Failing Those Resolutions? Why the Resolutions, Not You, May Be the Problem

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver

Those of you who have read my blogs for a while know that I am not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. If you can relate to my patient Anna’s story below, then you’ll know why I feel the way I do. This is what turned Anna from a goal-setting optimist into a blathering mess last year.

Anna spends some time in December setting her New Year’s Resolutions. She is disappointed and frustrated that she still has not lost the 15 pounds she wants to lose so “lose weight” is at the top of her list. It’s followed by resolutions like “give up eating ice cream”, “work out at 5am every morning”, “keep the house organized”, “get out of debt” and “don’t scream at the children”.

On January 1st, she is excited for her 5am workout. She finished the quart of ice cream the night before. She has installed a budget-tracking program on her computer and the list of chores to keep the house organized is on the fridge.

By January 12th, she is exhausted, yelling at the kids and eating ice cream on the couch. She feels like she is a failure.

If only she knew that she is not the failure. It is the New Year’s Resolution plan that is the problem.

There is nothing wrong with having goals. However, when it comes to making lifestyle changes, I recommend that you choose one main goal and then take baby steps towards achieving that goal.

If Anna wants to lose 15 pounds this year, then she will want to work towards that outcome goal with small, sustainable steps that she can maintain long-term. Perhaps, her initial goal is to keep the ice cream out of the house but enjoy a single scoop at the ice cream store once a week.

It’s important to stay away from “all or nothing” thinking when it comes to sustainable goals. Anna commits to exercising at 5am every morning. She may want to start with 2 or 3 mornings each week and see how that goes. She may also want to have a Plan B for the days she hits the snooze button a few too many times. Maybe she does a yoga DVD in the evening or takes a 30-minute walk with a coworker at lunchtime.

It is also vital to set up support for whatever goal you choose. If Anna wants to scream less at her kids, she may want to learn some new parenting strategies by reading a book or taking a class. She may also want an email or phone check-in with a buddy who is also a parent. They can debrief with each other and help each other get back on track.

There is an acronym that we use when helping patients set goals – SMART goals are goal that are:

Specific: If my goal is to simply “eat healthier” then why not specify how that will be done? For example “eat half a plate of vegetables at lunch and dinner” is specific enough to prepare you for action.

Measureable: Instead of saying “exercise more” why not try “exercise for 30 minutes three times weekly.”

Attainable: So many people set incredibly lofty goals, only to realize that they aimed too high. Remember, baby steps! Instead of someone who hasn’t exercised in years saying “I will run a marathon in 9 months,” why not aim for a half marathon, or even just jogging a few times per week. Focus on the larger goal once you have attained the first goal.

Realistic: “I will never eat ice cream again.” Okay, this one is obvious.  Are you seriously going to give up the Ben & Jerry’s for good? I think not. However, as with my patient example above, you can still enjoy ice cream sometimes without keeping that Costco-sized container within arm’s reach.

Time-associated: Set a deadline. We humans are awful procrastinators when given the chance. Setting a deadline and putting it on your calendar is a great motivator.

Goals need to be revisited throughout the year. There is nothing magical about January 1st. Some people like to set seasonal goals (especially when it comes to physical activity and nutrition). Others review their goals monthly or weekly.

Whenever you do set goals, just remember to start small, build on your successes and get lots of support. Then you won’t be frustrated by mid January and you’ll have plenty of energy to keep moving forward toward long-lasting behavior changes.

If you’re setting resolutions this year, what are they, and how have you made them work for you?

Here’s to a successful 2013!

Gluten-Free Holiday Recipe Roundup

Nori-wrapped salmon

Easy and elegant Nori-Wrapped Salmon, photo by Amy Selleck

The holiday season for many of us is filled with cooking and baking. I have friends who spend many hours in a state of bliss in the kitchen. They talk about cooking as “therapeutic” and “relaxing”. They listen to music and sip wine and there is no other place in the world they would rather be.

And then there’s me. Committed to healthy food but not excited about cooking it. Gets in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. Requires exacting recipes and a lot of handholding along the way. Would hire a personal chef in a heartbeat if the budget allowed. And incredibly grateful to two women who have made cooking healthy foods a reality for me.

These two women are my go-to resources for all things culinary – whether I am preparing dinner for the family or cooking for a large crowd during the holidays. So I thought I would share with you some of their recipes that I am making this holiday season.

Julie Negrin is a nutritionist, health educator and culinary instructor extraordinaire.  I have made almost every recipe in her Easy meals to Cook with Kids cookbook and not a single one has disappointed me. Her newsletter is a staple in my inbox.

Cynthia Lair of Cookus Interruptus is a wonderful chef, author, instructor and comedian. She was my very first cooking instructor at Bastyr University and has been inspiring me ever since. Her cooking videos are laugh-out-loud funny! Her cookbook, Feeding the Whole Family, is on my kitchen shelf tattered and filled with food spills. The sure marks of a well-used cookbook.

Here’s my plan for one of our upcoming meals – the recipes are easy to make and will get me out of the kitchen and enjoying the company in no time at all. And, of course, they are gluten free too.

If you are looking for a scrumptious appetizer, look no further than Julie’s roasted garlic white bean dip. It is quick and easy to make and is delicious served with rice crackers and vegetable crudités.

One of my favorite holiday entrees to make is Cynthia’s nori wrapped wasabi salmon. Guests think it is exotic and gourmet and I know it takes all of 5 minutes to make!

I’ll be serving Cynthia’s Emerald City Salad on the side. It is vibrant, beautiful and delicious. Leftovers keep for days in the refrigerator, and the flavors actually improve with time.

And for dessert, Julie’s chocolate dipped strawberries are a hit every time. Since strawberries aren’t in season this time of year, you can use any of the gorgeous citrus available at the markets or perfectly ripe pears.  I can make the fruit the day before and they look just glorious when served at the holiday table.

May your meals this holiday season be scrumptious  – enjoy!

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

by Julie Negrin

Dipping food into melted chocolate is always an exciting activity! When making this recipe with kids, make sure that you keep the chocolate cool enough for their little fingers to touch but not so cold that it hardens.

  • 30 medium-sized strawberries or other seasonal sliced fruit
  • 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or coconut oil

KIDS 2 and up: Wash and dry the strawberries. Make sure that the berries are completely dry or the chocolate will not adhere to them. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

ADULTS: In the top of a double boiler that you’ve set over simmering water, stir the chocolate and butter or oil until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove the chocolate from the heat but leave the water simmering in case the chocolate starts to harden and you need to re-heat it. If you’re worried about small kids touching a still-warm pan, you can transfer the chocolate to a cool dish.

KIDS 2 and up: Hold each strawberry by its stem and dip it ¾ of the way into the chocolate. Swirl it and shake off excess chocolate. Place the chocolate-dipped strawberry on the baking sheet lined with waxed paper and repeat with the rest of the strawberries. They can harden in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Cooking Tips:
-It’s best if the strawberries are at room temperature rather than cold.
-If you don’t have a double boiler (which is necessary since the chocolate will burn if put directly over heat), simply place a metal bowl on top of a saucepan or put a small saucepan inside another larger saucepan. Alternatively, you can microwave the chocolate and butter or oil in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second intervals until it is melted.
-“Simmering” means a few small bubbles are barely breaking the surface.
-This recipe can be prepared up to 1-2 days before serving – just store the strawberries in the refrigerator and remove 30 minutes before serving.

Kid Tips:
-If your kids want to create designs, melt some white chocolate, dip a spoon in, and swirl designs onto the chocolate-dipped strawberries. Or, they can dip the chocolate-dipped strawberries in sprinkles before the chocolate hardens.

Holiday Stress? How to Make Time Expand

Do you feel time-rich?

As we approach the holiday season, it seems that many of us have To Do lists that get even longer than usual. I was recently chatting with a girlfriend who commented that she would get much more of the list done if only she had a few more hours in the day. I know that I have definitely felt that way too, finding myself silently bargaining for the 25th hour as deadlines and shopping lists extend themselves into the second or third day.  Recently while reading the Boston Globe online (in my infinite spare time, of course) I was fascinated by an article on some new research on how time may not be a finite resource.  Yes, we can actually make time expand!

The research shows that people typically perceive time in one of two ways – either they perceive a sense of “time affluence” (they feel time-rich) or “time famine” (they feel time-poor). People who generally feel time-poor tend also to feel less satisfied with their lives and experience more stress. On the other hand, people who feel time-rich tend to feel happier, more satisfied, and are often physically healthier.

All of us have the same 24 hours in a day, so what changes how we perceive the amount of time we have? I asked a few friends what they thought the answer to that question was. One friend commented that she thought she would feel like she had more time if she were making more money. Well, research shows that actually the opposite is true.  The more money someone makes, the more time-poor the person tends to feel.

I was surprised to find that we all have access to one thing that can decrease the stress that comes with feeling time-poor.  The research shows that people seem to experience more time affluence when they experience a sense of awe.

The researchers helped people experience a sense of awe either by showing them some awe-inspiring footage, having them write about an experience that gave them a sense of wonder, or having them imagine an awe-inspiring experience (viewing Paris from the top of the Eiffel tower). After this exposure, the study subjects reported an increase in their feelings of life satisfaction and an increase in their sense of the abundance of time.

Snowy field at sunset

Research shows that experiencing a sense of awe can make us feel more time-abundant.

It’s fascinating to me that these study subjects did not have to physically be in an awe-inspiring situation. They could simply remember one or imagine one and get the same benefits. This means we have this tool at our fingertips at any time – not just when we reach a breathtaking vista on our summer hiking trip.

There is also research to show that people who give money away tend to feel richer despite how much money they actually have. In the time perception study, researchers decided to see if this concept worked as well for “time affluence” as it did for feelings of financial affluence.  Guess what, it worked!

People who donated their time to help others actually felt more time-rich than those who got an unexpected block of free time. This effect was consistent whether the donated time was volunteering for a charitable organization or staying home and helping their spouse who needed assistance with a task.

The next time I feel like I just don’t have enough hours in the day, I can remind myself that I have the opportunity to perceive time differently if I choose to do so. I can use some tools to help me – like looking at the photos of the beach views that I took on our last vacation. I can take a moment to stop and look up at the amazing cloud formations. Also, I can do a little something for someone else and know that my sense of accomplishment will help me to feel more time-affluent too.

So tell us, has this worked for you? How can you personally become more time-affluent?

100% Unnatural

Colorful Lollipop Sucker

A friend and I were recently talking about school lunch ideas. She mentioned that she uses Nature Valley granola bars as a school lunch staple because they are 100% natural. I was sad to have to tell her that “100% natural” on the front of a box can mean absolutely nothing. She was shocked (as well she should be) and she asked me for more information about this disturbing issue. I thought you might want to hear the scoop too.

The FDA has no definition of “100% natural” but does not object to the term being used on products “provided it is used in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and the product does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances”. Well, apparently there are food manufacturers who think natural means “made in a lab” or “ingredient that started off as natural but has undergone endless processing”.

There have been many lawsuits over this issue. ConAgra was sued because it marketed Wesson cooking oils as “100% natural” even though the oils contain genetically modified ingredients. Snapple Iced Tea was sued because it used the term natural despite the fact that the iced tea contained high fructose corn syrup. Cadbury Schweppes and Kraft were sued for the use of the term ‘natural’ on 7Up and Capri Sun products too. And most recently, Nature Valley has been sued because some of its products are marketed as 100% natural but contain maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup and high maltose corn syrup which are all highly processed ingredients that do not exist in nature.

Cadbury Schweppes and Kraft changed their labels before legal action was taken. But, Snapple Iced Tea was not required by the courts to change its labeling because of the FDA’s lack of definition for the term natural. The FDA has said that legally defining the 100% natural term is not currently a priority for the agency as consumers can read the ingredients on labels. It will be interesting to see if the Nature Valley lawsuit pushes the issue any further.

I’m sure you’ve heard about California’s Proposition 37, which would require all foods with Genetically Modified Organisms to be labeled as containing GMO’s. This is a critical issue because if this passes in California, all food producers which sell nationally will have to change their packaging and labels.  Not because they have to, but because making special packaging only for sales in the state of California wouldn’t be practical.  If the FDA refuses to regulate the term ‘natural’ then with this law we would at least know if the product contains GMO’s.  This law would also prohibit the ‘natural’ claim on those foods labeled as containing GMO’s. Certified Organic products would be exempt from this law.

In the meantime, as consumers, we need to be clear that “100% natural” on the front of a package is not a reason to buy a product without reading its ingredient list first. Our Zing bars say 100% natural because our ingredients really are 100% natural – you can actually recognize what they are! We use no GMO’s in our products, and take pride in using ingredients you can pronounce. However, not all manufacturers are interested in the same level of transparency. Their products can say 100% natural, but your job is to read the ingredients which are required by the FDA to be listed on labels. 

What does the term ‘natural’ mean to you?

Going Gluten-Free: A Patient Story (part 2)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Zing BarIn celebration of Celiac Awareness Day on September 13th, this week we are featuring posts on the celiac and gluten-free lifestyle.  Today we’d like to share an inspiring story from one of our founders, Sandi Kaplan. This was originally posted in 2010, but the message is an important one and worth revisiting.  Hopefully it will inspire you to share your story with us.

I am not one of those people who had any digestive symptoms with celiac disease. I would eat bread, cookies, cake, pizza without a hint of digestive upset. However, I have been anemic for as long as I can remember. I have taken a multitude of types of iron supplements – with food, on an empty stomach, in divided doses, all at once. To absolutely no avail.

I have eaten meat, not eaten meat, eaten vitamin C sources with the meat. I have tried iron boosting teas, tinctures and botanicals. I tried every remedy that typically will work for people with iron deficiency anemia.

During my first pregnancy, my iron was very low and I just could not get it into the normal range. As any pregnant women knows, severe anemia coupled with typical pregnancy tiredness makes for an “I can’t get off the couch” kind of issue.

With my second pregnancy, I wanted to birth the baby at home but that plan was in jeopardy because of my significant anemia. Our amazing midwife could not understand why a young, otherwise healthy woman was so anemic. At my husband’s suggestion, and with my midwife’s encouragement, I finally got tested for celiac disease.

Bingo! With the gluten out of my diet, my iron levels started to improve right away. I was able to birth our second child at home and my iron levels recovered well even after a significant amount of blood loss. It has taken longer for my iron reserves (as measured by my ferritin level) to get into the normal range but three and a half years later, my ferritin looks great!

I have always been a person with some energy but the normalizing of my iron levels means that my energy levels are even better. I am so grateful that my anemia mystery was solved in a way that does not even require me to take drugs. I just have to read labels, enjoy the multitude of delicious gluten free food options and gaze happily at my excellent lab results!

Tell us your Go Gluten-Free story in the comments below for a chance to win. Details Here.  Also, be sure to use this special Zing Coupon Code GFday913 for $5 off each box of 12 bars (no limit) with free shipping on 3 boxes or more in our online store.  Code is good until September 24th, 2012.

Cranky? Mood Swings? Your Breakfast May Be The Cause

Pear, Tomato, Avocado, Egg, Almonds, Nectarine

The combination of fruits (or whole grains), protein and healthy fats are long-lasting mood boosters for your breakfast meal.

I wonder if this ever happens in your house. We are big believers in a healthy breakfast so the kids sat down this morning to warmed corn tortillas filled with shredded mozzarella and mushrooms with some sliced strawberries on the side. Hubby and I ran around getting ready while the kids ate and chatted. Everyone was in the car at 7:30am. School drop off, short commute to work, made my 8:30am meeting. Was super cranky at 10am. I wonder why. Oh yes, I forgot to eat breakfast. Sigh.

September is National Breakfast Month and it’s an important reminder that breakfast is vital for kids, adolescents and adults. Breakfast literally means to break our fast – we have not eaten since we went to sleep the night before and our metabolism needs a wake up burst from a morning meal. Breakfast not only gives you energy to start a new day but is also associated with many health benefits including weight control, improved performance and more stable moods throughout the day.

Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast can help improve concentration and focus in the classroom or the workplace. There is a good reason that the National School Breakfast Program was started. The research showed that kids who ate breakfast were more productive learners during the day. They also showed better hand-eye coordination on the playground. Those benefits apply equally to adults even if the learning venue looks different!

Many studies, in both adults and children, have shown that breakfast eaters tend to weigh less than non breakfast eaters. Some people skip breakfast in an attempt to reduce calories but the research shows that eating breakfast can actually reduce hunger levels throughout the day and help people make more balanced food choices at other meals.

The benefits seem to be greater for healthy breakfast eaters, as a sugary/fatty breakfast may actually decrease energy levels and increase cravings for unhealthy foods later in the day. But the research does seem to show that a less than optimally healthy breakfast is better than no breakfast at all. However, a sugary breakfast of sweetened cereal or eating bread products made of white flour such as pancakes or bagels can leave you hungry an hour later, and probably cranky and craving caffeine to boot. Healthy breakfasts will stabilize your blood sugar and help you avoid those mood roller-coasters.

So what should we be eating for breakfast?

Like other meals and snacks, it is ideal to include a balance of high fiber carbohydrates (like whole grains, fruits and veggies), lean protein (like scrambled eggs, tofu or plain yogurt) and healthy fats (like avocado, nut butters or sunflower seeds). The combination will help to keep you satisfied for 3-4 hours so you don’t find yourself at the vending machine at 11am.

Even if you are rushing around in the morning like I am, there are lots of quick and nutritious options to grab:

  • Smoked salmon on a whole wheat English muffin with cherry tomatoes on the side
  • Two hardboiled eggs with some whole grain crackers and a banana
  • Fruit salad topped with plain yogurt and sprinkled with nuts
  • Make and freeze whole grain pancakes – toast the pancakes, spread with sunflower seed butter and top with berries
  • Zing bar and a piece of fruit – one of the quickest options!

Take the September Breakfast Month challenge with me – let’s focus on eating healthy breakfasts and enjoying the accompanying health benefits. Let me know your favorite breakfast ideas too.

Fitbit Makes the Cut – Technology to Keep you Healthy

Fitbit Fitness Tracker

Image courtesy www.fitbit.com

Important fact number one:  I am not much of a gadget person. I use any gadgets that I have to use for their primary purpose only. The bells and whistles on my phone? No idea what they do. I can call and I can text and that’s good enough for me. So when our exercise physiologist, Beth Shepard (who I happen to adore), wrote a blog on fitness gadgets, I didn’t pay that much attention.

Important fact number two: I have a friend who has lost 120 pounds over the last two years. She went from 250 pounds to 130 pounds by eating healthfully and moving her body. It’s been remarkable to watch her transformation. To keep herself motivated through a recent weight plateau, she bought a Fitbit and told me excitedly all about it. Well, I was feeling a little lackadaisical about my physical activity and so decided to splurge on a Fitbit too.

Two months later, I am a Fitbit devotee. I have worn simple pedometers on and off for years and I think they are great. But the Fitbit definitely packs more punch than any pedometer I had previously used.  Now, I must say that I am in no way affiliated with the company, but if Fitbit asked me to be their spokesperson I’d gladly agree. Here’s why: the Fitbit is tiny, comfortable to wear and does not fall off. It is accurate and gives immediate feedback on steps taken, miles covered, and stairs climbed. And here’s the best part – it comes with a docking station which plugs into your computer. Every time you walk by your computer, your Fitbit website account automatically updates all of your data. So what does Fitbit do that makes it the Cadillac of health tracking devices?

Fitbit tracks what you eat: You can track your food intake on the Fitbit website, and it is very easy to do. I have tracked a few times but have not done that piece consistently yet. This is a very important tool for people wanting to lose weight, as many studies show that keeping a food journal helps keep healthy eating on track.

Fitbit nutrition information Mary's Gone Crackers

Look up thousands of products on the Fitbit website to help track nutrition and calories. Image courtesy www.fitbit.com.

Fitbit tracks your sleep: You can also wear your Fitbit while you sleep and the number of hours of sleep you get will automatically be logged. It even tells you how many times you wake each night.  If this weren’t so amazing, I’d think it was a little creepy.  Okay, maybe it is. 

Fitbit rewards you: I am rewards-oriented when it comes to my physical activity. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I like a stroll or some light weight lifting and… well, I also like the couch. It’s a little challenging for me to push myself in the exercise arena. Fitbit has the answer for that – I get virtual awards emailed to me when I pass certain milestones, such as 10,000 steps per day or fifty miles walked per week. That’s fun for me. Laugh all you want, I know what works for my psyche! It’s kind of like a gold star chart, but for adults (seems to work better on me than on my kids).

Fitbit gives you pie: Okay, not really.  But the Fitbit does give you a user-friendly pie chart for how many waking hours you have been completely sedentary (versus lightly active, moderately active and vigorously active). Meeting after meeting at work makes for a very sedentary day even if I powerwalk for an hour early in the morning. I thought I was really aware of moving my body every twenty to thirty minutes (standing and pacing during a meeting) but apparently I still have plenty of work to do in that arena. This was incredibly eye-opening for me.

Fitbit Pie Chart

    Fitbit gives you daily statistics in a simple format. Image courtesy www.fitbit.com.

I like my Fitbit. It’s not a magic pill – nothing is. I actually still have to put on my sneakers and move my body. It doesn’t put vegetables on my plate. It doesn’t do the hard work for me, but it does make the hard work even more rewarding.

So tell me, what do you use to keep your exercise and eating on track?

Is Organic, Fair-Trade Chocolate Worth the Money?

Cacao pods from Equal Exchange

Colorful Cocoa Pods from Equal Exchange

I just turned 40 last week. I noticed a common denominator among the many gifts I received – almost all contained some sort of dark chocolate bar with notes like “You don’t have to share this!” and “I hope you like the scarf. I knew you’d like the chocolate!” When I turn down a piece of dark chocolate during a work meeting, my coworkers ask if I am feeling okay. So all of the evidence suggests that I am a chocolate lover.

As an admirer of chocolate and a nutritionist, I enjoy reading research about the health benefits of dark chocolate of which there are many (thankfully!). But where does this chocolate come from?  At Zing, we have given this issue much thought, and have made very deliberate decisions about the source of our chocolate.

We use Organic, Fair Trade dark chocolate from Peru. Sounds impressive, right? Well, actually it is impressive so let me fill you in on what that means.

Most chocolate sold in the U.S. comes from cocoa farms in Africa and South America where farmers work in unsafe conditions, receive below poverty wages, and have their health compromised by pesticide use. Many of them are children under age 14 who are forced to work and are denied education. Imagine your favorite twelve year old slaving for many hours a day in the hot sun for little or no pay.

How awful that every pleasurable bite of chocolate we take may contribute to another’s suffering.  It’s sad, but true.

Many cocoa plantations have an adverse impact on the environment as well. The problem is that cocoa is a rainforest plant that grows in shady conditions surrounded by a high biodiversity.  But now, hybrid varieties are being grown on cleared land and in full sun. While this will give higher short term yields, the soil quickly becomes degraded and the lifespan of plants can be cut from 75 or 100 years, or even less than 30. When the trees die, the farmers must clear more rainforest to plant cocoa. Save the rainforest? This one is a no-brainer. With looming global warming and the loss of this habitat, we have no choice but to change our chocolate-buying habits.

The chocolate we source at Zing is grown in the rainforest in a sustainable way. It is organic so the farm workers are not exposed to pesticides. There are age restrictions on workers so children cannot be employed, and the workers have fair working conditions and are paid fair wages.   We pay more for our chocolate, but this money protects children and helps families avoid poverty.

Julia ferments cocoa beans at an Equal Exchange co-op

There are agencies like Equal Exchange who monitor the farms in Peru that we use for our chocolate so we can be assured that the standards we expect are being met.

It’s very important to us that when you bite into one of our decadent bars (including my new favorite – our dark chocolate hazelnut bar), you know you’re doing a great thing – for both your body and the planet!

Zing is one of very few bars out there that has taken this extra step to make the world a better place.  So enjoy without guilt, chocolate lovers.  And this 40 year-old chocoholic will too.

Your Favorite Ice Cream Topping is our Newest Flavor!

Have you ever eaten chocolate hazelnut spread on toast? Eaten spoons of it right out of the jar? Swooned at even the thought of the deliciousness of chocolate hazelnut spread swirled over vanilla ice cream? If so, I am about to make your day. Maybe even your year.

Most chocolate hazelnut spreads are full of sugar and milk chocolate. Some even have a variety of additives and preservatives. We wouldn’t call them superfoods. But we would happily grant that term to nutritionally dense hazelnuts.

So, here at Zing, we are introducing a few new bar flavors, and (warning: spoiler alert!) one of them is Dark Chocolate Hazelnut.  We just couldn’t resist waiting until the official release date of June 15th to spread the news.  We’ve combined two superfoods – hazelnuts and dark chocolate – and put them into a bar that is as scrumptious as it is nutritious.

We’ve talked about dark chocolate in our blog before and its health benefits tend to be all over the news.  Dark chocolate is very high in antioxidants and can be protective against cardiovascular disease and cancer.

But who knew that hazelnuts were such a nutritional powerhouse?

Hazelnuts, like any raw or dry roasted nuts, are heart healthy. They are high in monounsaturated fats which are important for heart health.  Research has shown that eating just 1.5 ounces of hazelnuts per day (about 1/3 of a cup) may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They are also a good source of fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins and magnesium.

Hazelnuts have more folic acid (or folate) than any other tree nut. Folate is important for women of childbearing years to prevent neural tube birth defects. Folate is also vital for heart health and can reduce risk of depression.

Hazelnuts also have the highest proanthocyanidin content of any tree nut. These compounds are known for contributing astringent flavor to foods and may help reduce the risk of blood clotting and urinary tract infections.

Hazelnuts are also among the top three nuts highest in antioxidant capacity.  The other two are pecans and walnuts. Hazelnuts’ ORAC score (the gold standard measure of antioxidant capacity) puts them in the superfoods category.

That’s a lot of good reasons to include hazelnuts in your diet on a regular basis. Throw them in salads, include them in your homemade trail mix, and enjoy our Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Zing bars as soon as you can get your hands on them….just one more week to go until these are in stock in our online store.

Now, put down that jar of chocolate hazelnut spread with artificial stuff, and pick up one of our guilt-free, decadent bars.  You are going to be in heaven. And it’s a healthy version of heaven too!

 

Eat Breakfast, Prevent Diabetes

I bet you’ve heard about the importance of eating breakfast.

You know that breakfast eaters tend to have an easier time focusing and concentrating (that’s why we feed our kids before school). Breakfast eaters also tend to have more energy and more stable moods throughout the day. Many people who don’t eat breakfast also tend to overeat later in the day and may have a harder time managing their weight. And breakfast eaters tend to have better memory too.

But for many of us, those reasons are still not enough to get us motivated to eat breakfast in the morning. We don’t wake up hungry because of late night eating, we are too rushed in the morning to eat anything or we skip breakfast in a misguided attempt to eat fewer calories for the day.

However, a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gives us yet another powerful reason to eat breakfast.

  • Those who consistently eat breakfast may have a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

In the study, researchers followed 29,000 men for 16 years, tracking their diets, exercise, disease rates and other markers of health. About 2,000 of the men developed Type 2 diabetes over the course of the study.

  • Key Point: Those who regularly skipped breakfast had a 21 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who ate breakfast. This significantly increased risk was still present after the researchers took into account the men’s height, weight and the quality of their breakfast.

There are other studies that have found the same link between skipping breakfast and higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. We don’t know exactly why this link exists but the thought is that a morning meal (literally a breaking of your overnight fast) helps to stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day.

If you are not a breakfast eater, I recommend that you try a breakfast experiment for a week – eat breakfast for seven consecutive days and see how you feel. If you don’t wake up hungry, try to stop eating earlier the night before. If you are rushed in the morning, try some of my favorite breakfast ideas which take no time at all to grab. They contain a mix of high fiber carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats to give your blood sugars and your health in general a smooth start to the day.

  1. A Zing Bar and a piece of fruit
  2. A banana and a couple of handfuls of raw or dry roasted nuts
  3. A hardboiled egg (boil up a week’s worth on Sunday) and some high fiber crackers
  4. A string cheese and an orange
  5. An apple with a portable packet of nut butter

Please share your favorite “in a rush” breakfast ideas so I can add to my repertoire too.

References:

Mekary RA et al. Eating patterns and type 2 diabetes risk in men: breakfast omission, eating frequency, and snacking. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012. May; 95(5):1182-9. Epub Mar 28. http://www.ajcn.org/content/95/5/1182.abstract

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/30/really-to-lower-your-risk-of-diabetes-eat-breakfast/