It’s National Taco Day – Grab Those Partay Pants
First of all — stop the press. Did you know that TODAY, October 2nd is National Taco Day?
I know. First, it was National Peanut Day. Now this. Can you even stand the excitement? Don’t get me wrong. I know that every Tuesday is in fact Taco Tuesday. But most importantly today is THE Taco Tuesday.
I have NEVER met a taco I did not like 🙂
I don’t know about you but I love Mexican food. I can pretty much eat some rendition of Mexican food every day. After all, what is there NOT to like about Mexican food? First there is meat, then cheese, guacamole, jalapenos, tomatoes and might I add … maybe more cheese? So let’s celebrate this glorious day with some healthy Mexican taco recipes. Yes you heard that right. Mexican CAN be healthy. I got you covered, I promise.
Buen provecho! (Enjoy your meal in Spanish).
I am a bowl and spoon type of girl. So that is why I lead the list of recipes with 9 Healthy Taco Bowls for When you Want to Ditch the Shell. For me, the actual taco shell just does not do it. Also it’s what inside the shell that really counts and the possibilities are seemingly endless. Most importantly, there is something in this list of recipes for everyone here. Meat eaters and vegans alike can hold hands and dig in knowing their respective bellies will be full.
Check out these tasty taco bowls from Slim Sanity! Yum!
Watching your carbs? Then check out this easy recipe for Turkey Taco Spaghetti Squash Boats. Vegetarian? Or ground turkey meat just not your thing? Why not try substituting Boca Crumbles or Beyond Beef Crumbles. You will not even miss the meat 🙂
Taco Stuffed Peppers
From my experience people seem to have a ‘love or hate’ relationship with peppers. So for all the lovers out there I am sharing my favorite recipe for Taco Stuffed Peppers by the Cozy Cook. I am hopeful once you try these this bad boys stuffed with ground beef, cheese, salsa and sour cream – the fact they are even peppers will become a non-issue.
Just a couple of substitutions I would suggest to this recipe. I am assuming the ground beef is referring to an 80/20 blend. I would suggest either ground sirloin which is generally 93/7 or 90/10 depending on the brand. Or you could also substitute ground chicken or ground turkey to lower the saturated fat content of the recipe as well. The Boca Crumbles or Beyond Beef Crumbles would also work lovely here as well.
Taco Seasoning – Avoiding the Ick Factor
As for the Taco Seasoning in this recipe most commercial packets are loaded with sodium and often even MSG. So what I might suggest is you either make your own special blend or choose a low sodium brand with the least number of words you cannot pronounce.
Don’t believe me that there are all sorts of wacky things in your taco seasoning click here to find out what is lurking. Note the second ingredient is salt. Also in case you didn’t know the term “partially hydrogenated soybean oil” is just a fancy name for trans fats. Don’t let the trans fats crash our Taco Tuesday party.
Here is a simple recipe to make your own taco seasoning.
Lastly, if you are looking to shave off a couple calories (40) and grams of fat (4) you can buy Trader Joes Light Mexican Cheese. I am a SUPER FAN.
Well, we can’t chat about healthy taco recipes without mentioning taco salads. Depending upon what you put on a taco salad this is a great vehicle to get your Mexican on without a boat load of calories.
However, don’t be fooled. Most taco salads come in deep-fried taco bowls and clock in around 1000 calories per salad. Not to mention they can be sodium bombs.
So why not just make your own? That way you can control all the toppings and make the salad as healthy as you want. Try this recipe from one of my favorite recipes sites Well Plated for a delicious Skinny Taco Salad.
As with anything you can always tweak the ingredients. For example if you are watching your carbs you might nix the tortilla, black bean and/or corn. Or just scale back the quantity of each. Generally each cup of corn is about 15 grams of carbs. While each cup of beans is about 45 grams carbs. Depending on the brand, tortillas range from 10 grams each all the way to up 60 grams. In our house we love the low carbohydrate wraps from Trader Joes. We use them for everything from tacos, fajitas and quesadillas to DIY low-carb tortilla chips.
Make Tacos. Not war.
Well I hope you found some inspiration in these recipes. After all it is not every day is National Taco Day! So please enjoy because National Taco Day only comes around every 365 days 🙂
Got healthy taco recipes? I know YOU do my fellow Mexican food lover. Please share in the comments below. Our community will thank you for doing so ♥ ♥ ♥
Hugs & High Fives,
Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal of the Day?
Back in the day (many, many, many moons ago!) when I was in grad school I remember one thing being drilled into our heads by our Professors – “Encourage your patients to eat more often.” For years, we’ve been told it’s important to eat breakfast within an hour of waking up in an effort to ‘rev up’ our metabolism. To this day, we preach to our patients to eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day to the same effect. But a more recent trend, intermittent fasting, seems to have thrown a cog in the wheel of this nonsense we have been propagating for way too long. This highly effective technique relies on restricting your eating to set times and alternating between feasting and fasting.
The goal of this blog is to define the most popular form of intermittent fasting 16:8, its health implications as well why it seems to work. Future blogs will address the details of IF including when and what to eat as well as the new emerging research as it relates to weight loss, diabetes prevention and reversal as well as optimizing body composition.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a hot topic. No matter where I seem to go – someone seems to be chatting up intermittent fasting (IF). But what the heck is IF? And more importantly why is everyone talking about it?
Intermittent fasting has recently emerged as a popular eating style. IF has dietary implications for everything from weight management, to mitigating inflammation to even decreasing the ugly symptoms of chemotherapy. Research suggests the timing of the fast is key. This powerful approach to eating has the potential for IF to serve as a realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss, as well as for diabetes prevention (1).
In an attempt to streamline my efforts, this blog (and future blogs on the topic) will focus on the body composition and the weight management applications of intermittent fasting. However, that does not mean the other benefits are less important. It just means the questions I receive most commonly in my practice relate to weight loss. So it makes sense to address this aspect.
16:8 the most popular approach to intermittent fasting
There are various formats for intermittent fasting. The most common approach is referred to as time restricted intermittent fasting. In the most basic sense time restricted IF involves eating your caloric intake within a finite period (generally 8 hours) followed by a period of non-eating or fasting (generally 16 hours). This is the most popular approach to intermittent fasting and is commonly referred to as the 16:8 approach to intermittent fasting.
The 16:8 approach by definition is simple. The ‘16’ refers to the hours in which we are not eating and the ‘8’ refers to the eating window in which we are eating.
Depending upon when someone decides to execute their 16-hour fast it is very possible they might actually be sleeping for a majority of the time they are fasting! More so, for most people participating in this style of eating they are simply skipping breakfast and consequently having lunch as their first meal. If your mornings are pretty busy, or you just don’t love eating first thing in the morning – the time seems to fly by. Making this approach particularly easier than other formats such as “The 5:2 Diet” were you are encouraged to eat 500 – 600 calories on two non-consecutive days or “The Alternative Fast Diet” where you fast every other day.
Alternate day fasting is quite an extreme form of intermittent fasting. It may not be suitable for beginners or those with certain medical conditions. It may also be difficult to maintain this type of fasting in the long-term. Each person’s experience of intermittent fasting is individual, and different styles will suit different people. However, from my clinical experience I have seen the most success and compliance with the 16:8 approach to intermittent fasting.
So sounds pretty simple, right? You eat for 8 hours. You fast for 16 hours. But why is that eating window so dang important? SO glad you asked.
The power of insulin and intermittent fasting
Believe it or not there is one thing that pretty much controls how effectively we lose weight. This crucial thing is called insulin. Insulin is a powerful hormone secreted by the pancreas. Truth be told – insulin is pretty much responsible for the fate of our fat cells.
You see when we eat our body breaks down food into smaller components. One of these smaller units is glucose (aka sugar). The glucose from our food enters our bloodstream to be transported to our cells where it is processed and used to fuel the body. While glucose helps provide our cells with the energy they need to do their jobs; its very presence increases our levels of insulin.
Once the body receives the signal you’ve eaten, insulin is produced and released in response to glucose. Unfortunately, when the body senses high levels of circulating insulin it only hears one message and one message only, “Store excess calories as fat.” Insulin slows down fat burning while the body instead burns glucose from its last meal.
For that reason, from a body composition standpoint we want keep insulin levels as low as possible (2). We don’t want no stinkin’ fat storage! Do we? No, thank you!
I want you to think about insulin like the mission control center of your fat cells. The presence of insulin dictates whether we store calories as fat or burn them for energy. Take for example the fed state. After we have eaten a mixed meal (one with carbohydrates, protein and fat) insulin increases and a message is sent to our body to store fat. However, when we are not eating – that message is silenced. During the fasting state, the body burns more stored fat for energy. And guess what – if we burn more fat as fuel we are more likely to optimize our body composition. Bingo – now we are on to something!
So, is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Heck no!
So that reminds me. Let’s go back to that original scenario. Remember the one that has been drilled into your head about eating small frequent meals and snacks? The one that always – no matter what – starts with consuming a big healthy breakfast. Does it now make sense why that method is pretty much counter productive to optimizing body fat?
Think about it. If we are eating every couple of hours in an effort to as they used to say ‘put fuel on the fire’ what is constantly high? Insulin, right? If insulin is constantly high your body is constantly shoveling excess calories into your fat cells. No bueno!
So bottom line, in the fed state, insulin is elevated, and this signals your body to store excess calories in your fat cells. In the presence of insulin, the burning of fat is halted, while the body burns glucose (from your last meal) instead.
In the fasted state, insulin is low. The body starts mobilizing stored body fat from your fat cells and burns this fat for energy (instead of glucose).
The practical importance of all this? By choosing to follow a 16:8 time restricted form of intermittent fasting where you eat for 8 hours and fast for 16 hours you can optimize your body composition. By choosing this pattern of eating you are limiting the time in which your body is releasing insulin. Thus prompting your body to burn stored body fat while in the fasted state, while minimizing fat storage in the fed state.
In our next blog on this topic we will dive into the specifics of the 16:8 approach to intermittent fasting. I will teach you how to apply the 16:8 approach, how to choose the best time frame for the fast/fed state as well guide you on what to eat.
Don’t miss out on this exciting event
Did this blog get your noggin thinking? Want to learn more about the applications of intermittent fasting? If so – please come and hear Marc and I present on this very topic this Saturday, 9/29 at 11:30 am at Crossfit Milford. I guarantee this is an event you DO NOT want to miss.
Looking for further customization on your diet? All this talk about intermittent fasting got you confused? Then go ahead and make an appointment with either Audrey or Emily in my practice and they will help you come up with a customized meal plan using intermittent fasting.
Hugs & High Fives, Amy
P.S. Did you know The Plano Program Dietitians accept most health insurance? We sure do!
P.P.S. Love the information presented on intermittent fasting? Have a friend who you think could benefit? Please share the social love ♥
(1) Patterson RE, Laughlin GA, Sears DD, et al. Intermittent Fasting on Metabolic Health. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015;115(8):1203-1212.
(2) Tinsley GM, La Bounty PM. Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutrition reviews. 2015 Oct 1;73(10):661-74.
What to Look for on a Food Label for Peanut Butter
This week at Quinnipiac University my students in one of my hybrid classes completed a module on food label reading. In this assignment I have them choose one of their favorite, commonly consumed foods and report back to the class on what they learned from reading the food label.
When I asked by a show of hands in last night’s class how many students were surprised by what they learned from the assignment – 25 out 25 hands shot right up. Not surprising as reading a food label can be pretty difficult territory to navigate! In fact for some – it can be pretty foreign.
Therefore, I thought it light of National Peanut Day (which in case you did not know is TODAY in case you didn’t know!) it would be a good idea to tackle what to look for on a food label of one of my most favorite foods – good old peanut butter.
Peanut butter. To my expert knowledge is one of the best foods ever created on this amazing planet. It’s texture, salty taste, and affordability has made peanut butter a staple in most American homes.
Battle Royale of the Peanut Butters – Let’s the games begin!
So, what is in peanut butter? How is it made? What should we look for when buying peanut butter? Well, it sounds pretty simple in theory. Peanut butter should just contain peanuts and some butter, right? However, this is far from the case. So let’s get down to the nitty gritty and see what we should be looking for on a food label on this beloved food.
5 Important Things to Look for When Buying Peanut Butter
1. Always choose organic.
I promise – I am NOT ‘that’ dietitian. The one who preaches organics as the be-all-end-all of life. In fact, in my practice organics are only something I bring up if YOU bring them up. I have NO agenda when it comes to organics. So if I tell you to buy organic peanut butter there has to be a good reason.
You see, peanuts are one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the US. Insects and all sorts of little creatures ♥ peanuts – just like we do! So, that means the commercial peanut crops are sprayed with a heavy hand when it comes to pesticides.
Therefore, in an effort to decrease this lovely toxic load – choose a peanut butter that clearly states “Organic” on the food label. This information is found on the front of the product and often too on the back of the food label.
Choosing Organic peanut butter is critical!
And remember you do not need to choose a fancy brand. In fact, most store brands of organic peanut butter are equally as delicious as the far more expensive name brand varieties.
2. No added sugars.
I know this sounds like a no brainer. But sugar should never.ever.ever. be listed as an ingredient on a food label for peanut butter. Not in any form. No cane juice, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, agave, molasses, honey, etc. Because guess what? They all mean one thing – and one thing only – sugar.
This product (though delicious I might add) contains added sugars – so buyer be aware!
You see food companies are pretty sneaky! Many will often use sugar as a ‘filler’ or just to make an already delicious product sweeter. Don’t fall for it. You are far too crafty smartie pants!
This product contains ‘added’ sugar in the form of ‘cane sugar’
Sugar does not belong in peanut butter. That is unless you are making a peanut butter pie. Which if you know me – understand fully that making peanut butter pies are pretty much my jam!
3. No added oils.
This one may stump you. But guess what makes most peanut butters smooth? Trans fats (a.k.a. hydrogenated oils). Hydrogenated oils are used to improve the texture of peanut butter. They prevent the oils from separating in peanuts and rising to the top.
Trans fats are an unhealthy type of fat. Trans fats tank our healthy cholesterol (HDL) which we want HIGH and increase our lousy cholesterol (LDL) which we want LOW. Some of the most popular peanut butters used to have partially hydrogenated fats in them: Skippy, Jiff as well as many standard store brands. However, given the dangerous nature of trans fats (And the FDA cracking down on using them!) many companies are switching to fully hydrogenated fats. These fats still impart the same qualities with less of an impact on our health. However, truth be told – fully hydrogenated fats while not as risky from a heart health standpoint should be avoided in my book!
All sorts of garbage here!
When reading a food label to determine whether or not a peanut butter contains trans fats look to the ingredient list for the words: partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. They are generally listed as the second or third ingredient on the food label.
As you can see in the label above – the products contains all sorts of garbage including sugar, salt and corn syrup. Awesome, right? But no trans fats. As if label reading could not get any more complicated. Geez! Nonetheless, trans fat or not – this peanut butter is no bueno 🙁
4. Two Ingredients OR LESS.
Generally when it comes to most foods – the fewer number of ingredients, the better! In all honesty high quality peanut butters should only contain ONE ingredient — peanuts. Bingo!
A little salt can be okay, too. Some grocery stores have grinders that turn peanuts into peanut butter for you. Heck even our local Shop Rite has this – boom! This allows you to purchase however much you like instead of having to buy an 16-ounce jar and you can guarantee only one ingredient.
5. Peanuts as the MAIN ingredient.
Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This means the ingredient listed first on the food label occurs in the highest quantity in the product. When viewing the list, peanuts should always be the first ingredient.
Focus on these 5 things and you will have no problem choosing a high quality peanut butter
Remember my friends peanut butter should JUST be smashed peanuts, period. Brand names shouldn’t matter as long as you follow my suggestions listed above.
My advice is always to make sure the food label hits these 5 criteria and is the least expensive among the choices. No need to get fancy or shell out a lot of money unless you choose to. With that being said – there should be no need to spend more than $6.00 on a jar of high quality peanut butter – after all it is just nuts.
Got tips? Do YOU have criteria that you like to follow when choosing a peanut butter? Is there a brand that you love? Share in the comments below. Our peanut butter loving community would love to be in the know.
Hugs & High Fives,
If you learn any one thing from me on your journey to wherever you may need a little help going I hope you remember to do this one simple thing – practice being grateful every. single. day. From my experience over the last 40 glorious years on this planet – I see much more frustration and sadness than happiness in my practice.
But please remember no matter how bad it may seem — there is always something to be grateful for. There is always something to smile about. Please do not let a single day go by without counting your blessings and appreciating all the wonderful things in your life. By fostering an attitude of gratitude you will stay grounded to the good and find that you have no time left for the bad.
People spend so much time complaining about the things they don’t have, focusing on the things they want or feel like they should have — that they have no time to appreciate what they already have. Kind of crazy when you think about it, right? Backwards way of thinking if you ask me.
Why Gratitude is Important
A while back I read a fantastic article in the magazine Inc. In this well-written article, Elliot James talks about the power of gratitude. He compares gratitude to the likes of an emotional muscle that one can and should flex everyday. He makes a very profound statement that I could not agree with more:
Spot on! People who are grateful not only seek out more successes but they draw more successes into their lives.
Just think about it for a moment. When you are grateful, the more others enjoy being around you. It’s kind of like when you sparkle, like you all do – everyone wants to be your friend. Your appreciation supports those around you and let’s them know they are accepted. By expressing your gratitude you allow these folks to see the positive elements inherent in daily life, and promote them to feel more hopeful about the possibility of future success.
In the business world I live in clients (and potential clients) love to feel that you are grateful for their business; it creates strong bonds of loyalty and mutual support. One of the ways I let my clients is know I am appreciative of them is with a gift card of their choice to either Trader Joes or Whole Foods when they refer someone to me for my services. This is not something that is noted anywhere in my literature – but is something I feel is very strongly about and I do on a regular basis.
By expressing my gratitude it doesn’t only acknowledge the person’s actions. It recognizes the actual person. In doing so, I set a winning tone and one in that is mutually inclusive for everyone involved.
Just like learning to not take everything personally takes some time to master; so does learning the art of gratitude. However, the more you flex and use that emotional muscle; the more it will strengthen and grow. And after all, who does not want big guns?
How I Practice Gratitude
One of the things I personally find extremely helpful in my own life is to set aside two separate times a day to practice gratitude. When I worked at Yale, for the whole ride in rather than listening to the radio, I would go through a whole list of things in my mind I was grateful for. Now that I do not spend that much time in my car, I instead have a little notebook called my “Gratitude Journal,” and each morning I write down 10 things I am grateful and appreciative for. I then revisit this list right before I go to bed. Not only does this start and end my day on a positive note, it really makes me recognize just how amazing and blessed I really am. It also keeps me from taking things for granted which is sometimes so easy to do.
As you start to practice gratitude (and I really, really, really hope you will!) you will notice, over time, a real change in the whole trajectory of your life. You may find that your efforts to create the career and life you want are increasingly successful. In no time, you’ll quickly begin to experience the positive impact of approaching your life with a focus on gratitude. Which will give you even more to be grateful about ♥
And one of the most marvelous things about gratitude – it has no upper limit. You can be as grateful as you want to be. Develop an attitude of gratitude and you will have more things to be grateful about tomorrow! And what’s a better time to start than today?
Despite the fact that it is Monday what are you grateful for?!? I know you can think of something. Give me the 411 on your gratefulness.
Hugs and High Fives,
What is metabolic testing ?
The million dollar question on everyone’s mind, “what is metabolic testing ?” Many people have heard the term but have no clue what to expect from metabolic testing. The goal of this blog is to clarify this information and tell you exactly how to prepare for the testing to ensure the best results.
Trust me – there is absolutely nothing remotely scary about having your metabolism tested. In fact – I can almost guarantee you will be skipping out of my office with the new information in hand like a kid on Christmas day. Now let’s chat about how to prepare for metabolism testing.
First things first, metabolism testing does not hurt. I promise! We don’t draw blood. Also there is NO physical exertion involved. In the past, I have had patients show up in their workout gear thinking they were going to participate in something that might resemble a stress test. This is certainly not the case. So no worries you can leave your running shoes at home!
The device we use to measure your metabolism is called the Bodygem. This device measures your metabolism by capturing the air you breath.
Sounds pretty easy? Well it is.
Three things to do to prepare for the metabolism test:
Come fasted with no caffeine in your system for 4 hours prior to your test. You can drink plenty of water though!
Please don’t exercise within 4 hours of the test.
Arrive not having smoked a cigarette within 4 hours of the test.
Caffeine, exercise, and nicotine all can slightly increase your metabolic rate. Therefore, we do our best to minimize these variables so we can deliver you the most accurate results.
Curious about what other factors might influence your metabolism? Check out last week’s informative blog “RMR Testing 101” on this exact topic.
The actual test
Once you arrive we will get you all set up! You will sit peacefully in a chair with a small mouth tube in your mouth and a cute little nose clip on. The goal of the nose clip is to create a vacuum seal so no air escapes.
I promise, I will not post any Facebook pictures with your sexy nose clip on:)
By measuring both the amount of oxygen you exhale and the amount of carbon dioxide you expire we are able to calculate your metabolism. It’s that simple. This method is called indirect calorimetry and is one of the most accurate ways to measure metabolism. The test itself takes about 10 minutes.
Like I mentioned, the test does not hurt. However, some people find it uncomfortable as you need to breathe through your mouth for the duration of the test.
Once the test is complete we need to talk goals. Generally speaking my patients generally have three types of goals – they want to lose weight, maintain their weight or gain weight. Therefore, the next step will be tol weigh you and test your body fat. That way we have a starting point for you to gauge your progress.
Next, we will gather your demographics. Factors such as your age, sex, occupation, type and frequency of exercise, and even your sleep patterns are all important variables in determining an appropriate calorie level for your goals. All this information is then entered into a software program which then generates several important numbers.
The Bodygem tells us the following:
Exactly how many calories you need to take in on the days you workout
Exactly how many calories you need to take in on your non-training (rest) days.
How you compare to other individuals with the same demographics
Once we have this important information we can then specifically tell you where your calories need to be to accomplish your specific goals. We can also make suggestions on your macros if that is something you are interested in. If you need help setting up these numbers in a tracking program like MyfitnessPal we are happy to help guide you as well.
If you need additional services like a customized meal planner with specific meal suggestions or guidance on how to incorporate carbohydrate cycling or intermittent fasting these can all be provided at an additional fee.
The entire metabolic test plus the consult should take no longer than 45 minutes. You will leave with a personalized print out with your results and a solid knowledge of what is metabolic testing really entails. No guesswork involved!
On next week’s blog we will dive deeper into the results. We will interpret the results of three actual Bodygem results and discuss how to apply the information. So now when someone asks you the question, ” what is metabolic testing ” you will be able to give them a A+ answer 🙂
P.S. The icing on the cake is if you purchase the metabolism test during the month of July you will be entitled to a 40 % discount for my birthday. Just use coupon code thisis40 when you schedule your metabolism test on www.amyplano.com to receive the discount. However, act fast as this discount will only be around until July 31, 2018.
Have questions on metabolic testing? Please don’t be shy! Ask in the comments section below.