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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Nutrition Label Reading 101: How to Read Your Food’s Package (Part 2)

GettyImages-165661895In part 1 of this blog, I showed you how to interpret the nutrition information on the front of your favorite packaged foods. Now let’s get into the back of the package!

Serving Size and Servings Per Container

This doesn’t necessarily tell you how much to eat, but all of the values on the label apply to this chosen serving size. You might be surprised to see that many items you thought were individually packaged really are telling you that two cookies are 160 calories. Let’s say you eat the entire package (it happens!). You can take the “servings per container” and multiply that by all of the listed values. If two cookies are the serving, but you actually ate the entire bag, just take your 10 servings and multiply it by 160 calories to calculate that 20 cookies would be 1,600 calories.

Calories

For anyone trying to lose weight, it helps to cut back on calorie content, especially calories from packaged foods because they are often empty calories: the food gives your body a lot of calories but provides very little nutrition.

% Daily Values

Unless you are sticking to a strict 2,000-calorie diet, these numbers might not be very helpful for you, so don’t look into these values too much. For instance, 5% DV of fat provides 5% of the total fat you want to eat on a 2,000-calorie diet. In some areas you may need more or less than the 2,000 calorie % Daily Value. Low is 5% or less—aim low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. High is 20% or more—aim high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Total Fat

Total fat sums up all of the following values. Type of fat is extremely important. Often, items that are “reduced fat” end up increasing your sodium and added sugar to make up for what fat would have brought to the table—taste and body. So don’t shy away from fat completely. Just be mindful that fat packs a punch in terms of calories, so you want to practice everything in moderation.

Saturated Fat

The American Heart Association recommends keeping saturated fat to less than 5–6% of your total caloric intake. This means that if you eat about 2,000 calories per day, you will want to keep saturated fat at 13g or less per day. In general, about 3g of saturated fat per serving is a good goal to aim for, but make sure to try and stick to no more than 13g per day. The majority of saturated fat comes from animal products such as beef, pork, poultry, butter, cream, and other dairy products.

Trans Fat

The goal is 0g of trans fat. Keep an eye out in the ingredient list for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. A trans fat ban is going into effect; however, the grace period means you may still have to watch for this harmful type of man-made fat. If a small enough amount exists, the serving size can be altered, and manufacturers may list trans fat as 0g even if there is a tiny amount of trans fat in the product.

Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated Fat

The “healthy fats!” These fats may not always be listed. There isn’t a big reason to limit them other than they can add a large amount of calories fairly quickly and contribute to weight gain. However, these healthy fats don’t raise cholesterol like the saturated and trans fats do. These fats are found in nuts, nut butters, olive oil, fish, and vegetable oils. We won’t put a limit on these healthy fats because, in general, the more the better because they help increase your good cholesterol (especially if you are replacing an unhealthy fat with a healthy fat—think olive oil for cooking instead of butter).

Cholesterol

The body is capable of making its very own cholesterol from dietary fat intake, so current nutrition recommendations do not emphasize limiting dietary cholesterol; rather, they talk about limiting saturated and trans fat (dietary cholesterol is seen as impacting body cholesterol levels less so than dietary fat does). However, because the science is always changing, try to keep cholesterol to no more than about 200–300 mg/day because any dietary cholesterol is ingested and taken in as simply cholesterol.

Sodium

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 2,300mg of sodium per day. The American Heart Association recommends sticking to 1,500mg or less.

Total Carbohydrates

The sum of your starches, fiber, and sugar (added and natural) [see below]. Carbohydrates have somewhat of a bad reputation, but you ideally want most of your diet to stem from carbohydrates. So don’t shy away from these just because you might see a number you think is too high. Carbs provide your body with most of its energy needs, give your brain all of its energy supply, decrease chronic disease risk (fiber!), are key for digestive health (more fiber, yes!), and help with weight control (complex carbs!).

Dietary Fiber

Most experts agree that the average American should aim for a minimum of 25–30g of fiber per day. On average most of us come in at around 12g/day. See if you can get your 1–2 slices of bread to come in as close to 5g or more of fiber if possible!

Sugars

We aren’t sure if these are natural sugars (natural fruit sugars we don’t worry about!) or added (cane sugar), but we can sometimes deduce from the ingredients list whether most of the sugars are added or natural. If you see high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar/juice, honey, or maple syrup (there are many different names for added sugar!) near the top of the list, the sugar value is likely all added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that men keep daily added sugar intake to less than 36g (9 teaspoons) and that women aim for less than 25g (6 teaspoons) daily. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines are more lenient and recommend 48g or less daily for adults and 30–35g or less for children.

Added Sugars (optional)

Again, somewhere between 25-48g of added sugar daily or less is recommended (see above).

Protein

In general, the recommendation (dietary reference intake) is to consume about 0.36g of protein per pound of body weight daily. Anywhere from 10–30g of protein per meal is a good number to aim for. If you weigh 150 pounds, this means that you will want about 54g of protein daily (about 18g at each meal).

Vitamin D

600 IU or 15 mcg for most adults is recommended (aim for a higher %DV).

Calcium

1,000mg/day for most adults; women age 50+ 1,200mg/day.

Iron

Adult males and women over age 50 need 8mg per day. Women age 19–50 need 18mg. Pregnancy increases this need to 27mg daily.

Potassium

Aim for about 4,700mg of potassium per day (Dietary Guidelines for Americans).

Ingredients List

Pick items that have fewer ingredients—this usually means that they are less processed. Or bonus if the first three ingredients are whole foods. Ingredients are listed from highest weight to lowest weight. When it comes to crackers or bread, look for “WHOLE wheat” as opposed to “enriched flour” to pick breads that contain the entire grain. Whole grain, whole wheat, whole [other grain], brown rice, oats/oatmeal, or wheatberry means the grain is WHOLE. Wheat, semolina, durum wheat, and multigrain mean you might be missing some parts of the grain. Enriched flour, wheat flour, bran, and wheat germ mean there are no whole grains.

***

It’s no wonder that we are so confused by labels—there is a lot of information to try and remember and process! The best way to avoid being misled is to avoid most processed foods. With most whole foods (apples, potatoes, oats, etc.), we can be certain that we are not getting too much or too little of any one nutrient. But even dietitians enjoy the convenience (and taste) of packaged foods every now and then, and we hope that the tips in this article help clear up some confusion for you.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition calories fiber whole foods carbs sodium sugar fat carbohydrates food labels

The Carb Conundrum: Avoid Them for Weight Loss and Healthy Eating?

GettyImages-902999388In recent years, carbohydrates have seemingly been blamed for our health problems. Many of us now shun potatoes, rice, and even fruit in fear of the dreaded pounds that could come with eating carbohydrates. While many diets demonize carbohydrates, others preach the benefits of higher-carbohydrate diets. Through all of this confusion, I will try to set the record straight.

No single food or food group should be blamed for weight gain or credited with weight loss. Carbohydrates span a broad range of foods, from beans, fruits, and veggies to pizza, pasta, cookies, and French fries. While we hate to oversimplify the equation, weight gain does come down to calories in versus calories out. If we eat too much of anything—even fruits and veggies—we will gain weight. The caveat is that fruits and veggies are nearly impossible to eat too much of because they are rich in fiber and low in calories, while other foods can pack a calorie-dense punch in a very small serving.

How easy is it to eat an entire bag of Chex Mix while you might struggle to eat half a cup of carrots?

Carbohydrates and a Healthy Diet

Carbohydrate-rich foods form the foundation of a healthy diet. The National Academy of Sciences recommends people consume 45–65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. In a 2,000-calorie diet, this is equivalent to 225–335 grams daily. Carbohydrates are crucial for energy production in the body for working muscles, fuel for proper mental function, supplying vitamins and minerals, as well as providing large amounts of fiber for decreasing risk of chronic disease like heart disease and cancer. Many foods contain carbohydrates: whole grains, fruits, starchy veggies, milk and dairy, pasta, beans, and refined/processed foods.

Should I Avoid Carbohydrates?

In recent years, many have found lower-carbohydrate, higher-protein diets to be beneficial in weight loss. However, the long-term effects of such a diet are not well studied. Many “low-carb” diets can lead to an increase in foods like red meats, processed meats, and saturated fat–containing foods like cheese, butter, and cream. Carbohydrate-rich foods provide numerous health benefits and you should not avoid them. Certain areas of the world called Blue Zones offer an interesting look into the benefits of a higher-carbohydrate diet. They have not only the highest rates of longevity but also very low rates of chronic disease. Blue Zone populations consume 95% of their calories from vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes and eat meat sparingly.

“Good” Versus “Bad” Carbohydrates

But it is important to think about the types of carbohydrates you are consuming. Unrefined carbohydrates are unprocessed, whole foods that are high in fiber (and many other nutrients) and digest more slowly. Unprocessed, whole-food carbohydrates help you feel fuller and get you through the day feeling less hungry. Processed carbohydrates lack fiber and may have added oils and sugar—they can leave you feeling low on energy as they are quickly digested and burned for fuel. Unprocessed carbs are key to long-term health and can help with weight control. They also guard against type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. Try to limit most processed carbohydrates because they are low in nutrients and high in calories.

Unprocessed Carbohydrates

  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Fruit
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables

Processed Carbohydrates

  • Soda
  • Baked treats
  • Packaged sweets/snack foods
  • Fruit juice
  • Breakfast cereal
Did you now that in 1915 the average American consumed 17.5 pounds of added sugar in a year? As of 2011, the average American consumed over 150 pounds of sugar annually!

In summary, carbohydrates should be welcomed to not only help with weight management but also prevent disease. Make most of your carbohydrates whole, unprocessed foods for a balanced, healthy diet while enjoying the processed/refined carbohydrate foods in moderation. And if you’d like some help with figuring out what to eat, look into Nutrition Coaching at NIFS.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss healthy eating calories endurance disease prevention fiber energy whole foods carbs fruits and vegetables carbohydrates longevity

Macronutrients: The What, Why, and How of Tracking for Healthy Eating

GettyImages-1133846218 newA diet that is balanced in its macronutrient distribution can help reduce the risk of disease and help with lasting weight loss. You might have heard of others tracking their “macros” and wondered if this is something that you need to do. So, why and how do you do this tracking?

What Are Macronutrients?

The major macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. All are essential to health and well-being. Since 1941, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has reviewed the latest science and pulled together a group of experts to make recommendations to the public. The latest recommendations were published in 2005. Some foods provide a mix of macronutrients (beans provide protein, carbohydrates, and sometimes a very small amount of fat), while others provide only one type of macronutrient (olive oil provides just fat). Whether they are a mix of macros or one type, they all serve a purpose.

Protein

Protein provides four calories per gram. Protein is vital for immune function, building and repairing tissue, cell signaling, hormones, and enzymes. Protein-rich foods include eggs, poultry, fish, tofu, lentils, and beans.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide four calories per gram as well. In your body, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, a type of sugar that your body uses for immediate energy or stores in your liver and muscle for later use. Carbohydrates are found in almost all foods with the exception of oils/fats and meat—items like grains, starchy veggies, beans, dairy, and fruit contain carbohydrates.

Fat

Fat has the most calories at 9 calories per gram. Your body needs fat for energy, hormone production, and nutrient absorption. Fat is found in oils, butter, nuts, meat, and fatty fish.

What Is an Acceptable Distribution of Macronutrients?

The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) is the range associated with reduced risk for chronic diseases while providing essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. NAS has classified the following AMDR for adults as a percentage of calories as follows:

Protein: 10–35%

Fat: 20–35%

Carbohydrates: 45–65%

For example, an individual consuming 2,000 total calories per day will aim for approximately:

2,000 calories x 10 to 35% = 200–700 calories from protein OR  200–700 calories / 4 calories per gram = 50–175 grams of protein

2,000 calories x 20–35% = 400–700 calories from fat OR 400–700 calories / 9 calories per gram = 44–78 grams of fat

2,000 calories x 45–65% = 900–1300 calories from carbohydrates OR 900–1300 calories / 4 calories per gram = 225–325 grams of carbohydrates

How to Track Macros

  1. Determine your calorie needs (many formulas online, RMR testing at NIFS, and various apps will create calorie recommendations as well).
  2. Determine your macronutrient breakdown ( for example, if you’re very active, you may need more carbohydrates and protein).
  3. Log food intake into a journal like My Fitness Pal, Lose It, or My Macros+ app.

Keep in mind you might not always hit your goals precisely and the tools we have to calculate calories are not perfect. Food tracking is great for helping you get closer to your goals; but our bodies are not calculators, so give yourself a little “wiggle room” in your tracking.

Benefits of Tracking Macros

  • Improves diet quality: Instead of focusing on calories, where a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fruit may be equal to a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, you will focus on nutrients.
  • Helps with weight loss: Those who track food tend to lose more weight than those who do not track food intake.
  • Helps with specific goals: Those who are endurance athletes may need more carbohydrates than athletes who are lifting weights multiple times per week.

When Is Tracking Useful?

Those who thrive on structure may find tracking macronutrients to be something they enjoy, and very beneficial. It can help to increase your awareness of the quality of foods you are eating and the amount of healthy foods you are eating. (Those with a history of disordered eating should not track food intake.)

When first starting, you may find it overwhelming, but over time you find the foods and healthy eating patterns that help you hit your macronutrient goals. When tracking macronutrients, it is important to focus on a mainly whole-foods diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein. The benefits come from making adjustments as needed—not finding the perfect ratio from the very beginning. Many can eat a well-balanced diet without tracking intake—there is no one-size-fits-all plan—but rest assured: if most of your food was grown in the ground and everything else is included in moderation, you are giving your body just what it needs.

Contact Lindsey Hehman, RD, at lhehman@nifs.org for questions or to come up with more specific macronutrient goals.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating protein technology carbs fat

The Keto Diet: A Registered Dietitian’s Review

GettyImages-1134020458The “keto diet,” which is short for ketogenic diet, is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that is similar to the Atkins Diet, and is one of today’s most popular diets. The goal of a low-carb diet is to reduce carbohydrates and replace them with fat. This puts your body into a state of ketosis. When this occurs, your body breaks down fat into ketones for energy. The main idea here is that by starving the body of carbohydrates, you will force it to break down fats, which proponents of the diet suggest results in the best weight-loss results.

There are different versions of the keto diet. Some allow for added carbs around workouts, or some keto days followed by high-carb days, high-protein keto diets, and a standard keto diet of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. It usually includes meat, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds, oils and fats (like avocado, coconut oil, ghee, butter, and olive oil), vegetables (limited to dark leafy greens and mushrooms, and fruit (berries in moderation). Generally the diet does not include starchy veggies (potato/sweet potato, pumpkin, legumes, etc.), grains (oats, rice, quinoa, corn), or fruits (banana, mango, pineapple, apples, oranges).

Why Is This Diet So Popular?

Keto diets have become increasingly popular in the health-conscious community for a few reasons:

  • Weight loss: How many fad diets have you tried over the past few years that promise hitting your weight-loss goals in just a few weeks or even less than 6 months? Often weight loss is “water weight”: as stored carbohydrates are utilized, water is lost.
  • Reinforcement of getting to eat what we thought to be “bad” foods.
  • No calorie counting—however, many of us create a calorie deficit that results in weight loss without thinking about it when we are no longer eating favorites like pizza, donuts, cookies, chips, etc.

How Healthy Is the Keto Diet?

As a registered dietitian, my goal in nutrition counseling is to help people establish lifelong sustainable habits, and the research points us in a different direction than keto. But first, kudos to anyone who is trying to modify their lifestyle with any diet. Low-carb diets may be useful in the short term for weight loss, but in the long term (longer than a year), there are no documented benefits.

Take a look at the following research on some other healthier eating patterns.

Plant-Based Diets

A study of the eating patterns of more than 15,400 adults in the U.S. and another 432,000 people around the world found that restricted-carbohydrate levels replaced or supplemented by animal-based protein and fat sources could lead to a higher risk of premature death. The study suggests that plant-derived protein and fat such as vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads were associated with lower mortality.

Low-Carb Diets

A second study examined the relationship among low-carb diets, heart disease, cancer, and all-cause death in 24,825 people. Compared to those in the high-carbohydrate group, those who ate the lowest carbohydrates had a 32% higher risk of all-cause death over 6 years. Risk of death from heart disease and cancer increased by 51% and 35%, respectively.

The Secrets of the Blue Zones: Living to 100

What do Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica all have in common? These places are called Blue Zones. Blue Zones are isolated areas of the world where researchers have found populations that contain a surprisingly high percentage of centenarians—people who live to age 100+. Not only are these individuals living longer, but they are doing so in phenomenal health without problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer, or diabetes. Here’s what researchers have found when it comes to their diet:

  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80% full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially beans. Eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average.
  • Alcohol in moderation (no more than 1-2 glasses of wine per night).

The Conclusion: High-Fiber, Low-Calorie Diets Are Best

There is evidence that ketogenic diets help with conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy, but for the majority of the population, I encourage you to eat a well-balanced diet that emphasizes plant foods. Think of cheese, butter, and meat as garnishes to your meal and shift your plate from a high-calorie, high-saturated-fat meal to a high-fiber, lower-calorie, and nutrient-powerhouse meal!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating protein fiber carbs dietitian ketogenic diet keto

Fad Diet Book Bestsellers for Weight Loss: Buy or Skip?

It seems like every couple of months a new book comes out about a new diet plan for weight loss and shoots to the top of the bestseller list. I decided to check and see what which fad diets are currently topping the list and give you the positives and negatives of them. Of the top eight books, three were related to Whole30 and four were based around the Ketogenic Diet.

GettyImages-855269290.jpgKetogenic Diet (Keto)

This diet plan cuts out all carbs except a very low 20 grams per day, and focuses on a high-fat diet. Doing this allows your body to enter ketosis, where it is breaking down dietary and stored body fat into ketones. The body will now focus on using fat for energy instead of sugar, which is what it normally uses. Protein intake is also lower than traditional low-carb diets to really focus on getting around 75% of your diet from fat.

Pros:

  • Scientifically since you aren’t consuming carbohydrates, your body has no other choice than to burn fat for energy, which results in fat loss.
  • Once you get through the initial stage of getting your body into ketosis, you are less likely to feel hungry, even on a low-calorie diet. This also comes from eating a high-fat diet that will have you consuming more calorie-dense foods.
  • You will reduce your insulin levels and inflammation.
  • Due to the small amount of foods you are allowed to eat, you will more than likely increase your intake of good-for-you fats from nuts, fish, and avocado.

Negatives:

  • It can be very challenging to follow such a strict diet that only allows 10% from carbohydrates and 15% from protein, which is not traditionally how we eat.
  • The first week as your body gets into ketosis can be very challenging with mood swings, hunger, tiredness, and headaches.
  • In order to get so much fat in the diet, most people end up eating a lot of foods high in animal fat or saturated fat.
  • Initial weight loss has been found with this diet, but long term it hasn’t been seen (which may be due to the challenge of sticking to the diet).
  • This diet is very low in fiber, which is needed to keep your heart healthy and keep you full.

Whole30

This diet plan eliminates all sugar (real and artificial), alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, baked goods, junk food and treats (even if they are made with approved ingredients); and no stepping on the scale or taking body measurements for 30 days. You are encouraged to eat real food, specifically meat, seafood, and eggs and lots of fruits and veggies with herbs and seasonings.

Pros:

  • Focuses on real food, so you don’t have to buy special foods and instead can buy everything you need at the grocery store.
  • Encourages healthy fats, lean protein, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Helps to eliminate processed and packaged foods and makes you focus on fresh foods.
  • Discourages replacing junk food with “healthier junk food” made with approved ingredients and encourages no junk food at all.

Negatives:

  • When you eliminate entire food groups such as grains and dairy, you are more likely to be at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, specifically calcium, Vitamin D, and B Vitamins.
  • If you are choosing non-lean meats, you can be taking in high levels of saturated fat, which will affect your cholesterol.
  • Your fiber levels will decrease when eliminating all grains and legumes (beans).
  • A diet this strict is challenging to maintain long term and may cause rapid weight loss followed by weight gain, which is called yo-yo dieting and has been found to slow down the metabolism and makes losing weight in the future more challenging.
  • If you aren’t used to preparing all of your meals and snacks at home, this will add a lot of time to your typical routine.

If you want to try something new and popular, keep in mind that these diets might not be the best long-term solution due to their strict rules. Both options have some positive aspects about them that can be incorporated into your diet. It never hurts to try something new when the end result is to increase your overall health. Now it’s up to you if you want to spend the money to buy the books and read more!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss protein fiber carbs whole30 ketogenic diet fad diets books fats

What to Eat: Nutrition Before a Long Run or Workout

ThinkstockPhotos-77293911-1Your body needs fuel! When you are planning to do a run or a workout that is longer than an hour, the way to ensure that you have enough energy to get through it is to make sure you are eating the proper combination of foods beforehand for endurance. This is tricky, though, because you want to make sure what you are eating doesn’t upset your stomach during the workout. Here are some suggestions to get you through the workout with the right nutrition for feeling great.

Tips for Eating Before a Workout

The most important thing is to eat something that is familiar. You never want to try something new on race day or competition day. The old saying “practice makes perfect” will help decide what works best for your body.

Aim for a meal that has an easily digestible carbohydrate-to-protein ratio of 3:1. Typically you want something that is lower in fiber and not high in saturated or bad-for-you fats.

For most people, eating around 2 hours prior to running is ideal; but some people have found they can tolerate food 30 minutes before a workout, especially if you are doing the run first thing in the morning. If that is the case, something smaller might be best. Make sure to have a snack before bed that has a combination of carbs and protein (such as cheese and crackers, a yogurt parfait, or fruit and nuts).

Pre-workout Meal Ideas

These are suggestions that you can try to come up with your body’s perfect pre-workout meal depending on the time of day you are completing it.

  • 1–2 slices of wheat toast or an English muffin with peanut butter
  • Cup of Greek yogurt with berries
  • Cup of oatmeal with fruit and nuts
  • Banana with almond butter
  • Half a bagel with an egg and cheese
  • Turkey sandwich with a slice of cheese
  • Pita pocket with homemade tuna salad
  • Cup of quinoa with veggies mixed in
  • Cup of whole-wheat pasta with meat sauce
  • Cup of brown rice with chicken and veggies

Start practicing with some of these suggestions or with other meals or snacks that sound good to you that meet the 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio so you are ready to tackle those long runs and workouts.

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition running workouts snacks endurance protein carbs

Thanksgiving Food and Healthy Eating Myths Busted

We all know that a lot of holidays involve food: cookouts on the 4th of July, cookies for Santa at Christmas, and candy treats for Halloween. But one holiday completely revolves around food—when you think of it, you automatically think about food. Thanksgiving is all about the meal of turkey, sides, and desserts. Several food myths surround this holiday, however, and not all of them are true. Keep reading for myth busters to share at your table.

GettyImages-827599250.jpg

  • Turkey makes you sleepy. Always have a nap after your Thanksgiving meal? Have you been blaming the turkey because you heard it was high in tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin and then melatonin and causes you to sleep? The truth is that a lot of other foods on the dinner table have much higher levels of tryptophan, and the real reason for the nap is more likely because of the amount of carbs that you consumed (and possibly the number of glasses of wine you drank!).
  • Sweet potatoes are always better than white potatoes. It’s true that if you look at the nutritional components of a regular sweet potato compared to those of a white potato, hands down it wins for its higher levels of vitamin A and C and fiber. The typical sweet potato dish is loaded with sugar and fat, however, and not nearly as healthy as a plain baked white potato.
  • Dark meat is unhealthy. Yes, it is true that white meat is very lean and an excellent source of protein. Dark meat is not so terrible, though, that you should intentionally avoid putting it on your Thanksgiving plate. A serving of 4 oz of white meat is 158 calories vs. 183 for dark meat, and 0.5 gram of saturated fat vs. 1.6 grams of saturated fat. Dark meat is also higher in zinc and iron.
  • Canned pumpkin isn’t as healthy as fresh. I am sure you have heard multiple times how much healthier fresh fruits and vegetables are versus canned. This is typically due to processing them and then storing them in a high-sodium or high-sugar liquid. However, when it comes to canned pumpkin, that rule doesn’t apply. It’s more concentrated than a fresh pumpkin, which means more vitamin A and fiber. But be careful when grabbing a can of pumpkin and don’t accidentally grab pumpkin pie filling, which is loaded with sugar and salt.
  • Stuffing and dressing are the same thing. They are very similar, but not the same. Stuffing is typically stuffed inside the bird, whereas dressing is prepared in a casserole dish. A note about food safety: Be cautious when eating traditional stuffing that is cooked inside the bird. It adds mass to the turkey, which slows the cooking. This not only dries out the meat, but can create salmonella bacteria. Always be sure your turkey is cooked to 165 degrees.

Show up at the Thanksgiving holiday this year with these healthy eating myth busters to share with your family and friends (and also check out these additional Thanksgiving hacks). Then grab a plate, load it up with lots white and dark meat, and enjoy the once-a-year food fest!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating holidays sleep Thanksgiving carbs food safety fruits and vegetables turkey myth busters

3 Foods to Eat Before You Run

ThinkstockPhotos-617595994.jpgWe all know that having a wonderful training program is important, but that’s only one piece of the pie. Another key part of successfully training for a half marathon or endurance activity is having proper nutrition

If you don’t fuel your body with the nutrients it needs – a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat – you are likely to bonk and run out of energy mid run. And that isn’t fun for anyone! When I plan my foods to eat before a long run or workout, I make sure it has:

  • Easily digested carbs for long lasting energy
  • Protein for muscle repair and recovery
  • Small amount of Fat

It’s also important to make sure to consider the timing. Everyone is different, so it’s important to pay attention to what foods your body digests well and what makes you feel best.

It’s typically recommended to eat between 3 hours or 30 minutes before a workout.

My 3 favorite foods to eat before a long run or hard workout are:

  • A couple of dates stuffed with nut butter
    • Dates are filled with simple sugar, which is typically easily digested and the nut butter gives your body a bit of protein for recovery and healthy fat.
  • Larabar®
    • Larabars® are easy to grab. The ingredient list is full of real foods (dates, dried fruit, nuts) so they are a great source of those easily digested carbohydrates.
  • Carrots and Hummus
    • The hummus and carrots provide essential carbohydrates and the chickpeas in the hummus also provides the necessary protein for recovery with a small amount of fat.

Those are some of our favorite foods to eat within a 3 hour window before completing a long run.


Nutrition for the Pre-Run

Remember that everyone is different, and different foods and different timing may make you feel great! Try looking for your best source of carbs, protein and fat to eat within that 3 hour window before running. And make sure to do ALL experimenting before race day. Trying something new on race day could throw your entire race off!

Be sure to comment below with some of your favorite foods to eat before a training run!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, nutirition specialist. Follow Tara on her blog, Treble in the Kitchen. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: cardio nutrition mini marathon protein carbs

Decoding Changes to the FDA's New Nutrition Facts Label

ThinkstockPhotos-522898575.jpgIn January I wrote about the confusing world of sugar and how it would get a lot less confusing when the FDA passed new changes to the food label that would make added sugar more prominent. On May 20, 2016, they finalized the new Nutrition Facts Label for consumers, and by July 26, 2018, all labels are required to show these changes.

The New Nutrition Facts Labels

So, how can the new food label help when you are at the grocery store? These are the major changes that will begin appearing on all labels.

  • The type size for “Calories,” “servings per container,” and “Serving size” will be increased and the number of calories and “Serving size” will be boldfaced.
  • Manufacturers must add the gram weight of Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium.Screen_Shot_2016-06-14_at_3.41.15_PM.png
  • The footnote will be worded differently to help consumers understand its meaning. It will read: “The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”
  • “Added sugars” in grams and a percentage of the daily value will be added to the label.
  • Calories from fat is being removed because research shows that the type of fat in your diet is more important than the total amount.
  • Serving sizes are changing based on what people are actually eating and not what they should be eating. Since the portion sizes have changed since 1993 when labels were first introduced, this will be reflected by soda increasing from an 8-ounce portion size to 12 ounces on the new label.
  • On packages that are between 1 and 2 servings, such as a 20-ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup, the label will reflect one serving since that is typically what people consume in one sitting.
In addition, the new label shows how serving sizes have changed to better represent how consumers actually eat.

If you have any questions about the new labeling changes or would like to schedule a personal nutrition coaching session, please contact Angie Mitchell at ascheetz@nifs.org.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition calories carbs sugar fat

NIFS Heart Throbs: 5 Healthy Habits for Weight-Loss Success

team.jpgThe Slim It to Win It* (SITWI) program is off and running again for another year of life-changing results and lifestyle modifications to maintain those changes. SITWI, in its fifth year, is NIFS’ equivalent to the NBC show The Biggest Loser. But unlike that show, the highly trained coaches at NIFS work in and around the real-world challenges that face the participants in the program to get true and long-lasting results. I am honored and very excited to be part of this great program again after a few years away, and look forward to witnessing all of the successes had by all those working hard in the program!

I am coach of “The Heart Throbs” this year, a group of 10 individuals who come to the program with a common goal of reducing body fat and learning to practice habits and behaviors that will keep them healthy and fit throughout their lifetimes. They came to the right place! But why the name Heart Throbs, you ask? Other than being a pretty good-looking group, over half of the people in the group have dealt with or are dealing with a heart issue and have overcome that obstacle to continue to fight and become the individual they want to be.

Stories from the Team

Take Amy Anderyck (Year One overall champion, by the way). Here is a snippet of her story:

I was born with an ASD heart defect. It was a hole the size of a quarter. It's not uncommon for babies to have them at birth, but they usually close up themselves after a bit. Mine never closed. So when I was 5 years old my parents took me to Birmingham, Alabama, to meet Dr. Albert Pacifico, who was the best pediatric vascular surgeon in the country at the time. He did a great job with my repair and I am able to lead a happy, healthy life without any restrictions. I am thankful for my parents and the doctor. 

Slimit16pic2.jpegOr Haley Pratt:

I was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) Syndrome as an infant, but my structures were too small to take care of anything as a baby. I had my first ablation at age 4, which was still very young to operate, but there was no choice. I went on living life normally as an active child. The doctors told me I would never be able to play organized sports, have life insurance, or pilot a plane. I am here to say that I conquered the first two (even got a full-ride scholarship to play volleyball at Lynn University) and someday would love to get my pilot's license.

Two years ago, I did have another scare where I had a tachycardia episode that felt exactly like what I was used to growing up. I wondered how this could happen after 15 years. It ended up being inappropriate sinus tachycardia, which sometimes comes and goes on its own. I am on a beta blocker and have a looping monitor implanted for the time being, but I will be able to quit both soon. I have a healthy heart and nothing can stop me from achieving my goals!

The team’s inspirational stories are too many to list in one blog post, but I assure you that they rival the two stories shared above. It takes a lot of courage and strength to look something like that in the face and overcome it. I am so proud of Haley, Amy, and the rest of the Heart Throbs, and I am humbled that they chose me to lead them to a healthier and better life!

Five Questions About Your Eating Habits

At our first meeting, we spoke about what it took to get results in reducing body fat and body weight, or eliminating medications or staving off type 2 diabetes. I suggested that of the top three things that can lead you down the path to success—mental health, nutrition, and exercise—exercise was a distant third. Exercise should be the fun stuff; it’s the first two that are the tough ones. The Heart Throbs would like to ask you 5 questions about how you are eating that could help you develop those important habits that will lead to success:

  • Are you eating slowly? It takes a minimum of 20 minutes for the brain to signal to the stomach and the rest of the body that you are full. If you eat fast, you usually eat more.
  • Where are the protein-dense foods? Eating protein with every meal will help with recovery, building muscle, and feeling full. Protein consumption soon after a training session is a great habit that will help in all facets of your fitness. Some examples are meat, fish, eggs, plant protein, and yogurt.
  • Are you eating veggies with every meal? Prepare them any way you like, and shoot for few portions each meal. Veggies should account for the bulk of your carbohydrate intake for the day.
  • Where are the carbohydrates? Carbohydrates (grains, beans, starches, fruit) have gotten a bad rap in recent years, mainly due to the increased intake of highly processed and unnatural carbohydrate sources. Carbs are important, especially after a training session, and help supply the body with energy it needs to run various systems of the body. Portion control is key here (1 to 2 cupped-hand-sized servings), as well as timing (after training) to get the most out of your carbohydrates.
  • Are you eating fat? Fat in your diet is important, and although the discussion would be too extensive for this piece, this idea does come with a bit of blowback. So let me put it like this: In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the “experts” labeled fat as the enemy and worked hard to eliminate it from the American diet (remember the SnackWell’s aisles?). What happened to America? It got fat. Choose healthy fats (oils, butter, nut butters, nuts, and seeds) and spread them out through the day.

Bonus Takeaways

 The Heart Throbs have some bonus takeaways for you:

  • Experiment to find what works for you. It has to work for you to be sustainable!
  • Don't try to overhaul; add one habit every couple of weeks.
  • Identify any nutritional deficiencies that can be found through a blood test and work to correct them.
  • You can't change your life unless you change something you do every day.

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS nutrition healthy habits weight loss healthy eating Slim It to Win It carbs