Currently one-third of Americans believe they should be cutting down on gluten in their diet (based on research from NPD Group, a market research firm). However, is going gluten free the answer for everyone?
Eliminating Gluten for Celiac Disease
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley. For some individuals who are afflicted with celiac disease (about 1 percent of the population), this means their small intestine becomes inflamed when they eat these foods, which can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, lactose intolerance, joint pain, migraines, and many other symptoms. For them, eliminating gluten in their diet is key to alleviating these ailments. Currently this is the only cure for the disease.
Other individuals might be experiencing gluten intolerance. This means they do not test positive for the disease but could still suffer from some of the symptoms associated with celiac disease. For this population, gluten elimination is an option also, but this is not the same condition as celiac disease.
Gluten-Free and Weight Loss
A growing number of people have been eliminating gluten due to the promise of weight loss on this diet. The reason for the weight loss is due to the removal of a lot of products that are typically high in calories such as baked goods, bread, and pasta. The elimination of gluten does cut down dramatically on the number of calories that a typical person might consume in a day.
However, when eliminating these grains, individuals could potentially decrease the fiber in their diet, which we know is a necessity for Americans to help control weight and decrease the risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Also, if people are substituting gluten-free products, they are typically just as high in calories, fat, and sugar as the regular counterparts, so weight loss is not always a guarantee. In addition, these products normally cost two to three times as much.
Alternatives to Going Completely Gluten Free
A gluten-free diet is very restrictive and can be extremely challenging to follow. Instead, focus on reducing the intake of foods containing gluten instead of eliminating them. Also, try to incorporate more foods that are naturally gluten free: fruits and vegetables!
There are many ways in which you can achieve a healthy lifestyle without restricting yourself and going on the gluten-free diet.
It's that time for another season of candy! Actually, none of these candies would be considered healthy, but some of them are definitely better than others. Plus, with all things, it is important to keep in mind the importance of moderation, even when digging through your Easter basket. Here is a rundown of some of the most popular Easter candy choices and what you would have to do in order to burn them off.*
2 Dark Chocolate-Covered Peeps: 110 calories
How to burn it off: Walking for 30 minutes at 3 mph
4 Peeps: 128 calories
How to burn it off: Low-impact aerobics for 25 minutes
35 jelly beans: 140 calories
How to burn it off: Raking the lawn for 30 minutes
1 Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg: 180 calories
How to burn it off: Jumping jacks for 20 minutes
10 Cadbury Mini Eggs: 158 calories
How to burn it off: Ballroom dancing for 30 minutes
1 Cadbury Creme Egg: 150 calories
How to burn it off: Golfing while walking and pulling clubs for 30 minutes
7-oz. solid chocolate bunny: 1,100 calories
How to burn it off: Playing full-court basketball for 2 hours
6-oz. hollow chocolate bunny: 858 calories
How to burn it off: Running at a 10 min/mile pace for 90 minutes
*Calculations based on a 150-pound person.
Enjoy some of these once-a-year treats, but be aware that they should be included in an overall balanced diet. Try to make these goodies last much longer than just Easter Sunday!
When it comes to the kids, feel free to add some non-candy treats to your child’s Easter basket this year, such as a jump rope, plastic eggs filled with change, or a stuffed bunny. Make these items the focal point of the basket instead of the candy.
A Coca-Cola protein shake? Seriously? You’re telling me the manufacturer of a soft drink (that can clean the gunk off a car battery, mind you) has invested in something that’s actually beneficial for me to drink? Never did I think I would see something like this.
For those who have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, the Coca-Cola Company has partnered with Fair Oaks Farm Brands to assist in the branding and distribution of a protein shake called Core Power. No, it is not Coca-Cola flavored. It’s vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry, and so on, just like the other protein shakes out there (and honey-flavored, which I found interesting). I personally tried the vanilla flavor. One word: delicious! And why wouldn’t it be? Coke’s primary objective is to make its products taste good. Well, they have succeeded once again in supporting this new drink.
But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty here: it's the nutritional information that really counts. Generally speaking, Core Power is not too far off the mark. However, these five things stuck out to me when learning about this drink:
- Taste: We already know…delicious.
- Protein: It’s a protein drink. Of course this tops the list of things to look at. Compared to the protein shake I normally drink (which shall remain under anonymity), it has only about half as much protein. We’re not off to a good start.
- Sugar: Protein shakes are not always known to have the best taste, so a little sugar to sweeten things up isn’t the end of the world if it’s going to help you drink it consistently. However, Core Power has a huge serving of sugar. In one 11.5-ounce bottle, there are 26 grams of sugar, compared to the 2 to 3 grams I get with my normal shake.
- Carbohydrates: Although it’s not as bad as the sugar, the carb count is much higher in this shake than in comparable serving sizes of other brands.
- Protein: I know, I already mentioned protein, but this is a different topic concerning protein. I’m not denying the fact that there are 26 grams of protein per serving. However, I wanted to point out that I don’t think it’s necessarily “good” protein. Under the ingredients, I don’t see the words “whey” or “casein” anywhere. These can often be signs of a quality protein shake. Not that the protein included in Core Power is negative, it’s just not quite as beneficial as other types.
In conclusion, I unfortunately will have to give Core Power a sad thumbs-down. It just tastes so good, though. It’s like an ice cream shake (see my comments on the sugar above). Perhaps it could be a good “gateway” protein for those new protein users out there. It will get them started on protein consumption, but then they can lean toward using the more beneficial versions once they get their routine down. Sometimes you gotta do whatever works.
It’s Valentine’s Day… the chocolate lover’s favorite holiday! With boxes of chocolate at home and bowls of goodies at the worksite, you can’t help but indulge. You’ve heard it all before: dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate, everything in moderation, and so on, but is one really better for employee health than the other? Let’s divvy up the facts before we divvy up the chocolate.
We know that chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean, but where do the health benefits come from?
- Antioxidants: A high concentration of antioxidants has been proven to come from the cocoa bean. These chemicals aid the body in eliminating free radicals that promote disease and cause damage to the cells in your body.
- Flavonoids: Epicatechin, which is found in the cocoa bean, helps to improve cardiovascular function by improving blood circulation and relaxation of the blood vessels, which in turn helps to improve blood pressure. A chocolate a day just might keep the heart doctor away!
So what is the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate contains little to no extra sugar and a larger quantity of cocoa (60 percent or more). This increases the amount of flavonoids; therefore, there are more antioxidants present. Since milk chocolate contains milk, along with added sugar, the flavonoids are at lower levels due to a possible interaction with milk. This leaves dark chocolate healthier. By choosing dark chocolate, you can also reduce the risk of blood clots, improve your mood, and help lower cholesterol levels.
It’s recommended that you choose chocolate that is at least 60 percent cocoa and consume only one ounce per day, which is equivalent to about one piece of Dove chocolate or 2 Dark Hershey Kisses. Forget the white chocolate; it contains no cocoa, so it provides no antioxidants for the body.
As hard as it might be, consume chocolate in moderation and don’t overindulge.
With all this chocolate talk, what chocolate treat do you prefer on this chocolate lover’s holiday? Leave a comment on our blog or visit the NIFS Fitness Management Facebook page and take our poll.
Can switching to organic foods make a difference to employee health and nutrition? There are many claims about the benefits of organic foods. Unfortunately, the current research is equivocal regarding the validity of these claims.
There are medical, environmental, and financial factors to consider when deciding whether to go organic. Consider the following pros and cons.
PROS of Organic Foods:
- Pesticides are not used in organic foods; natural compounds are used instead. Many health risks, such as cancer, are associated with pesticide use.
- Organic foods must meet many USDA qualifications before they can be marketed as organic.
- Use of organic compounds on animals means that they are not fed antibiotics or growth hormones and that they are fed organic food.
CONS of Organic Foods:
- The downside to organic is that these foods tend to be more expensive. This can lead to a difficult decision in the grocery store between apples that look the same but vary in price.
- Organic produce may spoil faster than fruits and vegetables sprayed with pesticides. Because they don’t have the wax-like coverings on them, they can go bad more quickly. Products that have the wax coverings should be labeled, indicating that a product was used to increase shelf life and decrease the occurrence of disease.
Other things to keep in mind when purchasing your food:
- If certified organic, the food will have the USDA certified organic sticker on it.
- Food must be at least 70 percent organic to be able to have the USDA certification.
- Natural means that there aren’t any artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself what is best for your family, lifestyle, and checkbook.
One of my favorite holiday traditions is making fabulous treats for friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Entire days are spent baking in the kitchen and the best part (after sampling the treats first hand) is hearing how great everything tastes. Little do they know that with just a few simple tweaks, those holiday cookies and candy can be dramatically lower in fat and calories. Here are a few easy substitutions to try:
- Reduce - Many recipes call for an amount of sugar or fat well above the amount needed for taste and texture. Try reducing these ingredients by 1⁄3 or 1⁄2 when making your recipe. By using non-stick pans and cooking spray, you can reduce the oil or butter on baking sheets and pans.
- Substitute! There are healthier alternatives to use without compromising taste. Give the following substitutions a try.
- Eggs - For every egg, use 2 egg whites or 1⁄4 cup egg substitute. Scramblers or Eggbeaters can be found in the dairy/egg section of the grocery store. You can also make your own version of egg substitute: 6 egg whites, 1⁄4 cup nonfat dry milk, 1 tsp. oil, and 6 drops of yellow food coloring. Refrigerate for up to one week.
- Whipped Cream -Make your own! Beat together 1⁄4 cup ice water and 1⁄4 cup non-fat milk powder until thick. Add 1⁄4 tsp. vanilla, 2 tsp. lemon juice and 1⁄4 cup sugar. Another option is vanilla non-fat yogurt.
- Baking Chocolate - Use 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder for every ounce of baking chocolate.
- Applesauce - Rather than using all of the oil, margarine or butter in baked goods, substitute a portion with applesauce. For example, instead of 1⁄4 cup oil, use 2 Tbsp. of oil and 2 Tbsp. of applesauce. The applesauce provides moisture, but you still have the benefits of the fat in the oil and save 23 calories and 28 grams of fat!
- Prunes - For your best baked chocolate recipes, try baby food prunes as a fat replacement. They retain moisture and add to the color. Substitute the same amount as in the recipe, or try replacing with a portion of the prunes.
Whatever you decide to bake or eat this holiday season, just remember moderation. Enjoy 1 or 2 cookies, not the whole batch!! Happy holidays and happy baking!
I actually witnessed my brother order a large hamburger with a fried egg on top. It was like Man v. Food! I’m pretty sure that’s not what they are talking about when I read articles about eggs helping you lose weight.
I love eggs, so it’s easy for me to eat those most mornings and even other times of the day. There are many benefits to eating eggs throughout the day. Some like to eat them late at night or throw a hardboiled egg on their salad. But eating eggs in the morning for breakfast is the way to go!
Eggs Are a Healthy and Nutritious Choice
Eggs are packed full of nutrients. They are high in protein, which helps you to feel full longer. Eating eggs for breakfast can also help you to eat a smaller lunch. Eggs are a very low-carb food, and have only roughly 85 calories per egg (depending on the size). I think it’s a myth about the yolk being unhealthy. A lot of protein and nutrients are found in the center. So, quit separating and eat the whole thing!
Boost Wellness with the Inexpensive, Versatile Egg
In addition to the health benefits, there are other great things about eating eggs. Eggs are inexpensive and can be stored in the fridge for long periods of time. They don’t take much time to cook, and can be cooked several different ways to help with variety.
Try these different options: omelet, sunny-side-up, scrambled, hardboiled, or poached. I like to make breakfast wraps with scrambled eggs, hot sauce, and a little bit of cheese. I also like to eat egg sandwiches using English muffins, or cut up some fresh vegetables for omelets.
There are lots of good ways to eat eggs, so get creative and have fun with it! Your body will reap the benefits. You can also talk with your corporate fitness center staff about other healthy options for breakfast.
This is definitely my favorite time of year: football, cooler weather, and the return of all things apples and pumpkin! Not only are they chock-full of healthy goodness, but they are also delicious!
Health Benefits of Apples
The old quote “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” could not be more correct. Apples are loaded with fiber (a typical tennis-ball-sized piece has 4 filling grams of fiber), which helps to keep you satisfied. Apples are also high in immune-boosting Vitamin C.
One recent study found that eating apples was linked to a lower incidence of death from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Another surprising benefit of apples is that they may boost your endurance during a workout. The antioxidant quercetin makes oxygen more available in the lungs, and one study showed individuals who had this antioxidant prior to a workout were able to cycle longer.
Health Benefits of Pumpkins
Pumpkins have just as much to brag about as apples. Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, which is essential for boosting your immune system, vision health, and bone health. You also get a significant amount of potassium from pumpkin. This helps keep your fluid and mineral balance regulated, which helps with heart function. That bright orange color from pumpkin means it is high in the antioxidant beta carotene. This means it is heart protective and can help lower your risk for heart disease. Finally, just like apples, pumpkin is loaded with fiber. Each 1 cup of pureed pumpkin has 7 grams—1/3 of your daily needs!
I like to use pureed, canned pumpkin as a fat replacer in cake mixes, brownies, and muffin mixes. Just substitute the same amount of pumpkin for the amount of oil called for in recipes and enjoy a lower-fat and nutritious treat!
Recipes for Employee Health
Try these delicious recipes for making the most of fall apples and pumpkin.
Baked Cinnamon Apples
4 large baking apples, such as Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash apples. Remove cores to 1/2 inch from the bottom of the apples. Make the holes about 3/4 to 1 inch wide.
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and pecans.
- Place apples in an 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking dish. Stuff each apple with this mixture. Top each with a dot of butter (1/4 Tbsp).
- Add boiling water to the baking pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until tender but not mushy. Remove from the oven and enjoy! Serves 4.
Calories: 230; Fat: 8 grams; Fiber: 6 grams
Recipe adapted from http://www.simplyrecipes.com
3 cups cold, fat-free milk
2 pkg. (1.5 oz.) vanilla flavor fat-free, sugar-free instant pudding
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 cup thawed fat-free whipped topping
Beat milk and pudding mix in medium bowl and whisk for 2 min.
Blend in pumpkin and spice.
Stir in whipped topping.
Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Makes 12, 1/2-cup servings.
Calories: 60; Total Protein: 3 grams; Total Fat: 1 gram
Recipe adapted from http://www.kraftfoods.com.
Enjoy these fabulous fall super foods while they are plentiful! For more information, please contact me at email@example.com.
When I saw the Consumer Reports article a few weeks ago about them finding high levels of arsenic in rice, my first thought was, “surely they were wrong!” However, after researching it a little further, all of the evidence points to the sad truth that one of our cheapest, quickest, and most popular grains to eat and prepare may be dangerous.
I found this interesting article from the Chicago Tribune that gives tips on how to reduce the arsenic levels in rice. The following excerpt shows what the article suggests you do:
Rinse your rice thoroughly. The FDA cites several studies indicating that "thoroughly rinsing rice until the water is clear (four to six changes of water) reduced the total arsenic content by up to approximately 25-30 percent."
Check your municipal water report. "Make sure your local water supply does not have high levels of arsenic," says John Duxbury of Cornell University, who studies arsenic and rice. "If you do have high levels, washing can make it worse. But if you are under 10 parts per billion, it should help."
Cook and drain your rice sort of like pasta. "We say to use about 6 parts water to 1 part rice," says Michael Hansen, a senior staff scientist at Consumer Reports. "And then drain off the water after it's done." The FDA says that studies show rinsing and cooking in excess water can reduce total arsenic levels by 50 to 60 percent. "However, it should be noted that for enriched rice, rinsing will also likely reduce the amount of added nutrients," the agency said.
Choose aromatic rices. For those who are already fans of Indian basmati or Thai jasmine rices, the news is not so bad. According to the hundreds of recently released test results, aromatic rice varieties show the lowest levels of inorganic arsenic. Imported basmati and jasmine rices showed about half to one-eighth the level of arsenic as regular rices grown in the Southern U.S.
Consider limiting brown rice consumption. From a nutritional and fiber standpoint, brown rice is tops, but because its bran remains intact it can also hold on to higher levels of arsenic, according to test results. Are the nutritional benefits worth the arsenic load? Hard to say at this point. But some test results indicate that brown rice from California and India have [sic] much lower levels of arsenic than brown rice from Southern U.S. states. For now, they may be the best choice.
Choose California. Of the domestic rices tested by Consumer Reports, California rices had lower levels of arsenic than those in other states. FDA rice results also indicated that some U.S. rice had lower levels of arsenic, but the data it released to the public did not specify states of origin.
Be careful when feeding babies rice cereal and rice milk. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office conducted tests of rice cereals for babies that she announced all contained inorganic arsenic. Gerber recently released a statement announcing it now sources its baby cereal rice only from California. Still Consumer Reports advises that children do not drink rice milk and that infant rice cereal (1/4 cup) be served no more than once a day.
Hopefully by following some of these tips and suggestions, we can all feel more confident in consuming this tasty whole grain. More research is currently being done on this topic, so until the conclusion is released, try to rotate other whole grains such as quinoa, barley, couscous, and whole-wheat pasta into your diet and choose rice less often.
Reading food labels just became a little bit trickier! If you've gotten into the habit of studying the labels of your favorite foods for nutrition information, here's something else to include: produce stickers. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, and nuts generally bear stickers with special codes that tell the checkout person how much the food costs. But these labels also provide important information about where the produce came from. Here's what to look for:
- Four-digit code number: These types of codes, which usually start with a 3 or a 4, mean that the food was conventionally grown and may have been exposed to different chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides.
- Five-digit code number beginning with an 8: A code like this tells you that the item has been genetically modified, which means technology has altered its genes. This is done for a variety of purposes, such as boosting immunity to insects, producing a bigger crop, making items appear bigger or tastier, etc. The safety of this practice is debated.
- Five-digit code number beginning with a 9: An item bearing this type of code is organic. If you're looking for your safest bet in terms of avoiding chemicals, this is it.
Wondering when you should splurge for organic? When it comes to peaches, peppers, celery, berries, leafy greens, apples, cherries, and grapes, organic is best. However, foods such as sweet corn, avocados, onions, pineapples, watermelon, mangoes, asparagus, cantaloupe, and kiwi tend to be cleaner even when conventionally grown.
Next time you’re in the grocery store, put your knowledge to the test to see what type of produce offerings it provides!