Monthly Archives: September 2014

“Healthy” Foods that Aren’t: Uncovering the Truth.

yogurtHere is an ugly truth that needs to be addressed: most food manufacturers care more about their profit margin than your health. It’s a sad reality, but it’s a reality nonetheless. These food manufacturers try to increase profits by slapping misleading claims on labels and spending millions of dollars for commercials that steer you in the wrong direction. The good news is we’re here to help. Here are some foods that are advertised as healthy – and generally believed to be healthy – that really aren’t.

Flavored Yogurt

Flavored yogurt tops the list of healthy foods that aren’t. So many people believe that they’re doing their body good when reaching for a yogurt for breakfast. In fact, this is such a common belief that many people even force yogurt into their diet even though they don’t really like it because they think it’s good for them. Here’s the truth: flavored yogurt is LOADED with sugar. If you pick up a container of flavored yogurt and compare the sugar content to a soda, it’s likely the same per serving. That’s right – you may be taking in as much sugar eating a flavored yogurt as you would drinking a can of soda. That being said, some of the sugar in yogurt is natural, but food manufacturers are not required to differentiate between the two so you never really know what you’re getting.

On the other hand, some flavored yogurts are “light”, which means instead of sugar, they’re sweetened with artificial sweeteners. This may save you calories, but research shows that consuming artificial sweeteners may actually contribute to weight GAIN rather than weight loss. The bottom line? Stay away from flavored yogurts. If you want to eat yogurt, choose plain Greek varieties, which contain a boatload of protein and only natural sugars. If you want to sweeten the deal a bit, add some fresh fruit on your own.

Flavored Oatmeal

Flavored oatmeal makes the list for the same reason as flavored yogurt: it’s packed with sugar. It doesn’t matter if it’s white sugar, brown sugar, or maple syrup – it all contributes extra calories that you don’t want when trying to lose weight. Flavored oatmeal is also highly processed. Manufacturers take oats – which are normally digested fairly slowly – and turn them into a quick-cooking product that may resemble oats, but lack the full health benefits. If you want oatmeal, choose plain steel-cut varieties or old-fashioned oats that haven’t been through a lot of processing. These take longer to cook than flavored packaged varieties, but your body will thank you. If plain oatmeal isn’t your thing, dress it up with some fresh or dried fruit, chopped raw nuts, or unsweetened coconut flakes.

Meal Replacement Bars

There are literally hundreds of different kinds of meal replacement bars on the market. Some are rich in protein and others provide a boost of carbohydrates, but the one thing many of them have in common is – you guessed it – SUGAR. If you pick up a typical meal replacement bar and compare the nutrition facts to a regular candy bar, you may be surprised to find that the sugar and saturated fat content are nearly the same. Many of these bars are also loaded with artificial ingredients and chemicals that you’d be better off skipping. That’s not to say that there are NO meal replacement bars that are healthy, but you’d be better off carrying around a container of raw nuts and raisins  as an emergency meal replacement than chowing down on these bars regularly.


I bet you can guess one of the major reasons granola isn’t such a healthy choice. You said it! Sugar. Granola may be naturally low in fat (which manufacturers love to state over and over again), but a single ½ cup serving contains 12 grams of sugar – just 2 grams less than the same serving of vanilla ice cream. The other important thing to note is that granola is often a “no brakes” food item. Many people eat way more than ½ cup at a time, so amount of sugar – and calories – you’re eating from granola alone can be significant.

The bottom line here is this: when you’re trying to lose weight, you need to stay away from excess sugar. The refined carbohydrate has no nutritional value and can easily put you over your calorie goals for the day. Don’t believe every claim you read. Remember: food manufacturers are in the business of making money. Do your research, read labels, and don’t let sugar sneak into your life.

Making Nutritious Delicious: Paleo Shepard’s Pie

It’s a sad fact of life that “health food” carries a certain stigma. A meal can’t be healthy unless it consists of twigs and berries that leave you yearning for something more. If it’s healthy, it must be boring and bland, right? Oh, that is so wrong. It’s also a big reason why many people fall of the “diet” wagon. The simple truth is this: if you’re not satisfied with the food you’re eating, you’re going to stray. A person can only eat grilled chicken and a side of steamed veggies and stay sane for so long. Luckily, health food does not have to be bland and boring. In fact, it can be absolutely delicious.

When you’re on weight loss program, the thing you have to remember is SPICES ARE YOUR FRIEND. You can completely change a meal from blah to wow by adding spices. If you’re a cooking novice, experiment with different combinations of spices until you figure out what you like and what you don’t. It’s important to note, however, that you need to check your spice labels. Many spices have added sugar or other unhealthy ingredients like partially hydrogenated oils. Make sure that the spices you’re using contain only an individual spice or a combination of different spices. With so many options to choose from, there’s no reason to use a spice with a bunch of unhealthy added ingredients.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the Paleo shepard’s pie. A traditional shepard’s pie is made with corn, beef, and mashed potatoes. This is the ultimate comfort food combination, but it doesn’t offer much in terms of nutrients and overindulging certainly won’t help you lose weight. Enter the Paleo shepard’s pie. In this cleaned up version, the potatoes are replaced with cauliflower, the beef becomes ground turkey, and the whole thing is placed on top of a layer of sweet potatoes. An added bonus: it’s loaded with extra vegetables that help keep you full without contributing a lot of calories.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Bottom Layer:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • Sea salt, to taste

Middle Layer:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Top Layer:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, washed and steamed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder, optional
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ c. chicken broth

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Grate your sweet potatoes with a cheese grater or run them in a food processor with a grating attachment. Heat up some olive oil in a large skillet, and throw the grated sweet potatoes in the pan. Saute the sweet potatoes until they are soft and tender – this generally takes about 15 minutes. Toss the sweet potatoes with some salt and spread them out in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  3. Heat up another skillet (or use the same one if you want to save some time on the dishes later) and add some olive oil to the pan. When the olive oil is hot, add onions and sauté them until they start to sweat – about 5 minutes. Add carrots and zucchini and sauté until soft – another 5 minutes. Add chopped spinach and sauté the mixture until spinach wilts. Add ground turkey, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Cook until meat is cooked through. Pour turkey mixture over the layer of sweet potatoes in your baking dish and spread out evenly.
  4. Put steamed cauliflower in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and chicken broth and continue to blend until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour cauliflower on top of the turkey mixture and spread out evenly in the pan.
  5. Place in the oven on the middle rack and cook for 30 minutes.
  6. Serve and enjoy!


And do you want to know the best part about this recipe? Aside from the fact that it’s simple AND delicious?  Each serving (the recipe makes 6) contains only 215 calories, but offers 16 grams of protein and contains 90 percent of the vitamin A you need for the entire day.

Let us know what you think!

Adapted from this recipe from Jules Fuel®.

Bag Those Chips: How to Curb Your Cravings

If you always crave chips, keep them out of the house.
If you always crave chips, keep them out of the house.

It’s 8 PM. You’ve had your dinner and cleaned the kitchen and now you’re sitting on the couch winding down watching your favorite reality show (don’t worry, no judgment here). All of a sudden, you start thinking about how much you want some ice cream. Or chips. Or animal crackers. Or chocolate chips straight out of the bag. You toy with the thought a little bit, going back and forth between “I really shouldn’t” and “Ah what the heck – I’ll get back on track tomorrow”. Some nights you might give in and others you might stay strong, but regardless of the outcome, the fact is still the same: you’re having a craving. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Cravings are common and can be intense, especially when you’re restricting yourself on a weight loss plan. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to fight cravings and take back control.

Craving Versus True Hunger

To understand whether you’re truly hungry or just having a craving, it’s important to understand the difference between the two. Real hunger is caused by the body’s physical need for food. It’s often accompanied by a growling stomach or a hollow feeling. When you’re really hungry, you’d be willing to eat a plate of grilled chicken and veggies. On the other hand, cravings have a physiological or emotional component. You may want chocolate when you feel sad or a bag of chips because you’re bored. When you’re having a craving, it’s usually for a specific (and often unhealthy) food. Cravings often lead to binge eating because you’re not actually trying to satisfy hunger. If you’re truly hungry, you should eat. If you’re having a craving, there are some things you can do to beat it.

Avoid Temptation

While this technically doesn’t help you beat a craving once you have it, one of the best defensive moves you can make is to keep any unhealthy foods that you often crave out of the house. If sitting in front of the television at night makes you want to eat a bag of chips, don’t keep chips around. You’re more likely to give in to the craving if you only have to walk to your pantry than if you have to get in your car and drive to the store to pick something up.

Get Moving

Cravings tend to hit hard when you’re not busy. That doesn’t mean that you should never relax, but if a craving does hit, do something to take your mind off of it. Go for a 15 minute walk or call a friend. Draw a picture or lose yourself in a book. Sometimes all it takes for the craving to go away is turning your attention elsewhere.

Reduce Your Stress

Unfortunately, stress is an unavoidable part of life. It’s also a big factor in cravings. Some people lose their appetite when they’re stressed; others experience intense cravings for comfort foods, like ice cream and pie. If you fall into the latter category, it’s a good idea to learn some stress reduction techniques that can help you manage your stress levels and the resulting cravings. Take a hot bath, stretch for 10 minutes, do some yoga, or write in a journal. Don’t just do this when you feel a craving though. Make stress reduction a part of your everyday life.

Go for Water

Sometimes thirst shows up disguised as cravings. If you feel a craving coming on, drink a big glass of water. It may just be that you’re a little dehydrated. If that doesn’t work, drink another glass. If that doesn’t work, move on to another technique.

Eat Regularly

Cravings tend to hit full force if you allow too much time to pass between meals and let yourself get too hungry. You’re more likely to give in to your cravings if you feel famished. If you’re prone to cravings, eat a well-balanced meal or snack every few hours and never let yourself get to the point where you’re feeling ravenous.

Turn Back Time with Juvederm® XC

Juvederm® XC targets the lines around the nose and mouth.
Juvederm® XC targets the lines around the nose and mouth.

It wouldn’t be right to talk about Botox® without also discussing Juvederm® XC, which picks up where Botox® leaves off. While Botox® is most effective on crow’s feet and the frown lines on your forehead, Juvederm® XC is generally used around the nose and the mouth – especially the areas on the side of the mouth lovingly nicknamed “parentheses lines”.

How Juvederm® Works

As you age, your face naturally begins to lose volume. As a result, your skin starts to sag and eventually you’re left with visible folds and wrinkles. The same thing also happens when you lose weight. Juvederm® XC, which is a gel made of hyaluronic acid, is used to correct these wrinkles. Your doctor will inject the gel into the areas that have lost volume literally filling in empty spaces to reduce the appearance of deep facial wrinkles and folds. Because of the way it works, Juvederm® XC is categorized as a filler.

What To Expect

As with Botox®, getting Juvederm® XC injections only requires a quick, in-office procedure with little to no recovery time. You can get in and out in the time it would take to grab some lunch down the street. The results are instantaneous – you’ll notice a difference as soon as your appointment is over. Better yet, a single Juvederm® XC treatment lasts up to one year, so there is little to no maintenance involved. In fact, Juvederm® XC is the only FDA-approved hyaluronic acid filler that lasts that long.

What Else Should I Know?

You may experience some side effects after getting Juvederm® XC, but in most cases, these side effects are mild to moderate and last only 7 days or less. The most commonly reported side effects are pain or tenderness at the injection site, redness, and swelling. As always, our priority is to make you feel comfortable and confident. We encourage you to reach out to us to ask any questions you have about Juvederm® XC and what it can do for you.

Banishing Those Wrinkles with Botox®

faceAt Valley Medical Weight Loss, we believe that looking your best is a big part of what makes you feel your best. And when you feel your best, you’re able to face the world with more poise and confidence. That is why we offer non-surgical injections, like Botox® Cosmetic, in addition to our weight loss programs. Botox® is probably not a new name for you, but do you know exactly what it is and what it can do for you and your skin? If not, keep reading.

Let’s Start with Wrinkles

To understand how Botox® works, it’s important that you understand how wrinkles form in the first place. It’s really a combination of factors – damage from free radicals, decreasing amounts of collagen – the protein that keeps your skin springy and supple, changes in cellular structure, and making the same expression over and over again. When you frown or smile or you’re deep in thought, certain muscles contract and certain areas of your skin crease and fold in response. Over time, these creases and folds start to stick around and you’re left with fine lines and wrinkles. While Botox® can’t address the external factors that cause lines and wrinkles, it can target the muscle activity that contributes to them.

How Botox® Works

Botox® works by reducing the activity of the underlying muscles that cause your skin to crease and fold. It does this by blocking the signal from the nerves to the muscle. When nerve signaling is reduced, the muscles relax and soften. This translates to fewer lines and wrinkles and a younger-looking appearance. You’ll generally begin to see the results within one to two days following the procedure, but the most noticeable difference in your appearance tends to come after 30 days. Because Botox is non-surgical, treatments are quick – each treatment lasts approximately 10 to 20 minutes and requires no recovery time. That is why this type of procedure is often nicknamed “a lunchtime procedure”. You can get in and out in the amount of time it would take you to go down the street for a salad. The results of Botox typically last up to four months.

What Else Should I Know?

Botox is most effective for crow’s feet and frown lines. Since every individual is unique and every face is different, your treatment will vary based on you as an individual. Your physician will discuss your treatment plan with you before administering any injections and make sure you’re comfortable with the recommendations and all your questions are answered. A typical treatment may include 5 injections into your forehead muscles and 3 into each of the muscles that surround your eye.

Ask Away!

Our number one goal is to make you feel confident and comfortable. If you’re interested in learning more about Botox or want to know what we can do for you specifically, please give us a call or stop into one of our clinics. You don’t have to make an appointment; just come on in and we would be happy to answer any of your questions.

To Weigh or Not to Weigh? That is The Question.

At some point in your weight loss journey, someone might have told you “don’t bother weighing yourself, just judge your progress by how your clothes fit/feel”. You probably ran with that advice because if you’re like many others, the scale always felt like a source of unnecessary torture. While there’s no doubt that this advice comes from a good place, it may not be the best recommendation if you want to be successful with your weight loss goals. Recent research shows that weighing yourself regularly may be a great way to keep yourself on track.

Concerns With the Scale

Let’s start by addressing some of the concerns that the scale brings up. One of the main issues is the scale’s affect on your mood. One day it’s down, the next day it’s up and it always seems to take your mood with it in whichever direction it goes. The key thing to remember here is that the scale really is JUST A NUMBER. While that number is a good way to gauge your progress and make sure you’re moving in the right direction, it does NOT define you. It’s a tool. When the number is going down, you know you’re on track. If the number isn’t moving or it’s going up, you know it’s time to make some changes in your eating habits or exercise routine.

Another concern with weighing yourself every day is whether or not this can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food or obsessive thoughts about your weight. In the January 2014 issue of the “American Journal of Preventative Medicine” and March 2014 issue of “Health Psychology”, researchers put that theory to rest. Daily self-weighing did not cause any adverse psychological outcomes like depressive symptoms or increase any signs of disordered eating behavior in study participants.

What the Research Says

Now that those concerns are out of the way, let’s talk about the studies and what researchers discovered. The March 2014 study included 178 overweight adults – both male and female. Some of the study participants weighed themselves daily, while others avoided the scale. On average, those who weighed themselves every day lost more weight over an 18-month period than those who didn’t. Daily self-weighing wasn’t just good for weight loss. It’s also been shown to help with long-term weight management. You’re more likely to sustain your weight loss if you see numbers on a scale regularly than if you only step on a scale once a year at your annual physical.

Weighing yourself regularly can help you lose weight and maintain that weight loss.
Weighing yourself regularly can help you lose weight and maintain that weight loss.


The message here is simple: if you want to stay on track, consider weighing yourself regularly. You don’t have to obsessively weigh yourself every day, but make weighing yourself a few times a week a part of your weight loss routine. Gauge your progress by what the numbers show, but don’t get hung up on minor fluctuations. Your weight can fluctuate by a few pounds day to day and even hour by hour. If the numbers are generally moving in the right direction, you know what you’re doing is working. If the numbers aren’t moving, something needs to change.

Perfecting Portion Control: Using Visual Cues

The jumbo muffins you're used to seeing might be more than 3 servings!
The jumbo muffins you’re used to seeing might be more than 3 servings!

This may not be new information for you, but still, it needs to be said: when it comes to weight loss, PORTION SIZES MATTER. You know that you need to keep your calories under control and to do this, you can’t go overboard on the portions; but measuring them out can seem tedious and unrealistic. Plus, there’s no way you’re going to carry around a set of measuring cups and spoons and a food scale with you wherever you go, so how do you know what 3 ounces of meat looks like without actually weighing it? The answer: visual cues.

When you compare your foods to items that you’re used to seeing and holding, it makes it easier to determine what constitutes a single portion. Sure, eyeballing it isn’t as accurate as whipping out a food scale and measuring every half an ounce, but it’s an effective way to keep you on track.


A lot of people think they need to supplement with protein, but the truth is, most Americans get way more than enough every day. A proper single portion of meat is just 3 ounces – about the size of a deck of cards or a standard smart phone. This may come as a shock since many restaurants serve a slab of steak that’s closer to the size of your head than your phone.

Nuts can be a great snack that help fill you up and provide healthy fats, but they are rich in calories, so overdoing it can sabotage your weight loss efforts. If you snack on nuts, eat only the amount that would fit into a standard size shot glass. A single portion of nut butters – like almond, peanut, or cashew – should be the size of a golf ball or a wine cork.

Starches and Grains

If you think the fluffy bagels and enormous muffins that you see on your bakery’s shelves are a single serving, you are mistaken. Of course, it’s not your fault. Portions have gotten so out of control that these over-sized bakery items have become the norm. Instead of assuming one muffin means one serving, picture this: a bagel portion should look like a regular size can of tuna; a pancake should be the size of a CD; and a muffin should be the size of a hockey puck. The amount of cereal in your bowl should be the size of a baseball and your rice or pasta side dish should be the size of a tennis ball.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits are rich in many vitamins and minerals so they are an essential part of your diet, but they are also a source of sugar and too much of a good thing can be a bad thing when it comes to weight loss. When consuming fruit, keep your portion to about the size of a tennis ball. Although it’s not really necessary to measure out vegetable portions since they are low in calories and high in fiber and other beneficial nutrients, they are still worth a mention. A portion of cooked vegetables should be the size of a baseball and a portion of raw vegetables should be the size of two baseballs.


Fats have gotten a bad rap because they are high in calories and can pack on pounds when eaten in excess; however, healthy fats, like olive oil and avocado, are a crucial part of a healthy fat. Keep your portions in check by picturing two stacked dice or a poker chip when serving yourself a fat source.

Although visual cues make estimating portion sizes a lot easier, it can take some getting used to. Help yourself out by making a “cheat sheet” that you keep in your purse or wallet at all times. Write down the foods you tend to eat a lot and what common items represent their ideal serving size. Once you do this regularly, it will become second nature and you won’t even need that cheat sheet anymore.