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

 

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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!

Using Apps to improve health and fitness

It’s amazing how many apps there are for anything and everything you can think of!  It can be a little overwhelming trying to decide which one to try and also time consuming trying out a few different apps before you find the one that works for you.

I’ve tried a few apps for both nutrition and fitness, and I thought I’d share the ones that have worked well for me.  Most of them are free.  Please comment and share any apps that you have found that work for you!

Lose It!  Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.05.10 (Free)

This is a great food tracking app no matter what you are tracking…strictly counting your macros, wanting to watch your calories, lose weight, etc.  I found that this app easier to use than a couple other food tracking apps.  They have a good pre-made list of foods and common foods from restaurants.  You can also add your own recipes and it will calculate the nutrition information from that (for example, I’ve added the Meatza recipe that I shared with you awhile back).   It saves the foods you eat often (i.e. coffee with cream, or 6″ portion of cucumbers on a Subway sub) so they are easy for you to add.  I didn’t use the app for this, but you can also include your exercise which would probably be helpful if you were trying to lose weight.

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Map My Run (Free)  

I like this app for tracking distance.  I was recently involved in a challenge where we had to track our kilometres (can also track distance in miles) and this app worked fantastic.  You can pick your exercise…running inside/outside, biking, walking, stairs, etc.  It will show a map of your route, monitor total kms, show your pace.  You can also connect this app to tracking devices such as a FitBit.  This developer has other apps (I haven’t tried them) such as ‘Map My Fitness’ and ‘Map My Hike’.  I would assume they would be similar to this app.

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Bit Timer (Free)

This timer is very versatile but very simple to use.  There are 3 options…1) Choose your work time 2) Choose your rest time 3) Choose how many rounds.  The numbers are nice and big on your phone screen for easy viewing.  This app works best for interval training.  The ‘work time’ only goes up to 4min, but you can do up to 20 rounds.

Pinterest (Free)Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.45.33

I’m not sure if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard of, or used, Pinterest…but this app is great for everything!  You can search for specific recipes (i.e. gluten free meals, sugar free muffins, pork dishes, etc).  You can also search for workouts (i.e. Crossfit, yoga, leg workouts, etc).  The possibilities are endless…inspirational quotes, meal plans, meals that fit into your macro plans, on and on.

InstagramScreen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.52.18

You can follow inspirational people on Instagram, also follow nutritionists who post recipes for food, fitness enthusiasts who post workouts, etc.

 

 

FacebookScreen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.51.51

Facebook is similar to Instagram as far as how to use the app for health and fitness.  There are millions of people to follow and pages to like with so much fitness and nutrition information.  You can find lots of local fitness opportunities (most fitness pages where you live will advertise events on Facebook).

 

Again, please share some of your favourite apps…I’d like to find some new ones that can help keep me on track as well!

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.

So you want to be a healthier shift worker?

Of course we all want to be healthier!  Anyone who works shift work knows that we have a higher risk of almost everything (disease, earlier death, etc).  So why would anyone choose a job where shift work is the norm?!  Because we LOVE it and are passionate about it!  So, what can you do to try and minimize the risks?  I have a few ideas, some of which I’ve discussed in previous blog posts but are worth mentioning again because they are just that important!

  1. SLEEP!  Sleep is so so so important!  Not just after your day shifts and night shifts, but every single time you sleep!  You need to strive for 8 hours or as close to it as possible.  I discussed some nights shift sleep tips in this blog post.
  2. FOOD!  You need to eat real, whole foods and stay away from packaged foods that are full of sugar and other garbage!  See this blog post about sugar, and this blog post about reading food labels.
  3. WATER!  Everyone needs to drink lots and lots of water in a day.  I know you’ll need to pee lots, and that sometimes this is not a great thing on a busy shift as a Paramedic (unless you want to have to use your patient’s bathroom!).  So, just drink as much as you can!  No, Red Bull and coffee and pop don’t count!  Here’s a few tips to help you drink more water.
  4. STRETCH!  Even just for 5-10 minutes a day.  Before shift, during shift, after shift, at home, whenever!  I wrote about a few on duty stretches that are easy to do in uniform here.
  5. EXERCISE!  I don’t care what you do, just get out and move!  Run, walk, ride your bike, go to a class at a gym, sign up for a community association program (bonus…these are usually cheaper than at a gym!), anything!  Find something you enjoy doing and/or find a buddy to do it with you!  You’ll help keep each other accountable!
  6. LAUGH!  I hope you work somewhere as fun as I do and can laugh a TON with your fabulous co-workers!  Find some fun friends outside of work that you can have a blast with as well!  Go to a funny movie, anything that will make you laugh!  It truly is the best medicine!

None of these are new ideas, and I know you’ve all heard them before.  But maybe this is the one time you’ll take one of the suggestions to heart and change something in your lifestyle.

Feel free to share any tips you have to become a healthier Medic!

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