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Sweeteners

Sugar
In this tip, we’ll look at sugar and fake sugar, and then try to come up with a reasonable strategy to deal with our sweet teeth.

Sugar
Remember, this class is the ultra basics, so instead of using words like saccharide and galactose, let’s just say that sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrates. It’s sweet, yummy, and easy to crave. In nature, it’s found in plants. As you recall from Part I, plants have fiber, and this minimizes sugar’s impact on your system by causing it to be digested slowly. Carbohydrates, whether from potatoes, lentils, or bananas, all break down into sugars in your body, and you use these sugars as fuel when you do stuff. So, if done right, eating carbohydrates is a good thing, especially when you’re active.

Refined sugar, the white grainy stuff you’ll find in gummy bears, chocolate, Coke, and most desserts, is sugar minus the fiber that surrounds it in nature. What you’re left with is a sweet but highly caloric food that your body absorbs very rapidly, causing a “sugar rush.” This “rush” is a temporary imbalance in your system that your body tries to regulate—a spike of energy followed by a lull.

But your body hates the lull, so to bring you back up, it’ll crave, you guessed it, more sugar. It’s an ugly cycle, considering refined sugar’s only nutritional value is similar to a nitrous injection in a race car—a quick burst of energy that burns right out. This might be a good thing if you’re in a drag race (or, in human terms, if you need an extra burst of energy during a workout), but it’s a bad thing any other time because, if you don’t put that excess sugar to use, it gets stored as fat.

Bottom line: Refined sugar is okay for sports performance (while you are skiing, bicycling, running, and so on), but it’s bad at all other times. Unfortunately, we tend to want it at all other times. Therefore, straight sugar consumption should be limited. Now you’re probably wondering, “So the best time to eat gummy bears would be during a marathon instead of at night in front of the TV?” The answer is yes, absolutely. And now you’re probably thinking, “But I want dessert after dinner!” Right, we all do. Something sweet after a meal is pretty darn ingrained in our society.

Artificial Sweeteners
I’m not going to do a breakdown of the artificial sweeteners on the market—because we already have. I recommend that you read “Sweet Nothing,” issue #58 (refer to the Related Articles section below), which will only take you a couple of minutes. Essentially, there are a bunch of different artificial sweeteners to choose from. Most are made of various chemical reactions that your taste buds think are sweet but aren’t used by your body and have zero calories.

There are also some, called sugar alcohols, which have fewer calories than regular sugar because they’ve been combined with an artificial fiber that you can’t digest. These have “-tol” at the end of their names, like “xylitol.” One, Stevia, or “sweet leaf,” is natural. It’s basically a, well, sweet leaf that you can chew on or that we can grind into a powder, like sugar. Now you might be thinking, “This all sounds great! What’s the catch?”

The catch is that a lot of recent science is showing us that calories might not be the only reason we’re fat. In fact, a handful of studies cited in “Sweet Nothing” concluded that those using artificial sweetener regularly tended to be more obese than those who used regular sugar. Then there’s the little fact that sweeteners may not be safe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some, but given their track record (Vioxx, etc.), we can easily—and should—be a bit skeptical. With a cursory search of the Internet, you can find both pro and con studies for each alternative sweetener. The FDA is highly influenced by lobbyists and does not accept all viable studies, meaning that you might want more than FDA approval before blindly trusting what you put into your body. So let’s use some logic to try to assess how best to choose a sweetener. By adding two and two together, we should be able stack the odds in our favor.
Time. Saccharin is the most maligned of this bunch, yet it’s been around for more than 100 years and is still on the market. Sure, there is some negative research out there, but it can’t be that bad! A lot of people consume a lot of different artificial sweeteners. If people were dropping like flies, we’d probably hear about it. In fact, sweet leaf has been used for thousands of years. FDA approval or not, that’s what I call time-tested.
Research. If one of these sweeteners were so good, why would other people keep trying to come up with better ones? From this fact alone, we know that at least some of those negative findings must have an inkling of merit.
Money. The influence of big business can keep need-to-know information from the public (again, Vioxx, etc.). Most sweeteners have become American staples, such as aspartame in diet soda.
Artificial or natural? “Artificial” sounds bad and “natural” sounds good. But just because something is natural does not mean it’s good. Tobacco and opium are natural. So, the claim that Stevia is good because “it’s natural” bears little relevance. Many very beneficial drugs are artificial. However, you generally don’t want to take them habitually, which is how some people use artificial sweeteners. Artificial doesn’t mean bad, but it should mean caution.
Anecdotal. I’m going to share two quick stories: First, my sister is a sweet leaf proponent. It’s time-honored and natural but lacks FDA approval. She lobbied Starbucks for a natural alternative to Splenda (chlorinated sugar). She got a long line of positive responses up the chain of command until, finally, they stopped returning her calls. A short time later, her local market (a chain that she used as an example for Starbucks) was forced to stop offering sweet leaf with their coffee and only sell it as a “supplement.” Coincidence or a blatant case of big business (Starbucks and/or the folks who bring you Splenda) using strong-arm tactics against someone who truly cares about your health? In the wake of the FDA scandal, it’s hard not to at least harbor a little suspicion.
Next is a female athlete whom I trained; she could not lose weight, despite being in great shape and eating a strict diet. Her vice was about 100 ounces of no-cal soft drinks per day. She would eye double Big Gulps like a junky does crack. When we were able to get her off the stuff—she even drank some sugared soft drinks to do so—she lost 15 pounds. This example is now being echoed with science. Two large-scale studies spanning many years have shown a link between artificial sweeteners and obesity.
Bottom line: There is no hard evidence that any one sweetener is better than the others. Most likely the stuff won’t kill you, at least not quickly. But given that we also know it’s not 100 percent safe, it would seem wise to limit your consumption as much as possible.

So now that we understand that sugar should be limited, let’s look at some ways to do it.
5 Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
So what’s a dessert-loving health seeker to do? Here are my five favorite ways to cut your sugar consumption without ruining all of your fun:
1. Portion control. I recently saw a sign in a Denny’s window saying, “Remember, an apple a day.” The sign was of an apple surrounded by about 2,000 calories of sugar and fat. Our society has gone crazy for “bigger is better.” After dinner, your body is not hungry. You don’t need 2,000 extra calories. You don’t need 200! If you savor a square of chocolate or a tablespoon of Ben & Jerry’s slowly, it will curb your cravings without a noticeable effect on your diet.

2. Don’t snack on artificial sweeteners. Gum is probably the worst snack because it creates a stimulus-response action that causes you to crave sweet stuff constantly.

3. Add some fruit to your sugar or artificial sweetener. Fruit is both sweet and good for you. However, I realize an apple might not be enough all by itself to satiate your sweet tooth. But you can dress up fruit with a very small amount of a “real” dessert and make it pretty darn decadent.

4. Make sure you have some complex carbs in your diet. This sounds boring, but complex carbs, like whole grains, sweet potatoes, rice, beans, ‘n’ stuff, all slowly break down into blood sugar. If your blood sugar is steady, you won’t crave sugar. You might still habitually crave it, but that’s a ton better than a sugar-crash craving, which will likely lead to bingeing.

5. The protein powder trick. Most protein powders have a small amount of sugar and a touch of artificial sweetener, and are 90 percent protein. If you can find one you like (our Whey Protein Powder is fantastic, ahem, ahem), you might be able to curb your cravings with a high-protein snack. Chalene Johnson, the creator of Turbo Jam®, uses chocolate protein powder as a base for pudding, and Beachbody® advice staff member, Denis Faye, sprinkles it on cereal. If you get creative, the possibilities may be endless.

10 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthily

Healthy KidsAs hard as it is to fight your junk food urges, if you have kids, you probably know that getting Junior to make smart food choices is triple the challenge. It’d be excellent if you could just yell, “Hey, you! Eat your spinach!” But you can’t. As is the case when dealing with most aspects of a child’s life, it takes commitment, patience, and some serious cunning to steer them down the right path. If you’ve watched the “Healthy Eats” disc of the ChaLEAN Extreme® program, you know that Chalene and her husband Brett made a commitment to teach their son Brock and daughter Sierra the benefits of a solid diet. Here, in Chalene’s words, is a little insight on how they did it.

1. Portion control
Digging into the entire box of goldfish crackers, or any other kid’s snack, is a bad idea. So it’s a good idea to empty out that box into smaller ziplock bags, for better portion control. Do this the moment the treats are pulled from the grocery store bags! This helps children understand what a healthy portion looks like. Meals and portion sizes have increased nearly 40 percent over the last decade. As parents, we have to teach our children that it’s not deprivation—it’s proper nutrition.

2. Sneak in the whole grains
Use whole-grain pasta and brown rice, but don’t tell your kids. They’ll never know the difference. No one, especially children, likes change when it comes to food. I like to use the “stealth” approach, i.e., fly low under the radar! When I switched my kids from regular pasta to whole-grain, whole wheat pasta, I did it in stages. First, I added just a 1/4 cup of the healthier noodles. Each time I added more, until eventually they were eating the whole-grain stuff and had no idea! They still have no idea! We had spaghetti at a restaurant the other night (the enriched-flour kind), and the kids said the restaurant pasta was “weird . . . kinda slimy!” How fantastic is that? The key is making the changes gradually and not making a big deal about them.

3. Lead by example
If you’re giving your kids apples but you’re eating Snickers, it’s never going to work. Following a healthy diet needs to be part of the commitment of good parenting. Never use the “D” [“Diet”] word in front of children. When you do, and they see you eating healthily, they assume that healthy food is something you’re forced to eat as a punishment. Lead by example. Say, “Mommy is eating this for more energy and to be stronger.” Make negative comments about food without nutritional value. For example, when I do have the occasional “treat,” I will often say, “Wow, that piece of cake gave me a sugar crash and a headache. Now I feel so sluggish!” Use positive comments about healthy food without reference to weight. Try, “I feel so much stronger when I eat fruit for a snack!”

4. Make food fun
Taste is something that changes over time. Our taste buds actually change as we age; this explains why some children will eat broccoli and green beans and others find the smell and taste worse than starvation! Continually introduce healthy food and find unique ways to introduce the food in stages. For example, your children might try a small amount of broccoli mixed in with their mac and cheese. Once you’ve gotten them to accept that as a regular staple, transition to broccoli with a creamy cheese soup. Eventually, your children may acquire a taste for steamed broccoli! Can you imagine the day? But starting right out of the gates with a big plate of steamed broccoli in front of a child who doesn’t eat green things is asking for a battle! Baby steps!

5. Don’t pressure kids to eat
Present the food, but don’t force kids to eat it. Making demands will just polarize your kids, while letting them eat healthy foods on their own terms leads to healthy habits. If your first attempt doesn’t work, don’t take it personally or assume that this is a life-or-death situation. Take a deep breath, let it go, and try it again another day—try serving those healthy foods prepared in new ways. It often takes several times before your child will decide to try something new. Oh, and I don’t know if this works for everyone, but I find that my children will often try new food with their grandparents and at their friends’ houses, foods that they won’t try with me! Ask what new foods they tried and then offer to prepare them, and get excited about their willingness to try new foods.

6. Be careful what you say
Everything a woman says about her body is like writing on the slate of her female child’s self-esteem. I volunteer to teach exercise to children of all ages in the public school system. I have personally heard children as young as 6 say, “I’m fat!” Or, “I have a big belly like my mommy.” Or, “My mommy doesn’t want you to see her because she got fat.” Seriously! Not only do kids hear what you’re saying on the phone to your girlfriend, but they are projecting those negative images on themselves. It’s unhealthy for you and your young children to be thinking anything other than positive thoughts about this amazing body that God gave you! Do your best to serve as a positive role model by speaking lovingly about your body and your journey to health!

7. Relax!
Food shouldn’t be a source of angst for your family. Try to get your kids to eat healthier, but be creative, consistent, and calm. The bigger you make the issue of eating healthy foods, the more resistance you may feel. Play it cool. There are many studies proving that you can place salad on the table 10 to 15 times before a child will decide to try it. Remember that “insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.” If it didn’t work the first time, try a different approach, a new way to prepare and disguise the food, and, again, remember the importance of doing this in slow, small steps.

8. Get kids involved
Let them help cook meals and learn to read food labels. Teach them what’s too much sugar and what’s an appropriate amount of fat. Teach your children what purpose carbohydrates serve in moderation and what they turn into when we eat them in excess. Pick one item and just find that on your labels. For example, this week my children have been looking at the sodium content on labels. They get a kick out of trying to find the canned soup with the lowest sodium content or shocking each other by reading a label with an off-the-chart level of sodium. Food shouldn’t be a mystery. I meet adults every day who have no idea how much sodium, carbs, or protein they should be consuming, let alone how many calories. Let’s create a more educated generation when it comes to food!

9. Think daily
Young children have shifts when they are hungry. A child will not starve himself or herself. We are so focused on eating huge portions three times a day, but naturally, most children will eat one full meal and graze at other meals. Avoid the bad habit of saying, “One more bite,” or, “Clean your plate.” These phrases teach our children that they are good if they eat more, when what we want to teach our children is to respond to their bodies when they feel full. Young children eat to provide themselves with energy. Eating to soothe sadness, eating to stuff ourselves, or eating because it’s simply that time of the day are all bad habits we pass along to our children.

10. Read up on nutrition
Read books about food. Explain where it comes from. I highly recommend Eat This Not That! for Kids!: Be the Leanest, Fittest Family on the Block! It has giant pictures of common kid foods. It’s fun to make a game out of learning which foods are best! Also, check out CalorieKing.com, which lists the calories for most every food you can imagine, not to mention the nutritional information for nearly every restaurant in America!