Tag Archives: Nutrition

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

Brain Foods that May Help You Concentrate

Your brain handles a lot. It sends instructions to move muscles, makes sure organs are working, remembers information, has creative ideas, and powers every system in your body. We often eat foods that help strengthen our muscles or give us more energy– but brains need nutrition too!

There are a wide variety of foods that can help you concentrate in your day-to-day routine. Many of the nutrients and foods that help your brain, also protect your heart and blood vessels. That means when you eat healthy foods you are giving your brain a boost and will be on your way to full-body health! 

Be on the lookout for foods that include brain-healthy nutrients like: 

  • vitamin B
  • vitamin K
  • vitamin E
  • coenzyme Q10
  • Lutein
  • Folate
  • beta carotene
  • omega-3

Green, Leafy Vegetables

You’ve heard how important vegetables are for your health—because it’s true! When it comes to brain health, green, leafy vegetables can boost cognitive function and slow age-related cognitive decline. Translation: leafy green vegetables can help clear your mind and keep your brain healthy as you age! When planning your meals, include at least one serving of greens per day.

Leafy vegetables that boost brain health include:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Collards
  • Broccoli
  • Romaine lettuce

Healthy Fats

Not all fats are bad! Healthy fats are important for both your heart and your brain. When you’re looking at fat content in food, you want to see ‘unsaturated fats’—or monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Healthy fats have many benefits. They give long-term energy to the brain. This helps you concentrate longer while increasing your memory!

Find healthy fats in:

  • Olive, Peanut, and Canola Oils
  • Avocados
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Seeds
  • Fish


Research suggests that eating berries can have positive effects on the brain and can help prevent memory loss with their ability to reduce brain inflammation. Not to mention they are delicious!

Some of the berries that are the best for brain health include:

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries


A protein source linked to a great brain boost is fish—rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are key for brain health. They have the ability to combat damaging beta-amyloid blood levels that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The omega-3s found in fish play a vital role in enhancing your memory. Try to include fish in your diet at least twice a week.

Choose these fish varieties that are low in mercury:

  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Canned light tuna
  • Pollack
  • Walleye
  • Perch
  • Bass

Nuts and Chocolate

Nuts—particularly walnuts—and seeds are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is linked to less cognitive decline as you age. Dark chocolate also has other powerful antioxidant properties. It contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus. Enjoy up to an ounce of nuts and dark chocolate a day for the benefits you need without excess calories, fat, or sugar.

Some of the best nuts for your brain are:

  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds


There’s no magic bullet to boost IQ or make you smarter—but certain substances, like caffeine, can energize you and help you concentrate. Commonly found in coffee and chocolate caffeine gives you that unmistakable wake-up buzz, though the effects are short-term. As if you needed another excuse to eat chocolate, dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, and it contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus. 

CAUTION: Be careful with caffeine. Too much caffeine can make you jittery and uncomfortable. Energy drinks have become popular but can also have yucky withdrawal effects such as mood swings and headaches. Caffeine intake—especially for children and teens– should be limited because it can lead to higher blood pressure, sleep deprivation, and can make anxiety worse.

Healthier caffeinated food and drinks can include:

  • Coffee
  • Black Tea
  • Green Tea
  • Dark Chocolate


Every organ in the body depends on blood flow, especially the heart and brain. A diet high in fiber can cut the risk of heart disease and lower bad cholesterol. This reduces your risk of plaque buildup and enhances blood flow, offering a simple, tasty way to fire up brain cells. 

Foods that contain high fiber include:

  • Beans
  • Whole Wheat
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Brown Rice
  • Popcorn
  • Chia Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Dates
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Eggplant

Don’t Forget to Start Each Day with Breakfast

Tempted to skip breakfast? Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Students who eat breakfast tend to perform better than those who don’t. Foods at the top of the brain-fuel list include high-fiber whole grains, dairy, and fruits. 

Be careful not to overeat; research has found that high-calorie breakfasts can hinder concentration. That means take it easy on heavy carbohydrate breakfast foods like pancakes and waffles drenched in syrup. Instead, balance with higher protein options like eggs.

Bottom line: If your diet lacks essential nutrients, it can hurt your ability to concentrate. Eating too much or too little can also interfere with your focus. A heavy meal may make you feel tired, while too few calories can result in distracting hunger pangs. Strive for a well-balanced diet full of a wide variety of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and protein.

Sources: Harvard.edu, CDC, CDC

Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are a wonderful part of summer that give us the opportunity to enjoy fresh, local produce and meet the people who grow it! Shopping at a farmers market is a little different than the grocery store. Here are some tips to make your trip successful and fun:

1.) Plan ahead. Bring a list of what foods you need and scope out the market’s website or event guide to give you an idea of what is offered.

2.) Bring your own bag. Having a bag that can go on your shoulder will help keep your hands free. Or try a backpack!

3.) Get to know your local farmers. Take this opportunity to meet your local farmers and producers in a relaxed setting. Use this time to have a conversation with the people responsible for growing or making your food. Farmers enjoy getting to know you and appreciate your interest in their crops.

4.) Try something new and ask questions. Challenge yourself to try at least one new food item. Not sure how to incorporate that purple potato into a dish your family would like? Ask the individuals selling the foods; they are a wealth of knowledge for various ideas of how to use their food as ingredients in your recipes. Some even have recipes available for you to take home.

5.) Follow the MyPlate method. Most farmers markets offer a wide variety of foods: most are delicious and nutritious, but some are high in calories. When choosing foods, remember the USDA’s MyPlate method which emphasizes making half your plate fruits and vegetables, and the rest of your plate with whole grains and lean protein.

6.) Make a farm-to-table meal. Now, use a medley of what you gathered at the farmers market to prepare your meal.

Don’t forget to bring the kids! A trip to the farmers market can be a perfect way to introduce your family to new foods while learning where our food comes from. Get your child excited about what new foods will be there and ask your child what new things they would like to try.

Find a farmers market in your area. And if you live in the Black Hills there is a website just for you!

Find and enjoy a farmers market this summer and fall!

Sources:  Farmers Markets: Bringing the Farm to Table,  Be a Savvy Farmers Market ShopperSDSU Extension, & Iowa State University Extension & Outreach

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 oftrans 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

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.

So 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

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, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – Eat Right and Drink Responsibly & Hydrate Right

How to Incorporate Healthy Eating in Childcare Settings

Childcare practitioners share ideas and challenges with implementing healthy food at the YMCA Sandusky Childcare Center in Ohio. 3 key pieces of advice…

  1. Start small
  2. Tackle one thing at a time
  3. Keep trying


Practitioners also share the steps they took to support the important transition to incorporate healthy food into their childcare center.

  • Moving to whole grains
  • Eliminating flavored milks
  • Eating family style
  • Offering a healthy food curriculum
  • Sending home recipes


Source: The videos are from the Building Capacity for Obesity Prevention (BCOP) study. BCOP is a collaboration between The Ohio State University SNAP-Ed program; the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRCHN) at Case Western Reserve University; and the Ohio Department of Health, Creating Healthy Communities Program.


Go Further with Food

March is National Nutrition Month®! 2018’s theme is Go Further with Food. It encourages us to achieve the numerous benefits healthy eating habits offer, while also urging us to find ways to cut back on food waste.

Food waste is when edible food goes uneaten. Wasted food = wasted money and nutrients! The following tips can help make your food last and cut back on food waste.

  • Consider the foods you have on hand when planning meals before buying more at the store.
  • Buy only the amount that can be eaten or frozen within a few days and plan ways to use leftovers later in the week.
  • Get creative with leftovers. Transform meals into soups, salads, or sandwiches. Cut up leftover meats and veggies and use them as a topping for salads or cooked grains like rice, pasta, or quinoa! Wrap in a tortilla or stuff into a pita for a satisfying sandwich.
  • Place foods that spoil quickly within sight.
  • Store produce properly. Check out this infographic on How to Keep Produce Fresh Longer.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes using MyPlate. Eat and drink the amount that’s right for you.
  • Continue to use good food safety practices. Regardless of the date stamped on the food or drink packaging, don’t risk eating or drinking anything that you suspect has spoiled. In some cases a food will not look or smell any different. That’s why it’s important to eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days (or freeze for up to 3 to 4 months).
  • Donate extra foods that are still safe to eat to a local food pantry.
  • Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to get sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences, and health-related needs. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ database to find a RDN in your area. RDN’s are the most valuable and credible source of timely, scientifically-based food and nutrition information.

Registered Dietitian Whitney Blindert with Midwest Dairy South Dakota shared more about National Nutrition Month® on KSFY Morning News. She also shared some dairy-filled, healthy recipes.

Breakfast: Fruity Overnight Oats

Lunch: Roasted Chicken Ricotta and Apple Pita

Dinner: Baked Potato Cupcakes

For more about National Nutrition Month® food, fitness, and health visit EatRight.org


Coconut Oil – Healthy or Unhealthy?

Coconut oil is a hot topic right now with daily news headlines claiming everything from weight loss to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, making people intrigued but also confused. So is it healthy or unhealthy? Here are some facts about coconut oil.

Where Does Coconut Oil Come From?
There are 3 main types of coconut oil:

  • Virgin or Unrefined – extracted from the fruit of fresh mature coconuts without using high temperatures or chemicals.
  • Refined – made from dried coconut meat that’s often chemically bleached and deodorized.
  • Partially Hydrogenated – further processed and transforms some of the unsaturated fats (the good fats) into trans fats (the bad fat).

Nutritional Properties of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil that you find in your run of the mill supermarket or at the local health food store, no matter the type, is high in saturated fat–ranging between 82-92%! In fact, it’s considered a solid fat. One tablespoon of coconut oil adds up to more than 11 grams of saturated fats. The daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association is 13 grams.

Most common culinary oils including canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, flaxseed, grapeseed, and extra-virgin olive oil contain significantly less saturated fat than coconut oil.

Is it Healthy or Unhealthy?

The truth is that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support the numerous claims about coconut oil’s potential health benefits, but we do know that it’s high in saturated fat and saturated fat raises LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

But what about the belief that not all saturated fat is bad? In recent years, numerous claims likened coconut oil to medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) also known as medium-chain fatty acids. MCTs are a type of saturated fat that has been linked to potential health benefits such as weight loss, appetite control, increased metabolism, anti-inflammatory effects and so on. But here is the key…this research on MCTs cannot be applied to coconut oil because the triglycerides predominant in coconut oil are different in their structure, absorption, and metabolism.

It’s starting to get a little intense now but stay with me!

Coconut oil is classified as lauric oil because the main fatty acid is lauric acid. Lauric acid can be classified as either a medium-chain or long-chain fatty acid. When your body digests and metabolizes lauric acid it behaves more like a long-chain fatty acid, therefore you are not getting the potentially beneficial effects of MCTs.

A professor at Columbia University also conducted research that showed a type of fat in coconut oil can increase metabolism and boost weight loss. That type of fat was MCTs because the oil she used in her study was a special 100% medium-chain coconut oil. Most coconut oils typically have 13-14% percent of this medium-chain triglyceride. So, people would have to eat large quantities to replicate the results. “No one eats 150 grams (10 tablespoons) of coconut oil in a day,” said the professor. Nor should they.

Lower intake of saturated fat coupled with higher intake of unsatured fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is associated with lower rates of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). But don’t replace saturated fat with refined carbohydrates and sugars as this will not lower your risk of CVD.

Bottom Line? Limit your total saturated fat intake in all forms. Eat whole, unprocessed foods such as fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

Sources:  Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association; Saturated fats: Why all the hubbub over coconuts?; & Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans

Tips for Starting Solid Foods

Starting solid foods is an important part of your baby’s development. Use these tips to start solid foods off right — and set your baby on the road to healthy eating for life!

Is your baby ready? Most babies are ready for solids at around 6 months. Look for these signs:

• He can sit up mostly on his own
• He can hold his head up for a long time
• He’s interested in mealtime — for example, he might try to grab food off your plate
• He continues to be hungry between nursing or bottle feeding
• He doesn’t automatically push food out of his mouth with his tongue (young babies have a “tongue-thrust reflex” that fades as they get older)

Why is it important to wait until your baby is ready? Starting solid foods too early makes it more likely that your child will have a hard time staying at a healthy weight.

Keep giving your baby breast milk or formula. It’s important to know that for the first year of life your baby will still get most of her nutrition from breast milk or formula — even after she starts eating solid foods. Choose healthy drinks:

• If you want to give your baby something to drink during meals with solid foods, offer water.
• Sugary drinks (even 100% juice) add unneeded calories and can harm your baby’s teeth.
• Keep cereal out of the bottle (unless otherwise directed by a physician). It adds unneeded calories to your baby’s diet.

Offer simple foods made for babies. Cereals for babies and jarred baby food are both good options. Watch for signs that your baby is done eating. If your baby turns his head away from food or keeps his lips shut, he’s done eating. Don’t force him to eat more — when he starts solids, your baby is developing important eating skills, including understanding and trusting his own hunger and fullness cues.

Get your family and child care providers on board. You know your baby better than anyone — and you can tell when he’s hungry or full. Make sure your baby’s caregivers also know his hunger and fullness cues so they won’t overfeed him.

Give fruits and veggies at every meal — and snack time, too. Babies form their taste patterns by 9 months old. So when your baby starts to feed herself finger foods like cereal and crackers, make sure she keeps eating fruits and veggies.

Introduce a variety of solid foods to avoid picky eating later on. Let your baby try a bunch of different colors, flavors and textures. Babies who eat a variety of foods are less likely to be picky eaters — and they may get more nutrients, too. Stick with it. It can take as many as 10 to 15 tries over several months for a child to get used to a new flavor. Remember, you only need to offer a spoonful or two each time, not a whole bowl. Keep trying — it’s worth it!

It takes time and practice for children to learn to eat solid foods. Your warmth and patience through this process will help set your child up for healthy growth and development.

  • To access the electronic version click HERE.
  • To access the print-friendly version (8.5″ x 11″ handout) click HERE.
  • To access the print-friendly version (14″ x 34″ poster) click HERE.
  • To access the resource on HealthyChildren.org, click HERE.

For more information, visit www.healthychildren.org/growinghealthy. This product was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight. Development of this product was made possible through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Salty Six for Kids

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

A New Look for the Nutrition Label!

Check out this side-by-side comparison of the original label and the NEW label.

New Label - what's different

The new label must be on food packages by July 26, 2018. However, food manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply (July 26, 2019).

So what’s different?

New Label - what's different

The Look:

  • Calories, servings per container, and the serving size will be larger, bolder type to bring attention to this information to help people make informed decisions about the foods they eat.
  • The footnote is changing to better explain what percent Daily Value means. The % Daily Value (%DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
  • Calories from Fat is being removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.

Daily Values:

  • Daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D are being updated based on newer scientific evidence. The %DV helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.

Trans Fat:

  • Trans fat will be reduced but not eliminated from foods, so it will still be on the label. Artificial Trans fat are not generally recognized as safe, but some Trans fat is present naturally in food from certain animals, such as cows and goats.

Added Sugar:

  • The amount of Added Sugars will be included on the label under Total Carbohydrates as a sub-category of Total Sugar. Added sugar is defined as any sugar that is added during processing and includes a pretty big list of ingredients:

-brown sugar
-high fructose corn syrup
-invert sugar
-maltose sugar

  • People who eat diets with few added sugars are at a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • No more than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugar.

Nutrients of Public Health Significance:

  • Vitamin D, potassium, calcium and iron are required to be listed on the label. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required but can be included on a voluntary basis.
  • Manufacturers must declare the actual amount, in addition to %DV of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium. They can voluntarily declare the gram amount for other vitamins and minerals.

Duel Column Labeling:

  • For certain products that are larger than a single serving but that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, manufacturers will have to provide “dual column” labels.  This will show the amount of calories and nutrients “per serving” and “per package”. Examples include a 24 ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream. People will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package at one time.

Serving Size and Package Size:

  • By law, serving sizes must be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating. How much people eat and drink has changed since the previous serving size requirements were published in 1993. For example, a serving of ice cream used to be ½ cup, but is now ⅔ cup. A serving of soda is changing from 8 ounces to 12 ounces.
  • Package size affects what people eat. So for packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.

Serving Size Changes

The new food label is a tool that is easy to use and is helpful in showing the nutrition in the foods we consume.

Sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label; FDA Medical Education Resources; and Federal Register Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels.



2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines are Finally Here

Have you heard? The new Dietary Guidelines have finally been released! What does this mean for you as a health professional? The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus on five main points:

  • follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan
  • focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount
  • limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake
  • shift to healthier food and beverage choices
  • support healthy eating patterns for all

The USDA and HHS recommendations reflect data that shows healthy eating and regular exercise can combat obesity and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. What’s also new is a shift from focusing on eating individual food groups to healthful eating patterns. This includes a first time ever recommendation to reduce intake of added sugar to a specific amount — 10% of total daily calories.

Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce the onset of disease. The Dietary Guidelines can help you, your patients, and their families make informed choices about eating. Its important to find a healthy eating pattern that is adaptable to a person’s taste preferences, traditions, culture, and budget.

10 Tips For a Healthy Eating Pattern 


  1. A variety of vegetables: dark green, red, and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other vegetables
  2. Fruits, especially whole fruit
  3. Grains, at least half of which are whole grain
  4. Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  5. A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
  6. Oils, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower
  7. Oils also are naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados


  1. Added Sugars – Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugars. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include natural sugars found in milk and fruits.
  2. Saturated and Trans Fat – Less than 10% of your daily calories should also come from saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil.
  3. Sodium (salt) – Adults and children ages 14 years and over should limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day, and children younger than 14 years should consume even less. Use the Nutrition Facts label to check for sodium, especially in processed foods like pizza, pasta dishes, sauces, and soups.

Most Americans can benefit from making small shifts in their daily eating habits to improve their health over the long run. Small shifts in food choices—over the course of a week, a day, or even a meal—can make a difference in working toward a healthy eating pattern that works for you.

Remember physical activity! Regular physical activity is one of the most important things individuals can do to improve their health. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days each week. Children ages 6 to 17 years need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, including aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities.

MyPlate, MyWins

Another resource to utilize when speaking with individuals and families is MyPlate. MyPlate aims to translate the science of the Dietary Guidelines into messages, resources, and tools to help people find food and beverage choices that are right for them. Check out the new MyPlate initiative – MyPlate, MyWins – designed to help American families find solutions to make healthy eating easier.

Everyone Has A Role…

Whether you are at home, school, your worksite, in your community, or even at a food retail outlet, how will you encourage easy, accessible, and affordable ways to support healthy choices?

      • HOME:  Try out small changes to find what works for you like adding more veggies to favorite dishes, planning meals and cooking at home, and incorporating physical activity into time with family or friends.
      • SCHOOLS: Improve the selection of healthy food choices in cafeterias and vending machines, provide nutrition education programs and school gardens, increase school-based physical activity, and encourage parents and caregivers to promote healthy changes at home.
      • WORKPLACES:  Encourage walking or activity breaks; offer healthy food options in the cafeteria, vending machines, and at staff meetings or functions; and provide health and wellness programs and nutrition counseling.
      • COMMUNITIES: Increase access to affordable, healthy food choices through community gardens, farmers’ markets, shelters, and food banks and create walkable communities by maintaining safe public spaces.
      • FOOD RETAIL OUTLETS: Inform consumers about making healthy changes and provide healthy food choices.

    Join the conversations and help spread the word by using hashtags #dietaryguildelines and #MyPlateMyWins on social media.

    Source: Health.gov; Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

8 Gameday Nutrition Tips for Young Athletes

If you’re a high school athlete, you’ve probably gone to practice or a game with a rumbling, empty stomach. You might not realize this, but eating right on gameday is your secret weapon for top-notch performance, whatever your sport. While training and skill are important, your body’s fuel matters, too. That’s why you need a nutrition game plan.

Eat a Good Breakfast  

You’ve heard, “It’s the most important meal of the day,” right? Well it’s true! Start the day with a breakfast containing carbs (such as whole-wheat bread or cereal) and a source of protein (such as eggs, yogurt, or milk). Oatmeal made with milk; last night’s dinner leftovers; an egg sandwich; or a smoothie made with fruit, yogurt, and milk are all great breakfast choices.

Don’t Light-Load or Skip Lunch  

Many student athletes compete after school making lunch an essential fuel source for competition. Lunch should be hearty and represent as many food groups as possible, including whole grains, lean protein, fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. You might think opting for a light lunch such as a salad — or even skipping lunch altogether — will leave you light on your feet, but instead, it may leave your tank empty at game time.

Focus on Carbs for Energy

Choose whole-grain bread, crackers, cereal, and pasta for lasting energy. Save the sports drinks for an energy boost during endurance sports or training sessions lasting more than an hour.

Spread out Protein Foods

Muscles love protein. It helps them stay strong, recover from intense exercise, and build more muscle over time. Young athletes should spread protein foods throughout the day, having some at each meal and with most snacks, such as deli meat on a sandwich at lunch or an egg with breakfast.

Use Caution with Fatty Foods

Fatty foods slow digestion, which is not ideal for the athlete facing a competition. Greasy, fried foods and fatty desserts are filling and may leave you tired and sluggish on the courts. Skip the french fries or pizza before competition, and keep the fat content on the light side.

Eat with Food Safety in Mind

Nothing is worse than food poisoning – having stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea after eating. Make sure you store snacks at proper temperatures to prevent spoilage. Keep cheese, yogurt, deli meats, eggs, and salads made with mayonnaise in a refrigerator or cooler. Shelf-stable items such as nuts, granola bars, and fresh fruit can be tossed into your duffel bag without a problem.

Flow with Fluids

Dehydration is a recipe for poor performance. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during the day leading up to a game, especially in the two to three hours before game time. Continue to drink during the game (about a 1/2 cup every 15 minutes) and afterward to rehydrate after sweat loss.

Timing Is Everything

When you eat is just as important as what you eat. Your body needs two to three hours to digest a regular meal such as breakfast or lunch before competition, while a small snack such as a granola bar can be eaten 30 minutes to an hour before competition. Here’s good advice for eating before a competition: load up at meals but don’t overeat, and keep snacks light as you get closer game time.


Source: Originally published on eatright.org by Jill Castle, MS, RDN June 03, 2015

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

Way to go New York City!

New York City is setting an outstanding example by working with food manufacturers and the restaurant industry to lower the salt levels in commonly consumed products!

The NYC Health Department is coordinating an unprecedented public-private partnership to help prevent heart disease and strokes by reducing the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant foods. The National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI) set voluntary targets for salt levels in 62 categories of packaged food and 25 categories of restaurant food to guide food company salt reductions in 2012 and 2014. Some popular products already meet these targets – a clear indication that they are achievable.

The goal is to reduce Americans’ salt intake by 20% over five years. Read more to learn why reducing salt intake is important and how companies are getting involved in this exciting initiative!


Source:  New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene


FDA Announces New Rules for Menu & Vending Machine Nutrition Labeling

November 25, 2014  – Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires certain restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to list calorie content information for standard menu items on restaurant menus and menu boards.

Other nutrient information—total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and total protein—would have to be made available in writing upon request.

In addition, menus and menu boards are required to include a statement about the availability of such additional nutrient information along with a succinct statement about suggested daily caloric intake. The Act also requires vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie content for certain items.

More than two thirds of adults and about a third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. Overconsumption of calories is one of the primary risk factors for overweight and obesity. About half of consumers’ annual food dollars are spent on, and a third of total calories come from, foods prepared outside the home, including foods from restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Many people do not know, or underestimate, the calorie and nutrient content of these foods. To help make nutrition information for these foods available to consumers in a direct, accessible, and consistent manner to enable consumers to make informed and healthful dietary choices, section 4205 of the ACA requires that calorie and other nutrition information be provided to consumers in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items (chain retail food establishment). Section 4205 of the ACA also provides that a restaurant or similar retail food establishment that is not a chain retail food establishment may elect to be subject to section 4205’s nutrition labeling requirements by registering every other year with FDA.

Read more on FederalRegister.gov

Teens Eat Too Much Salt, Raising Obesity Risk

Researchers found that kids consume at least twice the recommended daily amounts.

American teens are taking in as much dietary salt as adults, far exceeding guidelines on healthy limits for daily consumption, new research warns. The investigation tracked the week-long eating habits of more than 760 black and white high school kids. It found that, on average, teens now ingest a whopping 3,280 milligrams (mg) of sodium (salt) every day.

That amounts to more than double the uppermost recommended level of 1,500 mg of sodium per day set forth by the American Heart Association. And the upshot, researchers say, is a higher risk for adolescent obesity, given the further finding of an apparent direct link between high levels of salt intake and an increased risk for packing on the pounds.

“Even after accounting for many other risk factors that could contribute to weight, we still found that higher dietary sodium among adolescents was independently associated with a higher risk for obesity,” said study lead author Dr. Haidong Zhu.

Zhu, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Regents University, and her colleagues reported their findings online Feb. 3, 2014 in the journal Pediatrics.

To examine salt intake among American teens, the researchers focused on healthy teens between the ages of 14 and 18, all of whom were attending local public high schools in the Augusta area. The teens were nearly evenly split across race (black and white) and gender. Up to seven times over the course of a single week, each student was repeatedly asked to recount what they ate the previous day, with particular attention paid to the amount of sugar-sweetened sodas drank and calories consumed.

Students also had their height and weight measured to calculate their body-mass index (BMI), and had X-rays and MRIs to assess body-fat percentages and fatty-tissue dispersal. Their waist circumference was also measured, and fasting blood samples were taken to look for signs of obesity-related inflammation.

The result: 97 percent of the teens were found to be consuming levels of salt exceeding the AHA’s daily recommendations, with white teens taking in slightly more per day than black teens (about 3,350 mg versus 3,200 mg, on average). What’s more, the team found a direct association between ingesting high levels of salt and the risk for being overweight or obese, having a larger waist and having higher body fat and fat mass. Concentration levels of leptin, a key hormone involved in the regulation of hunger and metabolism, were also found to rise as salt intake increased.

The finding of a direct — as opposed to indirect — link between salt intake and obesity risk is somewhat of a twist, the researchers suggested. Many previous studies have highlighted an indirect association between salt intake and obesity. Such research reflected the fact that salt typically spurs a desire to drink more sugary soda and eat more calorie-laden food.

The new study, however, found that teens who took in high amounts of salt every day were more likely to be obese regardless of their particular drinking and eating habits. Why this is the case remains unclear, the investigators said. And Zhu stressed that more research is needed.

“We didn’t look at the mechanism behind this,” she said. “Animal research does suggest that salt does directly increase obesity risk. But for now we cannot prove any causality.” Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern, in Dallas, made a similar point. “With this type of study,” she said, “it is always important to point out that it is a correlation relationship, not showing a cause and effect.”

But Sandon nonetheless said the findings were “interesting” and suggested they be viewed as a kind of wake-up call. “Parents should be concerned about the quality of the diet their children are eating,” she said. “A poor-quality diet during childhood and adolescence leads to poor-quality health in adulthood.”

Her advice? “The best thing parents can do is to start by setting a good example by making healthier low-sodium food choices themselves,” she said. “Then make an effort to provide low-sodium foods, meaning mostly fresh and minimally processed foods available for the whole family at home. Limit the amount of food prepared away from home and get back in the kitchen.”

Source: Health Day News; U.S. Teens Eat Too Much Salt, Hiking Obesity Risk: Study by Alan Mozes

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; High-Protein diet slideshow

Important Nutrients to Know: Water

It’s important for your body to have plenty of fluids each day. Water helps you digest food, absorb nutrients from food, and then get rid of the unused waste. Water is found in foods—both solids and liquids, as well as in its natural state.

What To Drink As You Get Older
Learn about why it’s important for older adults to drink plenty of liquids, including water, and how to make healthy choices.


“But I don’t feel thirsty”

With age, you might lose some of your sense of thirst. To further complicate matters, some medicines might make it even more important for you to have plenty of fluids.

Take sips from a glass of water, milk, or juice between bites during meals. But don’t wait for mealtime—try to add liquids throughout the day. For example, have a cup of low-fat soup as an afternoon snack.

Drink a full glass of water if you need to take a pill. Have a glass of water before you exercise or go outside to garden or walk, especially on a hot day.

Remember, water is a good way to add fluids to your daily routine without adding calories.

Source: National Institute on Aging; Water

What Are Chia Seeds?

When you hear “chia” your first thought may be of the green fur or hair of Chia Pets, collectible clay figurines. But did you know that chia seeds can also be a healthful addition to your diet?

Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Salvia hispanicaseed is often sold under its common name “chia” as well as several trademarked names. Its origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. The seeds of a related plant, Salvia columbariae (golden chia), were used primarily by Native Americans in the southwestern United States.

Chia seeds have recently gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. They are also an excellent source of fiber at 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), and contain protein and minerals including as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthy diet may help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. However, there are not many published studies on the health benefits of consuming chia seeds and much of the available information is based on animal studies or human studies with a small number of research participants.

How to Eat Chia Seeds
Chia seeds can be eaten raw or prepared in a number of dishes. Sprinkle ground or whole chia seeds on cereal, rice, yogurt or vegetables. In Mexico, a dish called chia fresco is made by soaking chia seeds in fruit juice or water. Chia seeds are very absorbent and develop a gelatinous texture when soaked in water making it easy to mix them into cooked cereal or other dishes.

The seeds are not the only important part of the chia plant; the sprouts are also edible. Try adding them to salads, sandwiches and other dishes.

Source: EatRight.org; What Are Chia Seeds?

Important Nutrients to Know: Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins help your body grow and work the way it should. There are 13 vitamins—vitamins C, A, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate).

Vitamins have different jobs–helping you resist infections, keeping your nerves healthy, and helping your body get energy from food or your blood to clot properly. By following the Dietary Guidelines, you will get enough of most of these vitamins from food.

Vitamins and minerals are measured in a variety of ways. The most common are:

  • mg – milligram
  • mcg – microgram
  • IU – international unit

Your doctor might suggest that, like some older adults, you need extra of a few vitamins, as well as the mineral calcium. It is usually better to get the nutrients you need from food, rather than a pill. That’s because nutrient-dense foods contain other things that are good for you like fiber. Look for foods fortified with certain vitamins and minerals, like some B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D. That means those nutrients are added to the foods to help you meet your needs.

HERE’S A TIP: Most older people don’t need a complete multivitamin supplement. But if you don’t think you are making the best food choices, look for a supplement sold as a complete vitamin and mineral supplement. It should be well balanced and contain 100% of most recommended vitamins and minerals. Read the label to make sure the dose is not too large. Avoid supplements with mega-doses. Too much of some vitamins and minerals can be harmful, and you might be paying for supplements you don’t need.

Minerals also help your body function. Some minerals, like iodine and fluoride, are only needed in very small quantities. Others, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, are needed in larger amounts. As with vitamins, if you eat a varied diet, you will probably get enough of most minerals.

Vitamin and mineral supplements for people over age 50

  • Vitamin D: If you are age 50–70, you need at least 600 IU, but not more than 4,000 IU. If you are age 70 and older, you need at least 800 IU, but not more than 4,000 IU. You can get vitamin D from fatty fish, fish liver oils, fortified milk and milk products, and fortified cereals.
  • Vitamin B6: Men need 1.7 mg every day. Women need 1.5 mg every day. You can get vitamin B6 from fortified cereals, whole grains, organ meats like liver, and fortified soy-based meat substitutes.
  • Vitamin B12: You need 2.4 mcg every day. Some people over age 50 have trouble absorbing the vitamin B12 found naturally in foods, so make sure you get enough of the supplement form of this vitamin, such as from fortified foods. You can get vitamin B12 from fortified cereals, meat, fish, poultry, and milk.
  • Folate: You need 400 mcg each day. Folic acid is the form used to fortify grain products or added to dietary supplements. You can get folate from dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach, beans and peas, fruit like oranges and orange juice, and folic acid from fortified flour and fortified cereals.

Calcium is a mineral that is important for strong bones and teeth, so there are special recommendations for older people who are at risk for bone loss. You can get calcium from milk and milk products (remember to choose fat-free or low-fat whenever possible), some forms of tofu, dark-green leafy vegetables (like collard greens and kale), soybeans, canned sardines and salmon with bones, and calcium-fortified foods.

There are several types of calcium supplements. Calcium citrate and calcium carbonate tend to be the least expensive.

Calcium for people over 50

  • Women age 51 and older: 1,200 mg each day
  • Men age 51 to 70: 1,000 mg each day
  • Men age 71 and older: 1,200 mg each day
  • Women and men age 51 and older: Don’t take more than 2,000 mg of calcium in a day.

Sodium is another mineral. In most Americans’ diets, sodium primarily comes from salt (sodium chloride), though it is naturally found in some foods. Sodium is also added to others during processing, often in the form of salt. We all need some sodium, but too much over time can contribute to raising your blood pressure or put you at risk for heart disease, stroke, or kidney disease.

How much sodium is okay? People 51 and older should reduce their sodium to 1,500 mg each day—that includes sodium added during manufacturing or cooking as well as at the table when eating. That is about 2/3 teaspoon of salt.

Preparing your own meals at home without using a lot of processed foods or adding salt will allow you to control how much sodium you get. Look for grocery products marked “low sodium,” “unsalted,” “no salt added,” “sodium free,” or “salt free.”

To limit sodium to 1,500 mg daily, try using less salt when cooking, and don’t add salt before you take the first bite. If you make this change slowly, you will get used to the difference in taste. Eating more vegetables and fruit also helps—they are naturally low in sodium and provide more potassium.

HERE’S A TIP: In the case of sodium, don’t be confused by the Nutrition Facts label. It uses the recommended level for people 50 and younger, 2,400 mg. Just check the actual milligrams of sodium on the label and keep to the amount recommended for people 51 and older—1,500 mg.

Source: National Institute on Aging; Vitamins and Minerals

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

10 Tips to Help You Eat and Drink More Dairy Foods

The Dairy Group includes milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soymilk. They provide calcium, vitamin D, potassium, protein, and other nutrients needed for good health throughout life. Choices should be lowfat or fat-free—to cut calories and saturated fat. How much is needed? Older children, teens, and adults need 3 cups* a day, while children 4 to 8 years old need 2ó cups, and children 2 to 3 years old need 2 cups.

Download the PDF for the 10 tips.

Source: ChooseMyPlate.gov

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

Food frauds that can wreck your diet

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 yoghurt, 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 fibre 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 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 flavour 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 fibre 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 labelled ‘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 yoghurt, 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 that 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, chick peas 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.

Source: WebMD; Slideshow: Food frauds that can wreck your diet

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

Figuring Out Fat & Calories

Figuring Out Fat & Calories

From all you hear, you’d think fat and calories are really bad for you. It’s true that many people are eating more fat and calories than they need. But we all require a certain amount of fat and calories in our diets to fuel our growth and activities — everything from solving a math problem to racing up and down the soccer field. So what’s the truth on fat and calories?

What Are Fat and Calories?

Fats, or lipids, are nutrients in food that the body uses to build cell membranes, nerve tissue (like the brain), and hormones. The body also uses fat as fuel. If fats that a person has eaten aren’t burned as energy or used as building blocks, they are stored by the body in fat cells. This is the body’s way of thinking ahead: By saving fat for future use, it plans for times when food might be scarce. A calorie is a unit of energy that measures how much energy food provides to the body. The body needs calories to function properly. Read more… Source: TeensHealth.org; Figuring Out Fat & Calories

Serve Kids Power Foods

If you want your kids to play hard, power them with the right foods. Ideas for power meals and snacks:

  • Start with a breakfast of whole-grain cereal or whole-grain muffins and fruit. Or begin the day with a yogurt and fruit parfait, with whole grain cereal.
  • Pack a breakfast of a bagel, fruit, string cheese, yogurt, juice box and low-fat milk.
  • Pack a snack bag that includes 1-2 of the following: crackers with cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sliced  fruits and veggies with peanut butter, Greek yogurt dip, fruit, or trail mix. Use a frozen juice or water bottle to keep perishables cold.
  • Offer plenty of water to keep your child hydrated.

Source: Health Day; Health Tip: Serve Kids Power Foods