Counting Calories in Your Alcohol


Happy Friday folks! With summer in full swing and 4th of July holiday cookouts just around the corner for many of us, I wanted to share a quick post concerning calories in alcoholic beverages. With many of my patients, calories from alcoholic beverages tend to be an afterthought when it comes to accounting to daily calorie consumption. However, I’ve also got a few folks who account for their calories from alcohol so much that they skip meals and snacks so they have enough calories allotted for weekend drinking. This is something we should definitely avoid doing. The way to find a nice balance is making sure you eat routinely throughout the day and be mindful & aware of your liquid calories so you can plan your drinks accordingly. Below I’ve listed a few quick tips (this list could go on forever) to keep in mind while when drinking, especially if you’re outside on a hot day:

  • Avoid Drinking on an Empty Stomach– in fact, make sure you have a meal or snack with a nice mix of carb, protein, and fat (maybe some delicious cheese and crackers) to help slow down the absorption of alcohol and avoid getting sick
  • Stay Hydrated in Between Alcohol Drinks– this is going to be really important on a hot day, especially as the alcohol will serve as a diuretic, making you even more dehydrated. If you’re going for a mixed drink that includes both alcohol and a carbonated, caffeinated beverage, water intake is going to be even more important, so drink up on the H2O and water containing foods such as delicious watermelon
  • Watch What You’re Munching On While Drinking– ever notice that at some bars they put out salty snacks like peanuts or Chex mix? Salty snacky foods like this promote us to drink more as a way to combat or even complement the salty goodness we’re eating so make sure you watch any “mindless” eating that may occur while drinking that can attribute to unnecessary calorie consumption
  • Have a Designated Driver– I know this doesn’t have anything to do with nutrition per se, but I care about your safety and had to include this quick PSA

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I wanted to share a few beautiful and HELPFUL graphics from Wine Folly which is a GREAT website for all of you wine loving enthusiasts!

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But what if you’re a beer person? They’ve got you covered!

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If you’re wanting to go with a “lighter” choice in alcoholic beverage, the folks at 213 Pounds to Happiness share their favorite lighter alcoholic beverages.

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For a complete listing of calorie content in some of your beverages of choice, including liquors that may not be addressed above, please visit CalorieKing.Com which I enjoy recommended to my patients often. I like to consider a “one stop shop” in terms of looking for the nutrition information on various food items, including commercial restaurant dishes. This tool can be especially helpful when looking up calories in beverages…especially alcohol!

Last but not least…please drink responsibly, friends! This includes but is not limited to drinking and driving, drinking while pregnant, and drinking in excess. Okay, that was my last PSA 🙂 Happy Friday folks!

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Hydrating in the Heat

It’s hot, y’all…or at least it is here in my neck of the woods in Alabama. With this heat though, I wanted to write up a quick post encouraging us on the importance of staying hydrated throughout the summer. If you’re physically active in the heat, it’s even more important to be mindful of hydrating yourself properly. Outside temperature raises our core body temperature so just think how much more our body temp is raised when we’re exercising in the heat! I’ve mentioned on here before that sometimes our body will mimic the feeling of hunger to prompt us to drink more water. Waiting until you have the classic dry lips and parched mouth before drinking anything is waiting way too long.

Here are some common signs of dehydration:

  • nausea (ick!)
  • dark-colored urine or infrequent urination (you want your urine to be a light lemonade color vs. dark yellow…please note that some supplements/vitamins will discolor urine to a funky color)
  • constipation (if you’re trying to kick up your fiber intake for any reason, make sure you up your fluid intake as well or you’ll be doing more harm than good!)
  • dry lips, mouth, and skin
  • increased body temperature or hard breathing
  • headaches
  • apathy

It’s easy to sweat off a couple pounds during exercise in the heat. As appealing as this sounds in terms of quick weight loss, think about weighing yourself before and after workouts to determine how much sweat/fluid loss occurred. You’ll want to make sure you drink about 2 1/2 cups water for every pound of weight loss during exercise.

BUT WHY DOES OUR BODY NEED WATER?!

  • removes waste from our body
  • keeps stools softer (yay!)
  • improves/enhances mental function
  • carries nutrients, oxygen, and glucose to the cells giving you energy
  • helps strengthen muscles

If you’re struggling to make sure you’re getting enough fluids throughout the day, buy yourself a cute and fun water bottle as a way to have water as a convenient beverage choice. This may sound silly, but also using a smart phone device with an alarm/calendar to remind you of various points in the day to have your water (it sounds silly but we use our phone for everything else, why not use it as a way to get into a hydration habit?) can be helpful as well. A lot of my patients aren’t crazy about plain water and also want to avoid artificial sweeteners from products such as Crystal Light, Mio, etc. If that’s you, try naturally flavoring your water with slices of your favorite fruit(s) to steep in a cold iced picture of water throughout the day (think about when you go to the spa and you see the containers of water infused with slices of lemon and lime). One of my favorite “odd” combinations is letting a pitcher of water steep with slices of strawberry and mint leaves. Freezing cubes of 100% fruit juice to use to ice down your water can be a great way to get fruit flavor in your water bottle as well.

If you already drink a good bit of water but want to make sure you’re staying well hydrated in this heat, incorporating fluid rich foods can be a helpful way to maintain hydration. Having fresh fruit such as watermelon and citrus fruits with a high water concentration can be a nice hydrating treat during the summer. Salads with wonderful refreshing crisp lettuce and water-rich broccoli can also enhance your hydration. Dairy products such as yogurts and milk have a high fluid content (85-89% water) that can provide a super tasty way to stay hydrated as well! 🙂

*Avoid beverages with high concentrations of sugar, alcohol, or caffeine as these will counteract your hydrating efforts due to their diuretic properties!

Below I’ve included a very short clip encouraging folks to include water-rich foods in their diet to stay hydrated this summer.

What’s your favorite way to stay hydrated in the summer? Any tips for flavoring your own water at home or keeping yourself on task with drinking fluids?


Creating the Perfect Salad

Dining out….we love and we hate it, especially if we’re trying to follow a particular eating regimen. So many of my clients get apprehensive when it comes to eating out, especially if they’re going to an establishment that doesn’t explicitly list the nutrition content on the menu or website. Are you the same way? In some cases, we may feel like the only way we can eat healthy at a restaurant is if we order a salad; speaking from past experience, I’ve been in this boat as well.

Sometimes when we order a salad, one of two things can happen:

1) Scenario one… we get a salad for the sake of the word “salad” being in the title and it’s basically a plate/bowl of fried chicken tenders, shredded yellow processed cheese, 1 cup of croutons and about 1/2 gallon of ranch dressing…maybe something similar to the picture below.

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This salad has some great components but having a lot of dressing (not necessarily as seen in this picture) or a whopping deep fried chicken breast can provide excessive saturated fat, sodium, and calories to your meal.

2) Scenario two…you order an iceberg or romaine lettuce salad with barely anything on it but a tasteless piece of grilled chicken and a virtually calorie free vinaigrette, maybe something similar to this:

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Sure this is low in calorie but you’ll find yourself getting hungry sooner than later without the necessary fat that you need and adequate carbohydrate to provide energy.

Now don’t get me wrong, salads are wonderful awesome meals that can house the components we need for a healthy meal (carb, protein, and fat) but often times we order on two extremes of the restaurant salad spectrum. Components to a meal worthy salad include the following:

1) Great lettuce– romaine and iceberg are fine and dandy but are primarily water and don’t house many vitamins or minerals. Instead, go for dark green/colorful lettuces such as spinach or a baby spring mix

2) A variety of veggies– adding things like carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, etc., can really enhance the textures and flavors in your salad while also providing a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals….without adding excess calories

3) Carbohydrate– most of the time when people think of carbohydrates, they only think of the starchy things like breads, rice, pasta, etc. Luckily, fruit and dairy products such as dried/fresh fruits and milk/yogurt can provide carbohydrate in a meal which the body uses as it’s preferred fuel source. If you’re not a fruit in your salad kind of person or you’re not a crouton kind of person either, having a serving of bread on the side or a baked potato with minimal heart-healthy margarine and low fat/fat free sour cream can provide some good carbohydrate.

4) Have protein– protein in your salad is so important as the protein along with fat help bring satiety to your meal and keep you full for a longer amount of time because protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrate. Protein on a salad could be grilled chicken, boiled egg, nuts/seeds, cheese (think outside of just regular shredded yellow cheese for more variety), beans, tofu, etc.

5) Get your fat– as with protein, fat will bring the satiety to the salad that your body needs. Fat can come from the salad dressing that you use (try to use vinaigrette based things vs. cream based dressings most of the time) and even the protein components that you add such as nuts/seeds, cheese, etc.

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Can we say yummy?!
This is courtesy of Spaghettofu!

Now, I do want to say that these suggestions primarily apply if you’re having a salad as your main entree. If you’re doing a side salad for sake of primarily getting in your veggies servings during the day, then feel free to have your carbohydrate/protein/fat components within your main dish 🙂

Curious about some of the worst salads to have at a restaurant….check out this article from Men’s Health!

Soon I’ll be posting some helpful tips on ordering out in general — stay tuned! Yes it’s possible to eat healthy without having to get a salad 🙂


Understanding Food Label Language and Claims

ImageOh food labels…before coming to college I was pretty aloof to their information…specifically what was considered a serving size for a product or how many servings were in one package. I am even embarrassed to admit that before studying nutrition I was under the impression that a pint of ice cream was one portion size….not four 1/2 cup servings! This is still a common question I get with many of my patients. Being aware of the claims on food labels and nutrition facts labels are not just important if we’re trying to shed a few pounds (or gain) but is also quite important for people with diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, among other chronic and acute conditions.

Reading food labels can help you become a better shopper. Below I’ve listed the government definitions for terms you’ll want to understand, especially in regards to calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, etc. It’s important to remember that these claims are based on a single serving of that particular food.

Calories

  • Low calorie– 40 calories or less per serving
  • Reduced calorie– at least 25% fewer calories per serving when compared to a similar food
  • Light or Lite– 1/3 fewer calories or 50% less fat per serving
  • Calorie free– less than five calories per serving

If more than half the calories are from fat, the fat content must be reduced by 50%

Fat

  • Fat free– less than 1/2 gram (.5 gram) of fat per serving
  • Low fat– 3 grams of fat or less per serving
  • Reduced fat– at least 25% less fat when compared to a similar food

Cholesterol

  • Cholesterol free– less than 2 milligrams of cholesterol per serving AND 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving
  • Low cholesterol– 20 milligrams or less of cholesterol per serving AND 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving

Sodium

  • Sodium free– less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving
  • Very low sodium– 35 milligrams or less sodium per serving
  • Low sodium– 75% less sodium than the amount in non-reduced sodium item (140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving)
  • Unsalted– food prepared without salt that normally is salted during processing

20130415_101123 (3)Other claims that you may see on a label often times may include:

  • High fiber– five or more grams of fiber per serving
  • “High in…” – provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving (ex: Vitamin C)
  • “Good source of…”- provides at least 10 to 19% of the Daily Value of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving

Do any of these phrases ring a bell for some of your favorite food products? If you don’t already pay attention to these claims on food labels, now you’ll know exactly what this means 🙂 Happy eating and happy shopping!


Healthy Vending Machine Snacks

20130411_104541  Ah vending machines…depending on our mood, our hunger level, or our personal dietary restrictions (or lack thereof) they can be our best friend or source of frustration. Yesterday morning I was running through the house like a madwoman trying to get ready to help with a wellness event at 7am, right afterwards I had a meeting and conference call which left me sans breakfast and with a very hungry and desperate stomach by 10:30 a.m. After scraping the bottom of my purse and desk drawers for loose change, I found myself standing in front of the vending machine for several minutes deciding what would be the most appropriate choice so far from breakfast but oh so close to lunchtime.

I’m sure many of you can relate to my anecdote on various levels. Working in a college town, I find many of the clients I encounter in counseling and group sessions inquire about how to eat healthy from the vending machine if it’s the only option at the time or if they should even eat at all. One thing that we should definitely take into consideration is understanding that though the vending machine may not be our first choice when it comes to a source of nutritious food, there are certainly some appropriate options available that can help us avoid going long periods of time without eating…especially if you’re in a class, meeting, or work function that rolls into a meal time.

When choosing a snack from the vending machine, it’s helpful to know the nutrients that will address our hunger and keep us full for the longest amount of time. Below I’ve listed some nutrients to keep in consideration when picking the best snack choice:

Fiber: not only does fiber aid in keeping our bowel movements regular, lowering our cholesterol, and controlling blood sugar levels, but fiber can help us feel full for an extended amount of time. Unlike simple sugars, fiber takes longer for the body to digest and provides “bulk” to our meal or snack without tacking on excessive calories.

Protein: Not only is protein used for repair & maintenance of cells in our body, but protein can also address our hunger quickly and provide fullness for an extended period of time. Though carbohydrates are our body’s preferred fuel source (and the only thing our brain can run off of in the form of glucose), protein and fat are more chemically complex and take longer for the body to digest thus leaving us fuller for a longer amount of time.

Fat: When it comes to fat, it depends on the type. Mono and polyunsaturated fats that come from sources such as nuts, seeds, fish, olive oils, etc. are extremely heart healthy. Luckily for us, vending machine options such as trail mixes and nut packs provide these heart healthy fats. When it comes to feeling satisfied and full in a meal, fat can provide that feeling of satiety that we’re looking for, keeping us fuller for a longer amount of time.  Keeping that in consideration, you do want to avoid convenience snacks that provide high amounts of saturated and trans fat (not to mention simple sugars), for example, a honey bun, poptart, or regular potato chips.

If you’d like some specific examples of some specific vending machine choices, check out these recommendations from Fitness Magazine:

 Planters Sunflower Kernels (1/4 cup)
160 calories, 14g fat, 1.5g sat fat, 4g fiber
The Bottom Line: Full of healthy fats

 Baked! Lays Original
210 calories, 3g fat, 0g sat fat, 4g fiber
The Bottom Line: Surprisingly fiber-full

 Snyder’s of Hanover Mini Pretzels (20)
110 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat
The Bottom Line: Naturally fat-free

Smartfood Reduced-Fat Popcorn
120 calories, 5g fat, 1g sat fat, 2g fiber
The Bottom Line: Low fat, and has fiber!

Nature Valley Granola Bar, Oats & Honey
180 calories, 6g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 2g fiber
The Bottom Line: Beats hunger

Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts (39)
160 calories, 13g fat, 1.5g sat fat, 6g protein
The Bottom Line: High in protein

Quaker Chewy Low-Fat Granola Bar, Chocolate Chunk
110 calories, 2g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 1g fiber
The Bottom Line: Guilt-free chocolate

Triscuits
240 calories, 6 grams fiber
The Bottom Line: High in fiber but don’t resort to Wheat Thins Toasted Chips when they’re out of stock which won’t provide as much fiber and packs a punch of sodium

For some helpful additional guidelines in picking up some healthy vending machine choices, check out recommendations from the Alabama Department of Public Health‘s 10-10-5 guidelines when it comes to healthy vending choices 🙂


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Happy Snacking 🙂 🙂