Tag Archives: nutrition

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.

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.

Are You Getting Enough Roughage in Your Diet?

Roughage, defined as coarse material, is the part of plant foods that our bodies cannot digest, but which is very important to maintaining health. The term “fiber” is used interchangeably with “roughage,” but the name “roughage” seems to convey a more visual image of its true nature than “fiber.”

How does it work?

Varying amounts of fiber(roughage) are found in all plant foods. There are two types of roughage, soluble and insoluble, and the food we eat should have a combination of both types since they each provide different benefits. Soluble fiber absorbs water as it passes through your system becoming gelatinous and making your stools softer and easier to pass. Insoluble fiber (roughage) does not dissolve or absorb water when eaten but passes through your body much in its original form adding bulk to your stool.

Benefits of roughage in your diet.

Adequate roughage in your diet promotes a sense of well-being and health, and the following are some of its positive benefits:

  • Contributes to weight control. (As soluble fiber passes through your system and absorbs water, it stays in your intestinal tract a little longer—promoting a feeling of fullness and satiety which may help to prevent overeating.)
  • Regulates bowel movements and prevents constipation.
  • Slows the rate of sugar absorption and helps to prevent blood sugar spikes after eating.
  • Helps lower cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of dying from heart disease and cancer.
  • Flushes harmful bacteria and toxic substances out of the digestive tract, which helps to maintain a healthy immune system (Up to 70% of the immune system is in the digestive tract.)

How much is enough?

The amount of roughage (fiber) each person needs daily depends on the caloric needs of the individual. According to the USDA, on average, the recommended daily amount for adult men up to age 50 is 38 grams and 25 grams for women. Men over 50 should eat 30 grams of roughage daily and older women should eat 21 grams. However, the Harvard School of Public Health reports that the average adult only eats 15 grams of fiber (roughage) daily.

These are some food sources of soluble fiber: oatmeal, barley, spinach, zucchini, chia, nuts, beans, lentils, figs, apples, avocados, prunes, berries, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and onions.

Here are some sources of insoluble fiber: whole grain foods such as brown rice, wheat bran, cauliflower, okra, corn, kale, green beans, root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, potatoes, etc.), celery, cucumbers, the skins of some fruits (such as kiwis, grapes, and tomatoes), nuts, and seed.

Can’t I just take a fiber supplement?

Because of medical conditions, some people may need to take fiber supplements, but fiber supplements don’t supply the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that whole foods supply.

Is there a downside to eating more roughage (fiber)?

If upping your fiber intake, do it gradually to avoid abdominal bloating, gas, and cramps which can happen if you consume too much rapidly rather than slowly. You should also increase the amount of water you drink since soluble fiber absorbs water.

One of the easiest ways you can contribute to your good health is to become aware of the foods that contain both types of roughage and include some of them in your diet each day.

Meal Planning for Easy Eating

Back-to-school is a busy time for any family, and it’s possible for important activities to fall by the wayside in the rush to get everyone ready and out the door on time. One of the first things to fall through the cracks is healthy eating. It’s all too easy to pack instant meals for your child’s lunch as opposed to nutritious meals, and that’s especially true if you’re trying to get everything ready on the fly. Instead of falling into this habit, consider these meal-planning tips to streamline the food preparation process and keep everyone happy and well-fed.

Schedule Your Meals

Create a meal plan for every day of the week. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cook something every day;  sometimes it’s just more practical to pick something up. But planning ahead gives you the opportunity to scope out smarter food choices for quick takeout than a fast food restaurant. Additionally, planning your meals out in advance gives you more time to determine when you’ll actually cook them and how to store them effectively for long-lasting freshness.

Prepare the Night Before

Instead of waiting until morning to prepare lunches, have your children help you make and pack their food the night before. This gives you more time to find healthy options while giving your child a sense of responsibility for themselves and the food they eat. This is a great chance to teach them healthy food preparation rules as well as the importance of good nutrition. And the morning will be a much less stressful experience when all you have to do is grab a packed lunch from the refrigerator and send your children on their way.

Plan Breakfast, Too

One of the biggest time-wasters parents encounter each morning is waiting for their children to decide what they want to eat for breakfast. Unless they are old enough to prepare their own food, don’t give your children too many choices. Have one or two options that are easily prepared, and you’ll find the morning moves more smoothly, and your children receive consistently healthy meals before they head off to school.

Keep It Simple

Is it tempting to try your hand at a complicated meal that consists of roughly 20 different ingredients and takes two hours to make? Well, for some us, the answer might very well be “yes.” Chances are good, however, that this isn’t a smart choice. Do you really have time to create a complicated dinner every night after work? Instead of picking complicated dishes that can take a while to prepare, keep it simple during the week. Opt for meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that can be prepared quickly and offer all the nutrition you need. For school lunches, this can consist of wraps, cheese cubes, fruit, and hummus with pita bread.

Making healthy food doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Streamlined meal preparation tips can help make it an easy and fast process. With these tips in mind, start making delicious food for your family even during the most chaotic of times.

Fish and Seafood: Risk or Myth

Although most people enjoy eating seafood, some will only eat certain  types of seafood while others avoid eating it altogether for fear that it is harmful or unsafe. That may be because of some myths about it that have persisted.

Let’s examine several sayings to discover whether they are myths or if we are taking a risk to ignore them.

  • Seafood is full of mercury, and eating it will harm your body; it should be avoided—especially by pregnant women and young children.

Mercury is a mineral which occurs naturally in our environment. It can be turned into the poisonous compound, methylmercury, by bacteria and natural processes and can accumulate in streams and oceans where it enters the food chain as each fish absorbs the mercury of smaller fish it eats. That is the reason that larger fish contain larger amounts of mercury than smaller ones. Almost all fish contain some amounts of mercury.

Mercury toxicity can disrupt brain function and harm the nervous system. It can pass through the placenta of a pregnant woman and accumulate in the blood and tissues of the developing fetus and can also pass through a mother’s breast milk. So, pregnant women should eat only low-mercury fish (sardines, trout, salmon, etc.) and  limit it to 12 oz. per week. They need to avoid eating raw or uncooked fish since it may contain microorganisms that can harm the developing fetus. Click here to learn more.

Fish and seafood are loaded with important nutrients such as iodine and vitamin D that many people are deficient in, as well as omega-3 fatty acids which are crucial for optimal body and brain function and are strongly linked to a reduced risk for many diseases.

The Food and Drug Administration tests for mercury and the Environmental Protection Agency determines safe mercury levels for women of childbearing age. And most states issue advisories to warn people when they are aware of methylmercury contamination stating the types, size, and amounts of fish that are of concern.

Conclusion: It is safe to eat fish and seafood as long as you choose those that are low in mercury and observe guidelines for the amount you should consume per week.

  • You should only eat oysters in months that contain the letter “R”.

A widely known myth about oysters is that you should only eat them in months that contain the letter “R” like September and October, etc., but not June, July, and August. This used to be true because the warm months were when oysters spawned and not eating them gave them time to reproduce. Spawning oysters do not taste good and warmer waters in the “R-less” months also increased the prevalence of certain bacteria in raw oysters that made people sick.

Raw oysters could make you sick, but strict government regulations lower that risk. Making sure oysters are properly cooked will eliminate that danger.

NOAA Fisheries estimates that the US imports more than 80% of the seafood we eat with approximately half of that produced from aquaculture (or farmed). Currently, there are at least six federal agencies that regulate different aspects of the U.S. Aquaculture industry. These regulations have promoted greater confidence in farmed seafood, and today, people eat oysters year-round.

Conclusion: It is most likely safe to eat oysters year-round because of strict government regulations that govern the seafood industry.

  • Are Oysters an aphrodisiac?

This myth may have started with Casanova, a famous womanizer from the 18th century who was said to have eaten 60 of the mollusks each day to power his amorous adventures.

In 2005, George Fisher, a chemistry professor at Miami’s Barry University, found that mussels contained the amino acid, D-Aspartic acid, which had been found to increase the level of sex hormones in lab rats. Although the study did not include oysters, Fisher was quoted in a number of different publications speculating that the amino acid might contribute to an aphrodisiac effect.

Oysters are a good source of zinc (a zinc deficiency can have a detrimental effect on the reproductive system) which is known to help boost testosterone levels.

But in an article by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, she states “No food has been scientifically proven to stimulate the human sex organs. But foods and the act of eating can suggest sex to the mind, which in turn can help stimulate desire in the body.”

Conclusion: No real aphrodisiac effect has been proven, but if the act of eating oysters creates a sensual pleasure, why not!