Stay Healthy Inside and Out this Winter with these Tips

During these winter months, we often want to sit down in our stretchy clothes by the fire with something warm and comforting. And in small chunks, this is perfectly acceptable. However, vegging out too much can increase our chances of gaining weight, catching “something” that’s out there, or just feeling plain ol’ miserable.

So, to help keep up your health and sanity during the winter season, here are some of my go-to tips.

  1. Eat within one to one and a half hours after waking.

I hear a lot, “I’m not hungry in the morning” or “Breakfast food is so carb-y.”  But who says you have to eat breakfast food for breakfast?

Eating something is always better than nothing when it comes to breakfast. Try something from this list for a high-protein, low-carb breakfast:

  • an egg (hardboiled, scrambled, over easy, even in the microwave!)
  • plain Greek yogurt with honey or frozen fruit stirred in
  • cottage cheese
  • almond/peanut/cashew butter (NO Nutella®!)

I’m not against using protein supplements either, but be cautious when choosing. In addition to protein for breakfast, balance your breakfast by adding a nutrient-dense carbohydrate, such as sweet potatoes or steel-cut oats. I’ve been known to eat a sweet potato and walnuts for breakfast; it’s a sweet and protein-full breakfast. The biggest takeaway here is: It doesn’t have to be a “typical” breakfast, as long as you’re eating something nutrient rich and within an hour and a half of waking up.

  1. Fuel your body as often as every two to five hours.

Fueling your body throughout the day will keep your metabolism going and help with portion control. My problematic time is often in the afternoon. If I don’t have something to eat then, I either get “hangry” or I overeat at dinner. A couple of quick and easy snacks include: 

  • 2 tablespoons hummus + ½ cup sugar snap peas
  • 5 reduced-fat Triscuits® + 1 ounce low-fat cheese
  1. Don’t skip meals.

Even on a day when you have a larger eating episode planned, don’t skip a meal. If you go longer than three to four hours without eating—believe it or not—your metabolism starts to slow down. Your body starts working against you instead of for you. The key to remember is that “something” is better than nothing. It doesn’t have to be a full traditional meal to count as a meal. Something as simple as cottage cheese, canned peaches (canned in light syrup) and cucumber slices with ranch dressing can actually be a meal.

  1. Plan ahead.

This is the biggest challenge to most of us. I hear often, “if I just planned, it would all be better.” I like to say, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” but you can have the best laid plans and have it all fall through.

But some plan is better than no plan. Start small and work up. Try laying out or prepping for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next day. Then plan for three days a week, then a week and then work up from there. For this time of year, start with just planning for a challenging day and that will get you going in the right direction.

  1. Eat as a family

Did you know the average family meals lasts about 18 minutes? I’ve heard from many of parents that they spend over an hour in the kitchen—and for what? But, believe it or not, these 18 minutes together carry a long list of benefits.

When I say eat as a family, I’m don’t mean plopping down on the couch in front of the TV. Sitting around the table is the most beneficial. In my house, we even sit around our island some nights when I haven’t had time to clear all the paperwork off the kitchen table. But, keep the TV, phones, gaming systems, etc. off during this time.

  1. Leave food in sight.

This doesn’t mean to not put your cold food in the refrigerator, but keep it where you can see it. Store produce and other healthier foods in see-through containers at eye level in your fridge or in a pretty bowl visible on the counter. We typically eat more of what we can see, and if it looks good, it can be one less barrier to making healthy choices happen.

I also like to create a healthy snack bag with nonperishable items and leave it in my car. You may think this is crazy, but you never know what could happen on the road, especially this time of year. It never fails—my shopping takes too long or the roads are not good, and my drive home takes twice as long. Luckily, in my snack bag I have a 100 calorie pack of almonds and walnuts, protein bar, apple, cuties, and a bottle of water. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, but it saves calories and money from stopping somewhere and getting something to eat/drink or gorging when you get home.

  1. Ask yourself 3 questions

I encourage you to ask yourself these three questions when are you are going to the refrigerator, cabinet or food table.

  1. Am I hungry or am I actually thirsty?
  2. Am I hungry or bored?
  3. Am I hungry or just tired of dark days and winter?

If you answered “hungry” to any or all of these questions, then get something to eat. But this system will get you thinking before you start mindlessly eating.

I know this time of year can be difficult, on all accounts, in terms of eating. But maybe one or more of these tips will help you to maintain your weight, health and sanity. Happy Holidays!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside—Tips for Eating Right during the Winter Months

During the cold and dreary winter months, food can almost feel a bit lacking as we crave the summer’s bountiful abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. But lucky for all of us, there are plenty of lesser-appreciated foods, such as root vegetables, beans, frozen fruits and vegetables—even the canned variety.

I totally get it, as the temperature outside (and in my office) continues to drop, it’s tempting to curl up with your favorite comfort food. But keeping our bodies well nourished is crucial to not only prevent weight gain but also to keep our immune systems fighting against all those pesky germs.

Meal Plan

The key to remember is: “If it’s not there, you can’t eat it.” So you’ve got to make sure these better-for-you foods that I mentioned earlier are readily available, whether that be in the house, at work or—believe it or not—in the car. How do we make this happen? Well, for starters, grocery shopping.

Maybe you’re like me and are not a fan of grocery shopping. In the winter, especially, it can be a dangerous expedition with all those bags and grocery cart! Plus, the coats, coats, coats, coats—(I’ve got 3 kids, so I feel like coats take up the whole grocery cart!)

To try and make this expedition or triathlon as painless and accident free as possible, I strive to plan our meals for the entire week. I include leftovers with this meal planning too. I list all the ingredients needed and see if I have what we need already in the cabinets or fridge. Yes, its tedious and one I do after the kids go to bed, but saves trips to the grocery store. Plus, I try to find recipes with similar ingredients for the week. For example, if you have carrots for soup, think about other ways you can have the carrots, such as roasted for a side, shredded in a salad or cooked in the slow cooker with a roast.

Meal planning is important because it saves you time and money. How many times have you made a trip in the in the snow, only to get home and realize you forgot an ingredient (or more!) meaning you have to either go back to the store, figure out something completely different—or giving up and running through the drive-thru for dinner. Planning ahead will save you the hassle!

Maybe this could be the time to try out the drive up or delivery services offered by many local grocery stores. You could also try some of the meal delivery services, but I encourage to be cautious when selecting one (and this is a whole blog most in itself).

Stock the Pantry

While it may be more expensive in the short-term, the more you have pre-stocked in your pantry/cabinets, the more things you have to get creative with later. I like to have canned beans, different kinds of rice (brown, jasmine, basmati, wild), quinoa, oatmeal and dry roasted/unsalted nuts.

Look at Sale Items

Keep an open mind to clearance grocery items. You may be surprised to find that a random item could spark an idea for a meal or snack. Out-of-season fruits and vegetables can be expensive, so watch for sales, but don’t be afraid to substitute in-season fruits or vegetables in your recipe.

Don’t Forget about Snacks

I encourage you to stock up on snacks and stash them in lots of places, especially in the car. Some examples are: trail mix, protein bars (that have at least 20 grams protein), whole wheat crackers, squeezable unsweet applesauce, unsalted/dry roasted nuts, roasted chickpeas, hardboiled eggs, string cheese, snack size bags of popcorn, hand fruits and vegetables (grapes, apples, blueberries, baby carrots) just to name a few.

So while you curl up next to the fire this winter, be thinking about how you can plan ahead, try something new and have food available—and don’t forget to eat every few hours.

 

Why is World Diabetes Day Important?

November 14th was World Diabetes Day. To acknowledge this, it is important to understand why there is a day dedicated to diabetes awareness. The burden of diabetes has quadrupled over the past decades; the World Health Organization estimates there are 422 million adults who currently have diabetes worldwide. That is 1 in 11 adults. Data from the National Diabetes Statistics Report found that in 2017, there were 30.3 million people who had diabetes, of which 23.1 million people are diagnosed and 7.2 million people remain undiagnosed.

The burden of diabetes is not just in the numbers affected but also in health costs, and, most importantly, quality of life. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputations. WHO projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030. Currently, it is estimated that 1.6 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes and another 2.2 million deaths were attributable to high blood glucose in 2015 and 2012, respectively.

The above numbers are why we must focus on awareness, prevention and treatment of diabetes.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Diabetes can be treated. Dietary and lifestyles factors have been proven to make the largest impact on decreasing, preventing and treating the complications from diabetes. As with most progressive illnesses, diabetes onset typically goes unrecognized by the patient for a number of years, with the exception of type 1 diabetes, which is typically a sudden onset of symptoms. So what are the warning signs of high blood sugars and possibly undiagnosed diabetes?

Symptoms of hyperglycemia to look for:

  • Frequent urination
  • Frequent thirst and hunger, even right after eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Changes in vision
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Gum disease, gums pulling away from teeth, red, swollen gums or changes in the way your dentures fit
  • Weight loss
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in hands or feet

How does a diabetes diagnosis happen?

When should someone consider getting screened for diabetes?

  • Are overweight (BMI >25)
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes or given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (Some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk.)

What tests will my providers/doctors order, and what will they mean?

Result A1c
Normal less than 5.7%
Prediabetes 5.7% to 6.4%
Diabetes 6.5% or higher

 

Result Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG)
Normal less than 100 mg/dl
Prediabetes 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl
Diabetes 126 mg/dl or higher

 

Result Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
Normal  less than 140 mg/dl
Prediabetes  140 mg/dl to 199 mg/dl
Diabetes  200 mg/dl or higher

 

Your doctor will typically use two methods to confirm a diagnosis of prediabetes or diabetes.

What comes after a diabetes diagnosis?

In either case of prediabetes or diabetes, the treatment includes a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco. It is important to incorporate these with any medication regimen your doctor may prescribe. In fact, diet and lifestyle changes have been shown to decrease your hemoglobin A1c by one to two percent!

When you are thinking of beginning a new dietary plan, you must incorporate schedule, food behaviors, and even your favorite foods. For example, if you grew up on meat and potatoes, I would not say you could never eat those foods again. Instead, it is important to discuss healthier cuts of meat or poultry or healthier types, portions and ways to prepare potatoes. Many people think a diet is depriving yourself of food—instead think of adding new foods to portion-controlled foods you enjoy. A good guideline is the USDA’s Plate Method.

Using this method, you can incorporate a controlled amount of carbohydrate sources, while increasing your non-starchy vegetable intake. The most challenging part for most individuals is making half of your plate non-starchy vegetables. It helps to get creative with your vegetables—explore zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash pasta or even eggplant pizzas! Or, try this cauliflower rice recipe:

Cauliflower “Rice” Salad
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Ingredients
  1. Salad
  2. 12 ounces of cauliflower florets or pre-made cauliflower “rice”
  3. 1 cup cucumber, diced
  4. 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
  5. 2 green onions, sliced
  6. 3 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
  7. Dressing
  8. 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  9. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  10. 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Instructions
  1. Make your own cauliflower rice by placing cauliflower florets in a food processor and processing them to rice-like consistency. (Be careful not to over-process.)
  2. In a salad bowl, combine all salad ingredients.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  4. Pour dressing over salad and serve with reduced-fat feta cheese, if desired.
Notes
  1. Try cauliflower rice in other traditional rice dishes—you might be surprised!
  2. From http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/recipes/2016-07-cauliflower-rice-salad.html.
Something to Chew http://somethingtochew.com/

Enjoy Halloween Treats—Avoid Sugary Tricks

From vampire bats to Kit Kats®, Halloween is a long-standing tradition celebrated with tricks and treats. In fact, it’s one of my favorite holidays. I have always found humor in dressing up in non-traditional Halloween costumes, even at an early age. Luckily, I have great friends and family that are willing to partake in my couple/group Halloween costume extravaganzas. 

 Routine consumption of “sugary tricks” can lead to high blood sugars, hypertension, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, gut problems—and the list goes on and on.

There is no “healthy” candy

As a dietitian, the most common question I get this time of year is, “What is the best/healthiest candy to eat”? Unfortunately, there isn’t an answer. But don’t worry! This is not going to be your typical “don’t eat candy” Halloween post.  In my eyes, it’s perfectly fine to eat your heart out in candy for a night (or two). Why? Because we are a product of what we routinely do, not what we occasionally do. This applies to all aspects of life, but especially to our health.  

Everything in Moderation

What I mean by this concept is that it is perfectly fine to enjoy some less-nutritious foods, such as pizza, donuts and candy, occasionally. The problem is that most people enjoy these foods far too often than what their metabolisms are capable of processing. I am more concerned with the “daily candy” our youth and adults consume. Routine consumption of these foods can lead to high blood sugars, hypertension, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, gut problems—and the list goes on and on.

Breakfast Candy

Cereals, Pop-Tarts® and pastries are some of the best ways to start off your day…. If you want a sugar and insulin surge. These habits lead to fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin control throughout the day, disrupt concentration and can suck the energy right out of you. Lower sugar options include eggs, lean breakfast meats, nuts, peanut butter, cottage cheese and small servings of fruit.

Liquid Candy

Juice, soda, sweet tea and sports drinks are simply sugar in a liquid form. Perceived benefits of caffeine, vitamins and electrolytes are far outweighed by the consequences of the rapid absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Not only does this sugar tidal wave spike insulin levels, it also increases preferences towards high-sugar foods, so the cycle unfortunately continues.

Fake Candy

Often, people gravitate towards items that are “sugar-free,” such as diet soda or sugar-free snacks, with the assumption that these products are healthier. I firmly stand my ground that low-calorie, chemical versions of sugar are no healthier for you than real and processed sugars. They may have a reduced nutrient density, but research shows that sugar substitutes greatly damage our gut lining. This can lead to leaky gut syndrome, propelling a host of other disease conditions.

Fruit Candy

Fruit roll-ups, fruit snacks and fruit-fillings are not fruit. They are pastes and mixtures created to taste like fruit. While these foods may appear to be healthier choices than other snack foods, nutritionally, they are no different than Skittles®.

Dairy Candy

Milk and yogurt contain both natural and added sugars. Calcium intake is important but not at the price of 20 grams of sugar, which is what you may find in a standard serving of yogurt (even Greek) and especially flavored milk varieties. Opt for low-sugar calcium sources such as unsweetened milk substitutes, broccoli, spinach, cheese, cottage cheese or whey/casein-based protein powders.

How to Read the FDA’s New Food Label

If you are a label reader, you may have noticed some changes to food labels recently. In 2016, the FDA announced the food label would get a makeover­­—with the hopes that this new label will make it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices. The current nutrition label is more than 20 years old. The changes that will be made, according to the FDA, are based on updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, more recent dietary recommendations from expert groups and input from the public.

The current nutrition label is more than 20 years old—but its makeover will help consumers make better-informed food choices.

The changes you will see include:

  • increase in type size for “Calories,” “servings per container” and “serving size”
  • bolding the number of calories and serving size
  • including “added sugars” in grams and as percent Daily Value
  • updating the list of nutrients permitted or required


US Food and Drug Administration

What do these changes mean?

Let’s take a closer look at why these changes are happening and how they will affect the way we read food labels.

Serving Size

Serving sizes are based on amounts of foods and beverages people are eating, not what they should be eating. The previous serving size requirements were published in 1993, and how much we eat and drink now has changed. For example, the reference amount used for a serving of ice cream was previously 1/2 cup but is changing to 2/3 cup because that’s more likely the amount someone will eat at one time.

Packaging Size

Package size also affects what people eat. So for packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20-ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup, the FDA now requires that calories and other nutrients be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.

For certain products that are larger than a single serving but that could be consumed either in one sitting or over time, manufacturers will have to provide “dual-column labels” to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients both per serving and per package. Examples would be a 24-ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream. The hope is with dual-column labels available, people will be able to more easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package at one time.

US Food and Drug Administration

Added Sugars

You will also see “Added sugars” in grams and as percent Daily Value. Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar. The FDA will continue to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat” and “Trans Fat” on the label but will remove “Calories from Fat” because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.

Nutrients

The FDA is updating the list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared. Vitamin D and potassium will be required on the label. Calcium and iron will continue to be required. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required but can be included on a voluntary basis. Vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium are required to be shown in actual amount and percent Daily Value. Other vitamins and minerals can be shown as well in gram amount. The footnote is also changed to better explain what percent Daily Value means. It will read: “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”

US Food and Drug Administration

Questions?

When will you see all packages with this new food label? The FDA set a compliance date for July 2018 with an additional year to comply for smaller manufacturers. So be on the lookout.

For more information you can go to the FDA’s website.

 

M&M’s are Football Fields

M&M’s are football fields. To understand what this means, let’s take an imaginary trip to your local high school football field and play a game. On the way, stop and buy a small bag of plain M&M’s. Head to the field with your M&M’s tucked away—if you open them prematurely you’ll ruin the game!

Too many Americans have a sedentary lifestyle and do not make the connection of calories in vs calories out.

How to Play:

  • Walk your bag of M&M’s to the end of the field (10 yards behind the goal line).
  • Tear off the corner of the bag and push out one and only one M&M into the palm of your hand.
  • Stare at that one M&M for a few seconds and think how it will taste melting in your mouth.
  • Eat the M&M. Yummy, yummy. Right?
  • Stare straight out over the entire length of the football field. That’s how far you’re going to have to walk to burn off the one M&M you’ve just eaten. One football field—end zones included. One hundred and twenty yards!
  • Walk it! Yes, walk it! One football field, and don’t forget to keep the rest of the bag in your pocket.
  • Upon arriving at the other end of the football field, take your bag of M&M’s and squeeze out just one more M&M.
  • Again, stare at it for a while. Then, look back over the entire grass field you just walked. Then stare back at the M&M, then the football field.
  • Ask yourself “If I eat this M&M (M&M #2), would I be willing to walk the length of this field again?”

YES

If your answer is “yes”, eat M&M #2, and walk one more football field. If you want to eat the entire small bag of M&M’s that will take you about 55 football fields. If you are like me and prefer the peanut M&M’s to the plain, well, you will have to walk, two football fields per M&M!

NO

If you answer is “no”, the game is over and you can throw your M&M’s in the nearest garbage receptacle and return home.

Now let’s put this in correlation with other foods. A single potato chip is also a football field, slice of pizza is 80 football fields, , Snickers Bar is 54 football fields, a Miller or Bud Lite is 18 football fields, and a Big Mac, fries and shake is 240 football fields or the equivalent of walking 5 straight hours!

This helpful concept for connecting caloric intake with expenditure was developed by walking expert, Rob Sweetgall, for his workbook “Walking Off Weight.” Unfortunately, too many Americans have a sedentary lifestyle and do not make the connection of calories in vs calories out. So remember, just even a small change, like a little M&M, can make a big difference over time.