Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Are You Drowning Your Weight Loss Goals?

This article is prepared for Total Cleanse. The TC and NIM blogs will be taking a break for the Summer, but I should be back writing for them come September!

Are You Drowning Your Weight Loss Goals?
Sarah Reid, RHNC

You’re all ready to hit your first BBQ of the Summer, or perhaps you’re heading out for an afternoon on the ski slopes with an apr├Ęs with friends afterwards. While the food and friends might be first in your mind, with the atmosphere inherently comes drinks – and while not are alcoholic, many will drown your best efforts to maintain a healthy body weight and blood sugar level if you make them your regular thirst-quenchers. Twenty percent of an average person’s calories comes from their beverage consumption – and soft drinks are now the number one source of energy in the western diet. Considering that pop, “juice drink”, smoothie and “fancy” coffee s have seen servings and calorie counts balloon over the years along with the portion sizes, it’s no wonder why the phrase “drinking your calories” is more popular than ever.

So what do you do when on the road? Obviously, swinging through the drive-thru is not the best thing for your health when it comes to quenching your thirst. On the cool side of the menu, downing  a standard-recipe (grande-size) Coffee Frappuccino may only pack in 3 grams of fat, but one also carries 240 calories and 50 grams of sugar! Pick a frosted latte instead, and about 280 calories and 12 grams of fat will hit your stomach. When the weather starts to cool down, the real whopper of the cafe menu is a standard-issue hot chocolate – crowned with cream and chocolate sauce, at 400 calories, 20 grams of fat (over half of it saturated!) and 40 grams of sugar, the ski suit may not fit so easily after a couple. The ever-popular pumpkin- or eggnog-flavoured lattes can feature over 500 calories per grande serving –almost twice a regular-size chocolate bar. All of this, with minimal accessory nutrients – a good portion of the calcium present in the (whole) milk that’s used is blocked by the fat content, and what does make it into the body is quickly leached out to stabilize the blood acidity created by the influx of refined sugar. A much better choice is green, black or herbal tea – without milk or sugar (add a squeeze of lemon for a boost!). Better yet, pick the only really calorie-free option: water. Not only will water lift you up just as well as coffee, it hydrates you, keeps your metabolism going strong and fortifies every cell of your body to allow them to reach optimum performance.

Think a smoothie is the way to go? Not so fast. Common restaurant smoothies are made with a variety of things that have no place in what is otherwise a healthy drink – like ice cream, syrups and sugared fruit. A simple banana and berry mixture can add 400 sugary calories to your daily intake. Add one of the “buzz-words” of the trade – a “boost” or “power shot” – and that already high count can soar over 500. Homemade, smoothies with fresh or frozen fruit, low-fat yogurt (not frozen yogurt), fresh-squeezed juice and a spoonful of ground flaxseed are a perfectly healthy way to start your day, especially if you’re the type to work out early in the morning.

So what about juice? Here the waters get a bit murkier. In it’s purest, freshest form (made by you right in your kitchen), juice’s calories give you far more than a sugar rush – a wealth of active enzymes, vitamins and minerals fill your glass too. Step away from the juicer towards the refrigerated and Tetra-Paks in the store, though, and the fact that a single glass of juice “cocktail” can have up to 35 grams of fibre-free sugar and varying levels of viable nutrients liken the drinks more to pop than the fruit they came from. Storebought juices are also devoid of active enzymes, thanks to the laws requiring pasteurization. If you don’t juice at home, or have a reliable fresh juice bar near you, look for 100%, no sugar added juices in the chilled section. And in case you were wondering – no, Sunny D and it’s fellow “juice drinks” marketed to kids don’t count as healthy options.

It’s important to remember that none of these numbers include the most popular party drink addition in any season – alcohol. Alcohol not only contains more calories per gram than standard carbohydrate (7 vs 4), toxifies your liver short-term and manipulates your nervous system, but it also enhances your appetite and can lead to overeating at that BBQ or winter fete. Factor in the sugary mixers straight liquor is often added to and 750 calorie margaritas, 425 calorie white Russian and 780-800 calorie Long Island Iced Teas won’t keep you in your skinny jeans for long. If you must have alcohol at a function, pick the simplest option for your tastebuds – a 6-oz glass of red wine is beneficial to your heart and only 150 calories. Go for the best quality you can, stick to one glass and savour it over the night – or make your own wine spritzer with club soda and a squeeze of lime juice, which can stretch those 6 ounces over two or three drink servings during the night. Eating before any alcohol hits your system helps too – especially a mixture of a fat-protein such as a small handful of almonds. Last but not least, drink twice as much clear, still water as alcohol, and more if your drink of choice is sugary. This keeps dehydration to a minimum and the next-day hangover at bay.

You don’t have to give up your favourites when it comes to the beverage world – just make informed, conscious choices. Your newly hydrated body will thank you for it.

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About Me

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!