Category: Nutrition

Four Reasons to Love Fruits and Vegetables

Allyson Joy

Hi friends! Today we have a guest blog, the first of many I hope to have in the future. The following was written by a dietetic intern I am working with. Enjoy!

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Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Genesis 1:29)

It seems like everyday we are bombarded with new food products and new diets. Whether it is the radio, television, or friends, everyone seems to have an opinion on what products or diet to try and not to try. It can be overwhelming going to the grocery store and knowing what to buy.

What if we were able to make going to the store a little bit simpler? Wouldn’t that make our busy lives a little bit easier?

My name is Katy, and I am a dietetic intern in beautiful Beaumont, Texas. In two months I will be able to take my board exam to become a Registered Dietitian (like Allyson)…no pressure right! Allyson gave me a great opportunity to make a guest post on her blog and so I am going to take this chance talk about the simplicity of fruits and vegetables. We know we are supposed to be eating fruits and vegetables everyday but sometimes they can be easily skipped.

Have you heard of diets like the Paleo Diet or Daniel Diet? The Paleo Diet is a based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.  The biblical prophet Daniel inspires the Daniel Diet. This plan encourages replacing sweets and processed food with more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

There are even more diets out there that suggest increasing fruits and vegetables and decreasing processed foods. My goal today isn’t to talk about diets. If you want more thoughts on diets check out Allyson’s Deciphering Diets post. My goal is to leave you feeling passionate about fruits and vegetables, because I am passionate about them. Sure, there are many diets out there that promote them but diets are complicated and fruits and vegetables are simple.

Here are four reasons why I personally love fruits and vegetables:

  1. The healthy glow. Adding orange fruits and vegetables into your diet will help you have radiant skin! Beta-carotene, an orange plant pigment, starts a healthy glow that begins on the inside. So skip the risk of skin cancer from too much sun exposure and eat some carrots!
  2. Convenient travel. A good snack should not generate a lot of waste, think of all the wrappers and boxes we throw away in our lifetime, it is building up in a landfill somewhere. Fruits and vegetables like cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, blueberries, and celery travel really well. Some transport better in some type of container. Fruits like apples are super convenient to throw in your bag and rinse when you are ready to snack.
  3. Antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells against free radical damage. They are vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are protectors. How cool is that! The foods we consume are actually helping us decrease the free radicals in our bodies. Vitamin E, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, zinc, and selenium all have a unique function and play different roles. So it is important to eat a variety and fruits and vegetables to get a variety of antioxidants.
  4. They are unique. How cool do fruits and vegetables look? Each one is so different and there are a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Have you seen @UglyFruitandVeg on instagram? There are some hilarious looking fruits and vegetables! God made fruits and vegetables like he made us: no two are every exactly alike and that makes me love them even more. Have you ever been to a farmers market and seen some unique looking produce? I know I have, and I always try to find the strangest one to take home and cook.

When I was younger I avoided vegetables, especially Brussels sprouts! I remember having terrible feelings about Brussels sprouts and thinking of them as soggy balls of sadness. As I got older I tried them different ways, for example, in salads, with turkey bacon and roasted. Now I love them! Gone are the days of steamed or boiled Brussels sprouts. Sometimes it just takes a new technique of cooking to realize the full potential of a vegetable.

So, I would like to challenge you. The next time you are at the grocery store, pick out a fruit or vegetable that you have not eaten since you were a child, find a great recipe, cook it up, and maybe you will fall in love. Or let you child choose one that catches their eye. Involving the kids in cooking might just spark something within them and lead them to become a fruit and vegetable lover themselves!

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It All Matters

Allyson Joy

The debate for the most effective weight loss method rages on. Shocker. While I do not agree with the majority of what I read on this topic, a recent journal article caught my attention.

The International Journal of Obesity released an online preview of an article entitled Perceived weight status and risk of weight gain across life in US and UK adults. Here was the conclusion of this research study: “Perceiving oneself as being ‘overweight’ is counter-intuitively associated with an increased risk of future weight gain among US and UK adults.” In other words, if you think you are overweight you will actually become more overweight. In other words, what we think about ourselves matters.

Granted, in order to make a change we must acknowledge that a change is warranted in the first place. But what is absolutely wonderful about these findings is that we can shift our focus from what we are today to what we want to become tomorrow. If you want to become more educated on a topic, begin seeing yourself as knowledgeable in that field. Read books on the subject. Surround yourself with people who are skilled in that discipline.

An effective approach to weight loss is no different. Are you dwelling on what you have always thought about your weight or what others continuously say concerning your health? No wonder making a change is difficult! You believe what you have been told and continued failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The conclusion of this article backs up what we know to be true but often fail to acknowledge: what we think about matters. How we perceive ourselves matters. Who we listen to matters. And what we believe and dwell on eventually turns into action, which results in our makeup and our character, which is the sum-total of millions of little choices.

So, I challenge you today to ponder this question: How do you perceive yourself and why? Today is the day to redefine your health. No excuses. Start acting your “weigh” into lasting change. Begin eating better, exercising, and seeing yourself as the healthy, vibrant, energetic person you are. If you are overweight and keep thinking that is true, it always will be. The moment you decide to see yourself differently is the moment it will start becoming your reality.

Change your thoughts because every single one of them matters.

 

Article reference: http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/vaop/naam/pdf/ijo2015143a.pdf

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Hot Topic: Coconut Oil

Allyson Joy

Over the past several years, coconut oil has emerged as a “healthier” alternative to oils such as olive oil, canola oil, and lard. But is there any substantial evidence to back up these claims?

Let’s start by establishing what the majority of all oils are: fat. “Fat” is not the enemy when it comes to healthy eating. In fact, 20-35% of our diets should be coming from fat. This is less than carbohydrates at 55-65% but even more than protein, which comes in around 10-15% of the diet. We need fat in our diets in order to properly function. Read that again. We need fat in order for our bodies to function the way they were created to work. Fat is good! It plays a role in vitamin absorption, protection, insulation, slowing of digestion, and satiety (fullness) after a meal just to name a few.

Now that we have established the importance of fat, let’s look at the different types:

  • Saturated fats have no double bond between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. They are usually solid at room temperature. Take butter for example. If you leave butter on the table for a couple hours it will remain mostly solid. Too much saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels.
  • Trans fats. Few trans fats occur naturally in foods (meat and dairy products), but the majority are man made. Hydrogen is added to vegetable oil during processing, making this fat solid at room temperature. This process results in “partially hydrogenated oil.” Not only does trans fat raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol but it also lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
  • Monounsaturated fats have one unsaturated double bond. These fats are typically liquid at room temperature, for example, olive oil. Monounsaturated fats can lower LDL cholesterol and also contribute to vitamin E consumption.
  • Polyunsaturated fats have more than one unsaturated carbon bond (double bond). Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature but begin to solidify slightly when chilled. Examples of these fats are soybean oil, corn oil, and oil from fatty fish like salmon.

If this was all we knew about fats we can easily tell that large amounts saturated and trans fats have a negative impact on the body while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have positive benefits. Where does coconut oil fall on this spectrum? Click on this chart:

Fat Chart

Coconut oil is often marketed as a better alternative to every other oil. However, it contains the highest amount of saturated fat compared to other oils, coming in at 91% saturated fat. Compare that to lard which weighs in at 43%. Lard! And yet consumers are rushing to the store to purchase coconut oil because it is “healthier” and more “natural.”

I am not here to bash coconut oil. As with most foods, it can have a place as part of a healthy, balanced diet. We are also just looking at a small piece of a much larger puzzle. I mostly want to warn you against jumping on the latest bandwagon because a product pops up on Google or the news as a healthier and better alternative to something else.

Facts don’t lie. We know that saturated fat has a place but must be consumed in moderation. But if someone is changing to make the majority of their fat source to come from coconut oil, it will not take much to exceed the daily limit of saturated fat. Lard is 43% saturated fat. Coconut oil is 91%. Need I say more?

Yes, I will say more. Be informed. Just because something sounds good doesn’t mean it is. And if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It is easy to fall prey to the latest fad. I have a background in nutrition and still have to stop and truly evaluate what is being said. When the next greatest, magic bullet that comes along in the wellness world, stop and think. Without doing any research I would bet that there is part of it that is true and part of it that is false. Enjoy a balanced view and you won’t be tossed here and there by the latest cure all in health. Freedom will surely follow.

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Chew on This: Supplements

Allyson Joy

It is not an inconceivable idea to imagine that diets and supplements will always be a part of most Americans’ lifestyle and a hot topic to discuss. Where does one even begin when evaluating diets and supplements? I have already written to you about Deciphering Diets. Today, we do not have time to dissect every latest craze of supplements. I want to discuss reasons people buy diet products in the first place and also considerations for why they may not be all they are cracked up to be. Knowing the product honestly isn’t a concern for me. I can tell you this about virtually every diet supplement and weight loss product: there will be some truth, a lot of “probably” and the underlying reason for the testimonial (I say testimonial because most products are not researched based other than the one trial that was conducted in and funded by their own company) will not be because of the product in which they are taking but because of lifestyle changes that accompanied the outrageous amount of money that was just invested in a hope.

Here is my disclaimer: I am not here to bash weight loss products or the people who purchase them. However, I will not apologize for the passion I have to speak truth and help consumers make informed decisions about their health. My conclusions come from years of school and experience is this: if you want to be a healthy weight and experience wellness you should consume a balanced diet from whole foods (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy or soy) and exercise consistently. That’s it. We could end right here and you would have a solid foundation for proper nutrition. But I must go on.

Here are the top 6 reasons I consistently hear for trying a new product:

  1. Weight Loss. I will say with 100% confidence that weight loss comes from either eating less food or burning more calories through exercise. Period. Taking a supplement does not help your body burn more calories and drop pounds. Consuming fewer calories or building more muscle does. When investing money in a product the majority of people will make other lifestyle changes, healthier eating being one of them. Did you hear me? Weight loss comes through eating less or exercising more.
  2. Detoxification. Last time I checked the liver and kidneys do a pretty incredible job ridding the body of waste. Many “detox” products are a pill or a type of clear drink. If you only drink clear products for several days you will feel differently. That does not mean that an extra detox has occurred. It means there is nothing left in your gastrointestinal tract! If you would like to increase your output, increase your fruits, veggies, whole grains and water intake. More fiber needs more water to help keep everything moving. Eating more whole foods and less junk is a great way to “detox” the body.
  3. More energy. Vitamins or minerals in and of themselves do not give us energy. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins provide energy. However, if you are deficient in a vitamin or mineral, yes, you may experience fatigue. The best way to increase energy is getting more sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating well, and exercising. If you would like an extra boost, enjoy a cup of coffee in the mornings. While it takes time, practicing good habits will provide more energy in the long run.
  4. Improved health. One cannot be healthier simply by taking a pill or shake. Good health is multifaceted. Feeling better cannot be attributed to one thing, one change only. That’s all I have to say about that.
  5. Quick fix. Let’s be honest: we are busy. If you can take a pill to fix a problem, why wouldn’t you be tempted to try it? A major claim of supplements is to suppress something (such as appetite), block something (such as digesting fat) or to increase something (such as energy). Setting aside the strong probability that these claims are false, where is your focus? Do you want a quick, temporary, false fix or a long term change? It is a harder and slower road but why not shift your focus to all that you are gaining and the benefits of just simple, balanced eating and consistent exercise?
  6. Increased muscle. We have all seen those people at the gym who have more muscle than humanly possible. You will also hear those same people attribute muscle growth to all the protein shakes they are taking. Do you know why they are ripped? Because they live in the gym! The majority of Americans get PLENTY of protein from diet alone. Building muscle comes from weight bearing exercise and consuming protein in the diet. Eating extra protein does not equal more muscle. Eating extra protein that your body does not need means a conversion to fat and store like all the other excess nutrients. Remember, protein is needed in the smallest percentage compared to carbohydrates and fat. If you would like to build muscle, get moving and start eating better! For more information on protein, click here.

Let’s also take a look at a few concerns of supplements:

  1. Federal Regulation. Many supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until enough reports of harm or death are reported. There is no pre-market approval. Therefore, you do not know for certain what you are actually consuming. Supplements do not have the same regulations as drugs and other medical products. In other words, you may consume a dietary supplement for years before evidence of harm surfaces and the FDA concludes their investigation.
  2. Overstated Claims. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. Many dietary supplements claim to cure various conditions. Be cautious when believing claims listed on the company’s website.
  3. Lack of Research. Most products claim to have “research” to back up the overstated claims. However, when you dig a little deeper you find that the one or two “research studies” were conducted in their own laboratory, funded by their own supporters or are testimonial in nature. Testimonies carry little credibility. While it may be nice to hear that someone else experienced success, there is much that is not being evaluated, such as change in eating habits, exercise, life changes, etc.
  4. Disclaimer. Many of the selling statements of these products carry an *. Follow that to the bottom of the page to find this: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” Whole food does not need a disclaimer. Supplements do.

Here is the bottom line: take the road less traveled. Stop wasting time looking for a quick fix or hoping the latest product will finally be the answer to all of your health questions. If you are waiting for a magic pill it will never come. There will NEVER simply be a pill that will fix all health issues.

You are worth the time and energy it will take to get to the heart of the matter. It may be that you need more education about nutrition. Great! Find a Registered Dietitian. You may find you do not like to exercise by yourself. Ask a friend to go walking with you a few times a week or join a group fitness class. Maybe you are discouraged because you have failed in the past. Today is a new day. It’s all about new beginnings and moving forward. Reach out to a trusted friend or professional who will keep you accountable and provide encouragement. Or you may for the first time be honest with yourself and realize you need help from a Psychologist to work through something in your past. But for the majority of us, we probably need to just stop making excuses and get moving! If this is you, quit being lazy and make one change today. Good habits are hard to form but your health is entirely worth it.

Chew on that.

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Iron Strong

Allyson Joy

Let’s talk strong. Let’s talk energy. Let’s talk iron.

Iron is an essential mineral that should be consumed on a daily basis. It plays an important role in making hemoglobin, which allows oxygen to be carried to cells in order to produce energy. Myoglobin, which is found in muscle, is also produced by iron. Additionally, iron is found in many proteins in the body. Already we can see that iron is vital to many bodily functions, including energy production. When levels are low, the body becomes tired, and weakness often follows.

According to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, here are the current recommendations for iron consumption:

Gender/Age  Iron DRI 
Males/14-18 11 mg
Males/19 + 8 mg
Females/14-18 15 mg
Females/19-50 18 mg
Females/51 + 8 mg

 

There are two types of iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body and is found in meat, poultry, and seafood. Non-meat sources like plants and fortified foods contain nonheme iron only.

The following table was taken from the National Institute of Health, compiled from the USDA National Nutrient Database.

Food Milligrams
per serving
Percent DV*
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 100% of the DV for iron, 1 serving 18 100
Oysters, eastern, cooked with moist heat, 3 ounces 8 44
White beans, canned, 1 cup 8 44
Chocolate, dark, 45%–69% cacao solids, 3 ounces 7 39
Beef liver, pan fried, 3 ounces 5 28
Lentils, boiled and drained, ½ cup 3 17
Spinach, boiled and drained, ½ cup 3 17
Tofu, firm, ½ cup 3 17
Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup 2 11
Sardines, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone, 3 ounces 2 11
Chickpeas, boiled and drained, ½ cup 2 11
Tomatoes, canned, stewed, ½ cup 2 11
Beef, braised bottom round, trimmed to 1/8″ fat, 3 ounces 2 11
Potato, baked, flesh and skin, 1 medium potato 2 11
Cashew nuts, oil roasted, 1 ounce (18 nuts) 2 11
Green peas, boiled, ½ cup 1 6
Chicken, roasted, meat and skin, 3 ounces 1 6
Rice, white, long grain, enriched, parboiled, drained, ½ cup 1 6
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice 1 6
Bread, white, 1 slice 1 6
Raisins, seedless, ¼ cup 1 6
Spaghetti, whole wheat, cooked, 1 cup 1 6
Tuna, bluefin, fresh, cooked with dry heat, 3 ounces 1 6
Turkey, roasted, breast meat and skin, 3 ounces 1 6
Nuts, pistachio, dry roasted, 1 ounce (49 nuts) 1 6
Broccoli, boiled and drained, ½ cup 1 6
Egg, hard boiled, 1 large 1 6
Rice, brown, long or medium grain, cooked, 1 cup 1 6
Cheese, cheddar, 1.5 ounces 0 0
Cantaloupe, diced, ½ cup 0 0
Mushrooms, white, sliced and stir-fried, ½ cup 0 0
Cheese, cottage, 2% milk fat, ½ cup 0 0
Milk, 1 cup 0 0

* DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet. The DV for iron is 18 mg for adults and children age 4 and older. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Nutrient Database Web site [17] lists the nutrient content of many foods and provides a comprehensive list of foods containing iron arranged by nutrient content and by food name.

Another interesting fact about iron is that the absorption of nonheme iron is increased with vitamin C consumption. Vitamin C can be found in foods like peppers, dark green leafy vegetables, kiwis, citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, tomatoes, and peas. Additionally, cooking meals in a cast iron skillet can also increase iron consumption. Let’s look at a few examples of meals with high iron content and a higher absorption rate due to the vitamin C content of the meal.

  • Grilled chicken with rice, tomatoes, and pineapple.
  • Stir fry with rice, tofu, broccoli, and peppers. Add orange for a twist on flavor.
  • Grilled cheese sandwich with a side of low-fat cottage cheese and fresh berries.
  • Spaghetti with lean ground beef, tomato sauce, side salad and slice of whole wheat bread.
  • Sirloin steak with a side baked potato, broccoli, and pineapple.

Iron levels can be low for a variety of reasons. But eating iron rich foods can only help your iron status. Incorporating more meals with this essential mineral can be fun and easy. If you are still reading this you have no excuse to start adding more iron to your diet! Enjoy the positive benefits of increasing those iron stores!

*Image: www.pinterest.com

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Disorders & Disordered

Allyson Joy

Eating disorders. These two simple words probably conjure up a many different emotions. They may make you uncomfortable because you don’t know what to do with them. Maybe you are uneasy because you feel I am somehow speaking directly to you. You may even be annoyed, thinking that only teenage girls deal with this and it in no way pertains to you.

Or maybe, just maybe, you are on the verge of hope because finally you are going to hear some truth about this topic.

It’s not much of a stretch to say that if you live in America you deal with some version of disordered eating. While it may not be a clinically diagnosed eating disorder, you probably have a distorted view of food and body image. An overwhelming percentage of us have an unhealthy relationship with food, whether it is eating too little, too much, an obsession with being healthy, or denial, thinking that what we put in our bodies has no connection to emotional issues. It is commonly thought that only women deal with this, but that is simply not true. Before you guys close this page and move on to something else (I know there’s gotta be at least one of you out there), you may find it interesting to know that millions of men and boys battle some form of an eating disorder.

Before we dive any deeper, let’s look at a few different types of eating disorders.

  • Anorexia nervosa is a disease characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight. People who suffer from anorexia nervosa are typically underweight and are extremely afraid of gaining weight. They often have a distorted self-image, actually seeing him or her self in the mirror as much larger than they really are. Obsession with eating, food, weight and control in general are common. Anorexia nervosa can disrupt every area of someone’s life.
  • Bulimia nervosa characteristics are a little different than anorexia nervosa, and constant food restriction does not occur. People who experience this disease will often binge on unusually large amounts of food (this does not mean the occasional eating too much like everyone does at times), then purge by using laxatives, diuretics, enemas or even extreme exercise. This disease often cycles with binging, purging, vowing not to take those actions again, followed by another binge-purge cycle. During this cycle, the person feels out of control. As similar with anorexia nervosa, control, or lack thereof, is a key component. People with bulimia nervosa are often a “normal” weight, not experiencing extreme weight loss because of the consistent binge but not having a large weight gain because of the purge.
  • Binge eating disorders differ only slightly from bulimia nervosa in that people are usually overweight or obese. The purging stage of the cycle is not present; therefore, weight gain results.
  • Disordered eating shares characteristics with some or all of the above disorders. The main differences here are the frequency and severity. A few characteristics include dieting, binging, regularly skipping meals, and obsessive calorie counting.

Now that we have defined the most common eating disorders and the difference between an “eating disorder” and “disordered eating,” let’s talk about why this is important. Can you relate to any of the symptoms mentioned above? I’m not trying to make us all believe we have an eating disorder, but I would be surprised if you cannot relate to at least the disordered eating part. We have an unhealthy relationship with food and body image.

Here is the kicker: food has little, if anything, to do with it. Food is only the symptom of an underlying problem.

Before you think I’ve lost it by saying that food has nothing to do with diseases revolving around food, consider this: Why are you restricting food? Why are you purging? Why are you counting calories, constantly dieting, weighing, or taking laxatives? There is a deeper issue. I am not a psychologist. Obviously. But please think about the why behind some of your habits.

As a dietitian, I have spoken with many, many people over the years about their eating habits. When I travel or meet new people I try to avoid a direct answer when asked, “What do you do?” because I often find out what the person sitting next to me on the airplane had to eat for the past two weeks (not that I don’t want to hear about your food habits, my friends. I love to help when I can!).

When I start asking a few questions I quickly come to learn a lot about people’s why. And do you know what? It’s not about the food! Sometimes it goes back to childhood, to an abusive relationship with a parent. Food was the one and only thing that the child had control over. Other times obesity runs in the family and people are afraid of the health consequences of this, therefore, swinging to the other side of the pendulum by following a severe calorie restriction. Another common “why” I hear is that people just want to feel beautiful or worthy and to be accepted by others. For some, there was a certain standard of appearance expected growing up by parents or even by a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. It may be a way to deal with stress or a comfort mechanism, knowing that food will always be there. There are many more triggers for eating disorders and disordered eating. You can see from just a few examples that none of them have to do with food.

One of the many reasons diets and single focus weight loss strategies don’t work is because the root of the problem is overlooked. On the other hand, telling someone who is suffering from anorexia nervosa, to “just eat” doesn’t work either. We want a quick fix, something tangible to cover up an underlying pain. What is your why? Stop now and think about it. Why do you eat what you eat? Why do you restrict, binge, purge, count calories, weigh daily, or take laxatives? Stop now and think about it.

Here is the why for discovering your why: We cannot truly be healthy and take care of our temples until we get to the root of the problem. We cannot be well in the physical until we are whole in the spiritual, mental, and emotional.

I also want to make this point very clear: You are not alone in these struggles. And you cannot overcome them on your own, especially if your why stems from early childhood. I encourage you to get help. Talk with a trusted friend or mentor. You may even need to speak with a counselor or psychologist to work through some deep-rooted pains. And that is OKAY.

Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and so is mine. It is a good thing to take care of it! I am not saying to eat without thinking about food or to avoid exercise because we might be purging. Not at all! What I am saying is to come to grips with your relationship with food. Acknowledge it. Find those experiences that you have tried to forget and pushed deep within your soul. Go there. Get the help you need. We will never, ever have a healthy relationship with food, exercise and body image until we answer the tough questions.

Let’s never forget that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Remember Psalm 139? Take time to read it again today. Believe what you read. If your worth has been in your appearance, let it go. If your lack of worth has been in your appearance, lay it down. Dig deep, and go to those tough places in your soul. Go there with God. Today is the day to find healing.

We cannot be well in the physical until we are whole in the spiritual, mental, and emotional.

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Protein: Just the Facts

Allyson Joy

Protein is all the rage in the health and fitness industry. Protein is portrayed as a “magic bullet” and the answer to many diet and exercise questions. I used to believe that protein was needed before a workout to provide energy. I also believed that protein should be consumed in greater quantities than any other nutrient. Unfortunately, I was wrong on both counts. The more I have learned about nutrition the more I realized how much misinformation is out there, how people can fall for almost anything-and I was no exception. There are countless myths surrounding the purpose of food groups, vitamins, and minerals. Today we will breakdown the truth about protein. Instead of addressing the countless claims that protein is not, let’s look at the facts about protein.

  • Macronutrient. Protein is 1 of 3 macronutrients, the other 2 being carbohydrate and fat. A macronutrient is simply a nutrient that our bodies need in large quantities. All food can be classified as a carbohydrate, fat or protein or in many cases a combination.
  • Metabolism. The breakdown of protein is a complex process. In its simplest form, protein is degraded to amino acids and used by the liver to make new proteins, glucose, used as energy if carbohydrates are insufficient, or stored as fat. Excess protein is not stored in the body or used to continue building muscle. Therefore, high protein diets in hopes of building muscle are somewhat futile. All excess calories, no matter the source, will be stored as fat in the body.
  • Function. Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks for muscle. The main functions include structural and mechanical support, maintenance of body tissue, acid-base balance, building enzymes and hormones, and immune response. Protein is used for energy when insufficient amounts of carbohydrate and fat are available. Consuming enough carbohydrates and fats allows protein to be used for its primary function.
  • Satiety. One noteworthy function of protein for those looking to manage their weight is satiety, the feeling of fullness. We already discussed that excess protein is not stored as muscle. Protein in and of itself does not cause weight loss. However, consuming enough protein in balance with carbohydrates and fats can help keep you feeling fuller longer. This in turn can contribute to fewer consumed calories.
  • Daily Needs. Fifteen to 20% of the diet should come from protein. On average, adults require .8g/kg/day for maintenance. You can calculate your own needs by taking your weight in pounds, dividing by 2.2, and multiplying by 0.8. For example, a 150 lb person (150lbs/2.2kg x .8g) needs 55 g of protein each day just to maintain proper function. Daily requirements for athletes may be as high 2g/kg/day.
  • Food Sources. While there is a small amount of protein found in many vegetables, the primary sources of protein are from animal products such as meat, poultry, cheese, eggs, and yogurt. Protein is also found in peanut butter, beans, nuts, and soy.
  • Quality. The quality of protein is determined by one, how easily it can be digested and two, the types and amount of amino acids the food contains. “Complete” proteins have all 9 essential amino acids and some of the 11 nonessential amino acids. Animal protein is considered complete. “Incomplete” proteins are low in 1 or more of the essential amino acids, and plant protein is one example. While animal proteins are typically of higher quality, vegetarians can still meet their daily needs for protein requirements with a little planning.
  • Supplements. A person consuming a typical American diet is most likely exceeding their daily protein requirements. Even most athletes can meet their protein needs through whole foods. On average, 1 scoop of whey protein powder contains 25 g of protein. Remember the needs of a 150lb person? Two scoops of protein powder would almost meet the daily requirement. And this does not even take into consideration the amount one consumes from his or her diet! For the average person, supplements are not recommended.

If I could summarize the purpose of protein in just a few sentences it would be to say this: protein is a vital macronutrient which has numerous roles in the body. When comparing carbohydrates, fats, and protein, protein should be consumed in the smallest amount. Consuming a high protein diet in hopes of building excess muscle and achieving weight loss is futile. However, protein is an essential nutrient that we cannot live without.

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From Soup to Nuts

Allyson Joy1 comment

The continuous cycle of searching for recipes, making a list, grocery shopping and cooking can be a daunting task for most of us. As soon as the process is complete it is time to do it again next week. I continue to be taken aback by the abundance of recipes that can be found online, not to mention the countless cookbooks we all have stashed away in a cabinet…most collecting dust. Our problem is not a lack of information; our issue is information overload.

On top of finding recipes, making a grocery list can seem just as overwhelming, followed by actually shopping for everything once the list is made. Really, this whole process, as necessary as it is, does not make my top 10-list of favorite things to do.

My goal for today is to simplify this process just a little bit, from finding the perfect menu for the week to making the grocery list to preparing the meal. Here are 10 ideas to keep in mind during this process. Take what you like and modify what you don’t!

  1. Start. Yes, it is that simple: start. We have to begin somewhere! Find a few recipes that you like and keep them in one place. Pinterest is a great site to store your favorite recipes. You could also save a Word or Excel document or even make a monthly calendar for recipes. If you are like me you may prefer a hard copy of recipes. Buy a simple 3 ring binder and print your recipes for the month.
  1. Choose 4-5 recipes for the week. Depending on your schedule and the size of your family you may only need 3-4 recipes. Inevitably you will eat out for a meal or 2, have leftovers or have a change in plans, which will cause you to not be home for the evening. If you are like most families on the go, you probably will not be cooking 7 nights a week.
  1. Change countries daily. Choose 1 dish from each of your favorite “countries”. For example, Monday: Chicken Parmesan; Tuesday: Vegetable Stir Fry; Wednesday: Fajitas; Thursday: Corn Bread and Chili, Friday: Homemade Pizza. Having a variety of cuisines not only makes recipe browsing a bit easier but also prevents monotony in your meal planning.
  1. The “regulars”. There are certain items that are consumed weekly and should be replenished with each grocery run. This simplifies the shopping because you already know these items will make the list. And unless they are apart of a recipe they do not have to be specific. For example, there is no need to list every fruit you want. See what is on sale or in season. These are a few items for me:
    • Fresh fruit and veggies
    • Low fat dairy or soy milk (Almond milk is okay but contains only 1 gram of protein. Milk in the morning is often my source of protein for breakfast. Protein is not a magical macronutrient but is necessary for growth, development, and satiety. But that is a topic for another time.)
    • Eggs
    • Whole wheat bread
  1. Keep staple items on hand. These are items that can be combined to make a quick meal when you are in a pinch. This will also make the shopping less daunting when you already have some items in the pantry.
    • Whole grains such as brown rice, couscous, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, etc.
    • Frozen vegetables
    • Olive oil
    • Spices-any that you like! Just be aware of the sodium and use fresh ingredients when able.
    • Cheese. This could be debatable but in our house cheese is a staple item. It can be apart of a snack, used in grilled cheese for a quick dinner, or my personal favorite: the quesadilla.
    • Low-sodium broth. This is especially helpful during the winter months. Add some veggies and left over meat to some broth and you have a crock-pot ready soup!
  1. “Healthify” the recipe. I find many, many recipes that look amazing but are loaded with non-nutritive items. One way to combat this is to watch your portion size. There are just going to be those recipes that we love but are not the healthiest. Make these for special occasions and when possible, modify. A few ways I like to do this:
    • Substitute olive oil for butter.
    • Nix the salt. Unless you are baking, salt is probably not necessary. I prefer to leave it out and let people salt to taste if desired.
    • Use cheese sparingly. Many recipes call for layering cheese in the dish. Instead, try topping with a light layer of cheese. Most people will not be able to tell the difference!
    • Substitute milk for cream. This may not always be possible depending on the recipe but experiment! Even using half cream and half milk is an improvement.
    • Try a different kind of meat. If the recipe calls for sausage, try turkey sausage. Use chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of beef when possible. If you are really feeling adventurous try tofu for a meal or 2.
    • Add extra vegetables when possible to soups, pasta dishes and casseroles.
  1. Find 3 friends. Yes, just 3 friends can make your life much easier! Each one can take 1 week of planning. Share you recipes and suddenly your month is planned! Even better, make a night of it by cooking some of the meals together, then freezing for a quick dinner.
  1. Practice makes perfect. Eventually, this will be second nature and will not take much time at all. If you keep good records you will no longer have to search for recipes each week but can refer to your past findings.
  1. For goodness sake, enjoy! You may be surprised to find out that recipe searching and cooking are not my passion. But I have found that if I carve out a few minutes that are designated to the grocery list and if I make cooking an experience I tend to enjoy the process more.

10.  Shop. Cook. Eat. Repeat.

And if all else fails, click HERE at the first of the month. I will plan your month for you. 🙂

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Small Choices, Big Difference

Allyson Joy

Do you ever feel that you are too busy to eat nutritious meals? By the time you get yourself ready in the morning, the kids dressed and dropped off at school or day care, get stopped at every red light between your house and work, and rush into the office on time, you may start off the day feeling exhausted. On top of all this, Christmas is just around the corner. Who has time to even think about planning a meal? And planning ahead to bring a healthy snack- forget about it! We are all busy, and frankly meals do not always make the top of the priority list. It is easy to swing through the drive through at McDonald’s on the way home. But what if we gained a new perspective… a shift in focus? What if we started seeing our hectic days as though we did not have time not to eat healthfully? Fueling our bodies with nutritious foods as well as incorporating exercise to our daily routines will result in more benefits than we may realize. Let me name just a few:

  • Decreased risk of diseases such as Type II Diabetes, heart disease and obesity
  • Decreased stress and anxiety levels
  • Increased sense of well-being
  • Increased energy and bone and muscle strength
  • Decrease or maintenance of body weight

Still not convinced? Why not try adding just one healthy activity to your day starting this week? This may mean parking farther away from the entrance of the store to increase your daily steps. Or maybe you decided to cook one meal at home when you would normally go out to eat. It may be as simple as bringing a snack for the morning break instead of buying chips from the vending machine (A good choice for your wallet and your waist line!). Physical activity and healthy eating does not have to be time consuming. With a little planning you will reap the benefits. Here a just a few quick and easy snack ideas to get you started. Remember: small choices really do add up to make a big difference!

  • Low-fat yogurt with nuts
  • Fruit and low-fat cottage cheese
  • Veggies and hummus
  • Apple and peanut butter
  • Homemade trail mix with whole wheat cereal, dried fruit, and nuts
  • Dry roasted or frozen edamame
  • Cheese and whole wheat crackers
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Thanksgiving Day Tips

Allyson Joy

The feast on Thanksgiving Day is possibly the most anticipated meal of the year (followed closely by the feast on Super Bowl Sunday). You probably have a favorite dish that makes it on the menu. If your family is anything like ours each person has their own favorite, which makes for a lengthy menu, which makes self-control pretty difficult. But there is no need to panic! I can hear a hint of fear in people’s voices when they start talking about the copious amounts of food consumed on Thanksgiving Day. I will keep this post short, but I do want to take just a minute to remind you of a few good practices when faced with more food than you know what to do with.

  • Remember why you are there. Thanksgiving is a time to be with friends and family. It is an entire day that we set aside just to be thankful. Shift your focus to others. Take in the sounds, the mental pictures that will stay with you a lifetime, and even embrace the chaos. While the meal is an important tradition it is not the reason for the day.
  • Eat consistent meals throughout the day. One of the worst things you can do is not eat anything in order to “save room” for the feast. Chances are you will overindulge and lose all self-control if you have had nothing to eat all day.
  • Survey the spread ahead of time. Before the first scoop of sweet potato casserole is plopped onto your plate, take a good look at everything being offered. Choose only your absolute favorites.
  • Moderation is key. Have I ever said this before? This is my theme when it comes to eating (except for sweets-give me a batch of fresh chocolate chip cookies hot from the oven accompanied by a glass of ice cold milk and its all over). Keep your portion sizes in check. Your stomach will thank you later.
  • Push away from the table. This one may sound a little silly, but try it. There is a mental shift when you physically move back from the table or push your plate away. For this one to really be effective, push back before you actually feel full. It takes our brains about 20 minutes to realize we are satisfied. You may not be able to control how the food was prepared, but you can control how much you consume.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, enjoy the day! Thanksgiving is a special time. You don’t have the stress of presents. And bonus: the whole country gets to watch the Cowboys play. Keep your focus on being thankful and do not be weighed down (no pun intended) by the fear of eating too much.

And if all else fails, try again tomorrow. 🙂

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