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

Traveling with HLD


Original Image by David Goehring via Flickr
Original Image by David Goehring via Flickr

By:Nikki Nies

In today’s world, we’re surrounded by terms such as ‘good fats’ and multisyllable concepts, such as ‘atherosclerosis.’ Yet, for the average American these terms just bring more confusion to the table than help shed light on how to solve the issues at hand. How can those words be applied to daily life? By breaking down what those definitions mean is the first, best step towards understanding how one can travel with hyperlipidemia (HLD) on the go. HLD may sound terrifying, but it’s just the technical term for too many “lipids” or fats in the blood.  HLD is the elevation of cholesterol and/or triglycerides, making it a risk factor for developing atherosclerosis (“hardening of arteries) and heart disease.

While primary hyperlipidemia emerges due to familial history, secondary HLD can develop due to increased dietary intake, medical conditions (i.e. lupus, kidney disease, alcoholism, obesity, diabetics or hypothyroidism) and/or medications. In other words, with modifiable changes added to one’s lifestyle, secondary HLD can be reduced and/or eliminated altogether.

In regards to one’s heart health, there are three major lipoproteins. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) are considered “bad cholesterol.” It’s recommended cholesterol be <200 mg/dL, LDL:<130 mg/dL and HDL be >60 mg/dL. To keep cholesterol levels at optimal levels, it’s recommended to implement a low fat, cholesterol lifestyle, restricting total fat intake to 30% of daily calories, saturated fat to 7% and dietary cholesterol to 300 mg/day.  However, when you’re on the go, it can be hard to discern how much fat is eaten in an entire day. Therefore, identifying  ‘good fats’ and which menu items would be better in the long run can help make traveling more enjoyable and healthier.

Suggestions for how to travel with HLD:

  • Make every effort to make half of grains whole grains, opt for low fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables and poultry, fish and nuts, while cutting back on sugary foods and beverages and red meat
  • Add in ‘healthy fats’ that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
    • This means swapping out tropical oils (i.e. coconut for liquid) and eating fish and nuts instead of red meat
  • Be aware that foods high in saturated fatcan be equally high in calories
    • Majority of high saturated fat foods derive from animal sources (i.e. beef, lamb, pork, lard, butter, cheese and/or dairy products made from whole or reduced fat milk)
    • Again, limit plant based oils that contain high amounts of saturated fat, even though cholesterol free (i.e. palm kernel oil, coconut oil and/or palm oil)
  • Increase soluble fiber consumed, which can help decrease cholesterol levels by as much as 10%
    Original Image by s58y via Flickr
    Original Image by s58y via Flickr
    • Common sources: oats, barley, nuts, legumes and fruits and vegetables
  • Opt for boneless,skinless cuts of meat instead of fried, breaded or battered (i.e. skinless boneless chicken breast)
    • Trim fat from meat
  • Limiting alcohol can help reduce triglyceride levels, as alcohol consumption can raise triglycerides by 5-10 mg/dL
  • In increasing increments, daily regular activity can help lower LDL, while increasing HDL
    • Even a 30 minute brisk walk can do wonders in reducing risk
    • Walk at an intensity that you’re breathing hard, but can still carry a conversation
    • Build up to target heart rate gradually, which is 50-70% of maximum heart rate
  • Devote a certain amount of time each day to get the recommended 10,000 steps in

The FDA has recently declared trans fat as no longer generally recognized as safe, giving food companies until 2018 to remove trans fat from foods altogether.   This ban will take us one step closer to food companies providing fresher ingredients and allow consumers to choose healthier, heart healthy options. While on the go, what hacks have helped you the most?

Sources:  http://www.nmihi.com/h/hyperlipidemia.htm

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/Hyperlipidemia_UCM_434965_Article.jsp

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

Fat Replacers


d4037a5e-4e06-4d5e-946a-846fdd6cfdfd_Lubrication KL_530x397By: Nikki Nies

There is a time and place for all things. This includes the enigmatic use of fat replacers. With a society highly focused weight loss and management. Calorically, fats provide 9 calories per gram, while carbohydrates and proteins each provide 4 calories per gram. As you can see, fats are more calorically dense than carbohydrates and protein.  Therefore, the Institute of Medicine recommends limiting fat intake to 10-35% of daily intake as excessive intake of high fat foods can lead to greater risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

Now you’re wondering how to cut down on your beloved fatty foods? With the help of fat replacers you have some help! Fat replacers are nonfat substances that are not the same in chemical properties as fat, but will provide many of the same characteristics, such flavor, texture, mouth feel and volume at a lower caloric amount.

Use of fat replacers help decrease fat intake by 1/3 and more easily comply with fat intake recommendations of lower saturated and trans fat intake.ed. Fat based replacers use vegetable oil instead of triglycerides, including caprenin, salatrim and olestro*.  Carbohydrate based fat replacers include modified starch, dextrins, oat fiber, dried plum paste and gums can be used as thickeners for dairy type products, frozen desserts, spreads, salad dressings or sauces. Milk protein or egg are used as protein based fat replacers are used in low fat dairy products, such as margarine, mayonnaise, soups and salad dressings.

EnergyDensityPRShort term studies on fat replacers have shown potential health benefits, including lower blood lipid levels, weight loss and blood clotting factors. Powdered soluable oat fiber has also indicated lower body weight, lower systolic blood pressure, better glucose tolerance and lipid levels. While these short term studies are positive news, long term studies need to be conducted to confirm and validate these initial findings.

The point of fat replacers is not to downplay fat’s role in foods, as we need fat in cheese to maintain silky texture, provide tenderness and softening the crumb in baking, but to make you more aware of alternative solutions to limit fat intake.  Remember, fat replacers is not a end all solution, but moderation is key.  One can still overeat on foods that are listed as “fat free” or “low fat” as it is not a guarantee of lower caloric intake.

*Olestro/olestra has been found to interfere with absorption of fat soluable vitamins and carotenoids and may cause cramping, loose stools and/or bloating.

Photo Credit: Wageningen UR and Prevent Cancer

Sources: http://www.caloriecontrol.org/articles-and-video/feature-articles/glossary-of-fat-replacers

http://www.webmd.com/diet/tc/fat-replacers-in-food-topic-overview

http://www.ift.org/~/media/Knowledge%20Center/Science%20Reports/Scientific%20Status%20Summaries/fatreplacers_0398.pdf

http://www.nutrientdataconf.org/PastConf/NDBC19/4-2_Gordon.pdf

http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/updates/fat_replacers.php

 

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 

Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder


By: Nikki Nies baking-powder-soda

In baking, there are 2 categories that ingredients fall into- tougheners/strengtheners and tenderizers/weakeners. Tenderizers include fat, egg yolk, sugar, leaveners and acids. Leaveners are chemical agents that cause batters to rise when baked.  Leaveners create enlarge the already present bubbles through the creaming of ingredients.

Specifically, this includes baking soda, baking powder, air and steam. These extend shelf life of finished product. Flour, milk, water, whole eggs and egg whites are tougheners. Milk, juice, water and egg add moisture to butter, flour, starch and milk solids are dry ingredients.

As stated before, baking powder and soda are leavening agents.  When both ingredients are used in the same recipe, the baking powder does most of the leavening while the baking soda neutralizes the acid in the recipe, adding tenderness and some leavening.  Baking powder is composed of baking soda, one or more acid salts (i.e. cream of tartar or sodium aluminum sulfate) and cornstarch to absorb any moisture. Nowadays, most baking powder is double acting, which means it reacts to liquid and heat in two stages.

The initial reaction takes place when adding baking powder to batter and it is moistened. Either cream of tartar or sodium aluminum sulfate, the acid salts, reacts with the baking soda to produce carbon dioxide gas. The second reaction takes place once the batter is in the oven. The gas cells expand causing the batter to rise.

If there’s too much baking soda added to a cake, the mixture will be alkaline, contain a yellowish hue and a soapy flavor.  It is often used in recipes with an acidic ingredient (i.e citrus juice, sour cream, yogurt, vinegar, buttermilk, cocoa, honey, molasses, fruit, maple syrup and/or chocolate).  Once added to batter, baking soda reacts and releases carbon dioxide gas. Therefore, it’s important to bake batter immediately.

Use of too much baking powder can cause the end product to be bitter in taste, for the batter to rise rapidly and then collapse and/or the crumb will have a fragile, coarse texture.  On the other end of the spectrum, when not enough baking powder is used, a cake can be poor in volume or have a compact crumb.

Photo Credit:Happy Herbivore

Sources:http://www.simplyrecipes.com/the_difference_between_baking_soda_and_baking_powder/

http://chemistry.about.com/cs/foodchemistry/f/blbaking.htm

Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder

Baking 101: The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/blogs/editor/2014/03/from-the-test-kitchen-baking-soda-vs-baking-powder.html

http://www.joyofbaking.com/bakingsoda.html

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/06/what-is-the-difference-between-baking-powder-and-baking-soda-in-pancakes.html