Close

An Apple Versus A Doughnut: How Science Helps Me Avoid Junk Food

images

Back when I started studying to become certified as a Personal Trainer, I came across an article that sparked something in me.

Ever have that feeling? Have you ever read something or saw something or heard something that struck a chord in you or resonated with you in such a way that you never looked at anything the same way again?

Yeah, for me, with regards to junk food, it was this article.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you I hate science. I’ve never had a knack for understanding science, math, chemistry, pretty much anything with numbers and letters. 😉 But food? I understand food.

So when I read this article, I remember thinking it was a tad too “science-y” and so I had to read it about 3 or 4 times to truly get it. For those of you who aren’t into this whole biology thing, I have summarized the main takeaways. My point with today’s post is that perhaps those of you who are addicted to things like donuts and all around crappy foods and can’t seem to stop, maybe if you READ or UNDERSTAND how these foods differ, you’ll be more likely to make the healthier choice.

  1. An apple contains good nutrients like Vitamin C but also has calcium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin A and a healthy dose of potassium. An apple skin contains a compound called quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that reduces cardiovascular risk.  The flavonoids and phytochemicals that it contains seem to help fight against cancer. AND the skin contains lots of fiber, which helps to improve bowel function and reduced cholesterol absorption. Woohoo! Lots of good stuff right??
  2. A doughnut contains none of these nutrients.
  3. The doughnut is loaded with saturated fats, trans fats and refined sugar and is largely devoid of any nutritional value, other than energy, which it has in abundance.
  4. The digestion process of the doughnut is quite lengthier than the apple. Healthier fats generally are absorbed via the liver, whereas saturated and trans fats pass through the villi and are converted into triglycerides, the main form of fat storage in the body. They are also coated in cholesterol (from the liver) and hence the fats in a doughnut will raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol and reduce the good (HDL) component.
  5. Trans fats do even more damage. They have been shown to wreak havoc with the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol and massively increase your risk of heart disease. They also get into the outer lining of our cells, causing them to harden.
  6. We shouldn’t be too harsh on the doughnut, some of their trans-fat containing friends are deep fried foods, such as French fries, cakes, cookies, biscuits, some breads (especially croissants and pastries), processed foods (especially pies, sausage rolls etc), snack foods (potato chips, some muesli bars) and margarine.

I would be lying if I said I haven’t had a doughnut since reading this post back in 2008. But I can honestly say I know I have had 3 in the past 7 years. Why? When I was presented with the option of having one, I ALWAYS remember this article. Like I said in the beginning, it was one that resonated with me. Maybe it will make an impact with you or someone you know that you think MIGHT take Doughnut Sunday at church just a little too far. 😉

As for the progress that’s been made since this article came out, the USA has taken steps to ban trans fats in most foods so it’s not as popular as before. But you can bet not ALL those popular doughnut chains are trans-fat free. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows companies to round down to 0 g in its nutrition facts label even if the food contains as much as 0.5 of a gram per serving. Some popular donut companies use the words “Trans Fat Free!” in their advertising legally even though they DO in fact, contain trans fats.

That’s just an FYI for you. I’m not the food police but trans fats are not something anyone should be eating on the regular. If you care about your body and your health, take the time to research what you’re eating.

In good health,

Michelle

P.S. I recently did a consult with a woman who found me through my other blog that has little to do with fitness. In case you wanted to read what truly matters to me, you can read my ramblings there too.

Your Kid Eats WHAT?!?

I’ve been wanting to write a post about kids and their eating habits for a long time. I STILL have so much more to share but today’s post is a start.

First, let me throw some facts your way real quick:

Childhood Obesity – according to the CDC

  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.1, 2
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.1, 2
  • In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
  • Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

Marketing Food to Kids

  • Companies spend $1.79 billion annually to market food to children with only $280 million for healthy foods
  • 70% of food ads on the most popular children’s television channel are for junk foods
  • Two-thirds of children’s websites display food ads; of these food ads, 84% are for junk foods
  • Research indicates that children don’t understand the persuasive nature of advertisements until age 8

And now that you’re depressed after reading those, take a look at this typical school lunch in America.

This is a photo of a school lunch in America.

But this is what kids eat in other countries (see the caption under the pic for specific countries.)

What children in other countries eat (clockwise from top left): Ukraine’s version of sausage and mash; Brazil’s plantains, rice and black beans; beetroot salad and pea soup in Finland and steak with beans and carrots in France

Kinda makes you want to cry, doesn’t it?

For more information on the comparison between America and other countries, see the original post by The Daily Mail UK here.

A quick word about school lunches. It seemed once Obama was elected, Michelle Obama had good intentions – Start a program that would require nutritional guidelines for school lunch programs. Unfortunately, it seems it hasn’t done much except waste a lot of food. According to this article posted on The Blaze, looks like most kids just didn’t like the food being served, so they threw it all in the trash, completely uneaten and wasted. School administrators are also having a hard time implementing these guidelines.

The meals served have been so bad, according to numerous students, that pictures of the school lunch trays went viral with the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama.  Yikes!

So that’s one problem that is probably deserving a separate post.  But isn’t it interesting that we still have a childhood obesity problem even though it looks like a total lack of food is being served in schools? And most of the kids are just throwing it away anyways? Just makes you think.

So, what about the rest of the kids? The ones who aren’t obese or overweight? What are they eating? Could they be malnourished but APPEAR to be healthy?

We eat what is put in front of us. And who puts that food in front of us? Who pays for it? Our parents of course. Our caretakers. So it starts with them.

I’m sometimes curious if the parents have bad habits, are picky eaters, etc, will they pass that down to their kids? Do the parents know how to eat a balanced meal?

I always tell my clients to look for balance in their meals but quite a few don’t know what that really means. I tell them:

1/2 your plate should be full of veggies or a salad, then add your protein which should take up a 1/4 of the plate and leave the rest of the plate open for carbs. Leave a little room for a fat of some sort (it’s usually the salad dressing or nuts added or even butter (gasp!) or perhaps the entrée was cooked in extra virgin olive oil.

The same could be said for kids too. In fact, back in 2011, Michelle Obama DID make some changes that, I think, are helpful for a lot of people. Together with the head of the USDA, the Food Pyramid went away and they unveiled MyPlate.

So visually, you can see what to eat. I think the site is quite helpful. Many people out there have no clue what to eat and how much. At least this gives those people an idea.

Who knows if parents are following this guideline (are they even following it for themselves because it applies to everyone!) but in the end, as long as everyone’s eating good food, it shouldn’t matter, right? But I think we can all learn a little bit from each other. After all, kids don’t come with a manual. I’m sure lots of first time parents are like, “Uhhhh..so what does this thing eat?”  🙂  Okay so maybe I’d be the only person to ask that since I’m kinda clueless on the kid front.

I posed this question to friends and followers:

What are they feeding their kids for breakfast lunch and dinner? What does a typical meal look like for them?

  • Strawberries, yogurt, a toasted bagel, banana rollup (mini tortilla with peanut butter and a banana) or cereal.
  • Rice cereal and sweet potatoes
  • Organic nugget and sweet potato fries with roasted corn salad. Green chilli chicken enchiladas and quinoa beef and broccoli
  • Whole wheat bread with organic almond butter and avocado pieces
  • Greek yogurt and these breakfast biscuits. Last night they had scrambled eggs with spinach, mushroom and tomatoes
  • Fruit loops for bf, pb&j and bananas for lunch. For dinner they are getting a clean/paleo-ish dinner of peanut chicken over brown rice.
  • Steamed veggies for the baby using this (parents of babies should check that out!)

Other quotes from the parents worth sharing:

  • I don’t short order cook. I serve dinner and they can choose to eat it or not, but I don’t make anything else, they don’t get dessert or snack after that.
  • We really run the gamut of healthy food and foods that lean towards unhealthy. I want them to grow up learning about moderation and not “bad” v “good”. They also see mommy workout every day and when we pray over our food we always say, “May our food make us healthy and strong”.
  • My kid is a toddler so his tastes are fickle and unpredictable. I look for higher calorie foods for him, as long as he pees and poops, then I don’t worry. I don’t believe any one food group should be demonized.
  • Sometimes my kids refuse eggs and other times they suck them down. That’s why I always offer foods over and over. You can’t serve it once and then quit. Kids come around.
  • We like to eat different things and experience different cultural foods. Keeps it from getting stale
  • My wife is out of town so I gave my daughter chicken nuggets for breakfast yesterday. She wanted them. I obliged.
  • I will say that we buy organic when given the choice, ESPECIALLY for milk.
  • Our family dinners are all over the board but we do splurge on pizza from time to time.

It looks like the parents I heard back from are doing a fine job of feeding their kids a variety of healthy food.

The takeaways:

1. Whole foods, sometimes organic

2. No short order cooking – you eat what is made or else you don’t eat at all

3. Picky eaters will be picky but try to get them to at least “take a bite” one time and try again in a couple weeks. Their taste buds (and attitude) can change.

4. Fast food is fine on occasion when the only other option is skipping a meal.

5. Experiment with a variety of dishes so they don’t get too bored with the same thing

Sidetone: I was relieved I didn’t hear any parents say that THIS was a problem with any of their kids. (How does that happen, really?)

I was really happy to get all this feedback so thank you all who responded!

If you’re looking for some good recipes for kids, I came across this article on Eating Well. I chose two that seemed like something I would eat when I was a kid (I was super picky).

Hamburger Buddy and Old Fashioned Spaghetti & Meatballs 

I hope some of you found some new recipes to try with your kids! If you have any you’d like to share, share away! I can always write another post with just recipes. 🙂

 

 

 

Have Food Will Travel

Is it possible to eat whole natural foods while stuck at an airport or in a hotel? It might not be convenient, but it’s possible. Here’s some examples of each meal and what would be considered a good, better, and best substitutions when you’re stuck without an oven or a fridge. These are just some examples, I’m sure many of you have your own go-to snacks/meals that you eat when traveling. Speak up in the comment section or let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

Of course, it’s always best to be prepared so we’re assuming in these examples that the traveler had some notice prior to heading out, hence the BEST examples will be ones that could be packed on planes or in a vehicle.

Breakfast

Good: Protein bar with low amount of fat, 20grams of protein and will most likely have 25g of carbs. Don’t bother with the small snack size bars (ahem, ones that say SKINNY on them); save those for actual snacks. If this is your only meal for breakfast, then this is better than nothing but it can’t be so small that you’re hungry again in an hour.

Better: Hard-boiled Eggs (yes they have these at most airports after you pass thru security) with crackers and a piece of fruit. Another better option would be an egg white wrap from the airport/fast food places with some feta cheese and spinach. Again, looking for a protein with fat and a carb. But make sure it fills you up!

Best: Eat before you head out to the airport or start traveling with a homemade breakfast. If it HAS to be quick, I would recommend a smoothie that you make at home with either protein powder or greek yogurt as the protein source, and then add in a ton of greens and veggies like carrots and cucumbers, add some fruit for a little sweetness and some nut butter for a fat and you’re good to go. If you are able, you can pack up your protein powder, buy some low fat milk at the airport or gas station and use your shaker bottle to have a decent breakfast with a piece of fruit and some crackers. Sometimes the store-bought smoothies are loaded with so much sugar that it’s best you just make your own.

Lunch

Good: Salad or wrap from a fast food joint. Don’t add a ton of extras like mayo or oils to it. The protein should be grilled, not fried.  Opt out of the dessert or sweet treat that usually sit at the cash register tempting you to BUY ME! It’ll just cause you to crash later from all those ridiculous amounts of sugar. Beverage is going to be as close to non-caloric as you can get. Don’t be tempted to get an energy drink, especially when you’re going to be SITTING in a car, or on a plane, or in a cab…etc.

Better: Greek yogurt cup or beef jerky (desperate times call for desperate measures!), string cheese, a snack bar or mini protein shake that has 10-15g of protein and a piece of fruit or dried fruit like raisins or craisins. You will notice that all of these are snacks just put together to make one big meal. The point here is that you won’t be full from just ONE of these snacks so if it’s going to be 4-5 hours before your next meal, you can fill up on these. Or mix and match if you only desire or have access to a few.

Best: Salad or wrap from an actual restaurant is best here if you have no way of bringing your own. Same rules apply from the Good example. If you have access to a grocery store (I know, I know) you could go to their salad bar which has the freshest options, usually. As a snack you can have some trail mix. If it’s store bought, make sure it contains no chocolate covered anything, it has a little bit of dried fruit and a decent amount of unsalted nuts. The portions that are sold at convenience stores and rest stops are usually way too big for just one person. It’s best (and cheaper!) to make your own with small baggies that you can portion out yourself. And oh look, they travel easily too!

Dinner

This is usually where I hear clients struggle the most. They say their boss or their co-workers/clients take them out for a “working dinner” and since they aren’t the ones paying, all bets are off on what they will eat. And maybe it’s been one long day at the office and you’re starving because you didn’t even have a chance to eat good meals for breakfast and lunch. This is when you have to really be careful if you want to stick with a plan. You HAVE to look for balance.

Good: One or two servings of the table appetizer which is usually garlic bread or chips/salsa, or some other option. Split appetizer between yourself and at least one other person, entree of your choice with veggies, and one alcoholic beverage. Dessert.

Better: Grilled appetizer prepared for one person, entree with double veggies and no bread or pasta, and one alcoholic beverage. Fruit based dessert or chocolate/sugar dessert split with one other person.

Best: No appetizer, grilled/poached/baked entree with double veggies, no alcoholic beverage and a dessert of your choice split between 2 other people. Plenty of water or maybe a diet pop/soda.

Now, this is assuming this dinner is at an actual restaurant where the portions are typically Americanized and doubled, especially when it comes to dessert. As for the beverages, depending on the occasion, what your job is, what kind of person you are, I’m sure the alcoholic beverage option will be different for everyone. But I know how hard it is to get looks or questions from people such as “Why are you ordering that?” or “Why aren’t you drinking with us?” or “You should splurge just this once!”

Give those people a polite, but firm “Mind your own damn business” “Thanks but no thanks” and forget it. I will never ever understand why eating “kinda healthy” is STILL a stigma in this country…but that’s another blog post for another day.

I hope some of these options give you at least a few ideas of what you could eat when you travel. Circumstances won’t always allow the freedom to eat the healthiest options but aim for the GOOD, attempt to get BETTER but try for your BEST!

 

 

See Jane Struggle

Case Study #1:  Jane Doe

Status: Married

Children: 1

Average Hours spent at Work: 12hours, 6 days a week

Average meal: On the go; rarely homemade; quick and convenient; poor quality

Average time spent working out: 0

Spare time spent: sleeping, hanging out with child and husband

Jane has come to me for help because she desires to get fit and healthy but literally has no idea how to make it work into her schedule.

It’s important to mention that SHE seeks the help and not the other way around. Why? Because whenever getting healthy is forced upon someone, either by a family member or their doctor, I find it rarely works. You need to find your “want to.” Let’s assume Jane has found her “want to” and see how I would go about helping her.

Jane has 1 day out of the week that she is off work. She has literally 2 hours free that day to make time for just herself.

We all know that baby steps are the way to go with any goal. We start super small with Jane.

Suggestions – In order of Priority:

1. FOOD.

Take the 2 hours to prepare meals for the week. Why? Because, technically, you don’t need exercise to be healthy. Nutrition is probably 80% of any physique goal (I’m guessing based on my own experience and my clients and discussions with RD’s and Nutritionists).  So that makes DIET or as I like to call it MEAL PLANNING Jane’s top priority. The meals will be as natural and whole as could be. This means limited processed foods like no Hamburger Helper, no Mac and Cheese, no Granola bars thrown into a brown bag and calling it lunch. Nope. This won’t be anything fancy, but they will not be sugar, fat loaded meals either. High in protein, a vegetable with each meal, and good carbs.

  • What kinds of carbs will Jane have?

Rice (could be instant), oats (could be old fashioned heated up in the microwave) and sweet potatoes (they make those microwaveable too, no excuses!). What about breads and pastas? Well, bread alone has like 20 ingredients. And it’s just bread! How about filling up on better foods instead of boring old bread? And if Jane was a sandwich lover, she could look for Ezekial Bread or Wraps to cut back on the carbs. What about bagels? I can’t remember the last time I had a bagel. All I know is when I would eat them (at my office job, of course) I felt like I was biting into a loaf of bread and I immediately felt like I should go run a marathon to burn it off. Gross. Sorry bagel lovers but these things are almost as bad as donuts. It’s just too much volume and not enough nutrients!  Pasta is fine but can you measure out half a cup cooked? Because that’s the portion you can have. And she will be TRYING to measure out her portions. Small changes go a long way when you’re just starting out like Jane.

  • What about protein?

The proteins have to be foods she will actually eat. Let’s assume Jane isn’t too picky. The crock pot will be her new best friend. Put a bunch of stuff in a pot, set it, and leave it. That’s easy. Take some chicken breasts, put a little marinade on them, broil them in bulk. That takes 20 minutes. How about ground turkey? Brown it in a skillet, add some spices, done in about 15 minutes. Beef isn’t bad for us so stop spreading that rumor. Eggs are good for us too. Paranoid? Get some egg whites. Jane isn’t vegan but she can mix it up by having protein shakes for a snack or beans in place of an animal once in a while.

  • How about veggies?

Steam them. Takes about 15 minutes. Don’t have a steamer? Put them in the microwave with a little bit of water. Takes…ummm 10 minutes? I don’t know, I have a steamer. Invest in a steamer Jane! And they make frozen veggies steam-able in the microwave nowadays. How about raw veggies? Eat them. Get some dip. Don’t worry about the calories in the dip. Just eat them. Got a blender? Blend them. Put some protein powder in there, voila! Instant breakfast in about 60 seconds.

  • Don’t forget the fats!

Jane is going to prepare snacks for herself so she avoids the vending machine or gets tempted to go out to lunch with her co-workers where they like to have liquid lunches and cheesecake for dessert. She’ll pack up trail mixes herself with items like almonds, cashews, raisins, sunflower seeds, dried fruit. She’ll cook her veggies with coconut oil or olive oil. But she won’t freak out if all she has access to is PAM cooking spray. Again, small changes.

2. FITNESS.

Once she has established a routine where she takes those 2 hours on her one day off to prep her meals and make that her priority for at least a month (yes, a month if not longer), then I would suggest to Jane to start working out. Maybe not with me since she doesn’t seem to have the time to travel to the studio and back home/work. She would have to find ways to increase her activity on her own or with her son.

Is her son watching TV? Great. Pop in a workout DVD and make him do it too (he’s 8 years old so he’s mobile). But let’s say he’s way younger and just runs around the house like I hear 2 and 3 year-olds do all the time. Let’s say she has more than one child! What then? If they’re in diapers that means they take naps. If they take naps that means Jane can do something for 10 minutes, even if it’s just walking up and down the stairs until they wake up screaming (I hear this is what little kids do). If they are terrors, well…Jane calls a babysitter so she can get something done. Prioritize. This is important to Jane so she’s going to do whatever she can to keep going.

No workout DVD nearby? Jane makes up her own workout with her kid: She has a push up contest with him. She teaches  him how to squat (he’ll probably be able to get lower than her because kids have super human flexibility), jumping jacks, dance around the room. She asks him to show her what he did in gym class. She plays tag with him for 5 minutes. It really doesn’t matter. Jane is on her feet and that’s better than sitting at a desk like she just did for 12 hours.

3. FOCUS.

After Jane has increased her activity level, she is noticing a decrease in her stress level. She’s sleeping a little bit better, and she has more energy because she’s eating good food that’s helping her burn more fat. She’s lost a few pounds but nothing drastic. She wants to kick it up a notch. She still doesn’t have more time, still just 2 hours. But she has made small changes. She tries to get up 20 minutes earlier than normal to make herself a good breakfast. (This took her a long time to make a habit.)

She also spends this time alone before the kid gets up so she can focus. She has written down her goals and reads them in the morning, making a plan for how she’s going to accomplish them. It’s one thing to think them, it’s another thing to write them down and implement the changes. She writes down 3 things she wants to accomplish that day, none of which have anything to do with her job. Some days the list looks like this:

1. Drink 8 glasses of water

2. Walk 5,000 steps today

3. Make grocery list

Other days it looks like this:

1. Go for a walk during lunch break  Take a lunch break!!!

2. Skip Starbucks today; it’s not worth it!

3. Get in 20 walking lunges around the house while dinner is cooking

And some days it looks like this:

1. Throw out rotting lettuce in fridge!

2. Go to bed by 10pm tonight

3. Post fitness and health goals on Facebook today so I’ll be held accountable

When Jane is ready, maybe she comes to me one day a week for an hour to learn how to lift some weights. Or maybe I recommend some online training for her since time is limited for her. Or maybe she gets some free weights for her birthday from her family or trains for a 5K by running around her block when she is able.

She’ll do well. It might take longer than someone else. Maybe she’s only prepping her meals when she can but she tries. Maybe she goes through the drive-thru once a week but she’s making an effort. Maybe she ordered pizza for her and her family last night but her lunch is already packed up for the rest of the week.

She’s trying.

She’ll get there.

There’s hope for Jane.

 

Back to top