Sunday, July 27, 2014

10 Healthy Snacks

Who among us doesn’t like to snack?  On a recent trip to France, my daughter and I brought snack foods with us.  Europeans enjoy their meals but snacks can be hard to come by.  We brought granola bars, nuts, and dried fruit to ensure we had snacks on the bus or wherever we were on the tour.  So what are some healthy snacks you can munch on between meals?
  1. Fruit – fresh fruit is always a healthy choice.  My daughter’s boyfriend is into apples as Weight Watchers gives apples only a few points.  All fruit is good, full of vitamins and antioxidants for good health.
  2. Nuts, especially almonds – go for a handful of nuts, not the whole container or buy a small bag at the convenience store.  Easy to take to work, pack in a lunch for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick up.  I carried a few baggies of nuts in my suitcase and then would grab a bag as we headed out of our hotel for a day of sightseeing.
  3. String cheese – great at any time but a very good high protein snack food.  I buy the 2% low fat variety to save on a few fat calories but still get the protein benefit.
  4. Granola bars – these do vary in calorie content and nutritional value so reading labels is important.  Try for ones with whole grain, some fruit or nuts and low in sugar.
  5. Water – not really thought of as a food but water can fill you up and certainly rehydrate you and water has no calories unless you choose some of the flavored waters.  I love Crystal Light – can get individual packets to add to a bottle of water or make up a pitcher of lemonade.  I really like their Peach Ice Tea.  My neighbor served me some peach ice tea with fresh peach slices in it.  Absolutely delicious and such a great summer drink.
  6. Yogurt – low fat yogurt is so healthy.  Great protein source, good for calcium, vitamins A and D.  Some prefer Greek yogurt, but any low fat yogurt is healthy.
  7. Trail mix – on a road trip last year, my daughter pulled out a large bag of homemade trail mix.  Look for mixes with nuts, dried fruit, raisins and low in sugar.  But trail mix can pack in the calories so have a handful or choose a small bag at the convenience store.
  8. Peanut butter – put on whole grain crackers or on celery for a filling snack.
  9.   Smoothie – fruit, yogurt, some almond milk.  Try bananas, strawberries, raspberries – experiment to find a flavor you like best. My daughter makes up a smoothie and then takes it with her as she commutes to work. 
  10. Yogurt parfait – mix some low fat yogurt with fresh fruit and nuts.  Try kiwi, some mango and some chopped unsalted cashews or walnuts.

Some people think you shouldn’t eat snacks and children shouldn’t have snacks.  But little kids especially need snacks because they have small stomachs, can eat only so much at meals and rely on snacks to meet their calorie and nutrient needs. So don’t avoid snacks, just make some healthier snack choices.
Sources: adapted from: 10 Best Healthy Snacks on VacationHealthy Snack Ideas , Image source:  yogurt parfait

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Overeating or Under-exercising?

How many people do you know who are on a diet?  All of us have relatives or friends that are always bragging about the latest diet they are trying.  Juicing is now in.  I have many relatives that are buying their juicers and lots of fruits and vegetables.   At least this diet craze packs a nutrition punch rather than taking foods and nutrients out of one’s diet as many fad diets do.  But rarely do we hear, “I need to lose weight so I am pumping up my exercise.”  I like my desserts and I like to eat so rather than diet I try to hit the gym, walk, bicycle and up my exercise.  This method seems to be supported by the latest research which indicates many overweight people aren’t overeating but under-exercising. 

Stanford University researchers noted the strong correlation between the rise in obesity to the significant drop in time spent exercising.  They didn’t find Americans are eating more but they did find many of us are exercising less.  Researchers noted from 1988 to 2010, Americans who did no exercise at all went from 19% to 52% for women and for men, from 11% to 43%.  No exercise at all in their free time.  WOW! 

In my nutrition classes, I always emphasize cutting some calories to lose weight but just as important, increase the exercise.  If one wants to lose a pound a week, which works out to cutting back on 500 calories a day.  I would be very hungry if I had to cut out 500 calories a day.  But one can increase their exercise and burn up 250 to 300 calories a day, and then cutting back on food by 250 to 200 calories a day isn’t quite so hard. 

The lead researcher, Dr. Uri Ladabaum, stated, “Even though it is very difficult to prove directly that public health interventions promoting physical activity will make a difference, I think they will," he said. "This study should serve as a reinforcement of the message that we need to think of a multi-component solution where diet is a big part of it, and physical activity is a big part as well."  Overeating vs Exercise

Sources: Overeating vs Exercise   Image source:  Exercise

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Foods That Help Fight Belly Fat

Who among us isn’t trying to reduce the size of our bellies?  Are there really foods that can help cut the belly fat?   MSN listed foods this week that are worth a try.  Even if you don’t add all of these, some are really easy to incorporate into our diet and daily routine.
  1.        Onion and leeks – so easy to add to our diet.  Onion slices on our hamburger, onion in our salads.  How do they work?  Onions produce butyrate which is a prebiotic that encourages the growth of good bacteria in our intestines.  The butyrate also helps one burn body fat.  
  2.        Artichokes and asparagus – on a recent trip to the Cheesecake Factory, my daughter and I enjoyed the fire-roasted artichoke appetizer.  Absolutely delicious.  Asparagus is now plentiful at our local farmers markets where I live and a great health food.  These two are also prebiotics and they produce acetate.  Acetate sounds awful but this also help us burn fat and recover from inflammation.  MSN suggests roasting these veggies with a drizzle of olive oil, some parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and some lemon.  
  3.       Avocado – used to be people avoided avocado because of its fat content.  However, avocados have a heart healthy fat full of omega 3’s and omega 6.  Avocados provide more long burning energy so you are not as hungry after a meal.  Enjoy your avocado dip, add chopped avocado to summer salads. 
  4.        Dark leafy greens – not iceberg lettuce which has little nutritional value but dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, bok choy which are loaded with nutrients and full of fiber.  These veggies also promote healthy bacteria in our intestines.  Spinach is often in the pre-mixed salads; add spinach to a summer salad, along with the avocado.  Bok choy can be enjoyed stir-fried for dinner.  
  5.        Yogurt – I am a big fan of yogurt.  Great for body builders because of the great protein in yogurt.  Great for everyone because of the probiotics in yogurt.  Look for yogurt with lactobacillus.  Also look for low fat, low sugar varieties.  Prefer Greek yogurt, that is fine but other yogurts are also healthy choices.  (Read more about Greek yogurt in my 4-20-2014 post.)  I eat a yogurt for lunch every day, my husband prefers his at breakfast to add protein to his breakfast.  Or use yogurt in place of mayo or sour cream in salads.  
  6.        Garlic – recently we had our roof replaced.  While talking to the roofing manager in our driveway, he reached into his pocket and pulled out garlic and started to eat a few c loves.  He said he did it for his health.  Garlic actually helps kill the bad bacteria that promotes inflammation and promotes the growth of good bacteria.  The fiber in garlic is “inulin” which helps us digest our food and even steadies our blood sugar levels.  Use garlic fresh on salads, top tomatoes with mozzarella, some garlic and drizzle with olive oil.  Use in stir fries.  We like to sauté zucchini, onion, summer squash, garlic with some olive oil.  Great summer side dish.  
  7.        Water with lemon – such as easy and refreshing thing to do.  My daughter brags about her lemon water.  She keeps slices of lemon in the refrigerator and adds them to her ice water.  Some suggest sipping water with lemon when you get up or after each meal to aid the digestion process.  Researchers claim lemon juice stimulates your GI juices to aid the digestive process.
 Now that it is summer and there are so many fresh veggies to buy locally, it would be easy to add one or more of these foods to your daily diet.

Image source:  lemon water  Source:  Foods that Fight Belly Fat   

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Can Fruits and Vegetables Lengthen Your Life?

In the nutrition class I teach, I always emphasized how important it is to eat “5 A DAY”, five fruits and vegetables a day.   Then I had a student that LIMITED her fruits and vegetables to 5 a day thinking more was harmful.  So now I emphasize eating AT LEAST 5 fruits and vegetables a day.  But the Canadians do us one better and recommend 7-8 servings for women and 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables for men.   New research supports the Canadians as more fruit and vegetables can lead to a longer life. 
Research:  An English study looked at 65,000 adults over 7.7 years.  Those who ate more fruits and vegetables lived longer with the greatest benefit seen in those eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.   Participants who ate 7 or more fruits and vegetables a day were 42% less like to die than those who ate less than one serving of fruits and vegetables a day.  (Hard to believe there are people eating less than one serving of fruits and vegetables a day, but I run into many in the classes I teach.)   More specifically, their risk of dying from cancer decreased by 24% and their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease decreased by 31%.
Which is better, fruits or vegetables?  This particular study found vegetables had a slight advantage.  As for fruits, the best choices are fresh and dried fruits.  Canned fruit is considered not as good, mostly because canned fruit is often loaded with added sugar.
So what if you find 7 or more servings of fruits and vegetables just TOO MUCH?   Just start increasing what you do eat.   One student in my class really ate no fruits and vegetables, unless one counts French Fries which most nutritionists don’t count.   He added some low sugar canned fruit.  Yes, fresh fruit would have been better but for him adding any fruit was great progress.  Dr. Oyinlola Oybode from the University College London, noted:  “Whatever your starting point, it is always worth eating more fruits and vegetables… Even those eating one to three portions had a significantly lower risk than those eating less than one.”
Why are fruits and vegetables so healthy?  They are loaded with nutrients, antioxidants, fiber and low in calories. 
Now that summer is here, there are many ways to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables.  Stop off at a farmer’s market for fresh zucchini, corn, cantaloupe, strawberries.   Yesterday my husband brought home peaches, blackberries, raspberries, fresh corn on the cob.  Summer makes it easy to add more fruits and vegetables to your day.

More information- go to CDC fruits and vegetables