Wednesday, March 21, 2012

(Healthy) Eating Out Can Be Tricky!

Eating healthy foods while eating out can be an extremely difficult task. Many of us think that we are choosing healthy foods, but in reality we may be getting an artery-clogging, sodium- and calorie- packed meal without even knowing it. You think you’re eating healthy by ordering a Greek Salad, but at many restaurants the portion will cost you over 500 calories, 70 g of fat (43% DV saturated) and almost 1500 mg sodium (the recommendation for people over 40 years old!). Restaurants sometimes even trick you into thinking something is better for you than it actually is. For example, one popular cafe offers a “Lighter Side Grilled Chicken TBM” sandwich that will still run you 527 calories, and 32% your daily value of saturated fat. That isn't my idea of something "light."

A restaurant notorious for it’s offensive calorie content now offers a “Skinnylicious” menu, but the chopped salad shouldn’t be considered “skinny” at 570 calories, 10 g saturated fat, and almost 1500 mg sodium... although, I guess skinnier than it’s obese 2000 calorie-filled pasta parents. Sure, soups can be a low fat and low calorie alternative to a sandwich or salad while getting your veggie servings in for the day, but they are often jam packed with sodium (I’m not sure how they get so much in there!). In fact, any time you eat out you can almost be guaranteed to get more than half a days worth of sodium (found in bread products, salads, tomato sauces, seasoned meats, etc). High sodium loads will leave you feeling bloated, thirsty, and just not very good.
No worries, eating healthy while dining out is possible! My place of employment, Club La Maison, has recently partnered with Ella’s American Bistro (across the street) in an effort to make healthy eating easier for CLM members (and the general public too!). As CLM’s dietitian, I will be working with head Chef Matt Schuler to make their menu items healthier and highlight recommended dishes. If you are a CLM member, order one of my approved meals (Grilled Salmon or the Nicoise Salad), and you will receive 10% off that entrĂ©e on Mondays and Tuesdays. If you are a non-CLM member, you will receive a complimentary week pass to the Club just by ordering one of the healthier entrees. We are also working hard to get a healthy dessert option and lower-calorie cocktail onto the menu. I am pushing more whole grains and ways to cut fat and sodium from the menu. Soon, the key nutritional information (calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium) for the “dietitian approved” meals will be made available on the menu (with more details available upon request of your server).

At any restaurant I always recommend ordering a salad without cheese and “crunchy” things, and the dressing on the side. I also recommend ordering grilled or broiled fish, and whenever possible, ask for fish without butter or sauce (salsa or fruit okay!). Be cautious of “vegetarian” entrees as these are often pasta dishes loaded with cheese, oil, butter, and/or cream.


Disclaimer: I have not received funding from Ella's American Bistro or compensation to advertise for them.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Feeling Unattractive? Eat More Fruits & Veggies!

A recent study out of St. Andrews University in Scotland found that fluctuation in fruit and vegetable consumption over a six week period was associated with skin color changes. When 35 people (ages 18-61) increased their fruit and vegetable consumption, the red and yellow hues of the skin increased due to the pigments (beta-carotene and lycopene) found in these foods. Furthermore, attractiveness was also rated higher. Conversely, as fruit and vegetable intake decreased, the skin became paler, and people were rated as less attractive.

Studies have shown that there is an increase in vascularization of the skin in more physically fit individuals and women with higher estrogen levels, which are associated with attractiveness and fertility. Diabetes and cardiac/respiratory illnesses decrease blood oxygenation, which can leave people looking paler and leave a blue tint to the skin (not attractive). In addition to actual blood flow, carotenoids, the pigments found in yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables, also affect the level of reddish skin hues. In this particular study, when people increased their intake of carotenoids, the reddish hues of the skin came out and they were rated as more attractive.

Skin yellowness is related to both the carotenoids and melanin*, but in this study, participants rated people's faces that were yellow because of carotenoids, as opposed to melanin, as more attractive. The head author, Ross Whitehead said:  “People who eat more fruit and vegetables have a ‘golden’ skin tone that looks healthy and attractive. Our latest research finds that even small improvements in diet produces visible benefits to skin colour. We were very surprised by how quick the changes were” (2). So, the researchers recommend you are better off eating a healthy diet as opposed to tanning if you want to look healthy and attractive.
 In addition to pigmentation, fruits and vegetables offer antioxidants that can help combat free radicals in the skin. Free radicals cause aging of the skin (wrinkling) and can cause skin cancer. Smokers have high levels of free radicals from the tar in cigarettes, thus the reason a smoker’s skin tends to appear gray and wrinkles quicker than non-smokers (smokers have a higher requirement for Vitamin C- an antioxidant). Additionally, other studies show that well-balanced diets like the Mediterranean which is high in fruits, vegetables, healthy oils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, results in healthier skin and hair.

*Melanin is a skin pigment which is dark in color and protects against UV damage, thus helping to prevent skin damage from the sun and skin cancer. However, high levels of melanin prevent Vit D formation, which is why darker individuals tend to have lower levels of circulating Vit D. Studies have shown that women with less melanin tend to be rated as more attractive, which is why many darker populations use skin lightening techniques (especially in Asia) to make the woman paler in complexion and more attractive to men.
My recommendation: Make fruits and vegetables the foundation of your diet! Be sure to include all colors of the rainbow so that you get a wide assortment of plant pigments, nutrients, and antioxidants. Skip the tanning and opt for the sweet potatoes (in moderation of course!).
1. Stephen ID, Law Smith MJ, Stirrat MR, et al. Facial Skin Coloration Affects Perceived Health of Human Faces. Int J Primatol. 2009 Dec;30(6):845-57.