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Apr. 22

Spring clean your diet with these 10 simple tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “Spring clean your diet with these 10 simple tips”

You can also read it here.

Strawberries

Along with a new season come new foods and rituals. One of the things I love most about springtime is the extra daylight. I try to take advantage of these longer days by taking a walk outdoors or biking in the park. I also love taking advantage of enjoying the seasonal produce available this time of year. From asparagus to berries, springtime is the season for healthy produce.

As a nutritionist, I am a big believer in working to improve our bodies along with our minds for optimal health. These 10 simple tips will help boost your health, and maybe even your mood, this season.

1. Make small shifts to your diet.

One of the key messages in the recently released 2015-2020 dietary guidelines is an emphasis on making small shifts to our diet, as opposed to radical changes which are often difficult to stick with. Think of a food habit you’d like to change and slowly ease into a new ritual by making a small shift. If you are a soda drinker, for example, shift your beverage to water or seltzer. If you tend to go hours without eating, plan for a healthy snack by bringing along an apple and a small bag of your favorite nuts. And most of us can make shifts in our diet to include more fruits and vegetables.

2. Mind your hand.

Paying attention the size of your portion is one of the best ways to keep your weight in check. While measuring your food can be a bit cumbersome and not always practical, using your hand is a simple and useful trick to help you guesstimate your portion. As I discuss in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, your portion of meat should be the size of your palm (approx 3 oz) and your side of rice should be the size of your fist (approx 1 cup.) While it’s not an exact science, as we all have different size hands, it is a helpful way to help gauge how much you eat. And if you have a bigger hand, you can probably get away with eating a bit more.

3. Get moving.

If you do not yet have an exercise routine, this is a great time to get one into place. Exercising regularly offers up many benefits — from helping us shed pounds, boost our moods, and even keep our minds sharp. In the springtime, we have the added benefit of great weather and more sunlight, a perfect time to get moving outdoors.

Research even shows that you exert more energy when exercising outdoors and you even may enjoy it more. Exercising outdoors may also help to alleviate stress and depression.

4. Swap multigrain for whole grains products.

Many of my clients are easily deceived by healthy sounding terms like “multigrain.” The term “multigrain” is defined as containing a blend of two or more grains and has little meaning when it comes to boosting your health. The grains may be healthy if they are whole rye or whole oats, for example, but they may also not be particularly healthy if they are a blend of enriched wheat flour, which is refined, and not to be confused with whole wheat. So pay attention to food labels and the first ingredient in your grain products.

5. Go green.

I am a huge fan of all things green, especially green veggies. Spinach, kale, broccoli, you name it, and if it’s green, it is most likely healthy! One of my favorite springtime produce is asparagus. Chock full of fiber, folate, vitamin K, and iron, asparagus is a nutrition powerhouse. I invite you to add asparagus to your springtime dinner routine. My favorite method of preparation is simply roasting it with a drizzle of olive oil and you are good to go.

6. Find hidden sugars lurking in your favorite food.

For the first time, the dietary guidelines call out added sugar, and advise us to limit our intake to no more than 10 percent of total calories. While we know that soda and candy are full of added sugar, we may not pay attention to the sugar lurking in our favorite salad dressing or whole gain cereal. Trying to reduce our sugar intake would be easier if every product that contained it called it “sugar.” However, so many food products on the shelves contain sugar yet call it by a different name. Be on the lookout for the following terms which are other names for sugar: sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, honey, dextrose, and evaporated cane juice.

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a daily value (DV) for “added sugar” along with prominently displaying the amount of added sugar on the nutrition facts food label. This will hopefully clear up some of the confusion. But until that happens, be a food sleuth, and read the ingredient list.

7. Scoop it out.

We eat more out of large containers and when we pour out our favorite foods into a bowl or plate, we often pour too much. We also tend to overeat when we nibble right out of a jar or box of food. Consider your favorite cereal: pour it into an oversize bowl and you probably poured too much. Same with your favorite ice cream: eat a spoonful straight from a pint, and you may end up polishing off the entire container. A scoop or measuring cup to the rescue! Pour your cereal into a one-cup measuring cup or scoop, and you will hopefully stop right there. Use a half-cup ice cream scoop and it will be easier to stick to that portion.

8. Eat fat.

As a nutritionist, I advise clients to incorporate healthy fat into their diets. Healthy fats include olive oil, nuts, and avocado. Fats help us feel full so that we are not grabbing for that cookie an hour after eating. Nuts make for a great snack as they contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, and plant stanols. Just be sure to stick to one handful. Because fat contains more calories than carbohydrates and protein, practicing portion control is key.

9. Add strawberries to your favorite salad.

Strawberries are delicious and one of the lowest calorie fruits. They are also rich in nutrients, particularly vitamin C, an antioxidant which helps the body quench free radicals. In addition to tasting great plain (or with whipped cream, of course), strawberries will add color, flavor, and nutrients to your fruit salad or even your tossed green salad.

10. End your day with a grateful heart.

Giving thanks and practicing gratitude leads better sleep and improved mood.Research reveals that cultivating gratitude leads to better psychological and physical health. One ritual that I love recommending (and practice myself) is to write down 5 things I am grateful for each day. While certain things can always be better, we can all find a variety of things, both large and small, to be thankful for.

Photo complements  freedigitalphotos.net by Rakratchada Torsap.

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Apr. 6

Larger serving sizes on food labels may help us eat less!

Below is my blog for Huffington Post  “Larger serving sizes on food labels may encourage us to eat less.”

You can also read it here.

Food label-new 2014

In February 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled plans to overhaul the Nutrition Facts panel required on packaged foods in the U.S. Among the proposed updates, FDA plans to revise the serving sizes to reflect more typical serving sizes. Because portions we currently eat are larger than food label serving sizes, consumers may be confused when reading labels and trying to determine ow many calories are in the foods they eat.

Indeed, typical portion sizes available in the marketplace have increased over the past several decades. Should serving sizes on food labels reflect these larger portions?

As FDA states, “These updates would reflect the reality of what people actually eat, according to recent food consumption data. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they ‘should’ be eating.”

While there are clearly advantages to FDA requiring that manufacturers use larger, more realistic serving sizes, unintended consequences may arise. For one, consumers may view food label servings as recommendations even though they are not.

Indeed, according to one study, larger serving sizes may encourage people to eat more.

Now, a new study found that larger serving sizes on food labels will encourage us to eat less and may actually help fight the obesity epidemic.

Researchers from Georgetown University conducted several experiments published in the journal Appetite and found that subjects viewing larger serving sizes on packaged foods thought that they were more representative of typical marketplace portions. The subjects also had a lower health perception of the foods with larger serving sizes on the labels. Finally, subjects shown a larger serving size label ate less than those shown the current serving size label.

The authors wrote, “The studies find that the specific nutrition information provided with foods has a significant impact on perceptions of health, guilt, and estimated caloric intake. Providing consumers with easier to comprehend and more accurate information on all foods served in all contexts could reduce overeating. Decreasing caloric intake, through changing perceptions of health or increasing guilt, could improve public health.”

They concluded that “the proposed increase in serving size on Nutrition Facts panels could lower the consumption of high calorie foods.”

Let’s hope that this occurs in reality if FDA does, in fact, increase the serving sizes on food labels (which the agency proposed doing for nearly 17% of packaged foods).

For example, FDA is proposing to increase the serving size of ice cream from ½ cup to 1 cup. Rather than view the 1 cup serving as a recommendation, I hope that instead, consumers pay attention to the calories and view the larger serving size as a signal to eat less.

Whatever FDA ultimately decides to do, I think it is important that the agency follow up with an education campaign to teach people how to use the serving size information on a label and how to better understand the relationship between serving sizes, calories, and weight gain.

And, I hope that the agency pro-actively address concerns about any possible unintended consequences that some consumers view the serving sizes as recommendations for how much to eat.

As I suggested in my comments to FDA, “I strongly recommend that the FDA include clarifying language on the label by either: 1) denoting the serving size provided as a “typical” serving size or 2) including a footnote to clarify that “the serving size is based upon the amount typically consumed, and is not a recommended portion size.”

While we patiently await the release of the updated food label, I suggest paying attention to how much food is actually on your plate, eating fewer processed foods, and more fruits and vegetables. And, as USDA’s food guide myPlate suggests, fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit.

After all, no one got fat eating to many carrots.

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Mar. 31

5 foods to keep you feeling full

As a nutritionist specializing in portion control and weight loss, I know from my clients that the worst part about trying to lose weight is feeling deprived and being hungry. When you are hungry, you tend to overeat, and often on the wrong foods.

And no, you do not have to eat skimpy portions to lose weight. You want to learn to eat the right foods which contain nutrients that will help you feel full.

I have never been a fan of rigid diets, and over the years, have recognized the importance of developing healthy habits you can sustain. One such habit is choosing “go to” foods that you enjoy and that also make you feel full. Foods which contain fiber and protein tend to keep your hunger at bay, which is ideal when trying losing weight.

Here are some of my top picks which will help keep you feeling full.  You won’t even know you are trying to lose weight.

chickpeas

 

1. Oatmeal

Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal is a great way to keep from feeling hungry an hour after eating. Oatmeal contains a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber which is not only good for your heart, but it also may also keep your hunger pangs away.

Research comparing the effects of oatmeal and corn flakes on feelings of fullness and hunger found that overweight subjects reported feeling more satisfied after consuming oatmeal than corn flakes. And they also ate less at lunch.

Add water, fat-free milk, vanilla-flavored soy milk, or almond milk to your favorite brand of oatmeal and you have a delicious and nutritious breakfast.

2. Chickpeas

The United Nations (UN) declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP).  Pulses are comprised of dry peas, beans, lentils, and legumes and are protein-packed and high fiber vegetables, a terrific combination of nutrients to help you feel full and even help with weight loss.  A nutritious protein alternative for vegetarians, pulses (including chickpeas), contain the nutrients iron, folate, magnesium and potassium.

Try incorporating chickpeas and other pulses into your diet, if you don’t already. You can enjoy a hearty soup made with chickpeas, hummus, or a chickpea salad. Ready to incorporate more pulses into your diet? I invite you to visit pulsepledge.com for recipes, meal plans and other resources.

3. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great food to include in your diet. It is high in protein keeping you feeling full and a good source of calcium and vitamin D. It also makes for a great snack, as it is portable. Just one caveat: Stick to flavors that are not loaded with added sugar. My suggestion: Stick to the plain yogurt and add fresh fruit, flax seeds, and a drizzle of honey if necessary.

4. Mixed nuts

Need a healthy late-afternoon snack? Grab a handful of nuts. The protein, fiber, and fat in nuts help you feel full longer, so you may actually end up eating less throughout the day. Studies show that including a serving of nuts (approximately a handful) in your diet may actually prevent weight gain and possibly even promote weight loss, as long as you control for total calories. As an added benefit, nut eaters may have a lower incidence of diabetes when compared to those who rarely eat nuts.

5. Quinoa

Quinoa makes for satisfying addition to a meal. This ancient grain contains a variety of vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E as well as protein and fiber, a winning combination to helping you feel full.

And no, quinoa is not high in calories. A ½ cup of cooked quinoa contains approximately 100 calories. And next time you can’t decide what to eat for dinner, enjoy a healthy portion of quinoa (around ½ cup-1 cup cooked) with grilled salmon or tofu along with your favorite assortment of sautéed vegetables.

 

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses & Pulse Canada. 

 

 

 

 

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Mar. 11

10 Simple Tips to Savor the Flavor of Eating Right

Below is my blog post “10 tips to savor the flavor of eating right.”

You can also read it on Huffington Post HERE.

NNM2016

National nutrition month (NNM) is a nutrition education campaign sponsored yearly by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). This year’s NNM theme is Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.

Here are smart tips to help you eat healthier this month.

1. Mind your portions and eat slowly.

One of the best ways to “savor the flavor” is to chew our food well instead of shoveling it in. This will not only help us eat less, but we will be able to actually taste and enjoy what we are eating.

2. Include fruits and vegetables at each meal.

Sprinkle in berries to your yogurt, add a colorful green salad to your lunch, and include vegetables with your dinner.

3. Eat a variety of foods from each food group.

Sorry Paleo lovers, but it really is best to include foods from all the food groups.

4. Aim for color!

Choosing a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables is best, as different antioxidants exist in the different color spectrums. The deep red pigment found in tomatoes and watermelon contains the antioxidant lycopene, for example. The deep orange color found in cantaloupe and sweet potatoes contains beta carotene.

5. Enjoy whole grains.

The recently release 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, as in previous editions, suggest that half of our grains be whole grains. Healthy whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal.

6. Include plant based proteins such as beans, peas, and legumes.

These pulses not only give you protein, but they have an added bonus as they are chock full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

7. Spice it up.

Adding in spices to your favorite foods will not only enhance the flavor, but it will boost your nutrient intake. And adding spices helps to reduce your need to use added sugar and salt.

8. Snack on nuts.

Adding nuts as a midafternoon snack will not give your diet a boost of nutrients while also filling you up. So you may end up eating less later, a great boost for weight loss!

9. Try new foods.

A huge assortment of whole foods are available to us. But we often get into a rut and stick with the usual fare. Give a new food a try and savor the flavor. You may actually love it!

10. Get outdoors.

Spring is coming, so use this as an opportunity to get more active and take advantage of outdoor activities such as walking and bike riding.

We would love to hear your favorite springtime tips.

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Feb. 29

5 Tips to Keep Your Restaurant Meal Way Under 1,000 Calories

Below is my blog for Huffington Post, “5 tips to keep your restaurant meal way under 1000 calories.”

You can also read it here.

pasta primavera

Americans love eating out. Unfortunately, most restaurant meals exceed calorie recommendations. It’s no surprise that we have an obesity epidemic in this country.

Chain restaurants in the U.S. are currently required to post calorie counts on their menus. Hopefully, this information will nudge us to make healthier choices and also encourage chains to re-formulate their menu items.

In the meantime, more than half of restaurants are not chains, and therefore, are exempt from calorie labeling.

So just how many calories do these meals contain?

To answer that question, researchers from Tufts University conducted a study on the calorie counts of non-chain restaurants between 2011-2014 in three metro areas (Boston, San Francisco, and Little Rock).

Here’s what they found. Most restaurant meals are super-sized and contain very high calorie counts, similar to those in chain restaurants. Nine out of 10 meals from non-chain restaurants exceeded calorie recommendations for a single meal. The average meal contained 1,200 calories (yikes!), which amounts to more than a half a day’s worth of calories. American, Italian, and Chinese cuisine fared the worst, with meals averaging 1,500 calories.

While we would expect some meals to be high in calories, such as tempura dishes (which are fried), the high calorie counts in other dishes such as chicken teriyaki may come as a bit of a shock to some people. The researchers found that even a Greek salad contained nearly 1,000 calories.

As a long time portion-size researcher, I am not at all surprised. Most meals at both chain and non-chain restaurants are much too big, and therefore, provide far too many calories.

The researchers wrote: “This study extends previous work and indicates that restaurants in general, rather than specific types of restaurants, can facilitate obesity by exposing patrons to portion sizes that induce overeating through established biological mechanisms that are largely outside conscious control.”

Indeed, it would be a great idea to cook at home more often. But if you do want to dine out, here are some simple tips to help you trim down the calories of your favorite meals.

1. Share, share, and share!

This is a great portion-control trick and will help you save calories. Share a main dish with your dinner companion and you will get half the number of calories. To avoid feeling deprived, start with a healthy salad or appetizer.

2. Order an appetizer as your main meal.

You may not want to eat the same thing as your dining companion, so sharing may not be possible. Many restaurants these days offer half portions or appetizer sizes which I promise you is enough food for one. If you are still hungry, you can always order more.

3. Order sauces on the side.

So often, it is the dressings and sauces that cause the calorie counts of your favorite meals to jump. Three simple words — “on the side” — can make a huge difference. Just one tablespoon of oil contains around 120 calories, and many salads contain at least 4 tablespoons of dressing! If you order sauces and dressings on the side, you do still get to enjoy the flavor while using less.

4. Wrap it up.

Leftovers make for a great accessory! Just because your favorite restaurant serves a super-size portion doesn’t mean you have to finish it. My research found that many pasta entrees, for example, contain 3-4 cups pasta! (No wonder people think carbs make us fat.) If you ate half that amount, and wrapped up the rest, you’d probably be satisfied (instead of super stuffed).

5. Order more veggie-based dishes.

In some cases, you can enjoy a big portion without breaking the calorie bank. Veggie based dishes are often the way to go. A generous portion of veggies goes a long way. Not only are veggies high in fiber which signals you to stop eating, but they are so low in calories, that as long as they do not contain too much sauce, you can certainly keep your dish way under 1,000 calories. For example, I’m not worried about the calories in a jumbo plate of spaghetti squash primavera.

I provide additional portion control tricks here.

And I offer smart swaps for your favorite restaurant cuisine here.

We would love to hear some of your favorite tricks to minimize the calories in restaurant portions.

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Feb. 22

Add These Foods to Your Diet for a Healthy Heart

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Add these foods to your diet for healthy heart.”

You can also read it HERE.

ADA stock photos-veggies low res

While the death rate from heart disease has dropped in recent years, it is still the leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the American Heart Association, this year, 915,000 Americans will be told they have heart failure.

February is American Heart Month, and for the good news, there is so much we can do as individuals to reduce our risk of heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet, reducing stress, and getting more exercise and sleep can help decrease our risk of getting this disease.

A heart-healthy diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins (fish, legumes) and low in added sugar, saturated fats (margarine, butter, fatty meats), and salt.

As a nutritionist counseling patients on heart-healthy eating, I like to impart positive messages, advising them on foods they CAN eat to promote health. In honor of American Heart Month, here are seven foods to add to your diet.

1. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber and contains beta-glucans, which may lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. This tasty whole grain may also help with weight control as it contains the winning combination of protein and fiber.

2. Chick peas

Chick peas are legumes also known as garbanzo beans. They contain protein, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals including folate and iron. Chick peas are also good for heart health and may help reduce cholesterol levels. They can be used in many versatile ways including dips (think hummus!), stews, stir fries, and even salads.

3. Tomatoes

I am a huge fan of tomatoes–tomatoes in salads, tomato sauce, tomato soup, you name it. Tomatoes contain vitamins and minerals which are good for the heart including the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C and the mineral potassium. Tomatoes also contain fiber and are naturally low in sugar and salt. While I suggest topping your pasta with homemade tomato sauce, if you end up buying it, read labels and check the sugar and salt content.

4. Salmon

Salmon along with other fatty fish including sardines contain heart healthy fats know as omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower triglycerides and decrease the risk of plaque in the arteries. No wonder the American Heart Association advises eating fatty fish twice a week. Next time you go out to dinner, swap a steak for a piece of grilled wild salmon for heart health.

5. Cauliflower

Cauliflower, the new “in” vegetable these days, is a cruciferous vegetable and a member of the brassica family alongside broccoli and Brussel sprouts. It is a nutrition powerhouse, chock full of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. It is also an excellent source of the mineral potassium which is good for the heart. And, it’s also very low in calories so you don’t have to worry about eating too much. To cut calories in your favorite side dish, instead of mashed potatoes, try making mashed cauliflower.

6. Almonds

I am a huge fan of nuts and seeds and recommend them for heart health.
Almonds contain protein, the antioxidant vitamin E, and heart-healthy fats. They are also rich in the minerals calcium and magnesium which can help lower blood pressure. Almonds are also very versatile and add great flavor and crunch to yogurt, cereal, and salads. For a great snack on the go, portion out a one-ounce serving (23 almonds) into a small baggie or tin.

7. Olive oil

Olive oil is rich in the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and has been associated with heart health. It also contains antioxidants, including vitamin E and polyphenols, which protects blood vessels and other components of the heart. Because the calories add up quickly, watch your portion and stick to 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in your favorite salad.

And, in honor of Valentine’s Day, also in February, indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate every now and then. It may even be good for your heart.

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Feb. 12

The New Dietary Guidelines Recommend Eating More Fruits and Vegetables, Less Added Sugar and Saturated Fat

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “The new dietary guidelines recommend eating more fruits and vegetables, less added sugar and saturated fat.”

You can also read it HERE.

dga-2015

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released earlier this month. The guidelines, updated every five years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are based on the latest research in nutrition science and serve as a basis for federal nutrition policy.

They also help to set the tone for how we should eat. The current guidelines recommend that Americans consume a “healthy eating pattern” consisting of more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limiting added sugar, salt and saturated fat.

Here are several key take away messages.

1. Focus on healthy eating patterns.

For the first time, the report emphasizes that Americans focus on foods and healthy eating patterns as opposed to individual food groups and nutrients. I commend this as we do not eat individual nutrients in isolation, but rather a diet composed of foods, which forms an eating pattern.

According to the guidelines, a healthy eating pattern consists of a diet with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy; and less added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. The guidelines emphasize a variety of vegetables from the different subgroups (think colorful!) and half of all grains should be whole grains including oatmeal, quinoa, and whole grain breads, for example. Sorry Paleo lovers! Dairy and healthy grains are indeed part of a healthy diet.

2. Added sugar

This is the first time the committee made a specific recommendation for limiting added sugar. Too much sugar is linked to obesity and chronic disease and as a nation, we eat too much, with soft drink being a major contributor.

The guidelines recommend a daily intake of 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons of sugar, for a 2,000-calorie diet. This translates into just a tad more than a can of soda. Yikes!

We currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. So, for a first step, I suggest skipping these sugary beverages.

As a nutritionist advising clients, I often get asked about eating fruit. Added sugar is NOT the same as naturally occurring sugar so you can enjoy fruit. All fruit fits into a healthy diet; however, I suggest skipping the juice and eating the whole fruit instead. Fruit is higher in fiber, contains a greater water quantity, and therefore, is lower in calories than the juice. As I say, “While I don’t suggest eating unlimited amounts, no one got fat eating fruit.

3. Saturated fat

Despite some observations that saturated fats are not linked to heart disease, the guidelines advise, like they did in previous editions, to limit saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of calories. Saturated fat is found in red meat, fried foods, butter, and full-fat dairy. The guidelines further recommend that teenaged and adult males should reduce their consumption of protein including meats because of heart disease, some types of cancer, and other health concerns. I think this advice should actually be embraced by the rest of us.

4. Cholesterol

The guidelines dropped its long recommendation that Americans limit their intake of dietary cholesterol from foods such as eggs and shellfish to no more than 300 mg per day. (One egg contains nearly 200 mg cholesterol.) However, the report also states that we should eat as little cholesterol as possible. This advice appears to be confusing. While the cholesterol recommendation is not in the headlines, the report does, indeed, recommend minimizing our consumption and says to limit cholesterol to 100-300 mg/day. So no, you cannot eat an unlimited quantity of eggs.

Also, since many foods high in saturated fats also contain cholesterol, if we reduce our saturated fat intake, this will probably help us lower our dietary cholesterol.

5. Sodium

The guidelines say we should consume no more than 2,300 mg sodium, which is no change since the 2010 edition. The report also advises that certain people include those with hypertension and diabetes — which comprise nearly two-thirds of us — further reduce sodium to 1,500 mg.

2,300 mg sodium translates into just one teaspoon of salt. So we certainly should throw away the salt shaker. We should also limit foods high in sodium including deli meats, breads, soups, and pizza. One great way to limit our salt intake is to eat less processed food and to cook more.

6. Portion control

While the previous edition of the guidelines advised us to “avoid oversize portions,” this edition says “focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.” Since many restaurant portions are oversize and contain far more calories than most of us need, I do not think that the 2015-2200 guidelines emphasized portion control and calories nearly enough. Especially with obesity still on the rise.

Buried in the report, however, the feds do suggest reducing portions of sugar-sweetened beverages and decreasing portion sizes of grain-based and dairy desserts and sweet snacks.

So here’s my advice: With the exception of fruits and veggies, watch your portion size, and don’t eat and drink too much.

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Feb. 11

6 reasons to include pulses in your diet

 

LegumesJamesPanARS

The United Nations (UN) declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP).  Pulses are comprised of dry peas, beans, lentils, and legumes and are protein-packed and sustainable vegetables.  I am a huge fan of pulses and regularly include them in my diet.

Below are some of the many benefits of eating pulses.

 

  1. Pulses are super-nutritious.

Pulses are packed with good nutrition. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals including the B vitamin folate and the minerals potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

 

  1. Pulses are a vegetarian source of protein.

Pulses are a terrific protein choice if you are a vegetarian or just interested in cutting back on meat and other animal proteins. A ½ cup serving contains 9 grams of protein. Unlike meat, pulses are low in fats, and as discussed above, are also packed with vitamins and minerals.

 

  1. Pulses may prevent disease.

Pulses are beneficial for disease prevention. They may reduce risk factors for heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. They have also been shown to improve blood sugar thereby reducing the risk for diabetes.

 

  1. Pulses may help you lose weight.

Pulses contain a blend of protein and fiber which make them very filling and, therefore, a great choice if you are watching your weight. People who eat diets high in fiber tend to be less hungry than those who eat low-fiber foods and also eat fewer calories over the course of the day.

 

  1. Pulses are sustainable plants and good for the environment.

Pulses have a positive impact on the environment. They use just one-tenth of the water of other proteins. Pulses also support a healthy farm system and enrich the soil by leaving behind nutrients such as nitrogen and beneficial microbes for the next crop.

 

  1. Pulses are versatile, affordable, and taste great.

Adding pulses to your diet is simple. You can enjoy a hearty lentil soup on a cold day, add chickpeas or hummus to your salad, or make a delicious three bean stew.

 

Ready to incorporate more pulses into your diet? I invite you to visit pulsepledge.com to take a 10-week challenge and get access to recipes, meal plans and other resources.

 

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses and Pulses of Canada.

Photo courtesy of James Pan, ARS.

 

 

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Jan. 12

Drop a few sizes with these simple portion-control tricks

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Drop a few sizes with these simple portion-control tricks.”

You can also read it HERE.

Courtesy of Scott Chan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Scott Chan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

With the start of the New Year, losing a few pounds is often high on many people’s “to do” list. You may even be thinking of trying the latest fad diet, a version of the Paleo diet, or a juice cleanse.

Having spent the past 20 plus years counseling people trying to shed unwanted pounds, I know that losing weight is the easy part. Keeping if off and developing long-term healthy habits you can stick with is a far greater challenge.

If you have previously read my advice to dieters, you know that practicing portion-control is, in my opinion, by far one of the simplest and most effective ways to shed unwanted pounds for good. Ultimately, regardless of which method you try, in order to succeed at weight loss, you have to eat fewer calories.

Many fads work initially because you end up eating less, often because you omit entire food groups from your diet. By practicing portion control, however, you get to eat the foods you love (just not huge amounts every day) without cutting out certain food groups entirely. In my opinion, this is a much healthier and balanced approach. And, with a bit of planning, if you choose your foods wisely, you can often even eat more.

I’ve rounded up some portion-control tricks which can help you get 2016 off to a great start and help you shed unwanted pounds. Many of these tricks are rooted in behavior change which serve as cues to gently remind us to eat mindfully…to eat when hungry…to eat more slowly…and to eat less.

1. Go retro.

If we can return to eating smaller portions like we did several decades ago, we’d probably be a lot thinner. Back in the 1950s, portions were smaller and so were we. I’ve spent a good part of my career tracking how our food portions have grown — and how our waistlines have too. Rates of obesity increased as portions rose. This CDC graph, based on my research, illustrates this point. Large portions have more calories than small portions, so if we can trim our portions, we can cut out lots of calories which can help us to lose weight.

2. Eat a small breakfast.

I recommend that dieters eat within two hours of getting up. It doesn’t have to be a huge feast though. In fact, a smaller breakfast may actually be best. A study found that dieters who ate a small breakfast, as opposed to a large one, ended up eating less over the course of the day. Often, we think if we eat a big breakfast, we’ll eat less for lunch or dinner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.

My takeaway message is: eat a light meal in the morning. If you are not much of a breakfast eater, no worries. Make it a brunch and ok to eat something small. I suggest you include protein and fiber, which help you feel full. Some of my favorites are a Greek yogurt and berries, a slice whole grain toast with a thin schmear of peanut butter, or a bowl of oatmeal with chopped walnuts or a little milk.

3. Cut your pizza pie into smaller pieces.

We tend to eat in units. Most of us don’t share a slice of pizza, a bagel, or a soda (or other foods which come in units) with a friend. Instead, we tend to eat the whole thing. An interesting study offers up this trick: cut your pizza pie into smaller pieces and you may end up eating fewer calories. In this particular study, when a pizza pie was cut into 16 slices — instead of the typical 8 slices — people ate less. I invite you try it.

4. Beware the health halos.

So often we get caught up with labels such as “low-fat,” “gluten free,” and “organic.” Many of us also think that if a food is good for us, we can eat as much as we want. This study found that people who thought alcohol was heart-healthy drank nearly 50% more alcohol than those who did not.

My suggestion for 2016: keep an eye on your portion size even if you think a food may be good for you. Low-fat cookies are still cookies and gluten-free crackers are still crackers. And both products do indeed contain calories which add up pretty quickly.

5. At times, you can eat more to weigh less.

Good news if you are a volume lover. As I referred to them in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, volume eaters like a large portion of food. A solution: fill up on fruits and veggies which tend to be low in calories (while also being nutritious.) Good options include berries, melons, citrus fruit, leafy greens and, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli. Enjoy a large colorful salad. Just ask for the dressing on the side.

6. Souper-size it!

I am a huge fan of eating soup and “souping” seems to be a popular trend these days. What I like most about including soups in your diet is that they are filling and often times, you can eat a large portion without too many calories. In fact, people who eat a large vegetable-based soup as an appetizer often end up eating fewer calories at the rest of the meal. My favorites — minestrone, tomato kale, lentil soup, and white bean. Several caveats: skip the cream soups and go easy on salt.

7. Take out the measuring cups once in a while.

It’s a great idea when you are eating at home to occasionally measure out your food to get an idea how much you typically eat. While it is not exactly practical to measure your food when you are eating out, and I don’t suggest you weigh your food daily, finding out just how big — or small — your portion is can be quite an eye opener. For example, I’ve had clients pour their typical ready-to-eat cereal into their oversized bowl and think they are having one serving, or around one cup. After measuring it out, they are shocked that their “healthy” cereal portion is closer to three cups. Yikes!

8. Take a look at your hand.

While you don’t always have measuring cups with you, you always have your hand. Which is why I created the “handy guide” to estimating your portion size. A 3 ounce portion of meat or chicken looks like the palm of your hand and a fist looks like 1 cup pasta or rice. This method is not an exact science, but does come in handy.

9. Downsize your food packages.

Considerable research has found that we eat more if our packages are larger. Instead of surrounding ourselves with temptation, I suggest buying single-serving packages or pre-portioning your favorite snacks and putting them into baggies which you can grab when you are hungry.

10. Slow down.

When we eat more slowly, we tend to eat more mindfully, and, in turn, eat less. One way to slow down is to count your bites. A small study found that study subjects who cut their daily bites by 20 percent lost around 3.5 pounds in a month. While counting your bites may not be the most pleasurable thing to do, especially if you are hoping to enjoy your food, paying attention to how many bites you are taking ultimately slows you down which leads to eating less. While I don’t suggest you count your bites regularly, it may be ok to try once in while.

11. Eat off of grandma’s dishes.

Food portions are not the only things that grew over the years — our plate sizes have too. And research has found that we eat more if plates or glasses are large. A solution: use grandma’s dishes. A client of mine did this and lost 20 pounds, effortlessly. If we downsize our plate, we tend to eat less. A small looks bigger on a smaller plate. I invite you to eat a salad of of a big plate and a pasta or meat dish off of a smaller plate. This study found that halving plate size led to a 30 percent reduction in amount of food consumed.

12. Commit to cooking more in 2016.

When we cook, we often make healthier food choices. A recent study found that cooking was associated with a slightly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers also found that in eight years of follow-up, those who ate more home-cooked meals had smaller weight gains and a lower risk of obesity. These findings don’t surprise me. Restaurant portions tend to be larger than amounts we would typically prepare at home. Foods eaten out also tend to be more caloric than home cooked meals.

We would love to hear portion-control tips that have worked for you.

Here’s to a happy — and healthy — 2016!

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Jan. 10

Add more of these 5 superfoods to your diet

Legumes

It’s a new year and a great time for healthy eating and to try new foods. The foods below are not only trending now but are also healthy, delicious, and versatile. As a nutritionist, I urge you give them a try.

 

  1. Cauliflower

Move over kale; cauliflower is the “in” vegetable these days. Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable and a member of the brassica family alongside broccoli and Brussel sprouts. It is a nutrition powerhouse, chock full of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. It is also very low in calories; one cup raw cauliflower contains only 25 calories so don’t worry about eating too much.

One reason cauliflower may be making a comeback is because of its versatility. When cooked and soft, try experimenting by making cauliflower “rice or potatoes” to replace actual potatoes or rice.

 

  1. Pulses

The United Nations (UN) declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). Pulses are comprised of dry peas, beans, lentils, and legumes and are protein-packed and sustainable vegetables.  As discussed in the recently released 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, pulses are also excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients, including potassium and the B vitamin folate. They also contain iron and zinc and are a terrific protein choice if you are vegetarian or just interested in cutting back on meat.

Adding pulses to your diet is easy. You can enjoy a split pea soup, throw a handful of chick peas into your salad, or make a delicious lentil stew instead of a meat dish. Ready to incorporate more pulses into your diet? Visit pulsepledge.com to take a 10-week challenge and get access to recipes, meal plans and other resources.

 

  1. Beets

This long lost vegetable is certainly trending now. Eating more beets is good for you and can certainly help boost your nutrient intake.  Beets contain betalains, a potent antioxidant which can help fight off oxidative stress. Beets are also high in fiber, folate, potassium, and magnesium.  This naturally sweet and tasty vegetable also contains anti-inflammatory properties, which can help fight chronic disease such as heart disease, hypertension, inflammation and cancer.

 

  1. Spiralized Vegetables

Spiralizing is a great way to use veggies in different ways, and can certainly help boost your intake. A “spiralizer” is a spiral vegetable slicer that creates strands (resembling pasta) out of vegetables like zucchini, sweet potato, and carrots. You can swap pasta for spiralized zucchini to save lots of calories. And what I love is that you get to eat a bigger portion. While one cup of cooked linguine contains around 200 calories, two cups of cooked veggies like carrots and zucchini contain under 100 calories. You can also add spiralized veggies to your favorite salad or stir-fry for a healthy side dish. It is a great gadget to add to your kitchen.

 

  1. Hemp Seeds

These nutty seeds are rich in protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.  Use them like you would wheat germ or seeds – sprinkle them on yogurt, oatmeal and other cereals for added flavor, crunch, and nutrients. You can also add them to salads and to sautéed vegetables. You can even use hemp seeds instead of bread crumbs to make a healthy crust for fish or chicken.

 

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses & Pulse Canada. 

Photo courtesy of: USDA/ARS, Keith Weller.

 

 

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