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Dining After Dark- Healthy Ways to Control Your Late Night Snacking

                Dining after dinner seems to be getting a bad rap for those trying to watch their waistline. Late night snacking is often associated with weight gain because there is not enough time to burn off the extra calories before bed, and is thought of as a sure diet sabotage. Evening eating can occur for many reasons. Some people do not feel that they have time during the day to eat, and consume the majority of their calories at night. For others, an evening snack is a way to relax after a long day. Some are just plain hungry after dinner.

                However, evening snacks are not guaranteed to pack on the pounds. Weight gain, loss, or maintenance depends on energy balance in the body. When more calories are consumed than burned, weight gain occurs. When more calories are burned than consumed, weight loss occurs. Eating at certain times of the day (such as breakfast) can affect some aspects of weight, but overall caloric consumption when you go to bed has one of the greatest effects on the scale. This does not mean you should fill your entire calorie bank at the end of the day, because this may have a negative effect on your metabolism from your body running on empty all day.

                If you love your evening snack after dinner, you don’t have to deprive yourself. Planning and adjusting your late night bite to fit in your caloric budget can help you stay on track. By planning to have an evening snack, you may help yourself feel like you are in control of your diet, and you can savor what makes you happy. However, if you feel like you are not in control of your eating, or you are eating to the point of pain or purging, seeing a psychiatrist or other professional who specializes in emotional eating or eating disorders may be necessary.

A small 150-200 calorie snack can include a variety of foods that can satisfy your pallet as well as your waistline. Some healthy and tasty foods that won’t disrupt your diet include:

  • 100 calorie pack of your favorite snack, plus one fist sized piece or cup of fruit or vegetables
  • 1 cup of a 120 calorie cereal with skim milk and a Clementine
  • ½  cup of low calorie, slow churned ice cream or frozen yogurt with a squirt of chocolate syrup and a dab of whipped cream
  • 130 calories of whole grain crackers and 1 piece of low fat string cheese

                Remember, late night snacking is not always a bad thing. Having something to look forward to at the end of the day is great, and by adjusting your snack to fit your caloric budget, you can enjoy your evening munchies without the side of guilt.

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The Basics of Breakfast

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard since you were a small child. From the time we are young, we are taught that breakfast is important for revving up metabolism, improving mood, helping with weight maintenance, and making better choices throughout the day. Yet despite numerous scientific studies and research, some people still need a little encouragement for eating breakfast.

If breakfast is such a miracle meal, why aren’t more people consuming it? And if they are, why aren’t they losing weight? Some people simply don’t like breakfast, or can’t stomach the idea of food first thing in the morning. Others don’t have time, and some people plain just don’t know what to eat.

More people are learning the importance of eating a healthy breakfast, and know that it is better to choose whole grain cereal over a doughnut. But sometimes it’s not so simple as choose this, not that. 

Breakfast is defined as the first meal of the day, eaten in the morning. So if a person rises at 8:00am and has the first meal at 11:00am, that is technically still breakfast. But if eating breakfast helps your metabolism return to normal, how long can you go without breakfast before you missed your chance for a stable metabolic rate? If you’re not hungry, should you wait until you are? Should breakfast be the most calorically dense meal of the day, or should it be about the same size as the rest of your meals? Is it better to eat a doughnut than nothing at all?

The reason breakfast is so important is because your body is always using energy. Even when you sleep your body is still active and using energy, but glycogen from your liver and energy from body-fat stores keeps cells active. When you wake up in the morning, your body has been using these sources of energy throughout the night and your liver glycogen needs to be replenished. When you wake up and you do not feel hungry, it is because your body has entered a state of ketosis, due to the depleted glycogen stores in the liver. (Source: http://health.msn.com/healthy-living/how-much-food-counts-as-breakfast accessed 3/9/12). For this reason, it is better to eat a doughnut for breakfast than nothing at all. However, a doughnut is not an ideal breakfast and should not be consumed daily.

There is no set amount of time for how long your body can go before you’ve missed the metabolic boat, but eating sooner rather than later is more beneficial in the long run, especially if your evening fast began right after dinner. As for breakfast being the most calorically dense meal of the day, there is evidence that “reverse nutrition”, meaning breakfast being your largest meal of the day, can result in a greater weight loss. (Source: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/tdjuly2007pg48.shtml). However, it is more important to be mindful of your eating habits in general, focusing on eating healthy and nutritious foods rather than calories.


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Thinking of Going Gluten Free? Why you should, or shouldn’t

New weight loss diets and healthy food trends are a big part of Hollywood. Diets such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, and Quicktrim are some of the well-known diets advertised by some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities. Other celebrities simply encourage trends, such as veganism or a vegetarian diet, a detox diet, or an organic diet, just to name a few. Gluten free seems to be a newer diet trend, with celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Zoey Deschanel endorsing a gluten-free lifestyle.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley (includes malt), rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), and is commonly found in bread products. It can also be found in soups, salad dressings, and beer. Gluten free has been deemed a healthy diet because it eliminates a lot of processed foods, and encourages the consumption of more natural and whole foods.

For some, a gluten-free diet may seem like a healthy way to lose weight. For others, it is a necessity for health. Celiac’s disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine. People with Celiac’s disease have a gluten intolerance that causes damage and inflammation to the small intestine. People with Celiac’s disease absolutely need to avoid gluten, or risk intestinal damage and other health problems like nutrient deficiency.

Celiac’s disease has not always been recognized as a disease in everyone, but doctor’s are finding that more and more people are gluten intolerant. Because of the gluten-free diet trend, as well as the increase in cases of Celiac’s disease, there is becoming an abundance of gluten-free bagels, breads, cereals, crackers, cakes, waffles, and more. For those who have a gluten intolernace or a gluten sensitivity, this is good news. However, the news is not as good for people who are following a gluten-free diet for weight loss.

Because gluten provides flavor to the foods it is naturally found in, removing the gluten also removes the signature taste that many people love in bread products. In order to add more flavor back, some gluten-free foods are higher in fat, sodium, and calories. They can also be more expensive.

Not everyone who has a gluten sensitivity has Celiac’s disease, so if you think that reducing or eliminating gluten in your diet will help your body feel better, going gluten-free is something you should consider. However, if you are reducing or eliminating gluten simply to lose weight, you may want to reconsider your approach to weight loss.

Symptoms of Celiac’s disease include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas. Because it is an autoimmune disease, there can be other symptoms such as skin rashes, headaches, and fatigue. If you think you have Celiac’s disease or any gluten sensitivity or intolerance, make an appointment to see your doctor. For a list of foods to avoid if you are following a gluten-free diet, visit  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gluten-free-diet/my01140.





Happy National Nutrition Month!

For those of you who don’t know, March is National Nutrition Month. National Nutrition Month (NNM) is a campagin sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), formally the American Dietetics Association (ADA). NNM is an annual campagin that features a theme to help you make healthier food choices. Last year’s theme was Eat Right, With Color and this year’s theme is Get Your Plate In Shape!

You may be aware that the infamous food pyramid, which later became MyPyramid, has been discontinued. Many people found the pyramid too difficult to follow due to the abundance of different information that was tailored to fit a variety of needs. MyPlate was introduced last year, and is helpful for visualizing portions of nutritious foods that should be on your plate for each meal. Half of your plate should contain fruits and vegetables, and the other half grains and protein. There is also a spot for dairy products. Protein includes meat, as well as eggs, and vegetarian substitutes, such as legumes and soy. Dairy can include milk products, or calcium fortified non- cows milk products such as soy milk or almond milk.

So how can you get your plate in shape for each meal? Even if you are not eating your meal on a plate, see how well your meal matches up with the plate’s suggestions. Is half your meal vegetables and fruit, and half grains and protein?

Breakfast is an easy meal to include grains, fruit, and dairy in. But what about vegetables? Most people don’t have salads or veggie sticks with their cereal, but adding diced vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, and peppers into eggs can be a great way to include this group. If you’re on the go, bring a bottle of low sodium vegetable juice with you. Or make a fruit smoothie and throw in some spinach or kale leaves. The possibilities are endless!

If you would like more information on NNM, visit www.eatright.org

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