Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

Archive for the ‘Nutrition information’ Category

Gluten, Gluten, Gluten


Gluten is the new “Atkins,” or “Paleo.” Seems that each year brings a new wave of diets, all promising better health, more radiance and weight loss. You’d think that by now, especially for those who have tried each one, only to discover it was either unsustainable or ineffective – of even harmful, we would collectively learn that there is no magic formula, shortcut or substitute for healthy eating and exercise.

But alas, an optimistic and perhaps lazy society we are. Most people prefer to take pills in lieu of changing their behaviors. It has been shown that those taking statins for cholesterol actually have unhealthier food choices since they feel their meds will “take care of” the problem. Diabetics relying on insulin, Metformin and the like, continue to skip meals, overindulge in or not balance their carbs, and don’t exercise – all strategies that could actually eliminate the need for these drugs in many.

The food and drug industries are partly to blame, but when push comes to shove, we must make our own choices. But I digress. This post is about gluten – the totally misunderstood element in our diets. In a quick nutshell, gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale.  It is also used in many, many commercial products, and not necessarily labeled in a way the average person can identify it, making it a problem for those with Celiac Disease – a true gluten allergy or autoimmune disease, in which an affected person is unable to process gluten. This affects many systems in the body, resulting in the inability to absorb nutrients, causing nutritional deficiencies. Then there is a condition termed “gluten sensitivity” or “intolerance,” for which there is no current consensus of definition. Finally, some are allergic to wheat – of which gluten is a part.

Here are a few links to the topic of gluten: definition, where it is found and current thinking about sensitivity. In the end, the message is that no one should follow a diet based on what their friends are doing or saying. If it involves eliminating healthy components of a diet, it is probably not wise unless there is a medical necessity for it. Do your research and consult with nutrition professionals before starting any diet.

Enjoy the links. To warm you up, the first is Jimmy Kimmel’s reporter asking people who follow a gluten free diet, to explain what gluten is. It about sums up the issue!

Jimmy Kimmel Show: 

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/jimmy-kimmel-gluten-free-diet-video?cm_mmc=Fox_Health-_-3_Signs_You_Should_Get_Tested_for_Gluten_Sensitivity_or_Celiac_Disease-_-Article-_-Watch_People_Who_Say_they_Eat_a_Gluten-Free_Diet_Try_to_Explain_What_Gluten_Is

A Grain of Truth to Gluten Intolerance

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/a-grain-of-truth-to-gluten-intolerance-20140527-zrpb3.html

Sources of Gluten:

http://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/gluten-free-diet/sources-of-gluten/

HuffPost: 7 Places You ever Knew Contained Gluten

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/surprising-foods-with-gluten_n_3769463.html

Truth About Gluten

http://flcourier.com/2014/05/01/the-truth-about-gluten/

People with gluten sensitivity who have not had tests

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/07/us-celiac-gluten-sensitivity-idUSKBN0DN1HU20140507

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Label-Reading 101


Having been a label reader for decades, it never occurred to me that there would be so many people who never do it. In my clinical work at the hospital, I educate people on diets they need to follow, and label reading is always a component. I am surprised at how many people are being introduced to the concept for the first time.

There are a few important things to know, right off the bat:

  • All nutrition information is not on the label. The important ones, as they relate to dietary restrictions, are listed.
  • Don’t assume the counts listed are for the whole package. The amounts of nutrients in the food item are stated per portion. You need to also look at how many servings are in that package, measure against how many portions you are consuming, and do the math to get the actual count.
  • There is a nutrient panel, and an ingredients section.

At some point in most people’s lives they will be told they need to restrict a certain element or ingredient. Being prepared will make the transition less difficult. Let’s now delve into the world of label reading.

THE NUTRITION FACT PANEL:

First you will find the serving size and the number of servings in the container. This is where the math is important when calculating how much of nutrient you are getting. If the container holds 2 servings and you eat the whole container, you need to double the numbers in the nutrition listing.

The next fact is the calories (again, per serving), and how many of the calories are from fat.

The next section addresses fat/cholesterol, sodium, carbs, protein and several vitamins and minerals. The information is stated in grams (g)) or milligrams (mg) and as a % of the recommended daily value. Assuming about 3 meals per day, the total of all you consume for that meal would ideally not exceed  one third of your daily value, particularly in calories, fats and sodium. Let me dissect the subsections for more useful information.

Fats are all not created equal! Healthy fats include mono saturated (like olive oil), polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats. These are the most likely to be in liquid form at room temperature (many oils). Unhealthy fats are saturated, with trans fats being the most unhealthy.  These are usually solid at room temperature (think of butter, lard, shortenings). Healthy fats raise HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Conversely, saturated fats do the opposite, clogging the arteries with fatty deposits that can lead to the blockage of blood flow. Blockages put one at significant risk for heart attacks and strokes. Make it a point to avoid any foods with trans fats, also listed in the ingredients as partially hydrogenated oils. Cholesterol is a type of fat that our bodies also produce. Currently, there is conflicting thought about the ingestion of cholesterol causing high cholesterol in the blood. Some now believe that the saturated fat causes our bodies to produce more cholesterol.

Sodium (the main carrier is table salt) is everywhere! Sodium is an electrolyte, important for the regulation of many bodily functions, but Americans consume unhealthy amounts of it. Long used as a preservative, it is used in canning, processed meats (hot dogs, cold cuts, etc.) baked goods, pizza, restaurants, prepared supermarket foods and more. Even if you never lift a salt shaker, chances are you are still getting too much sodium. It is hard to avoid unless you prepare all your food at home, from fresh ingredients. Too much sodium raises blood pressure, putting a strain on the arteries and other body functions. It leads to heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, breathing difficulties, edema (swelling and water retention). The recommended daily amount in an otherwise healthy individual is no more than 2,200 mg per day, but less is better. For those already afflicted with maladies affected by sodium, 1,800mg or fewer is the recommendation.

Carbohydrates, which include fiber and sugar are listed in the next sub section. Counting carbs is especially important for the diabetic. We will not cover this here as the subject is far too complex for this post. There are 2 basic kinds of carbs: simple and complex. Simple sugars (many of the ingredients listed with an “ose” at the end) absorb quickly into the bloodstream, causing spikes in blood glucose levels. This in turn floods the bloodstream with insulin, beginning an erratic spike and lowering of blood glucose levels, which is taxing on the body in a variety of ways. In contrast, complex carbohydrates (found in fiber and whole grains, not refined) absorb more gradually, lessening the rapid spiking and falling of blood glucose levels. This longer acting reaction supplies steadier energy and less fat storage. (Unused energy from carbs is stored as fat.) So look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. More is better. Stick with whole grains vs. refined – explained further in the next section.

Protein, vitamins and minerals are listed next. This is more informational, and less of an issue when watching certain potentially harmful elements.

The last section is the ingredient list. The ingredients are listed in order of quantity, from most to least. Study the list for partially hydrogenated oils (and reject foods with this ingredient), extra sugars (look for the suffix “ose”), additives that are unhealthy preservatives, etc. (again, this is another whole topic). If you have allergies, study this section carefully to learn if the contaminant is present. You need to learn all the names by which your allergen goes, to ensure you don’t ingest it. Many packages now state if the product is made in a facility that makes other products with the more common allergens like tree nuts, peanuts, milk, etc. Look for whole grains in your breads. If the listing says, “wheat flour”, it is not whole. It needs to say whole wheat. Corn, quinoa and oats are whole grains.

Well that about wraps up Label-Reading 10. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have. Just post to comments.

 

Cholesterol Confusion


Nutrition science seems fickle when experts keep revising their recommendations based on new research. Compounding consumer confusion is the vast misinformation swirling around the Internet. So what, do you wonder, should you do?

First, let’s clarify the difference between serum (blood) cholesterol and dietary cholesterol. Serum cholesterol is most affected by the consumption of saturated fat, primarily from animal sources (meats and high fat dairy). An egg contains only 2 grams of saturated fat, as compared to 15 grams in a 6 oz. piece of tenderloin beef. Saturated fat produces cholesterol in your body.

Eggs pack a lot of nutrition in an inexpensive package. The protein quality is excellent. A large egg has only 72 calories, and 185 milligrams of cholesterol. It has essential nutrients like choline and lutein, which are good for the brain and eyes respectively. Eggs are a good source of vitamins B12 and D, important for the nervous system, bone health, and more. Best of all, eggs are among the most economical, versatile and easy-to-prepare foods.

The current guidelines allow one egg per day, most days of the week (I recommend up to 5 days per week). On other days, have oatmeal or other whole grain cold cereals with fat free milk, fruit and whole grain breads for breakfast. Skip breakfast meats, butter and cheese, which are high in saturated fats. Count the milligrams in your daily intake of cholesterol from all sources. Limit it to 300 milligrams per day; 200 if already diagnosed with heart disease.

Make the most eggs’ nutritious properties by adding vegetables to your dishes. Served with whole grain bread, a vegetable omelet is very satisfying and will keep you full for many hours.

Breakfast: the Most Important Meal of the Day


This can’t be more true and I’ve addressed this in other entries about weight loss and maintenance.

Because the body is basically an energy burner, like a coal stove, the burn stops when the energy source (fire) stops. Never mind how much coal (i.e.-fat) is sitting in the stove. Get the picture?

Breakfast comes (duh!) from two words, cleverly put together. “Break” the “fast.” The “fast” part is when the fire goes out, while you are sleeping. To kickstart that fire (your metabolism) again, you need to add fuel in the form of a healthy breakfast. The key word is “healthy.” Not a slice of white bread with jelly. A good, solid breakfast ideally has something from at least 3 food groups. A protein, a fat and a whole grain carb will keep  you satisfied until lunchtime. Use portion control as well. Learn what a portion looks like. (I’ll review this in a subsequent post.) Add a mid-morning serving of fruit so you arrive at lunchtime hungry, but not starving. After a healthy lunch, have a id afternoon snack so you are not famished at dinnertime. A healthy afternoon snack would be a palm-sized handful of walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews pr pistachios (or any other nuts), or a plain yogurt with some fresh fruit added for sweetness. Stay away from flavored yogurts which are high in sugar. Some brands are now featuring lower sugar content. Look for 10 or fewer grams of sugar per serving.

The extra bonus of eating a healthy breakfast is that yo continue to burn calories at a higher rate throughout the entire day! Skip breakfast and your body remains sluggish, stubbornly holding onto that unneeded mass.

If you are not great in the morning, prepare your breakfast the night before. Some ideas:

  • A whole wheat muffin spread with peanut or almond butter, topped with whole fruit spread, not jelly.
  • Prepare quick-cooking steel cut oats, put in the fridge and reheat in the morning (watch it warm up in the microwave so it doesn’t overflow the bowl). Better still cook the real kind – enough for a week, and reheat with a splash of water each morning. Add raisins or craisins and a tablespoon or two of nuts for a very filling and healthy breakfast.
  • Cheese and crackers. Watch portions.
  • Trail mix. Make your own with low sugar cereal, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, raisins, cashews or other nuts. Also good for a snack on the run.
  • Low fat cottage cheese, fruit and a slice of whole grain bread.

Hydrate with water, skin milk, coffee or tea or a 4-6 oz. portion of fruit juice.

A few other tips to make your meal nutrient dense (packed with goodness, not junk!)

  • Make your grains whole.
  • Read the bread labels and look for whole in the ingredient list.
  • Use fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits. Canned are loaded with sodium and/or sugar.
  • Make your dairy low fat
  • Watch portion size
  • Read labels
  • Have moderate portions of healthy fats. These are easily recognized by being liquid at room temperature
  • Strive for fresh over processed. Always a better choice.

Energy Bar or Candy?


The public has been duped into believing energy bars are healthier than candy bars. Conscientious mothers pack them in their kids’ lunch boxes, believing they are providing a healthy snack. Some of these bars do offer protein and fiber, which candy may not, but they pack a wallop of sugar in a small treat. Fruit or a small treat with peanut butter or cheese would be as nutritious, satisfy longer and contain a lot less sugar.

You be the judge. Listed below is the sugar content in grams, of a portion of some candy and health bars. Interestingly, the 4 highest in sugar are health bars and the lowest two are candy!

10 grams: A package of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Squares
11 grams: Reeses Peanut Butter Cup
13 grams: Lemon Zest Luna Bar
13 grams: Iced Oatmeal Raisin Luna Bar
14 grams: Twizzlers Cherry Pull ‘n Peel
18 grams: Chocolate Craze Balance Bar
18 grams: Hershey Take 5 Bar
18 grams: Yogurt Honey Peanut Balance Bar
19 grams: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar with Almonds
20 grams: Almond Joy
22 grams: Peanut Butter M&Ms (24 pieces, 1 pkg)
24 grams: Apricot Cliff Bar
24 grams: Carrot Cake Lara Bar
24 grams: Large package of Jelly Beans
24 grams: Key Lime Pie Lara Bar
25 grams: Spiced Pumpkin Pie Cliff Bar 25 gms
29 grams: Met RX Big 100 Meal Replacement Bar Crispy Apple Pie
31 grams: Met RX Peanut Butter Caramel Crunch Bar

While we need glucose (which is found in candy and REAL food like fruit) for proper brain and muscle function, an excess of energy (sugar) over what is expended, results in the storage of fat around and in the internal organs, and clogs the blood vessels.

The New Year and Resolutions: Change the Paradigm


The most common greeting this time of year is “Have a happy and healthy new year.” Is this just a knee jerk reaction to the overindulgence of the holidays or a well intentioned attempt to just pay attention to our health since we are a year older and a year closer to death?

However well-intentioned our resolutions are, they are often short-lived. Life is busy, stuff happens, you lose motivation when you lose only 2 pounds a week, etc. This doesn’t mean that there is no way to achieve a healthy weight. It just means you are either going about it the wrong way or that you have unrealistic expectations. Here are some tips to help you achieve your health goals in 2013.

1. REPEAT AFTER ME: There is no magic diet that will sustain weight loss

Even bariatric surgery doesn’t work if you don’t comply with a rigid protocol. While there are many who do well on this program, it is by their choice – not because they had a “magic” operation. Diets are temporary. Lifestyle is permanent. Change your lifestyle – change  your health.

2. Health is more than eating right. While diet is an important part of good health, so is exercise, not smoking, and getting enough sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation messes with your hunger and satiety hormones, making you crave bad foods and disconnecting the “I’m full now, stop eating” button. Exercise improves all bodily functions regulating appetite, metabolism and sending oxygen to all you cells. It also reduces stress – another trigger for poor eating (think “comfort food”). Muscles built by exercising utilize more calories than fat. Yes, if you sit on the couch after a workout, your body will burn more calories than if you stand around while unfit.

3. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your mother was right. Your body has been at rest for 8 or more hours since last being fueled. Your metabolism has slowed down. A healthy breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism for the whole day! That’s right! Skip breakfast and your body never revs up, keeping metabolism slow all day, to protect energy (and fat). A healthy breakfast includes a protein, a carb and some fat. Protein and fat keeps you satisfied longer so you aren’t hungry for lunch prematurely. Carbs are needed for brain and muscle  function. (Did you know that your brain lives on glucose, broken down from carbs?) Just make your carbs healthy ones – whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, cream of wheat, bran flakes, etc. Look at the labels to be sure the grains are whole. “Multigrain” does not mean whole. The ingredients must say “whole” to derive all the nutritious benefits of a whole grain: protein, fiber and the slow release of carbs, keeping your blood glucose from spiking.

4. Drink, drink, drink. Dehydration is more common as we age because our thirst mechanism starts to fail. Don’t rely on thirst to be sure you get enough fluid. Even a small amount of dehydration affects your ability to perform well at any task, may lower your blood pressure to unhealthy levels and make you constipated. Also important is that the need for fluids often masquerades as hunger. You reach for food when in fact you need fluid. The amount of fluid needed varies from person to person but a good rule of thumb is 8 glasses per day. All liquids count (even coffee and tea) and many foods contain fluid. Fruit contains a lot of fluid (think oranges, watermelon, etc.). BUT BEWARE. Not all drinks are created equal. Those flavored mocha latte whatevers have a high calorie and fat count. Be smart about how you get your calories. Reserve them for foods that also carry nutrients with them – not empty calories like junk foods.

5. Eat slowly. People who eat slowly consume fewer calories because they give the body a chance to register fullness. Scarfing down your food before the signal comes means you are already too stuffed.

6. When you eat out, order a takeout container when you order your meal. Putting aside half the meal before you even dig in will cause you to stop before the plate is empty.

7. Use smaller plates. Psychologically, a full plate is more appealing. Loading a large plate with a reasonable portion may make you feel less satisfied. Go ahead, fill that bread and butter plate with healthy food and you can clean it without guilt.

8. Eat more meals. Eat three modest meals each day, with a small, nutritious snack between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner. You will be less likely to overeat at any meal because you won’t be as hungry. Skipping a meal has the double negative impact of making you ravenous and slowing your metabolism. Don’t skip meals to manage weight. Studies have shown time and time again, that those who eat small, frequent meals and eat breakfast, weigh less than their peers who starve and binge.

9. Read labels and record what you eat. I can’t emphasize this enough. Awareness of what you are putting into your mouth is the secret of those who lose weight successfully. We think twice before downing a handful of nuts when we know how many calories and grams of fat are in them. If we choose to eat them, and record them, we have a better handle on what we can consume the rest of the day.

10. Follow the 80/20 rule. If you are careful about what you eat 80% of the time, you can safely indulge the other 20% of the time.

Have a happy and healthy new year!

 

Parmesan Crusted Chicken Tenders


While this recipe is not ultra low in calories and fat, it is considerably healthier than the standard preparation. Therefore, you can enjoy the old standard with less guilt. The recipe is easy to prepare, satisfying , and heart healthy. It is also suitable for diabetics.

Ingredients:

2 large eggs, beaten
1 lb. chicken tenders
1 C whole wheat breadcrumbs, coarse
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
1 Tbs Italian seasoning (unless breadcrumbs are seasoned)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 C whole wheat flour (preferred)
Olive oil cooking spray
Marinara sauce for dipping

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put an oil sprayed wire rack on a baking sheet.

Put flour in one shallow dish and eggs in another. Mix parmesan cheese, garlic powder , Italian seasoning and breadcrumbs and place in another shallow dish.  Coat each tender in flour. Shake off excess and coat each tender with the beaten eggs, then roll in breadcrumb/parmesan cheese mixture to coat thoroughly.

Place the tenders on the wire rack, spray with cooking spray and bake for 10 minutes. turn them over, spray the tenders and put back in oven for about 10 minutes more, until crisp.

Serve with marinara sauce or offer a variety of sauces like sweet and sour, teriyaki, etc.

Serving size=4oz. 335 calories per serving; 12 grams of fat (4 saturated); 132 mg cholesterol; 23 grams carbohydrate; 31 grams protein; 3 grams fiber; 607 grams sodium; 466 mg potassium.

Diabetic exchange equivalents: 3 lean meats, 1 starch, 1 vegetable

Makes 4 servings; 30 minutes prep/cook time

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