Stop The Nutrition Belief Systems

Nutrition is often seen as a belief system. In other words, the answer to “What should I eat?” is often based on faith, magical thinking, emotional attachments, and/or what feels “truthful”, rather than on real evidence or the scientific method. Until we fix this, nutrition will get more confusing, not less. 

Stop The Nutrition Belief System.png

Unfortunately, “nutrition” is often seen as a belief system.
But beliefs don’t necessarily have anything to do with facts. Today's society has you choose a side to be on and I feel like that is where most people go wrong. Why do we have to belong to a group that believes certain things about nutrition? 

When we believe something, we choose to accept that it’s true, which may or may not have anything to do with factual certainty.

This approach of “believing” is frequently applied to nutrition.
As in:

“I believe that sugar is poison and addicting.”

“I don’t believe that humans were meant to eat grains or starches.”

“I believe in only eating foods that are natural and organic.”

Yet, nutrition is not a belief system. Nutrition is a science.
Believing something, or wanting it to be true, or feeling it should be true doesn’t mean it is true.

The problem happens when we base our own health decisions on emotional bias or the rules of a certain philosophy. Most people I come across with don't even know about the real facts of nutrition. 

The bad news is science is anything but simple. It would be great if there was a single ingredient to cure cancer, or a single exercise to get you ripped. But physiology isn’t simple, and neither is science. Especially nutrition science as it is related to health and fitness.

You might be able to find a study to support nearly any nutrition-related belief you want. This is especially true if the study was small, or sponsored by a particular interest (like a supplement company). A lot of people extrapolate what they need out of a study just to prove the point that they have a side they stand on. When you hear someone give black and white answers you have to be cautious into how much you believe about what they're saying. 

Practice having an open yet critical mindset.
“Because it worked for me” is not enough evidence to recommend “it” to another person. 

4 things I always tell people to do in order for them to find what works best for them and their goals. 
1. Be curious. 
2. Ask questions. 
3. Try different things. 
4. Document the effects.

Over time, that’s as legitimate a way of knowing if something is beneficial to you or not. Make sure you’re always tracking, documenting the result, and sometimes revisiting old things that may have not worked in the past. Our bodies change over time so sometimes somethings are worth retrying.  

My best advice is to live in the middle ground.
Biology rarely operates in extremes. 

So be suspicious of “always” or “never” language in nutrition talk.

Instead, try “some people” and “sometimes” and “it depends”.

Notice when words and concepts trigger emotions.
Most belief-based nutrition systems are grounded in marketing that purposely gets you worked up. They try to elicit an emotional response from you so you move one way or another. Belief based systems might poke at your traumas, insecurities, or ego (the current “clean eating” craze is a good example).

Recognize when you feel “pulled” by a certain idea.

Ask yourself, am I considering this “system” for the right reasons? Am I looking for an “easy” solution because I feel sad/frustrated/lost/stressed today?

Be skeptical of one-size-fits-all approaches.

Humans are unique, complex systems. Your caloric needs and macronutrient/micronutrient breakdown is going to be different than anyone else. 

There is no one best diet. Any plan should be a system that’s based on evidence, and truly reflects the client’s unique lifestyle, goals, and needs.

Knowledge is power.

War On Clean Eating

It is not uncommon today to hear someone talk about how they're starting a healthy journey lifestyle that is accompanied by 'clean eating'. 

Every time I hear that word being uttered from someone's mouth I cringe. Literally. 

War On Clean Eating.png

What does it even mean? Are you washing your food with Windex? Maybe you're preparing your food differently than me? I don't know. But the term "eating clean" is really popular in today's society. 

If you ask a group of people, who would consider themselves clean eaters what the term 'eating clean' means, you will get some different answers. The answers may include responses like no processed food, low-fat, low-sugar, low- calorie, low-glycemic index, or only foods our ancestors ate and a variety of other answers.

There is no set definition of the trendy term taking the health and fitness community by storm. Foods that are processed aren't inherently bad anyway. We should all try to eat more whole foods like fruits, vegetables and minimally processed whole grains and protein. And I usually eat mainly whole foods. But I also don’t freak out about foods that aren’t ‘clean’ because I know that the majority of my diet is pretty nutritious and I like to enjoy my food whether it is healthy (usually) or not (sometimes).

While labels on diets can be a good thing at times (obviously gluten-free is essential for those with celiac and those who use a certain type of diet, like low sodium, to manage a health condition), but for the most part, I think labeling your diet is stupid. Especially if you need a ‘cheat day’ from your so-called diet. 

Labeling your food clean implies that other foods are dirty or have some negative result on your health waiting to be unleashed. ‘Clean eating’ may have started with good intentions, but it has gone too far. It has turned into yet another food shaming diet fad that fuels terrible eating habits. 

Clean eating is used to sway people toward certain foods as well. It has a health halo effect on people. The “health halo” effect occurs when a food that has some healthy attri­butes is perceived as being virtuous in all respects. For instance, many people mistakenly think that organic foods are more healthful than their conventionally grown counter­parts. Couldn't be further from the truth. You can eat an organic cookie all you want. Guess what? If you eat too many of them, you can still gain weight. Calories are still KING regardless if you're eating organic or not. 

‘Clean eating’ can lead to an unhealthy obsession with food. With social media making it possible to be constantly immersed in a culture of health food and fitness, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison and thinking that your food is not healthy enough because it doesn’t look like the health and fitness guru you follow on social media. It’s a slippery slope that can lead to disordered eating patterns or full-blown eating disorders. 

Clean eating has no set definition. What’s considered a clean or nutritious food differs from person to person based on their situation, preferences, and goals. Don't put yourself in the box of 'clean eating'. You will find yourself finding ways to "cheat" and will end up down the yo-yo dieting path that you don't want to be a part of. 


The Truth About Corn

Corn has an undeserved reputation as a fattening, carb-laden, genetically altered food. Add to that its association with high-fructose corn syrup and you may find yourself wondering if corn on the cob deserves a place at your dinner table this summer. 

Information bullies live on the internet and lure on the people who are on the fence about tons of different nutritional topics. They scare us by using our indifference against us. I personally can't stand an information bully. They live to sway you to their camp or belief system. I always tell people who I come in contact with that the truth is somewhere in the middle. There are no absolutes in this lifestyle. 

The Truth About Corn.png

Let's break down this corn phenomenon. The short of it is you should enjoy corn guilt free. 

Admit it, there’s nothing quite like a crisp piece of corn on the cob. There seem to be a few myths that surround corn about the healthfulness of it as a vegetable. After all, something so sweet and delicious surely has to have a downside, right?

I often hear people say, "Humans don't digest corn."

Dietary fiber, the indigestible part of plant material, is made up of two main types. Soluble fiber easily dissolves in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the part of the gut known as the colon. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is left intact as food moves through the gastrointestinal tract.

Corn has high amounts of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is the kind of fiber that goes through the body intact and gets those bowel movements going. if you eat a lot of corn, you might see some of it in your stool, but insoluble fiber has been shown in research to help feed the “good” bacteria in our gut. If we’re looking at getting lots of good fiber in our diet, it’s good that [corn] has a higher ratio of insoluble to soluble fiber because it feeds the good gut bacteria in our body.

Vegetables like kale and spinach may have better reputations as nutrition all-stars, but corn has something to contribute, too. Corn contains certain B vitamins and vitamin C, as well as magnesium and potassium. Yellow corn is also a good source of two antioxidants, zeaxanthin, and lutein, which are good for eye health.

I've also heard the comment, "Corn is high in sugar." 

You don’t steer clear of bananas because you think they’re high in sugar, do you? Then why should you do the same for corn? A banana contains about the same amount of calories as an ear of corn. Both of them are around 110 calories. Guess what? A banana has more sugar than corn.  A cob of corn has around 6 to 8 grams of sugar, while a banana has about 15.

Don't let food bullies sway you one way or another. As you have heard from me before, there are no bad foods.

Is Aspartame Dangerous

Aspartame is a popular artificial sweetener used in many foods and drinks. It is sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal for the most part. It’s also used widely in packaged products — especially “diet” foods, low-calorie juices and diet sodas. 
Contrary to what many people believe, aspartame does contain calories. It contains the same amount of calories per gram as protein and carbohydrates which are 4 calories per gram. However, seeing that aspartame is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, the amount required to sweeten food is so small the calories are inconsequential. Which makes it essentially calorie free.

Well, why are people saying aspartame causes cancer?

In 2005, a study found more lymphomas and leukemias in rats fed very high doses of aspartame. So the media did scared people with the findings and people labeled it a "bad" food as a result. 

The interesting fact is that the amount that it took for those negative side effects to happen was absurd. There is always a dose response relationship whenever something like aspartame is studied but no one tells the truth about that. You would have to take in over 1,000 cans of diet soda a day to reach the amounts that caused the negative health effects in those rats. 

I can't stand when "experts" cherry pick science to prove a point without giving the whole story. 

Aspartame has been approved for human consumption by regulatory agencies in more than 100 countries and received wide consumer acceptance with consumption by hundreds of millions of people over the past 20 years, representing billions of man-years of safe exposure. If it was truly as dangerous as the experts say, wouldn't more people be dying from it? Or wouldn't we see a higher prevalence of it being linked to death? Exactly! What I see is people always trying to place a label on something so they can belong to some group or frame of thought. Meanwhile, we are still getting heart disease, metabolic diseases, and obesity is at an all time high. But let's blame aspartame right? 

Some people will argue that aspartame causes weight gain. Which makes ZERO sense because aspartame is essentially calorie free. The amount you would have to consume would be astronomical. 

Things To Take Note Of:
1. Now there is some research that suggests that aspartame could negatively affect your gut bacteria but that is why we practice moderation. 
2. Some people say that diet drinks cause them to crave more sugar. If you experience this then I would shy away from drinking them or reduce your overall intake of diet drinks. 
3. Constantly consuming really sweet foods and drinks can change your taste palate. I know people who can’t drink plain water as they don’t “like the taste” and need to sweeten everything. This isn’t exactly ideal and won't lead to sustained lifestyle changes so be very mindful of how much you consume. 
4. Drink More Water.

Food Strict Or Food Flexible

Food is in your face all day long. You see it on commercials, ads, billboards, and every digital platform out there. These days it’s very easy to get hooked into eating without thinking. The abundance of food available can trigger the desire to eat when you’re not physically hungry. You will end up eating more than your body needs or over eat certain kinds of food because they’re just so appealing. The availability and advertising of food forces you to constantly think about food and create the desire to eat.

We live in a world that constantly encourages us to eat, drink, and snack. You walk in the mall and smell cinnamon rolls, and every street corner has a multitude of fast food joints. In the United States, the food and beverage industry spends over $136 million on advertising, and the restaurant industry spends over $6 billion.

Food is always plentiful for those of us living in the United States, food is always plentiful. Our appetite used to be guided by survival and sustenance. Rather than an aid in our survival, it has become a disruption to our health and well-being. Your appetite may make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster ride of restricting, bingeing, and chronic self-blame. And while a roller coaster ride may be a thrill we seek out at an amusement park, it is not a pleasant or useful way to live. No one chooses a pattern of disordered eating that damages health, self-esteem, and personal relationships. But that is what the power of food has done to our society. 

Food roller coasters get old. The needle on the scale that you watched descend just days ago inches back up again. A critical inner voice makes you feel guilty for your lack of willpower and plays in your head like a broken record. Leaving you with a feeling of hopelessness and shame. 

Depriving yourself of sweet, salty, or fatty foods is what sets you up for cravings. Cutting yourself off from these super-tasty foods causes stress that then leads you to soothe yourself by bingeing on them. Let me tell you something that you already know. Dieting doesn't work and depriving yourself of foods you love is exactly why diets don't work. 

That is why the only way you will be successful at living a healthy lifestyle is occasionally including foods you enjoy. It's not too good to be true, nor is it unhealthy. Incorporating a broad range of foods within your daily caloric and macronutrient allowance can still enable progression towards your health & fitness goals. Flexible Dieting allows for a shift in thinking whereby foods are not recognized as "good" or "bad" and instead the science of how the body deals with macronutrients and calories from any food source is regarded. Quite simply, the body recognizes different foods for the food's macronutrient and caloric value, including proteins, fats or carbohydrates. If you're consuming less energy than you are expending (eating in a calorie deficit) you will lose weight. If you're consuming more energy than you are expending (eating in a calorie surplus) you will gain weight. Of course, you don't want a full day of eating to be consumed with refined sugary treats but you should not feel guilty if you work a small snickers bar into your caloric intake for the day. 

Stop labeling food with "clean" and "junk" labels because the diet you saw on the internet told you to. All diets lead to the same goal. A calorie deficit or a calorie surplus. Flexible Dieting focuses simply on eating to fulfill designated macro nutrient targets, or "hitting macros", each day. Try to fill your day with nutrient dense colorful foods and work in something from your "guilty" list from time to time and watch how much easier it is to adhere to your plan. The scientific principle surrounding calories in vs calories out are paramount to the success of Flexible Dieting. 

Learning how to eat right for your body, goals, and lifestyle takes time. But your consistency will only increase as you learn how to be flexible in your approach. 

Are Carbohydrates The Enemy

Carbs are bad right?

I'm sure you have been apart of a carbohydrate debate before. Avoiding carbs is the go to strategy in most of the diets that are out there today. You see all the celebrities promoting low carbohydrate diets and tons of professionals swearing that sugar makes you fat. More and more health conscious individuals are ditching carbs and opting to eat more fat.

What should you believe and what advice should you follow?

Let's get something straight first. Any macronutrient consumed in excess will result in weight gain. It could be 10,000 calories from the healthiest fat you can find or leanest protein out there. Eating above your maintenance calorie intake over time will start to add pounds to the scale.

Carbohydrates are not the enemy but they get the blame because of there inherent structure.

The conventional wisdom suggests that there shouldn’t be any difference in whether or not weight loss is achieved by cutting calories from either carbs or fat. If a calorie equals a calorie, then reduction of energy intake from either should lead to weight loss. We know that some foods react different in the body. Some foods are more nutrient dense than others. We are just talking about energy balance right now. 

Some have argued that carbs could cause more weight gain due to their effects on insulin. After all, insulin is the hormone that promotes the accumulation of storage of adipose tissue (body fat) as a result of overeating carbohydrates.

But while the carbohydrates effects on insulin propose that replacing carbs with fat should reduce insulin secretion leading to greater fat burning, this logic hasn’t quite held up to scrutiny when put into practice in scientific studies.

Does this mean carbohydrates are off the hook for weight gain? No, because it’s also well known that the majority of expendable calories do come from carbohydrate-rich and sugary foods, drinks, and desserts. You can't eat twinkies all day and not expect to pay a cost for it.

Additionally, there are some individuals who might benefit from low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. There is some merit for those that struggle with Type II diabetes or epilepsy to try a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. But this doesn't mean that everyone should be on a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. 

The research does suggest that it’s important that a balanced approach toward reducing calories is warranted for healthy weight loss. Carbs and insulin are not inherently fat producing on their own. The context in which carbs are consumed matters, in terms of energy balance.

Eliminating an entire macronutrient from the diet not only could have a person miss out on foods with important vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber, but also may not be any more effective for weight loss.

5 Tips To Help Stay On Track While Traveling

Is there a trick to traveling and managing your nutrition?

Many of my clients travel often for work. They say, "I can't be healthy this week because I have to travel for work". Or "This week is going to be rough because I have to go out to eat a lot for work."

Of course when you are thrown into the unknown things will be challenging. I know it will not be easy for you to stay on track with nutrition but it is doable.

Here are 5 tips to help stay on track while traveling:

  1. Be prepared.
    By planning ahead you will find yourself staying much closer to the path of wellness when on the go. The first stop you should make is at the grocery store. There are tons of great snacks that travel well so you can have nutritiously dense food to take with you. I've brought protein bars, raw nuts, fruit, and my empty water bottle so I can fill it up once through security that way I have more than enough. Those tiny little cups they give you on the plane might as well be a shot glass.
  2. Be boring when choosing your meal.
    Eating out at most restaurants can be very difficult. The portions are likely too big, the healthy options are limited, and they cover just about everything in inflammatory oils. When your calorie friendly choices are limited order a salad with dressing on the side. I dip my fork in the dressing then take a stab at the dry salad and I typically use about half as much if they poured it over the salad for me. Pay the extra money to add protein if it doesn't come with it. The extra protein can be satiating and may keep you from ordering dessert or eating too much past what you should. Steamed vegetables with lean proteins like chicken or fish are available at almost any place you go.
  3. Keep tracking.
    If you're already tracking your food in some sort of log or app keep doing it. Don't stress out if you go over your normal amounts but by tracking you will be more cognizant of what you're doing and you will inevitably make better decisions or choose smaller quantities. You may not hit the target carbohydrates, protein, and fats you want but you can make sure that you don't go over the allotted calories you have during that time.
  4. Fast food.
    Sometimes we simply can't avoid it when traveling. You're with 3 co-workers who all could care less about the things they put in their bodies so you're outnumbered. Don't freak out and don't starve yourself in this situation. One of the few changes we have seen in recent years is restaurants actually telling us the nutrition info. Keep an eye on the fats and aim for something that is high in protein. The fats is where they tend to get us because they douse the food in the worst kind of oils imaginable. If you do happen to overeat because you had a lack of choices then consume it guilt free and move on with your day.
  5. Enjoy it.
    We can't expect to be perfect and life is all about controlling the flow. I try living by the 80/20 rule. Make good nutritional decisions 80% of the time and the other 20% I enjoy life! Exploring new cities is fun so don't let it go by without having one mouth watering meal, beverage, or both!

4 Reasons Why Smoothies Are Amazing

When was the last time you had a smoothie? And I'm not talking about one from Smoothie King or some milkshake-like dessert from your favorite fast food joint. If the first thing that came to mind when I mentioned smoothie is ice cream then shame on you.

I'm talking about a whole food nutritiously dense smoothie!

Smoothies alone won’t fix a poor nutritional habits. But they can be an amazing addition to your diet. Smoothies offer a lot of great benefits, but one of the best things about them is that they are awesome for people who may not be consuming enough fruits and vegetables. They may be helpful in upping fruit and vegetable intake as well. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are 4 great facts about why you should consider adding a smoothie to your meal plan.

1. A Variety Of Fruits & Vegetables
Fewer than a quarter of Americans get enough fruits and vegetables. When was the last time you met the USDA recommendation of at least five servings per day. With a smoothie, you can incorporate a cup or two of greens and a serving or two of fruit easy. Fiber is an important part of any nutritional regimen. It prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol and makes you feel full longer. Fruit or vegetable juices can sometimes have a lower fiber content for various amounts of reasons. But the fiber in a homemade smoothie is still in tact.

2. High Amounts Of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are involved in the prevention of cellular damage. That sounds like a big fancy term but it's not. Cellular damage is a common pathway for cancer, aging, and a variety of diseases. Point being, you don't want cellular damage on a large scale. The goal is to prevent it. You can pack plenty of vegetables and fruits which are rich in antioxidants into your smoothies.

3. Fun Experiment That The Whole Family Can Enjoy
When I was younger there were certain vegetables I just didn't want to eat. Texture was a major thing for me then. But when my mother started making smoothies for me and hiding the spinach, kale, and other nutritious vegetables I had no problem chugging it down. Smoothies can be a fun way to get your family to eat whole foods and can be a fun experiment for the entire family. If you don’t normally drink green smoothies, try starting off with incorporating just a little bit of greens with a lot of fruit, and increasing the amount a little bit over time.

4. Unlimited Add-On Options
I love to use smoothies as a way to throw in extra nutrients that I might not be able to get in during the day. Things like honey, greek yogurt, flax seeds, hemp seeds, coconut oil, and peanut butter. Of course there are many more you can add in that list but those are just some of my favorites.

Smoothies are great drinks filled with fruits and/or vegetables and other nutrient dense ingredients.  They make wonderful options for a meal or a snack when made with natural items. When you have a good blender and quality ingredients, making a delicious, healthy smoothies is simple and easy.

4 Different Ways to Enjoy Eggs

I love eggs! I have had eggs in some form or fashion almost every day since I was a kid. I'm that guy that goes and buys 5 dozen eggs when I go to the grocery store.

Eggs aren't some miracle food. They do have some nutrients that provide some great health benefits. They’re an excellent source of protein. They provide 7 grams in a single egg and delivering all the essential amino acids needed to retain and maintain a lean muscle. They also deliver a rich source of vitamin B-12, vitamin D, iron and vitamin A.

Eggs are so versatile. When you think about eating eggs, it is typically for breakfast. But there are many more ways to enjoy eggs. Here are my favorite 4 ways to enjoy eggs.

#1 Boiled Eggs
Boiled eggs probably isn't the most exciting way to eat eggs. However, they are very convenient. Boiled eggs can last a long time in the refrigerator after being boiled (3-5 days), they are easy to prepare, and provide a little protein bump when you are in need. They can be consumed in a variety of ways. You can chop them and drop them on a salad, eat them on top of bread with avocado, or add them to a skillet dish.

#2 Baked
A frittata is a traditional egg-based Italian dish similar to a quiche without the crust coming from carbs! Frittatas are usually cooked in a skillet using a lot of oil. Of course there are ways to bring the calories down of one of your favorite dishes. I like to bake the eggs in a muffin pan. You could use a variety of ingredients to prepare this dish. You could chop up zucchini, onions, mushrooms, spinach, kale or even broccoli. Sautee your selected veggies and add to egg mix, using a combination of whole eggs and egg whites. You can also bump the protein content if desired, adding chopped chicken breast, ground turkey or beef, and even bacon. Take your egg mixture and place in non-stick muffin tin, place in the oven and bake. When done, you’ll have egg frittata muffins that you can portion for a few meals!

#3 Topped On Your Favorites
Top your favorites with eggs. Try a pan-fried egg on top of a burger or sandwich with your favorite toppings. Eggs can also top a healthy a rice cake, with smashed avocado and tomato.

#4 Scramble
Of course this is the go to for most people including myself. I love scrambled eggs. It reminds me of eating pancakes, eggs and bacon when I was a kid on my grandpa's ranch.

Eggs will always be a favorite of mine. The are so versatile. You may or may not like eggs the traditional way but you should at least venture out and try making them a few different ways. It might add a new flavor to your dish.

8 Tips For Eating Out

Should you avoid eating out?

Most trainers would take a stance on this and tell you whether or not eating out is detrimental or beneficial to you reaching your goal.

There is nothing wrong with eating out. There is no bad food. There are portion sizes that are too big you and foods with little micronutrient value.

This doesn't mean you need to avoid going to all restaurants, disown your family and miss celebrations just to meet your health and fitness goal.

There are a few great things you can implement to keep you headed down the right path though.

I call it the going out to eat checklist.

1. Don't skip meals just so you can binge when you go out to eat.

Poor decisions stem from the fact that you are starving and foods you typically would avoid become foods you give into. If you arrive hungry, most likely you will be tempted to fall off track. Not to mention, by the time you get to your destination, get seated, order and eat, it can take hours. That is a set up for failure.

Have some nutritiously dense food prior to you going out to eat. If you have dinner plans then don't skip lunch and that mid day snack so you can load up on chips and salsa because chances are you will over do it once you start.

2. Take a look at the menu prior to you getting to the restaurant.

You can find pretty much any menu of any restaurant online now. This serves you because now you can plan before hand. Check the menu online so you can plan your meal using healthier options. It is smart to show up at the restaurant well prepared and knowing what it is you are going to order. You can make a healthy choice almost anywhere. But the major key is you must know what to ask for and how to manipulate the menu options.

3. Don't be afraid to ask for food substitutions.

You need to be aware of your eating. There is a reason why the foods that you eat at a restaurant taste so good. They may tell you what comes with a meal but you aren't aware how it is prepared. For example, often an entree will not list “butter” or “cheese” in the description, but you can bet that most meals are doused with butter or dusted with cheese. Butter and cheese can easily add an additional few hundred calories to a meal! The oils that are another culprit. Peanut oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil and various others are used in your meals so they have a superb flavor and leave you begging for more.

Know what you are eating. Ask the server how the food is prepared and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to ensure you are ordering your meal as you want it. Don’t assume the meal you order will be prepared exactly as the description states. Menus tend to give an overview of the meal but not offer the specifics that can easily prevent a meal from being healthy. It is okay for you to ask the server for your meal not to be dipped in butter prior to being prepared.

4. Make sure you get your veggies.

You can't go wrong with vegetables. Well unless they are drowned in butter. Vegetables at a restaurant tastes ten times better than those steamed vegetables you made at home last week. That is because restaurants drench their veggies in butter. So be careful when you are under the assumption that you are making a healthy choice. Salads are tricky as well. Some healthy salads can have more calories from fat than a cheeseburger! Ask for your cheese on the side, dressing on the side and be cautious of the amount of nuts that are on your salad. It is okay for you to modify your meals. Little things like dressing can defeat your purpose of making a good choice and double your calorie intake for that meal. Some great additions to salads that don't bring the unwanted fat calories include honey mustard, salsa, light italian, and various balsamic dressings.

5. When in doubt, choose grilled options.

Grilled options are a safer bet than fried. Anything that has the word “crunchy,” “fried” or “breaded” you want to cautious of. You would be surprised how many meals can be made “grilled with no butter or sauce.” But if you want the sauce then ask for it on the side for dipping. That way you can be in control of the consumption.

6. Order water.

It is fine if you want an adult beverage. That is your personal choice. But make sure to order a water as well. Water will help you stay hydrated and also help you keep full so you don't overeat. Restaurant meals typically have more sodium in them than a meal you will make at home because they want to boost that great flavor. If you stay hydrated you can combat the extra sodium in restaurant meals.

7. Get a to go box immediately..

The plates at restaurants are humongous. The food that comes out on them can feed a small village. You get full half way through and force yourself to eat the rest because you don't want to 'waste food'. That is a bad mindset to be in. Rather than setting yourself up for that, ask for a to go box and put half away as soon as the meal comes out. Out of sight, out of mind. You can eat the left overs for lunch the next day.

8. Share a dessert.

I know you want one and so does your partner. But that is cruising down weight gain island. I know it will taste so good going down but you will be kicking yourself tomorrow. Just air on the side of caution and choose one dessert that both of you can enjoy.

The more you are aware of how to navigate a menu, the easier eating out will be. Eating out doesn’t have to be so daunting. The more you eat out and learn to ask for what you want, you will see how accommodating most places can be. There is no reason why you can’t go out to eat with friends and family, while continuing to stay on track with your goals. I hope these tips help and prove how realistic it really can be.

Are You Getting Enough Fiber?

Did you know fiber is also known as roughage? Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that travel through our digestive system. Fiber absorbs water along the way and helps to ease bowel movements.

Fiber is a very important conversation that I have with clients all the time. Do you get enough fiber? The odds are pretty good that you don’t get the recommended daily amount. Studies show that only five percent of adults consume adequate dietary fiber. The Institute of Medicine recommends at least 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men every day.

The majority of us are missing out on the health benefits from fiber including support for heart health, digestive health, and weight management.

Many nutritionally dense foods have much less fiber than you think. For example, an apple has about 3 grams and a slice of whole grain bread contains about 2 grams. So you can see that it takes some planning to make sure that your daily fiber content needs are met.

Don't try to fix your fiber needs in a day. Gradually improve. Any time you make a major change to your diet your body will need some time to adjust. Increasing fiber is best done in small increments because drastic change can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Attempting to improve it too fast can cause digestive upsets such as intestinal gas, cramping, or diarrhea. One approach may be to add one serving of fiber-rich foods every day for a week. See how your body feels and maybe increase to two servings the next week. You could repeat that as long as you listen to your body until you reached the desired fiber content level. Your best choice is a slow, gradual increase over time to help your system adapt and avoid any uncomfortable symptoms.

A key component to increasing fiber content is to also increase water as well.

Hydration levels and digestive comfort are closely related. The large intestine plays an important role in maintaining the body’s water balance so monitoring water becomes even more important. On a day when you don’t drink as much water as your body needs, the large intestine will compensate by absorbing more water than usual from the materials entering the large intestine. The end result can often leading to constipation. One of the benefits of getting an adequate amount of dietary fiber is to increase both the volume and moisture content of the material in the large intestine. This is beneficial because it supports the body’s ability to eliminate waste and promote regularity. However, increasing dietary fiber can only support regularity if you are well hydrated.

Exploring many different sources of dietary fiber is a major key.

There are a many different types of dietary fiber and each type has unique benefits. Some types of fiber can dissolve and thicken when mixed with water. This is a property that helps you to feel satisfied for a longer period of time after a meal. Oats, for example, are a a type of fiber that helps keep your appetite in check and can have benefits for heart health. Other types of fiber are called prebiotics and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. You can maximize the benefits for your body by choosing a variety of fiber-rich foods.

Almost everyone can help their bodies by getting more fiber. Fiber rich foods support both healthy intestinal function and overall health in many ways. By keeping the tips in mind that I laid out, you can receive maximum benefits from getting the right amount of fiber for your body every day.

No More Cheat Meals

Cheat meals.
Cheat days.
Reward meals.
Diet breaks.

These are very popular terms in the fitness world.

I can't stand how people loosely use those terms. It basically means you need to put a label on why you deserve to eat whatever you want in a specific time frame. 

The idea behind cheat meals and days is that you schedule a specific meal(s) or day during the week when you eat anything you want. It boils down to eating foods that are off limits at other times during the week. You stick to whatever regimen you have during the week, and then the weekend comes and you let loose. 

This works for some. Scheduling a meal where you can enjoy some of your favorite foods could be a positive experience. Having something to look forward to could lead to good adherence to stick to a plan. In my personal experience, this takes an extreme amount of discipline and willpower. And willpower is a limited resource in this lifestyle. You have to be a very mindful eater before entering that arena or a lot of things could go wrong. 

For instance, when some people have foods they believe are off limits they will think about those foods all the time. It can even lead to an unhealthy obsession of those foods. Since they think some foods are restricted then they crave them like crazy. They will place foods like pizza, cookies, and cake on a pedestal.  The thought of knowing something is “forbidden” or “off limits” makes those foods more desirable for many people. 

Scheduling reward meals or having cheat days might not be ideal for you. In my opinion there isn’t one thing that works for everyone. 

Here are some other problems I’ve seen people experience with cheat meals:

  1. They over eat a ton of junk during the scheduled cheat day/meal since it’s the only day they can eat whatever they want.
  2. They eat foods that they could care less about because it is off limits on other days. 
  3. Cravings are out of control until the scheduled cheat day.
  4. They lose control and eat until they are over full.
  5. They experience huge food guilt which leads to cycle of disordered eating. 

I believe we need to approach a healthy lifestyle in a different manner. My approach to nutrition is different than most health professionals. I don't believe in diets, or restrictive nutritional regimens. If you want to make this a lifestyle then you have to look at things from a broader scope. Can you sustain your eating patterns for the next 5 - 10 years? If your answer is no, then you have to find a new way.  

The issue with my approach to nutrition is that it takes time. Of course you don't like that statement. But you should be tired of trying diet after diet and losing the same 10-20 pounds over and over again. It takes a little time to attain some consistency in planning meals, preparing your food, and become a more mindful eater. But once you gain that momentum you will be able to include some foods you love when you want them.  If it’s Tuesday and you want a few cookies, you will be able to eat the cookies and then move on with your life. It will no longer be cheating because you understand your body well enough to satisfy a craving without your world is coming to an end. You will be able to eat them, enjoy them, and then move on.  You will gain a better mind and body connection and understand you can have whatever I want. Because you will understand portion sizes, proper planning and mindfulness.   

The main point is that I don’t view any food as off limits. The sooner you realize that then the more free you become in this lifestyle and then you begin to enjoy the all the fruits it has to offer. 

Grandma's Cooking Can Get You In Trouble

When I was growing up I remember going to my grandmother's house and salivating over the food she made me. I'm sure that everyone will agree with me when I say, "There is no cooking like Grandma's." Right?

One reason Grandma's cooking tastes so good is that she isn't afraid to use oil and butter. She coats the pan with it. She adds it to the recipe. She even adds it as a topping sometimes. 

I always wondered how the vegetables tasted like pie. Ha! Those "healthy" green beans added up to hundreds of extra calories to the meal for sure!

The unsaturated, "healthy" fats in oils such as olive, canola, and avocado oil and the saturated fats in butter and coconut oil have their place in your diet. I'm not saying that you shouldn't have them. They play an important role in your physique and performance goals. But those fats are very calorie dense and you shouldn't throw them in dishes without accounting for them. They can raise your daily caloric intake by 300 calories really fast. 

Let's say you are cooking lean ground turkey for lunch. It may have a 90/10 ratio and it will typically lose some fat when cooked. But when you add in all the oils and butter then it is possible that you are you're adding hundreds of additional calories to your day.

Rather than adding oil or butter throughout the cooking process, use a nonfat cooking spray. Another great idea is to flavor your dish with your favorite herbs or spices instead of butter. There are tons of great seasonings out there that can help you in this endeavor. 

I love to cook and try different seasonings. The key to this process is finding seasonings that you like and work with your taste buds. 

Here are my top 3 favorite seasonings to use on protein sources like chicken, turkey, beef or pork. These brands have worked for me over the past 10 years. They have many different options but I felt the need to share. Hopefully it can help you in your journey. 

Low Fat Diet Scam

I still see low fat diet approaches roaming the internet and social media. The low fat, high starch diet was the focus of dietary advice during the 1990's. The USDA food pyramid instructed the public to lower fats and increase grains and starches.

Low fat diets were introduced to help prevent heart disease and be the cure all of successful weight loss. A growing body of evidence has been pointing to its insufficiency for weight loss or prevention of heart disease and several cancers.

There was a study that brings home my point that lasted for eight years and included almost 49,000 women. These women were between 50 and 79 years of age. Of these, 19,541 were randomly assigned to follow a low-fat diet. Their goal was to lower their fat intake from almost 38% of calories to 20%. They had a series of individual and group counseling session to aid them in their efforts. Another 29,294 women were randomly assigned to continue their usual diets. They were given generic diet related educational materials.

The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They showed no benefits for a low-fat diet. The women assigned to this eating strategy did not appear to gain protection against breast cancer, various cancers, or cardiovascular disease. After eight years their weights were generally the same as the women following their usual diets.

Fats are an essential nutrient and one of the primary energy sources for the body. They also play a big role in weight management, absorbing nutrients, maintaining healthy skin and hair, regulating body temperature, supporting immune function, insulating internal organs, and hormonal balance.

When it comes to dietary fat, what matters most is the type of fat you eat. Not all dietary fats are created equally and not all affect the body in the same way. Refined fats found in boxed foods and most restaurants use fats that make our foods taste delicious and we should be cautious before consuming them. Nothing is bad in moderation. If you have a choice, use natural fats which have beneficial life extending properties. When we miss out on fats in our diets, we can find ourselves feeling tired, moody, constantly hungry, unable to kick cravings and resentful over our restrictive diets.

Here is a short list of great dietary fats that provide good health benefits.

  • Coconut Oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Avocado
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia Seed
  • Eggs
  • Edamame
  • Fish and Lean Beef

Making good dietary choices does really matter, but it is the type of fat, not the amount, that is most important. Keep in mind that too many calories from both fat and carbohydrate will lead to weight gain. This will increase risks of various cancers and heart disease.

4 Kitchen Tools That Save Time

If sustaining long term weight loss is your goal then there are some things that will remain constant. Cooking will always be at the forefront of that conversation. 

I know it can be a hassle to plan meals out, grocery shop, and find the time to cook meals. But the key to being consistent week to week is finding little tips and tricks to help you save time. 

Convenient, quick, and inexpensive come to mind when it comes to preparing delicious, good-for-you meals.

Home cooked meals will always be something that I recommend. The key is to save time and money so your meal prepping doesn't turn into a stressful situation. You should check out these four kitchen tools I wouldn’t want to live without. It makes life easier for me and my wife each week. The items listed below save time because you can use them to make delicious meals quickly. Money is being saved because preparing your meals will always be cheaper than eating out. 

Rice Cooker
I love eating rice. Brown rice, jasmine rice, and white rice all play a huge role in my weekly meal plans personally. The rice cooker is an important tool to shorten cooking time. It also maintains the nutritional value of food as air and fluids get trapped within the cooker like a pressure cooker. The device also contains an automatic timer alerting you when the rice is finished. Rice cookers can also make your vegetables taste amazing by steaming them for you. 

Slow Cooker
I have to thank my mother and my wife for keeping this fantastic tool in rotation for preparing delicious meals. Growing up my mother used it all the time. I'm pretty sure she did it so I could stay out of her hair for days on end because it made the best left overs anyone could ask for. My wife introduced me to slow cooker liners and I can't tell you how easy cleanup is since I started using them. 

Get a slow cooker that’s at least six quarts, this way you can make large meals and save leftovers. Cook once, eat several meals after. That’s my slogan. Slow cooker recipes need a little prep work but nothing that is too strenuous. Chopping vegetables and protein sources is about the extent of it. One of the great things about using this tool is the fresh ingredients that you use are cooked at a low temperature. Which retains that nutrition rich, natural juices from vegetables and meats. 

Breakfast is a breeze with electric griddles. I love to make pancakes and a griddle helps me a lot because I can prepare my own and my wife's. Whether you are looking to make a lot of pancakes or want to cook your eggs alongside bacon, having the space of a full griddle gives more options for every cook. The electric griddle is best known for its flat surface, which serves as a great way to make breakfast food but the use of it extends beyond breakfast. They make great burgers, salmon cakes and various fritters as well. 

It is no secret that smoothies are delicious. Using a blender is an amazing tool when it comes to using natural ingredients. I’m all for the great smoothies that you will find at various places but they can be pretty calorie dense too. If you prepare your own then you are taking out a lot of the problems (high salt, added sugar, added fat, etc.), that are found in store bought items. The list of quality blenders out there is huge. While some truly extraordinary ones might be up there in cost, you can still find something capable, durable, and within your budget. 

I preach day in and day out that if you do not know how to eat at home then you will not know how to eat out. Investing in tools to make meal prep a little more simple is worth every penny. I hope you find some of these tools useful in your journey one day. 

What Do Expiration Dates Mean

Picture this. You wake up in the morning to go downstairs to prepare your meals for the day only to see that your food is past the expiration dates.

What do you do?

Interestingly, experts did the math and estimate that $165 billion worth of perfectly edible food gets tossed each year. It comes out to be 40% of all food made in the Unites States being trashed. This is all due to it passing its expiration date.

Is that not alarming to you? People are starving around the world and we are wasting food. Some people may not have a problem throwing it away but I do. I respect your decision either way but I want to teach you what different expiration dates mean.

"Sell by", "Used by" or "Best by"

We see these on every food product. But I have noticed that many people do not know what they mean.

"Sell by" refers to purchasing the item prior to the date that's listed.
“Best if used by/before” dates show when the product will have optimal taste and quality.
“Use by” dates tell you the last day the food will be at its top quality.

What people fail to realize is the USDA also notes that it’s okay to eat these foods past the dates on the packaging. It is our job to make sure that the package is intact and the item looks fresh. The only exception is infant formula, as the USDA advises parents to not buy or even use baby formula once the “use by” date rolls around.

So how long does food last then? It differs from food to food. I'll cover the top 5 foods I get questions about.

The USDA advises you that you can leave it in a refrigerator for one to two days after purchase. Research supports that you can leave chicken in the freezer for nine months. Cooked chicken depends on storage conditions. The best way is to smell and look at the chicken. Signs of bad cooked chicken will be a sour smell and slimy texture. Please throw it away if your chicken looks or smells bad. Do not taste it to see if it is bad.

The USDA advises consumers to pay attention to the “use by” date and not the “sell by” date. You can keep beef in the freezer for six to twelve months, and it will remain top quality. Beef will also stay good for three to five days after you bought it.

Eggs are a pretty controversial food group. If eggs simply have a “sell by” date, research shows that you can store them for three to five weeks.

Milk should be refrigerated and it will generally remain drinkable for about one week after the “sell by” date on the package. It is time to toss your milk if it is grainy, has a sour smell, shows an off white color, or thick and clumpy texture.

If you purchase refrigerated yogurt you can keep it for about 7 to 10 days after the “sell by” date. If you freeze the yogurt, you can get one to two months out of it. Opened yogurt will taste optimal for five to seven days after it’s opened. Yogurt should be thrown out if you see a watery consistency, a clumpy texture, and a sour smell. If you see mold, throw out the whole package.

Those cover foods that I commonly get questions about. It is your duty to make smart choices at the grocery store. Here are some principles I like to follow that have helped me over the years.

1. Don't buy more than you can eat in a given time frame. You can always go back to the store if you need a little extra. 
2. Plan your grocery list out ahead of time. It will cut out mindless shopping which leads to food being thrown out. 
3. Set a budget at the store so you don't exceed it. This will cut out buying 'extra' that you probably didn't need in the first place. 

What Is Disordered Eating?

There is an obsession in our culture with body size, weight, diet and exercise. Unfortunately this has led many down a road of disordered eating. Research suggests that up to 50 percent of the population show signs and symptoms of disordered relationships with food, body, and exercise. Clinical eating disorders are estimated to be around 1 to 3 percent of the general population. Do you see where I am getting at?

Disordered eating patterns need to be taken seriously. They can be problematic if not. An individual with disordered eating patterns engages in some of the same behavior as those with clinically diagnosed eating disorders. It is at a lesser frequency or lower level of severity but it is still very important not to ignore. 

When disordered eating patterns aren't addressed it could lead to depression or anxiety. Some of the more harsh symptoms of disordered eating may include food restriction, binge eating, and purging. Purging could include self induced vomiting, excessive exercise, and the use of diet pills or laxatives.

When I meet an individual who may have had a bad relationship with food in the past I always start slow. One of the first things I address is creating a better self image since self image issues can be a trigger for most. Issues with your body shape and weight can weigh on you and lead you down a path of disordered eating. I will see this happen when someone's weight falls within a healthy range but they continue to feel they are overweight. This attitude could lead to an excessive or rigid exercise routine. I've seen people play it off as if they are practicing self discipline. But it is a mask they wear to hide hours spent in they gym, avoiding social situations, and ignoring family events. This approach could go with obsessive calorie counting too. I often see people who have anxiety about certain foods or food groups because it will 'make me fat'. The process of rigid eating, only eating certain foods, inflexible meal times and refusal to eat in restaurants or outside of one’s own home is the start to destructive patterns of eating.

Learning how to over come disordered eating patterns is a process.

Here are 4 helpful tips to help you or anyone you know get through this difficult obstacle.

1. Do your best to avoid fad diets. Diets are typically restrictive in some form or fashion in both quantity or variety. Restriction at high levels leads to a feeling of deprivation and binge eating could follow that feeling. I have always preached to be more inclusive than exclusive. Moderation is a more healthier long term approach.
2. Have a healthy limit on exercise and always do physical activities that you enjoy. When exercise becomes a chore then it is time to look into other means of partaking in physical activity. 
3. No more negative self body talk. Even simple comments pointing out a proposed flaw of yours could lead to a downward spiral. Be mindful of critical talk about yourself or your body.
4. Put the scale away until you have a better relationship with food.

Continuing To Eat When You Are Full

You loosened a belt buckle just so you could get another bite of your favorite dessert. Did you need it? Did you want it? Or did you just have to have it? You knew you were full before you took the bite. You knew you shouldn't have even gotten desert but that cheesecake looked too good to resist. Then you wondered why you even did that. How many times has this happened to you?

Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone”. It's known to stimulate your appetite when you’re hungry or in need of calories. It will also make you want to eat just because the food in front of you looks especially good.

Ghrelin is secreted by your stomach. From there it sends a message to receptors in your brain. It tells them to be more receptive to food’s visual cues. Your brain responds by sending back a reply to your belly saying, “Hey, that looks delicious" or "Let’s eat it!” For many people, hungry or not, that message is just too hard to resist.

Grehlin increases specific rewarding aspects of eating. There's some evidence linking grehlin levels with the pleasurable feelings that someone would get from alcohol, nicotine or cocaine. 

People with anorexia, loss of appetite due to physical illness, or who are fasting or losing weight by dieting, have especially high levels of ghrelin circulating in their bloodstreams. It makes sense if you think about it. Because these are conditions where your body is fearing starvation. But we are armed with natural survival tools and your body will tell you that it wants you to eat. People who are obese and those who have had gastric by-pass surgery are found to have lower circulating levels of ghrelin. That is why they eat considerably less than what they were accustomed to and eventually lose a considerable amount of body weight from being in such a deficit. 

The real job of this hormone is to work with other hormones to correct appetite and energy imbalances, and help you maintain a consistent weight. 

This is why you are hungrier when you don't get enough sleep. It also explains why there is always more room for dessert. These intricate hormones acting together is also why your body always seems to work against you in your valiant weight loss efforts.

Grehlin is so powerful that it is stimulated by the mere sight of food. That is why fast food advertising is so appealing.

So the next time you reach for the dessert menu, stop and think. When your brain is telling you to get that special desert ask yourself if it is really you wanting the dessert or just ghrelin making you think that you do.

Control The Holiday Cravings

It seems as if health and weight loss goals come to a stop around this time of year. I guess with the loads of sugary treats wherever you go makes it hard to see numbers on the scale decrease. 

From co-workers bringing cookies and other food temptations into the office to candy sales at the grocery store. It becomes a constant saying of, "I'll only have a little."

Sugar cravings have the capability to derail even the most determined individuals. 

I enjoy the holidays and I do not believe a person should be under severe restriction at the expense of quality family time. But there are a few ways to both avoid and address those cravings while still keeping your diet on track.

Here are my top tips for managing your weight over the holidays.

Give in. Just a little! Sometimes the best thing to do is just enjoy just one or two of those goodies. High levels of deprivation can sometimes lead to an all out binge. Long term results will go south when binges begin. Planning out a pre-portioned sweet is a better option. Setting a time and knowing exactly what your daily treat is will help give you something to look forward to. This will help you not to go over board but it will also allow you to not feel deprived. 

Keep your hunger in check. Plan a healthy meal or snack to eat every few hours. Waiting too long between meals could set you up to give in to whatever food temptations that come your way. When you are battling hunger then sugar cravings become hard to deal with. By keeping your hunger in check, it’ll be much easier to eat the way you planned and avoid high amounts of sweets. 

Keep the goodies out of reach or replace it with a healthier option. The visibility of food can cause a significant increase of the consumption of that food. You are setting yourself up for failure if you leave the bowl of candy beside you for the entire day. Put it in some ziplock bags and place it in the pantry. I think fruit can be a great go to option for replacing some of the sugary favorites. Keeping a fruit bowl, mixed nuts or some of your favorite protein bars on hand is always a good idea during the holidays. 

On average, most people add about 3-8 pounds of body weight during this time of year. It is not a real big percentage of total body weight but if you are already experiencing weight loss or maintenance hard ships why make it worse? 

Maintaining or continuing to lose weight during a time of endless food temptations is tough. But if you work at it then you set yourself up for great success later. 

How Much Water Should You Be Drinking?

The beloved water debate. This is a topic that I cover at least once a day between friends, family and clients. 

The question of how much water your body needs to stay hydrated can be a bit tricky. Is it eight glasses a day? Half your body weight in ounces? Those are all common suggestions to follow when trying to stay hydrated. But is there a definitive answer to how much water you should be drinking on a daily basis? 

We all have different hydration needs that vary depending on our health, activity level, diet, and climate. 

I don't want to be the bearer of bad news but there is no specific “one size fits all” recommendation. So if someone tells you to carry around a gallon jug and finish it by the end of the day, run the opposite direction. 

Water is critical for for everyone. Water makes up 60 percent of our body weight, and even that can vary depending on size and gender. Hydration can come from water, food, or metabolic water production. Research has given us some general guidelines. Healthy adults should drink at the very least 2 liters, or 8.5 cups of water every day. 

Why would there be differences in optimal intake for different people?

While considering optimal hydration there are a few factors to keep in mind. You must take into account the intensity of your fitness routine, the temperature outdoors, and current health status. Women must also take extra things into consideration like being pregnant or lactating.

If you have an exercise regimen of any kind then hydration becomes even more important. You have hydration requirements greater than those individuals who are sedentary by about one to three cups per day. Performing exercise for extended periods of time, especially over an hour, makes electrolytes (sodium and potassium) imperative to hydration. Replacing electrolytes that are lost through sweating helps avoid the condition of having too little sodium in your blood.

Similarly, living in warm weather with high temperatures or humidity causes greater fluid loss than that of individuals living in more temperate climates. For this reason additional fluids and electrolytes are recommended for people lucky enough to live where the sun always shines.

Lastly, pregnant or lactating women require more fluids for adequate hydration in the range of 10 to 14 additional cups per day. Putting their recommended daily fluid intake level to around 4.5 liters or 18 cups.

What can you do to ensure you are drinking enough water?

Optimal hydration can be reached through drinking various fluids and by eating water-dense foods.

Findings from a recent study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggest that regardless of the fluids ingested, the body knows how to use them for optimal hydration. Researchers observed a group of healthy males, randomized to varying sources of hydration for 24 hours. They were randomized to either consume water, water and diet soda, water and regular soda, or water with regular soda, diet soda, and orange juice mixed. After testing the subjects’ urine for biological markers of hydration and dehydration, the scientists discovered that all of the men were adequately hydrated.

Coffee, despite some common beliefs, is also a good hydrator. 

How does hydration effect your weight loss efforts?

Hydration is eminent to health and wellness and can even contribute to weight gain or weight loss. Research shows some of your favorite beverages can help your hydration levels. But you must remember that some of those options aren't calorie free. Make smart decisions when consuming some of your favorites. The sugar free version of your favorite soda or coffee not loaded with sugar could lead to better weight-loss success. 

Proper hydration plays a role in counteracting overeating. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger so food is eaten instead of drinking water or other fluids. A good idea is to first hydrate with a glass of water, a cup of coffee or tea, or any other sugar-free beverage before grabbing a snack.

Staying properly hydrated also plays a role in thermoregulation. A body that is properly hydrated burns more calories than a body that is dehydrated. 

My top 3 optimal hydration tips for success. 

1) Never allow yourself to be thirsty. 
2) Eat plenty of water dense fruits and vegetables. These include cucumbers, bell peppers, and watermelon. They all contribute to optimal hydration as well. 
3) Keep fluids with you where ever you go. If you have it with you then you will likely stay hydrated. 

Tucker MA. Ganio MS. Adams JD et al. Hydration status over the 24-H is not affected by ingested beverage composition. J A Coll Nutri. 2014