Calling all Pop Drinkers!

Soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar worldwide, and have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. But, who doesn’t like soda pop? I don’t know of very many people who would say no to an ice-cold soda pop on a hot day (while at work, because I know you’d all rather drink something tastier on a hot day off!). There is no harm in the odd soda pop once in awhile. The harm comes when you drink many of them in a week, or worse, many of them in a day. I didn’t have to look very hard to find many, many sources discussing the harmful effects that soda pop and other sugar-sweetened beverages have on your body and your health. I’ve attempted to summarize these for you in this article.

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To start with, I like visuals and I found the following powerful ones online.  I think it is important that we all actually see how many calories and how much sugar is in some of the commonly consumed sugar-sweetened beverages.  Click on the photo to see a comparison of many sugar-sweetened drinks (Rockstar, Vitamin Water, Juices, etc).  And the table outlines calories and sugar in many common soda pops.

sugar and calories in pop

Now, to get into some of the effects on your body. I will start with diabetes as that is likely what most people associate sugary drinks with. People who consume 1-2 servings a day of sugar-sweetened beverages have a 26% greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes over people who consume less than 1 serving a month of sugar-sweetened beverages (Malik et al., 2010). Read that again…if you drink 1-2 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages a day you have a 26% greater chance of developing diabetes than someone who rarely drinks them. That is pretty significant!

Next I’ll touch on weight gain. The consumption of sugar-added beverages has a significant link between amount of consumption and becoming overweight or obese. People who drink more than one soda per week have a greater probability of becoming overweight than in those who drink less than 1 soda per week (70% compared with 47% of women aged >50 years old and 77% compared with 58% of men aged >50 years old) (Malik, Schulze, & Hu, 2006).

Having a fatty liver isn’t a very sexy subject, nor would many people understand why this even matters. I will attempt to explain it as easily as I can, but for more in depth information read the very well written paper that I reference. During regular soft drink consumption, fat accumulates in the liver by the primary effect of fructose which increases lipogenesis (formation of fat), and in the case of diet soft drinks, by the additional contribution of aspartame sweetener and caramel colourant which are rich in products that potentially increase insulin resistance (Nseir, Nassar, & Nimer, 2010). The metabolism of fructose is distinct from glucose. The ‘Coles Notes’ version of the paper explains that fructose consumption causes inflammation in the liver. It also promotes insulin resistance, issues with cholesterol, and increased blood pressure. These symptoms (high cholesterol, hypertension, and hyperglycaemia) are commonly known as metabolic syndrome and fructose contributes to them all. And fructose isn’t just found in soda pop. It is commonly named ‘high fructose corn syrup’ in many packaged foods.

Now a brief note on diet pop for those of you now scared of fructose in regular pop! Aspartame and caramel (colourant) are also used as sweeteners in diet pop. Aspartame can contribute to weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Aspartame is not as harmless as many people think it is. Consider this the next time you choose the diet version of your pop thinking it is the healthier choice (Nseir, Nassar, & Nimer, 2010).

I hope you reconsider grabbing that pop today, or your second pop today after reading through this article. I still enjoy the occasional sugar-sweetened drink, but just like many other things we like to treat ourselves with, it is important to consume them in moderation.
References:

Malik, V. S., Popkin, B. M., Bray, G. A., Després, J.-P., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2010). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 33(11), 2477 LP-2483. JOUR. Retrieved from http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.abstract

Malik, V. S., Schulze, M. B., & Hu, F. B. (2006). Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr, 84(2), 274–288. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/long/84/2/274

Nseir, W., Nassar, F., & Nimer, A. (2010). Soft Drinks Consumption and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 16(21), 2579–2588.

Other articles of interest:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/08/sports-drinks-are-abomination-even-when-theyre-organic

 

Holy Zucchini!

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Giant zucchini from my family member’s garden (that is a large round picnic table to put the size of the zucchini to scale!)

I was fortunate enough to have a friend give me a zucchini last week (not quite as large as the one in the photo!).  I needed to find something to make with it, so I searched Pinterest to try and find some healthier baking recipes.  I found 3 and all 3 turned out delicious!

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-07-57-32Zucchini Muffins

These muffins are made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with maple syrup.  In my opinion they have the perfect about of sweetness.

 

 

 

 

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Zucchini Cookies

I probably won’t eat these for breakfast (as the recipe suggests), but they are so delicious!
You can add nuts, chocolate chips, or dried fruit to these cookies as well.

 

 

 

 

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Banana Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

These are for my gluten free friends!  Lots of yummy ingredients in these muffins including peanut butter (any nut butter would work), banana, and maple syrup.
Next time I make them I would probably squeeze out some of the zucchini juices (this was the only recipe of the 3 that I think I need to do this).

 

I know there are thousands of zucchini recipes out there…please share some healthy zucchini recipes that you love!

Meal Planning for Success

Have you ever tried to meal plan?  If you haven’t, you need to!  It makes your life so much easier, makes your grocery trips less frequent and likely cheaper, and is just waaaaaay less stress each night.

For a full time shift worker I suggest you plan out your meals for your entire rotation 2 days before you go back to work (make sure you plan for leftovers).  Even cook some in advance if it works for you (freeze or refrigerate the leftovers).  Make a grocery list while you’re planning the meals to ensure you have all ingredients you need.  Get all your groceries the day before you go back to work because I don’t know anyone who wants to spend any time in a grocery store after a 12h shift.

If you shop at a place like Costco it’s a little more work the day you shop just because of the volume of food, but it is so worth it later in the week/month.  You’ll need to freeze in portions (depending on the size of your family you’ll need to cut things up and freeze them in smaller or individual portions).  Wash and cut up ALL veggies you buy (this is the least fun part about me shopping at Costco!)…makes it way easier to choose these as a snack, and also way quicker to pack in your lunch.  If you’re making something that week that requires them to be cut up a certain way, do that on this day as well.  You’ll be so happy you did this when you get home from that 12h shift.

Look at your meal plan each day to see what is planned for tomorrow.  Take out the appropriate stuff from the freezer (usually meat) so it is thawed by tomorrow night.  If you’re energetic the day before prep some of the stuff ahead of time if you didn’t do it the day you bought groceries (chop up veggies, etc).

It’s a bit of work off the hop trying to think of meal ideas for 5-7 days at a time, but I promise it gets easier as you go.  And if you’re following a recipe or trying something new you’ll know that you have all the ingredients for it because you bought them earlier in the week!

And when you’re stuck thinking of something to eat the next week, look back on your meal plans from the weeks prior….you’ll find you rotate though meals a little bit (unless you only know how to make 7 meals HA HA!) and hopefully won’t get sick of eating the same thing all the time.

Happy meal planning!

More good recipes for work lunches!

Thanks to my readers for telling me they enjoyed my recipe post (and also for letting me know that you read my blog!).  I decided to post a few more recipes that we make at our house that are great for leftovers.

Meatza
This is a great one if you’re gluten free (no pizza crust) and is great for varying ingredients!
Start with some ground beef (amount will vary based on how big of a ‘meatza’ you want).  Add in an egg, some breadcrumbs (skip for gluten free obviously), and some pizza spices (I add garlic powder, parmesan cheese, oregano, and italian spices).  Mix all together and then spread out on something oven safe (cookie sheet or 9×13 pan work good).  This is your pizza “crust”, so make it fairly thin and flat.  It will shrink some, and be a bit greasy depending on the leanness of your beef.
Add pizza sauce or tomato paste.
Then go crazy with your toppings!  We usually put mushrooms, onions, peppers, and ham on ours.  Add whatever you like on your regular pizza.
Top with cheese….mozza is always delish, but feta is also very yummy.
Bake for 20 min at 350F.  Be sure to make a big batch so you have some extras for lunches.  One normal size package of ground beef usually makes enough for 2 extra lunches for us.

Chilli
I’m not going to post a chilli recipe as there are tons out there and I’m sure you have one you like.  We vary ours a little each time we make it anyways.  But this is a great, high protein, satisfying lunch that you can prepare and throw in the slow cooker.  Make as big of a batch as will fit in your slow cooker and freeze the extras.

Taco Chicken Bowls
Another Pinterest recipe that I love.  Here’s the link.
It’s a slow cooker recipe that takes about 5min to throw together.  Chicken breasts, salsa, a few spices and you’re done.
I’ll usually make some rice to go with it….makes it go a little further for lunches.  So yummy!

Taco Salad
Again, I don’t have a set recipe for this, but here goes…
Brown some ground beef while adding some taco spices (I just add chilli powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, and garlic powder to taste.  Much better for you than the prepackaged store bough stuff).
Shred some iceberg lettuce in a bowl.  Add in whatever veggies you like in taco salad….I like peppers, green onion, celery, and cilantro.  Crush up some tortilla chips, add in some cheese, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.   Stir and eat!
For your lunch the next day separate the chips so they don’t get soggy, hamburger so that you can reheat it, and wet stuff (salsa, sour cream, guac).  Basically leave only the veggies together.

Basically anything you make for supper the day before you should try to double it so that you leave yourself leftovers for work the next day, or something quick for supper that next night if you didn’t plan ahead.

Feel free to comment and share some recipes you like to have for work lunches.

WATER WATER WATER!

DRINK MORE WATER!  How many times a day/week/month do you hear that?  Have you ever tried to drink as much water as “they” recommend in a day?  How did you feel (other than having to pee all the time?!)?

Dieticians of Canada recommend 3L of water for men and 2L of water for women PER DAY! That is a TON of water.  Now, they do state this can come from milk, juice, etc. but also state that water is the best choice.

How on earth can you possibly get even close to that recommended amount?  Here are a few ideas:
1. Drink a glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning.
2. Keep a water bottle with you at all times during the day and sip on it continuously (at work, in the car, at home, at the gym).
3. Have a glass of water with each meal.
4. Make it taste good (if you don’t like the taste of plain water).  Add fresh foods like lemons, strawberries, mint, cucumber, limes, etc…the possibilities are endless.  One of my favourites is mint and cucumber, it’s so refreshing!  Try to stay away from other additions to your water (Crystal Light powders, squeezable squirter things, etc)…they add unnecessary crap (like sugar).  And it goes without saying that pop doesn’t count toward your water intake!
5.  Add (or subtract) ice!  I HATE warm water.  So I bought myself a really awesome, large, water bottle that keeps ice and my water cold all day long…even in the summer.
6.  If you are really bad at remembering to drink water….there’s an app for that!  There are actually apps out there that will set an alert to remind you to drink water.

Yes, you will have to pee more!  But I guarantee you’ll feel better!   Less headaches, less craving those not so healthy foods, better digestion, less UTIs (if you’re prone to them), the list is endless.
It should also go without saying that the more active you are, or the more you are sweating, the more water you need to consume (on top of the 2-3 L that is recommended).

Happy water drinking!

 

References:

Dieticians of Canada:
http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Water/Why-is-water-so-important-for-my-body—Know-when-.aspx

 

What motivates you?

I bet many of you struggle to maintain motivation to eat healthy, be consistently physically active, and many other healthy lifestyle struggles.

As a Peer Fitness Trainer, I have recently started trying out a few challenges with some of my coworkers that I can tell want to make some changes in their lives.  These challenges are still fairly recent and new, but so far they are appearing to be quite successful and a lot of fun for both myself and the person achieving them (way to go to those people who’ve successfully completed one of my challenges!).

But, it’s got me wondering…why do people need some sort of challenge from an external source (i.e. me) to hold them accountable for their actions?  Why isn’t the internal motivation of “I want to be healthier” or “I want to feel better” or “I want my pants to fit better” enough?

I definitely don’t know the answer, but I do know that external motivation is the key factor in a lot of people achieving their health and wellness goals (myself included).  Think about it…people sign up for a fitness class with a friend.  Why?  Because they know they will keep each other accountable and actually attend the classes.  People sign up for group sports for the same reason…accountability.  Money can also be a motivating factor….if I’m spending all this $$$ on these classes I better actually attend the classes.  Weight loss groups work in a similar way…being held accountable to the group, or the weigh ins, or the inches lost, etc, etc, etc.

I don’t care what motivates you, but you HAVE to find that person or reason to get yourself going!!  Here are some suggestions for keeping yourself motivated and accountable:

  1. Find a buddy!  This would be my #1 recommendation!  Find a friend who has the same interests as you (whether it’s fitness or nutrition) and hold each other accountable at all times.  Start a FB group, or text message group and talk as often as you need to in order to stay on track.
  2. Ensure your goals are SMART:
    S:  Specific.  “I’m going to walk 30min a day 3x a week” vs. “I’m going to walk more”
    M: Measurable.  “Eat at least 4 servings of vegetables a day” vs. “Eat more veggies”
    A: Achievable.  If you hate running, do NOT make a goal that you are going to run!
    R: Realistic.  “I’m going to do yoga 5x a week and run 3x a week and play soccer 4x a week…as well as work full time, spend time with your family, etc”.  That is definitely not a realistic goal in my world!
    T: Time.  There has to be a deadline.  For example…my first SMART goals I made with my coworkers had a deadline.  Once that deadline hits I made contact with them to see how they did (and also contacted them through their challenge to see how it was going, and made them aware that they could contact me at any time).  And, it allowed us to make new SMART goals with a new deadline.
  3. You have to want to make a change.  Be honest with yourself.  If you have no ambition or desire to make the change (no matter what it is or how big or small it is) it won’t be successful.  Everyone wants to be healthier or fitter or look better in a bathing suit, but if you aren’t serious about it it’s not going to work.  You just have to think a little harder about a more achievable or SMART goal that you actually want to accomplish and can be successful at.
  4. This one fits in with the “T” of SMART goals….but make sure your goal has a deadline.  Training towards something will also help you be successful.  Some examples…a run (there’s tons of races around Saskatchewan and area in the summer!), a physical test (our PFT test, a hiring physical, etc), your wedding, someone else’s wedding, a certain birthday/anniversary, etc, etc, etc.  Having that end goal is often huge for people!

I can blabber on all I want about how to get motivated, but unless you find that thing that gets you started all this talk is just talk!  I just hope one of my suggestions will sink in and help one of you!

Please comment and share with me what motivates you!  I’d love to hear it!

Front Label Trickery

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http://www.theexercisepro.com

I would bet you have seen some of these health claims (& likely many others) on food labels of items you’ve bought.  And I’d bet that you have been suckered in to buying items based on these claims…I’ll admit that I have.

Here are some truths behind some of the common health claims you’ll see on food labels in Canada…

“Calorie Free” – less than 5 calories per serving size.  The “per serving size” is the catch here…you then have to look at the nutrition label to see how big the serving size is.  The serving size may only be ¼ or less of the actual size you’ll eat at a time.

“Low calorie” – 40 calories per serving size.  Same catch as above…you have to check the serving size.

“Reduced calorie or fat or sodium ” – the food is processed or otherwise modified so that it contains at least 25% less calories/fat/sodium than the regular version.

“Fat-free, Non-fat, etc” – less than 0.5g per serving size.

“Low fat” – less than 3g of fat per serving size.

“Lean” (as in ‘lean ground beef’) – contains 10% fat or less.

“Extra lean” (as in ‘extra lean ground beef’) – contains 7.5% fat or less.

“No saturated fat” and “Trans fat free” – less than 0.2g of saturated fatty acids or trans fats per serving size.

“Low in saturated fat” – less than 2g of saturated fatty acids per serving size.

“Cholesterol free” – less than 2mg of cholesterol per serving size.

“Low cholesterol” – less than 20mg of cholesterol per serving size.

“Sodium free” – less than 5mg of sodium per serving size.

“Low in sodium” – 140mg or less of sodium per serving size.

“Sugar free” – less than 0.5g of sugars per serving size.

“No added sugar” – no added sugar, and no ingredients that contain added sugars. (“unsweetened” falls under this category as well).

“Source of fibre” – contains 2g or more of fibre per serving size.

“High source of fibre” – contains 4g or more of fibre per serving size.

Any vitamin or mineral that claims it’s a “source of” – contains >5% recommended daily intake (RDI) of that item.

“Good source of” or “High in” a vitamin or mineral – contains >15% RDI of that item.

“Excellent source of” a vitamin or mineral – contains >25% RDI of that item.

“Fortified” or “Enriched” – usually means the food has been altered or processed.

“Natural” – the manufacturer started with a natural source, however once processed it usually doesn’t resemble anything natural.

“Organic” – trust only “certified organically grown” if you want true organic foods.

“Made with wheat, multigrain, etc” – doesn’t tell you how much whole grains are in the product.  Look for 100% whole grain products.
The list is long, but all items in the list are similar and misleading.  You MUST check the serving size as there are no regulations on this (meaning, the manufacturer can make the serving size ridiculously small and then include a health claim from the list above).  You also need to be aware of what “high in” or “low in” means in regards to fats and nutrients.  Zero does not mean zero in the world of health claims!

And as I said in the previous post…it is best to choose items with no ingredient list when possible (whole foods), or choose items with a small ingredient list and items you can pronounce!

References:

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/nutrient-content/eng/1389905941652/1389905991605

http://www.freedieting.com/food_labels.htm