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Is Low Calorie Ice Cream a Good Choice for Dessert?

Everyone deserves to have treats every now and then, and with new products coming out that look and (sometimes) taste just like your favorites with less sugar, fat, and calories, it’s tempting to fit them into your healthy routine as often as you can. Eating an entire pint of ice cream for only 250 calories sounds like a dream come true, but as with any food it is important to focus not just on how many calories you get from it but also the quality of those calories in terms of macronutrient and micronutrient content.

Let’s look at two popular brands of ice cream with low calorie contents: Halo Top and Ben and Jerry’s “Moo-phoria” Light Ice Cream.

At a glance, it looks like Halo Top is the preferred choice. One serving has fewer calories, fat, and carbohydrates and 1 g more protein. If you are focused on macronutrients, it seems like the best way to have something sweet without disrupting your goals.

However, while the Halo Top is lower in calories and fat, it is important to look at what percentage of those calories are coming from fat. In one serving of Halo Top, 33% of the total calories come from fat. One serving of Ben and Jerry’s (B&J), on the other hand, has 28% of the total calories from fat. For both choices, half of the total fat content is saturated fat, though the B&J serving does contain more total fat and more saturated fat than the Halo Top serving, while the Halo Top has more cholesterol. If you stick to just one serving, Halo Top is the lower fat choice. Keep in mind, it can be tempting to eat more than one serving of a lower calorie treat, in which case the Halo Top contains more fat per calorie.

Where Did All of the Calories Go?

One of the ways that Halo Top creates a sweeter product with fewer calories is sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols on average contain 2 kcal/g, and taste as sweet as sugar. The sugar alcohol used in Halo Top ice creams is called Erythritol and it contains 0 kcal/g. Unlike other sugar alcohols it does not have a laxative or bloating effect. This is because it is primarily absorbed in the small intestine and excreted in urine, and most of the bacteria in our body is unable to ferment it. Erythritol is isolated from glucose fermented with yeast and is often paired with other sweeteners like stevia (such as in Halo Top) to produce a taste and mouthfeel that closely resembles sugar. Erythritol also requires stabilization and mitigation of its natural flavor with other ingredients such as vegetable glycerin. So while it provides fewer calories for its taste, it also requires extra ingredients that your body can’t make use of.

Other Changes to the Standard Ice Cream Recipe

Another important aspect of the nutrition label when comparing low calorie ice creams is the sodium content. Halo Top has more than twice the salt of Ben and Jerry’s, with 110 mg in a ½ cup serving compared to only 45 mg in a ½ cup serving. This is likely due to the lower cream and sugar content of the Halo Top.  Cream and sugar are important contributors to the smooth and creamy texture of ice cream. Increasing salt can help to enhance texture and flavor lost in these recipes.

On the other hand, Ben and Jerry’s lighter ice creams keep more of the cream and milk fat content of their standard recipe. This allows them to avoid the use of sugar alcohols or isolated sweeteners. This highlights the two different approaches to producing a low-calorie ice cream – adjusting the classic ice cream recipe of cream, sugar, and eggs to provide a lower ratio of these higher calorie ingredients or replacing key ingredients of the classic recipe to provide a new product that mimics the original.

The Bottom Line

When considering different options among low-calorie ice creams the most important thing to remember is that these are not sources of nutrition. While one ice cream may be higher in protein than another, it is not a good substitute for protein from lean meats, eggs, rice, beans, or other vegetables. If you find yourself choosing an entire pint of low-calorie ice cream over one serving of a higher calorie ice cream, you may end up consuming more calories overall and feeling less satisfaction from your indulgence. A lower fat treat is digested more quickly than one with a higher fat content, and a treat made with sugar alcohols and other low calorie sweeteners may lead to increased cravings for sugar once your body realizes that although you tasted something sweet, it did not receive much energy from what you ate.

It comes down to what you want from your ice cream. If your idea of indulgence is a larger volume of food and you find yourself eating the entire pint of whatever ice cream you buy, the lower calorie choice will make less of an impact on your calorie and macronutrient goals. If your idea of indulgence is more centered on satisfaction with a smaller portion, one serving of a moderately low-calorie ice cream will provide you with a treat that satisfies your cravings and still allows you to stay within your calorie and macronutrient goals.

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Why Lack of Sleep Affects More Than Just Your Energy Levels

When you set a fitness or nutrition goal, you make adjustments to your diet and exercise, but what about your sleep? Sleep is one of the most often overlooked aspects of health and fitness and it is often the first to be compromised when trying to fit everything into a busy schedule.

 

According to the CDC, 35% of adults do not get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep per night.

 

Moderate sleep deprivation, such as chronically sleeping <7 hours per night, can have small impacts on your decisions and behaviors throughout the day and on your body’s regulation of physiological processes. Over time, these small impacts can create imbalances in your body’s ability to take in, store, and utilize energy. This causes those who have a shorter duration of sleep to have an increased risk for developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.1

We all know that most people like to be awake during the day and get tired at night. This is more than just a preference; our brains operate according to the circadian rhythm – a 24-hour internal clock that regulates our sleep and wake cycles. This clock is “set” by light from the environment, and the circadian rhythm also dictates other processes in the body such as food intake, hormone secretion, insulin sensitivity, and energy expenditure.2

What Happens When Your Circadian Rhythm is Disrupted?

Disruptions to your circadian rhythm can result in visible changes to behavior. Studies show that individuals who sleep less than 7 hours per night consume an average of 300-400 extra calories throughout the day, have an increase in preference for snacks over meals, and demonstrate a tendency toward higher fat and higher carbohydrate foods with an overall decrease in protein intake.1,3 In studies controlled for caloric intake, those consuming more of their calories between evening and the following morning were found to have greater weight gain, indicating that timing of food contributes to the body’s ability to digest and utilize it.1 In some individuals lack of sleep can also impact energy expenditure by making them less willing to engage in physical activity and lowering tolerance for stress and discomfort.4,5 In athletes, those who are not well rested are more likely to have negative attitudes toward training and a greater perceived effort at lower levels of performance.5 This means that insufficient sleep can result in reduced performance and lack of improvement in the sport.

Other disruptions to the circadian rhythm are less visible, but just as impactful to health. One well studied impact is insulin resistance brought about by mistiming of glucose production in the liver, sensitivity of tissue cells to insulin at different times throughout the day, and the intake of carbohydrates in the diet (which may increase in a sleep deficit, as referenced above).2 Another studied impact is the changes to levels of the hormones leptin, which suppresses appetite, and ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. Those with shorter sleep duration show reduced levels of leptin and increased levels of ghrelin.1 This can result in increased intakes of energy-dense foods and snacks and difficulty with appetite regulation.  Disruptions can even affect the brain reward systems through changes to hormones and neurotransmitters, increasing the reward for eating and choosing highly palatable foods high in sugar, salt, or fat.

What can you do to start getting more sleep?

Getting enough sleep can be difficult, especially when an individual is already in a cycle of falling asleep and waking up at irregular times. Studies show that proper nutrition and regular timing of meals can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and sleep deeply enough to feel rested. There are also behaviors that can be implemented to promote sleep. Increasing exposure to bright, natural light during the day can improve sleep quality, and reducing exposure to bright lights and blue light from screens on televisions, computers, and smartphones can help a person to fall asleep more quickly.2 Regular exercise also helps to synchronize body tissue clocks and improves sleep quality.2 Some studies show that meal timing can affect sleep quality, with positive results coming from populations who eat most of their calories in the morning to afternoon, and from populations who maintain a 12 hour fast between dinner and breakfast (meaning no late night snacks!).2

Studies also suggest that some specific foods and nutrients can affect sleep duration and quality. Eating higher glycemic index carbohydrates between 4 and 1 hours before bed reduced the time it took to fall asleep in some populations, though others showed that an increased load of carbohydrates before bed reduced sleep quality.5 Additionally, diets higher in protein contributed to better sleep quality and diets higher in fat contributed to lower sleep quality. Those who regularly consumed diets that did not meet their caloric needs saw decreases in sleep quality as well.5 Higher protein diets may result in better sleep because of their contribution to the synthesis of melatonin in the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid necessary for the synthesis of melatonin, and it requires large neutral amino acids in the blood to help it cross the blood brain barrier. Supplementing tryptophan in doses as small as 1 g can improve subjective sleep quality. Tryptophan can be found in foods such as pumpkin seeds (200 g) and turkey (300 g).5

Bottom line:

While the general population is recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, athletes who exercise at a higher intensity may require 8 or even 9 hours of sleep to feel adequately rested and allow their bodies proper recovery. The bottom line: don’t sacrifice your sleep! Not getting enough can significantly undermine your health and fitness goals.

For more information on sleep and the relationship it has to nutrition and overall health, visit the link and references below:

https://www.tuck.com/foods-that-help-you-sleep/ 

 

References

  1. Dashti, H. S., Scheer, F. A., Jacques, P. F., Lamon-Fava, S., & Ordovás, J. M. (2015). Short sleep duration and dietary intake: epidemiologic evidence, mechanisms, and health implications. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 6(6), 648-59. doi:10.3945/an.115.008623

 

  1. Stenvers DJ, Scheer FAJL, Schrauwen P, Fleur SEL, Kalsbeek A. Circadian clocks and insulin resistance. Nature Reviews Endocrinology. 2018;15(2):75-89. doi:10.1038/s41574-018-0122-1.

 

  1. Khatib HKA, Harding SV, Darzi J, Pot GK. The effects of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016;71(5):614-624. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2016.201.

 

  1. Capers, P. L., Fobian, A. D., Kaiser, K. A., Borah, R., & Allison, D. B. (2015). A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the impact of sleep duration on adiposity and components of energy balance. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 16(9), 771-82.

 

  1. Halson S. L. (2014). Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 44 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S13-23.

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The Simplest Way to Improve Your Overall Health

National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign sponsored by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, with a vision of a world where all people thrive through the transformative power of food and proper nutrition.

Many people seek the assistance of a dietitian in achieving their personal health or fitness goals. A registered dietitian (RD) is a nutrition expert and is most qualified to help you navigate the many individualized aspects of nutrition. Even with the guidance of an RD, it can be daunting to make lifestyle changes in pursuit of nutrition goals, and results can sometimes be slow to manifest in visible ways. However, anyone trying to improve their health should celebrate even incremental progress, especially in the early goings, and feel empowered to keep making small, sustainable changes to their diet.

One simple goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables. According to the 2018 CDC State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, only 12.2% of adults in America meet the daily fruit intake recommendation (1.5-2 cups per day) and only 9.3% of adults in America meet the daily vegetable intake recommendation (2-3 cups per day). Even something as simple as changing your diet to meet those recommendations can result in a cascade of health benefits.

What makes fruits and vegetables so beneficial? They are high in water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Your body needs these components to function at its best, from being able to contract the small muscles that move your eyes across this page to maintaining optimal digestive health. Let’s take a closer look at how each of these important compounds play a role in your overall health.

 

Water

Fruits and vegetables range from 75-93% water, making them the most hydrating foods you can eat. Water is essential in your body for the transfer of nutrients in and out of cells. Being well hydrated protects you from having a high solute load, which can cause tachycardia, dry skin, headache, fatigue, and increased strain on the kidneys.

 

Fiber

Fruits and vegetables contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel that slows food as it moves through your digestive tract. This gives food extra time to be broken down by digestive enzymes and for nutrients to be absorbed, and keeps you feeling full longer. Soluble fiber also binds to cholesterol in the intestines and removes them from the body, regulates blood sugar by slowing the release of glucose from your food, and makes it easier to pass stool by adding bulk to it. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but does help keep you feeling full longer and adds bulk to stool. Adequate fiber in your diet can help to prevent diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diseases of the intestines such as constipation, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, and other forms of inflammation.

 

Vitamins

Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins A and C, as well as some B vitamins. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that contributes to the health of your skin and vision. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is essential to the formation of collagen, aids in wound healing, and helps the body absorb iron. B vitamins assist your body in performing numerous metabolic processes. By consuming enough of these vitamins, you give your body the tools it needs to utilize energy, fight infection and disease, and maintain overall health.

 

Minerals

Fruits and vegetables have small amounts of most minerals that your body needs. By eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, you can avoid mineral deficiency. Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in fruits and vegetables, and it plays a role in blood clotting, cardiac function, nerve transmission, and smooth muscle contraction.

 

Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are chemicals in plant foods that have not yet been proven to be essential individual nutrients but do play a role in facilitating your body’s ability to utilize essential nutrients from plant foods. Phytochemicals are the primary reason it is important to get a variety of vitamins and minerals from your diet instead relying on vitamin and mineral concentrates like pills or powders, which cannot provide the synergistic blend of chemicals present in whole fruits and vegetables.

 

Including More Fruit in Your Diet

The 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study found that the leading cause of death and disability in the United States was a result of the American diet, with the most glaring flaw being a lack of fruit. Consuming two cups of fruit per day provides significant protection against multiple chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, and high cholesterol.

 

Including More Vegetables in Your Diet

Vegetables are among the most powerful fighters of disease and disability, delivering more nutrients per calorie than any other food group. Increasing vegetable intake can help to avoid chronic disease and disability, and even extend your lifespan.

 

Ultimately, an adequate intake of fruits and vegetables gives your body the tools it needs to perform at its best. The simple change of including more of them in your diet can be a huge step forward for your health and longevity.

How can you ensure that more fruits and veggies can fit into your diet? Find the 20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables here and send me an email if you have questions!

 

 

Resources

https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/downloads/fruits-vegetables/2018/2018-fruit-vegetable-report-508.pdf

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/food-synergy/

 

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3 Things I Would Have Told My 16-Year-Old Self

3 Things I Would Have Told My 16-Year-Old Self

When we are teenagers, it can seem like our worries and problems will follow us in perpetuity. Whether our concerns revolve around navigating social groups, choosing the right style of clothing, improving our athleticism, or choosing a college major that will allow us to follow our dreams, it can be tough to imagine that these concerns will ever be alleviated.

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How to Keep Cravings in Check

cravings

One of the biggest challenges in staying on track with a healthy diet is avoiding situations where you get so hungry that you’ll eat anything. When eating is all you can think about, it can be almost impossible to ward off food cravings, and you might find yourself reaching for the most convenient option, healthy or not.

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Is Chocolate Milk Really the Ideal Recovery Drink for Endurance Athletes?

chocolate milk as a recovery drink

Many of you have likely seen low-fat chocolate milk being touted as the ideal recovery drink after an intense, prolonged aerobic workout. That’s because low-fat chocolate milk contains a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, which, according to multiple research studies, supports rapid glycogen storage repletion in the body.

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