All About the FAT!


Go into any grocery store and prepare to be amazed by the multiple shelves of oil lined up in neat rows.  Choosing the right fat and/or oil for your health, budget and purpose can be overwhelming.

20150323_104136            20150323_104335           20150323_104308

Fats are categorized as saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans-fats.  The oils that you buy in the store are a mixture of first three types of fat.   Trans-fats are the really bad fats made from partially hydrogenated oil.

You may have heard that saturated fat is no longer bad for you. Wrong! The people, articles and websites stating that saturated fats are not detrimental to our health, are taking bits and pieces of studies and interpreting the results incorrectly.

Scientific studies show that saturated fat increases the bad (LDL) cholesterol resulting in an increased risk of cardiovascular incidents (heart attack, stroke, etc.)  The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, World Health Organization and The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics recommend saturated fat intake be limited to less than 10% of daily calories.  The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have stricter guidelines suggesting the amount of saturated fat be kept to less than 7% for general population and 5%-6% for individuals with high LDLs.

Saturated fats are animal fats and tropical oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils.  There are people who tout the benefits of tropical oils.  This is because tropical oils have a high percentage (44%) of medium chain triglycerides (MCT).  There are studies showing a heart health benefit of MCTs but these are very small studies based on fats with 8-10 carbon chain lengths, not the longer 12 carbon length chains found in tropical oils.   The carbon length of the MCT is an important differentiation in determining if a fat (tropical oils) is proven to be good for you. Additionally, coconut and palm oils contain a high percentage of long chain triglycerides (LCT) which is proven to increase the bad cholesterol (LDL). People recommending an increase in coconut oil/fat, do not understand the scientific research studies and/or human physiology and are recommending something that is not scientifically sound.

Polyunsaturated fats are the good ones. Many of the oils high in this type of fat are from plants and include omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in many types of fish. This type of fatty acid is demonstrated to reduce inflammation.   Omeg- 6 fatty acids are also commonly found in plant-based oils. It is important to have a balance of both Omega-3 and Omega-6 to keep the immune system working properly.

Monounsaturated fats reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raise the good HDL cholesterol. Studies show that consuming 12% of total calories from monounsaturated fats reduces blood pressure and results in less fat tissue growth.

Trans-fats are available from two sources. The first being small amount from animal and dairy products. The second source are foods containing partially-hydrogenated oil.  Trans-fats are  created when hydrogen is added to oil making it solid. Think of natural peanut butter versus the usual solid peanut butter. Trans fats are used to make processed foods more stable on the shelf and to improve flavor and texture. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends and AHA recommend trans fats be limited to less than 1% of total daily calories.


So, to answer the question, “How much and what type of fat should I eat?”

Based on scientific studies, it appears the type of fat is more important than the amount of fat that a person consumes. Replacing saturated fat with processed carbohydrates is not beneficial. However, replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat and/or fresh fruit and vegetables is scientifically proven to improve health.

For general health and wellness:

  1. Saturated fat: 7-10% of total calories;
  2. Polyunsaturated fat: 5-10% of total calories
  3. Monounsaturated fat: 12% of total calories.
  4. Trans fat: Less than 1% of total

 The Fat Facts

Monounsaturated Fat Sources:                                           Polyunsaturated Fat Sources:
Sunflower Oil                                                                                 Soybean Oil
Canola Oil                                                                                       Corn Oil
Olive Oil                                                                                           Safflower Oil
Sunflower Oil                                                                                 Canola Oil
Avocado (flesh & oil)                                                                   Walnuts and Oil
Nuts                                                                                                   Flaxseed and Oil
Soybeans and Oil
Fish (trout, herring, salmon)

Trans-Fat Sources:                                                                      Saturated Fat Sources:
Fried foods                                                                                      Animal Products (Meat, Fish, Eggs, Dairy)
Savory snacks (microwave popcorn)                                    Olives, Coconut, Avocado
Frozen pizza, pizza rolls, snack food
Margarines, Spreads, Coffee creamer
Cake & Muffin mixex, Ready-to-use frosting

Okay, so I realize I’ve included a lot of boring info you probably did not need or necessarily want to know, but I share so you can see there is actual SCIENCE behind the recommendations for healthy fat consumption.  It is easy to read an article or hear someone speaking with authority and presume they know what they are talking about.  Stick with the facts and you’ll make good decisions!

Please let me know if you have any questions or want more info!


Teenage Girls. Enough Said.


I recently spent an evening with ten-14 year old girls. We talked a lot about diets, healthy choices, body image and sports. (Interestingly enough, Nutella came up in conversation, more than once or twice.)

Body image is so subjective and easily influenced by the things we see and the reactions other people have toward us.   On this night, our focus was on the importance of a healthy body versus a skinny body. This group was unanimous that girls who had muscles looked better than girls with no muscle.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune's girl soccer player of the year April Juarez at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente on Thursday, March 31, 2011. (SGVN/Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda/SPORTS)                                   Push Up girl

Girls are bombarded with pictures of wispy little things that can’t do a push-up, run a mile, throw a ball or consider playing a game of soccer.   It is perfectly acceptable if an active kid eats a healthy diet and is naturally thin, but it isn’t okay for any of us, but especially teenage girls, to be on crazy diets, eliminate whole food groups or feel like we need to “fast” just to fit into a pair of skinny jeans.

As our kids get older and become more responsible for what they eat, it is important to help them make the connection between food and performance, both mental and physical. This particular group of girls play sports (LaCrosse, Soccer, Volleyball) and they talked about how they felt and played better when they ate a healthy meal/snack before a practice or game versus when they ate a donut or candy bar.

Based on the food wrappers on the cabinet, crumbs on the floor and peanut butter smears on the counter top, I can tell my girls are starving when they get home from school.   They have soccer practice, dance or horseback riding four nights a week. They need a snack. It isn’t reasonable to go from lunch around noon to dinner around 6:30 pm without something to eat, but it isn’t healthy for candy bars to be the snack of choice.

Healthy snacks between meals ensures you have adequate fuel and energy to do the things you want to do.   Eating a snack with low nutritional value does not help you be smarter, stronger or healthier, but it can make result in weight gain, make you feel sluggish, tired and like you just don’t want to do anything! Too often, when a person realizes they have started to gain a little weight, they eliminate their snack, which is counter-productive. Dieting and limiting your food intake results in your body “hanging-on” to calories to prepare for the time of famine. You can’t lose weight when your body thinks it is starving!!

A few simple suggestions for snack time for you and your kids:

  • Make a list of your favorite snacks and place them on the fridge so don’t have to think about it. You can just choose from the list.
  • Control portion size by splitting out one serving size of snacks into plastic containers or baggies so you can grab and go and are not tempted to eat more than one serving.   (e.g., five whole grain chips, ½ c cherries or grapes, 1 oz cheese or cheese stick, 1 c popcorn, etc.)
  • Combine different food groups in your snack so you feel satisfied.  Include a cheese stick with fruit or add hummus to your chips or fresh vegies.
  • Half of the food you eat each day should be fruits and/or vegetables. Snack time is great opportunity to ensure you are getting in all of them.
  • Protein is an excellent for helping to stave off hunger. Make sure you eat lean meat or low fat dairy at snack time.
  • Eat 100% whole grain. There is no excuse not to do so. You can buy and portion out whole grain pretzels, crackers, bread, tortillas, etc.

Healthy Snack Ideas to Post on the Fridge:

  • Celery, Apples or Banana with peanut butter (2T = 1 Serving)
  • Whole Wheat Tortilla with Hummus (see recipe) spread on top
  • Cut-up vegetables with low fat salad dressing
  • Low fat yogurt or greek yogurt
  • Popcorn without butter (sprinkle with parmesan cheese)
  • Grapes, fresh or frozen with low fat string cheese
  • Rice cakes with lightly spread of peanut butter
  • Whole grain English muffin with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese
  • Cheese toast with whole grain bread & cheese toasted until golden
  • Whole grain cereal with milk
  • Whole wheat pretzels or crackers with a slice of cheese.
  • Smoothie
  • Edamame
  • Protein Snack Balls

This post is longer than my usual.  I hope you were able to make it through the whole thing!  After speaking with these great girls and as I think about summer, I realize that I need to make sure my girls have access to healthy snacks and begin to see the link between what they eat and how they feel/perform.

Let me know some of your heatlhy snack ideas for you and your kids!  I can add them to our fridge list.


Road Warrior: Eating on the Go

I am in my car A LOT!  I probably average about one meal per day in my car!  Car meals can end up being the easiest way to sabatage your efforts to eat healthy.   Planning ahead is essential to avoid this not-so-healthy temptation.  I don’t just mean planning ahead the night before, but actually planning before your next trip to the grocery store. If you have the right stuff on hand, it is easy to be prepared for the next busy day!

Following are some easy, ready-to-go snacks/meals to purchase or prepare for the road warrior:


  • Hard Boiled Egg (7gm pro, 70 cal).  You can boil a few eggs and leave them in the fridge for about a week.
  • Cottage Cheese (15gm pro, 80 cal/4 oz).  Add fresh fruit if you want.
  • String Cheese, 2% milk fat (7gm pro, 60 cal)
  • Greek Yogurt (12-15gm protein, 120 cal/3/4 c).  Buy plain and add fresh fruit or honey or buy pre-flavored.
  • Turkey Slices with Whole Grain Crackers or Vegetables
  • Apples, Bannana, Celery w/ Natural Peanut Butter or Nut/Seed Butter  (no added sugar or oil)
  • Grapes, Plums, Apricots, Oranges
  • Almonds or Walnuts  (6gm pro, 160 cal or 4gm pro, 183 cal/1/4c)
  • Single Tuna Pack with celery, carrots, peppers or Whole Grain Crackers
  • Homemade Hummus (I’ll share a recipe soon!) with vegies or Whole Grain Crackers
  • Single serve Oatmeal with Flax Seed.  Add your own fruit or nuts.
  • Edaname (10gm pro, 120 cal/2/3c)
  • Freeze Dried Fruit or Vegetables
  • Roasted Chickpeas (5gm pro, 120 cal/1 oz)
  • Air-popped Popcorn (1 c = 35 calories).  Buy a brand with just a little olive oil & sea salt.
  • Jerky (turkey=9gm pro, 50cal/1 svg): Look for the 100% organic, grass fed, hormone free meat.  I’ve recently seen it available in bison, beef and turkey.
  • Nutrition Bars:  My favorite is LARABAR.  It has lots of flavors and has less than 5gm sugar.  Many of the bars contain a lot of refined sugars and isolated proteins.
  • Whole Grain English Muffin with a little red sauce (no sugar added) and mozarella cheese, baked for 10 minutes is a great breakfast.  Add a fried egg if you have time.
  • Smoothie with greek yogurt, frozen fruit, vegetable


Think about what meal or snack you are most likely to eat in the car and plan how you will do so without eating a bunch of junk.    I am better at planning my weekly “car menu” than I am for all of our other meals!

Okay, fellow road warriors, make it happen!!  Please let me know what you are doing for car meals and snacks, so everyone can benefit.  The more ideas, the better!!








Metabolism. Don’t Leave me Now!

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Aging is a good thing!  At least it is better than the alternative. This is for all of the women out there wondering if it is even possible to stop the weight gain that occurs as they approach the mid to late 40’s, 50’s and beyond.  Here’s the deal:

Research shows the average weight gain during peri-menopause and menopause is 10-14 pounds. Research also shows this weight gain is avoidable!

The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data documents the largest increase in the percentage of women who become overweight or obese occured between the ages of 40 and 59. (68%)

In a large study from Australia, over a five year period, women, on average, gained a little more than one pound per year.  The research scientists adjusted for biological factors and discovered the decreased exercise, hysterectomy and more sedentary lifestyle were independently associated with weight gain.

In another, even larger study, researchers evaluated post-menopausal women, and documented a 10-pound weight gain over seven years that they attributed to increased sedentary behavior and decreased recreational activities.

Good news that weight gain is preventable.  The bad news is that as the level of estrogen decreases, there is a shift in where fat is stored.  It moves from the hips to the stomach and any new fat is deposited around the stomach.  Abdominal (stomach) fat is associated with serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many others. So it is essential to lose extra weight before it is depostited in around the mid-section.

If weight gain is avoidable, why does it occur and what can we do to stop it from happening to us?  Great question!

Exercise. There appears to be a decrease in planned, purposeful exercise.  Review of health club enrollment and class evaluations indicate this is the age many women drop gym memberships or take less intense exercise classes. It is common to hear women say they used to walk four miles, five times a week, but now only walk 2 miles, three times a week.

Less exercise results in not only fewer calories burned but a decrease in muscle mass, which further diminishes calories burned.   Studies show that women in this age range should make 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and two strength training sessions per week a high priority.

woman-lifting-weights                                two women walking

Change in Eating Habits. Lifestyle changes during this time period can easily impact calorie intake. Family dynamics change as kids’ age and cooking meals at home may not be as high of a priority. Market studies indicate an increase in money spent by women at casual dining restaurants during the 40’s and 50’s. Restaurant eating generally results in increased calorie intake.  American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends women eat 200 fewer calories per day than what they ate in younger years.

Stress. This is a hard one to manage. Estrogen helps to regulate the hormone Cortisol. Cortisol helps us control stress. As estrogen decreases it becomes difficult for the body to manage stress and cortisol levels rise. Many women eat more and less healthfully when they are stressed. Manage stress levels and it should be easier to manage diet.

Lack of Sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports approximately 61% of menopausal women do not sleep well. Not enough sleep raises the levels of ghrelin, a hormone which helps regulate hunger. Ghrelin increases your appetite and fat production. Lack of sleep also lowers the hormone leptin which tells your body you are full and don’t need to eat. It is recommended women get between seven and eight hours sleep per night.

At the end of the day, menopause is going to happen. Understanding that the changes in your body are due to fluctuations in hormones and not because you are lazy or undisciplined is important. Also, knowing there are very active things you can do to manage your weight and the changes to your body is critical. Be empowered!



Carbs are NOT Evil!

potato1_l         beans         BreadPasta

Carbs have been getting a bad rap the last few years.  Foods containing carbs can provide quick energy and can be stored in the muscle as glycogen and used as a longer term source of energy.  In reality, carbs can make a huge difference in game-time performance.  This is true for kids, adolescents and adult athletes.  The deal is, you have to eat the right kind of carbs to benefit from them.

There are two forms of carbohydrates:  simple and complex.  Simple sugars are in fruit, candy, cookies, sweet drinks, etc. and may provide quick energy.  Have noticed a young athlete half way through a game who looks like they just “hit the wall” or completely ran out of energy?  It could be poor conditioning or very possibly a kid coming off of a sugar rush!  Simple carbohdrates before an athletic event does not usually bode well for the athlete or the team.

On the other hand, complex carbs, aka starches (bread, pasta, rice), take longer to digest and allow athletes to sustain higher level of activity without muscle fatigue and decreased energy.  Complex carbs also contain minerals and vitamins required for for optimal energy and recovery.  (You’ve probably heard the term, Carb Loading.  It is referring to the intake of complex carbs before a swim meet, half- or full-marathon or other extended athletic event.  Please note, carb loading is not proven to be beneficial for young athletes or some women since they do not have the muscle mass to store  glycogen. )

I have not forgotten about protein.  It is also important, even though it should not be the main source of energy.   Depending on the type and extent of workout, your muscles work hard and breakdown.  Protein helps repair the muscle while helping to achieve muscle growth.   The sooner protein is consumed after an athletic event, the better for to help repair muscle damage.  Thus, the recommendation to drink chocolate milk!

Keep in mind, a large, large, large majority of people can eat an adequate amount of protein without eating or drinking supplements.  In fact, most athletes (kids and adults) eat about twice as much protien as they really need for muscle repair.  Excessive protein intake is not beneficial and may stress the kidneys, result in dehydration and weight gain.  (Protein that is not required by  the body is either broken down and wasted in urine or stored as fat.)

AnnikaSydneySoccer                          AnnikaSwim

So, what does a young athlete really need?  Depending on intensity and activity level, most adolescent athletes should eat betwen 20-27 calories/pound of body weight.  So, for a 100# kid, that would be 2000-2700 calories/day.  Typically, these calories should be 60-70% carbohydrate, 10% high biological value protein and 20-30% fat.

What does this look like for a 100# athlete eating between 2,000-2700 calories?  1,200-1650 carb calories, 200-270 protein calories and 300-400 fat calories.  The quality of the food as well as the timing of eating can also play a role in optimal performance on the court, field, pool or weight room.


Overall,  a daily diet rich in complex carbohydrates (whole grains are best) with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats as well as low-fat dairy is best to meet energy needs and ensure adequate stores for peak performance.

A couple of hours to immediately before a game, match or meet:  String cheese, boiled egg or natural peanut butter with whole grain crackers, bananna or apple and peanut butter, greek yogurt. bagel with lean meat, low-fat cheese, trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and WATER.

Afterwards (1 hour max):  Chocolate milk (personal fav), greek yogurt, fruit with peanutbutter, meat and whole grain crackers and WATER.

Several hours later: A meal with complex carbs, lean meats and 20-30% fat will provide the optimal fuel for muscle repair and storage of energy (glycogen) for the next big event!

Using nutrition to enhance increase energy and athletic performance is not a new idea.  Nevertheless, it is one that is greatly undersused.   Give it a try.   Use science to help your athlete be prepared, perform at a higher level and recover more quickly.  Let me know how it goes.  I’d love to hear from you!



There are no Superfoods. Yep, I said it.

Without a doubt, there are foods that are more nutrient dense than other foods and there are some foods that have fewer calories than other foods, but let’s be clear, THERE ARE NO “SUPERFOODS”.

The term “superfood” is a just marketing term used to describe foods with alleged health benefits.  Unfortunately, many of the foods with this tag are often disputed and unsupported by scientific evidence.

         Kale – 7 Reasons You Should Start Eating It        

In fact, it is believed by nutrition experts (registererd dietitians and food & nutrition scientists) that consuming an abundance of  “superfoods” may actually be detrimental and result in nutrient deficiencies.  This occurs when a person limits a wide variety of nutritious foods and focuses on eating one or two “superfoods”.  Or, a person believes consuming a “superfood” may cure cancer, heart disease, diabetes or other medical diagnoses and relies on a superfood instead if eating a healthy, balanced diet or seeking medical care.

Unfortunately, there are no foods that provide all of the vitamins, minerals, micronutrients that you need.  Your best bet for is to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in a range of colors every day and be skeptical of any nutrition claim that is not scientifically proven.

If you have questions about a claim of any food, do your research, or talk to a registed dietitian.

Working Out on an Empty Stomach

If you work out during the day or evening, you’ve probably eaten something throughout the day.  However, if you are an early morning exerciser,it may be more difficult to eat something.  I often work out at 5:30 am and I can tell you getting up even earlier to eat a healthy breakfast doesn’t happen.

Fact is, your body needs fuel to function at an optimal level.  Eating, in the morning before your workout, replinishes liver glycogen, stabilizes blood sugar so you can perform at a higher level and burn more calories.  After all, that is the goal.  Right?

Meal ideas for early morning workouts:  greek yogurt, banana or apple with peanut butter, cheese stick, boiled egg or a fruit/protein smoothie.