Stop, Look, and Listen

Stop, look, and listen. You can reduce your calorie intake, lower your blood sugar, and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease TODAY! Before we go any further getting to know our food, let’s take a moment to explore a simple change that can make a huge difference.

Whew. It’s hard to believe we’re already one month into the new year! How are you fairing with your plans to be healthier?

If you’ve been following this blog all month, you’ll recall that we’ve been learning about food so that we have the knowledge we need to slowly, but surely, build a lifestyle to support the changes we want to make. Building a framework to support change can take time. Seeing the results of changes can take time. As we’ve seen, learning about food can take time. But there are things you can do that will make you healthier right this minute!

That’s right. You can reduce your calorie intake, lower your blood sugar, and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease TODAY! How?
Stop, Look, and Listen.

Drinking soda with high fructose corn syrup
Drinking soda with real sugar
Drinking diet soda
Giving soda to your children

The American Heart Association recommends children drink soda once a week or less. According to the Washington Post, two-thirds of children drink soda daily.

Soft drinks provide 0 nutrition. ZERO. For the 100 calories in an 8 ounce Dr. Pepper, you get more than a days worth of added sugar. It doesn’t matter if the sugar comes from cane sugar, beet sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, it is still added sugar and your body does not require it.

Yes, you’ll get a temporary boost from the sugar and caffeine in the drink, but if you do not combine it with protein or long lasting carbs, you will soon feel fatigued because of a swift drop in blood sugar. One way to combat that is to drink another soda. That can result in a cycle that’s hard to
break. And on some level it can be addicting.

My mother had such an addiction to Dr. Pepper for about 20 years. I found a handwritten health history in which she documented that she drank 12 Dr. Peppers per day. Each was a 20 oz bottle out of the vending machine at our business. Even if she only consumed half of each bottle, that’s 1500 calories per day.

While it was no secret that she subsisted on Dr. Pepper, saltine crackers, and the occasional piece of cherry pie, I don’t think any of us realized how many of her calories came from sugar. It was the bulk of them. You wouldn’t have guessed this. She was never overweight. In fact, she was quite thin. She was also fatigued and depressed. She ultimately died from kidney disease.

Diet soda removes the sugar and calories, but a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that diet soft drinks may also contribute to diabetes and be associated with weight gain and metabolic syndrome.

Drinking sweet tea

If you’ve grown accustomed to sweet tea, this may sound difficult. My grandmother had a good system for breaking the habit. She would only allow us to have a glass of sweet tea after we finished a glass of unsweet tea. It didn’t take long to lose our preference for the sweet version.

Drinking flavored coffee drinks daily

Whether it comes from a barista, dispensing machine, or bottle, a caramel cappuccino is filled with sugar. If your daily morning coffee comes topped with syrup and whipped cream, there’s no question. It is filled with sugar.

Serving lemonade, punch, or drink mixes with meals

Lemonade, punch, and drink mixes are all sweetened with something. Of course it’s okay to have a
lemonade stand sometimes or serve punch at a party. The problem arises when it’s served frequently.

Giving the kids store bought juice or juice boxes

Juice is better than soda because it contains some vitamins, and nutrients. The box may say it’s 100% juice, but some brands have added sugar hidden in the fruit concentrate. Fresh squeezed juice or water are better options.

At the label before you buy

It’s not just soft drinks that deliver a large dose of sugar. Sports drinks and flavored water may do so as well. If you see the words: high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, or sucrose syrup — they mean sugar. If you see the words Sucralose and acesulfame potassium — they mean artificial sweetener.

Getting in the habit of reading labels will help you make healthier choices. You may discover that simply changing brands will make a big difference in the amount of fat, sugar, and calories you are consuming.

To your body

Foods affect people differently. If I eat pancakes with syrup for breakfast, you’ll find me in the bathroom throwing up about 10 minutes later. This has been true my entire life. Even if they’re gluten-free, I can’t tolerate sugary carbs in the morning. This may not be true for you.

So, I’m not saying that you should never ever have a soda, or sweet tea, or a delicious coffee drink. I’m saying that if you begin to think of those things as treats to be consumed on rare occasions rather than as regular everyday fare, you’ll automatically make a huge step toward a healthier diet.

It really is that easy! And it can happen today.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Get to Know Breakfast for Kids

Before we leave the subject of breakfast, let’s get to know breakfast for kids. We’ve covered many popular breakfast foods for older children, but what about babies and toddlers? I’m thinking about this because we’re introducing foods to my 6-month-old grandson DJ. He stays with me 2 days per week, which means I am participating in this process.

DJMy daughter-in-law naturally compares notes with friends and co-workers who have babies about the same age. She reports that most of them buy baby food. Some start by introducing rice cereal, others begin with oatmeal. Some mix in bananas immediately. Others feed one food at a time. Most of her friends choose an organic baby food brand. Her family advises that she should add rice cereal to bottles, and begin introducing fruit juice. Sometimes she just stares into space when we talk about it. As a first time mother, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the advice and differing opinions.

DJ’s pediatrician says, “Asking me when it’s okay to start giving him juice is like asking me when it’s okay to start giving him Oreos.” He doesn’t think a baby needs all the sugar in fruit juice. He also says that as DJ gets older, we can use a little prune juice for constipation, but to buy the adult version and dilute it with water rather than pay more for baby juice.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends only breast milk for the first 6 months and continuing to breastfeed until 12 months – even after the addition of solid foods. The AAP owned website advises against adding cereal to bottles because it is a choking hazard. (Exceptions are sometimes made for babies with reflux.) Babies need to be able to sit in a feeding chair or seat with good head control before introducing solids.

In the site’s guide to starting solid foods, there is no recommendation for introducing any certain food first. It is suggested that you introduce one food at a time for a period of several days before introducing another food. With each new food, watch for signs of an allergic reaction like diarrhea, rash, or vomiting. In a few months, your baby should eat a daily variety of meats, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and fish along with breast milk. A new recommendation is to expose your child to peanuts within the first year.

What about cereals?

It is traditional to introduce cereals before vegetables and fruit. Most baby cereals are made from rice, oats, or barley. There is no reason to begin with cereals and several reasons not to. Amylase, the enzyme need to break down and digest complex grains is not present in babies’ salivary glands until they have molars. Digesting grains takes more energy for an immature digestive systems and food intolerance can result from introducing foods for which the gut isn’t prepared.
There are also concerns about the arsenic levels in rice.

In a family with a history of celiac disease, if a child becomes sick, tired, and grumpy after the introduction of wheat, rye, barley, or oats, it may be best to discontinue those foods. If the child then feels better, remove those foods from his diet. Removing wheat, rye, barley, and oats will allow your child to feel good while you take some time to consult a doctor who has expertise in gluten intolerance and celiac disease. That still leaves rice, quinoa, millet, and certified gluten-free oats as cereal options.

Okay, I’ve introduced my baby to a variety of solid foods, what should she eat for breakfast?

If your baby is less than a year old, one or two simple foods followed by breast milk will suffice. A combination of protein and carbohydrates from fruit will give him a good start for the day. Eggs, applesauce, and bananas are good choices.

Toddlers can also benefit from protein, carbohydrates from fruit and a small amount of carbohydrates from whole grains. They will enjoy eggs, plain whole milk yogurt, fruit, and unsweetened warm cereals made from rice and oats. Once your child is over a year old, you can offer a small glass of whole milk along with breakfast.

What about fruit juice or cold cereal?

As we saw a couple of weeks ago when we compared the nutrition value in store bought orange juice to that of an orange, the orange is superior in providing vitamin C and fiber in fewer calories. As DJ’s pediatrician notes, there’s no need for a child to drink juice. Providing your child fresh fruit is a better option.

If you feel strongly about offering juice, your child will get the most nutritional benefit if you make it yourself from fresh fruits or vegetables just before serving and do not use sweetener. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with feeding your baby fresh fruits and vegetables from the very beginning. With the help of a baby food grinder or processor, you can create your own baby food in a matter of minutes from the options you cook for the rest of your family.

Bananas can be mashed with a fork and diluted with breast milk. Steamed broccoli pureed in a food processor with a little added water is one of DJ’s favorites. He also likes acorn squash, avocado, sweet potato, and applesauce. We’re about to introduce peas followed by butternut squash, then potatoes. So far, we haven’t felt a need to buy baby food. We will avoid preparing spinach, beets, green beans, collard greens, and carrots for him until he’s a little older because of a concern about the nitrate content.

Boxed breakfast cereal is highly processed and high in carbohydrates from grains. Many brands and flavors are also high in carbohydrates from added sugars. None of us has a nutritional need for added sugar. If you are going to choose a boxed cereal, be sure to read the nutrition label. The best choices will contain whole grain, no added sugar, minimal sodium, no gums, minimal starches, and no artificial ingredients.

Can’t I just give the kids some toast & jelly?

Whole grain toast can be a good option as long as it’s not topped with something sugary. Starting the day with a meal high in sugar and carbs and low in protein can lead to sudden fatigue mid-morning.

Other breakfast choices that are high in added sugar include pancake syrup, chocolate hazelnut spread, jelly, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, toaster pastries or strudel, chocolate milk, and some muffins.

It’s okay to think outside the box.

Although it’s traditional to eat bacon or sausage in the morning, there’s nothing wrong with beef, chicken or fish for breakfast. Your child doesn’t have the same sense of tradition that you do and may like those just fine. Vegetables are another good option.

We all want to give our children the best start on the day that we can, and the best way to know what’s in your child’s food is to prepare it from fresh ingredients. Keep it simple with eggs and fruit or leftover chicken and vegetables and you’ll still be out the door in no time.

For more information regarding gluten intolerance and celiac disease from an allergist, pediatrician and gastroenterologist, visit

Get to Know Your Breakfast Sandwich

If you typically get breakfast from a drive-thru, it’s time to get to know your breakfast sandwich. With January swiftly progressing, many of your neighbors and friends have already abandoned their New Year’s resolutions. By taking the time to gain knowledge so that you can create a lifestyle to support the changes you want to make, you’ll be way ahead of them in the long run.

In the past couple of weeks we’ve looked at the calorie and nutrition content of breakfast foods most commonly consumed at home. About 10% of American breakfast eaters grab a drive-thru breakfast sandwich, so let’s examine a few of those.

The typical breakfast sandwich is a combination of bacon, egg, and cheese or sausage, egg, and cheese. It comes served on some kind of bread: an English muffin, toast, waffle, biscuit, or doughnut. It is not normally gluten-free.
breakfast sandwich
The best-known of the breakfast sandwiches is the Egg McMuffin®.

Egg McMuffin
McDonald’s signature breakfast sandwich is made with egg, Canadian bacon, and cheese on an English muffin. This sandwich has 290 calories. It also contains 17 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat, 235 mg cholesterol, 840 mg sodium, 3 g sugars and a total of 29 g carbohydrates in addition to 30% of the Daily Value of calcium, 15% of iron, 10% of vitamin A, and 2% of vitamin C.

While cholesterol may no longer have a recommended limit, the American Heart Association suggests a goal of 300 mg per day. 235 mg is a significant portion of that amount. The 840 mg of sodium provide 30% of the recommended sodium for a day.

Dunkin’ Donuts Belgian Waffle Breakfast Sandwich

For me, the pull of this sandwich is the waffle. I love waffles! Of course, I won’t ever choose to eat this sandwich because I must be gluten-free or be itchy, in pain, and weak. That doesn’t keep it from looking like a delicious choice. Let’s see how it stacks up nutritionally.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ puts egg, cheese, and bacon between two Belgian waffles. The waffle sandwich has 420 calories, 16 grams of protein, 27 grams of fat, 190 mg cholesterol, 800 grams of sodium,
14 grams of sugar, and 38 g total carbs.

It seems the waffle adds a significant amount of sugar and carbs. There are other sandwich carriers at Dunkin’ Donuts – bagels, biscuits, croissants, English muffins, and multigrain flatbread. There are also other fillers like the vegetables and egg whites.

If you choose a Veggie egg white omelet on multigrain flatbread, you’ll get 320 calories, 17 grams of protein, 13 grams of fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 610 mg sodium, 3 sugars and 33 total carbohydrates.

That’s more calories and slightly more fat and carbs than an Egg McMuffin, but with significantly less cholesterol and sodium.

Go big or go home!

Burger King Supreme Breakfast Sandwich

With this Burger King option, you get double egg, double sausage, and double bacon. I guess that’s what makes it supreme. The larger portions mean more calories. It has 880 calories, 41 grams of protein, 59 grams of fat, 375 mg cholesterol, 2170 mg sodium, 7 grams of sugar and a total of 45 grams of carbohydrates. In addition, this sandwich provides 15% of the Daily Value of calcium, 25% of iron, 4% of vitamin A, and 2% of vitamin C.

This is the highest calorie, highest fat, highest carb breakfast food we’ve explored. Not only does it have lots of fat, some of it is trans fat. Trans fats are created using an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Many doctors believe this is the worst type of fat you can eat.

With this sandwich, you’re getting a full day’s worth of sodium, almost a full day’s worth of protein, and close to half of a day’s needed calories. Most of us won’t work off those extra calories or cut back on salt the rest of the day.

Remember that we’re gathering information in order to put together a health plan that we can sustain throughout our lives. When you review your desired lifestyle, health goals, priorities, and budget, you may decide that one of these sandwiches is a good fit for your plan.

Given this information, I’m going to choose to go home for breakfast!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Get to Know Some Other Breakfast Foods

Last week we learned about cereal, now let’s get to know some other breakfast foods. More than 80% of us eat breakfast at home. If you’re like me, you eat it in pjs with a cup of hot coffee in hand. There’s no end to the possible breakfast options, so we’ll take a look at some of the more popular items we choose at home.
Eggs are king of the traditional American breakfast. Simple to cook in a variety of ways in only a few minutes, an egg is packed with protein and low in carbohydrates. One egg has 70 calories, 6 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbohydrate, and 65 mg of sodium. The high protein and low carb content make eggs an ideal choice for diabetics.

Unlike most foods, eggs contain all 9 essential amino acids that cannot be made by your body plus iron, vitamins A,D,E, & B12, folate, selenium, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline. Eggs also provide the primary source of cholesterol in the American diet. One egg has 195 mg.

Because blood cholesterol has been of concern in heart disease, for many years Dietary Guidelines recommended limiting consumption of cholesterol thereby giving eggs a bad rap. This changed in 2015. The Guideline regarding cholesterol was removed because it is now recognized that dietary cholesterol plays no role in blood cholesterol.

With that concern removed, it’s hard to find a better food to get you going in the morning.*

Ever drink a glass of orange juice with your eggs?
Apparently a lot of us do. About two billion dollars worth of orange juice are purchased in the US each year. The largest selling brand is Tropicana Pure Premium.

Orange Juice

An 8 oz glass of Tropicana Pure Premium No Pulp Orange Juice has 110 calories, 2 grams of protein, 0 fat, 0 sodium, 450 mg of potassium, 22 grams of naturally occurring sugars and a total of 26 grams of carbs. A glass of this juice also provides 120%** of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, 2% of the daily value for calcium, 10% for thiamine, 4% for riboflavin & niacin, 6% vitamin B6, 15% folate, and 6% magnesium.

How does that compare with an orange?


One large orange has about 86 calories, 2 grams of protein, 0 fat, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugars and 22 total grams of carbs. It also has 163% of the RDA of vitamin C plus naturally occurring calcium (7% RDA), vitamin A (8%), and iron (1%).

Looks like an orange has less calories, more fiber, more calcium, more vitamin A, more iron and 43% more vitamin C, but lacks the added thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and magnesium.

If you are choosing orange juice for vitamin C, you’ll get significantly more from eating an orange plus the benefit of 4 grams of dietary fiber and 5% more calcium.

Before choosing store bought orange juice, you should also be aware that in spite of the “not from concentrate” verbiage on the label, this type of orange juice is processed by having the oxygen removed so it can be stored in vats for up to a year. This process removes the flavor. A flavor pack is then added so that when it’s bottled it will taste like orange juice. Because the flavor pack is made from orange by-products, it is not considered an ingredient, and therefore isn’t required to appear on the label despite the fact that the by-products are chemically altered. 1)


What about yogurt for breakfast?

Up until two years ago, Greek yogurt sales were skyrocketing. While the growth has now slowed to a moderate level, you can’t pass a dairy cabinet without seeing a wide array of single serving yogurt options. Many of those convenient cups are occupying our breakfast tables, but not all single serving yogurt is created equal.

The top selling brand of yogurt is Chobani, so let’s start there.

Non-fat Greek Yogurt
Chobani 5.3 oz non-fat Greek yogurt contains 80 calories, 15 grams of protein, 0 fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 55 mg sodium, 4 grams of sugars and a total of 6 carbs, 15% of the RDA of calcium, and 6% of potassium. This yogurt is also full of probiotic live and active cultures that help your digestive tract.

That’s twice as much protein as an egg for only 10 additional calories. Plain Greek yogurt is also low in carbohydrates and has a significant amount of calcium making it another good choice for diabetics.

Plain yogurt? Yuck! What about flavored yogurt?

Blackberry Yogurt
One 5.3 oz container of Chobani Greek Yogurt with Blackberry on the Bottom contains 120 calories, 12 grams of protein, 0 fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 50 mg of sodium, 16 grams of sugars and a total of 18 carbs, 15% of the RDA of calcium, and 6% of potassium. Like plain yogurt, this version is also full of probiotic live and active cultures that help your digestive tract.

While blackberries may account for some of the sugar listed on the label, evaporated cane sugar is the 2nd ingredient, meaning that many of the 16 grams of sugar come from added sugars. The sugar adds most of the 40 additional calories. Although the protein content is still high at 12 grams and the probiotics are present, added sugar makes this yogurt less healthy in general than plain yogurt and doubly bad for diabetics and those with heart disease.

I understand why flavored yogurt is tempting. Yogurt can be a bit tangy on its own. I eat 1/3 – 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt for breakfast most mornings. Rather than adding sugar, sweetener or honey, I top it with about a tbsp of golden raisins and 10 raw almonds. As a breakfast, this is crunchy, filling, and just sweet enough. The nuts and raisins both add protein, the nuts add fiber, and the raisins add carbs. This combination is also quick and doesn’t require cooking.

While I find Greek yogurt convenient, many people prefer the portability of breakfast bars. The top selling nutrition/health bar is Clif.

Clif Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Bar

In one Clif Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Bar you’ll find 250 calories, 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 150 mg sodium, 7% RDA of potassium, 5 grams of dietary fiber & 4 grams of insoluble fiber, 20 grams of sugars and 44 grams of total carbohydrates. It is also fortified with vitamins & minerals.

Although this bar offers a good amount of protein and fiber, the calorie count is high and the total amount of carbohydrates is very high. These bars are not an option for those who are gluten-free, and they cannot be characterized as a good choice for those who are diabetic or at risk for heart disease.

Of course there are other breakfast bars with varying amounts of protein, fat, and sugar so you may find one that fits your eating plan. You won’t find one that beats eggs or plain Greek yogurt in nutrition per calorie.

Of all the foods we’ve learned about so far, eggs and non-fat plain Greek yogurt offer the best high protein, low fat, low carb breakfast choice.

Next up, we’ll look at some popular on-the-go breakfast sandwiches and then we’ll be ready to move on to lunch and dinner.

Should we explore coffee? Probably, but right now I’d rather just have another cup. Until next week…

*Eggs are one of the 7 top allergens. Approximately 2% of children are allergic to eggs, but 70% outgrow the allergy by the time they’re 16. If you have an egg allergy, please avoid eating eggs and products containing them.
**Percent of daily values listed are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your DV may be higher or lower based on your calorie needs.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”