7 Simple Ways to Beat Comfort Food Cravings and Snack Healthy This Winter

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Healthy snacks can keep hunger at bay while providing essential nutrients and supporting weight control. The right ones also give us energy, keep our blood sugar balanced and help us maintain focus throughout the day.

In winter, however, when the weather is bleak and the nights are too long, the common tendency is to shelter in place with our favorite comfort foods. This is especially easy since Farmers Markets are less likely to be carrying as much fresh produce as we’re used to seeing in warmer months.

However, the healthier we eat in winter, the better we feel. The more “comfort food” we eat, the more sluggish, sleepy and hungry we tend to feel. So even though it may take a little more effort, the benefits are worth it. Below is our guide to 7 simple ways you can beat those comfort food cravings and snack healthy all winter long.

1. Turn to seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients. While summer fruits and vegetables such as peaches, watermelon, and tomatoes may not be as abundant, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables that are readily available in the winter. According to Fruits and Veggies: More Matters, fruits such as oranges, tangerines, pears, and persimmons, along with vegetables such as Belgian endive, kale, and winter squash, are in season in winter months. They may even be higher quality than in summer.

2. Combine your nutrients.

Protein, fat, and carbohydrates are the three main sources of calories. Harvard School of Public Health suggests including at least two of those nutrients at each snack. These are some ideas:

  • Bake slices of acorn squash, which is high in good carbohydrates, brushed with olive oil, which has heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
  • Pack hard-boiled eggs, which are high in protein, with apples, which are high in good carbohydrates.
  • Eat snack bars, such as Zing Bars, which contain healthy fat, protein, and fiber-rich carbs.

3. Pair high and low-calorie nutrient-dense foods.

Harvard School of Public Health also suggests including one low-calorie food, such as a fruit or vegetable, and one higher calorie, but still nutritious, option. Nuts, avocados, and peanuts, are high in fat and calories, but rich in nutrients such as fiber and antioxidant vitamins.

To try this high-low pairing, you could dip Belgian endive, a source of fiber and low in calories, into a vinaigrette made with herbs and flaxseed oil, a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.Try pairing apple slices with almond or peanut butter, or dip cauliflower florets into guacamole.

4. Plan ahead.

You can prepare many snacks ahead of time so you have no need to browse the vending machine or the nearest convenience store. These are some examples of make-ahead steps you can take in advance.

  • Hard-boil eggs
  • Wash and cut fruits and vegetables
  • Cook some lean protein, such as chicken breast or shrimp

5. Always have healthy snacks on hand.

You may not have time to prepare fancy snacks, but you can always have them on hand. Zing Bars have ingredients such as cashew butter, peanuts, and dried fruit. You can stash them at work or home so you always have a healthy choice available. String cheese, yogurt, and canned or pouched tuna are other great foods to keep handy.

6. Watch your portions.

Even the healthiest of foods can cause weight gain if you eat too much. Watch portions of foods such as nuts and peanuts, which have about 200 calories per ounce. You can measure out your portions beforehand, and always avoid snacking from the bag. Satisfying snack bars like Zing Bars can help you with portion control.

7. Don’t get too hungry

When you get too hungry, you are more likely to dive for whatever is in sight, regardless of how healthy or unhealthy it may be. (We’ve all been there!) Instead of letting yourself get to the point where you are starving, eat when your hunger becomes moderate. That way, you can still have enough control to pass up the cookies and potato chips for a healthier choice.

What’s your personal trick for eating healthy during the winter? Take a peek at our flavors page and see if you can find a bar that curbs your comfort food cravings.

 

Fat: Friend — Not Foe — for Weight Loss and Health

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Fats have been seen as the dietary enemy for years, but research is piling up against this belief. In fact, it now seems clear that choosing healthy fats and limiting unhealthy carbohydrates is a better strategy for controlling weight and improving health.

For years, nutritionists and the media touted a low-fat diet to control weight and reduce heart disease, America’s #1 cause of mortality. You may have grown up associating dietary fat with body fat and blocked arteries, but recent research has clearly disproved this nutrition myth.

It’s just a little too simplistic.  As a friend likes to say, “The idea that eating fat makes you fat is similar to saying that eating sugar turns you into sugar… it just doesn’t work like that.”

Healthy vs Unhealthy Fats

The public health message has referred to “fat” as a single nutrient for years. In reality, there are many types of fats, and some are better than others for your weight and health.

The worst fats include trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oil.  These are man-made fats found in commercially baked breads and pastries, Crisco and margarine. They have been linked directly to increased heart disease and overall mortality.

Healthy fats tend to be unsaturated, and particularly mono-unsaturated like those found in nuts, seeds, avocado and olives. These healthy fats can fight inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease.

In fact, these fats are so good for you that the Journal of the American Medical Association published an Opinion Article in June stating that the upper limit for consumption of all fats should be lifted, stating, “Based on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recent recommendations, this Viewpoint [Opinion] urges the US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services to remove limits on total fat consumption in their 2015 Dietary Guideline to promote consumption of healthful fat.”

This would have been unheard of a decade ago.

Healthy Fats Over Unhealthy Carbs

According to the New York Times article we referenced in our last post, unhealthy carbs such as added sugars and refined starches are damaging to your waistline and health. Choosing healthy fats instead can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce hunger. Think avocados, nuts, peanuts, flaxseeds and olive oil, and not candy, white rice, pretzels, and sweetened beverages.

Fat is an Essential Nutrient

The truth is, you need fat in your diet. Every cell in your body is surrounded by a protective layer of fat. Your hair, teeth, nails, and skin depend on fat to be healthy. Fat allows proper brain and eye development, as well as a healthy metabolism. For optimal health and nutrition, the National Institute of Health (NIH) and USDA suggest aiming to get 20 to 35 percent of your calories from fat, or 44 to 77 grams of fat per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. And as mentioned above, current scientific evidence suggests lifting the upper limit entirely as healthy fats have so many benefits and reduce disease.

Healthy Fats Can Aid Weight Loss

It is true that fat contains 9 calories per gram, which is more than twice the calorie density of protein and carbohydrates, which each have 4 calories per gram. These stats can tempt you to minimize your fat intake, thinking you will limit your calories and lose weight. But resist the temptation.

Fat in your diet can help you control your weight for a number of reasons.

  • Healthy fats actually trigger your brain to feel full.
  • Fat lowers the glycemic index of foods that contain carbs. That makes these foods slower to digest, so your blood sugar levels are more stable. This helps keep you satisfied for much longer compared to a high-carb snack on its own.
  • Low-fat and fat-free foods can have more starches and sugars than their full-fat versions, which digest quickly and don’t keep you satisfied, leading you to eat the same, if not more calories.

Add Healthy Fats to Your Day

So if you’re sick of feeling hungry all the time and still not losing weight, sick of the emotional rollercoaster of blood sugar spikes and drops, sick of feeling drowsy mid-day and anxious at bedtime as the caffeine from your afternoon pick-me-up wears off, then you’re probably ready to stop the cycle – try incorporating healthy fats into your daily routine and see if you feel a difference.

Here are 7 delicious ways to incorporate healthy fats into your diet throughout the day.

  1. Add pecans or other nuts to your oatmeal or cold breakfast cereal.
  2. Spread peanut butter on toast instead of having it plain.
  3. Snack on gluten free protein bars. All Zing Bars are made from a nut butter or seed butter base, so they all provide a nutritious dose of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats.
  4. Put sliced avocado in your chicken wrap at lunch.
  5. Add flaxseed or other seeds to salads and sandwiches.
  6. Drizzle olive oil when roasting vegetables.
  7. Choose salmon or another fatty fish instead of meat.

It may go against what you learned growing up, but healthy fats at meals and snacks can give you the health and weight loss results you want. This is why fat is not the enemy. In fact, it’s time to bury the hatchet with fat once and for all, and turn it into your new friend.

To learn more about healthy fats, continue reading here.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

Wrong!

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. www.wellcoaches.com/beth.shepard

 

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. www.wellcoaches.com/beth.shepard