Sunday, May 31, 2009

Reasons why you don't need bottled water.

I'm proud to say that I have not drank water from a plastic bottle in almost a year. I also have refrained from buying any other beverages or liquid consumables that come in a plastic bottle. Specifically for water, there are concerns that go beyond the potentially hazardous nature of the plastic.

Here is a list of reasons why you don't need plastic water bottles I obtained from my friend Mark Cooper in Toronto Canada. Mark has made it his mission in life to tell people about the dangers of bottled water:

  • Bottled water costs $1.50 or more per bottle. That's almost 1,900 times the price of tap water.
  • This means an average US citizen can spend over $400 every year on bottled water.
  • The water in the bottle can be damaged by toxic chemicals like BPA, leached from the bottle into the water.
  • Our environment then suffers because it's tainted by the production, transportation, packaging and disposal of plastic bottles (see picture above).
  • In 2004, bottled water us was marked as 26 billion liters which equals nearly 28 billion bottles a year, of which 86% end up as garbage (again see picture above).
  • 1,500 water bottles end up as garbage EVERY SECOND!
  • 26 billion liters means that 17 million barrels of oil were used to produce the bottles. This oil could have instead fueled home heating or other more essential activities.
  • 26 billion liters also = 2,500,000 tons of carbon dioxide for bottle manufacturing.
  • And, 100 billion dollars spent on all these bottles every year.
It is possible that for a fraction of this amount, EVERYONE on the planet could have safe drinking water and proper sanitation.

Don't you think it's almost ludicrous that we use perfectly good drinking water to WATER our LAWNS???!!!! That water could be used obviously for better purposes.

Bottled water is NOT safer than tap water, and likely is less safe.

For those of us who keep our bottled water in the car, did you realize the heat of the car can increase the leaching of plastic chemicals into your water. Then, even if you didn't keep it in your car, do you know what extreme temperatures that bottle was exposed to before you bought it?
  • Stored in warehouses, temperatures can range from 26F to 85F.
  • Truck transportation: 100F to 150F
  • Loaded and unloaded onto docks: 45F to 100F.
You can safely drink tap water, with extra filtration if you know your tap water needs it (you can have your tap water tested in any local area). Then, drink it from a non-BPA bottle so you can enjoy water any time of the day, any where.

For facts about plastic #7 (the plastic used to make most water bottles and most water cooler bottles), please visit

Other important websites to read regarding your health and the health of the earth:

Remember: we only have one body and one Earth; let's keep them both healthy for as long as possible. And that includes our drinking water.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Incredible Shrinking Snacks? Really? Not so sure...

Women's health magazine online just published a short article entitled: "Incredible Shrinking Snacks: Satisfy a hankering for less than 100 calories."

Although the thought behind this article may be what most women THINK is right to help support their weight loss efforts, there are some major flaws that I just can't keep my mouth shut over.

First: As you peruse through their slide show, you'll see that some of the "snacks" mentioned are synthetic and completely unnatural. For example, to snack on something sweet less that 100 calories, they recommend the following items (I'm leaving out brand names...):
  • Sugar-free chocolate pudding
  • Low-fat (low-sugar) mini fudge pop
The first two items there are man-made sweets created with the help of sucralose, asulfame K, or aspartame. The more and more I learn about these artificial sweeteners, the more and more I tend to stay away. There's just something not right about them with respect to their health effects, and in fact, when it comes to satisfying a sugar-craving, they actually entice you to want more, rather than just helping the craving go away. The reason they make you want more is because in the case of a sugar-craving, your body is really just calling out for calories mostly because you're not feeding it what it needs during the rest of the day (i.e., undereating in an attempt to lose weight). It also can happen because you need more calories during certain times of the month (can we say PMS?), and the first thing your body screams for in these cases is quick, delicious, sugar.

So, when this happens, why not just listen to your body and eat more good calories rather than deprive yourself of what your body probably needs to help it grow, repair, and/or just function normally? Or, if you really need that sugar, eat natural sugars from fruit and then get the benefits of antioxidants and filling-fiber goodness? If that just won't do it, allow yourself some real dark chocolate; and I'm not talking about that 60% dark chocolate our there, that's plumped up with more sugar, I'm talking about the 75%+ dark chocolate that has much less sugar, but still gives your body those endorphin-stimulating properties from its chocolately goodness (not the sugar, it's from the actual cocoa).

Or, the article does give three other more appropriate (natural, no crazy synthetics) sugar-craving options:
  • Ciao Bella Ecuadorian Passion Fruit Sorbet - which is made with all-natural ingredients (including sugar). You just have to be careful, because the product is sold in pint-sized quantities, which is a LOT more than the 1/2 cup serving that WH mag recommends. Also, you have to not eat directly from the pint...
  • Pepperidge Farm Gingerman Homestyle Cookies - these yummy cookies are just like home-made ones you get at Christmas. However, to get less than 100 calories, you can only eat 3... so becareful and hide the bag once you've had those few.

  • Thomas' Hearty Grains Double Fiber Honey Wheat muffin with 2 tsp Smucker's Sweet Orange Marmalade - Although this is a real-food item (I think the marmalade is the real stuff at least), who really can use only 2tsp of marmalade? Try measuring that out and see if you can do it. Honestly, in this case, just use a whole damn tablespoon and realize you might get more than 100 calories. Just use those calories to work out harder later that day or tomorrow and you won't be set back on your goals.

Second: Sure, I get it that we all sometimes just need to reach for something sweet, salty, savory, crunchy, etc, even if "it's not on our diet plan", but think about this: Why can't it be on your diet plan? Sure, some foods should really be avoided due to their high synthetic chemical content, and sure, I understand caloric balance (or caloric deficit to lost weight) but why the heck can't a girl have a piece of chocolate and just know that some days your caloric needs are higher than you THINK they are, or that you will need to work it off later?

Almost all foods should be able to fit into your diet plan. And, remember, a diet is not DIE with a "T" at the end, but it's a way of eating to meet your body's needs for energy and, in a sense, life.

There is no need to starve yourself to get the body you want, and when it comes to eating something you really want, just factor it into your diet plan, and know how to balance the calories in other places either with other food choices or with more exercise. Or, just chalk it up to a higher calorie day that we all need about once a week to help prevent metabolic derrangements that come with ultra-low calorie dieting?

Third: I'm sick, sick, sick of people thinking that fat-free ultimately means you can eat it without getting fat. What year are we living in, really? 1970? Remember: fat is something your body NEEDS to help it use more fat as a fuel. Also, fat keeps you more satisfied for a longer period of time than any other food (protein is right after it). Finally, some fat is essential, meaning that your body can NOT make it, and must get it from food you eat.

So, when Women's Health recommended fat-free microwave popcorn, I almost wanted to scream (OK, I did...). They recommend this to help combat salt cravings, but I much prefer their other option of the Kalamata Olives. At least with the olives you're getting healthy monounsaturated fat and some protein, where with the popcorn, you're getting nothing but carbs and salt. Plus, whatever chemicals they use to make that popcorn pop for you in the microwave, might really not be so good for you. (Then, there's my whole opinion on microwaves in general.... but I won't go there).

Sure, popcorn has fiber and you can eat three cups and only get 94 calories, but why can't you just have 2 cups that you pop naturally in an air-popper and then add your own satisfying fat (butter or olive oil perhaps) plus some nutritious sea salt? Why? Probably because it takes too long to make (really, it doesn't) and we've become a society of "Feed me Now, Feed me Quick, I don't care if it's healthy for me or not". Or, because we've starved ourselves at work and now we're pulling out the bag of fat-free microwave popcorn to make it through the rest of the day. Better idea: eat more good food during the day and you won't have to slam a bag of popcorn down your throat just to feel better.


Well, those are just lovely thoughts on an early Saturday morning. I've got to get some breakfast in my belly before I head to the gym, and you can bet your bottom that I'll be eating healthy, natural, fat, protein and carbs and nothing artifical or synthetic. And, I won't be starving either.

PS. My weight-loss goals are moving along excellently. Already I'm fitting into pants I couldn't wear just 3 weeks ago (literally, couldn't even button them up). Eating and exercing are good things :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Clinical Nutrition Experiences

Despite the fact that I completed my PhD just recently, I'm still not done my educational path. Currently, I'm finishing up my Registered Dietitian Internship through UMass Amherst so I can finally become a Registered Dietitian.

I started the internship last August (right after my wedding) and will graduate at the end of June this year (YAY!!). For the internship, I've gone through the various "rotations" that all interns go through to become a RD. I started in community nutrition, then went to food service (at an elementary school) and am now in clinical.

Clinical has been pretty interesting. I always told myself that I never wanted to work as a Clinical Dietitian, because working in a hospital just really isn't any fun. Well, I was wrong and right all at the same time.

My clinical rotation is through Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, which is one of the top teaching hospitals in the US. We get to see some of the craziest cases/patients here, which is what has made it so interesting. Through my experience in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), I've learned to ALWAYS wear my seatbelt and never drink and drive.... (we see TERRIBLE car accident victims, which is so sad). I also learned that people do some stupid things and get really hurt, like cooking on a grill inside their home in the winter.... uh... Hello? Anyone in there? My goodness.

Anyhow, the frustrating part of being a clinical dietitian is that I don't agree with the nutrition guidelines and nutrition treatments that we have to give to most patients.

For example, if you have a patient who developed diabetes because of illness stress or the high-carb nutrition in the hospital, we're not allowed to cut back their carbs. Instead, we have to give them "counted carbs" and then dose them with insulin accordingly!!! It just doesn't make sense; why not just remove the insulting issue and lessen the use of drugs?

I put a picture of Ensure at the top of the page, because this is the "Beverage of Choice" that we offer patients when they don't have a good appetite, or they need more protein. The issue I have with this product though is that nothing in it is natural. Just take a look at the ingredient list:

Water (UD), Corn Syrup, Corn Maltodextrin, Sugar (Sucrose), Sodium, Calcium Caseinates, Canola Oil, Corn Oil, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Cocoa Powder (Processed with Alkali), Soy Protein Isolate, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Carrageenan, Vitamins & Minerals: Magnesium Chloride, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Phosphate Tribasic, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid (more synthetic vitamins...)

Since when is Corn Syrup a complete food that can help someone heal quicker or feel better?

Then, the protein choice is less than desirable (soy, calcium caseinates), and in the end, only provides someone with 13 grams of protein alongside the 50 grams of carbohydrates (from mostly sugar!).

It really goes against all I've researched and learned under my PhD supervisor to give people some of the foods that we give them here while they're sick and in the hospital.

Why not just blend up a healthy shake for someone made with real food instead of synthetic items if they have a hard time getting in enough calories?

There are some hospitals out there that do this kind of thing, but unfortunately, the choice we make are driven by BigPharma and Medical Insurance companies.... sad, sad.

I must say, thankfully, the dietitians at Baystate that I'm learning under are very smart and do appreciate the importance of additional protein in the diet, fiber for constipation instead of drugs, probiotics to help combat antibiotics, and essential fats from fish oil to help with healing. I'm happy I've had my experience here in clinical dietetics, because I've heard horror stories from some of my fellow interns in other areas.

Bottom line: if you get sick and are stuck in the hospital, fight for the best nutrition you can get. Some people even bring in their own food and supplements, which in my opinion, can be one of the best options out there.

Now, stay healthy, and remember: don't try to put out a fire with gasoline (true story... it happened here in MA).

Monday, May 4, 2009

70% Hemp Protein coming to stores soon!

A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending the SCAN (sports, cardiovascular and wellness nutrition) meeting (a practice group of the American Dietetic Assoc.) in beautiful Phoenix Arizona.

While there, I checked out the vendors and was thrilled to seem my fellow Canadians from Manitoba Harvest, Hemp Foods and Oils there promoting their tasty and nutritious hemp products.

Even more exciting was that they were revealing a brand-new hemp protein product that is going to make many people very happy. I've pictured the product here as I was lucky enough to get a whole container of it to try.

Unlike other hemp proteins, this product is 70% protein, containing (like other high quality protein products), 21 grams of complete protein, 4.5 grams of fat (essential ALA and healthy GLA), and only 4.5 grams of carbohydrates!!!

The product is gluten-free, contains no artificial sweeteners and is also Kosher! (I have a few Jewish friends, so this was a bonus).

I have used this product now many times in my morning breakfast smoothies. My normal smoothy is to blend a serving of the hemp protein with 1/2 cup of the organic, natural Hemp Bliss milk (also from Manitoba Harvest), 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup frozen berries, 2 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp of Earth's Promise Purple Berry Pomegranate, and 1/4 cup dry oats. This high protein, good fats and healthy carb breakfast shake gives me great energy in the morning and provides me with 27 grams of high quality protein! I love it!

Unfortunately, this hemp product is not yet available on the Manitoba Harvest website, but it will be very soon. I'll keep you all posted on the status of it, or you can check out the website yourself for updates.

I predict that this product is going to be very popular, not just with people who choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but those looking for alternative protein sources other than whey or.... dare I say it... soy.

I like this product because it tastes great, but it gives me something else to have in my morning smoothies other than cow's whey. I have issues normally with cow milk protein, so I try to limit it when I can.

Keep your eyes out for this product! It's great and you're going to love it!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

My plan for my Perfect Body

Wow! What a wild week. It seems that following my defense, my body and mind were just utterly and completely exhausted. Finally though, I'm feeling more like myself and am ready to get my body back to where it should be.

My approach to my perfect body may be different than what others might do, but it's what works for me and doesn't leave me feeling terribly.

Since I've been pretty sedentary (relative to my normal activity level) since basically January, my first step is to get my cardiovascular and muscular endurance back to a decent level. Also, I need to accustom my muscles to the heavy lifting and the soreness that occurs when one isn't trained.

In simple terms, I'm increasing my energy expenditure with exercise WITHOUT cutting back on calories from my normal intake OR following an ultra-strict diet plan. True, I eat quite "clean" and healthy for the most part, but I'm not counting my calories and macros to stay within and certain range. I'm just eating well, and listening to what my body needs.

As I said, I've been more sedentary due to my PhD work than I've ever been. As a result, my body doesn't look the way I want it to. I've definitely put on more body fat as my clothes are tighter and my measurements have all increased by at least an inch. It's frustrating for me to even admit this, but I had to cut back on exercise and strict caloric control because I needed to focus my efforts on my dissertation (and do it the best possible... which I did... and I'm very happy for that).

I'm just like any other woman: if I don't exercise or pay much attention to what I'm eating... I gain body fat. There's no special genes in my family tree for me to fall back upon.

The difference with me however, is that I know how to take the fat off and I don't give up because it takes some effort.

So, to start, I'm re-training my body physically. THEN, once I don't feel so sore after workouts and am not so pathetic in the gym and on the trails (I mountain bike).... I'll start controlling my diet more carefully.

During this time, I'm recording what I eat to see how many calories and macros my body is taking in before I start defining what level I need to drop fat and weight. If I try to increase my exercise level at the same time as dieting, I just won't be able to progress.

That's where I see so many women go wrong. They're not trained to begin with and then they try to restrict their calories while increasing their exercise time and intensity. This only results in fatigue, frustration and eventually for most... failure.

If you're out of shape (like me to some extent right now), you have to start slowly with one step at a time.

My plan for exercise is to weight-training for muscular strength 2 days a week (between 4 and 7 reps) and then for muscular endurance another 2 days (between 12 and 20 reps). Then, I'll follow each workout with either 20-30 mins of cardio, or 15-20 mins of HIIT endurance training. On my off-days from weight training, I'll spin for one hour one day a week and/or mountain bike for 2+ hours the other day. One day will be completely off, other than walking with my dogs, which I do almost every day anyhow.

Again, once I'm feeling stronger, and more energetic in the gym, THEN I'll start controlling my food/macro intake a bit more carefully.

For example, this is what I did today, on this cloudy Sunday:

I walked in the morning (8:30am) with my dogs for 25 mins before breakfast. Then, my breakfast (9:15am) was goat's milk yogurt with goat protein isolate, chia seeds, glucomannan and flax oil. I sat at the computer and did some cleaning around the house for the next 5 hours, and in there I ate two meals: one just of steamed vegetables, the other of a salad and 3 oz of pork (at noon and 2:00pm). On my way to the gym in the afternoon, I had a handful of raisins (3:00pm). At the gym, I did my weight training routine of 12-15 rep exercises and then 35 mins of cardio (some was before I trained and some was after). Post-workout (5:20pm), I had whey protein plus cheerios plus raisins (about 35 g protein and 45 g carbs). Then, for dinner (7:30pm), I had a big salad with avocado, olive oil, cucumbers, carrots, 4.5 oz chicken, accompanied by 1.5 cups of steamed green beans. I followed this by a piece of dark chocolate and a few pistaschios. I haven't calculated my calories yet, but I'm at about 1700 to 1900 calories. Once I start dieting, that number will go down. But, for now, I need this so I don't avoid the gym because of fatigue.

Already, within just a week of doing this (being more active for the most part), my clothes are starting to feel loser and I have more energy. My goal is to get down about 8-10lbs overall, and lose at least that inch I gained since Christmas. I know I'll get there because for the first time in my life... I'm not a student!!! Woo-hoo!