TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Tips for Keeping Off the Weekend Weight

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Choosing protein-packed foods can help you stay on track

Around the holidays, weekends are always jam-packed with opportunities to eat, drink, and be merry. Of course, it’s the most wonderful time of year (you should enjoy yourself), but if you’re not careful with your choices, weekend splurges can really add up and wreak havoc on your health and your waistline.

Even though festive holiday get-togethers might be the perfect excuse to let loose, you probably don’t want your healthy habits to fall by the wayside all together. I mean, no one wants to ring in the new year a few pounds heavier, right?

Here are five tips to keep in mind when you’re enjoying yourself during the weekends around the holidays.

Aim to maintain, not lose weight

The holidays are a time to relax and enjoy quality time with family and friends, so putting pressure on yourself to lose weight can potentially stress you out and lead to emotional eating—neither of which will make you feel very festive. Instead of making your goal to lose weight this holiday season, take a more realistic approach and aim to simply maintain your weight. That way, when Friday evening rolls around, you can enjoy yourself, but not overdo it either. You’ll feel much better about yourself when Monday morning arrives.

HEALTH.COM: 11 Ways to Stay Slim Through the Holiday Season

Eat breakfast and lunch (and maybe dinner too)

It might sound a little counterintuitive to eat before a holiday event, but sticking to your normal meal schedule will help you make smarter decisions when it comes to what you eat and drink. During mealtime, be sure to choose foods that are high in protein to keep you satisfied and your blood sugar steady. It’s tough to resist such delicious holiday fare when you’re hungry or experiencing crazy cravings, so be sure to fill up on healthy, high-quality foods before your next holiday soiree.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Filling Foods That Help You Lose Weight

Choose your calories wisely

The food and drinks at your next holiday gathering will likely include many of your favorites, so making a decision about what to enjoy might be difficult. Instead of wasting your calories on the same-old, same-old, like cheese and crackers or chips and salsa, save them for the best of the season. I’m talking bacon-wrapped dates and sugared gingerbread cookies! You want to make sure your splurges are worth it, so choose your calories wisely.

HEALTH.COM: How to Burn Off 24 Holiday Foods

Enjoy a true splurge

Whether it’s a second cocktail or a slice of warm pecan pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, allow yourself to enjoy one true splurge each weekend. Having an indulgence like this to look forward to will help you make better choices when it comes to the rest of your eating and drinking decisions. You’re less likely to go overboard if you know you have a splurge coming to you. Plus, if you plan your special indulgence at a time when you’re around loved ones, it will make it that much more enjoyable—and isn’t that what the holiday season is all about?

HEALTH.COM: 20 Habits That Make Holiday Stress Worse

Use Sunday to get back on track

If you lived it up on Friday and Saturday night, use Sunday as the day to get back to your healthy habits. Start your morning with a healthy breakfast and a heart-pumping workout. Then, prepare some nutritious and satisfying foods for the upcoming week, such as overnight oatmeal for breakfast and hard-boiled eggs as a protein-packed snack. And, finally, plan out the rest of your workouts for the week by scheduling them into your calendar like appointments that you can’t miss. Getting yourself organized on Sunday sets you up for a healthy week ahead.

HEALTH.COM: 5 Ways to Prep Healthy Breakfasts Ahead of Time

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Ways to Prep Healthy Breakfasts Ahead of Time

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Smoothies, eggs and (more with almost no effort)

Do your weekday mornings feel like a mad rush? Yeah, us too. Wake up, work out (sometimes), shower, dress, get the kids ready…oh, and have a balanced, healthy breakfast, too.

Sound crazy? It is possible, but to me, the only way to have even a shot at it is to do some advance prep. Don’t worry, we’re not going to crowd up your nights: a bit of easy work either on Sunday or during the week can set you up with nourishing breakfasts for days.

Try these 5 make-ahead tricks.

Hard-boiled eggs

Sure, eggs can make a quick breakfast—but sometimes even the 5 minutes it takes to make a scramble is too long. Instead, cook up a dozen eggs on Sunday and keep them in the fridge all week. Be careful to avoid overcooking the eggs; that leads to rubbery whites and that icky ring around the overcooked yolk. Luckily, perfect hard-boiled eggs are easy to make.

HEALTH.COM: How to Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs With a Spoon

Mini frittatas

If you’re looking for something jazzier than plain eggs, try baking up mini frittatas in a muffin tin. You can mix in chopped, cooked vegetables, cheese, herbs—anything you like. You can even make a variety within the same batch to please different family members. Take them out of the pan and store in a covered container in the fridge, then heat up one or two each morning.

Quality grains

Oatmeal is the king of breakfast grains, but other whole grains can make delicious hot cereals, too. Make it super-easy by prepping a big batch of a grain on Sunday. Store it covered in the fridge all week, and take out ½ cup to 1 cup at a time to whip up something quick. (Quinoa, brown rice, and millet work especially well.)

Warm it on the stove mixed with some milk (dairy, almond or coconut), cinnamon, and a little maple syrup, then top with a chopped apple or sliced banana. Heartier and lower in sugar than instant oatmeal, and way more interesting. Bonus: Those pre-made grains can help you put together a quick dinner, too. Can’t imagine anything other than oatmeal in the a.m.? Overnight oats and baked oatmeal are great options.

HEALTH.COM: Oatmeal Recipes for Every Day of the Week

Pre-measured smoothies

Smoothies are a fantastic quick breakfast, and all you have to do is toss everything in a blender, right? Well, even that can take up precious time in the morning. Make them lightning-fast by pre-prepping. Measure out your frozen fruits and vegetables and store in a plastic bag—just make a different one for each day. I tend to make my own mix of add-ins instead of using pre-made protein powder, so I prep that in advance, too (I use 2 Tbsp. hemp seeds, a small scoop of maca powder, a tsp. of cinnamon and sometimes 1 to 2 Tbsp. raw cacao, if I need a chocolate fix). In the morning, toss one fruit-vegetable mix, one powder mix, and some water or milk in the blender, blend and go.

Leftovers

Breakfast doesn’t have to mean traditional breakfast food. Make a few extra portions of dinner, keep it in the fridge, and warm it up in the morning. I’ve done this with my spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs, salads (store the salad and dressing separately so it doesn’t get soggy), soups and stews, and casseroles. Even a fruit crumble—have it with a dollop of plain yogurt instead of ice cream, and suddenly it’s breakfast.

HEALTH.COM: The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s What Low-Carb Diets Do to Your Heart

The glycemic index distinguishes carbohydrates by how much they raise blood sugar, but the latest study shows it may not matter in lowering the risk of heart problems

We’re accustomed to thinking about the yin and yang of a lot of foods, from fats to carbs. But in the latest report in JAMA on carbohydrate-focused diets, researchers found that the type of carbs may not matter in lowering risk of heart disease.

Dr. Frank Sacks and his colleagues conducted a study involving 163 overweight or obese participants who followed four different diets, for five weeks each, for a total of 20 weeks. Previous studies have linked low-carbohydrate diets to a lower risk of overweight and obesity and lower risk of heart disease, but Sacks wanted to test whether it was simply reducing carbohydrates that helped the heart, or whether being vigilant about what types of carbohydrates dieters ate would make a difference.

Some studies have suggested that carbs with a low glycemic index—such as whole grains—led to fewer spikes in blood sugar, and therefore more efficient breakdown into energy, while higher glycemic index foods—including refined flours—led to larger peaks in glucose that the body couldn’t process and therefore stored as fat.

So two of the diets in the study were high in carbs overall, but one was made up of low-glycemic-index foods while the other was composed of high-glycemic-index foods. The other two diets were low in carbs overall, with the same breakdown or low- and high-glycemic items.

“What we were thinking was that the glycemic index of the carbs would be more impactful if the total amount of carbohydrates was higher,” says Sacks. “But what we found was against what we thought originally. The low glycemic index did not improve any of the things we measured.”

In fact, among those eating the high-carb diets, those consuming low-glycemic-index foods had worse insulin response and higher LDL cholesterol. Among dieters eating the low-carb diets, the high v. low glycemic index foods did not make a difference in insulin response, blood pressure, LDL or HDL cholesterol levels.

Overall, those eating the low-carb diets had lower risk factors for heart disease compared to the group eating more carbohydrates, but the type of carbs didn’t seem to make much difference. “We confirmed previous studies that showed reducing carbs is good, but we did not show that the glycemic index of the carb really had any favorable effect,” says Sacks.

That suggests that all the attention to knowing the glycemic index of various foods—and basing your eating habits on these numbers—may not be worth the effort. While bananas may have a high glycemic index compared to an apple, for example, always choosing the apple over the banana may not lead to benefits for the heart. That’s because glycemic index is only one aspect of how we break down and metabolize food; bananas are also high in potassium and fiber, which have been linked to lowering risk of heart disease.

“Consumers should just look at the food, and not worry whether it has a low glycemic index or a high glycemic index,” says Sacks. “If it’s a fruit or vegetable, or a whole grain, then it’s fine.” He also notes that glycemic index isn’t a set characteristic of a food; it’s how an individual person’s body processes the food so it may vary considerably among different people.

People with diabetes have more trouble breaking down sugar from carbs, so it may help them to avoid foods that cause peaks of blood sugar. But for the rest of us, when it comes to eating to keep your heart healthy, it’s more important to eat healthy whole foods like fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, rather than trying to rank individual fruits, for example, by their glycemic index.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Tricks to Get More From Your Fitness Tracker

The Jawbone UP3, on sale in early 2015, will incorporate heart rate monitoring. Jawbone

You won't get healthier just by strapping on the new Jawbone. You need to learn how to game the system too

If you’re counting on using a new fitness tracker from Jawbone, Fitbit, Microsoft or the like to help get in shape for 2015, you may want to adjust your expectations: “We don’t know whether or not these devices really make people more active or healthier,” says Glenn Gaesser, an Arizona State University professor and Director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center. “There really is no evidence.” Still, even as some people complain of gaining unwanted weight after they started wearing a fitness tracker, many more say their gadgets are just what they need to move around more—and when you consider many Americans spend upwards of seven or eight hours a day on their tush, that’s a very good thing.

But since the devices are not a fast-track to fitness all on their own, we asked experts for tips on how to make the most of them—despite their shortcomings:

1. Assume at least a 10% margin of error for calories burned.

A recent Iowa State University study found that trackers’ calorie-burn estimates were off by 10-15%, on average. Anyone who wants to lose weight would be wise to assume that trackers are overestimating their efforts, suggests Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic. “You only need to consume an extra 500 calories a day to gain a pound a week,” she warns, so it’s smart to err on the side of caution.

2. Realize that calorie-burn estimates can be completely off. Enter them yourself.

Unless your tracker includes a built-in heart-rate monitor (like the Microsoft Band, Jawbone UP3 and Basis Peak), it will grossly underestimate how many calories you burn during many activities, including biking, weight training and yoga, because its built-in accelerometer can’t as readily detect the movement. A 2013 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that trackers underestimate energy expenditure from cycling, for example, by up to 55%. “They don’t work as well on resistance exercises,” says the study’s co-author Ray Browning of Colorado State University. Even bands with heart rate monitors are imperfect because they don’t perfectly capture your radial pulse, especially during intense exercise when you are moving your wrist a lot.

3. The buddy system can be a double-edged sword.

Jawbone reports that its users who have at least 3 “teammates” with whom they share their activity data take 1,000 steps per day more than those who don’t. Fitbit, meanwhile, claims that users with at least one friend on their system take 27% more steps. Fitbit friends can also take challenges such as the “Work Week Hussle”—which tracks your steps for a week and awards a virtual trophy to the winner. But Colorado State researcher Browning points out that the motivating effect from being part of a group only works when you’re winning. As an alternative, consider setting short-term goals that build on your own baseline activity level instead. An increase of 20%, for example, is a good start.

4. It’s still on you to follow through.

An activity tracker can be fun to play around with for a few months. But it’s easy to get bored, take it off your wrist and never pick it up again. Ultimately, your motivation must come from within. “These devices get you thinking about [fitness], but in the end, it’s your decision,” says John Jakicic, Director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at University of Pittsburgh.

5. It’s not all about structured exercise.

Trackers may be the best way to quantify how much energy you spend on routine activities like puttering around the house or taking out the garbage—movement that can be as, or more, important for overall health than formal exercise. “Getting up and moving the rest of the day is better for you than just exercising once a day and being sedentary the rest of the time,” says University of Pittsburgh’s Jakicic. Do enough of these activities, and you may be surprised to see how it all adds up—no marathon-running required.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Most Kids Don’t Eat Three Meals A Day, Study Says

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Kids get 42% of their calories from snacks

Eating three square meals a day is the oldest nutrition advice in the book, and some of the most important for staying healthy. But new research shows that children are snacking instead of eating three meals a day on a regular basis, a habit that could be contributing to overweight and obesity and putting them at risk of heart disease later in life.

In a series of reports published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the International Journal of Obesity and the European Journal of Nutrition, Aino-Maija Eloranta, a PhD candidate at the Institute of Biomedicine and Physiology at the University of Eastern Finland, and her colleagues followed a group of 512 boys and girls enrolled in the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study. The children, ages 6-8, and their parents reported what the kids ate and drank for four days. The researchers also measured their body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and insulin levels.

MORE: 7 Eating Habits You Should Drop Now

About 45% of the boys and 34% of girls in the study ate all three meals, meaning a majority of them did not. The most-skipped meal was dinner. “That was a surprise,” says Eloranta. “Among older children, adolescents and even adults, breakfast is the one that is skipped.”

Skipping dinner can have major implications for children’s health, she says, since it’s traditionally the most calorie- and nutrient-rich meal, giving growing children the energy they need to develop. In fact, the children who ate three meals a day had smaller waist circumferences and a 63% lower risk of being overweight or obese than those who skipped some of the major meals.

MORE: 5 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Breakfast

The scientists also found that among all kids, snacks provided as much as 42% of the children’s daily calories. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, says Eloranta, except that most snacks are high in sugar and low in healthy nutrients like fiber. On average, the children consumed more saturated fat (which has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease) and salt and ate less vitamin D, iron and fiber than guidelines recommend.

MORE: Alice Waters: The Fate of Our Nation Rests on School Lunches

Eloranta did find one positive trend: lunch. Because lunch was provided at school, it was lower in sugar and higher in nutrients and healthier fats than the kids’ other meals on average. This suggests that one of the best ways to help children maintain healthy weights and avoid heart problems later might be to give them three meals a day. “Maybe we don’t have to worry about single nutrients or single foods [like sugar or fat] that much,” she says. “When you eat meals, you automatically receive the good nutrients.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

7 Eating Habits You Should Drop Now

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These food faux pas are holding you back

In my one-on-one work with clients, there’s a dual focus: I help them adopt a healthy new eating regimen, but in order for new patterns to stick, we also have to zero in on unhealthy habits that tend to keep them stuck. If you’ve ever uttered the phrase, “I know what I need to do, but I just can’t seem to do it!” my bet is lingering detrimental habits are the culprit.

Here are seven that come up often, and why breaking them may just be the final solution to achieving weight-loss results that last!

Drinking too often

For most of my clients, drinking alcohol has a domino effect. After one drink, their inhibitions are lowered and their appetite spikes. That combo—in addition to the extra calories in the cocktails themselves—results in consuming hundreds of surplus calories. And it happens more often than they realize, because most people underestimate how much they drink until they begin keeping a food diary. The good news is when they consciously cut back, they drop weight like a hot potato. If you think you may be in the same boat, become a teetotaler for a 30 days, or commit to limiting alcohol in specific ways, such as only drinking one night per week, and a setting a max of two drinks. The results can be dramatic. For more info check out my previous post 6 Ways to Handle Alcohol If You’re Trying to Lose Weight.

RELATED: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

Eating “diet” foods

I loathe “diet” foods. First, they’re usually packed with lots of unwanted additives and impossible-to-pronounce ingredients. And let’s face it, they’re just not filling or satisfying. Dozens and dozens of clients have told me that after eating a frozen diet entrée, bar, or dessert, they were left with lingering hunger and thoughts of food, which led to nibbling on other foods—grabbing a jar of almond butter and a spoon, a handful or cereal, or a second (or third) “diet” product. As a result, they wind up taking in far more calories than they would have if they had prepared a healthy, satisfying meal. And here’s the kicker: a 2010 study found that we burn about 50% more calories metabolizing whole foods versus processed foods. This is likely why I’ve seen clients break a weight loss plateau when they ditch diet foods, and start eating more calories from fresh, whole foods. Are you in? Dump those diet products, check out my post called What Is Clean Eating? and make a fresh start for 2015.

RELATED: 9 Low-Fat Foods You Shouldn’t Eat

Overeating healthy foods

I’m over the moon when clients fall in love with healthy fare like veggies, lentils, avocado, and whole grains. The only sticking point is they sometimes eat too much. I recall one client who swapped fast food breakfast sandwiches for oatmeal, which was fantastic. But his oatmeal portion was too large given that he sat at a desk all day, and in addition to topping it with fruit, he combined it with a smoothie, which was really a meal in and of itself. The truth is while whole foods are nutrient rich and they enhance metabolism, you can overdo it. To prevent that, listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and use visuals to guide your portions. For example, a serving of fruit should be about the size of a tennis ball, a portion of cooked oatmeal should be half that amount, and if you add nuts or seeds, stick with a golf ball sized addition. For more about how not to overestimate your healthy food needs, check out my 5 Biggest Salad Mistakes post.

RELATED: 30 Healthy Foods That Could Wreck Your Diet

Skipping meals

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it’s a biggie. Going long stretches without eating can create two unwanted side effects that undermine weight loss. First, you’ll likely burn fewer calories as a way to compensate for not having fuel when you need it. Second, you’ll up your chances of overeating at night, when your activity level is low; and because it’s impossible to retroactively burn calories, the unneeded excess gets sent straight to your fat cells. In other words, timing is important. Several studies have found that it’s not just your overall daily calories, but also when you eat them that matters. A good rule of thumb is to eat larger meals before your more active hours, smaller meals before less active hours, and never let more than four to five hours go by without eating.

RELATED: 10 Mistakes That Make Cravings Worse

Counting calories

Aside from the fact that the quality and timing of the calories you consume is critical for weight loss success, the practice of counting calories can backfire. One study found that even without limitations, calorie counting made women more stressed. Nobody wants that. Plus, an increase in stress can cause a spike in cortisol, a hormone known to rev up appetite, increase cravings for fatty and sugary foods, and up belly fat storage. Also, the calorie info available on packaged foods or on restaurant menus isn’t a perfect system (check out my post Why Calorie Counts Are Wrong). I’m not saying that calorie info is meaningless, but I do think there are more effective and less cumbersome ways to shed pounds. Check out my 5 Healthy Habits That Regulate Your Appetite and 6 Fascinating Things a Food Journal Can Teach You.

RELATED: 12 Strange-But-True Health Tips

Shunning good fat

Despite the best attempts of nutrition experts (including me) to dispel the notion that eating fat makes you fat, Americans have remained fat-phobic. Just yesterday someone told me they avoid avocado because it’s high in fat, and last week a client was shocked when I recommended using olive oil and vinegar in place of fat-free salad dressing. But eating the right fats is a smart weight loss strategy. In addition to quelling inflammation—a known trigger of premature aging and diseases including obesity—healthy fats are incredibly satisfying. They delay stomach emptying to keep you fuller longer and research shows that plant-based fats like olive oil, avocado, and nuts up appetite-suppressing hormones. Plant fats have also been shown to boost metabolism, and they can be rich sources of antioxidants, which have been tied to leanness, even without consuming fewer calories. Aim to include a portion in every meal. Add avocado to an omelet, whip coconut oil into a smoothie, add nuts to your oatmeal, drizzle garden salads with olive oil, and enjoy dark chocolate as a daily treat.

RELATED: 20 Filling Foods That Help You Lose Weight

Emotional eating

The habit of reaching for food due to boredom, anxiety, anger, or even happiness is by far the number one obstacle my clients face when trying to lose weight. We’re practically taught from birth to connect food and feelings. Many of my clients share stories about being rewarded with treats after a good report card or a winning game, or being consoled with food after being teased at school or going to the dentist. We bond over food, bring it to grieving loved ones, use it to celebrate, or turn to it as a way to stuff down uncomfortable feelings. It’s a pattern that’s socially accepted (even encouraged) and it’s challenging to overcome. But it’s not impossible. And even if you found non-food alternatives to addressing your emotional needs 50% of the time, I guarantee you’ll lose weight. Instead of a fad diet, consider making this your New Year’s resolution—while you can’t break the pattern overnight, this change may be the most important and impactful for weight loss success. For how to get started, check out my posts 5 Ways to Shut Down Emotional Eating and How to Beat Stress-Induced Weight Gain.

RELATED: 4 Ways to Cure an Unhealthy Relationship With Food

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

7 Things You Should Know About Shrimp

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Why you should eat them for more than just taste

Shrimp cocktail is on practically every holiday menu, but many of my clients aren’t sure if they should avoid shrimp or dig in. If you’re a seafood eater and you enjoy these crustaceans, either chilled or in hot dishes, here are seven things you should know.

They’re low in calories

One medium shrimp provides about 7 calories, which means a dozen add up to less than 85 calories—roughly 15 less than a 3-ounce chicken breast (about the size of a deck of cards in thickness and width). One jumbo shrimp, the type often served in shrimp cocktail, contains about 14 calories, and a teaspoon of cocktail sauce provides 5, so three jumbo shrimp, each with a teaspoon of cocktail sauce as an appetizer, adds up to less than 60 calories, about 10 less than just one pig in a blanket, and 20 less than two mini empanadas or two mini quiche.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Most Filling Foods for Weight Loss

They’re protein-rich

In addition to their water content, shrimp are primarily made of protein. Three ounces of baked or broiled shrimp provides about 20 grams of protein, just a few grams less than that a 3-ounce chicken breast. Each jumbo shrimp provides about 3 grams, and contains very little fat and carbohydrate.

They provide key nutrients

Aside from protein, shrimp provide a pretty impressive array of nutrients. Four ounces steamed contains over 100% of the Daily Value for selenium, over 75% for vitamin B12, over 50% for phosphorous, and over 30% for choline, copper, and iodine. And while we don’t typically think of animal proteins as sources of antioxidants, shrimp contain two types. In addition to being a mineral that plays a role in immunity and thyroid function, selenium is an important antioxidant that helps fight damaging particles called free radicals, which damage cell membranes and DNA, leading to premature aging and disease. Another antioxidant, called astaxanthin, which provides the primary color pigment in shrimp, has been shown to help reduce inflammation, a known trigger of aging and disease.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Foods That Fight Inflammation

They’re a common allergen

As a member of the shellfish family, shrimp are among the top allergens, which in addition to shellfish include milk, eggs, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. Exposure to shrimp by those who are allergic to shellfish can cause a severe reaction, including life threatening anaphalyaxis. More mild reactions may include a stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy skin, hives, tingling in the mouth, abdominal pain, and nausea. A food allergy can develop at any age. If you think you may be allergic to shrimp, or any other food, see an allergist for testing right away.

Yes, they’re high in cholesterol, but…

The current guidelines from both the USDA and American Heart Association state that dietary cholesterol intake should be limited to no more than 300 mg per day, and three ounces of shrimp provides about half that amount. There are two kinds of cholesterol. The first is called dietary cholesterol, which is the cholesterol found in foods. Only foods from animals contain cholesterol, because the animals’ bodies produced it. The second kind of cholesterol is blood or serum cholesterol: this is the cholesterol inside of your body. Blood cholesterol is produced by your liver and released into your bloodstream.

If you eat animal-based foods, the cholesterol you absorb can also contribute to blood cholesterol. However, the impact of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol has been an issue of debate. Research shows that high intakes of saturated fat and man-made trans fat have the greatest impact on blood cholesterol. Shrimp is very low in saturated fat and doesn’t contain trans fat—unless it’s been fried or cooked in a way that adds trans fat. But if you already have high cholesterol, follow the advice of your doctor about dietary cholesterol. And for more on how to eat seafood healthfully, check out my previous post on 5 Healthy Cooking Tips for Fish.

HEALTH.COM: 22 Worst Foods for Trans Fat

Shrimp fraud is common

A recent report from Oceana found that 30% of 143 shrimp products tested from 111 nationwide vendors were misrepresented. For example, farmed shrimp was sold as wild or Gulf. This means you may be unknowingly eating shrimp produced in a farm that uses antibiotics, fungicides, and other harmful chemicals. Unfortunately there isn’t much you as a consumer can do about this, but for more info about choosing shrimp that is properly labeled, checkout out this handy resource from Seafood Watch.

Even wild shrimp may contain contaminants

A recent Arizona State University study analyzed 27 samples of seafood, including shrimp, from 11 countries. Researchers found detectable amounts of five different antibiotics, including in wild shrimp. This is a critical finding, since the use of antibiotics in food production has contributed to a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, a major public health concern.

Bottom line: nutritionally speaking, shrimp is a bit of mixed bag, and Americans eat more shrimp than any other seafood item. If you’re one of them the best advice is to know the pros and cons, enjoy shrimp in moderation, and do your best to shop for, prepare, and order the healthiest options. For more info check out 5 Rules for Buying and Storing Seafood.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Crazy Things That Happen to Food Before You Buy It

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Connect with Cynthia on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Annoying Thing That’s Making You Hungrier

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This kind of sugar triggers a very different reaction in the brain

New evidence suggests fructose—the simple sugar present in fruit and fruit juices—may be messing with your brain and appetite in a way that actually makes you hungrier.

Dr. Kathleen Page, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, tested the idea when she fed 24 people a sugar-water mixture with one of two types of sugar: glucose or fructose. Each drink had 75 grams—about as much as your typical 24-ounce sugary drink, Page says. Then, she and her team performed an fMRI on the people in the study to see how their brains responded to the sugars, and showed them pictures of food (and non-food items as controls) while they were in the brain scan. Everyone had the chance to try both drinks on two different days.

MORE: There’s Even More Sugar In Soda Than You Think

After drinking the fructose mix, people had more activation in some brain regions involved in reward processing when they were looking at pictures of food, Page says, compared to after they consumed the glucose drink. “We think that it might suggest that fructose has less appetite-suppressing effects, and that in turn could motivate people to continue eating, even though they’ve already consumed quite a lot of calories when compared to glucose,” Page says. (For more on the difference between glucose, fructose and sucrose, read this piece about how all sugars aren’t the same.)

The findings are preliminary, but brains on glucose behaved as the scientists expected them to when they received an infusion of calories: with less activation in regions that control appetite. In other words, they were sated. Brains on fructose—which is far sweeter than glucose—just appeared to get hungrier.

MORE: How Sweet Can Become Toxic

Some experts contend that “sugar is sugar” and that it’s all equally bad for the body, but this study suggests that glucose and fructose might have very different effects because they’re processed differently in the body, says Page: Glucose is the main sugar that circulates in our bloodstream, and it’s metabolized in highly regulated ways, releasing hormones like insulin and leptin that help us feel full. Fructose, on the other hand, is extracted from our bloodstream directly to the liver, where it’s metabolized.

“Our bodies don’t secrete insulin and leptin as much as when we eat pure fructose,” she says. “We think that the differences in some of the responses of these hormones that are important in suppressing appetite may help to explain these findings.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Drink Diet Soda?

Why the fake fizzy stuff falls flat

Welcome to Should I Eat This?—our weekly poll of five experts who answer nutrition questions that gnaw at you.

diet soda
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

5/5 experts say no.

Man, diet soda just can’t catch a break with these experts. Maybe that’s because it’s the ultimate hypocrite of the beverage world.

People probably get hooked on diet soda in the hope that the “diet” part will pay off. (Why else would you suffer an aftertaste as metallic as the can it comes in?) But liquid weight loss this is not. A 2014 study led by Sara Bleich, PhD, associate professor in health policy and management at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, suggests it might be just the opposite. Her research found that overweight and obese adults who drink diet beverages actually consume more calories from food than their sugar-soda-drinking peers.

“Oftentimes my patients come to me ecstatic because they’ve kicked their regular soda habit to the curb,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, registered dietitian and manager of wellness nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “Unfortunately, it’s often replaced with a new habit of drinking diet soda.”

Indeed, for all of its skinny-making promises, diet soda might be making you fat.

Artificial sweeteners—the super-sweet, low- or no-calorie lifeblood of diet soda—trigger greater activation of reward centers in the brain compared with regular old sugar. That activation changes the way you seem to experience the “reward” you get from sweet tastes, Bleich says. “Another way of thinking about this is that for diet beverage drinkers, the brain’s sweet sensors may no longer provide a reliable gauge of energy consumption,” Bleich says. A change in those brain signals might get in the way of appetite control.

This isn’t the only one of diet soda’s potentially weighty problems. A 2009 study by nutritional epidemiologist Jennifer Nettleton, PhD, and her team found associations between diet soda consumption and type 2 diabetes. Though an observational study of this kind can’t establish causal links, drinking at least one diet soda a day was associated with a 67% greater risk for type-2 diabetes compared to people who never or rarely drank it.

Susan Swithers, PhD, professor of behavioral neuroscience at Purdue University, wrote a 2013 paper looking at the evidence for and against diet soda. “Right now, the data indicate that over the long term, people who drink even one diet soda a day are at higher risk for health outcomes that they are probably drinking diet sodas to try to avoid, like type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and stroke,” she says.

Not only does diet soda appear to fuel to problems it’s supposed to fight, but studies also link it to less obvious health issues. Vasan Ramachandran, MD, principal investigator of the Framingham Heart Study, points to a recent study linking soda, both sugary and diet, to a higher risk of hip fractures in women. It’s another observational study, he says, but that’s largely the way diet soda research goes. Some experts think that other factors might be contributing to the link between diet soda and poor health outcomes—not just the drink itself. But the associations are strong, the evidence is consistent and the biological mechanisms are plausible, he concludes.

A recent study in Nature shows that zero-calorie artificial sweeteners might mess with gut bacteria in a way that predisposes mice to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance—“the underlying precursors of metabolic abnormalities and diabetes,” Ramachandran says.

So next time you’re craving an aluminum can of carbonated non-food constituents like artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners, remember Nettleton’s voice in your head. If you’re thirsty, she says, drink water. If you’re tired, have a cup of coffee. And if you want a weight-loss aid to squash those hunger pangs, “Take a walk around the block.”

Still feel hungry? “Then eat,” she says. “You are hungry.”

Read next: Should I Eat Greek Yogurt?

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why Raw Milk Outbreaks Are On the Rise

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This is one health trend you don't want to try

Raw milk skips the commercial chain of pasteurization and homogenization, and many proponents drink to the promise of a purer, less processed food. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long warned that the consumption of raw milk, which poses serious risks to Americans’ health, is nothing more than a misguided health trend. Now, a new report from the agency shows that the yearly number of outbreaks from raw milk is increasing.

Nearly 1,000 people were sickened from raw milk outbreaks from 2007-2012, the report says, and 73 went to the hospital. The new study shows there were an average of 13 outbreaks per year from disease-causing bacteria that can be present in unpasteurized milk between the years 2007-2012, with 81 total outbreaks in 26 states.

That rate has quadrupled since 1993-2006, the data set used when CDC last studied the subject. That time period saw only three outbreaks per year.

Some advocates have argued raw milk is a solution for people who are lactose intolerant, but the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says this is untrue.

“I think there are a lot of people [who are part of] this back-to-nature movement, wanting to support local farms and eat organically. I think the raw milk movement has emerged as part of that,” says CDC epidemiologist Hannah Gould. But because it’s not pasteurized, raw milk can be dangerous. Bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter can all be found in raw milk, and you’d have to heat it to 161 °F for about 20 seconds to kill it off, says the CDC. One of the CDC’s awareness campaign shows a raw milk horror story from a mother who fed it to her son, than saw him go into kidney failure and be placed on a ventilator.

In 1987, the FDA banned interstate sale or distribution of unpasteurized milk, but states set their own laws when it comes to what can be sold in-state. Currently, 30 states allow the legal sale of raw milk, and since 2004, eight new states have allowed the sale. The new data shows more than 80% of the outbreaks tallied in the new report occurred in states where selling raw milk is allowed.

“As states continue to legalize raw milk, I would expect it’s likely we will see more outbreaks and illnesses associated with it,” says Gould. “When we see something happening like this huge increase in the number of outbreaks caused by raw milk, we try to put out the message that this going on, and provide that information to state legislators trying to make decisions about raw milk as well as alert consumers to the risks.”

Read next: Now Coming to Your Morning Cereal Bowl: Quinoa

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