Sunday, September 25, 2016

Small Changes to Boost Your Nutrition

How often do we hear, “eat healthy”, “eat nutritious foods”?  Are there small changes you can make to boost your nutrition without giving up every fun food?  I like to focus on what you can add to your diet to make it healthier rather than focus on taking things away.  An article in Environmental Nutrition has some simple, easy ways to boost your nutrition by focusing on foods that are full of nutrition.  How can you Make Your Diet More Nutrient-Dense?  Some suggestions adapted from this article:
Organic Milk – is organic milk healthier?  It is more expensive but is it worth it?  A study in the British Journal of Nutrition noted that organic milk has more of the heart healthy fat, omega-3, a lot more, 56% more.  Milk is not a great source of iron or vitamin E but these were higher in organic milk.  Not to mention the healthier aspect of no hormones and no pesticides in the milk.  Why a higher nutritional value?  They believe it is because the cows are grazing in the pasture.  One of my students researched organic foods and recommended that if you can only afford one organic food, splurge on organic milk. Prices vary greatly, shop around for the best price.

Salads these can be healthy if one focuses on healthier greens.  Choose dark greens like spinach.  When choosing a salad mix in the grocery store, choose the mix with the darker greens.  Then when home, give the salad mix a nutrition boost by adding cup up carrots, green pepper, mushrooms, olives, cucumber, celery, and tomatoes.  Even sprinkle on some ground up nuts, or some dried cranberries.   Then to ensure you can absorb these nutrients forgo the fat-free dressing.  Choose low-fat salad dressing or vinaigrette made with olive oil.  You need some fat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids in the salad.

Frozen Fruit and Vegetables I often get asked if frozen fruit and vegetables are as healthy as fresh.  And it is.  The article notes foods like strawberries and broccoli are harvested at their peak and then quickly frozen so they retain their nutrients.  Frozen fruits and vegetables can have an even higher nutrient content as shipping and storage can lead to some nutrient loss.  For example, vitamin C in frozen corn, green beans and blueberries is actually higher than in fresh versions.  Doesn’t mean you should switch to frozen over fresh but it does mean you can enjoy frozen fruits and vegetables and not worry about the nutrient content.

Cooked vegetables – most people think cooking destroys nutrients and it can.  But cooking can enhance absorption of antioxidants like lutein which is more available in spaghetti sauce than a fresh tomato.  An article in Food Chemistry found that steaming kale enhanced its antioxidant activity.  But don’t boil veggies as nutrients can leach out into the water.  Steaming or microwaving are best for nutrient retention.

Making a smoothie this week, add some frozen fruit.  Have a salad this week, loaded with dark greens, cut up veggies and some dressing with fat in it.  Enjoy some steamed or microwaved vegetables.  And try some organic milk.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Start Some Healthy Habits This Week

How can you make eating healthier a habit?  Are there easy things to do that can help you and your kids eat healthier?   A recent article Place Your Order In Advance has some great tips.  Suggestions have been modified to include those I teach in my nutrition classes.  
1.        Put healthy foods in front of you:  studies have found that if it is easy to get to, you may eat that food first.  So make the healthier foods ones that are easy to get to.
  •   Keep healthy foods on the counter – a bowl of fruit, a pitcher of water
  •  Cut up veggies like green pepper, carrots, celery and have them in the fridge for a quick snack
2.       Supermarkets:  shop the perimeter:  focus on healthier options by shopping the perimeter of the store.  Did you ever notice the perimeter has the fruit and vegetables, the dairy, the meat group? 

3.       Eating out?  Read the menu ahead of time:  check out the online menu before you go.  Plan healthier options before you even enter the restaurant. 
  • Read the online menu.  Look for and choose healthier appetizers, entre and beverages.
  • Check out the online nutrition information for the foods you want to order.  How many calories and how much fat is in the food?  Are there menu options with less calories and less fat?
  • The article also suggests choosing 3-4 healthier meal options from restaurants you frequent.  Before you go, decide on which of these healthier menu choices you will order.  Deciding ahead of time helps you focus on eating healthier in the restaurant.
  • Split it – want the higher calorie menu item?  Split it with your partner and cut the calories in half.  Ask them to choose a lower calorie option you can share.
  • Choose healthier drink options.  Fast food, choose milk.  Most fast food restaurants offer low fat milk as an option.  Fast food places also offer 100% juice such as a juice box as an option or orange juice. Water is always a good choice, or unsweetened ice tea, black coffee, hot tea.
4.        Snacks – bring healthier snacks with you. 
  • Running errands with the kids?  Pack some healthy snacks.  I was at a car wash and a young girl told her mom she was hungry.  There were snack machines loaded with unhealthy options.  The mom reached into her purse and pulled out orange slices, whole grain crackers and asked her daughter which one she wanted.  Impressive!
  • Going to work?  Pack healthy snacks to munch on rather than the snack machines.  Yogurt, a handful of nuts, a small box of raisins, a granola bar. 
  • Going on a road trip?  Pack some healthier snacks. Besides fresh fruit and vegetables, have whole grain crackers, popcorn, hummus, and juice boxes of 100% juice.  Bring a cooler and bring yogurt, low fat cheese sticks.
 Try some of these easy ways to make good nutrition a habit. 

Sources:  Place Your Order In Advance,   Image source:   Vegetable plate
Vegetable plate

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How can you cut up to 500 calories a day?

Many people are looking for ways to cut back on calories with little effort.  Are there simpler ways to cut back on calories than go on some stringent diet?  To lose one pound a week, you need to cut back on 3500 calories or 500 calories a day. But it doesn’t have to mean cutting back on 500 calories of food, one can also increase their exercise and burn up 250 calories a day and then cut back on 250 calories, which would be a lot easier to do.  Trying to cut 500 calories a day is a lot and many people would feel hungry doing so.  For some ideas on how to cut back on calories, WebMD has a few suggestions in their article, 20 Ways to Cut Back on 500 Calories A Day.  A few of their suggestions are highlighted below:
  1. Choose black coffee and skip the grande latte.  Even with no added sugar, the grande latte adds 220 calories to your day.  Black coffee has almost no calories, adding only 2 calories to your day.  And for those of you drinking 2 grande lattes a day, this switch would save you nearly 500 calories a day, with no other changes in your diet.
  2. Choose water vs Soda – A 20 ounce soda has about 240 calories, all sugar calories and “empty calories” meaning little to no vitamins or minerals.  Have 2 of these a day and you are drinking almost 500 calories of added sugar a day.  Switch to water with lemon, for a refreshing drink with almost no calories. 
  3. Eat at home – those who eat their meals at home eat fewer calories.  A Johns Hopkins study found that people who ate at home not only ate fewer calories, about 140 fewer calories due to eating less sugar and less fat.   To get started, eat breakfast at home and pack a healthy lunch each day.  Skipping the lunch out can easily cut back on your calories each day.
  4. Get moving – even fidgeting counts.   The Mayo Clinic found that those who fidget can burn up to 350 calories a day.  If you have a sit down job, move every hour.  Get up, walk around the office, go get a drink of water, go for a walk at lunch, take a few flights of stairs during a break. 
  5. Work out early, before breakfast.  I like to walk every day and usually I walk before I eat breakfast.  I do have a banana to get some energy before I head out the door.  A study in Japan found that those who exercised before breakfast burned about 280 calories more during the day. 
  6. Skip the chips.   Some relatives love to eat at Chipotle which does offer some very healthy choices.  But I recommend they either skip the chips or at least share them as they are loaded with fat and loaded with calories.  At 570 calories with 240 calories from fat, or 42% fat calories, not a good choice.  Not the dip, the salsa is actually low in calories.  Choosing chips at other restaurants can easily add over 600 calories to your meal. 

So this week, if you want to cut back on calories, find some ways to cut back on added sugar, fat or ways to be more active during the day. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Juice vs Smoothies, which is healthier?

Smoothies are the rage and many people have their favorite smoothie recipe.  Which one is better for you?  A recent article in the New York Times, Are Smoothies Better For You Than Juices?, outline the pros and cons of juice vs. smoothies.   

      1.        Juice – to be healthy, juice has to be real, 100% juice.  Many people buy Sunny D, Hi-C, or Capri-Sun juice drinks and think they are getting real, 100% juice.  But these are fruit drinks or juice drinks and not 100% real juice.  These fruit drinks may contain some juice as Hi-C drinks contain about  10% real juice.  Simply Fruit Punch Juice Drink contains only 15% juice.  The rest is mostly sugar water.  The added sugar in these drinks is often high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar which provide only “empty calories” without the nutritional benefits of real juice.    
  • Choose "juice" not juice drinks or fruit punch.  To be sure it is real juice, look for the word “juice” on the label and not “fruit drink” or “juice drink”.  Look at the ingredients to be sure it is juice and no sugars like high fructose corn syrup have been added.   
  •  Fiber:  Eating whole fruit is a healthier option as it retains the fiber in the fruit.  My husband enjoys an orange at breakfast, but I still like a glass of ice cold orange juice or grapefruit juice.  No juice drinks or fruit drinks, just 100% real juice.    
2.        Smoothies
a.       Fruit:  Make them with real, whole fruit.  Using the whole fruit keeps the fiber which slows down the absorption of the natural sugar, fructose, that is in the fruit.  Making a smoothie from one banana and a cup of frozen raspberries would add 12 grams of fiber to your day. Using whole fruit which has the fiber is a reason smoothies are a healthier option than juice.
b.      Vegetables – using fresh vegetables such as cucumbers, spinach, romaine lettuce is a great way to add nutrients like vitamin A and potassium to your day and fiber.  Using avocado adds a smooth texture and healthy fats to your smoothie.
c.       Protein – milk or yogurt adds protein.  Choose low fat milk or low fat yogurt. Add in nuts or silken tofu for more of a protein boost.  Unsweetened almond milk makes a great smoothie.  Yogurt and milk not only add a high quality protein but also calcium and vitamin D to your day.   

Making a smoothie at home can be healthier as you know all the ingredients and you don’t need to add sugar.  Some store bought smoothies can be high in added sugar, even as much added sugar as a milkshake.  So check out the ingredients and the calorie content of store bought smoothies.

Many readers commented on the New York Times article.  One smoothie favorite from a reader:  banana, mixed frozen fruit (with blueberries and blackberries), yogurt and almond milk.

If you enjoy Almond Milk, then the following is an easy smoothie recipe:
/2 medium banana, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup chopped fresh mango
2 cups chilled unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk

In a blender, add the banana chunks, blueberries, strawberries, and mango. Blend until combined, about 30 seconds. Serve in chilled glasses with straws.

Recipe courtesy of Melissa D'Arabian

So pull out the blender this week and enjoy a smoothie.  Smoothies are a great way to have breakfast and take it with you as you are rushing out the door. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Eat Breakfast every day for a healthier you

As school gets underway this fall, it is important to remember to feed kids breakfast every day.  Also, important for parents to eat breakfast every day.  Many have said, “Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day”.   More and more research is demonstrating how important breakfast is to our overall health.  Yet, surveys show less than half of us are eating breakfast every day. 
What is so important about breakfast?
  1. Nutrients – breakfast is a great time to get calcium, vitamin C from orange juice, potassium from orange juice, bananas or other fruit, some protein from milk or yogurt.  All to boost your energy and brain power throughout the morning. 
  2. Healthier eaters throughout the day – those who eat breakfast eat healthier foods throughout the day.  Maybe because they aren’t hitting the snack machine for candy bars or other sustenance around 10 AM when hunger strikes and reminds them they haven’t eaten breakfast.
  3. Better blood glucose control – skip breakfast and your blood sugar may spike even higher after lunch or dinner.  Not good for those with Type 2 diabetes.
  4. A  boost your metabolism – after fasting all night, your body needs an energy boost in the morning.  Eating breakfast gives you energy for the morning, helps kids focus on school and helps you focus at work.  WebMD notes in Most Important Meal,  Many studies have linked eating breakfast to good health, including better memory and concentration, lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and lower chances of getting diabetes, heart disease, and being overweight.”   
  5. Kids and Breakfast – so important to send your kids off to school with a good breakfast.  Not only do they need to refuel after a night of fasting, they need the nutrients that breakfast provides.  No breakfast and your kid will have a harder time focusing in class and may be tired because they are running on empty.  As WebMD notes, “One study showed that kids who ate breakfast had higher test scores than those who didn’t.” 

 What to eat for a healthy breakfast?

1.       Protein – I always say protein has “staying power” as it is not digested as rapidly as carbs so stays with you throughout the morning.  Healthy protein choices:
a.       Low fat milk
b.       Low fat yogurt
c.       Peanut Butter
d.       Two eggs
2.       Carbs – many people are “cutting back on carbs” but carbs should be part of every meal, including breakfast.  Healthy carbs are whole grain cereals, whole grain waffles, whole grain English Muffins, whole grain bagels.  Or in a rush, choose a whole grain granola bar. 
3.       Fruit – focus on 100% juice, fresh fruit like bananas, oranges, or berries.  

So this school year, send your kids off to school with breakfast and enjoy breakfast before you start your day.  No time for breakfast, then pack some healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, peanut butter sandwich.  Or try the simple, overnight oatmeal recipe at: Simple Overnight Oatmeal.

Overnight Oatmeal

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pack Healthy School Lunches With Super Foods

School has started or will soon be starting across the land.  How can you pack lunches that are not only healthy but contain some super foods?   Kaiser Permanente recently published, 8 Superfoods to Pack in Your Child's Lunch.  Why are these Super Foods?  For one, these foods are loaded with nutrients.  Thus, even a small serving packs a big nutrition boost.   Second, since they are packed with nutrients these foods fuel your child’s body and their brains.  So what are the 8 Super Foods?          
      1.  Berries – all berries are super healthy foods.  They are full of vitamins like vitamin C which can help fight off infections and they have a lot of antioxidants. 
  • Serve berries at breakfast by adding them to oatmeal, dry cereal, a smoothie.
  • Pack in a lunch box with some yogurt or in a container for your child to add to yogurt, a salad or to eat a handful with their lunch.   
      2. Eggs a great source of protein, the egg yolk provides iron and eggs provide lecithin which helps your child’s memory and helps them concentrate in class. 
  • Serve some scrambled eggs mixed with cheese for a protein and calcium boost at breakfast.
  • Pack a hard boiled egg in their lunch.    
3.       Whole grains – so many kids are not only lacking in whole grains, many are getting no whole grains at all.  Packing whole grains in a child’s lunch is a sure way to boost their nutrition.  Whole grains are rich source of B vitamins, many trace minerals and fiber.  Whole grains are a way to give your child lasting energy throughout the afternoon. 
  • Breakfast – serve some whole grain cereal like oatmeal, whole grain waffles, whole grain toast, whole grain English muffin.
  • Lunch – make a sandwich with whole grain bread, whole grain bagel, whole grain pita bread.  Include some whole grain crackers like Triscuits.  If your child likes chips, pack some whole grain chips like Sun Chips.                                  
  4.  Beans – although they are packed with nutrition, they may not be a favorite for your kids.  But many kids who won’t eat beans, will eat hummus.  Beans are loaded with protein, B vitamins, fiber and iron.  Iron is important for children’s brains and to help fight off infections.
  • Send some hummus with cut up vegetables   
5.       Avocados – people may not think of avocados as a super food but they are a great source of vitamins and the mineral, potassium.  They also have healthy fats which are good for hearts.
  • Include as a dip, add a slice to salads or sandwiches.  
6.       Nuts – the health fats in nuts promote brain development.  Check with your school to see what their policy is on nuts as some schools and lunch rooms are nut-free. 
  • Nuts – pack in a snack bag, pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or an almond butter sandwich.  
7.       Nonfat yogurt – yogurt provides protein, probiotics, and calcium for strong bones.  It doesn’t have to be Greek yogurt.  Find a flavor your child likes.
  • Pack a container of yogurt, use yogurt to make a smoothie, pack it for snack time.  
8.       Vegetables – Children should have at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and many are falling short.  Including vegetables in lunch is a great way to help your child get “5 A Day”.  Dark green and dark orange vegetables are loaded with Vitamin A (carotene) which is great for eyesight.  Vegetables are low in calories and provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Veggies are a great way to add color to your child’s lunch. 
  •  Carrot sticks, celery sticks, even green pepper, red pepper slices.  Add to salads, serve with low fat Ranch dressing.
 When packing your kid’s lunch this school year, add some Super Foods to their lunch bag.

School Lunch Box

Sunday, August 14, 2016

What do Olympic Athletes Eat?

Everyone is watching the Olympics.  What do Olympic athletes eat to stay in shape and have the energy to compete?  WebMD had a recent article, Eat Like an Olympian:  5 Nutrition Essentials.   How can you “eat like an Olympian”?
  1. Hydration – Olympic athletes stay hydrated.  A dehydrated body does not perform well.  One of the ways any athlete can improve performance is to stay hydrated.  A rule that WebMD recommends is to fill up with fluids equal to half your weight.  Thus, if you weigh 160 pounds, you want to take in 80 ounces of fluid.  Since there are 8 ounces in a cup, 80 ounces would be 10 cups of liquids a day.  But all liquids count – a glass of milk, a glass of ice tea and of course, water.
  2. Seafood – many health experts recommend eating seafood at least twice a week.  How does seafood help athletic performance?  Seafood has the omega-3 healthy fats including  EPA and DHA.     Omega-3 fats are important to athletes because they fight inflammation, aid in recovery from exercise.  Omega-3 fatty acids are also good for your health helping to protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  3. Carbs, Carbs, Carbs – it is a myth to avoid carbs.  To have energy, you want carbs in your diet.  A low carb diet is a low energy diet.  Olympic athletes are not avoiding their carbs.  To ensure you have energy throughout the day, you want to be eating 50-60% of your calories as carbs.  This is a surprise to most people, who are always “watching their carbs”.  But the type of carbs is important.  To ensure peak performance, athletes fuel up on good carbs and time eating their carbs for lasting energy.  What are “good” carbs?  Fruit, whole grains, beans and legumes.  You want carbs at every meal for peak performance and lasting energy throughout the day.
  4.  Protein – athletes know protein is important and protein isn’t usually lacking in an athlete’s diet.  But even athletes can be confused as to what foods provide high quality protein.  Protein is important especially to athletes as protein helps build up muscle after exercise.  To add high quality protein to your diet, focus on fish, seafood, eggs, milk, yogurt, poultry and beef.  Many people like Greek yogurt which is higher in protein than regular yogurt.  But women may want regular yogurt which provides them more calcium as women’s diets are often low in calcium.  After exercising you want to refuel with both protein and carbs and do so within 30-60 minutes of working out.  WebMD recommends Greek yogurt smoothie, half a turkey sandwich (whole wheat bread), or half a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread.
  5. Progress with exercise – many people start an exercise program and feel bad when they can’t keep up.  So many people come to the spinning (bicycle class) I am in each week, only to never return.  Why?  Probably many reasons but some are they try too hard.  Instead of doing 20-30 minutes of spinning, they stay for the hour and wear themselves out, never to return.  Start slow and know it takes time to build up endurance. 
  6.  Progress, not perfection – even Olympic athletes don’t eat healthy all day, every day.  Yes, it is important to eat healthy foods but there is room for indulgences.   If you go to MyPlate, you can find what your recommended intake of the five food groups is.  But you will also get the number of discretionary calories you can eat every day.  Discretionary means – you choose.  And you can choose desserts, cookies, candy, ice cream.  It is OK to treat yourself.  As WebMD notes, Even top athletes allow for occasional indulgences like sweets and fried foods. Most of your diet should be from the 5 food groups focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low fat dairy.  But you can also enjoy some sweets and salty snacks. 

So while watching the Olympics, you can also try to “Eat Like an Olympian” this week.