I get this question All. Of. The. Time... I get it, water is not the most flavourful thing in the world and if you're bored with just drinking water, I have good news for you - there are options!
Just a note: I am not affiliated with any of these companies. These are products that I enjoy and recommend because I think they taste great :).
My absolute FAVOURITE homemade iced tea has got to be "Passion" tea by Tazo. This boxed tea makes an iced tea that tastes almost like juice and is an extremely refreshing summer drink. I recommend placing two tea bags in a large pitcher, filling the pitcher with water and leaving it in the fridge to steep overnight. Some people recommend brewing the tea with hot water and then allowing it to cool in the fridge... I am a lazy cook and if I can cut out a step, I will 😉 .
Okay so this one is sort of water, but it tastes so much more exciting! We bought a Soda Stream a year ago and since then we have been making endless batches of sparkling water. We usually have cut up lemons on hand for a fun twist on plain sparkling water. Dasani, Perrier and Nestle make a flavoured sparkling water that you can get from most grocery stores, which give you some options for a tasty drink that does not require you to purchase an extra kitchen gadget (because let's be real, we all have too many). Note: Many sparkling waters contain sucralose, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners that we want to limit. Always look at the ingredient list to double check. Tip: Drink this sparkling water in a wine glass with a few pieces of fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc) - it will feel like a treat!
Kombucha is fermented tea that you can either make at home or purchase at your local grocery store (yay!). My favourite store bought kombucha has got to be the grape flavour by Synergy. Interested in learning how this drink can benefit your overall health? Click here.
Following along with the gut health theme, I MUST recommend the fermented coconut water drink called Kevita. You can purchase Kevita at most health food stores and many commercial grocery stores as well (the Superstore in the Calgary area carries it). I absolutely LOVE the mango coconut flavour and my clients tell me that the lime flavour is a great substitute for a mojito 🙂 .
Steaz is a stevia-sweetened green tea drink that has wonderful flavour and is quite easy to find (most major grocery stores are now carrying it). Tip: Don't drink them in the evening... I once had two in an evening and was awake all night. You're welcome.
Zevia is the "step-down drink" for many of my pop and diet pop drinking clients and believe it or not, this stuff has gotten GREAT reviews! I personally enjoy the "Ginger Root Beer" flavour but there are lots of options to choose from (cola, orange, cream soda, etc). The wonderful thing about these sodas is that they contain no sugar and are sweetened with stevia and they have NO caramel colour (the caramel colour in many sodas is extremely unhealthy). Yes, this means the root beer is actually clear! A little strange when you pour it into a glass but it tastes fabulous!
I don't recommend this vitamin water as being a great source of nutrition. Instead I recommend it as a tasty alternative to soda and other flavoured beverages because it is sweetened with stevia and erythritol rather than sucralose, aspartame or other nasty artificial sweetener. Wondering why I don't recommend these other artificial sweeteners? Click here.
Are all of these drinks super healthy? No. But do they make a great substitutes for water when the alternative is soda, slushi or juice? Absolutely!
Remember that healthy eating is NOT black and white. Something is not "healthy" or "unhealthy" and what we need to do is be content with choices that are better than choices we've made in the past. For example, if you transition from drinking Sunny D to drinking 100% real orange juice, that's AMAZING! If you switch from drinking soda to drinking juice, AWESOME! It's all about the journey and it's all about balance and enjoyment.
Have you tried any of these drinks? What do you think? Is there something else available that is a healthy alternative as well? Share in the comments below!
Yours in Health,
For ages, health and nutrition professionals claimed “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and that “we must eat on a consistent interval throughout the day to keep our metabolism revved”… but is this actually the case? My answer: Not necessarily.
Intermittent fasting is something that has become popular in the media in the past couple of years and for good reason.
Intermittent fasting is a WAY of eating that focuses on how much time is spent each day or each week eating versus fasting.
Intermittent fasting does not require you to follow any rules around WHAT you eat and instead it focuses majorly on WHEN you eat.
Intermittent fasting can be done a number of different ways, including:
Your meals during your "eating window" can be spaced however you please - it can be 2 large meals with no snacks, 1 large meal with 3 snacks, etc.
People who follow an intermittent fasting eating style claim that this is a very traditional method of food consumption. Historically humans did not have access to food all year long. Throughout the year humans would go through periods of time where there was little to no food and other times of the year (after a kill or a summer of abundant fruit and vegetable growth) where there was a significant amount of food available.
Further research on the benefits of intermittent fasting is still needed, however current research is quite promising. The latest research on intermittent fasting suggests that this style of eating can potentially increase levels of human growth hormone and decrease insulin levels, both of which favor weight loss.
Levels of human growth hormone decrease as we get older (levels are highest in childhood as levels of this hormone are responsible for growth in children). However, some research suggests that if we can increase our levels of human growth hormone as adults we could potentially increase our muscle mass and decrease our body fat. Tip: human growth hormone is produced when we sleep, so make sure your sleep hygiene is on point!
Research also suggests that intermittent fasting can potentially slow the progression of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and aging.
Many people who choose to follow an intermittent fasting style of eating claim that it is easy to follow than a traditional lower calorie diet for weight loss. People following this diet often find that restricting your intake 1-2 days each week and then eating without restriction the remaining days of the week is easier mentally than following a slightly restrictive plan (aimed at weight loss) everyday.
Short answer, no. Eating 5-7 meals a day does not increase your metabolism any more than eating 3 larger meals a day. I typically recommend snacking between meals to clients who otherwise may be tempted to indulge between meals. Say for example, you have a staff meeting at 10:30 am everyday and your co-worker always brings donuts or muffins. This is a situation where it can be extremely helpful to have your own snack available. This way you have a healthier (and typically more filling) snack on hand so that you don’t feel like you’re missing out and you are much less likely to indulge in a treat “just because it’s there”.
It comes down to personal preference and what works best for YOUR body. Some people feel great eating two meals a day, and as long as those two meals include all of the nutrition your body needs and you don’t lack energy throughout the day, that is A-OK with me!
Before you go out and give intermittent fasting a try, I must touch on a couple of things. There are a few groups of people who I would not recommend long periods of fasting.
I wouldn’t recommend intermittent fasting beyond a 12-hour hours for women who are trying to get pregnant, women who are pregnant or women who are struggling with hormonal imbalances and irregular periods.
I would also not suggest intermittent fasting for people living with low thyroid function, particularly Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and people with adrenal fatigue.
And finally, although I am a big supporter of a non-traditional diet for diabetes, please do not try intermittent fasting if you have diabetes and need assistance adjusting your oral medication or insulin dosage.
What I recommend to my clients is to focus on a 12-hour fasting window and for most people, this is quite simple to maintain long-term! For example, if you finish your dinner at 6:30 pm then your first meal the following day should not be before 6:30 am. You can manipulate the hours however you’d like to fit your own schedule but just focus on the 12-hour window of fasting. If a 12-hour window sounds simple, maybe work up to a 14- or 16-hour fasting window.
If you try intermittent fasting and it impacts you negatively, stop. Like I always say, eating must be individualized and one method does not work for EVERYONE.
Do you naturally intermittent fast? Let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health,
If you saw my post on the Grounded Health Facebook page earlier this week (follow me here), you know that changes in our basal metabolic rate (how many calories our body burns at rest) can make a significant difference in whether or not we gain or lose weight over time. So, if we can increase our basal metabolic rate (BMR), and as a result burn more calories throughout the day, we are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. This is great, but how can we do it? The major way we can increase our BMR is to increase the amount of lean muscle we have BUT we can also engage in activities to increase our brown fat to increase our BMR as well (I know, increase fat to burn calories, sounds backwards, right?).
Today I wanted to talk all about this type of fat - where we can find it and how we can possibly increase the amount we have.
Most of us think of fat as the storage tissue made up of any excess food we consume; however this isn’t necessarily the whole truth. White fat is the type of fat that is used to store the extra calories that our bodies don’t use over time. Brown fat is metabolically active, meaning it actually BURNS calories throughout the day. As little as 2 ounces of brown fat is capable of burning up to several hundred calories per day, which is the equivalent of about 30-minutes of jogging.
So what does this mean? If we can have more brown fat we don’t have to exercise? Not exactly – but it does mean that you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
The major role of brown fat is to generate heat, which is why it is found in higher amounts in newborn babies and in hibernating mammals. As we age, the amount of brown fat we have decreases. It is estimated that most adults have only 50-60 grams of brown fat, which is located mostly around the neck, collarbones and along the spine. In addition to increasing our BMR, higher rates of brown fat are also associated with improved insulin sensitivity, making this area promising for future research in blood sugar management.
Aside from burning calories, exercise also helps us convert white fat to brown fat. One study in the Journal of Disease Models and Mechanisms reported that working out triggers the release of the enzyme irisin in mice, which helps turn white fat into brown fat.
Human studies on exercise and brown fat also appear to be promising, suggesting that exercise increased the conversion of white fat into brown fat in men training on an exercise bike over a 12-week training period.
Literally chilling out can help to increase the activity of brown fat in humans. A published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation had 12 men with lower-than-average amounts of brown fat sit in a 63°F room for 2 hours per day over a 6-week period. The men burned an additional 108 calories in the cold compared to normal indoor temperatures. After the 6-week period, the men burned an extra 289 calories in the cold, causing the researchers to hypothesize that the lower temperatures increased the conversion of white fat to brown.
In another study, subjects took part in their normal daily activities but they slept in a private room where the air temperature was controlled. During the first month of the study, the temperatures in the rooms were set at 24º C, which was considered to be the temperature at which the body did not have to work to either gain or lose heat. For the second month, the temperature was decreased to 19º C, for the third month it was increased back to 24º C and for the final month it was increased again to 27º C.
Throughout the entire study, researchers measured the subjects’ brown fat using a cold-stimulated PET/CT scan. This method of measurement allowed them to detect changes in muscle and fat.
Results of the study showed that the cooler temperature (19º C) increased brown fat activity in the subjects by approximately 30-40% and the warmer temperature (27º C) decreased brown fat activity in the subjects below baseline.
If you want to start incorporating some form of “chilling out” in your life, you can lower your thermostat to the mid-60s or below, as this may be enough to stimulate some brown fat activity.
You could also try exercising in a cooler temperature (62-64°F). During this time make sure your skin is exposed to allow sweat to evaporate to help keep you cool. Refrain from turning up the heat when you’re exercising to increase the amount you sweat. Increasing the temperature when exercising will actually decrease brown fat activity.
Want to kill two birds with one stone? Enjoy an ice bath (I use the word “enjoy” very loosely here) after a tough workout to help with muscle recovery and with brown fat activation!
Eat More Apples
Apple peels contain a compound called ursolic acid, which was responsible for boosting brown fat in mice. Other foods that contain ursolic acid include cranberries, blueberries, plums, and prunes, as well as the herbs oregano, thyme, lavender, holy basil, peppermint leaves. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the results of animal studies cannot be transferred directly to humans but they do warrant further research.
Develop A Healthy Sleep Routine
Getting enough high-quality sleep can help to increase the amount of brown fat we have, as proper melatonin production has an influence on the production of brown fat. Do you have a good sleep routine? Learn more about improving your sleep hygiene here.
Refrain From Eating Too Little
According to a study published in the journal Cell, not only does eating too few calories have many undesirable health benefits but it also prevents white fat from turning brown.
The exact impact these activities have on the amount of brown fat we have is impossible to know at this time, however any increase in brown fat activity will increase your caloric burn at rest.
Are you already engaging in some of the behaviors above? Which ones could you easily incorporate in your life? Leave your answers in the comments below.
Do you have questions that you’d like answered? Click here to ask the RD!
Yours in Health,
So often we prepare particular foods simply because it's a habit or we feel as though we would be missing something if they weren't on our plate (think starchy carbohydrates: pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, etc.) They can be filler foods that aren't overly nutrient dense but we eat them regularly anyway because they are easy to prepare and require minimal thought. What if I told you that you could swap out rice occasionally in place of cauliflower and you may not even notice?
Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C (yes, the vitamin that oranges are famous for), vitamin K, folate and fibre (just to name a few). As an added bonus, cauliflower is lower in calories per serving than rice, meaning we get a larger portion (and let's be real - larger portions are always better).
Feel free to spice up your cauliflower rice however you'd like - this is just a simple recipe for quick and easy preparation! Want to spice up your dish even more? Add garlic, onions, shredded carrots, eggs, coconut amino (or soy sauce) and chopped chicken breast for a healthier spin on chicken fried rice.
This breakfast "cookie" is not a typical sweet cookie (although it does contain a touch of dark chocolate because it's cool to have chocolate at breakfast 😉 ). I recommend making these cookies ahead of time for quick grab-and-go breakfast for yourself and your children.
[yumprint-recipe id='26']I recommend adding a protein source to this breakfast (hardboiled egg, plain Greek yogurt, etc.) to complete the meal and to help keep you fuller, longer!
This post comes at a good time – right after our homes have been plagued with glorious Easter chocolate… if only we didn’t consume SO much of it and if only it didn’t CALL to us as it sits leftover and forgotten in our children’s baskets.
This is probably one of the top questions I hear from my clients - they want to know WHY their sugar cravings are so strong and what to do about it. We've all heard that sugar is "addictive" and we've talked about the impact of sugar on brain chemicals here but did you know that you can make some lifestyle, nutrition and supplement changes to help balance your brain chemistry and reduce sugar cravings?
Let’s discuss some surefire ways to get your sugar cravings under control. Some of these are obvious and others may be a new concept for you.
We will start with some of the most obvious tips. These may sound insignificant but I can assure you, they will make a huge difference in whether or not you’re back at that candy dish at the office or the basket full of chocolate in your home.
1. Eat on a regular schedule and include protein with all meals and snacks.
We’ve all had those moments where we allow our blood sugar levels to plummet and as a result we make poor nutrition choices (hello jelly beans). Would you believe me if I told you that we make those poor nutrition choices because the blood flow to our brain is actually REDUCED when our blood sugar levels are low?
If we let our blood sugar levels drop below optimal levels (you will likely feel tired, irritable and/or dizzy) it is a protection mechanism for our body to crave simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates will bring our blood sugar level up high and fast, exactly what our body thinks we need at this time. The issues with these cravings are that we typically don’t go for something naturally sweet like a piece of fruit, we instead go for something highly processed made with large amounts of refined sugar.
One study that demonstrates how stabilizing blood sugar levels reduces the urge to consume carbohydrate-rich foods focuses on women dealing with bulimia. 20 research subjects were put on a sugar stabilizing diet and within 3 weeks all 20 women had stopped binging (Dalvit-McPhillips, 1984).
One of the best ways to combat these low blood sugar levels is to eat on a regular schedule and to include protein at every meal and snack. Protein helps to keep you fuller longer and slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream. Let’s put this into practice – instead of choosing JUST a piece of fruit for a snack add some nuts, nut butter, a hardboiled egg or some leftover meat from your last meal. This combination of carbohydrate and protein will help keep your blood sugar levels stable longer.
2. Eat 25-45 grams of fiber per day.
Fruits, vegetables and whole, unprocessed grains contain fiber but one of my favorite ways to get fiber in is by incorporating chia seeds in my diet on a regular basis. Let's look at the nutrition profile for chia seeds and why they're such a great addition to your nutrition plan.
1 ounce (approximately 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds contains the following nutrients:
• 11 grams fiber (throw 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in your smoothie and you’re almost half way to your daily goal!)
• 4.7 grams protein
• 9 grams fat
• 178.9 mg calcium (18% of your recommended daily intake)
• Excellent source of antioxidants (we talked about antioxidants and health here)
Chia seeds absorb over 10 times their weight in fluid (1) making them extremely filling, as they form a gel in our bodies when we eat them. The research linking chia seed consumption and weight loss is limited right now but including chia seeds in your diet on a regular basis is going to be extremely advantageous to your health.
Chia seeds also act as a prebiotic (food for the beneficial bacteria living in our intestines). We must supply nutritious food for these good bugs in order to keep them thriving.
I recommend adding 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in your smoothie or to your yogurt daily for optimal benefits. You can buy chia seeds at most grocery stores (likely in the "natural foods" section).
3. Spice things up!
Adding cinnamon to your food can actually help you to stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent the spike (and subsequent plummet) in your blood sugar levels after a carbohydrate-rich meal. Research shows that cinnamon can reduce blood sugar levels by 3-5%, which is comparable to older generations of diabetic medications (2).
The type of cinnamon you use matters. Most cinnamon that we find in the grocery store is Cassia cinnamon and can cause liver toxicity in large doses (I do not recommend doing the cinnamon challenge – the European Food Safety Authority suggests that 1 teaspoon is a daily maximum of Cassia cinnamon for people sensitive to a component of cassia cinnamon called coumarin). The cinnamon you want to purchase if you are trying to stabilize your blood sugar levels is ceylon cinnamon. You can find ceylon cinnamon at most health food stores.
5. Be sure you’re taking a vitamin D supplement – especially if your sun exposure is limited. When Vitamin D levels are low, levels of ghrelin (the hormone that tells us we're hungry) is affected making us feel hungrier more often, which leads to excess consumption (3). Read more about vitamin D here.
6. Adequate omega-3 intake. As we’ve discussed previously when we’ve covered inflammation, regular intake of a good quality omega-3 supplement is key in keeping inflammation under control. Omega-3 fats are beneficial fats for our brain and they also play a role in insulin (our storage hormone that we produce when we consume carbohydrates) control.
7. Chromium picolinate. Chromium picolinate has been shown to reduce cravings for fat and carbohydrates. In one double-blind placebo-controlled study, study subjects supplemented with 1000 mcg of chromium picolinate daily for a two-month period. Compared to the placebo group, the subjects supplementing with chromium picolinate had a decrease in appetite and fewer fat cravings (Anton, 2008).
If you’re following all of the tips above and still not getting any relief, your sugar cravings may stem from an imbalance in brain chemicals due to suboptimal gut health. Our gut is literally our second brain and without a healthy gut, the balance of our brain chemicals suffers.
Without getting too deep into the chemistry, let’s look at what may be beneficial. Remember – do not begin taking any supplements without consulting your physician or pharmacist. Supplements can interact with various medications. Please also be sure to take a pharmaceutical grade supplement to ensure you are actually getting what is written on the label.
8. Supplementing with l-glutamine and a good quality probiotic. L-glutamine is an amino acid that plays a major role in healing the gut lining. Taking l-glutamine and a good quality probiotic are the first steps in healing the gut and establishing a thriving population of good gut bacteria.
How does gut health impact our sugar cravings you may ask? Well, believe it or not, sugar cravings can be caused by a simple imbalance in brain chemicals and because it is in our gut that many of these brain chemicals are produced, our gut health is imperative if we want to balance our brain chemistry to combat cravings. An example of this is serotonin – serotonin is an excitatory neurotransmitter that reduces our appetite and most of our serotonin is produced in the gut. Many obese patients have lower levels of serotonin than non-obese patients, meaning that the obese patients will have a more difficult time controlling their appetite than the non-obese patients (4). If we want to have adequate serotonin production, we must have good gut health.
When taking a probiotic, I recommend taking it at the end of the day with your last meal (read more about probiotics here). Your current health status will determine the dosage of l-glutamine (I recommend working with an integrative dietitian or naturopath to determine dosage).
I hope these tips are helpful and will assist you in combating the post-Easter sugar cravings.
Still have sugar cravings? Whip up these DELICIOUS refined sugar-free brownies . Thanks so much for reading. If this information was helpful please share ☺
Yours in Health,
Dalvit-McPhillips S. A dietary approach to bulimia. Physiol Behav 1984;33:769-775
Anton SD, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate on food intake and satiety. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2008;10(5):405-12.
Docherty JP, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, exploratory trial of chromium picolinate in atypical depression: effect on carbohydrate craving. J Psychiatr Pract. 2005 Sep;11(5):302-14.
We hear all of the time “you need to drink lots of water in order to lose weight”… but why? And what's "lots"? Why should you be carrying your water bottle (glass or stainless steel please) around with you during the day? Today we are going to dive into the topic of water and weight loss and hopefully clear up any confusion.
Like every other health and nutrition topic, there are mixed views on this issue. Some say that the moisture content of our food is high enough and we don't need to focus on water consumption but simply drink when we are thirsty. Others say that if we don't drink enough there is no way our fat cells can break down (a process called lipolysis) and as a result we cannot lose any weight.
It is important to note: Consumption of unsweetened (non-caloric) beverages did NOT have a benefit similar to water. Take home: Drinking 2 liters of diet soda, diet iced tea, etc. does not produce the same benefit as drinking “plain” water.
Although these studies seem promising as to why it is important that consume more than 1 liter of water per day, these studies do not demonstrate causation. As we’ve talked about in previous posts, it is difficult to control every aspect of a subject’s diet in a study for an extended time period. Methods of gathering data in these studies were typically a 24-hour recall on a scheduled basis (i.e. 2-months, 6-months, 12-months.)
Due to the nature of the study that would be needed to prove causation (that drinking more water actually CAUSED weight loss – regardless of how minute) this may be the most accurate research we can conduct at this time.
Although we cannot say with 100% certainty that drinking more water (approximately 2 liters per day) will have added benefit in terms of weight loss we do know that it could likely be beneficial and will not hinder weight loss.
I recommend that my clients consume 2 liters of water per day for two reasons:
First, we often mistake thirst for hunger (I’m sure you’ve all heard of this before). Have you ever experienced cravings for foods like grapes or a juicy apple? This is very likely a signal that your body is really craving hydration. You can often tell whether it’s a food or water craving based solely on the foods you’re craving. If you’re craving salty chips, it is unlikely that you’re really craving water since the moisture content of chips is extremely miniscule. Next time you have a craving, drink 500 ml of cold water and wait 20 minutes. This is often the key to feeling satisfied.
If we are focused on consuming 2 liters of water per day, we are likely replacing sugar-sweetened or non-caloric beverages (this includes Mio, Crystal Light and any of those drink mixes) in our diet with water. Replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water will absolutely result in a decrease in body weight over time but what about non-caloric beverages? Many non-caloric beverages (i.e. diet drinks) are sweetened with artificial sweeteners, which can have a major impact on our population of good gut bacteria. If you remember from this post, having a robust population of good bacteria in our gut is extremely important if we are trying to maintain a healthy weight.
Tip: I don't typically recommend that any of my clients with digestive disorders drink water with their meals. Drinking water with meals can hinder the digestive process in many people due to its impact on digestive enzymes. Keep your liquid consumption to 30 minutes prior to or 30 minutes following a meal for optimal digestion.
In case you needed another reason to stay hydrated - Hydration status is linked tightly to mood. If you remember from this post, studies show that even slight dehydration can increase feelings of depression in some people.
We must also remember that the major ways our body detoxes is through urination, defecation and sweating - all which rely on adequate hydration levels to occur. If we are not drinking enough water (and the "enough" can be different for many people depending on climate, activity level, etc.) these detox pathways are hindered, which can lead to suboptimal health status. You will want your urine to be a light yellow color - not clear or dark yellow. It may sound crazy but monitoring the color of your urine can be a simple and effective way of monitoring your hydration status!
How much water do you drink each day? Share in the comments below. And don't forget - if you have any questions that you'd like to be answered, please don't hesitate to submit them here!
Yours in Health,
Part of the reason why people feel so confused when it comes to nutrition and what they should eat for optimal wellness is because there are SO many myths out there that just won't die. Today I want to go through 5 of the top myths I hear in my practice and discuss WHY they must be busted!
This belief has been engrained in us for a long time – too much protein is bad for your kidneys. A high protein diet is only bad for your kidneys IF you already have kidney disease. When our body metabolizes protein there is more waste product that must be filtered through the kidneys (compared to fat and carbohydrate) and this is where the strain on our kidneys comes from. However, if your kidneys are functioning normally you do not need to worry!
This is an important myth to bust because higher protein diets can be very helpful for people looking to lose weight. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein for adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, which in my experience with clients is far too low. Protein has the highest thermic effect (meaning we actually BURN calories digesting it) and it has the highest satiety factor (meaning we feel fuller longer). So doesn’t it make sense that we should capitalize on this and increase our protein intake when trying to lose weight (1)?
Current evidence is now suggesting that a range of 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day for adults is more of an ideal target in order to achieve optimal health. So unless you have kidney disease, forget about this myth and include a protein-rich food source with all of your meals and snacks to stay full, increase the thermic effect of your food and maintain your lean muscle mass while losing fat (2).
This is a myth that has come into the media spotlight in the last year. We have been brainwashed into thinking that consuming fat in our foods will turn directly into fat on our bodies, however this is not the case at all (so please stop ordering your skim milk latte – see more about dairy fat here).
This war on dietary fat started in the 1960s when a University of Minnesota physiologist named Ancel Keys published an analysis “proving” the link between dietary fat consumption and heart disease. The unfortunate truth about this analysis (that we later learned) was that Keys had selected the data for his study that supported his hypothesis rather than including all the available data (this worked out to be data from 6 countries instead of the 22 countries available).
In terms of fat intake and health we just need to look at the type of fat we are consuming. It is agreed upon by everyone that trans fats are not good for us. Trans fats on the label appear as “partially hydrogenated oil” – and I bet you’ve seen this in your peanut butter (along with icing sugar and some other not-so-healthy ingredients). If you replace your traditional oil and sugar-added peanut butter for natural peanut butter (ingredients: peanuts) you can avoid this nasty trans fat.
Saturated fats like butter and coconut oil have also been demonized in the past, however these fats are perfectly fine and I recommend using coconut oil and butter or clarified butter for cooking regularly.
The healthiest fats are omega-3 fats, which are very anti-inflammatory in our body. Remember – inflammation is the building block of many chronic diseases so including foods that can decrease inflammation in the body is extremely helpful (read more about inflammation and food here). Some great sources of omega-3 fats are fatty fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and trout. Tip: make sure your salmon is wild caught Pacific salmon – these fish are fed their natural diet (including omega-3-rich algae) versus farmed Atlantic salmon, which are often fed fish pellets containing genetically modified corn and soy.
Long story short, fat IS healthy for us and without adequate amounts of dietary fat we would run into many health problems. Dietary fat plays many key roles in our body, including:
I recommend including the right types of fat in every meal for optimal health and getting rid of any and all “fat-free” products in your home.
Weight loss is 80% nutrition and only 20% exercise. I recommend that my clients exercise for all of the great benefits exercise has on the body but weight loss is not one of them. Believe it or not, for some of my clients I don’t recommend exercising at all (leisure walks and gentle stretching not included).
Exercise can be helpful for so many people, however if we lead an already stressful lifestyle, exercise can do more harm than good. When we exercise intensely it puts stress on the body. If we are already stressed and our cortisol (stress hormone) levels are high then exercise can just drive our cortisol production even higher!
A chronic low calorie diet also puts stress on the body. Remember, the number one priority our body has is to keep us alive. When we restrict calories far below what our body needs to function optimally, it causes a great deal of stress and this can also raise our cortisol levels leading to more fat storage as a protection mechanism.
So let’s put the two together: let’s eat LESS and exercise MORE to achieve our goal weight. This sounds like a huge cortisol bomb to me. Instead, eat MORE of the good stuff that your body needs to function optimally and make exercise FUN and only do it when you’re in a relaxed state (hint: you are not relaxed at 5 am after 6 hours of sleep – don’t worry – I’ve been there and done that so you don’t have to).
The studies that we’ve heard outlined in popular news headlines are all epidemiological in nature (what the heck does that mean?). These epidemiological studies look at large numbers of people to determine whether or not there is any association between their diet and their risk of dying or developing a health condition after a certain number of years.
Epidemiological studies should only be used to form a hypothesis – they do NOT determine causation. If you were a participant in this study you would receive something that’s called a “food frequency questionnaire” every few months/years to fill out. Food frequency questionnaires look like this:
I don’t know about you, but I can hardly remember what I ate two days ago so I definitely couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten something in the past 3-6 months or even worse, the last year! We are unable to perform a randomized controlled trial with a group of humans (half fed animal fats and half fed vegetable fats) in order to measure their health status long-term because this is extremely unethical. So at this time this is the best technique for determining whether or not a relationship exists between dietary patterns and various health conditions but it definitely does NOT determine causation.
What we have to remember is that the QUALITY of the animal fat matters and this adds another level of complexity to this nutrition myth. The saying “you are what you eat” really comes into play with the animals we eat. Animals are only as nutritious as the food they eat – meaning if the cows we eat are fed a feed of genetically modified corn it is not going to be nearly as nutritious as would be a cow fed its natural diet of grass. We will talk more about grass-fed versus grain-fed in a future post but for now just remember, grass-fed beef or pasture-raised animals are much healthier than conventionally farmed animals. Tip: If you are eating a good quality meat from a grass-fed cow, eating the fat is absolutely fine and healthy for us. If you're eating a piece of meat from a grain-fed cow, I recommend trimming off some of the fat. Again, we will discuss why in a future post.
It is true that eggs contain cholesterol, but the impact of the dietary cholesterol in eggs on our blood cholesterol is negligible and there is no legitimate link between dietary cholesterol and the incidence of heart disease.
The truth is, our liver makes 3-6 times more cholesterol than we can get from eating eggs.
Cholesterol has been demonized for so long and the reality of the situation is that we NEED cholesterol for optimal health.
Some of the major roles of cholesterol in the body include:
Worried about your blood cholesterol levels? Instead of worrying about eggs, take these steps to improve your blood work:
I hope our discussion today helps you bust some of these popular nutrition myths and you can make some changes in your diet today to start optimizing your health.
Yours in Health,
A: This is such a great question and one that is getting more and more media attention.
Dairy does not agree with everyone (lactose, whey or casein sensitivities are common) but for those of you who enjoy a serving or two of dairy every day, what should you be choosing? We’ve heard for so long that cutting fat from dairy products is the way to a slimmer waistline and better overall health but is this necessarily the truth? We’ve also heard that the saturated fat in dairy products is going to clog our arteries and lead to the development of heart disease. Regardless of what we've heard, at this point in time the evidence suggests that saturated fat has a neutral effect on heart health.
Research is continuing to emerge regarding the importance of consuming full-fat dairy products over its non-fat counterparts.
First let’s look at the facts from recent studies (I won’t bore you with the details – we’ll just summarize):
So how can this be? If it’s the equation of calories in versus calories out that dictates our weight, shouldn’t we cut the calories from dairy products by reducing the amount of fat in the product (fat contains 9 calories per gram, so reducing fat from a food can reduce its calories significantly)? If you remember from my post last week, calorie counting is not always the solution.
At this point there is not a definite reason as to why this link between high-fat dairy consumption and reduced risk of obesity exists – some researchers hypothesize that it is the satiety factor of fat (meaning it helps to keep us fuller longer) and therefore we don’t feel the need to consume an excessive amount of food. Another hypothesis relates to the effect the fatty acids in dairy products have on our hormones and gene expression, which alters the amount of energy our bodies burn and store.
We often hear recommendations to go with a full-fat variety over a fat-free variety due to the sugar that can be added to low-fat products to make them more palatable, however this is not the case with milk or cheese. Both the full-fat and low-fat products contain the same number of grams of sugar per serving. The only true difference between the two is the fat content. Contrary, if we were to compare full-fat versus low-fat ice cream, we would likely see a difference in the sugar content per serving, with the low-fat version containing more grams of sugar per serving than the full-fat variety. Always be sure to take a look at the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list when determining how much added sugar a product contains.
I want to touch on one important point before we finish our discussion today. I want you to keep in mind that the research studies conducted on high-fat dairy products and obesity or weight gain are observational studies rather than randomized controlled trials (the gold standard). This means that we are unable to say that low-fat dairy consumption causes weight gain or that high-fat dairy consumption prevents weight gain. From this research we can only conclude that consumption of high-fat dairy is associated with reduced risk of obesity or weight gain. Although researchers do their best to remove all other variables that may impact this relationship, we are still unable to conclude a cause/effect relationship between the high-fat dairy and obesity risk.
Recommendations: If dairy products agree with you I recommend going with the full-fat variety and simply watching the number of servings you consume in a day.
Thank you for submitting your question! If you have a question that you'd like answered, please submit a question here.
Yours in Health,
On Tuesday we talked about the types of hunger and the first 3 tips for eating mindfully. Today we will continue the discussion and finish with the remaining 5 tips. If you remember from Part 1, eating mindfully does not have to be a complex concept and simply by taking the time to focus on our hunger levels and what we're eating we can really begin to understand the whole eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full concept.
We’ve all seen those comparison shots of plate sizes from the 1950s versus plate sizes now (but just incase you haven't, see here). We know that portion sizes in both restaurants and at home have gotten much bigger in the past 50 years but did you know that by eating on smaller dishes we can actually feel just as full even if we're eating less? I challenge you to eat your main meals off of lunch-sized plates rather than the oversized dinner plates. The psychological impact of looking at a plate that appears fuller will make us feel more satisfied than eating the same amount of food on an oversized plate.
Eating from a box or a bag is a definite no-no if we are trying to eat mindfully. When we eat from a box or a bag we have no concept of how much we are truly eating and often will continue to eat until the box or bag is empty. I recommend putting a serving of the food you're eating onto a plate or into a bowl and return the package to the fridge or pantry before you begin eating. Don't leave the bag or package on the counter either - it is too accessible. There is a lot of thought that has to go into getting up from the table (where you should be eating) and getting the bag back out again. Within this time frame you will have more opportunity to ask yourself if you're truly hungry.
Next time you’re eating a meal, make a conscious effort to put down your fork or spoon between each bite. By actively putting down your spoon or fork you are forced to slow down. It’s true that it takes approximately 20 minutes for our bodies to recognize that we are feeling satisfied from the food we’re eating so by increasing the amount of time it takes for us to finish our meal we are less likely to go back for a second helping of dinner or indulge in a sweet treat after our meal.
This is a trap that so many of us fall into. We fill our plate or are served food and we feel satisfied before the food is gone however we continue to eat until our plate is cleaned. Even if we know we have eaten enough food we will continue to eat until all of the food put in front of us is gone. In order to get away from this bad habit, that most of the time was developed at a young age, we need to become okay with packing food up for a later time. This even applies to the three leftover bites that we know we didn’t need. Give yourself permission to be finished eating even if you have food remaining on your plate. I hear this a lot from my clients regarding leftover holiday treats/birthday cake/Halloween candy/etc. They will have leftover Christmas cookies made by a loved one that are full of processed sugar and they refuse to throw them away because it is "wasteful". We need to think of this - foods that provide us with no real nutritional benefit are garbage if it goes into our mouths and garbage if it goes into the garbage can. You would be doing starving children a disservice by feeding them sugar-filled processed foods - so why should we keep them sitting on our counter tempting us for the next month?
How many times do you chew your food before swallowing? Crazy question, right? What if you thought about the number of times you chew before swallowing at each meal? This will force you to slow down and will also help with the digestive process. Remember, digestion starts in the mouth and chewing your food well will allow your body to extract more nutrients from your food and will also make it less likely that you will experience cramps, bloating or indigestion from a meal. Not only will chewing your food more be better for digestion but we also have to remember that our taste buds are located in our mouth, so it is when we are chewing that we get to experience the wonderful flavor that our food provides us with. I recommend shooting for chewing food as close to 30 times as you possibly can.
This rounds up the 8 tips for increasing mindfulness while you're eating. Select one or more of the above tips and give them a try this week. Did you notice a difference? Leave your comments or questions below 🙂
Yours in Health,
*Note: If you feel like you would benefit a program targeted at understanding why you crave the foods you do, check out a Craving Change™ facilitator near you.