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Category: Weight Loss

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Ten ways to make your kids eat more fruits & veggies

I am a mother of a four year old girl who has been a picky eater since the time she ate her first morsel of solid food. Some days were a breeze, but some were bad and most were downright miserable. Being a doctor, I know how important healthy diet and nutrition is, but children are not born with the wisdom of the benefits of healthy eating. It is a gradual learning process, for both children and parents alike. We as parents are well aware of the snowball effect a bad diet can have on our bodies and lives.

Making your child eat a healthy meal can be perplexing and frustrating for many parents. I have met many parents who are petrified at the thought of meal times. I have seen friends shedding tears and lamenting about their children’s eating habits. I was overwrought when my daughter turned picky and gave me a tough time. Children also become anxious when they see or hear that they are the cause of stress in their parent’s life.

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Being on the edge or hyper does not work with handling kids especially those who are picky with their food. First we have to understand that it is a phase that children are going through and they will eventually overcome it with time, love and support from the parents. Giving up and yielding to our children’s demands is the common path we take most times and we feel frustrated and helpless when it comes to parenting.

However, We must try not being too hard on kids and reminding ourselves to enjoy their childhood with matching playfulness and optimism. I attained nirvana when I saw my picky eater improving tremendously over time. Let’s pause and ask ourselves this question: “Is it worth the effort to cajole, negotiate and bribe our children to try to eat healthy foods (including vegetables) or should we give in to their comfort foods (e.g. Milk, formula, Junk)?”

The answer is a definite “yes”. There are a million reasons why incorporating vegetables in your little one’s diet is so important, but if you are not sure yet then below are the four most compelling reasons for you to ensure that your child eats at least 5 servings of fruits & vegetables a day:

It Aids growth
Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, fibre, photo chemicals which are vital for our growth.

Prevents obesity
We all love the look of chubby kids, we always hear “aww, aren’t they are just adorable cotton balls”. However, this is not healthy in the long run. Incidences of obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the last 30 years. Obese youth are at a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There is also an increased risk of suffering from pre-diabetes (a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk of developing of diabetes). They are prone to bone and joint problems, sleep apnoea and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. A good intake of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of obesity amongst children greatly.

Immunity boosters
Being absent from school is very common among children below the age of five due to recurrent illness, frequent visits to paediatricians and repeated courses of antibiotics begin to take a toll on the overall immunity of the children. Vegetables & fruits are natural immunity boosters. Children who consume 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day reduce the risk of catching infections from school.

Better digestion
One of the most difficult things as parents is to witness your kids suffering from pain and discomfort caused due to constipation. Children who are on a meat based diet with very low or no servings of fruits and vegetables are more likely to suffer from irregular bowel movement as compared to children who eat a good amount of fruits and vegetables. By increasing their intake it could reduce constipation and irregular bowel movements significantly

I hope you are convinced. If yes, then here are the ten simple ways to incorporate fruits & vegetables in your child’s diet

1. Try similar foods
Try to be slow and consistent when introducing new food in your child’s diet plan. While introducing a new fruit or vegetable, try something that tastes or looks similar to what your child likes. E.g.Sweet potato fries instead of French fries. Instead of crackers, try whole wheat or multi-grain versions Whole wheat pizzas with a variety of vegetable toppings instead of regular pizza. Do not force, terrorise or threaten children to empty their plates, this will eventually lead to eating disorders in children as they will associate meal times with negativity.

2. Eating at home helps
Planning meals ahead of time and eating more often at home helps a lot. Resorting to restaurant food and ready to eat meals is a no brainer but the serving size is typically several times more than a healthy serving at home. According to research, a restaurant meal often contains 18 percent more calories than home cooked food. Do not visit fast food joints which entice children with toys. This leads to impulse eating amongst them.

3. Take Lead
As an adult, set an example yourself for your little ones to emulate. Stop eating foods that you don’t want your kids to eat. If you are not the primary caregiver of your child, instruct and educate your nannies to serve only healthy foods to your little ones. De-clutter your kitchen of all the junk food, discard the energy drinks from the fridge, and get rid of all the mouth-watering bakery items, chocolates and crisps from the cupboards. Simply refuse to visit your favourite bakeries and dessert joints. Fostering healthy eating habits from early childhood is gratifying. However, there is no harm in treating your child once in a week with a small portion of their favourite foods.

4. Variety is the spice of life
Kids get weary and bored of eating the same food again and again. Introduce a “Rainbow Variety” of fruits and vegetables and ensure you don’t repeat the same food in two consecutive meals. Making a schedule and charting out the meal plan in advance is essential so that we don’t resort to unplanned treats. Planning the previous night for the next day is elementary in reducing the stress in the kitchen. Make a repertory of foods that the child likes and repeating it every week is worthwhile.

5. Sneak in vegetables in their regular diets
Incorporate vegetable purees to pasta sauces, add vegetables to their pilaf’s, dish out stuffed parathas, include a variety of vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, beet root and fruits like strawberry, banana etc. in their cakes and muffins.

6. Introduce rewards
Record every successful intake of vegetables in a reward chart and encourage every small victory with a prize (e.g stickers, bubble mixtures, finger paints, water colours, a new book or toy).

7. Role Play
Young kids love “pretend play”. Why not encourage them to become chefs for some time, run restaurants, cafe and supermarkets where they can serve healthy snacks.

8. Increase engagement & participation
In a safe environment, involve older children while cooking meals. Involve younger children making shopping lists and lead in grocery shopping. In this way you are helping them to learn to differentiate between good produce and unhealthy stuff. Stay away from the aisles selling candies, cakes, crisps, juices etc. Growing herbs & vegetables in your backyard and involving your child in gardening it can go a long way in encouraging your child to eat healthy produce.

9. Creative presentation leading to fun mealtimes
Making meal times a fun filled activity goes a long way in promoting healthy eating. Replicate the presentation of restaurant food at home. Children are enticed by creative plating of food. Creating their favourite characters like teddy’s, dinosaurs, cars with fruits and vegetables is time consuming, but worth the effort. Arrange play dates and picnics with other parents and provide healthy menus with vegetables as salads and soups.

10. Creative storytelling
“Talk” to your children about vegetables. Discuss its benefits. Girls from a very tender age become aware of their looks and admire all forms of beauty. Their world revolves around fairies, princesses & magic. Why not tell them an interesting story that eating vegetables will make them healthy and beautiful (e.g. Carrots are good for vision, spinach and green leafy vegetables for long hair etc.) Boys are packed with energy and talk to them about their superheroes eating healthy vegetables to stay strong. Why not create your own character for your kids? A “MangoMan” or “Princess of Brocolli” is not a bad thing if it gets your kids to think of veggies in a positive way.

There are no pre-set rules for healthy parenting. It is a journey which we all need to undertake. There will be days filled with joy and some with difficulties. Let’s try to give the best we can to our children.

All the best!

The Best Whole Grain for Weight Loss

Take almost any breakfast, lunch or dinner a grain will be the main ingredient of it. Take any food recipe and you will have a grain or grain powder as the critical ingredient. It is probably clear that the grain is the most consumed food item in the world and will remain so for at least next few decades. Given this lion’s share in our plates, we must think about which of these grains are actually best for us when it comes to achieving natural weight loss. This article is going to do exactly that – a fact finding mission to discover the best grain for weight loss. Read on if you love to know it.

Why do we eat so much grain anyway?

The grains make up the major portion of our plate is not by accident but actually it fulfils a critical purpose – To provide us with abundance of energy which we need everyday. It also provides this mainly through the rich carbohydrates content which is the most easiest to digest of all macro nutrients. Hence most grains will have high carbohydrate content in them. The differences start with other two major macro nutrients – protein and fibre. These are required in relatively lesser quantities but grains rich in them are typically considered better grains. Fats are the last of the macro nutrient which are present in even lesser quantities.

How does a good grain help in weight loss?

This is the big question, is’nt it? So let us look at how a good whole grain help us in achieveing natural weight loss? A good grain simply make us feel fuller for longer periods and hence reduce the amount of food we take. This will eventually lead to us eating less (junk) foods which will help reduce amount of calories we take everyday. This is probably the easiest way to reduce weight. If you combine a good grain with nice dose of fruits, veggies & nuts and some decent physical activity then you will surely see amazing results in four to six weeks.

So what makes a good whole grain?

Grains have a purpose – to provide us with good does of energy and most of them do it well. However, good grains will make it harder to digest the food and hence help us feel fuller for longer. This is possible mainly with a better quality of carbohydrates and higher quantity and quality of fibre and  protein in them.

In very simple terms it is the amount of fibre, protein and complex carbohydrates which determine how effective will the grain be in keeping us feel fuller for longer and stop our craving to eat more. So this enable us to eat less and achieve weight loss

The Comparison

This article will look at top 12 grains based on its macro nutrient content and other essential factors and try to score them. Here we will be comparing uncooked, raw wholegrains (or wholegrain powder) instead of their processed versions to ensure that the comparison is fair. The grains that we will be looking at are as below (sorry, if you eat something outside of the list but do pass it on and we will check and include it if possible). Please note that oat bran is techinically not a whole grain but actually a by-product produced when processing whole oat grains into more refined ones.

  1. Barley
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Buckwheat
  4. Corn
  5. Millet
  6. Oat Bran
  7. Oats
  8. Quinoa
  9. Rye
  10. Sorgrum
  11. Teff
  12. Wholewheat Floor

Macro Nutrients

As all grains that we have considered for comparison are raw unprocessed grains most of these have complex carbohydrates but we will be looking at their Glycemic Load which is a good indicator of how easy it is for the body to digest the food. Lower the number less easier to digest the food and hence better the food for weight loss.

Typically, the protein present in most vegan foods is of poor quality and hence a measure of quality of protein present in these grains would be a good measure of the grain. Fibres are differentiated as soluble and insoluble fibre but both are important for the body. Fibre helps us in many ways one of which is achieving natural weight loss as they make us feel fuller and reduce our need to eat more.

Most grains do not have much fat in them and those which do have do not have the (really bad) trans fats and (not so good) saturated fat in them. So let us look at the numbers, the winner and the reason.

Grains Calories Carbs GL Protein Protein Quality Fibre Fat ND Score Total Score
Oat Bran

246

66

16

17

86

15

7

56

243

Rye

335

70

33

15

80

15

3

47

214

Whole wheat Floor

339

73

36

14

54

12

2

48

207

Oats (Rolled)

379

69

39

13

95

10

7

42

201

Buckwheat

343

71

37

13

99

10

3

41

201

Quinoa

368

64

36

14

106

7

6

45

201

Barley

352

78

40

10

73

16

1

36

198

Teff

367

73

43

13

55

8

2

48

195

Millet

378

73

44

11

38

8

4

37

182

Corn

86

19

7

3

83

3

1

57

175

Brown Rice

370

77

53

8

75

4

3

32

169

Sorghum

339

75

47

11

40

6

3

25

166

Source: nutritiondata.self.com (all nutritent data in grams. For more click on the name links of each grain. GL – Glycemic Load, ND Score – Nutritional Data Completeness Score).

The best Grain in the world is..

Oat Bran

The Awesome Oat Bran

Oat Bran comes out the winner by a distance. If you look at the table, you can see that even though rolled oats is a version of oats it is nowhere close to oat bran at the finish line. While it is easily available in the most parts of the world, it is not as famous and readily available as rolled oats. So next time you go shopping make sure you ask for one of these.

While Rye and Wholewheat does take the distant second and third spots they are gluten based products. Given that there is a lot of research recommending reducing or removing gluten from our plates I would not be recommend them (or even barley). Given this, my top picks are Oats Bran, Buckwheat and Quinoa but it does not mean that the other grains are bad or not worth consuming. We can consume most of the above grains but point to note is that most grains get cooked and the impact of cooking will adversely affect grain nutrition and typically result in significant reduction in fibre and protein content.

Based on the comparison, the top picks are Oats Bran, Buckwheat and Quinoa. However, it does not mean that the other grains are not worth consuming.

I did look into the micro nutrient profile of the grains and it was as impressive as macro nutrients esp. for their vitamin content. Most of the grains did not have any vitamins in significant proportion and hence I thought it was not worth the effort to post it online (However you can download excel version of all the data and scoring here). The grains did have some decent amount of minerals in them and below is how each stack up.

Grains

Ca

Fe

Mg

Ph

K

Na

Zn

Cu

Mn

Barley

29

2.5

79

221

280

9

2.1

0.4

1.3

Brown Rice

23

1.5

143

333

223

7

2

0.3

3.7

Buckwheat

18

2.2

231

347

460

1

2.4

1.1

1.3

Corn

2

0.5

37

89

270

15

0.5

0.1

0.2

Millet

8

4

114

285

195

5

1.7

0.7

1.6

Oat Bran

58

5.4

235

734

566

4.1

3.1

0.4

5.6

Oats (Rolled)

52

4.3

138

410

362

6

3.6

0.4

3.6

Quinoa

47

4.6

197

457

563

5

3.1

0.6

2

Rye

33

2.7

121

374

268

6

3.7

0.5

2.7

Sorghum

28

4.4

0

287

350

6

0

0

0

Teff

180

7.6

184

429

427

12

3.6

0.8

9.2

Wholewheat Floor

34

3.9

138

346

405

5

2.9

0.4

3.8

Source: nutritiondata.self.com ( All mineral are denoted by respective periodic table symbols & all nutritent data in milligrams. For more click on the name links of each grain in the above table.)

Verdict

Grains currently take up the elephant’s share in our plate. The best grains are whole grains with reduced glycemic load and very good dose of protein and fibre. Such whole grains help us feel fuller for longer and reduce our craving to eating more and indirectly and naturally help in excess weight loss. Oat Bran, Buckwheat and Quinoa came out as the best grains in the comparison.

However, grains are not the best source for micronutrients primarily vitamins and hence there are number of studies which suggest reducing the amount of grain intake and increase vegetable portion in our plates. Vegetables not only provide us with all essential macro nutrients, they are also much richer source of micronutrients i.e. vitamins and minerals. Given that most of them have lesser calories we can in fact consume more of them. The main thing we need to do is to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.

Why and how to become a Vegetarian?

Below 3 videos should give more reasons and ideas than a big 1000 words article on why and how to become a vegetarian.

 

 

#1. 30 Reasons to Go Vegetarian

There are numerous reasons to go vegetarian but listing them in order of importance is key. This video does exactly that – lists a number of reasons most of which are related to your health. Some of the visuals might be disturbing, so do take care (but then this might just be what is needed to inspire/force one to go vegetarian).

 

 

#2. Get connected, go Green

If these reasons are not good enough? want something which has a bigger cause? If yes, then here it is. In this time of high global consumption we need to revisit our consumption habits to help this earth sustain itself. Here is how going vegetarian helps immensely for that cause.

 

 

#3. Tough getting vegetarian? Try weekday Veg

Yes, if you have been a non vegetarian all your life and if its overwhelming to leave all of your favorite non-vegetarian dishes at once then Graham Hill, founder of treehugger.com has a powerful, pragmatic suggestion – Be a weekday vegetarian.

 

 

Work out BMI (Body Mass Index)

This article gives a brief about Body Mass Index (BMI), why you need to know it and best websites where you can work out BMI.

What is BMI?

Weight of a person alone cannot determine if the person is overweight or not. It has to be considered in relation to his/her body size, percentage of body fat and so on. Body Mass Index (BMI) is one such simple index or a calculated number which gives an idea of person’s weight with respect to his height.  Body Mass Index is not the most accurate indicator by any means as it doesn’t consider body fat but however it does give a fair picture of whether the person is obese, overweight or underweight. As per its original definition, it is person’s weight divided by square of person’s height. You can work out BMI of your body using one of the links given in the “work out BMI” section of this article below.



Why should I work out my BMI?

As mentioned above it gives a simple and easy picture of whether you are overweight, underweight or obese.  Knowing your BMI will help you know where you stand with respect to average optimal weight for your height and then start devising plans to achieve that optimal weight. Before you jump ahead with any hard core diet plans and/or paid weight loss programs, do understand the limitations of BMI mentioned in the section below.

BMI value and its category

Typically there is a scale which will tell you whether you are underweight, overweight or obese based on your BMI. The most common scale used is listed in the below table.

What is your BMI means?

Category BMI
Severely underweight =< 16.4
Underweight 16.5 – 18.4
Normal 18.5 – 24.9
Overweight 25.0 – 29.9
Obese Class 1 30.0 – 34.9
Obese Class 2 35.0 – 39.9
Obese Class 3 =>  40.0

There are other less common versions of these tables esp. used in Asian countries like Japan and Singapore. If you are from any of these region you might want to refer to them. For more information on those tables please visit Wikipedia link given below.

 

Work out BMI

The formula to calculate BMI is so simple that you can do it using a calculator or on a piece of paper (if your maths is good). However to make life easier there are few good sites which gives an easy interface to enter our weight and height (in any of different units of measure) and work out our BMI. I have listed 3 of the easiest websites which provide a nice interface to work out BMI.

  • nhs.co.uk – Provides a nice and easy way to know our BMI. Takes more inputs than normally required. The interface also provides options to enter details in any of different units.
  • Cdc.gov – This site provides a BMI calculator for children.

Limitations of BMI and things to watch out for

As mentioned before, BMI is not accurate and might not give the full picture of health of person. Hence it is good not to trust this number entirely. This is very much the case esp. if the BMI is calculated for an athlete or an elderly person or young kid. Also irrespective of the number suggested by BMI you also have a fair idea of how good your body is, for example my BMI comes around 26 which put me into overweight category but I am one of the fastest runners in my running club which has a mix of lean and fit blokes. If you are  in any doubt about whether you are overweight or not then its right to consult your doctor or a good dietician for advice. This is a prudent step before you jump into to full fledged dieting just based on your BMI.

 

More on BMI

If you are keen to know more on BMI, the science and history behind it and more below are few links which has very detailed information about various aspects of BMI.

  1. Wikipedia – A site with lot of information about BMI

  2. Centers for disease control – This has information for BMI and information for BMI for children

  3. Healthline.com – Another place to know more about BMI

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

When we go travelling we automatically do something very naturally. To access where we want to go we always start from where we are and then think about our best ways to get to our destinations and how much effort and time it requires. This applies to weight loss efforts as well but seldom most of us follow. For us to lose weight we need to know and understand situation of our body, what is its current energy requirement and then we can choose the correct attainable destination (read ideal weight) and also the best way to get there. The starting point in understanding situation of our body is to know your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

What is Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)?

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the minimum amount of energy you need for normal functioning of your body, if you did nothing all day. Basal Metabolic Rate is usually measured and expressed in KCal popularly known as Calories. This is the energy needed for functioning of vital organs like heart, lungs, kidneys, nervous systems and other key organs and does not consider any energy requirement in addition to it. All extra activities you do will require additional energy which is on top of this metabolic basal rate commonly known as Active Metabolic Rate (AMR). BMI is closely related to Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) which is the minimum energy needed for the body in resting condition (Metabolic Basal Rate is calculated under more stringent, restrictive conditions). Though Metabolic Basal Rate is more popular Resting Metabolic Rate is more relevant for our need.

Though both BMR and RMR can only be calculated with lot of equipments under lab conditions, they can also be approximately arrived using some of the key aspects of our body. Our total daily energy need is further calculated by considering energy needed for all other activities (AMR) we will be doing on a 24 hour day period and adding BMR/RMR value to it.

What does Metabolic Basal Rate depend on?

Metabolic Basal Rate contributes 70-75% of total calories used by the body. However this number is dependent on various other factors. Hence this is the major factor which will help determine the amount of calories needed for you to maintain, loose or gain weight. The key parameters which influence are as below.

  • Gender – Men due to their physique tend to require more energy. This is due to higher percentage of muscle in men as compared to women.
  • Age – BMR reduces (in very small percetages) as the age increases.
  • Weight – BMR is proportional to weight of the person. This extra need for energy is due to that added effort for each organ to do the same task.
  • Body – The person's physique is also a contributor for BMR. The bigger the body more energy is needed for an organ to do the same task.
  • Body Fat – The fat content of the body negetively influence BMR. This means that more the fat lesser the BMR. This is because the muscles tend to consume more calories than fat and hence hight the fat (i.e lower the muscle) lesser the BMR.
  • Others – Temperatures (both internal and external), Thyroxin produced by thyroid glands, genetics of the person influence BMR, at times greatly.

 

How to calculate Metabolic Basal Rate?

For the purpose of weight loss we need to get an idea of our BMR and there are few methods using which you can calculate it. Some methods are simple and easy but gives only an approximate idea where as others are more detailed and more accurate but require more inputs. For accurate calculations Lean Body Mass (LBM) of your body has to be taken into consideration as it gives very accurate picture of calories needed. So all the methods mentioned below which don't consider LBM into account will only give an approximate value but it is good enough for most people (except if you are an athlete). The below section gives some selected web resources where you can calculate your own BMR.

In the simplest (and the crudest) method of all, BMR is calculated as a direct multiplication of person's weight (pounds) with approximate energy needed for each pound of weight. Typically we need 10-15 calories per pound of our weight. So BMR of a person weighing 150 pounds will be 1500 Calories (150 * 10). Main drawback of this method is that it doesn’t take into account of activity levels of the person and hence might miscalculate the BMR value (which could be way off target for very active people or athletes). However there are few simple methods which do take into account of activity levels. Below is a list of simple BMR calculators (in the order of their complexities, first being the simplest).

  • Discovery.com – Very simple and easy BMR calculator which takes into account of your age, height, weight and gender.
  • About.com – This calculator takes into account of person's lifestyle (i.e. activity levels) along with above basic factors.
  • PreventDisease.com – This calculator not only calculates the BMR but also gives you option to enter amount of time you spend on each different activity we typical do on daily basis. This give you a better idea of how much total calories you need on daily basis.

(The last link appears to be most accurate as it considers all different activities of your day)

 

More about Metabolic Basal Rate Calculations

The above consolidated material is good enough for any average person who wants to know about Metabolic Basal Rate before kick starting his/her weight loss/gain program. However if you are still keen to know more about what is the science behind the calculations and other in-depth knowledge please visit be ShapeFit.com.

Closing Note

Metabolic Basal Rate is the correct starting point for your weight loss (or gain) journey. It is easy to get tempted by crowd pulling headline articles like "Loose 10 pounds in 10 days" or "Loose 5 Pounds now" and start following them without checking if such a bold claim can be applicable to your case or not. In most cases it leads to disappointment as all these claims are generic claims and don’t apply to everyone. If you have still not calculated your BMR then go ahead and calculate using the above links. Once that is done the next step is to find out your Body Mass Index (BMI) to know in if you are overweight (if yes, what is the danger level) or not and so on. Once you know these two numbers you can sit and choose your weight loss targets and time periods to achieve them.