Avocados: A Nutritional Powerhouse Loaded with Dietary Benefits
Avocado lovers rejoice! Which pretty much includes everyone, right !?!
Today we are going to be chatting about one of my personal favorite foods – avocados. Avocados are a nutritional powerhouse. Packed with over 20 vitamins, minerals, chock full of fiber and heart-healthy fats – avocados are a nutritional force to be reckoned with. But before we examine the benefits of avocados let’s take a look at their nutritional profile:
Did you know that a ‘standard’ serving of avocado is actually 1/5 of a whole fruit? Call me crazy but that is a super odd quantity! More importantly who the heck eats 1/5 of an avocado? How do you even divide an avocado into fifths? Most folks easily eat an whole avocado without batting an eye! Therefore, for simplicity sake throughout this article I am going to use one half an avocado as the standard for comparisons.
However, as you can see avocados are predominantly fat and unfortunately do not come without calories. That would be a girl’s dream come true, right? In fact, we actually qualify an avocado as a high calorie, high fat, high fiber, low carbohydrate food. So while their health benefits are seemingly endless we still need to consume them responsibly. More about that later.
So let’s get take a look at those awesome benefits! In today’s blog we are going to examine what I consider to be five of the most important nutritional benefits of avocados. In addition, we will examine different ways of incorporating avocados into your diet so you reap these awesome benefits of these tasty little nuggets of goodness.
Avocados and Heart Disease
Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world. There are several risk factors associated with increasing the risk of this deadly disease: high cholesterol and hypertension. So it would make sense to start off by discussing avocado’s potential role in decreasing these two critical risks. Let’s tackle the cholesterol piece first.
Avocados Contain Heart-Healthy Fats
What makes a food heart-healthy? You hear this buzzword tossed around all the time. But what does it really mean?
As a dietition, this joke NEVER gets old!
Avocados are almost all fat! In one half of an avocado there are about 10 grams of fat. This means that approximately 75-80 % of all the calories in avocados come from fat. However, foods like avocados contain what we consider “good” fats.
There are two types of good fats – monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAS). Avocados contain both of these good types of fats. So even though there is 10 grams or so of fat in a serving of avocado – about 8 grams are composed of the good fats.
Impact of Avocados on Cholesterol
Not all cholesterol is ‘bad’ or even consider dangerous from a heart-health standpoint. In the body we create and process two type of cholesterol: LLD and HDL cholesterol.
Most cardiologists identify LDL as the type of cholesterol we should be most concerned with. LDL cholesterol is responsible for depositing cholesterol into our arteries. While HDL cholesterol actually does the opposite. HDL cholesterol helps remove the cholesterol from our arteries and disposes of it through our liver.
Therefore, we consider LDL our LOUSY cholesterol level and we want that value low. While HDL is considered our HEALTHY cholesterol and we want this value HIGH.
Back to lovely avocados. The monounsaturated fats in avocados can have a positive effect on heart-health when replacing saturated fats (aka “bad” fats). These heart-healthy fats can help lower overall cholesterol, raise HDL and lower LDL. Can someone say Trifecta?!
However, just like anything any food (no matter how healthy!) it important to practice portion control with avocados. Depending on its size, like I have aforementioned, a whole avocado clocks in at about 300 + calories and easily 20 grams of fat. Yes, just like we mentioned these ARE good fats. Nonetheless, we need to be responsible with our food choices. Please feel free to eat avocados daily. Just make sure to count them towards your daily calorie and fat totals.
Avocados and Hypertension
Hypertension affects ⅓ of all Americans and is the number one risk factor for heart disease. So how do avocados come into play with this deadly disease? Avocados are high in a nutrient called potassium. A potassium rich diet may help reduce hypertension, fluid retention, protect against stroke and even help prevent osteoporosis [1, 2, & 3]. Whoa. That is a powerful nutrient.
Role of Potassium on Hypertension
Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the body. It serves many roles in the body all of which depend on the chemical gradient in which it creates. Potassium helps maintain fluid balance, regulates muscle contractions (like in the heart!) as well as sends nerves singles throughout the body. In fact, potassium plays a role in every heartbeat. A hundred thousand times a day, potassium is responsible for triggering your heart to squeeze blood through your body. It also helps your muscle move, kidneys function and makes sure those nerves of yours are functioning properly.
Avocados and Potassium
However, it’s no surprise most people don’t consume enough potassium. After all, the highest source of potassium are fruits and vegetables. And truth be told people are surely slacking in this department.
Avocados are full of many important nutrients
In one half of an avocado there is around 350 – 400 mg of potassium. Most health officials (including myself!) recommend consuming 3500 – 4700 mg of potassium per day. In this situation – the more the merrier for sure. Therefore, by consuming avocados regularly in your diet you can inch your way closer to meeting this value.
Avocados and Fiber
Like potassium most folks don’t consume enough fiber. Also like potassium we find the majority of fiber in fruits and veggies as well as complex starches. The average American consumes a whopping 13 grams of fiber per day. Curious where you come in with fiber consumption? Click here to access the fiber content of commonly consumed foods. Optimal fiber intake is set at 25 – 30 grams per day. So we are off by a landslide! Enter our little buddy the avocado.
In one half of an avocado, there is about 5 grams of fiber. Not bad for a food that is mostly composed of fat!
Consuming foods that are high in fiber have been linked to reducing the risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fiber also adds bulk to our diet and promotes satiety. Avocados contain a high amount of insoluble fiber. When consumed with an adequate amount of fluid, insoluble fiber promotes optimal digestive health and bowel regularity. Insoluble fiber increases the rate at which material moves through the GI tract. It also generates larger, softer stools that are easier to pass, which helps prevent constipation and strained bowel movements. Lastly, if you suffer from diverticulitis consuming avocados regularly can help prevent flares of this painful condition.
Avocados are Rich in Antioxidants
Avocados contain vitamins A, C and E. All three are are antioxidants that help strengthen your immune system. Carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin also act as antioxidants and are found in avocados. This abundance of antioxidants helps prevent disease and has been shown to reduce the risk or prevent the progression of cancer.
“Among the twenty most commonly eaten fruits, avocado ranks number one for vitamin E, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, glutathione and beta-sitosterol,” writes ophthalmologist and author of SuperFoods HealthStyle, Steven G. Pratt. Lutein is one of two carotenoids that form the macular pigment found in the center of the retina. High concentrations of lutein are also found in the lens of the eye. Higher intake of lutein, zeaxanthin and glutathione are associated with reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Glutathione, called by some experts as the Mother of All Antioxidants, also help fights oxidative stress and free radical damage. Therefore, want to protect your sight? Regularly include avocados in your diet ♥
Avocados Taste Delicious
I had to save the best for last. Reason number 5 for consuming avocados – they taste delicious. When ripe, most avocados have a buttery texture and mild, but nutty flavor profile. It is this fairly muted flavor that lends nicely to pairings with other stronger more overpowering ingredients.
It is impossible to discuss avocados without mentioning guacamole. I feel like if I was stranded on a desert island the only three things I would need to be happy would be: 1. my husband 2. guacamole and 3. peanut butter (off course!) One of my very favorite finds at Trader Joe’s and a staple in The Plano’s home is their Guiltless Guacamole made with Greek Yogurt. With only 30 calories per tablespoon there is very little NOT to love about this food. Got a bag of ripe avocados? Why not make your own guacamole using Alton Brown’s easy to follow guacamole recipe.
Trader Joe’s Guiltless Guacamole – Yum all day long!
While most commonly consumed in the form of guacamole there are SOOOO many other tasty ways to consume avocados. Here is a fairly basic list of 23 Delicious Ways to Consume Avocados. But if you want to get fancy Epicurious has got you covered with 24 Ways to Eat an Avocado. Please check out # 4 (Hello, Chocolate mousse!) and # 22 which provides new face for an old-time favorite avocado toast. Therefore, there is no shortage of delicious ways to incorporate avocados into your lifestyle.
I know you kiddos are super creative! Was is your favorite way of using these tasty little nutrition powerhouses? Please share in the comments below.
Hugs & High Fives,
1. Schardt D. Potassium: Bones, stones, & strokes on the line. Nutrition Action Healthletter. 2004;31(10):8-9.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Part D, Section 7: Fluid and Electrolytes. The Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Available here.
3. Alderman MH. Presidential Address: 21st Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Hypertension: Dietary sodium and cardiovascular disease: The ‘J’-shaped relation. J Hypertens. 2007;25(5):903-907.
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Keto vs Atkins: what’s actually the difference?
Both are low carb, high in fat and share a large majority of the same principles but there are differences. We are going to get to the bottom of this mystery once and for all.
The Great Debate: Carbohydrates Versus Fat
Few things in the world of nutrition have been debated as much as “carbohydrates vs fat.” For decades we’ve been told fat is detrimental to our health. Meanwhile low-fat “diet” products, often full of sugar (and crap!) flood just about every aisle in the supermarket. Meanwhile, our population seemingly gets fatter, sicker and takes more medications than ever.
To eat carbs or not to eat carbs. That is the age-old question.
Therefore, it is no surprise that over the last few decades, low carbohydrate diets have made a resurgence. Also thankfully the pendulum has finally swung in a promising direction as it relates to fat intake. Many health professionals now support that a low carb diet is a viable option to treat obesity and other chronic, Western diseases.
Yay finally for legit science!
However, despite advances in research there still seems to be confusion among the various low carb diets. In fact, one of the common statements I hear in my practice from patients is that they are following a ketogenic diet. But are they really?
More often that not – upon a quick review of their actual eating patterns it becomes apparent their eating style is more consistent with an Atkins diet rather than of a strict ketogenic diet. But does it really matter? Aren’t all low carb diets created equal and illicit the same results? The answer as you will see is not that simple.
It is important to note the goal of this blog is purely informational. As a practitioner I have no personal bias as it relates to a low carbohydrate diet. This means I am neither for or against them. I meet my patients in their health journey ‘where they are’.
With that being said it is important to me that my patients are properly educated and not misinformed. Therefore, the intention of this blog is not to debate whether or not a low carb diet is healthy. The intention is to instead to address the differences and similarities of two of the most popular low carbohydrate diets: The Atkins Diet and the Ketogenic diet (aka just Keto). Both are low carb and share a large majority of principles and beneficial outcomes, but a few subtle differences exist too. But what are the main difference between these two diets? And do these differences really matter? Does one promote more long term health benefits? Let’s get some answers.
Similarities Between Atkins & Keto
Before we examine what makes both diets unique it is critical to address the similarities between Keto and Atkins. I believe it these striking similarities that often have someone thinking they are following one type of low carb diet; when in fact they are following a different approach.
Both are Low Carb Diets
At the most basic levels, both Atkins and Keto are low carb diets. However, surprisingly there is no standard definition of what actually constitutes the term “low carb”. Both Keto and Atkins respectively present and adhere to their own definitions. As you will see, it is these very definitions that set Keto and Atkins apart from one another.
Both are Built on the Premise of Ketosis
Definitions aside, it is fair to make the general assumption that a low carb diet restricts carbohydrates, such as those found in sugary foods, pasta, fruit and bread. For both diets, their success centers around lowering the body’s carbohydrate intake in an effort to lower insulin and consequently burn fat as fuel. This process is known as ketosis.
In the absence of carbohydrates the body produces ketones. Ketones are an alternative fuel source for the body to use when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply. The goal of both Keto and Atkins is to tap into the body’s fat burning potential. Once this switch is flipped, the body changes from burning carbohydrates to fat.
Therefore, by restricting carbohydrates, insulin levels decrease, and fat burning increases dramatically. As we will see in this blog, ketosis plays a pivotal role in each of the diets but in different ways, thus affecting how sustainable each diet is in the long run.
Both Diets Place an Emphasis on Dietary Fat
High fats foods such a meat, eggs, full fat dairy and liberal amounts of fats form the backbone of both Atkins and Keto. However, Keto greatly favors calories come from fat. While in Atkins, fat receives less of an emphasis, with a more dramatic shift towards higher protein lower carb consumption.
Both Diets Provide Similar Health Benefits
Atkins was created specifically for weight loss. While Keto was developed in the 1920’s as a treatment option for epilepsy. But recent research suggests the Keto and Atkins diets may provide health benefits including by not limited to weight loss, optimized blood sugar, improved insulin sensitivity, even reduced risks of various cancers and some neurodegenerative diseases (1, 2).
The Keto Diet
Keto by definition is a high fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate diet. The dietary approach is linear from start to “finish”. There is no maintenance plan once you reach your goal. Instead, you sustain the same fixed eating patterns indefinitely.
The Specifics of a Ketogenic Diet
♥ 5 – 10% of energy from carbs
♥ 20 – 30% of energy from proteins
♥ 65 – 80% of energy from fats
The primary goal of eating in tune with these specific percentages is to get the body in ketosis. By following this high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet the individual is able to significantly lower their insulin levels. This radical shift in fuels prompts the body from burning from glucose to creating and using ketones. In turn, facilitating fat burning.
Keto is a high fat, moderate protein,low carb diet.
Let’s be clear about something. Keto is a high fat diet. Not a high protein diet. So you don’t need/want huge amounts of protein. Protein in excess of what your body uses/needs can be converted to glucose, making it more challenging to get in (and stay!) in ketosis. Most people who think they are following Keto often fail to recognize this piece. They get confused with Atkins where protein intake is unregulated and encouraged. They think the same applies for Keto. Well, it does not. On Keto, protein intake needs to be determined and adhered to in order to maximize results.
Long Term Compliance on Keto
When following a true Keto diet, long term compliance with these specific guidelines is critical. If the guidelines are violated, the benefits of ketosis will not be actualized and the individual may actually end up gaining weight.
Therefore, in embarking on Keto the individual must make (and sustain!) significant, permanent, lifestyle changes. No compromising. No backing away. Just a full lifestyle adjustment regarding how you view food and nutrition. No biggie, right ?
Why You Need to Know your Baseline Calorie Needs on Keto
I know counting calories is often noted as not necessary on Keto. However, I am going to disagree here. Think about it. Keto relies on very specific percentages based on total calories consumed. While I agree due metabolic adaptations in relation to hormone regulation you can likely consume a higher level of calories – you still need a starting point for calories. If you do not establish a baseline level of calories, it is impossible to determine the actual percentages of fat, protein and carbohydrates you need to consume. Therefore, you need a starting point for calories to base your percentages off of. Makes sense, right?
The Atkins Diet
Now let’s transition to the examining the Atkins diet and what makes it is this approach unique.
The Specifics of the Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet is promoted in four phases: Induction, Balancing, Fine-Tuning and Maintenance. The first phase is the most restrictive and vaguely resembles the overall platforms of a ketogenic diet with one major caveat; there is no restriction on protein just carbohydrates. As time progresses and the individual gets closer to their goal weight complex carbohydrate intake increases and the diet becomes less carbohydrate restrictive.
The 4 Phases of Atkins
Induction: Carbohydrates are restricted to no more than 20 grams per day. Emphasis is placed on high fat and high protein foods, with the source of carbohydrates coming from dark, leafy greens.
Balancing: Nuts are incorporated, low carbohydrate vegetables and small amounts of fruit.
Fine-tuning: As someone approaches their goal weight, they begin to add more carbohydrates slowing down weight loss.
Maintenance: High fiber carbohydrates are significantly increased and based on an individual’s level of “tolerance” more or less or added.
The Basics of Atkins
Fat: No defined amount although liberal consumption of high fat foods are encouraged
Protein: No defined amount although liberal consumption of high protein foods are encouraged
Carbohydrates: < 20 net grams of carbohydrates per day during Induction phase with increasing amount through the 4 phases
There are no restrictions placed on fat consumption. More importantly, there is no restriction on protein. You are encouraged to eat as much protein and fat as long as you keep your carbohydrates where they need to be in each respective phase. You don’t need to ‘hit’ specific percentages for your macronutrients. Additionally, you can eat as many calories as you like. Therefore, depending upon your personal eating style this can become a high calorie, high fat, high protein, low carbohydrate diet.
How Keto and Atkins are Different
So we have addressed both the similarities and the respective differences of Keto and Atkins. Now let’s talk about how they compare. Here is a summary of the keys points.
Changes from phase to phase, starting with drastic reductions followed by gradual reintroduction.
Relatively Fixed level: Approximately 5-10% of total calories.
Carbohydrate Monitoring Method
Often based pm approximately 1-1.5 grams of protein for each kg of bodyweight.
No set amount – high fat foods encouraged
High fat intake. As much as 65 – 85% total calories.
4 phase process where carbs are slashed then gradually reintroduced.
Once nutritional ketosis is achieved optimal carb, fat and protein levels remain unchanged.
Ketosis highest during phase 1. After that ketosis is decreased as carbs are slowly reintroduced.
Optimal production levels maintained throughout course of diet.
Time When Individual Achieves Ketosis
With ketosis the Atkins diet looks to achieve it in phase 1.
Depends on the individual.
Distribution of Macronutrients
Perhaps the most significant difference between Keto and Atkins is how the macronutrients are specifically distributed. Macronutrients (aka ‘Macros’) are the amount of carbohydrates, fat and protein someone should consume based on their specific needs. Keto as you have seen is highly specific with finite macronutrient ratios. While Atkins promotes a level of food quality (high fat, high protein, low carb) but makes no mention of actual quantity.
There is no denying the fact both diets are low in carbohydrates. However, long term Keto promotes a consistent lower carbohydrate diet. Generally speaking, most people on Keto keep their carbs below 30 – 50 grams for.ever. Yes, as already noted, there are no phases or progression of carbohydrates for Keto. Just one steadfast, unwavering level of uniform carbohydrate intake.
In the Induction phase, carbs on Atkins are set at 20 grams or under. However, as the individual progresses through the various phases additional carbohydrates are added. While these additional carbohydrates are not ‘junk’ carbs – the body still recognizes them with a similar blood sugar response. Additional carbohydrates promote an increase in blood sugar. This rise in blood sugar drives up insulin. Ultimately, knocking the individual out of ketosis.
Which raises the question: “Is Atkins a ketogenic diet?” The answer would be: “No.”
Atkins unfortunately diet does not turn you into a fat burner for the long haul. This is simply because as you progress you are allowed to eat an upward of 100 grams of carbs per day. This amount (for many) is sufficient for your body to keep burning sugar for fuel – not fat. Keto, on the other hand, requires sticking to 30 – 50 grams of carbs per day increasing the likelihood of long term ketosis.
Are All Carbs Created Equal?
One area of carb counting that can get a little confusing is the whole “net” carbohydrate situation. Atkins utilizes a net approach to counting carbohydrates. While Keto counts total carbohydrates. Don’t worry, though — it’s not nearly as confusing as it sounds.
Net carbohydrates are what you’re left with after subtracting the grams of fiber per serving from the total carbohydrate amount per serving. In this approach, you can also subtract sugar alcohols as well such as xylitol, sorbitol and erythritol.
For example, if an item has 30 grams of carbohydrates and it contains 10 grams of fiber, then the amount of net carbs the item contains is 20 grams.
According the creators of Atkins, the method to the madness is the net carb amount reflects the grams of carbohydrate that significantly impact blood sugar level. This follows the assumption there is little to no impact of both fiber and sugar alcohols on blood sugar. Therefore, when following Atkins these are are the only carbs you need to count. Foods that are low in net carbs such as nutrient-dense vegetables and low glycemic fruits such as berries don’t cause a significant impact on blood sugar and therefore are less likely to interfere with weight loss.
When it comes to counting carbs on Keto it really depends who you ask! Some true devotees of Keto will count total carbohydrates independent of fiber. While others followers of Keto aim for 20-25 grams of net carbs OR ~ 50 grams of total carbs. Either way you slice it the goal is to keep carbohydrates low enough to decrease insulin levels and facilitate fat burning.
The Dietary Guidelines set forth by the U.S. government promote a diet containing 20-35 % of total calories coming from fat. Therefore, comparatively Keto is considered a very high fat diet with 65 – 85 % total calories coming from fat. Atkins is also higher in fat than your typical recommended diet. But not as high as Keto. The emphasis is slightly different with Atkins. The focus to is instead on removing carbs while equally boosting protein and fats.
Also unlike Keto, there is no set amount of daily fat you are required to consume on Atkins. The main emphasis on Atkins is to keep carbohydrates below the set level for each phase. While high fat foods are encouraged, fat intake can vary from person to person.
On Keto an ‘adequate’ or ‘moderate’ amount of protein is encouraged. While on Atkins protein intake (like fat intake) has no set amount. Therefore, it is possible for Atkins to become a low carbohydrate, high protein, high fat diet. Why does this matter?
Certain factors like eating too much protein can (for some individuals) get in the way of ketosis and increase the need for gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is just a fancy term for making glucose from non-glucose sources like protein and fat. It’s a process when your body converts excess protein or dietary fat you eat into blood sugar for energy. Some researchers believe the protein sources commonly consumed on a low carb diet have the propensity to raise insulin levels. In response to an increase in insulin levels, ketogenesis is downregulated.
This is why eating ‘too’ much protein can impair some individual’s ability to get in and stay in ketosis. But, this does not mean you should restrict your protein consumption either! But what it does mean is someone following Keto NEEDs to determine their adequate level of protein intake. A good general rule of thumb is to aim for 1.0 – 1.5 grams of protein per kg body (3). To convert your weight into kg simply multiply your weight in pounds by 0.45.
By taking the time to determine what a moderate level of protein intake looks like, the individual on Keto can both optimize their fat burning potential and prevent lean muscle breakdown. However, your protein needs are dependent on your activity level, weight, height, gender, body composition, stress and inflammation levels in your body, etc. So keep in mind this calculation is a very basic way to determine adequate protein intake. If you are a competitive athlete you will likely need to adjust this value.
In summary, it is fair to say when it comes to Keto and Atkins, Keto is much more specific with very finite guidelines. While Atkins can be seen as more ‘loosey-goosey.’ In order to achieve the benefits of Keto you have to be very precise. While the Atkins diet is more flexible. Hence Atkins could be seen as less intimidating prompting more people to try their hand at this approach. With that being said, some people thrive on a rule-based approach. They need profound structure because otherwise they’re going try to break/bend the rules at any occasion they see fit. So, it really comes down to the individual.
Which One is Better?
In all honesty, despite their similarities and differences I really don’t know which one is ‘better’ per say. My person stance is and always has been “Different strokes, for different folks.” My goal is to meet my patients where they are and guide them based on the scientific evidence that exists. I personally think an argument could be made for pretty much any dietary approach out there. SO I guess it really lies in someone’s goals, level of dedication, persona and long term personal outlook on health and wellness.
Some people just can’t wrap their arms around a low carb, high fat diet. It is SO foreign to them. While others, embrace this dietary approach with unwavering optimism. I think the big thing with either diet is knowing the score. Based on my knowledge, the intention of Keto is more of a true lifestyle change. While Atkins (seems for most) to be a fairly short-term guide to weight loss. So if you are as they say, ”In it to win it,” I would recommend you go ‘all in’ with Keto and do it right.
But truth be told – I have never.ever.ever. met anyone to be consistent long-term with either approach. Inevitably for most — pizza happens 🙂 But maybe that is just the circle of patients, friends and family members I run with?
Well, I guess that is not true. Research supports long term compliance (> 12 months) on a very low carb diet in the general population is fairly low (4, 5). Surprised? I didn’t think so. Does that mean this approach is wrong? No. It just means a very low carbohydrate diet is very hard to sustain.
Also I can only speak from my personal clinical experience. But once people go back to eating normal- carbs and all – they seem to gain weight back with interest. That is because each gram of carbohydrates pulls into 3-6 grams of water into the body. When you get significantly decrease of the carbohydrates – you simply take on less water. Increasing protein intake can also have a diuretic effect on the body. Therefore, it is not a surprise when a person goes off a low carb diet – they often experience shifts in fluids and therefore fluctuations in weight.
So I guess the next question becomes can we get the benefits of a ketogenic diet without being going gangbusters with Keto or Atkins? The answer is YES. If there is any uniform message here the key to success is managing insulin. And ‘Hello!” there are numerous ways to that! Last we I talked your ear off about Intermittent Fasting. But you don’t have to go Keto or even engage in Intermittent Fasting if that is not your bag. In fact, the number one insulin sensitizer is exercise!!! Plus, exercise has a host of other extremely beneficial side effects beyond just lowering and managing insulin. So why not start with the lowest hanging fruit? No need to complicate matters anymore than they already are 🙂
And one more thing. What gets measured gets managed. Really want to knock it out of the ball park? Start tracking every morsel that goes in your mouth. And I do mean everything! Because before you even begin thinking about changing your dietary approach you need to understand the current status of your diet. The only way to do that is track what you eat and review the data. Plain and simple.
Need help getting started? Why not enlist the help of one of fabulous Plano Program’s Registered Dietitians? They can not only help you determine the most effective food tracking platform – but they can provide an overall assessment of both the quality and quantity (Hello macros!) of your diet. The best part? They are likely covered by your health insurance. So why not take advantage of the awesome opportunity to have someone help you determine what to eat? Make an appointment now by clicking here.
Phew. That was a mouthful! I am hopeful you found the information helpful. If anything I hope it empowers you to select the most appropriate dietary approach when it comes to low carbohydrate diets.
Hugs & High Fives,
P.S. What have been your personal experiences with low carb diets? Do you find one type of low carb diet was easier to sustain than the other? After reading this were you following one type of low carb diet – when you really were following another type? Please share your experience in the comments below.
- Halton TL, Willett WC, Liu S, et al. “Low-carbohydrate-diet score and the risk of coronary heart disease in women.” N Engl J Med. 2006;355:1991-2002.
- Halton TL, Liu S, Manson JE, Hu FB. “Low-carbohydrate-diet score and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. “ Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87:339-46.
- American College of Sports Medicine position stand. “Nutrition and athletic performance. American Dietetic Association., Dietitians of Canada.,” American College of Sports Medicine., Rodriguez NR, Di Marco NM, Langley S.Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Mar; 41(3):709-31.
- Hu T., Yao L., Reynolds K., Niu T., Li S., Whelton P. K., He J., Steffen L. M., and Bazzano L. A. (2016) Adherence to low‐carbohydrate and low‐fat diets in relation to weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors. Obesity Science & Practice, 2: 24–31.
- Grant D Brinkworth, Manny Noakes, Jonathan D Buckley, Jennifer B Keogh, Peter M Clifton; Long-term effects of a very-low-carbohydrate weight loss diet compared with an isocaloric low-fat diet after 12 mo, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 90, Issue 1, 1 July 2009, 23–32.
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.
Are you unable to lose weight in spite of vigorous exercise and a disciplined training schedule? Are you looking to maximize your performance yet feel like despite all your efforts you are failing miserably? Have you hit a plateau in your weight loss? Would you like to take the “guesswork” out of determining your calories to achieve your goals? Well if you answered “heck yes” to any of the above questions then you are likely the perfect candidate for RMR testing.
What is Metabolism
First things first, before we talk about RMR testing and why it is so friggin’ important we need to define metabolism. Did you know that even when you’re at rest, your body needs energy for its “silent” functions? These include breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells. The number of calories your body uses to carry out these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR) or more often referred to outside of a clinical setting as resting metabolic rate (RMR).
There are many factors which determine our metabolism. Some include:
Your body size and composition.
People who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories. Even at rest these folks tend to have higher RMR’s.
Men usually have less body fat and more muscle than do women of the same age and weight. This means men burn more calories at rest (Boo!). But don’t worry, I will be sharing some tips for how us chicks can optimize our metabolisms.
As we get older (sigh), the amount of muscle we carry tends to decrease. Fat accounts for more of our weight, slowing down calorie burning. [Tip: If you consistently work out with weights you can help off-set some of this loss 🙂 ]
Two other important factors that determine how many calories your body burns each day:
Food processing (we call this thermogenesis!)
Did you know that digesting, absorbing, transporting and storing the food you consume also expends calories? Score! About 10 percent of the calories you burn each day come from the digestion and absorption of food and nutrients.
Physical activity and exercise accounts for the rest of the calories your body burns up each day. It comes as no surprise that physical activity is by far the most variable of all the factors.
The changes in overall body mass (increase or decrease) ultimately comes down to long-term energy balance which is represented by energy in (via food) and energy out (via metabolic rate). Total energy expenditure is determined by many factors including: body composition, sex, age, thermogenesis and physical activity. Having ‘good’ genetics certainly doesn’t hurt either! So now that you are a master of ‘all terms metabolism’ let’s get down to business.
Here are my top three reasons for why getting your RMR tested is SO important to achieving your body composition and training related goals
1. Takes the guesswork out.
By having your metabolism tested by a professional you never need to ask yourself the annoying questions, “How much or little should I be eating ?!?”
How many times have you entered your height and weight into an online metabolism calculator only to get some crazy number which you have no idea how to interpret?
I cannot tell you how many times patients come into my office following a calorie level that is completely wrong for the goals they are trying to accomplish. This frustrates the heck out of me. It’s not that they are unsuccessful for lack of trying. It’s simply because they have been provided with the wrong information.
By testing your RMR you will now know the exact number of calories your body needs to accomplish your dietary and fitness related goals. There is no more guessing or even second guessing where your calories need to be! Through the use cutting edge technology we can help you determine the exact amount of calories you need to reach your goals. Headache solved!
2. Gives you an accurate baseline.
If you don’t know your baseline calorie needs how do you know if what you are doing is ‘working’?
You have got big goals which I love and admire. However, how can you accomplish your long-term goals if you don’t know where your baseline needs currently are? Testing your metabolism before you make significant changes to your exercise and/or training routine can provide you with a solid foundation in which to make adaptations. Therefore, as things like your body composition, weight and/or performance markers change over time you can adjust your calories relative to your new goals.
Independent of what our specific goals are we all need a caloric starting point. If we don’t have a baseline and we start making changes to our diet how can we tell what specific calorie level is working? Simply put – we can’t.
Therefore, by testing your RMR before making any significant dietary and/ or training changes you are armed with an accurate, reliable calorie level to base your goals on.
3. It helps you when you are stumped.
Knowing your RMR gives you clarity in those moments when no matter how hard you try – you just cannot seem to tackle your dietary and/or fitness goals.
Knowing your your RMR can be critical when you are stumped. As mentioned previously many people base their goals around a calorie level that is not in tune with their goals. Along with the headache this creates can come a massive amount of frustration. Unfortunately, if you have been there you know exactly what I am talking about 🙁
Trying to gain lean muscle mass but struggling like crazy? It could be that your calories are too low. We all know that in order to build anything we need ‘extra’ resources, right? That extra might be money, resources or time. Same goes for putting on muscle. In this case, the extra needs to be in the form of calories. Therefore, for someone aiming to put on muscle they need to FIRST make sure they are taking in enough calories to do.
On the flip side, do you feel like you are at a weight loss plateau? Are you meticulously counting calories, carbs, protein and everything under the sun and still not losing weight? Is MyFitnessPal definitely not your pal? For most people the simple answer is their calories are not in tune with their weight loss goals. It could be that their calories are too low. Or it could mean that their calories are too high. How the heck will they know unless they actually test their metabolism?
Knowing your unique RMR for the different ‘seasons’ can help optimize your nutrition during both your off-season and peak training periods. During training, you need to make sure you are taking in enough calories to support not only your training but your ideal body composition for your sport. It’s no surprise when an athlete is not taking in enough calories how quickly they feel the side effects. Unintentional weight can lead to fatigue, burnout and injury. All of these can be factors can be minimized if not avoided entirely.
Leave nothing on the table when it comes to your training. Mama did not raise no fool 🙂
Case in point – I rest my case. Plain and simple – anyone with a performance or body composition related goal should have their metabolism tested. And truth be told I don’t know a whole lot of people who don’t share these goals (especially the later!) By testing your RMR you will no longer be ‘spinning your wheels.’ The precise tools you need to determine the exact calorie level to fit your specific goals is attainable. And just like Jim Rohn’s stated, “When you know what you want and you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.”
P.S. Did you know we are running a 40 % discount on RMR testing for the month of July? Use the coupon code thisis40 when scheduling your metabolism testing under the ‘appointments’ tab on our website www.amyplano.com
P.P.S. What are you waiting for? This fantastic deal will not be around forever. Cut through all the confusion and get the numbers you need.
P.P.P.S. Does any of this mumbo-jumbo about RMR testing resonate with YOU? If so, in what way? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We ♥ to hear your thoughts. Don’t be shy – we don’t bite.
So it is true … this girl right here turns 40 years old on Friday, June 29th. And what better way to celebrate my 40th then with YOU my loyal readers. So how would you like to receive a present from me? How does a 40 % discount on a metabolism test to celebrate this fabulous occasion sound? I don’t know about you but it sounds pretty dang awesome to me.
Heading into the next decade can be a drag. So rather than have a pity party for myself I decided to give you a pretty sweet present to mark this milestone birthday – 40 % off metabolism testing for the whole month of July. Whoot! Whoot!
For the whole month of July redeem coupon code thisis40 when scheduling your metabolism test to receive 40 % off each individual test. The normal rate for a metabolism test is $150.00. Therefore, by redeeming the code thisis40 you save yourself 60 bucks! If that is not pretty sweet – then I don’t know what is.
Important note: In order to receive the most accurate reading on the metabolic test you should be fasted (no food), with no exercise or caffeine within 4 hours of your test time. You can drink plenty of water – just nothing with caffeine or calories.
Below are the steps to redeem your discounted metabolism test:
- Click HERE and you will be re-directed to the scheduling section of this website.
- Click the link for “Metabolism Testing” under appointments.
- When the prompts ask you “with” who you would like to schedule you can choose either myself or my fabulous RD Audrey. The discount applies to us BOTH.
- Select the time slot you would like to come in for your metabolism test.
- Next put in your name, phone number and email address.
- Within the information section where it says “Redeem Coupon” put in the discount code thisis40
- Follow the prompts for payment
- Once you have provided payment you will receive an email confirmation with the date and time of your visit.
- Arrive fasted, with no caffeine or exercise within 4 hours of your test.
Our office is located at 500 Boston Post Road, Orange, CT 06477. We are in the same plaza as Hawley Lane Shoes. When you pull into the plaza look for signs for The Plano Program.
Over the next month I will be releasing more information about why having your metabolism tested is SO friggin’ important – so stay tuned for blog updates.
Please fee free to share this birthday gift with anyone who you think might benefit – which I think is pretty much anyone with nutrition related goals. After all who does not want to know their metabolism? Said no one ever 🙂
Have you ever had your metabolism tested? Did you find it helpful in reaching your nutrition related goals. Please tell us your experience in the comments below.
Between the crazy highs and unseasonably low temperatures this past week in CT (and freakish Tornadoes) it is hard to believe Memorial Day is just around the corner. However, you know it, people will be firing up their grills and breaking out the dogs and burgers. Rather than throwing caution to the wind and deciding you’ll jump on the latest detox diet Tuesday, why not stay ahead of the game? There are plenty of ways to keep your long weekend healthy and tasty!
Sip Responsibly this Memorial Day
Yes – I know this a no brainer! But seriously Memorial Day seems like the official kick off for summer drinking. As if people need a reason to drink, right? However, if you are going to imbibe then why not choose to do so responsibly.
Numero uno – avoid the carb bombs. Margaritas, frozen drinks and unfortunately the likes of craft beers tend to be very calorie and carbohydrate heavy. While Craft beers range in calories most clock in at about 200 – 250 calories per 12-ounce bottle. Thinking about knocking back 2-3? You are looking at an upward of 600 calories in alcohol alone.
Side note – back in the day when I used to bartend I would start my shift by making 5 gallon tubs of margaritas. In each batch I would put two full pounds of quick dissolve sugar! Yes – holy moley is right! Sugar rush for sure.
Instead, opt for clear spirits like vodka, gin, and rum mixed with a no/low-calorie mixer. For example, a Titos and Club Soda will only set you back about 95 calories. Plus did you know flavored vodkas (think Stoli Raspberry, Absolut Melon, Pinnacle Whipped Cream) have the same amount of calories as plain vodka? So you can even get fancy and mix a flavored vodka with a flavored club soda squeeze some lime on top and there you have your new favorite skinny summer cocktail.
Or if hard liquor is not your style – choose a light beer and you are only looking at about 100 calories as well. A glass of white or red wine is about 150 calories. Want to cut those those calories in half? Make yourself a wine spritzer! Fill a wine glass with crushed ice. Then pour 2-3 ounces of wine and 3-6 ounces of your favorite seltzer into a wine glass. Top with sliced fruit. Whallah!
Are the above options not really your jam? How about a low-calorie mojito? Coconut Water and Champagne Punch anyone? These low calorie cocktail from Proof are perfect for those watching their waistline. And let’s be honest – who IS NOT watching those waistlines!
Who says cocktails have to be unhealthy? Not this RD.
Photo by: Monika Grabkowska
Want more information about the calorie counts of your favorite beverages? Check out one of my recent posts on this very topic!
Pump up the Veggies
Often at picnics there are more veggies available than one might think. Sometimes you just need to do a little searching. Crudite platters, tossed salads and even the infamous toppings for burgers are all good places to get those veggies in.
Are you trying to watch your carbs? Why not try a lettuce wrap instead of a bun? After all, if 5 Guys offers this option it has to be good, right? You can save yourself 200 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrates by this simple little swap.
Does the green salad look a little weak? Why not grab some of the ‘fixins’ for the burgers (think lettuce, tomato, onions) and ‘doctor’ up the salad (on your own plate, of course!) Or even better yet – offer to bring a kick-ass salad or some sort of veggie based side. Both options often require very little prep aside from assembly. This way you know you will have something to round your plate out aside from Grandma’s tuna mac salad 🙂
Don’t go Hungry
This rule holds fast for any type of celebration. Never. Ever. Ever. Go to an event hungry.
I repeat. Never. Ever. Ever. Go to an event hungry.
Most of my patients head to an event like a Memorial Day picnic with the mentality they are going to save all their calories for the day for one big meal. They plan to white- knuckle it the whole day until they get to the picnic. This backfires HARD pretty much every time. As soon as they see the food they everything short of bury their face in pretty much everything and anything that is out.
Instead plan accordingly. Have a light breakfast or snack prior to the picnic. Scrambled eggs and fruit, greek yogurt with 1-2 tablespoons of granola, an apple with peanut butter or something even as small as nuts or a cheese stick will keep your hunger at bay.
I much rather see you spend more time on the ‘front end’ in preparing than leave the picnic feeling big, bloated and polluted with an underlying sense of guilt. We all know this feeling! But YOU are stronger than this. Don’t allow yourself to be defeated. Instead plan ahead like the champ you are and leave the picnic with your rock-star status intact.
Keep it Lean and and No one will be Mean
Be a lean mean grilling machine at your next BBQ. After all, nobody goes to a BBQ saying, “I cannot wait to eat super sloppy BBQ food.” If you are the grillmaster instead choose lean cuts of protein to throw on the coals. Your guests will thank you!
Think 93 % lean ground beef, flank steak, grilled chicken breast marinated in a little balsamic, rosemary and oil, or even a veggie burger (just watch the sodium on those puppies some brands are crazy high!)
Truth bomb – many people opt for a turkey burger thinking it is the best choice. Best as we know is a relative term. Well, it’s not a horrible choice but is it the best choice? I am not so sure.
Did you know that beef burgers and turkey burgers often contain the SAME amount of calories and fat?
Did you know a turkey burger made from “LEAN” ground turkey has just about the same amount of calories and fat (150 – 170 calories & 7 -10 grams of fat for a 4 oz. patty) as a burger made from ground sirloin (93 % lean ground beef)? Lean ground turkey is generally a mix of light and dark meat. So if you are craving a nice juicy burger but are feeling guilty about eating red meat please don’t!
The only exception from a ground turkey standpoint is when the package states “EXTRA” lean. This type of ground turkey has virtually no fat, is expensive and in my humble opinion does not taste very good. It is certainly not good for burgers on the grill. With virtually no fat the burger will be unfortunately very dry.
Be a Good Friend
From my experience as someone who loves to host parties and tells everyone NOT to bring anything – never believe the host. They lie. I love it when someone brings something. SO be that good friend and come bearing food 🙂 This is your prime opportunity to bring something healthy that everyone (including yourself) will likely enjoy.
I can’t tell you how many times my patients say, “There was nothing healthy to eat so I had to eat crap.” Really? Come on my friend. No need to be so lazy! Get off your little butt and avoid all those excuses.
Remember it does not have to be something fancy, complicated or expensive. Heck stop at Costco and grab a veggie platter for $9.99 or a simple fruit bowl (also may I add for only $9.99 at Costco). Even a big old tub of hummus with a bag of baby carrots will likely be appreciated. Pick up a whole watermelon and bring that! After all, who doesn’t like juicy watermelon? The list of healthy options you can bring are seemingly endless.
Be a bestie and don’t forget to bring a healthy dish!
Want to step up your grame? Why not make a killer salad with everything but the kitchen sink in it? That way you can take whatever comes off the grill and and throw it on top of the salad. You will be surprised how many guests will follow suit. Because like I said, even though Memorial Day is typically synonymous with unhealthy foods, it does not have to be. More people than not are working hard to improve their health. Give people a handful of healthy options and they will thank you for it. A little effort goes a long way!
So whether or not it feels that way right now – Memorial Day will soon be here. While I am by no means asking you to be a saint (what fun would that be?) – why not start the summer season on a good foot? You have worked SO hard all winter. Let’s go into summer strong!
How do you anticipate to survive Memorial Day like a champ? What are your tried-and-true tips for a healthy summer holiday weekend? Leave your favorites in the comments below!