JEN Articles

Change your taste for junkfood

How to break out of carb phobia, cut sugar cravings, and change your taste for junkfood.

Are you afraid of carbs?  I consistently coach people on eliminating their fear of carbohydrates.  Usually what happens is we avoid them out of fear that they make us gain weight.  After a few days of avoiding them our bodies simply crave them and unable to stand their absence any longer from our diet we go on a binge of eating all sorts of carb laden foods and usually the wrong kinds.  This then leads to another 3 days of avoidance and as you can see the cycle of having a love hate relationship with carbohydrates never ends.

You know already that all carbs are not created equal. You can see the difference between a bowl of brown rice and a donut with sprinkles. Yet when it comes down to actually eating that heaping plate of brown rice or sweet potatoes, you may – even subconsciously – be gripped with the same fear and consider both of them equally evil. So what do you do?

Eat carbs!!!  Ahhh-but not so fast!!!  The good kind please!!! When you consistently fill your body with sugar and fat laden carbohydrates (donuts; cookies; scones; muffins; nutrient void bread; sugary cereals) our bodies will crave more sugary fat laden carbohydrates.  Not only do we get a chemical rush from the wrong kinds of carbohydrates, it is also our body’s way of telling you it needs vitamins and nutrients!  When we eat quality carbohydrates throughout the day then our cravings for sugar and fat laden junk food will disappear.  Think oatmeal with breakfast; brown rice with lunch; ezekiel bread for your sandwiches and sweet potatoes with dinner, these are the carbohydrates I’m talking about.

Below I’ve included a list of various carbohydrates you may want to give a try!!!

  •  Brown and wild rice
  • Potatoes-any variety (prefer sweet potatoes)
  • Hot cereals, cooked — without added sugar, dried fruits, or nuts
    • 100% bran
    • Oatmeal (regular and Steel Cut Oats)
    • Unsweetened instant oatmeal
  • Pasta, whole-wheat or other whole-grain varieties
  • Ezekiel Bread
  • Ezekiel Wraps
  • Popcorn, air-popped-2 cups is one serving
  • Whole-grain, ready-to-eat cereals without added sugar, dried fruits or nuts, and with 4g of fiber or more per serving and no more than 5g of sugar per serving
  • Whole-grains such as:
    • Barley
    • Buckwheat
    • Bulgur
    • Cornmeal (polenta)
    • Whole-wheat couscous
    • Quino
  • Pumpkin; Butternut Squash

Buying Organic

Which fruits and vegetables are best to buy organically is a question asked of me often. In our house, we buy organic if there is any fruit or vegetable the kids tend to consume inordinate amounts.  I also rely on the information compiled and presented by an organization called The Environmental Working Group (EWG) www.ewg.org.    EWG is a not for profit organization who uses the power of public information to protect the public’s health and the environment.   Based on information they have collected, they have compiled a list of fruits and vegetables and their related pesticide load scores.  This information can be used in making the decision whether or not to buy organic. Highlighted below is some information on various produce and why you should consider buying organic.  By referring to the information provided on the EWG website, you will be better informed when picking your produce!

Fruits and Vegetables you may want to buy organic: 

Peaches: Consumer Reports have indicated that single servings of peaches “consistently exceeded” EPA’s safe daily limit for a 44-pound child.

Apples: Fresh apples and baby food applesauce can contain chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate which has caused large bird kills.

Nectarines: In recent testing, nectarines have been found to contain at least 8 different pesticides.

Strawberries: Strawberries can be subject to the fungicide captan, a probable human carcinogen that can irritate skin and eyes.

Sweet Bell Peppers: Testing ranked sweet bell peppers as the vegetable with the most pesticides found in a single sample.

Celery: Had the highest likelihood of having multiple pesticides in a single sample.

Imported Grapes: Contain methyl parathion and methomyl, a carbamate insecticide listed as an endocrine disruptor.  Grown under different regulations and guidelines, there pesticide residue levels frequently exceeded acceptable levels set by our government.

On the other end of the spectrum are fruits and vegetables which have been found to have lower pesticide loads.  Some examples are:  onions, avocados, pineapple and mango and asparagus (for a detailed list please refer to ewg.org).  Information is power. 

Holiday Nutrition Strategies

Plan ahead

Plan your holiday healthy eating and indulgences but keep the plan realistic. Make weight maintenance, not weight loss, your goal. Think about the situations you’ll face and what you can do to minimize the damage. Planning is key to enjoying indulgences wisely without gorging yourself or throwing your healthy habits out the window.

Make dietary adjustments

If you know you’ll be attending a holiday party, for example, adjust your eating accordingly, or put in a little extra time at the gym. However, avoid skipping meals. If you allow yourself to become too hungry, your self-control will falter. You can also experiment with healthier versions of your favorite holiday foods.

Maintain healthy habits

Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with wholesome choices. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products should make up the basis of your regular diet. Fill up on these healthy choices so that you’ll be less likely to stuff yourself with the unhealthy foods at the events you’ll attend.

Indulge wisely

Maybe you’ve waited all year for Grandma’s pumpkin pie or your sister’s famous stuffing, so make an effort to pick and choose your indulgences wisely. If you’ve waited all year for your sister’s stuffing why fill up on store bought cookies? Before you’re confronted with holiday eats, determine your favorite holiday foods and enjoy them modestly, forgoing the holiday eats that aren’t that appealing. Figure out your favorites, and which holiday indulgences don’t do much for you. This is also a wise strategy to use when holiday celebrations are held over multiple days. Pick and choose your favorites through the foods that will be served. Love your sister’s stuffing, have it on Monday’s celebration. Maybe you are not crazy about your aunt’s stuffing but love her mashed potatoes. Ok-have her mashed potatoes at her event but forgo the stuffing. But do not have stuffing and mashed potatoes at both events. This also goes for alcoholic beverages – watch your intake or skip drinking altogether and spend the calories on once-a-year holiday foods.

Enjoy your food

Once you’ve chosen your holiday indulgences, put aside any guilty feelings and savor every morsel slowly and with awareness. Really taste the food, feel the pleasure of it in your mouth and in your stomach. Don’t talk, watch tv, or eat it while standing-sit down and focus on the food.

Return to normal

The most important tip of all is to resume your normal healthy eating and exercise patterns. Holidays are usually one or two days not weeks. Except for the actual day of celebration, you should be in your normal healthy eating and exercise routines. Don’t let a few indulgences here and there turn into six weeks of overindulgence.

Change your exercise routine

Normally do 30 minutes on the treadmill, try incorporating sprints to give your body a nice surprise. Our bodies adapt to the same routines we give them and basically our bodies become more efficient. If you change up your exercise routine it will be enough of a surprise for your body and it may just work a bit harder at working off that extra cookie!

Eating Fat Does Not Make You Fat

You know the cute little Chia Pets that seem to pop up every year around the holiday time. Spread the seeds, water, and watch them grow “hair” over a few short weeks. The hair is actually the sprouts of the chia seed. Yes, they’re edible, though I’m not sure I’d want to eat the ones grown on one of those clay figurines.
Chia seeds are one of the hot, new superfoods out there. Actually, they’re not so new, but thousands of years old. They date back to pre-Colombian times when the Aztec and Mayans are reported to have used them for both nutritional and medicinal purposes. Known as the “running food” for their ability to promote endurance, Spanish folklore has it that Aztec messengers could survive a whole day of running on just a handful of seeds.

Nutritional Powerhouse
Chia seeds have a pretty impressive nutritional profile:

  • Omega 3: chia is a vegan source of Omega 3s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). 1 tbs. of chia has 2,282 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Fiber: contains both soluble (cholesterol lowering) and insoluble (sweeps through the digestive system) fiber with 5 grams of fiber per 1 tbs.
  • Minerals: Chia is a good source of Magnesium (promotes muscle relaxation), Potassium (reduces blood pressure and bloating), Calcium (promotes bone health), Iron (carries oxygen to muscles), and Folate (cardiovascular health and important for women of child-bearing age)
  • Antioxidants: Both white and dark chia seeds score high in the ORAC scale (measures amount of antioxidants), including quercetin, which has been shown to aid in athletic performance and recovery. These high levels of antioxidants help prevent the chia seed from going rancid, allowing it to be shelf stable for up to 1 year when stored in an air-tight container.
  • Gluten free: great for people with Celiac disease or Gluten sensitivity

Health Benefits
Although there are a limited number of studies that have been conducted using chia seeds, some of those have had promising results.

  1. Blood sugar control – studies have shown that consumption of approximately 2 tbs. of chia seeds help to reduce the rise in blood sugar that occurs after a meal and also helps to promote a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time.
  2. Blood pressure – studies show that participants who ate chia seeds, as compared to those who didn’t, exhibited lowered blood pressure, which can help to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke.
  3. Anti-inflammatory – Chia ranks highly in its antioxidant score, more than blueberries which are known to be one of the most powerful foods in terms of antioxidants. These antioxidants act to help combat the inflammation in the body that contributes to elevated cholesterol, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
  4. Weight loss – because chia seeds help to promote satiety, you’ll likely eat less in the meals following, meaning you’ll likely take in fewer calories during the day, which can lead to weight loss.
  5. Boosts athletic performance – Chia seeds are a great source of energy, as they contain carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Take it from the Aztecs who could run for an entire day after eating just a spoonful of chia seeds, these little beauties can power up your workout and help you recover as part of a post-exercise meal.

How to use Chia
Ok, now that you’re interested in trying chia, you’re not quite sure how to use it. The most basic way to incorporate chia into your diet is to toss it into oatmeal and yogurt or mix it into your pancake, waffle, and muffin batter.  The other two popular ways of using chia are to make the long-used beverage known as “chia fresca” or to make a chia gel, which helps with blood sugar control and promotes satiety.

Chia gel: Place 2 tbs. chia seeds into a mason jar and add 8 oz of water. Place the lid on the jar and shake well. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the gel to form. The gel can stay in the fridge for 2 weeks. Add the gel to your oatmeal or try adding 2 spoonfuls to mashed fruit as a “jam” to go on toast. it’s really good.

Chia Fresca: Place 1 tbs. chia seed in a mason jar and add 10 oz. of filtered water. Cover, shake, and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Then add the juice of 1-2 lemons or limes. I also like to add the juice of 1 orange. Cover and shake again before drinking. It’s very refreshing and will help to give you a boost in energy.

Nutrition Myths Debunked

Find out here which ones you’ve believed in!!

Drink milk; don’t drink milk; fat makes you fat; fat doesn’t make you fat; eat whole wheat; eat whole grain; don’t eat at night-sound familiar?  The nutrition reports that bombard us everyday are enough to make our heads spin.  Even though I’ve spent countless hours earning numerous degrees and certifications, there are times when I spin my wheels trying to make sense of the latest craze.  I would like to take some time and hopefully shed some light on the nutrition chaos that inundates us sometimes on a daily basis.

You must stay away from all “bad” foods.  How often do you start yet another diet promising yourself you will ward off all evil foods?  The truth is, after a few days of obsessing about the foods you swore off, you find yourself locked in a closet somewhere licking the crumbs at the bottom of the cookie bag!  Ok, maybe not to this extreme (or maybe it is-LOL!!!!).  Then you beat yourself up, comment how you have no willpower and start yet another diet in the morning.  When you follow an overly restrictive lifestyle and I use the word lifestyle here because it applies not only to nutrition, it is inevitable that failure occurs.  The parameters are too tight-there is virtually no room for success.  First banish the word perfect from your nutrition vocabulary. Perfect doesn’t exist but balance does.  A balanced diet is eating healthy clean foods 80-90% of the time and then treats (according to portion size!) can easily fit into your lifestyle the other 10-20% of the time!!  This is balance!!!  When sitting down to enjoy your clean food and treats, enjoy them.  Sit down; pay attention to the taste and texture; savor every bite and then when you’re done walk away truly satisfied.  Eating cookies in a closet can’t ever be as satisfying as sitting down with your kids enjoying a cookie from a batch of freshly baked ones!!!!

You should drink 8, 8-oz glasses of water every day. It is no joke that water is vital to our bodies.  It is important to stay hydrated and replace the water that is lost throughout the day.  However, it is too much for any of us to truly measure that number so guidelines have been created.  Hence, drink 8, 8 oz glasses of water every day.  How does one know if they are getting enough water?  For children and adults alike, if your urine is pale yellow, you’re doing a good job!

Eating at night causes weight gain.  I know you’ve heard this one.  “No eating after 7 p.m.”  Try telling that to someone who grabs the 5:40 train, then has to pick up their kids and get everyone home and still prepare dinner.  When you eat is not nearly as important as WHAT you eat and HOW MUCH you eat.  The WHAT and the HOW MUCH is the key.  Eating a balanced dinner and then a light snack before bed is quite normal.  If you notice that you are eating a lot at night then maybe you under-ate during the day.  By the time the evening rolls around you are famished.  In this state over eating is easy to do. This scenario is one reason this diet rule was created. For anyone who works out in the evening, you must eat after you exercise.  Eating a well balanced post workout meal is crucial to the body’s recovery.

Fad diets work for permanent weight loss.  Fad diets are not the best way to lose weight and permanently keep it off.  Often, fad diets promise quick weight loss and usually by cutting out certain foods out of your diet, you will experience quick weight loss.  But diets that strictly limit calories or food choices are extremely hard to follow.  Diets like these can become frustrating and usually end up in an all or nothing attitude.  Either I’m on the diet or I’m off the diet-and if I’m off, the “I am going to have a good time” mentality begins to set in.  Sometimes, even causing a weight gain that exceeds your original starting weight. By adopting a “healthier” lifestyle, moderate weight loss (1/2 pound to 2 pounds per week) is possible.  What do I mean by healthier lifestyle?  Exercise more, smaller portions and better food choices.

Natural or herbal weight loss products are safe and effective.  A weight loss product that claims to be natural or herbal is not necessarily safe.  These products are not usually scientifically tested and they are not required by law to be proven that they are safe or that they work.  It is important to talk with your doctor about herbal supplements.  Some when used in higher doses may cause toxicity and some when combined with prescription medication can be extremely harmful.
 
Fat is bad.  For a long time, fat has been touted as bad.  Rather than consume it, we turn to fat free cookies, fat free ice cream-really fat free everything.  The fact is, we all need fat.  Fat aids in the absorption of nutrients, in nerve transmission and fat helps maintain the integrity of cell membranes.  This doesn’t even scratch the surface of how important fat is to a healthy body.  Your brain is fat!!  We need fat.  It’s getting the right kinds of fat in our diet that needs to be cleared up.  All fats are not created equal.  Some fats promote good health, while others increase the risk for heart disease.  The key is to replace the bad fats in your diet, the saturated and trans fats and replace them with good fats.  How does one do that?  Using olive oil in your salad dressings and for cooking, throwing some flax meal in your yogurt or your morning cereal.  Bring wild Alaskan salmon, walnuts, seeds and various nut butters into your diet.   There are also DHA fortified foods available for purchase in the local supermarkets.  You can also buy flax seed oil in your local health food store.  Add it to your smoothies; use flax oil over your salads instead of olive oil for variation.
 
Skipping meals will make you lose weight. If you skip a meal, your body will think that you are in starvation mode and therefore slow down metabolism to compensate.  Also, when you skip a meal, you tend to overeat at the next one.  Your body is already sluggish, and you over consume calories because you are famished.  These two factors lead to weight gain.  An ideal approach is to eat smaller frequent meals throughout the day.  Basically, 3 small meals with 2-3 snacks worked in between.  For some this definitely is not ideal for a busy work day.  But with a little planning it can be done.  Throw some fresh fruit and pre packaged nuts in your briefcase and you are all set.  Take dinner leftovers for your snack.  Just make it a smaller portion.  Made pancakes on the weekend?  Make extra and refrigerate.  Use these extras as a snack option.  Whenever cooking, make extra!!  This is a huge help when planning out snacks for the week.
 
I hope this has helped to clear up some of the myths behind nutrition!!