Holiday Eating

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The holiday season is upon us! From Thanksgiving feasts to Christmas cookie exchanges, and if you are part of a Mexican family like me – warm arroz con leche and Mexican pastries, to name just a few, are one of the wonderful ways to celebrate my favorite time of year. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it combines 2 of my most important passions – eating delicious food and family! Yes in that order (just kidding). Pair these two come November and I have a problem. Loving delicious food as much as I do year-round can be challenge for one’s self-control skills, but it is especially hard during a season that includes so many opportunities to gather around the table with those we cherish most. It becomes easier to have one too many servings of your favorite cheesy mashed potato or pumpkin pie.

So how do we survive without starting the New Year with an additional 25 pounds of holiday baggage? Is it possible to even enjoy the holiday season while being mindful of what we are putting in our bodies? I am here to tell you – YES, it is!

Here is how you do it: Having your very own support system is crucial to your success in getting through Thanksgiving and Christmas without feeling the guilt in your waistline. Your support group will not only keep you in check when it comes to meal time, but they will also encourage you to remain positive even when you want to give up and overdose on Christmas cookies. A support group creates a form of accountability. Remember – it’s all about balance. It’s okay to enjoy yourself, just make sure you’re not overdoing it.

MSNW Thesis Presentation

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By April Irvine

To my excitement, after working on my thesis all year long, our team finally presented it yesterday! With the guidance of my thesis adviser, Dr. Bonnie Beezhold, we presented, “Associations with stress: a cross-sectional comparison of wellness in older adults.” Our group examined the relationships of stress with physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health measures as well as diet and lifestyle factors in older adults living in two different communal sites. The two sites were older adults living in an independent retirement community and vowed religious community (predominately catholic abbots and nuns).

Our group hypothesized that older adults living in a vowed religious community would have lower stress measured by blood pressure and other factors that influenced stress and that lower stress would be associated with healthier lifestyles.

Our group created a wellness survey where we asked about perceived stress, their social support, spirituality and well-being and depression. We also measured their height, blood pressure, weight, lean body mass, and percent body fat. I conducted a 24 hour diet recall, a one-on-one interview process assessing dietary intake.

After we collected the data, our study used statistical analysis to determine significant associations with the variables we collected. We found a significant difference in depression scores between the two groups. The vowed religious community reported significantly higher depression scores than our independent retirement community. Percent body fat was also significantly higher in the vowed religious community. Interestingly, higher spirituality scores were associated with lower scores of perceived stress.

In conclusion, our findings suggested that older adults from the vowed religious community did not experience a higher level of wellness than the independent retirement community.

Rethink Your Drink

How Much Added Sugar Are you Drinking?

4 grams sugar = 1 teaspoon

1 serving or 1 bottle of this drink has almost 5 tsp. of sugar

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19/4 = 4.75 teaspoons of sugar!

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons per day for adult women and 9 teaspoons per day for adult men. To put this into perspective: the average 20-ounce soda has 16 teaspoons of sugar, a Tall/small (12 ounce) Caramel Machiatto from Starbucks has 23 grams or nearly 6 teaspoons of sugar.

Too much sugar isn’t so sweet for your health

Many people eat more sugar than they realize. I think it is important to be aware of how much added sugar we are eating because it may have adverse health effects. Added sugars have no nutrients and contributes to added fat and can lead to obesity. Scientific evidence supports that added sugars is associated with obesity and cardiovascular disease mortality. This is because when we consume excess sugars (and carbs too…just so you know sugars are a form of carbs), our body stores these substrates as fat. Over time, fat is deposited in our arteries which puts added stress on our heart because our body needs to keep the blood pumping. Little exercise or sedentary behaviors only exacerbates the symptoms. This can eventually lead to chronic disease (heart or diabetes), high medical bills, and death yikes! I have counseled many patients with heart disease and speaking with them on making small simple lifestyle changes can really go a long way.

Try these healthy beverage choices instead:

  • Stock your refrigerator with fresh cold water, sugar-free tea, low-fat skim milk.
  • Do you get bored with water? Infuse it with fresh fruit, such as lemons, berries, or cucumbers
  • Add a splash of 100% fruit juice to sparkling water for a special treat
  • Keep healthy beverages within reach for children

Are you a chronic soda or fruit juice drinker and struggle to change your drinking habits? Try this first:

  • For the 1st week: fill your cup with 3/4 sugar beverage and the rest water
  • After you are taste buds get used to this flavor (2nd week): fill your cup with 50% sugar beverage and 50% water
  • 3rd week: 75% water and 25% sugar beverage

References:

1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Added-Sugars_UCM_305858_Article.jsp

2. Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):516-24.

3. http://www.starbucks.com/menu/nutrition

Adverse effects of high protein diets

With high protein diets being a major trend right now, I thought it necessary to shed some light on the health implications associated with such diets. Atkin’s and Paleo diet advocate a high protein diet is healthful and supports weight loss. Even major food companies have tapped into this new trend – Cheerio’s recently came out with a new line advertising their product as a good source of protein, Greek yogurt boast’s double the protein than the original yogurt, and protein bars and shakes typically offer 20 grams of Protein per serving! Clearly high protein diets are increasing in popularity, but what are the long-term health consequences? Could it lead to disorder’s of health?

FoodMeat

First, it’s important to say that protein is an essential nutrient needed for muscle, tissue’s, hormone’s, etc. Animal sources of protein are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, while plant foods high in protein are legumes, nuts, and grains. The current recommendation for protein is 0.8 g protein/kilogram (kg) body weight per day for healthy adults (Click the link).

What are the health consequences?

Diet’s high in protein create a large amount of acid in the body. We could die from too much acid so our bodies must balance the acid with a base – calcium! The skeleton supplies a buffer (base) by removing calcium from our bones. Also, acid loading causes high levels of calcium in the urine. A double loss of calcium! In a study by Reddy et al. (2002),  Participants on a low-carb high-protein diet for 6 weeks had increased calcium levels in urine and decreased calcium balance. In another study by Sellmeyer et al. (2001),  showed that a high ratio of animal protein to vegetable protein increases the rate of bone loss and the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women. Animal foods provide acid precursors, while protein found in vegetable foods has basic precursors not found in animal foods. Perhaps, a more plant-based diet could have beneficial health effects? Gotta say that I am not surprised!

Also high protein diets may increase your risk of kidney stones. Excessive intake of protein are risk factors for kidney stones. As we know, protein intake creates an acidic environment for your body. Any extra protein not used by the body for function is turned into uric acid AKA urine. In very acidic environment, uric acid precipitates into stones. Also, because calcium is taken from your bones and sent to the kidney’s for excretion, high levels of calcium in the kidney could also precipitate and form kidney stones. It’s also important to consider that kidney stone formation may be caused by genetics, medications, or metabolic abnormalities.

Bottom Line: Balance your food groups. It’s important to eat protein but no need to go overboard, eat your fruits and vegetables as they help balance your bodies acidity and basicity.

  1. Delimaris I. Adverse Effects Associated with Protein Intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults. ISRN Nutr. 2013;2013:126929.
  2. S. T. Reddy, C.-Y. Wang, K. Sakhaee, L. Brinkley, and C. Y. C. Pak, “Effect of low-carbohydrate high-protein diets on acid-base balance, stone-forming propensity, and calcium metabolism,”American Journal of Kidney Diseases, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 265–274, 2002
  3. D. E. Sellmeyer, K. L. Stone, A. Sebastian, and S. R. Cummings, “A high ratio of dietary animal to vegetable protein increases the rate of bone loss and the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women,”American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 73, no. 1, pp. 118–122, 2001.

Eating Healthy Tips

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By April Irvine

I am all about making small and easy changes to your everyday life that can make a huge impact on your overall health and wellness. Here are some tips that I have personally seen to be successful but also scientific evidence has shown that these lifestyle changes can improve your health.

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables – vary your veggies, eat the rainbow so you get all the phytochemicals and vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
  • Any starch or grains that you eat, make at least half of it whole wheat
  • Eat calcium rich foods such as low-fat or skim milk, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese
  • Eat lean sources of protein such as chicken with the skin removed, 90%> lean beef, or even try tofu or beans.

Empty calories are foods that contain no nutritional value i.e. no vitamins or minerals that your body needs to function. Examples of these types of foods are soda, processed foods, cakes, cookies, and pastries. Don’t get me wrong, a girl gotta have her cookies but treat yourself to your favorite food once in a while. It’s important to not strict yourself completely. Lately, I have been doing a lot of baking at home and I been sneaking in some veggies or replacing some of the sugar with applesauce with fantastic results.

The bottom line: Don’t make all these changes at once, its harder to stay on track that way. Instead make one goal and focus on that until it becomes habit. Then make another change. Next thing you know, you are living a healthy lifestyle effortlessly because it’s habit.

The above graphic is called MyPlate from USDA. It is the new visual icon that replaces the Food Pyramid and it meant to be a guideline of what our plates should look like.

References:

1. Five Minutes or Less for Health Weekly Tip: Eat Healthy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. http://www.cdc.gov/family/minutes/tips/eathealthy/index.htm. Updated on Feburary 5, 2014. Accessed 11/19/14.

2. Choose MyPlate. United States Department of Agriculture Website. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/. Accessed 11/19/14.

Mindful Eating

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By April Irvine

Learning to eat and live mindfully is key to experiencing health and peace. Have you participated in several weight loss regimens and failed? From low carb diets, gluten-free to I -will-never-eat-sweets-again usually don’t work because it creates a negative relationship with food. Celebrations and potluck parties are usually a time of celebration but do you find that you are filled with anxiety and stress. This can take all the enjoyment out of eating. This can sometimes lead to binge-eating…more on that in another post.

Common sense tells us that to lose weight we must eat less and exercise more. Many of us knows that but we get stuck. We start on a weight loss program with good intentions, but somehow it doesn’t last. We become pessimistic and spend hours worrying about our future, blaming ourselves for what we have eaten and completely missing the present moment – the moment in which we have the power to make real change in our lives. The practice of being fully present in each moment is mindfulness.

At your next meal:

  • Take the time to observe the meal, engage your senses of smell and sight.
  • Take a small bite and savor it. Chew slowly.
  • Put your fork down between each bite.
  • Try to spend at least 20 minutes to eat a meal because that’s how long it takes for your body to stomach to send signal to your brain saying “I’m full”.

Pay attention to your hunger cues, that is: Eat when your hungry and stop when your full. Every time you open the fridge, have a conversation with yourself. Why are you eating? Are you bored? Tired? It’s 6pm that means it’s dinner time? Or is it because you are truly hungry. If so, go ahead and eat.

Eating when your hungry and stopping when your full can un-complicate your life. You don’t need to worry about counting calories, keeping track of what ingredients are in it, etc. But I should also say, as your future registered dietitian, every time you do choose to eat be sure that most of the time it’s a healthy choice. That is choose whole grains, fruits, vegetables, etc. It’s still OK to have your cake and eat it too, all foods can fit! I would just have to advise to not eat cake every single day. Try switching up with fruit every once in a while.

Trust me, choosing to eat when your hungry and stop when your full, can help you lose weight effortlessly and make eating enjoyable. Mindfulness will help you reconnect with yourself and become healthier in mind and body.

References:

1. Hanh TN, Cheung L. Savor, Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. HarperOne; 2010.

What Is Your Most Precious Asset?

By April Irvine

Despite what others may say, its not your house, your boat, or even your car. Your greatest asset is YOU. Your brain is what keeps your blood circulating, lungs filled with air, and your muscles flexible and strong to carry your body everyday. If you don’t take care of yourself it can lead to excess weight and it can  become difficult to enjoy life. The aim of this blog is to bring awareness of all things nutrition and to share with others how to build a healthy relationship with food and being a healthy weight because after all, you are what you eat. And if my body is my greatest asset, than I must nourish it with the nutrients it needs. This isn’t about removing sweets from the diet, counting calories, omitting food groups, can’t have this or that. In fact, this is not a diet but a new way of eating where all foods that you love and crave fit into your way of living. Curious about how this will work? Subscribe to my blog and find out!