Coffee – Still Pretty Darn Healthy

coffee beans

Research continues to show coffee is more beneficial than harmful.

Nearly two years ago I wrote a post for National Coffee Day admitting that I have my family hooked on coffee and that our coffee maker would be the one appliance replaced within a day. I freely admit that one morning without it would throw me  into a tailspin – only because of habit and morning routine not addiction. Really…

I often say that coffee is my “drug of choice” – which is a joke, but not. I joke in the sense that I choose no other drugs except alcohol, but if given a choice, I would take caffeine over alcohol (though I hope I never have to). Caffeine is stimulant, and the most widely used drug in the world. It is legal for everyone in the world, though some religions frown at its use.

Today, the health benefits of coffee now far outweigh the risks associated with consumption.

Along with its apparent role in improving brain health and reducing risk of type 2 diabetes, coffee consumption is showing to help prevent certain types of cancer including basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, liver cancer, breast, colon, and rectal cancers.

Most of the benefits are with regular caffeinated coffee, though some studies have looked at decaf coffee. Most of the time, decaf does not have the same benefit as regular, but it appears neutral rather than harmful.

Additional research shows that it is still safe for pregnant women to consume coffee and that there is no risk for the child later in life, with the most recent research showing no link between mother’s coffee intake during pregnancy and behavior issues in her child later.

Again, it is preferable to consume your coffee with little or no added sweeteners and fat. While the benefit of the coffee is not diluted with these additions to the coffee, it does add calories. So, I always tell people to take this into account when putting it in the “big picture” for your day. I like my formerly calorie-free coffee with added sweetener and half and half, knowing that I am adding calories per cup.

Hot or iced, black or as a “mocha” – enjoy your coffee knowing that it is helping your overall health more than it is harming your health.

I love getting locally roasted coffee when possible (since there is only one state that can grow coffee, I can’t get locally grown right now…).

Check out these Albuquerque, New Mexico Roasters.

How do you like your coffee?

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A Toast to Your Bones

Toast to your bones – how alcohol can affect your bones.

In the nutrition world, there are often mixed messages about the benefits and risk of certain thing on your health. We hear something is good for us, then it is not, then it is… Most of the time, it is one of two things that create confusion: 1) new research helps us better understand the role of certain foods and lifestyle habits and their impact our health or 2) reports on the research are misleading and aren’t properly conveyed.The latest bit of information is alcohol consumption in women and their bone health. For years, excessive or too much alcohol consumption is well-known for its effect on bone health. This is primarily because it may lower our intake of calcium and it increases our risk for falls (leading to broken bones).

Now, a recent study, with 40 participants, conducted at Oregon State University found that moderate alcohol consumption may HELP reduce bone loss in post-menopausal women. As all of us age, our bones are still going through the process of “turnover.” Unfortunately, we don’t build up as much bone as we lose when we are older, and especially after menopause.

According to the research, the alcohol consumption appears to slow down the rate of turnover – which is a good thing. Even more interesting is that when the alcohol consumption stops, the bone turnover increased, and when alcohol consumption resumed the bone turnover slowed almost immediately.

Moderate alcohol consumption in women is one alcoholic drink per day. This doesn’t mean that women should have what adds up to being an average of one alcoholic drink per day – for example, this does not mean three drinks on Friday, three drinks on Saturday and another one on Sunday. This means that one drink equivalent per day, use it or lose it. What is “one-drink”? One-drink is one 12-ounce beer, one 4-5 ounce glass of wine (not 6 or 8 ounces), OR one 1½-ounces of spirits, such as vodka, rum, whiskey or tequila. More is not healthier. (Men get two drinks per day.)

BOTTOM LINE MESSAGE (as always): If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. This is true for men and women. Only moderate consumption is beneficial – not more.

Oregon State University (2012, July 11). Moderate alcohol consumption may help prevent bone loss, study suggests.

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We all Scream!

A variety of ice cream

July 15 is National Ice Cream Day.

Sunday, July 15 is National Ice Cream Day (third Sunday in July). But does anyone need an excuse to eat ice cream?

Do you know why Baskin Robbins chose “31 flavors”? (Answer below.)

Who doesn’t like ice cream? With the seemingly endless varieties at the grocery store, the ice cream shops, the convenience store and the choice of “a la mode” with practically any dessert, there is something about ice cream that everyone can find a way to enjoy it.

Many people think of ice cream as a treat, something that they really enjoy, but feel they shouldn’t eat it. People often shy away from telling me that they eat ice cream thinking that I am going to tell them to stop…which I don’t. I say, enjoy it and don’t feel guilty. BUT yes, there is a catch: I don’t suggest that you enjoy a pint of ice cream every day. It is how much and how often you like to enjoy ice cream that is problematic or just fine.

A single serving of ice cream is one-half cup. Don’t laugh. That is four servings in one-pint of ice cream. Yes, that “small” container you eat from. Problem? The difference between the real serving and the full pint is around 700 calories for premium ice cream (230 calories in half cup vs. 920 calories in a pint) or 400 calories for other brands (130 calories in half cup vs. 520 calories in a pint).  Check out the Nutrition Facts label, the shop’s website or CalorieKing.com to find out how many calories in your favorites.

Ok, ok. I don’t mean to be a killjoy, but this is reality that people are often oblivious of. I love ice cream, especially making my own (last summer I had five flavors that I had made in my freezer). Because cold foods are usually less flavorful than warm-hot foods, ice cream needs a lot of fat and sugar to help it have flavor (and taste good). I acknowledge that many low-fat and/or low-sugar ice creams just don’t fill the need for some people. This is why I say have the REAL deal that you enjoy and satisfies you and not having a sub-par “ice cream” that you don’t really enjoy.

Some of my favorite ice cream recipes:

What is your favorite ice cream flavor, variety, or brand?

Answer to question: Baskin Robbins had 31 flavors so customers could enjoy a different flavor every day of the month.

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I Buy Hard-Boiled Eggs – Go Ahead and Judge Me

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Would you buy these to save time?

I work with a lot of people who want to eat healthier (I am a dietitian after all, so this does make sense). Some of the biggest challenges of the people I work with are that they are busy and feel that they don’t have time to eat healthy or prepare healthy foods. Who isn’t busy these days? A few people aren’t, but I suggest you don’t admit that to the rest of us.

So, when I am helping people who are trying to balance work, family, “me” time, fitness, other activities along with a healthy diet, I believe that is it sometimes okay to have short-cuts such as microwavable frozen brown rice or vegetables: a quick, easy, convenient way to get healthy food on the plate for the family.

So, earlier this summer on our weekly trip to Costco, a new item caught my attention this fir the bill for “quick and easy”: pre-packaged, peeled, hard-boiled eggs. Two–dozen for $3.99. I often mention to my clients that a hard-boiled egg can be part of breakfast out-the-door or a quick afternoon snack. I suggest boiling some on Sunday for the week.  It isn’t hard to do (with Albuquerque’s high altitude it does take some practice to get it right), but it does take time, and it is sometimes messy when it comes to peeling. Also, the kitchen and fridge stink a bit after the boil.

These hard-boiled eggs were also useful on a road-trip we took in mid-August (in rural New Mexico and Arizona) when we packed a cooler of snacks to include our water, fruit, string cheese and these eggs. We had our breakfast at the hotel, had our snacks through the day and our dinner out in the evening.

Now, I know that some people feel this is a ridiculous item – pre-cooked, pre-peeled, eggs? How hard is it to boil and peel an egg?! No one is saying it is hard. It isn’t. Anyone who can navigate the internet and read directions can find out how to make a hard-boiled egg. Members of my family would make a two or three at a time, several times a week. So, rather than boiling some eggs here and there during the week, we have chosen to use less energy, and spend less money and save time by purchasing this convenience item. To some people think it is silly, but for us it gives us more time to wash the fresh fruits and veggies that we also pack for lunch and snacks. Also, it can cut your deviled egg preparation time down dramatically!

The big question for these pre-packaged eggs: how do they taste? Answer: if you didn’t know, you couldn’t tell. The whites aren’t rubbery; the yolks don’t have a greenish-gray line (maybe that would be the giveaway). They tastes just like…eggs. There are real eggs, so they taste like real eggs. Go figure. And, no they are no more “slimy” than regular hard-boiled eggs, which are pretty slimy in my opinion. Try picking up a deviled egg from a plate some time.

When it comes to convenience foods, sometimes I take shortcuts.  As a rule, the shortcuts are “real” food and help me cut down on prep time: frozen vegetables, frozen brown rice (6 minutes vs. 55 minutes), a rotisserie chicken vs. my own roasted chicken (10 minutes vs. 90 minutes or more). But as a rule I don’t take shortcuts that will substitute a processed food. For example, I make my own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches  (not the un-crustables in the freezer aisle) and I make my own cookies, brownies and cakes from scratch (so no buying cookie dough or a cake or brownie mix).

November 2 is National Deviled Egg Day – try this yummy recipe from Cooking Light: Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Herbs, and with the pre-packaged, pre-cooked, pre-peeled eggs, you get to skip Step 1, and go directly to Step 2. Quick and easy.

Okay, now…judge away. What convenience foods to you use?

Have a Happy Halloween

Starting now and over the next several weeks, it is likely  you will see many articles and news stories from dietitians and other health  experts on healthy holidays and avoiding holiday weight gain. As we reach a “difficult” time of year when many people give up for the next  couple of months, we truly want people to stay on track over the next couple of months

As the holiday season kicks off with Halloween there are differing views on how to approach it, especially if you have kids. Some say, “Let them enjoy it, it is just one day!” And others will say, “Let them pick their favorites and throw the rest out.” While Halloween is “just one day,” let’s be honest and acknowledge that Halloween celebrations are much more than one day and the loot collected on Halloween night last much longer than just one night.

For adults, even if we no longer have children at home, it is tempting if we have the candy to hand out. As someone who refused to buy the candy until just yesterday (the 29h), I still had to hide it from the family as soon as I walked in the door. Just having the candy around the house is a problem for many people. I know people who have already bought their Halloween candy three times.

Here are tips for you and your household, whether you have kids inside the house or not:

  1. Plan a “real” dinner. Have an easy to make, hearty soup and sandwiches, a Crockpot meal or even a pizza before the kids head out the door. So the kids don’t get the stomach ache, they should have something in their stomach before they head out for the treat-trek. Make sure you have some too. One of my favorites is Loaded Potato Soup. Very filling and everyone loves it.
  2. Don’t snack on the candy yourself. Many times the adults will give themselves a treat with each visit to the door. Chew on gum, or have a bowl of popcorn for yourself.
  3. Be generous. If it seems like you may have some candy left over, be generous  in the last half-hour, such as 8:30 – 9:00, or whatever your cut-off time is. If you run-out earlier, no biggie.
  4. Sort the candy. When the kids come home, let them sort the candy into three piles: what they love, what they hate, and what is just “okay.” If you have any left-over candy of your own, do the same.
    1. Keep what you love: Enjoy it throughout the next several days and weeks.
    2. Freeze the just “okay” stuff or think about donating it. If you toss it in the freezer, after a week or two, take it out and reconsider whether you really want it.
    3. Donate what you hate: There are many community buy-back locations or donation locations. If you can’t find one, Operation Gratitude accepts candy donations to send care-packages to troops serving over-seas. Consider shipping it to them. When kids hear about this program, many of them are very willing to get a group
      collection together and give a lot of their candy.
    4. Consider dinner and a movie OUT. If you have no kids at home, then this is an option to “avoid” the temptations of having the candy and the “trick-or-treats” altogether. Heck, it could be cheaper than the cost of the candy, and much more fun!

No matter what you do, enjoy and I get dibs on the dark chocolate candies your kids don’t want. I’ll send you my address.

Regular or Diet?


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Is yours diet or regular?

Today I attended (and was a co-hostess) of a baby shower. Of course we had the classic 7-Up and sherbet beverage. With some soda left over after the get-together I was offered a 2-liter bottle. I initially accepted then recoiled when I realized I was about to take “regular” soda. “No thank you, it’s regular.” In exchange I was offered the diet 2-liter instead and gladly accepted.

I’m not a big soda drinker, in fact, I often joke that I really only drink soda with alcohol. It just isn’t my thing. But when I do drink it, I personally choose to have “diet” since I would rather not have the calories that come with it. However, I know many people are fearful or don’t want “all the chemicals” of the non-nutritive sweeteners that are found in soda.

“Regular” soda is about 150 calories in a 12 ounce can, or 250 calories in a 20 ounce bottle. It is all sugar. No fat. No protein. In some cases it is high fructose corn syrup, in other cases is it “pure cane sugar” but it really doesn’t matter, it is still sugar. No better, no worse. And if you are drinking more than one a day, you need to stop doing that. In fact, the Coca-Cola Company has 7.5 ounce cans, which are nice, smaller servings, but you still need to have no more than one per day. Less is better, none is best. If you are drinking a 20 ounce soda each day and stop, changing nothing else you could lose about ½ pound per week.

“Diet” soda is zero calories.  Traditionally called diet, the Coca-Cola Company has the “Zero” line and Pepsi has “Max” as well as their “diet” versions, these are calorie free. But I tell people, while these don’t have calories this does not mean that you can or should drink these in unlimited quantities thinking it is okay. I’ve had clients who drink 4-8 of these things a day, and ask if that is okay. My response: you shouldn’t drink that much of anything unless it is water. So, even though it is “diet” and no calories, I don’t agree that it is a “free”-for-all.

If you are a soda drinker, enjoy the soda of your choice, regular or diet. However, consume NO MORE than one soda per day, preferably no more than 12 ounces, and less is better. If you can consume 48-64 ounces (or more) of fluid, then you should have no problem drinking more water. C’mon, you can do it.

Do you drink regular, diet, or no soda?

Disclaimer: no affiliation with 7-Up, Coca-Cola, or Pepsi. Bummer.
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Powerful Potassium

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Good source of potassium.

We hear a lot about sodium. We get too much, we need to cut back, processed foods and restaurant foods are high in sodium. The Dietary
Guidelines for Americans 2010
recommend that we “reduce sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg” for persons in specific population groups including everyone over the age of 51 years old.

Unfortunately more Americans who need to are not following these guidelines. Most of us consume 3200 – 4200 mg of sodium per day. One teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. But this post isn’t about the sodium, but the mineral that can help us balance the sodium in our body – when we get too much, and the mineral that many of us don’t get enough of: potassium.

Again the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 states “Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.” Potassium is specifically found mostly in fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

Why is it so important?

As already mentioned, potassium helps balance sodium in the body; sodium and potassium are partners in balancing the water in our body. Stating simply, sodium helps us retain fluids and can increase blood pressure, which we do not want. Potassium can increase sodium’s excretion from the body, reducing the fluid retention and blood pressure.

Potassium also has a role in nerve conduction and muscle control. Athletes lose potassium during exercise, so it is found in sports drinks along with sodium. Also, people will find out from their doctor that they are low in potassium when they experience chest pain and may come how with a “prescription” to consume more potassium. Then bananas are eaten more often.

Where is it?

So there it is: when someone mentions potassium – the first thing people think of is… bananas! But there are so many more foods that have potassium than bananas; milk and yogurt; apricots, melons, raisins and prunes; white and sweet potatoes; carrots, beans, spinach and tomatoes; and finally nuts! Eating a variety of fruits and veggies, nuts and low-fat or fat-free dairy products can give you all the potassium you need each day.

How Much?

The recommendation for potassium is 4,700 mg daily (4.7 g) – but please makes sure you are getting it from your foods and not a potassium supplement unless prescribed to you.

So, your homework is to get more potassium (and still less sodium) – and get it with more than just bananas. Get a variety of fruits, vegetables,  nuts, low-fat/fat-free dairy products and you are golden – at least in this area of your life.

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