Good Carb, Bad Carb: How Well Do You Know Your Carbs?

Good carb, bad carb IMG

While reading the New York Times recently, I came across a fascinating article that explains the idea of Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs.  The media tends to bombard us with over-simplified nutrition information and it was refreshing to read Jane Brody differentiate between healthy carbs (and fats) and unhealthy ones.

Due to the low-carb craze that has swept the country over the last couple decades with trendy diets from Atkins to Paleo, there’s a deeply ingrained tendency to label all carbs as bad.

But in doing so, we forget that carbohydrates are our primary energy source.

Classifying all carbs as bad is like classifying all flowers as pink. Sure, there are a lot of pink ones, but that’s far from the whole story.

The Glycemic Index

Some carbs provide a steady source of energy and are critical to our vitality and wellbeing, while others cause metabolic havoc and result in all kinds of problems.  The basic difference is how quickly (or slowly) a carbohydrate is digested. Different types of carbs are measured and classified through a system called the Glycemic Index.

So what exactly is the Glycemic Index, you ask? Much like outer space, algebra and the Kardashians’ rise to fame, the Glycemic Index is something we’re all familiar with, but many don’t truly understand.

In 1981, the glycemic index was invented, and pure glucose was given the value of 100. Other foods were given comparative values based on the glucose response – in other words, how quickly they raised blood sugar — to determine which carbs were good (those below 55), which were neutral (55-70) and which were unhealthy (above 70).

Why Are Some Carbs Bad?

Certain carbohydrates are digested quickly in our bodies. These are the bad ones that spike blood sugars.  Table sugar, soda, candy and sweets are the classic examples.

Refined grains are another culprit.  Think “white foods” like white rice, white bread and baked goods like muffins, cupcakes, bagels, cookies, crackers and cakes.  As Dr. Hu from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains in the aforementioned article, “highly processed grains that have been stripped of dietary fiber act more like sugar in the body. They are rapidly digested and absorbed, raising blood levels of glucose and prompting the secretion of insulin to process it.”

How Bad is “Bad”?

The effects can be wide ranging and very destructive:

  1. The excess insulin that Dr. Hu refers to turns the circulating blood sugar to fat, leading to weight gain and fatty liver
  2. The resulting low blood sugar level signals the brain to seek out more glucose, which is perceived by us as hunger and cravings for the most readily available source—sugar and refined carbs
  3. This can create a blood sugar roller coaster where we literally feel hungry all the time while we are actually gaining weight
  4. Low blood sugars not only cause cravings, but also make us tired, irritable and distracted. Most of us are now familiar with the term “hangry.”  Low blood sugar = hungry + angry

Why Are Some Carbs Good?

Our body transforms all carbs into glucose.  Our brain consumes 30% of it.  Carbs are essential to thinking and moving.

Healthy carbs are essentially those that contain fiber, digest slowly, and don’t spike blood sugars.  They are scientifically known as low-glycemic. Examples include fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains and low-glycemic sweeteners like agave.  These carbohydrates are digested slowly into glucose and provide an even, measured supply of energy to our system.  Zing bars measure between 19 and 32 on the glycemic index scale.

Quiz Time

Think you know your carbs? Take this quiz.

  1. Which of these foods are on the low (good) end of the index:
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • White Baguette
  • Russet Potatoes
  • Rice Cakes
  • E. All of the above

The answer is A. Spaghetti Squash with a Glycemic Index of 41.  Baguettes, rice cakes and especially russet potatoes (index score of 111) spike blood sugar, and can lead to cravings and weight gain.

  1. Which of these foods are on the low (good) end of the index:
  • Cornflakes
  • Gatorade
  • Grapenuts
  • Pretzels
  • None of the above

The answer is E. All of the above are relatively poor choices with scores of 93, 78, 75, and 83 respectively.

How are you doing so far? One more round awaits.

  1. Which of these foods are on the low (good) end of the index:
  • Hummus
  • Peanuts
  • Skim milk
  • Wheat tortilla
  • All of the above

Again, the answer is E, all of the above. They’re all healthy choices.

How did you do? (Tell us in the comments!)

The science behind blood sugar is a primary reason we developed Zing Bars in the first place.  It’s impossible to feel energized and focused when your blood sugars are erratic.  In addition to supplying an excellent balance of protein, carbs and fats, Zing Bars contain low-glycemic carbs that help balance blood sugars, keeping us active and engaged throughout the day.

For a more thorough discussion of the destructive effects of erratic blood sugar, go here

Snickers vs Zing Bars: The Ultimate Halloween Chocolate-Coated Comparison

zing halloween pic

Image Credit: Wiki

When the spider webs grow and the pumpkins glow, you know all Hallows Eve is approaching. It is time to ask what treat you will give the little monsters and their parents this year. Chocolate is sure to make yours the go-to house on the trick-or-treat trail, but why not think outside the cauldron to provide healthier nutrition bars. What is creamy, crunchy and dark all over?

If you said Snickers, there is a better answer.

Snickers vs Zing Table2

A brief look at the nutrition facts show some initial similarities but ultimately some stark differences. With chocolate and peanuts as key ingredients, both Snickers and Zing have about the same amount of fat.

But the similarities end there.

Zing has almost half the amount of sugar, five times the amount of fiber and more than triple the protein. In working with our clients, we always stress a minimum of 3g fiber per serving and 10g of protein. Our Chocolate Coated Zing Bar surpasses these recommendations while Snickers falls far short.

Let’s talk ingredients

When reading labels, the nutritional guidelines only tell part of the story – the ingredient list rounds out the rest.  Let’s start with the Snickers bar. We advise our clients to avoid — or at least minimize — the highlighted ingredients:

Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Chocolate, Skim Milk, Lactose, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavor), Peanuts, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Palm Oil, Skim Milk, Lactose, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Egg Whites, and Artificial Flavor.

We strongly encourage our clients to steer clear of sugar, corn syrup, palm oil, milkfat, artificial flavors and especially partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

Why are we so down on hydrogenated soybean oil, you ask?

Well, partially hydrogenated oil (also known as trans fat) has many adverse health effects. The American Heart Association explains that, “Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Zing bars, on the other hand, use the highest quality ingredients with no artificial colors, flavors, additives or fillers.  Note the list below and you’ll see what is known as “clean” label:

Organic Peanuts, Organic Agave Syrup, Dark Chocolate (Organic Cane Sugar, Unsweetened Chocolate, Cocoa Butter), Whey Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Hydrolysate), Chicory Root Fiber, Whey Protein Crisps (Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Tapioca Starch, Calcium Carbonate, Sunflower Lecithin), Peanut Extract, Vanilla Extract, Sea Salt and Sunflower Lecithin.

Organic Agave Nectar vs. Corn Syrup

Agave nectar is an all-natural sweetener and is low-glycemic, meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar. Instead, it releases slowly — over a 2-3 hour period — into the blood stream, helping you maintain steady energy levels and avoid the dreaded “sugar crash.”

Regular sugar and corn syrup can spike blood sugars, resulting in this crash 1-2 hours after you eat something sugary. This “crash” is often associated with poor focus and fatigue, along with increased hunger and cravings as your body tries to bring the blood sugar back up. This in turn can lead to weight gain.

We designed Zing Bars to provide a steady release of energy. The added fiber, protein and healthy fats from peanuts make it a nutritional powerhouse.

Make this holiday delightfully spook-tacular by treating your tricksters big and small to a yummy snack that will make them happy and keep them healthy at the same time.

Read more about why Zing Bars are great for kids!


Fiber: The Unsung Hero

fiber the unsung hero

As a healthy eater you may be up on your need for protein, vitamins, and minerals, but how much do you know about dietary fiber? This nutrient has all kinds of health benefits, but most Americans don’t get nearly enough.

Here at Zing, we want to change that.

Below you’ll learn why fiber is the best nutrient you almost never hear about, how you can use fall produce to increase your intake, and one big reason why Zing Bars may be the best snack food you can add to your rotation this fall.

The Benefits of Fiber

When you think about fiber, you probably think of its role in digestive health. A well-known benefit is that it helps prevent or reduce constipation and improve regularity. But fiber does so much more:

  • Improves digestion. Not only is it a food source for healthy bacteria in our intestines, it also strengthens and conditions the muscles surrounding the stomach and intestines to move food through more easily.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels. Dietary fiber absorbs LDL (the bad) cholesterol in your digestive tract, lowering blood levels and ultimately reducing your risk for heart disease.
  • Aids in weight control. Fiber helps the brain recognize when you’re full, so you tend to eat less when you have high-fiber meals and snacks. Highly refined foods (products made from flour, sugar and white rice) have no fiber to tell the brain “enough,” so we consume far more than we need, which then gets stored as fat.

Falling Short on Fiber

The Institute of Medicine estimates that men need about 38 grams of fiber per day, while women need 25 grams. Unfortunately, we are falling far short of these recommendations, says Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, with the average adult getting only 15 grams of fiber daily.

So what can we do to change that?

Fall Finds with Fiber

You can up your fiber intake by taking advantage of seasonal fresh produce. Root vegetables are high-fiber foods to try, with pumpkin, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes each providing at least 2 to 3 grams per serving.

In addition to vegetables, the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines list fruits, nuts, legumes such as beans and peas, and whole grains as the best sources of dietary fiber. These are a few fall dishes that pack a fiber punch, plus give you a good dose of other essential nutrients and antioxidants.

  • Roasted root vegetables
  • Split pea soup made with onions, parsnips, and carrots
  • Baked apples with cinnamon and pecans
  • Pureed sweet potatoes with green onions
  • Stewed pears with ginger and parsnips
  • Spaghetti squash with fresh tomato and mushroom sauce
  • Lentil stew with root vegetables
  • Vegetarian chili with beans

Still Can’t Get Enough?

No worries if you’re still having trouble getting enough fiber in your diet. Each Zing Bar has 4 to 8 grams of fiber, or 16 to 32 percent of our daily value. Our bars are made with top fiber sources, such as almonds, peanuts, coconut, sunflower seeds, and dried blueberries, to which we also add a few grams of chicory root, a pre-biotic. Pre-biotics not only provide the many benefits above, but act as food for our good bacteria (thus “pre” biotic). Incorporating one of these high fiber bars into your daily routine may set you up for better weight control and improved health, just as they have for our clients.

Read what our customers are saying about the health benefits they’re experiencing.


What’s New This Fall at Zing: New Chocolate, New Look, New Recipes

FullSizeRender (1)

Not to steal Mother Nature’s thunder, but the leaves aren’t the only things changing this fall. Zing Bars is sporting a fresh new look and we’ve made exciting modifications to two of our recipes that we’re proud to tell you about.

Vegan Dark Chocolate

The biggest news is a small but important improvement in our chocolate coated bars.

Some of you may remember last year that we voluntarily recalled some of our chocolate coated bars because we discovered micro amounts of dairy in the dark chocolate. In sourcing a new chocolate, we found that 95% of the U.S. dark chocolate is produced on equipment that also produces milk chocolate, which means there can be very low (but detectable) remnants of milk proteins in nearly the entire U.S. dark chocolate supply. So we spent the past year sourcing and testing a new dairy-free chocolate that meets our requirements.

After what turned out to be a long and rigorous process, we’re happy to report that, with the help of a renowned chocolatier, we’ve developed a custom new chocolate that is dairy-free and now suitable for our vegan bars. This makes Zing unique among chocolate coated bars in the U.S.

New Packaging

Our next announcement is that we’ve refreshed our packaging. Much of the change is subtle, but you’ll notice we’ve moved our Gluten Free, Vegan, Kosher and Non-GMO icons to the front of the package so they can be more easily identified. We’re proud of our  protein and fiber content so we’ve highlighted them more clearly in little circles on the upper right. Most notably, we’ve replaced the white borders with platinum edges, emblematic of the platinum quality to which we aspire.

New Recipes

We’ve also made a few great changes to the line, including:

  • Our Oatmeal Chocolate Chip bar is now vegan — we replaced the whey in our recipe with rice and pea protein.
  • Our Double Nut Brownie bar now has a smoother, tastier chocolate that we know you’ll love!

As a Registered Dietitian, I am personally focused on geeky nutrition topics like healthy food, portion sizes, meal timing, the importance of breakfast, benefits of smart snacking and on and on. But also as a product developer focused on meeting customers’ desires, I rely heavily on those same customers to provide feedback and suggestions. It’s from this feedback that we’ve made these changes to our products, and all of us at Zing thank you for your help. We hope you are as thrilled with the results as we are.

We also have NEW flavors coming out this winter, so stay tuned for updates!


Read more about why we chose these ingredients.


6 Smart Snacks for Back-to-School Success


How do you define the word “snack”? Most people associate snacks with chips, cookies and generally indulgent food choices that lead to all kinds of health issues. All the refined flour and sugar in traditional go-to items like cookies, crackers, chips, brownies and candy have given snacks a bad reputation — good for a quick boost, but leave you tired and hungry two hours later. Snacks are the enemy, right?


Snacks are actually essential supplements to sustained energy and vitality — and just like Joan Jett they don’t give a darn about their bad reputation. That’s because nutritious snacks or “smart snacks,” as we like to say, provide you with the energy you need to tackle your busy schedule and feel great doing it.

First, let’s take a look at the main problems both kids and adults face over the course of a work or school day:

Problem: Inability to focus, mental fog and irritability between meals due to low blood sugar

Solution: Smart snacks provide a boost of energy that keeps your blood sugar stable between meals, like in the late morning or afternoon. Stable blood sugar results in clear focus and a positive mood.

Problem: Low energy, fatigue and cravings for junk food

Solution: Smart snacks reduce cravings for sugary, refined, caffeinated foods that your body craves when your energy reserves dip below a certain level

Problem: Overeating at mealtime due to extreme hunger, with the unwelcome result of poor digestion and weight gain

Solution: Smart snacks reduce your hunger at subsequent meals so you eat less, but are more satisfied. Smaller meals mean better digestion, better utilization of the nutrients you ingest and a more synergetic relationship with food.

In short, smart snacks improve your energy, focus, mood, weight and general feeling of wellbeing.

They deliver the real Zing, a feeling of natural and enduring vitality that comes from giving your body the nutrition it needs.

As you know, we’re a company of nutritionists. In working with clients – from kids to adults – with a range of health challenges like diabetes, weight gain, digestive issues, food intolerances and fatigue (or in the case of kids, the dreaded meltdown), smart snacks became a secret weapon that help in every situation. And the science holds especially true for keeping your kids at their mental and physical best as they enter into a new school year.

Below are six ideas that are both easy and nutritious to pop in your kids’ lunchbox or take with you to work. All are gluten, soy and dairy-free, contain high quality protein, fiber, low-glycemic carbs and heart-healthy fats:

  1. Hard-boiled egg with cut up carrots, red peppers or celery
  2. Roasted chickpeas with cherry tomatoes
  3. Smoked salmon romaine wraps
  4. An apple with a small handful of raw, fresh almonds (12-15) or walnuts (8-10 halves)
  5. 1 tablespoon peanut butter (or almond or cashew butter) and a banana
  6. A Zing Bar in your favorite flavor

With adequate energy reserves we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to.  Eat less, snack more and seize the day!


To receive updates on how to cultivate the Real Zing, subscribe to the Zing blog and learn about infusing your life with vitality!


3 Tips To Avoid Mindless Eating

Hummus and Vegetables

Hummus and Vegetables

“Mindless eating” is a term coined by food psychologist Brian Wansink to describe the many subconscious decisions we make every day about what, when, and how much food to eat. In his research, he’s found that we can make a few simple adjustments to our environments to ensure that we push our subconscious in a healthier direction.

Here are three things you can try for yourself to avoid the pitfalls of mindless eating:

Volume Control

To achieve smaller portions at meals without feeling deprived, use a 9- or 10-inch plate instead of the standard 12-inch plate. You’ll get a smaller portion, but it will look like plenty of food on the smaller plate, fooling your brain and your stomach into thinking you’re getting plenty. Using smaller utensils like teaspoons and salad forks will limit how much food you can put in your mouth at one time, promoting slower eating and better digestion. Use small glasses or cups for any beverage that isn’t water.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

  • Don’t bring home the foods that you know you tend to overeat. If they aren’t in the house, you won’t see them, and won’t eat them.
  • Make “healthier” foods more accessible than more indulgent foods. If you decide to
    Double Nut Brownie will be your new guilt-free chocolate treat

    Enjoy a Zing bar for a wholesome, balanced snack.

    bring home sweets and snack foods, stash them in the back of the fridge or pantry and not out on the kitchen counter. Put fruits, vegetables, nuts and other nutritious foods in the front of the fridge, and pre-cut or portion out some of your favorites for easy-to-grab snacks.

  • If you buy large quantities of food at discount stores, put most of it away in a basement or garage. You will eat more of it if it’s all stored in the house.
  • Minimize temptations at work. Bring a pre-packed lunch and a couple of snacks so you won’t be tempted by treats brought in by coworkers.

Practice Mindful Eating

Wansink’s studies have shown that people often eat not because they’re hungry, but rather because they see food, are with people who are eating, or are bored. And they don’t always stop eating when their hunger is quenched, but will often continue to eat until the plate is empty, the social event has ended, or the TV program they are watching is over.

Before you start eating, check in with your stomach (not your mouth, which may be salivating over that burger you just saw an ad for) to determine if you’re truly hungry. You can use a handy tool like the Hunger/Satiety Scale if it helps. Once you’ve started eating, you’ll need to build checkpoints into your meal so that you reassess your hunger before you have the chance to overeat. A great way to do this is to start with smaller portions than you’re used to (this is a good time to break out those 9-inch plates). After you’ve finished the first helping, give yourself a few minutes before going for seconds. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes after eating for the brain to register what’s going on in your stomach. If you’re still hungry after the first helping, it’s okay to go for seconds.

These are just a few of the ways you can hack your environment to prevent overeating. For more, take a look at Wansink’s new book “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life”.


Carol White, MS, RD, CD, has her Master’s degree in nutrition from Bastyr University and a Bachelor’s degree in writing. Blogging about nutrition allows her to blend her dual passions for writing and nutrition education. She currently  works as a clinical dietitian in several skilled nursing facilities in the Seattle area.

4 Fitness Myths To Bust Right Now

Young Woman Exercising on an Exercise Bike

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis


Whether you’ve said them or heard them, don’t ever be fooled again by these common fitness fallacies:

  1. No pain, no gain. It rhymes nicely, but this pervasive myth can land you on the injured list faster than you can say Achilles tendonitis. Pain is a signal that you’re pushing too hard, too fast, or too far. Effective exercise is done at a level high enough to elicit benefits, but below the pain threshold. Working at a moderate-to-vigorous level for long enough will induce a feeling of fatigue and/or discomfort, but not pain.
  2. I work out a lot, so I can eat anything. If your goal is good health and weight management, guess again. Let’s say you burn 450 calories on a 45-minute bike workout. You can out-eat those calories in a flash with a candy bar or a plate of nachos. Eating less-nutritious foods also crowds out the more-nutritious foods (like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean sources of protein) you need for optimal well-being and performance. But obsessing over calories consumed vs. calories burned isn’t healthy either, so I recommend the following:
  1. Doing hundreds of crunches will melt my spare tire. Every time I hear someone brag about doing 200 crunches, I cringe; it’s usually only a matter of time before they experience back pain — and that’s a real shame. Because neither trimming the waistline nor building core stability requires abdominal super-sets. Losing abdominal fat requires lifestyle changes that support weight loss:
  • Regular cardiovascular exercise. Cardio torches calories; for weight loss, burning 1000-2000 calories/week via exercise is recommended. Including a couple of high intensity interval workouts each week can be especially helpful.
  • Dietary changes. Moving to a whole-foods, less processed diet helps keep calorie intake under control. And people who eat more whole grains and fewer refined grains have 10% less belly fat than those eating mostly refined grains.
  1. I’ll bulk up if I lift weights. I’ve heard many female clients, patients, friends, and family cite this myth as a reason why they’re not strength training. It breaks my heart — because strength training just twice a week does everyone, of any age, a world of good in terms of overall strength, bone health, posture, weight control, and much more. The truth is that body builders bulk up because they spend hours training every day; this is far beyond what strength training involves for health and fitness. Work with a certified fitness professional to get the results you want.

Interested in learning more? Check out these resources:

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 5th edition by Nancy Clark, MS, RD

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD

Energize Your Life With Strength Training — American Council on Exercise


IMG_1557Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports.


Your New Fitness Strategy: 5 Tips For Success In 2015

Success & Failure

If you’re starting an exercise program on New Year’s Day, you’re in good company. In this season of hope and renewal, getting fit is a popular pastime. Setting the right goal is key, but you also have to get your head and heart in the right place — and keep them there. Try these tips to set yourself up for lasting fitness success in the new year and for years to come:

Identify your core values.

Spend 30 minutes or more reflecting on what really matters to you; dig deep. Is it family, faith, love, service, or… other things? Identify up to five or so values that serve as your inner compass. Then, look for ways that physical activity supports each core value. If family is one, being fit lets you enjoy activities together that you couldn’t otherwise do; and it reduces health risks, boosting your odds of being around for loved ones longer.

Connecting these dots lays a solid foundation for making daily exercise a priority — because it’s not just about getting out for a run; it’s about making daily choices that align with what matters most to you.

Find a fitness friend — or two.

Exercising is a lot more fun when you make it social. You might prefer working out solo, and that’s fine; getting out on your own for a run or walk can be incredibly refreshing. But do your best to add a little mixing and mingling to your fitness plan several times a week; cultivating social support for exercise is a key factor in sticking with it.

Tune into a trend.

Turn up the heat by trying out popular workout formats. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, body weight training, high-intensity interval training, strength training, outdoor activities, and yoga are among the top trends for 2015. Be open to sampling new activities; you never know when you’ll stumble upon a new fave.

Zero in on immediate payoffs.

According to Dr. Michelle Segar, focusing on immediate payoffs of exercise — like more energy, increased happiness, or a better mood elevation — is more effective in keeping us motivated than focusing on longer-term benefits.  It’s true — preventing heart disease, cancer, and other ills later in life isn’t super motivating in the moment. So think about how good exercise will make you feel — today, right now.

Leverage the “fresh-start effect” all year long.

Interestingly, scientists say that January isn’t the only time of year we’re inclined to take a new crack at getting fit. The start of a new week, new month, a birthday, or other big events serve as temporal landmarks — letting us put some distance between our past attempts at behavior change and the here and now. No need to wait for a new year to push the reset button; just pick a day and get started.

Making exercise a regular part of your everyday life is a fantastic target to aim for. Spend a little time this week personalizing your strategy, and get ready to shine in 2015!

What’s on your fitness agenda for the New Year? We’d love to hear from you.


Beth Shepard thumbnail_2014Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports.

3 Nourishing Foods For Winter


Eating well throughout the winter is not just about navigating holiday parties and avoiding winter weight gain. It’s about eating foods that will help you stay warm, maintain energy and fend off illness during the shorter days and longer nights. Here are three foods to help you thrive during the coldest months of the year.


The warm dry air in heated homes and offices can tax your skin’s ability to hold onto moisture and maintain its barrier against bacteria and irritants. Staying hydrated in winter is paramount for maintaining glowing skin and supporting optimal organ function. Drinking tea is one way to help meet your body’s needs for fluids this time of year.

In Chinese medicine, black tea is thought to have warming qualities, while green tea, which is less fermented, is more cooling. Either can be helpful during the winter: a cup of oolong, English breakfast or pu-erh tea to stoke your inner furnace, or cooling green or white tea as an anti-inflammatory drink.

Both kinds of tea contain polyphenols (highest in green tea), which support cardiovascular health and may help prevent certain cancers, and catechins, which were shown in a recent study on green tea to keep skin healthier by increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery to the skin.

I like to brew ginger tea and green tea together (one bag of ginger tea and three bags of green tea brewed in one quart of water). The warming ginger counters the cooling quality of green tea and offers a boost to the digestion.


Ambersweet_orangesTraditionally, oranges were one of the treasures of winter. The bright flavors of orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime can be a wonderful counterpoint to rich cold-season dishes. Though citrus fruits are known for their high vitamin C content, it’s not just the vitamin C that makes them such a great choice this time of year.

Citrus fruits also provide a bounty of other nutrients. Flavonoids – plant compounds that neutralize free radicals, improve blood flow, and inhibit the growth of cancer cells – are abundant in citrus. Citrus is rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol and improves heart health. And it’s not just the fruit itself that has health benefits. The peel and the pith (the white part just under the skin) are high in hesperidin, which has been shown to help keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check.

Incorporating citrus into your diet is easy. My favorite way to do this is to squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on sautéed kale or chard. I also like to toss thinly sliced lemon with broccoli, cauliflower, olive oil and salt, then roast them together for a tangy side dish. Fresh orange or grapefruit segments brighten up a salad, and of course, a fresh orange by itself is a pleasure any time of year.

Dark Leafy Greens

Kale, Swiss chard and collard greens are available during the cooler months of the year in most parts of the country. These “dark leafies” are a go-to vegetable this time of year when other vegetables are not as abundant. Versatile, hearty, and nutrient-dense, greens offer respectable amounts of fiber, bone-building calcium, magnesium and vitamin K, and skin-nourishing vitamins A and C.

Kale and collards are cruciferous vegetables, known for their glucosinolates, compounds that are important in cancer prevention and detoxification. Cruciferous vegetables also have the ability to bind cholesterol, an effect that’s enhanced by cooking.

Chard, a member of the same family as beets and spinach, contains betalain pigments not found in other families of foods. These pigments are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and support the body’s detoxification processes. Chard also contains a compound called syringic acid which has proven in animal studies to have blood sugar lowering properties.

Rainbow Chard-Potato Friatta

Yes, greens are nourishing, but more importantly they’re delicious. Chard makes a wonderful side dish sautéed with garlic (remember to add the squeeze of lemon juice!), or can be a component of a main dish like this frittata. Sturdier kale and collard greens are well-suited to hearty soups and stews.

If these foods are not already a part of your diet, give them a try. See if they don’t make a difference in how you feel and function throughout the cold, dark days of winter.


Carol White, MS, RD, CD, has her Master’s degree in nutrition from Bastyr University and a Bachelor’s degree in writing. Blogging about nutrition allows her to blend her dual passions for writing and nutrition education. She currently  works as a clinical dietitian in several skilled nursing facilities in the Seattle area.

Why Not Being Perfect Is Better For Your Health


Image source:

Image source:

My sister makes the best cheese dip — and it’s not something I want to eat every day, if you know what I mean. To manage my weight and cholesterol, I generally avoid cheese, but enjoy a pinch of cheddar on a salad or chili now and then.

So after working out hard and eating lots of vegetables last week, I was feeling on top of my game… until I went to my nephew’s 3-year-old birthday party. I wasn’t super hungry, but there was the cheese dip, calling my name. For a few tense moments, the all-or-nothing voice in my head tried to shame me for even considering having the cheese dip. “Are you kidding, after how well you did this week? You want to erase all that? You suck! Just walk away!” Thankfully, the kinder, more reasonable voice won. “Eating cheese dip isn’t a sin. I love it, I hardly ever get to have it, and in the context of my healthy lifestyle, it’s not a big deal. I’m going to have some — and enjoy it!”

Do you ever struggle with a perfectionist mindset when it comes to your health and fitness? Psychologists call it all-or-nothing thinking; it’s a common type of cognitive distortion. And it creates a huge roadblock in your quest for a sustainably healthy lifestyle; I see it all the time in my coaching clients. “I was on track until my husband brought donuts home. I blew it; I’ll just try again next week.” It’s easy to get off track and throw your whole plan out the door just because everything didn’t go exactly as you planned it. But absolutes don’t exist in reality; unless you stay flexible, bending this way or that to accommodate life’s twists and turns, you’re going to be perpetually frustrated and unable to reach your goals.

If you normally run for 30 minutes at lunchtime, what happens if your meeting runs late and you only have 15 minutes? Do you bag it altogether, go for a shorter run or walk, or run after work instead? Which choice is best for staying on track with your fitness goals? A flexible mindset gives you options; all-or-nothing thinking backs you into a corner.

Researcher Kristin Neff, Ph.D., argues that practicing self-compassion is far more effective than self-criticism in keeping you motivated. In fact, self-compassionate people have greater self-efficacy — they believe in their own ability to succeed — and they’re better at rolling with the punches, learning from mistakes, and moving forward. They also experience less depression and anxiety, conditions that stifle success.

So remind yourself that you’re human, and that nobody’s perfect. Practice flexibility and self-compassion every day. Catch your self-critical voice, and counter it with truth and kindness. Be patient; changing the messages you give yourself will take time and effort. But whatever your wellness goals, you’ll be amazed at the level of success you can achieve when you become your own ally.

How do you work flexibility and self-compassion into your everyday routine?


Recommended resources:

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy – by David D. Burns, MD, 2009


Beth Shepard thumbnail_2014Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports.