[Image via Apega/WENN.]
Those little black and white labels on the back of food boxes list a whole lot of nutrients, so it's not hard to become confused as to what nutrients actually matter — especially for a baby!
A FitPerez reader shopping for a child consulted Ashley Koff, R.D., asking:
So what should people look out for when they are looking at labels for babies?
According to Ashley:
In the ideal world, you aren't looking at labels for babies. If you are, then look to see if there is any sodium/salt added to the product. (There doesn't need to be at all. It would only be used for taste or for preservative, and you can buy frozen which naturally preserves without need for salt.) Food, if fresh, should be an appealing taste (or blend it with something). As more foods are introduced, focus on whether the food item needs salt in it, and where sodium appears on the ingredient list. It should be near the bottom meaning the least amount in the recipe just like you would do if you were making it at home.
For more tips and nutrition advice, check out Ashley's website!
Someone must have heard about the CDC's report that found 88% American's consume an average of 53% more sodium than they should on a daily basis!
A FitPerez reader wants to know what the right amount is and consulted Ashley Koff, R.D., asking:
What’s the right amount of sodium in the diet?
According to Ashley:
There isn't an RDA, but we do use an "adequate intake" to demonstrate how small the need is. Specifically: from 0-6 mo (120 mg); from 7-12 mo (370-1g - I think 1g is pretty high unless it’s a very active child and it’s the summer, to account for heat/sweating); and 1-3 yrs (1g - keep in mind how small this is 1 tsp of salt = 4g of sodium). From toddlers to adults the need doesn’t go much higher. Recommendations aim to not exceed 2-3 grams daily for adults.
For more tips and nutrition advice, check out Ashley's website!
Ever wonder how those energy drinks and stuff give you energy when they're devoid of calories? Could they be more detrimental to your alertness than helpful?
Wonder no more:
Beware of anything that is marketed as providing energy or has energy in its name – very few deliver quality energy and many set you up for poor energy later - for example, something that promises several hours of energy but doesn’t offer any nutrients. Nutrients (i.e. food) are what give the body energy. (In fact, calories are a measure of energy.) Beware of consuming something that says it offers sustained energy for several hours but only has a few calories!
On the opposite end, we have “energy bars” many of which have lots of calories mostly from carbohydrates and fat, and rarely deliver sufficient quality protein. Remember we want nutrient balance and to be a Qualitarian. If you are getting 45 grams of carbs (that’s 3 servings!) in your bar and only 3 grams of protein (a serving is 7-15 grams) then you aren’t balanced at all. And, watch out for the quick fixes – like a drink that gives you quick energy or several shots of espresso. Those can give you “energy”, but what it is really doing is sending your body flying high only to fall far down in the near future. These highs and lows are less than ideal for overall health.
We had always been skeptical of those 5 Hour Energy shots, because, well, it has always sounded like a bunch of bullshizz. But now we know why!
Thanks, Ashley Koff R.D., for the insight!
Check out her website, here!
Mmm…meat. Meat good!
As good as it is, celebrity dietician and FitPerez correspondent Ashley Koff is here to tell you why it is even better for your body AND the environment to cut back on the amount you consume!
For starters, animal food products provide fats and proteins that may actually be more inflammatory in our system, while nutrients from vegetables often promote an anti-flammatory reaction in our body.
To find out more reasons why it's important to eat less meat, watch the video above and check out CWG's Meat Eater's Guide To Climate Change + Health.
Dietician and co-author of Mom Energy Ashley Koff R.D. is back to answer some of your questions!
And she's talking to you, ladies! Ashley's got some great advice when it comes to cravings during that special time of the month.
Question: Hello. My name is Angelica and my 2 part question is in regards to women's healthy eating and menstruation.
During the time our "monthly visitor" stops by, some women crave sweets or fatty foods that we normally have ease staying away from. What's going on with our body that makes us have these cravings?
Can you suggest any healthier, "guilt free" or "not so greasy" alternatives?
Answer: Hi. PMS and during menstruation our bodies seek nutrients like magnesium (pms), iron, and carbohydrates so choosing foods rich in these nutrients can help to offset cravings. Choosing high quality sources like oats, organic fruits, lentils, spinach, nuts and seeds will be effective so you could make a homemade trail mix or quinoa bowl with these ingredients or an egg scramble with spinach and avocado and a side of berries. Keep in mind, that its as important to focus on what you choose to avoid. Alcohol, caffeine, added sugars, and highly processed foods will make your symptoms worse and can create a vicious cycle of cravings. For example, if you drink at night and don't sleep well then wake up tired and with bad cramps, coffee or a soda will worsen your cramps and create more sugar cravings. So skip the drink and have a magnesium rich dinner which relaxes cramps so that you can sleep better. Wake up to water with lemon and a bowl of oats with nuts and cinnamon, your day will go a lot better.
For more tips and advice, check out Ashley's website HERE.
Over the past couple of months, I have started eating more and more sugar. I have tried completely cutting out sugar, tried replacing sweets with fruit and fruit smoothies, and none of this is working!! What are some suggestions?
Also, I have heard a lot of conflicting reports on the HCG diet. I was thinking of doing this diet, but don't know if I really want to spend $70 on something requiring you to lower your daily caloric intake to 500. Would I just lose weight anyway? What do you think?
Hope to get some answers!
– Dorit Azoulay
Sugar! It can be so addictive, right? And for good reason, when we eat most added sugar it gives us quick energy and often raises our physiologic state to a "happy" place. While other sugar sources (i.e. carbs) like many whole grains and fruits also do this, the presence of fiber slows how quickly the sugar reaches our system so that we may not get that "rush" feeling. I suggest that we go to the source — why is it that you are having the sugar? Are you fatigued — when we are run down (emotionally and/or physically) the body cries out for quick energy (i.e. sugar) so that could be the culprit. If that's the case we need to work on the cause of the fatigue rather than just take away the sugar (i.e. your energy band-aid of choice at this moment).
Perhaps you are consuming lots of sodium — eating out a lot? Grabbing chips or other salty snacks? There's a delicate dance in the mouth between salt and sugar taste buds and too much of one can lead to a craving of the other. Or perhaps you are sad, bored, or are working somewhere where there's lots of sugar around — any of these can make you more susceptible to sugar's allure.
It's also worth noting that the affects of sugar can stay in the body for 3 days (this is from what I see with my patients, not a clinical study), so it's good to say "ok, I had a lot of sugar today so likely tomorrow and the next day I am still going to want it so its going to be harder for me to feel satisfied by say having fruit. But if I stick with it til the next day, the fruit will do the trick." And it always helps to make sure that you "nutrient balance," which means you want to try to always have some protein and healthy fat (plus, veggies of course) when you have carbs so that you aren't setting yourself up for a high (from the carbs) then a low from which the body will cry out for more sugar.
For more info on what falls into each nutrient group see my nutrition plan here!
– Ashley Koff RD, celebrity dietitian, currently featured on Lifetime's Love Handles (Tuesdays 10pm)
I am a Vegetarian and it seems like options in the supermarket are becoming more limited because prices are getting sky high. I am a military spouse so our budget isn't very high and I am finding that I don't have the option to eat healthy anymore because everything I want is too expensive. Do you have any suggestions on Vegetarian friendly supermarket foods?
Eating healthy should not be a matter of finances…it may be marketed that way or seem that way but I'd like to debunk that myth/excuse.
The #1 cost-saving tip is to buy ingredients versus already prepared (especially full ready-to-eat) items. Think DIY trail mix versus a ready-to-eat trail mix or protein bar. Think DIY tacos versus ready-to-eat ones. Another cost saving tip is use the freezer. Frozen ingredients (not ready-to-eat meals) tend to cost less than fresh but be equally good in nutrients. And a final tip is to over-cook. This doesn't mean to ruin veggies but rather to cook several servings (and even to buy ingredients in bulk) at once so you have different options to "assemble" throughout the week versus getting take out or succumbing to already-to-eat options on your way home.
How does this apply as a vegetarian - simple ingredients like rice, quinoa, beans, nuts and seeds, frozen vegetables and fruits can all be ones that you stock at home to make nutrient-dense meals. Use the more expensive items: cheese, fish, dairy (if your vegetarian plan includes any or all of these) as "accessories" so a little goes a long way. Make nutrient dense options - like your own nut milks or nut butters versus buying them to save money (and to customize to your taste). Get the neighbors involved - I throw potlucks all the time and make sure that I let guests know that we have vegetarians attending so some if not all items are vegetarian. This is a great way to share the costs of feeding you / your family while also getting to try new items / dishes to a void boredom
[Image via Ashley Koff.]