Category: "Healthy U"

To supplement or not to supplement?

May 8th, 2012 | no comments

During a recent phone call with Amanda—a new client of mine—when asked what her single most burning question was, she replied with: “I am soooo glad you asked! Should I be taking a supplement and if so which ones? I mean, my thoughts are if I eat a perfect diet I won’t need a vitamin. So I guess I should just make sure I get all of my vitamins and minerals from food and then I won’t have to worry…right?” Dear, sweet Amanda. I wanted to reach through the phone and hug her for her enthusiastic goal of eating a perfectly balanced diet every single day of her life. Enthusiastic, but not realistic.

If (and this is a BIG ‘if’) you eat a perfectly balanced diet every day of your life I would love to shake your hand. Congratulations—you do not need a supplement! I consider myself a pretty healthy eater and even I don’t eat in perfect balance every day. I try, but it doesn’t always happen because this thing called ‘LIFE’ gets in the way. Does this mean you should abandon all attempts to eat well? Of course not! Strive to eat nutritiously, not perfectly. If you are a perfect eater, I’m not sure you are human and I’m pretty sure you don’t have many friends. No one likes a food nerd…they aren’t any fun! I can jokingly say this because there is no such thing as a perfect eater. Period.

If you are like me and aren’t a perfect little eater, listen up because here are the three supplements you should consider taking:

  • Multivitamin
    Look for no more than 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for most nutrients. More isn’t better and can be dangerous to your health, so stay away from ‘mega dose’ vitamins. Keep in mind that you are still receiving vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat throughout the day, so I wouldn’t discount a multivitamin that has less than 100% of the Daily Value.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D
    If you aren’t drinking 3 cups of milk every day, you are probably falling short of meeting your calcium and vitamin D needs. Males and females age 14-18 require 1300 mg of calcium each day. At age 19-50 the requirements decrease to 1000 mg each day. Women should bump up to 1200 mg of calcium each day at age 51, while men can wait until age 71 for this increase. Vitamin D requirements are set at 600 IU per day for ages 1-70. Beginning at age 71, vitamin D requirements increase to 800 IU. Look for a supplement offering 500 mg of elemental calcium (calcium absorption is highest in doses less than or equal to 500 mg) and 600-800 IU of vitamin D. Most supplements contain approximately 1000 IU of vitamin D. Be sure to check your multivitamin, as many already contain calcium and vitamin D.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
    Omega 3’s can help lower your triglycerides, boost overall heart health, reduce depression and increase brain function. For healthy adults, the World Health Organization recommends consuming 0.3-0.5 grams (300-500 mg) of daily EPA + DHA. This equals out to 2100-3500 mg per week.The American Heart Association wants you to eat 2 servings of fatty fish per week to achieve this recommended dose. One 3-ounce portion of Atlantic salmon offers 1.9 grams of omega 3?s, so if you eat two servings per week you’re up to 3.8 grams (3800 mg). If you aren’t getting your omega 3’s from fatty fish like anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, salmon (wild has more omega-3s than farmed), sardines, sturgeon, lake trout, and tuna, than you should consider a supplement. Look for a supplement containing 300-500 mg of EPA + DHA per serving. My favorite is CorOmega.

Supplements bridge the gap between perfect nutrition and not-so-perfect nutrition. It’s always best to get your nutrition from food versus supplements— so do your best each day to eat a wide range of real foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, healthy fats and low-fat dairy products. On your totally human, less-than-perfect eating days, it’s o.k. to supplement as suggested above. Just be sure to check with your doctor first, especially if you are taking prescription medications!

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Don’t be fooled by this “healthy” cookie

March 26th, 2012 | no comments

I’ll admit, I almost fell for the boastful “health claims” hook, line and sinker. How could you blame me when the box reads statements like:

  • “As much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal”
  • “As much calcium and vitamin D as an 8 ounce glass of milk”
  • “As much vitamin C as a cup of blueberries”
  • “As much iron as a cup of spinach”

Hell, no need to load up on whole grains and produce, this cookie has it all!

I almost bought a box…until…I looked at the list of ingredients—which, by the way, can’t be easily found on their website. Hmm I wonder why?

The first ingredient is sugar, followed by wheat flour. If you know even a little bit about food labels, you are aware of the fact that ingredients in the largest amount are listed first. Great! So essentially, these cookies are nothing more than “sugar” cookies pumped full of vitamins. Eating a serving of WhoNu cookies is just like swallowing three teaspoons of sugar! Think about it—you can inject vitamins and minerals into a hot fudge sundae, but it doesn’t make it healthy!

Wheat flour might seem like an impressive ingredient, but really it’s just plain old flour. Unless it specifically says “whole wheat flour”, you’re basically eating a slice of white bread.

I have always been a fan of Kashi products. They aren’t afraid to list their ingredients on their website because they have nothing to hide! Compared to a serving of WhoNu cookies, a serving of Kashi Happy Trail Mix cookies offers less calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar and more fiber. Not to mention the first ingredient on this label is: rolled whole grain blend—that means whole grain! Does it have vitamin C, iron or calcium? Nope! But I don’t eat cookies (and neither should you) to fulfill my vitamin C, iron and calcium needs— I eat blueberries and spinach and drink milk!

I will give WhoNu a thumbs up in their marketing genius however. It almost got me…almost!

Bottom line: Read your food labels. Don’t take the food manufacturers word for it. They have one goal in mind—to get you to buy their product!

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How to raise your health esteem

March 20th, 2012 | no comments

Amber spent most of her junior year losing weight and getting in shape by working out and watching her diet. She had been meaning to do it since sophomore year, but something always got in her way. Whether it was cramming for an exam or working her part-time job at Starbucks, she could never find the time to focus on her needs. When she could no longer button her used-to-be-too-big jeans, Amber knew this was her time—junior year was going to be her year! And it was, until her work schedule changed unexpectedly late in the year and schoolwork demanded all of her remaining waking hours. After all, she had to keep her grades up if she wanted to hold on to her scholarship. Amber slowly began to feel as if all of her efforts to live a healthier lifestyle were going down the drain. She could no longer exercise at her usual early morning time and by evening she was too exhausted to even see straight let alone step on the treadmill. Sitting down to a healthy breakfast seemed like a luxury she could no longer afford, so doughnuts became her new reality, if she ate breakfast at all! Amber quickly started feeling like she was back at square one as the pounds began to creep back on. Now, not only is she ten pounds heavier than she was a year ago, her self-esteem is lower than it’s ever been—and worse—her belief that she can actually achieve and maintain a healthier body, or her “Health Esteem”, has all but vanished.

Do you see yourself in Amber? Your intentions are pure—you really do want to make better choices for your health—but then this thing called “college” gets in the way.

Do you find yourself getting discouraged when you fall short of your weight loss goals? Or even worse, regain your lost weight? Ouch. How can you expect to be motivated to get back on that horse when you are still holding on to the false belief that you are a failure? Relax! Here are two simple steps you can take to pull yourself out of that downward spiral of dieting doom and raise your health esteem to new heights!

Step 1: BELIEVE

You must believe you can make better choices for your body, otherwise why would you even try? This “buy in” occurs when you see the change as doable. For example, challenging yourself to eat three cups of vegetables, two cups of fruit and three servings of whole grains each day is unrealistic if you don’t even know what a whole grain is and consider pickles, ketchup and French fries to be perfectly suitable vegetable choices.

Let’s turn this around and focus on one challenge per month! Consider that it takes approximately twenty-one days to build a habit. So tackle one at a time! For example, for the next three weeks, set a goal to eat one cup of vegetables each day. This can be in the form of salads, raw veggies with hummus dip, or vegetable soup!

Imagine the health impact over time as you start to replace your usual side order of French fries with baby carrots, broccoli and red pepper strips!

BONUS!

If you want some real measurable results, track your progress! Who doesn’t love placing a checkmark or star next to an accomplished goal? It just makes you feel good! You can track your goals using your Smartphone (I like GoalTracker), a spreadsheet on your computer or on a piece of paper.

Step 2: Think abundance vs. scarcity

This is a biggie! As humans, we do not like to be told we can’t have something (French fries, cookies, chocolate, etc.) or that we can only have so much of something (calories, ounces, servings, etc.) Funny, isn’t this exactly what we look for when choosing a diet? Give me limits! Forbid me of my favorite foods please!  We ask for limits, however when we restrict calories or put the proverbial “Red X” on our favorite foods (or on any food for that matter), our natural reaction is to rebel and eat more! We even find ourselves dreaming of the forbidden “Red X” fruit. It becomes, well, sexy.

This might seem like such an inconsequential point, but it is the core of any life-long quest for wellness. Just like sex, food is power. But it doesn’t have to be. It becomes power when we see it as bad or forbidden. Be careful of your food language. Do you speak in terms of scarcity or abundance? As soon as you utter any of these words you automatically place food on a pedestal and assign it power:

  • “Don’t eat ___________”
  • “Eat only ___________”
  • “Limit yourself to ______________”

Your brain processes these statements as negative and when that happens…watch out! You will soon transition to rebel-mode and find yourself obsessing over the food like a sexed up stalker. You don’t mean to; you can’t help it!

When you focus on abundance, a whole new world unfolds:

  • “Eat at least 2 cups of vegetables each day”
  • “Find a way to fit in a serving or two of fruit each day”
  • “Eat oatmeal!”
  • “Eat chocolate!”

You are giving yourself freedom to eat, not imposing restrictions on what or how much you should eat. Do you see the difference?

The journey to a fit body begins with your level of health esteem. Do you believe you are worthy of good health? Do you believe you can achieve it? Be kind to yourself. Watch your self-talk. Shift your thinking to abundance instead of scarcity and you will find that food really isn’t that sexy after all!

 

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How to nip your hangover in the bud!

November 28th, 2011 | no comments

This is the time of year when we tend to go a bit overboard on the cocktails, wouldn’t you agree? Let’s say you had one too many Christmas Ales at last night’s annual holiday office party and now you’re paying the price.  Your first thought is to lie in bed all day, and nurse your hangover with a Chipotle burrito. That plan will leave you hanging on to your hangover even longer.  Below you’ll find a plan you can follow to help pick yourself up and get back on track.  Your body will thank you for it!

The 3-Step Day-After Forgiveness Plan

 Step 1:  Hydrate
Fill your water bottle and drink.  Start with 16 ounces.  Don’t forget to check the color of your urine.  If it’s the color of the beer you drank last night, hydrate some more.  If at some point you found yourself in the bathroom hugging the porcelain throne, be sure to replenish your electrolytes with coconut water or a sports drink like Gatorade.

Step 2:  Remove butt from bed
The last thing you want to do is exercise, but it’s the only thing that will make you feel better immediately.  Take a brisk 20-minute walk or hop on the stair climber at the rec center.  Do something, anything—just move!  Don’t forget to carry your water bottle with you and hydrate some more.

Step 3:  Nourish
Be kind to your body today and feed it well.  Here’s a solid plan:

    • Breakfast:  Eat a bowl of fortified cereal with skim milk (try to pass on the Lucky Charms and go for Whole Grain Total Raisin Bran instead).
    • Lunch:  Eat a nice big salad with lots of veggies, beans, a small portion of lean protein like baked chicken or fish and a whole-grain roll.
    • Dinner:  Try a big bowl of chicken-noodle or vegetable soup with half a sandwich.
    • Snacks:  Between meals, snack on fruit, nuts, string cheese or carrot sticks with hummus or peanut butter.

Before you toast with that second drink, keep in mind the following alcohol facts:

  • One serving is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor
  • Too much in any form weakens your immune system, making it easier than ever for you to get sick
  • Alcohol turns on your appetite “switch.” It’s as if a little voice in your head whispers: “Go ahead, eat it. It doesn’t count.”
  • It diminishes your ability to absorb several key vitamins and minerals
  • Energy drinks + hard liquor does NOT equal an energetic drunk!
    Not only have studies shown those who consume energy drinks with alcohol drink more, but they also drink for longer periods of time, have higher blood-alcohol levels and are four times more likely to try to drive drunk.  The stimulating effects of the energy drink can trick your brain into thinking you’re sober when in fact you’re drunk.  In other words, you become an “awake” drunk!

I know you might not want to hear it, but moderation is key…especially with alcohol! Whether it’s regular beer, light beer, eggnog, wine or martinis—MODERATION is key!

 

 

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