A Strong Diet: Food That Pumps You Up

Man Lifting Weights

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 Zumba 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.

Bulking up

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 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.

Role of carbohydrates

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 complex carbohydrates in oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta release their energy more slowly. This provides your body with a constant source of energy to pull those final shoulder presses from. 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. Getting enough of the complex carbs in your daily diet spares protein to work to assist in building and repairing your muscle!

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

As 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. If you’re not used to drinking water consistently throughout the day, start with breakfast and bump up your fluid intake. 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.

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!

This post was written for Chew on this blog by Dr. David Kulla. Dr. Kulla is a licensed New York Chiropractor and a nutritionist as well as owner of //synergywellnessny.com in Manhattan.

Cheers to a Healthier BBQ Menu this July 4, 2013!

MP900384725It hasn’t seemed to be much of a summer yet in the Midwest.  We have had a lot of rain and not a lot of warm days, but the calendar says July 4th is around the corner.  For my family, it will mean back yard grilling and feeding a crowd.  Feeding a crowd on a holiday does not have to mean your health goals fall apart.  We are a pretty health conscious crowd, so here is what I am thinking as possible menu items for this week:

For an appetizer, try fat-free/low-fat easy bruschetta.  My husband just whipped this together last night as part of an easy Sunday night meal using some not too tasty dried out bakery bread.  He toasted thin slices of the dry bread, and then ladled his tomato mixture on top. He mixed diced tomatoes, fresh garlic, and balsamic vinegar  together (to taste, no oil included).  Topped with fresh basil and a pinch of fresh Parmesan cheese, it was wonderful and fat-free with no guilt issues returning for a third serving!

For the entrée, consider the following:

  • Jenni-O brand turkey brats-saves you at least 10 grams of fat and 100 calories over the standard counterpart. When we eat brats or serve brats to a crowd, we never eat the standard product and quite frankly, after soaking in beer and onions, one cannot tell the difference.
  • Fruit and/or vegetable and meat kebobs will save you calories by cutting down on the amount of meat consumed.  The quality of this meal will be improved by substituting the fruit and/or vegetables for the meat which adds healthy anti-oxidants from the fruits and vegetables while cutting down on saturated fat from meat.
  • Instead of standard burgers, consider grilling marinated boneless/skinless chicken breasts.  Pound the breasts to about a 1/4 inch thickness, marinade in your favorite mixtures, grill up and serve on whole wheat hamburger buns!

For side dishes, consider:

For dessert:

  • Strawberry shortcake served with angel food cake, fresh diced berries, and light cool whip or whipped cream
  • Or, just indulge in your favorite ice cream at this point since you ate so much healthy food the rest of the day.

For your beverages:

For the beverages, remember they can be loaded with calories from both sugar and alcohol.  Consider having your bar and cooler stocked with:

  • Diet tonic water and lemonade which will mix well with alcohol for a reduced calorie cocktail
  • Diet pop
  • Lower alcohol and calorie beer as well!

Happy 4th of July and enjoy the summer!

Can Dietitians Write Prescriptions? Sort Of!

do dietitians write prescriptionsWhen I started out in college, I began as a premed student. Then, I took my first nutrition class. While I had been very interested in nutrition even in high school, my first college nutrition class made me quickly realize that there was a huge potential to “treat” people with food. No, dietitians do not write prescriptions, but we do a lot to help people take care of themselves. It was at that point I decided to give up the idea of being a doctor. Instead, I chose the path of dietitian.

What we do instead of writing prescriptions

Bottom line, in the traditional sense, dietitians don’t write medication prescriptions. But, we do effectively treat people with diet and lifestyle modifications that we “prescribe”. Most dietitians individualize those prescribed diet and lifestyle “prescriptions”. While we can’t heal everyone with our strategies, they are usually effective enough to impact the course of traditional physician management.

Here are just a few examples from my own practice:

  • “Ray” is referred for weight loss in order to be ready for a heart transplant. He loses 100 pounds, and in the course of the weight loss process, his cardiac enzymes return to normal. Now, he no longer needs that transplant.
  • Countless diabetics and prediabetics have been able to stave off treatment with medication by tweaking both diet and lifestyle. There are so many “dietary” bullets and lifestyle strategies that these patients can use which are effective and well tolerated. Why take medication if you can tweak your diet and physical activity to lower your blood sugar level?
  • Want to lower your blood pressure? Did you know that most of your sodium intake is from the restaurant and carry out food you consume? A dietitian can help you cut your sodium intake by making simple suggestions for alternative food options. Did you know your potassium intake can drastically affect your blood pressure? A dietitian can help you to increase your potassium intake as well!
  • And your cholesterol? If you are concerned about heart disease, there are so many dietary manipulations that can be suggested to lessen your odds of death from heart disease. Numerous clients have saved themselves with the proper diet and lifestyle recommendations that began in my office.

It’s a good feeling helping people with dietary and lifestyle “prescriptions”. While in some cases it is tougher to follow through on a dietitian’s suggestions than taking a traditional drug prescription, for those that can work with a dietitian, the benefits are boundless. You might even look and feel better, as well as be healthier!

To find a dietitian to work with in your area, check out the Registered Dietitian Finder from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Mother’s Day Reflections from a Dietitian Mom and Grandma

As I contemplate the upcoming weekend and Mother’s Day, I realize that I know and respect an awful lot of amazing mothers. These mothers are my clients that I have come to know very well over the years, my friends, my relatives, and finally, my children.

These mothers always put mothering at the top of the priority list even as they pull off multi-faceted roles as wedding planners, secretaries, doctors, teachers, nurses, dentists, lawyers, administrators, and so on. The similar theme with these strong women who are amazing moms is their tenacity in nurturing and their instincts for being the driving force and support for their children.  It does not matter how old those children are, the “force” is still there. That “force” exhibits itself in various forms for various situations, but it is ever so present.

Remember to appreciate YOU

So to all those amazing mom’s out there, mom’s of little babies and adults already on their own and out of the nest, please take care of yourselves. Remember. YOU are worth your weight (no pun intended) in gold.  It’s necessary to replenish yourself to continue giving all that you give to others. Over the decades of counseling clients (as well as being a mother myself), I have realized that we can get “spent” very quickly as we go about our daily tasks of keeping our lives in line with ideals, and juggling all we do in a 24-hour period.

To keep up your pace, remember some guidance of self-care for YOU

  • Mange your diet as you would manage your business, your children, and careers!  Eating is meant to keep you well, strong, and the best you can be. It needs to be planned out as the rest of your life is planned. The outcome of this planning makes the effort worth it!
  • Feed yourself the same quality of diet you want your babies and older children to eat. Kids of all ages have a keen eye on what you are doing, and will learn to imitate your food behaviors and patterns of eating eventually, be it good or bad.
  • Take the time to eat; it is the only fuel and nutrients you will take in.  Just thinking you should eat, or taking supplements, will not give you the energy to carry on, only good quality food will do so.
  • Make sure you take the time to actually enjoy your food. Sit down at the table and teach your toddler that mom needs to enjoy her meal.
  • When sharing your meals with your children, enjoy the experience. One day they will cook for you and pick up the dishes without being asked. Remember, you are a role model, and what goes around comes around!

If you are reading this, you are probably a mother or know a wonderful mother.  I salute you all and wish you a wonderful day and upcoming week. Happy mother’s day to all those truly remarkable women called “mom”.

Lower Blood Pressure Naturally: Eat This Nutrient!

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), having high blood pressure (hypertension) puts you at risk for both heart disease and stroke. These conditions are leading causes of death in the United States. About 78 million Americans (32%) have high blood pressure. This contributes to about one million heart attacks and 800,000 strokes each year. The higher your pressure reading, the greater your health risk. Only about half (54%) the people have the condition under control. 

People are frequently unaware they have hypertension as there are no obvious symptoms. For that reason, an elevated blood pressure reading during a doctor of clinic visit might be your first sign of a problem. As pressure readings change frequently, it’s important to keep a regular eye on your blood pressure. In addition to regular blood pressure checks, try to address diet and lifestyle modifications if necessary.

Decreasing stress and lowering weight are two important and effective strategies for addressing this problem. But, there is another little known diet strategy to decrease your blood pressure. That strategy is decreasing your sodium along with increasing your dietary potassium. It’s an easy first step to controlling what is called the “silent killer.”  

Potassium rich foods to lower blood pressure naturally

lower blood pressure with potassium rich foods

Fruits and vegetables are a source of nutrients important in lowering your blood pressure.

We’ve all heard that reducing sodium intake can help lower blood pressure. What consumers are less aware of is that decreasing the salt in your diet may be only 50% of what you need to do to prevent high blood pressure and stroke risk. The rest of the story has to do with eating enough potassium rich foods. Potassium is found primarily in unprocessed whole foods. Consequently, it’s easy to get to the 4700 mg recommended potassium intake when eating lots of calories and unprocessed foods.

However, if you limit your calories and eat a lot of junky processed food, it’s much harder to reach your potassium recommendations. In order to get the most potassium for the least amount of sodium, consider eating the listed foods. In addition to being loaded with nutrients to lessen stroke and heart attack risk, these foods are high in fiber to fill you up. It’s noteworthy, that all that extra fiber is a great way to control appetite and shed a few pounds as well. Finally, weight loss can be very important in decreasing blood pressure.

  Potassium rich foods that are also low in sodium

Potassium (mgs)                    Sodium (mgs)

One medium potato                                       926                                            17

One cup winter squash                                  896                                             2

One cup low sodium V-8 juice                       820                                          140

½ cup pitted dates                                         584                                              2

One cup low sodium tomato juice                 556                                             24

½ cup spinach                                                510                                            25

3.5 oz. sweet potato                                       398                                             68

½ cup kidney beans                                       370                                              1

One small banana                                          362                                              0

1/3 avocado                                                    356                                              2

½ cup prune juice                                           353                                              5

½ cup uncooked oatmeal                               335                                              2

1.5 oz. box raisins                                           322                                             5

3 oz. cooked beef or chicken                          290                                           47

½ cup cooked broccoli                                    278                                           29

One cup raw sliced mangos                           257                                            3

¼ cup wheat germ                                           256                                           3

½ cup any melon                                              242                                          27

4 ounces orange juice                                      240                                           1

½ cup cooked carrots                                      183                                           45

One oz. walnuts (14 halves)                            125                                            1

One tablespoon ground flaxseed                       82                                            4

                                                  

By choosing more of these foods, you will slash your sodium while boosting your potassium. This boosts your chances of steering clear of stroke and heart attacks by normalizing your blood pressure! And, you may be able to eliminate or decrease your use of medication.

 

Restaurant Dining: A Hit to Your Health and Wallet

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.

The menu

It was limited, but I will be the first to state that this is not necessarily a bad thing because the focus may end up being on quality, rather than an abundance of mediocre dishes. The good news here was the staff was more than happy to substitute 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 short amount of time. This is, in fact, the key issue with dining out on a regular basis.

When my clients dine out on a regular basis, this is what I tell them to expect:

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, and 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-discipline 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 calories.

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.

While eating out is recreational for many, it should be a treat for special occasions rather than your regular diet. Doing so can keep you healthier, slim you down, and fatten your wallet.  In fact, it is a win-win way to eat.

Checking out online menus and nutrition information is key to healthier dining options.

Do you have any strategies for managing your calories, fat, and sodium while dining out?

 

Cereal Confusion: 4 Purchasing Tips for Eating Well

So what’s in your cereal? Breakfast cereal is a quick and often nutritious breakfast. For some, it also serves as an occasional lunch or dinner as well. Even though cereal can be nutritious, there are some potential  consumer pitfalls to avoid when buying cereal if your goal is to eat well. Consumers should be sure to purchase cereals with the following in mind:

Cereal should provide fiber

Most Americans are not getting enough dietary fiber and by choosing a cereal with fiber, you can improve your odds of meeting your fiber requirements. Americans should be eating between 25-40 grams of fiber, so choosing a cereal with at least 3-5 grams of fiber is a good start. Some cereals, such as the Kashi line, have 10 grams of fiber per serving.  Many fiber rich cereals are also made from the more nutrient dense whole grains. These whole grains offer a laundry list of additional nutrients aside from fiber.

Cereal should be limited in sugar

One teaspoon of sugar is equal to 5 grams of sugar. Be sure to check out the Nutrition Facts Panel on the box for this information. A cereal should have less than 3 grams of sugar.

Cereals should be limited in fat 

Cereals are primarily complex carbohydrate. If more than one to two grams of fat per serving are noted on the food label, the cereal company may have added additional fat to the product. Cracklin Oat Bran has a hefty 7 grams of fat in 3/4 cup serving, which would be excessive for a cereal.

Cereals contain too much iron for some people

 While many people need that iron fortification, seniors do not. They should take stock of how much iron is in their selected cereal.  Look at the Nutrition Fact Panel, and note if the iron is 100%. If so, it is too much, and a cereal with 0-25% iron should be selected.

Selecting a low sugar and fat cereal loaded with fiber is a good way to put your best nutritional foot forward.

 

Is Life Sans Soda Pop Really Going to Slim Us Down?

Glass of Cola with a Straw in ItToday’s news coverage seems to be focusing relentlessly on the new Coca-Cola commercial which implies the company is part of the weight loss solution, and not the cause of the obesity problem.  The commercial highlights all the reduced sugar products offered by the company-noting many are reduced calorie, calorie free, or portioned into smaller mini-servings.  Critics of Coca-Cola note all the sugar cubes in various servings of soda pop.

Empty calories from any food source consumed in excess of a person’s energy requirements will promote obesity.  Critics of regular soda pop will add that it is easier to drink excess calories than consume them through food.  This may be a valid point, but it is not in and of itself a reason to point the finger at soda pop or the Coca Cola Company as the main reason we are a fat country!  Lest anyone come to the conclusion that I condone pop-I rarely drink it or advise my clients to consume it.  There are some important health related reasons to avoid soda pop, but you never hear your doctor or the media citing the reasons-you only hear that pop makes you fat.  Some of the other reasons to avoid pop include:

Dental decay.  Give a teenager with braces regular soda pop on a daily basis and it is a recipe for a lot of cavities.  I knew a teenage boy who would only drink regular soda pop (as opposed to diet) and when the braces came off, he had seventeen cavities!

Bone Loss.  Everyone needs to be concerned about their bones.  Osteoporosis occurs in both men and women and millions of people suffer from it.  Studies show that both diet and regular soda pop may weaken bones by increasing calcium excretion.

Poorer Quality of Diet.  When dairy products or beverages containing calcium (calcium fortified soy, almond, rice milk or orange juice) are replaced by soda pop of any kind, it decreases the likelihood that individual calcium requirements are being met. Food sources of calcium are also important sources of other important vitamins and minerals, so too much soda decreases the likelihood that overall nutritional requirements are being met.

Quality of Sleep.  Many brands and types of soda pop actually contain caffeine.  While many individuals are aware of this and intentionally have pop in the morning rather than coffee, many people are unaware that caffeine may be lurking in their soda pop.  Mountain Dew and some brands of root beer contain caffeine.

Right now, in this country, you have a choice to drink pop, not drink pop, or drink a reduced or calorie free version.  The choice is that of the individual, and the individual should take responsibility.  Coca cola has simply given the consumer a choice and people make their choices which have consequences. If anything, educating the public on energy requirements and how soda pop does or does not fit into a healthy eating regimen seems in order-not the media hype of criticizing a company.  We need to begin to take some personal responsibility for how we eat and how we take care of or bodies.

Do you think the media hype and criticism are warranted?

5 Weight Control Tips for December Damage Control

Woman Stepping onto ScaleWeight loss in December is not usually the objective for my clients.  Most of my clients simply hope to hold the line on their weight.  The challenges of the holidays are numerous:  shopping which leads to more frequent fast grab lunches at the mall, office parties, stress-related eating, and family or friend gatherings during the holidays.  Here are 5 tips to help you manage the tipping point on the scale:

  • Try to eat a healthy meal before hitting the mall.  If your shopping period is an all day affair, then plan your restaurant meal in advance.  Use the Internet to preplan your options at your mall restaurant by reviewing the nutrition information online.
  • For office parties and gatherings, try to have a healthy snack of fruit or veggies prior to the festivities.  If you are feeling a sense of fullness, it will be easier to resist some of those high temptation goodies which are sure to be available.  If you are having lunch catered in, see if you can find out the menu so you can preplan how you will handle the meal to meet your health and weight objectives.
  • You can help your stress-related eating by simply controlling your eating environment at home.  Make sure your kitchen is full of healthy food options which are easy to prepare as opposed to a kitchen full of high temptation baked goods and candy.  If you must bake for the holidays, keep those baked treats where you cannot easily get to them.  Better yet, store them at skinny friend’s house.
  • For gatherings with family and friends, contribute something to a potluck which meets your dietary objectives.  Make it something healthy, but something you can enjoy as well.  Fresh shrimp, a fruit platter, or crackers with reduced fat cheese spreads are good options.
  • Watch those alcohol calories!

An ounce of prevention is probably worth much more than a pound of cure.  It is much easier to avoid weight gain, than to undo those unwanted December pounds come January.

Wishing my readers a happy and healthy holiday season and 2013.

B12 for Weight Loss: Is this Bunk/Junk Science?

B12 shots for weight lossLast evening the topic in my college nutrition class was vitamins. As we came to the topic of vitamin B12, several students inquired about B12 for weight loss. One student said her former pediatrician suggested she take B12 to help with weight loss. Several students in other course sections asked repeated questions about B12 shots for weight loss.

I must admit I was stumped as to why they would even ask about this. THEN, the spa Groupon email came this morning advertising B12 shots. The Groupon ad suggests B12 injections as an additional therapy for boosting energy and the body’s metabolism for those looking to lose weight.  The price: a mere $69.00 for 12 vitamin B12 injections. This a major savings from the original hefty retail value of $480.00! This all begs the question as to if there is any benefit to B12 injections for weight loss.

B12 injection benefits?

We do like to take pills and look for magical methods to lose weight easily. Unfortunately, I would have to say this is just another one of those gimmicks. I can find no sound scientific basis for suggesting additional B12 from supplements or injections to aid in weight loss. If someone is tired from anemia due to a B12 deficiency (called pernicious anemia), then administration of B12 will indeed give that person more energy because the person needs the B12 to treat that specific type of anemia. But, for the rest of us, that B12 will neither give us more energy or boost our metabolism.

There are ways to boost one’s metabolism, but chowing down on more B vitamins or injecting them is not a way to raise our metabolic rate. We get energy from the calories in our foods and resting our bodies. B vitamins do not give us energy, they are needed in small amounts to help the biochemical reactions that occur in our bodies to release energy from foods-that gives us energy!

B12 and meat consumption

Most people who eat animal protein are getting more than sufficient amounts of B12.  B12 is derived from animal protein, and since many Americans eat more protein than recommended, B12 is not usually an issue. For vegans, it may be necessary to take a B12 supplement to meet requirements. However, many foods are fortified with B12 (such as cereals which may have 100% of B12 requirements provided in a single serving) so not all vegans would necessarily need to be taking a supplemental form of B12.

Have you tried B12 shots for weight loss? Did you see any benefit? Right now over 200 Groupon deals have been sold!

Is this a waste of money or helpful for your waistline?