Monthly Archives: March 2016

Sugar Baby, Let’s Get To 10%

The 2015 dietary guidelines are broad and nonspecific, emphasizing whole grains, eating  a variety of colors of vegetables, lean protein, nuts and oils.   The only specific recommendations are around keeping saturated fats and added sugars each to less than 10% of total daily calories.   For the average American that’s not much direction, but hopefully the next few paragraphs will shed some light.  My last post explained how to get to 10% on saturated fat; today’s post will focus on getting to 10% for those sugar babies.

Added Sugars

hidden added sugars

Added sugars

Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods and beverages through processing or preparing them.  It doesn’t include naturally occurring sugars found in foods like fruit and milk but it does include that syrup I just had with my pancakes this morning, the sugar in my French Vanilla yogurt and the sugar in the coconut cream pie I’m going to make for company this evening.  It also includes the tiny bit of sugar I put in my coffee and tea.

The biggest source of added sugars for Americans is from soda, sports and energy drinks. It’s also found heavily in the specialty coffees from Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts – a Venti Caffe Mocha has 44 gms of added sugar.  Some not-so-obvious added sugars are found in cereal, sauces and soups, and even ketchup.  Keep in mind, this also includes other sweeteners that are popular today like Agave, honey and coconut sugar.  So how do you know what 10% of your total daily calories looks like?

Calculating Your Sugar

Using the Mayo Clinic calorie calculator and estimating calories for a 55 year-old woman who is 5′ 6″, weighs 160 pounds and is somewhat physically active 2-3 times a week, her daily calorie recommendation would be around 1850 calories.  If you were to take 10% of her calories, based on the 2015 dietary guidelines, she should limit her added sugars to about 185 calories a day.  To convert this into usable information you need to understand that there are 4 calories in a gram of sugar.  Dividing 185 by 4, it leaves her with 46 grams of sugar with which to titillate her mouth for the day.

What’s In Your Sugar Bank

It’s all about choosing wisely by knowing where the hidden sugars are, while also learning how to find good substitutes for favorite foods that are high in sugar.  A 20 ounce serving of coke pours 65 grams of sugar down your throat.  Four pieces of that Godiva Milk Chocolate bar yields 21 grams.  My coconut custard pie calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  Divided over 8 pieces that is still 38 grams of sugar.  My favorite yogurt, Cabot’s Low-Fat French Vanilla has 28 grams of added sugar in one cup!  Youser.  That was an eye opener when I first saw that.

I’m always on the search for a low sugar tomato sauce and even at 3 gms of sugar in half a cup, Muir Glen has much less than most with some containing up to 13 grams of sweetener in their sauce.  I know what you’re thinking, I used to think the same way.  You’re saying,  “tomatoes are good for you with all that lycopene, right?”  So next thing you know that pasta is hidden underneath 2 cups of sauce and 52 gms of sugar.  Why not wash it down with some coke and follow that with a nice brownie – the all American favorite.  And I know what tends to happen with that brownie mix.  I’ve thought this same way.  It goes into a 8″ x 8″ pan and cutting it into 9 brownies looks so much better than cutting it into 16.  A 2″ brownie, really?  Is that a dessert or just a nibble?  Now that 18 gms of sugar has turned into 32.  Combine the pasta sauce, the coke and the generous brownie and voila!  You’ve consumed nearly 150 gms of added sugar – more than 3 days worth!

You Can Make This Work Sugar Baby!

Ahhh, I love my sweets too, I understand.  This is how I’ve made it work for me;

  1. Save your desserts for the end of the day and have just one paying attention to portion size and take small bites, savoring each one.  Let it dissolve slowly in your mouth.
  2. Instead of sodas, try seltzer water.  I bought a Soda Stream and I add a natural, calorie free flavoring.  Or as a transition try mixing regular soda with diet soda and limit your soda as much as possible.
  3. Stop the energy and sports drinks.  If you are thirsty, have water.  If you really need a little flavoring then add some fresh lemon or lime to your water or a tablespoon of 100% orange juice.
  4. Eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.  It has far less sugar and delivers more of the heart healthy flavonoids than milk chocolate.  Eat it mindfully, knowing where your other sugars are going to come from in your meal and over the day.
  5. Move away from artificial sweeteners and sugar-free sodas if possible.  They just raise your sweet thermostat in your palate and make you want added sugar in your other foods.
  6. Read food labels, become informed and get smart.  You would be surprised how much sugar is in everything we eat.
  7. Make more of your desserts with fruit.  My Blueberry-Rhubarb crisp is delicious but you can substitute with any fruit.  Even frozen mango makes a delicious crisp!  Fruit crisps have less fat and carbs than a pie and are a delicious way to get some whole grains while controlling the sugar.
  8. Cut sugar in recipes by a third.  You won’t notice it.  I made my last coconut custard pie by reducing it to one cup and added some extra vanilla extract a touch of nutmeg to enhance other flavors.
  9. Stop eating cold cereal for breakfast or have just steel-cut oats with a tsp of honey or sweeten with about 25 raisins (dried fruit is concentrated with sugar since the water is removed).  Whole grain toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a smoothie or even low-fat cottage cheese with some fruit, is a fabulous breakfast.
  10. Make fresh fruit your dessert.  Some fresh in season cut up fruit tossed with some lemon or lime or some cinnamon does satisfy the sweet craving, delivers crunch as well as a boat load of vitamins and fiber.  We need to look at fruit differently.  It needs to be elevated to dessert status and not just a box to be checked off.

Some might ask what is the big deal about sugar.  The bottom line is that it comes to emotional and physical health.   We know big swings in blood sugar leads to mood swings and impairs sleep.  Eating too much sugar also raises triglycerides, leads to weight gain and puts added stress on the pancreas.  With 29 million people in the United States with diabetes and 8 million of those not even aware they have it, isn’t it worth knowing what’s going in your mouth so you won’t be caught by surprise?  And who knows, you might find that following a few of these suggestions are no big deal.  Now that’s a nice payback!  Please forward this to the people you care about.



Getting To 10%

saturated fat

foods high in saturated fat

Telling the average Joe to limit their saturated fat to 10% of their total calories is like being blindfolded and sent to the grocery store to pick up dinner.  Some of the purchases might actually be worthy of dinner, but those boxes, cans and bottles are all going to feel the same.  Wouldn’t a little more insight be helpful?  How can the average person make any sense of such vague recommendations without having a good grasp of nutrition?

Dietary Guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines is mandated under the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act which states that every 5 years the US Department of Agriculture and the Health and Human Services get together to set nutritional guidelines and recommendations for the general public.  We’ve got to live with this ambiguity for another 5 years so let me make some sense of it.

Saturated Fats

The 2015-2020 guidelines recommend that no more than 10% of those daily calories come from saturated fat.  Keep in mind that almost all foods are a combination of unhealthy saturated fat and the healthier unsaturated fat.  And many foods have the double-whammy transfat that not only clogs arteries, but undermines the heart protective HDL that part of the lipid profile.

The total fat grams on a nutritional label are a compilation of saturated fat, transfat and unsaturated fat.  Some labels might only have saturated fat and transfat (which they are required to put on) listed.  Other labels might have both of those and also have the unsaturated fat broken down into mono- and polyunsaturated fat, which are both the good heart-healthy fats.  We need fat in our diet for many body functions and absorption of some vitamins, but fat comes with a caveat.  Fat has more than twice as many calories per gram – 9 cal- compared to carbohydrates and proteins which both only have 4 calories per gram.  And we want to put the emphasis on the good fat so we don’t clog up our arteries.

Determining Your Saturated Fat Calories

First you need to have an idea how many calories you need to maintain your weight.  There are a lot of factors that determine someone’s caloric needs but the Mayoclinic has a nice and easy calorie calculator that takes activity level into consideration.  A 50 year-old woman 5′ 6″ tal.l weighing 170 pounds and who is inactive needs to 1750 calories to maintain her weight.  If she is getting about 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily that goes up to 2100 calories.  If you take 10% of those calories if she is sedentary, it’s recommended that she consume no more than 175 calories a day of saturated fat.

Making 10% User Friendly

As mentioned earlier there are 9 calories per gram of fat.  If you divide 175 by 9 you get about 20 gm of saturated fat per day.  So what does that look like?  Well, taking a look around my kitchen I found a 4 square Godiva chocolate bar (I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day) with 7 gms of saturated fat.  I found an 85% lean ground beef patty with 7 gms of fat.  A 10 oz ribeye has 28 gms of saturated fat.  whole milk vs 1%A half cup serving of Eddies slow churned ice cream contains 2 gms of saturated fat.  An ounce of Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese has 6 gms in one ounce.  An egg has 2 gms.  A tablespoon of butter has 7 gms, but that same amount of whipped butter has 3.5 gms.  One quarter cup of walnuts has 2 gms.  A slice of cooked bacon has 1.5 gms.  A cup of whole milk has 5 gms, but a cup of 1% milk has 1/5 gm.  So my Sunday breakfast splurge  ( I’m not perfect but I do bank and plan for my splurges) of 2 pieces of whole grain toast with 2 tsp of whipped butter, 3 slices of bacon and 2 eggs had 11 gms of saturated fat.   I’m guessing a steak with baked potato and butter, and a few squares of Godiva chocolate would put that over that 20 gms.

Make Informed Choices

You can either calculate your saturated fats to really know what you are choosing or you can make wiser substitutions.  Shifting away from cheese and towards humus, shifting to low-fat dairy, eating more poultry and fish and less red meat and being mindful of portions of things like chocolate and baked goodies will keep your heart pumping and your arteries unclogged, now that’s a nice payback.


Pausing is Mindfulness

This is the last in the series of looking at the nutritional and emotional side in the logistics of losing weight.

live in the momentI have to admit, I’m a bit of a planner.  I was not a shining example of someone who lived in the moment.  But to be perfectly honest, I was not aware of the concept of mindfulness when I was in the thick of kids, work, husband and home.   There were many years where my thoughts were consumed with the future moment, or the past with regrets and not enough in the joy of the present.  I wish I had known back then about mindfulness.  But see, there I go again, looking at the past with regrets.

What Is Mindfulness

Jon Kabit-Zinn is the father of mindfulness.  Through his Mindfulness Based Stressed Reduction program of yoga, meditation and mindfulness, he taught people new constructs in thinking to better manage their pain, anxiety, health, work and relationships.  When people can better manage these aspects of their lives, they gain confidence.  And confidence is what helps us to achieve greater goals, like living a healthier life and losing weight.

Being mindful makes us the cue ball in our life instead of the billiard ball.  Being in the moment means separating judgment from past experience.  It means coming to the same situations as if for the first time, with gentle eyes and new data points.  It means approaching difficult events in search of new perspectives instead of anticipatory concern.  It means observing yourself as if you are separate from your body, detached from from your emotions.   Mindfulness is the pause before action.

Mindfulness and Eating

Being mindful around food allows you to detach yourself from your hunger, your food loves, your self talk around your food choices and just observe them before you act on them.  So much of our lives is lived reflexively, by the clock, and by association and not really done with deliberation and intention.  How often do you check in with your hunger throughout the day?  Do you notice how it changes after you eat, depending on what you eat?  Do you notice that the presence of certain foods like cookies, cakes, donuts or candy make you salivate like Pavlov’s dog and just consume your thoughts until you have one, and then maybe another one if no one is looking?

Knowing Your Desires

In her book, The Zen of Eating.  Ronna Kabatznick discusses three types of desire:  sense desire, avoidance desire and becoming desire.  Sense desire demands satisfying the 5 senses.  This person might struggle with overeating or food cravings.  Avoidance desire demands avoidance of anything painful or unpleasant.  This person might not deal well with confrontation or sadness.  Becoming desire demands satisfying a feeling of emptiness. This person might struggle with shopping or spending on unneeded things.

Once you know the type of desire you are experiencing, the next step is to understand your attachment to that desire.  Seeing a cookie for some people might not be a big deal.  A person with a strong attachment to the sense desire will struggle walking by a plate of cookies and not grabbing a few and then think about them until the plate is empty.  For that person the plate full of cookies creates an explosive frenzy as the eyes see them, the nose smells them, the fingers touch them and the mouth tastes them.

The Breath Is The Pause

This strong attachment to the desire to eat the plate full of cookies can be interrupted… by just taking a breath.  The kind of breath where you close your eyes, breath in through your nose and fill your lungs slowly….then slowly let the air out.  This slow deep breath is the pause that will allow you to detach from your desire.  That person who struggles with a strong attachment to the sense desire might notice what triggered the desire and even be able to find a more satisfactory solution that won’t lead to regret or weight gain.  Now that can boost confidence.

Mindfulness Creates Gratitude

Mindfulness isn’t just about conquering desire.  When it comes to food, it’s also about pausing and thinking about the food in front of you.  It’s thinking about how your food got from the land, to the store, to your table.  It’s observing the colors, the textures, the tastes.  It’s chewing each bite being fully present to enjoy it, savor it and not being distracted.  When we can be grateful for what we have, we have less room for what we may desire.  Mindfulness will help you reach your goal and keep it!