Dr. Oz was recently on TV talking about how snacking can keep hormones and blood sugar in balance. But an article in 2011 from the Interdisciplinary Obesity Center at UNC states that a rise in “eating occasions” over the last four decades has increased caloric intake by 570 calories per day for the average person. While I agree with Dr. Oz, too many Americans have lost the ability to differentiate between being “mouth hungry” where chewing is a habit and “stomach hungry” where one feels a real sense of hunger. Dr. Oz suggests planned snacking with the goal of avoiding the type of extreme hunger that can drive us to eat everything in sight. But snacking just because you think you should snack may be counterproductive. The next time you feel the need to snack, give yourself 15 minutes and try to determine if you are “mouth hungry” or “stomach hungry.” If you truly feel hunger in your belly, eat a planned snack. If you just want to chew, distract yourself with an activity or a no or low calorie drink. For planned snacking, there are many healthy snack ideas online including the American Diabetes Association website at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/snacks/?keymatch=snacks
Takeaway: Going to a Memorial Day Picnic? One bratwurst on a roll, a cup of potato salad and one bottle of beer will add up to approx. 800 calories. If you want the brat, potato salad and beer, go ahead. But take a break from socializing and try to eat slowly and mindfully. And stop by the grocery store and take a platter of crudités to share. You can fill up ½ of your plate with veggies so that you can stop at one serving of the above.
If you haven’t tried Peapod or a similar online grocery service, you might want to. I have found it extremely useful for staying on track with dollars and nutrition. Besides honoring coupons and offering sales and free delivery at times, Peapod helps me avoid congested “prime time” trips to the grocery store and makes it easy to improve my family’s nutrition. Here’s why.
First, the site makes it ridiculously easy to get the best value. It is so much faster to compare the price per ounce or unit when it’s in a vertical column on a screen as opposed to standing in the store and scanning the shelves.
Second, to get nutritional information, I just click on the product itself. I recently researched five different pasta sauces to compare the nutritional components which varied quite a bit. For me, this is easier than standing in the store and removing jar after jar from the shelf.
Third, I can order groceries in about 5 minutes with a saved list when I’m just too busy to get to the store.
Fourth, rejecting impulse buys is easier for me when the product is on a screen rather than an arm's reach away on a shelf.
Fifth, I can devote the two hours I would normally spend driving, shopping and unloading to healthy cooking. So if you haven’t tried out Peapod or a similar service, you might want to. Online grocery shopping won't work for everyone, but for those who are busy, it can automate the purchase of healthy foods.
This week’s takeaway: Check out Consumer Reports “ShopSmart” Magazine, June 2012 issue for an 8- page article titled “Cook Fast, Eat Well!” which recommends 26 healthy convenience foods. I made the Vegetable Quinoa Pilaf and it was delish!
Last week, I wrote about how a daily surplus of just 20 calories can significantly increase weight over the years. To figure out how many calories you can eat without having a surplus, go to www.livestrong.com, and scroll down the page and select “MyPlate”. You will find a calorie calculator that takes your age, height, weight, goals and activity levels into consideration and provides an estimated calorie level for weight loss, gain or maintenance.
This site also offers the opportunity to record your daily food consumption, either on the site or by using your smart phone. Even though this site is ridiculously easy to use, I’ve found that recording every single bite of food on a long term daily basis can really kill the momentum of my day. If you are like me in that respect, I strongly recommend that you record for at least one to two weeks to get a bird’s eye view of your daily eating habits. Even a week’s view can help you make the adjustments you need to achieve a healthy weight.
This week’s takeaway: No time to cook? This recipe from the Nutrition Action Newsletter is great for those days when you are short on time.
Buy a bag of broccoli slaw, a package of cubed firm tofu, brown rice and some teriyaki sauce (be mindful of the ingredients in the sauce – I like Veri Veri Teriyaki.) Get a head start on the brown rice. In a separate pan, sauté the slaw in a small amount of canola oil, then drain the tofu and add to the pan to heat. Stir in about ¼ cup of teriyaki, and plate the entire mixture over the cooked rice. Optional: Top with a small amount of grated lemon or orange peel, chopped nuts, chopped green onion, chopped cilantro or whatever else you happen to like. Dinner is ready!
Over the years, most of us spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen. I love to cook, so for me cooking is never a chore. It can become very easy to get in the habit of sampling the foods that we are preparing, especially when we've worked all day and are feeling both tired and hungry. Unfortunately, this habit can really pack on the pounds. A mom or dad who eats just an additional 20 calories a day in the kitchen over a period of 20 years may find that they are 40 lbs heavier if those 20 calories represent more than the body needs to sustain itself. To give you an idea of how little consumption this actually is, one full size pretzel stick is usually about 60 calories.
If you see yourself in this picture, one way to break the food prep snacking habit is simply to stop eating while you are standing up. If you limit yourself to eating while you are sitting down, you probably won't be able to eat during food prep. It may be difficult at first to break the habit, so you might substitute a very low (5 calories) or no calorie drink while you cook. At least one brand of light lemonade has only 5 calories, and I for one love sipping on sparkling water. I do have friends who enjoy sipping on some wine while they cook, but a 4 ounce glass of red wine can total 100 calories. If you are among the wine drinkers, make sure that you measure out the ounces. If you sip very slowly, perhaps you can stretch that glass to dinnertime so that you aren't tempted to pour a second glass with the meal. Whatever you do, be wary of calories consumed during meal preparation. Even 20 calories a day can add up to major weight gain over the years.
Until next week, keep moving!
It’s an unusual week when I don’t have a client complaining about lack of sleep. As a personal fitness trainer, I am careful about my own eating habits. But with sleep deprivation, even I can start reaching for high sugar high fat foods. There are a number of studies showing that the appetite related hormones of leptin and ghrelin can be affected by a lack of sleep. Leptin helps control our appetite and usually decreases when we are sleep deprived. And ghrelin increases our appetite and rises when we are sleep deprived. So if you are trying to lose or even maintain your weight, adequate sleep should be high on your priority list. Here are a few tips that might help.
- Make sure that your room is dark. If you have blinds which allow light in, hang some heavier curtain panels over them if need be. And do what you can to hide the glow from electronic devices like clocks.
- Block out noise, including your partner’s snoring. I manage this by reversing my sleep position to put my head at the foot of the bed and using my IPhone ear buds to block out the snore.
- If you go to sleep listening to your IPhone, you may wish to try listening to a meditation or white noise program.
- Keep a fairly consistent sleep/wake schedule seven days a week. Nothing feels worse than sleeping in one day and waking up three hours earlier the next.
- Avoid caffeine after noon. Caffeine can be hiding in chocolate and sodas (which no one should be drinking anyway) so if you feel agitated at night, review your consumption to see if there is something you need to avoid.
- If nothing else helps, talk to your MD about nonprescription Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles. As we age, our bodies make less of it. Melatonin can have some side effects and you’ll need to determine a dose, so discuss this with your MD before trying it.
Until next week, keep moving!
Over the past few years, I've been in public and have seen three different middle aged women waving at me from a distance. On all three occasions, I haven't recognized them until I've carefully studied their faces, only to realize that they were friends or acquaintances who I haven't seen in a year or so who have gained 30 or more pounds. I always feel saddened by this because not only have they lost some of their attractiveness, but more so because there are many co-morbidities related to being overweight, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Unfortunately, there are also many challenges that do conspire against us as we pass the age of 45 or 50. Most can be controlled and a few can't. Today, I am going to focus on one of the most important lifestyle changes to make, and that is improving our eating habits.
I worry about clients who work hard in their sessions but are disappointed because their progress is slow. When that happens, the conversation eventually turns to eating habits and I usually find out that they are 1) drinking too many calories, 2) eating out more than 3 times a week or 3) feeling pressured to cook meals for the family that don't support their own goals. If recent weight gain or an inability to lose is impacting the way you feel about yourself and your ability to do the things you love, it might be time to overhaul your food plan to incorporate healthier choices at meal time. Two of my favorite cookbooks are "The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet" by Barbara Rolls and "Prevent Heart Disease" by Caldwell Esselstyn. "The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet" is based on the premise that if you eat high volume, lower calorie foods that you will eventually lose weight. This diet has been studied quite a bit and it works. Dr. Rolls has been a professor at Penn State University for many years. The second is a vegan diet and is being used by Bill Clinton. The protein in this book is derived mostly from legumes and no oils are allowed. It is a much more restrictive diet to follow, but the recipes are delicious and eating vegan just one or two days a week can help both the waistline and the budget. Dr. Esselstyn is a cardioligist at The Cleveland Clinic. Of course, if you have any medical issues, you should talk to your MD before starting on a diet.
I hope you find this tip useful. Next time, I'll blog about poor sleep quality, which can also make healthy weight in middle age so difficult to achieve. Until then, keep moving!