Why Do So Many People Gain Weight After Going Vegetarian?

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Written by The Nutrition Twins

Although many people think that if they simply switch to a vegetarian diet, it will cause them to lose some unwanted pounds, weight loss actually isn’t a given when you toss the meat from your diet.  While it makes sense that you would lose weight by cutting out burgers, bacon, sausage, wings and other fatty meats from your regular food intake, many new vegetarians come to see us baffled by weight gain.  And how can you blame them, after all, shouldn’t eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in lieu of the typical fatty, meat-rich diet save some calories and shed some weight?  The answer is yes; however, there are several common mistakes vegetarians make that backfire.  Don’t let these happen to you.

Vegetarian Mistake #1:  In an effort to avoid meat, you forget to include protein at each meal.  Eeks! This is a recipe for hunger and weight gain.  Protein helps you to feel satiated and without it you end up feeling hungry every few hours (protein takes 4- 6 hours to digest compared to just 1-4 hours for carbohydrates) and eating more food.

Solution:  Include a serving of a non-meat protein at each meal.  If you are avoiding all animal products, include options like legumes, hummus, nuts, nut butters, split peas, tofu and lentils. If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian also try nonfat or low-fat yogurt or other fat free or low-fat dairy products or eggs as a source of protein.  Pesca-vegetarians can include fish for protein.

Vegetarian Mistake #2: You eat a food simply because it’s vegetarian and you don’t pay attention to the variety or the quality.  If you live on potato chips and soda, or on candy or cakes, you are by definition a vegetarian!  You can get a lot of extra calories (and not many nutrients!) from these non-meat foods that are easy to overeat.  So you end up missing out on all of the healthy reasons to be a vegetarian—eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains and plant-based protein sources.

Solution:  Just as you would if you were eating meat, choose to eat food because it is wholesome, and nutrient-packed, not just because it doesn’t contain animals. 

Vegetarian Mistake #3:  You fill up on vegetarian meals and assume they are low in calories.  Although vegetarian meals may feel light and contain healthy ingredients, they are often surprisingly high in calories, as frequently used ingredients like nuts, seeds, oils or soy cheeses, can pack in calories.   We’ve had numerous clients who have come to us because they gained weight while eating seemingly super healthy vegetarian meals (ie vegetarian lasagna, quinoa with vegetables and cashews).  Think:  1 cup of steamed kale has 35 calories, but if it’s sautéed in 2 tablespoons of heart healthy olive oil, it suddenly has 275 calories!

Solution:  If your food comes in a package, read the label to see the calories per serving just as you would for a non-vegetarian meal.  Pay attention to the portion size and whether you think it will fill you. Keep in mind that if you average about 1600 calories daily, as many health conscious females do, about 400 calories per meal is a good goal to shoot for.  This will allow two, 200-calorie snacks.  If you are dining out and there is no nutrition facts label, do just as you would with a diet that contains meat: fill at least half of your plate with salads and steamed veggies that have been prepared with minimal oil or butter so that they remain very low in calories.  Save a smaller portion of the plate for the more calorie-dense portion of the meal (the portions that include oils, nuts and sauces).  This way, you’ll still eat the quantity of food that you are used to eating, but you’ll be cutting out a significant source of calories.

 

For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide, check out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure

 

Fuel Your Kids Right At Afternoon Snack Attack

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Written by The Nutrition Twins

Do your kids come home famished after school? Are they wondering how long it is until dinner? If you worry that giving your kids snacks in between meals may discourage them from eating lunch or dinner or that they’ll only want snacks that are junk food, just know that there are simple things you can do to ensure this is not the case.

The key to making the most of snacks is have an arsenal of healthy foods in your house that offer some of the same things that your kids crave.   Whether they are looking for something creamy, crunchy or sweet make sure to have some options that provide extra nutrients that they may not receive enough of, such as fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals.

Also, if it is just giving your kids a boost for an hour or so before dinner, keep the snack portion between 50 – 100 calories.  A snack is not meant to be a meal replacement, just a way to tide them over until their next meal.  Stocking your refrigerator and pantry with healthier snacks will ensure that it will be easy for kids to make the better choice.  Parents always ask us for ideas, try these!

Do they crave crunchy?

We always recommend veggie crudité dipped in hummus or dressing first, but kids often want more after their veggies.  Most kids gravitate toward chips and baked options, rather than fried are always best.

Try:

  • Baked kale chips or parsnip fries. (See our simple recipe below for Crunchy Kale Chips) We love making kale chips and sprinkle them with garlic powder and cracked pepper.
  • Pirate’s Booty which has half the fat and fewer calories than regular fried potato chips, so it’s a great healthier alternative.  You can now find 65-calorie multipacks that are great way to give your kid a controlled portion of what they will feel like is a treat (and they’re perfect for the lunchbox too!) Another plus is that Pirate’s Booty is gluten, peanut and tree-nut free, so it’s safe for kids with allergies.

Are they craving sweet?

  • Here’s a no brainer – fresh fruit! Have at least three types of your kids’ favorite fresh fruits available so they’ll always have it as a snack option. Have the fruit pre-cut, portioned, and ready to go in the refrigerator.
  • (We keep frozen banana coins in plastic bags in the freezer and freeze medjool dates—these taste like Kit-Kats!)

Are they craving creamy?

  • Nut butters are a great, creamy food that also packs a protein punch. Peanut butter is a great go-to but if your child has peanut allergies, experiment with other nut or seed butters.  These include almond, cashew, or even sunflower butter. Use for dipping fresh fruits or veggies, graham crackers, or whole wheat baked pita triangles.
  • Greek Yogurt is another creamy treat that offers protein. Stick to brands that offer 15 grams or less of sugar per container.  If your kids insist on ice cream, you can put the yogurt in the freezer and they’ll never know the difference!

Remember, it is ok for kids to want one or two snacks during the day.  You can show them the healthiest choices for snacking by following these tips and eating this way too. Cheers to healthy snacking!

Crunchy Easy Kale Chips  (from our book The Secret To Skinny http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Skinny-4-Week-Healthier-Low-Sodium/dp/0757313515/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1292819816&sr=1-1)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch of fresh kale
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt to taste
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Cracked pepper (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Spray a 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray.
  • Cut  the kale leaves off the stem and wash.  Dry them thoroughly, using a towel or salad spinner.
  • Cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces and spread them out on cookie sheets.
  • Spray lightly with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and spices.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until crisp.  Be careful not to burn.

 

For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide, check out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure!

 

Fitbie Portions Divided

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Written by The Nutrition Twins

Last night we had dinner with one of our closest friends. Every time we are with her we are reminded of how one should eat their food, not only from an etiquette standpoint, but also from a weight loss one.  For starters, our friend places her fork down on her plate after every bite, never speaks a peep even with the tiniest of morsels in her mouth, and chews each bite of food very thoroughly.  These techniques are not only polite but inevitably make you eat slowly.  People who eat quickly tend to be heavier because they are prone to overeat as it takes 20 minutes for the brain to receive the signal that the body was fed—and let’s face it, a lot of overeating can happen in twenty minutes.  Another good habit our friend has—she cuts her food into bite sized pieces before she even takes a bite of her meal.  We’re not sure if this is an etiquette thing, but from a weight loss perspective, new research has revealed that she may just be on to something.

Apparently, when food is cut and served in small pieces we feel full faster and eat less later.  For example, college students in the study who were offered a whole bagel covered with cream cheese ate more later in the day then the group that was offered the same kind of bagel, cut into four pieces and covered with the same amount of cream cheese.  And the students who were offered a whole bagel ate a little bit more of it, as well.

Researchers are trying to figure out exactly why this may be but they theorize that “perhaps cutting up foods into multiple, bite-sized pieces may perceptually look like more and therefore elicit greater satiation than a single-piece food portion.”

While more research is being done, you can test to see if this good-etiquette method helps you to feel fuller and to eat less.  Personally, for years we’ve noticed that this is the case for us when we eat a chopped salad versus a regular salad.  It looks like more, takes longer to eat and we feel fuller and eat less later.  You can test it with the chopped salad also, or try these other smaller bite alternatives:

1)  Just like when you were a kid, cut your sandwiches into quarters, rather than in half.

2)  If you’re eating lasagna, quiche or a casserole, cut each piece up into little squares before eating it.

3)  Instead of cutting your burrito or your wrap as you eat it, cut the entire burrito up before eating your first bite.

4)  At a pasta dinner?  Cut up all of the pasta, including the protein and veggies that it’s filled with.

5)  Eating an apple or orange?   Slice it up into several pieces to eat it.  Ditto for berries, melon and other fruits.

6)  Treating yourself to a piece of cake or cookie?  Cut it into several pieces before diving in.  Who knows, you may just have one or two small pieces.

Are you trying to cut calories?  What are you going to cut into smaller pieces in an attempt to save your waistline?  Do you think this method will work for you?

 

For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide, check out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure!

 

Easy at-home exercises

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THE WALL:  Using the wall for back support, bend your knees until they are at a 90-degree angle to the floor and do a seated chair pose to really strengthen your legs, especially your quads. Aim to hold for a minute or longer

THE COUCH:

A TABLE:  Use the table for standing pushups.  Really focus on technique and you’ll really feel it in your pectoral muscles.  Remember to keep your abdomen muscles tight.

STAIRS OR A STOOP:  This is perfect for calf raises.  Stand on the stop on your  tippy toes on the edge and lower them as far as you can and then slowly push up as high as you can on your tippy toes and repeat.  Your calf muscles will become defined quickly.  This is a great exercise as a shapely calf helps to make women’s thighs look smaller by balancing them out.

PILLOW:  Sitting on a chair, use the pillow to work your inner thigh.  Place the pillow between your knees and squeeze as hard as you can for 30 seconds.  Continue for a minimum of three sets.

DOOR FRAME:  Stand between in the middle of the door frame and with your arms reached out to each of your sides, press on each side of the door frame as hard as you can, keeping your hands flat.  This is a great isometric exercise that activates and really works the shoulders, biceps and triceps.

KITCHEN CHAIR:  Tricep dips:  Using a kitchen chair, or any sturdy  chair perform tricep dips just as you would by using a bench at the gym.  Remember when you lower your body to not allow your elbows to bend to more than a 90-degree angle.

TOWEL:  For your shoulders, straighten your arms over your head holding the towel in each hand about 18 inches apart.  Keeping your arms over your head, pull with each hand on the towel as hard as you can, creating a resistance.  Hold for several seconds and repeat.

SHAMPOO OR CONDITIONER BOTTLE:  Shower tricep presses.  It’s easy and fast and if your form is good and you keep your elbow right next to your ear, you’ll feel it even if the weight is light. the wall, a kitchen chair, the couch, a table, stairs/stoop, the door, or anything else you can think of.

 

For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide Check out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure!

 

Craving Comfort Foods? Try these hunger-tamers

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With the cooler weather rolling in, our clients have been telling us that they find themselves craving heartier foods.  And they’re not the only ones. We’ve gotta admit that even as registered dietitians–who are very well aware of comfort foods’ belt-bursting, artery-clogging, and sugar-spiking capabilities—we still feel tempted to indulge sometimes. So what’s a comfort-food craving, girl (or guy) to do?

First, drink a large, low-calorie, warm beverage (think hot tea or vegetable soup) in order to cut back calories later in the day. Soups made with water, not milk, are particularly effective in reducing subsequent calorie intake. In addition, warm and hot foods require eating more slowly, and therefore, you allow your body’s “you are now full” alert system to activate before you have time to dive into calorie-laden foods. It seems to be especially helpful to have the tea or soup immediately before you leave work and head home, or while waiting for a meal.

If this trick doesn’t work, try these comfort food swaps (and check back with us in a few weeks for even more healthy swaps).

Comfort food: Pasta

What to eat instead: Spaghetti squash. It’s so easy to prepare. Simply poke holes in the squash with a fork and microwave it. Then, use a fork to shred it into “spaghetti.” Toss on some tomato sauce and a teaspoon of grated Parmesan, and, voila, you have guilt-free pasta!  It tastes and feels like the real deal, but has less than half the calories—40 calories per cup versus 200! If it’s mac-and cheese you crave, simply mix the warm spaghetti squash with a slice of fat free or low fat cheddar.

Comfort food: Mashed potatoes

What to eat instead:  Make lower cal mashed potatoes by combining them with pureed cauliflower and using low-fat milk and butter-flavored vegetable spread instead of full-fat milk and butter. Or you can completely replace the potatoes with cauliflower. A cup of plain potatoes carries about 104 calories, compared to a mere 25 in a cup of cauliflower. Plus, no one notices the difference! Or opt for a baked potato instead to get all of the nutrients potatoes provide (like potassium and vitamin C), without the extra fat from milk and butter. Top it with low fat yogurt, Greek yogurt, steamed veggies, or salsa to keep calories to a minimum.

Comfort food: Chocolate

What to eat instead:  If you can quench your craving with a small piece of the real deal, then go for it!  After all, some of you may be lucky enough to feel satisfied after a teensy Hershey’s kiss, which contains less than 40 calories. However, if you are more likely to eat the entire bag than a kiss or two, then you’re better off sipping a mug of hot chocolate. Use a sugar-free, fat-free chocolate mix. If you also use low-fat or skim milk, you can enrich the flavor with a half a teaspoon of instant coffee or a dash of cinnamon. We like sugar-free 25-calorie hot chocolate with a dollop of fat–free whipped cream. Like the hot tea or vegetable soup, the warm beverage will pacify you, slow you down (since you can’t guzzle hot food), and allow the craving to pass while you silence your sweet tooth. Try these chocolate fixes over the next couple of weeks. If they don’t work for you, stay tuned for more suggestions.

 

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If you like this recipe you may also like:

Creamy Warm Cinnamon Banana Milk

Vanilla Pumpkin Protein Smoothie

Banana Kiwi Smoothie

 

For More Delicious Healthy Comfort Foods and Get Healthy Guide, check out The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure!

 

Should you try a detox?

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As a present for our last birthday, a friend of ours treated us to a visit to a spa.  We arrived at the spa excited and eager for a girl’s day of pampering.  Soon we learned that our day of relaxation wasn’t exactly what we had in mind.  First up:  an intestinal “detox” including some kind of “irrigation” of the fecal canal.  Um,  , not exactly our idea of pampering.  Not being the birthday gift we were interested in, we immediately pulled the plug on the plan and swapped our “detox” for a massage (phew!).

However, “detoxing is a hot topic right now, and we always get lots of questions about it.  A “detox” can mean different things to different people, even to us, as dietitians.  The premise behind it is to clean out the toxins that accumulate in our bodies–for some, it means a colonic irrigation, which we would have had on our last birthday had we not been completely disgusted by the thought of injecting water (sometimes mixed with herbs or with other liquids) into the colon via the rectum to “remove feces” and had we not known that it could be dangerous.  To others, a detox involves drinking strictly juice, or some other beverage, without consuming any food.  For others, it’s eating only raw foods, or eating “clean,” and cutting out harmful, processed foods that don’t allow the body to function at its best. Whatever your idea of “detoxing” is, here is what you should know before beginning a detoxing regimen of your own.

People looking for a quick fix, and rapid weight loss often turn to the more extreme forms of detoxing to reach their goals.  The most drastic form of detoxing is through medical detoxing, using colonics (like at the spa that we went to) and laxatives.  Although some people claim to feel “lighter” immediately afterwards (who wouldn’t feel lighter after having fecal matter pulled out of their body?), many of those who try it tell us they aren’t the least bit tempted to try it again.   Obviously, it’s far from glamorous. It’s not only unhealthy, it can be dangerous too, especially colonics.  They can disrupt your body’s delicate fluid and electrolyte balances and cause dehydration, as well as anemia and malnutrition, among other health problems.  (Glad we dodged that bullet.)

People who detox consuming only liquids, abstain from consumption of food and either strictly drink juices made from fruits and vegetables or other beverages like spicy lemonade (i.e. in the “Master cleanse which gained attention when Beyonce tried it and lost close to 20 pounds in 14 days and reported being very cranky while on the diet and to quickly gaining back the weight afterwards).  Drinking a healthy juice made from vegetables and fruits can be very beneficial, but not as a substitution for all food.  Those who have “juiced,” reported very unpleasant side effects, such as grogginess, hunger and exhaustion, and if any weight is lost, it’s usually short-lived, and returns with normal eating.  )  Individuals that we know who tried to exercise while on The Master Cleanse found themselves in for a rude-awakening when having to leave the gym with feelings of dizziness even at the start of exercise. (Again, no thank you, we’ll pass on the liquid detox too.)

So if these detoxes have such draw-backs, what’s the secret to a great detox? The secret is that there is no secret! And what most people don’t know is that our body naturally detoxes itself.

A combination of clean eating and exercise is the best way to restart your system.  So the “detox” that we recommend is cutting out caffeine, sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and fried food, while increasing fruits and veggies– the safest way to get your body back on track, rid yourself of cravings (sweets after dinner, anyone?), and kick start a healthy way of life. Eat real foods at regular meals throughout the day, drink plenty of water, and exercise (a natural detoxifier, and a must for anyone who wants to get lean!) in order to maximize the benefits of this healthier approach to “detoxing.”  Meet ya for a banana and Greek yogurt after yoga tonight?

 

For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide, delicious recipes and a 10-Day Weight Loss Jumpstart and Detox Plan, check out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure!