Category Archives: Diet

Get great diet tips & simple healthy recipes

The Relationship Between Artificial Sweeteners & Weightloss

artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are attractive alternatives to sugar because they add no calories to the diet.  Well, they add no calories to the diet at the time they are being ingested.  What goes on days, weeks, and months following artificial sweetener consumption (or addiction) though? Can extra calories be packed on then?

If you’re drinking zero calorie, artificially sweetened drinks everyday, sure calories aren’t coming from those diet cokes, but how are those diet cokes influencing other eating/drinking decisions you make? How are they affecting your brain? Are they giving you any nutritional benefit whatsoever?

Typically found in products marked “sugar-free” or “diet___,” the following are the most commonly used artificial sweeteners:

  • Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) 
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Saccharin (Sweet & Low)
  • Acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Sunnett)

If weightloss is your goal, maybe think twice next time you go for one of these…

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola,  research has repeatedly shown that “no cal” or “low cal” sweeteners are anything but good for weight loss.  Instead, studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can

  • stimulate appetite
  • increase carb cravings
  • stimulate fat storage & weight gain

According to Ryan Andrews, these artificial sweeteners stimulate overeating by enhancing appetite and/or disrupting learned associations between sweet taste & caloric density of food.  We get used to the extra sweet tastes (NOTE: aspartame exceeds table sugar sweetness by 200 times!). This is why & how diet sodas and other artificially sweetened foods & beverages can deter us from the enjoyment of unprocessed, natural foods.  

If your goal is to better your diet and/or change your lifestyle and nutrition habits, your best bet is to always go for all natural foods.  That would be fresh fruits, vegetables, and natural sugars.  Eliminate the processed junk.  When choosing food & drinks, think about if that food or drink actually will do something to improve your health.  Although it hasn’t been “proven” that diet sodas or other artificially sweetened foods are the final blow to one’s health status, we do know that it’s not going to do much to improve our health.  With that being said, it’s probably not the best idea & there are plenty of healthier options out there for you to choose from.

So rather than spending your money on artificially sweetened foods and drinks, spend it on quality foods and drinks.  Your body will thank you!

References:

“All About Diet Soda’s”  by Ryan Andrews via Precision Nutrition

“Artificial Sweeteners Cause Greater Weight Gain than Sugars, Yet Another Study Reveals” by Dr. Joseph Mercola

” Artificial Sweeteners & Other Sugar Substitutes” Mayo Clinic

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Cranberries

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As kids I’m sure we all had our share of  “nightmare-ish” encounters with brussels sprouts.  I know I did.  However, recently after having them again for the first time in a LONG time…I’m hooked!  The nutritional benefits of brussels sprouts are tremendous and this recipe is delicious so I’m begging you, give them another chance.

Nutritional Benefits

For starters, a half a cup of brussels sprouts contains only 30 calories.  Unlike most vegetables, brussels sprouts are rather high in protein (2g per 1/2 cup), accounting for more than a quarter of their calories.  This is an incomplete protein source (meaning it doesn’t provide the full spectrum of essential amino acids), but adding the proper whole grains could make this a complete protein.

More good news:

There’s less than 1 gram of fat in a serving, as well as 3-5 grams of fiber per cup.  In other words, brussels sprouts will fill you up rather than fill you out!

Did I mention that they’re also loaded in vitamin A, folacin, potassium, & calcium? 

Hopefully that’s enough to persuade you to give brussels sprouts another try…

What You Need:

1 pound Brussels sprouts (approx.)

1/3 cup Dried cranberries

1/3 cup Quinoa

Olive Oil

Salt

What To Do: 

Heat oven to 400 degrees & saute’ a skillet on medium-high heat, using olive oil.  Slice brussell sprouts in halves, adding them to the pan flat side face down. Leave here until  brussell sprouts appear slightly charred then remove and place on baking sheet.  Add salt to taste, and toss in the oven for roughly 15 minutes.  Add quinoa & dried fruit & mix, serve & ENJOY!

… I think you’ll be happy you gave brussels sprouts another try.

Note: Try adding dried, tart cherries, apricots, or any other dried fruit your heart desires if you want to mix it up a bit.

Protein: How Much & Why?

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How much protein should we be eating each meal?

Most of the time, the numbers you hear are 20-30 grams of protein/meal.  

Have you  also heard that consuming anything more than 20-30 grams in a meal is actually a “waste?”

Whether you have or not, let’s explore why it may or may not be a waste.

The following 2 studies show that consuming more than 20-30g of protein had no greater result in maximizing protein synthesis within subjects:

“The first study showed that when college-aged weight trainers drink 0g, 5g, 10g, 20g, or 40g of protein after weight training sessions, muscle protein synthesis is stimulated maximally at the 20g dose. No further increases in muscle protein synthesis occurred at the 40g dose.”

“The second study showed that when young and elderly volunteers were given 30 or 90g of dietary protein in a single meal, the 30g dose maximally stimulated muscle protein synthesis. No further increases in muscle protein synthesis occurred at the 90g dose.” 

As mentioned before, both of these studies showed that at 20-30g of protein/meal, protein synthesis is maximally stimulated.  Is this the only reason we eat protein though?  Or are there other benefits to consuming a diet rich in protein besides just protein synthesis?

ADDITIONAL PROTEIN BENEFITS:

Increased thermic effect of feeding (TEF): TEF is the amount of energy expenditure that comes from the cost of processing food for use and storage in our bodies.  The thermic effect of protein is roughly double that of carbohydrates & fat.  This means that eating protein may lead to a higher metabolic rate.

Improved weight loss profile: reducing carbohydrate ratio can increase fat loss, spare muscle mass, improve satiety & improve blood glucose management.

Reduction in cardiovascular risk: “Increasing the percentage of protein in the diet from (11-23%) while decreasing the percentage of carbohydrate (from 63-48%) lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and triglyceride concentrations  with concomitant increases in HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) concentrations.”

Increased protein turnover: Tissues in our body (including muscle), all must go through a regular program of turnover. A balance between protein breakdown & protein synthesis (build-up) governs protein turnover.  A diet with adequate protein amounts helps aid in getting rid of old muscle more quickly so that we are able to build up new, better quality muscle to take its place.

In no way, shape, or form am I pushing you to start a high protein diet. More so, I just want to bring awareness to how much protein we should be consuming during each meal and what the benefits of that would be.  Even though studies have shown that protein synthesis is only maximized within the 20-30g/protein range, we can still gain these other benefits to consuming more.  Therefore, it is perfectly fine to consume more than 20-30g/meal.

Remember, when it comes to diet & exercise,  what works for 1 person may not work for the next.  A marathoner isn’t going to have the same diet as a bodybuilder.  Do what works for you & your body with reap the results & thank you in the process!

References:

Protein 101: How much with each meal;  John Berardi

Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men ; Moore DR, Robinson MJ, Fry JL, Tang JE, Glover El, Wilkinson SB, Prior T, Tamopolsky MA, Phillips SM

A moderate serving of high-quality protein maximally stimulates skeletal muscle protein synthesis in young elderly and subjects; Symons TB, Sheffield-Moore M, Wolfe RR, Paddon-Jones D.

Frozen Banana Bites

frozen banana bites

Always being on the hunt for a sweet, but still healthy snack, I stumbled across this recipe fitting that description all but perfectly.

These make a great snack for anytime you’re needing that taste of something sweet.  They’re great because they’re bite-size (so just control the portion!) and very simple to make.

What you need: 

5 medium ripe bananas

1tbsp. peanut butter

2oz. nonfat vanilla greek yogurt

What to do: 

Peel 1 banana & mash it with the peanut butter and yogurt. 

Peel the other 4 bananas, slicing them into half-inch thick slices.  

Smear the banana, peanut butter & yogurt mixture on the banana slices and top with the other halves making banana sandwiches.  

Place on plate & freeze for 2 hours.  

It doesn’t get any easier than that! Enjoy! : )

Note: they taste pretty great before freezing too!

Vegan Burgers too Delicious to Resist

Although I’m not vegan, I will say I do enjoy eating vegan here & there.  Therefore, regardless if you are vegan or not, if you enjoy eating healthy, I HIGHLY SUGGEST you try making these burgers.  You won’t be disappointed.

What you need:

  • 15oz can of black beans, dried & rinsed
  • 3 sweet potates, cubed (skin on)
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 large garlic gloves (finely minced)
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 6 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Let’s get cooking:

Once you finish cooking the quinoa & sweet potatoes, preheat the oven to 375 degrees

  • Mash half of the black beans in a bowl until paste-like, then add in the rest & give a light stir/mash to combine
  • In a large bowl, mash the sweet potato (each cube should be mashed, but not creamy)
  • Stir in the salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, coriander, chili powder, cayenne & olive oil to potato bowl
  • Mix in onion, garlic, corn, black beans, quinoa, sunflower seeds & oats until combined
  • Form patties (roughly 1/2-3/4 inches thick) …should make about 8 patties
  • Place each patty on a lightly greased pan & bake on each side for 15 minutes
  • Remove from oven & serve (I like using sesame Ezekial bread as a bun) …garnish to taste as well!

 

From dinner to breakfast…

You’ll surely have leftovers so why not carry this healthy dinner onto breakfast?

Heat 1 vegan burger on a skillet on medium heat

Crack 2 eggs in a bowl, add in a splash of almond milk, & mix

Combine into skillet with vegan burger until eggs are scrambled in with the burger & enjoy!

Happy, healthy, eating! : )

Create a Balance Between Water & Electrolyte Levels to Avoid Dehydration

With it being summer in Chicago, it’s hard not to want to spend every waking moment outside.  The beaches are full of Chicagoans trying to soak up as much vitamin D as possible, many spending hours in the sand playing volleyball, as well as many just lounging in the parks.  Regardless of the time of day, the bike paths are always full of riders, runners, and walkers.  While this weather may be giving you that extra incentive to get outside and get active, just make sure you are staying properly hydrated as dehydration is very likely to occur when the weather gets this hot.

dehydration: the loss of fluid from the body

In this case, the concentration of the body’s electrolytes are extremely affected resulting in major fluid imbalances.  Sodium & potassium are the electrolytes in our bodies that are most commonly talked about.  When we exercise, we sweat, resulting in a loss of sodium & potassium.  A muscle contraction needs calcium, sodium & potassium to be present.  If these levels are low as a result of dehydration, muscle contractions will be weakened. In order to maintain normal electrolyte balance, these electrolytes need to be replenished.  Fresh fruits & veggies are typically great sources of electrolytes as well as electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks.

Good sources of potassium include

  • bananas
  • apricots
  • grapes
  • cantaloupe
  • berries
  • avocado

Good sources of sodium include

  • bell peppers
  • celery
  • sweet potatoes
  • pineapple
  • cantaloupe

If you are dehydrated or have some type of fluid/electrolyte imbalance & are aware of your body you may feel some or all of the following symptoms…

  • dry mouth, lips
  • dizziness, fatigue
  • increased core body temperature
  • increased heart rate
  • decreased urine output
  • darkened urine

Drinking water is very important, but it’s also very important to realize that too much water with too few electrolytes can also impair body function & performance.

When choosing food/drinks to aid in replenishing electrolytes, be smart.  By this, I mean don’t rush to the store & buy as much gatorade as you can possibly stock up on.  For most people, I would suggest replenishing the body with more fresh fruits & vegetables (some of the ones mentioned above would be a great start) and lower calorie electrolyte enhanced drinks.

For example, gatorade is high in calories, as well as sugar… if weight loss is your goal & you are watching calories, I would suggest you opt for a calorie free electrolyte enhancer such as Nuun. These are light flavored tablets that you can toss in your water, let dissolve & drink.  What I love most about them is that they contain no sugars or carbs & taste amazing.

In addition, if you can tolerate the taste (I’ll be honest, I can’t), coconut water would also work as a great substitute to your higher calorie higher sugar content electrolyte drink.  Coconut water has a high potassium & mineral content, as well as no fat & low amounts of carbohydrates & calories.

There are tons of ways to replenish your electrolytes & create a better fluid balance in your body…eating fresh fruits, veggies & consuming electrolyte enhanced drinks are just a few examples. 

Now get outside, get active, but be sure to stay hydrated! : )

Blueberry-Mango Quinoa Salad

Alright so you’ve made the quinoa energy bites, right?  Here’s another quick, easy, & healthy quinoa recipe for you to try.  One of my girlfriends and I made it for dinner last night & after the first bite I was positive it would be a repeat dish! Give it a try…

What You Need:

1/2 cup quinoa

1 chicken breast

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup ripe mangoes

1/2 cup cubed cucumbers

1 tablespoon dried cranberries

Dressing:

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice (used a whole lemon for more flavor)

10 basil leaves, finely chopped

Dash of salt & pepper
Let’s get cookin’ :

Bring 1/2 cup of quinoa & 1 cup of water to a boil, then cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes (or until quinoa is fully cooked).  While the quinoa is cooking, toss all fruit in a bowl.  Whisk together all the dressing ingredients, adding the basil last (or right before you plan to serve).  Once the quinoa is done cooking, combine it in a large bowl with the fruits & cucumbers, drizzling the lemon-basil dressing on top.  Mix the ingredients and dressing together & voilà, you’ve got yourself a tasty, healthy lunch/dinner!

Enjoy! : )