Jun 29, 2012

4 Breakfasts Under 400 Calories

Eating breakfast is an important way to start the day. As a breakfast person, I usually have something in my mouth no more than 20 minutes after I roll out of bed. I've heard people say that breakfast is "the most important meal of the day" but from a metabolism perspective, it's one of three important meals of the day. So don't skip lunch or dinner; they're important too.

There's no ideal time to eat breakfast, it just depends on your preference and time schedule. For example, if you workout in the morning, it's good to eat something about an hour before you exercise. Whatever time you decide, eating breakfast helps jump start your metabolism and gives your body fuel to start the day strong. 

If you're like a lot of people, you may find yourself eating the same ol' thing most of the time. Cereal, eggs, toast, repeat. I like finding new ways to add variety while still allowing for a quick prep time. 

It's also important to make sure breakfast is nutritious and well-rounded. For example, try including a source of grains, fruit and/or veggies and protein. A lot of people forget to include protein with breakfast, but this is a great way to help you feel fuller so you're not starving come lunchtime. My current favorites are omega-3 fortified eggs, veggie sausage patties, low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese and low fat turkey sausage links.

Here are a few of my favorite healthy breakfasts that don't break the calorie bank.

4 Breakfasts Under 400 Calories

2 whole grain freezer waffles, 1/2 cup fruit, 1/2 cup cottage cheese

Veggie scramble with 2 slices of whole grain toast
(Scramble 2 eggs and add frozen spinach or your choice of veggie. Finish off with a sprinkle of american cheese. So yum.)

3/4 cup oatmeal (cooked) with raisins and cinnamon, 
1 hard boiled egg

2 slices of whole wheat french toast with 1/2 sliced banana, 
1 veggie sausage patty

Jun 20, 2012

"Bread is the Enemy" and Other Tall Tales

The more people I talk to about diet and nutrition, the more I'm convinced we have a serious case of bread-phobia in America. You've probably heard it too. How many people have you heard say they're "staying away from bread" in an effort to lose weight? Yeah.

At this point in the conversation, I usually explain the fact that weight is based on the principle of calories in, calories out, blah, blah, blah. This is never a popular answer. Why? Because it means that weight loss isn't easy; it means you have to eat less, move more, and develop new habits that form your lifestyle. It means you'll have to say no to seconds at dinner and eat sweets less often. It means you have to make a commitment to your health.....and stick with it.

It also means you'll have less risk of developing chronic disease, may live longer and have a higher quality of life, among many other things. I don't know about you, but that sounds worth it to me. Admittedly, changing lifelong habits is no easy task. And it seems that in an effort to avoid this, too many people simply resolve to avoid "bad" foods (common food-phobias include bread, bread products, meats, sugar, dairy, etc.) which can - and frequently do - result in nutrient deficiencies and other health problems.

Interestingly, amidst the bread and other food-related phobias, America has a record number of people with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia, all of which are lifestyle-related diseases. It seems as though avoiding bread just isn't working.

Articles on the internet like this one don't help much either. Here, a journalist postulates his theory that America is in an obesity epidemic due to grain products and sugar. His article, of course, completely ignores well-accepted and tested research that people are eating more than ever before. A lot more. According to the USDA, daily calorie consumption in America in 1970 totaled 2,170 calories whereas in the year 2000, daily calorie intake increased to 2,700. That's a 530 calorie/day increase, which leads to gradual weight gain overtime. Wait a minute, that's exactly what we've seen! In 1980, about 46% of US adults were overweight whereas 67% of adults were overweight in 2000. Now, about 1/3 of the US population is obese, according to the CDC. There is no doubt the trend toward overweight and obesity in the US continues to rise. The question is why. 

As I mentioned before, many people want to blame specific food groups: meat, sugar, bread, dairy, gluten, etc. I've heard them all. I admit, we do tend to eat a lot of breads and sweets. But labeling one or multiple foods as "bad" only perpetuates the problem of disordered eating and disordered thinking. Food is not the enemy; it's how we use it.

Some the major reasons we have weight-related problems in the US are related to the increased availability of food, more eating out, less cooking at home, sedentary lifestyles, and more disposable income. In summary, for various reasons, we eat more today than we did 50 years ago. 

The even more complicated question is how to resolve this problem. The answer involves understanding not only biochemistry, but psychology as well. Working with a healthcare provider - such as a registered dietitian - who provides not only education but continued support and accountability is what I've observed to be the most effective strategy for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. I not only believe this, I've seen it work. Every. Time.

So next time someone tries to tell you that bread is the enemy, thank them for the advice and tell them that you're into eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. It'll rock their socks off.

Jun 13, 2012

Tomato, Corn and Cilantro Salad

Summer isn't officially here, but it was SUPER hot today. I knew when it hit 70 degrees by 8:30am that we'd be in for a hot one. When it reached mid-ninties by afternoon, I had to break out the kiddie pool for Will and I to cool off. Oh, sweet relief.

Preparing dinner on hot days like this makes cooking a chore. For starters, the oven's definitely OUT. Even the stove pushed my limits of comfort. I decided to try a new salad recipe that Kaiser Permanente sent me via their health e-newsletter. It has all the tastes of summer, is low in salt, but still has lots of fresh flavor. And the best part is I didn't have to turn on the oven.

Tomato, Corn and Cilantro Salad 
(Adapted from this recipe from Kaiser)

1 1/2 cups corn
2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Salad greens (optional)
1/3 cup feta cheese (also optional, but definitely recommended)
Mix everything together. Mound on top of fresh salad greens. Serve. How easy is that?
Nutrition information per serving:

Calories: 158
Fat: 8 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Trans fat: 0 gm
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 22 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 116 mg
Protein: 4 g

 This salad serves 4 people, so we had some leftovers. I made sure to keep the dressing and salad separate so the salad stayed fresh and didn't get mushy. I had it for lunch at work the next day. Caution: may (and definitely did) cause coworker lunch-envy. Just sayin.

Jun 5, 2012

Should You Go Paleo?

I'm a big fan of exercise. There's nothing quite like the feeling of a good workout. During a normal week, I try to do 4-5 days of cardio and 3 days of weight lifting. Recently, I wanted to give cross-fit a try since the program incorporates both cardio and resistance training. 

After a session, I decided I really liked the workout. I was a little surprised however when I saw the diet the cross-fit gym advocated: The Paleo Diet. Posted on the walls were things like "you're probably allergic to grain" and "avoid dairy". Also written in bold letters were foods that "you should eat". These included primarily meat, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables.

Image from: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-succeed-with-the-primal-blueprint/#axzz1wz8D8wju
To me, the Paleo Diet sounds a lot like a revised version of the Atkin's diet (and we all know how that tune goes); emphasis on protein, fruits, vegetables and a view that carbs are the enemy. As I understand on the Paleo Diet, complex carbs like pasta and rice are allowed in moderation for athletes, especially during recovery. But in general, it is a high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diet that promises weight loss and the potential resolution of health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Apart from the tendency to disordered eating I've witnessed many people experience when trying to eat "low-carb", here's the big problem with the Paleo Diet: it identifies the right problem (obesity in America) with the wrong solution (low-carb dieting). Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for our bodies, especially during periods of intense activity (like....say, a cross-fit workout). That said, there is no question America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. The solution to the problem is simple in theory: eating healthy foods in smaller portions and moving more. The application of this solution is the challenge and involves much more than simple calories in, calories out dogma. Truly becoming healthy involves a commitment from both your mind and your body, and that is no easy task.

Still, it's important for those seeking weight loss or general health to remember that the latest fad diet is usually not the solution to lasting change. A few other problems with the Paleo Diet are the nutrient deficiencies that can occur overtime when restricting dairy and grain products (for example, Calcium, Vitamin D, B Vitamins, fiber and more). For those with health problems like diabetes, the Paleo Diet can increase risk of blood sugar abnormalities due to the lack of carbohydrates. 

So, did I become a cross-fitter? No, but not because I was offended by the diet. I actually really enjoyed the workout, but the price tag just doesn't fit the budget right now. Instead, I do similar workouts at home and stick to a truly well-balanced, healthy diet. 

It looks a little something like this.

What are your thoughts on the Paleo Diet? Have you tried it?