Monday, May 31, 2010

A Shower of Salt--Who Knew?

 My husband really enjoyed grilling this weekend.  As I watched him salt the home-made baked tortilla chips, it occurred to me that I need to mention another problem we can have at the BBQ: a shower of salt!  Americans are consuming a whopping 3300 - 4200 mg. of sodium each day, which could be increasing our risk of heart attack and stroke ("Shake the Salt," blog, 2/1/10.) The American Heart Association is urging to get us to keep that under 2300 mg or 1500 if you have high blood pressure. As you get ready for your next BBQ, be aware of the sodium lurking in some of your favorite foods.

Picnickers beware!  BBQ food can be loaded with salt.  Take a look...

Sodium In BBQ Food
  • Brat, 1 link                     700 mg          (280 calories) 
  • Potato Salad, 1/2 cup      650               (175)
  • Hot dog                          640               (170)
  • Baked beans, 1/2 cup     530               (190)
  • Brownie, 1 large             480               (300)
  • Cole slaw, 1/2 cup          450               (170)
  • Cherry pie, 1 slice           340               (480)
  • Chip dip, 2 tbsp.             230                (50)
  • Bun, hot dog or burger   200               (120)
  • Potato chips, 20 chips    180                (150)
  • Chicken breast, 3 oz.      145               (140)
  • Hamburger patty, 4 oz.    60                (310)
  • Watermelon, 1 cup           25                (45)
  • Baby carrots, 8                 6                  (25)
  • Strawberries, 1 cup           2                  (45)
  • Beer, light, 12 oz.             0                 (100)
 After eating the hot dog, potato chips, dip and baked beans this weekend, did you notice your hands and face a bit more puffy than usual when you woke up the next morning?  Some of us are more sodium sensitive than others. You may have been retaining water due to the sodium shower you doused your body in the day before.   Moderation may be recommended for the next BBQ!  

Knowing what's higher in sodium and what the bargains are is the first step.  Then, the key is to balance out your choices.  If you choose one or two high sodium foods, keep the servings small, and load up on low sodium foods for the rest of the meal.   If you want to have the potato salad, you may want to stay with the grilled burger or chicken and have a side of watermelon.   Also, remember that packaged and bottled foods and sauces tend to be loaded with sodium,  so if you can, steer away from these. One big exception is salsa--a low calorie, low sodium, high nutrient density, delicious bargain!  The hard part is finding some unsalted baked corn chips or some fresh veggies to dip in! Be sure to drink plenty of extra water, too.  This helps flush out the excess sodium, and helps your body with cooling on those hot summer picnic cays.

Moral of today's story:  stay smart at that BBQ and you won' t get caught in a downpour of salt!
To your health!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cookie Baking Marathon

Have I told you that I'm cursed?  Yep.  Cursed with the ability to make some really good cookies.  Working in nutrition, I know that some may consider this wrong on many levels, but what can I say?  I learned to bake when I was in 4-H as a 9 year old, and I guess it just soared out of control from there.  Many have appreciated my baking skills along the way, to the point that I occasionally get asked to bake for a graduation open house.

Today, I whipped up 20 dozen cookies for a graduation party.  I started at 12:30 and ended at 4:30---a 4 hour baking marathon.  In my past, much heavier life, I used to taste lots of dough as I baked (perhaps to make sure it was just right?)  I proceeded to chow down broken and misshapen cookies that came along. Those weren't my best moments...

I just want you to know that today, all four hours were under control. I thought I'd pass along how I handle the big baking these days...

Yesterday's Baking Success:
  1. I ate lunch first---I never start this process when I'm hungry anymore!
  2. Hydrate. On the counter, I had a huge glass of decaf iced tea that I kept refilling all afternoon.
  3. A pack of sugar-free gum sat to the left of my 26 year-old cream colored Kitchen Aid mixer, ready to pop a new fresh peppermint piece in anytime I needed to chew something.
  4. Twice, I sat down with one hot, nicely shaped cookie, and enjoyed every bite, once with a glass of non-fat milk, and once with my tea. (Quite a change from feeding myself the rejects!  I'm much more worthy than those.)
  5. A bowl of melon chunks with a toothpick in it sat on the counter, too, next to the gum.  I found that clean, crisp taste of melon perfect to nibble on.
  6. I packed up all the cookies on trays as soon as they cooled, and drove them right to the party...
  7. Then, I took the dog for a walk!
Lesson:  Amazing, but it is possible to bake and not eat all the cookie dough! I certainly didn't know how years and years ago, but I do now.  And, I like it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Scope Before You Scoop!

Outside temperatures are up and schools are winding down.  It's time for backyard BBQ's and gathering with friends and family around the picnic table! This summer tradition is so much fun, but can create a bit of a challenge when it comes to our healthy eating goals.  I'm certainly not advocating depriving yourself, but it can be easy to get carried away with brats, hot dogs, potato salad, coleslaw, chips, dip, pies, and all those fun ice cream treats. Let's take a look at some ideas to keep your food choices healthy.

Before you go to the BBQ:
  1. Have a snack and a glass of water.  A small fat-free yogurt, a small dab of peanut butter on celery, or something to get your blood sugar level up so you can maintain control.  Going hungry increases the probability that you'll eat too much!
  2. Wear clothing that looks good and makes you feel good about yourself--not too tight, not too loose. Baggy clothing gives you too much room for chips and dip, while clothes that are too tight make you feel terrible about yourself.  If you feel good about yourself, you'll tend to feed yourself better.
  3. Have a plan and practice it.  Plan how you are going to deal with your food choices, and visualize yourself acting just that way. Imagine how you'll feel when you make these food choices.  Imagine what it feels like to scoop up the watermelon. See that smile on your face.  Practice this over and over again.  It's one way athletes practice for their success!
  4. Bring a healthy fruit or veggie dish to pass.  Many times, traditional BBQ food leaves out the simple, unadulterated fresh fruits and veggies.  Make a beautiful, colorful dish and bring it with you as your gift of health for everyone. 
At the BBQ:
  1. Grab a light or non-caloric beverage right away. This gives you a change to visit with people as you sip, and keeps one hand out of the snack bowls.  If you get "nibble-y" grab another non-caloric beverage like a bottle of water in the other hand.  It's really hard to start dipping into the chips with both hands full.  If you decide you want to have some chips, you have to mindfully set a beverage down.  I've used this trick for years, and it can be a lifesaver.  
  2. Scope before you scoop (thanks, Erin, for this phrase!) Walk up and down the food table to check out your possibilities.  Decide what you really want to eat. Note what doesn't appeal to you, and where any healthier choices are--like the fruits and veggies you brought!
  3. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. This is a trick I want you to learn to use for the rest of your life. It provides a way to maximize the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, and to provide portion control for the more challenging foods.
  4. Choose to have the one or two foods that you want the most, but be sure to use portion control if they aren't quite as healthy.  
  5. Sit down.  Chew. Taste.  Notice textures, flavors. If there is something you don't like, don't finish it.  Enjoy every bite of what you love.
  6. Stop eating when you are full.
  1. Choose what you want to have, and if you want to have it.  Feel no peer pressure.  This is all about you.  
  2. The first bite tastes the same as the last.  Try a smaller piece of the pie.
  3. Fruit for dessert is always an option.  
  4. One S'more is fine, but four may not be in your body's best interest.  Shirley has a great quote: "A sliver  leads to a slice, a slice leads to a slab, a slab leads to a slob."  Know yourself with that particular food, and proceed accordingly!
Enjoy other things besides just the food (it's true, there are other things!)
  1. Talk to people.
  2. Play games.  Bring a deck of cards, play ball, volleyball...
And remember, the BBQ is not just one event, it's a season.  We all need to develop the skills we need to stay in control of our eating choices throughout this fun time.  

Fire Up!  We Can Do This!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Is an Orange or Orange Juice Healthier?

Question:  Is eating an orange better for you than drinking orange juice?  If you watch many of the V-8 Fusion TV commercials, you get the impression that all you need to do is drink a beverage, and you'll get all the benefit of eating several whole fruits and vegetables. Truth or fiction?

The truth is, something does change when you "juice" it:  most of the pulp and solid parts of the fruit or veggie are removed, leaving only the liquid. What's the big deal?  You still get all the nutrients right?  Yes, you do, except the fiber.  The fiber is in all that pulp, and fiber is a good thing!

Fiber helps regulate your digestive system, keeping things moving through easier and more efficiently.  Fiber slows the digestive rate of carbohydrates and keeps you feeling full longer.  Drinking a glass of orange juice doesn't give a sensation of fullness for most people, but by eating an orange, you get to chew and savor that fruit--it really starts to fill you up.  For weight loss and maintenance, go for the whole fruit or veggies frequently and use juices only occasionally.  Fiber also helps reduce blood cholesterol,  LDL's, and reduce heart disease.

One serving of fruit juice is 1/2 cup.  Measure that out sometime and pour it into the glass you like to drink your juice in.  Next, figure out just how many servings you usually consume when you have a glass of juice.  Most of us usually get way too many calories from our beverages, including fruit juices. We often justify the juice, thinking that it's good for us. Yes, but perhaps not the calories that come from our super sized servings. That doesn't tend to happen when we eat the fruit itself.  Liquid calories can add up way too quickly, especially when the average glass is 16 ounces:  that's 4 servings of juice!  If you filled that with OJ, you could chug 240 calories in under 2 minutes.  Eating an orange takes longer than 5 minutes and supply only 60 calories.  Hmmm....

Moral of this message?  You get the same nutritional value from an orange as you do a half cup of orange juice with one exception:  fiber, and fiber is a good thing.  Eat the orange to feel full, keep your digestive system on track, keep your blood sugar level more stable, and to help keep your heart healthy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wonderful Dinner Party!

My Bulgarian friend is in the States for a while, visiting her wonderful guy. They were our hosts when my husband and I visited Bulgaria last fall and we got to see some absolutely amazing parts of the world.  Such fun! They recently invited us over for small dinner party...

When I saw Nellie, I was met with a much smaller, more trim version of herself. Wow! Same smile, but it was much bigger and brighter.  As she twirled around to show me her new outfit--loved it!--she shared with me that she had been reading my blog and trying to follow all of the advice I had been giving. She reads English with ease, though struggles at times with conversation, and yet she was able to grasp every bit of information she needed to work toward her health goal of becoming more svelte.  Nellie, you are an inspiration to us all!

Her dinner party was delivered as most special meals are in Bulgaria:  many courses, with food, drink and great conversation going on for several hours.  It's such a delight to experience eating like this when so many of us in America are used to the fast, 10 minute meal. Relaxing, chewing, tasting, savoring the food....good stuff!

The first course presented cheeses of all types, small bowls of healthy nuts, veggies, grapes, juicy melon slices and whole grain bread.  I smiled at Nellie a few times as we both chose to pass on the cheeses and enjoy a few nuts. She was up and down flitting around in the kitchen, as many hostesses are, getting a good workout in during the meal.

I sipped on one glass of wine that lasted all night and Nellie had water.  We were both choosing to control the excess calories there.  I was wondering if she watched the others as I did, as they kept reaching for more and more cheese. We both set our forks down often, relaxed and chatted.  Control is good stuff. Next came a delicious salad made out of wonderful greens and a great mix of dried fruits, nuts and all sorts of wonderfully healthy things. I remember that lettuce based salads are not the norm in Bulgaria, so this was a mindful choice by Nellie.  No recipe, just a blend of health and deliciousness.  Nellie and I enjoyed plenty of this course!

The main course included lean pork loin chops baked with prunes and served with a pasta dish. Yum!  So tender, good and filling, that I didn't even have room to try the chicken she made for me, just in case I wasn't a pork eater--she's so sweet.  Dessert was a light 'n creamy pie topped with fruit. Flavors were perfect.  And then, the cheese, fruits and nuts came back on the table, along with tea for the rest of the evening.

Nellie, it was great!  You presented beautiful fruits and veggies, nuts, whole grains, lean meat...and delivered it in a wonderful dinner party setting.  You and I made good choices the entire evening, which was easy to do given the choices there.

On the other hand, my husband, who has lost 60 pounds and is now at his healthy weight, found himself losing control over the cheeses that night.  Interesting. He got lost in the conversation and did not stay mindful of what he was eating.  He just loves blue cheese, which can act as a trigger for him.  So, even people who are in control most of the time and have good choices available can lose it sometimes.  He just pulled it together, and started eating a little "tighter" the next day.  Next time, he'll try to focus more on the strawberries and melon slices and less on the cheese.  Good plan.

Thanks, Nellie. Great, healthy party! To your health!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Post-Surgery: Foods for Healing Power

As my son heals from ACL reconstruction surgery, one of our followers asked me what kind of foods I was making sure he ate while he's in recovery mode.  A great question!  An injury whether by accident or surgery,  forces the body into repair mode:  it needs to heal by generating new cells and tissues.  If someone were trying to get back into basketball playing shape after surgery like this by eating a Twinkie and chips diet,  they would have a much harder time. It requires the right tools to repair muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and skin, to heal, get stronger, and get back onto that court into the ball game.  What you eat during recovery will make a difference.

Eating a well-balanced healthy food intake is vital:  lots colorful fruits and veggies, whole grain breads and cereals, lean protein and dairy, and heart healthy fats. A big variety of these foods will assure the best chance at getting all the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants possible.

Protein is essential to build and repair tissue: the building block of muscles, bones, cartilage, skin and blood.  After surgery like this, plenty of lean, healthy protein is needed.  Fish, poultry, well-trimmed pork, small servings of lean red meat, and eggs, along with low fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Nuts, seeds, lentils,  dried beans (black, red, kidney, garbanzo, etc.,) soy, and quinoa all provide great sources of protein, too.  Normally, people need 0.8 - 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram body weight, or about 64 grams of protein for a 160 pound adult, which is easily met in 2 small servings (6-7 ounces) of  high protein foods each day. In healing mode, the protein need is increased, but not by a 16 ounce fatty rib eye steak every day!  An additional small serving of lean protein food each day will do just fine.  Keep in mind that most Americans already eat much more than 6 ounces of protein each day.

Omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory properties. Knee surgery results in major inflammation.  RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation---he is doing very well in those areas to help keep the inflammation down. The omega-3 consumption just gives a little boost of anti-inflammatory help from within. When I left, my son had several of individually frozen salmon fillets in the freezer ready to go, and a big tub of walnuts in his cupboard.  Look for other fatty fish such as tuna, herring, halibut, mackerel, lake trout, and sardines, in addition to flaxseed, and walnuts.

Calcium helps in muscle and nervous system function.  Nerves and muscles are in need of repair and pain levels need to be managed. His fridge was loaded with skim milk, 3 large tubs of low fat vanilla yogurt (ready to make smoothies,) his favorite cheeses, calcium-fortified orange juice and a plastic box of dark green leafy greens.  I  bought a calcium supplement, just to be sure he got up to 1200-1500 mg. each day!

Vitamin D for bone health.  The bone was involved in this surgery, so it, too needs repair.  Since mobility and outdoor time are going to be difficult for awhile, I bought him a vitamin D supplement: 1000 IU--one each day will be perfect.

After an injury, it is critical to make sure you are eating for healing power.  I know my son is doing well in this area:  he's a great cook and knows what I've taught him in the land of health and nutrition. Hopefully, his good nutritional intake helps him heal quickly and helps him return to that basketball court faster.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Breakfast Away From Home

Away from home. I'm lucky to have breakfast provided at the Hampton Inn hotel where I'm staying.  It does makes for a much more cost effective trip all around when one meal is taken care of when you're traveling, and it can provide a great, healthy start to your day if you choose wisely...

The first morning, I quietly observed people around me making waffles by pouring batter from a carton into a hot waffle iron--I wondered what they were made of?  Hot biscuits with sausage gravy (grease city,)  hard boiled eggs, individual boxes of cereal, instant oatmeal, yogurt, bagels, muffins, and pastries.  Lots to choose from.  It appears to me that the bagels and cream cheese and English muffins are by far the most popular selections as the crowd gathers around the toaster. Large glasses of orange juice and coffee follow most everyone to the tables.

I have to give credit to this hotel.  Their breakfast includes healthier fare than most:  hard boiled eggs, light yogurt, fresh fruit, plain oatmeal packets and single servings of peanut butter.  This makes my pursuit of eating healthy this week much easier. Kudos to Hampton Inn!

My breakfast choice every morning for this trip?  Two 60 calorie containers of Dannon light 'n fit yogurt (those small containers are really just 1/2 a serving of milk) and one package of plain, dry instant oatmeal that I stirred together.  Then I sliced a banana on top. Totally yummy and totally healthy and filling---a Europeon museli of sorts. Protein, complex carbs with fiber, calcium...nice.

Other good breakfast combos would have been an English muffin, toasted, with peanut butter.  Add fresh fruit and a glass of skim milk or yogurt. Or a hard boiled egg, wheat toast (I wasn't convinced it was whole wheat, unfortunately,) and an orange.  Another idea would be to cook the oatmeal and then stir in the package of peanut butter.  That's a favorite from a good friend of mine.

And now, if the hotels will please start providing whole grain English muffins and breads for toast.  That would be a great addition for all of us in our quest toward better health.

What do you choose for breakfast when you are away from home? Let us know!