Tag Archives: food

how much protein do i need

The truth about the low fat diet craze

Low fat diets have been around for some time. By the 90s, eating fat became taboo because it was dubbed that eating fat makes you fat. A couple decades later, and we’re realizing just how wrong we were. Let’s just get this straight: Fat does not make you fat. Eating excess calories makes you fat. So why exactly did the “fat makes you fat” fad come around? And why is it still immersed in our food culture that we should be eating low fat meals? Continue reading

Clean up time: 5 simple tips to eat clean

If you read last week’s post, you know that there are a whole lot of ideas of how a person can eat clean. The definition of clean eating is in constant flux. When it comes to the time and effort you need to put in, these definitions go from laid back to extreme.

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If there’s “clean” eating is there also “dirty” eating?

Clean eating is the trend of the moment. But what is it, really? Does clean eating mean you have to give up your favorite foods until you’re only eating spinach and cucumbers? Or does eating protein bars and store-bought “health food” also count? Does it mean that if you aren’t following a certain clean eating diet plan that you’re somehow eating dirty? Continue reading

How to cut through the nutrition noise

Source: FoodMinds: Words Matter– 40 years of Dietary GuidelinesThis past week, I had the opportunity to go to the MAND Annual Meeting. MAND, the Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, put on a great conference that included talks about everything from general dietary guidelines to a diet’s role on inflammation in the body to nutrition in public policy to the impact of bees in food availability. Needless to say (though I’ll say it anyway), it was a day packed with information.

One of my favorite parts of the day, though, was listening to Dr. Jillian Lampert from The Emily Program. What was she talking about, and why was it so interesting? Well, let me tell you. Continue reading

Yummy vegan ice cream (Recipe inside)

vegan ice cream 2Before you dismiss vegan ice cream as something that is gross or a possible oxymoron, hear me out. Just because this recipe does not have any animal products in it, that does not mean it tastes bad. In fact, I’ve tested this recipe on a number of people, and – surprise surprise! – they love it!

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What is a healthy eating pattern

In the fourth installment about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, I’m talking all about making a healthy eating pattern. Why? Because this time around, the guidelines seem focused on people creating healthy eating patterns. It makes sense, too. Consuming healthy food choices can help support a healthy body weight throughout your life. It can also reduce the risk of diseases (including heart disease and some types of cancer). Continue reading

What not to eat if you want to be healthy

We’ve reached the third installment in this series about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In the first post, I talked about the facts behind the guidelines (like the fact that most preventable chronic diseases are directly related to a sub-par eating patterns and a sedentary lifestyle). In the second post, I discussed how to eat healthy over the lifespan (like eating a variety of foods on the daily).

Now that you know what you should be eating, it’s time to talk about the opposite. In this post, I’ll be focusing on what NOT to eat if you want to lead a healthy lifestyle. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines states that Americans should limit four things: added sugar, saturated fat, sodium and alcohol. Let’s look at eat one individually.

What not to eat #1: Added sugar

The question is: Where can we find added sugar? The answer: Just about EVERYWHERE. The more conscious you become of the ingredients in your food, the more you’ll realize that sugar is added to nearly every processed food out there. From junk foods like candy and pop to “healthier” items such as ketchup and jelly, added sugar is difficult to avoid if you eat from packaged foods.

donuts image from ChooseMyPlate.govThe Dietary Guidelines recommend that you only get 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugar. That would equal about 10 teaspoons (50g) a day if you’re following a 2,000-calorie diet. The truth is, though, most Americans consume double that at 20 teaspoons each day. It’s no wonder how that happens when you consider that one 16-oz bottle of regular soda has 44 grams of sugar in it. Whoa!

It is important to note that even though there are some natural sweeteners out there, they are still considered added sugar. Some examples include honey, agave and stevia. These should also be limited.

So what’s not considered an added sugar, then? Any food that – in its natural, whole form – contains sugar. A prime example here is fruits. Whole fruits in their unprocessed form are not considered added sugar, but fruit juices (even if they’re 100 percent fruit juice) are considered an added sugar. That’s because you’re stripping a good portion of the other nutrients away in juice form (most notably the fiber).

To sum it up: It is nearly impossible to cut down on your daily intake of added sugars without cutting out some processed foods. If you want to avoid added sugar in your diet, stick to foods in their natural, unprocessed form as much as possible. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy without added sugars.

What not to eat #2: Saturated fat

First thing’s first, what is saturated fat? And where do we find it? Simply put (in chemical terms), saturated fats are those that have no double bonds and are saturated with hydrogen molecules. (Whoa chemistry!) Even more simply put, saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature.

picture of butter on a plate from ChooseMyPlate.govIn general, we find saturated fat in animal products – meat, dairy, eggs. That said, it’s a good idea to limit the intake of these foods. There are also some plant-based sources of saturated fats – most notably coconut oil and palm oil. While there has been a lot of talk about the health benefits of these oils, it is important to note that no matter what your source of saturated fat is (whether it’s a hamburger or a teaspoon of coconut oil), your total amount of saturated fat should not go over 10 percent of your daily calories.

To break this down even more, that means if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, your limit for saturated fat would be 50 grams per day. To put that in perspective, that would be the same as eating a hamburger patty (8g) sauteed in coconut oil (12g) topped with a tablespoon of mayo (3g) and a slice of cheese (6g), a glass of whole milk (5g), french fries (3g), and a slice of cheesecake for dessert (12g).

What not to eat #3: Sodium

Sodium, like added sugar, is found in nearly everything. The current guidelines specify that a maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium should be consumed each day. But if you’re like the average American, you’re going above and beyond that on the daily. In fact, Americans eat 3,400 mg per day per person on average!

Did you know: One teaspoon of salt contains 2,325 mg of sodium.

There are benefits of some sodium in your daily diet, such as maintaining fluid balance and contracting muscles. That said, there are more than a handful of negative outcomes from a high-sodium diet. Heart failure, kidney disease, increased blood pressure and stroke are just some of the risks.

Luckily, you have the ability to limit the amount of sodium you consume in your diet. Eating more fresh foods (fruits, veggies, homemade recipes) will help cut back on sodium. Here are some foods that are high in sodium (and should therefore be limited):

  • Frozen meals (read: pizza and TV dinners)
  • Bread
  • Fast food
  • Cold cuts and bacon
  • Soy sauce and other condiments

What not to eat #4: Alcohol

The Dietary Guidelines state that women can drink up to one alcoholic beverage per day while men can drink up to two. While there is some research that shows that drinking alcohol can be beneficial to health (like lowering the risk of a heart attack), it’s a double-edged sword. There are plenty of negative side effects of consuming too much alcohol, including increasing the risk of breast cancer, increasing blood pressure and increasing the risk of liver damage.

Alcoholic beverage (by Mick Stephenson via WikiCommons)Apart from those negative effects, drinking alcohol regularly will probably not help you with your weight loss goals. When you start looking at alcohol as calorie-laden beverages, their appeal starts to dwindle. Here’s an example: One can of beer has about 150 calories. If you added one beer to your routine each day for a year, that would be adding more than 54,000 calories. That’s the same as gaining 15 pounds! No wonder it’s one of the “what not to eat” food items!

Even though there are some noted benefits of drinking certain types of alcohol, it is important to note that if you don’t currently drink one (women) or two (men) alcoholic beverages per day, you should not be adding this to your diet. In addition – though it may seem obvious – you should only consume alcohol if you’re of legal drinking age.

What not to eat: Summing it up

In summary, added sugar, saturated fat, sodium and alcohol should be consumed in moderation. When it comes to added sugar and sodium, the easiest way to cut back is to limit your intake of processed foods. To lower how much saturated fat you’re eating, eat less meet, eggs and dairy. If you’re not ready or willing to cut alcohol out of your diet, be sure not to consume more than one serving a day if you’re a woman and two drinks if you’re a man.

In the next blog post about the health guidelines, I’ll go more in-depth about diet and physical activity as well as diving deeper into what following a healthy-eating lifestyle encompasses.

2015 Dietary Guidelines: Eating healthy over the lifespan

We have started looking more in-depth at the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In our previous post, we talked about the facts that played into creating the guidelines. (Like the fact that 117 million Americans have one or more preventable chronic disease.) In this post, we’ll talk about the basic recommendations to leading a healthful lifestyle.  MyPlate

While changing your food habits later in life can have an impact on your overall health, it’s more beneficial to consistently eat well over your lifetime rather than every once in a while. So how do we make sure we’re eating foods that are healthful for us over longer periods of time? There are guidelines for that! In general, a healthy eating pattern looks something like this:

Vegetables: A healthful diet consists of a variety of colorful vegetables from all the vegetable subgroups. What are the subgroups, you ask? Vegetables include dark green varieties (such as spinach and kale); red and orange varieties (such as red bell peppers and carrots); legumes (including beans and peas); starchy vegetables (like sweet potatoes and corn) and other vegetables (such as onions).

Fruit: Colorful fruits are also part of a diet filled with nutritious foods. Fruits are especially beneficial in whole form (instead of in juices or dried). That’s because you’re getting all the fruit’s nutrients when you eat it whole. When you drink it in juice form, you lose the fiber content, and when you eat them dried, you’re mostly getting the sugar.

Grains: There has been a lot of talk about low-carb diets and how beneficial they can be, but the truth is, 45-65% of your daily calories should be coming from carbohydrates. Without these essential nutrients, your brain can not function as efficiently. That said, the recommendations are to aim for at least half of your grains to come from whole grain sources. How do you know if it’s a whole grain source? Simply read the ingredient list. Look for ingredients that include the word “whole” (i.e., whole wheat, whole grain, etc.).

Fat free or low-fat dairy: This category includes milk, cheese, yogurt and/or fortified soy beverages. You might be wondering why the recommendation calls for fat free or low-fat dairy instead of full-fat, whole dairy sources. The reason is because dairy foods are high in saturated fat, which has been shown to lead to a whole host of diseases (especially heart disease).

Protein: A varied protein diet is recommended as best to ensure a variety of vitamins and minerals in the diet. Some protein sources include poultry (chicken and turkey), lean meats, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products. Because there is such a wide variety of protein sources available for consumption, it should be relatively simple for everyone – no matter what type of diet you follow – to get enough protein each day.

Oils: A healthful diet also includes added oils. Some oil sources include olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, butter, avocado (yup, that’s considered an oil!) and sesame oil. Watch out, though! You don’t need that much added oil in your diet.

Some of this information may seem daunting – especially if you’re just beginning your journey to a healthier life. There is some good news, though. By adding these healthful foods into your daily routine, you’ll be feeding your body what it needs to keep you healthy for a long time to come.

While we covered what you should be eating in this post, in our next post, we’ll talk about the recommendations about what you should probably stay away from.

2015 Diestary Guidelines for Americans

The facts behind the 2015 Dietary Guidelines

2015 Diestary Guidelines for Americans

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released last week. That has caused some people in the United States to reconsider what they should and should not be eating. While the guidelines might not be your idea of reading for pleasure, there sure is a lot of information in the documents.

If you’re not looking to read through the entire thing, don’t worry! In this series of posts, I’ll be discussing what is in the Dietary Guidelines as well as how you can implement them in your daily life.

This first post is going to focus on some facts. Here are some truths about Americans and their lifestyles that you may or may not be surprised about.

To start, here are just a few statistics from the guidelines:

  • For more than two and a half decades (that’s 25 years!), more than half of the adult population in the country has been overweight or obese.
  • From 2009-2012, a whopping 65 percent of women and 73 percent of men were carrying extra weight.
  • During the same period of time, one-third of 2- to 19-year-olds were classified as overweight or obese.
  • Half of all American adults (117 million people!) have one or more preventable chronic disease.
  • Most of these chronic diseases are directly related to a sub-par eating patterns and a sedentary lifestyle.

So what types of diseases are included in this set of preventable chronic diseases?

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (some forms at least, such as breast and colorectal)
  • Poor bone health

Unfortunately, Americans are simply not eating healthy diets nor are they getting enough physical activity. In fact, on a scale of 1-100 on the Healthy Eating Index-2010 (with a higher number signifying a healthier diet), the population’s average doesn’t even reach 60. In 1999, the country’s average was 49. This means we’re improving, yes. But we still have a long way to go before we can classify our eating habits as “healthy.”

When it comes to physical activity, the results are even worse. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. That’s in addition to two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities. In 2013, only 21 percent of adults met this guideline. Sure, that’s up from 18 percent in 2008, but that means 4 out of 5 adults in the U.S. are not reaching their recommended weekly physical activity goals.

With these startling statistics, it’s no wonder that the prevalence of overweight and obese individuals has continued to rise over the last quarter of a century. In the next blog post about the health guidelines, I’ll go more in-depth about diet and physical activity as well as diving deeper into what following a healthy-eating lifestyle encompasses.

Energy Bites (Recipe with Pictures!)

energy bites 2A good friend of mine shared this recipe for energy bites with me, and I wanted to pass it along. There are a few good reasons to try this recipe. First, it’s easy and takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Second, it’s vegan. Third, you can adapt it to your dietary preferences. Awesome!
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