Another School Year…Rid The Lunch Box of Refined Sugars

As September rolls on, another school year begins and many parents prepare to send of their children back to school…sadly, we all know the constant struggle with keeping healthy meals and snacks at home and in the lunch box, therefore I have listed a few tips to help keep you and your loved ones away from those scary, hidden refined sugars.

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As the weather begins to cool off in the Fall season, we start to transition into a lifestyle change where our physical activities and responsibilities become more focused on getting organized and rushing from one school event to another after school activity.  This transition can lead to disordered eating habits and cravings for stressed out parents, teens and children.  When the times get tough…what do we do? Yep, you guessed it–we reach for sweets.

We all love sweet treats.  Sugar is what most people look for to give them a boost of energy.  To put it in it’s simplest terms, let’s define the ‘good sugar’, shall we?  Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that occurs naturally in foods such as beans, veggies, fruits and grains.  These unprocessed sugars contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins.

On the other hand are the processed sugars.  Our bodies must deplete its own store of enzymes and minerals to absorb table sugar properly, which creates a deficiency.  These processed sugars quickly enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc on our blood sugar level-first pumping it sky high causing nervous tension and hyperactivity, then crashing extremely low causing depression, exhaustion and fatigue.

Many people do not realize the emotional roller-coaster ride that comes along with downing all that sweet white stuff.  However, we must remember that sugar is not the whole problem.  The problem is the addictive cycle that we have created by eating processed sugar, feeling the rush, then crashing and taking in more sugar to start the crazy cycle again.  Now, if we are eating a balanced, healthy diet that includes veggies and whole grains, we will not need that ‘fake’ energy boost from processed sugar.

Today, many school and office cafeterias are a huge concern; we are bombarded with more processed foods such as Pop Tarts, sugary cereals, candy bars, sodas, donuts, pizza, fries, etc.  These foods are readily available in schools from Kindergarten through College/Grad School and even in many office cafeterias.

When Americans need a mid-afternoon snack, they look for a soda or a candy bar to give them that boost of energy because these foods are readily available.  The main concern here is that these easily accessible foods do not supply us with the sustainable energy or nutrients our bodies and brains need.

Processed foods are high in simple sugars and quite low in minerals.  Over consumption of these refined sweets and added sugars found in vending machine snacks has led to an explosion of Type 2 Diabetes, childhood obesity and hypoglycemia.  Because of the poor state of our children’s health, scientists predict that they are the first generation in American history to live a shorter lifespan than their parents.  Quite a disturbing fact, isn’t it?

When people eat processed, sugar-laden foods such as a Pop Tart for breakfast, pizza for lunch, a candy bar and a soda for a mid-afternoon snack and a burger with fries for dinner, they will suffer from malnutrition.  Studies have shown that when we eat a diet rich in whole foods, we experience less brain fog, miss fewer days of school/work, have higher school test scores and are good problem solvers because we are getting the nutrients to fuel our brains.

Nutrition and food can be confusing, however, you can start by slowly transitioning your eating to incorporating more veggies, fruits and whole grains into your meals.  Eating natural foods may taste bland when people are accustomed to artificial flavors, however, by simply adding herbs, spices and healthy condiments you can jazz up any dish.  Be sure to take a look at my Condiment Page.

Get your kids and husband involved in the food shopping experience by having them select whole foods for their lunches and snacks.  Take a family trip to the farmers market and purchase a new fruit, grain or vegetable each week.

With each meal, add a few greens or introduce a new fruit to their dessert plate.  It takes most people, both kids and adults, 3 times of trying a new food before they truly begin to enjoy it.

We all form our habits at a young age, therefore if we want to see a healthier future, we must start today by incorporating a healthy lifestyle and eating style in our daily lives.

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Wheat or Whole-Wheat: Who’s the Imposter?

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So, here’s a typical scenario for you…you walk into the food store and head over to the bread and cereal isle.  First thought: “YIKES”.   Hundreds of products line the shelves claiming Whole Grains, Wheat, Whole Wheat, Whole Grains…the list could go on forever.  So, how do you know you’re buying a minimally processed product?

Whole grain breads and cereals prevent your body from storing fat and are loaded with vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, riboflavin, thiamin, protein, and our good friend fiber!  Whole grains are necessary in our daily diets because they fight obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.  Now, here’s where the confusion lies: Don’t be fooled by the imposter’s such as processed white breads and doughnuts, as well as products labeled wheat instead of Whole Wheat.

We can only survive for so long on a non-carbohydrate diet.  Your body craves carbohydrates because you NEED them to survive.  However, most of us are confused about which carbs to eat—well, for starters wipe out all of the processed junk and stock your pantry with the least processed products, which are carbs that still have their heart-healthy fiber.

Grains like corn, oats, barley, wheat and rye are seeds that come from grasses, which are comprised of 3 parts: the Germ, the Bran, and the Endosperm.  

The Endosperm is the biggest part of the grain, however, nutritionally it’s pretty much a dud containing a little protein, starch, and some B vitamins.  The Germ is the smallest part of the grain, however, this little guy packs a nutritional punch containing protein, oils, and B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine.  Moreover, it has minerals such as zinc, potassium, iron and magnesium, not to mention vitamin E.  The Bran is the third part of the grain where the Fiber is stored.  This contains B vitamins, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other minerals which coat the endosperm.

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So, when food manufacturers refine and process grains, take a guess which of the 3 parts they toss? You got it; the Bran, where all of the minerals and fiber are, and the Germ, where all of the vitamins and protein lie.  So what does that leave us with? The Endosperm (ewww) which is starch that is processed into bagels, pasta, white bread, white rice, and just about every other wheat product and baked good you’ll come across.  So, these lovely manufactures are robbing you of your nutrients and leaving you with a void piece of starch! Yum.

On the other hand, whole-grain carbohydrates play an important role in our healthy lifestyles by supplying us with the energy we need to get through our day.  Whole grain bread keeps insulin levels LOW, which keeps you from storing fat.  A piece of toast with breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and a side of whole grain rice for dinner—- now that’s an A+ heart-healthy day!

Now, where does the Confusion lie?  Well, first off, food manufacturers are quite sneaky and after refining away all the fiber, minerals, and vitamins from the wheat–they’ll add molasses to the bread, which turns it brown, and then place it in the food stores for people like you and I to read the label that says, “wheat” bread.  Well isn’t that just lovely?  It’s a trick and a marketing gimmick–however, it fools each of us at the food store everyday!  So, how do we know what nutritious breads and other products to choose? Reach for those that say Whole-Wheat or Whole-Grain.

What Whole Grain breads and cereals have you noticed are imposter’s?