Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Training Talk: What Female Athletes Need to Know About Fueling Their Bodies

At the 10th Annual Sanford Sports Medicine Symposium last weekend, I spoke about nutrition's role in injury prevention and recovery. One of the main topics of the presentation was low energy availability in athletes. Energy availability is the amount of calories left over for the body to use for normal physiological functions (heart beating, walking around, lungs breathing, thermoregulation, growth, etc.) after accounting for calories burned during training or exercise.

Food intake - Energy Expended During Exercise = Energy Availability

Athletes who have heavy training schedules can be living in a chronic state of low energy availability, where every calorie they eat at meals is burned off during exercise, leaving little to no calories for the body to perform those regular bodily functions.

When calorie intake doesn't match energy expenditure, this low energy availability can not only have negative effects on training and athletic performance, but can put athletes at risk for other health problems.

For female athletes, this low energy availability can lead to other health issues, such as low bone mineral density and menstrual function disorders in what is called the Female Athlete Triad. Physically active girls and women can experience any one of the 3 components, which are interrelated and occur along a spectrum of healthy to unhealthy (see picture below).

Source: 2014 Female Athlete Triad Coalition Consensus Statement on Treatment and Return to Play of the Female Athlete Triad.
De Souza MJ, et al. Br J Sports Med 2014;48:289
Female athletes won't always know the signs of female athlete triad because they won't necessarily lose weight if they have low energy availability (many athletes have a stable weight despite not meeting their calorie needs)...but they might notice if  they're training hard and lose their menstrual period. An estimated 20% of active women has missed 3 or more consecutive menstrual periods, called amenorrhea. This can lead to a loss of calcium from bones, a much higher incidence of stress fractures and poor bone health...but some athletes might believe that losing their period is just a normal part of hard training.

Regardless of body fat and weight, athletes' low energy availabliy can trigger amenorrhea, and appropriate treatment depends on why the athlete is under-fueling.

  • Unintentional fueling due to low appetite from heavy training, or they may have a hard time fitting in meals and snacks around a heavy training schedule. 
  • Some athletes are caught up in the diet culture of their sport (or society in general), trying to lose weight, with the goal of being better at their sport. They may take this too far and develop disordered eating habits, restricting intake of foods such as carbohydrates or animal protein, which can cause under-fueling and nutrient deficiencies. 
  • Some athletes' restrictive eating patterns and disordered eating can lead to eating disorders, which puts athletes at a greater risk for health problems, and requires a different approach to recovery. 

Treatment of female athlete triad requires correcting the energy imbalance - increasing calorie intake and resting from exercise. 

Female athletes are often surprised when they find out how many calories they need to be eating to fuel their bodies, and how few they are currently eating. Very active individuals usually need at least 3 meals and several snacks per day. To get a better idea of current intake, athletes can track their food using popular apps, such as MyFitnessPal or tools like the SuperTracker.

Although these tools give athletes an idea of what they're doing now, working with a registered dietitian can take the guess work out of meal planning and give them more guidance to how many calories they really need to support training, and which foods they should be focusing on to really optimize their workouts and recover properly.

The total calories aren't the only thing that matter - girls and women can be deficient in several key nutrients:

  • Vitamin D: spend more time outdoors, fortified breakfast cereal, milk, fatty fish like salmon, egg yolks or a vitamin
  • Calcium: dairy such as milk, cheese, yogurt
  • Iron: it's important to get screened for iron status, as many women, especially endurance athletes, tend to have low iron
  • Healthy fats: focus on eating plenty of nuts (including peanut/almond butter!), seeds (flax, hemp, chia), olive oil, avocados, salmon
  • Adequate protein: 20-25 grams per meal, 10-15 grams per snack in the form of lean protein (chicken, fish, lean beef), nuts, yogurt, milk, beans, peas and soy
  • Energy-enhancing carbohydrates: the amount of carbs an athlete needs depends on their weight and what kind of sport they're in, but because carbs are our muscles' main fuel source, eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and potatoes is necessary to perform well and recover adequately. 

When speaking with female athletes, it's important to emphasize that food is fuel!

It's a good thing to eat when you're hungry and to enjoy food.  Eating more food doesn't necessarily equate to weight gain, and many times, it can actually lead to improved sport performance. If an athlete or parent of an athlete suspects they are having any of the issues discussed, they should talk to their doctor. There are other causes for amenorrhea, so it's important to consult with your doctor to rule out other causes! A Registered Dietitian can help athletes fuel their bodies properly to avoid issues related to female athlete triad and under-fueling for their sport.

NPR || To Thrive, Female Athletes Need a Lot More Food

The Informed Appetite || Drink Milk, or Don't. But Maybe Read This First (#Science!)

New York Times || After 'The Biggest Loser,' Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight

Yeah...Imma Eat That || The Hunger and Fullness Scale (AKA How to Stop Dieting)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How Sweet It Is: The Truth About Hidden Sugar in Your Food

Many people consider sugary foods like soda pop, candy, cakes, chocolate and other desserts "junk food". We all know those treats aren't necessarily good for us - eating sugary treats can cause cavities, but increasing evidence suggests that diets which are lower in added sugars are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Added sugar in our diets, isn't necessarily a bad thing (there's a lot of misinformation out there about sugar being toxic...), but Americans are eating and drinking way too much sugar (much more than 30 years ago).

How much sugar are we really eating?

 According to the 2015 Dietary Guideline for Americans, added sugars account for an average of 270 calories per day in an American's diet, most of which come from beverages, then from snacks and sweets such as cakes, pies, cookies, etc. There are many recommendations for how much sugar should be included in your diet, but the 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommended that Americans should aim for 10% or less of their calories from added sugar each day. The World Health Organization (and the American Heart Association) further reduces that recommendation to just 5% of calories (about 6 teaspoons for women, 9 teaspoons for men) for further health benefits. These recommendations for teaspoons or calories of sugar go lower as calorie needs decrease, so children and older adults usually need much less sugar.

While some foods contain natural sugars, such as fruit (fructose) and dairy products (lactose), other foods will have sugars added in order to sweeten them (or if you like food science, sugar can also help preserve foods and aid in giving foods a certain texture, color, etc.) but don't really add any nutrition besides added calories.

We aren't talking about those sometimes foods you already know are sweet, like ice cream, cake, cookies, candy and other desserts - those foods can still be part of your diet, but you probably already know they shouldn't be part of your diet every day. We start to run into problems with weight maintenance and energy levels when our every day diet is full of added sugar (it adds up easily!), in addition to those sweet treats every once in a while.

Be Savvy About Label-Reading

Many people are surprised to find sugar on the label of their favorite foods, including foods that don't even taste sweet or in foods that are seemingly healthy. This is how we are eating up to an average of 270 calories of added sugar per day. It's not just a soda or cookie once in a while - it's those foods plus all the food processed with sugar we are including in our every day diets.

On the ingredient label, sugar can be called many names: brown sugar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, raw sugar and crystal solids, agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, barley malt, dextrose, etc. 

You can probably find one or more types of sugar on your food labels - it can be a challenge to avoid sneaky sugar in products. Some of the foods labeled as being "healthy" or "natural" may contain more than half of the recommended 6 teaspoons of added sugars, especially in foods like flavored yogurt and other dairy products, granola, cereal, oatmeal packets, peanut butter, dried fruit, flavored milk (including flavored non-dairy milks), fruit juice, and sauces.

FYI - If you're looking at a label, 1 teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams. For reference, Honey Nut Cheerios contains 9 grams of sugar per serving, from added sugar, so over 2 teaspoons in a 3/4 cup serving. But how much is your portion? If you eat a cup and a half of that cereal, you're up to almost 5 teaspoons of sugar...

Many other snacks contain more sugar than you thought: A popular organic "snack bar" has 44 grams of carbohydrates, of which 21 grams are "sugars" - sugars coming from dairy, fruit, or added sugar. In this case, the first ingredient on the ingredient list (meaning the bar contains the MOST of that ingredient by weight) is "organic brown rice syrup." Down the ingredients list (highlighted below), there are 4 other types of sugar: organic cane syrup, organic dried cane syrup, dried cane syrup and barley malt extract. For a snack bar, 21 grams of sugar seems like quite a bit of sugar, and the fact that it's organic doesn't make very much difference to your body, honestly. 

Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Rolled Oats, Soy Protein Isolate, Organic Roasted Soybeans, Rice Flour, Organic Chia Seeds, Organic Cane Syrup, Organic Cranberries, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Soy Flour, Dried Strawberries, Organic Oat Fiber, Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Soybean Oil, Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Pomegranate Powder, Salt, Barley Malt Extract, Mixed Tocopherols (Antioxidant). 

To choose healthier snacks/consume less sugar, make sure to check that label - if sugar is the first or second ingredient, try to find a comparable product with less grams of sugar. Compare two items and choose the one with less sugar on the label per serving!
  • Choose plain yogurt and add your own honey/jam and fresh fruit. If you like the convenience of pre-packaged yogurts, compare brands. Some brands and flavors contain way more sugar than others, especially the fat-free flavored yogurts. Take a peek at your "light" yogurt ingredients - does it contain more than just milk, sugar, and added cultures? Does it contain thickeners, like pectin, gums, corn starch, carrageenan, or chicory root fiber? Many of the 100-calorie or light yogurts contain extra ingredients and artificial sweeteners. Choosing a 2% or full fat yogurt and adding your own sweetness will be a more satisfying snack. 
  • Make your own granola bars/energy bites. This especially goes for any chocolate-coated bars and snacks - if you want a dessert, eat a dessert! Snack bars that contain chocolate or candy pieces are just glorified candy bars, even if they use artificial sweeteners. 
  • Don't drink your fruit (juice) - Eat a piece of whole fruit, instead. A whole piece of fruit has all the same sweetness as juice, but has added fiber that prevents your blood sugar from spiking so quickly. If you have a habit of drinking juice, try adding half the amount to some water or sparkling water.
  • Make your own salad dressings - the low fat dressings often contain WAY more ingredients and sugar than a vinaigrette or full-fat dressing. A homemade vinaigrette made with olive oil, vinegar and spices contains healthy fats that help you digest some of the vitamins in your salad,  without all the extra sugar and other additives/
  • Cook at home more often. Restaurant and frozen meals will often contain more sugar than if you had cooked the same meal at home.
  • Swap out your morning cereal with foods that contain less sugar. Try whole grain oatmeal with a banana and milk, or whole grain toast with scrambled eggs. A higher-protein breakfast is often more satisfying and will have you feeling less "snacky" later in the day, so try to include eggs, dairy, beans, meat, nuts and seeds at breakfast. 
Want help getting started? Meet with a Registered Dietitian at the Sanford Sports Science Institute by calling 605-312-7878

NPR ||  New Dietary Guidelines Crack Down On Sugar. But Red Meat Gets A Pass

Real Mom Nutrition || What a Day's Worth of Sugar Really Looks Like  -- Surprising!

Harvard's "The Nutrition Source" || Added Sugar in the Diet

The Washington Post || Where People in the World Eat the Most Sugar and Fat

Today's Dietitian || High Protein Snacking

Siggi's || Simple Swaps and Substitutions  -- Great for cooking and baking!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Training Talk: What You Need to Know About Gaining Muscle, Losing Weight

A hot topic among exercisers and athletes is the best diet and exercises to be able to gain lean muscle mass while losing fat. Is it even possible?

Maintaining or changing body composition (losing fat, gaining muscle) is a balancing act - you need extra calories/building blocks to build muscle...but to lose weight, you need to cut calories, which can result in losing both fat and muscle mass for many. Maintaining that weight loss becomes a challenge because when you lose weight, your body is smaller and needs less calories, and if you lose muscle, your body will burn less calories (muscle is the most metabolically active tissue). This means you need to eat less (or exercise more, or both) once you lose the weight to maintain your weight loss. For athletes, eating less calories can be hard - in the peak of training, hunger may through the roof, and losing muscle during weight loss is exactly what exercisers and athletes DON'T want when they're trying to reach peak performance.

Researchers at McMaster University wanted to look into gaining muscle while trying to lose weight, and in doing so, their findings are being called the "holy grail" of diet and exercise - their diet diet and exercise routine allowed their research participants to lose fat and gain muscle.

In their  recently published a paper titled "Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial" was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers looked at body composition changes in overweight young men who were put  through intensive exercise and diet for about a month.

Research study details

Diet: They took the participants (40 men) and cut their calories by ~40% (compared to their calculated NEED, not their usual diets), and half the men ate 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (lower protein) and the other half ate a higher protein diet, with 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Just for reference, the recommended protein level is only 0.8 grams per kg of body weight, though athletes need more protein each day. 

The higher protein group ate about 35% protein, 15% fat, 50% carbs.
The lower protein group ate about 15% protein, 35% fat, 50% carbs.

The difference in protein and fat came from the milk-based beverage each group drank several times per day, where the high protein group had a extra whey protein isolate added to their low fat dairy-based drink, while the lower protein group just had a high fat milk with no added protein. At least one beverage had to be consumed post-workout, so the higher protein group was also getting a larger post-workout protein dose.

Exercise: Both groups were VERY active - they participated in intense exercise sessions 6 days a week, including plyometric training, full body weight training, high intensity intervals...and on top of that, both groups walked at least 10,000 steps per day.


  • Both groups lost weight
  • Lean body mass (muscle) remained the same in the lower protein group (good!)
  • Lean body mass increased in the higher protein group (even better!)
  • Both groups lost fat mass (good)
  • The high protein group lost more fat mass (best!)

What this means

The combination of the intense exercise schedule and the extra protein (double and almost triple the normal recommended value) helped participants maintain, and even gain muscle mass even though they were cutting calories by 40%.

Both groups maintained carbohydrates, because of the "crucial role that fuel plays in performance," according to researchers. By not cutting their carbohydrates so drastically, these participants were able to participate in difficult workouts throughout the session.

This research study is building off of many years of research that provide strategies for maintaining muscle mass during weight loss, but these strategies, including the McMaster University study are short-term and grueling - working out 6 days a week at a significant calorie deficit can be exhausting, and likely not sustainable for athletes or frequent exercisers.

For many athletes, cutting too many calories, especially calories from carbohydrates can result in low energy, poor performance and recovery issues.

To help your body retain muscle mass if you're trying to lose weight, these two strategies in addition to increased exercise/a calorie deficit help maintain muscle mass:
Strength training helps your body build and retain muscle mass, which not only helps with body composition goals, but also makes athletes stronger all-around and more resistant to injuries. As far as the diet goes, this is one of the areas dietitians help clients with.

How much protein you need depends on your sport/exercises (The above study was doing a mix of high intensity intervals and strength workouts, but what about if you're a runner? What about a strength training runner?) It also depends on your goal - what if you don't necessarily want to LOSE weight, but you want to make sure you don't lose muscle as you ramp up your training? A higher protein diet isn't necessarily a very low carbohydrate diet - the diets that drastically cut carbohydrates from the diet may have athletes feeling tired and unable to complete their workouts as intensely as they would like, especially for endurance athletes.

Example: For a runner trying to get down to racing weight, focusing on getting 1.6-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (body weight in lbs. divided by 2.2) will allow them to still get enough calories from carbohydrates to fuel their runs, while helping them maintain and build muscle mass as the season goes on. A 150 lb. runner would need ~110-123 grams of protein per day, spread throughout the day, including their post-workout meal or snack. 

Find your balance: Make an appointment with the Sanford Sports Science Institute Nutritionist to make sure you're eating in a way that supports your training goals by calling 605-312-7878!

In the mean time, check out this EatRight Article on Timing Your Nutrition!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why the Color Green Belongs on Your Plate All Year Long

St. Patrick's Day is this week, and every store and restaurant is having deals on the traditional Irish corned beef and cabbage...and also on green-dyed food and drinks. A lot of people probably feel the pull to buy those festive foods because it feels as if we can ONLY get that green-tinted cookie/cake/donut/beverage/milkshake ONE day a year. But, let's be honest...those foods appear on the shelves weeks (or even months!) before the actual holiday, and we end up indulging in more than one-day's worth of green treats.

Maybe those desserts don't appeal to you...but if you can't remember the last time you ate something green (we're talking vegetables, not desserts), then we're here to help you understand why the color green deserves to be on your plate all year long.

"Eat more greens" is one of the most common recommendations we make to athletes - green vegetables pack a powerful nutrient punch, boasting phytochemicals, fiber, calcium, iron,  and other vitamins and minerals, and they also have very little calories. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2015-2020 were recently published and highlighted the fact that the majority of Americans aren't eating enough vegetables, including dark green vegetables. That means the majority of Americans (including athletes) are also missing out on all those awesome health benefits that green vegetables provide.
Recommended amounts of dark green vegetables. 1 cup-equivalent = 1 cup raw, cooked, or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of leafy greens! The average weekly intake is under one cup for many, especially kids and adolescents under 18. 
When athletes ask, "How many vegetables do I need?", the answer is usually, "As many as possible, the more variety, the better." 

The "MyPlate" recommendations encourage people to fill up 1/2 their plate with vegetables and fruit (mostly vegetables), or about 3-5 servings of vegetables per day, coming from the dark-green, red-orange, legumes and beans, starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn and peas), and other vegetables.

For 19-30 year old males, the Dietary Guidelines are recommending 2-2.5 cup equivalents of dark-green vegetables per week, which equates to eating a couple salads, greens on your sandwiches, green smoothies, or cooked broccoli with dinner each week. Of course, there are other colored vegetables to include in your diet, but if you really break down the recommendations to eating a serving per meal, or filling half your plate with vegetables, it becomes easy to eat enough of those foods. It doesn't mean eating salads every day -  green vegetables can be one of the easiest types of vegetables for people to incorporate into their diets. 

Green Recipes for St. Patrick's Day and Beyond

Shamrock Shake Green Smoothie from Brianne at Cupcakes and Kale Chips (It has Greek yogurt in it, so it would make the perfect post-workout treat, without eating 73 grams of sugar.)

You can add spinach to ANY berry smoothie (like this blueberry one!) to hide greens, which works great for kids and even adults who don't like vegetables.

Superfood Shamrock Smoothie or Vegan Cauliflower Colcannon from Kara at The Foodie Dietitian
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made from mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage. This healthified version looks awesome!

Nourish Bowls or Massaged Kale Salad, 3 Ways from McKel at Nutrition Stripped
Massaged kale sounds like a silly new trend, but massaging the kale really just means you add dressing to your kale (olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar, salt and pepper, etc.) and actually "massage" it into the leaves, which makes the kale leaves softer and easier to chew. You can use the massaged kale as a super nutritious base for any salad recipe!

Photo by Ryan, a Registered Dietitian who writes at i.run.on.nutrition
Collard Green Wraps from Ryan at I Run On Nutrition
You can substitute regular wheat wraps with collard green leaves. Try adding your regular sandwich fixings to the leaves!

14 Green Breakfasts from the Kitchn
Adding spinach/kale/collards to your eggs in the morning for extra nutrition

Tempeh and Broccoli Stir Fry from Dietitian Debbie Dishes
Tempeh is a great soybean protein that meat-lovers and vegetarians enjoy. It has a great texture and absorbs the flavor of whatever sauce and seasonings you're using - try subbing out your usual meat in stir fry and try this plant-based protein instead!

Picture by Brittany at Eating Bird Food
Okay, so maybe this recipe for Creamy Lime and Avocado Tarts from Brittany at Eating Bird Food DOESN'T contain any green vegetables, but it DOES contain super-healthy avocados and nuts, and it's green, so it deserves to get included in case you're looking for a St. Patrick's Day recipe.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Truth About Registered Dietitians (And Why Athletes Should See One!)

We are continuing our celebration of National Nutrition Month because today, Wednesday, March 9, 2016 marks the 9th annual Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Day!

Dietitians often get asked, "What's the difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?"

This can be pretty confusing - anyone can call themselves a "Nutritionist" in the United States - it isn't a legally protected or credentialed title and you don't necessarily need a degree or certification, whereas Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RD/RDN) need to complete the following academic and professional requirements to earn the "RD/RDN" credentials after their name:

  • Earn at least a Bachelor's degree
  • Complete a supervised practice program
  • Pass a registration examination
  • Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration
  • More than half of all RDNs have also earned master's degrees or higher

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics decided several years ago that there was too much confusion over what the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist was, so they now allow Registered Dietitians to use RD or RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) interchangeably. The title "Nutritionist" can be misleading without the words "Registered Dietitian" in front of it - an RD can be called a Nutritionist, but someone who calls themselves a Nutritionist isn't necessarily an RD. 

Dietitians work in a wide variety of workplaces. RD's go through the same basic training to be able to work as a member of a healthcare team, administering medical nutrition therapy in hospitals, HMO's, nursing homes and other health care facilities...but they also work throughout the community in grocery stores, schools, fitness centers, the food industry, food service establishments, in private practice, at universities, in research, and many other settings. Anyone with the RD/RDN credentials after their name has completed the above requirements, but many RDs will specialize in a certain area to become experts in whatever field they choose. 

We aren't really the "food police!" Dietitians are often called the "Food Police," but ask any RD and they will probably tell you that they actually don't just eat celery, beans, flax seeds and salads. That's part of the fun of being a dietitian - helping people understand that "all foods fit" so they can find a sustainable, healthy eating pattern that helps them improve their health.

Dietitians don't just tell people how to lose weight...though, if you have a weight loss goal, a Registered Dietitian can help you determine the best individualized plan to achieve this goal! Dietitians are armed with the knowledge to be able to help people manage their weight, manage chronic diseases, go through cancer treatments, help people stretch their food dollars, improve physical performance in sports, and so much more.  There are a LOT of "best diets" out there, but in reality, there is no one-size-fits-all "healthy" diet for everyone - dietitians know that they need to take the whole person into consideration when giving advice.

A lot of athletes come through the doors of the Sports Science Institute, and every athlete has unique nutrient needs based on their performance goals, training schedule, and food preferences. Athletes can benefit from seeing a dietitian because:

  • Again, there is no one-size-fits-all diet for everyone, including athletes...even athletes within the same position in the same sport have different needs.
  • Good nutrition not only allows athletes to push themselves harder during practice and competition, it helps athletes recover faster, which results in better performance at the next practice or competition. 
  • Dietitians help athletes get the most out of their training because meal timing is just as important as determining what foods to eat - a dietitian can help athletes determine what foods to eat, and the best time to eat certain foods to be able to optimize their practices and competitions. 
  • Contrary to popular websites, dietary supplements are the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. No amount of supplements can make up for years of training, genetic makeup, or good general nutrition!

If you live in the Sioux Falls area, the Sanford Sports Science Institute Nutritionist sees athletes of all ages, from all sports, helping them take a food first approach to improving sports performance. You can make an appointment by calling 605-312-7878.

Other great links:

Find an Expert in Your Area || Find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

fANNEtastic Food || Happy Registered Dietitian Day

The Real Life RD || Carbs Do Not Make You Fat

Holly Grainger, RD || How to Boost Protein at Breakfast

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why National Nutrition Month is Worth Celebrating

March is National Nutrition Month!

Right when our healthy New Year's habit's begin to fade, National Nutrition Month® rolls around in March to remind you of those healthy eating habits.

The theme for the 2016 National Nutrition Month® is "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right," which is all about bringing back the enjoyment factor of mealtimes. It's important to remember that food isn't just food/energy/fuel - there's so many reasons why you eat the foods you eat, when you eat them, and how those foods make you feel. In a diet-filled world, it's so easy to forget that mealtime doesn't have to be about eating certain foods because you have to and that healthy eating can actually be enjoyable.

This month's blog posts are going to focus on this year's National Nutrition Month theme, celebrating all the ways healthy eating can be enjoyable and fun. Here are some easy ways develop healthy eating habits during National Nutrition Month®, and to "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right."

Be more mindful during meals

This tip goes back to the "mindful eating" strategies outlined in last week's blog, How To Adopt These Healthy Habits From People Who Maintain a Healthy Weight (Without Dieting).

Take a look at your meal times and see how many times you're eating with the TV on, while you're on your phone, texting, on the computer, reading a book or magazine...the list goes on for the number of ways we are distracted while eating.

One research study showed that people who were distracted  with playing a computer game while they ate lunch ended up eating more, couldn't quite remember all the foods they had eaten and were less full than those who were not distracted during the meal.
  • Take a break from your computer, book, and/or phone, get up out of that desk and enjoy your lunch without distractions.
  • If you are eating on-the-go, make sure you have nutritious snacks available, such as fruits, vegetables, mixed nuts, string cheese, hummus, Greek yogurt, sandwiches, etc.

Enjoy the social aspect of mealtimes

Did you know that family meals are associated with healthy weights in children and adolescents and can help promote healthy eating choices? When kids are involved in family meals, they pick up healthy eating habits from mom and dad - eating healthy foods and sitting down to enjoy an undistracted meal becomes the norm.

In adults, the idea of family meal time can be shared with friends: A story recently came out about 5 New York lawyers who called themselves the "Lunch Bunch" - they make 5 portions of a healthy, homemade lunch once a week, and enjoy the others' meals the rest of the week.What a fun way to not only only have to prepare lunch just once a week, but also to try new recipes, taste new foods, and branch out from the typical brown-bag sandwich. 

Set some healthy eating goals this month

Healthy eating can be a challenge, but the good news is that good nutrition has INSTANT benefits. You don't need to go on a 30-day diet or push yourself to the max for 7 days in a row at the gym to feel good about what foods you put on your plate, which in turn will make you feel good. Nobody ever said, "Wow, I really regret making all those healthy choices!"

Tips to get started:

  • Try to eat at least one serving of fruit or vegetables at each meal and snack. Try adding a banana to your morning oatmeal or packing carrots in hummus as your afternoon snack.
  • Getting 25-30 grams of protein per meal can help you meet your protein needs and feel more satisfied with meals. Eat a variety of  protein sources, from beans, dairy, nuts, seeds, poultry, meat and fish. 
  • Make sure to incorporate healthy fats into  your meals and snacks. People often don't feel satisfied or "hungry an hour later" after drinking a smoothie - try adding peanut butter, hemp, chia or flax seeds, or an avocado to your smoothie to make it a more balanced meal.
  • Make more grains WHOLE grains. This means having brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole grain bread, pasta and wraps at meals.

You might also like:

March 1st is National Peanut Butter Lover's Day! 

Real Mom Nutrition || 6 Amazing Recipes with Peanut Butter

Serious Eats || Rosa Parks' Featherlight Peanut Butter Pancakes Cool!

National Peanut Board || PB&J - The Mighty Mouthful for Athletes PB&J is my go-to snack and meal recommendation for busy athletes.

Nourish RD's || Veggie Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce Would be great with tofu or chicken for extra protein

Sharon Palmer || Eating a Plant Based Diet Doesn't Have to Break the Bank

 Follow Lizzie on Twitter to get the lastest nutrition news, research findings, and nutritious recipes!

Good nutrition is important for everyone, but athletes have increased nutrient needs due to their high activity levels, and each athlete is different in terms of what foods they should eat and when they should be eating to optimize physical performance.
 Stop into the Sanford Fieldhouse today or call 605-312-7878 to set up an appointment with the Sports Nutritionist!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How To Adopt These Healthy Habits From People Who Maintain a Healthy Weight (Without Dieting)

We've probably all been out with friends and family members who ordered the salad "when they really wanted the pizza" or passed on going out for ice cream because they're "on a diet". Or maybe you're reading this thinking of a time you have purposefully restricted certain food groups for a diet or felt guilt after indulging in some sort of "bad foods" or overeating.

It can be hard to lose or maintain a normal weight for some people, but we all probably know a handful of people who seem to be able to eat whatever they want while easily maintaining a healthy body weight. Many factors go into weight and body size - genetics and physical activity play a large role in how much you weight, but what about eating behaviors - how do some people stay thin while seemingly never dieting?

The researchers at the New Cornell Food and Brand Lab wanted to find out the answer to this question -  they looked into what the difference between those people who never worry about food and weight and "stay effortlessly slim" vs. those who struggle to maintain or lose weight and regularly dieted.

Much of the data on successful weight loss comes from the National Weight Control Registry, so in a similar fashion, Cornell researchers created the "Global Healthy Weight Registry" to survey adults who have maintained a healthy weight throughout their lives, asking them about their diets, exercise and daily routines. Once the participants were surveyed, they were split into TWO groups -
  • Group 1: The Mindlessly Slim - Those who didn't maintain strict diets 
  • Group 2: Those  who "dieted regularly, thought about food frequently and were highly conscious of what they ate"

What did the researchers find?

They documented initial findings in this infographic.

The first group (the Mindlessly Slim) were more likely to:
  • eat high quality foods
  • cook at home
  • listen to inner cues
  • not feel as guilty about over-eating
  • be more conscious of the foods they're eating
  • have more of an enjoyment-based approach to eating
Can we take these findings about the habits of the "Mindlessly Slim" and conclude that thin people don't diet?...Or maybe those "naturally thin" people don't diet because they have good genetics or a fast metabolism? Even if that were the case, the Mindlessly Slim participants were also employing some great healthy habits that may help them keep their waistlines in check, such as exercising, eating breakfast, having a salad at lunch, and snacking on things like fruit and nuts.

The lead researcher Anna-Leena Vuorinen reported, “These results are encouraging because they imply that instead of putting restrictions on one’s diet and avoiding favorite foods, weight gain could be prevented early on by learning to listen to inner cues and putting emphasis on the quality instead of the quantity of food."

This is good news for those who struggle to lose or maintain their weight, and are tired of the strict rules and restrictions from the newest fad diet.  We may be able to change our approach to losing and maintaining weight by adopting the habits of the "Mindlessly Slim."

In our culture, it can be easy to rush through meals, eating whatever is quick and easy, often eating on the go, standing-up, at our computers, or in front of the TV...but according to The Center for Mindful Eating, being distracted while eating prevents people from actually enjoying the food (contrary to the enjoyment-based approach to eating taken by the Mindlessly Slim). This "mindless eating" can lead to overeating, anxiety and stress, which ultimately can contribute to weight gain. 

Resources for mindful and intuitive eating:

Fad diets are unsustainable, but taking a more mindful approach to eating is a non-diet habit that is easy to adopt and doesn't require people to label foods as "bad" or "off-limits." 

Thoughts? Have you ever tried incorporating mindfulness into mealtimes?

More Great Links:

Science Daily || The Mindlessly Slim

Avocado a Day Nutrition || What is Healthy?

Well+Good || Why the Healthiest People Don't Actually Diet

fANNEtastic Food || How to Eat Intuitively: A Guide to Mindful Eating

Hummusapien || What Food Bloggers Eat For Breakfast

NYT Well || How Meditation Changes the Brain and Body

Speaking with a Registered Dietitian can help you make peace with food and adopt habits in mindful and intuitive eating at meals. Make an appointment by calling the Sanford Sports Science Institute Dietitian today (605-312-7878).