Monday, May 11, 2009

Thank You, Cicero

My uncle sent me this quote today:
"A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues." ~ Cicero

I looked Cicero up on Wikipedia and found this:
"Cicero is generally perceived to be one of the most versatile minds of ancient Rome. He introduced the Romans to the chief schools of Greek philosophy and created a Latin philosophical vocabulary, distinguishing himself as a linguist, translator, and philosopher. An impressive orator and successful lawyer, Cicero probably thought his political career his most important achievement. Today, he is appreciated primarily for his humanism and philosophical and political writings."

So not only was Cicero very wise in acknowledging the great value that is to be found in a grateful heart, he was also a dynamite man whose influence and popularity has transcended cultures and generations.

How does that apply to this blog on nutrition and taking care of you and your family's needs?

Well, I don't know about you, but I find myself becoming discouraged at times by how far I have to go and how hard it seems to get there. And I find myself falling into the popular trap of our society that connects what we look like with what we are worth. I didn't find a single mention in Wikipedia about Cicero's weight or eating habits, by the way.

I do know, however, that Cicero was Greek. And in the Greek culture, athleticism, physical activity, was a defining characteristic among those who were deemed worthy to be citizens and soldiers. Leadership in that citizenship meant that there was a certain mastery of all that was deemed important, including their physical aptitude.

I think that I often lose sight of the fact that physical exercise and health, though important, is not everything. It is one aspect, my weakest aspect at times, but still just one aspect.

So in all of your daily duties, all of the great and noble things you are doing each day to rear and lead those you associate with (spouse, children, co-workers, siblings, grandchildren, etc.), remember that the most important thing is to be well-rounded and balanced.

If you have lost focus of the other things that are so important and going so well in your life, the things that you hope to accomplish with your life's work and in the rearing of your children, take a minute to consider this quote from Cicero and make a list of all the things you are grateful for, all the things that are going abundantly well for you, all the things you have mastered throughout your life. Maybe take it a step further and write a gratitude list for the things you are doing well with your physical preparations and challenges. And then go forward, committed to do better while not losing sight of the things you are already doing so well and enjoying so much TODAY!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Omega 3

Need some Omega 3 in your diet, but you really aren't a fan of fish? Try adding a tablespoon or two of flax seed to your oatmeal or cereal in the morning. That will help! I even knew a woman who made chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour and flax seed. No, I'm not joking. And know what? They were DELICIOUS! Still not "good" for you, but at least a lot closer than regular chocolate chip cookies.

Go ahead, get creative! You have nothing to lose but bad health! ;-D

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Foods to Avoid

I was reading on Oprah this morning and found "Bob Greene's Six Foods to Avoid." Thought I'd share! We have already covered a few of these in earlier posts, but it never hurts to brush up a bit; and we'll probably talk about a few of them again! See how you are doing with these. Try making just one change this week. Just one. That's totally possible, no matter how broke or how busy you are! And you may find that some of these are no-brainer, easy foods for you to cut (for example, I don't drink alcohol, and I don't buy anything but skim milk and non-fat cottage cheese and yogurt).

Food #1: Soft Drinks

Bob says that soda is one of the leading sources of empty calories in America. Instead, have plain or flavored water, herbal iced tea or skim milk. If you crave a sweet drink, limit yourself to one glass of fruit juice a day—better yet, cut it with seltzer water. If you feel diet sodas help you lose weight, drink them—but try to get down to one a day or you'll never lose your taste for super-sweet foods.

Food #2: Foods Containing Trans Fat

The biggest offenders are margarine and vegetable shortenings—although, there are trans fat-free versions of both now—and processed food such as frozen meals, crackers, ramen soups, cake mixes, chips and candy. To see if a product has trans fat, check the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Don't go by the nutrition facts panel: By law, a product can contain up to 0.49 (nearly half a gram) of trans fat per serving but still read "0 g" on the label

Bob's favorite replacements are heart-healthy olive and canola oils.

Food #3: Fried Foods

Don't confuse foods made with trans fat with simple fried foods. There is a difference, but you should do your best to avoid both.

Even when they don't have trans fat, fried foods in restaurants are often cooked in oil that is reused. This can create by-products that have been linked to a variety of diseases. And fried foods are highly caloric. "The point is that [frying] causes a food to absorb more fat and calories," Bob says. "It's why I want you to replace it with some other alternatives."

One alternative you can try is oven-frying. Cut potatoes into strips, toss or spray with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and cook in a 400° oven until brown. And if you can't live without potato chips, choose baked varieties made without trans fat.

Food #4: White Bread

Don't panic—you can still have your carbs, they just have to be whole grain. Compared with refined white flour, whole grains are not only more nutritious, they also have lots of fiber that will keep you fuller longer.

To get truly "whole wheat" or "whole grain" bread, you need to be on your toes. Packaging can be misleading. Some brown "wheat" breads, for example, don't even contain whole wheat! To make sure you're getting a meaningful amount of whole grains, check that they show up at the beginning of the ingredients list. Bread should have at least two grams of fiber per slice.

Food #5: Alcohol

Alcohol and weight loss don't mix. Obviously, alcohol can add a lot of extra calories to your diet, and it's more caloric than other foods. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram (carbohydrates and fat contain only 4 calories per gram; fat contains 9 calories per gram). But there are reasons besides the calories to skip sipping.

Alcohol, a depressant, can slow your metabolism. And, it's hard to make healthy eating decisions after you've had a few. Take a break for the first phase, and if you'd like to enjoy a drink on occasion, you can do so later on in the plan.

Food #6: High-Fat Milk and Yogurt

Although milk and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium and protein, there is no reason to have the full-fat version when so many lower-fat versions are available.

A cup of whole milk has 7.9 grams of fat—4.5 grams of it saturated—and 24 milligrams of cholesterol. Compare that to a cup of nonfat skim milk's 83 calories, 0.2 grams of fat, 0.125 grams of saturated fat and 5 milligrams of cholesterol.

Bob recommends fat-free or one percent milk. As for cheese, opt for reduced-fat versions with no more than 5 grams of fat per ounce.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Protein Power

I apologize for the lack of posts lately. I have been out of town for family reasons.

I have been thinking lately about the different categories on nutrition labels, all the things we should be making sure our body has and be keeping out of our bodies. Today I want to talk about PROTEINS.

The Center for Disease Control explains that

"Proteins are part of every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies. These body proteins are constantly being broken down and replaced. The protein in the foods we eat is digested into amino acids that are later used to replace these proteins in our bodies.

Protein is found in the following foods:
  • meats, poultry, and fish
  • legumes (dry beans and peas)
  • tofu
  • eggs
  • nuts and seeds
  • milk and milk products
  • grains, some vegetables, and some fruits (provide only small amounts of protein relative to other sources)

As we mentioned, most adults in the United States get more than enough protein to meet their needs. It's rare for someone who is healthy and eating a varied diet to not get enough protein."

CHECK! So we probably don't have to worry about getting ENOUGH protein. The thing we DO need to think about, however, is how to ensure we are getting the right KINDS of proteins. There are roughly 20 AMINO ACIDS that are found in various types of proteins. ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS are those that are essential for our bodies to function at their optimal level; however, they are also THOSE AMINO ACIDS THAT OUR BODIES DON'T PRODUCE ON THEIR OWN.

Proteins are often referred to as COMPLETE or INCOMPLETE. Have you ever heard someone say that rice and beans together make a complete protein and wondered WHAT IN THE WORLD THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT? I have. Hence the interest in this topic. Well, complete and incomplete refer back to the ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS found in the proteins of certain foods/food combinations. Again, I refer to the Center for Disease Control for the simplest explanation of what each of these labels identifies.

"In the diet, protein sources are labeled according to how many of the essential amino acids they provide:

  • A complete protein source is one that provides all of the essential amino acids. You may also hear these sources called high quality proteins. Animal-based foods; for example, meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese are considered complete protein sources.
photo of various foods
  • An incomplete protein source is one that is low in one or more of the essential amino acids. Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids.
photo of various foods

For example, rice contains low amounts of certain essential amino acids; however, these same essential amino acids are found in greater amounts in dry beans. Similarly, dry beans contain lower amounts of other essential amino acids that can be found in larger amounts in rice. Together, these two foods can provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids the body needs."

Pretty cool, eh? I think they understand this VERY WELL in South America because RICE AND BEANS are a pretty common meal there, as is the rice/chicken combination.

Like I said before, most people DO ACTUALLY GET ENOUGH PROTEIN in their diets every day. However, your food choices may be causing you to get TOO MUCH FAT from your proteins FOR WHAT YOUR BODY NEEDS AND CAN USE on a daily basis.

Here are some ideas for MAKING WISER PROTEIN CHOICES to decrease the amount of fat while maintaining the amount of protein in your diet:

1) As we discussed earlier, choose low- or non-fat dairy products. This includes milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, etc. The lower-fat options do not affect the amount of protein, calcium, etc. that you can get from these products.

2) Always choose lean cuts of meat. Your best options are poultry and fish. Though beef is high in protein, it is also high in fat. It is difficult to cut out fat from even the leanest cuts of meat. So you need to choose from the chicken/turkey/fish categories more often than you do the beef category. Whatever you choose, ALWAYS remove the skin! It's straight fat, and you don't need it. Also, look for preparation ideas that involve baking or roasting or BBQ-ing rather than frying.

3) BEANS, BEANS THE MAGICAL CHOICE -- because they don't have the fat that meat does! Men may balk at this suggestion, but try to substitute beans for meat in some of your favorite recipes. Or, if you can't stand the idea of substituting beans entirely, cut the meat amount in half and insert beans.

When I was growing up, my mom used to make Sloppy Joes with pinto beans and hamburger. I was shocked to leave home and find that Sloppy Joes were made with JUST MEAT almost everywhere else. For me, other Sloppy Joes tasted AWFUL!!!! I just thought the world was really missing out on tasting my mom's Sloppy Joes. A few years ago, I asked her to make "her" Sloppy Joes. She just used meat! I was like, "No, Mom, YOUR Sloppy Joes, the ones with beans in them." She laughed and said, "I only put beans in them because we were too poor to afford meat!" Who knew? To this day, most of my siblings prefer the meat/bean combination. And it is SOOOO much better for you, anyway!