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What the Gluten Is Going On?

By Janine Koutsky, MS

If you haven’t noticed, the popularity of a gluten-free lifestyle is starting to pop up everywhere. In the media, you may hear how celebrities are cutting out gluten for weight loss. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the Paleo diet. Ironically, next month (May) is Celiac Awareness Month, so this article lends itself to this hot topic.

Not so long ago, the only individuals to eat a gluten-free diet were those who were prescribed to do so because of a medical diagnosis of Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. So why now the increase of gluten-free menu items, specialty stores, and gluten-free diets? Is it possible that there is an increase in gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease within our population? Or is it just those celebrities have that much influence on what we eat?

Before I continue, let me give you a brief definition of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye. The big one here is wheat. Wheat is found in many carbohydrates, such as wheat bran, wheat starch, wheat germ, and cracked wheat. These are just a few examples. We also can’t forget all the flours that contain wheat, such as white flour, enriched flour, durum flour, and semolina; just to name a few. So basically, most cereals, pastas, and breads contain some form of gluten. But, let’s not forget the hidden gluten found in several processed foods, such as salad dressing and frozen or boxed meals. Bottom line –a gluten-free diet is not easy to achieve, unless you do your homework.

Let’s take a step back and look at Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s response to consumption of gluten is to attack the gastrointestinal track. Consuming gluten for these folks not only causes gastrointestinal distress and the potential malabsorption of certain nutrients, but also intestinal damage. Gluten sensitivity is when a person experiences the same symptoms as someone with Celiac disease, without the intestinal damage. If you know of someone who suffers or you suffer from either of these, then you know that Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can cause substantial physical and emotional distress.

Grains that do not contain gluten are corn, quinoa, millet, rice, sorghum, amaranth, and teff. Not sure how to cook millet or quinoa? Of course there are several cookbooks dedicated to gluten-free living. Check out the gluten-free isle at your grocery store or a specialty store to find the alternatives to products like cereal, pastas, muffins, cookies, and breads. Do the research, because avoiding gluten cross-contamination can be tricky, which doesn’t end with the food manufacturers. Some individuals are so sensitive to gluten that merely cooking with the same utensils, pots, pans, or even a toaster can cause a reaction. Those folks looking to eliminate gluten without a medical diagnosis would not have the same concern for gluten-contamination.

Does gluten deserve the bad publicity? Let’s look at what we do know.

We know that eating a plethora of refined carbohydrates – pasta, bread, cereal, pastries, cookies, etc -is not the healthiest way to eat. We also know that most of those refined foods do contain gluten. What maybe you didn’t know is that foods like soy sauce, hot dogs, ketchup, beer, and deli meats also contain gluten. Shocker? Maybe. But this just means that when eliminating gluten you need to consider the less obvious foods.

We do know some of the reasons you may read or hear for people eliminating gluten, outside of a medical diagnosis, is because of these popular claims:

  1. Not digested properly
  2. Bloating
  3. Causes weight gain
  4. Causes joint pain
  5. Our ancestors didn’t eat grains or the modified grains we currently eat, so why should we?” (a’ la Wheat Belly)
  6. “Brain Fog”

If you are experiencing those listed from 1-4, you may want to speak to your doctor about testing for a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease.

We also know that there is no scientific evidence that says gluten is bad and that we should eliminate it, outside of a true gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease. The common “junk” foods that are over processed should be eliminated anyways. Keep in mind that just because it says “gluten-free” on the box, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Gluten-free cookies can be high in sugar too!

If you are convinced that you might have a gluten sensitivity, even speaking to your doctor, focus on foods of quality that are naturally occurring gluten-free grains with higher amounts of fiber and loaded with great nutrients like buckwheat, nut flours, coconut flour, and quinoa. Look for the Certified Gluten-Free Trade Mark. Finally, speak to a Registered Dietitian for the best suggestions when eliminating gluten from the diet.



Eating Right with Less Salt

by Hayley Chemski, MSN, CRNA and Certified Fitness Trainer

In honor of National Nutrition Month, let’s set a heart healthy goal of eating less salt!

Most of us consume too much salt (sodium) on a daily basis; typical salt intake is 2,400-4,500 mg/day. This issue is largely related to the high amount of processed foods we are bombarded with at the grocers and deli, and at restaurants. Of interest, sodium plays a detrimental role in high blood pressure and by lowering your intake you can lower your risk of hypertension. As you are aware from our prior columns in the Laurel Mountain Post, hypertension can lead to stroke, heart disease, small vessel disease, and other symptoms like dizziness, blurred vision, and brain fog.

The following guidelines for salt intake were distributed in 2010 by the ADA (American Dietetic Association): everyone, even children, should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends levels of less than 2,000mg/day. The recommendation for salt is about the same amount as one full teaspoon of salt. Adults 51 years of age or older, African Americans of any age, and those afflicted by high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease should maintain a sodium intake of less than 1,500 milligrams/day.

This may sound like a tall order. How does one fall within the appropriate guidelines without suffering bland foods at every meal? Here’s how.

  • Create a diet high in FRESH food components!

Choose foods that are close to their original form. Refuse to eat foods of the factory, and instead eat foods of the land. Examples may include fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, milk, yogurt and grains. Limit these foods if canned, frozen with preservatives, or boxed. Eat the “real thing.” Make a goal to eat at least one of these foods each time that you eat.

Processed foods are high in sodium, hence the preservation to eat at a later date. Examples include cheesy foods, such as pizza; cured meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and deli or luncheon meats; and ready-to-eat foods, like canned chili, ravioli and soups.

  • Cook at home to control your ingredients!

Enjoy home-prepared foods where you are in control of how much salt is added. Use little or no additional salt when cooking. Try to incorporate ingredients that are fresh or frozen without additives. Use flavorings that are salt-free! Consider using herbs, spices, garlic, vinegar, black pepper or lemon juice.

If you are out and about, don’t feel hesitant to ask the chef/cook to limit use of added salt in the recipe. Choose fresh options off of the menu, those that are made to order and not made days prior.

  • Read food labels!

Take the time to read what you are eating. You may be surprised by the milligrams of salt in each serving you are enjoying. Many companies are making “lower sodium” options. Beware of condiments that add taste by adding salt, which may include soy sauce, ketchup, pickles, olives, salad dressing and seasoning packets. If you are using canned vegetables, consider rinsing the item prior to use.

  • Maintain your hydration!

Flush your body’s water regulatory system by maintaining your hydration. Textbook models have shown that appropriate hydration is met at 6-8 glasses of clear liquids each day. When the kidneys are faced with excess fluid or excess salt, they will be better equipped if the blood is full of water and not concentrated. Moreover, hydration will prevent bloating by flushing the kidneys of excess salt.

Simple tricks can help you to maintain your salt intake at an appropriate level and decrease your risk of high blood pressure. Coming off of February, which is Women’s Heart Disease  Awareness Month, we are more and more astute to obtaining reasonable control of many health disorders; we should take control of that which we can control. Here’s to a healthier heart and a less bloated you.

UNDER-standing Weight Loss Frustration

By Mark Rullo

Weight management, particularly weight loss, is simple in that it is all about creating a caloric deficit by expending more calories than you eat. However simple does not mean easy.

One pound of fat is 3,500 calories. That is black and white and straight-forward science. Accumulate seven consecutive days of 500 calorie deficit and you will see a pound loss on the scale. The gray area is in calculating the respective deficit in this weight loss formula, which is based upon how we quantify both how many calories we consume and how many calories we expend.

As I have seen over the years, the biggest reason people struggle or get frustrated with counting calories to lose weight is that most either UNDER-calculate the calories they consume and/or OVER-calculate what they believe they have expended in calories.

In this article, I will expand on how individuals—despite honest attempts to log their food and count calories—UNDER-report what they consume and ultimately fail to see the desired results which causes them to quit in frustration.


The main reasons that individuals UNDER-report their caloric intake include:

  • Portion Distortion
  • Food Label Loop Holes
  • Accountability Accuracy of Nutritional Labels
  • BLT’s

Portion Distortion happens when individuals fail to eat the actual serving size they are reporting/logging. This typically occurs when people tend to “eye-ball” rather than actually weigh/measure what they eat.

Take my breakfast cereal, LIFE®, for example. One serving (¾ cup) is 160 calories with 4 ounces of skim milk. The box also states it has 12 total servings per box. If that is true, why do I only get 4 bowls of cereal per box?Simple, my serving is actually three servings or 480 calories. This is a 320 calorie UNDER-estimate if report only one bowl (serving). Make this error every day for breakfast and it becomes 2240 calories unaccounted for in one week. Because 3500 calories is one pound, this simple UNDER-reporting could either lead to .64 lbs of weight gain per week or erase 320 calories from any daily deficit you may have thought you created through monitoring your nutritional formula.

Also, the people around you can indirectly contribute to portion distortion. Just because your serving is smaller than others around you does not guarantee you have the correct serving size. You may feel good about yourself that you ordered the 12 ounce steak when all your friends ordered the “24 ouncer.” However, considering one serving is 4 ounces, that 12 ounce steak is still 3 servings.

Food Label Loop Holes exist because the FDA allows manufactures to list foods as FREE or Zero content if the serving size if less than 0.5 grams per serving.

PAM Spray for example lists zero calories per serving, so initially this seems like a perfect option for those looking to watch their caloric intake. This is possible because the serving size listed on the label is 0.27 grams, or 1/3 second of a spray. (I give them credit for describing the actual serving size as 1/3 of one second of a spray.) Get a stop watch out and actually try to time 1/3 of a second—not easy to do. So do not expect to do it the next time you use the spray.

If you are not aware, nutritional labels list ingredients by most abundant to least. The most abundant ingredient in PAM Spray is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. When you look at the caloric value of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, one serving (1 tablespoon) is 120 calories.

Where did those calories go? They were always there; however the PAM serving size meets the requirement to allow them to state it as FREE or Zero. Providing this information is not intended to tell you not to use PAM, rather just to inform you. This way, you can be aware and account for the calories that, at the surface state zero, but in reality exist.

I use PAM Spray every time I cook to make clean up easier. I may not be spraying an entire tablespoon, but definitely at least ½ to ¾ of a tablespoon or 60-90 calories worth. To be safe, I round up to 100. So when I cook my eggs whites, at 25 calories per egg white, my 5-egg white break-fast is not 125 calories (5 x 25 calories); rather it is 225 calories to account for the PAM Spray. Eat these egg whites every day for breakfast and fail account for this loophole adds up to 700 calories being UNDER-reported.

Accountability of Accuracy of Nutrition Labels: Some states, such as New York are requiring that restaurants with three or more locations must list the nutrition facts of the food on their menus. On the surface, this sounds great for those looking to better manage their caloric nutritional formula. However, who is making sure what is listed is accurate? This same thought crossed the mind of a blogger who thought to randomly evaluate the accuracy of the nutrition information listed at 20 different restaurants. Of  the 20 different restaurants, 19 of them all UNDER-reported their caloric value by average 30%, with the worst case having an actual caloric value that was double what it listed. Believe it or not, that item was a “healthy Tofu Burger.”

BLT’s are your “Bites, Licks and Tastes” that we fail to account for. Don’t think BLT’s can have an impact? How many make a peanut butter sandwich and actually measure the serving size? Not many, I would assume. Of the few who actually do measure, I would assume it is common that they scrape and lick the remaining peanut butter after spreading it on the sandwich. At 190 calories per serving, that could be an easy 35- 50 calories. What else do you “Bite, Lick or Taste” that is not being accounted for?

These are why most who struggle with weight loss have a hard time accepting they are eating too much and cannot buy into the “it’s a calorie in vs. calories out” thing.

Understanding these variables in managing your weight loss program is not a one-day or one-week process of logging food. This is why here at My Fitness Kitchen®, we highly recommend that our weight loss clients minimally commit to eight weeks of food monitoring to best comprehend this process. That will ultimately allow food intake to be built around YOUR FOOD, on YOUR TERMS for YOUR RESULTS. Once this caloric formula is mastered, individuals can continue down the nutritional funnel to accelerate even greater results; however, to focus on anything before your caloric formula is in-line is wasting time, energy and money.

The bottom line is that failure to recognize these potential errors of UNDER-reporting can sabotage any weight loss program, create frustration and ultimately cause individuals to give up on their weight loss goals.

For more information, please feel free to consult with any of the fitness professionals at My Fitness Kitchen®. Additionally, as an on-going thank you to the Laurel Mountain Post and its readers, mention this article for a FREE, no obligation, personalized, metabolic nutritional formula and fitness program that will leverage the “Hierarchy of Fat Loss.” If you are serious about achieving a body transformation goal, then you need a program; as any goal without a plan is really only a wish!

As an added incentive for people new to My Fitness Kitchen®, by mentioning this Laurel Mountain Post article and after meeting with one of My Fitness Kitchen’s Fitness Professionals for a private consult as offered above, you will receive $50 “Kitchen Cash” to be used toward any program or service at My Fitness Kitchen®, as a courtesy of the Laurel Mountain Post.

Plantain: One of the Most Common Weeds in the Whole World!

by Granny Earth, ND

There are 2 species of Plantain: A narrow-leaf called ‘Ribwort Plantain’ and a broad-leaf called ‘Plantain Major’. Plantain is one of the most common ‘weeds’ in the whole, wide world!

The broad-leaf is the one preferred, for making healing remedies and poultices.

Plantain is a perennial ‘weed’ that grows up to 10 inches in height, having a rosette of broad, deeply veined leaves and dense clusters of tiny green flowers (the seeds) on its ‘spikes’. You’re sure to find this ‘weed’ all around your garden and through-out your lawn if you don’t do that totally unthinkable thing and use a ‘weed killer’!

Plantain has a history of being called ‘the healing plant’, because down through the ages, it was used to treat wounds of ALL kinds. After making its way to the ‘New World’, Native Americans called it ‘English-man’s foot’, because it seemed to spring up everywhere, in the foot-steps of those white settlers.

Some of the properties in Plantain are: iridoids, flavonoids, tannins and mucilage. Aucubin (one of the iridoids) will increase excretion of uric acids from the body via the kidneys. So, you might want to try this for arthritic conditions. Andapigenin (a flavonoid) is an excellent anti-inflammatory–also good for arthritis. You can also depend on Plantain to stop blood flow of all wounds and to repair the damaged tissue. It can be used in place of Comfrey for treating bruises and broken bones, too. For these, you would make a poultice with the leaves.

Taken internally (as a tincture) Plantain is diuretic, expectorant, de-congesting. Also used to treat gastritis, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, dysentery, irritable bowel syndrome (I.B.S.), respiratory and urinary tract infections. I still make my Healing Salve, using Plantain- ‘Golden Gincture’ (See end of article.) It’s been known to ‘heal’ many conditions, through out the years, from skin wounds and muscle pain, to hemorrhoids and so much more!

In my opinion, one can never have too much Plantain on hand. He’s easy to pick, abundant and dries well, too. But, the most fun thing I’ve found to do with this weed, is to put him in my ‘weed soup’. Never heard of weed soup? Well, you have now!

First I put a big pot of ‘pure’ water on to boil. While this is getting hot, I chop up some onions, celery, garlic, parsley (or cilantro), celery seed and Himalayan Crystal Salt (for added minerals and taste) and add it all to the water. I wait till the pot’s boiling and turn it down to a simmer. Then I go outside and scout the yard for nice small, young Plantain plants. I dig them up carefully with my dandelion digger and wash them off. The roots are especially important for this adventure. I ever so gently and with great reverence, add the little plants (whole, not chopped) to the pot of simmering soup and let it simmer another ½ hour, or so. Friends are always impressed when I serve them my ‘weed soup.’ A real treat and so easy to make!Plantain, in all his beauty, looks like an exotic Chinese herb. (Page 119–120: Do It Yourself Weed Medicine.)

Excuse or Reason?: Which Will Win in 2014?

by Mark Rullo MS, CSCS, MES

Here we go again: will it be a “New Year, New You” or not?  Truth be told, this is the time of year that the majority of people make a commitment to themselves to lose weight, get more fit and just become healthier overall. Statistically, weight loss is the number one resolution, with 45% of Americans citing it as their goal.  Unfortunately, only 8% of people who make the commitment to lose weight actually do.

Through the years, we have found two primary reasons why people either reach their goal or give up: Motivation and Direction.

Direction is making sure that your time, energy and even money are expended with a correct plan to achieve your goal.  Motivation is the emotional reason to actually want to see that goal become a reality.

An individual can be extremely motivated to lose weight; however if they are provided with the wrong information, more times than not, they will stop in frustration because the results do not match their efforts (check out my previous LMP article –Nov 2013 “Why Gyms Make You Fat”). On the other side, if an individual has the most scientific, evidence-based game plan for weight loss (Hierarchy of Fat Loss) but does not have a burning desire to see the change become a reality, more times than not, that individual will not follow the necessary behaviors to see the desired expected results.

I often explain Motivation and Direction using the analogy of wanting to see the sun rise. If your goal is to see the sun rise, it wouldn’t matter how motivated you were if you were told to look west every morning (wrong direction).  In a like manner, if you didn’t care to see the sun rise it wouldn’t matter if someone was telling you to get up early and look east. It’s good information but you just don’t have the motivation to see the sun rise.

As an Exercise Physiologist and weight loss expert, my goal is to keep individuals heading “East” relative to the weight loss goal; however to make sure individuals stay the course, we need some emotional “glue” to help with adherence to the program (directions). This emotional adherence is your Reason / Y-Factor.

Y-Factor (Motivation)

When individuals are highly motivated, the commitment and discipline of following through an effective exercise and nutrition program is not an issue, and RESULTS are achieved. However, when motivation is missing, individuals many times leave success up for chance.

It takes some soul searching and digging but most people find that their motivation stems from an emotional response to the avoidance of pain, acquisition of pleasure or a combination of both.  This is a term we refer to as the Y-FACTOR .

Your Y-FACTOR is not a specific goal (e.g., inches lost, %body fat, lean body mass, etc.) that can be measured, rather the reasons WHY you want this change.  To best explain the concept of the Y-FACTOR, I have provided an example of a former client.

A young female in her mid-twenties came to see me about losing weight.  The first thing I asked was why she wanted to lose some weight.  Looking a little puzzled and wondering why I was asking her this, she said because of her wedding coming up in six months. Having some fun with her, I joked that I was curious what religion she was because I am catholic and, as far as I know, we don’t have to lose weight to get married.  She laughed and said her religion doesn’t require that she lose weight to get married but she went on to explain WHY she wants to make a change.

To paraphrase her story, the young lady explained to me that since she was a little girl, she dreamed of her wedding day and wearing the wed-ding gown that has been passed to her from her mother. At the time, the gown didn’t fit the way she pictured it, and she knew that if she could lose some inches it would.  Also, she said, sticking her arms out in front of me and mentioning how fair-skinned she is, if she didn’t make a positive change she had a fear of walking down the aisle on the most important day of her life looking like a giant snowball!

Immediately with enthusiasm I said “GREAT!,” not because she may look like a giant snowball on her wedding day, but because she now had the ammunition to motivate herself and achieve her goal. I continued to explain to her that she now had her Y-FACTOR to help her through the tough days when she didn’t feel like staying with the program.  Her Y-FACTOR has both emotional responses, the fear of looking like a snowball on the most important day of her life, and the pleasure of fulfilling her childhood dreams of her wedding day.

The short-term goals, measurements, body fat %, etc were monitored every 1-2 weeks to assist with her accountability and make sure she was on track to reach her goal on her wedding day.  However, it was the Y-FACTOR, the fear of looking like a snowball and the pleasure of a child-hood dream becoming a reality, which provided her the personal self-drive, motivation, and discipline to follow through with the daily exercise and nutrition prescription.

This “Fear of the Snowball” ex-ample illustrates the power of emotion and how we do things out of emotional want well before any actual logic or need. The woman above logically knew that she needed to lose weight regardless of any wedding. Even though she knew she needed to lose weight she simply didn’t want to lose weight badly enough to stick with any program. Once she was able to identify that emotional factor it was only a matter of getting her on the right plan of attack.  Not every person I work with can identify their Y-Factor immediately, but those who do have always met and/or exceeded their targeted goals.

So how do you make sure you are part of the 8% who make a New Year’s resolution a reality when it comes to weight loss? First, identify why you want to lose the weight.  Identify what fear, pain or pleasure the extra weight you are carrying is causing you.  Once identified, get on a personalized plan that incorporates the “hierarchy of fat loss” to eliminate the guesswork and let the science work for you while leveraging your Y-factor for the days when you want to be the poster child for anti-exercise and poor nutrition.

Without an emotional reason, more times than not, the excuse (no-time, lack of energy, work, family, sickness, money, etc.) will win. How-ever a goal tied to an emotional reason and an effective plan of action will put you on the winning side of this year’s weight loss resolution.

For more information, please feel free to consult with any of the fitness professionals at My Fitness Kitchen®. Additionally as an on-going thank you to Laurel Mountain Post and its readers, mention this article for a FREE, no obligation, personalized, metabolic nutritional formula and fitness program that will leverage the “hierarchy of fat loss.” If you are serious about achieving a body transformation goal then you need a program, as any goal without a plan is really only a wish!

As an added incentive for people new to My Fitness Kitchen®, by mentioning this Laurel Mountain Post article and after meeting with one of My Fitness Kitchen’s Fitness Professionals for a private consult, as offered above – you will receive $50 “Kitchen Cash” to be used toward any program or service at My Fitness Kitchen® as a courtesy of the Laurel Mountain Post.

Eat of the LAND, and not of the FACTORY!

It’s SUMMERTIME! Countless fresh food markets, farmers’ markets, road side stands, and grocery store produce sections abound! It’s time to practice “eating of the land, and NOT of the factory.” In other words, eat fresh, whole foods regularly, and not processed foods (despite their convenience).Check out the Latrobe Farmers’ Market!

Examples to include in your daily intake:
fresh apples and natural peanut butter
fresh cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, kiwi, oranges
fresh plums, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries
fresh tomatoes with mozarella and basil
fresh potatoes (boiled, with spray butter and fresh herbs)
fresh vegetables steamed on the grill
kabobs with lean meats, onions, peppers, and more!
angel food cake with fresh strawberries and low-fat whipped cream
corn on the cob with spray butter and pepper
farm eggs or egg whites with fresh vegetables (omelet)

Examples to avoid:
instant meals
instant potatoes and rice
canned vegetables (packed with sodium)

Whole, fresh foods are packed with micro and macronutrients. Processed, packaged foods are laden with high-calories, high-fat, and poor nutrition.  Find some new tastes this summer while foods are easy to come by, cheap, and fresh.  Now is the time to find your fresh food tastebuds and ENJOY!

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