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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Sabrina Goshen

Recent Posts by Sabrina Goshen:

8 Low-Cal Pumpkin Spice Drinks at Starbucks

GettyImages-856503922Pumpkin season is officially here, and I am SO excited! Call me “basic”—you would not be wrong. Starbucks has launched their pumpkin drinks. Food bloggers, including myself, are basically turning their kitchens into giant pumpkins. It is a whole thing.

Here is my hiccup with pumpkin season and all the yummy beverages: THEY ARE FULL OF SUGAR AND CALORIES. Basically, we drink this little serving that takes up a huge portion of our daily calories yet contributes very little to improving our satiety. When you combine no fiber, little protein, and minimal volume you get “hangry” feelings and a higher risk of overeating later in the day. This makes weight-loss attempts and health goals harder to accomplish.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I am one who believes all foods and beverages can fit into a healthy nutrition regimen, even the high-sugar drink from time to time. However, I also believe in finding alternatives that are lower in sugar and calories when possible. Don't worry, these “alternatives” I speak of MUST taste yummy or else I would just stick with having the “real deal” in moderation.

Here are 8 DELICIOUS Starbucks Pumpkin Spice drink orders that won’t take up the bulk of your calorie budget and are low in sugars.

Hot Options

Pumpkin Spice “Latte”

Order: Grande blonde coffee with 1 pump pumpkin sauce, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla, 2 shots espresso, and 1 cup steamed almond milk (or about half-full of steamed skim milk)

Nutrition Facts: 95 calories, 14g carbs (9g sugar), 4g fat, 3g protein

Pumpkin Spice Americano

Order: Grande blonde caffe Americano with 1 pump pumpkin sauce, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla, and light splash of half & half. Ask to put in a venti cup to allow room for the add-ins.

Nutrition Facts: 75 calories, 12g carbs (7g sugar), 2g protein, 3g fat, 255mg caffeine

Pumpkin Chai Tea “Latte”

Order: 1 venti brewed chai tea. Add steamed skim milk, 4 Splendas, and 1 pump pumpkin sauce

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 12g carbs (12g sugar), 4g protein, 0g fat

Pumpkin Spice Coffee

Order: Grande blonde coffee with 1 pump pumpkin sauce, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla, and light splash of half & half. You can add Splenda for a little sweeter taste with no additional calories.

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 9g carbs (7g sugar), 2g protein, 3g fat

Cold Options

Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte

Order: Grande iced coffee with no classic syrup. Add 1 pump pumpkin sauce, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla, 2 shots espresso, and 1 cup steamed almond milk (or about ½ full of steamed skim milk)

Nutrition Facts: 95 calories, 14g carbs (9g sugar), 4g fat, 3g protein

Iced Pumpkin Cinnamon Coffee

Order: Grande iced coffee with no classic syrup. Add 1 pump pumpkin sauce, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla, and a light splash of half & half.

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 9g carbs (7g sugar), 2g protein, 3g fat

Pumpkin Cold Brew with Cinnamon Almondmilk Foam

Order: Grande Cold Brew with Cinnamon Almondmilk foam. Add 1 pump pumpkin sauce and 1 pump sugar-free cinnamon dolce syrup.

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 14g carbs (12g sugar), 1g protein, 1g fat

Pumpkin Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk foam

Order: Grande Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk foam. Add 1 pump pumpkin sauce and 1 pump sugar-free vanilla syrup.

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 13g carbs (10g sugar), 1g protein, 2g fat

Extra Hacks

Want more pumpkin? You can certainly add another pump of the pumpkin sauce. One pump of the pumpkin sauce is an additional 25 calories, 6g carbs (6g sugar), 0g fat, and 0g protein.

Want more sweetness? You can add a packet or two of Splenda for a noncaloric sweetener. No, this will not cause cancer. Research does not support that claim. So, if you want Splenda to help sweeten your beverage, add it.

Want more cream? Have them add a creamy milk, such as oat milk or almond milk. Both are fairly low calorie. Skim milk is great and offers more protein, but it is not as creamy.

Those are my tricks. And if you’re still hungry for pumpkin and that other fall treat, apples, check out these recipes. I hope you enjoy these drinks and ultimately have a great PUMPKIN SEASON while still reaching your health goals! Enjoy!

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: calories weight management sugar caffeine coffee fall pumpkin spice

Should You Take CoQ10 for Heart Health? A Look at the Research

GettyImages-940463278Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone, is a commonly used supplement by those with cardiovascular risks and disease, and especially those using statins. CoQ10 acts as a carrier in our cells to assist in oxygen utilization.  It also assists enzymes in the mitochondria. This allows the production of energy in a cycle referred to as the Krebs Cycle, and hints at why the mitochondria are the “powerhouse of the cell.” Some believe that those with heart failure have a buildup of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can lead to adverse effects. Furthermore, they suggest CoQ10 antioxidant properties can combat the buildup of ROS. Additionally, CoQ10 is thought to balance calcium-dependent ion channels within the heart, which is critical for heart function. As far as supplementation with statins goes, people are led to believe that supplementing CoQ10 is essential because statins block the pathway that leads to CoQ10 production.

Researchers looked into these claims. Some found many studies that showed CoQ10 had no clear effect on how much blood the heart was able to pump (left heart ejection fraction), and other studies were inconclusive with poor research design. On the other hand, a Large study (a meta-analysis of clinical trials) revealed that those who supplemented CoQ10 had lower risk of death and increased exercise capacity, but no correlation between CoQ10 and how much blood the heart was able to pump. Lastly, another study observed those with heart failure receiving medical therapy. In addition to medical therapy, some of the participants received a placebo and some received Coenzyme Q10. Although the concentration of CoQ10 in the blood serum increased dramatically, those patients saw no greater effect in ejection fraction, peak oxygen consumption, and exercise duration. 

Drug Interactions and Additive Effects

CoQ10 has been known to interact with Vitamin K Antagonists, such as warfarin, a commonly prescribed drug in cardiovascular disease cases. Some cases have shown that CoQ10 blocks the anti–blood clotting (aka anticoagulant) effect of Vitamin K Antagonists, especially warfarin, which can lead to fatal blood clotting (according to Lexi-Drugs Online). On the other hand, some studies have shown that CoQ10 has done the complete opposite to Vitamin K Antagonists and actually enhanced the anti-blood-clotting effect, which leads to excessive bleeding.

Side Effects

Some side effects reported include severe gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding, allergic reactions, headaches, vomiting, urine discoloration, and abdominal pain.

Further Research

Much of the research that shows a positive outcome when supplementing CoQ10 had small trial groups (not enough people). The number of participants in the trials, known as sample size, is too small for the evidence to be conclusive. Moving forward, is it possible to get a bigger sample size that can give conclusive results? As of now, many are torn on this topic.

The Clinical Bottom Line

There is not enough evidence to support the use of CoQ10 for treating heart failure or even lessening the risk of muscle weakness (myopathy) in those taking statins. Until more research emerges, I would suggest those with cardiovascular disease not take CoQ10, especially if they are taking a Vitamin K Antagonist. If you are torn about taking CoQ10, consider speaking with your Primary Care Provider and Registered Dietitian to see if it's right for you.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition cardiovascular supplements drugs heart health dietary supplements cardiovascular disease

Choosing and Using Probiotics for Gut Health

Screen Shot 2020-07-21 at 12.20.41 PM“Take a probiotic; it helps with your gut.” We have all heard it from friends, doctors, and Registered Dietitians. Is it really that simple, though? It is no secret that probiotics really do help with a variety of gastrointestinal (GI) issues. However, did you know that there are specific strains of probiotics that help with specific symptoms, and while one strain may help with one GI symptom, it may not help with another? Not all probiotics are created equal, and not all supplements labeled “probiotic” will yield health benefits.

What Are Probiotics and Prebiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms (tiny living things), mainly bacteria and sometimes yeast, and are intended to have health benefits when ingested. They are similar to the helpful microorganisms naturally found in the gut. Probiotics are found in supplements and fermented foods, such as Greek yogurt with added Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, kombucha, tempeh, kefir, and sauerkraut.

Do not confuse these with prebiotics, which are the food source for the “good” bacteria in our GI tract. Prebiotics are “a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon the host’s well-being and health.” They are carbohydrate compounds, primarily oligosaccharides, that withstand digestion in the GI tract and reach the colon where they then are fermented by the gut microflora, helping the good bacteria to grow. In short, they fall under the categories of soluble fiber and fermentable fiber. This is important, because even if you are taking a probiotic or eating foods rich in probiotics, you may not be receiving the maximum amount of benefits if you are not eating enough prebiotics (soluble and fermentable fiber). Foods rich in prebiotics include green bananas, onion, garlic, asparagus, artichokes, and leeks.

How Do Probiotics Work?

The human GI tract is colonized by many microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea, and protozoa. The totality of these organisms is known as the gut microbiota, microbiome, or intestinal microflora and can affect the health and disease state of a human. Probiotics typically work in the GI tract to alter the intestinal microflora, adding good bacteria to the microbiome. The mechanism of action depends heavily on the species and strains because different species and strains have different effects. Some of the known mechanisms include the following:

  • Inhibit the growth of some pathogens (microorganisms causing disease or sickness).
  • Help with vitamin synthesis (B vitamins and vitamin K).
  • Increase absorption of protein.
  • Reinforce the gut barrier, keeping food and other GI contents from leaking into the bloodstream.
  • Neutralize toxins.
  • Lower the pH in the colon, which could help speed up stool for those who are constipated.
  • Replenish good bacteria after taking antibiotics, which may help resolve diarrhea from antibiotics.

Probiotics and Gut Health

The gut microbiota is the center of much current research. Researchers are suggesting that an imbalance in the gut microbiota could lead to several health issues including immune dysfunction, infection, obesity, and GI problems. The imbalance can come from medical conditions, stress, and antibiotic usage (which destroys bad and good bacteria).

Using a probiotic to restore balance has been shown to alleviate symptom persistence in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by 21% using both single-strain and multiple-strain supplements, with the mixtures being most effective. Studies also found symptom relief in ulcerative colitis, reduction in acute diarrhea duration and frequency, and lower risk of diarrhea from antibiotic use by 51% or clostridium difficile infection.

A healthy gut with plenty of good bacteria has also been shown to improve the immune system, combat inflammation, and potentially reduce bad cholesterol (total and LDL cholesterol).

Picking Probiotic Supplements

Remember, not all probiotic strains and species are created equal. Trying to figure out exactly what strain, species, and genus of probiotic will work for you and your needs can be tedious, because there are thousands upon thousands of variations. It may take some trial and error to finally find a probiotic that meets your needs.

The good news is that both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most studied probiotic genera. There are several studies of strains from these two genera that have produced positive results. Below is a list of conditions with the genus and strain of probiotic that has shown promise in helping with the condition.

  • Acute diarrhea: Lactobacillus paracasei or Lactobacillus rhamnosus or Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Antibiotic-associated diarrhea: Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Overall symptoms of IBS: Bifidobacterium bifidum, Escherichia coli
  • Abdominal pain: Bacillus coagulans, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Bloating/distention: Bifidobacterium animalis, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus reuteri
  • Constipation: Bacillus coagulans, Bifidobacterium animalis, Oligofructose (prebiotics)
  • Lactose maldigestion: yogurt with Lactobacillus delbruecki susp bulgaricus and Strepococcus thermophilus
  • High Cholesterol and LDL: Lactobacillus acidophilus, a mixture of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum (more research is needed here)

If you are struggling with GI symptoms and considering a probiotic supplement, it is important to talk this over with your Registered Dietitian (RD) and primary care provider. They can help to identify the correct genus, strain, species, and dose you need.

Feed Your Gut

For those healthy individuals, you most likely do not need a probiotic supplement. If you really want to help your gut, follow these tips:

  • Eat foods rich in probiotics. When seeking foods with probiotics, the product must have active and live bacterial culture and indicate that on the label. A good rule of thumb is at least 1 billion colony-forming units or 1 billion CFUs, containing the genus Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, or Saccharomyces boulardii. Probiotic-rich examples include Greek yogurt, kombucha, tempeh, kefir, and sauerkraut. Be sure to check the label for the specific genus of probiotics(s) in the products, as they will differ. Also note that the starter cultures in Greek yogurt are Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, but these are often destroyed by our stomach acid and offer no benefits. Get the Greek yogurt brands that add extra bacteria to the starter cultures (check the label).
  • Feed your probiotics with prebiotics to help the probiotics multiply in your microbiome.
  • Sleep at least 7–8 hours each night.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and body fat percentage.
  • Manage stress.
  • Balance your diet, keeping it loaded with fruits, veggies, lean proteins, fiber, and whole grains.

As always, reach out to the NIFS Registered Dietitian for nutrition help, including nutrition management of gut-related issues. We are here for you.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition digestion gut health supplements dietitian probiotics dietary supplements

Taking Dietary Supplements Safely: Advice from a NIFS Dietitian

GettyImages-505820296Dietary supplement usage is reaching an all-time high. The 2019 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements revealed that 77% of Americans consume supplements. This is a dramatic increase from the 53% reported by the NHANES in 2010. Americans are spending $38.8 billion a year on supplements, with more than 85,000 supplements on the market. Reasons for consumption are widespread, ranging from athletes hoping to boost performance to people who need more Vitamin D for bone health.

With the rise in supplement usage, it is important to be an informed consumer. While there are numerous reasons for this, one of the biggest is that supplements are loosely regulated by the FDA, meaning labels may not display what is truly in the supplement. Also, claims marketed about the benefits of a supplement may be false because companies are not required to obtain authorization from the FDA prior to making such nutritional support claims.

How can you know whether what you’re taking is safe and effective? Let’s dive in!

What Is a "Dietary Supplement?"

According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), a dietary supplement means “a product (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following ingredients:

  • Vitamin
  • Mineral
  • Herb or other botanical
  • Amino acid
  • A dietary supplement used by man to supplement the diet by increasing dietary intake
  • A concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any ingredient described in the above.”

Are Dietary Supplements Regulated? Can Supplements Be Trusted?

Technically, yes, supplements are regulated by the FDA under the DSHEA. However, there are loopholes to consider:

  1. The FDA does not inspect products before they are sold, nor do they require registration unless the supplement contains a new ingredient not yet on the market.
  2. The only formulation standard is the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP); however, 2013 report by the FDA revealed that 70% of inspected manufacturers were in violation of GMPs. Not all products even get inspected after being on the market. The FDA states the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring safety and quality, but clearly some manufacturers are doing a poor job, and the FDA is only catching some.
  3. Nutrition supplements may not claim to diagnose, cure, prevent, or treat diseases. Sure enough, some manufacturers have managed to ignore this. A 2003 study found that 81% of 338 herbal supplement retail websites made one or more health claims, and 55% claimed to diagnose, cure, prevent, or treat specific diseases.

What Can You Do to Be Safe When Taking Supplements?

Blind trust in supplements is unwarranted; however, there are steps you can take to ensure your safety while taking them.

  • Check the label for a stamp indicating third-party verification. Independent third parties are hired by manufacturers to thoroughly test products, ensuring accuracy of ingredients, potency, and amounts; absence of toxic compounds; and production in compliance with FDA GMPs. Credible third parties include NSF International and US Pharmacopeia (USP).
  • Athletes: look for the NSF Certified for Sport stamp. The USA Doping Agency (USADA) has recognized this program as best suited to assist athletes in choosing supplements that do not contain banned substances for sports.
  • Download the NSF International App. It shows which products are NSF approved—right at your fingertips anytime, anywhere.
  • Check out the Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets published by the National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. This government agency has quick fact sheets about a variety of dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, probiotics, botanicals and herbs, and more.

Speak with a Registered Dietitian for supplement guidance and which supplements may (or may not) be right for you. NIFS Registered Dietitians are available to help you!

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS nutrition supplements dietitian drugs sports nutrition dietary supplements registered dietitian

Using Peppermint Oil for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

GettyImages-1030882342Peppermint oil is a commonly used nutrition remedy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), other digestive problems (abdominal pain), the common cold, and headaches. We will focus on gut health in this blog. This remedy has been mentioned in records from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt and is becoming more popular in the modern age.

It is suggested that peppermint oil in enteric-coated capsules may improve IBS-related symptoms, such as abdominal pain. A meta-analysis evaluated 726 patients across nine studies, all of which were assessing the use of peppermint oil for treatment of IBS. All the studies showed a significant improvement in IBS symptoms and abdominal pain. The only adverse effect commonly noted was heartburn. Furthermore, another study was done where 65 IBS patients completed the study. There was a placebo group and a group treated with peppermint oil. Over the course of six weeks, those taking peppermint oil said abdominal pain (upset stomach, bloating, and gas) markedly improved, whereas the placebo group saw no significant changes. No other IBS symptoms improved. Two weeks after trials ended, the pain score increased back to the normal (same report as prior to treatment).

Drug Interactions and Additive Effects

According to the literature, the most common drug interaction is enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules taken at the same time as antacids. It is suggested that the two not be taken together, because the enteric coating will be broken down too quickly, which can result in heartburn.

Side Effects

Peppermint oil has been recognized as safe. Possible side effects associated with peppermint oil include allergic reaction and heartburn. The most common side effect associated with peppermint oil supplementation is heartburn, especially among those with IBS.

The Clinical Bottom Line

A significant amount of research shows that peppermint oil supplementation in those with IBS helps reduce abdominal pain. Additionally, it is safe. I would suggest someone struggling with IBS take peppermint oil. However, if they begin to experience excessive heartburn, I would suggest not taking peppermint oil or making sure they are not taking it with an antacid. Furthermore, it is important to remember that peppermint leaf is NOT the same thing as peppermint oil. Peppermint oil is going to be more concentrated and has the research to back up the benefits. On the contrary, peppermint leaf will be less toxic and does not have the research to support usage. 

Further Research

Much of the research done to prove peppermint oil helps with IBS was short term. Not many studies have looked into the long-term effects and safety of supplementing peppermint oil. Thus, I believe future research should look into that.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: digestion supplements illness prevention dietary supplements IBS irritable bowel syndrome

Meal Prep Made Simple…and Delicious!

GettyImages-95618113When I say “meal prep,” do you picture hours upon hours in the kitchen, a stockpile of containers, and food that you are sick of by week’s end? PAUSE right there! I am here to tell you that meal prep does not have to be that way. It does not have to be too time-consuming or hard, and you don’t have to eat the exact same meal over and over.

What Is Meal Prep?

For those new to meal prep, it is essentially precooking and preparing foods in advance so that you have less to do during your week, but still have your meals ready to go. The weeks get busy and tiring, especially when work picks up or the kids’ extracurriculars start. The last thing anyone wants to do after work is cook. So, if food is not prepped or the fridge is empty, we find ourselves ordering takeout for the third day in a row. Who can relate? My hand is up! Regardless of our busy lives, we still need to find a way to maintain a healthy nutrition regimen because doing so carries over into the rest of our lives. Meal prep is the key to helping you stay nourished even when life gets busy.

Meal prep is not rocket science, but it does require effort and is not the easiest thing in the world. After years of prepping for myself, husband, and even my family when I was younger, along with guiding my clients and patients, I can say there are ways to make meal prep simple and easy while still making enjoyable meals.

Meal Prep Cooking Tips

Here are my tips for you!

Make a Plan

It’s always a good idea to start with a plan. Benjamin Franklin said it best, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Take a few moments to plan and write out the menu for the week.

  • Consider the number of servings per meal you need, the budget, and food preferences.
  • How many meals and snacks will you be serving?
  • Look at your schedule to consider the obligations you have. It would be a waste to prepare food for an evening that you will not be home.
  • What are your health goals? Are there specific suggestions by your primary care provider or Registered Dietitian that you need to consider when planning your meals?

Think “Single Ingredients”

Prepare single ingredients, such as vegetables, proteins, and starches that can be used in a variety of ways. This can keep you from getting bored with the same meal over and over. For example, prepare a bulk batch of chicken. That one batch can be used for BBQ sandwiches alongside some steamed veggies, as a main entrée tossed in marinade with a veggie and starch of choice on the side, or thrown into a soup like chicken noodle or chicken chili. The same can be done with a starch, such as brown rice. Prepare the rice and use it for a stir-fry with veggies and protein of choice (tofu, chicken, or turkey are good options); a Tex-Mex bowl with rice, beans, lean protein, veggies, and guacamole; or alongside grilled teriyaki chicken. You get the picture.

Prepare Two Proteins, Four Vegetables, and Two Starches

This is a pretty good rule of thumb because all of these single ingredients can be combined in a multitude of ways to make different meals. Pick two proteins that you can use throughout the week, such as chicken, lean turkey or beef, tofu, beans, cod, or salmon. Cook them based on the meals you’ve planned. Maybe that means half of the chicken is boiled and shredded for BBQ sandwiches and your lunch salads, while the other half is tossed in marinade to be grilled, or cooked in the air-fryer or oven in the next day or two. Then, pick out four veggies that go with your proteins and that can be easily accessible for snacks, including salad mixes, roasted veggies, and cut raw vegetables. To balance out the meals, prepare two starches in bulk. Consider mashed or roasted potatoes, rice, or whole grains of some sort.

Add in Spices, Seasonings, Sauces, and Marinades

Now that you have prepped single ingredients, be sure to have spices, seasonings, sauces, and marinades on hand to pack the meal with flavor. On the stir-fry night, be sure to portion out your meal serving of rice, turkey, and veggies that you cooked in bulk. Then top with the stir-fry sauce. For the shredded chicken you prepared, be sure to mix a meal’s worth with a low-sugar BBQ sauce when the sandwich night rolls around. When you go to eat the veggies, use an Italian seasoning combo on spaghetti night but a garlic and pepper combination on the tofu and rice night.

When picking your sauces and marinades, be sure to watch for high sodium (if you have high blood pressure) and added sugar content. Sometimes those sauces will be packed with added sugars, fats, and sodium. Pick low-fat, lite, sugar-free, and low- or reduced-sodium options when available.

Try One-pan Meals, Air Fryers, Pressure Cookers, or Slow Cookers

The methods listed above are easy and still produce a delicious meal. Some of my favorite one-pan meals include chicken with peppers for fajitas, steak strips and sweet potatoes with broccoli, and garlic tofu with veggies. Toss the prepped raw veggies lightly in oil and place on a baking sheet alongside a protein, and then roast it all together. You can make these vegetarian friendly as well!

The air fryers, pressure cookers (such as Instant Pot), and slow cookers (such as Crock-Pot) are all appliances worth considering. My household loves marinating chicken and tossing it in the air fryer, along with sweet potato fries. While that is cooking, we throw a steamable bag of veggies in the microwave. Crispy chicken, fries, and veggies that are so nutritious; very little work; balanced and customized portions to meet our nutrition goals—easy peezy.

The Instant Pot and Crock-Pot come in handy when you want to throw things into an appliance and let it do all the work for you. We use the Crock-Pot for shredded chicken, chili, soups, slow-cooker lasagna, and so much more. Also, did you know there are Facebook groups, such as an Instant Pot Recipe group, that consist of people sharing recipes utilizing these appliances? That is where my sister found the protein bagel recipe that I adapted. 

Consider Pre-prepared, Precut Ingredients, and Steamables to Save Time

There is absolutely no shame in needing convenience. Grocery stores these days have raw and chopped vegetables, fruit trays, fresh salsa, premade guacamole, and more in the produce section. In the freezer section, you can find chopped onions, peppers, and celery for some of your recipes as well (because who has time to chop all those veggies…not I). You can also find steamable bags of rice, quinoa, and vegetables if you need a quick side to toss in the microwave or do not want to make these things in advance.

It’s Easy—But NIFS Can Help If You Need It!

Meal prep can be simple and not always keep you bound to eating the same meal over and over throughout the week. Once you get past that initial push to do it, the process becomes a habit and part of your weekly routine. Then, once you do it enough, the process will be faster and easier. It is worth the time and effort. I promise. If you still feel that you could use more help with meal prep, reach out to the NIFS Registered Dietitian for one-on-one nutrition counseling or join the NIFS Nutrition and Lifestyle Facebook group.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating kids cooking time management meal planning meal prep

Cheat Meal Is a Garbage Term—Strive for a Healthy Balance

GettyImages-492321666Can we just cut out the term “cheat meal” already? This fuels the idea that foods are “good” or “bad,” and, in turn, our food choices then become this reflection of us, as humans, being “good” or “bad.” News flash, you are not “bad” for eating a specific food.

Balancing Physical, Mental, and Social Health

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, “is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” When we pursue our health goals, we need to consider all three aspects. Often we only think of the physical, such as disease state, body composition, and weight. While we are consumed in fixing the physical, we neglect the mental and social aspects, or the very methods to “fix” the physical start to interfere with our social and mental health.

For example, have you met the person who won’t enjoy an occasional outing with friends because they are on a diet? Goodbye social health. Or have you met the person who is restricting the foods they love, such as bread or chocolate, because they hope to meet some type of health goal? Goodbye mental health (let’s be real, chocolate is good for the soul). Nine times out of ten, what ends up happening? People quit. They binge and give in to whatever they have been restricting. Well, goodbye physical health. Repeat cycle.

Let’s break the cycle. Let’s throw away that “cheat meal” mentally and explore ways to shift your mindset.

Indulge Your Cravings

Denying your body the foods you crave leads to obsessing over that food and/or constantly eating other foods to fill the never-ending void. If you have a craving, give yourself permission to eat and plan it into your regimen. Let’s say you have a caloric goal of 2,000 calories per day, and you have been craving chips. Incorporate 1–2 servings of chips into your daily snack or a meal. Read the nutrition label, account for the calories in the serving(s), and apply them to your daily calorie goal. Then, ensure that the rest of your meals include high-quality, nutritious foods that fuel your body’s needs. This is called balance.

Enjoy Special Occasions

If you are going out for a date night or meal with your friends or family, ENJOY THE OCCASION. On the day of the event, try to eat lighter meals before and after, filling up on protein-rich sources. During the event, be sure to eat, laugh, and soak in the moment. Feed your social health. Then, move on with your life. Do not stay hung up on that one night, because one night will not derail your physical health progress. It’s the foods we eat consistently over time that matter.

Find Nutritious Swaps

Food swaps usually come in handy when preparing recipes. Identify the foods you love the most, such as pizza, brownies, tacos, dips, etc. Replace ingredients with choices that are lower-calorie or better for your specific health goals. For example, instead of high-fat red meat for tacos, try lean turkey. Instead of a pizza crust made with refined flour, try a crust made with whole grains. Swap the high-fat cheese for cheese made with skim or 1% milk. Like ice cream? Consider making ice cream out of frozen fruit or trying a frozen yogurt bar. Give Greek yogurt a try for the base of your dips. The possibilities are endless. This won’t work on everything, but it can for some food choices. Pinterest will come in handy here.

Honor Your Health

I will leave you with this final thought, because it is the most important concept: Honor your health. Registered Dietitian Evelyn Tribole says it best: “Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.”

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories mindset cheat days emotional

Planning Your 4 Week Meal Plan

GettyImages-980276548(1)The Coronavirus can’t stop Spring from coming, but it can be detrimental to our health and prevent us from enjoying the beauty Spring has to offer. It is important to stay on-top of your health and take care of your immune system.

WEEK 1: Planning Your 4 Week Meal Plan

It is important to have a 4-6 week plan for you and your family, in the event of being quarantined and practicing social distancing. Creating a nutritious, yet minimally perishable menu can be a daunting task. It is important to meet nutrient needs but ensure the foods are either shelf-stable, can be frozen, and/or last longer periods in the fridge.

Step 1: Determine the caloric needs of the people in your household. To determine caloric needs, see the Dietary Guidelines. That will be important when you start planning the meals, because this will drive the portion sizes and ensure you are buying enough to meet the needs of all members.

Step 2: Consider budget. Knowing your budget will guide your decisions.

Step 3: Consider your storage space. Storage space is important to consider, because one with a lack of freezer space wouldn’t want to plan a ton of meals with frozen goods and opt for more low-sodium canned vegetables and canned fruits in water. On the contrary, one with a deep freezer can capitalize on some of the convenience, healthy frozen meals along with the frozen fruit and vegetable options.

Step 4: Start by planning breakfasts for 4-6 weeks. Consider having 2-3 breakfast options and rotate those options daily throughout the 4-6 weeks. Ideas include protein pancakes made from shelf-stable mixes or NIFS recipe below, oats topped with nut butter and frozen or canned fruit, or omelet with frozen or canned veggies (eggs can keep in the fridge for 4-6 weeks).

Step 5: Do the same thing for lunch and dinner. This is a good time to check out canned meats or freeze fresh meats and seafood (depending on storage space). Bread and cheeses can also be frozen and used for later times. Shelf stable foods include brown rice, chickpea pasta (has extra protein), sauces, whole grain pizza crusts, beans, legumes, canned vegetables (get low-sodium and rinse prior to use), canned fruits in water, tuna, canned chicken, jelly and nut butters.

Step 6: Plan 4-6 snack options, and buy enough for family members to have 1-2 snacks daily for the 4-6 weeks. Check out protein bars, granola bars, nuts, and fruits (canned, frozen, and dried)

Step 7: Reflect. Do all your days include each food group? Are there enough whole grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy or dairy-alternatives planned into each day? If not, go back and find a place to add the lacking nutrients. Having all food groups helps to reach vitamin, mineral, and fiber needs.

Step 8: Reach out to your Registered Dietitian if you need help!

RECIPE FOR THE WEEK: Protein Pancakes

Enjoy these protein-packed pancakes. They are easy to prepare, made with no refined grains and use ingredients that have a long shelf- and fridge-life.

GettyImages-1179137591Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 banana (ripened)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup egg whites
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 2 tbsp flax meal

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients until no clumps exist
  2. Heat skillet or griddle on medium-high heat.
  3. Pour ¼ cup mix on skillet per pancake. Once the edges start to look dry and bubble, flip the pancake to cook for another minute.
  4. Serve warm with toppings of choice.

Pro tips: *Instead of syrup, try pan-searing frozen berries over medium-high heat and pour them over the pancakes!

*Once your bananas ripen, freeze them to use them for future recipes.

If you want more convenience, check out Kodiak pancake mix, Krusteaz pancake mix, or Kroger brand protein pancake mix. All have whole grains and packed with protein!

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If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our Registered Dietitian, Sabrina Goshen by e-mail at SGoshen@nifs.org.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits calories meals meal planning

Meal Planning for Kids

GettyImages-526785155The kids and grandkids are home! With them being home, this means you are having to provide breakfasts and lunches. For those that relied on schools to provide these meals, this can be a stressor added to the day. Maybe your kids received meals for free or at a reduced price. Maybe you are being expected to work from home, all while attempting to help your kids through e-learning and cook them lunch. There are an abundance of reasons as to why this may be tough. You are not alone. We are in this together- as a community. We will get through this.

First, find some time to plan. Kids are used to having a structured plan during their school day- anything short of this will lead to stressed and irrational children (which makes your life harder). Make sure this plan includes when the kids will wake up, have breakfast, start school, get an hour of activity/play time, eat lunch, and conclude their school day. Knowing their schedule will help you prepare your schedule. Consider having your lunch break at the same time as theirs.

Second, plan for lunches and work with a "cycle menu." This means you determine 4-5 different lunches, then schedule one per day. Once you go through all 4-5, cycle back through them. This offers the kids variety but makes the planning, storage, and preparation easier on your part. To make it even easier, have the same meals they are having. There is no need for you to take time to prepare various foods.

Last, stick to the plan. Remember- you are in charge of WHAT and WHEN the kids eat; the kids are in charge of how much they wish to eat at a given meal.

If you are having a difficult time obtaining food for your kids, visit https://www.indy.gov/activity/covid-19-school-district-food-support. The IPS school district is providing ALL kids with free a breakfast and lunch until April 3rd (which will likely be extended). The meals are first come first serve and available to all children, regardless of school district. Follow the website above to find the nearest pick-up point.

Kid Meal Ideas

  1. Turkey + cheddar roll-up, frozen berries, yogurt, and trail mix.
  2. Hummus (can easily make homemade from canned chickpeas), pita bread, grape tomatoes, carrots, and grapes.
  3. Cheese quesadilla (made with whole grain tortillas), guacamole, salsa, strawberries.
  4. Broccoli mac and cheese (made with whole grain, chickpea, or lentil pasta), orange.
  5. Grilled cheese and low-sodium tomato soup.
  6. Homemade pizza on whole grain thin crust served with steamed veggie of choice.
  7. Tuna or chicken salad served on whole wheat crackers or bread, apple slices, carrots.
  8. Peanut butter and jelly (tip: make own “jelly” with smashed berries to reduce sugar) on whole grain bread, celery sticks, yogurt

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If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our Registered Dietitian, Sabrina Goshen by e-mail at SGoshen@nifs.org.

Topics: nutrition kids menu planning

Nutrition Tips During COVID-19

GettyImages-11629356151. Stock up on nutritious foods from all food groups.
Think shelf-stable or frozen foods. Shelf-stable, nutrient-packed options include whole grain rice, chickpea- or lentil-made pastas, tuna, beans, nuts, legumes, protein pancake mixes, oats, nut butter, protein bars, low-sodium canned vegetables, and canned fruit in water. Frozen foods include pre-frozen bags of fruits, vegetables, and Greek-yogurt bars. Fresh options that can be frozen include sliced bananas, chicken, turkey, beef, seafood, bread, and tortillas. Eggs are also a great fresh option that keep well in the fridge for 3 weeks.

2. Fuel your body by eating regular, nutritious meals and snacks.
This will help to meet your caloric, vitamin, and mineral needs.

3. Stay hydrated
Drinking at least half your weight in ounces. If you have a fever, you will want to drink much more.

4. Have a menu plan
In case you do become quarantined or are socially distancing yourself, the plan should include enough daily meals and snacks to meet each family member’s caloric needs for 4-6 weeks. When planning those meals, try to incorporate all food groups into each day (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein) and plan each portion size. Here is an example for 1 person:

  • Breakfast: ½ cup oats with ½ cup berries (use frozen), 2 tbsp peanut
    butter, and 1 tbsp chia seed
  • Snack: 1 granola bar with 1 hard-boiled egg
  • Lunch: Stir fry (use low-sodium canned vegetables or frozen vegetables,
    brown rice, and canned or frozen meat of choice)
  • Snack: 1 peanut butter and jelly sandwich (freeze bread, then unfreeze
    a loaf for each week) with 1 serving baked chips.
  • Dinner: ¾ cup chickpea pasta served with ¼ cup tomato sauce, 1 cup
    steamed vegetables (use frozen vegetables or fresh vegetables with a
    longer fridge life), and ¼ cup cheese (freeze shredded cheese then
    unfreeze as needed)
  • Dessert: 1 frozen yogurt bar

5. Seek community resources as needed. Many communities are coming together to help people obtain food. For Indy and surrounding communities, visit https://www.indy.gov/activity/covid-19-food-support , for food support initiatives.

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If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our Registered Dietitian, Sabrina Goshen by e-mail at SGoshen@nifs.org.

Topics: nutrition meal planning viruses