Sunday, August 20, 2017

Nutrition in the News: New Food Labels On Store Shelves

New Food Labels Now Appearing on Food Packages:  new food labels were proposed by the Food and Drug Administration with an implementation date of July 2018.  While this date has been postponed to allow manufacturers more time to comply, many manufacturers are already changing their food labels.  Look at the packages of food you eat for these new labels.  Some companies are early adopters including Nabisco, PepsiCo, and KIND.  So, you will see the new food labels on Wheat Thins, KIND bars, Lay’s Chips, Fritos and Cheetos. 

What are some of the things to look for on these new food labels?

Added Sugars –One of the most important changes is the addition of “added sugar” to the label.  Food labels already include “sugars” but this is of little value as the label didn’t tell you if the “sugars” were added or naturally present in the food.  For example, milk naturally has the sugar, lactose, in it.  So, “sugars” are listed on the milk carton of plain white milk, yet no sugar has been added.  It is the “added sugar” in our diets that we need to be concerned about.

Jiffy Corn Muffins – this week I was making some Jiffy Corn Muffins and the entire back of the package was the new food label.  The food label clearly listed “added sugars”.  The total “sugars” were 8 grams and the “added sugars” were 7 grams.  One could think this is a high sugar product but 7 grams of sugar is only 28 calories.  In a 180-calorie muffin, 28 calories is not a high “added sugar” food.  I was impressed that a small company like Jiffy is an early adopter of the new food label.

Jiffy Corn Muffin

Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Potassium – these are nutrients of concern in the American diet.  So many people are low in “D” and are not getting enough Calcium, Iron or Potassium in their diets.  One of the changes on the new food label is the “AMOUNT” of these nutrients needs to be on the label and not just the confusing, % Daily Value.   For those trying to add more nutrients like calcium to their diet, they will now be able to clearly see if a food contains a lot or little calcium and how many milligrams (mg) of calcium the food provides.

This week, check out the label on the Lay’s Chips, Wheat Thins or that KIND bar and look for the new Food Label.  I checked out the food label on the Sun Chips we have and it sports the new Food Label as it is a Lay’s chip.  And Sun Chips are a whole grain chip so a good choice for a snack or with your lunch.  

Sources:  Food and Drug Administration, early adopters, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Potassium  Image Sources:  Sun Chips, Jiffy

Friday, August 11, 2017

Enjoy That Cheese

Do you enjoy eating cheese?  I do.  Is cheese healthy?  Are some cheeses healthier than others?  Should someone who wants to “eat healthier” keep eating cheese?  It is always amazing that some people who are interested in “eating healthier” want to give up on healthy foods.  Cheese is quite healthy and offers a lot of important nutrients.  What are some things you should know about cheese?

Cheese Facts
How much cheese do we eat?  Americans love their cheese.  Mostly because of pizza and all the cheese we consume when we enjoy our pizza.  Or those grilled cheese sandwiches.   According to Marketplace, Americans ate over 34 pounds of cheese in 2015.  And that is a whole lot more cheese than we used to eat.  

How much fat is in cheese?
Most cheese we buy is full-fat cheese.  This means it is made with whole milk that contains about 3.5% fat.  Some cheeses, like mozzarella, are made with 2% fat milk.  If you read the label on some Mozzarella cheese, some Swiss cheese, you may see, part-skim milk.  This would be a cheese lower in fat content.

What nutrients are in cheese?
Cheese provides a very high-quality protein as cheese is made from milk and milk protein is a very high-quality protein.  The high-quality protein in cheese provides all the amino acids or building blocks of protein for strong muscles.  Cheese is also a great way to add calcium to your diet, a nutrient many people are not getting enough of.  Cheese also provides zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B12.  But cheese is not usually a good source of vitamin D.  I rarely see cheese that provides vitamin D.  (So still important to be serving the milk at meals, even if the meal has cheese in it.)  Note:   If the cheese was made with vitamin D-fortified milk, it would provide vitamin D, but most cheese is not.

Can people who are lactose intolerant eat cheese?
Yes.  So many people who are lactose intolerant can easily eat cheese without problems.  A sixth grader commented to me that he couldn’t drink milk, it made his stomach hurt.  But on pizza day at school, he was the first in line.  Why could he eat cheese pizza but not drink milk?  A lot of lactose is removed in the whey when cheese is made.  Cheeses that are aged, further break down the remaining lactose as the lactose is converted into a digestible form when cheese is aged.  Thus, aged cheeses like Cheddar, Parmesan or Swiss cheeses have little or no lactose and should be well tolerated by those who are lactose intolerant.  So, if you are lactose intolerant you may be able to sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on your spaghetti and not have any problems digesting this cheese. 

What about the saturated fat in cheese?
Many nutritionists and health care professionals recommend we reduce our saturated fat intake because of its link to heart disease.  But some research is now showing not all saturated fat is the same.  Some are saying the saturated fat in cheese may not be as bad for our heart as say the saturated fat in red meat.  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that full-fat milk or cheese did not increase the risk of heart disease.  But they did not decrease one’s risk either.  To reduce heart disease risk, people who ate low fat dairy and then replaced the dairy fat with healthier vegetable fats or with whole grain, did decrease their heart disease risk.   If saturated fat in cheese is of concern, then choose the part-skim Mozzarella or other part-skim cheeses.

Part-Skim Mozzarella

What about American Cheese?
Who doesn’t like a grilled cheese sandwich made with American cheese?  Or a cheeseburger?  But when choosing American Cheese, make sure it is real cheese.  So many times, it is cheese food and not really cheese.  Read the package label carefully and avoid words like “cheese product” or “cheese food”.  FDA sets the standard for cheese, and to be real “cheese”, the product much contain at least 51% real cheese.  If it contains less than the required 51%, then it is labeled, “cheese product”.   If you wish to cut back on some saturated fat, choose 2% American cheese.  Kraft makes an American Cheese called “Deli Deluxe” that also provides vitamin D.  A good choice for those grilled cheese sandwiches you are making for your kids.

American Cheese

What about dairy foods and weight gain?
There is a lot of misinformation about dairy foods and weight.  One might think cheese might lead to weight gain. But a study in Nutrition & Diabetes  found that people eating the most dairy foods actually had lower body fat and even lower blood pressure than those who ate the least.

Enjoy some cheese this week.  Bring some cheese and whole grain crackers to work for lunch or a snack.  Make some grilled cheese sandwiches with real American Cheese.  Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on your spaghetti.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Breakfast – the most important meal of the day.  But, most people say they don’t have time for breakfast.  Some solutions?  Fast food for breakfast?  Yes, you can drive through or pop in and get some pretty healthy food.  Or, when grocery shopping, pick up some breakfast items you can take with you on the drive to work, on the train to work or to eat quickly at your desk before work starts for the day.  The Business Insider has a great article on healthy breakfasts you can order at fast-food restaurants.  Who doesn’t like fast-food?   

      Healthy Breakfasts to order at fast-food restaurants with suggestions from Business Insider and other healthy foods to choose for breakfast.
     1.  Panera – a favorite restaurant of mine for a healthy lunch.  But stop in for breakfast and order the:
a.       Power Almond Oatmeal at 290 calories.  Oatmeal is whole grain so always a healthy choice, as is quinoa.  The almonds add protein and a healthy fat to the meal.  It is a good idea to have protein at breakfast and this meal choice offers 9 grams of protein.  And this breakfast choice is low in sodium and low in fat.
2.  Subway – another favorite of mine for a great sandwich.  For breakfast, you can choose:
a.       Egg and Cheese Sandwich – at 360 calories.  Choose the flatbread and some veggies.  This packs in even more protein at 19 grams.  It has 12 grams of fat so a little more than the oatmeal choice.  Higher in sodium at 860 mg, so don’t add any more salt to this choice.
      3.  McDonald’s -  My favorite fast-food breakfast is a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin.  I hold the “butter” that really isn’t butter, buy some juice and milk or black coffee and it is quite a tasty and fairly healthy fast-food breakfast. 
a.       Egg McMuffin at 300 calories.  A good amount of protein at 17 grams.  I find when I eat an Egg McMuffin, it has staying power and I am not as hungry later in the morning.  Again, it does provide a lot of sodium, 730 mg.  So, don’t add more salt to this choice.

b.       Fruit and Yogurt Parfait – only 150 calories, low in fat at only 2 grams and offers some protein at 4 grams.  A low sodium choice at only 75 mg. 
   4.  Starbucks – many people go to Starbucks just for coffee or tea.  But you can stop in for breakfast, just skip the muffins and scones.
a.       Spinach and Feta Wrap – 290 calories.  Good source of protein at 19 grams.  Some fat at 10 grams but just enough to be filling.  Again, a good amount of sodium at 830 mg.  So forgo the salt shaker.
   5.  Dunkin’ Donuts – in case you haven’t heard, Dunkin’ Donuts may become just “Dunkin’”.  If you can go there for coffee and not the donuts, you can try the Egg White Flatbread.
a.       Egg White Flatbread – only 280 calories, 15 grams of protein and not too much fat at 9 grams.  Lower in sodium than some other options at 690 mg.
   6.  Burger King - drive through and order the:
a.       Muffin Egg and Cheese – tempting to add other ingredients like sausage, but don’t.  Fairly low in calories at 260 calories.  Good amount of protein at 13 grams.  Fat is 11 grams.  Sodium on the high side at 830 mg.  So again, skip the salt shaker.  OK to add pepper but no more salt.
    7. Chick -Fil-A – stop in and choose the Greek Yogurt Parfait.
a.       Greek Yogurt Parfait – only 160 calories so won’t fill you up but a good choice. You will need to add something to this meal to add some calories.  Think whole grain bagel, whole grain muffin or hard-boiled egg that you brought with you.  Provides 8 grams of protein, less than some of the above choices but a good amount.  Low in fat at 5 grams and low in sodium at only 65 mg.
b.       Egg White Grill – not available at all Chick-Fil-A locations but if your location may offer it.  300 calories, a good 25 grams of protein.  Not too much fat at 7 grams. The English muffin is multi-grain, not 100% whole grain but does contain some whole wheat flour.   Pretty high in sodium at 970 mg.
c.       Fruit Cup – add the fruit cup to your Egg White Grill and you added a lot of nutrition but not a lot of calories at only 45 calories. 
The Business Insider article offers a few more breakfast suggestions so check it out.  Many nutritionists say to avoid fast-food restaurants.  But I like some fast-food.  And if you are traveling or in a hurry, stopping in for one of the above healthier fast-food choices is a lot better than no breakfast at all. 

Greek Yogurt Parfait

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Bedtime snacking – good idea? Bad idea?

Hungry before going to bed?  Checking out what snacks are on hand?  Is it bad to eat before you go to bed?  Growing up I always ate my dessert late, usually just before bed time -  a hard habit to break.  The New York Times has an article, What are the Best Snacks Before Bedtime?  A reader asked them,
“I know it’s not good to eat close to bedtime, but I get hungry.  What are the least harmful things I can eat – or drink – say, an hour or two before going to bed?”  Most of their bedtime snack suggestions were low fat and healthy so I adapted some of their suggestions and also added some real life snacks for real people.   
  1.  Calories – if you are trying to keep off the pounds or lose a few pounds, limit the bedtime snack to 100-200 calories or 300 calories max, says Isabel Maples from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  If you are trying to bulk up, then adding snacks to your day is a good way to add some calories to your day.   MyPlate used to note how many “discretionary calories”  a person could eat each day.  These were calories that could be used for “fun” foods.  Bedtime snacks are a great time to use up some of those discretionary calories
  2.  Choose from a food group for a healthy snack before bed :   fruits, vegetables, some low-fat dairy, some nuts
  3. Choose foods that have some food group in them but are more fun and more of a treat.    I like low-fat chocolate ice cream.  Not that it is the healthiest choice but it does provide some calcium and protein.   
  • Yogurt and fruit
  • Cereal and milk – any General Mills cereal is a good choice as all are whole grain. 
  •  Crackers and cheese – Triscuits or other whole grain crackers
  • Cookies and milk – choose some oatmeal-raisin cookies, peanut butter cookies
  • Half a peanut butter sandwich – mixing carbs and protein can be more satisfying and make you feel fuller longer
  •  Popcorn – a great whole grain snack.  If you are watching calories, choose a bag of Skinny Pop.  Or Orville Redenbacker’s Naturals, Simply Salted microwave popcorn.  Popcorn is a great way to add whole grains to a kid’s diet. Note to prevent choking, “According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, small foods, such as popcorn, should not be offered to a child until he is at least 5 years old.” (When Can A Child Eat Popcorn?)
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Ice cream – choose low-fat if you are watching your calories or regular if you are not.   Ice cream adds some protein and calcium to your diet.  A fun way to sneak a little extra calcium into a kid’s day. 
  •  Pudding – with a dollop of real whipped cream.  Pudding seems to have gone out of favor.  Pudding can add calcium, protein and vitamin D to your day.  Young kids can easily help make some pudding for dessert.  And pudding is a great way for parents to sneak more calcium and vitamin D into a kid’s diet.  Adding a dollop of whipped cream is fun and it makes the pudding even more special.  Yes, whipped cream is high in fat and has some saturated fat.  But, 2 Tablespoons of Reddi Wip has only 15 calories and only .5 grams of saturated fat.  So add a dollop of whipped cream to your pudding as a treat. 

4.       Think about why you are hungry – did you skip meals during the day and once you get home you just keep eating?  

5.       Or take some of the snack advice of readers who responded to the NY Time’s article:

a.       Ice cream sprinkled with some nuts
b.      A slice of pizza
c.       John noted:  “I think butterscotch pudding and chocolate chip cookies are one of the BEST snacks before bedtime”.  Not bad suggestions, John.  As noted above, pudding offers protein and calcium.  Add some milk with the chocolate chip cookies and you added protein, calcium and vitamin D.

Many people will say eating before bedtime is a bad idea and many people who commented on the NY Times article did say this.  But as a person who likes a snack before bedtime, I ignore this advice.  And for parents, kids have small stomachs and they do need snacks.  A kid may indeed be hungry before bedtime even if they ate well at dinner time.