Fish Oil: An Environmental Concern

Tomorrow is Friday, and I have to get up at 3:45 am to catch a flight, so this is going to be short. But, it will be informative and interesting, too...

One of my most dedicated readers (who also happens to be my dad) sent me a recent article from Time magazine on fish oil. And tonight in my Nutrients class, I had to present "Nutrition in the News," so I presented this fish oil article. Here are some highlights:

- Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to decrease risk or symptoms of many ailments, including heart disease, Alzheimers and depression

- The market for omega-3s has doubled since 2006 and is now at $1 billion

- However, this new demand may be threatening our ecosystem

- The best source of omega-3s are the oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines

- These fish feed on menhaden, which are smaller fish who eat algae; the algae is what contains the large amounts of fatty acids; when these fish feed on algae, the waters are cleaned and stay healthy and thrive

- When fish oil companies fish off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, underwater "dead zones" are created because there are no fish to feed on the algae

- 13 of the 15 Atlantic states have banned certain fish oil companies from fishing their waters

- One solution to the problem is to produce omega-3 fatty acid supplements directly from the algae, which is full of the fatty acids, rather than from the fish - this is something being explored right now

I found this article very interesting. Fish oil supplements are such a big thing now. Many people take them and don't even know why, they just know that everyone else is doing it so they should too. Besides interfering with the ecosystem, another repercussion of fish oil's newfound popularity is very low quality supplements being produced. Remember the rule of thumb with supplements: you get what you pay for. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Send me an e-mail (annpierce09@gmail.com) if you have questions about which supplement brands are best to try for fish oil!

Have a great weekend everyone!


Breakfast is even more important than the lunches I talked about yesterday. All the old sayings are true – it really is the most important meal of the day, and you really should eat “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”

If you are someone who gets hungry mid-morning, craves sweet things throughout the day, or feels drowsy around 2:00 pm, you may not be getting enough protein at breakfast. I aim for 20 grams of protein with each breakfast, and that lasts me a full four hours easily. It was an adjustment at first, because I wasn’t used to eating large breakfasts, but now I depend on it. Breakfast can set the tone for the rest of your day – what you crave, what you choose to eat, your energy levels, motivation and mood.

Some ideas for high-protein breakfasts:

• Plain yogurt topped with nuts, berries, kiwi, banana, raw honey, cinnamon (1 cup of plain lowfat Greek yogurt has 19 grams of protein)

• 2-3 eggs, hard-boiled, fried, scrambled (1 egg has about 6 grams) and topped with veggies and/or a little cheese

• Any type of meat, added to eggs, on a piece of toast, or plain with some sautéed veggies

• Protein shakes work well when you’re in a hurry, but make sure you are using a high quality protein powder that is not too sugary

• Whole grain toast with a nut or seed butter (almonds, cashews and pumpkin seeds are very high in protein; walnuts and chestnuts are lower)

• Smoothie with fresh veggies, banana, nuts, flax powder, yogurt, milk, etc. – make sure you aren’t just doing a fruit or fruit & veggie smoothie, because the sugars in the fruit will be metabolized very quickly and you’ll feel hungry again sooner - add some fat and protein to keep you full

Gluten-free grain hot cereal – each of these grains contains protein, and this cereal keeps you extremely full all morning long

As I said with homemade lunches, homemade breakfasts take some effort. You can do some prep work the night before when you’re making your lunch – boil an extra couple of eggs to grab for breakfast, or pack your blender and put it in the fridge so in the morning you just have to turn it on. Try increasing the protein in your breakfast and see how you feel all morning. I really am amazed at how much more focused I am when I eat a nutritious breakfast, and I don’t even think about food again until lunchtime.

Some breakfast foods to avoid:

• Pastries and donuts (especially for children or if you are someone who craves sweets and/or reacts to sugar)

• Too much caffeine – a cup or two of coffee are sometimes necessary but try to choose tea some mornings

• Fruit juices – they are fine in smoothies and in moderation, but a huge glass of juice each morning is a big dose of sugar; for kids, I recommend skipping the juice altogether and giving them fresh fruit and water or milk

• Boxed cereals – some of the high-fiber and high-protein cereals are fine, but check the sugar content. You may be surprised.


Ideas for Homemade Lunches

Yesterday, I blogged 10 (of many) reasons why I think it is important to make your own lunch for work every day, instead of eating out. (Please note the correction to the first reason I listed: I meant to say it’s $15-$25/week to make your own lunch, NOT $50-$25/week).

The first and most important step is committing to do this. If you currently eat out every day, start with a realistic goal of making your lunch twice a week. Even that will make a big difference in your health and your bank account.Once you commit, you need to figure out the best time to make it. Or, delegate the work. During my college years I spent my summers at home working at a printing company (best job ever!). My dad and I would take turns making lunches: sometimes I had to make two, but other times he’d make both. It was a good system and saved us both time. Anyway, figure out what will work at your house. If you have kids, you may have them help out. You can form an assembly line or assign them one task while you do the rest.

If your kids are resistant to bringing their own lunch, try setting up a system where they get to pick one day each week to buy school lunch, and the other four they will bring a homemade lunch. That way they won’t feel deprived, and they can get exciting about looking at the lunch menu and choosing their favorite meals.

What to pack?

The first thing I think about is the protein. Some ideas include:

• Leftover dinner (steak, chicken, beans and rice, salmon, spaghetti, etc.)

• Hard boiled eggs - these are always good to have on hand – just boil 6 eggs as soon as you get a new carton, and use them for quick breakfasts, lunches or snacks; egg salad is great too – Ed has an awesome recipe that he has perfected over the past year and a half, perhaps he’ll guest blog about it soon (HINT HINT Ed!)

• Nut butter (or, sunflower butter!), either on whole wheat bread with honey or banana, or in a tupperware with a side of veggies or apples for dipping

• Sandwich or wrap with any of the following (get creative with what you have – you may be surprised at how good it tastes!): smoked salmon (one of our favorites), turkey, ham, salami, chicken, beef, kale, tomato, onions, sweet potato, cabbage, cheese, cream cheese, goat cheese, stone ground mustard, etc.

• Brown rice or quinoa, topped with chopped almonds, some veggies, maybe some meat if you have it, and a little soy sauce

• Yogurt or cottage cheese topped with nuts, seeds, fruit, etc.

2 things I include in every lunch:

• Fresh veggies

• Fresh fruit (a little something raw is always good to start a meal off with so your digestive enzymes get a head start)

And of course, many people like to have “a little crunch” with their meals:

• Mixed raw nuts

• Rice or seed crackers

• Sunflower or pumpkin seeds

• Apple or banana chips

• Hummus with veggies

I usually shop the bulk isle of Whole Foods and buy whatever nuts, seeds or dried fruits are on sale, and make my own “trail mix”. This week it is raw cashews, pecans, raw almonds, and goji berries. Homemade trail mix makes a great afternoon snack as well.

Now for the packaging... with bags like the ones below available at so many different stores, I don’t know why you’d ever need to invest in brown lunch bags again. Use tupperware whenever possible. Plastic bags are easiest and we use plenty of them at our house.

A quick list of things to try to avoid: frozen meals (they are very processed); sugary yogurts and puddings; Lunchables or other pre-made items; and sodas or juice boxes (water or milk is better).

So is anyone going to make a small change in their daily lunch routine? Even just one day per week? I hope so. Keep in mind that most lunches can sit in your office fridge for at least a night. So, if your coworkers suddenly decide to go out and you’d like to join them, just save your homemade lunch for the next day. Don’t use your unpredictable schedule as an excuse not to make your lunch.

Good luck! Tomorrow: homemade breakfasts! They’re even MORE important than homemade lunches!


10 Reasons Why Everyone Should Bring Homemade Lunches

10. It will save you money (about $50-$25/week to bring a homemade lunch; about $35-$60/week to eat lunch out).

9. It allows you to eat lunch in 20 minutes instead of 1 hour, which means you get home earlier at night and/or get more accomplished during your workday.

8. You will avoid temptations associated with eating out: fried foods, soda or other sugary drinks, unhealthy salad dressings, etc.

7. You are in control of what you eat – making your own lunch allows you to avoid processed foods or other things you may not normally choose to eat.

6. You have the option to eat at your desk if you’re really busy (I don’t necessarily think this should become a habit, but it can be convenient at times).

5. If you can get away for 20 minutes, you can spend the time eating and reading something you enjoy, such as the newspaper or your favorite blog.

4. Option of eating lunch and spending the rest of your lunch hour walking outside to get some exercise and fresh air.

3. Imitate those who are fit and healthy. I guarantee if you look around your office, the healthiest people are those who bring their own lunch.

2. Save your extra cash for good restaurants with higher quality food – don’t spend it on something you won’t fully enjoy and appreciate.

1. You will be teaching your kids the importance of living on a budget, appreciating different food groups and food preparation, and taking control of their health.

A PWN reader asked me to blog about lunches. To me, making your own lunch is so important for overall health and balance. It takes some time and some planning. But, I think it’s worth it.

I usually make the lunches at our house. It just works out that way – Ed works full time and I work part-time and am a student, so my flexible schedule allows for me to be in charge of most meal planning and preparation. Sometimes Ed makes lunches though. It is important to both of us that we eat healthy, and we have realized how much money we save by making our own meals, so we put in the effort whenever possible. Of course there are some days when the lunches don’t get made and you have to settle for eating out. But I encourage you to make homemade lunches a priority in your household – for kids and adults.

Experiment with different procedures for lunch-making. I get up early and make breakfast and lunches at the same time. My dad likes to have his ready to go the night before. He makes it immediately after dinner while the kitchen is still “open”, and that way he can sleep in a little longer in the morning. My little sister tends to get ultra-creative and doesn’t even let her college student bare cabinets prevent her from making a lunch. Some people just regularly bring leftovers from dinner the night before.

If you don’t normally make your own lunch, it can be an adjustment. But it gets easier the more often you do it – sort of becomes routine. You start to get so familiar with lunch-making that you can do it quickly and without much thought.

Tomorrow I’ll provide some ideas for quick and easy lunches!