Tag Archives: diet

Salt: Where Does the Salt in Your Diet Come From?

This is Video/Blog # 2 in our Series: All About Salt.

Myth or Fact? I don’t have to worry about my sodium because I don’t use the salt shaker at meals or when cooking?

When my clients want to reduce sodium in their diets, they typically focus on the salt shaker. They believe if they don’t add salt to their food at the table or when they are cooking, it is enough to keep their salt intake low.

Is it enough?

This is a MYTH!

Wait. What? Why???

Most of the salt in the average American diet – a whopping 71% according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – comes from processed foods and restaurant foods – not from the salt we add during cooking or sprinkle on to our cooked steaks or vegetables!

In fact, the foods with hidden sources of salt are the biggest offenders since many do not realize they are so high in salt. The American Heart Association has dubbed these foods the “Salty Six.”

The Salty Six includes:

  • Breads
  • Deli lunch meats
  • Sandwiches
  • Pizza
  • Soups
  • Processed chicken products.

And, if they asked me, I would make it the Salty Seven and added

  • Sauces and condiments

Can you Trust the Food Packaging Claims?

You can always look at the nutrition information label to find the milligrams (mg) per serving – just be sure to notice how much is considered one serving of the food per the label.

Those nutrition claims on food packages are a little trickier. Let’s quickly go over what those nutrition claims really mean.

First, realize that some of the claims are based off comparing the lower sodium version to the regular version.

If you see “reduced sodium” on the label, that means there is at least 25% less salt than the regular version. So, if your food is a salty one – like soup that can have 2000 mg in one can, then reduced sodium may still have 1500 mg which is not what I would consider low in sodium at all.

Claims that mean low sodium include “low sodium” with 140 mg or less per serving, “very low sodium” with 35 mg or less per serving, and “salt / sodium free” which means less than 5 mg per serving.

Finally, “no salt added” means just that – salt was not added during the food processing. The food may or may not be high in salt naturally.

Check out the video where I review some food packages and talk about the salt in some common foods – including what you just might be eating for lunch today!

So getting rid of the salt shaker may not be enough to get you to your salt intake goals.

Which may make you wonder… just how much salt should I actually eating? I will answer that question with our next video!

To get these when they are released – subscribe to my YouTube Channel


All About Salt: Sodium

I just finished sharing some information over on the N.E.W. Motivation Coaching Facebook page about salt and decided to post the information and links to the videos here.

Myth or Fact? Sea Salt has less sodium than Table Salt?

First up, we addressed a great question we hear from our clients a lot – does sea salt have less sodium than table salt.

This is such a confusing topic and I’ll share with you why this is so confusing.

One reason is there are nutritional differences in the different types of salts which is due to the source of the salt and how it is processed.

Sea salt comes, of course, from the sea and is typically processed through evaporation, meaning the food manufacturer takes the water away and what is left is your sea salt. Because of this processing, it has different minerals than table salt and may contain potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other trace minerals.

Table salt typically comes from salt mines and is stripped of minerals during processing but… typically it comes with added iodine since we used to have a pretty big goiter problem back in 1920s and this is how the powers that be decided to fix the problem. Nutritionally, 1 teaspoon of table salt has no calories and has very small traces of minerals found in sea salt. If you look at the label for table salt, you may see additives. Typically, calcium silicate is in there to prevent clumping and potassium iodide is the vehicle to get the iodine in salt.

But the big question is: DOES SEA SALT HAVE LESS SODIUM?


And the answer is YES… and NO!

Oh, don’t you hate that! Well, this will help. Here’s why:

By weight, sea salt does NOT have less sodium than table salt!

However… by volume (when you grab a pinch or use a measuring spoon), sea salt HAS less sodium!

This is because sea salt – and kosher salt – usually has larger crystals so less fits in a spoon due to how the crystals fall against each other leaving little pockets of air in between them. Table salt is very fine and so there are no little pockets of air as the granules nest next to each other.

To compare:

  • 1 teaspoon of table salt has 2325 mg of sodium
  • 1 tsp of sea salt has between 1200 – 2360 mg
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt has between 2000 – 2360 mg

So it really all depends on how those little salt crystals settle.

Hopefully, now it makes a little more sense to you.

So… which one should you choose?

Well, Salt is a flavor enhancer which means it brings out the flavors and makes food more delicious. So, yeah, use a little salt when you cook!

Salt is also important in baking since baking is pretty much just a delicious form of chemistry so it is important to be precise to get good baked goods. For baking, follow the recipe to decide which type of salt to use.

For other cooking, professional and home chefs tend to prefer larger crystals but if you need the salt to dissolve a smaller crystal would be a better choice.

When it comes down to the nutrition, there is not much difference between the different types of salt and there are no magical health and healing properties in the more expensive or organic salts. However, the trace minerals or other fancy things that may be added to the more expensive salts may change the flavor.

In the end, choose whichever type of salt you prefer that best fits your budget.

A Gift: Enjoy the Holidays without Sabotaging Your Health

I am beyond excited to announce a gift to you from me and N.E.W. Motivation Coaching. Because I am so unhappy with the Diet Culture / Weight Loss wheels turning as we come to the end of another year, I am giving away – yes free – both a video course and a booklet this year. 


Unfortunately, December is a month when many feel overwhelmed with stress and give up on their health goals believing they will return to healthy habits in January when they make their resolutions.

There is some good in this actually.

If you look at the research on willpower, it indicates that people are not as successful at white-knuckling it / sucking it up / using their willpower to [insert goal here: stick to their meal plan, exercise daily, go to sleep on time, etc] when they are either stressed or depressed.

The trick is to manage the stress or depression first and then re-focus on health goals. If you are stressed in December, then relaxing on your health goals may be 100% appropriate. 

Giving up entirely to eat like a jerk and couch surf for 4-6 weeks, however, can result in a pretty big back-slide on health complete with weight gain and loss of cardiovascular endurance and muscle mass/strength! Oh, and an increase in blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugars, and those other health concerns that are totally impacted by your daily food and activity choices.

So, what do we do?

I’ve got an idea: Find a way to both enjoy the holidays and keep some focus on your health goals. It is so very possible to do with a few tricks & tips up your sleeve!


The free course gives you 5 realistic tips to coast through the holidays while staying true to your health – and weight – goals as well as 3 worksheets and a health coach walks you through making your personal strategy in the videos so you can enjoy the holidays without sabotaging your health!

You also get tips for making traditional holiday foods healthier AND a list of which herbs and spices pair best with which foods so you can reduce fat and sodium without sacrificing flavor.

This course is designed for:

Dieters who are tired of the repeated cycles of weight loss and regain who want to find peace with food, activity, and themselves so they can improve health and weight

Adults with – or at risk for – chronic lifestyle diseases who want to find realistic and enjoyable ways to approach lifestyle changes so they can reduce their risk for chronic diseases and live a healthier life.

People who are confused or overwhelmed with all the conflicting rules and information about nutrition and exercise who want to sort it out so they can find a lasting, realistic plan that works in their unique lives.


I offered this information last year as an in-person class and just didn’t get to share it with enough people! So this year we are giving it away in order to get this good info into the hands of more people who need this type of support and guidance during the season.

Check it out – try some tips before the next big holiday meal in just a few short weeks – and share this with anyone you think may benefit from it! There is no limit on how many freebies we give away so share it as much as you would like to!

Here is the link text: https://new-motivation-coaching.teachable.com/p/our-favorite-5-tips-to-enjoy-the-holidays-without-sabotaging-your-health

So you know, this is only 50% of the tips we share in our Love Yourself Healthy Plan. We will be sharing more on that soon!

Yes, you can eat the pecan pie AND be healthy.

Abracadabra – you’re thin!

I have to share that I’m feeling kind of sad, angry, and disillusioned. It’s that time of year, I know. That time where every crazy idea about weight loss and getting ripped invades every media outlet in our lives.

I should be used to it; but I’m not.

It makes me sad because of all the bullshit out there.

Just this week, I’ve seen very disturbing ads. Disturbing on one hand because they are utter ridiculousness. Disturbing on the other hand because of people’s reactions to them… or should I say blind faith in them being their magic bullet for weight loss. Oh, yeah, without having to do anything except buy and use this magical new product.

Have you seen the ad for lycra pants with some magical compound woven into the fabric that is absorbed by your skin and melts fat away yet?


I mean really – think for a moment and tell me if you believe this? If this were true, everyone would know about this magical potion that melts body fat – no work required, just rub it on and abracadabra – you’re thin!

I also just saw and ad for exercises no one over 40 should do because hormones.

What the bloody hell?

I couldn’t watch it all but this charlatan has a whopping 4 studies he is using to back up his claim that women over 40 shouldn’t do cardio because it messes up their hormones (again, what the bloody hell?). Oh and I guess cardiovascular health is not as important as your weight even though heart disease remains the #1 killer in the USA?

Ummm. Okay, let’s move on ignoring this major fact.

The next part was that this guy can show you the 12-minute exercise plan that will keep you burning fat and calories for hours after you exercise (spoiler: pretty much all exercise has this impact – Learn more about EPOC.)

Damn you science.

Yes, hormones are a big part of weight loss and metabolism. But the detox metabolism tea or the 12-minutes of exercise a day aren’t going to fix them or abracadabra – we’d all be thin!

But the worst part for me is the comments. This is what makes me angry.

It’s not what I’d expect of people crying BULLSHIT! No, it’s the vulnerable and hopeless pouring out their health problems in a comment and asking if the program will work for them.

People peddling this bullshit to these people should be ashamed of themselves. 


Of course, we also have had the supplements and pills around for decades now. Someone is still making money off them (off of you?) or they wouldn’t still be peddling this particular type of snake-oil.

The claim, as always, is just take these pills, no exercise or food changes required and abracadabra – you’re thin!

At least the shakes let you know you have to give up eating twice a day and instead drink their miracle shakes.

Listen, there is some evidence (as in research, not testimonials) for pills and supplements for weight loss but the fine print is usually along the lines of people losing an extra few pounds (not a lot of weight) when they also exercise and/or change their food. It’s not just the pills, people. And there’s not a big difference in weight lost with the pills.

Do you know what you are risking for that extra 5 pounds off loss with a pill or supplement?

Well, if it’s an over the counter supplement, just liver failure or death because these are not regulated.

If it’s a prescribed medication, then it’s just insomnia, damage to liver or heart valves, increased blood pressure, seizures, and diarrhea – fun!

But hey – 5 more pounds! Woo!

Learn more about weight loss prescriptions and supplements and the difference in how these come to market.

At least with the shakes you know you are going to be starving yourself – no matter how “filling” the shakes claim to be, it’s not food and there is no chewing.

But sure, take in a mere 700-1000 calories a day and you will lose weight… and stall out your metabolism so when you stop the shakes (because come on it is not a life-time plan), all that weight you re-gain is going to be fat instead of muscle now because you have wrecked your metabolism.

They should put that in the ads too #truthinadvertising.


Actually, one of my favorite studies on an MLM shake product was provided by a seller and touted as proof that their shakes are different. The punchline? After actually reading the journal article, it turns out they gauged their weight loss shakes a success because the shake users regained less weight after one year than other dieters.

WTH? Regained less weight.

Right. Not actually losing weight… but regaining less weight back. Wow.

This all makes me disillusioned because here I am – hello – peddling health and weight loss through exercise and nutrition changes along with lifestyle management for stress and sleep.

Yawn. Boring.

And what? I expect people to do some work?

Yes. Work smarter, not harder; but work nonetheless.

At any rate, these are some random thoughts from a dietitian health coach as the money-making season begins for weight loss.

I have no real point today.

I’ll sit by and bite my tongue… and hope that someday we can see behind the abracadabra curtain and believe that common sense is sexy again.

New ebook and special for October

Many people know that following a gluten-free diet means not eating wheat bread and pasta but they have very little help figuring out what they can eat or where else gluten is hiding in their food, medicines, and other products. Well, I can help with that! I just published an ebook: Celiac Disease: Real-Life Nutrition Strategies to Improve Symptoms and Heal Your Gut. This ebook gives and easy-to-understand explanation of what really happens in your body if you have celiac disease, provides guidelines and tips to ensure food choices are truly gluten-free, and goes one step further to list foods to help avoid common nutritional deficiencies.

COVER-celiac-diseaseAround 95% of people with celiac disease have not even been diagnosed and are suffering with symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, and even fatigue and joint pain. This ebook gives them real-life solutions for how to change their food choices so they don’t have to live with these uncomfortable symptoms, allow their body to repair damage from gluten, and still enjoy delicious food.

If you are not the reading type (well first, thanks for reading this blog), I’ve also got a special going on for October and am offering 50% off the “Go Gluten Free” coaching package which includes 1 initial and 2 follow up sessions, a personal grocery excursion to check out food packages where you make your food decisions (if local) OR the Label Detective online course (in development, course will be delivered by coach if not yet complete), and a FREE copy of the ebook. You must be a current email subscriber & limit of one deal per person. More details here.

This ebook, priced at $4.99, is available at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/746492 or at your favorite book retailer. Is it chock-full of information including:

  • The basics of a gluten-free diet
  • Whole foods and alternative grains to include
  • Which foods and ingredients to avoid
  • How to best use gluten-free products (and when to avoid them!)
  • How to fit alcohol into a gluten-free diet
  • How to read food packaging and labels for gluten-containing ingredients
  • How to plan meals or approach eating out while remaining gluten-free
  • How to choose foods to address the most common nutrition deficiencies from a gluten-free diet
  • A list of online resources
  • Two case studies to give you examples of how two people with celiac disease approached their food and nutrition choices to better manage their symptoms

GF-delishI wrote this initially in 2013 (it has been updated for this ebook!) as a continuing education course for health professionals. In addition to the information that remains in the book, there was also a section on how to implement the Nutrition Care Process and tips for health professionals working with patients who have celiac disease. I said back then, four years ago, that I really should make this consumer-friendly and publish it that way too. And time passed. So… four years later… here it is! I am BEYOND EXCITED for this day to finally come. Now that I know how to epublish, expect more goodies coming from me as well!

This information will be useful for anyone with celiac disease as well as those who suspect they may have a gluten/wheat allergy or intolerance – so please pass this information along!

Don’t miss out on the NEW monthly email newsletter that will have information on nutrition, health, and wellness topics as well as freebies, offers, and discounts; a schedule of upcoming workshops and classes, recent blog posts, as well as any new ebooks or online courses. (Spoiler alert – discount for ebook will be in the October newsletter!) Sign up here!

And remember…


If Hunger is the Problem, Food is the Solution

Yesterday I was so hungry. I wanted to snack my way through my afternoon. I am working on weight loss so how much I eat is a factor. I try to eat enough food to fuel my body without eating more than I need at any one time.

Here’s the question – a person is working on weight loss and is hungry in the afternoon, what should they do?

Some common answers might be:

  • Ignore it, the hunger will pass
  • Drink a huge amount of water to fill up your stomach
  • Eat a snack pack bag of carrots (low calorie) or a boiled egg (protein) and then stop
  • Give up, go off the diet, feel bad, pledge to start again tomorrow

I’ve heard all these answers in practice and they don’t address the problem in a realistic way. There is a mindful eating saying that if hunger isn’t the problem, food isn’t the solution. (Read that again). So true and if I were bored or pissed off, then food wouldn’t be what I needed. However… I was hungry!

Isn’t the flip side of that saying: If hunger is the problem, then food is the solution?

Here’s the thing, our bodies are not steady-state machines in terms of how much energy (calories) they need each day because we don’t ask our bodies to do the same things every day AND all those inside workings are different day-to-day (immune responses, stress, etc.).

Some days, I may not need much food; my hunger will be low and I should take advantage and eat less if weight loss is my goal. As long as I ensure adequate nutrition that is – please don’t eat less than your BMR!

Other days, I may need more food (energy) and my body will let me know it’s hungry and so I should… well, according to the answers above… I should ignore that and eat by my plan. I should deprive myself, tell myself I’m a failure if I eat in response to hunger, fight through it because weight loss is hard and this is expected. I should basically spend the afternoon fighting a mental war between my body and mind.

Um, no. Why be so unkind to yourself?

Here’s the question again – a person is working on weight loss and is hungry in the afternoon, what should they do?


Simple. Easy. Honoring your body and loving yourself.

First, check in and make sure the hunger physiological. If it is, then FEED YOUR BODY!

Here’s how this dietitian handled a ravenous appetite:

  • A handful of fresh cherries and about a cup of fresh blackberries. Wait. Still hungry.
  • Add protein. A fresh apple with a little tub (3/4 oz. or a heaping Tbsp.) of peanut butter. Wait. Still hungry.
  • Add protein / healthy fat. Pecans, Just under an ounce. Wait Still hungry. Are you kidding me body???
  • Bring out those carbohydrates. A Flatout with 1 Tbsp. of light olive oil butter, a sprinkle of Splenda, cinnamon. Wait. Finally satiation! No more hunger!

I added nearly 600 calories in snacks yesterday and that put my total calories up a little higher than usual. So what? I ate to satisfy my hunger! Nutritious choices = more food! Choosing a convenience crispy-crunchy or chocolately snack would not have satisfied my hunger. I instead made nutritious choices and got to eat a whole lot until I felt satisfied.

Are you shaking your head at me and saying: I bet you put on weight by giving in to your cravings and eating all that food. Nope. I weigh in every morning and I’m up 0.2 lbs this morning, which is 100% water-not-weight variation. If in doubt, see my last post: Weight Loss: A Long and Winding Road.

The moral of my story is – feed yourself when you are hungry and do it with healthful choices.

(Image for blog from: https://memegenerator.net/)

The Secrets of My Success

I recently wrote, “Change your body or don’t – we are all works in progress – but please start from a place of self-love and body-acceptance.” (Blog here). Today, I share some of my journey.

My weight fluctuates. I remember being 13 and thinking I was too fat (at 115 lbs!).

13 and playing dress-up at my aunt’s place

I also remember being my heaviest in my 20s (190 lbs!).

alexia and chris

Remember Jane Fonda and the thong-leotard-leg-warmers aerobics phase? I jumped on that bandwagon, got my first certification (ACE Group Fitness Instructor) and got down to 125 lbs as an adult – which I maintained for about two deep breaths. I’ve also attained lifetime membership with Weight Watchers twice!


My weight goes the 140s to the 170s depending on whether I’m in a calorie-counting-exercising phase or a couch-potato-take-out-dinner phase.

I’m okay with being a “heavier” dietitian. My hope is that it gives people a place of realism from which to start, it reinforces that “knowing” and “doing” are two different things, and it lets people know that I can relate to their challenges since maintaining a socially desirable weight doesn’t come easy for me either!

This year, I’ve focused on bringing my body weight down. My reasons? I like to feel strong (I didn’t) and I have a closet full of super-cute clothes that I want to wear again. Okay, and arms. I love to see my upper arms have a little definition.

Body change will not happen until you are ready and decide what will work for you with your circumstances.

It is EASY to not think about what to eat until you’re hungry and it is HARD to meal plan, shop, and prep.

It is EASY to flop onto the coach at the end of the day and it is HARD to make time (and motivate!) to exercise.

It is EASY to make excuses and it is HARD to find small things you CAN do regardless of circumstances and place responsibility squarely on your own shoulders – where it belongs!

Next is what has worked for me to slowly lose 15 pounds this year – 3/4 pound a week adds up over time.

First was putting some money on the line. I tried DietBet. The app takes your real money from you and challenges you to lose 4% of your weight in 4 weeks. I’ve won 5 games and lost 1. Knowing that I have to make a certain goal or lose $10 – $35 has been incredibly motivating and helped with consistency.

Second was that dreaded meal planning and prepping ahead of time. I started with the New Year, a new notebook, and a heart full of hope. It worked. I have done this faithfully EVERY WEEK since January! It sucks. It’s hard. It takes soooooo long to do the prep sometimes. But it is SOOOOOOOOO worth it! (I do count calories using SparkPeople and have for years – love this site!)

Finally, (and I hate to admit this) a FitBit helped me to get moving. I didn’t realize how sedentary I was. Now I try to get 10-12k steps 4 times a week and 7k on other days. (Note that my employer has incentive money tied to steps – financial incentive helps!) In addition, I tried (and loved!) a yoga studio and promptly signed up for two Intro to Yoga series workshops.

My secrets to success are find something you love for activity, make the time for meal planning and prepping, and put some money on the line!


NOTE – There are NO affiliations or sponsorships from any of the linked resources mentioned.

Featured picture from:http://www.niashanks.com/stop-weighing-on-the-scale-for-weight-loss/. The other pictures are obviously mine. Please don’t use them without my permission.

Bag Full of Heart Healthy Foods

No More Excuses for Fast Food!

I get it. You’re busy, you’re tired, you don’t have time for meal planning, grocery shopping, meal prepping. You think your only option is that fast food drive through or the quick convenience restaurants.

I completely disagree.

We are ALL busy, tired, and don’t have free time to do all that planning and preparation. You have no less hours in your days that anyone else. You have chosen how to prioritize your time and to what and whom you give your time and effort. I’m not trying to make you feel any certain way but I can already hear your reasons that it’s not your choice and there is nothing you can do to change it.

Perhaps that is true for some people. I’ve been a caretaker for a family member going through a multiple year crisis and I found myself not taking care of myself at first. After devoting all my energy to care-taking, I realized I needed to take care of me too and I found a way to fit it in. (Anyone else ever walked the parking garage stairs and levels at a hospital? Yep, me too).

The thing is – we pay for our choices one way or the other. We pay in dollars and health when we routinely eat most choices available for a quick lunch (and we save time and effort). We pay in time and effort spent every evening or in a block of time on the weekends to meal plan, shop, and cook dinner (and we save our health and dollars). You get to decide which is more important for you in this moment.

The good news is that YOU have the power to shift your schedule and priorities. Maybe not completely; but I challenge you to find ONE SMALL THING over which you have control and can make a change.

Trust me – you’ll feel better if you do. 🙂

So, to help you realize that you DO have some control to choose something simple – like a healthier lunch or snacks – I bring you my “I’m-starving-and-have-nothing-to-eat-for-lunch” list for the grocery store. These are grab-and-go meals and snacks that you can choose instead of a fast food meal. (Spoiler alert – that fast food salad likely has more calories and less nutrition than the bacon cheeseburger).

  • Lunch?
    • Tuna (or salmon packet or packaged grilled chicken strips) mixed into prepared green salad (from produce section) with dressing of your choice
    • 1 whole wheat roll with sliced meat and cheese (all from the deli so you get only what you need!) plus a mustard packet and box of high-fiber crackers
      • Bonus – now you’ve got crackers to stash at your desk for snack-time!
    • Sushi roll with edamame (if store has this option)
    • Diced fruit and nuts on cottage cheese (major yum!)
  • Going back to the office?
    • Frozen dinner and steamer bag of vegetables (no sauces please)
    • Can of low-sodium soup plus green salad (from produce section) with dressing
  • Snacks?
    • Cheese stick with those crackers you stashed in your desk
    • Chopped fruit from produce section with a handful of nuts
    • Yogurt with Grape Nuts (really, don’t spend money on “granola” or “trail mix” as Grape Nuts give you the crunch without added sugar or ridiculous price!)
    • Apple with peanut butter (single packs are now sold! Try the natural no-sugar-added kind)

Oh, and do yourself one more favor and just grab a simple, cold, refreshing bottle of water (or fill up your bottle!) on your way out of the store.

Tell me  your other ideas and tricks for eating healthy when crunched for time?


Bag Full of Heart Healthy Foods

The Basics of Heart-Healthy Eating

There are no magic foods or techniques to heart-healthy eating. There are just four basic ideas to consider for planning and yummily living a heart-healthy lifestyle. (Yes, I know yummily is not really a word!). I recently was asked to be part of a panel for a talk about nutrition and health. My section of the panel discussion focused on heart health. I will be adding a few posts to share the information from that discussion on my Web site.

The four tips are (1) increase fiber, (2) change up your fat intake, (3) decrease sodium/salt, and (4) maintain a healthy body weight.

Increase Fiber

Eat whole fruits and vegetables with every meal.

Choose whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta or bread, quinoa, or even air-popped popcorn!

Packaging with grain products can be tricky to navigate since food manufacturers use colors (brown) and phrases that can dupe many people. The trick with choosing whole grains is to ignore the front of the package and flip the package over to read the ingredients listing. If the first ingredient is listed as “whole” grain (ex: whole wheat), then the product is mostly made of a whole grain. If the first ingredient is something else (ex: enriched wheat), then put that brand back on the shelf and check another one.

Two Spaghetti Products - Whole wheat on left
Two Spaghetti Products – Whole wheat on left

Change Up Your Fat Intake

Did you notice I didn’t say reduce your fat intake? That’s because there are different types of fats and some are heart-healthy. Fats are necessary in our diet and they give food flavor and texture. Skipping on fats is not healthy or yummy! Studies show that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats reduces the risk of heart disease. So skip on the saturated fats – one way to remember which fat to skip is to think “if the fat is saturated, it saturates your heart with fat!” Trans fats also increase the risk of heart disease and should be avoided as much as possible in a heart-healthy diet.

To reduce saturated and trans fats:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat and trim all visible fat
  • Watch portion sizes of meat – use the palm of your hand as a guide and only eat a palm-sized piece of meat at your meal
  • Add a vegetarian meal at least once a week – try Meatless Mondays or some of the vegan/vegetarian recipes on my Web site
  • Choose reduced fat or non-fat milks, cheeses, and yogurts
  • Trans fats are in many baked goods and packaged products – again, don’t trust the front of the package or the nutrition facts panel (the below example shows 0 trans fat due to rounding down!); check the ingredients list for the words “partially hydrogenated _____ oil” with the blank being the type of oil (soy, corn, palm, etc.)
Can you find the trans fat in this salad dressing?
Can you find the trans fat in this salad dressing?

To increase unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated including omega-3 fats):

  • Add a fatty fish twice a week – good choices are salmon, blue fin tuna, mackerel, canned anchovies or sardines
  • Choose at least one vegetarian source to include with every meal – almonds, avocado, walnuts, ground flaxseed, and olive or canola oil – just watch your portion sizes since these are still high in calories

Decrease Sodium

First things first – if the salt shaker is on the table or next to the stove, put it away! Use other spices and flavorings to season your food. Also, reduce the number of canned and packaged foods you eat. Salt is a great preservative and flavor enhancer so it is used in high amounts in canned and packaged foods.

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Balance your energy/calories taken in from foods with your energy/calories burned up with exercise and movement. If you watch TV at night, stand up and dance around during commercials. If you work at a desk during the day, take mini breaks for quick walks or walking up/down stairwells.

Use cooking methods that limit added calories. Try baking, boiling, roasting, or using counter-top appliances such as steamers or slow-cookers.

Limit the added sugars in your foods. Added sugars are associated with a whole host of conditions and chronic diseases. Once again, flip that package over and scan the ingredients list for the many names of sugar (honey, molasses, dextrose, brown rice syrup, organic cane sugar, etc.). But remember – natural sugars in foods are not associated with these health outcomes so don’t avoid foods because the nutrition label says there are a certain number of grams of sugar in the product. If the sugar is natural (lactose in milk, fructose in fruit), then enjoy the food in a reasonable amount. If the sugar is added (on the ingreidents list), put it back on the shelf!

Compare the below label from frozen strawberries (9 g sugar but only ingredient is strawberries) to the above label from the salad dressing (1 g sugar but is mostly from added sugars listed as corn syrup solids and high fructose corn syrup).

Frozen strawberries - natural sugars because the only ingredient is strawberries
Frozen strawberries – natural sugars because the only ingredient is strawberries

Steps to Success

That’s a lot if you are thinking about making all these changes at one time. Don’t do that! I advise my clients to pick 1-2 things to change and work on those first. Once those changes become easier, pick another 1-2 things to work on. Take baby steps to your heart-healthy lifestyle.

For example, if your first goal is to reduce saturated fats in your foods, start by educating yourself by researching recipes, reviewing restaurant menus, talking to others for ideas, or (of course) meeting with a registered dietitian. Then plan some baby steps. Week 1: change from whole milk to 1% milk. Week 2: try a butter blend with unsaturated fat. Week 3: change one meal a week from beef to fish.

Before you know it – you’ll be living yummily heart-healthy!

Heart-Healthy Breakfast Yogurt

(A Breakfast That Puts It All Together)

6-oz container of reduced fat Greek yogurt

1 small kiwi, peach, orange, or whole fruit of your choice – choose a sweet-flavored fruit!

1 small handful of sliced almonds or walnuts

Mix all three ingredients together for a breakfast made up of protein, carbohydrates, and fats with a focus on heart-healthy fats and fiber with no added sodium or sugar.

A beautiful vegan salad

Vegan Experiment – Day Three: Taking It to the Office

This was the first day that I was following my vegan diet at work. This added just a little more of a challenge since I had to prepare my lunch and snacks in the morning. I also forgot to photograph my meals while at work, even though I did remember to bring my camera.

Breakfast: Same as previous two days and I’m getting bored with it – Kashi Cinnamon Harvest cereal with almond milk, coffee with almond milk and splenda.

Post-workout Snack: Smoothie with banana, pineapple, and ice/water.

Lunch: Peanut butter and banana sandwich on a sandwich thin.

Snack: Snack: Roasted spicy chickpeas.

Snack: Vegetables from veggie tray (grape tomatoes, baby carrots, snap peas, broccoli).

Dinner: Huge salad with romaine lettuce, broccoli, celery, carrots, mushrooms, snap peas, grape tomatoes, avocado, raisins, roasted chickpeas, sliced almonds, and balsamic vinegar served with triscuits.

A beautiful vegan salad
A beautiful vegan salad

Overall, I have been feeling fine; but I was a little low on energy on this afternoon. I came home and found myself wishing I didn’t have a meal to prepare for dinner, especially a salad – so much chopping! I also am still ridiculously gassy! I ran this morning and was happy to find that I am still properly fueled to enjoy my morning workouts.

My biggest struggle so far has been my ability to meet what I’ve deemed my nutrient goals for some nutrients.

Nutrition information: 1430 calories, 249 grams carbohydrates, 48 grams fiber, 37 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 0 trans fat, 0 cholesterol, 51 grams protein, and 670 milligrams sodium. For the daily values, my numbers were 67% calcium, 65 iron, 33% vitamin D, 12% zinc, and 0 vitamin B12.

Overall, the quality of my diet is good in many ways following a vegan diet; but there are some concerns. I am concerned with my low protein intake (I am for about 55 grams/day minimum) and I haven’t been able to find soy protein in the conventional grocery stores. I went to a supplement store and purchased a plant protein powder. It was expensive and I’m realizing that it may not be possible to easily stick with non-specialty foods and get enough protein as a vegan. Today I was closest to my minimum protein goal (4 grams under). While it sounds weird to say, I think I may not be getting enough sodium either (ranging from 670-890 mg/day); but from what I can find there is no set minimum requirement. The previous two days, it has been difficult to get enough calories; but today I was right where I like to be on workout days!

I’m learning how to better work with this type of diet and my goals.

This has gotten me thinking… My goal was to do this without any specialty products; but perhaps vegans do need to use the specialty products (protein powder, aminos, TVP, etc.) to meet their body’s needs. At least, it would make it much easier to meet the body’s needs. While my food costs for this week were low (before the protein powder purchase); I think if I followed this as a permanent lifestyle, my food budget might increase to account for these products.

As a final thought, I want to hit on one of the miconceptions about veganism. I’m a talker; I talk to anyone and everyone. I stopped by the dollar store to pick up more spices and pretzels and was chatting with the cashier and mentioned that I was doing this vegan challenge. People have such misguided notions about food and nutrition… he asked me how my immunity was, since I wasn’t eating meat, wasn’t I more likely to get sick? Ummm, no. I have learned not to go to deep into nutrition unless people ask, so I just told him I was feeling fine. 🙂 And in case you are wondering, no, a vegan diet does not make anyone who is generally healthy already more likely to get sick.