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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

TRX Protein Series: Fueling up with Plant-Powered Proteins

 

Did you know that nearly all foods except highly refined products like sugar, oils and alcohol have protein? Even broccoli, peas and spinach? It's a common misconception that most people need to eat meat to consume enough protein. Some plant-based foods are protein powerhouses and can contain even more protein per serving than an ounce of meat.P1040031

 

Most meat-eating Americans are eating about 1.5- 2 times the recommended dietary allowance for protein, which is fine, except that the majority of this extra protein is coming from animal products often high in calories and lacking in the nutritional benefits that other plant-based proteins can provide.

 

Protein can help curb hunger, which is why it is important to have a protein source with each meal. If you're interested in increasing your protein intake with plant-based foods, choose foods from this list:

 

  • Beans, beans beans! Adzuki beans, black beans, kidney beans, soybeans -- you name it, they're all high in protein. 
  • Ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth and barley
  • Brown rice, whole grain breads and cereals
  • Nuts and seeds and their butters. Try sunflower butter, cashew butter and almond butter for a switch. Top cereal and yogurt with chia seeds or flaxseed meal.
  • Green veggies: Edamame, spinach, peas, kale and broccoli
  • Lentils
  • Corn

 

Don't forget that dairy products like milk and yogurt are packed with protein (and lots of other important nutrients) as well. If you would rather have a milk alternative, go with soymilk. Almond milk and coconut milk are comparatively low in protein.

 

Nutrition experts, authors, diet gurus and physicians all have their own theories when it comes to nutrition. Cut out sugar, no cut out fat... no wait, fat is good, cut out gluten instead. New information, studies and diet books pop up weekly with new recommendations and "magic" diets for us to follow. But, one thing that ALL experts can agree on is that we need to eat MORE fruits and vegetables. Everyone's health and well-being can benefit from shifting to a more plant-based diet, and so can the environment!

 

More information:

The Top Ten High Protein Vegetables

Plant-Powered Proteins List

Red Bean Burger with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa


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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

TRX Protein Series: Fueling Up with the Right Amount of Protein

 

Over the past few weeks, I've had quite a few questions from Fitness With Insight members about protein-- especially from those of you who aren't big meat eaters. A lot of TRXers like you are wondering when is the best time to have protein, what are the best sources of protein that aren't meat, how much protein you need to build muscle and whether you should be taking a protein supplement, and if so what is the best one. In the next few posts, I'll be doing a "Protein Series" to answer all of these questions and debunk some popular protein myths that have been floating around for years.

 

309078_324196327596564_1331408605_nBuilding and toning muscle happens when you do resistance exercises that challenge your muscles, not from eating excess protein. Consuming extra protein doesn't mean you'll build more muscle, it only means you'll burn more protein as a fuel source.

 

If you have meat and other animal products with most of your meals, you’re probably already getting plenty of protein with your average daily intake. Most Americans are actually eating about 1.5- 2 times the recommended dietary allowance for protein. The problem is that the majority of this extra protein are coming from animal products that are often high in calories and lacking in the nutritional benefits that other plant-based proteins provide. Any excess protein is burned for energy or stored as fat.

 

Humans do not have the ability to keep extra protein stores on hand, so we need to consume adequate protein each day, evenly distrubuted throughout the day. For optimal muscle building and toning, try to eat 20-25 grams of protein at each meal. Our bodies can only utilize about 20-25 grams of protein at one time and any excess is waste product. Eating no protein throughout the day then eating three chicken breasts for dinner with 60 grams of protein isn't nearly as effective as spreading the 60 grams out throughout the day. If you find that 20-25 grams is too much, break it down to 10-15 grams at meals and maybe 5-10 grams at snacks or after your workout.

 

As for protein powders and bars and such, why not use real foods instead of supplements? ;Natural foods contain protein the way nature intended. We don't know the half of the science behind the way the components of a whole food (food in it's natural state) interacts in our bodies and gives us benefits as opposed to "food" engineered in a lab.

 

Following exercise, the body needs to repair and generate growth to the muscles and restore energy. A combination of carbohydrates and protein is a perfect choice. Eating within 30-45 minutes after exercise is a great window of time for repair.

 

You can pick and choose 1 carbohydrate and 1 protein option from the two lists below for a pre and post workout snack or choose one option from the combination column. Experiment with some of the options and times as your body will let you know what works best.

 

 

CARBOHYDRATE – 1 serving 

PROTEIN – 1 serving

    COMBINATIONS

  • Apple
  • Hard-boiled Egg
  • Trail Mix with Nuts and Dried Fruit
  • Berries
  • Edamame
  • Smoothie with Yogurt or Milk
  • Banana
  • Chicken
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Whole Grain Pita
  • Tuna
  • Sting Cheese and Crackers
  • Oatmeal
  • Powdered Milk
  • English Muffin & 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
  • English Muffin
  • Skim or Soy Milk
  • Protein Shake with 8oz Skim Milk
  • Whole Wheat Toast
  • Lean Roast Beef
  • Granola and Greek Yogurt
  • Whole-Grain Cereal
  • Pistachios
  • Pita, Hummus and Baby Carrots
  • Home-made Granola
  • Almonds

 

  • Granola Bar
  • Peanut Butter

 

  • Whole-Grain Crackers
  • String Cheese

 

 

  • Hummus

 

 

  • Cottage Cheese

 

 

  • Lentils

 

 

 

 

In next weeks Protein Series, we'll talk about how to fuel up with Plant-Powered proteins.

 

References:

Clark MS RD, Nancy. Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Fifth Edition. Newton, MA, Copyright 2014.


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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

Fueling Up For TRX: To Soy or Not to Soy?

 

 

soy-beans2-300x256There are a lot of questions and controversy surrounding soy foods– Do they cause cancer? Are they bad for women? Should I eat more soy or stay away from it as much as possible?

The soy and cancer study that started the controversy concerned only those with a specific type breast cancer (estrogen receptor positive). Some early studies suggested possible increased tumor growth in rats with a high intake of soy. As more advanced research was done, scientists found that rats metabolize soy completely different from humans, making the earlier studies invalid.

 

Now we know that moderate amounts of soy foods do not affect tumor growth or a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, at least 10mg of soy

per day can decrease breast cancer recurrence by 25%.

 

I recommend increased soy consumption, especially for menopausal women. There are compounds in soy that behave like estrogen in the human body and could lessen the natural decrease in estrogen due to the menopause, therefore decreasing common symptoms such as hot flashes. If you suffer from severe hot flashes, you may want to seek the help of dietitian. Switching to a plant-based, high phyto-estrogen diet has significantly decreased symptoms in some women.

 

Soy foods are a complete protein, low in calories, and a good source of omega-3s which helps to reduce inflammation. The isoflavones in soy foods have been linked to a decreased risk for osteoporosis, while the calcium and magnesium in soy may help to lessen PMS symptoms, regulate blood sugar and prevent migraine headaches. Soy foods are a perfect example of FUEL for the body, to keep it running at it's peak level.

 

Processed soy ingredients (like isolated soy protein) are found in products like cereal bars, packaged snacks, and many other processed foods are lacking in many of the nutritional components that make soy so healthy, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Always go for "whole" soy foods, like the ones listed below:

 

Foods to eat to increase your soy intake:

 

Soymilk or soy yogurt- Soymilk (light is best, less sugar) can be used in place of cows milk in puddings, baked goods, on cereal and in smoothies. If you like chocolate, try light chocolate soymilk to cure a sweet tooth or after a work out. Make sure soy yogurt is unsweetened, then add your own natural sweet flavors with berries and a touch of honey.

 

Tofu- Tofu can be stir-fried, grilled, added to stews, soups or egg dishes and used in mixed dishes or stuffed pastas such as lasagna.

 

Edamame- (Fresh or frozen) can be used in soup, stir fries, salads, or eaten as a snack with a dash of olive oil and pepper.

 

Roasted soybeans- can be eaten as a snack or to add a crunch to your salad (also known as soy nuts).

 

Soy nut butter- try it in place of of peanut butter.

 

Here is a great recipe for a Thai Coconut Curry to help increase your soy consumption.

 

If you have concern regarding consuming genetically modified soy, go organic. The USDA National Organic Standards prohibit the use of GMOs. You can also look for products with the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. Some brands with this seal include Silk, Amy's, Back to Nature and WestSoy. For a complete list of products with the verified seal, visit nongmoproject.org.

 

References:

Soy Foods and Cancer, Today's Dieititan

Update on the Soy Controversy, Dixie Mills, MD

Soy Foods: How Food Affects Health, Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN


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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

Feeling Stressed? All You Need is TRX and These Top 5 Stress-Fighting Foods

 

 

Exercise can do amazing things for our body; it can relieve stress and boost our moods by releasing feel-good hormones, it can relieve aches and pains caused by a sedentary lifestyle and it can decrease our risk of many chronic diseases all while keeping us at (or helping us get to) a healthy weight.

 

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While you may have already heard that exercise is extremely effective at treating depression, anxiety and stress, did you know that the foods you consume can also be used to boost your mood and relieve stress?

 

A research group in the UK recently launched The Food and Mood Project, which helped to identify "food stressors" and "food supporters," that either exacerbate stress or help to relieve it. 

 

Nearly 90% of the projects' participants reported that their mental health had improved significantly with changes in diet.

 

Participants reported that cutting down or avoiding "food stressors" like sugar, caffeine, alcohol and chocolate had the most impact on mental health, along with consuming more "food supporters" like water, fruits and veggies and oil-rich fish.

 

If you're feeling stressed or need a boost in your mood, try incorporating these Top 5 Stress-Fighting Foods into your diet:

 

1. Heart-healthy nuts such as almonds and walnuts contain tryptophan, an amino acid which helps to promote relaxation and boost serotonin, low levels of which can contribute to moodiness and depression.

 

2. Leafy greens like spinach and kale are great sources of magnesium, a mineral which helps improve your body’s response to stress and may even prevent migraine headaches.

 

3. Fruits that are high in vitamin C, like oranges, which help to fight stress-related free radicals.

 

4. Omega-3 rich fish like salmon and albacore tuna can also boost serotonin levels and regulate anxiety related hormones like cortisol.

 

5. Foods that are high in B-vitamins, such as eggs and oatmeal, which can combat stress by maintaining nerves and brain cells health and by converting food into energy for the body.

 

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“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." --Hippocrates

 

 

References:

"Fight Stress With Food." Today's Dietitian Health and Nutrition Center

"Eat Right to Fight Stress." Psychology Today


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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

Tips for Making (and Keeping) Your New Years Resolution

 

 

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Here it comes, a new year. Time to make-over your wallet, your waistline, clean out your closet, get back in touch with long-lost friends, mend relationships with family, find your true love, plan an amazing vacation and land your dream job, all while taking more time for yourself, reading more books and OF COURSE, going to the gym.

 

It’s completely normal when the clock strikes midnight to want to revamp everything in your life to make you a new and improved person. But how many times have you made those same resolutions to forget them all by February? How can you make THIS year, 2014, the year that you succeed?

 

It’s actually a lot easier than you think. The most important thing is to make SMART resolutions. First of all, let’s not call them “resolutions,” let’s call them goals. Resolutions tend to have a negative context of deprivation or “cutting back”, which puts a bad taste in your mouth right off the bat.

 

Now let’s talk specifics. If one of your goals are like most everyone else, to get healthy, get in shape or get fit this year, then your goal needs revised. Yes, I am a dietitian, and I’m telling you to throw your “get fit” goal out the window. The "get fit" goal never works because it’s not measurable. How do you achieve getting healthy or getting “in-shape?” Maybe you think getting healthy means having normal cholesterol numbers or getting down to a normal weight, or getting in-shape as being able to do 20 TRX Spiderman pushups– then THAT is your goal. To make a meaningful goal for 2014, define what it is for you that means getting fit or getting in shape, and make that your goal. Put a number on it, and put a time-frame on it. If getting in shape to you means being able to walk up the 4 flights of stairs to your office without huffing and puffing by March, then THAT is your goal. So, step one: make goals, not resolutions, and make them specific.

 

The second step to making sure your reach your 2014 goals is to make sure they mean something to you. It's not as automatic as it sounds. Many people make their resolutions because it’s what other people want them to do, or to be, or not to be. Your goals have to be for YOU, not for your significant other, not for your doctor, not for your family. If your spouse wants you to stop smoking, but you know deep down you’re not ready and it’s not truly what YOU want, then you can’t make that a goal for yourself. If your doctor wants you to lose 20 lbs but you could care less what the scale says, then that’s not a meaningful goal to you. If you really want to get into a 2 piece bathing suit and feel comfortable in your own skin by the time your summer cruise comes around, then that is your goal. If you want to be able to pick up your grandkids and push them on the swings without back pain or feeling out of breath, then THAT is your goal. Figure out what you truly want to accomplish, not what others tell you you should want to accomplish.

 

The third step to achieving your goals this year is to be realistic. If you didn’t step foot in the gym one time last year, please don’t make your goal to attend 10 Fitness With Insight classes per week. That’s just not realistic. If you’ve never cooked a meal at home and your goal is to cook dinner 7 nights a week, you’re setting yourself up for failure. A better goal would be to get to a TRX class 3 days a week, walk on your home treadmill or around the block 2 days a week and cook dinner at home 3 days a week (making enough leftovers for 2 nights worth of meals). Leave one day per week open for eating out or ordering in when you're super busy or just ready for a treat. Also, if you absolutely hate walking on the treadmill in the garage, don't make that part of your goal! The goal is not to inflict as much punishment on yourself as possible in 2014. Find something you love and make those activities part of your goal.

 

Being realistic also means not making 15 different goals all at once. Make 3 or 4 big ones and concentrate on those until you’ve achieved them. If May comes around and you’ve hit 3 of the 4, then you can start focusing on new goals or other areas of your life. Overwhelming yourself with too many goals or giving yourself unrealistic expectations is the number one reason for failure.

 

Step four: Write it down. Don’t just dream it up and forget it. Get an old-fashioned pen and paper, write it out and stick it on the fridge. Don’t hide your goals when you have friends over. Let them be known and hold yourself accountable. Keep track of your progress. Every time you get closer to achieving that goal, write it down on that piece of paper. Enlist a goal buddy or buddies. Share each others goals, keep in touch and give encouragement when needed. When you figure out what your big goals are, make smaller goals with a time-frame in mind to help you achieve your big goals. For example, if one of your goals for 2014 is to cut down on the clutter in your house, a weekly goal would be to throw away or donate 5 things you don’t use per week. Making weekly goals will force you to go back and look at your overall goals and keep them fresh in your mind.

 

The most important thing is to make goals that are going to make you feel good. Of course, eating healthfully and exercising automatically helps with that, but if resolving to cut down on your restaurant rendezvous with your girlfriends causes you more stress than happiness, turn it into a positive goal like finding a healthy cooking class to join with your friends or starting a Saturday morning run ritual with your best buds.

 


So tonight, keep these steps in mind as you’re thinking about your new goals and feel free to have a glass of champagne and a smile to toast to the amazing year that lies ahead.

 

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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

Caffeine: To Sip or not to Sip before a TRX Workout?

 

 

About 55% of Americans need a little jolt of java or a sip of red bull to get them going every morning, but have you ever wondered if that caffeine boost helps or hinders your performance in the gym? Does it increase dehydration? How about delaying fatigue? Can you over-caffeinate?

 

Contrary to popular belief, current research suggests that caffeine is not a diuretic and does not cause dehydration. The US military has done extensive research on caffeine and dehydration and has found that consuming about 100mg/day of caffeine does not increase urine output.

 

Caffeine may improve performance for endurance athletes (like marathoners and cyclists) and speed endurance athletes (like soccer and hockey players). And as most of us already have experienced, caffeine can delay fatigue and improve mental sharpness. Most exercisers improve their performance by about 12% when using caffeine, however these benefits were only seen for those participating in longer bouts of exercise. Short exercise (8-20 minutes) is not as affected by caffeine and sprinters experienced no benefit. The benefits are greater for those who do not regularly consume caffeine and have not built up a tolerance to its effects.

 

There are risks involved with caffeine consumption. Some people will experience side effects such as anxiety, nausea, rapid heartbeat, gastrointestinal distress and insomnia.

 

Don’t forget, caffeine is an addictive substance. When you build up a tolerance to caffeine, the benefits are minimized and withdrawal from caffeine can cause headaches and irritability.

 

How much is too much?

 

The amount of caffeine tolerance a person has depends on the individual, but if you are regularly consuming upwards of 500- 600 mg of caffeine per day, it may be time to scale back.

 

8 oz brewed coffee: 60- 150mg

Energy drink or bar: 200 or more mg depending on the size and brand

Caffeine pill: 100- 200mg

Soda and tea: 40- 60mg per cup

1 oz caffeinated gel (like Gu): 20mg

Over the counter pain relievers: Varies (check the label)

 

Overconsumption of caffeine can lead to restlestness and sleep deprivation. If you think you need to cut back on your caffeine consumption, do so gradually to avoid any side effects of withdrawal. First, avoid any caffeine later in the day then start to cut out one serving of caffeine per day.

 

Tips:

 

Caffeine is absorbed quickly in the body and peaks in the blood about 1-2 hours after consumption. Aim to consume caffeine about 1 hour prior to a TRX workout to gain the most benefit.

 

Keep in mind that black coffee has zero calories but a 16 oz frappuccino has 470 calories and is full of unnecessary sugars. Even a chai tea latte has about 250 calories. So if you’re taking in the caffeine to help you in a workout, you might be doing more harm than help. Caffeine has not been shown to aid in weight loss.

 

If you have any additional questions regarding caffeine consumption and physical activity or have another nutrition topic you would like addressed, please contact our Registered Dietitian Megan Ware at nutritionawareness@meganwarerd.com or visit her website at http://meganwarerd.com.

 


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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

The Best Recovery Foods for First Time TRXers

 

At Fitness With Insight, we know that those first few classes can be some of the toughest. Since a lot of the muscles you target during TRX aren't used on a normal day-to-day basis, you might wake up the next day after your first class feeling sore in places you didn't know existed! But what if there were some foods or drinks you could incorporate into your day to help alleviate that soreness, or at least to help you recover quicker?

 

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The period of time right after your workout is the most important. You have a 30- 45 minute window to get in the right nutrients and acheive optimal recovery for your muscles. You've all heard that protein is important for recovery, but carbohydrates also help to refuel energy stores and allow your body to produce insulin, a hormone that contributes to muscle building. The trick is to get in the right kind of carbohydrates; from fruits, dairy or whole grains instead of simple sugars. Quinoa and old-fashioned oatmeal are two high fiber, high protein sources of healthy carbohydrate to incorporate into a post-workout meal or snack. 

 

You've probably know that antioxidants help prevent cancer and heart disease, but did you know they also reduce inflammation and alleviate muscle soreness? Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of antioxidants. The more color on your plate, the better.

 

Check out this recipe for Protein Packed Pizza Bites for a perfect post-workout snack. They’re high in protein from the eggs and the quinoa and packed with nutrients and antioxidants from the onion, tomatoes, garlic and herbs. 

 

If you tend to not have an appetite following a workout, liquid meals or snacks are a perfect remedy. Try making your own smoothies at home with plain Greek yogurt and frozen berries. Beware of smoothies from chains or fast food restaurants, as they may contain upwards of 800 calories and 60 grams of sugar (a whole days worth)!

 

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One drink that is loaded with antioxidants and has been shown to reduce muscle soreness is tart cherry juice. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine found that drinking tart cherry juice following strenuous exercise reduces inflammation and aids in the recovery of muscle function. Studies conducted using watermelon and watermelon juice have also shown similiar results. Try blending tart cherry juice or seedless watermelon chunks into a smoothie for an anti-inflammatory boost.

 

References:

Active: Recovery Foods that Ease Muscle Soreness


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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

Healthy Game Day Guacamole

 

 

With lots of holiday parties, family gatherings, championship football games, college and NBA basketball all going on at once, now is the time when food and temptation is everywhere. Don't be afraid to indulge in a few of your favorites, but eat them in moderation, don't go back for seconds and fill the rest of your plate with vegetables, fruits and lean protein.

 

If you are hosting or think that there won’t be any healthy options available at an upcoming event, make sure to bring your own healthy dish that you (and everyone else) will enjoy. Try this quick and easy recipe for guacamole-- it's rich in the omega 3's that we can never get enough of,and a great source of vitamin E which is great for the skin in the winter months.

 

You don't need a lot of time or skill to make a good guacamole. Start with fresh, wholesome ingredients and you'll never want to buy packaged guacamole again.

 

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Healthy Game Day Guacamole

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 small roma tomato, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon jalepeno
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 heaping teaspoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon red onion, diced
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

 

1. Remove avocado from skin and seeds and mash in a medium bowl with a fork (I like to leave mine a little chunky). Add all other ingredients to bowl and stir. Done!

 

Do you have any favorite game day or holiday healthy dips or snacks that everyone loves?

 

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Original recipe by Megan Ware, RDN, LD


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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

A Dietitian's #1 Diet Tip

 

 

As a Registered Dietitian, people I meet often ask me for quick nutrition advice, or a "secret tip" I can share. Of course, each person is different in their goals and where they are coming from. What might work for one person may not work for another so it's hard to give on the spot advice without knowing the persons background. BUT, if there was one piece of advice I would give every client I've ever seen, every patient I've ever come into contact with it would be this:

 

Eat more whole foods. 

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What exactly do I mean by a whole food?

 

A whole food is a food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances. A whole food is simply a food in its natural state, with all of its nutrients and health benefits intact.

So, for example, if you're making a salsa at home, the tomatoes, peppers and onions you dice to use in your salsa recipe are all whole foods. Apart from being grown, picked, and shipped those foods were mostly untouched and unprocessed when you bought them. Any processing thereafter you would do yourself (such as dicing them and adding spices or other various whole foods to make the salsa). 

 

The opposite of whole foods are highly processed foods. Let’s take the potato chip for example. The whole potatoes are first sent to a processing plant where they are inspected. The ones that make it through the inspection are then placed on a conveyer belt, which moves them through the various stages of processing. The potatoes are then peeled, washed in cold water, passed through a revolving impaler that cuts them into paper-thin slices, thrown into a second cold-water wash, chemically treated to enhance their color, passed under air jets that remove excess water as they flow into troughs filled with hot oil for frying, pushed through the oil, salted and sprinkled with various flavorings, then onto the packaging process. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but I think you can see the difference between eating a whole food (a potato) that was simply grown and harvested, and a processed food (a potato chip) where many of the nutrients the original food had are lost in the refinement process.

 

Let’s put this in perspective of our normal every day lives. On one end of the spectrum you have someone who grows their own fruits and vegetables, has their own chickens that hatch their own eggs, and raises their own livestock that eats hay from their pasture and drinks the water from their own creek or well. This person knows exactly where all of their food comes from, the components of each food, and any processing that their food endures is in their own kitchen.

 

At the other end of the spectrum is the person who goes through the fast food drive-thru. They have no idea where their food came from, what kind of processing it went through, or how it was cooked or prepared. The meat in a single fast food burger could come from dozens or even hundreds of cows. And I’m not even going to start going through the steps of processing in a fast food burger or you would be reading for the rest of the day.

 

How can we get closer to the healthier end of the spectrum? By buying whole foods from the grocery store or farmers market and preparing them ourselves, and by knowing where our food came from and what was done to it before it made our way to our plates.

 

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Another benefit of whole foods: they’re cheaper! A lot of people have the misconception that eating healthier means spending more money in the grocery store. But that’s simply not true. The more processed things are, the higher the food cost. A 16oz family size bag of potato chips (averaging $4.00) is going to cost way more than 16oz of plain potatoes. Five times more, to be exact.

 

Let's go back to the salsa example. It is often cheaper for you to buy the whole ingredients than to buy a pre-made salsa. It tastes fresher, has less sodium and preservatives and significantly more vitamins and antioxidants– which are intact because you started with whole ingredients like red peppers, onion, fresh cilantro and parsley.

 

Get started today: Try to stay on the outer perimeter of the grocery store, where all the good stuff like produce and dairy hang out. The closer to the center aisles you get, the more processed things are. Start paying attention to ingredient labels. If there's anything in there you don't recognize as "food," put it back. Remember, the more involved you are in your food, the healthier your meal will be.

 

 

About the author: Megan Ware is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Awareness, based out of Dallas, TX. She specializes in weight loss and has recently partnered with Fitness with Insight to offer their clients a whole-body approach to getting fit and healthy.


Megan Ware, RDN, LD

Organic Food: Is It Worth The Extra Buck?

 

Organic products, organic honey, organic raspberries, organic pumpkin seeds, organic cereal

 

Organic labels aren’t limited to just produce anymore. Even the budget grocery stores and big box stores are carrying options like organic cookies, organic cereal, organic soups, organic potato chips and more. With all these options, shouldn't you always buy organic when you can? Not necessarily.

 

The bottom line when it comes to packaged organic products, is that an organic cookie is still a cookie, chips are still chips, and high sodium organic soups and frozen dinners are still high in sodium. Each of these foods are still highly processed and probably have a paragraph’s worth of ingredients. A common assumption is that just because a product has an organic label, it is automatically "healthy." Having an organic label on a package does not mean these products have any less calories or more nutrients than their conventional produced counterparts. If you’re buying packaged foods, the most important thing is not to make sure it’s organic, but to look at the ingredients label and ask yourself three questions:

 

1. Are there any ingredients I can’t pronounce?


2. Does it take me longer than 10 seconds to read through all of the ingredients?


3. Are sugar or one of it’s derivatives (corn syrup, cane syrup, brown rice syrup, maltodextrin, fruit juice concentrates, dehydrated cane juice, sucrose or anything else ending in -ose) one of the top three ingredients?

 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, put it back on the shelf, whether it’s labeled organic or not.

 

Why is buying organic so much more expensive? Organic foods typically cost 10-40% more than similar conventionally grown products. To obtain a USDA certified organic label (which guarantees the product contains at least 95% organic ingredients), farmers must meet stricter quality standards. They use natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost instead of chemicals and use crop rotations to conserve the nutrients in soil. Organic farming aims to reduce pollution and conserve resources. More labor is required, which brings up the cost for the farmer and brings up the cost of the product for you.

 

The best and cheapest way to buy produce is still from a Farmer’s Market, where the produce may not carry any USDA labels saying it’s organic, but it is organic in every sense except for the name. Small farmers can’t afford to attain pricy labels, yet most of them are already farming using organic standards. Ask the farmer where the food was grown and if any pesticides were used.

 

The jury is still out on whether organic produce has a higher nutrient content than conventional. Research findings differ because foods grown in healthier organic soils are likely to taste better and have more nutrients initially, however most organic produce is shipped from far across the country or even overseas to your local grocer which causes it’s nutrients to diminish, possibly cancelling out the benefit of being organic in the first place. That is why it’s important to look for produce grown locally AND by organic standards (cough, cough– Farmer’s Market).

 

Pick your battles. If you have a choice between eating non-organic, non-local fruits or vegetables or no fruits and vegetables at all, please EAT the fruits and vegetables. The benefits of eating produce far outweigh the risks of potential pesticide exposure.  The Environmental Working Group has come up with a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residue, which changes year to year. You may have previously heard of the Dirty Dozen, but in 2013 the EWG expanded the list to the Dirty Dozen Plus. When possible, buy these foods in the organic version:

 

  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Imported nectarines
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Kale
  • Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash

 

The EWG also have a Clean Fifteen list, showcasing fruits and veggies with the lowest pesticide levels.

 

My last tip on buying organic is to not forget your freezer. Organic frozen produce is often cheaper than fresh, especially if the fruit or vegetable is out of season. Most frozen produce is frozen when the fruit or vegetable is at its peak ripeness, so don’t worry about it containing less nutrients than the fresh version.  Just make sure there aren’t any added ingredients. The ingredient label should read: organic _____ (raspberries, edamame, lima beans, etc.) and that’s it!

 

Another option is to grow your own produce at home. Even if you only have a small balcony or window sill space, you can still grow your own herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley. The more you know about where your food comes from, the healthier you will be.

About the author: Megan Ware is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Awareness, based out of Dallas, TX. She specializes in weight loss and has recently partnered with Fitness with Insight to offer their clients a whole-body approach to getting fit and healthy.


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