NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Top 10 Must-Have Pantry Items for Healthy Eating

I get asked all the time, “What should I eat?” This is not an easy question to answer. There are foods that should definitely be eaten more often than others, and foods that are better to just have every once in a while, but it’s hard to pick certain foods that are a MUST HAVE in your diet for best nutrition. However, if you are looking for a list of items that you can purchase to have in your pantry for quick, healthy, and easy meal or snack ideas, start with this list.

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  • Pouches or cans of tuna: This shelf-stable protein source is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It is also an inexpensive protein, which is nice since meat adds the most to your grocery bill. Add it to salads, or mix with plain Greek yogurt and enjoy a tasty tuna salad. White albacore tuna is the best, but any variety that is water packed is a great choice.
  • Canned beans: These protein- and fiber-filled gems are also very inexpensive. All varieties are great and can easily be tossed into pastas, salads, or salsas for a filling meal or snack. Be sure to drain and rinse them to rid the beans of the high sodium liquid.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: A staple of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, this flavor-packed oil is versatile; you can use it to cook meats and veggies, or drizzle it on a salad for a quick homemade dressing.
  • Oats: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and with oats you can start your day in a variety of ways! Add fruit, nuts, nut butters, pumpkin, or flax for a different bowl of goodness each day. These are also good to use in meatloaf or other recipes that call for breadcrumbs, to up the fiber amount.
  • Nuts: Nuts are loaded with fiber and protein (three times more than potato chips!). These should be a regular part of your diet. Whether you love cashews, almonds, pistachios, or another nut, grab an unsalted or lightly salted variety to get the benefits of the good-for-you fat in all nuts.
  • Quinoa/brown rice/whole-wheat pasta: To fill 25% of your plate with whole grains, it’s a good idea to keep some high-fiber options stocked in the pantry. One-half to 1 cup (cooked) of any of these grains will add staying power and tastiness to any meal.
  • Sweet potatoes: Want an alternative to a white potato? Sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber and vitamin A. Since they are naturally flavorful, they won’t need much added to them. Baked, roasted, or spiralized into noodles, a sweet potato is a great addition to any meal.
  • Salsa: A dip that is also a veggie is a must to keep in your pantry. Choose a chunky salsa where the majority of ingredients are just veggies and not a lot of additives. Then use this to top baked potatoes or eggs, or as a dip for veggies. Chips aren’t the only way to get salsa in your diet!
  • Nut butters: Another inexpensive but great protein option is nut butters. You can do the traditional peanut butter, or try new varieties like almond-nut butter or soy-nut butter. All are perfect for adding to whole-wheat toast, oatmeal, celery, or smoothies.
  • Green tea bags: If you need something more flavorful than just water to drink, add some green tea to your routine. It is loaded with antioxidants to keep you healthy, is a great way to get in your fluid intake, is naturally very low in caffeine, and has been shown to speed up your metabolism! All of these are great reasons to reach for this beverage any time of day.

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What did you eat today? Don’t underestimate the role that proper nutrition plays in your health and fitness. Contact Angie Scheetz ascheetz@nifs.org or click below to learn more about the My Nutrition Coach app

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

Topics: nutrition healthy eating protein fiber pantry

Weight Loss Made Easier with Nutrition

Over 1 billion people from around the world are attempting to lose weight at any point in time. That is a BILLION! If losing weight was an easy task, that number would not be so staggering. Trying to lose weight and keep it off is challenging, so what are some ways that have been proven time and time again to be successful? Here are 5 tips to try when you want to see the scale moving in the right direction. ThinkstockPhotos-179019551.jpg

Eat breakfast daily.

The common phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” isn’t false. Starting your day with a balanced breakfast has been shown to help individuals eat less throughout the day and lose weight. It helps to jump-start your metabolism and allows it to work more efficiently during the day. Aim for three food groups for a balanced meal, but anything you can grab is better than skipping.

Don’t drink your calories.

When you eat food, whether it is a banana or potato chips, your body gets a sense of fullness. However, when you drink liquids your body doesn’t experience that same feeling. Therefore, it’s very easy to drink a lot of empty calories and not realize that those calories are adding up. Some examples are regular sodas, sweetened tea or lemonade, juice drinks, and flavored coffee beverages. A typical soda has around 150 calories; therefore, eliminating one per day would equal a 15-pound weight loss over one year without changing any eating or exercise habits.

Make sure you are eating enough.

This might sound crazy to some, because if you are trying to lose weight shouldn’t you decrease your calories? This is true; however, everybody has a different metabolic rate and requires a certain amount of calories to work properly. Decreasing your calories by too much, hoping to lose weight faster, can make weight loss more challenging. The easiest way to see what your body’s resting metabolic rate is to get a BOD POD assessment (contact the NIFS track desk at 317.274.3432, ext. 262, to schedule). Another rule of thumb is to make sure you are eating at least 1,200 calories every day. The best way to know this is to start keeping track of your calories with a food diary app.

Learn your body’s hunger and fullness cues.

Not knowing or understanding how much food your body needs can be the most challenging part of weight loss. Learning your body’s hunger and fullness cues is the key to weight loss. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning you are ravenous or starving and 10 meaning you are uncomfortably full, aim to eat a meal or a snack at a 3. At this point your body is ready for fuel but not so overly hungry that you make poor decisions or consume extra calories. Check in about halfway through the meal to see what number you are. Stop eating when you are at a 7. This guarantees you are satisfied but not overly stuffed. Knowing another meal or snack will be coming in another 3 to 4 hours is helpful. If you eat to a 9 or 10, you might not be hungry again for 8 hours!

Eat filling foods.

When you want to lose weight, the challenge can be feeling satisfied. The best way to get that feeling is to choose foods that will fill you up and keep you full, all while allowing the body to work harder to break down your foods and in turn burn more calories. These foods are high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts. It also includes high-protein foods such as lean meats, low-fat dairy like Greek yogurt or string cheese, eggs, beans, and nuts. Making sure fiber and protein are included at each snack or meal means you are staying satisfied.

My-Nutrition-Coach-outline-no-back.jpgIf you are one of the 1 billion people trying to lose weight, don’t do it alone. NIFS has many options to help you reach your goals*. Check out the Ramp Up to Weight Loss program, personal nutrition coaching sessions and My Nutrition Coach daily food tracking app, for more information.

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

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

 

Topics: nutrition weight loss calories breakfast protein fiber

Choose Foods That Naturally Detox for Healthy Eating

I’m sure you have seen or read about celebrities doing detox diets and cleanses before awards shows. Maybe you have thought about trying one of these crazy and wacky things yourself. Most of these diets are very low-calorie and can be dangerous if followed for an extended period of time.

Some foods that you probably already have at home, however, can help to naturally detox your body. These foods, along with a balanced-nutrition diet and exercise, can help you feel energized and refreshed again!

Lemon water: Lemons are high in vitamin C, which helps the body detox and burn fat. Also, citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant d-limonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body and gives sluggish bowels a kickstart.

Cruciferous veggies like cabbage and Brussels sprouts: Due to the high amounts of fiber in these veggies, they help with gut health, kidney health, and liver health by keeping the body regular and removing toxins and waste. These foods also contain the phytochemical sulforaphane, which studies suggest may keep pre-carcinogenic cells from negatively affecting other cells in the body, so it supports healthy functions of all of your organs.

Artichokes: These green guys are high in inulin, which is a prebiotic that helps to form the probiotics (good bacteria) in your gut. This allows more nutrients to be metabolized and takes some of the work off of the liver. They are also high in cynarin, an acid that helps the liver to break down fatty foods.

Beets: This red root veggie is full of betacyanin, which has cancer-fighting properties, along with magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium to help flush out toxins. This antioxidant also helps the liver and gallbladder eliminate bile from the body.

Ginger: Ginger is great for the liver because it helps to get rid of free radicals that have built up in the body. It also has been found to spike your metabolism and keeps your appetite in check.   

Green tea: Drinking liquids is always a wonderful and natural detox, and adding green tea to your water is extra helpful. It is high in catechin, a flavonoid, which speeds up liver activity and increases the production of detoxification enzymes.

Whole grains such as oats: Anytime you choose whole grains over refined grains you are certain to increase your amount of fiber, and oats are loaded with soluble fiber, which slows the rate of food absorption. This helps to promote healthy gut functioning and stimulates bile excretion by the liver. Also, the insoluble fiber helps to keep you regular, and which can then help you avoid bloating or constipation.

Skip the starvation detox diets and try some of these options the next time you feel like your body needs a cleanse!

What did you eat today? Don’t underestimate the role that proper nutrition plays in your health and fitness. Contact Angie Scheetz ascheetz@nifs.org or click below to learn more about the My Nutrition Coach app

Learn More

 

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

Topics: nutrition healthy eating digestion clean eating fiber gut health

How to Build a Nutrition-Packed Smoothie for Meals or Snacks

ThinkstockPhotos-467257185For a quick and tasty breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks, consider making a smoothie. This portable meal or snack can be chock-full of good-for-you antioxidants and vitamins if you make it correctly. Unfortunately, though, some of the pre-made ones are loaded with added sugar. So pull out your blender, food processor, or Vitamix, grab some ingredients, and let’s get started!

  • Produce: The most important part of the smoothie comes from the produce. The fruits or veggies you add will load up your drink with nutrients. Aim for ½ cup to 1½ cups from this group, which typically includes berries, bananas, pineapple, spinach, kale, and whatever else you have in the fridge or freezer to add!
  • Ice and/or frozen fruit: Add ½ to 1 cup to give the smoothie more thickness.
  • Liquid: Use ½ to 1 cup of milk (preferably the unsweetened variety) or water. If you are adding fruit juice, make sure it is 100% fruit and stick to ½ cup or less.
  • Protein: 2 TB. of peanut butter (or any nut butter), protein powder, or Greek yogurt will help to keep you fuller longer, so don’t forget to add this ingredient. If you decide to go with protein powder, make sure to get a basic whey protein powder that isn’t extremely high in extras or sugar (some are available with less than 2g). This powder is also a complete protein, which means you get all of the essential amino acids. Just stick to 1 scoop or 2 TB. to avoid adding extra, unnecessary calories.
  • Fiber extras: For some additional staying power in your drink, add 1 to 2 TB. of chia seeds, oats, or flaxseed. (See this blog for more info on chia seeds and other add-ins.)

If you have an older blender with dull blades and a weak motor, stick to fresh fruit vs. frozen, and blend the ice cubes gradually into the smoothie. One tip is to add your dry ingredients last to avoid them getting stuck in the bottom. If you are having trouble getting the ingredients to blend, let it sit for a few minutes so the fruit can soften or add more liquid a little bit at a time.

Now it’s time to drink up! Letting it sit for just 20 minutes might mean it will start to thicken or separate. You can store it in the fridge for up to 24 hours, but a fresh smoothie will have the best flavor and taste. Enjoy!

Looking for help with your nutitrion and weight loss goals? My Nutrition Coach App can help. Snap a picture of your meals and you'll receive daily feedback, info and tips from Registered Dietitian, Angie Scheetz.

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

 

Topics: nutrition snacks lunch breakfast protein fiber