The Gluten Free Diet Trend

wheat

There are endless trends when it comes to nutrition but the one that appears to be taking center stage is gluten free diets.   It is estimated that around 22 % of adults are trying to avoid gluten, creating an estimated 8.8 billion dollar market.  It goes without saying that this is big business for food companies.  But, is a gluten free diet really the way to go?  Is the big boom in gluten free diets out of necessity?  Anyone who has considered going gluten free should read this article The Gluten Enigma appearing in the March/April issue of Eating Well.   This article explores gluten sensitivity and addresses the myth of gluten free diets for weight loss. Although this article is unlikely to totally clear up the controversy regarding gluten free diets, hopefully it will help consumers make the best decision when it comes to their diet.

Ways to Eat Smarter this Spring

asparagus

We all could use a little help with our eating habits and Appetite for Health has provided some great tips to get us started with healthier eating for the warmer months.

 1. Snack Smarter.

Start by changing the “snack ratio” in the house. Slowly and gradually have more fruits, veggies, and healthier snack choices around, rather than the typical, higher-calorie junk food. Fresh produce is abundant in the spring season – so make watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, peaches, blueberries and other fruits your “go-to” sweet snack items in place of  cookies, ice cream or candy bars.  I love to combine fresh fruit with non fat greek yogurt as a way to keep me full between meals, while maximizing taste and good nutrition. Want more great snack ideas?  Check out Julie’s list of “Skinny 100-Calorie Snacks”.

2. Get a “Hand”le on Portions.

Regularly consuming super-sized portions is one of the quickest ways to derail your diet.  Develop a healthy habit of selecting sensible-sized food portions. If your plate has a serving of rice that can’t fit into the cupped palm of your hand then you’ve probably taken too much. Using this “cup of your hand” technique is a good way to mentally measure the amounts of foods that go onto your plate. For a good guide to estimating healthy portions using your hand, check out this chart.

3. Slash Your Soda Intake.

Can you commit to going soda-free this summer?  Why not! Try slowly weaning yourself off calorie-containing soft drinks.  Delicious, thirst-quenching alternatives include unsweetened iced tea or water with slices of orange or lemon . If you want to keep your ‘fizz’, try a beverage of ¼ cup 100% fruit juice mixed with seltzer.

4. Choose Low-Calorie Sauces and Dips.

Take advantage of great summer salads for main courses and appetizers, but have sauces and dressings served on the side. This step alone can save you hundreds of calories. Instead of dousing salads with rich dressings, dip your fork into a small dish of dressing and then pick up your food. This will impart the flavor of your dressing with every bite, but without adding too many calories.  If you find yourself at a party with lots of chips and dips… either avoid them altogether, or portion out a handful of chips (better yet – opt for veggies if they are available) and pair with a few tablespoons of healthier dips like hummus, salsa, or bean dip.

5. Eat Breakfast.

Really.  I mean it.  This one can make a big difference in how many total calories you consume for the day. A healthy breakfast choice may establish your hormonal appetite regulation system for the day.  A scone or muffin with coffee might sound good, but won’t tame your cravings or temper your appetite as much as a protein-rich breakfast from eggs (6 grams protein per 70-calorie med egg), egg whites (the protein is split between the yolk and white but the white is lower in calories), oatmeal with peanut butter or yogurt (esp Greek yogurt); yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit; or nut butters with a protein-rich whole-grain bread. If you’re eating cold cereal, look for brands that provide at least six grams protein per serving and have with a cup of skim or 1% milk will add an additional 10 grams protein.

For good ideas on what to eat for breakfast, check out our article on 10 Healthy Breakfasts in Less than 10 Minutes.

6. Make Mondays Meatless. 

You may have heard the “Meatless Mondays” slogan, which started as a way to help the war effort during WWI. Now it’s a nationwide movement (meatlessmonday.com). Why take the pledge? Going meatless just one day a week can decrease your risk for cancer and other major health issues.

7. Expand Your “Grain Universe”.  

You’re into quinoa? Great! Now venture a little deeper into the world of whole grains. Not only do they taste terrific, there are many health benefits to be gained by expanding your “Grain Universe”.  Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases. While benefits are most pronounced for those consuming at least 3 servings daily, some studies show reduced risks from as little as one serving daily. The message: every whole grain in your diet helps!  Don’t know how to cook more exotic whole grains?  Check out this great guide from Cooking Light.

Source:appforhealth.com

Food Branding, Is it All a Mind Game?

grocery-store

Anyone who has ever been grocery shopping with a child knows how enticing a food package can be.  My 3 year old is fascinated by Curious George and squeals in delight when he sees that curious little monkey’s picture on boxes of “fruit” snacks.  Needless to say, if that box didn’t feature his favorite monkey, he probably wouldn’t even take notice.  Marion Nestle, a food political writer brings up the topic of food packaging in one of her recent blog posts.  

Is there any evidence that plain packaging for unhealthy foods would reduce demand? Research has focused on marketing’s effect on children’s food preferences, demands and consumption. Brands and packages sell foods and drinks, and even very young children recognize and desire popular brands. When researchers compare the responses of children to the same foods wrapped in plain paper or in wrappers with company logos, bright colors or cartoon characters, kids invariably prefer the more exciting packaging

Plain wrappers, no more marketing gimmicks?  Do we see that in our future?  I know many parents out there would certainly rejoice.

Battling Nutrition Misinformation on the Internet

nutri-facts-label

As a registered dietitian I am constantly battling the nutrition misinformation (i.e. quackery) that is published on the Internet.  Luckily for me I have many esteemed colleagues who are in this fight right along with me. …. 

5 Things a Dietitan Would Never Say

As a registered dietitian, I spend much of my day helping clear up confusion around which foods are healthy (and which are not). As more and more people hit the Internet to consume and share (via social media) food and nutrition information, misinformation is spreading faster than the latest Grumpy Cat meme: One week, maple water is the best thing for your health; the next it’s coconut oil, and now …bone broth.

So, where does all this nutrition hype come from? Many times it stems from a popular blogger, celebrity or website that highlights a new food trend. The buzz is generally based on preliminary or flimsy (poorly designed) research or simply anecdotal information.

Unfortunately, because anyone can claim they’re a “nutritionist,” this misinformation can pose a health threat. In some cases, adding trendy foods to one’s diet may elevate risk factors for chronic diseases. And eliminating entire food groups, as is often recommended without justification, can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

Here are five common phrases I’ve heard five “nutritionists” say (these are things a dietitian would never say):

1. It works for me … so it will for you, too.

Just because the so-called expert lost a lot of weight or improved his or her health doesn’t mean their trick will work for you. A one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition generally works for no one. Nutrition recommendations should be individualized, based on one’s genetic makeup, age, sex, food preferences and lifestyle.

Anyone who believes that a particular type of diet would be beneficial for everyone makes no scientific sense. As a dietitian, I don’t expect an Olympic athlete or cardiac rehab patient to eat like me. Instead, I provide a personalized approach to help each client achieve his or her individual health goals.

2. I have no formal training in nutrition.

While all registered dietitians can be called nutritionists, not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. To be a registered dietitian nutritionist, you must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in nutrition science and supervised training in an accredited program that includes clinical and community settings. In addition, all RDNs have passed the national comprehensive exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. RDNs must also complete continuing education requirements to maintain our RDN credential.

The term “nutritionist” is not accredited. In fact, it may represent someone who has taken an online certification course, or it could be someone who feels entitled to call themselves a “nutritionist.” If your nutritionist isn’t qualified to work for a hospital or physician’s office, that’s cause for concern.

3. You can’t trust the medical “establishment.” When someone uses charged statements such as “If you want the real truth…” or “The FDA is using us as guinea pigs,” it’s most likely not credible. Trusted health organizations such as the American Heart Association, Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health develop nutrition recommendations based on overwhelming peer-reviewed evidence and can, in fact, be trusted. While it’s true that as the science evolves, recommendations may be updated, reputable health organizations make evidence-based recommendations.

4. The food industry fills our foods with toxic, addictive and cancer-causing ingredients that are essentially unregulated.

“Toxic.” “Cancer-causing.” “Made from petroleum.” These are terms often used by so-called nutrition experts to describe ingredients in the foods we eat every day. The statements are often misleading and an exaggerated s-t-r-e-t-c-h of the truth designed to raise fear about our food supply and the government agencies that oversee the safety of our food.

However, a real nutrition pro will focus on your personal diet, and assist you in finding the right foods – in the right amounts – to help you achieve your health goals. When you follow healthy eating principles, it’s great to be aware of what’s in your food, so you can make informed food choices, but no one should be fearful of the U.S. food supply. For the most part, ingredients singled out by some watchdog groups are generally found in soft drinks, fast food and other foods that aren’t on most RDs’ recommended lists of foods to enjoy.

5. This ____ (fill in the blank recommendation) helps “brain fog,” “elevate energy,” “leaky gut, “adrenal fatigue,” “acid-base balance.”

Often, I can identify non-dietitians just by the terms they use to promote a food or their diet philosophy. They will use non-medical terms that sound intriguing but can’t be proven effective, as there is no standard diagnosis for terms they use, such as leaky gut or adrenal fatigue. In fact, these highly subjective terms are not even recognized by most qualified medical professionals.

As dietitians, we are trained to treat risk factors for chronic conditions that have been proven effective through research. These include risk factors such as overweight and obesity; elevated blood glucose and insulin; high blood pressure, elevated LDL-cholesterol or C-reactive protein; and other clincally measureable risk factors for diseases.

By: Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD
http://www.usnews.com/topics/author/julie-upton

Focus on Eating Real Food

veggies

Even a science based professional finds their head spinning with all the contradictory information about dietary fats.

Recently another study was published disputing years of recommendations to keep our total fat consumption to less than 30% and saturated-fat to less than 10% of our calorie intake. Although this particular study I am referring to was not the ideal way to measure the effect of dietary fat on cardiac mortality (i.e. death), it helps put things in perspective. Rather than demonizing one specific macronutrient, be it carbohydrate, fat, or protein, we should focus on eating whole food. When we consume whole food we naturally eliminate processed foods with little nutritional value. Perhaps this is another lesson to teach us that it is far better to focus on real food rather than individual nutrients. When you eat a balance of real food there is no need to count carbohydrates, protein or fat because you naturally get what you need.

Bottom line, consume whole foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts and seeds, vegetables and fruits and whole grains; and limit (or avoid) consumption of processed foods. You don’t need a science background to understand that.

Clean Eating Tips

veggies

Clean Eating. This is a term that is overused & misused extensively.  The best “definition” (I use this term loosely) is by Eating Well’s registered dietitian.  Clean eating is “about eating more of the best and healthiest options in each of the food groups—and eating less of the not-so-healthy ones. That means embracing foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, plus healthy proteins and fats. It also means cutting back on refined (i.e. processed) grains, added sugars, salt and unhealthy fats. And since you don’t have to count calories or give up whole food groups, it’s easy to follow.”

Clean Eating Tips:

Limit processed foods

Bump up your vegetables

Cut down on saturated fat

Reduce alcohol intake

Un-sweeten your diet

Watch the salt

Choose whole grains

Up your fruit intake

Nix refined grains

For more specific information click on this link to view the slide show and to browse delicious lunch recipes. 

Recognizing a Good Whole Grain

italian bread

While the Internet is filled with propaganda about how grains are killing us, I am still a firm believer in the importance of whole grains as part of a healthy diet.  While the bulk of our diet should be from vegetables & fruits (think leafy greens, plant based proteins, whole fruits, etc.) there is still room to incorporate a variety of whole grains.   My current favorite whole grain happens to be quinoa, which is a quick and easy protein source (my Pinterest board is filled with quinoa recipes).  However, my preferred whole grain is bread so I am constantly experimenting with different whole grain varieties.  My latest accomplishment is whole-wheat pretzel rolls.  I have a great love for pretzels rolls, although most I have encountered are of the refined flour variety.  I modified a recipe by exchanging the unbleached flour for whole wheat with beautiful results. Serve these warm with butter of perhaps an egg sandwich (egg, spinach, pick your fancy), so many possibilities.

Recognize a good whole grain

Soft pretzel rolls (I used 100 % whole wheat flour with beautiful results)

 

New Year’s Resolutions: Old vs New & Improved

Weigh A Decision

The New Year is upon us.  Time for resolutionsdiet plans and anything else you want to start fresh in this new season.  As for me, I mentioned countless times I am not a huge fan of resolutions, mostly because I think it often embraces the all or nothing mentality that gets us into trouble in the first place. So while I am not making any new resolutions, I continue to work on many lifestyle habits that are always a work in progress.  One article I find very helpful is a 2014 blog from College Girl to College Girl that re-frames the way we think about our “resolutions.”  Embrace lifestyle changes as opposed to radical diets.

 

Old: “I’m going to lose 10 lbs this year.”

Why focus on weight and appearance for your New Years Resolution? You should instead focus on feeding your body with healthy foods and listening to what it wants and needs. After all, the number on the scale is… well, just a number.

New and Improved: “I’m going to make more meals at home.”

After the holidays, we fall into a bit of a nutrition slump. We’re used to eating bigger meals, eating out with our family and friends, and sampling the wide variety of Christmas cookies! But, most of us grow tired of this and are ready to get back on our normal eating schedule. After New Years, make a resolution to make more meals at home and only eat out, let’s say a maximum of twice of week. Also, eating at home is often healthier, more nutrient dense, and lower in empty calories and more conducive to weight management.

 

Old: “No more desserts for me!”

Cutting out your favorite foods will only lead to wanting them more, so give yourself permission to eat your favorite foods in moderation.

New and improved: “I am going to eat at least 3 different kinds of fruits/vegetables a day.”

Instead of focusing on what you are going to cut out of your diet, focus on what you can add into your diet! Fruits and vegetables are a great place to start. Check out this recipe for banana whip.

 

New and improved: “I will sign up and train for a 10 mile race.” or “I will try 2 new group fitness classes a month, and work out at least 3 times a week.”

Being more physically active is a great New Years Resolution. But, if you do not consistently exercise, making a resolution to “work out more” or “exercise every day” may not be specific enough. If you like to run, try signing up for a race with a few friends. Set up a training schedule together. If you don’t like to run, find other ways.

 

Old: “I’m going to get the bikini body I’ve always wanted.”

What is a “bikini body” anyway?

New and Improved: “I’m going to focus on what I love about my body.”

Try committing to saying 3 positive affirmations out loud everyday. Or make a list of 10 things you love about yourself that you love about yourself that includes non-body related personality traits. Add to this list often and read it often!

 

Old: “I’m going on a diet.”

New and Improved: “I’m going to fuel my body with the food it needs.”

This year try to REBEL against conventional fad diets that do not provide long lasting results and can be dangerous to your health.

 

Old: “I am going to start eating healthier”

This is a great resolution, but it’s too vague and general. Try coming up with specific and small health goals that you can accomplish and focus in on.  

New and Improved:  “I am going to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night” or “I am going to eat 2-3 servings of vegetables per day” or “I will start eating breakfast” These resolutions will help you eat and be healthier and are specific and achievable.

 

Adapted from College Girl to College Girl: Revamp your New Years’ Resolution

Simple Holiday Treat – Hazelnut Maple Biscotti

hazelnut_biscotti

In an effort to simplify my life this holiday season, a theme that resonates with me every year, I have been thinking about ways to pare down my life. This thought started with a simple trip to the grocery store where I noticed the shelves were filled with an overabundance of holiday food items, that sadly, go to waste. It goes without saying that we live in a world of abundance, particularly when it comes to food. Of course, this is not a blog about world hunger, but it certainly gives you something to think about in this season of plenty.

 

Obviously, being a nutrition professional, I have a love of food so I am not going to totally forgo the joy of baking, just stick to my favorites that I know will be savored by family & friends alike.  My personal favorite holiday treat is Hazelnut Maple Biscotti; nothing beats this divine combination of chocolate and hazelnuts.

 

So, I will savor my biscotti and all the simple pleasures the season has to offer.

 

Hazelnut Maple Biscotti

Hazelnuts (a tree nut) are a good source of folate & dietary fiber.

 

½ cup pure maple syrup

½ cup hazelnut butter (I ground my hazelnuts which is actually pretty simple)

¼ cup butter

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1-teaspoon vanilla

1-tablespoon hazelnut liquor (optional)

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup lightly toasted hazelnuts

Semi-sweet or Bittersweet Chocolate for drizzle

 

Preheat oven to 325. Line cookie sheet with parchment or silpat. In a medium bowl, cream together maple syrup, hazelnut butter and butter. Add eggs, vanilla and liquor, blending well. In a larger bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir to blend. Make a well into dry ingredients, add egg mixture and mix until incorporated. Add nuts. (Knead by hand if necessary). On a lightly floured board, divide dough into half and roll into 2 14-inch logs. Place logs on prepared sheet, then flatten about 1 inch high. Bake for 25 minutes or until loaves spring back when touched lightly. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Reset oven to 300. Slice cookies on the diagonal. Place slices flat on baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes (a lot of this process is trial and error; I like my cookies crisp so I bake longer). Remove from oven and let cool. Drizzle with chocolate (or dip in chocolate) if desired.

Nutrition Tips from the Experts

Nutrition

There is no shortage of nutrition information on the Internet, but whether or not this information is scientifically accurate is another story.  Countless purported experts are giving advice on how to eat right & exercise.  That is why I loved this recent blog from appetite for appetite for health, which highlights nutrition tips from the real nutrition experts, registered dietitians.  As they so aptly puts it “Dietitians follow nutrition research, and our recommendations always stem from human clinical trials conducted at reputable universities and published in top-tier medical journals. How we eat and live aligns with the totality of the science (not one new study), too, so while our tips may not be new — they do work.”

Read on for nutrition advice from the Nutrition Pros, courtesy of the nutrition experts at appforhealth.com

Healthy Eating Tips from Nutrition Pros

Enjoy a daily treat

There’s a certain mental satisfaction that comes with knowing you don’t have to eat perfectly 24/7. And although I’m a total health nut (understatement!), I appreciate having the wiggle room to be spontaneous with my kids or sample something truly special at an event or party without any guilt.

The payoff

Giving yourself the allowance for a portion-controlled daily treat removes feelings of deprivation, which in turn enables you to stick with an overall healthy eating regimen. Win-win. — Joy Bauer, MS, RD, Today Show Nutritionist

Eat more of the good stuff

While nothing is really off limits, I aim to load up on the healthier foods and enjoy smaller amounts of less healthy food. For example, instead of a bowl of ice cream with a few berries on top, I’ll have a bowl of berries with a spoonful of ice cream on top. I’ll fill half my plate with veggies and have a smaller portion of protein and grains. I also choose satisfying nutrient-dense “real” foods and eat them in smaller amounts. For example, I’d rather have a little bit of a flavorful full-fat cheese than a reduced-fat cheese with not much satisfaction.

The payoff

I can eat whatever I want and never feel deprived, while still maintaining my weight and getting important nutrients in my diet. — Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Eat Right When Time is Tight

Eat every few hours

I plan on eating something every 3 to 5 hours. Once I’m comfortably satisfied after eating a meal or snack, I stop before becoming too full. I remind myself that I can finish what I’m eating or eat something else again in a few hours, but only if I’m hungry.

The payoff

When I set myself up for regular meals and snacks throughout the day, I’ve found it’s the easiest way to keep my craving for refined, carbohydrate-rich foods like cookies and other baked goods in check. — McKenzie Hall, RD, NourishRDs

Choose an activity you love

I do an activity that I love every day — and that’s usually yoga. I find yoga extremely challenging for my body and my mind. I tell my patients all the time that exercise shouldn’t be torture, but rather enjoyable. And for every person, that could be something totally different.

The payoff

If you exercise on a regular basis you could have more energy, better weight control and a little less stress. — Keri Gans, MS, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet

Make easy substitutions

I don’t believe in deprivation, so I enjoy just about everything… in moderation. I’m always looking for ways to make everyday favorites healthier without sacrificing taste. For instance, when baking, I’ll cut the sugar by 25 percent and I use canola oil in place of butter, margarine or shortening because it’s lower in saturated fat than most vegetable oils and has more beneficial omega-3s. I also love chocolate, so I make sure I eat dark chocolate rich in beneficial flavonoid antioxidants.

The payoff

I don’t feel deprived so it’s easier for me to stick with an overall healthier diet 90 percent of the time. — Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, co-author of The Real Skinny

Monitor your movement

I stay active on most days (typically six times a week) and keep tabs on my daily physical activity by wearing a fitness tracker. It keeps me accountable as I strive to meet my daily goal of 10,000 to 12,000 steps (the equivalent of about five to six miles).

The payoff

Wearing my tracker not only helps me track my fitness stats, but it actually motivates me to move even more than I might otherwise. I have been active for years, but I’ve learned that I really like knowing not only how far I’m going when I walk around the city or on the beach or hike, but how much time I’ve spent being sedentary. I’m always so proud when I surpass my goal and know that staying accountable gives me the positive reinforcement I need to continue. – Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, author of Younger Next Week

Make it simple

My meals are always delicious, but simple. That means no sauces, gravies or extras that often pile on a lot of extra calories. For example, at dinner I have a piece of simply prepared lean protein (grilled salmon, beef or boneless chicken), a side veggie off the grill or steamed with a squeeze of lemon and a big green salad. I also exercise every day — even if it’s only a 30-minute walk.

The payoff
I get to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and weight maintenance is easy. — Kathleen Zelman, MS, RD, Director of Nutrition, WebMD

Eat fresh with frozen

I stock my freezer with plenty of frozen fruits and vegetables that I can grab at a moment’s notice for a variety of meals and snacks. I use frozen veggies to add to soups or egg or bean or casseroles, and I always have frozen berries to make my favorite smoothies with almond milk and Greek yogurt.

The payoff

I get more fruit and veggie servings in my diet because I don’t have to rely on what’s in-season or what I have that’s fresh at home. Studies also show that frozen foods are often as nutritious as — and sometimes even more so — because freezing locks in the nutrients of fresh-picked produce. (Frozen raspberry-beet smoothie recipe.) —Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, Wellness Manager at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute

Balance your plate

I strive to fill half of my plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter for lean proteins and a quarter for whole grains. My “quarter plate” of lean proteins rotates between legumes, nuts, seeds, chicken, seafood, yogurt and milk. And my quarter grains are almost always whole grains. I indulge in good meat at restaurants, and enjoy a bit of dark chocolate, coffee and wine almost daily.

The payoff

Following the balanced eating plate method and paying attention to hunger cues allows me to enjoy beautiful, scrumptious whole foods until perfectly satisfied. — Michelle Dudash, RDN, chef and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families

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