Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nutritional 'No-how" Misleading Labels, and Lunch on the Run!!

Grocery shopping for healthy foods can be a real treasure hunt. This is particularly true when it comes to packaged items, and their misleading labels. Many items we automatically pick up-assuming the product inside is healthy.
We pick up a container of milk, for example, the label says 1%, we think we are doing the right thing for ourselves, and our families. Truth be known that 1% milk in reality is 18% fat by calories. Ouch!! The dairy industry marks it's product by volume, not actual calories. This is also true of the meat industry. A package of 93% lean ground beef, for example, is actually 45% fat by calories, (Nutrition for Professional, Jane Penz PhD 2008). Shocking.
It seems the United States Department of Agriculture ( USDA) labeling guidelines allow meat and poultry products, as well as dairy, to label fat content by volume, or weight, rather than actual calories per portion. We assume it is by portion. Also, by definition The Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) guidelines for "low fat" is "a product containing less than 3 grams of fat." This allowed 2% fat milk, which actually contains 36% fat, to be labeled "low fat". The Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) decided in 1998 to disallow this claim. Now the new claim is "reduced- fat." This still leaves our 1% milk to be "low fat", with a whopping 18% fat content. For further details visit www.cspinet.net/nah/junebeef.htm (Penz)
Other labels to be on the-look out-for are 'fat free" and calorie free." Items claiming to be "calorie free" can actually contain up to 5 calories per serving, according to labeling laws. "fat free" is even more misleading. An item containing less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving can be called "non-fat." This becomes even more troublesome when we over consume the product, believing the claims. Other shocker are "Promise Fat -free is 100% fat" and Pam cooking spray contains 1638 calories, based upon actual spraying time and sprays per can. Not even close to calorie free. For more information on this visit http://www.fda.gov/fdac/special/foodlabel/lite.html
Other grocery store label culprits are "whole grains." There are no rules regarding the amount of actual "whole grain" in any product. There could actually be very little in the product. You are best off to actually examine the list of ingredients on the item. The list of ingredient has to be listed from the most prevalent item to the least. So, a package of wholegrain crackers may actually be nothing more than processed flours stripped of all nutritional value, glued together by some trans fats.
Trans fats are one of the most dangerous culprits out there. These items hide behind labels claiming they are free of trans fats. How does this happen? The same labeling laws that govern the "fat free/calorie free" products govern these. Because the item contains less than 1/2 a gram of fat per serving it can be called "fat free"- regardless of it's content. Partially hydrogenated products are trans fats. these products turn oily foods into solid foods. They are used primarily in bakery items (cakes, cookies, pastries), margarines, edible oil products, coffee creamers, fast foods and many others. Read the label! These dangerous products are linked to many diseases. They have zero nutritional benefit.
With this said, what can you do? Well firstly read all labels carefully. Do the math. Make sure things add up on the side panels. Make sure you read the list of ingredients- know what is really in those items. Avoid store bought bakery items, eat home made items if you must indulge. You can select wholesome, natural ingredients to create a family treats. Eat fresh produce, or flash frozen. Limit these dangerous trans fats, get them out of your diet. It takes time and self-denial, but it is worth it. Even start by cutting the product with something healthy. An example of this would be using coffee mate with soy milk. It is a process.
As promised, I was going to offer some quick lunch ideas that are fast and nutritious.

carrots, peppers, celery, olives
1/2 cup of greek humous dip
whole grain pita bread or whole grain crackers
melon medley ( cantelope/ watermelon/ honeydew
This is a great to go lunch for at work. Lots of great veggies for something crunchy!!)

whole grain crust (Trader Joe's, or even a whole grain pita bead.)
sun dried tomatoes
fresh basil
fresh garlic
sprinkle feta cheese or soy cheese
place under broiler for a few minutes.

almond butter
apple slices
whole grain wrap
side salad with Newman's Own Raspberry Salad Dressing

wild salmon (canned, packed, left over)
mixed salad greens
Newman's Own Corn and Bean Salsa
Whole grain wrap

Tofu- marinaded in soy sauce or teriyaki sauce
Frozen oriental mix vegetables (broccoli, sugar snap peas, water chestnuts, celery, carrots and red peppers)
(Fresh if you have a little more time)

Use a skillet and moisture cook the tofu in sauce. Add cooked veggies to mix, either the microwaved flash frozen ones or steamed fresh ones. Not very much sauce is required.

When in a pinch you can microwave the tofu with sauce, then add in veggies. Fast and nutritious.... pretty tasty,too. And you can do this anywhere that has a microwave!!

Lean Cuisine to the rescue
Select an option that has lots of vegetables and whole grains.
(I am partial to the Wild Salmon and Orzo)
add a bunch of grapes

It is important to keep healthy food options at work with you for healthy snacking between meals. Stay away from coffee, cola and that crazy vending machine!!

Next time we are going to discuss emotional eating and finish our nutrition series with summer fun barbeque style meals that are heart healthy and diet conscious. Any questions? Please, feel free!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Nutritional "No- How" with Bonus Meal Plans for Summer!

Does all this "talk" about food almost leave you with your head spinning? Eat this, don't eat that... It can get pretty confusing, pretty quickly! This article is the third in this series of nutritional n0-how. This time around we are going to look at some myths the diet industry had placed out there, how all this diet stuff got started, and why these choices may not be the right choices for your health. Also, a small sample menu plan will be offered at the end, sort of a mix and match summer meal plan!

Dieting has been around for thousands of years. It began back in the 1800's, before then only the wealthy were overweight. Over time more people enjoyed financial success. Eating and drinking became a way to celebrate the fruits of their labors, particularly those who experienced hardships growing up.
Interestingly, diets did not originate due to health concerns, or even the pursuit of a better looking physique. No, dieting became a concern first from a biblical perspective on gluttony. Looking upon gluttony as a sin, there was much concern. After all we all know what the wages of sin are, right?! (If not, the bible clearly states, "The wages of sin are death." Romans 6:23)
So with this in mind, realizing that over consumption and excess weight one Presbyterian minister named Sylvester Graham, began to preach what has now become known as the "health message" on a proper, mostly vegetarian, diet and its positive effects upon the body, mind and particularly the spirit.
Our minister also advocated vigorous exercise, cold showers, opening the bedroom window at night ( no matter what!), drinking pure water, and of course chastity and temperance. It appears that in the 1830's our minister friend was onto something! His views were not completely well received, he the nickname "Dr. Sawdust."
He did attract followers though. They were a faithful bunch that became known as "Grahamites." Yes, Dr. Graham was the originator of graham flour, and it's well known cracker, the graham cracker. He was totally against the use of processed, refined flours. He was at odds constantly with the bakers of that era who used white, refined products, often openly rebuking them in his services. He did in fact employ bodyguards in his meetings.
Refined sugar and flour was not his only battle. He was also at war with the milk producers. It seems that they fed their cows swill leftover from the distilleries, and in order to neutralize the alcoholic content, chalk and molasses were used!
Dr. Graham was he first to advocate diet and healthful, mindful eating. His material has actually become sound advise for a long, healthy life. It is actually very close to a the ideal diet plan for health today, based upon much study. However with the diet industry raking it in with practically a new diet plan every day, buy this, buy that, it's hard to know what really works, AND is good for your health! Let's take a look at some of the big myths.


Good news! This is a complete lie. Diets that are too restrictive are not lifestyle changes. You cannot maintain this type of eating for very long. This is only the tip of the iceberg. A diet to low in calories slows your resting metabolic rate. It has a negative effect on your body composition. Your body, in the absence of glucose (the product of a healthy carbohydrate rich diet) will break down muscle tissue for glucose. Muscle, not fat, has the chemical composition necessary to create glucose for starving brain cell, and other critical bodily functions.
Skipping breakfast is a very tragic thing!! After 12-16 hours the body REQUIRES nourishment.If nothing has been eaten, the body will quickly catabolize your precious muscle tissue. This is not very productive if you are working out. No wonder people on these diets are usually tired and cranky!


As mentioned above, carbohydrates are the primary form of energy for the human body. Carbs are not "bad." Carbs are necessary to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. In order to burn fat, glucose is required, preferably from carbohydrates. Protein on the other hand, are necessary for the building and repair of all tissues and cells. Immune function, collagen repair, blood clotting, oxygen transport, and other critical functions are some of the roles that protein plays in the body. "While a cell may need an amino acid to build a vital protein, the need for energy in the form of glucose supersedes protein need. Without energy cells die: without glucose the brain and nervous system die. Cells are forced to use amino acids for glucose only when glucose is not available ( no consumption of carbohydrates, or a delay in eating) Breakdown of body proteins to meet the energy and glucose needs can lead to muscle wasting." "Muscle wasting" can lead to a slower metabolism and serious health problems. Although on the outset high protein diets may look good, you might even loose weight (not good weight, try a body composition test) but is it really worth risking your health, and loosing much needed muscle tissue? The human body stores carbohydrates in the form of glucose, it does not store amino acids, in fact all protein contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is toxic to the human body, it must be regularly eliminated. To much nitrogen, and constant excretion of them can impose health risks.
All in all, too much of anything is not a good thing. The key is balance in proper nutrient- rich foods.


While it is prudent to eat a low-fat diet, fats are an essential component to a healthy diet. Fats are in both animal and plant based foods. Generally speaking, a diet high in animal fats is a diet high in saturated fats- saturated fats have been linked to many forms of cancer, diabetes, high blood sugar, depression, coronary diseases and stroke. Note, this is true of a diet HIGH in saturated fats. Saturated fats are virtually impossible to avoid entirely, as many manufacturers use them in their products as they have a long shelf life, and are relatively cheap. Trans Fatty Acids are another type of fat that has been linked to health problems. Trans fats are a type of man-made fat that also increases the shelf life of products. Most of them are hidden in the form of partially hydrogenated plant oils. This process was developed in the early 1900's and first appeared as Crisco in 1911. These products add hydrogen to unsaturated fats, turning them into saturated fats.
While healthy fats are very useful for hormone function, immune function and other critical roles in the body, trans fats and saturated fats are not part of this cycle. Instead these types of fats can actually become imbedded in cell membranes. Some recent research has hypothesized that this damage to cell membranes, which effects the cell's fluidity, might be the cause of insulin resistance.( Nutrition for Professionals- Dr. Jane Penz 2008)
Low -fat manufactured foods tend to contain hydrogenated plant oils, and a higher amount of sugar, also. (ACE Certified News 2009) While a diet high in "healthy fats" seems to aid in everything from cell aggregation to a healthier waste line.
So what are "healthy fats?" Here are some examples:
*"Wild" Salmon, Mackerel, other fatty fish. (Watch for fish with high mercury values. Ussually the larger the fish, the more mercury. ie- Swordfish.)
*Olive oils, and canola oils. Please note that these oils loose their properties when heated. Free radicals are formed when vegetable oils are heated. (I use vegetable broth in my pan to prevent sticking.)
*Nuts and seeds, particularly walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. (I usually get mixed nuts for a greater cross section of minerals.) And , yes, natural is better!
*Flax seed (and oil), safflower products , sesame seeds and oil, sunflower seeds and oil, and soybean products (Series one prostaglandins that create less inflammation, and are anti-aggregating.)
*Avocado, fresh and organic
These products should all be reasonable fresh.
While it is prudent to purchase low fat dairy items such as yogurt, cheese and milk- it is also prudent to use them sparingly. A diet rich in the above mentioned fats with fresh, whole, organic foods has been proven to be the most successful, and easy to adhere to.

Most of these are quick and easy!! Most are only about 400 calories, but who's counting!
Remember, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day. Do not skip out on this one!

(for those who really are in a hurry!!)

1 cup of vanilla soymilk or non-fat milk
1 ripe banana
2 tablespoons of almond butter, or all natural peanut butter ( Try Marathon Nutter Butter at Dingy Docks.)

Blend and enjoy!

One whole grain english muffin toasted, or Ezekiel Bread.
Top with almond butter, or nutter butter, add 1/4 sliced bananas.
Add one cup of mixed berries in a side bowl.

Whole grain waffle topped with berries and greek yogurt with honey, add shaved almonds.

Using either egg substitute of regular eggs. Use cooking spray, small amount, and vegetable broth to prevent sticking
1 egg (or portion)
2 eggs ( or portions)
feta cheese, or greek cheese or soy cheese.
1 piece of Ezekiel Sesame toast.


raspberries, blueberries, strawberries (layered) 1 -1.5 cups
greek -style yogurt with honey
top with Go-Lean cereal (1/2 cup) and pumpkin seeds (2 teaspoons)

(Preferably old fashioned style oatmeal, as packages of quick oatmeal contain a lot of sugar!!)

Spray a baking pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven at 450 degrees.
Mix bananas (ripe), 1 cup of egg whites (or substitute), and 1 cup of soy milk together very well in a bowl.
Pour mixture into pan. Add oatmeal to "just full" in liquid mixture. The point is to have enough oatmeal to absorb the fluid. Top with 1/4 cup walnut and 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips.
Bake 25-30 minutes.
Voila! Easy on the go breakfast bars!!



Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nutritional "No-How" Part Two

In the last article we discussed the importance of several nutrients, particularly focusing on fruits and vegetables. With summer here, it is so easy to eat healthfully. Colorful, fresh food is so much more available, and more affordable. It's great time to encourage your children to eat smart, too.
Fruit and vegetables, and even milk (lactose), are part of a food group called "simple"carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential for energy and health. They are considered to be the body's best source of energy. "Simple" sugar also comes in the form of cake, cookies, bakery items, white bread, processed foods... very low nutrient, very high calorie.
Other important forms of carbohydrates are considered "complex" carbohydrates. These would be in the form of breads, rice and potatoes. These foods, if they are "whole foods"/ not processed, are also excellent forms of natural fiber and other key vitamins. Once again, the key is "whole foods."
"Whole foods" are high in nutrients and fiber.( They tend to be more filling, also!) These type of foods have an impact on many of the cardiovascular diseases now prevalent in society. Populations that consume more dietary fiber have a lower risk for chronic disease. Fiber also has many favorable effects on risk factors for disease. These diseases include, and are not limited to, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and coronary heart disease( CHD).
Dietary fiber helps protect against cardiovascular disease by improving blood lipid profiles, lowering blood pressure and reducing indicators of inflammation (American Dietetic Association (ADA))
In a documented study, Pereira and colleagues conducted an analysis on the effects of total fiber and types of fiber on the risk of developing heart disease. They analyzed the consumption of dietary fiber from whole grain cereals (not highly processed) and fruit. They discovered that for "every 10 grams per day increase in total fiber, there was a reduction of 14 percent in coronary events and 27 percent in coronary deaths.(Arch Internal Medicine. cohort study)
Several other well documented studies also showed a direct impact from whole grain foods and coronary complications and death.
Some noted foods for the reduction of LDL cholesterol ( the "bad" one), are apples, barley, beans ( and other legumes), fresh fruit ( bananas, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, pears, plums ,prunes and citrus fruit) and vegetables, ( such as broccoli, carrots, brusel spouts, and cabbage) oatmeal, oat bran, whole oat flour (Nutrition Dimensions online)
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after reviewing 42 clinical trials, in 1977 they approved the first food specific health claim. "Soluble fiber from foods such as oat bran, rolled oats, or oatmeal, and whole oat flour, as part of a low in saturated fat and cholesterol diet, may reduce the risk of heart disease."
While you may not have been eating this way, and it is a distinct change, it is recommended that you work this into your diet. Start small. Your tastes will change. It is so important that you eat this way, AND teach your children. They may resist at first, that's normal. Help them learn young and avoid disease and sickness. You will be glad you did!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"N" is for Nutritional No-How! Part One

Summer is officially here!! The island is booming with visitors-the heat is on, so to speak!! I love summer! One of my favorite things about summer is the fantastic food choices that are available. Fresh, healthy, whole food choices to optimize every moment of every day. I am a firm believer of eating "what is in season." What God has provided. This approach keeps your options exciting, the necessary nutrients for healthy living- and the costs down. Generally, whatever is in season is available in an abundance, and is on sale!!
Summer is an active time of the year. So much to do, so many options. Hydration becomes somewhat of an issue, leaving many of us feeling unusually fatigued. It is important to drink lots of plain water to keep your energy level high. Another energy booster is eating fresh fruits and vegetables. These are wonderful ways of staying hydrated and refreshed. Cut, ready to go watermelon in the fridge is a great way to have a cool, healthy energy booster on hand. (Watermelon won't only hydrate you-it has a high concentration of lycopene that can protect you from prostrate, breast, lung and colorectal cancers.) Remember, water participates in almost every metabolic reaction in the body. It is also critical for healthy cell. Alcohol is not considered a good choice, in fact it dehydrates you.
It is very important to eat a "rainbow" of color each day. It is suggested that by eating seven to nine servings per day is a key component to feeling your best. Colorful, fresh eating is the first line of defense against many of the diseases we struggle with today. Try to eat from each color group each day, very easy to do during the summer and see if your blood pressure, skin, eyesight, cholesterol levels and energy are not better by the end of the season. Add in some exercise and you are on your way to better health. Try eating from each of these groups, each day, this summer. Make it a goal!
Purple grapes, dark raisins, blueberries, purple cabbage, purple potatoes, plums and dried plums.
Tomatoes ( both fresh and canned. Cooked tomatoes actually are more nutrient rich.) watermelon, apples (which has also been touted for improved endurance and mental acuity), strawberries (high in antioxidants that protect against free radical damage, and collagen production), cherries and sour cherries ( good for gout and muscle recovery), beets(folate) and red onions (also, good for endurance.)
*Dark Orange/ Yellow Orange (Much of this group is rich in Vitamin A (essential for vision, cell growth, bone growth, and cell division, immune function regulation.) and Vitamin C (essential for collagen production needed for strengthening blood vessels, scar tissue formation, and is a matrix for bone growth. Vitamin C is also a key part of iron absorption)
Mangos, pumpkin, cantaloupe, carrots, squash, apricots, oranges, sweet potatoes, papaya.
*Yellow Green
Spinach ( known as a super food containing vitamin A, K, magnesium, folate, zinc and iron, best served with a vitamin C food, such as delicious berries in a salad.)Kiwi fruit, collard greens and romaine lettuces (containing vitamin K)
*The "super food" Greens
Leafy green vegetables (vitamin K, trace minerals), kale (calcium), Broccoli (calcium, vitamin C, A and Folate), bok choy (vitamin B6), swiss chard, green beans, asparagus (thiamin, vitamin C, and A)
Cauliflower (folate), cabbage (vitamin K), onions, garlic, mushrooms (riboflavin).
As you can see, eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables provides a full range of critical nutrients for good health. It is important to mix them up, enjoy them!( So easy to do this time of year.) I like to pre-prepare and clean them when I bring them home from the store. They are ready when I need them. No fuss.
With barbeques and so many family get together's it is important to make sure you fill up on fresh, whole, natural foods. Try to stay away from the heavy meats, loaded with saturated fats, and even nitrates that have been linked to certain cancers (more on this topic next week.) Our bodies thrive on whole foods full of nutrients to recharge, rebuild and rejuvenate the body, mind and soul. Nutrient rich foods. They not only energize us now, they prevent diseases, and disabilities , and offset the aging process. It may not always be easy to get your children to enjoy these foods with you, but you should be firm and consistent with them. Making fun shapes out of fruits and vegetables will help make them more enjoyable. It is important to have a good sense of diet instilled at an early age. Too many of our children are living on fast foods, and "party foods". We need to take the time to teach them before it is too late.
Summer is a fun time of the year! So many great options! Try something new and fresh, it's time to step out! Remember, eat fresh , eat whole foods (grains and produce), eat organic (carbon containing... life sustaining), eat variety, and live long and healthy!! Try watermelon in the blender for a smooth summer cooler....