Monday, January 28, 2013

Sodium Sense

No, you probably can't eat just one when it comes to potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, hot dogs, and pizza. Americans love their sodium-laden salty foods. Too much.

Sodium is an essential nutrient, necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses, contraction and relaxation of muscle fibers, and to maintain fluid balance. But, we don't need much. The human body considers sodium a rare commodity; it's programmed to conserve the sodium it does have. If sodium levels in the body drop, the kidneys and sweat glands increase urine and sweat production, which helps maintain sodium concentration. If sodium levels are high, the kidneys kick into gear to hold onto excess fluid by decreasing urine volume. This makes sense to those of us already aware that eating lots of salty foods tends to result in "puffiness" and water retention.

If sodium levels remain too high over time, the increased blood volume creates higher blood pressure and harder, less pliable blood vessels. This increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, and Kidney damage. Some research has also noted an increase risk of stomach cancer.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that those under 51 consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium each day (1 teaspoon.) A limit of 1500 mg for anyone 51 or older, African American, or with high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. 

The average American eats more than 3500 mg of salt each day. But, it isn't primarily from the salt shaker. Processed foods account for 75% of total sodium intake. Restaurant foods also tend to be much higher in sodium.

Reducing sodium intake can reduce risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney damage.
Decrease intake of processed foods
  1. Minimize use of salt shaker
  2. Eat more foods high in potassium such as fresh fruits and vegetables
  3. Eat a nutritious diet
  4. Minimize processed foods
  5. Eat more meals at home

Watch the labels 
  1. Sodium-free or salt-free: 5 mg or less of sodium per serving
  2. Very low sodium: 35 mg of sodium or less
  3. Low sodium: 140 mg of sodium or less
  4. Reduced or less sodium: At least 25% less sodium than regular version
  5. Light in sodium: At least 50% the regular version
  6. Unsalted or no salt added: No salt is added during processing. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium nitrate or nitrites, also contain sodium.
Keep in mind that foods labeled reduced, less, or light in sodium, and those unsalted or no-salt added may still be high in sodium. Beware of foods with more than 200 mg sodium per serving. 
Now, how about an apple instead of that bag of chips for snack?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Kase for Keurig

Drop in a pod, push a button, and...Voila! A perfect cup every time. Keurig, the one-cup-at-a-time coffee system, took the home coffee market by storm. And the same pot makes cocoa or tea with the quick switch of a pod. 

At first, I stayed strong and refused to submit. I mean, just how ridiculous can it get? For every cup, a plastic cup goes into the landfill. And it's pricey. Even with a coupon for $2.50, each cup still costs at least 50 cents. I'm quite sure my big pot makes coffee much cheaper. 

And, we already had a perfectly good 10-cup pot which kicks out great coffee, as long as you get it soon after it's made. 

Then, I wavered.  Susan told our group how she makes a cup of flavored Keruig coffee whenever she feels like eating a few cookies or when she wants a treat. She kept a variety of specialty flavors on hand, and simply chooses a flavor that sounds good to her at the time. Simple mindful sipping. I was intrigued.

So, when there was a big rebate on Keurig's, I hit Bed, Bath, and Beyond with my 20% off coupon and brought home a black mini-pot with a box of French vanilla decaf pods. 

Yep. Susan's right. When you're not really hungry and just feel like munching, making a cup of coffee chosen for the moment can really work. It's special. It's delicious. And it's just for me...

We still make a big pot of coffee every morning for breakfast. I just go to the Keurig for a cup later in the day when I want it. And, just so you know, I recycle.

Monday, January 21, 2013

First Family; First Class Role Models

Inaugural day is a wonderful event in our country: we peacefully place into power the President, elected by the people of our nation. Compared to the rest of the world, it is truly amazing. For a moment, set all politics completely aside...

I really like the people President Barack and Michelle Obama are and the examples they've set. I was listening to the news yesterday and caught a mini run down on the President's itinerary for today. Top 3 items on his to-do list before starting all the inaugural day events:

  1. Work-out
  2. Briefing 
  3. Breakfast with the family
Amazing. I absolutely love it. President Obama is prioritizing his health by taking care of himself before the rest of his day begins. Working out; taking time to exercise. Even on the morning of his big second inauguration. 

And consider the Obama family breakfast. I've heard the President often chooses to join his wife and 2 daughters for dinner, instead of attending various local dinner parties. But, the Obama's also gather together for breakfast which is all to rare in our country today.

Sit-down family breakfasts have been replaced in many households by Pop-Tarts as we fly off to start our busy lives. Unfortunately, this grab and go eating is often detrimental to health. The ritual of sitting down together for meals has been shown to be important for a child's development and for each family member. And, sitting down to eat it plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight. It provides an opportunity for mindful eating by allowing time to check in with internal hunger cues. Conversations around the table allows for slower eating, allowing time for the "full" message to be heard and heeded. Mindful eating is considered by many experts to be a critical part of both losing and maintaining a healthy weight for each one of us. 

Use President and Michelle Obama as wellness role models. Prioritize your own health. Sit down before you eat. And perhaps the President already understands...if you don't take care of yourself first, you won't be as strong and able to do your best taking care of everything in your world that really matters. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Energy Drink Crisis

An unshaven, slovenly guy flops around on a sofa. His clean-cut, leaner handsome  twin appears trying to get him off the sofa and into motion by offering the sloth an energy drink while a beautiful girl smiles beside him. He drinks it, hoping he, too can get the girl. Great. All we need is more pushing of these energy drinks.

Energy drinks are big. From students doing all-nighters to tired parents trying to make it through the day, they're huge. But, energy drinks have caused over 1000 emergency room visits in our country. Young kids have died. And, these beverages offer no redeeming value. Enough. We have to be smarter than these commercials.

These drinks promise a big boost of energy, but what do you actually get? Some contain caffeine equal to 5 cups of coffee in one drink. That's not only crazy, but it's more than enough caffeine to cause nervousness, irritability, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, and an increase in blood pressure. Unfortunately, the amount of caffeine in these drinks is not regulated because they are classified as a dietary supplement. On the other hand, the FDA holds the reins on caffeine in the soda industry; soda is considered a food. In addition to caffeine, the stimulants guarana, taurine and ginseng often are added. Guarana is the herbal equivalent of caffeine, but 2.5 times stronger. Alone and added together, these stimulants increase health risks for cardiac patients and those with high blood pressure; they are the root cause of the upsurge in use and in ER visits. High does of stimulants including caffeine could result in seizure, stroke, mania, and sudden death in these higher risk people.

And then there's the sugar. These drinks contain as much or more sugar than soda. The surging sugar intake of our population has been directly correlated to obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Energy drinks can go on the list that contributes to our obesity epidemic. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of energy drinks in children. They also recommend that adolescents limit caffeine consumption to 100 mg each day. Unfortunately, it's impossible to know the total amount caffeine and other stimulants in these drinks because that information is doesn't have to be on the label. That needs to change, and warnings need to be stated in bold, clear letters.

These adolescents and young adults have another challenge. Some are adding alcohol to energy drinks, which tends to diminish the intoxicated feeling. Heavier drinking and alcohol related accidents follow in these wide awake drunks.

If you're tired, avoid the energy drinks. A cup of tea or coffee would be fine for most of us. It's best to focus on your overall wellness by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, drinking plenty of water, and eating a healthy, nutrition diet. If that doesn't help, sure to see your doctor.

Some way, some how, we have to convince children, parents and all adults that energy drinks are not a good choice. Now, how about a nice cup of green tea?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mongolian Stir Fry

Pat G says, "Yummy!"
I've really loved watching all 3 of my kids turning into really good cooks and bakers. When they crash at home for awhile, the kitchen really gets some action. Over Christmas, 2 of them were home, and I enjoying the wonderful gift of sitting back, letting them take over much of the cooking, and watching them create some unique, yummy food, some even healthy!

One of the dishes my son tried out was a Mongolian Beef dish from Cooking Light. This dish got 2 thumbs up from all of us, though we decided it needed a little tweaking in the vegetable department. The original dish only called for green onions. The next time we made it, we cut back on the onions and added carrots and pea pods. It would also be wonderful with broccoli or mushroooms.

Though it does use some ingredients you may not have on hand, it's worth buying them, because you'll want to make it again and again. Just have some fun switching up the protein and veggies. And, it makes create leftovers for a future meal. Enjoy!

Healthier Mongolian Stir Fry

In a small bowl, stir until smooth
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic (such as sambal oelek)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
In large skillet, sauté over medium high until lightly browned (2-4 minutes)
  • 2 teaspoons oil: peanut, canola or olive 
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 # either boneless chicken thighs or breasts, thinly sliced, OR sirloin steak thinly sliced across the grain OR pork loin thinly sliced 
Add and cook for 2 minutes or until veggies are barely tender:
  • 1 small bunch green onions, cut into 2” lengths
  • 1 cup carrots, cut into tiny matchbox slices
  • 2 cups pea pods or broccoli bits
Add prepared sauce and cook 1 minute or until thickened, stirring constantly.

Nutrition Data: 237 calories, 5 units, 26 g protein, 9.1g carbohydrate, 1.7 g fiber, 517 g sodium

Monday, January 7, 2013

Weight Loss Ads

Wow. It's so easy. Just sprinkle it on; lose weight. Join this; lose weight.You don't have to measure it, weigh it or count it; just order, eat, and lose. Eat this cereal, drink this drink; lose weight. Buy this machine; lose weight. Weight loss is advertised to be as easy as pie (I never understood the pie thing, since pie making just isn't in the easy category.)

This genre of TV commercials is full of it. Full of false promises, hope and the inference that a miracle awaits you. All you have to do is to buy it.  Good grief. If losing weight was as easy as putting money where your mouth is, all rich people would be thin. Right.

Most Americans have some extra weight to lose. Many want desperately to lose it. So, big business comes in and seems to offer the miracle pill, the quick, easy fix end. The thing is, it's just not as simple as buying what these January commercials are selling. Some of what they're selling will work a little, for a little while. But, weight loss that stays off isn't what these ads are selling.  It takes time and hard work to change unhealthy behaviors, learn, and develop new habits that will last.

If you're ready to get that extra body fat off once and for all, bypass all the hype. Find a healthy approach that focuses on good nutrition, realistic increased exercise, and lots of positive "head" work to tackle long term behavior changes. And the best way to get that done is finding support. Good support is a key to getting into action and making real changes happen. Find a good supportive coach, friend, or group to team up with. Just about every one of us will find more success with teamwork...

Fire UP! You CAN Do It!