Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Should I detox after Christmas dinner?

I originally posted this blog back in August. However, in light of the post-holiday fog, I thought it appropriate to dust it off. It's easy to believe that detoxing will make up for the "mistakes" of holiday eating and prevent the ones that may still come (...New Years???). But is it a good idea to detox after a holiday feast? Will it really help shed those pounds and "toxins" built up over the month of December?......

Search for "detox products" online and you'll get over 35,000 hits. Detox diet books number in the hundreds. Surprising? Unfortunately, no. Ridiculous? Absolutely. It's continually shocking to me the amount that some people will pay for products that have absolutely no scientific evidence that they do...anything. The theory behind detoxing is that our body becomes overloaded with "toxins" from the food we eat, mainly coming from additives, caffeine, preservatives, and alcohol. Supposedly these toxins stay in the body, wreaking all kinds of havoc, from weight gain to belly bloat to fatigue. The truth is that this entire premise is faulty.

Talk to any GI specialist and he/she will tell you the same thing: our bodies don't get "backed up with toxins" that come from the foods we eat. The body is perfectly capable of cleansing itself using its own special device: your liver. Ever heard the phrase, "You live-r you die"? You need your liver - can't live without it! It is your body's natural way of filtering out the "bad stuff" and keeping the good.

So why do people keep buying detox and cleansing products, claiming to see results? Many of these products are filled with intestinal irritants, designed to upset the lining of your gastro-intestinal (GI) system so that you go to the bathroom (and therefore think the products is effective). The products claim that this is your body ridding itself of "toxins and years of build-up", when all you have done is irritate your intestines.
Unfortunately, the consequences can go beyond mere irritation of your GI system. Many detox products or detox diets are downright dangerous. Some products require extreme fasting for days or weeks at a time, in which participants only drink liquids or eat only one or two foods. Taking in so few calories leads to severe muscle wasting (not fat loss). Still other detox products contain laxatives or colonics; these can be dangerously dehydrating and cause electrolyte imbalances in the body. Use the products enough and you will start decreasing how effectively your intestines absorb the vitamins and minerals in the food you eat. Some people become dependent on these "colon cleanses" to go to the bathroom because they have overused them and upset the natural regularity of their bodies.

Looking for a healthy way to "cleanse" your body after the holidays? Try this:

1. Drink plenty of water

2. Eat whole foods rich in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain.

3. Fuel your muscles with low-fat dairy products and other lean sources of protein.

4. Eat consistently throughout the day: every 3-4 hours is ideal.

5. With the okay from your doctor, be physically active every day.

6. Avoid laxatives and detox supplements.
So whether it's a pill, liquid, diet, or foot pad (yes, those are out there too), stay far away.
Be Extraordinary,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Eating Survival Guide for Athletes

Holidays are a wonderful opportunity to see family and friends that you might not otherwise see during the year. But what is a holiday without rich and tantalizing foods? While it is important to enjoy the holiday season and its delicacies, it is essential that you make smart food choices as an athlete. It is very easy to lose focus and suddenly find your weight up and your performance compromised. To arrive into the New Year with only positive memories of the holiday season, here are a few nutrition tips and tricks to guide you:

1.      Remember - calories in vs. calories out: Unwanted weight gain is the result of eating beyond your body’s needs.  Keep this in mind over the holidays. A great practice is to be sure to exercise on days you know will be full of eating (like Christmas). Begin the day with a great workout to kick-start your metabolism and set the pace for continued healthy choices into the evening.

2.      Vegetables are your friend: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, vegetables are a great way to feel full due to the high fiber and water content. At holiday meals, be sure at least 1/3-1/2 of your plate is loaded with vegetables.

3.      Decrease your condiments: Instead of immediately covering your foods in condiments, enjoy the taste of the actual food you are eating. You might also use spices such as cinnamon, basil, oregano, or garlic to jazz up your food without the extra saturated fat and calories.

4.      Be “choosy” with your choices: The holidays are a great time because it is often your one chance during the year to have Aunt Sue’s famous pumpkin pie, grandma’s stuffing, or cousin Vinnie’s bacon-wrapped scallops. My advice? Eat them! But choose those options over the chocolate chip cookies or the pita chips and hummus you can have any time you want. Be “choosy” – eat what you don’t always get!

5.      Be mindful: Once you decide what food(s) you are going to eat during that special holiday meal or event, avoid quickly inhaling your pickings before you even taste them. Find somewhere to sit down and truly ENJOY what you have selected. Don’t be in a hurry to eat – take your time and converse with family or friends as you eat. It is especially important to do this with holiday treat foods. It is no secret that these foods offer little nutritional value; they are simply DELICIOUS. However, these foods should be enjoyed slowly, thoughtfully, and with intention. As you are eating, take note of your hunger and satiety levels – always stop when you are comfortably full or even sooner if your craving is sufficiently satisfied.

6.      Eat a sufficient meal before evening holiday outings: If you are heading to an evening holiday party serving only appetizers or desserts, be sure to eat a well-rounded meal before leaving the house. This will provide your body with energy to help you more easily make good eating choices at the event. It is easier to make smart choices when you are not ravenously hungry.

7.      Balance your beverages: For those of you who will choose to drink alcohol during the holidays, be aware that calories add up quickly! Limit yourself to 1-2 drinks at a time and alternate with water to keep yourself well-hydrated. Choose light beers and sugar-free or low-calorie sodas and mixers to further decrease calories. Note that non-alcoholic drinks such as egg nog or juice are also loaded with calories, so drink these in small quantities (try ½ cup at a time) and focus on enjoying the taste instead of using them as a thirst quencher.

8.      Mingle away from the food table: A great trick to avoid grazing all day or night is to mingle with family or friends away from the food table. Position yourself in a completely separate room or with your back to the food table. This will help you to think less about the food because you can’t see it. It also makes you think twice before getting more food since you have to put in that extra effort to get back to the food table.

9.      Make sleep a priority: Studies show that inadequate sleep signals a hormone in your body that increases the drive to eat and makes it more difficult for your brain to gravitate toward healthy options. Help your body by getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night on average.

10.  Enjoy what truly matters: Keep in mind that what truly matters during the holidays is not the food, but the time spent with family and friends. By focusing on the enjoyment derived from people and not food, the holidays will be much less stressful for you and making healthy choices will happen naturally.

Be extraordinary,


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Healthy Convenience Foods

In a world where everyone is short on time, "I don't have time to eat healthy" is no longer valid. Although the movement toward convenience foods is generally frowned upon by nutrition professionals, there are some foods and food products that will fit the bill when it comes to quickly fueling performance.

Convenient Processed Foods
The majority of your daily food selections should be whole and unprocessed, but here are some great options for the rest of the time...
  • Brown rice packets: Only 10 min prep vs. traditional 45 min prep)
  • Whole wheat pasta: Ready in 10 min or less
  • Whole wheat couscous: Ready in 10 min or less
  • Quinao packets (pre-cooked)
  • Air-popped or low-fat microwave popcorn*
  • Oatmeal in packets or cups: Excellent for traveling!
  • High fiber cold cereal: Not just for breakfast!
  • High-fiber crackers: Try Triscuits or Kashi TLC crackers
  • Whole wheat pocket or pita bread: Stuff with fresh veggies and low-sodium/low-fat deli meat
  • Kashi granola bars
  • Whole-wheat pizza crust: Load with low-sodium sauce, veggies and low-fat meats such as ham, chicken, lean turkey pepperoni or lean ground beef
  • Canned tomatoes*
  • Individual packs of unsweetened applesauce
  • Canned beans*: Pair with brown rice
  • Canned tuna or salmon
  • Lean deli meat*: Try turkey, chicken, ham or roast beef
  • Individual cups of peanut butter: Pair with high-fiber crackers or celery sticks
  • Individual cups of hummus: Pair with high-fiber crackers or veggies
  • Individual cups of guacamole
  • Soy nuts: Great protein & healthy fats!
  • Edamame: Find in the frozen vegetable section
  • Low-fat individually packaged low sugar yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • Low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese sticks
  • Cubed or shredded cheese: Save time! Add it to your favorite meals for extra protein.
  • Frozen entrees*: These are not all bad when used occasionally, as they are often more nutritious than what would have been prepared otherwise. Look for low sodium/low fat varieties and pair with a salad, fruit and glass of low-fat cow's or soy milk for a well-rounded meal.
  • If it's in the budget, don't count out meal delivery services for all or part of your week's meals. This can be relieve the stress of meal planning and assure nutritious meals at least part of the time. Just be sure to choose the best meals (nutritionally) available.
  • Fast food options: Baked potato at Wendy's, Fruit & Yogut parfait at McDonalds, side salad at Burger King to name just a few can be a great addition to your work lunch
*Look for low-sodium varieties or rinse (if appropriate)

Convenient Fresh Foods
Perhaps the most convenient foods are truly the ones listed here. With a little pre-prep during the weekend or other day off, you can easily grab these foods and head out the door.

  • Fresh fruit: Especially apples, oranges, bananas, plums, nectarines, peaches, clementines, grapes, berries and apricots. Pair with peanut butter for protein.
  • Dried fruit: The best choices are cherries, cranberries, and blueberries. Pair with nuts or yogurt for protein.
  • Baby/cut carrots or celery strips: Pair with hummus or peanut butter for protein and healthy fat.
  • Cherry tomatoes: Pair with string cheese for protein.
  • Bagged spinach or spinach mixes: Add pre-cooked or canned chicken for protein
  • Rotisserie chicken: Pre-cooked, often still warm at the time of purchase and can be used for so many dinner ideas, including with tacos, burritos, nachos, stir-fry, fresh salads, baked potatoes, brown rice, or sandwiches. Be sure to include veggies!
  • Pre-cooked shrimp: Just like the rotisserie chicken, can be easily added to a meal as a quick protein source.
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Nuts: One of the best natural convenient foods. Look for lightly salted or unsalted varieties whenever possible.
  • Individually-packaged low-fat milk: Go for cow's milk or soy milk for adequate protein
Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nutrient Dense vs. Energy Dense: What's the difference?

Any of you who follow nutrition articles know that registered dietitians often recommending a "nutrient dense" eating pattern. But what is that exactly and which foods fit the bill? How do they differ from "energy dense" foods? As an athlete or active individual, why should you care?

Nutrient Dense
Nutrient dense simply means that in a relatively small quantity of a food, there is a large amount of vitamins and minerals. So, nutritionally you get more "bang for your buck". Nutrient dense foods are important because all metabolic processes in our body rely on adequate levels of vitamins and minerals - especially B-vitamins and Iron and Calcium. If you are an athlete, your body will stay better hydrated, recover more quickly and more efficiently use the food you eat if your intake is based on mainly nutrient dense foods. So which foods are nutrient dense? Here is a short list:

-100% Whole-grain or 100% whole wheat (WW) sources of carbohydrates, such as WW breads, pastas, rices, and rolls. A few great products are Raisin Bran, Kashi cereals, Triscuits, and Rhodes whole wheat bread varieties.
-Lean sources of protein such as grilled chicken, lean ground beef or steak, baked/broiled fish, tuna, beans, and tofu.
-Low-fat dairy sources such as low-fat milk, cottage cheese or yogurt. Greek yogurt is one example of a great product, though make sure it is not loaded with added sugar (same goes for regular yogurts).
-All fresh and dried fruits and vegetables or canned fruits in their own juice (drain the juice).
-Good sources of polyunsaturated fats such as salmon, walnuts, almonds, avocado and flaxseed.

Energy Dense
Energy dense means that in a relatively small quantity of food, there is a large amount of energy...or calories. There may or may not be a large amount of vitamins or minerals...though, typically this phrase is attached to foods that are low in vitamins and minerals and high in calories. Examples include cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy and other sweets as well as chips, fried foods, soda pop, juice drinks and coffee drinks. While foods such as avocado, dried fruit and nuts are in fact energy dense (small volume = high calories), they are also nutrient dense so are a great choice for athletes. Energy dense foods may more quickly replace calories burned during activity, but they lack the valuable nutrients needed for the body's repair and recovery. In addition, these foods tend to be high in saturated and trans fats, which are pro-inflammatory and place the body at an increased risk for illness and injury.

If you love your energy dense foods, choose them carefully. Plan to have 1-2 energy dense foods per week, but be sure to have them on off-days (preferably the day after competition versus the day before) and in small quantities. While they may taste good, they aren't doing any good for your body.

Until next week....Be Extraordinary,