April 25th, 2012 | by Pam Stuppy
Printed in Seacoast Online
Have you been noticing that you are tired all the time? Is it difficult to motivate yourself to do the things on your list for the day? Are you feeling a little more emotional or do you get frustrated or angry more easily? Has exercise become the last item on your list of goals?
There are numerous factors that can affect your “get up and go.” Some of these are physical issues, while others might be emotional.
Poor sleep habits are the obvious possibility. This can mean the actual number of hours of sleep, but can also be the quality of sleep you are getting. Many people think they can get away with fewer hours, but often this will drain your energy over time.
Sleep quality can be improved by not consuming caffeine closer than 6-8 hours before bedtime, not eating a large amount of food within two to three hours before bedtime, limiting alcohol intake several hours before bedtime, doing something relaxing starting about a half hour before bedtime, limiting fluid intake within about 30-60 minutes before bedtime, and by being more consistent with the times you go to bed and wake up. You can also make your sleep environment more conducive to better sleep (temperature, sounds, lights, etc.).
If you are overweight, you have a greater risk of having sleep apnea — when you frequently stop breathing during sleep. This can be a safety issue as well, since the risk of a car accident is increased by sleep deprivation. Being overweight can also increase the risk of reflux, which can interfere with quality sleep. Consider losing weight and finding other ways to address these issues.
The types and timing of your food intake can also affect energy levels. Breakfast is a key time to kick-start your daily fueling (sorry, your morning coffee is not really fuel…;). Eating smaller, more frequent meals can then provide a steady flow of energy throughout the day. Healthy carbs are the primary fuel source for your brain and body, so need to be included each time you have a meal or snack. Sources include whole grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, milk, yogurt, beans/hummus, nuts and seeds.
If you include a source of protein and fiber along with the carb sources, these slow the rate of digestion so the energy from the carbs lasts over a longer time. Examples might be a snack of yogurt and fruit or a trail mix of a high fiber cereal with some nuts/seeds. Each of these snacks contains healthy carbs plus protein plus fiber. This also means that having just a vegetable-based salad for lunch will not provide enough fuel for your afternoon workout.
Frequent intake of high sugar foods or refined carbs can cause fatigue as well. This may be due to the blood sugar surge with a resulting drop in blood sugar levels, but it can also be due to a lower intake of healthy nutrients that keep your body running efficiently. Try to include adequate amounts from all the healthy food groups and limit the “extras” (high sugar foods, high fat foods, foods with minimal nutritional value).
Adequate calorie intake is needed for fueling the brain and body, too. Restrictive dieting can cause fatigue and work against a goal of being more active to lose weight. Also, do not leave big gaps of time between meals.
Dehydration is another source of fatigue. Drink fluids consistently throughout the day with a daily goal of close to 64 ounces. If you sweat heavily, are in a warm, humid space, or are exercising, increase your intake accordingly.
Being less active can promote a feeling of fatigue. Many people hesitate to exercise when they are feeling tired. Exercise can actually improve energy levels. When your blood is moving faster, you are getting more oxygen and nutrients to your brain and muscles. Make sure you get a meal or snack within about an hour or so before you work out to fuel you during the exercise. After exercise, get a “recovery” snack or meal to replace the stored energy you may have drained. Remember, exercise is also a great stress buster.
On the other hand, excessive exercise can cause fatigue. Your body needs time to recover from exercise and does not do well when pushed to its limits on a regular basis. Always take at least one day off each week if you are doing strenuous exercise.
Speaking of stress, emotions can drain us just as much as physical stress. Besides normal daily stress, depression and anxiety can cause fatigue directly, and can also reduce the desire to exercise or eat well. The result is low energy. If these emotional issues become too problematic, a professional mental health provider can be helpful.
In general, however, finding ways to relax should be an ongoing goal. This can involve changes you make in your everyday activities to lessen your commitments. It can mean becoming more organized or multitasking so that you have time for some pleasurable activities each day. Cardiovascular exercise and/or yoga are good ways to de-stress. Deep breathing, meditation and many other relaxation techniques can be very beneficial.
Some medical conditions and medications can also promote fatigue. Low iron levels, unregulated low thyroid hormone levels and some autoimmune diseases are a few examples. When it comes to medications, consult your pharmacist to find out if any cause fatigue.
So if your “get-up-and-go” is gone, step back and take a good look at your daily habits to see what action steps you can take towards better energy throughout the day!
Pam Stuppy, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is a registered, licensed dietitian with nutrition counseling offices in York, Maine, and Portsmouth. She is also the nutritionist for Phillips Exeter Academy. Visit www.pamstuppynutrition.com for nutrition information, some healthy cooking tips, and recipe ideas.
April 2nd, 2012 | by Pam Stuppy
Printed in Seacoast Online
Although meat and poultry are common grocery store purchases, until recently, few of these products have been packaged with a nutrition facts label. This made it difficult for consumers trying to make healthy food choices. Not anymore — many forms of raw meat and poultry must now be packaged with the nutrition facts label or at least have the information available to consumers in brochure or poster form in close proximity to the product.
Why has it taken so long to have these labels appear? More than two decades ago, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 mandated that all packaged food regulated by the Food and Drug Administration had to have nutrition labels. Foods regulated by the USDA, which included fresh meat and poultry, seafood, and fresh produce, were exempt from this ruling.
In 2001, the USDA suggested labeling for raw meats and poultry, but it was voluntary. Unfortunately, few nutrition labels on these products resulted from this request. As a result, in December 2010, the USDA set into motion new mandatory labeling rules, which were originally slated to take effect January 2012. To give retailers more time to comply, the date was extended until March 1, 2012.
There are some exceptions to the ruling, however. The cuts of meat that require labeling are based on specific cuts of meat that were established almost 20 years ago. Products that do not fall into the traditional cuts are exempt.
Ground meats and poultry must have the nutrition information directly on the package — not in a brochure or on a poster. Small retailers who grind their own meat and do not make nutritional claims on the label are exempt from the mandatory nutrition label.
Consumers wanting to purchase leaner forms of meat and poultry will now be able to identify these healthier protein sources. Information such as protein, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, iron, total carbohydrates and calories will appear on the label, just as it does with other foods in the grocery store. Fiber, sugar, vitamins A and C, and calcium content do not have to be noted, since there are insignificant amounts in these products.
Similar to other food labels, consumers will have to be aware of the portion size listed on the package and adjust the nutrition information according to the portion they consume. Many consumers may find that they are eating well above these portions.
For whole cuts of meat, the nutrition label is based on a 3 ounce cooked portion. For ground meat or poultry, however, the portion noted on the label is for 4 ounces of raw. This generally cooks down to about 3 ounces.
Another variable that determines the actual nutritional content of the food is the method of preparation. The USDA label data is based on averages of several possible cooking methods. By using healthier methods you might be able to improve the numbers noted on the label.
The USDA label also calculates an average for the grade of the meat. Some grades will have more fat than others. In some cases, you may be able to trim fat off the cut of meat, meaning it will have less fat than what is noted on the label.
In the past, some ground meats have advertised “% lean” or “% fat” on the label. The new labels will have to note both the lean and fat percent by weight, not as a percent of calories. This along with the actual number of grams of fat seen on the label, will help consumers make wiser food purchases.
As you will see from the labels, there are some cuts that tend to be leaner options. When it comes to beef, this includes cuts such as eye round steak and roasts, sirloin steak, and 90 percent lean ground beef. Pork tenderloin or trimmed boneless chops tend to be lower in fat. Skinless turkey or chicken breast, or lean ground forms of these are other good choices.
Another way to cut down on calories and fat/cholesterol intake is to modify your portion sizes. Look at the new labels for an idea of what might be a reasonable serving size. In many cases, making a meal that is a mixture of several food groups can help with reducing portion sizes of the protein item. An example might be a stir fry or soup. The meat or poultry still adds flavor, but is not the major ingredient. This also encourages a higher intake of vegetables and the nutrients they contain.
Realizing the amount of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol that are in some meat products may also encourage consumers to eat fish some days instead of meat. The current goal from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends fish at least twice a week.
Other lean and healthy proteins are the wide variety of beans that can be added to a number of entrees. Including some meatless meals each week can also save money on your grocery bill.
So in addition to all the other food labels in the grocery store, you now have even more information in the meat case to guide you toward healthier food purchases.
Pam Stuppy, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is a registered, licensed dietitian with nutrition counseling offices in York, Maine, and Portsmouth. She is also the nutritionist for Phillips Exeter Academy. Visit www.pamstuppynutrition.com for more nutrition information, some healthy cooking tips, and recipe ideas.
April 2nd, 2012 | by Pam Stuppy
Printed in Seacoast Online
Are you trying to lose weight by limiting your calorie intake? Are you tired of counting calories and seeing almost no food sitting on your plate? There is a better way.
An easy way to feel like you have eaten a reasonable meal and have curbed calories, is to think of calorie density.
Eating portions that are too large can indeed contribute to weight problems, but even more problematic is eating larger portions of calorie-dense foods. Calorie density refers to how many calories you get from a certain amount of a food item. Foods that are calorie dense are more concentrated in calories for the volume of food. Foods with lower calorie density, make you feel full after consuming a lesser amount of calories.
Calorie-dense foods tend to be higher in sugar and/or fat, making them more concentrated in calories. Less calorie dense foods tend to be higher in fluid and/or fiber, which increase their volume but not calories. When you fill up on the less calorie dense foods you are going to feel fuller as you eat the meal, and in some cases for a longer time after the meal.
Many people need to feel a certain level of fullness before they push back from the table. This fullness cue can happen no matter how many calories are consumed at the meal. By changing the types of foods eaten at a meal, you may be able to trigger that fullness cue while achieving your weight loss goals.
One easy way to add more food volume while consuming minimal calories is to enhance a food item with a higher percentage of vegetables. For fewer calories, this means the less starchy vegetables. In addition, vegetables can add more flavor and definitely more nutrients. Vegetables are also high in fiber, which provides its own unique health benefits. Many Americans are still well below the recommended intake of this colorful food group. When adding more vegetables to create lower calorie density, remember that another goal is to replace or decrease the amount of higher calorie items in the dish.
Let’s look at an example. Consider a dish of fettuccini Alfredo. Then look at a dish of the same volume that contains a moderate amount of whole grain pasta, a large amount of cooked vegetables and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Because of the vegetables and much less cheese, the second dish probably contains less than one-third the calories of the fettuccini. Think of all the calories you would save with the same fullness level if you chose the second dish.
In many cases, people eat an amount that is put in front of them. This is especially true when eating out, even though portions tend to be much larger. If you were to order foods with less calorie density, the total number of calories eaten would be well below that of a more calorie dense meal.
When eating out, try substituting higher calorie foods with those containing vegetables. This might mean choosing two vegetable sides dishes instead of one, or having a side salad (assuming the salad does not contain a lot of high calorie extras). You could also choose an entrée that contains a lot of vegetables, instead of one that is primarily meat and/ or a refined grain.
At home, an easy way to lower calories in a dish is to boost the amount of veggies it contains, while moderating the portion sizes of the higher calorie ingredients. A stir fry is a great example of how you can feel really full with fewer calories. Use a large percentage of vegetables, with lesser amounts of the other ingredients. If you want to use your grill instead of the stovetop, this same idea works well when using a grill basket.
You can do the same trick of increasing the amount of vegetables you eat by slipping in some vegetable-based soups or adding more veggies to your favorite casserole dishes. Think of how full you would feel by adding more veggies to your wrap or pita pocket at lunch — with almost no extra calories.
Cooking foods with a lot of fat or adding a lot of cheese will quickly raise the calorie density. Think of how you can modify recipes to lower these sources of added calories. Change marinade recipes to a lesser percentage of oil and more of the vinegar, lemon juice, or other low calorie ingredients.
Purchasing leaner meat and poultry products and having fish or shellfish more often, can also lower calorie density. Keep in mind, however, that just because they have fewer calories this not an excuse to eat a larger portion — this negates the potential calorie savings.
Opting for fruit instead of a more calorie-dense food is another action step towards calorie reduction. Like vegetables, fruit contains more water, fiber, lots of healthy nutrients, and fewer calories than a sugar/fat-laden dessert or high fat snack food.
Whole grains, because of their fiber content, can also give us a greater feeling of fullness than more refined starches for the same number of calories. You not only may find the need to eat less at a meal, but you will tend to go longer after the meal before feeling hungry.
Another benefit to the calorie-density approach is that you do not have to totally give up your favorite higher calorie foods. The plan is to lower the portion size of these items and instead fill up on less calorie-dense foods.
Also be aware that a lot of the extra calories we consume come from our beverages. Choose those that have fewer calories for the volume. Sometimes beverages consumed before or with a meal will add to the feeling of fullness, so we eat less at that meal.
Take a look at your food purchases this week and your standard recipes. How can you start to make some easy changes to lower the calorie density of your meals and snacks?
Pam Stuppy, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is a registered, licensed dietitian with nutrition counseling offices in York, Maine, and Portsmouth. She is also the nutritionist for Phillips Exeter Academy. Visit www.pamstuppynutrition.com for more nutrition information, some healthy cooking tips and recipe ideas.