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Improve your blood sugar by eating more of this

Resistant starch. What the heck is that? It sounds like something you might spray on your shirt to prevent staining.

Actually, it’s something you want to eat more of because it’s probably one of the most health-promoting food discoveries of the past couple of decades. Resistant starch is truly a miracle food compound that will help you lose weight and have better blood sugar control. In fact it has revolutionized the food industry around the world. Food manufacturers are adding it to foods like pasta, crackers, breads and baked goods to promote weight loss and prevent diabetes. Consuming resistant starch helps reduce the risk of colon cancer, heart disease and obesity. And to think that all this wonderful health promotion takes place in the gut.

What is resistant starch?

Resistant starch is a non-digestible part of fiber that bypasses absorption in the stomach and the small intestine and is fermented by microbes in the large intestine.  This process favorably alters the absorption of calories and certain nutrients. Most Americans don’t eat enough resistant starch, only getting about 5 gms a day, while in countries where the diet consists largely of cooked and cooled porridge and beans, the average daily intake of resistant starch is between 30-40 gms.

Health Benefits

There are no dietary guideline recommendations for resistant starch but evidence indicates eating more of it can reduce both digestible calories and blood insulin levels. Research also supports:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity – this means less work for your pancreas and less circulating insulin. High blood insulin levels are associated to weight gain, diabetes and cancer.
  • Improved bowel health – protective against colorectal cancer, diverticulitis, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis
  • Improved blood lipid profile – protective against cardiovascular disease
  • Increased feeling of fullness and less calorie intake – helps with weight loss
  • Increased micro-nutrient absorption – improves the absorption of minerals, including calcium for bone health

There are discrepancies among countries in how resistant starch is measured; consequently in 2002 the Association of Official Analytical Chemists started recommending a specific in vitro method for consistency of measurement. Not every country follows this recommendation which is why you still see disparities in values.

Four types of resistant starches:

Resistant starch is both a dietary fiber and functional fiber, depending if it is from food or added to food. Its discovery has led the Institute of medicine to define fiber as viscous and fermentable and phase out the former definition of soluble and insoluble. There are four different types of resistant fiber found in foods.

  • RS1 – these types cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes. Examples are whole and partly milled grains, seeds and legumes. Milling and chewing increases digestibility but also reduces the amount of resistant starch.
  • RS2 – these resist digestion due to their physical nature. Sources include raw potatoes, green bananas, some legumes and high-amylose corn (Hi-maize cornstarch). Cooking and processing reduces them.
  • RS3 – these are formed in the process of cooling after cooking. They include bread and tortillas and cooled pasta, rice and potatoes. Processing reduces them.
  • RS4 – these are chemical modified starches made to resist digestion.

Structural changes occur in resistant starches with processing, cooking, ripening and temperature, making them more digestible and less beneficial. The advantages of the commercially manufactured resistant starch like Hi-maize, are that they are not affected by processing and storage.

Resistant starch in food

Resistant starch changes with cooking time and food temperature. A roasted potato that has cooled has over 19 gs of resistant starch while a hot baked potato has less than 1 gm. Foods like grains, beans and pasta that are served al dente have much more resistant starch than foods that are cooked longer and are softer.

Unripe fruits and vegetables have more resistant starch than riper ones.

Below is a table of common foods with their respective grams of resistant starch. The higher the number of grams, the better the source of resistant starch. You can look up other foods here, from

resistant starch table

Commercial sources of resistant starch

resistant starchBob’s Red Mill makes potato starch that you can add to your smoothies or use in baking. And King Arthur makes Hi-maize that you can substitute for part of your flour. They also suggest adding it to soups and sauces to make them creamier.

Increase your dietary resistant starch this way

Good sources of high resistant starch include cooked then cooled potatoes, green bananas, legumes and raw oats. If you plan on increasing your intake begin gradually so your gut can adjust. Below are some ways you could increase your daily intake of resistant starch:

  • Serve your pasta and rice al dente
  • Instead of a hot baked potato, make cold potato salad
  • Make cold grain salads to take for lunch; mix quinoa, tuna and raw veggies with balsamic vinaigrette
  • Refrigerate your fruit and veggies to slow ripening
  • Instead of canned, prepare your own beans using dry and cook them leaving them a little crunchy.
  • Eat bananas that still have a partially green peel
  • Prepare your oatmeal or other grain al dente and let it cool before eating.
  • Make no-bake chocolate refrigerator cookies! Remember these? They call for uncooked rolled oats.
  • Look for pasta, crackers, and breads made with resistant corn starch. They will have fewer carbs and more fiber. That’s a win-win.

It is so refreshing to learn that simple changes in how we prepare and eat food, not another pill, can significantly impact weight and health. And these suggestions won’t interfere with your usual routine. If anything it will save time on cooking, allow you to cook enough for several meals if you choose (like making a pot of oatmeal), and it will save you time.

I have already made some changes in my diet since learning about resistant starch. I had stopped buying bananas years ago thinking they were really high in carbs, but now I will buy and eat them green. In fact, I will top my oatmeal with them. This morning I cooked steel-cut oats, leaving them quite chewy. I added some chia seeds, some dates and ground flax seed and then let in cool before I ate it. Interestingly, I noticed four hours later, my usual stomach growling time, I was still reasonably satiated.

I’m having company tonight and for dessert I’m making rhubarb cake replacing a portion of the flour with potato starch. I’ll share my recipe next time.

Are You A “Carb”ivore?

The saying “everything in moderation” has given our culture an excuse to become “carbivores”, meaning, “over-consumers of junk carbs”.  We don’t think twice about up-sizing or “frapping” that coffee.  I certainly was part of that crowd up until my blood sugars were in the prediabetes range.  The candy stash at work, the donut for breakfast, the chips in the afternoon, and even the ice cream in the evening – no wonder we’ve become numb on carbs – it’s become the norm.

Rise in ObesityThe NHANES or National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey looks at health and nutritional data collected from both physical evidence and surveys from adults and children.  Developed in the 1960’s, this program was organized through the Centers For Disease Control to help provide data that can help identify trends.  From 1970-2000 the percentage of total calories consumed coming from carbohydrates has increased from 42 to 49% in men and from 45 to 51% in women.  While at the same time there has been a significant rise in obesity among both sexes – nearly 30% since 1960.  Could there be a connection between eating more carbs, weight gain and diabetes?

Carbs and Insulin

Eating carbohydrates raise blood glucose or “sugar” levels.  The size of the portion directly correlates with the rise in the blood glucose.  The higher the blood sugar the more insulin the pancreas has to produce to keep blood sugars in their normal 70-140 range.  Carbs include fruits, starchy veggies, milk, and anything containing grains and/or sugar.  The real culprits are the processed carbs made with white flour and foods with added sugars.  Over time, consuming excessive amounts of carbohydrates keeps insulin levels high, overworks the pancreas, causes changes in fat metabolism and weight gain.  If you’re lucky, your healthcare provider will discover your rising fasting blood sugars before diabetes develops.  There are several blood tests used to diagnose prediabetes:  a fasting blood sugar on two occasions greater than 100, an A1c 5.7 to 6.4 or an oral glucose tolerance test(OGTT) with a result greater than 139.  Diabetes is confirmed with fasting blood sugar results on two occasions of 126 or greater, an A1c of 6.5 or greater, or an OGTT of 200 or greater.  There are 8.1 million people out there who have diabetes and do not know it.

How Many Is Too Many Carbs?

In the early 1970’s, when obesity and diabetes rates were lower, the NHANES data indicated that 42% of the calories for men and 49% of the calories for women were coming from carbohydrates.  Based on a 2000 calorie diet, that works out to 210 grams of carbs for men and 225 grams of carbs for women a day.

The new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines do not specify daily amounts of dietary carbohydrates.  They only state that less than 10% of calories should come from added sugars, half the grains from whole grains and a healthy eating pattern should include a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Not very specific, but combining the NHANES data with the new Dietary Guidelines can provide a framework.

Junk Carbs Add Up

A 16 oz Starbucks Frappuccino has 50 g of carbs.  McDonald’s Quarter Pounder has 45g of carbs and a medium french fries has 48g of carbs.  Add a coke and the total comes to 151g of carbs.  Even McDonald’s Southwest Salad with crispy chicken has 42g of carbs – and with the Southwest dressing, totals 53g.   A donut can have as much as 75g of carbs.  You can see how these junk carbohydrates quickly add up and can total 225 by noon.  Sugar is hidden in so many foods: ketchup, tomato sauce, crackers, yogurt, salad dressing, soups and many flavored waters.  Our taste buds have become so desensitized to sugar, that we don’t even notice how prevalent it is in many of our foods.

Be Carb Aware

University of California food labelLook at your food labels.  This food label from the Diabetes Education program at the University of California – San francisco explains how to read a label for carbohydrates.

I know how hard it is to slowly divest oneself from those favorite convenience foods.  I used to be a carbivore, or “chipaholic” to be exact.  Utz potato chips were my favorite.  It took me several years to realize the only serving size that can come in my house is the 3 oz individual serving that I split with my husband on rare occasions.  That 3 oz serving may cost me the same as the buy one, get one promotion, but I don’t have to deal with all the guilt after eating my size and my pancreas thanks me for it!

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word!  She also posts regularly on the Bangor Daily News blog page.


Want To Lose Weight? Just Be Kind

random act of kindnessThe new year is upon us along with the resolutions.  I heard on the news this morning that instead of the common exercise or weight loss resolution, many are choosing to focus on being a kinder person.  With all the tension from the election, no matter who you voted for, the past few months have created a lot of negative energy that continues to linger.  What a great way to tackle the negative news fog by lifting spirits through kindness.  And the irony in this is that by focusing on kindness, you might actually lose weight.

Kindness and Weight Loss Connection

Many of my clients struggle with negative self-talk like all-or-nothing thinking, reality distortion, or being overly self-critical.  This kind of negative energy can derail the best of healthy-eating intentions and lead to emotional eating.  This is how it happens:  The day starts off wrong with a late start due to a poor night’s sleep so breakfast is missed and no lunch is prepared to bring to work.  By lunch time, that person is famished and overcompensates for the missed breakfast by eating some sort of high-carb, high-fat, high-calorie fast food that leads to guilt feelings later on.  When that person gets home, the all-or-nothing, reality distorted, self-critical self-talk starts:   “Well, I’ve already ruined the day by eating all that junk at lunch, I may as well as eat these cookies and order a pizza for dinner.  I’m such a fat failure.”  Now, had that person decided to focus on executing a planned act of kindness to others, the positive energy from that could help with a better night’s sleep, brought contentment from bringing joy to another, and prevented excessive negative self-talk.  The chain of events instead might go like this:  good sleep, more clear-headed in the morning, more efficient use of time, time for breakfast, time to make lunch, fulfill an act of kindness, which leads to kinder self-talk, and so on….  Making lifestyle changes and breaking old unhealthy habits takes lots of mindfulness, kindness to both self and others.  The positive chain of events can be self-sustaining by focusing on being a kinder person to others and self.

Being Kind Creates Positive Energy

Barbara Frederickson, a psychologist who has done extensive research on the benefits of positive thinking, has a two-minute test you can take to assess your positivity ratio.  Her research has found when people have a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative thoughts they become more resilient to adversity, are able to change their thinking patterns and are able to accomplish more that they could ever imagine.  Can you imagine if one good act of kindness changes one’s perspective of food choices?  Instead of thinking, “I can’t eat this”, saying “eating more of this is going to help me lose weight!”  Changing perspectives can happen by being kinder.

Being Kind

I can think of no better way to being kinder than through doing one daily planned act of kindness.  It’s my resolution.  I’ve had the pleasure of being able to help out a friend more recently and I love how good it makes me feel.  Doing one kind act daily fills me with positive energy, lifts my spirits and carries over to other aspects of my life.  Some days it takes a bit more time to come up with an idea or it may take a bit more energy to fulfill, but the payback of witnessing someone’s contentment can really get me out of a rut in my thinking.

One good act of kindness done daily can create a self-perpetuating healthy mindset that can generate the flow of positive energy to fulfill your weight loss goals.  At the end of the day, as you are going to bed, think of how you can do an act of kindness tomorrow.  Thinking about all those positive possibilities as you prepare for sleep can change your brain patterns, make the world a better place, and even lose weight – one act of kindness at a time.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word

Your Ticker Talking, “Too Much Salt!”

Sodium in SauceI asked my husband to pick up some tomato sauce the other day and what he came home with made my heart skip a beat.  I looked at the label and couldn’t believe what I saw – enough dietary sodium to get my heart pounding!  My mouth is drying up like a sponge in the sun just thinking about how much sodium I poured over my healthy stuffed cabbage.

Determining the Amount Of Dietary Sodium

To find out the amount of salt, in the form of sodium chloride, in a food product look at the serving size, the total number of servings and the amount of sodium per serving on the nutrition label.  In this 29 oz can of Hunt’s sauce there are 410 mg of sodium in each of the 13 servings.  That’s a grand total of 5330 mg in this high sodium sauce!  My ticker wasn’t just talking, it was screaming at me.  Each of my stuffed cabbages delivered nearly 1100 mg of sodium.  No wonder I was really thirsty a couple of hours later.

Dietary Sodium Hurts Your Heart

Sodium, like a sponge, makes your body hold on to water.  That extra fluid increases the volume of fluid your heart has to pump, increasing workload on the heart and raising blood pressure.  The extra workload and pressure can stiffen the arteries, leading to heart disease.  Two-thirds of all strokes and half of heart disease are caused by high blood pressure.

The average American consumes 3440 mg of sodium daily, well above the 2015 Nutrition Guidelines and the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of 2300 mg for people aged 14 and older.  Have high blood pressure already?  The recommended amount of sodium is even lower, at 1500 mg daily.  You can reduce sodium in your diet.

Where’s The Sodium In Your Food?

Sodium is found in canned goods and most processed foods like cold cuts, packaged meats, and prepared foods.  Most restaurant foods are saturated with sodium.  McDonald’s Quarter Pounder With Cheese contains 1100 mg of sodium.  Simply, sodium is added to nearly everything that requires shelf life and is saving you a step.

The best way to reduce sodium in your diet is to get only products that say sodium free, are flash frozen or are fresh.  Read labels to become aware of the sodium level in products – they vary widely.  There are some tomato sauces that have no added sodium.  When you cook, use spices other than salt to add flavor.  Let people add their own salt (keeping in mind that 1 tsp of salt contains 2325 mg of sodium) rather than letting salt embed itself during the cooking process. lists some other ways to reduce sodium in your diet.  And you might find that if you are already taking medicine for hypertension, getting your daily sodium intake to 1500 mg might provide an opportunity to get off some medications.

You Can Reduce Dietary Sodium

I consumed nearly half my daily allotment of sodium in that one serving of sauce.  And the worse thing…is that it tasted way too salty.  Normally I use a tomato sauce that has no added sodium – my dear husband was sent on a nonspecific mission.  I should have been more clear.

Taste buds do adjust to a low sodium diet.  I make most of my meals from scratch, rarely adding salt and have my own time-saving steps by cooking in bulk and freezing or “re-creating” previously cooked meals into something different.  I’ve tried to reduce sodium in my diet.  I’d like to keep my ticker running smoothly and not hear it talk at all.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word

How Could You TJ’s?

Dare I say anything negative about Trader Joe’s (TJ’s)?  I know there are lots of loyal fans, me being one of them, at least for their nuts; nitrate-free, preservative-free bacon; perfectly grown haricot vert and delicious Huntsman cheese.   But can I find the perfect whole grain cracker to go with that cheese at TJ’s?  No way.  There is not one box of Trader Joe crackers that is made from whole grains.  And the worse thing, was all the sneaky ingredients in three of the crackers I examined.  Trader Joe’s crackers are really no better than a Ritz cracker on steroids.  How can Trader Joe’s, known for its consumer trust of selling only quality products not sell even one cracker made from whole grains, without all the processed ingredients?

Trader Joe Crackers Are Not What They Are Cracked Up To Be

Trader Joe's CrackersTrader Joe’s 12 Grain Cracker and Multigrain Cracker are made with enriched flour, not a whole grain flour.  A product that is whole grain will start with the word “whole” or “100% whole” in the list of ingredients, not with “enriched” flour or “unbleached” flour.  Ingredients on a label are also listed in order by percentage of weight.  Those 3 grams of fiber found in each serving are coming more from a fiber enhancer called inulin than the portions of grains, seeds and flax.  Inulin is a naturally occurring dietary fiber, usually extracted from chicory root.  It is known to increase gut bacteria, but is also a FODMAP, a type of carbohydrate rapidly fermented in the colon leading to gas and bloating.  If TJ’s really wanted to provide fiber and boast about 12 grains, then why didn’t they just use the entire grain of each of the 12 grains of flour rather than starting with white flour and embellishing it with parts of 12 other grains along with inulin?  Come on, TJ’s, this is just sneaky marketing for a disappointing product. You can do better than this!

Sugar In Trader Joe’s Crackers

Trader Joe's crackersAll these crackers, including Trader Joe’s Social Snacks, contain not just sugar, but invert sugar as well.  Sugar and invert sugar are listed as the third and fourth ingredient in these Social Snack crackers – adding 2 gms of sugar to every 8 crackers.  And with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommending we limit added sugars to no more than 10% of our total daily calories, that’s about 50 gms for a 2000 calorie diet, these crackers are going to help us reach that.  Why does a cracker need sugar in it anyway?  Isn’t a cracker really just suppose to be about whole grains, oils and a bit of salt?

Here’s A Healthy Cracker!

Triscuit's Thin CrispsOne of my favorite crackers – one that would go great with Huntsman cheese – is Triscuit’s Thin Crisps by Mondelez.  It’s made with just 3 ingredients – whole grain wheat, soybean oil and salt.  The 3 gms of fiber in this serving are just coming from wheat berries, no fiber enhancers.  And there is no sugar of any kind and they are even lower in fat than the first two crackers.  These crackers have a great crunch, go well with humus, and are great just by themselves without a topper.

You Can’t Assume Anything When It Comes To Food Products

There’s so much I like about Trader Joe’s – their small stores with an easy lay-out, the friendly staff, many of their food products and even the bell they chime when a check-out person is available.  But with their mission:  “to give our customers the best food and beverage values that they can find anywhere”, Trader Joe’s has to do better with their crackers.  Costumers want to trust their products but their crackers could be a heck of a lot healthier with a lot less processing.  It goes back to my rule of thumb – find foods with as few ingredients as necessary and if you don’t know what an ingredient is, then assume it’s a cheap substitute for a healthier ingredient.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word.



Don’t Be Bamboozled By What You Drink

I went through the drink aisle of the organic section of my grocery store recently just to see what’s new and explore drink labels.  I know how confusing it can be to make wise decisions on what is considered healthy.  It’s easy to get fooled by hip advertising and conflicting data on what really is healthy.  Take coconut for example.  There is some evidence that the medium-chained triglycerides contained in coconut oil are heart healthy, can help with weight loss and can provide some protection against memory loss against Alzheimer’s Disease, but it is conflicting.  Taking advantage of the hipness of coconut right now, coconut drinksthere are quite a few brands that have come out with coconut drinks made from coconut water.   The advertising on the front is convincing with its words like “natural” and “pure” with pictures of coconuts and palm trees.  It’s got to be good for you, right?

When you look at drink labels there are three things you always want to explore so that you don’t get bamboozled:  the serving size, the amount of sugar and the ingredients.

Serving Sizes Can Be Deceiving

Sugar in CokeMost people would look at a bottled drink and think of it as one serving.   A 16 oz serving is not a big deal if you are talking about water, but if it’s drinks containing added sugars, you can quickly reach the daily limit that the 2015 Nutritional Guidelines has set for no more than 10% of your total daily calories coming from added sugar.  Why do companies make the label based on more than one serving?  So that they can make their product look healthier than it actually is.

At least with the bottle of Coke, the label is not deluding us, it’s based on the fully monty.  However, the coconut water labels above are both based on 8 oz servings from the 16 oz bottles.  You can never assume that because it looks like a one serving container, that the label is based on a single serving.

Look At Drink Labels For Sugar

The next thing you want to consider is the amount of grams of sugar on the drink label.  If you look under carbohydrates, you’ll see the word sugar.  Sugar can be found naturally in some foods, like fruit, starchy veggies and milk, but most of the sweeteners added to drinks are from various forms of sugar or artificial sweeteners.  Some other names for sugar include: dextrose, cane sugar, maltose, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, agave, male syrup, maple syrup, and invert sugar.  And artificial sweeteners have been linked to cancer as well as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, mainly because they raise our mouth’s “sugar thermostat” driving our craving for sugar.  Common examples of sugar substitutes include: sucralose, aspertame, saccharin and acesulfame K.  Stevia is another sugar substitute that the FDA has deemed “GRAS” or generally recognized as safe.

With the average U.S. calorie intake for women being around 1800 and for men, 2600, ten percent of calories amounts to 180 for women and 260 for men based on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.  There are 4 calories in a gram of sugar, making the total daily limit of recommended added sugars for women about 45 gms and for men, 65 gms.  So that means the 16 oz Coke above with its 55 gms of sugar from high fructose corn syrup, delivers close to the full daily allowance of sugar for men but almost 25% above the recommended amount for women.  And that does not include the sugar in coffee or tea, sugar in ketchup, tomato sauce, salad dressing, sweetened yogurts, any baked goods or ice cream and even crackers.  Yes, there is sugar in almost any manufactured food item!

The coconut waters in the first label require some additional clarification.  Technically, according to the 2015 Nutritional Guidelines, the bottle on the right does not contain added sugar since it is made from 100 % coconut water.  However, you would still be drinking 20 gms of sugar and 128 calories.  Are you drinking this for health or to quench thirst?  Either way, you still need to take into account the rest of your total daily calories if you really want to not gain weight.  Let’s say a person didn’t make any other changes in his/her diet or activity and switched from one 16 oz bottle of water daily to this coconut water.  Over the course of a month that person would be consuming an additional 3840 calories and would gain a little over a pound ( there are 3600 calories in a pound) from this one change.

The other coconut water does have added sugars in the form of lemon puree and fruit sugar and delivers 30 gms of sugar and 140 calories in the one bottle.  That amounts to 4200 calories or about a pound and a quarter of additional weight in a month’s time.

Look At The Ingredients On Drink Labels

Looks can be deceiving.  You may think you are doing the body good based on the front of the label, but when you look under the hood, you can see how manufacturers like to manipulate ingredients.  Fruit sugar comes from ripe fruit and is cheaper than cane sugar.  It certainly sounds healthy, but it’s still just sugar all dressed up.  And that Coke’s high fructose corn syrup is the second ingredient – you’re drinking pretty much just pure liquid sugar.  new labelCurrently, ingredients are listed by weight, not by percentage of calories.  Soon, the new food labels will have to include not only the amount in grams of added sugar, but the percentage of calories as well.  This will save all the confusion.

Don’t Be Bamboozled

My rule of thumb is to try to find foods either in their natural state, to make my own or with no more than 3-5 ingredients.  I figure if I can’t recognize a listed ingredient or can’t pronounce it, I probably don’t want it going in my body.  As far as my drinks go, I use a Soda Stream to make my own carbonated water and my health drink consists of my own smoothie made with kale grown in my garden, frozen berries, 1 % milk, Greek yogurt and flax-seed.  That’s my daily dose of vitamins, protein, calcium, probiotics and omega 3’s.  You can’t get much healthier than that and at least I’m in control of manipulating all the ingredients my way.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word.


Yo Mama, Yo Baby Love Sugar

We are babes when it comes to knowing the amount of added sugar we consume.  Last post pointed out how the “added sugars” found Stonyfield’s YoBaby and Yokids and how as our baby grew, the amount of sugar increased from 9 to 13 gms in 4 oz.  Hey, but don’t most people assume that all yogurt is innocent and wholesome, so who’s even going to check the label and ingredients?  Stonyfield’s must have our best interests at heart.  But before you know it our sweetie-pie has turned into a sugar mama all through the careful addition of sugar in foods we thought were innocent.  This hidden addition of sugar creates expectations for our mouth as well as inches around our waist.  And it’s the inches around the waist that have skyrocketed the incidence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.  Can’t we all begin to notice labels and slowly wean ourselves from the sugar tit in order to be healthier now and in the future?

How Much, Sugar Mama?

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend that no more than 10% of our total daily calories  come from added sugars.  For daily calorie ranges between 1800-2400 that means keeping added sugars between 45-60 gms per day.  Added sugars are sugars added to processed foods and drinks including the sugar we add to our own food.  One teaspoon of sugar has 4 gms of sugar.  A regular 12 ounce soda has about 40 gms.  Sugar is even added to many foods that we wouldn’t consider, like pasta sauce, crackers and even waters.

Mama Loves Her Sugar

Sugar in Greek YogurtThis Chobani Almond Coco Loco yogurt contains not just honey, but even a larger portion of sugar and evaporated cane juice amounting to a total of 21 gms of added sugar in this 5.3 oz serving.  Since yogurt is made from milk, it does contain some sugar from the lactose naturally found in milk, but much more has been added to this one to make you go “loco” while your tongue dances with the sugar infusion.

Vanilla Greek YogurtAnd don’t think that vanilla yogurt is any better.  It may not have exotic flavors or fruit, but it does have sugar enhanced flavoring. This 5.3 oz serving of Greek vanilla yogurt is still sweetened with evaporated cane juice to tantalize your tongue.

Wean Your Sugar Tit, Mama

Plain Greek YogurtIf you compare the label of the plain Greek yogurt to the left to the others, you’ll see that this 8 oz serving (nearly 50% larger than the other two yogurts) contains no “added sugar” like the ones above. However, if you are used to eating Coco Loco-type yogurts and immediately try the plain yogurt you will most likely say “yuck”.  Going cold turkey from intense sweetness to no sweet taste is a bit like trying to get Pavlov’s dog to stop drooling while constantly ringing the bell.  There’s got to be a few steps in between before your mouth will settle down and come to appreciate alternative substitutions.

Use Nature’s Sweetener As An Alternative

Plain Greek yogurt does have a tart taste and takes some getting use to.  I do prefer Greek yogurt because of all the extra “fullness-factor” protein found in it, but getting to like plain can be tough.  I have to admit, I can’t eat it by itself.  But I do have strategies to boost the flavor.  I like to make a smoothie for breakfast and add kale, frozen berries, 1% milk, and flax-seed.  It tastes sweet with all the fruit; and it has the protein, fiber and healthy fat to keep me full until lunch.  If you really want a chocolate yogurt experience, you could start with the plain yogurt, add a tbsp of cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp of Truvia, a natural sugar substitute.  You could also sweeten your own plain yogurt with frozen fruit and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.  I also use plain yogurt in dips, baked goods and even in milk-based soups.  It’s a way for me to boost protein content, get my calcium and boost my immune system through the healthy cultures found in yogurt.

I grew up with a sweet tooth.  I can remember going to my local candy store and loading up on sour apple lolly pops, large sweet tarts and gum balls.  As an informed label reader, I have become more aware of the hidden sugars in food.  I still like my sugar, but I’m a smart Sugar Mama who controls the amount and type of sugar I put in my mouth.  I put more emphasis on the natural sugar found in fruits and try to keep my added sugars to no more than 10% of my daily calories by avoiding foods with added sugar, making most things from scratch, in bulk and freezing, and keeping my real treats for the end of the day, and portion controlled.  I’m not perfect, but I’m a smart Sugar Mama.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word.

Baby, Love Your Sugar

We start them young these days.  On sugar that is.  My father who grew up on a farm in southern Georgia, talked often about how crying babies were given a “sugar tit” to quiet them down.  A sugar tit was a teaspoon of sugar wrapped around a clean cloth that the baby would suck on like a pacifier.  Today, we don’t let the sugar sit in the mouths of babes like that, but we sure do whet their sugar appetite and keep it growing right to adulthood.  And what a more wholesome way to disguise it than by adding it to wholesome yogurt fortified with lactic acid bacteria, lactobacillus bulgarius and Streptococcus thermophilus.  That sweet tooth gets started before Charlie can even bite.

Give Yo Baby Some Sugar

Sugar in YogurtSo you’re thinking that this yogurt must be good because it’s organic.  But take a look at Stonyfield’s yogurt and the second ingredient in both Yobaby and Yokids, is organic cane sugar.  At least we know there are no pesticides or fertilizers in that sugar, but boy are we starting to fertilize those young taste buds early.  And look how our lil’ pum’kin is getting 9 gms of added sugar, but by the time he’s a year old, he’s advanced to a full 13 gms of yummy sugar.  Sugar in YobabyStonyfield couldn’t just sweeten the yogurt with fruit puree.  Nope, our little darlings need to get the full sugar experience by adding even more sugar from cane sugar than from the fruit puree.  Maybe that sugar is not sitting in the mouth, but it sure is going to add empty calories to the gut.


No More Than 10 % Of Calories From Added Sugars

The 2015 dietary guidelines recommend that no more than 10% of our daily calories come from added sugar.  With the average 50-year-old, moderately active male eating the recommended 2400 calories, and female 2000 calories, that’s 240 calories and 200 calories respectively coming from sugar.  Sugar in YocrunchSince there are 4 calories in a gram of sugar, that means a daily limit of 60 gms of sugar for a man in this case, and 50 gms for this woman.  This YoCrunch yogurt to the right gets a woman nearly half way there with its 24 gms of added sugar.  And by the way, notice the partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil added to it to make it ohhh, so smooth.  That’s one of those nasty artery clogging transfats that is highly recommended to avoid.  Be aware that any label is permitted to have up to .5 gms of trans fat and put zero on the label.   So now, not only do you get sugar in your belly, but you get bad fat coating your arteries.

Satisfy the Sweet Tooth Differently

just pure Greek yogurtThere is a way to satisfy your sweet tooth when eating yogurt and not get all the added sugar.  It doesn’t have a glitzy name, but it puts you in control of your sweet tooth.  Start with plain fat-free Greek yogurt, which is higher in the fullness factor protein, and add your own fruit.  Add the crunch by adding Grape-Nuts, which are whole grain and deliver the other fullness factor, fiber- 7 gms in 1/2 cup.


Life Is All About Expectations

Why start your child learning to love a manufactured sugar tit?  And why not wean your taste buds of concentrated sweetness.  Truthfully, that pure sugar in the cloth is really no different from the sugar that’s added to so much food, clandestinely shrouded by convincing terms like “organic”(like that means it must be healthy), gluten-free (which are even on some labels as a gimmick, when the food naturally wouldn’t contain gluten), or “all natural” (yeah, sugar does come from nature).  When taste buds are pacified by sugar, no wonder no one wants to eat a vegetable – unless it’s some fried potato topped with sugary ketchup.  And as adults, why can’t we control the sweetness in our foods and eat more fruit, which is not considered an added sugar?  Fruit is nature’s sugar tit, no glitz or glamour, just pure natural sweetness with no misleading, seductive advertising.  Now that’s how I like to satisfy my sweet tooth.


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.



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!