Tag Archives: healthy eating

Eat More Veggies! 7 Sneaky Ways to Get More Vegetables into Your Diet

Americans don’t eat enough vegetables. This is a commonly known fact. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only one in 10 adults are getting enough fruit and vegetables in their daily diets. Yet government guidelines recommend that adults eat at least two to three cups of vegetables per day as well as at least one-and-a-half to two cups of fruit. So, how can you change your diet and modify your cooking to make sure you’re meeting the recommended guidelines?

Maybe you aren’t a big fan of broccoli, or you aren’t sure how to prepare vegetables in an appealing way. Or maybe, like many people, you just find it inconvenient to eat all of those veggies when there are quick and easy packaged meals ready to go.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to eat enough vegetables because they are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, which can help keep you healthy and help fight off disease, as well as help you maintain a healthy weight.

Here are seven creative ways to incorporate vegetables into your cooking that are both easy and appetizing.

1. Make vegetable-based soups.
Soups are a great way to incorporate several vegetables at once. You can make vegetables the base of the soup by puréeing them and adding spices, meats, noodles, or more veggies. Some examples of vegetable-based soups include tomato soup, carrot soup, creamy cauliflower soup, mushroom-spinach soup, and of course classic vegetable soup. You can find some delicious soup recipes here.

2. Try Veggie Noodles.
If you crave pasta but are watching your carb intake, veggie noodles are a great low-carb alternative and a way to get in several servings of vegetables in one meal. The most common vegetables used for noodles are zucchini, carrots, spaghetti squash, and sweet potatoes. You will need a spiralizer for making veggie noodles: you insert veggies into the spiralizer, and it processes them into noodle-like shapes. Veggie noodles can be eaten just like regular pasta—just add another vegetable-based sauce, such as tomato sauce, and add meat if you like. Toss in some mushrooms and onions, and you’ve met a big portion of your daily vegetable requirement.

3. Add Vegetables to Sauces.
Speaking of noodle dishes, another easy way to increase vegetable intake is by adding them to sauces. When cooking a sauce, such as a marinara sauce, just add in other veggies like chopped onions, carrots, peppers, or spinach. You can also puree other vegetables to make them into a sauce on their own, such as butternut squash or spinach.

4. Use Cauliflower for Carbs.
Cauliflower pizza is all the rage right now. With the popularity of gluten-free and low-carb diets, substituting cauliflower for flour-based crusts allows you to still enjoy pizza, plus it adds in a full serving of vegetables. Blend more veggies into your pizza sauce or add them as toppings for a veggie-rich meal.

Cauliflower rice is another carb alternative and can be substituted for regular white or brown rice. You can use either a food processor or box grater to make cauliflower rice. It’s even easier to cook than regular rice, either on the stove top or in the microwave. You can serve it as a side or use it as a base for other recipes that mix in meat and other vegetables.

5. Blend Veggies into Smoothies.
Smoothies are a really easy way to eat more vegetables and are especially appealing if you have picky kids. They won’t even be able to taste the vegetables or know they are in these yummy drinks! Blending in green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale with fruits such as mangoes, strawberries, bananas, and peaches packs both fruits and veggies into one sweet, icy drink that you or your kids can have for a quick breakfast-on-the-go or for an anytime snack.

6. Try a Lettuce Wrap.
Using lettuce or other leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach as a wrap instead of a bun or tortilla is one of the easiest ways to eat more vegetables. They can be used for several types of dishes including bunless hamburgers or hot dogs, or a low-carb sandwich.

7. Make a Veggie Omelet.
Omelets don’t have to just be for breakfast, plus they’re an easy way to sneak in more veggies. Almost any type of vegetable tastes good in an omelet, but the most popular ones are mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, and tomatoes. Add in some cheese and/or meat for a filling meal.

By getting creative with using vegetables in your cooking, you’ll be able to increase your daily intake and learn to love eating vegetables.

 

 

 

Eating Right for Gut Health

Everyone experiences digestive problems from time to time. Symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, gas, bloating, constipation and abdominal discomfort are common and can be caused by a variety of things including diet, age, health conditions, and certain medications. But when digestive distress becomes a constant problem and interferes with your day-to-day life, it may be time to reexamine your diet and make some changes that can help alleviate unpleasant symptoms and lead to better digestive health.

Scientists have discovered in recent years that in addition to improved digestive health,  the GI system is linked to many other aspects of health from immunity to emotional health to chronic illnesses including cancer and Type 2 diabetes. This link is believed to lie in the microbiome—the bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit the stomach and intestines.

It’s important to note that persistent digestive problems should always be checked by your doctor. If you’ve been cleared medically of any underlying health conditions, then changing your diet can help regulate digestion and improve your overall gut health.

The Big Three
Improving gut health revolves around three major sources: foods containing fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, or a combination of all three.

  • Fiber, found in plant-based foods, aids in digestion as it helps regulate the speed at which food moves through your gut.
  • Probiotics in foods are live microorganisms or so-called “good bacteria.” These foods are created through the fermentation process and can encourage a healthy digestive tract.
  • Prebiotics are necessary for probiotics to work in helping the flora in your gut to flourish.

While there are a lot of over-the-counter probiotic/prebiotic supplements available on the market, these types of supplements are not well-regulated, so you don’t know if you’re actually getting what is on the label. It is much more beneficial to get these nutrients through food rather than supplements. The best foods for all three sources are whole foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.

Focus on Fiber.
Most Americans do not get enough fiber in their diets. The recommended daily amount of fiber for women is 25 grams and 38 grams for men. Increasing the fiber in your diet should be done gradually, especially if you aren’t already eating a lot of fibrous foods, because adding too much too quickly can cause cramping and gas. By increasing your fiber intake gradually, digestive symptoms should also gradually improve.

To increase your daily fiber intake, eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and try adding more of these particular foods to your diet:

  • Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, navy beans, and white beans
  • Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries
  • Whole grains such as barley, bran, and bulgur

Promote Probiotics and Prebiotics.

Research on probiotics and prebiotics is relatively new, so there is currently no specific recommendation for daily intake. Eating a variety of foods containing probiotics several times a week can help regulate digestion and ease mild digestive symptoms.

The best sources of probiotic foods include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles
  • Cheeses – Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, cottage cheese

Prebiotics are found in fiber-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, although not all plant-based foods contain prebiotics. Some of the best sources include bananas, nuts, whole wheat, and corn.

By revamping your diet to include more of these foods that promote a healthy gut, you can lessen or eliminate symptoms of digestive distress and improve overall health.

 

Holiday Eating Without the Guilt

Food is everywhere during the holiday season. From office parties to family gatherings to school functions to cookie exchanges, celebrations this time of year revolve around food. And really good food too—it’s hard to resist all of the rich desserts, creamy dips, cheese balls, hors d’oeuvres, and eggnog this time of year, nor should you have to. But you also don’t want to completely unravel the healthy eating habits you’ve established this year or gain any unwanted pounds.

How can you enjoy all of the holiday goodies without feeling guilty? Here are some holiday eating tips that will allow you to savor every bite this season while still maintaining moderation and hopefully doing minimal damage to your waistline.

Skip seconds.
Don’t pass up your favorite holiday foods, but do skip seconds. By filling your plate with the foods you enjoy the most, you will be more mindful of not overeating.

Less is more.
Choose to eat two of your favorite Christmas cookies instead of four; have just one crescent roll instead of two, and so on.

Make a swap.
If there are specific foods you don’t want to miss out on, such as pecan pie or gingerbread, then limit other foods at the meal such as bread or potatoes to save on calories.

It’s OK to say no.
Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to turn down food offered to you by others. Simply say, “No, thank you,” or “I am full,” when offered something you don’t want. You are not obligated to eat everything the host offers.

Leave the leftovers.
Pass on the leftovers. Try to limit your indulgence to a special occasion such as a party or family gathering, then get back to your regular, healthy eating patterns the next day. Leftovers in the fridge are too tempting to grab when you’re in a hurry instead of making a healthy meal.

Tackle the buffet, but in moderation.
When faced with a bountiful buffet table, fill your plate with moderate portions. It may be tempting to sample everything, but instead, get one small serving of the dishes you like the most, and then feel free to add more fresh veggies or fruits to keep you full. Use a small plate to help control portions.

Take just a bite.
Have just a few bites of that rich, creamy dessert rather than the whole thing. You don’t need a large amount of food to enjoy celebrating with family and friends.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
If you plan to enjoy alcoholic drinks, be sure to drink one glass of water between every alcoholic drink to stay hydrated and to help with digestion.

Give yourself permission to enjoy all of the foods you may not normally eat the rest of the year, and then get back on track with your regular routine the next day.

Turkey Day Training: 6 Ways to Get Your Family Active on Thanksgiving Day

With numerous visiting relatives and all the cooking, cleaning, and prepping, it can be hard to find time to fit in a workout on Thanksgiving Day. But making time to exercise can be easy if you make it a family affair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So go ahead and indulge in the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, and pumpkin pie knowing you have a plan to burn off the excess calories. It doesn’t have to require a gym; there are lots of ways to get active while spending time with your family.

Here are some ideas to make incorporating exercise into your Turkey Day festivities fun for the whole family:

Sign up for a “Turkey Trot”
Many areas now hold Thanksgiving Day 5K runs or “Turkey Trots,” usually to benefit a local charity. Starting the day with a community run or walk is a great way to curb your cravings and minimize any damage you may do later from overindulging. It’s also a fun way to spend time with your family and friends, while also giving back to the community. And isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Take a Walk
If a formal race isn’t your speed, even taking a brisk 30-minute walk after your Thanksgiving dinner can have health benefits. Again, grab your family or friends, lace up your sneakers, and get outside for a walk around the neighborhood. You’ll also be making memories and maybe even starting a new, healthy family tradition.

Play a Game of Touch Football
For many families, a friendly game of touch football after a big Thanksgiving meal is an annual tradition. Don’t just sit on the sidelines this year; join in and have fun while burning calories. If football is not your thing, you can kick around a soccer ball or shoot some hoops. The key is to make it fun for everyone—for both the kids and adults—and get moving.

Take a Hike
Head to a local hiking trail with the whole family to explore nature and get some exercise. There are usually trails for all levels of hikers, so choosing a beginner or intermediate trail is a good idea if you have young children or elderly family members joining in the fun.

Play Interactive Video Games
Chances are, there will be kids at your Thanksgiving Day celebration who will want to play video games. Keep them from zoning out in front of a screen all afternoon by choosing one of many fitness video games where the whole family can get active. Games such as Just Dance, Wii Sports, or Wipeout require players to move and offer some friendly competition. This is also a great option if the Turkey Day weather in your area is too cold or rainy to get outdoors.

Hit the Black Friday Sales
Many stores now open on Thanksgiving night for shoppers to get an early start on their Black Friday shopping. Bring along your family and friends and hit the stores—all that standing in line and walking around shopping centers are a fun way to fit in a walk and get a head start on your holiday shopping.

 

Healthier Thanksgiving Day Options

Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s meant to be enjoyed while surrounded by good food, family, and friends. It is perfectly okay and even expected to indulge at Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy your favorite foods. But you also don’t have to let this one day derail your healthy eating.

Traditional Thanksgiving foods are actually great for both eating healthy and for satisfying your cravings. Thanksgiving staples such as sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberries, corn, pumpkin, and, of course, turkey are all nutrient-rich dishes—the key is in how they are prepared.

Here are some alternatives for some of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes to make them into healthier options:

Sweet Potato Casserole/Candied Yams
Classic sweet potato casserole or candied yams are often made with lots of butter, sugar, brown sugar, and marshmallows. It’s basically less of a side dish and more of a dessert. For a healthier option, you can bake, roast, boil, or mash sweet potatoes and top them with a tiny bit of maple syrup and fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Check out the following recipes. 

Stuffing 
While these may be easier, boxed stuffing mixes are usually high in sodium and preservatives. They are also usually made using white bread, so starting with a whole wheat bread base automatically makes it a better option because it contains more fiber and is better for digestion. Using low-sodium chicken broth and fresh spices to round out your stuffing makes a flavorful, healthier version. Here are some other healthy stuffing recipes.

Turkey
As the main event of the Thanksgiving meal, turkey is a lean protein that can be a very healthy choice as long as it’s prepared properly. They key is to prepare the turkey without adding too much sodium and extra calories. Try some of these recipes for cooking your turkey.

Cranberry Sauce
Canned cranberry sauce is quick and easy, but it’s also chock full of sugar and sodium. Cranberries are a super food, so don’t skimp on this side dish. Fresh cranberry sauce is easy to make and can add a colorful and healthful option to your holiday meal. This easy cranberry sauce recipe uses fresh or frozen cranberries and orange or lemon zest.

Pumpkin Pie
Don’t skip dessert, especially if it’s pumpkin pie that is full of healthy beta-carotene and fiber. Ditch the whipped cream and use more spices and other ingredients to keep the sugar content as low as possible when making your pie. Try one of these healthy pumpkin pie recipes.

Halloween Candy: How Much Exercise to Burn Off Your Favorite Treats?

The only thing truly scary about Halloween is the potential weight gain from indulging in all of the candy and treats this time of year. While a few nibbles here and there aren’t likely to do much damage, those yummy bite-size candies you steal from your little goblin’s Halloween bag can really add up when it comes to calories. And who can eat just one fun-size Snickers or mini-Reese’s Cup?

But have no fear! By stepping up your exercise routine, you can burn off those spooky snacks so you aren’t haunted by those creepy calories for months to come.

Here is how much exercise you’ll need to do in order to burn off the extra calories from your favorite Halloween treats.

  • Fun-size Kat bar (3 pieces/210 calories): Run 20 minutes or walk at a moderate pace for one hour.
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (1 individual cup/105 calories): Cycle for 25 minutes or swim laps for 15 minutes.
  • Fun-size Almond Joy (1 bar/80 calories): High-impact aerobics class for 15 minutes, 30 minutes of yoga or 15 minutse of golf.
  • Fun-size Snickers bar (2 bars/160 calories): 45 minutes of weight training or yoga class for one hour.
  • Fun-size M&Ms (3 mini-packs/180 calories): Cross-country hiking for 30 minutes or go dancing with friends for 30 minutes.
  • Fun-size Hershey’s Chocolate bar (1 bar/77 calories): 10 minutes of racquetball or jump rope slowly for 10 minutes.
  • Fun-size Whoppers (2 bags/60 calories): 10 minutes on trowing machine or take a one-mile slow jog.
  • Candy Corn (20 pieces/140 calories): Walk at a brisk pace for 35 minutes or play ping pong for 30 minutes.

So eat, drink, and be scary this Halloween. Just remember to be mindful of how many handfuls of those mini-chocolate bars you’re eating so you don’t over-boo it!

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Spice: Trendy or Healthy?

It’s pumpkin spice season, and the craze has been in full effect since before Labor Day. This fall favorite flavoring can now be found in everything from coffee to Oreos, candles, and cleaning products. Whether you love it or loathe it, the pumpkin spice obsession is here to stay. The good news is that there are many surprising health benefits to pumpkin spice, but these are found in the spice’s ingredients and not the popular sugary, syrupy pumpkin spice lattes or limited edition baked goods lining the shelves at the supermarket.

Pumpkin Spice Blend
This warming blend of spices doesn’t actually contain any pumpkin; the traditional pumpkin spice blend includes ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. These ingredients are all good for you if you limit the sugar that is added to most pumpkin spice drinks and baked goods.

  • Cinnamon
    Cinnamon is the super star ingredient of pumpkin spice. It’s rich in antioxidants,  which have been shown to protect cells, and it also contains anti-inflammatory  properties. There is some research which suggests that it may help improve blood glucose sensitivity and lower cholesterol. There is also ongoing research into how cinnamon may positively impact disease prevention and treatment in dementia, cancer, and HIV.
  • Nutmeg
    This yummy fall spice contains small amounts of fiber, numerous B vitamins, and  minerals. Like cinnamon, it also contains disease-fighting antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Some research has shown that nutmeg has antibacterial effects against certain harmful strains of bacteria.
  • Ginger
    Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy to ward off nausea, but this spicy powder also contains important minerals like iron, potassium, and zinc. Ginger has also been used for centuries for medicinal purposes to relieve cold and flu symptoms and digestive problems and to reduce inflammation.
  • Allspice
    Allspice is native to several Caribbean islands, Mexico, and Central America and is made from a berry that is dried and ground into a fine brown powder.  Allspice contains several agents that together possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It has also been used to relieve digestive distress.

Reaping the Benefits

There’s nothing like the warm, comforting aroma of pumpkin spice this time of year. It’s tempting to indulge in all things pumpkin spice, especially because limited edition pumpkin spice products are everywhere. But if you want to get the health benefits from the spice, you’ll have to limit the number of pumpkin spice lattes, bars, cookies, breads, and pies you consume. Many of these seasonal products contain large amounts of sugar and preservatives.

You can still enjoy pumpkin spice season without risking your health and your waistline by choosing all-natural products or better yet, making your own. Make the spice blend at home and add it to oatmeal, Greek yogurt, or homemade pumpkin bread. And you can still enjoy the occasional pumpkin spice latte, or make it healthier by requesting nonfat milk, no whipped cream, and fewer pumps of the pumpkin syrup.

Nutrition’s Role in Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s talk about prevention!

While there is no fool-proof way to prevent breast cancer, nutrition can play a role in lowering your risk and improving your overall health.

Maintain a Healthy Weight Through Good Nutrition.

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to reduce your breast cancer risk as well as your risks for other diseases.  According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, women who are overweight or obese after menopause have a 30-60 percent higher breast cancer risk than those who are lean.

Extra weight can increase estrogen in your body, and excess estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow. Being overweight also can increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence in women who have had the disease.  Additionally, the location of where you carry extra weight also matters. Women who tend to carry extra weight in their midsection may be at a higher risk than women who carry their extra weight around their hips or thighs.

Eat More Veggies, Less Meat.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides essential antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients that have been shown to reduce cancer risks.  Antioxidants help protect your cells from free radicals—highly-reactive and unstable molecules that have the potential to harm cells. Examples of dietary antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E—all of which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

A diet high in fiber has also been found to lower cancer risk. And once again, the best sources for this nutrient are unprocessed, plant-based foods. In turn, a high-fiber diet may help you lower your overall caloric intake and help you maintain a healthy weight, which, as mentioned above, is crucial in reducing your overall breast cancer risk.

Superfoods!

While no specific food can prevent breast cancer, there are some foods that contain more antioxidants and other anti-cancer properties such as fiber, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids. You should make them a regular part of your diet to help lower your breast cancer risk.

The following are some great examples of  superfoods:

  • Green Tea
  • Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
  • Plums, peaches, avocados
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage)
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, collards, etc.)
  • Vegetables rich in carotenoids (carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, apricots, etc.)
  • Foods with omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, herring, cold liver oil, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed, and nut oils)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, corn, barley, etc.)

Breast cancer is a complex disease, and diet is only one part of the picture. Other factors like genetics, exercise, and lifestyle choices also play a role in your breast cancer risk. Discuss your individual risks with your doctor and work with him or her in developing a personalized plan to lower your risk.

It’s All in the (Nutrition) Label!

What! I just ate 460 calories! The label said 230 calories. This is a mistake almost everyone will sometimes make, especially if he or she is very hungry and grabs a snack to ease those hunger pangs. We don’t focus on the serving size or the servings per container on the nutrition label. We only see in large print the number of calories.

Help is on the way. As of January 2020, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring updated information on nutrition labels as well as a label design that will make it easier for consumers to choose foods that support a healthy diet.

On the new label, the number of servings will be shown in a bolder and larger font, and the serving size will represent more accurately the portion most Americans consume. The most noticeable information on the label will be the calorie count of a single serving.

The new label will also give you information about the amount of sugar or sweeteners that are added during processing or packaging of the food—listed as Added Sugar.

More Americans have deficiencies in Vitamin D and potassium which will be listed on the new label, but vitamins A and C will no longer be listed, since deficiencies in these two are now rare.

And the footnote at the bottom of the label more clearly explains the meaning of “daily value.”

It should be noted that companies with more than ten million in revenue must comply with the new labeling by January 2020,  while single-supply manufacturers and companies

Source: https://www.labelcalc.com/

below the ten million revenue mark have until January 2021 to comply.

See the example of the current label and the new label (outlines show changes) that will appear in January 2020.

 

 

What About Those “Added Sugars” in Foods?

You may have noticed new information appearing on some food product labels under the place where it has sugars listed. Here is an example:

Total Sugars – 13g
Includes 10g Added Sugars

Why put added sugar rather than just the total number of grams of sugar?

Many foods, such as milk and fruits, contain naturally occurring sugar. Added sugars are extra sugars that are added to foods during processing or preparation. Food manufacturers add extra sugar to many products, even those that are already naturally sweet, to make them taste good and to boost sales. Consumers may not have been aware of the amount of extra sugar in foods they have been eating.

The new food product labeling required by the Food and Drug Administration will help you to see the amount of extra sugar added to a product, and it is provided to help consumers control the amount of sugar and other less beneficial substances they consume. They can now distinguish between sugars that are naturally present in a food and sugar that has been added to sweeten the product.

Added sugar my be the single worst aspect of the modern diet. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, sugary drinks—any beverage with added sugar or other sweeteners (sodas, pop, cola, tonic, fruit punch, lemonade [and other “ades”], sweetened powdered drinks, as well as sports and energy drinks)— as a category are the single largest source of calories and added sugar in the US diet. And to compound that, people are drinking larger and larger sizes of these drinks.

The American Heart Association informs us that the amount of calories that people consume each day has increased by approximately 150-300 calories over the past 30 years, and approximately 50% of this increase comes from liquid calories—primarily sugar-sweetened beverages. Since there are 8 teaspoons of sugar in one 12-ounce can of a regular soft drink, that is 140 empty calories and zero nutrition. The AHA recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day and that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories) of added sugar per day.

High sugar consumption increases your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, as well as obesity. Furthermore, higher consumption of sugary beverages has been linked with an increased risk of premature death.

Breaking a habit is easy to say but hard to do, so just cutting back on consuming added sugar can be a step in the right direction. Reading labels on beverages and food products will help us to monitor the amount of added sugar we are consuming.

Sugar Science is a website developed by a team of health scientists from the University of California, San Francisco. Its goal is to help individuals and communities make healthy choices by taking evidence-based scientific information about the impact of sugar on health from medical journals and making it available to the general public. The site reviews more than 8,000 scientific papers that have been published to date, with a focus on the areas where the science is strongest—specifically on diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease.