Health Tip: What up, spud?
Did you know that the most commonly consumed vegetable in America is the potato in the form of French fries? It is important to include all types of carbohydrates (whole grains and vegetables) in your diet. The UCLA California Cuisine pyramid suggests the "5 a Day- For Better Health" campaign which touts the benefits of having a diet full of many different fruits and vegetables.
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Healthy lifestyle D.I.Y. - Should snackers feel guilty?
When done right, snacking can be a powerful tool for healthy eating.
Having a snack when your stomach is growling can mean the difference between coming home and having the patience to whip together a quick, delicious and tasty meal or chowing down on everything and anything in sight a-la cookie monster.
Snacks can be a great way to: keep binges at bay; stabilize your blood sugar level (keeping you alert and in better spirits than going hungry); and ensure you are getting the nutrients you need to keep yourself going throughout the day.
On the flip side, many traditional "snack foods" are loaded with fat, sugar and additives that leave your body with a lot of excess calories, but not much in the way of nutrients.
Our biological imperative was meticulously crafted by nature over thousands of years. Much of what drives our behavior vis-à-vis food is based on a reality that has long since and drastically changed.
Consider, for example, the amount of effort that it would have taken your great great great grandparents to eat a piece of cake. They'd have had to grow and harvest the wheat; milk and care for the cows; churn the milk; chase the chickens around the yard; travel all the way into town and trade their goods for some of the other important ingredients that had to be shipped from exotic destinations. Metabolically speaking, you could say they'd earned that cake.
These days? Ten minutes at a computer keyboard and we've earned enough money to walk to the corner store and buy a piece of cake. How many calories did you expend to get that cake? Not a lot.
Will you still get hungry between meals? You bet. Is snacking still okay? Absolutely, but that snack should be in proportion to your overall energy needs for the day (recommended calorie intake) based on your resting metabolism and level of physical activity.
When twigs just don't taste as good as Twinkies
Healthy snacking can be easier said than done. Before you go beating yourself up for what feels like a blow to your willpower every time you pass the candy dish at work, take heart. You are still doing what the old world programmed your body to do. Even before your great great great grandparents, your ancestors had to go to a lot of trouble to find food. What did they find? Nuts, berries, a deer or two.
Plants don't have a lot of calories. And deer? A 3 oz. cut of roasted deer would have given your ancestors 3 grams of energy-rich fat per serving (or about 4% of total calories coming from fat). That same size piece of meat that most of us can pick up in the form of store purchased beef or pork can have as much as 35% fat - meaning that a similarly sized piece of meat today is much more calorie dense than the wild equivalent that our ancestors hunted and ate.
Ironically most inhabitants of Westernized nations expend very little energy to earn our meals, but our bodies are still wired to respond as though calories were in short supply. Sweet tastes and smooth textures tell our body that we are getting increased calories in the form of highly concentrated sugar, or, fat - an absolute gold-mine to our cave man bodies.
So the bad news is - eating that ice cream is what nature programmed you to do. The good news? Now you know why that doesn't make sense. Bearing this in mind, your modern-day brain can make a more rational choice.
By choosing and preparing the right snacks, a little extra planning will help you to have more willpower as you pass that candy bowl. And on those days when you do slip up, hopefully your healthy snacks will keep you satisfied enough that you can just enjoy the candy without going totally overboard.
Which snacks are best?
Reach for: good taste, moderate portions, nutrient rich and energy poor. Ever wondered just what an "energy" bar or "energy" drink does to give you energy? Well, here's a little hint: A calorie is a unit of measurement for energy. So many "energy" products often just give you a whole lot of calories when chances are you may not need such a heaping dose.
Try instead to eat a wide variety of snacks. Don't eat snacks to fill up - just to keep yourself from feeling hungry. Challenge yourself to select choices with as little processing as possible. The extra fiber in unprocessed vegetables and fruits will give you a slower, more sustained release of blood sugar - instead of a rush and crash that follows many high sugar snacks (like soda or candy). Here are just a couple of suggestions:
Sliced apple, pear, or, whole grain crackers with nut butter
Dip celery or veggies in hummus (add some salsa for a little zest)
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Frozen bananas (tastes just like a popsicle - remember to remove the peel before freezing)
Fruits and nuts (small portions go a long way)
Popcorn (unbuttered with some nutritional yeast, or, cayenne pepper)
Hard-boiled egg (their bad rap is undeserved)
Baked chips or pita (make your own - use whole wheat), salsa, and fat-free sour cream
One serving of string cheese
Plain yogurt, muesli, and a spoonful of low sugar jam
Pack your snacks for the week, stash some in your bag, your car, your desk; bring them with you wherever you go. See if it doesn't scare off that little cookie monster of yours!
If you have a health topic that interests you and you would like to see it in the next D.I.Y. Healthy Lifestyle then write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your request.