Q: My doctor told me I have high cholesterol. How can I change my diet to lower my levels?
Imagine you’re in your car, driving along on a bright and sunny day. Things are going well, until all of a sudden when you hear a loud “bang”, soon followed by “thump, thump, thump”.
You’re able to pull over and get out of the car to take a look. Just as you expected, you’re dealing with a flat tire.
So what do you do? Your car is temporarily out of commission. Your day has taken a hit. Perhaps you’re a bit shaken up too. That appointment you were right on time for, is now out of the question.
You’re feeling frustrated, hopeless, and disappointed. Your plans for the day are “ruined”. You let your emotions get the best of you and quickly decide to take out your pocket knife and slash the remaining 3 tires.
Huh? Does that make sense? One tire is down, why would you destroy the rest?
So often I use this analogy with clients when talking about diet. It usually has to do with the same type of scenario….”I’ve already messed up, so **ck it, I’m going to blow the rest of the day/week/month…off”. A classic example of “all-or-nothing” thinking. “I overate at breakfast, I’ve blown it, I might as well just eat what I want and start back fresh tomorrow”.
This kind of thinking is all too common and I’m quite familiar with it myself. I used to approach my diet with such ‘black and white’ mentlity and every so often I still find myself contemplating the urge to finish off the box of oatmeal cookies just because I’ve enjoyed one too many. Yet today I’m much less inclined to slash the tires or say “**ck it”. When I’m in a situation where my diet is less than optimal or I’ve strayed off plan, my motto is “Do the next best thing”. What’s been the difference? Learning more about nutrition and metabolism, cutting myself some slack, a greater sense of self-acceptance, and ultimately realizing that it is consistency over time, not one day/week/month of off-plan meals that has the biggest impact on my progress. Changing my perception of the “perfect diet” has allowed me to adjust my mindset, and ultimately my success.
This week I asked myself to “do the next best thing” on multiple occasions. Today is an example for #WhatIAteWednesdsay.
Meal 1: Power Coffee (Coffee, whey protein, coconut oil, almond milk)
Meal 2: Egg & egg white omelette, sautéed bell peppers
Meal 3: Out of chicken, so another omelette with roasted asparagus while at work
Meal 3.5: One of mom’s homemade butter tarts & coffee. (Not planned, but really craving)
Meal 4: Greek yogurt & almonds
Meal 5: 5-grain oat cereal, whey protein & SF syrup
Meal 5.5: Brussel sprouts & almond butter (strange, mindless snacking, again off plan)
Meal 6: 2 Carb Master yogurts with 1/2 oz walnuts (not shown)
I had a couple extra ‘treats’ today that I had not planned into my macros. I could have used either situation as a reason to go off the deep end, but rather I did the next best thing, which in both cases was to get right back on track. I didn’t restrict for the remainder of the day either, I chose to continue fueling my body right. I took good care of the remaining three tires and decided I’d better learn how to fix a flat!
It’s been a very busy couple of months over the holiday season. Between shopping for gifts, decorating the house, traveling (including a trip to NYC for NYE!), and attending family get-togethers, I haven’t had the chance to sit down to write much. Or rather, I’ve made blogging less of a priority during this time.
Following a structured meal plan was also made less of a priority during this time. Intentionally. My opinion is that the holidays and the good food, family and celebration that come with it are meant to be enjoyed. This year for me, it felt right to stay from macro counting. I didn’t go crazy and eat everything in sight, but rather enjoyed some treats on a few occasions.
Now that we can officially say the holiday season has come to an end and the New Year is well underway, I’ve gotten back to making my nutrition a priority. I’m tracking my intake much closer with the intent of leaning out over the next 16 weeks. I’m currently following a macro-based approach and aim to meet certain numbers for protein, calories and fat each day rather than following a set meal plan. This is allowing me to maintain variety in my diet. Some days I have eggs for breakfast, others its chicken or Greek yogurt. I’m enjoying the same variety with my carb and fat sources too. In fact, I had reduced-sugar ice cream with my mid-morning snack the other day simply because I wanted it.
Here’s a look at what I’m eating today- Scroll over each photo for a description.
Today was nothing shy of busy! I began my day at 4:45am with 20 mins of HIIT cardio in my PJs, went to work, stopped by the chiropractor for a much needed adjustment, and then got in a good chest workout at the gym before heading home. Throughout the day I relied on 6 healthy meals to help keep my energy up.
Here’s a look at #WhatIAteWednesday
Meal 1: Egg & veggie scramble (1 whole egg, 3/4 cup egg white, diced red & green bell pepper, chopped onion and fat-free cheddar cheese), Thompson whole-wheat Bagel Thin with low-fat cream cheese, and coffee.
Meal 2: 3 pumpkin protein muffins with a second cup of coffee. I modify Jamie Eason’s recipe to bump up the protein with more egg whites and protein powder. These make a great mid-morning snack at work.
Meal 3: One variation of “Crack Slaw”- Bagged coleslaw mix tossed with a dressing of PB2, low-sodium soy sauce and sriracha. I added diced grilled chicken breast and tossed on a handful of roasted peanuts.
Meal 4: On the way out of my office, diced chicken wrapped in an Ole Extreme Wellness high fiber tortilla.
Meal 5: My typical post-workout meal of cooked 5-grain hot cereal mixed with vanilla protein powder and sugar-free Walden Farms pancake syrup. As usual, eaten in my car after my gym workout.
Meal 6: Back at home I ate dinner consisting of more chicken, baked sweet potato, steamed asparagus and sliced avocado.
From building and maintaining strong bones to regulating gene expression and keeping our immune systems running strong, vitamin D plays an important role in may of our body’s normal functions. Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies make it when we are exposed to sunlight. There are also food sources of vitamin D. So why would someone need a vitamin D supplement?
As mentioned, our skin makes vitamin D when we are exposed to direct sunlight. If you live in a sunny, temperate climate, this is relatively simple, but for those who of us who spend most of ours days indoors, or who live in northern geographics, getting enough sunshine for vitamin D production can be a challenge. Some foods naturally contain vitamin D, however the list is short. Fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon and tuna tend to be the best sources, while egg yolks and mushrooms contain relatively low amounts of vitamin D. Foods can be fortified with vitamin D and milk is a good example of this.
So how do you know if you’re getting enough vitamin D and whether a supplement is beneficial? Adults should aim for at least 600- 800 IU of vitamin D per day. Since vitamin D can come from the sun, foods and supplements, the best of way of determining whether you are getting enough is through a blood test in which your 25-hydroxyvitamin D level will me measured. Healthy levels range between 20- 50 ng/mL.
Should your blood test reveal that you are in need of more vitamin D, supplements can be helpful for increasing your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D supplements are available in two forms; vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. The D3 form, also known as cholecalciferol, is most effective at raising your blood levels of vitamin D. Doses of 800-1000 IU daily are most common, however the best approach is to work with your clinician to establish your ideal dose.
As temperatures begin to drop, sniffles and sneezes are on the rise. Each year, winter in Michigan brings snow and ice, as well as colds and flu. While there is no way of completely preventing the common cold, a strong immune system gives your body a fighting chance to ward off pesky germs. One of the simplest and most effective ways of ensuring your immune system is running on all gears is through good nutrition.
There is truth to the age-old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Apples, as well as most other fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C. Vitamin C is a nutrient that may decrease the symptoms and duration of the common cold. There are endless ways to increase your intake of vitamin C. Add some mango chunks to your cereal in the morning, or eat a kale salad with your lunch. If budget makes it a challenge to purchase fresh produce, consider frozen or canned varieties. Frozen fruits and vegetables contain just as much vitamin C as their fresh-counterparts. This is because they are picked and frozen at their peak. Canned fruits and vegetables are another option. Look for fruits packed in water or 100% juice, and reduced-sodium vegetables to help ensure the most nutritious choice.
Last weekend I made big batch of Heirloom Squash Farrotto, recipe courtesy of bon appetit. It features butternut squash, which in addition to being an awesome source of vitamin A, contains a good amount of immune-boosting vitamin C.
I made a few modifications to the recipe: subbing plain, non-fat Greek yogurt for whole-milk yogurt in the creamy sauce, and using ground cumin instead of cumin seeds. I doubled the recipe to make 8-main course servings. My husband and I had that down in a little over a day because it was so good!
For my clients: With my modifications taken into account, each serving was the equivalent of 3 starchy carbs and 1/2 lean protein.
Between balancing a busy career with an active lifestyle, I’m always on the lookout for quick and healthy snacks to fuel my body for the next client appointment or workout. As much as possible, I try to prepare my 5-6 daily meals from scratch. So while it would be nice to sit down to the likes of grilled chicken, fresh salads, and roasted sweet potatoes for all of my meals, the reality is that I need a few grab-and-go options. Enter protein bars.
I’m not a fan of most of the protein bars you’ll find on grocery and health food store shelves. They tend to be nothing more than high-sugar (or sugar-alcohol), high-fat, low-fiber candy bars in disguise. Anyone who’s tried their fair share of these bars, knows they are notorious for less than pleasant gastro side effects. This being said, I will put forth the disclaimer that I do enjoy the occasional Quest Bar.
I’ve been making my own protein bars and muffins for a couple years now. Both my husband and I eat them pre- and post-workout, as snacks throughout the day, and sometimes as a cure to that after-dinner sweet craving. Websites such as bodybuilding.com, proteinpow.com, and rippedrecipes.com have some really great (& easy!!) recipes that I refer to on a regular basis.
Thanks to my Instagram obsession, I’ve come across @jazzythings and her awesome recipes for healthy versions of everyone’s favorite eats. If you want clean eating #foodporn, check out her page!
Jazzythings’ recipes have had me trying coconut sugar lately. As a huge fan of all-things coconut, I was curious to learn more about this sweetener and whether or not it shared some of the great nutritional benefits as coconut oil and coconut flour. Perfect for fall, I recently made her Apple Cinnamon Protein Bread which called for ½ cup coconut sugar as a sweetener.
In a large bowl, I mixed both oat and almond flours, vanilla protein powder, baking soda, cinnamon, egg whites, melted coconut oil, and applesauce. Poured this lovely concoction into a loaf pan and then sprinkled diced apple chunks and more cinnamon on top. I knew this was going to be good!
With 45 minutes of baking time, I had a chance to do some quick research on coconut sugar.
Coconut sugar comes from the sap of the coconut tree. The trees’ flowers are cut to release sap which is then boiled and dehydrated. The end result is a crystallized, caramel colored sugar that resembles brown sugar in both taste and appearance.
So why use coconut sugar over brown sugar or cane sugar?
There are multiple nutrition and health benefits tied to coconut sugar. A major one being that is lower on the glycemic scale in comparison to other sugars. Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food raises a person’s blood sugars. Low glycemic foods are generally recommended for blood sugar regulation and weight management. According to a study conducted by the Philippine Department of Agriculture, coconut sugar has a glycemic index (GI) of 35, which puts it into the low-GI category (1). To provide a comparison, regular table sugar has a GI score of 65, placing it in the medium GI category (56-69).
The idea of coconut sugar having less impact on blood sugar may sound promising, however when you take a look at it closer, aka under the microscope, one would see that coconut sugar is actually about 75% of the same molecules that make up table sugar. It also has the same number of calories and carbohydrates per gram as table sugar.
So if coconut sugar is 75% the same as table sugar, what makes up the remaining 25%? That would be a combination of inulin, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Inulin is a prebiotic fiber. In simple terms, it is source of food for the good bacteria in your gut. Because inulin is a fiber, it slows the digestion of coconut sugar. This contributes to a lower GI score because sugar is released more slowly into the blood stream.
As for vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content, it is true that coconut sugar contains more B-vitamins, iron, magnesium, and zinc in comparison to table sugar. This is largely because coconut sugar is not-refined like table sugar. The refining process strips away these naturally-occurring nutrients. So while coconut sugar does provide more nutrients, the amount is very small. To consider coconut sugar a good source of anyone of these vitamins or minerals would require you to eat a very large amount. Keeping in mind that coconut sugar is in fact primarily sugar and has the same amount of calories as table sugars, the small nutritional benefits do not justify doing such.
I used ½ cup of coconut sugar to make @Jazzything’s Apple-Cinnamon Protein Bread. Package directions for Madhava Coconut Sugar indicate it can be used cup for cup to replace cane sugar in recipes.
As I anticipated, the bread turned out great. Moist, flavorful and hearty. The coconut sugar likely lent to a classic caramel flavor.
Jazzythings Apple-Cinnamon Protein Bread
- 1 cup oat flour
- ½ cup almond flour
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 egg whites
- 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 ½ apples (cut into chunks)
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
- Add chunks of apple to batter.
- Pour into loaf pan.
- Bake at 350 F for approximately 45 minutes.
Nutritional Information (per slice, recipe makes 12 slices):
133 calories, 4.3 gm fat (1.3 gm saturated fat), 19 gm carbohydrate (2.1 gm fiber) (11 gm sugar), 6 gm protein.
What makes you chose the foods you do? According to consumer research, taste is the deciding factor when it comes to selecting one food over another. Nutrition is important too. Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways of achieving and maintaining good health. Fortunately there’s no need to sacrifice good taste when it comes to preparing healthy meals. Here’s how you can enjoy the taste of eating right.
Eating Right with Less Salt
Salt is the common name for sodium chloride. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, everyone should aim to limit their intake of salt to 2,300 mg or the equivalent of 1 tsp per day. Adults over the age of 51 years, African Americans of all ages, and those with diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease should further restrict their intake to 1,500 mg daily. Yet, salt is so often used as means of enhancing the flavor of our food. With some creativity and time in the kitchen, you can learn to prepare flavorful meals without having to rely on the salt shaker.
Make Fresh Foods the Focus in your Kitchen
Fresh foods such as vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, poultry, dairy and whole-grains are naturally low in sodium. They also tend to be the most nutritious, containing plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Rather than picking up a box of chicken nuggets, which tend to be chock full of sodium-rich preservatives and flavorings, reach for a package of fresh chicken tenders and use one of the salt-free seasoning blends described below to add flavor. You can further reduce the sodium content of your meals by limiting the amount of added salt used during cooking. While a recipe may call for salted boiling water, it isn’t required and can be omitted. See this as an opportunity to eliminate close to 1 tsp of salt.
Caution with Canned Goods
Canned vegetables can serve as a convenient and budget-friendly alternative to fresh varieties, especially when it comes to enjoying out-of-season produce year-round. Look for labels stating “no added salt”, or “low-sodium”. You can further reduce the sodium content of canned vegetables, beans, and legumes by rinsing them under cold water for a few minutes before heating or adding to recipes.
Become a Leery of Labels
Foods otherwise considered healthy such as whole-grain bread and crackers, processed cereals, and canned soups often contain significant amounts of salt. Get used to label reading and looking for the value listed next to sodium. Aim to select low sodium foods, or those with 140 mg or less per serving. Compare brands and learn which varieties meet this criterion.
Experiment with New Flavors
Herbs, spices, lemon juice, and vinegars can be used to enhance the flavor of foods without adding salt. Unsure of how to use them? Prepare a batch of the following salt-free seasoning blends for use in your next recipe. They’re great for flavoring chicken, burgers, fish, vegetables, omelets, stir-frys, casseroles, and homemade pizzas.
Mixed Herb Blend: Mix together ¼ cup dried parsley flakes, 2 tablespoons dried tarragon, and 1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, dill weed and celery flakes.
Italian Blend: Mix together 2 tablespoons each of dried basil and dried marjoram, 1 tablespoon each of garlic powder and dried oregano, and 2 teaspoons each of thyme, crushed dried rosemary and crushed red pepper.
Mexican Blend: Mix together ¼ cup chili powder, 1 tablespoon each of ground cumin and onion powder, 1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, garlic powder and ground red pepper and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.
Allow Time for Your Taste Buds to Change
At first you may notice a difference in the taste of your foods when reducing your sodium intake. Allow your taste buds a few days to get used to less salt. Over time you’ll find that you’ve acquired a taste for low-sodium foods.