In an effort to simplify my life this holiday season, a theme that resonates with me every year, I have been thinking about ways to pare down my life. This thought started with a simple trip to the grocery store where I noticed the shelves were filled with an overabundance of holiday food items, that sadly, go to waste. It goes without saying that we live in a world of abundance, particularly when it comes to food. Of course, this is not a blog about world hunger, but it certainly gives you something to think about in this season of plenty.
Obviously, being a nutrition professional, I have a love of food so I am not going to totally forgo the joy of baking, just stick to my favorites that I know will be savored by family & friends alike. My personal favorite holiday treat is Hazelnut Maple Biscotti; nothing beats this divine combination of chocolate and hazelnuts.
So, I will savor my biscotti and all the simple pleasures the season has to offer.
Hazelnut Maple Biscotti
Hazelnuts (a tree nut) are a good source of folate & dietary fiber.
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup hazelnut butter (I ground my hazelnuts which is actually pretty simple)
¼ cup butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1-tablespoon hazelnut liquor (optional)
3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup lightly toasted hazelnuts
Semi-sweet or Bittersweet Chocolate for drizzle
Preheat oven to 325. Line cookie sheet with parchment or silpat. In a medium bowl, cream together maple syrup, hazelnut butter and butter. Add eggs, vanilla and liquor, blending well. In a larger bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir to blend. Make a well into dry ingredients, add egg mixture and mix until incorporated. Add nuts. (Knead by hand if necessary). On a lightly floured board, divide dough into half and roll into 2 14-inch logs. Place logs on prepared sheet, then flatten about 1 inch high. Bake for 25 minutes or until loaves spring back when touched lightly. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Reset oven to 300. Slice cookies on the diagonal. Place slices flat on baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes (a lot of this process is trial and error; I like my cookies crisp so I bake longer). Remove from oven and let cool. Drizzle with chocolate (or dip in chocolate) if desired.
Last month’s blog covered Part 1 of habits for weight loss & maintenance. The article outlined the 7 Habits of People Who Lost 30 + Pounds & Kept the Weight Off As stated previously, while none of this is earth shattering, it is another reminder that successful weight loss & maintenance require life long healthy habits.
5. Daily exercise is a priority
Almost all (90 percent) registry participants exercise for about one hour every day. This habit is especially effective because nutrition & exercise work hand in hand for weight loss. Additionally, working out can help build more defined muscles. The most effective ways to change your body composition is to add strength training and/or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to your workout routine.
6. Weekly Weighing
Seventy five percent of registry participants weigh themselves at least once each week. While weighing may not be the best tool for everyone, for some, the number on the scale can also be a motivation to implement healthy habits in the first place. For the study participants, hitting an “all-time high in weight” is a common trigger for someone to want to lose weight. Frequent weighing also helps participants avoid the scale creeping up without noticing. Monitoring weekly can catch a one- to two-pound weight gain. It’s a good idea to weigh in occasionally, but guilt-tripping yourself each time you step on a scale is a big no-no. Instead, think of that number as a valuable data point that can help you troubleshoot and plan for the coming weeks.
7. No Binge TV watching
Finding time for healthy habits can be challenging so why waste your precious time engaging in a sedentary activity like TV watching. This doesn’t mean you have to give up television to see success, but you should limit your screen time. Most registry participants watch less than 10 hours a week. By limiting screen time, they can make more time for other activities (i.e. exercise).
The Bottom Line
It would be nice to think that these people are privy to some super secret way to lose a lot of weight and keep it off. But the simple truth is that there is no secret; it takes hard work, consistency and patience to see results that last.
Last month’s blog covered the topic of long-term weight loss success. The age-old question, how do I lose weight and keep it off? The recent article titled 7 Habits of People Who Lost 30+ Pounds — and Kept the Weight Off is certainly relevant to that question. The study participants are on the National Weight Control Registry & have successfully lost weight that has been maintained for at least one year. While none of this information was new or earth shattering, it is a good reminder that successful weight loss & maintenance require life long healthy habits, not a diet.
They eat fewer calories than the average American
Over the years science has shown a calorie is not just a calorie. It’s the quality of calories that is important. 100 calories of fiber-filled apple slices can help you feel fuller longer than 100 calories of licorice. Counting calories is helpful, but can be a tedious process that is not conducive to your lifestyle. This is where portion control can help; controlling portion size will help you determine the right amount of food (i.e. calories) for you.
They eat often, up to five times a day
While research has not always consistently shown that people who eat more frequently weigh less-the registry participants in this study eat more frequently. Eating 5 times a day breaks out to 3 meals & 2 snacks. Eating more often may be a good strategy to help with hunger; a ravenous state often results in poor food choices. Aim for well-balanced meals that contain plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein & healthy fats. Snacks can include things like nuts, fresh fruits & veggies, string cheese & Greek yogurt.
They stick to a consistent diet
Weight loss participants eat a fairly consistent diet, whether it’s a weekday, weekend, holiday, or vacation. Results show that those who ate a consistent diet the entire week were 1.5 times more likely to maintain their weight within five pounds. This was over the course of one year compared with those who ate a healthy diet strictly on weekdays, while indulging on the weekends.
They don’t skip breakfast
More than half the study participants eat breakfast daily. Aim for a breakfast with a balance of protein, fat & carbohydrates— like two eggs scrambled with vegetables and maybe 1/4 of an avocado, 1/2 cup of oatmeal, and one cup of fruit — can set the tone for the rest of day. All this can build up to better food choices throughout the day & minimize the risk of making poor food choices resulting from ravenous hunger.
Read full article here
The National Weight Control Registry, (the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance) has shown that only ~ 20 % of overweight individuals maintain their loss after one year. Given this less than stellar long-term success rate, I was intrigued by this article explaining the concept of reverse dieting. Reverse dieting, not a term I was familiar with until fairly recently, is a term typically used in body building circles. Reverse diet describes “a period after a calorically restricted eating protocol (i.e. diet) during which you slowly work to increase calories back to a maintenance level.” In layman terms it is essentially “easing” back into normal eating, after following a strict eating plan & vigorous exercise (i.e. dieting), by adopting sustainable eating habits. The goal of reverse dieting (when used correctly) is to promote long-term weight maintenance (i.e. keep off the lost weight) & to stop the unhealthy cycle of yo-yo dieting. One benefit of this plan is that it gives dieters structure, something they desperately need once they have reached their goal weight. Often people return to their pre-diet habits, resulting in weight gain that exceeds the pounds lost. Working with a nutrition professional, such as a registered dietitian, can assist you in coming up with a plan that works for you.
I have been a devoted Fitbit wearer for many years now and am always interested in what research has to say about the effects of the devices on not only our weight but other health related behaviors. Despite my dedicated commitment to achieving my 10,000 steps a day, I am under no illusion that achieving my step goals will result in automatic weight loss. In truth, my weight has remained relatively unchanged throughout my years of Fitbit use. Some may find this frustrating, but my purpose in using this device is to remind myself to move throughout the day rather than the goal of weight loss. The health benefits of movement throughout our day has been well documented and this is motivation enough for me. Regarding weight loss, research has shown that fitness tracker wearers are no more likely to lose weight than non-wearers. Part of the reason for this may be due to the fact that users rely on the devices’ daily calorie burn number to determine how much food they eat. Additionally, a recent study showed that 7 popular fitness trackers reported inaccurate caloric burn estimates (the number which many rely on to estimate calories in vs. calorie out). So, what is a fitness device devotee like myself to do?
Food First, Exercise Second:
research has consistently shown that diet is more important than exercise for weight loss.
Avoid Food Rewards:
food should never be a reward for steps walked or calories burned. Use non-food rewards to celebrate success.
It’s All Relative:
almost all monitoring devices (scales, diet trackers, exercise equipment monitors, wearable fitness trackers, etc.)-have margins of error. Consider the data relative and only use this data as one tool to help you achieve your fitness goals, be it weight loss or just overall health. Data is most useful when it is viewed and compared over time, rather than relying on one variable alone.
Waist vs. wrist:
for the die-hard data fans, waist wearable devices are more likely to be accurate than their wrist device counterparts.
Remember the goal of a fitness tracker should be achieving good health, not weight loss. While a fitness tracker can be a useful tool in your weight loss journey (if that is your goal) never rely on this instrument as a single tool for achieving success.
With all the confusing messages about healthy eating & nutrition science I decided this important topic warranted two separate blogs. Last month’s blog focused on nutrition priorities and this month I will discuss some of the popular nutrition headlines.
Gluten Free-the cure all?
No one can deny the current popularity of gluten free diets. Books & celebrities are advocating for a gluten free diet for “clean living” and weight loss. What the promoters fail to point out is that cutting out gluten containing foods like cookies, cakes & deep fried battered foods is a positive nutritional change that results in fewer calories consumed (hence weight loss). This effect is not directly related to gluten consumption. Additionally, three large studies have shown that people with the highest gluten intake were actually 20 % less likely to develop diabetes. Furthermore, these studies debunk the claim that eating gluten causes weight gain as evident by the finding that there was no relationship between gluten intake and weight. There is no benefit to avoiding gluten if you do not have a gluten sensitivity or allergy.
Health Halo Package Claims-Help or Hinder?
While food label reading is a component of healthy eating, it may unfortunately bring out the unwanted side effect of health halos. A halo effect on a certain food or brand causes the person to perceive the product as healthy, thus resulting in overconsumption of said product. Health claims on a food package does not mean that food provides nutritional benefits, as these claims can be misleading. Always check the Nutrition Facts panel & pay attention to portion sizes. Healthy, unprocessed food does not contain (nor need) a health claim.
Does Healthy Eating Cost More?
The claim “healthy eating is too expensive” is often cited as a reason for consuming cheap, processed convenience food. Current research contradicts this belief by showing that people who prepare home cooked meals engage in healthier eating habits & actually spend less money on food. Frequent eating out is associated with poorer health habits. Processed, convenience “health” foods actually cost more money than preparing a home cooked meal. If you struggle with ideas for healthy meal preparation, research quick and easy ways to prepare meals at home. The Internet contains an overabundance of healthy recipes & tips-just know where to look. Explore websites such as Ellie Krieger’s Real Good Food, Cooking Light & Eating Well (to name just a few).
The research on nutrition & health will be ever evolving, this much we know. However, we can be confident that the basic principles of healthy eating won’t change, consuming real, whole foods with a variety of plant rich foods including fruits, vegetables & whole grains.
There is no shortage of headlines toting the latest development in nutrition science and I will fully admit that it makes my head spin. We all know how important science is, but sometimes it appears that the science is constantly contradicting itself. To avoid this conundrum, I only seek out information written by qualified (i.e. science) experts, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore what consumers are readings.
Recently I read an article simplifying some of the more confusing messages about nutrition science. And despite all the hype we hear, it still comes down to the simple message of eating more plant-based foods, less processed meats & lower sugar intake. The first part of this blog I will sum up the basic messages (which many of us have already heard) and part 2 will address more of the catchy headlines we have seen lately (gluten free among others).
Part 1: Nutrition Priorities
10 dietary factors that show strong evidence as causes of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure & diabetes.
- Excess sodium (i.e. salt) intake
- Low intake of nuts and seeds
- High intake of processed meats (such as bacon and sausage),
- Low seafood omega-3 fats consumption
- Low vegetable & fruit consumption
- High sugar-sweetened beverage intake
- Low whole grains consumption\\
- Low polyunsaturated fats, (vegetable oils)
- High intake of saturated (unprocessed) red meats (beef, lamb, pork).
Optimal dietary intake
What does “optimal” dietary intake look like? Optimal daily intakes include:
- Vegetables-400 grams daily (~ 2 ½ cups) this includes dried beans & peas
- Fruit-300 grams daily (about 2 medium pieces of fruit or 2 cups)-not including juice
o Whole grains-at least 125 grams daily (total 5 or more)-1 slice whole grain bread, ½ cup whole grain ready to eat cereals, cooked whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa or other
o Nuts & seeds-equivalent of at least five 1-ounce servings per week
o Seafood-supplied omega 3 fats-at least 250 mg per day-available from 8 oz of a variety of fish per week or 4 oz /week of high omega 3 fat
Source: Healthy Eating Roundup: Behind the headlines
Life is busy, for all of us. Multitasking is the story of my life and one thing I can say with a definitive conclusion is that most of the time I don’t do it well. I find every aspect of my life improves when I tackle one task at a time simply by slowing down & paying attention. This certainly applies to eating. Many of us find ourselves rushing through our meals without giving the food we eat much of a second thought. How can we change? Below are a few strategies (adapted from Rebel Dietitians) for learning how to eat without distraction.
7 Ways to Stop Multitasking While you Eat
1. Take a few deep breaths-this could apply to everything we do. Take a few deep breaths & focus on the task at hand (eating).
2. Ask yourself what you are hungry for– normal eating is actually consuming foods you enjoy. Basing your food choices solely on health only leads to overall dissatisfaction to your palate & the endless quest for satisfaction.
3. Set the table and plate your food-make your meal an actual dining experience. Plate your food instead of picking.
4. Engage all your senses while eating
5. Taste your food-multitasking while you eat actually inhibits the pleasure you derive from eating. Before you know it, your meal is finished, yet you can’t quite seem to remember what your food tasted like (or even how much you ate).
6. Think about ways you could explain this food to someone who has never seen it before.
7. Pause in the middle of eating for at least two minutes-in other words, slow down. Remember your brain takes about 20 minutes to register that your body is full.
Driving in a car with four children with varying musical tastes doesn’t give me much time for educational podcasts; however, there are a few stolen moments where I can listen to topics of interest without background commentary. This recent podcast by the Foodist really peaked my interest. How to Stop Moralizing Your Food Choices by Darya Rose. This is topic is something I believe many of us can relate too, how many times have we deemed our food choices “good” or “bad”. Demoralized ourself for eating too much or making the wrong food choice. Additionally, Rose talks about not demonizing real food (she uses the example of sweet potatoes and oatmeal). This is a topic that comes up all too frequently in the world of nutrition. Many diet plans mislead consumers to believe that certain whole, plant based foods are not beneficial, perhaps even harmful. Nutritious real foods should never be avoided unless one has a food intolerance of allergy. Additionally, avoiding real food in favor of weight loss shakes or other food substitutes takes away the pleasure that we should all derive from eating food.
Check out this podcast next time you have a free moment (or in the car with a child, who knows you may bring out the budding scientist in them).
I love reading the predicted food trends for the coming year. While a Google search will turn up an endless list of what’s treading for 2017, I enjoyed reading the top 5 from a recent Forbes article. Whether or not we will actually see these trends in 2017 remains to be seen, but I am sure many of us will welcome No More Kale (or at least not for breakfast, lunch & dinner).
#1: VEGETARIAN COMFORT FOOD
Good news for those of us who would like to consume more vegetables.
My favorite stand by is roasted cauliflower.
Vegetables will continue its rise on the dinner plate, as animal proteins and heavy side dishes make way for more vegetarian options. According to Pinterest, there’s a rise in the word “veggies” in its comfort food searches by 336% last year, while words such as “lasagna,” “macaroni” and “Stroganoff” were off by 69%, 55% and 50%, respectively. What this means is that many more people are likely to order mashed cauliflower instead of rice and pasta, and (if possible) request for vegetable crust for healthier pizza.
#2: ARTISAN BUTCHER SHOPS-PLUS-RESTAURANTS
It’s quality vs. quantity when it comes to meat consumption.
Given the rise of vegetarian options out there, expect push back from the other end. This comes in the form of artisanal butcher shops-cum-restaurants, which fortify people’s love for meat. Delivering a more upscale flair to the craft of butchery, this “butcher-to-table” trend lets customers be in awe with the preparation of everything from grilled steak to charcuterie. Plus, you’ll get to eat them right away.
#3: BREAKFAST, UPDATED
Good news for the non-traditionalist breakfast eater. I know a few people in my house will applaud this trend.
For many of us, all-day breakfast is hardly a new concept. But with many fast food chain offerings such as the “Brunchfast” at Jack-in-the-box and spiced up breakfast sandwiches at Starbucks, what’s particularly unique about this trend in 2017 is how the texture of breakfast will change. Forget smoother breakfast offerings such as soft scrambled eggs, buttered grits, or oatmeal’s. What you’ll find are the so-called, more “aggressive” crunchier items like fried chicken, crispy chorizo and chimichurri. As a bonus, smaller chains and independent eateries will justify these around-the-clock breakfast items as perfect hangover cures!
#4: KALE NO MORE
Full disclosure, I really do like kale, but am happy to see a much needed break from it’s role as the health savior. Stick with a variety of healthy vegetables, your palate will thank you.
Remember the days when kale represented all that is healthy? Well, according to Whole Foods’ former global grocery coordinator, it’s time to say goodbye (at least when it comes to the consumer packaged version). Nowadays, there are many more options if you’re looking for healthy vegetables that are also good for reducing food waste. For instance, there’s a large range of seaweeds, which pack in more umami flavors for different broths. And as for the waste-not economy, many chefs are looking out for newer, more interesting alternatives such as beet greens, chard, turnip greens, mustard greens, and carrot tops. Since kale seems to have gone past its peak, get ready to find other yet-to-be-discovered vegetable for creative, new dishes.
#5: BOWLS, BOWLS, BOWLS
I love the idea of packing healthy goodness into one delicious bowl.
First, there were acai bowls. Then, there was poké. In 2017, eating from bowls will be taking over further as restaurants are migrating from serving handheld items to placing in bowls like Korean bibimbap. There are many benefits to this trend. Not only is it less likely for what’s in the takeaway bowls to get splattered on the office desktop, it’s also easier and faster to assemble a bowl than plated upscale entrees. Moreover, holding a bowl would likely make you psychologically more prone to mindfulness. You’ll feel a full a lot faster, and be able to savor all the flavors and textures with every bite. What’s not to like?