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Wellness, fitness & personal growth

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Exploring the Hot Drink Menu

By Stephanie Scott, RD, LMNT: Registered Dietitian and Guest Blogger

2016-02-28 00.23.07

During winter, people are drawn to those cups of hot steamy beverages. But what do we really know about these comforting libations?

Coffee and Coffee Drinks

  • Many people drink coffee and or specialty drinks (lattes, cappuccinos, mochas) on a daily basis, but during the winter months, hot coffee sales tend to increase 2-3%.  An 8oz cup of regular brewed coffee, depending on the strength of the coffee, can have between 95-200mg of caffeine, while an 8oz cup of decaf coffee has only trace amounts of caffeine, about 2-12mg.
  • An 8oz specialty coffee drink such as a latte or mocha, made with espresso can have between 63-175mg of caffeine (keep in mind most coffee shops sell lattes or mochas size 16oz or larger, doubling the caffeine).  This also means double the calories for those specialty drinks which can sometimes add up to 500 calories if choosing the larger sizes.  A standard black coffee will have very few calories (only 2), especially if not adding sugar or creamer.
  • Adding an artificial sweetener such as Splenda or Equal will cut down calories if that is a concern, and using a skim milk or light/sugar free nondairy creamer will cut down the calories as well.
  • Limit the amount of specialty coffee drinks you consume as these will contain lots of calories and added sugars which are not beneficial for a healthy diet.   For hydration benefits, a cup of black coffee still is made up mostly of water, and water is the best fluid to hydrate our bodies with.  For maintaining hydration, drinking a cup of coffee is better than not drinking anything at all, but water is the preferred beverage of choice to provide the best hydration.

Hot Tea

  • Hot tea is an excellent drink that will give you a refreshing start to your day or help you wind down in the evening.  With a caffeine content less than half that of coffee, tea is less likely to make your heart race or keep you awake at night if you are sensitive to caffeine.  While caffeine content varies based on how long tea is steeped for, a 6oz cup of black tea has roughly 36mg of caffeine, and herbal teas have 0mg of caffeine.  Some herbal teas are also useful for calming your body down and preparing for sleep.  
  • Green tea is also a beneficial drink, whether it is hot or cold.  Clinical studies have connected lower risk of coronary artery disease with those people who regularly drink green tea.  It is important to moderate your green tea intake to only a few cups per day, as green tea has high amounts of oxalate which can lead to kidney stones. 

Hot Cider and Hot Chocolate

  • Cider is basically hot spicy apple juice, and juices contain a lot of added sugars.  Any beverage will hydrate you because it is a fluid, but the high amount of added sugars in cider may cause you to feel thirstier.  High intake of drinks with lots of added sugars can also lead to problems like weight gain/obesity, and dental caries.
  • Similar is hot chocolate.  Making hot chocolate with water instead of milk will cut down on the calories you are consuming, but making your drink with milk can give you the added bonus of some protein and nutrients that milk packs.  Whether your concern is calories, added sugars, or hydration, these drinks make nice treats that are fun to have in moderation but should not become a big part of your every day diet.
  • Diluting hot cider with hot water can help lower the sugar content per cup, while making hot chocolate with skim milk or water and skipping out on whipped cream or marshmallows will help keep your calories and sugar intake under control.

Stephanie Scott

Stephanie Scott RD, LMNT, is a registered dietitian and licensed medical nutrition therapist in Central City, Nebraska.  She serves patients at a critical access hospital and residents in a nursing home, assists in managing kitchen staff, and is involved in community nutrition programs.  Got questions? Reach Stephanie at stephanie.a.scott2@gmail.com.


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Our Bodies Talk, Let’s Listen

“Our bodies are speaking to us all the time. Often, we don’t listen to them until they are screaming at us in pain.” – Jacki, yoga instructor

Our bodies are wonderful, biological machines: they know when we are cold or hot, hungry or full, thirsty, sore and hurt. In theory, we should be able to give our bodies everything they need and know when they are satisfied.

The problem? Our thoughts and emotions get in the way.

The solution: check in with the body periodically and identify cause and effect as to why we are feeling a certain way. Checking in is not about developing guilt, but rather self-control and personal growth.


Food is a prime example. We may eat because we are…

  • hungry
  • bored
  • upset
  • feeling social pressure
  • indulging on food that looks or tastes great

Biologically speaking, we need to eat because we are hungry and need nutrients to nourish our bodies. Sometimes certain foods bring back treasured memories, making us happier and whole. It’s alright to indulge on occasion, both physically and emotionally, but during the majority of meals we can check in with our bodies to see if our stomachs are satisfied. Think: Why am I eating? Am I hungry? 

Physical Discomfort

Let’s define here “discomfort” as a antecedent to pain or soreness. Viruses and bacteria aside, we often experience physical discomfort due to our environment or the way we are treating our bodies. This may occur during physical activity, meals, or other daily routine or activities.

Checking in with the body in times of discomfort may alleviate situations. If we are experiencing…

  • A headache after a long work day: reduce stress by relaxing, become surrounded by dimmer lighting and quieter environment.
  • Discomfort in shoulder from helping a friend move: take a rest day or focus on lower body exercise
  • Shin splints while running: adjust running form to diminish or eliminate heel-striking

At times, recognizing and removing a harmful trigger of discomfort, or finding an alternative, will prevent the discomfort from turning into pain or soreness. We will be less likely to use pain killers and instead teach our bodies to avoid future discomfort. Think: How is my setting or what I am doing enabling physical discomfort? How do I prevent it from becoming physical pain?

Checking in with the body develops body awareness and personal growth. It gives us a chance to pause. Our bodies are talking to us; we just have to listen and they will lead us on the right path.

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[Food] Lessons From the Sunday Paper

Every Sunday morning I eagerly go out my front door and pick up my copy of The Star Tribune. I grew up in a household where we received and read the paper daily, so it is no surprise that once I graduated college I signed up for it again. For my birthday last month, my dear mom renewed my annual subscription for the newspaper as an additional surprise gift– and not kidding, I was excited.

Reading the newspaper– and I’m talking about the traditional paper copy– allows me to read interesting stories on topics I care about and exposes me to read stories on topics at times I would likely not seek out on my own. In this way I learned, for example, that fjords are the noisiest places in the ocean and that volunteers are extending the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail by hammering into rocks and leveling the ground.

A recent article titled “Inside the myth-busting lab of food psychologist Traci Mann” has not only peaked my interest during my usual reading of the Health section but changed the way I view and think about certain aspects of my eating, turning eating into a more mindful experience.

Dr. Traci Mann says: Don’t Rely on Willpower, Eat Smart Instead

Traci Mann is a University of Minnesota food psychologist, who leads the Health and Eating Lab and recently published her book Secrets from the Eating Lab. She believes willpower will only take you so far (and sometimes regress) in trying to eat healthy. Her research is centered around shaping the way and the environments in which we eat: she calls this strategic eating.

Here are the best take-aways I incorporated into my life from the article:

  • Don’t be within reach of tempting food. Mann reports that adding even 2 feet of distance between you and the food (like a bag of chips) will make it much less likely you’ll eat it, or at least less likely to eat as much as you would had it been right in front of you.
  • Eat your veggies first, and if you can, separately. If you have pizza and salad, you’re probably going to eat the pizza first… and get mostly full and probably nibble on pieces of lettuce so it doesn’t look bad you left so much food on your plate. Mann calls this “competition”: the salad doesn’t stand a chance if it’s on the same plate as the pizza. Instead, have the salad first on a separate plate, then bring out the pizza. Also, remember not to overeat now that you actually ate the whole salad and are starting on the pizza.
  • Eat from smaller plates. You’ll trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more, and it’ll require you to make more effort (and thus be less likely) to stand up and grab a second helping.
  • It’s okay to indulge on occasion! You’re human. It’s okay. We all do it. Just don’t pig out; instead be mindful and enjoy the savory experience!

For more strategies on smart eating, check out the sub-article “Traci Mann’s best strategies for healthful eating“.