Healthy Meal Ideas on a Budget




If you read my article on the cheapest health foods to buy (read here) then this article will help to put those foods and more into easy meal ideas for you. I had to learn how to prepare healthy meals on a tight budget when I was in college for several years, and these are the meals that I ate in college and some that I still eat today – some I got to burnt out on and don’t eat on the regular anymore 😉

Read below to learn simple, healthy, and cost effective meal ideas:

Nut butter banana sandwich

This is my all time favorite sandwich that I lived off of in college and I still make it all of the time even today. This sandwich is so simple, takes very little prep, and is super cheap! All you need is a nut butter of your choice, a banana, and bread or pita or a wrap.

Recipe: 

1 tortilla wrap, 1 banana, 2 tablespoons almond butter. Add all ingredients to the wrap, fold in half and enjoy.

Cost: around $1.50 per sandwich



Loaded oatmeal

I made oatmeal almost every single morning in college, but I added more to it to make it healthy and delicious. I normally would start with oats, then add chia seeds for some fiber, stir in an egg to get high quality protein, and then stir in a banana and/or top with frozen berries. All of the above ingredients are super cheap and healthy, and really make this oatmeal filling.

Recipe:

1/2 cup oats, 1-2 eggs or egg whites, 1-2 Tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 banana, 1/4 cup frozen berries. Mix all together on a stove and add water to the consistency of your preference.

Cost: $1.50 to $2.50

Eggs with eggs

Eggs are the all around best food you can buy for your money! They are one of the healthiest foods you can eat plus they taste great and are super cheap! I recommend always going for organic or pasture-raised eggs.

There are SO many ways to enjoy eggs, but one easy recipe is just cooking eggs on the stove and eating them on their own.

Recipe:

4 eggs. Crack in a pan with cooking spray or coconut oil. Enjoy!

Cost: $1.00 to $1.50 per meal (4 eggs)



Oatmeal banana cookies

These are my FAVORITE cookies and they are so simple and super cheap to make. Literally all you need is a couple bananas and some oats, but you can also add cinnamon, vanilla, or other spices of your preference. You can either have these as a snack or make as a meal.

Recipe:

1 banana, 1/2 cup oats, cinnamon. Mix all together. Form into balls and place on baking sheet at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Cost: about $0.50 for the above recipe

Vegan quinoa salad

Quinoa is the only grain that is a complete protein, making it a great protein choice for vegans and vegetarians. Quinoa is incredibly versatile and pairs well with just about anything.

Recipe:

1 bag frozen vegetables, 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa. Roast the bag of veggies and cook the quinoa on the stove. Option to add 2 Tbsp of hummus or other dip, spices, and sauce such as soy sauce or teriyaki sauce.

Cost: $3.00 to $3.50 per meal

Non-vegan tip: Take the recipe above and add organic chicken, fish, or eggs for extra protein. This will mean adding on somewhere between $1.00 to $5.00 to the cost.



Chicken salad

When I refer to “salad” I don’t just mean leafy greens, but cooked vegetables as well. You get more bang for your buck with cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower compared to leafy greens. This is because cruciferous vegetables have more fiber and more nutrients, meaning they will fill you up and make you feel more satisfied. As I stated in the article about buying healthy foods on the cheap (read here), I recommend buying frozen vegetables and uncooked organic protein to save money.

Recipe:

1 bag frozen vegetables, 1 chicken breast. Roast the veggies in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Cook the chicken breast on the stove with coconut oil. Option to add 2 Tbsp of dip such as hummus, spices, and sauce such as soy sauce.

Cost: $7.00 to $8.00 per meal

Egg salad

If you don’t want to go to prepare chicken or fish then try eggs instead. Eggs are a complete protein just like other animal products, but are easier to cook and are less expensive.

Recipe:

1 bag of frozen vegetables, 2-4 organic eggs. Roast the veggies in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Choose your favorite way to prepare eggs (hard boiled, fried, poached, etc) and top your veggies with the eggs. Option to add 2 Tbsp of dip such as hummus, spices, and sauce such as soy sauce.

Cost: around $3.50 to $5.00 per meal



Protein smoothie

Smoothies are great because they are an easy way to pack in a ton of nutrition and keep you hydrated at the same time, plus if you are in a rush you can take them on the go with you and drink along the way.

Recipe:

There are so many ways to make healthy and cheap smoothies – I could dedicate an entire article to that! – but the most simple recipe is a scoop of protein powder, 7 cubes of ice, 1-2 cups of water, 1/2 cup frozen berries or 1/2 frozen banana all added to a blender.

Protein powder tip: I recommend finding a protein powder that has 5 or less grams of sugar, less than 10 net carbs, and around 20 grams of protein per serving. Also make sure you like it! If you don’t like the taste, you won’t want to make the smoothie.

Cost: $2.00 to $2.50

Paleo pancakes

These are the simplest pancakes and only require two ingredients: banana and egg. They are also very healthy and packed with protein to keep you full for hours.

Recipe:

1 banana 2-3 eggs. Mix the banana with the eggs, cook on the stove. Enjoy! You can eat the pancakes just like this, or add nut butter on top for some healthy fat and extra nutrients.

Cost: $1.00 to $1.50 per meal



Avocado egg salad

Avocados aren’t necessarily the cheapest food, but when you pair them with eggs it makes for a super healthy and cheap meal! It’s fine to go cheaper and buy non-organic avocados because the thick outer shell should protect the inside from pesticides and other chemicals.

Recipe:

1 small avocado, 2-3 hard-boiled eggs. Mash the avocado and add to chopped hard-boiled eggs. Option to add spices such as paprika, pepper, and hot sauce.

Avocado tip: I recommend buying small avocados so that you can use the entire avocado for one meal.

Cost: $3.25 to $4.00 per meal

Main takeaways…

These are just a few of many healthy meals you can make on a budget. You can certainly make variations of the above, omit or add other ingredients to your preference, and use this list of healthy cheap foods to guide you. No excuse not to eat healthy anymore! 🙂




 

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A Calorie is Not a Calorie.





Calories are essentially units of energy that you get from the carbohydrate, protein, and fat content of foods you eat and are used by the body to perform basic function of living such as breathing, digesting, walking, talking, etc.

Simply put, calories become a problem when you absorb more calories than you need because they will be stored as fat for later use. This may have been great during the caveman years when food was scarce, however that is not the case today.

A very common misconception is that all calories are created equal, and that 100 calories of say potato chips are absorbed the same way as 100 calories of say chicken. Here are some reasons why calorie counting doesn’t always add up and some incentives to eat more natural foods:

1. Your body does not absorb all calories from some foods. 


For example, almonds. Recent studies have found that about 20% of the calories from almonds are not absorbed by the body. This means if a package advertises a serving of almonds to be 160-170 calories, you are actually only absorbing about 120-130 calories. Read more about this here.

2. You body absorbs more calories from cooked foods compared to raw foods.

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Cooking breaks down the bonds in food that hold it together, which makes it easier for your digestive system to break down the food. In effect, your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the food and less energy and calories are lost to digestion. When foods are raw, all of the bonds are intact making your digestive system work harder to break down the food. Think about when you bite into a raw carrot compared to a cooked one, which is easier? Read more about this here.



 3. Your body burns more calories with protein. 


Up to 30% of calories from protein are lost to digestion, meaning if you eat 100 calories of protein you are only really absorbing 70 of them. This is because proteins are built up of several amino acids, which very have strong bonds holding them together. It takes a lot of effort by your digestive system to break these bonds down, in effect causing you to take in less calories.



 4. Your body absorbs less calories with fiber. 


There are a couple main reasons you will take in less calories with fiber rich foods. First of all, the human body cannot absorb the calories from fiber. This means the calories listed in your food that are attributable to fiber are not actually used (fiber is listed as a carbohydrate in nutrition labels with 4 calories per gram). Secondly, our digestive systems work extra hard attempting to break down fiber leading to more calories being lost in the digestion process. This means your net calorie intake from fiber rich foods is a fraction of what the nutrition label might say.

5. Your body absorbs less calories from whole foods compared to processed foods. 


The reasons behind this are similar to cooked versus raw food in that bonds have been broken down during the manufacturing process to make foods easier for you to eat. A good example of this was a study done that had individuals eat one of two sandwiches. The sandwiches had exactly the same number of calories, differing only in the amount of processing they had undergone. One was white bread with processed cheese and the other was a multi-grain bread and cheddar cheese. Researchers found that it took about 50% more energy digesting the multi-grain sandwich with cheddar cheese and this resulted in about 10% less calories absorbed. Read more about this here.



Another way to think about this is comparing biting into a chip to biting into an apple, which do you think takes more work to break down just starting with the mouth? Food companies are smart, they know the easier a food is eat, the more you will eat, and the faster the food will be absorbed. Unfortunately this leads to not only overeating and absorbing every single calorie ingested, but will also be unlikely to keep you full for long considering virtually all nutrients have been stripped from your food in the manufacturing process.

6. Gut bacteria can influence how many calories are absorbed. 


Gut bacteria help with the breakdown of food and effect the amount of calories you absorb from food. Research shows that there are two main types of gut bacteria that regulate calorie absorption, the firmicutes and the bacteroidetes. Obese individuals tend to have more firmicutes in their gut while lean individuals tend to have more bacteroidetes. Researchers attribute this to firmicutes being able to extract more calories from food and store it, leading to weight gain.

A sedentary lifestyle and a diet high in fat and sugar has been found to increase the firmicutes in the gut, while physical activity and a diet high in plants and low in sugar and fat is associated with more bacteroidetes in the gut. This is a relatively new research area, and more research is currently being done to better understand the role of bacteria in our gut.



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8 Good Reasons to Limit your Wheat Consumption





One of the most frequent questions I have in practice is about wheat/gluten-free and my take on how it effects the body and mind. After conducting more research on the topic, I found more than enough reasons to cut out wheat completely from my own diet. Here are the top 8 to get you started:

 

1. Not the original wheat


First of all, wheat is not what it was thousands of years ago, or even fifty years ago. Wheat today is produced by countless hybridiazations making for thousands of different potentially harmfull proteins and other compounds.

We now have “wheat” that was grown in synthetic soil, saturated in chemicals, made to survive the worst environmental conditions and cultivated so that no pest would eat it – and we’re wondering if this could make us sick? Currently there is no requirement for crops that have undergone hybridization to be tested on animals or humans. Read more about this here and here.



 

2. Increases blood sugar higher than table sugar


Wheat’s main carbohydrate is Amylopectin A and raises your blood sugar higher and faster than any other carbohydrate including table sugar! When there is a large amount of sugar in your blood all at once, this signals a large amount of insulin to remove this sugar as quickly as possible and deliver this preferentially to your fat cells (why we call insulin the fat storage hormone).

This is why you feel hungry an hour or two after eating a wheat product – all the sugar has been removed from your bloodstream by then and your cells are still hungry because your fat cells are hogging all of the energy.




 

3. Addictive


Wheat contains a unique protein called gliadin which, when broken down in the body into polypeptides, crosses the blood-brain barrier and binds the morphine receptor in the brain (i.e. euphoric center). These particular polypeptides are termed “exorphins” (exogenous morphine like compounds) because of how like other opiates, you feel a mini-high after ingesting and a slump short while after.

In short, these exorphins stimulate the addictive, pleasure seeking part of your brain, stimulating your appetite making you want more and more. Just as other drugs that bind the morphin receptor (think heroin, morphin), this repeated exposure distorts the brain causing mental fog, sluggishness, fatigue and makes one more susceptible to depression and other psychological disorders down the road.

Interesting note – there are now drugs that contain naloxone to treat obesity. Naloxone is formerly known as a drug used to treat narcotic overdose, most notably heroin. It works for weight loss because it blocks the morphine receptor, exorphins are unable to bind, and thus prevents appetite from being stimulated.




 

4. Blocks your brain from understanding you are full


Digested wheat proteins have been found to block the leptin receptor. This is bad because leptin functions to tell our brain that we are full – if this is being blocked, you are more likely to be hungrier regardless of how much you may have just eaten.



 

5. Increased risk for diabetes and obesity


This goes along with it’s addictive like quality, stimulating your appetite, increasing blood sugar rapidly, and blocking the mechanism that tells you that you are full. This is a recipe for you to overeat (overeat carbohydrates in particular because of their addictive quality), which leads to obesity and diabetes from too much carbohydrate ingestion aka chronic high blood sugar.

I hear all the time from slender patients not understanding how they can be at risk for diabetes with a normal weight and eating healthy “whole grains.” It doesn’t matter if you are thin or overweight, if you are consuming a high carbohydrate diet (which is easiest to do with consuming too many wheat products) your blood sugar will be chronically elevated unless you start making changes.



 

6. Worsening of ADHD 


This is still a controversial topic and more studies need to be done to look at this, but there have been many studies showing the improvement of ADHD in children and adults when cutting out the wheat products. You can read more about this here.



 

7. Inflammation to your gut


Gluten is the main protein of wheat, and it is made up of two proteins gliadin and glutenins. Gliadin is the primary group that triggers the immune response (i.e. infallmation) in celiac diease. But even beyond gluten and celiac diease, there are a wide range of other proteins present in wheat, more than could ever be accounted for due to the countless transformations via countless cross-breeding of strains as discussed above.

These modified proteins as well as gluten have been shown to be associated with irritable bowel syndrome in non-celiac disease individuals, and accounts for digestive issues in individuals without full-blown celiac diease. This is why individuals who cut out wheat tend to have less stomach issues.



 

8. Joint inflammation


As discussed above, wheat products raise your blood sugar more than nearly all foods. The more your blood sugar rises, the more glycation occurs. Glycation is when a sugar binds to protein causing irrversible changes, and thereby modifies proteins in the blood stream, body tissues, and joints. Glycation is particularly damaging to cartilage, and when cartilage proteins become glycated they become stiff. Overtime, glycation makes the cartilage brittle, stiff, and crumbling resulting in more pain and destruction in your joints.



I know it sounds hard to cut back on wheat (because wheat is in virtually all processed foods), but replace with filling full fat foods – avocado, eggs, olive oil, cheese, etc. Healthy non-processed fats should be the bulk of your diet, as the low-fat craze has brought upon the increased obesity, diabetes, and heart diease rate since it was instituted in the 1970s – more on this for another post. If you want to read more about the effects of wheat I highly recommend the book Wheat Belly by cardiologist William Davis, MD.



 

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Top 5 Ways Coffee Helps You to Lose Weight

Good news coffee lovers – coffee may help you to lose weight and help you to reach your fitness goals quicker!

Read below to learn the top 5 ways coffee helps you to lose weight:

1. Boosts metabolism

Coffee contains many metabolism boosting compounds, most notably caffeine, which means that drinking coffee helps you to burn more calories.

 

2. Burns fat

Burn more fat by drinking coffee?! Yes please! Coffee contains different compounds that have been found to trigger the fat burning process in your body.

Read more about the fat burning effects of coffee here.

3. Blunts appetite

Coffee can blunt your appetite and reduce feelings of hunger. This means less empty calories ingested and more calories burned. Read more about this here.

4. Boosts your workout

Drinking a cup of coffee (or two!) before a workout may help to boost your workout performance. A better workout means more calories burned and better mood as well!

5. Stimulates a good mood

Feeling good is a sometimes overlooked (but very necessary) component of any weight loss program. Coffee has shown to increase dopamine and norepinephrine which help to boost your mood.

Main takeaways…

Coffee is a great supplement for anyone who is trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. 

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Mindful Eating Tips That Actually Work




Everyone knows that what you eat has a major impact on your weight and fitness goals, but did you know that HOW you eat also plays a big part? Mindful eating is incredibly important when it comes to being satisfied with your meal.

Read below how you can become more mindful with your next meal.

1. Set aside 20 minutes for meal time

Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full? This is why setting aside a good 20 minutes for meal time is ideal. If you know you only have 5 minutes to eat, that’s probably not the best time to try and enjoy a meal.



2. Get tasks done before your next meal

If all you are thinking about is what you need to get done in the next hour while you are trying to eat a meal, this is going to make you eat faster and not enjoy what you are eating because you are so concentrated on what you have to get done. Instead, get as many tasks as you can done before meal time, and then sit down an relax and have the meal.

3. Put electronics away

Mindless eating happens when you are glued to your phone or computer and the next thing you know your meal is gone and you feel like you didn’t even eat anything. Practice mindful eating by putting distractions away and fully enjoying your meal experience.



4. Turn off the TV

This goes hand in hand with putting the electronics away. If you are distracted from your meal, you will likely eat more and feel like you barely ate.

5. Thoroughly chew your food

Food tastes better if you actually chew it, am I right? Take the time to fully chew your food. This will force you to slow down your eating.



6. Sit at the table

Sitting at the table for a meal helps to limits distractions and puts the focus on the meal itself. If you are sitting on the couch there is a good chance that television is going to turn on and mindless eating is more likely to take place.

7. Use a fork and knife to eat

Eating meals where utensils are needed helps to slow down your eating because it requires you to pay attention to your food to be able to cut and fork your food. Also, most meals or snacks that require a fork are probably going to be better for you compared to something you can just stuff into your mouth with your hands – like chips, donuts, crackers, cookies..you get the idea.

Kick it up a notch: Use chopsticks to eat your meals and this is a guaranteed way to slow you down and make you more mindful!

Main takeaways…

Use one or all of the above to help you to be more mindful of your eating, to slow you down, and to enjoy your meals even more.




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Surprising Foods That Make You Hungrier




If you feel like you are always hungry and constantly needing to snack, it’s probably a good idea to take a look at what you are eating on a daily basis. It could be that you are just not eating enough at breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner, or it could be that it’s WHAT you are eating that is making you hungrier sooner.

Read below to learn the top foods that make you hungry:




Granola bars

Granola bars are sneaky because they are marketed as healthy, yet most of them are loaded with carbs and sugar with a small amount of fiber. This means that you will digest them very quickly, which causes your blood sugar to plummet and triggers your hunger hormones.

Fix it: Instead of granola, look for high fiber bars or cereal with less than 10 grams of sugar.

Artificial sweeteners

Research has found that artificial sweeteners may actually cause you to become hungrier, eat more, and gain weight. One of the proposed reasons for this is that artificial sweeteners spike insulin (just like sugar does) which leads to fat storage and hunger.

There is more research that needs to be done in this area, and some artificial sweeteners are likely to cause more issues than others. You can read more about this here and here.

Fix it: Look for products without artificial sweeteners.



Chips

Have you ever thought about why you are given chips and salsa at a restaurant? Perhaps to increase your appetite?! Chips are one of the worst foods for your waistline because they are loaded with carbs and salt – both of which make you hungrier and eat more – and they certainly do not fill you up.

Fix it: Ask your server to please not serve you the chips and salsa – or just take the salsa.

Alcohol

Ok, I know alcohol isn’t a food, but it’s worth mentioning because it can definitely make you feel hungrier. This is because when you drink alcohol it causes a decrease in blood sugar and it also lowers your will power when it comes to eating unhealthy foods – bad combination when you are trying to watch your waistline!

Fix it: Never drink on an empty stomach and have a little fat before you do indulge.



Cereal

Take a quick look at your cereal box, if you see more than 7 grams of sugar per serving and less than 5 grams of fiber, then there is a good chance this cereal is going to make you hungry. This is because the sugar and low fiber content means you will digest this meal very quickly, leaving you hungrier in an hour or two.

Fix it: Go for high fiber cereal and avoid any cereal that has over 10 grams of sugar per serving.

Juice

Even juices marketed as being “green” or “healthy” can be loaded with sugar and can spike and then drop your blood sugar quickly, leading to hunger not too long after.

Fix it: Instead of juice, have a smoothie which will have fiber from the pulp.

Bread

All bread products  – toast, croissant, bagel – will leave you hungrier than you started. This is because they are high in carbs and low in fiber, low in fat, and low in protein.

Fix it: If you are going to have a bread product, add some fat and/or fiber such as adding a tablespoon of nut butter.



Fat-free yogurt

Have you ever looked at the nutritional label of yogurt? The sugar content is normally around 20 grams per serving! That’s an entire days worth of sugar in just a few bites. The worst offenders tend to be the fruit flavored yogurts, but even plain or vanilla can have a ton of sugar as well. This high sugar content paired with no fat means it will be digested very quickly – leaving you hungry in an hour or two.

Fix it: Look for yogurt that has less than 10 grams of sugar per serving and add some healthy fat and/or fiber to it such as a handful of almonds or high fiber cereal.

Main takeaways…

To sum it up, if your meal or snack lacks fiber and/or fat there is a good chance that in an hour or two you will be hungrier than you started.



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The Most Common Diet Mistakes You Are Probably Making




Changing your eating habits and trying to eat healthy is hard – finding out that your best diet efforts have been failing you is even harder! Don’t let this happen to you, read below to learn the most common diet mistakes.




You’re waiting too long to eat

If you are skipping meals or waiting longer than 5 hours to eat, there is a very good chance you will binge on the next meal. Make sure to eat three or four large meals and have a snack on hand in case you get held up and won’t be able to eat again for a while. 

You’re snacking too much

Just like waiting too long to eat is not good, snacking too much is also a recipe for overeating. Think snacking constantly revs your metabolism? Eh, the research on that is pretty limited. Rather than snacking constantly throughout the day, make three or four big meals that actually fill you up enough so that you are not constantly thinking about what you are going to eat next. The best snacks contain a combination of protein, fat, and/or fiber.

You’re not checking serving sizes

Serving sizes are key when it comes to a healthy diet because anything in excess is not good for you. Understand how much a serving size is for all foods you consume so that you are not unknowingly taking in way more than you realized.

Note that there are exceptions to this rule. You do not have to track servings of foods such as vegetables, eggs, chicken breast, or egg whites because your body burns these foods quickly and they are very hard to over consume – have you every felt bad about eating too many eggs? Didn’t think so 😉

Read more about foods most likely to be burned for energy rather than be stored as fat here.



You’re eating too much fruit

Eating cups and cups of fruit is not doing you any favors. Yes, fruit is healthy. HOWEVER, fruit it also very sweet and is high in sugar. Stick to 1/2 cup serving size and go for lower sugar fruits like berries and melon.

Personal experience: In practice I see this all the time where a patient continues to have elevated blood sugar and elevated weight even with an improved diet, and in the end it was the overconsumption of fruit that was the culprit.

Note that the good thing about eating whole fruit is that it at least has fiber to help slow down the release of sugar into your bloodstream, unlike fruit juice or candy.

You’re eating dried fruit

If you think fruit has a lot of sugar, dried fruit has about 10 times as much sugar! Dried fruit is nothing more than sugar-coated candy. Do not be fooled into thinking you are eating healthy when you dig into a bag of dried fruit.



You’re doing a juice cleanse

Doing a juice cleanse might sound healthy, but it actually backfires big time for a few reasons. First of all, juices are high in sugar (unless it is all leafy greens) which raises blood sugar, makes you hungrier quicker, and is most likely to be stored as fat. Another reason is that only consuming juice for a day or longer is going to slow your metabolism and cause you to lose muscle due to lack of calories and lack of protein. So even if you do see your weight drop after a cleanse, you better believe that weight is going to shoot right back up and maybe even higher than with what you started with!

Professional experience: I’ve seen this all the time where a patient does a juice cleanse or some other crash diet, and when we check their weight it does typically go down right after. Unfortunately, when we check the fat and muscle content we see the fat go up and the muscle go down.

Swear that you feel great after a juice cleanse? This is most likely due to what you aren’t consuming during the cleanse, so take that info to re-evaluate your current diet.

You’re eating “natural sugars”

Sugar is sugar and once it is in your body your body does not care whether that sugar is table sugar or honey – it all turns to sugar when it goes into your body.

Sweet tip: If you want to sweeten a meal, use whole fruit to sweeten it rather than a sugary syrup so that at least you are getting fiber and nutrients from the flesh of the fruit.



You’re not eating enough

Not eating enough is one of the worst things you can do to yourself on a diet because it slows down your metabolism, makes you feel irritable, and it can – and likely will – make you overeat later.

So how do you know if you’ve eaten enough? Allow for 20 minutes to pass after eating a meal because it takes that long for your stomach to message your brain that you are full. Also stick to a low sugar, adequate carb diet because sugar and carbs can make you hungrier.

You’re not eating enough protein

Protein is king when it comes to diet. Protein keeps you full, speeds up metabolism, burns the most calories, and builds muscle. Aim to get a gram of protein per pound of body weight.

My favorite protein-rich foods include eggs, egg whites, chicken, grass-fed beef, whey protein, wild salmon and fish.



You always choose a salad

First let me say that I love salads and salad is usually my go-to. That being said, you have to be very picky with salads because a salad can become a diet disaster quickly from the dressing to the fried wontons, to the dried cranberries etc. The flip-side of an unhealthy salad is a salad with not enough in it, leaving you hungry and making you overeat later. So how to choose a healthy salad? Make sure it has a protein (non-fried or breaded) and healthy fat such as avocado.

You’re eating too many nuts

Nuts are great for you – in small portions. A serving of nuts is 1/4 a cup, which really isn’t much and most of us will eat triple this amount if not paying attention. This can lead to hundreds or even thousands of extra calories your body does not need without even realizing it.

Measure out a serving of nuts and use a small bowl or plate to eat from.



Eating too much after a workout

Rewarding yourself with a large meal after a workout is fine as long as the meal is made with healthy ingredients and you don’t overdue it. But when you reward yourself with something you wouldn’t have otherwise chosen like a box of donuts, this is where your efforts will backfire.

The sad truth is that you can’t out exercise a bad diet and you likely didn’t burn as many calories as you thought you did.



You’re treating all calories the same

All calories are not created equal. Your body is much more complex than just calories in and calories out. What you eat affects a wide variety of hormones in your body, and these hormones are what dictate how you burn and store those calories. 

Read more here about what foods are more likely to be burned for energy rather than be stored as fat.

You’re drinking your calories

Put down the coffee creamer, sports drink, and the juice. These seemingly healthy drinks are normally loaded with sugar and calories without you even realizing it. Stick to water and whole foods.

You’re consuming too many artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are a problem because studies have found consuming them can actually increase your appetite, can make you crave more sugar, and may even cause your body to store more fat. Steer clear of artificial sweeteners as much as you can and look for foods sweetened naturally if you are craving something sweet. Read more about artificial sweeteners and fat gain here. 

Main takeaways…

Avoid making the above most common diet mistakes and you will be on track to reaching your goals faster!




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Avoid These 13 Foods and Drinks If You Want To Lose Weight




It can be confusing when it comes to trying to eat healthy and make the best diet choices – think about how how many new diet books come out in a year! That being said, there are some foods and drinks that will definitely promote weight gain and should be avoided if you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Read below to learn which foods and drinks you should avoid if you are trying to lose weight:

1. Soda

Soda is probably the number one worst thing you can consume for your waistline and your health. Drinking soda is basically like pouring sugar directly into your bloodstream. Why is this a problem? An overload of sugar in the bloodstream is highly toxic to the body and signals the hormone insulin to get that sugar out of the blood as quickly as possible (this is why you go from a sugar high to a “crash” or hypoglycemia). So where does insulin funnel sugar to? The place where you have an infinite abundance of storage, i.e. your fat cells.



2. Fruit juice

Fruit juice acts the same as soda because it is high in sugar and has about zero fiber to slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream. The only better thing about juice is that it doesn’t contain all of the chemicals that you find in soda, and it does have some vitamins and minerals.

3.White grains

Foods that fall under this category include all of the foods we love – cookies, pancakes, waffles, white pasta, white bread, hamburger buns, pizza dough, etc. The problem with white grains (aka refined grains) is that these grains have been stripped of all their fiber and nutritional value, and what you are left with is just a bunch of carbs and calories.



4. Granola bars and protein bars

Check the ingredients and the nutrition label between granola bars, protein bars, and candy bars – they are pretty similar! What makes granola bars and protein bars worse than candy bars is that they are marketed as being healthy so you’ll eat more of them, whereas at least with candy bars you see them more as a treat.

Learn how to choose healthy protein bars by reading here. 

5. Cereal and granola

About 99.9% of cereals and granola will help you to pack on the pounds. They tend to be loaded with sugar and calories and have very low fiber or nutritional value – yes, this includes the “all natural” types as well. 



6. Pastries

Pastries are basically a mix of unhealthy fat, white grain, and sugar, all of which will increase your appetite and pack on the pounds quickly.

7. Beer

The term “beer belly” is highly accurate because it does promote a larger waistline. Beer is probably the worst alcoholic beverage you can drink because it is loaded with carbs and alcohol, and contains zero nutritional value. Plus, unlike spirits beer has less alcohol meaning it’s easier to drink more of it.

8. Dessert coffee beverages

This basically includes all coffee drinks that are made of more than just plain coffee. Once you start adding milk, sugar, cream, syrup, whipped cream, etc. the sugar and calories add up very quickly without you even realizing it.



9. Salad dressing

Just about all salad dressings can contribute to weight gain, including bottled and even freshly made. This is because just a small amount tends to be loaded with calories, unhealthy fat, and sugar.

Read here to learn about healthy and delicious alternatives to salad dressing.

10. Chips

Chips are one of the easiest foods to overeat because they don’t fill you up until you finish an entire bag! Chips have about zero nutritional value, meaning they are just empty calories you are putting into your body that will end up as fat.



11. Ice cream

Ice cream basically consists of fat and sugar, which tastes amazing but also is the combination that will rev up your appetite, make you hungrier, and pack on the pounds.

12. Artificial sugars

Think you are being healthy by cutting back on real sugar and eating the fake stuff? Err, probably not. There have been many studies that have found that consuming artificial sugars may promote weight gain by throwing off your natural gut flora and making you crave sugary foods and increasing your appetite. Read more about this here.



13. Fried foods

This includes french fries, onion rings, crispy calamari, fried chicken, etc. Once you fry something, you add a ton of unhealthy fat and calories to an otherwise healthy food.

Main takeaways…

Avoid the above foods and drinks as much as possible and this will help to prevent you from gaining the unwanted extra pounds.




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Top Factors You Should Be Monitoring For Weight Loss




If you have cleaned up your diet and started exercising, yet you are still having trouble losing weight, it is a good idea to take a look at your day-to-day activities. This means keeping a daily journal of the different factors that can make or break your progress.

Below lists the top factors you should be keeping track of to lose weight:




Sleep

Take note of how much sleep you are getting. Also take note if you are having a hard time getting to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night which could be signs of stress. High levels of stress in the body can cause your body to hold onto fat. 

Stress levels

This includes taking note of when you felt stressed, what prompted the stress, how long the stress lasted for, and what you did about the stress. This is a great way to understand what stresses you and if you are doing anything to sabotage your fitness progress when a stressor hits.



Exercise

Take note of what exercise you are doing, the intensity, your heart rate. Exercise is going to help accelerate your results and should be part of your weight loss program. Taking note of different exercise parameters will let you see how you can change up your routine if you hit a plateau or you aren’t losing much weight.

Movement

This can be tracked in a variety of ways, but the easiest ways is steps. Aim to get at least 10,000 steps per day and this does not include steps from exercise you did. If you have an Apple watch then you can also track your calories and movement. Note that calories are never going to be completely accurate, so just set a calorie goal understanding that it’s not going to be accurate and use the same device that tracks your calories not between devices.



Snacking

Note if you had to snack between meals and what happened right before your urge to snack – were you stressed, bored, or actually just hungry?

Timing of meals

Take note of what time you are eating your meals and how long it is between meals. Too short or too long a time period can be setting you back. Too short means your meals aren’t large enough.

Main takeaways…

If you are committed to losing weight and keeping it off, you should start taking notes of the above. Weight loss is multi-factorial and you have to take in many different factors when it comes to getting lasting results.




 

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Ingredients You Should Never Use – But You Probably Are!




With all of the conflicting nutrition and diet advice out there, it can definitely be confusing when it comes to eating right and preparing healthy meals. A good starting point is to understand which ingredients to avoid using and going from there!

Read below the top ingredients you should never use:

Vegetable oils

The word “vegetable” might make you think these oils are healthy, but they are actually highly processed and devoid of much nutritional value. These oils are also high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory and we already tend to get enough omega-6s in our diet as it is. Vegetable oils to avoid include corn and soybean oil.

Use this instead: Coconut oil, avocado oil, hempseed oil, and of course olive oil are all great oils.



Fake butter

Fake butter like margarine are highly processed and also pro-inflammatory, plus some brands contain trans-fats which are the worst fats for your heart and your overall health.

Use this instead: The real stuff – grass-fed butter.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are highly processed and lack any sort of any nutritional value. They may even make you crave more sugar and trigger you to eat more in the end. Plus some artificial sweeteners have been linked to stomach upset and gastro-intestinal issues such as bloating and diarrhea – yikes!

Use this instead: Real whole fruits, puree if need be.



White flour

Ever think about why flour is white? Because it’s bleached! This means that not only are you using a highly processed ingredient devoid of any nutritional value, but also adding potentially harmful chemicals to your meals as well.

Use this instead: Some of the best alternatives include coconut flour and almond flour which are also high in fiber.

Fat-free dairy

Be weary of any food that is fat-free or reduced in fat because that means something is usually added in, most commonly sugar. Not only is sugar often added into fat-free dairy products, but the lack of fat makes the meal less satisfying and can make you eat more later.

Use this instead: Full-fat dairy – you’ll end up using less because it is much more flavorful and satisfying!



Processed nut butter

The only two ingredients that a jar of nut butter should contain should be nuts and salt, and maybe some sort of oil. Steer clear of nut butters that have sugar, salt, or any other ingredient listed on the label. Another giveaway that the nut butter is not healthy is if you don’t have to stir it first or refrigerate. 

Use this instead: Natural nut butter that you have to stir or even better if you can grind it yourself.

Syrup

Syrups are highly processed and typically contain artificial flavors, artificial coloring, high-fructose corn syrup, and have a ton of added sugar.

Use this instead: Use 100% maple syrup which is higher in flavor plus actually has some vitamins and minerals in it.



Powder based dip

Dip made from powder and water is probably one of the most processed foods you can eat. You can bet this powder is full of artificial flavorings, artificial coloring, artificial everything! All of which means highly inflammatory and devoid of any nutritional value.

Use this instead: Anything is better than this, but some easy dips include making guacamole or hummus.

Sugar

Ok, you probably suspected this one was coming 😉 Pure white sugar is a terrible ingredient to use for many reasons including how it is pro-inflammatory and is a major player for most chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease – just to name a few.

Use this instead: Go for pureed fruits as an alternative, or at the very least use half the amount of sugar the recipe calls for.

Main takeaways…

The above are some of the most common unhealthy ingredients we should avoid using when cooking and baking meals. Try using natural alternatives, your body will thank you!




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12 Signs Your Diet Needs To Change




You may not realize it, but diet plays a major role in how you feel on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons why it is very important to pay attention to the connection between what you are eating and how you are feeling – especially if you haven’t been feeling too great.

Read below to learn the top 12 signs that you need to change your diet:

1. You always feel constipated

Constipation is an indicator of something not working in your diet. It also signifies that you are likely not getting enough fiber and water. Start paying attention to how much fiber you are eating, and slowly introduce 5 grams of fiber per week until you get up to 30 grams of fiber per day. Also be sure to drink at least 64 ounces of water because water helps to push fiber and stool down.



2. You frequently get heartburn

Heartburn, aka acid reflux, is when acidic juices from your stomach travel up your esophagus (the tube connecting your stomach to your throat) causing an unpleasant “burning” sensation. Heartburn every now and again is unpleasant but OK, but if you are having heartburn regularly this is a problem because the acid can cause erosion and ulcers to form. Some of the most common triggers for heartburn include spicy foods, tomato based sauces, coffee, peppermint, citrus, chocolate, and sugar. Everyone is different and will be more affected by different foods, so keep note of when you feel heartburn and what you had eaten beforehand.

3. You’re always gassy

Having an overly gassy body is an indicator that something you are eating is not digesting well. One of the most common culprits is due to a lactose intolerance. Try cutting out one food at a time for a two week period to determine which foods are causing a buildup of gas.



4. You’re always bloated

This could be because you are producing an overload of gas and/or you are constipated, both of which indicate something is not working well in your diet.

5. Your skin is breaking out

Your skin is the largest organ of your body and can tell you much about what is going on inside. If you’ve noticed an increase in breakouts for no apparent reason, this could have to do with what you are eating. One of the best ways to prevent breakouts from the diet is to eat non-inflammatory foods like berries and vegetables, and to drink tons of water.



6. You are gaining weight

You could be gaining weight for a few different reasons related to diet. These reasons could include increased inflammation in the body, too much sodium, not enough fluids, too many calories, an unhealthy gut flora, or all of the above. Keep in mind that our bodies try very hard to keep our weight constant and so if you are gaining weight seemingly out of nowhere, this is a sign that something is disrupting the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis.

7. You’re always hungry

This could be from a few different reasons, the most common being your’e not eating enough or you’re eating too many carbs and sugar.

Professional experience: I had this one young woman come see me – I actually forget the initial reason – but it came up that she would wake up in the middle of the night ravenous and have to eat something. I inquired about her diet and came to find that she was eating way too much sugar in the form of energy bars, electrolyte drinks, and fruit. I told her to cut back on these and see if it helped. The next time I saw her she let me know that since cutting out those foods, she no longer woke up hungry in the middle of the night, and she had lost close to 10lbs!



8. You’re always tired

Not getting enough nutrients in your diet can definitely make you feel more tired throughout the day. Make sure you are getting adequate protein, healthy fats, and some carbs in your diet.

9. You feel depressed

This could be from a number of different nutrients lacking in your diet, but some of the most common include a lack of B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and other vital nutrients which can lead to feelings of sadness. Read more about the nutrition depression link here.

Professional experience: I had a patient who started eating vegan after watching a documentary on veganism (a very flawed documentary I might add) who at first told me he felt great cutting out animal products. Then a week or two later he came to see me because he started feeling very depressed seemingly out of no where. I told him it could be stemming from his new diet, and so he agreed to start slowly introducing animal products back into his diet to see if it would help. A few days laster he called to let me know he felt SO much better after introducing animal products back into his diet and no longer felt depressed.

This is a reason why if I have a patient come in who is depressed, I ALWAYS inquire about diet and any new diet that could be part of the issue.



10. You have very little energy

Having little energy throughout the day is definitely a sign that something is off with your diet. Common reasons include that you aren’t getting enough iron, you aren’t drinking enough water, you aren’t eating enough in general, or you are eating too many carbs and sugar. Take a look at your diet and see what you are eating in the day and take note of when you feel low energy and good energy.

11. You have chronic diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea or frequent, loose stool is a big indicator of something off in your diet – it is literally your body rejecting and ejecting the food it doesn’t like as fast as it can from your body. The most common culprit is dairy due to lactose intolerance.

Note that that there are other reasons for chronic diarrhea and it is a good idea to let your primary care provider know if you suffer from this.



12. You often feel sick to your stomach

Feeling sick to your stomach on a regular basis is not normal, and it could be due to something in your diet. Some of the most common culprits include too much sugar, gluten, and artificial ingredients.

Personal experience: When I was younger I would use artificial sweetener to sweeten my coffee and my oatmeal and noticed that I often felt sick. I also noticed that when I didn’t use the artificial sweeteners I didn’t feel sick and so I completely cut them out from my diet and I’ve felt so much better every since. This is why I am a huge proponent of using natural sweetener like whole fruits and avoiding artificial sweeteners as much as possible.

Main takeaways…

If you are experiencing one or more of the above issues, it is a good idea to start taking a hard look at your diet. Try keeping a food and symptoms journal for a couple of weeks to see if you can make a connection between what you are eating and how you are feeling. If this isn’t enough, then start cutting out certain foods one at a time for at least two weeks to determine what is causing the issue.




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9 Mistakes You Are Making On The Keto Diet – And How To Fix Them!




Have you heard about the ketogenic (keto for short) diet? The main idea of the keto diet is that the majority of the calories you eat come from fat and protein and a smaller portion comes from carbs. I am a huge fan of a ketogenic type of diet for many reasons – read more about it here – but there are definitely a lot of mistakes and misconceptions made with the keto diet. 

Read below to learn the top mistakes made with the keto diet and how to fix them fast:

1. Too much processed food

Sure you can find packaged low carb versions of your favorite treats, but just because they are low carb doesn’t make them healthy. Watch out for packaging that says “low carb” because there’s a good chance these are highly processed to make them low carb. If the food has a long ingredient list be weary because even though you are eating keto, those extra additives and chemicals in the food are not doing you any favors.

Fix it: Limit the amount of processed food as much as possible by eating real foods that don’t come in a package. 



2. Not eating enough vegetables

Many keto-dieters get so caught up on carbs that they cut back on veggies just to keep the carb count low- don’t do this! Non-starchy veggies will not spike your blood sugar or throw you out of ketosis – and they definitely won’t make you gain fat! Vegetables are the number one source of vitamins and minerals, plus they pack at ton of natural fiber.

Fix it: Non-starchy vegetables should be consumed in unlimited quantities, aim to get at least a cup of veggies at every meal.

3. Not accounting for all carbs

If you are finding that you are not getting the results you want from the keto diet it might be because carbs are sneaking into your diet without you even realizing it – a little bite here and there of carby foods can add up quickly.

Fix it: Be mindful of everything you eat and drink and check the nutrition label whenever possible.



4. Eating too many nuts

Nuts and nut butters in small amounts generally have a low amount of carbs, but when you start doubling, tripling, or quadrupling the serving size then these carbs really start to add up.

Fix it: Take a look at your nut consumption and start measuring out serving sizes.

5. Not eating enough protein

Many keto-dieters get so caught up on loading up on fat that they skimp on protein – don’t let this happen to you!

Fix it: There are many factors that go into how much protein you need, but if you are active a general rule of thumb is to consume up to a gram of protein per pound of body weight. 



6. Eating too much

One of the biggest misconceptions about the keto diet is that you can stuff yourself with fatty foods and you won’t gain weight – not true. It is true that your body will be better at metabolizing food and using food for energy rather than storing as fat, but if you eat way beyond what your body can use then you will start putting on the fat.

Fix it: Eat slowly and eat until you are full. Be sure to get a serving of protein and ideally a vegetable with each meal to keep you full and satisfied.

7. Consuming artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners might help you to cut carbs and sugar in the short term, but could cause you to crave more sweets and eat more later. Artificial sweeteners have also been found to possibly mess with your gut bacteria, which can lead to other potential issues like weight gain and stomach upset.

Fix it: Avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible, and if you need something sweet then go for a little fruit.



8. Assuming all fats are created equal

All fats are definitely not created equal. Some fats promote inflammation in the body while other fats help to decrease inflammation and supply the body with essential nutrients.

Fix it: Go for grass-fed and organic products and definitely no processed cheese or dairy!

9. Smothering all meals in butter to make them keto

Just because you add a ton of fat to a meal does not mean that meal is now keto friendly. Things like coconut oil and grass-fed butter are great to add in small amounts to high protein foods, but adding them to carbs does not cancel out the carb content.

Fix it: Remember that servings sizes matter and carbs do not disappear.

Main takeaways…

The above are some of the most common mistakes individuals make on the keto diet – don’t let them happen to you! And if you have been making one or more of these mistakes, don’t worry about it because now you know 🙂




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