Eat Fat, It’s Good for You.

“Fat is not bad for you.

Fat is not bad for you.

Fat is NOT bad for you!”

This is what I chanted across our kitchen table to my mother this morning over breakfast as she presented me with a “healthy” cookbook she received containing all low-fat recipes. I’ve said it a million times before (and I’ll say it a million times again): Fat is NOT bad for you!!

In fact, we NEED to eat fat for optimal health and here’s why:

Eating fat helps improve metabolism, balance hormones, eliminate cravings, improve athletic performance, increase fat loss…yes, you read that correctly: increase fat LOSS, and improve muscle gain. Adequate fat intake is also required for reproductive health, optimal brain function, bone health, skin and eye health and immune function. Adequate fat intake is even linked to a decreased risk of depression, cancer and heart disease.

So if fat isn’t bad for us WHY on earth have we all been told to avoid it for so many years?

Allow me to explain…Many years ago, it was believed that eating fat (specifically saturated fat) led to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease. This information was based on low-quality, flawed studies that since have been proven wrong- repeatedly! Nevertheless, low-fat guidelines were published and since 1977 we have been unable to escape this HORRIBLY INACCURATE diet craze. Fast forward to present day and there have been several massive, long-term and high-quality studies that have proven there is NO association between saturated fat and heart disease… that’s right, NONE! Not only is there is no evidence that eating fat increases the risk of heart disease there is also no evidence that avoiding fat reduces the risk!

If you’re detecting a slightly angry undertone here, it’s because I have one and here’s why:

My step-dad recently suffered a heart attack and during his hospital admission he was given instruction to follow a “heart-healthy” diet from yes, (and I say this reluctantly…) a fellow dietitian. I was infuriated by the misinformation that was provided (which is one of the many reasons I have removed myself from a career in healthcare). Years and years of high quality scientific studies have provided CONCLUSIVE evidence that dietary fat does NOT cause heart disease! In fact, fat improves some of the most important risk factors for heart disease! Yet, my step-dad was still advised to avoid some of the worlds healthiest and most nutrient-dense foods because of their fat content. Furthermore, he was instructed to replace these natural, nutritious foods with man-made, chemical laden alternatives. My blood began to boil as I looked over his “heart healthy” diet handout with him. Instead of natural protein sources like meat and eggs for breakfast he was instructed to eat a bowl of refined grains, sugar and chemicals… all of which by the way ARE associated with heart disease. This handout went on to recommend sugary soft drinks (again, associated with heart disease) in place of natural and nutrient dense whole milk. It also recommended using highly-refined and trans-fat containing vegetable oils (also linked to heart disease) instead of butter. One ill-advised “choose this, not that” item after another, and I slowly became enraged.

EAT FAT! Saturated fat never has been (and never will be) proven to cause heart disease. We have been wrongfully advised to avoid fat for decades based on an outdated theory that has been scientifically disproven over and over and over again. Not only does research prove fat causes ZERO harm to humans, it also links fat to several health benefits!  Some of my favorite (and healthiest) sources of fat are: avocado, cheese, nuts, natural nut butters, whole eggs, fatty fish, dark chocolate, responsible meat sources, chia seeds, full fat dairy, olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil. I enjoy these high-fat foods regularly.

**Just to clarify the fats I am referring to in this blog post are ALL naturally occurring fats found in the foods that have been put on this earth to nourish us. Both unsaturated AND saturated fats from animals, animal products and plants are beneficial for the average individual and cause no harm to our health. With that being said, there is one kind of fat that IS associated with an increased risk of heart disease and should be avoided at all costs. This fat is known as Trans Fat. Trans fats do not exist in nature. They are factory-made and present themselves in many processed foods including “heart healthy” vegetable and canola oils and ironically enough many “low-fat” foods. Read my blog post here to Get the Facts on Trans Fats and learn how to avoid them.

Please Comment below or contact me with any questions. Now go eat some fat and enjoy it!

If you are looking to follow a TRULY heart-healthy diet: Choose whole, natural, minimally-processed foods. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (and a lot of them). Avoid foods with long ingredient lists or that contain ingredients you don’t recognize. Eat foods as close to their natural form as possible. Avoid refined grains, trans-fatssugar and other unwanted additives. Oh yeah, and EAT FAT!

8 So-Called “Health” Foods That Aren’t Necessarily Healthy

If you haven’t figured out already, there is a lot of nutrition nonsense out there. Savvy marketing and false health claims are to blame for most of the confusion. Unfortunately there aren’t many regulations on the labeling and marketing of foods. Therefore, many consumers shop under the spell of food manufacturers who have found several ways of promoting their products as “healthy” which in many cases is absolutely not true. Here are 8 foods and beverages commonly believed to be healthy that may actually be harmful to your health:

1. Vitamin Water. The first 3 ingredients listed on a product make up the majority of what’s in it. Ingredients 2 and 3 (after water) on every flavor of this popular “health” drink are sugar…and sugar. If you’re drinking Vitamin water for the nutrition benefits, you may want to reconsider. You’re better off taking a multivitamin and drinking regular water. Better yet? Focus on getting these essential vitamins and minerals from real food.

2. Granola. Although granola does offer a decent amount of fiber and typically contains more protein than the average breakfast cereal, it’s often very high in sugar and calories. If you’re a granola lover read labels carefully to avoid loads of added sugar and stick with the recommended portion sizes (which are usually pretty small). Using a small amount of granola as a topping on fruit or yogurt is usually the best bet.

3. Sports Drinks. These are drinks fortified with electrolytes and marketed as an essential part of your post workout recovery. It is very important to re-hydrate after exercise and it is equally important to maintain normal electrolyte balance. But the body loses water a lot faster than electrolytes so drinking regular water is usually good enough for the average person.  Unless you’re someone with a very high sweat rate, are working out vigorously in extreme heat or suffer from frequent muscle cramps, it is usually unnecessary to replenish electrolytes during workouts lasting less than an hour. Sipping on a sports drink can actually offset your workout by providing unnecessary calories (usually from sugar) that you just worked so hard to burn off.

4. Salads. This is a tricky one. Salads can and should be insanely healthy offering fiber and essential nutrients found in vegetables and fruit. The problem lies in the toppings, dressings and other add-ons that can quickly pack on unnecessary sugar and calories. Carefully read labels of salad dressings as these are often high in sugar, chemicals and other unwanted additives- especially the fat-free ones! Make your own dressing at home or use oil and vinegar instead. Other healthy alternatives to traditional dressing are cottage cheese, fresh salsa or guacamole. Toppings you should avoid or use in small amounts are: cheese, bacon, croutons or crispy noodles, candied nuts and dried fruit. Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables, add lean protein and some healthy fat- such as raw nuts, avocado or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

5. Smoothies. Although they may seem like a delicious way to get in recommended fruit servings, some smoothies can pack the same amount of calories and sugar as a milkshake. On top of it, studies show beverages are less filling than whole foods. If you’re a smoothie lover, make your own or look for those made with whole fruit and no added sugar.

6. Energy Bars. Although these popular snacks can provide protein and fiber, they are also typically highly processed and high in sugar and calories. As with everything, read your labels! More often than not you’re better off opting for real food. Equally convenient alternatives are a piece of fruit with nut butter, plain Greek yogurt topped with berries or raw nuts, string cheese, cottage cheese or veggie sticks with hummus.

7. Diet Soda. No calories and no sugar so it must be good for you right? Wrong! Diet sodas are loaded with harmful chemicals, dyes and artificial sweeteners. Studies show that drinking diet soda is associated with kidney problems, metabolic syndrome, weight gain, cell damage, tooth decay and reproductive issues (to name a few). Avoid it at all costs.

8. Low-fat Foods. Low fat almost inevitably means “high sugar.”  Many people still equate low fat in their food to lower fat on their body but this is simply not accurate. Eating fat does NOT make you fat! In fact, refined grains and sugars are more likely to cause weight gain. Low-fat foods are typically laden with sugar, artificial sweeteners and other unwanted additives that are harmful to our health. Low-fat dairy (milk, cottage cheese, yogurt) can be an exception to this, but always, always, ALWAYS read your labels to be sure!

Take away message: Things are not always as they seem. Food is no exception. Ignore the “health” claims made on the front of any food package. Instead, turn the package around and read the ingredients. Opt for products with short lists of easy-to-pronounce ingredients. Use the guidelines in my blog post Identifying Hidden Sugar to avoid added sugar as much as possible. If partially-hydrogenated oil- of any kind- shows up on your ingredient list, this means is contains trans fats- safely place the item back on the shelf and walk away. Your best bet is always to focus on eating fresh, whole, natural foods that don’t require a nutrition label at all.

How to Eat Healthy on the Road

Our bags are packed and my husband and I are headed to Paris for the weekend! Preparing for a 4 hour drive in each direction, I took the liberty of packing some car snacks. In fact, food is usually the first -and last thing I think about when traveling…okay, always. All I ever think about is food. Staying on track when traveling is difficult to do 100% of the time and to be honest, I choose not to! But in anticipation of the fresh local pastries, salted caramel crepes and decadent European chocolates and macaroons I will find in Paris, I am choosing NOT to go off track for a fast food cheeseburger or a truck stop slurpee. Call me crazy, but I like to say I choose my indulgences wisely.  Here are a few tips that can help you do the same:

Pack Healthy Snacks

Your packing list shouldn’t just include your toothbrush, toiletries and an extra pair of underwear… Whether you’re catching a quick flight or planning a ten hour road trip, you should plan to pack healthy snacks. Options on the road are often limited to drive-thru windows and corner store gas stations, so take the extra time to pack something nutritious. Examples of healthy, on-the-road snacks are raw veggies and hummus, string cheese, fresh and dried fruit, yogurt, nuts, granola, and hard boiled eggs. Another one of my favorite snacks to pack, which you will see pictured above, are my 3 Ingredient Chocolate Almond Truffles. (*fun fact: I have never had a problem getting through airport security with a “sack lunch” and I have been known to eat all of the above during my flights*)

Choose Your Stops Wisely

When you’re on the road and deciding where to stop to replenish, choose wisely. If you stop for fast food, your options are limited to fast food. Instead, stop at a supermarket or grocery store that has a salad bar or whole, healthy food options.

Drink Water

Do not avoid drinking water in order to make fewer rest stops. Water is essential during travel to keep you hydrated. It will also help you avoid travel lag and junk-food cravings.

The Healing Power of Sleep

Sleep better, live better. It’s as simple as that.

Hundreds of studies have proven the importance of getting enough sleep, but how much is enough? It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Much more or much less than that can put your health at serious risk. For those of you who claim to be “too busy” for adequate sleep, I’m willing to bet there may be some television or computer screen time that can be sacrificed in order to squeeze in an extra hour or two of shut eye each night. The bottom line is that sleep is essential for every aspect of our health: mind, body and soul. It’s not something you want to skimp on and here’s why:

Healthy Mind

Quality sleep is vital for learning, memory, focus, attention and decision making. When we sleep our minds are able to process our day and make memories and connections during a process called consolidation. Adequate sleep also keeps us alert, thinking clearly and ready to seize the day!

Healthy Body

Our hormones, immune system and metabolism are all affected by sleep. Inadequate sleep suppresses our immune function making our bodies more vulnerable to infection. Getting enough sleep will help fight off colds, the flu and other illnesses. Sleep deprivation also causes an increase in inflammation in our bodies. Chronic inflammation is the cause of common aches and pains and has been linked to things such as heart attack, diabetes and stroke. Lastly, inadequate sleep affects metabolism. When we are sleep deprived certain hormones increase in our blood, which drive appetite and can lead to weight gain. Our bodies are much happier and perform more efficiently when they are well rested.

Healthy Soul

Adequate sleep can help reduce stress and support emotional stability. Getting enough sleep won’t guarantee a sunny disposition, but I think we all know that being overtired is when we’re most likely to be cranky. Insufficient sleep has also been shown to contribute to depression. Basically, you’re in an all around better mood when you get enough sleep.

To Buy Organic or Not? That is the Question.

To buy organic or not? This is a question on the mind of many health-conscious consumers today. Followed by, “Is it really ‘healthier’ to buy organic?” and “Is it worth the additional cost?” Let me start out by saying there is no ONE way to eat. Everyone’s story is a different one and I’m not here to tell you where to spend your money. I am simply here to provide you with high-quality information- what you do with it is entirely up to you. My hope is that this post can clear up some confusion regarding organic foods and help you make a decision that is in your best interest.

First of all let’s answer the question What is organic? According to the USDA, organic food is produced using sustainable agricultural production practices. Organic fruits and vegetables are grown without the use of most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, bioengineering or ionizing radiation. Look for the USDA Organic seal pictured above to help identify organic products. When deciphering other “organic” claims on food packaging, use this simple guide:

So… Is organic healthier? Several studies have found that organic produce contains higher levels of certain nutrients and antioxidants than their non-organic counterparts. However, there isn’t enough research analyzing the nutrient quality of organic versus non-organic foods to deem one ‘healthier’ than the other. The main benefit of choosing organic produce is that it lowers your exposure to pesticides.

Should I be Concerned about Pesticides? Well, pesticides are toxic. They are specifically designed to kill living organisms like insects, plants and fungi that are considered “pests.” Because of their toxicity, many pesticides pose health risks to people as well. These risks have been scientifically proven and linked to problems like cancer, hormone disruption, brain and nervous system toxicity and skin, eye and lung irritation. What’s more? Pesticides can remain on foods even after being thoroughly washed and peeled.

The Good News: Each Year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases an annual list called the Dirty Dozen™. The Dirty Dozen™ is a list of fruits and vegetables that the USDA has found to have the highest amount of pesticide residue. It has been estimated that individuals can reduce their exposure to harmful pesticides by 80% if they only switch to buying organic when buying these 12 most contaminated foods. Whether or not the additional cost of buying organic is worth it is entirely up to you. My personal recommendation is to use the Dirty Dozen™ list as a shopping guide and to choose the organic versions of these items when available and choose a less-contaminated alternative when they are not.

2015 Dirty Dozen™ is as follows:

Apples (and apple products)

Peaches

Nectarines

Strawberries

Grapes

Celery

Spinach

Sweet Bell Peppers

Cucumbers

Cherry Tomatoes

Snap Peas (Imported)

Potatoes

Take away message: The message here is NOT to avoid the foods on the Dirty Dozen™ list. The message is simply to buy them organic, when possible, to reduce your risk of pesticide exposure. The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables far outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Eating conventionally grown produce is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.  So organic or not, eat your fruits and vegetables! If you’re worried about pesticide exposure, the Dirty Dozen™ is a resource available to help you shop smarter. The EWG also releases a list called the Clean Fifteen™ which lists produce with the lowest amount of pesticide residue and therefore the safest to buy non-organic. These lists are published annually on www.ewg.org along with other healthy shopping guides. So, “To Buy Organic or Not”? Like I said, that is entirely up to you. My hope is that this post has helped you make an informed decision that you feel good about.

4 More Big Fat Nutrition Lies (Part Two)

Welcome to Part 2 of 5 Big Fat Nutrition Lies. Here’s to clearing up a few more common misconceptions in the world of nutrition:

Lie No. 6: Carbs Should be Your Biggest Source of Calories (and fat should be your smallest).

Fact: Extensive research has proven a low-fat, high-carb diet to be ineffective and potentially dangerous. If you remember back to the days of the food pyramid, grains found their home at the base of the pyramid, suggesting they should be our biggest source of calories. Fats hung out at the very tip of the pyramid, suggesting we should consume them sparingly. This outdated reference was finally revised by the USDA and the food pyramid has died a long overdue death. Unfortunately, confusion regarding this topic continues to linger.  Allow me to explain…Many years ago, it was believed that dietary fat led to weight gain and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This was based on low quality, flawed studies that since have been proven wrong- repeatedly! Regardless, the low-fat diet craze began and in addition to consuming less fat, it was recommended we eat more carbs (about 50-60% of our calorie intake!). Around the time this low-fat, high-carb diet was implemented, the health of our nation plummeted. The obesity epidemic began and disease rates sky rocketed. Decades and several massive studies later, this diet has been proven ineffective and even harmful to many individuals- specifically those with obesity, metabolic syndrome or diabetes.

Studies today consistently show that diets that are high in fat and low in carbs are much more effective for weight-loss and preventing disease. Stop fearing fat! The truth is we need fat to utilize essential fatty acids, support a healthy immune system, proper metabolic function, strong bones and muscles. Healthy, natural fats that are found in fish, animals, animal products, nuts and natural oils are very good for us and actually help protect against cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. So if you have been avoiding fat, stop! Enjoy it, it’s nutritious AND delicious! (The only fat that needs to be avoided is Trans Fat– it is not natural and very harmful to the human body.) *Also, please remember not all carbohydrates are “bad” and they are absolutely an essential part of our diet- they just don’t need to make up 50-60% of it. Focus on getting the majority of your carbs from fruits and vegetables.

Lie No. 7: Everyone Should be Eating Whole Grains.

Fact: Grains are not a necessary part of our diet and can actually be harmful to our metabolism. Whole grains have been all the rage lately and although they are more nutrient dense and less processed than refined grains, that doesn’t mean that they are appropriate for everyone.  If you are someone who does not enjoy eating grains or they are problematic for you, it’s perfectly fine to avoid them. Your health is not at risk because we don’t NEED to eat whole grains. Every beneficial nutrient (fiber, vitamins, minerals) found in whole grains can be found in several other foods. In fact, most fruits and vegetables are better sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals than the average whole grain. The most common grain in the United States’ diet is wheat, which contains gluten that a significant portion of our population may be sensitive to. Intolerant or not, gluten causes inflammation in the body, which can lead to a whole slew of chronic diseases. If you are a grain-lover, I challenge you to expand your horizon beyond wheat and incorporate a variety of grains like quinoa, barley, rye, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, farro, millet, Kamut and oats in your diet.

Lie No. 8: Vegetarian & Vegan Diets are the Healthiest

Fact: Vegetarians and Vegans Can Be Missing Key Nutrients for Health. Let me start out by saying that I completely respect individuals choosing to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet for moral or religious reasons. However, if you’re following one of these diets simply because you have heard it’s healthier, you may want to reconsider. Vegetarian and Vegan diets tend to be very high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat, which has been scientifically proven to be problematic for overall health promotion and disease prevention. Individuals following a vegetarian or vegan diet are also at a very high risk of developing a Vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that helps support bone health, muscle mass, healthy hormonal levels and cognitive function. This nutrient is ONLY found in animal-based proteins so if you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, it should be supplemented. Vegetarians and vegans also tend to consume a diet rich in soy and soy products. Soy has been a very controversial topic, but what we do know is that it contains phytoestrogens and high levels have been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 Diabetes, infertility, depression and several cancers. If possible, I recommend incorporating responsible animal products such as grass-fed meat, free-range poultry and fermented dairy to your diet. If not, at the very least take a Vitamin B12 supplement, focus on getting plenty of healthy fats and protein from vegetarian sources and consume soy in small amounts.

Lie No. 9: You Should Eat 5-6 Small Meals Per Day to “Keep Metabolism High”

Fact: Eating all the time doesn’t make you healthier or help your metabolism. It’s true that your metabolism increases slightly when you eat in order to digest the food, but it’s the total amount of food consumed in a day that determines the energy you use, NOT the number (or frequency) of meals. Several studies have put the small, frequent meals method to the test and found it ineffective. It’s also not natural for the human body to be continuously in the fed state. Fasting, or not eating for a while is natural and good for you. Your body uses this time to burn fat more efficiently and clean waste products out of our cells. People also tend to feel fuller with fewer, bigger meals than with smaller, frequent meals. Your digestive system prefers to move food in bulk too. To help curb in-between meal hunger, make sure you’re getting enough protein and fat at mealtime. They both increase satiety and will help keep you feeling full until your next meal.

Feel free to comment with any questions.

5 Big Fat Nutrition Lies (Part One)

Nutrition research is ongoing and therefore nutrition advice is constantly changing.  Mixed study results can be confusing and leave you wondering who and what to believe.  This is where registered dietitians (like myself) come in. We receive extensive training in research and stay current in order to provide our clients with high quality information that is grounded in science and evidence based. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, in magazines or see on TV- including Dr. Oz ! As with just about everything else in life, there are major politics involved with food. There are several big players in the food industry with a lot of money to spend on manipulating consumers. Please make sure your information is coming from validated sources – be skeptical!  To provide an example – the TV commercials that sing the praises of high fructose corn syrup saying it’s “natural” and “healthy” are funded by corn growers with an ulterior motive-money! My only motive is to improve your health. In fact, I believe it is the passion and expertise of every dietitian out there. With that being said, here are a few big time lies of mainstream nutrition that I want to take a moment to clear up:

Lie No. 1: Eggs are Unhealthy

Fact: Eggs are among the most nutritious foods in the world.  Eggs have been demonized for years because of their high cholesterol content. It used to be believed that a diet high in cholesterol would result in an increase in blood cholesterol, which is a risk factor in developing heart disease. Recently, however, it has been proven that dietary cholesterol does NOT contribute to increased cholesterol in the blood.  In fact, eggs in particular help raise the “good” cholesterol which is linked to a reduced risk of many diseases. Eggs absolutely do NOT cause high blood cholesterol or heart disease. What’s more? Eggs are insanely nutritious. They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need. Each whole egg contains 7 grams of high quality protein, 5 grams of healthy fat, and a boat load of vitamins, minerals and important antioxidants. In fact, eggs are often called “nature’s multivitamin.”  Now go eat some eggs and feel good about it!

Lie No. 2: Low-fat Foods are Good for You

Fact: Low-fat foods are typically highly processed foods loaded with harmful substances.  Fat is flavor. When natural fat is removed from a food, it tastes terrible.  In order to compensate for lost flavor, manufacturers add sugar, artificial sweeteners and other unwanted additives that are harmful to our health.  Low-fat dairy (milk, cottage cheese, yogurt) can be an exception to this, but always, always, ALWAYS read your labels to be sure!  Use the guidelines in my blog post Identifying Hidden Sugar and opt for the full fat version if the low-fat food contains these or any other unwanted extras.

Lie No. 3: A Calorie is A Calorie

Fact: Not all calories are created equal. Many people believe that the only thing that matters when it comes to weight loss is calories in vs. calories out. This is simply not true. Different foods go through distinct metabolic pathways in the body and affect hunger, hormones and health differently. While calories do matter in weight loss, they aren’t the only things that matter. The types of foods we get our calories from are equally important. You will often hear me say “count nutrients, not calories.”

Lie No. 4: Vegetable Oils are Good for You

Fact: Most vegetable oils are highly processed and refined products, which lack in essential nutrients and pose several health risks. Vegetable oils include, but are not limited to: canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil and sunflower oil. Vegetable oils do not exist in nature, rather they are industrially made using harsh chemicals and toxins. They also tend to contain significant amounts of harmful trans fats. Several high quality studies suggest that the consumption of vegetable oil can raise the risk of both cancer and heart disease. But because vegetable oils are very inexpensive, the majority of food manufacturers and restaurants (who both prioritize profit over your health) use them in food preparation. This is yet another reason why I recommend avoiding processed food and eating at home as often as possible. Healthy and natural oil options are extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil and avocado oil. Choose these to cook with at home.

Lie No. 5: You Can “Make Up” For a Bad Diet with Supplements

Fact: The majority of your nutrition needs to come from whole foods. The reason for this is because whole, healthy foods contain tens of thousands of phytochemicals, proteins, fiber, and fats that work together as a whole. This concept simply cannot be replicated into a pill or supplement form.  Supplements were designed to help close a nutritional gap and treat deficiencies – for instance someone who is lactose intolerant may need to take supplemental Calcium + Vitamin D or someone who is vegan should take Vitamin B12 to supplement their diet. The bottom line is that a poor diet made up of processed foods, refined sugar and grains CANNOT be counteracted with supplements. There are no short cuts here…eat whole, natural, nutrient dense foods.

These are 5 of MANY lies told by mainstream nutrition. Because I know this kind of information is easier to digest in small doses, I’m stopping here. I plan on following up with Part Two this week so stay tuned!

Avoid These 8 Common Dieting Mistakes

Do you feel like no matter what you do, you can’t seem to drop unwanted pounds? Despite your best intentions to lose weight, you may be sabotaging yourself with a number of dieting mistakes. Here are a few dieting don’ts that may be destroying your health and weight loss efforts:

1. Not Eating Enough

Don’t starve yourself or follow a “crash diet” out of desperation to lose weight quickly. This absolutely kills your metabolism and puts your body into starvation mode, which actually encourages it to hang on to more body fat and increases your chances of gaining weight back in the long run.

2. Drinking too Much

The average cocktail will cost you anywhere between 150 and 750 “empty” calories (aka calories unaccompanied by vitamins, minerals, fiber and other important nutrients). Alcohol also stimulates appetite and lowers inhibitions, which leads to overeating and unhealthy food choices. This can result in consuming hundreds of surplus calories.

The average person underestimates how often and how much they drink. Try challenging yourself to go 30 days without drinking or keep a diary of every time you do and you may surprise yourself! There are many ways to cut back on alcohol consumption. Make a conscious effort to limit yourself whether it be to only drink one night per week or to set a two drink maximum for yourself. The results can be dramatic and your liver will thank you! When you do choose to drink, avoid cocktails made with cream, simple syrup, sour mix, fruit juices, soda, and ice cream as these tend to be higher in sugar and calories.

3. Eating “Diet” Foods

This marketing hoax is one that makes my blood boil. “Diet” foods are bars, shakes, entrees, desserts and snacks that are packaged and marketed to the health conscious consumer as being “skinny” or low-calorie. Not only are these foods typically highly processed and packed with unwanted additives, they just aren’t filling or satisfying! And let’s face it, added sugar, dyes, and chemicals aside, 100 calories of cookies and crackers are of no value to us nutritionally. Instead of reaching for a tiny bag of processed snacks, focus on eating fresh, whole foods. Nature came up with convenient 100 calorie snacks far before food manufacturers did: fruits and vegetables. Not only are they low in calories, but they are high in water and fiber leaving you full and satisfied. They are also packed with valuable nutrients and are free of unwanted and artificial ingredients. An ounce of nuts, a cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese are also good snack options. If that’s not enough motivation to ditch the “diet” foods, check out this fun fact: a study conducted in 2010 found that individuals burn about 50% MORE calories metabolizing whole foods versus processed foods.

4. Losing Track

You may stay on track at meal time, but there are many in between nibbles that can be easily forgotten: mindless snacking at your desk, grabbing one of the cupcakes brought in for a coworkers birthday, a lick of your daughters ice cream cone…it all adds up. Keep a diary to log all of the food you eat. Studies have shown that being conscious of what you’re consuming automatically helps you make healthier choices and consume fewer calories. There are several websites and smart phone apps that make keeping a food diary quite simple. My Fitness Pal is one app that I frequently recommend. If you choose to count calories and are unsure of what a realistic calorie goal should be for you, talk to a dietitian.

5. Skimping on Sleep

If you’re sleeping less than 5-6 hours per night you may be hurting your weight loss efforts. Insufficient sleep can slow your metabolism, cause undesirable hormonal changes and lead to eating more throughout the day. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

6. Avoiding Fat

Eating fat does NOT make you fat! I would hope by now that this concept has been hammered in, but I still hear my clients refer to “low-fat” this and “fat-free” that as the automatic healthier option. While fat does contain more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates, that just makes it a denser source of energy. A small amount of fat can help you feel full whereas twice the number of calories in carbohydrate can leave you feeling empty. So stop fearing fat! Just pay attention to how much and what type of fat you eat. Avoid trans fats at all costs, but saturated fat from natural sources and unsaturated fats (mono- and poly-) are an essential part of a healthy diet. Keep in mind that fat = flavor. When an item is low-fat or fat-free it is typically loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients to compensate for flavor lost. Low-fat foods (like dairy) can still be part of a balanced diet, but make sure you read your labels to avoid unwanted additives.

7. Eating Out Often

Restaurants are in the business of making money, plain and simple. They often use lower quality and cheaper ingredients, specifically factory-made oils that are detrimental to our health. Although there are ways to make smarter decisions when ordering out, the bottom line is that you’re never really sure what‘s in the food you‘re eating. Even if you think you’re doing the right thing and ordering a salad, the dressing can be loaded with sugar and it‘s calories can far exceed that of a juicy one pound bacon cheeseburger. Focus on preparing your own meals and try to limit how often you eat away from home.

8. Wimpy Water Consumption  

Water is essential for burning calories. Drinking water can also help you manage your appetite. In fact, often times when an individual feels hungry, they are really just thirsty. Studies have also shown that drinking 1-2 glasses of water prior to a meal can help individuals consume fewer calories. Drink more water and avoid high calorie drinks like sports drinks, energy drinks, coffee drinks, juices, other sweetened beverages and soda (yes, even diet!). These offer nothing nutritionally and are empty calories that will not leave you feeling full at all. They are counterproductive to any and all of your health and weight loss efforts.

 

Take home message: Not all calories are created equal. Focus on making the right food choices rather than just eating the fewest amount of calories possible. Eat healthy fat. Avoid “diet” foods. Nourish your body with fresh, whole, minimally processed foods. Drink more water and less alcohol. Consume fewer soft drinks. Eat at home when possible. Exercise for wellness. Love yourself.

5 Reasons Red Cabbage Rocks

There is a reason why I encourage people to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. The distinct vibrant hues of fruits and vegetables indicate an abundance of various nutrients and health benefits they have to offer. The more colorful your diet, the bigger variety of nutrients in it and the wider range of health benefits you will receive. When it comes to cabbage, this concept is no different. The bright purple hue of red cabbage speaks to some of its most valuable health benefits:

Cancer Prevention

Red cabbage is very rich in phytonutrient antioxidants. These are what actually give cabbage its purple color. As you know, antioxidants help reduce the risk of developing cancer. Red cabbage is also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, which aide in the prevention of chronic inflammation, and therefore cancer. There are also nutrients called glucosinolates found in cabbage, which can be converted into compounds that prevent several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, bladder cancer, and prostate cancer. The combination of ALL THREE of these cancer fighting compounds gives red cabbage a one-up on several other fruits and vegetables when it comes to cancer prevention.

Digestive Health

Glucosinolates, antioxidant polyphenols, and glutamine found in red cabbage provide health benefits for our stomach and digestive tract lining. Red cabbage is also high in insoluble fiber, which helps prevent constipation, lowers the risk of developing diverticular disease and helps relieve the symptoms of GI conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Weight Loss

Red cabbage (like most other fruits and vegetables) is high in dietary fiber and very low in calories.  Fiber is what helps you feel full and feeling full for less is always beneficial when trying to lose weight. Red cabbage is also very nutrient dense, providing a wealth of important vitamins and minerals at the expense of very few calories.

Lower Cholesterol

The ability of red cabbage to lower cholesterol has been proven scientifically in a number of studies. There is even a study that compares the cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed cabbage with the cholesterol-lowering ability of the prescription drug cholestyramine and red cabbage stands up!

Eye and Skin Health

Red Cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamin A, which is extremely important for maintaining eye health. Vitamin A can also prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. In addition to being beneficial to your eyes, Vitamin A is a godsend for your skin. It provides protection from sun damage and improves skin elasticity. The antioxidants in red cabbage also fight common signs of aging skin such as wrinkles and age spots by keeping your skin fresh, tight, and flexible.

My favorite way to enjoy red cabbage is in a fresh, crisp coleslaw. Recently I discovered this red cabbage slaw recipe with a tangy carrot ginger dressing to die for! Shout out to fellow food lover Nom Nom Paleo for this insanely good recipe.

Identifying Hidden Sugar

.

.

There are 600,000 food items in the United States and 80% of them have added sugar. Yikes! Before we begin, take a look at the food label on your left. This is the actual Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient list of a well-known breakfast bar.  The name of it alone leads consumers to believe it’s a seemingly healthy choice. Since we are talking about sugar today, go ahead and read this label and see if you can identify any sugar in this product.

.

< Sugar always shows up here

.

.

.

.

< but the ingredient list is where the cold hard facts are. Read the entire thing top to bottom and see if you can find sugar.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Okay, what’s your verdict? Sugar-laden treat or seemingly healthy breakfast bar?

I counted sugar 9 TIMES on this ingredient label. (not to mention other chemical and artificial additives) 7  of the times that sugar was listed on this label, it was disguised under names unfamiliar to the average consumer. By the end of this post you will be able to identify sugar hidden in foods and my hope is that you will choose to avoid it!

If you didn’t already know, sugar consumption is a HUGE concern in the United States and according to research, here are 15 very good reasons why:

1. Sugar provides “empty calories” aka calories that are unaccompanied by vitamins, minerals, fiber and other important nutrients. This not only adds calories to your diet, but it leaves less room for healthier foods in your diet.

2. Sugar can suppress your immune system and decrease your ability to fight off infectious disease.

3. Sugar contributes to overweight and obesity.

4. Sugar can lead to an increase in bad cholesterol as well as a decrease in good cholesterol.

5. Sugar can increase your systolic blood pressure.

6. Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.

7. Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of several cancers including lung, breast, ovarian, prostate, rectum, biliary tract, pancreatic, stomach and gallbladder.

8. Sugar can weaken eyesight and cause cataracts.

9. Sugar can cause premature aging.

10. Sugar can cause autoimmune diseases such as: arthritis, asthma, and multiple sclerosis.

11. Sugar causes many problems with the GI tract including indigestion, decreased nutrient absorption, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

12. High sugar intake can contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

13. Sugar increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, gallstones, polio, gout, depression, yeast infections, food allergies, headaches and migraines.

14. Sugar can cause cavities, tooth decay and gum disease.

15. Sugar is addictive.

So if sugar is in 80% of the foods we eat…

How on Earth Can We Avoid It?

1. Sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks are by far the biggest sources of added sugar in the average American’s diet. One can of soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar. This alone exceeds the daily recommendation for sugar intake. Do everything in your power to kick this habit! Drink water or unsweetened teas. La Croix or other flavored sparkling water is an excellent alternative to soda. You can also flavor water or sparkling water yourself with fruit or 100% fruit juice.

2. Sugar lurks in the obvious sweets such as donuts, pastries, cookies, cakes, pies, cobblers, ice cream and candy. Consume these products sparingly.

3. Sugars are added to foods during processing or preparation.  These are the sugars I want to talk about today because they show up in foods that the average consumer would never guess contain sugar.  Items like pasta sauces, salad dressings, dips, spreads, yogurt, cereals and granola bars are all common places to find added sugar.  The only way to avoid these is to READ YOUR LABELS!! Check the ingredients for sugar.

Unfortunately, as you saw in the food label above, there are many disguises for sugar in our foods. There are well over 50 words for “sugar” on ingredient labels, but they all fall into a few categories which make them easier to locate. Take a look at How to Identify Sugar:

Words ending in -ose

  • lactose
  • saccharose
  • dextrose, Anhydrous dextrose, or crystal dextrose
  • sucrose
  • glucose
  • fructose, fructose sweetener, or liquid fructose
  • galactose
  • maltose
  • pentose
  • xylose

Syrups

  • Syrup
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Rice syrup, ribose rice syrup, or rice syrup solids
  • Sorghum or sorghum syrup
  • Malt syrup
  • Raisin syrup

Sugars

  • Beet Sugar
  • Cane Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Coconut sugar, or coconut palm sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Palm sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Turbinado sugar

Words of or related to “cane”

  • Cane Crystals, or cane juice crystals
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice

Words of or related to “malt”

  • Maltodextrin
  • Rice malt
  • isomalt
  • malted barley
  • malts, or malt syrup

Words ending in -ol

  • carbitol
  • erythritol
  • glucitol
  • hexitol
  • inversol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol
  • mannitol
  • glycerol (or glycerin)

Miscellaneaous

  • Corn sweetener
  • Dextrin
  • Fruit juice concentrate, or concentrated fruit juice
  • Nectars, agave nectar, peach nectar, or pear nectar
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Treacle
  • diglycerides, disaccharides, or  fructooligosaccharides

Crazy isn’t it? Don’t let this list discourage you. Revisit the ingredient label at the top of this post and see if the hidden sugar stands out to you now.  The more you familiarize yourself with these names, the easier label reading will become. Still, the easiest way to avoid added sugar is to buy fresh, whole, natural foods that are minimally processed. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store and avoid the inner aisles.  Anything that is packaged or preserved and shelf stable is likely to have added sugar in it. Anything labeled low-fat or fat-free usually contains added sugars as well. Opt for the full fat version in this case- rather than the low-fat one that is loaded with sugars.