Friday, July 17, 2009

Your Nutrition FAQ's!

Below is a collection of questions I've received from my runners this year. Most of my blogs won't be this long I promise!

Besides eating half of a Turtle Mocha granola bar (a great idea!), what snack suggestions would you say are great fillers and would cut my cookie cravings!!!???

Trail mix is another great suggestion to get a balanced energy snack. You can make your own to save money. Include dried fruit without sugar for healthy carbs, and different types of nuts to get a variety of nutrients, including healthy fats and a good amount of protein. More simple than trail mix, just have lots of nuts around, and take SMALL handfuls. Make sure to choose natural nuts – if not organic, at least without added ingredients, or salted with only sea salt. Roast your own if you would like them sweetened and choose maple syrup or honey.

Healthy carbs with peanut butter or any natural dip used in small amounts: fruit (apples with pb), veggies (celery with pb, broccoli with organic sour cream/mayo/dill, carrots with hummus), or Sprouted grain bread with peanut butter (I recommend “Alvarado Diabetic Lifestyle” as it’s the “softest” I’ve found. I buy it in bulk from a buying club to save $2 a loaf.)

If you use crackers in your snacking, be sure to choose ones made of only whole grains and not wheat flour. This lower-glycemic option will keep your blood sugar stable for longer (which prevents cravings and keeps you feeling full).

Back to the Olympic granola bars – yes I recommend them! A very balanced snack option full of nutrients – choose only half for a snack or a whole one for a meal-on-the-go.

Cravings are often an issue of nutrient deficiencies and this will be discussed further below under supplements.

Name one fruit and one vegetable that you say are the healthiest?

I won’t be attempting to choose just one vegetable. They are all good for different reasons – variety is best to obtain a wide spectrum of nutrients. Color is a good indication of the type of nutrients offered, so choose a colorful selection to include in your diet. Fruit is easier to narrow down because some fruits contain many more antioxidants than others. Berries are great. Since I recommend only choosing organic strawberries and raspberries since they are so high in pesticides (even when washed) and this is unaffordable for many, consider making blueberries a regular part of your diet since these are safer to buy commercially. Or buy in season – Natura Farms in Scandia has wonderful tasting, affordable organic strawberries available for picking right now! Even higher in antioxidants than berries and also available at your supermarket is pomegranate. Lookup online how to eat one though! 1st prize is going to the mangosteen fruit, which I believe is only available here as a juice. It is so high in antioxidant that a single OUNCE of juice constitutes 3 servings of fruit, and it is priced accordingly! A 32 ounce bottle, 32 servings, is usually about $20. I get it through my buying club for $15-17 and we take it as a supplement. It is delicious and the kids love it. Sometimes I dilute it with 8oz water to enjoy it for longer. I take this in place of any antioxidant pill.

What foods will give me energy during times of exhustation, stress, and that "time of the month?"

See above – all these are good options. It is specific nutrients – especially B vitamins, calcium and magnesium - that are going to help you the most with exhaustion, stress, and even issues with your cycle. Since it is hard to get enough of these key nutrients through your diet, I highly recommend quality supplements. Take them all the time, but even extra doses during your period. More about supplements below.

What are great breakfast foods that will help me fill up, give me energy and start my day off great!

Avoiding a breakfast that is limited to simple carbs is important. So most cereals are a no-go. Choose oatmeal since it is rich in fiber and will last you longer. Choose Sprouted grain bread which is lower glycemic and higher in protein. Always include eggs if you can. Eggs are the only food in the entire world which contain every single nutrient except one. Your body needs a certain amount of the types of fat and protein that are found in eggs, and this is a good way to get them daily. Nutritionally, free range or organic eggs are very different than commercial eggs. The animal’s diet makes the nutrient profile very different and there are numerous reasons to choose organic eggs which I won’t go into at this time. Purchase from you local farmer to save. They will still cost more, but they are still probably the most affordable option available when it comes to protein sources.

And again, Olympic granola bars are a very balanced breakfast when you are in a hurry and provide lots of energy.

I am a carb. fanatic and am having a hard time kicking the habit. Is there a healthy and somewhat inexpensive alternative to pasta, pretzels, breads?

We have all become carb addicts as a product of our culture. The more we eat, the more we crave, and although most of us are probably at the point of no return, it would be wise of us to make drastic changes here. We consume way too many grains, the agriculturally-influenced food pyramid is wrong, and our health as a nation has been profoundly impacted by this – especially due to the omega 6 fatty acid imbalance they cause in our bodies, a leading factor in the most common diseases we experience. Sprouted grain varieties of breads, pastas, tortillas, cereals, and more are good options, although pricey unless you buy in bulk, and taste-wise I just can’t recommend the pasta. :) The bread and tortillas are great. I don’t think there are ideal substitutions for the snacky items such as pretzels. I try to find as many whole grains as possible in my kids’ natural crackers, and not have these be too abundant in our diets. Whole grain rice, or even better quinoa, are great substitutions for pasta as far as a filler for meals with your meat and veggies. The absolute most helpful thing in trying to reduce carb consumption is to make sure you aren’t deficient in nutrients, as this will contributing to cravings. See supplements below.

I love sugar in my coffee. Is there a better substitute?

Stevia. A.K.A. “sweet leaf” – This is a very sweet herb, much sweeter than sugar so you need a smaller amount. Experiment with both the powdered and liquid forms, and try different brands if you don’t like the taste of one. Stevia is available in the baking section, usually in the natural foods section or store. Since stevia is an herb it is not technically a food so it will be labeled as a supplement. Stevia just received FDA approval as a food in the last couple months – but this is not a good thing. Drug companies will now be able to manipulate it into an artificial sweetener. So be careful of the new stevia derivatives. If you do not like the taste of stevia, try xylitol, a natural sugar derivative, or next try fructose – derived from fruit – both available in the bulk baking section of your natural foods store, or at least cane sugar. Any sugar is better than artificial sweeteners, but I don’t have time to write about those here. There is much evidence that artificial sweeteners cause the body to store fat, the side effect women are usually the most concerned with.

Is there a comparable substitute to pop in taste and price?

Kick the diet soda habit with Zevia! Diet soda is NOT better for you than regular, I would argue the opposite. Studies have even shown diet sodas cause women to gain weight, for various reasons. Zevia is available through natural foods distributors or a natural foods store such as Fresh n Natural in Shoreview. It is definitely more expensive but it tastes similar to diet pop. It is sweetened with stevia.

Is peanut butter healthy? Is there a brand or type that is better? Thanks!

NATURAL Peanut butter is a decent option to help us get enough protein our diets, or at least our kids’ diets! Organic is best because of the level of fungicides they spray on commercial peanuts. Natural peanut butter is available commercially though and contains no added sugar, just nuts. They need to be refrigerated to be preserved. Choose one with added oil if you are frustrated with the fridge texture.

Peanuts are a high source of omega 6 fatty acids though, and this is something to be aware of. I don’t mind having it because we do not over-consume these through other typical sources (excess grains, and non-organic meat, eggs and dairy.) A better choice than peanut butter is almond butter – with a much healthier fatty acid profile, however it is insanely expensive.

Where can I go for quick and easy (and less expensive) recipes that incorporate whole foods, particularly those containing legumes? Healthy Meal Ideas?

Online is great! I don’t have time to do the research for you, but I have had great success in the past just browsing the internet for healthy recipes, and I’ve also come across some cookbooks that look great and I just haven’t bought yet. A couple I think look good: “Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Minutes” by Angela Elliott, and “The Lazy Person’s Whole Food Cookbook” by Stephen Byrnes. I think any recipe can be healthy though if you use only natural ingredients, it includes vegetables, organic fats (meat/dairy), little grains. I have found ways to take my favorite recipes and make them healthier. Legumes – good for you! Not my specialty. Don’t like them but wish I did.

What do you eat? Give an example of a typical day.

Okay. How about an IDEAL day(s) (and I’m not saying this is even perfect, not enough veggies!). These do not happen often – I struggle like everyone else!

Breakfast: 1 jumbo egg scrambled with chicken sausage and apple, OR oatmeal with protein and honey added OR on the weekend Pamela’s all-natural gluten free pancakes (I add organic chocolate chips :))
Snack: half a granola bar OR Nut-thins crackers
Lunch: Large salad – mixed greens, topped with hard boiled egg, shredded carrots, mushrooms, organic raw cheddar or cottage cheese, sunflower seeds or sliced almonds, olive oil and red wine vinegar or organicville vinaigrette, cut up grilled chicken or deli meat if I have it on hand (organic)
Snack: Protein Shake (I use an organic chocolate protein powder, organic raw milk, ground flaxseed and a frozen banana) OR trail mix
Dinner: whatever Ben makes! We try for a meat or fish, veggie, and often if we do a casserole there is some type of carbs. In casseroles we use substitutions like organic cream of mushroom soup so there’s no msg, safflower all-natural mayo, organic tater tots or crackers. I don’t recommend a lot of heavy casseroles if the goal is weight loss. :) In a hurry – organic frozen pizza from Target! We love the basil pesto. Even better is another quick and easy one we all love: tortilla pizzas (sprouted grain tortillas, organic tomato sauce, mushrooms and organic mozzarella in the oven for 10 minutes)

How do I know what MY portion sizes need to be? Me personally… 5’3” me…

This is a great question but I'm going to shift the direction of your thinking a bit. I don’t encourage anyone to worry about correct portion sizes or compare their plate to the serving sizes listed on labels. It would be INCREDIBLY difficult to eat too many veggies, while if you are eating something not-so-great, any portion size is too big. Perhaps a better question is how many calories you personally should eat. This is something best figured out with the help of a professional. There are some basic formulas you can use, but unfortunately they are not real accurate because they don’t take into account many individual variables such as body composition or past diet history. I recommend people track their diet and determine their caloric intake for the short-term to get a good picture for themselves of what their diet is. I think it helps you to know what’s going on with your metabolism, especially if weight loss is an issue. If the caloric intake is too high then it’s time to go back and look at portion sizes. But the bottom line is that if you are making the right choices, you will be full and satisfied and not overeat. We all need to eat like little children again, keenly in touch with our satiety signals, and pushing our plates away when we’re full. If you are hungry, you didn’t eat enough (if you have made balanced choices). If you are overstuffed, well… your portion size was probably too big.

How do I know what supplements I need?

The world of supplements is definitely confusing, and even taking them is foreign to most people. Nutrition Supplements are a very important part of healthy diet. Even IF we actually ate our recommended amounts of fruits and veggies, tests on our modern produce supply show it to be very deficient in nutrients compared to even 20 years ago! I see so many people treating health problems with drugs that are only a result of simple deficiencies. Do you lack energy? Crave sweets? Get sick often? Have trouble losing weight? Have trouble with memory or concentration? Depression or anxiety? Some of the most common deficiencies I see are vitamin D, B vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, and probiotics (a microflora imbalance in the gut due to eating processed foods, antibiotics and sugar consumption, which affects many aspects of health). Also, HIGH QUALITY supplements are also important. You get what you pay for here. Don't take risks with what you put in your body every day. Stay tuned, soon I will be posting my specific recommendations.

How do I know which diet is right for me? Low fat vs. Low carb? Weight watchers? South Beach? What do you recommend for weight loss?

Here is where I could write a book. I will be posting more info on this soon on the blog. Here are some quick basics: 95% of dieters gain back all the weight they lost and more. This is the “other side of the commercial” you never see. Perhaps you are familiar with the story of Erik Chopin, TV’s “Biggest Loser” in 2006, who last I’d checked had gained back 122 pounds. Here’s a story we actually got to hear about because he’s famous enough. But I want to point out here that American’s spend 42 BILLION a year on weight loss plans and products and we are fatter than ever.

What is the root of the weight-loss-only-to-regain-it problem? A failure to protect one’s metabolism. If you want to be in the FIVE percent that keeps weight off, you’d better do something drastically different. Your number one priority during weight loss should be to protect your metabolic rate. This isn’t the funnest way to lose weight. This isn’t the fastest way. It is what works long term. Weight loss will almost always slow the metabolism, but this can be minimized.

Most commercial plans are too low calorie. Period. They get you results – how else could they make any money – but typically people plateau too early before having reached their goal. The fortunate ones who do make their goal (always note “results not typical!”) will realize real quick they are essentially stuck following that plan the rest of their life, and suffer quick weight gain upon the slightest mess-ups. In many cases they can continue to follow the plan quite well and still gradually gain weight back as they age and lose more and more muscle. Maintaining muscle is key to maintaining metabolic rate. But fast weight loss is always more muscle loss than fat loss.

Besides too low calorie, most plans are too low in fat. Low fat diets do poorly in studies compared to low carb diets. Fat is essential for our health and feelings of satiety. It prevents us from overeating. It also signals our body that we are getting enough through our diet, so our body can let go of that stuff it is storing on our bellies and hips!

It is definitely important to eat lower in carbohydrates during weight loss. In general we just eat too many. I recommend severe low-carb diets only in certain situations and only temporarily. I recommend most women depending on their size and workout routine still consume 16-2200 calories a day during most days of their week vs. the typically recommended 1200. I would argue against the theory that it is safe to lose 1-2 pounds a week on an ongoing basis (although that is to be expected at the beginning of a weight loss program and even more than that during a detoxification program, which can be a good thing). It really depends on how much weight you have to lose, but for most women ½ a pound a week is a safe, sustainable amount if done in a healthy way.

I would love to help you figure out what is right for you! I am offering 30% off my nutrition and weight loss consultations through August. (Regular price $99)

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