Tag Archives: carbohydrates

The Smart Processed Foods Choice

Making Sense of Processed Foods

You’ve probably heard in the news that processed foods are bad for you. They’re frequently blamed for high rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes in America.

But it’s a little more complicated than that. Not all processed foods are bad for you, and it’s important to know which ones you need, which ones can help you save, and which ones to avoid.

What Is Processed Food?

There is a whole range of processed food, and the more processed it is, the less likely it is to be good for you.

Barely processed foods are things that you can find at the store that have been prepped for you for your convenience. These include:

  • Washed and bagged lettuce and spinach
  • Precut or chopped fruit or veggies
  • Roasted nuts

Foods processed at their peak lock in and preserve nutrition, quality, and freshness. These include:

  • Canned tomatoes
  • Frozen fruit and vegetables
  • Canned tuna

Foods with added ingredients may have better flavor and texture, but they can also be worse for you. While these ingredients help preserve quality, they can also have higher sugar, fat, and unnatural additives. These frequently include sweeteners, spices, oils, colors, and preservatives. Foods with added ingredients include:

  • Jarred pasta sauce
  • Salad dressing
  • Yogurt
  • Cake mixes

Ready-to-eat foods are usually heavily processed with lots of added ingredients. These include:

  • Crackers
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Granola bars
  • Prepackaged deli meat

Frozen and premade meals are usually the most heavily processed with lots of added ingredients, including salt and preservatives to make them last. These include:

  • Frozen pizza
  • Frozen meals
  • Microwaveable dinners

Positives of Processed Foods

As you can see, some processed foods are good for you. Fresh fruits and veggies that have just been chopped and washed before being packaged really just save you time. (Although you usually have to pay more for that time savings.)

Foods processed at their peak are a great way to save, with the same nutrition at a lower price than fresh.

And some foods with added ingredients are actually better for you. Many kinds of milk and juice have more calcium and vitamin D added in. Some breakfast cereals have added fiber.

Problems with Processed Foods

The 3 biggest problems with processed foods are added sugars, salt, and fat.

Sugars

Sugars aren’t just in candy and prepackaged desserts. They’re added in all kinds of foods, and you may not even know it.

  • Breads can have added sugars to give them a nice brown color.
  • Canned pasta sauce generally has a surprising amount of added sugar.
  • Many cereals are heavily sweetened.
  • Fruit canned in syrup is filled with sugar.

Salt

Salting your food isn’t to blame for high levels of sodium in your diet. 3/4 of the salt you take in comes from processed food.

  • Most canned vegetables, soups, sauces, and beans have added sodium to improve the taste and texture and to help preserve them on the shelf.
  • Premade meals and snacks are full of extra salt to make them taste better and preserve them.

Fats

Added fats make food shelf-stable and tastier. But trans fats in processed foods can raise your bad cholesterol.

Many products with added fats have really small serving sizes, and if you eat more than that, you’re eating a lot of trans fat in one sitting.

For instance, a serving size of Oreos is just 3 cookies, and those 3 cookies have 7 grams of fat, which is 11% of your recommended daily total of fat. Do you actually eat just 3 Oreos in a sitting? Just doubling to 6 cookies puts you over 20% of your daily fat total!

Smart Processed Foods Choices

Now that you know the basics, how can you pick out processed foods that are good for you?

Read Food Labels

  • Look for fortified milk and juice, which have added calcium and vitamins.
  • Avoid things like white bread, which are so refined that most of the healthy fiber has been removed in the processing. Look for whole grain breads, tortillas, and pastas instead.
  • Buy canned fruit packed in water or 100% fruit juice. Avoid fruit packed in syrup and fruit juice concentrate, which have added sugar.
  • Even if a product says it’s organic or all-natural, it can still have added sugar. Too much cane sugar and honey can be just as bad for you as too much corn syrup.
  • Carbohydrates on the nutrition label include naturally occurring sugars, like in yogurt and fruit. Instead, look at the ingredients list to see if sugar has been added. Look for:
    • Sugar
    • Maltose
    • Brown sugar
    • Corn syrup
    • Cane sugar
    • Honey
    • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Check things you might not think you need to for sugar, like cereals, even plain kinds, and pasta sauce.
  • Look for reduced or low sodium on things like canned vegetables, soups, and beans. You can always add a little bit of salt when you’re cooking if you need it.
  • Always rinse canned beans and vegetables, which can lower the salt content by 40%.
  • Even if a product says it has zero trans fat, check the ingredients. If it has any hydrogenated vegetable oils, then it’s going to have some trans fat.

And most importantly, just try to eat heavily processed foods in moderation and make the most of healthier processed foods in a balance with fresh foods.

Up Next:

Making sense of food labels is easy with our handy guide.

Make the most of your next grocery shopping trip to boost your diet and make healthy choices.

Healthy Wraps and Portable Lunches

Healthy Wraps

This week in food, we featured a light lunch option that doesn’t feel like you’re grazing, healthy wraps.

First up for Meatless Monday was a Quinoa Wrap with Black Beans, Feta, and Avocado.

Connection Recipe: Quinoa Wrap with Black Beans, Feta and Avocado

 

This Turkey Avocado Wrap is quick and easy, and just 135 calories for lunch on-the-go.

Chicken, Fish and Bison-Oh My!

 

This Curried Pork Salad Wrap on flatbread is more interesting than chicken salad, but still easy, portable, and filling.

Curried Pork Salad Wrap

 

Really want to cut carbs? These Poppy Seed Chicken Fruit Salad Lettuce Wraps are like a light and refreshing, portable salad.

Poppy Seed Chicken Fruit Salad Lettuce Wraps

 

This White Bean Wrap is so easy, you don’t even have to cook. Just mix and spread for lunch anytime.

White Bean Wrap Recipe

 

Lobster Wraps with Lemon Mayonnaise are a lightened version of the New England sandwich classic that will make any picnic more sophisticated.

Lobster Wraps with Lemon Mayonnaise

 

These Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Ginger Garlic Sauce have all your takeout favorites, even noodles, so you won’t even miss the bread.

Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Ginger Garlic Sauce

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Controlling Carbohydrates for a Healthy Lifestyle with Diabetes

Around the Web: Your Healthy Lifestyle for Diabetes

When you’re diagnosed with diabetes, it affects many parts of your life. Making healthy lifestyle choices is important when trying to manage your diabetes.

Things you might not think about, like sleep, stress, and salt, can affect your diabetes. Keep these lifestyle tips in mind.

Your food choices have a huge impact on your blood sugar, and a healthy diet is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing your diabetes. Counting carbohydrates can be an important part of managing your diabetes, especially if you use insulin, and this WebMD guide can help.

Sometimes, it can feel like diabetes is limiting your choices when it comes to food, but there are still lots of options. This list goes over 11 Drinks for People With Diabetes, so you have more options than water, and this guide can even help you choose the occasional cocktail safely.

You can also check out these helpful examples of the best and worst meals for dining out with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association’s YouTube channel has a Healthy Eating and Recipes playlist with video tutorials to help you choose and prepare healthy meals.

Exercise is also an essential part of any healthy lifestyle. It’s important to get up and get out there for your body and for your diabetes.

Try these 10 muscle moves that help with your diabetes to begin strength training.

These tips can help you use exercise to prevent diabetes-related nerve pain and to improve your balance.

For more workouts and a huge variety of healthy recipes, head over to our Pinterest. And to learn more about nutrition, weight management, and the great fitness discounts we offer to our members, visit our online Wellness section.

Sleep for the Whole Family

Long View: Take Time to Rest Easy, Don’t Skip Sleep

I know we all think about ways to carve out more time in our busy lives, and I’m sure we’d all like to be more efficient. Sometimes I think getting by on less sleep is the way to go, but after looking into it, there are some problems with that solution.

There are lots of reasons you might not get enough sleep—illness, stress, family commitments, and job issues. Bad sleep habits, like irregular schedules and eating too much before bed, can lead to insomnia whether or not you’re actually trying to skip sleep. The causes of a bad night’s sleep seem endless, and so do the effects. But your primary care doctor can get you started on the right path to better sleep.

I can’t close my eyes to the fact that my sleep habits aren’t always the best, but I try to maintain a regular schedule. Typically, I read a few pages from a book with a serene topic before I drift off. For a while, I was concerned about afternoon drowsiness until I was able to tie the symptoms to carb loading at lunch. I also took a medicine that had vivid dreams as a possible side effect. My dreams are vivid enough as is. The medicine made them unbearable, so my doctor and I decided we would take another path.

My friend Karen Stefaniak is our wellness program administrator here at Health Alliance. She shared her knowledge on sleep.

“Recent studies are linking reduced sleep duration—five hours or less—to weight gain,” Stefaniak says. “Not getting enough sleep affects the two hormones that tell us when to eat and when to stop eating. People who are sleep-deprived produce more ghrelin, the hormone that tells us when to eat, and less leptin, the hormone that tells us when to stop. Plus, when we don’t get enough sleep, our metabolism slows down, and we tend to crave high-carbohydrate foods that provide a quick energy boost.”

So are we actually helping ourselves at all by sleeping less? Probably not. It lowers our waking quality of life and increases our risk for accidents, and it even makes us want to eat more. I think I need to consider a good night’s sleep a necessity rather than a luxury. You can rest easy knowing I will pay more attention to my sleep habits going forward.

Lemon Water for the Holiday Season

My Healthy Journey: Fighting the Holiday Season

While I think most people find the holiday season the hardest to stick to their healthy plans, I’m actually feeling really ready to kick off the new year the right way.

I haven’t exactly decided on my resolutions yet, I’m sure that is coming in the next few weeks, but I have found it much easier to stick to my guns now that the Halloween candy and Thanksgiving leftovers are out of my house.

I have also started using the MyPlate app. It asks you a series of questions, and then it calculates what is probably a healthy number of calories for you to be eating each day for your weight and your goals.

My favorite thing is how easy it is to track food with it. You can scan barcodes or search by names and brands to find all the things you ate. And I mean all the things. Did you eat a piece of candy? Cream in your coffee? It can help you track every detail.

Is it probably accurate down to the calorie? No. Is it controlling your portions? No. But it does make it really easy to put a real number on how many calories you’re eating in a day, a thing I had never done before.

It also helps remind you what a proper portion is, which you don’t always think about just because the package is in your hand. Did you know you can have 7 pixie sticks for 60 calories? Yeah, I didn’t either.  And while I’m not endorsing you eating pure sugar, with my sweet tooth, I’m not going to completely cut it out of my life forever. So now, I actually know what a serving is and what it costs me out of my day.

And while I’m usually within or close to my calorie goals without making changes, the app does a really good job of making me think about how wildly my diet swings. One day I’m 300 under, the next I’m 200 over. Maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world, but it does make me a lot more aware of the fact that I’m 200 over because I had a Coca-Cola that day. Now the mental downside that I’m trying to stay away from is when I’m 300 under, saying “Oh, what in my house can I eat because I’m under!”

And even though it’s just an app, having to check in every little thing I ate does make me want to eat healthier; like if I’m embarrassed to document it, I probably shouldn’t eat it.

It also gives you a breakdown of how much protein, fat, and carbs you’re eating, which I love. If at dinner, my diet has been mostly carbs that day, it’s no wonder I’m hungry, and I try to up my protein.

It also has a place where you can track the ounces of water you drink in a day. I am unfortunately still failing dismally at drinking enough, but having a place I look at everyday with a glaring empty if I don’t drink water unbelievably does make me want to drink more. There’s something about the satisfaction of that bubble being colored in, like a mental check, that gives me the drive to actually strive for results. (I like mine with just a squeeze of fresh fruit juice, so I feel like I’m drinking something tastier.)

I wouldn’t say it’s giving me concrete weight-loss results, but I actually love the feeling of control and monitoring it’s giving me, and I do think it could become a significant tool in my healthy journey progress. And, it’s on my phone, which makes it so easy to do any time.

As for the plank challenge, I really enjoyed this one! It’s almost over, and I think I might actually keep doing it. It takes very little time out of your day, literally a few minutes, and I have felt the improvement. Now if I can just get my flexibility up, I think 2015 could be my year to actually take on yoga!

Barbeques

Oh, Sweet Summertime Barbecues!

Warm weather and barbecues go hand in hand. With so many tempting foods, it can be work to control your cravings. BBQ sauce, cheese, sweet drinks, and desserts can all be sugar-filled. So, as much as you want to enjoy everything, it’s important to do it in moderation.

Did you know that the average meal at barbecues has over 1,600 calories and 170 grams of carbohydrates?

Of course, meal plans are different from person to person, but the American Diabetes Association (ADA), recommends a normal meal have 45 to 60 grams of carbs. In just two tablespoons of BBQ sauce, you can rack up 15 grams of carbs and 10 grams of sugar. That’s before you even get to the s’mores!

But there are some easy ways to stay on track at summertime barbecues.

Tips for Cutting Calories at Barbecues

Fill your plate using the diabetes plate method. Load at least half your plate with non-starchy veggies, like grilled zucchini and peppers, leaving only a quarter of your plate for starchy veggies like corn and potato salad. Fill the last quarter with proteins like chicken or a turkey burger.

Serve or bring a tray of non-starchy veggies like carrots, celery, tomatoes, peppers and broccoli. Add a non-fat dip like salsa, fat-free dressing, or hummus.

Remember, non-starchy vegetables have about 5 grams of carbohydrate in 1 cup raw (½ cup cooked). These carbs are usually fiber, so unless you eat more than 2 cups raw, you probably don’t need to count the carbs.

Create a salad bar. Leafy greens, low-fat cheese, nuts (almond slices or walnuts), and a side of low-fat salad dressing go great with BBQ.

Pack flavored seltzer water or add fruit wedges to ice-cold water for a healthy and refreshing drink.

Make your own BBQ sauce. Combine:

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup diet cola
  • 1 tablespoon onion flakes or diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.

 

For dessert, try this tropical fruit salad with mango-flavored chutney from Diabetes Forecast:

Peeled and diced:

  • 2 small kiwis
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 medium mango

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoon mango chutney
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom

 

Happy grilling and check out our Pinterest for more recipes.

Blood Sugar Maintenance

Tips for Managing Your Blood Sugar

Stress and Your Blood Sugar

Everyday stress can make your diabetes  worse by triggering hormones that change blood sugar. Plus, when you’re stressed out, you’re less likely to practice good self-care.

According to Livestrong, stress causes blood glucose to rise by releasing two hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase your glucose in order to help reduce your stress.

Stress can make you emotional, which for many people can lead to binge eating. People usually turn to foods filled with sugar and carbohydrates for comfort, which raise your blood sugar.

To cope with stress and reduce its impact, try to:

  • Breathe deeply. Practice breathing slowly and deeply at least once a day to calm yourself.
  • Move more. Even simple exercises like a quick walk or dancing around the living room can make you feel better.
  • Focus on the positive. Find something you enjoy that takes your mind off whatever is causing your stress.
  • Practice good self-care. Eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.

Move More

Outdoor play helps keep your blood sugar in check. It’s also a great way to have fun with your friends and family.

Do something you love or would like to try. Here are some ideas to get you started!

  • Go fishing at a local lake.
  • Try hiking in a nearby state park.
  • Plant a family garden in your backyard.
  • Ride your bike through your neighborhood.
  • Go roller skating, walking, or running with a friend.
  • Play a backyard sport like basketball or catch with your family.

Remember to check your blood sugar before starting. You might need to eat an extra snack if it’s too low.

If you’re leaving home, pack testing gear, meds, extra snacks, and water. Wear your medical ID bracelet and bring contact numbers and a copy of your emergency plan.

Diabetes shouldn’t stop you from having fun. Just plan ahead so you have what you need, and always take a break right away if you start feeling dizzy.

Planning Ahead

You can never be too prepared with your diabetes. Take time to pack a diabetes emergency kit now before an emergency strikes. Here are some important items for packing the perfect kit:

  • A 3-day supply of:
    • Medicines, marked with their name and correct dose
    • Insulin
    • Insulin pump
    • Lancets
    • Syringes
  • Extra batteries
  • Alcohol wipes for cleaning the injection area
  • A cooler for storing insulin and meds
  • Flashlight, in case you lose power
  • Medical ID bracelet to help first responders quickly know your needs. Your tag should have:
    • Your name
    • Diabetes, insulin pump, or insulin dependent
    • Known allergies
    • Medicines
    • Emergency contact numbers
  • A list of your meds and doses
  • A blood sugar log to help you keep track of your numbers in an emergency
  • Drinks and snacks like water, juice, fruit cups, and hard candies
  • Your doctor’s name and contact information
  • Emergency contact information with cell and work phone numbers, emails, and home addresses

Be sure to update your kit with new meds and supplies as things change. Also, mark on your calendar when your supplies and meds will expire.

There is no better time than now!