Monday, November 29, 2010

Question of the week: Help with a Low Salt Diet!!!!

The following question was submitted by one of my readers, " I have pre-diabetes and have just been diagnosed with high blood pressure as well. My doctor says to watch my sodium intake. I feel like I've been hit with a double whammy! In addition to trying to lose weight and watch my carb intake, I now have to watch my salt as well. Could you give me some low salt ideas for dinner meals?"

Although you may seem overwhelmed with a new "dietary restriction", there is no need to worry. Many of the foods that you are now including in your diet as you are watching your carb intake and watching your weight for prediabetes may already fall into this category. Many companies have come out with reduced salt and sodium free varieties of their products to accommodate consumers.

Just because you don't use your salt shaker doesn't mean that you aren't eating a diet that is high in sodium. Sodium is hidden in many of the foods that we eat on a daily basis.

Your body does require some sodium in order to maintain blood volume levels and controls fluid balance in the body. Sodium(salt) becomes a problem when amounts get too high. High sodium levels in the diet can also cause fluid retention. Shortness of breath may result if fluid retention occurs around the lungs. The current daily recommendations for sodium intake are for less than 2300 mg (milligrams) daily. That is equivalent to only one teaspoon daily (6 grams)! Studies show that people with a sodium intake of 1500 mg and lower were able to reduce their blood pressure.

Tips to Reduce Sodium Intake

1. Read your labels! Choose low sodium varieties when available.

2. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables!

3. Instead of using bottled salad dressings - try vinegar and olive oil. Dip your fork instead of pouring!

4. Limit the amount of prepared foods that you eat. This includes all frozen, canned, and boxed foods. *Exception: frozen fruits and veggies

5. If you choose to use canned vegetables/beans, search for low sodium varieties. When using canned vegetables, rinse the product with cold water and a strainer to try and reduce some of the sodium.

6. When eating out, request for sauces/gravies/dressings on the side, or ask the kitchen to not use any added salt or MSG.

7. Monitor your cheese intake. Use low sodium varieties or use smaller amounts. Grated and shredded allow you to use a little bit to get the most flavor.

8. Season your dishes with black or red pepper, garlic, onion, fresh or dried herbs and spices. Try a spice or herb blend like a sodium free Mrs. Dash.

9. Reduce or eliminate processed, canned, smoked, or cured meats as they are high in sodium levels. Choose tuna that are packed in water and rinse with fresh water when possible.

10. Read the labels on the cereals and breads that you purchase. Many of them have high sodium levels that you might not even be aware of.

11. When choosing snacks, look for salt-free or reduced salt nuts.

12. TASTE YOUR FOOD FIRST. So many people pick up that salt shaker and blindly season before they even take one bite.

Other Foods that are generally higher in sodium include:

*Processed foods
*Canned Soups / Condensed Soups
*Frozen Meals / Dinners
*Dried Soup Mixes and Side Dishes
*Processed Meats / Cured Meats / Cold Cuts / Cheese
*Canned Vegetables / Canned Beans

**Keep in mind that some seasonings do have salt/sodium in them. Products such as Seasoning Salt and Garlic Salt should be substituted with other low sodium products.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Question of the Week: Carbohydrate Clarification?

The following question was submitted by one of my readers, "I am very confused. I have been told to have 3-4 carbohydrate choices at each meal. Could you help me figure out what one of these carbohydrates equates to? Is it one gram of carbohydrate or one item containing carbohydrate?"

Carbohydrate choices (also known as exchanges) have about 15g of carbohydrate in each serving. The amount of carbohydrate choices you can have each day is dependent on your calorie range. Carbohydrate consumption should be consistent so try to evenly distribute them between all of the meals you eat.

Each serving in the starch and fruit group contains about the same amount of carbohydrates — about 15 grams a serving. Milk contains 12g per serving. Non-starchy vegetables including, but not limited to, asparagus, celery, cauliflower, peppers, tomato, squash, and spinach have only 5g. Meats,Meat substitutes, and fats do not contain carbohydrates.

Serving sizes of these exchanges can be found at the following resource: Exchange Lists!

Some examples:
*1/4 of a Large Bagel (1oz) = 1 Starch Exchange (CHO)
*1/2 of an English Muffin = 1 Starch Exchange (CHO)
*1/2 of a Hot dog or Hamburger Bun (1oz) = 1 Starch Exchange (CHO)
*1/3 cup of rice (white or brown, cooked = 1 Starch Exchange (CHO)
*1/3 cup cooked pasta = Starch Exchange (CHO)
*1/2 cup cooked oats = Starch Exchange (CHO)
*(1) 4 oz Apple, small 1 Fruit Exchange (CHO)
*17 Small Grapes (3oz) 1 Fruit Exchange (CHO)
*1 1/4 cup whole strawberries = 1 Fruit Exchange (CHO)
*1 Cup (8 oz) Fat Free Milk = 1 Milk Exchange
*6 oz Yogurt, Plain = 1 Reduced Fat Milk

Friday, November 19, 2010

Question of the Week: How To Handle Thanksgiving?

The following question was sent in by one of my readers: "My husband was diagnosed with diabetes as few months ago and has been working hard to lose weight and control his blood sugar. Each year we have a family gathering for thanksgiving that includes lots of food (large turkey dinner with all the trimmings and assorted pies & cakes for dessert). What are your suggestions to ensure my husband doesn't overeat but also does not feel deprived this thanksgiving?"

The holidays can be a time when it is easy to overindulge. Here are some tips so you and your husband can enjoy the holiday without feeling deprived at Thanksgiving or any upcoming holiday or dinner get together.

1. Skipping meals before a big holiday party or holiday meal will cause you to binge on all the wrong types of food. Have a little protein, small meal with lots of fiber, or a piece of fruit before you go which will not leave you ravenous when the festivities begin.

2. Use a small salad-sized plate when choosing from the holiday table. With a larger plate you are more likely to try and fill it.

When it comes to picking from the turkey - white meat has less calories and fat than dark meat - and be sure to remove the skin to reduce the fat/calories even more.

3. Balance your plate with protein and fiber-rich foods such as lean meats, salad, vegetables, and fruits. Simpler is better; shrimp cocktail, crudités (without high fat dip) are great party staples to enjoy.

If vegetable side dishes are available choose ones without added fat - for example, skip the green bean casserole (made with fried onions and cream of mushroom soup) and go for the steamed green beans or green beans almondine instead.

Choose a baked potato (or better yet sweet potato) over mashed potatoes made with lots of butter and salt if possible. When choosing your potato - try to pick one that is about the size of your fist. Stay away from rolls/bread from the table (save those carbs for your potato).

4. Try to steer clear of anything that is fried, cheesy, or oily. Stay away from mayo-based salads, greasy appetizers, fatty dips, or anything deep-fried.

5. Use oil-based dressings for your salad and put them on the side. Dip the tines of your fork in them before piercing your salad for flavor. You'll save on calories but not skimp on flavor.

6. Don't deprive yourself of the goodies being served as some of these particular dishes only come once a year. Sometimes a taste is all you need to satisfy a craving.

7. Although nuts are healthy, it is very easy to eat them mindlessly and end up eating more than just a handful which adds up in calories and fat grams.

8. Don't drink your calories (save it for the food). Drink water with your meals - add a lemon or lime slice for flavor. If you want to have a holiday drink, enjoy a wine spritzer instead of wine - you'll save on calories but not substitute flavor.

9. If possible, ask if you can bring an entree or side dish - that way you can make something healthier and have control of the ingredients that are in it.

10. When socializing, try to do it away from where the food is displayed. Out of sight, out of mind.

After dinner, and if the weather is nice, instead of sitting on the couch - go for a walk outside with some of your family and friends to continue socializing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Question of the week: Is soup good food?

Here is the latest submitted question: "I enjoy eating hearty soups in the fall and winter months. Are there any soups that are better for me to eat than others?"

Soup is an excellent food choice for the winter months and to answer your question:

Yes, there are some soups that are better choices than others. If made a certain way, soup can be a very healthy and economic meal as well as be a part of any healthy eating plan.

Soups made with large amounts of cream or cheese (i.e. chowders) are high in fat and calories. Don't be fooled by soups like corn chowder or cream of mushroom soup, that despite being made with some vegetables as ingredients, are also full of cream and fat.

A better choice would be tomato or broth (i.e. beef, vegetable, chicken) based soups, as well as ones that are full of vegetables and legumes.

Examples of healthier soup choices (still check labels as they are all made differently):
  • Lentil Soup
  • Chicken w/Wild Rice
  • Pea Soup
  • Vegetable Soup

Caution with canned and condensed soups as they are usually very high in sodium. Keep an eye on portion sizes as well.

An even better idea is if you can make your own soups - you can can control the amount of salt as well as the ingredients used. Make a huge batch and freeze portions of it to use at a later date.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Question of the week: What type of diet is best for me?

The following question was emailed to me by one of my readers, "My doctor has diagnosed me with diabetes and has told me to lose weight. I have heard about high protein diets, low fat/high carb diets, and many others. I want a sound diet instead of a fad. What type of diet is best given my situation?"

A healthy diet consists of nutrient dense foods (foods that are rich in nutrients in relation to the number of calories it has). Nutrient dense foods include whole grains (such as brown rice, whole grain breads, grains such as quinoa), fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins (such as poultry and fish), and healthier fats (such as avocado and nuts) and low fat dairy products.

Another important aspect of a sound diet plan is portion size. Make sure you are eating sensible portions. For example, a sensible portion of lean protein is between 3 - 4 oz.

Fad diets, or any other type of diet that promises a quick fix are usually nutritionally unbalanced and close to impossible to maintain for any length of time. The best approach to starting a new
"lifestyle change" (I don't like the word, "diet" as it has a temporary and negative conotation) is to make small changes/substitutions to ensure that you can stick to it.

Finally, incorporate some physical activity into your lifestyle. Even just walking for 30 minutes daily can make a big difference and help you work towards your weight goal!