What are Trans Fats?

file4671234819876The Food and Drug Association made a bold statement last week about trans fat in food.  In a statement to the press, the FDA said that “artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food.”  Their warning can be a little bit scary, especially if you don’t know what trans fats are or where you might find them.

What are Trans Fats?

Trans fat can be found naturally in some foods.  But most trans fats, and the kind that doctors warn us about, are those that are found in processed foods.  They are partially hydrogenated oils that are used in foods to keep them from spoiling.

So why is trans fat bad for you?  Eating foods with trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) there is no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fat so we should consume as little as possible.

What Foods Contain Trans Fat?

So how do you find trans fat in your food?  It is often found in processed foods, such as certain desserts, microwave popcorn products, frozen pizzas, margarine and coffee creamers.  Many cookies and crackers contain hydrogenated oils, as well.

It’s important, however, to be a smart consumer when you look for trans fat.  Many labels will advertise that they contain “no trans fat” when, in fact, they do. Coffee creamer is a good example.  While the label of some brands say that they contain no trans fat, if you check the ingredients list, you’ll see that many contain partially hydrogenated oil.  Manufacturers are allowed to say that their product is “trans-fat free” if it contains less than .5 grams per serving.  But since most of us use more than a single serving of creamer, we are likely to be getting more trans fat than we need.

Want to know how to avoid other foods that aren’t good for you?  Check this list of Foods to Increase and Foods to Decrease.  And if you are looking for more weight loss advice, motivational advice and exercise help, checkout North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss, find us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Quick Tips Prevent or Manage Diabetes

stethoscopeNovember is Diabetes Awareness Month.  Have you been diagnosed with the condition?  If not, do you know if you are at risk for the disease? If you’re not sure, you can take this quick Diabetes Risk Test created by the American Diabetes Association.  Their website also offers tips and advice about living with diabetes.

You’ll also find plenty of advice closer to home at North Memorial Weight Loss.  Learn how to get help from a registered dietitian, watch short videos to help you start an exercise program or download the Meal Planning Guidelines for Patients with Diabetes.

Looking for more information?  Check out these recent blog posts, including videos and tips for managing and preventing diabetes.

Looking for other healthy changes you can make to improve your health? Check out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Simple Steps to Prevent Diabetes

Do you have a family history of diabetes?  If so, you may be at higher risk for getting diagnosed with the condition.  But if you don’t have a family history, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.  According to the American Diabetes Association, these other factors can also increase your risk for type 2 diabetes:

  • Having prediabetes, which may be called impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and/or impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
  • Being 45 or older
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Not exercising regularly
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having low HDL, also known as “good” cholesterol and/or high levels of triglycerides
  • Certain racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives)
  • Women who had gestational diabetes, or who have had a baby weighing 9 pounds or more at birth

So what do you do if you have risk factors on this list? Start by talking to your health care provider about lifestyle changes you can make to decrease your risk.  In this video, North Memorial physician assistant Katie Peterson talks about a few simple steps you can take to decrease your risk for diabetes.

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Looking for other healthy changes you can make to improve your health? Check out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter

Do You Need a Weight Loss Supplement?

Talk with your health care provider before taking any diet pill

Talk with your health care provider before taking any diet pill

If you walk the aisles of some pharmacies or vitamin stores, you’ll find dozens of products that claim to help you lose weight.  Supplements like green tea extract, bitter orange and other “natural” remedies advertise that they will boost your metabolism, change your body shape and help you slim down for good.  But do any of them really work?

Be A Smarter Supplement Shopper

Weight loss supplements and diet pills are not regulated by the government in the same way that foods or medications are regulated.  Supplement makers, for example, do not have to prove that their product is safe or effective in order to sell it.  For that reason, it’s important to be especially careful when you consider buying any diet supplement or weight loss product.

To stay safe and smart, ignore the advertising claims on any product that you consider. Instead, research the supplement at the National Institutes of Health Herbs and Supplements website.  You’ll find a list of the most popular dietary supplements along with links to clear information about the risks and benefits of each product.

Ask Questions About Supplements

But just because a diet supplement is safe for the general public, doesn’t mean that it is necessarily safe or recommended for you.  Before you take any supplement, weight loss pill or powder, talk to your health care provider to see how the pill may interact with your current medications or your current health conditions.  Your physician may also be able to provide more information about the supplement or about prescription medications for weight loss that may be safer and more effective.

Have you checked out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter

How to Find Hidden Sugar in Your Food

How much sugar do you consume?

How much sugar do you consume?

Did you read Tuesday’s blog post about the difference between good carbs and bad carbs?  In her Clear.md video, Deb Vevea RD does a great job of explaining that we should limit our consumption of food that contain empty calories.  Those are often foods that contain a lot of added sugar and few nutrients.  The problem is that finding sugar in your food can be complicated.

Find Added Sugar in Your Food

The best way to find hidden sugar in your food is to look at the ingredients list on the package.  You’ll usually find this list below the Nutrition Facts label, but it can also be placed elsewhere on the package.  Manufacturers don’t always identify sugar with the term “sugar.”  This list, compiled by the USDA, provides a list of names that you might see.  All of these terms are simply other words for sugar.

Brown sugar Invert sugar
Corn sweetener Lactose
Corn syrup Maltose
Dextrose Malt syrup
Fructose Molasses
Fruit juice concentrates Raw sugar
Glucose Sucrose
High-fructose corn syrup Sugar
Honey Syrup


Which Foods Contain Added Sugar?

So where will you find added sugars?  Start by looking at soft drinks and other sweetened beverages.  But even if you are not a soda drinker, you should check the labels of your foods.  You’ll also find added sugar in many foods that you might not expect, like commercially prepared peanut butter and ketchup.

If you want to lose weight, or simple eat a healthier diet, reducing the amount of added sugar in your foods is one of the most important changes you should make.  If you’re not sure how much sugar you should consume each day, make an appointment with a registered dietitian to get a number that is personalized based on your health profile.

Have you checked out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter

Bad Carbs vs. Good Carbs: How to Tell the Difference

Do you crave carbs?  You’ve probably seen headlines in magazines or online about the diet dangers of eating too many carbohydrates or eating the wrong kind of carbohydrates.  But how do you tell the difference? What makes some carbohydrates good and some carbohydrates bad?

As Deb Vevea, RD, explains in this Clear.md video, there is really no such thing as a “bad carbohydrate.”  There are just carbs that we should choose to eat less of.  Watch her video as she explains which carbohydrates you should limit in your diet.

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So what carbohydrates should you include in your diet?  Fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains all contain important vitamins and minerals along with healthy fiber.  Learn how to get more fresh produce in your diet to lose weight and improve your health.  You can also use these guides to learn more about the benefits of whole grains.

Have you checked out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter

The Exercise Cost of Your State Fair Food

The MInnesota State Fair runs from Aug. 22 through Labor Day, Sept. 2, 2013.

The MInnesota State Fair runs from Aug. 22 through Labor Day, Sept. 2, 2013.

Have you budgeted properly to enjoy the Minnesota State Fair?  You may have saved your pennies to afford your favorite fried treats and you may have even plotted an efficient course to visit each popular food booth, but have you considered the exercise cost of your day at the Fair? Before you dive in, you may want to take a look at the price you pay for indulging in these popular state fair foods.

Exercise Cost of Popular State Fair Foods

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies:  A single sweet Martha cookie contains 90 calories.  But who eats just one? To burn off four cookies, you need to run a 10-minute mile 1.5 times around the perimeter of the state fair grounds.  And that’s just for the cookies!  Having milk with your treat? Look below to see how many miles you should add to the course.
  • Milk.  An eight-ounce glass of cold whole milk contains 148 calories. If you’re running to burn off the cookies, you’ll need to add another mile and a half to your route to burn off the milk as well. A smarter option?  Get skim milk. It only contains 83 calories.
  • Ice Cream, Malts, Shakes.  Who doesn’t love a creamy milkshake?  If you plan to enjoy a malt or milkshake in the Dairy Barn, you’ll consume over 350 calories in one small 10 ounce serving.   To burn it off, you’ll need to do the two-mile History Walking & Cell Phone tour for almost three consecutive hours.
  • Pronto Pup. This tasty snack on a stick contains 350 calories.  Eat one and you’ll have to walk up the seven-flight DNR staircase for 40 minutes.  Doesn’t sound like much does it? You might want to start climbing and then decide.
  • Deep Fried Cheese Curds. The number of calories in cheese curds depends on the number that you eat.  By most estimates, you’ll consume 570-759 calories in a single serving of curds.  Got your running shoes on?  You’ll need to sprint the perimeter of the fair grounds twice, and climb the DNR stairs for thirty minutes when you’re done to burn off the cheesy snacks.
  • Mini Donuts.  If you’re like many fair goers, you head straight towards the mini donut booth when you walk through the gates.  If you eat a 12-donut serving, you’ll consume 630 calories.  Did you bring your dancing shoes?  You’ll need to shake your groove thing for three hours at the Fair-Well-To-Summer Dance Party to burn off the calories in that treat.

Remember that there are lower calorie foods to eat at the State Fair.  If you don’t have time to jog the fair grounds or sprint up the stairs, share just one or two indulgent treats with a friend to keep your calorie count low.  Then spend the rest of the day enjoying healthier State Fair offerings like fresh fruit, grilled kabobs or fresh corn.  Use the Minnesota State Fair Food Finder to locate your favorites.  And don’t forget to check out more tips and advice about healthy eating and exercise at North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss.

*Nutritional information comes from sources including USDA, MyFitnessPal, and local vendors.  Calorie estimates for activities provided by the American Council on Exercise Activity Calculator and are based on the exercise cost for a 150-pound person.