dietary fat: part 1

olive oil

Fat will probably always be a hot topic in the world of nutrition.

Fat is bad. Fat is good. Eat less saturated fat. Eat more saturated fat. Eggs are bad. Eggs are good. Margarine is healthier. Butter is healthier. Coconut oil is healthier.

All sounds pretty contradictory, right? There’s one thing I can promise you. All the dietitians don’t just get together and then go changing their mind every once in awhile on what people should eat. Several things cause the confusing messages you’ve no doubt heard. Two major ones are:

1) Research. Dietitians use evidence-based practice, meaning we look at what multiple well-designed studies are finding and use that to make nutrition recommendations. Sometimes there isn’t much research yet and we have to use what knowledge we have to make a recommendation. Research is also always changing. We’re always learning more, which is good and helps us improve our recommendations, but the updated recommendations sometimes confuse people.

2) Media. Lots of times, the media will grab on to one sentence or headline from a research article and that becomes the thing that everyone hangs on to regarding that food. What you must remember is that they probably don’t take the time to see if the study was well designed or if more than one study found similar results. If a study was completed in animals, a very specific population, had a small number of subjects, used a research environment that isn’t representative of what people actually experience in daily life, or the results weren’t replicated in other studies, the findingss aren’t really applicable to the population at large.

As you can see, this is part 1 on dietary fats. Because I’ve seen so much misinformation going around about dietary fats in particular, I felt like it was important to talk a little bit about why it’s best not to just jump on the latest bandwagon/diet craze without further information. Of course, that goes for really any part of your diet.

Check back Friday for part 2, which will talk more about specific types of fats and what they do. Next Monday will be part 3 on how to actually add more good fats into your diet and take out some of the bad!

what’s the deal with dairy?

dairy[source]

I received a recent question about dairy and it is definitely a timely topic. With all of the milk/dairy alternatives these days, it can be confusing to know which one to pick and why.

Although soy, almond, rice, and coconut milks are all increasing in popularity as “healthier” choices, dairy is still considered part of a healthy diet. Let’s start by taking a look at a comparison of nutrition facts between the different kinds of milk available these days:

ScreenHunter_74 Sep. 22 13.57All of the above nutrition information is for one 8 oz serving. Cow’s milk will all have the same amount of protein and carbohydrate per serving. The only difference between skim, 1%, 2%, and whole milk is fat, and thus calorie content. The coconut milk in the table above is the kind found in the refrigerated section next to all the other milk alternatives, NOT the canned kind. The beverage coconut milk is more watered down and with more added ingredients than the canned variety, which is meant more for cooking.

Looking at the other milk options, most have only half (or less) the protein of cow’s milk. As you can also see from the differences in carbohydrate content, many also have loads of added sugar for taste. All cow’s milk/dairy has naturally occuring sugar in the form of lactose, so any dairy product will have at least that much sugar (plain yogurt, for example).

 

milk[used with permission by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]

A little over 1 gram of the fat in 1% milk is saturated fat, while whole milk has just over 4.5 grams of saturated fat per serving. For that reason, it is recommended that most dairy you choose be low fat (skim or 1%). When you consider all of the other beneficial nutrients found in milk (high quality protein, calcium, etc), a little saturated fat is not an issue. Especially in the context of an overall healthy diet. While some plant foods have a fair amount of calcium in them, the absorption of calcium is improved in the presence of lactose and vitamin D (found in milk) and decreased in the presence of fiber and phytates (found in plant foods).

Dairy protein also comes out on top when considering a protein supplement. Cow’s milk is made up of 2 proteins: casein (80%) and whey (20%). Whey is considered the best for muscle protein synthesis because of it’s rapid absorption and the quality of dairy protein. Animal proteins have large amounts of all 9 essential amino acids in a form that is easily digestible and this is what makes them “high quality” proteins. Whey also seems to be the best source of leucine, the most important amino acid when it comes to muscle building.

Supplements[source]

For those who do not consume any animal products or who choose to avoid dairy, I would recommend soy milk as the next best alternative. Soy is one of the only plant proteins that contains an adequate amount of all of the 9 essential amino acids and provides several other beneficial phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients). While there has been some concern over the health and safety of consuming soy in recent years, all the research I have read has suggested that consuming whole, minimally processed soy (think tofu, whole soy beans/edamame, soy milk, etc) is safe and provides health benefits.

shelled edamame[from the United Soybean Board]

This has all been a somewhat long way to say that, unless you’re lactose intolerant or have some other reason for avoiding dairy, I typically recommend it as a better choice over the dairy alternatives. Milk/dairy products are a great way to get calcium, vitamin D, and high quality protein throughout the day. However, as with all caloric beverages, you should also consider the calories milk is providing in the context of your overall diet. If you have small children who have transitioned to milk, it is also important to remember that milk and other beverages are filling and should be monitored so your child doesn’t fill up before eating their meals.

spotlight

Sometimes after the abundance of summer produce disappears, I feel like there are no vegetables left to be had over the colder months. But that’s not true! There are lots of ways we can eat veggies in the fall/winter! [am I the only one that sometimes needs reminders that there are foods besides cookies and bread from October - February??] This week’s collection of recipes have certainly helped inspire me to seek out more cold weather veggies [even if in the form of dessert]. I hope they do the same for you!

this harvest veggie bowl is a good start

you could also eat raw veggies with roasted pumpkin seed hummus. or add it to a wrap with leftover roasted veggies.

snack on homemade bbq sweet potato chips

you can never have too many recipes for southwest quinoa salad

I LOVE barbeque chicken pizza. barbeque chicken french breads are even faster! and you could totally sneak in extra veggies. pretty much everything is better with a little barbeque sauce and cheese.

maybe the easiest way to fit more veggies into your diet is to toss them in a grilled cheese

creamy roasted red pepper soup!

shredded kale salad with fried chicken. talk about balance! also, I just bought her cookbook, seriously delish, and I can’t wait to make pretty much every single recipe

butternut squash + apple + pear crisp. I mean, we put pumpkin in just about everything this time of year, so why not butternut squash?

speaking of pumpkin and dessert – the texture of these soft pumpkin chocolate chip bars looks like perfection

mix some zuchinni noodles into your pad thai

these sesame peanut noodles are loaded with veggies and only take one pot…and less than 30 minutes!

granola bars are a great snack in theory, but most of the ones on the shelves today are just glorified candy bars. making your own is easy and a much healthier and better tasting option – like these chewy peanut butter apple granola bars. there may not be any veggies in there but real fruit is a major step up from the stuff in packaged granola bars

 

snacks

We talk a lot about meal planning here on the blog, but snacks are also an important part of a healthy diet. Snacks are a huge part of keeping you from getting too hungry between meals, which we all know can lead to some not-so-healthy food choices. Adding snacks to your diet can also help you avoid the afternoon slump at work, fuel/recover properly around a workout, and better control your blood sugar.

veggies + hummus[source]

What makes a good snack? Most of what are advertised as snack foods are more of what I would consider occasional treats: chips, “snack” cakes, frozen appetizers, cookies…you get the idea. These foods provide lots of calories and few nutrients. Not to mention they leave you feeling hungry and craving more sugar, fat, and/or salt.

The size of your snack will depend on you individual goals and calorie needs, as well as the amount of time until your next meal. For the average person, 200-300 calories is just about the perfect size for your snack, assuming you consume reasonably sized meals. A highly competitive athlete or someone with a very active job will obviously require larger snacks and will need to snack more often than a less active individual.

If not “traditional” snack foods, then what kinds of foods make a good snack? Try to aim for a combination of carbohydrates/fiber with protein/healthy fats. Carbohydrates provide energy and fiber/protein/healthy fats help keep you full longer.

Below is a handy chart I made that might help you put together some healthy snacks. You’ll find things that you can pack at home to bring wherever you go, as well as things that can easily be found in vending machines or convenience stores if you need to make a healthy choice on-the-go. For those who have been following some of the posts on protein, I’ve included the grams of protein for each item in the protein column to help you keep tabs on your protein intake.

ScreenHunter_73 Sep. 09 10.04Here are some sample combinations to get you started!

  • 6 Triscuits + 2 oz tuna
  • 1 Flatout wrap + 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup Cheerios + 6 oz Greek yogurt
  • 10 pretzels + 1 oz beef jerky + 1 string cheese
  • 1 apple + 1 oz cheese
  • wheat English muffin + 2 Tbsp hummus
  • 1/2 pita pocket + 1/4 cup beans + 1/4 avocado + salsa
  • smoothie: 1 frozen banana + 1 cup berries + 1/2 cup milk or yogurt

 

just eat the brownie

DSC03415

When I read this article, I just wanted to shout an “AMEN!” It’s not very long, so I hope you take a minute to read it if you get the chance (I apologize for some of the language). Here is an excerpt that sums it up pretty well:

“I want women to allow themselves to want food. I want women to be hungry and ask for what they want to eat without apologizing. I want women to stop looking for permission from others before they eat something that is not a carrot or spinach. I want my friends to get the chili fries if they want the chili fries, and not say something like, “It all goes straight to my ____” (hips, thighs, butt, etc.). I want to see a girl sink her teeth into a huge cheeseburger and fries and not cut the burger in half to save some for later. I want my mother to allow herself more than one small square of dark chocolate per day. I want women to take pleasure in food, without punishing ourselves for wanting it.

As I try to tell my patients/clients and hope I’ve conveyed on this blog, I think there is room for a little bit of everything in our diets. Nothing makes me more frustrated than when someone is made to feel like a lesser person because they eat [insert "horrible" food item here]. Gluten, meat, sugar, dessert, dairy…heck, even fruits have been demonized.

I also can’t tell you the number of times someone has commented on the somewhat large amounts of food I eat and the number of times I’ve left the table of a social gathering a little hungry so as not to be judged.

Enough is enough!

I do not think I should have to apologize for being hungry and for listening to my body tell me it needs food. While I don’t think people should continuously eat in excess “just because”, if your stomach is growling, you’re irritable, you can’t concentrate…these are all signs that you’re hungry and need more food – no matter what our culture says about how much food should be on your plate.

Yes, I think healthy foods are important for our health but, as I’ve said before, if you eat healthy foods 80% of the time, there is more than enough room for some of that plate of yours to be a brownie/cheeseburger/chips/other “treat” without apologizing to anyone or feeling bad about it.

What are your thoughts?

spotlight

LOTS of recipes this week! There are summer recipes, fall recipes, snack recipes, weeknight meal recipes….all of the recipes! Enjoy :)

it’s soup season for sure. this week, I made this summer minestrone I shared awhile back. it’s like the perfect combo of fall + summer for those of us who aren’t quite ready to let go of warm weather. this weeknight indian chicken soup might be next.

maybe there are people in your house that have an aversion to “healthy” foods. you could probably deceive them with some baked chicken wings. it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

popcorn is a whole great and a great snack, especially when air popped at home…and of the sour cream and onion variety

homemade ramen is much healthier than 20 cent packages of ramen

although fall means winter is next, it is the season for brussels sprouts which I LOVE. don’t be afraid of them. they really are amazing if you cook them right..like these tart cherry-glazed brussels

grilled eggplant + pesto sandwich!

apples are starting to get really good. if any survive being eaten raw, you should probably make some hazelnut streusel apple muffins

why eat a plain side of corn when you could eat thai glazed skillet corn?

strawberry + almond oat crumble would be a more filling/healthy way to take care of that after dinner sweet tooth (I have a major after dinner sweet tooth….anyone else??)

sometimes you just need a little inspiration to get you out of a lunch rut (I also have and LOVE this book for good lunch ideas)

if you are a fan of arugula, you might be a fan of this salad

homemade snack mix is so easy

lentil chickpea salad + roasted garlic dressing!

risotto is comfort food. especially with sausage, brussels sprouts, and sun-dried tomatoes!!

stir-fried beef + sesame noodles. it only takes 30 minutes!

if peach butter is as amazing as apple butter, then I am all. over. it.

fiber

Today we’re talking about fiber! Everybody needs it and it provides loads of benefits to your health but, sadly, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is bran flakes that taste like cardboard or a powder you stir into water and try to choke down. Eating fiber does not have to be a terrible and tasteless experience! Let’s learn a little bit more about fiber, what it does for you, and where to find it.

veggies 2[used with permission from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]

What exactly is fiber? It is a non-digestible part of plant foods, meaning that your body cannot break it down during digestion and it travels through the entire digestive system intact. This inability to be digested is actually what makes it so beneficial to your health!

Fiber helps lower cholesterol, improves digestive function and the health of your GI tract, helps regulate blood sugar, and keeps you feeling full longer.

There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble means that something dissolves in water and, as you might guess, insoluble means that it doesn’t. This is important when considering the benefits of each type of fiber.

Soluble fiber can absorb some water as it travels through the digestive system and forms a gel. This helps to slow down digestion, which helps keep you feeling full and decreases the rise in blood sugar after your meal. That’s why, although fruit has sugar in it, it has less of an effect on your blood sugar than eating a candy bar. The gel formed by soluble fiber also helps it trap cholesterol and eliminate it from the body, resulting in lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood.

Soluble fiber also acts as a prebiotic in the GI tract. You’ve likely heard of probiotics, or beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombuch, pickled vegetables, etc. that promote a healthy GI tract. Prebiotics are essentially “food” for probiotics. They help keep your healthy bacteria…healthy!

  • Soluble fiber includes: psyllium, oats/oat bran, apples, pears, legumes (beans), and barley

cereals[used with permission from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]

Insoluble fiber absorbs much more than it’s weight in water, providing bulk as it moves through the digestive system. This bulk also provides a feeling of fullness and helps speed the movement of foods along the digestive tract, promoting regularity.

  • Insoluble fiber includes: wheat bran/bran cereal, corn bran, whole wheat/grain foods, fruits, and vegetables

As I’ve mentioned, fiber has some great benefits for your digestive system. If you struggle with diarrhea, you may want to look at increasing your soluble fiber intake to help slow things down and feed your good gut bacteria, which will help you maintain a healthy GI tract. However, if constipation is your problem, insoluble fiber will be more beneficial in helping to provide bulk and get things moving through your system. Be aware that most fiber supplements are made up of mostly soluble fiber, so this won’t be incredibly beneficial if constipation is your issue.

water[source]

You may have noticed that I have mentioned water quite a bit in relation to how fiber works in the body. It is so important to drink adequate amounts of fluids when you consume an adequate amount of fiber in order to keep things moving. If you aren’t used to eating much fiber, you’ll want to increase the amount you eat gradually and, again, drink plenty of fluids to prevent any GI distress or discomfort.

So, how much fiber do you need? The recommended amount per day is 25-38 grams, with women requiring amounts at the lower end and men requiring amounts at the higher end. As always, whole (minimally processed) foods are the best option and keep in mind that whole fruits and veggies have more fiber than those that have been peeled or juiced. Here are some foods that will help you reach your fiber goals:

ScreenHunter_73 Sep. 08 16.53