Tag Archives: eating healthy

Shopping at Your Local Farmers’ Market: a Summer Guide

Summer is prime time for shopping at your local farmers’ market. There is a wide selection of colorful and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables for sale right now. Knowing which produce is best to buy right now and how to select the ripest and freshest of the bunch will make the most of your farmers’ market experience and your pocketbook.

Peaches

Select peaches that are on the firmer side, unless you plan to eat them that day. Store them in the refrigerator in a drawer, but only with other fruits.

Melon

It’s not summer without watermelon, but don’t forget about juicy cantaloupe and honeydew melon, too. For cantaloupe, opt for a golden color rather than green, while for honeydew, pick a light yellow color, and for watermelon, look for a yellow spot, a sign of ripeness. Store ripe melons in the fridge and only cut before serving.

Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are some of the healthiest fruits, and early to mid-summer is the best time to buy them. For strawberries and raspberries, look for ones that are dry and firm and a deep red  color. For blackberries, shininess is the key to their ripeness. When purchasing blueberries, choose smooth-skinned, dark blue or purple berries. Store berries in the fruit drawer in the refrigerator, or for longer lasting berries, freeze them.

Tomatoes

Check tomatoes for any bruising or soft spots on the skin. Choose a vibrant-colored tomato and one that is firm to the touch. It’s best not to refrigerate tomatoes or you risk having them lose their flavor.

Summer squash

There are several varieties of summer squash, but they have a shorter lifespan than winter squash. Check for bruising before buying and always choose firm squash, as it quickly softens. Place it in a plastic bag that is sealed tightly and store in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator.

Corn

Look for bright green, tightly wrapped corn and almost-moist husks. Check the husks to make sure there are no brown wormholes, and then feel individual kernels through the husks to make sure none are missing. Corn is best when eaten on the same day it’s bought, but it can also be stored in the fridge with the husks still on.

 

 

Foods That Appear Good for You but Aren’t: Snack Food Edition

Most people truly want to eat more healthily. And most companies want to provide healthy foods to their customers. The problem, however, is that healthy foods tend to lack the salt, fat, sugar, and carbohydrates that people crave. So, even while people try to eat healthily, they soon tire of the high-fiber, low-fat foods that they should be eating, and reach for more appetizing alternatives. Hence the boom in snack food that makes at least some concessions to health. Supermarket shelves are filled with products that advertise that they contain healthy vegetables or high-protein grains. But how healthy are these foods, really? Here’s a breakdown of how some of the most popular “healthy” snacks stack up.

Veggie Chips/Straws

They’re veggies, right? That must mean they’re healthy! Well, that depends on the product. With just a few exceptions, many of the most common veggie snack products have similar nutrition profiles to potato chips, with primary ingredients of potato flour and potato starch. Many of these potato-heavy healthy snacks indeed have lower fat and calories than standard potato chips, but they don’t have any of the vitamins or nutrients that real vegetables provide. Veggie chips made from whole dehydrated vegetables are likely to have more of the good vitamins and nutrients, but they are also likely to have more fat and salt to make them more palatable. Bottom line? Read the label to find out what you’re really eating.

Quinoa Chips

Quinoa is a popular superfood because of its relatively high protein content, and people are drawn to quinoa chips for the same reason: they hope the protein will stave off hunger and help them eat less. Indeed, some quinoa chips have as much as nine grams of protein and as little as 12 grams of carbohydrates (compare to two grams of protein and 16 grams of carbohydrates in a serving of regular potato chips). Other quinoa chips, however, have as little as 1 gram of protein. If protein is your primary goal in a snack food, quinoa chips may be a good choice, but make sure to check the nutrition information before diving in.

Pita Chips

Pita chips have a good reputation; they’re often served with hummus (often a healthy snack choice), and they seem like they should be healthier than potato chips. However, most pita chips are made with processed white flour pita bread, which is high on empty carbohydrate calories and low on fiber, protein, and any healthy nutrients. Many pita chips are soaked in oil before baking, and then coated with salt—giving them a very unhealthy nutrition profile that’s high in carbs, sodium, and fat: a trifecta of bad nutrition. Not all pita chips fit this mold; look for whole grain chips with less than three grams of fat and more than two grams of protein.

 

Food Service Focus: Celiac Awareness Month

May was Celiac Awareness Month, but managing this serious autoimmune disorder is a year-round job. If you’re in the foodservice industry, here’s what you need to know about Celiac Disease.

Celiac Basics

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is a genetic disorder in which the body’s immune response to gluten (a protein found in wheat and many other grains) is to attack the lining of the small intestine (the villi).

The attacks damage the villi over time, which affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to other autoimmune disorders like Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis as well as serious neurological conditions and even stomach cancer. Short-term symptoms for adults usually include diarrhea, fatigue, and weight loss as well as other forms of gastric distress.

Approximately 1 percent of Americans have celiac disease.

Celiac Treatment

There is currently no cure or medical treatment for celiac disease. The only way to keep celiac disease at bay is to adhere to a lifelong gluten-free diet. Unlike food allergies or food intolerances, which may wax and wane during a lifetime or have gradations of seriousness, celiac disease requires complete avoidance of even trace amounts of gluten for the rest of the celiac patient’s life.

Avoiding Gluten

Thanks to heightened awareness of celiac disease, it’s easier than ever for people with this disorder to shop and eat normally. Many foods are naturally gluten-free: especially “whole” foods like meat, fruit, and vegetables. And due to a rise in the perceived effects of gluten intolerance, there are many options for gluten-free bread and crackers as well as other processed food.

Standards/Certification

Since only trace amounts of gluten can set off the immune system of someone with celiac disease, it is important that any food that is labeled Gluten Free (GF) is truly free from gluten. The Gluten-Free Certification Organization provides verification through a “stringent review process” that any certified GF product has 10 parts per million or less of gluten.

Food Service for Customers with Celiac Disease

The most important tool for people with celiac disease is knowledge. To best serve team members with celiac disease, it is not necessary to provide only certified GF food items (although it is nice to have a few); what is necessary is to provide easily-accessible nutrition information for all food so that everyone can be sure of what they are eating.

In a food service kitchen, it is also crucial to avoid cross-contamination with gluten—like avoiding cross-contamination with nuts for people with nut allergies. This means keeping equipment separate or cleaning it thoroughly between each use. Frequent gluten-spreading culprits include cutting boards, knives, toasters, spatulas/wooden spoons, and even spreadable condiments like butter or mustard. Kitchen employees should also be sure to wash their hands carefully before working with food that will be served as “gluten-free.”

Is It Time for a Little Spring Cleaning?

Spring cleaning is a popular worldwide tradition. Why spring? While the roots of this tradition are unclear, some suggest that European winters are responsible. In the days before central HVAC systems, Europeans barred their homes against the cold by shutting windows tightly and lighting fires all winter long. By the end of such a winter, houses were stuffy, musty, and dirty from all the soot from the fires. Spring was a good time to open the windows, air out the house, and clean out the winter’s dirt.

 

Spring Cleaning for your lifeThe way we live—and clean—has changed, but the tradition of spring cleaning remains. Many people take this time of year to take stock, declutter, and deep clean their homes and workplaces. Is now a good time for you to do the same? Here are some ways to do your own spring cleaning.

  1. Spring clean your diet: You don’t have to go whole hog with the Whole30 in order to eat more cleanly. “Eating clean” doesn’t mean eating without making a mess, or washing your food before you eat it; it means limiting processed foods and eating more whole foods, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
  2. Spring clean your exercise routine: Try something different to spice up your physical fitness. Walk to work once a week, work out with a virtual trainer, or try a cardio dance class. The break in routine will help you burn more calories and maybe have some fun!
  3. Spring clean your workspace: How many Post-it® notes are stuck to your computer? How many unread emails are in your inbox? How many folders can you see on your desk, or tools left out in your workspace? If the answer is more than five, then set aside some time this spring to do a big clean of both your physical and your virtual workspaces to enjoy a nicer environment and increased productivity.
  4. Actually spring clean your home: Even if you don’t have dust from sooty coal fires all over your home, spring is a great time to donate old clothes and furniture, take old taxes to a professional shredder, and clear the cobwebs from the corners. Read more here to do a really deep spring clean.

 

Are Taking Vitamins or Supplements Enough to Live Healthy?

To Supplement or Not to Supplement?

Feeling blue? Try some St. John’s Wort. Getting a cold? Pop some echinacea. Even cancer has proponents of natural supplements.

To Supplement or Not to Supplement?

Although exact numbers range from $11.7 billion to $36.7 billion, the size of the U.S. dietary supplement market is massive… and growing daily. Marketing dietary supplements is nothing new; the first snake-oil salesmen had plenty of customers among workers on the transcontinental railroad. But with internet ads and marketing on social media, the industry has exploded.

Supplements have their champions—those who think supplements can do anything from curing cancer to cleansing your colon—and their detractors—those who think supplements are useless at best and harmful at worst. As usual, the truth is somewhere in-between.

An important fact to understand about supplements is that although marketers often sell them as substitutes for medication, they are not subject to nearly the same scrutiny and testing as prescription or over-the-counter medicine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not need to approve dietary supplements or even the claims that marketers make for their efficacy. The FDA does not test dietary supplements, so when you read a supplement’s claim and its ingredients, you’re relying on the manufacturer’s “honor system.” However, the New York Attorney General conducted a study on four major retailers of dietary supplements and found that 79 percent of them did not even contain the herb or supplement advertised or that it contained contaminants.

With the caveat emptor warning, experts say that some dietary supplements can be helpful, as long as people recognize that they are supplements to a healthy diet and lifestyle, not a replacement. The Mayo Clinic suggests that certain groups of people—those over 50, those who don’t eat a balanced diet, and those who have special dietary needs—can benefit from supplements. It’s important to keep up-to-date on the research around supplements, like studies that show that some supplements may actually be harmful. One Mayo Clinic doctor notes, “Any product that’s strong enough to provide a potential benefit to the body can also be strong enough to cause harm.”

If you’re considering supplements, start by talking to your doctor about which she/he recommends and how they might interact with other medications. You can also do your own research by contacting the manufacturer and doing your research on the following websites:

 

 

Healthier Eating – You Are When You Eat.

Check Your Clock Before You Take Your Next Bite.

Food is food, and calories are calories, right? Not so fast! A number of recent studies suggest that when you eat is as important as what you eat.

When it comes to healthier eating, when you eat is as important as where you eat.

A 2012 study tested two groups of mice, both of which were given the same amount of high-fat, high-calorie food. One group could eat around the clock, while the other could only eat for 16 hours a day. Even though both groups consumed the exact same amount of the exact same foods, the group that fasted for eight hours were almost 40 percent leaner than the around-the-clock eaters.

The 24-hour eaters also developed high cholesterol and blood sugar, liver problems, and other metabolic diseases associated with obesity. A 2015 follow-up study showed that mice on an even longer time-restricted diet—being allowed to eat for only nine to twelve hours per day—had even better results.

Of course, what works for mice might not work for humans, so researchers have been performing studies to determine if these results can help people make healthier eating choices. Early signs look good not just for correlation, but for causation as well; specifically, human circadian rhythms have evolved to help us do a better job of processing calories and fat earlier in the day, rather than later.

A 2013 study in Spain found that people who ate a large lunch later in the day lost less weight and lost it more slowly  than people who ate a large lunch earlier in the day. Other studies have tied nighttime fasting to improved glycemic regulation: that is, a person’s ability to regulate blood-sugar levels.

A 2015 study tied nightly fasting to a lower risk of breast cancer, and a 2016 study at Harvard Medical School found that shift workers who often have to invert their schedules and eat at night and fast during the day had a lowered glucose tolerance.

So what does this mean for you? To start, cut out the midnight snacks and late-night dinners. Whenever possible, eat your biggest meals before 3:00 pm and then begin to taper down. In order to lose significant weight, the calculus of “calories in” versus “calories out” still applies, but aligning your diet with your circadian rhythms will help you work with your body instead of against it.

Enjoy Fall’s Bounty

One of the benefits of living in the South is enjoying fresh produce all year long. Different items are available at different times, of course, but then again, variety is the spice of life. Read on to discover how to make the most out of fall’s best produce.

enjoy fall's bounty of fruits and vegetables!

Fruits:

  • Apples, those most quintessential of fall fruits, are filled with antioxidants that have been proven to fight cancer and other diseases. An apple a day may truly keep the doctor away!
  • Cranberries are harvested in the fall, creating beautiful pools of deep red berries in a sea of golden grasses. Their beauty is not only skin-deep: cranberries are high in Vitamins C and A, as well as phytonutrients and manganese.
  • We’ve grown accustomed to having access to grapes all year round, but they are freshest in the fall. They are a good source of Vitamins K and C, and an anti-inflammatory compound called resveratrol. As with many fruits and vegetables, the darker they are, the more antioxidants they have.
  • Winter squash come in all varieties, including butternut, acorn, and spaghetti. This sweet, hearty fruit lends itself to roasting and is a good source of Vitamin C and carotenoids, which help prevent heart disease.

Vegetables

  • As their dark color indicates, beets are absolutely chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. These include: folic acid, potassium, beta carotene, magnesium, iron, fiber, phosphorus, and Vitamins A, B, & C.
  • Have you ever tried fresh Brussels sprouts? They bear little relation to the bitter mini-cabbages that you might have shunned as a kid. Fresh Brussels sprouts have a bright, rich flavor that can be improved through roasting, grilling, or sautéing. Brussels are part of the family of Cruciferous vegetables, which also include broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables are all high in glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that have been linked to reduced cancer risks.
  • The rich, sweet flavor of yams belies their healthfulness. Like squash, they’re full of carotenoids as well as potassium, Vitamin E, and copper.