Tag Archives: Diet

Are Frozen and Canned Produce Just as Healthy as Fresh Produce?

Yikes! Americans aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables. An easy way to keep your kitchen stocked with healthy meal options is to add frozen and canned produce to your pantry. This can also ensure you always have nutritious options available—on a budget!

A question we often hear is, “Are frozen and canned foods as healthy as fresh produce?” The short answer: yes!

Frozen and canned products have a longer shelf life than fresh produce, are just as tasty, and can be used in many ways. The nutritional content doesn’t change much with frozen and canned produce, but they may cook a little differently because the water content changes.

Let’s compare the difference between fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables.

Fresh Produce

The advantage to fresh produce is that you can cook and eat the produce any way you like best! You can eat them raw (fresh), baked, sautéed, steamed or even blended in a smoothie. Plus, fresh produce is more portable—making easy snacking a breeze!

TIP! Try new-to-you fresh produce according to what’s in season! This will ensure you’re always getting a wide range of yummy nutrients all year long.

Shelf Life:

The shelf life for fresh produce can be tricky to calculate. It varies for each produce item and depends on if it’s stored properly. There are guides to help you determine the best time to enjoy fresh produce and how and where to store fresh foods.

Frozen Produce

Is it Nutritious?

Yes! Frozen fruits and vegetables are packed at peak freshness. This means all the nutrients are locked in at the time of freezing and packaging.

Shelf Life:

  • Frozen vegetables should be eaten within 8 months of purchase.
  • Frozen fruit should be eaten within 12 months of purchase (4–6 months for citrus fruits).

Canned Produce

Is it Nutritious?

Yes! Canning fruits and vegetables locks in the nutrients at the peak of freshness—or at the time of canning, if you’re canning yourself. Canning produce can even make the nutrients easier for your body to absorb the nutrients. This is the case with canned beans and tomatoes. Plus, canned produce can help families who are on a budget!

Shelf Life

  • High acidic foods like tomatoes are best within 18 months
  • Low acidic foods like meat or vegetables are best within 2–5 years
  • Home-canned foods should be used within 1 year

For healthier options, make sure to choose canned fruit that is stored in 100% juice. Avoid options canned in light or heavy syrup—that’s code for extra sugar!

Safety tip! Never eat food from cans that are leaking, bulging, badly dented, have a foul odor, or spurt liquid when opening. This can be a sign of a bacteria that causes botulism, which can make you extremely sick.

Remember—fruit and vegetables are always a good idea. Include fruits and vegetables in your diet, whether they are fresh, frozen, or canned! Don’t be afraid to try something new and change up what you’re eating day-to-day. The more variety the better your chance of getting all the nutrients you need!

Sources: Have a Plant, Have a Plant, USDA, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association

The Best and Worst Beverages for Weight Loss

Many of us watch what we eat but not what we drink while watching our diet. That’s a mistake. Research shows that most of the sugar in the average American’s diet comes from their beverage choices. Choosing the right drinks can tweak your metabolism, curb your appetite, and help cut calories.

Which drinks are the best and which are the worst on the path to weight loss? Keep reading to find out!

Best Beverages for Weight Loss


This comes as no surprise, but the most efficient drink you can choose is water. Tap, bottled, and sparking, all have 0 calories! Need some extra flavor? Add berries, or slices of lemon, or cucumber. Or add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water to create your own flavored bubbly drink!


Black coffee has the least calories! Flavored syrups and whip cream add calories. Switch to fat-free milk or an unsweetened milk alternative, like almond milk.

Unsweetened Tea

Choose a tea variety that fits your taste palette and enjoy hot or iced! You can get a gentle energy boost with black or green teas. For a caffeine-free option, stick to herbal varieties like chamomile or dandelion root.

Vegetable Juice

One cup of tomato juice has 41 calories, compared to 122 calories for orange juice. Choosing juice with pulp provides some fiber, too, which may help control hunger.

Worst Beverages for Weight Loss


Every time you chug a bottle of soda, you get hundreds of empty calories. Switching to diet soda can cut calories, but the research is mixed on whether this switch leads to weight loss. Some studies show a short-term benefit. Others find diet soda drinkers gain weight. If you eat or drink more calories than you burn, switching to diet soda may not do the trick. Bottom line: ditch the soda or enjoy in small amounts.

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks often include high levels of added sugar, large amounts of caffeine, and other stimulants that generally aren’t considered healthy. It’s usually best to steer clear of energy drinks, and opt for getting your energy from quality food sources.

Sports Drinks

Often advertised as healthy drinks for active individuals, sports drinks are usually full of added sugars like high fructose corn syrup and sucrose. One serving of a leading sports drink brand contains 34 grams of sugar, which equals about 132 calories in sugar alone. That’s a lot of sugar in one beverage serving! If you’re looking for an electrolyte alternative, coconut water is a great option, totaling only 9.6 grams of sugar per serving.

Different Name, But It’s Still Sugar

The list below includes sugars that are hiding behind a different name. Look at the ingredient labels before purchasing to make sure you’re not getting more sugar than you’re bargaining for.

  • Cane juice
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Malt Syrup
  • Sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar cane

Learn how to read nutrition fact labels by the FDA so you can easily recognize added sugars.

If you drink sugary drinks often, you are more likely to face long-term health problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gout, and more. When considering your daily calories and beverage choices, keep added sugars to less than 10% of your total daily calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this is no more than 200 calories.

Sources: CDC, Healthy Food AmericaWebMD

Fresh, Frozen and Canned ALL Count

Eat 5 a day by filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables each meal.


Fresh fruits and vegetables don’t have to be expensive if you buy them in season and many are in season year round. Learn more at South Dakota Harvest of the Month.


Frozen fruits and vegetables are packed and frozen within hours of harvest, so they don’t lose their flavor or nutritional value. Try steaming vegetables in the microwave or stovetop rather than boiling to keep in more nutrients.


Canned fruits and vegetables often get a bad rap but they are still nutritious. Choose 100% fruit juice with no added sugar and vegetables with no salt added. Remember to drain the water, juice or syrup and rinse with water to help remove some of the extra sugar and salt.

Have You had Your 5 Today?

2 fruits + 3 vegetables are ideal for a balanced diet!

Promoting fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables

Download images here.

Choosing Nutrient-Dense Foods

To eat well, it’s best to choose a mix of nutrient-dense foods every day. Nutrient-dense foods are foods that have a lot of nutrients but relatively few calories. Look for foods that contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.

What Foods Should I Eat?

Plan your meals and snacks to include

  • fruits and vegetables
  • grains, especially whole grains
  • low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • seafood, lean poultry and meats, beans, eggs, and unsalted nuts
  • limited amounts of solid fats. Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats. Keep intake of trans fats as low as possible.
  • limited amounts of cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

Benefits of Vegetables, Fruits, and Grains

Vegetables, fruits, and grains offer important vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy. Most of these foods have little fat. They also have no cholesterol. Fruits, vegetables and grains are also a source of fiber, and eating more fiber may help with digestion and constipation and may lower cholesterol and blood sugar.

Vegetables, fruits, grains and beans also give your body phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural compounds such as beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. Like vitamins, minerals, and fiber, phytochemicals may promote good health and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Research is underway to learn more about these natural compounds.

Eat a Variety of Vegetables Daily

Eat a variety of colors and types of vegetables every day.

  • Broccoli, spinach, turnip and collard greens, and other dark leafy greens are good choices.
  • You might also choose red and orange vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, red peppers, or winter squash.

Vegetables may be purchased raw or cooked, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated. They may be eaten whole, cut-up, or mashed.

Enjoy a Variety of Fruits

Eat a variety of fruits every day. To make sure you get the benefit of the natural fiber in fruits, choose whole or cut-up fruits more often than fruit juice. Fruits may be purchased fresh, canned, frozen, or dried and may be eaten whole, cut-up, or pureed.

Get Your Grains

Any food made from wheat, rye, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product. Grains fall into two main categories: whole and refined. Foods made from whole grains are a major source of energy and fiber.

When choosing grain foods, try to make at least half your grains whole. In other words, at least half of the cereals, breads, crackers, and pastas you eat should be made from whole grains. Include whole grains in your diet every day.

Why Whole Is Better

Whole grains are better sources of fiber and nutrients than refined grains, such as white flour or white rice. Refined grains have had both the bran and germ removed and don’t have as much fiber or as many nutrients as whole grains. Most refined grains are enriched, with some B vitamins and iron added back in after processing. However, fiber is not replaced.

Whole grain foods, such as whole wheat bread, are made with the entire seed of a plant, including the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Together, they provide lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, carbohydrates, and fiber.

Try whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta or use brown rice in a casserole in place of white rice. Look for “whole wheat” or “whole oats” rather than just “wheat” or “oats” on the ingredients list of packaged goods to make sure you’re getting whole grains.

Choose Dairy Every Day

Low-fat or fat-free dairy products should be among the foods you choose every day, too. These products provide calcium and vitamin D to help maintain strong bones. They also provide protein and potassium. Low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt are good options.

If you don’t drink milk, be sure to have other products that contain the nutrients that milk provides. Some cereals and juices are fortified with extra calcium and vitamin D. Salmon, sardines and mackerel are good sources of vitamin D.

If Lactose Is a Problem

If you avoid milk because of its lactose (milk sugar) content, you can get needed nutrients from lactose-reduced or low-lactose dairy products. You might also drink small amounts of milk several times a day or take tablets with the enzyme lactase (available in most drugstores and grocery stores) before consuming dairy products. Other sources of calcium include foods such as hard cheese, yogurt, canned fish like salmon or sardines, and calcium-fortified tofu or soy beverages.

Eat Protein Every Day

Protein helps build and maintain muscle and skin, and you should include protein in your diet every day. Seafood, meats and poultry are sources of protein, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. When buying meats and poultry, choose lean cuts or low-fat products. They provide less total fat, less saturated fat, and fewer calories than products with more fat.

For instance, 3 ounces of cooked, regular ground beef (70% lean) has 6.1 grams of saturated fat and 230 calories. Three ounces of cooked, extra-lean ground beef (95% lean) contains 2.9 grams of saturated fat and 164 calories.

Vary Your Protein Choices

Consider varying your sources of protein. Try replacing some meat and poultry with seafood or with bean, tofu, or pea dishes. These foods tend to be low or lower in saturated fats, and beans and peas provide fiber. Pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils are all healthy options. Look for ways to add unsalted nuts and seeds to your meals and snacks too, but keep amounts small since these foods are high in calories.

Some Fats Are Better Than Others

Fats are a source of energy and help maintain healthy organs, skin and hair. Fats also help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. It’s okay to include some oils and fats in the foods you eat, but be aware that fat contains more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates. Try to choose foods that are low in fat or fat free.

Choose polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats when possible.

Sources of better fats include vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, canola, olive, safflower, and sunflower oils. Polyunsaturated fat is also in nuts, seeds, and fish. Walnuts, flaxseed and salmon are examples of foods with polyunsaturated fat.

Drink Liquids, Especially Water

Be sure to consume plenty of liquids, especially water. You need to replace the fluids you lose every day. This may help prevent constipation and dehydration. Besides water, other good choices are unsweetened tea, low-fat or fat-free milk, and 100 percent fruit juice. You can also increase your intake of water by eating vegetables and fruits, which have a high moisture content.

Read Food Labels

Read the food labels on packaged foods and canned goods to learn what’s in the products you buy. All food labels contain a list of ingredients and nutrition information. Ingredients are listed in order by weight, which means that the ingredient present in the largest quantity is listed first and the ingredient present in the smallest quantity appears last. Nutrition information is found on the Nutrition Facts label.

Consider the DASH Eating Plan

Another balanced eating plan is the DASH eating plan. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is designed to help prevent or manage high blood pressure, or hypertension. The plan suggests which foods to eat and how much to eat. Your doctor may recommend other eating plans to help manage health conditions that occur as you get older. Read more about DASH online, or contact the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at 1-301-592-8573 or 1- 240-629-3255 (TTY)

Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov
The MyPlate plan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, can help you choose a mix of healthy foods that are right for you.

The Best Way to Get Nutrients

Wholesome foods provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need to stay healthy. Eating properly is the best way to get these nutrients. However, if you have concerns that you are not eating as well as you should, you should talk to your doctor about taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement.

Source: NIH Senior Health; Eating Well At You Get Older

9 Tips to Make Healthier Holiday Choices

The holidays are often filled with time-honored traditions that include some of our favorite meals and foods. As you celebrate, think of little changes you can make this holiday season to create healthier meals and active days.

  1. Enjoy all the food groups at your celebration
    Prepare whole-grain crackers with hummus as an appetizer; add unsalted nuts and black beans to a green-leaf salad; include fresh fruit at the dessert table; use low-fat milk instead of heavy cream in your casseroles. Share healthier options during your holiday meal.
  2. Make sure your protein is lean
    Turkey; roast beef; fresh ham; beans; and some types of fish, such as cod or flounder, are lean protein choices. Trim fat when cooking meats. Go easy on the sauces and gravies ― they can be high in saturated fat and sodium.
  3. Cheers to good health
    Quench your thirst with low-calorie options. Drink water with lemon or lime slices. Offer seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.
  4. Bake healthier
    Use recipes with unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter. Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half. Use spices to add flavor such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg instead of salt.
  5. Tweak the sweet
    For dessert, try baked apples with cinnamon and a sprinkle of sugar instead of apple pie. Invite your guests to make their own parfait with colorful sliced fruit and low-fat yogurt.
  6. Be the life of the party
    Laugh, mingle, dance, and play games. Focus on fun and enjoy the company of others.
  7. Make exercise a part of the fun
    Make being active part of your holiday tradition. Have fun walking and talking with family and friends after a holiday meal. Give gifts that encourage others to practice healthy habits such as workout DVDs, running shoes, and reusable water bottles.
  8. Enjoy leftovers
    Create delicious new meals with your leftovers. Add turkey to soups or salads. Use extra veggies in omelets, sandwiches, or stews. The possibilities are endless!
  9. Give to others
    Spend time providing foods or preparing meals for those who may need a little help. Give food to a local food bank or volunteer to serve meals at a shelter during the holiday season.

Source: Choose My Plate

Avocados Are Awesome!

There are lots of reasons avocados are so popular these days. Our guacamole certainly wouldn’t be the same, but they are also becoming a regular ingredient in salads, on sandwiches, as toast toppers, and have even been making consistent appearances in smoothies and brownies.

Part of the reason an avocado craze is sweeping the nation has to do with the fruit’s buttery rich flavor and versatile texture, and part of it has to do with the incredible nutrition that can be found beneath that green-ish tinged, soft leather-like skin.
For example:

  • One ounce of avocado contains a pile of vitamins and minerals like C, B6, E, K, and folate, to name just a few, as well as a heaping helping of phytonutrients which help your body prevent disease and infection.
  • Avocados are packed with monosaturated fats – the GOOD fat – the kind of fat that is essential for growing kids and pretty darn good for the rest of us too.
  • Cholesterol free… naturally.
  • Avocados are known as a “nutrient booster” because they help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods eaten at the same time.

And, if that wasn’t enough, here are a few more reasons avocados steal the show in the kitchen and are such a family favorite:

  • The soft, creamy texture makes them a super nutritious first food for babies.
  • Adding a little avocado is an easy way to add color to your plate and nutrition to your diet.
  • They complement all kinds of cooking styles – from Asian and Mexican, to fancy French and All-American backyard feel-good recipes.
  • So good at so many things: avocados can be used as a main ingredient, a side, a spread, or mixed with everything from cooked whole-grains and salads, to breakfast smoothies and desserts.
  • Avocados pair well with sweet, savory, or spicy flavors.
  • Bake them, fry them, grill them or just enjoy them raw.
  • Never out of season, avocados are available all year round!

Avocados are a perfect after-school or on-the-go snack:

  • Arm those kids with a spoon and touch of their favorite seasoning: salt, soy sauce, hot sauce, balsamic vinegar, or a squeeze of lime or lemon.
  • For a heartier snack stuff your avocado with tuna, seafood, turkey, chicken, or cranberry salad, or even cheese, tropical fruit, pesto or salsa.
  • Throw a few chunks on a pretzel stick with some cheese and fruit.
  • Mash and serve with fresh veggies.

They can also be a late-night-craving buster… slightly mashed on toast and topped with a fresh slice of tomato or blended with a handful of berries, 1/2 a banana, and a touch of honey or a splash of agave.

Clearly, this magical fruit needs to be on your grocery list immediately! In the meantime, here are a couple of places to check for fun kid-friendly recipes and even more reasons to confirm the awesomeness of the avocado: California Avocados, Fruit & Veggies More Matters

Sources: California Avocados, Fruit & Veggies More Matters

Tips for Cooking Healthier at Home During National Nutrition Month®!

National Nutrition Month® is an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign, celebrated each year during the month of March, focuses on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

There are many ways to make small changes toward a healthier eating style. Simple swaps can make dishes healthier without sacrificing flavor:

  • Use heart-healthy canola, olive or peanut oil instead of solid fats.
  • Use sharp, reduced-fat cheese and low-fat milk in your macaroni and cheese.
  • Sweeten your desserts with fruit puree or apple sauce instead of sugar.
  • Use whole wheat flour instead of white flour in muffins.
  • Opt for brown rice instead of white rice in your red beans and rice or jambalaya.
  • Cut the fat in potato salad by substituting half of the mayonnaise with plain non-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Liven up your family meals by trying new spices.
  • Use smoked paprika or a dash of smoked salt to add the smoked flavor that you would normally get from ham, bacon or salt pork.
  • Consider using salt-free herb blends to lower the salt in your foods.
  • Experiment with different flavors by adding apple cider or rice vinegar to your greens.
  • Marinate your chicken in rosemary and lemon juice before grilling.
  • Add a little brown sugar and vanilla to make a lower-calorie version of candied yams.

Follow these Healthy Plate guidelines:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Include protein, such as lean meat, poultry, seafood or beans, and whole grains on the other half of your plate.
  • With each meal, add calcium-rich foods such as fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or calcium-fortified non-dairy beverages.

And remember, healthy eating styles can be adapted to fit the foods of all cultures.

Find out more about ethnic foods for a healthy plate at EatRight.org

Sources: EatRight.org; EatRight.org

Raising Healthy Eaters in the New Year

Ring in a healthy new year by teaching kids the importance of food, nutrition and eating skills:

Food to fuel busy, successful lives;
Nutrition to nourish strong bodies and smart brains; and
Eating skills to enjoy the social aspect of meals with family and friends.

As with any part of raising children, no one does a perfect job with nutrition — not even nutrition professionals. As a parent, grandparent or adult caregiver, you can help to raise healthy eaters during these critical years by doing your best to:

  • Serve regular, balanced meals and snacks with a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
  • Provide calm, pleasant meal times where adults and children can talk together.
  • Allow children to use their internal signals to decide how much and what to eat.
  • Explore a variety of flavors and foods from different cultures and cuisines.
  • Share an appreciation for healthful food, lovingly prepared and shared with others.
  • Make simple food safety, such as washing hands, part of every eating occasion.
  • Teach basic skills for making positive food choices away from home.
  • Find credible food and nutrition resources when you don’t know the answer.

While this may seem like an intimidating to-do list, two family habits go a long way to making all this happen: regular family meals and involving kids in nutrition from the ground up.

1. Make Family Meal Times a Priority
Sometimes a very simple act can have important, long-lasting benefits. According to parenting and health experts, that is exactly the case with family meal times. Eating and talking together helps to:

  • Foster family unity.
  • Prevent behavior problems at home and school.
  • Enhance academic success.
  • Improve nutrition.
  • Promote healthy weight for kids.

With that impressive list of benefits, it’s worth making the time and effort to enjoy more family meal times each week. Look for easy ways to add just one family meal to the schedule. If evenings seem too hectic for family dinners, set aside time for a weekend breakfast or lunch. After a month or two of this new pattern, you can add another family meal each week. Before you know it, you will be eating together on most days.

2. Get Kids Involved in Nutrition
This one is fun for everyone and it can happen anywhere — your kitchen, the grocery store or a community garden. Every trip through the supermarket can be a nutrition lesson. Kids can learn to categorize food into groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, milk foods and meat/beans. They can choose new foods that they want to try, including picking out a new fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit each trip. As children get older, they can help plan the menu at home and then pick out the foods to match the menu items while shopping.

Nutrition is just one of many reasons to have a garden. The process of planting, watching over and harvesting a garden provides daily opportunities for children to learn valuable lessons and enjoy physical activity, while reaping the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

Source: Article originally published by Dayle Hayes, MS, RD on December 28, 2015 at www.eatright.org.

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Safe?

In recent years, more people have taken on a gluten-free diet, believing that avoiding gluten is healthier or could help them lose weight. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye. There is no current data that suggests the general public should maintain a gluten-free diet for better health or weight loss. Gluten-free diets are not necessarily healthier due to the fact that gluten-free foods may not provide enough of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals the body needs including fiber, iron, and calcium.

A gluten-free diet is only recommended for people diagnosed with celiac disease.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine. If you have celiac disease, you may experience bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, pale and foul-smelling or fatty stools that float, and vomiting. These symptoms are often more common in children than adults. Adults are less likely to have digestive symptoms and instead may have: anemia, a red, smooth, shiny tongue, depression or anxiety, headaches, infertility or repeated miscarriages, missed menstrual periods, seizures, tiredness, and weak and brittle bones. Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms at all. Sometimes, health issues like surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, bacterial gastroenteritis, viral infection, or severe mental stress can trigger celiac disease symptoms.


Celiac disease can be hard to diagnose because some of the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases like irritable bowel syndrome and lactose intolerance. Celiac disease can be diagnosed by your doctor after he or she takes a medical and family history and conducts a physical exam and tests. During the physical exam, your doctor will check for a rash that can arise when you don’t get enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need, leading to malnutrition. Your doctor will also listen to sounds in your abdomen with a stethoscope and tap on your abdomen to check for pain and fullness or swelling. Tests may include blood tests, genetic tests, and biopsy.


Celiac disease can be treated with a gluten-free diet. Symptoms will greatly improve in most people with celiac disease who stick to a gluten-free diet. Many stores and restaurants have added many more gluten-free foods and products to make it easier. Following a gluten-free diet will heal damage in the small intestine and prevent more damage for most people. The small intestine can usually be healed in 3-6 months with a gluten-free diet in children; however, it may take years for adults’ small intestines to heal.

Eating, Diet, and Nutrition

Avoiding foods with gluten is critical in treating celiac disease. Many of these foods include cereal, grains, and pasta, as well as many processed foods. Be sure to always read food ingredient lists carefully to make sure there is no gluten included. Foods like meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, rice, and potatoes without additives or seasonings containing gluten are part of a well-balanced diet. You can also eat gluten-free types of bread, pasta, and other foods that are now easier to find in stores and restaurants. You may also eat potato, rice, soy, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat or bean flour instead of wheat flour when cooking or baking.

Gluten Sensitivity or Wheat Intolerance

Gluten sensitivity or wheat intolerance is different than celiac disease; however, some of the symptoms are the same including tiredness and stomach aches. Gluten sensitivity can also cause symptoms like muscle cramps and leg numbness, but it does not damage the small intestine like celiac disease.

Sources: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases & Medline Plus

The Delicious & Nutritious Superpowers of Diabetes-Friendly Foods

For people with diabetes, making the right food choices can sometimes feel complicated or confusing. And while individual dietary needs should always be carefully discussed with your doctor or nutritionist, there are a few go-to diabetes-friendly foods – sometimes called “diabetes superfoods” – that will not only come to the nutritional rescue but may also help make meal planning and snacking a little easier.

A great place to start is with fruits and vegetables. Dried, canned, frozen, or fresh all contain the same overall nutritional benefits and will hit the spot when you need a quick snack, or can even fill you up when you’re ready for a meal. Here are just a few reasons to put fruit and veggies at the top of your list:

  • Fruits and veggies are packed with nutrients that can boost your energy levels.
  • They provide a solid dose of fiber which helps fill you up and keeps your digestive system happy!
  • Low calories and lots of color and texture to add to your plate.
  • Eating more fruits and veggies may lower your risk for many diseases including some types of cancer, high blood pressure, and even heart disease.
  • Fruits and veggies have low glycemic indexes which help keep blood sugar levels steady.

There are, of course, a few standout fruit and veggie superstars that you’ll want to have on-hand whenever possible:

  • Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are bursting with so much good stuff, you simply can’t eat too much!
  • Citrus fruit like lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges will give you your daily supply of vitamin C and soluble fiber.
  • Berries of all types are delicious little powerhouses packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber making them a sweet treat anytime.

In addition to fruit and vegetables, there are some other nutrient-rich-good-for-your-health-diabetes-friendly and delicious foods to keep in mind when you are planning your menu:

  • Beans are a great source of fiber, magnesium, potassium, and protein. In fact, just a 1/2 cup of beans gives you as much protein as an ounce of meat without the saturated fat.
  • Sweet potatoes can be baked, mashed, roasted, or chunked and added to all kinds of dishes. Versatile and packed with fiber and Vitamin A they are a yummy addition to your plate.
  • Tomatoes are another standout food that can be enjoyed raw, cooked, pureed, as a sauce or soup, and are bursting with vital nutrients like Vitamins C and E.
  • Fish – any fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon) is an excellent addition to your menu. Try it baked, grilled, or broiled twice a week and you’ll be well on your way to meeting the US Dietary Guidelines recommendation of 8 ounces of seafood per week.
  • Whole grains are loaded with magnesium, B vitamins, chromium, iron, and folate. Check the label to make sure the first ingredient listed uses the word “whole” (like “whole wheat” for example). Brown rice, wheatberries, oats, and oatmeal are also “whole” grains.
  • Nuts and seeds can be a hunger-buster when the munchies come calling. Just an ounce will go a long way toward controlling your appetite and as an added bonus will give you a nice dose of magnesium and fiber.
  • Milk and yogurt (fat-free or low-fat varieties) contain calcium and many fortified products are a good source of vitamin D as well. Combine with your favorite fruits and veggies for a perfect filling snack.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be a chore when you start with a list of diabetes-friendly foods. And don’t forget: 1/2 of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, 1/4 protein (beans or lean meat), and 1/4 should be whole grains.

Check out the American Diabetes Association for fantastic healthy recipes and for even more ways to incorporate diabetes-friendly foods into your regular meal planning routine.

Sources: American Diabetes Association, Fruits & Veggies More Matters, NIH

Herb App for Herb Safety and Effectiveness

HerbList™ is a mobile app that provides scientific, researched-based information about the safety and effectiveness of herbal products. HerbList helps consumers, patients, healthcare providers, and other users to quickly access unbiased information about the science of many popular herbs and herbal supplements such as kava, acai, ginkgo, turmeric, and over 50 others that have been marketed for health purposes.

The app provides access to information on safety problems, side effects, and herb-drug interactions with additional links to resources for more information. Within the app, users can also mark their favorite herbs for quick recall and offline accessibility. Having access to this information will help you make informed decisions about supplement use.

The HerbList app was developed by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). The app is built around the NCCIH’s webpage called Herbs at a Glance, which is a series of brief fact sheets that provide basic information about specific herbs or botanicals, common names, what the science says, potential side-effects and cautions, and resources for more information.

The app can be launched through the National Library of Medicine’s app pages on the Apple App Store  and the Google Play Store.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – National Institute of Health 

Healthy Eating: 101

You know that you should eat right in order to stay healthy. But with all of the fad diets like gluten-free, ketogenic, paleo, raw foods, etc., it is hard to know what is actually considered healthy. It seems as if the term “healthy eating” is always changing.

Here are some guidelines to follow that will never go out of style:

Know your food groups

Knowing and understanding the different food groups will help you get the nutritious foods your body needs. Always remember…a healthy diet will never fully eliminate an entire food group. Check out Choose MyPlate for more information on each food group and to determine where your favorite foods fall.

  • Grains. Foods made from wheat, rye, rice, oats, cornmeal, or barley. These foods don’t only include bread and pasta, but also cereal, rice, grits, tortillas, and popcorn. Often times, people eat more grains than they need. When looking for grain foods, choose those whose first ingredient says “whole grains.” This means the grain has not been processed.
  • Vegetables. Veggies come in a wide variety of colors and flavors, and are packed full of nutrients. They are also naturally low in calories. Starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes may be higher in carbohydrates and therefore higher in calories than other vegetables. This does not mean that you have to stay away from starchy vegetables though. They provide a good source of energy and nutrients.
  • Fruits. Fruit is another food that comes in many different colors and flavors, making them high in nutrients. Fruit is full of fiber, helping to promote digestive regularity. Fruit is a great sweet and low-calorie treat that can replace a candy bar or dessert as a more nutritious option.
  • Protein. Similar to grains, people often eat more protein than they need. This may result in higher caloric intake. Rather than cutting calories out of other food groups, such as fruits and vegetables that are high in nutrients, try eating more lean meats such as chicken or turkey, and swap seafood, such as shrimp or salmon, for meat at least a couple of times per week.
  • Dairy. Many adults are not getting as much dairy as they should. In order to keep your heart healthy, aim for low-fat or fat-free dairy choices. Choosing fat-fee or low-fat yogurt and milk rather than cheese can give you added vitamins and minerals and less fat and sodium.
  • Oils. This food group is higher in calories, but still has many health benefits due to the nutrients and vitamin E found in oils. Choose oils over solid fats, such as butter, when cooking. Some healthy sources of oils include avocados, olives, and peanut butter. Remember: a little goes a long way. Try to limit your intake of oils.
  • Solid Fats and Added Sugars. Also known as SoFAS. Added sugars are just added calories without more nutrients. Choosing foods throughout the day that are low in fat and without added sugar could leave you with some extra calories left over each day.

Portion size versus serving size

A “serving” is the amount of food recommended to eat. A “portion” is the amount of food you choose to eat at any one time – which may be more or less than a serving. Here’s a quick guide to food portion sizes using everyday objects.

Small Stamp = 1 teaspoon
9-Volt Battery = 1 tablespoon
Golf Ball = 2 tablespoons
Deck of Cards = 3 ounces
Computer Mouse = 1/2 cup
Baseball = 1 cup

To see how much you are actually eating, pour your cereal into a regular bowl and then into a measuring cup. Do the same with you glasses, cups and plates. Portion size matters!

Know your macronutrients

These are substances required in large amount by the body in order to function properly.

Proteins. Proteins are the body’s building blocks since they repair your tissues, fight off infection, and extra protein can be used for energy. Proteins are made up on amino acids. Essential amino acids are the type of amino acids that the body cannot make itself and therefore must be regularly consumed in food. Protein can be found in many foods ranging from lean meat, seafood, and eggs, to beans, peas, soy, and even dairy products. Protein that comes from plant-based sources tends to be lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber and nutrients.

Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates or carbs are the body’s main source of energy. They can be categorized into simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are found in fruits, veggies, dairy products, and sweeteners such as sugar, honey, and syrup. Complex carbohydrates are found in breads, cereals, pasta, rice, beans, peas, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn. Complex carbs tend to be higher in fiber as well which can prevent stomach and intestinal problems. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate the body cannot digest. It is found it fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Most fiber we eat is insoluble and cannot be digested—this is the type of fiber that promotes healthy digestive environments and elimination of waste. It can also make us feel fuller. Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that can help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol.

Fats. Fats are another source of energy and have the ability to make you feel satisfied after eating. Some oils include butter, shortening, and margarine. Foods such as mayonnaise, salad dressing, and sour cream are also high in fats. Seeds, nuts, avocado, and coconut are plant-based sources of fats. There are different categories of fats. As a general rule, try to get more of your fats from unsaturated fat like mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats. These types of fats are liquid at room temperature and are more heart-healthy compared to saturated fats and trans fats which are solid at room temperature. Omega fatty acids are the only type of fats that the body cannot make on its own. Humans need Omega 3 and Omega 6 to make cell membranes and produce many hormones. They can also be capable of reducing chronic inflammation and preventing heart disease. They are added to some foods but occur naturally in many oils—especially fish oils.

Learn more at Important Nutrients to Know: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat

Know your micronutrients

These are substances required in smaller amounts but are still equally important.

Vitamins. Vitamins are molecules that our bodies cannot make, but need for growth and maintenance. Vitamins are larger molecules than minerals. They are either fat-soluble (D, E, A, and K) or water-soluble (B Vitamins, and C). Fat-soluble vitamins require fat for them to be properly used by the body and can be stored for later use. Water-soluble vitamins do not require additional nutrients to function and will not be stored in the body. If you eat or drink more Vitamin C than your body needs, it will be excreted in your urine. Vitamins are most present in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts; but some are also found in meats and dairy. It is not healthy to have too little or too much. Keep that in mind if you are taking dietary supplements including multi-vitamins. Dietary supplements also have the potential to interfere with certain medications.

Minerals. Minerals are small molecules that usually enter the body in combination with another atom and assist in many bodily functions. Examples include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphate, sulfate, magnesium, and iron. The body cannot make its own minerals but they can be found in foods such as dairy, meat, nuts, fruit, and vegetables. Not all foods have the same types and amounts of minerals. Just like vitamins, it is not healthy to have too little or too many minerals.

Learn more at Important Nutrients to Know: Vitamins and Minerals

Think about what you drink

Your three best options for healthy drinks are water, low-fat or fat-free milk, and 100% juice. Milk and 100% fruit or vegetable juice only contain natural sugar, no added sugar and should contribute to the recommended daily intake of fruit, vegetables, and dairy as noted previously. Water is a daily staple. Drink water every day! But believe it or not, there is not an exact recommendation for the amount of water you should drink in a day. Instead, let your thirst guide you. There are general recommendations for water intake from both food and drinks. Women should get approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) each day, and men approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of total water daily. About 80% of your total water intake comes from drinking water and other beverages — including caffeinated beverages — and the other 20% is derived from food. Learn more about water at Important Nutrients to Know: Water.

Cut back on drinks with added sugar. Added sugar can be found in juice that is not 100%, regular pop/soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and thousands of other beverages that are on the market today. Sports drinks can be appropriate for athletes engaged in moderate- to high-intensity exercise that lasts an hour or longer to replace electrolytes, but they still contain a large amount of added sugar.

Alcohol should always be in moderation. One drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and only for adults of legal drinking age.

Health benefits of eating a balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet can help you physically and emotionally. A well-balanced diet can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Consuming foods with lots of fiber such as nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can help your heart work efficiently, reducing your risk of heart disease. Furthermore, eating a balanced diet will help to protect you from diabetes, especially the foods that are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like avocados, olive oil, and nuts and seeds. Eating foods rich in B vitamins can reduce homocysteine levels which may reduce risk of developing dementia. Other brain functions that can be increased from eating foods high in omega 3’s include increased memory and mood as well as reduced risk of depression, schizophrenia, and mood disorders. Consuming fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants can help to reduce risk of certain cancers. Eating healthy foods at regular intervals can also help to boost and maintain energy levels.

There are so many benefits of healthy eating. Don’t wait, start today!

Sources: National Institute on Aging, Choose MyPlate, Michigan State University Extension, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Hydrate Right

Avocados: Good or Bad?

 The Good, the Bad & the Unsaturated

Here’s the good news: according to the American Heart Association both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (which are both unsaturated) fats may help improve your blood cholesterol when used in place of saturated and trans fats.

Translation: eating foods that are rich in unsaturated fats – such as salmon, walnuts, and avocados – may lower your cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Not only do avocados contain high levels of the good fats our bodies need, but they are also a great source of lutein, which has been linked to improved brain health in older adults and improved cognitive function in young children. In fact, avocados took center stage in a recent study and the results showed clear benefits to the “brain health” of the older adults who ate an avocado a day. Now, that’s something to think about!

Of course, avocados aren’t a stand-alone miracle food but they do pack a nutritional punch.
For instance:

  • Avocados contain more than 20 vitamins and minerals per serving.
  • They are chock-full of fiber, folate, and antioxidants.
  • A single serving (about 1/5 of a medium avocado) contains only 50 calories.
  • Contains no cholesterol.

The bottom line is that avocados are a powerful source of vitamins and minerals and contain high levels of unsaturated fats. And, if you are trying to lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke, or just want to improve your diet by adding more fruits and vegetables… including foods like avocados in your meal plan might not be a bad place to start.

Sources: American Heart Association, Fruits & Veggies More Matters, CDC

Good Choices Can Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

It’s true! There are things you can do right now to help prevent Type 2 Diabetes and the best part is that making these choices can also lower your risk for other diseases and health-related problems.

Let’s start with the basics:

Always talk to your doctor or health care professional first. There are certain risk factors that can increase your chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes such as:

  • Being overweight
  • Having a relative with Type 2 Diabetes
  • Having gestational diabetes during a pregnancy
  • Being diagnosed with prediabetes

The good news however, is that making a few lifestyle changes can help lower that risk which could delay or even prevent it entirely.

Nothing to lose, everything to gain… worth a shot right?

So, where to start? First things first…

  • If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor and work out a plan to lose weight and keep it off. For many people, this can be quite a challenge so be sure to enlist the support of family and friends. You may need to develop a new routine or try things you haven’t in the past.
  • Set a goal to move more. Just 20 minutes a day can make a BIG difference. For some fun ideas on where to start and how to stay motivated check out this article.
  • Make healthy foods part of your daily routine. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods to your menu isn’t as hard as you think. Really. But, if you need some inspiration, read The Delicious & Nutritious Superpowers of Diabetes-Friendly Foods
  • Pay attention to portion sizes. Yes – they do matter. Very often our cravings or hunger can be satisfied with a smaller portion, a tall glass of water, or even a 5-minute walk. You can also use a smaller plate at mealtime. And then, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that 1/2 of your plate is filled with fruits and veggies, 1/4 with protein (beans or lean meat), and 1/4 should be whole grains.
  • Put together a team. Lifestyle changes usually involve people in your life. Tell them about your goals and ask for their support. Having a support system in place will help you stay on track and keep you motivated. You may even be surprised at how much your friends, family, or co-workers want to help you succeed. There are also built-in support systems in more places than you think. Ask around at your gym, local community center, church, schools in your area, your hospital, or community health center. There may be support groups or services just waiting for you to join. There are even diabetes prevention programs in some areas where you can meet people taking similar steps to improve their health.

There are plenty of strategies out there to make these lifestyle changes easier and you can customize all of them based on your specific needs. For example: find a walking partner, a gym buddy, or download an app to help you move more. Or take a cooking class, research your own healthy recipes, or call a friend when you feel yourself being tempted by pudding or potato chips.

And don’t worry if you have to keep changing your routine. Finding the right combination of tools, support, and motivation can take some time. The important thing is that you keep trying and remember that the good choices you make now will not only help you feel better but can also delay or prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

Sources: NIH; American Diabetes Organization

Make it a Whole Grain

Make at least half of your grains whole. ALL is best!

Whole grains are healthier than refined grains. They contain the entire seed which includes lots of nutrients like protein, dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins. The first ingredient should include “whole”, as in “whole wheat flour.” Words like “multi-grain” or “wheat” do not mean it is a whole grain.


These words describe whole grains. That means you get ALL the nutrition:
  • whole grain [name of grain]
  • whole wheat
  • whole [other grain]
  • stoneground whole [grain]
  • brown rice
  • wheat berries
  • oats
  • oatmeal (including old-fashioned oatmeal and instant oatmeal)
These words describe partial grains. That means you might be missing the benefits of whole grains:
  • wheat or wheat flour
  • semolina
  • durum wheat
  • organic flour
  • stoneground
  • multi-grain (may describe several whole grains or several refined grains, or a mix of both)
These words never describe whole grains:
  • enriched flour
  • de-germinated (corn meal)
  • bran
  • wheat germ

For more information, visit WholeGrainsCouncil.org.

Download a “Make it Whole!” palm card.

Are All Sugars Created Equal?

Natural versus added sugar…what’s good for you and what’s not?

front of sugar palm card

Natural means just that – the sugar is naturally part of that food, such as fruit, 100% fruit jucies, honey, molasses or milk.

Added means sugar was added during processing, preparation or at the table. Read the ingredient list on the nutrition fact label. Avoid foods that contain: High fructose corn syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, raw sugar, malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, anhydrous dextrose and crystal dextrose. They are all “added” sugar!

For more information on sugar, visit cdc.gov. For healthy snacking tips, visit Munch Code.

back of sugar palm card

Download images here.

Choose a Healthy Drink!

Say “YES” to 100% juice, milk and water!
  • Drink plenty of water. 8 cups will do!
  • Naturally flavor water with lemon, lime or cucumber wedges.
  • Drink nutrient rich low-far or skim milk.
  • Drink 4-6 oz of 100% juice per day.
  • Try unsweetened tea.
front of Drinks palm card
Say “NO” to added sugar, caffeine and empty calories.
  • Soda/Pop (diet and regular)
  • Sweetened Teas
  • Vitamin Infused Water
  • Sports Drinks
  • Energy Drinks
  • Alcoholic Drinks
  • Juice That is Not 100%
  • Coffee
back of Drinks palm card

Download images here.

Is Your Child Getting too Much Salt?

Most kids get too much salt, but you can help set them on a healthier path from the start by learning what the highest sodium foods kids are eating.

  • About 90% of kids eat too much sodium.
  • Kids’ preferences for salt-tasting foods are shaped early in life.
  • Parents and caregivers can help lower sodium by influencing how foods are produced, purchased, prepared, and served.

Foods that add the most sodium to the diet, ages 6-18:

  1. Bread and rolls. Try a half serving in a setting or less servings of bread per day.
  2. Pizza. Try swapping out the pepperoni for veggies.
  3. Sandwiches. Deli meat is very high in sodium. Try half a sandwich with a side salad.
  4. Cold cuts and cured meats. Reduce the meats in your sandwich and add crunchy veggies, creamy avocado, or spicy mustard.
  5. Soup. Find low sodium versions of soup and refrain from adding salt to your soup.
  6. Burritos and tacos. Increase the amount of veggies and decrease the amount of meat.

The sodium kids eat comes from every meal and snack:

  • 14% at breakfast
  • 31% at lunch
  • 39% at dinner
  • 16% at snacktime

Most of the sodium kids eat is already in the foods they get from grocery stores, restaurants, school cafeterias – and NOT from the salt shaker.

Source: American Heart Association

Realistic & Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

The holidays are a time to enjoy friends, family, and food. And contrary to popular belief, you can have all three without worrying about putting on extra pounds!

The secret…mindful preparation and mindful eating!

Don’t skip meals throughout the day.
This will likely result in overeating later. Eat balanced meals and snacks just like any other day, including breakfast! Research shows that those who eat this important morning meal tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day.

Include lots of fiber in your diet by eating fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains.
High-fiber foods are high in volume and will satisfy hunger, but are lower in calories. Plus beans and legumes are easy on the food budget. Add lentils to soups, mix half black beans with half lean meat for tacos, add chickpeas to salads, snack on edamame beans and use hummus instead of mayo.

Choose a broth-based soup instead of a creamy soup.
When making soup, use a low-sodium broth and add lots of different vegetables, beans and spices. To make a thicker soup without the cream, puree vegetables such as cauliflower, squash or carrots. They create a velvety texture with a lot less calories.

Use a smaller plate.
Less room on your plate encourages proper portion sizes.

Start each meal by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
If you wait until the end to add fruits and vegetables, you often run out of room.

Ask yourself is this food calorie worthy?
Does this food taste good enough for me to spend some of my calories on? Try not to fill your plate with everything just because it’s in the buffet line. And if Grandma’s apple pie is calorie worthy, enjoy a piece!

Eat slow and savor every bit. Give yourself a little time before going back for seconds.
Wait to see if you really are still hungry.

After eating, get in some physical activity!
Find a new bike trail, walk the neighborhood to look at holiday lights, go ice skating, or play a game with the kids.

Source: Eatright.org

Bone Health and Your Diet

Having good bone health can help prevent against falls and serious injuries. What you eat and drink can have an impact on your bone strength. Here are some diet tips to help ensure your bone health:

Get the Right Amount of Protein

Seniors should get about 80 grams of protein every day. Although most seniors do not get enough protein in their diets, it is still important to avoid having too much protein. Excessive proteins can cause a loss of calcium. Trying to stay around the recommended amount of protein is key for better bone health. Examples of foods high in protein include:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Lean Beef
  • Beans, lentils, and peas
  • Nuts & Seeds

Get Enough Calcium

Women over the age of 50 should get 1,200 mg of calcium every day. Men between the ages of 51-70 should get 1,000 mg of calcium every day. Men over 70 should get 1,200 mg of calcium every day. You can consume these recommended amounts by eating and drinking foods high in calcium. These foods include:

  • Dairy products like low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Orange juice, cereals, and other food fortified with calcium
  • Sardines, salmon with bones, soybeans, tofu, and nuts
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables like broccoli, collard greens, and bok choy

Get enough Vitamin C

Vitamin C is important for maintaining bone mass. By maintaining bone mass, it also helps to prevent the likelihood of falls and fractures. The recommended daily amounts of vitamin C for men and women over the age of 50 are 90 mg and 75 mg respectively. Foods high in vitamin C include:

  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Bell Peppers
  • Peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus Fruits

Get Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D allows your body to absorb the calcium. Therefore, you need vitamin D to use calcium. People ages 51 to 70 should get at least 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D every day. People over the age of 70 should get at least 800 IUs every day. The need for vitamin D increases as you age. Sunlight exposure will help your body to create its own vitamin D. However, many people don’t get enough vitamin D by sunlight alone. Some foods high in vitamin D can help maintain recommended daily amounts. These foods include:

  • Fish like: herring, sardines, salmon, and tuna
  • Liver
  • Eggs
  • Fortified milk and foods

Limit Alcohol and Quit Smoking

Drinking alcohol and smoking can reduce bone mass. Decreased bone mass will increase the risk of falls and fractures. You are never too old or too young to improve your bone health. Stopping bad habits and starting healthy diets can help keep bones strong.

Sources: National Institutes of Health: Senior HealthBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)

Is Your Kid Over-Caffeinated?

Sodas, coffee, tea, and energy drinks. Each of these is a source of caffeine. Approximately 75 percent of children, adolescents, and young adults in the United States consume caffeine, a compound that stimulates the central nervous system. In small doses, caffeine may help people of all ages feel more alert, awake, or energetic. But what if you have more than just a little? In large doses, caffeine may cause irritability, impaired calcium metabolism, anxiety, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and sleep problems. In fact, one study found that kids who consumed the most caffeine slept the fewest hours.

Because caffeine is in common beverages like sodas and teas, parents and others may unwittingly offer excessive amounts of caffeine to children. Teens often deliberately consume large amounts. Some teens find that caffeine helps them perform better in school and on tests, says pediatric specialist Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If your teen carries a heavy academic load, he or she may reach for caffeine-containing foods and beverages to improve concentration during school and then again at night to stay up late studying. Unfortunately, this can push the teen into a cycle of being unable to sleep due to caffeine’s effects–consuming more caffeine to fight fatigue from lack of sleep and then having trouble falling asleep again.

How Much is Too Much?
The Food and Drug Administration has not set guidelines for safe caffeine consumption. The Canadian government, however, recommends the following daily caffeine limits.

Ages 4 – 6 years: 45 mg, about the amount in one can of cola
Ages 7 – 9 years: 62 mg
Ages 10 – 12 years: 85 mg

According to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics, American children consume more than the recommended limit in Canada.

Helping your Kids Limit Caffeine
If your kids act jittery or anxious, or if they have trouble sleeping, reducing their caffeine intake is a smart idea. Because coffee, tea, and soft drinks contribute more caffeine to the diet than other foods and beverages, limiting these is a good place to start. Lemond also recommends steering clear of foods with added caffeine such as energy drinks, jellybeans, gum, and breath fresheners. Children and adolescents should completely avoid these products, she says. If it’s energy your kids are seeking, getting to bed earlier or taking a short nap is more productive than consuming caffeine that offers pep for a short time but may interfere with sleep later that evening.

Caffeine in Selected Foods and Beverages

Food Caffeine (mg)
Coffee, 12 fl oz, coffee shop variety260
Energy drinks, 8 fl oz47-163
Espresso, 1 fl oz64
Candy, semi-sweet chocolate, 1 oz*18
Hot chocolate, 12 fl oz, coffee shop variety*20
Hot tea, 1 cup48
Cola, 12 fl oz48

*Chocolate and chocolate containing foods are not a major source of caffeine.

Source: EatRight.org

School Success Starts With Dairy

A daily breakfast with dairy leads to not only better overall nutrition, but better school performance as well. As kids head back to class, make sure to include dairy and breakfast in their days to set them up for success throughout the school year.

Breakfast Boosts Brain Power: Research shows that kids who eat a morning meal have better memory, attention and behavior, and score higher on tests.

Dairy and Breakfast Go Hand in Hand: With so many types of milk, cheeses, and yogurts available, it’s easy to find breakfast combinations for everyone in your family to enjoy. Plus, dairy foods get an A+ for their variety, as well as nutritional and economic value.

Hungry Students Can’t Learn: Want to help? Make a donation of milk, one of the top nutritious items requested by food banks but rarely provided. You can give to the Great American Milk Drive, a national campaign created in partnership with Feeding America and dairy farmers and milk processors in the Midwest and nationwide, that delivers gallons of milk to hungry families who need it most.

Learn and share helpful nutrition facts and tips, along with quick and easy recipe ideas that include milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Source: MidWest Dairy

What to Consider with a High Protein Diet

The Goal is Weight Loss

High-protein diets take their lead from the low-carb craze. The goal is to lose weight by eating more protein-packed foods, which often means consuming fewer carbohydrates. The portion of total calories derived from protein is what defines a high-protein diet. In a typical diet 10%-15% of daily calories come from protein. In a high-protein diet, this number can be as high as 30%-50%.

How do High-Protein Diets Work?

Besides curbing appetites, it’s possible that high-protein diets may also change a person’s metabolism. When carbohydrates are severely restricted, the body begins burning its own fat for fuel — a state called ketosis. Ketosis may shed weight, but it’s also associated with headaches, irritability, nausea, kidney trouble, and heart palpitations.

Starting a High-Protein Diet

High-protein diets come in many forms, and not all are created equal. The most nutritious high-protein plans are low in fat and moderate in carbohydrates, rather than high in fat and low in carbohydrates. The following variety of foods fit the high-protein diet bill.

Say Hello to High-Protein Steak

Few foods beat a nice, juicy steak for protein. And if you’re careful to choose a lean cut, you can get all of the protein with far less fat.

Think White Meat

Chicken and poultry pack plenty of punch in a high-protein diet, and if you enjoy the white meat you’ll be eating a lot less fat than if you choose dark. To slim your meal down even further, remove the skin, which is bursting with saturated fat.

Look for Pork Loin

It may surprise you to learn that pork loin is a white meat. What’s more, the cuts available today are much leaner than they were 20 years ago. If you’re interested in a high-protein diet, you may want to plan on pork.

Lots of Protein, Healthy Fats

Fish is a no-brainer – it’s loaded with protein and almost always low in fat. Even the types that have more fat, such as salmon, are a good choice. That’s because the fat in fish is generally the heart-healthy kind known as omega-3 fatty acid – and many people don’t get enough of this good-for-you fat.

Affordable, Convenient, and Tasty

Eggs are perhaps the most classic and certainly least expensive form of protein. The British Heart Foundation has relaxed its stance on egg consumption saying there’s no longer a need for a healthy person to limit the number they eat. So you may want to get cracking with eggs when you’re on a high-protein diet. If you’re concerned about the fat and cholesterol, egg whites are a good substitute and a heart-healthy source of protein.

Soy: It’s High in Protein, too

Soy products, such as tofu, soy burgers and other soy-based foods, are nutritious plant-based sources of protein. An added bonus: some research suggests consuming 25 grams of soy protein daily may also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease.

Beans and Legumes : Full of Fiber and Protein

Beans pack a powerful double whammy—they are loaded with protein and also full of fiber. Studies show that, along with protein, fiber helps you feel full longer and also helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. As for the protein content, canned baked beans have a sixth of the protein of grilled steak, but with a tenth of the fat.

Low-Fat Milk Products

If you want to give your high-protein diet a tasty boost, don’t overlook dairy products as a protein source. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are not only protein-rich, they also provide calcium for strong bones and a healthy heart. Look for low-fat, light, or reduced fat dairy products as part of a reduced calorie diet plan.

Cereal and Energy Bars

Pressed for time? You can turn to high-protein cereal or energy bars to give your high-protein diet a quick boost. Just make sure the bars you choose don’t have too much sugar or fat.

Go Wholegrain, Go Fiber

Most high-protein diets limit grains to a couple of servings a day, so make sure the grains you do eat are pulling their weight. That means staying clear of white bread and pasta, which have little to offer nutrient-wise, when compared with their wholegrain cousins. Wholegrain breads, cereals, and pastas, on the other hand, are rich in fiber, which might otherwise be in short supply for people on a high-protein diet.

Leave Room for Fruit and Vegetables

No matter the emphasis on protein, make sure you leave room for fruit and vegetables in a high-protein diet. As well as having at least 5-a-day, the NHS says they should make up a third of your daily diet. These nutrient gold mines also contain powerful antioxidants that aren’t found in most other foods, and some research suggests that people who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables may lower their risk of cancer, although more research is needed.

A Diet That’s Easy to Love

High-protein diets may help people lose weight—at least in the short term—because dieters tend to feel full longer when they eat more protein. This alone can cut down on snacking and lead to fairly rapid weight loss. Combine speedy weight loss with the satisfaction of feeling full, and it’s easy to understand why high-protein diets are popular. Unfortunately, many people gain back the weight once the diet ends.

More Protein, More Risks?

The medical community has raised many concerns about high-protein diets. These diets often boost protein intake at the expense of fruit and vegetables, so dieters miss out on healthy nutrients – which could possibly increase their risk of cancer. Other potential health risks when high protein diets are used long term include high cholesterol and heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney disease.

More Saturated Fat, Less Fiber

Many high-protein diets are high in saturated fat and low in fiber. Research shows this combination can increase cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. These diets generally recommend dieters receive 30% to 50% of their total calories from protein.

Losing Calcium

People on high-protein diets excrete more calcium through their urine than do those not on a high-protein diet. If a person sticks to a high-protein diet long term, the loss of calcium could increase their risk of developing osteoporosis.

Protein May Affect Kidney Function

People with kidney disease should consult a doctor before starting a high-protein diet. Research suggests people with impaired kidneys may lose kidney function more rapidly if they eat excessive amounts of protein – especially animal protein.

High-Protein Diets: Jury is Still Out

There are no long-term studies of high-protein diets, so their ultimate health impact is unknown. But the experts are sure of one thing: The best formula for permanent weight loss is a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating nutritious, low-calorie foods and participating in regular physical activity. Seek medical advice before making major dietary changes.

Source: WebMD

Kids Portion Size Versus Serving Size

Do you know how much your kids are really eating? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the portions our kids are eating are the right serving size for their nutritional needs.  Portion sizes have increased drastically over the years, contributing to the rising childhood obesity rate.

Understanding Healthy Portions Can be Hard

Here’s why: 

  • Many of us don’t know what a healthy portion is.
  • Restaurants offer extras like breads, chips and other appetizers that add extra calories, sodium and fat but lack any nutritional benefit.
  • Some meals have portions that are enough for two or more people.
  • Many convenience foods and drinks are priced lower but packaged in larger sizes to sell more.

Clearing Up the Confusion

Here are a couple of important definitions from the National Institutes of Health:

  • Portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package or in your own kitchen. A portion is 100 percent under our control.
  • Serving Size is the amount of food listed on a product’s Nutrition Facts label. So all of the nutritional values you see on the label are for the serving size the manufacturer suggests on the package. Once we understand the difference, it’s easier to determine how much to serve and easier to teach kids the difference between the two.

How Can You Eat and Serve Smaller Portions?

  1. When cooking at home: Offer the proper “serving” to each member of the family, then put the extra food away. Save leftovers for another meal.
  2. When dining out:  Skip the appetizers and split a large salad or main dish with a friend.
  3. When ordering takeout at home: Eat one slice of pizza instead of two, and order a small instead of a medium to split among the family so the pieces are smaller.
  4. Watching movies at home or at the theatre: Don’t eat while watching TV or a movie or when you’re on the computer. It’s harder to control how much you’re eating if you don’t pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth, and when. At the movies, share a box of popcorn, and avoid the free-refill tubs and skip the candy.
  5. At snack time: Never eat straight from the bag or box. Measure out snacks, including fruits and veggies, into appropriate portion sizes before giving them to your kids.

You may be surprised to learn these are serving sizes:

1 slice of bread
½ cup rice or pasta (cooked)
1 small piece of fruit (super-large apples are 2+ servings)
1 wedge of melon
¾ cup fruit juice
=1 cup milk or yogurt
2 oz. cheese (about the size of a domino)
2-3 oz. meat, poultry or fish (this is about the size of a deck of cards)

Source: American Heart Association; Portion Size versus Serving Size

Important Nutrients to Know: Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fat


Proteins are often called the body’s building blocks. They are used to build and repair tissues. They help you fight infection. Your body uses extra protein for energy. Good sources of protein are seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. Protein is also found in dairy products. Protein from plant sources tends to be lower in fat and cholesterol and provides fiber and other health-promoting nutrients.


Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.

  • Simple carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, and milk products, as well as in sweeteners like sugar, honey, and syrup and foods like candy, soft drinks, and frosting or icing.
  • Complex carbohydrates are found in breads, cereals, pasta, rice, beans and peas, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, green peas, and corn.

Many carbohydrates also supply fiber. Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate found in foods that come from plants—fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Eating food with fiber can prevent stomach or intestinal problems, such as constipation. It might also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar.


Fats also give you energy and help you feel satisfied after eating. Oils, shortening, butter, and margarine are types of fats, and mayonnaise, salad dressings, table cream, and sour cream are high in fat. Foods from animal sources and certain foods like seeds, nuts, avocado, and coconut also contain fat. There are different categories of fats—some are healthier than others:

  • Monounsaturated. These include canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, and safflower oil. They are found in avocados, peanut butter, and some nuts and seeds.
  • Polyunsaturated. Some are corn oil, soybean oil, and flaxseed oil. They are also found in fatty fish, walnuts, and some seeds.
  • Saturated. These fats are found in red meat, milk products including butter, and palm and coconut oils. Regular cheese, pizza, and grain-based and dairy desserts are common sources of saturated fat in our meals.
  • Trans fats (trans fatty acids). Processed trans fats are found in stick margarine and vegetable shortening. Trans fats are often used in store-bought baked goods and fried foods at some fast-food restaurants.

You can tell monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats because they are liquid at room temperature. These types of fat seem to lower your chance of heart disease. But that doesn’t mean you can eat more than the Dietary Guidelines suggest.

Trans fats and saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. Trans fat and saturated fat can put you at greater risk for heart disease and should be limited.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in some foods. Your body needs some cholesterol. But research suggests that eating a lot of foods high in saturated fat is associated with higher levels of cholesterol in your blood, which may increase your risk of heart disease. Try to limit cholesterol to less than 300 mg each day. If your doctor says you need to lower your cholesterol, you might need to limit cholesterol in your food to less than 200 mg each day.

Source: National Institute on Aging; Protein, Carbohydrates & Fats

TLC: Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes for Healthier Cholesterol

TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) is a set of lifestyle changes that can help you lower your LDL cholesterol. TLC includes:

  • A cholesterol-lowering diet (the TLC diet)
  • Weight management
  • Physical activity

The TLC diet recommends:

  • Limiting the amount of saturated fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol you eat
  • Eating only enough calories to achieve or maintain a healthy weight
  • Increasing the soluble fiber in your diet by eating foods such as oatmeal, kidney beans, and apples
  • Adding cholesterol-lowering foods, such as juices or margarines that contain plant sterols or stanols

Weight management means if you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol.

Regular physical activity is recommended for everyone. It can help raise HDL the good cholesterol and it can help lower LDL the bad cholesterol levels.

Learn more about the TLC diet.

15 Tips to Lower Your Cholesterol

Has your doctor said you have high cholesterol? Then you know you need to change your diet and lifestyle to lower cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. Even if your doctor prescribed a cholesterol drug to bring levels down, you’ll still need to change your diet and become more active for heart health. These simple tips can help you keep cholesterol levels in check.

Cholesterol, Good and Bad

Your body needs a small amount of cholesterol to function properly. But we may get too much saturated fat and cholesterol in our diet, and both raise levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in arteries, leading to heart disease. HDL “good” cholesterol, on the other hand, helps clear bad cholesterol from your blood. You want to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol, starting with your diet.

15 Ways to Healthier Cholesterol Levels

Portion Control: Lend a Hand

Many Americans eat supersized meals, with portions that are twice the size recommended for good health. That can contribute to weight gain and high cholesterol. Here’s an easy way to practice portion control for a meal: Use your hand. One serving of meat or fish is about what fits in the palm of your hand. One serving of fresh fruit is about the size of your fist. And a serving of cooked vegetables, rice, or pasta should fit in your cupped hand.

Choose Heart-Healthy Food

Load your plate with fruits and vegetables—five to nine servings a day—to help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Antioxidants in these foods may provide the benefit. Or it may be that when we eat more fruits and veggies, we eat less fatty foods. Either way, you’ll also help lower blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight. Foods enriched with plant sterols, such as some margarine spreads, yogurts, and other foods, can also help lower LDL cholesterol.


A heart-healthy diet has fish on the menu twice a week. Why? Fish is low in saturated fat and high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help lower levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. They may also help lower cholesterol, slowing the growth of plaque in arteries. Go for fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines. Just don’t drop the fillets in the deep fryer—you’ll undo the health benefits.

Whole Grains

A bowl of oatmeal or other whole-grain cereal has benefits that last all day. The fiber and complex carbohydrates in whole grains help you feel fuller for longer, so you’ll be less tempted to overeat at lunch. They also help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and can help you lose weight. Other examples of whole grains include wild rice, popcorn, brown rice, and barley.


Need a snack? A handful of nuts is a tasty treat that helps in lowering cholesterol. Nuts are high in monounsaturated fat, which lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol while leaving HDL “good” cholesterol intact. Several studies show that people who eat about an ounce of nuts a day are less likely to get heart disease. Nuts are high in fat and calories, so eat only a handful. And make sure they’re not covered in sugar or chocolate.

Prioritize Unsaturated Fats

We all need a little fat in our diet—about 25% to 35% of our daily calories. But the type of fat matters. Unsaturated fats—like those found in canola, olive, and safflower oils—help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels and may help raise HDL “good” cholesterol. Saturated fats—like those found in butter and palm oil—and trans fats raise LDL cholesterol. Even good fats have calories, so eat in moderation.

More Beans, Fewer Potatoes

ou need carbohydrates for energy, but some do your body more good than others. Beans, and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat, have more fiber and raise sugar levels less. These help lower cholesterol and keep you feeling full longer. Other carbs, like those found in white bread, white potatoes, white rice, and pastries, boost blood sugar levels more quickly, leading you to feel hungry sooner, and may make you more likely to overeat.

Get Active

Even 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week (or 20 minutes three times a week for vigorous exercise, such as jogging) can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. More exercise is even better. Being active also helps you reach and keep a healthy weight, cutting your chance of developing clogged arteries. You don’t have to exercise for 30 minutes straight. You can break it up into 10-minute sessions.

Walk It Off

If you’re not used to exercising or don’t want to go to a gym, take a walk. It’s easy, healthy, and all you need is a good pair of shoes. Aerobic exercise (“cardio”) such as brisk walking lowers risk of stroke and heart disease, helps you lose weight, and keeps bones strong. If you’re just starting out, try a 10-minute walk and gradually build up from there.

Work Out Without Going to the Gym

You can exercise anywhere. Gardening, dancing, or walking your dog counts. Even housework can qualify as exercise, if it gets your heart rate up.

Take Charge of Your Health

If you have high cholesterol, you and your doctor may be using a number of strategies to lower cholesterol levels. You may be working on your diet, losing weight, exercising more, and taking cholesterol drugs. There are other actions you can take, too, to make sure you stay on the right track.

Eating Out Responsibly

If you’re eating healthy food at home to keep cholesterol in check, keep it up when you eat out. Restaurant food can be loaded with saturated fat, calories, and sodium. Even healthy choices may come in supersize portions. Use these tips to stay on track:

  • Choose broiled, baked, steamed, and grilled foods—not fried.
  • Get sauces on the side.
  • Practice portion control by asking for half your meal to be boxed up before it’s brought out.

Check the Label

A close look at nutrition labels is key for a low-cholesterol, heart-healthy diet.

Check serving sizes. The nutrition info may look good, but does the package contain two servings instead of one?
If it says “whole grain,” read the ingredients. Whole wheat or whole grain should be the first one.
Note the saturated fat and cholesterol. Are they within your diet’s limits?

Don’t Stress Out

Chronic stress can raise blood pressure, adding to your risk of atherosclerosis, which happens when plaque from cholesterol builds up in arteries. And research shows that for some people, stress might directly raise cholesterol levels. Lower your stress levels with relaxation exercises, meditation, or biofeedback. Focus on your breathing, and take deep, refreshing breaths. It’s a simple stress buster you can do anywhere.

When Losing Means Winning

Losing weight is one of the best things you can do to help prevent heart disease. Extra pounds make you more likely to get high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. These all affect the lining of your arteries, making them more likely to collect plaque from cholesterol. Losing weight—especially belly fat—helps raise HDL “good” cholesterol and reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol.

Follow Your Doctor’s Advice

Managing your cholesterol is a lifelong process. See your doctor regularly to keep tabs on your health. Follow your doctor’s recommendations on diet, exercise, and medication. Working together, you and your doctor can lower your cholesterol levels and keep your heart going strong.

Source: WebMD; Tips for Lowering Your Cholesterol

The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Oats and Oat Bran

Is there magic in oats?

Oats have a lot going for them. Not only is it a great way to start the day, but research suggests they can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels without lowering your good HDL cholesterol. The same goes for oat bran, which is in some cereals, bread, cakes, pastries and other products.

How do oats help?

Oats are full of soluble fiber, which research suggests has an impact on LDL levels. Experts aren’t exactly sure how, but they have some ideas. When you digest fiber, it becomes gooey. Researchers think that when it’s in your intestines, it sticks to cholesterol and stops it being absorbed. So instead of cholesterol getting into your system, and your arteries, you simply get rid of it as waste.

What’s the evidence?

There’s plenty of evidence that eating oats helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

In the UK, an extensive review of the benefits of eating oats was carried out by public health nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton and published in the British Food Journal in 2008. The British Cardiovascular Society reported the research in which the author analysed 21 studies and found that regular consumption of oats can help to lower LDL cholesterol levels by nearly one-fifth. Dr Ruxton was quoted saying, “What this review shows is that a wide range of oat-containing products such as breakfast cereals, bread, cereal bars and oatcakes have the capacity to lower blood cholesterol”.

Some studies have shown that oats, when combined with certain other foods, can have a big impact on cholesterol levels. In a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers tested cholesterol-lowering drugs against some foods in a group of 34 adults with high cholesterol. Oat products were among the chosen foods. The results were striking. The diet lowered cholesterol levels about as well as cholesterol medicines.

Getting oats into your diet

It’s fairly simple to build oats into your meal plan. Start with the obvious: enjoy oatmeal in the morning.

“Oats make a filling, healthy breakfast”, says dietitian Ruth Frechman. She suggests that you add bananas or walnuts. If you’re not keen on oatmeal, perhaps try a cold cereal that’s made from oat bran.

But oats aren’t only for breakfast. Ground oats can be added to any food, like soups and casseroles. You can also add it to many baking recipes. For instance, try swapping one-third of the flour in recipes with fine or medium oats.

Remember that not everything with “oatmeal” in the name will be good for you. For instance some oat biscuits might contain very little oats but lots of fat and sugar, so always read the label to see how much soluble fiber the product contains.

How much do you need?

Most adults should get at least 25g of fiber a day. On average most people in eat only about 12g of fiber a day. So you should aim to double or triple your intake by consciously adding soluble fiber to foods.

There are 2g of soluble fiber in 85g (3oz) of oats. It may be a bit much for breakfast, so just add in oats or oat bran to dishes at other times of the day.

Source: WebMD; The new low-cholesterol diet: Oats and oat bran by R. Morgan Griffin

Healthy Food Imposters—Don’t Be Fooled

Some foods that we think are healthy can be sneaky little diet wreckers. Nutritionist Leslie Bonci shares a few of these “food frauds” – starting with Caesar salad.

Food Fraud: Caesar Salad
Just a small bowl can serve up 300-400 calories and 30 grams of fat, thanks to loads of dressing.

FOOD FIX: Leave out the croutons; limit dressing to one tablespoon; and enjoy two tablespoons of tangy Parmesan cheese.

Food fraud: Fresh smoothies
That ‘healthy’ berry blend at a smoothie bar or café is likely to have a whopping 80 grams of sugar, 350 calories, no protein and often no fresh fruit. Vitamin-poor fruit “concentrates” are commonly used instead of more expensive fresh fruit. And sorbet, ice cream, and sweeteners can make these no better than a milkshake.

FOOD FIX: Order the ‘small’ cup. Ask for fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, milk, or protein powder to blend in good nutrition.

Food fraud: Energy bars
Many of these are simply enhanced sweets with more calories (up to 500) and a higher price tag. Their compact size also leaves many people unsatisfied. “Three bites and it’s gone”, says Bonci, who advises hungry athletes and dancers.

FOOD FIX: Choose bars that have 200 calories or less, at least five grams of fiber, and some protein, which helps provide energy when the sugar rush fades.

Food fraud? A sugar-free dilemma
Sugar-free foods sound like a no-brainer for weight loss, but a problem arises when we choose artificially sweetened food or drink, then feel that we deserve a large order of fries or a large dessert. Upsizing the chips adds nearly 300 calories to your meal. If your calorie intake exceeds what you burn off, you’ll still gain weight – and you can’t blame the sugar-free foods.

FOOD FIX: Watch your total calorie intake.

Food fraud: Enhanced water
Vitamins are commonly added to bottled water and are advertised on the front label. Some brands also add sugar, taking water from zero calories to as much as 125. “Often the vitamins don’t contribute much”, Bonci says, “but the calories can contribute a lot”.

FOOD FIX: Keeping tap water in the fridge may make it more appealing to the family. As an alternative, try adding a low-calorie squash or cordial to add flavor without calories.

Food fraud: Semi-skimmed milk
Semi-skimmed milk sounds healthier than ‘whole’ or ‘full fat’ milk, but it still has almost half the saturated fat as whole milk. Here’s what’s in a 200ml glass of milk:

  • Whole Milk (3.5%) = 136 cal, 8g fat, 5.2g sat. fat
  • Semi-skimmed (1.7%) = 95 cal, 3.5g fat, 2.3g sat. fat
  • Skimmed = (0.1%) 70 cal, 0.62g fat, 0.2g sat. fat

FOOD FIX: If your family likes whole milk, mix it with semi-skimmed for a while, then skimmed. In time, they’ll come to like the lower fat taste.

Food fraud: Breakfast muffins
Muffins masquerade as a healthy choice for breakfast. Although they may beat doughnuts, they’re still mainly sugary little cakes of refined flour. One shop-bought muffin can hit 500 calories with 11 teaspoons of sugar.

FOOD FIX: Choose muffins no larger than 6cm (2½ inches) in diameter, or look for low-calorie muffins. Smaller portions limit calories and some brands are a surprisingly good source of whole grains and fiber.

Food fraud: Low-fat granola
The low-fat version of this crunchy cereal has only 10% fewer calories and is still full of sugar. Plus, the low-fat label can easily lead you to overeat. One study found that people ate 49% more granola when they thought it was low fat – easily wiping out the measly 10% calorie savings.

FOOD FIX: Look for low-sugar, wholegrain cereal, and sweeten it with fresh fruit.

Food fraud: Low-fat yogurt
Too often this nutritional superstar – rich in protein and calcium – contains shocking amounts of added sugar. Some brands add 30 or more grams of fructose, sucrose, or other sweeteners.

FOOD FIX: A 170g (6 oz) container should have 90-130 calories and no more than 20g of sugar. Avoid the sugary “fruit on the bottom”, or try blending sweetened yogurt with plain, fat-free yogurt.

Food fraud: Multigrain
When you see ‘multigrain’ on bread, pasta, or waffles, turn the package over and check the nutrition label. Even with more than one type of grain, the product could be made largely from refined grains – such as white flour – which have been stripped of fiber and many nutrients.

FOOD FIX: Look for ‘100% wholegrain’ as the first ingredient, or choose the brand with more fiber.

Food fraud: Light olive oil
Anything labeled ‘light’ is enticing when you’re watching your weight, but often the food is not what you expect. Light olive oil, for instance, has the same calorie and fat content as other types – it’s just lighter in color and taste.

FOOD FIX: Some light foods do provide significant calorie savings. Compare the labels in the supermarket.

Food fraud: Omega-3 fortified foods
Some labels on yogurt, milk, eggs, cereal, and other foods boast of added omega-3. However, most don’t contain the kinds of omega-3 best known to help your heart – EPA and DHA. Or they contain only a smidgen – about as much as in one bite of salmon. Instead, the foods contain ALA, which comes from vegetable sources. It’s not clear if omega-3 from ALA is as beneficial as DHA/EPA.

FOOD FIX: Try a serving of salmon. It has 100 times more omega-3 than is in a serving of fortified yogurt.

Food fraud: Microwave popcorn
The word ‘snack’ can be a little misleading on microwave popcorn. Some pack 9 grams of bad fat which includes 6 grams of trans fat into each ‘snack size’ bag.

FOOD FIX: Compare nutrition labels and get a lower-fat popcorn that has no trans fat at all. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or low-salt spice blends for added flavor without a lot of fat.

 Food fraud: Iceberg lettuce
This popular lettuce is big on crunch but a big ‘zero’ when it comes to vitamins and flavor. Its boring taste leads many people to overdo it on the dressing.

FOOD FIX: Add spinach or arugula to the mix. Crumble two tbsp. (100 calories) of blue cheese or feta on top. Then splash the salad with a little oil and vinegar to spread flavor without a lot of calories.

Food fraud: Salty toppings
Processed artichoke hearts, chickpeas, and olives are just a few of the salt shockers lurking on the salad bar. To avoid an unhealthy amount of salt, limit anything that comes out of a tin. Also, say ‘no’ to cured meats. Choose beans or tuna, but not both.

FOOD FIX: Radishes, bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, and other fresh vegetables are low in salt. At home, rinse canned beans to remove a lot of the salt.

Food fraud: Coleslaw
Cabbage can be great for weight loss, but coleslaw can be a diet disaster. A restaurant 130g serving can have 260 calories and 21 grams of fat – a third of most people’s daily limit – thanks to copious mayonnaise.

FOOD FIX: Some places offer a healthier coleslaw, so ask for nutrition information. At home, try low-fat mayonnaise or mix with fat-free yogurt.

Food fraud: Banana chips
Deep-fried bananas are probably not what the doctor was thinking of when she told you to eat more fruit and veg. These don’t look greasy, but just one ounce can have 145 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 8 grams of saturated fat – about the same as a fast food burger.

FOOD FIX: Try a fresh banana: four times more food, 0 grams of fat, all for about 100 calories.

For more healthy food switches: Eat This, Not That

April is National Pecan Month

Pecans are designated as a heart-healthy food choice by the American Heart Association. Unroasted and unsalted pecan halves are the best choice for snacking and for use in recipes.  A one ounce serving of 15-20 pecan halves packs a nutritious punch and contains 196 calories, other benefits of pecans include: 

  • Pecans contain more antioxidants than any other nut variety
  • Pecans can help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels
  • Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals
  • Pecans are a natural, high-quality source of protein and are naturally sodium free
  • One ounce of pecans provides 10% of the recommended Daily Value for fiber

Learn more: American Heart Association