Health By Nature…Where Clean Meets Green!

Alternative Isn’t Always Better
July 15, 2009, 12:27 pm
Filed under: health, natural, nutrition, weight management, wellness | Tags: , , , , ,

sugar Alternative Isn’t Always Better

My latest aggravation in my grocery shopping   experience is *hidden* artificial sweeteners.  Look closely at those items that claim *light* or *no added sugar* and often you’ll find the sweetener sucralose, often by its brand name *Splenda*.  Sometimes the Splenda brand-name symbol adorns the package, other times it may list sucralose in the ingredients.

Splenda’s marketing slogan is deceptive: “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar.”  Although Splenda does start off from a sugar molecule, the finished product is far from natural.  Sadly, our short-sightedness when it comes to dieting in this country prevents many people from really investigating what they are consuming, and products with artificial sweeteners are often consumed in high daily quantities.

In a nutshell, Splenda is a synthesized chemical.  A molecule of sugar is chlorinated by removing 3 hydroxyl groups (atoms made up of hydrogen and oxygen) and replaced with 3 chlorine atoms.  This makes Splenda hard for the body to metabolize or digest, and so it is mostly *passed* through one’s system intact.

If you visit the Splenda homepage, you’ll even find the company state: “Although sucralose has a structure like sugar and a sugar-like taste, it is not natural.”  That about does it for me.  Interstingly, there were no long-term studies to determine sucralose’s safety prior to the FDA approving it as a food additive.  Even more interesting is now the herb stevia was just recently approved, even though there was no chemical manipulation to produce it.  How long did people consume saccharin before it was discovered that it carried potential health risks?  Will Spenda see a similar fate in the future?  Only time will tell.

I am a big believer in moderation.  I will use sugar or other natural alternatives instead of artificial sweetners; however, I pick and choose where and how much I consume.

Some safer alternatives:

I previously mentioned stevia.  It is an intensely sweet herb with zero calories.  Last summer we grew a big pot on the deck, and adding fresh sprigs to iced tea, mojitos and other drinks was so refreshing!  You can purchase packets of dried stevia at some stores.  One caveat: stevia doesn’t hold up well in baking.

Agave nectar has 20 calories per teaspoon.  It comes from the blue agave plant, just as tequila does!  It tastes very much like a simple sugar syrup.  It is 75% sweeter than sugar, so you can use less.

Honey also has 20 calories/tsp.  Like agave, it is versatile; plus, it contains antioxidants and enzymes for added benefit.

Maple syrup(pure) has 17 calories per teaspoon.  Another versatile sweetener, it also contains minerals.  Trader Joe’s now has an excellent maple syrup/agave blend that is really good!

Other sweeteners like barley malt powder and brown rice syrup can successfully be used in baking.  They are not as sweet as sugar, but contain some nutrients.  There is an excellent cookbook by Heidi Swanson called “Super Natural Cooking”, which has an entire chapter devoted to natural sugar alternatives and has some interesting recipes.  I highly recommend it for someone looking to expand their cooking horizons while remaining whole-food based.  Also look for Heidi’s website

In the meantime, be vigilant about what you are consuming and read labels carefully.  An informed consumer is a healthier consumer!


Tips & Tricks to Burn More Fat

Here are some excellent tips to ramp up that metabolism, increase lean musce and avoid hidden calories that end up as fat stores.

• Don’t skimp on the protein!

Women especially: every decade, we lose about 5 lbs. of muscle!  Protein helps build lean muscle, so be sure you’re getting enough.  Also my weight management plan is packed with protein to help you build and retain lean muscle and also help you feel satiated.

• Strength train

Strength training increases your resting metabolic rate.  Incorporate light weights and resistance bands to your exercise routine 3 times a week, and you’ll reduce your body fat percentage in about 10 weeks.

• Don’t munch mindlessly!

Moms are often guilty of this one: eat the last few bites of a child’s plate, nibble here and there while preparing meals…every one of those bites will average 25 extra calories.  4 extra bits a day will translate into an extra pound in one month!

• Too few calories is counterproductive

Weight loss is 70% diet, so of course decreased calorie consumption plays a large role; however, consume too few calories, and your body will go into “starvation mode”, choosing to hang on to those fat stores as its emergency fuel source, and thus burning muscle you don’t want to lose.  You can take the free analysis on my weight management site to find out what level of calories you need based on your BMI (body mass index).  To maintain your weight after reaching your goal, add 300 calories/day.

• Plan ahead

It’s easy to say you’re going to watch what you eat today or work out, but often the day escapes you, and before you know it, the day is over and you haven’t stuck to your word.  Make meal plans–I make mine for the entire week before I go shopping.  If there’s a particularly busy day that I’m not going to be home much, I plan a make-ahead or crockpot meal, rather than succumbing to takeout later on.  Have a detailed meal plan for the day, stick to it, and check off what you’ve consumed throughout the day to avoid overeating or going beyond your plan.  30 day meal plans, with recipes, can be found at

Carve out time in your day to work out.  Going to a gym is great, but you can still get a great workout at home.  Do crunches and squats during TV time, or run the stairs up and down.  Take an hour to walk briskly around the neighborhood.  Whatever it takes, just do it.

• Make sure you work hard enough

Your workout needs intensity to burn calories and fat.  Get your heart rate up (but within normal range!)

• Mix it up

Don’t do the same workout every time.  Variety works better than routine.  Power walk, pilates (a DVD or class), bicycle, use an elliptical machine or treadmill, take a dance or aerobics class….really try to incorporate different workouts in your week.

• Understand false hunger

Before snacking, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry, or are you just bored or stressed?  Thirst can also cause false hunger signs.  Drink a glass of water, then wait 15 minutes to see if the feeling has passed.  If you still feel hungry, have a healthy, high protein snack.  Use your meal plan as a guide for snacks.

• Don’t fall for quick fixes or scams

There is no magic pill that is going to make you lose weight.  Even using this weight management plan, it requires discipline, exercise, and healthy eating. Slow and steady weight loss is much healthier than a sudden drop in pounds–and you’re more likely to keep it off, as well.


Heart Smart Physical Activity


Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with over a half a million Americans dying every year because of it. Achieving a healthy weight, including making heart healthy food choices, is a great step toward reducing your risk of heart disease, but incorporating heart-smart physical activity into your daily routine is also essential. Being more physically active not only helps shed those unwanted pounds and inches but also can make your heart stronger. And a stronger heart is a more efficient heart. What do we mean by a more efficient heart? Well, a strong, conditioned heart can pump the same amount of blood in 50 beats as the heart of an inactive person in 75 beats. When the heart is strong it beats slower and can meet the body’s needs with less effort.

Heart-smart physical activity, also known as aerobic or “cardio” exercise, is the type of activity performed at moderate but increasing levels of intensity for an extended period of time. The word “aerobic” means “with oxygen” and refers to the use of oxygen by the body throughout the activity. Cardio exercises are aimed at increasing your heart rate and effectively burning calories. They also help strengthen your respiratory muscles improving your breathing as well as help tone muscles in all parts of the body, resulting in improved blood circulation and reduced blood pressure. Cardio exercises also increase the number of red blood cells in your body, which improves oxygen transport to all body tissues.

Looking for heart-smart activities that also burn a lot of calories? Here’s a list of five cardio exercises that burn a lot of calories in 30 minutes.

  1. Step aerobics – women especially love step aerobics. It not only burns up to 400 calories in 30 minutes, but also targets your legs, hips and butt muscles.
  2. Biking – whether you’re on a stationary bike at the gym or on your own bike outdoors, biking has the potential to burn anywhere from 250–500 calories in 30 minutes depending on resistance and speed.
  3. Swimming – a great form of cardio activity that works the entire body. If you swim using the breast stroke you can burn close to 400 calories in 30 minutes.
  4. Cross-country skiing – outdoor in the snow, or again using a cross country ski machine in the gym, is an excellent form of cardio exercise. You’ll work both your upper and lower body, and the average 145 lb. person can burn approximately 300 calories in 30 minutes.
  5. Running – All you need is a good pair of running shoes, and you’re ready to go! Burn up to 300 calories in 30 minutes.

Do your heart a favor and engage in some heart-smart physical activity. Choose activities you enjoy and try to exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week. If you need to, divide up the time into three 10-minute sessions instead of one 30-minute session and don’t forget to warm up and stretch before you get started. And lastly, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or joint and muscle problems, consult your doctor or other health care provider before starting an exercise program.

Measuring Your Weight Loss Success

It’s morning, and you step on the scale. The number you see is your reality of how unhealthy you’ve become. This number sticks with you from the moment you wake up in the morning until the moment you get back in bed to go to sleep. It’s also the number used to signify the beginning of your weight loss program. But, what you need to remember is, that number is not the most important way to weigh your weight loss success. Why? Because your body is made up of mostly water and body-water levels can fluctuate from day to day. The numbers you see on the scale can move up or down from day to day anywhere from 3 to 5 lbs. If you’ve stepped on the scale and have gained 3 to 5 lbs. in a day or two, there’s no way you’ve gained that weight from fat. It takes eating an extra 3500 calories more than your body needs to gain a pound of body fat.

So how do you measure your weight loss success? Well, the true measure of how well you are doing with your new eating and exercise program is the size of your body. Using your  tape measure, measure the circumference of your waist, hips, arms, and thighs before you get started and then again every week or two thereafter. This is an excellent way to monitor a change in your body size. It is these numbers, the inches lost, that will keep you motivated when it seems like the scale won’t budge in the right direction.

Another way to measure success is to have your body fat percentage measured. A number of methods are available, from hydrostatic weighing to electrical impedance and skin fold calipers. Hydrostatic weighing is one of the most accurate ways to measure percent body fat, but it is often expensive and a bit invasive. It has to be done in a facility that has the equipment and requires that you to be submerged in a tank of water, a process that’s not for everyone. Bioelectric impedance is another method that’s available at some fitness centers. It’s noninvasive, but not quite as accurate as hydrostatic weighing. Another method, which is also available at many gyms and fitness centers, uses skin fold calipers. This method uses calipers to measure a pinch of skin at sites on the body. These measurements are then placed in a formula to estimated percent body fat. This method is not entirely accurate either; results can vary depending on how well trained the person taking the measurements is. If you choose this method make sure the person who initially measures you is the same person who conducts subsequent measures. Any of these methods can provide an initial estimate of body fat and more importantly, show positive changes over time.

And lastly, don’t forget to notice and acknowledge other measures of success: improvements in your energy level, performance, self esteem, the way your clothes fit, and many other benefits you’ll gain from a healthier lifestyle. Those benefits include improvements in health-risk factors and medical conditions, improved quality of life and mental outlook, healthier eating, and enjoyable physical activity.

So don’t forget to actively find ways to measure your success with your weight plan. It not only will help you stay on track with your healthier eating and increased physical activity goals, but will keep you motivated until you fit into your skinny jeans. Just remember, if the numbers on the scale aren’t moving in the right direction, it’s not a necessarily a reflection of how healthy you are or the progress you’ve made.

My weight management plan is clinically proven to be effective.  It’s powered by leucine, a naturally-occuring amino acid that makes your body keep its muscle and burn the fat you don’t want.  Other diets cause the body to go into *starvation mode* and store fat, which means muscle loss.  We are so certain that you will succeed with this program that we have a 100% unconditional guarantee–if you don’t like them for any reasons, you can return them for your money back.  What have you got to lose?  Just fat!

For more information, visit my weight management site at

While you’re there, be sure and click on *free analysis*.  You can obtain your BMI (body mass index), which is a great indicator of how to set your weight loss goals.