Thank You MyFitnessPal For Helping Me Get Back on Track


By: Nikki Nies

Previously, in my post Where I’ve Been and Where I Want To Be, I had touched on my praises for MyFitnessPal, but since I continue to proudly use it and it has made me more aware of my ever present need to input my food intake, I believe it deserves a bit more attention than a sentence. In the last couple months of using it, I’m proud to say that I haven’t missed a meal–inputting all of my intake, while not always the best meal choices, but it truly has become a part of  my daily routine and habit.

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Original Image by slj tribe via Flickr

Sometimes it can seem hard to gauge servings, but I’ve recently purchased a food scale and I keep my measuring cups within reach. I haven’t found using measuring cups as a limiting part of eating, but it helps me be more aware of what a true serving is and just how much I can eat! If I’m going to input my daily meals, might as well do it accurately right?

Another facet of MyFitnessPal I applaud is the ability to input recipes that I’ve followed whether I’ve retrieved from a blog or the ability to input homemade recipes. Prior to uploading recipe to MyFitnessPal it’ll give a breakdown of the ingredients and confirm the use of the said ingredients. I recently made a tzatziki salad, with the original recipe calling for generic Greek yogurt, but with the abundance of available ingredients, I was able to input the Aldi Friendly Farms Greek yogurt I use and it provided a more accurate picture of what I’m using and slashed the calories! I love that you can scan the bar code of products too if you’re not wanting to manually input too.

I do have to admit, there have been times where I’ve checked out the calories, fat, protein and sugar content of foods and opted not to eat it after seeing the astronomical numbers. Yes, I don’t want to be limiting myself when it comes to food, but MyFitnessPal is doing it’s job in making me more aware of what I should and shouldn’t eat. Again, while a lot of people focus on meeting their caloric needs, since using the app, I’ve become more aware of meeting and staying within my fat recommendations. I love nuts and can quickly overeat them if I’m not careful, but since using the app, I’ve been able to cut down while not feeling deprived.

While I’m sure MyFitnessPal step counter isn’t as accurate as a Fitbit, as it counts steps with any ‘motion’ and I don’t always have my phone with me, it’s been a great test run to see how much I actually move. With my desk job, I’ve made more of an effort to get moving, including starting to walk on my lunch with my coworkers versus eating at my desk! I

Why I Won’t Restrict Myself to Just the Calorie Amount


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Original Image by Foodfacts pm via Flickr

Just like judging someone’s capabilities based on appearance is limiting, judging the quality and nutrient richness of food based off just calories should be removed from our society. While a movement that removes prejudices and first impressions is slowly, but surely occurring, I’m sure I’ll have better luck explaining why I won’t restrict myself to reading just calories on foods.

Yes, I admit it, I can’t help, but look at the nutrition fact label! I pride myself in inputting my food intake into MyFitnessPal app for the last 55 consecutive days and have learned a lot! When eating fresh, whole foods doesn’t necessarily always come with a nutrition fact label, by inputting my recipes into MyFitnessPal and portioning out my meals, I’m more aware of how much calories, fat, sugar, sodium, carbohydrates and fiber I’m allotted per day.

If we’re being frank here, one of my biggest pet peeves is when restaurants advertise offering 500 calorie or less meal options, but then forget to acknowledge their dishes have more than the recommended daily sodium intake or have an astronomical amount of sugar! Yes, considering the amount of calories in dishes  is important, especially when dining out should be part of the deciding factor, it shouldn’t be the deal breaker.

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Original Image by Anders Sandberg via Flickr

All of us have certain nutrients we’re more mindful of, for me, since tracking my food with MyFitnessPal, I’ve learned I need to be aware of my fat intake, specifically because I love nuts! For example, 1 ounce of nuts has 160 calories and 7 g protein, great right? Based on my height and weight, I should be consuming 43 g of fat per day. With just one ounce of peanuts, I’ve already used up 14 g! I’ve learned the hard way that while nuts are yummy, moderation is extremely necessary for me as I could mindlessly eat any and all kinds. If I want to add some nuts to my homemade parfait, that’s fine, but I can’t be eating more than an ounce a day, as I like variety like any one else.

I don’t want to get too hung up on numbers, but to remind you to look at the full picture. 7 g of protein for one ounce of anything is phenomenal, but what are you trading for that? Like a jigsaw puzzle, trying to find creative ways to enjoy food while staying within recommended limits can be a fun challenge.

Thankfully, the FDA has revamped the nutrition fact label to make it easier to discern the quality of food, specifically:

  • Better highlighting servings and calories in products with an updated design
  • Declaration of percent daily value and grams of ‘added sugars.’ It’s recommended one does not consume more than 10% of daily calories from added sugars, with the new labeling taking the guess work out of how much a product is contributing to daily amount
  • ‘Per serving’ and ‘per package’ provided for foods that can include multiple servings   (e.g. pint of ice cream) in ‘dual column’ format, with consumers better able to understand how many nutrients will be consumed if entire package/unit is eaten at one time
  • Improved abbreviated footnote of %Daily Value
  • For products between 1-2 servings (e.g. 20 oz soda), calories and nutrients will be labeled as one serving as most people consume at one time
  • Updated values (e.g. fiber, vitamin D and sodium) to be consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations and 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines
  • Inclusion of iron, calcium, vitamin D and potassium in g and %DV form, with vitamin A and C no longer required to be included as deficiencies are rare.
  • ‘Calories from Fat’ will be removed, yet type of fat (e.g. saturated fat, trans fat) will be provided and is more important for consumers to understand the breakdown

When should you be expecting these changes you ask? Most manufacturers will be required to comply by July 26, 2018. What are you most looking forward to with the new nutrition fact labels? When choosing foods what is the deciding factor if it’s a no or go? Sodium? Sugar? Fat?

Sources: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm502182.htm

How Oranges Trump OJ


Original Image by Rego Korosi via Flickr
Original Image by Rego Korosi via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Growing up, I was lucky to have my mother make me breakfast every morning. Before I became accustomed to coffee, my mother would heavily encourage me to drink the orange juice she poured, as it would ‘wake me up’ and it’d be a way to get more fruit into my day. I can see why my mother pushed me to drink the orange juice instead of handing me an orange, as there may be misperceptions about ‘orange’ juice being just as healthy.  The USDA allows fruit juice companies to make statements such as ‘one serving is equal to one serving of fruit’, yet after further research, I can attest they’re not equal.  Now, the general advice is to opt for fruit, instead of the juice form, which is stripped of fiber, but added sugar has been included.

While fresh fruit and freshly squeezed orange juice contain approximately the same levels of carotenoids and vitamin C, the levels of flavonoids are lower and pasteurized orange juice contains more antioxidants.  In particular, the flavonoid, hesperidin, is concentrated in pulp and shows promise as an anti-inflammatory by lowering blood pressure and promoting healthy cholesterol.  In addition, studies have found  nutrients in some fruits and vegetables are more bioavailable when chopped, mashed, juiced or prepared with oils. However, I’m not promoting the switch to juices just yet.  Unless you’re making your own juice, the typical jug or bottle of juice purchased at the grocery store spikes blood sugar levels more and at a quicker rate than eating whole fruit.  A study from Harvard found a link between regular juice consumption and increased risk of type 2 diabetes, meaning the downsides of juice unfortunately far outweigh any potential boosts from carotenoids.

Furthermore, store bought fruit juice tends to have a bit less concentrated fructose than soda, with fructose surmised to be a riskier form of sugar than glucose due to the increased risk of chronic diseases (e.g. liver and cardiovascular disease). Deemed as ‘liquid sugar’, orange juice will leave the stomach much more quickly than whole oranges, due to the stripped fiber.

Nutrient Breakdown: An 8 oz glass of orange juice has approximately the same amount of energy as 2 oranges.

Amount per 100 g Orange Orange Juice
Calories 47 45
Total Fat  (g) 0.1 0.2
Saturated Fat (g) 0 0
Cholesterol (mg) 0 0
Sodium (mg) 0 1
Potassium (mg) 181 200
Carbohydrate (g) 12 10
Dietary Fiber (g) 2.4 0.2
Sugar (g) 9 8
Protein (g) 0.9 0.7
Vitamin A (IU) 225 220
Vitamin C (mg) 53.2 50
Calcium (mg) 40 11
Iron (mg) 0.1 0.2
Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.1 0
Vitamin B12 (µg) 0 0
Magnesium (mg) 10 11

As you can see, there’s more fiber and calcium in an orange fruit and the orange fruit contains natural sugar versus the added sugar that is put into orange juice.

I’m not sure why, but the calories one drinks doesn’t register as part of daily caloric intake. We have the tendency to gulp juice down in seconds, yet the healthier contrast of eating an orange requires more time, ‘feeding’ multiple senses while peeling.  Now that I’ve seen it for myself, next time I head to the grocery store, I’m stocking up on oranges!

Note: If you do opt for OJ, choose with pulp, then at least you’ll be getting some more fiber in!

Sources: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/01/22/378920980/for-more-nutrients-drink-oj-or-eat-an-orange-it-s-not-so-clear-cut

http://creationbasedhealth.com/whole-oranges-vs-orange-juice/

http://greatist.com/health/fruit-juice-increases-risk-diabetes-090313

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150121103301.htm

http://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/11_5/current-articles/Oranges-vs-Orange-Juice-Which-Is-Better_1709-1.html

 

Summer Travels: Staying Trim on a Beach Vacation


Image by Drifting Like a Feather via Flickr
Image by Drifting Like a Feather via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

There used to be a time when dining out was limited to only special occasions. Fast forward to present day and families eat out because it’s Tuesday or because it is easier to grab a meal on the run. Yet, with the rise of dining out, in 1999, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published a study reporting that the more frequently women dined out, the higher the intake of total calories, fat and sodium. With restaurants serving large portions, finishing all that is served and justifying frequent splurges of higher fat, calorie menu selections, moderation of such meals is needed to stay trim while enjoying vacation.

Still, making arrangements and reservations for vacation can be anything, but relaxing. Sometimes we need a vacation from a vacation as all the planning is exhausting. Rather than eliminating vacation from schedule entirely, a relaxing beach vacation where lounging and recharging are the scheduled activities can be sometimes what is most needed. Yet, before jetting off to the beach resort, make sure to use some of the below tips to stay trim while on vacation, returning much happier and relaxed!

Suggestions:

    • Instead of equating dining out as an opportunity for carte blanche, remove the concept of obtaining ‘indulgences’ solely from food and instead focus on indulging in a mystery book, massage or quality time with the family. When redirecting indulgences to other great experiences in life, it will become easier not to overindulge in calories!
    • Order half sized portions, appetizers, share entrees or opt to take leftovers home for tomorrow’s meal.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask to ‘have it your way.” Restaurants are moreaccustomed to guests requesting (easy) modifications to dishes. For example, it’s not unheard of to ask for dressings, sauces and/or gravies on the side or for part of the meal to be “doggy bagged.”

      Original Image by Daniella Segura via Flickr
      Original Image by Daniella Segura via Flickr
    • Aim to “eat in” once a day! Staying in for breakfast or eating last night’s doggy bagged meal can save calories and dollars. Bringing along some low sugar oatmeal, cereal and/or breakfast bars can do the trick too or head to the local market to keep fresh fruit on hand for breakfast and snacks.
    • Sample delectable foods in “moderation” instead of feasting. Keeping treats to once a day allows one to enjoy the “local” food while maintaining desired weight.
    • Take advantage of surroundings and go for a morning run on the beach or afternoon hike. Take every opportunity to sightsee via walking.   The friction from the sand can increase intensity if desired.
    • The mini bar in room is the start of many guilty extra snacks and drinks! Hide the key or keep the fridge closed to limit temptation and overindulgence.
    • Traveling can be dehydrating. Add a few days in the sun and water requirements increase exorbitantly. When possible, keep ice cold bottles of water stocked in r fridge and have some water on hand when out. Also, keep the triple digit calorie drinks at bay with unsweetened hot or cold tea, coffee, sparkling water, club soda or by adding some lemon or lime to ice water. Enjoying a drink or two is expected, but keep in mind each alcoholic drink can add an extra 150-450 calories and added sugar.
    • Take on the challenge of ‘5 a Day.’ Daily, make every effort to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables. These efforts will aid in meeting daily fruits and vegetables quota and make one more satisfied with the added fiber.
    • Go easy on the condiments. For example, half of the fat in Arby’s Southwest Chicken Wrap or Ultimate BLT Wrap comes from the ranch sauce or mayo. Limit intake of creamy sauces or soups, opting for ketchup, marinara, mustard or BBQ sauce, which tend to be less than 25 calories per serving.
    • Take advantage of the abundant amounts of seafood from the nearby ocean! Seafood is a delectable way to get your weekly dose of fish that are high in omega 3 fatty acids. Make sure to order grilled or non buttered fishes as they are lower in fat and calories than the fried or battered dishes.

For your next beach trip, keep these tips in mind so you can have your cake and eat some fruits and vegetables too.

Sources: http://www.webmd.com/women/features/vacation-eating

http://traveltips.usatoday.com/eat-healthy-during-vacation-1747.html

http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/9-ways-to-take-your-diet-on-vacation

Calorie Detective


By: Nikki Nies

Food establishments that have 20+ locations are required to post food calorie amounts of food offered with the new Obamacare regulations. The idea is that when you know how much you’re eating, you’ll tend to eat less. Yet, Casey Neistat finds the calories provided can be inaccurate.

Original Image by Brett Jordan via Flickr
Original Image by Brett Jordan via Flickr

While the NYC Health Code states that the Health Dept. will cite violations if calories aren’t posted. However, accuracy isn’t required.

With the resources of the Obesity Research lab at St. Luke’s Hospital, a calorimeter was used to test 5 items in 10 hours. Check out the following calorie discrepancies found:

  1. At Grandma’s, the  Original Banana Nut Muffin, it was reported it had 640 calories. However, with Neistat’s fine tooth comb and calorimeter, it was found the banana nut muffin actually had 734.7 calories!
  2. With the Starbucks Grande Coffee Frappuccino with whipped cream, it’s reported it’s a mere 370 calories. However, it’s 392.9 calories. Not too bad off.
  3. In a custom made Chipotle Barbacoa burrito, Chipotle’s online burrito stated it would come out to me 1175 calories. The calorimeter found the burrito to be 10% more calories, at 1295 calories.
  4. One of Neiget’s favorite “Healthy” spicy tofu sandwiches, which was listed to be 228 calories, but was actually 548.4 calories, nearly double the listed calorie amount!
  5. At Subway, the 6″ turkey sandwich rang in accurately! The sandwich is listed as 360 calories and the calorimeter found it be 350.8 calories, 97.4% of the 360 calories listed!

Multiple samples were not tested for validity or reliability, but with Neistat’s experiment, it confirms that we can not believe every nutrition or health claim provided.  If Neiget had gone by the calories listed on the packaged food, he would have consumed an EXTRA 548.5c alories he was unaware of. What does this mean? Can we forgive a 10% margin? Are we being too hard on the restaurant and food industry? This is up for debate. Discuss!

Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000002061153/calorie-detective.html

Review: Justin’s


Justins-Web-MediaRelations-FamilyShot-6By: Nikki Nies

Do you describe your taste preferences as more sweet or savory? While many are loyal followers of either end of the taste spectrum, if you’re a middle of the road kind of guy or gal, you reap the benefits and flavors of both sides. Scary thought though.  With double the flavors of savory and sweet, I’m sure it can be hard to comb through the products that call your name.

I’m here today to share the story of Justin’s, a line of nut butters that originated in Boulder farmer’s markets and now is sold nationwide, which easily meets the need of sweet and savory in the same bite. Since inception in 2004, the founder, Justin Gold, has overcome the hurdles that come with developing a business plan.

I’m grateful for Justin’s creativity and drive to produce quality products. I’m sure you’ve seen Justin’s product in Whole Foods, Target, Jewel-Osco, Publix, Safeway, Shop Rite, Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Kroger, Giant, Giant Eagle, Bashas’, Harris Teeter, HEB and/or the Fresh Market. If you haven’t, ask a sales associate next time you’re in the store and join a following that are thoroughly enjoying all-natural, high-quality ingredients.

His products include 16 ounce jars, 1.15 ounce squeeze packs that are great portable, portion controlled protein packed foods. Not only are the nut butters packed with vitamin E and fiber, but they are offered in Maple Almond Butter, Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, Classic Almond Butter, Classic Peanut Butter, Honey Peanut Butter, Vanilla Almond Butter, Honey Almond Butter and Chocolate Almond Butter.  In addition, for those that enjoy the sweeter side of life, Justin’s offers USDA certified organic all peanut butter cups made with Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa.

IMG_8945I recently used Justin’s Classic Peanut Butter, which contains ONLY dry peanuts and oil as ingredients, to make his recipe of Peanut Butter Cookies.  This recipe is so simple and tasty! I couldn’t believe it took only three ingredients! Being an avid experimental baker, I couldn’t bring myself to use the entire full cup of brown sugar listed in the recipe. Instead, with a little over 1/2 cup of brown sugar, the cookies were as delicious as can be! Interested to learn other ways to use Justin’s products in your kitchen, check out his recipes and make yourself a grocery list!

The reason I love Justin’s peanut butter is because his products’ quality and nutrition content has not wavered.  At a serving size of 2 tablespoons, at 190 calories, 7 g of carbohydrates, 8 g of protein, o mg of cholesterol, 16 g of fat and 4 g of dietary fiber, I can’t complain!

Interested in created your own product? Justin’s two cents is

The most important thing is just to start. You will never end up anywhere if you don’t start somewhere. If I hadn’t started making jars, it wouldn’t have given me the opportunity to get to where I am today.

Justin’s has also involved themselves in sustainability efforts, sourcing the highest-quality, local ingredients, simplifying the supply chain, and initiating environmentally friendly office practices.  In collaboration with Conscious Alliance and Whole Planet Foundation, Justin’s does it part in hunger relief and global poverty relief efforts. With initiatives like these, how can you not support Justin’s?! I know I’m ready to try out his Maple Almond Butter and Banana Ice Cream next, are you?

Check out Justin’s Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | PinterestSite | Blog

Disclosure Agreement: Review of Justin’s was due to compensation from the company’s whose products were reviewed. We Dish Nutrition tested each product thoroughly and gives high marks to only the very best. Opinions expressed at We Dish Nutrition are own. 

Photo Credit: Justin’s 

Pregnancy Weight and Intakes


pregweightdiagramBy: Nikki Nies

As we all know, pregnancy is an  exciting time for all those involved.  With impending baby showers and last minute gatherings for mothers to be, food related activities are inevitable.  Yet, a healthy weight gain is the aim for the mother and infant for optimal growth, development and overall health.

Weight gain recommendations: Underweight (BMI <19.1) 40-50#; normal BMI (19.25) 35-45#; overweight (26-29.9) 25-35#

Normal weight women should gain 25-35# during pregnancy. UW: 28-40#; overweight: 15-25#; obese: should still gain some weight, ~15#; excessive weight gain is discouraged with any bodyweight classification of the mother.

In the first trimester of pregnancy, normal weight pregnant women do not need to consume additional calories per day according to the National Research Council.  In the second trimester, an additional 340 calories per day is recommended and then in the third trimester, intake should increase to about 450 calories per day.  Those that are underweight may expect to increase intake by an additional 100-300 calories per day.

During pregnancy, intake of folic acid is recommended to increase  prevention of birth defects.  Fortified grains can be a good source of dietary folate, with the best sources including lentils and beans. 1/2 cup cooked black eye peas, 1 cup of raw spinach and/or 1 cup fortified corn flakes can provide more than 100 mcg of folate each.

Of course, talking to your primary care physician about your weight and health is vital during pregnancy. The above weight parameters are suggested weight gain guidelines.

Photo Credit: Baby Your Baby 

Sources: http://www.babycenter.com/pregnancy-weight-gain-estimator

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-weight-gain/art-20044360?pg=2

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/pregnancy-weight-gain/

http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/healthy-weight-gain