Magnesium: Would You Benefit from a Supplement?

supplements from a bottleMagnesium is everywhere in our diet

It is fairly abundant in green leafy vegetables, peas, broccoli, nuts, seeds, lentils, whole grains, fish, and bananas and even tap water. With that stated, most references will state that there is only a small percentage of people in the US not meeting their magnesium requirement. Interestingly, when my nutrition college students would assess their diets with nutrition analysis software, they almost never consumed the required 300-400 mg. of magnesium.  So, I guess that begs the question of what “nutritional” camp are you in? Do you implement healthy eating and try to eat a variety of foods on a regular basis, or do you shun whole grains, fruits, vegetables? Perhaps you are trying to eat a healthy diet, but have opted to decrease your carbohydrate intake along the way, which can also impact your consumption of magnesium rich foods since many carbohydrate rich foods are sources of magnesium.

Medical conditions thought to benefit from supplementation include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and GERD treated with certain medication
  • Menstrual pain
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Hearing loss
  • Hypertension
  • Leg cramps in pregnancy

Fibromyalgia

Tough pain times mean its best to tackle it toughly.  I am all too familiar with this pain and the impact on daily life since I have it. Most of the time I manage fairly well, but sometimes with extreme stress it will rear it’s very ugly head. Recent events in my life seemed to have triggered the pain to a increased level for an extended time period. I will now begin supplementing with magnesium as one type of adjunct therapy for my pain. There are many prongs of intervention and management for fibromyalgia, so keep in mind this is not meant to be a sole treatment recommendation for everyone suffering from fibromyalgia, only one potential aspect of management. Again, there are many aspects of management-far too many to address is this blog.

Guidelines

Keep some guidelines in mind when taking a magnesium supplement for any reason.  When selecting a supplement, you want to try and ascertain the product actually contains the labeled amount of magnesium, is untainted with contaminants, and it breaks apart for digestion. And lastly, cost per pill may be an issue. While you can figure out the cost per pill with a calculator, the rest of the list is a bit murkier to sift through. The vitamin industry is self-regulating, so go with a name brand as quality control will be high on their list oUSP logof concerns.  Take note if the USP logo on a supplement label is present. This logo assures the nutrient will actually be absorbed, rather than passing though your body undigested.

Additionally, keep these points in mind:

  • MAGNESIUM OXIDE-economical, but absorbed less effectively; may cause diarrhea in susceptible individuals
  • MAGNESIUM CITRATE AND MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE may be formulas that are better absorbed and may have fewer side effects if taken at higher dosages.

Lastly, remember these supplements are meant to supplement the magnesium you are consuming through your diet. If you are not clear on the amount of supplement you might benefit from, consult a qualified dietitian for advice.

Have magnesium supplements helped you with any of your medical concerns? Do you have a brand you trust?

 

 

 

How Does Your Favorite Cereal Stack Up?

 

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Did you know cereal is a healthy nutrient dense carbohydrate? Selecting a good breakfast cereal means you will be providing complex carbohydrates to efficiently fuel your brain and body.  A good quality breakfast cereal should have fiber and not much sugar.  I like to see a breakfast cereal with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving.  Speaking of “serving”, how big is your portion? Most people actually do not mentally note the serving size on the Nutrition Facts Label and are rather shocked to find out, for instance, that a serving of Frosted Mini Wheats is just 21 pieces!   It’s ok to double your serving size, but this will be an issue if you are trying to control your calories along with other nutrients.

Thumbs Up to Fiber

Fiber aids digestion, stabilizes blood glucose levels, aids in blood cholesterol reduction, and can offer a feeling of satiety to actually aid in weight reduction! That’s a lot of benefits from a bowlful of fiber rich cereal.

Thumbs Down to Sugar

Did you know that every 5 grams of sugar yields one teaspoon of sugar?  So, that fruity loop cereal your kids love which contains 15 grams of sugar contains 3 teaspoons of sugar per serving.  That assumes your serving size is what is noted on the box.  Pour a second bowl and you double your sugar consumption along with the calories.

Thumbs Down to Fat

A cereal is mostly complex carbohydrate and should not have much fat in it.  Some whole grain cereals will have a natural small amount of fat, but if the fat content per serving of the cereals gets too high (over 3 grams), then the assumption is fat has been added in production.  A classic example of a cereal with excessive fat per serving is Kellogg’s Crackling Oat Bran which contains 7 grams of fat per 3/4 cup serving.

Thumbs Up OR Down to Iron.  

If you are a female of child bearing age, or a growing child, then enriched breakfast cereal is an excellent source of dietary iron. For everyone else, beware!  Males and older women do not need the large amount of iron in cereal.  Too much iron is constipating and also an issue if you have a common genetic condition called hereditary iron overload.  If you have been paying attention to the iron content of cereal, you know it is very difficult to find a cereal without iron.  In fact, many popular lower sugar and high fiber cereals are also loaded with iron. For instance Wheat Chex (6 grams fiber) contains over 14 grams of iron.  Cheerios contains 8 grams of iron. This is too much iron for men and older women who only need 8 mgs. per day and will be getting additional iron in the diet through other foods.

Cereals with less iron include:

  • Kashi cereals range from virtually no iron up to 2 mg depending on the variety selected
  • Puffins have less than 1 mg
  • Cooked oatmeal has less than 2 mg
  • Fiber One has 4.5 mg
  • Frosted Cheerios have 4.5 mg
  • Basic 4 has 4.5 mg
  • Flax Plus Multibran Flakes has less than 2 mg
  • All Cascadian Farm Organic cereals (my new “find”), have less than 2 mg iron

Enjoy your cereal for breakfast, snacks, and maybe even dinner, but make sure you choose one that is right for your health.

The Potential Hidden Danger in Your Cereal: Iron

cereal and high iron content

How much iron is in your cereal? Is it the right amount for you?

We all know iron is something we need to stay healthy and prevent anemia.  But did you know that too much dietary iron can hurt your health? When choosing a cereal, most people grab what tastes good. If they are health conscious, fiber rich cereals low in calories and sugar might be selected.

One of the main problems with iron fortification in cereal is that the cereal is fortified for the part of the population that needs the most iron. That part of the population is women of childbearing age. So, listen up adult males and older women: you, in particular, need to be mindful of the iron content of your favorite breakfast cereal.

Check the Nutrition Fact Label for iron in your favorite cereal

When looking at a Nutrition Fact Label, note the percentage of DV iron. Looking at the above label, if a young female of child-bearing age has a 3/4 cup serving of Wheat Chex, she will be consuming 80% of her iron requirements (or about 14 grams of iron). However, if an adult male or older woman eats 3/4 cup of the above cereal, he/she will be consuming almost double the iron recommendation of 8 grams of iron. The fact that so much of our food supply is fortified with iron increases the risk that this hefty load of iron in a single serving of breakfast cereal could be problematic.

What exactly is the problem with eating too much iron? Research has suggested the following:

Accelerated Aging Process?

Researchers recently pointed this out in worms, and will likely try to evaluate if this applies to aging in humans. In the interim, we already know that iron causes oxidative stress. Oxidative stress in humans is thought to be involved in the development of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Constipation

Aside from being unpleasant, this is not healthy for your body. Any toxins or food pathogens present in your food will linger in your gastrointestinal tract, and potentially threaten your overall health. There is also scientific evidence that constipation can be a risk factor for colorectal cancer.

Iron Overload Concerns

Healthy people make a hormone, hepcidin, which swings into action to prevent too much iron from being absorbed. However, in a now common genetic condition called iron overload (or technically Hemochromatosis), the body is unable to put the brakes on iron absorption and iron begins to build up in the tissues. Early symptoms are varied and include fatigue, abdominal pain, and increased infections. Later symptoms include liver failure and heart failure, bone damage, and diabetes.

For those who have yet to be diagnosed with iron overload, choosing a cereal with generous iron is particularly problematic. Healthy males and older women should read the cereal Nutrition Fact Label to make the best choice for iron intake. Chances are your cereal has too much, so buyer beware.

Have a favorite breakfast cereal which is low in iron? This excess iron fortification is a serious nutritional problem, so I’d love to hear what cereals you have found that are lower in iron!

 

 

Homemade Chicken Soup: Oh So Good and Good For You!

chicken soup

Homemade chicken soup made in my favorite Cuisinart electric pressure cooker

It seems as though sinus infections, the stomach flu, bronchitis, and muscle aches are making the rounds in my large family and we don’t even live in the same house! I finally found both the energy and time to take out my favorite cooking equipment, my pressure cooker, to make some virus fighting fuel.  We have all heard that even canned chicken noodle soup can help fight a cold, but I was eager and ready to taste the rich flavorful type of chicken noodle soup I could make with my electric pressure cooker. At this point, I decided I would enhance the rich flavor by making the chicken stock base in my pressure cooker rather than using low sodium chicken broth.

Pressure Cooker Homemade Chicken Stock Ingredients

2 pounds of chicken wings
small onion
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 bay leaves
5 parsley sprigs
2 quarts water

Cook all ingredients on high pressure for 40 minutes. Use a natural release to continue extracting the flavors.  Strain the stock. Cool the stock in order to skim the fat off.  If time is short and you need to use the chicken stock before it is completely cool, use a chilled lettuce leaf to help skim the fat off the stock.  The chilled leaf will actually attract the fat in the broth to allow for removal.

On to the Chicken Soup….

  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound of skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper, to taste
  • 6 cups of your homemade chicken stock recipe or 6 cups low sodium packaged chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 cup egg noodles (may substitute rice or orzo)

Saute the celery, onion, and carrots in the tablespoon of oil for a few minutes.   Add the chicken breasts, thyme, salt, pepper, and stock or broth.  Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes; when done release the pressure quickly.  Add in the chopped parsley and then cook the egg noodles or other pasta or rice in the hot soup.

In addition to being a “comfort” food, chicken soup will fight inflammation, thin your mucous, and hydrate you which will all hopefully fight whatever ails you!

Do you have a favorite chicken soup recipe?  Interested in more soup recipes?

 

 

 

Fish Oil: Good For Furry Friends Too!

 

Mollie2endless summer

My rescued Golden enjoying the summer shade a few years ago

As a practicing dietitian/nutritionist, I recommend fish oil to my patients all the time.  While my credentials and experience let me call myself an “expert” in human nutrition, I would never make the same claim for animal nutrition.  Animals are not humans, and while some aspects of human nutrition can and do cross-over to recommendations for our pets, I do not pretend to have the expertise in animal nutrition to know which principles of human nutrition would apply equally to our beloved furry friends.

Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3-fatty acids and for humans benefits include:

  • Lowering blood triglycerides, decreasing cardiovascular disease risk
  • Fighting inflammation, a cause of pain and disease
  • Controlling certain skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema, and just plain old dry skin

My Furry Friend

I have a very dear Golden Retriever that was rescued from a shelter at the age of one.  She is now a senior canine.  A recent trip to the vet along with a xray of her back showed osteoarthritis and disc degeneration.  The standard Rimadyl was started (an analgesic and anti-inflammatory) along with Dasuquin for joint support.  As my options for therapy seemed limited, a vet tech at the office made a comment to me about fish oil.  He said human fish oil supplements were good for dogs, and the dosage would be the same as for humans.

Sounding like a benign and economical option, I did some research.  Digging a bit into the literature, it seems fish oil supplementation for dogs is a very common practice.  As a practicing dietitian, I frequently run into incorrect supplement dosage recommendations made for people, and often those dosage recommendations are made by physicians.  For supplements to be therapeutic for humans, dosing does matter.  Too much of a supplement may foster a toxic situation or promote interference of other important nutrients essential to health.  Too little, and there may be no clinical impact.  So a bit of research gave me insight into the dosing for dogs.  To figure out how much fish oil to give your dog, take your dog’s weight in pounds and multiply by 20.  So, if your dog weighs 75 pounds, the dosage of fish oil would be 1500 mg.

No special doggie fish oil is necessary.

Human fish oil supplements are fine.  But, many pills are on the larger side, so you may pierce the pill and put on food.  Or, if your dog is like my dog, she will eat anything in a piece of bread.  Nature Made brand Fish Oil “pearls” are on the smaller side and 500 mg per pill.  This smaller size and dosage pill makes dosing and administration of fish oil easy!

My hope is that fish oil will cut Mollie’s dander and ease her joint pain while also decreasing her prescription medication.  Check with your vet before self-prescribing fish oil as other health issues may impact the decision as to if it’s appropriate.

Making Weight Loss a Reality: 5 Surefire Simple Steps

Woman Stepping onto ScalePerhaps you started off the year with the best intentions, like most people.  You were going to hit the gym and lose twenty pounds by March.  Then the wind, snow, and winter doldrums came, and have not gone away.  Your best intentions for weight loss fizzled out as you became tired of it all, again (both the snow and the lost commitment).

It happens! But, this can be the beginning of the end of your weight loss hassles as long as you follow some historically successful suggestions.  Consider the following:

Know your “magic” number

You need to eat fewer calories than your body needs in order to burn body fat, which is the objective in weight loss.  You do not want to lose water or muscle mass, you want to lose body fat.  If you take your current weight, and multiply by 10, this will be a good gauge of the amount of calories you should consume to cause weight loss.  So, if you weigh 135 and you wish to lose weight, multiply 135 by 10, and your good starting point is 1350 calories.  If you have a complicated workout schedule or need very specific guidance due to diseases such as diabetes, PCOS, and chronic fatigue syndrome, consider consulting with a dietitian to find the best calorie prescription for your circumstances.

Track your food

It truly works!  If you know your magic number, but have no idea how much you are eating, you will stay fat.  My favorite tracking tool is MyFitnessPal because it is a very user-friendly app and makes tracking food a snap.  You can literally snap a picture of a bar code on a food item and the nutrition information will go to the data base.  Because everyone is on the go, using this app for food tracking eliminates the need to park yourself at the computer.  If you track your food as you move through your day, it will also be much more accurate!

Eat only foods you can really track

If this means you avoid a restaurant because you do not have the nutrition information, so be it.  You want to be accurate with your food tracking, so make it a policy to eat only what you can intelligently measure in terms of calories.  MyFitnessPal has a large nutritional data base, but you won’t be able to accurately document your chicken parmesan from your favorite local Italian restaurant.  You will be guessing on the calories, and this is to be avoided.

Get a good digital scale 

Ok, you hate weighing your food, I know.  But the reality check here is that you don’t need to do it often.  For instance, I started tracking my food today, and weighed my portion of peanuts.  The label stated that 1 oz. of peanuts was 160 calories.  I knew I was not going to eat that many of my calories as peanuts, so I weighed out 1/4 oz.  I counted the peanuts as roughly 15, so now I know what a reasonable portion is for me.  Another point, leave the scale on the counter to remind you to use it!

Moving around help

Yes, exercise is great, but if you cannot exercise, that is not an excuse for not losing weight.  Exercise aids weight loss both in the short and long-term, but you can so undermine your gym time by not paying attention to what you put into your mouth.

No one ever said it was easy to lose weight.  Like anything important, it takes some effort and concentration.  With that stated, I believe anyone can lose weight, you simply need the right tools and commitment.

 

Should You Take Supplements: Facts to Consider

Nutritional supplements

News coverage over the last few days seems to be revolving around the weather, the holidays, and of all things nutritional supplements!  While I can’t comment about most of the current media topics, I do have a few words to say on the topic of supplements! If you listen to the media hype over the last few days, there are some recurring statements from the so-called experts. This begs the question of whether we should be taking supplements.

Expert comments

Some “experts” note our nutrients should come only from food. Others suggest  “natural” whole foods be put into pill form. The truth and correct answers are most likely somewhere in between the black and white statements made by these so-called experts. Unfortunately, not one “expert” ever suggested that each person should be evaluated on a case by case basis. To determine if supplements are right for you, consider these tips:

Supplements fill in dietary gaps

If you eat a healthy diet, there is a fairly good chance you can skip taking pills! If you are lactose intolerant, don’t eat any foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, or are vegan, then you may need a supplement. Consulting a licensed/registered dietitian can help you sort out what you may need to be doing with supplements.

Supplements are of benefit to your health if you have a documented deficiency 

Wondering if you should really be taking vitamin D supplements? You should have a blood test to determine if you need to be taking a supplement. Once blood work is done on my clients, most have turned out to be deficient. Correction of a deficiency is usually easy to do with diet or supplements. For a vitamin D deficiency, sunshine may be the prescription!

Be aware of upper limits of safety 

Many people taking multiple supplements forget they may be doubling or tripling their intake of a nutrient because they are taking multiple pills. Beyond a certain limit, it can be dangerous to ingest too much of a single nutrient. Some nutrients can even be toxic if taken in excess. Your favorite dietitian can be your best resource for this information!

Food is your best source of nutrients 

Mother nature packages foods perfectly with the best combination of nutrients. The mixture of nutrients designed by mother nature work effectively together. With that stated, those people who eat a lot of processed foods and a limited diet may indeed benefit from specific supplements. An evaluation of your diet and eating habits is the best way to move forward with accurate supplement recommendations.

Regulation of supplements

If a supplement is reported as unsafe, the stores are required to pull the product. Until then, it’s buyer beware as the supplement industry is strictly self-regulating. With that stated, the savvy consumer choosing to take supplements should consider well-known brands. Well known brands want to protect their reputation. They  will have high quality control standards. Using lesser known brands may result in lower quality control. Even arsenic and lead have tainted some supplements in the past few decades.

Not all supplements are good or bad. Not all people need them. Consulting a professional to evaluate your diet prior to making recommendations both improves your health and saves you money.

Tips To Decrease Your Triglycerides: 6 Easy Steps

six tips to decrease your triglycerides

Decreasing blood triglyceride

Do you need to decrease your triglycerides? Triglyceride levels are the blood fat not readily discussed during your doctor’s appointment. The focus may be more on your blood cholesterol level. But, blood triglyceride levels are still very important to your heath. If your blood triglyceride value is elevated, your blood is thick like motor oil. This can contribute to heart disease. Here are six simple tips to decrease your triglycerides.

Limit alcohol as the first of 6 tips to decrease your triglycerides

For some people, cutting out alcohol drastically lowers triglyceride levels. While you may like it if your doctor tells you red wine is healthy, your dietitian knows it can increase your triglyceride levels. So, I tell patients to eat grapes instead! I know it’s not as fun, but it works.

Choose fats wisely

Replace butter with olive oil. Don’t forget to swap these fats for each other! Simply adding olive oil to your diet on top of your usual butter intake will not decrease your triglyceride level. That also goes for topping your salad with a whole avocado. While an avocado has heart healthy fat, the impact on your triglycerides will be the same as too much olive oil. Scale it back to a small wedge or 2 Tbsp.

Decrease simple carbs

Carbohydrates are basically divided into two categories: complex and simple. Bread, pasta, rice, fruit, and vegetables are examples of complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates tend to be sweet, such as soft drinks, desserts, candies, and syrup. Individuals should avoid simple carbohydrates in order to decrease triglyceride levels. Some people are so biologically sensitive to sweets that their triglyceride levels drastically increase when they eat too much sugar.

In any healthful diet, complex carbohydrates should be in the 45-65% range of overall calories. But even excessive amounts of healthy complex carbohydrates can elevate triglycerides. Triglycerides often decrease when complex carbohydrates are less than 60% of the overall diet.

Eat more omega-3 fatty acids

Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring give us omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include: tofu, soybeans, flaxseed, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.

Increase physical activity 

Aerobic exercise can help with weight loss and decrease triglyceride levels at the same time. Triglyceride reduction occurs with both short bouts of exercise and longer term repetitive exercise. Most studies find that the best bet is to do 30-45 minutes of moderately intensive exercise five times a week. Have your doctor approve an exercise program if you have been inactive.

Maintain or get to a healthy weight as a final tip to decrease your triglycerides

A healthy body weight has been shown to correlate with lower blood fats-including both triglycerides and cholesterol.

In Summary

Start lowering your triglycerides by cutting down your alcohol and total fat. Add some more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. And, lastly, ramp up your physical activity and get to a healthy weight. These steps usually get the job done when trying to decrease triglyceride levels.

Do you have a success story about how you lowered your triglyceride numbers?

Want to get a bit more insight, click here.

5 Tips to Trim Thanksgiving and Trim You Too!

Turkey Dinner

Healthier Thanksgiving menu

With Thanksgiving around the corner, here are 5 simple ideas to trim your calorie count on Thanksgiving without feeling like you gave up your favorite holiday foods. If you keep in mind that most of the calories are lurking in hidden fats in your meal, you can eat slightly larger amounts of other foods, and not worry about adding another notch to your belt or wearing stretch pants for the rest of the week.

Turkey

Turkey is a lean meat. Just watch your portion size and keep in mind that a normal serving size looks like a checkbook or deck of cards. Skip the extra fatty gravy (or make your own low-fat gravy), and avoid eating the skin.  And, don’t be afraid to experiment with some of the packaged dry gravy options.  They have virtually no fat, and I have never had a guest complain about these types of gravy!

Stuffing

Avoid stuffing the dressing inside the turkey cavity. When you cook the stuffing in the turkey, you are adding more fat by virtue of turkey drippings. Dish out fewer calories and lower the overall fat content of your stuffing just by baking in a separate casserole dish.

Potatoes

Why not make your mashed potatoes with skim milk, fat-free sour cream, or broth? All these options will slash your fat and calories if making from scratch! If you order the potatoes from carry out or a restaurant, chances are they are loaded with both fat and sodium.

Alcohol

Choose a light beer, champagne, or dry wine.These are all lower calorie options to toast the November holiday.

Pumpkin pie

Have you considered a crustless version? Or, have one with crust and be the sneaky one eating the crustless version. Virtually all of the fat and calories end up in the crust, and the rest of the pie is full of health enhancing beta-carotene, fiber, and protein. Cut the sugar slightly and cut the calories more.

Here’s my recipe!

Do you have other tips for a healthy holiday dinner? Have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Clean Up Your Dirty Eating in 7 Steps

 

Clean up your dirty eating in 7 steps

You can clean up your dirty diet in 7 simple steps right now.

We are all busy! My new clients all seem to feel like there is no time to “cook”, they eat on the run, and the end result is a poor diet that will eventually impact health and weight. Through my four decades of counseling clients, I have seen the American diet deteriorate to new lows. This blog is for you! Here are 7 tips to clean up your dirty eating right now. They are simple and anyone can start these steps immediately. It’s never to late to clean up your dirty eating habits.

Eat breakfast to begin the clean up your dirty eating fast

By starting the day with healthy fuel, you are more likely to get all your required nutrients for the day. If trying to lose weight, you will use these morning calories more efficiently, and be less likely to store them as fat. You can keep it super simple-a serving of fruit, slice of toast, along with juice or milk. Try a smoothie for a change of pace. There is also the psychology of starting out the day in a positive way. It often snowballs to continuing on a positive trend as the day continues. Starting out the day poorly has the opposite effect as one does not usually improve their diet as the day continues.

Add fruits and vegetables to your day every day and ALL day

Most Americans eat far less than the minimum recommended 5 servings a day. By adding fruits and veggies to your diet, you are adding compounds to your diet that decrease inflammation. Decreasing inflammation can decrease your risk of disease.

Specific compounds called phytochemicals are found primarily in plant based foods. These phytochemicals protect the plant as it grows. When we eat those same plants, the phytochemicals serve to protect our health as well. There are many phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables and they have varying roles on our health.

Tackle this step by making sure you eat a serving of fruit and vegetable with every meal and then as snacks and voila, mission accomplished!

Drastically decrease animal protein consumption to really clean up dirty eating

Why? Animal protein is not just protein; it is also a significant amount of saturated fat. By eating less animal protein, you will decrease your intake of fat, particularly saturated fat which is artery clogging and increases inflammation. Additionally, decreasing your overall consumption of red meats such as pork, beef, and lamb will decrease our risk of certain cancers such as colorectal cancer. The American Institute of Cancer Research urges us to limit our consumption of red meat to NO more than 12-18 oz. per week. 

Don’t care or not convinced? Meat products have larger carbon footprints per calorie than grain or vegetable products. Growing plants is just easier on the health of our planet.

Avoid the fast food-restaurant trap

Dining out constantly is a sure-fire way to ruin your diet unless you constantly order salads with low fat dressing and fruit platters. Sounds boring, right? Most restaurant food is much higher in sodium, calories, and fat than the counterpart made or assembled at home. When you eat at home and pay attention to how food is shopped for, prepared, and portioned, you are completely in the driver’s seat. When you go to a full service restaurant, the chef in the kitchen is in the driver’s seat.

Don’t be afraid of some convenience foods in the grocery store

I can almost guarantee that if you eat some brands of frozen dinner such as Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine, you will be better off than going to the local fast food chain or diner. Why? The meals are portion controlled; you know what you are eating because you can see a Nutrition Fact Label. We have been brainwashed to think that these meals have too many chemicals, etc. There are many nutritional advantages to these items as a back up to a chaotic schedule that necessitates relying on dining out to get your meals consumed. And, it is cheaper.

Meals can be large snacks that do not require cooking

Throughout the years, clients have told me that they would eat cereal for dinner because they are too tired to cook. I think those same clients expect me to say “how awful”, when I actually tell them this is not a problem. A bowl of cereal along with skim milk or milk alternative and a nice serving of fruit is actually a nice low-calorie and low-fat meal providing protein and carbohydrates in reasonable quantities. You can also just serve yourself a smoothie made with frozen fruit and throw in some yogurt or cottage cheese to bump up the protein content.

Track your food to really clean up your dirty eating

Better yet, track your diet with a really good app like MyFitnessPal. It will allow you instant analysis of what you are eating, and more importantly, makes you face the music. ALL my clients that have been tracking their food with this app are eating better and losing weight if that was the objective. Even if you are seeing a nutrition counselor, tracking your food forces you to be accountable to yourself between appointments. This app is free and my favorite, but there are many options available.

Bottom line to clean up your dirty diet

Start the day with a healthy breakfast .Don’t delude yourself into thinking it is too time consuming. Eat less meat (sorry keto people) and a lot more fruits and vegetables. Be in control of your diet by eating out less, and doing your own meals at home. Consider packing a lunch and snacks to bring to work. You do not need to cook as you can capitalize on all the foods available in grocery stores. Consider using already cooked foods and healthier versions of frozen dinners which provide ease and portion control.

If you enjoyed this post, please share. I am trying to increase my readership.

Do you have other easy and practical tips on how you cleaned up your diet?