Monday, November 23, 2015

Tips for a Happier, Healthier Thanksgiving

Right around Thanksgiving, a million articles pop up on the news about what you should do to avoid the dreaded weight gain associated with the holidays, how you need to detox the day before and after Thanksgiving, or how to burn off all those calories from the food you ate.

There's a lot of dieting advice going around the internet these days, which can often times cloud the real reason to celebrate this time of year, to be thankful for what we have, not to burn off all those calories you're about to go eat. This doesn't mean these articles get it all wrong - Thanksgiving shouldn't be an excuse to eat ALL THE FOOD. When people overeat, they don't feel good, which is no fun when you want to enjoy your time with family and friends.

To put things into perspective, most Americans only gain about one pound during the holidays. One pound - this might make a difference in your overall health or sports performance if you're eating heavy, high fat meals plus desserts every day from November to January, resulting in greater than one pound weight gain...or if you gain one pound every year without losing that one pound during the rest of the year.

But, if you're an active individual or a competitive athlete, Thanksgiving can act as a rest day from your normal regimen, sit back, relax, enjoy being around family and friends, and enjoy some of your seasonal favorites. If that means you get a piece of pie, so be it! In fact, if you choose your foods correctly, you can enjoy some of your favorite dishes and be fueled up for a workout the next day. No detox, no diet, no restrictions.

1. Don't skip your other meals on Thanksgiving day.

By skipping meals because you assume you're going to want to eat massive quantities of food later in the day, you're setting yourself up to overeat. Instead, try to eat balanced meals (breakfast, lunch). If your Thanksgiving meal is scheduled for lunch time, a light, high-protein breakfast will help hold you over until lunch. If your meal is around dinner time, two lighter, balanced meals will prevent you from going into your meal feeling ravenous and ready to eat one of each food item.

Good options for a lighter breakfast and lunch:

Breakfast: Vegetable and egg scramble with a side of a banana with peanut butter
or 1/2 cup oatmeal with berries, cinnamon, milk and a sprinkle of walnuts
or a couple slices of nut butter toast with a banana

Lunch: Big salad made with mixed greens salad with 2 hard-boiled eggs, 1/2 cup garbanzo beans, 1 cup raw broccoli, 1 Tbsp sunflower seeds and 1 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
or 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup raw oatmeal, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 banana and                          sprinkle of nuts
or your favorite bowl of warm soup

2. Be aware of portions.

  • The recommendation for what your plate should look like for each meal is: ~1/2 the plate is vegetables and fruit, 1/4 lean protein and 1/4 starches (grains, bread, corn, potatoes, etc.) Your plate should look like this on Thanksgiving, too. Even if the foods are "more unhealthy," at least you have the right idea on how your plate is divided. 
  • Source: American Heart Association Blog

  • Turkey, especially the white meat, is a great source of lean protein. If you're going to have a piece of meat, keep the portion to the size of a deck of cards and move on to the other options.
  • Each portion of your favorite foods can have between 150-200+ calories each: 1/2 cup mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup stuffing, 1 cup green bean casserole, 1 biscuit, 1 cup of gravy, several ounces of turkey with skin, a SMALL piece of pie...etc.
  • A reasonable serving of pie is as big as the area between your fingers when you make a "peace sign" - Did you make a peace sign? How does your usual slice of pie compare? 
  • Don't forget liquid calories - all those holiday drinks (punch, egg nog, hot cocoa, beer, wine, champagne, etc.) add up! Be mindful of how many drinks you're having that aren't water and try to replace some of those beverages with regular water. 
Calories shouldn't be your biggest focus, but it is always good to be aware of how much you're really eating before loading up your plate, and splitting your plate into the different sections can help you keep portions in check.  See tip 3 for tips on choosing foods. 

3. Survey all the options before loading up your plate, and only make one trip. 

This tip is included in Saint Louis University's Whitney Linsenmeyer's list of tips for enjoying the holiday without having to wear your sweatpants - Clean Eaters Can Beat Thanksgiving Food Hangover. You don't have to give up those indulgent foods you love, but by taking a smaller portion and savoring each bite, you'll really appreciate the food more.

This tip is good for anyone confronted with a buffet eating situation - it can be especially tempting to get heaping piles of a bit of everything the first time around...only to go back for seconds (or thirds) of your favorite dishes.

Instead, survey the food options - choose one serving of protein (turkey, ham, legumes, fish), grains/starches (stuffing, corn, roll, mashed potatoes), and fill the rest of your plate with vegetables (green bean casserole doesn't count as a vegetable) and some cranberry sauce.

4. Prepare healthy side dishes with a focus on vegetables.

The Harvard School of Public Health recommends that people prioritize plants, instead of focusing on meats (turkey, ham) and starches (mashed potatoes, stuffing/dressing). Even if you're a meat-lover, there are TONS of seasonal recipes for healthier, plant-based side dishes that help you break away from the traditional green bean goop and creamy mashed potatoes. Load up on the vegetables - they're high in nutrients and lower in calories.

Deep-orange foods (sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin) are full of antioxidants and fiber, so try to incorporate those seasonal orange foods into your menu for a nutrient boost.

Ideas for plant-based dishes:

Cookie and Kate || 16 Healthy Thanksgiving Sides

Plant Eaters' Manifesto || Plant-Based Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

5. Sweat a little!

It's a great idea to exercise for 30-60 minutes on Thanksgiving (and really, every day!) Some families make it a habit to go on a walk, throw around the football, run a Turkey Trot, the list goes on. If you can find a way to move your body and get the blood flowing, you're going to feel a lot better than if you sat around watching football and eating all day (not that there isn't room in your day for exercise, sitting, AND football!)

Do you have any favorite healthier Thanksgiving dishes? 

Want to read more about this topic?

Peeled Wellness || Tips for Healthy Thanksgiving Feasting

Real Simple || How to Build a Healthier Thanksgiving Plate

American Heart Association || Healthy Holiday Eating Guide

This time of year is a great time to get in contact with the Sanford Sports Science Institute to set up an appointment with the sports nutritionist, or check out our sports testing offerings for athletes of all ages and abilities. Call today to find out more! 606-312-7870

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Athlete's Guide to Reading a Nutrition Facts Label

Do you read the nutrition facts label on the back of food items?

Knowing how to read a nutrition facts label is important for everyone, especially athletes who want to gain a competitive edge by fueling their bodies with the best foods possible. 

Many packaged foods will have some sort of advertising on the front that often makes the food sound healthy or to appeal to the increasing number of health-conscious shoppers...but did you know those front of the package statements can often be very misleading

For instance, you may have read a story in the news this week about a lawsuit against General Mills for falsely advertising or being misleading in their labeling of "Cheerios Protein". 

The nutrition facts label of the higher protein cereal lists a larger serving size, and contains a significant amount of added sugar compared to the regular cereal. Consumers may think they're buying a healthy product by buying the cereal advertised as having more protein, because protein is touted to help keep us fuller for longer and build muscle...but honestly, the protein-enhanced product isn't worth the extra added sugar. You're better off having your cereal with a protein-rich cup of milk or having a side of eggs or yogurt. 

This blog is to help guide you in making healthier choices at the grocery store by reading the nutrition facts label and knowing what to look for. 

The nutrition facts label will let you know: The Serving Size, Calories, Total Fat, Saturated fat, Trans fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Total carbohydrate, Dietary fiber, Sugars, Protein, Vitamins and minerals for the serving size indicated.

So in the example label below, 1 cup (228 g) of this food contains 250 calories, 12 grams of total fat, 30 mg of cholesterol, etc.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Sample Nutrition Facts Label

1. Start with the serving size

The "Serving Size" tells you the amount of food you get per serving, and all the nutrition facts listed are for that amount of food.

So, as mentioned above, there are 250 calories in 1 cup of this food. The next thing you should notice is that right below the "serving size," it lists that there are 2 servings per container. If you eat the whole container, you have to multiply all the nutrition facts by 2 (or whatever the amount of servings per container are). If you eat 1.5 cups, you would multiply the nutrition facts by 1.5, and so on. This is a good time to notice what your usual portion is versus what the serving size is for that food. 

2. What all the percentages mean...

The % Daily Values (DV) listed are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This means if the label says the food has 10% DV for fat, the serving of that food is 10% of the fat in the diet of a person eating 2,000 calories a day.

These percentages aren't always relevant to athletes who often have higher energy and nutrient needs or have different macronutrient intakes based on their individual goals. Focus less on these percentages and really understand what the actual amounts are, which nutrients you should limit and which you should

3. Look at the calories, fat, and sodium

If you multiply the portion you usually eat by the serving size indicated - how many calories, grams of fat and milligrams of sodium are in your typical serving?

Calories aren't always the most important indicator of whether a snack is healthy or not, BUT  this number can be important for determining serving size, depending on your goals. If you're trying to lose weight, you might compare two similar products and see which one has less calories for the same serving. If you are choosing a snack, calories are important because you don't want to eat a product that has a full-sized meal amount of calories at snack time. If you're trying to put on weight, you might want to choose the product that has more calories per serving. 

Reduce the amounts of these foods: 

Trans fats -  Not all fats are created equally, so it is important to choose products that have no trans fats, which are often found in processed, packaged baked goods and snack foods. These fats can promote inflammation, which is bad news for athletes who should be focusing on reducing inflammation for faster recovery. 

Sodium - The recommended daily amount of sodium (salt) is under 2000 mg per day, but many athletes spend a good amount of their day sweating out salt. Focus on choosing unprocessed foods that are low in sodium most of the time, but if you notice a food you regularly eat is higher in sodium, make sure to pay attention to the serving size. Canned vegetables and soups, bread and snack foods are some of the higher sodium foods, so make sure to read the label.

4. Increase fiber, vitamins and minerals

Dietary fiber is found in complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, vegetables and fruits. These foods help keep athletes control body weight, regulate blood sugar, and maintain body weight. Include more of these foods in your diet. Athletes should focus on getting at least 25 grams of fiber per day

Foods that include more vitamins and minerals will help promote good health and lower inflammation that helps athletes recover more quickly and stay healthy throughout the year.

5. Check out that ingredient list

I'm sure you've heard people say you "shouldn't eat anything you can't pronounce," but it might be worth it to focus your attention on choosing foods that, in general, have fewer ingredients. If you're choosing a pre-packaged product, it may have a preservative or ingredient that makes it more shelf-stable that you may not be able to pronounce/recognize...but that doesn't necessarily mean the food is unhealthy. The ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, which means the food contains the largest amount of the food listed first and the least amount of the ingredient listed last on the label. 

My tips for using the ingredient list to your advantage: 

Choosing a whole grain product/bread

The first ingredient of the bread/cereal/whole grain product you choose should be whole wheat flour or whole grain flour. The package may even be labeled "100% whole grain bread" - this is the bread that contains more fiber, vitamins and minerals than the white/processed breads.

Avoiding partially hydrogenated oils

If you spy the words "partially hydrogenated" on your food label, that indicates that the food item contains trans fats, which are those unhealthy inflammation-promoting fats that can raise your cholesterol. Avoid this ingredient, which is often found in baked goods, chips/snack foods, coffee creamer, margarine, fried foods (donuts, french fries), and canned cinnamon rolls/biscuits. Even if a product claims it has "No trans fat!" it can still have a small amount - check the label to make sure you're choosing foods without this ingredient. Athletes need to be focusing on reducing inflammation, and this ingredient isn't going to help you meet your goals. 

Limit added sugars

This article isn't here to tell you that all sugar is bad, but if you're buying a food that  you eat daily (yogurt, cereal, granola, snack bars, bread, crackers), you need to be aware that sugars are often added to enhance taste or color of the product (even if you wouldn't expect the food to contain sugar and even if the food doesn't taste sweet).

The sugars listed on the nutrition facts label can indicate naturally-occurring sugars (lactose in milk or yogurt, sugar found in fruit juices), in addition to added sugars (sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, brown sugar, etc). You might even find sugar in things you wouldn't think have sugar, like peanut butter!

Look for added sugars by noticing where "sugar" is listed in the ingredients list - is it the first or second ingredient? Try to find a comparable product where sugar is listed later. With yogurts, you can usually choose the "plain" variety and add your own sweetener - the ingredients should just be "milk and added cultures.

Adding berries, cinnamon and a touch of honey is a good way to sweeten plain yogurt.

It may take a bit longer at first to start reading labels, but after a while, you will know which brands and products to put in your cart. 

Related links:

More questions? Need help choosing better options at the grocery store?

Make an appointment with the Sanford sports nutritionist to discuss how to individualize your diet to meet your goals. Call 605-312-7878.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How Much Protein You REALLY Need

How much protein should I be eating every day?

This is a common question from athletes and really, protein is a huge topic in magazines, websites and newspapers. Protein has been attributed to promoting muscle growth and recovery, maintaining lean muscle mass during weight loss, reducing body fat gain in teens, and helping with blood sugar control.

With all these benefits, wouldn't it seem that more protein is better

Not necessarily...eating more protein won't magically make your muscles grow and you don't store the extra protein as amino acids to use later and you don't just "pee out" the extra protein you eat. Although many athletes like to focus on protein-rich foods and protein shakes/supplements, it's important to focus on building a balanced performance plate, where carbohydrates (think complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, fruit, starches) are making up the majority of your calories to fuel your muscles and protein is only ~25% of your plate. Because everyone's calorie needs are DIFFERENT, this "perfect amount" of protein is going to be different for everyone. A large male is going to need a lot more calories and a proportional increase in his protein needs compared with a lighter female.

Losing weight

You might have heard that a high protein diet helps you lose weight, but this may be because protein foods can help you feel less hungry if you're cutting calories in order to lose weight and because when you cut calories, you risk losing muscle in addition to body fat. Eating a slightly higher protein diet (~30% protein) can help you spare protein during weight loss.

Building muscle

When it comes to building muscle, you need to focus on several different components, not just protein intake.

Your strength training routine is important for muscle growth. A progressively difficult strength training routine allows your muscles to adapt to the new stressors you're putting them under by growing bigger and stronger.

You need to make sure you're meeting your weight maintenance calorie needs, plus extra calories to build muscle. 

You can estimate your maintenance calorie needs using different equations OR if you're serious about your training goals, you can get your resting energy expenditure tested. Knowing your  individual restring energy expenditure can help you individualize your performance diet by knowing exactly how many calories you SHOULD be eating during the day to support your performance.

Getting your resting energy expenditure tested is a quick and easy tool you can use to help you meet your goals.
Call the Sanford Sports Science Institute at (605) 312-7870 to make an appointment today!
 Many athletes aren't meeting their basic calorie needs to support performance or maintain weight, but may be drinking protein shakes, hoping they'll gain muscle, but that's just not how it works. You have to combine exercise and a balanced diet for muscle growth to occur. 

Protein needs based on your goals

Protein needs are slightly higher for people involved in exercise, for repairing the muscle damage from training and to build to muscle, and because in general, people who exercise have higher overall calorie needs. The recommended amount of protein for most adults (sedentary/currently not in training) is 0.8 g/kg (0.4 g/lb) body weight per day. 

This being said, most people can meet their protein needs through a real food diet and don't need extra protein or amino acid supplements. There hasn't been much research to support the claims made by supplement companies that they help you build muscle or "get lean" any better than real foods with protein.

Individual/Type of Athlete
Grams of protein per kg or lb. per day
Recreational exerciser, adult
1.1 - 1.6 g/kg (0.5-0.7 g/lb)
1.3-1.6 g/kg (0.6-0.7 g/lb)
Strength (build muscle mass)
1.6-1.8 g/kg (0.7-0.8 g/lb)
Athlete restricting calories (weight loss)
1.8-2.0 g/kg (0.8-0.9 g/lb)

*When you're cutting calories, you will lose fat, but you can also lose muscle, so protein intake is important to spare muscle protein.

**The Profile weight loss plan is a personalized high protein plan that has helped many people lose weight and keep it off!

A 130 lb. marathon running female would need between 78 and 91 grams of protein every day:

130 x 0.6 = 78 grams of protein/day
130 x 0.7 = 91 grams of protein/day

This breaks down to only about 26 grams of protein per meal, if she eats 3 meals a day (really, most people are eating pre- and/or post-workout snacks). Think about eating some protein at each meal and snack (beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, fish, meat, hummus, and milk).

Example of protein in meals:

Grams of protein per meal
2 whole eggs, scrambled
1 handful of spinach
¼ cup part-skim mozzarella
1 banana
23 g
¼ cup almonds
1 apple
7 g
4 cups of mixed greens
Chopped bell peppers
1/2 cup black beans
¼ cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
17 g
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp honey
½ cup blueberries
22 g
1 cup brown rice, cooked
4 oz. grilled chicken breast
1 cup steamed broccoli
40 g

Focus on balance

You can prevent muscle breakdown and maximize strength gains by optimizing your nutrition plan throughout the entire day. Instead of focusing on "protein, protein, protein," you should be providing your body with the "building blocks" it needs for muscle growth by eating a balanced meal or snack with protein and carbohydrates every 3-4 hours.You may have heard of the "window of opportunity" - eating a protein/carbohydrate-rich snack 30-60 minutes after your workout can aid in recovery and promote muscle repair.

If you're struggling in your workouts, check your carbohydrate intake - if you're cutting too many calories and carbohydrates out of your diet, your performance could suffer because you're not fueling your muscles with the carbohydrates needed to work hard.

The Forgotten R - REST

Don't forget how important REST can be in your performance plan. Without rest days, you aren't giving your body enough time to repair from your last workout. By fueling your body correctly and taking time to rest, your body will be able to recover properly and you will ultimately be able to meet your goals.

As with everything in life, meeting your goals takes time. Stray away from programs that promise quick results - you have to put in the work and the time to meet your performance goals.

You can make an appointment to get your resting energy expenditure tested or to speak with the sports nutritionist at the Sanford Sports Science Institute by calling (605) 312-7870

Related links:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How To Enjoy a Healthier Halloween

Because Halloween is fast-approaching and the grocery store has an entire aisle dedicated to giant bags of candy, this post is going to be all about enjoying a healthier Halloween. Whether your family celebrates Halloween or not, you can't miss the candy fest in the grocery stores during this time of year. Although Halloween is only one night a year, the giant bag of candy may linger around the house for much longer.

I've gathered some healthier  Halloween tips to help your young athlete enjoy a healthier Halloween (without ruining all the fun).

1. Focus on other seasonal activities.

Kids and adults alike may associate this time of year with candy, and kids are usually thinking about candy a LOT, but there are many local seasonal events, like pumpkin picking and carving, apple picking, hay rides, corn mazes, haunted houses...the list goes on. 

2. Cook a healthier meal to enjoy before trick-or-treating/before eating candy.

We all know how good a candy bar tastes when you allow yourself to get super hungry...but it's usually pretty hard to stop at just one piece because candy may have a lot of calories, but doesn't fill us up and doesn't contain the nutrients our bodies really crave at meal time. What about something seasonal, like pumpkin chili

Choose a meal with plenty of filling vegetables, whole grains and a little bit of protein and encourage kids to drink a glass of water with dinner to hold them over during the night and to prevent them from choosing handfuls of sweet treats as a dinner substitute. 

3. Choose your candy wisely.

Even those bite-sized treats can pack a huge calorie punch, especially if you're grabbing for several pieces a day, and it's those extra 100-200 calories each day in addition to your normal calories that result in weight gain over time. One peanut butter cup is ~100 calories and those mini chocolate bars are usually around 40-50 calories each. Chocolate candies have more fat and usually more calories than fruity candies.

If you're passing out candy at your house, make sure you're choosing the miniature options or some of the non-candy options listed below.

4. Set some limits.

As far as HOW MUCH candy to eat, in an ideal world, kids, teens and adults would eat a piece or two and forget about it. This isn't always the case...but over-restricting the candy jar can often times make the candy more desirable and kids can develop tendencies to obsess over/sneak/hoard the candy.

Don't give the candy so much attention and eating the candy won't become such a big deal.

A good tip for kids (and adults!) is to choose a couple favorite pieces of candy after trick-or-treating (2,3,4,5...whatever number you both set) to enjoy, and make sure to put the candy jar away and help kids practice moderation by only choosing 1 or 2 pieces as they please a day. It goes along with the "out of sight, out of mind." Put out a bowl of fruit, cut up some vegetables - have some healthy snacking options available that are more easily accessible than the candy. 

5. Pass out non-candy options.

I know this is a total "dietitian" tip, but hear me out! There was a research study that showed that kids between 3-14 years old were just as likely to choose non-candy (toy) options just as much as candy options on Halloween. 

Because almost ALL houses will be handing out candy on Halloween, passing out non-candy options will be something new for kids.

Non-food ideas ideas from The Teal Pumpkin Project.

This is a pretty cool project  - because a lot of Halloween candies contain allergens, this project promotes passing out non-food options for trick-or-treating to ensure kids with allergies can still enjoy trick-or-treating!

Some options include: glow sticks, stickers, temporary tattoos, small toys like slinkies, bouncy balls, art supplies (crayons, paintbrushes, markers), noisemakers, bubbles, fancy erasers...the list goes on.

If you want to hand out some non-candy healthier food options, there's a lot of good individually-wrapped options in the stores:

Cereal bars, snack mix, single-serve cereal boxes, microwave popcorn or little bags of popcorn, snack-size bags of Goldfish or animal crackers, pretzels, boxes of raisins/dried fruit, sugar-free gum...

You might also like:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Quick Guide to Fueling Young Athletes

Consistent good nutrition can support a child or teen's growth, development and immune system, and can also help them be a stronger athlete and a more attentive student. If this is the case, why is the sports environment filled with fast food? Why are athletes choosing supplements to help them perform better when they're choosing junk food for meals and snacks?

We've all been to a youth sports game or tournament where they're serving hot dogs, candy and soda and the half-time snack for the young athletes is a bottle of sports drink and some sort of fast food or prepackaged snack. A busy sports schedule can result in reliance on fast food or pre-packaged snacks and meals, which can be convenient, but don't support your athlete in feeling good and performing well.

If I were to make it really simple, I would tell kids to do these things to have the best "athlete's diet":

1. Don't skip meals. This means eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, every day.
2. Drink water throughout the day - carry around a water bottle and fill it up throughout the day. Drink more the day before a competition/game/race.
3. Eat snacks! Eating a snack with protein after exercise can help promote muscle repair and growth.

How many calories does a young athlete need?

This chart can help you determine how many calories your young athlete needs based on their age and physical activity levels. You can see the difference between a sedentary and active been might just be 400-600 calories, the equivalent to a few extra snacks throughout the day (not a free pass to eat whatever they want). 
Moderately active = walking to school
Playing a soccer game = 
vigorously active
You may feel as if your child is ALWAYS hungry - they may need to add more snacks throughout the day, or even an extra meal during the day. Again, this all depends on how active they are and if they're having a growth spurt.

What foods should young athletes focus on?

A common mistake among young athletes make is thinking they can eat TONS of protein to build muscle, but they're often not meeting their calorie needs. Young athletes need to focus on eating enough calories in addition to exercising (especially strength training) to build muscle.

An easy way to talk about good nutrition to a young athlete is to talk about food being fuel for their activities. Kids usually know that junk food doesn't make them feel good, so help them make the connection that when they eat healthy foods, they feel good!

Of course, if they have the choice to eat junk food at home, they may choose cookies, candy and chips over fresh fruit and vegetables because it's convenient (and tastes good). Make the healthy options convenient by cutting up extra fresh fruit and vegetables and making the junk food unavailable in the home.

Carbohydrates are our muscles' main fuel source, so they should make up the majority of the diet (55-75% of total calories coming from carbohydrates). Carbohydrate foods include: whole grain bread, pasta, and cereal, grains such as oatmeal and rice, vegetables and fruit. Aim to make half of all grains whole grains for added fiber and nutrients (brown rice vs. white rice, whole grain bread and rolls vs. white bread).

Protein helps with muscle repair and growth, but it doesn't need to be the biggest focus. Although athletes need more protein on their plates, they can meet their needs by including protein at each meal and snack. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, Greek yogurt, beans, nuts, seeds, milk and eggs.

8 years old: 4 oz
9-13 years old: 5 oz
14-18 years old: 5 oz (Female)
                           6.5 oz (Male)
One-ounce equivalent: 1 oz. meat, poultry, fish, ¼ cup beans, 1 Tbsp nut butter, 1 egg, ½ oz nuts/seeds

Healthy fats should be part of your athletes diet - we're talking about nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados. Avoid trans fats in fried foods (menu items that say "crispy" or "crunchy") and pre-packaged baked goods and snack foods.

Use avocado instead of mayo on sandwiches/wraps. 

Is breakfast really that important?

Children and adolescents need to be eating breakfast every day, especially if they're involved in sports. Skipping breakfast has been attributed to more weight gain, and eating breakfast can help kids have more energy and pay attention more during the school day. We're not talking about a bowl of sugary cereal here - even if breakfast is small and on-the-go, try to choose foods from more than one food group. Good examples include:

  • Granola bar and a banana
  • Hard boiled egg and an apple
  • Greek yogurt with granola and blueberries
  • Dry cereal and nuts
  • Apple with peanut butter and raisins
  • Egg sandwich with 2 eggs and cheese
  • Fruit smoothie

Should young athletes drink sports drinks?

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports sports drinks contain extra calories and sugar that children don't necessarily need and that for children participating in normal exercise activities, plain water should be the drink of choice. Children and adolescents should really never be drinking energy drinks, and should only drink sports drinks during prolonged, vigorous physical activity (similar to adult recommendations). 

Children are more susceptible to becoming dehydrated because they sweat less than teens and adults, so young athletes should aim to consume 4-8 oz. (several large gulps) of water every 15-20 minutes of physical activity. They may need even more if they're sweating a lot or wearing protective equipment.

What about sports supplements?

The supplement industry loves to make things exciting and make promises about enhancing performance, helping you lean out, make strength gains or give you energy with little scientific evidence to back up these claims.

Young athletes, especially high school students, can get caught up in these exciting messages pushing protein supplements to enhance muscle growth and athletic performance. In reality, there is no magic pill - all children and adolescents can meet their protein needs through real food sources and there are many real food sources of the same supplements they're spending so much money on.

You can't take supplements to replace hard work or good nutrition. 

You (or your young athlete) might enjoy:

Kids Eat Right || 6 Healthy Ways to Manage Weight for Sports || 8 Gameday Nutrition Tips

Jill Castle, MS, RDN, CDN || Eat Like a Champion
***This book was a great resource in writing this article!

Mark Bittman @ The New York Times || Getting Your Kids to Eat (Or At Least Try) Everything 

Sally Kuzemchak @ Teen Being || Are You Being Snacked to Death?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Secrets to a Healthy Gut

Bacteria have a bad reputation, especially during the fall and winter seasons, when everyone around you seems to be coming down with the flu or a cold. Many athletes during this season might be increasing their training volume and are looking for a little extra immune support. 

 While it's true you'll want to wash your hands more often to prevent the spread of bacteria that cause illness, this can also be a good time to focus your attention on increasing your relationship with good bacteria. It has been estimated that your body has fewer human cells than bacteria. With about 10^14, (that's 100,000,000,000,000 bacterial cells!), your body acts as a host to many bacteria, including GOOD bacteria found in your gut, which can actually help you boost immunity and overall health.

The profile of your gut bacteria (gut microbiota) can promote health by: 
  • boosting the immune system
  • secreting antimicrobial substances that prevent bad bacteria from colonizing and making us sick
  • helping with digestion
  • producing vitamins (B-vitamins and Vitamin K)
Maybe you've heard that taking a probiotic supplement or eating certain yogurt brands can be healthy, but you might not know why. Probiotics are live micro-organisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host. These are the good bacteria that deserve your attention - you want a healthy population of good gut bacteria in your body. The profile of these bacteria is affected by age and antibiotic use, but is also affected by things you can control, like stress levels and the things you eat. For instance, eating more probiotics may increase the population of good bacteria. 

Most of the good bacteria or probiotics you'll hear about come from the Lactobacillus species and/or the Bifidobacteria species, but there's also different strains/types of the bacteria, and varying doses/amounts found in foods or a supplement. Many of the doses found in foods are pretty low compared to supplement forms, which can contain billions of Colony Forming Units (CFU's). 

Although many research studies are inconclusive on the specific strain and dose of bacteria that is most beneficial, and whether or not food or supplement forms of probiotics are best for your gut health, there are many ways you can promote good gut health that are good for your overall health regardless of their probiotic content!

1. Focus on prebiotics. Yes, you read that right - probiotics feed on prebiotics in your diet (indigestible ingredients like fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin that the bacteria in your gut feed on). Prebiotics, are found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains like oatmeal or brown rice, so  eating a wide variety of these plant-based foods (especially onions, bananas, artichokes, asparagus, barley and garlic), will help keep your gut bacteria healthy.

2. Eat fermented foods. Food such as yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and tempeh are good sources of probiotics. By eating these foods, which contain live/active cultures, you can promote a healthy population of your own gut bacteria.

3. Reduce your stress level. Go for a walk, take a yoga class, wash the dishes, write in a journal - there are many ways to reduce stress levels. When we're stressed out, we may have GI issues such as an upset stomach or frequent bowel movements, or we may choose less healthy, comforting foods, both of which aren't healthy to our gut bacteria. 

Focusing on these three strategies is not only good for overall health, it will help you promote a healthier population of gut bacteria, which can be immune-boosting and benefit your health. 

What about supplements?

You will find a lot of products or supplements in the supermarket that advertise their probiotic benefits, but taking a "foods first" approach to increase the probiotics in your diet is a great way to reap the benefits of those healthy foods (such as getting a healthy dose of protein from the yogurt or tempeh) without spending additional money on supplements. Again, most studies agree that eating probiotics is likely beneficial (even if research isn't conclusive on the most beneficial dose or strains of bacteria of whether foods or supplement forms are better). 

Food sources of probiotics (like the fermented foods listed above) have been around for thousands of years and contain many other beneficial vitamins and minerals. That alone makes  these foods worthy of including in most diets, whether they're advertising their probiotic benefits or not

A dietitian can help you navigate the options if you are thinking about including healthful probiotic-rich foods in your diet!

What foods should I be looking for?

The dietitians picks:

Greek yogurt (Choose plain yogurt and add your own honey or chopped fruit)

Kefir (Again, choose plain and blend it into smoothies. It is quite tart, so mixing it into smoothies is a great way to sweeten it up!)

Tempeh (If you've never tried it - check out this article from the Kitchn).

Kimchi and Sauerkraut  (Look for refrigerated varieties. Canned versions will have cooked and killed the live bacteria).

Do you eat any fermented foods?

More articles on this topic:

Nutrition Stripped || Guide to Probiotics

EatRight.Org || Probiotics and Prebiotics: Creating a Healthier You

NCAA/SCAN || Foods to Promote Immune Function

Monday, October 5, 2015

5 Tips to Making Hydration a Habit

Have you ever heard the rule, "You should be drinking eight 8-oz glasses of water a day?" 

I certainly have...and while this is a good rule of thumb, hydration guidelines are highly individual. This makes it difficult to give people, especially people of different body sizes and activity levels, a set amount of water to drink every day. 

Probably not drinking enough water for her sweaty run in the desert!
Most people know they need to drink more water - a CDC survey discovered that many people were falling short of their hydration needs, some people not drinking ANY water at all.

 You've probably heard that your body is made mostly of water, right? Water is essential for our cells to function! It helps our body get rid of waste, regulate temperature, helps our joints move smoothly and keeps your brain working correctly. 


...most people don't FEEL THIRSTY until they are slightly dehydrated. 

...being even slightly dehydrated can have an effect on your brain, heart, muscles and mood? Some people may experience headache symptoms, feel like they're in a bad mood, or feel like they can't focus.

Athletes are especially susceptible to dehydration because they lose sweat during their workouts and often aren't drinking enough to replenish this fluid loss. When we lose sweat, our blood volume goes down, reducing the amount of blood pumped with each heart beat, which can impair performance by reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to our muscles. The bottom line is that even 2-3% decrease in body weight can impair performance. This brings us back to the question - 

How do we know if we're getting enough water?

Athletes often don't know that their performance is affected by hydration because they're always performing in a slightly dehydrated state. Because hydration is different for everyone, many health professions will refer to this "urine color chart" from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency - if your urine is light yellow, you're probably drinking enough water. 
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency

What about coffee, tea and soda? Alcohol?

Unless you're drinking 7+ cups of coffee, caffeinated tea or caffeinated soda per day, your daily cup of caffeine isn't going to cause you to be dehydrated. Alcohol, on the other hand, has strong diuretic properties, making you urinate more often, which can lead to rapid dehydration. This can be detrimental to active people and athletes, so making sure to limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks and at least 1 to 2 cups of water between each drink can help you stay hydrated.

These 5 tips can help athletes and active people get and stay hydrated, feel better, and achieve optimal performance. 

Grab your water bottle and fill it up

The Sanford Power website has a Nutrition and Hydration for Team Sport Athletes page dedicated to this very topic! 

Remember, everybody is different and you can be over hydrated. If you're running to the bathroom frequently or your urine is clear, you are likely drinking too much water, which can be just as harmful, if not more harmful to athletes than being dehydrated. 

If you are an endurance athlete or exercising/practicing for several hours a day, you may want to consider adding an electrolyte replacement or sports drink to your routine to help you replenish the electrolytes you're losing in sweat. Some people might even try making their own sports drinks to help them stay hydrated.


What are your best tips for staying hydrated? Ask the dietitian your hydration questions!