Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hidden Sugars in Your Morning Coffee

Did you know that the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day? This amounts to an extra 350 calories. It is estimated that over 30 million Americans drink specialty coffees including mochas, lattes, espressos, café mochas, cappuccinos and frozen/iced coffee beverages daily. While coffee is a staple for many morning rituals, it’s also where excess sugar and calories are consumed. With little to no nutrition, these sugary beverages may offer a quick pick me up and sugar rush, but the sugar crash that follows can leave you feeling just as sleepy and hungry again an hour later. If you’ve been searching for places to cut calories in your diet, your morning cup of joe could be a great place to start.

Excess sugar in these beverages contributes to the development of obesity, tooth decay, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Reducing the added sugar in your coffee can have great health benefits over time and you may notice a reduced craving for sugars as well.

When too many calories of added sugar are consumed, there is less room for more nutrient-dense foods and drinks. It’s not necessary to avoid all sources of added sugars, however; when the amount of added sugar exceeds the recommendation, try to cut down.

Recommendations: The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the World Health Organization recommend less than 10 percent of calories come from added sugars. That's about 12 teaspoons (48 grams of sugar) in a 2,000-calorie diet.

At 25 teaspoons of sugar, Starbucks’ Hot Mulled Fruit contains more than double the recommended maximum adult daily intake. While a grande (medium) White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream from Starbucks contains 15 teaspoons, more than the daily amount recommended for an adult (based on a 2000 calorie diet)… in one beverage! A can of Coca-Cola contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar.

Sugar can be listed under many different names. Examples of sweeteners and sources of added sugars include: brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, maltose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, sucrose, white granulated sugar, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, malt syrup, cane crystals, fruit juice concentrate, cane sugar, glucose, raw sugar, corn sweetener, syrup, crystalline fructose and invert sugar.

You can find information on the sugar content of many of your favorite specialty drinks here.

Tips for reducing sugar:
· Ask your barista to include one less pump or use sugar-free syrup or sweetener
· Order a smaller size
· Make your drink at home to gain more control over the ingredients used

Bottom Line: Plan to reduce the sugar in your coffee over the course of a few days or weeks. You’ll notice over time that you no longer crave as much sugar. Honey and agave are not necessarily “better” forms of sugar. Sugar is sugar. One might taste better to someone, but all added sugar contributes to added calories.

Written by: Stephanie Coburn, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Sparkling Smile Protects Your Heart

The eyes may be the window to our soul, but our smile is the door to our heart. Good oral hygiene can freshen breath, brighten your smile and protect your heart from inflammation. The bacteria in our mouth responsible for plaque and cavities can also cause an immune response that can lead to heart disease. Want a winning and healthy smile? Follow this routine.

Floss: Flossing removes the plaque between teeth that brushing can’t and reduces gingivitis and tooth decay. Aim to floss once a day. Don’t know how? Learn here. Water picks and irrigators are dental floss alternatives.

Brush: How and when you brush can have a big impact on oral health. Brush after every meal, but not right after! Immediate brushing will actually spread bacteria around your mouth. Wait 15-20 minutes after a meal before your oral care. Learn to brush right.

Fluoride: Found in mouthwashes and toothpaste, fluoride strengthens enamel and prevents cavities.

Tongue Scraping: The tongue is often neglected during brushing, but it’s home to all kinds of bacteria. Show your tongue some love with regular brushing or scraping.

Good Foods: Nuts, leafy greens and plain dairy foods have calcium and nutrients that strengthen tooth enamel. Fruits and vegetables high in fiber and water help clean the teeth. Nuts even have antibacterial properties to help fight plaque.

Bad Foods: Sugary and acidic foods can feed bacteria and damage enamel. Constant exposure can accelerate tooth decay. Do you snack on candy or sip coffee or soda throughout the day? Cut back and choose water whenever possible.

Written by: Michelle Pearson, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


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Probiotics: Trust Your Gut

We typically associate bacteria with being harmful, but some types of bacteria can improve our health. Our bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for your health.

Where do you get probiotics?
Probiotics are found in different forms -- food and dietary supplements, and in some non-edible forms such as skin creams. Foods containing probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso and kombucha.

What are the benefits of probiotics?
Illness, medications and poor diet can lead to elevated levels of bad bacteria. Probiotics restore the natural balance of good and bad gut bacteria. Although evidence is not currently strong, research suggests that other benefits of probiotics include reducing or preventing diarrhea, improving brain health, improving heart health and boosting the immune system.

How to buy a good probiotic
High CFU Count: The higher the number of Colony-Forming Units (CFUs) the greater the impact on the growth of good bacteria in our gut. Look for a supplement with a minimum of 40 billion CFUs.

Multiple Strains: Some probiotics only provide one type of bacteria, but the benefits are more substantial when multiple types of bacteria are in the supplement. Look for a supplement with at least nine individual strains of bacteria.

Substrains: Some probiotics don’t list the substrains, which could mean they are using generic strains that have not been clinically studied. Look for supplements that have trademarked (™) the substrains.

Bottom Line: Replenish your healthy gut bacteria by incorporating dietary sources of probiotics into your diet. Consult your healthcare team before taking a probiotic supplement and use the guidelines above to help purchase a strong, reliable product.

Written by: Kayla Arouchon, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


Visit Wellness Workdays for more information about our worksite wellness programs.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Limit Meat: Improve Your Life and the World

Did you know that the average American eats half a pound of meat per day? That’s 180 pounds per year. While meat is a great source of protein for the body, many foods are just as effective. More and more people are beginning to understand the benefits of limiting meat intake throughout the week. Reducing global meat consumption could improve health, the environment and the economy; it’s a win-win situation for all.

Improve overall health:
Reduce heart disease and stroke, limit cancer risk, fight diabetes, curb obesity, longer longevity -- sounds great, right? These are some of the many health benefits you may experience by incorporating a low meat diet into your life. Adopting this diet can be a fantastic entry into experiencing better health.

Help the environment:
“There has never been a better time to go green by eating green.” We all want (or we should want) to help the planet, but how can we as an individual do this? It is easier than you think -- cut out meat, even just once a week, from your diet. By going vegetarian, we can reduce the impact of climate change and pollution while saving water and other resources. Did you know that raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, planes and other forms of transportation combined? Food for thought: If the world ate 15 percent less meat, it would be like taking 240 million cars off the road each year.

Save money:
Reducing meat consumption could save you tremendous amounts of money each year. Due to meat’s high per-capita healthcare costs the country could save $180 billion if the population ate according to recommended nutrition guidelines. Though it may seem challenging to serve healthy meals on a budget, going meatless once a week can help conserve money for more fruits and vegetables. Aside from cutting your weekly food bill  (meat costs a lot of money), it will also curb healthcare spending. In the United States chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes cause seven in ten deaths each year and account for 75 percent of the $2 trillion spent on medical care. Red meat, especially processed meat, contains ingredients that have been linked to increased risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Spare your wallet and your health by consuming less meat.

Bottom Line: Consuming meat is not a bad thing or something to judge others for doing. Whether you’re thinking of going vegan, vegetarian or simply reducing your meat intake, there are plenty of great reasons to lower your consumption. Give it a try.

Written by: Leigh Hullett, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

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Benefit Trend: Financial Wellness

Employers are recognizing a mind-body relationship that needs to be addressed in order to continue to improve employee health, lower associated employee health care costs, and improve productivity. For years, stress was a known trigger for many physical ailments. Recently, financial stress has been identified as a prevalent condition among US employees. If you haven't implemented a financial wellness program, consider these facts.

A recent study found 52 percent of employees are stressed about their financial situations and in millennials the number is even higher – sixty-four percent are stressed about finances. Almost half of employees surveyed responded that they are distracted by their finances at work and spend at least three hours at work each week dealing with personal finance issues. 

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that credit cards, debt, saving for retirement, saving for a child’s education expense, and meeting basic household needs are the top financial stressors for many individuals. Approximately one quarter of employees rely on credit cards to purchase necessities they would not otherwise be able to afford – and this issue occurs at high income levels as well as at low income levels.

The number of employees coping with financial challenges continues to increase yearly. Employers are starting to introduce financial education and support options much the same way as they offer worksite health and wellness programs. Financial counseling can come at a price to employers, but, if appropriately designed with standards to measure program success, employers will start to see an increase in employee productivity and ROI. 

Much the same as wellness programs, organizations should tailor a financial wellness plan for its employees’ needs. Programs can be offered as group educational forums, individual online sessions, or personalized coaching sessions with financial professionals. Finally, employers need to determine what aspects of the employee financial program will be mandatory and whether incentives for participation will be offered.      

Wellness Workdays provides financial wellness programs to a number of employers and works with employees from diverse backgrounds and income levels. Contact us to learn more about our programs and how we can help your employees get on the track to financial fitness.


Visit Wellness Workdays for more information about our worksite wellness programs.

Nutrition Is Key to Employee Wellness

March is National Nutrition Month – a great time to highlight some of the benefits of good nutrition. At Wellness Workdays, we strongly believe that nutrition is the key to good health. Making healthy behavior changes and eating nutritious food is an essential component of our worksite wellness programs. We hire master’s level registered dietitians to educate employees on the many benefits of nutrition and incorporate the importance of dietary choices throughout our programs.

The facts are undisputable. Chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity are among the most common, costly and preventable of all health problems. About half of all adults have one or more chronic health conditions and one in four adults have two or more chronic health conditions. Treating individuals with chronic diseases accounts for eighty-six percent of our nation’s healthcare costs.

Good nutrition can help prevent chronic conditions. Nutrition is one of the four health risk behaviors that cause much of the illness related to chronic diseases. The other three behaviors are lack of physical activity, tobacco use and drinking too much alcohol. 

There is a strong correlation between an employee’s diet and their medical costs. Worksite wellness programs can provide the education and resources employees need to make healthy changes, and employers that incorporate nutrition into their wellness programs can prevent costly medical conditions.

According to the PwC Health Research Institute, evidence is mounting that supports the need to implement nutritional advice and apps into employees’ everyday lives. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that approximately 40 percent of American adults are obese and 24 percent have at least one diet-related medical condition. In addition, 38 percent of adults report they eat fruit less than once a day and 23 percent report they eat vegetables less than once a day

Luckily, consumer awareness of the importance of nutrition is increasing. PwC’s Health Research Institute 2016 Consumer Survey found that most consumers want more advice about weight management and help with diet-related medical conditions. Consider adding a focus on nutrition to your wellness program. Wellness Workdays can assess and evaluate the diet-related needs of your population and develop nutrition-related programs to improve employee health. Our programs are developed using evidence-based conclusions from research in nutrition and worksite wellness.

Nutrition is a key driver of healthcare costs. Implementing programs to change employee behavior and lifestyle choices can prevent chronic conditions and expensive health issues. Contact us for more information.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Curious About Going Dairy Free?

There are many factors that might cause someone to go dairy free. Some people may experience symptoms of lactose intolerance, have a milk allergy or are breastfeeding a baby experiencing a milk allergy. Others may want to reduce cholesterol levels or may have religious or ethical concerns surrounding dairy consumption.

Non-dairy alternatives are widely available for milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. If eliminating all dairy from your diet seems overwhelming, start small. Many dairy-free options taste great and work in recipes that call for traditional dairy products.

Milk: Non-dairy milks come in soy, coconut, almond, rice, oat, hemp and flax. Opt for unsweetened versions to avoid added sugar and calories. Most companies fortify non-dairy milk with vitamins A, D, B12 and calcium to mimic traditional milk. You’ll find that soy tends to have the most protein per serving and most of these non-dairy options provide 30-50% of your daily calcium needs (based on a 2000 calorie diet). Silk, Almond Dream, Rice Dream, and 8th Continent are popular brands. Many grocery stores, including Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and Stop and Shop, carry their own brand label at competitive prices.

Non-dairy milk nutrition facts for a serving size of 1 cup (8 ounces)

Calories*Protein (g)*Calcium (%)*
Hemp provides all essential amino acids

*All values are approximate and calcium percentage daily values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Yogurt: If you’re looking for non-dairy yogurt, soy, almond and coconut varieties are available in plain and fruit flavors. Again, watch for added sugar and calories. Silk, Almond Dream, Kite, Forager’s and So Delicious are popular non-dairy yogurt brands.

Non-dairy yogurt nutrition facts for a serving size of 5.3-6 ounces

Calories*Protein (g)*Calcium (%)*
*All values are approximate. Calcium percentage daily values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Cheese: Dairy-free cheese can be found in soy, almond, rice and other nut-based varieties. Melting textures vary amongst these varieties, but some work well for dishes like nachos, pizza and dips. Daiya, Go Veggie, Follow Your Heart and Chao are some popular brands that all melt and stretch like dairy cheese.

Ice Cream: More non-dairy ice creams are coming onto the market with soy, almond, rice, cashew and coconut as a base. Ben and Jerry’s now makes almond-based flavors including Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia. More recently, Breyer’s has created an almond based Oreo flavor. So Delicious, Nada Moo, Purely Decadent and Coconut Bliss are all brands to look for. Many of your favorite traditional dairy flavors can be found in a non-dairy version.

Dairy ingredients can be listed in more ways than your standard milk, yogurt and cheese. If eliminating dairy due to an allergy or intolerance, look for these ingredients on the label: ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, casein, curds, delactosed whey, hydrolyzed milk protein, paneer and whey. Some artificial or natural flavorings can be derived from dairy including natural butter, coconut cream and egg flavors. If you’re unsure of any ingredients you can contact the manufacturer for clarification.

Bottom Line: Many non-dairy milks and yogurts contain just as much, if not more, calcium per serving as dairy milk. It’s important to remember that the body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium, so check that your non-dairy milk or yogurt is fortified with this vitamin. Eliminating dairy from your diet doesn’t have to be a sacrifice because there are fun and delicious non-dairy options available. More helpful information can be found at www.godairyfree.org

Written by: Stephanie Coburn, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

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