Morning Health Mistakes You Might Be Making

It seems like every blogger, influencer, & self-help author has some morning habit that you simply MUST adopt to become the healthiest version of you. And that advice is put out there with the best intentions. But are these habits truly all they’re cracked up to be? Here are some popular morning habit mistakes that you could be making.

1. Going overboard with your smoothie

Smoothies can be a great option for breakfast on-the-go and for getting some added fruits and veggies in. But it is very easy for that smoothie to get out of control. Excessive fruit and fats and servings that are too large are very common pitfalls. Another issue is making your smoothie too thin to be satisfying so you become ravenous later and derail your healthy diet.

Instead: Keep your smoothies to just 1 cup of fruit, add some veggies, and keep your portions on the smaller end of things.

2. Skipping breakfast

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day because it provides you with the nutrients you need to get your day going at your best and can help keep your body’s cortisol levels (“stress hormone”) closer to their normal range. Studies have also shown that people who eat breakfast are more likely to weight less than people who skip it because it helps keep your hunger more manageable throughout the day.

Instead: If you’re not a breakfast person, try to just have something small but healthy to hold you over until you can have something more substantial. Some almonds or a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter are good options.

3. Taking a something-is-better-than-nothing mentality towards breakfast

While whether or not you eat breakfast is important, WHAT you eat for breakfast is just as important. Starting your day with a sugary donut is going to spike your blood sugar levels and it won’t keep you feeling full for very long.

Instead: Focus on eating whole foods that are high in fiber and protein. This will keep you feeling full longer.

4. Reaching for some juice

It’s made from fruit, so it must be good for you, right? Not so fast. Juice is fruit without the fiber. So, yes, you’re getting some of those nutrients, but you’re also drinking a big glass of sugar with no fiber to buffer it. That can add up to blood sugar issues and weight gain over time.

Instead: Have some water and put some fruit in it to infuse it with the flavor, like lemon, lime, or berries.

5. Having a bowl of “healthy” cereal

Here’s the thing about cereal, most options have too much sugar and not enough fiber and protein in them to be worth it.

Instead: Try some oatmeal (unflavored) with plain yogurt and fruit instead.

The Truth about Juice Cleanses and Detoxes

Juice cleanses and detox programs are still all the rage – with nearly every holistic company pushing one and even local cafes creating their own. They claim they can help you lose weight, rid your body of toxins, restore your pH, give you more energy and help you sleep better, make you stop craving junk food – the list goes on and on. But are these (often really expensive) programs all they’re cracked up to be?

The short answer is “no.” Living off of juice for a week is not going to result in any lasting improvements to your help. On the contrary, it could actually do more harm than good.

The Problem with Cleanses and Detoxes

The first issue with juice cleanses is that they’re juice. When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you eliminate all of the fiber in that plant. That leaves you with very little if anything to buffer against all of the sugar in it. Essentially, you’re drinking straight sugar with some vitamins and minerals added to it. Subsisting off of this alone and not balancing it with food containing protein and fiber can result in unhealthy spikes in your blood sugar that stress your body out. Sustained high levels of your body’s stress hormone, cortisol, have been linked to a host of health problems, not to mention retention of abdominal fat. Add to this the fact that, since juice does not satisfy hunger,  you are likely to over consume it when you’re already taking in far more sugar in a glass of orange juice than is in one orange.

Another factor that makes these cleanses more of a problem than a solution is the impact they could have on your metabolism. While restricting calories in the very short term might make you drop a few pounds, over time severely restricting calories for a week or on and off again over time can slow down your metabolism, making it even harder to lose weight. Not to mention, many people will overcompensate by overeating once they are back on regular foods again, making them gain back what they may have lost and then some. I bet they didn’t advertise that on the box.

The final nail in the coffin for juice cleanses and detox programs should be that they are completely unnecessary and there is no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. Your body already has a highly-efficient detoxification system built in. Your body is not a swamp full of toxins. You do not need to starve yourself for a week to help support your body’s detoxification system. On the contrary, doing so can deprive your body of the nutrition and energy it needs to do its cleanup job.

So What Should You Do?

If you truly want to support the health of your body and keep it as toxin-free as possible, eat an organic, plant-based, whole foods diet. Eat lots of plants, drink lots of water, avoid pre-packaged, processed foods, and, when you do eat meat, make sure it is clean, quality meat not treated with all kinds of antibiotics and hormones. Doing this will give your body the right kind of fuel it needs to support ongoing health.

 

 

Product Review: Simply Lite Sugar Free Dark Chocolate

A sweet tooth is one of the biggest struggles I see with people who are trying to lose weight or eat healthier. Dark chocolate carries several health benefits but many of them are lost or cancelled out when lots of sugar is added to the products. Now, I typically steer well clear of anything labeled “sugar-free” because I don’t do artificial chemical sweeteners, but I picked this up and saw that it contained none so I figured I would give it a try to see if it could be an alternative for chocolate lovers.

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How is it sugar-free?

Rather than sweetening this product with sugar, Simply Natural Foods sweetens the chocolate bar with sugar alcohols, maltitol specifically. Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar because they cannot be easily absorbed by your body. Maltitol in particular contains about half the calories of sugar but has a higher glycemic index than other sugar alternatives but a lower GI than sugar.  Therefore, it’s important not to overeat foods containing sugar alcohols and diabetics may want to consult with their physician on such products. Another factor that may persuade you to consume sugar alcohols in moderation is that they very often can have a laxative effect due to their poor absorption rate. In fact, the label on these chocolate bars contains an advisory to that effect.

How Do Simply Lite Bars Compare to Others?

I was curious about just how much of a difference there was between this and other comparable bars. So I put together a chart of other bars with similar cacao proportions and calculated each out to a 25 gram serving.

simply lite 100 cal 15g carbs 0g sugars

As you can see, Simply Lite indeed contains fewer calories (but not a lot fewer) but slightly more carbohydrates than other bars. The product label includes a net carb calculation that subtracts both the grams of fiber (3) and the carbs from the maltitol (11) from the total carb count, leaving 1 g of net carbs. It states that they subtract maltitol’s carbs from the total because “its conversion requires little or no insulin and does not cause an appreciable increase in serum glucose levels”. As stated above, it is true that maltitol bears a significantly lower glycemic index than sugar, but it is important for diabetics to take into account their total carbohydrate consumption. However, for those watching carbs as part of their diet (keto, South Beach, what-have-you), the net carb count is helpful.

Flavor and Texture

I didn’t dislike the flavor of the Simply Lite bar but it was obviously different from a sugar-sweetened bar. Ever so slightly less sweet perhaps? Hard to put my finger on but my thought was “meh”. It doesn’t have a chemically taste though, which is nice. The texture is on the drier, more crumbly side than other bars. It reminded me a little bit of the texture of Mexican stone ground chocolate. It lacks that creamy, satisfying mouth feel that other chocolates have but part of that is due to the cacao concentration – the more cacao, the less creamy and the more bitter.

Inulin

One of the ingredients listed on this product is inulin, a vegetable fiber that is commonly added to processed foods to increase their fiber content. This may be why Simply Lite’s fiber content was slightly higher than that of other chocolate bars. This higher fiber content also lowers the net carbs and glycemic impact of the food. One thing to note about this ingredient is that overeating it can also cause some gastrointestinal upset, including gas, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.

In Conclusion

While this bar may be an alternative for those with a sweet tooth who are looking to cut down their sugar intake, there are several trade-offs made with Simply Lite’s chocolate bar. With two ingredients known to cause gastrointestinal upset when consumed too much, it’s important to limit your consumption of this product, unless you don’t mind some extra time in the bathroom. The taste and texture are definitely not the same as “the real thing” so some may not be big fans of this alternative. My final verdict on this is that I would rather buy regular dark chocolate and make sure that I’m enjoying it in small amounts.

Are Condiments Freebies?

We pay so much attention to the big things that we’re eating that very often we don’t even think about what we are putting on that food. Condiments are a really wonderful thing. They can add a new dimension to a food, complete the flavor profile, or cover up an otherwise unpalatable dish…like that time I forgot I was cooking chicken. Just like they add so much to our food, these sauces and dips can add to our waistlines as well. So what should you look out for when it comes to condiments?

Sugar

Many of our favorite sauces and toppings in the Standard American Diet contain a lot of sugar. Well, let me rephrase that – it might not seem like a lot in one serving as listed on the label, but, let’s face it, no one is sticking to that small serving size (new regulations yet to be enacted by the FDA will require serving sizes to be based on what people actually eat). Major sugar offenders include ketchup, barbecue sauce, and reduced and low fat salad dressings. Salad dressings in particular are sneaky because most taste savory; remember, when they take the fat out, they take out some flavor and texture that they have to make up for and they do that most frequently with sugar. Other more obvious offenders include sweet and sour sauce, duck sauce, and honey mustard sauce.

Sodium

Sodium is another concerning factor in many of our favorite condiments. Soy sauce is a fairly obvious one with it’s very salty taste. Ketchup is another big offender in this category. In general, Americans greatly overconsume sodium. It’s added into almost everything and then we top it with more. One tbsp of ketchup has 6% of your Daily Value of sodium in it. That may not seem like much, but, chances are, you’re eating more than one tbsp and that will be on top of salted french fries or a burger with salty cheese or salt mixed into the meat and before you know it you’ve reached your Daily Value quota in one meal.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are the unhealthiest fats in our diet and they have horrible effects on our health. Trans fats do not occur naturally – they are manmade and our bodies do not process them like other fats. Because of this, they contribute to decreased cognitive function, increased LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels, decreased HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels, increased abdominal fat, and an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Type II diabetes.  Salad dressings are the major culprits for containing these harmful additives.

Under current FDA regulations, if a food contains less than 1/2 a gram of trans fat per serving, food manufacturers can put a label on it that says “0 G Trans Fat” so you can’t make an assessment based on that. In order to ensure you are not consuming trans fats, make sure that you read the ingredients label carefully – if you see the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated,” then you will know the food contains trans fats and you should find an alternative.

So Then What Should I Eat?

My food philosophy is all about balance so I’m not going to tell you that you should never eat ketchup again – that would be impractical and…well, cruel. The only exception to this would be the condiments containing trans fats – just go out and find an alternative to those.

What I am going to recommend to you is to monitor your serving size. Literally, pull out a measuring spoon and measure out a tbsp of ketchup. If you eyeball it you will over serve yourself (obviously if there is no measuring spoon on hand then eyeball it).

Also, keep in mind that you have no control over or insight into what is in the dressings or sauces they serve you in a restaurant and those meals are frequently overdressed. To avoid an overload, always order your salad dressings and sauces on the side. You will be shocked at how much less you use and yet you’ll still get the flavor you’re looking for.

Substitutions

  • Salad dressing replace with Olive Oil and Vinegar
    • Avoid all of the sugar and trans fats by just making your own dressing with olive oil and vinegar – it is literally the healthiest thing you can put on your salad
  • Ketchup/Mayonnaise replace with Mustard
  • Store-bought mayonnaise replace with homemade
    • Store bought mayonnaise is almost always loaded with processed oils and preservatives. You can avoid all of this by making your own. Mayonnaise is super easy to make, all you need is eggs, dijon, lemon, vinegar, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a blender or whisk. Boom. Mayo.
  • Soy sauce/Sweet and sour sauce replace with a drizzle of sesame oil
    • It’s a different flavor but sesame oil is delicious and is a very healthy fat. Because of the high levels of unsaturated fats in it, though, it should be used as a finishing oil rather than being cooked or heated.

 

Some Moo-sings on Milks (see what I did there?)

Twenty years ago, you never would have guessed that milk would be a polarizing issue, but, here we are. The moo milk and the no moo fans are just as vehement that theirs is the right side of the issue and it can lead to some major confusion about which is actually healthier. If you’re in that boat, I’m here to break it down for you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an almond milk drinker but not because I think it’s healthier than dairy milk or that dairy milk is bad for you. I just have never liked the taste of cow’s milk – in fact, getting me to drink my milk as a kid was a losing battle for my parents at 9/10 family dinners. Cheese, however, is a totally different story.

So let’s talk about the pros and cons of each type of milk.

Nut Milks

If you are lactose intolerant or sensitive to lactose, then nut milks are a great substitute for the moo. However, they are not a bastion of health as some would lead you to believe. Most store-bought nut milks contain both natural and chemical emulsifiers and there are concerns that those emulsifiers may harm our gut health and contribute to obesity.  In terms of nutrition, you’re really not getting much from nut milks. They are not a significant source of protein or fat; however, they do contain more calcium than cow’s milk. You may also find nut milks fortified with vitamins and minerals (such as Silk), but on their own, nut milks do not contain as much Vitamin A and Iron as dairy milks do. If you’re watching your calorie count, nut milks may be a good option for you since they are less calorie-dense than cow’s milk. Obviously, however, if you have a nut allergy you should avoid nut milks.

Soy Milk

Unlike nut milks, soy milk is a significant source of protein with just about the same as dairy milk. However, unlike moo milk and nut milks, soy milk is a good source of folate. One of my primary concerns with soy milk is the fact that most of the soy in the US is genetically modified, so if you are buying soy milk or any soy products, make sure that they are non-GMO certified or organic.

The greatest pitfall that nut and soy milks have is that they come in a number of sweetened flavors and people often buy these thinking they are doing something healthy for themselves. Just one serving of a sweetened vanilla almond milk contains 16 grams of sugar! If you are going to buy non-dairy milks, it is important to make sure that you are buying the plain, unsweetened variety. If it doesn’t say “unsweetened” on the label, then it’s sweetened and, if you’re not sure, check the ingredients list. (Note: sugar will appear in the nutrition facts in dairy milk, but that is the naturally-occurring lactose, not added sugar. You can confirm this by reading the ingredients).

Cow’s Milk

Unless you are lactose intolerant, cow’s milk is a solid option with some caveats. It is important to buy organic milk to avoid ingesting hormones or antibiotics passed on from treated cows. It is also important to select a low or reduced fat variety, particularly for adults, because it is high in saturated fats. Cow’s milk is a good source of calcium (though not the best) and it is high in protein. It also contains Iron and Vitamin A. So cow’s milk is not the unhealthy sludge it’s often made out to be (and to those who say it’s not natural to drink milk because no other animals drink another animal’s milk, I say imagine what society would be like if we based everything on what other animals do!)

So that’s the scoop on milk. As a heath coach, I can say there are pros and cons to each and it really depends on what works for you. Quite frankly, it’s time we stop policing what other people choose to consume so don’t be bullied into a milk you don’t want.