Sunday, March 26, 2017

Easy Fixes for Some Nutrition Mistakes

Are you making some nutrition mistakes?  Even those who are health conscious and pride themselves on eating well can make some of the mistakes noted below.  Or, you may be interested in eating healthier and want to avoid some nutrition mistakes.   An interesting article in the Washington Post, 10 Nutrition Mistakes Even Really Healthy People Make covered a number of “mistakes” you may not be aware of.  What are some of these nutrition mistakes?   

     1.      Flax seeds – Flax seeds are the latest trend and healthy so you add some whole flax seeds to your cereal, your smoothie.  Flax seeds are super healthy, loaded with heart healthy omega-3 fats plus fiber and some antioxidants.  But to get the benefit of flax seeds, don’t eat them whole as they may go through you pretty much undigested.  Instead, buy ground flax seeds and sprinkle some on your morning oatmeal, add to your smoothie.   
     2.     Almond Milk – so many people are switching to almond milk.  They may be lactose intolerant and Almond milk doesn’t have lactose.  They may like the lower calories of Almond Milk.  But shake it before you drink it.  Why?  The added calcium and vitamin D may sink to the bottom.  To be sure you are getting the minerals and vitamins in each glass, shake before drinking.    
     3.    Don’t skip the fruit – so many people seem to cut back on fresh fruit or 100% juice to avoid “added” sugar.  My daughter was eating a banana and someone asked her, “Why are you eating a banana?  Don’t you know they are high in sugar?”  NO, no and no.  Bananas don’t have “added” sugar.  What we want to cut back on are foods that have sugar added to them, like the sugar added to sodas.  But fruit is healthy.  It has some natural sugar, fructose, but also fiber, vitamins, minerals and they oh so important, antioxidants.  The article notes a soda can provide 16 teaspoons of sugar.  To get this much sugar eating bananas, you would have to eat 6 bananas.  
     4.     Fat Free Salad Dressing or Skipping Salad Dressing – many dieters either buy the Fat-Free Salad Dressing or skip putting salad dressing on their salad.  While salad dressing can be high in fat and thus calories (such as 130 calories in 2 T. of Thousand Island Dressing), cutting out all the fat is not a healthy choice.  Why?  Because so many vitamins in the salad need some fat to be absorbed.  These fat-soluble vitamins, A, E and K and many antioxidants in those salad greens need some fat for absorption.  So add some oil or fat by using a Reduced fat salad dressing, a vinegar/oil dressing and or add some fat by adding nuts or avocado to your salad bowl.  
     5.    Sports Drinks – so many people drink these thinking they are good for your health.  One student in my class gave sports drinks to her four-year-old while the child watched TV.  First, sports drinks are for sports.  They are designed to replace the fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat especially during sports like soccer, or running a marathon.  But going on a walk after dinner or a casual stroll through your neighborhood doesn’t require refueling with a sports drink.  Rather rehydrate with plain water.    
    6.    Low-Fat doesn’t mean Low Sugar – I often make egg salad in the summer months.  To try to cut back on the fat calories I asked my husband to buy low-calorie mayonnaise.  I made egg salad sandwiches and he asked me why I put sugar in the egg salad.  I was puzzled as I never put sugar in the egg salad.  I took a bite of my egg salad sandwich and it tasted sweet.  Ruined really.  I looked at the low-calorie mayonnaise and they did take some fat out but they added sugar.  Healthier?  Not really and it made for a terrible egg salad sandwich.  So, low-fat doesn’t always mean it is healthier.  Read the label and the ingredients to see what is being added to the reduced-calorie food.

To read all 10 of the nutrition mistakes, go to the article at:  10 Nutrition Mistakes Even Really Healthy People Make.  You may find other nutrition mistakes you might be making.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Kitchen Makeover for Healthy Eating

There are so many articles on the internet about updating your kitchen to make it more modern and add more conveniences.  But how can you give your kitchen a makeover for healthier eating?  Since March is National Nutrition Month, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has many articles on ways we can all eat healthier this month.  So what are the Academy’s recommendations for a kitchen makeover? (Changes are adapted from the article.)

  1. Make a list when going grocery shopping     First – look at what you have on hand.  Then put on your list the fruits, vegetables and other healthy items you and your family need for the week.
  2. Change it Up – Forgo the white bread for some whole wheat bread.  Or buy some whole grain bagel thins such as Thomas’ 100% Whole Wheat Bagel Thins – great for packed lunches.  These bagel thins are 100% whole wheat, have no high fructose corn syrup and provide 5 grams of fiber.  Instead of whole milk, reach for the 2% or 1% milk.  Forgo the toaster strudel options for some whole grain cereal to start your day.
  3.  Calculate how much fruit – if each person in the family is to have 2 pieces of fruit a day, buy 8 pieces of fruit for each day.  Buy a bag of apples, a bag of oranges, to ensure you have enough fruit for each day of the week.  If you are buying “juice” boxes for the kids, make sure you are buying real juice, 100% juice and not flavored sugar water.  Juicy Juice is a good choice.  All their juices are 100% juice, have no added sugar and come in a variety of flavors.
  4. Canned foods can be good foods      So many of my students ask if canned fruits and vegetables are OK to eat.  Yes, they can be just as nutritious.  For fruit, looked for fruit packed in its own juice and not a sugary syrup.  
  5.  Put your healthy food on display – always have a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter.  We have a beautiful silver bowl filled with bananas and other fresh fruit.  So easy to grab a piece of fruit for a snack.  Keep some cut up veggies on a shelf in the refrigerator for kids to grab for a quick snack of veggies with some low fat Ranch dressing.
So look around your kitchen whether you live alone, an empty nester or a family.  How can you makeover your kitchen for healthier eating?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

What to Eat for a Longer Life

The health headlines this week read:  To Live Longer, Cut Out the Bacon and Soda; Eat More Nuts.   Researchers studied what foods are linked to a longer life and what foods are linked to diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  They found a diet high in processed foods like bacon and high sugar foods like soda shorten your life and a diet high in healthy food choices like nuts leads to a longer life.  The study published in JAMA reviewed diets of 7000,000 Americans who died from heart disease, strokes or diabetes.  They analyzed what they ate or did not eat.  A great research article to focus on during March, National Nutrition Month.

What foods/nutrients to eat to live longer by lessening your chances of a heart attack, stroke or diabetes?
Good” Foods – Eat more of these for a longer life:

  • Nuts – As noted in a number of my blogs, a handful of nuts a day is a Dr. Oz recommendation and a good habit to adapt.  Nuts do have fat in them, but the heart healthy Omega-3 fats.
  • Fruits and Vegetables – USDA recommends 5 A Day or 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  So important not only for vitamins, minerals and fiber but also all the antioxidants fruits and veggies provide.
  • Seafood – another great source of the healthy Omega-3 fats.  Foods like salmon are rich in Omega-3’s.
  • Whole Grains – ditch the white bread and choose some whole grain bread, whole grain crackers like Triscuits, or whole grain cereals like any General Mills cereal.

“Bad” Foods – eat less of these foods:

  • Processed meat – bacon, hot dogs, bologna.  Medical Daily called bacon “Comfort Food” and who doesn’t enjoy some bacon or hot dogs?  However, these foods are a double whammy because they not only have saturated fats, but are also higher in sodium.  
  • Red meat – hamburgers, steak
  • Added sugar drinks – sodas. Data now shows more Americans are buying bottled water than sugared sodas and that is a good trend.
  • Salty foods – hard to avoid salt in our diets, especially if we eat out as so many restaurant and Fast Food items are high in salt.  Start reading labels for “sodium” content of the foods you buy and look up the sodium content of Fast Food items.  They recommend only 2000 mg of sodium a day, but I find that almost an impossible goal as it is so restrictive. But pay more attention to the sodium in the foods you eat. 

So, if you want to live a longer, healthier life, choose more of the “good” foods that promote health and lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Eat better during March, National Nutrition Month

February was heart health month and March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign led by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Their theme this year is, “Put Your Best Fork Forward” meaning that each bite of food counts and even small changes in your diet can have big health benefits.  The overall theme of this nutrition/health blog has been small changes for a healthier you.  Recently, students in the nutrition class I teach wrote down everything they ate for 24 hours.  One student ate Frosted Flakes for breakfast.  I noted if they made just one change, switching to a General Mills cereal such as Cheerios or choosing oatmeal for breakfast, would be a huge change in their diet. Why?  By just switching to a healthier cereal, they would add a serving of whole grains, more fiber, and more nutrients to their day.  The student went to the grocery store, bought a new cereal, took a picture of the box and showed me the picture at the next class. They asked me if this new cereal was a nutritious choice, and it was not only a healthy choice but a cereal I also eat.

So, what simple nutrition changes does the Academy recommend for National Nutrition Month, 2017?  A summary of their changes:
1.       Choose healthy food – like the students in my class, switching cereals can be an easy way to eat healthier.  Choosing real juice instead of Sunny D can be a way to eat healthier.  Choosing a General Mills cereal instead of Pop Tarts for your kids is a way to eat healthier. 

2.       Go to MyPlate and see what foods you should be eating.  How many servings of fruits and vegetables, how many servings of grains.  Unfortunately, MyPlate is not as easy to navigate as it used to be so here is the link to get to the page you need to get YOUR diet recommendations: MyPlate Daily Checklist.   Enter your age, gender, weight, height and your physical activity level and MyPlate will give you a Food Plan recommended for you. 

3.       Be physically active every day – so many people promise themselves, “I will go to the gym to work out 5 times this week,” and then never go at all.  Find 1-2 classes at the gym you can fit in your schedule, after work, during lunch, Saturday morning and make them part of your return.  No time for the gym, then walk every day.  Being active on weekends doesn’t have to mean going to the gym but mowing the lawn, washing a car, cleaning your home.  Less sitting and more moving is the goal. 

4.       Ask a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for nutrition advice.   Reading this blog is one way to “consult” a nutritionist as I am a Registered Dietitian.  Go to the Academy’s website at and read the many articles on nutrition they provide free of charge. If you are a teacher or a parent, has nutrition games kids can play to learn more about nutrition at:  National Nutrition Month Games

So in March, how can you eat healthier?  Bring a piece of fresh fruit with you to work every day.  Eat a whole grain cereal for breakfast. General Mills makes it easy as all their cereals are whole grain.  Go to MyPlate Daily Checklist and get your individualized food plan.  If you are a mom or dad, enter information for each of your kids to find out what healthy foods they should be eating every day.  Ask a friend to join you for a walk before or after work every day.

Sources:  Academy, MyPlate Daily Checklist, National Nutrition Month Games

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Watch the fat or watch the carbs?

How many times do you hear people say, “I am watching my carbs.”  Have you ever heard someone say, “I am watching the fat in my diet”?  Probably not.  So much focus on carbs but so little focus on fat in one’s diet.  Since February is heart health month, let’s look at what fats you should be “watching” in your diet.  We need fat in our diets but we also should cut back on saturated fats in our diets.  The Dietary Guidelines offer specific recommendations about saturated fat:

Limit calories from saturated fat by consuming an eating pattern low in saturated fats.  Specifically, by consuming less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. 

Why the focus on lowering our saturated fat intake?
The Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association recommend lowering our saturated fat intake because:
The recommendation to limit intake of calories from saturated fats to less than 10 percent per day is a target based on evidence that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. 

What are some ways to cut back on saturated fat?
  • Dairy – whole fat dairy foods have saturated fat so switch to low-fat milk, or fat free milk.  Choose low fat yogurt and cheese lower in fat like mozzarella cheese.
  • Meat – choose leaner cuts of such as lean hamburger or chose ground turkey.  Cut back on bacon and sausage which are higher in saturated fats.
  • Oil – oils like olive oil, corn oil, safflower are good, heart healthy choices.  But avoid the tropical oils, palm and coconut oil, as these are high in saturated fat.
The Two Docs, Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen offer some good ideas for cutting back on saturated fat in their article, “Get real with yourself about the sat-fat you’re ingesting” (Two Docs, FLS 2014).
  • Chicken – a healthy choice until you choose fried chicken with skin or Buffalo Wings.  Choose baked or grilled chicken.  Going out to eat?  Look for grilled chicken on the menu.
  • Pasta – pasta with a red spaghetti tomato-based sauce is a healthy choice, Alfredo sauce not so much.  Alfredo sauce tastes good but often packs in the calories and the saturated fat.
  • Mayonnaise, bleu cheese dressing – mayonnaise, a tasty choice for bacon, tomato and lettuce sandwich.  But mayo has saturated fat so limit the amount you use.    Bleu cheese dressing also tastes great on a salad but has saturated fat.  Enjoy occasionally on your salad or choose a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Going out to eat at a restaurant?  By choosing foods that are lower in saturated fat, you can lower your risk of heart disease.  Look for baked or grilled, choose the marinara spaghetti sauce over the Alfredo sauce.  Choose the balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.   There are many ways you can replace some of the saturated fats in your diet with healthier unsaturated fats.   Going out for Fast Food?  Look at the nutrition information online and choose options that are lower in saturated fat.  All of the major chains, McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell have the nutrition information for their menu choices posted online.

Sources:  Dietary Guidelines, Get real with yourself about the sat-fat you’re ingesting, Two Doc, Free Lance Star, 8- 2014.  Image source:  spaghetti

Sunday, February 19, 2017

How to eat for a healthy heart?

In honor of American Heart Month, this week we will look at heart health and what you can eat for a healthier heart.  The Centers for Disease Control notes even small changes in your diet and lifestyle can lead to healthier changes for your heart.  Why be concerned about heart health?  CDC states, “heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women”.  Another great source of information is The American Heart Association, the go to place for questions about heart health and how to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle.  What are some of their recommendations in terms of healthier eating and exercise? 

Eating for a healthy heart:  Small steps to take
  • Eat at home at least 3 times a week.   By skipping the fast food and restaurant meals you can prepare meals that are lower in fat, especially meals lower in saturated fat, and lower in sodium.
  • Use more herbs and spices when cooking – keep the flavor while cutting back on the amount of salt in a recipe.
  • Focus meals on foods high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Cut back on sugary drinks – those with added sugar like sodas
  • Focus on healthier fats – look for olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and healthier fats in avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish
According to the American Heart Association a heart healthy eating plan focuses on:
  •  Adding more fruits and vegetables to your day – aim for at least 5 A DAY
  • Whole grains for fiber, vitamins and a boost of minerals lacking or missing from white bread
  • Enjoy dairy – but choose low fat.   Milk – 1% or fat free, and low fat yogurt are good choices
  • Baked Not Fried – choosing chicken and fish are great choices but frying adds fat and extra calories
  • Nuts – have a handful a day – nuts are higher in fat but they have a heart healthy fat.  I sprinkle chopped walnuts on my oatmeal for a nutrition boost.  Try adding some chopped walnuts to a salad.  California walnuts has many American Heart Association certified heart healthy recipes on its website at  
What about exercise and your heart?

Walking -  The American Heart Association recommends walking as the easiest way to start improving your heart health.  They note it is easy, free, enjoyable and a great way to get some exercise every day. 

What about cardio and strength training?    How much exercise does the American Heart Association recommend for a healthy heart?
Exercising for Overall Heart Health
  • 5 Days a Week – do at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio/aerobic exercise for a total of 150 minutes a week OR
  • 3 Days a Week – do at least 25 minutes of more vigorous cardio/aerobic exercise to get a total of 75 minutes a week
  • Add Strengthening Exercise – at least 2 days a week
Exercise to lower blood pressure and your cholesterol
                3-4 Times a week, do about 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardio/aerobic exercise

The 30 minutes of exercise doesn’t have to be done all at one time.  Short on time? Then a 15-minute walk in the morning and a 15-minute walk at lunch or after work. 

To read more about the American Heart Association’s recommendations for heart healthy eating, go to The American Heart Association's Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. has recommendations for heart healthy eating, many heart healthy recipes and suggestions for dining out. To get whole grains, walnuts and fruits and vegetables into your day, try the Quinoa-Chicken Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Grapes and Arugula recipe.

Sources:  Centers for Disease Control, exercise, The American Heart Association's Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations, heart healthy recipes,  Quinoa-Chicken Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Grapes and Arugula  Image source:  Salad

Quinoa-Chicken Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Grapes and Arugula

Sunday, February 12, 2017

4 More Healthy Eating Habits from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition

Last week I shared 4 of the Healthy Eating Habits the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition recommends.  The Council has Eight Healthy Eating Goals, and this week we will look at the remaining 4 healthy eating habits you can adopt in 2017.  So many people think healthy eating means giving up food.  But for many people, healthy eating means adding food to your day – adding more fruits and vegetables, adding whole grains.  Yesterday, I was in a grocery store and the mother of a toddler was buying a carton of Juice Drink boxes.  She probably thought this was a healthy choice but she was really buying mostly sugar water for her young child.  Had she bought real juice she would have been offering her toddler something with nutritional value rather than a drink of empty calories.  Making some small changes in the foods we choose to eat and buy each day can have a major impact on our health.  Simply buying real juice instead of juice drinks made of sugar water would be a big improvement in one’s diet.   As noted last week, many people are interested in healthier eating but then seem confused by nutrition myths as to what is healthy.  This mother probably thought something labeled “Juice Drink” was a healthy juice and was fooled by the labeling.   Adopting good, healthy eating habits and making even small changes in daily habits can result in good things for your health.  Here are 4 more healthy eating goals adapted from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition,  Eight Healthy Eating Goals.  

Try one or more of these healthy eating goals this week for a healthier you. 

Goal 1:  Choose Lean protein:    Somehow this has been construed to thinking chicken is lean so fried chicken nuggets are healthy.  Not true.  Choosing baked or broiled chicken is healthy but frying adds fat, defeating the whole purpose of choosing leaner chicken.  Other choices can include seafood (not fried), dry beans, nuts, seeds and eggs.  When buying ground beef, choose the leaner cuts (the label will state 90% lean).  Or choose ground turkey. 

Goal 2:  Drink water instead of sugary drinks:  Another goal of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to reduce the “added sugars” in our diets.  When the mother in the grocery store chooses the juice drink, she was choosing a beverage for her daughter loaded with added sugars.  Most people think only sugared sodas are sources of added sugar and then buy Hi-C, Sunny D and other juice drinks that are loaded with added sugar.  Many energy drinks and sports drinks are also loaded with added sugar.  Choose water with a slice of lemon.  Choose real 100% juice and not juice drinks. 

Goal 3:   Eat some Seafood:    Seafood is a great way to add some “good” fats to your diet, the Omega-3 fats.  Choices of seafood include salmon, tuna, trout and shellfish such as crab and oysters.  Seafood is a good source for protein, many minerals and the Omega- 3 fats which are heart healthy fats.   

Goal 4:  Cut back on Solid Fats:  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we cut back on solid fats.  These would be foods containing shortening, stick margarine, or butter such as the cookies, cake and other desserts you buy.   Pizza is another source of solid fats as is sausage, hot dogs, bacon and ribs.  Ice cream is a source of solid fats but there are low fat varieties that taste pretty good.  The President’s Council and the Dietary Guidelines don’t say we have to eliminate foods with solid fats from our diet, but to cut back on them.  Choosing leaner protein foods and lower fat milk is a way to cut back on solid, saturated fats in our diets.
Some ideas adapted from the President’s Council  for cutting back on Salt, Sugar and Solid Fats:
  • Choose baked or grilled food – going out for some Fast Food?  Look at the menu and instead of a fried chicken sandwich, get the grilled chicken sandwich.
  • Choose water or low-fat milk or fat-free milk as your beverage and skip the sugar sweetened sodas and fruit drinks.
  • Serve more fruit – at breakfast make sure you have some real juice or a piece of fruit.  Always pack fruit in your lunch or your kid’s lunch.  Serve more fruit for dessert. 

What small changes can you make this week for healthier eating habits in 2017?   If you drink whole milk, try switching to 2% milk.  Pack your lunch more often and pack a piece of fruit with your lunch.  Pack a low-fat yogurt in your lunch.  Have more fresh fruit for your kids to snack on and make sure any juice boxes you buy are real juice and not sugared fruit drinks with little juice but lots of added sugar. 

Sources:  Eight Healthy Eating Goals   Image Source:  Water