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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Back Away from the Sugar: Making Better Nutrition Choices

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 5.16.05 PMEaster might be over, but the candy lingers. There is no escaping the colors of the sugary candy that is around every corner. From jelly beans to chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs, the temptations are endless and the calories are empty.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it is important for you to know what you’re getting yourself into when you reach for that fluffy pink and yellow Peep. Brace yourself…this might hurt.

Sugar Is Harmful to Your Body

Sugars are caloric, sweet-tasting compounds that occur widely in nature, including in fruits, vegetables, honey, and human and dairy milk. We are born with the desire or preference for sweet taste. The presence of lactose in breast milk helps ensure that this primary source of nutrition for infants is palatable and acceptable. Chemically and with respect to food, sugars are monosaccharide or disaccharide carbohydrates, which impact sweet taste. Most foods contain some of each.

Monosaccharide is a single molecular unit that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. The most common monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, galactose, and mannose.

Disaccharide is sugar containing two monosaccharides that are linked together, and which are broken down in the body into single sugars. The most common disaccharide is sucrose, which is also known as table sugar.

What Happens When You Eat Sugary Candy

When you consume Easter candy, you are getting a large dose of sugar. Whether it’s in the form of high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar, it slams into your system like a bowling ball, and the effects are disastrous. Within the first 20 minutes or so, your blood-sugar level spikes as the sugar enters your bloodstream. It arrives there in the form of glucose, which is your body’s main source of energy. This sudden rise in blood glucose stimulates your pancreas to start pumping out large amounts of insulin, which is the hormone that helps your cells take in the available glucose. Some of this glucose is used instantly for energy, but the rest is stored as fat by insulin, to be used later.

I know what you’re thinking, “But it’s Easter and it only happens once every year!” No it doesn’t! There are always going to be excuses to eat poorly. Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve also “only happen once a year!”

The holidays alone aren’t the only times that we allow the excuses to take over. Daily your efforts to eat well are sidetracked by busy schedules, which include business diners, birthday parties, evenings out with your friends, fundraising banquets, breakfast meetings, church dinners… the list goes on.

Alternatives for Healthy Eating and Celebrating

At some point, you have to stop making excuses and start making better decisions to put your health first. Here are some healthier alternatives. Don’t forget that you also have the option to meet with our Registered Dietitians on staff to help you get on the right path.

Let’s look at ways to enjoy Easter and not feel like you have to munch on carrots and lettuce the whole day. Alternatives to candy:

  • Dried fruit (eat with protein such as nuts)
  • Very dark chocolate (choose some with very little sugar)
  • Nuts
  • Fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain crackers and pretzels
  • Cheeses
  • Popcorn

And start thinking about next Easter with these non-food ideas for kids’ Easter baskets:

  • Play dough
  • Balls
  • Jump ropes
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Crayons
  • Garden starter set
  • Butterfly habitat
  • Beading supplies
  • Swimming toys
  • Card games

The possibilities are honestly endless. It’s just a matter of taking the time to think healthier and smarter next Easter!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss snacks holidays diabetes sugar blood sugar

Thinking About Diabetes During the Halloween Candy Season

GettyImages-500664508It’s Halloween time, and that can only mean one thing: sugar, lots of sugar! Toward the end of summer, stores start to taunt us by placing all of the Halloween candy out on display. What’s worst of all is that the candy is in tiny, easy-to-eat servings. By the time the actual day of Halloween rolls around, we’ve already been thumbing through fun-sized candy the entire month.

Each holiday has its traditional treats we enjoy, but Halloween takes the prize for being the most focused on candy. And no matter how hard you try to avoid it, the temptation of it all might possibly get the best of you.

Can You Fight the Temptation?

While one piece of candy won’t make or break your health, very few of us stop at just one. In fact, most see Halloween like we see other festive holidays from Thanksgiving and Christmas, to cookouts in the summer: a perfect reason to indulge in whatever kind of temptation is available.

But those temptations can eventually start to take a toll and contribute to the current epidemic of type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of Americans, or more than 100 million adults, are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Without significant changes, as many as 30% of people with pre-diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

What Is Diabetes?

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use as energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood.

Why Put Down the Halloween Candy?

The more sugar you eat, the harder your pancreas has to work to produce insulin and keep your blood sugar within in a safe/healthy range. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce any insulin, when the pancreas produces very little insulin, or when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin, a condition called “insulin resistance.”

How Can You Prevent Diabetes?

Perhaps you have learned recently that you have a high chance of developing type 2 diabetes. You might be overweight or have a parent, brother, or sister with the condition. Here are some ways you can lower your risk.

These simple lifestyle changes are what will send type 2 diabetes out of your life like a kid running out of a haunted house. Choose future health over present pleasures.

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan B.S., ISSA-CPT, Nutrition Specialist, ACE-HC,
NIFS Weight Loss Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating holidays NIFS programs diabetes sugar dietitian halloween

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

New USDA Guidelines: Making the Nutrition Recommendations Work

ThinkstockPhotos-501294518.jpgEvery five years, the USDA releases new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Typically people get their idea of what healthy eating is and what they should be doing from all kinds of sources. Maybe it’s from a magazine, a TV news report, something a friend or family member suggested, or from reading blogs. Wherever you get your information, know that a team of researchers put together the most recent scientific evidence to come up with their recommendations for Americans. Here’s what they found, with some of the most important takeaway tips.

Strive for a Balance Over Your Lifespan

The new guidelines shift away from recommending foods you should or shouldn’t eat, and instead emphasize the importance of a balanced overall eating pattern. Here are the specific recommendations:

  • Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks that a person eats over time.
  • Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and amount.
  • Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake.
  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
  • Support healthy eating patterns for all.

Watch Sugar, Fat, and Sodium Intake

The new guidelines also put a cap on sugar, saturated fat, and sodium that can lead to heart disease and obesity, and are easy to overeat. The limits are as follow:

  • Less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars.
  • Less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats.
  • Less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium for those over age 14.

A couple issues that have arisen after the release of the most recent guidelines is the lack of straightforward numbers for sugar and saturated fat. For example, most people are not aware what 10% of their calories would be from sugar and saturated fat (most sources from sugar are in sodas and juice drinks, and saturated fat is from red meat). Instead, an easier recommendation for the public to follow would be to drink more water instead of sugary drinks, and to eat vegetarian meals two to three times per week instead of red meat.

Moderation Is Key

My-Nutrition-Coach-outline-no-back-1.jpgOverall the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a helpful tool in reinforcing what we already know: a balanced diet with all of the food groups in moderation is the best one to follow.

If you need help planning your meals or knowing what to eat, consider a personal nutrition coaching session or using the My Nutrition Coach app daily.

Learn More

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

Topics: nutrition calories hydration sodium sugar

Reducing Your Added Sugar Intake for Better Nutrition

ThinkstockPhotos-185151583.jpgIf you have read the news lately, I’m sure you have seen that the world’s obesity epidemic is most recently being blamed on sugar. This is with good reason, too. In 1922 the average American ate the amount of sugar found in one 12-ounce soda every five days. Now, that amount is consumed every seven hours. Sugar is in everything—not just baked goods and sodas, but also bread, peanut butter, soy sauce, and even hot dogs.

So how much should you be eating, and how do you spot what is naturally occurring, like the sugar in milk and fruit versus added sugar?

Naturally Occurring Versus Added Sugars

For the first time, the FDA is putting a number on the amount of sugar that is recommended for Americans. The goal is to keep the added sugar to no more than 10 percent of their diet. For anyone over the age of 3, that means no more than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams per day.

However, if you flip over the carton of your daily Greek yogurt and see 15 grams of sugar, how much of that is added for sweetness and flavor and how much is from the lactose or milk sugar that is good for you?

Use this handy list to know how many grams are naturally occurring from either fruit sugar (fructose) in your fresh fruit, or milk sugar (lactose):

  • 1 cup milk: 13 grams
  • 6 oz. plain yogurt: 8 grams
  • Cheese, butter, sour cream, eggs: less than 2 grams
  • 1 cup fruit: 7 grams (berries) up to 17 grams (orange)

This can be confusing when just glancing at a label. In March 2014, the FDA proposed including added sugar, in grams, on food labels. Be sure to look at this new layout and be aware of your sugar intake.

How to Reduce Added Sugar in Your Diet

The easiest way to decrease the amount of added sugar in your diet is to choose more fresh foods that have not been processed or packaged. Swap the pre-made snack for a piece of fresh fruit and a handful of nuts. Take a look at your overall food consumption and find other easy swaps to help with weight loss and overall health!

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If you are one of the 1 billion people trying to lose weight, don’t do it alone. NIFS has many options to help you reach your goals. Check out the Ramp Up to Weight Loss program and personal nutrition coaching sessions for more information.

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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 healthy habits weight loss healthy eating snacks artificial ingredients sugar dietitian My Nutrition Coach