Sunday, July 29, 2018

Grab and Go Snack Foods From a Gas Station

On road trips, who doesn’t have to stop at a gas station?  Are there some healthier grab and go foods you can buy at gas stations?  How can you stop those hunger pains but not fill up on junk food? 

Healthier Beverage Options

1. Water – always a good choice to stay hydrated.  Choose a no-calorie sparkling water.  Or treat yourself to some Perrier mineral water.

2.   Juice – most gas stations have 100% juice.  Just make sure you are not reaching for Sunny D, Hi-C or some other highly sugared beverage.   Just heard on TV that half the added sugar in our diets comes from sugar sweetened beverages.  Not sure if this is a true fact but Americans eat a lot of added sugar.  Some people might say juice is high in sugar. 100% juice has no added sugar, just the natural sugar from fructose.  Look for some Naked Juice which is a blend of many juices and always no sugar added.
3. Milk – yes, milk is a hydrating drink as it has water in it.  It also has protein, calcium and vitamin D, a vitamin many people are low in.  Let your kids enjoy some low-fat chocolate milk.  Yes, chocolate milk has some added sugar but not as much as a soda and packs in all the nutrients of white milk.  

1.       Chips – no not the highly processed snacks like Cheetos.  But choose a healthier chip like Sun Chips which are whole grain or a fruit or vegetable chip.
2.       Popcorn – as long as it isn’t caramel corn or other flavored popcorn.  Popcorn is whole grain and a very healthy snack.  SkinnyPop is a good choice.  (At the Y recently, a young girl pulled out a plastic container filled with popcorn.  She said her mom had packed popcorn and some fruit for her mid-morning snack.  Smart mom as popcorn is whole grain and fruit is always a healthy choice.)

Protein Foods
  • Yogurt -  Many gas stations have a good selection of yogurt.  And it doesn’t have to be Greek yogurt to be healthy.  For women, regular non-Greek yogurt may be a healthier option as it would provide more calcium that women need. Yogurt is full of high quality protein that will stave off those hunger pains on a road trip.  Protein is also important to maintain your muscle mass as you age.   Add in some fruit or nuts to make your grab-and-go snack even healthier.
  • Nuts - most gas stations have bags of peanuts or mixed nuts.  Unfortunately, they usually have the added salt, but nuts are a very healthy snack and a good source of protein. And the makers of Naked Juice have come out with a healthy fruit, nut and veggie bar.
  • Hard Boiled Eggs/Cheese – the WaWa’s in our area have a fantastic offering of healthy snacks.  They have two hard boiled eggs packaged together.  They also offer a fruit and cheese snack pack all packaged and ready to grab-and-go.  
Fruit and Cheese Snack Pack
  • Salads – not quite a snack but gas stations like WaWa offer ready to go salads like their Garden and Chicken Caesar salad.
  • Protein Bars – so easy to grab a healthy protein bar and eat in your car.  But take the time to at least glance at the ingredients.  Dietitian Alissa Rumsey, R.D. recommends looking for bars with at least 6-10 grams of protein and 5 or more grams of fiber.  Look for real foods in the ingredient list such as nuts, fruits, eggs, seeds, beans.   
  • Jerky – another way to add some protein to your day is to grab some beef jerky.  Easy to grab a bag that will provide 10 to up to 28 grams of protein while low in carbs.  Trouble chewing?  They now offer some “soft” or look for “Tender” choices that will be easier for those with dental issues to chew.  Again, look at the ingredients and nutrition label as some brands are loaded with sodium and some are made with preservatives like MSG.  Look for brands with less than 400 mg of sodium per serving.  -Eat This, Not That! has ranked the Best and Worst Beef Jerky brands so check it out before a snack stop.   They rank Country Archer All Natural Beef Jerky as their number one choice. (Turkey jerky is also available from Country Archer.) 

So on your road trip this summer, when stopping at the gas station you can load up on healthy snacks and not on the tempting junk food.  People that come to visit our area are always surprised when family members stop at the local WaWa gas station for lunch and pick up a sandwich or salad.  Gas stations can and do offer some healthier options.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Are you getting your vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a vitamin we need just about every day.  What foods have vitamin C and why do we need vitamin C?  I like to drink a glass of 100% orange or grapefruit juice every morning for breakfast.  One night my husband asked if watermelon had vitamin C in it.  I said it was a good source of vitamin C.  The next morning, I opened the fridge to find out we were out of juice.  But there on the table was a plate of watermelon wedges for my morning vitamin C.

Why do we need vitamin C?  Such an important vitamin for our health.
Healthy skin – vitamin C promotes youthful looking skin.  Having enough vitamin C in your diet helps prevent wrinkles, and dry skin.  Fruits and veggies that provide vitamin C also provide those healthy antioxidants.  These antioxidants act like a natural sun screen as they help protect your skin against harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.  Antioxidants help promote collagen synthesis which helps keep your skin firm and prevents sagging.  Since vitamin C helps synthesize collage it is also important in wound healing.

Protein synthesis – so many guys who want to bulk up focus only on protein.  And we do need protein in our diets.  But for protein synthesis to take place we also need vitamins and minerals.  Vitamin C is one of the vitamins needed for protein synthesis. 

Immunity – vitamin C may not prevent the common cold but it does play a role in keeping our immune system healthy.  

Iron absorption – vitamin C helps us absorb that non-heme iron in foods.  If you are having a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast, drink some orange juice as the vitamin C in the orange juice will help you absorb the iron in the Cheerios.  

Why do we need vitamin C daily?
Well, you may be able to skip a day or two, but vitamin C is water-soluble, which means our bodies don’t store vitamin C.  Our bodies can’t make vitamin C so we need to eat foods that provide vitamin C.  

What foods provide vitamin C?  Almost everyone knows citrus foods provide vitamin C but many people are unaware of the many foods that add some vitamin C to your day.  Serve that watermelon at picnics and you are serving up a good dose of vitamin C.  (And according to the Watermelon Board, watermelon also provides you with potassium, lycopene, vitamin B6, vitamin A and it is very low in calories.) 
 Add some green or red pepper to your salad and you added vitamin C.  As noted below, one-half cup of red pepper has more vitamin C than a glass of OJ.   Recently I was shopping in Costco on a Sunday – a day Costco offers great food samples.  One of the samples was kiwi fruit.  The server told every person that kiwi is a good source of vitamin C, and she was absolutely correct.
Milligrams (mg) vitamin C per serving
% Daily Value
Red pepper, raw, ½ cup
Orange juice ¾ cup
Orange 1 medium
Grapefruit juice ¾ cup
Kiwifruit, 1 medium
Green pepper, raw, ½ cup
Broccoli, cooked, ½ cup
Strawberries, ½ cup sliced
Grapefruit ½ medium
Broccoli, raw, ½  cup
Tomato Juice, ¾ cup
Cantaloupe, ½ cup
Cabbage, cooked, ½ cup
Cauliflower, raw, ½ cup
Potato, baked, 1 medium
Tomato, raw, 1 medium
Spinach, cooked, ½ cup
Green peas, cooked, ½ cup

Note:  Daily Values were developed by the Food and Drug Administration to help consumers know how much of a nutrient a food provides.  The DV for vitamin C is 60 mg for adults and children aged 4 and older.  

Should you get your vitamin C from a pill?  The best way to get vitamins and minerals in our diet is from food.  A supplement may provide vitamin C but it won’t provide all the antioxidants you would find in foods like an orange or green pepper.  So, rely on food for your vitamin C.
As the table shows, many foods can supply your daily vitamin C needs.  Add some spinach, red or green pepper, and some tomato to your salad.  Enjoy the watermelon at a summer cook out.  Serve some cantaloupe at breakfast or pack some cubed cantaloupe for lunch.  Order the baked potato instead of fries at a restaurant.   Put some fresh strawberries in smoothie or enjoy them cut up with a sprinkle of sugar.  
red bell peppers
Sources:  collagen, foods, Watermelon, Watermelon Board,       Image sources:  watermelon board, kiwi

Sunday, July 15, 2018

How much fruit should you eat?

Most everyone knows that we all should eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.  For years USDA has a slogan:  5 A DAY, to remind us to eat at least 5 servings of fruit and veggies a day.  Many people ask how much of the 5 A Day should be fruit and how much should be veggies?  Mixing up fruits and veggies are a good idea as each provides us with different vitamins, minerals and those good antioxidants.  Some say to limit fruit to 2 servings a day as fruit has “sugar” in it.  But fruit has natural sugar in it, not “added sugar”.  It is the “added sugar” that we need to cut back on.  So what guidance is there about how much fruit we can or should eat?  An interesting article appeared in Time, Is it possible to eat too much fruit?  Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor at University of California at San Francisco discusses some interesting new research on fruit.

What are the concerns about eating too much fruit?

As noted above, the biggest concern is the natural sugar in fruit.  But should you be concerned about this?  Apparently not.  According to Dr. Lustig, eating whole fruit like an apple, orange, banana, actually reduces one’s risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.  

Why does whole fruit reduce our risk of obesity and other diseases?

Fiber is one main reason.  When you eat that apple or the orange you are also getting the natural fiber in that piece of whole fruit.  There are 2 kinds of fiber in fruit, soluble and insoluble.  When you eat this fiber it actually forms a type of latticework in your small intestine.  This is actually a good thing.  This latticework according to Dr. Lustig helps prevent the fruit sugar from being absorbed too rapidly.  This latticework “limits the rate of sugar absorption so that the liver is not overwhelmed”.  This shouldn’t be too surprising.  Did you ever get a sugar high from eating a banana or an apple?  Also interesting is that our intestines are full of good bacteria (especially if you eat yogurt and add these good bacteria to your diet).  These good bacteria apparently love the fruit sugar, they eat it, metabolize it so even though you eat the fruit sugar, you don’t absorb all of it.  (Could this be a reason eating yogurt is not linked to weight gain?  Or eating fruit is not linked to weight gain?)
Fiber also gives you a feeling of fullness.  Eating a piece of fruit can help you feel fuller as the fiber in fruit helps the fruit molecules reach your small intestine faster.  This full sensation may actually limit how much fruit you eat.  I really never have heard of someone binging on apples, oranges or bananas, have you?
Are some fruits healthier than other fruits?

More and more research is being done on the overall health benefits of fruit.  For years people said grapes and raisins didn’t have that much nutritional value.  Now they know grapes and raisins provide boron to our diets.  In fact, raisins are a fruit with the highest boron content.  Boron is a trace mineral important for many things such as strong bones.  (I love raisins and put a small box of raising on my cereal every day.)
Research is also showing us how important fruit is for the healthy antioxidants it provides.  Each color of fruit provides us with different antioxidants.  Berries, in particular, blueberries are super rich in antioxidants.  Eat more berries to improve your heart and brain health.  

Why is fruit healthy?

Whole fruit has not added sugar and the natural sugar in it is not the problem some people make it out to be.  Fruit also has no fat.  So many Americans have high fat diets so eating more fruit would be a good thing.  I had a student in my class who wanted to lose 15 pounds.  We talked about how important it was to eat 5 A Day so he tried to add more fruits and veggies to his day.  Then he started to lose weight.  When I asked how he did it, he said “5 A Day”.  He said that he ate the apple and then didn’t eat the potato chips.  So, the 5 A Day was replacing a lot of the high fat, processed snacks he was eating.
  • Fruit is low in sodium and fairly low in calories.  A whole cup of diced watermelon has only 46 calories.
  • Fruit is loaded with many minerals such as potassium. Eating more fruit is great for those with high blood pressure as potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure.  To get more potassium add bananas, prunes, dried peaches, dried apricots, cantaloupe, honeydew and orange juice to your diet.
  • Fruit is loaded with many vitamins such as vitamins A, C and folate.  Vitamin C is a vitamin you should get every day.  It helps growth and repair of tissues, helps heal wounds and cuts, and keeps your gums and teeth healthy.  
Watermelon - a low calorie fruit

Health benefits of eating fruit include reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke.  The antioxidants in fruit (and in vegetables) may protect us from some types of cancer.  The fiber in fruit can reduce our risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  The potassium in fruit may reduce risk of high blood pressure as stated previously and also reduce the risk of kidney stones.  Potassium may help maintain strong bones. 

If you aren’t yet eating 5 A Day, try adding some fruit to your day.  I eat three servings of fruit at breakfast every day: a banana, a box of raisins and a glass of 100% orange juice or grapefruit juice.  Bring some fruit to work for a snack.  Have a bowl of fresh fruit on your kitchen counter top.  Buy some watermelon or cantaloupe.  Add some fresh fruit to your smoothie.  My sister told me she really doesn’t like the taste of watermelon.  But she makes a smoothie with watermelon and then a lot raspberries to mask the taste of the watermelon.  So, she gets the health benefits of watermelon and all those good antioxidants in the berries.  A student told me he really didn’t like fruit.  He started drinking Naked juice to get some fruit into his day and asked if that was a good idea.  I could have told him whole fruit is healthier, which would be true. But for him, getting started with some fruit via 100% juice, was a great start.  Yes, for him Naked juice was a great way to add fruit to his day.  Naked juice is 100% juice and a blend of many different juices with no added sugar.  My sister and many students find a way to add fruit to their day.  So find a way that works for you to add more fruit, especially whole fruit, to your day. Try a breakfast banana split for a breakfast treat.  
Enjoy a breakfast banana split

Sunday, July 8, 2018

How to choose healthier bread

Is the bread you are eating healthy?  What does it matter?  Last weekend my daughters wanted to try a new sandwich shop advertising its signature sandwiches.  A big draw is that they use meat from the upstairs butcher shop. The meat is not only really fresh but also antibiotic free.  The greens are locally grown and also healthy.  So, I order a ham and cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion and ask for whole wheat bread.  No whole wheat.  I ask for multi-grain bread.  No multi-grain.  I finally ask, “Do you have any bread that is healthy?”  They responded they had rye bread.  Well, that could be healthy if it is whole grain rye, which is pretty hard to find.  But it was refined rye bread, so not really healthier than refined white bread.  The sandwich was good but could have been so much tastier and healthier with better bread choices.  Recently my husband and I stopped at a French bakery in Nova Scotia.  They had delicious bakery items, great blueberry scones and oat cakes.  But they also had a good assortment of ready made sandwiches for lunch.  Egg salad on a freshly baked whole wheat Kaiser roll.  Beef or ham on freshly baked whole wheat bread.  All bread freshly made in the bakery.  Not only were their scones and oat cakes delicious but the sandwiches were really a treat.  

How to choose healthier bread?
1. Choose “multi-grain” bread wisely– Doesn’t “multi-grain” sound healthy?  But if you look at the ingredients most “multi-grain” bread is a mixture of refined grains and little or no whole grain.  But there is multi-grain bread that has at least some whole grain flour in it.  Look at the ingredients and if all you see is “enriched” there is no whole grain.  But if you see at least some “whole” like whole wheat flour, then the bread has some of the benefits whole grains offer.  For people that hate whole grain bread, choosing a mutli-grain bread with at least some whole grain flour is a better option than just white bread.        
2.  WHOLE – is the key word.  Look at the ingredients and the first word you see should be WHOLE.  Such as whole wheat flour, whole rye flour, whole oats.  Why WHOLE?  Because that means the entire or whole grain has been used – the germ, endosperm and bran.  White bread uses just the endosperm and not the germ and bran which have the most vitamins, minerals and fiber.  If you want a different flavor to your whole grain bread, Dietitian Glassman recommends “scoping out ingredients like whole barley, brown rice, whole oats or whole flax for a different flavor, but all the same nutrients”.
a.       Whole grain breads provide:
                                                               i.      Antioxidants
                                                             ii.      Protein –
                                                           iii.      Fiber
                                                           iv.      Minerals such as iron, magnesium and many trace minerals like chromium
                                                             v.      Vitamins such as vitamin E, B vitamins
                                                           vi.      Phytochemicals – the healthy plant chemicals
                                                          vii.      Whole grains may help protect against obesity, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers
 3.  100% Whole Grain – is the healthiest choice. 
a.       100% whole grain – means all the flour or grains in the bread are whole and provide all the vitamins, minerals and fiber in the grain.  You may see the “whole grain” stamp on the bread.  Or you may see the words:  “100% whole grain” on the package.  
Look for a Whole Grain stamp on the package
b.       Some foods are mostly refined but do have some whole grain.  For example, Ritz crackers has a “Baked with Whole Wheat” cracker.  Sounds like it would be 100% whole wheat but the first ingredient in these crackers is:  unbleached enriched flour.  It does have “whole grain wheat flour” so a healthier choice than crackers not providing any whole grain.  This would be a good snack cracker to serve kids after school or pack as a snack for work with some cheese slices.   And breads can say “whole grain” even if only 51% of the ingredients are whole grain.
c.       Make half your grains whole grain – MyPlate recommends half the grains you eat should be whole grain.  Try for whole grains at breakfast and lunch.  Then for dinner enjoy that sour dough or ciabatta bread. 
d.       Some whole grain bread options:  whole grain English muffins, whole grain bagels.  We like Dave’s Killer Bread.  Full of whole grains and it tastes good.  

  4. Avoid high fructose corn syrup – no reason for bread to contain this sweetener.  We always try to buy bread and other foods that do not contain high fructose corn syrup.
       5.   Fiber – look on the package to see how many grams of fiber per slice.  Fiber is so important to good health and many Americans are lacking fiber in their diet.  Whole grain breads are a great way to add some fiber to your day.  If you are new to adding fiber to your diet, start slowly.   Look for bread that provides at least 3 grams of fiber per slice.  Fiber is important to feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut so improves gut health.  The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend adults get about 25 grams of fiber a day.  

1.       Brown bread is whole grain – not really.  So many students in my class say they look for brown bread as that is healthy.  Just because food manufacturers dye the bread brown, doesn’t make it any healthier than white bread.  
2.       Wheat bread – almost all bread is “wheat” bread.  White bread is made from enriched wheat flour.  Wheat doesn’t make it healthy or whole grain.  If the first ingredient is “wheat flour” or “enriched bleached flour” the bread is mostly white flour and not whole grain.
3.       Rye bread – most people think rye bread is healthier than white bread.  Not true.  Students ask me if you can buy whole grain rye bread.  I went to our local grocery store and looked at every package of rye bread.  Not one had any whole rye flour in the ingredients.  So, don’t be fooled by Russian rye, Jewish Rye, Dark Rye or Extra Sour Rye as all have the first ingredient as unbleached enriched flour.  Since most rye breads are from enriched flour, they usually don’t have more than 1 gram of fiber per slice.  I did find a whole rye bread at World Market.  It was very dark rye, 100% whole grain rye and imported from Germany. 
4.       Multi-grain, Seven Grain, 100% natural – all sound healthy but you have to read the ingredients to see if any of the grains are whole grain.  As WebMD notes, “Oroweat’s seven-grain and 12-grain breads, for example, list “unbleached enriched flour” as their first ingredient.  Nature’s Pride 100% Natural Honey Wheat bread, likewise, is mainly made with “wheat flour”, not whole wheat.” 

The following are considered whole grain:
·         Oatmeal
·         Whole corn
·         Whole wheat, wheat berries, stoneground whole wheat
·         Whole rye
·         Bulgur
·         Brown rice
·         Whole grain barley
·         Buckwheat
·         Quinoa
·         Whole wheat Couscous 

If you would like to know more about choosing healthier bread, read the WebMD article:  “The Best Bread: Tips for Buying Breads”.   If you want to read more about whole grains, go to “Whole Grains 101”.
Enjoy some buckwheat pancakes