Magnesium for Health: Are You Getting Enough?

Magnesium health benefits: should you supplement? Magnesium has widespread implications for our health. It can relieve some types of pain, improve blood pressure, and improve heart health. Hundreds of chemical reactions in the body rely on magnesium. Magnesium is needed for the release and use of energy from proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Along with calcium, magnesium assists in muscle function. While calcium assists in muscle contraction, magnesium assists in muscle relaxation. Magnesium also affects the metabolism of nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.

Magnesium requirements for health

Many medical references state only a small number of people in the US fall short of meeting magnesium requirements. However, when my college nutrition students would check their diets with nutrition analysis software, they almost never consumed the required 300-400 mg. of magnesium. Therefore, that begs the question of what “nutritional” camp are you in? Do you try to eat a healthy diet by eating a variety of foods on a regular basis? Or, do you avoid whole grains, fruits, lentils, and green leafy vegetables? Or, perhaps you are trying to eat a healthy diet, but have decided to cut your carbs along the way. As you cut your carbs, you’ll automatically decrease your magnesium because most carbs are rich in magnesium. As magnesium rich diets offer health benefits, it’s time to take stock of how much you are eating.

Magnesium health benefits are diverse

magnesium and health

Fibromyalgia

Patients with fibromayalgia frequently have low magnesium levels. Consequently, there is a lot of interest in whether magnesium can help manage fibromyalgia symptoms. Aside from taking magnesium supplements to increase magnesium in the body, there are some emerging alternative magnesium treatments. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, there may be some benefit to magnesium sprayed directly on tender points of patients. A recent study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN looked at the pain control of fibromyalgia patients using this new magnesium skin spray. The study showed promise in that the participants experienced less pain after several weeks of using the spray version of magnesium.

And, there are always Epsom salt baths to try. Epsom salts are actually salts made up of both magnesium and sulfate. Apparently, even though Epsom salts are often recommended for sore muscles, there’s not much in the way of scientific research to back up the recommendation! A hot bath always seems to help soothe pained muscles, so using Epsom salts could be your own experiment! You get to be the judge on this one.

Menstrual pain

The verdict is not totally in on whether magnesium is helpful for menstrual pain. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, magnesium may be of value in treating painful menstrual cramps. However, there is not really enough research to say conclusively. Still, other health care providers regularly recommend magnesium for cramping, speculating that pain is eased as the magnesium relaxes the uterine muscles.

Magnesium for pregnancy health

magnesium for pregnancy healthLeg cramps in pregnancy are common. There is some thought that either dietary calcium or magnesium may be too low in those women who experience pregnancy leg cramps. Before taking supplements, focus on magnesium rich foods such as nuts, seeds, bran, and leafy vegetables (more details below). Also, make sure you are meeting your calcium requirements, since the calcium and magnesium work together for healthy muscle functioning.

Another second serious pregnancy problem is high blood pressure. In fact, high blood pressure in pregnancy can be life threatening. Magnesium administration in pregnancy seems to relax the blood vessels. That relaxation of the blood vessels helps restore normal blood pressure.

Heart disease and high blood pressure

Adequate magnesium is important for healthy heart contractions. It also plays a role in lowering blood pressure by once again, dilating the arteries. Research indicates that adults with adequate magnesium, calcium, and potassium consistently have better blood pressure control.

Magnesium for hearing health

When given to either prevent or treat hearing damage, magnesium seems to be effective in both animals and humans. In one large scale recent study conducted in China, higher whole blood levels of magnesium were associated with lower overall hearing thresholds as well as risk of hearing loss. While researchers may be unclear on the exact mechanism of how magnesium protects hearing, scientists know it’s important to auditory health.

Migraines

magnesium and migrainesIn an often cited 1996 study, 81 people with reoccurring migraines were given either 600 mg of magnesium daily or placebo. By the last 3 weeks of the study, the treated group’s migraines had been reduced by 41.6%. The placebo group only had a 15.8% reduction in migraines.

Type 2 Diabetes

According to the publication Diabetes in Control, magnesium is a key factor in controlling blood sugar levels. The risk of patients developing diabetes may increase with inadequate magnesium. And, they note that patients who already have magnesium rich diets seem to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Magnesium for cognitive health

In one US 20 year term study, researchers found that 6473 elderly women who consumed about 250 to 300 mg of magnesium per day from foods and supplements had a 37% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment in comparison to those that ingested less than 200 mg. It was noted by researchers that lower and higher end dosages of magnesium were not beneficial for cognition. In other words, exceeding the 300 mg was not of benefit with regard to cognition. As the requirement for magnesium is 300-400 mg, bear in mind that up to 400 mg is still appropriate for overall wellness.

Magnesium and vitamin D

Magnesium seems to help regulate vitamin D levels in the body. If the body needs more vitamin D, adequate amounts of magnesium will increase absorption. If the body has too much vitamin D, the magnesium will decrease the levels.

Some good food sources of magnesium

        • 1/4 cup flaxseed has 156 mg
        • 1 cup spinach as 156 mg
        • 1 cup swiss chard has 150 mg
        • 1/4 cup almonds has 98 mg
        • 1 cup bran cereal has 80 mg
        • 1/2 cup lima beans has 63 mg
        • 1/2 cup black beans has 60 mg
        • 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds have 57 mg
        • 1/2 cup cooked okra has 47 mg
        • 1 cup soy milk has 46 mg
        • 3 oz. cooked haddock fish has 43 mg
        • 1 cup yogurt has 43 mg
        • 1 average sized banana has 32 mg

Source: USDA Nutrient Data Base

Magnesium supplements when necessary

USP logoWhen taking magnesium supplements, keep some guidelines in mind. It’s important that the product actually contains the labeled amount of magnesium. Additionally, the supplement should be free of contaminants. And, it should break down when digested. And lastly, cost per pill may be an issue. Many supplements are expensive! While you can easily figure out the cost per pill, the rest of the list is a bit harder to sift through. As the vitamin industry is self-regulating, consider going with a well-known brand that has a good reputation. And, take note if the USP logo is on the label. This logo means the nutrients will actually be absorbed, rather than passing though your body undigested. Here are a few more points to keep in mind when buying supplements.

Additionally, keep these points in mind:

  • MAGNESIUM OXIDE is cheaper, but harder to absorb. And, it may cause diarrhea in certain individuals.
  • MAGNESIUM CITRATE AND MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE may be formulas that are better absorbed. And, there may be fewer side effects if taken in larger amounts.

Lastly, remember these supplements are meant to supplement the magnesium you are getting through food. If you are not clear on the amount of supplement you might need, then consult a qualified dietitian. A dietitian can assess how much magnesium you consume through food. Then, the dietitian can figure out the best dosage of supplemental magnesium for your health and well-being.

Take Away

Magnesium has varied and diverse roles in human health. At the biochemical level, it participates in hundreds of biological chemical reactions. It’s necessary for the release and use of energy from protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Magnesium works together with other nutrients such as calcium and potassium for muscle relaxation. As a natural pain killer, it may reduce fibromyalgia, menstrual, and migraine headache pain. It aids in blood pressure control and hearing health! Finally, it helps regulate vitamin D and blood sugar levels. Clearly, this is one nutrient that you want to be sure to get enough of in your daily diet.

Are you meeting your magnesium requirements? What foods do you eat to be sure you consume enough magnesium?

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Weight in Winter: 5 Tips to Halt a Gain

winter weight gainDo you worry about your weight in the winter? As frigid temps keep us bundled up, many of us keep eating. And, it’s so easy to keep eating because it’s easy to hide under loose sweaters and big coats. Weight gain in winter happens so easily. We may not have gotten out of the December holiday spirit as far as eating goes. Or, perhaps we are eating just because we are feeling “blue.” Winter can be depressing for many, so it might be time to figure out how to keep your weight in winter under control, to make for a more pleasant spring!

Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder sunshine on lady helps her mood, fights winter weight gain

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD

I have heard repeatedly from clients that all they want to do is keep eating because they feel so “blue” this winter. Occasionally, the clients suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This form of depression is related to seasonal changes. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects up to 5% of the population and can last almost half the year. It strikes both men and women, but more women are affected. Younger adults are more prone to SAD than older adults.

But, sometimes clients are just feeling down in the dumps because the winter is so long in the Midwest. So, barring a tropical vacation or moving, here are a few steps that can be taken to raise spirits and lessen weight gain this winter. Hopefully you can stop inappropriate eating and stop winter weight gain at the same time. Get healthy and manage your weight this winter for a joyous spring-sounds great, right?

1. Sunshine can halt weight gain in winter

Even the gloomiest areas in the Midwest will occasionally be sunny. Therefore, be sure to capitalize on it even if you need to bundle up to do so. Take a walk outside in those rays of sunshine. This will elevate your mood because the exercise and sunshine will affect your balance of key brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters include serotonin, melatonin, and endorphins. Serotonin helps regulate both your mood and appetite. Melatonin is necessary for regulating healthy sleep cycles-and we all know how important sleep is to our thought processes and overall well being. Endorphins are chemicals that lessen pain and can make us feel less hungry.

2. Light therapy instead of sun

Along the lines of catching natural light rays, researchers are aware that certain light spectrums, such as blue light, seem to help alleviate SAD. Many free-standing blue light lamps are available for easy purchase online. If purchasing a light therapy lamp, keep in mind that are many types available and there are a lot of factors to consider in terms of safety and efficacy. Eye safety is one factor to consider. Those with certain conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, or diabetes should always check with their doctors before purchasing a light box.

3. Weight in winter and vitamin D

Many Americans have inadequate blood vitamin D levels. It’s an ongoing challenge for many to get enough vitamin D for various reasons. Research supports that getting your blood vitamin D levels in the right range is ammunition in fighting seasonal affective disorder. Bleak days and lots of warm bulky clothes limit the body’s ability to make the so-called “sunshine” vitamin. This is because vitamin D is produced by the body when sun shines on a compound on our skin. If that skin is covered, you are not going to be making it. If we cannot make it, we are able to supplement our diet with vitamin D. During winter months, dosages in the 1000-1200 IU range are probably safe for most people who have limited sun exposure. With that said, your blood levels are easily checked. Once checked, seek advise from a trusted medical professional on dosing for supplements.

4. Control your eating environment

While waiting for spring weather and freedom from the winter doldrums, don’t undo previous successful weight loss with binge eating just because of SAD or depression. Control your eating environment at home by ridding it of high temptation and high calorie foods. Setting yourself up for temptation with favorite treats staring you down will never work for weight loss or control as willpower is typically a short-term strategy.

5. Stock your kitchen appropriately

a well stocked kitchen

A well stocked kitchen goes a long way to both nourish and “comfort” you. There are plenty of healthier low sodium soups to stock up on. Consider some batch cooking of homemade soups and meals to grab when you want homemade comfort food. Increase your consumption of fruits, veggies, and lentils to increase your anti-oxidants and fiber. In addition to a myriad of health benefits, fiber fills you up which helps with preventing weight gain. Don’t be afraid of opting for frozen fruits and veggies at this time of year. They are just as nutritious as the fresh varieties which are harder to buy in the winter. When the warm weather comes, you will be happy that you did not pile on the weight due to winter blues.

Takeaway tips for winter weight control

Here’s to wrapping up winter. The sooner the better! Remember, an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Find you “light” to lift your mood, whether it is sunshine or blue light therapy. Check your vitamin D levels. Be smart with your kitchen by keeping it well stocked with nutrient dense lower temptation foods. By watching the quality of your diet this winter, you will be in a better position mentally and physically when springtime springs!

 

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How to Lose Weight By Thinking Differently!

how to lose weight by thinking differentlyDo you play mind games that prevent you from winning at losing weight? Are you always having a conversation with yourself that manages to sabotage your newest Monday efforts to lose weight? If so, chances are pretty good that you have a dialogue in your head that needs to change. If you’re having the following self conversations, it’s best to change your dialogue. Changing your self talk is a great first step when you feel you absolutely can’t lose weight.

The clean plate game to lose weight

You know this game: eat it all up because some people are starving! If you eat up all the food when not hungry, you are not helping anyone that is starving! Or, you paid for it so you must eat it. At home, put less food on your plate. In a restaurant, ask for the people box prior to digging into the large plate of food. Acknowledge that while you still paid for it, you now have food for another meal so you doubled your value. This is a hard habit to break, but it can be done with practice. These portion control strategies are always going to help when one has trouble losing weight. The portion control automatically decreases your calorie consumption. It’s such a simple concept that is often overlooked.

Skipping breakfast may slow weight loss

You think you will eat less overall calories by limiting what you consume in the morning. Many studies indicate that when people do this, they manage to consume more total calories in a given day. In other words, this eating strategy can backfire for some people. Other studies show that when people consume substantial calories in the morning, they use those calories to meet energy requirements more efficiently, and store less of that energy in fat cells. Eating the bulk of your calories at the tail end of the day is, therefore, theoretically less efficient for your body weight and overall energy levels.

I will add, however, that some studies also suggest that whether someone eats breakfast or not has no impact on weight status. With that said, skipping breakfast and lighter daytime eating can put you at some degree of nutritional risk. It is very difficult to meet overall nutritional requirements with almost no daytime food and just dinner. And, if your blood sugar takes a nose dive during the day, you are at risk for an eating binge.

Use caution with foods prepared elsewhere

pizza takeout food and weight gainDo you really know what is happening in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant and take-out place? I would venture to guess that this food has much more fat, calories, and sodium than you would find in your own kitchen. Try to limit relying on outside sources for your meals unless you are able to confirm with nutrition labels that it is a healthy option. When you do dine out, at least try and check the nutrition information out ahead of time. There are so many websites and apps available to the consumer to do some pre-planning for healthier options. HealthyDiningFinder is a site where you input your zip code and nearby dining options are noted.

Review menus in advance

While not all restaurants can make their nutrition information available, you can at least take a peek at the menu online. That way you can begin thinking about the better meal options in advance of stepping foot into the restaurant. This helps you avoid quick impulse decisions on your selections. Once with friends socializing at the restaurant, your planning strategies to pick healthy choices may fizzle. Having thought about what to order in advance will keep defensive dining tactics in play.

It’s for “company” game

bowl of candy and weight lossThere are many variations to this one: there is also “It’s for the kids.” Do the M & Ms really need to be in a bowl for your grandchildren and shouting to you all the time? I have grandchildren too, but I would not have a candy bowl sitting out all the time. I certainly like the chocolate as well and I would not be able to stare it down. Get the treats for kids, grandchildren, and company, but keep a limited stock that is purchased just prior to their arrival. Or, hide it from yourself. Better yet, get a treat that does not pose a high temptation threat to you! The less you like that treat, the better you can resist it.

Willpower for weight loss

I don’t feel that most people successful at long-term weight loss can use the concept of willpower. Over the long haul, they should instead think “smart” on eating strategies: keep a clean kitchen free of high temptation foods, keep small amounts or portion controlled foods that you conceptualize as treats, or if food is just too tempting to avoid once in your kitchen, just don’t put it into your grocery cart in the first place. Willpower, in my opinion, is not a good long term weight loss strategy.

Reflection for weight loss

Taking a step back to evaluate how you think about eating may be just the solution for trouble losing weight! By managing your thoughts along with your eating environment, you can start down the weight management road without tripping up too much. While summer is over, the holidays are right around the corner. Thinking differently could be just the torture-free weight loss fix you need when you think you can’t lose weight. Anyone can lose weight with the proper tools. After you change your thinking, consider these next weight loss steps.

Care to share your strategies for helping to “win” at the weight loss game?

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Restaurant Dining: A Cost to Your Health and Wallet

Resturant dining and cost

My spouse and I are health conscious because I am a dietitian and not a hypocrite, and his life depends upon it. We regularly visit an area of southwest Michigan, and recently had breakfast at a local diner with great TripAdvisor reviews. Unfortunately, we did not agree with the great reviews on TripAdvisor. Here’s why I think there’s a restaurant dining cost to your health and wallet!

Restaurant dining menu and cost

The menu was limited, but I will be the first to state that this is not necessarily a bad thing. A limited menu may end up focusing on food quality, rather than an abundance of mediocre dishes. The good news here was the staff was more than happy to substitute requested egg whites for whole eggs.

Now the bad news: the nice multi-grain bread was already buttered on the bottom of the toast (so did not realize it until it was eaten), the portions were huge (I know many people want large portions for the money being doled out), and I saw no fruit options on the menu. Other bad news: the bill was $30.00 for what we could have made at home for probably a dollar at most, and made it a lot healthier in a shorter amount of time. This is, in fact, the key issue with dining out on a regular basis.

Restaurant dining cost to health and wallet

More fat 

If you make the same food at home, you can control the fat in the dish with very simple recipe tweaking. Restaurants don’t typically care about the high fat content in their meals because fat carries flavor and texture. And of course, they want you to return for another meal! You can bank on eating more calories than you anticipated due to the higher fat content. You can also assume that it will be more difficult to meet your weight loss goals.

More calories

And, let’s not forget the simple concept that larger portions, when eaten, yield more calories. Unless you can exercise a lot of self-restraint while dining out, you will most likely eat your whole meal. If you can consistently ask for healthy substitutions such as fruit for fries, you are on the right track. Also, you need to get in the habit of bringing at least half of your meal home. And who doesn’t want that yummy appetizer, dessert, or cocktail while dining out? It’s probably safe to say that if you are eating at home you are not eating those extra high calorie goodies.

Salt in restaurant food

More sodium

If you are fortunate to find a nice restaurant meal low in fat and overall calories, the sodium is probably lurking. I have yet to see a healthy restaurant meal that is low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, calories, and sodium. If you think the sodium content does not matter because your blood pressure is fine, you need to think again. High sodium intakes cause other health problems such as bone loss and are correlated with increased cancer risk. And, if you hop on the scale the next day, you can credit that weight gain of several pounds to fluid retention from all that salt you ate.

More money

My husband made a lower sodium chili on Sunday, and pointed out that the entire pot of chili cost less than a few dollars. Purchasing a bowl of chili at a restaurant would have cost about $6.00. He used half a packet of low sodium chili powder and added additional beans plus veggies, creating a healthier chili.

When you must go to fast food restaurants

Ironically, thinking in terms of restaurant food chains rather than non-chain full-service restaurants may serve your health concerns more effectively. Unless you live in a cave, you have seen nutrition information is posted at your favorite fast food restaurant. In 2014, the FDA set into motion new labeling requirements for chain restaurants. By now, all that nutrition information has been available to customers for years. If you pay attention to that posted nutrition information, it can help you make better decisions while dining out. There are lots of helpful websites to start planning for healthier choices. One that I really like is HealthyDiningFinder. Put in your zip code and you can start your search for healthier cuisine.

Casual dining establishments

Consider frequenting casual dining restaurants that actually have a set calorie controlled menu with a lot of choices such as the Cheesecake Factory. While in the past I would have cringed at dining there, they have made great strides with their Skinnylicious menu options. I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the food was from that menu and ecstatic with all the choices for under 600 calories. I can’t say the sodium was acceptable across the board with that menu, but as I stated, it’s very hard to nail the fat, calories, and sodium content of any restaurant meal.

Full service restaurants

Restaurant dining cost to health and walletClearly, fast food options are not always what we want or need for social occasions. Always try and check out the restaurant menu online prior to arriving there. This will at least allow you an opportunity to avoid split second and thoughtless decisions when ordering. Socializing with friends while trying to order without some prior thought does not usually translate to a healthy choice.

When no nutrition information is available

Looking for plain menu options like a ladies’ cut filet or chicken that is not smothered in sauce might be good options. Add some steamed vegetables and plain baked potato and you’ve made some wise choices. By skipping the appetizers, cocktails, and desserts you are on your way to helping your waistline. And that bread basket is always a problem, right? Ask the wait staff to keep it in the kitchen or move it to another part of the table. And, if portion sizes of your meat based entree are larger than a deck of cards, bring the leftovers home if you are serious about managing your healthy diet. Help yourself with that action by asking for the “doggie” bag at the beginning of the meal!

Final thoughts

While eating out is recreational for many, it should be a treat for special occasions rather than your regular diet. Eating at home more often will result in a healthier diet and bank account. With that stated, here are some additional tips to manage food choices and calories when eating away from home. Eating at home is a win-win scenario, except for the dirty dishes. With all the money you can save, you can buy a new dishwasher!

Do you have any strategies for managing your calories, fat, and sodium while dining out that I didn’t mention? And what recommendations can you share to keep restaurant dining cost to a minimum when you do splurge?

If this blog post was helpful, please share it with a friend!

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Foods for Working Out: Fuel Yourself Properly

foods for working out

In the wake of America’s growing waistline, fitness trends have spread like wildfire throughout the nation. While more people are hitting the gym and attending their local HITT class, it’s just as important to pump up your diet as it is to pump up your gym time. Learning about what foods keep you lean and strong is imperative, as more processed foods flood mainstream marketplaces. When it comes to the best foods for working out, there are multiple issues to consider.

Bulking up foods for working out

When you’re ready to bulk up, foods high in protein are your friend. There are complete and incomplete proteins in the food we eat. Animal products are high in complete proteins. Lean beef, chicken, egg whites, low-fat cheese, and skim milk are all categorized as complete proteins in that they have all the essential amino acids that your body needs to build muscle mass. Because proteins we ingest are not stored, and amino acids are recycled, even proteins that are not complete-like those consumed from plant based foods- can contribute significant amounts of protein to your diet.

How much protein do you need?

Proteins should be consumed in grams per day depending on your weight. For example, if you weigh 135 pounds, you should be eating about 50 grams as a non-athlete, but as an athlete, your requirements could increase to as much as 105 grams (most Americans already eat this amount of protein and may not need to bump their intake up). Competitive weight lifters need to be mindful of not only their protein intake, but also their carbohydrate and calorie intake.

Carbohydrate foods for effective workouts

Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates can be your friend when you’re looking to be beach body ready. Carbs are essentially sugars that give you the energy to start and finish your workouts. The fiber rich complex carbohydrates in oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta release their energy more slowly. Getting enough of the complex carbs in your daily diet actually spares protein to work to assist in building and repairing your muscle! In addition to sparing the protein to do its job, carbohydrates play other major roles in maintaining our health.

Stay away from simple carbs that are commonly found in candy, soda pop, pre-sweetened cereals, and some high sugar energy bars. If you think about foods your dentist would like you to skip, you can more easily identify foods higher in these simple carbs.These simple carbohydrates have little nutritional value and you are better off emphasizing nutrient rich complex carbohydrates.

Breakfast

Taking time to eat breakfast in the morning will help to kick-start your metabolism. Making an omelet with leafy greens or vegetables, and adding a small bowl of oatmeal is perfect for regulating your sugar levels. Even adding a glass of reduced/low fat milk or cottage cheese with fruit is a much better option than a trip to Starbucks. You’re preparing your body to face the day ahead of you and starting your digestion early in the day. This will help you transition from larger meals at the end of the day to a larger breakfast, followed by a smaller lunch and humble dinner.

Staying hydrated

staying hydrated during working outAs you move through your daily grind and workout, don’t just grab a Gatorade or so-called power drink! Stick with water, and stay hydrated all day long. Properly hydrated muscles will recover more quickly. The recommended daily intake for water is between 2.5 and 3 liters. Begin hydrating in the morning and continue all day long. Have a glass of water along with your glass of orange juice. Bringing a travel cup to work or school is also helpful. When you drink water throughout the day, you help your digestive system process food more efficiently. A good check for hydration is to look at your urine. It should be clear to pale yellow throughout the day. Waiting to feel thirsty means you are already dehydrated!

Gaining muscle mass doesn’t stop at the gym. Being disciplined and committed to the improvement of your overall health will only allow you to achieve your goal quicker. A regimented weight training schedule and proper nutrition will help you feel and look better in no time!

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Defensive Dining: Eating Out Healthy

Defensive dining: healthy restaurant eatingDo you wish you could make eating out a healthy experience? We all have our reasons for dining away from home. Be it business, social, or just no time to cook-Americans eat an average of 4-5 meals on the run and away from their own homes every week. Research seems to support that the more meals eaten away from home, the more likely those meals are too high in sodium, fats, and calories. Those unplanned calories from dining away from home could easily translate to a larger pants size in no time. If you find it necessary to eat out more than once a week, start some smart eating strategies to help keep your pants size in check.

As is the case with all intelligent eating, it is necessary to manage your dining experiences away from home. It is always a good idea to plan your options in advance if possible.

eating out healthy by planning aheadPlanning tips for healthy eating out

  • Look for restaurants or carry-out options with a range of menu items. That way, those that choose to eat healthy will have more choices!
  • Consider choosing your restaurant after checking some valuable websites such as www.healthydiningfinder.com
  • Consider reviewing menus online prior to getting to the restaurant. Even if the nutrition information is not available, you can preplan your best healthy eating options and strategies ahead of time.
  • When deciphering a menu, opt for entrées which are grilled, roasted, braised, poached, steamed, or baked. Avoid entrées which are described as pan-fried, creamy, crispy, buttered, and battered.
  • Order the regular or smaller sized options if available, since a normal restaurant entrée is usually enough food to feed 2-3 people! The large portions justify the menu price.
  • Split a menu item to share at the restaurant.
  • Consider ordering an appetizer as your entrée.
  • Ask that high calorie dressings be served on the side and control how much you eat.
  • If offered bread, ask that it not be served. We have a tendency to overdo the calories from bread prior to our meal. This translates to too much extra sodium and too many calories. Adding the fresh butter to the bread is another calorie pitfall.
  • Request the “people” bag or foam box come when the meal is served. Take half of the meal and put in the bag or container before you dig into your plated meal!

Practice making good food substitutions

The more often you do this, the easier and more natural it becomes. If you eat out often, it is a good idea to know how to make healthier substitutions almost instinctively. Here are some simple food substitution strategies to slash your calories and filter out the sodium and fat from your restaurant meals:

  • Ask if light salad dressing is available, but expect that it probably is not, and consider bringing your own pre-packaged light dressings if you enjoy salads and eat them often when dining out.
  • Always replace those fries and chips with fresh fruit or a baked potato. Both options will be lower in sodium, virtually fat-free, and loaded with potassium and fiber.
  • Remember that calories come from beverages as well. Alcoholic beverages can have a lot calories and increase your appetite to boot! Consider calorie-free substitutions such as sparkling water in a wine glass or a sugar-free soda.

With some advance planning, menu decoding, and eating action plan you can enjoy both your cuisine and physique!

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Vacation Weight Gain: Here’s How to Avoid It!

avoid vacation weight gainGuest post by Cole Millen, an avid traveler. Updated July, 2019 by Sue Rose, MS, RD, LDN

Vacations are a time to relax and forget about everyday stresses. Invariably, clients going on vacation mention they are concerned about avoiding the dreaded and frequently occurring vacation weight gain. For those who are working on losing weight and living healthy, vacations are riddled with challenges. Temptations are common on vacations, and sticking to your daily caloric intake can be difficult. However, there are some simple steps vacationers can take to ease these common travel challenges. Here are a few surefire tips to avoid vacation weight gain:

Vacation weight gain and air travel

Before leaving for the airport, many travelers forget to eat. As a result, travelers often pick up snacks at the airport or eat food on the airplane. By setting aside time to eat a meal before heading to the airport, it is possible to avoid these temptations. In addition, healthy high fiber snacks can often help alleviate hunger on long flights. It should be noted, however, that most airports now have healthy options for travelers. The key issue is to be mindful of those healthier options and then keep your health goals in mind as you select your airport food.

Be careful in hotels 

Hotels often make it easy to sabotage your diet. Minibars do not stock healthy options so steer clear of them. Consider planning a trip to a local grocery store to purchase some basic foods. Assemble simple meals in a small crock pot or instapot. Zap a healthy frozen dinner in the microwave which will be lower in calories and sodium than most restaurant food. Or, make a sandwich made with whole grain bread and lean meat. Add fruit for a healthy meal.

Prepare for restaurants

Dining out is an essential and pleasant aspect of vacations, and travelers want to ensure that they take advantage of local cuisine. But dining out all the time can pack on the pounds unless defensive dining strategies are implemented. Before leaving for a restaurant, it may be wise to find the menu online and determine what you want to order beforehand. Check nutrition information if it is published online. Being aware of menu “watch” words is also very important. Avoid foods labeled as battered, bottomless, or buttered to help your waistline. Reading reviews of local restaurants from other travelers in the area can tip you off as to restaurants that might provide healthier options. Those who do some research can enjoy dining out without having to worry about eating too many calories. When researching menus, don’t forget to pay attention to alcohol calories as they can add up quickly.

Take intentional walks and plan activities

avoid vacation weight gain through activity

Explore the area. Walk the beach or visit several local towns. Charge your Fitbit and go the extra steps. It’s usually more fun to get those steps on the beach or in a new area, so go for the experience. Consider packing light weight travel equipment. A jump rope, varying weight bands, and massage balls are the perfect light weight workout equipment to toss in your suitcase.

Vacations are essential for both mental and physical health. But, those looking to eat well to stay healthy will need to prepare. Fortunately, vacationers now have a number of tools to help them along the way, and travel does not have to mean that extra weight will follow you home.

How do you eat smart while traveling?

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Willpower for Weight Loss? Not the Best Strategy

willpower for weight loss does not work

If the cupcake was not in your house, it would not be an option.

Many of us think that it’s necessary to have willpower for weight loss. We think, “If only I am strong enough and determined, if only I exercise self-control with my diet and exercise, I will be able to maintain a healthier lifestyle and weight.” Such thinking can be mighty self-limiting. It converts a positive decision- to be healthy- into another reason to feel guilty if willpower isn’t enough to get the weight loss started and the goal achieved.

Environment vs. willpower for weight loss

For this reason, if you are my client, I advocate a different approach. Namely, I believe that willpower is a self-defeating concept when it comes to losing weight or maintaining weight loss. Instead, I counsel my patients to control their eating environments. By sustaining a “healthy” eating environment, you can also assist in improving your own health and weight. Such an environment means limiting the high calorie and fat foods in your home, so that you are not tempted to succumb to their temptation, which in turn makes willpower at home irrelevant.

Tips for weight loss without willpower:

Toss your leftover goodies for weight loss 

If you have trouble pitching them, give them to a skinny friend or bring them to your office. A moment on your lips can result in months on your hips, as the saying goes. Evaluate if it is worth the momentary gratification.

Be smart when grocery shopping

Avoid putting high temptation foods in your cart in the first place. Self-control only needs to happen at the grocery store. Avoid impulse purchases with a planned grocery list that you stick to. And, as you have heard before, don’t grocery shop when you are hungry. It be a good idea to also not shop when you are pressed for time or tired.

Stock up on lots of healthy foods 

These healthy foods are your “tools” for successful weight loss. If you are concerned about fresh foods perishing, remember, frozen foods are just as nutrient dense as their fresh counterparts! Here are some suggestions for keeping a healthy stocked kitchen.

Limit treats to 150 calories or less

There are many desserts available that are pre-packaged and under 150 calories. These lower calorie treats can be great for curbing our sweet tooth. Here’s a list of 50 calorie treats providing protein, fiber, and help for your sweet tooth. If others in your household just have to have certain high calorie treats in the house, tell them to make them unavailable to you. In plain English, let them hide them.

Keep undesirable foods out of sight

Make these food items hard work to get to. Don’t keep the ice cream in the freezer; instead, if you want to indulge, make it so you have to go out and get your portion of ice cream. And if you do go out and indulge at the ice cream shop, think about some smart strategies ahead of time. A little mental preparation ahead of time can help you make the best choices for your health and waistline.

While there are always other eating and dining obstacles to be faced while trying to lose weight and keep ourselves healthy, take a step in the right direction by reducing your reliance on willpower and making your home a healthy eating environment!

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50 Calorie Snacks: Something for Everyone!

 

Do you like to snack? It seems most of us do if we have the choice. According to one survey, in 2018, 43% of respondents reported eating three meals and a few snacks on a daily basis. And, another 32% usually skip or replace one meal per day with snacks. Impulse snacking is not the only type of snacking. Planned snacking is also on the rise, and choosing 50 calorie snacks with a strategic purpose is smart eating!

According to a Nielson report, 33 billion US dollars are being spent on snacks. The current trend for snacks is opting for snacks that call attention to health claims. Choosing packaged convenience snacks that are non-GMO, free of artificial colors/flavors, and low in sugar are leading the way.

If your goal is managing blood sugar or weight, opting for a healthier low calorie snack is not optional. Poor snacking can definitely wreck the best eating plans. But, selecting healthier snacks that fit your personal calorie requirements and dietary needs can help your overall healthy eating strategy.

50 calorie snacks

50 calorie snacks with some protein

Protein offers the dietary advantage of making you feel full for a longer time period. It helps regulate blood sugar by stabilizing it. And, in order to maintain blood sugar levels, it is not necessary to consume a large amount of protein. The portions below will often be just enough to keep hunger pangs away by preventing drastic drops in your blood sugar levels.

  1. 1 slice of 2% milkfat American cheese
  2. 1 oz. of lean turkey
  3. 1/2 cup skim milk
  4. 1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese
  5. Laughing cow cheese wedge
  6. 1 oz. flank steak
  7. 1/3 cup garbanzo beans
  8. 3 oz. Dannon Greek yogurt
  9. 3 Tbsp. egg whites
  10. 1 oz. chicken

50 calorie snacks to satisfy your sweet tooth

While there’s nothing unusual about having a sweet tooth, most people know that this can get out of control. Knowing the portion sizes that can satisfy your sweet tooth without ruining your waistline is important for your sanity and health. The ten options below will help your cravings and keep your trim.

  1. 1 fig bar
  2. 5 jelly beans
  3. 12 M & M candies
  4. 1 vanilla Snackwell cookie
  5. 1/2 of a low fat 100 calorie ice cream sandwich
  6. 2 Hershey kisses (more ideas for chocolate cravings)
  7. coffee with 1 tsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. half and half
  8. 2 marshmallows
  9. diet root beer float made with diet root beer + 1/4 cup ice cream
  10. 1/4 cup frosted mini wheats

And, to fill you up with fiber!

Fiber has so many health benefits for so many medical concerns. One of the key benefits of fiber is that is fills you up-we say it offers satiety. If you feel full, then you will theoretically be less inclined to keep eating. Obviously, feeling full is great while you are trying to shed some pounds or manage weight.

  1. 12 baby carrots
  2. 1 cup watermelon
  3. 10 dill pickles
  4. 1/2 grapefruit
  5. 15 grapes
  6. 1 cup cantaloupe
  7. 15 cherry tomatoes
  8. 1 cup light popcorn
  9. 1/2 oz. melba wheat toast crackers
  10. 1 large chopped pepper

Care to share your favorite 50 calorie snack? I’d love to hear from you. And, if you enjoyed this post, would you please share? I am trying to grow my readership.

Enough Vitamin D: A Challenge

getting enough vitamin D a challenge even with sunWhy is vitamin D important?

A large percentage of people worldwide are not meeting the challenge of getting enough vitamin D. Doctors and dietitians have known for decades that this nutrient is important for bone health, but the list of reasons why we need optimal levels is growing. Researchers note an extensive list which includes warding off cancer, heart disease, depression, dementia, certain skin diseases, and high blood pressure. As vitamin D receptors are everywhere in the body, any part of the body will be affected by a deficiency.

How come we aren’t getting enough?

It’s dubbed the “sunshine” vitamin because we can both make it from sun exposure and get it from food. Given the right circumstances, our bodies are very adept at making this vitamin. Ultraviolet light from the sun shines on a cholesterol compound on our skin, then that compound is transformed into a vitamin D precursor which gets absorbed into the blood. Over the next day, the liver and kidneys finish converting this compound to the active form of vitamin D.

The factors that interfere with making this vitamin are directly related to factors that block our exposure to the sun. Think sunscreen use, air pollution, city living, geography, and dreary winters. Even our skin pigment is a factor as darker-skinned people synthesize less vitamin D than lighter-skinned people.

Sunshine makes vitamin D: a challenge to get enough

Enough vitamin D: A challenge

Food sources vs sunshine

So if we cannot make it efficiently, how we can we get it from food? In terms of food sources, it’s interesting to compare sunshine vs. food. According to an old but very interesting 2009 AARP article (unknown author), you would need to eat the following amounts of food just to get the amount the amount of vitamin D your body makes in 10 minutes:

  • 6.5 pounds of mushrooms
  • 150 egg yolk
  • 3.75 pounds of salmon
  • 30 servings of fortified cereal
  • 2 pounds of sardines
  • 30 cups of fortified orange juice

Adult requirements

vitamin D challenge

While this is an interesting comparison, it is not a realistic diet strategy. The current adult recommendations for vitamin D intake are 600 IUs for those aged 19-70 and 800 IUs for those over 70 years old. Unfortunately, foods with vitamin D are limited. Some common foods with vitamin D content include:

  • 566 IU from 3 oz. swordfish
  • 440 IU from 1 tsp. cod liver oil
  • 400 IU from 3 oz. salmon
  • 228 IU from 3 oz tuna
  • 137 IU from 1 cup fortified orange juice
  • 120 IU from 1 cup fortified milk
  • 100 IU from 3/4 cup enriched cereals
  • 40 IU from 1 egg

As you can see, with limited sun exposure and limited foods with vitamin D, it can be challenging to have adequate vitamin levels. This is why supplementation is such a hot topic and why many people end up taking a supplement. The question is, “how much to take?”  A simple blood test determines if you need a supplement and how much to take.

What is your experience with vitamin D levels on your health and how did you determine you needed to supplement your diet?

For more thoughts on supplements for baby boomers.

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