Breakfast: Is It Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

We’ve all heard the saying, but is it true?

Well, yes, breakfast is pretty important. There are many benefits to eating breakfast, and they’re backed by a bunch of research. Eating breakfast:

  • Jumpstarts metabolism, which maximizes use of calories throughout the day
  • Provides energy to start the day, leading to increased focus and functionality
  • Promotes blood sugar stability, i.e. prevents blood sugar from being too high or too low
  • Promotes stable mood
  • May prevent overeating later in the day
  • Is linked to lower levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol
  • Is linked to decreased chance of developing diabetes and heart disease
  • Is linked to decreased chance of being overweight

While the best breakfast is one that is balanced, the day’s first meal doesn’t have to be a big production. Generally speaking, a balanced breakfast includes a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates provide energy for the body and brain, and they’re found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Carbohydrates from these sources also include fiber, which has many health benefits and prevents hunger from occurring again soon after eating. Protein also contributes to fullness, and fat contributes to satisfaction. Below are some examples of a balanced breakfast, some of which can be easily eaten over the road. Note that examples including toast or bread are recommended to use a whole grain bread.

  • Yogurt with granola and berries
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Toast, eggs, and fruit of choice
  • Veggie omelet with toast and fruit of choice
  • Cereal with milk and berries or banana

Wondering how to maximize the positive effects of your favorite breakfast? Below are examples of some easy breakfast favorites with suggestions on how to improve them.

  • Donut (or any type of pastry) and coffee —> Donut, milk, and coffee
  • Breakfast sandwich —> Breakfast sandwich and a piece of fruit (apple, banana, etc.)
  • Granola bar —> Granola bar and mixed nuts/trail mix
  • Banana —> Banana with peanut butter and/or cup of milk

Not generally a breakfast-eater? Even if you’re not hungry for a big breakfast (or any breakfast), it’s advised that you eat something. There’s no denying that there are significant benefits–physically, mentally, and emotionally–to eating breakfast, and it’s often better to eat something rather than nothing. If you’re new to the breakfast game, try eating a cup of Greek yogurt, or some peanut butter crackers, or some mixed fruit and nuts.

Developing a new habit takes time, but your body and mind will thank you for eating a balanced breakfast. You may even begin to feel hungry for breakfast early in the morning! And, if you notice yourself feeling hungrier during mornings when you eat breakfast, don’t panic; this is likely related to that jumpstarted metabolism mentioned above. That said, if you have questions or concerns about your newfound breakfast habit, don’t hesitate to contact Kristen at wellness@christensontrans.com.

Here’s to eating and feeling like a champion!

More on Sugar + Recipe Roundup

If you missed our first post on sugar, be sure to check that out by clicking HERE. It covers the basics of the effects of sugar on health, and it provides a few good tips for reducing sugar intake. 

In this post, we’ll be featuring a few of our favorite recipes that are low in added sugar but NOT lacking in taste. Before we do that, let’s consider a couple more things related to sugar in the diet.

There’s a lot of hype about low-carbohydrate diets and the importance of eating less sugar. This is understandable since we know that there are real and serious health risks associated with too much sugar intake. That said, it’s important to understand the role that carbohydrates and sugar play in the body.

‘Sugar’ is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates. There are various types of sugar derived from different sources. Glucose is a type of sugar that is the body’s preferred source of fuel, and it’s most efficiently provided by eating carbohydrates, which are found in grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. If the body lacks adequate glucose from carbohydrates, it will engage in less efficient processes to ensure that adequate glucose is available, e.g. it may convert protein molecules into glucose, which may deplete muscle. So, what does all of this mean? The body is optimally designed to use carbohydrates for fuel, but eating sugar isn’t absolutely necessary for survival.

Recommendations for sugar intake may vary by individual. Generally speaking, eliminating intake of sugar is not very realistic for most people, and it’s not likely to be sustainable for anyone. Heavily restricting sugar intake, as is called for by many popular diets, may ultimately lead to overeating sugary foods, which is counterproductive to health and wellbeing. Speaking to a dietitian can be very helpful in attempting to decrease sugar intake in an individualized, healthy, and sustainable way. This is especially true in cases of diabetes (type 1 or 2) and pre-diabetes, and it is recommended that those with such health concerns speak to their doctor or a dietitian. Don’t hesitate to email wellness@christensontrans.com with any individual concerns or questions, and know that all communication will be kept private and confidential.

And now, the recipes! 

Below are recipes that are low in added sugar but definitely not lacking in taste. From sauces to baked goods, there’s something for everyone. Some of these can be made with a slow cooker while on the road; others can be made ahead of time and then stored in the refrigerator. Try them out, and let us know what you think.

Good salsa and chicken, that’s all you need.

Easy and good-for-you; no oven needed.

Perfect for breakfast or as a snack.

A mouthwatering twist on the classic zucchini bread.

Can be used like your favorite teriyaki sauce; just as tasty (or more!) but with half the sugar.

Tips and flavor combinations to make plain water everywhere more appealing.

Again, try these out, and let us know what you think! You can also email our dietitian to let us know what types of recipes you’d like featured next time: wellness@christensontrans.com

Probiotics & Prebiotics: Foods to Promote Good Digestion

At some point, you may have heard or read that yogurt is good for you, so you’ve been faithfully eating it ever since. Or maybe you’ve been choking it down even though you don’t like it. Or maybe you’ve been avoiding it for some other reason but are still regularly told that you “should” eat it.

We hear so much about yogurt in part because it is considered a probiotic food. Probiotic foods are those consisting of live bacteria and yeasts that help colonize the digestive tract with health-promoting microorganisms. Whoa, what does that even mean?

Probiotics are most well known for their role in promoting good digestion, or, in other words, bowel “regularity”. Probiotics have also been shown to have numerous other health benefits, including positive effects in:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Infectious diarrhea and antibiotic-related diarrhea
  • Skin conditions, e.g. eczema
  • Urinary and vaginal health conditions
  • Allergies and colds

Additionally, probiotics are associated with increased resistance to c. difficile, an infectious bacteria that may cause severe diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, and they promote optimal digestion of anti-inflammatory compounds found in food, which are also known to have health benefits. Probiotics are linked to prevention of type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more. They may reduce depression and anxiety, improve heart health, and improve immune function.

So, what foods contain probiotics? Here are some non-yogurt, probiotic-rich foods:

  • Apple cider vinegar (raw)
  • Buttermilk
  • Sour cream
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut (non-canned)
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Kimchi
  • Miso

Some of these may sound foreign to you, but most are widely available at large grocery stores and Walmart. Click here to read more about the above foods, as well as a few more obscure probiotic-rich foods.

In addition to probiotics, the digestive system also needs prebiotics, which are non-digestible fibers found in food that help promote growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms in the gut, i.e. probiotics. So, probiotics need prebiotics. Foods containing high amounts of prebiotics include:

  • Raw garlic
  • Raw or cooked onions
  • Raw leeks
  • Raw jicama
  • Raw asparagus
  • Raw dandelion greens
  • Raw Jerusalem artichoke
  • Under-ripe bananas

Additionally, other raw fruits and vegetables also contain prebiotics, though in lower amounts than those listed above.

Together, prebiotics and probiotics help to promote and maintain balanced gut bacteria, which is important for both good digestion and lowering overall disease risk.

It may seem overwhelming to consider all of this information at once, but don’t be afraid to take baby steps toward better health! Aim to eat a serving of either raw fruit or vegetable (prebiotic) or a serving of something fermented or cultured (probiotic) at each meal. And stay tuned for a future post that more thoroughly discusses IBS specifically.

Sugar and Your Health

Oh, sugar. We all know about the sweet stuff. We’ve all tried it, and at one time or another, we’ve all added it to our food or drink. There’s no denying that sugar is sweet, tasty, and easily incorporated into just about everything. But just because it tastes good and is readily available, should we really be consuming as much of it as we do? Likely, the answer is “No.”

To date, sugar’s effects on health have been widely studied, and the general consensus is that there can be too much of a good thing–not to mention that most Americans greatly exceed recommended sugar intake on a regular basis. Many studies have found that a diet high in added sugars greatly increases a person’s chances of being obese, as well as the risk for having high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease. For more information about the harmful effects of a diet high in sugars, click here.

So, how do you know if you could stand to decrease your sugar intake, and what changes should you make to accomplish this? Read below to find out.

Added Sugars vs. Natural Sugars

All sugars are similar in that they are simple forms of carbohydrates. That being said, not all sugars are created equal. It’s important to consider natural sugar vs. added sugar. Natural sugars are found in foods like fruit and milk. These minimally processed foods are also natural sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein and are very much a part of a healthy and balanced diet. Added sugars, on the other hand, are found in highly processed and much less natural food items. As you might imagine, these sugars are not naturally present in food and are instead added to foods and drinks after processing to improve taste and texture. Oftentimes, foods with a lot of added sugar also contain a lot of not-so-healthy fat and sodium but don’t contain a great amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Added sugars can be sneaky, and it’s very easy to consume a large amount of them if you’re unaware of where they lurk. 

So, where exactly are these added sugars hiding? The most common food and drinks that contain added sugars are listed below.

  • Packaged cookies, pastries, donuts and candy
  • Packaged foods like cereal, ready to eat meals, flavored oatmeal
  • Dressings, condiments, marinades, and sauces
  • Ice creams, flavored milk, and yogurt
  • Juices, sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and coffee drinks

 

As you can see, added sugar is all around. According to the American Heart Association, women should limit their added sugar intake to no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) per day, while men are limited to 9 teaspoons (150 calories). This limit does not include the natural sugars that were mentioned earlier. As of now, nutrition facts labels on food items do not have a line indicating how much added sugars are in a product, so determining this takes a bit of effort. Added sugar often goes by several names, which can be identified by checking the ingredients list found near the nutrition facts label:

  • Barley malt
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane sugar/solids/juice
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Mannose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • Turbinado

Added sugars are sneaky, and it’s hard to completely avoid them. But, there are ways to reduce the amount of sugar you might be used to eating.  When buying food products, look for those labeled “unsweetened” or “no sugar added”, incorporate more water or unsweetened teas instead of sugary beverages (remember, hydration is important!), and focus on the basics of building a healthy plate . Artificial sweeteners may also be an option, but there’s no consensus as to whether or not regular consumption of them is beneficial to health. Ideally, it’s best to decrease added sugar by working on the above suggestions rather than just switching to artificial sweeteners.

As you can see, added sugars are pretty prevalent in the average American diet. When eaten in moderation, these sugars can fit into a healthy diet; however, it’s easy to have too much of a good thing. For more tips on how to reduce sugar intake, click here. Speaking to a dietitian can also be very helpful in decreasing sugar in a more individualized way. As always, don’t hesitate to email wellness@christensontrans.com with any questions or concerns.

 

This post was written in large part by Taylor Beard, dietetic intern at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Taylor will be eligible to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in May of 2018.

Snack Your Way Healthy

For many people, snacking is necessary to maintain energy levels throughout the day and prevent excessive hunger and dramatic drops in blood sugar. There are many benefits to snacking, and if done thoughtfully, snacking between meals can be part of a healthy lifestyle plan. Potential benefits of snacking include the opportunity to consume more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, as well as satisfy hunger between meals so that overeating doesn’t occur when meal time rolls around.

A lot of people may find snacking scary or detrimental to a healthy lifestyle because it can lead to what may feel like non-stop eating. When thinking about snacks, convenience foods like cookies, chips, and candy may come to mind, as these are easily available and easy to eat on the go. The problem with these types of snacks is that they tend to be very high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and sodium. They also may be high in calories but low in vitamins and minerals, which is not ideal. Frequently snacking on these items can contribute to undesirable weight gain, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Portion size of snacks may also be of concern; sometimes, what was intended to be a snack can turn into what could actually be considered a meal. In general, 1-2 snacks per day, at about 150-200 calories each, is appropriate for most people. 

Olives are a good source of healthy fat. Almonds contain both healthy fat and protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrate.

When choosing snacks, it is important to choose foods that will fuel the body, contribute to health, and leave you satisfied until the next meal. Ideally, a snack consists of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. In combination, these three nutrients. known as macronutrients, make a powerful and healthy snack that will keep you full and satisfied between meals. Sometimes it’s not possible to create an ideal snack, but keep in mind that pairing two different types of foods together is a good guideline. For example, pineapple provides mostly carbohydrates, but pineapple and cottage cheese together provides carbohydrate, protein, and a bit of fat. Unsure about what foods contain what macronutrients? Check out the lists below for ideas.

Healthy Fats

  • Peanut butter (or any other nut butter, e.g. almond, cashew, etc.)
  • Nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Olives
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado 
  • Ground flax seed
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Cream cheese

Carbohydrates

  • Fresh fruit
  • Dried fruit (ideally with no sugar added)
  • Bread (ideally 100% whole grain)
  • Wheat bagel
  • Wheat tortilla
  • Oats/oatmeal
  • Whole grain cereal (think Cheerios or shredded wheat)
  • Whole grain waffle
  • Whole grain crackers (think Triscuits or Beanitos)
  • Vegetables
  • Popcorn
  • Tortilla chips

Protein

  • Lean turkey, ham, or roast beef
  • Chicken breast
  • Lean beef or turkey jerky
  • Cheese
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Protein Powder
  • Eggs

Try combining an item from each list to create a great snack that will nourish you and keep you full. Below is a list of snack ideas that combine all three components and will provide you with some healthy fuel between meals.

  • ½ nut butter & jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Apple or celery with peanut butter
  • 1 boiled egg with ¼ of an avocado
  • Trail mix made with dried cranberries, almonds, and cashews
  • Raw vegetables with hummus
  • Cheese stick with fresh fruit
  • Tortilla chips with salsa or guacamole
Toast or crackers with cream cheese and tomato or cucumbers is a well-balanced snack.

Snacking can be a wonderful and necessary part of a healthy lifestyle. By planning ahead, being mindful of portions, and remembering the recommendation to pair two foods together, you can be sure that you’re providing optimal fuel to your body throughout the day. For more easy and healthy snack ideas, click here

This post was written by Taylor Beard, dietetic intern at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Taylor will be eligible to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in May of 2018.