Welcome to the second series of Wellness Wednesdays! This week, we are featuring Jackie London. Jackie is a registered dietitian (RD), author of Dressing on the Side (and Other Diet Myths Debunked): 11 Science-Based Ways to Eat More, Stress Less, and Feel Great About Your Body,” and Head of Nutrition and Wellness @ WW. She holds a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, and previously served as the Nutrition Director at Good Housekeeping.
What are some popular nutrition myths that you find are saturating the diet/food industry, and how can we adopt healthier habits instead?
YOU: HAVE TO “CUT [SOMETHING] OUT” TO LOSE WEIGHT
NEW MANTRA: MORE IS MORE IN 2020 Think: More produce, seafood—fresh, frozen, canned); more plant-based protein sources (chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas) + nuts and seeds. Think “more veggies, more often;” where can you add more veggies (and fruit!) to meals and snacks? Try adding one extra veggie to a meal per day, or one extra piece of fruit with your snack to reap the benefits of both nutrient-density and feelings of satiety.
- About 10% of Americans meet our recommended servings for veggies (CDC)
- About 10% of us meet our needs for seafood (USDA)
- 95% of Americans are meeting our recommended daily intake of fiber (USDA)
REAL, WHOLE FOODS SHOULD BE THE FIRST INGREDIENT in any food product. Consider transparency of the product (“are these ingredients meant to be in this food,” aka is this a “healthy green smoothie” or is this more like dessert?)
GROCERY SHOP FOR VERSATILITY (chickpea pasta; rotisserie chicken; canned tomatoes; frozen berries—things you can use in multiple ways)
YOU: I’M ADDICTED TO SUGAR.
SKIP SUGARY BEVERAGES.The “addiction” concept has some biochemical roots, but there’s no evidence to support that this concept applies to humans, it and ignore where most of us eat lots of added sugar (according to the USDA, sugary beverages are the number one source, followed by breakfast pastries and cereals; sauces and savory snacks can also have tons of added sugar).
MAKE THE CHOICE TO EAT DESSERT. The reason we’re eating so much of it is because it’s in foods we wouldn’t label as “dessert!” Plus, it ignores basic biology: Typically, we eat dessert after a meal, right? When you’re meant to eat real dessert, you’re typically doing so on an already-satisfied stomach! If you like dessert, think about sugar this way: Plan on cutting out some stealthier sources by checking labels (1tsp of sugar = 4g of sugar) and plan accordingly. If you know you’re going to want that brownie tonight, you can skip the latte and plan accordingly. + plan on having it in 150-250 calorie servings, e.g. 5 individually wrapped chocolates, etc.
LOOK OUT FOR DESSERT-IN-DISGUISE. Read labels and check for sneaky sources of added sugar. Some monikers: Tapioca syrup, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, fruit juice concentrate. Sugar sirens are also a thing: These are healthy-seeming supermarket sirens that are “—free” of a specific nutrient or type of maligned ingredient, but don’t fall for lame health-related packaging claims when you’re perusing the dessert aisle.
YOU: I HAVE NO WILLPOWER! Willpower, when it comes to food, is not a thing. It’s often a result of biology or a behavior pattern that’s gotten us stuck in this loop of restriction without even realizing we’re doing it.
BEGIN WITH BREAKFAST (AND MAKE IT BIGGER) So many of us “restrict” earlier in the day with the intention of eating more later—without realizing that simply filling up on more protein, more produce at your morning meal can help you stay satisfied, energized, and decrease your desire to graze when you turn on the TV post-dinner. So fill ‘er up: PB&B (peanut butter + banana + 1 slice of whole grain bread at home; when you get to the office, have a grande latte with low-fat or unsweetened soy milk (16oz) which is an extra 13g of protein right there, which will help you stay satisfied throughout your morning.
Two-part breakfast: Breakfast doesn’t have to look like your standard meal around the table—mornings are too hectic for that. So, split it up among the morning hours: Have the latte at the office; bring a bag of nuts or pack of nut butter on your way to drop off your kids at school, etc.
CHEW–DON’T DRINK–YOUR MEALS AND SNACKS. Digestion begins in your mouth, so the whole process of chewing, digesting, absorbing nutrients can help you feel more satisfied—not just filled up with liquid (but hungry, cold and exhausted in an hour).
RULE OUT BIOLOGY. Sleep, physical activity, and hydration status affect how hungry we feel on a given day, so regardless, try these three things first, before you make any decisions about what to eat next:
Drink: 16oz of H2O/sparkling water/any unsweetened beverage you like. Often, we’re suffering from subclinical dehydration thanks to high heat temperatures this time of year, losing water based on our personal “sweat rate” or physical activity level, or differences in climate based on where we are. Our thirst mechanisms decline as we age, so it can be difficult to discern whether we’re hungry or thirsty. And since it’s tough to “overdo it” on water, you’re not doing any harm by having an extra 16oz just to rule it out.
Snack: Skipping meals = a recipe for a takedown (and shame spiral!) after grazing all day or restricting food until nighttime (when you double-down on frozen pizza after dinner). Pack snacks that are filled with a combo of protein, fiber, and stick-to-your ribs fat, like cheese + fruit you can throw in your bag.
Sleep: If you can, go to bed! Often we’ll feel hungrier simply because we’re downright exhausted. But when that’s not an option: The USDA/DHHS Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 300-400mg of caffeine per day from unsweetened beverage sources (tea, coffee, etc.) so don’t be afraid to caffeinate: 1 cup of coffee is around 70-100mg which has both short-term memory benefits and long-term benefits for reducing your risk of cognitive decline.
YOU: I SHOULD BE INTERMITTENT FASTING, RIGHT!?! Nope. The pattern itself isn’t one I’d ever recommend, especially since the whole going for prolonged periods without meals and snacks (only to eat anything/everything for a window of time later on) can create a fine line between trying something for a health-related reason, and disordered patterns of eating. There’s not enough research on this to support prolonged periods of fasting have any health or weight-related benefit, but there are certain things we can incorporate simply from a lifestyle POV that may have benefits without the rigidity or restriction!
PLAN AHEAD FOR CONSISTENCY AND TIMING THAT WORKS FOR YOU. Plan ahead to make regular meals and snacks a priority. Eating regular meals and snacks (restricting throughout the day can often lead to binging at night). There’s tons of trends that play off of various types of time-restricted fasting or alternate day fasting, and it makes sense why they might work temporarily– if you’re consciously making the choice to stop eatingat a certain time of day, you’re going to naturally take in less overall. The sole benefit that, from a biochemical standpoint, can be beneficial for all of us is if you’re limiting your window of time to eat, you may literally find yourself going to bed earlier–and more sleep is linked to general health, immunity, and healthier eating habits overall! Bottom line: You don’t need to induce some trendy form of torture to stop snacking right before bed time in the name of getting some solid zzz’s–but the only way to do that without feeling like you’re still hungry or depriving yourself (that can also keep you up late at night!) is to make sure you eat consistently throughout the day (I usually recommend eating about every 3-4 hours to stay on top of it!)
MAKE MEALS MEDITERRANEAN Research has linked higher energy expenditure (burning more calories) throughout the day when we consume a more filling meal earlier on in the day. This is tough here at home, so try giving the whole, “big meal at dinner” idea a rest by adding extra protein (another egg at breakfast and/or an extra heap of veggies (more veggies in your sandwich) to your first two meals of the day to make them more energizing.
IT’S ALL ABOUT CONNECTIONS Your health is not just about food as fuel, it’s about the relationship between food, culture and experience/fulfillment of dining together/fostering connection to agriculture and aquaculture. Since there’s an emphasis placed on regionality, seasonality, and we can apply the concept by considering traceability conscious choices about foods based on quality and flavor.
Do you have tips for how someone can incorporate healthy nutrition practices into their daily wellness routines?
REMEMBER THAT “SELF-CARE” IS A PROCESS. It’s my view that self-care shouldn’t require additional time you don’t have, money you’re trying to make, or require a sacrifice of any kind. In fact, aren’t all of those things antithetical to the term “self-care” to begin with?! Taking care of your personal health and wellbeing can be a priority, but it doesn’t have to be your only priority, nor does that mean you have to entirely sacrifice your life (and life’s savings) in order to make changes to your current health status. That involves developing clearly defined personal health goals that will inform the food and exercise choices you make. Self-care is different for everyone, and it’s as simple as a change in mindset: If you’re prioritizing your own health (mental, physical, and emotional), then you need boundaries to protect your plans. Better health (and yes, even weight-loss) start with recognizing a few key behavior-related factors that trip us up, beginning with accountability. Staying accountable means following through with a realistic expectation you’ve set for yourself.
USE AN INFORMATION FILTER: If ever there were a “jumpstart” that actually works, it’s this: Conscious unfollowing, to borrow a term from a well-known wellness guru, requires you to go through each and every social media feed you check regularly and “consciously unfollow” any and all accounts that, for any reason or none at all, make you feel bad about yourself. If there is a feed (or hundreds of ‘em) that you’re currently following that trigger feelings of isolation, alienation, guilt, or shame: It is your right to rid yourself of that toxic noise and protect the information that’s processed by your brain, often unconsciously dictating your inner monologue. So, let’s add a filter. Let in the information that serves you, and cutting out the b.s. that makes life feel harder than it already is. We don’t need to spend any more time letting someone else’s rules dictate our choices.
CONSIDER WHOLESOME VS. “HEALTHY” Using the term “wholesome” instead of “healthy,” “fresh,” or “clean” is one I think can help all of us redirect our focus on our priorities: Eating more real, whole food that’s as close to its natural, original version as possible! A combo of marketing and processing is what makes “fresh oranges” into “fresh orange juice,” so consider that your metric when choosing what to buy at the grocery store, and check labels for sneaky, added sources of sugar, saturated fat, or sodium to pick the best shelf-stable options that are also affordable and nutritious. Better health and well-being is different for everyone, but it’s also highly personal and incorporates emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing as factors. So if you’re sacrificing one of those to prioritize another? That’s likely not your most direct route to get where you were trying to go in the first place, right!? When it comes to food, though: Repeat after me– more produce, more often. When you can figure out how to make eating more veggies work for you, the obsessing about health-benefits, calories, or even considering the previously mentioned willpower myth becomes irrelevant! Finding ways to incorporate real, wholesome, nutrient-dense produce into your daily meals and snacks is the best place to start when it comes to making more health promoting choices–without thinking about what you have to limit or cut out. And, there’s no one size fits all approach–you can be creative in finding ways to make this work for you! It doesn’t mean “eat veggies only” or “all the time.” It means make more of your meals veggie-based, and the other components of a truly balanced diet will fall into place.
What are some of your favorite wellness products related to health and nutrition?
For food: I like anything that helps take the work out of me getting a nutritious meal or snack together with as little effort as possible–so, pre-riced cauliflower (I love Green Giant’s version!); pre-spiralized veggie noodles (like Cece’s Veggies Co.) or some of the ready-to-serve salad kits from Trader Joe’s. Those are mainstays in my kitchen! The same idea goes for snacks– I need things that are portable b/c I’m on the go all of the time– KIND Nuts and Spices or their (newer) Pressed Bars; an apple, and individually wrapped cheese (like Arla, Cabot, or Polly-O) is literally always in my bag. As for all other wellness products: I love a good steps-tracker (Apple Watch or Fitbit), especially because it’s the simplest and most efficient way to make sure I’m getting regular physical activity when I don’t have time to make it to a workout or gym. On that note: Streaming services also make this so much easier for me (especially when traveling) like PureBarre’s (on which you can break up activity into 10 minute intervals– it’s amazing!)
What does it mean for you to be powerful?
I feel the most powerful when I make decisions that are truly right for me and ladder up to my health-focused (physical and psychological!) priorities. My goal is to do more of that this year, and beyond–it’s a work in progress for all of us!