Healthy New Year Resolution Tips + KIND bar giveaway!

kind bar giveawayMonth one of twelve has come to an end for 2015.
How are you doing on your new year resolutions?

I just shared my goals for 2015 and while I didn’t make a specific nutrition goal for myself I am always pursuing two goals on a daily basis:

1. Eating real food (no or little ingredient list with REAL food ingredients)
2. Eating the right balance of protein, fat, and carbs every meal and snack.

If you want some practical tips, here are 3 that I agree with and have talked about in various articles I’ve written:

3 Healthy New Year Resolution Tips (provided by KIND)

1. Make Calories Count
It’s important to make your calories count, focusing beyond the number of calories and really looking at the quality of foods you put in your body. Focusing on diet quality can help control your calorie intake and can improve a number of health outcomes.

Main tip: Choose simple, wholesome, nutrient dense foods and snacks made with a balance of healthy fats, protein and fiber, such as KIND bars to improve diet quality. 

2. Embrace (Good) Fat
A new saturated fat study published in Annals of Internal Medicine caused even more unnecessary confusion on the fat debate. Some dietary fats are better than others, but when you cut down on one nutrient, you end up making it up for it with something else – it’s all about finding the right balance.

Main Tip: Stop picking on fat and put emphasis on your food choices as a whole versus one specific nutrient.   

3. Skip the Fad Diets and Focus on Your Needs
“No size fits all” when it comes to all of the diets you hear about in the news. Many have elements that are beneficial, but according to a recent study published in Annual Reviews which reviewed major diets to determine what’s best, found there is no winner.

Main tip: Instead of following trends, focus on a lifestyle that incorporates foods that are close to nature and minimally processed.

KIND Product Review
When I share recipes or provide product reviews on my site, I make sure the recipes include real food ingredients and that I only promote a product I would use myself. I will only give my honest opinion so if there are ingredients I don’t agree with I will make it known. I’ve turned down plenty of product reviews because they don’t align with what I preach here at Budget for Health.

With that said, I was contacted by KIND asking to review some of their bars. I’ll admit that I’ve tried plenty of KIND products before but have probably only bought my own KIND bar once or twice (ever) because it’s cheaper to make my own version and I don’t usually promote bars since sugar is often added. However, if you were stuck in meetings all day and forgot your balanced lunch you packed yourself I would then tell you to reach for either a KIND bar or Larabar if they are options amongst a pile of sugary & processed crap-laden “healthy” bars.

I was given a sample of ten KIND products to review (all bars):

KIND Nuts & Seeds
KIND Fruit & Nuts
KIND Plus

I preferred the KIND Nuts & Spices bars over the other two because they only contain 5 grams of sugar. My two favorite were the dark chocolate nuts & sea salt and the caramel almond & sea salt. The most sugar I saw in the KIND Fruit & Nut or KIND Plus bars was 14 grams. Some of that is due to the natural sugar in the fruit but some bars have added non-GMO glucose, sugar, honey, or maple syrup to sweeten the bar. You wouldn’t believe how crafty some companies are at hiding artificial sweeteners in their product and claiming to sell a natural or healthy product (hello Quest bars?? They contain stevia (ok in my book if it’s real stevia), erythritol (why did they even need to add more than stevia??), and sucralose (please no). To save a rant, I wrote a separate article all about navigating the different types of sugar.

You can learn about all the other KIND products they carry on the KIND website. If you decide you want to try a product out you can get 15% off + FREE shipping by using my promo code KINDNUTRITION through the end of February! With this deal you can get them for roughy $1.18 per bar.

KIND bar Giveaway
Now for the fun part; the KIND bar giveaway!
One lucky winner will be sent a prize package of 10 bars. This giveaway will end by midnight on Tuesday, February 3rd so tell folks about it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this article aside from the KIND bar samples given to review. All opinions are my own. 

Juicing tips

juicing tips

I was recently contacted by Williams-Sonoma to share a Q&A interview regarding my thoughts on juicing. I’m not a big advocate for juicing but if you do decide to juice then I’ll explain the best way to do it in our Q&A interview. I am not compensated for sharing this post and the opinions are my own.

Question 1
It seems that juicing can be very expensive to start out. Buying a juicer then all the ingredients can get pricey. How would you go about starting a juicing journey? Any tips and tricks on how to save money/cut back on spending when purchasing ingredients for your juice?

1. Buy local produce that is in season. Local produce will likely taste better since it didn’t have to be picked before it was ripe in and then travel across the country. I will also be cheaper because, again, it didn’t have to travel across the country.

2. Drink less juice (to clarify, you don’t have to juice less, just drink less of it when you do). That seems like an odd tip to say in a post about juicing but I’ll explain more in question 3.

Question 2
Fresh juice is always the best when your ingredients are fresh. When it comes to storing food whether it’s in a refrigerator or at room temperature, what are some easy tips or tricks that have helped you when storing your fruits or veggies?

Keep foods that ripen other foods separate so they don’t go bad before you get a chance to use them. You may have heard to keep bananas away from apples or to put an apple, banana, or avocado in a brown bag to ripen it quicker. Having this tip in mind will help you store your produce differently. Try displaying your apples on the dining table and your bananas can hang out in the kitchen.

As for greens, a good practice is to get rid of any bad leaves since they can speed up the ripening process. Wash them as soon as you get home and dry them well with a paper towel. Avoid chopping the leaves until you’re ready to use them to prolong their crispness. Wrapping the leaves in a towel and storing them in a plastic bag can help to absorb additional moisture and keep them fresh.

Those are just a couple examples of best storing practices. Some produce are best stored in the fridge and some at room temperature. If you’re not sure of the best way to store a certain fruit or vegetable, a quick Google search can do wonders!

Question 3
When starting a juice journey its hard to know when to juice and when not to juice. Do you recommend using fresh juices as a meal replacement or as a supplement to a meal?

Supplement! NOT as a meal replacement! If you do juice, only make enough for a small serving and do not drink it without enjoying protein and fat on the side. The reason I said to juice less in response to question #1 is because when you juice fruit or vegetables you take away the beneficial fiber and the juice is essentially liquid sugar. Sure it’s naturally occurring sugar from the fruit or vegetables but it’s still sugar and we want to watch our intake. I recommend a combination of protein, fat, and carbs at all meals and snacks. Juice only offers one part of that combination. You do benefit from the vitamins and minerals but the body will still convert the carbs from fruits and vegetables into sugar. Quick, budget friendly options could be a hardboiled egg (protein) and a handful of nuts (fat) or tuna (protein) salad made with real mayo (fat).

There’s also something to be said for chewing your food. It would take me more than 10 minutes to eat 2 large apples and I’d likely feel full after eating one since all that fiber would take up space in my stomach. However, it wouldn’t even take 10 seconds to drink the juice from 2 apples and I’d still be hungry afterward.

In summary, if you do decide to juice then make sure you’re only drinking a small amount, drink it slowly, add a protein and fat on the side, and be sure to get your fiber elsewhere in your diet! If you’d like to learn about the different juicers Williams-Sonoma offers you can check out their juice resource page.

Do you juice? If so, how often do you juice? What’s your favorite combination?

Breakfast on the Farm

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I recently attended an event put on by Michigan State University Extension called Breakfast on the Farm. It was a free event open to the public that allowed families to tour a local farm and see what goes on there. A free breakfast was provided followed by a quick hayride tour of the corn and soybean field. After the hayride was a self-guided walking tour that had informative signs along the way that shared information about the crops and animals on the farm. I had never been to a farm before so I was excited about this opportunity. So was Nora as you can tell. It was fun to go with friends and see everything but unfortunately I didn’t leave with much respect for the direction our culture has gone with processing food and making it sound like a good thing.

Our day started with a free breakfast that included 2 pancakes with a 2 Tbsp packet of syrup, 2 sausage links, the equivalent of 1 scrambled egg, 4 ounces of flavored yogurt, and a 16-ounce bottle of either 2% or chocolate milk. I know it was a free breakfast but I was bummed to see that every food item except the eggs contained some form of added sugar, mainly high fructose corn syrup. Not the greatest start to the event but we still enjoyed our time with friends.

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On to the tour- It’s amazing how marketing tactics work. You can take something negative and say it in a positive way that makes people thing it’s a good thing. For example, one of the signs said that cows used to produce 2 gallons of milk every day but now they can produce 8 gallons per day! I’m sure some of this has to do with having machines that are more efficient than man power but I’m not sure if cows were meant to produce 8 gallons per day. I would speculate that it’s the reason hormones and antibiotics have to be used.

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Another example that was concerning the feeding methods for the beef. All cows graze on grass for their first year of life after they’re weaned off the mother’s milk. The difference between grass-fed and grain-fed cows is what happens after that 1-year mark. Grass-fed cows stay in the pasture while conventionally-raised cows are moved to a feedlot where they are “finished” and fattened before slaughter. In the feedlots they get a concentrated mix of corn, soy, and grains. This can speed the growth of the cow enough to get them ready for slaughter a year earlier than if they were grass fed. However, since cows’ digestive systems weren’t quite made for this type of diet, supplements, hormones, and antibiotics enter the picture. This is when knowing your farmer comes in handy; the term “Grass-fed” may not mean what you think since all cows are fed grass at some point. It’s how they are finished that makes the difference.

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Let me give you one more example of marketing tactics:
There was a kids area with lots of games and visuals like sheep shearing and a display that showed every cut of meat. I was baffled when I saw a table with products marketed to kids like Cheez Its, Go-Gurt, Quaker Chewy bars, and more. I wasn’t baffled because those products were there but because the sign next to it basically said “look at what corn and soy has allowed us to do!” as if it were a good thing!

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I’m not sure if there is a happy conclusion to this post. I understand the population is growing rapidly and supply has to meet the demand but it sure doesn’t seem like it’s to our benefit the way food is being “grown” these days. My plan is to eat as much real food as I can and avoid the highly processed, refined foods with all their false health claims.

Have you visited a farm before?

Whole30 Week 2 Update

salmon nicoiseWhole 30 week 2 is complete as of Monday! I’ll share ups and downs from this week as well as what we ate. You can see my Week 1 update and if you haven’t read about the prepwork we did to make this a successful challenge you can do so here.

Fresh bread at Eataly

The good
We did well for having a potluck with friends and taking a trip to Chicago to visit our aunt. We even visited the Hershey store and didn’t buy anything! I’m not sure if over-sniffing the air caused any sugar intake but it was satisfying. We walked through an amazing place called Eataly where there were all sorts of freshly baked bread, meats, cheeses, and handmade pastas but of course dairy and grains are a no-no for the Whole30 challenge so we just got to observe.

Attending the potluck with friends made me realize how poor my self-control usually is at potlucks! I had to pass on some delicious brownies and cookies but if I wasn’t being mindful of what I’m eating I probably would have eaten 3 of each. I knew it wasn’t likely that there would be enough food to provide a Whole30-approved dinner so we ate beforehand and snacked on some watermelon someone brought. I was thankful we ate beforehand because everything was off limits for us! Cookies, brownies, a loaf of fresh bread, banana bread, mac & cheese…

The not-so-good
Calcium… You don’t have to get it from dairy since it’s found in dark leafy greens, almonds, sesame seeds, sardines, and other foods but we just didn’t eat enough of it. I entered my first week of eats into MyFitnessPal to see how I did on getting enough vitamins & minerals. I did pretty well but calcium took a hit only averaging 40-50% of my daily needs. Good thing I’m taking a multivitamin to bridge that gap! I tried to add more calcium-rich foods to my meals for week 2.

Sneaky sugars
Sugar hides in so many things! I didn’t want to burden our aunt with accommodating our specific dietary needs but thankfully she eats mostly whole foods and avoids added sugar and grains so it wasn’t that difficult. What snuck up on me was the small stuff. I dipped a shrimp in cocktail sauce and ate it before I remembered there’s sugar in cocktail sauce! My aunt threw a salad together for lunch one day and I didn’t realize until the next day that there was Parmesan in the salad and the chicken & onions were sauteed in a little wine. We ordered jerky and toasted nuts as an appetizer at a restaurant and the almonds ended up being candied so I had to pass on them. I also had bacon with a burger I ordered and since I never found a bacon that did NOT have sugar as an ingredient I’m sure this bacon contained sugar.

What I ate: Week 2
Snacks
I packed plenty of hard-boiled eggs, sweet potato bites, and raw veggies for our 4-hour drive plus enough for snacks throughout the weekend. I also made a smoothie with random things I had on hand at home- canned pumpkin, raspberries, blueberries, pumpkin pie spice, and coconut milk. It turned out to be really good!

smoothie with pumpkin, raspberries, blueberries, and coconut milk

Breakfast
Guess! We only had scrambled eggs the first morning. I had hard-boiled eggs the other two days with a couple sweet potato bites, fruit, and nuts.

Lunch
Before I left for Chicago I was making big ‘ol PFC salads with my homemade dressing for lunch. We had some coconut chicken curry stew I made a big batch of last month for lunch one day and had dinner leftovers various times. I also made some firecracker tuna salad to pack in Dave’s lunch and for myself. It had a spicy bite but was delicious to scoop with carrot sticks.

Salmon nicoise salad from Nordstrom

I didn’t know Nordstrom in Chicago had a cafe but I enjoyed a mouthwatering salmon nicoise salad that came with kalamata olives, capers, grape tomatoes, green beans, and a balsamic vinaigrette. I asked for no potatoes on the salad. We made our own lunch at my aunt’s while in Chicago and it was usually a salad with various veggies, chicken, and olive oil + balsamic vinegar.

Dinner

Crockpot rotisserie chicken

Day 8: My first attempt at making rotisserie chicken in the crock pot! It was so moist and delicious. I even made my own poultry seasoning with dried herbs I had on hand.

Day 9: Pad Thai with the leftover rotisserie chicken. Instead of noodles I used cabbage and instead of any peanuts I tossed it in sunshine sauce (my new favorite sauce!!)

Pad thai

Day 10: Leftover pad thai

Day 11: Baked salmon with asparagus and a salad tossed in olive oil & balsamic vinegar, apples, fennel, and nectarines.

farmhouse burger and kale salad

Day 12: 100% grass-fed burger without the bun topped with mushrooms & bacon with a side of sauteed kale & mushrooms cooked in olive oil instead of butter. I also had the house-made jerky as an appetizer. The restaurant (Farmhouse) had super dim lighting; sorry for the poor quality pic. It was really good and the waiter was very patient with my high maintenance requests.

Day 13: Scrambled eggs with chorizo and a boatload of sauteed spinach.

Day 14: Moroccan chicken with lots of stir fry veggies (Costco has a huge 5.5 pound bag of stir fry veggies for $7.50. I use it for every breakfast and a lot of dinners).

Overall
I think this week went well despite the unintentional hiccups mentioned. I’m fine with pressing on with the next 15 days and am giving myself grace for my hiccups rather than starting over. This challenge is more about mindful eating for me rather than perfectly following the diet. I’m halfway done!

What is your favorite go-to recipe for dinner?

Whole30 preparation

meal planningDave and I are taking on the Whole30 challenge for the month of July. In a nutshell, Whole30 involves eliminating grains, legumes, dairy, and added sugars from your diet. To save space in this post, here are the rules if you want to learn more about Whole30.

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Why am I doing Whole30?
As a dietitian, I hate diets. The reason I chose to do Whole30 is because, I will humbly admit, I am a dietitian but I am also human. When a sweet tooth marries a sweet tooth you better believe Dave and I will take one of EACH dessert at a potluck and summertime is prime time for potlucks & barbeques. I’m approaching this month as a mindful-eating challenge. Aside from eliminating grains, legumes, and dairy (which I don’t believe is necessary unless you find you actually have an intolerance), the Whole30 plan is very similar to what I preach. I advocate the PFC approach, not counting calories.

Should you try Whole30?
I think if you want to try Whole30, go for it. You might find out you have a mild intolerance to certain foods and it will help you feel better in the long run. It might help you beat your addiction to sugar. It will definitely raise your awareness of all the sugar hidden in foods. It might help you learn better eating habits. Just remember, whatever you choose should be approached as a lifestyle change, not a quick fix.

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Prepwork
You can’t expect to accomplish any goal without some prepwork. For me that involved finding recipes, creating a rough meal plan, and making a grocery list. I usually plan a week at a time so it wasn’t too difficult to just plan for the month. I wrote out a rough draft of what meals we could have for dinner and if they’d make enough leftovers for either lunch the next day and/or dinner. I also made a note on the day I needed to pull something from the freezer so it would be thawed and ready to go on the day it would be cooked. I did all my grocery shopping a couple days before July started and stocked our deep freezer with all the meat we’d need. Produce was the only thing I’d have to pick up each week aside from frozen or canned veggies. Sundays/Mondays are my usual prep days where I chop up a ton of veggies and make whatever sauces I needed for the week (since hummus and store-bought mayo are not allowed).

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Challenges
I’m naturally a label reader because I know companies always try to sneak ingredients I don’t want into my food. This part was tough because that darn sugar shows up in so many things! I wanted to add some jerk seasoning to our burgers… cane vinegar (sugar). I looked high and low for bacon not made with sugar, even at Whole Foods… nope. Too many things also contained carageenan (a thickening agent) or MSG. You think you’re just buying some plain chicken drumsticks… carageenan.

Total cost
Many people think eating healthy is expensive. I’m saving my receipts and will show you how we plan to stick to a budget of $350 for the entire month. That even includes grass-fed/pastured/wild-caught/organic protein sources and restocking items I was running low on like on spices, coconut oil, olive oil, and bulk items from Costco.

Updates to come
I’ll share weekly updates with meals we made, challenges we faced, and other tidbits along the way. I’m also starting a workout program called PiYo on July 7th with my friend Hannah and a bunch of other women who want to hold each other accountable so you will be seeing some updates from that as well. You can wait for those updates or you can follow my Facebook page to see photos of the meals and recipes as we make them.

Have you ever tried the Whole30 program? How was your experience?

Navigating the Different Types of Sugar

One thing I’ve noticed from teaching a nutrition class is that people don’t know much about sugar. Instead of just giving away answers when I teach I like to ask questions to learn what kind of misleading information people have acquired. For example: Fruited yogurt tends to have a ton of added sugar. How can we make yogurt a healthier food? Almost every time someone answers with “Use honey instead of sugar.”

They’re not to blame; commercials and the false advertising that takes over food packages are sneaky with wording and make things sound healthier than they really are. In case you are confused when it comes to sugar, I’ve provided a *sweet* little lesson for you. I could write an entire book about sugar but I’ll just stick with a few key points.

What is sugar?
In a nutshell, sugar is the simplest form of a carbohydrate. When you eat a piece of bread, it starts as a complex carbohydrate but once you break it down it results in sugar. Carbs are not bad; we need them to function. We run into problems with carbs when we eat too many or when we eat processed foods with added sugars.

Added sugar vs. Naturally Occurring
There’s talk going on about giving the nutrition label a face lift and one change that might occur is adding a line for the amount of “added sugar.” Currently, labels don’t define if the sugar is naturally occurring or added. For example, the only ingredient in plain yogurt is milk but you’ll see a number under “grams of sugar” because the naturally occurring sugar in milk is lactose. If the “added sugar” line is added to the nutrition label, it will say zero.

photo source: CNN.com

Added sugars mean that there was sugar added in addition to the naturally occurring sugars. Think about when you used to make Kool-Aid as a kid- you added sugar to the powdered mix and water. Or when you added a spoonful (or spoonfuls for my childhood) to your Rice Krispies. That’s what I mean by “added sugar.” If you read the ingredient list of fruited yogurts you’ll often see milk, sugar, and fruit. They are usually listed in that order because the ingredient list goes by weight. That means there’s a whole lot of sugar and wee-bit of fruit.

The many faces of sugar
If you read the ingredient list you might find that it’s harder to spot sugar as an ingredient because it’s taken on a million different names.
To name a few different types of sugar:
Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrose, glucose, evaporated cane juice, molasses, brown rice syrup,  invert sugar… and any of the sugar alcohols like maltitol, sorbitol, isomalt, or xylitol.

Once you start reading ingredient lists you’ll be amazed at how many common products have added sugar like condiments, bread, dressings, or yogurt. I would hope you already know Pop Tarts aren’t a great choice but you’ll find corn syrup, corn syrup solids, sugar, and dextrose all listed in the ingredient list and then wayyyy at the bottom you’ll see some kind of dried fruit.

Artificial Sweeteners
I don’t advise the use of any artificial sweetener. I know the FDA has said some are safe for use but I say our bodies still don’t like them. The only alternative sweetener I recommend is Stevia. Even as you read the word “Stevia” you still might have the wrong products in mind because, again, marketing tactics make things tricky with their false advertising. The product Truvia sounds like Stevia so that’s already enough to throw a lot of people off. The ingredients in Truvia are Erythritol, Rebiana, and Natural Flavors. Let’s learn about these ingredients…

– Erythritol is one type of sugar alcohol made by processing genetically modified corn. Since our body does a terrible job digesting sugar alcohols you can expect some unpleasant gastric distress. Mmmm.
– Rebiana is derived from the Stevia plant and there is such an insignificant amount in Truvia that I’m surprised they can even make the claim.
– As for “natural flavors,” there is no FDA regulation for the term “natural” so your guess is as good as mine.

What I recommend
If you need to sweeten something up, I suggest regular sugar or Stevia. You can swap sugar for a different flavor like honey, agave nectar, raw sugar, or brown sugar but there aren’t any advantages of using these products because they’re all still metabolized as sugar. Start reading the ingredient list; it will tell you far more about the product than the actual nutrition label. The closer you stick to whole foods the less you have to worry about deciphering nutrition labels and ingredient lists. If you need a refresher you can always check out my article on how to eat right. You can also learn much more on this subject from Dietitian Cassie.

Ladera Granola Review

Photo source: Ladera Granola

I was recently contacted by Ladera Granola to review their product. When do I ever turn down food? As long as it’s REAL food and not a bunch of processed stuff.

“At Ladera Granola, we believe that nutrition is powerful. Our granola is made from all natural ingredients to provide you with a healthy source of fuel for your active lifestyle and its packaging is 100% recyclable.”

ladera granola

I tried their Almond Pecan granola. Here are my thoughts:

First thought (said out loud in front of Dave):
“Oh my goodness this is delicious.”
If I was blindfolded I would have guessed I was eating the topping off of an apple crisp dessert. I had Dave try it and he agreed it was good. Then I had to refrain from eating the entire bag.

Second thought:
There’s got to be a ton of sugar in this to taste this good.

sugar in granola
Left: Bear Naked Granola
Right: Special K granola

Brown sugar is listed as an ingredient in the Almond Pecan granola so yes, there is sugar in it. In 1/4 cup you’ll find 4 grams of sugar. To give you a better idea of how much sugar that really is: 1 tsp of packed brown sugar contains roughly 4-5g of sugar. If you compare Ladera Granola to other granola brands like Bear Naked (4-7g per 1/4 cup) or Special K (2ish grams per 1/4 cup) you’ll see that it’s an average amount of sugar. When I smelled the bag I knew the granola would be delicious just based on the spices. I think granola products could get away with less sugar, especially if you’re enjoying it with something that’s already naturally sweet like berries.

Other thoughts:
– Be careful with portion sizes. You can easily overdo it. The serving size for this granola is 1/4 cup which is a common amount for granola products.
– I don’t eat granola often because I aim to get the bulk of my carbs from fruits and vegetables (the “c” in PFC). I say that not to bash Ladera Granola, I’m just saying grains in general are very carb dense so it’s easy to overdo it with portions.
– Based on taste, this is a delicious product.

Disclaimer: I was contacted by Ladera to review this product and was compensated in the form of a sample. The article contains my own opinions. 

What’s your favorite way to enjoy granola?