Category Archives: nutrition

Healthier Together Series: 7A. Nutrition – The importance of calories in

hessam-hojati-M4hazNIyTsk-unsplashWe’ve heard that weight is all about the calories we consume. In fact, someone recently shared with me that she felt betrayed. She had been successfully losing weight eating very low carb, and had not been counting or restricting calories. She had been feeling so happy about her progress and how easy it was and how she had so much more energy that she had now been regularly working out for over 2 years. However, she recently heard that eating very low carb or “keto” was effective for weight loss because it cuts calories. This whole time, she thought it was being low carb that worked, not the calorie restriction. She felt “tricked.” Have you heard this too?

Allow me to clarify. If you are eating carbohydrates and your waistline is enlarging or you are gaining excess weight or you have prediabetes or diabetes or PCOS or metabolic syndrome, you have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that your body produces excessive amounts of insulin for the same amount of carbohydrates you consume. So, if you eat carbs, your body dumps too much insulin into your blood stream.

High levels of insulin prevent your body from being able to access your back up fuel source – your fat cells. You will not be able to get fuel from your fat cells. This means that when you need fuel, you will need to provide fuel, to run your body, by eating or drinking it. You know the feeling- you will be hungry or get the munchies when your fuel in your blood stream starts dropping low. Again, you have to eat or drink calories the have the fuel to continue to run your body. If you don’t eat and your insulin level is high, you don’t have access to your back up fuel source, so your cells begin to panic. You get hungry, ravenous and feel your blood sugar dropping and feel very unwell. Eating or drinking carbs (including sugars) is the fastest way to “feel better” in this scenario.

Now, let’s go on the “common” diet of cutting calories or portion size. If you started out eating a standard American diet with lots of carbohydrates and then begin calorie restriction, or cutting calories or eating smaller portions, it usually means you cut back on the fats and eat mostly carbohydrates. Carbs spike insulin. This means you keep insulin pretty high and as a result, you starve those poor cells in your body. Your body doesn’t like starving, so it adapts and starts to cut back on its activities and slows your metabolism to “conserve” your limited energy. With this method of weight loss, weight loss is very difficult to maintain unless you continue to add more exercise and/or continue to cut calories. There’s a limit to how far you can go with this.

When someone pursues a very low carb or ketogenic diet, your body adapts to running on the ketones produced from burning your fat stores (it continues to make glucose too). Good news, ketones act as a natural appetite suppressant- so you don’t need to eat as much or as often. You just aren’t that hungry because with this method, your insulin levels stay lower. When insulin is lower, your body can burn fat for fuel when it needs fuel (burning fat for fuel instead of requiring eating for chronic re-fueling). Also, by eating a very low carb or ketogenic diet, your brain and gut can receive the signals that you are “full” when you eat fat and protein.

Ultimately, by keeping insulin levels in the naturally lower range, when you need fuel, you can easily burn fat for fuel, your appetite is decreased overall, and your brain and gut can receive signals and know when to stop eating. Voila! Less calories in, but it is because you don’t need or want them- NOT because you artificially put your body into a starving panic mode. VERY different reason for less calories in. VERY different body response to less calories in. Long term weight loss and weight loss maintenance is achievable. Pretty cool, right?

Advertisements

5 Food & Drink Tips for Performance & Wellness Despite Frequent Business Travel

eva-darron-oCdVtGFeDC0-unsplashDo you have to travel across multiple time zones for work? If so, you have multiple factors to consider. We will start with food and drink tips.

On your travel day and/or on the day you have to “perform,” maintain steady energy and power up your mind:

  1. Hold the sugar, wheat and alcohol. In addition to increasing your waistline, this causes your energy levels to fluctuate and also messes with your circadian rhythm.
  2. Stay hydrated. A water bottle can be refilled at many airports and at your destination. Drink lots of clear liquids, especially water or other unsweetened beverages like unsweetened tea, coffee (cream ok) or flavored sparkling water. Make sure you are drinking extra fluids when you are very physically active, in hot weather, or if you are high altitude, such as on a plane. You are mostly water, so keep the fluids flowing.
  3. It’s better NOT to eat if you are not hungry. If you skip a meal because there aren’t good food options for you, that’s ok- we call that “Intermittent Fasting”. *Note: If you take medications for blood sugars or diabetes, talk to your doctor about timing your medications and foods as you travel across time zone.
  4. The other option would be to pack travel friendly high performance fuels for those times when choices are limited. Have options that will satisfy your needs: salty, crunchy, creamy, etc.
  5. As a last resort, consider meal replacements with monk fruit or stevia (ie. Vega Essentials) as a sweetener or NO sweetener (ie. Bob’s Red Mill Protein & Fiber Nutritional Booster). Stay away from sucralose or fruit juice if possible as they will cause you to be more hungry very soon after. Look at the nutrition label and confirm NET carbs 5 grams or less. (Total carbohydrates in grams – Dietary Fiber in grams = NET carbs)

Have any other tips for eating or drinking while traveling, AND maintaining your steady energy and powering your mind?

 

List of Travel-Friendly High Performance Fuels – Low carb friendly, most are keto friendly too.

selective focus photo of desk globe

If you are traveling for work and you need to eat to fuel your body and mind, but won’t have always have time or access for healthy whole food choices and fresh vegetables, here are some options to consider packing for your travels.

***Remember that your essential fuels include water, proteins (amino acids) and fats. “Essential” means you have to eat or drink it because your body cannot make it. ***

This list was originally created for flight attendants who travel frequently, may not have access to many healthy food options and who need to be able to perform at their peak for long periods of time. Since this was originally created, there have been some modifications and many requests for copies of this list from business travelers, college students and medical professionals.

Proteins

  • Deli roll ups – freeze (thaw for first half or shorter trips)
  • Deli roll ups or cheese quesadillas made w/ Mission Carb Balance or FlatOut tortillas
  • Hard boiled eggs (invest <$20 in an egg steamer that will make easy peel hard boiled eggs) (requires refrigeration)
  • Deviled eggs (requires refrigeration)
  • Cottage cheese (on way to airport) (requires refrigeration)
  • Yogurt:
    • Oikos triple zero yogurt
    • Two Good yogurt
    • Chobani or Fage full fat Plain Greek Yogurt (optional add any: nuts, nut butter, cocoa nibs, hemp seeds, chias seeds, ¼ berries)
  • Shelf-stable cheese sticks
  • Babybel cheese, (requires refrigeration)
  • Cheese crisps
    • Whisps
    • Moon Cheese (Starbucks)
    • Make your own: microwave small amounts of cheese on parchment paper.  Or place the cheese mounds on parchment paper into the oven at 320F (160c) and bake for 5 minutes.
  • Starkist tuna & salmon packets
  • Bumble Bee Seasoned Tuna (with spoon)
  • Canned sardines
  • Bars
    • Quest bars (Avoid the ones with sucralose listed as an ingredient)
    • Epic meat bars
    • Just the Cheese bars (crunchy)
  • Vega One or Orgain protein powder (make or buy individual packets), add to bottled water
  • Trader Joe’s beef, turkey, or salmon jerky
  • Sabra Hummus packs

Fats

  • Dang or Bare toasted coconut flakes
  • Avocados
    • Whole
    • Wholly Guacamole mini’s
  • Adapt bars (small & filling, various flavors, keto friendly)
  • Nuts
    • Macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts
    • Blue Diamond flavored almonds
  • Nut and seed butters (almond, peanut butter)
    • Jif To Go Natural peanut butter
    • Rx nut butter (honey cinnamon PB, vanilla almond butter, plain PB-5 or 6 net carbs so limit to 1)
    • Justin’s almond or peanut butter (classic)
    • Yumbutter squeeze packs (sunflower, almond, peanut)
    • Soom tahini squeeze packs
  • Nut packs
    • Sahale snacks all natural nut blends
    • Imperial nuts energy blend
    • Patagonia Provisions savory seeds
    • Nut Harvest nut & fruit mix
    • Emerald salt & pepper cashew 100 calorie packs
  • Homemade trail mix
    • Combine your favorite: peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Olives
    • Pearls Olives To Go!
    • Oloves (olives)
    • Mario Camacho brineless Snack olives
    • Trader Joe’s Handful of Olives packets
    • Olive Pickle Pak

Extras

  • Veg with salad dressing or dips that are NOT sweet.
    • Carrots
    • Cucumbers
    • Jicama
    • Radishes
    • Celery
  • Dill pickles
  • Trail mix extras:
    • Montmorency dried tart cherries, dark chocolate chips, or unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Chips and crackers and crunchy
    • Pork rinds
    • Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks (plain or wasabi)
    • Rhythm superfoods kale chips
    • Flackers
    • Splitz original crunchy split pea crisp snacks
    • Seapoint farms dry roasted edamame
    • Biena roasted chick pea snacks
    • Saffron Road crunchy chickpeas
  • Smoked salmon wrap– put smoked salmon in iceberg lettuce, add avocado, a few capers and cream cheese
  • Lark Ellen Farm Grain Free Granola Bites – Vanilla Cinnamon
  • Norwegian Baked Knekkebrod crisp bread

Other options

  • Qi’a Superfood Organic Hot Oatmeal in creamy coconut
  • Crepes: Crepini Egg White Thins
  • Emmy’s 2 oz. lemon ginger macaroons – spicy and sweet
  • Lindt 70% dark chocolate
  • Unreal dark chocolate PB cups
  • GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals
  • Cocoa Nibs
  • Instant chocolate mousse– blend 1 avocado + 1 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened) + sweetener to taste
  • Trader Joe’s Organic coconut sesame clusters snack
  • Whole Foods 365 Candied Walnuts
  • Hu Get back to Human Chocolate covered hunks (chocolate covered cashews)

Drinks

  • Teas such as Tazo, Yogi, etc.
  • Instant Green Tea Powder (mix with water)
  • La Croix (Flavored sparkling water)
  • Bubly (Flavored sparkling water)
  • Starbucks VIA instant coffee
  • Half and half pods
  • Fruit in water bottle to infuse water
  • SeedLip (non alcoholic, “liquor”)

Condiments

  • Salt and pepper packets
  • Hot sauce packets
  • Mayonnaise packets
  • Mustard packets
  • Everything bagel seasoning
  • Tajin

Drink List for travelers – keto & low carb friendly.

Water is fine. But when you want a little something else, here’s a starting list of drinks that are weight neutral and will work well on the road.

First: Find an easy travel (water) bottle: collapsible vs. roll up vs. solid stainless steel for hot or cold drinks. Then, have a few options to change up your drink options.

TAZO Awake English Breakfast 20CTTAZO Zen 20CT

Turmeric Ginger 50 countMatcha Super Green 50 count

matcha travel packs

 Organic U•Matcha® Single Sips®

 

Airplane Photo by Eva Darron on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 6A. Nutrition – If Food is Medicine, “What should I eat?”

lily-banse--YHSwy6uqvk-unsplashKeep it simple.

INCLUDE  What Your Body NEEDS:

  1. Water
  2. Protein
  3. Colorful and non-starchy Vegetables
  4. Fats

Whole grains and whole fruit may be beneficial in specific doses depending on your weight, exercise routine and other health conditions.

AVOID  What May HARM Your Body:

  1. Sugars of any kind including high fructose corn syrup, agave, natural sugar, etc.
  2. Processed foods including enriched wheat flour, white flour, corn meal, etc.
  3. Sweet beverages & Juice including 100% fruit juice.

 

Photo by Lily Banse on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 5A. Nutrition – How To Manage Your Hunger – 10 Things to Know

melissa-walker-horn-lo_udD1o_lk-unsplashHunger can be a natural physiologic signal from the body requesting more fluids or nutrients or it can be cravings (learned habitual behaviors) and pathologic symptoms of a mismanaged metabolism. We sometimes forget to check in and determine why we might be hungry.

NATURAL & HEALTHY HUNGER SIGNS:
1. Dehydration. In most cases, this can be managed by drinking water.

2. Need to replenish nutrient supply.  For most people, eating a variety of colors of vegetables and supplementing with protein, will meet all the body’s nutritional needs. Make a list of easy naturally nutrient rich snacks that you can have readily available – then you can make healthy choices when you are hungry and need to replenish.

HUNGER SIGNS TO BEWARE OF:
3. Insulin resistance. If your waist line has grown since after highschool and you are not pregnant, you are developing or have developed insulin resistance. As we age, we also naturally become more insulin resistant. This means that our body over-reacts to sugars and carbohydrates in the diet which leads to a roller coaster ride of high and low blood sugar levels which lead to fatigue, mental fog & “the munchies.” Solution: Drink water, Eat protein or leafy vegetables when hungry and avoid sweetened or carbohydrate heavy foods.

4. Poor food choices earlier (ie. starting your day with sugar or processed carbs). Eating sugar will cause you to crave more sugar later in the day. Sugar can trigger the same area in the brain as heroin. It IS addictive. Solution: Avoiding it is the best way to manage being losing control. Make smart food choices. Start your day with protein instead of sugars or starchy processed carbohydrates. Choose whole foods.

5. Some medication and illicit substances (ie. marijuana). Some medications and illicit substances make people hungry and eat more, usually poor quality foods like most fast food. Solution: If your meds are making you want more broccoli, that’s great, but if it makes you get “the munchies” or you notice weight gain, have that important discussion with your doctor to see if you can find a way to manage it. Also, when you get “the munchies” or are hungry, drink water, eat veggies, nuts, or a cheese stick or have a light soup.

6. Boredom. Solution: Find something to do that is NOT related to food. Do something physical – take a walk, stretch, dance, move. Connect with family or a friend. Journal, garden, read, play solitaire, play a musical instrument, work on a hobby or create something artistic, etc.

7. Emotional unrest. Solution: If you are an emotional eater, it will be important to find new ways to soothe yourself. Consider finding a counsellor to help you process and learn better ways to cope. Find other healthy outlets – take a walk, spend time in nature, contact a friend or family member who nourishes you, spend time with you pet, listen to soothing music, learn meditation, go to a religious/spiritual place.

8. Habit (ie. before bedtime or while watching TV/movie). If you link certain activities or times of the day with eating/drinking, this is a habit and can be challenging. Solution: The best way to change that habit, it to create a NEW (more desirable) habit to replace the old, undesirable habit. For example, instead of having hot cocoa after being out in the cold or at bedtime, have some hot rooibos tea which is caffeine free and deliciously different. Instead of buttered popcorn with a movie at home, try berries or baby carrots. Keep healthy snack options easily available for “break time” at work- have salty, crunchy and “creamy” options available.

9. Seeing or thinking about food/drink you like. Having a variety of options to eat actually has been shown to increase the amount of food we eat. The larger the plate, the more options of different foods at any time, we eat more and sample more. Solution: Use a smaller plate. If you are sampling, think of the size of your stomach when not-too-full (the size of your fist), and look at the total volume of food you have on your (smaller) plate. STOP adding to your plate when it exceeds the size of your stomach. If you have more foods to sample, take less of each item so that you are not OVER-stuffing your stomach as it would not feel good anyways. Really, if you look at your plate and wonder how that would fit in your body, it’s too much. It’s ok to leave food on your plate. Note: Raw leafy greens shrink dramatically when chewed up, so you can be liberal with raw leafy greens!

10. Worry that later you won’t have time/opportunity to eat (ie. busy schedule). How many of you are “go-go-go” all day long and time for eating is a luxury? As a physician who may be running behind because of an earlier unexpected patient emergency, I hear you. Solution: Keep that stash of quick, healthy food/drink readily available, ALWAYS. Nuts, cheese stick, baby carrots and hummus, celery sticks and almond butter, whatever. Remember, IF you are unable to eat, as long as you are drinking, you are going to be fine for several hours. In fact, if you do not eat, but you maintain proper hydration, worse case, you will have to eat later than desired. However, your body starts to draw energy from your personal fat stores. Unless you are medically underweight, you should be ok to be burning extra fat on your body until you can eat later in the day.

Do you have other times you “hunger” triggers? How do you manage your hunger? What are some of your snacks you keep on hand?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 4D. Putting It All Together – Winter Well-Being

aaron-burden-cGW1w-qLix8-unsplashWinter in the Midwest – ice cold this year, but we don’t have the 7+ feet of snow as in Boston. The cold and darkness of winter are often used as excuses as to why someone is not exercising or eating as healthy. It’s used to explain “loss of motivation” to continue to make healthy choices. This “motivation” and “effort” may resume for a short time after the NEW year, but often dwindles away again until the days get much longer and warmer.

Here’s another option. Have “seasonal” wellness plans! Figure out what you need to include to maintain a healthy lifestyle: nutrition, physical activity and relaxation & sleep. There are many ways to incorporate those into each season. They don’t all have to be the same. In fact, the body will be optimized if you change it up periodically, so why not with the seasons? So change up your healthy lifestyle routines for the different seasons.

Here are some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing…Find what works for you.

If you workout in the mornings in the spring and summer, maybe in the winters, you meditate in the morning for a shorter duration than what your workout would have been? Maybe your workout is on the drive home from work or school or running errands- when you already are out of the house. Just DON’T go home first without the workout (as it can be hard to motivate to go out into the cold). Or maybe your workout is at home instead of at the gym. Maybe you use home workout DVD’s or smartphone exercise apps? The workout routine might be different – you may work more on strength or core training or take a different exercise class this season. If you have snow, you may choose to incorporate winter sports into you life – ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, etc. A good friend introduced me to snow shoe-ing last year, and it’s wonderful! What a treat to be out in nature and having the brightness of the snow recharge me!

You may choose to rely on the crockpot more (especially if you are going to be working out after work and have less time to cook in the evening). You may get more of your veggies in a soup or stew. These also make great lunches the next day! You may cook more winter root vegetables- they last longer after purchase (less frequent grocery shopping trips).

The winter seems to have more quiet times of the day when it might be easy to stop and meditate, even if only for a brief time. There are many smartphone apps that help facilitate and time meditation sessions. You may even find incorporating meditative activities with physical activity is the answer for winter – Tai Chi and Yoga are popular ways to get both the relaxation and physical activity in one.

Sleep changes with the seasons and with stressors. Allow yourself to have a day once a week, when you can sleep in as much as you need. It will help you bring it all together and help keep your mind young and keep you upbeat throughout winter.

Please share what works for you!

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash