Take note of what you’re eating!

Take note of what you’re eating!

Here’s some food for thought.

Pick the healthier choice. If you are like most people, you will most likely choose the salad – but if you look closely at the nutrition facts you will find that you are eating more calories and fat with a full-dressed salad (1010 calories, 62 % total fat) than you would have if you had gone to the local fast-food restaurant and ordered a double-burger (900 calories, 57% total fat).

America has access to some of the best food in the world – yet, we have some of the worst eating habits! The good news is that eating poorly is a habit – and habits can be changed, especially if we know the REAL facts about food.

According to Mary Sadler, MS, RD, CD, on staff at Ministry Saint Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point, we should look at three important areas when choosing our food. We should 1) choose more whole foods and less processed foods, 2) look at the actual portion sizes and ingredients, and 3) pay attention to the fats, sodium and sugars. All this information is found on the nutrition label. “There are no bad foods; it comes down to portion size and how often you eat it,” Sadler said.

The FDA requires processed food products to publish nutritional information on their labels. The first three items that you should look for the label are: serving or portion size, servings per container and the calories per servings.

If we consider that everything we put in our mouths either promotes our health or takes away from it – we can make each bite or sip count. We will feel better, lose weight and have more stamina and energy for exercise.

It’s not just what you eat, but how much you eat that counts.

Portion sizes have inflated in the last few decades. Large plates are common place. Studies show that when people eat on large plates they eat 30 percent more calories. It’s no wonder that our population is growing larger.

Consider this. Twenty years ago one serving of French fries was 210 calories; today, one serving can include as many as 610 calories.

One soda was just 85 calories; today, 250 calories is the norm.

A breakfast muffin in the past topped the scale at 1.5 ounces; today’s supersized four-ounce muffins pack over 35 percent more calories.

The most recent data indicate that 72 percent of men and 64 percent of women are overweight or obese, with about one-third of adults being obese. Consider the numbers from 30 years ago:

  Children 2 to 5
years old
Children 6 to 11
years old
Adolescents Adults
1970 5% 4% 6% 15%
2008 10% 20% 18% 34%

Eat Mediterranean-style

People living near the Mediterranean, who eat a traditional diet, have a lower risk of cardiovascular and other diseases. Their high-fiber, lower-saturated-fat diets are made up of vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oil, legumes, whole grains / cereals and fish. They eat only small amounts of meats and full-fat milk and milk products; they often include wine with meals. Eating a similar diet, eating breakfast and exercising regularly can help you lose weight and keep it off.

People who lost 30 or more pounds and kept it off long term (more than 1 to 2 years): consume a high- fiber, lower-fat diet, exercise regularly, frequently self- monitor their habits, and eat breakfast regularly.

Nutrient Dense (Real Foods) vs. Calorie dense (Processed)

All food has nutrients and calories. However, some foods have more nutrients per calorie than others. For instance one serving of plain wavy chips (one ounce) has 160 calories, but do you know how many chips there are in one serving? Eleven – that’s it, just 11.

But calorie count is just one part of the nutrient picture. We need to consider the value of the calories that we are feeding our bodies. Using those same 160 calories you could have: 2 small apples, 3 cups of slices carrots, 4 peaches, almost 6 cups of cherry tomatoes or 11 cups of cucumbers. Which do you think would be more satisfying?

Let’s look at the label.

Have you ever wondered why the apples, peaches and cucumbers that you buy from the store do not have labels affixed to them? It’s because they are real foods and not processed.

Real foods are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals, are high in water and in fiber, low in calorie density, low in added fat and have no added sugar. They are satisfying; they don’t require nutrition labels.

Once food has something added to it, it requires a label. Look at the ingredient list. The more ingredients that are listed on the label; the more processed that food is.

But beware. Not all foods labels mean the same thing. For instance many foods labeled whole grain are really not whole grain. It is important to look at the percentage and the order of nutrients to determine a food’s real nutritional value. If sugar, sodium or white flour are the first ingredients, the food may have little nutritional value.

The body processes and uses natural nutrients better than those that have been added to “fortify” a highly processed food product.

The 5/20 rule

Remember the 5/20 rule. If a food has 5 percent or less of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for a nutrient like fiber listed on its label, that food is not a good source of that nutrient. If the food has 20 percent or more of the RDA listed for that nutrient listed, it is a good source. A whole grain product should have at least 20 percent of the daily fiber needed to be a good source.

Conversely, if you are trying to cut down on fats, sugars and sodium you can use the 5/20 rule for those food elements as well. Foods with less than five percent of the fats, sugars and sodium are good food choices; foods with more than 20 percent would be poor food choices.

Create a healthy plate

Using the "My Plate" model is an easy way to make sure that you eat a balanced diet without feeling deprived.

To create a healthy plate meal, simply view your plate like a clock. Fill the position of 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock with colorful fruits and vegetables; fill the space from 6 o’clock to 9 o’clock with carbohydrates like potatoes and rice; and fill the area from 9 to 12 o’clock with lean protein.

When creating your healthy plate, always remember that color is your friend. The more colorful the food, the more nutrients it contains.

The shake down on salt

Our bodies need sodium; it is an essential nutrient with an important role in the body. It’s essential for fluid balance, muscle strength, and nerve function. … but we only need a small amount, less than 2,300 mg per day for adults. Sodium in our diet pulls calcium from our bones.

There is also a proven correlation between the amount of sodium we eat and our blood pressure. While consuming too much sodium can increase your blood pressure, the reverse is also true; decreasing your sodium intake can help you lower your blood pressure.

"It’s well established that sodium increases blood pressure, which is a silent killer – a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack and kidney disease," said Stacey Gusman, FNP-C, a family nurse practitioner with Ministry Victory Medical Group’s Owen Clinic. "Salt, 40 percent sodium by weight, is the principal source of sodium in the American diet."

The American diet is loaded with sodium. Most of the excess sodium that we consume comes from salt added during the processing of canned, frozen or other prepared foods. "No matter how hard you try, your efforts to reduce your sodium may have limited results since 80 percent of the salt in your diet is beyond your control – it’s added to the food before you buy it," Gusman said.

That’s why the New York City Health Department coordinated "The National Salt Initiative", which is a public-private effort to reduce salt consumption of Americans by 20 percent over a 5-year period by encouraging food processors to voluntarily reduce the amount of salt in their foods.

You can reduce your sodium consumption: by reading the nutrition facts label and purchasing foods that are sodium-free or foods that have reduced sodium; by eating more real foods and less processed foods; by asking if low-sodium options are available when you are dining out; by eating more home-cooked meals that are made from scratch and by taking the salt shaker off the table.

Other practical ways to reduce sodium in your diet include rinsing canned vegetables before you heat them. Use only half the packet of seasoning in pre-package meal mixes. Reduce the sodium per serving in canned soups or stews by adding additional non-processed ingredients like potatoes, vegetables or pasta to increase the number of servings, which redistributes the amount of sodium per serving.

For a reduced sodium snack idea, mix equal amounts of salted and unsalted nuts.

So what’s the buzz about sugar?

Ask mothers of small children if sugar affects a child’s behavior and the vast majority will answer a resounding, “yes!”

While natural sugars are found in fruit, milk and dairy products, the majority of sugar that is eaten by the average American is added during processing, preparation or at the table. This added sugar, which may take the forms of high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, raw sugar, malt, syrup, honey or molasses, often supplies an abundance of calories, but little to no nutrition. In other countries, a piece of fruit is considered to be sweet; in America we sometimes even add sugar to our fruit.

So is sugar really bad for us?

Consider this: sugar increases inflammation throughout the body, provides empty calories, which usually turn into fat, increases triglycerides, increases blood sugar, causes dental problems and recent studies show that it may also increase our cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

According to the American Heart Association, women should eat less than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of added sugar a day and men less than 9 teaspoons (36 grams).

So, how much sugar do we really eat?

The average American adult eats 22 teaspoons or 352 calories of added sugar each day; teens consume up to 34 teaspoons, or 544 calories.

One can of soda contains 40 grams or 10 teaspoons of sugar. (Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon.) While a 100 percent whole grain roll is normally a good source of fiber, when you use the same recipe to create cinnamon rolls or sticky buns, you have increased the sugar content and made the food unhealthy.

Sugar, and simple carbohydrates that turn to sugar quickly in the bloodstream, will also make you crave more sugar. Some people even develop an addiction to sugar.

You can combat sugar addiction

Decreasing sugar and getting used less sweet flavors takes time; that time varies from person to person. But we can retrain our taste buds so we get used to less sweet foods.

Just reduce the sugar little by little and you will train your taste buds to appreciate the taste of real foods with no added sugar. It may take an older person longer to adjust to the natural flavors of real foods, but the health benefit is well worth the effort.

Here are some helpful tips.

  • Instead of putting cinnamon and sugar on toast, try just using cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Decrease the amount of sugar in your own recipes when baking and preparing foods.
  • Choose the less sugary desert; choose a baked apple instead of cookie.
  • Use juice to flavor your water instead of depending on added sugar.
  • Mix equal portions of sugared cereal with un-sweetened cereal and reduce your sugar intake by half.

Just keep decreasing the amount of sugar in your diet to reduce the amount of sugar in your body. Overtime you may find that the doughnut that you used to enjoy for breakfast is just “too sweet” and you will naturally opt for a healthier choice.

Ten tips for better eating

As a country we eat too many calories, too much solid fat, too much added sugar, too many refined grains and too much sodium. We don’t eat get enough potassium; dietary fiber; calcium; vitamin D; unsaturated fatty acids from oils, nuts, and seafood; and other important nutrients mostly commonly found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat milk and milk products.

Following these ten simple habits can help you feel better, have more energy, lose weight and live longer.

  1. Use your calories wisely. Choose nutrient-dense foods instead of calorie dense foods. First choose as many nutrient-dense real foods as possible. If you must choose processed foods, read the labels and choose foods with the least number of ingredients.
  2. Remember, size does matter! Make sure that you only eat the recommended portion size listed on the package.
  3. Eat more vegetables and fruits.
  4. Eat more fat-free or low-fat dairy.
  5. Replace solid fats like lard and butter with olive oil.
  6. Replace white flour with whole wheat, oat or rye flour.
  7. Replace meat or poultry with fish.
  8. Reduce the amount of sodium in your food.
  9. Reduce the amount of added sugar in your food.
  10. Adopt the European way of eating. Eat whole grains, fruit and dairy or lean protein for breakfast; eat a larger lunch and a smaller supper. Eating this way lets you take in most of your calories earlier in the day and giving you the opportunity to burn them off throughout the day.

Are these habits making you fat?

  1. Do you use a large plate?
  2. Do you always clean your plate?
  3. Do you eat fast and chew less?
  4. Do you skip meals?
  5. Do you make food choices without thinking?
  6. Do you eat to relax?
  7. Do you snack late at night?

If you answered yes to any of these questions and struggle to lose weight, you might want to change your eating habits. Remember, the good news is that these are habits … and habits can be changed.

Reduce your portion sizes without feeling deprived.

If you are used to eating larger portions, you can reduce the portion size and still feel full without feeling hungry.

First, use smaller plates or bowls for your meals. Visually, it looks like you are eating more.

Make sure you increase your fiber intake and eat lean protein. Fiber and protein helps you feel full for a longer period of time.

Snack, but make your calories count. Healthy, portion controlled snacks like a piece of string cheese with an apple, or a handful of trail mix, or a handful of nuts can satisfy your mid-morning or mid-afternoon hunger and keep you from having a ravenous appetite in the evening.

Eating less causes the stomach to shrink. Eat slowly and savor each bite. When you’ve eaten 80 percent of what you are used to eating, wait 20 minutes. It takes that long for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full. You will have enjoyed your food choice and you will feel full without having added unnecessary calories.

Keep in mind that it is OK for our bodies to feel hunger. If you never have hunger pains or your stomach never growls because you are hungry, you are probably overeating.

Use a scale of 1 to 5 to see how hungry you are. If you know that you’ve just eaten and you think that you are still hungry, then it is probably a behavioral issue rather than physical hunger. Think about when you last ate – when, what and how much. If you ate a balanced lunch at noon and your stomach is growling a half hour later, then it is probably digestion. Check it out; don’t eat. Spend time doing something else and see if your hunger pangs go away.

Stay motivated to change your eating habits.

First, ask yourself why you want to change the way you eat. If it is just to lose weight, you can probably achieve temporary success. Long-term success seems to be more closely tied to wanting to feel healthy, to be stronger and have more endurance.

Education is a great motivator, but sometimes we need some additional encouragement. Enlist the help of a family member to keep you on track.

According to Mary Sadler, who taught weight reduction classes, a great test for you to check to see if you really need fuel, or something else may be causing the hunger, is HALT.

HALT stands for:

Tense or Tired

If you are eating when you have any of these feelings, you are probably eating because of emotion and not because you’re really hungry.

According to Sadler, for many people, overeating is actually a symptom of something else. Some people turn to alcohol, some to cigarettes, and some to food. In these instances, counseling may be needed to address the emotional issues.

Medical reasons also tend to be a great motivator. But if we make changes early we may avoid the need to be motivated by diabetes or heart problems.

Eat Plenty of Fiber

"Once known as roughage or bulk and considered important primarily for maintaining bowel regularity, fiber has been shown to have many health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar, and reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, gall bladder disease, and many cancers," said Jerome Andres, MD, FAAFP, Ministry Medical Group in Woodruff.

Nutritionists recommend that you consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, although the average American diet does not include nearly that much.

Fiber promotes wave-like contractions and expands the inside walls of the bowel, easing the passage of wastes. Fiber also tends to absorb water, resulting in a large, soft, bulky stool. This means more bowel regularity, less constipation, and a lower risk of hemorrhoids.

With reduced pressure in the colon, the risk of diverticular disease is also lowered. Diverticulosis is a condition where small pockets or bulges form outward from the side of the bowel. Diverticulitis occurs when these pockets become blocked and get inflamed or infected.

“In the past, persons with diverticular disease were often told to restrict consumption of nuts, popcorn and foods with seeds or husks–all high in fiber,” said Dr. Andres. “Recent research has reversed that view, determining that such foods are actually beneficial to persons with diverticular disease.”

A good reason to bulk up on fiber

Deep in the bowels of your body, important work gets completed. The stomach breaks down food and then most nutrients are absorbed by the small intestine. Food that cannot be digested passes into the colon.

While you rarely notice it, muscles in your colon gently churn like a washing machine, removing excess water and returning it to the body while moving waste matter along the tube and finally depositing it in the rectum for removal from the body.

Unfortunately, the orderly work of the bowels can be disrupted by a number of diseases–Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, and colon cancer. Irritable bowel syndrome is not a disease but a functional disorder, usually causing abdominal pain and discomfort and chronic diarrhea, constipation or both.

The causes of these disorders are complex, but there are many things you can do to improve the functioning of your bowels and keep them healthy.

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