Shop Smarter, Not Harder

By: Rachel Sircy

Living with any chronic condition usually means having to means that you have to make serious lifestyle changes. For those of us who have to make drastic changes in what we eat, grocery shopping can become something we dread and eating out can become nearly impossible.

For celiacs like myself, you have to learn a whole new way of thinking about food and you have to learn a whole new language: label reading. Learning to become an expert label reader and spot the hidden gluten in food takes time. Meanwhile, as you struggle with all this new information, you get hungry. Really hungry. I don’t know about you, but when I become hungry I get desperate, and desperation leads to bad food choices and bad food choices (particularly for someone with a chronic condition) leads to bad health.

So, what can you do to prevent yourself from becoming desperately hungry while you’re re-learning to shop? Well, firstly, listen to that piece of advice your mother gave you and never, EVER shop hungry. If you have diabetes or high cholesterol or celiac disease, there are very few convenience foods out there that are safe for you to eat. Be sure to eat before you go to the store. And, if you have found a portable snack that is healthy for you, take it with you.

Of course, we can all find ourselves in an emergency situation, and while we’re re-learning about food and how to shop for ourselves again, these two smartphone apps can be real lifesavers:

ShopWell – This app is perfect for those of us who haven’t quite mastered label reading, or who are in a hurry to get in and out of the grocery store. In our modern world of pre-packaged everything, it’s hard to know just what the ingredients in something are and whether or not they’re good for you. The ShopWell app allows each user to plug in personal health information, such as if you want to follow a gluten free diet or if you are a diabetic, pre-diabetic or have high cholesterol. The app has a built-in barcode scanner for food and when you use it to scan a food item, the app will tell you if that food has ingredients in it that are good for you and your individual dietary needs.

If you find yourself completely confused, or in a hurry, you can turn on the app’s location device while you are in the grocery store and the app will point you in the direction of healthy food. It can tell you the general area where you should be searching for food that is right for you in the grocery store you happen to be in. It’s like having a registered dietician in your pocket!

Find Me Gluten Free – My mother (who is also a celiac) introduced me to this app. It’s perfect for those times when you find yourself out of the house for longer than you expected, or your in a city that you are unfamiliar with. This app uses your location to find restaurants in your immediate area that offer gluten free items on the menu. The first time I ever used it, my family was out Christmas shopping in a city that was 2 1/2 hours away from where we lived. We were starving, but we didn’t know anything about the area and had no idea where we could eat. We turned on the app and found out that Red Robin has the option to serve most of its sandwiches on gluten free croissants. While I really don’t recommend eating out a lot for celiacs (cross contamination is almost always an issue), there are times when you need to eat pronto. Thanks this app, Mom and I were saved from becoming hungry enough to make some bad food choices.

So, when learning a new way of life, do it smarter, not harder. Save yourself some time, some headache and be good to your body by letting these apps take some of the guesswork out of shopping and eating out for you!

Five Tips to Get You Back on Track If You’ve Gained Weight

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

I recently looked back at my weight over the past two years. Except for the initial weight gain when I returned from Shepherd Center, I’ve generally I’ve stayed about the same. I felt a little crazy. Despite all of food tracking and measuring, exercising and gym visits, obsessing over ever calorie and measuring food, I was about the same weight. Whaaat?

Around that time, I saw a book called Body Kindness in one of my social feeds. The book promised to “show you how to create a healthier and happier life by treating yourself with compassion rather than shame.” Life is too short to be at war with my body, I thought as I ordered it. If I’m not going to benefit from “dieting” and assigning myself a goal weight, I may as well enjoy food and quit worrying so much.

The part of the book that resonated with me was “firing the food police” and seeing food as neutral, declassifying foods as “good” or “bad.”  I gave up recording in My Fitness Pal (MFP), bought foods I haven’t eaten in years and had a lot of ice cream. But food freedom didn’t automatically transfer into more mindful eating, an indifference to “problem foods” or weight loss. When I finally weighed myself after a few weeks, I was up a couple of pounds. That isn’t the end of the world, I know, but if you’re short and already have a few extra lbs., it’s a good warning sign.

Despite my tendency to overeat using the Body Kindness concept, I did love the “Body Kindness” tips. I loved striking morning power poses in the mirror; getting more sleep and practicing more positive body self-talk. I loved feeling less conscious and more empowered. It didn’t lead to weight loss or even maintenance, but it felt good.

I’ve decided that for me, meal planning and food journaling worked; it’s empowering and energizing. I’ve returned to food journaling and my goal to eat healthier. But I also decided to continue incorporating those body kindness tips as I worked toward getting closer to my goal weight.

Until then, I was stuck with a few extra pounds on top of what I wanted to lose before. For inspiration, I visited MFP’s website, where I found these tips to get back on track from MyFitnessPal’s blog.

According to MFP, these five tips will help you get back on track:

  1. START NOW AND START SMALL

Stop saying “I’ll start over tomorrow.” Instead of me focusing on the 22 total pounds I want to lose, I’m going to start with the five pounds I can realistically lose in one month. And I’m not going to obsess over working out for an hour every day of the week, when a nice walk outside for 20-30 minutes will be a good start.

  1. LOSE THE GUILT

It’s easy to feel ashamed, guilty and embarrassed when you gain or regain weight. Weight gain happens, so I’m going to shift my focus from the past and set my sights on concrete actions I can take to move forward. I’m going to set attainable goals and celebrate when I hit them – striving for progress, not perfection.

  1. CONSIDER HELP FROM THE PROS

Whether it’s a personal trainer, nutritionist, medical doctor or therapist, it can help to have someone holding you accountable. I love my trainer, and he keeps me honest. My body is still recovering from the time I spent in bed during my rehabilitation, and my frozen vocal cord prevents me from doing too strenuous a workout. Cash helps me determine what exercises are off limits for the moment and ways I can modify others for the long term. He also knows me well enough to know when to push me a little, too.

  1. MAKE A MEAL PLAN

It’s always helpful to plan out your meals to prevent you from falling back into old bad habits like eating ice cream every day. I started by jumping forward one day in My Fitness Pal and plugging foods into each meal ahead of time. Taking the time to think it out helps, and once I’ve journaled it, the “getting ahead” is more likely to keep me honest than fleeting good intentions in my head.

  1. REACH OUT TO FRIENDS

Tell your circle of influence that you’re working on healthy eating. They may want to join you, and everybody knows that it’s easier when you have a fitness/food buddy. They can help by keeping junk food out of sight or not tempting you with unhealthy food in the first place.

It’s only been a few days since I shifted my mindset, so I haven’t magically lost that weight I gained. I’m eventually going to weigh myself again, and I haven’t lost sight of my goal. Instead I’m going to judge my success by how I feel and how my clothes fit. Weight gain happens and weight loss is hard work, so I won’t give up or feel defeated if I struggle. I’ve got this, and I’m not alone.

Have you ever looked up and suddenly gained more weight than you anticipated? What was your wakeup call? What did you do? And what are your tips for staying on track? I’d love to hear from you.

How ‘Bout THEM Apples

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Kandi Apple

Kanzi Apple

This week at the gym, one of my workout buddies brought us Jazz apples. They were delicious. After my workout, I went to Publix to get a few for myself. I was surprised to find that they didn’t have Jazz apples, but did have Kanzi apples, which I later found out are an “apple cousin” to Jazz.

A quick scan of apples at Publix revealed several new names, and I wondered what had happened to the apple industry since the beginning of my grocery shopping days. Back then, Red Delicious apples were about as good as apples got. I remember Granny Smith and Macintosh, but nothing exotic like Honeycrisp, Jazz, Gala or Pink Lady.

A quick Google search finds that there are 7,000 varieties of apples. And if you had a different one each day, it would take you 20 years to try them all. (Visit WeldonOwen.com for more about the varieties of apples and the 18 that you actually need to know about.)

The changes we see in the produce aisle reflects the increasingly fragmented apple industry, where major growers have moved away from relying on few varieties for their income. Rather, many are diversifying their orchards, aiming to cash in on the premium prices of licensed niche apples and creating competition among breeders to develop the next big flavorful apple.

In 1999, Red Delicious accounted for a 51 percent of the nationwide sales. By 2015, that number had dropped to 25 percent, according to data from the Washington Tree Fruit Association.

The five newest varieties of apples include Junami, Kanzi, RubyFrost, Opal and SnapDragon. And on the horizon for 2019 is the Cosmic Crisp, an apple named for the stellar-like appearance of the “striking” lenticels on the apple surface. I can hardly wait! And you can say you heard it here first, on Every Woman blog.

And the old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away?” According to Medical News Today, apples were the original super food and have many health benefits, from improving neurological health to reducing the risk of strokes and diabetes. And with 7000 varieties, there are just more ways to stay healthy.

What is your favorite kind of apple, and how to you like to eat it?

Nuts About Coconut Oil? Know the Facts

By: Jennifer Benedetto MS, RD, LD at LMC

Dietary recommendations regarding fat intake seem to change with the decade. A recent report continued to question the “healthiest” type of fat. A March 2014 article in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that decreased saturated fat intake did not result in a decreased risk of heart disease. Following this surprising report, the media began to report that there was no harm in unlimited consumption of saturated fats like coconut oil, animal fat, and butter. If decreased amounts of saturated fat didn’t help, what’s the harm in eating more?

coconut oilHighly saturated coconut oil, in particular, is now being promoted as a cure for various health conditions including Alzheimer’s, heart disease and obesity. But is coconut oil actually beneficial?

Coconut oil contains high levels of saturated fat, higher levels than butter. Ninety-two percent of the fat in coconut oil is saturated compared to 15% saturated fat in olive oil and 62% in butter. Unlike other oils, coconut oil can be solid or semisolid at room temperature due to the multitude of saturated chemical bonds. Conventional coconut oil is made from dried coconut that is pulverized, cooked and treated with chemicals. It is used in candies, coffee creamers and movie theater popcorn. Relatively new to the scene is virgin coconut oil which is extracted from fresh coconut meat. Virgin coconut oil is promoted as being healthier than conventional coconut oil. So should we be switching to coconut oil?

In regards to heart health, coconut oil like other saturated fats, increases “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. High levels of LDL contribute to heart disease. Liquid vegetable oils (olive, canola) do not increase LDL. On the other hand, coconut oil, like liquid vegetable oils, also increases “good” (HDL) cholesterol. But is this elevation in HDL beneficial? That is unclear.

For now, most experts agree that coconut oil is a better choice than butter or trans-fats but there is no evidence to suggest coconut oil should be substituted for liquid vegetable oils. People who regularly eat extra-virgin olive oil in place of saturated fats have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke—and lower cholesterol.

As far as the other coconut oil health claims go, there is no solid science to back them up. More research is needed to support coconut oil’s purported therapeutic benefits. So for now, stick with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines and choose unsaturated/beneficial fat sources and limit saturated fats to 7-10% of calories.

Bottom Line: saying something is not harmful does not mean it is good for you.

Graze: Snacking Reinvented

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Don’t you just love it when things come together just right? A while back, I posted information about my favorite subscription box from Greatist. Sadly, the subscription box service was recently discontinued. In a seemingly unrelated matter, I experienced a new challenge in my ongoing quest to eat clean and healthy: a lack of good, healthy and low-calorie snacks. Then, faster than you could say “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” came Graze, a new subscription box that features healthy snacks and solves both of my problems!

Graze

Quite simply, Graze delivers tasty, healthy snacks by mail for just $6 a box. Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose the foods you want. You check out the selection of foods that could appear in your box and rate them as trash, try, like or love. With the Nibble Box, there are over 90 choices; with the Calorie Counter Box, which features snacks with 150 calories or less, there are over 50 choices.
  2. Tell Graze where to send your box. Since I have a hard time finding and/or packing good snacks for the work week, I have mine sent to the office.
  3. Graze mails your box via USPS weekly or every other week, a choice you make when you sign up. I chose weekly because I need snacks on a weekly basis, and $6 for healthy, portion controlled snacks is a deal and a half!
  4. You enjoy your snacks! Graze promises that their snacks contain no genetically modified ingredients, artificial flavors or colors, high fructose corn syrup or trans fats.

I’m a couple of weeks into my Graze subscription, and I love it! It’s convenient, inexpensive and delicious. And every box I receive is a special treat especially for me!

Commitment shy? You can try a one-time box without having a subscription. And if you subscribe and find it’s not for you, you can cancel with no penalty.

A Tropical Taste of Fall

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

I had dental surgery earlier this month, and to prepare, I got some new smoothie recipes from my fave nutrition counselor, Traci. Unfortunately, I was so sedated afterwards that I didn’t feel like making smoothies (or anything else), but I’m starting to try them now. An Banana Spice Smoothieearly favorite is the Banana Spice Smoothie. It’s great, and the spices hint that fall is around the corner. This is great on its own. Another option is to freeze it overnight in an insulated cup, thaw for about an hour the next day and eat with a spoon. Sinful!

Something neat about this smoothie is the inclusion of kefir, which is full of probiotics. I’d never tried it before, but got a good 101 lesson on it here. It seems pretty common in grocery stores now; it’s usually stocked near the soy milk.

Enjoy!

A Naturally Sweet Treat

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

When you have a sweet tooth and want to stay on track, here’s a nice treat. They’re good and easy, plus they use ingredients that you probably already have around the house. All that and no sugar!

Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 smashed bananas (ripe work best)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup milk (I use light vanilla soy)
  • 1/2 cup raisins*
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

* If you don’t like raisins, you can experiment with other add-ins; I made a batch with dried cranberries that were delightful.

Instructions

  1. Mix well.
  2. Drop tablespoonfuls onto prepared (non-stick spray or parchment paper) cookie sheet.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

What is YOUR favorite healthy sweet tweet?