Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pick me up

Let's face it, we are all busy! Whether you're working 40+ hours a week, taking care of the kids, or going to school/studying like crazy, this busyness causes many of us to put some vital health habits to the wayside. In the end, someone's keeping score and it's our body, taking another hit. I'm writing on this particular topic because someone recently asked me for some suggestions on how to get a quick energy pick-me up during the day. So, I thought I'd write my blog providing some reminders and quick tips on how to maximize energy levels.

The first bit of advice that I think is one cornerstone to optimal energy levels is SLEEP! Sleep is a vital component to optimal health. When we get enough sleep, we are able to feel more rested and energized the following day. Sleep also allows our brains to process the thoughts for the day helping us learn and form memories. Just how much depends on who you are. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) most adults need between 7-8 hours of sleep a night. As for the kiddos, newborns need a whopping 16-18 hours/day, preschoolers between 10-12 hours/day, and school-aged kids at least 9 hours/day.

Consuming a nutritious and well-rounded breakfast can also be a proactive step toward more daily energy. Breakfast does just what it says, it 'breaks the fast' that we've experienced over night. When we wake up in the morning after not having eaten for several hours, our body's energy reserves are lower. Therefore, breakfast can set the tone for your energy levels throughout the day. Be sure to incorporate a good source of carbohydrate (i.e., whole grains or fruits are excellent), protein (i.e., low-fat yogurt, milk, natural peanut butter or nuts), and fat (i.e., avocado or nuts). By consuming a balanced breakfast that incorporates all three major nutrients, energy will be released to the body more steadily, therefore, maintaining more stable throughout the morning and keeping hunger at bay for longer.

Eating several small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day also helps people stay on top of their energy needs. I usually recommend eating a small meal or snack every 3-4 hours upon waking. Including a good source of carbohydrate, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, or dry beans, provides an important fuel source for the body; however, it's also important to include a good source of protein and/or fat at each meal and snack for the same reasons as mentioned earlier.

Keep portion sizes in check. Sometimes when we're tired, we have the tendency to overeat and this can actually be an energy drain.

Drink up...water, that is! Even mild dehydration (losing 1-2% of body weight from dehydration) can result in weakness and fatigue. When we are dehydrated, even mildly, our bodies have to work a little harder as a result. The recommendation is to drink ~8-12 cups/day.

MOVE! Even short bouts of physical activity in 10-minute increments throughout the day can provide a quick energy boost. So, if you're feeling lethargic, take a break and get moving. You will feel more refreshed and energized!

Well, I hope I've helped you make it a healthier day!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

With this economic turmoil...

I thought it seemed timely to post some tips on eating healthfully on a budget.

1. Plan, plan, plan ahead!
Planning meals in advance can save tons of time and money. When we know what we're going to eat and we've already purchased those foods, we can avoid the eating out trap. Personally, I like to plan my meals one week at a time. After planning the meals for the week, make a grocery list and stick to it. Much of our impulse spending occurs in a grocery store, believe it or not.

2. Search for savings
Look through grocery store ads, circulars, or the Sunday paper for specials and coupons. You can also rack up savings through websites such as The Grocery Game (though there's a regular fee) or The Coupon Mom. The key with coupons, however, is to only use them for foods on your grocery list.

3. Avoid shopping when hungry. Enough said!

4. Stock up on sale items or purchase in bulk.
For instance, if whole wheat pasta is on sale this week and it's a staple in your diet, stock up, if you have space.

5. Scan the unit price.
Many stores now place the price/unit (i.e., $/ounce) on the tag beneath the item. This allows you to comparison shop for the best buy.

6. Consider generic or store brands.

7. Purchase produce in season.
Not only will it be cheaper, but it will also be even tastier!

8. Purchase locally grown.
The closer to home an item is grown, the less distance it has to travel, therefore cutting down on shipping costs. This also supports the local farmers and economy. I love visiting the local farmer's market for great deals (they're often willing to bargain) and excellent food! It's also awesome to be able to meet the people who actually produce the food you're about to eat!

9. Consider more meatless meals.
While meat offers a great source of protein, iron, and other important nutrients, it actually costs more per serving since it's a step or two further on the food chain than grains, vegetables, or beans.

10. Cook in bulk and freeze leftovers for another meal.

11. Purchase items in their truest form.
When we purchase items such as pre-cut/washed bagged salads or pre-peeled/cut carrots, we end up paying more because we're paying for the convenience of these items. However, if we purchase these whole, fresh items and prep them ourselves, we can save oodles!

12. Purchase frozen vegetables, fruits, or 100% juices.
These items can be just as healthful but can cost less than their fresh counterparts, especially when not in season.

13. Look above and below eye level on store shelves.
Generally, higher priced items are placed at eye level while lower priced bargains can be found above or below that.

14. Make a budget and stick to it. In fact, only shop with CASH!
I've personally learned that this is truly an excellent way to save money. We are much more emotional with cash than we are with a debit/credit card or even a check. So those impulse buys look much less enticing when you only have $X in hand.

15. Prepare your own meals at home.
The average person spends about $8 on a fast food meal. However, a meal prepared at home will not only cost much less, but you will know exactly what went into it!

I know that I have family and friends who are super savers when it comes to shopping, so I wonder if I will get any additions to this list?

Happy Shopping and SAVING!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What we want most

If you didn't already know, I currently teach college-level nutrition courses. One is an introductory nutrition course, which I love to teach. Last week, I asked my students to respond to a discussion board question I had posted. I asked them what their major barriers to healthful eating were. The most common answers were: time, money, taste, availability. This is not really a surprise to me. These are very common barriers for college students and really for many Americans in general. During class, I had asked my students what the pros of consuming a more nutritious diet were. Most seemed to agree that better health, performance, and quality of life were important. Many of them raised their hands when I posed questions about what they would like out of stay healthy, feel better, look better, perform better, etc. I guarantee that if I posed these same questions to almost any other audience the answers would be the same. However, saying is one thing, doing is another. The culture we live in presents many challenges to living healthfully. At the same time, many people want the best out of live long and prosper as a Spock might say;)

What's the problem? One quote comes to mind...we often give up what we want MOST for what we want in the MOMENT (source unknown). In fact, there is actual research showing that people do just this. I've read of research studies in which people are offered a sum of money, usually a smaller amount immediately (let's say $5) and a larger sum later on down the road (let's say $25). It appears that people have the tendency to choose the smaller amount that they can get NOW vs the larger amount that they can get LATER. What I spend a lot of time encouraging people to do is one of two things. One is to realize that every action we take is based on a choice. For instance, we can make the choice to go overboard at the smorgasboard on Thanksgiving or we can choose to enjoy a few of our Thanksgiving favorites in moderation. Once we realize that the actions we take are based on choices, we then realize that we actually do have some control over our health. We are able to take responsibility for our health. Secondly, I encourage people to focus on what they really want. What is it that they hope to accomplish or achieve by making choices to eat more nutritious foods and move more? Is it that s/he wishes to improve cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugars? Would s/he like to perform better in sports? Would s/he like to live longer in order to see his/her children/grandchildren grow up, get married, have their own children? In order to keep what we want most at the forefront, I often encourage people to physically make a list of what they want most. I even encourage people to take it a step further...put each reason on a post-it note and post it in different spots (i.e., bathroom mirror, car dash, computer screen, checkbook, blackberry, etc.) as gentle reminders. This can be especially helpful when someone is making new changes with his/her food intake or physical activity since getting started and staying focused is sometimes the most challenging part. As I always say, go after a life of health, you deserve it!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The sweetest of sweets?

A friend recently brought the following ad from the Corn Refiners Association (CFA) : http://www. sweetsurprise. com/tvads. php?vid=TwoBites. flv and wanted to know my opinion about the ad. I've decided to take my first stab at offering an RD's point of view about the currently vilified sweetener high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

So, let me just hit the main points that the Corn Refiners Association make in this ad. First of all, it's stated that HFCS is made from corn. This is true to a point; however, it's not as if the makers of HFCS take corn and squeeze it to produce HFCS. The process of producing HFCS from corn is a bit lengthier and more complicated than that. It essentially starts out as cornstarch and is processed with enzymes to produce the HFCS. The second major point is that HFCS contains the same calories as sugar or honey. This is actually true. Both sugar, honey, as well as other caloric sweeteners and HFCS yield approximately 4 calories per gram. Lastly, the ad states that HFCS is fine in moderation. I would agree. Consumption of this ingredient is not going to cause the demise of someone's health when done so in moderation. Although I'd be curious as to what the CFA's definition of "moderation" is when it comes to HFCS.

Something that the ad didn't address is some of the information or rumors that have been floating around about HFCS.
  • First of all, the name high fructose corn syrup has been misleading for people. HFCS is actually only high in fructose in relation to regular corn syrup. In reality, HFCS contains approximately the same amount (55% fructose and 45% glucose) of fructose as table sugar (50% fructose and 50% glucose). One piece of information swirling around out there is that HFCS increases triglyceride levels in the blood. Consumption of this caloric sweetener may very well contribute to elevated triglycerides (and therefore heart disease) in people prone to having higher levels of this fat in their blood, but the so-called risk of this is the same as that for regular sugar, too. Also, some people maintain that consumption of HFCS (particularly the fructose) causes disruption in the regulation of appetite via the hormone, leptin, causing someone to eat more than s/he normally would. While it is true that research has exhibited that fructose may not stimulate the production of leptin, which regulates appetite and fat storage, given the proportion of fructose in HFCS, the effect is not any greater for HFCS than for regular sugar. In fact, some forms of HFCS contain less fructose than regular sugar!
  • Secondly, it's been associated with being one of the primary causes for obesity. This primarily stems from a commentary article authored by George Bray, Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry Popkin in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004, which posed some possible relationships between trends in consumption of HFCS and obesity rates over several decades. However, since the publishing of this article, more research has been conducted on HFCS and has found that HFCS alone does not necessarily cause a person to gain weight. However, the calories from this caloric sweetener consumed in excess of what a person needs may promote weight gain. Therefore, it's a calorie issue rather than an ingredient issue. In fact, the authors of this article have since clarified that while HFCS is not necessarily the most healthful ingredient, it is not necessarily the Evil One that it's made out to be either.
So, am I giving HFCS a huge thumbs up here? Not necessarily. I think the point I'd like to make here is that we need to look at the bigger picture. What is HFCS? It is a form of sugar. What foods contain HFCS? Processed foods. HFCS does not occur naturally in these foods as does the sugar in fruit or milk; therefore, HFCS is considered an {added sugar}. What are the latest guidelines regarding consumption of added sugars? Well, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend that we choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners. So, while the recommendations do not suggest that we need to completely eliminate added sugars from the diet, they still suggest limiting consumption of added sugars.

What does this all mean to me? We can best achieve optimal nutrition by consuming more fresh, whole, minimally processed foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. These foods will naturally contain fewer added sugars and will also be more nutrient dense containing more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals than processed or refined foods that contain HFCS. These foods, especially whole, fresh vegetables and fruits, will also naturally offer greater volume for fewer calories. So, they'll be more satisfying without contributing an abundance of calories, especially from added sugars.

Maybe HFCS gets a bad rap because it gives people something to blame for some of the current health concerns in our country today. It gives us an enemy to watch out for. In reality, the effects of this particular caloric sweetener are not that different from other forms of added sugar, such as table sugar, honey, or molasses, and I believe that's really what we should look at. While I personally believe that there is possibly an overuse of this sugar in foods for reasons that I won't get into here, if it weren't HFCS, it would be some other form of sugar, and it would still be in foods that are mostly processed rather than in their most natural form. That's what we really need to consider. Remember: balance, moderation, and variety are three keys to a more nutritious food intake. Salud!

Seeking Support

I'm back on track with my training for the marathon. In fact, last week was a home run for me! I picked up my training as scheduled. As I came upon my long run for the weekend, I was thrilled that my friend, Heather, wanted to run with me. 18 miles! While she's not {officially} training for the marathon, she has been completing some of the endurance runs with me, and it's been so helpful. As I look ahead and we plan future runs together, I am excited and relieved. I'm excited to share this experience with someone else, and I'm also relieved to be able to share this experience with someone else. I must admit that these longer runs have become more daunting to me; however, knowing I have a partner in crime truly helps push and pull me through!

I believe that seeking support through all aspects of lifestyle and behavior change is essential. Whether you're just getting started or you've been at it a long time, having a strong and positive support system in place is vital to keeping you on track towards your goals. A person could learn as much as s/he can about (fill in blank with nutrition, exercise, health, etc.) and maintain certain behaviors for quite some time; however, I've truly learned that we ALL have stumbling blocks somewhere along the way. I truly do not believe that we are meant to achieve optimal nutrition, fitness, or health alone. We are meant to seek out supports along the way, regardless of where we are....beginner, intermediate, or pro. And if you get to the point where you'd consider yourself a pro, think about offering your support to someone else. I've truly learned that being an advocate to others increases accountability and enhances long-term success. Cheers!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Credit for Success

As you may or may not know, I am currently in training for the Long Beach International City Marathon on Oct. 12, 2008. I have been training since May, and last week I completed a 16-mile run over the weekend. While I have been training pretty well up to this point, this was the first long-run after which I really felt the "pain" of the run. Combine this with a very hectic week, and it spelled disaster for my running schedule. I'm currently preparing for another semester of teaching, launching my own business, and trying to maintain a fulfilling family and social life. One thing I've learned is that when I take on new things, especially too many, something's gotta give. Unfortunately, this week it was my running. The other factors were just too critical or important, and I honestly felt like I needed a mental and physical break from my running regimen. While I did take a break from running, I did not completely throw in the towel in my physical activity plans all together. I continued to incorporate physical activity in other ways that were really just as, if not more, satisfying than my regular running routine. These included things such as taking evening walks with my daughter and husband, walking my daughter to the park and playing with her on the playground equipment, dancing with my daughter to some silly kids' music, or walking errands instead of driving. I decided to write my blog on this topic today because I realized how easily discouraged I could've gotten by getting off track with my running this week. However, I took the time to reflect on the successes that I did have this week. I did include ways of being physically active everyday, and I did get back on track with my running routine today.

I have worked with many people on making lifestyle changes who see success as black or white, and I've often found myself trying to get them to see the shades of gray. For many, it's difficult. To me, success is not perfection but progress. I think many people have a difficult time accepting the small wins when it comes nutrition and physical activity. However, I truly believe that it's important to remember your success, no matter how large or seemingly small, and give yourself credit. So, if you're feeling discouraged, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the changes you've made or the little things that you did today, this week, or this month that have helped you progress toward your goals whether you realize it or not. Success is about moving forward, and as long as you're doing that, you're doing great!

Welcome to my blog

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be part of the change that you wish to see in the world.” My personal and professional experience has escalated my desire to be an active participant in improving the health status of the world and (in Gandhi’s words) “be part of the change”. Therefore, I have worked hard to develop my expertise in nutrition and health so that I will be able to help individuals and families improve their health and well-being through nutrition and healthy living.

To me, it is a wonderful blessing to have the opportunity to help others improve and maintain their health and well-being from the inside out. Therefore, I envision this blog as a way to improve the health and well-being of the I look forward to the opportunity to help my readers achieve optimal wellness from the inside out! Stay tuned for, hopefully, weekly updates on hot topics in nutrition or things I've been thinking about from the point of view of a Registered Dietitian.  I look forward to the opportunity to help my readers achieve optimal wellness from the inside out! Stay tuned for, hopefully, weekly updates on hot topics in nutrition or things I've been thinking about from the point of view of a Registered Dietitian.

Just a few notes about Registered Dietitians but especially this one in particular. Click here if you'd like to know more of the {official} aspects of how a Registered Dietitian (RD) comes to be. Maybe I should start with what I am not...the food or diet police or someone who enjoys depriving people of enjoying food. Personally, I like to eat. I enjoy cooking and trying out different restaurants. I've learned how to develop a healthy relationship with eating and food. I like to focus on the positive behaviors and reinforce those behaviors rather than dwelling on the slips. Aside from improving health and physical performance, one of my ultimate goals in helping others through nutrition is to encourage the development of a healthy relationship with food, eating, and the body. I believe this is the key to achieving optimal wellness long-term.

If you have a question about nutrition or wellness, let me know: I'd also like to select reader questions to answer on my blog. Happy and Healthy Reading!
Related Posts with Thumbnails