Diet Detective: 21 simple nutrition and fitness tips

1. Buy fruits and veggies at the “right” time: In-season produce will be the least expensive, will give you a good variety in your diet throughout the year, and, all in all, will be your best bargains in terms of cost per nutrient. See http://healthymeals.nal.usda.gov/features-month/whats-season.

2. Eat all your meals:
Skipping meals during the day will slow your metabolism and result in overeating in the evening, both of which will lead to weight gain.

3. Eat only when you are hungry:
Learn to distinguish being hungry from feeling tired, bored, depressed, stressed, thirsty, etc. If you are not sure that you are actually hungry, involve yourself in another task or activity. If you are still hungry when you’ve finished that other activity, have a mini-meal.

4. Learn your “full” potential: Most people miss the physical cues signaling that they have eaten enough. Instead of waiting until you’re bursting out of your clothes, try eating whatever you want, but stopping once you are full. How will you know you’re full? Think about how hungry you really are before you eat. Also, try waiting 15 to 20 minutes after a meal before requesting seconds or dessert. By delaying, you may find that your appetite for a second helping has decreased.

5. Going to a party?:
Eat ahead of time. I know plenty of people who starve themselves before going to a party so they can have “room” for all the great food. Then they arrive at the party, stomachs rumbling, and make a beeline for the all those high-calorie, high-fat appetizers and finger foods, easily eating more than a day’s worth of calories.

6. Eat at an earlier or later time: Restaurants will be more open to taking special orders if you eat during off-peak dining hours.

7. Avoid fixed-price menus: They encourage you to overeat high-calorie foods.

8. Hang up photographs and images of healthy foods: Try hanging images of fruits and vegetables in your kitchen, and change them often. Experts say that exposure is key to getting someone to recognize a brand and encourage usage. The same goes for healthy eating.

9. Drink water before your meal
: Before you sit down to eat, drink a full glass (eight ounces) of water. This will help you to feel full, eat less, and consume fewer calories at that meal.

10. Put down your fork: Putting down your fork after each bite will help you eat more slowly. The receptors in your stomach take 20 minutes to tell your brain that you are full (i.e., you are actually “full” 20 minutes before you realize it), so eating slowly (and giving your brain time to catch up) will help you to decrease the amount of food consumed at each meal.

11. Just stop eating: If you are full, stop eating. Avoid thinking “I paid for it” or “I took the time to cook it, so I should eat it all.” Save the leftovers for lunch the next day. That way you won’t have to cook or pack a lunch, and you’ll save money, too.

12. Eat only in the kitchen or dining room: Do not eat anywhere but sitting at the kitchen or dining room table. This will help prevent you from munching on high-calorie, high-fat junk foods while watching television and subconsciously grazing while doing activities around the house. When you have finished your meal, leave the kitchen.

13. “Close” the kitchen: To avoid late-night munching, close down the kitchen after dinner. Clean up and turn off the lights. Consider the kitchen officially closed until morning.

14. Make a grocery list: Always shop with a list and buy only the foods on your list. Do not buy foods just because they are on sale unless they are on your list.

15: Avoid an “all or nothing” attitude: (For instance: “I already messed up and ate some cookies, so I might as well just eat 10 more.”) Remember that energy (calorie) intake is cumulative. The more excess energy you consume, the more weight you will gain. If you stop as soon as you realize you have eaten too much, you will minimize the impact on your present weight.

16. Reduce sugar in recipes and use spices: There’s a pretty good chance that, with a little smart thinking, you can cut the sugar in most recipes by one-third without compromising the taste of the finished product. In fact, you probably won’t even notice the difference. Check out recipe sites such as eatingwell.com, cookinglight.com and allrecipes.com. Also, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, anise and mint can add a sweet taste to foods without adding sugar or calories.

17. What do you fear? Take a sheet of paper and divide it into two columns. In one column, create a list of your fears related to losing weight and all the negatives that surround weight loss. Now, in the other column, challenge each one of those fears.

18. You don’t have to be perfect: You don’t have to be perfect to lose weight. Perfectionists may have follow-through, but, at the same time, they might set unrealistic standards that can never be met. If you have only 10 minutes to exercise, that’s fine, just do the 10 minutes. A perfectionist might use this as an excuse to do nothing: “If I can’t do a full hour, it’s not worth it.” But that’s just another way of making an “all or nothing” mistake.

19. Slip-ups: Remember that even though we all encounter “slip prone” situations and temptations, goal planning helps us handle them.

20. Don’t make drastic changes: Making drastic or highly restrictive changes in your eating habits may help you to lose weight in the short run, but those restrictions can be hard to live with permanently. Similarly, your program of physical activity should be one you can sustain. Rethink your definition of “weight loss success” to include an enjoyable, comfortably maintained and sensible eating program along with regular activity.

21. Dealing with a “problem partner”: You need to keep all unhealthy foods out of the house, but your partner keeps bringing them home. Try to say something before that happens instead of complaining (or overeating) after the fact. Read “Don’t Be A Diet Hero” (see http://www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/dont-be-diet-hero)

Nutrition tips for Halloween

Most parents work hard all year to instill good eating habits in their children, but all of their efforts can go down the drain on Halloween night. Believe it or not, Halloween can be a great time to talk with kids about making healthy choices and the need for balance and moderation.  The key is to plan in advance and set limits.

Start the evening off with a healthy supper including foods from at least three food groups. Serving a hearty meal that contains protein, carbohydrates and vegetables will prevent children from getting hungry and overeating their candies once they finish trick or treating.

Safety first

For children’s safety, always check expiration dates and inspect all items before allowing children to eat them. Don’t let children eat anything with unknown ingredients, especially if they have food allergies.

Fat free isn’t always good

Many people believe that fat free options save on calories however; fat free candies such as gummies are loaded with sugar and artificial food colouring, which have shown to cause hyperactivity in some children. Avoiding fat free candies such as gummies and lollipops and opting for dark chocolate is a better option.

Offer candy with a snack

Offer children a Halloween treat along with a snack containing protein, or as a dessert at the end of a meal. This slows down the absorption of sugar and can help prevent major peaks of sugar loads in the body all at once. Remember, sugar on an empty stomach is not a good idea!

Get rid of it!

Children can exchange their Halloween candies for other goodies. Parents can sort through the stash of candies with their children and offer to trade some candies for items such as; toys, books, games etc.

Another idea is to plan a timeline for consumption. Parents can assign a two-week period during which the candy can be consumed. For example, some families allow children to eat 2-3 candies per day for two weeks, after which all the remaining candies need to be thrown out or given away! Moderation is the key to having a spooky and healthy Halloween!

Naureen Hunani, RD

Adult and Pediatric Nutritionist/ Dietitian

Kiddo Active Therapy is a team of health professionals who specialize in helping children and families overcome developmental challenges. Their blog posts discuss a wide range of developmental topics throughout childhood and adolescence as their therapists do their best to inform families, answer their questions, and address the daunting “what do I do now?” questions. With articles from occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nutritionists/dieticians, and speech/language pathologists, they address the concerns of families with children who are struggling to accomplish what they want to do.

Nutrition Tips From Trainer Eric Cressey

Nutrition is a crucial part of your off-field training program. It’s critical to your performance and progression to becoming a better athlete. Knowing how to fuel your body is key to success, and professional trainer Eric Cressey has some tips to help you get started.

Cressey is the president and co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance, where he coaches athletes of all levels—from youth sports to pro baseball players. With more than 100 pro players traveling to train with him during their off-season, it’s clear that his cutting-edge methods of building better athletes are top-notch.

Here are Cressey’s top three nutrition tips to enhance your performance.

1. Don’t drink soda. Instead drink a glass of water and eat a piece of fruit.

2. Eat things that are ingredients instead of things that have ingredients.

3. Hydrate properly! It helps with athletic performance, cognition and recovery.

Nutrition – What To Drink?

As we wrap up our focus on ‘what to eat’, we’re going to examine what we should be drinking. If it’s true that “we are what we eat, from our heads to our feet” then we can also accurately claim that we are what we drink.

Make no mistake about it, it is entirely possible to get fat by simply consuming too many fattening drinks. Even if we closely watch what we eat, we can still do some severe damage to our scale if we don’t watch what we drink.

Check out the facts on the following drinks:
* Root Beer 12 oz. can = 180 calories
* Starbucks Caramel Mocha Whip 16 oz. = 470 calories
* Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Creme Whip 16 oz. = 500 calories
* Coca-Cola 32 oz. (fast food size cup) = 310 calories
* Orange Juice 10 oz. = 140 calories
* PowerAde 21 oz. = 140 calories
* Skim Milk 8 oz. = 80 calories
* Water any size serving = 0 calories

The issue many of us have is that we regularly consume massive quantities of regular soda. The fast food chains and convenience stores haven’t exactly helped us in this area, either: the ‘small’ and ‘regular’ sizes have been removed from many menus only to be replaced with ‘SuperSize’ and ‘Big Gulp’ sizes. (Whatever happened to the regular ‘gulp’ size, anyway?) We’ve even seen some gas stations selling a super-tanker 44 oz. size soda, which packs at least 400 calories!

The important thing to note is that, from the above list, only skim milk gives us the protein and calcium we need without attaching too many calories. Yes, the Starbucks Caramel Mocha Whip has 13 grams of protein, but at a cost of 470 calories (this is about 25% of the TOTAL calories a typical woman should have in one day!).

Now in comparison let’s look at a double-serving of milk (16 oz.) so that it will be the same as the Starbucks serving size: that same amount of skim milk as 16 grams of protein (vs. 13 for the coffee) and only 160 calories.

Calcium is one of the nutrients most likely to be lacking in the American diet. The calcium found in milk helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. This mineral also plays an important role in nerve function, muscle contraction and blood clotting. Each 8-ounce glass of milk provides 300 mg or 30% of the Daily Value (or recommended intake).

The vitamin D found in milk helps promote the absorption of calcium and enhances bone mineralization. Milk is one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D. Each 8-ounce serving of milk provides about 25% of the Daily Value.

Lowfat and fat free milk have the same nutrients as whole milk with little or no fat. The American Heart Association endorses fat free and lowfat milk to reduce fat in your diet, but still get nutrients you need every day.

About three-fourths of Americans (or about 75%) do not get enough calcium in their diets. Nine out of 10 women and 7 out of 10 men fall short of current calcium recommendations.

Many studies suggest that fat free or lowfat milk, as part of a lowfat diet, may help reduce the risk of hypertension. Hypertension or high blood pressure afflicts one in four Americans and is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends fat free and lowfat milk.

Chocolate milk is just as healthy of a drink as white milk. Lowfat and fat free chocolate milk packs in the same amount of calcium and nutrients as white milk, making it a great tasting way to grow strong, healthy bones.

Drinking milk now helps prevent osteoporosis when you get older. Osteoporosis affects 28 million Americans and one in five of those affected is male. Milk helps build strong bones because it’s rich in calcium and vitamin D, which can double the amount of calcium absorbed by your body. You should drink more milk to help prevent osteoporosis

Milk is a great nutrient package of 9 essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamins A, D and B12, protein, potassium, riboflavin, niacin (includes niacin equivalent) and phosphorus. Milk provides good nutrition for your body.

The choice is clear: choose skim milk and water as your beverages of choice and watch the pounds drop off. At only about 13 cents per serving ($2 per gallon), milk makes an economical choice as well.

We’ll see you at the dairy case!

Nutrition tips for students

Students are able to purchase and benefit from the fresh fruits and vegetables at the Community Market near SRJC.

Gideon Halpin, Staff Writer
October 13, 2015

Santa Rosa Junior College student Nick Sterba’s attitude toward food reflects many college student’s nutritional prerogatives. “I just eat whatever’s around me or cheapest,” Sterba said.

Nothing magical happens inside your body that will compensate for washing down pizza with a coke. We are what we eat.  That’s simple chemistry and the inescapable truth.

“Education is power and a lot of people are unaware.  It’s really important we have that education in our system,” said SRJC student Deardhra McGeough-Pendergast.  With that in mind, let me drop some knowledge on you.

Hydration

Feeling tired and irritable? A little confused?  Maybe that’s just your personality, but chances are you’re mildly dehydrated.  Thirst sensation is a delayed reaction that only kicks in once you’re a few cups low on water.  For the average sedentary student, eight cups of water a day is a minimum.  However, if moderately or extremely active, your water needs will spike.  Like many things in life, don’t trust what you feel – especially when it comes to hydration.  Rely on hard facts.  Trust your pee.  Urine should not resemble fall colors, but should rather be light yellow to clear in color.

“If people are trying to lose weight, drinking water throughout the day is great because people often mix up hunger and thirst,” said SRJC nutrition instructor Tammy Sakanashi.  Whenever consuming alcohol or caffeine, remember drinking water is essential to combat the diuretic effects of those substances.

Pro Tip: Carry a reusable water bottle and set a goal to drink the bottle by a certain time.  Then repeat.  Drinking water as a habit may seem annoying to start, but your body will thank you for it.

Calories

Calories, or kcals, are units of energy that measure our food.  The average daily recommended adult intake is around 2,000, but this number varies greatly based on gender, activity, basal metabolic rate and age.  Lipids (fats/oils) pack nine kcals/gram, proteins and carbohydrates hold four calories per gram and alcohol contains seven calories per gram.

To maintain a consistent body weight, the amount of calories you consumed needs to be equal to the amount of calories you burn.  Whether you’re hoping to lose a few pounds to avoid ripping out of your favorite skinny jeans or just hoping that your “low and loose” fitting pants don’t resemble tights, the sure way to lose weight is to burn calories through exercise and eat less than you burn.

For a reference, one pound of fat is worth around 3,500 calories. However, if you’re the emaciated kid who is trying to get shredded overnight, or simply want to gain some healthy weight, you need a caloric surplus.

Lipids

Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.  Eating too many calories and not exercising will.  Fat should account for 20-35 percent of daily calories and is an important source of stored energy.  Fat is also used for body insulation, organ body-armor, skin, hormones, reproductive system and nervous systems.

Not all fats are created equal.  Your diet should favor unsaturated fats found in seeds, nuts, avocados and olive oil.

The reason these are preferred to high levels of saturated fats found in animals is because they don’t clog your arteries with plaque build-up (atherosclerosis), cause high blood pressure, heart disease or strokes.  For these reasons, you should limit your intake of dairy fat (cheese, cream, butter) and animal fat.  One important fatty acid essential for health is Omega-3, which helps reduce inflammation, speed muscle recovery and lower blood triglyceride (fat) levels.  Main sources include: fatty fish (6 oz./week), chia seeds or ground flax seeds.

Pro Tip: If dieting to lose weight, eat a few well-placed handfuls of nuts or other good fats throughout the day. It will give you satiety for longer periods of time.  It takes three to four hours for fat to leave the stomach.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates divide into two groups: simple sugars and complex carbohydrates.  The main function of carbohydrates is to provide a constant supply of sugar in your blood stream to fuel muscles and the brain, though if not readily used it will convert to fat and be used as fuel during fasting blood glucose levels.   Forty-five to 65 percent of caloric intake should be from carbohydrates – mainly from complex carbs.

Often people’s diets target carbs as the enemy to weight loss and seek to eliminate them from the diet, but the brain can only metabolize carbs for energy – perhaps if they ate a bagel they would understand this.  Complex carbs are just long chains of simple sugars that are broken down at a slower rate in your digestive tract.  Sources of complex carbs are potatoes, grains, oats, vegetables, legumes, pasta and bread.

Simple sugars are often found in fruit and sweetened beverages.  The liver and pancreas regulate blood sugar through negative feedback loops using the hormones insulin and glucagon to increase or decrease blood glucose levels.  The reason to limit simple sugars in your diet is because your body absorbs them quickly, which will reduce satiety and lead to increased calorie consumption, resulting in weight gain. Large amounts of simple sugars cause insulin spikes in blood, which leads to inflammation.  Chronic elevated levels of insulin cause reduced sensitivity to insulin, resulting in high blood-glucose levels, which can lead to blindness and loss of extremities (fingers/toes) because of cellular damage.

Pro Tip: Cut back on soda and sugary drinks throughout your day and opt for water instead.  When feeling the urge to indulge with candy or donuts, try a whole wheat bagel or toast.  If you’re looking for a sugar-free way to sweeten food or drinks, try stevia.  Stevia is a natural sweetener 40 times sweeter than sugar with little caloric significance and no negative side effects.

Protein

Protein is essential for muscle growth, enzymes, cell function, immune function, healing, growth and can also be used for energy.  About 10-35 percent of calories should be from protein.  Good sources are lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy, eggs, legumes and lentils.  For those looking to gain muscle or who are recovering from injuries, protein needs will increase.

If you’re a vegetarian/vegan, adequate protein intake is a priority.  Prime sources are legumes, lentils, split peas, soy and protein rich grains such as quinoa.  For lightly active individuals, a recommended intake is 1.2 grams protein/kilogram body weight (2.2 pounds = 1 kilogram) and for body builders 1.6 gram/kilogram body weight.

Quite often, “bro science” touts the necessity of heaps of protein powder to get “gains.” The truth is, if you consume too much protein, it will get peed out, turned to fat or burned as energy, causing a buildup of ketones that make your body stink while giving you acetone breath.  Eating too much protein can also cause kidney damage from having to filter out the excess.

Pro Tip: You won’t lose all your gains if you miss your hourly protein shake.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are not used for energy, but serve important functions in the body.  Minerals are important for bone, teeth, skin, muscle function, body water balance, immune function and transporting oxygen to cells.  Vitamins are important for metabolism, neural development, blood clotting, antioxidants, immune function, skin, hair and mineral absorption among other functions.  The best way to consume all the necessary vitamins and minerals is through diversity of healthy eating habits and incorporating large amounts of vegetables and fruits in your diet.

For natural foods, “The more colorful, the better.  Going to a more plant-based diet is always better,” said SRJC nutrition instructor Jill Tarver. Multi-vitamins are a good catch-all at the end of the day, but you should rely on getting nutrients naturally through food, not pills.

Pro Tip: Eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables, not the Skittles rainbow.

Healthy Shopping on a Budget

Good news for those of you living paycheck-to-paycheck. Eating healthy isn’t just for people who can afford to shop at Whole Foods.  To get healthy calories at a good price your best options are lentils, rice, split peas, potatoes, pasta, beans and whole grain breads.  These are the foundation of your diet.  Once you save money with the above options, use the leftover dollars to buy fruit and vegetables.

Citrus, bananas, apples, greens, broccoli and bell peppers are good places to start.  Frozen produce is harvested at peak ripeness and are flash frozen to preserve the nutrients.  These store well and are usually cheaper.

Pro Tip: The cheapest place in Santa Rosa to shop is Grocery Outlet.  However, don’t be tempted by the cheap boxed pizzas and soda sold in bulk.  You’re there for health at budget pricing; once you get what you intended, get out of there quick. Community Market by SRJC is also a good choice for a quick healthy snack close to campus.

Food Prep

The best way to stay on track for nutrition and saving money is to pack your own food for school and work.  The key is to allow time to prepare your day’s food the night before or early in the morning.  Some strategies also include making multiple meals over the weekend to store for stressful weekdays.  By packing your own food, you can avoid the vending machine traps, save money and maintain optimal nutrition.

Morning nutrition tips for the long run

Woman stretching before her morning runWhen the weekend approaches, so does the long run. The weekend is the time when you get up early in the morning to run, not to head to the office chair. You look forward to it all week so don’t end up making a silly mistake that will cause your precious run time to come to an end before you intend it to. When the alarm goes off early in the morning, keep these nutrition tips in mind before lacing up the shoes and heading out on the road.

1. Dairy and protein can wait until later. Really if you’re thinking about bacon and eggs plus a big bowl of yogurt, just save it until after the run. When heading out for 20K or more, an upset tummy is really not something you want to deal with and these food groups don’t have a good track record among the running population.

2. Don’t skip the meal. Fuel yourself. Eat something. Sure, going for a run before having a meal is OK if it’s a short training run or an easy day. This however does not apply to the long run. Give your body energy if you’re about to put demands like a long run on it.

3. Eat ahead of time. Give it time to sit and digest. The timing differs from person to person but generally, eating two hours before the run is a smart idea. That way, you can avoid major side stitches, upset stomach and the heavy feeling of a full belly.

4. Drink coffee? Go for it. Caffeine has been known to help the run and it will also help you go to the bathroom beforehand.  

5. Eat bland foods for breakfast. A bagel works, so does a bowl of oatmeal or plain cereal and a banana. The goal is to not eat anything too heavy, greasy or acidic. Those foods will just cause digestion issues while you’re trying to train.   

6. Avoid accidents in the pants, go before you run. We have to say it. Go to the bathroom before you run. If you’re an experienced runner, chances are, you’ve found this out the hard way. If you’re a beginner runner, just trust us.

7. Don’t make too many changes. If you have a breakfast that has been known to work, stick with it.

Saints nutritionist’s tips: What you can learn from how players eat, drink and play

When Jamie Meeks was a high school senior, her Archbishop Rummel cheerleading coach suggested that she meet with a dietitian to learn about fueling her body properly to meet the physical demands of her workouts and performances. What she gained from that experience led directly to her role in the establishment of LSU’s college sports nutrition program and, more recently, to her being named the first-ever full-time sports dietitian for the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans.

NFL teams employ only 11 sports dietitians, so this is a big deal in the nutrition world (and the type of news that, as a registered dietitian and Saints fan, I really get excited about).

Meeks, a registered dietitian and board certified sports dietitian, works with the football and basketball players on nutrition and performance fueling for everything from daily training meals and post-workout recovery to coordinating pre-game meals and nutrition on the road for away games.

After graduating from St. Mary’s Dominican High School, Meeks attended Louisiana State University, majored in dietetics, and was a member of the LSU cheerleading squad, where she cheered the Tigers on for four years that included a national title and final four appearances by the women’s and men’s basketball teams. After graduating, she completed her dietetic internship and became a registered dietitian.

Meeks knew that she wanted to work with athletes, but, at the time, there weren’t many jobs for sports dietitians, so she volunteered with the LSU athletic department as a registered dietitian, working for free to show them the benefits of having a sports nutritionist on staff. She was hired on as a graduate assistant while she worked toward her master’s degree in exercise physiology.

Her role as LSU’s sports nutritionist quickly expanded from just Meeks to a full-blown sports nutrition department that allowed her to work with players from every sport at the university.

Meeks submitted a proposal for a full-time sports dietitian, explaining why LSU needed one, and what this job would entail. When she graduated with her master’s degree in 2011, LSU hired her as a full-time sports dietitian, making her one of fewer than 20 full-time sports nutritionists in college-level athletics at the time.

Fast forward to spring 2015. When she learned that the Saints were looking to hire a full-time sports dietitian, it wasn’t an easy choice for her to leave LSU.

“I love LSU,” she said, “but I also love the Saints. And I knew I would love to be back in New Orleans.”

It’s been a smooth transition from college-level athletics to the National Football League, Meeks said. And, in some ways, it’s more streamlined. For one thing, she now has just two sports to focus on – football and basketball – not the full spectrum of all types of sports and athletes with vastly different nutritional needs and priorities that she worked with on the collegiate level.

3 workout tips for avid athletes

Jamie Meeks, director of Sports Nutrition for the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, offers these three strategies for the avid, amateur athlete.

1. Snack healthfully, consistently and frequently throughout the day. This will ensure adequate calories to increase and maintain metabolism, help maintain level blood sugars, add energy and nutrients to muscles and discourage binging in the evening.

2. Focus on recovery nutrition, the most crucial aspect of sports nutrition. Follow the three Rs: Reload energy fuel stores with carbohydrates: about 50-75 grams within first hour. Repair and build new muscle with protein: about 15-30 grams within first hour. Rehydrate with water and electrolytes: 16-24 ounces for every pound lost during exercise

3. Remember, hydration is a process. Don’t wait until your workout or game time to hydrate. It’s too late, and can lead to cramping and fatigue. Aim for a minimum of half of your body weight in ounces as a baseline throughout the day. In the two hours before exercise, aim to drink 20 ounces of fluid. During exercise, try to sip 6 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes. After exercise, rehydrate with 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of sweat lost..

The majority of her role with the Saints is centered on planning, developing, and managing the overall nutritional big picture for the players.

Daily training meals. Meeks works closely with the chef of the catering company that runs the cafeteria at the Saints facility in Metairie, providing nutritional guidance on what foods are served at breakfast and lunch to help maximize players’ performance and recovery.

“My philosophy is the power of choice. We want to make the menus as nutritious as possible, but we also want variety,” Meeks said. She surveyed the players about their favorite foods and what restaurants they go to, to find out what they actually want to eat. “If we put good, nutrient-rich food on the line and they don’t eat it, what’s the point?”

Post-workout recovery. Post-workout recovery fueling is essential for optimizing power and performance, reducing risk of injury, and minimizing fatigue, so Meeks has a system for incorporating recovery smoothies for the players immediately post-workout.

As soon as the players come into the weight room for their workouts, they fill out the order form for their post-workout recovery smoothie. Meeks has pre-made smoothie recipes that they can choose from, or they can choose the “build your own” option with the specific ingredients they want, from their choice of milk to protein powder to add-ins like peanut butter (or powdered peanut butter for those who need fewer calories), kale, or cherry juice.

“Players – especially those dealing with issues like cramping or trying to drop body fat – will ask what’s the best blend for them, so we’ll create a smoothie tailored to their individual needs,” she said. “That’s also a great opportunity to explain why certain key ingredients are beneficial.”

The players write their name and jersey number on the order form and Meeks’ team has the smoothies lined up and ready as soon as they’re finished working out, before they hit the showers.

Fueling stations around the facility: In addition to water and sports drink coolers throughout the facility, Meeks works with the staff to be sure the locker rooms are stocked with protein- and electrolyte-rich options, such as Gatorade’s ready-to-drink protein recovery shakes. And in addition to the recovery smoothie bar, she makes sure that the snacks in the weight room include grab-and-go fuel sources like KIND bars and trail mix packets. And then there’s PB&J: “There’s always a supply of (Smucker’s) Uncrustables available,” she said. “Admittedly, they’re not the best, nutritionally speaking. But they guys love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And at least they can use the extra carbs and sugars for energy and recovery.”

Pre-game meals. Pre-game meals are usually about three to four hours before kick-off, and consist of a build-your-own pasta station and potato bar, along with lean proteins, such as sirloin steak, grilled chicken, and salmon. Chicken and rice soup is a common staple, providing carbs and essential electrolytes. Vegetables are typically the easier-to-digest varieties, such as green beans, carrots, and asparagus.

If the pre-game meal is a brunch-style event, the foods are still pretty similar, with the addition of foods like eggs, hashbrowns, turkey sausage, grits, oatmeal, breads, and cereals.

Meeks is present at all team pre-game meals to ensure that the food is prepared as planned. “Nothing is left to chance,” she said.

Half-time fueling. Meeks coordinates the food and drink for mid-game refueling and rehydration. Some of her go-to snacks for a half-time energy boost: Rice Krispie treats, Nutrigrain bars, and Fig Newtons. “They’re easy to eat and quick to digest, providing that carb and sugar boost to carry them through the fourth quarter.”

Travel nutrition. No matter where the Saints are playing, she makes sure that they’ll be surrounded with foods that will help to promote optimum energy and performance, and food that’s familiar and consistent with what they’ve been eating.

She works with hotels (home and away) to coordinate team meals and snacks, including the night before, morning of, and pre-game meal. She also coordinates with the airlines to plan the menus for all in-flight meals and snacks. And just to be sure all runs smoothly, Meeks will travel with the team to away games.

***

So what does a typical day look like for the new Saints RD?

“If we put good, nutrient-rich food on the line and they don’t eat it, what’s the point?”

During the season and off-season workouts, her days start as early as 6 a.m., when the players arrive for breakfast before their morning workouts.

Breakfast includes protein-rich foods, such as scrambled eggs and egg whites, hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and customizable omelets and “Champion Burritos” made to order by chef Brad Ronquille of Pigeon Catering. Since carbohydrates play a key role in performance fueling, the morning meal also includes carbs, such as sweet potato pancakes, fresh-cut fruit, fresh berries, whole grain cereals, whole grain breads and bagels, and oatmeal.

Following breakfast, Meeks observes players’ workouts on the practice field and in the weight room throughout most of the morning. She talks with individual players about their particular nutritional needs and concerns, and consults with the coaches and athletic trainers about specific players’ weight and body composition goals. And seeing the players first-hand during practice helps her in the process of calculating nutrient requirements when meeting with individual players.

After the players’ workouts and the post-workout smoothie prep, she heads over to the cafeteria during lunchtime. “I like to see what people are choosing to eat—and this also helps chef Brad and me in planning the menus.”

In between scheduled practices, team meetings, and team meals, Meeks coordinates the pre-game meals for home and away games (these are planned months in advance), meeting with the athletic trainers and strength coaches about individual players, and preparing educational materials for the team.

Meeks also consults with players one-on-one as needed, especially those looking to shed excess body fat or gain lean mass, as well as players with issues like muscle cramping.

She reviews players’ body fat composition, finds out about their typical dietary habits and lifestyle, and works with them to develop an individually-tailored nutrition plan with strategic steps to help them reach their goals.

For the rookies, one of her main concerns is ensuring that they understand the importance of nutrition – and how much better their bodies will respond, perform, and recover when it’s optimally fueled. And especially when players are new to New Orleans and all of its amazing food, it’s important for players to learn the art of balancing the occasional splurge and indulgences with their otherwise rigorous nutrition and training program.

So when does she find time to squeeze in her own workouts and food prep? Any time she can.

She’s always been an early-morning exerciser, but with the early hours of the new job, after-work gym sessions are more her speed. She’s has a gym membership, and she squeezes in a workout in the Saints weight room when the team isn’t using it.

On weekends, she prepares meals for the week, making it easy to for her and her husband to have a quick, healthful dinner with minimal prep time. She is expecting her first child in September, which will make healthful, plan-ahead-meals even more essential.

She has a takeaway message when it comes to being the Saints’ sports nutrition expert is that nutrition and performance fueling is absolutely a team effort.

“There is constant communication between all parts of the team. The head and position coaches, strength coaches, athletic trainers, chefs, equipment managers, and administrative staff – everyone plays a role, everyone is 100 percent hands-on,” she said.

“Being a sports dietitian is more than simply telling someone what to eat. You have to be in the mix, get your hands dirty, and be willing to put in the long hours. But at the end of the day, it’s more than worth it.”

4 Nutrition Rules to Combat Running-Induced Hunger

4 Nutrition Rules to Combat Running-Induced Hunger

As the nutrition editor at Shape, I’m constantly looking for the best, most up-to-date info on healthy eating and pre- and post-workout fuel. But even though I have the most recent studies and knowledgeable experts at my fingertips, I found myself struggling with how to adapt my meals and snacks as my weekly training mileage started creeping up.

Translation: I was experiencing runner’s hunger, a.k.a. “runger.” The day after a long run, I’d be ravenous. And mid-morning on a day I’d logged five miles before work, my stomach would be growling and I’d get super cranky. So I called up sports nutritionist Lauren Antonucci, R.D.N., the owner of Nutrition Energy and nutrition consultant for New York Road Runners, who helped me make a few tweaks to my meals and snacks.

Eat More Protein
When it comes to squashing that running-induced hunger, Antonucci stressed the importance of protein—and not just immediately after a workout. I’m working on eating protein-rich foods three or four times a day—which basically means at every meal and snack. Some of my favorites: ricotta or cottage cheese with berries for breakfast, tofu in my salads at lunch, and eggs instead of pasta for a quick weeknight dinner.

Eat Something Post-Run—and Quickly
“After a really hard or long workout, I’d make it my business to have a recovery drink immediately, or stop on my way home for a smoothie,” says Antonucci. I used to come home, stretch out, take a shower, and relax…and wait to get hungry before eating something. (Weirdly enough, my appetite is a little suppressed right after a tough workout.) Once I started getting some nutrition in right away, I felt a lot better the afternoon and day after my long runs. (Fueling up is one of the 3 Things You Need to Do Immediately After a Workout.)

Take In Water and Carbs On Longer Runs
This one I’m still working on. I hate carrying a water bottle, and I usually just chug water before and after a run unless I happen to pass by a water fountain. I know it’s bad for me, but I haven’t really figured out a solution. As for bringing a gel or other snack…I wear Invisalign, which makes this really tricky. I can’t eat with them in, and I’m not supposed to drink anything sugary with them in either. So zero for two on this tip.

Think Outside of Protein and Carbs
Yes, runners need carbs for fuel. And yes, protein helps squash the runger. But Antonucci also stressed the importance of good fats to reduce my injury risk and keep me full. And fruits and vegetables are important too. Their antioxidants help with recovery—making my favorite spinach, blueberry, and almond butter smoothie an ideal post-run drink.

Eating To Break 100: Longevity Diet Tips From The Blue Zones

A distinct version of the Mediterranean diet is followed on the Blue Zone island of Ikaria, Greece. It emphasizes olive oil, vegetables, beans, fruit, moderate amounts of alcohol and low quantities of meat and dairy products.Want to live to be 100? It’s tempting to think that with enough omega-3s, kale and blueberries, you could eat your way there.

But one of the key takeaways from a new book on how to eat and live like “the world’s healthiest people” is that longevity is not just about food.

The people who live in the Blue Zones — five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. researchers have identified as having the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world — move their bodies a lot. They have social circles that reinforce healthy behaviors. They take time to de-stress. They’re part of communities, often religious ones. And they’re committed to their families.

But what they put in their mouths, how much and when is worth a close look, too. And that’s why Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer and author who struck out on a quest in 2000 to find the lifestyle secrets to longevity, has written a follow up to his original book on the subject. The new book, called The Blue Zones Solution, is aimed at Americans, and is mostly about eating.

Why should we pay attention to what the people in the relatively isolated Blue Zone communities eat? Because, as Buettner writes, their more traditional diets harken back to an era before we Americans were inundated with greasy fast food and sugar. And to qualify as a Blue Zone, these communities also have to be largely free of afflictions like heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. So clearly they’re doing something right.

You can get the backstory in this excerpt of the original book, which was published in 2008. But in a nutshell, Buettner in 2004 rounded up a bunch of anthropologists, demographers, epidemiologists and other researchers to travel around the world to study communities with surprisingly high percentages of centenarians. He and the scientists interviewed hundreds of people who’d made it to age 100 about how they lived, then did a lot of number crunching to figure out what they had in common.

A year after that book was published, the team announced they’d narrowed it down to five places that met all their criteria. They gave them official Blue Zone status: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, Calif.; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.

In the new book, which was released April 7, Buettner distills the researchers’ findings on what all the Blue Zones share when it comes to their diet. Here’s a taste:

  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially beans. And eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average.
  • Drink alcohol moderately and regularly, i.e. 1-2 glasses a day.

The book also features “top longevity foods” from each Blue Zone, some of which we found pretty intriguing.

Ikaria, Greece

You may remember this Blue Zone from Buettner’s wonderful 2012 New York Times Magazine article entitled “The Island Where People Forget To Die.”

As we’ve reported, health researchers have long praised the Mediterranean diet for promoting brain and physical health and keeping chronic diseases at bay. So what makes the diet of the people on Ikaria, a small island in the Aegean Sea, so special?

“Their tradition of preparing the right foods, in the right way, I believe, has a lot to do with the island’s longevity,” writes Buettner.

And “what set it apart from other places in the region was its emphasis on potatoes, goat’s milk, honey, legumes (especially garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils), wild greens, some fruit and relatively small amounts of fish.”

Ikaria has a few more “top longevity foods:” feta cheese, lemons and herbs like sage and marjoram that Ikarians use in their daily tea. What’s missing that we usually associate with Greece? Lamb. The Ikarians do eat some goat meat, but not often.

Okinawa, Japan

Buettner calls the islands of Okinawa a kind of “Japanese Hawaii” for their laid-back vibe, beaches and fabulous weather. Okinawa also happens to have one of the highest centenarian ratios in the world: About 6.5 in 10,000 people live to 100 (compare that with 1.73 in 10,000 in the U.S.)

Centenarians on Okinawa have lived through a lot of upheaval, so their dietary stories are more complicated than some of the other Blue Zones. As Buettner writes, many healthful Okinawan “food traditions foundered mid-century” as Western influence brought about changes in food habits. After 1949, Okinawans began eating fewer healthful staples like seaweed, turmeric and sweet potato and more rice, milk and meat.

Still, Okinawans have nurtured the practice of eating something from the land and the sea every day. Among their “top longevity foods” are bitter melons, tofu, garlic, brown rice, green tea and shitake mushrooms.

Sardinia, Italy

The sharp pecorino cheese made from the milk of grass-fed sheep in Sardinia, has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

On this beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterrean, the ratio of centenarian men to women is one to one. That’s quite unusual, because in the rest of the world, it’s five women to every one man who live that long.

Buettner writes that the Sardinians explain their exceptional longevity with their assets such as “clean air,” “locally produced wine,” or because they “make love every Sunday.” But when Buettner brought along a researcher to dig deeper, they found that pastoralism, or shepherding livestock from the mountains to the plains, was most highly correlated with reaching 100.

So what are those ancient Sardinian shepherds eating? You guessed it: goat’s milk and sheep’s cheese — some 15 pounds of cheese per year, on average. Also, a moderate amount of carbs to go with it, like flat bread, sourdough bread and barley. And to balance those two food groups out, Sardinian centenarians also eat plenty of fennel, fava beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, almonds, milk thistle tea and wine from Grenache grapes.

Loma Linda, Calif.

There’s a Blue Zone community in the U.S.? We were as shocked to learn this as you may be. Its members are Seventh-day Adventists who shun smoking, drinking and dancing and avoid TV, movies and other media distractions.

Tofu links sold in Loma Linda, Calif. The Blue Zones research shows that adherents of the Adventist diet, which is mostly plant-based, have lowest rates of heart disease and diabetes in the U.S. and very low rates of obesity. i

Tofu links sold in Loma Linda, Calif. The Blue Zones research shows that adherents of the Adventist diet, which is mostly plant-based, have lowest rates of heart disease and diabetes in the U.S. and very low rates of obesity.

David Mclain/Courtesy of Blue Zones

They also follow a “biblical” diet focused on grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables, and drink only water. (Some of them eat small amounts of meat and fish.) Sugar is taboo, too. As one Loma Linda centenarian tells Buettner: “I’m very much against sugar except natural sources like fruit, dates or figs. I never eat refined sugar or drink sodas.”

Gary Fraser, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at Loma Linda University and an Adventist himself, has found in studies that Adventists who follow the religion’s teachings lived about 10 years longer than people who didn’t. Another key insight? Pesco-vegetarians in the community, who ate a plant-based diet with up to one serving of fish a day, lived longer than vegan Adventists.

Their top foods include avocados, salmon, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and soy milk.

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

We’d love to be invited for dinner by a centenarian here, where they #putaneggonit all the time. One delicious-sounding meal Buettner was served by a 99-year-old woman (who’s now 107) consisted of rice and beans, garnished with cheese and cilantro, on corn tortillas, with an egg on top.

As Buettner writes, “The big secret of the Nicoyan diet was the ‘three sisters’ of Meso-American agriculture: beans, corn and squash.” Those three staples, plus papayas, yams, bananas and peach palms (a small Central American oval fruit high in vitamins A and C), are what fuel the region’s elders over the century.

Granted, it’s not easy to emulate the Blue Zoners if you live in the U.S. where you’re likely to be tempted with bacon and cupcakes every day. And maybe you don’t want to become a vegan.

But Buettner has plenty to say about simple ways Americans could live like these isolated tribes of exceptional health in The Blue Zone Solution. That’s what he’s focused on now with the Blue Zone Project: helping communities adapt the cross-cutting tenets of a healthful lifestyle. So far, the project has gotten several towns — and U.S. states — to sign on.

For recipes from the Blue Zones with the ingredients above, check out the web site. And for more photos from the Blue Zones, head to National Geographic.

National Nutrition Month 2015: Ideas For Healthy Eating Habits, Recipes And Tips For A Balanced Diet

healthy-livingThere’s no better time to kick unhealthy eating habits to the curb than National Nutrition Month. The annual eat-right campaign, which begins in March, comes right about the time many people’s New Year’s resolutions start falling to the wayside and is a reminder to maintain a wholesome diet and exercise regimen. Here are our tips for eating better, some suggestions for healthy recipes, and a few ideas for maintaining a balanced diet.

The Web is full of diet plans galore, but nutritionists say a true miracle menu doesn’t exist. “There is no one pill, food, drink, or machine that is the key to achieving optimal health. A person’s overall daily routine is most important,” Morgan Richardson of the Scotland County Health Department told Laurinburg Exchange. “Pick fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy more often. Make time to exercise daily beyond your normal daily routine. Be aware of portion sizes. Even low-calorie foods can add up when portions are larger than you need.”

The benefits of eating right are numerous. A balanced diet has been linked to reduced risk of some chronic diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and can even prevent some types of cancer.

To get on the right path, HelpGuide suggests not getting consumed by calorie counts or portion sizes. Instead, consider your plate a vessel for color and variety. Look for recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Don’t think of certain foods as being off-limits. “When you ban certain foods or food groups, it is natural to want those foods more, and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation,” according to HelpGuide. “If you are drawn towards sweet, salty or unhealthy foods, start by reducing portion sizes and not eating them as often.”

According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, when you look at your plate, you should see half of it filled by fruits and vegetables. Such foods are a great source of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Look for color – reds, oranges and dark greens. Broccoli, sweet potatoes and tomatoes are always a safe bet. Whenever you can, choose whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Lastly, cut down on your solid fat intake – cakes, cookies, pizza, sausage, bacon and ice cream, to name a few.

When going for protein, choose leaner sources. Substitute a chicken or turkey breast or seafood for a piece of steak, and look for ways to incorporate dry beans or peas, eggs and nuts.

To add more fruit to your diet, start by slicing up a banana in your morning cereal, or serve a sliced apple with a small portion of brown sugar for desert. If you’re a yogurt fiend, throw in some blueberries or raspberries.

One trick to reduce portion size is to simply get smaller plates. Save any leftovers for lunch the next day.

Making healthy dinners doesn’t have to be a struggle. This grilled chicken cutlet with summer succotash recipe from Health.com takes less than 10 minutes to make. If ground beef is more your taste, this stuffed Bell peppers with cumin-spiced ground beef recipe from RealSimple is a true keeper. These quick-and-easy salad recipes from the Food Network aren’t your average dinner salads. The recipes are out there, you just have to do a bit of searching.

Are you someone who frequents restaurants? There are a few habits you can change to make dining out healthier. Forgo the soda for a glass of water or unsweetened tea, and substitute fries out for a side salad. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests ordering steamed, grilled or broiled dishes instead of deep fried or sautéed. Ask for salad dressing on the side, order foods that don’t have gravies or creamy sauces, and consider sharing a main dish with a friend.