Tip Tuesday: The Perfect Plate

By now you have probably heard time and again that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is portion control. Although this is partially true, what does it really mean and why is it so important? Believe it or not, our bodies function best when we are constantly processing food. This is where the idea of eating every two to three hours stems from. Eating frequently in a sequence allows our metabolism to speed up which in turn positively affects the performance of our organs and organ systems thereby enhancing our body’s overall performance.

Since we should be eating every three hours, we need to be sure to lessen our portions so as to not overwhelm our metabolism. This is where the perfect plate comes in. According to the half-plate rule, we should eat on an eight-inch plate where half of the plate contains non-starchy vegetables, one quarter contains carbohydrates, and the last quarter contains protein. This not only controls portion size but also guarantees a well-balanced meal. So before you dig in to your next meal, make sure your plate is “perfect.”

Sasha

Tip Tuesday: Read Labels

Reading labels on the food we eat is a very important part of healthy eating for the simple fact that what we put into our bodies affect our bodies. It makes sense when phrased as such but the sad truth is that for many of us labels are merely a hodgepodge of fancy colors, fonts, and symbols that adorn the packaging we cannot wait to tear apart to get to what is inside of it.

The Nutrition Facts label can be quite intimidating and downright confusing. Use the following guidelines to learn how to read labels with ease.

Start at the top. The first thing listed is the serving size, the specific quantity equal to one serving. The amount of servings per container is important to note because all data on the Nutrition Facts label is skewed if more or less than one serving is consumed. For example, eating two servings of a 300-calorie product will add up to 600 calories. To put things into perspective, that is half of the total caloric intake for someone following a 1200-calorie diet. Yikes!

Check calories. Calories are our source of energy per serving. Our body needs energy in order to function properly so we should not be afraid of them. Just as the amount of calories vary per product, caloric intake varies per person making eating a very unique experience for everyone. To maintain weight, we should consume as many calories as our body burns at rest. To gain or lose weight we should consume more or less calories respectively. [BONUS: Check calories from fat. How much fat is really in our products? If there are 200 calories per serving and 150 calories from fat then 75% of calories are from fat.]

Limit this. Fat should be limited but not eliminated from our diet because some fats are actually very good for our health. Unsaturated fats are good. Monounsaturated (Omega 9) and polyunsaturated (Omega 3 & Omega 6) fats are liquid at room temperature and increase HDL (good cholesterol). Saturated and trans fat are bad. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and increase LDL (bad cholesterol). Trans fat is partially hydrogenated oil found primarily in packaged snack products because it makes them last longer. Seek products that are low in saturated fat, low cholesterol, and no trans fat. Sodium, which when consumed in high volume may lead to high blood pressure, should also be limited.

Look for this. Fiber is an extremely important part of our diet. It keeps us feeling full longer, lowers the fat and sugar content in our blood, regulates bowel movements, and decreases our risk of developing a number of diseases. Because of this, seek products that are high in fiber. Check which vitamins and minerals are present in the product. Like fiber, these nutrients provide great benefits for our bodies. Products with a good source of these nutrients fulfill 10-19% of our daily value. Products high in these nutrients are even better because they fulfill 20% or more of our daily value.

Read ingredients. Ingredients are the building blocks of our products so it is extremely important to take note of what goes into the making of the food we eat. As mentioned in previous posts, each ingredient is listed by volume in order of predominance; the first ingredient is most prevalent and the last ingredient is least prevalent in the product. Because of this, avoid products containing the words sugarsyrup (especially high fructose corn syrup), partially hydrogenated (trans fat), enriched, and salt in the first five ingredients. Each ingredient should be simple, natural, and easy to pronounce.

Don’t forget the fine print. The data on Nutrition Facts labels is based on a 2000-calorie diet, meaning we should consume more or less than the quantity specified per serving depending on how many calories we each intend to consume daily. Note that altering serving size will also skew the amount of nutrients consumed.

So that’s all there is to it. Easy, right? Okay, maybe not. Just remember that practice makes perfect so read every label and sooner or later you’ll be a pro!

Sasha

Taking My Own Advice

I was recently featured as a guest blogger on the CHICKS ROCK! Blog for the second time. 🙂 Although it made me quite happy it also reminded me of how much I miss my blog. When I first started Fit Foods for Thought I literally had all the time in the world but for the past two months I have felt as though time had been in control of me instead of the other way around. Interestingly enough my post is entitled “Making the Time.”

The good news is that I am going to take my own advice and make time for the things that make me smile and keep me grounded, like reading and writing about FOOD. These past two months — although very rewarding — have been extremely exhausting to say the least but out of chaos does come beauty. During this time I was able to realize my values and clearly visualize what is important to me and what keeps me happy. Knowing all of this I am making some changes. Call it a late Spring Cleaning if you will but something has got to give and it definitely won’t be my happiness!

Sasha

Fit Foods: Not Just a Hobby

After a 2-month hiatus I am writing again! It was a long break — I know — but it has been such a great opportunity for me to do research, host a few workshops, and continue to help save lives.

During my time away from my blog, I hosted two nutrition workshops. The first was at my alma mater, Cornell University where Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. in collaboration with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc. hosted a workshop entitled “Exercising Your Own Choices.” This interactive health and nutrition workshop provided women with the tools needed to regain control of their bodies through a yoga session facilitated by Minnie Jardine and nutrition portion facilitated by yours truly.

During the nutrition portion, I shared my personal struggle towards better health. The fact that my story is not at all unique is what has such a strong impact on people, specifically women. I was able to connect with the women and educate them about healthy eating habits they can acquire during their college years and beyond. I encouraged them to take control of their health now, in order to enjoy a long life. The program ended with a myth debunking activity and each women walked away with a goody bag filled with nutrition facts, beauty products, and healthy snacks.

The program was very well put together. Dim lights, candles, blankets, throw pillows, and yoga mats set the mood  for relaxation. In addition, there was a tasty spread of fresh fruits, cheese, and crackers. The ambience was perfect and so was the program, but this was only the beginning…

I later spoke in front of a more diverse and slightly older group of women at the National Convention of Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. at DePauw University where I hosted a workshop entitled “Healthy Eating 101.” During the workshop I touched upon the fundamental components of healthy living and eating. It was a sort of mini-lecture yet it was personal, interactive, and fun — I hope — at the same time. My favorite part was the activity portion during which the women practiced reading and interpreting Nutrition Facts labels of healthy and unhealthy products. They dissected the labels and reported the good, the bad, and the ugly as well as whether or not they would recommend the product to someone and why. It was great to listen to these women — most of which had never looked at a label in their lives — analyze these products and candidly speak about the pros/cons. It was surprising to many of them when products they thought were healthy turned out not to be very healthy at all.

The workshop was quite successful as it enabled the women to realize how simple and critical it is to make the right food choices. In fact, I received an email from one of the women that participated in the workshop which truly made my heart smile.

I just wanted to share a personal shopping experience today. This past weekend, I sat in on Sasha’s workshop at convention. (awesome job girlie!) So today, after a moment of weakness and a crappy McD’s lunch, I decided to go to the supermarket and buy some healthy food/snacks and make that step to healthy eating…again.

Only this time, when I got there, I decided to actually read the labels. I am not sure WHY I never read them before. I mean, I read the labels for the ingredients in my hair products and clothes, but not my food. After that little epiphany, I picked up my usual whole wheat bread thinking, eh, it’s whole wheat bread. The ingredients won’t be that exciting. WRONG! The bread I usually get (Wonder brand) has high fructose corn syrup as the fourth or fifth ingredient. So here I was, thinking I was eating healthy wholesome food all this time, only to not be. I ended up buying the Arnold’s brand which didn’t have that crap in it and seemed like a better choice. Same thing happened when I read the ingredients to my fave cereal (Special K Vanilla Almond)…wrong again.

So this may seem trivial, but I just wanted to send a HUGE thank you to Sasha for teaching me a new way to shop. I’m 30, so I should know better, but really I didn’t. I also have PCOS and know that I HAVE to lose the belly fat or I risk developing diabetes type II, but it has been such a struggle all my life as well that I think I subconsciously had started to give up.  So, I just wanted to share because it is about so much more than a hobby Sasha…you’re literally helping people save their lives.

Having been able to positively affect at least one woman in that workshop really motivates me to continue my quest to save lives. I do what I do because I want to help people. I want everyone to have the opportunity to make the best choices in order to live the best life. It is truly reassuring to know that my words do touch people and that I actually do motivate people because it makes me feel one step closer to impacting the world.

I hope to plan and facilitate more workshops throughout the year in hopes of empowering more than just one person. But in the meantime, I’m back! 🙂

Sasha

Food Review Friday: Fiber Bar

It is a bit funny to write this post for the simple fact that my blog was born from the product I will be reviewing today. My sister’s fiancé was eating one of these bars and said it tasted so awesome he wanted to write a post about it but realized he had no outlet through which to express his food thoughts. I created Fit Foods for Thought that weekend and the rest is history! 😎

I had completely forgotten about this product until this past Wednesday while at Whole Foods Market on an amazing supermarket tour with Amanda Goldfarb. Amanda and I dissected the label and she highly recommended I try a few flavors. I fell in love with the Gnu Foods Flavor & Fiber Bar. Below are the nutrition facts for the Chocolate Brownie flavor.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving / Serving Size = 1 bar)
Calories 140
Calories From Fat 35
Total Fat 4g
Saturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0g
Total Carbohydrate 30g
Sodium 30mg
Dietary Fiber 12g
Soluble Fiber 8g
Insoluble Fiber 4g
Sugars 9g
Other Carbohydrate 9g
Protein 4g
Calcium 6%
Iron 15%
Ingredients: Gnu High Fiber Blend™ (Whole Rolled Oats, Organic Whole Wheat Flour, Wheat Bran, Organic Kamut, Psyllium, Flax, Millet), Chicory Root Inulin, Fruit Juices, Rice Dextrins, Dark Chocolate Chips (Chocolate, Cane Sugar, Lecithin, Vanilla), Cocoa Powder, Canola Oil, Plums, Rice, Wheat Protein Isolate, Natural Flavors, Baking Powder.

What I absolutely love about this product is that it has so much fiber. In fact, it has almost 50% of your daily value of fiber! Having this much fiber in a snack food is almost perfect because that one little bar will definitely hold you over until your next meal. I also love that, compared to other bars, it has much less sugar. This is great because my cavities sometimes ache when I eat LUNA Bars due to the overwhelming amount of sugar. With Gnu, I can eat chocolatey goodness with no aching teeth. That’s always a plus for me! In addition to the Chocolate Brownie flavor, I also enjoy Cinnamon Raisin.

The only downfall to this product is the lack of nutrition. It would be great if Gnu bars were fortified with vitamins and minerals. Refer to a previous post to compare the nutrition of Gnu and LUNA bars. Forget the cavities, do you see how many nutrients you are getting out of that one LUNA bar? Nonetheless, I would still recommend Gnu Foods Flavor & Fiber Bar and rate it 4 cupcakes. Besides, now that Amanda convinced me to take a Multivitamin as well as Fish Oil and Vitamin D supplements daily I am nutritionally insured. 😀

Fit Foods Rating: 4 cupcakes

Sasha

Tip Tuesday: Simply Substitute

As I read in an article today, you should “love to eat — just fall in love with the right food.” Today’s tip will allow you to understand this concept and maybe even fall in love.

Stocking up on good quality food is fundamental to your quest for a healthy life. Whenever you get around to detoxifying your kitchen you will probably find a great majority of your food gone. Do not fret! Simply find better quality alternatives to what you already eat. Think of it as adding rather than subtracting: think of all the nutritious food you will add to your life and all the benefits it will bring.

That said, if you like … then try …

  • Butter (on your toast). Natural fruit spread or honey.
  • Mayonnaise/Ketchup. Mustard or honey mustard (which you can actually make yourself).
  • Milk Chocolate. Dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao.
  • Peanut Butter. Natural peanut butter.
  • White/Enriched Grains. 100% whole wheat or whole grain.
  • Whole Eggs. Egg whites every once in a while (or instead of whole eggs if you have high cholesterol)
  • Whole Milk. Skim milk or low-fat soy milk.

 So there you have some simple substitutions to hopefully fall in love with. 😀

 Sasha

Food Review Friday: Bottled Smoothie

Although fresh smoothies are the best possible choice when possible, I find that I rarely have time to make them from scratch. Thus bottled smoothies are the next best thing for me, especially when there are no fresh fruits in the kitchen to begin with. The product I will be reviewing today is Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness. Below are the nutrition facts.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving / Serving Size = 8 oz)
Calories 140
Calories from Fat 0
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 25mg
Potassium 470mg
Total Carbohydrate 33g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 27g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A 120%
Vitamin C 105%
Calcium 3%
Iron 15%
Folic Acid 30%
Riboflavin 7%
Vitamin B6 15%
Vitamin B12 30%
Manganese 150%
Zinc 120%
Ingredients: Apple Juice from Concentrate (Water, Apple Juice Concentrate), Pineapple Juice From Concentrate (Water, Pineapple Juice Concentrate), Mango Puree from Concentrate (Water, Mango Puree Concentrate), Banana Puree, Kiwi Juice, Spirulina, Natural Flavor, Open Cell Chlorella, Zinc Sulfate, Brewed Green Tea, Spinach, Broccoli, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Barley Grass, Wheat Grass, Blue Green Algae, Echinacea Purpurea Extract, Odorless Garlic, Lemon Bioflavonoids, Jerusalem Artichoke, Dragon Fruit Juice, Tamarind Puree, Lime Juice, Nova Scotia Dulce.

What I love about this product is the incredible amount of vitamins and minerals it contains especially in comparison to similar products like Naked Juice Green Machine. I also like the fact that it combines fruits and vegetables yet you would never know this by its delicious fruity taste. Bolthouse Green Goodness would be an even better product if it was fortified with fiber, protein, Vitamin D, and Calcium. Nonetheless it is a great product, which I rate 4.5 cupcakes.

 

Fit Foods Rating: 4.5 cupcakes

Be sure to check out other Bolthouse Farms smoothies and juices! Drink up!

Sasha

Tip Tuesday: Detox Your Kitchen

Gee whiz! Spring cleaning came early!

If you are seriously looking to acquire a healthier lifestyle, make it a point this week to rummage through the refrigerator, cupboards, and drawers in your kitchen to get rid of the junk and make room for the good stuff. This will probably be one of the most challenging things you encounter on your path towards a healthy life. Undoubtedly, it will be difficult to part ways with the poor quality foods you have eaten your entire life but  it will be very well worth it in the end.

Overwhelmed about where to start? For one thing, do not just toss everything with reckless abandon. There is a method to the madness; it involves meticulously checking the Nutrition Facts label on your products one-by-one. Toss products containing the words sugar, syrup (especially high fructose corn syrup), hydrogenated (trans fat), enriched, and salt as part of the first five ingredients. If the product contains those words in the first five ingredients then that means it appears in high volume in the product – and trust me, you do not want that.

Beware of deceptive labeling! Just because a product claims to have “0 trans fat” does not necessarily mean it is true. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients then there is your trans fat in disguise. My favorite deception occurs with products that claim to be whole grain but contain the words “enriched wheat flour” in the ingredients. Enriched, refined, or bleached flour of any kind has been processed and is thus white flour despite the color of the product.

You may be surprised to find that a lot of your products are in fact nutritional felons. Do not let that stop you. Even if nothing can be salvaged, let it go! Understand that the point of this detox is not to place limitations on the food you eat, but rather to broaden your horizons and give you a whole new perspective that will allow you to choose better quality food. I always stress in my discussions of healthy eating that you do not necessarily have to stop eating the foods you love, just find better quality versions of them. That is exactly what the detox is encouraging you to do.

BONUS: If you have a lot of unopened food to toss, skip the trashcan and donate it to organizations like Food Bank for New York instead. Please note that all products must be in their original, unopened packaging with the expiration date clearly specified; no glass products will be accepted.

For more help with detoxifying your kitchen check out this article.

Happy Cleansing!

Sasha

Food Review Friday: Fruit Spread

Put down that pastry! Here’s a product that will satisfy your sweet tooth. 😛

I have always been big on sweets. Growing up I was definitely more of a jelly person than a peanut butter person (until recently, of course, when I discovered natural peanut butter). The problem with jellies and jams — as well as a variety of other sweet foods — is that they are full of artificial sweeteners, added coloring, and may even contain high fructose corn syrup. YIKES!

Unwilling to give up jelly completely, I researched a better option. I was pleased to discover an alternative sugar fix. The product I will be reviewing today is Polaner 100% All Natural Fruit Spread in the Red Raspberry flavor. Below are the nutrition facts.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving / Serving Size = 1 tbsp)
Calories 40
Calories From Fat 0
Total Fat 0g
Sodium 0mg
Total Carbohydrate 10g
Sugar 9g
Protein 0g
Ingredients: Juice Concentrate (Pear, Grape), Raspberries, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid and Natural Flavor.

What I love about this product is that it is sweetened naturally with fruit and fruit juice. It is available in a variety of flavors (black cherry, apricot, boysenberry, pineapple, etc.) but my favorite at the moment is Red Raspberry. The fruit spread is not too sweet yet just sweet enough and tastes absolutely delicious. I rate this product 5 cupcakes and definitely recommend it to everyone, especially sweet tooths across the globe. It is too good to pass up!

 

Fit Foods Rating: 5 cupcakes 😀

Sasha