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Stuff the Turkey, not Yourself

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I have fond memories of running in the Dallas Turkey Trot with my dad, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with my mom, and then, of course, watching my Dallas Cowboys with the entire family. But it’s time to get honest -- it’s almost un-American to not stuff yourself at a traditional Thanksgiving meal. There is a lot to be said about traditions and it’s the reason why we share the holiday with friends and family each year. It’s also the reason why we include delicious dishes such as stuffing, cranberry sauce (a personal favorite), and casseroles on our dinner table. After all, food plays a central role in family celebrations and holidays. However, it may be time to try some new traditions. Aside from the estimated 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat packed into the traditional Thanksgiving meal, we also must be leery about the sugar hiding in our favorite dishes. Normally healthy and good-for-you foods served on Thanksgiving tend to be weighed down with extra calories and sugars simply by our preparation:

  • Cranberries: This generally healthy fruit tends to be a sugar trap due to the large amounts of sugar we put in to make a sauce. It’s even more packed down in the canned variety. Canned cranberry sauce contains about 5 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Sweet Potatoes: Any other day, sweet potatoes are filled with important vitamin and nutrients. On Thanksgiving, however, they are often adulterated by adding brown sugar and marshmallows. A typical sweet potato casserole contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Pumpkin Pie: By itself, pumpkin is a nutritious gourd; however, it becomes weighed down with sugar and fat on Thanksgiving. To make it even worse, we often add whipped cream to it. Pumpkin pie with whipped cream contains almost 8 teaspoons of sugar!

It is important to have a plan of attack when headed to, or preparing for, your Thanksgiving feast. This list is by no means comprehensive, but may provide you with some new ideas or suggestions.

  • Workout before and/or after your Thanksgiving meal. This year, some of our own Genesis PURE employees are participating in the Turkey Trot! Whether you take a brisk walk, play football, go to the gym, or shopping, make sure you get moving.
  • Head to your Thanksgiving meal with a plan. Skip the typical cheese and cracker appetizer and fill up on fresh, raw vegetables. Opt for a glass of fruit infused water or club soda instead of a heavy cocktail or regular soda.
  • Fill up your plate with ½ vegetables, ¼ protein, and ¼ starch or complex carbohydrates. In order to stave off overeating, start with a colorful salad. Conversely ending with a salad not only helps move food through your digestive system, but may help balance out the lethargic effect you feel after a big meal. Make your plate colorful!
  • Pick your foods wisely: We are usually faced with a plethora of food choices at Thanksgiving. A large percentage of the traditional Thanksgiving meal contains carbohydrates, which are converted to glucose or sugar. Don’t feel that you have to eat everything in sight. If you only get mom’s pumpkin pie once a year, choose a small piece (avoid the whipped cream) instead of a roll that you can have any other time of the year.
  • Volunteer to cook! Make the sweet potatoes, but skip the brown sugar and marshmallows. Bring a healthy side dish, such as roasted, herbed Brussel sprouts. If you normally bring mashed potatoes, substitute mashed cauliflower. Make baked apples for dessert, drizzled with apple juice and sprinkled with cinnamon. Challenge yourself to think outside of the traditional Thanksgiving meal plan.
  • If you are hosting Thanksgiving, use natural sugar substitutes in moderation. Make sure to adjust your oven temperatures accordingly. Substitutes include:
    • Agave nectar
    • ¾ cup pure maple syrup or raw honey for 1 cup granulated sugar. Note that cooking with honey may take away some of the beneficial properties. If you do choose to use honey, reduce the liquid by ¼ cup for each cup of sugar replaced and reduce your cooking temperature by 25 degrees.
    • Applesauce
    • Fresh fruit juice
    • Pureed banana
    • Stevia
  • Finally, what do you do with all the leftovers? Immediately box them up and send them home with your guests, see if a local charity will take them, or place them in meal-sized freezer containers and freeze them for a future special occasion. Try making a healthy soup with your leftover turkey but don’t be afraid to throw sugar-laden dishes away to help keep you on track days after your feast. 

My final challenge to you would be to shift your focus from the carb and sugar-heavy meal and the potential to feel miserable the next day, to gratitude. Take a moment to pause, reflect, and remember what Thanksgiving is all about and enjoy being with your friends and family. If you do choose to indulge, get back on track the next day with your regular workout routine and healthy eating habits. Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!


By Amy Kurtz BA, BS, CI-CPT, Certified Health Coach
Genesis PURE Wellness Education Specialist

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice. 

The Role of Sugar in Type 2 Diabetes

Receiving a phone call from your physician telling you that you have type 2 diabetes can be one of the most terrifying and life changing experiences. This situation was all too true for Janet, who was struggling with her weight and a stress-eating habit for years. As a nurse working long hours, she often drank soda to power her through her day, relied on fast food because she was often too tired to prepare her meals, and found it difficult to fit in regular activity. Many Americans are like Janet – justifying daily indulgences, while gradually watching their waistline expand. Some, like Janet, may develop type 2 diabetes with weight gain being an important contributing factor. Some studies suggest refined sugar, like the sugar in Janet’s soda, may be a significant contributor to weight gain and diabetes, among other health issues.

Obesity affects half of all adults and one-sixth of all children in the United States, and these staggering statistics continue to rise. Among contributing factors such as lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits, sugar may also contribute to obesity, and is ubiquitous in our food supply. Sugar is often consumed as a natural part of many foods, such as fruit, dairy, and many grains, and as additions to food during production, processing, and packaging. It has been argued that the sweetness of sugar makes food more palatable, which the industry has capitalized on by adding sugar to normally non-sweetened foods to enhance taste. Sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, may be especially problematic. Evidence suggests that the body may not provide the same fullness response to some liquid calories than it does with solid food. Excessive consumption of sugar in both beverages and foods, combined with decrease in exercise and/or daily movement, poor sleep habits, and excess stress may lead to an energy imbalance that may result in weight gain.

While obesity is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes, not all obese individuals develop diabetes. Visceral fat (an apple-type body shape) is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, while peripheral fat (a pear type body shaped) is not. One reason is because visceral fat is accumulated in liver and muscle cells, where it directly impairs their ability to metabolize sugar. Peripheral fat is neatly contained in fat cells and does not always impair the health of liver and muscle cells. Genetics seem to influence how fat is stored in the body, but so does the form of carbohydrate consumed. Studies on animals, which are valuable and can provide important information, but may not always yield the same results in humans, have found that diets supplemented with sugar lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, while those containing primarily starch from foods like potatoes, squash, rice, and pasta did not. As with all topics, opinions may differ. Fructose, a type of carbohydrate in sugar, but not starch, is thought to be a reason why diabetes may develop from sugar ingestion. In addition to sugar’s contribution to obesity, which may contribute to the increase of risk of type 2 diabetes, sugar may directly contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, as well.

With the correlation of sugar consumption and potential link to development of obesity and type 2 diabetes, which may also affect heart health, it’s not surprising that the American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to 100 calories daily for women and 150 for men. Let’s return to the story of Janet. After the shock of her diagnosis wore off, Janet knew she needed to take control of her health. Janet has started taking regular breaks to walk outside instead of relying on her afternoon super-sized soda to provide her with an energy boost during her 12-hour days. Working with her doctor and a registered dietitian, she also learned to prepare her meals with lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of vegetables, instead of relying on the drive-thru for dinner. She also armed herself with fresh, healthy snacks to avoid the vending machines at work. Janet took control of her health and so can you. Take control of yours this holiday season and limit your indulgences in sugary treats and junk food. Focus on putting healthy foods and beverages into your body that will bring about better health and well-being.

By Amy Kurtz BA, BS, CI-CPT, Certified Health Coach
Genesis PURE Wellness Education Specialist

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice.

Sugar and Cancer: is there a Connection?

Sugar is villanized, and rightly so, as a significant contributor to our chronic disease health crisis. Many include cancer, the second leading cause of death in the US, among the diseases that may be caused by excessive sugar consumption. Contrary to what is commonly circulated on the internet, however, information from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute state that sugar has not been shown to have a direct role in cancer development. While a direct role has not been well-established, some evidence suggests there may be a link between sugar and cancer that still warrants consideration.

Many that claim a direct link between sugar and cancer cite evidence that cancer uses glucose, a type of sugar, as its primary fuel source. While evidence from scientific studies does suggest cancer primarily uses glucose, the current scientific opinion is that the glucose did not cause the cancer to form, but the use of glucose as a fuel source is simply an adaptation of all fast growing cells. To support their rapid growth, cancer cells have been shown to alter their processing of glucose to one that doesn’t rely on oxygen. This allows the cell to more quickly convert the glucose into a usable form of energy to support their rapid growth. Glucose didn’t cause the cancer, cancer simply adapted to prefer glucose as a fuel source.

The inevitable question then is, could you starve cancer by depriving it of glucose? Possibly. Unfortunately, all carbohydrate, this includes whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables, is converted into glucose and could be used as fuel for cancer growth. All carbohydrate would need to be eliminated from the diet, not just sugar, to have any notable effect on cancer growth. There is interest in a dietary approach to cancer treatment known as the ketogenic diet which does just that. Following the ketogenic diet, individuals consume primarily meats and oils to avoid carbohydrate. Currently it has not been investigated sufficiently to determine efficacy or safety, however, and it may be difficult for many to follow.

The possible sugar cancer connection may lie in is sugar’s role in the development of obesity. While there are a variety of contributors to obesity, it is generally accepted that excess sugar intake may be a prime contributor to its development. Obesity is estimated to be responsible for 4% of cancer in men and 7% in women according to National Cancer Institute data. There especially seems to be a large correlation between estrogen-positive cancers, like breast and endometrial cancer, and obesity, possibly explaining the larger burden of obesity on cancer development among women. Fat cells release a variety of hormones, one of which is estrogen. The excessive amounts of estrogen produced during obesity may increase the risk of estrogen positive cancers. Other hormones produced by fat cells are also thought to possibly play a role in cancer development.

Type 2 diabetes, an obesity-related disease often associated with excess sugar consumption according to some research, could be a risk factor for many types of cancer and may be another link between sugar and cancer. The reason for this association is not clear; but some evidence suggests that high insulin levels, as well as other metabolic changes associated with diabetes, may contribute to the development and progression of cancer. Type 2 diabetes, and obesity in general, are also associated with increased inflammation in the body, which could also contribute to the development of cancer according to some research.

Looking for additional reasons to kick the sugar habit this holiday season? Remember the potential role of sugar in cancer development. While the delectable holiday treats and feasts may be tempting, eat sugary foods in moderation. In addition to limiting sugar, implement other elements of a healthy lifestyle, such as exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management, to help maintain a healthy weight.


By Ron Beckstrom, MS, RD, HFS
Genesis PURE Product and Research Specialist

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice.

Halloween Candy Galore! What do you do with all of it?

After all the goblins and ghouls have scoured the neighborhood for every bit of candy they can possibly get their hands on, of course they’re going to want to eat some! And, it’s not just the kids that dip into Halloween sweet stash – it’s the parents, too. So, what do you do with all that candy? Here are five suggestions on how to keep candy consumption by kids and parents within healthy bounds.
 
  • Be proactive – Reduce the amount of candy children receive by limiting the time spent trick or treating. Fun family traditions can limit the amount of time kids spend trick or treating without retaliatory resentment. A festive family dinner during the first hour of trick or treating, a scary movie with friends after knocking a few doors, or a spooky game of Zombies and Humans in the park can all be fun activities to displace some of the hours spent in search of Halloween loot. One benefit of bringing the kids home early is, you can re-gift some of their candy. Consider ditching the pillow case and opting for a smaller basket that looks fuller with less candy.
  • Out of sight – Growing up, holiday treats were stored in a bowl on the kitchen counter and were always depleted by the end of the season. When my mom began storing them in a kitchen cabinet, I usually forgot they were there, and many of the treats were thrown away rather than eaten. Designate a place where the candy will be stored and ensure it is out of plain sight. If you don’t feel your children can exercise discretion when consuming candy, take the liberty of storing it for them on a high shelf or locked cabinet, so you can have greater control over how the candy is eaten.
  • Timing – Control the timing of candy intake. Ensure that candy isn’t consumed before meals. It might reduce the amount of healthy foods consumed. Restricting candy consumption to only certain times of the day, may naturally limit the quantity of candy consumed as well. You may also feel that limiting candy to only certain days of the week (weekends, days starting with “T,” etc.) may be a feasible rule.
  • Amount – Perhaps the most direct way to cut down on candy consumption is to limit it directly. As a child, I recall one friend was allowed to consume two pieces of candy daily. Another was told he had to choose his 15 favorite candies on Halloween night and the rest were thrown away. If you choose to go this route, be careful not to be too restrictive. Children should still have a sense of autonomy and control, perhaps by choosing which candies and when they consume them.
  • Reduce other sugar – Candy isn’t the only source of sugar in a child’s diet. Try and cut back on other sources of sugar throughout the day. Get rid of the juices; limit any syrups, honey, jams, or other sugary topping; cut out desserts or make your child’s daily candy also serve as their dessert; and select recipes that don’t rely on large amounts of sweeteners.
 
By Ron Beckstrom, MS, RD, HFS
Genesis PURE Product and Research Specialist
 
This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice. 
 

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