Breakfast: Picking Apart the “Most Important Meal of the Day”

Breakfast has long held superiority status and taken precedence amongst all other daily meals. But aside from being the first meal, what merit does breakfast hold in acquiring the title of “most important meal”? It’s important to take a look at some of the evidence that supports such claims, including the benefits of, and, the drawbacks of not “breaking the fast”.

One of the immediate benefits from consuming a morning meal is, like any other meal, that it provides energy. However, unlike other meals later in the day, breakfast replenishes some of our energy stores we relied on overnight while asleep and fasting. In other words:

breakfast can sooner kick our metabolism out of the slowed, fasting rate from sleep, and into increased, awake mode.

Beyond providing energy, breakfast sets us up for success in various other ways:

Eating breakfast encourages healthier diet patterns due to the added opportunity for intake of important vitamins and minerals (especially through fortified, fiber-rich cereals) and reduced likelihood of eating later into the evening, at a time when eating becomes less ideal. Alongside our metabolism, cognition may also be kickstarted after breakfast, as studies support the influence of breakfast on increased alertness, mood, and attention.

This finding is consistent with our brain’s reliance on carbohydrates as its primary source of energy, given the tendency for this meal to be carbohydrate-rich.

Breakfast, however, is not necessarily the end-all be-all. A large portion of supporting evidence for breakfast benefits is derived from observational studies rather than the gold-standard randomized controlled trial studies. Many individuals find they naturally aren’t hungry in the morning, or find the thought of eating early to be nauseating. Rather than forcing food down when it isn’t welcome, listening to hunger cues from your body is key. The bottom line is that while breakfast presents a number of benefits, we should not put so much focus onto one meal so as to lose sight of the importance of consistently balanced meals throughout the rest of the day.

Please share below: what is your favorite breakfast?

Written by Lamar Dietetic Intern: Pietra Haracz

Are you still struggling to lose weight?  It could be your genes…

Are you ready for a weight loss plan that is sustainable and works with your body not against it?

If you’re tired of trying diet after diet, but can’t seem to find the one that sticks, the solution might be in your genes!

There is more and more exciting research about genes and their connection to nutrition.  For example, protein is an important part of a healthy diet, but for some people protein can also be the key to losing more body fat on their weight loss journey.

The FTO gene can determine if a higher protein diet is the best choice for people wanting to lose weight. In research trials, those with the AA variant of this gene lost significantly more body fat after 2 years while following a higher protein diet, compared to people with the TT or TA variants.

So, for people with the ‘responder’ genotype, consuming a higher percentage of energy from protein actually accelerated their fat loss potential, while for the non-responders, more protein in their diet did not make a difference.

Do you want to learn how you can eat to optimize your body composition and reach your weight loss goals? I can help by offering you a genetic test, called Nutrigenomix. Watch this video to learn more.

Nutrigenomix is celebrating Nutrition Month by offering a free Personalized Nutrition for Skin Health report (PDF) with the purchase of any 70-gene test ($79 value).  “Through nutrition care and prevention, the Skin Health test helps determine how genes can influence the skin’s ability to combat signs of aging, how the body metabolizes nutrients that support skin health, and how genetic markers that affect eating habits can play a role in the health of your skin.”

To learn more about the test, click here.

Contact me to schedule your test today.  The free skin care test is only offered until March 31, 2022.

Mindfulness and Hunger

A client told me the other day, “I’m never hungry.  My stomach never growls.”  When someone tells me that she is never hungry, I bring up my favorite subject: mindfulness.

You were born knowing when you were hungry and when you had enough to eat.  Unfortunately, for some of us, our hunger and fullness signals got mixed up.  Whether it was a well-meaning adult that made you “clean your plate”, learning that eating chocolate helped you feel better when you were sad, or ignoring hunger pangs to lose weight—you started to ignore your hunger/fullness cues and now you might not know what your body is telling you anymore.

If you are like my client and confused about what your body is or is not telling then, then mindful eating will help you.  According to The Center for Mindful Eating, mindful eating is:

“Mindfulness is the capacity to bring full attention and awareness to one’s experience, in the moment, without judgment. Mindful Eating brings mindfulness to food choice and the experience of eating.

Mindful eating helps us become aware of our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations related to eating, reconnecting us with our innate inner wisdom about hunger and satiety.”

Doesn’t that sound really beneficial?  Wouldn’t you like more of that awareness with your body?  I think we all would.

There are many benefits of mindful eating that I could discuss with you, but I just want to focus on one right now: learning how to tell when your body is hungry. Here are steps take periodically throughout the day:

Step 1: Pause and stop what you are doing.

Step 2: Minimize distractions (phone, TV, conversations, driving, etc.).

Step 3: Take three big, deep breaths.

Step 4: Scan your body from head to toe, noticing if anything feels “off.”

Step 5: Pay attention to the part of your body that doesn’t feel right.  Let’s say you notice you have a headache, for example.  Could it be that it needs nourishment?

Step 6: Ask yourself some questions to figure out if it is related to hunger:

When was the last time I ate?

*What did I eat today?

*What time is it?

*Am I feeling stressed?

*How much have I had to drink today?

If you determine that your headache could be due to low blood sugar, then go ahead and eat something nourishing.

Ways your body might tell you that you are hungry

And that is using mindful eating in a nutshell to learn more about your hunger.  I realize it’s not always as easy as that.  It takes a lot of patience and practice.  The benefits are worth it!  That same client I mentioned who said he never felt hungry started using mindfulness and determined that when he was cranky in the morning it was due to skipping breakfast.  He started eating a small breakfast (yogurt and fruit) and is not irritable in the morning anymore!

How does your body tell you it’s hungry?  Comment below.  And to learn more about mindful eating, check out my most popular class Chocolate and Mindfulness: Why We Need Both.

What is the difference between a meal replacement drink and protein shake?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a meal replacement drink and a protein drink? I get this question all the time.  It’s really important to know the difference so you can make the best choice based on your health goals.

A meal replacement drink contains significant amounts of the three macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat.  As the name implies, it is meant to relace a meal.  The balance between carbs, protein, and fat are meant to mimic a small meal (or large meal—depending on which drink you choose).  For a typical meal replacement drink, the carbs can range anywhere from 15-45 g of carbs (the equivalent of 1-3 carb servings).  Protein can range anywhere from 7-40 g (the equivalent of 1-5 protein servings).  The fat content can range from 5-15 g (the equivalent of 1-3 fat servings).  Typically they are fortified with vitamins and minerals too, so it’s like taking a daily multivitamin. 

Which drink you choose is up to your health goals.  The one drawback to meal replacement drinks, is the amount of added sugars, which can range anywhere from 4-24 g (the equivalent of 1-6 teaspoons)!  Here are some ideas:

Boost
Boost Original
  • Boost Original, Ensure Original, or Carnation Instant Breakfast only have about 1.5 servings of protein, a little over 2 servings of carbs, and 3 teaspoons of added sugars.  Because of the added sugars and low protein, I rarely recommend these drinks.  They could be used as a snack replacement if you are trying to gain weight.
  • Boost High Protein, Ensure High Protein, Carnation Instant Breakfast High Protein, Slim-Fast, Special K, etc.  These types of drinks have a higher protein content and provide about 2 protein servings.  The carb amount is around 30g on average.  These drinks are great for meal replacements because of the balance between protein and carbs.

A protein drink is high protein and low carb/sugar.  They contain at least 20 g of protein and at most 40 g (3-5 protein servings).  They have little or no added sugars or fat.  They are meant to add more protein to your diet and don’t provide energy (carbs).  Protein drinks are a perfect supplement for you if you struggle to get adequate protein at every meal.  In fact, I prefer to call them “protein supplement drinks” to remind my clients that they supplement the meal, not replace the meal.  If you rely on protein drinks only at your meal, you might be tired, hungry, and sluggish because you are not eating any complex carbohydrates. 

Some examples of protein supplement drinks that I recommend and my clients love:

  • Premier Protein
  • Boost Max
  • Ensure Max
  • Fairlife Nutrition Plan 30g Protein
  • Fairlife Core Power
My favorite protein supplement drinks

How might you use a protein supplement? 

  • After a hard workout at the gym, drink a protein drink and eat a piece of fruit within 1 hour of finishing your workout.  Your muscles will soak up the protein to start re-building and the carbs will fuel the muscle building process. 
  • Drink a protein drink for lunch when you don’t have time to leave the office.  Eat a banana, box or raisins, whole grain crackers, or an apple for carbs (brain power) and fiber (fullness) with it.
  • Drink one for breakfast to round out your favorite high-carb breakfast (oatmeal, whole grain toast with avocado, whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter, etc.)

If I had to choose my personal favorite, it is the Fairlife.  I love to drink one for lunch and eat a banana on my busiest work days.  The combination of carbs, fiber, and protein keep me satisfied and fueled for a few hours until I can eat a balanced snack.

Do you need help with your diet? Check out my Intentional Eating 101 Program.

Now that you know the difference between protein drinks and meal replacement drinks, which one are you going to choose?  Comment below to share your ideas.

Are you addicted to food?

Have you ever felt like you are addicted to food?  I can’t tell you how many of my clients have expressed this belief about themselves.  Is food addiction even a thing?  The research on food addiction is very limited, but I can share with you some of the latest research and what we do know.

First, it’s very important to clarify that food addiction is a process addiction.  That means it is the act of eating and the feelings you have about eating certain foods that is addictive, not the food itself.  As you engage in overeating and eating foods you consider bad or trigger foods, your brain releases dopamine which makes you feel good.  After chronically overeating, the dopamine receptors are down regulated and then you need to eat more and more to get the same dopamine response.  This is the same process that occurs in other addictions like gambling, shoplifting, gaming, and phone use. 

Many people falsely believe that food addiction is a chemical addiction like drugs or alcohol.  That’s not so.  Drugs and alcohol contain chemicals that are physically addictive.  But foods commonly considered addictive (flour, sugar, salt, and chocolate) are not actually chemically addictive.  Sure, they do make you feel good, but you are not dependent on them.  For example, if you find chocolate to be a trigger food for you then when you eat chocolate you feel a hit of dopamine. You have a piece of chocolate and then want more and more.  However, let’s say you don’t find orange juice to be a trigger food and so when you drink orange juice, there is no dopamine hit.  So, it’s not the sugar from the chocolate or the juice, it’s the act of eating something that you feel is forbidden or you have strong feelings about. 

The act of overeating causes a similar pathway in the dopamine response.  The more you overeat, the less your body releases dopamine and then you need to eat more and more to get the same response.  Just like gambling and gaming, for example.

So, what does all this mean? It’s good news actually.  It means you don’t have to avoid your favorite foods forever because you think you are “addicted” to them and you have to abstain like you would from alcohol.  It means that you can eat your favorite foods in moderation after learning how to manage cravings, compulsive eating desires, and your feelings surrounding certain foods.   

How do you do that?

1. Keep a food journal where you write down the food you eat, your level of hunger/fullness, and the feelings you have surrounding that meal/snack. 

2. Identify the emotions that lead up to overeating/compulsive eating. 

3. Try to catch yourself when you are feeling those emotions and deal with them in a more constructive way.

This list is very simplified. I know it’s not as easy as that.  It takes a lot of introspection, outside support, and patience with yourself.  And that’s what I am here to help with.  I want you to feel in control of food instead of food controlling you.  Sign up for my Intentional Eating 101 program and you can start your journey to feeling better and getting healthier!

The Best App for Calorie Counting

The Best App for Calorie Counting

With hundreds of calorie counting apps to choose from, it easy to get overwhelmed or waste your time on ones that aren’t very useful.  I know you’ve been there.  Either it’s confusing to use, the data is wrong, or you are distracted by ads.  I have used so many different calorie counting apps over the years with my clients and have never been 100% satisfied.  That is until I discovered Nutritionix Track.  I have started using this app with my clients and so far they and I love it.  

Here is what we love about it:

  • Easy and attractive dashboard and diary
  • Multiple ways to add your daily food: upload a picture, search in the database, add your own foods, scan the package barcode, or use the “freeform box.” 
  • It offers a unique feature that I have not seen anywhere else.  The “freeform” option allows you to say your diary and using advanced technology it accurately determines what you ate.  Just takes a minute to log all your food!  (Watch the video below to see how it works.)
  • If you are trying to NOT think about calories, the picture option is a great way to log your food without worrying about the nutrition.
  • You can add your own recipes.
  • It tracks your weight, fluid intake, and exercise.
  • You can link it with popular fitness trackers, like Fitbit and HealthKit.
  • Shows macro and micronutrients.
  • No ads.
  • You can connect your diary with your dietitian (me!) and I can view your foods from my computer. 

One of my clients said, “My favorite feature is the Freeform box.  It’s so much easier to log my food rather than type it out.”

Have you ever had a financial goal, like pay off your car or save for your vacation?  I bet the first thing you did was figure out how much money you needed to save and then made a plan to save that money.  Part of that plan probably included making a budget.  What does that have to do with nutrition?  Everything!  If you have a health goal, you have to know how to get there.  And what you put in your mouth will move you towards or away from that goal.  That is why I recommend calorie counting, especially with the Nutritionix app. 

Watch the video to see it in action.

For more apps that I recommend, check out my FREE Guide: 25 Best Apps for Optimal Health

Click here to download

How Intentional Eating can Help you Manage Chronic Disease

First, let’s define Intentional Eating since it is the basis of all my programs. By definition, intent is “aim” or “purpose.” So, what is your “purpose” or “aim” with eating? There is no right or wrong answer. Occasionally it might be for pure pleasure, other times for fuel, most of the time to satisfy hunger, or to improve your health. Knowing your intent with food is essential in managing chronic diseases and improving your health.

Now, let’s take you through the steps of Intentional Eating.

  • Know your why. Why do I want to eat? What is my intent with food? Am I hungry? Bored? Sad? Stressed? Getting ready to exercise? Before putting one bite in your mouth, it’s important to identify the “why” so you can make sure you are eating for the right reasons.
  • Know your what. What am I going to eat? This is the most important step in managing chronic diseases. By carefully choosing “what” you can optimize energy, sleep, hormones, blood sugars, blood pressure, etc. The list could go on and on. Choosing the right foods is key to feeling great.
  • Know your how. Am I eating at home? In the car? With other people? Fast? Slow? Standing up? Sitting down? Managing “how” you eat will maximize the food that you put into your body so you can feel your best.

Intentional Eating does not have to be tricky or difficult. It just takes some practice. By paying attention to why you eat, what you eat, and how you eat, you will see how different foods affect you in different ways, You will be empowered to make the food choices that give you the results you want.

Click here to become an Intentional Eater

Intuitive Eating and Managing Chronic Disease

The other day I was trying to get my 4 year old (going on 13 years old) to hurry and eat her snack. She was telling some long story and was doing more talking than eating. In a rush I asked, “Can’t you just eat faster?” She said, “I don’t know how to do that, seriously. But I can eat and talk at the same time.” Which she then proceeded to take a big bite of her “cracker sandwich” and started right back into her story.

I couldn’t help but be reminded how much we have to learn from babies and children about eating. I can’t tell you how many times I have reminded my clients that we all used to know exactly how much we needed to eat, the pace we liked to eat, when we were full, and when we were hungry. If you observe toddlers and childrens’ eating patterns, you will be quite surprised. One day they eat so much you think they are a bottomless pit. Other days they hardly eat a thing and you wonder how they have so much energy. They don’t rely on diets or rules to tell them when to eat. Somewhere along the way we stopped trusting ourselves and started trusting other people to tell us what our bodies needed. We ignored our inner hunger and fullnes cues and let emotions and fads guide our eating.

It doesn’t have to be like that. You can eat like a kid again and still be healthy. I know you can because that’s how I eat, that’s how my children and teens eat, and that’s how I help my clients eat. My virtual program Intentional Eating 101 is all about experimenting with the food you eat and how it makes you feel so you can manage your chronic diseases while still eating the foods you love. Over 8 weeks it teaches you how to tune into your body and tweak your choices along the way to find the right balance for you.

Click here to start today

In the meantime, observe kids eating and see what you have to learn. Let me know what you find out by commenting on this post.

Until next time: Eat happy…Move happy…Live happy.

How to Avoid the Quarantine-15 (aka How to NOT gain weight while stuck at home)

I know you’ve seen them: the memes about how much weight we are going to gain while stuck at home, the pictures of food all over social media, comfort-eating, and baking galore. How else can we release some energy while stuck at home?  Cleaning out our closets is no fun.  And you can only take so much news.  My clients are starting to ask, “How can I stop gaining weight?”  

Step 1: Have a plan.  “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  If you just plan to eat whatever you have around, it might not the best thing for your body.  But if you have a loose plan, then you will most likely go for the planned meal.  I try to have a list of about 7 dinners that we have all the ingredients to make.  That way when dinner comes we are not tempted to order take-out.  Having a plan also keeps you from making more frequent runs to the grocery store.

Step 2: Designate only one area in your house for eating.  If eating locations become a free-for-all, you might start finding crumbs in your laptop, on your couch, and in your bed.  Limit eating to just the kitchen or dining room table and you will eliminate a lot of mindless eating.

Step 3: Make a list of positive things to do when you want to reach for food and are not hungry.  Now that you are working from home, do you find yourself drawn to the kitchen when you need a break or are bored?  You’re not alone.  Everyone does it!  Instead, keep a list on your fridge or pantry door with other enjoyable tasks.  Here are some examples: go outside for fresh air, stretch, call a friend, write in your journal, put on your favorite music, work on a hobby, write a letter or card, play a game, pray, meditate, do something creative, clean out a drawer, organize your files, etc. 

Step 4: Set regular meal and snack times.  Make a realistic eating schedule for everyone in the family.  After each meal or snack, clean up, turn the lights off, and “close” the kitchen until the next meal or snack.  With children of various ages, this is a work in progress for me.  But I’m trying.

Step 5: Embrace it.  You know what, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you gain some weight over the next few months? We are all going through an experience we’ve never been in.  It’s OK if you eat more than usual, stress-eat, or boredom-eat.  This is a learning experience.  Be patient and compassionate with yourself.  Take it one day at a time (one bite at a time) and you’ll get through this.  Give yourself a hug and keep this in perspective.  There are a million things worse than gaining weight.

We are OPEN and happily seeing clients virtually!  All insurance companies have temporarily allowed telehealth and we are so pleased to be able to still meet with our clients and help you through this difficult time.  Go here to become a new client.  Or, if you are a returning client, go here to schedule an appointment.  I look forward to “seeing” you from the comfort of your home or office.  We are here for you. 

Easy, Healthy Weeknight Dinner: Sheet Pan Potatoes, Sausage, and Vegetables

Easy, Healthy Weeknight Dinner: Sheet Pan Potatoes, Sausage, and Vegetables

Here is one my family’s new favorite dinners: Potatoes, Sausage, and Vegetables roasted on a sheet pan. 

Why I love it:

  • Versatile
  • One dish meal
  • Can use leftovers
  • Inexpensive
  • Super tasty!
  • Everyone loves it (one of the few meals we all love)

Here’s how to do it:

Wash and cut into bite-size pieces your favorite potatoes and vegetables (white potatoes, sweet potatoes, new potatoes, green peppers, red peppers, broccoli, asparagus, onions, etc.). Toss the potatoes and vegetables with olive oil in a large bowl.  Spray a sheet pan with non-stick spray.  Spread vegetables and potatoes evenly on the pan.  Sprinkle your favorite seasonings on top: kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc. Dice your favorite sausage (deer sausage, chicken sausage, pork sausage, etc.) into bite-size pieces and sprinkle over the vegetables.  Roast in the oven at 425 degrees until the potatoes are soft.  Serve with fruit and a glass of milk on the side.   Yum!

Please share: What’s your favorite easy dinner?