Focusing on Fewer Ingredients in Food is Pointless

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Zoning in on the number of ingredients in packaged foods is one of the stupidest consumer driven trends to date. Fueled by the unsubstantiated fear of anything not immediately recognizable or easy to pronounce, companies are turning to “fewer ingredients” to make their food stand out on over-crowded store shelves. Short, recognizable ingredient lists are leading packaged food trends in 2016 yet the number of ingredients or your ability to pronounce an ingredient has absolutely nothing to do with the nutrition value of the food and therefore shouldn’t guide your buying decisions.

The # of Ingredients Has Nothing to do with Nutrition Value

Shorter ingredient lists do not mean a food or beverage is better for you. Companies that make chips, ice cream and other dessert items are among the fiercest competitors for simplifying ingredient lists. According to an article in the Huffington Post, Hershey Co. improved their classic chocolate syrup by cutting the list to 5 simple ingredients. The new version took food scientists a year and a half to make with recognizable ingredients. The challenge? Making a syrup that also tastes good. The new version with cane sugar and organic invert cane syrup instead of high fructose corn syrup will cost you 1 more gram of sugar than the original version. How does this make it nutritionally superior to the old version?

Here’s another example. Let’s say you are in the grocery store debating between protein choices for dinner. Do you pick up the omega-3 and protein-packed (23 grams for 190 calories) salmon or beef franks (15 grams protein for 190 calories and 3x the saturated fat). I hope you choose the salmon if you are choosing based on nutrition value.

Simple Ingredients

I found many similar examples in the grocery store including potato chips with just a few ingredients compared to whole grain, higher fiber crackers with three times the ingredients and Häagen-Dazs ice cream with five ingredients, 250 calories and almost 5 grams of sugar per ½ cup compared to Giant brand ice cream with more than twice the number of ingredients, 160 calories and less than 3 grams of sugar per ½ cup. If you are choosing your dessert not based on taste but instead based on the nutritionally superior option (because that’s why people are focusing on the total number of ingredients right?), you’ll pick up the Giant brand with more ingredients.

Just Because You Don’t Recognize it and Can’t Pronounce it Doesn’t Mean it is Bad

Head over to Cooking Light or any other well-recognized cooking magazine and I’m willing to bet you’ll find ingredients that you don’t recognize and can’t pronounce. I live in the world of food, nutrition and supplements and restaurant menus often stump me while the sheer number of unfamiliar spices in Penzeys Spices satisfies my creative desire for something new and unique. Just because an ingredient is unfamiliar to you does not automatically make it bad. After all you’re probably not a food scientist entrenched in the world of food development and food safety.

Some misunderstood ingredients are emulsifiers – they help ingredients stay together in a mixture vs. separating (for example, salad dressings often contain emulsifiers including lecithin), others add nutrition value, help products retain their color, prolong shelf life or keep the product safe. Pyridoxine hydrochloride sounds scary right? It’s a vitamin B6. Cyanocobalamin? That’s vitamin B12. Beta-glucan? Oat and barley beta-glucan are soluble fibers sometimes added to food to increase the fiber content. They also help you feel more full (satiated) and are fantastic for your immune system. Lupin kernel fiber – lupin is a legume. In other words, it’s good for you. All substances allowed in food in the U.S. are GRAS – Generally Recognized as Safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

Even though manufacturers are scurrying to chop down their ingredient lists to meet this silly consumer demand, focusing on the number of ingredients in a food isn’t worth your time or attention span. If you don’t order food in a restaurant based on the number of ingredients used in the recipe why would you choose foods in the grocery store based on the total number of ingredients? In addition, don’t be scared of any ingredient with a sprinkling of scientific reasoning behind its use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Count Macros, Eat Doughnuts & Get Ripped

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If you’re counting macros (grams of protein, carbohydrate and fat), are you stuck with a boring diet full of egg whites, chicken, brown rice and broccoli or, can you indulge in doughnuts and other foods typically considered “off limits” and still get ripped? A recent study from the University of South Florida examined both approaches. I think you’ll be happy with their results.
Doughnuts and macros

Macros Study: Flexible vs. Rigid Dieting

In this study,  27 resistance trained men and women (this is huge because many studies use untrained subjects – the kind that have never seen the inside of a gym so almost any intervention is guaranteed to produce results) about 25 years of age were placed on either a Rigid or Flexible 10-week diet phase based on macros and a 25% decrease in calories:

  • Rigid Macro Counting (termed “exclusive” in the study) included a pretty basic diet (given they were 25-year-olds on a limited budget) including foods such as eggs, egg whites, protein shakes (they were given preparation instructions), oats, berries, 99% lean turkey breast, chicken breast, fish (they were given specific options), brown rice, potatoes, choices of different vegetables, oils (added if need be to increase fat intake).
  • Flexible Macro Counting (termed “inclusive” in the study) –  the study subjects could eat whatever they wanted as long as it fit their macros. They were given no food restrictions and could therefore incorporate more variety into their diet.

All continued on their regular training program.

Results

Both groups lost weight and body fat  with no differences between groups in weight loss, body fat mass loss and body fat % decrease. However, in the 10 week post diet, the flexible diet group gained a significant amount of fat-free mass compared to the rigid group (+1.53kg vs. -0.59kg respectively) though there was no difference, between groups, in resistance and aerobic exercise (I suspect the rigid group when crazy shoveling in junk food but the study didn’t collect food records +  most people lie on food records anyway when they feel ashamed about what they ate). No other changes were noticed in the 10 week post diet phase.

Take Home Message

Does this mean you can go gangbusters on gummy bears and doughnuts? Not exactly.  After all, if you’re cutting calories it’s pretty difficult to incorporate high calorie foods that aren’t very filling unless you don’t mind the distraction of hunger pangs later the day. However, it does mean you can loosen up a little on rigid dieting. As stated by study author, Bill Campbell, PhD, CSCS, FISSN, Associate Professor – Exercise Science, University of South Florida. “If you are the type of person that has cravings for certain foods, you may be able to consume them in limited quantities during a diet phase within the flexible dieting strategy – this is very appealing for some dieters. Others prefer to have a meal plan created for them with specific foods that they are to consume during their diets – in this case a rigid/exclusive diet is more appealing.”

Keep in mind macro counting (flexible or rigid) is a tool to get to a quick end destination – shedding fat. It is far from a comprehensive nutrition program that takes into account plant-based compounds, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients important for good health. It won’t cure disease and may not make you feel better and it shouldn’t be done for long term because at some point you should be done with counting stuff and be able to eat primarily when you are hungry and stop when you are full while eating a diet that fits your health goals, taste preferences, and lifestyle.

If you’re interested in more information about macros, physique and fitness nutrition, follow the study authors on social media:

Bill Campbell on instagram: billcampbellPhD and Facebook

Lorin Conlin, IFBB Bikini Pro, MS Research Assistant – Physique Enhancement Laboratory, University of South Florida on instagram: @laurinconlin and Facebook: FB page Laurin Conlin IFBB Pro

Snacks that Won’t Set You Back

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By: Gisselle Marie Rosa

Healthy grains and dried fruit

Have you had those days where your stomach feels like it is going to eat itself at any moment and you realize that it is only ten in the morning? Even after eating a good breakfast, having hunger pangs before lunchtime can be frustrating and really decrease concentration and productivity. That’s why many people turn to snacks – to tie them over until their next meal. According to recent studies, 97% of male and female participants over the age of 20 reported eating a snack1, with most individuals eating 2 to 3 snacks a day2. However, having a snack that is high in fat and sugar can make you feel sluggish and put you over your calorie budget for the day. So, before running to the vending machine and grabbing a candy bar, indulge in these healthy, tasty snacks that will fuel your body through your midmorning tasks:

  1. Nuts & Seeds

All nuts and seeds are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy plant based compounds (including antioxidants) and therefore, you should mix and match your nuts and seeds so you get a diverse array of nutrients (since each nut/seed has different nutrients) and tastes. Here are a few of my favorites:

Almonds – These power-packed nuts are sure to fuel your work day with plenty of protein and heart-healthy fats. A one-ounce serving (about 23 raw almonds) will only set you back 164 calories and provide you with 6 grams of protein.

Wonderful Pistachios Sweet Chili
Wonderful Pistachios Sweet Chili

In Shell Pistachios – Preliminary behavioral studies suggest that you may consume fewer calories if you opt for in-shell pistachios versus those already shelled because it takes time to break them open and the shells are a visual reminder of what you’ve eaten. Wonderful Pistachios 100-calorie snack packs make a great on-the-go snack that conveniently helps control your portions.  Looking for flavor and maybe even something a little sweet and spicy? Try Wonderful Pistachios Sweet Chili*.

Preliminary behavioral studies suggest that you may consume fewer calories if you opt for in-shell pistachios versus those already shelled because it takes time to break them open and the shells are a visual reminder of what you’ve eaten. Wonderful Pistachios 100-calorie snack packs make a great on-the-go snack that conveniently helps control your portions.  Looking for flavor and maybe even something a little sweet and spicy? Try Wonderful Pistachios Sweet Chili – the secret is in the spices. Salt and pepper has just the right touch of spices to deliver a peppery bite.

If you are worried about the calories in nuts, fear not. Read more about how nuts can help you live longer and lose weight. 

  1. Ants on a Log

A childhood favorite, this snack not only brings out your favorite memories, it also gives you a great protein-packed snack to keep you satisfied ‘till lunchtime. Cut a small stalk of celery in half, then lengthwise to give you four halves of celery. Divide one tablespoon of peanut butter and one tablespoon of raisins into each of the celery halves. This tasty, fun snack stacks up to only 124 calories and 4 grams of protein!

  1. Turkey and Cheese Roll-Up

Looking for a more savory snack? Pack a 1-oz slice of deli turkey and a slice of your favorite low-fat cheese for a dose of 12 grams of protein to keep you full, 200 mg of calcium for bone health, and a measly 145 calories!

  1. Edamame

Ever heard of edamame? Don’t worry, it is just a fancy word for green soybeans. Steam ¾ cup of these shelled soybeans with a sprinkle of garlic powder for a tasty treat that only sets you back by about 140 calories. And don’t worry, with 13 grams protein and 6 grams of fiber, this snack will be sure to keep your belly happy!

5.  Hummus Dippers

Hummus is a food trend that is really sticking; it is a great, healthy snack that is inexpensive and flavorful. So, what exactly is it? Hummus is a Mediterranean dip made of ground chickpeas and spices. Try dipping your favorite vegetable in it, such as baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, or sliced bell pepper for a nutrient-dense snack. At about 100 calories, 2 tablespoons with a handful of your favorite dip-able veggies are a fresh way to keep you going. Also check out edamame hummus – it’s simply amazing (Trader Joe’s has one or make your own).

  1. Peanut Butter Toast

This rich, creamy snack will help quell your stomach and hold you over. Toast one 100% whole wheat slice of bread and top with 1 tablespoon of your favorite peanut butter for 160 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber.

  1. Popcorn

Popcorn is a fun, easy-to-eat snack that gives you more bang for your calorie “buck”. For a whole 3 ½ cups of plain popcorn, you’re getting 4 grams of fiber and only about 100 calories. Word of caution: try to avoid the buttery or sweet popcorn flavors as those have more calories and sodium in them!

  1. Strawberries and Cream

Want a change from a plain cup of strawberries? Dip some berries or 1 cup of your favorite fruit in ½ cup of low-fat or fat-free Cool Whip for a light and fresh 100-calorie snack. Or try mixing higher protein cream cheese with a little cheesecake flavored cream cheese and spread this on sliced strawberries or pipe it into hulled strawberries.

  1. Yogurt Parfait

Fuel up with this creamy treat that won’t weigh you down. Top ½ cup of fat-free vanilla yogurt with 2 tablespoons of your favorite low-fat granola and ½ cup of fresh blueberries (or ½ cup of your favorite fruit). This fun snack is nutrient-packed with 7 grams of protein, plenty of calcium for strong bones, and only 200 calories.

Cabot Snack Size. Because everything is better with cheddar!
Cabot Snack Size. Because everything is better with cheddar!

10. Cabot snack size*. Individually pre-wrapped cheeses can be kept out for hours and they are a great nutrition-rich (protein, calcium and more) snack to tie you over until your next meal. Find them at Wegmans, Costco and Acme.

* Clients

References

  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2014. Snacks: Percentages of Selected Nutrients Contributed by Food and Beverages Consumed at Snack Occasions, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2011-2012.
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2014. Snacks: Distribution of Snack Occasions, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2011-2012.
  3. United States Department of Agriculture. Supertracker. Internet: https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/foodtracker.aspx (accessed 5 November 2014).

Four Fast Breakfast Ideas

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Fruit and yogurt by Celeste Lindell

Breakfast may be one of the most important meals of the day because it provides energy for your morning and spikes muscle protein synthesis (when you wake up after an overnight fast your body is breaking down muscle tissue until you eat a protein-rich meal).

Include at Each Breakfast Meal:

High Quality Protein. Choose a breakfast that contains at least 30 grams of protein if you are over about 25 years of age or want to lose weight. Research shows that consuming protein at breakfast is especially important for keeping us satiated (full) for a longer period of time.

Carbohydrate. After an overnight fast your body craves carbohydrate, your primary source of energy to fuel brain and body. Choose slower digesting, nutrient-rich, high fiber carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables and old fashioned oatmeal are all great options. If you plan on working out right away, eat a small lower fiber (fiber makes food take longer to digest so it will sit in your stomach) snack or breakfast. Toast, a banana or a few pancakes are light and easy to digest options.

Water. Your body hasn’t had anything to drink in hours. Drink a full glass of water before you eat or with your meal.

Quick Breakfast Ideas

Looking for a little morning inspiration? Check out these four fast breakfast ideas from Rachel Rosenthal:

Tastes like Homemade Cinnamon Oatmeal: This meal is ready in about 3 minutes. Mix plain instant oatmeal with water, milk, or your favorite milk substitute. Once cooked, stir in walnuts and blueberries. Finish it off with a dash of cinnamon, which may help support healthy blood sugar levels. Now pop it in the microwave. All natural, no sugar added. If you can’t think of a protein-rich food that goes alongside this dish, cook your oatmeal in egg whites!

Not so Plain Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt and by adding a few ingredients you can have a super fast protein packed meal on the go. Add ground flaxseed for it’s omega-3 alpha linoleum acid (ALA) content and nutty flavor; mix in ½ cup of all bran cereal for texture and to satisfy your hunger for hours (fiber slows down digestion). If you like a little sweet taste without the calories, add stevia and raspberries.

On the go Smoothie: Smoothies make great, go-to meals. Mix unsweetened almond milk, unflavored protein powder of your choice, crushed ice, a banana, and a tablespoon of natural peanut butter in a blender. If you are feeling adventurous you can add some chia seeds for some extra omega-3 ALA and for a little staying power (chia seeds are loaded with fiber). Blend, pour and go!

California Toast To Go: Toast your favorite kind of whole wheat bread, then add a few slices of avocado, fresh sliced mozzarella and grape tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. If you want more protein, add scrambled eggs and make it a sandwich for the road.

There are tons of options out there for breakfast that do not take much time, but are packed with protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals to start your day off on the right foot. All of these recipes can be tailored to your liking by switching out different fruits or nuts to make them your own. I hope these recipes inspire you to have more fun with breakfast and enjoy it even on the go.

 

An Unexpected New Year’s Resolution

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By Sara Shipley, RD-to be, Nutrition Student at the University of Central Oklahoma

Yes, it’s that time again and the thought has probably crossed your mind as 2011 comes to a close. The annual New Year’s resolution. And, according to many popular media sources, losing weight tops many people’s resolution list. Yet our nation is in a major health crisis. Something isn’t adding up and though many people realize they should take charge of their health, they are not taking the right approach to fix the problem. If the majority of people continue to ditch their goals by February, we will continue to see the rate of obesity, diabetes and heart disease rise.

If losing weight is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, or even if it isn’t, I am going to tell you about one big dietary change that will yield big results: boosting your fiber intake.

Fiber is the indigestible part of a carbohydrate. We need fiber in our diet because our bodies do not absorb it. Rather, it acts as a vehicle to remove waste products from f our system.  Here are three reasons to eat more fiber:

Feel full longer: Fiber provides “bulk” to your diet which helps control hunger, as it takes time to move through your digestive tract leaving you full throughout the day. Eating a high fiber breakfast every morning will start your day off right.  Try oatmeal with berries and low-fat milk or whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a banana.

Digestion: Fiber will regulate your bowel movements and this helps keep everything moving out of your system, including some residual toxins.

Lowers LDL cholesterol levels and risk for heart disease: Increasing fiber may contribute to lowering LDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and inflammation in the body. Controlling these health markers will help protect your heart.

Try this easy, high fiber hors d’oeuvre for your New Years Eve party. I have already made it for several holiday parties and it was devoured.

Bacon Wrapped Dates: Dates are dried fruit with a sweet flavor and chewy texture that will balance the salty bite of bacon. (Try turkey bacon if you want to cutback the fat, but it may not crisp as well.)

Yield: 30 pieces

  •  15 slices thick bacon
  • 30 pitted dates (Dole brand was perfect bite-size and a bag usually has approx. 30)
  • toothpicks

Pre-heat the oven to 425 F. Slice each bacon piece in half, short ways. Roll a piece of bacon around each date and pierce with a wooden toothpick. Place wrapped dates on a sprayed baking sheet (set ½ inch apart). Cook for 13-16 minutes, turning once to ensure the bacon crisps on all sides.

Place on a rack to slightly cool and serve warm.

Peas are also a high fiber food and Black Eye Pea dips and dishes are a big New Years Tradition here in Oklahoma. Get your fill of fiber with peas as you ring in the New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 [SS1]What other word can you think of? I feel like ‘diet’ has already been over-used.

 [SS2]Marie- isn’t that right? Please delete if you think it sounds weird/incorrect.

Squash Food Cues & Lose Weight

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Losing weight and keeping it off for good has a lot more to do with your head then your stomach. Your brain sends out satiety cues and it also stops you from grabbing a second piece of cake when you are already stuffed. Paying attention to what the unemotional, rational part of your brain is telling you will help you win the war on weight and kick diets to the curb for good. How can you start this process of mindful eating? First, become very aware of food cues that can cause you to eat & drink more than you physically need to consume. Some of these include:

  • Number of people at your table – as the # of people you dine with increases, so does your calorie intake. Now, I’m not suggesting you dine alone but, just be more aware of this in social settings so you don’t overeat. If you are a female, throw a hot man in the mix since women tend to eat less in the company of men. Or, better yet, throw several hot men in the mix. Your girl friends and your waistline will thank you for it!
  • Marriage. We tend to take on the habits of those around us and, typically, men eat more than women so when women get hitched, they take on the eating patterns of their spouse. Could it be that the chase is over too? I have no idea. But, women, take notice of your plate -it should not contain the same amount of food as your spouse’s plate.
  • Overweight, obese or diet-obsessed friends. If you dine with people who are overweight, you tend to eat more. Not to mention, many of these people want you to eat more so they feel better about what they are consuming. Likewise, I’ve noticed a strange phenomena among women obsessed with their weight or certain aspects of their body – they don’t feel okay eating cake, French fries or other foods they deem “bad” unless you eat it with them. If you have overweight or obese friends, by all means, dine with them. Just be aware of your behavior and find some friends who also encourage you to hit the gym, go running etc.

  • The TV + your comfy couch. Surely you’ve heard this a million times – more TV often = more weight. How do you combat that yet still view your favorite programs? Put a bike, treadmill or elliptical machine in front of the TV. And add some yoga to your workout mix – yoga = greater mindfulness overall.
  • Big plates, bowls, cups etc. – the bigger the dish you are eating out of, the more you’ll pack in there and subsequently, eat.
  • Refills – get individual servings of beer, soda, juice, etc. (vs. pitchers) and don’t let the waitstaff refill that bowl of chips). When we can’t see what we’ve eaten, and our plate, bowl or cup is constantly refilled, we eat more.

It pays to be more aware of what you are doing so you can change your behavior. Because, there are tons of visual cues (like the smell of a Cinnabon when I am dashing through the airport) around us that encourage us to eat. If you can tame some of these cues, you’ll be better off in the long run.  Last, but not least, don’t underestimate the effect of diet counseling (i.e. seeing a dietitian regularly) for weight loss.