Sunday, March 25, 2018

Enjoy Your Pizza!

Who doesn’t like pizza?  Is pizza healthy?   How can you make healthier choices and still enjoy pizza?  Many people, including some nutritionists, ban pizza thinking it is unhealthy.  But we enjoy pizza at least once a week.  We make modifications to our pizza to make it healthier and we add some healthy sides.  Consumer Reports had a great article on the Best Frozen Pizza.    They taste tested 26 frozen pizzas and found some that are reasonably healthy.  Yes, ordering out and having that pizza delivered is great.  But many of us enjoy a frozen pizza a couple of times a month.  If you do, what are some of the highly rated frozen pizzas and how can you “doctor” them up to be healthier?
What are some healthier options in frozen pizza?
  • Frozen pizza would probably not be considered a “health food” but there are healthier options.  Choose a plain cheese pizza or a veggie pizza if you want a healthier choice.
  • Whole grain crust – there are pizzas that now offer whole grain crust.  But you may prefer the original crust as this is what tastes best to most people.
  • Watch the serving size – it differs greatly from brand to brand.  One brand calls half the pizza a “serving”, while another says one-third of the pizza is a “serving”. 
What are some top rated frozen pizzas?  Consumer Reports gives some top ratings to:
  • Amy’s Cheese pizza – for 1/3 pizza, calories are 290
  • DiGiorno – Original Rising Crust Pizza – 4 cheese – 1/6 of the pizza has 290 calories
  • Trader Joe’s – Trader Giotto’s – Pizza 4 – 310 calories for 1/3 of the pizza
  • Newman’s Own – Thin & Crispy – 4 Cheese – 340 calories per 1/3 pizza
For veggie lover’s, choose a Vegetable Pizza
  • California Pizza Kitchen – 260 calories for 1/3 of the pizza
  • Trader Joe’s – Trader Giotto’s Organic Roasted Vegetable – 300 calories per 1/3 pizza
  •  Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza – No cheese, so you need to add your own cheese – 280 calories per 1/3 pizza
  • DiGiorno Thin & Crispy – Garden Vegetable – 210 calories per 1/3 pizza
How to make that frozen pizza healthier?

What can you do to make that frozen pizza healthier?  We “doctor” up our frozen pizza by:
1.        Add some vegetables – choose ones you and your family like.  Or add some vegetables you like to some of the pizza and add other vegetables to the other half.  We add mushrooms, black olives, green pepper, and some chopped onion.  Have extra tomato?  Cut some up and add it.  Have extra red pepper?  Cut it up and sprinkle on top.  If you don’t want soggy crust, then sauté the vegetables slightly before add them to your pizza.

2.       Add more cheese – we usually buy low-fat mozzarella.  And if we have extra, we add some shredded mozzarella to our frozen pizza.  This adds a richer taste and adds more calcium and protein to each slice.  Choosing low-fat, reduced fat cheese will add less saturated fat to your pizza.
3.       Add some herbs – add some oregano or basil for extra flavor.

4.       Add some healthy sides – Add a fresh salad full of greens, carrots, mushrooms, green and red pepper.  Add some fresh fruit, like grapes.  
5.       Drink milk – with your pizza, enjoy a glass of milk – real milk, not fake milk.  Yes, the cheese on the pizza, has some calcium but probably no vitamin D.  So many Americans have diets low in calcium and very low in vitamin D. 

Check out the Consumer Reports online article and look at their ratings for Frozen Pizza Ratings for cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza and veggie pizza.  Pizza does provide some nutrients to your day.  The tomato sauce adds some vitamin C, vitamin A.  And unlike most vegetables, cooking the tomatoes makes the antioxidants,  lutein and lycopene in the sauce more available.   And the tomato sauce provides the mineral, potassium, which many of us don’t get enough of.  The cheese adds calcium and protein.  Add more veggies, like the green pepper and mushrooms,  to add even more vitamins and antioxidants to your meal.

This week enjoy some pizza!

Sources:   Best Frozen Pizza ,  Frozen Pizza Ratings,   potassium, lutein,  pizza  Image Sources:  Amy's , DiGiorno, Newman's

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Nutrition in the News

So many food fads come and go.  In the nutrition class I teach, it is interesting to hear about the latest food fad trends.  A current trend is alternative milk.  For some reason people are shunning real milk for fake milk.  Another faux milk is coming to a store or coffee shop near you.  Some food fads are really unhealthy fads like coconut oil.  Almost every week I hear someone talking about adding coconut oil to their diet.  Thankfully, this unhealthy fad seems to be coming to an end.  

1.  Oat milk – yes, you read this correctly, the newest alternative to real milk is made from oats.  Time magazine’s article, The dairy aisle’s next new thing, describes this faux milk and why it is being used as yet another replacement for real milk.  Apparently, almond milk was the number one faux milk but has fallen from grace recently.  Why?  According to Time, almond milk was linked to the drought in California.  It takes a whole lot of water to grow almonds.  ONE ALMOND takes ONE GALLON of water to grow. 
a.        Oatly is the new oat milk – developed by a food scientist in Sweden.  He wanted lactose free “milk” so came up with his own formulation made from oats and no real milk at all.  For fat, he adds canola oil. It is been used in the US for about a year.  You may not have seen it in stores but baristas are using it in coffee shops.  Why?  Because they like the stable, creamy foam oat milk produces.  Time states that baristas have tried other alternative milks like almond, coconut, soy but these didn’t work well with coffee.  But because Oatly contains the dipotassium phosphate, the oat mixture and canola oil don’t separate when added to coffee.  But Oatly doesn’t produce the creamy foam that real whole milk does.  Even so more and more coffee shops are using Oatly in the coffee they serve.
b.      What stores will offer Oatly?  You may start seeing it in Wegman’s , Fairway and Shop-Rite.  The Time article didn’t outline any nutritional benefits of Oatly except no lactose.  

c.       Why Buy Oatly?  I am not sure.  As for me, I will stick with REAL MILK that provides the calcium, vitamin D, protein and many other nutrients I need.  

    2.  Coconut Oil – so refreshing to read this week that the coconut oil fad may be reaching its end.  Hard to believe it has lasted this long.  Cooking Light’s article, Coconut Oil Sales Plummet as Everyone Realizes What We’ve Been Saying All Along, is encouraging.  However, not “everyone” has yet received the message.  So what does this article say about coconut oil and why sales are down? 
a.       Saturated fat – this fat is the bad fat – the fat that is not good for your heart. So what oil is high in saturated fat?  Coconut oil.  The American Heart Association recommends we should lower our intake of saturated fats and replace these fats with unsaturated fats like polyunsaturated fats.   WebMD reports, that 84% of the calories in coconut oil are from saturated fats.  One tablespoon of coconut oil has about all the saturated fat you should eat in one day.  So heart healthy it isn’t.  In other words, for heart health, focus on no or less coconut oil and more on olive oil, corn oil, canola oil, and safflower oil.   The American Heart Association’s recommendation to cut down on saturated fats has caused some slide in coconut oil sales, dropping them more than 24% from their 2015 high according to the Washington Post in their article, The sudden collapse of coconut oil, 2015’s favorite superfood.  

b.      Weight loss – some people used coconut oil to boost their immune system.  Others to lose weight.   In 2015, the Mayo Clinic wrote an article; Can coconut oil help me lose weight?  Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietitian, reported that some people use coconut oil “as a weight-loss aid.”  But it is high in saturated fat and has a lot of calories.  I tell my students coconut oil has more saturated fat than lard.  

If you want to avoid fake foods, processed foods, then you may not want to start drinking alternative  milks.  I drink real milk, every meal, every day.  I like “real” and not the fake milks.  The dairy association used to run commercials about “real” milk.  I like the real thing.  Real milk sports the “real” seal.  And if you fell for the coconut oil fad, you can now be on the band wagon of those dropping coconut oil from their diets.  Instead, buy some olive oil or canola oil and add a heart healthy oil to your day.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Eat your breakfast, it’s National Nutrition Month

Welcome to March and welcome to National Nutrition Month sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Their theme this year is “Go Further with Food”.  The theme reminds us to “eat healthfully for ongoing energy and plan meals and snacks in advance..”   When I told my husband that March was National Nutrition Month, he asked, “and how do I celebrate National Nutrition Month, eat an extra carrot?”  Well, planning healthy snacks is a good nutritional practice – so yes, you can eat the extra carrot.
To have more energy during the day, dietitians recommend you start your day off with a good breakfast.  There are foods that one should skip at breakfast and there are foods we should add for better health.

Foods to Skip at Breakfast –
  • Skip the high calorie Danish, donut, chocolate croissant - yes, they make look tasty in that glass window but eat them and you’ll get that sugar high and then the sugar low.  These are loaded with added sugar, the simple carbs, and these are the carbs to cut back on. Why?  Our bodies digest simple carbs like sugar and refined carbs like white flour, rapidly.  So, our blood sugar surges and then comes crashing down.
  • Beverages – skip the bottled teas with all the added sugar. The sugary coffee with sugary syrups topped with whipping cream.  One Snapple Lemon Tea is a sugar bomb with 36 grams of added sugar or 144 calories from added sugar.
  • Protein – skip the sausage and bacon – Who doesn’t like bacon and eggs or eggs and sausage?  Enjoy this occasionally or limit to once a week but not an everyday item.  These processed meats are high in saturated fat which can increase the bad, LDL-cholesterol and thus increase your risk of heart disease. Harvard researchers  found that people eating processed meats like deli meats or a hot dog every day increased one’s risk of heart disease by a whopping 42%.  But limiting these processed meats to a serving or less a week had a small risk. But I still like the Egg McMuffin.  A real treat and the Canadian bacon is pretty lean.  
  • Cereals – skip the highly sugared cereals.   Look at the ingredients and see if sugar is the first ingredient. Some cereals are more sugar than cereal.  Cereals are a great choice for breakfast, if they are lower in sugar.  Eat This, Not That! Ranks some of the worst breakfast cereals. See if your cereal is on the list.

Foods to Add to Your Breakfast – to have a good, healthy breakfast, focus on a good carb that provides whole grain and fiber, a protein, and a fruit.  Jen Bruning, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes when we eat something in the first hour or two after we get up.  Otherwise our bodies which have been fasting all night, still think it should remain in fasting mode.  She recommends starting our day with a healthy breakfast not only gives you energy, but also improves your mood, your ability to concentrate and better blood sugar control. 
  • Add the Complex Carbs – these are whole grain carbs providing lots of nutrition and fiber.  Whole grain carbs like Cheerios, oatmeal, won’t spike your blood sugar as they are digested more slowly.  Or, enjoy a whole grain English Muffin topped with some jam. 
  •  Beverages -  if you enjoy coffee, great.  Avoid adding the sugary syrups and cream.  If you want “cream” in your coffee, add some milk. You’ll be adding calcium and vitamin D to your day.  Tea – skip the bottled tea with all that added sugar and brew your own.  Tea is loaded with antioxidants and can lower your risk of a heart attack.  I drink 100% juice at breakfast every day.  Skip the fake juice drinks and be sure you are choosing a real juice.  Look at the ingredients to make sure it is only juice and sugar and food coloring haven’t been added.
Enjoy some tea for good health
  •  Protein -  Easy to add some protein to your breakfast.  Add some real milk to your cereal.  Enjoy a yogurt.  My husband always enjoys a yogurt at breakfast.  Not only are milk and yogurt full of protein, the protein quality of real milk and yogurt is very high.
  •  Cereal- what a great way to add a serving of whole grains to your day.  Students in the nutrition classes I teach are keeping a food journal of all the foods they eat.  A few students eat Frosted Flakes, or Kellogg’s Corn Pops.  I noted if they made just one change, switching to a General Mills cereal such as Cheerios or choosing oatmeal for breakfast, would be a huge change in their diet. Why?  By just switching to a healthier cereal, they would add a serving of whole grains, more fiber, and more nutrients to their day.  Find a whole grain cereal you like, add some real milk to it and you’ve added a whole lot of nutrition to your day.  Choose a cereal with fiber – most whole grain cereals will also provide fiber to your day.  Most Americans have diets low in fiber.  Cheerios has 3 grams of fiber per serving.  Fiber helps fill you up and lowers your risk of cancer and diabetes.

 Healthy eating isn’t about giving up carbs, giving up gluten, going on endless diets.  Healthy eating is more about adding healthy foods to your day.  Skip the simple carbs, and add the complex carbs like whole grains.  Make some simple switches.  Switch a high sugar cereal for a whole grain cereal.  Have an English muffin instead of the donut.  Add breakfast to your day.  And, celebrate National Nutrition Month with the extra carrot.

Sources:  theme, Skip, Harvard researchers, Eat This, Not That!,  spokesperson              Image source: Nutrition,  tea, breakfast

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Eat for a Better Mood

Can what you eat affect the mood you are in?  Can eating better actually affect whether you get down in the dumps or not?  My sister sent me an interesting article, Eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains slashes depression risk by more than 10%.   Now 10% doesn’t sound much but eating more of certain foods can improve the mood you are in and can help you have more energy throughout the day.  So often we hear that to eat healthy we have to cut things from our diet.  A current fad is cutting gluten from our diet which is not really a healthy thing to do unless you have Celiac disease.   Now many people are on the Whole30 diet that cuts out grains and dairy.  One person on this diet told me how tired they were, too tired to exercise.  No wonder, cut out the grains from your diet and you are cutting out the carbs needed to energize yourself for the day and you are cutting back on the many B vitamins our bodies need to make energy. 

So what does the research show about food and mood?  

Foods to cut back on:  To improve your mood there are some foods to cut back on. No, not gluten.  No, not cutting carbs, at least not all carbs.

Added sugar – the research showed the typical Western diet is loaded with added sugar.  We know sugared sodas are “added sugar” in our diets.  But many people are very confused about “added sugar”.  One student told me there were cutting back on added sugar by cutting back on soda and juice.  Now, cutting back on soda is a good way to cut back on added sugar.  Cutting back on real juice is not a good way to cut back on sugars as 100% juice has no “added sugar”.  If you are drinking Sunny D or  Hi-C, then yes, cut back on these are these fruit drinks are loaded with added sugar.  Reading labels will be easier to detect “added sugar” as the new food labels will clearly indicate sugars and “added sugars”.  

Foods for a Better Mood – so what foods can you eat to improve your mood and cut your chances of being down in the dumps?  
  •  Fresh fruits and vegetables – research has shown that adding fresh fruits and veggies to your day not only improves your mood but gives you more energy and surprise – you will even have clearer thinking.  Fruits and veggies apparently clear the brain fog.  How many fruits and veggies?  Aim for at least 5 A DAY.  Have that glass of 100% juice at breakfast, have a banana for a great pick me up snack.  Enjoy some fresh fruit and baby carrots at lunch.  Have a salad at dinner.  Fast food lunch?  Choose a salad and some apple slices.  Almost every fast food restaurant has some fruit or veggies you can add to your meal.
Enjoy some fresh fruit
  • Whole grains – yes, that oatmeal is a good, mood food.  Find ways to add some whole grains to your day.  If not a General Mills cereals (all are whole grain) then add some whole grain crackers like Triscuits or Wheat Thins.  Eating fast food?  Choose Sun Chips which are whole grain.  We always have chips in our house, but usually whole grain chips.   Rather than “cut the grains” in your day, a healthy 2000 calorie diet would have 6-8 servings of grains every day, with half of these whole grain.  Grains are not only provide carbs for energy but also many of the B vitamins our bodies need to make energy. 
Enjoy some whole grain crackers
  •  Low-fat dairy – the students I teach just completed analyzing their diets.  Almost every student had diets low in calcium, and low in vitamin D.  Why?  They didn’t have cow’s milk or yogurt at meals.  MyPlate shows a dairy serving at every meal and dairy has gone missing from many of our diets.  Have a low-fat yogurt every day for lunch or as a snack at work or at home.  Add milk to your breakfast and dinner.  Choose milk instead of soda at fast food restaurants.  Teach your kids, grandkids to choose milk at fast food restaurants.
  • Nuts – Dr. Oz recommends a handful of nuts a day, a very healthy habit.  So easy to put a handful of nuts in a baggie and take it with you as a healthy snack.  Sprinkle some chopped walnuts on your cereal or salad.  
 If you want to follow a “diet” not for losing weight but to improve your mood, follow the DASH diet.  This diet was designed to help lower blood pressure, but research is now finding it is a “good mood” diet.   As noted in my January blog, the DASH diet is ranked the best diet for overall health.  U.S. News & World Report notes the DASH diet is ranked number one for health because it is a nutritionally complete diet.  Unlike Whole30 or other fad diets, the DASH diet includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low—fat dairy.   Here is a quick link to more information on the DASH diet.  It will tell you how many calories to eat and what foods you should be eating for better health. 

Interesting, that my students who have added whole grains like oatmeal, more dairy like yogurt and more fruits and vegetables to their day say they feel better and have more energy.  Adding more fruit can be as simple as adding a glass of 100% juice.  Sorry, lemonade doesn’t count as juice.  Naked juice would be a great choice, a blend of juices and no added sugar. 
Naked Juice - 100% juice and no added sugar
So, this week, eat for a better mood.  Try it and see if your mood improves and as an added bonus, you may have more energy during the day.