In the nutrition community, “snacking” used to be a dirty word: a bad habit that many clients needed to break. Today, the jury is still out on whether eating many smaller meals a day is better or worse than eating three larger ones. However, as with most nutrition “rules,” what you eat is more important than when you eat.
When in doubt, read the nutrition label and look for foods that give you good nutritional balance. Aim for more foods that are high in protein and fiber and fewer foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar. And always look for the apple logo indicating The Right Choice… for a Healthier You® option.
Full Speed Ahead: eat these snacks without guilt!
- Reduced fat cheese provides an important protein boost, as well as calcium and often vitamin D.
- Hummus (bean dip) with veggies like carrots and peppers contains fiber and protein, and the veggies provide beta-carotene.
- Berries contain health-boosting anti-oxidants along with a burst of energy from natural sugars.
- Nonfat Greek yogurt packs a protein punch and helps your gut with healthy probiotics.
- Nonfat cottage cheese is low in calories but high in protein and calcium.
Proceed with Caution: these snacks are fine in moderation, but don’t overdo it.
- Nuts have a high fat content, but it’s “good fat,” and the protein gives a good boost to get you through the day. Look for nuts (like pistachios) that are still in the shell ; this will help prevent mindless eating.
- Dried fruit can be a delicious alternative to candy, but it can still contain more sugar than you want to consume during the day. Make sure to check the sugar content on the nutrition label, as all dried fruits are not created equal!
- Popcorn is a whole grain, making it better for you than snacks made with refined white flour. Some snack popcorns are also low-fat and low-salt, making them a relatively healthy snack. However, make sure to watch your portion control, and check the label to make sure that the fat and salt levels aren’t too high.
Roadblock: avoid these snacks when possible.
- Potato and corn chips usually get their delicious addictiveness from the fat and salt they contain. If you must indulge, look for baked varieties and those with reduced sodium. The intrinsic portion control from vending machine snack bags can help you enjoy these treats in moderation.
- Sugary candy offers no nutritional benefits: just a quick burst of energy followed by a sugar crash. Dark chocolate can give you that sugar with some additional anti-oxidants to books your health.
Do you or your colleagues need a boost to get moving this spring? The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition has you covered! Operating with the Twitter hashtag #moveinmay, the President’s Council is promoting May as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, complete with a playbook on how to get moving and stay active.
National Physical Fitness and Sports Month in May is not a new event; it has actually been observed since 1983, when President Reagan urged “individuals and families to use this occasion to renew their commitments to make regular physical activity an integral part of their lives.” In 2017, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is still going strong with a slew of programs and activities to encourage healthy, active lifestyles.
In the last three decades, technology has changed our lives, both for better and for worse. On the one hand (literally), the accessibility of technology has given many Americans a screen addiction, making us virtual slaves to virtual reality. However, technology has also positively transformed some aspects of physical fitness, especially in the area of tracking and recording, as well as accessing helpful information and interactive guidance.
In addition to the many commercial activity trackers and tracking apps available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+), an eight-week program to help people get a jump-start on their fitness goals. With a focus on healthy eating and activity levels, PALA+ lets participants keep track of their progress toward their targets. For adults, the physical activity goal involves having 150 active minutes and five active days per week. Nutrition goals include these :
- Vegetables: Log at least 3 vegetables per week.
- Fruit: Log at least 3 whole fruits per week.
- Grains: Log at least 3 whole grain foods per week.
- Dairy: Log at least 3 low-fat or fat-free dairy items per week.
- Protein Foods: Log at least 3 lean protein foods or seafood items per week.
Those who complete the PALA+ challenge can download an award certificate from Fitness.gov. This ready-made challenge is a great way to bring colleagues together to work toward a healthier lifestyle, so they can get out there and #moveinmay!
Go to any youth sporting event, and you’ll be blinded by the display of brightly-colored sports drinks. You can usually see a similar array at your local gym and, increasingly, in your office vending machine. But are these drinks really appropriate for an office setting?
In the United States, the sports drink industry was born at the University of Florida (UF) in 1965. The Gator football coach noticed that many of the team’s players lost weight, suffered from heat stroke, and didn’t urinate during games and practices. The director of the UF College of Medicine’s renal and electrolyte division knew that when the players perspired during practice, they were losing not just fluids, but also valuable electrolytes: minerals in the body that regulate important functions like hydration, muscle function, and pH level. The doctors and coaches teamed up to create a substance that would replace the fluids, carbohydrates, and electrolytes that the players lost on the field. They started with a simple solution of water, sugar, and salt, but it apparently tasted so bad that it was undrinkable. According to legend, the wife of the lead doctor recommended adding lemon juice to the concoction, and Gatorade was born.
Since Gatorade’s humble beginnings on a UF football field, sports drinks have grown into a billion-dollar industry. Nationally, people are getting the message that soda, both diet and regular, is very unhealthy. Soft drink sales continue to decline, but the consumption of sports drinks continues to rise every year. In 2014, per-capita sports drink consumption was 4.5 gallons in the United States!
However, replacing soft drinks with sports drinks does not provide a healthier alternative despite the marketing of sports drinks as being part of an active lifestyle. What many people fail to realize is that sports drinks are formulated specifically for people exercising for more than an hour and/or people exercising in extremely hot weather. Otherwise, there is no need to fill the body with the extra sugars and salt of sports drinks. In fact, the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) warns that the added sugars of beverages account for almost half (47%) of all added sugars consumed by the U.S. population. When in doubt, reach for a water: your body will thank you.