Two a Healthy Life

One couple on a mission to become healthy


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Channeling my inner tortoise

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Photo by matea2506

It is a classic tale, the tortoise and the hare, speed versus determination; however these two paradigms can be applied as approaches to running.  Being a typical man, when I started running I simply wanted to get faster and continuously pushed to turn in quicker times on my runs.  As I have mentioned before, I ended up over-training and having some knee issues.  Now that I am back training, I am approaching running from the other side.

Alex has never been concerned with how fast she was running, but chose instead to focus on how far she runs.  To date, she has never has any issues with over training or injuries (knocking on wood now).  We recently did a run together (our first run ever together) and it was ironically liberating to have to slow my pace so we could run together.

This experience put a spotlight on the issue of speed for me.  I continually try to push my pace (though I know I should be focusing on strengthening my legs and slowly inching up my mileage), so after that run I have committed to slowing down.

The marathon training plan that I am following has two runs a week for 30-45 minutes, but does not specify anything about distance you should run.  I am now using these runs to focus on my technic (breathing, foot placement, stature) and am recommitted to slowing down so that they are not as physically demanding.

This new strategy can be seen in the couch-to-5k and many marathon training plans that incorporate walking as part of the program.  Walking helps reduce the amount of stress on your body during a run, and can help people to increase their mileage more than running continuously can.  This all feeds into the idea of slow and steady build up.

I think I am like most guys, and when you tell us to slow down or take it easy, we just want to get out there and rip it up even more.  But what I have learned thus far is that the safest approach is one of slow determination.  With enough training you can eventually morph into the hair, but we all need to start out as a tortoise.

Run on!


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Dying of Thirst: The New Coke Campaign

Coca-cola recently released a new commercial that is part of a bigger advertising campaign “coming together” that is focusing on obesity.  The following video is a keystone to this new campaign:

Coke mentions that of the 650 beverages in their portfolio, they offer 180 that are low or no calorie, but that is only 27.69% of their beverages, one of which is Dasani their water brand.  While I do give them props for adding calorie contents to the front of cans and introducing smaller portioned sizes, the industry (lead by Coke) is still fighting the Bloomberg ban on large soda sales in New York, which are sold in sizes that do not list how many servings or calories are contained in the beverage.  How is that “making it easier for people to make informed decisions?”

More calories per servicing then regular coca-cola

More calories per servicing then regular coca-cola

“For elementary, middle, and high schools our industry has voluntarily changed its offerings to primarily waters, juices, and low and no calorie options” states the ad, however, back in 2008 California schools (along with other states) “required elementary and middle schools to stop providing soda or allowing it to be sold in school vending machines [and] the ban has now gone into effect for high schools as well”.  I fail to see how states passing bans on soda in schools is the beverage industry voluntarily changing to serve healthier options.  Furthermore, the juices that they are touting (in the video it is Odwala Strawberry C Monster) which you can see the label to the left, has 240 calories and 43g of sugar for a 12-oz serving.  Just for comparison a similar serving of regular coca-cola has 140 calories and 39g of sugar.  How is this juice low calorie or a better option then soda?

“All calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-cola and everything else with calories.  And if you eat and drink more calories then you burn off, you’ll gain weight.”  Of all the lines in this ad, this is the one with the most truth in it.  All calories count is the best advice for people trying to loose weight.  And the only gripe I have about coke saying this is that soda is about an empty as calories get.  The human body, while amazing, is very poor at judging calories consumed in liquid form, which is why you could drink a 500 calorie milkshake and not fill anywhere near as full as you do by eating a sandwich and some chips for the same number of calories.

The most striking feature of this ad, is that while the subject is looking at the obesity problem in America, there is not one obese person in this ad.  Coke made sure to include beautiful, healthy looking people (some may have been a little heavy), with BMIs in the normal range.  How are they helping this issue, by not showing the people that they are speaking of?

At the end of the day, I would rather eat a sandwich then drink a coke.  I would rather have a hamburger then a milkshake.  My calories are precious and I want them to make me full, so I will stick with tap water and tea and leave the calories on my plate.


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The Dreaded Holiday Pound

He said:

Alex and I have been talking about Thanksgiving coming up, and how you have to watch out for the weight you gain during the holidays.  Several articles and blogs have covered how you will gain weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas (I might even throw in Halloween if you’re a real candy junkie), but “The skinny on Holiday Weight Gain” from the New York Times does a good job of cutting between the myths and realities of the whole situation.

What I have gleaned from the readings I have done (and the NYT blog agrees), you will put on weight during this time of the year (it will vary for each person, but for most it will be one pound) and almost all adults do not end up getting rid of this weight.  The average adult gains two pounds a year, which means one whole pound is coming from a month long period of time.

Three things that I have done in the last year to combat the thanksgiving effect are:

1)      I use Thanksgiving as my free day for that week.  This way I don’t feel guilty about eating what I want, but it also makes sure that I don’t splurge before or after the holiday.

2)      Last year I did a three mile run in the morning before going to my sisters for dinner in the afternoon.   This year Alex, my cousin, and I are going to run a 10k in the morning before we go home to help cook.  A little calorie burn the morning of will put you ahead of curve and make you feel a little better about indulging at dinner.

3)      I don’t take leftovers home (except for maybe the carcass of the Turkey for some killer homemade soup).  This last one may be the most important in sticking to your diet in the days following the holiday.  If that half a pecan pie or tub of mashed potatoes aren’t in your house, you can’t eat them.

The above clip is from Mad Men, where Betty Draper has gained weight and is going to weight watchers.  This scene struck me a being very sad, because no one wants to be watching their weight on Thanksgiving when everyone else is indulging. I say have what you want, maybe don’t go back for seconds, and don’t feel bad about it.  It is one day, and if you are vigilant before and after, you can skip adding that dreaded holiday pound.

Happy Holidays!!


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Tis the Season….for hot milkshakes

 

 

I walked into Starbucks today to get my normal black coffee (a major step forward for me recently is to only order a Grande instead of the normal Venti I was going for, slightly patting myself on the back) and after the barista brought me my coffee proceeded to tell me about a holiday promotion that they are having until January 2 and gave me the foldout pictured below and above. 

Several things struck me about this encounter, the first being ‘why does this barista think that someone who ordered black coffee with no room wants to buy five hot milkshakes?’.  Looking at the particulars of this offer, you have to buy five of their specialty drinks before you can get a free drink (of any kind I think).

Looking at the four drinks that are part of this offer: Eggnog Latte, Gingerbread latte, Crème Brule latte, and the peppermint mocha, all of which are part of their espresso drinks.  From the chart below (which was pulled directly from Starbucks.com) the drink with the lowest calories would be a tall Gingerbread Latte coming in at only 190 calories (not bad, but have you seen a tall, one looks like a giant drinking out of a regular sized cup) and the worst being the Venti Eggnog Latte tipping the scale at a whopping 610 calories.

Even if one were to order the smallest drink with the least calories you would still be taking in an extra 925 calories (that would be the 950 for those lattes minus 5 calories per five cups of regular coffee).  ON the other side of the scale, if you ordered the worst drink you would consume an extra 3,025 calories, plus the extra drink you are going to get free.

Some of you might say so what to an extra 925 calories, but with Thanksgiving, Diwali, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Years, and Halloween right behind us, I don’t think any of us can afford any extra calories this time of year (more of this later about how the extra calories you consume on Thanksgiving can stick with you the rest of the year).

Is it too much to ask that Starbucks not temp us with special deals (really I have to buy five at least $3.00 drinks to get one free), advent calendars, cookies etc?  I just want a regular cup of coffee, no room, and nothing else, so please stop asking if there is anything else I want with my coffee.

Thank you.

 


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Day 189: The workout squeeze

He said:

I was talking with a friend over the weekend and he was lamenting the fact that a full day at work leaves little time for anything else, including exercise.  While I agreed with his gripe, I also commented that exercise couldn’t be looked at as a hobby, but instead had to be classified under bona fide necessity.

Trying to fit the gym, running, or any form of exercise routine into an already packed lifestyle can at first seem daunting.  Once your get off of work, most people only have five to six hours to get home, eat dinner, play with the dog, or do chores, before they have to get into bed and do it all over again.

The real mission is multitasking your exercise in with other activities you like to do.  I have audible (audio books) on my phone that I listen too while I bike, which lets me get my reading in for the day while on my way to work.  Of course the old standby of listening to music while exercising is good as well, but you could also pull that stationary bike out and ride for half an hour while you watch Mad Men.

What Alex and I do most weeks is make sure we have everything we need to make dinners in the house on the weekend, so that way dinner eat night is a snap.  I make a big stir-fry on Monday night, and it lasts me the rest of the week, and I mix and match that with a salad the next night and maybe a omelet or two when I get bored.  Pre-planning meals will save you time and it will also help you stick to your diet so you don’t end up eating a cheeseburger because there was nothing in the fridge at home.

When it comes to squeezing in exercise, just look at your normal routine and see where there are places you could cut a couple of minutes.  Only watch one TV show a night and DVR the other for the weekend.  Or just spend twenty minutes mindless checking your friends statuses on Facebook, and put the other ten towards a jog.

In the end, I told my friend that if you put two good days of an hour workout in during the week, you could supplement the other days with a quick twenty minute bike ride or jog and then one more workout on the weekend should do it.  Make it work for you, but just make sure you get it in.  After a couple of weeks, you will be surprised how you mange to fit exercise into your packed schedule and might even find you have more energy too!

Good Luck!!


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Day 161: Getting to the meat of the issue

He said:

One topic that Alex and I have discussed several times over the course of our new lifestyle thus far is America’s consumption of meat (note that Alex grew up in a household where meat was on the menu for most meals).  Finally today I herd a newscast on NPR that basically summarized one of the reasons American’s need to consume less meat, greenhouse gas emissions.

If you are an avid reader, then you already know that Alex and I are primarily vegetarian during the week, but we do have meat on our free days.  One reason for this is the relatively high calorie content of even ‘healthier’ cuts of meat.  We find we get more bang for our calorie buck by just not consuming meat.

How often does the average day for an American consist of eating several different kinds of meat with every meal.  Bacon on a breakfast sandwich, turkey, ham or roast beef for lunch, and then chicken or fish for dinner.  Do you really need to eat that much protein in a single day?  The average adult male needs around 56g of protein and the average adult woman needs around 46g of protein a day (WebMD).  ½ of a boneless, skinless chicken breast (of average size, not the monster ones) has 27g of protein; that is 48.2% of a males daily protein needs and 58.6% of a woman’s daily needs.  That is just half of a chicken breast that could be eaten for dinner or lunch.

When you think of what you eat for the rest of the day, the protein can really add up.  Do you have milk or cream with you coffee, a handful of almonds for a snack, Greek yogurt for breakfast, beans or chili for lunch, maybe even a piece of tofu thrown in somewhere?  Take a random day and count the amount of protein your consuming and then compare it to what your needs really are, chances are you are consuming significantly more protein then your body needs, and we are doing this on a nationwide scale.

The general response when people bring up the need to consume less meat is something akin to ‘Dirty Hippies!’.  That is why Alex and I are quit reasonable in what we feel people need to do.  We are not advocates for vegetarianism or veganism (but you if you want to do that we support it).  What we are proponents of is the limiting of meat consumption to special dinners during the week or on the weekends.  Really people don’t need to eat meat more then three times a week if they are eating a balanced diet.

Next time you go to make pasta and want a meat sauce, throw in soy meat instead (I do this and I honestly can’t tell the difference).  Or if you are going to make lasagna, skip the meat all together and just make it with vegetables.  Often I think people get the idea that they have to replace the meat they want to eat with a substitute meatless product that they don’t like.  That isn’t nessarily the case, just think of other recipes that don’t require any meat at all.  Have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch instead of Turkey.  And just have an egg on an English muffin and skip the bacon.  Once you give up meat with every meal, you will find you don’t miss it most of the time.  If you feel like you have to have meat with a meal to feel full, try to use the meat as a garnish, instead of the main ingredient.  And always keep in mind that a servicing of most meats in the size of a deck of cards.  Kinda makes you rethink that double quarter pounder with cheese and bacon.

The basic reason why we all need to consume less meat is the massive effect it has on the environment and the strain that it put on ecosystems.  Evolutionary speaking, humans evolved to eat meat and vegetables was because we basically needed to be able to eat whatever was around.  We ate meat, but certainly not everyday and not for every meal.  We need a mind shift in America to thinking of meat more as a delicacy (an animal did give its life so you can eat) and less as an everyday, every meal option.

Here is a great film that summarizes what I have been talking about (for those too lazy to read: http://cironline.org/reports/hidden-costs-hamburgers-3701)

Happy Eating!!


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10 Healthy Work Habits

I have been thinking about writing this article for a little while and then on Tuesday Alex sent me an e-mail with a blog about the same thing.  While this blog has some good advice, there were several ideas that we came up with so this is an addendum to similar articles that have tackled the subject.

Seeing as we working people spend, at a minimum, 40 hours at work a week it is only reasonable that we should look at our habits there to see potential health problems.  I work as an accountant and besides being the most exciting job ever, it also means I am like most Americans in being sedentary for the majority of the day.  Here are ten tips for healthier habits in the workplace.

1.      Start a water co-op

About a year ago I was sick of brining my own water to work to only run out half way through the day.  I consulted my manager if it was alright that I ask my coworkers if everyone was interested in getting a water cooler and sharing the cost.  After a couple of months of asking we got one, which is quite cheap to start and then everyone who drinks water chips in when the bill is due (plan one of the 5 gallon jugs per person per month).  The other great aspect of this is that you might guilt trip your employer into paying for the water, which is what happened in my case.  The other great thing about having a water cooler is the access to hot water, which you case use to make instant oatmeal, tea, coffee, but not instant ramen.

2.      Start drinking more water:

Along with the water cooler, drinking more water at work helps in multiple areas.  The first is proper hydration, which is always a good thing.  The other aspect to think about is that this is a healthy reason to get up and walk and stretch while you’re at work.  Getting up and walking over to the water cooler gets your muscles moving and helps to elongate your spine so it doesn’t become depressed.  It also means you have to get up and go to the bathroom more, which you can look at as another reason to get up from you desk and get moving a little to break up the hours of sitting.  You can mix up your water consumption too and have tea (try herbal or green to cut down on caffeine), coffee, emergen-C etc.

3.      Set a stretch pop-up:

If you use Outlook at work (I am sure you can do this with gmail as well) you can set a pop-up to go off every hour with the simple message to stretch.  I did this about three months ago and it is great for reminding me to at least stand up and stretch my back out a little, or I use this as a reminder to go fill up my cup with water.  If you go to the calendar section of Outlook you can set a reminder to pop-up every day starting when you get to work, and then just dismiss it for an hour every time it pops up.

4.      Walk to get coffee or at lunch:

I try to save money like everyone else, and I did this for a time by bringing my own coffee to work (which is a great way to save money), but now I try not to drink coffee until my morning break and then walk up the hill to starbucks or pete’s coffee to grab a cup with a co-worker.  This gets me roughly 15 min of walking time away from my desk and I get to enjoy the caffeine buzz when I get back.  Just make sure get coffee and not some sugary concoction masquerading as coffee, a venti drip coffee has 5 calories while a venti white chocolate mocha has 510 calories and 15 grams of fat.  Similarly, if you can, use your lunch break, other then eating lunch (that you brought from home) to go for a walk around the building.  You will be surprised how more alert you feel if you go for a twenty minute walk during lunch, that and the food will help you power through the rest of your day.

5.      Walk / ride / park further away:

I recently started riding my bike to work and it has been the most rewarding experience.  I don’t have to deal with rush hour commute, and feel more alert and awake when I get to the office in the morning.  However, I understand that most people do not live close enough to work to make communing by any means besides a car practical, which is why you should start to park further away from work.  Instead of taking the spot right next to the front door, park at the edge of the lot and walk all the way to the office, it’s not much exercise, but over the course of a year it can add up to hundreds of thousands of extra steps.

6.      Use the stairs:

This is a basic one that gets mentioned a lot, but I thought I would repeat the advice.  I try to use stairs in any building I go to, but I realize that many people either work on the first floor of a building or work on the 50th floor.  If you work on the first floor, I am sure that you need to go to another department sometime in the day and use this as a way to play a little hooky and get some exercise.  If you work on a floor that you cannot walk to without walking in dripping with sweat, make it a goal to walk up the first three –five floors and then take the elevator the rest of the way.  If you are someone who gets to winded walking up the stairs, try making it a point to at least walk down the stairs at the end of the day.  On a side note, I walk up the stairs in the morning, get coffee, take my lunch break, and walk down the stairs at night, all in all I go up and down 12 flights of stairs in a normal day but I am only on the third floor.

7.      Get healthy with your co-workers:

There are at least 8 hours a day your away from your spouse or anyone else that knows you’re on a diet, which leaves plenty of time to cheat if you want.  A great way to get around this is by telling your co-workers you’re trying to loose weight, as this will make you think twice about grabbing that cookie that’s in the break room when your co-workers can see you.  Also you can try to get your coworkers to become health with you, I am currently in a bet with one coworker to see who can do 100 push-ups first and planning to run a 6.6 mile race with another.  We all help each other to stay focused at work, and they kid me around when they think I want to eat something bad (such as friday’s doughnuts).

8.      Identify unhealthy habits:

Really need that chocolate fix at three?  Always have a soda after/with lunch?  Find the times during the day you are most likely to snack or consume empty calories and try to change the habit.  Take a diet soda to work instead of regular.  Have a piece of fruit in the afternoon, or bring bit-sized chocolates with you that a portioned into reasonable servings.  Don’t bring a bag of chocolate to work and think you are only going to have one, just leave the bag at home and bring one piece with you to satisfy your craving.

9.      Bring your lunch and snacks from home:

This is a tried and true fact, and is mentioned in most other lists of healthy work habits.  If you bring a lunch and snack food from home you are going to be eating significantly healthier food (without mystery contents) than most food places near your work will be offering.  You don’t have to do it all at once, aim to bring lunch two days a week to start with and then increase it from there.  If you are just not a brown bagger, that’s fine, but try to find healthier options (I know not everyone is a fan, but Subway is a healthy choice if you don’t add cheese and mayonnaise).  Try to stay away from any type of fast food for example a plain hamburger, small fries, and small Classic Coke is 20g fat and 630 calories, and when was the last time you ordered just a regular hamburger?  If you order this meal once a week for a year, you would be consuming 32,760 calories or the equivalent of 9.36 pounds…stick to the brown bag.

10.  Start a company sports team:

There are softball leagues in every city, try to get coworkers to start a company team.  I played softball on a company team, and it kept me accountable to show up and participate because I would be hounded at work the next day if I didn’t show up.  Just make sure you’re not joining a beer league or you will just drink back the calories you’ve burned. You can also try to get different departments to complete against each other to foster corporate competitiveness and hey it never hurts to play softball with the boss to try and schmooze in the off hours.

You don’t have to do all of these, if you could implement only three, you will already be on the road to a healthier life.  Just remember you’re going to spend roughly ten years of your life (in total hours) working, healthy habits at work can make a significant difference.


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10 Healthy Date Ideas

Since Nathaniel and I have started this health adventure we’ve been making a conscious effort to have healthier more active dates. In the past our saturday night might have consisted of going to a bar and drinking really good beer – and maybe having chicken wings or a burger for dinner.

Nathaniel doesn’t like romantic restaurants and I am a recovering tom-boy so there you go.

I decided to come up with a list of healthy date ideas. They don’t all necessarily burn a lot of calories but they are better than going to the movies or just sitting at home.

1. Hiking

You don’t need to drive to a rural area to go hiking. You can easily go “urban hiking” and plan a route through the city you live in. The other week we started off at the Farmer’s Market on the eastern edge of San Francisco and walked all the way across the city to a restaurant we wanted to try near the ocean. We took our sweet time but after four hours of walking there’s nothing you could order at a normal restaurant that would erase all of that exercise.

 2. Bowling

We’ve only gone bowling a few times but it’s something we both enjoy doing. Stay away from the snack bar though! All those fried and buttered things are a trap!

3. Rock Climbing

I told Nathaniel the other day that once I reach my halfway weight goal I want to try taking up rock climbing. I’ve done it in the past and I have plenty of guy friends that take dates rock climbing. They always have a lot of fun.

4. Going to the gym

The benefit of running together at the gym is that you both can run at your own pace and still be next to each other. I don’t know a single couple where both people are equally matched in the speed and distance they like to run.

5. Cooking Classes

As a couple we often cook together and it’s a lot of fun. I think transforming yourself into a healthy couple has more to do with changing your relationship with food rather than your relationship to each other. In larger cities you can easily find cooking classes and making yourself more comfortable in a kitchen will help you be less likely to head to Taco Bell for a quick bite when you are short on time.

*** Budget friendly version: both people can find a new healthy recipe online, buy the ingredients and make the food together for a Saturday night activity / dinner.

6. Watch a movie at home

You know that drinking game where you take a sip of something or take a shot every time the people in the movie say a particular word? Play that game with sit-ups.

You can decided how many sit-ups to do per word but it will get you doing something other than sitting (sitting in a stationary position can burn as little as 25 calories per hour).

Suggestions: Using the word “family” while watching the Godfather, “Voldermort / He who must not be named” while watching Harry Potter, or “the force” while watching Star Wars.  I dare you to do 10 every time someone dies in The Gladiator.

7. Dancing / Concerts

I hate dancing. I will not go dancing. But – for all you crazy club kids intense dancing can burn as many calories per hour as a serious run. Going to a rock concert and jumping around/moshing burns a similar number of calories.

8. Volunteer to Walk Dogs at the Pound

This will both get you exercise and Karma points. Plus – for those of us apartment dwelling dog lovers it will give you your puppy breath fix for the week.

9. DO something at the bar

If you are going to go drinking try and go to a bar where you have the option of shooting pool, throwing darts or doing something other than sitting. Also – know how many calories come with your “usual” try switching to a less caloric drink.

Think about this: A vodka martini with olives has 250 calories while a gin martini with olives only has 175. Taking shots? The standard 1.5 ounce serving of 80-proof alcohol has 96 calories even before you add any mixers.

10.Go to a farmer’s market / fruit picking at an orchard

Both of these activities fulfill the necessity of buying food for the week and will get you more exercise than shopping at Safeway, Lucky’s, Bi-Lo (shout-out to the south) or whatever your local grocery store is.

Also by going to a farmer’s market you are buying fresher produce picked at its peak and reducing the amount of fossil fuel it took that meal to get to your table.

I like to buy things I’ve never eaten before so that I am forced to figure out what to do with it once I’ve gotten it home. Cue – butternut squash and kale entering my diet within the past 6 months. My parents never fed me these growing up so I had to discover them on my own.


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Red Lentils vs. Top Ramen

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I don’t do it every week but a delicious super quick meal I occasionally make for myself is boiled red lentils.

I didn’t know red lentils existed until a few months ago when a curried lentil dish I found online listed them as an ingredient- they are healthier than “regular” lentils and cook a lot faster.

Yesterday I threw a cup of red lentils into a regular saucepan with water and random seasonings – then boiled them until they were tender and had absorbed most of the water.

The end result was a nicely flavored thick stew of protein with a great flavor that I ate for lunch yesterday and today.

Ready in around 30 minutes each serving is only about 140 calories and has 16g of protein.

Also – red lentils only have half as many carbs as rice.

What I used:

1 cup red lentils

water

2 tsp. Chicken Bouillon (high in sodium so be careful)

1/8 tsp. white pepper

¼ tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. curry powder

Speaking of quick meals – Something to think about:

You know those plastic bags of instant noodles by Maruchan and Top Ramen?

Each of those bags is considered “2 servings” and has 380 calories, 14g fat, 52g carbs and only 10g of protein.

1 cup of lentils makes a REAL 2 servings but altogether it is 280 calories, 0g fat, 76 carbs and 32g of protein.

A ½ cup of the red lentils makes me feel full but when was the last time someone made one of those plastic bags of soup and only ate half of it? Never?


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The Great Yogurt Debate

I love yogurt.  Some of you may have noticed this in peaking at my food log, I have a cup of yogurt everyday for breakfast, for more then just one reason:

  1. No preparation
  2. Easy serving size
  3. Tons of protein

In trying to eat healthier it is sometimes hard to balance wanting nutritious food and having time to make meals.  Most fruits are great because they are already packaged into single servings by nature.  This brings me back to yogurt as a great breakfast food because it is usually packaged in a single serving.  And yet, these packages can vary greatly in what you are actually getting.

Most Americans (myself included) are used to the runny yogurt that you had as a kid that came in flavors like banana and strawberry.  With the trend in healthier eating, many varieties of yogurt have hit the shelves of grocery stores, offering everything from low fat and diet to Greek and whipped, the choices are astounding. But most of these styles of yogurt do not really compare when we check under the hood and judge them against each other.

I went to a local supermarket (not a chain, but an actual local supermarket) and this is just a sample of the yogurts I found there.  The table above is sorted by protein content in ascending order and what this table can breakdown is the amount of sugar that most brands try to pack into yogurt; with a regular Yoplait topping the list at 27g (that is just 11g less then a can of regular coca-cola).

Side note on sugar content: parents may want to reconsider the yogurt that is marketed to children.  Yoplait has two brands that target children, one being Trix and the other Yoplait for kids.  The Trix is sold in 113g servings and the Yoplait for kids is sold in 85g servings. While it is great that they are selling sizes that are portioned for kids, when you scale both of these servings up to the normal adult serving (here assumed to be 170g) the Yoplait for kids has 18g of sugar, and the Trix tops out at 21.1g, which puts both of these yogurts in the upper echelon of sugar content.  (A side note, the Yoplait for kids is marketed as having 25% less sugar then the leading kid’s yogurt, which is Trix yogurt, sold by Yoplait).

What the chart indicates is that in most common American yogurts the amount of protein is 5-6g, while the carbohydrates average in at 22.5g with the average sugar content as a proportion of carbohydrates being 82%.  What does this really mean from the point of view of a consumer?

To answer this we must first have an understanding of the difference between carbohydrates and protein from the perspective of diet and how your body processes these key nutrients.  I am not a nutritionist or biologist, so take my comments with a grain of salt, but from how I understand it carbohydrates are for instant energy your body needs to function.  This is why runners in long distance races will eat bread or drink juice to get a quick shot of energy to fuel their running.  Protein, on the other hand, is not for a quick pick me up, but more sustained energy and will only be used by the body for energy when there are a lack of carbohydrates to burn (for a more comprehensive view of carbohydrates vs. protein). What this really means for you as the eater is that protein will make you feel more full then a carbohydrate will simple by how your body uses these nutrients.  The following chart will help breakdown the differences between carbohydrates, protein, and sugar in each brand in a more visual way.

Click to enlarge

With this in mind, we look back to the yogurt conundrum.  Any of the yogurts that are shaded in blue have little protein content and contain significantly more carbohydrates.  While this means it can give you a boost in the morning with some quick energy, you are going to be left feeling hungry soon after consumption.  I would highly suggest against these types of yogurt as the only benefit is some quick energy and an almost empty belly.

The yogurts shaded in orange are our good yogurts (notice they are all Greek style), but do have varying levels of carbohydrates and calories.  Personally speaking, I would go with the Trader Joe’s Greek yogurt (calories vary per flavor) as it packs in 12g of protein for only 14g of carbs and only 120 calories.  And while it is listed in the good yogurts, I would steer clear of the Yoplait Greek as even in their healthier yogurts they still need 25g of carbs and 150 calories to make their yogurt.  I am also not happy that both of Stonyfeild’s offerings have to use all of their carbohydrates for sugar and would choose a different yogurt if given the option.

The yogurts in green are what we will term the elite yogurts.  These yogurts pack an outstanding 14g of protein into each serving while keeping the carbohydrates at a reasonable to very low amount.  In looking at my food log you could easily notice that I will promote Siggi’s as the elite of the elites (no, I am not a paid endorser of this product).  Siggi’s is the best for multiple reasons, not only does it contain the most protein (their plain version packs in 15g of protein), but they do it with only 11g of carbohydrates and 100 calories.  Sweetened with agave syrup this yogurt will fill you up and you may even find it lasts you the whole morning before your hunger pangs return.  Still, the other two yogurts in this category will offer enough protein to get a full belly and does it while keeping carbohydrate and calorie levels low.

The question still exists: does it really matter that there are a couple more grams of sugar and little more calories in my yogurt?  To some it may not matter, if you are controlling portion size and living an active lifestyle then you can enjoy yogurt of any variety as long as it tastes good to you, though switching to a higher protein one may help to give you a fuller feeling in the morning.  For the rest of us, specifically those trying to loose weight, it could make a big difference.  Breaking it down:

The above chart is based on eating a serving of yogurt 5 days a week for a whole year

I had never fully considered the difference that a high protein yogurt could make for a breakfast food.  But having been eating it now for five months, the difference is clear.  I am more full throughout the morning and less tempted to snack when I do eat it and it is the easiest breakfast because all I have to do is remove the lid and enjoy a nice cup of yogurt.As you can see, just the choice of Siggi’s over regular Yoplait will cut 18,200 calories out of your diet per year, plus 10.32 POUNDS of sugar, which to give you a visual is two and a half sacks that you buy for baking.  What this math may also help with is measuring some of the other choices that you make in any given day and how those add up in an entire year of eating.

Note: I only used flavored yogurts in my analysis because I cannot stomach plain yogurt.  My hat is off to people who enjoy the taste of plain yogurt, but for me I need something to help mask that taste.  So if you can, try eating plain yogurt and it will help eliminate tons of wasted carbohydrates.  But if you like me and find the plain stuff a little unpalatable, then reach for a little sweetened cup of high protein yogurt.

Article: Nathaniel Chaney

Photos: Alex Washburn