Since I was a little stuck with progress on returning to my previously normal weight last month, I decided to start using a food tracker for the month of March just to make sure I wasn’t missing my nutrition goals accidentally. Food trackers can range anywhere from a pen and notebook to wearable devices that connect to apps and websites with huge searchable food databases. Tracking the food you eat has some major pros and major cons…and it’s important to understand both before deciding if (and what kind of) food tracking is right for you.

Photo from www.pinterest.com

 

Pros:

  • Accountability – The primary function of tracking is accountability for what you eat. By tracking, you can see what you have eaten compared to your recommendations, and keep yourself in check throughout the day. If you have a day that is “off the rails” you can easily see it, notice it, and adjust or monitor a little closer in the coming days (by the way, you don’t have to feel guilty – that’s not the point!).
  • Awareness – Tracking causes you to pay more attention to the actual contents of what you eat. Websites, apps, and food labels all provide information on calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sodium, and protein – all of which may be useful depending on your health goals. Most of my clients find some surprises when they start tracking (I never knew that had so many calories and so much saturated fat! I thought that food was healthy!). Tracking offers a learning opportunity that will help support you in lifelong wellness as you learn which foods fit best in your plan.
  • Convenience – One study found that those who used a smart phone tracking app that assisted with goal setting and behavior change were more likely to meet their goals and, in this case, lost more weight than those using paper and pen or a website to track.1

 

Cons:

  • Tedium/Obsessiveness – Particularly for those who are not so detail-oriented (or those with a history of eating disorders), food trackers can be more of a hindrance than a help. Tracking every detail can become overwhelming and exhausting, and people who are overwhelmed and exhausted are less likely to make good health choices or reap the benefits of tracking. If you fit in these categories, you’ll likely find more benefit using strategies other than food tracking.
  • Inaccuracy – Food trackers are only as good as their accuracy and the honesty of the person using them. If you’re going to track at all, commit to being thorough and including everything you eat or drink – don’t forget condiments, cooking oils, seasonings, and beverages! Studies have found paper-based and online food tracking to be equally accurate.2
  • Lack of Evidence-Based Support and Resources – Two studies of food tracking apps discovered that most apps do not assist with evidence-based skills that promote success like problem-solving, stress reduction, and improving motivation.3, 4 If you’re using a tracker, be sure to seek out other support for these important areas.

Many people I work with find using a food tracker beneficial, but also grow weary of the “cons” listed above. I encourage them to consider being flexible in their use of food trackers. Often, one can glean the benefits of awareness and accountability by tracking a few days per week or one week per month, and those benefits will often carry over for the remainder of the time. If you decide to do this, set a concrete goal of what days or how many you will track (example: I will track Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays or I will track the first week of every month).

If you’re looking for ideas for food trackers to try, consider My Fitness Pal, Lose It, My Plate Supertracker, or Google “food journal” if you prefer pen and paper.

  1. http://www.jmir.org/2013/4/e32/?
  2. http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S2212-2672(14)01219-2/abstract
  3. http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(13)00426-1/abstract?cc=y=
  4. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13142-011-0076-5

NationalNutritionMonth2017

In honor of National Nutrition Month, I thought I’d give you a few thoughts on how to put your best fork forward this month (and every month)!

  • Try a new recipe – some of my favorite recipe websites are from the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association. Trying out something new can add variety and keep eating from being boring!
  • Work on enjoying natural flavors – Make a goal to decrease “extra flavors” like sugar, salt, and artificial flavors in order to really enjoy the full flavors of the foods, herbs, and spices you’re eating. Check out this post for more tips on flavor!
  • Explore fresh new cuisines – most of us are familiar with Chinese, Italian, and Mexican foods, but how about Salvadoran, Ethiopian, Indian, or Vietnamese? There are over 190 countries in the world, each with amazing, flavorful, and unique dishes. Plus, different countries’ diets have different health benefits. You might discover a new favorite and expand the variety of foods you love! Bonus tip: make a quick Google search about the type of cuisine you’re trying before you go to a restaurant. That way, you can have some ideas of any unique customs (did you know that at most Ethiopian restaurants, patrons eat with their hands?) and what to order in case you can’t read the menu!
  • Get rid of the “good” and the “bad” labels – We have a tendency to label foods as though they are good or bad, as if food and nourishment were totally black and white! All foods can belong in a healthful diet, and bodies are so, so individual! What may make one person feel terrible may be a great choice for someone else, and it is fairly rare that there is a reason to completely cut anything out entirely. Research has shown that this kind of labeling is detrimental to healthful diets and healthy relationships with food.1 Learn to love and moderate all kinds of foods, and avoid villifying anything.

As a special bonus for National Nutrition Month, I’m offering 10% off an initial appointment! If you’ve been thinking about getting started with an empowered, healthful lifestyle, this is a great month to start! Click here to schedule an appointment!

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3779532/

eat-less-salt-sodium

Photo from http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/5-ways-to-use-less-salt

 

Limiting sodium can be a bit tricky at first. Most of the flavor we enjoy in food comes from one of three things: sugar, fat, or salt. Our palates just love the tasty stuff. And the more of it we eat, the more we need to experience the same pleasurable taste sensation. Sound kind of like addiction to you? Ehhhhh-xactly.

Besides flavor, sodium is also used as a preservative in many foods and often foods that don’t even taste salty, which can be confusing for some people just learning about limiting sodium.

Anyway, it is possible to decrease sodium intake without eating tasteless cardboard. I promise! There are several ways to increase flavor and leave the sodium out:

  • Herbs and spices: These are the best! Natural, delicious, and many are anti-inflammatory. Find a bulk section (like Winco) or grow your own for the best value. Check out the chart below from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for tips on matching herbs and spices to the food you’re making tonight:
    Food Item Flavorings
    Beef Basil, bay leaf, caraway, curry, dill, dry mustard, garlic, grape jelly, green pepper, mace, marjoram, mushrooms, nutmeg, onion, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage
    Chicken Basil, cloves, cranberries, mace, mushrooms, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pineapple, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme, tomato, turmeric
    Egg Chervil, curry, dill, dry mustard, green pepper, lemon juice, marjoram, mushrooms, paprika, pepper, tarragon, tomato, turmeric
    Fish Basil, bay leaf, chervil, curry, dill, dry mustard, green pepper, lemon juice, marjoram, mushrooms, paprika, pepper, tarragon, tomato, turmeric
    Lamb Cloves, curry, dill, garlic, mace, mint, mint jelly, onion, oregano, parsley, pineapple, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
    Pork Applesauce, basil, caraway, chives, cloves, garlic, onions, rosemary, thyme
    Vegetables Basil, dill, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, mace, marjoram, nutmeg, onion, tarragon, tomato, salt-free salad dressing, vinegar
    Desserts Allspice, anise, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, vanilla extract
  • Pre-made spice mixes: If you aren’t big on growing or buying herbs yourself, you can get a little help from sodium-free spice mix products like Mrs. Dash. The Mrs. Dash line has several pre-made spice mixes like Caribbean Citrus, Italian Medley, or Steak Grilling seasonings, all made without salt. I personally have only tried the original and I like it, especially on fish. I have several patients who have tried other flavors with success!
  • Lite salt/salt substitutes: These are usually made with potassium chloride as opposed to sodium chloride (table salt) to decrease intakes of sodium. I use it at home and in recipes and the taste is similar enough I don’t notice it. Be aware: people with kidney disease or who are on certain diuretic blood pressure medications should not use salt substitutes because their bodies can not clear potassium as well as others. Ask your doctor before switching to salt substitute if you have any of these concerns.

And lastly, be patient! Your tastes will adjust to the point where they will enjoy the flavors of food with less salt, but it does take time. Most of my patients say that after 4-6 weeks of limiting sodium, the high-sodium foods they used to eat taste way too salty for them! You can do it!