Ballpark Nutrition

Dave & I watched Michigan State play the University of Michigan this weekend in baseball. We left after the 7th inning even though the score was 7-7. MSU ended up winning in the 13th inning. I forgot how slow baseball games could be! Something that amazed me was how much money the guy in front of me spent on food from the concession stands. He had two sons with him that looked about 9 or 10 years old and during the course of the game they bought 3 slices of pizza ($7.50), cracker jacks ($4), three sodas ($7.50), and two nachos with cheese ($6). They spent $25 just on food, and that was at a college baseball game! Dave’s been talking about going to see the Detroit Tigers play sometime this summer and it made me wonder how much money some families or individuals drop with even higher concession prices.

Aside from being overpriced, there really aren’t many healthy choices to choose from at games. That soft pretzel and cheese won’t do much to curb your hunger but it will put a dent in your wallet and calorie consumption. If you’ve budgeted for food & beverage expenses, it may also help to know what your not-good, better, and best choices are at the concession stand.

Regular hot dog with mustard: 290 calories
2 Tbsp sauerkraut adds 5-10 more calories, 2 Tbsp ketchup adds 30 more calories, 2 Tbsp relish adds 40 calories. It all adds up, especially if you get the foot long hot dog!

Super Nachos & Cheese (40 chips, 4oz cheese): >1,500 calories
AH! You’re better off going with a 6 oz serving of French fries for 500 calories

8 oz bag of peanuts: 840 calories
Peanuts do contain heart healthy (monounsaturated) fats and other vitamins & minerals, so it could be a healthy choice if split with a friend

5.5 oz soft pretzel: 400 calories
The 8 ounce pretzels can pack about 700 calories. Calories from cheese is not included. Mustard is a low calorie condiment & would be a better choice in this case.

3.5 oz bag of Cracker Jacks: 420 calories
Cracker Jacks are basically candy-coated popcorn with some nuts thrown in with the mix. You’d be better off getting plain peanuts.

Bag of Cotton candy: 210 calories
Low calorie option, but not filling at all and no nutrients included

Slice of Pizza: 435 calories
Stadium pizza is usually a little bigger than a typical slice, usually 1/6 of a 16-inch pie versus 1/8.

20-ounce draft beer: 240 calories
Get a light draft and save 60 calories. Or just limit yourself to one or two and drink water the rest of the game.

Other tips for the game:

  • Not many ballparks will allow you to bring outside food or beverages in the stadium, so my first suggestion would be to not go to a game hungry. Having an early lunch before the game can help prevent spontaneous purchases for items.
  • Sneak a piece of fruit in your jacket or bag or your own Ziploc with home made trail mix (nuts, seeds, dried fruit, chocolate chips!)
  • Split snacks
  • Don’t get caught by the $0.60 more for the bigger size; it saves you $0.60 but can cost you hundreds of calories
  • Be mindful while you eat. If you’re focused on the game, you might not be focusing on your food and may consume more than you’d like and you really didn’t even get to enjoy it.
  • Some stadiums offer healthier options like frozen bananas, salads, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, frozen yogurt, and fruit smoothies.

Are you going to a baseball game this summer?


Are all calories created equal?

When talking to clients who want to lose weight, one of the biggest things I push is choosing foods that are nutrient dense. If your body needs 1800 calories per day to maintain weight, you could just eat 18 100-calorie snack packs…but are all calories created equal? And would those snack packs be enough to fill you up? When it comes to managing weight, there are the basic rules:

calories in > calories out = weight gain
calories in < calories out = weight loss
calories in = calories out = weight maintenance

However, if you want to get optimal nutrition that your body desires, making a few small changes can provide the nutrients you need while leaving you satisfied and not starved. The following is part of the employee wellness campaign going on at the hospital I work for. The examples really help to explain what nutrient density looks like- getting the biggest nutrition-bang for your buck (or calorie in this case). I hope they blow your mind.

“Many people try to eat less when losing weight, when they could choose to simply eat differently. There’s no need to skimp on portions, or to feel like you’re not eating enough. In fact, if you do, a rebound might be just around the corner. When we focus on eating less, we trick our bodies into thinking we need to store the food for later, and we fool our mind by telling it our change is temporary. Instead, we can simply replace some of our high calorie foods with better choices. It’s a sustainable change, and one that won’t leave us feeling empty or reaching for that cookie jar.

The list below shows just how many calories are in the food we choose to eat. It’s easy to see how a few small changes can leave us feeling full and satisfied, while still keeping our calories in check.”

This food choice Contains this much energy And is equal in calories to
A 2oz handful of gummy bears 200 calories A four pound watermelon
A Bacon Double Cheeseburger 980 calories A 6 oz chicken breast
4 cups of cauliflower
1 cup steamed broccoli
1 baked potato
1 tsp butter or margarine
2tbsp bacon bits
3 cups salad
3tbsp light dressing
1 cup of fresh strawberries
¼ cup low fat whipped topping
8oz cup of skimmed milk
Two slices Cheese Pizza 600 calories 3 cups chicken noodle soup
2 slices of toasted oatmeal bread
2 oz low fat turkey or ham
2 tbsp low fat sandwich spread
2 slices tomato
2 cups side salad
2tbsp light dressing
1 large iced cappuccino 460 calories 1 grande regular coffee with cream and low cal sweetener
2 slices toasted oatmeal bread
2 slices low fat ham
2tbsp low fat mayo or mustard
2 slices tomato
4 slices dill pickle
2 small raspberry biscotti
1 apple
2 oz bag of potato chips 320 calories 7 cups popcorn
Large water – calorie free goodness

Can you think of other foods that could be swapped for something(s) greater?

March is National Nutrition Month

And what better time to talk about it than 3 days before it’s over?! Just because National Nutrition Month is coming to an end doesn’t mean  April through February can’t be nutrition months too. I found a bunch of nutrition tips in an article from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly American Dietetic  Association) and thought I should share them with my readers! I’d love to hear your feedback on these tips, so feel free to answer any or all of my questions:

1. Which tips do you already incorporate into your lifestyle?
2. Which tips do you want to try out?
3. What else would you add to this list?

31 tips and tricks to help you boost your nutrition fitness this month and beyond.

  1. Try one new food today from the fruit group. Fresh, canned, dried or frozen varieties are all fine (but make sure none contain added fat or sugar).
  2. Drink at least 4 to 6 8 ounce cups of plain water. Keep a water bottle on hand that you can refill and be sure to wash thoroughly at day’s end.
  3. Have at least 1 cup of non-starchy, dark green vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, romaine, kale, or spinach, for example).
  4. Have at least 1/2 cup of beans or peas, preferably in a low sodium form.
  5. Have two healthful snacks each day that cover two food groups; examples include one green apple, sliced with 1 tbsp nut butter, or 1/2 cup low fat yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup berries.
  6. Drink at least one or two cups of skim or 1% milk; have it by the glass, in cereal, in coffee, or in recipes.
  7. Limit alcohol to no more than about 100 calories (about 5 ounces of wine, 1-1/2 ounces distilled spirits, or 12 ounces of light beer).
  8. Plan a treat that adds up to 100 calories (two small cookies, or 4 small pieces of chocolate for example).
  9. Leave a few extra bites on your plate at all meals.
  10. Drink all caloric beverages out of an 8 ounce cup ONLY.
  11. Have an ounce of nuts or seeds (preferably raw and unsalted) as part of a snack or meal.
  12. Don’t waste more than one bite on any food that doesn’t taste good (or is not worth the calories).
  13. Have breakfast within an hour or two of waking up; include 1 cup low fat/skim milk, 1/2 ounce nuts/seeds or 1 Tbsp nut butter or 1 egg, and at least one whole grain (oatmeal, whole wheat cereal, whole grain bread or English muffin or pita).
  14. Eat only while sitting down at a table.
  15. Brush teeth/rinse with mouthwash after each meal; floss at least once during the day.
  16. Make a big salad (2 cups worth) with lots of colorful non-starchy vegetables.
  17. Have 4-6 ounces of fish, healthfully prepared (unbreaded, unfried).
  18. Have a 1 ounce equivalent (oz Eq) of whole grains each time you eat. 1 oz Eq = 1 slice of whole wheat bread, 5 small whole grain crackers, 3 cups air-popped popcorn, 1/2 cup whole wheat pasta or brown or wild rice.
  19. Go meatless for the day; incorporate other protein-rich foods like beans, soy foods like tofu or tempeh, low fat dairy foods, and whole grains.
  20. Try one new food today from the vegetable group; opt for something bright in color (bright green, orange, or yellow).
  21. Instead of going out to eat, ordering in, or getting take out, cook or prepare all your food at home for the day.
  22. Have 1 cup of soup. Look for broth- or vegetable-based kinds, preferably with less than 400-500 mg sodium.
  23. To boost fiber, replace your usual 100% fruit juice with 1 cup or a piece of fresh fruit (like a whole orange, apple, or cup of berries or pineapple).
  24. Instead of cooking with salt, try to flavor food with sodium-free herbs and spices.
  25. Instead of having your usual fruit-on-the-bottom or flavored yogurt, go for plain low- or non-fat yogurt (or Greek yogurt) and add 1/2 cup of berries, 1-2 tbsp of nuts, seeds, or dried fruit, or 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce.
  26. Before having your usual bed-time or after dinner treat, ask yourself “Am I really hungry or am I eating this out of habit?” If the answer is no, skip it and instead brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash to end your day of eating.
  27. Instead of a whole sandwich, have only half; balance the meal out with fresh fruit or some grilled or raw veggies.
  28. Turn off all distractions (including your cell phone) at every meal and snack; really focus on your food.
  29. Clean out your refrigerator and freezer (and of course throw away all spoiled or expired food).
  30. Clean out your pantry (throw out all spoiled and expired food).
  31. Think about what you should eat more of, and not what you “shouldn’t” eat.

Chia Seeds: No miracle food, but still a healthy choice

Remember the chia pet, the clay figurines that grew grass-like fur? They used to be a popular item, but fast-forward to today and you’ll find the new trend is to forget the pet and just eat the seeds. With only 50-70 calories in one tablespoon, you also get fiber, heart healthy omega-3s, protective antioxidants, and 27 other nutrients thrown in with the deal. No wonder they’re being promoted as a super food!

The ratio of nutrients in chia seeds is about 44% carbohydrate, 16% protein, and 31% fat. The fats are unsaturated and good for your cardiovascular system, but fat is still fat and should be consumed in moderation. Chia seeds are flavorless, so there is a wide variety of ways to incorporate them into your diet- sprinkle them on a salad, blend them in a smoothie, mix in with rice, sneak into baked goods, stir into your morning oatmeal, tuck them in a casserole…my sister-in-law even put them in Jell-o to make it look polka-dotted. Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds don’t need to be ground to reap the benefits, although that is an option. If you do decide to try chia seeds, I’d recommend getting them as a grocery item, not from the chia pet set since they aren’t approved as food by the FDA.

You’ll see ads promoting chia seeds as a weight loss aid because the seeds absorb water and expand, offering the claim that you feel fuller sooner and will eat less. While there is little evidence for weight loss benefits, it’s still a nutritious food to incorporate into your diet. Chia seeds are a healthy ingredient we can enjoy just like other seeds (flaxseeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds…) but don’t get caught up in the marketing and think this is a cure-all miracle food. The best diet comes from a balanced plate and portion control!

Have you tried chia seeds? What ways do you use them in recipes?

Prevent Weight Gain: Get Some ZZZZs

How many hours of sleep do you get each night? I’d say I get an average of 8 hours of sleep each night because I’ve learned that my body just does not function well if I do not get enough sleep. However, if I go to bed at 10pm, I often don’t actually fall asleep until 11 or sometimes even 12am, so I don’t actually get the full 8 hours if I wake up for work at 6am.

On average, we need about 7.5 hours of sleep each night. Keep in mind quality sleep can help prevent weight gain, but it doesn’t exactly cause weight loss. While you won’t wake up thinner from a night of quality sleep, a lack of it can indirectly cause weight gain for multiple reasons, to name a few:

– You might be tempted to reach for a coffee or two to keep you awake each morning. Unless you like your coffee as is, the extra calories from sugar and cream can add up.
– You may feel too tired to exercise after work and decide to skip it
– You may feel too tired to make dinner after work and decide to get take out instead.

If you’re like Dave (my hubs), you are out cold within 5 minutes of your head hitting the pillow. If you’re like me, you lie awake for a half hour up to an hour wishing you could just fall asleep. I realized that I can’t fall asleep because my mind is usually racing with thoughts or trying to run through what I need to do the next day. I used to write my articles for Budget for Health at night, but I found that I could not turn my brain off afterward. What seems to calm me before bed and help me fall asleep easily are writing out my to-do list for the next day so I can stop thinking about it then journaling praises & prayers for the day and reading a book I’ve picked up from the library (currently reading Reason for God by Tim Keller). It helps me to settle down & turn my brain off for the night so I can get some good rest.

What are some methods you use to ensure a good night of quality sleep?

Say yes to love and no to love handles

Happy Valentine’s Day! We’ve decided to stay in tonight and make that Black Bean Salmon after all. This holiday in particular is near & dear to my heart because my maiden name was Valentine. How cute 🙂 It was a bummer to lose, but I got to trade it in for quite a handsome and godly husband. What is bittersweet about this day is that I can’t walk by one desk at work without seeing a bowl of chocolate and sweets! I have a ridiculous sweet tooth and so does Dave, so how do we share the love without putting on some love handles on this oh-so-sweet Hallmark holiday?

Chew that gum
Bring a pack or two with you and chew it all day long. If someone offers you a sweet, it will be easier to say “no thanks.” You’ll be less likely to mindlessly snack or grab a chocolate or three.

Pack a super healthy lunch
If you’re eating a healthy lunch, you might not want to ruin it with a bunch of extra sweets. You also won’t feel as guilty if you break down and have one (or two).

Take a romantic stroll
After dinner, go for a walk to get your digestive system going. You don’t have to have dinner and your dessert at the same place; you might be too full from dinner to enjoy it anyway.

Walk, walk, walk
Park at the back of parking lots and walk a little further to your destination. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a 5 minute walk during your lunch break. Squeeze in any moment of brisk activity.

Write down your intake
Some people benefit from the accountability of writing down their intake, some don’t. Unless you have a real person holding you accountable, it may help to keep track of what you eat so you can avoid overindulging. I don’t recommend keeping a food log long term because calorie counting and even food logging can take away from our natural ability to listen to our hunger cues and eat what our body needs.

What are some ways you enjoy sweets yet avoid over indulging?

Hide your Veggies

Raise of hands—how many of you eat the recommended number of vegetable servings every day? The recommended servings of vegetables are 3-4 or 4-5 depending on your caloric needs (one serving = ½ cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup raw).

If I asked a room of 100 people this question, recent stats from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention say that only 27 of you would be able to honestly raise their hand.

How to fix this dilemma? Try hiding your veggies. Researchers at Penn State did a small 41-person study on hiding vegetables in food and it produced some interesting results.

How it worked:
The university offered these participants breakfast, lunch, and dinner once a week for 3 weeks. The catch was that pureed vegetables replaced some ingredients in one of the items at each meal- carrot bread for breakfast, macaroni & cheese at lunch, and chicken-and-rice casserole at dinner.

When enough pureed vegetables were added to triple the amount of vegetables in the dish, the calorie content decreased by 15%. When enough were added to increase the veggies by 4.5 times, the calories decreased by 25%.

The results
Participants consumed the same weight of food regardless of the amount of pureed vegetables the dish contained. This means that on days the veggies were tripled, they ate 200 less calories. On days the veggies were multiplied by 4.5, they ate 360 fewer calories.

Try your own study
Play around with some pureed veggies & see if it works for you. If you’re looking for places to hide, here are a few suggestions:

Spaghetti sauce– sauté and then puree peppers, mushrooms, onions or even broccoli & add to your sauce for
Casseroles: Dice carrots, celery, corn, turnips, cabbage, leeks, green beans…what can’t you add to a casserole?
Soups: Puree some cooked carrots & broccoli to add to the broth and then add even more by throwing in some bite size pieces
Smoothies: Add some green leafy vegetables to your fruity smoothie
Pasta: This might be a new idea to you, but you can make your own vegetable noodles and use less real pasta. Use a peeler long ways on a zucchini or carrot and eat raw or boil them for a little bit with your noodles (not too long though or you lose some vitamins). Spaghetti squash is a good alternative too since they’re already noodle-shaped for you!

As for un-pureed vegetables, you can always throw more in a salad, sandwich, wrap, on an omelet or breakfast burrito, or just dip them in some hummus or a light dressing. If you have a salad with your meal, eat it before your entrée and you might not need to finish the entrée. Leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Do you hide your veggies? What methods do you use to eat more vegetables?