Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Question of the week: What is low carb and low sugar?

A reader emailed the following question, "I have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes and a friend told me I should eat low carb and no sugar. What is considered to be low carb and low sugar in specific numbers?"

With pre-diabetes it is important to eat a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Your carbohydrates need to be distributed throughout the day and they should complex in nature and nutrient dense.

Some examples of complex carbohydrates are found in legumes, whole grains, and "starchy" vegetables. Other "good" carbohydrates include whole fruits, low fat/skim milk, and milk products. The "simple" or bad (empty) carbohydrates that should eliminate are the ones containing white sugar (cookies, cake, candies),white flour, white rice, (regular pasta, white bread), syrups, table sugar, soda, and fruit juices.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates is 130 grams. Your brain uses an average of 130 grams carbohydrate daily at minimum to function. This number doesn't include the rest of the parts of your body that need carbohydrates to function optimally!

In addition to eating a balanced diet with complex carbohydrates, it is important to include regular exercise and weight loss if necessary. Visit the following link for more information and tips to help prevent Diabetes: I suggest visiting a CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator) and or a Registered Dietitian.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Question of the week: How do I deal with cravings?

A reader has posed the following question for the blog: "I am very new to the diabetes lifestyle. I have started working out and so far have dropped 8 pounds (I have about 100 pounds still to lose). I am excited about the weight loss so far, but I am scared that I won’t drop the weight and that I will slip somehow. Can you offer any advice in regards to cravings (I have a big sweet tooth and enjoy greasy foods such as burgers and fries)?"

First, congrats on your weight loss! Keep positive - healthy weight loss occurs with a loss of approximately 2 - 3 lbs. weekly and you want to make changes that you will stick in order to maintain your healthier weight.

Exercise is key to a healthier lifestyle and will help you maintain. Building lean body tissue will help you increase your metabolism. As you feel better and see your results it will keep you motivated and prevent you from slipping.

It is imperative that you are not skipping meals or limiting food so excessively that you end up binging later on. Keep in mind that generally, sweets can be very high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates without offering much else nutritionally. If you are unable to save them for special occasions, sometimes giving in to a small bite may relieve your craving.

As far as cravings go, I try to look for healthier substitutes for the things that I crave. For example, I love sweets as well. I have found several products that I use for when those cravings come that I can have in lieu of full fatty/high caloric options.

For example, I have found a product called Vita Tops, Vitamuffins, and Vita Tops. They come in different flavors include chocolate. They are only 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 6 grams of fiber. Under the Weight Watchers program they are equivalent to only one point. I feel like I'm having dessert without doing any major "damage". You can get a good deal on these ordering through Amazon and they keep in the freezer.

Peanut Butter is another one of my weaknesses. I just found and tried another product called PB2 by Bell Plantations. It doesn't contain any additives or preservatives, and it is only 45 calories, 1.5g of fat, low in sodium, and a good source of protein for 2 tbsp. See It is powdered peanut butter that you add water too. Tastes amazing. It's a little on the pricey side but I find it is worth it as I can enjoy my peanut butter without the extra fat and calories.

Other sweet treats or craving foods I try to purchase in packages that are pre-portioned to keep me from overdoing it. This way I can have a little bit and not go overboard. I also try to limit my snacks to 150 calories max.

Regarding your cravings for fast food, if you must indulge try ordering from the children's menu. The portions are much more reasonable.

Skip the bun on a single patty burger or grilled chicken sandwich and add extra lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. Make your own fries at home by slicing a baked potato (brush it with a little bit of olive oil) and putting it in the oven to crisp up. If you feel you must have their fries - order the kid size and split them with a friend.

As with anything you eat, make sure to watch your calories and carbohydrates and make sure they fit into your personal meal plan.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Question of the week: Does the natural sugar in fruit count as carbohydrate?

The following question was asked by one of my readers, "I have pre-diabetes and am trying to learn about carbohydrate and sugar. Does the sugar in fruit count as sugar?"

Yes, sugar in fruit counts as a carbohydrate - however, this does not mean that you should avoid fruit as a pre-diabetic. In fact, fruit should be a part of your diet as they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.

A small piece of whole fruit or approximately 1/2 cup of frozen fruit has around 15 grams of carbohydrate. One serving of fresh berries or cut melon is around 3/4-1 cup.

I would suggest avoiding fruit juice or canned fruit. Canned fruit is usually sitting in syrup and not a great choice. Dried fruit is high in sugar (although natural sugar) and only 2 tbsp is equivalent to 15 grams of carbohydrates. Fruit juices don't have the fiber content of whole fruit and only 1/3-1/2 cup is equivalent to a serving.

You can get alot more "bang" for your carbohydrate buck by eating fresh or frozen fruit. Fruit is a better choice of carbohydrate as compared to what I refer to as "empty carbohydrates" (i.e. white bread, white sugar, cookies, cake, soda).

Source: American Diabetes Associations

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Walk This Way!

With the arrival of nice weather, ask yourself, "Can I spare 30 minutes a day?". Just a half-hour a day spent walking has tremendous positive benefits to your health.

Start with a smaller goal, commit to 3-4 days a week at first.

For those of you who can't find the time, I suggest using a pedometer. They are fairly inexpensive and easy to use, and useful to track your activity. Set a goal of 10,000 steps per day.

Keep an exercise log and keep track of your pedometer readings, how many days and minutes you walk! I guarantee that once you start, you'll be feeling great and motivated.

To achieve this goal, try one of these ideas:

*Park your car in a parking spot at the end of a lot away from the entrance.
*Take the stairs over the escalator/elevator.
*Walk a message to a co-worker rather than send an email.
*Call a friend and walk together, walk the mall and browse while you exercise.
*Talk a walk after you eat on your lunch hour.

Have any other ideas? Post them as a comment.

Why should I walk (or do other types of exercise)?
*Walking can decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes.
*It gives you an immediate mood boost.
*Reduce stress levels.
*Assist with weight loss and increase lean muscle mass and flexibility.
*Walking will help you sleep better at night.
*Walking may help you squash snack attacks.

Pair up exercise along with a healthy diet and you'll be feeling great in no time.

I hope that I have inspired you - :0)

Source: Vegetarian Times
Photo Courtesy of :

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Question of the week: Are bars and shakes good to use as a quick snack?

A reader posed the following question: "I was diagnosed with diabetes a few months ago. I’m wondering about those bars and shakes I see advertised for people with diabetes. Are they good to use? Sometimes I’m out and need a snack or quick lunch."

My suggestion is to choose a snack (whether it be a bar, shake, or something else) that is close in calories as compared to what you would normally eat as a snack. The snack you choose should also ideally contain protein and (good) fat as well - not just carbohydrate. As with anything else, you need to check the nutritional information on the product. In many of these types of products, you'll find that they are high in carbohydrate or high in bad fats. The snack you choose should be low in saturated fat and contain no transfats.

Rather than using a bar or shake product, try one of these suggestions for a quick satisfying healthy snack:

*All Natural Peanut Butter on Celery Stalks
*Low or Nonfat Yogurt with Slivered Almonds
*Low or Nonfat Cheese with Whole grain crackers
*Baby Carrots with Hummus
*Sliced Apple With All Natural Peanut Butter or Non-fat Cheese

If you prepare snacks like these and carry them with you in an insulated bag, you'll always be ready with something quick and healthy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The 4-1-1 on Fiber

Getting enough fiber in your diet is essential to a healthy lifestyle and diet. The RDA (recommended daily amount) of fiber is between 25 - 30g daily. The average person eats less than the recommended amount.

When increasing your fiber intake, it is suggested to do so slowly as to not cause yourself any gastro-intestinal distress. Also remember that fiber is like a sponge. It sops up liquid so as you increase your fiber intact, you must increase your water intake.

There are two types of fiber. Insoluble fiber absorbs water and helps you feel full after eating. It is often referred to as "roughage" and includes the peels of many different fruits and vegetables as well as the husks of whole grains. Insoluble fiber absorbs water and stimulates your intestinal walls to contract and relax. This type of fiber may help prevent or alleviate constipation, diverticulosis, and hemorrhoids.

Soluble fiber includes pectins in apples, beta-glucan in oats and barley, gums and musilages that are found in fruits and vegetables, and legumes. This type of fiber has been found to help lower cholesterol levels.

25 grams/day - Women younger than 50
38 grams/day - Men younger than 50
21 grams/day - Women older than 50
30 grams/day - Men older than 50

Pectin - Fruits (apples, strawberries, citrus fruits)
Beta-Glucans - Oats, Barley
Gums - Beans, cereals *oats, rice, barley), seeds, seaweed


Cellulose - Leaves (cabbage), roots (carrots, beets), bran, whole wheat, beans
Hemicellulose - Seed coverings (bran, whole grains)
Lignin - Plant stems, leaves, skin

Some good sources of fiber:
3.5 oz of dried apricots have approximately 7.8 grams of fiber
3.5 oz of canned chickpeas have approximately 5.4 grams of fiber
2/3 cup of oatmeal has approximately 4.1 grams of fiber
1 large carrot has approximately 2.3 grams of fiber
1 small apple has approximately 2.3 grams of fiber
3 dried figs have approximately 4.6 grams of fiber
1 small orange has 2.9 grams of fiber
1/2 cup cooked brown rice has approximately 2.3 grams of fiber
1/3 cup oatbran has approximately 4 grams of fiber
2 1/2 tbsp of whole wheat flour has approximately 2.1 grams of fiber
1/2 cup cooked legumes has approximately 4 - 7 grams of fiber

Photo courtesy
Source: Vegetarian Times

Oats Demystified!

When you go into any supermarket or grocery store, you are bound to see many types of oatmeal on the shelves. All oatmeal is not created equal, therefore it is important to know the different types of oatmeal that are available as well as to read (and understand) your labels!

Oatmeal is chock full of soluble fiber and can be instrumental in helping one (along with a diet low in saturated fat) lower their cholesterol and reduce their risk of heart disease.

Beta-glucan, is the type of soluble fiber in oatmeal that is responsible for it's cholesterol-lowering properties. Oats also contain an antioxidant called avenanthramides which has been found to protect blood vessels from the damaging effect of bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine shows that oats may assist in lowering high blood pressure, prevent type-2 diabetes, and lower blood sugar levels in those who have diabetes. Oats may also have anti-inflammatory benefits and can assist in weight control. In one cup of cooked oatmeal, there are approximately 4.8 grams of protein.

Oatmeal is classified as a whole grain. This means that it has all the parts of the grain: bran, endosperm, and germ. While oats do not contain gluten, many oats are processed in facilities that also process wheat. As a result, they cannot be labeled as gluten-free. In some cases, oats are processed in a wheat-free facility and therefore will be labeled gluten-free.

Rolled Oats: oat kernels that are steamed and rolled to flatten them into flakes. This will decrease cooking time to about 5 - 10 minutes. Also called "old-fashioned" oats or flaked oats.

Steel-Cut Oats: oat kernels cut into thirds instead of rolled. Cooking time is approximately 30 minutes. Texture is heartier and chewier. Also called "Irish" or "coarse-cut", "pinhead", or "Scotch".

Quick Cooking and Instant Oats: These start out as steel-cut, but instead are rolled into a thin texture in order to cook faster (3-5 minutes). Generally, instant oats contain sugar and flavorings. If you are pressed for time and need to choose a quick-cooking oatmeal, look for one with lower sugar per serving and one that is fortified with B vitamins and iron. Some may even be enriched with calcium.

**Some quick-cooking and "instant oats" are so processed in order to cook quicker that they are not considered soluble fiber. Once again, read your labels.....

Oat Bran: Outer layer of the oat kernel. Usually added to cereal products in order to increase the fiber content.


Use longer cooking (and less processed oatmeal) and cook it in large batches. Pre-portion and freeze for use throughout the week.

Prepare it using low or non-fat milk for a creamier texture and added calcium.

Add dried fruit (cranberries), slivered almonds, or fresh fruit for added texture and nutrition. When using dried fruit and nuts, watch your portion to not overdo it with added calories.


You probably are more familiar with these seeds from a well-known pop culture product, however Chia Seeds are an up and coming superfood! Well before the Chia Pet was created, the Aztecs were first to utilize chia seeds as part of their diet.

Along with their delicious nutty flavor, chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fats. Published research data suggests these seeds may help lower blood pressure and assist in preventing heart inflammation.

Full of fiber, research suggests that chia seeds can help prevent weight gain and reduce the risk of diabetes. The levels of soluble fiber are sufficient enough that it forms a gel in the stomach that slows food digestion and therefore decreases blood sugar levels as well as give a feeling of satiety.

If that weren't enough, chia seeds contain antioxidants which can help combat chronic disease and approximately six times the amount of calcium in milk. Magnesium and phosphorous, essential to bone-building, are also present in significant amounts in these seeds.

How to use:
*Chia seeds come in white and black varieties. Both are equal in nutritionally.
*Suggested use of 1 - 2 Tbsp daily.
*Chia Seeds do not need to be ground up to get the nutritional benefits.
*Chia Seeds should be refrigerated.
*Mix Chia Seeds into yogurt, sprinkle on oatmeal, salads, stir-frys, toast, cereal, muffin or bread mixes, mix into hamburger, turkey, or veggie burgers.

A little of these goes a long way so one package will last you a while. I purchased mine at Whole Foods. You may not find these in a regular supermarket but check your local Whole Foods or other natural or specialty stores. They are worth the look.

Source: Vegetarian Times