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A woman drinks water while fasting.

What to Know about Intermittent Fasting

Every night when you’re asleep, you’re fasting. With an expert-recommended eight hours of shuteye, that leaves 16 waking hours for potential eating. 

When we are awake, we’re faced with constant temptation to snack. Because junk food is often cheaper and more readily available than nutritious, whole foods, it can be hard to maintain a healthy diet. That’s where the idea of intermittent fasting comes in.

The calories we consume get stored as sugars in our fat cells, and it’s insulin that allows this to happen. Between meals, our insulin levels drop so that the body can use these stored sugars for energy. The idea of intermittent fasting is for our insulin levels to go down far enough and long enough that fat is burned off.

Different from Diets

Most diets tell you what to eat. Fasting is mostly about when you eat. However, if eating normally means junk food, treats, and super-sized fried items, you won’t get any healthier during the times you eat, regardless of how long you fast.

Ideally your diet should consist of leafy greens, healthy fats, lean proteins, and whole grains. Many nutrition experts recommend the Mediterranean diet as a good guide.

A businesswoman checks her watch while fasting.

Fasting Options

There’s plenty of options available should you want to give intermittent fasting a try. Here are some of the more popular options for healthy fasting: 

  1. Alternate-day fasting — Eat a normal diet one day and then fast completely or eat 500-600 calories the next.
  2. 5:2 fasting — Eat a normal diet five days a week and fast for two days.
  3. 16/8 method — You only eat during a set eight hours. For the remaining 16 you’re limited to water, plain coffee, or tea.
  4. Eat-stop-eat — Go without eating for 24 hours once or twice a week. Go from dinner one day to dinner the next.

Getting Started

Before doing anything, it is best to talk to your AltaMed health care professional to see if intermittent fasting is right for you. It might not work well with current medications or treatment protocols.

Otherwise, here are some practical tips:

  • Begin with a modified schedule — You wouldn’t run 26 miles on your first day training for a marathon. You don’t have to stick to a straight eight-hour eating schedule from day one either.
  • Drink up — Water, black coffee, and tea are all allowed. Stay hydrated with calorie-free beverages. 
  • Eat often and don’t rush — It’s recommended that you eat every three hours during the period you’re “allowed” to eat so you get the calories you need. Also, savor your food.
  • Plan — It’s easier to stick with healthy choices if you know what you’re going to eat.
  • Meal prep — It’s even easier if the meal is already set to go. 
  • Add some healthy fat — Some fats are better than others. Put olive oil, avocado, or coconut butter into your last meal of the day to keep your blood sugar levels up at night.
A couple talk in the kitchen while eating breakfast.

The Benefits

Losing weight has always been seen as beneficial for people coping with conditions like sleep apnea, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer. There have also been studies linking it to the improvement of conditions like:

Some Side Effects

As with any changes in your routine, there may be initial discomforts such as:

All these conditions should go away, however, within a month. If you’re suffering from insomnia, intermittent fasting might not be for you.

Let Us Help You on Your Journey

Intermittent fasting is about more than losing weight. It’s about creating a better balance inside your body. That’s something we can help with.

We encourage you to connect with a health care professional at AltaMed to help you grow healthy. If you’re interested, click here or call us at (888) 499-9303.

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See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

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Two women drinking smoothies outside.

Healthy Alternatives to Common Snacks

When things get busy, it’s all too easy to grab a comforting snack like chips or candy. In fact, our bodies literally crave these types of treats. Replacing them with healthier alternatives is a great way to keep your well-being on track. So, the next time hunger strikes, consider these simple snacks that are easy to make, taste great, and will leave you energized for the rest of the day. 

Fresh Fruits and Veggies — Nature provides some of the best snacks! Keep a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables like apple slices, carrot sticks, or cucumber rounds on hand for easy, crunchy, and nutritious munching.

Nut Butter and Banana — Spread some peanut or almond butter on banana slices for a creamy and protein-packed treat.

Cheese and Whole Grain Crackers — Cheese is a good source of calcium, and when paired with whole-grain crackers, it becomes a balanced snack for all times of day.

Yogurt with berries.

Yogurt with Berries — Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey and some fresh berries is a satisfying snack that's also rich in protein and antioxidants.

Trail Mix — Create your own trail mix with a blend of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and a few chocolate chips for a sweet touch. It's a great way to get energy and nutrients.

Homemade Smoothies — Blend up a nutritious and delicious smoothie with ingredients like spinach, banana, yogurt, and a splash of fruit juice.

Hummus and Fresh Veggies — Hummus, made from garbanzo beans, is a fantastic dip for veggies like bell peppers, celery, and cherry tomatoes.

Bowl of popcorn.

Popcorn — Skip the butter and go for air-popped popcorn. It's a whole grain that's low in calories and can be seasoned with a variety of tasty flavors.

Whole-Grain Muffins — Bake some whole-grain muffins with added fruits or vegetables for a tasty and portable snack option.

Frozen Fruit Bars — Opt for frozen fruit bars made with real fruit juice and minimal added sugar as a refreshing treat.

Snacking Toward Success

By choosing healthier snack alternatives, you’ll get the necessary nutrients to grow healthy. At AltaMed, we're dedicated to improving the well-being of our communities, one good habit at a time. We understand that maintaining a balanced diet can be a challenge, especially with busy schedules. Our dietician counseling services can help tailor meal plans that meet your family’s needs. 

Learn how to get started with AltaMed or call us at (888) 499-9303.

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Eating

The Pros and Cons of a Vegan Diet

Choosing a diet is a personal decision that involves factors such as health, ethics, and lifestyle. One popular choice is a vegan diet, which excludes all animal products. If you're thinking about going vegan, it's important to weigh the pros and cons to determine if it aligns with your health and wellness goals. Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of a vegan lifestyle.

Pros of a Vegan Diet

  1. Better Heart Health — Vegans often have lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart diseases. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is beneficial for cardiovascular health.
  2. Weight Management — A vegan diet can aid in weight loss or help maintain a healthy weight due to its focus on low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. Plant-based meals are often naturally lower in calories and saturated fats.
  3. Lower Cancer Risk — Research suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of certain types of cancers. Vegans consume a variety of plant foods that contain protective antioxidants and phytonutrients.
  4. Improved Digestive Health — A vegan diet is typically rich in fiber, promoting healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. High-fiber diets are associated with a reduced risk of constipation and colon-related issues.
  5. Environmental Impact — Veganism is touted for its positive impact on the environment. Animal agriculture is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. By not consuming animal products, you can reduce your carbon footprint.

Cons of a Vegan Diet

  1. Potential Nutrient Deficiencies — A vegan diet may lack certain essential nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. It's crucial to carefully plan your diet to ensure you get all necessary nutrients.
  2. Challenges in Eating Out — Finding suitable vegan options can be difficult, especially in non-vegan-friendly areas. Dining out may require extra effort and research to identify vegan-friendly restaurants and menu items.
  3. Social Limitations — Being vegan might pose social challenges during gatherings or events, as not everyone may understand or accommodate dietary preferences. These situations can sometimes be uncomfortable.
  4. Initial Learning Curve — Transitioning to a vegan diet may require learning new recipes, understanding ingredient alternatives, and familiarizing yourself with plant-based nutrition. This learning curve may feel overwhelming initially.
  5. Potential Expense — While a plant-based diet can be affordable, specialty vegan products and substitutes can be more expensive than their non-vegan counterparts. Organic or specialty items may strain your budget.

Is a Vegan Diet Right for You?

Ultimately, whether a vegan diet is suitable for you depends on your personal beliefs, health considerations, and willingness to commit to a plant-based lifestyle. Consult with a registered dietitian who can guide you in making informed dietary choices to ensure you’re consuming a nutritionally balanced vegan diet.

Remember, any diet should prioritize balanced nutrients, and a vegan diet can be a wholesome choice if planned thoughtfully to meet your body’s needs. Whether vegan or not, the key is to opt for a diet that aligns with your overall well-being.

Dietician Consultations Available

No matter your age, what you eat has a huge effect on your overall health. Healthy eating isn’t hard — especially when you have someone to empower you to make good decisions and teach you how healthy food can be delicious. Our registered dieticians provide individually tailored nutrition plans to members of every age.

Patients with the following are encouraged to see a dietician: diabetes, heart-related conditions, those considering bariatric surgery, pregnancy, gastrointestinal-related conditions, and patients with any other nutrition-related condition.

Dietician consultations are available to all AltaMed patients at no cost. Ask your doctor for a referral or call (888) 499-9303 to enroll.

What to Know about Intermittent Fasting