How much water do I really need to drink each day?
Gone are the days of recommending 8 (8 oz.) glasses of water. It’s true that your best source of fluid is water, but you can also get it from tea (herbal and green are best), juice, milk, fruits, and vegetables. Most people will benefit from about 2 liters of water a day, but you may need more when you workout and if you sweat a lot. The best way to gauge if you are properly hydrated is to look at the color of your urine – if it’s clear or very pale yellow, then you’re doing great. If it’s any darker, then drink up.
I’m a vegetarian. What are my best protein sources?
Following a well-balanced vegetarian eating plan can be extremely healthy and has even been shown to reverse heart disease! Making sure you get a good blend of protein-rich foods at each meal will ensure that you are meeting your needs. The best sources include beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, soy (tofu, soymilk, soy beans, soy nuts, tempeh), quinoa, dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), and eggs. Foods like vegetables and whole grains contain some of the amino acids that you need, and are considered incomplete proteins. As long as you eat other proteins during the day, your body will take all of the amino acids and make complete proteins.
I’m so confused about fat. How much and what kind should I be eating?
Fat is one of those very confusing topics. One day you hear about how bad it is and should be avoided at all costs (this fueled the great “fat-free” craze of the ‘80s and ‘90s). Now you hear that it’s good for you and you should be eating it. So does that mean that French fries are back on the menu?
Here’s the real scoop. Healthy fats are good for you. They help to decrease inflammation in the body, help with hormone production, and make your hair and skin look great. There are 4 types of fat: saturated fat (the artery-clogging kind), trans-fat (the other artery-clogging kind), monounsaturated fat (the heart-healthy kind), and polyunsaturated fat (Omega-3’s are the kind to choose, where as Omega-6’s should be limited). Good food sources of monounsaturated fats include almonds, olive oil, canola oil, and avocado. Good sources of Omega-3 fats include: wild Alaskan salmon, wild Pacific halibut, sable fish/black cod, farm-raised trout, tuna, walnuts, and ground flaxseed. Aim for 2-3 servings of healthy fat each day. We now believe that not all saturated fats are bad. Some, such as virgin (unrefined) coconut oil, which is comprised mostly of Medium Chain Triglycerides, do not promote heart disease and have antiviral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties. Even better, you can use coconut oil on your hair and skin to moisturize and improve their look and feel.
I was told I have Pre-Diabetes. Should I cut out all carbs?
Don’t cut out the carbs just yet. Carbs are important because they break down into glucose, which is the preferred source of fuel for your body and brain. However, all carbs are not created equal. Refined carbohydrates (white flour products, sweets, soda, candy, juice, junk food) contain no fiber and break down into glucose very rapidly, causing your blood sugar level to spike and plummet. When this happens, your body goes searching for more of the same to boost the blood sugar level back up. This vicious cycle is what will keep your blood sugar level high and your insulin response slow. Instead, choose fiber-rich, complex carbohydrates, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts, which will enter into your bloodstream slowly, giving you a steady stream of energy and preventing any kind of blood sugar crash. Plus, these foods are full of nutrient-rich vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants. Every meal should contain some kind of complex carbohydrate.
How much protein should I be eating?
Fortunately, America is not a nation of protein-deficiency. Most people are getting more than they need. To figure out how much you should be getting, you need approximately 0.5-0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For example, at 140-pound woman needs about 70-98 grams of protein a day. If you are pregnant, nursing, or do a lot of weight training, then aim for the higher end of the range. Just make sure that your protein choices are lean and clean – skinless chicken and turkey breast, fish, shellfish, beans, nonfat dairy, eggs, tofu, nuts, extra lean beef, and bison.
Will nighttime snacking make me fat? How late should I eat at night?
When you eat your food is not as important as how much you eat. Let’s say you require 1700 calories to maintain your weight. If you spread your calories out evenly throughout the day and evening and your total for the day is around that mark (give or take 100 or so calories), then you won’t gain weight. However, if you starve yourself all day and then binge at night, you might see a gain on the scale the next day. Chances are this gain is more likely water weight than anything else. But, your body can only handle so many calories at one sitting. This varies from person to person, but I like to ballpark it at around 500 calories. If you take in more than approximately 500 calories at one time, there’s a greater likelihood that some of those calories will go toward fat storage. As to how late you can eat at night, I recommend that you have a light snack (around 150 calories) no sooner than 1 hour before bed, as you want to give it some time to digest. Too much food in the stomach can make it difficult to sleep.
How much cardio should I do each week?
Cardiovascular exercise is super-important for heart health and weight management. When you’re watching your weight, you want to create a calorie deficit. The best way to accomplish this is through calorie-torching cardiovascular exercise that’s done at a moderate-high intensity. Fast walking, running, biking, spinning, swimming, elliptical, stair climbing, and hiking are all great cardiovascular exercises. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day. If you don’t have time to do all 30 minutes at once, then break it up into smaller chunks during the day. Two 15-minute walks (or three 10-minute) are just as good.
I’m in menopause and I’m developing a “spare tire” around my waist. Help!
Aah, the “meno-pot”. When you go through menopause, there’s a halt in your body’s estrogen production. As a result, your body is either filling up fat cells, or laying down new ones, around your midsection, as fat cells can make the estrogen that your body is seeking. You can absolutely do something about it. Your secret weapon: weight training. Yes, cardio is still important, but it’s time to pick up the weights. Three to four days a week of weight training will help to create more metabolically active muscle tissue, which will increase your metabolism and teach your body to burn more body fat for fuel throughout the day. If you’ve never trained with weights before, make an appointment with a personal trainer, who can teach you what to do and how to properly do it.
I’m a mom and never have time to make myself a meal, so I just eat what’s left on my kid’s plate. I know this isn’t good for me. What should I do?
First of all, ask yourself why you don’t allow time to sit down and eat. I know there are plenty of other things that have to get done, but those are not nearly as important as giving yourself proper nourishment (which gives you energy) and the few minutes you need each day to recharge your battery. Make meal time a priority for everyone in the family. Your children are looking at you as a role model. Do you want them to think that meal time isn’t important? Sit down with them and eat in a TV-free, toy-free, electronic device-free, book-free environment. Use meal time to talk with your kids about anything and everything. It’s a great time to make connections with your kids and really tune into their needs. As for what to feed them, stay away from “kid” foods – chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, pizza, fishy crackers, and the like. There’s little nutritional value to these foods. Kids should be eating what you’re eating – fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. No exceptions.
I’m single and I hate to cook, so I rely on take-out for my meals. What’s the best thing to order?
Eventually, you should find your way into the kitchen for a little more than just reheating leftovers. Learning some very simple, basic recipes will help you control the quality and quantity of the food you eat, as well as save you a lot of money. That being said, let’s navigate our way through a take-out menu. The good news is that you can actually get relatively healthy food at most restaurants and fast food joints. The trick is knowing how to order your food. Don’t be afraid to make substitutions (i.e., fruit instead of fries, double steamed veggies instead of pasta), to ask for sauces and dressings on the side, to leave off fatty ingredients (like cheese), and to order something cooked a healthier way (baked, grilled, BBQ’d, broiled, steamed, poached, or stir-fried). Always make sure that half of your plate is covered by produce (fruits and veggies), one-quarter with a whole grain (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potato, corn), and one-quarter with a lean protein. As restaurants usually give very large portions, try eating only half of your meal, saving the other half for tomorrow.