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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Is Butter Really Better for You?

GettyImages-1078201394There is good reason for confusion surrounding what might arguably be one of America’s favorite spreads, topping everything from toast to popcorn to potatoes. The butter-versus-margarine debate has been a hot topic for the last several decades and is still a slippery subject. We have begun to understand the possible dangers of our high saturated fat consumption to our health. However, at the same time we are told that margarines are “artificial,” while butter is the all-natural choice. Which do we choose?

So Tell Me: Is Butter Actually Healthy?

In short, no. Saturated fat (found in high concentrations in butter) has been shown to raise “bad” cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease. Saturated fat content may not be helpful in judging healthfulness of foods (coconut oil presents conflicting research), so we need to prioritize foods that we know improve health—and butter is not one of them.

We have enough evidence to know that high saturated fat content in foods definitely doesn’t help us—especially when we get it from the food sources that we do (a high intake of processed meats, cheese, and butter followed by too few fruits and veggies). The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we aim to keep our saturated fat intake to less than 5–6% of our total calorie intake—meaning if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, you should be consuming 13 grams or less of saturated fat daily. Foods higher in unsaturated fat lead to lower risk of heart disease, so placing most of our focus on these foods like nuts, avocados, fatty fish such as salmon, nuts/nut butters, and olive oil is extremely important.

Note: The saturated fat content in just 1 serving of butter (1 tablespoon) puts the saturated fat intake at 7 grams. The AHA recommends 13 grams or less on a 2,000 calorie diet.

What About Margarine/Vegetable Oil–based Spreads?

While these options may have less saturated fat and more unsaturated fat (making them slightly more “healthy”), they are still very high in calories and we need to be extremely mindful of how much we are using. Excessive energy consumption will lead to weight gain and chronic health conditions. However, replacement of saturated fat in butter with more unsaturated fat does lower your risk of heart disease.

Try using a little olive oil, canola oil, avocado, hummus, or nut butters in place of your usual butter. Check your ingredients list for “partially hydrogenated” oils on any butter alternatives that you are using. If you see anything that is partially hydrogenated, it means that it contains what is called trans fat—a definite avoid-at-all-costs ingredient. Most food manufacturers have transitioned all of their products away from trans fat.

Note: 1 tablespoon (Earth Balance Original Vegetable Oil Spread) has 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, and 7.5 grams of unsaturated fats.

Saturated fat is found not only in butter but also in meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts, and vegetable oils. Each food has a unique nutrient profile that has a different effect on heart disease. The deeper issue, beyond news headlines and the ever-changing results of various studies, comes down to an obsession with nutrients instead of focusing on foods. We become convinced that we need more fish oil supplements, vitamin C, or collagen. When we try to decrease our “bad” fat/saturated fat intake, we need to make sure we are replacing that high-saturated-fat-content food with something healthy.

Your goal should be to focus on ways to minimize packaged foods and maximize whole foods. Currently, our diets are high in processed meats, sides of fries, loaves of white bread, cereal, chips, cookies, and crackers along with soda and a daily dessert, which has made the US one of the least healthy countries in the world with one of the leading rates of obesity. We do know that large amounts of plant-based foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts in the diet are beneficial despite the seemingly endless supply of perplexing research in other areas, and so the focus is to try and shift the plate toward an eating pattern that emphasizes these plant foods.

We fall back on the idea that more fruits and vegetables can only help us, and this is an area that even dietitians have to remind themselves to work on every single day. Butter is just an addition to a diet that is generally already very calorically dense and high in saturated fat—something we get too much of in our day-to-day diets. Does half of your plate consist of fruits and veggies at every meal? When we create variety in the diet, we minimize the risk of “doing it wrong.” We can be certain that if we are filling our bellies with exactly what Mother Nature provided us, we can avoid falling into an eating pattern that sets us up for an unhealthy life and be even closer to getting nutrition “right”—setting us up for a lifetime of good health and happiness.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories fat plant-based

The Carb Conundrum: Avoid Them for Weight Loss and Healthy Eating?

GettyImages-902999388In recent years, carbohydrates have seemingly been blamed for our health problems. Many of us now shun potatoes, rice, and even fruit in fear of the dreaded pounds that could come with eating carbohydrates. While many diets demonize carbohydrates, others preach the benefits of higher-carbohydrate diets. Through all of this confusion, I will try to set the record straight.

No single food or food group should be blamed for weight gain or credited with weight loss. Carbohydrates span a broad range of foods, from beans, fruits, and veggies to pizza, pasta, cookies, and French fries. While we hate to oversimplify the equation, weight gain does come down to calories in versus calories out. If we eat too much of anything—even fruits and veggies—we will gain weight. The caveat is that fruits and veggies are nearly impossible to eat too much of because they are rich in fiber and low in calories, while other foods can pack a calorie-dense punch in a very small serving.

How easy is it to eat an entire bag of Chex Mix while you might struggle to eat half a cup of carrots?

Carbohydrates and a Healthy Diet

Carbohydrate-rich foods form the foundation of a healthy diet. The National Academy of Sciences recommends people consume 45–65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. In a 2,000-calorie diet, this is equivalent to 225–335 grams daily. Carbohydrates are crucial for energy production in the body for working muscles, fuel for proper mental function, supplying vitamins and minerals, as well as providing large amounts of fiber for decreasing risk of chronic disease like heart disease and cancer. Many foods contain carbohydrates: whole grains, fruits, starchy veggies, milk and dairy, pasta, beans, and refined/processed foods.

Should I Avoid Carbohydrates?

In recent years, many have found lower-carbohydrate, higher-protein diets to be beneficial in weight loss. However, the long-term effects of such a diet are not well studied. Many “low-carb” diets can lead to an increase in foods like red meats, processed meats, and saturated fat–containing foods like cheese, butter, and cream. Carbohydrate-rich foods provide numerous health benefits and you should not avoid them. Certain areas of the world called Blue Zones offer an interesting look into the benefits of a higher-carbohydrate diet. They have not only the highest rates of longevity but also very low rates of chronic disease. Blue Zone populations consume 95% of their calories from vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes and eat meat sparingly.

“Good” Versus “Bad” Carbohydrates

But it is important to think about the types of carbohydrates you are consuming. Unrefined carbohydrates are unprocessed, whole foods that are high in fiber (and many other nutrients) and digest more slowly. Unprocessed, whole-food carbohydrates help you feel fuller and get you through the day feeling less hungry. Processed carbohydrates lack fiber and may have added oils and sugar—they can leave you feeling low on energy as they are quickly digested and burned for fuel. Unprocessed carbs are key to long-term health and can help with weight control. They also guard against type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. Try to limit most processed carbohydrates because they are low in nutrients and high in calories.

Unprocessed Carbohydrates

  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Fruit
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables

Processed Carbohydrates

  • Soda
  • Baked treats
  • Packaged sweets/snack foods
  • Fruit juice
  • Breakfast cereal
Did you now that in 1915 the average American consumed 17.5 pounds of added sugar in a year? As of 2011, the average American consumed over 150 pounds of sugar annually!

In summary, carbohydrates should be welcomed to not only help with weight management but also prevent disease. Make most of your carbohydrates whole, unprocessed foods for a balanced, healthy diet while enjoying the processed/refined carbohydrate foods in moderation. And if you’d like some help with figuring out what to eat, look into Nutrition Coaching at NIFS.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss healthy eating calories endurance disease prevention fiber energy whole foods carbs fruits and vegetables carbohydrates longevity

Macronutrients: The What, Why, and How of Tracking for Healthy Eating

GettyImages-1133846218 newA diet that is balanced in its macronutrient distribution can help reduce the risk of disease and help with lasting weight loss. You might have heard of others tracking their “macros” and wondered if this is something that you need to do. So, why and how do you do this tracking?

What Are Macronutrients?

The major macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. All are essential to health and well-being. Since 1941, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has reviewed the latest science and pulled together a group of experts to make recommendations to the public. The latest recommendations were published in 2005. Some foods provide a mix of macronutrients (beans provide protein, carbohydrates, and sometimes a very small amount of fat), while others provide only one type of macronutrient (olive oil provides just fat). Whether they are a mix of macros or one type, they all serve a purpose.

Protein

Protein provides four calories per gram. Protein is vital for immune function, building and repairing tissue, cell signaling, hormones, and enzymes. Protein-rich foods include eggs, poultry, fish, tofu, lentils, and beans.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide four calories per gram as well. In your body, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, a type of sugar that your body uses for immediate energy or stores in your liver and muscle for later use. Carbohydrates are found in almost all foods with the exception of oils/fats and meat—items like grains, starchy veggies, beans, dairy, and fruit contain carbohydrates.

Fat

Fat has the most calories at 9 calories per gram. Your body needs fat for energy, hormone production, and nutrient absorption. Fat is found in oils, butter, nuts, meat, and fatty fish.

What Is an Acceptable Distribution of Macronutrients?

The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) is the range associated with reduced risk for chronic diseases while providing essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. NAS has classified the following AMDR for adults as a percentage of calories as follows:

Protein: 10–35%

Fat: 20–35%

Carbohydrates: 45–65%

For example, an individual consuming 2,000 total calories per day will aim for approximately:

2,000 calories x 10 to 35% = 200–700 calories from protein OR  200–700 calories / 4 calories per gram = 50–175 grams of protein

2,000 calories x 20–35% = 400–700 calories from fat OR 400–700 calories / 9 calories per gram = 44–78 grams of fat

2,000 calories x 45–65% = 900–1300 calories from carbohydrates OR 900–1300 calories / 4 calories per gram = 225–325 grams of carbohydrates

How to Track Macros

  1. Determine your calorie needs (many formulas online, RMR testing at NIFS, and various apps will create calorie recommendations as well).
  2. Determine your macronutrient breakdown ( for example, if you’re very active, you may need more carbohydrates and protein).
  3. Log food intake into a journal like My Fitness Pal, Lose It, or My Macros+ app.

Keep in mind you might not always hit your goals precisely and the tools we have to calculate calories are not perfect. Food tracking is great for helping you get closer to your goals; but our bodies are not calculators, so give yourself a little “wiggle room” in your tracking.

Benefits of Tracking Macros

  • Improves diet quality: Instead of focusing on calories, where a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fruit may be equal to a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, you will focus on nutrients.
  • Helps with weight loss: Those who track food tend to lose more weight than those who do not track food intake.
  • Helps with specific goals: Those who are endurance athletes may need more carbohydrates than athletes who are lifting weights multiple times per week.

When Is Tracking Useful?

Those who thrive on structure may find tracking macronutrients to be something they enjoy, and very beneficial. It can help to increase your awareness of the quality of foods you are eating and the amount of healthy foods you are eating. (Those with a history of disordered eating should not track food intake.)

When first starting, you may find it overwhelming, but over time you find the foods and healthy eating patterns that help you hit your macronutrient goals. When tracking macronutrients, it is important to focus on a mainly whole-foods diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein. The benefits come from making adjustments as needed—not finding the perfect ratio from the very beginning. Many can eat a well-balanced diet without tracking intake—there is no one-size-fits-all plan—but rest assured: if most of your food was grown in the ground and everything else is included in moderation, you are giving your body just what it needs.

Contact Lindsey Hehman, RD, at lhehman@nifs.org for questions or to come up with more specific macronutrient goals.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating protein technology carbs fat

The Keto Diet: A Registered Dietitian’s Review

GettyImages-1134020458The “keto diet,” which is short for ketogenic diet, is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that is similar to the Atkins Diet, and is one of today’s most popular diets. The goal of a low-carb diet is to reduce carbohydrates and replace them with fat. This puts your body into a state of ketosis. When this occurs, your body breaks down fat into ketones for energy. The main idea here is that by starving the body of carbohydrates, you will force it to break down fats, which proponents of the diet suggest results in the best weight-loss results.

There are different versions of the keto diet. Some allow for added carbs around workouts, or some keto days followed by high-carb days, high-protein keto diets, and a standard keto diet of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. It usually includes meat, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds, oils and fats (like avocado, coconut oil, ghee, butter, and olive oil), vegetables (limited to dark leafy greens and mushrooms, and fruit (berries in moderation). Generally the diet does not include starchy veggies (potato/sweet potato, pumpkin, legumes, etc.), grains (oats, rice, quinoa, corn), or fruits (banana, mango, pineapple, apples, oranges).

Why Is This Diet So Popular?

Keto diets have become increasingly popular in the health-conscious community for a few reasons:

  • Weight loss: How many fad diets have you tried over the past few years that promise hitting your weight-loss goals in just a few weeks or even less than 6 months? Often weight loss is “water weight”: as stored carbohydrates are utilized, water is lost.
  • Reinforcement of getting to eat what we thought to be “bad” foods.
  • No calorie counting—however, many of us create a calorie deficit that results in weight loss without thinking about it when we are no longer eating favorites like pizza, donuts, cookies, chips, etc.

How Healthy Is the Keto Diet?

As a registered dietitian, my goal in nutrition counseling is to help people establish lifelong sustainable habits, and the research points us in a different direction than keto. But first, kudos to anyone who is trying to modify their lifestyle with any diet. Low-carb diets may be useful in the short term for weight loss, but in the long term (longer than a year), there are no documented benefits.

Take a look at the following research on some other healthier eating patterns.

Plant-Based Diets

A study of the eating patterns of more than 15,400 adults in the U.S. and another 432,000 people around the world found that restricted-carbohydrate levels replaced or supplemented by animal-based protein and fat sources could lead to a higher risk of premature death. The study suggests that plant-derived protein and fat such as vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads were associated with lower mortality.

Low-Carb Diets

A second study examined the relationship among low-carb diets, heart disease, cancer, and all-cause death in 24,825 people. Compared to those in the high-carbohydrate group, those who ate the lowest carbohydrates had a 32% higher risk of all-cause death over 6 years. Risk of death from heart disease and cancer increased by 51% and 35%, respectively.

The Secrets of the Blue Zones: Living to 100

What do Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica all have in common? These places are called Blue Zones. Blue Zones are isolated areas of the world where researchers have found populations that contain a surprisingly high percentage of centenarians—people who live to age 100+. Not only are these individuals living longer, but they are doing so in phenomenal health without problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer, or diabetes. Here’s what researchers have found when it comes to their diet:

  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80% full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially beans. Eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average.
  • Alcohol in moderation (no more than 1-2 glasses of wine per night).

The Conclusion: High-Fiber, Low-Calorie Diets Are Best

There is evidence that ketogenic diets help with conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy, but for the majority of the population, I encourage you to eat a well-balanced diet that emphasizes plant foods. Think of cheese, butter, and meat as garnishes to your meal and shift your plate from a high-calorie, high-saturated-fat meal to a high-fiber, lower-calorie, and nutrient-powerhouse meal!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating protein fiber carbs dietitian ketogenic diet keto

Tips for Making Healthy Choices in the Face of Decision Fatigue

GettyImages-506139898It’s the end of the day. There was a string of meetings to attend, a pile of emails to answer, an argumentative colleague to work with, maybe even kids yelling for pizza when you had chicken planned for dinner instead. By the time you get home, you’ve already made a plethora of decisions, from how to approach a problem at work to what shoes to wear on your way out the door. You told yourself you would exercise when you got home, but now the couch looks a lot more enticing. All those decisions you made have taken a biological toll on your motivation and self-control, whether you realize it or not.

Decision fatigue, or the deteriorating quality of decisions after making numerous previous choices, happens to even the most rational and strong-willed of us. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder it is to exert self-control and make better decisions later. So no, your choice to binge-watch Game of Thrones with a pint of ice cream in hand after a particularly decision-heavy day isn’t necessarily because you lack motivation or willpower. Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks that you can employ to hack decision fatigue and help boost your willpower.

Here are four ways you can help combat decision fatigue in your day.

Make Repeated-Daily Decisions the Night Before

Some of the most draining decisions are the ones that you make again, and again, and again. Blocking off time the night before can save tons of mental energy the following day. It’s the outfit you’re wearing to work tomorrow, the lunch you will eat, and even which KCup to choose for your morning buzz (very crucial, I know). All of these take less than a few minutes to decide and even complete, so tackle them the night before to set yourself up for success tomorrow.

Attack the Most Important Task First

Willpower is somewhat like any muscle in your body: it fatigues with use. The brain will start to look for shortcuts if decisions pile up. Namely, it will either a) become reckless and impulsive (hello bag of chips for lunch), or it will b) become the energy saver and do nothing (where my fellow procrastinators at?). If you have something that you are trying to prioritize and work on, put your best foot forward and attack it first while you have ample attention and energy to do so. Maybe it’s improving your body composition, maybe it’s starting a side business, maybe it’s beginning a daily mindfulness habit. Whatever it may be, start your day by working on the most important thing in your life.

Schedule Your Success: Don’t Leave It to Chance

We all have great intentions when we start the day. But its not enough to hope that you’ll have the energy to go to the gym after work. Or that you’ll be disciplined enough to choose a serving of vegetables over that nighttime Nutella binge (can you tell I’m a bit hungry writing this?). Making ourselves a schedule takes out the decision-making process and eliminates another opportunity for our brain to check out and give in to impulses. If making exercise a habit is a priority for you, physically put it on your calendar and weekly agenda. Now hoping that you’ll have the willpower when you leave work won’t be the problem; you’ll just know that NIFS is where you’ll be heading on Tuesdays at 5:30pm.

Eat Something First if You Have to Make Good Decisions Later

In a study by Danziger et al. (2011) published by the National Academy of Sciences, researchers analyzed over 1,100 judicial rulings for parole hearings over a 10-month period. Judges had a favorable ruling to start the day 65% of the time. As the day progressed, and more decisions were made, that percentage gradually dropped to nearly zero. The only exception? When the judges returned from lunch break, a ruling’s favorability jumped back up to the same 65%. Moral of the story? If you have an important decision to be made, but you realize that it won’t be approached until later, try eating a small snack beforehand. Being hangry can make it easier to be impulsive. So while you should try to tackle the most important tasks and decisions first, it might not always be realistic or possible to do so. Have that healthy snack at the ready (or packed the night before) if you know that your day calls for willpower later.

***

The average person makes more than 30,000 decisions daily. And the more decisions that we make, the more difficult subsequent choices become. Try a few of these techniques to help streamline your day and keep your willpower intact and refreshed going forward.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy habits healthy eating healthy lifestyle healthy living decision-making

Fresh Foods for Healthy Spring Meals

GettyImages-910874208The never-ending cold and dreary winter weather is coming to an end finally. After months of staying in and hibernating on chili, casseroles, soups, and stews, it’s time to break out the fresh and colorful foods! This is the perfect time of year to experiment with more fresh fruits and vegetables that are quick and easy and oh so good for you!

Here are some of my favorite recipes that I am excited about adding into the spring and summer rotation.

Brussels Sprouts Salad

FOR THE SALAD

4 dozen Brussels sprouts (trimmed and sliced thin)

8 oz center-cut bacon (cooked and coarsely chopped)

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

FOR THE DRESSING

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup maple syrup

½ cup olive oil

1 small shallot (minced)

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large bowl, toss together the Brussels sprouts, bacon, pecans, and grated Parmesan cheese.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, maple syrup, olive oil, shallot, and salt and pepper until thoroughly combined.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to ensure that all of the ingredients are evenly moistened.

The salad can be served immediately, or refrigerated for up to 4 hours before serving (if making further in advance, keep dressing separate until ready to serve).

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake

3 thin eggplants, sliced into ¼-inch-thick slices

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1–1½ cups medium tomatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes

4 oz. goat cheese

1⁄3 cup basil, roughly chopped

½ cup olive oil for drizzling

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. In a 13 × 9 baking dish, layer the sliced eggplant, overlapping if necessary. Drizzle a little of the olive oil over the eggplant slices and gently toss them to coat.
  3. Scatter the garlic over the eggplant. Then place the tomatoes evenly over the eggplant.
  4. Crumble the goat cheese with a knife or your fingers and top the tomatoes. Then place the basil on top.
  5. Bake 35–40 minutes, or until the eggplant is softened and the cheese is slightly melted. Serve hot.

Farmers’ markets are opening soon, so take advantage of fresh and local produce to come up with your weekly meal plans! Challenge yourself each week to try a new fruit or vegetable and base a meal around that choice. Have fun!

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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: healthy eating recipes spring local eating fruits and vegetables

Spring Forward with Quick, Healthy Breakfasts

GettyImages-901234842Daylight Saving Time is coming, and with that we lose an hour of sleep. Studies have shown that the week following springing forward, car accidents increase by 20 percent. Cardiovascular events also increase, with a 24 percent higher incidence of heart attacks the Monday following Daylight Saving Time. In addition to an increase in accidents and heart attacks, people are also suffering from not only losing that one hour of sleep from Saturday into Sunday morning, but for up to a week Americans can lose 40 to 50 minutes of sleep per night due to their sleep/wake cycle being thrown off.

One of the main excuses people give for skipping breakfast is time. Now add in almost an hour of lost sleep, and that week following Daylight Saving could be a week of running late and missing breakfast, or the temptation to stop at the drive-through lane. Instead, here are some quick and easy breakfasts that can be useful for Daylight Saving or anytime throughout the year.

Egg Muffins

Ingredients:

12 eggs
½ tsp seasoned salt
2 to 3 TB diced onion
1 cup cooked diced or crumbled ham, bacon, or sausage
Pepper to taste
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
¼ cup sautéed and diced mushrooms
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded baby spinach

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add remaining ingredients and mix together.
  4. Scoop ⅓ cup of mixture into each muffin cup. Bake 20–25 minutes or until the center of the muffin is completely cooked.

Baked Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oats

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp butter 
2 cups steel-cut oats 
4 cups boiling water 
2 tsp cinnamon 
3 apples, peeled and diced 
¼ cup brown sugar 
1 tsp salt 
2½ cups milk 

Brown sugar, maple syrup, fruit, nuts (optional toppings)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.
  2. Melt butter in skillet and add oats. Stir until lightly toasted.
  3. Put oats in a large mixing bowl and pour boiling water over them. Add apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt and stir until combined. Add milk and stir.
  4. Pour into prepared dish and bake 50–60 minutes or until browned and set.
  5. Stir oatmeal before serving and then add toppings as desired.

Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

2 overripe, frozen large bananas
4–6 TB peanut butter or Pb2 (powdered peanut butter)
1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1 cup milk
optional ⅓ cup quick oats or rolled oats

Instructions:

  1. Blend the oats until a fine powder forms, then add all remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  2. Drink immediately, or store in a covered container in the refrigerator if you make the smoothie the night before.

Makes 2 servings.

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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: healthy eating recipes breakfast sleep protein

March Is National Nutrition Month! 10 Tips for Healthy Eating

GettyImages-1024069556Every March, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month. This campaign is intended to put the attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. If you started out 2019 with resolutions or a goal to be healthier but have already fallen back into old habits, take a look at these 10 messages and use National Nutrition Month as an excuse to get back on track.

  1. Discover the benefits of a healthy eating style. Take notes on how you feel when you eat a balanced meal. Do you have more energy and are not as sluggish? Did you enjoy the fresh flavors from foods that aren’t processed or packaged?
  2. Choose foods and drinks that are good for your health. Each week, challenge yourself at the grocery store to try a new-to-you food or drink that is good for you. This will help expand your options when it comes to making healthy meals and snacks.
  3. Include a variety of healthful foods from all of the food groups on a regular basis. Aim for three food groups at every meal and two food groups at snacks. This will help increase the balance and variety of the foods you are eating.
  4. Select healthier options when eating away from home. Plan ahead. Check out the menu and see what you want to order before you arrive. Then try to balance your meal with only one higher-fat item and healthier sides, entrees, and beverages.
  5. Be mindful of portion sizes. Eat and drink the amount that's right for you, as MyPlate encourages us to do. Use your hand to guide your portion sizes! Your fist is the size of a serving of fruits, veggies, and grains. Your palm is the size of a serving of meat. Your thumb is the size of a serving of oil.
  6. Keep it simple. Eating right doesn't have to be complicated. Look at your plate and half of it should be filled with fruits and veggies, one-fourth with whole grains, and one-fourth with lean protein. Sprinkle in some healthy fat and dairy, too!
  7. Make food safety part of your everyday routine. Wash your hands and your produce. Don’t cross-contaminate your raw meat, and cook foods to their proper temperatures to avoid any food safety issues.
  8. Help reduce food waste by considering the foods you have on hand before buying more at the store. Make a meal plan based on what foods you have and then create a shopping list to fill in the holes. This will help reduce waste and save you money on your food bill, too!
  9. Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week. What did you like to do as a kid? Ride your bike? Dance? It never felt like exercise then, so find something you enjoy doing and it will be something you will look forward to doing daily.
  10. Consult the nutrition experts. Registered Dietitian nutritionists can provide sound, easy-to-follow, personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences, and health-related needs. NIFS has Registered Dietitians that are here to help! Check out our website for more information!

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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 resolutions healthy eating new year's dietitian food safety fruits and vegetables portion control food waste dining out

Which Is Healthiest: Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Produce?

GettyImages-626119746Since you were young you probably have been told to eat your fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are the nutritional powerhouses of your diet. They offer essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that not only keep your body healthy, but also protect against cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other health conditions. During the winter months, fresh fruits and vegetables are more limited and generally more expensive. As a result, many of us turn to canned or frozen options. So are canned and frozen options just as healthy as the fresh produce we consume?

Frozen Versus Fresh

Gene Lester, Ph.D., a plant physiologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Center states, “Frozen vegetables may be even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets.” Frozen fruits and vegetables are generally picked at their peak ripeness—a time when they are most nutrient-packed. After they are picked, they are blanched in hot water or steamed to kill bacteria and stop the action of food-degrading enzymes. Then they are frozen, locking nutrients in place.

Conversely, fresh fruits and vegetables are shipped across the country to reach our fresh-produce aisles. These produce items are typically picked before they are ripe. As a result, they have less time to develop the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Although signs of ripening may still occur, these foods never have the same nutritive value as if they had been allowed to fully ripen on the vine, plant, or tree.

In addition, fresh fruits and vegetables may spend as much as seven to fourteen days in transit. From the time they are picked to the time they are in your refrigerator, they are exposed to light, heat, and air, which degrade some nutrients. If you have the option to purchase fresh produce from locally grown farmers’ markets, this is your best choice. At local farmers’ markets, fruits and vegetables are grown, picked, and sold when their quality is best (and they are usually cheaper). Check out these fall options. Although they are limited during the winter months, seek out markets that remain available with produce grown in greenhouses.

Canned Versus Frozen

What about canned fruits and vegetables? Similar to frozen produce, canned fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness and canned soon after. So the produce is nutrient packed. With vegetables, however, excess sodium is generally added to each serving. If you choose to eat canned vegetables, be sure to buy cans marked “No Salt Added” or drain and rinse the vegetables in water prior to serving. Canned fruits are also saturated in excess sugar and syrups. Again, if you choose to eat canned fruits, be sure to buy cans marked “No Sugar Added” or drain and rinse the fruit prior to serving.

The Bottom Line

When fruits and vegetables are in-season, buy them fresh and ripe from your local farmers’ market. In the off-season, frozen fruits and vegetables may be your best choice because they are the most nutrient-concentrated. However, if you are in a bind, produce in any form is better than none at all.

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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 winter fruits and vegetables seasonal eating

How to Maintain Healthy Eating During the Holidays

GettyImages-613788476The holidays technically started on Thanksgiving, and now the season is officially in full swing. For many of my clients, the holiday season means a variety of different things. There are office parties, celebrations with friends, and even traveling to visit family. The festivities of the holidays can be a lot of fun, but they can also be stressful, especially if you are trying to stick with a healthy eating plan and fitness regimen.

It would be easy to sit here and say that the holidays really are just three days out of the year—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day—and only those three days are the days you can eat whatever you want. Right? But truth be told, it’s not so much what happens on those three days as it is what happens in between that matters most.

To help keep you on track with weight loss or weight management, I’ve created a holiday survival guide. Try these out—good health and good cheer will follow.

Office Parties

Keep the alcohol in check. Besides the added calories, you don’t want to become this year’s office party joke. Slow down when drinking by having a glass of water in between cocktails. As hard as it might be, leaving the eggnog behind and sticking with wine, beer, or drinks that are not made with juice or added sugar, is a sure-fire way to cut calories. If it becomes too hard to cut back, maybe the best idea is not even starting in the first place. Whatever your choice may be, remember to enjoy the festivities and the company of co-workers.

Getting Together with Friends

Whether it’s out to dinner or meeting at a friend’s house, good choices will keep you on track. Being mindful when ordering will set you up for success. Veggies instead of French fries? Yes, please! Fish over a hamburger? Absolutely! Water rather than soft drinks? Keep it coming! Bread? Desserts? Alcohol? Choose the one you can’t do without during this holiday season and enjoy only that one.

Traveling Out of Town

Visiting family out of town can always be tricky, but it doesn’t have to completely throw you off your game. Here are a couple of ways to help keep you on track and ensure you don’t set yourself up for failure.

  • Go grocery shopping. You’ve reached your destination and realize that there isn’t any produce to be found in the house anywhere. The solution? Go shopping! Try to lighten the load of relatives who are preparing for a big family holiday get-together and offer to go grocery shopping. You will lessen the load and set yourself up for success.
  • Come prepared. If your travel plans consist of driving, come prepared with your own food. Making on-the-go snacks will not only allow you to stay on track, but it will also help you avoid stopping at the drive-through or wanting to spend extra money on food when you already have some. Pack those snacks!
  • Offer to cook. Along with helping to grocery shop, why not guarantee not only you, but the whole family gets a healthy meal by cooking? Prepare it just the way you would at home and it’s sure to be a hit. Here are some holiday recipes that include superfoods.

There are plenty of other tricks and tips you can use to help you survive the holidays in a healthy way, including workouts that work when you’re on the road. At the end of the day, don’t beat yourself up if you gave in to an extra cookie, or ate a little bit more than you had planned. Learn from it, move past it, and start fresh. And most important: ENJOY EVERYTHING ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss healthy eating holidays weight management Thanksgiving traveling new year's christmas meals dining out