Main Nutritious Intent Website

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Trim the Fat from Your Food Budget

1.  Watch your beverages (aka drink water).  Some studies report that the regular coffee-drinking American spends almost as much on coffee as they do commuting costs.  (And you thought it was pricey to gas up!)  The average American household spends $850/year on soft drinks.  (That’s two days at Disneyland for a family of 4!)

2. Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. The average American loses $529 per person per year on wasted food. Take stock of what you have and build your menu and shopping list accordingly.  The puddle in your produce drawer that used to be a cucumber is money down the drain.

3. Eat out less. This past spring, for the first time ever, restaurant spending surpassed grocery store spending.  Wow.  On average, half of our food dollars are spent eating out – some research indicates that on average, 1 out of every 4 meals and snacks is eaten out.  Time and money motivate us so take a minute and crunch your own numbers.  Keeping track for 1-2 weeks of your eating-out lunches, drive-thru stops, coffee-shop snack times etc. will no doubt be more illuminating and motivating than anything else. 

4. Skip the snack-food. Some protest that they can’t afford to eat lots of produce.  Give me a few minutes in your kitchen and pantry and I’ll show you how to afford it.  First, dump the junk food.  Chips, soft drinks, candies, prepackaged breakfast pastries, fruit snacks etc. all add significantly to your grocery bill.  Instead, fill your cart and your belly with healthier alternatives to trim the fat from your budget and your waistline.  (Example: 20 cents per fruit snack vs. 20 cents per apple – which is more filling and tides you over until lunch or dinner)

5. Cut the convenience costs: fruit and veggie trays from store vs. homemade. You pay 2-3 times more for a pre-made tray.  Take 10-15 minutes and put together your own.
The Rule:
Homemade is cheaper than store bought. (Single servings especially!)
Popcorn: Microwave costs 4-5 times more than air popped
Make and freeze extra single servings for homemade convenience lunches or dinners.  Spaghetti, lasagna, casseroles, enchiladas, chili, stews, breakfast burritos, French toast, etc.  If it was delicious the first time around and freezes well, you’ll love the leftovers. 

A few exceptions - some things are more expensive homemade:
  • Bread (especially from a bakery outlet is cheaper than homemade)
  • Cake from scratch is almost 4 times the price of a cake mix.
  • Granola is about equal.

Sometimes the cheapest foods are the healthiest.  Here are some great foods for less than 25 cents/serving:
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Whole Grains
  • Brown Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Whole Wheat Bread
  • Beans
  • Frozen Vegetables
  • Produce
  • Potato
  • Apple
  • 2 Clementines
  • Banana

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Eat the Best, Leave the Rest: Holiday (& Everyday) Health Strategies

Holidays make most people tremble in fear of stepping on the scale.  While you may hear scary statistics of 10 pound weight gain from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the more accurate picture of the average holiday weight gain is 4 pounds from Halloween to New Years.

Here are 4 simple tips to keep your weight, health and overall happiness on track during the holiday season.  

1. Notice the title of this post is "EAT the best".  That means save your calories for chewing satisfying food by drinking water.  Make water your beverage of choice, at work, at home and when going out. There is no substitute for water! 

Let's revisit the title of "Eat the BEST".  Make what goes in your mouth count.  With huge quantities of cookies, candies, brownies, nibbles and any all other edible creations flooding your doorstep, your break room at work and often your own pantry, this is the time to be picky - very, very picky.  
2. Think of this: you work 9 to 5, make 5 to 9 work for you.  I'm talking produce here.  5-9 servings of delicious, nourishing, and visually gorgeous fruits and veggies.  That tops the list of best foods and should be a priority whether eating out or at home.

3. Love it or leave it.  If you don't love it that food, don't waste calories on it. This requires you to be a more mindful eater since if you aren't thoroughly enjoying that store-bought cookie, cease-and-desist, stop, drop and walk away.  For example, I dip chocolates to enjoy and share during the holiday season, and as a result, there is no reason for me to graze around on inferior sugar sources when I know that one bittersweet-dipped caramel will do the trick and leave me more satisfied.  Enjoy the traditional foods that you really look forward to, but don't bother with all the rest of the mediocre.  

4. Lastly, let's discuss the final phrase "Leave the Rest".  In this particular case, it has nothing to do with food.  Rather, I'm using the term "leave" to mean leave off, give up the "rest" - as in GET OFF THE COUCH!  Ahem.  Holidays, particularly in winter climes tend to keep us cooped up indoors on soft comfy couches where we could soon start to resemble their overstuffed shape if we don't leave that rest and get off your backside.  Whether it means donning snow boots and making snow angels, walking the dog, or even challenging your niece to a fierce battle of Just Dance, get up, move and leave the rest for bedtime.  

With these few simple tips - water, produce, pickiness and physical activity, you should be set to sail through the holidays healthier, happier and just a slim (if not slimmer) than you started.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Say No Thanks to Hype and Give the Gift of Real Health

What can you give the person that has everything? Try giving the gift of health. Whether it is for yourself or a loved one, solid, lasting, sensible nutrition and health guidance has no substitute. After all, it won't be long before January hits and gym parking lots will be filling up, and crazy diets will start multiplying like rabbits.  

With 1 in 4 Americans dieting, and the average dieter trying 4 diets per year, chances are you or someone you love will be tempted to follow the siren-song of quick weight-loss.  The rational voice of your brain knows you should steer clear - that it never works.  But the emotional voice of your brain is tempted by the touted, amazing results.  Which voice will you ultimately listen to?  

Skip all the hype, the contrived-diet-deprivation, and the burnout of intense, temporary weight-loss.  Keep in mind that the faster weight comes off, the more likely it is to come back on (usually bringing an extra pound or two with it).  Resolve to meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD or RDN) and incorporate the realistic, sensible, sustainable changes that will result in life-long health. 
Save $10 on gift certificates for nutrition consultation now through Jan. 31st

Next Best Thing: Savoring Summer (and other) Flavors Year Round

As temperatures dip, and snow flurries inch there way into your landscape, there's no need to say goodbye to the vibrant flavors of summer.  Here's a few ways to enjoy savor freshness year-round:

Wintertime pesto caprese pita sandwich
  1. Take advantage of seasonal produce.  Every season has it's in-season bounty and be sure to load up on the freshest flavors of each seas. From pumpkin, apples and squash in fall, to the citrus, root veggies and pomegranates of winter, to asparagus, peas and strawberries of spring, to corn, tomatoes and peaches of summer, embrace the tastes of each season.  
  2. Think beyond fresh.  Canned  produce is an excellent source of nutrient-rich produce.  Choose low or sodium free versions of canned vegetables and remember that by simply rinsing your canned veggies and beans, you reduce the sodium by 40%.  When it comes to canned fruits, opt for those canned in "100% natural fruit juice" or water.  
  3. Frozen produce is the next closest thing to fresh produce. Often we get in ruts with frozen produce and toss it all in a blender for a smoothie, or heat up a bowl of peas in the microwave for dinner.  Why not try a taste of spring by using your frozen peas in a fun recipe like Sweet Pea Crostini (and trust me, the homemade ricotta beats store bought all to pieces!). 
  4. Jazz up winter produce with flavorful sauces.  It's no secret that I'm a die-hard caprese fan.  Nothing tastier in this world than fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.  But by Thanksgiving, I'm all out of homegrown tomatoes for another 7 months or so.  Instead, I toss together a quick caprese pita sandwich for lunch to give me my fix.  To compensate for the less-than-flavorful winter tomatoes, I spread a layer of fresh basil pesto on and Yum! The sauce helps make up for my lack of garden-grown tomatoes. 
  5. Preserve as much of your own produce possible.  During the last few months of summer and   early fall, I try to fill my shelves and freezer with as much of mother nature's bounty as I can. From making freezer jam, to canning grape juice, salsa and peaches to cutting the kernels off the leftover cob of corn that no-one ate at dinner, I ensure a flavorful year-round cooking experience.  I even watch the forecast and right before it freezes, I harvest my herbs and  nasturtium leaves and freeze small batches of pesto.

Homemade Pesto: a non-recipe

In a food processor or blender, add: 
  • A large handful of herbs (basil is my favorite, but I love the pepperiness of cress or nasturtiums, parsley works better for milder palate), 
  • drizzle in a small "glug" of olive oil, 
  • A tablespoon or more of fresh minced garlic, 
  • A small handful of nuts (pine nuts are the traditional and my favorite, but walnuts and pretty much any nut would work), 
  • And salt and pepper to taste.  
When you blend it together, and adjust the ingredients to your taste and more or less olive oil until you have your desired texture.  Enjoy on sandwiches, in salad dressings, sauces of all kinds, and as the world's easiest pasta-topper.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Eating for Immunity

It’s that time of year when we feel like we are surrounded by sickness – ourselves, our coworkers, friends or family members all seem to be no more than  2 weeks removed from  the cold or flu.  So how can we keep our immunity strong amid the flurry of bacteria and viruses that surround us?

  • The nutrient that is most famous for fending off illness has to be Vitamin C.  And while vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help improve our nutrition-immune response, it’s not the only player in the game. 

  • All those lovely orange-yellow fruits and veggies provide beta-carotene which your body then converts into the active form of Vitamin A.  It is also a strong antioxidant and is healthiest coming from foods.  Large doses of Vitamin A from supplement-sources can be harmful and build up in your body, so aim to up your fruit and veggie intake to optimize your antioxidant nutrition.

  • There are two minerals that stand out when it comes to fighting illness.  Zinc is the most well-know immune-boosting mineral.  Again, food sources are safest – some evidence suggests that too much zinc (more than 75 mg/day) can actually inhibit the immune response, so stick with wholesome food sources such as beef, beans, and fortified cereals.

  • Selenium is a lesser-known but very powerful immune-boosting mineral.  It is found in fish, whole gains, sunflower seeds and my favorite – garlic! 

  • Get enough sleep.  This may be the toughest recommendation out there, but there is no substitute for it.  If you are feeling drowsy during the day, you’re probably not getting enough sleep (you can’t blame it on your boring work routine).
  • Stay hydrated.  The question of how much water we need isn’t as simple as a one-size fit’s all equation.  No two people have the same hydration needs and those needs will vary from day to day depending on activity level, temperature, and presence of illness or stress.  The best indicator is frequency and color of urine.  6-7 times per day, and very pale in color – should not be decidedly yellow.

Unfortunately, some people struggle with accepting simple guidelines and continually search for the new, flashy, complex or expensive solutions to good health.  

It all boils down to simple, sensible, tried-and-true nutrition advice:

1. Eat more plants - fruits, veggies and whole grains

2. Get plenty of sleep

3. Drink more water

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Freezable Fall/Winter Breakfast

Every year as I start to pull out my sweaters and and thick, fuzzy socks, my appetite starts to wander toward warm, comfort breakfasts.  Baked apples are one of my all-time favorite foods - suitable for dessert, snack or yes, even breakfast.  Paired with some whole grain toast, yogurt or topped with some crunchy cereal, they are a cozy, satisfying way to incorporate fruit into your cold-weather morning routine.  But who wants to get up and make baked apples before work or school? The solution is simple - bake ahead and freeze in individual containers that can be microwaved for 1-2 minutes and viola! a sumptuous and nutritious breakfast addition is at the ready.  Even better is that making them is simple enough to be a non-recipe.  Here it is:

 Baked Apples: a non-recipe
Cut apples in half and use a melon-baller to remove core.  
(You could use a knife, but a melon baller is so much easier.)
Place apples cut-side up in a baking dish.  
In the hollowed out center of each apple, place a small (about 1/4-1/2 tsp) piece of butter.
Sprinkle lightly with brown sugar.
Sprinkle generously with cinnamon.
Add about 1/2 - 3/4 cup water to the baking dish.  
(I pour this in a corner so it doesn't wash the yumminess out of the apples).
Bake @ 350 for 1 hour.  
Divide up into single-sized serving containers (one or two halves depending on apple size) and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for 2-3 months.

To reheat: 
Microwave on high 1 minute if refrigerated, 2 minutes if frozen.

It truly is a great way to start the morning, or it makes for a wonderful after-school snack for kiddos after a cold walk home from school.  Plus you are getting all the wonderful fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and heart-health benefits in a tasty package.  After all, you know what they say about an apple a day!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Eating Together - More Than Just a Good Idea

It's a Wednesday night and the volume is rising.  The kids are laughing and eating together around the kitchen island and we adults are trying to carry on a conversation at the nearby table.  What brings us together for such a cheery, cacophonous meal?  A windfall of salmon.  My parents received a gift of salmon caught in Alaska by a fishing-addicted relative, and so we got together to share it.
The kid's love loading up school lunch trays and sitting at the kid's table where there is just as much laughter as eating.

Our crazy, yet tasty potluck: salmon, chicken, tomato-basil panzanella, sourdough, apples, bean and pasta salad, fried green tomatoes, roasted potatoes, spaghetti squash and apple cobbler.

What makes this happy, yet chaotic meal not just important but essential to relationships as well as health?  Here's are few of the benefits we can't afford to pass up that came together on this Wednesday night meal that can be applied to your family:
  1. Eat together as a family.  As a nuclear family we eat dinner together 5-6 nights per week, and as extended family, 1-2 times per week (Sunday dinner is a big family tradition).  This not only keeps everyone connected and aware of each other, it helps children especially see beyond themselves and think of other people for a while.  I love being able to eat with multiple generations so that my kids can benefit from the completely different perspective and experiences that grandparents or older family members provide. Numerous studies provide evidence that eating together as a family not only strengthens the family unit, but children do better socially and academically as well.  If you don't live near extended family, invite some friends and neighbors over occasionally for similar benefits.
  2. Eating together provides better health and teaches healthy habits.  Again, there is a large amount of research that supports the idea that the benefits of eating together extend beyond the social to the physical as well.  Lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and associated health problems, plus healthier life-long habits make eating together essential.
  3. Cooking.  My son helped his grandfather prep and cook the fish, a nephew contributed a pasta salad, another nephew requested cut up apples, and although it may have been a rather eclectic, potluck menu, everyone shared in the prep and the finished product was a delicious, nourishing, from-scratch masterpiece.  
  4. Variety.  With everyone contributing their own recipes, there was an abundance of flavors and textures.  It's a little easier for kids to want to try new foods when there is a fun, light-hearted environment with others trying foods for the first time as well.  Watching others try new foods helps kids feel more comfortable trying new foods themselves.  Plus, let's face it - life is too short to be limited to the same 10 dinner choices over and over.  
  5. Time.  Eating with family, especially extended family teaches that spending time with family and spending time eating is a priority and a healthy habit.  It wasn't grabbed on the run at a drive-thru, or inhaled in the car on the way to some practice or mindlessly consumed in front of the TV.  Slower, social eating leads to a healthier weight, and a healthier relationship with food.
You may not live close to family, or have a large family of your own, but don't let that stop you.  Include roommates, neighbors, coworkers and friends over regularly for a shared meal and you'll reap similar benefits.  Our dinners may not have the ambience of a quiet table in an upscale restaurant, but I'll take this any day.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

Red and Processed Meat – Separating the Health from the Headline

There is a lot being said, tweeted and otherwise digitally shared about the latest announcement regarding processed meat, red meat and cancer risk.  Here’s why you shouldn’t give in to the media’s scare-tactics.

First: keep terminology in mind: association, link, and risk.  An association or link between one food and a disease condition is still a somewhat fuzzy terms and do not mean definite causation.  Being raised by a statistics professor, I was taught to always question the way study results are presented in print and other media.  A group of findings or research studies often get generalized and misapplied in the interest of generating buzz.   A little skepticism will serve you well when trying to decipher the hype in the headlines.  If it makes a big media splash, you’d be better off waiting until the media smoke clears before you weigh in and make drastic changes.

Second: there is a difference here between processed meats and red meat.  

Processed meats contain nitrates and nitrites which under certain conditions form nitrosamines which since the 70s it has been recognized as carcinogenic to animals.  So for quite a while we’ve known that  processed meats should be limited in a healthful diet.  

Red meat falls into the category of “probably” carcinogenic.  There are a lot of beneficial nutrients to be found in red meat, so don’t completely blacklist the entire category of food.

Third: there is an elephant in the room which is neither processed, nor red meat.  True, those may be a few of many animals in the room, but let’s not forget the elephant – the American diet (which is slowly spreading worldwide).  Sedentary lifestyles, excessive amounts of prepackaged, processed foods, and too little produce is the real problem.  Don’t let hype over one tree take your focus from the forest.  It is the big picture of how much, how often and how balanced these foods are with other elements in your diet that truly determine your state of health and the best way to see that whole picture is to meet with a Registered Dietitian. 

Take home message:
1.     Eat More Plants – half of what goes into your mouth every time you eat should be plants.
2.     Moderation and Portion – a plate-sized steak or 5 strips of bacon for breakfast every day are not the way to go.  However, a few strips of bacon at a weekend brunch, or the occasional 3 oz. steak are very doable in a healthful diet.
3.     Variety and Frequency – Going vegetarian a few days a week, mixing up your protein sources to include beans, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs will help moderate your risk from any one food. 

Fear and guilt is what sells, so be wary.  At the end of the day, it is the solid, non-flashy, non-headline habits that lead to life-long health.