There’s an App for That! The Top 14 Fitness Apps

By Carlene Helble- Elite Nutrition Intern

We are all permaninatly attached to our phones, but are you using  yours to help you stay healthy? Rebecca helped find 14 of the best apps to support healthy eating and exercise that you can download now! The article she is featured in is from the LifeScript website and has a variety of apps including Six Pack Abs, Run Keeper, and Exercise TV.

Have you downloaded some great healthy living apps yet? Ready, set, go!

Fruit Juice: Health or Hype?

Every time we turn on the TV, listen to the radio, drive down the road, we are bombarded with advertising from food marketers proclaiming that their product is the secret to weight loss, longevity, and pleasure. With over 200 food choices to make every day it is difficult to sort through claims produced by food manufacturers to make the best choice for your health. Today we’ll tackle the issue of fruit juices: health or hype

As part of its ongoing efforts to uncover over-hyped health claims in food advertising, the Federal Trade Commission has issued an administrative complaint charging the makers of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice with making false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction. David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said:

Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled. When a company touts scientific research in its advertising, the research must squarely support the claims made. Contrary to POM Wonderful’s advertising, the available scientific information does not prove that POM Juice or POMx effectively treats or prevents these illnesses.

No one can argue that Pomegranates are a wonderful and healthy food, full of vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants, but a line must be draw as food marketers push their products to the extreme. According to Self Nutrition Data, pomegranates are a good source of dietary fiber (11 grams each), 5 grams of protein, folate (107 micrograms), calcium (28.2 mg), vitamin C (28.8 mg), and vitamin K (46.2 mcg). Since POM is made from 100% pomegranate juice, one would think it would have many of the same great nutrients.

Not so. A $3.99 16-oz bottle has 320 calories, 72 grams of sugar, no fiber, and no vitamin C, calcium, folate or vitamin K. Yes, the only ingredient many be pomegranates, but by stripping away the fiber and nutrients, you just have sugar-water. Nutritionally speaking, these aren’t much different from a soda. This isn’t unique to pomegranate juice. All fruit juice loses much of the original fruit’s nutritional value when the juice is extracted, but POM is going a bit overboard with their health claims. A glass of POM a day is not going to prevent heart disease if the rest of your diet is laden with trans and saturated fat. It is important to look at your diet in its entirety, rather than trying to gain benefits from a single serving of fruit juice.

So let’s get over this hype and get healthy! Swap out the juice and reach for a piece of fruit! Aim for 2-4 servings of fruit per day. If you enjoy fruit juice, try diluting it with sparkling water to make your own spritzer. Next time you are at a grocery store, take a closer look at the health claims the manufacturer proclaims. Turn the package over and take a look at the actual nutrition panel and judge the food for yourself. Knowledge is power, and make sure you are well-armed!

What are your thoughts on this Fruit Juice Debate? Do you have any other health claims that you are confused about?

Time To Taper

If you’re running a fall marathon like me, most likely your long runs are now behind you and it’s time to taper! Tapering is both an exciting and scary concept for most runners. By decreasing your mileage you are letting your body rest and recover before the big day, but at times it can feel like you aren’t doing enough. But tapering is a tried and true part of training that I urge you to incorporate prior to your race.

First of all, what is a taper? This is the period in training when weekly and long run mileage is reduced, usually 2-3 weeks before the race. If you are already following a training plan, like Hal Higdon’s this should be incorporated in the plan. If you would like to check out some more tapering schedules, check out this link.

So while reducing mileage may seem easy, often times runner develop not only a physical addiction to running, but also a psychological need to iron out any life kinks on the road. Without those long runs, it is important that you find other ways to occupy your time. Surround yourself by those who love and support you, take the time to watch a new movie, and enjoy some of your other hobbies. Don’t let Taper Madness grab hold of you, race day will come, and your training will shine through. Research has shown that those who taper properly perform better than those who train right up until race day.

Here’s a few more tips I have found helpful while tapering:

  • Runner’s World suggests sticking to your training log. No matter how short and easy your runs get during the taper, keep recording your workouts in your log to reinforce the feeling that you are studiously sticking to the plan.
  • Listen to your body. Last minute workouts the week of the marathon are not going to improve your time. Trust your previous training and if you are feeling either physically or mentally tired or your leg muscles are fatigued, give them rest.
  • Make Sure you are stretching! Check out these great stretches for runners
  • Keep your nutrition at it’s peak! In the week before the race, gradually increase your carbohydrate intake. Chose high quality, nutritious foods to fuel your race-day. This article has some great nutrition tips for the week before the big day!
  • Drink up!! Make sure you are hydrate well the week before the marathon and in particular, during the carbohydrate loading period.
  • Don’t fret over weight gain! If your weight fluctuates a few pounds, don’t panic. Because of reduced activity, and increased hydration, this is mostly water weight! I assure you it will disappear immediately post-race.
  • If you are traveling to your race, make sure to pack some of your favorite foods, and foods that you are used to using on your training runs. If you have been using a specific source of carbohydrates during your long runs, now is not the time to switch it up! Save yourself some headaches (and tummyaches!) by planning ahead and packing what you’ll need!
  • Catch your ZZZZZs! Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep the week prior to the marathon.

Need more guidence? Marathon Training.com has a great  Race Countdown and Marathon Strategy section for additional information about final preparations before the race.

By listening to your body and giving it time to rest and recovery, you’ll be more than ready when the starting gun goes off! Best of luck in your race!

Let’s here from my runner readers! Have any tips for other racers? What do you do before a race? Any superstitions or lasting traditions? What fall races are you running?

Is KFC’s Double Down Calorie Count Accurate?

The newest culinary celebrity to hit the red carpet is a cute little sandwich called the Double Down, courtesy of KFC. A fast-food chicken lover’s dream and a health foodie’s nightmare, (DIR actually called it “frightening”), the Double Down is cheese, sauce, and baconbetween two pieces of chicken, either fried or grilled.

The Original Recipe (read: fried) Double Down has 540 calories, 10 grams of saturated fat, 1,380 mg of sodium, and one gram of fiber. The grilled Double Down (for the health conscious, of course) is 460 calories, nine grams of saturated fat, 1,430 mg of sodium, and zero grams of fiber.

Not sure what those numbers mean? Well…  its over a half day’s worth of salt in a palm-sized sandwich (if we can call it that, considering the lack of a bun).

A blogger has recently disputed the above info, calling “bulls***” on KFC, claiming the fast food chain is not being truthful about the (ahem) nutrition facts. They came up with their own calorie counts, which pins the grub at upwards of 1,000 calories!

I actually have to respectfully disagree with that blog critic, however. This “double down” is pretty small and I bet that the blogger overestimated its portion size. The only way to really test if KFC is being truthful would be to burn it up in an incinerator and measure the kilojoules of energy burned. Not very practical. I guess you could also buy a sandwich, weigh and measure the ingredients and look up the info in a database, but that’s a lot of work!

Some eateries have, in fact, been off with their calorie counts. The sad truth is restaurants don’t have to be accurate with their nutrition facts, unlike food you buy off the shelf. But if you take a look at a video of the Double Down, you’ll see that the pieces of meat are barely larger than your hand.

So big deal, a fried chicken, bacon, and cheese sandwich may have errors in their nutrition info. Would you really think you are eating healthy if that palm-sized fast food sandwich took up a half day’s worth of saturated fat and sodium?

If your goal is to eat healthy, then this sandwich, regardless of any potential for errors, is not exactly the way to go about it. Not a health food. There is a serious lack of veggies, no carbs, and no fiber.

But far be it for me to tell you what you should put into your body. If you have a burning desire to try it, split it with a friend and pair it with a salad. You’ll get to taste a “double down” without doubling over.

Weight Loss Advice: Don’t Eat Like a “Typical American”

As a nutrition expert, people are always asking me for my “weight loss secrets.” The truth is, I don’t have any secrets. I think the credible information that would help most people is already out there. Things are changing ever so slowly. I see a growing trend toward simplifying weight loss strategies. Many people are saying that they aren’t dieting (yay!), they’re just making healthier food choices and only eating when hungry. (That’s a big one. Try it for one day and you will realize, you really don’t know what hunger and fullness feels like.)

One simple tip I can offer is to avoid eating like a typical American – the SAD diet(Standard American Diet). I recently appeared on TV with a client to show how she is losing weight – and inches – by avoiding the SAD eating habits of typical Americans.

Here’s the low-down on the typical American eating habits from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES a.k.a. the Census of food habits).

  • About 70% of Americans do not meet recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake. I like to crunch on veggies between meals and check my plate at lunch and dinner for fresh, steamed, or broiled non-starchy veggies. Looking for something new? Try fennel, jicama, and kale. Aim for 2-3 fruits a day. I like having one fruit with breakfast and one with lunch or dessert after dinner. Fruit is nature’s candy and really should form the foundation of sugar intake.
  • Americans get nearly 30 grams of saturated fat per day. Some saturated fat is fine. You may find it in coconut milk, coconut oil, or lean animal meats. The recommendation is less than 10% of calories. Since we all eat different calories, our limits are different. If you focus on adding in plant foods and limiting meats, animal skins, solid fats like butter, and cheese you should be in your range. Most healthy adults need 2,000 calories or less, which puts the upper level of saturated fat at 22 grams a day. Replacing a fast food burger meal (about 14 g saturated fat) with a home cooked vegetarian meal will help you slash it way down.
  • The average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. It is most important to get naturally occurring sugars from fruits and dairy products. Watch the added sugar found in flavored drinks, yogurts, and desserts. Check labels. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to 6 tsp/day for women (100 kcal) and 9 tsp/day for men (150 kcal).
  • Cut way back on salt intake. The typical American gets more than 3500 mg of salt a day. The recommended range is 500-2100 mg per day. Ask for “no salt” when ordering at restaurants. You can also split an entree and a large garden (veggie) salad. Pile half the plate with veggies and the other half with “anything else.” It’s a quick way to eat less of the salty prepared food and get in veggies, which are naturally low in salt. You should also read labels of sauces and marinades you buy for the quick and healthy meals you’re trying to make at home.

Pepsi’s New Designer Salt: Healthy or Health Hazard?

You may have heard in the news recently that PepsiCo created a salt for its Lay’s potato chips (and other Frito products) that will reduce salt content. At first glance, it seems like a gimmick. You might even think they are trying to make people think that their snack products are healthier. But, there’s actually more to it than that.

I talked with the Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Aurora Gonzalez, about the new salt and got some interesting health-related information.

Frito-Lay cares about making a good product. They were the first company to remove trans fats in favor of sunflower oil. They are thinking about sodium in terms of “if there is something we can do, we should do it.” They know people are concerned about salt intake. They also know that people like seasonings, and products with seasonings tend to have higher salt. So they’ve been looking into sodium and playing with the structure to reduce the total sodium content. They’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. Frito-Lay realizes consumers struggle with salt intake. Basically, they are trying to make a small dent, while keeping up the integrity of the quality ingredients.

They already have a line with 50 percent less sodium – the “lightly salted” line of Lay’s, Ruffles, Fritos, and the soon-to-come Rold Gold pretzels. These are just made with less salt. Nothing new.

As a dietitian, this is what I would recommend to people who are actively trying to reduce salt, but still want to enjoy chips or pretzels in moderation: It’s up to you to make sure you get your fruits and veggies. And, if you like chips, it’s also up to you to eat and enjoy a small portion. I will often tell chip eaters to avoid eating them alone. Make a sandwich with whole grain bread, lean protein, and veggies. Add a side of crunchy veggies, such as sugar snap peas, and then a handful of chips.

Savor the bites. If you’re the kind who eats chips out of the bag in front of the TV, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not the chips, it’s how you are choosing to eat them.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the original version of the potato chip actually doesn’t have much salt. If you turn the bag around and read it, the salt is not that high (compare it to a cup of tomato soup, which can have 5 to 10 times the salt). Read the ingredients. Not a lot there. The best thing you can do is control the portion.

As far as the designer salt goes, don’t expect it to make a serious dent in your sodium intake. Instead, cut back on eating out at restaurants. Or, when you go, ask for your meals to be prepared without salt. There are many examples of meals that have 1-2 days worth of salt in one serving. No amount of “low salt” product can reverse those abnormally high numbers.

Next time you go out, start with a garden salad and share an entree of whatever you want with someone else. Eat slowly and mindfully and stop when you feel full, regardless if there is food left. Skip the alcohol, bread, appetizers, and desserts, and even the “worst” meal won’t be a bad. Make that small change and you should see some great results.

Stevia: A Sweet Sugar Substitute

Every few years a new sugar alternative hits the market. People who prefer to get their sweeteners’ calorie-free rush to buy up the local supermarket’s stock and eagerly tout the benefits of the latest and greatest sweet invention. About a decade ago sucrolose (aka Splenda) gave Sweet ‘n Low and Equal a run for their money.Agave nectar has received a “health halo” among some people, despite the fact that it is nearly all fructose and may be worse for your health than table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Most recently, another non-sugar has made a splash in our coffees.

Stevia (sold at health food stores as Truvia, PureVia, Sun Crystals, among others) is made from the sweetest part of the South American stevia plant. The human body cannot use these steviol glycosides as fuel which means the calorie and carbohydrate count is zero.  It also tastes 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.

As with any new product, there are some questions that you may want answered. So, I got ya covered:

Is Stevia Safe?

Stevia has been used safely for a long time in South American and Asian countries. Stevia has been the subject of quite a bit of rigorous research assuring the safety of the sweetener, and has been approved by the FDA. Other calorie-free sweeteners such as saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low), aspartame (Equal), and sucralose (Splenda) have also been approved as safe.

Can I Bake with Stevia?

Unlike saccharin or aspartame, which denature (change molecular structure) under high heat, you can bake with Stevia! Check out these Truvia chocolate chip cookies as an example.

Is it Worth Switching My Sweetener?

It depends. While Stevia may be natural, and fits in with the current trend to consume less processed foods, it still should be used in moderation. It can be a great alternative to caloric sweeteners (sugar) as part of a balanced diet if you like the taste.

Here’s how I’d assess the sweetener issue:

  • If you are someone who is drinking soda, sweet tea, or other sweetened beverages, start to make the transition to water or lightly sweetened water-based beverages. You may be gulping down gobs of added sugar, which leads to diabetes and weight gain. If you already have diabetes or have been told that you are pre-diabetic, take heed now to cut back on foods and beverages with added sugars.
  • Take a look in your pantry… are you addicted to diet foods? Do you have a lot of packaged low-cal stuff that you snack on and no real food to speak of? Maybe there’s a problem. A few artificially sweetened treats may be fine, but if you are loading up on packaged snacks all day, you lose a chance to get good nutrition. Have a fat-free Greek yogurt with fruit instead of a sugar-free pudding.
  • Retrain your sweet tooth. If you really feel like you overdo it on all things sweet, maybe your whole eating plan needs a makeover. You’ll find by eating healthy, whole foods that your need for sweets goes down over time.
  • As with anything you add to coffee, cereal, or baked goods, taste makes all the difference.  Use what tastes good to you – just because Stevia comes from a plant doesn’t mean it’s any better (or worse) for your health. You have to enjoy your food. If you prefer sugar, fine. If you prefer Stevia, fine. If you prefer artificial sweetener, fine too. As long as you don’t think you are overdoing it. If you aren’t sure, you can always have your eating habits evaluated by a dietitian.

Add Avocados to Your Balanced Diet

As a dietitian, people always want to know what they can do to eat well. Healthful eating is easy if you focus on choosing foods that have good nutrition for the calories. By filling your shopping cart with a variety of vegetables and fruits, you can be sure you are getting a good nutritional “bang for your buck.”

I love avocados, with nearly 20 vitamins and minerals in a one-ounce (3 slice) serving, and I’m excited to be working with Avocados from Mexico. Watch this video to learn why avocados are tops on my “nutrition list” and get a few ideas for including avocados in easy-to-make meals and snacks.

There are endless possibilities to include avocados in your eating plan. Avocados from Mexico are available year round too!

Cheryl Forberg Discusses “The Biggest Loser: 6 Weeks to a Healthier You”

I had the great pleasure to sit down with superstar dietitian Cheryl Forberg, RD, who just so happens to be a professional chef and the nutrition expert behind the wildly successful weight loss on NBC’s The Biggest Loser! She talked with me about her latest book, The Biggest Loser: 6 Weeks to a Healthier You, which released yesterday. Plus, read on to see how you can win a copy for yourself!

Rebecca: Cheryl, you’ve authored several wonderful books for Biggest Loser so far and I was personally a big fan of Biggest Loser Simple Swaps, what makes The Biggest Loser: 6 Weeks to a Healthier You different than other books?

Cheryl: There are many books on the market catering to dieting and weight loss. One of the distinctions of The Biggest Loser eating plan is that the quality of the calories is as important as the quantity. Our eating plan has evolved since we began 10 seasons ago, and I’m happy to say that it’s continually improved in terms of including less and less processed food choices.

You won’t find any artificial sweeteners in the Ranch kitchen these days – no fat-free whipped toppings, etc. It’s all about whole foods/whole grains, lots of lean protein and good fats. The recipes in the new book reflect that. The other distinction is that this book includes 6 weeks of menu plans. It’s easy to tell/teach people which foods to choose, but it’s not so easy to put it into practice, especially when you’re busy, as most of us are. We’ve made it easy for you by providing 6 complete weeks of menus and recipes to help you with meal planning as well as shopping.

Rebecca: Wow, Cheryl! It’s like having you for a personal chef for 6 weeks! I see a huge value in that. I agree that it is about the quality of the foods you eat most of the time. I’m sure readers will be excited to know that the book will emphasize high quality whole foods.

I think a lot of people who are fans of the show watch and get inspired, but sometimes may feel like they won’t be as successful as contestants. How does this book help fans on the show with their weight loss journey?

Cheryl: You’re right, people sometimes hope for dramatic results as seen on the show. Though this IS a reality show, it’s NOT realistic to expect similar results at home. The contestants are sequestered away from their families, friends, jobs, school, etc. Their FULL TIME job is losing weight. They have the luxury of time, personal trainers, fabulous food, a registered dietitian, and our occasional guest chef, Curtis Stone, helps provide cooking instruction (as do I when I’m at Ranch for my assessments). This book reminds readers that a slower, more gradual weight loss is perfectly fine and not to expect the same results as what they see on the show.

Rebecca: That’s a good point. Viewers can get the book with the confidence that the meal plans are similar to the show and realistic for healthy weight loss, but they should not feel obligated to focus on nutrition and exercise full time. Slow and steady progress will still get them to their goal.

Is there something special about 6 Weeks to a Healthier You? Why not four or eight weeks?

Cheryl: Most books that provide menu plans may give you a week, 2 weeks, 10 days or a month! Six weeks is really an added dose not only of more menus to help you find your groove to stick with it, but each week also provides additional health tips and info. Overall, 6 Weeks to a Healthier You focuses on nutrient-dense high quality foods – but we also share the health benefits that these ingredients confer to make your choices and the recipes, even more seductive

Rebecca: Ohhhh…. seductive! I like that. I don’t know why people sometimes think eating healthy is boring! I also like that you give the education in weekly “bits” so they don’t have to take on too much, too fast.

As a successful chef and Biggest Loser nutritionist, what words of wisdom do you have for anyone who is struggling with healthy lifestyle changes?

Cheryl: Most people have fallen into an unhealthy rut over time, not overnight. Don’t place high expectations on yourself to reach your goals overnight either. Start with small approachable steps and build week by week. There’s less chance you’ll get overwhelmed and more chance that you’ll see slow, steady results making this plan seductive
and easy to stick with.

Rebecca: Excellent advice! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me and best wishes with this book and The Biggest Loser!

Gloss Interview: Beat the Heat, Hydrate w/out Drinking Calories

By: Carlene Helble-Elite Nutrition Intern

The peak of summer heat has just begun and it’s easy to become dehydrated. Rebecca’s interview with Gloss Incorporated, a women’s website, shared the importance of staying hydrated. She detailed how losing 2% of our body weight  in the summer heat can cause major health risks. Another caution is to drink fluid while exercising outside for longer than an hour. Two to four ounces of water every 20 minutes is ideal and will keep you at the top of your game. If you find yourself bored with water, Fruit 2O Essentials is the perfect alternative. It’s not worth becoming dehydrated because you dislike water. While Rebecca’s top pick is a yummy peach mango, there are flavors for every palate!

You can read the whole interview with Gloss and bookmark lots of great articles too. From green living to beauty, food, and travel, Gloss is a well-stocked, one stop resource for women.

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