Tag Archives: healthy foods

How to Choose the Best Drinks for a Successful Diet

Choosing the Wrong Drinks Adds Extra Empty Calories

Adapted with permission from the original article published on HVMN by Ryan Rodal.

You are starting your weight loss journey. You’ve been through your kitchen and thrown all the junk food into the trash. A diet plan has been chosen and you’ve taken those awkward “before” selfies.

What is the one thing you may have missed?

Frappacinos not healthy living
Credit – domtree_m

Have you made the common mistake of underestimating the caloric content of your favorite drinks?

The majority of beverages consumed by the American public each day are packed with hidden calories. The drinks you gulp down could be responsible for weight loss plateaus or lack of progress toward your weight loss goals.

Examples of Non-Healthy Drink Choices

  • The “healthy” smoothie from the organic store? It contains more calories than a double cheeseburger (a large Strawberry Surf Rider from Jamba Juice has 640 calories; a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger has 440 calories).
  • Heavily sweetened coffee on your morning commute?  A Venti Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino has 550 calories, while two Dunkin Donuts Glazed Donut have 520 calories.
  • Having a beer with dinner? That’s more calories than a candy bar (a Lagunita’s IPA has 220 calories, while a Hershey bar has 214 calories).

This is not a suggestion to replace empty-calorie drinks with empty-calorie fast foods or sweets – it was for comparison only.

Beverages Can Add 100s of Calories Each Day

Whether it it a juice drink, flavored coffees, sodas, beers, popular “healthy” smoothies made commercially, they all contain high amounts of empty calories.

Instead of changing your diet, try rethinking your lifestyle.

Don’t count calories, make calories count!

Every calorie you choose to eat should be filled with nutrients (including beverages). Make them count. They should satisfy your hunger and help you reach your weight loss goals. The next post will discuss the best drinks to help you get there.

Beverages Are Not as Satisfying as Nutrient-Rich Foods

The first step is to be aware of the number of liquid calories you’re consuming each day, which often have little nutritional value. They may satisfy your sweet tooth; but they do not satisfy your hunger.

Studies have shown that meals with solid foods provide better sensations of fullness compared to liquid meal replacements alone.1

When you limit your daily calorie intake to kick-start weight loss, it is important to maximize the nutritional value of every calorie.

Every Calorie Counts When Committing to a Healthy Diet

  • A typical 16 oz bottle of soda has around 200 calories; that’s approximately equal to six ounces of chicken breast.
  • An average juice smoothie from a national chain has around 300 calories; that’s the equivalent to four whole eggs.
  • Most beer has at least 150 calories, equivalent to five pieces of turkey bacon.

Choosing the non-beverage option in each of these scenarios will not only provide more nutritional value but will also help you feel full.

The soda manufacturers have taken advantage of the “diet mentality” that is a big factor in drink choices. They have provided an alternative to “sugared drinks” in the form of diet or zero-calorie drinks. The problem is they remove the sugar and add artificial sweeteners – neither one is good for your health. Bottom line: sodas are not healthy drinks.

Potential Side Effects of Sweeteners

Studies have shown body weight, fat mass, and blood pressure may all be negatively affected by the consumption of sweeteners.

Two of the most commonly added artificial sweeteners are aspartame and saccharin.2 Another is sucralose. All three carry a potential risk of adverse metabolic effects and type 2 diabetes.3

Be careful. Limit your intake of artificial sweeteners. They can be harmful to your health.

The best choice is always a natural, non-processed drink that contains minimal sugar and minimal artificial sweeteners to be safe. We will discuss those in the next posting.

Starting today….every time you have a craving to buy your favorite beverage. Stop and ask yourself some simple questions. 

  • What is in this drink? (Learn to read labels or look it up on the Internet.)
  • How many calories does it contain?
  • Are they healthy, nutritional calories – or empty?
  • Do I really need this, or should I eat something solid instead?

Treating your self occasionally with a favorite drink is OK, but don’t make it a habit that takes the place of real food.

Awareness and making smart food choices are the first steps to a successful diet.

See you next time for the second post in the series,Seven Healthy Drink Options for a Healthy Diet.”

Nancy

Note:  This was a long article originally that I am posting in segments for easier reading. If you want more information on the research, click on the numbered links in the posting. They will take you to the references in the original article. 

 

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

Since grade school we have known about the food pyramid, but the food pyramid I want to discuss today is quite different: The Mediterranean Food Pyramid.

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

The pyramid is used by countless health organizations, clinics, doctors and many others to guide people to eat in a healthy manner. It is the standard to live by and health professionals unanimously agree that by following this diet pyramid, your health will benefit tremendously.

The pyramid is a wonderful synopsis of what the Mediterranean Diet entails. It shows four different food groups and the optimal number of servings of each group that should be consumed.

The pyramid was created based on research of the diet that the people in the Mediterranean countries consume. The area was selected as the model because of the low incidence of heart disease and high life expectancy found in the region.

One of the primary reasons for the healthy results of the diet is that the people not only use fresh, unadulterated ingredients, they also cook their meals in very healthy ways.

They are among the minority of the world’s population that have not embraced the fast food culture that dominates the US and Australia. It should be noted that both countries are battling an obesity epidemic.

You Will Eat Fresh, Healthy Foods

There are no processed foods, colas, white flour products, pizzas or any unhealthy food in the food pyramid. There are only categories of fresh, healthy foods: fruits and vegetables, nuts and grains, beans, fish and seafood, and healthy oils (primarily olive oil) – plus a little red wine.

Your fat consumption should be moderate along with consumption of dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. Eggs can be consumed daily.

Fish (seafood) is preferred over meat and should be consumed twice a week. Poultry is also preferred over red meat and should be consumed once a week. Red meat should only be consumed 3 to 4 times a month. The rest of the time, vegetables, legumes, and/or pasta should be the focal point of your meals.

Fruit and vegetables (7 servings) should be consumed daily.

Get rid of your salt shaker and start seasoning with fresh herbs and spices. Don’t forget the garlic and onions.

Cook primarily with olive oil. Butter should be used minimally, if at all.  NEVER use margarine or hydrogenated oil products.

The use of unhealthy hydrogenated oils is very rare in Mediterranean cooking – and they rarely eat red meat or sweets (other than fresh fruit)

Avoid all foods that contain processed sugar. That means chocolate, candies, and most rich desserts are to be consumed minimally.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the Mediterranean diet is red wine. This is not an open invitation to include all alcoholic beverages such as beer, vodka or bourbon in your diet. The Mediterranean diet advocates ONLY wine. About 1 glass for women and no more than 2 glasses a day for men and usually, consumption is after dinner.

The food pyramid is just a guideline to help you eat in a healthy way. You do not need to be overly strict and get upset if you do not follow it exactly. As long as you eat the foods on the pyramid and stop eating the healthy damaging junk/processed foods that are typical on the American diet, you will be doing well. If you make those changes, you will be giving yourself one of the greatest gifts possible: Good Health!

Photo from: https://www.unitypoint.org/madison/filesimages/News%20Article%20Images/mediterranean-diet-pyramid.jpg

From the same site, check out the 7-day Mediterranean Menu (Autumn/Winter).  Not only does it suggest full menus for all meals, it includes recipes and calorie count for the day.  ENJOY!

Anti-Aging Benefits of Mediterranean Diet

Jonathan Swift said, “Everybody wants to live forever, but nobody wants to grow old.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stay healthy and young and live as long as possible? Because that is a deep down desire of the majority, many people are always on a quest to slow down the aging process.

So, our question for today is:

What are the Anti-Aging Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?

First, we must acknowledge that no diet in the world can halt or slow the aging process. Aging is inevitable and food is not the elixir of life – although the type of food you choose can lengthen or shorten your life.

What has been proven by numerous studies is that the Mediterranean diet lessens your risks of getting certain diseases. It also offers a range of health benefits that will allow you to age in a healthy way. When you whole-heartedly adopt the Mediterranean way of eating, you will reduce your risk of health problems such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, heart diseases, etc.

That alone can be classified as anti-aging. Old age is often associated with health problems. If you can grow old and maintain your health, that would be a fine way to live. The Mediterranean diet can help you do that.

Typical Junk-Food Diets are the American Way

Unfortunately, the standard diet for most Americans is filled with junk food, sugary sodas, fast foods and processed, additive-filled food, etc. – basically empty calories.

Obesity is an epidemic. People eat whatever is the most convenient with little regard for their health. This is very upsetting and dangerous for the population as a whole.

There is a wide assumption that healthy food is not delicious. People believe that to eat healthy they must live on a steady diet of raw carrots and steamed chicken breasts. As a result, they choose not to do so. They would much rather have a fast-food burger and cheese fries – it’s easier and tastier.

What they don’t know is that the Mediterranean Diet is filled with DELICIOUS AND HEALTHY food, which is why people in the Mediterranean Region often live healthier and longer lives than Americans.

Why the Med-Diet Is Better for Your Health

The foundation of the Med-Diet is fresh vegetables. In the US, vegetables are typically an afterthought, with unhealthy choices like French-fried potatoes classified as vegetables.

When you make vegetables the center of your meals, you will get your daily dose of antioxidants to fight the free radicals in your body; plus give your body necessary nutrients and keep your skin healthy and supple.

Fruit is another important part of the Med-diet. They are filled with nutrients and rich in fiber, which slows down digestion so you do not get hungry as quickly. The fruit also prevents sugar cravings.

Refined sugar is at the root of many health problems, plus it causes your body to age more quickly. Just reducing your sugar intake will benefit you immensely, including making you less likely to get Type 2 Diabetes.

The diet is also rich in fish and nuts – both excellent sources of protein and healthy omega-6 fatty acids, which protect your from losing lean muscle and developing osteoporosis.

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

A glass of red wine after dinner that is suggested in the diet (a common practice in the Mediterranean) has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. A limited amount of red wine can be beneficial to your health – unlike beer, vodka or bourbon.

The Mediterranean diet will definitely benefit your health tremendously, when you adopt it as a way of life. As long as you exercise regularly and eat in moderation, you are more likely to live a long and healthy life – and age with style and grace.

If you have not already made the decision to try this new way of eating that definitely includes some anti-aging benefits, I encourage you to do so ASAP!

 

Mediterranean Diet and Eating Gluten-Free

Eating Gluten-Free

Eating Gluten-Free
Image by Zerbor

Over the past few years the word gluten has become a common household world. Gluten-free foods have become a big business for the food manufacturers, and celiac disease is well-known, although not well-understood.

When it comes to the use of gluten-free foods, there are two camps regarding who should or should not eat them. One group says it is unhealthy to maintain a gluten-free diet if you are not suffering from celiac disease. The other group says that a gluten-free diet is good for everyone.

My goal is not to convince you one way or the other. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, then avoiding gluten in your diet is absolutely necessary. If your body handles gluten with no problem, you can make the choice whether you want to go gluten-free, or not.

It is a fact that some people cannot tolerate gluten and when they indulge, they suffer with upset stomachs, sinusitis, headaches, leaky gut syndrome, and other health issues.

If you are struggling with undefined health issues, you could eliminate gluten from your diet for two to three months to see if you feel better. If you do, you will have narrowed down your problem and can continue with a gluten-free diet for better health.

Mediterranean Diet and Eating Gluten Free

One thing I love about the Mediterranean Diet is its flexibility. It can be gluten-free if you choose. It is very different from other diets like the Atkins Diet or Paleo Diet, which are very rigid in what you can and cannot eat.

As I have said in previous posts, the Mediterranean Diet is more of an eating plan with a variety of choices than a “diet.”  Also, the majority of foods recommended are natural and do not contain gluten.

According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center,

Fresh, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, dairy products meat/meat alternatives are gluten-free. Other gluten-free components of the Mediterranean diet include nuts, wine without preservatives or added dye and fresh, frozen, dried or canned vegetables and fruits without thickening agents. Aged hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, Edam and Parmesan are gluten-free. Yogurt, olive and canola oil are also gluten-free.

There are other foods such as pasta, bread, couscous, barley, etc. that contain gluten and should be avoided if you are on a gluten-free diet.

The Celiac Sprue Association recommends a number of grains and starches to replace those derived from wheat, rye or barley.

People on the Mediterranean Diet who are gluten-sensitive can safely eat white or brown rice flour, potato, tapioca, arrowroot, corn meal, corn flour, soy flour, flax, wild rice, quinoa, millet, hominy and flours that are labeled 100 percent gluten-free. When purchasing a new product, it’s important to read the label carefully to make sure gluten was not added during the manufacturing process.

No Hard, Fast Rules

There are no hard and fast rules with the Mediterranean diet even for gluten-free diets. The process is fairly simple. Avoid all processed foods and purchase gluten-free Mediterranean foods by educating yourself and carefully reading labels.

If you are prone to food allergies of any kind, consult your doctor to ensure that the foods you are consuming are suitable for you. For example, some people may be allergic to shell fish or seafood which is a part of the Mediterranean diet.

If that is the case, it is a simple fix – use poultry instead. If you buy certified organic chickens without hormones and antibiotics, you are still consuming a natural, healthy food.

Chicken nuggets are NOT good for you! They are artificial and detrimental to your health. REMEMBER – always stay as close to nature as possible.

Gluten-Free vs Grain-Free

Important note: Gluten-free and grain-free are not the same thing. You can consume grains and still be on a gluten-free diet.

Cynthia Harriman, Oldways’ Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies and Manager of the Whole Grains Council, understands that the whole grain aspect of this healthy diet can be difficult for those with Celiac and gluten sensitivity. She explains, “Grains such as brown rice, millet and corn are gluten free and are whole grain. They’re at their healthiest if not overly processed.”

To Summarize

The Mediterranean diet can be gluten-free if you choose. Do your research so you fully understand what you can and cannot eat in order to be gluten-free. After that, it is easy. Purchase the right foods and begin cooking all the wonderfully tasty Mediterranean dishes that you can make using natural, delicious ingredients. Enjoy!

The Mediterranean Diet Controversery

I love the Mediterranean Diet. With all the fad diets whirling around the Internet, it is easy to get confused. This is one diet that you do not have to worry about. It does not require changing your eating habits to any kind of extreme, starving yourself for long stretches, or making dramatic lifestyle changes.

In fact, the Mediterranean Diet is not only one of the safest and healthiest ways to eat, it is practical, as well.  Basically, all it requires is eating a healthier, natural diet and enjoying the food you are eating.

It is a way of slowing down, developing a healthy relationship with food, and appreciating food. The diet is time-tested because people in many parts of the world have been eating this type of diet for centuries.

And yet . . . in spite of all those powerful points, there is still some controversy about the diet, which I want to address and dispel today (if at all possible).

Inclusion of Fats

Mediterranean Diet
Image by AngelSimon

Sounds surprising – and yes, the Mediterranean Diet does not shy away from “healthy” fats, even though that is out of the ordinary for most diets. In fact, many of the recipes are prepared with large amounts of olive oil or with feta cheese sprinkled on top.

Your first instinct may be to question how that could possibly be healthy. We have heard from the experts for years that fat creates bad cholesterol and leads to heart disease and weight gain.

Fat does contain more calories per gram (9 to be exact – verses 4 grams in carbs or protein). BUT . . . the upside is that fat releases energy much slower, which keeps you feeling full longer and alleviates the craving for sugar and the damage that sugar causes in your body, such as the risk of diabetes.

Regions of the world where this diet is prevalent has a much lower incidence of diabetes among the population.

Another fact you may not know is that fat does not actually cause high cholesterol or heart disease. Recent studies have looked at this theory and found just the opposite.  Healthy fats lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and improve the good cholesterol (HDL).

Fat also has other direct health benefits. It increases testosterone, which leads to greater physical strength and weight loss; and, it also enhances nutrient absorption that is important for a healthy brain.

Inclusion of Wine

In addition to the unusual inclusion of fats, wine and carbs are also part of the Mediterranean Diet. If you have been paying attention

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

to articles about carbohydrates, you are probably aware that carbs provide a sudden sugar hit, which some of the experts have declared as very bad. There is some truth to that information, but it is tempered by the types of carbs eaten, plus the overall diet consumed.

The Mediterranean Diet contains fewer simple carbs than most typical Western diets. The emphasis is on “natural foods” and the avoidance of processed foods that are filled with additives, high sugar and high unhealthy fat content – foods such as prepared meals, chocolate, candy, sodas and highly-caffeinated drinks.

The emphasis of the diet is to stop thinking of food as something you inhale on the run – grabbing the most convenient items available. The goal is for you to actually start eating regular, planned meals of healthy foods that will dramatically improve your over-all health.

But . . . what about the wine? Over-indulgence in alcoholic beverages of any kind is not a good thing. But, alcohol in small quantities has been shown to actually increase the human lifespan – especially red wine, which contains the all-important ‘resveratrol’ for strengthening the mitochondria.

The key words in the above paragraph are – taken in “small quantities.” This is not permission to “drink all you want.”

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

To sum it all up in the words of Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, a certified doctor of natural medicine:

Considered by many nutrition experts to be one of the most heart-healthy ways of eating there is, the base of the Mediterranean diet is loaded with anti-inflammatory foods and built upon plant-based foods and healthy fats.

Based on much research, this particular diet can protect against the development of heart disease, metabolic complications, depression, cancer, type-2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The best part is, even with all of these benefits, it still provides the opportunity for people to “eat, drink and be merry.”

Read his entire article for the 8 Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.

Image by tepic
Image by tepic

If you really want to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy your food, the Mediterranean Diet is a choice I encourage you to explore.