Category: Diet Tips

Granola Bars – Friend or Foe?

Granola Bars – Friend or Foe?

Ingredients like caramel, chocolate, and marshmallows may be must haves in candy, but these sugary, high fat ingredients have found a new place to hang out— It’s time to take a closer look at that granola bar wrapper.

Granola bars are a great on-the-go snack option for busy people, athletes, and lovers of the outdoors. The word granola may conjure up thoughts of healthy oats, grains, and nuts all nicely molded into an easy to eat bar. But snackers beware— the seemingly innocent bars may have a shiny wrapper bragging about being an excellent source of this or that, but what lies beneath may be an over-processed nutritional mess.

While brands like Quaker Oats and Nature Valley may be the kings of the granola bar supermarket isle, they typically rank low in the hierarchy of good nutrition. Containing as many as 25 ingredients, 12 grams of sugar, and sugar-filled ingredients— like a chocolate sheath— these babies can be almost as bad as eating a real candy bar (a Twix Bar has the same amount of calories and sugar).

Similar to candy or cookies, many of the bars have high fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to weight gain, and insulin resistance, hydrogenated oils, which can raise bad cholesterol,  and monosodium glutamate (MSG), which may increase feelings of hunger and is linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Grains and Nuts and Fruits, Oh My!

The number of granola bars on the market has exploded over the past few years, and with the focus shifting to healthier ingredients it’s easier than ever to choose a healthy— or at least healthier— option.

But reading the nutritional information is key to making the best choices, and the more recognizable the ingredients, the better. Many granola bars are fortified with vitamins and minerals, and while fortification is not a replacement for eating a well-balanced diet, it can help to make up for lacking  nutrients. Look for bars that are high in fiber (containing at least 5 of the 14 recommended grams per day), which will help keep that full feeling for longer, and may even help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol.

When looking for a healthy option, double check labels. Try to find bars that have less than 25% of the calories from sugar and 3 grams of fat or less.

While many pre-packaged granola bars can be nutritional land mines, choosing a simple granola bar packed with nutrients and fiber will be more satisfying than a bar loaded with fat and sugar. Ingredient lists full of easily identifiable choices—like oats, grains, fruits, and nut— is a good sign. And make sure that whole grain—not sugar—is the first ingredient listed.  Calories should come in at 100-175 for a single serving (which for many bars is around 30-40 grams—visualize two 9-volt batteries). When a bar has quality ingredients, it should easily pass the label test. And for the best hand-picked ingredients, homemade granola bars are an easy, cost effective way to go.

Not Losing Weight? – Six Things to Consider

Not Losing Weight? – Six Things to Consider

Losing weight can be invigorating… and frustrating, maddening, overwhelming, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could choose a diet plan that would allow you to lose 2 pounds a week (or 5 pounds, or insert your number here ____) every week until you reached your goal?

But if you have ever been on a diet, you know that’s not how it works. Some weeks your effort reflects the number of pounds lost. Some weeks you work your butt of and lose nothing. Some weeks (all be it rare) you slack a little and lose a pound or two.

Calories IN vs. calories OUT is definitely important, but there are other things that creep into the equation.

Here are 6 things to keep an eye on to make sure your effort reflects your outcome.

Eating too few carbohydrates It’s true that we need to be careful when it comes to carbohydrate intake to maximize fat loss, but we still want to make sure we are getting enough carbs. Did you know that fat molecules will not enter the fat burning cycle unless they have a little glucose (carb) molecule to take them there. It’s easy to get excited when you reduce your carbs and instantly lose weight, but often this is more of a factor of storing less water than fat loss.

Eating the wrong type of carbohydrates You might be eating the right amount of carbohydrates, but the type of carbs you eat has a big effect on weight loss. There is a buzz around high glycemic index (GI) foods and low GI foods, and the reason is that the type of carbs you eat will directly affect your weight loss. To keep it simple, low GI foods are good, high GI foods are bad.

Good carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates that take the body longer to break down. These carbohydrates typically are high in fiber, which takes the body longer to break down and helps stabilize blood sugar levels. The best sources of good carbohydrates include fresh vegetables, fresh fruit,  grains and beans. All of these foods provide the body with energy, vitamins, fiber, minerals and phytonutrients. 

Bad carbohydrates are foods that are easily digestible and provide the body with limited nutrients and vitamins. Because these foods are so quickly digested, your body will experience a quick spike in energy followed by a crash. Examples of bad carbs include soft drinks, cakes, cookies, chips, white bread, white rice, alcohol.

Eating too little fiber When we are eating for weight loss and we restrict our carb intake, it also changes our intake of fiber. Fiber might be the single most important secret to weight loss, and it is an essential factor for maintaining health. It helps you feel fuller and therefore eat less. It also binds with acids in the body and helps carry out excess fat, and it speeds the transit time of the food we eat, keeping the intestines in good order.

Getting too little sleep When we are constantly sleep deprived the body secretes a hormone called ghrelin. Higher ghrelin levels have been shown to reduce energy, stimulate hunger and food intake, and promote retention of fat. Do you ever notice that some days you feel hungry all day, even though you are eating your regular diet. Think back to your sleep patterns, and you may realize that you haven’t gotten as much sleep lately.

Eating too little fat Low fat diets have been really popular, but too little fat may actually make it harder for us to lose weight. Essential fats (aka good fats) help burn fat by helping to transport oxygen, vitamins, nutrients, and hormones to the body’s tissues.

Good fats include foods like non-hydrogenated oils (olive, canola, sunflower, peanut, sesame), avocados, olives, raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews), fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines), and tofu.

Bad fats include things like commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough, packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips), margarine or vegetable shortening, any fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish), and candy bars. 

Drinking too little water Dehydration happens more than you think. If you want to have steady fat loss and high energy, it’s necessary to keep your body and liver hydrated every day. Our liver converts the fat soluble toxic chemicals (that we consume, breathe in, and absorb through our skin), into water soluble chemicals that are flushed out by the kidneys through urine. With limited water supply, the kidneys cannot completely flush out metabolic and foreign waste and weight loss can be more  difficult.

So if you start feeling diet frustration, take a minute to evaluate your carbs, fat, fiber, sleep, and water. A small tweak might make all the difference.

 

 

Are Genetically Modified Foods Dangerous?

Are Genetically Modified Foods Dangerous?

From breakfast cereal to beef jerky, 80% of processed foods are made with ingredients from genetically modified crops. They’re called genetically-modified organisms (GMOs); plants that have been genetically transformed to be resistant to bugs, drought, and disease.  Millions of North American consumers have been eating dozens of GMO foods grown on hundreds of millions of acres, but is this science experiment on our food safe?

Misconstrued Food

It’s genetic engineering to the max, altering crops in a laboratory to create plants having valuable traits that can’t and don’t occur naturally. They can also be enhanced to be healthier by carrying vitamins, minerals, and proteins that they otherwise would not have.

These Frankenfoods are inspected and tested by the US Department of Agricultures’s  (USDA)Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)to review the environmental impact of genetically modified crops prior to hitting the shelves at the grocery store.

And when new traits are introduced, they’re examined and studied by the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for toxicity and allergens. Since the 1990’s, when GMO foods hit the market, there have been  no documented adverse effects, and no studies have shown that GM foods are less safe than traditional counterparts.

But there’s a twist. These crops are also altered to be resistant to herbicides (a.k.a. weed killer).  It can be costly and time consuming to kill the weeds without killing the crop too, but with GMO plants, farmers can spray herbicide all over the weeds… and the crop. And it’s the weed killer that’s the trouble maker.

Weed Out  

Mixing genes between plants may be safe for consumption, but weed killer is not, and herbicide residue can stick to crops. Studies on both rats and fish have shown that the ingesting weed killer causes cell and tissue damage in the kidneys, liver, heart, and adrenal glands.

A simple solution would be to avoid GMO foods, but they aren’t required to be labeled, so it’s difficult to determine which of the thousands of products on the market contain genetically altered ingredients and potentially dangerous herbicide residues. However, more and more non-genetically modified foods are now being labeled as GMO Free. Also know what to avoid or choose organic!

Move the Chains

Move the Chains

“Move the chains”. That is the term my husband and I use to keep moving forward. We both love to watch football, so we decided to choose a football analogy to help us always feel like we are moving forward to reach our goals, whether it is a little accomplishment or a big one. We realize that in order to reach our goals, we don’t have to do everything all at once. It was life changing for us to approach things this way, because it took a lot of the pressure off. If we only work a little bit toward our goal one day, it is okay. On crazy days, we don’t beat ourselves up anymore because we didn’t get as much done as we wanted – We may have not scored a touch down, but did we move the chains?

 

When you want to lose weight, do you try to score a touchdown from the start — radically changing your diet and behaviors? For many people that approach is just too difficult to stick with for long.

How about inching closer to your goal with doable, less drastic changes? Over time, even small steps can add up big — and become a way of life.

What can I change today? You can begin shaving calories right away. Start here with these not-on-a-diet steps:

 

Slow down and savor. Speeding through meals can lead to overeating. Pay attention to every bite and make the decision to eat slower, especially when you are starving.

Downsize your dish. Use a smaller plate or bowl to help keep portion sizes in check. Sounds simple — but, it can work.

Leave a few bites behind. Remind yourself that it’s OK to not clean your plate. Consciously leave two or three bites on your plate every meal.

Turn up your veggie volume. These low-calorie, nutritional wonders can fill you up fast. Eat all your veggies first. By the time you get to a more calorie dense entree, you won’t be as hungry. Enjoy your favorite veggies. But, try new varieties, too. Why not make it one new type each week?

Lighten up your latte. Order your favorite coffee drink with fat-free milk and sugar-free syrup. Remember though, fat-free does not mean calorie free.

Burn calories, too! Of course, any successful weight-loss plan includes exercise. And, you can apply the small changes approach to physical activity, as well. Maybe that means you walk from the far end of the parking lot today — and around the block tomorrow.

 

These small steps can create real momentum and real habits. Once you see that you can make changes, you’ll be more likely to keep going with your healthful ways.

How Not to Quit

How Not to Quit

I started thinking about the many classes and events that we have enrolled the kids in over the years. Swimming lessons, tennis lessons, karate, gymnastics, soccer, t-ball, animal camp, kids’ dash, Spanish camp, and choir.

Some of the classes were great from the start and continued to be fun for the duration of the class schedule. Some of the classes started out horrible. During my daughter’s first swim class she cried the ENTIRE 30 minutes. The next class she only cried for about the first 10 minutes, and by the third class she couldn’t wait to get in the pool. Some classes started out great but went downhill after that. And finally, some classes they complained about the entire drive there, but when they got into the class they had a blast each and every time.

One common thread among these classes is that the kids were never allowed to quit going – no matter how much they complained. A life lesson to instill responsibility and commitment. This is one of those non-negotiables that my husband and I have created for our kids – no quitting.

Every parent has their own non-negotiables for their kids and family. You know, those “rules” or ideas about behavior that you will not budge on…ever.

So, now to my point. As we hold our kids to certain standards like not quitting, we should also hold ourselves to the same kinds of standards, especially when it comes to health and wellness.

When you start a new health and fitness regimen, you are sure to experience what my kids experienced in their different classes.

Some parts of your new routine will start out great and stay great. Those parts are easy to stick with.

Some things will start out great and then go downhill after the newness and motivation wears off. These things may or may not continue to be a part of your routine. If an activity becomes so dreadful that it causes you to skip your workout all together, then get rid of it. If it is just something that is not as “fun” or easy as something else, stick with it.

Other activities will be horrible at the start. These are the activities that you want to be sure and stick with for at least a month, as they may turn into your favorite. After my first spinning class, I thought I was going to vomit, but I kept going back to give it a fair chance. Now I go three times a week, and I would love to be a spinning instructor.

Lastly, you may complain (or make excuses) before you exercise, or feel like complaining because you feel a little deprived in your menu selections; however, if you hold yourself to a non-negotiable standard and go exercise and eat healthy, you will feel fantastic each and every time!

WHAT DOES 200 CALORIES LOOK LIKE?

WHAT DOES 200 CALORIES LOOK LIKE?

High calorie foods and low calorie foods: but what does the difference actually look like? Each of the photographs below represents 200 calories of the particular type of food. When you consider that two cups of grapes contain the same number of calories as a spoonful of peanut butter, you might think twice the next time you decide what to eat. This can be helpful when assessing how you like to eat, and how foods containing different amount of calories will fit with your eating style.

For example, I like to eat volume. I feel way more satisfied when I can eat a large plate of food as opposed to a few bites of food. I will choose a plate of sliced apples over 2 slices of cheese. I may enjoy the cheese more, but it will take me awhile to eat the apples which really gives me a sense of being full. I would scarf down the cheese in a matter of minutes and within 30 minutes, I will be hungry again… and that is no fun. Quantity is more important to me, and since I can’t eat a plate of blueberry muffins and stay within my calorie intake limits, I like to choose the foods that are lowest in (per gram) calories.

Some people would much rather have quality over quantity. What I mean by quality… is deliciousness. Even though eight Hershey Kisses might leave them feeling hungry sooner, it is worth it because they enjoy the taste of the kisses, and that is more important.

So weather your style is to eat quality or quantity, just make sure that you stay within your calorie intake limits.


Apples
385 grams = 200 calories
(2 large apples)

Blueberry Muffin
72 grams = 200 calories
Peanut Butter
34 grams = 200
calories
(2 TBSP)
Grapes
290 grams = 200 calories
(about 2 cups)

Broccoli
558 grams = 200 calories
(1 whole -over 1pound)

Cheddar Cheese
51 grams = 200 calories
(2 slices 1 ounce each)

Avocado
125 grams = 200 calories

 

Sesame Seed Bagel
70 grams = 200 calories

Fried Bacon
34 grams = 200 calories
(about 4 pieces)
Hershey’s Kisses
36 grams = 200 calories
(8 kisses)
Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Reddit button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button