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Posts Tagged ‘ added sugar ’

7 healthy back-to-school tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 healthy back-to-school tips.”

You can also read it HERE.

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As we approach the end of August, many of us are preparing for another school year for our kids. As a nutritionist, I regularly counsel parents and their children on healthy eating. The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to set the stage for the upcoming year and to create new healthy habits for the entire family.

Below are simple tips to get you going on the right foot.

1. Start the day off right.

Eating breakfast as a family is a perfect time to bond and spend quality time together while also preparing a healthy breakfast for the kids. Eggs with whole grain toast, fruit and yogurt, or whole grain unsweetened cereal with milk and berries are several great choices. I suggest that kids begin their day with a meal consisting of protein and fiber, a winning combination of nutrients that will help them feel satisfied until lunch.

2. Nix the added sugar.

I was pleased to see the American Heart Association’s announcement this week suggesting that children and teens ages 2-18 limit added sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day. These new guidelines aim to help improve children’s overall diet. Kids who eat foods high in added sugars tend to eat fewer healthy foods that are good for their heart. Added sugar provides no nutritional benefits and is found in a wide range of food from cookies, ketchup, salad dressings, sugar sweetened cereals (even some whole grain ones!), smoothies, to sweetened yogurts. The major culprit of added sugar, however, is soda and sugary drinks including iced tea and fruit punch so I suggest limiting them from your kids’ diets. The guidelines also suggest that children and teens consume no more than 8 ounces of sugary drinks a week. Sugary drinks, often called “liquid calories,” provide no health benefits.

3. Swap juice for whole fruit.

I am an advocate for feeding your kids whole fruit instead of juice. The fruit is rich in fiber and its high water content helps to keep the calories low. On the other hand, it is so easy to guzzle down too many calories from juice without even realizing it. A pint of orange juice, for example, contains around 225 calories. This is the equivalent to 2-3 cups of mixed berries, which would certainly make you feel much more satisfied. Most of us wouldn’t think twice about drinking the pint of juice but few of us would eat 3 cups of berries in one sitting.

4. Pack a healthy snack.

If you are packing snacks for your kids, here is a perfect opportunity to include at least one fruit and veggie. Smart snacks include fresh fruit (apple, pear, and bananas), Greek yogurt, baby carrots with hummus, roasted edamame, and of course a bottle of water. Nuts or nut butter squeeze packs are also great choices if a school allows nuts; if not, they are a great go-to snack when kids get home.

5. Keep portions healthy (no measuring cup required!)

Regardless of what you feed your kids, I am advocate for serving healthy portion sizes. I love using the plate method with kids (as long as the plate isn’t oversized!): at dinner, for example, fill half the plate with veggies and a quarter with protein (think fish, chicken) and the other quarter with a healthy starch (brown rice, sweet potato). To avoid overeating, limit eating in front of the TV and pre-portion snacks into 100 calorie portions. I offer more portion control tricks and tips here.

6. Skip the white food (unless it’s cauliflower or white beans).

White bread including bagels, white rice, and white pasta are refined grains and are easy to overeat. Because they contain virtually no fiber, we don’t feel satisfied after eating them. While many kids choose them by default, I’ve learned from my counseling practice that introducing kids to healthier alternatives including quinoa, whole grain pasta, and brown rice helps them get into the habit of enjoying these grains. No need for kids to cut out starch entirely. Choosing the healthier ones is a far better alternative.

7. Get moving!

Incorporating sports and exercise into your children’s daily routine is a great way to keep them healthy while also keeping their weight in check. If possible, enroll kids in after school activities where possible, enjoy a walk or bike ride with your kids whenever possible, and encourage them to move. I’ve noticed that if parents engage in physical activity, their kids will follow along.
Hope your school year gets off to a great start!

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7 Nutrition Secrets to Live a Longer and Healthier Life

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 secrets to live a longer–and healthier–life.

You can also read it here.

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Let’s face it. We all want to live a longer — and healthier — life. Aging is inevitable but there are healthy habits we can create and foods we can enjoy to help prologue our lives. A nutrient dense diet along with a stress-free lifestyle goes hand in hand to promote longevity.

As a nutritionist, I regularly get asked how to help slow the aging process. Below are some simple tricks to help stop the clock.


1. Go meatless.

Swapping meat for fish, beans, and legumes is a great way to fight inflammation and prevent aging. Indeed, consuming fish regularly has been shown to promote brain health. Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines also help boost our intake of omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats also shown to promote heart health. Incorporating elements of the Mediterranean diet by eating less meat and more legumes along with more fruits and vegetables has also been shown to fight inflammation.

2. Eat brain candy.

To keep our brains sharp and to prevent cognitive decline, what we eat can make a difference. Foods high in certain vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals may help to boost brain health. Deep red foods such as tomatoes and watermelon contain the antioxidant lycopene which fights free radicals that come with aging. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are rich in vitamins E and K which may prevent memory loss and help reduce our “brain age.” Berries contain anthocyanins which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

3. Maintain your weight.

As we age, our metabolism tends to slow down so it is important to watch calories and exercise more to avoid weight gain. It turns out that maintaining a steady weight and avoiding yoyo dieting is equally important. The centenarians fromOkinawa, known to live long and healthy lives, were known to keep their calories down and their weight steady. Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) has been associated with lower rates of heart disease and certain cancers. Eating nutrient dense foods along with practicing portion control allows you to eat almost all of your favorite foods while helping to keep your calories in check.

4. Eat a colorful plate.

Besides helping us feel fuller on fewer calories, eating a colorful diet high in fruits and vegetables (both fresh and frozen) can give your diet a boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber which cut your risk of chronic disease and help counter free radicals, thereby helping to fight cellular damage and aging. Choosing a colorful assortment of produce is best, as different health benefits exist from the different color spectrum. Try to start each meal with a mixed salad and as diet planning guides suggest, fill half of your plate fruits and veggies.

5. Skimp on added sugar.

For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines set a specific recommendation for limiting added sugar. This was done for good reason. A diet high in added sugar has been linked to obesity, chronic diseases, and inflammation. The 2015-2020 guidelines advise that added sugars comprise no more than 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons of sugar, for a 2,000-calorie diet. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which comes from sugary beverages. While we should skip soda, we also must watch out for other foods such as many store bought salad dressings, ketchup, and prepared foods which contain considerable amounts of added sugar. Read food labels and take note: high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, and honey are all other names for “sugar.”

6. Spice it up.

Seasoning your favorite foods with spices will not only enhance the flavor, but will boost your nutrient intake, and help fight the aging process. Turmeric, for example, contains the active ingredient curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties and help relieve joint pain. And, for an added boost, seasoning your foods with spices helps to reduce your need to use added sugar and salt.

7. Keep moving.

As a nutritionist, I am a huge advocate for exercise and recommend that my clients incorporate an exercise program into their (almost) daily routine. Cardiovascular exercise including walking, biking, and swimming help keep our heart strong while strength training helps preserve lean muscle and is therefore equally important as we age.

We would love to hear your favorite anti-aging tricks.

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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.

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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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Foods to enjoy without added sugar

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post 10 foods to enjoy without added sugar.

You can also read it HERE.

The problems with consuming too much added sugar seem to be getting lots of attention these days. From contributing to inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, sugar has been recently singled out as a cause for concern.

The recently released report from the Dietary Guideline Committee (DGAC) suggests, for the first time, that Americans limit sugar to 10 percent of calories. That would translate into roughly 200 calories–and 12 teaspoons–for a 2000 calorie diet. TheWorld Health Organization (WHO) also suggests we limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of total calories. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed that manufacturers be required to declare the amount of “added sugars” on food labels to help consumers understand how much sugar has been added to a product.

Indeed, we love sugar and eat too much of it. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. Sugar contributes to the sweet taste of our foods and drinks while also acting as a preservative in many of our favorite foods.

Acting as a food sleuth, I recently visited a local New York City supermarket with a reporter for a public radio station for a story on hidden sources of sugar. While we know that sugary drinks such as soda and sugar-sweetened cereals such as Fruit Loops are a main culprit of added sugar, it is often surprising to people when they hear that sugar is also lurking in breads (even whole-wheat varieties) as well as salad dressings (even healthy sounding ones especially low-fat varieties.) Perusing the supermarket aisles, while we were sure that we would see lots of sugar in fruit punch, ice cream, and candy bars, we also found considerable amounts of added sugar in many commonly consumed foods including waffles, ketchup, teriyaki sauce, and granola.

So what can we eat without too much added sugar?

Below are 10 foods to enjoy without having to worry about exceeding sugar budget.

1. Plain Greek yogurt
Finding the added sugar on your cup of yogurt can be tricky these days which is one of the reasons why the FDA wants to require manufacturers to list “added sugars” on the food labels. While on first glance, yogurt appears to be high in sugar, unsweetened yogurt contains only the naturally occurring simple sugar lactose, called milk sugar. Flavored yogurts, on the other hand, often contain lots of added sugar, in addition to the naturally occurring sugar. Many sweetened yogurts contain several teaspoons of added sugars.

2. Apple
While fruits contain sugar (called fructose), it is a naturally occurring source of sugar. Apples, as well as other fruits, also contain fiber which will help you feel full without the calories.

3. Peanut butter
Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter on your apple for flavor and fullness while also getting a dose of healthy fats and added nutrients. Steer clear, however, of the sugar-sweetened peanut butters. Stick to the plain unsweetened varieties.

4. Tossed salad
Fresh vegetables of all kind contain carbohydrates as their primary source of calories but you really do not have to worry about their sugar content. While a carrot may have more sugar, and therefore more calories, than a stalk of celery, vegetables contain naturally occurring sugar while also containing fiber, high water content, and a fairly low calories count. Fresh vegetables in their natural state do not contain added sugars.

5. Avocado
Throw in some avocado which contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. While avocado is not low in calories, (due to its fat content), this fruit is not a source added sugar.

6. Homemade salad dressing
To skip the added sugar often found in store-bought bottled salad dressings, I suggest making your own. Ingredients such as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and lemon are very low in sugar.

7. Grilled Salmon
Top your salad with grilled salmon which contributes protein as well as heart-healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon as well as other fish and high protein foods are not a source of added sugars. However, watch the teriyaki glaze, soy sauce, and breadcrumbs which can contribute sugar, salt, and added calories. Drizzle your salmon with olive oil and spices to save on added sugar and salt.

8. Air-popped popcorn
Hungry for a mid-afternoon snack? Skip the candy bar and choose air-popped popcorn instead. Air-popped popcorn is low in sugar and calories and contains fiber which will help you feel full. And, what’s even better, is that you can enjoy a generous serving. 3 cups of popcorn constitutes one serving from the grain group.

9. Hummus and veggies
Hummus contains protein which helps you feel full. Enjoy this yummy chick pea spread with your favorite fresh vegetables.

10. Sparkling water
Hydrate yourself with sparkling water instead of soda and other sweetened drinks. Add a twist of fresh lemon or lime for a hint of flavor. Many sparkling waters are flavored naturally without any added sugar. Read labels carefully, however, because some healthy sounding beverages often contain added sugars. And those without added sugar often contain artificial sweeteners, which aren’t much better than sugar.

We would love to hear some of your favorite foods which are low in added sugar?

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