Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Posts tagged ‘food’

Laurel’s Rules for Healthy Eating

Normally, I’m not big on “rules”.

However, people seem to like them. I have to admit, I feel so strongly about some things, I would have to almost consider them rules. Here is a list of the “rules” I eat by.

1) The #1 vegetable rule

This one is a no-brainer for me. If possible, I try to make the focus of my meals the vegetables. There is no downside to this. It keeps your weight under control, maximizes your nutrient intake and gives you lots of healthy fiber. In fact, it’s what inspired me to post tonight. I made salmon patties for dinner, and served them with a salad, as well as roasted veggies. Three quarters veggies, one quarter protein. When I successfully follow this rule, we usually have a variety of vegetable dishes at the same meal, making it feel like a feast.

2) Make in bulk to make it easy

Again, going back to tonight’s dinner, I had previously washed and torn a head of romaine lettuce, making it like the bagged stuff in the store. Yesterday, I made a variation on a Caprese salad with tomato, onion, basil and ranch dressing. I took the leftover tomato salad and put it over some of the lettuce, making the easiest salad ever. I cooked up half a head of cabbage while I was cooking the salmon patties, that we can either eat as is, or use for cabbage lasagna or stuffed cabbage. Try and make enough of anything you cook to go for the next meal(s). If you might get sick of it, freeze it.

3) Treat starch like a condiment.

I’m not anti carb, but if it isn’t a vegetable, go lightly. For example, never eat spaghetti without a big salad, and make it a small portion of pasta , same with the meatballs, compensated with lots of sauce, preferably with tomatoes added.

4) Try to make it homemade, or half the portion.

I’m specifically thinking of coleslaw, potato salad or other quasi-healthy foods. The store bought kind are generally swimming in dressing and sparing on the vegetables.

5) One starch per meal.

Many of you might consider this sacrilege, but if you are having pasta, skip the bread. Ditto a potato. In fact, I usually only eat bread if I am having a sandwich or if the bread is the focus of the meal some other way.

6) Go ahead and treat yourself, but be honest.

A treat is something out of the ordinary. It isn’t a treat if you go out to breakfast, then have a desert after lunch. Or if you go out to eat three times a week. An occasional treat won’t mess up your eating, but you have to be honest in the frequency of your treats. If you are going with frequent, they have to be small.

7) Consider the impact of what you are eating.

Sure, we all are influenced by tastes and cravings. But ask yourself, “Is this food going to benefit me, or make me sorry?” Most of us have a good idea of what’s right. Why eat something that you’ll be sorry for? This starts in the store. You can’t succumb to cravings if the junk food isn’t in your house.

I know I focus on food a lot on this blog. As soon as I tell people I’m a personal trainer, the conversation almost always veers towards weight control. The person often justifies their current eating pattern, then complains about their weight. Or, complains about their eating, but then offers reason why they can’t change. This post is incorporating facets of many of those conversations. You have to make consistent choices of what you eat if you want to be healthy. There are no other options.

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Vitamins

I was contemplating the conundrum about vitamins, and as soon as I logged on, this article, telling me not to take vitamins, popped up. If you don’t feel like reading it, it says that there is no correlation between vitamin use and increased health, in fact there is some evidence to the contrary. Of course, I’m suspicious if they don’t include links to the research they are citing. The minute I did a search on research on vitamin benefits I got this article from Harvard School of Public Health, stating it is a good idea to take a multi vitamin. Another article from CNN, shows very inconclusive results as to whether vitamins prevent breast cancer or heart disease. Even Vitamin D, the current darling is starting to lose its shine, see here.

From everything I’ve read, I think there are some things we can say.

  1. You are always better off getting your vitamins from food
  2. More is not always better.
  3. Pills cannot compensate for poor choices
  4. Diseases are complex, and any kind of pill is only part of the answer.
  5. We don’t understand the whole picture of how food affects our body, so pulling one nutrient out and focusing on it may be counter productive.

Vitamins and minerals have been on my mind lately. As I’ve my mentioned before, I use myfitnesspal. I don’t have trouble with my weight, but I do it to help my clients, and to have an objective measure of “healthy” eating. I eat most of my diet with the objective of it being healthy choices. I find it interesting what the results are. First, A and C are easy to get. You almost have to try to be deficient in those two.

Interestingly, those are the two most often listed on labels. Myfitnesspal doesn’t give you the option of tracking the b family, d or others. You can however track sodium, potassium, iron and calcium. I find that I don’t get enough minerals, even though I eat a largely whole food diet. (No one’s perfect-I do eat desert). There is the possibility that Myfitnesspal is inaccurate. Much of what is in the database is user supplied, making its accuracy suspect. However, the other day I had commercial cereal, and for the first time, my iron intake was over 100 percent.

So, if taking a multivitamin is not beneficial, why do we fortify foods? We do have proof that fortifying foods reduced the incidence of pellagra and rickets. Is is possible to get all your nutrients from food? Is the USDA’s RDA inaccurate? Is the only way to get it all from food is to go from the other direction, and pick foods based on their nutrients, then figure out how to make meals of them?

I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t think science does yet, either. It is beneficial to pay attention, learn, and do your best. Another thing to remember is that “vitamins” and “supplements” are pretty broad categories. there is a world of difference between a daily multivitamin and some “proprietaries blend” of goodness knows what. There are people out there hawking all kinds of “supplements” There is no evidence that mega doses of anything is good for you. The funny thing is, many of the people who are taking tons of crazy  supplements are the same people who are eating right. When you do start to study nutrition, you see how important it is to eat healthy food as much as possible. You don’t have a lot of calories to waste on junk, especially if you are a small person, who doesn’t take a lot of calories to maintain.

 

The Modern Dilemma,What is Your Solution?

We know that for good health, we all need to eat a good breakfast, consisting less of  the typical empty carbs, and more protein, fruit or veggies and whole grains. Lets not kid ourselves, all those breakfast cereals are lying when they say they are a good source of whole grain, unless the first ingredient is whole wheat, brown rice or just corn, although corn isn’t all that full of fiber even in it’s natural state. We also know a really good breakfast usually takes time to make, hence most people’s dilemma. How can we get a really good breakfast without taking a lot of time?

Let’s meet my mythical client. She’s 38, a working mother, normal body weight, and a type II diabetic, only using metform, for now. Her typical breakfast is either toast, cereal or nothing. I suggest an omelet, with onion, tomato, spinach and or peppers. The idea of spending that much time making breakfast is appalling to her. I suggest that most of the work could be done in the microwave, but it’s obvious she’s not convinced.

For someone like that, a smoothie would seem the perfect solution,  but it would have to be carefully crafted. For a diabetic, dumping fruit in their system first thing in the morning is hazardous. It would have to be mostly spinach or kale, with just enough fruit to sweeten, and some protein powder to dampen the effect of the fruit. For those who don’t know, for most diabetics, the effects of higher glycemic foods can be offset by consuming them with protein or fat, making them digest slower and not flood the bloodstream with glucose. This is the reason pumpkin pie doesn’t always raise blood sugar, along with the cinnamon.

Speaking of pumpkin  pie, that is another solution, baked oatmeal. You could easily add a can of pumpkin to most of the recipes, adding a serving of veggies to your breakfast. Here’s another recipe with the pumpkin already added. I would suggest not using a site like “allrecipes.com”, only because the people who post their recipes their are often more interested in taste than health, adding too much sugar. I do use that site for many things, just not health food.

One of my favorite breakfasts, outside my usual, is whip up 1/4 c. cornmeal and a cup of water in the microwave. Heat the water 2 minutes, briskly stir in the corn meal heat while watching till it thickens, stirring occasionally. Crack an egg on top,  and a slice of cheese, put back in for 30 seconds or until egg is cooked. Top with a heaping mound of salsa. Yum!

My usual breakfast, if you haven’t read my blog, is oatmeal, with dried cranberries, walnuts and blended kale, molasses, cinnamon and tumeric. I don’t recommend it to others, it is an acquired taste. The tumeric isn’t for taste, it’s for the anti- inflammatory properties, although anything you eat on a regular basis becomes an acquired taste.

Everyone wants to eat healthy, not take any time to do so, and have it taste really good, hence the title of this post. What is your solution? Share with us that we may all be enriched. Plus, even I get sick of the same breakfast all the time, and lunch suggestions would be good, I don’t always have left overs. Even if you have favorite bloggers or websites for ideas, share those too.

My Love Affair with Kale is Still Going Strong

Head of dark green kale.

A thing of beauty

How could it not?

Look at this. This was harvested from my garden on December 19, 2012. It’s still growing! Granted, this is an extremely mild winter so far, we’ve only had two hard frosts and a dusting of snow. The rest of the garden has long since gone to sleep. The broccoli might have survived, but I pulled it all up when it bolted so badly.

In case I needed reasons.

How can you not love a vegetable that is so hardy and productive, and so good for you? I had expected to be using what I had frozen by now. I have so much in my freezer that I can’t find other things. I have used some of what I froze, I made a lasagna with chopped kale instead of spinach. Believe it or not, my husband even liked it! In any case, this one vegetable, planted in a ring around the garden, has fed me every day since last spring. I have become addicted to kale added to my oatmeal. I did try the frozen in it, but it is not as nice of a texture, so the fact that those little powerhouses are still going strong makes me so happy. If it was a bad year, the deer would have eaten them all. The two days we did get snow, they immediately came in the yard and topped the whole back of the garden. I harvested a whole bunch then, assuming I was salvaging what I could before they got it all, but they haven’t been back and the rest are still growing.

Just a reminder

In case you can’t figure out why kale makes me so happy, here are some reasons, I copied this from an article on webMD:

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K — and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.

Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.

Beyond antioxidants, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.

Ok, so maybe I should be eating more cooked kale, but I have the rest of the winter to do that.

Seriously? Organic isn’t better?

A study was published in the Annals of Internal medicine has everyone talking, since it purports to show that organic isn’t healthier. I found the original article here but it is only the study summary. One thing to note about summaries, is that they are the author’s conclusions. You can draw different conclusions from the same information. every article I’ve read has taken the authors conclusions to heart without any analysis.

rebuttal:

  1. Organic isn’t more nutritious- I never thought it was. All the arguments about “depleted soil” and “our food isn’t as nutritious as what are ancestors ate.” are bunk too. Most of the nutrients we get from plants are created by the plant from sunlight, oxygen, carbon dioxide, water and trace amounts of minerals and chemicals in the soil.
  2. Organic isn’t significantly lower in pesticides- I’ll rebutt that in their own words:

Two studies reported significantly lower urinary pesticide levels among children consuming organic versus conventional diets, but studies of biomarker and nutrient levels in serum, urine, breast milk, and semen in adults did not identify clinically meaningful differences. All estimates of differences in nutrient and contaminant levels in foods were highly heterogeneous except for the estimate for phosphorus; phosphorus levels were significantly higher than in conventional produce, although this difference is not clinically significant. The risk for contamination with detectable pesticide residues was lower among organic than conventional produce (risk difference, 30% [CI, −37% to −23%]), but differences in risk for exceeding maximum allowed limits were small.

Less pesticides in your kids isn’t better???

What did they just say? They found less pesticides in the urine of children fed organic food. How is that not better? They found the risk of being contaminated with pesticide residue smaller in organic. However, on the bright side, even your pesticide user has no greater risk of exceeding the maximum allowed limit. So which is better? We have an allowed limit of pesticide contamination, and whether you eat organic or not, you don’t have a high risk of exceeding the allowed limit. If you show me two peaches, one has 5 parts per million of a chemical, and one has 25 parts, I’ll take the lower one, thank you. We also have a government set limit of rat feces in canned food. I’ll take the uncontaminated one, if you please. The government limits are set by politicians, who have to balance the risk to people with the economic needs of farmers and chemical companies. They have to compromise, you and I don’t.
3. Organic didn’t lower rates of allergy symptoms. – Is someone claiming it does?

4. Organic had lower rates of antibiotic resistant bacteria, although no better rate of avoiding bacterial contamination. -Not promoting antibiotic resistant bacteria isn’t a good goal?

Never say never.

I’m a realist, I’m not an ideologue. I may even use some chemicals, at some point, in my own garden. If a farmer is going to lose his whole crop to army caterpillars or some other pest, I can’t always say never, under any circumstances do anything. We have almost 10 billion people to feed, we need to consider that. However, I think avoiding chemicals whenever possible is a good thing. My overriding philosophy is the Law of Unintended Consequences, that we just don’t know the ramifications of everything we do until it is too late. We have been conducting a chemistry experiment on ourselves for the last 100 years, and we won’t know all the ramifications for the next 100. Why not err on the side of caution and proceed slowly? I’ve been hearing so much lately about the rise in autism, how do we know that isn’t a by product of this grand chemical cocktail we’ve been consuming?

spraying pesticides from the air.

It goes where the wind blows.

Not 100% pesticide free.

One last point- the study said that organic produce isn’t guaranteed to be pesticide free. True, If I spray pesticides, they aren’t just going to land in my field. Also, everyone isn’t always honest. However I still say we should at least try. Humans are heard animals- when a trend goes a certain direction, we all head that way. The organic and slow food movements are at least keeping the heard milling about, rather than stampeding towards an unknown future of chemically created foods. Lets think more than once before spraying substances that kill life and then eating those substances. We depend on our gut bacteria for our health and we are eating chemicals that could kill them, or change them into something that is not beneficial. Now there’s a scary thought!

Why?

Recently my son and I were talking about design, and he was saying that you always have to question why you are making your design choices. I was thinking about this today as I was making my breakfast. I put a lot of things in my oatmeal, all for different reasons.  I was leaving out the peanut butter. Why? Because it only has 7 g of protein for 240 calories per serving. Bread has 5g, for 110 calories. That makes bread a better protein source than peanut butter. Which lead me to think about the assumptions we make about our food, and how good it is for you.

I just want to challenge everyone out there: why are you eating what you do? Never just mindlessly eat. Every cell in your body is made up from the food you eat. How healthy they are is determined by the choices you make about what goes into your mouth. While weight is what everyone obsesses over, it is the nutrients that come along with the calories that count for optimum health. Yes, losing weight, even on the twinkie diet, will improve your health to some degree, but do you want your health to be determined by “not dying”?

You have to think about what you eat and why, especially if you are on any kind of restrictive diet. A calorie is never just a calorie. Every calorie is also a carb, fat or protein. It is either packaged with fiber, vitamins, phyto-nutrients and water or it isn’t. Every fat calorie is either a transfat, omega-3, omega-6, omega 12, saturated or something else. The fat choices are extensive, and confusing.

If you are taking a food group out of your diet, either for weight loss or other reasons, it makes your choices more critical. Some people are anti-supplement. I would say if you are, then you would do well to only eat perfectly healthy food, never touching a cookie, candy or baked good, and never eliminating any food groups.  Most of us won’t achieve that. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you need protein supplements and B vitamins. If you are avoiding dairy, you need another source for calcium. When I was doing my diet experiment, I did fine on the “macro-nutrients”-fiber, protein, fats and carbs, but never reached most of the USDA recommended levels for vitamins without taking a supplement.

However you plan out your meals, step back and take a look at them. What are they giving you? How nutrient packed are your choices? Yes, there are some things we make and eat just for the taste, but that should be 20% or less in our diet. For example, we are having a party tonight. There are some foods I will be serving that would surprise people, since don’t appear to be nutritious. However, that is not how I eat every day, and some of those foods are more nutritious than they look, since I know some tricks to hide veggies in other things. I have vegans coming over, so I made some choices based on their protein needs. I have two recipes using crescent rolls. There is no redeeming a crescent roll, but the fillings are made from low fat products and vegetables. I’m not serving anything sweet, other than fruit. So even at a party, attempts to improve the nutritional content can be made.

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