Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Smart Way To Count Calories

Nowadays, we spend a lot of time away from home whether we are in the workforce or not.  If we are in the workforce, more than half of our day may be spent away from home.  And for those that are not in the workforce a typical day may be spent running errands, grocery shopping, or driving the kids around town.  This is important because spending a lot of time away from home can greatly impact our diet. 

It's so easy to get into the habit of relying on restaurants, fast food, cafeterias, vending machines, and grab-and-go foods and beverages because they are not only convenient, but they taste good.

Our fast-paced society causes many of us to not even think about the types of foods and beverages we are consuming.  Now is the perfect time to start tracking what we eat.  By inputting our foods into a calculated system, we can learn which foods and beverages may be setting us over our limits and preventing us from achieving personal health and wellness goals.

There are a variety of free websites available to help us track calories and help us learn healthier food and beverage options.  With the help of http://myfitnesspal.com I was able to input my personal information and experiment with various meal options.

The 3 example daily meals I chose are listed below and range from "not-so-good" to "best" when comparing food and beverage selections to my personal goals and nutritional needs.  As you compare each example, write down any differences you observe. 

Meal Selections Example #1:  Not-So-Good

Breakfast: 760 Calories; 35g Fat; 22g Protein; 1,610mg Sodium; 4g Fiber
  • McDonalds Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit
  • McDonalds Hashbrown
  • McDonalds Orange Juice 12 oz.
Lunch:  1,090 Calories; 33g Fat; 35g Protein; 2,385mg Sodium; 6g Fiber
  • Papa John's - 2 slices pepperoni pizza
  • Papa John's - 2 breadsticks
  • Pepsi 12 oz.
Dinner:  1,625 Calories; 77g Fat; 53g Protein; 2,180mg Sodium; 18g Fiber
  • Chipotle - Tortilla with white rice, steak, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce
  • Chipotle - Chips
  • Chipotle - Iced Tea (half sweet, half unsweet) 16 oz.
Snack:  300 Calories; 8g Fat; 2g Protein; 263mg Sodium; 1g Fiber
  • Doritos - 1 package
  • Minute Maid - Lemonade, 12 oz.
Totals:  3,775 Calories; 153g Fat; 112g Protein; 6,438mg Sodium;
              29g Fiber
My Goal:  1,850 Calories; 62g Fat; 93g Protein; 2,300 mg Sodium; 
                  25-30g Fiber
Remaining: -1,925 Calories; -91g Fat; -19g Protein; -4,138 mg Sodium

Meal Selections Example #2:  Better

Breakfast:  400 Calories; 9g Fat; 22g Protein; 870mg Sodium; 6g Fiber
  • McDonalds - Yogurt & Fruit Parfait
  • McDonalds - Eggwhite Delight Mcmuffin
  • Dasani - Bottled Water, 20 oz.
Lunch:  495 Calories; 18g Fat; 18g Protein; 1,560mg Sodium; 4g Fiber
  • Papa John's - Garden Salad with Low Calorie Italian Salad Dressing
  • Papa John's - 2 slices Garden Fresh Pizza
  • Aquafina - Bottled Water, 20 oz. 
Dinner:  715 Calories; 25g Fat; 19g Protein; 1,240mg Sodium; 19g Fiber
  • Chipotle - Tortilla with cilantro lime brown rice, lettuce, pinto beans
  • Chipotle - Kid's Chips
  • Aquafina - Bottled Water, 20 oz.
Snack:  180 Calories; 11g Fat; 2g Protein; 210mg Sodium; 1g Fiber
  • Lay's - Baked Ruffles Chips, 1 package
  • Aquafina - Bottled Water, 20 oz.
Totals:  1,790 Calories; 63g Fat; 61g Protein; 3,880mg Sodium;
              30g Fiber
My Goal:  1,850 Calories; 62g Fat; 93g Protein; 2,300 mg Sodium;
                  25-30g Fiber
Remaining:  60 Calories; -1g Fat; 32g Protein; -1,580mg Sodium

Meal Selections Example #3:  Best

Breakfast:  405 Calories; 16g Fat; 28g Protein; 534mg Sodium; 1g Fiber
  • Omelet - 1 whole egg, 2 egg whites, shredded cheese (1/3c.), onions, peppers,  mushrooms
  • Yogurt - Light, Strawberry
  • Grapes - 1 cup
  • Aquafina - Bottled Water, 20oz.
Lunch:  466 Calories; 16g Fat; 25g Protein; 1,178mg Sodium; 13g Fiber
  • Pizza - 1 slice with whole wheat crust, shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Salad - Romaine lettuce (2 cup), shredded carrots, broccoli, and Raspberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing, 2 Tbsp.
  • Aquafina - Bottled Water, 20 oz.
Dinner:  680 Calories; 4g Fat; 58g Protein; 774mg Sodium; 10g Fiber
  • Chicken Soft Tacos (2) - whole wheat tortillas, grilled chicken breast (8 oz.), brown rice (1 cup), shredded lettuce, Salsa (4 Tbsp.)
  • Aquafina - Bottled Water, 20 oz.
Snack:  205 Calories; 8g Fat; 5g Protein; 72mg Sodium; 6g Fiber
  • Apple - 1 large with skin
  • Jiffy - Creamy Peanut Butter, 1 Tbsp.
Totals:  1,756 Calories; 44g Fat; 116g Protein; 2,558mg Sodium;
              30g Fiber
My Goal: 1,850 Calories; 62g Fat; 93g Protein; 2,300 mg Sodium;
                 25-30g Fiber
Remaining:  94 Calories; 18g Fat; -23g Protein; -258mg Sodium

There are some obvious and not-so-obvious differences when comparing the 3 examples of daily meal selections.  Let's check out some of the comparisons: 

Example #1:   I am choosing mainly high fat and high calorie foods and I am significantly in the red with calories, fat, and sodium.  If I continue to eat as I did in example #1, not only will I gain 18 pounds in 5 weeks, I will also be risking my cardiovascular health given the tremendous amounts of sodium I am consuming.

Example #2:  By making healthier selections at the same restaurant locations as in example #1, I am able to stay under my calorie limit and my sodium intake is significantly improved. Surprisingly, my protein intake is under my goal range, however.

Example #3:  If I take the time to prepare my meals at home, I will nearly meet my nutritional goals.  In fact, I have almost 100 calories to spare for an evening glass of wine or a small portion of chocolate!

The bottom line is if we don't pay attention to the types of foods and beverages we consume, we may end up consuming more meals that are close to example #1. 

Check out #myfitnesspal to ensure your current eating habits are supporting your health and wellness goals.  I can personally say that I was surprised with my results!



Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Truth About Carbs

I am proud to say that I enjoy eating carbohydrate foods (carbs) every single day.  I eat starchy foods such as bananas, beans, and potatoes. I drink fruit juice.  I enjoy a variety of
cereals and breads. 
I eat all of these foods because I love my brain. 

Are you reading this post right now wondering what in the world carbs (breads, starchy foods, fruit juices) have to do with the brain?  I will tell you that gluconeogenesis has everything to do with the brain.  Confused?  If so, keep reading because I will explain in the next few paragraphs.  

The primary source of energy for our brain is glucose (broken down, digested carbohydrate), and the body ensures that the brain will get the fuel (glucose) it needs.  Our brain primarily depends on the carbohydrate sources of food we consume to function efficiently.  In the event that our brain is deprived of the glucose it relies on from carbohydrate food sources, it will still get the fuel (glucose) it depends on via gluconeogenesis.

"Gluconeogenesis, pronounced [gloo-koh-nee-uh-jen-uh-sis] is the glucose formation in animals from a noncarbohydrate source, as from proteins or fats" (definition can be found via the Dictionary.com website).  This means that if the brain is not getting a constant supply of glucose, then it will obtain the glucose by breaking down our muscle or fat stores. 

Unfortunately, there is only a small percent of our fat stores that can be broken down and converted to glucose to be used for the brain.  In the event that our brain is not getting enough glucose (fuel from carbohydrate source foods), the next step our body takes is to break down our precious skeletal muscle.

Yes, if we are not feeding the brain with the fuel it needs, then our body literally starts to eat our muscle to ensure the brain stays alive.  And who wants to have decreased muscle mass?

So what does gluconeogenesis (genesis = making; neo = new; gluco = short for glucose) mean for all the "dieters" out there?  This means that our body needs a balanced proportion of carbohydrates, protein, and fat for optimal function.

There are a lot of "diets" available to the public, and it is important to ensure the body is getting enough healthy (complex) carbs from whole grain breads and cereals, whole wheat noodles, brown rice, and vegetables (starchy or non-starchy).

Complex carbohydrates are beneficial to the body because it takes longer for these types of carbs to be broken down (digested).  When complex carbohydrates are consumed, the body has a constant supply of energy which in turn limits the amount of sugar that can be stored as fat. 

I am sure many of us can relate to the fact that once fat stores are produced, it is very hard to get rid of them.  The carbohydrate sources that are recommended to limit in the diet fall into the category of simple (not as healthy) carbohydrates such as candy, soda, pies, cakes, cookies, table sugar.

Simple carbohydrates are easily digested and absorbed by the body.  After a meal, our bodily organs will use the simple carbohydrates that we ingest for immediate use.  Can you guess what happens when too many simple carbohydrates are consumed?  An overindulgence of simple carbohydrate foods causes body fat stores to increase.

I love carbs because they provide the fuel that my brain and other organs need to function.  I choose to consume the majority of my carbohydrates from complex carbohydrate sources because they are laden with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

I want to provide my body with optimal nourishment because optimal nourishment equals optimal function for my body. 

If I choose too many foods high in simple sugars, then I will be depriving my body of the essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber it needs to function properly and I will get more fat stored on my body too! 

So, in conclusion, ensure you are eating a balanced diet focusing on complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat all within moderation, of course.

Friday, August 15, 2014

How To Distinguish Between Hunger and Satiety

Hunger and satiety, aka fullness, are part of the driving mechanism that controls our daily eating habits.  We all experience symptoms of hunger and we all experience symptoms of fullness.  I am choosing to write about hunger and satiety because the symptoms that accompany the two can be ignored.  A classic example is a gathering for a holiday or summer cookout where the desire to consume mouth-watering food and beverages even after our stomachs are full is high.

At the gathering, we may spoon a serving or two of the indulgent food onto our platters because it looks so delicious.  I can say for myself that 95% of the time there is a social or family gathering, my plate is filled. 

Although my plate is filled to the brim, I am tuned-in to my body.  I am mindfully aware to how hungry I am at the beginning of a meal as well as the moment that triggers physical fullness.  The concept of eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full sounds easy, but the reality is there are many variables that come into play when we decide if we are going to keep eating or not.  It is important to be mindfully aware of the physical and psychological  signs and symptoms that we are experiencing on the hunger and satiety scale. 

In Today's Dietitian, March 2013 Issue, author Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD shares an example of a hunger scale to assist individuals with being mindful of hunger and fullness levels.  She says to "rate your hunger from 0 to 10 (0 being the most hungry and 10 being the least hungry)." 

By analyzing where you fall on the scale with extreme hunger on one end (0) and "oh my goodness, I think my pants are about to bust" (10), we can learn to consume food in moderation and appreciate food as the nourishment our body needs to obtain a healthy lifestyle. 

“The Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale” listed below  is from Why Weight?  A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating  by Geneen Roth and reposted by Erica Lesperance, RD, LD in an internet article via the Diet Channel: Diet Essentials: Learn To Recognize Your Hunger Cues.

Satiety 10 = Stuffed to the point of feeling sick
 9 = Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen your belt
 8 = Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed
 7 = Very full, feel as if you have overeaten
 6 = Comfortably full, satisfied
Neutral 5 = Comfortable, neither hungry nor full
 4 = Beginning signals of hunger
 3 = Hungry, ready to eat
 2 = Very hungry, unable to concentrate
Hungry1 = Starving, dizzy, irritable

If we are mindful to where we fall on the hunger and satiety scale, we will be able to pay attention to our inner voice, the voice that tells us whether we are truly hungry or truly full. If we ignore the symptoms between 1-3 or 7-10 our bodies will not be in a neutral, balanced state and we will physically feel the effects.

The physical symptoms our body experiences in relation to hunger are internal cues to signal to our brain that it is time to eat.  Hunger symptoms include gurgling or growling in stomach, dizziness, headache, irritability, or nausea.  Our bodies are wired so that our internal physical symptoms of hunger can be communicated to our brain in an effort to motivate an external response for us to eat food.  This is a survival mechanism. 

It is our responsibility to pay attention, to be mindful of where we fall on this scale, and to be aware of our inner voice especially in a society that surrounds us with a plethora of food and beverage options.  We are surrounded by mouth-watering food on a daily basis.  It is important to recognize that our mental desire for the mouth-watering food can take over our physical symptoms of hunger and fullness.  By "mindfully eating" we can overcome our mental desire to consume too much indulgent food whether it is a holiday, social gathering, or an average American day. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Obesity Is Killing Us

After watching a documentary on Netflix called "Killer at Large: Why Obesity..." I was in disbelief.  In the beginning of the documentary, Dr. Richard Carmona, U.S. Surgeon General from 2002-2006 reported, "Obesity is the terror within. It is destroying us, destroying our society from within.  And unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 911 or any other terrorist event that you can point out to me."

That's a very real statement and not a statement that we should be ignoring.  The map below is from my television screen as I continued to watch the "Killer at Large: Why Obesity..." documentary.  The color red indicates the amount of overweight and obese adults in 2006.  Two-thirds of the country are overweight or obese in 2006.   

Out of curiosity, I pulled the obesity trend map from 2010, and not surprisingly there is more red color on the map. 
After a combination of seeing the obesity trend maps and hearing the obesity rates of children between the ages of 6-11 has tripled and "their life expectancy may not be as long as our own," I decided to become a nutrition and wellness blogger. 
Adult and childhood obesity is on the rise and this bothers me most importantly because of our children.  I have two children under the ages of 5 and I will do the best I can as a mother to be a role model and educate my children about eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle. 
The challenges I face as a mother and a dietitian are the fact that the marketing companies are bombarding us day-in and day-out with advertisements to buy sugary, non-nutrient-dense cereals and cookies that have fiber added to make them appear healthy.  And there are the "value meals" that are laden with fat and calories.  What kind of "value" are these fast food companies offering to us? 

These "value meals" are not only contributing to our waist lines and health problems, they are also contributing to further medical costs.  What kind of "value" is that?  And there's the soft drinks, candy bars, and chips that I see in just about every store I am in whether I am purchasing groceries, gas, walking in the mall, mailing a letter, etc.  I wouldn't be surprised if I saw a vending machine in a public restroom at this point.

If you think about it, we are constantly passing convenience foods and beverages several times a day and the desire to grab something even after we just had a meal is very high.  This might be part of the reason for the obesity epidemic.  Just saying.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Worry Affects Nutrition

I would say that over the years, I have struggled with a lot of anxiety.  I think anxiety is prevalent in my genetic makeup looking back at the behaviors of some of the individuals in my own family.  Anxiety can have a negative impact on nutrition.

My anxiety levels have been extremely high at times in my life resulting with me experiencing panic attacks. 

For those that have never experienced one, I will explain the symptoms I have felt which include the following:  Skin tingling. Breathing gets faster.  The feeling of being shoved in a box with the lid about to close on top of you.  Lightheaded.  Unable to focus on anything. Sweating. Pale.  Blood rushing to the head.  Eyes are open but can't see anything because a fainting spell is about to happen.  Feeling like I am going to die. 

It's the body's response mechanism to fear.  It's called the "fight or flight" response. 

One doctor compared the "flight or flight" response I was having to the Caveman Era.  She said that if I lived in the Caveman Era and a big tiger was about to launch toward me, my body would have responded by passing out versus running away. 

Yes, I would have been the small percentage of individuals that would have "flighted" (I know this isn't a word in the context I am using it for). "Flighted" is my own definition of passing out and letting the big tiger eat me for dinner. 

I nearly passed out a few times in my life do to fear getting the best of me and me not being able to get a grip on my fear.  I learned that if I don't control my own anxiety, then it will control me. 

I am choosing to write about the emotion of anxiety because I am sensitive to how this specific emotion can affect my nutrition.  Anxiety causes me to feel nauseous. 

I have had to rely on nutrition supplements and protein shakes at times in my life because I felt so ill from anxiety.  I felt like I either had the flu or like I was pregnant again in my first trimester being so nauseous.  It's not a good feeling.

Anxiety can negatively effect the eating habits of many individuals.  My body's response to anxiety is that I am unable to eat enough food.  However, I know many other people that have the opposite response to anxiety.  There are other individuals that say anxiety causes them to eat more than they should.

Anxiety is only one out of several other emotions that can trigger unhealthy eating habits or unhealthy habits in general causing the bodies' mechanisms to go out of balance. 

Other emotions that may trigger bodily mechanisms to go out of balance include sadness, depression, and anger.  Sometimes it may be food that individuals turn to for comfort to get through the negative effects these emotions can cause.  Other times it may be alcohol. 

But when food or alcohol are used as coping mechanisms, the chances of us consuming more that we need to consume are high which in turn causes the natural equilibrium state of our bodies to be thrown off balance. 

I believe food was put on this planet for humans to consume as nourishment versus to be used as a coping mechanism to control our emotions.  I also believe that alcohol and drugs (legal drugs) are here on this planet to help us in times of need, but they are both highly abused in society. 

It is important to remember that all three can become toxic to our bodies and kill us if not consumed or used in moderation. 

I can say for myself that I feel my best mentally, physically, and emotionally when I am eating fresh fruits and vegetables, grilled meats and fish, whole grain foods, and drinking a lot of water.  I can also notice a difference when I don't drink alcohol.  I sleep good and don't feel tired when I don't have a glass or 2 (or 3) of wine. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Personal Struggles with Food

I remember the initial trigger that went off and resulted with me having an unhealthy relationship with food.  I was in the 8th grade sitting in my desk chair with my head down when suddenly, the teenage boy sitting next to me leaned over and grabbed my 2 inches of belly fat while smiling at me.  All I could think in my head was "Oh my gosh, I am fat.  People must think I am fat."  From that day forward, I started paying more attention to how I looked in pictures and how much I was eating at lunch.  Over the next couple months, I stopped packing my lunch and I stopped eating breakfast before school.  At lunch, I would purchase a bag of nacho cheese chips and a chocolate milk.  I started paying close attention to the amount of food I was putting in my mouth not caring if it was healthy or not.  I also began to closely watch the numbers on the scale.  The pounds started coming off of my 105 pound frame and by the end of the year I was down to nearly 85 pounds.  But I wasn't happy.  All I could think of was how I could avoid eating food and wishing my stomach wouldn't growl.  I remember wishing I could just sleep off my hunger so that I would not have to realize how hungry I was.  Then the comments from classmates started...."Your legs are so skinny.  You look anorexic."  I just got annoyed and continued to keep the control and willpower to not eat more than about 600-700 calories a day.  I hated the fact that I had to eat.  I didn't enjoy eating because I thought the food would just make me fat. 

Several months later, I went to a program sponsored at a local community college that was geared to women interested in science majors.  I couldn't focus on much of the presentations because I only ate a few bites of food the day before this program.  I purposely avoided food the day before the program because I knew in advance that Taco Bell would be served for lunch at the college campus.  On the day of the program, I felt faint when it got closer to lunch.  But all I grabbed to eat was one soft taco and I barely ate any of it.  I said to my friend who accompanied me that I wasn't hungry.  The program ended close to dinner time and I went home.  It was that evening that I nearly passed out in my kitchen while my parents were sitting and talking in the family room right next to me.  This was my secret, I thought.  No one could find out that I didn't eat enough.  The fear of me potentially passing out on my kitchen floor was enough to motivate me to shove as much food I could grab out of the food closet into my mouth as quickly as possible before my parents had to find me lying unconsciously on the floor.  It worked.  It was the fear of me nearly passing out that motivated me to start eating more. 

It took baby steps for me to force myself to put more food into my mouth but I slowly increased my calories by 100-200 per day.  I stopped menstruating and the doctor put me on birth control pills to restart my period. 

Over the next several years, I started to gain weight back, but I was also very conscious about my food choices.  By high school, I started cutting fat out of my diet and I ran 5 miles about 3 days per week.  The other days of the week I would workout to Kathy Smith exercise videos.  I used exercise to burn the calories I ate during the day.  I still didn't have a healthy relationship with food.  I didn't even know how to eat healthy.  I wanted to learn.  It was my motivation to find a healthy balance with food that led me to start a career in dietetics. 

I  knew I was finally on the right path to finding peace with my relationship to food as I listened to my college professors talk about homeostasis and equlibrium within the human body.  My passion to learn as much as I could about nutrition, health, and wellness soared.  Throughout my 7 years of college, I gradually learned how to make healthy food choices and live a healthy lifestyle.  I successfully completed a Bachelor's of Science degree and became a Registered Dietitian in the year of 2005. 

My motivation to learn about having a healthy lifestyle did not end in 2005.  It is now 2014, and I am still learning about all of the factors in our genetics, environment, and society that may effect our health and wellness.  Over the past 10 years, I have been providing medical nutrition therapy to patients that have diagnoses related to poor nutrition.  I have read journal articles and watched webinars, news reports and documentaries about health problems increasing vs. decreasing. 

My motivation has now shifted from finding a healthy balance with food to finding a healthy balance mentally, physically, and spiritually.  I believe that what we put into our bodies affects our mind, our body and soul as they all seem to be connected within the human body.  I also believe our genetics and environment play huge roles in how we live our lives.  In addition, we are all individuals with different wiring so-to-speak.  Motivators that trigger each of us to live healthier lifestyles will vary greatly. 

In conclusion, I will never stop learning about myself and the factors that trigger me to veer away from a balanced equilibrium state in my mind, body, and soul.  I am choosing to blog about nutrition, health, and wellness in an effort to have continued awareness of where I fall in the spectrum as well as to help others that may be struggling with finding their own healthy balance living in today's society.