unsweetened almond butter)
1 lemon separated into 1 tsp grated zest, 3 T juice
3 T organic or reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup basil pesto
1 cup shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese (or use crumbled feta for a stronger taste)
1 large tomato, seeded, diced 1/4 inch (1 cup)
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded with a spoon, and diced (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
Serve grilled or toasted whole-grain pita chips or flatbread torn into pieces
1. To make the hummus: Purée chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, broth, salt, garlic powder, and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil. Spread hummus evenly in the bottom of a 9- X 9-inch glass dish.
2. Stir together yogurt and pesto and spoon over hummus. Evenly sprinkle the cheese, followed by single layers of tomato, cucumber, scallions, and olives. Enjoy this dish on the same or the next day for optimal freshness.
*Note: For a more festive look, use a trifle-style glass bowl rather than a square baking dish. It makes for a great-looking potluck contribution.
Nutrient Analysis per 1/4-cup serving
Calories: 77; Total fat: 5 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 4 mg; Sodium: 243 mg; Total carbohydrate: 5 g; Dietary fiber: 1 g; Protein: 4 g
— Recipe reprinted with permission from Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes With Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will Love by Michelle Dudash, RDN (Fair Winds Press, December 2012)
Have you ever wondered what to do with your leftover turkey from Thanksgiving? Amanda Figge, Springfield Clinic registered dietitian, shows us around County Market on how to make a delicious recipe with leftover turkey. Plus she delivers some excellent healthy eating tips. Enjoy!