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Holiday Oatmeal‘Tis the season to be jolly! It’s December and we are in the heart of holiday season, a time filled with love, joy, rich food and decadent desserts. We attend holiday parties with friends and dine out at some of our favorite restaurants with family and significant others. Weight gain is one thing that is feared the most during the holidays. Consumers have one (or a few) “bad day(s)” of eating and want to “throw in the towel,” which is the wrong approach! Life is about having balance, not about being perfect. We all have our own weaknesses to face and obstacles to overcome.

 

Finding a way to incorporate nutrition and exercise into your lifestyle presents a different challenge for each person, which is why I always provide customized nutrition and fitness consulting expertise to my clients. Every individual has his or her own food likes and dislikes, food allergies and/or dietary restrictions based on past medical or family medical history. No one is exactly alike, which is why each body is unique and requires different nutrients and proportions. You should never compare yourself, and following the latest “diet trend” will not solve your problems. It is about learning what nutrients your body needs, and how to incorporate them into your daily lifestyle. You’re in for a treat because this month I have a challenge for you! It’s called the Holiday Challenge to “Eat Smart, Burn More and Maintain Balance. My challenge is focused on lifestyle as a whole, not just the eating component. It includes the following:

 

Make ½ your grains whole: Make sure at least ½ of the carbohydrates you’re consuming are high in fiber (>3 grams of fiber per serving). Fiber is important for healthy digestion, regular bowel movements, reducing bloating, maintaining good blood sugar control and increasing satiety (which can help you maintain or lose weight).

 

Sleep at least 7 hours per night: Lack of sleep can contribute to depression and increase rate of aging. When our bodies don’t get enough sleep, we produce more of the stress hormone called Cortisol, which can increase abdominal adiposity. Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin (a hormone that signals satiety) and elevations in ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates hunger). Your cravings will be revved up for high fat, high carbohydrate foods due to this shift in hormones. Our brain does not function as well with a lack of sleep, therefore we do not have the “mental strength” to make healthy food choices. For example, if we are presented with an option of a donut or veggies with hummus for a snack, consumers will be more likely choose the donut if they are sleep deprived.

 

IMG_7856Fit physical activity into your day: Goal of 30 minutes of activity 4 times per week (at least). If you are advanced and exercise at a high intensity on a regular basis, than 1 hour of physical activity 5 times per week is a good goal. I realize that we all have very busy schedules, which are even more compacted during the busy holiday time. However, we can’t make excuses everyday. I love the saying, “It’s not about having the time, it’s about MAKING the time.” We need to be strong and get it done! I encourage you to set goals, create a support system and grab a workout buddy to hold yourself accountable. Find a sport or activity that you enjoy, and make it fun, instead of a chore.

 

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KIND 2Have you tried the new STRONG & KIND protein bars? I had the pleasure of working with KIND to assess the nutritional health benefits and breakdown of these bars, long before they were out in stores. It was fun coming across them at Trader Joe’s this week while doing my weekly grocery shopping. They were pleasantly displayed front and center at the check out register. The STRONG and KIND protein bar is very unique because it is gluten free, non-GMO (genetically modified organism), low glycemic index, high fiber and high in protein, but does not contain any whey or soy (which is the primary protein source used in many protein/snack bars on the market). You might be wondering where the protein is coming from.  Well, KIND always sticks with it’s motto of adding whole, natural ingredients that you can see and pronounce, and along with it’s natural source of protein (nuts and seeds), KIND has added a well balanced plant based pea protein.

 

Pea ProteinBenefits of pea protein:

  • Hypoallergenic: many people develop intolerances to whey or soy protein over time, resulting in a bloated, uncomfortable feeling and other stomach issues
  • High in BCAA (branched chain amino acids) which aid in muscle building, decreased body fat and increased satiety, and energy during workouts
  • 100% vegan (plant based with no added ingredients), gluten free

 

 

The STRONG and KIND protein bar  provides a bold and savory taste versus the sweet taste (coming from yogurt or dried fruit) found in other KIND bar varieties. I tasted the roasted jalapeno, and the honey smoked BBQ varieties and loved them! It is a great pre workout snack or travel nutrition (on the go) for people of all ages and gender.

 

KIND 3There are so many protein bars and snack bars on the market, which makes it very difficult for consumers to know which one to buy. The problem with many of the snack and protein bars on the market is that they are high in saturated fat, which will contribute to increased LDL (bad cholesterol) and therefore increase your risk of heart disease. Other snack bars are too high in sugar, or processed ingredients such as preservatives or fillers for longer shelf life. If a product is lower in sugar, then it is usually higher in salt (i.e. take out one poison and replace it with another).

 

The reason I love KIND is that is always stays true to it’s motto of using ingredients that are natural, that you can see and pronounce. They work hard to find a perfect blend of low sugar, low salt, high fiber and low fat (saturated fat) and include heart healthy monounsatured fats.

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IMG_0287Have you tried a juice cleanse before? Over the weekend, I decided to get adventurous with Juice Crafters, and try their 1 day “Master Cleanse.” This cleanse is designed to improve your day-to-day health and help your body eliminate toxins while replacing them with powerful nutrients. It consists of 8 cold pressed, raw juices each containing unique and beneficial ingredients to detox, improve health, enhance beauty, increase energy and immune function. The goal is to drink one juice every two hours and drink about 6-8 cups of water throughout the day in between juices. The order in which you drink the juices is also very important. Juice Crafters gave me a reminder sheet with the juices listed in the order to be consumed.

 

As a Registered Dietitian, I see many clients who ask about “cleansing” and “detox” juice blends. Usually my clients are inclined to ask about these after a stink of traveling, unhealthy eating and drinking, dining out or recent weight gain. My answer to them is that our bodies are equipt with all of the necessary organs to detoxify, such as the liver, kidneys and lungs. However, because these organs are working around the clock, day in and day out, (somedays more than others depending on what you ate and drank) it is nice to give them a break once in a while. A 1-3 day juice cleanse that is packed with nutrients is the best way to do it! Please note that I don’t recommend doing the old “lemon, honey, water and cayenne pepper cleanse” that people have been doing for years to gain quick weight loss results because it will deplete your body of nutrients and lead to dehydration.

 

Juice Crafters on the other hand, is a great way to hit the “reset” button on your digestive tract and organs, and allow your body to filter many of the toxins that could have been lingering in your body for quite some time. Most people are aware that fruits and vegetables are “good for you.” However, I am here to explain the health benefits of each juice based on their ingredients. Each one of the juices contains a rich source of fiber, which helps keep you full and promotes a healthy and regular digestive tract.

 

  1. IMG_0288Greenest #3: consists of spinach, kale, romaine, cucumber, parsley, celery, lemon, apple and ginger.

RD insight:

  • Green vegetables are one of the best types of foods to consume in the morning because you are coming from an overnight fast and need to balance blood sugar levels. These greens are specifically high in antioxidants which are cancer fighting, rich in calcium, fiber, Vitamin K, C, A, B, iron, folate, magnesium, and omega 3 fatty acids (important for brain function).
  • The lemon helps the body become more alkaline (balanced) and can also enhance the absorpotion of iron (from leafy green vegetables) in the body which is important for red blood cell formation that deliver oxygen to the body’s tissues.
  • The apple provides soluble fiber which will help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and reduce risk of heart disease while also providing a slighlty sweet taste but without any added sugar.
  • The ginger has a great anti-nausea effect, as well as anti-viral properties which helps boost immune function.

 

  1. IMG_0289Cleaner #10: consists of pineapple, apple, and mint.

RD insight:

  • Pineapple contains an important enzyme called bromelain which improves protein and nutrient digestion, reduces inflammation, prevents blood clotting and can help reduce swelling post surgery or reduce joint and muscle pain post injury.
  • The phytonutrients (plant nutrients) in apples can help regulate blood sugar which is especially important for anyone who is diabetic or pre-diabetic. Apples are also high in antioxidants which can prevent cancer (more specifically colon and breast cancer) and heart disease.
  • Mint helps to reduce inflammation, and activates the salivary glands in our mouth which secrete digestive enzymes to soothe the stomach and facilitate digestion. It is also used as a palate cleanser after the appetizer and before the main course. It is a stimulant which may help to increase weight loss, alertness and decrease fatigue.

At this point in the cleanse, I felt great! I felt energized, full and satisfied. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I didn’t feel like I was missing out this morning. Juice Crafters was providing me with all of the necessary nutrients to keep my mind and body running at full speed.

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Cacao powderGood news for chocolate lovers! Not only is cacao an extremely healthy alternative to any other dessert when you have a sweet tooth, but it is also a superfood that is anti-aging and can help combat disease! Cacao contains an enzyme called theobromine, which is a non-addictive stimulant that can boost energy, enhance circulation by promoting dilation, lower blood pressure, and may help to treat depression.

 

The Mayan superfoood in its raw form contains a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, copper, zinc, potassium, oleic acid (monounsaturated fat), and Vitamins E, B2, B1, B5, B3, B9. These vitamins and minerals are important to help support the body in everyday function.

 

The fiber helps to stimulant digestive enzymes. A healthy digestive tract will also lead to a strengthened immune system. I like the Navitas Naturals brand, which is 100% cacao powder, USDA organic, non-gmo, vegan, kosher, gluten free.

 

Nutritional Breakdown of Cacao powder (1.5 tbsp. serving) = 60 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 10 mg sodium, 243 mg potassium, 92 mg magnesium, 4 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein. It is great in smoothies or with baking.

 

Cacao beans contain natural chemicals called flavonoids (particularly anthocyanin), a type of antioxidant compound that promotes health and can prevent diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Cacao antioxidants block LDL (bad cholesterol) oxidation, that improve blood flow and prevent plaque formation in arteries that lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries).

The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compared the antioxidant capacity of black tea, green tea, red wine, blueberries and cocoa and found that cocoa (in it’s natural, unprocessed form) had the highest antioxidant capacity coupled with the greatest health benefits. The phytochemical analysis of cacao beans reveals that raw chocolate is perhaps the most chemically complex food on earth.

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Acai bowlWhat does it mean to “eat clean?” It is a buzz topic centered around the consumption of healthy, whole, unprocessed foods. We see so many different things in the media every day directing us on what to eat, and what not to eat. Nutrition is ever changing and evolving, with new studies and research out all of the time telling us what will help or hurt us nutrition wise. I am here as your go-to Registered Dietitian to separate theory and fact regarding nutritional benefits (or hazards) of foods.

 

Clean Eating dates back to the 1960’s but the lines of “wholesome” food have been blurred with the constant increase in processed snack foods that appear healthy from the front packaging but actually contain unhealthy ingredients when you read and dissect the nutrition facts label. Many companies try to make their foods appear as “whole” and “natural” to the consumer, when in reality, there is added sugar, salt or even trans fat to preserve the shelf life of the product. It is important to stay educated about these foods. I help my clients select nutrient packed foods to create balanced meals during my grocery store tours. They are always astonished to see what foods really pan out to be as good for you, as they appear from the front packaging.IMG_7072

Guidelines for clean eating:

  1. Choose whole, natural foods instead of processed foods – The majority of these foods should be fresh with no additives or preservatives. Red flags on the ingredients list include: high fructose corn syrup, partially or fully hydrogenated oils, and/or any dyes (food coloring).

  1. Eat small, frequent meals – Consuming 5-6 meals spread throughout the day can help you maintain or lose weight (lose fat mass and increase lean muscle), maintain good blood sugar control, boost metabolism, increase energy and mental focus/clarity during your work or school day.

  1. Incorporate balanced meals –  It is very important to include a lean protein, high fiber carbohydrate and heart healthy fat at every meal. Many people consume inadequate protein during their breakfast and lunch meals, and try to make up for it during dinner. This is the perfect example of when ¾ of your calories are consumed at 3pm or later and affects body composition, causing increased fat mass. Make sure to incorporate lean proteins with each meal to increase satiety, help with muscle maintenance or building and weight control.IMG_7070

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CerealThe summer has flown by too quickly and now it’s time for kids to go back to school! Parents are stocking up on school supplies to prepare their children with all the necessary tools they need for class. One thing that is often overlooked during the hustle and bustle of getting our kids off to school in the morning is making a balanced and healthy breakfast. It doesn’t have to be expensive or take a lot of preparation to be healthy. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it literally means “breaking” the “fast” and therefore it is crucial to fuel properly in the morning or else you will literally be “running on fumes” (low energy, no fuel).

 

Food that is healthy does not have to take on the stereotype of “tasting like cardboard.” Many parents will feed their children a glass of juice (approximately 20-35 grams of sugar per 8 ounce glass) paired with a choice of convenient breakfast food (i.e. Pop tart, donut, croissant, cinnamon roll or sugary cereal such as Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch to name a few) which is a recipe for disaster. Many parents are unaware of the drastic effect that these foods have on blood sugar levels. These foods are packed with refined sugar and contain no nutritional value (i.e. fiber, vitamins or minerals). Excessive amounts of refined sugars are directly linked to weight gain, childhood obesity, hypertension, headaches, fatigue, Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and acne.

 

DonutsForbes stated that in 2012, Americans consumed about 130 pounds of sugar per year (equivalent to 765 grams of sugar or 191 teaspoons) and the number continues to rise. Americans consume 10 times more sugar than other food additives. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar per day. The average adult consumes 22 teaspoons (88 grams) per day and the average child consumes 32 teaspoons (128 grams) per day. Sugar is highly addictive, so the more you have, the more you want. It is a vicious cycle that can be broken by making lifestyle behavior modifications and incorporating healthier foods and beverages on a regular basis.

 

There are so many healthy foods that children enjoy and believe to be delicious, but are not consumed often enough. It is just about being aware as a parent, doing your research and learning how to read a nutrition facts label. It is important to avoid all foods with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and partially or fully hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and foods high is saturated fats. These unhealthy fats (i.e. trans and saturated fats) contribute to increasing LDL (bad cholesterol), clogging arteries and increasing heart rated conditions.

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