Saturday, July 31, 2010

How Much Protein Do I Need?

Sarah has a husband and son who are sure they need huge servings of meat every day.  She knows they don't really need the pound of steak they want each night.  Her question: how much protein is really needed every day for good health?

Many men and athletes have the mistaken notion that they need very large portions of portions to maintain bigger muscle mass and larger body size.  Some people even think that they can build muscles by eating more protein.  Sorry, but that doesn't work.  The only thing that builds muscle mass is working that muscle! The fact is, the average American diet includes plenty of protein for most active people---both male and female---and for most athletes.  That being said, when athletes work out longer than an hour a day, protein needs may increase slightly.

Adults should consume between 10 - 35% of their calories from protein, or at least 0.8 - 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram body weight each day.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein:
  • Children, ages   1- 3           13 grams/day
  •                   ages    2- 4         19
  •                   age     9- 13        34
  • Girls, ages        14-18          46
  • Boys, ages      14 - 18          52
  • Women, ages 19 - 70+        46
  • Men, ages      19 - 70+         56
Some examples of protein content in food include:
  • Milk, 1 cup                              8 g. protein
  • Meat, 3 oz.                             21 g.
  • Beans, dried, 1 cup cooked   16 g.
  • Yogurt, 1 cup                        11 g.
A total of 6 - 7 ounce equivalents of lean protein would have most people well covered each day. Sources include chicken, turkey, fish, beef, eggs, milk, cheese, soy, beans, nuts, nut butters, seeds and grains.  If an adult woman had 6 ounces of meat and 2 cups of milk, she would have consumed 58 grams of protein--well above the recommended level needed for good health.  This does not even include the smaller amounts of protein found in grains and veggies that she may have eaten.

In healthy individuals, consuming up to 20 - 25% of your total caloric intake from protein won't harm your kidneys, but consuming way too much for long periods of time may be harmful.  The American Diabetic Association encourages diabetics to limit protein to 0.8 grams/kg body weight, or about 10% of total caloric intake to help keep kidneys healthy and functioning well.

The fat found in animal protein is the heart unhealthy saturated type, so be sure to focus on lean choices.  Try out the wonders of vegetable protein, too.  These are great nutritional finds, which are packed full of fiber.

Message of today:  Need Protein? Yes!
                               Need more? Probably not...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Highlights From Iowa, Part II

After seeing friends and college friends (I dare not call them old college friends, since we're all the same age!) it was on to see some family and enjoy a reunion. It's always interesting to see how people are doing and what's going on in the family.  It didn't really seem like it had been 10 years since I'd been there last. The perspective of time passing more quickly as I get older is really amazing.  I regress...

Surviving a family reunion in control of your food intake is no easy matter for many of us.  I've worked for so many years with people who have filled me in on most every scenario imaginable at these affairs---all revolving around food.  From food pushers, peer pressure, sampling special family recipes, food available to munch on mindlessly all day long, stress eating...the list goes on and on.

Our reunion at my aunt and uncle's was perfectly manageable for me.  One great thing about our family is that I don't experience any food pushing at all; no one saying, "you've got to eat this," or, "I made this just for you." Control of food was a bit challenging when my Aunt Judy was planning a noon meal, and people ending coming in 3 shifts.  I think we served/ate 5 meals that day!

I practiced filling my plate half full of fruits and veggies each time I ate.  This was pretty easy, since there was fantastic fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, celery and celery sticks available at 4 of the 5 meals!  That immediately gave me portion control and supplied lots of nutrients for the day.  Grilled steaks were on the menu, so that was easy to serve myself a portion the size of a deck cards.  Nothing quite like steak on an Iowa farm!!  Sooo good.  And the sweet corn.  It was picked so fresh, and cooked just right.  The best I had ever, ever eaten.  I like mine with no butter on it at all, so I can get all that great taste and fiber in it's finest, unadulterated state.  Melted in my mouth.

One of the meals that was served later in the afternoon, I decided I wasn't very hungry, so I just helped pick up dishes and serve the folks who were eating.  After that, I was ready to indulge in the dessert of my choice:  warm peach crisp with a little vanilla ice cream on top.  I sat down.  I savored every bite and totally enjoyed it.  Perfect.

At the end of the day, I felt great.  I'd enjoyed being with my family, enjoyed the food, and did not feel stuffed or guilty about what I'd eaten during the day at all.  Success!

If you're ever in Iowa, don't forget to have some fresh sweet corn and grilled steak if you're a beef lover. Nothing quite like it...

Surviving Family Reunions In Control of Your Food: 

  • Practice Portion Control:  Fill Half Your Plate With Fruits & Veggies
  • Sit Down to Eat
  • Eat Slowly & Savor Every Bite
  • Choose What You're Going to Eat & When 
  • No Guilt
  • Talk
  • Be Active
Enjoy, Stay Motivated and Never, Ever Give Up!!  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Highlights From Iowa, Part I

Nine hours of driving to Iowa proved worth it.

First stop,  seven of my old college friends got together last weekend just for fun. One from Michigan, one from Minnesota, and one from Missouri, gathered with those still in Iowa for a very informal reunion of our Iowa State gang.  It's been well over 30 years since college (we won't go into how well over) and a couple of us had reconnected on facebook.  Since I was driving there anyway, I just got on the internet and found numbers for some old friends and called.  Many of us hadn't seen each other since college, but that certainly didn't slow down the conversation! So much fun. One small observation: we ate a lot less and drank a lot more ice tea than days gone by. And none of us looked any different at all :)

We used to live in the Ames area, so I stayed and visited for a few days. Coffee and meals with good friends.  My focus?  Being in the moment.  Listening, and enjoying time with each friend. Tasting and enjoying foods without guilt.  I ate until I was full at each meal, and then stopped eating.  A simple plan, but tough some times to follow through with. It worked!  Instead of obsessing over the food and feeling guilty, I had a wonderful time finding out that Lou and I still get along so well that we can just start talking like it had been only yesterday that we'd lived near each other.  Sharing great times with Lisa and Rick and their family and enjoying spaghetti made by Lisa's daughter, Tracy (the secret family Italian sauce has been successfully passed on!)  Going out for coffee, a little shopping and walking the flower gardens with Paula, and talking non-stop the entire time. Lunches out with Lisa, Paula and Rick. Friends were the focus, not the food. Good friends will always be good friends, no matter how much time has passed.  Something to treasure forever. I learned to take the time to appreciate just that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Be A Gourmet: A Practice in Mindful Eating

Gourmet vs. gourmand. Both are true food lovers.  A gourmet is someone who appreciates the flavors and beauty of great food.  He tends to have a more highly trained ability to taste, identify flavors, notice uniqueness, and seek out quality food to savor.  A gourmand, on the other hand, is all about the quantity.  Both love to eat, but the gourmand wants LOTS and LOTS while the gourmet wants QUALITY.

We can learn a lot about mindful eating from the gourmet.  She knows how to really be aware and truly enjoy and appreciate the food she eats. 

Try increasing your mindful eating by being a gourmet this week:
  • Sit down when you choose to eat this week---you're worth it! 
  • Notice the colors of your food. Does it make you feel good just to look at it, or not so much?  
  • Smell your food.  What fragrances do you detect?  What does it remind you of?
  • Take a bite and take note of the temperature.  Is it cold or hot? Warm or cool? 
  • Texture.  Is it creamy, crystalline, chunky, rough... Describe what it feels like in your mouth.
  • Chew and taste.  Sweet, sour, spicy, bitter...what does it actually taste like?
  • Critique.  Do you like it?  Does it make your mouth happy, your body happy?  How would you rank it on a scale of 1 - 5 stars?  Be that restaurant critic!
The more mindful we are of our food, the more in tune we become with our ability to sense when we are physically hungry and full. We are all born with wonderful hunger/full control mechanisms in our brains that actually work. Over time, so many of us have learned to override this function.  We learn to eat for every other reason imaginable: emotions, stress, the clock, peer pressure, it looks good, it's ice cream time...need I go on?  And then, we don't know when to stop. Mindless eating is a problem when it becomes a habit and food choices are unhealthy and gourmand-like. End result: your health suffers.

I'm reading a wonderful book called, "Mindful Eating, A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food,"  by Jan Chozen Bays, MD (it's on My Favorites List.) She writes, "Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself---in your body, heart, and mind---and outside yourself, in your environment.  Mindfulness is awareness without judgment or criticism." 

Be mindful this week, mindful of what your food really is like. Taste it.  Experience it.  
Be the Gourmet! Be Healthy!

Monday, July 12, 2010


It's been so hot out that Anne's completely lost her energy. She comes home from work, hits the sofa, and wants to stay there. The temperatures have been running around 100 degrees where she lives.  She wrote in asking for help getting motivated to do anything---she's tired all the time. Is anyone else feeling like this?

Both the heat and the humidity effect us.  Your body works over time trying to cool itself by sweating. Even living in air conditioned comfort, the hot weather can zap the energy right out of you. Air conditioning works by taking the water out of the air, so it's dehydrating not only the air, but your body.

The first order of business is to respect the heat.  Don't push yourself to do the same amount of work or exercise outdoors as you normally do when the temperature and humidity levels go up.  It's important for your health and safety to do things in the early morning or evening hours, shorten the time you are outside, drink more water, and perhaps find an alternative activity if it's too hot for comfort.  Listen to your body.  If you are fighting for breath, Stop. Rest. Rehydrate.

For Help Energizing:

  1. Dehydration is the number one energy zapper.  Fluid is necessary to cool your body, so you need to drink more in hotter weather. Water is usually the best hydrator. The golden rule: keep your urine clear or pale.  If it is yellow or dark in color, you are dehydrated. Don't let thirst be your guide.  If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Older people tend to have thirst cues that don't work as well. 
  2. Eat enough.  If you skip breakfast or lunch, your blood sugar comes crashing down.  Result?  The Energizer Bunny has left the building:  you're tired.  Don't skip meals, and try to have little snacks in between help keep energy going.
  3. Choose healthy foods. If breakfast was a Pop Tart and lunch was an ice cream, your body is not getting all the healthy nutrients it needs to keep it running smoothly all day:  wrong fuel makes the energy level unsteady. Reaching for healthy meals and snacks can really make a difference in energy levels. Try a low fat yogurt with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of high fiber cereal for breakfast, and a whole grain tortilla wrap with left over grilled chicken, apple slices, lettuce, walnuts and a dollop of yogurt on top for lunch. 
  4. Get enough sleep.  Most adults need 7 - 8 hours each night.  How are you doing? This makes a difference in how much energy you have during the day.
  5. Too much caffeine.  Recent studies have shown that while a moderate amount of caffeine can increase concentration, too much can increase fatigue.  If you think you may be getting too much caffeine, cut down very slowly to avoid the infamous "caffeine headache" that can come when cutting back too quickly.
  6. Too little exercise.  Have you been skipping your work out?  This can actually cause low energy levels.  Getting back into a routine of a moderate workout 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week, can zip that energy level right back up. Outdoor walkers or runners remember to work out earlier or later in the day. Or try something new:  hit the local pool and swim laps, jog in the shallow water, or try a water aerobics class.  Working out in an air conditioned gym, walking the mall, taking the stairs at work, or doing a walking tape at home would be great, cool ideas for these dog days of summer.
  7. Medical reasons.  If none of these ideas help bring your energy levels up, see your doctor.  Sleep apnea, anemia, hypothyroidism, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, and other disorders could be the culprit. If that's the case, you need to have the doc involved. 
Take it easier in the heat, but don't stop.
Keep on going, and going, and going....
Be The Bunny!
To Your Health!

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Get Back On Track!

    A friend was talking with me the other day, we'll call her Rita.  Rita is so fed up with herself.  She keeps trying to do all the right things by eating healthier, exercising and all those "good things." But, Rita experienced yet another crash and burn:  her holiday weekend ended up out of control with mega amounts of brats, potato salad, pie and ice cream that wouldn't quit.  She doesn't know what exactly happened, but all control was lost and she reverted back to her old "Hoover-like" (as in the vacuum) eating behavior.  Now Rita can't seem to get back on track.  I believe she used to words failure, fat, disgusting and stupid all in one sentence.

    How many of you can relate to her?  Yes, that's what I thought. I remember that all too well myself, the "all-or-nothing" me that I, for the most part, have left behind.

    When you're on a healthy eating plan, it's a little bit like playing a game of tennis.  When the game is going well, you are in control.  The ball is in motion, and you keep hitting it back using the best strokes and placement you can make. You feel great both mentally (hey, you're winning!) and physically you are totally pumped!  Your attitude is great, and your performance keeps going.

    Then something happens, and you hit a bad shot. The ball veers way out of bounds.  It comes to a complete stop.  The momentum has changed.

    That's what happened to Rita. Her game of tennis (healthy lifestyle) was going along great. And then, the long holiday weekend arrived.  She hit one bad shot.  Instead of picking up the ball and staying in the game, Rita just left the ball, dropped her racket and walked away. She walked away from her healthy lifestyle program, right toward her old habits.  It was the easy thing to do.  After all, old habits are just more comfortable.  We know them better than the new ones that we're trying to make.

    Get Back On Track:
    1. Focus on Why.  Remind yourself why you want to be healthier. Write it down.  Keep that goal firmly focused in your mind.  Rita told me she wanted her knee to feel no more pain when she climbed up and down stairs.  Great goal and good to focus on.
    2. Perseverance. Pick up the ball. You have to bend over and physically grab that ball to continue playing tennis. Tennis players don't quit just because they hit one bad shot or have one bad game!  They keep on working at it.  Wimbledon champions Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal certainly have had bad shots, games, and matches...but they never give up.  In pursuing a healthy lifestyle, it's the same thing.  You need to keep on keeping on:  don't give up.
    3. Out: The "Can't Stop" Snacks.  Go into your kitchen and look around. Imagine a Pyrex pan of brownies sitting on your counter.  There's a knife sitting next to an uneven row, covered with plastic wrap. What do you think that pan is telling you to do?  We don't deserve needless evil temptation. If there are foods that you lose control over, get them out of sight.  Treats need to be put away into individual bags and/or stored behind closed doors.  For some of us, certain foods cannot come into your home right now. Acknowledge this, and be in control of the food that comes in. Don't let the food control you.
    4. In: Healthy Food! Hit the grocery store.  Load up on fresh fruits, veggies, yogurts, whole grains---all foods that you know helps you with your healthy eating.  
    5. Fruits and Veggies at the Ready.  Tempt yourself with colorful healthy snacks ready to go. Cut up veggies and fruits should be at eye level when you open the refrigerator door.  I know we all have those very wonderful drawers at the bottom of the fridge.  The problem is, if we keep all the produce there, it's out of sight, and often we forget about them and end up munching on crackers.  Store your unprepped produce in the drawers.
    6. Plan for Exercise. Is it too hot for your regular walk outside?  Have an alternative ready, like walking the mall, swimming at the high school pool, doing an exercise video in your air conditioned home.  Don't use the heat as an excuse for being the blob. If you act like the blob you'll become the blob. Unacceptable!
    7. Plan for Success.  Think ahead.  Is there a party or a picnic this weekend?  Plan ahead of time how you will make the healthy choices and stay in control. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
    8. Believe in Yourself:  You can do it! 
    You are worth every effort it takes to be that healthy, wonderful you! You deserve it.

    Until you're there,  just Fake It 'Til You Make It!

    FIRST STEP:   Pick that ball back up, think about your next shot, and take it!