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Archive for March, 2014

Fruits and vegetables to enjoy during National Nutrition Month

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 Fruits and Vegetables to Enjoy for National Nutrition Month.” You can also read it HERE.

This month March, is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is “Enjoy the taste of eating right.” While of course, it is important to eat foods that are nutritious, taste is a key reason why people choose to eat what they do. Pairing good nutrition with great taste creates a win-win situation. National Nutrition Month, created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is a nutrition education campaign which focuses on the importance of making good food choices.

One way to “enjoy the taste of eating right” is to include a colorful diet. In particular, when choosing fruits and vegetables, I always suggest to clients that they choose a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables as different antioxidants exist in the different color spectrums. The deep orange color found in cantaloupe and sweet potatoes contains beta carotene. The dark blue color of blueberries contains polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The deep red pigment found in tomatoes and watermelon contains the antioxidant lycopene.

Below (in alphabetical order) are several nutrition powerhouses, of varying colors and nutrients that I love to include in my diet and recommend to clients.

1. Avocados contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat which may contribute to heart health. They are also high in vitamin E, a fat soluble antioxidant. Not only is this green fruit (yes, it is a fruit) good for the heart, it tastes great. Sprinkle a half of avocado with some lemon and olive oil and add it to your favorite salad.

2. Beets contain healthy doses of iron, the B-vitamin folate, and fiber. Red beets offer betacyanin, a plant pigment which may protect against colon cancer. Beets add color and taste to a green salad.

3. Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods around, and have been shown to contribute to health. These tasty blue gems are full of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamin C, and the mineral manganese. Blueberries contain a category of phytonutrients called polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can contribute to a reduction of chronic diseases. Blueberries contain only 80 calories per cup and make a tasty topping to yogurt or cereal, and also taste great plain as a snack.

4. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family rich in phytochemicals with antioxidant properties. Broccoli is chock full of vitamin C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and vitamin A. It also contains sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that may fight cancer and other chronic diseases. Sauteed broccoli makes a great side dish paired with grilled salmon or chicken.

5. Cantaloupe is high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, a plant-based vitamin A precursor that helps with eye health, among other conditions. It also contains potassium, a mineral which may help lower blood pressure and the risk for stroke. And, it is a great choice if you are watching your weight — a one-cup serving contains a mere 50 calories. Cantaloupe mixed with other melons such as watermelon and honeydew makes for a tasty fruit salad after dinner.

6. Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, and also part of the Brassica family. It may be white in color but don’t let that fool you. It is a super nutritious veggie. One cup contains under 30 calories!, and is super high in vitamin C and fiber. It also contains vitamin K and folate. Roasted cauliflower tastes delicious.

7. Spinach contains the minerals iron and potassium, as well as vitamins A, K, C and the B-vitamin folate. Spinach also contains phytochemicals that may boost your immune system and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that may be preventative against certain cancers. Spinach makes a great veggie side dish and tastes great sautéed in olive oil and garlic.

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FDA proposes larger–more realistic–serving sizes for food labels

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post on the new food labels:  FDA proposes larger–more realistic–serving sizes for food labels.

You can also read it HERE.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just released its proposal to update the Nutrition Facts label found on packaged foods and beverages. If approved, the new food label will update serving sizes. The label has not changed much in 20 years.

FDA is proposing to change the standard serving sizes to reflect what people actually eat. The FDA defines the current serving sizes as amounts of foods commonly consumed based on dietary intake surveys conducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

We eat larger portions than we did 20 years ago, so current serving sizes are smaller than what people actually eat. As I’ve written in my book The Portion Teller Plan andresearch articles, these serving sizes may be confusing to people trying to follow dietary advice.

The new serving size will, most likely, increase for most foods. By law, the standard serving size on a food label is supposed to reflect what people actually eat, not what they should eat. Therefore, the new serving size standards are not meant to be interpreted as recommendations for how much to eat.

With larger serving sizes on food labels, that would mean that a pint of ice cream that currently has four servings per pint (each serving is ½ cup), will have two servings for the new proposed label (each serving size will increase to 1 cup). The calories listed will, therefore, also increase. If a 1/2 cup serving of ice cream contains 200 calories, with the new 1 cup serving size, the label will now display 400 calories.

For the new label, the number of servings per package and the calories per serving will be more prominently displayed.

FDA is also proposing a makeover for single-serve foods and drinks. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda, which is typically consumed in one sitting by one person, would be labeled as one serving instead of 2.5 servings. After all, are you going to share your soda with 1.5 other people? Probably not. Other foods marketed for one person that often contain multiple servings per package include muffins, cookies, and small bags of chips.

What can we make of this?

For the good news, as I discussed on CBS Morning News, the serving sizes will be more realistic and reflect what people really eat. Many people today just glance at the calories and think that whatever amount they eat is a serving. For the ice cream example, a consumer reading food labels will now see 400 calories displayed instead of 200 calories.

This may mean that you would think twice before scarfing down the entire pint.

I also think it is excellent that FDA is finally addressing packaged foods and drinks marketed for one person but that have multiple servings listed on the package label. This may clear up some confusion regarding the calorie content of what we are actually eating.

A note of caution: FDA is not telling us to eat more. At least, the agency is not advising us to eat a bigger portion of ice cream. Rather, the agency is informing us as to the calorie and nutrient content in a standard serving size which is more in line with what we really do eat.

It would be useful if FDA follow up with nutrition education materials to further educate the public on the relationship between portion sizes, calories, and obesity.

FDA is accepting comments for 90 days.

We would love to hear your thoughts.

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