Tag: eat healthy

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.

 

 

7 Wonders of the Nutrition World

7 Wonders of the Nutrition World

imagesCAQP8F7RWe all know which foods we should try to avoid, and despite the appeal of Thin Mints, Doritos, Mountain Dew or McAnything, processed foods provide little good and a whole lot of bad. But when it comes to the nutritious stuffwhat are the best foods to put into our bodies? While we need a variety of foods for a healthy diet, do you know which are the healthiest of the bunch? These are the top seven most nutrient dense foods around. I bet you will be able to incorporate at least one of these into your daily diet.

 

1. Spirulina: While the thought of eating river algae might gross you out a bit, spirulina is actually fairly tasty, especially blended into a smoothie or hidden in a chocolate bar. It has more antioxidants than any other food on earth and is loaded with protein and minerals making it the most nutrient dense food. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23544470

 

2. Kale: Kale packs a serious nutritious punch, loaded with minerals, vitamins, fiber and amino acids, as well as important antioxidants that reduce inflammation and can prevent cancer. It’s also delicious and an easy to prepare, versatile food. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23631258

 

3. Hemp Seeds: What do you get when you combine protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals? Hemp, of course. This easily digestible seed is versatile, easy to use and extremely tasty, too.

 

4. Broccoli: Your mom was right … Eat your vegetables. Broccoli especially if you want a healthy digestive system and you want to kick it up a notch… your health that is. Broccoli has a wide range of usefulness too, from soups to stir fry, or simply steamed or raw.

 

5.Spinach: Popeye was onto something with that spinach fixation. But skip the canned stuff and stick with fresh or frozen for an antioxidant, protein and fiber-rich burst of healthy goodness. Fresh or cooked, spinach’s sweet and hardy flavor brightens any meal.

 

6. Chia: The Aztecs may have died out, but their legacy is alive and strong in the chia seed. This ancient favorite is loaded with omega fats, protein and fiber. It can be a better choice than flax because chia is so rich in antioxidants that the seeds don’t deteriorate and can be stored for long periods without becoming rancid.http://fitchicktricks.com/nutrition/dangerfood-or-superfood/chia-the-food-not-the-pet/

 

7. Berries: Unlike other fruit, berries tend to be less sugary and full of vital vitamins, minerals and those free-radical avenging antioxidants. Wild berries are always a great choice, especially black rassberries

Traveling with Kids: Eating Right and Catching Z’s

Traveling with Kids: Eating Right and Catching Z’s

Happy Memorial Day Weekend. With summer vacation season upon us, I am so excited to have Kendra Thornton guest post on my blog.  Kendra is a mother of 3, and before being promoted to the full time position of mommy, she was the former Orbitz director of communications. She has traveled all around the world, and has a great perspective of Traveling with Kids: Eating Right and Catching Z’s.

 

Vacation is always fun with the kids. They get to go on adventures, see all new things and have fun. While planning for vacations seems like a lot of work, it’s kind of fun to arrange things and plot those surprises guaranteed to get the smiles. I really enjoy planning meals and packing for healthy snacks as well. It helps me remind my kids of what we eat at home and still allows for a treat while away.

 

1. Stay the Right Way

There are a ton of places out there that advertise as “family-fun” atmospheres” for kids, but really, that may only mean they have a pool and a low rate. You should avoid getting a cheap hotel, particularly if it doesn’t have good reviews.

 

– Go for a true family-fun experience with a well-reviewed hotel like Walt Disney Resort.

– Pick a hotel with free breakfast or discount meals for kids.

– Some hotels even have “Kids stay free” stickers. Check with the hotel first before booking to confirm.

– Find a great market or local grocery store to purchase some of the kid’s favorite breakfast items to quickly make in the morning.

– Cut down on the cost of eating out by making at least one meal per day and bringing food with you to theme parks.

– Many hotels in Orlando offer a quiet hours policy to ensure that their guests get a proper nights rest! This is absolutely wonderful!

 

2. Keep It Nutritious

Kids love vacations because it’s a free-for-all for getting away with anything, including eating any way they wish. However, you should bring along those snacks which they willingly enjoy and that aren’t all sugar.

 

– Purchase healthy snacks beforehand for each of your kids to have on the ride to your destination.

– Create mixes of their favorite crackers, nuts, pretzels and a sweet treat–like dried fruit, M&M’s or other chocolate-covered goody.

– Use sweet treats as a reward for being patient. If it’s been two hours in the car without a peep, give a pudding cup or cookie.

– Dried snacks are always good to bring along on road trips, so don’t skimp on the cereal, nuts, dried fruits, pretzels and crackers.

– If you have to make a quick stop for a meal, you can still make healthy decisions when eating fast foods!

 

3. Plenty of Rest

 

When you’re headed to a different time zone, remember to plan early for sleeping schedules. Kids need to adjust to when they should be asleep depending on the time zone. You can run into some serious issues if you don’t plan for jet lag with kids.

– Beat jet lag by changing sleeping schedules before the trip.

– Pack along a child’s favorite blanket, pillow or stuffed animal to sleep with.

– Allow kids to sleep on the ride or flight to the destination.

– Bring along books that will help them go to sleep at night.

With summer right around the corner and family vacations planned, I hope these travel tips will come in handy for you and your family!

 

 Kendra Thornton

 

When Ketchup is the Only Veggie Your Kids Eat

When Ketchup is the Only Veggie Your Kids Eat

I have probably mentioned this before, but my kids are super picky eaters. I’m pretty sure they get this from my husband’s side, as he is as picky as they are. I guess it makes cooking meals easier, since they only like three of four foods. And trust me, I have tried, and continually try to expand their horizons. Baby steps I guess.

I am always worrying about whether they are getting enough nutrients, especially since veggies are almost non-existent in their diet, husband included. But I recently read an article that made me feel a tiny bit better.

If you like ketchup, which is the only veggie (such that it is) that my kids eat… sigh, there’s good news waiting.

A study from Finland, published in the journal Neurology, found that those who had higher levels of lycopene (the ingredient found in ketchup) had stronger hearts than those who didn’t. Lycopene also helps reduce body inflammation and can help prevent blood clots.

Surprisingly (and luckily), lycopene is found in many of the foods we like.

For example, cooked tomato sauce has more lycopene than raw tomatoes; over 31,000 micrograms in a cup of marinara compared to just 3,165 micrograms for the raw tomato. That’s nearly 10 times more lycopene benefit, and we eat a lot of spaghetti.

But lycopene isn’t just found in tomatoes and tomato products. Fruits have it too. Fortunately, my family doesn’t have an aversion to fruits like they do with veggies.

Here’s a list of 11 Lycopene Nutritional Powerhouses (Courtesy of USDA):

  • Sauce, pasta, spaghetti/marinara, ready-to-serve (1 cup): 31,663 micrograms
  • Tomato juice, canned, with salt added (1 cup): 21,960 micrograms (Bloody Mary anyone?)
  • Soup, tomato, canned, prepared with equal volume 2% milk (1 cup): 13,047 micrograms
  • Watermelon, raw (1 cup): 6,889 micrograms
  • Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, average (1 tomato): 3,165 micrograms
  • Papayas, raw (1 cup): 2,559 micrograms
  • Ketchup (1 tbsp.): 2,146 micrograms
  • Pizza, pepperoni, regular crust (1 slice): 2,074 micrograms
  • Grapefruit, raw, pink and red, (half grapefruit): 1,745 micrograms
I Want to Burn More Fat

I Want to Burn More Fat

Did you know that your body burns fat or carbs depending on the intensity of your activity? You burn fat even if your body is at rest. Actually, you are even burning fat right now sitting in the front of your computer. Your body is burning about one or two calories per minute (about 70 % comes from fat and about 30% comes from carbs).

When you exercise, as the intensity increases, your body starts using more and more carbohydrates for energy instead of fat. With high intensity aerobic exercise, 100 percent of the energy is coming from carbs. But here is where it gets interesting…when carbs are no longer available, your body will break down muscle and use it for energy. When carbohydrate stores are depleted, the rate at which fat is used as energy is reduced, and that’s why carbs are essential in order to metabolize fat.

The best way to lose fat is when you burn more calories than you eat on a daily basis, not because you burn fat when you are exercising.

When you eat after your workout, you rapidly replenish both the carbs and fats that you have used up during the workout. But as soon as an excess of calories (from either fats or carbohydrates) exists, your body will begin to store them as fat. So don’t go pig out after your workout or your body’s fat stores will be virtually unchanged.

This is why diet + exercise really do work the best, but your exercise regime must include cardio and WEIGHT TRAINING. When in doubt, do resistance training.

The key to fat loss is to manage your calories, so your body doesn’t store them as fat, and to boost your metabolism so that your body is continuously burning calories at a higher rate 24/7. People with muscle mass are automatically burning more calories (and fat). Every 1 pound of muscle that you build on your body will burn up to 3,000 extra calories a month which equals roughly .5 pounds of fat. I know that .5 pounds doesn’t sound like much, but that .5 pounds is burned by doing nothing but sitting around. It is a way to give you an added advantage as you continue on your weight loss path.  Bonus – more muscle makes you look healthier and slimmer!

So, the perfect combo is healthy diet, resistance training, and cardio.

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