Author Archive for: ‘smeyer’

Finding Your Fiber

grains

Most of us know that eating fiber-containing foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are good for our health. Unfortunately the great majority of us consume less than half of the daily fiber recommendation. Never fear, food manufactures have come up with a way for us to consume our daily fiber intake without even so much as picking up a fruit or vegetable. The grocery store shelf is loaded with “high fiber” products such as cookies, brownies, bars, “fruit” snacks, drinks, muffins, and white-flour pastas and breads. A chocolate brownie with “4 grams of fiber” must be healthy, right? However, these processed foods get much of their “fiber” from something called isolated functional fibers like inulin, polydextrose, and modified starches. What exactly are these isolated “functional” fibers that they are putting into these “healthy” foods? Isolated fibers are either extracted from foods or chemically synthesized and are added to foods not naturally rich in fiber. Marketers claim that eating  these fibers will lead to weight loss by making you feel full. While we know that a diet high in natural fiber contributes to satiety, most added fiber in food or drinks is unlikely to have the same affect.

 

The bottom line, stick with real plant based fiber rich foods (beans, fruits, vegetables, whole grains) that can lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity as well as help prevent constipation. And as Nutrition Action puts it so well “added processed fibers don’t turn cookies, brownies, bars, and shakes into beans, bran, berries, and broccoli. But they do turn little white powders into bigger profits.”

Food Labels and Creative Marketing

Labels

Food Labels are a perfect example of simple facts that can be completely misleading.  Thanks to the “creative marketing” of food companies, we are lead to believe that eating a “candy bar” will provide us just as much fiber as fruit or that a “contains whole grains” loaf of bread isn’t really white bread in disguise (reality check, it is).  Whatever the label claim, you get the message; food labels are confusing and often downright deceiving.

 

Check out this blog post on appforhealth.com about popular label frauds

 1. Made With Real Fruit or Made With Whole Grains 

There are no regulations regarding the “Made With…. fill in the blank” claims so you need to look at the ingredient list to see if the product really delivers. Many products claim to be made with real fruit or whole grains, when in fact, they may have a lot of added sugars and/or lower quality ingredients. Read the ingredient list. The lower fruit or whole grains are listed on the ingredient list, the less of the ingredient it contains.

2. Lightly Sweetened

Lightly sweetened is another term that food manufacturers use that has no definition by the FDA. Some cereals boasting lightly sweetened on their label contain more added sugar than sugar-coated cereals. Check the Nutrition Facts label and look for cereals that contain 6 grams or less added sugar per serving.

3. Added Fiber

While it’s true that foods marked “added fiber” contain additional fiber (listed as polydextrose, inulin (derived from chicory root), or maltodextrin) it’s not known if these fiber additions have the same health benefits as the fiber found naturally in whole foods. These fiber additives can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, stomach discomfort when taken in excess whereas natural fiber in whole foods does not have this effect. What’s more, they’re generally added to refined or sugar-rich foods to make them appear healthier.

4. Low-Fat or Fat-Free

Marketing a food as “low fat” or “fat-free” can take your attention off the fact that the food is loaded with added sugars or refined carbohydrates. Low-fat foods that high in low quality carbs shouldn’t be part of your everyday diet.

5. Low-Carb, Protected Carbs, Net Carbs, Digestible Carbs (Not really!)

One of the most fraudulent areas of food labeling is with low-carbohydrate foods. Products that use terms like “Protected Carbs,” “Net Carbs,” “Available Carbs,” are often bogus so don’t assume that they’re good for you, especially if you have metabolic syndrome or have diabetes. Dietitians do not subtract fiber or sugar alcohols from total carbohydrate content of foods, so you shouldn’t either!

Cornmeal & Blueberry Buckwheat Muffins

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Unbeknownst to me, my blueberry purchase at the Lynchburg Farmer’s Market last week was my last.  Luckily I purchased an extraordinary amount of these juicy fruits and had plenty left for my new favorite breakfast treat Cornmeal & Blueberry Buckwheat Muffins. These muffins trump the taste of the cakey “treats” you find in coffee shops and are nutritionally superior. I have made these with freshly ground flour from Wildflour Mill, which happens to carry buckwheat flour.  However, making these muffins with all whole-wheat flour is equally good.

My favorite way to eat these muffins is toasted & slathered with peanut butter…yum.

Enjoy!

Obesity Myths & Facts Explained

xenical_effective_weight_loss_top_obesity_and_weight_loss_myths

Many of us are guilty of making assumptions about people’s lifestyle behaviors based on their weight.  No matter the assumption, the truth of the matter is the development of obesity is very complex, hence the countless studies looking for a cause and cure.  Despite extensive research into the etiology of this disease there are still many myths that exist. I found this article to be very informative, sorting out the fact from fiction when it comes to obesity.

 

6 Obesity Myths & Facts Explained

Claim #1: Assessing stage of change, or “readiness to diet,” is important in helping patients who pursue weight loss treatment to lose weight.
This is the fancy way of saying that a person will only lose weight if he wants to lose it. While the researchers offer evidence refuting this as a major issue, Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D.N, says it does play into the mind of registered dietitians when they issue diet plans, despite researchers branding this one as a myth. “There is often an assumption among clients that simply showing up for a consultation will magically make them lose weight,” she says. “I wish it were that simple!” Since dieting isn’t a miracle pill, it’s totally based on a person’s willingness to stick to the plan and exercise—and if a person doesn’t have the time or energy to follow a new regimen, logically, it may fail. Still, since it is hard to study something this subjective, don’t discount this as a total myth. If you want to lose weight, you have to commit to a lifestyle change. “It is a major part of the behavior-change process,” London says. Verdict: Mostly Fact

Claim #2: Regularly eating vs. skipping breakfast is protective against obesity.
If you’re eating a Big Breakfast from McDonald’s instead of a healthy bowl of oatmeal every morning, you’ll probably see the scale creep up—which is why researchers call this presumption into question, and suggest more research. It matters what you eat just as much as when you eat—but you should eat. “We do already have substantial research to support the claim that breakfast intake is linked with lower BMI,” says London. “Many people think that skipping breakfast is an easy way to cut calories, but the habit typically leads to an increased energy intake throughout the day, making people susceptible to overdoing it at other meals.” So here’s the takeaway: eat healthy, but still eat. Greek yogurt and fruit, almond butter on an English muffin, or whole-grain cereal—there are tons of quick, healthy options. Verdict: Mostly Fact

Claim #3: Eating close to bedtime contributes to weight gain.
Don’t eat after 8 p.m.! At least that’s what common weight-loss wisdom proclaims, but London says it is mostly myth—although studies support both sides of the clam. People tend to believe this old adage, for a couple reasons. “First, much current research links people with fewer hours of sleep per night to a higher risk of overweight obesity, and eating too close to bedtime can frequently be associated with disrupted sleep,” she says. “Second, eating close to bedtime could lead to waking up ‘too full’ to eat breakfast, leading to meal skipping and then binging later on—another inhibitor of weight loss.” Overall intake of calories is more important than timing, though, says London, as the researchers suggest. As long as you’re not skipping meals, focus on hitting your goals, no matter the time. Verdict: Mostly Myth

Claim #4: Eating more fruits and vegetables will lead to weight loss or less weight gain, regardless of whether one intentionally makes any other changes to one’s behavior or environment.
Sadly, simply amping up fruit and veggie intake will not necessarily cause your waist to shrink—but eating more can help. Here’s why: “Fruits and veggies aren’t magic weight loss pills, but they do have the power to impact our intake overall due to their high water-volume and high-fiber content,” says London. “increasing intake of fruits and vegetables can displace other calories from less nutrient-dense sources, like processed foods, and is typically the ‘first line of defense’ when it comes to weight loss.” Which is why dieticians push for it. Eating too much of anything can lead to weight gain, but filling up on fruits and veggies should make you less hungry for the cake and cookies. Verdict: Mostly Fact

Claim #5: Snacking contributes to weight gain and obesity.
“This is another one that is both true and untrue,” says London, insisting that you have to snack right. “Skipping meals can lead to binging at your next meal, so very often, it’s beneficial to recommend choosing healthy, fiber and protein-rich, 150- to 200-calorie snacks to decrease total energy intake for the day.” However, snacking can backfire if you’re downing processed foods or not keeping tabs on exactly what you’re consuming—or how much. “It’s really the mindless snacking and grazing—a handful here, a handful there. That’s where we see problems with clients who can’t seem to lose weight,” London says. “Those extra calories all add up.” Verdict: Mostly Fact

Claim #6: Drinking more water will reduce energy intake and will lead to weight loss or less weight gain, regardless of other changes.
Water is often hyped as a major component in feeling full and flushing bloat, which will help you lose weight. Here’s why this one isn’t entirely true, though, as the researchers suggest: “Yes, it’s true that a lot of people are not as in touch with their ‘thirst’ mechanism or satiety cues as we’d like—it’s not easy and it is definitely the case that we often see people who mistake hunger for thirst,” says London. “That said, I think it’s difficult to say that this is totally true for everyone, not to mention the fact that fluid and hydration needs are different for everyone, based on age, sex, weight, height and physical-activity level.” Drink up and hydrate consistently with (on average) eight glasses a day, but don’t expect water to be a weight-loss miracle drink. Verdict: Mostly Myth

 

Source: 6 Obesity Myths & Facts Explained

Chocolate & Zucchini

Chocolate-&-Zucchini

I have blogged in the past about my garden success and failures, but zucchini is a standby that proliferates in any garden (ours included).  A few years ago, I stumbled across the aptly named blog chocolateandzucchini. And since I have been making this cake from her blog & it never fails to impress.  I have modified the cake slightly, but if you are interested, here is the link to the original recipe and a video in which you can watch the author prepare the recipe in French, no less. Bon Appétit!

 

Chocolate & Zucchini Cake

 

1/2-cup canola oil

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Valrhona)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1-cup (packed) light brown sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 tbsp cooled coffee

2 large eggs

1 egg white

2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini

1-cup good-quality bittersweet chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar or melted bittersweet chocolate (optional)

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 10-inch pan with butter or oil (I used a 9-inch pan)

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a food processor, process the sugar and butter until creamy (you can also do this by hand, armed with a sturdy spatula). Add the vanilla, coffee granules, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.

3. Reserve a cup of the flour mixture and add the rest to the egg mixture. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick.

4. Add the zucchini and chocolate chips to the reserved flour mixture and toss to coat. Fold into the batter and blend with a wooden spoon—don’t over mix. Pour into the prepared cake pan and level the surface with a spatula.

5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen the cake, and unclasp the sides of the pan. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, glaze with melted chocolate, or leave plain.  This cake is also good with plain Greek yogurt.

Are you a Gadget Junkie?

Paderno

It was the middle of winter when summer squash was only a dream, but when the ad from William Sonoma popped up in my Inbox I knew I was about to make a purchase.  Although I am not a huge kitchen gadget junkie, there are certain items that I cannot live without (my Kitchen Aid Mixer & Vitamix to name a few).  Although I knew I certainly couldn’t classify the Paderno spiralizer as a necessity, this blog sealed the deal for me and the spiralizer has become my newest kitchen gadget.  I think this is the best way to avoid burn out with one of my favorite summer vegetables, after all variety is key.

The School Lunch Debate

edit-school-lunch

When my son Oliver started public school this year, I told myself I was going to keep an open mind about the lunchroom offerings.  Sadly, my preconceived notions about the food were right on target.  Admittedly there is some healthy food to be had; it is just not prepared in an appealing manner.  Furthermore, my son is only eager to buy on the most unhealthful days of the week, hot dogs, prepackaged peanut butter and jelly (really) & of course chicken fingers.

Granted, I don’t want to appear to be the food police, but I consider these foods to be “fun” and not ones I am happy to see on the regular lunch rotation.  Though I believe in food choice, my almost 7 year old would happily eat M & M’s for dinner, washed down with a cup of Gatorade.  So how can my son make proper food choices at school if there are so many more appealing, yet very unhealthy options?  Is it possible for schools to offer more healthy appealing choices and stay within their budget? I recently read a very insightful column by Mark Bittman discussing these issues.  Click the link to read.

Save Our Children

The Doctor’s Always Right, Right?!

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Recently I had the privilege of hearing a very well respected physician speak on the topic of health and nutrition.  However, when this physician started quoting Dr. Oz, my inner skeptic went on overdrive.  All credibility was lost on me when this speaker began quoting NYT reporter (and major propagandist) Gary Taubes.

Sensationalism. That is the word I think of when I hear Gary Taubes (not a physician by the way), Dr Oz and other “experts” speak about nutrition and weight loss.  The quick fixes, the pills, the supplements, no sugar, no gluten, no grains, no wheat, hey how about no food!

Not to say that these physicians and reporters don’t give us something to think about; science is ever changing and these “experts” certainly give us food for thought.  However, no matter the credentials a practitioner has we need to be skeptics of the quick fixes and promises that simply do not work.

For a very enlightened view on this topic, check out Drop it and Eat by credible health & nutrition expert Walter Willett.

Internet Nutrition Information is Often Misleading—or Worse

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Recently I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.  One theme that kept popping up was the endless amount of nutrition misinformation on the Internet.  Do a Google search on the latest nutrition hot topic and you will find an extraordinary amount of “expert” information which in reality is simply a layperson giving their opinion.  Next time you conduct a health related search remind yourself that anyone can create a blog or website with a catchy name.  Follow these helpful tips by true nutrition experts from Appetite for Health to find the most reliable and evidence (i.e. science based) health & nutrition information.

 

Five ways to Get Better Internet-Based Nutrition Information

 

Look for peer-reviewed references:  Almost every nutrition article we write on our blog, we provide the references and links to the abstracts or full research articles, when available. Of course, there’s a big difference in the quality of research with human clinical trials being the gold standard while animal studies or laboratory analyses don’t carry the same clout.

Check the writer’s bio:  A quick search about the writer can turn up all kinds of useful information. You can see if she/he holds a research or clinical position at a hospital or university; or you can see if they have degrees that make them qualified to be able to provide the most accurate information. You can also see the relationships the writer may have with corporations that may influence his or her point of views on various nutrition issues. For example, a writer who consults with Monsanto or DuPont may have a strong pro-GMO stance.

Use .gov sites:  We have a lot of wonderful government resources on the Internet that have accurate information, so use them.  As a dietitian, I turn to Health and Human Services, FDA, USDA and many other government-based sites when I’m researching topics.

One study or source isn’t enough:  Credible, peer-reviewed science needs to be replicated several times–and from various research labs–before you change eating habits based on the results.  Often times, Internet stories fail to note that the study was preliminary or the results have only been found from one laboratory.  Unless there is consistency in results with several studies, it’s probably not worth making changes based on the results.

Be a healthy skeptic:  Probably the best piece of nutrition advice I can give to anyone is to be a critical thinker and if something sounds too good to be true, know that it’s 99% likely to be a sham. The Internet today is full of modern-day charlatans that may have degrees or even TV shows, but they too can have hidden agendas, and may have a financial incentive to mislead consumers.

Does Willpower Equal Weight Loss?

willpower

Given the topic of my previous blog I thought it was fitting that I stumbled upon this article. Many of us (falsely) believe if only we had better willpower we would surely eat less, and then surely we will be “bikini body” ready or weigh the same we did in high school (20 years later).
Statements that really stuck with me from this article:

 “Many people go through life believing that they can’t stick to a diet because they have no willpower. They believe that some innate force is keeping them from resisting food temptations,” The truth is that the ability to stick to a weight loss diet has little to do with will — and everything to do with changing the way we think about food.


Believing that willpower is at work only serves to make you feel less in control of your eating habits, experts say.


 One of the best ways to avoid eating too much of the foods you don’t want, is, ironically enough, to allow yourself to eat them. “The more you deny yourself what you want, the weaker you will feel when you’re around it, and the harder it will be to resist.”

 

This last statement is one I firmly believe. Before you go another day (or minute for that matter) berating yourself about your lack of willpower to avoid eating that brownie, I encourage you to read this article and re-frame your thoughts about willpower.

 

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