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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Angie Mitchell

Recent Posts by Angie Mitchell:

Is Chocolate REALLY Good for You? The Nutrition Behind the Treat

ThinkstockPhotos-71264413.jpegYou’ve seen it on the news and read articles in magazines, but is it really true? Can chocolate actually be good for you? Isn’t it too delicious and forbidden to be a food that can help with heart disease? Of course nutrition is confusing and things change all the time about what is good and isn’t so good for you, so what is the deal with chocolate?

The good news is that yes, chocolate is good for you; there have been plenty of studies proving that there are health benefits to chocolate. It does matter, however, how much and what type of chocolate you are consuming. So before you grab that king-size Hershey bar, read below to learn what to do and understand the benefits when it comes to eating chocolate in the appropriate amounts.

The Nutrition Science of Chocolate

The cacao bean, which is the base of chocolate candy, is loaded with nutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids help protect from environmental toxins and repair damage to the body. They provide antioxidants that help the body resist cell damage from free radicals. The main flavonoids are flavanols, which can reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, and make blood platelets clot more easily.

ThinkstockPhotos-510580190.jpegCocoa naturally has a very strong taste, so it has to go through many steps to form your favorite type of chocolate. And through this processing many of the flavanols are lost. Most commercial chocolates are highly processed, and therefore have the lowest amount of antioxidants. However, dark chocolate that has undergone minimal processing will have the highest amount of flavonoids. As far as cocoa goes, the best choice is one that hasn’t undergone Dutch processing, which is when they treat it with an alkali to neutralize the natural acidity. (For more about how chocolate is created and how to enjoy it, check out this book.)

Be careful about the type of dark chocolate you choose, though. Typically one that contains over 70% cocoa will give you more of the heart-healthy benefits. And watch out for the extras such as caramel, nougat, and pretzels that are added to the chocolate. Those can add a ton of extra fat and calories to the treat, and are not high in nutritional value.

How Much Chocolate Should You Eat?

There is currently no established serving size for the amount that is healthy for your heart. So the general recommendation is to stick to 1 oz. of dark chocolate per day. This is the equivalent of one square of baking chocolate, 54 chocolate chips, or 6 Hershey’s kisses.

Other Foods Rich in Flavonoids

Dark chocolate isn’t the only way to get in flavonoids, though. They can be found in many foods such as cranberries, apples, onions, peanuts, tea, and red wine. So make sure to enjoy chocolate a few times a week, but also incorporate other foods that have many of the same disease prevention benefits.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: nutrition disease prevention antioxidants chocolate

Nutrition with Whole Foods: Winter Vegetables to Try

ThinkstockPhotos-636370602.jpgAre you uninspired on the vegetable front once the weather turns cold and the local fresh produce is no longer available? Luckily there are some hearty winter vegetables that I challenge you to try: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale. These whole foods will add some variety to your current lineup—and help you get the nutrition you need more easily. Below are recipes to try.

Brussels Sprouts, Quinoa, and Cranberry Salad
Serves 4–6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, rinsed and ends trimmed, then halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Toss the first 4 ingredients together until combined.
  2. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together to make the vinaigrette and pour over the salad.

 

Cauliflower Fried Rice
Serves 4ThinkstockPhotos-535428009.jpg

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup carrots, cubed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • ⅛ tsp. ground ginger
  • Pinch red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Chop head of cauliflower into florets and place in food processor. Pulse until it starts to resemble rice; set aside.
  2. Heat a large wok or skillet over medium heat and drizzle in sesame oil. Add onion, peas, and carrots and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and red pepper flakes; set aside.
  4. Slide veggie mixture to one side of the wok and add in the beaten eggs, scrambling until cooked through, and then incorporate with the veggies.
  5. Stir in cauliflower "rice" and pour the soy sauce over the top, mixing well.
  6. Cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes, until cauliflower is soft and tender.

 

Turkey Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup
Serves 10

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 package (14 oz.) smoked turkey sausage, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
  • 4 cups torn kale leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 3 cups cubed potatoes
  • 32 oz. low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
  • 2 cups skim milk (or alternative)
Instructions
  1. Melt butter and heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add diced onions, garlic, sliced smoked turkey sausage rounds, kale, salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme; stir to combine and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in potatoes. Add chicken broth and milk; bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook 10 to 12 minutes, or until potatoes are fully cooked and tender. Remove rosemary sprig.

I hope you enjoy these winter veggie recipes and try one soon!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: NIFS nutrition recipes winter whole foods dietitian vegetables

NIFS Dietitian Reviews Hello Fresh Meal Delivery Service

Hello Fresh Box.jpgWhen I ask people why they don’t cook more, I get a lot of answers. Typically it’s along the lines of “I don’t have time,” “I haven’t been to the grocery store,” “I don’t know what to cook,” or “I don’t know how to cook.” So I was intrigued by the meal delivery service options that are available for individuals who don’t cook as often as they’d like.

Some of the more popular services are Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh, and one local to the Indianapolis area called Fresh Artistry. I had an offer for 50% off my order with Hello Fresh, so that is why I chose to try that one. Here is my experience.

Ordering and Delivery

I went to the Hello Fresh website to sign up. I was able to choose three meals to feed two people (from a selection of six meals) for $35 (originally $70). If I were getting vegetarian choices, it would be a little cheaper, and they also had an option for a family of four. After choosing a beef dish, chicken dish, and fish dish, I was able to pick my delivery date. I chose a Tuesday delivery so I could enjoy the meals during the week when time is short for meal prep.

The box arrived on my front porch with many ice packs to keep the food fresh. Each meal was nicely distributed into its individual boxes, which I appreciated, so I knew which ingredients went with which dish.

Hello Fresh Instruction Card.jpgHello Fresh Ingredients.jpgMaking the Meals

I pulled out the colorful instruction card for the first meal that it suggested I make to guarantee freshness, which was Bayou-Spiced Rockfish. It also listed the prep time, that it was gluten and nut free, the difficulty level, the ingredients I would be using, and a picture (this I really appreciated!) of the final product. When I flipped over the card, it listed the nutrition facts for the meal, what tools I would need to use, and detailed instructions with more photos! So far I was really enjoying my purchase!

I started to work on prepping the veggies and potatoes. What I really enjoyed was the fact that I had minimal dishes getting dirty in the kitchen. When I was finished, the only items I needed to clean were a knife, cutting board, and skillet. This was a plus for sure! After the veggies and potatoes were prepped and ready, I switched those out for the fish. The pan was hot so it didn’t take long at all for it to cook.

Hello Fresh Meal.jpgHello Fresh Veggies.jpgThe final thing to do was to put it all on the plate and taste it. I thought it was delicious! The portion size was ideal, the flavor was great, and the prep and cleanup were easy! From start to finish the time was around 30 minutes before eating.

The other two meals that I was shipped were also tasty. Each of those took around 35 minutes to prepare (due to a longer cooking time for the chicken and beef), and they both involved one extra piece of equipment to wash.

The Verdict: Thumbs Up!

Overall I was very happy with the service. What I really liked was the option to skip weeks easily when you don’t want a delivery. I was really delighted with the Hello Fresh process. If you have been wanting to cook balanced meals and do more healthy eating, this is the easiest way I know of to get started. Try one soon and let me know what you think!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS nutrition healthy eating wellness cooking dietitian

Helping Picky Kids Get Better Nutrition

ThinkstockPhotos-474735668.jpgHas dinnertime become the dreaded time lately? Getting picky children to eat can be very frustrating. Children of different ages may respond differently to various tactics. Here are a few ideas for how you can get your child to try (and hopefully like) new foods, and get better nutrition.

Pregnant and Lactating Women

Some research shows that the foods that a woman eats during pregnancy may “program” the fetus’ food preferences later in life. Both amniotic fluid and breast milk take on flavors and odors of the foods mom eats. When pregnant and breastfeeding, try these tactics:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods to expose your baby to an assortment of flavors and smells. This may reduce the chance that your child will be a picky eater.
  • Avoid a diet based around junk food. Your need for additional calories is not a good reason to eat food that contains no nutritional value. Doing so may increase the amount of sugar needed to experience reward in your child’s developing brain, possibly leading to loss of control and binge-eating episodes later in life.

Infants

Feed your baby variety. It often takes the introduction of a new food ten times for a young child to develop a taste for it. Most babies grimace at every new food. Keep trying a food and your baby may learn to like it.

  • Introduce vegetables before fruits so that the child does not get used to eating sweet foods all the time.
  • When eating several different foods at one meal, introduce new foods before familiar favorites. If they do not know mashed bananas are available, they may try the lima bean puree.
  • Do not avoid foods because you do not like them. Your child may learn to like different foods than you.

Toddlers and Children

As with babies, toddlers may refuse foods—not because they don’t like them, but because they begin to realize they have a choice. Let your child make other decisions, like what book to read, or what clothes to wear, but not what to eat once the food is on the table. A toddler’s growth may be slowing down, so they may eat less. If they are not eating, they may be full from snacks or juice, or they may have been served a portion that is too large. Babies and toddlers will not starve themselves!

  • Eat with your children, and eat the same things. Dad can’t avoid green vegetables, and mom can’t avoid bread or starchy vegetables; your child will pick up on that and think they can avoid certain foods, too.
  • Turn the TV off. Young children need to focus on eating, and distractions such as cartoons will keep them from eating.
  • Make foods fun! Arrange a fruit salad as a smiley face. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes.
  • Let kids play with their food, and be tolerant of messes! It helps kids experience the food’s texture and smell, and will help them eat it, too.
  • Make dips out of cottage cheese, tofu, yogurt, guacamole, peanut butter, or pureed fruits and vegetables. Your child can dip fruits and vegetables, rice cakes, toast, or other nutritious foods.
  • Find a fun character-inspired cookbook, choose a recipe, and make it together.
  • Serve one food at a time, keeping other options out of sight. Start with new foods or foods the child does not like as well first, and then add familiar foods and favorites.

More Tips for Parents

Here are some more ideas that will help make mealtimes more pleasant:

  • Don’t force your child to eat anything.
  • At most meals, try to offer mainly healthy choices.
  • Allow your children to ask for seconds.
  • Do not force your child to finish a meal, even if they want dessert.
  • Deemphasize dessert as a prize; don’t make children finish their vegetables to get it.
  • Have your children rate new foods with a pre-made “New Food Chart”: have them draw a happy face if they like it and a sad face if they don’t.
  • Finally, praise the child for trying new foods. That will encourage them to do it more often.

Hopefully by trying some of these suggestions, you can get your kids on the road to healthy eating—and start enjoying mealtimes more!

Related: Back-to-School Nutrition with Lunch Makeovers

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating snacks lunch kids pregnancy lactation

Back-to-School Nutrition with Lunch Makeovers

ThinkstockPhotos-528974268.jpgIt’s that time of year again…back to school! This means busy evenings or early mornings getting lunches packed for the kids. What’s in a child’s lunch is important because it’s in childhood that eating habits are formed—and heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and other diseases begin to develop. Fatty buildups, the beginnings of clogged arteries, are seen in the arteries of children as young as 10 years old.

So even though that prepackaged meal is the quickest and easiest thing to throw in a lunchbox, consider these 10 ways to help your child eat a more balanced lunch.

  1. Encourage your child to choose 1% or fat-free milk. Milk is the biggest source of saturated fat in children’s diets. Choosing 1% or fat-free milk instead of whole or 2% is an important strategy for keeping children’s hearts healthy and arteries clear.
  2. Switch from bologna, salami, pastrami or corned beef, and other fatty luncheon meats to low-fat alternatives. Supermarkets sell many good-tasting, low-fat or fat-free brands of turkey breast, chicken breast, ham, bologna, and roast beef.
  3. Include at least one serving of fruit in every lunch. Try buying a few new types of fruit each week to let your child discover new favorites and to give him or her more healthy eating choices. In addition to apples, oranges, or bananas, try pears, sliced melon, cups of applesauce, grapes, or pineapple (fresh or canned in its own juice). Try serving fruit in different ways: whole, cut into slices, cubed, or with a yogurt dipping sauce.
  4. Sneak vegetables onto sandwiches. Try lettuce, slices of cucumber, tomato, green pepper, roasted peppers, zucchini, or sugar-snap peas. Eating fruits and vegetables reduces your child’s chances of heart disease, cancer, blindness, and stroke later in life. Putting veggies on a sandwich is one way to get more into your child’s diet.
  5. Use whole-wheat bread instead of white bread for sandwiches. Choose breads that list “whole wheat” as the first ingredient. If the main flour listed on the label is “wheat” or “unbleached wheat flour,” the product is not whole grain. Most multi-grain, rye, oatmeal, and pumpernickel breads in the U.S. are not whole grain.
  6. Limit cookies, snack cakes, doughnuts, brownies, and other sweet baked goods. Sweet baked goods are the second leading source of sugar and the fourth leading source of saturated fat in Americans’ diets. Low-fat baked goods can help cut heart-damaging saturated fat from your child’s diet, but even fat-free sweets can crowd out healthier foods like fruit. This nutrition rule does say LIMIT and not eliminate. The key is moderation when it comes to sweets!
  7. Pack baked chips, pretzels, Cheerios, breadsticks, or low-fat crackers instead of potato, corn, tortilla, or other chips made with oil. Avoid empty calories from artery clogging fried chips. Also, beware of Bugles, which are fried in heavily saturated coconut oil. One ounce has as much artery-clogging fat as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
  8. If you pack juice, make sure it’s 100% juice. All fruit drinks are required to list the “% juice” on the label. Watch out for juice drinks like Sunny Delight, Hi-C, Hawaiian Punch, and Capri Sun. With no more than 10% juice, they are just as sugary as soft drinks.
  9. Don’t send prepackaged lunch trays. Oscar Mayer’s Lunchables that come with a treat and a drink get two-thirds of their calories from fat and sugar. They also contain over 1000mg of sodium, which is half the recommendation for the whole day. Making your own healthy alternative is as easy as packing low-fat crackers, low-fat lunchmeat, a piece of fruit, and a box of 100% juice in your child’s lunchbox.
  10. Let your child help pack their lunch. If your child is excited about the foods they are eating, they will be more likely to finish their energy-packed lunch. Allow them to help pick and choose items to put in their lunchbox each night or morning, teaching them the importance of meal planning and responsibility.

Find out more about nutritional coaching

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. (And to see what she brings for her lunch, click here!)

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories lunch kids sodium

Summer Nutrition: Packing a Healthy Eating Picnic

ThinkstockPhotos-465173011.jpgDuring the summer, the days are stretching longer, the temperatures are rising, and the sun is shining brighter! It’s time to enjoy the outdoors. Whenever I visit bigger cities, I notice that their parks are packed with people enjoying picnics, which is one of my favorite things to do to explore and discover a new outdoor space. So let’s bring the picnic to our local parks! Surprise your significant other, take the family out for an afternoon in the park, or enjoy time with friends playing football or frisbee.

Equipment to Bring

When planning a picnic, make a list of items you will need, especially if this is your first time. Here are some items you may need to bring:

  • Plastic or paper plates
  • Can opener and corkscrew
  • Disposable eating utensils
  • Garbage bag
  • Reusable, heavy-duty serving pieces
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Disposable plastic cups
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paper or cloth napkins
  • Thermos for drinks or soups
  • Bread knife or sharp knife
  • Insect repellent
  • Wet napkins
  • Matches
  • First aid kit and sunscreen
  • Tablecloth
  • Small cutting board

Healthy and Delicious Picnic Food Options

Think healthy! Typical picnic fare—such as potato salads, greasy burgers, chips, and beer—can be high in calories and fat. You do not have to compromise your waistline when planning a picnic. Try some of the following tips to keep your meal tasty and light.

Appetizers:

  • Cut up veggies—carrots, celery, broccoli, and green and red pepper—and bring along a low-fat dip. Brightly colored veggies will maximize the amount of vitamins you get in your meal.
  • Good options for salty snacks include crackers topped with peanut butter, baked tortilla chips and salsa, and nuts and dried fruit mix.
  • Try a garden salad with vegetables, beans, and fruits, topped with nuts and an oil-and-vinegar dressing.
  • Avoid creamy pasta and potato salads. They are high in fat; and if left in the heat, can create an ideal medium for bacterial growth, which can cause food-borne illness.

Entrees:

  • Try pita sandwiches or wraps. Pair a protein source—turkey, chicken, lean ham, tuna or salmon—with lettuce leaves and vegetables such as chopped celery, peppers, onion, and shredded carrots.
  • Replace mayonnaise with mustard or drizzle with olive oil and vinegar dressing.
  • Salads topped with flaked tuna or salmon and oil and vinegar dressing.
  • If your picnic area has a barbecue grill, try grilled chicken breasts, lean hamburgers, turkey burgers, or veggie burgers. Opt for a whole-grain bun instead of white.
  • Grill vegetables on a skewer. Try red or green peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, and onion.
  • Corn on the cob is an excellent choice to add to an entree. For added flavor, use garlic or onion powder. Grill for a great taste.

Desserts:

  • Skipping out on the high-fat treats doesn’t mean you need to miss out on a summer sweet. Try a colorful fruit salad with peaches, mangoes, berries, kiwi, and watermelon.
  • Take along angel food cake and top with mixed berries.

Drinks:

  • Be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water per day for proper hydration.
  • Sweet drinks can increase thirst and add unwanted calories. Instead, try natural fruit juices diluted with water.
  • Try to limit alcohol intake, as alcohol can be dehydrating and high in calories.

Get outside, be active, and enjoy a tasty and healthy lunch at a local park!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating summer picnics