Friday, November 27, 2009

10 "Unhealthy" Foods that are Actually Good for You
Written by: Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian

Why is it that so many delicious and healthful foods have gotten such bad raps? We could blame the sensational headlines in the media or your Uncle Jack's lack of understanding about the latest scientific research study, but when it comes down to it, we've all heard some bad things about what has turned out to be some really great foods. These bad reps may be based on a one-sided story, old wives' tales or outdated research, yet many people who want to eat healthier are shying away from foods that are actually good for them! We recently told you about some "healthy" foods that are anything but, and now we're setting the record straight about some of the "unhealthy" foods that are actually good for you! How many are you avoiding?

1- Canned Vegetables
Canned veggies have earned an undeserved reputation. Yes, many types are high in sodium, but don't discount them completely. You can purchase low sodium varieties and/or rinse your canned veggies in a colander before your meal to remove much of the excess sodium. And most nutrition experts agree that the vitamin and mineral content of fresh, canned and even frozen veggies are all about the same--not less nutritious as once thought. Canned vegetables are inexpensive, easy, and a great fallback when you haven't been able to restock your kitchen with the fresh stuff.

2- Red Meat
Buy the right kind of red meat, and you're on your way to a meal packed with protein, iron, vitamin B-12, and zinc. Not all red meats make healthful choices (beef brisket, for example has 16 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving), but some varieties, like extra lean ground sirloin, which is 96% fat-free, contain just 4.5 grams of fat for a serving of the same size. Read food labels to ensure you choose lean cuts, such as eye of round (top round), top sirloin, bottom round, tenderloin and flank steak. Research has also shown that grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in Omega-3's than traditional beef.

3- Potatoes
The low-carb fads of the late '90s still linger today, and many people still believe that white potatoes should be avoided at all costs. The potato can be a great source of carbohydrates and nutrients, including vitamins C, B-6, and folate and fiber (4 grams when you eat the skin). The key is to eat the right portion size and rethink your add-ons (and cooking method). Some large potatoes are almost the size of a football, so be sure to cut those in half or even thirds. To enjoy your potatoes in a healthy way, cut them into 1-inch thick slices, season with garlic, herbs and pepper and bake in the oven until soft and golden brown.

4- Avocados
Avocados have taken the brunt of the criticism for the fruit and veggie world. Perhaps you, too, have overheard folks saying that avocados are bad for you, when in fact, the opposite is true. They received their bad reputation due to their relatively high fat content, but the often-ignored fact is that these fruits are full of heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat. Two tablespoons of avocado has just 50 calories and 4.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of which are unsaturated. Comparing this to the 204 calories and 23 grams of fat in the same amount of salted butter puts it into perspective. Avocados also carry 20 different vitamins along with plenty of lutein for your healthy vision. So go ahead! Spread some on your sandwich, place some chunks on your grilled fish, or throw a couple slices onto a green salad.

5- Dried Fruit
Although some brands of dried fruit do come with gobs of added sugar or oil, that doesn't mean every dried fruit is a bad choice. Dried fruit (without added sugar) can be a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Some criticize dried fruit because "the water is taken out and only the sugar is left." In reality, the sugar was there to begin with, and if you can munch on a handful of natural dried fruit and drink a glass of water, you're getting in one more fruit serving for the day! Try dried fruits like mango, apples, bananas, kiwi, peaches, pears and pineapple. Check the labels to ensure there is no added sugar, and if you have trouble finding a good brand you can make your own (and save money doing so) with a small food dehydrator. Great as a portable snack, a healthful solution to your sweet cravings, and thrown on cereal, salads and cooked meat, dried fruit has a place in any healthy diet.

6- Pizza
When done right, pizza can pack a load of nutrients—especially when you make it yourself in your own kitchen. To give pizza a makeover, use a whole-wheat crust; top your pizza with a bit of sauce, hummus or a drizzle of olive oil; then, load it up with sliced veggies like peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and broccoli, some shredded, low-fat mozzarella cheese and your favorite fresh or dried herbs. Talk about an efficient (and delicious) delivery system for whole grains, vegetables, and protein-rich dairy!

7- Bananas
One medium banana (approximately 7 inches long) provides 0 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 105 calories, and 27 grams of carbs--that's cheaper and more nutritious than most 100-calorie snack packs. These specs mean that bananas make great snacks, even for people with diabetes who need to follow carbohydrate-controlled diets. Why are bananas being called "fattening" or high in sugar compared to other fruits is a mystery. They do have a few more grams of carbohydrate than apples and oranges, but that does not mean they should be off limits!

8- Eggs
Eggs, especially egg yolks, have been blamed for causing high cholesterol and heart disease. According to the Harvard University Gazette, researchers found that eating an egg a day did not raise cholesterol levels. So you can feel light-hearted (literally) when enjoying up to an egg yolk per day. When you do, you're getting protein, unsaturated fats, vitamin D and every other vitamin and mineral in the book (save vitamin C). What's bad about that?

9- Shrimp
Another healthy protein source is shrimp. With a reputation as a "high cholesterol" food that is deep-fried more often than not, it's easy to see why people want to avoid it. But eating foods high in cholesterol is just one of many factors that affect your cholesterol levels. Four ounces of shrimp has just 165 milligrams of cholesterol, but also packs 18 grams of protein and a single gram of fat. When you enjoy a high-fiber breakfast and a meatless lunch, you should be able to fit shrimp into your diet and still come under your daily limit of 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. It's great in stir-fries, pasta and straight off the grill, but avoids deep-fried shrimp to keep this choice a healthful one.

10- Iceberg Lettuce
Iceberg lettuce may be light on the nutrient-side when comparing it to spinach or kale, but it is far from being a pointless or unhealthy food. "It's nothing but water," people say. Well, we all need more water, so what's wrong with that? In fact, eating water-rich foods can keep you feeling full longer. Iceberg is extremely low in calories, which means you can load up your salad with lean proteins like beans, seeds, fresh and dried fruits, and a nice, light dressing. Two cups of the crunchy stuff even gives you a tiny bit of folate and calcium to boot! Sounds healthy to us!

9 Foods You Think are Healthy but Aren't
Written by: Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian

There are many foods in today’s supermarkets that aren’t as good for you as you might think. Before you bite, get the facts on some of these masters of disguise, but remember: All sorts of foods and drinks can fit into a healthy diet when you enjoy them responsibly and within moderation. Just make sure you're reading labels and not being tricked into thinking the foods you're eating are better for you than they really are.

1- Vitamin-Enriched Water
Vitamin-enriched waters put two good things together to make healthiest drink ever, right? Sounds good in theory, but vitamin waters contain far more than their name implies. Yes, they can give you your daily dose of nutrients, just like a multivitamin, but it comes with a side of sugar and calories you may not have known you ordered. A single bottle of vitamin-enriched water usually contains 2.5 servings or more when you read the nutrition label. That means you're consuming more than twice the calories and sugar listed on the label when you drink the whole thing. Water it down: Water should be your drink of choice. If you don't like the flavor of plain water, spruce it up without calories by adding lime, lemon or orange wedges to your glass. Save the vitamin and electrolyte-enhanced waters for long, intense workouts that last 90 minutes or more.

2- Granola
Granola can be deceiving. It appears to be filled with the whole-grain goodness of oats. What's so bad about that? It's what you don't see: all the added fat and sugar that turned those healthful oats into granola. This applies to granola bars, too. They may have a reputation as the optimal snack for healthy eaters, but many are made with added chocolate, sugars, and "chicory root extract," which is mostly inulin, a sugar made from plants that is also a source of soluable fiber. Inulin, which is largely undigestible, adds both sugar and supplemental fiber to make granola look healthier than it is. Get a grip on granola: Not all granolas deserve a bad rap. Read those labels (sugars should not be in the first two ingredients) or make your own so you know what you're eating.

3- Spinach Wraps & Pasta
Spinach wraps and pastas definitely add a decorative flair to your meal, but that's about it. The actual amount of spinach in these green tortillas and noodles is trivial compared with what you would get if you added your own spinach leaves to your wrap or pasta dish. This super green is added more for color than for nutrition, and most often, the flour used to make the pasta or wrap isn't whole grain, either. Spruce up your spinach: Add fresh spinach leaves to your pasta dish or wrap if you want to benefit from the B vitamins, fiber, iron and calcium found in spinach. Choose whole-grain (not spinach) pastas and wraps for your meals instead.

4- Broccoli & Cheddar Soup
It may boast the super food "broccoli" in its name, but this creamy concoction is usually less than soup-er for you. Besides a load of full-fat cheddar cheese, what you won't see is all the melted butter and cream this soup contains. All three of these ingredients are high in unhealthy saturated fats. And just because broccoli is in the name doesn't mean you're getting a serving of vegetables when you slurp down this soup. Slim down your soup: Order a cup instead of a bowl, or make it at home using healthier substitutions like evaporated skim milk and less cheese. Don't forget to add a real serving or two of vegetables to your meal; this soup alone won't help you meet your daily quota.

5- Veggie Chips
Veggie chips seem like they would be a much smarter choice than regular potato chips, but it turns out most brands are about equal in calories, fat and nutrients to regular old chips. Consumer Reports states that the main ingredient for almost all veggie chips are potatoes, merely supplemented with vegetable powder or puree. Veggie chips only contain about 10 fewer calories per serving than your average potato chips. Chuck the chips: Snack on fresh, crunchy veggies for fewer calories and more nutrients than veggie chips.

6- Muffins
Muffins may look like the perfect breakfast or snack, but in most cases, they're little more than a small cake (i.e. dessert). Not only do they resemble small planets in size, but they are also loaded with calories, unhealthy fats, refined flour and added sugars. Bran muffins can trick you into thinking they are healthful because the word "bran" is in the name, but these monsters can contain 500 calories or more and very little else in the way of nutrition! Blueberry muffins (or other fruity varieties) contain a fraction of a serving of real fruit. Muzzle the muffin top: Share these goodies with a friend and watch your portion sizes. If fruit is what you want, avoid it when it comes in muffin form. You can also make muffins at home and use healthier ingredients to make them more nutritious.

7- Pretzels
Pretzels, although a better choice than greasy potato chips, provide little more than calories. Yes, you can buy them fat free, but they're also free of any significant amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber or protein. Even pretzels labeled "honey wheat" struggle to pack 1 gram of fiber into 8 twists. If you're crunching on salted pretzels, you could be adding an extra 815 mg of sodium to your diet with each serving. Power up your pretzels: Choose whole-wheat pretzels for more fiber and filling power or pair your twists with some healthy protein (like cheese or peanut butter) to avoid spikes in blood sugar that could leave you feeling hungry and lethargic.

8- Yogurt-Covered Raisins
Wholesome yogurt + fruity raisins = yogurt-covered raisins. These must be healthy, right? Wrong. While both raisins and yogurt are nutritious foods, this packaged snack is anything but. The "yogurt" on the outside is far from the yogurt you know from the dairy aisle. Mostly sugar, oil and some dry milk and yogurt powder, that "yogurt" coating is often a source of hydrogenated oil (trans fats), which you'd never find in real yogurt. A single serving (1/4 cup) also contains about 130 calories. Skirt this yogurt: Get more nutrition for your calories by choosing real yogurt, with or without added fruit. You'll save fat and calories and avoid the sugar rush of this snack.

9- Diet Soda
Calorie-free isn't synonymous with healthy. When you'[re downing more than the recommended max of 16 oz of pop per day, you may be doing harm to your body and hurting your healthy lifestyle goals. The carbonated beverage could be displacing much-needed water, which is necessary for hydration, and calcium-rich milk, which provides essential vitamins and minerals. Some sodas could even put you at risk for bone loss. Some research shows that phosphoric acid, found in dark colas, may leach calcium from your bones, increasing your risk of osteoporosis. Ditch the diet: Choose more water, tea and reduced-fat milk, aiming for 64 oz of fluid per day.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I was away this weekend, yet again. Having boys heavily involved in hockey, our lives have been taken over by skates, hockey sticks and stinky equipment. We spend lots of time in arenas.. We have to leave early in the mornings, sometimes not returning home before mid afternoon. It gets tough at times to eat properly when on the run like that!

This weekend, we had a tournament, so it was more of the same... I think all considering, I did really well. I've been choosing the healthiest on the menu, the less caloric, the less fatty. And if I'm in a restaurant for lunch... I eat a big meal! And eat something real small for dinner. All in all, I think it's been good this weekend.

Now if I could only motivate myself to exercise more... I'm actually active, but it's been days since I've done some real targeted exercises. Time for Bootcamp again, me thinks.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Wow, it's been a while since I last updated.

I don't want to make excuses, but will say I was gone for almost 4 days this past weekend/week, so not only was it impossible for me to update, but it was also tough to keep up with this self imposed diet and exercise routine.

Food wise, I think I did really good, except for that one night where I had quite a few drinks. But I'm not worried. My weight is good, my energy level is good, and everyone needs a night of indulgence once in a while, no?

Exercise wise, well, that's another story. During those 4 day, I walked and danced and jumped around a lot. So I guess that counts for *something*. It was not, however, regiment exercises like I usually do.


Nonetheless, I think it's been a great 4 days, despite the irregularities.

I'm also considering switching my updates to once a week. I'm now down to 128lbs, and seem to stay there pretty consistently (I dipped into 127, went back to 129, stable at 128 most days lately). and I know at some point I'll have to eat a tad bit more. Honestly, I feel great where I'm at right now. 128 is good. I'd love to dip down to 125 again, perhaps even 120! I think I could very well do it, but I think it'd be hard to maintain. Perhaps I should do it in preparation for the Holidays, where I KNOW I'll be gaining weight. Temptations will be present at all times and every where around me.

I guess we'll see.

In the mean time... I can assure you, my one and a half readers, that I'm not abandoning ship. In fact, I'm proud of myself for what I have accomplished, and do not want to undo all this hard work I've done in the last 2 months.

“Where I am today, is where my mind put me, and where I’ll be tomorrow, is where my mind will put me.” -Billy Blanks

Saturday, November 7, 2009

From Oct 7th to Nov 7th

So. It's been a month. Well, 48 days, which is more than a month. But I've gone from Oct 7th to Nov 7th. So I think it's time for a little update.

Back when I started this back in shape stuff, here were the goals I set for myself:

1 - not snack at night anymore, unless it is a piece of fruit, a glass of milk, or a piece of veggie.

2 - eat proper balanced meals, with a range of 1200-1500 calories a day.

3 - exercise daily

4 - loose 10 pounds

5 - fit comfortably in my size 8 jeans, without the muffin top.

What did I accomplish in the last 48 days?

1 - I do not snack at night anymore. Not even on healthy stuff. I did slip a little here and there, aprticularly when we went out, or were on vacation. But other than that... No more night snacking. And frankly? I don't really miss it. YAY!

2 - Yes, I have been respecting the 1200-1500 calories a day target that I've set out for myself. There were a few days that I went over board (vacation, illness, etc), but again, all in all, I did it. I eat proteins at every meal. I eat a big breakfast, a medium size lunch, and a small dinner. I have given alcohol up, except for a few drinks here and there on special occasions. So YAY!

3 - I think I've reached that goal, too. Again, a few days where I slipped here and there (sickness, periods), but all in all, I do *something* every day. So YAY!!!!

4 - I did loose 10 pounds!!! I even went down to 127, although I think this might have been my scale who was out of whack. But I am currently at 129, so that is 11 pounds lost so far. YAY!!!

5 - I do not have a muffin top anymore! My jeans are too loose, actually. So YAY!!!!

Concretely, here's what's been going on:

Oct 7
Weight: 61kg (140lbs)
Waist circumference: 86 cm
BMI: 22.93

Nov 7
Weight: 58.64kg (129lbs)
Waist circumference: 82 cm
BMI: 22.05

I am very proud of myself. And I feel so much better than I did 48 days ago. This motivates me to keep going, to keep my under 130 weight, to keep eating healthy and not snack at night anymore.


“Where I am today, is where my mind put me, and where I’ll be tomorrow, is where my mind will put me.” -Billy Blanks