Showing posts with label mindful eating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mindful eating. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sparsely sweet: lowering added sugars

Use fresh fruit in place of jam
Sugars are certainly on the national radar - NY passed a ban on over sized sodas - and the chopping block - schools are banning bake sales and the vending machines are getting the boot.

While added sugars are not helping the obesity epidemic we face in this country and around the world, I wouldn't advocate for a sugar free eating pattern. Why not? Sugars are naturally packaged with some  healthful foods - milk and fruit. If you tried to follow a sugar free diet, you'd be missing out on those two nutritional power houses.

What is sugar? Sugars are six-carbon molecules that usually occur as a pair (aka disaccharides) in certain foods, like lactose in milk and fructose in fruit, or as much longer molecules to form starches, fibers and the kinds of carbohydrates we find in white bread, wheat bread, rice, quinoa and potatoes. Yes, white bread "breaks down to sugar", but so too does any other starch. Sugar isn't the culperit, the problem is what the sugar is packaged with (or without).

Food is a mixed bag of many things; the calories come from whatever fats, proteins and carbohydrates are in the food. You also find vitamins, minerals, water, phytochemicals, and alcohols may be present too. There is also the possibility of added colors, preservatives, herbicides, pesticides, "good" bacteria (i.e. probiotics - yogurt) and "bad" bacteria (i.e. food poisoning) and even yeast (bread and beer) and fungi (mushrooms - yum, or spoiled food - yuck).

While we're most comfortable with a food being labeled as "good" or "bad", most things with nutrtion are more gray; the poision is in the dose (thank you Paracelsus). Some foods containing sugars are healthy, like fruit and milk, but these days we are seeing too many added sugars.  While they're the same molecule, adding sugar doesn't increase the nutritional value of the food - it just adds extra calories.

If you look at a food label, how do you know? Unfortunately, you don't. Sugar is usually listed as a portion of the total carbohydrates, but from that information alone you don't know if it was a part of the food originally, or added somewhere down the processing line. What you need to browse is the ingredient list; if sugar was added, and you know what the key words are, you'll find them!

Besides "sugar", here are some other sneaky ways to mean sugar:
Hint: most sugars end in -ose

· Agave Nectar
· Barley Malt Syrup
· Brown rice syrup
· Brown sugar
· Corn sweetener
· Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
· Dehydrated Cane Juice
· Dextrin
· Dextrose
· Fructose
· Fruit juice concentrate
· Glucose
· High-fructose corn syrup
· Honey
· Invert sugar

· Lactose
· Maltodextrin
· Malt syrup
· Maltose
· Maple syrup
· Molasses
· Raw sugar
· Rice Syrup
· Saccharose
· Sorghum or sorghum syrup
· Sucrose
· Syrup
· Treacle
· Turbinado Sugar
· Xylose

Some foods contain only naturally occurring sugar (apples or milk), other contain only added sugars (sweet tea, chocolate chip cookies, pancake syrup) and some contain both (sweetened apple sauce, fruit flavored yogurt, chocolate milk, raisin granola). The best advice is to minimize added sugars in you daily routine and to enjoy them as treats once in a while. If you practice eating mindfully, you'll enjoy that treat for longer.

How to do this? Get started with these delicious recipes:
  • Use fresh or dried fruit in place of jam
  • Instead of sugary store bought cake, try these less-intensly sweetened Chocolate zucchini cupcakes
  • Instead of syrup on your pancakes and waffles, try my berry-ful fruit compote.
  • In place of calorie-laden peanut butter cookies, try the nutrient-packed energy bites . Not low-calorie, but loaded with healthy nutrition to keep you moving!
  • Replace your sugar-drenched "fruit" yogurt with a delicous fruit parfait.
  • Flavor your morning coffee with spices intead of sugar.
  • Instead of hitting the bottom of a pint of Ben and Jerry's, try my strawberry banana"ice-cream"
  • Remake old favorites - most banana bread recipes are really just cake by another name. Try this (best) banana bread recipe and enjoy actually tasting the banana!
What is the sweet summary? Sugar, when found naturally in foods like fruit and milk, is a healthy part of a balanced eating plan. Too many added sugars, usually founds in sweet drinks and treats, should be kept to a minimum.

Reader poll:  Are you checking food packages for the ingredient list? Did anything surprise you?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mindful Eating - Efficiency isn't always so efficient

Figuring out what to eat is all we need to know for good health, right?
Wrong: learning when, and how, we eat has a profound impact on health too.
Efficiency is an attribute that many of us strive for in our daily lives, especially with those things that just don’t seem as important to us. For most tasks, including meal preparation, this is great - efficiency allows us to breeze through the mundane without too much fuss. Using a list to shop for groceries, having a meal plan to know what you’re going to eat throughout the week or knowing how to quickly chop a carrot into even slices is easiest if there is a quick system in place.
efficiency allows us to breeze through the mundane without too much fuss
But when it actually comes to eating, being too efficient can backfire. When we gobble our food, eat while working on the computer or watching TV, snack while we walk or sip while we drive, the mind is distracted from the meal. If the normal pace is “vacuum cleaner,” it’s time to slow down and eat mindfully.  This is something that doesn’t come naturally to many adults; even health professionals can be guilty too!  Taking smaller bites, not eating so fast and making the meals the singular activity (instead of multitasking while eating) can help. It takes plenty of focus to do something differently, but the benefits are many.
If the normal pace is “vacuum cleaner,” it’s time to slow down and eat mindfully

Eating more slowly allows your stomach to get the message that it is full of food - a message that takes 20 minutes or so to deliver. Focusing on each bite as you eat lets you be more satisfied with the meal. Taking the time to enjoy the meal leaves a positive break in your hectic day and leaves you ready to run for your next tasks.  
Take this mini quiz to see if you need to focus more when eating:
·         What did you have to drink yesterday?
·         What was the best thing you ate yesterday?
·         What foods did you eat between meals?
·         Did you hit the bottom of a snack bag without realizing it?

If you’re having trouble putting the bites together, it could be a sign that you aren’t paying enough attention while you’re eating.
Need some strategies to slow down? Give these a try:
•       Put down the fork or spoon between each bite
•       Set a timer and see how long it takes you to eat your lunch or dinner. Are you surprised? Try to make the next meal last for two minutes longer.
•       Take a sip of water in between bites
•       Eat only at the table
•       Turn off distractions (TV, computer, phone)
•       Set the table - this lends to a sense of occasion
•       Eat at regular intervals
•       Stop nibbling throughout the day or going for hours and hours without eating; both are detrimental to your metabolism

It takes time to build new habits. But if you take the energy and focus to be present when you eat, your health (and waistline) can benefit.
Main Message:  the dining room table is not the place for multitasking, and your computer desk, car and couch shouldn’t replace the dining room table. Sit down at the table and focus on the meal. Enjoy the pleasure of a small break, and move on to your next task feeling recharged and refocused.
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Question to the reader: what strategies to you use to be present at the table? 
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