Solving the Nutrition Puzzle

by Liz Stovall, Division Manager- Fitness and Wellness

Most of us want to “eat right,” but knowing that AND sticking to it can be a challenge. Personal preference, cultural influences, time, budget and social environment all contribute to our food choices. In addition, the constant flow of changing nutrition information can also make it difficult to make those choices easier.

So, what should you eat?

Start by taking a closer look at your current dietary patterns and identify the chances for improvement. It’s not a single nutrient or food that might be keeping you from your weight loss goal. The combination of foods eaten on a regular basis may be hindering progress. Food journaling can be a useful tool because you can see patterns of behavior or attitudes about food that are barriers to change. An honest assessment of what and why you are making certain choices will allow you to begin making small changes towards a dietary pattern that supports your weight loss and health goals.

Deciding on a dietary pattern:

There are many good options out there for healthy eating patterns. When making the decision about what type of “diet” to choose, keep in mind your current lifestyle and what kind of changes are realistic for you. There are many factors to consider, family or social structure, time for meal planning, prep and cooking, past successes or failures and your specific weight loss goals.

Although everyone’s eating pattern will look different, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind. Research shows that a dietary pattern high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, unsaturated oils and fish while low in total meat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, sodium, and moderate in dairy products and alcohol is associated with more favorable outcomes related to body weight or the risk of obesity. Regardless of your pattern, your diet must include a reduction in energy intake (calories) in order to achieve any weight loss.

You may find it helpful to base your pattern on an already established one. Remember to modify based on your personal preferences AND what is realistic for you. Here are a few suggestions that are supported by research and may be effective for weight loss and weight maintenance:

Mediterranean Diet: easy to follow, safe, meets government guidelines and supports weight loss and heart health.

  • Emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, olive oil, fish and seafood, poultry, eggs.
  • Limits red meat, sugar and saturated fat.

DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension): benefits weight loss and heart health.

  • Emphasis on nutrients (potassium, calcium, protein and fiber) found in fresh produce, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy foods.

MIND Diet: aims to prevent mental decline with brain healthy foods.

  • Emphasis on green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries, whole grains, beans, fish, poultry and olive oil.
  • Limits red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, sweets, fried and fast foods.

Volumetrics Diet: Based on the theory that your body likes a certain feel (volume) of food.

  • Emphasis on low-energy, highly dense foods. Encourages consumption of foods with a high-water content like soups, fruits, vegetables, non-fat dairy.
  • This diet is safe, easy to follow and no foods are off limits.

Committing to a new dietary pattern can be difficult and weight loss can be slow. There will be feelings of success combined with frustration along the way. To stay committed to your new lifestyle, maintain a sense of intention and focus, keep your thoughts positive, turn thoughts into actions, use your mistakes as learning opportunities, and make yourself a priority.

What About Water?

by Liz Stovall, Division Manager- Fitness and Wellness

Water bottles seem to be everywhere you look. Perhaps right now there is one on your desk, or you filled a water bottle for your child as they headed out the door this morning. In fact, water has become the second most popular drink (behind soda). However, water lovers got a rude awakening recently when a new report found that the benefits of drinking water may have been oversold. Apparently, the suggestion to drink eight glasses of water is nothing more than a suggestion, not based on scientific research.

Don’t put your water bottle or glass down just yet! There are plenty of reasons to drink water. In fact, drinking water is essential to your health. Think of water as a nutrient your body needs. It can be found in other liquids, plain water and in high-water content food (fruits and vegetables). Throughout the day fluid loss occurs continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine and stool. These losses must be replaced daily for good health. When water intake does not equal output, dehydration occurs. In addition, fluid loss is accentuated in warmer climates (think summer in RVA), during exercise, in high altitudes, and in older adults whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp.

Here are six evidence-based reasons to drink water:

  1. Drinking Water Maintains Body Fluid Balance- The body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and stabilization of body temperature.
  2. Calorie Control- While water doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, drinking water instead of higher calorie beverages can certainly help as a weight loss strategy.
  3. Muscle Energizer- Cells that don’t maintain their fluid balance shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. As a result, performance (either daily or exercise) can suffer. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend drinking 16 ounces of water two hours before exercise. During exercise, the recommendation is to drink at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.
  4. Keep Skin Looking Good- Skin cells contain plenty of water and function as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. Dehydration makes skin look dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration.
  5. Detoxification- Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in urine. The kidneys do an amazing job of cleansing and ridding the body of toxins as long as fluid intake is adequate. When getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor.
  6. Normal Bowel Function- Adequate hydration keeps things moving along in the gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation. When fluid is lacking, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration – and the result is constipation. Water and fiber is the perfect combination, because fluid pumps up the fiber and acts like a broom to keep bowels functioning properly.

Try these helpful tips to support increased fluid intake:

  • Have water with every snack and meal.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high-water content will add to your hydration.
  • Keep a water bottle in hand, in the car, on your desk or in your bag.
  • Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories, go for non-caloric water.

The Not So Sweet Side of Added Sugars

by Liz Stovall, Division Manager- Fitness and Wellness

A healthy lifestyle includes how much we exercise, what we eat and what we drink. People often know the exact calorie count for foods they consume, but don’t know how many calories are in their drinks. Let’s look at a brief history of soda size. In 1916, Coca-Cola was sold in six and a half ounce bottles. In 1950, the six and a half ounce bottle was still the standard size but the 10 and 12-ounce bottle also appealed to consumers. Today the 12-ounce can is considered the regular size. This size is getting even larger as vending machines offer 20 and 24-ounce bottles and convenience stores sell 32 and 44-ounce cups.

Sugar, used to sweeten the taste of most sodas, has a lot of calories. These calories are termed “empty” because they offer no nutritional value. When looking at the nutrition facts label on a 12-ounce can of soda, you’ll see it contains approximately 40 grams of sugar. One teaspoon of sugar from the sugar bowl equals four grams. This means you are drinking 10 teaspoons of added sugar in every 12-ounce can of soda.

Here’s a quick overview of the amount of added sugar found in a variety of drinks consumed by Americans:

  • 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola contains 64 grams of sugar.
    • This equates to 16 teaspoons of added sugar, the same amount of sugar found in five Little Debbie Swiss Rolls.
  • 15-ounce bottle of Minute-Maid Apple Juice contains 49 grams of sugar or 12 teaspoons of added sugar.
    • The same amount of sugar found in 10 Oreos.
  • 23-ounce can of Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey contains 51 grams of sugar or the same amount of sugar in 30 Hersey Kisses.
    • This equals 13 teaspoons from the sugar bowl.
  • One Starbucks grande Iced Vanilla Latte contains 28 grams of sugar.
    • This equals the sugar in two and a half Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars consumed. For most women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about six teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about nine teaspoons. Check out the AHA infographic by clicking on the image.

Of all the liquids we could drink, water is the very best for quenching our thirst. And, water is the ultimate diet drink because it has no calories. Replacing sugary drinks with water may help with achieving a healthy weight. In addition, our bodies need water to function. Water moves nutrients through our system and keeps us hydrated. Sip smarter and learn about healthier choices with this infographic.