The Other Side of Weight: How To Gain It

I started out writing about good calories vs. bad calories, until realizing that most of my blogs over the past year have had at least a little to do with weight loss. In the US, we’re so used to focusing on obesity and weight we sometimes forget there are other things to write about when it comes to nutrition and health. But I don’t want to be part of that problem, mainly because sometimes I’d like to read a Women’s Health article without having to select between “I’d like a FREE 20 week weight loss plan” and “I already have a bikini body”.  So, this time I’m going a different direction, and addressing a question I’ve gotten from a couple of people: how to gain weight. Below are a couple of simple tips for gaining weight healthfully.

1. Add some fat (the good kind).

Fat is the most dense macronutrient at 9 calories per gram. Of course, fat is more filling, so too much of it can be counter productive. Still, try to up your fat content where you can. Whole or 2% instead of skim milk (organic/grass-fed, of course), nuts, nut butters, a little extra olive soil, avocados, some salmon, etc. The salmon (and other omega-3’s) have the added bonus of helping to counteract some of the inflammation from training.  Continue reading The Other Side of Weight: How To Gain It

What If We Put Physical Activity On The Food Label?

This week I was handed the honor of writing my company’s monthly blog post on the Department of Health and Human Services Be Active Your Way Blog. I decided to write about health literacy month (that’s this month), and started thinking about ways to help people better understand nutrition information. Health literacy is often discussed in terms of medical diagnoses and clinical treatments, but I think it has relevance here too. I mean, if I discussed all that was wrong with the food label, I wouldn’t have any time to make my point. So I’ll just say that it is confusing to many Americans for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it’s actually very difficult for a lot of people to quantify calorie information. That 200 calories always looks so innocent on the food label until you realize you just wasted 10% of your calorie budget on 12 tortilla chips.

The FDA is working on updating the food label, with new features such as realistic portion sizes (unless you think eating 1/3 of a candy bar at a time is realistic) and a new “added sugar” line, so consumers could see how much sugar occurs naturally in an item and how much is added to get you addicted to that food improve the product for consumers. But those changes don’t make calories on a label any easier to understand in real world context.  Continue reading What If We Put Physical Activity On The Food Label?

Fiber

I realize I (and many others in the health/wellness field) talk about fiber a lot, usually in general terms. We say things like “fiber is important for weight loss/maintenance because it helps keep you full” and “fiber helps you stay regular”.Supplements like Metamucil and benefiber and food brands like Fiber One capitalize on the health effects of fiber (although as a side note I wouldnt recommend Fiber One bars be your main source of it). But  fiber can be a little more complex than that.

The Two Types of FIber

There are two types of five – soluble and insoluble.

  • Soluble fiber – this type of fiber that slows digestion and may help lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber attracts water and becomes a gel during digestion. You can find it in  oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables, fiber supplements.
  • Insoluble fiber – this type of fiber adds bulk to stool and helps move it through the digestive system. Insoluble fiber also attracts water, and is the fiber that “keeps you regular”. People who are constipated would benefit from more insoluble fiber. You can get insoluble fiber from wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grain.

Continue reading Fiber

Should You Shop The Perimeter?

One of the more popular food tips out there these days is “shop the perimeter of the grocery store”. This makes sense on some level – most of the meat, vegetables, and dairy are on the perimeter of the store, while the not so great stuff like Cheez-Its, Oreos, boxed rice, canned soup, and additive riddled salad dressing are all in the aisles. But if you’ve read this blog before, you know nothing irritates me more than a nutrition platitude (like “drink 8 glasses of water a day” or “only eat the most colorful foods”, but I can go into why those are wrong another time), so I’m going to go ahead and debunk this one for two reasons:

1. There’s healthy stuff in the aisles

Now, I realize that the aisles are full of junk, and really the intended benefit of the “shop the perimeter” advice is to help shoppers get what they need without being tempted by what they don’t. Continue reading Should You Shop The Perimeter?

Why Running Makes You Go

Since half marathon/marathon/spartan race season is upon us, I thought a little post on running and GI issues was in order. I think many habitual, sometimes, and “only if a bear is chasing me” runners alike probably know the feeling of having a perfectly beautiful run (or 5K test, whatever), and then BAM you gotta go. I have even heard the joke that you’re not a real runner until you’ve gone to the bathroom in public. But why does this happen?

More often than not, the source of stomach pain and bathroom breaks on a run is because of food choices, and the biggest culprit is sugar. Many runners use sugary chews, goos, or snacks to stay fueled during the run. This is smart, obviously – readily available carbohydrates at periodic times during an endurance activity will help you maintain the activity longer. So what’s the problem? Continue reading Why Running Makes You Go

The Politics of Diet

I’ve noticed that diet has become quite political these days. Many people feel very strongly about their chosen diet, and love to share news articles and studies supporting their particular view. And boy was everybody tweeting about that low carb v. low fat diet study yesterday.

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I hadn’t had time to read the study, but I did get to read Dr. David Katz’s take on it (he’s the Director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, so I guess he’s kind of smart) and I’m glad that was the first thing I read. It highlights how important it is for us (well, our journalists should be doing this but they sadly rarely bother) to read these studies. Nutrition science is still new and there are still a lot of challenges, but we don’t need to muck it up further by conducting and publishing truly crappy studies.

Since Dr. Katz essentially wrote everything I would have – and likely better – I’m going to yield the floor to him now.  From Dr. Katz on LinkedIn: Continue reading The Politics of Diet

Yes, You Absolutely Should Be Drinking Organic Milk

Vermont_cowWell, that is, if you are drinking milk. A while back I wrote a post on organic produce, the point of which was essentially “Meh, nutritionally organic and conventional produce are very similar”. But that’s not gong to be the point of this article. The point of this article is that if you put dairy products into your body, they better damn well be organic 99% of the time.

How Milk Is Made

Conventional dairy farming can be a nasty business. Cows live in close quarters, are fed corn/grains (not the natural diet of a pastured animal) and receive antibiotics (scary fact: somewhere around 80% of antibiotics produced in the US are given to animals). None of these things is particularly healthy for the cow. And I haven’t even gotten into the pooping – how much, where it goes, and what that does to the environment. I’m not going to either, there’s enough on that circulating the web. (Or, if you’re interested in a comprehensive book on industrial dairy and meat production in the US, check out Animal Factory).

In contrast, the standards for organic livestock include: Continue reading Yes, You Absolutely Should Be Drinking Organic Milk

In Olive Oil V. Canola Oil – Is There A Winner?

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Olive oil has been well recognized for its health benefits, and is a oft stated feature of the Mediterranean diet. And canola oil has been making headway in the US as a “healthy oil”. Multiple sources cite it as having the following benefits:

  • Less saturated fat (only about 6%) than any other oil
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Higher level of mono-unsaturated fats (observed to be good for cholesterol) than any oil except olive

But what really IS canola oil? There is, after all, no such thing as a “canola” plant. And is it really healthier than other oils, like olive? Continue reading In Olive Oil V. Canola Oil – Is There A Winner?

Should You Be Drinking Gatorade?

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.02.51 AMIf you played sports as a kid, you probably grew up on the delicious, refreshing beverage called Gatorade (or Powerade, although I think Gatorade is better). Originally invented at the University of Florida (Go Gators) to hydrate the football team during hot summer games, Gatorade now produces a regular and low calorie drink, “natural”versions of these beverages, as well as energy chews and nutrition bars. And their marketing has been stellar – watch any Gatorade ad and you’re pretty much convinced that you should drink this stuff because that’s what the badass athletes do (and who doesn’t want to be a badass athlete). They’re all about that inspiring stuff like hard work and determination. Well, at least most kids probably think that. As adults, we’re just trained to crave it. If I go running in sub 75 degree weather for longer than 30 minutes, I come back craving a blue Gatorade (because maybe the flavor is inspired by some kind of fruit, but in all likelihood it contains no part of said fruit, and we just know it by the color anyway. Yellow is a close second for me). Of course, Gatorade has also gotten some negative press surrounding their use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) – which they’ve since discontinued using – because it had been patented as a flame retardant and is banned in Japan and the European Union.  But, is it OK to drink or should you avoid it? Continue reading Should You Be Drinking Gatorade?

Should You Avoid Fruit To Lose Weight?

55928950_6a535def18_zI’ve heard a couple of people over the past few years talk about cutting out carbs and sugar to such an extent that even the usually neutral fruit was eliminated. I’ve heard people reference bananas and grapes as “very high in sugar”, and something to be avoided. Now we all know sugar is the opposite of awesome for you and that cutting back on carbs and sugar can produce weight loss. But do you really need to cut the bananas to achieve or keep a healthy body?  Continue reading Should You Avoid Fruit To Lose Weight?