Late Night Snacks? Eat Right!

By: Shannon Connor Winward

What You Eat is More Important Than When You Eat It

LateNightLifestyle(PCM) The stars are out, the hour is late, and most of the world, it seems, is tucked in for the night. Yet here you are, getting ready to chow down. Whether you’re crashing an all-night-diner with friends or cruising to fridge town as a party of one, there’s something about eating “after hours” that feels a little wicked, a little wild – but is late-night snacking really bad for you?

As it turns out, being “bad” may taste oh, so good, but there’s no real difference whether you eat at five o’clock or three AM – the calories in that slice of pizza are exactly the same. The only thing that really matters to your diet (and your health) are what foods you eat and how many total calories you consume.

Usually we talk about daily eating as a trinity – three square meals at, say, eight, noon, and five – but this doesn’t always reflect our modern reality. Some of us skip meals, others graze throughout the day or load up like a camel at one big sit-down. Many people live and work on unconventional schedules. Is moonlight dining your new normal? It may seem naughty (especially if you remember Gremlins), but if your midnight mauling of that chicken leg is making up for a meal you missed earlier, then it’s probably something your body needs.

On the other hand, if you’re throwing down with a bowl of ice cream or frozen burritos for reasons other than hunger, that can be a problem. Many people turn to food as stress-relief after a rough day, particularly with high-fat comfort foods. A single session of self-pity snacking can double your daily calorie intake – and eventually, your waistline. Late-night munchies can also be triggered by a bout of drinking (another popular form of stress-relief!); in addition to washing away inhibitions, alcohol increases our cravings, makes us feel less full, and hinders our self-control – a dangerous dietary combination if you’re already at or over your calorie quota.

What’s more, consuming heavy meals and certain foods before bed (spicy marina or clams casino anyone?) can lead to a night of digestive discomfort or otherwise mess with your sleep cycle, leading to a vicious cycle of fatigue, with you reaching for more food, over-the-counter energy-boosters and excess caffeine to get through the following day.

Coffee is our favorite crutch for good reason – it’s a powerful stimulant, it tastes great, and goes well with just about everything. A little bit of can be good for you (caffeine boosts brain function and physical performance, helps burn fat, and lowers your risk for certain diseases), but too much can cause nausea, nervousness, dehydration, increased heart rate, muscle tremors – not to mention insomnia when you’re finally ready to turn in.

For natural sources of energy, a balanced diet of whole foods is best – at midnight or any time of day. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna and other fish, flaxseed, walnuts), B vitamins (meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes) and folates (green leafy veggies, fruit and grains) are especially helpful for energy production and mental alertness.

Even if you’re not trying to fuel your way through an all-nighter, eating before bedtime may actually be good for you; a snack or small meal can help you relax, sleep better, and stabilize your metabolism.

Nutritionists say that foods containing the amino acid tryptophan, in particular, are ideal for winding down – while it won’t put you to sleep directly, tryptophan aides with digestion and increases serotonin, a happy-time chemical in your brain. We all know about the tryptophan in the Thanksgiving turkey, but nuts and seeds, soy, and dairy are also great sources (grandma’s glass of warm milk is cliché for a reason!). And good news for carb-lovers; carbohydrates help your body process tryptophan. For really great late eating, go for a combination of whole grains with tryptophan-foods, such as a light turkey sandwich, nut butter spread on whole grain toast, a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk (not the rainbow-colored sugar orgy, we’re talking the good stuff here), soy yogurt with granola or a bit of cheese on crackers.

The occasional late-night binge can be great fun – there’s nothing quite like a post-party platter of onion rings and mozzarella sticks at one in the morning, or raiding the cabinets for cookies and milk at the crack of dawn. It’s important to keep those moments special, though, rather than making them a habit. If you find yourself looking for nighttime nosh on a regular basis, train yourself to think in terms of late-night mini-meals, with reasonable portions of real food, rather than late-night snacking. Your body is an all-night temple. It deserves better than freezer foraging and vending machines desperation.

Give yourself good eats – no matter the hour.

The post Late Night Snacks? Eat Right! also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

Tips For Making The Change To Gluten-Free

By: Shannon Connor Winward


GlutenLifestyle(PCM) Gluten is a lovely thing. In breads and products made from wheat, barley and rye, gluten is the protein combo that creates that wonderful, irreplaceably chewy texture. Unfortunately, for some people gluten can cause gastrointestinal distress and related health issues; this reaction can range from a mild discomfort that resolves within hours after eating to a chronic and severe – even life-threatening – disability. About 1% of Americans are thought to suffer from Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s reaction to gluten causes damage to the small intestine and can lead to dangerous malnutrition.

Many more people are considered to be gluten intolerant – a condition that cannot be definitively diagnosed (you “have” it if not eating gluten makes you feel better) and thus has had variable support by medical science and is the subject for great sport on the internet (this article is gluten-free!). Despite the anti-anti-gluten snark and sentiment in the media, the number of people rethinking gluten is ever on the rise.

If you’re just getting started on a gluten-free diet, it can feel like your life is over, or that you’ll never enjoy food again (which for many of us amounts to the same thing). The good news is it really doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s what you should know:

The first rule of a gluten-free diet is to talk about the gluten-free diet. Ask your doctor (of course); she will probably caution you to get plenty of fiber and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and/or take a multivitamin. Ask friends and family; Celiacs is a genetic disease, so if you’ve been diagnosed with it you may well be related to someone who has it, too. Social media can also be a great source of information: look for chat groups and websites dedicated to Celiacs, food allergies, and/or gluten-free lifestyles. Stalk the gluten-free aisle in your supermarket – or, better yet, check out your local health food grocer. While many modern stores are on the gluten-free band-wagon (sales in this market are expected to exceed $5 billion dollars this year), specialty stores usually offer a greater selection and can provide more specialized knowledge than your average stock boy.

Some stores and manufacturers make their products easy to spot with gluten-free icons on the packaging, which can be enormously helpful when you are first learning how to shop. However, figuring out labels for yourself is the ultimate key to surviving gluten-free. Products that were once gluten-free may change without warning. Also, not everything that is naturally gluten-free is labeled (meat, fish, eggs, dairy, vegetables, fruit, legumes, many (though not all) canned goods, nuts, rice, and other types of grain), whereas some foods that do contain gluten might surprise you (many salad dressings, malt vinegar, soy sauce, some sushi, soup, processed meat, candy, spice blends, beer and even certain wines). Wheat and gluten are can be listed by many names – learn what they are so you know what to avoid. Gluten is as sneaky as it is ubiquitous.

Fortunately, there are many safe alternatives in the marketplace today. If pizza, power bars, or cookies are your comfort foods, keep gluten-free versions stocked at home. Pasta and sandwich breads are particularly useful to have on hand for quick meals, and bringing your own hot dog roll or burger bun is an easy fix for enjoying the neighborhood cookout or office party.

As you become more comfortable with gluten-free eating, it could be a good idea to work more homemade, whole foods into your meal plan, as these are not only cheaper but also healthier. The better a specialty gluten-free product tastes, the more likely it’s harboring added fat, sugar, salt, and additives. Insidious, right?! But not to worry – the internet and cookbooks abound with gluten-free recipes. It just takes a little exploration to find some to suit your needs. While you’re at it, be sure to add a few salads, sweets, or covered-dish-crowd-pleasers to your repertoire so you’ll always have something safe to contribute at dinner parties or potlucks.

A little strategy and pre-planning are also helpful for dining out gluten-free. It can be overwhelming (not to mention depressing) to be handed a menu with nothing on it that you can order besides water and a baked potato. All things considered, though, there has never been a better time to go out gluten-free. Many restaurants have answered the trend with gluten-free/allergy-friendly menus – all you have to do is ask. Chain restaurants in particular often have nutritional information posted online, and thanks to reviews on food-allergy websites and smart phone apps, you can usually get the scoop on locally-owned places too. When in doubt (and to save time and sidelong glances) you can always call ahead, but, really, don’t be shy about asking questions of your server. Tell them what you need to know, and why. Once you learn which restaurants are most willing and able to accommodate you, reward them with your repeat business!

Eating gluten-free takes commitment, certainly, but unless you’re also allergic to pre-planning and a little education, it’s nothing you can’t handle.

The post Tips For Making The Change To Gluten-Free also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

Tips For Eating A Healthy Dinner With Your Family (And Why You Should)

DinnerLifestyleBy: Shannon Connor Winward

The Home-Plate Advantage: Low Cost, Low Maintenance Tips For Eating Healthy Together

Getting a balanced meal into our busy mouths every night has been a struggle since Swanson’s TV Dinners first slid onto tables in the 1950s. Those silvery slabs of frozen food were popular because they were convenient, a catchword still central to the modern lifestyle. It’s hard to find time (and money) to make meals from scratch and sit down together to eat them. We’re eating in our cars, at our desks, or on the fly instead, often relying on fast- or pre-packaged foods that could make the nutritional pyramid crumble with shame. This trend away from home-cooking may play a role in America’s major health epidemics such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

In addition to being better for our diets, sharing meals at home also has social benefits. Caregivers can teach good habits to kids by modeling them at the dinner table (“Don’t talk with your mouth full. Don’t double dip. Put your phone down – oh, wait, is that a PCM article? Let’s talk about that.”) They can also impart cultural values, a sense of belonging, and self-esteem: children who eat with their families five nights a week or more perform better at school and are less likely to have eating disorders or problems with drugs. Older adults who dine with others are more likely to meet their nutritional needs than when left to feed themselves. For many people, dinnertime offers a chance to de-stress and reconnect with family and friends.

If the demands of the day keep crashing the dinner party in your household, here are some ideas that might help restore health, order, and community:

Nothing leads to bad decisions faster than deciding what to eat when you’re already stressed and hungry, so be armed-and-ready. Shop ahead for healthy, low-prep foods like canned beans, frozen vegetables, eggs, whole grain pasta, couscous, quinoa, rice… Keep the staples stocked, too –flour, milk, oil, butter – but keep in mind that “cooked at home” doesn’t automatically equal “healthy”. According to the USDA, Americans get the bulk of their calories (roughly 2,568 per day, way over the recommended average) from wheat flour / bread products and added fats, so leave these items on the back-burner and let low-fat dairy, produce (the fresh stuff – French fries and ketchup don’t count), let fish and meats be the stars of your menu.

America’s favorite sources of protein are chicken, beef and pork: for a healthy, low-maintenance diet, choose leaner cuts and explore non-breaded, non-fried cooking methods such as grilling, stewing, roasting, etc. Crock pots are genius for serving up low-fat, low-maintenance recipes. You can also cut your prep-time by buying pre-chopped produce or meat and vegetable ensembles (stew kits or ready-t0-cook kebabs) in most grocery stores; or, stretch your grocery dollar by buying items when they are on sale, such as bulk meat or produce in season, to be chopped or portioned and frozen – just thaw as needed (some veggies can even be tossed in right from the freezer). Cooked meals can be frozen for later, too: don’t be afraid to make extra batches, or label and stash leftovers before they die unloved in your refrigerator.

You can also maximize your time and capitalize on team spirit by enlisting housemates in the cooking process. Even kiddos can be put to work, if they can hold a spoon: have others help chop, sort, measure, or line up ingredients, read recipe steps out loud, stir a simmering pot, set the table, take drink orders, or wash dishes while you go, to clear space and avoid the soul-crushing scene of an overcrowded sink at the end of the meal.

And while home may be where the heart is, dining out now and then can also be both a time-saver and stress-relief, allowing people to focus on each other’s company rather than the fuss and bother of preparing dinner. Eating out can be hard on your wallet, though, and also on your diet. If you want to shrink both kinds of spending, pass on the extras like bread and chips that fill you up with low-benefit calories. Consider drinking water (which is usually free) instead of soft drinks, tea, or alcohol, and skip the appetizers (unless you really, really need to try those fish tacos).

Reduce your portion-size by ordering from the small-plate options (available at many modern restaurants) or ask for a take-home box and set aside half your entrée, which is usually oversized, anyway – two meals for the price of one! Or, in the spirit of togetherness, you can always share, whether family-style (serving everyone at the table from several large dishes – a long-standing tradition in many of America’s favorite ethnic dine-out cuisines such as Italian, Chinese, Mexican, and Japanese) or a la Lady and the Tramp: one plate, two mouths – messier than Disney made it look, but just as fun.

The post Tips For Eating A Healthy Dinner With Your Family (And Why You Should) also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

Kids Are Becoming Intoxicated After Drinking Flavored Hand Sanitizer


(PCM) An alarming new trend is picking up among school children where they are becoming dangerously drunk by consuming a mere 3 or 4 squirts of flavored hand sanitizer. The U.S. poison control center has seen a steady increase in the amount of calls they have been receiving about children under the age of 12 who have consumed hand sanitizer and are dangerously intoxicated.

In a recent case, a six year old from Lawrenceville, GA ingested several squirts of strawberry-flavored hand sanitizer and was later rushed to the hospital with a blood alcohol level of .179! That is twice the legal limit for an adult to be considered drunk.

The amount of alcohol present in majority of hand sanitizers is 45% to 95%, so even ingesting small amounts could lead to alcohol poisoning in certain scenarios. On average wine and beer only contain about 12% to 5% alcohol by volume.

There are many reasons why the children are beginning to consume hand santizer that range from actually wanting to get drunk, it being a dare from friends or just because the hand sanitzer looks and smells yummy. Whatever the reason, this is a growing problem and in 2014 the U.S. poison control saw over 16,000 cases of hand sanitizer ingestion in 2014. Scary! Parents, remember to talk to your children about the proper use of hand sanitizer!

The post Kids Are Becoming Intoxicated After Drinking Flavored Hand Sanitizer also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

Sleeping Burns More Calories Than Watching TV

(PCM) Did you know that you burn more calories when you’re sleeping than when you’re awake watching television? Believe it or not, it’s true; in fact, you burn twice as many calories when you’re asleep compared to laying on the couch being a couch potato!

Sleeping isn’t considered a huge calorie burner (you’re not exactly working up a sweat in your sleep), but you might be surprised to learn that the average 150 pound woman burns about 63 calories an hour sleeping – more if you have greater muscle mass (another reason to get in the gym!). During sleep the body is using energy to restore and repair itself, unlike when you’re sitting watching TV. Turning down the thermostat and not drinking alcohol before bedtime will increase the calorie burn even more. Watching TV on the other hand, burns about half that – not to mention increases your appetite!

This doesn’t mean you should choose to sleep every time you want to plop down in front of the television, but you do want to be mindful of how unproductive (and unhealthy) TV-watching is! Instead of just laying on the couch for hours, get up during commercial breaks and exercise – whether it’s sit-ups and lunges or jumping rope. Or, invest in a treadmill and walk while you watch TV. If that’s too much to ask, at least fast-forward through commercial breaks: a huge percentage of ads are for food (junk food in particular), and whether you realize it or not, they do have an affect on you!

Does Your Child Watch Too Much TV? It could be doing more harm than you think

getty images

The post Sleeping Burns More Calories Than Watching TV also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

Tip of The Day: De-Bloat and Flatten Your Belly

When you feel bloated, the last thing you want to do is bare all in a bikini, or worse, slip into a little black dress for that special occasion you’ve been looking forward to for months.

Don’t let a bloated belly ruin your summer! Instead of suffering on last minute crash diets, stick to de-bloating foods on a regular basis, like yogurt, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. Foods like asparagus, cucumbers and celery are particularly helpful in ridding your body of excess water. Monounsaturated fats are also shown to help flatten your belly, so amp up your intake of healthy fats by eating more peanut butter, almond butter, avocados, and olive oil.

Avoid anything high in salt, fat, and sugar, including processed foods, lunch meats, fried foods and cheese. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, preferably more to help flush out excess water. The day of an event, avoid vegetables that are harder to digest, like broccoli and brussels sprouts, which can cause bloating and gas.

If you’re really concerned, try this anti-bloat juice from Jillian Michaels:

1 Dandelion Root Tea Bag
Sugar or Stevia to taste
1 Tbsp Cranberry Juice (100% sugar-free)
60 Ounces Distilled Water
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Steep tea bag in hot water. Chill, and add the remaining ingredients.

For more tips on getting rid of bloat:
Beat The Bloat: What’s Causing Your Belly Bloat, and How to Get Rid of it

The post Tip of The Day: De-Bloat and Flatten Your Belly also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

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