Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Carbs. Love em or hate em, lose em or keep em....

Carbs. Even just saying the word out loud conjures up thoughts of lust, guilt and temptation. Carbs have become the centerfold of the nutrition world over the past decade forcing the majority of the nation to shun potatoes, bread, pasta and rice. Thousands jumped on the Atkins diet band wagon consuming bacon and cheese smothered bun-less burgers for lunch and dinner. Snacks became pork rinds, cartons of heavy cream whipped with sweet-and-low, and sticks of butter sprinkled with nuts. Amazingly people were losing weight! Swearing that Atkins was the greatest thing that ever happened to them and that they were never going to eat carbs again.

Then it happened. Those individuals who were living a life full of decadent, fatty foods and breaking out their skinny jeans went weak in the knees for toast! Like a roller coaster effect, all those new svelte bodies started to fatten back up to their old sizes and then some! Why? Duh, because it's an impossible lifestyle to maintain.

Cutting out any food group is only going to cause you to crave it ten fold. The problem here is not that carbs are evil but it's the amount of carbs we eat and the type of carbs we eat. No kidding you'll lose weight when you cut out cookies, bagels, jumbo sized backed potatoes and piles of macaroni salad. Our cells literally suck up sugar when we eat it and store it for survival purposes. Our bodies don't care what they look like in a bikini, rather they simply want to pack as much away so they always have back-up fuel!

So, forget Atkins and all the other diets that shun carbs. Carbs are essential for our bodies to operate. They supply the brain with glucose to help you think and function, refuel glycogen stores in the muscle and liver after a workout and provide dozons of nutrients and fiber to meals. The key here again, how much and what kind! Eat your carbs in the morning! This is the best time. But make sure they're the right kind. Oatmeal, WHOLE GRAIN bread or cereal. Look at the serving size and eat one serving! One, not three! Pair it with some healthy fat and protein and your set. Throughout the day taper your carbs so much so that by dinner you are carb free! Most people don't need carbs that late. Our bodies begin to slow down and need less fuel as the day goes on. Avoid all sugar and processed carbs like the plague! The higher the sugar content or the more processed the food the faster it gets sent to the reserves. Number one. Choose carbs that are full of fiber which will keep blood sugar steady and allow for a slower release of them into the bloodstream. Number two. PORTION CONTROL! Buy a food scale. Number three. Eat them as straight from mother nature as you can get. I'm talking fruits and veggies here. If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it!

Don't fear the notorious carbohydrate. Rather embrace it in it's whole state a little at a time.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Salads, salads, galore!

I love salads, always have. Not only are they a healthful start to lunch or dinner but they're a great meal in-and-of-themselves! I eat at least one big salad, if not two per day! And I'm not talking about a bowl of iceberg topped with sliced radishes, a couple carrot slivers and a teaspoon of fat free italian dressing. My salads are loaded with nutrients and flavor! To enjoy a salad it has to be satisfying! By that I mean adding a touch of indulgence that makes my tummy feel content after eating. Not as though I ate a bowl full of raw veggies with no staying power setting me up to devour something else. What does it for me is about an ounce of crumbled blue cheese, a tablespoon or two of dried fruit, and of course, a serving of homemade lower fat salad dressing. For a meal I add a beautifully grilled, juicy chicken breast or a portobello mushroom which takes the salad to another level! When I'm starving both the chicken and mushroom are added and it becomes a meal so good it's hard to believe it's healthy!

To many, salad just means lettuce. They think that as long as they have a bowl of greens whatever goes on top is fair game and healthy. WRONG! People take this to the extreme and load their "salads" with bacon bits, croutons, cheese, eggs, nuts and globs of rich, fatty salad dressing which usually ends up being worse than eating a double whopper! In their minds though, they ate a salad and they're eating healthfully. Again the trick is to be choosey! Pick one or two decadent options and sprinkle them sparingly. A half ounce of nuts and a half ounce of cheese, perhaps. Or try adding in substitutes that may replace the fattier ones. Use as many veggies as you can to cover as many different textures as possible. Being creative and experimenting will eventually lead to discovery! One should utilize these tips when making his or her own and when ordering out. Restaurants certainly aren't concerned about your health despite their claims. Take the Caesar as one example. Sure it looks rather simple and innocent but at most restaurants it's a gut buster! Traditional caesar is loaded with dressing and then piled with croutons and parmesan.

Salads are my go to meal. Not only do I love them but I know they make a healthful lunch or dinner that will never let me down. The key is how to order them! First and foremost I ask for dressing on the side. This allows me to dip my fork and use just enough dressing for one serving. I'm then selective about my toppings. I have a weakness for cobbs and boy can they do some damage to the mid-section! I also ask for my cobb to be free of bacon which is a great start. Once served I analyze how much blue cheese, avocado, and egg are served. Usually it's a conservative amount of each but in an attempt to keep the calories lower I try to push off some of the blue cheese, eat only the egg whites and allow myself all the avocado. Since it's an expensive fruit most restaurants only give you about three slices and becuase it's one of the healthiest fats in the world I figure I better eat it all!

Again, salads can be one of the greatest, healthiest meals or one of the worst. For me it's all about adding in just the right amount of little extras that leave me feeling satisfied and not deprived! The tablespoon is a much needed ally and will never let you down.

My perfect Salad!

3 cups organic romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small carrot peeled into strips of ribbon
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 large roma tomato or one small tomato
2 T dried cranberries, organic preferably
3-4 ounces grilled chicken
1 ounce high quality blue cheese, crumbled
2 T balsamic salad dressing. All natural (No soybean oil, preservatives, additives) or make your own.

Toss veggies with salad dressing and top with grilled chicken, crumbled cheese, and cranberries!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Breakfast of Champions

No, I'm not talking about Wheaties. What I am talking about is breakfast period. Your rocket fuel for the morning (alongside coffee, of course)! Personally, Wheaties doesn't do it for me but I am a huge breakfast eater as well as a huge advocator of eating a big, balanced breakfast. One that provides whole grain carbs, fiber, protein and healthy fat. A breakfast like this will start you off strong and keep you going for hours. The balance of nutrients gives you energy and prevents you from crashing from a sugar rush like you would after Fruity Pebbles.

Study after study reveals that people consume breakfast regularly weigh less. Although the stats differ from each study the logic remains the same. When you wake and feed your body you kick-start your metabolism and get everything going. Most importantly you replenish glycogen (sugar) storage in the liver and muscles after a long night sleep which will set your energy tank to full a give you a boost to make it through the morning. Breakfast is where you want to consume the bulk of your carbohydrates and the most calories per meal because your body will use them right away and throughout the course of the day.

When one waits to eat for a couple hours the body will set itself to a slight starvation mode because it's not receiving the energy it wants. Then when you do eat you are more likely to store those calories as fat for "survival purposes" rather than burning them as fuel (The body is an amazing thing and is created to take care of itself). Secondly, people who wait are more likely to eat more because they either waited too long and are now ravenous or they think, "Hey, I skipped breakfast so I can eat more!" WRONG. Too many calories at any one time will be stored as fat. Period.

To eat, or not to eat, that is not the question. Eat! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it doesn't have to be eggs and toast. While those two are a staple for me I have been known to consume leftover spaghetti and meatballs bright and early. To each his or her own!

Example breakfast:

Two large eggs, fried in a light spray of cooking oil
One piece of good whole wheat bread, I use ezekiel
1 cup berries

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Back on the Wagon...

Did I indulge over the fourth? Yes, of course and I enjoyed every bit of it. I gave into some bruschetta, a couple of my skinny margaritas and oh, even some of the Original Pancakes famous Apple Pancake! I'm sure there were a few more in there but every once in a while I allow myself these indulgences... I am only human. I certainly don't throw caution to the wind and devour every morsel of food I want by any means. Rather, I strategize. Before I decide how I'm going to indulge I figure out where I can balance it out with the rest of what I'm going to eat. For instance, I knew I was eating bruschetta! Tiny toasts topped with tomatos, basil and olive oil. Can I get a yum! I swear they were calling my name. Therefore, in an attempt to find some balance I skipped the bread for a chicken sandwhich and the tortellini salad and made a big, chicken salad loaded with veggies instead. I did end up having the tortellini salad for breakfast the next day too! I figured why not, eat the carbs in the morning, burn them off all day long!

Splurging is okay every once in a while and I find that if I don't let myself have those every so often I end up bingeing and go crazy! If I eat as well as I do the majority of the time then I don't feel so bad about giving in to oh let's say Scoops tortilla chips and salsa a couple of times a month. Again, I just find a way to balance it out.

As of Saturday night I hopped back on my healthy wagon and went right back to my chicken salads, grilled veggies and whole grains. I have to say that I love eating healthfully and while it is nice to cheat every once and again I always look forward to getting back to eating what nature gives us!