Tag Archives: nutrition

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), more than 30.3 million people in the US have diabetes (that is 9.4% of the US population). And 7.2 million people may be undiagnosed. The count is rising every year.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes  is a chronic disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. The insulin hormone, which is made by the pancreas, helps the body turn blood sugar into energy. Blood sugar levels are a measure of how well a person’s body uses glucose. A diabetic person has high blood sugar (glucose) when his/her body does not produce enough insulin or because his/her body cells do not respond adequately to insulin, or both.

How are diabetics classified?

Type 1 – The body does not make insulin. It can appear at any age but is usually  diagnosed in children and young adults. Their bodies do not make insulin,  and they must take it to stay alive.

Type 2 –  The body does not make enough insulin or use it well. One can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, but it most often occurs in middle-aged to older people. This is the most common type of diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes – This diabetes type develops in some pregnant women but usually  goes away when the baby is born.  About 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Risks for developing diabetes

A person’s risk for developing diabetes depends upon a number of factors, some of which can be controlled and some (age, family history, ethnicity) which cannot.

Some of the risk factors that can be controlled are these:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having a low level of  HDL (good) cholesterol, or a high level of triglycerides
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a history of heart disease or stroke
  • Having a history of gestational diabetes

Getting an A1C test (sometimes called the hemoglobin A1C) at your next physical will indicate whether you have diabetes or are at risk for developing it. The higher your A1C levels, the greater your risk of diabetes complications. With an A1C level over 6.5 percent, type 2 diabetes is indicated.

Halloween Candy: Eat This, Not That!

If you’re like most parents, you can’t resist raiding your child’s trick-or-treat bag on Halloween night. Or maybe you’re not a parent but can’t fight the urge to eat those Fun-size candy bars you are giving out on Halloween.

Either way, all that Halloween candy can be really tempting. You can indulge and not completely derail your healthy eating habits by choosing your treats wisely and keeping portions to a minimum. In other words, don’t eat a whole bag of Fun-size Twix bars in one sitting! Leave most of the candy to the little ghosts and goblins after you satisfy your sweet tooth with one of these small treats.

Eat this: Fun-size Kit Kat bar
Not that: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

While both candy bars are high in sugar and calories, that snack-size Kit Kat has 3 grams of fat and 7 grams of sugar compared to a Reese’s peanut butter cup that clocks in at 10.5 grams of fat and 6.5 grams of sugar. And who can eat just one?

Eat this: Dark Chocolate
Not that: Milk Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and has less sugar than regular milk chocolate candy bars. Keep portions small though and stick with fun-size options.

Eat this: Sweet Tarts
Not that: Skittles

If hard candy is your weakness, you’re better off choosing Sweet Tarts rather than Skittles candies. Sweet Tarts have 2.4 grams of sugar per min-bag while Skittles have a whopping 14.5 grams of sugar per mini-bag.

Eat this: Smarties
Not that: Fun-size chocolate bar

Smarties have only 5 grams of sugar and no fat, while most fun-size chocolate bars contain 7 grams of sugar or more, and 3 grams or more of fat per bar.

Eat this: Jelly Belly jelly beans
Not that: M&Ms

Jelly Bellies have only 35 calories per serving and no fat, but M&Ms (all varieties) are loaded with both fat and sugar.

What to Do With Leftover Pumpkin Guts?

It’s almost Halloween and chances are, you’re getting ready to carve a Jack O’lantern. If you’re planning on some pumpkin carving fun with your family, don’t just throw out those pumpkin insides. There are lots of easy recipes you can make that put those pumpkin parts to good use.

Plus, pumpkins are one of the most nutritious fruits around—they’re packed with antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and Vitamin C. And don’t forget about the seeds! Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants, magnesium, zinc, and fatty acids and make a great fall snack.

Roast pumpkin seeds

Roasting pumpkin seeds is really easy and can be fun for kids too. You can eat them alone as a snack or mix them with other nuts and dried fruit for a healthy, seasonal trail mix. Just put them on a nonstick pan (in one layer), and sprinkle a little salt or other seasonings for taste,  and then roast them in the oven at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.

Make pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup makes a great seasonal meal as the weather gets colder. Use those leftover pumpkin insides to make this creamy pumpkin soup recipe.

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/9191/pumpkin-soup/

Bake a loaf of pumpkin bread or muffins

Separate the seeds from the pumpkin flesh, and use the flesh to make a puree for pumpkin bread or muffins. Follow this recipe to make delicious pumpkin bread or divide into a muffin pan to make pumpkin muffins.

https://eatingrichly.com/how-to-cook-a-whole-pumpkin-and-recipe-for-pumpkin-gut-bread/

Make pumpkin juice

As you are cleaning out your pumpkin to carve, place the stringy bits and seeds into a large bowl, and soak in hot water to help soften. Mash up these pieces, and then strain so you are left with a bright orange juice. Use the pumpkin juice in smoothies or sauces.

 

A Week of Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

Summer is over; the kids are back in school, and parents are back to the arduous task of packing lunches every day. Make your mornings easier, and keep kids satisfied with these simple lunch ideas for a week’s worth of healthy meals.

Each lunch packs protein, healthy carbs, and fresh fruits and vegetables, but you can mix and match ingredients based on your kids’ taste preferences.

Monday

Deli turkey and ham wrap

  • Use whole wheat or spinach wraps filled with deli turkey and ham and add garden veggie cream cheese.
  • Baby carrots and snap peas with light Ranch dressing
  • Popcorn

Tuesday

DIY chicken tacos

  • Use leftover grilled chicken from a past dinner, or slice pre-made Rotisserie chicken into small pieces
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salsa
  • Small container of shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 small whole wheat tortillas

Wednesday

Hummus, and pita bread wedges

  • Grape tomatoes
  • Apple slices
  • Pretzel sticks

Thursday

Pizza Rollups

  • Easy, three-ingredient pizza rolls freeze well, and kids will love them served hot or cold. For recipe, visit https://www.whatlisacooks.com/blog/pizza-rolls.
  • Fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries)
  • Celery with light Ranch dressing
  • 2 fig cookies

Friday

Yogurt Parfait

Pack in small Bento box (one-serving box) containers for your child to create their own parfait.

One cup plain or low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt

  •  ½ cup low-fat granola
  •  ½ cup Cheerios
  •  ¼ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup sliced strawberries

Sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes

15 Hydrating Foods to Eat During Summer

During these hot, sticky dog days of summer, it’s important to stay hydrated. Overheating and dehydration can occur quickly, especially when exercising or participating in other outdoor activities in high temperatures.

 

While drinking enough water is the best way to stay hydrated, getting in the required eight glasses per day can sometimes seem daunting—and that amount increases when exercising or spending a lot of time outdoors in the heat. The good news is that you don’t have to only drink water to meet your daily hydration needs. You can also get a lot of your daily water intake from foods that have a high water content, mainly fruits and vegetables.

A lot of these foods can be worked into other meals, such as adding a piece of iceberg lettuce and a slice of tomato to a burger or adding a couple of slices of cucumber to your water. And what tastes better in summer than sinking your teeth into a piece of juicy watermelon or ripe strawberries? In addition to their high water content, many of these foods also offer important vitamins and minerals and can help replace any electrolytes lost during exercise.

Don’t forgo drinking water entirely, but by working some of these hydrating foods into your daily diet, you will be less likely to get dehydrated when the temperatures are soaring.

Top 15 Most Hydrating Foods

  1. Cucumber
  2. Iceberg lettuce
  3. Celery
  4. Radishes
  5. Tomatoes
  6. Green peppers
  7. Watermelon
  8. Cantaloupe
  9. Strawberries
  10. Oranges
  11. Peaches
  12. Zucchini
  13. Cauliflower
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Broths and soups

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Dirty Are the “Dirty Dozen”?

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has many health benefits: it can protect against many chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes, and protect against certain cancers. But approximately three-quarters of Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables daily, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

With all of these wonderful health benefits, why are so many consumers avoiding eating  produce? Fear of pesticides is one reason.

Most consumers have heard of the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of fruits and vegetables that supposedly contain the highest levels of pesticide residue. The list was started by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2004, and the organization releases an updated “Dirty Dozen” list annually, urging consumers to purchase only the organic versions of those particular fruits and vegetables. But consumers who don’t have access to or can’t afford to buy organic produce report that they avoid buying produce at all.

Just how dirty are the “Dirty Dozen,” really? To put the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list in proper context, it’s important to understand that they don’t use the same strict methods for measuring risk that food scientists typically do. They tend to rely on alarmist and sensationalized reports that media outlets love. For example, EWG also annually releases the “Clean 15,” a list of conventional produce that doesn’t have detectable levels of pesticide residues, yet this list does not get the same media attention that the “Dirty Dozen” does. Additionally, a recent Forbes article points out that the EWG has strong ties to “big organic marketers.”

According to agdaily.com, recent USDA and FDA reports show that both organic and conventional food is safe. “According to the sampling data, 99 percent of residues on fruits and vegetables, when present at all, are well below safety levels set by the EPA. And an April 2018 article published on agdaily.com, stated that FDA sampling shows that 50 percent of the foods sampled had no detectable residues at all.

If buying organic is not in your budget, or it’s not easy to find in your area, you can rest easy knowing that conventional produce is perfectly fine. If you still have concerns, simply wash your produce under running water. According to the FDA, you can reduce and often eliminate residues, if they are present at all, on fresh fruits and vegetables simply by washing.

The bottom line is this: don’t believe everything you read about pesticides on produce. The benefits of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables far outweigh any minimal risk a minute amount of pesticide residue that might be on those strawberries or apples may pose.

 

 

 

 

Beyond Burgers: Best Foods to Grill This Summer

Cookouts are a summer tradition, and let’s face it, nothing tastes better than a burger or hot dog made on the grill. Grilling is not just fun and easy, it’s also a healthful way to cook. There’s no better time than summer to experiment with new foods cooked on the backyard grill.

Think beyond hamburgers and hot dogs and fire up the grill to try these easy recipes. Then experiment with other foods on your own to create new summer recipes.

Vegetables

Take your favorite summer veggies from the garden or the farmers’ market and season with salt and pepper, coat them with olive oil, and grill.  Think squash, eggplant, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and more.

Shrimp

Add some shrimp to the grilled vegetables and make shrimp skewers. Kids love food on a stick and will be more likely to eat their veggies!

Corn on the Cob

Corn is a great side dish for any summer meal. Grilling corn gives it a delicious, crisp texture.

Salmon

Place salmon skin-side up directly on the grill and cook for 8 minutes then flip. Season with a marinade of your choice or serve plain.

Lamb chops
Lambchops about an inch thick cook in three to four minutes on direct heat, so be sure to watch them closely.

Sweet potatoes

Cut a sweet potato in half and place each half in the center of a rectangle of aluminum foil. Turn pouches every 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender and cooked all the way through, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Pineapple and peaches

Grill slices of pineapple or peaches (or grill an entire pineapple, sliced down the middle). Serve fruit plain, or add some brown sugar and vanilla ice cream for a refreshingly sweet dessert.

 

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.

 

Are Protein Shakes Right for You?

Shake it Up!

The advertisements and infomercials make it look so obvious; the thing you’ve been missing in your diet is protein, and all you need are these shakes to make everything in life a breeze. Tough day at work? Grab a shake. Going to the gym? Grab a shake. Feeling tired? Grab a shake (of course).

Do you need protein shakes?

The reality, naturally, is a little more nuanced. The claims of shake-makers are predicated on the idea that people do not get enough protein in their diets: an idea that most nutritionists reject. Mayo Clinic researchers note that despite the diet industry’s emphasis on protein, most Americans get at least double the protein they need.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 from the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, most adults should be getting 5½ ounce-equivalents of protein foods per day. The myplate.gov website contains a full table of ounce-equivalents for protein foods, but a basic list includes “1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds.” As we discuss frequently, USConnect full-service vending and Bistro To Go® micro markets offer many healthy choices for getting protein during the day, including eggs, yogurt, and grains.

That being noted, there are times when people do need a little extra protein, and for those times, protein shakes can be a healthy, convenient choice. Mayo Clinic notes that evidence supports the use of whey protein (the protein most commonly used in protein shakes) for the following uses:

  • To promote increased muscle mass as part of an exercise regime (results are mixed)
  • To help speed muscle recovery after a workout
  • To improve nutrition in malnourished individuals
  • To speed recovery time of wounds and burns
  • To combat infant skin allergies from milk- or soy-based formula

If you do decide that protein shakes are for you, here are some expert tips to consider:

  • Whey protein is milk-based, so if you’re vegan or lactose-intolerant, it is not a good choice.
  • However, whey protein is one of the faster-acting proteins. Experts recommend looking for raw or cold-processed to get the most nutrients.
  • Casein protein is slower-acting, so it is better for muscle recovery.
  • Read the ingredient list; avoid artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, and excessive amounts of sugar.
  • Caveat emptor: a study from the Clean Label Project found that many top-selling protein powders contain high levels of heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and arsenic, as well as BPA.