Archive for May, 2013


Going gluten free: pros, cons and myths

Going gluten free has been common in the last few years. Some people do it as part of a healthy lifestyle; some because they have celiac disease or a sensitivity; others put their children on gluten free diets as a way to treat disorders on the autism spectrum with some success.

As with anything, before going on a diet that completely changes your diet, you should consult your physician. There are benefits to a gluten-free lifestyle. Many find that they read food labels more diligently and are more aware of what they are consuming. For many, it encourages them to eliminate processed foods.

However, if you do not need to go gluten free, there can be some drawbacks. You may experience reduced carbohydrate intake because you’re avoiding gluten. Grains are high in fiber; lack of fiber from traditional sources can lead to digestive issues. While some go gluten-free as a weight-loss strategy, some gluten-free foods are high in fat and sugar.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and some oatmeal. It is not found in grains such as quinoa, corn, millet and buckwheat. There are two common misconceptions about gluten: 1. All carbs contain gluten. 2. If it doesn’t have a grain in it, it’s gluten free.

Gluten is used as a thickener in a variety of foods. It can also be used as fillers in medications. Good rule of thumb: Treat everything as if it has gluten in it until proven otherwise. If you have questions, consult your grocery store’s nutritionist. Ask if they have a list of gluten free options. You can also contact the manufacturers directly to ask about a product’s gluten status.

Read the labels

Sometimes, the gluten is not that easy to spot. The label doesn’t just scream out “I contain gluten!” When you’re reading labels, look for these culprits:

  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein

  • Modified food starch

  • Dextrin

  • Natural flavorings

  • Artificial flavorings

  • Anything labeled an extract

  • Vanilla flavoring

  • Malt flavoring

Here are some surprising places you’ll find gluten:


Root beer


Malt vinegar

Soy sauce

Salad dressings


Hot dogs

Cold-cut meats

Imitation “krab”

Meatless products for vegetarians


Lower end brands of chocolate


Ice cream

Blue cheese

Twizzlers licorice

Boxed soups

Canned baked beans




Curry powder

Dry mustard powder

From a convenience standpoint, a gluten free lifestyle does have its challenges. Many restaurants do not offer gluten free options. Even if you are choosy about what you order, any restaurant equipment that comes into contact with gluten is contaminated. Although their fries may be gluten free, they are cooked in the same oil that breaded fish, which means they have gluten on them.

If you have not been diagnosed with celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten, make sure to consult a physician before going gluten free. As with any healthy diet, moderation is the key.


Changing the perception of snacking

Did you know that snacking can help you lose weight? It’s true! Of course, we’re not talking about eating a candy bar or handful of potato chips every time you walk by the pantry. Done correctly, snacking helps you increase energy, improve your metabolism and help your diet.

Psychology and physiology

You’ll get a metabolic boost if you eat smaller meals more often throughout the day. The act of digesting and processing food actually helps you burn calories. Not a huge amount, but about 90-100 a day on a healthy 1,800 calorie diet. Eating every three hours or so during the day helps keep your blood sugar consistent. It also means that psychologically you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself. Your energy will be steady, which means your mood and concentration won’t roller-coaster throughout the day.

Plan ahead

Plan your snacks just like you plan your meals. Make sure that you’re getting a balance of protein and carbs. By planning ahead, you’re also more likely to exercise portion control.

Be consistent

Plan to eat something every three hours or so. If you eat breakfast at 7:00, have something such as fruit and crackers at 10:00. It will help you avoid the desire to indulge in a big lunch at 1:00. And everyone knows about the food coma that happens after lunch.

Enjoy your snacks

Put these mini meals in a bowl or on a plate and make sure that you’re taking the time to sit and enjoy them, rather than just grabbing something out of a box or bag. Not only will it help you maintain portion control, if you concentrate on flavors and textures, your brain will register that you’ve eaten.

Don’t wait too long

Eating a snack when you’re not completely famished is a way to fend off hunger pangs later in the day. If you eat when you’re starving, you may tend to overdo it.

By making wise decisions and making it part of a daily routine, eating several mini meals throughout the day can help you on the road to a healthy lifestyle.


Tips to improve your memory

No matter what stage you are in life, you can benefit by increasing your memory. Here are some tips that will help you do just that.

Repetition is simple and it works. Repeating something to yourself will help you remember things like grocery lists and phone numbers. And an even more effective way of committing something to short-term memory with repetition is singing it.

Sometimes the struggle to remember something while you’re under pressure prohibits that very thing. You need to relax and clear your mind of all the other stuff in it. Take a few deep, slow breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Relax all of your muscles. Only pay attention to the air moving in and out. Then, return to whatever it is you need to recall or work on.

Your diet can affect you memory in both short- and long-term. Certain types of fish are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which have been shown to immediately speed up brain function, which is necessary to improve memory. Your brain needs a lot of energy and functions better when you eat good proteins and complex carbohydrates. Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit works well as a quick snack.

Make sure that you take in enough fluids. It not only helps your metabolism, staying hydrated increases brain function. A good rule of thumb is eight glasses a day. Here’s another thing if you want to cut down on caffeine: rather than coffee, try drinking a large glass of ice cold water. Not only will it wake your brain up, it will help kick-start your metabolism.

Exercise has been shown to improve brain function both immediately and for the long term. The short-term effect occurs because of the immediate increase in blood flow to the brain. Regular exercise should give you long-term improvement in memory and other brain functions due to the improvement of the brain function that comes from increased blood flow and oxygen.

Quick… which months have 30 days? Chances are, your first thought was “Thirty days hath September.” That little rhyme is a mnemonic device. There are many good memory techniques for remembering names, numbers, lists of things and more. Acronyms are another form. Here’s one for remembering the order of the planets. “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Noodles” = “Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.” The best thing is, you can learn a mnemonic technique and use it for the rest of your life.

Avoid toxins; smoking is the obvious culprit, but alcohol, prescription drugs and illegal drugs also decrease brain function.

Reducing your stress level can help you increase your memory and brain function as well. Look into the benefits of meditation. Find a relaxing hobby. Chronic stress has even been shown to cause the brain to shrink.

Increasing your memory and brain function will serve you in your professional and personal life. Making these tips habit can help you increase short- and long-term memory.


Mind, body, spirit Helping kids cope with stress

As adults, it’s easy to think that children don’t have a care in the world. After all, they don’t have to deal with traffic, overbearing bosses, bills, taxes, home maintenance, relationships and everything that comes with being a grown-up.

Bigger, life-changing issues can affect kids and have to be dealt with. The death of a family member or even a pet, a first breakup, divorce or moving seem like the end of the world for kids. But they also have to deal with day-to-day issues that cause them stress – peer pressure, bullies, grades and siblings all cause anxiety in children. How they deal with these issues when they are children set the tone for how they will handle the adult issues.

Coping mechanisms

Many of the same things that help you, as an adult, cope with stress and anxiety also help kids. For instance, physical activity will help alleviate stress in both kids and adults. Because stress will affect their sleeping and eating habits, it is essential that you make sure they’re getting proper nutrition and rest.

You’ll also want to try these things:

  • Ask them questions and encourage them to express their feelings.  Let them know that what they’re feeling is natural. 

  • Let them have some quiet alone time to think about the situation and their feelings.

  • Avoid putting them under too much pressure for a while.

  • Find books that offer stories of characters in stressful situations who work their way through it. (Teachers or counselors are a good resource.)

  • Try to be consistent and maintain their daily routines.

  • Encourage creative activities such as drawing and writing.

The signs

Kids can’t always verbalize their feelings, so they may not be able to tell you what’s bothering them. Make sure to be on the lookout for telltale signs of stress and anxiety.

  • Changes in eating, sleeping, or bathroom habits

  • Increased separation anxiety from parents or teachers

  • Bad dreams

  • Crying spells

  • New habits like nail-biting, thumb-sucking or hair-pulling

  • Complaining about headaches and stomach aches

  • Wanting to be alone or withdrawn from others

  • Increased aggressive behavior or acting out



Mind, body, spirit – Connection addiction and the digital diet

­It is fair to say that staying connected with others today is easier than ever. In fact, maybe it’s too easy, what with social media and a variety of gadgets available to communicate with others.

Think about how much time you spend on social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and innumerable blogs are just a few of the social media channels that may take up part of your day.

Consider also how many different ways there are to access social media. Computers and laptops were the sources for access until just a couple of years ago. Mobile devices – tablets and smartphones – have made it possible to stay connected no matter where you are.

­­­Signs of social media addiction

There are signs of addiction to social media for which you should be on the lookout. The first sign that you may have a problem is if it’s the first thing you do every morning. You may also find that your productivity at work is falling. In the company of others, you feel the need to constantly check in or update your status. You may even find yourself dreaming about social media.

Like anything, if you think you have a problem, you need to take a hard, realistic look at your social media habits. Counseling is now an option for social media addiction.

Putting yourself on the digital diet

Many people have compared social media addiction to an addiction to food, and are choosing to treat it the same way, by rethinking their habits and limiting their intake. No one is saying that you need to quit completely, but it is a good idea to make some changes if you feel you have a problem.

Turn off all your gadgets and computers for an hour a day. Take a hike, read a book or engage on a personal basis with a real live human. Remember to practice consumption in moderation. Make sure that you’re turning them off at least a half hour before bed; it will help you sleep better if you give yourself some wind down time.