Sunday, September 25, 2016

Small Changes to Boost Your Nutrition

How often do we hear, “eat healthy”, “eat nutritious foods”?  Are there small changes you can make to boost your nutrition without giving up every fun food?  I like to focus on what you can add to your diet to make it healthier rather than focus on taking things away.  An article in Environmental Nutrition has some simple, easy ways to boost your nutrition by focusing on foods that are full of nutrition.  How can you Make Your Diet More Nutrient-Dense?  Some suggestions adapted from this article:
Organic Milk – is organic milk healthier?  It is more expensive but is it worth it?  A study in the British Journal of Nutrition noted that organic milk has more of the heart healthy fat, omega-3, a lot more, 56% more.  Milk is not a great source of iron or vitamin E but these were higher in organic milk.  Not to mention the healthier aspect of no hormones and no pesticides in the milk.  Why a higher nutritional value?  They believe it is because the cows are grazing in the pasture.  One of my students researched organic foods and recommended that if you can only afford one organic food, splurge on organic milk. Prices vary greatly, shop around for the best price.

Salads these can be healthy if one focuses on healthier greens.  Choose dark greens like spinach.  When choosing a salad mix in the grocery store, choose the mix with the darker greens.  Then when home, give the salad mix a nutrition boost by adding cup up carrots, green pepper, mushrooms, olives, cucumber, celery, and tomatoes.  Even sprinkle on some ground up nuts, or some dried cranberries.   Then to ensure you can absorb these nutrients forgo the fat-free dressing.  Choose low-fat salad dressing or vinaigrette made with olive oil.  You need some fat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids in the salad.

Frozen Fruit and Vegetables I often get asked if frozen fruit and vegetables are as healthy as fresh.  And it is.  The article notes foods like strawberries and broccoli are harvested at their peak and then quickly frozen so they retain their nutrients.  Frozen fruits and vegetables can have an even higher nutrient content as shipping and storage can lead to some nutrient loss.  For example, vitamin C in frozen corn, green beans and blueberries is actually higher than in fresh versions.  Doesn’t mean you should switch to frozen over fresh but it does mean you can enjoy frozen fruits and vegetables and not worry about the nutrient content.

Cooked vegetables – most people think cooking destroys nutrients and it can.  But cooking can enhance absorption of antioxidants like lutein which is more available in spaghetti sauce than a fresh tomato.  An article in Food Chemistry found that steaming kale enhanced its antioxidant activity.  But don’t boil veggies as nutrients can leach out into the water.  Steaming or microwaving are best for nutrient retention.

Making a smoothie this week, add some frozen fruit.  Have a salad this week, loaded with dark greens, cut up veggies and some dressing with fat in it.  Enjoy some steamed or microwaved vegetables.  And try some organic milk.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Start Some Healthy Habits This Week

How can you make eating healthier a habit?  Are there easy things to do that can help you and your kids eat healthier?   A recent article Place Your Order In Advance has some great tips.  Suggestions have been modified to include those I teach in my nutrition classes.  
1.        Put healthy foods in front of you:  studies have found that if it is easy to get to, you may eat that food first.  So make the healthier foods ones that are easy to get to.
  •   Keep healthy foods on the counter – a bowl of fruit, a pitcher of water
  •  Cut up veggies like green pepper, carrots, celery and have them in the fridge for a quick snack
2.       Supermarkets:  shop the perimeter:  focus on healthier options by shopping the perimeter of the store.  Did you ever notice the perimeter has the fruit and vegetables, the dairy, the meat group? 

3.       Eating out?  Read the menu ahead of time:  check out the online menu before you go.  Plan healthier options before you even enter the restaurant. 
  • Read the online menu.  Look for and choose healthier appetizers, entre and beverages.
  • Check out the online nutrition information for the foods you want to order.  How many calories and how much fat is in the food?  Are there menu options with less calories and less fat?
  • The article also suggests choosing 3-4 healthier meal options from restaurants you frequent.  Before you go, decide on which of these healthier menu choices you will order.  Deciding ahead of time helps you focus on eating healthier in the restaurant.
  • Split it – want the higher calorie menu item?  Split it with your partner and cut the calories in half.  Ask them to choose a lower calorie option you can share.
  • Choose healthier drink options.  Fast food, choose milk.  Most fast food restaurants offer low fat milk as an option.  Fast food places also offer 100% juice such as a juice box as an option or orange juice. Water is always a good choice, or unsweetened ice tea, black coffee, hot tea.
4.        Snacks – bring healthier snacks with you. 
  • Running errands with the kids?  Pack some healthy snacks.  I was at a car wash and a young girl told her mom she was hungry.  There were snack machines loaded with unhealthy options.  The mom reached into her purse and pulled out orange slices, whole grain crackers and asked her daughter which one she wanted.  Impressive!
  • Going to work?  Pack healthy snacks to munch on rather than the snack machines.  Yogurt, a handful of nuts, a small box of raisins, a granola bar. 
  • Going on a road trip?  Pack some healthier snacks. Besides fresh fruit and vegetables, have whole grain crackers, popcorn, hummus, and juice boxes of 100% juice.  Bring a cooler and bring yogurt, low fat cheese sticks.
 Try some of these easy ways to make good nutrition a habit. 

Sources:  Place Your Order In Advance,   Image source:   Vegetable plate
Vegetable plate

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How can you cut up to 500 calories a day?

Many people are looking for ways to cut back on calories with little effort.  Are there simpler ways to cut back on calories than go on some stringent diet?  To lose one pound a week, you need to cut back on 3500 calories or 500 calories a day. But it doesn’t have to mean cutting back on 500 calories of food, one can also increase their exercise and burn up 250 calories a day and then cut back on 250 calories, which would be a lot easier to do.  Trying to cut 500 calories a day is a lot and many people would feel hungry doing so.  For some ideas on how to cut back on calories, WebMD has a few suggestions in their article, 20 Ways to Cut Back on 500 Calories A Day.  A few of their suggestions are highlighted below:
  1. Choose black coffee and skip the grande latte.  Even with no added sugar, the grande latte adds 220 calories to your day.  Black coffee has almost no calories, adding only 2 calories to your day.  And for those of you drinking 2 grande lattes a day, this switch would save you nearly 500 calories a day, with no other changes in your diet.
  2. Choose water vs Soda – A 20 ounce soda has about 240 calories, all sugar calories and “empty calories” meaning little to no vitamins or minerals.  Have 2 of these a day and you are drinking almost 500 calories of added sugar a day.  Switch to water with lemon, for a refreshing drink with almost no calories. 
  3. Eat at home – those who eat their meals at home eat fewer calories.  A Johns Hopkins study found that people who ate at home not only ate fewer calories, about 140 fewer calories due to eating less sugar and less fat.   To get started, eat breakfast at home and pack a healthy lunch each day.  Skipping the lunch out can easily cut back on your calories each day.
  4. Get moving – even fidgeting counts.   The Mayo Clinic found that those who fidget can burn up to 350 calories a day.  If you have a sit down job, move every hour.  Get up, walk around the office, go get a drink of water, go for a walk at lunch, take a few flights of stairs during a break. 
  5. Work out early, before breakfast.  I like to walk every day and usually I walk before I eat breakfast.  I do have a banana to get some energy before I head out the door.  A study in Japan found that those who exercised before breakfast burned about 280 calories more during the day. 
  6. Skip the chips.   Some relatives love to eat at Chipotle which does offer some very healthy choices.  But I recommend they either skip the chips or at least share them as they are loaded with fat and loaded with calories.  At 570 calories with 240 calories from fat, or 42% fat calories, not a good choice.  Not the dip, the salsa is actually low in calories.  Choosing chips at other restaurants can easily add over 600 calories to your meal. 

So this week, if you want to cut back on calories, find some ways to cut back on added sugar, fat or ways to be more active during the day. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Juice vs Smoothies, which is healthier?

Smoothies are the rage and many people have their favorite smoothie recipe.  Which one is better for you?  A recent article in the New York Times, Are Smoothies Better For You Than Juices?, outline the pros and cons of juice vs. smoothies.   

      1.        Juice – to be healthy, juice has to be real, 100% juice.  Many people buy Sunny D, Hi-C, or Capri-Sun juice drinks and think they are getting real, 100% juice.  But these are fruit drinks or juice drinks and not 100% real juice.  These fruit drinks may contain some juice as Hi-C drinks contain about  10% real juice.  Simply Fruit Punch Juice Drink contains only 15% juice.  The rest is mostly sugar water.  The added sugar in these drinks is often high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar which provide only “empty calories” without the nutritional benefits of real juice.    
  • Choose "juice" not juice drinks or fruit punch.  To be sure it is real juice, look for the word “juice” on the label and not “fruit drink” or “juice drink”.  Look at the ingredients to be sure it is juice and no sugars like high fructose corn syrup have been added.   
  •  Fiber:  Eating whole fruit is a healthier option as it retains the fiber in the fruit.  My husband enjoys an orange at breakfast, but I still like a glass of ice cold orange juice or grapefruit juice.  No juice drinks or fruit drinks, just 100% real juice.    
2.        Smoothies
a.       Fruit:  Make them with real, whole fruit.  Using the whole fruit keeps the fiber which slows down the absorption of the natural sugar, fructose, that is in the fruit.  Making a smoothie from one banana and a cup of frozen raspberries would add 12 grams of fiber to your day. Using whole fruit which has the fiber is a reason smoothies are a healthier option than juice.
b.      Vegetables – using fresh vegetables such as cucumbers, spinach, romaine lettuce is a great way to add nutrients like vitamin A and potassium to your day and fiber.  Using avocado adds a smooth texture and healthy fats to your smoothie.
c.       Protein – milk or yogurt adds protein.  Choose low fat milk or low fat yogurt. Add in nuts or silken tofu for more of a protein boost.  Unsweetened almond milk makes a great smoothie.  Yogurt and milk not only add a high quality protein but also calcium and vitamin D to your day.   

Making a smoothie at home can be healthier as you know all the ingredients and you don’t need to add sugar.  Some store bought smoothies can be high in added sugar, even as much added sugar as a milkshake.  So check out the ingredients and the calorie content of store bought smoothies.

Many readers commented on the New York Times article.  One smoothie favorite from a reader:  banana, mixed frozen fruit (with blueberries and blackberries), yogurt and almond milk.

If you enjoy Almond Milk, then the following is an easy smoothie recipe:
/2 medium banana, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup chopped fresh mango
2 cups chilled unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk

In a blender, add the banana chunks, blueberries, strawberries, and mango. Blend until combined, about 30 seconds. Serve in chilled glasses with straws.

Recipe courtesy of Melissa D'Arabian

So pull out the blender this week and enjoy a smoothie.  Smoothies are a great way to have breakfast and take it with you as you are rushing out the door.