Healthy Office Snacks

As a dietitian working in a hospital setting, I am constantly exposed to treats and sweets. Whether it’s the weekly Tuesday doughnuts brought by volunteers, or the cannolis and cake at a coworker’s baby shower, they are everywhere…just staring at me.

From what I have heard, this is the case for many people in their workplace. Despite not buying junk food or sweets, and eating healthy at home 98% of the time, temptations at the workplace always seem to get in the way. So what can we do about it? Plan ahead!

In an effort to avoid noming on sweets or afternoon trips to the cafeteria when I’m craving a snack or feeling extra hungry, I have started to keep a few simple, strategic items at my desk. Let me share:

  1. Tea bags or instant coffee: Hot tea or coffee is a terrific way to stave off cravings and maintain focus. One brand of instant coffee I particularly like is Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffee (no, it doesn’t taste like mushrooms) as it has half the amount of caffeine, but it does wonders for focus without the jitters! I like to leave a reusable coffee cup at my desk so I always have one on hand.
  2. Prunes: Yes, I keep prunes at my desk. They are super filling and perfect when you are craving something sweet!
  3. Peanut or almond butter: When I am running late in the morning, I will grab a banana or apple to go. Having some type of nut butter at my desk makes it more convenient, and adding the healthy fats and protein will keep you full much longer than eating the fruit alone.
  4. Skinny Pop popcorn (or similar brand): This popcorn does not contain any artificial ingredients, is non-GMO, and high in fiber.
  5. Trail mix: Most store bough trail mix is high in added sugar, expensive, and may contain undesirable additives. For this reason, I have started to make my own by adding a variety of nuts, gogi berries (or some type of dried fruit containing no added sugar), a sprinkle of cacao powder, and perhaps a drizzle of honey — mix it together and vwa-la! I keep mine in a mason jar at my desk.
  6. 70% or Higher Dark Chocolate: For the days those doughnuts are staring at you.

What healthy snacks do you keep at your desk? Share below!

What is “Dirty Keto” and How to do Keto Right

One of the most popular questions I have been receiving lately is “What do you think about keto?” The ketogenetic diet has become very popular due to its potential to help with rapid weight loss. It’s different then other fad diets as the focus is primarily on fats (75% of your daily calories), some protein (20% of daily calories), and a small amount of carbohydrates (5% of your daily calories). The result is you enter a state of “ketosis” where you body is burning fat as its main source of fuel rather than glucose.

This is different from other low carb diets, such as the Atkins diet, as those focus on limited amounts of carbohydrates with no emphasis on fat and liberal amounts of other foods. It is easy to be following a low carb diet but never achieve ketosis.

Dirty Keto follows the same breakdown of fats, protein, and carbohydrates with one key difference – it does’t matter where the macronutrients come from. This has enabled many to use this diet as a way to lose weight while still eating limitless amounts of bunnless bacon cheeseburgers with a Diet Coke. Although this eating pattern may sound tempting, no amount of breadless fast food or artificially sweetened beverages is healthy, even in the presence of weight loss. Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.) are a key component commonly lacking in the dirty keto eating pattern. These are just as much, if not more, important than the macronutrient profile of ones meal as micronutrients are essential for system function, keeping a strong immune system, and maintaining healthy looking hair, skin and nails.

Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

Although it is predominantly known for its potential to help with rapid weight loss, nearly a century ago the Ketogenic diet was used as a tool for clinitians to effectively treat patients with epilpsy. It has also been shown to be beneficial in treating other brain conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and bipolar disorder.

According to this study, a “Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean diet” (healthy keto with wine, basically) followed for 12 weeks cured people of their metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol). In addition, while over 92% improved their liver health, 21% saw complete resolution in their previous diagnosis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

There are also benefits for healthy individuals including:

  • a more stabilized and reduced blood sugar, which will lower the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  • improved cognitive performance and decreased brain fog.
  • reduced appetite and cravings.
  • slowed aging through activation of anti-aging and anti-inflammatory biochemical pathways.
  • it provides our cells with a steady source of ketone bodies, which is a cleaner-burning fuel than glucose.

3 Common Mistakes

  • Not eating enough non-starchy vegetables. These are vegetables that are low in carbohydrates and will have a minimal effect on your blood sugar. They should compose at least half of your plate. Examples: peppers, asparagus, tomatoes, any type of leafy green, Brussel sprouts, onions, celery, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower.
  • Eating the wrong types of fat. Obtaining the majority of fat from conventional meat, dairy and ranch dressing is not only unhealthy, but it may not be enough to get you into ketosis. Drizzle your vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and cook your eggs with a little extra butter or coconut oil. Healthy fat sources: avocado, olives, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, olive oil, tuna, sardines. Refer to this post for more information on fats.
  • Eating too much protein. Because it is a protein-sparing diet, protein requirements are lower than when you rely on carbohydrates for energy. Consuming too much protein could also kick you out of ketosis as amino acids can be converter into sugar when consumed in excess. Limit your meat to 3-6oz per meal.

Sample Menu

Breakfast:

  • Eggs scrambled with spinach, onions and mushrooms, drizzled with olive oil and served with a side of avocado
  • Beverage options –
    • water
    • hot water with lemon
    • black coffee, coffee with stevia, coffee blended with coconut cream
    • unsweetened hot tea

Lunch: Keto Salad

  • Ingredients –
    • 2 cups wild greens (romaine, arugula, kale, etc)
    • 2 hard boiled eggs or 4-6oz smoked salmon
    • 1/2 avocado
    • 1/2 bell pepper
    • sliced cucumber
  • Dressing-
    • olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Dinner: Chicken Thighs with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

  • To cook the chicken:
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
    • Rub thighs with olive oil and sea salt. May also add additional seasonings such as rosemary and paprika.
    • Place on baking sheet and bake until no longer pink, ~30 minutes.
  • To cook Brussel sprouts:
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
    • Place on a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil or cover with butter.
    • Sprinkle with sea salt and turmeric.
    • Bake for 25-35 minutes, until tender.

Have you tried the Ketogenic diet before? How was your experience?

Top 10 Ingredients to Avoid

A quick walk down almost any isle of the grocery store will expose you to a host of toxic ingredients that are fueling the epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Items in which many consider to be “food” more so resemble science projects, as the majority of the ingredients are chemicals most have never heard of and that surely don’t sound like anything anyone would want to eat. In other words, they’re “frankenfoods”.

You are probably wondering, “So how do I know which foods are safe and which to avoid?” A good rule of thumb is if the food has more than 5 ingredients, or multiple ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it back on the shelf. Otherwise, here is a quick and dirty list of some of the top offenders that should be avoided as often as possible.

  1. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils AKA trans-fats –  The purpose of these fats is to prolong the shelf life of products. They have been shown to increase bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, slow your metabolism, and cause obesity, heart attacks, dementia, inflammation and cancer. The FDA has declared trans fats unsafe and banned their use. However, small amount still remain in the food supply. Commonly found in: peanut butter, non-dairy creamer, baked goods
  2. High fructose corn syrup – This is a highly processed sweetener made from corn. It is incredibly cheap to make and even sweeter than sugar. As reviewed in this study, it has been associated with increased risk of fatty liver when consumed in excess amounts. It has also been show to lead to insulin resistance, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Commonly found in: ice cream, pop, desserts, peanut butter, bread, salad dressing, canned fruit, candy
  3. Artificial sweeteners – This group includes aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), and acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Swiss Sweet). According to this study, (plublished this month!)  high intake of artificially sweetened beverages (>2 per day) was associated with an increased risk of stroke, coronary artery disease and all-cause mortality. Commonly found in – diet pop, “sugar-free” foods, yogurt, gum, zero calorie flavored water
  4. Artificial flavors – These are fake flavors used to make frankenfoods taste more palatable. Each flavor can contain up to 100 ingredients, including synthetic chemicals, solvents and preservatives such as BHA, propylene glycol, MSG, parabens, and more. The FDA recently banned 7 ingredients used to make artificial flavors as they have been shown to cause cancer in animal studies. However, food companies have TWO years to remove these ingredients from their products. They are also not required to disclosed if their product contains these ingredients, leaving consumers completely clueless to what they are consuming. Refer to this article for more information on this topic. Commonly found in: cereal, candy, desserts, drink mixes, pop
  5. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – Used as a flavor enhancer. It increases food cravings and has been linked to chronic pain, headaches, obesity, depression, and mental disorders. Commonly found in: Chinese food, frozen meals, chips, salad dressing
  6. Carrageenen – Commonly used as a thickening and stabilizing agent. Although it is derived from seaweed and considered a “natural” ingredient, it has been associated with a host of issues, particularly related to the gastrointestinal system. The inflammation it causes can lead to ulcerations and bleeding. According to research conducted by Joanne Tobacman, MD, there may also be a connection between carrageenan and gastrointestinal cancer. Commonly found in: almond milk, coconut milk, ice cream, deli meat, cottage cheese
  7. Artificial colors – These have been linked to anything from hyperactivity in children to cancer. Commonly found in: ice cream, baked goods, cereal, pop, gum, popsicles, fruit snacks
  8. Canola oil/soybean oil/corn oil – These are highly processed oils that go rancid very quickly, which causes inflammation when consumed. Refer to my previoud post, Fat: Friend or Foe, for more information on this topic. Commonly found in: chips, bread, nuts, granola bars, baked goods, cereal, salad dressing
  9. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) – A synthetic preservative shown to be an endocrine disrupter. National Toxicology Program has classified it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Commonly found in: Sausage, pepperoni, pizza, canned soup, instant potatoes, potato chips, drink mixes, spaghetti sauce, gum
  10. Butlated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – Another synthetic preservative. This one has been shown to impact the signaling that tells us we are full, which could contribute to overeating and obesity. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals. Commonly found in: potato chips, cereal, instant potatoes, dry beverage and dessert mixes, gum

Did you find one of these ingredients in any of your favorite foods? Which one? Comment below!

Composting 101

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste account for 30% of what ends up in landfills. Instead of throwing these materials away, they can be composted! Compost is decomposed organic material that is commonly added to soil to enhance nutrient quality, promote soil bacteria and fungi that aid in plant growth , and help retain soil moisture. In addition, organic material disposed in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas. Production of this gas is greatly reduced when wasted food and yard clippings are composted.

What You Need

Brown material – dead leaves, twigs, branches, shredded paper
Green material – grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds 
Water

Composting at Home

Select a dry spot near a water source to host your pile. You can fence off a small area or, if you prefer a tidier arrangement, purchase bins to contain the waste. In the past I have used a bin with a lift off lid to add in the materials. Although this was cleaner and kept the critters away, I found it more difficult to access and mix the compost compared to open piles. Tumblers are also a good option as they are easy to maneuver.

Once you have set up your space, add clippings, scraps and any other organic material as it is accumulated. As the “greens” carry more nitrogen and the “browns” carry more carbon, alternate layers of each type, being sure to moisten dry materials as they are added. Turn your compost pile with a shovel or pitch fork weekly during the summer and monthly during the winter. Don’t worry – a compost pile that is managed appropriately will not smell or attract rodents!

From the Kitchen to the Bin

Although this may seem like common sense, be sure to determine a sustainable way to get your compost outside to you pile. Here are some ideas that may work for you:

  • Take it out after every meal
  • Store it on a small countertop container, like this one, to be taken out every other day or so
  • Store food scraps in the freezer until you run out of space

Your compost may take anywhere from 1 to 6 months to fully breakdown. This will depend on the moisture, temperature, and composition of the material. When the material at the bottom is a rich dark color your compost is ready to use. Now have at it and don’t forget to add the finished compost to your garden, house plants or landscaping!

*For those uninterested or unable to participate in backyard composting, but would still like to recycle organic waste, check out findacomposter.com . This resource connects you to organics collection services in your area. Rust Belt Riders, the top commercial organics collection service in Northeast Ohio, have been collecting and diverting over 32,000 pounds of food scraps each week from landfills as of December, 2018! They plan to have their Residential Composting Service up and running by summer 2019.

Meal Prepping Made Simple

Meal prepping is a great way to not only save time, but money as well. It is a helpful strategy to utilize during a busy week, when a lack of time or energy may result in a last minute stop at your local fast food restaurant or a call for delivery pizza. It is also a way to control what exactly goes into your food – a must for anyone trying to stay on track with their health goals.

Before meal prepping there are several points to consider such as the best day of the week to cook, the recipes you will use, the number of people you are meal prepping for, and if you will get sick of eating the same meal every day. For beginners, I recommend keeping it as simple as possible. Making a list of your favorite types of protein, vegetables, and starches will make shopping and cooking easier. I have also listed some suggestions below.

Choose a Protein
(3-4 oz serving)
Choose a Vegetable

Choose a Starch
(optional)
Wild SalmonRoasted Brussel Sprouts
Quinoa
Free-range chickenBroccoliRice
Grass-fed beefCauliflower RiceSweet Potatoes
Turkey
Green BeansSpaghetti Squash
BeansKaleLentils
Continue reading “Meal Prepping Made Simple”

Fat: Friend or Foe?

It is no secret that over the past several decades fat has developed quite a bad reputation. Nowadays, you can find just about low-fat anything in the store, and if a food is naturally low fat or fat free, you bet it will be advertised across the label.

The initial demonization of fat primarily stemmed from one study – the Seven Countries Study led by Ancel Keys. This study examined the association between diet and heart disease. It concluded that the countries where fat consumption was the highest had the most heart disease. However, it was later discovered that only the countries that supported this theory were included in the study.

Contrary to what we may have been led to believe, fat is not only an important, but an essential component of our diet. It is needed for normal growth and development, hormone production, fat-soluble vitamin absorption (vitamins A, D, E and K), energy, healthy skin and nails, and proper cell function. With that being said, some fats are more healthy than others, while some aren’t healthy at all.

Saturated Fat

Found in foods such as animal meats, butter, ghee and coconut. This group of fats tends to be the most demonized from low-fat supporters. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They are best for cooking at high temperatures as they are the most chemically stable and will not oxidize or become rancid. This is because all of the bonds in this fat molecule are “saturated” with hydrogen bonds so there is no room for free radicals to enter and oxidize the fat.

Trans Fats

This group deserves every bit of heat it has been getting! Trans fats are the worst types of fats. They have been linked to certain types of cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and increasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Avoid foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. These oils are frequently found in peanut butter, baked goods, fast food, margarine, shortening, non-dairy creamers, and crackers.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Monounsaturated fats are relatively stable, but not quite as stable as saturated fats. In this type of fat molecule, “mono” indicates there is one space for a free radical to enter. This group is found in various oils such as olive, avocado, sesame, flax, macadamia, walnut, and hemp. These oils should be unrefined, expeller-pressed or cold-pressed to avoid high heat and chemical processing that will damage the oils. With that being said, these oils should not be used for cooking. Instead, use them in cold salads, condiments, etc.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

These types of fats have the multiple binding sites exposed, making them the least stable type of fat. However, this does not mean that this type of fat can not still be healthy. In fact, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of PUFAs that are essential for our health. Our body is unable to make them so it is essential we obtain them though our diet. However, since they are the least stable, it is important to avoid ones that have been heavily processed or exposed to high heat. Oils that have been oxidized can cause inflammation in the body. Highly processed oils to avoid include vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil.

FATS AND OILS SAFE
FOR COOKING

FATS AND OILS SAFE FOR
COLD USE

Butter
Ghee or clarified butter
Lard (pork fat)
Duck fat
Lamb fat
Goat fat
Coconut oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Avocado Oil
Nut Oils (Macadamia, Walnut)
Seed Oils (Sesame, Flax, Hemp)

*High quality extra virgin olive oil may also be used for cooking or roasting at lower temperatures.

FATS AND OILS TO AVOID

HEALTHY FOOD SOURCES OF FAT

Margarine
Vegetable Oil
Canola Oil
Sunflower Oil
Soybean Oil
Grapeseed Oil
Corn Oil
Cottonseed Oil
Vegetable Shortening

Olives
Grass-fed meats
Fatty fish (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon)
Avocado
Egg yolks from pastured eggs
Nuts (raw is best)



4 Healthy Habits to Adopt this New Year

A few years ago I stopped making New Year’s resolutions. Not only were the majority of my goals unrealistic, but I never actually devised an action plan on how exactly I was going to achieve them. This led to a downward spiral of me slipping up (usually within the first month or two), devising an excuse for why my slip up was acceptable, making more slip-ups, getting mad for not accomplishing the goal as I hoped, and finally giving up on my resolution altogether. I decided I needed to change up my methods.

For the past few years, I have reflected on the year prior to determine what areas of my health tended to slack the most. Did I drink enough water? Was I more stressed then usual? How was my sleep?

After identifying several areas of improvement I set a specific goal for each, followed by 3-4 actions steps on how I specifically plan to achieve each goal. I then choose the goal most important to me to start, and when I feel I have adequately improve my habit, I will reward myself by starting on the next goal!

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