Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Added Sugars: The Scary Truth!

Halloween is that time of year when kids rejoice, parents groan and dentists cringe. The holiday by tradition is filled with sugar-glazed donuts, gooey caramel apples and chewy candies of all sorts. It is a good thing Halloween comes only once a year, as regular intake of these high-sugar foods wreaks havoc on our health in more ways than one. A study assessing the U.S. NHANES 2007-2008 data reported that added sugars provided 14.6% of total energy intake in individuals' diets with the main contributors being soda and energy/sports drinks, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and candy. The USDA recommends no more than 32gm (or 8 tsp) of added sugars/day per 2,000 Kcal of intake; this is equivalent to 6% of calories from added sugars.

So after the costumes are put away and the candy is eaten (or thrown away), what can you do on a daily basis to make sure your intake of added sugars isn't sky-high? First, lets review the facts:
  • Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation
  • Added sugars does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those that occur in milk and fruits.
  • While the body does not metabolize added vs. natural sugars differently, sources of natural sugars often contain other nutrients such as fiber or vitamins and minerals. These other nutrients benefit our overall level of health and also affect the total metabolism of the food.
  • Foods that contain added sugars include: soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks (fruitades, fruit punch, Tang), milk-based desserts and products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk), grain products (sweet rolls, cinnamon toast, donuts, Pop-Tarts, sweetened cereals, Toaster Strudels, etc.). Clearly this is not an all-inclusive list!
If you are confident the product contains only added sugars, you can calculate the number of teaspoons of sugar in that food or drink. For every 4 grams of sugar on a food label (look at total carbohydrate) that is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar in the food. Here are a few examples:
  • One 12 fl. oz. can of regular soda = 40 grams sugar = 10 tsp sugar
  • 1 jelly-filled donut = 36 grams sugar = 9 tsp sugar
  • One 2 oz. (regular-sized) Snickers candy bar = 34 grams sugar = 8.5 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup chocolate ice cream = 38 grams sugar = 9.5 tsp
The problem with targeting added sugars in our diet is that finding the added sugars is sometimes not as obvious. Many products that we believe to contain only natural sugars (such as, perhaps, yogurt) actually contain added sugars as well. With these foods, looking at the food label doesn't help. While the label lists "sugars", this doesn't always mean added sugars if there are natural sugars present and so often confuses consumers.

So, be an added sugar detective! The next time you are looking at a product, find the ingredient list. If any of these ingredients are listed, the product contains added sugars:
-brown sugar                     -invert sugar                  -anhydrous dextrose
-corn sweetener                -lactose                          -confectioners powdered sugar
-corn syrup                        -maltose                        -corn syrup solids
-dextrose                           -malt syrup                    -maple syrup
-fructose                            -molasses                     -nectars
-fruit juice concentrates     -raw sugar                     -white granulated sugar
-glucose                             -sucrose                        -cane juice, cane sugar
-high-fructose corn syrup   -sugar
-honey                                -syrup

Remember, too, that ingredients are listed by weight. So if an added sugar is one of the first few ingredients, the product is likely high in added sugar.

So what are some good ways to reduce added sugars in your diet? Come back next week to find out!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bars, Bars, Everywhere: Picking the Best One!

Dear Readers,

Today please enjoy a guest blog by Carrie Banner Aprik, MS, RD. She is the owner of Nutrition4Motion, and is the consulting dietitian for Oakland University Athletics, Michigan State University Sports & Cardiovascular Nutrition, and elite figure skaters at the Detroit Skating Club. She also teaches an introductory nutrition course at Michigan State University.

Be Extraordinary,

On the list of most common questions I get as a sports dietitian, “what’s the best bar?” ranks among the most frequent. Bars – which refer to protein bars, snack bars, granola bars, meal bars, cereal bars, etcetera – can be a useful tool for athletes who often are pressed for time and need quick and easy foods that travel well and taste good.  The answer to the “best bar” question depends on what role the bar plays in the athlete’s diet. The athlete should first ask themselves:
Are you looking for a meal replacement? Meal component? Or snack?

            When are you eating it? Pre-workout? Post-workout? Or some other time?

            What nutrients do you need more of – carbohydrates or protein?

Who knew picking out a bar could be so involved?!

For athletes, bars that provide enough calories to replace an entire meal are hard to come by. A male college athlete, for example, may need to consume upwards of 800 calories per meal. Would a meal replacement bar fill him up? Certainly not! For most active people, even those without extreme calorie needs, bars should more appropriately serve as additions to a meal, and contribute additional nutrients that are lacking in that meal. Every brand of bar contains different amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Some are even enriched with vitamins, minerals, and/or fiber. Here are some meal examples:

In this meal, the bar provides additional carbohydrate and fat:

-4 oz grilled chicken w/1 tbsp Italian dressing

-1 cup steamed vegetables

-8 oz low fat milk

-1 small apple

-1 package Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey Granola Bar

In this meal, the bar provides additional carbohydrates, protein, and fat:

-6 oz fat free Greek yogurt

-1 cup roasted vegetables

-1/2 cup fruit salad

-1 small baked potato

-1 Kashi GoLean Roll bar

          Pre- and post-workout snacks should have a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. Certain bars on their own can be used to achieve this ratio, or in addition other food. Bars used as snacks at other times of the day should be chosen based on calorie needs. For example, those looking to control body weight should choose bars that are high in fiber, and low in added sugar and calories. Below is a table of my favorite bars and their nutrient contents. It is important to remember that there is no “magical” bar (no matter what the health food store tells you) that will instantly turn you into an all-star athlete. Only the right combination of nutrition and training can do that! A registered dietitian can help you plan meals and snacks with the right bars for your calorie needs, taste buds, and schedule.



Carbohydrate (g)

Protein (g)

Fat (g)

Fiber (g)

Other nutrients*

Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey Bar






Small amount of Iron

Kashi GoLean Roll Bar






Good source of 5 vitamins & minerals; moderate amount of 4 vitamins & minerals; small amount of potassium

Luna Bar






Good source 19 vitamins & minerals; moderate amount of 5 vitamins & minerals; small amount of potassium

Clif Bar






Good source of 8 vitamins & minerals; Moderate amount of 14 vitamins & minerals, small amounts of chromium & potassium

Soy Joy






Small amounts of potassium,

vit A, calcium, & iron

Power Bar

Performance Energy Bar






Good source of vit C, calcium, & iron; moderate amount of thiamin & riboflavin, small amount of potassium

Nature Valley Trail Mix Bar






Small amount of iron

Kind Bar






Moderate amount of vit C & calcium; small amount of iron


*Small amount = <10% of daily value

 Moderate amount = > 10-20% daily value

 Good source of = > 20% daily value


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall into Fitness: 5 Seasonal Fruits & Veggies!

Dear readers:
Today please enjoy a guest blog post by a former intern, Maggie.

Be extraordinary,


Love the flavors of fall foods but don’t want to derail the fitness and nutrition regimens you’ve worked so hard to maintain all summer? Autumn brings with it a new line-up of all star fruits and vegetables that are sure to keep you fueled up while looking and feeling great.  This may actually be the perfect time to reintroduce fruits and vegetables that you may have forgotten about during the summer back to your kitchen! Use autumn as an inspiration for healthy snacks and your diet will be as nutritious as the leaves are colorful!



1.      Apples. Cider mills and apple orchards that open for the season are great places to find these seasonal superstars. Whether you like a spectacularly sweet Honey Crisp apple or prefer the crunchy crisp texture of an Empire, they are all great sources of vitamin A, which is essential for vision health. Leave the peal on for extra fiber! Pair apple slices with peanut butter or spread apple butter on Tricuits.


2.      Pumpkin. Of course fall would not be complete without picking out the perfect pumpkin to decorate your table with or in my case opting for any food “pumpkin flavored” (pumpkin spice latte anyone?), what you may not know is that pumpkin is incredibly rich in antioxidants and vitamins. It is packed with vitamin E and beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A in the body. Be sure not to forget about the seeds either, ¼ cup contains nearly 50% of the daily value recommended for magnesium, known to maintain normal muscle and nerve function. Try sprinkling pumpkin seeds into yogurt as a post-work out snack.  My personal favorite pumpkin combination is adding 2 Tbsp of pumpkin puree to cooked oatmeal topped with dried cranberries and sprinkled with cinnamon for a breakfast that tastes absolutely fall-tastic!


3.      Winter Squash. October also begins the winter squash season, unlike its summer counterpart; the winter variety has a slightly sweeter flavor and is a great complement to cinnamon and ginger. Similar to other richly colored vegetables, squash is an excellent source of carotenes. It seems as the richer the color, the higher the concentration. It offers vitamins B1, B6 and C, along with fiber and potassium. You can’t go wrong by grilling it and including it on sandwiches or baking it along with other vegetables as a side dish.  Those following a gluten-free diet can also enjoy spaghetti squash in place of pasta.


4.      Sweet Potato. Do common potatoes have you less than enthused about creating a dinner side dish? Give these beta-carotene powerhouses a try.  Not only will you be getting 30% of your daily value of fiber in a single serving, but your metabolism will also get a boost from the manganese found in this vegetable. Sweet potatoes contain important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and have shown to lower the potential health risk posed by oxygen radicals when passing through the digestive tract. Homemade sweet potato fries are a sure way to get any kid to eat their vegetables and a great source of carbohydrate for athletes looking to add variety to their meals during training.


5.      Pomegranates.  Who knew this slightly sour fruit is at its peak from August to December? A great source of vitamin C, folate and potassium, pomegranates can be enjoyed in a surprising number of delicious ways. Try adding the seeds to a salad for a sweet crunch or guzzle a glass of pomegranate juice. You will be upping your antioxidant content because of the high amount of polyphenols they contain, that protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. If you start by cutting off the blossom of the pomegranate and submerge it in cold water you can easily rub the seeds off of the skin to avoid a mess.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Quinoa: A Nutritious & Easy Way to Add Staying Power to Your Training Diet

This week, enjoy a guest blog from one of my fellow sports dietitians, Kim Schwabenbauer, RD, LDN. Kim is a Registered Dietitian, USA Triathlon Coach, Professional Triathlete, Speaker, and Model. She is the founder of Fuel Your Passion, LLC. Check out Kim's website and blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook!

Be Extrarordinary,

It’s a one of those words that until you hear it pronounced (and maybe even after) sounds a bit like you are speaking a foreign language. Trust me, as an athlete and a dietitian, this word is one you should get to know! Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a food that has so many benefits that you’ll want to include it in your every-day training diet without hesitation.  It is an ancient Peruvian seed with a mild nutty flavor that packs a powerful nutrition punch!

Just a few of the reasons to add it to your list of healthy quick go to meals is because it’s a complex carbohydrate that offers a full spectrum of amino acids.  While most grains are incomplete sources of amino acids (meaning they must be either eaten with other foods such as beans or legumes or served up with a protein source), quinoa is considered a complete protein and can stand alone.  Quinoa also contains considerable amounts of the amino acid lysine which is important for tissue growth and repair after resistance and endurance exercise (aka what we do every day as athletes!).  It is also a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium and calcium. 

For those athletes who have a gluten sensitivity or gluten allergy (Celiac Disease), Quinoa is a great alternative to regular pasta and is gluten-free.   Finally, Quinoa is an excellent source of dietary fiber which is important for regulating blood sugar spikes and digestive health. 

A 6-ounce serving of quinoa contains 132 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of protein, and 2 grams of unsaturated fat.

One of my favorite recipes utilizing this nutrient gem is from entitled Quinoa & Black Beans.  You can even watch a video available on their site on how to make this wonderful dish.  I make a batch at the beginning of the week and heat it up again and again when I’m pressed for time and it’s even better the second and third day!

Take a chance on this delicious grain by trying this recipe below.

Quinoa and Black Beans

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 35 mins

Ready In: 50 mins


·         1 teaspoon vegetable oil

·         1 onion, chopped

·         3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

·         3/4 cup uncooked quinoa

·         1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

·         1 teaspoon ground cumin

·         1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

·         salt and pepper to taste

·         1 cup frozen corn kernels

·         2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

·         1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1.      Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.

2.      Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes,

3.      Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 153 | Total Fat: 1.7g | Cholesterol: 0mg

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What to Look for in a Fitness Facility: Does Yours Measure Up?

Dear Readers-
Today, please enjoy a guest blog by a fellow friend in academia - Kimbo Yee, Kimbo is a PhD student in Exercise Physiology at Michigan State University.
Be Extraordinary,
Hello everyone.  I’m thrilled to be guest blogging for Katie today.  It’s an absolute pleasure for me that I get to share some of my thoughts with you. As someone working in the exercise science field, there are a multitude of topics I could’ve chosen to write about today, but after visiting a friend this past weekend and working out with them at their gym, I’d actually like to share some of my thoughts about what you should look for in a fitness facility.

When I asked my friend why they chose that particular fitness facility to workout at their primary reasons were: 1) Cost and 2) Location.  Those are two of the biggest factors that most people would comment about if you asked them why they workout where they do.  Although both cost and location are important, I believe the choice in a fitness facility goes much deeper than that and should be made while considering other important factors that are often overlooked.  In the rapidly growing health and fitness industry, more and more fitness facilities are opening left and right and of all varieties.  You see everything from a lot more 24-hour facilities, YMCAs, “everything and more” globo clubs like Lifetime Fitness, CrossFit gyms, and the good ol’ standard fitness facilities like Powerhouse Gym and Gold’s Gym.  It can be a tough decision figuring out which place will work best for you and the obtainment of your goals.  This is a common problem I get from people looking to start working out somewhere so here are a few key things I tell them to think about and look into when determining what fitness facility is the best for them.

Environment with Positive Energy
I’m a firm believer in that you have to have fun when you workout.  It’s one of the drawing traits to the particular forms of exercise a person engages in.  It only enhances the motivation to go to a place and get a workout in.  A fitness facility that is fun, welcoming, and that is full of positive energy only enhances the motivation to workout and lead a healthy lifestyle.  It should be a place where anyone can come in and feel that someone is interested in their goals and wants to help them achieve them and live an overall healthier lifestyle.

Interpersonal Service
I’m talking about service as in the interpersonal relationship between a client and the personnel at a fitness facility.  From the personal trainers to the front desk worker, everybody should care for every member that comes through the doors and should be ready to provide any support and motivation you may need.  You should not be viewed nor treated as just “another member of the gym”. 

Nobody wants to work out in a place where germs are aplenty.  Any proper fitness facility should be clean around the clock.  A high priority should be placed on the sanitation of equipment, locker rooms, bathrooms, and floors.  When deciding on a fitness facility, try to keep a lookout for the availability of clean towels and personal sanitizers and equipment sanitizers.  You’ll want to make sure that the cleanliness of the facility is up to your own standards.

Professional Staff
A well establish fitness facility should have a team of dedicated fitness professionals who are well educated, experienced, and certified.  This team is usually comprised primarily of personal trainers and coaches, but can also include exercise/fitness specialists, dietitians, coaches and instructors.  These are the individuals who help clients achieve their goals by steering them in the proper direction and giving them the motivation, support, and instruction to properly use exercise as a means to achieve their goal.  You’ll want to be part of a fitness facility with a team of professionals that are passionate about what they do day in and day out.

There are many other factors that I did not talk about in this blog, but I believe the ones I’ve written about are some of the most important to consider for anybody looking to exercise in an established fitness facility.  Choosing a gym is quite the important investment in living a healthy lifestyle, so one should take adequate time in determining what fitness facility is best for their needs and goals. 

Thank you for reading my guest blog.  If invited again in the future I would gladly accept and write about various exercise physiology topics (e.g., body composition testing, high intensity training etc.) or perhaps any topics any of you readers would like to hear about.  If you would like to contact me for any reason my e-mail is:

Again, thanks for reading!!!