Pumpkin is the New Bran

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My clients and I are gearing up for Eating Clean in 2014, a three-week program, beginning the first Monday in January – tomorrow! Lately, nutrition has been more in our conversation than training. I reminded them (and me) of the importance of fiber in weight management, and general good health.

When you track your nutrition, you quickly realize you’ll need to make a conscious effort to get the 25 – 35 grams of fiber per day recommended by most nutritional guidelines. I find the very best way to make sure I’m getting enough fiber is to be sure I get enough at breakfast. Somehow, when breakfast is in line, all the other meals seem to follow.

A great source of important nutrients, including soluble and insoluble fiber, comes from pumpkin. One half-cup of canned pumpkin provides 5 grams of fiber in a total of 9 grams of carbohydrates. Half of these 5 grams of fiber is soluble fiber, which absorbs water and contributes to a feeling of fullness for several hours after eating, in addition to aiding digestion and reducing blood sugar levels. We haven’t even talked about the beta-carotene, vitamin A, magnesium, and other nutrients in that half-cup of canned pumpkin, packed in 40 calories. Wow!

If you have a smoothie in the morning, you’ll hardly notice a half-cup of pumpkin thrown in. The taste and texture are easily disguised by most ingredients. If you use one-third of a 15 oz. can, the rest can be frozen in two portions.

Here’s a recipe I’ve used that I love, found on http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/8-great-pumpkin-recipes.html

Coconut – Pumpkin Ice Cream:

  • 1/2 cup Low-fat Cottage Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Low-fat Greek Yogurt
  • 1 cup Skim Milk
  • 3-5 drops Stevia
  • 1/2 cup Canned Pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup chopped Pecans
  • 1 tbsp Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Place mixture in a covered container in the freezer. Stir every half hour until desired consistency is reached.

Pumpkin is a thickener that can substitute in many recipes. Check for recipes using it in soups, tomato sauces, and desserts for a much healthier alternative to creams and oils.

Eating Clean in 2014 Guidelines

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Goal: Reset your gut after a month of indulging. Cleaning up your intestinal tract and bloodstream!

Guidelines:

Eating whole, non-processed foods with high nutritional value.
Getting more highly-colored veggies into each day.
Avoiding any processed foods out of a box – cereal, rice-a-roni, etc.
Avoiding sauces.
Avoiding milled grains, including bread, pasta.
Choosing complex carbs in their more natural state – whole grain rice, sweet potatoes, etc.
Choosing foods that are close to their original forms.
Avoiding alcohol.
Avoiding caffeine.
Avoiding sugar, BUT, eliminating artificial sweeteners.
Drinking a lot of water – not flavored, just water! (yes, you can squeeze citrus in!)

For example, choose for breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with fruit and a bit of natural sweetener, instead of grits and cheese.
  • Eggs; scrambled, poached, minimally fried, instead of eggs Benedict (avoid processed meats).
  • Smoothie with protein powder and real fruit, instead of pastries.

For lunch:

  • Salad with grilled tuna with olive oil/vinegar, instead of tuna salad sandwich and dressings made with soybean oil.
  • Clear-ish soups, such as chicken and rice, instead of potato soup (unless your mom made it and you know the ingredients are real).
  • Stir fry and brown rice, instead of white rice sushi

For dinner:

  • Broiled fish or chicken, instead of chicken fried anything.
  • Freshly made hamburger, instead of Hamburger Helper.
  • Sweet potatoes, brown rice, instead of pasta or bread.

The aim of these guidelines is to clear out the old, and refuel with quality ingredients. Remember, we’re not fasting! I don’t believe in fasting; it lowers your metabolic rate and facilitates muscle loss.

I am also taking this time to stop obsessively chewing sugarless gum. I’m doing this for two reasons: it contains sugar alcohols, which I’d like to minimize. I really get on a roll with this habit, and I need to stay in control of it.

If there are other nutritional changes you’d like to make, like my example, use this opportunity to reset your habits. For instance: want to test out avoiding gluten? Give it a try now (I don’t happen to think there’s any reason to avoid gluten for the average person, but sensitivity to it is a real condition).

If you’ve got any questions, please post or message me. I’d love to help you move toward healthier eating.

We’re all in this together for the next three weeks – Monday, January 6th until Sunday, January 26th . Let’s support each other!

 

Food is a Drug

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I grew up in New Orleans, where every weekend is another reason to celebrate with great food and drink. When the rest of the country is finished with big eating after the holidays, we are just starting with king cake and daiquiris for the Mardi Gras season. Thank goodness for the Catholic Lenten tradition of “giving up” something between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It’s the only time of year there’s any excuse for not overindulging.

I was blessed with a decent metabolism. It’s always stayed slightly ahead of my eating habits. Even with that, I carried an extra ten or fifteen pounds all through my 20s.

Once I reached my early 30s, I found the secret way to think about food that has helped me stay lean into my late 40s.

I learned that food is much more than celebration, comfort, or even nourishment. More than all this, food is the most powerful drug we will ever put into our bodies.

Here’s why I call food a drug: what else is a drug but a delivery system into an organism to create an altered physiological state? Think about caffeine jitters and sugar crashes. These examples are just the more obvious of the continuous, subtle effect what we put in our mouths has on our energy, blood sugar levels, weight, and our long-term health.

We’re all aware that all food is made up of three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Understanding how much of each nutrient is contained in what we’re consuming over the course of one day is the most important step in gaining control over our weight and health.

Dr. Barry Sears, author of “The Zone Diet”, proposed that the optimum ratio of each of these nutrients is 40% of calories from carbs, 30% from protein, and 30% fat. To lose excess fat, without losing muscle, try to meet this ratio at every meal and snack. What’s the tricky part? Knowing what you’re actually eating.

For example, most of my clients consider steak to be a great protein source. However, a nutritional breakdown of a filet reveals that it contains 56% protein calories and 44% fat calories. This 8 oz. meat serving packs 539 calories into one meal, and that doesn’t include any sides, butter, or dressings. Obviously, this isn’t the best choice when you’re trying to lose excess body fat!.

How do you learn what’s in your food? It’s simple: track what you eat! How many grams of carbs are in a baked potato? What’s the ratio of fat/protein in any nut or nut butter? How much fat is in a pat of butter? Until you know the answer to these questions without  looking it up, you don’t know what you’re putting into your body.

Using one of the many free or pay apps available makes food tracking much easier and less expensive than it’s ever been in the past. My absolute favorite website for this is sparkpeople.com. Setting up an account and getting started on a desktop is free, and when you get proficient, the mobile app is very inexpensive. It seems challenging at the outset, but, I promise, if you stick with it you will be amazed at what you learn.

Sparkpeople.com sets up guidelines for you, based on your age, weight, activity level, and goals. Once you get started, it lets you take a snapshot at any time during the day to see where you are with calories and the protein/carb/fat ratio, so you can make adjustments before you eat your next meal.

Over the years, I’ve found that I can be a bit more free with the hard-and-fast of eating this way for each meal, and instead, apply the 40/30/30 ratio over the course of a day. For instance, if I decide to indulge and have a cinnamon roll (or a piece of king cake) for breakfast, I make certain to have a lean protein and vegetable only, with no high-density carbs, for lunch. By applying these guidelines, I have fantastic energy levels and maintain a great muscle/fat ratio.

Many of the diets that come into fashion, and then fade away, are built loosely on the 40/30/30 ratio that Dr. Sears first proposed in “The Zone Diet.” Pick up this book and learn the science behind the guidelines. You’ll never have to look at another vogue diet again.

Most trainers will tell you that 70% of weight management is your diet. Therefore, to reach your fitness goals, Sparkpeople.com or a similar program is the most powerful weapon you’ll ever have in your fitness arsenal.