Cutting Sugar and Sweets From Your Calorie Budget

bag of sugarThe American Heart Association recently released recommendations for added sugars – and they say “slash slash slash” it way down. According to their position paper, the usual intake of added sugars for Americans was 22.2 teaspoons per day (355 calories per day) in 2001-2004. American Heart Association would like to see American women consume no more than 100 calories per day and men no more than 150 calories per day from added sugars. Why? Excessive consumption of sugars has been linked with several metabolic abnormalities and adverse health conditions, as well as shortfalls of essential nutrients.

Translation: Basically, Americans are overdrawing the “calorie funds” in their “discretionary calories” bank account. Discretionary calories are what’s left over in the budget AFTER you have prioritized healthy, nourishing foods to meet nutrient needs (the ole fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans). While your bank would charge you an overdraft fee, unfortunately your body can’t do that.

So, what does this have to do with the diligent dieter? I’ve got some tips for how you can respond to the advice, if you need to.

  • Take inventory – write down what you eat for a few days on’s free tracker. This food journal tool will tell you how many “discretionary calories” you are over/under budget.
  • Remember balance and moderation – the advice of 100 calories a day for women doesn’t equate to “never drink juice or soda or ever eat a candy bar,” but it does mean moderation. Some people love their juice. OK, so either have 100 percent juice with no added sugar or have a cup (eight ounce) of the sweetened stuff a few times a week. One cup of sweetened O.J. is 30 “discretionary calories.”  Like chocolate? Two Hershey’s miniatures with almonds has 74 discretionary calories. So it fits in the budget as a sometimes treat.
  • Read and understand food labels – bypass all the marketing on the front of package and look at the nutrition facts and ingredients to hunt down added sugars. Be sure to watch my video on moderating sugar intake for a refresher on this.

The bottom line is pick your favorites and spend calories wisely. Portion control is always the number one thing you can do to eat more healthily. Don’t fool yourself and think that a daily sweet tea beverage or milkshake is a a good idea. But also be careful of foods that appear to have a “health halo.”

A small eight ounce fruit flavored low-fat yogurt has 108 “discretionary calories,” which puts it over the budget. You’re better off trying plain (no added sugars) low-fat yogurt or my personal fave, plain fat-free Greek yogurt and add your own fresh fruit. Try adding 1/4 cup of blueberries and a tablespoon of raw slivered almonds to a cup of Greek yogurt. MMMmmm…

Hopefully, this post help to put the AHA’s quick advice into perspective. Changes are individual so find out where you stand on discretionary calories with My Pyramid and think of changing the portion or frequency of your “treats” or find a healthier swap out.

How to Avoid a Nutrition Vacation

Raise your hand if your eating habits went on vacation when you did only to result in coming home feeling heavy, sick, and a little depressed. Think about it for a second. It sounds totally absurd. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing and rejuvenating. If you come home feeling guilty and stressed, then the vacation didn’t do its job. But don’t fret, I’ve got some tips that will have you coming home feeling happy and healthy!

  • Embrace the power of portions! With portion size in mind, you can truly have whatever you want. Just not too much. By giving priority to putting fresh fruits and veggies on the plate, you’ll fill up on nutrients and fiber but not on calories. So a few bites of a high calorie dessert you “can’t resist” can fit in while you are on vacation.
  • Moderate. Moderate. Moderate.  I tell people to “choose between.” If you’re in the mood for a rich breakfast like pancakes, have a pancake with a couple egg whites and then for lunch have some healthy greens with grilled fish. Choose a glass of wine with dinner or dessert, but not both. Alcohol lowers the inhibitions and once you’ve had a few, resisting the “munchies” is like staying away from a BOGO shoe sale – IT AIN’T HAPPENING!
  • Rethink convenience foods. Fresh fruits are nature’s convenience food. Fruits like oranges, bananas, and apples come in their own packaging (how’s that for going green?). Road tripping? Bring a cooler of fresh fruit, 2% mozzarella string cheese, grape tomatoes, Fig Newtons, hard boiled eggs, and whole wheat crackers with a small schmear of natural peanut butter. Be sure to eat a balanced meal before you hit the road and then rely on the cooler for healthy noshes between destinations. If you are full, you won’t feel tempted by the roadside fast food.
  • Don’t be “the rationalizer.” You know who I’m talking about… the person who says “I’m on vacation so I don’t care.” “Just one more.” Bottom line: you can have fun and nourish yourself at the same time. If you’re out for a week, pick one or two truly “carefree” food days and balance them out with some extra activity. But don’t sign up for a week of overdoing it. The emotional fallout you may feel when you come home is not worth the few days of food frenzy.

5 Weight Loss Rules You Aren’t Following

If you are like most people out there trying to lose weight, chances are you aren’t doing at least a few of these five weight loss strategies on a regular basis. Check your behaviors against this list and let me know how you measure up!angry dieter

1. Dieting at Night – The key to weight loss is eating, believe it or not. You need to fuel your body with healthy food during the day, starting with breakfast and have a lighter dinner; then let the dieting begin right when you are winding down. I usually tell my clients to focus on “protein and produce” at dinner. Swap your salad at lunch for a tuna wrap (choose either light mayo or cheese not both) and have an entree salad at dinner.

2. Controlling Alcohol Intake – This is probably the #1 behavior I see with clients who are trying to lose weight when they first come in. They say they drink 1-2 times a week, but then their food journal shows 2 glasses of wine. When we talk about weekends they usually have 1-2 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That’s almost half of the week people. That adds up to 600 extra calories that you aren’t getting from food, let alone the temptation to eat salty snacks with alcoholic drinks. If you take my advice, you’ll limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks once a week.

3. Sleeping 7-8 hours most nights of the week. Turn off the T.V. Stop surfing the ‘net. You have to get sleep if you want to lose weight. Sleep allows you to recover from your workouts (that you ARE doing because you know you will do better with long term weight loss if you exercise.) Sleep also keeps your hormone balance in check, especially leptin and ghrelin. According to researchers at Stanford, people with short sleep (5 hours a night) have reduced leptin (thin hormone) and elevated ghrelin (hunger hormone). Based on what the hormones do in the body, the researchers claimed the differences in leptin and ghrelin are likely to increase appetite, possibly explaining the increased BMI observed with short sleep duration.

4. Fitting in the Veggies. It might sound old, but you need your veggies. The fiber makes them filling. The low calories makes them “figure friendly,” the phytochemicals and antioxidants help prevent diseases (like many cancers), and they help repair blood vessel damage. Try these fun ways to have veggie “finger foods” on the go:vegetables and diet

  • celery and almond butter
  • avocado stuffed cherry tomatoes
  • blanched broccoli with lemon
  • prosciutto wrapped asparagus

All these choices make great snacks! Personally, I recommend that people keep carbs as low as possible at snacks and save them for meal times.

5. Eating Mindfully. Mindfulness is a state of being aware, ‘in the moment,’ present, and engaged. Rarely do we spend time in the day being truly mindful, especially when it comes to food. It’s amazing the mental and emotional transformation that happens when people take back the pleasure of eating. When you choose nourishing foods and take your time to enjoy them bite-by-bite, you engage all your senses – not just “taste.” Notice the colors, smell the aroma, appreciate your food choice for all the ways it is going to give health to your body.

All of a sudden, the drive-through window and 100-calorie packs become less appealing. If you make one change, try making each meal last 30 minutes and spend the first five engaging all your senses except taste. When eating mindfully, you will notice that it gets easier to choose healthy from the start and stop eating when you feel satisfied not when the plate is clear.

Get Control of Your “Diet” With Intuitive Eating

How much fun do you have when you eat? If it sounds like an “odd” question then the answer is obvious – very little. Most dieters eat what they think they “should” or what some diet plan tells them to eat because it’s the obvious solution to reaching their goal weight. But one thing all dieters have in common is the “dieter’s mentality” – restrict, skip, and avoid.

These negative words give dieting a negative connotation. And what is pleasurable about negativity? Absolutely nothing. So what’s a desperate dieter to do? I say “get over it” – the diet that is. Get over dieting and embrace the idea that you can lose weight, nourish yourself, and be healthier for a long time if you just let go.  Are ‘ya with me?

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to eating that brings you back to a sense of self-efficacy that you know when you are physically hungry and full. You aren’t afraid to choose “bad for you” foods, and when you do you aren’t afraid to leave more than half on the plate because you feel satisfied. You are in total control. If you want a slice of pizza for breakfast you go for it, but then lunch rolls around and you feel like having sushi. You get full after six pieces. A few hours later, you crave something sweet so you go for some cold melon and a couple bites of dark chocolate. After a workout, you are really hungry in the car so you pull over and get a fast food double cheeseburger, but you only eat about half and you feel satisfied. When you get home, you don’t feel like eating that much so you have some chopped veggies and a small bowl of oatmeal.

Sounds totally backwards, doesn’t it? Pizza at breakfast and oatmeal at dinner? Pizza and cheeseburgers in the same day?! But why not if that’s what you wanted. Notice how in this scenario a heavy meal is followed by something really light? Think of a “heavy” food that you can’t live without, but you avoid like the plague because it “makes you fat.” Now, imagine eating that food whenever you want when you feel hungry and stopping when you feel full. Doesn’t that sound FUN? I bet after a while the allure of the banned foods fade and you replace it with other healthier foods.

So, what do you think… sound too risky for you or does it sound liberating? Let me know in the comments.