Summer is here. Kids are home. Vacations are planned. Road trips are on the schedule. Life is just about to get crazy busy. With schedules disrupted, it’s easy to let nutrition fly out the window. But there is no need to cut corners on your family’s health when there are so many great and nutritious snacks available at the local supermarket.
Studies show that we are snacking, but mostly on junk…which accounts for up to 27% of our calorie intake and mostly from fat, sugar, and refined grains. That type of snacking will lead to weight gain, poor diet, or both.
The number one rule for healthy snacking is – keep it simple. A nutritious snack must be convenient, i.e., it must be readily available, take little time to prepare, and taste great.
Consider snacks as part of your total diet. For example, you need at least 5, and preferably 9, servings of colorful fruits and vegetables and at least 3 servings of whole grain breads and cereals each day. Snacks are a perfect way to meet this quota.
Include at least two of the following grouping at any one snack and make one choice either fruits and vegetables or whole grains.
1) colorful fresh fruits and vegetables
2) whole grains
3) nuts and seeds
4) nonfat milk products such as yogurt or cheese
5) cooked dried beans and peas
Minimally processed foods should outnumber highly processed snack items. Most commercial cookies, chips, and candy are high in fat, salt, or sugar. Even some of the new low-fat or high-fiber products, such as oven-baked potato chips or chewy fruit roll-ups, don’t compare nutritionally to their more wholesome counterparts, such as a baked potato or an orange.
Listen to your body and snack only when you’re hungry.
There are many choices when it comes to easy, no-fuss snacks. Here are a few options:
1. KIND whole nut and fruit bars are made from all natural ingredients you can see and pronounce. KIND is free from artificial preservatives and over-processed fillers. While I’m not typically an advocate of energy bars, KIND bars are a whole new deal. They deliver an ideal combination of protein, carbs and heart healthy fats that keep you feeling fuller longer.
2. A clamshell of berries. It doesn’t get any easier, or any sweeter than this. You guarantee at least two servings of antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral-rich fruit and who doesn’t like fresh berries?! Tumble that clamshell over a carton of low-fat yogurt for the perfect quick-fix snack.
3. Peanut butter and baby carrots or bananas. A study from Baylor University in Houston found that if you pare a favorite food, such as peanut butter, with fruits and vegetables, kids will eat more produce. So, toss out the Ranch dressing and offer baby carrots or apple slices or bananas dunked in peanut butter.
4. Air-popped popcorn tossed with dried tart cherries and peanuts. Popcorn is a whole grain, the peanuts provide protein to fill you up, and dried fruit adds a touch of sweetness without sugar.
5. Add a little omega-3s to your diet. A glass of Horizon DHA milk and an apple combines the magic three ingredients for weight loss: protein, liquid, and fiber. It also adds that brain boosting omega-3 DHA.
- 6. Wrap it up snacks: You can toss anything into a tortilla for a healthy snack. Blend almond butter, wheat germ, and a dash of honey. Spread on a tortilla. Add sliced banana and roll it up for a healthy snack that takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and will keep in the fridge for 24 hours. Photo credit: torbakhopper via Compfight. Photo credit: Personal Creatiions via Compfight
Just Do This Today
1. Drink 8 glasses of water, evenly divided throughout the day.
2. Include at least one big serving of a dark green leafy, like spinach, to make sure you get enough lutein, the phytonutrient that protects eyes from UV light associated with vision loss.
3. Move for at least 30 minutes today, even if it means dividing that movement into 5- or 10-minute walks.
Hot Off the Diet Press
1. Low D, High Diabetes: People with low blood levels of vitamin D are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, even if they aren’t overweight, according to researchers at the University of Malaga in Spain. Vitamin D levels and body mass index (BMI) were assessed in almost 150 people, who also were tested for diabetes, prediabetes, or other blood sugar metabolic disorders. Obese people who didn’t have diabetes or related disorders had higher vitamin D levels than those with diabetes. Lean people with diabetes or related disorders were more likely to have low vitamin D levels than those without such disorders. It is unclear whether vitamin D played a role in causing diabetes or was merely associated with the disease. The researchers conclude that, “…vitamin D is associated more closely with glucose metabolism than is obesity.”
Clemente-Postigo M, Munoz-Garach A, Serrano M, et al: Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and adipose tissue vitamin D receptor gene expression. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2015; February 23rd.
2. Pesticides and Men’s Fertility: Fruits and vegetables laced with pesticides might lower sperm counts and percentages of normally-formed sperm, according to a study from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Researchers analyzed 338 semen samples from 155 men attending a fertility center between 2007 and 2012. The men were between the ages of 18- and 55-years-old, had not had vasectomies, and were part of a couple planning to use their own eggs and sperm for fertility treatment. Diets were assessed and fruit and vegetable intakes were categorized as being high, moderate, or low in pesticide residues based on data from the USDA. The men were divided into four groups, ranging from those who ate the greatest amount of fruit and vegetables high in pesticides residues (1.5 servings or more a day) to those who ate the least amount (less than half a serving a day). Results showed that men who ate the highest amount of fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue had 49% lower sperm count and 32% lower percentage of normally-formed sperm compared with men who consumed the least amount. The researchers conclude that, “…exposure to pesticides used in agricultural production through diet may be sufficient to affect spermatogenesis in humans.” (USDA considers high-pesticide residue produce to be peppers, spinach, strawberries, apples, and pears. Low pesticide residues are found in peas, beans, grapefruit, and onions. )
Chiu Y, Chavarro J, et al: Fruit and vegetable intake and their pesticide residues in relation to semen quality among men from a fertility clinic. Human Reproduction 2015; March 30th.
3. Milk Is Good for the Brain: Milk might be just what the neurologist ordered for healthy brain function, according to a study from the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dietary intakes were assessed in a group of 60 healthy adults with an average age of 68.7 years prior to brain scans used to monitor glutathione levels. Results showed that people who reported having recently drunk milk had higher levels of glutathione in their brains, an antioxidant that protects against oxidative stress associated with compromised brain function, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and more. The closer participants came to three glasses of milk a day the higher their glutathione levels. The researchers speculate that milk products might “…serve as a good source of substrates for glutathione synthesis in the human brain.”
Choi I, Lee P, Denney D, et al: Dairy intake is associated with brain glutathione concentration in older adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015;101:287-293. Photo credit: Yannic Meyer via Compfight
Food & Mood Tip –
Engaging Your Brain
Do you have a weakness for any one food? Do you pride yourself in eating moderately most of the time, yet seem to have no limit when served pot roast, fried chicken, mom’s spaghetti, or some other favorite food? Do you eat just one potato chip, or do you eat the whole bag after the first taste? For me it is pizza. I can’t seem to find my limit and, if left unchecked, could probably eat an entire extra-large at one sitting.
Almost everyone faces an out-of-control appetite once in a while. (So, my pizza problem isn’t that far- fetched!) But, why do our appetites run amok? Why can we eat an entire pan of brownies, but balk at a small serving of chicken breast or spinach?
No one really knows exactly what triggers our appetites and causes some people to eat beyond basic hunger needs. A bunch of theories and a few facts have identified some of the puzzle pieces; yet the underlying reasons why we overeat remain elusive and probably are a complex combination of factors.
If the only reason we ate was because our stomachs were growling, then meals would serve only to sooth physiological hunger and we would always refuse the second helping. Yet many of us often eat more than we need, whether we’re hungry or not, and typically all the wrong stuff. In fact, overeating has become a national pastime. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s studies on Americans’ eating habits, we now eat 300 calories more each day than we did a few decades ago. Combine gluttony with sloth and, voila – you have the current obesity epidemic.
Appetite is more than just hunger. Our appetite clocks are tickled by a wide array of brain chemicals, emotions, and social cues, as well as the sheer pleasure of eating, all of which I discuss in my book, Eat Your Way to Happiness. Confusion about what, when, and how much to eat is another contributor to out-of-control appetites. Our fondness for food also is a bit quirky: We favor foods our parents ate, and we eat less when watching ourselves eat, but more when we think a food is low in calories or fat, regardless of its actual content. The forces dictating our insatiable appetites seem endless. The solution? We must engage our higher brain center, our cortex, to consciously make food choices. Otherwise, our lower, or animal, brain center will dictate that we eat too much of all the wrong stuff!
Mood-Boosting Recipe of the month –
Stir-Fried Chicken Mu-Shu (from The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)
Searching for that Mu-Shu recipe that tastes just like the one from your favorite Chinese restaurant? Here it is! Skip the chicken and add tofu to make it vegetarian Mu-Shu.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (boiled and shredded). Set aside covered.
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 medium sweet yellow onion, peeled, thinly sliced and chopped
1/4 pound fresh Shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 /2 cup chicken broth
1 16-ounce package coleslaw ready mix
1 tablespoon cooking sherry
3 tablespoons of Asian plum sauce or Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced
8 6-inch flour tortillas, warmed
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1) Heat sesame oil in a large non-stick wok or frying pan. When pan is hot, add onion and Shiitake mushrooms. Cook until onion is tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add a little chicken broth if necessary to prevent from burning.
2) Add 4 cups coleslaw mix, add remaining chicken broth and stir-fry approximately 2 minutes until coleslaw is wilted, but crisp. Do not overcook.
3) Mix together in a small bowl the sherry, plum or Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and cornstarch until smooth. Add to vegetables in pan along with shredded chicken. Stir until sauce is thickened, approximately 1 minute.
4) Transfer to a large platter. Sprinkle with green onion.
5) Wrap tortillas in damp towel and warm in microwave for 1 minute.
6) To serve, spread each warmed tortilla with warmed plum or Hoisin sauce. Add chicken Mu-Shu, sprinkle with cilantro, and roll up. Makes 8 servings.
Nutritional Analysis per serving: 260 Calories; 21 percent fat (6 grams); 1 gram saturated fat; 36 percent protein; 43 percent carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber
Answers to “Do you know?” from last issue:
1. Is it true that you don’t need to supplement if you eat healthfully?
Yes and no. Most nutrients could be met in optimal amounts if a person ate perfectly the majority of days. That means every day: eight or more colorful fruits and vegetables, five or more 100% whole grains, three low- or nonfat milk products, and two to three protein-rich foods, along with at least two servings a week of a fatty fish. The reality is, no one eats that well. Not even close. In addition, some nutrients like vitamin D are next to impossible to get from diet alone. On the days you don’t eat perfectly, it’s safe, inexpensive, and a worthwhile insurance policy to take a moderate-dose, broad-range multiple, extra calcium and magnesium, and an omega-3 DHA supplement.
2. It doesn’t matter which fruits and vegetables you eat, and in fact, you can choose the same two or three every day as long as you meet your quota of 8 servings a day. True or false.
Not really. Granted, since the majority of Americans do so poorly on getting even close to optimal when it comes to fruits and vegetables, that one can’t be too picky about what they choose when they actually do visit the Produce Department. However, ideally, the best choice is to get a variety of different colorful vegetables and fruits to maximize intake of the almost one million phytonutrients that are scattered in different amounts in different plants. In short, there are no super foods, only super diets.
Do You Know?
1. Is cutting back on sodium only important for someone who has high blood pressure?
2. Does drinking a glass of water before a meal help curb appetite, so you eat less?
Check next week for the answers….
Label Lingo –
Zero Trans Fats
To satisfy the FDA and be allowed to make this claim, a food product must contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per servings. To meet these criteria, many companies make the serving size very small. But if you eat more than that serving size, which is true more often than not, you could be consuming many times more than the suggested serving amount. The best way to spot a food that has trans fat is to look at the ingredient list. If you see “hydrogenated oil,” “partially hydrogenated oil,” or “shortening” in that list, the food has trans fat and should be avoided.
Food Finds/Food Fails:
1. Francesco Rinaldi Traditional (no salt added) Pasta Sauce: It’s tasty. It counts as a serving of vegetable. It is easily enhanced with extra vegetables diced up at home. And, it’s low in sodium.
2. Fresh Kiwi: It’s difficult to beat this fruit. High in nutrients like vitamin C, fat and cholesterol free, and low in calories, it’s easy to carry (just bring a spoon to scoop out the delicious fruit). It’s also great added to smoothies, salads, as a topping to yogurt or pancakes, or even added sliced to a sandwich.
1. Garden Lites Chocolate Muffins (made with fresh zucchini & carrots): Could this really be a have-your-chocolate-muffin-and-eat-it-too opportunity? As always, when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The flour blend is mostly corn and potato starches, which are devoid of nutrients. Each dinky muffin (more the size of a cookie than a muffin) has almost three teaspoons of sugar and you also get a hefty dose of sodium. Ignore the “gluten free,” “dairy free,” and 5 grams of fiber boasting on the front of the package. Oh, and did I mention that they don’t taste that good either!
2. Minute Maid Premium Fruit Punch Juice Blend. You probably already know that anything with the word “punch” in it is just sugar water. And, that’s exactly what this product is. There is absolutely no redeeming nutritional quality to this blend of liquid and sugar. Save your money, your teeth, and your waistline and drink water!
The Daily Menu
Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.
In a blender combine: 1/3 cup apricots, canned in light syrup; 3 Tbsp. Orange juice concentrate; 1/4 cup fresh or canned pineapple; 2 Tbsp. Wheat germ; 2/3 cup nonfat milk; and ice (optional)
6 ounces nonfat, plain yogurt
Fast-Food Restaurant Lunch:
Grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato, no mayonnaise (mustard optional)
Tossed salad, 1 ½ cup
Low-calorie dressing, 1 Tbsp.
Diet cola, 10 ounce or water
1 /2 whole wheat bagel topped with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter and served with ½ cup orange juice
2 servings Stir-Fried Chicken Mu-Shu
Tossed salad: 2 cups mixed greens (buy the bagged, pre-cut mix); 1 /2 pear, cut into cubes; 2 Tbsp. thinly sliced red onion; and 2 Tbsp. Vinaigrette dressing
1 cup nonfat milk
Nutritional information: 1,638 calories, 24% fat (44 grams), 52% carbohydrates, 24% protein
What’s Elizabeth Been Up To?
May 21, 2015: AMNorthWest, KATU, Channel 2 in Portland, Oregon
May, 2015: Blogher Webinar on Vitamins, Minerals, and Diet
June 29, 2015: AMNorthWest, KATU Channel 2 in Portland, OR. Topic: New News on Old Superfoods