Tag Archives: Nutrition

What Does it Mean to “Eat Right”?

Eat right and exercise – the generic plan for most who embark on the journey to getting better, healthier. At the turn of the New Year, it was the promise or resolution made by many. Now at almost half way through only the second month of the year, did they ever clearly know what it meant? Exercise is easy, right? Join a gym or a program, start running, or use the exercise equipment received over the holidays. But eat right right? What does that even mean?

Misinformation

Eating right has got to mean eating more fruits and vegetables and I think most would agree. No one has gained weight from overeating vegetables or fruit. But wait! I thought fruit was dangerous from the sugar. Hold on. Proof number one of the dietary myths that permeate the landscape. Fruit in and of itself is nature’s candy sweetened by a substance known as fructose. However, in the presence of the fiber and water that accompanies fruit that is consumed should offset the “fear” of eating fruit for its sugar content. Fruit juice on the other hand is simply sugar flavored water, no where near the same thing. While most would agree consuming more fruits and vegetables is a good start, I would question where or how they actually increase consumption of the two. Potatoes are not a vegetable. They are a starch. Corn is the same thing. A starch is defined as a type of carbohydrate, or more specifically a complex carbohydrate, since it is made up of long chains of sugar molecules. Other sources are peas, beans, pasta, rice and grains. No vegetables here. What about the dangers of carbohydrates? Proof number two of bad dietary myths. Carbohydrate is an essential macronutrient to our living, functioning bodies. A small, small percentage of the population has to control and monitor their carbohydrate consumption due to its effects on their blood sugar. For most of us, carbohydrate presents no reason to avoid it like the plague. Its gross popularity has grown from the simple fact that we consume way too much food in general, not just carbohydrate. Carbohydrate gets its undeserved reputation because it’s in more than 70% of all food consumed. Eliminate or drastically drop how much carbohydrate you consume and of course changes are going to occur. You do the math! What about meats and proteins? Everything from grass-fed, to antibiotic, cage free, wild caught, sustainable, etc. has created a big furor of, “What the hell am I supposed to eat?”. These terms are only meant to describe how the animal is treated and/or harvested. Says nothing about a protein being good or bad. Protein is another important macronutrient to the body and vitally important because our bodies don’t manufacture protein on its own, a component to all living tissues and cells.So my question again is, do people really know what it means to eat right?

A General Consensus

Most of us will eat the way we were raised; what we learned from our parents. Food science has changed a little bit, but not that much. Fat, protein, and carbohydrate are essentially the same thing we knew them to be over 100 years ago. We have a better understanding of how we react to certain macronutrients but in small percentages, not the vast population that marketers and the pseudoscience would have you believe. Nutrition is a very individual concept. What works for others may or may not work for you. As frustrating as that may seem, you have to go with what works for you and no one or no diet may have the answer for you. Not overeating is a great start and if you think you don’t overeat, I would suggest examining closer just how much you consume. Quantity and quality of food are very different. Cut down on the amount of everything you consume and instead focus on quality of the food you consume (less processed, less dining out, etc.) and you’ll be on a better way to eating right.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 7 – The First 5 Things Nutritionists Will Tell You To Cut From Your Diet

(This is part 7 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

We can all agree that restrictive diets are a total drag. Plus, they’ve been proven to be detrimental to our health in the long run. For our sanity, it’s important to enjoy what we eat, and registered dietitians insist that most foods are fine in moderation. That said, “there are some foods that provide minimal nutritional benefits that we should limit or avoid,” says Vandana Sheth, RD, CDE, spokesperson for the Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetics. So how can you begin phasing them out? Angela Ginn-Meadow, RD, LDN, CDE, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that it’s a gradual process: Start by eating that food less often, then cut down the portion size when you do eat it. Finally, sub in a healthier option. The bottom line is that healthy eating is about being mindful and aware of what you’re consuming. Here are the 5 foods registered dietitians say you should totally nix from your diet.

  • Sugary Beverages “Beverages with added sugar are one of the easiest things we can cut from our diets,” says Ginn-Meadow. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (about 24 grams) of sugar a day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons. To give some perspective, one 20 oz. lemon-lime soda has a whopping 77 grams of sugar—more than triple the recommended daily amount. Sheth adds that fancy coffee drinks can also be total sugar bombs that add up quickly. Before you know it, you may consume 400-900 calories and 10-15 teaspoons of sugar from that white chocolate mocha.
  • Sweetened Cereals According to Sheth, sweet cereals and flavored instant oatmeal are packed with added sugars and typically made from refined grains, which contain minimal fiber. Instead, enjoy whole grain cereal or old-fashioned oats with fresh fruit.
  • Processed Meats You may want to think twice about bringing home that bacon. According to a 2010 Harvard University study, processed meats including bacon, ham, and hot dogs have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease by 42% and the risk of diabetes by 19%. Additionally, research has linked sodium nitrate—a preservative found in these foods—to cancer.
  • Ingredients You Can’t Pronounce No idea what that ingredient list says? “Put it back on the shelf,” says Ginn-Meadow. And especially be on the lookout for artificial coloring and added preservatives, which don’t add any nutritional value. Plus, research has shown that some food dyes are toxic, which ups the risk of various health concerns. Best to steer clear.
  • Trans Fat “Trans fat increases your overall cholesterol, lowers your ‘good cholesterol,’ and raises your ‘bad cholesterol,'” says Ginn-Meadow. In short, according to research by McMaster University, trans fat has been linked to a greater risk of “early death and heart disease.” Foods that contain trans fat include shortening, prepackaged biscuits, store-bought pie crusts and cookies, and packaged frozen meals.

Sounds like common sense, right?

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Fitness!

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays
Day #410 Fitness Myths That Need to Die
Day #59 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Feeling Full
Day #6The Cult Of Supplements And The Dangers Of Multi-Level Marketing

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 5 – 9 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Feeling Full

(This is part 5 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Let’s face it—there’s no single, magical way to lose weight. Everyone’s body is different, which means everyone’s optimal diet is also different. But essentially, losing weight comes down to three main factors: exercise, food, and mindset. That last one can be the most challenging to conquer. Our brains, more often than not, get in the way of our weight loss goals, and make us think we’re hungry when in reality we’re just bored, tired, dehydrated, or something else. But your brain doesn’t have to be a diet saboteur. In fact, there are plenty of ways to manipulate yourself into achieving your weight-loss goals. Here’s a list of some proven ways to eat less, painlessly.

  • Keep a healthy snack on hand. Fast food or something from a vending machine may call your name when hunger strikes on the go. But if you keep a healthy snack like an apple in your bag or glove compartment, you won’t have to sacrifice your diet to silence a grumbling stomach.
  • Keep a journal. Would you still eat that chocolate muffin if you had to log it in a food diary? Research says maybe not. A Kaiser Permanente study found people who kept a daily food journal lost twice as much weight over the course of six months than those who didn’t record their meals. Researchers believe writing down what you eat makes you more aware of food choices, and therefore encourages cutting the calories you’d otherwise sneak in.
  • Just keep chewing. If you like to chew gum, it may help you keep off the pounds. One study discovered that women who chewed gum for 45 minutes after they ate lunch ended up keeping snack cravings at bay later in the day.
  • Curb hunger with coffee.You may think you’re just drinking your daily cup of joe for a morning pick-me-up, but in reality, it’s doing more than just giving you a caffeine boost. Drinking coffee can actually boost your calorie burn by 12%, according to findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Plus, it’s a natural appetite suppressant. But be wary of adding sugar and cream, since too many extras will kill your coffee perks.
  • Count your bites. Counting calories can help you slim down, but it can also be time-consuming and/or frustrating to jot down every bite. Try counting your bites instead, which a recent study found actually works. Study participants lost an average of 3.4 pounds over the course of a month by reducing their daily bites by 20 to 30%.
  • Serve yourself directly from the pot. Rather than leaving serving dishes at the table where you can easily dip in for seconds, leave them in the kitchen—otherwise overeating is simply too convenient to resist. If you have to physically get up and walk to the kitchen for another helping, you’re less likely to do so.
  • Start out with a smaller portion. If food is on your plate, you’ll probably end up eating every last morsel, according to a Cornell Food and Brand Lab study. But these findings don’t mean your diet goals are hopeless—in fact, this knowledge can help you outsmart your own appetite. The solution is simple: serve yourself less food. Then go back for more if you’re still hungry.
  • Slow down. Scarfing down your dinner doesn’t give your brain enough time to register that your belly is actually stuffed. Let your body realize you’ve feasted sufficiently by slowing the pace. You’ll end up eating less food and feeling more satisfied.
  • Go for the H2O. One of the best ways to trick your body into feeling full costs you nothing: just turn on your tap and fill a cup. Drinking an entire glass of water before every meal fills your belly, so you’ll likely end up eating less than you otherwise would have. During your meal, taking sips in between bites will help slow your pace and eat less overall. What’s more, staying hydrated boosts your metabolism—making water better than any “diet” beverage out there.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you Monday for Day 6 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays
Day #410 Fitness Myths That Need to Die

 

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays

(This is part 3 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Are you fearing this year’s holidays? Are you wondering how you will handle the challenges of being confronted with mountains of delicious food, endless parties, and crazy schedules? Unfortunately, these worries and fears often lead to complete resignation, which causes people to give up all regular routines, self-discipline, and otherwise manageable self-restraint related to health and fitness. This, in turn, can result in guilty consciences, sick stomachs, sleepless nights, sluggish bodies, and bad attitudes.

The Good News: There is a Better Way!

If all this sounds familiar, your first step is to change your mindset. Practicing sound nutrition, health and fitness habits is vital to life-long wellness. Healthy eating, effective physical activity and regular rest are practices that should become part of who you are and essential to your daily life, just like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. This shift in mindset sets the stage for greater self-empowerment and self-confidence, as well as a transition in locus of control from external to internal. The key is to recognize that you have the power to transform your life and live it to the fullest during times of joy, trouble, hardship, success, holidays, and festivities by applying key foundational behavioral principles. When you do that, you won’t get bogged down with seemingly endless challenging choices in every situation. If you make the following key foundational behaviors a priority, circumstantial, seasonal and unexpected events won’t have the power to derail you. Here ya go:

1) Drink water.Choose to drink water over anything else. Cold or hot herbal teas are a good option, too. Drink two cups of water when you first wake up in the morning and when you feel hungry outside of your regular mealtime/regular snacks. Festive Fit Tip: When you arrive at a holiday party, drink two cups of water or herbal tea before you start eating.

2) Move more, sit less. If you have the option of standing versus sitting, stand. If you have the option of walking versus driving, walk. If you have the option of moving about versus standing, move about. Daily physical activity and structured exercise, including cardio, strength and flexibility exercises, are a part of a healthy daily routine. Festive Fit Tip: When you attend a holiday party or an event, find a way to avoid sitting for the majority of the time (move about the room, start a dance party, etc.).

3) Something positive is better than nothing. Get away from an all-or-nothing mindset. If you don’t have time for a full workout, do 10 minutes of exercise and you’ll reap some positive benefits. If you forgot to add any fruits or vegetables to your meals during the day, add an apple at night. Apply this principle where it makes sense. Festive Fit Tip: Focus on nutritious foods during the holidays rather than on what you shouldn’t eat. Each time you eat at home or at a holiday party, add things to your plate that are good for you, such as vegetables, fruit, nuts or other healthy proteins or grains.

4) Take control. Focus. Reflect. Ask yourself: Is this behavior good for me? Be mindful. Choose wisely. Follow-through. Festive Fit Tip: When you are at a party and about to fill your plate with all the goodies from the buffet, pause and ask yourself: Is it time to eat now? What have I already eaten today? What is available here that is considered healthy?

5) Half is enough. Eat only half of the less-nutritious foods on your plate. If you take a cookie, for example, eat half of it and pack the other half for another day. Festive Fit Tip: At a holiday party or event, serve yourself only half of what is on the serving platter. For example, if you want a brownie, cut it in two on the serving platter and only serve yourself half (and don’t go back for seconds).

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 4 of the 12 Days of Fitness!

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing

 

Food and Guilt

Here’s a scenario. You’ve done well eating all day and when you finally get a moment to sit down all you can think about are the cookies you have sitting on the counter. The justification begins. “Well, I’ve been doing well all day so eating just two cookies wouldn’t be a bad thing. I think I’ve earned them.” So you eat them and with that comes the tremendous shame and guilt you put on yourself. “Why did I do that? I’m such a fool! I just ruined my entire day!” You suffer from what is better known as emotional eating. That pang of guilt after eating something unhealthy was something that many battle with and say that it’s their “root” of all evil.

Where/When Did This All Start?

Think back to when you were really young and you were praised for eating. Eating to get big and strong was a good thing. But at the same time, if you ate a cookie before dinner, we were told no and made to feel guilty. Then, as you got older there came a lot of pressure. You shouldn’t eat too much, otherwise you would put on weight. That was the message that was coming from friends, family and many other negative influences. The mindset shifted from being “good” because you had finished all the food that had been given to you, to being “bad” because you had eaten everything. Being “good” now meant restricting what we were eating and not enjoying food as much as we once did. That has lead to a lot of confusion well into adulthood and a lot of guilt has come with it. We know so much more about our nutrition now which is definitely a good thing, but along with that does come more guilt if we let it. Eating is no longer just a pleasurable act; it is loaded with guilt, fear and shame. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Good vs. Bad

Understanding that putting labels on food as either “good” or “bad” is where it all begins. There are no such things and is indicative of having an unhealthy relationship with food. By labeling foods as such gives food the power when in reality you possess the power. If you eat the cookies and feel guilty about it, guess what? Nothing is going to take it back and worrying obsessively about it is not going to change that you ate it. It is just going to escalate the problem. The guilt felt usually makes you feel so much worse than if you just say to yourself, “Been there, done it, move on.” It’s an all or nothing mentality and that attitude isn’t going to get you anywhere. By eating the cookies does not mean you have ruined everything and it doesn’t automatically erase how well you have been eating before. Weight gain comes from consistently eating more than you are burning – not doing it once a while. So skip the guilt! There are no “good” or “bad” foods, there are just consistent habits.

Moderation is King

We put so much pressure on ourselves to have a “perfect” diet, comparing ourselves to how “good” people are eating and how “bad” we have been ourselves. All that this pressure and guilt actually does is take the pleasure out of eating, because it certainly doesn’t change what you have eaten. There is no such thing as a “perfect” diet so stop right there. The only diet you ever need to be concerned with is the one that works for YOU, not your neighbor or next celebrity endorsement. Once you can begin to grasp that concept there is nothing to ever feel guilty about. EVER! It goes without saying, moderation of all things will forever be the best advice you could ever receive. You can learn from your eating habits and learn to make better ones without beating yourself up about it constantly.

Steps for Success

  • Identify Triggers. Triggers can sneak up on you without you knowing. Whether it be a certain food item or a certain someone that pressures you to indulge. Do you eat when you are stressed? Do you eat when you are depressed? Do you sneak food to eat alone in secret? Identifying what causes the trigger is the first step to solving the problem. Remind yourself so you can be on the lookout when it happens. Go easy on yourself, and remember overcoming emotional eating is all about progress, not perfection.
  • Make Time for Yourself. Find a place to channel your feelings and learn how to cope, whether it be a workou or a hobby.When you feel an urge coming on, channel the energy into your outlet. Instead of focusing on the food, remove yourself from the situation. Take a walk. Call a friend.
  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind. The easiest one of all. Don’t bring it into your house! If the food item isn’t present, there’s a really good chance there’s nothing to feel guilty about. But if you find yourself getting into your car to go out and grab something or leave your desk to hit the cafeteria remind yourself if the time was worth the value. Time can never be replaced but value in yourself can only improve.

Putting an end to emotional eating will take time and patience, so go easy on yourself. Apply these tips when you feel like you need a boost to overcome any urges to much, simply because of emotional circumstances.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 7 – The Problem With Added Sugars

(This is part 7 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

A 2013 report from Credit Suisse estimated that Americans collectively spend $1 trillion annually to address health issues that are “closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar.” Sugar is sugar or so we’re meant to believe. Truth is there is naturally occurring sugar and there is added sugar. Added sugar is perhaps the single biggest danger in the modern American diet, and steps are being taken to better protect us against it.

What is Added Sugar?

First, it’s best to understand what naturally occurring sugars are. Naturally occurring sugars are the sugars found naturally in many foods. Foods like fruit and dairy products are often high in naturally occurring sugars. However, foods like spinach, brown rice and black beans contain them too but in smaller amounts. Added sugars are defined as any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. Unlike naturally occurring sugars, which are a product of mother nature, added sugars are added to foods by humans.

Why Is Added Sugar Worse Than Naturally Occurring Sugar?

A medium-size banana contains 14 grams of sugar. A serving of Oreos (three cookies) also contains 14 grams of sugar. Since they both have the same total amount of sugar, does it really matter if one is naturally occurring while the other is added? You better believe it. One reason naturally occurring sugar is less of a concern is because of what’s bundled along with it. When you consume natural foods like fruit or vegetables, you’re not just consuming sugar; you’re getting a bevy of healthful nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, is excellent at slowing down the body’s absorption of sugars. The fiber found in many raw foods is especially effective at this. Fiber slows down digestion, resulting in the sugar being absorbed more slowly. This delayed digestion has numerous benefits. It gives the liver more time to metabolize the sugar, which keeps blood sugar relatively stable. This helps to avoid the rapid rise—and sudden crash—associated with a sugar high. The same cannot be said for added sugar.

“Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food,” the American Heart Association states. “Over the past 30 years, Americans have steadily consumed more and more added sugars in their diets, which has contributed to the obesity epidemic.” Diets high in added sugar have been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and even cancer. Foods high in added sugar are typically low in overall nutrients, making them little more than empty calories. The FDA states that “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.” 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugar sounds like a lot, but it’s frighteningly easy to surpass that total. One gram of sugar contains 4 calories. A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar (virtually all of which are added sugar). That’s 156 calories of added sugar—nearly 8 percent of your total daily calories if you’re on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. In a day and age when the average American consumes a staggering 88 grams of added sugar per day (the AHA recommends a limit of 24 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men), food producers are using lots of it to ensure they’re appealing to consumers’ tastes. “Sweetness has an almost universal appeal. So adding sugar to processed foods makes them more appetizing,” the Mayo Clinic states.

Added sugar is often used to create intensely rewarding flavors that have highly addictive potential. A 2013 study discovered that Oreos and drugs such as cocaine and morphine have similar effects on the brains of rats. The study’s authors wrote, “Rats formed an equally strong association between the pleasurable effects of eating Oreos and a specific environment as they did between cocaine or morphine and a specific environment. The researchers also found that eating cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s ‘pleasure center’ than exposure to drugs of abuse. Added sugars are omnipresent in ultra-processed foods, where Americans now get nearly 60% of their calories. It’s not just soda or Skittles, either—a serving of canned tomato sauce can contain 10 grams of added sugar, for example. It has been discovered that manufacturers add sugar to nearly 75% of all packaged foods sold in supermarkets.

How Can You Avoid Added Sugar?

Since added sugars are frequently found in ultra-processed foods, cutting down on those can be a smart way to scale back your added sugar intake. According to the Mayo Clinic, desserts, sodas, energy and sports drinks are the top sources of added sugars for most Americans. But as previously stated before, added sugar can also lurk in some unlikely places. If you come across a product that doesn’t have the new label (supposed to have happened by July of 2018 which lists added sugar to the label), draw your eyes to the ingredients list. It’s not just sugar or high-fructose corn syrup that qualify as added sugar—fancy ingredients like agave nectar and sorghum syrup are added sugar, too. According to the FDA, there are at least 61 different names for sugar used on labels. Knowing what to look out for can be a big help while we wait for the new nutrition labels to go into wide effect.

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You

 

Your Holiday Survival Guide

‘Tis the season, or should I say ‘‘tis the season for unwanted pounds. Every year without fail, the holiday season rolls up on us and cares little for how you take care of yourself. The excuses compound, the social calendar explodes, and then there’s the holiday feasts themselves. Do you keep your daily regimen or do you think you will get restarted after the New Year? Either way, it’s a tough proposition to consider. One requires effort unlike any other time of year and the other, well, let’s just say is a form of surrender. It doesn’t have to be that way and following are some helpful tips for you to use and pull out ahead.

  • Schedule time to exercise. If it’s not scheduled, it will very quickly get passed on faster than you can slip on the ice. It doesn’t have to be your normal amount of time either. Set up 20 or 30 minute workouts which still leaves plenty of time to shop. And stick to it! Before you know it, the season will pass and you’ll either be on par or behind. Your choice.
  • Enjoy your holiday parties. No one likes a Scrooge. “I can’t eat this or that” will dampen a festive mode like 10 feet of snow! Go and enjoy but be mindful. Have a drink, have a bite, and don’t think one indiscretion is going to ruin you. If there’s going to be multiple parties, treat each one exactly the same and understand you are the one in control. Always.
  • Burn calories whenever possible. Some of the common sense things:
    • Do not fight for the up front parking spots at the shopping center. Instead park way in the back and walk, safely of course.
    • If you’re going to be traveling in airports, walk and don’t use the mechanical sidewalks.
    • Stand while baking or cooking.
    • Join the carolers and walk the neighborhood even if you can’t sing.
  • Calm down. The world isn’t going to end if you forget that one gift. Chances are it will still be there when the time allows. There’s no room for unwarranted anger over the holidays, unless of course your boss is like Clark Griswold’s.
  • Cherish every single moment. The holidays for many unfortunately is not a joyous time of year. Whatever your issue, someone has it harder. Make the most of your time whether with family or friends or even by yourself. The holiday spirit is real if you let it in.
  • Read and enjoy my 12 Days of Fitness which will begin on December 12th. 12 days of articles I’ve been working on throughout the year to help get you through the holidays covering a wide array of fitness topics. Feel free to share and pass on to others.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 11 – Organic Foods 101

(This is part 11 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

20 years ago most organic food was produced by small farms and was only available at farmers’ markets and health food stores. Since the early 1990s organic food production has increased at the rate of about 20% per year, in both developing and developed nations – making it far more widely available – with giant supermarket chains like Giant and Walmart carrying organic products. Usually organic foods are more expensive; so with economy on everyone’s mind we needed a reminder of what organic foods are all about.

What Does Organic Mean?

Organic foods are produced without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and the land used to grow organic produce must go through a three year transitional period to ensure the soil is clear of conventional fertilizer and pesticide residue; in order to meet the USDA standards of organic certification. It must also be free from any waste contamination, either human or industrial and livestock must be free from growth hormones, not have been subjected to the use of antibiotics on a regular basis and must be fed a healthy diet. Organic products cannot contain genetically modified organisms in most countries. As far as food safety is concerned there is no difference between organic and conventionally produced foods – so always remember to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water to remove dirt and bacteria and employ safe handling and storage for meat, poultry, dairy and fish. Some scientists even suggest that organic farming practices are not as sanitary as conventional farming practices.

Is It All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

In terms of actual nutrition there has not been any conclusive evidence to suggest that organic foods contain any more nutrients than conventionally produced foods. They do however contain significantly less pesticide residue. And don’t panic – if you are very concerned about pesticide residues for yourself or your children and you’re unable to buy organic foods, you can remove a significant amount of the pesticide residues in your food by simple peeling fruits and vegetables and removing the outer leaves (but do be aware you will be losing fiber and some nutrients), and trimming any fat from meat and poultry as the residues tend to be more concentrated in the fat and avoiding fish from contaminated areas.

But Is It Worth It?

Some people think organic food just tastes better and, if you can afford to, it makes sense to give your body the most delicious and best possible food available, but don’t stress yourself out over it. A varied, nutritionally balanced diet with proper food safety handling, whether organic or not, is the most important thing for overall health and well-being, and if you can buy organic you can be assured that you are helping to sustain the planet.

See you tomorrow for Day 12 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?
Day #6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels
Day #7 – Minimalist Fitness
Day #8 – 7 Common Myths About Fat Loss
Day #9 – The Food Pyramid: The Demise of the American Diet
Day #10 – 10 Weight Room Mistakes

 

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels

(This is part 6 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

About half of shoppers report reading nutrition labels “most of the time” or “always”. However, reading labels and understanding them are two different things. Even professional such as myself with extensive knowledge of nutrition can have trouble interpreting food labels. How much more confusing must it be for the average consumer? In addition, food-labeling regulations are complex and can contain excessive jargon. Still, with some basic guidance, I hope I can change that.

Translating the “Alphabet Soup” of Nutrient-Intake and Food-Labeling Standards

To make sense of food labels, you have to be able to distinguish among multiple individual nutrient-intake standards—which can apply to people of different ages, genders and life stages (i.e. pregnancy) and the nutrient intake standards used in food labeling. A two- or three-letter acronym represents each of these standards; here’s a look at the principles behind them:

  • Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) were first published by the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. Institute of Medicine in 1943 and were revised every 5-10 years as new scientific information became available. Still updated periodically, RDAs are now a subcategory of the Dietary Reference Intakes.
  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) were introduced in 1997 when the IOM (Institute of Medicine) broadened its scope by including not only RDAs but also new nutrient-intake standards that apply to several life-stage and gender groups.
  • Daily Values (DV) are defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; they’ve been required on food labels since 1994.
  • Daily Reference Values (DRV) can vary depending on caloric requirements. Information on the labels is intended to apply to people aged 4 years and older. DRVs typically apply to daily diets of 2,000 and 2,500 calories, although there are also DRVs for 3,200 calories.
  • Reference Daily Intakes (RDI)are similar to the U.S. RDAs found on food labels before 1994. RDIs apply mainly to essential vitamins and minerals, with four sets that apply to infants, toddlers, people aged 4 years and older, and pregnant or lactating women. One problem with DVs on food labels is that many foods, like breakfast cereals, are consumed by people with dramatically different individual nutrient requirements. Owing to space limitations, labels on most food packages will list DRVs for two calorie levels and one set of RDI numbers (typically the 4-and-older category). Thus, DVs provide only a general guideline for comparison, and they won’t necessarily match the specific nutrient needs of the consumer of that product.
  • Trans Fats, Sugars, % of DV You may have noticed that food labels have no DVs for trans fats or sugars. That’s because the IOM simply advises consumers to keep their trans fat intake as low as possible; it does not offer a specific recommendation. As for sugars, the IOM advises that no more than 25% of our overall energy intake should come from added sugars. Unfortunately, sugar values reported on the Nutrition Facts panel do not distinguish between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. You also might have noticed that some products list a “% Daily Value” for protein, while others do not. If a product makes a claim like “high protein,” its protein content must be listed in grams and % DV). Otherwise, listing the protein content only in grams is acceptable.

Understanding Serving Size, Calories, and Calories From Fat

  • Serving size.The FDA has established serving sizes, or Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed, for 139 food product categories. For example, a typical RACC for a beverage is 8 fluid ounces. Be careful to note the serving size and number of servings per container on food labels. For example, the label on a 20-ounce bottle of soda may list 120 calories per 8-ounce serving, but if you drink the whole bottle, all the label values (and % DV) must be multiplied by 2.5. Failing to take the number of servings into account is one of the most common slip-ups consumers make when reading food labels.
  • Calories. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats have 4, 4 and 9 calories per gram, respectively, so the calorie value on a food label should be represented by this mathematical formula: (fat grams x 9) + (carbohydrate grams x 4) + (protein grams x 4). However, the calorie value on the label will not always exactly match this calculation. Dietary fiber is included in the carbohydrate gram count, and dietary fibers typically have 0-2 calories per gram. In addition, some rounding is allowed.
  • Calories from Fat.This percentage is calculated by dividing the calories from fat by the total calories in the food and then multiplying that result by 100.

Interpreting the Ingredient Listing

Ingredients in a food are listed in decreasing order by their weight in the product. Thus, ingredients at the top of the list are more plentiful than ingredients at the end

Allergen Claims

FDA rules come from the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. The FDA has identified eight major food allergens that account for more than 90% of all food allergies: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (for example, walnuts, almonds and pecans), peanuts, wheat and soy. The law requires that the label list the food source name of all major allergens used to make the food. Good manufacturing practices dictate that food companies appropriately clean food-manufacturing equipment between processing batches of allergen-containing and non-allergen-containing foods to avoid cross-contamination. However, some manufacturers may say on the label that the product is made on equipment that is also used to process a food containing a particular allergen. It is important to note that FDA guidance for the food industry states that food allergen advisory statements such as “may contain [allergen]” or “produced in a facility that also uses [allergen]” should not be used as a substitute for adhering to current good manufacturing practices and must be truthful and not misleading.

Understanding Definitions for Nutrient Content Claims

The FDA has definitions for a large number of terms related to nutrient content claims. For example, if a product claims to be a “good” source of vitamin A, it must have at least 10% of the DV; if it claims to be an “excellent” source of vitamin A or be “high in” vitamin A, it must have at least 20% DV.

Interpreting food labels can be confusing. I hope that this article will help you clear up some of your uncertainties about food labels. Being a skilled label reader can be of great help for making better nutritional choices.

See you tomorrow for Day 7 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?

 

12 Days of Fitness 2016: Day 12 – A New Year, A New You

(This is Part 12 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

Imagine business without progress; a stock portfolio that shows no growth; an investment that becomes a loss.  Mention any one of these occurrences to a reasonably intelligent individual, and the first thing they should say is “something has got to change”.  So what does it have to take for people to view their health the same way?  Businesses come and go, stocks rise and fall, and investments will always be there.  But you only get one shot at your health.  It’s yours to grow, nurture, and improve and no one can take that away from you.  It is what I like to call a safe investment with minimal risk.  Sure, there are things in life that occur that are simply out of our control. However, if you wait around hoping good things will happen for you instead of making them happen, you will be disappointed more times than not. Understanding how exercise and good nutrition play a role in the improvement of your health is vital to your success. If you don’t clearly know what it is you are supposed to do, you begin to walk down a dimly lit path full of debris and deceitful crossroads

The “Nutri”-Fix

To help shed some light, in a recent report some of the top US nutrition experts came up with their top five nutritional gripes – nutritional blunders our society is repeatedly guilty of.  In the never ending quest for knowledge and progress, see which of these gripes you are perhaps guilty of and imagine the possibilities if you were to make even some small, subtle changes in regards to your dietary habits.

  1. We can’t tell the good fats from the bad ones.
    “Most people still don’t get that some fats are actually good for you,” says Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, an American Heart Association spokesperson. “You want to avoid saturated and trans fats, but you need more good fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Good sources are fish, nuts, avocados, soybean products, and canola and olive oils. If you keep track of total calories, you don’t have to worry about how much fat you eat, just what kind,” explains Dr. Lichtenstein.
  2. We super-size to save money.
    “People think that super-sizing a restaurant meal is a money saver, but it’s not a health bargain if it has way too many calories,” says Karen Weber Cullen, DPH, RD, research nutritionist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Judge portion sizes with your palm, not your purse. A serving size is about what fits into the palm of your hand (larger for men than women, smaller for children). For most meals, pick one protein, one starch, one veggie, and one fruit based on the serving that will fit into your palm. Buffets are not good values.  They’re feeding troughs!
  3. We think anything liquid has no calories.
    “What freaks me out is the amount of sugared soda and juice we drink,” says Judith Stern, ScD, RD, professor of nutrition and internal medicine at the University of California, Davis. “I’d like to see all the sugared drinks sent out into space, where they could orbit the Earth forever.” Sugared drinks balloon your calorie intake and squeeze out more nutritious foods.  Diet beverages are no better, as they too have been linked to weight gain and eating the fruit is far more superior nutritionally than drinking juice.  Instead, try a cup of tea. Available in myriad varieties, the calorie-free brew promotes heart health, staves off several types of cancer, strengthens bones and teeth, and protects the skin.  Still, when it comes to what is best, nothing can replace water.
  4. We don’t know how “hungry” really feels.
    “If you don’t know when you’re hungry, you don’t know when you’re full, so you won’t know when to stop eating,” says Elisabetta Politi, RD, nutrition manager of the Duke University Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, NC. Tune in with mindful eating by doing the following: 1) Before you eat, relax, and rate your hunger from 1 (hungriest) to 7 (fullest); 2) Eat slowly, pausing often to rate how your hunger changes; 3) When finished, rate yourself one more time. Try to stay between 2 1/2 and 5 1/2: not too ravenous when you start and not completely full when you stop.
  5. We have a microwave addiction.
    Many people come home from work and pop a frozen entrée into the microwave. “Eating too many heavily processed foods can leave you short on fiber and antioxidants such as vitamin C,” explains Jo Ann Hattner, RD, clinical dietitian at Stanford University Medical Center. Complement a frozen entrée with a green salad, a 100 percent whole-wheat roll, and fruit for dessert. Stock up on the freshest fruit for maximum flavor.

Nutrition however is only part of the equation. There are blunders people make when it comes to getting fit.  The improvement and betterment of your health should be the number one reason you begin an exercise program; not to look good for a vacation or get ready for a class reunion.  The good news is those benefits can and will manifest themselves with a lifestyle that includes regular exercise.  Especially at this time of year, perhaps you may be guilty of some of these oversights regarding exercise.

The “Fit” Fix

  1. Not enough time and lack of consistency. When time becomes the excuse, exercise is not a priority.  Translated: my health is not a priority.  Exercise doesn’t have to be hours doing something physical.  It just needs to be consistent.  There may be days when time is more available, and other times when it is of the essence. Consistency breeds a habit, and that habit becomes a lifestyle. You can ill afford to not make the time.
  2. Taking credit for physical activity. All too often, people like to think that household chores, yard work, and shopping account for exercise.  Don’t be confused and likewise, don’t be too proud.  Any physical activity is a good thing, but when was the last time you heard that someone reduced their blood pressure or participated in a 5 K because they clean their windows every week?  Structured exercise, a physical stress beyond normal every day activity, is what it means and is necessary to get fit.
  3. Buying into gimmicks. Late night and weekend infomercials are only interested in one thing and it is not your health.  It’s your emotional buying power.  They only add to the confusion of what most think it is they need to do and in turn have created mounds of rubbish.  Like mom always said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
  4. Using generic fitness programs. We are all unique and what works for some does not guarantee that it will work for everyone. Fitness programs should be specifically tailored to the individual and not copied because it is what some Hollywood starlet used to get ready for a movie.
  5. Exercise designed around a specific body part. Our bodies work and operate as a whole, and as the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link.  Optimal health comes from incorporating the body as a living, functional unit, and an exercise program designed around just a specific body part is short sighted and will yield sub-par results.

The prospect of a New Year can be thrilling.  Another potential 365 days of promise, hope, and wonder and a chance to improve and take another step towards greatness.  Change is not going to happen overnight. Fitness (physical, nutritional) is a lifestyle of smarter choices, commitment, and balance.  In 2017, make a promise to yourself that this year will be different and you will not only do what is necessary to take care of your health, but also make real progress towards making a better you.

All my best to you and your families for a wonderful holiday season and all the best for a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

*Originally featured in January 2008 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day 1 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight
Day 2 – 5 Ways You’re Self-Sabotaging Your Workouts
Day 3 – 10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself
Day 4 – Never Diet Again!
Day 5 – Benefits of Exercising in Winter – Outdoors!
Day 6 – Understanding Your Metabolism
Day 7 – The Most Addictive (And Least Addictive) Foods
Day 8 – The 10 Biggest Lies of the Weight Loss Industry
Day 9 – Are You a Closet Eater?
Day 10 – 10 Ways to Kickstart a Morning Workout
Day 11 – A Resolution or A Plan?