Category Archives for Nutrition Advice

Stay On Track with These Fiber Facts

Whole grain breads – good sources of fiber.

Did you know there’s more than one type of dietary fiber? Eating a wide range of plant foods will help you meet all your needs.

Fiber is important in your diet and most people don’t eat as much as they should. In addition to eating enough fiber, you also need to eat enough of the different types of fiber. That’s because not all fibers function exactly the same way—different types of fibers have different effects on the body. So, just as you should aim to eat a wide range of foods in order to get a wide array of nutrients, a varied diet helps to provide you with enough of the different types of fibers, too.

What Is Fiber and How Much Do You Need?

Fiber is the structural component of plant foods, so it’s found in vegetables, whole fruits, beans and grains (like corn or brown rice)—there’s no fiber in meats, fish or poultry.
The average American falls far short of meeting the fiber recommendation of 25-30 grams a day. In fact, most of us only eat about 10 grams a day, which means we may be missing out on the health benefits of dietary fiber. Fiber, of course, helps move the digestive process along, but high fiber foods also provide the sensation of fullness, so they help with hunger control. And certain fibers also support the growth of friendly bacteria in your digestive tract.

If you don’t eat as much fiber as you should, it’s best to increase the amount you eat gradually over a few weeks. Adding too much fiber to the diet in a short period of time might lead to abdominal discomfort and gas, so take it slowly to allow your system time to adjust. Also, drink plenty of liquid to allow the fiber to soften and swell.

Different Types of Fiber: What Are They and What Do They Do?

There are two broad classes of dietary fiber—soluble fibers and insoluble fibers.

Soluble Fibers

Soluble fibers are found in the highest concentration in apples, oranges, carrots, potatoes, oats, barley and beans. Soluble fibers dissolve in water and thicken up. If you’ve ever cooked oatmeal at home, you probably noticed it got thick and gluey as it cooked. That’s because the soluble fiber in the oats dissolved in the liquid.

When these fibers come in contact with the liquid in your stomach, they swell up and thicken, too, which is why they help keep you full. Soluble fiber slows the absorption of glucose (sugar) from the blood stream and it can help to keep blood sugar levels more even throughout the day.

Insoluble Fibers

Insoluble fibers also support the health of your digestive system, but in a different way. Insoluble fibers don’t dissolve in water—instead, they simply absorb water in the lower tract, which makes the fiber more bulky. This type of fiber, found in the highest concentrations in vegetables, wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran and most other whole grains, speeds the passage of waste through your digestive system, so it helps to keep you regular.

How Can You Tell If a Fiber Is Soluble or Insoluble?

It’s actually fairly easy to tell the two fibers apart. When you make barley soup or boil potatoes, you can easily see how the liquid thickens up—that’s because barley and potatoes are high in soluble fiber. On the other hand, when you cook brown rice—a whole grain that’s rich in insoluble fiber—it doesn’t get sticky because the fiber doesn’t dissolve. Instead, it simply absorbs water as it cooks, causing the grains to swell up.

Tips for Increasing Fiber Intake

  • Eat whole fruits with skin more often than fruit juices
  • Use whole fruit as a dessert
  • Eat a variety of whole vegetables—cooked and raw—and eat them freely
  • Use 100% whole grain breads, waffles, cereals, rolls, English muffins and crackers instead of those made with refined white flour
  • Use corn tortillas rather than flour
  • Use brown rice, wild rice, millet, barley and cracked wheat as alternatives to white rice
  • Add beans to main dish soups, stews, chili or salads
  • If you have trouble meeting your fiber intake, you can use fiber supplements. But remember that fiber supplements don’t replace the healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains that you should be consuming.

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How to Choose a Healthy, Frozen Meal

Choose a high-protein frozen meal.

Frozen meals are convenient, but if you don’t choose carefully, they can be diet-busters. Here are some tips for choosing a healthy, frozen meal. Frozen meals have sure come a long way.

The very first ones produced in the US – in the 1940s – were designed primarily for airline passengers, and it would be at least another decade before frozen meals came into more widespread use at home. And, since it would be another 30 years before most homes had a microwave oven, the foil-wrapped “TV dinners” of the 1950s couldn’t supply instant gratification – they required a 30-minute stopover in a hot oven before making it to the plate (or the TV tray*).

By the mid-1980s, though, home microwave ovens were fairly common, and the invention of the microwavable food tray was a game-changer. Finally, dinner could be on the table, literally, in minutes.

Now, consumers want both convenience and good nutrition from their frozen meals – and it’s getting easier to do. Consumers are demanding better ingredients, more protein, less salt and healthier fats than they used to – and food manufacturers are stepping up to meet the demand. That means that you can find a convenient frozen meal that is also good for you – but you need to know what to look for.

The Good and Bad of Frozen Meals

One of the main advantages of a frozen meal is that it’s portion- and calorie-controlled. When you’re counting calories and watching your weight, this can be a huge plus; it eliminates the uncertainty that’s associated with weighing and measuring (or simply estimating) your own portion and, therefore, your calories.

Convenience is obviously an advantage – most frozen meals take only a few minutes to heat up, and you can have a healthy frozen meal without having to shop and prep. And, since there’s plenty of variety available, using frozen meals might keep you from getting bored on your diet.

On the downside, many frozen meals are really high in sodium, and they may contain ingredients (like preservatives, for example) that you wouldn’t be adding to foods you cook yourself; and the better quality frozen meals can be pricey.

What to Look For in a Frozen Meal

When shopping for healthy frozen meals, you’ll want to check the nutrition facts carefully. Here are some guidelines to help you make the best choices:

• Calories: This number will vary depending on your personal needs, but 350-500 calories for a meal is a pretty good target for most people. If you’re trying to lose weight, you might be tempted to choose the lowest calorie meal you can find, but if the calories are too low (I’ve seen some “meals” with less than 200 calories) the meal isn’t likely to keep you full for long – and that could set you up for some unhealthy snacking later on.
• Protein: Protein helps to keep you full, so the more protein you can find, the better. Look for meals that provide at least 15 grams of protein (ideally, more).
• Sodium: Finding lower sodium frozen meals is easier than it used to be, so look for meals with 750 milligrams of sodium or less.
• Fiber: Frozen meals don’t generally have large portions of high-fiber whole grains or vegetables, but it doesn’t hurt to look for it. If you can find four to five grams of fiber in your meal, it would be a plus.
• Fat: Total calories from fat in your meal should be 30% or less. To figure this out, look for meals that have no more than three grams of fat per 100 calories.
• Serving size: Make sure you know what the serving size is. Most meals are designed for one person, but it doesn’t hurt to double check. Remember that the nutrition facts apply only to one serving.
• Label Claims: When you see words like “vegetarian” or “organic” or “gluten-free” you might assume they’re healthy and low in calories. They might be, but there’s no guarantee. Really read the entire nutrition facts panel and the ingredients so you know exactly what you’re getting.

How to Make a Frozen Meal Even Better

• Most frozen meals have pretty skimpy vegetable portions, so it helps to add a side salad, some extra veggies, or a cup of vegetable soup to your meal.
• If you do add soup or a salad, you can eat your meal in courses, which will help you to slow down.
• It does add to cleanup, but consider putting your hot meal on a regular dinner plate. It will make it feel more like home-cooked, and you’re likely to enjoy it more.
• Save the trays – they can be useful for putting together your own quick, portion-controlled meals from leftovers you make at home.

*I can just barely remember eating TV dinners when I was very small. Every once in a while my mom would pop three of them into the oven for me and my two sisters if she and my dad had a big night out. I don’t think we liked the food all that much, but it was the only time we were allowed to eat in front of the TV – that part we liked a lot.

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Fall off of your diet? Pick yourself up

Tempted to eat something you shouldn’t?

Here are some helpful ways to deal with a momentary diet lapse.

You’re having a day that starts out great and the next thing you know something stressful happens at work and you’re grabbing a donut from the break room.

It only takes a moment for your diet to go from terrific to terrible. No matter how good your intentions, you can’t expect to follow your diet perfectly every minute of every day. There will be those times when you have something you shouldn’t. So, the trick is to figure out not only what gets you into trouble in the first place, but also how you can talk yourself back down.

If you’ve fallen off your diet––and everyone does––here are some tips to help you get back on track.

Know that lapses happen.

Everyone makes diet mistakes from time to time. What you don’t want to do is beat yourself up about it, because you’ll feel as if you’ve failed—which could lead you to just give up and lose control completely. A single event—eating something you shouldn’t, or exceeding your calorie limit for the day —is simply a lapse. It happens. Recognize it for what it is, but don’t let things get out of control. String enough lapses together, and you’ve got a relapse—and you’re back where you started.

Know what triggers you to eat something you shouldn’t.

Most people can identify what triggers them to eat when they shouldn’t. Stress, for example, is a big one. When people eat in response to stress, it’s because they think a treat will make them feel better. And it might—at least momentarily. But then the guilt sets it, which stresses you out, which causes you to eat more—and the cycle continues. Fatigue, loneliness, frustration, boredom—there’s a whole host of emotions that can trigger you to eat. Sometimes there are people in your life that are the problem—like the ones who are always urging you to have something ‘just this once.’

Figure out how you can change your response next time.

If emotional eating is a problem for you, work on finding other ways to deal with your emotions that don’t involve food. It’s been said that people eat to ‘stuff down their emotions’ in order to avoid feeling sad, lonely or frustrated. But many people also say that it’s really the fear of experiencing the emotion that makes them eat. When they simply let the emotion happen—and learn how to deal with it —it’s never as bad as they thought it would be. When your emotions are getting the best of you and food is calling to you, try writing your thoughts down, calling a friend or turning on some soothing music instead.

Talk nicely to yourself.

If you’ve eaten something you shouldn’t and the little voice in your head is saying, “You’re such a failure, you’ll never lose weight!” you need to be a little nicer to yourself. Instead, say the same thing to yourself that you’d say to a friend if you were offering support. “So, you got stressed and grabbed a donut—it’s not the end of the world. Let’s take a walk at lunch to burn off some extra calories and stop for a salad on the way back.”

Wait it out.

Delay tactics can work really well when you’re feeling tempted to eat something you shouldn’t. If you’re keeping a food diary, take a look at it before you indulge. Considering what you’re about to eat, and why, can be enough to stop you in your tracks. It also helps to tell yourself that you’ll wait 10 minutes once the urge strikes, to see if you still feel the need to indulge. Most of the time, you’ll get busy doing something else and just forget about it.

Get back on track right away.

Don’t let the day get away from you. A slip is one thing—just don’t let it turn into a fall. If you ate something you shouldn’t have, just get over it and pick right back up at the next meal. It’s too late to do anything about the last meal you had—focus instead on the one you plan to have next.

Remind yourself of how much you’ve accomplished.

Sometimes after a slip, it helps to do a little ‘system reset.’ Think about what motivated you to make changes in the first place, about how far you’ve come, and the accomplishments you’ve made. You have the know-how and the commitment—and you know you can achieve your goals because you’ve been making progress. Remember that progress is measured in many ways —not only by what the scale says. Every time you make the best choice in a restaurant, pack a healthy lunch, turn down an offer of food you don’t want—or skip the donut when you’re stressed and take a deep breath instead—you win.

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Streamline Your Diet With This Healthy 1500 Calorie Plan

Lose weight the healthy way.

I always encourage my patients to tackle their weight issues with a one-two punch of diet and exercise, and a 1500 calorie diet plan reinforces this approach. This type of plan allows for a reasonable amount of food, and it generally leads to a healthy rate of weight loss in most people.

A 1500 calorie diet plan might be right for you if you’re a female who gets regular exercise but you’re still seeking weight loss. This also applies if you’re a male who’s only lightly active and seeks weight loss, or if you’re a male over the age of 50 who gets minimal activity. It should go without saying that regular exercise is important for your health and can also help you reach your weight loss goals.

A drop of no more than 2 pounds (1 kg) per week is considered a safe rate of weight loss. If you’re losing more quickly than that, move up to the next highest calorie level. If you’re losing more slowly than that, you can try the 1200 calorie diet plan, but you shouldn’t cut your intake to less than 1200 calories per day.

1500 calorie diet plan overview

This plan calls for three meals and two snacks each day. Here is the basic breakdown for the 1500 calorie diet plan:

Breakfast: 1 Protein + 1 Fruit (+ vegetables if desired)

Lunch: 1 Protein + 1 Vegetable + Leafy Greens + 1 Starch/Grain + 1 Beneficial Fat

Snack: 1 Protein Snack

Dinner: 1½  Proteins + 2 Vegetable + Leafy Greens + 2 Starch/Grain 1 Beneficial Fat

Snack: 1 Protein Snack

Daily Totals: 3½  Protein, 1 Fruit, 3 Vegetable + leafy greens, 3 Starch/Grain, 2 Protein Snacks,  2 Beneficial Fats

As long as you don’t exceed the daily totals for each food group, feel free to move your portions around. But try to keep the same general pattern of three meals and at least one snack. It’s not recommended that you skip meals and then “double up” at the next one. More evenly spaced meals will help keep your energy level up, and protein at each meal (and for the afternoon snack) will help to keep you from getting too hungry.

3-day menus for a 1500 calorie diet

DAY 1

Breakfast

  • Protein Shake made with protein powder, nonfat or low fat milk and 1 cup berries

Lunch

Large salad made with:

  • Leafy greens (lettuce, spinach) – any amount
  • 1 cup (80g) chopped mixed vegetables (carrots, peppers, tomato)
  • 4 ounces grilled chicken breast
  • ½ cup (150g) cooked white beans
  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) reduced-calorie salad dressing

Snack

  • 1/3 cup prepared hummus
  • raw vegetables sticks (cucumber, carrots, celery)

Dinner

  • 6 ounces (200g) grilled salmon with lemon
  • 2 cups (160g) steamed green beans with garlic
  • 1 cup (150g) cooked brown rice
  • Mixed leafy greens salad – any amount
  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) reduced calorie salad dressing

Snack

  • 1 single-serve (about 5 ounce/150g) Greek-style vanilla yogurt + ½ cup berries

DAY 2

Breakfast

Breakfast bowl:

  • Fresh or frozen spinach, steamed or microwaved until hot
  • Topped with 2 eggs, cooked any style, and tomato salsa
  • 1 cup (80g) cut melon

Lunch

Veggie and Tofu stir-fry. Sauté veggies in oil, then add tofu and seasonings:

  • 1 tablespoon oil to stir-fry
  • 1 cup (80g) broccoli florets
  • 2 cups chopped Chinese cabbage
  • 3 ounces (about ¼ block or 125g) firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • Season with soy sauce, garlic, pepper and ginger
  • ½ cup (150g) steamed brown rice

Snack

  • 1 Protein snack bar

Dinner

Grain salad with protein. Toss together:

  • 6 ounces (200g) grilled shrimp
  • ½ cup (150g) cooked quinoa
  • 2 cups (160g) chopped mixed vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, carrots, cucumber, onion)
  • Dressing made with 1Tablespoon olive oil and vinegar; salt and pepper to taste
  • Place on a bed of leafy greens

Snack

  • Decaf nonfat latte

DAY 3

Breakfast

  • 1 cup (250g) plain nonfat Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 cup diced mango
  • Sprinkle with nutmeg

Lunch

Tuna pita pocket:

  • 4 ounces (100g) tuna mixed with
  • 1 Tablespoon low fat mayonnaise
  • Chopped mixed veggies (i.e., green onion, cucumber, peppers)
  • ½ whole grain pita bread
  • Mixed leafy greens salad – any amount
  • 1 Tablespoon reduced calorie salad dressing

Snack

  • 2 ounces roasted turkey breast
  • 2 whole grain (brown) rice cakes

Dinner

  • 6 ounces (170g) grilled lean steak
  • 2 cups (160g) roasted Brussels sprouts (halve, toss with olive oil, roast at 400 F / 205 C for 20 minutes)
  • 1 Tablespoon  olive oil (for Brussels sprouts)
  • Steamed kale, spinach or Swiss chard with vinegar
  • 1 medium baked sweet potato sprinkled with ginger

Snack

  • 1 ounce roasted soy nuts

Want more options? Customize your own 1,500 calorie diet plan with these additional tips.

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Five Ways to Eat Miso (Other Than Soup)

Make a delicious miso salad dressing.

Miso is a versatile ingredient that can boost nutrition and add a depth of flavor to a variety of dishes.

Even if you’re not familiar with miso, there’s a good possibility that you’ve eaten it. Have you ever been served a clear soup at the start of a meal in a Japanese restaurant? Chances are good that it was made with miso. Miso means “fermented beans,” and it is essentially a fermented soybean paste – and, when miso is dissolved into hot water (usually with other seasonings added), it becomes the soup that many people are familiar with.

What Exactly Is Miso?

Miso is usually made from soybeans and a grain (typically rice or barley) that has been fermented with a common fungus called Aspergillus oryzae (also used to make rice vinegar and soy sauce).

During fermentation, various compounds are produced that give miso its distinctive aroma and flavor. Depending on how long the mixture is allowed to ferment, the color and flavor of miso varies. Most American supermarkets carry miso that is labeled either “white” or “red” – which isn’t quite accurate – white miso is more beige or pale yellow in color, and red miso is actually brown. The longer the miso ferments, the deeper the color and the richer the flavor. So white miso is relatively mild, and red miso has a deeper flavor (and it’s also saltier).

If you’re fortunate enough to have an Asian supermarket in your neighborhood, you will probably see other types of miso. Some are made with beans other than soy (such as chickpeas or black beans), and some may contain buckwheat, rye or millet as a grain source rather than rice or barley.

Why Should You Eat Miso?

Aside from its ability to impart flavor to many different dishes, miso has some nutrition benefits, too. Because it’s fermented, miso paste contains the “good” probiotic bacteria that help promote digestive health. In addition, the fermentation process partially breaks down the proteins, fats and carbohydrates that are in the beans and grains, making these nutrients more readily available to the body and yielding a bit more protein than what is present in unfermented soybeans.

A tablespoon of miso has about 25 calories, 1 gram of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrate, with small amounts calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin K, zinc, iron and B vitamins. But it is rather high in sodium – a tablespoon has about 600 milligrams of sodium – but, in terms of flavor, a little goes a long way.

How Do I Use Miso?

Miso is more than simply a soup base. Its earthy, rich taste adds a depth of flavor to all kinds of foods. The milder white miso is best for soup, but it also adds terrific flavor to salad dressings and marinades, or as a seasoning for veggies. Dark miso is better for longer cooking dishes like stews, soups and braises.

Miso should be stored in the refrigerator, tightly sealed, where it will retain its quality for a long time – more than a year. After that time, it’s still safe to eat, although there may be some slight changes to the flavor or color. You can put some plastic wrap over the surface of the miso before replacing the lid to prevent it from darkening.

Here are 5 ways you can use miso in your everyday cooking:

  • Salad dressing: Whisk together 1 tablespoon of white miso, 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 5 tablespoons of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon of ground white or black pepper.
  • Vegetables: Stir together equal parts white miso and olive oil in a small bowl. Steam firm veggies (like carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli or cauliflower florets) until crisp-tender, then add miso mixture to the veggies and toss for a minute or two over the heat until glazed.
  • Marinade for chicken or fish: Mix together ¼ cup of white miso, ¼ cup of mirin (sweet rice wine; if you don’t have it, you can use sake, sherry, white wine or rice vinegar and add 2 teaspoons of honey or sugar to the marinade), and ½ teaspoon of ground ginger. Marinate fish fillets or chicken breasts for at least 30 minutes before grilling or broiling.
  • Sauce: Whisk together ¼ cup of white miso, ¼ cup of dark mustard, 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Use as a sauce on vegetables, grilled meats or roasted tofu.
  • Flavor boost: Add a spoonful of white or red miso to hearty dishes such as soups, stews, curries or pasta sauce to deepen the flavor.

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5 Helpful Diet Fix Ideas

Replace high-calorie snacks with healthier items

It takes time and energy to adopt a new diet plan and to stick with it. Here are some common reasons why you might be tempted to quit your diet – and some diet fix ideas to stay on it.

Trying to stick to a diet takes work. Once you’ve made the decision to take charge of your weight, you’ve got to break away from your usual routine. Instead of mindless eating patterns and loafing on the couch, you’ve got to start planning and cooking your meals. You also have to count your calories and make extra time for exercise. That’s a lot to tackle, which explains why so many people have a hard time sticking to a diet.

How Long Does the Average Diet Last?

It’s generally recognized that people diet frequently (and often give up), but the average length of time people actually stay on a plan is a bit hard to pin down. One survey from the UK found that women start, on average, three different diets a year. And they stay on each one for an average of about 19 days. By day five, two-thirds will have already cheated – tempted by at least one of the top five diet deal breakers: chocolate, potato chips, wine, pizza and cake.1

Another poll from Britain was slightly more encouraging and a lot more precise. In the 1,000 women who were surveyed, it was determined that they quit their diets after an average of five weeks, two days…and 43 minutes.2 Similar to the other survey, a quarter of the respondents had given up after two weeks, and by week four nearly half had quit.

Whatever the time frame – whether it’s five minutes or five weeks – the point is this: many people have a hard time sticking to their diet plans. Why is sticking with a diet so hard? And, more importantly, what can you do about it?

5 Reasons It’s Hard to Stick to Your Diet

  1. It doesn’t fit your lifestyle

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: When you say you’re going “on a diet,” it implies that, at some point, you’ll be going “off your diet.” This often happens when people try to adopt a diet plan that just doesn’t fit their lifestyle. Maybe it calls for a lot of food preparation, and you just don’t like to cook or you don’t have time. Maybe there are too many restrictions. So you quickly get bored, or you can’t find anything you can eat when you go out with friends or family.

Easy diet fix: Rather than trying the latest “diet,” focus on making lifestyle changes for the long term. If you don’t have time to cook or don’t enjoy it, seek out recipes that are quick and easy, and learn your way around a restaurant menu so you can always find something that works for you.

  1. Your expectations aren’t realistic

Once you’ve made the decision to “go on a diet,” you may have high expectations for your weight loss – especially if you find yourself making a lot of sacrifices. But if you expect to lose more than you can safely achieve over a period of time, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. And if you expect that you’re going to follow your new diet to the letter, you’ll probably abandon the whole thing as soon as you make a slip and cheat.

Easy diet fix: First, recognize that a safe and reasonable rate of weight loss is about one or two pounds (up to about a kilogram) per week. Recognize also that when you’re working to establish healthy new habits, it’s natural to slip once in a while. Rather than letting that diet slip turn into a diet fail and giving up altogether, try to learn from your mistakes and allow some time for the new habits to get established.

  1. You don’t change your environment

Your environment has a big effect on your eating. Think about what you keep in your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards at home, the snacks you have stashed in your desk, the burger places you pass on your commute every day. There are temptations all around you, and if you don’t take charge of your environment, it’s just too easy to give in.

Easy diet fix: Clear out tempting, high-calorie foods from your house and replace them with healthier items. Rather than a jar of candy on your desk or a bag of cookies on your kitchen counter, put out some fresh fruit or protein snack bars. Cut up some fresh veggies and put them in a highly visible spot in your refrigerator where they’ll be the first things you see. Stock your freezer and pantry with healthy staples, so you always have what you need to put together a healthy meal. If you can’t drive past your favorite fast food restaurant without taking a detour into the drive-through, find another route.

  1. You don’t eat regular meals and snacks

Too often, people think the quickest way to weight loss is to just eat as little as possible. So they skip meals and snacks, which leaves them hungry, tired and cranky. Then they crave sugar and caffeine to get them through the day. Skipping meals and snacks usually doesn’t help you lose weight, because you’re likely to just eat more at your next meal.

Easy diet fix: Work on establishing a regular eating pattern that will keep you from getting overly hungry. In general, people feel the need to eat about every three to four hours during the day, which means that most people need, at a minimum, three meals and a snack in the afternoon. When you know you’re going to eat every few hours, it makes it easier to control your portions at each meal and snack, too. You can teach yourself to eat just enough to hold you until the next time you plan to eat. And make sure that each meal and snack provides some low-fat protein to help keep your hunger under control.

  1. You eat for reasons other than hunger

Emotional eaters turn to food when they’re feeling depressed, angry or stressed. If they start on a diet and deprive themselves of the emotional comfort of food, you can imagine what happens. They just get more depressed, angry and stressed. If you find yourself eating when you’re not really physically hungry, you’ll want to work on finding other ways to make yourself feel better.

Easy diet fix: When you get emotional and feel the need to eat, take a moment to stop and simply acknowledge what it is that you’re feeling. Rather than ‘stuffing down’ the negative feeling with food, just let it be. It might help to write down how you’re feeling, or call a friend and talk it out. You can also tell yourself that you’ll wait five or 10 minutes before giving in. Chances are you’ll get busy doing something else and forget about eating altogether. Exercise is one of the best mood-lifters around. Instead of drowning your sorrows with sweets, put on your shoes and go take a walk, or get down on the floor and stretch instead.

1Engage Mutual Assurance. Cost of Dieting. July 23, 2010. 

Daily Mail Online. Five Weeks of Willpower. February 11, 2013.

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5 Great Food Pairings for Better Nutrition

Leafy greens are rich in calcium.

Sure, chocolate and strawberries make a delicious combo, but there’s more to pairing foods than combining items that taste great together. Get the most out of your diet by learning to pair foods that complement each other nutritionally, too.

People often ask me if there are certain foods that they should, or shouldn’t, eat at the same time. Some people have heard that “If you don’t eat proteins and carbs at the same meal, you’ll lose weight.” But a study published about ten years ago debunked that idea. On the other hand, there is another concept around food combining––sometimes called food synergy or food pairing––which recognizes that certain foods offer a bit more nutritional benefit when eaten together than if you eat them separately. Think of it as a nutritional ‘one and one makes three.’

How to Get Better Nutrition With Food Pairing

  • Colorful veggies with a little fat.

    Many fruits and vegetables contain compounds called carotenoids. These are natural pigments that give foods like tomatoes, carrots and spinach their beautiful hues––from the pigments lycopene, beta-carotene and lutein, respectively. Carotenoids function as antioxidants in the body, which is one reason why fruits and vegetables are such an important part of a healthy diet. These important compounds are fat-soluble, which means that when you eat your veggies with a little bit of fat, your body is able to take up more carotenoids. So, adding some healthy fat from avocado or olive oil to your salad, for example, will help you absorb the carotenoids found in the romaine lettuce, carrots and tomatoes.

  • Vitamin C with iron-containing veggies and grains.

    Iron comes in two different forms in foods. One form called ‘heme’ iron is found in fish, meat and poultry, and it’s more easily absorbed by the body than the so-called ‘non-heme’ iron found in certain veggies and grains. When you take in some vitamin C along with a source of non-heme iron, your body will absorb the iron better. And it doesn’t take much: the amount of vitamin C in one orange or one tomato can nearly triple iron absorption. So, tomatoes in your chili will help you absorb the iron in the beans. Strawberries will help you take up the iron in your cereal. And the iron in spinach will be better absorbed if you toss some orange or grapefruit wedges into your spinach salad.

  • Lemon and green tea.

    Green tea phytonutrients, which are naturally occurring and contain some unique and beneficial antioxidants called catechins, act to help protect the body’s cells and tissues from oxidative damage. When you add lemon to your green tea, the vitamin C can help your body absorb these beneficial compounds. If you don’t like lemon in your tea, have a fruit that’s rich in vitamin C along with your brew, like a bowl of berries or a sliced orange.

  • Fish and leafy greens.

    When you drink milk that’s fortified with vitamin D (as is nearly all the milk sold in the US), the vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium in the milk. But there’s another great way to pair these two nutrients––fish and veggies. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel provide vitamin D, and leafy greens like turnip greens, mustard greens and kale provide calcium. Pairing the two will help your body take up the calcium in the veggies.

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Healthy Nails Start with Healthy Foods

Protein supports nail health.

It takes the right nutrients to help support strong, healthy nails.

Just like your skin and hair, your fingernails are a window to the “world within”––the health of your skin, hair and nails are a reflection of what you put into your body. And, like any other living tissue, your fingernails rely on a steady supply of nutrients to keep them strong and healthy.

Fingernail Fundamentals

Your nails are made up of layers of protein known as keratin, the same protein found in your hair. And they tend to grow at a fixed rate, with some slight variations: men’s nails usually grow faster than women’s (except during pregnancy, when the pace often picks up); fingernails grow faster than toenails; the nails on your little fingers grow more slowly than the others; and nails usually grow faster in the summer than in the winter. Also, the hardness of your nails is largely determined by genetics.

Even though you can’t make your nails grow faster or make them harder, it’s important to provide them with the nutrients they need to stay strong and healthy. That way, your nails may be able to grow longer since they may be less likely to crack or break.

Four Nutrients that Support Nail Health

Protein

Since your nails are composed primarily of protein, it should come as no surprise that you need adequate protein in your diet to support the health of your nails. Choose from a range of low-fat plant and animal sources: soy and other beans, eggs, dairy products, seafood, poultry and lean meats.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Beneficial fats can help keep your nails moisturized, keeping them from appearing dry and dull. Fish is the best source of these omega 3s but you can also find omega-3s in walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds.

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that’s vitally important in protein synthesis, as it helps your body manufacture the keratin protein in your nails. Oysters are the richest source of zinc, but you’ll also find it in other proteins–meat, fish, poultry, beans and yogurt–as well as nuts.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a multitasker mineral–it’s needed for literally hundreds of chemical reactions in your body and, like zinc, helps your body to manufacture the proteins found in your nails. Magnesium is easy to get because it’s so widespread in healthy foods. Green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, avocado, whole grains, yogurt and soymilk are all good sources of magnesium.

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What to Eat After Your Workout

The ideal post-exercise meal is a combination
of healthy carbs and protein.

What you eat and drink after your workout—and when—can have a big impact on your next performance.

What do you eat first after a workout? Most athletes pay fairly good attention to what they eat before exercising, but afterwards for some, well, it’s almost as if ‘anything goes.”

Eating the right foods and beverages after your workout does more than just replenish your draining fuel supply. It helps your body get ready for your next round of activity, too. So, if you’re the type who works out regularly (and fairly hard), what and when to eat can make a big difference in your overall performance.

Keep in mind that refueling is geared primarily to those who are doing extended and strenuous bouts of exercise. If your usual activity is a daily walk or brief swim, your regular meals and snacks should take care of your nutritional needs, as long as your diet is healthy and well-balanced. But always stay on top of your fluid intake.

If you’re going the distance, what you eat after your workout is just as important as what you eat before you exercise. You’re not only helping your body recover from a bout of exercise, you’re also helping your body prepare for the next one.

What to eat and drink after exercising

Replenish fluids and salts after exercise

When you exercise, sweating causes you to lose important body salts, like sodium and potassium, which need to be replaced. Many advanced athletes get in the habit of weighing themselves before and after exercise, in order to figure out how much fluid needs to be replaced. For each pound that you lose during activity, you should drink about 2-3 cups of liquid (or about one liter of fluid per kilo of weight loss).

What to drink after exercise

Water is fine as a fluid replacement. Since you’ll be eating afterwards, you’ll need to pick up carbohydrate, sodium (and likely some potassium) from your foods. For those who don’t normally drink high-calorie liquids, this is the one time they might drink fruit juices. They provide fluid and carbohydrate and—depending on the fruit—potassium, too. Sports drinks are great since they provide not only fluid and carbs (some even have a bit of protein, which your body also needs), as well as the right balance of salts that have been lost through perspiration. And they usually have a mildly light, sweet taste that encourages you to drink more.

Your body needs carbohydrate after you exercise

After your workout—especially if it’s really vigorous—your body has burned through a lot of carbohydrate. That’s the primary fuel that keeps your muscles working, and it’s important to refuel as soon as you can. The recommended amount is about 1.4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight (or, 0.6 grams carbohydrate per pound of body weight). That’s about 100 grams of carbohydrate for someone weighing 165 pounds (75 kg). Healthy carbohydrates—fruits, whole grains and the natural carbs in dairy products—are a good place to start with post-workout snacking.

Your body needs protein after your workout

A bit of protein is important in recovery, too, since it helps to stimulate muscle repair and growth after you’ve been working out. It doesn’t take much—about 10 grams of protein or so will do. The ideal post-exercise meal or snack contains a combination of healthy carbs and protein. This is why athletes often turn to foods like a sandwich on whole grain bread, a dish of yogurt and fruit, a protein shake made with milk and fruit, or specially formulated recovery beverages.

Meal timing is important after exercise

When you exercise, your muscles become very sensitive to the nutrients that are available. And that sensitivity lasts for a limited amount of time. That’s why many athletes who want to optimize muscle recovery pay attention to this “metabolic window.” That’s a time period of about 30-45 minutes after exercise, during which you should try to eat your carbs and protein. During this critical time after you exercise, your muscle cells are more sensitive to the effects of insulin, a hormone that helps transport amino acids (from protein) into your cells. Insulin also works to drive carbohydrate into the cells, where it is stored in the form of glycogen. This stockpile of carbohydrate can then be used to provide energy to working muscles during the next bout of activity. Once you kick this fuel storage process into gear, you can keep it going for up to eight hours if you continue to provide your body with a shot of carbohydrate every two hours.

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Build Your Own Balanced Diet

A balanced diet requires quality foods.

A balanced diet involves more than just meeting your nutrition needs––it’s a personal plan that balances with your likes, your dislikes and your lifestyle.

People often ask me, “Is dieting good, or bad?” It’s such a general question that I often don’t quite know how to answer––partly because we toss around the words “diet” and “dieting” so much that they’ve almost lost their meaning.

In truth, we’re all on a diet every day. We each have our own dietary habits and patterns that make up our usual “diet.” Sometimes we make changes to that diet––often to cut down on our calories––in which case you might say you’re “dieting” or “on my diet” (that is, until a few weeks later…when you’re “off my diet”).

What Makes a Diet Good or Bad?

There are certainly “good” diets and “bad” diets. We all know people who choose foods carefully and eat well, just as we know others who seem to eat nothing but fast food and soda. And if you need to lose weight, then “dieting,” in the most general sense, is probably a good thing. But it really depends on how you approach your weight loss.

If your weight loss diet is one you can stick with, is well-balanced and leads to a healthy rate of weight loss, then yes, in that case dieting is definitely “good.” But if the weight loss diet you’re attempting to follow is unbalanced, if it’s so strict that you can’t stick with it, or if it’s so low in calories that you have no energy or you lose weight too quickly, I’d say that’s “bad.”

The Best Diet is the One that Works for You

The most successful “diet” is a nutrition plan that works for you day in and day out, provides your body with the nutrients it needs and includes foods that you enjoy eating. It’s a diet that works with your lifestyle, that you can follow for the rest of your life and is uniquely yours.

With so many different “diets” out there, how do you put together the plan that works for you? The best way to start is to follow some basic principles, and then refine your eating pattern until you find a way of eating every day that works for you.

Building a Healthy Diet from the Ground Up

I like to think of building your diet in much the same way you would if you were constructing a house. You start with the basic foundation, you build up your supporting structures, and then you add the finishing touches to personalize it, and make it uniquely yours.

If you were building a house from the ground up, you’d have a budget. Similarly, if you’re building your diet, the first thing you need to know is how many calories you have to work with. Just as houses come in all different sizes, so do people and their calorie requirements. Calorie needs are individual to you, and are determined, in large part, by your body composition and the
amount of activity you get. You can’t plan out what you’re going to eat until you have an idea of your daily calorie needs to help you achieve your dietary goals (whether it’s to lose weight, gain
or stay the same).

Now, just like your house, your diet needs a strong foundation. Ideally, the core of your diet will be made up of lean proteins, health carbohydrate sources (in the form of vegetables, fruits and whole grains), and modest amounts of beneficial fats. Your goal is to divide up your calories from protein, carbohydrates and fats in a way that suits your needs.

In most cases, about half your calories are going to come from carbohydrates. The other half will be, more or less, roughly divided between protein and fat. The proteins, carbohydrates and fats you eat, along with the vitamins and minerals that your body needs, provide the supporting structure to your diet.

Personalize Your Diet for Long Term Success

Once the basic structure is finished, you get to decorate and personalize your house. The same holds true for your diet. You get to personalize your nutrition plan by picking and choosing the
foods you’ll eat that work with your likes and dislikes, your lifestyle, your budget––while still meeting your nutrition goals.

Personalization is really the key to your success. Focus on choosing the healthy foods that you enjoy the most. What really matters is the overall quality of your diet. And with so many healthy
foods out there, there’s no shortage of items to pick and choose from. It wouldn’t be “good” if you felt uncomfortable every time you walked into your own home––if it didn’t feel like “you.” Similarly, a diet is only “good” when it’s good for you––because it nourishes you, and because it just feels right. And once you feel natural and comfortable with the diet that you can “call your
own,” your weight should take care of itself.

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