Managing Food at the Office

We’ve all been there. Someone brings doughnuts on a random Tuesday morning. An appreciation lunch with pizza stacked miles high. Someone just had a party that weekend and had leftover cupcakes and generously decided to bring it to work and right in front of your face. That last one, I’ve been guilty of doing to my co-workers. It’s true.

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Whatever the case may be, how can you manage keeping on track of your goals when people keep bringing free food? Unfortunately most of this is mental and reminders to yourself. If you don’t have a good memory, write them down and keep them at your desk to remind you when these things come up.

One Thing

If there is one thing to keep in mind when you see free food, it’s this: Free food is the same as food you buy. Just because it’s “free” doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

For some reason when we see the word “free” or knowing that something is “free” all other factors and reasoning either is forgotten or doesn’t matter anymore. If it’s free it’s not going to cost anything – or so we want to think. It’s still food. It’s still either healthy or unhealthy, and it will still add to your total caloric intake whether it’s free or you had to pay money for it. At least when we pay money for it, it stops us and makes us think if we really want it.

Distance

More than likely whoever brought, let’s say doughnuts, to the office will either just tell you where they are or if they walk by with them, they probably won’t linger next to you, hopefully. Make it to where it’s out of sight out of mind. Of course that can be hard when people keep walking by with a glistening pillow-y pastry in their mouth.

Even if that means taking the long way to the mail room, copier, meeting room, etc. Keep it as far away from sight and smell as possible.

Do the Math

As an example, a snack whether a piece of chocolate, chips, or a doughnut can add 100-300 calories to your day. If that happens a few times a week in addition to your normal diet, that can start to add on a pound or more a month depending on how much it is. And then before you know it you’ve gain an excess of 10-12 lbs just because of randomly grabbing a snack or an extra chocolate a few times a week. Some of us can take a random snack or two a week, and others it can be a delicate balance. Know yourself.

With that in mind, I always plan to have a snack or a piece of dark chocolate planned at the end of the day, after dinner. Individually wrapped so once I get my piece, that’s all I see. That way when something does come up throughout the day, I know I still have something to look forward to by the evening. I just have to wait for it. That way I don’t feel like I’m neglecting anything I want or crave at times. This is about balance right?

Remind Yourself It’s a Victory!

Reminding yourself of what you’ve accomplished or what you are trying to accomplish can help. And walking past or resisting that sugar and fat loaded pastry is a victory. Remind yourself that it is a big deal to resist it, and sometimes it means resisting it all day. It’s a huge victory! Remind yourself of it and not brush it off as nothing. Keeping a positive view of a challenge will start a new wave of positive self talk. Instead of thinking “I can’t eat that” change it to “I’m choosing not to eat that…” or “I’m choosing not to eat it because of the hard work I’ve put in” or “I choose to stay on track!” or something that will keep you on track of your goals.

Don’t Get Yourself Down

Some days the doughnuts win, and that’s okay. This is about managing not constantly putting up a fight of resistance. In fact, even though junk food or high caloric foods are not always the healthiest option, it still gives you nutrients and fuel for your body. Maybe not the best way, but there is some nutrient your body can use. Keep up the positive self talk and realize it was something out of the ordinary for your routine, and get back to what is healthy for you!

When Stress and a Busy Schedule Gets You Off Track

Hello All!

I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve written anything. The last few posts throughout August I had set up months prior because I knew I would be busy and I didn’t want to neglect the blog. However, I thought that by September I’d be able to start where I left off and add posts and get ahead again. Wrong. Things have been non-stop. Not necessarily in a bad way but at times did and does get overwhelming. Because of this I got off track with not only the blog, but my eating, my allergy diet, and also exercise. Because of this, I wanted to share with you how I get myself back on track when things like this happen, even with a busy schedule. But first, let me share with you what got me to this point and 2 things I’ve learned about myself.

You don’t have to read my story. Just skip to the good stuff if you like. I don’t mind. : )

Putting Too Much On Myself

The last few years… years… I’ve been working on being reasonable with myself and knowing what I can handle and what I can’t. It’s always a learning process. There are times I realized I could have done more, and times I should have taken better care of myself. To know when I needed to go home early, or not volunteered my time I really didn’t have that should have been used in more useful ways so that I didn’t become overwhelmed. Or not scheduled every hour of the day thinking that I’m this ball of never-ending energy that’s always okay and can handle anything no matter how emotionally, physically, or mentally stressed and/or drained I already was.

No mental or emotional breakdown yet. And I do know when I need a mental health day or even just an afternoon to get me back on track. I’ve gotten that far. It’s a victory! However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t get myself overwhelmed and that I still need to learn and be okay with saying no to things and responsibilities that I can’t handle. That’s the next hurdle to overcome.

First Thing I Cut Out When Stressed or Overwhelmed

When things start to get busy, one of the first things to go is meal prep/planning for me. It takes time, planning, effort, and motivation. I don’t care how easy some people make it or how quickly you can get it done, it’s a chore. It can be a fun chore, but it’s a chore. It’s something that “has” to get done, but not really. And that’s why it’s the first thing to go. I have to keep my life in working order with laundry, having a clean and good smelling house, get to work, do the other things I’ve said I would do or help with family, etc. but meal planning – I can pick up something. I can throw a PB&J sandwich and carrot sticks in a bag and call it lunch. And dinners, whatever is simple, quick, and easy. I’m not about microwave meals, but already pre-made meals to heat up in the oven or something that I can make quick like pasta starts to become the normal. Then James starts asking for chili dogs and macaroni and cheese, or frozen pizza, or quesadillas, etc.

For a week or two, having this routine – it’s not a bad thing. We all have weeks to where getting something to eat to keep going is about all we can do. But when it goes on for months… Not counting 1 random Sunday I actually prepped a breakfast and lunch for the week, it has been since March that I’ve truly regularly meal prepped. I’ve gained weight I know. I don’t know how much yet. I’ll come to that when I’m ready to do something about it. And my digestive system can’t take much more. Even if the things I’m grabbing are “healthy”, I’m still constantly mixing in fast food and pick-up-and-go food to my diet all the time. Not to mention the cookies that have somehow found their place in my house on a regular basis.

To be honest, me feeling overwhelmed is probably, no most definitely, partly to do with how I’ve been eating. Because of having food allergies, it’s more than a physical reaction. It’s also emotional and mental as well. Eating things that are easy and half way prepared, especially vegetarian will more than likely have dairy and soy in it. Soy being my more major allergen. And then eating heavier and less healthy veggie burgers, etc. can mess up your digestive system. Then being stressed on top of it – my poor immune and nervous system has about had it. Nothing major, but enough to where I notice it. I feel overwhelmed. My digestive system is not normal – cramping, bloating, etc. And then sometimes I’ll feel tingling in the back of my legs to my lower back from my nervous system trying to keep up.

Getting Back on Track

Evaluate Your Routine

Look at your routine and see if you can find what you need to do and what you can do less of. Any gaps in your routine, keep them, but make sure you are at a place where you can relax and do something you enjoy.

A huge benefit is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. Not only will this help mentally, but physically and specifically with your digestive system.

Find Out What You Can Realistically Change

Change what you can. As mention above, sleep is one thing you can change now, and start today with a small change to your routine. Here are some other things I look at to see if it’s realistic for me to change or if I’m ready to change these habits.

  • Reduce caffeine and/or alcohol
  • Breakfast: I usually will have time to make a protein shake. My tip is to make sure there is a serving of vegetables (spinach) and if desired, a fruit with the protein mix.
  • Lunches: Don’t eat and go. Have at least 30 minutes of just sitting and eating. Don’t rush your eating times. Make time for it.
    • Try to find something that won’t weigh you down. Find a lunch either that you prep or can buy, but make sure it’s something clean and easy to digest that doesn’t feel heavy. If you are constantly on the move, then taking time to sit and eat a LIGHT lunch is well worth it. I usually make sure either I’m having something full of protein and vegetables or have a snack plate with nuts, vegetables, fruit, and maybe some cheese.
  • If you have 10 minutes and you are not physically exhausted, take a small walk. Even 10 minutes is worth it to relieve some stress and help you get your focus back. The more you can do, (longer or brisker walking) the more you will activate your lymphatic system which helps with detoxing. Something we always need when we’re stressed and haven’t been eating well. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20863266
Keep Looking Forward

Don’t try to do everything at once. Unless you are a person who is all in or nothing, keep making small changes to get your routine and diet back to where you want it. There is no set time to do this in. For some people it will take a day, others will take a few weeks, and others might be months, but keep looking forward. Realize what your next step can be and when you are ready to take it. Make a plan of action if you need to. Set goals. Whatever will keep you moving forward however fast or slow that might be, do it.

Tips for Decreasing High Blood Pressure

Family history of High Blood Pressure or Hypertension is one of the top things people have checked on my Nutrition Assessment. Either they are dealing with it or they have close family that has it. High Blood Pressure can be due to many different things like age, poor eating habits, lifestyle, constant stress, etc.

How can you get control of your blood pressure? Here are 10 factors to consider.

1 | Exercise

Regular exercise helps put healthy stress on the body for it to cope with it better and know how to handle it. The more regular you exercise, the less likely your blood pressure will increase under normal activities, including when we are under marginal stress.

Not used to exercise? Start with a walk an a pace where you are slightly out of breath but can still talk through it for 10 minutes. Increase 5 minutes every day. Once you are up to 30 minutes, increase your pace and start over again.

2 | Oatmeal

With oatmeal being high in fiber, low in fat, low in sodium, and something filling to start your day, it will help keep your blood pressure at normal amounts and even help with maintaining good blood cholesterol levels.

3 | Salt Intake

From one of my previous posts about salt, we know that salt, or sodium is not a bad thing. We need it to survive otherwise our cells would literally shrivel up and die. However, because salt holds water in the cells, it can make the volume in our blood increase, therefore increasing pressure. Maintaining a healthy sodium intake is important. Sodium is not only found in salt, so salt should not be with every meal. Make sure to check your labels.

One of the for sure ways to control your sodium intake is having fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats that are not smoked or processed, and whole grains that are not packaged with seasoning.

4 | Dark Chocolate

One of my favorite treats to have at the end of the day! The flavanols found in dark chocolate have been shown to help cause dilation or widening of the blood vessels. Because of this it helps with blood pressure and the flow of blood from the heart to the brain. Dark chocolate is at least 70% or more cocoa.

5 | Coenzyme 10

Coenzyme 10 is something our liver helps us make and also helps to dilate our blood vessels and increase oxygen to the brain to reduce pressure. 200-300 mg of CoQ10 per day may help to reduce blood pressure. It’s also been helpful for pressure headaches due to sinus pressure, and even helping those with migraines to have less severe symptoms.

6 | Tea Time

Sipping on 1-2 cups of tea a day for a few weeks can help lower blood pressure. Find herbal teas that are caffeine free. For instance, Hibiscus tea is naturally sweet, contains flavonoids that prevent clotting, improves artery function, and stimulates insulin production in the body.

7 | Laughing

Laughing causes the inner lining of your blood vessels to expand to increase blood flow. Ever broke a sweat when you laughed really hard? It’s most likely do to this. But because of this expansion and increase of blood flow it can help reduce blood pressure.

8 | Leafy Greens

There isn’t much that leafy greens don’t help with. Specifically for High Blood Pressure leafy greens are low calorie, high fiber, and high in minerals like potassium, folate, and magnesium which helps to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Potassium does the opposite of sodium, however, only a small amount is needed in the body so unless for some reason you are prescribed to take a higher amount by a doctor, you can get plenty from eating your greens and of course, bananas.

9 | Alcohol

Alcohol is something that all around isn’t good for your health in high doses. It’s calorie dense without any nutrients which leads to weight gain, and with what your body has to do to detox from alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure. Avoid alcohol, or at the least, when drinking alcohol limit to just one drink and have a glass of water after.

10 | Beans

Beans are rich in potassium (opposite of sodium), magnesium, and fiber. You can add them to soups, salads, chili, pastas, or as a side dish. If you buy them in the can, look for “no salt” or “no added salt” varieties. And since I live here in Texas, I’d skip cooking the beans with bacon which is high sodium, high fat, and usually highly processed.

Bottom Line

Watch what you eat and drink, get plenty of exercise and remember to laugh! I think I should start ending all my posts with this. What do you think?

How To Do An Elimination Diet

It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week and I wanted to share how to do an elimination diet if you are trying to see if you or someone in your family has a reaction to a certain food. Food allergies are important to recognize since they can have different physical, mental, and emotional reactions. Some are severe reactions and are life threatening, others are more of a “quality of life” reaction. Even the less severe reactions need to be recognized, because I don’t know about you, anything that lessens my quality of life and makes me more miserable, needs to be cut out. It’s toxic to your body and doesn’t need to be there, which is why an elimination diet might be the key to finding out if you are allergic to something or not. Let’s look at common reactions to food allergies, what is an elimination diet, and then we’ll get into how to do an elimination diet.

*Note: The elimination diet can be used for a food intolerance as well. Food intolerance and food allergies share some symptoms. If you are not sure if it is an allergy or intolerance, contact a physician. In addition, you can look at my blog post about the difference between the two.

Food Allergy Symptoms
  • Tingling/itching in mouth
  • Hives
  • Itching/Eczema
  • Swelling of Lips
  • Swelling of Face
  • Swelling of Tongue
  • Swelling of Throat
  • Swelling of other parts of the body, including abdomen area
  • Wheezing
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Light-Headedness
  • Fainting

Some other reactions can include emotional responses like increase anxiety, depression, anger, sadness etc.

ANAPHYLAXIS

In some people a food allergy can trigger a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Here are the signs and symptoms:

  • Constriction/tightening of airways
  • Swollen throat, difficult to breathe
  • Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Light-Headedness
  • Loss of consciousness

Untreated, anaphylaxis can cause coma or death. Immediate medical attention is critical. If you have this reaction to certain foods, trying an elimination diet with other similar foods might cause the same reaction. If you have experienced anaphylaxis before, consult your doctor before doing an elimination diet or experimenting with new, similar foods, since it might cause the same reaction.

Realize that some of the symptoms might be small enough that you don’t realize a huge change. For instance with me, when I have something with dairy in it depending on how much it is, I might have a small amount of congestion and then it stops after an hour or so. However, if I continue to have dairy on a normal every day basis, sinus and ear infections will come on a normal basis as well. No matter how small the reaction might be, staying away from even those allergies will contribute to help larger problems later.

What Is An Elimination Diet

An elimination diet involves removing foods from your diet that you suspect you might be allergic or intolerant to. An elimination diet takes about 5-6 weeks total. It involves eliminating and then reintroducing that food back into your diet to see if you will have a reaction. Once you have identified a food that might cause a reaction you can eliminate it from your diet to prevent the symptoms in the future.

Again, if you think you have a serve allergy to a certain food, make sure you contact your doctor and are under professional medical supervision.

How To Do An Elimination Diet

ELIMINATION

Remove the food(s) you suspect trigger an allergic response for 2-3 weeks.

Some foods to think about eliminating are those that are known to cause uncomfortable symptoms like: nuts, corn, soy, dairy, citrus fruits, nightshade vegetables, wheat, foods containing gluten, pork, eggs, and shellfish.

You’ll be able to determine if your symptoms are due to the foods you are eliminating or something else.

If symptoms continue after removing the suspected food, consult your doctor.

REINTRODUCTION

Slowly bring eliminated foods back into you diet.

If you do more than 1 food at a time, you might not get accurate results. You can choose to eliminate more than 1 food at the same time, but on the reintroduction phase, only reintroduce 1 food at a time so you know which gives you a reaction, and which does not.

Each food or food group should be reintroduced for 2-3 days before moving to the next. Look for any symptoms major or minor like: rashes, skin changes, joint pain, headaches/migraines, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, bloating, stomach pain, changes in bowel movements, difficulty breathing, congestion, itching anywhere in your mouth, throat, or face, mood changes, etc.

If you don’t experience any symptoms during the 2-3 day period, you can assume the food is fine to eat and can move on to the next.

If you are planning on eliminating a lot of food groups it can cause a nutrition deficiency and you’ll need to consult your doctor.

What NOT To Have On An Elimination Diet

There are other foods and beverages that you might want to avoid to get the best results and that will not interfere with what you are trying to do. A lot of these foods are known to cause inflammation whether there is an allergy, an intolerance, or neither. Foods like:

  • Unhealthy Fats (butter, margarine, etc.)
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee, Black Tea, Soda (or other caffeinated beverages)
  • Avoid any sauces you don’t know the ingredients to
  • Avoid Sugar (white and brown), Honey, Syrup
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Gluten Products,
  • Fried Foods, etc.

Realize the factor of food families as well. If you are allergic to 1 type of nut, then more than likely you’ll be allergic to other types as well. It might not be all, but more than likely you’ll be allergic to another. Same goes for shellfish. If you are allergic to crab, more than likely you’ll be allergic to lobster. Making sure to eliminate those foods related to your allergy will be important to stay away from on an elimination diet.

What To Have On An Elimination Diet

There are plenty of foods to have on an elimination diet that are foods that don’t usually cause inflammation in the body unless you are allergic to them. These foods include:

  • Most fruits, except citrus fruits since they can interfere
  • Most vegetables, except nightshade
  • Grains (like rice and buckwheat)
  • Meat & Fish
  • Dairy Substitutes like coconut milk – beware of soy or nut milks
  • Healthy fats like olive oil, flaxseed oil, or coconut oil
  • Beverages, water & herbal teas
  • Black pepper, herbs, and apple cider vinegar
Bottom Line

Elimination diets are something useful you can do, but consult your doctor first. They may have some additional suggestions on what to eliminate. If you are eliminating multiple food groups, make sure to consult your doctor as well since it may cause a deficiency.

Elimination diets are helpful to know what might be causing your symptoms and thus knowing what to eliminate in your diet later on.

 

If you have found out something you need to eliminate in your diet, please reach out to me at amandaarroyonutrition@gmail.com. I’d love to be able to help you with it!

Know Your Labels: Calorie Terms

Welcome back to another “Know Your Labels”. It’s important to know why certain products will label themselves in a specific way. As always, check the nutrition label and ingredients, not just what’s on the front of a package. The labeling on the front of the package might help to reduce the amount of labels we do read. So let’s talk about energy terms, or calorie terms that can be on products.

Calorie Terms or Energy Terms

  1. Calorie-Free: This means that there is less than 5 calories per serving. Be careful when choosing these items because more than likely they have additives in them to take and feel like food but it’s not a big help in the nutrition aspect.
  2. Low-Calorie: No more than 40 calories per serving. This items would be a good go-to snack if you are watching your caloric intake. However, a piece of fruit would be a good and low calorie option as well.
  3. Reduced Calories: Contains at least 25% fewer calories than the regular alternative product. It can be a good choice since usually a “reduced calorie” product can be they reduced the fat percentage of the product. But still always read the label. 25% reduced calories of a bag of chips still doesn’t mean it’s not a high calorie food.

Things to Consider

If you are watching you caloric intake and looking at products with these terms on the front, always read the label. When you reduce your caloric intake, watching your nutritional intake in a must. Since you will be eating less energy, the energy you consume should be from high nutrient sources. Less calories, higher nutrition. For instance, instead of snacking on a bag of crackers (120 calories), you choose an orange (30 calories). The orange will not only have good sources of energy but also added benefits of vitamins and minerals. Although the label might say low-calorie, or reduced calories, make sure the nutritional value of that product is high.

Although lower calorie products might help you with your caloric goal, you want to make sure you are doing it in the right way which is feeding your body nutrients it needs without going over your calorie deficit. If you need any help in this regard, I’m always here! Feel free to reach out.

 

Now a question for you:

Would you like to see some healthy snack options that are naturally low calorie and healthy?

Tips to Lower Your Cholesterol

One of the main concerns that I’ve heard from people is their need to lower their cholesterol or wanting to make sure to keep their cholesterol levels in the healthy range. What are some easy things to substitute or change in your diet to help? Let’s first talk a little about what cholesterol does and then we can better understand how to take care of our levels of cholesterol.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a class of lipids, or fats, that is made by the body for different purposes. For instance, cholesterol can be incorporated as part of the structure of cell membranes, used to make bile for digestion, made into vitamin D, and used to make sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. However, cholesterol can be deposited in the artery walls which leads to plaque build up and heart disease. How does it find itself there?

As you may know, water and oil don’t mix. For the fat to be transported during digestion it has to go through water based liquids, like blood. Those fats are combined with special proteins so that it can transport through the body. Lipoproteins are what those clusters are called and these include HDL and LDL. Cholesterol is a part of the cluster.

The difference in the HDL (high-density) lipoproteins and the LDL (low density) lipoproteins are the amount of fat (or cholesterol) they are transporting. The more cholesterol the less dense the lipoprotein will be. The more protein the more dense it will be. So the High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is the healthier one. The Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the “lousy” one since it mainly consists of fat. This type is the cholesterol that can be deposited in the artery walls which then can lead to heart disease.

So how can we raise our healthy HDL and lower our lousy LDL?

Lowering LDL Cholesterol Levels

Lower The Amount of Fat in Your Diet

To lower the bad cholesterol means lowering the amount of fats in your diet. The total intake of fats should not be more than 20% of your total calorie intake. For a 2,000 calorie diet that would be 400 calories, which would be a total or 44 grams of fat. That is on the HIGH end.

Healthy Fats

When you are watching your fat intake, make sure the fats you are digesting are unsaturated fats and that less than 1/2 of your fat intake (10% total calorie intake, or 20 grams) is from saturated sources. The best way to tell the difference without a label, is that unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (olive oil, avocados, most nuts, seeds, fish) and saturated fats are solid at room temperature (butter, animal fats). Avoid trans fats at all cost.

Increase Fiber, Fruits, & Vegetables

Fiber in the foods you eat has been proven to help decrease bad cholesterol. Eating more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, etc. will help.

Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to 5-9 servings a day, more being from vegetable sources. Fruits and vegetables (not canned) are our source of antioxidants which helps prevent heart disease and strengthens the body’s defense against cell damage. These antioxidants can neutralize free radicals which contribute to the build up of plaque in the arteries.

Lose Excess Weight

Just as much as a small increase of damaging factors can contribute to higher cholesterol levels, small decreases can have a good effect as well. Just a 5-10 pound decrease in weight is enough to start seeing a decrease in LDL cholesterol in most people.

Bottom Line

Lower the amount of fat in your diet and try to fill your day with low-fat whole foods rich in antioxidants and fiber. If overweight, loosing just 5 pounds can be enough to see a decrease.

Need help in lowing fat in your diet? Take my Free Nutrition Assessment to get my feedback and start getting your diet back on track!