Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nutrition in the News: Healthier Fast Food?

Seems like everyone wants to jump on the latest trends in healthier food.   Many people are now choosing Chipotle over McDonald’s.   More of us are shunning artificial ingredients and artificial flavors in favor of real food.   So what is the Fast Food industry doing to get on the healthier bandwagon?  They are going to start removing artificial ingredients, preservatives and colorings from their food.  Who is doing what?
  • Subway – I like Subway as one can get whole grain bread, lean meat and veggies on a sandwich.  They will be removing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
  • Papa John’s – who doesn’t like pizza?  We usually avoid Papa John’s because of all the sugar they put in the sauce, it just tastes sweet.  But Papa John’s is planning on cutting out 14 not so healthy ingredients, like high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, artificial colors.  When?  By the end of 2016. They have already made some strides taking out MSG from their Ranch Dressing and eliminated trans fats from their garlic sauce.
  • Pizza Hut – They are working fast to eliminate all artificial flavors and colors by the end of July.  Pizza Hut is also focusing on sodium, cutting back on sodium in its offerings but that will take until 2020.
  • Taco Bell:  By the end of this year, they will be removing artificial flavors and colors.  And by the end of 2017, they will get rid of artificial preservatives and additives.
  • Chipotle – already a healthier option, this chain will now use non-GMO ingredients.  Next they will eliminate artificial preservatives, still used in burritos.
  • Panera Bread – another favorite as it offers many healthy options.  By the end of 2016, this chain is removing 150, yes 150 artificial additives. (One wonders why they had so many artificial additives in the first place.)
Although removing artificial ingredients is a good trend, Americans eat too much added fat and added sugar.  None of these restaurants are focusing on removing the empty calories of added sugar or lowering the fat content of their food offerings.  How about at least taking the added sugar out of the pizza?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Snacks on the Go

Who doesn’t love to snack?  Summer time is the time to head off on a road trip, to the beach or mountains.  Some people say to avoid snacks, but why?  Snacks are important for kids as they have small stomachs and they need snacks between meals.  Adults love to snack.  So when you are on the go, how to make healthier choices on the run?  One way is to plan ahead and bring snacks with you.   I was at a car wash waiting for my car to get done and saw a mom and her 4-5 year old daughter sitting on a bench.  The daughter said, “I’m hungry”.  I thought for sure the mom would head for the vending machine.  But no, from her purse she pulled out a juice box and a baggie of orange slices, a baggie of whole grain crackers and asked her daughter which one she wanted.  I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed and told the mother how unusual she was to bring healthy snacks with you.  She planned ahead.  CVS actually had a health flier recently that gave some good advice.
  1. Focus on Fresh – fresh food is always a healthier choice.  Bring along fruit, orange slices, grapes, an apple, a banana, a box of raisins or other dried fruit.  Nuts, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs are all healthy options.
  2. Prepare – bring snacks along with you as you run errands, go on that road trip, go on an outing.  Stock your car with bottled water and bring healthy snacks or have some healthy granola bars stashed in you car.
  3. Smart, healthy snacks – pumpkin seeds, nuts, sunflower seeds, low fat, low sugar granola bars, fresh fruit.  On a car trip we stock up with nuts, whole grain crackers, cheese sticks and bring a small cooler with yogurt and chilled bottled water.
Adult snacks: has some good adult snack ideas:
  • Yogurt covered raisins
  • Popcorn – low fat, or try the new Skinny Pop popcorn from Costco or Walmart, only 100 calories, or Smart Food Popcorn clusters
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit Bars from PURE – Apple Cinnamon, Wild Blueberry
  • Quaker Granola Bites – added benefit, oatmeal
Kids Snacks:  WebMD suggests Healthy snacks for Kids on the Go
  • Fruit and veggie chunks
  • Cheerios
  • Dried cereal and nuts, raisins and a few chocolate chips
  • Whole grain crackers with peanut butter or almond butter
  • Fruit roll-ups cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Popcorn in 100 calories portions
  • SunChips
Twist and Shout Trail Mix from WebMD
This is a great project for younger kids (aged 2-6). Not only do they feel proud about preparing their own snack, they also get the chance to practice their math skills
1/2 to 1 cup Multi-Grain Cheerios
1/2 to 1 Cup mini pretzels (preferable oat bran)
1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 to 1 cup Goldfish crackers (choose whole grain)
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 to 1 cup of peanuts
  • Lay out a snack-sized plastic bag for each child.
  • Have each child count out 10 Cheerios and place into a bag
  • Next, have each child count out 9 pretzels and place into the bag
  • Next, have each child count out 8 raisins and place into the bag
  • Next, have each child count out 7 Goldfish crackers and place into the bag
  • Next, have each child count out 6 chocolate chips and place into their bag
  • Tightly close the plastic bags, and have all children stand up and do the twist. The kids will have fun shaking up the contents of their trail mix. (You might even want to play the song Twist and Shout).
  • 1 serving = 10 Cheerios, 9 mini pretzels, 8 raisins, 7 Goldfish, 6 chocolate chips
Per serving: 105 calories, 3 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 4.6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
For other recipes, including Chocolate Pudding Sprinkle Cones, go to Healthy Snacks for Kids on the Go
Sources:  7-healthy-grab-and-go-snacks, Healthy Snacks for Kids on the Go, Image Source:

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Diet Mistakes You Might be Making

We all know people who are on a diet.  Usually some fad diet that they can’t stay on for a life time.  How often do we hear, “I am off my diet.”   “I am back on my diet.”   What are some diet mistakes that can sabotage your weight loss goals?  WebMD has a great article, 10 Diet Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.
  1. Crash diets – Many of us want to lose weight but not slow and steady, we want to lose it now.  So crash diets sound appealing.  When you lose weight that fast you not only lose water and fat but also muscle tissue.   Eating under 1200 calories a day can slow your metabolism and slow your chances of losing weight.  Go off this crash diet and the weight comes back as you haven’t changed your lifestyle and eating habits. 
  2.  Skipping Breakfast – seems like an easy way to cut back on calories.  I was doing a diet recall on a friend who said they never ate breakfast.  Yet, when they got to work they went to the snack machine and got a donut, a candy bar or other high calorie “snack”.  Skipping the most important meal of the day lead to hunger mid-morning and snacking on unhealthy, high calorie foods.  Or, the person overeats at lunch because they are starving and then they pack even more calories.  Choose a breakfast high in protein and high in fiber to fill you up and stave off the hunger pains.
  3. Snacks – who doesn’t love snacks?  Many people eat normally at meals but then nibble all day on snacks.  If you are counting calories, the snacks count too.  Use Apps on your Smartphone like LoseIt! to track your meals and snacks.  Or choose healthy snacks like fruit, vegetables.   Or, find those 100 calorie snack packs.
  4. Avoiding snacks – snacking can be a good thing as those who eat 3 smaller meals a day plus snacks have a better chance of controlling their hunger.  Focusing on protein-rich snacks can rev up your metabolism.  A handful of nuts are a good protein snack.
  5. Low fat – cutting back on high fat foods is a good choice.  Limiting fried foods like cutting back on French fries, fried chips, fried chicken will cut back on calories.  But carefully choose low fat products as many are loaded with sugar.  I tried a low fat mayonnaise in and egg salad only to have the egg salad taste sweet like I had added sugar.  Looking at the label, they had taken out fat but added sugar and added calories.  Better to have a smaller portion of a regular fat food than all that added sugar.
  6. Calories in your Beverages – cutting back on beverages high in added sugar is always a good idea.  In the South sugared iced tea is popular but loaded with calories.  Most restaurants offer unsweetened tea.  If you are trying to cut back, fill up the glass with mostly unsweetened and top off with some sweetened or just add one pack of sugar to your unsweetened tea.  Sugared soft drinks, many sports drinks are loaded with sugar and a good way to cut some calories.  Drink water instead.
  7. Water – fill up on water.  Drink some water when you get up, before meals, any time you feel thirsty.  Dehydration slows you metabolism so keep hydrated.
  8. Avoiding Dairy is Not a Good Idea – many fad diets cut back on dairy and thus cut back on the important nutrients dairy provides like calcium and vitamin D.  Not to mention the protein in dairy is a very high quality protein.  WebMD notes:  Some research suggests the body burns more fat when it gets enough calcium and produces more fat when it’s calcium-deprived.  So choose low-fat dairy, low fat yogurt, 1% or fat free milk, low fat cheeses.
  9. Avoid the Drive-Through – Fast foods are loaded with calories.  Sure you could order the salad or other healthier choices but going to a fast food place just offers a lot of temptation for the milk shake, fries or other unhealthy options.  WebMD notes:  People who ate fast food more than twice a week gained 10 more pounds than those who had it less than once a week.    
  10. Unrealistic Goals – Many people want to lose a lot of weight and lose it fast.  But the most successful are those who chose realistic goals like 1-2 pounds a week, focus on an eating pattern they can maintain for life and adding in exercise so they don’t have to cut back on food so much. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Juicing or Smoothies?

So many people now are into juicing and others love to make a smoothie.  Some make a smoothie for breakfast as a fast, take it with you meal.  So which is healthier for you, smoothies or juicing?  Both have advantages.
  • 5 A Day -  for those who aren’t into many veggies and fruits, this is a way to help you get your “Five A Day”, five servings of fruits and veggies every day.
  • Variety – eating a variety of fruits and veggies is a key to good health.  Juicing makes it easy to vary your fruits and vegetables. 
  • Pulp and fiber – Depending on how you juice, you could be leaving behind the pulp, and along with it fiber and nutrients.
  • Limit juicing to 8-12 ounces a day – about a cup or cup and a half.  Why?  To save space for fresh fruit and veggies and all the nutrients fresh produce and fruit provide
  • healthier than juicing as smoothies are usually blended which preserves the pulp, fiber and nutrients in the pulp.
  • Dairy adds calcium and vitamin D – making smoothies with yogurt or milk adds needed calcium and vitamin D to your diet. 
  • Protein – yogurt and milk offer a high quality protein and if you use low fat milk or yogurt you get high quality protein with less fat.
  • More vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, phytochemicals if the whole fruit or veggie is blended into a smoothie, including the skins improves nutritional value.
  • High in calories if you use sugared yogurt, juices with added sugar, frozen yogurt, sorbet or ice cream. 
  • Bottled smoothies – avoid if you can, as many contain added sugars and extra calories.
So choose smoothies if you like them.  A very healthy way to get in some fruits, veggies and dairy.   Choose juicing if you don’t like fresh fruit and veggies but want to add some to your diet.  But also enjoy fresh fruits and veggies every day.  

For healthy smoothie recipes go to:  Low-Calorie Smoothie Recipes.  For healthy juice recipes go to :  Healthy Juice Recipes for a Juicer or a Blender