Category Archives: Weight Loss

Unearthing the Hype Behind Greek Yogurt

Chobani Greek YogurtYogurt has long been celebrated as a healthy snack and nutritious breakfast item, but in recent years it’s Greek yogurt that is making nutrition headlines. So what’s behind this supposed “super” yogurt and is it worth all the hype? Let’s take a deeper dive.

What Makes It Greek

Yogurt is made from adding healthy bacteria to milk, which then causes the milk to ferment. As the milk ferments, it becomes thicker and yogurt forms. The yogurt is then strained using a cheesecloth to remove the milky liquid (known as whey) and drained. For regular yogurt, the straining process is done twice, but for Greek yogurt straining is done three times, removing more liquid and creating a thicker consistency.

Health Benefits

Greek yogurt has a wide range of health benefits. The process of removing more liquid to make the yogurt results in a healthier yogurt with more concentrated protein and calcium and no added sugar. In fact, a six-ounce serving of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt can contain between 15 to 20 grams of protein, nearly two times what you see in regular yogurt. An eight-ounce serving (about one cup) contains 23 grams of protein.

Yogurt’s high calcium content is also a big bonus for yogurt fans. Helping you build strong bones, one six-ounce serving of yogurt provides around 20 percent of daily-recommended values and an eight-ounce serving contains up to 30 percent, nearly the same amount of calcium you find in a glass of milk.1

In addition to its rich protein and calcium content, Greek yogurt also helps keep your intestinal tract healthy. The probiotics in the yogurt improve digestion and promote the good bacteria that fight off harmful bacteria.1

Baking and Cooking Substitute

Want to indulge in creamy dips and sweets without all the guilt and fat? Greek yogurt to the rescue! Greek yogurt, with its thick, creamy consistency, is a wonderful cooking and baking substitute. When recipes call for Greek yogurt’s high-fat look alikes, sour cream or mayonnaise, you can go Greek to reduce the fat and not sacrifice taste.

Following are some quick tips for cooking with Greek yogurt.

  • When baking, consider using yogurt instead of eggs, oil or sour cream.
  • For chicken or tuna salad, potato salad or coleslaw, use Greek yogurt to replace all or half of the mayonnaise.
  • For a tasty and healthy marinade for chicken or fish, combine yogurt with your favorite herbs and spices.
  • Add dill to plain yogurt with a squeeze of lemon and use as a sauce over salmon or chicken.
  • For brunch entertaining, forgo coffee cake and donuts and satisfy sweet cravings with a Greek yogurt and berry parfait.
  • Add Greek yogurt into your next smoothie to up your protein content.
  • Add half Greek yogurt to any dip, including guacamole or hummus, to half the calories and fat and double the protein and calcium.
  • §  Consider stirring in Greek yogurt to oatmeal or mashed potatoes and top potatoes and chili with a dollop.

Smart Shopping

Though Greek yogurt receives widespread praise among the nutrition community, it’s important to read nutrition labels and be mindful of your choices. Look for yogurt with low sugar (no sugar-added) and low in carbs and high protein content per serving. Choose a yogurt made with just milk and cultures and no additives. Avoid yogurt with added sugary fruit and opt for plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. If you find it’s a bit tart for your liking, try adding in some fresh or frozen berries, cooked fruit or honey for a natural sweet kick.

Check out Chobani.com for more yogurt recipes and inspiration.

For more ideas on healthy eating, healthy snacks and ways to reduce sugar and fat, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com. Contact me for nutrition coaching by phone to set up an in-person consultation.

 This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.  

Sources:

1. National Yogurt Association, AboutYogurt.com

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Tune Up Your Metabolism

WeightsRevamping your metabolism is more than just about exercise. Research suggests what and when you eat and how and when you exercise can play a role, too.

Here are some simple steps to take to rev up your metabolism and help you lose weight.

Don’t Forgo Your Morning Meal

You know the age-old saying: “Breakfast is the most important part of the day.” And well, it’s true. Research shows that breakfast plays an important role in jump-starting your metabolism. A healthy breakfast of fruit, yogurt and wholewheat toast or cereal is a great and healthy way to signal to your body that it’s time to start working. When you skip out on breakfast it’s often counter-productive as your body remains in rest mode and you may end up hungry and eating more throughout the day.

Add a Little Protein

Did you know eating protein can help crank up your metabolism? To step your metabolism up, try upping the amount of lean protein at breakfast and lunch and decreasing the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates and fats in your diet. Your body will work harder to break down and digest proteins, increasing your metabolic rate1. How much an increase? It is not clear. But even a slight increase adds up, day after day.

So how much protein do you need at breakfast and lunch? Studies indicate 25-30 grams boost calorie-burning, satiety and muscle growth. Here are some suggestions: 1 cup Greek yogurt = 23 g protein; 1 egg or egg white + 1 cup milk + toast + peanut butter = 25 g protein; 3 oz chicken = 28 g protein.

As an added bonus, studies show those who eat more protein at each meal typically feel fuller and are more likely to eat fewer calories daily2. Great protein sources include fish, lean red meat, chicken breast, turkey, nonfat Greek yogurt, eggs and egg whites, beans and lentils.

Spice it Up

Turning up the spice on your food has been found to speed up metabolic rates, according to recent studies. Spicy foods help to generate heat and raise body temperatures when consumed. The heat source can be attributed to capsaicin and is found in a wide variety of peppers and spices, including jalapenos, habaneros, cayenne and most other chili peppers. While how much spices increase metabolic rates is debatable, spices also can be responsible for suppressing your appetite and making you feel fuller….thereby boosting weight loss.

Drink More Water

Sipping water throughout the day is a quick and easy way to speed up your digestive tract, burn more calories and eat less. Research suggests your body’s ability to burn calories relies heavily on having enough water to work effectively. When you drink more water ( 2 liters daily), there is actually an increase in the efficiency of your cells, speeding up metabolic rates. Water also helps you feel full, cutting appetite.

True thirst disguises itself as hunger. Drink water first. Hunger may disappear. Try drinking a glass or two of water before and after each meal.

Pump Iron

The more muscle you have the higher your resting metabolic rate. This means that even when you are sitting, you are actually burning more calories than those with more body fat. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn. Toning up your body and increasing the amount of muscle mass through exercises such as weight lifting, Pilates, yoga, bands, can help give your body a big metabolic boost.

Pump the Heart and Lungs

Aerobic activity, including fast walking, biking, jogging, swimming and tennis, for 40 minutes or more boosts your calorie burn for the moment and several hours later. High intensity interval training – alternating fast and slower-paced activity every 1-2 minutes – for 40 minutes has been shown to speed up weight loss and fat loss.

Use any or all of these ideas, to help keep your weight in check.

For more ideas on healthy eating, calcium and fiber sources, and anti-osteoporosis exercises, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

1. “Effect of Dietary Protein Content on Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition During Overeating.” The Journal of the American Medical Association. January 2012.

2. Leidy, HJ. “Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese.” The American Journal of Nutrition 97(4):677-688. 2013.

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Top Tips for Staying Committed to Fitness this Summer

Shoes

The heat is on and summer is in full swing. As your calendar fills up with happy hours alfresco and weekends spent grazing at neighborhood block parties and barbecue buffets, don’t let go of your summer health and fitness routine.

To keep yourself on track both at home and while traveling these summer months, here are my top tips for staying committed to a healthier, happier you this summer.

Keep a Food Log

Research shows that recording what you eat is one of the best ways to stay on track and achieve your diet and fitness goals. With so many helpful mobile apps and online trackers, that food log is always in reach and it’s now easier than ever. I’m a fan of the USDA’s SuperTracker, which provides customized nutrition guidance to help people make smarter choices. MyFitnessPal is another favorite.  Keep track of your daily intake no matter where you are this summer.

Make the Time

Though we are typically more active in the summertime don’t confuse activity with exercise. Carve out time in your busy summer schedule to schedule a workout. Even 20-30 minutes a day can make a huge impact – increasing your overall productivity and energy levels. Plus, making exercise a daily part of your daily routine reduces stress and keeps you relaxed.

Think Ahead

Commit to your exercise routine ahead of time and opt to get out there early when it’s cooler…or late. Try to avoid getting out in the middle of the day – between 11 am and 4 pm when the sun is pounding the pavement, too. And on these days when it’s too hot to be exercise outdoors, don’t just forgo your day’s exercise routine. Rather, hit the pool or plan to work out indoors. Staying on a schedule will also give you a chance to evaluate what is working and what is not in your fitness routine.  Summer is a fun time to try to a boot camp, water exercise class, water-walking or biking in your neighborhood or a new bike trail. Family or neighborhood volleyball or badminton games, bowling and hikes also add summer fun.

Indulge in Summer Veggies and Fruits of the Season

Throughout the year it’s easy to fall back on a few key fruits and vegetables, but summertime brings fresh choices. Give your body a nutritious kick by incorporating summer’s bounty of in-season, colorful fruits and vegetables. From red tomatoes and yellow sweet corn to dark green kale, there are so many options to choose from. Indulge in chilled watermelon, sweet cantaloupe, juicy grapes, refreshing pineapple and plump cherries this season. These also make perfectly sweet desserts. Use summer fruits and vegetables for snacks – keep them sliced up and ready to go in the refrigerator.  Smoothies are great snacks and desserts, too.

Find a Buddy

Being accountable makes all the difference. Find a partner that keeps you committed – and that also makes plotting out your diet and fitness goals more fun. Plan morning exercises together – running, walking, biking or hitting the gym – and swap healthy recipes. Buddying up is a great way to stay accountable and also celebrate your achievements when you hit your goals.

For more ideas on healthy eating, calcium and fiber sources, and anti-osteoporosis exercises, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

*Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.com.

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Part II: Tips for Making 2013 Healthier

SONY DSC

Could this be the year you keep your New Year’s resolutions all year long? It most certainly can be, even if you’ve already fallen back into old habits.

Take the pledge to follow through and achieve your goals this year. Following are tips for ensuring your healthy New Year’s resolutions last through 2013 and beyond.

Dine in – Make an effort to cook regularly at home. It will make you feel more connected to your food and allow you to take more control over your meals – the key to healthy eating. Cook easy, 5-ingredient recipes and plan on making enough so that you can enjoy extra healthy eats for leftovers throughout the week. Check out these resources for recipe suggestions – http://www.cooksmarts.com/cs-blog, www.heart.org, http://www.allrecipes.com/HowTo/Dinner-in-an-Instant/Detail.aspx, www.cookinglight.com and  www.eatingwell.com.

Allocate space – Set aside your own shelf in your pantry or refrigerator for your healthy snacks. Fill it with yogurt, hummus, cottage cheese, fruits, cut up veggies, popcorn, nuts and seeds so you know exactly where to go and where you should be reaching when hunger sets in. Making room in your pantry or fridge can make maintaining a healthy diet easier and will allow you to see when you are in need of re-stocking on healthy options.

Keep hydrated – Drink ample water. It’s important for skin, weight and overall health. Strive to drink half of your weight in ounces of water each day. To reach this goal, carry water wherever you go, all day long and keep sipping! A straw, pretty bottle or glass helps. Before mealtime, have a glass or two of water to cut your appetite and consider drinking hot water with lemon or lime slices before, with, after or between meals.

Rest up – Don’t underestimate how important sleep is to your overall health. It’s vital for mental, physical and emotional health and weight loss and maintenance, too. Try to get 6-8 hours a night and be aware that your diet can have a big influence on how well you sleep. Eating healthy foods will allow you to sleep better and through the night and more sleep means more energy to stay active and healthy throughout the day.

Get movin’ – Find ways to fit in 30 minutes daily of activity. Even if you don’t have time to hit the gym, come up with creative ways to stay active. Consider walking when talking on the phone and take the stairs as often as possible. Do squats while waiting for water to boil or when the microwave is heating food. Buy a jump rope and get your heart racing with jumping jacks to keep your heart and bones strong. Wear a pedometer daily, to track activity and strive for 10,000 steps a day. Remember, every bit counts.

For more ideas on healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

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Almonds – The Inside Scoop

Earlier this month, I had the great pleasure of joining the Almond Board of California for an almond orchard tour. Next time I enjoy that almond crunch, I will think back on my time in the orchards where I came to appreciate the many steps taking one of my favorite nuts from the grove to the grocer!

Following is the inside scoop and key learnings from my almond orchard tour.

Growing Almonds

Almonds spend five months maturing on trees. They must be grown in the right climate – warm and dry – in order to produce well and that’s why California serves as the perfect environment to grow these nuts. In fact, California is home to 80 percent of the world’s almond production. The almonds are harvested in August, at which time they are hulled and shelled. The whole raw almonds are then prepared for shipment to food manufactures who dice, slice, sliver, roast, toast and blanch almonds for various foods and snacks.

Scientific Backing

New health benefits for almonds keep mounting. Four large prospective epidemiological studies – including the Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study, the Physician’s Health Study, the Adventist Health Study and the Iowa Women’s Study – all link nuts to lower heart disease risk. Further, the British Journal of Nutrition recently published a study highlighting how consumption of nuts at least four times a week reduces risk of heart disease by 37 percent. The focus on nuts in the Mediterranean, DASH, and Portfolio diets also back the health benefits of these nuts, leading the American Heart Association to include almonds, pistachios and walnuts in their AHA Food Certification program.

Heart Health

What in almonds is cardio-protective? It’s the monounsaturated fats that help lower LDL-cholesterol and keep good HDL cholesterol high. Anti-oxidants, polyphenols, phytonutrients, flavonoids and Vitamin E work synergistically to keep blood vessels more elastic and block LDL oxidation, which hardens arterial plaque. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber, anti-oxidants and arginine content are all responsible for helping to lower blood pressure, dilate blood vessels and enhance blood flow. These nutrients combined with protein and fiber, work together to help control blood sugar. Almonds also have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant components that prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The nutrient-richness of almonds means each almond packs a lot of nutrients that work with 20 or more powerful antioxidants (including flavonoids in almond skins), which synergistically work to confer these multiple benefits. To ensure your heart health while reducing risk of diabetes, eat almonds with other foods at meals or snack time.

Weight Loss

Almonds have even been shown to aid weight loss, too! Research suggests, almonds do this in two ways: 1) promoting satiety (long-lasting satisfaction), helping to reduce calorie intake by satisfying hunger; 2) promoting body fat loss. In fact, a study featured in Obesity found those who ate nuts at least twice a week were 31 percent less likely to gain weight over a 28-month period than those who did not eat nuts. Additionally, in a recent weight loss study, smaller waist circumferences were evident among those who included almonds in place of equivalent amounts of carbohydrates in their diets.

Breaking Health News


Almond lovers rejoice! Thanks to new methodology used to measure calorie value, researchers recently confirmed almonds have 30 fewer calories per oz. (23 almonds) than previously thought. Now, for a satisfying snack, almonds are just 130 calories instead of 160 calories per oz.

It’s hard to believe all these health benefits are packed into one little shell! You can try incorporating these special nuts into your day – morning, noon and night. Spread a little almond butter on your toast and sprinkle a handful of almonds on cereal or yogurt. Top your salad with a sprinkling of almond slivers or pop a handful of raw, unsalted almonds for an afternoon snack.

Enjoy the crunch!

For more ideas on heart-healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating fun and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

The Summer Dozen – 12 Healthy Summer Snacks

Image courtesy of Eudocia.

Those carefree days of summer seem long gone with many of our summer days jammed packed with activities. From festivals to barbecues to weekend getaways, that healthy routine we finally had down now seems to have fallen by the wayside.

How to get back on-track?

If your busy schedule is making it hard for you to cut out time to make healthy meals, try balancing your hectic schedule with these summer snacks that help balance your nutrition throughout the day. With little to no preparation, these on-the-go eats will keep you satisfied and fueled all day long.

  • Make your own trail mix by mixing up your favorite healthy wholegrain cereal with dried fruit and nuts in a sandwich bag. Pack up in your purse or briefcase for the next day.
  • Freeze a bunch of grapes and berries. The icy treats are full of antioxidants and will keep you cool on the go.
  • Edamame is high in fiber, protein and makes for an ideal snack. Try the dry roasted edamame. It’s ready to go, so no need to peel.
  • Try making snack kabobs. Cut up cubes of low-fat cheese and grapes and stick them on pretzel sticks.
  • Peel a banana and dip it in yogurt. Roll it in crushed, wholegrain cereal packed with fiber and freeze for a delicious snack the next day.
  • Choose a rice cake as the foundation of your snack. Quaker Rice Cakes are light and crispy and low in calories. For an added flavor boost, drizzle on a little honey or a teaspoon of low-fat peanut butter. Cheese-flavored rice cakes need no topping.
  • Slice up a cucumber and top it off with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
  • Spread mustard on a wholegrain flour tortilla. Top it off with a slice of turkey and low-fat cheese, veggies and lettuce. Roll it up and it’s ready to go.
  • With only about 75 calories, an egg makes for a protein-rich and low-calorie snack. Boil a few at the beginning of the week and eat for a nutritious snack.
  • Enjoy carrots dipped in fiber-rich hummus.
  • Cut an apple up and mix it with chopped walnuts and a teaspoon of all-natural honey or maple syrup.
  • Try a gourmet PB&J. Spread one tablespoon of cashew butter on wholegrain crackers. Drizzle with a half tablespoon of honey and top with sliced strawberries.
  • Satisfy your sweet craving with a homemade parfait. Layer low-fat vanilla or Greek yogurt, mandarin oranges or blueberries in a tall glass. On top, Sprinkle low-fat granola or Kashi® GOLEAN Crunch.

For more ideas on heart-healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating fun and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

Happy, Healthy Holiday Tips

“Tis the season to be jolly! A season filled with festivities, friends, family, fellowship…and yes, food!

How can you enjoy the season and not give yourself the typical 2- 8 lbs at Christmas that may linger all year? Here are a few top survival tips:

  1.  Focus on the people and conversation everywhere you go — let food be a secondary joy.
  2. Arrive at events satisfied, not starving. 
  3. Drink 2 glasses of water before walking in the door, and drink 2 glasses of water for every higher calorie beverage.
  4. Fill up first on veggie and fruit options (easy on the dips, dressings, sauces).
  5. Go lean with protein, such as turkey, meatballs, ham, roasted chicken, beef tenderloin slices.
  6. Pay attention to liquid calories, such as holiday punch, soda, beer, wine, eggnog, which pack hundreds of extra calories…and pounds. 
  7. Use small plates, which lends to smaller portions. Imagine each bite providing 50 calories…100 bites = 5000 calories (= 1.5 lbs of weight gain per party!)
  8. Think small and special, so skip “usual” foods like chips and dips, and head to seasonal favorites.
  9. Cut portions into smaller bites than usual.  More bites = more chews = more filling.
  10. Offer to bring a dish, such as a fruit trays, vegetable tray, coleslaw, pico de gallo, Heavenly Seven-Layer Dip (recipe below), turkey slices, vegetable wraps, popcorn, chex mix with added popped cereals (rice, oats, wheat, etc).
  11. Keep moving –walk the mall or walk your neighborhood! Every step helps.
  12. Remember that eating scheduled meals and exercising at scheduled times will help you survive the stress of the season, so you can enjoy the holidays even more.

For easy tips, meal plans, recipes and more, check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution:  Step up to the Plate (2009). Or, send me an email at Georgia@GeorgiaKostas.com, for a nutrition consult in person, over the phone or online.  I want you to be at your healthiest and happiest this holiday season, and carry that well into the New Year!

Follow me on Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition or Twitter @georgiakostas.

Healthy Seven-Layer Dip

Guacamole (buy at grocery store or make homemade below). Set aside.

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 teaspoons lime juice, fresh or bottled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons salsa or fresh chopped tomato
Garlic powder or garlic salt to taste (optional)
Black pepper to taste

Dip layers   Prepare and set aside each item below.

8 ounces fat-free or light sour cream
1-ounce packet taco seasoning mix
15-ounce can fat-free or vegetarian refried beans
1 cup diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican-style cheese blend (i.e. Jack and cheddar)
2 1/4-ounce can sliced black olives (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In small bowl, blend sour cream with taco seasoning.
  2. Spread the refried beans in the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate or glass pan (you can warm the beans up in the microwave briefly to make them more spreadable.)
  3. Top the beans with the sour cream mixture; then top each layer as follows: guacamole, tomatoes, green onions, shredded cheese, black olives.

Serve with reduced-fat tortilla chips or reduced-fat crackers or baby carrots, jicama sticks, red bell pepper slices, broccoli or cauliflower pieces,

Makes 16 appetizer servings.

Per serving (dip only): 85 calories, 5.2 grams protein, 6.4 grams carbohydrate, 4.4 grams fat (1.9 grams saturated fat, 1.9 grams monounsaturated, .3 grams polyunsaturated fat), 7 milligrams cholesterol, .7 grams fiber, 258 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 46%.