Category

Nutrition

5 Annoying Things All Nutrition Students Face

nutrition

Leave pizza and I alone.

Chances are, if you clicked this article, you are a nutrition student. No matter what route you go down, whether that is being a Registered Dietitian, public health influencer, or nutrition educator, we all bond over one thing: FOOD. 

Food is what brought us into this field (and in general, keeps us going through our daily activity) and is what people identify us with. However, being in the field of nutrition is hard. With the many misconceptions in the world of nutrition and health, it makes it that much harder. Below are some struggles that we have all experienced before.

People assume you eat healthy 24/7.

Fun fact: we are human too. Thus, when we come across that delicious cookie or pizza, we aren’t afraid to dive in. So when we are caught in the heat of a moment telling our cookie ice cream sandwich how beautiful it is, we don’t need you to step in and tell us how bad it is for us. We know, trust us. But we live by the motto “everything in moderation”, and you just happened to catch us in our “moderation” phase.  

You are constantly pestered with questions about food.

nutrition“Should I eat this?” “Is this good or bad for you?” “This is healthy, right?” Somehow, food happens to fall into a “yes” or “no” category and you should know the answer to everything. But in reality, this is not how food works. Plus, we are still students and have so much to learn. For example, nuts are good for you in a way that they are full of fiber and protein, but can be considered “bad” if you are on a low-fat diet or need a high intake of carbohydrates, such as before a workout. So the answer really is “depends on the scenario”, which is not what anyone wants to hear.

You know everyone’s diet, whether you like it or not.

nutritionSometimes, it’s not even worth it to tell people what you study. Once you open your mouth and say “nutrition”, suddenly people open up and tell you everything about their diet. “Oh you study nutrition? I just recently hopped on the gluten-free, vegan diet and I don’t eat soy.” “What do you think about how I eat? I eat too many carbs, right?” Meanwhile, you’re just trying to peacefully go about your day, since you never asked them what their diet was. People bombard you, expecting you to fully analyze their diet (which is a paid service that takes years of training) just because of what you study. It’s like asking an accounting major to do your taxes or asking a pre-med student to perform surgery – it isn’t going to happen. 

Your other friends don’t understand your love for planners.

Let’s be honest, 99% of us are very Type A. We will schedule lunch dates on our Google Calendars, note our homework and exam schedule in our perfectly pristine weekly planners, and will always confirm plans before you make them weeks in advanced. Is this a little much? Maybe, but please stop shaming us for being organized.

People don’t understand that nutrition is a science.

Nutrition is not just some online trainer giving you advice for macros. It’s a balance between macro and micronutrients, bioavailabilty, and the process of digestion and absorption. We don’t just float around taking pictures of smoothie bowls and meal prep, nutrition is revolved around science. Yes, we took pre-med orgo (*shudder*), biochemistry, and medical nutrition therapy (EN/PN calculations, anyone?). Yes, these are extremely difficult classes that often get glazed over by the overexposure of “nutrition” in the media. But unfortunately, a $19.99 food program you found online through an overly-tan, hypertrophied “nutrition professional” won’t fulfill your healthy lifestyle. It takes time to develop a nutrition plan, a service that cannot be dealt in a one-stop shop.

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I Stopped Buying into the Idea of “Breakfast Foods”

Growing up, I was pretty married to the idea that there are designated “breakfast foods”. Things like cereal, pancakes, bagels, donuts, fruit, and sometimes eggs were my conception of what people eat for breakfast. Chicken and vegetables before noon? No way.

I laugh at my younger self now, because my standard quick breakfast is a bowl of roasted or steamed veggies, an avocado, and some turkey or salmon.

breakfast foods - avocado turkey broccoliWith a little food prep, it’s super fast, and it holds me over for several hours thanks to the balanced nature of the meal.

Other days, I’ll have a sweet potato with chicken and guacamole. And, yeah, sometimes I still have cereal and Greek yogurt or pancakes with almond butter and chocolate chips. 

What does this have to do with anything? It’s about the food rules we create for ourselves, either intentionally or by nature of the society in which we live. We tell ourselves we can only eat some foods at certain meals or eat at certain times of the day, simply because that’s how things are done. The problem is that doesn’t leave much room for listening to your body and figuring out what really works best for you.

Admittedly, pre- and post-workout nutrition is a little more specific. However, your body doesn’t have a timer to stop you from eating cauliflower first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed. Some days, that might sound good. Others, it might not. Your job is just to listen.

I honestly started making my breakfast a little more like a normal lunch or dinner when I started Whole30, because most of the usual “breakfast foods” are simply not allowed by the plan and a girl can only eat so many eggs. Ultimately, Whole30 wasn’t for me, but I did notice that I felt pretty great after a more lunch-y breakfast. So, I kept at it – not as a rule, but as an experiment that happened to go really well. Personally, I feel satisfied after a breakfast that isn’t sweet or all that carb-heavy. I’m ready to get on with my day, no sugar cravings in sight.

Similarly, I know that after my evening yoga classes, one of the most satisfying things for me is Paleo “oatmeal”, which is on the sweeter side.

breakfast foods - paleo oatmealWhile I was always a fan of “breakfast for dinner” as a kid, that’s not how I see it now. It’s not “breakfast for dinner”. It’s just dinner.

The same goes if I want pancakes or a bowl of cereal for lunch after class, or a bowl of carrots and tahini at 9am, or a massive cookie at 4pm.

All my food meets the same standards now: delicious, nourishing, and exactly what I want.

Check out these articles too:

Let’s Leave “Gluten-Free” (GF) in 2016, Please

Everybody knows somebody who is “gluten-free” (GF).

These gluten-free individuals sometimes suffer from “celiac disease.” However, more often than not, they are perfectly healthy, if not mostly misinformed, people. The general population doesn’t even know what gluten IS, yet alone understand why they’re suddenly not consuming it. So, lets first begin by putting down some finite definitions.

What even IS “gluten?”

According to the official website of the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF), “gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.”

And what’s celiac disease?

Also according to the CDF, celiac disease is a, “serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.”  Celiac disease affects about 1 in 100 people worldwide.  Additionally, the CDF claims that, “two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.”

Now that we’ve settled what we’re talking about, we can get to decoding and demobilizing the gluten-free diet. Disclaimer: this argument excludes those who are GF for health reasons. If you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, please continue the gluten-free course of treatment/diet as prescribed by your health professional!

Why go GF?

Many people start the gluten-free diet because they want to cleanse their bodies or lose weight. However, there’s no scientific basis to these claims. As best stated by www.gluten.org: “The gluten-free diet is sometimes promoted as a way to lose weight, or as a ‘healthier’ diet for the general population… claims are unfounded.  The gluten-free diet is healthier for people with gluten-related disorders… no evidence that it is beneficial for people who do not have these conditions.”

Gluten is in carbohydrate-heavy foods like bread, pastries, oatmeal, and grains. Therefore, GF seems like a great option for dieters, because people believe that they’ll ultimately be forced to cut out “unhealthy” foods. However, restricting your food intake by creating “good” and “bad” foods foods can cause disordered eating habits. Also, subbing out regular version of snacks/foods for the gluten-free version can be nutritionally detrimental to one’s health

Peter H.R. Green is director of Columbia University Medical School’s celiac disease center. In an interview with The New Yorker, Green explained how orthorexia nervosa is on the rise. This disease forces people to stop eating certain foods that they perceive as bad for their health. “First, they come off gluten. Then corn… soy… tomatoes… milk. After a while, they don’t have anything left to eat—and they proselytize about it.”

Outside of this, there’s no evidence to support the assumption the gluten-free is healthier than a balanced diet. Some studies suggest that removing glutinous foods from your diet can improve gastrointestinal health. However, these studies more likely demonstrate that people should watch their sugar or refined grain intake.

So what now?

In short, going gluten-free is only a good decision if you have a medical reason to do so. Otherwise, it can lead to disordered eating and malnutrition. 

The key to a healthy lifestyle isn’t fad diets and internet crazes. To be healthy is to be holistically well– in mind, body and spirit. The “body” aspect of this triad needs whole foods, fruits, veggies, proteins, AND grains. Don’t sell it short by selling out to a quick-fix Internet obsession.

 

For more info on wholesome nutrition and how to achieve it, check out these articles:

Natural Sweeteners and the Health Halo: Do Your Research

I’m sure many of you have heard about using agave nectar as a natural sweetener, especially you vegans out there (it’s a good honey replacement). But is this sweet stuff derived from the agave plant actually healthy? It sure sounds like it would be, because anything from nature must be healthy, right?

Wrong.

Health experts are now backpedaling on their initial praise of agave, warning all consumers of its dangerously high fructose levels and potential health consequences.

Agave was initially thought to be a good sugar substitute because since it has a low glycemic index, it doesn’t cause a blood sugar spike. But this doesn’t mean it’s healthy – just that it’s low in glucose.

Agave is made from the agave tequiliana plant grown in Mexico, which is why it was given the “natural” health food label. The problem is that to get from the plant to the grocery store shelf, agave nectar undergoes extensive processing that completely strips the nutritional value from the original agave juice of the plant. All that is left is a product comprised solely of fructose, the most damaging form sugar can take. Agave has double the amount of fructose that high fructose corn syrup has.

Excessive fructose consumption wreaks havoc on our bodies. Since it can only be broken down by the liver, as it digests free radicals are formed causing an inflammatory response and ultimately damages cells. The dangerous final products of fructose breakdown are triglycerides, which directly contribute to plaque build up in the arteries, greatly increasing future risk of cardiovascular problems. Other potential health issues include metabolic distress, hormone disruption, and adrenal fatigue. 

The good news is, there are so many other nutritious, natural sweeteners out there! Here’s a quick list of a great alternatives:

  • Organic raw honey: antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, provides many essential vitamins, minerals, and enzymes
  • Maple syrup: rich in antioxidants, provides manganese, calcium, potassium
  • Black strap molasses: highest antioxidant activity, provides calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin B6

And hey, some agave is totally fine, but enjoy in moderation. That media-given health halo doesn’t tell the whole story.

The big picture lesson? Don’t trust every new health food fad that comes out. Wait out the initial craze to make sure it’s something worthwhile. 

Check out these articles too: 

The Whole30 Didn’t Work For Me, and That’s Okay

Sometimes, the plan doesn’t work. And that’s okay.

Disclaimer: Everyone has a different experience with Whole30. For many people, the Whole30 is an absolutely life-changing program that can transform their relationship with food, help them craft healthy habits, and alleviate health, skin, and medical conditions that have plagued them for years. 

For these reasons, I’m extremely happy that the Whole30 exists.

HOWEVER, what I’m here to do is give you my experience with Whole30. I can’t speak for anyone else. And I will be completely honest when I say that the standard Whole 30, strict-Paleo template did not work for, and was definitely not right for, me. 

What is the Whole 30? 

The Whole 30 is a lifestyle program comprised of two parts: elimination and reintroduction. This is something that I think many people forget, or do not realize. 

Not only is this a 30-day food and habit reset, but it’s also a program that has you reintroduce foods after the 30-day elimination.

In this vital re-intro period, you learn and understand how specific foods and food groups (grains, legumes, dairy, refined/processed goods, alcohol, and sugar) affect you on physiological, emotional, mental, and physical levels. From this knowledge, you can create your own personal definition of healthy eating (that may or may not involve the foods the Whole 30 cut out). 

The basic premise? Knowledge is power, so once you find how certain foods work for you, you gain control of your skin, energy levels, health conditions and digestion. Incredible. 

I’ve been a longtime supporter of the Whole 30 program and co-founder Melissa Hartwig’s approach to eating real food, finding food freedom, and creating a healthy, individualized lifestyle and diet that is right for your body and mind. However, I had never done a full Whole30 until this past February. Inspired by Food Freedom Forever and a desire to curb my sugar/dessert habits, I embarked on this journey. 

You can go to the Whole 30 website to learn, in detail, about what exact foods are included in the original Whole30 program (they now have vegan, pescatarian, and vegetarian options), but basically, for the past 30 days I ate a black-and-white Paleo diet. Well, mostly…

Some Context: I Have A History with Restrictive Paleo Diets

About two years ago, I put myself on an extremely rigid, “no cheats” Paleo diet. I was hooked on this craziness for over 12 months, and it was terrifyingly destructive to my relationship with food.

It was essentially a Whole 365, which is exactly what the co-founders of Whole30 advise not to do. But I didn’t know this at the time. As a freshman in college, all I knew to be “true” was that gluten and gluten-free grains were devils. Refined seed oils were horrendous. And sugar was something to genuinely fear and avoid under all circumstances.

I was convinced that these foods were “bad for me”, convinced they would make me gain weight, and felt sure they would ruin my digestion, skin, energy levels, happiness, and life.

(Mind you, I’ve been allergy tested by a naturopathic doctor. And while I do have actual allergies to dairy, all nightshade veggies, and random shit like oranges, garlic, and tuna fish, I’m not intolerant or allergic to gluten, sugar, legumes or gluten-free grains. Like, at all.

Thinking it was super healthy and good for me, I continued on this Paleo diet for months. 

Being in this place of rigidity fueled some intense cravings for treats. I wanted the things I could not have (ice cream, frosting, cookies, brownies), so I turned to the closest, Paleo-friendly option available: the jar — no, jars on jars on JARS, of nut butters. What started out as a snack that I occasionally enjoyed quickly evolved into a food I would binge on repeatedly for days.

It was not until I removed all dietary restrictions from myself (over a year later) that I began to remediate my relationship with food. I became happier and healthier again. It felt amazing to legalize the foods I’d restricted, such as oatmeal and quinoa, and I finally, finally stopped binging on almond butter. I no longer had a reason to; without me even trying to avoid it, the habit died on its own.

I’ve written more about my Paleo experience, and how I healed my food relationship and habits here

The Perks of Whole 30

Fast forward to February 2017: I’m taking on Whole30 for the first time, and the first two weeks of the program are fan-freaking-tastic! 

1. Tiger blood.

After the first two to three days, when I felt like my brain was about to explode due to a sugar hangover headache, I was on such a high. I felt like I had the tiger blood that Whole30-ers talk about experiencing at the end of the month!

2. My food felt energizing and satisfying.

I had a ton of energy at work, and I barely needed snacks during the day. My meals were delicious, satisfying, savory, and tasteful. I was trying out new recipes and creating a bunch of my own

3. My body felt a difference.

I was sleeping soundly (something that didn’t happen much before), my skin was getting clearer and softer, by week 3 I had NO cravings for chocolate or cake or any baked goods, and my hair was growing…wicked fast. I seriously feel like my hair grew three inches during Whole30. 

Note:

Even though my Whole30 is over now, these are the most profound effects that I’ve continued to see even after the fact. They are the benefits that inspire me to eat healthy. I really like sleeping like a baby, having clear skin & strong hair and nails, feeling energized all day, and not maintaining constant cravings for treats. Hello, non-scale victories!

The Dark Side of My Whole 30: What You Didn’t See

While I did experience all of these benefits and was eating delicious food (such pesto turkey meatballs and rosemary + prosciutto frittatas), there were some drawbacks to my Whole30 experience, and they all stemmed from that year of rigid, restrictive Paleo dieting.

Co-founder Melissa Hartwig explicitly states in her books that if you have/had an eating disorder, or specific disordered tendencies with food, to please work with your trusted healthcare practitioner to see if Whole30 is a good fit (or not) for you.  

This is what I didn’t do, and this is what I learned (the hard way) that I should have done. 

I thought that eliminating grains, legumes, alcohol, and all sweet treats for 30 days would help me to feel better and reset my relationship with food, but in fact, it made my connection with eating worse. After that two week high, I should have stopped my reset. Instead, I kept going. 

By week three, I was tired of a) eating eggs, and b) restricting food groups that I’d finally, after that year of fearing certain foods, integrated into my diet. 

Before the reset, I felt emotionally happy and on point with my digestion while eating non-Paleo/Whole30 foods– beans, occasional gluten-filled treats, oatmeal, quinoa, and dark chocolate. Since I knew this about myself and my digestive system, I became incredibly and enormously pissed off that I was not allowing myself to eat these foods. 

So what did this annoyance and restrictiveness cause during my Whole30? I was brought right back to the unhealthy cycle that I used to maintain when I was stuck in my rigid paleo diet — binge on almond butter (sometimes stuffing it in Medjool dates because hot damn that’s a fabulous “Paleo” treat), feel bad about it, restrict stringently for a few days, and then one night after dinner, dive face first into the current jar. 

I was hot and bothered that I was restricting myself like I had in my freshman year of college, and that my almond butter binging had come out of its grave. Upon realizing this habit had resurrected, I realized that since limiting myself to specific food groups was not working for me, I had no obligation to continue. If and when I wanted to, I could just…stop. I could simply start listening to my body instead of trying to work so, so hard to make the Whole30 right for me.

And let me tell you: this legalization of food (which I’ve realized is a gift of grace and kindness to my mind, my relationship with eating, and my body) has continued to bring me joy every day since I called off my Whole30. 

After Whole30: Benefits and Lessons Learned

Of course, within every experience, there are lessons to be found, and I certainly learned a lot about myself through doing this program.

Here are the things that my Whole30 taught me:

1. Even though ghee is clarified butter and contains no lactose, my body does not tolerate it well. I think I’m so allergic to dairy that even ghee is rough for me. Anyone want my jar of Fourth and Heart Vanilla Bean Ghee? It’s so good, and I wish it didn’t upset my digestive system. Ugh! 

2. Post-Whole30, I can now enjoy treats (a piece of dark chocolate, a slice of homemade banana bread) and not feel the need to consume the whole bar or loaf. This is truly my favorite improvement because I had a huge problem with eating dessert in mindless excess before Whole30.  

3. Eating meals without looking at my phone, my computer, or the TV are insanely more satisfying. 

4. Things that help me digest food better: taking a few deep breaths before my meals, and taking short walks outside after meals. 

5. Owning a food Instagram and food blog is way less enjoyable while doing Whole30, unless I surround myself with only Whole30 content (hard to do when I enjoy following lots of bakers and non-Paleo bloggers). 

So What Now?

My post-Whole30, healthy eating plan? To eat whatever the hell I want, when I want.

Because my restrictive past with food ignited a backfiring of my attempt at Whole30, I now try my best to exist in the entirely opposite realm. When I do genuinely desire a treat, whether it be once a week, once a month, or five times in five days, I allow myself to indulge and seriously appreciate that almond butter truffle, chocolate cookie, or slice of pumpkin bread.

In doing so, I don’t drive myself crazy with restriction, and I don’t enter the binge cycle that I know happens for me personally when I do restrict way too much. 

The Takeaway: One Program Isn’t for Everyone

Before Whole30, I thought that doing Whole30 was going to be the only way to reset and improve my food habits. After giving it my best shot, though, I’ve learned that this is not the truth. And in many ways, this brings me so much peace. 

My hope is that you experiment and discover what works for you (with food, wellness, and health habits). Whole30 is a life-changing program for millions of people; you could very well be one of them. Or not. While it has helped tons of individuals become happier and healthier, no single program is going to work for all us, and I think we should try our best to be A-okay with this. 

So go out there, experiment with different foods, be honest with yourself about what is working, and is not working, for you, and eat a delicious freaking cookie when you want it. 

Check out these articles, too: 

Why I Won’t Give up My Favorite Foods for the Sake of Fitness

cheat meal

We all know at least one of these people: the people who refuse to eat their favorite foods or go out for dinner with their friends because they are “on a diet”.

Well, that just might be taking healthy eating too far.

If you eat salads every day and find yourself longing for some gooey, cheesy pizza, go for some pizza once in awhile. You’ll feel better if you indulge now and then than you would forcing yourself again and again to eat vegetables you don’t even want anymore.

If going out for dinner means catching up with friends, then you should probably go out with them, even though your meal will probably be less healthy than what you would choose to cook at home. 

One unhealthy meal will not “undo” your fitness, just like one healthy one won’t make you a star athlete. I have gone through the ups and downs of dieting and restrictive eating, but I have found my balance. With that balance, I have found greater happiness.

And my balance definitely includes some pizza. Some cookies. Some foods that I would not have let myself eat in the past.

I’ve learned that “being fit”does not mean, and is not worth, giving up your favorite foods. And, most importantly, that you can be healthy and still eat your favorite foods.

I eat lots of healthy food most of the time, but here are the three not-so-healthy foods I couldn’t live without.

  • Skyline. I am not from the Ohio area, but I love it. Anything from a 3-way to chili cheese fries will make my taste buds happy as can be. 

cheat meal

  • Pizza. Though I love making healthier pizzas, I also love to indulge in a nice cheesy pizza. Some of my favorite nights are when my friends get together, order a pizza, and go at it. (Guilt free!)
  • Ice cream. Again, I love to run to the grocery store with my friends, go back to one of our houses, and eat ice-cream and have a girls night. Those memories are better than achieving any fitness goals.

So next time you are debating whether or not to go out to dinner with friends or go on that late night ice-cream run… go! A strict diet is not equivalent to a healthy lifestyle. We all need balance, and depriving ourselves of the things we love may make our bodies alone a little healthier, but your real healthiest self involves a healthy body and mind. And a mind that can’t enjoy time with friends and that stresses about dinner is not healthy.

Occasional deviations from healthy foods will not hurt you in any way.

The trick is enjoying your meals, healthy or not. If you regret every bite, then you are missing the point of eating food you love. After you’ve eaten that food, move on. In fact, you’ll be much happier if you don’t deprive yourself from all your favorite foods.

Fitness should enhance your life, not make it miserable.

Check out these articles too:

Counting Macros: Should You Take a Break?

IIFYM: If It Fits Your Mouth…?

If you’re not familiar with the term “counting macros,” it’s where you count the macronutrients you eat every day. You can use an online calculator to determine how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats you should consume, and then, you count the macronutrients in each meal you have, either by hand, or by using an app (I use myfitnesspal). 

Before entering college, I counted my macros consistently for almost two years. I am a person who likes structure and doesn’t mind dealing with numbers, so I never saw it as an annoyance. 

I didn’t have a problem doing this in high school because I had structured eating times, and I always brought food from home. I just pre-weighed everything and I was good to go. At the time, this method served its purpose. No problems whatsoever. 

When I got to college, I had a much harder time doing this. I go to a city school, and a lot of social outings revolve around food. Sure, you can estimate calories here and there, but I prefer exact measurements, and I hated feeling stressed about going out with my friends just because I didn’t have the nutrition information.

The stress of being a full time student, having a job, running a student organization, and trying to keep up with friends started to wear on me as well. The last thing I feel like doing at the end of the day is coming home and having to cook/weigh my food. Can’t I just order Postmates? 

I said goodbye to my Martha Stewart food scale that I used for the longest time during my sophomore year of college and decided to stop counting macros.

At first, I kept telling myself I should still be able to count my macros. I would ask myself all of these questions: Why did I decide to take a break? Am I just being lazy? If I were truly dedicated, wouldn’t I just bring my meal prep tupperware when I go out with friends?

Those are all questions that I struggled with. But since entering college, I know that I have grown to choose my mental health and well being over physical appearance. If the current situation of counting macros in college is bringing me stress instead of enjoyment, then why am I doing it? 

Fit University has taught me that fitness is about overall wellbeing, not just about physique goals.

Since taking a break, my strength in the gym has actually improved. I eat out with my friends without feeling stressed. I am by no means saying that counting macros is a bad method, but for me, college is not the time and place I feel comfortable weighing my food. 

Taking a break from counting macros in college will provide you with a much needed mental break. You can enjoy going out to eat without worrying, or you can grab something from the dining hall without weighing it in public (yes, I have done this).  But most of all, during a time that’s busy and sometimes stressful, you will have one less thing to worry about. 

I am trying to live that balanced lifestyle that Fit University has taught me all about. It’s okay to take a break. If you don’t enjoy something, it’s most likely not going to be sustainable. Will I eventually get back to counting macros? The answer is: yes. Some of my goals will be better reached using that method. But for now, I want to enjoy staying fit in college, and that will mean something different for everyone.

Check out these articles, too: 

The Truth About Juice Cleansing

juice cleansing

This post was written by Dennis Buckley, Master of Science in Nutrition, and was originally posted on the SaladPower blog.

Cleanses of all kinds have been in vogue for as long as anyone can remember. Whether it’s a coffee enema with bold claims of irrigating your colon and detoxing your liver, a face cream echoing the anti-aging promises of the fountain of youth, or the ubiquitous juice cleanse that you can find in your favorite upscale grocery store, products in various categories have fallen prey to the cleanse and detox craze.

If you’ve had even a passive interest in social media over the past decade or browsed the gossip rags at the grocery store, you know that cleansing is the new Thing (with a capital T). Detoxing and cleanse diets have become a multi-million dollar industry with claims covering the gamut of just about every health condition there is.

So, when did the hype around cleanses begin? Are the claims around them legit? And should I encourage the juice company I work for (SaladPower) to offer “cleanses”?! By the end of this piece, you’ll have the answers to those questions, and it’s quite likely your conception of health and nutrition will have changed for the better.

Where does the idea of “detoxing” come from?

To understand modern culture’s obsession with ridding the body of toxins (the main goal of any cleanse/detox), we must first understand why humans started this practice in the first place.

Ancient cultures like the Ancient Egyptians, Hindus, Sumerians and Chinese…

They believed toxins accumulated in the body naturally and had to be expelled no matter how healthy your diet was. Contrast that with the views of today’s cleansers, who detox as a result of consuming too much alcohol, preservatives and additives in food, and/or just junk food in general. This misconception of how our organs work paved the road to modern cleansing as we know it.

A diagram from the famous “Ebers Papyrus” from Ancient Egypt, which outlined many of the herbal remedies for autointoxication.

These ancient cultures had a theory called ‘autointoxication’ which claimed that byproducts of ineffective digestion could poison the body and cause disease. Waste products in the intestinal tract were thought to be major contributors to disease and a range of therapies arose with the sole intention of cleansing the colon and flushing these “toxins” out of the body.

Fast forward to the 19th century…

When the field of medicine unanimously adopted the theory of “autointoxication”. Basically, people thought their bodies were becoming poisoned by materials already existing in the body itself. Patients’ obsessions with the health of their digestive tracts made it easy for pills, tonics, and enema devices to flood the markets, which effectively “opened men’s purses by opening their bowels.”

In the modern day…

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the medicine industry began to objectively test the legitimacy of these claims and “treatment” methods. The Journal of the American Medical Association, among other organizations, joined in the “continuous, relentless, excoriating critique of quackery” in efforts to expose the dangers and illegitimacy of colon cleansing and dispel these untested claims about colon cleansing.

While the theory that “autointoxication produced by intestinal obstruction… was… the only cause for disease,” has been debunked, the idea of purging the body of mysterious and nondescript toxins persists today. Cleansing began with cleaning out the colon, but evolved into a nebulous “catch all” practice of ridding the body of “harmful substances”.

For most people, there are a few common practices that come to mind when one utters the word “detox” or “cleanse”. Some like to roast in the sauna after a hard night of drinking to sweat out the alcohol. Others enjoy soaking their feet in a glass tank of water, gazing in awe as the clear water turns brown between their toes. “You see that brown stuff? Toxins.” Others will drink copious amounts of water, teas or juice to “flush” out these unspeakable toxins.

These practices should sound familiar, but it’s detox diets that have caught the public’s attention. Millions of consumers have sought redemption from an easy-to-follow protocol with claims of enhanced health, and we’re told it’s as easy as drinking a bottle of juice.

Why do people love to juice cleanse?

Cleansing is big business. Even bottled water has jumped on the bandwagon: “Detox with Evian: Evian spreads quickly through your system and facilitates the elimination of waste and regenerates the body from inside out in the easiest, most natural way.”

We know that human beings have a long history of purifying and cleansing, but the question remains. What is it about juice cleanses that people find so alluring? The answer to that question involves a fundamental misunderstanding about the way the human body works.

The media frequently tells us that “toxins” are the scapegoat behind just about every conceivable illness known to man, from a mild gluten allergy to cancer. This is in large part due to celebrity-driven marketing and advertising. Celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow sing the praises of a prolonged juice fast, and the fad has become a mainstream phenomena.

Juicing has gained popularity over other alternatives because it’s convenient and easy to follow. By ingesting nothing but these juice products (some cleanses also allow water), you’ll flood your system with nutrients and give your body a chance to rest, heal, and reset.

Consider this list on bestproducts.com of the 8 best tasting and most popular juice products in 2016. Rather than dissect each company, here’s a list of the collective claims being made.

Juice cleansing can:

  • Help you detoxify
  • Alkalize the body
  • Give your digestive tract a chance to “rest”
  • Give your body a “kickstart” after a pattern of eating unhealthy food
  • Help reset your body
  • Help you lose weight
  • Get rid of heavy metals and toxins
  • Purify your body of harmful toxins
  • Lower your risk of disease
  • Increase your energy

Incredible, right?

These are some pretty far-reaching claims. Can juice cleansing really cure disease, detoxify your body, help you lose weight, and more? Can a good juice fast reset your body in some way?

This idea of a reset, and bringing the body back to harmony is the precise reason why juice cleansing is so alluring, and in this next section we’ll talk about the evidence behind some of these claims.

What’s in a toxin?

One of the underlying goals of every juice cleanse is to rid the body of accumulated toxins. In this context, a “toxin” may refer to any substance that is believed to be toxic or harmful such as environmental pollutants, chemicals, heavy metals, preservatives, or even food additives like high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Depending on the company or the product being sold, a toxin can be just about anything for anyone.

We talked about the theory of autointoxication earlier in this article, and despite the fact that it was abandoned by the scientific community in the 1930s, the concept is still heavily marketed– and customers are buying into it. The trouble is, after being scrutinized by the scientific community, no such “toxins” have ever been identified.

In 2009 a group of scientists organized by the UK charity group, Sense about Science, reached out to the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify. When manufacturers were pressed for evidence behind these claims, not a single one could produce a shred of evidence or define what they meant by detoxification, or even explain what they meant by “toxins” in the first place.

Let’s clear things up with the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s definition: “Toxins are substances created by plants and animals that are poisonous in large amounts.” Conversely, “toxicants” refers to man-made poisons found in the environment (i.e. pollutants). By that definition, just about anything could be toxic in the right amount.

What is a “detox”, really?

With regards to detoxing, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University. The respectable one, he says, is a legitimate medical treatment to help treat people with life-threatening drug and alcohol addictions. “The other,” he goes on, “is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

Detoxification is a recognized medical treatment, but as Ernst says, the term has been bastardized by companies trying to sell a product. While there is a disconnect between how the word is supposed to be used and how it actually is used, there is another relevant issue to consider, and that is the context. Most cases of legitimate detoxification involve specific, recognized medical conditions and procedures, like weaning a patient off of addictive drugs or alcohol, or addressing an identifiable toxicity of a known substance. In these cases, substances in the body must be removed or destroyed because they are a specific cause of illness for the patient. Conversely, ordinary people who want to detox are chasing after an idea and trying to rid themselves of nondescript, unidentified “toxins”.

Juice cleansing is often purported to be the answer to the abundance of unwanted substances in our diet. By subsisting on nothing but juice for a few days, you’ll allegedly detoxify and bring your body back to harmony, and you might even lose some weight.

But without a rigid definition of what a toxin even is, what’s the real enemy we’re talking about here? The evidence has routinely shown that even common substances like water or cocoa, for example, can be harmful at high doses — toxic, you might say.

Water can kill you if you drink too much over a short period of time. It lowers the concentration of electrolytes needed for muscles to function — including the heart.

Cocoa is safe to be eaten by humans, but the theobromine in it makes it potentially lethal for dogs.

This logic chain can be followed for just about anything you can think of, making many ordinarily harmless substances toxic or potentially lethal at high doses. The point is, anything taken in excess has the possibility of incurring harmful consequences in the body, and a fancy juice diet simply won’t help.

The body doesn’t need to be cleansed.

It just doesn’t. To jump back to the colon cleansing example, some proponents claim that slow bowels can cause digesting food to rot and putrefy in the gut, leaking harmful “toxins” into the bloodstream. Just the other day, I overheard an employee at a popular nutritional supplement store talking with a customer about cleanses. In trying to sell the cleanse program, the clerk made the all-too-familiar comparison between the intestines and the pipes underneath your kitchen sink: without routine cleaning, particles may build up and cause a blockage, a leak, or any number of problems. A good cleanse will “flush everything out” and “unclog your system.” Does “the system” really need to be unclogged in the first place?

The body is incredibly efficient at cleansing itself already.

Our body is in fact remarkably adept at removing harmful substances and excreting the waste products of metabolism all by itself. The liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, and the gut are all organs that have evolved to rid the body of harmful or unusable substances.

  • The liver has enzymes that can process toxic substances like alcohol into benign compounds that are excreted from the body.
  • Your kidneys filter unwanted chemicals and waste through urination.
  • Your lungs filter the very air you breathe and your gut is a highly specialized organ that, in a healthy person, absorbs any nutrients the body can use, then excretes the rest.

All of these processes happen automatically, all day, every day. No cleansing product, no supplement, tea, or cold-pressed juice has been proven to do a better job or even enhance these systems whatsoever.

At the end of the day, the clinical evidence and our understanding of the human body just doesn’t support commercial “cleanses” of any sort. Clinical studies investigating the efficacy of juice cleanses are scarce, and based on a recent review, not very convincing.

There is a better way.

Juice cleansing is a practice of exclusion.

For a prolonged period you forfeit junk food, candy, drugs and alcohol in lieu of juice drinks. The fact is, most Americans eat poorly, and detox diets usually mean eating less unhealthy foods while increasing one’s fruit and vegetable intake. Avoiding unhealthy foods is a good move.

Anecdotal reports of weight loss during a cleanse are commonly just water weight or glycogen depletion, and reports of energy and vitality are likely a side effect of consuming such a high amount of healthy fruits, vegetables, and vital nutrients — nutrients that are largely absent from the Standard American Diet. In that respect, a juice cleanse can have some benefits for people struggling to eat nutritious foods; but there is a better, less painful way to reap similar benefits.

Focus on health habits you can sustain on a consistent daily basis, not something you endure once every two months just to experience a fleeting and momentary benefit.

Better options to stay healthy are much simpler (and you probably know them already):

  1. Have a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  2. Don’t go overboard with sugar laden junk food.
  3. Exercise.
  4. Sleep enough.
  5. Don’t smoke.

You can drink healthy juice on a daily basis, but the smartest move is to supplement that with healthy eating habits.

An informed approach to health and well-being is one of inclusion, variety, and consistency not of exclusion or restrictive short term dietsNo matter what your diet looks like, having a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables will provide the healthy nutrients your body needs.

You’ve learned that the body does a fine job of filtering out unwanted substances, and the best way to help facilitate those processes is to eat and drink in a healthy manner every day.

The Bottom Line: Supply your body with a wide variety of nutrients on a regular basis, and you will help ensure that your body cleanses itself.

These are values we hold very close to our heart at SaladPower. One of our core beliefs is that “the healthiest thing you can do is inform yourself about nutrition”, and we hope this article helped! This isn’t about cleansing, it’s about a smarter, sustainable way to live and be your healthiest self. 

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This Food Mindset is More Effective than Any Diet

Everyone has a different relationship with food.

Some see food as form of comfort. Some see food as the enemy. Some don’t think about food for taste and only think about its use for nutritional value.

These thoughts aren’t what being healthy is about. I am here to tell you that food is your friend.

I know that society today has this overwhelming perception on how bodies should look. The first thought on many people’s minds is that they need to be skinny to have the stereotypically “ideal” body. Once that’s been implanted into people’s brains, the first thing they tend to think is that they need to eat less.

This is absolutely false.

Now there is no easy way to say this, so I am just going to be up-front and honest.

The only way to change the appearance of your body (not that you need to) is to change the way you eat and exercise. Let’s be honest: a lot of people have goals centered around changing the way their bodies look.

Note: Of course, this is totally unnecessary. Live happy, healthy, and balanced and the rest will fall into place. So really, you can just ditch that negative body image and self doubt and love your body right now instead. 

But anyway, to make your body look stronger, healthier, leaner, or whatever you’re trying to do, it’s important that you eat right. See the catch is: I didn’t say to eat less, I said to eat right

Some days are harder than others. Some days, you want to eat well and you end up eating chips and pizza and cookies and soda all at once… But hey, that’s life. So what do I do? I chose to eat food-conscious.

why food is your friend, not your enemy

That term does not mean to be self-limiting. It doesn’t mean to make rules and limit food, but instead that you should wake up everyday with the intention to feed your body well.

What does that mean?

  1. You want to be eating things that give you energy and keep you alert.
  2. You want to be eating things that nourish your body and help you grow.
  3. You want foods made of whole foods that digest well and help you be the best you can be.

Now that food may not always been readily available, but that’s okay. Do the best you can. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

You are allowed to enjoy desserts and big meals and feeling full; it’s normal.

But make sure you take the time to eat some fruits and veggies because your body will love your for it and flourish from it.

One of my biggest pieces of advice for this is to go to your local farmer’s market and load up on fruit. It’s cheap, fresh, and supports locals! 🙂 

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So in summary: continue to be aware of what you are eating, but don’t let it consume your life. 

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Improve Your Workouts With Dark Chocolate

I’ve got some great news for all you chocolate lovers out there: consuming one serving of dark chocolate daily can improve your athletic performance.  

Yes, you read that right, eating chocolate is actually good for you! A study from Kingston University in London published last year shed some light on the intriguing health benefits of dark chocolate. The results are especially exciting for us fitness enthusiasts. 

The study consisted of 9 amateur cyclists who were split into 2 groups. The first group was given one serving of dark chocolate and the other was given one serving of white chocolate to serve as the control. The researchers tested participants’ heart rate and oxygen consumption while they completed endurance and time trial exercise tests on stationary bikes. After 2 weeks of daily testing, the groups switched which type of chocolate they consumed before exercise. The results clearly showed that the athletes who consumed a serving of dark chocolate daily covered more distance in their 2-minute time trials and their bodies consumed less oxygen at a moderate, sustained pace than those who consumed white chocolate. 

Sports analysis lecturer James Brouner, who was involved with the study, suggested that these results offer benefits specifically to endurance athletes.

Why exactly does this happen? 

In dark chocolate, there is a flavanol (antioxidant that gives the cocoa flavor) called epicatechin. The percentage you find on dark chocolate labels is the percentage of epitechin present. The higher the percentage, the more benefits you reap. Research suggests you consume 70% or higher dark chocolate. Anything less does not have enough epicatechin present to be beneficial. 

When dark chocolate is digested in our stomachs, epicatechin is metabolized into smaller molecules by healthy gut bacteria. This breakdown allows much more efficient absorption of the nutrients into our bodies and facilitates the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide increases the widening of the veins and arteries which improves blood flow. This improved blood flow allows muscle cells to take in more blood sugar and energy due to the high oxygen passage. In simpler terms: it lets you exercise longer and harder.

Not only can eating dark chocolate as a pre-workout snack improve performance, but you can also eat it after a workout to  fight muscle fatigue. The same antioxidants that energize you during a workout can decrease muscle soreness by 30% because of their strong anti-inflammatory properties. 

Do you drink a post-workout shake after the gym? Try adding a spoonful of raw cacao powder to it! Or if you don’t like eating plain dark chocolate, add cacao powder to a smoothie or oatmeal to mask the taste. 

So, next time you’re planning on heading to the gym, pop a few squares of dark chocolate and crush that workout! 

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Here’s the Scoop on Going Dairy-Free

Here's the Scoop on Dairy

Recently, Khloe Kardashian came out with her secret to weight loss: completely cutting dairy out of her diet. She claimed doing so without changing anything else in her lifestyle made her lose 11 pounds within a month.

Khloe is not alone in this new dairy-free craze. A number of other media sources are citing this dietary switch as the cause for weight loss, clear skin, decreased risk of disease, and much more. Many people, myself included, have wondered if going dairy-free is really as magical as some make it seem.

I’ve found that these anti-dairy articles neglect to address the type of dairy the person was eating previously. Were they consuming conventionally- or organically-produced dairy? There is a big difference between the two, and the effects each has on the body are important to take into account before making any major dietary changes. For individuals who are intolerant to dairy, cutting it out entirely is definitely beneficial, but for those who have no symptoms, is it worth it? 

The difference between organic and conventional dairy

Here's the Scoop on Dairy

Organically-raised cows produce milk with a strikingly different nutritional profile than conventionally-raised cows. This is largely due to their diets. Organic cows are fed a grazing (grass) diet, compared to genetically modified corn and soy feed fed to conventionally-raised cows.

The unnatural feed given to conventional dairy cows alters their gut flora and in turn the entire nutritional profile of the milk they produce. The difference is the fatty acids produced. Conventional milk contains omega-6 fatty acids which is the type of fat that comprises vegetable oils and highly processed junk food. Organic dairy only contains omega-3 fatty acids which are very beneficial fats. Some other omega-3 rich foods you may have heard of are chia seeds, flaxseeds, fish oil, avocado, and salmon.

Another important factor is the usage of antibiotics and growth hormones on conventional farms. Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) is a growth hormone given to dairy cows to increase their milk production beyond natural levels. When digested in the human body, rBST stimulates another hormone with insulin-like properties called IGF-1 which has been explicitly linked to increased risk of cancer. Cows given this hormone often become ill with mammary infections, so they are pumped with antibiotics. These antibiotics carry into the milk those cows produce, and when consumed can develop into drug-resistant strains that are able infect humans. Certified USDA organic dairy is prohibited from the use of any growth hormones or antibiotics, which shows the overall healthier nature of the cows and their milk. It’s also important to note that in order to reap the full benefits that organic dairy has to offer, it’s better to buy higher fat options rather than fat-free. 

Some common arguments for going dairy-free:

1. Dairy causes diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Articles that have linked cancer to dairy consumption talk about the stimulation of IGF-1 that occurs when dairy is consumed which is linked to increased risks of cancer, but neglects to address that organic dairy does not contain rBST, and therefore does not stimulate the production of this cancer-causing agent. Organic dairy does contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is an omega-3 fatty acid with cancer-fighting properties. CLA also prevents cardiovascular disease, whereas omega-6 fatty acids in conventional milk has been linked to increased cardiovascular disease risk. 

2. Dairy is inflammatory and will make your skin break out.

The omega-6 fatty acids in conventional milk do cause inflammation because they inhibit proper functioning of cells in the body. Organic dairy actually has been shown to improve inflammation, not cause it. Calcium and vitamin D work together to enhance each other’s anti-inflammatory properties. Organic dairy also contains bioactive peptides that suppress any inflammatory responses the body may be creating. Although I will point out that there are studies that have shown that the simple sugar galactose (found in even organic milk) can produce low grade inflammation, but this can be avoided by consuming fermented products such as yogurt or cheese in which this sugar is absent. 

3. Dairy causes weight gain.

This claim fails to address the bigger picture. Dairy is just a small part of an individual’s diet. Dairy alone will not make a person gain weight, and it shouldn’t be a reason to cut high quality sources of dairy out of your diet. Cutting dairy products means cutting out a rich source of fat and protein with relatively few calories, making it hard to replace. The ratio of fat to protein in higher fat dairy products keeps you fuller longer because it digests slowly. Often, people will replace dairy with foods not as nutrient-dense, which is more likely to cause weight gain. If you are going dairy-free, it is important to replace your usual serving with something with similar nutrients such as nuts, avocado, eggs, or beans, not simple carbs. 

4. Adults cannot digest dairy because it is unnatural for human consumption.

Almost every article I have read urging people to go dairy-free has stated the same fact: 60% of the world does not digest dairy. Now, this is true in the sense that after the ages of 2-5 years old, most of us stop producing the lactase enzyme which is responsible for breaking down the sugar in dairy products. However, there is something called lactase persistence that occurs in adulthood because our bodies have adapted to the consumption of dairy. In fact, it has been confirmed by a study that there is a specific genetic mutation which accounts for this. This mutation allows adults to continue to digest dairy with a low amount or absence of the lactase enzyme. If you can’t quite wrap your head around that, another thing to note is organic dairy products are chock full of probiotic bacteria. Organic yogurt and cheese products can have over 60 types of digestive enzymes. They also contains immunoglobulin antibodies, vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron, which have enhanced absorption in the presence of the active bacteria. Studies have found that all of these components improve your gut health by helping regulate “gut transit time.” 

5. Dairy will make men develop female attributes.

Gynecomastia is related to excessive estrogen consumption. Consuming conventional dairy on a regular basis is linked to gynecomastia because of the dangerously high levels of rBST hormones. People who struggle with this medical condition are advised to avoid dairy and meat products treated specifically with growth hormones, not dairy entirely. Organic dairy does contain hormones, but they are naturally occurring and not at dangerously high levels. Also, when people eliminate dairy, many turn to soy alternatives which can also cause an upset in hormone balance (in men and women) if consumed in large amounts. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are plant-based hormones that act just like estrogen when digested in the body. The most important takeaway from this point is to ensure you are consuming dairy not treated with growth hormones, and if you are not eating dairy products, be wary of what you are replacing it with. Anything in excess can create problems.  

The scoop: Every body processes dairy differently.

I am not going to tell you what you should do. It’s an individual choice, just like meat consumption. There’s not a right or wrong answer. There are people out there that will benefit from going dairy-free, but the key is that it will not affect everyone.

Listen to your body and make smart, quality choices when grocery shopping. If you’re eating conventional dairy and experiencing acne, maybe try switching to organic dairy products and see if there is improvement there first. If that doesn’t work, then try eliminating it for a few weeks. People who are experiencing digestive problems may try cutting dairy but find that dairy is not actually the problem. Those individuals shouldn’t continue to restrict it just because some are deeming it a healthier lifestyle. It is not a miracle diet; a lifestyle that is dairy-free is not objectively better than one that includes it, and vice versa.

Experiment and see what works for you. If that means trying a dairy-free diet to see how it affects you, then go for it! Who knows, you might have low-grade intolerance symptoms you never noticed and feel much better afterwards. That said, don’t cut out dairy for no reason or to follow trends. That may be hurting yourself more than helping. 

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4 Foods to Fuel Your Brain

Now that the lazy days of winter break are over and it’s back to the grind of being a busy student, it’s also time to fuel your brain for your demanding school schedule.

However, once you resume the day-to-day routine of sleep, school, homework, work, you realize there is hardly time to maintain an active social life, let alone to fix up a healthy meal or hit the gym. It’s no surprise that with a tight schedule we fall into some pretty unhealthy habits, reaching for processed snacks and buckets of coffee just to stay awake and focus… only to find that this starts a vicious cycle of relying on sugar for survival. But there are healthier ways to fuel your brain that are just as easy.

Here are just a few of the delicious and quick snacks you can grab before your next class or study session.

Yogurt & Fruit

Yogurt

Do you remember the time in grade school when we were so excited for lunch to come so we could eat our Go-Gurt? Even if it doesn’t come in a tube, I’ve always loved yogurt as a portable snack or treat, since it’s something simple and sweet. Aside from being full of calcium and protein, yogurt is full of tyrosine, which decreases anxiety. I love to top my yogurt with berries, which are rich in antioxidants that help improve your memory and boost your immune system.

Avocados

Avocado goodness

Happiness is a fresh, seasonal avocado, am I right? Lately there has been a huge hype for avocados. You’ve probably seen tons of avocado toast all over Instagram, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy it. If you haven’t gotten on the avocado train, ya gotta try it out. Bonus: they’re great for eye health and packed with Vitamin E, which helps protect against many diseases and helps maintain overall health. I either eat an avocado alone or I mash it up and spread it on toast, but the options are endless. Check out Pinterest for some amazing recipes that include avocados.

Peanut Butter

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Peanut butter jelly time! Who doesn’t love the classic childhood combo? It’s filled with fiber, healthy fat, and protein, so peanut butter helps fight those hunger pangs you have during long days of class. It’s also versatile and can be paired with apples, pears, celery, or toast for a quick breakfast or snack. Looking for a little variety? Try almond butter

Dark Chocolate

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Any chocolate lovers out there? I have some good news for you. Chocolate can be healthy. How? Well, the flavonoids in dark chocolate help increase blood flow to key parts of the brain for several hours. That’s definitely a good thing during a long test. So if you need to increase your focus and concentration grab a dark chocolate bar and you’ll be good to go.

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Why It Doesn’t Matter “What A Fitness Instructor Eats in A Day”

A few weeks ago, someone asked me to write an article about what a fitness instructor eats in a day. I’m a fitness instructor and healthy eating enthusiast and she thought people would be interested in what I ate day in and day out.

In other words, how I do the following 2 things with food:

  1. Sustain my active lifestyle

  2. Stay “fit” (code for skinny and/or strong looking)

And the truth is, that person was right: a lot of people would be interested. However, I will not be writing that article. When I thought about following through with the idea, I was immediately unsettled.

I started thinking…why do people read articles like that? Do they do it to imitate that person’s lifestyle? To compare their own habits to the habits of someone they admire? To ridicule habits they find insanely out of reach? Or maybe to gain a sense of security if they eat a similar way? I don’t particularly want to support any of these aims.

I’ve seen a lot of them lately, regardless. They circulate the health and fitness online world, flaunting the daily contents and timing of a random fitness instructor’s food intake, as if that person is an exemplary eater simply because they teach fitness classes sometimes.

“What Spin Instructor, ___ Eats in A Day”
“What Barry’s Instructor Swears By for Breakfast”
“Marathon Trainer Eats This Superfood At Every Meal”

I mean, really. Which of these “experts” really knows what they’re doing?

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These articles are, more often than not, the opposite of helpful. There are soooo many misconceptions that fuel these articles, and that fuel their popularity. Here are some of the ones I see:

Firstly, they feed off of people’s food anxieties and unhealthy relationships with food.

The question, “Am I eating all wrong?” is in too many people’s minds for too many hours in a day.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to eat. There are ways that make you feel good and strong and positive and energized, and there are ways that make you feel sluggish and depressed and weak. There is no one way that will do either of these things; there are many ways to eat well. You just have to use your intuition and figure out which way works best for you. Reading that article will not tell you the “right” way to eat.

Which brings me to my next point.

Everybody eats differently.

That’s just a fact of life: everyone has a different body, and therefore eats differently to fuel that different body. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Eating what that fitness instructor ate in a day could make that instructor feel awesome, but make YOU feel terrible. She might be fine with rice cakes and peanut butter before spin class, but you might feel stronger in class if you eat something more a few hours before. No way is better than the other, you’re just different people.

You also have a completely different life and activity level than that instructor, and likely need a different amount of food.

From personal experience, I can say that I’ve looked at those articles and felt threatened and unnerved by them because I realized eat way more than they do. I started comparing everything, wondering where I should start making cuts.

However, I should not feel the need to make any. I gave myself a reality check and worked through it; but I shouldn’t have had to go through that miserable process in the first place. I’m a different person. A banana for breakfast doesn’t cut it for me, and that’s ok. I’m not failing at anything by eating more. (And neither are you.)

Many of those articles flaunt really restrictive diets.

When I was comparing, I got really frustrated and decided to try and estimate how many calories that person was eating in a day. It was around 1500. TOO LOW for someone of their weight with an active lifestyle. Too low for me. Too low for most people. Parading that restricted diet as the ideal is dangerous, and works against the positive, healthy voices telling us to eat enough to fuel your body. So really, let’s think about it: who is that article benefitting? Who is it for?

Let me tell you: it’s not for you, and it’s not written with your best interests in mind. It’s written with the goal of getting the most page views.

These articles imply that we should be reactionary of our food habits based on our appearance or how “fit” we look.

And how “fit” we look has become equated with having a certain body type.

Yeah, that instructor probably has a “good” body, or what society views as one. People read those and think that the food that instructor eats will give them the same body. They think: I’m going to do that, I’m going to eat like that, and then I’ll look like that. However, that’s the absolute OPPOSITE of intuitive eating, and the opposite of a healthy relationship with food. 

There’s a belief that everyone who eats a certain way will look exactly the same. Bad news: you can eat that instructor’s diet and end up looking completely different. Again, different body. Different food.

I’ve seen this happen to people, where they change their diet to match someone else’s standards, and then they get discouraged when they don’t see the same results. They begin thinking that there’s something wrong with them and their body because it isn’t reacting the same way. Read here about why this kind of comparison and low self-esteem spiral can be detrimental in the long run.

Fitness instructors are not healthy eating experts.

Now, let’s take a second to stop and think about the actual people being used here as guides for healthy living. Like I said before: do these “experts” know what they’re doing at all?

No. Nothing about teaching fitness qualifies you to know or preach about nutrition. Of course, there are fitness instructors that are also certified nutritionsists but that is not the case for most. As a fitness instructor myself, I’ve seen a lot of coworkers who are really unhealthy, in one way or another.

I’ve seen fitness instructors who struggle with their weight.

I’ve seen fitness instructors who eat a lot of processed, pre-made meals and don’t have time to cook healthy food. 

I’ve seen fitness instructors who struggle with body image and go through cycles of bingeing and dieting.

I’ve seen fitness instructors with active eating disorders.

I’ve also seen a lot of really healthy fitness instructors.

But here’s the thing: fitness instructors are JUST PEOPLE. People who like working out and have decided to make money off of it. People who, like every other person on the planet, sometimes eat healthy and sometimes don’t. People who sometimes don’t get enough sleep, who sometimes binge drink on weekends, and who sometimes don’t eat well or don’t eat enough or eat way too much.

People who have body image demons of their own. Who have a potentially negative relationship with food. Who are embarrassed of how they actually eat, and maybe/probably lie about their actual daily intake. Who eat less than what is healthy for their bodies in order to maintain a certain image, for either their client base or for social media.

I know one thing for sure: I am certainly not an exemplar of healthy eating. An article about what I ate in a day wouldn’t be an ideal portrait for anyone. I don’t think people should imitate my eating habits to a T, because there’s a lot that could improve about them. I’m not going to get into what those things are, because that’s not important and again, isn’t the point.

But to be clear: just because I am a fitness instructor does not mean I am perfectly healthy.

So let’s all do ourselves a favor and stop it with these articles. I don’t care what you ate in a day, and you shouldn’t care what I ate either. Worry about yourself, eat intuitively, and mind your own damn business.

I’m out.

Check out these articles too:

What a Former Meathead-Gone-Vegan Actually Eats in a Day

vegan eats

A day in the life of an experimental vegan.

6 weeks ago, I became a vegan. DUN DUN DUN. 

Don’t worry meat-eaters, this isn’t a lifetime thing (I don’t think…). I’m just in the midst of a two-month long vegan experiment. And you know what? I’m actually loving my plant-based vegan lifestyle. Under the watch of Skylar Griggs, I’ve squashed all worries of not getting enough protein and am actually eating a ton of food, AND I’ve even lost weight (which was part of the plan btw, based off my test results from Inside Tracker and Cenegenics). 

So you’re probably wondering…what does a former meathead-gone-vegan eat on a daily basis? How on earth does this former meathead-gone-vegan get all the protein she needs? Which bar will this former meathead-gone-vegan turn to instead of her beloved Quest bars? The answer my friend, lies in my Instagram. 

I present to you, a day in the life of eating for a former meathead-gone-vegan.

6AM: Pre-workout

Generally 2 clementines, a banana or a piece of toast with some coconut oil based buttah. Sorry, these things are not Insta-worthy.

8-9AM: Post-workout

I try to get the highest amount of protein in this meal because #gains (I should say #gaines but I won’t, though I kind of just did.) At the start of The Vegan Experiment, I went to GNC and tried to find myself a good plant-based protein powder. My goal was to try to find something that was high in protein, low in carbs & fat but didn’t taste like grass. I settled on Sunwarrior, vanilla flavor. It has subtle tastes of grass. That’s what I used here in my post-workout smoothie bowl.

For the record, after a few weeks with Sunwarrior, I got myself a package of Vega Sport to see what all the fuss is about and lemme tell you, that shit is good. Turned my smoothie green which I wasn’t expecting (the power itself is white) but it’s delicious and has zero notes of grass.

On other occasions, when I don’t gone home after my workout, I make myself overnight proats or I’ll head to a coffee shop and first get myself some sort of iced soy latte (giving me quick sugar and some protein) and then I’ll follow it up with toast and avocado. If I don’t have toast & avocado in the morning, I’ll usually find a way to squeeze it in at some other meal of the day. The obsession is real.

 

I love me a good breakfast sammmich 🤗 #fituniversity

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

It’s safe to say breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, here are some other post-workout breakfasts I’ve enjoyed…

 

Simple veggie breakfast hash: tofu, broccoli, sweet potato. 😋 #fituniversity #theveganexperiment

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

11:15AM Pre-Cyc

I’m a Cycologist at Cyc Fitness Boston (come ride with me!) and usually teach the 12pm classes. So somewhere between 11-11:30, I grab myself another piece of fruit. Maybe a shot of espresso if I need some added energy.

2PM Post-Cyc

I need carbs and protein post Cyc…I’m usually hangry. This meal usually consists of some sort of grain (quinoa, brown rice or cous cous), some sort of bean (black or chick pea – is a chick pea a bean??), lots of greens, lots of veggies, and some sort of dressing (guac, hummus, or olive oil). Ginny, the 7YO I babysit always asks, “Why do you eat salad EVERY DAY?!” Because it’s delicious and damn good for me Ginny! That’s why.

And sometimes if I’m really hangry, I’ll get Chipotle.

If I’m not teaching that day, I have the same sort of lunch…just an hour or so earlier.

PS: Don’t go double beans at Chipotle. Learned that the hard way.

3/4PM Snack

I don’t stay full for very long. A few hours after I eat, I generally start to get hungry again so I have myself a little snack. I’ve become a huge sucker for D’s Naturals No Cow Bars. Consider them the vegan version of Quest Bars. They have essentially the same exact amount of protein and carbs (including fiber). Fat is even a little bit lower on the No Cow Bars. My favorite flavors are the Mint Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Crunch & Raspberry Truffle. No photo evidence for you but trust me on it.

7/8PM Dinner

One of my favorite dinner stapes is  the same ingredient you can find in this meal. It racks in 25g of protein per serving and tons of fiber along with it. I generally use it as my base and top with veggies, of course.

Other frequent dinners are generally similar to my lunches…salads, grains and veggies. 

Or sometimes I go for tapas instead 😉

It’s been surprisingly easy to go out to eat, most restaurants have at least one vegan option on the menu or a few that I can at least modify to fit my needs. Thank god sangria is vegan.

 

Stratie takes Barcelona. 🍷🍷🍷

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

9/10 PM: Dessert

Sometimes (most of the time) I get hungry one last time before bed so I have myself half a Complete Cookie and maaaaybe top it with some nut buttah.

Follow me on Instagram and Snapchat (@sarahjgaines) to see how the rest of #TheVeganExperiment pans out!

Check out these articles too:

What Happens When A Meathead Goes Vegan
Why I’m Going Plant Based
Follow My Whole 30 Journey
What You Need To Know About The New FDA Nutrition Labels

What Happens When A Meathead Goes Vegan

vegan

At first glance, you wouldn’t take me for a meathead. I’m 5ft, hair often in pigtail braids, and the majority of the time, you can find me either dancing, smiling, laughing or singing. 

What you think of when I say “meathead.”

 Actually me…

 

 

A video posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

 
But my small stature and fun times aside, I’m gonna put it out there and call myself a meathead. Here’s my justification:

  • I’m accustomed to 5-6 small meals a day, each consisting of lean protein
  • Egg whites, chicken, ground turkey & greek yogurt have been my go-to’s for years
  • I find great joy in picking things up and putting them down
  • There’s nothing I love more than a good flexing picture
  • My last names is GAINES – seriously. Check my bio at the bottom if you don’t believe me. 

So yes, I think it’s safe to say that I’m somewhat of a meathead. A meathead that’s about to go vegan.


I know. I know what you’re thinking…”What is she doing? How will she get enough protein? Vegans are crazy. This girl is crazy.” But hear me out.

For starters, I’m not doing this forever (at least I don’t think I am). I am adopting a vegan diet for a two-month long experiment. Veganism is such a heated topic: you’re either a vegan and want everyone in the world to be one too, or you think that vegans are a buncha crazy hippies. But putting all the generalizations aside, there is something to be said about a plant-based vegan diet.

The China Study, “The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition,” found a direct correlation between the growth of cancer cells and the consumption of animal-based milk products. Another massive study showed that red (and processed) meats are associated with significant increased risk of colorectal, colon and rectal cancers. Fabulous. On the contrary, meat contains certain amino acids – the building blocks of life! – that you simply can’t find in plant-based foods. Not to mention, meat provides all that good protein we need to build muscle. (In all fairness, I tried to find studies that said eating meat was good for you and I honestly couldn’t)

But the question remains…what do we do? Who can we trust?

The answer is simple: our blood.

Did that sound creepy? I apologize.

But it’s true! Who better can we trust than ourselves and our physical reactions? The incredible thing about our bodies is that every single one of us is different. Every single one of us will react differently to the same adjustment made to our lifestyle. In case you haven’t realized it by now, there is no “one-size-fits-all” way of eating or exercising that works for everyone. You have to experiment and figure it out for yourself. So that’s what I’m doing…. a two-month long experiment, adopting a plant-based vegan diet. That’s no animal by-products whatsoever: no fish, no meat, no dairy, no Quest bars *gasp*.

To conduct this experiment, I’ll be tracking my food intake, energy levels and mood on a daily basis. I’ll also be working with Inside Tracker, Cenegenics and Skylar Griggs to get serious about this experiment. 

Before I get into my results, a quick note about why I was really excited to do this experiment and document it on behalf of Fit University: As young people, we have the attention span of a gold fish. We take every statement we hear as truth and eat up what the media wants to be the next big trend (i.e. fad diets). Now, I know these are broad statements, but when was the last time you really dug into a claim made about the newest superfood or “7 minute workout that really works?” I was excited to do this experiment because I was excited to share the data I collected from it, and expose you all to that data. Real science is often not seen in health & fitness articles we skim through on a daily basis…until today. #sciencebitch

So without further ado, here we go. My body as a carnivore as of July 15, 2016…

Inside Tracker: Blood Don’t Lie

vegan experimentBefore starting this experiment, I asked a few people why I should or why I shouldn’t go vegan. The pro-vegans said I should do it because it will make me “healthier.” While the anti-vegans said I shouldn’t do it because I’ll miss out on certain macro & micronutrients that are so readily available in animal-based products. Steak was also a common answer – straight up, “Don’t go vegan because steak.” Fair.

So to really see just how healthy going vegan will make me, I turned to Inside Tracker. Inside Tracker lets you see “how healthy you are on the inside” by analyzing the level of minerals/vitamins/lipids, etc. in your blood and giving you nutritional, physical and supplemental recommendations to improve those levels. Here’s how it works:

  • Schedule a lab appointment to get your blood drawn (this is included in the price of the test).
  • A few days later, open your email with results and recommendations for improvement. Easy as [vegan] pie.

As a society, we’re so caught up on what fitness should look like on the outside, that we so rarely stop and think about what’s going on on the inside. Inside Tracker let’s you into that unknown layer and gives you scientifically backed info you need to improve it. 

While I won’t list every biomarker I had tested, here are a few that I think are most important to analyze in this experiment. At the end of the two months, I’ll get my blood work done again and see how things have changed. Let’s start with the bad stuff!

Glucose: Normal levels are 70-99mg/dL.

AKA sugar, AKA Carbs. Glucose is your body’s primary source of energy. Having high glucose puts you at risk for Diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain and other fun things. Read more about glucose here. My glucose is in the normal range but as you’ll see from the graph below, is creeping up to borderline high.* Inside Tracker recommended I consider a vegetarian or vegan diet to lower my blood sugar. I think they know something…….

inside tracker

*You’ll see that I had my blood work done back in January and my glucose has increased since then. Too many acai bowls, Sarah!

HDL: Normal range is 40-50 mg/dL (men), 50-59 mg/dL (women).

HDL means high-density lipoproteins, if ya wanna get fancy. If not, “good cholesterol” will suffice. Inside Tracker says that HDL acts “as cholesterol scavengers, picking up excess cholesterol in your blood and taking it back to your liver where it’s broken down. If your levels of HDL are low, you may be at greater risk of poor heart health.” My HDL came in just a few points above low. But good news…if I lower my glucose, my HDL should increase. On the opposite side of the spectrum, both my LDL (“bad cholesterol”) total cholesterol were optimized. Sweet!

Triglycerides: Normal range is < 150 mg/dL. 

A complicated way to say fat cells. If you eat more than you burn, calories turn into triglycerides. Like HDL, high tri’s (not a medical term) are associated with high glucose. My level of triglycerides was high and one of Inside Trackers recommendations was to lose weight (omg how could they?!). This will connect with my findings from Cenegenics..but more on that later. 

Iron (Ferritin + Hemoglobin): Normal ferritin range is 24 – 336 ng/dL (men), 11 – 307 ng/dL (women). Normal hemoglobin range is 13.5 – 17.5 g/dL (men), 12.0 – 15.5 g/dL (women). 

A necessary mineral in our bodies that does all the things. My iron group showed optimized based off of my ferritin (protein that stores iron) and hemoglobin (iron-containing little guys that carry O2 from my lungs to my brain, muscles & digestive system). Optimal levels of iron improve strength, increase endurance, and enhance overall aerobic performance. As Skylar told me, this is an important mineral to keep track of during the next 2 months as vegans are at a greater risk of iron deficiency than meat eating peeps. Read why iron is so important here.

Calcium: Normal range is 8.5-10.2 mg/dL.

Keeps yo’ bones strong. My blood shows that my calcium levels are currently optimized – which is very interesting when you look at my bone density test done by Cenegenics. Stay tuned. But according to my blood, my calcium is good. Again, Skylar let me know that calcium is another mineral vegans need to be aware of since we tend to think of calcium coming from milk, yogurt & other dairy products. 

Vitamin D: Normal range is 20-50 ng/mL.

Think of Vitamin D as Calcium’s best friend. VD helps the body absorb calcium and therefore, keeps your bones healthy. My current VD levels are swell but I’ll need to be wary (and potentially take a supplement) since very few foods – especially vegan ones – contain VD.  

vegan experiment

My results
 Glucose: 89mg/dL
 HDL: 50mg/dL
 LDL: 67 mg/dL
 Triglycerides: 148mg/dL
 Ferritin: 63ng/mL
 Hemoglobin: 14g/dL
 Calcium: 9.9mg/dL
 Vitamin D: 42ng/dL

Cenegenics: Hello Sarah, Meet Your Body 

So now that I have a rundown of all things blood, I decided to take things a step further to see how this whole vegan thing would affect my body on a more physical level. Enter, Cenegenics. Cenegenics’ main goal is to help patients “get and stay healthy through a personalized program of nutrition, exercise, corrective hormone therapy, and nutritional supplementation.” Cenegenics provides a ton of tests, a few in which I was particularly interested in for this experiment.

It’s easy to think that we’re healthy or fit – or an the contrary, unhealthy and unfit – but Cenegenics takes the guessing games out by giving you real data on the spot.

RMR: Average is ~1350 for a woman my age & height.

Resting Energy Expenditure. In other words, how many calories you burn if you were to sit in bed and watch Netflix ALL day. Of all the tests with Cenegenics, I was most excited for this one. I’ve always attributed my difficulty losing weight to having “a slow metabolism.” When in reality, my metabolism is quite great for a woman my age… 17% better than the average, in fact! This is probably (definitely) due to the amount of muscle I’ve earned over the past few years. More muscle = stronger metabolism. What my RMR results made me realize was that my slow metabolism excuse can has got to go, and I just like to eat a lot – more than my body burns unfortunately. 

Body Fat: Normal range for the average person is 18 – 24% (men), 25 – 31% (women). 

The percentage of fat to muscle in your body. A certain amount of body fat is needed to for basic functions of living but too much fat can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and more! While I fall in the “normal” class for BMI, Cenegenics does recommend women don’t go above 25% body fat. So yes, I have more body fat than I should – GASP. This goes back to the Triglyceride count with Inside Tracker…remember it was high? So yes, I said it. I’m overweight. Do you not trust me as a fitness professional anymore?

Cenegenic’s DEXA scan showed I hold the most fat in my upper thighs and lower stomach, where women tend to hold fat. On the plus side (no pun intended), the scan showed that I have essentially zero visceral fat (bad fat surrounding your organs that can lead to all kinda bad diseases). Another thing that was cool about the DEXA was that is showed me my body fat % in each of my limbs..the meathead in me was very happy to see that both my right & left leg have pretty much the same amount of muscle. #symmetry

I’m interested to see how this number changes over the next 2 months. Based on my RMR, Skylar has me eating 2000 calories per day, which with exercise, should have me at ~1500 net calories per day. If you’re not good at math (like me!), that means I should lose some weight over the course of this experiment. I couldn’t really care less about losing weight – that was never my intention with this experiment – but what I do care about is not losing any muscle. Sure, I could lose weight by going vegan (a common misconception), but if I’m losing muscle and gaining fat, I will be one very sad lady. That’s why I’m working with Skylar, to ensure I’m eating both the proper amount of food & the proper types of food so that doesn’t happen.

VO2 Max: Normal range is 33.0 – 36.9 (women), 42.5 – 46.4 (men) for someone my age. Other ages found here.

How efficiently your body exchanges oxygen… the higher your VO2 Max, the better. To put it into perspective, endurance athletes like Lance Armstrong rack up numbers in 70-80 range. Your grandma that chain smokes? Probably 10-20.

 

A video posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

My 44.2 score put me above average and in the “Superior” fitness level. *Pats self on back*

Mark explained that leaner people tend to have higher VO2 maxes, so this number could potentially raise if I lose some weight. We shall see.

Bone Density: Normal range based on a T score at or above -1.0.

I didn’t have any expectations for this test…I’m young, I exercise, I’ve only broken one bone (knock on wood), and like Inside Tracker showed, my calcium levels are good. So it was very surprising when two vertebras in my spine showed Osteopenia – bone density lower than normal. Granted, I’m right on the cusp on Osteopenia and normal, but still…this is an issue that needs addressing and I would have NEVER known if I hadn’t taken this test. If you’re familiar with Osteoporosis, Osteopenia is one step below it. This was especially alarming to me because my mom has Osteoporosis so it clearly runs in the family…and again, I’m only 22!!! Wtf bones.

Mark explained that taking a Vitamin D & Calcium supplement and eating an alkaline diet – lots of leafy green veggies – could help to improve this. I’m pretty sure that changing my diet over the course of 2 months won’t make a huge difference but this is something that I will be getting a second opinion on and actively working to improve.

Of all the tests I had done, this was certainly most shocking. It just goes to show you that our bodies have so much going on in the inside that we may never know about. This is why it’s so important to be proactive and treat your body right. Eat good for you foods, exercise, and give your body the love & rest it deserves. Experiment with what YOUR good for you foods are. Figure out what kind of exercise you love most and what works for your body. I may thrive off toast & avocado and you may live off bananas & peanut butter. I may be a meathead and you may be a runner – we will probably never workout together and that’s ok! See you in yoga maybe? 

My results:
 RMR: 1613 calories
 Body fat: 30.9% (37.8 lb fat, 84.3lb lean)
 VO2 max: 44.2 ml O2/kg/min
 Bone density: L1 = -1.2, L2 = -1/4, L3 = -0.5, L4 = -.3

Summary

Over the next two months, I’m switching from a heavy animal-based diet to a plant-based vegan one. I’ve started the experiment off with blood work from Inside Tracker and a few physical tests from Cenegenics. I’m working alongside Nutritionist & Registered Dietician Skylar Griggs to make sure I’m getting all the macro & micronutrients I need. At the end of the two months, I’ll be getting all of these tests done again to see how things have changed. For better? For worse? Til death do us part.

I’ll be checking in back here after a month with an update but if you wanna see what I’m eating & feeling on daily basis, make sure you’re following me on Instagram and Snapchat: username is @sarahjgaines for both.

As I begin my vegan adventure down the road of legumes, kale and tofu, I leave you with one final thought….

vegan Until next time, friends!

10 Healthy Snacks That Will Get You Through Finals

healthy study snacks to get you through finals

1. Apples & peanut butter

Grab an apple, slice it up, and have with a side of peanut butter (1-2 tbsp is the average serving size). Give yourself a creative break and make your plate look as good as @jordankrausefit’s.

 

A photo posted by Jordan Krause (@jordankrausefit) on

2.Mint chocolate overnight oats

The excite-mint is real with this one. Make your overnight oats ahead of time so you can be ready to go first thing in the morning. @beccasbowl’s layers it with a chocolate banana protein shake then tops it off with half a protein bar and some granola. 

 

A photo posted by ? Becca’s Bowls ? (@beccasbowls) on

3. Cacao coconut bliss balls

Throw a handful of these in a plastic bag and pop a few when you’re getting hungry. @freshfitfearless has the full recipe in her e-book full of vegan recipes & smoothies. 

4. Greek yogurt with fruit & choco peanut butter

Protein-packed and crazy easy to make. Follow Fit U ambassador @ellen_slater’s lead with greek yogurt, chocolate peanut butter & some fruit.

 

A photo posted by Ellen (@ellen_slater) on

5. Cinnamon sweet potato fries

Your friends will love you – and possibly eat all of these. Fit U ambassador @wholesomehannah gives the full recipe on her blog.

6. Baked bananas & peanut butter

Bananas & peanut butter are good, but baked bananas & peanut butter takes it to a whole other level. Fit U’s Content Manager @bites.and.banter knows how to get it done.

 

A photo posted by Holly Van Hare (@bites.and.banter) on

7. Mixed nuts, dark chocolate & fruit

Incredibly easy, incredibly satisfying. Nuts are filled with healthy fats to fuel your study session. Fit U ambassador @foodietunes throws in some dark chocolate for added sweetness.

 

A photo posted by Christina Chu (@foodietunes) on

8. Celery sticks with drizzled chocolate

Ants on a log are a classic snack. @eatcleanandexercisedaily amps it up by adding drizzled chocolate (mix 1 tbsp of coconut oil & 1 tbsp of cocoa powder) and granola.

9. Oats & fruit 

You can’t really go wrong with oatmeal…it can be made 10000 different ways. @hummusjunkie adds peanut butter & fruit – between the fiber of the oatmeal and the healthy fats of the PB, you’ve got yourself an A level snack.

 

A photo posted by Taylor (@hummusjunkie) on

10. Banana ice cream

When you get home from the library at 2am and you really want something sweet, make @balanced_beaming’s banana nice cream. Here are some other healthy ice cream options you could try.

 

A photo posted by ? K I M ? (@balanced_beaming) on

You Need to Hear About Jamie Oliver’s Plan to Solve Obesity

What basic household item could possibly prevent 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes and 26,000 deaths? Food. Or really, lack thereof. Fit University, meet Jamie Oliver.

Jamie Oliver

You may know him as the UK Chef,


restaurant owner,


recipe developer,


successful author,


and TV personality,

 

My view when I’m cooking for you guys …. The crew

A photo posted by Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) on


but how can this man help reduce childhood obesity?

 

Hey guys, I’m still so happy about yesterday’s news about the sugary drinks tax that will be introduced in the UK in 2 years!! It’s a bold and good first step by our government but this is just the start and i have some questions ill be asking. there are still other measures that must be put in place to protect the health and future of our kids. A tax on its own wont work. There are six things me and a load of health professionals have recommended to Mr Cameron that should be part of the Childhood Obesity Strategy due to come out this summer….. This is defiantly about protecting the future of our kids … please hit the link in my bio and take a look, share and #regram Just look at what we can achieve when we keep pushing!! #foodrevolution

A photo posted by Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) on

Known for his 2010 TV Show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, where Oliver travelled across America revealing the hefty problems with our food industry, Oliver took his leverage back to his native country (I guess he needed a break from America, I get it, Jamie) and fought to apply a sugar tax on sugary beverages. He won.

Starting in 2018, Oliver would change the future of one of the least healthy countries in Europe. Here’s a breakdown of his plan:

  • A tax of 20 pences (30 US cents) per liter of sugary drink (this could include soft drinks, or even certain smoothies), to discourage consumers from purchasing the sugary drink.

grocery

  • The taxes yield up to 1 billion pounds (just under $1.5 billion, casual) to be recycled back into the community by funding programs aiming to decrease obesity.
  • A visual of the number of teaspoons of sugar in the drink will be displayed on its packaging. Traditionally sugar content is given in grams, which is harder for the average consumer to conceptualize than a teaspoon. It’s all about awareness!
  • Traffic light labeling with be enforced. Basically, red means bad and green means go. And yellow means “slow down and think twice”.

Jamie Oliver

  • Food education will become a priority in schools. This education involves students and parents; not only will students learn to cook and learn about nutrition, (i.e., where food comes from and how it affects your body), but in addition he parents will learn how to pack their kids a healthy school lunch. (Finally)
  • Products with high fat, sugar, or salt (“HFSS”) will not be marketed around school campuses. HFSS products sold in supermarkets will be strongly discouraged by the government.
  • Advertising for junk HFSS foods will not appear on TV before 9 pm. When children watch TV, they are no longer exposed to the tempting and convincing messages in junk food advertising.
  • Companies that fail to follow these new laws will be punished.

punishment

So yes, world; it’s that simple. If Jamie Oliver can do it for England, why can’t we do it here in America too?

And you can help! How? Simply making micro-changes to your daily life and influencing your loved ones to make small changes to live a healthy lifestyle can make such a difference.

Here are a couple of changes you can make, inspired by Jamie Oliver himself:

  • Reduce your soda consumption. I can’t stress this enough! Consuming soda (pop, coke, what have you) on a regular basis can increase risk of obesity, diabetes, cavities, and so many other health problems. If you regularly consume soda, try slowly decreasing the amount you drink. For instance, if you drink a soda with every meal, try limiting it to one meal a day. Then one meal every 3 days, then one meal a week to one meal a month, and so on. Little changes can lead to big differences!
  • Carry a water bottle. Ok so you’ve reduced your soda consumption, but that doesn’t mean your need for fluids decreases as well. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go. That way instead of being tempted to buy a soda, just take a drink from your water bottle instead! Bonus: you’re helping the environment as well as your bank account… and who doesn’t like saving money?

Money Please

  • Try seltzer or flavored water. While these drinks aren’t as great as water, they could serve as a great, non-sugar-loaded, naturally flavored alternative to sugary or diet sodas!

Let us know what you think, and tag us in your movement for a healthy lifestyle on Instagram @gofitu and use the hashtag #fituniversity!

How I Learned to Eat Well for My Body

I’ve always been an athlete. For my entire life, I’ve been involved in fitness and athletics in some way, shape, or form. As a kid I played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, and I swam as well. By high school I was swimming competitively– often practicing twice a day, spending hours in the pool. I’d grown accustomed to always having a fast metabolism and eating pretty much anything my body craved without having to think twice. 

It wasn’t until college when I stopped swimming competitively that my body started to understand the gravity of how much I was in the pool and the true intensity of my previous fitness level. At that point, I wasn’t practicing like a swimmer, but I was still eating like one. Like before, I still wasn’t thinking about what I was putting into my body; only now it was different. I wasn’t using all that energy in the pool. 

This is when my real journey with fitness started. I realized that I needed to find new ways to be active in order to compensate for the loss of my competitive swimming. That’s when I started running. Running gave me the same high I used to get from the pool. I started practicing yoga, cycling… just about anything I could do to get my body moving again, I was doing. Not only was I able to begin eating as I wanted again, but I also found new energy. I felt this energy within myself, and my body was satisfied again.

Up next? My vegan journey. Initially, my decision to become a vegan was morality driven. I have always been an animal lover. However, as time moved on, I began to feel the positive effects that veganism had on my body. By removing dairy from my diet, I unintentionally eliminated a large amount of saturated fats from my diet as well, which improved my cardiovascular health. I found that I could amp up my workouts for longer periods of time without feeling burned out to exhaustion. Since I removed meat and added salt, my cholesterol is more steady, keeping my heart healthy and happy. Eating all raw, non GMO, natural foods gives me energy and makes my body incredibly happy.

My fitness journey, like many things in life, is ongoing and constantly improving and changing. I love my new lifestyle and am thankful for the positive effects it has had on my mind, body, and soul. Getting into a fit lifestyle will forever be the best choice I have ever made in my life, and I hope to be able to share that change with others!

Mindful Eating, and Why You Should Care

National Eating Disorder Awareness week is February 21st-27th this year, where the focus is on bringing public attention to the needs of people with eating disorders and their families.

mindful eating

Why is this important? Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder1 and 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point of their lives2.

With so much pressure to look a certain way, fitness and health can sometimes become confusing and completely consuming. In a society obsessed with diets and calorie counting, our eating behaviors may not be as healthy as they were once intended to be. Case in point, 91% of college women have attempting to control their weight through dieting3. It’s easy to go from wanting to “just cut back on calories” to becoming obsessive and meticulous about what you eat. However you like to stay fit and healthy, it’s important to consider different ways to reach your goals, while keeping your mental health and overall wellbeing in mind.

This is where the idea of eating mindfully comes in. Mindful eating is a different approach that attempts to take some of the stress, anxiety, and unhealthy behaviors out of healthy eating.

What is mindful eating?

mindful eating

Mindful eating is a practice that is aimed to resolve the love-hate relationship with food, as well as trying to combat the mindless, consuming, and guilt-inducing way that many people in our society eat today.

This is eating with a purpose—to nourish yourself and to enjoy food and its effects on your body. Mindful eating embodies the entire process of eating. This means that when you eat, you have a heightened awareness of physical and emotional cues, non-hunger triggers for eating, as well as choosing foods for both enjoyment and nourishment. It’s all about creating a balance, which ultimately is done with the goal of developing a better, healthier, relationship with food.

Why is it important?

Mindful eating can be useful for those who struggle with food, in relation to negative thoughts and feelings. If you’ve ever struggled with binge eating, overeating, or emotional eating, you may find mindful eating particular helpful. Studies show that mindful eating leads to fewer symptoms of eating disorders, like binge eating.4

Mindfulness can make you aware of certain behaviors, which allows you to identify triggers and make healthy changes. When you eat mindfully you are clear on when you are hungry or full, which allows you to create healthier eating behaviors. Overall, mindful eating increases a sense of wellbeing. That’s something that everyone can benefit from, no matter your fitness level or your personal relationship with food.

How can I do it?

Just like diet or exercise, keep in mind that mindful eating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. You can incorporate a couple simple mindfulness tips into your eating and see the differences it makes in your life. Start slow; take it one tip at a time to begin to incorporate mindful eating into your life. Like everything, it’s a process, but over time it can lead to a healthier, happier, life full of balance. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started:

Eat slower. This will give you more time to appreciate the food and reflect in all of it.

Pay attention to what you’re eating-experience all of the flavors and textures of what you’re eating. Savor and enjoy your food and embrace the good it’s doing for your body!

Find support. Talk to your friends about your desires to eat more mindfully, social support goes a long way.

If you have more serious concerns about your eating habits, reach out! There are a number of resources on each college campus, ranging from the counseling center to the student health center. Eating disorders are treatable and early intervention can increase the likelihood of preventing the onset of a full-blown eating disorder. Early intervention can save lives. 

Check these websites, too: they’re great resources for not only awareness, but intervention and support as well! 

National Eating Disorders

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

Eating Disorder Hope

Sources:

  1. American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.
  2. Wade, T. D., Keski-Rahkonen A., & Hudson J. Epidemiology of eating disorders. In M. Tsuang and M. Tohen (Eds.), Textbook in Psychiatric Epidemiology (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley, 2011. p. 343-360.
  3. Multi-service eating disorder association
  4. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml

Use This One Simple Trick to Eat Healthier…

use this one trick to eat healthier

Chances are, you have seen one of these claims online before:

Lose 20 pounds just by drinking this tea on Instagram!

False.

Eat this South American berry and never feel bloated again!

Try again.

Use this wrap and instantly lose cellulite!

Really?

In the health industry, one-step solutions are usually a scam. However, there is one trick that everyone can use for guidance to a healthier life style – portion control.

Yep: it’s that simple.

Use This One Simple Trick to Eat Healthier...

One of the most widespread issues in America is portion sizing; in most restaurants, one serving of food is 250% larger than the suggested portion size. That means if you finish your entire plate of food, (of a dinner that would average around 650 calories) you will have consumed an excess of over 900 calories. The excess food that you would have consumed is greater than the dinner serving itself. Let that sink in.

But to every problem, there exists a solution (unless we’re talking calculus; let’s be real, that’s a never ending plethora of problems that still haunts me to this day—shout out to my mathematician brother). And there is a solution to portion sizing. One way to correct your portion sizes is by using smaller plates and bowls during a meal. The Small Plate Movement is bringing awareness to and promoting action to fix America’s portion control problem simply by promoting the use of a smaller plate at the dinner table. Using a small plate, a portion of food is perceived to be bigger when compared to the same portion on a traditional oversized plate.

Use This One Simple Trick to Eat Healthier... Use This One Simple Trick to Eat Healthier...

So, what are some ways that you can control your portion sizes?

    • Eat with small plates, such as dessert plates (or even your grandmother’s china if you ask nicely). Take it a step further and eat with dessert forks and spoons. I actually prefer to eat with smaller utensil, for portion size’s sake and also because it makes me feel like a giant, and that’s always fun too!
      • Simply putting large dishes in a place where they are not in your direct view or in reach will force you to use the small dishes more often.

Use This One Simple Trick to Eat Healthier...

      • Meal prep in advance. If you prepare your meals in a big batch, put them in single-serving Tupperware. Every meal, eat the food from one of the pre-portioned containers. You will be less likely to go and grab a little bit of extra (which let’s be honest, turns into a lot of extra when you eat family-style) after you’re already full. Plus, your meal can easily become an on-the-go alternative, if necessary. Additionally, try putting snacks in single-serving containers. Snacks are one of easiest foods to accidentally over-consume; dividing them into separate pre-packaged units will lessen your chance of going back and grabbing more.
      • When you’re at a restaurant, ask for a take-out box and pack half of your meal to-go immediately. This way, you don’t accidentally consume the entire oversized plate of food. Plus, you technically get two correctly-portioned meals for the price of one! You could also “order two appetizers instead of one entrée” to change your perception of the quantity of food consumed.

While it is important to enjoy your food, the reality of it is, the majority of Americans consume over-sized portions. But a smaller portion doesn’t necessarily mean less enjoyment! Simply changing your portion sizes to the standard quantity can be a huge step to lead you on the right path to a healthy lifestyle.