Last weekend I spent my Saturday morning serving up snacks and running keiki through an obstacle course at the grand opening of the Manoa Valley Public Library. I made a delicious, nut-free version of these banana-coconut cookies; I can vouch for their tastiness because I had no leftovers at the end of the day and I wasn’t the only sampler. I was really excited to come across this recipe because I wanted to serve something that fit in with my food philosophy, while at the same time was kid-friendly.
I really hate it when I go to a health-centered event and all that is available is junk. Processed, trans fatty foods after a race or a childhood obesity prevention seminar filled with deep dish pizza doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. Not to say that I don’t like a sweet treat, but I’d much rather have one made with ingredients that carry some nutritional value along with sugar.
When indulging in dessert, you can try substituting whole grain flours for refined versions, applesauce for some of the oil (a trick my Busia used all the time in her fudge brownies), reducing the amount of added sweeteners you use, or using a lower-fat dairy.
Now, you can only take all of this lightening so far before your favorite cookie starts to taste like cardboard diet food, which is the total opposite point of indulgence. In situations like these your #1 best option is to watch your portion size! This is important for all foods, actually. Devouring 10 small “healthy” treats is not a great option either. Having one, small full fat, sugar laden cookie will not ruin your health or your training plan. Having three bites (actual bites, not enormous, mouth-filling, I’m-only-going-to-record-three-bites-in-my-food-journal bites) of chocolate cake will not be the end of you. Just make sure that you really want whatever it is you’re about to indulge in, take the time to enjoy it, and don’t enjoy it too often. Fresh, ripe fruit should be your everyday go-to sweet fix.
Do you have any cleaned-up desserts you really enjoy? Please share them!
So if you didn’t follow all the advice out there to avoid sweet Halloween treats yesterday, you may be experiencing a severe sugar hangover this afternoon. This doesn’t have to be the kickoff to the season of wild, inhibited consumption that leaves you unable to fit into your clothes at New Year’s! When your body digests sugar, your brain releases endorphins that make you feel calm, relaxed, and happy. Your body will also release insulin, which causes your blood sugar to rise dramatically. After a few hours, your blood sugar will tank, leaving you craving more sugar. But you don’t have to be trapped in this cycle!
Get rid of leftover candy. If it’s not in your house, on your desk, or socked away in your car, you will be far less likely to eat it. Who cares if you paid for it? You are not a garbage disposal. Or better yet, have your family participate in the Halloween Candy Buy Back and send your candy to our troops overseas. Find a close drop off nationwide at www.http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com/.
Eat regularly. If you wait to long to eat, your body will crave the easiest, quickest way to get your blood sugar back up: sugar. At the same time, eating balanced meals consisting of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, instead of carbohydrates alone, will help keep you balanced and sugar cravings at bay.
Exercise! Physical activity releases the same feel-good endorphins and raises serotonin levels that sugar digestion does. Get up and get moving your sweet tooth kicks in: a brisk walk can be just as effective as a more intense workout. You’ll even burn some extra calories while you’re at it.
Do you have any strategies for getting back on track once you’ve had a sugar overload?
What you choose to eat for breakfast has a huge impact on how the rest of your day will go. Are you going to set yourself up for a 10am blood sugar crash which will be repeated several times throughout the day, or will you choose something that will keep you full and balanced until your next meal or snack? Most standard breakfast options like cereals, pancakes, pastries, and flavored yogurts will set you up for the spike and crash option. Why? Because of all the sugar and refined flours (which behave like sugar in your body) that these desserts masquerading as meals contain.
To help you stay on track you should include a bit of protein and fat and choose whole grain options at every meal, not just breakfast. This mix will help keep you full and help you avoid the mid afternoon sugar snack attack. But what can you do if you still want something sweet? Fruit! But fruit alone will not fuel you until lunchtime; you’ll need to get creative.
I’ve made these savory-sweet quesadillas for breakfast a few times now and not only are they super tasty, with a subtle sweetness to them, but they are really satisfying as well. The original recipe I found called for mozzarella, but I chose goat cheese because it has a much stronger flavor, and I can get away with using a lot less of it without feeling like I’m depriving myself. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think apple-brie would also be a nice combo. A cup of Greek yogurt served alongside this would make for an extremely satiating meal.
Pear Goat Cheese Quesadillas
1 large high fiber tortilla
½ pear, sliced
1 ½ ounces goat cheese
1. Place cheese and pear slices on on half of the tortilla and fold in half.
2. Heat skillet on medium heat, then place folded tortilla in pan. Cook until lightly browned, pressing the quesadilla with a spatula to seal. Carefully flip and brown other side. Cut in half and serve immediately.
Nutritional Information per quesadilla: 244 calories, 11g fat, 24g carbs, 10g fiber, 13g protein.
The US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 last week, but it contained few surprises. The report urged Americans to reduce their portion sizes, reduce their intake of refined carbohydrates, added sugars, sodium, and solid fats, and increase their consumption of whole grains, vegetables, and other nutrient dense foods. Overall, it is hard to argue with the recommendations (perhaps except for the HUGE push to consume more low-fat dairy products, even in the face of lactose intolerance) but whether or not Americans will follow them is another story. You can get the full report here.
Some of my favorite statistics included in the report:
Alcohol is the #5 top source of calories for adults! It is right below soda. Grain based desserts like cakes and cookies are #1. Whoa. That’s a ton of calories consumed with no nutritional value. A diet centered on whole grains, fresh produce, lean protein sources, and healthy fats will provide all the health supportive nutrition you need while helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Less than 5% of American adults get the recommended 30 minutes of light to moderate activity a day. Exercise does not have to occur in 1-2 hour blocks in a concrete gym. You can add a 10 minute walk to the end of your lunch break, actively play with your kids for 10 minutes, and add another 10 minute post dinner walk (which will also aid your digestion) and reap most of the health benefits of exercise. This type of activity will probably not leave you with rippling muscles and 15% body fat, but it will lower your risk of all sorts of lifestyle-related diseases.
Solid fats and added sugars account for about 35% (around 800) of the calories the average American consumes every day. A much more reasonable percentage would be somewhere between 5-15%, according to the report. Beverages alone account for about 450 of those calories. Think about this, a pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories. If you cut out 700 of these solid fats and sugar calories (you can even keep some in my hypothetical example!) you could lose 10 pounds in less than 2 months!
What’s your take on the updated guidelines? Do you think they will have any effect on people’s behavior? What about on your own dietary decisions?
The New York Times published an article about a study about breakfast this week that left me scratching my head. In the study, subjects were instructed to track what they ate for two weeks. Researchers then determined that contrary to popular belief, the subjects that ate a bigger breakfast did not see any subsequent reduction in total calorie intake over the rest of the day.Therefore, the study concludes, having breakfast must NOT be a helpful weigh management strategy. One of the scientists is even quoted saying, “Eating breakfast is just added calories. You’ll never compensate for them at subsequent meals.” Umm…what!?
Maybe the problem is not the fact that the subjects ate breakfast, but the fact that many breakfast options are not high quality. If you are eating donuts, pastries, candy disguised as cereal, white sugar masquerading as white bread, then yes, you may have a issue keeping your total calorie intake in check. Eating mostly carbohydrates (and refined carbohydrates at that) WILL leave you feeling hungry few hours later and can lead to overeating throughout the day. Also, consuming a huge 1200 calorie breakfast of bacon, pancakes, and a three egg omelet with cheese in the hopes that you won’t eat the rest of the day is not a very good strategy either. Just like with many other things in life, too much of a good thing (in this case breakfast) CAN be bad for you.
Numerous other studies over the course of the last decades have proven time and time again that people who consume breakfast not only maintain a healthier weight than those who don’t, but the also have improved cognitive function as well. Plus, eating in the morning kickstarts your metabolism and gets your body out of the conserve mode it goes into while you sleep at night. I think the key here is to have a QUALITY, SATISFYING meal. Breakfast, just like any other meal, is going to be most beneficial to you if it is a low sugar, high fiber mix of whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. This combination will keep you full and give you the energy you need to make it through your morning. Most American breakfast options as I said before are nothing but sugar, especially the most popular and convenient item of all: cold cereal. If you want to find you what you should look for when you purchase cereal, please check out my video below.
The best way to stay hydrated while exercising is to drink water
Here’s a newsflash for you: sports drinks are basically nothing more than sugar water, similar to soda in the amounts of added sugars they contain. They are also not really necessary or even appropriate for the average exerciser. But why then did you see all those New York City marathoners guzzling it along the route a few weeks back, and why do football teams always seem to have it on hand. Aren’t all those beneficial electrolytes supposed to help stop you from becoming dehydrated?
The simple answer to this question is that most people are simply NOT training like endurance or professional athletes and will do fine just using plain water for hydration. If you are training strenuously (a leisurely stroll doesn’t qualify here!) for more than an hour, and sweating like crazy, a sports drink may help you restore your glycogen levels(what you body uses for fuel) so that you can continue going and replenish some of your electrolyte stores. However, if you are working out to lose weight, burning 300 calories in an hour, and then pouring 120 calories of sugar into your body right after that, you are undermining a lot of the hard work you just put in.
Sports drinks are among the many “health halo” products that people consume without paying attention to what’s really in it. Protein bars can also fall into this category. Have you ever read the label on some of those bars? There may be 400 calories, more than 50 grams of sugar (1 ½ cans of soda worth of sugar) and tons of unpronounceable chemical additives in a bar like that, but people feel OK about snacking on them because they are “supposed” to be healthy. You’d be better off eating a Snickers Bar!
I will say it again, READ LABELS! If something tastes like a candy bar or soda, and has a comparable amount of sugar in it, treat it as such. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that because something is marketed as a healthy lifestyle option that it must be.
Are there any “health halo” products you have been confused by? Tell me about in the comment section below!
Is honey better than sugar? What about brown rice syrup, maple syrup, or evaporated cane juice? Surely these all must be better options than high fructose corn syrup, right? The answer to that question is very complicated and controversial, but as this article from the New York Times points out, you need to be careful with ALL forms of added sugar in your diet.
I personally avoid high fructose corn syrup even though the research on the dangers of this chemically created sweeter is inconclusive. Even if scientists have not definitively linked HFCS to any more health issues than regular sugar, I feel that its presence in a food item is indicative of other low-quality ingredients that have little nutritional value. A granola bar filled with HFCS is not likely to contain a significant amount of fiber, protein, or healthy fats.
The point I want to stress here is that just because something claims it is natural, organic, or wholesome does not mean that you can eat it in unlimited amounts! Watch your added sugar intake; even natural sweeteners add extra calories and have an effect on your blood sugar (and consequently, your energy) levels!
Just because something sounds healthy, doesn’t mean it is! Fast food and processed convenience foods can be jammed with sometimes shocking amounts of sugar, salt, and fat, even in places you wouldn’t expect.