The Basics - Getting Familiar with Nutrition

Fri-YAYYYYY!!! 

Last week I held my first nutrition education session, and last night the second. Two down, four to go (but it's not too late for you to join us! ;) )

I am actually having fun going through all of my resources, preparing, and teaching these classes. Based on my love for spreading information about health, and a client request, today's post is going to include my PowerPoint from the class as well as my notes, or anything that I emphasized.

If this content interests you consider coming to a class or I may even record my classes or make PowerPoints with audio available for those that can't attend classes. Please, please, PLEASE, let me know your opinions. :)

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A Better Breakfast

It's no secret that breakfast foods like cereals and pastries are loaded with sugar. The sugar coated cereals, donuts, Pop-Tarts, and cinnamon glazed rolls have become the norm for many and, unfortunately, what today's children have come to expect. 

Parents and health professionals are beginning to notice that these are the things being served to children in schools as part of their breakfast programs and this fact is not being noticed in a positive light. Because of this, I was approached to put together a presentation and make a plan to help the local elementary school recreate their free breakfast program. 

When I agreed to do this project I didn't realize it at the time, but it turned into an extension of my education on the harmful effects of sugar and fueled the fire of what I like to refer to as my "War on Sugar." 

The obvious issues I found were foods filled with sugar, little fiber, little protein, and a fuel source that was only going to cause a crash in a few hours. In my eyes, the food being served by the school should reflect some of the healthiest choices possible. If the students are eating breakfast and lunch at the school, it is important that these meals be healthy and nutritious. The sad truth is that for some students, most of their food comes from what is provided by the school due to financial issues in the home, on top of that, some parents may not have the knowledge to know what a healthy meal really is to be able to provide that in the home. That's not meant to be a negative comment directed toward any parents, but rather a problem I see in our society. People everywhere lack knowledge about proper nutrition simply because it's not readily available. This is definitely a change that I hope to be a part of in years to come as I plan to stay involved in the community in terms of nutrition education. I think if we focus on our school meals being as healthy as possible, this can also be a teaching point or an example set for children, parents, and families for what could be provided as healthy options in the home. 

While my views focus on healthy meals and setting an example through the school food programs, I have found that some of the school food service staff simply have the overall well-being of the child in mind. They want to make sure that the child is getting nutrition and in order to do that, they provide options that they know the children will like and eat. In past attempts, they have found that offering cereals that are not sugar coated are sent back to the kitchen as the students choose not to eat this type of food. This causes concern in the food service staff because they feel they aren't fulfilling their goal of providing nutrition for the children. While I applaud the compassion and care these individuals have for the students in making sure they are given fuel, I also think that we need to take it a step farther in not only offering nutrition, but a good quality of nutrition that, as I mentioned before, sets an example for choices to make outside of the school setting. 

The school food service programs have so many obstacles to overcome. After the meeting I had last week, I realized more of these obstacles and now know how difficult it is for these food service employees to organize, order, prepare, clean up AND provide the best options. There are only so many employees and so much time. Also, with the regulations and expectations given to these programs by the government, there is an added difficulty. The students must be provided with certain types of nutrients and keep cost of the products and labor under a certain dollar amount per student. 

Unfortunately, large corporations noticed the issues school food service programs were facing, took the government standards into consideration, and are actually taking advantage of these programs. A prime example is the new "whole grain" Pop Tart that Kellogg's is offering. One of the major requirements for school breakfasts is to offer whole grains. In fact, all of the grains offered, at least in the school system I am working with, are whole grains. So, knowing this requirement, and knowing that schools are going to go with an easy, cost effective option, Kellogg's added a whole grain option to their line of Pop Tarts. But, let's look at a side-by-side comparison of the nutrition facts of a whole grain (also advertised as low fat) Pop Tart and a regular frosted Pop Tart. 

If you notice, the regular Pop Tart option on the left only has one more gram of sugar than the low fat/whole grain option. The only major difference here is a few grams of fiber and less fat in the option on the right. But, notice sugar as the second ingredient of the "better" option and what seems to be a LONGER ingredient list! Both options show that there is less than 2% actual dried fruit in the product, and, even for the strawberry flavor, there is not only dried strawberries, but also dried apples and pears....maybe there's a good reason for this that I don't know about, but it seems odd to me. 

That's just one example of how these corporations are taking advantage of the obstacles the school food service programs are facing. In my work with the school, I do hope that I can provide options that are cost effective and healthy to be able to eliminate these sugary options all together. Here's to making small changes that will hopefully turn into bigger changes and make the lives of these students just a little healthier. 

I will continue this adventure with the school by going in to observe how the program works in the kitchen and the classroom and then create a prospective menu to be implemented in upcoming months. 

Although I planned on including some of my research in this post, it's already become more lengthy than I had planned. I created a post in August of 2015 when I began having a greater focus on nutrition and the issues with sugar. This presented some basic information about sugar including my small amount of knowledge at the time. Look forward to a more extensive breakdown of how sugar effects the body in weeks to come. 

 

Have a great week!

FitFriday #12: Sugar: Some Things You Should Know

In the past week, I have decided that I need to eliminate unnecessary sugar in my life. And let's face it, not much of it is necessary. sweetenough

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This isn't the first time I've tried to get rid of sugary substances. There have been a failed attempt or two, but it's all about picking yourself up and trying again.

I've had a problem with having too much sugar in my diet for a LONG time. The first time I really realized it, was my senior year of high school when I did a week long food log for a college class I was taking and had to send it in to my professor. One of the only comments she had, "Limit your sugar intake."

Its no secret that I have sweet tooth...or 5. Someone made brownies? I'll eat half the pan. I'm making cookies, well of course I need to test the dough and the cookies for every batch. A random piece of chocolate sitting around, why wouldn't I pick it up?!

I am not a licensed dietitian or nutritionist, but here are a few things I've learned and tried for limiting sugar in my diet.

Before I go any further let me explain more about sugar. It's everywhere. Just a few examples:

  • Baked goods
  • Candy
  • Beverages (Milk, juice, soda, tea)
  • Fruits (Especially dried fruit)
  • Canned foods
  • Granola bars
  • Processed foods

There are many different types of sugar (glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose).  There is so much science I could go into on this topic but I feel like it would get wordy and confusing real quick! If you want more information on that side of things, this post does an awesome job of explaining what I touch on and more.

Why is sugar bad?

  • Causes problems with blood fats, increasing risk for high cholesterol and  heart disease
  • Sugar can be used for energy, BUT it can also be stored as fat depending on genetics and the body's physiology
  • Too much sugar at one time leads to a difficulty in the body to balance sugar levels with insulin and glycogen...and the condition of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is possible
  • Other health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and more are caused by increased sugar in the diet

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We don't want to cut all sugar out of our diets. Things like fruits that contain natural sugars, as well as other vitamins, minerals and fiber, can be good for us (if we don't eat too much)! Its the processed and refined sugars that really gotta go. And even saying that, I am not telling you that you're never going to be able to eat dessert again.

This year for lent I gave up sweets; mostly candy and baked goods. For me, this wasn't easy and when Easter morning hit I started binging on candy. My body (especially my stomach) was NOT happy about this. That being said, it's okay to treat yourself once in a while. Just be aware of what you're putting in your body, how much, and how often.

If you decide that you want to try limiting sugar in your diet, define what "sugar" is to you. Are you going to... do away with candy or other sweets? Be aware of sugars in your drinks? Monitor the sugar content in your snack foods? You have options.

If you're trying to decide if you're eating too much sugar, think of it this way; your sugar intake should be 5-15% of your diet. For a 2000 calorie diet that would be 100-300 calories daily from sugar; this is approximately 25-75g per day. This number also includes your natural sugars. A medium size apple can contain about 19g of sugar while a banana isn't far behind at 14g. Added sugar, or the sugars that are added to processed foods, should be a smaller portion of this figure; no more than 25g for women and 37.5g for men daily.

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If the numbers are confusing and overwhelm you, don't worry. If you think there is too much sugar in your diet, just try cutting out some of the candy and baked good or foods you know are highly processed. Keep in mind the 25-75g and take a peek at the nutrition labels of what you're eating to see how the numbers compare. Making small changes is a great start to a healthier you.

So, now that you know that sugar is an issue and you know a little more about what kind of sugar and how much you should be taking in daily, how do you take care of those darn cravings?!

The cravings are the thing that really get me when giving up sugary foods. Like I said, I have a sweet tooth. I have been trying to figure out how to get it under control for a while now and I've come across a few tips that I think will help!

  • Don't keep these foods in your house
    • Clean out your cupboards and get rid of the "junk food" you find tempting you
  • Drink more water
    • We need water anyways, like a lot of it (at least half of our body weight in ounces daily). Keep yourself hydrated and keep drinking water. It's great to refresh and detox. Add lemon for even more detox benefits.
  • It's okay to treat yourself!
    • For the first few weeks you may wish to avoid these "treats" in order to let your body know who's boss. We all know that, long term, completely avoiding sugar-filled treats is unrealistic. So, maybe once a week, enjoy a treat. I recommend still trying to stay away from anything that is highly processed.
  • Be sure to fuel your body.
    • Just because you're limiting sugar doesn't mean you can't eat anything. Focus on protein, good fats (avocado, nuts), and good carbs (beans, whole wheat, fruits and veggies). Listen to your body, if you feel you aren't getting enough of what you need, reassess. Also, talk to your healthcare provider before making drastic diet changes.

I'm no expert, but I have learned that an overabundance of sugar, especially refined sugars, is never good. An increased amount of sugar in the diet can be linked to so many health issues, and it's something we should all be aware of.

That's all I have on my lecture on sugar ;)

If you didn't get a chance to read Wenesday's Reader's Choice post be sure to check it out and fill out the survey to share with me what you'd like to see more of on the blog.

Thanks for reading, have an awesome weekend! :)