Tag Archives: calories

Why is Belly Fat Bad for You?

tape-measurer-1-433750-mMy healthy habits may have slipped a little during the holidays. I ate things I wouldn’t normally eat – in addition to eating more than I probably should. My exercise routine went out the window with the hectic holiday schedule.

It really hit home when I had trouble buttoning my jeans a few days ago. My belly and waistline had definitely expanded.

Belly fat can be a serious health issue. When we talk about belly fat, we don’t mean the jiggly (subcutaneous) fat you can pinch with your fingers. We’re actually referring to the visceral fat that lies out of reach, deep within your abdomen. It’s found around your liver, intestines and other organs. It’s also stored in a flap of tissue that lies under your stomach muscles.

Why is this abdominal fat worse than fat around the hips and thighs? Here are 5 reasons to be concerned about belly fat:

Belly fat acts like an organ
Belly fat isn’t just idly hanging out on your waistline. Researchers believe belly fat is an active “organ” in your body. It can contribute to health problems all over your body. Abdominal fat breaks down easily into fatty acids. These flow directly into the liver and your muscles.

Belly fat produces hormones
The fat cells in your abdomen are little hormone factories. They produce substances that get in the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. The hormones made by fat cells affect your appetite, metabolism, blood sugar and blood pressure.

Belly fat increases risk of diabetes
Belly fat secretes a molecule that increases insulin resistance, which raises your risk of type 2 diabetes. Learn more about the 6 Truths About Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners.

Belly fat hurts your heart
Visceral fat also makes certain proteins that trigger low-level inflammation. These proteins can increase your risk of heart disease. The fatty acids released by belly fat are also linked to higher LDL or “bad” cholesterol and lower HDL or “good” cholesterol. Read about these Best Exercises to Lower Your Cholesterol.

Abdominal fat also triggers a change in angiotensin – a hormone that controls blood vessel constriction – increasing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Here are 13 Heart Healthy Foods you should be eating.

Belly fat ups risk of breast cancer
In general, being overweight or obese can increase your risk of breast cancer. Belly fat produces the hormone estrogen, which feeds breast cancer cells.

What can you do about belly fat?

There is evidence that your genes do determine how many fat cells you have. In addition, your genes dictate, to some extent, your body shape. You may be more inclined to be apple-shaped (carrying more weight in your mid-section) or pear-shaped (carrying weight in the hips and thighs).

Beyond that, how much belly fat you carry is linked to your lifestyle, including physical inactivity and how many calories you eat.

Learn more about how you can control and lose belly fat in our blog post: 4 Steps to Losing Belly Fat.

The good news is that belly fat responds well with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Visceral fat metabolizes more easily than the fat that’s on the surface of your body. There’s even more good news. Once you start to lose belly fat, the harmful effects of these extra fat cells can be reversed, including the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Just another reason to eat healthy and get more exercise in 2015!

 

 

11 Tips to Eating Healthy When Dining Out

rusted-neon-green-and-white-cafe-sign-1337952-mSummertime can mean more time spent dining out. With three kids in summer sports, we often end up eating fast food between games or going out to a restaurant after the evening’s activities are finished.

We also spend more time traveling, going on vacation or visiting family and friends. It can be tempting to indulge in foods that are not necessarily part of your normal eating habits. It is also easy to eat as many as 2,000 calories in just one meal.

While you may dine out more in the summer, it doesn’t mean you have to sabotage your healthy eating habits. The key is to pay attention to your food choices and make sure that you are choosing healthy options.

Here are 11 tips to selecting healthy food choices when dining out:

Think about your beverage
Sodas and sugary drinks are a huge source of calories. Stick with water, or you can order unsweetened iced tea or fat-free or low-fat milk.

Get dressing on the side
Salad dressing can also add unnecessary calories. Request that your salad dressing be served on the side. Then, you can use only what you need. You may also want to choose vinaigrette or oil-based dressing rather than creamy dressings to cut down on calories.

Request whole-wheat bread
If you’re at a restaurant that serves bread before your meal arrives, ask for whole-wheat bread. You can also request whole-wheat bread on your sandwich or as a bun. In addition, order brown rice instead of white rice, and whole-wheat pasta instead of white pasta.

Find hidden calories
You can keep an eye out for the most fattening foods at restaurants by reading the menu closely. Watch for words like deep-fried, sauteed, battered, breaded, cheesy, creamy, buttered or creamy. These phrases are usually signs you’ll be eating extra fat and calories.

Ask how it’s cooked
How your food is prepared makes a big difference. If the menu description isn’t clear, ask how the item is cooked. For instance, baking fish with herbs and veggies adds very few calories and fat compared to deep-frying or even sauteeing in sauces or butter. Other great cooking options include grilling, broiling, roasting, poaching and steaming.

Order sauces on the side
Even if you’re ordering a salad or a fish dish that appears to be healthy, be wary of the dressing or sauce. You may be getting tons of calories without even realizing it. As we mentioned earlier, you can request to have these add-ons served on the side. Better yet, you may find that some dishes taste great even without the added sauces. It’s also best to choose marinara or tomato sauce over an alfredo or cream-based sauce.

Choose fruits and veggies
Pick vegetables sides, such as broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green beans, peas or lima beans. You may be able to select a fruit as a side or even for dessert. Just like at home, try to make fruits and vegetables half your plate.

Substitute
You can make substitutions if your meal comes as a platter or combination. Ask to substitute a vegetable for french fries. Or, if your main dish comes with coleslaw, ask for a salad or fresh fruit instead.

Mind your portions
Portions have gotten out of control over the years. It is even more likely you’ll be served an over-sized portion at a restaurant. You can control your portions by splitting a dish with someone else, ordering appetizers as your main dish, or taking home leftovers.

Share dessert
While extremely tasty, desserts at restaurants are typically loaded with calories and fat. To satisfy your sweet tooth, you can split a dessert with a dinner companion. Or, if you’re dining out with a group, order a few desserts to share. You can also order fresh fruit to help balance these more decadent desserts.

Eat slowly and enjoy
Take the time to enjoy your food. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you’re full. If you eat quickly, you are more likely to overeat. Chew your food slowly and be mindful of what you are eating. Savor your food. Eating should be relaxing. When you enjoy your meal, you digest better and feel more satisfied.

You can also prepare ahead of time when you know you might dine out. Plan a light lunch if you know you’re going out to eat for dinner.

You should still eat regular meals rather than skipping meals and over-indulging later. You also don’t want to go to a restaurant starving and then eat too much. Balance your meals throughout the day so you can enjoy eating out without overeating.

10 Healthy Eating Myths and Facts

Healthy eating myths and factsSome days, it’s difficult to decide what to eat. Dairy products are bad for you. Carbs make you gain weight. No late night snacking. Eat low-fat foods because all fats are bad.

With this blog, we hope to help you demystify the rules of healthy eating. As with life, a healthy diet seems to truly be about balance. Eating a healthy, balanced diet of good nutritious foods is the best way to go.

Here are 10 common dieting myths and the truths that will set you on the path to a more healthy, balanced diet:

Myth: Some sugars are worse than others
As we blogged about recently, all sugar is simply sugar. Table sugar, agave, honey and high-fructose corn syrup add up to about the same calories. Your body absorbs all these types of sugar in similar ways. Rather than try to find the “best” sugar or avoid one kind of sugar, you should try to limit added sugars of any kind. This means sugary sodas, candy and other sweets.

Myth: Nighttime eating is more fattening
Many dieting methods will tell you not to eat after a certain time in the evening. The theory is your body will store more fat because it is not burned off with any activity. Studies have been conducted and found that eating a large meal late at night did not make the body store more fat.

Myth: Coffee is bad for you
We have also written in the past about the health benefits of coffee. Two to three cups of coffee a day has actually been proven to be part of a healthy diet and provides you with antioxidant phytochemicals. Coffee may help reduce the risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, gallstones and some cancers. However, use cream, sugar and flavored syrups in moderation.

Myth: All cholesterol is bad
There is good and bad cholesterol. We all need some cholesterol to build cells and make vital hormones. Saturated fats – found in meat, cheese, cream and butter – tend to raise LDL cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol. It’s best to minimize your saturated fat intake. You can eat more healthy fats, which help raise your DHL or “good” cholesterol.

Myth: Sea salt is good for you
Are you thinking of switching to sea salt to save on sodium? Gourmet salts have the same sodium as your table salt. Try using spices, herbs or pepper to add more flavor to foods. You already get about 75% of your salt intake from processed and prepared foods, not the salt shaker.

Myth: The less fat the better
As we mentioned, you need to eat some fats to thrive. You should eat the good, unsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, fish, olives and avocado. You should limit saturated fats, while avoiding trans fats (or hydrogenated oils) as much as possible.

Myth: Carbs make you fat
Just like fats, not all carbohydrates are bad for you. People tend to lose weight on low-carb diets because these diets also restrict calories. Fewer calories mean fewer pounds over time. However, good carbs can help you feel more full and keep you from overeating or grabbing, unhealthy snacks.

Myth: Dairy is unhealthy
Skimmed and semi-skimmed milks actually have more calcium than the full-fat milk. The calcium is in the water part of milk, not the creamy part. If you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, low-fat milk and dairy products can give you nutrients without added fat.

Myth: Margarine is better than butter
Ordinary margarine contains just as much fat and calories as real butter. Margarine also contains hydrogenated oils which are considered trans fats – the category of fats that you should avoid.

Myth: Grazing helps you lose weight
While eating small, nutritious snacks between meals can help you curb your appetite, constant grazing sets you up to eat too many calories. You may also lose your ability to pay attention to your body’s natural cues that you are hungry or full if you continually graze.

As with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There is no secret trick to weight loss or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The most effective approach is to form a lifelong habit of eating a nutritious, balanced diet and exercising regularly.