In 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture replaced the trademark food guide pyramid in favor of a new and improved method of recommended serving sizes, titled MyPlate. The pyramid, which had been implemented in schools' health education syllabi for nearly two decades, was often criticized for not changing its nutritional proposals to reflect new advances and information regarding dietary health, as well as being generally vague in how much of each food group should be consumed in an average day.
Now closing in on the third anniversary since its inception, the biggest changes brought about by the MyPlate model included the overall layout of the graphic design, which features a plate divided into four separate groups, emphasizing the breakdown of every individual meal we should eat rather than a broad suggestion of what to eat in an entire day. The four sectors of MyPlate include fruits, vegetables, grains and protein, while leaving a smaller circle to the side labeled dairy. Noticeably absent from the new food guide is the fats, oils and sweets section, which famously used to state, "use sparingly" when determining recommended quantity of consumption.
Problems with the new food guide
While most nutritionists agree that the new MyPlate is an upgrade over the dated food pyramid, there is still criticism and confusion over what the exact serving sizes should be for each food section. While the MyPlate model pieces are divided proportionally to help visualize how much each sector should get with each meal, the lack of serving amount suggestions may make this improved food guide even more confusing than the last one.
The food markers themselves appear extremely vague on MyPlate. For example, the "grain" and "protein" sections can be confusing because people might not know whether to eat whole grains rather than refined grains, which is a big difference in nutritional value. The inclusion of a dairy marker that is set aside from the rest of the plate conveys the idea that dairy should be included with every meal. However, recent research suggests that over consuming dairy products, such as milk, can lead to multiple health risks.
The total elimination of fats, oils and sugars not only fails to weigh in on why we should try to avoid these so-called junk foods, but also sends the message that all fats are bad for you, which is quite the contrary. Ingesting monounsaturated fat can actually help lower cholesterol levels in the blood, while omega-3 fatty acids are proven to decrease blood pressure and prevent irregular heartbeats.
Suggestions for the MyPlate format
The grains section should be switched to a more appropriate "whole grains" marker that emphasizes eating fiber-rich choices such as whole wheat bread, brown rice and oatmeal. Dairy should be defined as one to two servings per day to avoid consuming too much saturated fat and calories. Proper types of protein should be more specific as well, with nuts, beans and tofu being the primary sources of a conventional protein meal.
While no model will probably ever be entirely perfect, it's clear that some improvements can be made to show children what should qualify as a healthy, balanced meal.
Going with your gut can either be a positive example of successful intuition or an impulsive, and ultimately regrettable, fast-food decision. But what if the inside of your gut was the secret to increasing metabolism and losing weight, regardless of an intake of greasy burgers and salty French fries? Recent studies are showing that it is not necessarily what you put in your stomach that can pack on the pounds, but what you are not ingesting that could be the key to staying trim.
It's obvious that consuming a hearty meal of drive-thru junk food isn't necessarily the greatest thing for our bodies. However, the Florida Department of Citrus has produced a study that determined that all you need to offset the odds of an extended gut after fast food is a little orange juice. Volunteers were brought on board to consume a 910 calorie breakfast of two sandwiches and hash browns, and two-thirds washed their meal down with either sugared or regular water and the rest with orange juice. Those who didn't drink the orange juice were found to have increased stomach inflammation and high blood pressure, while those who did showed no signs of either symptom, all while eating the exact same meal.
While orange juice is rich in antioxidants that could have countered signs of inflammation, it was the increased blood levels of the molecule endotoxin, which is produced by outer walls of various types of bacteria, found in the non-orange juice drinkers that had the researchers the most intrigued. When the body experiences elevated levels of endotoxin, the immune system responds with inflammation to help flush out the excess molecules. Since the fast food didn't contain any bacteria, the meal must have conjured it out of pre-existing endotoxin stored in the stomach's microbes, single-cell organisms that work as together an ecosystem in bodies. The orange juice appeared to have the opposite effect by not provoking the bacteria.
Bargaining with bacteria
The subtle difference of adding orange juice to a high calorie and carbohydrate meal can make or break those few pounds tacked on to your gut. It's important to understand that what you put into your body depends more on how it reacts to bacteria in your stomach, rather than the meal's nutritional value, that curves weight gain. By adding a little vitamin C or flavonoids to whatever it is you are about to eat could be all you need to avoid indigestion problems and steer clear of a beer belly formation. Other benefits of consuming daily regimens of antioxidants include:
- Decreased inflammation
- Strengthened immune system
- Clearer memory
- Improved vision
Along with weekly exercise, managing how your gut bacteria breaks down foods can ensure a healthier lifestyle, even if you are giving in to the occasional junk food temptation. Daily trips to the drive-thru or the ice cream parlor are not going to do you any favors, but snacking in moderation with the right dietary habits is not a big deal. So respect the gut, or it might choose to turn on you.
Since 2002, the World Health Organization has recommended that daily sugar intake be no more than 10 percent of a person's daily diet, which equates to about 50 grams. After much scrutiny, the WHO recently cut that number in half, suggesting that sugar make up no more than 5 percent of our daily caloric intake, or 25 grams. This guideline includes sugars that are added to food as well as sugars that are naturally present.
While the guidelines are strictly a suggestion, consuming too much sugar on a daily basis can lead to a number of health issues, including weight gain, tooth decay and problems with attention and memory. The average American ingests more than 152 pounds of sugar each year, which means more than 1,300 grams of sugar per week. That means we are on average consuming eight times more sugar every day than the WHO proposes.
The tricky part about regulating your sugar intake is knowing what foods contain hidden sugars. Many "healthy" foods are advertised as good for your heart or able to lower cholesterol; while often true, foods you might never expect to have sugar often have high amounts of the sweet stuff. Here are some foods, beverages and condiments that are surprisingly high in sugar and should be consumed moderately to abide by the WHO guidelines.
Oatmeal is quick, easy to make and healthy. However, the pre-packaged, flavored oatmeal packets are loaded with sugar - sometimes up to 15 grams. Stick to plain oatmeal and add some blueberries or strawberries for a boost in antioxidants and a sweet, tart flavor.
While it's an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, all milk contains sugar. In fact, just one cup of skim milk contains as many as 12 grams of sugar, about half of your suggested daily intake! Add that to a bowl of cereal or oatmeal and you could already be over the limit. Switch out the skim and two percent for some unsweetened almond milk which has zero grams of sugar in one cup.
Another product that's usually labeled as "healthy," flavored yogurts can sometimes carry up to 22 grams of sugar in one eight ounce serving. Avoid the sweetened yogurts and cross over to plain Greek yogurt - just make sure to check the label first.
With such a wide variety of dressings to choose from, it can be hard to keep track of which flavor contains what. But before you smother that salad, consider this: just one tablespoon of a low-fat French dressing equals six grams of sugar. More oil based dressings, such as Italian and raspberry vinaigrette, hold up to 10 grams per tablespoon. Switching to olive oil or lemon juice dressing can cut out more than 70 percent of sugar per serving.
Ketchup is a practically mandatory condiment for burgers and French fries. But did you know dipping your salty fries into just one little packet adds another three grams of sugar to that greasy goodness? If you are using three packets for one meal, that's nearly one-third of your recommended intake, just counting ketchup. Try using sugarfree, all natural organic ketchup for your next French fry session.
Sure, they can fill you up with electrolytes and carbohydrates for extra energy, but just 12 ounces of your average sports drink holds up to 42 grams of sugar! Keep in mind that the normal bottle contains 20 ounces, so you've more than doubled the WHO sugar recommendation in only a few gulps. Instead, switch to a Vegansmart Vanilla All-In-One Nutritional Shake, with just five grams of sugar in two scoops, and it's also packed with vitamins, minerals and protein.
Just because you have cut meat and animal products out of your diet doesn't necessarily mean you are eating healthier. There are still plenty of processed ingredients in many types of vegan products, as well as numerous junk food items that still meet vegetarian standards.
Sticking to a vegan diet has a number of health benefits, including weight loss, lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol. In order to maintain a well-balanced vegan diet, it's important to check food labels and nutritional facts to ensure you are getting the proper vitamins and minerals you need. Here's a list of five vegan food items that should be consumed sparingly.
While tofu is a common staple for a vegan diet, there are still a number of types of tofu that are heavily processed, which can put a strain on your digestive system. The soybeans in tofu are an excellent source of protein, potassium and fiber; however, processed soy is found to contain high levels of estrogen. Consuming processed tofu daily can lead to a hormonal imbalance that can cause weight gain, mood swings and trouble sleeping at night. Make sure the tofu you are using is labeled organic, and moderate your weekly intake.
While there are plenty of healthier options for bread, white bread is still one of the most popular choices and also the least nutritious. White bread is extremely processed and often contains high sugar and corn syrup concentrations. The lack of vitamins and minerals can block essential nutrients like calcium and iron from being absorbed by the body. Try to stick to wheat bread, and if you can find it, make sure the bread you are buying is gluten free as well.
For many people, the hardest part of switching to a vegan diet is saying goodbye to all the meat. While some meat alternative products still have nutritional value, most of them, including veggie hot dogs, bacon and burgers, are packed with artificial ingredients such as processed soy and sugar. These items are generally not any healthier than a regular hot dog or burger, so it's wise to eat these alternatives rarely to avoid excess fats and carbohydrates.
Vegan cheeses are dairy-free, but some are still not free of saturated fats and artificial ingredients. Too much of these types of cheeses will send your stomach through a loop of inflammation and indigestion. Check the labels to make sure the cheese is unprocessed for a healthier solution.
While adding powders to your drinks will boost up your protein, there are still a number of products on the market that are tainted with sugars and artificial flavors. These unnecessary ingredients will weigh down your stomach and cause bloating and gas. Instead, go for a VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake that has all the protein you need along with 22 other essential vitamins and minerals.
Winter is on its way out and it's time to start toning those arms and flattening those abs! The arrival of spring is the perfect time to kickstart yourself into shape, and with tons of outdoor activities to choose from, you shouldn't have a problem finding the right fitness motivator for you. Here are some easy and fun recreational activities that tone muscles, strengthen immune health and don't require a membership.
Harvard University professor Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger once conducted a study that analyzed more than 10,000 people over a span of 20 years who played tennis three hours a week. His primary finding from his research was that just three hours of tennis per week will cut your risk of death, from any cause, in half. Sounds like a small price to pay for doubling your chances of life longevity. The start and stop quick aerobic motions of tennis help increase your heart rate and burn calories while also working out muscles in your arms, chest and legs. The hand-eye coordination and game strategy involved will also stimulate your brain. Try getting that from the treadmill.
While there's always indoor volleyball for those not near the beach, serving up shots and spiking balls on the sand is a great outdoor exercise that won't sacrifice leisure. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, participating in just 30 minutes of beach volleyball can burn more than 350 calories for a185-pound person. Beach volleyball is also a combination of improving balance, toning muscles and enhancing your reflexes. Plus, it's not a bad way to work on that post-winter sun tan.
It's time to ditch the stationary treadmill and strap on the helmet and kneepads! Rollerblading is a great way to move around outside while getting your workout on. According to the Mayo Clinic, one hour rollerblading for an 160-pound person will burn a whopping 550 calories, which is more than jogging or swimming. Rollerblading can increase flexibility and stamina. Also, it puts less stress on your knees and other joints so you won't be as sore the next day.
This is a game that's about as carefree as you can get, but it still provides good exercise. The rules of ultimate frisbee are similar to football, except no one gets tackled and winning isn't the main objective. Just 30 minutes of running around tossing a frisbee with your friends can burn 150 calories, not to mention it's a perfect way to spend a splendid spring day outside.
People are motivated to exercise in order to live longer, be healthier and look better. But let's face it: it can be downright difficult to find the spark to get up off the couch, sweat your face off and put your muscles to the test. The key to unlocking a sustainable and enjoyable exercise routine is to center your workout around activities you actually appreciate. So lace up your running shoes and gulp down the protein powders while perusing this list of tips to help make exercising a habit rather than a chore.
Competition is one of the ultimate motivators, and nothing sets the bar higher than exercising around your peers. Yoga classes are a perfect way to achieve flexibility, clear your mind and be surrounded by people who are determined to stay focused, which has a good chance of rubbing off on you. Hire a personal trainer to help you learn about successful exercising and dieting and also put you to the test during every session. Even lining up weekly jogs or sports games with your friends will allow you to chat and catch up while also getting a sufficient sweat in.
Do something you enjoy
Lifting weights and running on the treadmill are the obvious forms of exercise, but if you don't enjoy these activities, it will be difficult to stick to them. Try doing 30 minutes of recreational activity you'll actually take pleasure in each day, whether it's going for a bike ride, running with the dog or meeting up with friends for a pick-up basketball game. Another benefit of proper exercise is the therapeutic value of working out as a stress reliever to help get your mind off whatever stresses you.
Make exercise convenient
Sometimes the biggest problem of finding time to workout is the actual process of getting to the gym. There's no rule you have to pay for a membership to get in shape, so make your basement or backyard your ultimate exercise sanctuary. Set up a treadmill by your television and watch your favorite show while running a few miles. Listen to your band of choice while pumping out some dumbbell reps. If you have an errand to run, kill two birds with one stone and literally run to go get it done.
Give it some time
Experts say it normally takes up to six weeks for a routine to settle in and become a part of your everyday life. Give your new-found fondness of working out a chance before you give up on it. There's no need to overdo it and burn yourself out, so start off slow in your first week and pick up the pace the further along you go. Buy a calendar and cross off each day of exercising until the end of six weeks, and odds are you'll be aching for more muscle burn.
Make an investment
If you really want to put yourself to the test, make a few purchases that will force you to financially justify your need for exercise. Pick up some aerobic or free weight equipment to try out at home, because they will serve as a guilt trip reminder if you wind up leaving them useless on the floor. Buy some new workout clothes and gear to look sharp while you get your sweat on. Purchase supplements, like a testosterone booster or a VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake to help you feel better inside and look fit on the outside.
Whether it's napping off a pound of turkey after a Thanksgiving feast or staying up all night after a cookies and ice cream binge, there's no denying the effects food has on our psyches. But do we ever think about how it works the other way around? Do we choose to eat strawberries because we know they're packed with healthy antioxidants, or is our decision the result of unconscious temporary impulses unbeknownst to our minds? Recent research has delved into discovering why we let our emotions dictate what we put into our diet, putting a new perspective on the old phrase, "you are what you eat."
Professors from the University of Delaware set up experiments to help understand why people resort to junk food or excess eating when faced with levels of stress and disappointment. The researchers conducted various experiments that tested which foods people wanted to eat depending on what mood they were in. The researchers offered participants a bowl of raisins as "health" food or M&M's for "indulgent" food. The first test featured 211 subjects who self reported that they were very satisfied with their life and extremely goal orientated and found that they evaluated the raisins more favorably than those who self reported unsatisfactory perceptions of their lives. Those who were exhibiting signs of self-frustration expressed a preference toward the M&M's.
While the study failed to fully answer the question of why our emotions affect our impulses to eat healthy or not, the test did explore the concept of how our food decisions may depend on our perceptions of time. Meryl Gardner, a professor at the University of Delaware and author of the study, found the combination of mood and long or short term thinking was the real motivation for what we choose to eat.
"When you're in a good mood, you take a longer-term perspective," Gardner said in an interview with The Atlantic. "You see the forest, not the trees. When you're focused on the near term, when you're looking at what's in front of your nose, you respond with what's going to give you quick pleasure."
The relationship between what we eat and how we feel becomes more complex when focusing on how specific foods affect our emotions. Additionally, a 1983 study found that after a heavy carbohydrate meal, women tended to report a greater urge to sleep while men generally stated they experienced a sense of "calmness." Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can not only raise your cholesterol and blood pressure by 27 percent, according to a 2013 study from the Harvard School of Public Health, but also impact your morning energy levels and thus mood.
No matter what our dietary habits or eating impulses are, eating healthy regardless of your mood is the only way to cut calories and lower cholesterol. So next time you're feeling sour, stay away from the gummy worms calling your name and stick with the fruits and veggies, because if you eat healthy, odds are you'll be healthy.
Finding it difficult to choose a nutritious meal that is light on calories and even lighter on your wallet? It can be challenging to cook a nourishing dinner and not have to pay too much for healthy ingredients. But before you head out to the grocery store or pick up the phone to order a 15-dollar salad for delivery, check out this list of ideas for some well-balanced meals that won’t break the bank:
Spice up that plain bowl of granola cereal with some blueberries or sliced bananas, and switch out cow’s milk with nutritious almond milk that’s packed with Vitamin E, magnesium and riboflavin, while low on calories. Or, invest in the status quo of cheap and healthy breakfasts with a value-sized container of oatmeal that you can cook to a warm, gooey consistency. Since it can be a bit bland, think outside the oatmeal box and whip up something creative, like pumpkin pie oatmeal. Just add a little pumpkin puree, a dash of vanilla extract and some crumbled graham crackers to your hot morning cereal and you have a scrumptious, cheap and healthy concoction. For a heartier breakfast, bust out the skillet and cook up some sweet potato hash - a dish that’s full of antioxidants to enhance your metabolism. Plus, sweet potatoes are often on sale for less than a dollar a pound!
Brown-bagging it to work may not be the most glamorous lunch option, but no one can argue its economical impact. Rather than a turkey sandwich and chicken noodle soup, which may have graced your fifth-grade lunchbox, date it with a salmon salad sandwich on savory pumpernickel bread that’s chock full of lignans to help lower cholesterol. Pair it with a bowl of chickpea chili, which is a great source of fiber and economical, as chickpeas generally cost around four dollars per pound. Or, try an almond chicken salad, which is easy to make and essentially has all the basic food groups necessary for a well-balanced meal. You can also kick things up a notch with a zesty Mediterranean curry chicken wrap; though it sounds exotic, it only takes a few minutes to prepare.
There’s nothing more therapeutic than enjoying a delicious and easy dish you just created after coming home from a long day of work. The kitchen is your canvas, and you don’t need too much cash to construct a masterpiece. Make your dinner a fiesta with fajita-style quesadillas, using some household vegetables like tomatoes and peppers, folding them over in a flour tortilla and sprinkling some cheese over, melting the ingredients together for a supper with a kick. Whether you prefer penne, spaghetti or ziti, the pasta possibilities are infinite and inexpensive. Grill some chicken, boil some noodles and throw in some veggies and alfredo for a proper Italian dinner with plenty of leftovers. Linguini and shrimp can serve as an affordable entree that has all the features of pricey restaurant cuisine, minus the actual spending. You also can’t go wrong with some herb-grilled salmon and rice, an inexpensive combination that provides all the protein and amino acids you need.
Who said a little dessert ever hurt anyone? There are a number of tasty treats that won’t loosen your belt or your billfold. Try nonfat Greek yogurt - an excellent source of calcium, potassium and zinc – as a splendid topping on a muffin or cupcake. Drizzle some vanilla frosting and pistachios over a grilled pineapple for a taste of sweet perfection. Of course, there’s always a bowl of frozen yogurt, which tastes perfect when topped with strawberries and bananas.
You don’t have to whip out the credit card to have a taste of the healthy good life. These meals represent some of the many ways you can make something healthy and tasty without leaving the confines of your kitchen.
When we think of superstar athletes, we normally tend to envision competitors with bulging biceps and endorsement deals. Vegetarianism is not commonly associated with jocks, but the fact of the matter is that more and more athletes are going vegan or vegetarian while seeing amazing results on the playing field. These athletic powerhouses get all the nutrition they need from tasty fruits, beans and protein powders. Here are just five great athletes who are also vegetarians:
Eighteen Grand Slam singles titles? Check. International Tennis Hall of Fame member? Check. Oh, and she is also a vocal supporter of animal rights and a vegetarian. The Czechoslovak tennis legend turned pro at the age of 19 in 1975 and dominated the field for more than 20 years. Navratilova has been very passionate about animal rights, appearing in numerous PETA advertisements throughout the years. She's been labeled by sports magazines as the greatest female tennis player of all time. All the while, Martina has been a vegetarian.
Crowned the "Olympian of the Century" by Sports Illustrated, track and field icon Carl Lewis credits his record breaking performance at the 1991 World Championships to his adoption of a vegan diet. Lewis has won ten Olympic medals, nine of them gold, which has him tied for second in all-time Olympic gold medals won by any athlete. Lewis's domination lasted for more than a decade: he conquered world records in sprinting and high jump, while being a vegan since 1990.
In 2008, NFL player Tony Gonzalez signed a new deal with the Kansas City Chiefs that made him the highest paid tight end in the entire league. He celebrated his payday by switching to an all-vegan diet, something that many men with his physique and physical demand could not fathom. The result was becoming the all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdown receptions for a tight end in the NFL. Gonzalez proudly campaigns for animal rights with PETA and he is a great example of how you don't have to be beefed up to be brawny.
While he's known for being a physical menace and tyrant in the ring, mixed martial arts fighter Jake Shields has a soft spot for animals. The wrestling and MMA champion has been a lifelong vegetarian and proudly displayed his dietary habits on a poster for PETA that stated, "I'm living proof that you can run further, train harder and pack a meaner punch without eating animals."
Triathlete Dave Scott is living proof that you don't have to eat animals to be a true iron man. Scott is tied for the record of most Ironman Triathlon gold medals with six, and animals have not been part of his regimen throughout his long career of swimming, cycling and running. If you are unaware of what exactly the Ironman Triathlon consists of, it's a brutal 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run. No animals were harmed in the making of Scott's legendary gold medal run.
Benefits of a vegetarian athlete
Ditching the red meat in favor of savory veggies can still provide the proper nutrients and minerals you need to maintain your athleticism. Veggie burgers, tofu, beans and nuts are just a few of the foods that can offer a meal packed with protein. Vegetarian foods are abundant in complex carbohydrates, which are essential for nourishing your muscles with energy after a hard workout. According to the American Diabetic Association, becoming a vegetarian will lower your risk for the following:
- Weight gain
- Poor digestion
- High blood pressure
- Bad cholesterol
- Decreased energy
These athletes are living proof that cutting out the meat in your diet doesn't mean sacrificing results. Try going vegetarian today and start living healthier.
The office can be draining. Eight hours of typing, conference calls and watercooler conversation can make quite an impact on the mind. By the time five o'clock rolls around, exercise is the last thing on your mind, but sitting, typing and coffee drinking all day take a toll on the body as well. Remaining stationary at work can cause back pain, joint stiffness and weight gain.
Only 20 percent of American adults reach their daily requirement for exercise according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. But if you're looking for a way to kill two birds with one stone, try some simple and easy desk exercises. Here are five tips to help you exercise out while working:
The morning commute
Changing your route to the office may be all you need to cut a few calories and get a good cardiovascular workout before you clock in. If your office is relatively close, try walking or riding your bike to work. If you are taking a train or bus, get your blood pumping by getting off a stop or two early and walking the rest of the way. Standing for the entire commute can also help stretch out muscles. Even simple adjustments like taking the stairs over the elevator can increase your aerobic activity.
Magic carpet ride
Sitting down legs crossed while your feet are on your chair, grip the armrests with your hands and elevate your body, hovering a few inches above your seat cushion. Hold that position for at least ten seconds, and work in about five repetitions. This is a great way to strengthen your abdominal core as well as your biceps and forearms.
Under desk leg raises
Sit down straight at your desk and put your feet flat out on the floor. Squeeze your abs in, extend one leg out forward and in line with your hip. Hold your leg there for ten seconds, then alternate legs. Repeat between 10 and 15 times for a nice and simple workout on your calves and your abs.
Pack a healthy lunch
Statistics show that one in four Americans consume some type of fast food every day. Skip the fast food and provide yourself with a balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables rich with antioxidants. Avoiding the burger and fries is also an easy way to lower cholesterol.
This exercise won't give you that six pack or pulsating biceps, but it might be the best for you in the long run. Those who type frequently at work are more than ten percent likely to develop severe wrist pain in their lifetimes. Stand at your desk, lay your palms down with your fingers facing your body and hold the stretch for a good 15 seconds. Do this multiple times per day to relieve potential carpal tunnel symptoms.