by Kendra Gaffney, RD, LDN
Most of us drive down the interstate bickering over where to eat with a friend, family member, co-worker or alone never knowing what our body is about to consume. Three exits of fast food sound so good, with aching bellies and shaking hands from our low blood sugar. Food is on our minds and the interstates are full of unhealthy fast food options. Easy and fast. We can take the double burger with cheese and a large fry screaming with calories and fat, along with a diet soda to watch our waistline or a nachos dripping with artery clogging cheese to satisfy our needs, but this is not the smarter choice. Our thoughts grow deeper and our stomach emptier. When looking for fast and easy we automatically think fast food due to the mass amounts of marketing and convenience it provides. Are we sacrificing our health for convenience?
As we travel furiously through the fast food line and order the # 7 supersized, the amount of food to be consumed in our near future may; meet our caloric needs for the day, exceed our fat consumption for the week, and provide limited fiber and nutrients leaving our bodies confused and unsatisfied.
What if bringing meals and snacks on the road would decrease our waistlines and increase our wallets? Having prepared meals and snacks is a safe and healthy route to take when traveling. Most of us never choose to pack a lunch for the road or make smart food choices. This is a great opportunity to avoid the fast food urges or cravings we may have. A simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, and sliced bell pepper will easily satisfy our body. Remember to have carbohydrates, proteins and fats at each meal to stay satisfied and avoid crossing over into the fast food lane.
Note: Bulk cooking at home is a good way to be prepared for what life may have in store. If you are prepared with pre-packaged easy to grab home cooking, you are more likely to stay on a healthy road towards a healthier you.
Grocery stores are not far off the beaten path, approximately every 5-10 miles on the interstate, who knew? The option of stopping at a grocery store for twice the amount of food, twice the amount of the nutrients and ½ the price appears to be a smart choice when traveling. At the grocery there are fast, easy and healthy options available, such as; a salad bar, pre-made turkey sandwich, soup, fresh produce, and endless amounts of good for you foods. Building the majority of our meals around vegetables and fruit can be challenging, but it is a good place to start. Adding lean proteins and whole grains is the next step towards a healthy meal on the go, keeping in mind how you metabolize foods.
Remember to consume foods the earth has given us, not overly processed food creations that are causing more harm than good. Try to choose whole natural foods when traveling. Having prepackaged or prepared healthy meals and snacks or stopping at a grocery store are easy methods to obtain balanced meals along the road. Creating these simple habits will help our bodies and minds throughout life. Fighting the temptation is the hardest part to a successful weight management program. If this was an easy road to travel, everyone would take it.
by Kendra Gaffney, RD, LDN
We come across times in our lives when we must scarf down a meal in less than 5 minutes without feeling each flavor brush our individually designed taste buds. Stomachs are overwhelmed by the mass consumption and our bodies struggle to get the proper breakdown. Eating large meals in a short amount of time can inhibit our ability to understand our body’s signals of hunger and fullness. We live in a society of now…Now…NOW! This takes away the ability for us to enjoy and taste our foods. It’s very important for us as humans to slow down our eating. We must take a step back and analyze the situation. This will help us out, not only through eating, but in all other aspects of life. For instance, taking a bite every 30 seconds vs. a bite every second will enhance your ability to taste, increase your sensation of fullness, create a longer more satisfying meal time, and help slim your waistline.
Here is a helpful exercise to slow down the eating and increase mindfulness of what is being placed in your precious body. Our digestion begins with sight and smell. The moment we see a deep red strawberry or smell the pot roast in the crockpot our mind triggers our saliva to drip and our stomachs to growl. Try this easy 10 step exercise to enhance your ability to eat mindfully.
Choosing to eat mindfully will decrease over consumption of foods, increase self-awareness of hunger signals, create a more pleasurable dining experience, and help us reach our weight loss/maintenance goals. At your next meal I challenge you to try at least one bite using this mindful eating technique. Enjoy!
by Kendra Gaffney, RD, LDN
Oh the dreaded grocery store, how you tempt us with large shopping carts at the front and thousands of choices to fill it with. Decisions, decisions, decisions. While coasting through a sea of food our minds begin to wander and stomachs begin to growl. A large percentage of us enter the grocery store with an empty belly and a full wallet excited about filling our cart with over processed highly marketed foods. The grocery store is a giant mecca of healthy and non-healthy foods, so how do we make healthy, tasty, affordable choices? It is a process to evaluate food and make an intelligent decision. Entering a grocery store can be overwhelming for the average consumer, so I want to provide you with easy guidelines for savvy shopping.
After discussing the ins and outs of grocery shopping for a healthy weight, I hope you have a better understanding of how to choose healthy foods to fit your diet.
by Kendra Gaffney, RD, LDN
As we dig deeper into the Nutrition Facts, we begin to find essential nutrients that are not necessarily on the nutrition label. Understanding these, often overlooked, nutrients are vital to the future of our health. Amongst these nutrients we have omega-3 fatty acids. These five W’s should help answer any wandering questions regarding Omega -3’s.
What is Omega-3?
Omega-3’s are polyunsaturated fatty acids found in select foods and are extremely beneficial to our health. The trend of Fat Free diets should be exempt due to the important roles fatty acids play in our overall wellbeing.
Who needs Omega-3?
Everyone! Omega-3 fatty acids are not produced by the human body and must be consumed in our diet via food or supplement. Individuals consuming low to moderate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, or would like to ensure they are getting the proper amount of omega-3, may want to consider taking a supplement. Please contact your physician to insure your supplementation will not interfere you’re your current medications or health complications.
Why do we need Omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain function, growth & development, protecting against macular degeneration, inflammation, heart disease and cancer. Omega-3 can also assist in treating arthritis, blood clots, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, and ADHD. Studies show that supplements with ultra-refined DHA/EPA help promote cardiovascular health.
Note: Too little omega-3 can present with signs of fatigue, memory loss, confusion, dry skin, depression, or heart disease. Exceeding 3 grams per day of omega-3 is not recommended due to the possibility of toxicity.
Where do we get Omega-3?
Omega-3’s are only found in select foods, such as; salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines, herring, nut/seed oils, free range poultry or beef, seaweed, fortified eggs, kale, brussel sprouts, and supplements (fish oil, EPA, DHA, ALA). Consuming foods high in omega-3 fatty acids at least 2-3 times per week is recommended for a healthy diet. If you are unable to consume adequate amounts via diet, supplementation may be needed.
When to take Omega-3 supplements?
When taking an omega-3 supplement it may interfere with the absorption of other vitamins or minerals, so it is best to take in the absence of other supplements, but in the presence of food.
These are the facts of omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids are absolute for a healthier life and each one usually goes unrecognized to the average grocery shopper. Omega-3’s shall not be overlooked and must be controlled as well as all consumption of food.
Did you know that GenoVive’s Customized Meal Program includes a high quality omega-3 supplement? The Gen-Omega daily supplement is made from food sourced calamari oil so it does not contain any rancid or fishy aftertaste. To find a diet that is perfect for your genetic makeup visit www.genovive.com.
by Kendra Gaffney, RD, LDN
Every cell in the human body contains some form of protein, from our muscles and tendons to our skin and nails. Within our bodies, protein has many important roles, including; muscle repair, cell development, and fluid/electrolyte balance. Protein consists of amino acids which are the building blocks of the human body. There are two types of amino acids; non-essential and essential. Non-essential amino acids are made within the body, and essential amino acids cannot be made in the body and must be ingested from a food containing protein.
Protein can be categorized as complete or complementary. Complete proteins, also known as high quality proteins, contain essential amino acids mostly from animal products, such as; meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and dairy. Complementary proteins, also known as low quality proteins, are mainly derived from plant based protein sources, including; soy, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and some fruits/vegetables. Complementary proteins must combine two plant based protein foods to create a complete protein (see chart below).
The majority of Americans overindulge in protein each day. What most of us do not realize is the amount of protein we a getting from other food items, such as; milk, cheese, yogurt, beans, and nuts. Continued overconsumption of protein could put you at risk for decreased kidney function, obesity, bone loss, heart disease, some types of cancers and type II diabetes. When calculating the appropriate amount of protein for your body, we must take into consideration the variety of food you consume, your age, gender, height, weight, activity factor and genetics.
There is a misconception that excess protein consumption increases our muscle size. Even though we know protein builds and repairs our muscles, we must understand that excess protein will be stored as sugar or fat within the body, similar to over consumption of carbohydrates and fats. Exercises including weight lifting, push-ups, and resistance training will all aid in increased muscle growth. When we workout our muscles tear and protein aids in rebuilding these muscles once they have been damaged. The key is to find the recommended amount of protein and proper exercise regimen to maximize your health.
Choosing lean meats or plant based proteins, appropriate portions, and understanding the proper amount of protein for your metabolism and activity level are great steps towards a healthy diet. If you follow a vegetarian diet, please see the complementary food chart at the bottom of the page to insure adequate protein intake.
Healthy high protein foods:
Lean animal proteins
Plant based proteins:
By Kendra Gaffney, RD, LDN
When we hear carbohydrates or carbs; cupcakes, chips, pies, and cookies come to mind. Our society has grown to believe that carbs cause weight gain. It is true that a vast majority of unhealthy food items are high in carbohydrates and if over consumed can lead to weight gain. To be the devil’s advocate, if any food is over consumed the result is weight gain. Carbs are found in numerous types of foods, including; cakes, bread, pasta, sweets, and cereals, but also in whole grains, cheese, milk, yogurt, fruit, and vegetables. By eliminating carbohydrates from your diet you will be sacrificing much needed nourishment. So how do you determine healthy carbs from unhealthy carbs?
First you need to understand what carbohydrates are. Carbohydrates are our main source of energy used for brain and muscle function, so without them our bodies will not function properly. Carbohydrates can be either simple or complex.
All simple carbohydrates are made of just one or two sugar molecules. They are the quickest source of energy and are rapidly digested. Unfortunately, most foods high in simple carbohydrates contain few nutrients and only provide extra calories. They also lack fiber and pass into the bloodstream rather quickly. Therefore, it is best to limit your intake of simple carbohydrates (1). Examples include: table sugar, honey, soft drinks, and candy.
On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are made of sugar molecules strung together like a necklace. They digest slowly, so they will keep your blood sugar more stable. They are often rich in fiber, more satisfying, and more health promoting. Complex carbohydrates are often high in vitamins and minerals (1). Examples include: starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruit.
Fiber is also important when choosing healthy carbohydrates. Fiber includes parts of plants that your body can’t digest or absorb. It might seem like fiber doesn’t do much, but it has several important roles in maintaining health. There are two types of fiber insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be beneficial to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material, which can aid in lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels (2).
When reading Nutrition Facts you should not solely base your decision off total carbohydrates. Based on your genetic makeup, your body may need anywhere from 45-60% of total calories to come from carbohydrates, but remember carbs come in many shapes and forms. Some foods have nutrition facts and some do not. When shopping in produce a good rule of thumb is ~1/2 cup of fruit or vegetables will provide you with ~15 grams of carbohydrates and ~3-5 grams of fiber. When searching for packaged foods, such as; cereal, pasta, bread, and rice, check to make sure you have at least >3 grams of fiber per serving, and limited grams of sugar. These tips should help you create a healthy pattern of eating including foods rich in carbohydrates.
Yes, some unhealthy foods are high in carbohydrates, but not all carbohydrate containing foods are unhealthy. If you decide to eliminating carbohydrates from your diet you are eliminating healthy food groups. You don’t have to say NO to all carbs; you should say YES to whole grains, plant based proteins, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. The key to carbohydrates is to choose wisely.
By Kendra Gaffney, RD, LDN
Do you ever wake up with puffy eyes, swollen like a tick and a wedged wedding ring? If so, your diet could be tipping the charts in sodium content. Sodium is a huge contributor to water retention. When we retain water our blood volume increases, and when it increases it makes our heart work harder and sometimes faster. In time, over consumption of sodium can lead to congestive heart failure, liver disease, kidney failure, and even a stroke. Even though sodium is essential in small amounts, large quantities of sodium can be detrimental to your health.
The average American diet contains 5,000 to 10,000 mg of sodium per day, when the recommended amount is only 2500mg per day, unless otherwise directed by your physician. When we hear “SODIUM” we automatically think of table salt. To put things into perspective, one teaspoon of table salt contains ~2300mg of sodium alone. That is nearly an entire day’s worth of sodium in one teaspoon. Sodium can be found naturally in some foods, but usually in small amounts. What most people do not comprehend is how much sodium is used as preservatives in processed foods, prepared foods, and sweets to maintain shelf life. Sodium is often overlooked, and should be monitored in everyone’s diet. Be proactive in preventing disease, check SODIUM on your Nutrition Facts and make it a top priority.
The sodium content can be found in all foods with a Nutrition Facts label. Here are some tips to guide you through and assist you in healthy food choices.
· > 300mg per SERVING is considered a high sodium food
· 140-300mg per SERVING is considered moderately high in sodium
· < 140mg per SERVING is a low sodium food
· < 35mg per SERVING is a very low sodium food
· Reduced Sodium – 25% less than the original food item (this does not mean it is low sodium)
· Light or Lite – 50% less sodium than the original food item (this does not mean it is low sodium)
· Try to choose the lowest sodium food items as often as possible to aid in disease prevention or intervention.
You may also check the ingredient list for foods containing sodium. Below are a few ingredients to lookout for.
· Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
· Baking soda
· Baking powder
· Disodium phosphate
· Sodium alginate
· Sodium nitrate or nitrite