BABY STEPS: EASY and EFFICIENT WEIGHT LOSS

A healthy body works more efficiently, and here is the best part…a healthy body loses weight more easily and more efficiently than an unhealthy body.

This is why nutrition is so important for weight management as well as general health. There is a definite difference between a healthy diet and a weight loss diet. However, if you want to take baby steps, start on a healthy diet and don’t worry about calorie counting. You will actually feel fuller because of the healthy foods your are eating, so your calories will naturally be lower. Once you get in the habit of healthy eating and you make a conscious effort to reduce your calories, the weight will fly off.

It’s worth remembering that 20 minerals, 13 vitamins and fiber (none of which contain any calories) are essential for health. Their presence or absence can also change the rate at which energy is produced or calories burned. When foods cannot be metabolised properly because they lack the necessary minerals and vitamins, their energy becomes unavailable to our body and is stored as fat until we get the necessary minerals and vitamins at some later time. In the meantime we feel hungry and eat more. This too turns into fat unless minerals and vitamins are also provided.

When you choose NutrientDense Foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, oily fish, oats, beans, nuts and seeds, and avoid wasting your daily calorie allowance on “empty-calorie-foods” (which contain calories but no nutrition), like regular sodas, alcohol, sweets and candy, you will get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet which creates a healthy body which makes weight loss easier.

Seven Tips That Make Dieting Strategies Work

1. Drink Your Water

It’s important to stay well hydrated on a diet. I often hear that people can mistake thirst for hunger. Is this true? The jury is still out, but the next time you get a hunger pang, drink a glass of water first. If you really are just thirsty…problem solved. If you are really hungry, the water will help to fill up some of your stomach space so you won’t scarf down a bag of chips. Tip: Water may be the most boring beverage on the planet, so add a bit of flavored carbonated water to jazz it up. I like La Croix.

2. Remove Sugar

If you want to lose weight, you have to remove the SUGAR. Sugar makes it easy for our bodies to store fat. Removing sugar out of your life is a tried and true way to shed and keep off the pounds. Tip: Sugar is found in many forms, so if you’re trying to reduce sugar intake you also have to stop eating the foods that act like sugar in our bodies. Whether you put a spoon full of table sugar in your mouth or chomp on a bagel, the effect is the same. For a complete list of these foods, http://www.olsonnd.com/what-foods-that-act-like-sugar/

3. Eat Smaller Portions

We love “super-size”! It makes sense, right? More food for your buck. When it comes to a good value maybe, but when it comes to good health, “super-size” is the enemy. Be mindful of the amount of food you consume at every sitting. Tip: use smaller bowls and plates for your portions. It will look like a lot of food, and it will be just the right amount. When possible, use a scale, and when eating out avoid anything with the words “all-you-can-eat” and never “super-size” anything unless you are going to share it with at least four or more people.

4. Eat Your Vegetables
Vegetables are superstar foods. Not only are they low in calories, they are high in fiber. Vegetables are a great replacement for rice, pasta and other starchy foods during weight loss. Non-starchy vegetables are the best selection for weight loss; they include asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumbers, field greens, spinach and more. Tip: Eat your veggies first to fill up most of the space in your stomach.

5. Get Enough Protein
Protein is the best fill-me-up food. It’s more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats because it keeps you feeling full for longer. Protein also helps preserve muscle mass and encourages fat burning. Tip: Include healthy proteins like lean meat, sugar free yogurt, cheese, nuts, or beans into every meal and snack.  If your choice is a carb or a protein, go with the protein.

6. Limit Late Night Snacking
Dangerous snacking occurs most often after dinner, when you finally sit down and relax. Snacking while reading or watching TV is one of the easiest ways to throw your diet off course. If you are going to snack, make sure it is a low-calorie snack like fruit, low-fat cheese or a sugar free yogurt with a serving size of no more than 100 calories. Tip: Brush your teeth right after dinner. This is your signal that eating is done for the day.

7. Get Moving
Regular exercise is an important part of effective weight loss. It helps to control your weight by using excess calories that otherwise would be stored as fat.  Enjoy your exercise routine whatever it may be; sports, a trip to the gym, bike riding, walking, household activities, yard work, or work-related tasks — all are beneficial. Tip: Do some kind of movement EVERY SINGLE DAY, even if it’s just for 5 minutes while you are watching your favorite show. Make a game out of it. Every time your favorite character says his catch phrase do 10 jumping jacks, or 20 sit-ups, or 5 squats, or whatever.

October – Think Popping Popcorn!

Yep, October is also popping popcorn month. Did you know popcorn counts as a whole grain? One serving of whole grains equals three cups of popcorn.

Popcorn is the only type of corn that pops. Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. When harvested, popcorn is dried so that it contains between 13.5-14% moisture, the amount it needs to pop. The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel’s hard outer surface, the hull, which has just the right thickness to allow it to burst open when enough pressure builds inside.

As the kernel heats up, the water expands, creates steam, and cooks the starch inside, turning it into a liquid mass. Pressure builds inside and finally it reaches a point that breaks the hull open. The contents inflate and spill out, cooling immediately and forming the shape we know and love.

Here is a super cool web site all about popcorn: http://www.popcorn.org/. You can watch popcorn popping in super slow motion at the Popcorn Board’s Web site And check out more fun facts, trivia and recipes while you’re there!

October-Think Pasta!

The next October fact is about pasta. October is also Pasta Month. We eat a lot of pasta, and I only buy whole wheat or whole grain varieties to sneak some extra nutrients and fiber into our meal. Todd is not a huge fan of whole grain noodles, and the kids don’t know any better, but since I am the pasta boss, we are sticking with whole grains!

In response to dietary guidance urging Americans to include more whole grains in their diets, manufacturers have introduced nutritionally enhanced pasta varieties such as whole wheat, whole grain and pasta fortified with omega-3 fatty acids and additional fiber. Some varieties of whole grain pasta can provide up to 25% of daily fiber requirements in every one cup portion. There are now more options than ever for consumers to enjoy healthy and economical meals the whole family will love. Enjoy these pasta recipes.

I recently wrote an article for The Greatist on the benefits of choosing whole wheat pasta. Here are some of the highlights.

Whole wheat doesn’t contain a single magical nutrient that fights disease and improves health, but it’s the entire package that’s important. Eating at least three one-ounce equivalents (1/2 cup of whole wheat pasta counts) of whole grains per day can reduce the risk of several chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, cancer, and digestive issues .

The main difference between white and whole wheat pastas lies in the processing.  Whole wheat contains 3 parts of the grain— the bran (the outer layer and protector of the grain), the germ (the actual seed embryo that sprouts into a new plant), and the endosperm (the largest part of the grain providing the food source and energy for the plant).  During the refining process, the nutrient-rich outer bran shell and inner germ layer are removed from the grain, as the wheat is heated until they fall of, leaving white pasta with just the starchy endosperm.

The bran and germ are home to the vitamins, minerals, appetite-squashing f fiber, protein, and healthy fats, so even though the stripped down white pasta has a longer shelf-life, and therefore  may be cheaper , the process robs the wheat of almost all of its health benefits, leaving a nutritionally weaker noodle.

Although some nutrients, including iron and B vitamins, are added back during manufacturing, making the product “enriched”, these represent only a fraction of what is removed from the grain.

Whole wheat pasta may take time to catch on; so many restaurants don’t yet have a whole wheat noodle option. (And Italian restaurants may never embrace whole wheat pasta), but the pasta aisle at the supermarket is filled with noodles having all sorts of different shapes, sizes, colors, and ingredients.  And from a nutritional standpoint, this is great news for shoppers as another opportunity to add whole grains to the menu.

True whole wheat pasta will list 100 percent durum whole wheat flour as the first or only ingredient. And check the front of package for “100 percent whole-wheat,” or look for products that contain the orange WHOLE-GRAIN stamp.

Getting used to the taste of whole wheat pasta may take a little time, as it often has stronger flavor and a grainy consistency. Cooking time is key with whole wheat pasta, so it doesn’t get too gummy— be sure to follow the directions on the package. But with the right sauce or topping, adding whole wheat pasta is an easy way to enjoy a healthy meal and sneak those whole grains into the diet.

Healthy Claims on Pre-Packaged Foods: Buyer Beware

Does adding vitamin C to cocaine make it healthy? Of course not!

Just like adding “whole grains” to Lucky Charms cereal and Pop Tarts does not make them healthy.

Just like adding omega 3’s to Country Crock does not make it healthy.

Just like adding canola oil to popcorn or French fries does not make them healthy.

Companies often reformulate some of their product slightly so they can be considered “better for you”, but in essence they will still contain all the same crap as before. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lucky Charms and French fries, but they can’t be considered healthy or even close to it, even when I read that whole grains have been added or canola oil was used. If I eat Lucky Charms, it is on my cheat day. Same goes for French fries.

Sometimes we need convenience over quality. I am definitely guilty of this. When we are shopping for the pre-packaged or processed stuff, the labeling and marketing can be overwhelming, and even a bit deceiving. When you really need that convenience item, it is easier to justify buying it when it says No Trans Fats, or Whole Grains, or Calcium Enriched, etc. When you really want a “snack” it is also easier to justify it when the label says enriched with Omega 3’s, Made from Whole Grains, etc.

Some people really believe that these additions like Whole Grains, Omega 3’s (or even subtractions like NO Trans Fats) make the food healthy. I know a few of these people. So for those people, it is not your fault… you don’t know what you don’t know. You have been bamboozled by advertising. So I return to the analogy – Does adding vitamin C to cocaine make it healthy?

I am certainly not saying to never buy processed or pre-packaged foods. We can’t live without them (at least I can’t). So for those of you who are justifying buying pre-packages stuff, recognize that you are justifying, and don’t deny that you are making a poor food choice. For those of you who don’t know, now you do know. Pre-packaged or processed food is not healthy… even if the packaging makes you think it is.

Just like with most things, there are choices and then there are better choices. So when you need that pre-packaged convenience, look for products from Odwalla, Morningstar, Health Valley, Boca, and my favorite is Kashi. These are the ones I look for when I need a pre-packaged choice.

Still, Buyer Beware.  Just because you choose a product from a company that has a healthy reputation, you must read the label no matter what.

As I was looking online for general nutritional info, I came across a blip that said Kashi owned by Kellog. This can’t be right, I thought. I must have misread it. I googled it and found that many of my favorites are owned by major, familiar corporations.

Here are a few examples of the “healthy, organic” industry structure.

• Heinz owns Hain, Breadshop, Arrowhead Mills, Garden of Eatin’, Farm Foods, Imagine Rice and Soy Dream, Casbah, Health Valley, DeBoles, Nile Spice, Celestial Seasonings, Westbrae, Westsoy, Little Bear, Walnut Acres, Shari Ann’s, Mountain Sun, Millina’s Finest, etc.

• Kraft owns Boca Foods and Back to Nature.

• Coca-Cola owns Odwalla.

• Pepsi owns Naked Juice.

• Hershey Foods owns Dagoba.

• M&M Mars owns Seeds of Change

• Kellog owns Kashi and Morningstar Farms

• General Mills owns Cascadian Farm

• ConAgra owns Lightlife

I will still buy Kashi, Odwalla, Boca, and Morningstar when I need a specific item, but I am going to start reading the labels on these choices as carefully as I read the labels on the bagel bites I buy for the kids. Knowledge is always a good thing.

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