Category: Articles

How to Read the New Nutrition Facts Tables Without Your Head Exploding

We all know that little box on the side of packaged foods, right?

The Nutrition Facts table or, as I like to call it, Swahili.

The purpose of it is to help you make better nutrition decisions. When you can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, you should be able to eat better, right?

Except, it’s confusing. Yeah, there are the calories, the carbs, the sodium – But what numbers should I be looking at and how do I know which ones are too high or too low?

Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not (and I say – it could be written in plain English), let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay.

Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.

 Step 1: Serving Size

The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to figure out the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. Tricky little boogers, aren’t they?

All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.

Cut to the next few years when food labels will change. The FDA finally realized that we don’t eat, like 2 Oreos or 9 potato chips and decided that food labels must match with the quantities that Americans actually consume.

They can’t hide the real amount of sugar you’re getting in a Dr. Pepper or the sodium in those Doritos.

This will make it easier to compare foods…no more artificially small servings.

Let’s use an example – plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco. (it’s probably a 90-lb bag, right?)

As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.

FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts). I did this with my wine – 5 oz is a serving.

I’m fairly sure I was drinking at least twice that, if not more. I like my serving better.

Step 2: % Daily Value

The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day (yeah…um..I live in the opposite of the ideal world).

This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.

NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.

The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule. You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.

NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it’s missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn’t an agreed “official” %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.

Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)

Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.

Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g – 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).

Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It’s easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).

Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.

🥜Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.

Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)

The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Yes, potassium will drop from the middle of the table to the bottom, and both vitamins A & C will become optional.

Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you’ll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.

The Bottom Line

I know it’s hard to follow sometimes, but hopefully this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.

Do you have questions about it? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for sugar? If so, leave me a comment below.

 Recipe (walnuts): Delicious & Super-Easy Walnut Snack

Serves 1

8 walnut halves
4 dates, pitted

Instructions

Make a “date sandwich” by squeezing each date between two walnut halves.

Serve & enjoy!

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Tip: Try with pecans instead.

Sources:

Nutrition C for FS and A. Labeling & Nutrition – Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm.

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How to Improve Gut Health

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we’re not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We’re talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We’re just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of “the gut-brain axis”). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

How Your Gut Affects Your Overall Health

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.

For one thing, our guts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.” When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health.

Improve Your Gut Health

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colorful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed the friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

The Bottom Line

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes. The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

Fun Fact – There are new guidelines for nutrition labels – Now, they have to tell how much added sugar is in the product. That makes it so much easier to control your sugar, right?

Recipe (Probiotic-rich): Fermented Carrots

Serves 12

4 1/4 cups warm water
4 tsp salt
4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)

Instructions

Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.

Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.

Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don’t float (you can use a “fermenting weight”).

Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health
http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

 

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Facebook teaser #1:

 

Does all disease really begin in the gut? Are there links between gut health and allergies, pain, or moods? Has the importance of gut health been under- or over-rated?

 

I spill the beans on gut health in my newest post here.

 

Facebook teaser #2:

 

There are two main parts to gut health. One involves the parts of the gut (of course!). The other involves the friendly gut microbes that also link to gut health. And both of these link to overall health.

 

Grab my gut-friendly tips right here.

 

Facebook teaser #3:

 

Want to make your own probiotics without a probiotic pill, kombucha scoby, or kefir grains? I mean a super-easy, gut-friendly probiotic recipe? Click here for my newest gut health recipe.

 

 

 

 

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Common Weight Loss Myths Busted

Weight loss advice is so common (and contentious) now. There are competing opinions everywhere. We’ve got calories in/calories out, no pain no gain, workout harder, workout more, slower, faster…it’s like the voices in your head keep multiplying, right?

But let’s forget about who’s right and who’s wrong…let’s focus on what’s right. Because what gets results is what I’m focusing on in this post.

I respect you too much to make empty promises and try to sell you on something that doesn’t work.

There are too many weight loss myths out there. I’m going to tackle the top ones I come across in my practice.

Myth: Calories cause weight gain, and eating less is how you lose weight

Calories are important for weight loss. If you eat and absorb a ton more than you use, then your body’s wisdom will store some for later. Calories matter…of course they do.

But, they are not the “be-all and end-all” of weight loss; they’re important, but they’re the symptom, not the cause. Let’s think about the reasons people eat more calories. Let’s focus on the causes.

People eat too many calories, not because they’re hungry, but because they feel:

  • Sad
  • Lonely
  • Bored
  • Tired
  • Stressed
  • Happy/celebrating

All these feelings interact with our gastrointestinal, nervous and hormonal systems; all of which influence our calorie intake.

Stopping emotional eating isn’t something that happens overnight, but there are some simple things you can do to get started:

  1. Keep a food journal – You can keep track of how your moods affect when/what/how you eat
  2. Find better ways to deal with your stress
  3. Get rid of the foods that tempt you – if it isn’t there, you can’t eat it
  4. Get busy doing something if you’re bored – Take a walk, take a bath, clean out a drawer…give yourself something to do
  5. Connect with someone – on the phone, social media, etc.

There are more, but that gets you started.

Myth: “Eat less move more” is good advice

Well, then we’re all in tip-top shape, right? Because people have been doling out this advice (myth) for years.

The premise of this is based on the above myth that calories in minus calories out equals your weight. So, eat fewer calories, and burn off more calories (because human physiology is a simple math equation, right?).

Even if people can happily and sustainably follow this advice (which they can’t!); it completely negates other factors that contribute to weight problems. Things like the causes of overeating we mentioned above. Not to mention our genetics, health conditions we’re dealing with or our exposure to compounds that are “obesogenic.”

Now that’s just a fancy word for environments that influence obesity.

So that means what? Reshaping your environment. This is about as difficult as it sounds, since we can’t control our surroundings. We can’t control when people bring donuts to work or when someone brings home a big bag of Doritos.

The only thing we can control? Is ourselves. But if it were that simple, none of us would be overweight, right?

Controlling Your Environment

All you can do is the best you can. Keep junk food out of your house. Ask co-workers to put the donuts somewhere you can’t see them. Ask the restaurant to hold the bread and bring a to-go box to put half your food in there.

Just pick one area where outside influences make it hard to be healthy and ask yourself – Is there anything I can do about this?

Myth: A calorie is a calorie

Can we please put this one to bed already?

Science has confirmed several caloric components of food differ from others. For example, the “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is that some nutrients require calories to be metabolized. They can slightly increase your metabolism, just by eating them.

For example, when you metabolize protein you burn more calories than when you metabolize carbohydrates. Proteins and carbohydrates both have 4 calories/gram; but, the TEF of protein = 15–30%; and the TEF for carbohydrates = 5–10%.

Here’s another example of a calorie not being a calorie. Different fats are metabolized differently. Medium chain triglycerides (fats) (MCTs) have the same 9 calories/gram that other fats do; but, they’re metabolized by the liver before getting into the bloodstream and therefore aren’t utilized or stored the same way as other fats.

So it’s not necessarily your fault if you’re trying to reduce calories and aren’t seeing results. Your body responds to all of them a little differently.

#acalorieisnotacalorie

Myth: Buy this supplement/tea/food/magic potion to lose weight

There is no magic pill for weight loss. No supplement, tea, food, or other potion will do the trick.

There are products that make these claims, and they’re full of garbage (or shall I say “marketing gold?”). The only thing you will lose is your money (and possibly your hope). So, please don’t believe this myth. There is a reason most people who lose weight can’t keep it off. The real magic is in adopting a sustainable holistic and healthy approach to living your life. What you need is a long-term lifestyle makeover, not a product.

Save your money and your energy.

The bottom line is weight loss is hard! There are too many people out there trying to make it sound like they have the simple solution (or the latest and greatest!). But all they really want is your money and once you realize that weight loss really is hard, you can take the pressure off yourself.

Take a deep breath. Take things one thing at a time. It’s NOT YOUR FAULT.

Don’t fall for the myths that say:

  • Calories cause weight gain, and fewer calories are the path to weight loss.
  • “Eat less move more” is good
  • A calorie is a calorie.
  • Buy this supplement/tea/food/magic potion to lose weight.

Now check out my magical “weight loss salad” recipe below (just kidding!)

Bonus Recipe (Myth-free salad, filling and nutritious): Kale Cucumber Salad

Serves 2

Salad

4 cups kale, divided
1 cup cooked beans of your choice (white beans, chickpeas, etc.)
1 cup cooked quinoa, divided
1 cucumber, sliced and divided

Cucumber Dill Dressing

½ cup tahini
½ lemon, juiced
2 tbsp dill
½ cup cucumber, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
½ tsp maple syrup
2 dashes salt
2 dashes black pepper
¼ tsp garlic, minced

Instructions

Divide salad ingredients into two bowls.

Add all dressing ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until creamy. You may need to add water to thin. Add it slowly, a tbsp at a time until desired thickness is reached.

Add dressing to salads and gently toss.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Extra dressing can be stored in the fridge for a few days

References and Sources:

Lake A, Townshend T. Obesogenic environments: exploring the built and food environments. Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health. 2006;126(6):262-267. doi:10.1177/1466424006070487

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-12-biggest-myths-about-weight-loss/

https://authoritynutrition.com/metabolism-boosting-foods/

https://authoritynutrition.com/5-chemicals-that-are-making-you-fat/

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4 Mental Hacks that Help You Make Exercise a Habit

Exercise is NOT like a box of chocolates.

It’s more like a bottle of Windex and some paper towels…you know it’ll feel good when the window is clean but doing it? Is a chore.

That’s why it’s hard to make exercise a habit. It feels like work, doesn’t it? Like something you’re supposed to do. And it involves a lot of things like scheduling it and getting dressed for it and doing it and sweating and those things don’t always sound fun.

There are lots of reasons we don’t exercise, but the real barrier isn’t lack of time or motivation or whatever else you say to yourself. It’s your mind.

Your mind is always looking for the shortcut and who can blame it? We all want to get there faster, see results right now, get to the finish line. But weight loss just doesn’t work that way. There is no shortcut.

There is no way to drop all the weight TODAY. If there were don’t you think I’d be rich and famous?

And skinny?

With that in mind, how do you make your mind, well, mind you? How do you change that instant-gratification mindset and look at exercise in a different way?

1. Ditch the All or Nothing Thinking

One reason we don’t exercise, or tell ourselves we can’t exercise, is the idea that we have to do a certain amount of exercise at a certain intensity for it to count.

Like, my mind always tells me I have to do an hour of exercise. But, sometimes I can’t do an hour or I don’t want to do an hour and my mind is like, “Well, let’s just skip it cuz what’s the point?”

That kind of thinking is one of the number one reasons we don’t workout.

You need to change that kind of thinking to this:

Everything Counts.

Like this:

  • Taking a walk
  • Going up and down the stairs a few extra times
  • Doing a few squats while waiting for your coffee to brew or your water to boil
  • Standing up and doing some stretching every now and then
  • Doing wall pushups
  • Doing some exercises while you watch TV – Crunches, squats, lunches, stretches

How about trying these Quick Fix Workouts?

2. Lower Your Expectations

Look – Here’s the thing. Exercise is NOT great at helping us lose weight. It’s just not. There are a lot of reasons, but here are just a few of them:

  • Exercising can increase your appetite and you may end up eating more without realizing it
  • We sometimes compensate for exercise – Meaning, resting more during the day which offsets the calories we burn
  • Exercise only accounts for about 10 to 30 percent of your total daily energy expenditure. Bummer
  • We don’t burn as many calories exercising as we think we do

I’m not saying “forget exercising – it’s a total waste of time.” What I AM saying is that you need different reasons to exercise than just weight loss because that has zero staying power.

As soon as you sweat through a week of workouts and see zero changes on the scale? You’ll be like – Why am I doing this to myself?

The key here is to dig deeper into why exercise is worth doing besides weight loss. I don’t have to go into all the health benefits – you know it helps with everything from depression and anxiety to preventing certain types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

All of that is great but it’s a little abstract, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not like you do a workout and get some sort of award that says, “You just prevented a heart attack 7 years from now!”

No, you need some kind of intrinsic motivation…here’s what I mean:

I exercise because I want to avoid gaining weight, but it also gives me energy and makes me feel better about myself. I’m willing to exercise, even though it’s not always fun, for those reasons.

Think about this: How can exercise be valuable in your life? Maybe it’s me-time, or feeling stronger or avoiding some condition that runs in your family. Maybe just avoiding someone in your family! Really think about this – make a list of everything that comes to mind.

What resonates with you?

3. Make Exercise Fit Into Your Current Life

One mistake I see people make is trying to change your schedule to fit around exercise. But when you think about that, you kind of go a little cuckoo.

Say you’re trying to do an hour of exercise in your already busy non-exercisey life. Now you have to take multiple steps to make that happen. You have to carve, not just an hour, but:

  • Prep time before your workout
  • Time to plan your workout
  • The actual workout
  • The post-workout shower and clean up

That’s a lot to add to your schedule if you’re not already doing, right?

So instead of trying to bend your life around that hour, bend exercise around your life. Can you take a brisk walk after lunch? Could you do three 10-minute workouts throughout the day? Maybe you could walk on your treadmill while watching a movie on your iPad.

Maybe a few minutes of yoga in the morning?

Be creative and be generous with yourself. What would really work?

4. Be Where You Are Not Where You Want to Be

This kind of fits in with the one above, but it bears repeating – We all approach exercise as though we should be working out at Level 10 when, really, we’re probably at a Level 2 or 3 because of long breaks, injuries and whatnot.

We also tend to think that we should workout like we did in our 20s. Yeah, I worked out like a madwoman and I didn’t even have to.

Now, if I could workout the way I did back then, I would look much different.

But I can’t and neither can you.

Ask yourself these questions:

Where is my body right now?

What does my body really need besides weight loss?

Is there something I need to take care of – an injury or chronic pain before I start exercising?

What would actually feel good to my body right now?

For example, coming off an injury, I realized that easy cardio and light stretching was what I really needed. My mind yelled at me to start jumping around but my body was like – “Look, I’m almost 50. You’re going to have to STFU.”

Listen to what your body needs and do that.

The bottom line is, making exercise something you actually want to do requires rewiring your brain a little and learning what ‘rules’ you have about exercise (I hate it, it takes too long, I can’t do the amount I’m supposed to) that you may not even be aware of.

Take some time to think about the simplest ways you can move more and do that.

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Why Your Waist Circumference Matters 100x More Than What You Weigh

How often do you step on the scale? A lot of us do it every single day and you probably do what I do: You step on it, you squint at the number, you feel like s**t and you shove it back under the bed hoping it will be more cooperative tomorrow.

Do you wish you could totally ditch your scale?

You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”. I mean, it doesn’t define you (obviously). Yet, it does sometimes, doesn’t it? It can determine how the start of each day feels.

But, here’s something to think about: Your weight only matters to a certain extent.

Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine).

Your Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”)

You’ve probably heard of body shapes, right? Like we’re all shaped like some kind of fruit like an “apple” or a “pear”? The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases)?

Yep – that apple!

And it’s not because of the fat you can see under the skin (aka subcutaneous fat) that you may refer to as a “muffin top”. The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is. It’s this “un-pinchable” fat.

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

That’s why your scale weight isn’t always the most important thing to look at. Where your fat is actually stored is more important than how much you weigh.

Am I an Apple or a Pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape. You can do it right now.

Here’s how

  1. Starting at the top of your hip bone, bring the tape around your body level with your belly button.
  2. Keep the tape straight – Look in the mirror to make sure it is and don’t pull it too tight.
  3. Inhale and then exhale. At the end of the exhale, make a note of the number on the tape.
  4. Pour yourself a glass of wine if needed.

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category. Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course. For men, the number is 40”.

Of course, this isn’t a diagnostic tool. There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one of them.

If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

  • Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways. First of all, it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food. Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day. Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer. It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles. Chicken, fish, tofu, yogurt – stuff like that.
  • Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more. Get some aerobic exercise. Lift some weights. Walk and take the stairs. It all adds up.
  • Stress less. Seriously! Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).

Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

1 lb Brussels sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)
2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
dash salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice. Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 15 minutes. Toss.

Bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K. You may want to eat them more often.

 

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-abdominal-fat-and-risk

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/visceral-fat-location

http://www.drsharma.ca/inspiring-my-interest-in-visceral-fat

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/abdominal-obesity/

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/weights-poids/guide-ld-adult/qa-qr-pub-eng.php#a4

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-proven-ways-to-lose-belly-fat/

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-tips-to-lose-belly-fat/

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Everything You Think You Know About Healthy Eating is Wrong and it’s Making You Fat and Tired

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the diet and nutrition info out there? Just standing in the grocery store line looking at the magazine headlines you’ll realize you don’t have the ‘5 Foods that Make You Skinny’ in your cart. Or what if you have the ‘3 Foods That are Dangerous for Your Health?’ What if you have one of those in there?

And then there are the experts trying to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right?

Well, maybe…

Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat. This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health.

Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.

What You Eat and Drink

The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important. Don’t get me wrong limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that’s simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.

When the intense focus on how much we ate didn’t work in the long run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn’t we? If it did, we would all be sitting around in our bathing suits looking at our 6-pack abs.

You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don’t forget to also pay attention to what you eat.

Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods). This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.

Instead of Counting Calories, Focus on This:

Most days of the week, this is what you should shoot for:

  • A colorful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Enough protein. Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
  • Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” – you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads. Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible. You don’t need to overdo it here. Just make sure you’re getting some high-quality fats.

How You Eat and Drink

The next simple tip: Pay attention to how you eat and drink. This sounds kind of obvious, but a lot of us eat mindlessly, myself included. Studies show that how you eat has more of an impact than we previously thought.

So think about this: Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from GI issues? Do you eat while doing something else like watching TV or messing around on your phone?

When it comes to how you eat let’s first look at “mindful eating”.

Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savor every bite. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste, and texture.

Breathe.

This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.

This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?

Thought so!

We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.

And don’t forget about drinking your food.

Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.

Don’t get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal, not a snack. And don’t gulp it down too fast.

If your smoothies don’t fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.

The bottom line is, keep it simple and the weight loss will come. Eat veggies at every meal, get enough protein and make sure you get some healthy fats in there. I know we’re all conditioned to believe that everything has to be low-fat, but most of that stuff is garbage. Our bodies need some fat to feel satisfied.

Next – Just slow down. Try for just one meal a day to take your time while you eat and see how that changes how much you eat.

Now if you want a smoothie that will actually fill you up with yummy goodness, try this recipe.

Recipe (Smoothie meal): Chia Peach Green Smoothie

Serves 1

handful spinach

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 banana

1 chopped peach

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Add ingredients to blender in order listed (you want your greens on the bottom by the blade so they blend better and have the chia on the bottom to absorb some liquid before you blend).

Wait a couple of minutes for the chia seeds to start soaking up the almond milk.

Blend, Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: Smoothies are the ultimate recipe for substitutions. Try swapping different greens, fruit or seeds to match your preference.

Bonus: Chia seeds not only have fiber and essential omega-3 fatty acids but they contain all of the essential amino acids from protein.

 References:

Dalen J, Smith BW, Shelley BM, Sloan AL, Leahigh L, Begay D. Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2010;18(6):260-264. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2010.09.008

20 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight

Nutrition Data Chia Seeds

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4 Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals

Sometimes those holiday feasts are just amazing. And it’s not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance. It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days, but it doesn’t always stop there, does it?

Sometimes we overeat on regular days.

Or at regular meals.

Or All. The. Time.

So, why do we do this? We may sit down at the table or at a restaurant with every intention of stopping when we’re full, only to clean the plate and feel awful afterward.

Triggers for Overeating

We know it while we’re doing it, but that often isn’t enough to stop us. What contributes? Just a few common culprits include:

  • Mindless eating
  • Big plates
  • Too much junk food – Junk food is addictive
  • We treat food like it’s a reward – Have you ever treated yourself to a treat after a workout?
  • We keep the naughty foods where we can see them…and eat them
  • We’re tired, stressed or bored
  • We skip meals and then go crazy when we finally eat

Why we overeat is important and it probably changes depending on the situation, but there are some very simple things you can do to cut down on the chances of eating too much.

Here are 4 tips to avoid overeating at meals.

(Psst, turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!)

Tip #1: Start with some water

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it’s too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food. But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger? Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten. And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (…just sayin’).

Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before your meal, leaving less room for the not-so-healthy stuff, but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.

And of course, you’re hydrating so your body, so you’re getting more energy. That doesn’t suck.

Win-win!

Tip #2: …Or start with some umami

You know that foods all have different tastes: Sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. But there’s another taste out there, what the Japanese call ‘umami.’ This includes foods that tend to be savory and include high protein foods like fish, meat and some dairy products.

What makes something umami? One key ingredient is glutamate, which is an amino acid…think of the miso soup or the soy sauce at a sushi place. That flavor is all umami and there’s some thought that having umami broth or soup supplemented with MSG may help you lose weight.

In one study published in the journal of Neuropsychopharmacology researchers gave healthy women either regular chicken broth or chicken broth with MSG. They evaluated changes after they ate and found that those who ate the broth-MSG combo ate less overall and even ate less saturated fat during their meal.

Other studies have shown the same thing, that broth and MSG prior to a meal can decrease appetite and food intake, especially in women with a propensity to overeat and gain weight.

Now you’ve probably heard that MSG is bad for your health, mostly because it’s blamed for causing allergic reactions. But, most experts today agree that MSG doesn’t cause sickness or allergic reactions…just one of those old wive’s tales that get passed around until we believe it’s true.

To get started, check out 8 Tips for Using MSG in Cooking and in Recipes. You can get some at Amazon – just like everything else!

Tip #3: Try eating “mindfully”

You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits? This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion. Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment, being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.

In one study published in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior experts studied 2 groups – Women who focused on mindful eating whenever they went out to eat and a control group who didn’t change anything.

The findings are pretty interesting – The mindful group lost significantly more weight, ate fewer calories and less fat, improved diet-related capability and had fewer barriers to losing weight when eating out.

Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savoring every mouthful. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste, and texture.

Breathe.

This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less. When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.

Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.

More: 6 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating

Tip #4: Start with the salad or veggies

You may be ready to dig into the main meal, but hold up a second. You can have that…but after your salad.

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller. They’re “satiating.”

And these secret weapons are great to have on your side whether it’s a one-time event or something you struggle with daily.

Summary:

Have your glass of water, try umami broth, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.

Recipe (Water): Tasty (and beautiful) Pre-Meal Water Ideas

If you’re not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:

  • Slices of lemon & ginger
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
  • Chopped pineapple & mango
  • Blueberries & raspberries

Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning. They’re already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer.

References:

Magerowski G, Giacona G, Patriarca L, et al. Neurocognitive effects of umami: association with eating behavior and food choice. Neuropsychopharmacology. March 2018:1. doi:10.1038/s41386-018-0044-6

Timmerman GM, Brown A. The Effect of a Mindful Restaurant Eating Intervention on Weight Management in Women. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2012;44(1):22-28. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2011.03.143

https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/
http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

 

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Why is My Metabolism Slow?

Metabolism is a word that comes up a lot when it comes to weight loss, and it’s obvious why – Your metabolism is the engine that drives your body. If it’s a little slow, you may feel tired, sluggish and, of course, feel like you’re gaining weight.

If your metabolism is fast then you’re not reading this because you’re probably out eating an entire pizza and not giving a s**t.

The thing is that our metabolisms can naturally drop about 5% for every decade after 40. So, if your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is 1400 at 40, over the course of the next 10 years, often less because the metabolism slows faster as we age (I know – not fair), that means you may need up to or more than 150 calories less to maintain your weight.

And most of us are not correcting for those unneeded calories, right?

The Basics of Your Metabolism

Your metabolism describes pretty much everything that happens in your body – Everything your body needs to do to stay alive. So, when we talk about increasing our metabolisms, we’re basically saying we want our bodies to burn more calories each day, which will leads to weight loss, right?

Well, it’s obviously not that simple because there are a variety of reasons your metabolism may slow down other than getting older. Let’s delve in, shall we?

What can slow my metabolism?

You already know that your metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy. And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

That’s why the whole calories in/calories out adage is pretty much crap when it comes to weight loss. Your metabolism is much more complicated than that, but there are some common reasons for a metabolic slow-down.

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

 Low thyroid hormones

Thyroid hormones directly regulate your metabolic rate and your body weight. It’s pretty much the master controller of your metabolism. When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down. The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active.

Ideally, it should work to keep your metabolism just right. But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course. Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid

  • Fatigue
  • Unable to sleep
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Depression and/or irritability
  • Feeling cold
  • Constipation
  • Brain fog

There are more and, obviously, these symptoms can crossover into other issues, so they don’t necessarily mean a thyroid problem. The only way to know that is to get to your doctor and get your thyroid tested.

What causes Underactive Thyroid

  • Family history
  • Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Medications such as steroids or lithium
  • Swelling of the thyroid

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

More: Is Your Thyroid the Reason Why You Can’t Lose Weight?

 Your history of dieting

Most of us have spent a large part of our lives dieting. A diet basically comes down to cutting calories enough that you lose weight. The trouble is, diets don’t work for the long term.

When you cut your calories too low, your metabolism actually slows down. On top of that, just losing weight at all causes your metabolic rate to slow down. This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to keep all your life functions going, but doing it all with less food.

So, here’s the deal:

  • Dieting without exercise can reduce fat, but it can also reduce the amount of muscle you have. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so when you lose it, your metabolism slows down.
  • When you diet and then go off the diet (as we do), your new metabolic rate is based on the new body mass – especially the amount of muscle you have.
  • According to one study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, when dieters got to their goal weight, their metabolic rate was severely depressed. They experienced immediate weight gain once they went back to their regular diets.

The bottom line is to avoid cutting your calories so low that your metabolism thinks there’s no food available and shuts down.

More: Calories: How to Know if You Go Too Low

 Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates. This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one. No that doesn’t mean you should gain weight to increase your metabolism. Obviously, if that worked we would all be sitting around in our bathing suits basking in the glow of life.

You can’t always change your body type or your frame size, but one that you can change is your body composition. This is key to increasing your metabolism and losing fat. In fact, it’s much more important than a number on the scale.

So, how do you change your body composition? Besides your diet (adding more protein helps) and cardio exercise, there’s something else that really helps:

Strength Training

When you lift weights, you can increase your metabolism by more than 50 calories a day, which helps close the gap between how much you’re eating and how much you’re burning.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy. Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat. This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

If you’re new to strength training, start with a Basic Total Body Workout about 2-3 days a week. Even using light weights can help you build lean muscle tissue and change your metabolism.

More – Body Fat Percentage Calculator

Which leads us to…

Your activity level

Now, while strength training and lean muscle tissue give you a long-term metabolic boost, cardio exercise actually temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also sweating, your heart rate is up and you feel like you’re exercising.

Try to get in regular cardio exercise every day like:

And don’t forget even little things can add up. Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

That’s all part of the other equation for your metabolism – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT. NEAT comprises the energy expenditure of all daily activities that aren’t planned exercise – Sitting, standing, fidgeting, basically any movement you do.

Get More NEAT

  • Walk more – at lunch, after dinner, to the store, around the block, etc.
  • Play with your dog
  • Wash your car by hand
  • Park further away when you’re shopping
  • Lap the park when you’re watching your kid’s game
  • Work in the yard or do more chores around the house
  • Use the bathroom on a different floor

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate. In fact, in one study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, researchers had healthy participants sleep for 4 hours a night for 6 nights, followed by 12 hours of sleep for 7 nights.

The findings? Even just a week of sleep deprivation resulted in significant drops in metabolism. Lack of sleep also changes your ‘hunger’ hormones, making your hungrier than you normally would be.

That could lead to overeating without you even realizing it. The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Go to sleep at the same time if you can and get up at the same time. Practice as much as you can and, if you can’t get it all in, try power naps.

More: How to Sleep Better

Recipe: Boost Your Metabolism

The following recipe contains selenium, a supplement that can help your thyroid stay healthy and keep your metabolism going.

Recipe (Selenium-rich): Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4

½ cup Brazil nuts
2 cups water
several layers of cheesecloth (optional)
½ cup chia seeds
¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk. If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined. Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Make a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries.

References:

Connolly J, Romano T, Patruno M. Effects of dieting and exercise on resting metabolic rate and implications for weight management. Fam Pract. 1999;16(2):196-201. doi:10.1093/fampra/16.2.196

Kinucan, P. Kravitz, L. Controversies in Metabolism. IDEAfit.com

Mullur R, Liu Y-Y, Brent GA. Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism. Physiol Rev. 2014;94(2):355-382. doi:10.1152/physrev.00030.2013

Sharma, S. Kavuru, M. Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. . 2010; 2010: 270832. Published online 2010 Aug 2. doi:  10.1155/2010/270832

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/metabolic-damage
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/thyroid-and-testing
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance
https://authoritynutrition.com/6-mistakes-that-slow-metabolism/
https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/
http://summertomato.com/non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis-neat

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3 Must Eat Breakfast Foods

So, let’s talk about breakfast. Like a lot of people, I tend to eat the same breakfast every day. Gone are the days when I actually made a meal and sat down to eat it..wait, I don’t ever think I did that after I left home.

These days I usually throw some fruit in a bowl, add some yogurt and voila! Breakfast is ready.

If you tend to do the same thing, here are some questions for you:

Do you love your breakfast?

Do you have a very short list of “go-to” recipes?

Do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?

If your answer is yes, then keep on reading.

Breakfast is for Champions

You know they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and here’s why: Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism and weight loss.

Protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolize it.

So here’s how you’re going to get all the protein you need, as well as veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favorite new “go-to” breakfasts.

 Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food and for a good reason. I know eggs got a bad rap awhile ago because they have some cholesterol and everyone freaked out about that.

Because of that, a lot of people started eating those processed egg whites in the carton. Kind of gross, right?

However, since then research has found that most of the cholesterol in our bodies is made by the liver – It doesn’t necessarily come from the foods we eat.

Now egg whites are good – they contain mostly protein, but the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses. Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Studies show that eggs help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin. Not only that, it’s easy to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

This easy recipe will keep you going all morning long:

Scrambled Eggs with Peppers and Kale

Alternatives to Eggs

I have to admit, I really wish I liked eggs. But I don’t, so I actually tried this recipe instead and it didn’t suck! I will say that working with tofu is something you need to practice.

And of course, anything with protein can replace eggs – Chicken sausage, turkey bacon, greek yogurt…you get the idea.

Tofu Veggie Scramble

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

Next on our list of must-eat breakfast food includes nuts and seeds. Why? Because they contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Nuts and/or seeds are great for breakfast. Besides the fact that they’re easy to grab and go if you’re running late, you can eat them just about anywhere without making a mess.

And there are lots of ways to incorporate them into your breakfast:

  • Add some nut butter to your breakfast smoothie
  • Add chia seeds to your yogurt, oatmeal or cereal
  • Sprinkle walnuts on your oatmeal, or spread peanut butter on some whole grain toast
  • Make a kind of ‘trail mix’ to add to your yogurt or cereal – Pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seeds, pecans, pistachios…store it in a bowl and add a couple of ounces to your protein.

Don’t be fooled by “candied” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butter, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter. Just add your regular hot coffee or tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy.

If you want something really good, try this one:

Nuts & Steeds Overnight N’Oats

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

Okay, I know. It’s hard enough to get all our vegetables in every day and, if you’re like me, you’ve probably eaten 10,000 salads. And veggies for breakfast? Um, that doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it?

But, veggies are critical because they’re powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and water. Adding them to your breakfast will give you all of those good things – Not a bad way to start the day, right?

The great thing is, you can have them any way you like – Heck, you can have roasted veggies or even a salad if you like. Too often we think there’s some kind of ‘official’ breakfast food. But there are no laws against making your own rules, right?

Here’s an idea: When making your veggies for dinner, make twice as much. Then add some lean protein in the morning and you’ve got a full meal with all the right things. Try a breakfast sausage, smoked salmon or even chicken.

The key is to open your mind to new possibilities, then search for ideas that fit what you need. For example, overnight oats are great because you make them the night before and they’re ready when you’re ready.

That’s my kind of meal.

Mixing things up will get those healthy foods into your diet and keep your metabolism cranking all day long.

I’ve included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customize) for your next breakfast.

Recipe (Eggs & Veggies): Veggie Omelet

Serves 1

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 or 2 eggs (how hungry are you?)
¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)
dash salt, pepper and/or turmeric

Add coconut oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred). In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices. Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil. Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.

When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favorite vegetable. Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato.

References:

Gray J, Griffin B. Eggs and dietary cholesterol – dispelling the myth. Nutrition Bulletin. 34(1):66-70. doi:10.1111/j.1467-3010.2008.01735.x

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/eggs-worse-than-fast-food
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/eggs/
https://authoritynutrition.com/eating-healthy-eggs/
https://authoritynutrition.com/12-best-foods-to-eat-in-morning/

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Is Sugar Making Your Belly Fat?

Gaining belly fat is one of the most frustrating things that happens as we get older. It seems to creep in overnight and then it stays, a silent stalker that makes us feel pretty crappy about ourselves.

We all know the major contributors to belly fat, right? Looking at it from a distance, it involves the Big 6:

  • Exercise (not enough)
  • Being active (not enough)
  • Diet (eating too much)
  • Stress (too much and)
  • Sleep (not enough)
  • Hormones (’nuff said)

But break it down and it’s a little different for all of us. Some of us might exercise, but our diets aren’t that great.

Or maybe some of us have more wine than we should every night.

Ahem.

But break it down further and there’s one thing we’re all probably guilty of:

Too Much Sugar.

And really, we’re not totally to blame for this because how the heck are we supposed to know how much added sugar we’re getting? Sure, you could control it if you made everything from scratch…yeah. Um, let’s get right on that, right?

Also, there are so many yummy processed foods out there – It’s impossible to avoid all of them, isn’t it? And then there’s eating out…it seems impossible. No we can’t get rid of all the sugar, but there is something we can do about it.

Sugar and Your Belly

What you need to know about added sugar is that it loves helping your body store extra belly fat.

First, let’s talk about insulin, which is basically the ‘belly fat hormone.’ The more insulin you have in your body, the more belly fat you’ll store. Eventually, having too much insulin makes you insulin-resistant which means, yep – Stubborn, won’t-go-away belly fat.

And? Now you’re at risk for diabetes.

So, when you eat too much added sugar, it contributes to that insulin-resistance. Plus, some types of sugar go right to your liver, which gets turned into fat.

So sugar = belly fat.

I know. Not fair.

How To Get Rid of Added Sugar

There are a few very basic ways to start lowering your sugar intake and I don’t think any of these will surprise you:

  1. Stop drinking stuff with sugar in it – Juice, sports drinks, Coke…you know what these are, right? And don’t forget that alcohol also has sugar in it, something my brain refuses to accept. Does not compute.
  2. Eat real food as much as you can – Meaning things like lean protein, salads, veggies while avoiding the chips, crackers and other starchy carbs that also love to go right to your belly.
  3. Exercise – Not only can exercise reduce cortisol (the other belly fat stress hormone), but it can actually lower your blood sugar levels so they stay more even and you don’t have as many cravings.
  4. Go for the unsweetened stuff – I know that blueberry yogurt is yummy, but stuff like that has a lot of sugar. If you’re into that on a daily basis, slowly start to add unsweetened yogurt by going half regular yogurt and half unsweetened. Do the same with your cereal or oatmeal – Get a lower sugar, higher fiber version and start mixing it in with your Fruity Pebbles (do they still make that?)
  5. Use unsweetened applesauce as a sub – I kind of find it amazing that you can use applesauce instead of sugar when you’re making all kinds of things. Not that I really bake, but if I did…

Okay – so those are some very simple things to think about, now let’s talk about how you can make things even easier.

Apps to Help You Monitor Your Sugar Intake

I’m not a fan of keeping track of numbers – who has time for that? I probably do, but I’d rather let someone else do that…which is why smartphones are an amazing tool for the whole sugar thing.

Below are just a few great apps that help you know what you’re eating and how to change it.

Sugar Rush

With this app, you can actually scan your food with the barcode, search for common foods or enter what you’re eating and it’ll tell you how much sugar is in there. Pretty handy.

Fooducate

This is more comprehensive, allowing you to track your eating and activities, but it also breaks down the sugar in your diet too.

Wholesome Healthy Eating

This neat little app lets you collect recipes from the web, track them and then the app gives you personal recommendations for making them healthier. You get points for good things like fruits and veggies and you lose points if you have too much sugar or salt.

And now here is the easiest, yummy, no-sugar recipe in the entire world. Even I made it and it’s good!

Banana Chia Crisps

The bottom line is, all you have to do is pick one way you can reduce your sugar. Maybe it’s a sugary breakfast you need to tackle or a late night sweet tooth. Pick one and just focus all your energy on that without worrying about the rest of your diet.

Once you’ve got that down, move on to the next. You may just find you not only lose more belly fat, but you just feel better.

Got a sugar tip? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Sources:

la Fleur SE, van Rozen AJ, et al. A free-choice high-fat high-sugar diet induces changes in arcuate neuropeptide expression that support hyperphagia. 2010 Mar;34(3):537-46. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.257. Epub 2009 Dec 22.

Schwarz JM, Clearfield M, Mulligan K. Conversion of Sugar to Fat: Is Hepatic de Novo Lipogenesis Leading to Metabolic Syndrome and Associated Chronic Diseases?   2017 Aug 1;117(8):520-527. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2017.102.

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Why Stress is Making Your Belly Fat and What to Do About It

Remember when you were a kid – like around 8 years old or so – and all you could think of was how fat your belly was?

Yeah…um no. That’s not something an 8-year-old (at least in the olden days) worries about, right?

Now, fast forward from your 8-year-old self to where you are now. For me? Late 40s. Now it’s a whole different story.

It’s like, one day you wake up and you have this belly and it’s gross and it’s in the way and it makes you have to buy new clothes because your old ones don’t fit.

There a variety of reasons we gain belly fat, from changes in hormones to a drop in metabolism. But one very important contributor?

STRESS

Are you stressed out right now? Unless you’re lounging on the deck with a glass of wine, you probably are. Or maybe you’re having that wine because you’re stressed…whatever.

The point is stress affects every aspect of our bodies, especially our bellies. When you get stressed, your body releases cortisol and guess what that does? It stimulates fat storage, particularly around the belly.

Why does this happen? Because our bodies protect us in times of stress by holding onto fat. Now, that was probably helpful back in cave-man days, but now it’s just wrong.

Get Control of Your Stress

If you really want to deal with stress and, in the process, stop the constant cortisol production that’s adding to your belly fat, you have to do one very important thing:

Put Yourself First

The only way to deal with this is to give yourself the time and attention you need to start reducing stress. Practicing a few tools on a regular basis will help you ramp down the cortisol and ramp up the fat loss:

#1 STOP

If you’re stressed, you probably aren’t even aware of the thoughts going on in your head. They’re probably racing because you’re thinking of All The Things:

  1. All the things you NEED to do
  2. All the things you HAVEN’T done
  3. All the things you HAVE to do later
  4. All the things you CAN’T do because you don’t have time

These racing thoughts are not helping you actually be productive, right? And if you want to get off that treadmill (the other one will at least help you burn calories) you have to create some space for you to address it.

#2 Do a Brain Dump

I keep a list of things I can do when I’m stressed because, when I get stressed, I get anxious and when I get anxious I can’t think straight and in that kind of environment – I can’t make even the simplest decisions.

If you find yourself in spin-mode, having a list of things to do to get out of it will immediately calm you down and help you feel more in control. The first thing you need to do is:

Change Your Perspective. This might mean simply walking into another room, taking a walk outside or going for a drive. Getting out of the environment where the spinny wheels are should immediately give you at least some sense of calm.

Now, after that, make list of everything that’s going on in your head. Things you need to do, things you’re worried about…everything. No filters, no stopping and thinking, just write (I prefer writing because it brings you into your head a little more than typing, but do your thing).

Once you’re done that, all that stuff is now out of your head and on paper, where you can actually deal with it.

Look at your list…is it crazy-long? Could any human being tackle this list all at once? Nope. And you don’t have to either.

#3 Get Real

Okay, now that you know where your stress is coming from, here’s where things get down and dirty. You need to get real about what you actually need to deal with and what you can either toss or put aside for another day.

Pick the one thing you’re the most stressed about and set aside some time to face it. If you’re stressed about your finances, digging into them will give you some control and that control will help you calm down.

Once you’ve dealt with it, you won’t feel as stressed.

It’s not always easy facing what’s stressing us out and, sometimes, there’s nothing we can do about it. Sometimes it’s an external person or force that’s stressing you out and that’s when you have to dig deep to find a way to deal with it in a calm way. For example, as I’m writing this my neighbor is sawing something big and it sounds like there’s a helicopter buzzing inside my office.

That is stressing me out but I can’t go punch him in the face, can I? No, but I can put on some headphones with some relaxing spa music so that I don’t give into my violent urges.

Here are some things to try to get your stress under control:

  • Keep a stress diary. Just a piece of paper or something on your smartphone. Set an alarm to go off every hour or so and check in with yourself. If you’re stressed, create some space to actually deal with it now so you don’t fall down the stress rabbit hole.
  • Watch how you talk to yourself. I don’t know how many times I say, “oh my god I am sooo stressed!” Every time I say that, I’m creating more stress.  When you hear your thoughts going in that direction, stop, take a step back and get a little perspective. Can you start a new story about yourself? Maybe say, “Okay, I feel overwhelmed.” Own it and then you can do something about it.
  • Make a worry appointment. This sounds silly but make an actual appointment later in the day to deal with all your worries. Then, every time you get worried about something, remember…you can do that later.
  • Play the 1-, 5- and 10-year game. If you’re stressing over something, ask yourself if you’ll even give a s**t about it in 1 year. 5 years? 10 years? If not, you’re probably wasting your energy.

We can’t get rid of stress and a certain amount is a good thing. But giving yourself permission to manage it on a daily basis is what you must do if you want to feel good and get rid of that extra belly fat. Breathe. It’s all going to be ok.

Source:

Blaine B. Does Depression Cause Obesity?: A Meta-analysis of Longitudinal Studies of Depression and Weight Control. J Health Psychol. 2008;13(8):1190-1197. doi:10.1177/1359105308095977

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