Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is your diet missing these nutrients?

Are you missing some nutrients in your diet?    There is a lot of focus on health and healthy eating, yet many Americans have diets low in one or more nutrients.  What are the top 7 nutrients commonly missing in people’s diets?  WebMD has a great slide show on  The 7 Missing Nutrents in Your Diet.  This week we will focus on 4 of these nutrients and next week cover 3 more.
Are you missing or Low in These Nutrients?
  1. Potassium - almost everyone knows we should cut back on salt and sodium but few realize potassium helps negate the harmful effects of all that salt in our diets.  Well sodium is linked with increasing blood pressure, potassium helps lower your blood pressure.  Those into weight lifting and body building may want to focus on potassium rich foods as we need potassium for our muscles.
  • Good sources of potassium – bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, legumes, milk, potatoes
2.       Magnesium – not really a nutrient many of us think about.  But magnesium has many important roles in our bodies, our bones need magnesium, it helps our bodies produce energy, and has a role in protein synthesis and repair.  Many doctors recommend increasing magnesium rich foods for those having migraines. 
  • Good sources of magnesium – whole grains, most magnesium is removed when they make white bread, white flour.  Nuts, particularly almonds, beans, peas, leafy greens such as spinach.  Eating whole grains such as oatmeal, any General Mills cereal, wheat germ, whole wheat bread, whole grain crackers, and at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day will help ensure you are getting enough magnesium.
3.       Vitamin A – want good vision and be able to see in the dark well, eat some vitamin A rich foods?  Vitamin A also promotes healthy skin and healthy immune system. 
  • Good sources of vitamin A (or its precursor beta-carotene) – choose dark yellow, orange, dark green foods such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, broccoli.
4.       Fiber – not really a nutrient but oh so important to good health.  Most Americans are lacking fiber in their diet.  Fiber can lower your cholesterol, lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers.  Since fiber fills you up, you may eat less and thus help you lose those extra pounds. 
  •  Good sources of fiber - whole grains are a good source.  Read the label of whole grain breads and crackers and choose those higher in fiber.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are great sources of fiber as are nuts and seeds like flaxseed. 
This week focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and try to add more whole grains to your diet.  Enjoy a yogurt at breakfast or lunch for calcium, vitamin D and probiotics.

Sources:  The 7 Missing Nutrents in Your Diet, Magnesium,  Image source:  Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tips to Eating Well for a Longer Life

       Are there foods you can eat or not eat that can help you live longer and age well?   Environmental Nutrition has an interesting article in their November issue, 5 Tips for Eating to Age Well.   Their 5 key strategies?   
            1.        Eat foods rich in EPA and DHA omega-3’s.   Many commercials on TV advertise supplements to get your EPA and DHA but eating foods rich in these is preferred.
  • EPA and DHA foods -  Fish oils are rich in EPA and DHA so focus on fish – wild-caught salmon, sardines, and herring.  
  •  How Do EPA and DHA help you age well?  They support heart health, your brain function and memory.  Even muscle strength has been shown to improve.     
       2.    Healthy gut – yes, exercise is a way to improve your midsection but eating well can improve the intestinal flora in your gut.  As you get older, the bacteria in your intestines change and not for the better.  You have less diverse bacteria and more harmful species.  
  • Feed your gut with yogurt, a good way to get the healthy probiotic bacteria. Then feed this probiotic bacteria in your gut with fruits and vegetables which provide a lot of fiber. 
  • Why?  Healthy bacteria in your gut can strengthen your immune system and decrease the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. 
           3.   Feed Your Bones - Most people know your bones need calcium to stay healthy.  But building strong bones takes more than calcium such as vitamins D and K and minerals like magnesium and strontium. 
  • Foods – for calcium focus on foods that provide both calcium and vitamin D like milk or yogurt.  Who would think that whole grains would help your bones?  Whole grains are rich in magnesium and healthy bones need magnesium.  Dark greens are a great way to get vitamin K.
  • A study in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health found those given a supplement of D, K, magnesium and sulfate for one year with calcium from foods had more bone density in their hips and spines. 
         4.   Skip the soda for a healthier, longer life.
  • Focus on water – replace those sugary sodas with plain water.  Filter the water if you wish, add some lemon.
  • Why?  All that added sugar in soda (usually high fructose corn syrup) causes inflammation and damage that may adversely affect your DNA.  The shorter the telomeres in your DNA, the faster you age.  And sugared sodas increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers.  A Dutch study found those who drank 20 ounces of sugared soda a day, sped up their aging process by 4.6 years. 
        5.  Focus on Protein As you age, you lose some of your muscle mass along with strength and mobility.
  • Add protein to every meal, including breakfast.  To your breakfast, add some yogurt, make your oatmeal with milk instead of water, eggs, smoothies, even low-fat cottage cheese.  Aim for 20-30 grams of protein at every meal.
  • Why?  Focusing on protein at every meal may help your body synthesize muscle protein, especially if you add in exercise.
 Simple changes in your diet can lead to a longer, healthier life. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Healthy After School Snacks

Do kids need snacks?  Yes, they do.  Kids have small stomachs and should be fed snacks between meals.  Younger kids such as preschoolers need mid-morning and an afternoon snack.  School age kids should have an after school snack.  But this doesn’t mean junk food, fast food, high sugared snacks.  What are some healthier options for snacks for kids?  What are some guidelines to help ensure snacks are healthy choices?
      Guidelines  for Healthy Snacks What are some guidelines for parents to follow when planning snacks for kids?    
     1.        Serve 2-3  food groups  
      2.   Choose a protein food– protein foods have “staying power” so the child won’t get as hungry right after the snack + a fiber rich food such as grain, fruit or vegetable
a.       Whole grain crackers and cheese
b.      Yogurt and fruit
c.       Peanut butter and crackers, peanut butter, celery and raisins
d.      A bowl of cereal (General Mills cereals are whole grain) and milk
e.      Glass of milk and fruit –chocolate milk has some sugar but fun to serve as a snack

After School Snack Ideas modified from MSN:   10 Best After-School Snacks 

  1. Frozen bananas – Banana half on a popsicle stick, roll in yogurt, roll in a crispy whole grain cereal or granola and freeze. 
  2. Individual Pizzas – whole grain English muffin, pizza sauce, and let your child choose cheese and any other toppings such as mushrooms, green pepper, olives, onion.  Heat in toaster oven until cheese melts.
  3. Yogurt Parfaits – Let the child help make their own parfait.  Layer yogurt, granola mix, and fruit in a parfait glass.
  4. Snack mix – Mix a whole grain ready-to-eat cereal, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and put in a sandwich bag for a snack on-the-go
  5. Snack Kabob – cut up shapes of low-fat, 2% cheese, place them on pretzel sticks with grapes
  6. Ants on a Log – often a kid favorite – celery sticks, peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese and raisins.  If a child doesn’t like raisins, cut up some dates.
  7. Tortillas – use a whole grain tortilla, have the child sprinkle with cheese such as Monterey Jack, fold in half and microwave for 20 seconds.  Serve with salsa (Note:  salsa is super healthy, loaded with antioxidants and low in calories)
  8. Smoothies – good way to get in protein and fruit – use low-fat milk or low-fat yogurt, choose a banana or strawberries and some ice – blend
  9.  Popcorn – you may be surprised to learn popcorn is whole grain and healthy, sans all the artificial butter and tons of salt that some people add.  SkinnyPop makes a great tasting, 100 calorie a bag snack.  Serve with milk – chocolate milk for a fun treat.
  10. Chips and dip – choose pita chips or whole grain chips like Sun Chips, Food Should Taste Good Chips – chips on a plate with hummus, low-fat yogurt, or low-fat Ranch for a dip and baby carrots, apple slices. 

By choosing after school snacks based on the food groups, the snacks can make an important contribution to a child’s diet. 

Sources:  10 Best After-School Snacks,  Image source:  Parfait

Sunday, October 4, 2015

How to Eat Healthier at the Office

Can you eat healthier at work?     Many of us spend hours each day away from home, at the office, at work and then choose what is easy and convenient to eat.  There are a lot of temptations at work: vending machines, eating out at lunch, grabbing a quick snack from the office kitchen.    All easy and convenient but not necessarily the best for our health.  But eating at the office and away from home can be healthy if you plan ahead.  Sparkpeople has some great suggestions for you, Eating Healthier at the Office
       1.  Pack your lunch and some snacks:  bringing your lunch will not only save money but will be better for your health. 
a.       Lunch –focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, lean protein
b.      Snacks – pack a yogurt for a mid-morning pick me up, some fruit for an afternoon snack
c.       Try out some recipes they have for healthy lunches at:  lunch recipes  
     2.  Keep an emergency stash – you may have forgotten your lunch or snacks but having an emergency stash at work is a healthy fall back. 
a.       Protein bars
b.      Trail mix of nuts, dried food, a package of nuts,
c.       Some instant oatmeal, soup
            3.  Practice your “No, thank you” when someone comes around with the box of morning donuts
      4.  Out of sight, out of mind – avoid the office candy dish, keep it off your desk. 
a.       Move snacks, goodies from the conference room to the break room
b.      Find an alternate route so you don’t have to walk past the candy dish in reception five times a day
     5. Rehydrate during the day with water
a.       Feeling thirsty?  That’s the first sign of dehydration.
b.      Get up and walk to the water fountain every hour or so
c.       Keep water at your desk and go to the office kitchen for some ice water and add some lemon slices you brought from home
            6.    Going out to lunch?
a.       Have a list of healthy, nearby restaurants. Make a list of the restaurants near your office.  Look at their menus or nutrition information online and choose healthier options. 
b.      Recommend to your co-workers you eat at one of the restaurants that does offer healthier options. 
c.       Review Sparkpeople’s Tips for Dining Out for ideas on how to choose healthier options
       7.  Avoid the vending machines – by having your emergency stash and packed items for snacks, you can avoid the high calorie, high sodium vending machine options
             8.   Do treat yourself – there are special occasions and parties at the office.  Enjoy them.  Keep portions reasonable, you don’t need the second donut or piece of cake.  Enjoy the food and the occasion and then return to your routine of bringing your lunch and snacks.