Monday, June 20, 2005

Dining out is not necessarily bad for your diet - tips to avoid excess calories

Here's food for thought! Did you know the average restaurant meal has over 1,000 calories? That's enough to blow any healthy eating plan. Fortunately, by following a few simple guidelines, you can dine out without having to sacrifice good taste and nutrition.

1. Avoid ordering an appetizer. It's a little known fact that some appetizers have more calories and fat than the main course. Plus, many appetizers are fried and served with heavy sauces which will add to your intake of saturated fat as well as trans fats and calories. It's not a healthy way to start your meal.

2. Say "yes" to salad. Salad is a healthy eater's best friend. Not only will it fill you up so you'll consume fewer calories overall, but it will also give you a hefty dose of antioxidants which are heart healthy. Be sure to ask your waitress to hold the croutons and cheese which will further reduce your caloric load. Also, choose your dressing wisely. Avoid cream based dressings and go for the vinegar based ones. You also have the option of using vinegar and olive oil which is heart healthy.

3. Make the right entree selection. Go for broiled and grilled rather than fried. Not only will you save calories and fat grams, you'll also avoid trans fats which are so prevalent in fried foods. Instead, consider asking for a doubles order of vegetables with your entree. Very few Americans are getting the 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables recommended for optimal health. Plus, by avoiding the starch, you'll be reducing your caloric and carbohydrate load. Also, stick to tomato based sauces rather than cream based and you'll enjoy a considerable calorie savings. Lastly, ask for the sauce to be served in a separate dish on the side so you can control the amount you eat.

4. Think about what you're drinking with your meal. By not ordering an alcoholic beverage, you've saved yourself a considerable number of calories. Try sipping iced tea sweetened with a noncaloric sweetener, a diet soft drink, or water with lemon. You'll be glad you did when you consider the calorie savings.

5. Indulge your sweet tooth wisely. Many of the chain restaurants now offer a low fat or low carbohydrate dessert selection such as a low carb cheesecake. These are wise choices for the health conscious eater and still allow you to end the meal on a sweet note. If a healthy dessert option isn't available, try a cup of coffee with skim milk to help satiate your desire for something sweet.

6. Learn to control your portions. Many restaurants are serving larger quantities of food than in the past. If this is the case, put aside a portion of your entree at the beginning of the meal to take home with you. If you remove it from your plate before you start eating, you'll be less tempted to overindulge.

By following these steps, you can make your dining experiences not only healthy, but enjoyable. Your heart will thank you!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Attack Fat This Summer!

Summer is about to be in full swing, and it's that time when
everyone wants to look impressive in their "lack" of clothing.
While I can't promise you that you'll achieve a fitness model
body, I can at least give you some simple but important tips in
achieving a leaner physique. Listen up! Behavioral changes
guarantee your success - not just knowledge alone. You may
already have drawn out your road map with your nutritional plan
and your workouts, so take that strategy and ACT on it. Stay
motivated and consistently remind yourself of your fitness goal.
Here are 11 basic tips to get you jumpstarted!

1. CUT THE SIMPLE CARBS. It's unfortunate that the majority of
society is a "carb junkie." This especially applies to
overweight individuals mainly because their bodies struggle with
insulin sensitivity. Our body absolutely needs carbohydrates,
but one has to learn to appropriately reverse the ratio of simple
carbs (high glycemic) to complex carbs (low glycemic). Most
importantly reducing total sugar intake. Having a positive ratio
of complex to simple carbs will allow the body to regulate blood
sugar levels, burn more fat as fuel, and ultimately lose more

2. EAT SMALLER, MORE FREQUENT MEALS. Smaller, frequent feedings
about every 3-4 hours prevents your blood sugar levels from
spiking dramatically throughout the day. This helps your
hormones stay in check, while regulating hunger as well.
Ultimately, it helps elevate metabolism, it's easier on your
digestive system, and it can eventually provide you with more
energy throughout the day.

3. CONSUME MORE FUNCTIONAL FATS. Essential fatty acids, such as
omega-6 and omega-3 consumed in appropriate ratios of 2:1 or
better yet at 1:1 will allow the body to regulate your hormones,
calm down inflammation, and stabilize blood sugar levels. This
eventually leads to greater fat loss. So suck it up, and buy
your fish and flax oils at your local health food store.

4. DOWN THAT WATER. Water is often overlooked, but it's the
number one nutrient for our body to survive. Staying hydrated
aids with digestion, curbs your appetite, and flushes our
metabolic waste. Make sure to get in at least 64 oz per day.

5. INCREASE FIBER INTAKE. This nutrient keeps food moving along
your gastrointestinal tract, and like water, it aids in flushing
metabolic waste. It also helps maintain consistent energy
levels, slows the rate of carbohydrate digestion, which
stabilizes blood sugar levels.

6. ABSTAIN FROM ALCOHOL. Not only is alcohol estrogenic
(negatively affects testosterone for men), can lead to fat gain,
and has a whopping nutrition-empty 7 calories per gram, but it
takes precedence over fat metabolism when introduced into the
body. Alcohol actually shuts down the fat burning mechanism for
up to 48 hours, so avoid it as much as possible.

7. SPICY METABOLISM. Incorporating a variety of spices in your
foods such as curry, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and certain herbs
may help boost your metabolism. Spices also help with
stabilizing blood sugar levels.

activity may burn a great deal of calories, especially when
maintained at a high intensity, you'll achieve greater success by
combining it with resistance training. This is because proper
resistance training stresses all of your muscles fiber types
(Type 1 and Type 2). When you stress your muscles effectively,
you either maintain and strengthen your current muscle mass or
you even gain some. For every pound of muscle you gain it
equates to 50 extra calories you can burn per day. So remember
to hit the weights at least three times per week along with your

9. SLOW DOWN YOUR EATING. No one truly gets to sit down and
have a nice relaxing meal nowadays, especially with our busy
schedules. Learning and realizing to slow down the pace at which
we eat prevents compulsive overeating and assists our digestion.
It takes at least 20 minutes between the time you're full and
when your brain actually realizes it. Slowing your eating will
also allow you to enjoy your meal.

10. WATCH FOR FOOD ALLERGIES. Many people are allergic to dairy
and wheat products. Being sensitive to these two food categories
have been shown to cause weight gain. If you're consuming a diet
high in refined foods, these sensitivities become more evident.
This causes digestive problems such as bloating, stomach pain,
and water retention. If you're not sure you may want to consider
an allergy test.

11. GET YOUR ANTIOXIDANTS. Getting your daily dose of
antioxidants from either a good multi-vitamin, a specific
antioxidant supplement combination, or even a healthy combination
of fruits and vegetables is important for combating toxins held
in fat cells. Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, E, polyphenols
in green tea, etc. help your body reduce the time that toxins
stay in your system.

So there it is - 11 basic tips to help you achieve a healthier
and leaner physique. It's never to late to take action. Have
fun and enjoy the summer!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Know Thy Food Label

Whether you're concerned about cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or simply losing weight, you want to eat a healthy diet and focus on foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and balanced in fats, carbs, proteins.

There is only one way to incorporate healthy foods into our diet and that is to make the decision to do it! Practical information about the nutrition and safety of the foods we consume is absolutely vital in making this decision.

One way to learn more about what we eat, is to snoop around the supermarket. Check-out package labels to see what manufactures are adding (or removing) from the foods we eat. Read the information on the package and start making comparisons to determine which foods are the best for YOU. Know about nutritional labeling and the sometimes sneaky ways that manufacturers have of hiding what is in the food. Know and understand ingredient declarations, how they are used, and what a few of the "technical" terms mean. Are the unfamiliar ingredients good or bad for your health?

Since 1994 food manufacturers have been required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to include food labels (or Nutrition Facts labels) on product packaging so that consumers have accurate nutritional information about the food they purchase. But food labels are more than just a federal requirement – once you understand the information they provide, you can use food labels as a guide to planning healthier meals and snacks.

Food labels are required on almost all foods, except those that don't provide many nutrients such as coffee, alcohol and spices. Although some restaurants provide information about the food they serve, they aren't required to have labels. The FDA recommends that sellers provide nutritional information on produce, meat, poultry and seafood, but it's strictly voluntary.

What Is a Serving?

At the top of a food label under Nutrition Facts, you'll see the serving size and the number of servings in the package. The rest of the nutrition information in the label is based on one serving.

Calories, Calories From Fat and Percent Daily Values

This part of a food label provides the calories per serving and the calories that come from fat. If you need to know the total number of calories you eat every day or the number of calories that come from fat, this section provides that information. Remember that this part of the label doesn't tell you whether you are eating saturated or unsaturated fat.

On the right side of a food label, you'll see a column that lists percentages. These percentages refer to the percent daily values (%DV). Percent daily values tell you how much of something, whether it's fat, sugar or vitamin A, one serving will give you compared to how much you need for the entire day. It will help you gauge the percentage of a nutrient requirement met by one serving of the product. One way to use this section of the label is when you comparison shop. For example, if you're concerned with sodium, you can look at two foods and choose the food with the lower % DV. Are you trying to eat a low-fat diet? Look for foods that have a lower percent daily value of fat.

The %DV is based on how much or how little of the key nutrients you should eat whether you eat 2,000 or 2,500 calories a day. So if you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, you should eat less than 65 grams of fat in all the foods you eat for the day. If you're eating 12 grams of fat in your one serving of macaroni and cheese (remember that's one cup), you can calculate how much fat you have left for the day. You can use the bottom part of the food label in white to compare what you are eating to the % DV you're allowed for that nutrient, whether it's fat, sodium or fiber. If you need more or less than 2,000 or 2,500 calories, you'll need to adjust this accordingly.


Fat, Sugar, Sodium and Carbohydrate

The sections on a food label shows the name of a nutrient and the amount of that nutrient provided by one serving of food. You may need to know this information, especially if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or are eating a diet that restricts certain nutrients such as sodium or carbohydrates.

Food labels also include information about how much sugar and protein is in the food. If you are following a low-sugar diet or you're monitoring your protein intake, it's easy to spot how much of those nutrients are contained in one serving.

Vitamins, Minerals and Other Information

The light purple part of the label lists nutrients, vitamins and minerals in the food and their percent daily values. Try to average 100% DV every day for vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and fiber. Do the opposite with fat, saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. Try to eat less than 100% DV of these.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Reading a Food Label

Until you become accustomed to reading food labels, it's easy to become confused. Avoid these common mistakes when reading labels:

-A label may say that the food is reduced fat or reduced sodium. That means that the amount of fat or sodium has been reduced by 25% from the original product. It doesn't mean, however, that the food is low in fat or sodium. For example, if a can of soup originally had 1,000 milligrams of sodium, the reduced sodium product would still be a high-sodium food.

-Don't confuse the % DV for fat with the percentage of calories from fat. If the % DV is 15% that doesn't mean that 15% of the calories comes from fat. Rather, it means that you're using up 15% of all the fat you need for a day with one serving (based on a meal plan of 2,000 calories per day).

-Don't make the mistake of assuming that the amount of sugar on a label means that the sugar has been added. For example, milk naturally has sugar, which is called lactose. But that doesn't mean you should stop drinking milk because milk is full of other important nutrients including calcium.

Reading Label Lingo

In addition to requiring that packaged foods contain a Nutrition Facts label, the FDA also regulates the use of phrases and terms used on the product packaging. Here's a list of common phrases you may see on your food packaging and what they actually mean.

No fat or fat free - Contains less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving Lower or reduced fat: Contains at least 25 percent less per serving than the reference food. (An example might be reduced fat cream cheese, which would have at least 25 percent less fat than original cream cheese.)

Low fat - Contains less than 3 grams of fat per serving.

Lite - Contains 1/3 the calories or 1/2 the fat per serving of the original version or a similar product.

No calories or calorie free - Contains less than 5 calories per serving.

Low calories - Contains 1/3 the calories of the original version or a similar product.

Sugar free - Contains less than 1/2 gram of sugar per serving.

Reduced sugar - at least 25% less sugar per serving than the reference food.

No preservatives - Contains no preservatives (chemical or natural).

No preservatives added - Contains no added chemicals to preserve the product. Some of these products may contain natural preservatives.

Low sodium - Contains less than 140 mgs of sodium per serving.

No salt or salt free - Contains less than 5 mgs of sodium per serving.

High fiber - 5 g or more per serving (Foods making high-fiber claims must meet the definition for low fat, or the level of total fat must appear next to the high-fiber claim).

Good source of fiber - 2.5 g to 4.9 g. per serving.

More or added fiber - Contains at least 2.5 g more per serving than the reference food.

With a little practice, you will be able to put your new found knowledge about food labeling to work. Reassess your diet and decide what needs to be changed. Start by eliminating the foods that don't measure-up to your nutritional wants and needs, and replacing them with more nutritional substitutes.

And while you're at it, visit the FDA website and learn about the new labeling requirements, including those for "trans" fat. Like saturated fats, trans fats can raise levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and increase your risk of heart disease. The "Nutrition Facts" panel on food packaging must provide this information beginning January 1, 2006, but most manufacturers will start providing it sooner.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Can’t Lose Weight? Syndrome X May Be the Culprit

“I’ve put on 40 pounds in one year!” “It doesn’t matter how much I workout, I can’t lose weight.” “My doctor must think I’m eating pizzas in the closet.”

With nearly 4 million Americans weighing in at over 300 pounds, is it any wonder the above cries are heard each and every day by countless frustrated people who can’t lose weight? One such cause for the ever increasing need to buy larger pants is a disease known as Syndrome X.

Syndrome X is also referred to as Metabolic Syndrome, Metabolic Syndrome X and Insulin Resistance. It is a very common disease; however it is widely overlooked by many medical professionals. One statistic reveals 1 in 3 people suffer from it.

This syndrome is a precursor to developing Diabetes Type 2. Sufferers have a high level of insulin. Their bodies are unable to process all the insulin that is being made from their diet. As a result, they become insulin resistant.

Think of it like this: You knock on someone’s door because you want to come in. If they don’t answer, what normally happens? You knock again, right? Sometimes you may even knock a third time, trying to gain entry. Insulin works in the same manner. The pancreas produces insulin (knock). Some foods cause the body to produce even higher levels of insulin (knock again). Once you become insulin resistant, develop Syndrome X, the body is unable to properly process the glucose, therefore the pancreas tries to make up for it by producing even more insulin. It thinks “no one is home” and just keeps making more.

The main purpose of glucose is to be used as fuel for the cells in the body to produce energy. Unprocessed glucose translates into fat. If the body keeps making it and it’s not being processed, where does it go? Hips, thighs, stomach, and buttocks, that’s where!

In addition to hypertension and heart disease, elevated insulin may be associated with weight gain and difficulty with weight loss, other blood sugar problems such as hypoglycemia, and some menstrual related imbalances.

Genetics is partially responsible for causing this disease. More likely though is lifestyle. In many cases years of high starch, processed foods, simple sugars, lack of exercise, smoking, and increased stress may be the culprit for Metabolic Syndrome X.

Now what? For starters, start exercising today. Increase water intake and totally omit starches, sugars, processed foods from your diet. Limit or omit caffeine. Try to maintain at least one third of your daily food intake to vegetables. Ask your doctor to test your sugar levels. Change what you’re eating and get walking and you’ll be amazed at the pounds start to fall off. The fatigue and fuzziness will start to disappear and in turn you’ll feel much better.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Negative Side Effects to Caffeine

Caffeine is big business. There are new coffee shops popping up all over the place. You can’t go far without running into a Starbucks. "Let’s get together for coffee. Time for a coffee break. Coffee pot goes off before my feet hit the floor. Travel mugs for sipping coffee on your way to work. I’ll just have this chocolate bar to pick me up this afternoon." Caffeine - It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere!

Many people have grown so accustomed to having their morning coffee or soda that they don’t even consider the damaging effects caffeine has on the body. On the contrary, most will tell you that they NEED their jolt to get them moving in the morning or to keep them upright throughout the day. Caffeine is present not only in coffee, but also tea, soda, chocolates and in certain pain relievers, such as aspirin or acetaminophen. It is also sometimes used in combination with an antihistamine to overcome the drowsiness caused by the antihistamine.

If you don’t think it’s addicting, try going off caffeine, cold turkey. See if you don’t have a headache for two to nine days. That’s caffeine withdrawal! You don’t need to be a coffeeholic to experience negative physical symptoms. Even as little as one to two cups a day can negatively affect you.

You may be experiencing a number of physical ailments that could be caused solely from caffeine. The most common side effects of caffeine include dizziness, headache, irritability, muscle tension, nausea, nervousness, stuffy nose, unusual tiredness and jitters.

Too much (overdose) of caffeine can give you all sorts of grief such as stomach pain agitation, anxiety, restlessness, confusion, seizures, dehydration, faster breathing rate, fast heartbeat, fever, frequent urination, increased sensitivity to touch or pain, irritability, muscle trembling or twitching, vomiting, sometimes with blood, fibrocystic breast disease, ringing or other sounds in ears, seeing flashes of “zig-zag” lights, and trouble in sleeping. If you are diabetic or insulin resistant, caffeine causes your body to produce more insulin and you don’t want that. Caffeine makes all aspects of a menstrual cycle worse. Isn’t that bad enough some months?

The next time you experience any of the above symptoms, try cutting back on caffeine. That may be all it takes to take care of the problem. Reduce caffeine intake gradually to prevent any symptoms of withdrawal. Cut back on your intake or combine a mixture of caffeinated and decaffeinated beverages until you’re totally weaned off. People can, and do, survive ridding their bodies of all caffeine. And they’re feeling much better for it!