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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Beyond the Hype: Embracing Nutritional Fundamentals for Lasting Health

GettyImages-1448979924(2)In today's fast-paced world, where new diet trends and health fads emerge almost daily, it can be challenging to discern what truly benefits our bodies. Amid this whirlwind of ever-changing advice, the key to a healthier life may not lie in exotic superfoods or rigorous diet regimens, but in the consistent practice of nutritional basics.

The Allure of Fads

It's easy to see why diet fads capture our attention. Promising quick results with minimal effort, they offer a seemingly easy solution to our health concerns. From juice cleanses to keto diets, these trends often revolve around drastic changes and exclusions, creating an illusion of instant improvement. However, such approaches can be unsustainable in the long term and may lead to nutritional imbalances.

Consistency in Basics: A Sustainable Approach

The cornerstone of good nutrition lies in consistency and balance. This means regularly consuming a variety of foods that provide the nutrients your body needs. Here are some fundamental practices.

  • Balanced Diet: Incorporate a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in your meals. Carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide energy. Proteins are essential for repair and growth, while healthy fats support brain health and hormone production.
  • Hydration: Water is crucial for almost every bodily function. Staying adequately hydrated helps in digestion, nutrient absorption, and even skin health.
  • Moderation: Enjoying your favorite foods is part of a healthy lifestyle, but moderation is key. It’s important to balance indulgences with nutrient-rich foods.
  • Regular Meals: Skipping meals can lead to overeating later. Regular meals help maintain blood sugar levels and the feeling of fullness, aiding in better energy management and mood regulation.

The Long-Term Perspective

Adopting a consistent approach to the basics of nutrition may not offer the instant gratification that fads promise, but it paves the way for sustainable, long-term health benefits. By focusing on balanced and regular eating, hydration, and moderation, you can nourish your body and mind, keeping them strong and resilient against the allure of quick fixes.

In the end, the true “fad” may be the belief that there is a shortcut to health. True wellness comes from a consistent commitment to the simple, foundational principles of good nutrition. If you’d like to learn more about how to navigate nutrition, reach out to me: Michael Horner, RD, LD, Aligned Health Practice.

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Michael Horner is a Registered Dietitian with Aligned Health Practice specializing in strength-based sports, preventative nutrition therapy, and lifestyle nutrition. Contact Michael if you are interested in a Personal Nutrition Coaching session.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating hydration fad diets

Three 30-Minute (or Less) Summer Dinner Recipes

As we head into late summer, balancing a busy schedule with healthy eating can be difficult. Here are three quick and easy dinner recipes you can make in less than 30 minutes, giving you more time for fun summer activities! 

GettyImages-1389858280Shrimp Sushi Bowl

Servings: 4

5 TB light mayonnaise
2 tsp red curry paste
10 ounces (2 standard packages) frozen riced cauliflower
3 TB sesame oil 
1½ lbs uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined 
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt 
1 medium ripe avocado, seeded, peeled, and sliced 
1 medium cucumber, sliced
½ cup julienned carrots 
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lime, sliced into wedges 

  1. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise and red curry paste.
  2. Prepare riced cauliflower according to package directions.
  3. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until pink, or about 5–7 minutes. Add garlic and salt and cook for 1 additional minute. Remove from heat. 
  4. Divide cauliflower among 4 bowls. Top each bowl with shrimp, avocado, cucumber, carrot, and green onion. Drizzle each bowl with curry mayonnaise mixture and garnish with lime.

Nutrition Facts: 377 calories, 22g total fat (3.5g saturated fat), 14g carbohydrate (5g fiber, 4g sugar) and 32g protein.

GettyImages-1204163374Grilled Zucchini Hummus Wrap (Vegan)

Servings: 2

1 zucchini, sliced 
Salt and pepper, to taste 
1 TB olive oil 
1 medium tomato, sliced (or 1 handful cherry tomatoes)
⅛ cup sliced red onion
1 cup kale
2 slices white cheddar cheese 
2 large tortillas 
4 tablespoons hummus (any flavor)

  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat. 
  2. Toss zucchini in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add to skillet and cook for 3 minutes before flipping and cooking for an additional 2 minutes. 
  3. Remove zucchini from skillet and reduce heat to low. Heat tortillas one at a time in skillet for 1 minute each. 
  4. Remove tortillas from skillet and assemble wraps with sliced zucchini, tomato, onion, kale, 1 slice of cheese, and 2 TB hummus. Wrap tightly and serve. 

Nutrition Facts: 366 calories, 20g total fat (6g saturated fat), 660mg sodium, 38g carbohydrates (7.5g fiber, 6g sugar), and 13.5g protein. 

GettyImages-927760516Chicken and Cucumber Lettuce Wraps with a Simple Peanut Sauce 

Servings: 4 (2 lettuce wraps per serving) 

¼ cup creamy peanut butter 
2 TB low-sodium soy sauce 
2 TB honey 
2 TB water 
2 tsp toasted sesame oil 
2 tsp olive oil 
3 scallions, sliced (separate whites and greens) 
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced 
1 TB minced fresh ginger 
2 tsp minced fresh garlic 
16 ounces ground chicken breast 
1 cup diced jicama 
16 Bibb lettuce leaves 
1 cup cooked brown rice 
½ medium English cucumber, thinly sliced 
½ cup fresh cilantro 
lime wedges, for serving

  1. Whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, water, and sesame oil in a small bowl. 
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add scallion whites, Serrano pepper, ginger, and garlic and cook until slightly soft, or about 2 minutes. Add chicken and cook until cooked through, about 3–4 minutes. 
  3. Add the peanut sauce to the chicken mixture and cook until sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in jicama and scallion greens. 
  4. Prepare lettuce wraps by dividing rice, chicken mixture, cucumber, and cilantro among the each lettuce leaves. Serve with lime wedge garnish. 
  5. Nutrition Facts (per 2 lettuce wraps with sauce): 495 calories, 19g fat (4g saturated fat), 400mg sodium, 39g carbohydrates (6.5g fiber, 14g total sugar, 8.5g added sugar), 44g protein. 

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating recipes summer time management fruits and vegetables dinner

Managing Stress Eating

GettyImages-1160210442It’s no secret that our emotions impact what we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat. In fact, sometimes it seems that the strongest cravings hit when our emotional and mental well-being is at its weakest. Emotional eating is a way to, in the short term, relieve or suppress negative feelings, such as sadness, stress, anger/frustration, or boredom. However, emotional eating can also lead people to make poor choices, such as skipping or forgetting meals, consuming fast food frequently, or consuming alcohol or caffeine in excess, all of which may have health consequences, including unintentional weight gain.

To help prevent emotional eating, focus on the following steps.

Identify the difference between emotional hunger and physiological hunger.

Emotional hunger typically comes on suddenly with an urge to resolve the “hunger” quickly, often involves a desire for a specific type of food or food group, and usually results in overeating. In contrast, physiological hunger tends to be more gradual, allows us to stop eating when we are full, and doesn’t typically cause guilt that is experienced with emotional hunger.

Establish a healthy eating routine.

Aim to eat two to three well-rounded meals each day. Meals don’t have to be complicated: the easier and quicker, the better. Try pairing a protein source (chicken, salmon, ground turkey or lean beef, and so on) with various grilled, roasted, or steamed vegetables and seasonings and sauces of your choice for a quick, inexpensive, and easy meal.

Ensure you’re consuming enough of the right foods. Consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products while limiting your intake of highly processed foods, added sugars, salt/sodium, and alcohol. Talk with a registered dietitian to develop a healthy eating routine that meets your individualized needs while helping manage causes and symptoms of emotional eating.

Manage your overall stress.

There is evidence to suggest that increased cortisol, the hormone released during stress, may result in an increased appetite, leading to overeating and potential weight gain. Rather than turning to food for comfort, be sure to control stress by journaling, exercise, practicing mindfulness/meditation, and/or social support.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress healthy eating weight management emotional stress eating

Make Plans to Stay Healthy During the Colder Months (Part 1)

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study of adults showing that the average holiday weight gain was .37 kilograms, or just under a pound, and more than half the people in the study stayed within a kilogram, or just over two pounds, of their other weigh-ins. Now that the holidays are over, you can lose that weight and stay healthy during the long colder months. Here are five healthy habits to get started with.

GettyImages-11401931651. Do make a plan to manage your stress level.

A good place to start is finding ways to ease stress and anxiety when they occur, or even before. That may mean doing yoga or meditation, taking a hot bath or shower, listening to music, or even just calling a friend to catch up.  Just 10 minutes of stress relief can help you feel more relaxed and make it less likely that you will turn to food. If you’re having trouble finding time to unwind, mark a daily 10-minute stress break on your calendar and tag it with an alert—then treat it like you would an important appointment and don’t miss it.

2. Don’t skip meals to “save up” for a big dinner.

Some people skip meals to “save up” calories for a big dinner or party, but this approach may backfire and lead to overeating later. Instead, limit your intake to an eight-hour window of time each day. This has been shown to be an effective weight-maintenance strategy. You can even try having a lighter breakfast and lunch at your usual times, making sure they incorporate a lot of vegetables and proteins with minimal carbs. For example, you might have a cup of Greek yogurt for breakfast, a green salad with grilled chicken and light dressing for lunch, and then let yourself enjoy the evening feast.

3. Do eat your foods in a specific order.

It helps to have a plate of salad or vegetables before anything else. These low-calorie and high-fiber foods will help you fill up before you dive into the higher-calorie options. Next, have some type of lean protein. If you are going to have carbs (such as potatoes, chips, rice, pasta, bread, or a sweet dessert), save them for the end of your meal. By then, you’ll be less hungry and the protein you’ve eaten will slow your digestion a bit, so you’ll feel full for longer afterward.

4. Don’t forget that beverages count.

An easy way to cut calories is to avoid drinks like regular soda, juice, coffee drinks with added sugar, and alcoholic beverages. Also, try to aim for six to eight glasses of water per day. If you do decide to drink alcohol, choose spirits mixed with something without added sugar, such as seltzer or diet tonic water, rather than beer, wine, or mixed drinks. Or stick to a drink that has only about 100 calories per serving. Do keep in mind that alcohol can lower inhibitions and make you more likely to indulge, so limit yourself to one or two drinks, and have a glass of water after each one.

5. Do give in to your cravings (somewhat).

Controlling diet and weight is a balancing act. Completely cutting out dessert and sweets is simply unrealistic. This can lead to binging or eating more than you’d like to. If you are really craving your favorite sweet, let yourself have some. Remind yourself that this won’t be your last dessert ever and try to put the fork down after one slice—or a few bites, if you’re satisfied by that.

Check back soon for the next 5 ideas (part 2) for how to stay healthy during these colder months.

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This blog was written by David Behrmann, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits weight loss healthy eating calories weight management winter protein sugar

The Dos and Don’ts of Dieting During December

GettyImages-1439973604Did you know studies have shown that the average adult gains 0.88 to 1.98 pounds during the holiday season, starting the last week of November and through the first or second week of January? For many, this doesn’t come as a surprise, especially as we tend to become more sedentary due to the weather changes and often experience an increase in temptation due to frequent holiday gatherings that focus on food, limited edition “holiday” menu items, and more. This holiday season, set yourself up for success by following these dieting “dos” and “donts” during the month of December.

DON’T: Expect your diet to be perfect during the holidays.
DO: Plan and prepare for temptation and offsets.

Let’s be realistic. There are very few, if any, people who have a perfect diet, let alone during the holidays. The holidays are a time of celebration, with food and alcohol often taking center stage at these events. It’s important to expect and prepare for temptation and to have a plan of action for practicing moderation throughout the month. Check out these 10 Simple Ways to Stay Healthy While Celebrating the Holidays for guidance on doing so.

DON’T: Skip meals to make room for your holiday meal (or alcohol).
DO: Eat a balanced diet, no matter the day, and practice portion control.

Many people attempt to skip meals to “save up” calories for heavier meals, desserts, and alcohol; however, this approach often leads to binge eating. Instead of cutting out certain foods or practically starving yourself to make up for a big meal, stick to your normal healthy eating habits or regimen and practice moderation and portion control when consuming foods rich in calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

DON’T: Overdo it with the high-calorie, high-sugar “seasonal” beverages.
DO: Opt for a smaller size or customize your drink to make it healthier for you.

Did you know a grande (16 oz) Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks® contains 440 calories, 54 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of fat? Practice moderation by ordering a tall (8 oz) with only 240 calories, 28 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of fat. Or, try customizing your drink to make it healthier by asking that your drink be made with nonfat or plant-based milk, fewer pumps of sweetener/syrup, or without toppings (such as whipped cream or chocolate shavings), all of which can save up to hundreds of extra calories!

DON’T: Skip out on exercise because it’s cold or snowy.
DO: Opt for indoor exercise!

Don’t have a gym membership? Try a free online exercise video (there are TONS on YouTube) or head to a large indoor space that allows for 10 to 15 minutes of walking, such as a mall or large department store.

DON’T: Give up after one bad day.
DO: Wake up the next day, forgive yourself, and start over.

One bad day doesn’t undo all of the progress you’ve made and won’t prevent you from having success in the future. After a poor day (or two) of eating, don’t give up or put off your goals until the next week. Instead, wake up the next day, show yourself some forgiveness, and make a plan for getting back on track.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: winter fitness healthy eating calories holidays attitude coffee mindset alcohol skipping meals

The Best Foods to Help You Fight Off Cold and Flu Season

GettyImages-1186344506As the weather turns colder and we spend more time indoors, viruses will become more active among the population. Healthy eating can help you boost your immunity. Here are five of the top choices for fighting colds and flu with food.

Citrus Fruits

Oranges, clementines, lemons, and grapefruits are all excellent sources of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps protect immune cells from oxidative stress during the early stages of an immune response. Research has shown that a deficiency of vitamin C can result in impaired immunity and a greater susceptibility to infection.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, such as sockeye salmon and rainbow trout, are often great sources of Vitamin D, a nutrient that plays a role in innate and adaptive immune responses. One study found that vitamin D supplementation resulted in a 42% decrease in the incidence of influenza infection, while another study revealed individuals with lower serum vitamin D levels were more likely to self-report recent upper respiratory tract infections when compared to individuals with sufficient vitamin D levels.

Nuts, Seeds, and Plant-based Oils

Nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that has been shown to enhance immune response and confer protection against several infectious diseases. These foods are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help strengthen your immune cells, although more research is still needed to fully support these claims.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes and other red or orange fruits and vegetables are typically high in vitamin A, which plays a crucial role in the maintenance of the human immune system. Vitamin A supplementation has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on diseases transmitted through the respiratory tract, such as pneumonia. For reference, one sweet potato contains 156% of your daily vitamin A requirements.

Oysters

Three ounces of raw oysters provides 291% of your daily zinc needs. Zinc helps the immune system function properly and also has wound-healing properties. Studies have shown that a zinc deficiency is associated with severe immune dysfunction.

***

Eating the preceding types of foods can help you strengthen your immune system against the annual winter onslaught of colds and flu. If you’d like more help planning a healthy diet, schedule a NIFS nutrition coaching session.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating immunity fruits and vegetables cold weather plant-based flu viruses

Saving Money on Groceries While Eating Well

GettyImages-517974394With inflation at a 40-year high and grocery costs up close to 11% compared to 2021, saving money at the store has become a priority for many. However, when trying to save money at the store, many individuals cut back on the pricier yet healthier items, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources. But you don’t have to do that! Here are some tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy diet while shopping smart and saving money at the store.

  • Have a grocery store game plan. Make a list of the meals and snacks you plan to eat throughout the week and the foods you will need to make them. Sticking to this list will help prevent you from buying things you do not need, which often results in wasted food and money.
  • Join your store's loyalty or rewards program. Often these programs are free and automatically apply savings at checkout, requiring minimal effort from you.
  • Buy “in-season” and “local” fruits and vegetables when possible. Fruits and vegetables that are local or in season are typically cheaper to produce and ship, resulting in a lower price for the consumer compared to hard-to-find or out-of-season produce. See what produce is currently in season at the USDA website.
  • Buy frozen. If you have freezer space available, purchase frozen fruits and vegetables without added salt or sauces. Typically frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh and are a fraction of the cost.
  • Buy canned fruits and vegetables. When purchasing fruits, try to buy those that are packaged in 100% fruit juice. When purchasing vegetables, look for those that have “no salt added” listed on the label, or simply rinse prior to preparing/cooking to help wash off some of the salt added for preservation.
  • Grow your own! Grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs to cut back on packaging costs.
  • Buy fresh. Check the “sell by” or “best by” date to ensure you are buying the freshest items.
  • Compare your options. Compare and contrast different sizes and brands to find the most cost-effective option. Looking at the “price per unit” can help you find the best deal.
  • Buy in bulk. When you know a certain food or drink will get used, buy in bulk or purchase value- or family-sized items. For produce and meat, anything that isn’t used can be frozen for later use.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating whole foods fruits and vegetables grocery shopping saving money frozen food

Tips for a Healthy Halloween

GettyImages-1267397092Halloween is a day full of fun, costumes, treats, friends, and family! With all the food and candy, is it even possible to be “healthy” and still enjoy the festivities? The answer is YES. Take a look at these SPOOK-tacular tips to keep you and your family in good health.

Find a Balance

Halloween comes around once a year. It’s a time to feed your social and mental health, which may require easing up on the physical health guidelines for a moment. Remember, any decision you make for your physical health that comes at the expense of your social and mental health may not be all that great after all.

Let’s be honest, Halloween is FUN. The candy is FUN. Trick-or-treating is FUN. All this feeds our mental and social health. Plus, think about it: daily nutritional choices consistently over time have the greater impact on your health than nutrition choices on one holiday.

What does this “balance” look like? Keep reading.

Use portion control and omit the “off-limits” mentality.

All foods in moderation can fit into a healthy regimen. Instead of making candy off-limits, work it into your established routine. Still have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Make those meals nutritious, including fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. At each meal, offer one serving of Halloween candy to everyone. Instead of the full-size pieces, make them like the “fun-size” or “snack-size.” This allows everyone to enjoy a sweet, while filling up on the nutritious foods that are important for physical health.

Make festive, healthy options.

On the day that you all go trick-or-treating, really get into the spirit! Make nutritious meals that are Halloween themed. Some examples include:

  • Green-goop smoothie with Halloween straws: Include low-fat Greek yogurt, spinach, chia seeds, pineapple, and low-fat milk of choice. Try this recipe.
  • Monster teeth: Slice a green apple. Smear peanut butter on one side of a slice (bottom lip of the mouth). Stick yogurt-covered raisins in the peanut butter. Smear a little more peanut butter on another apple slice and place on top of the raisins for the top lip.
  • Boo-nana pops: Cut bananas in half and place a stick in the end as a handle. At the tip of the banana, add two chocolate chips as eyes. Serve frozen, cold, or at room temperature.
  • Devil spiders: Make deviled eggs. On the top, put an olive in the center for the spider’s body. Then put slices of olives around the outer edge of the egg for the legs.
  • Cute pumpkins: Peel Cuties/clementines/mandarins. Slice celery into small sticks. Place a celery stick at the top of each mandarin for the pumpkin stem.
  • Yo-yo graveyard: Scoop nonfat Greek yogurt into cups. Crumble some chocolate cookies on top (just a thin layer to cover the top) for the dirt. Write “Boo” on graham crackers for tombstones. Place one tombstone in each yogurt cup.
  • Spider sandwich: Make a sandwich of choice. Cut the sandwich into a circle. Place chocolate chips as the eyes (use peanut butter to help them stick). Use pretzels as the legs, sticking them into the bread or middle of the sandwich, with the tips sticking out.
  • Ghost cheese sticks: Get individually wrapped mozzarella cheese sticks. Take a sharpie and make black dots for the eyes and a block dot for an open mouth. These make perfect snacks while you are out and about trick-or-treating.

This ensures everyone is filling up on nutritious options high in fiber and protein, which leaves less room for tons of candy. Now, do not mistake this for “NO ROOM” for candy. There is still room, but not as much. You are just making sure everyone is properly nourished and still having fun in the process.

When you get home that night, enjoy a few pieces of candy with the kiddos, then put it in a non-accessible place. You are in control of when and how much the kids get. You are also in control of when and how much you get as well. Refer to what I said about portion control to plan your approach here. Remain consistent so that you and the kids both have a clear understanding of when candy will be served. For example, one individual piece will be served with each meal. It gives both you and the kids something to look forward to and does not make candy off-limits, but instead teaches proper portion control and provides a positive relationship with all foods. In the long run, this reduces binging or obsessing over any one food.

Stay active.

One of the best things you can do is to get everyone moving and active. Be sure to get in a workout on the big day, even if it is a quick 20-minute HIIT session at home, or try this spooky workout. Get the kiddos moving with you! Walk from house to house instead of driving during trick-or-treating. Go on a walk in your costumes if you are not trick-or-treating this year. Or just go on a walk in your regular clothes and enjoy all the house decorations. You can also play games:

  • Monster Tag: The tagger is a monster and anyone they tag becomes the monster.
  • Monster vs. Ghost Freeze Tag: If the monster tags you, you become frozen until one of your ghost teammates unfreezes you. The goal is for the monster to freeze all the ghosts!

ENJOY HALLOWEEN!

Have fun with your family. Soak in the moments. Laugh a lot. Feed your mental and social health, knowing it will benefit your physical health in the long run and that choices you make consistently over time matter the most. Stay safe.

As always, reach out to your NIFS Registered Dietitian if you need some holiday nutrition support.

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

 

Topics: staying active healthy eating holidays kids sugar halloween

Are You Eating Too Much Sodium?

GettyImages-525359720Sodium is a mineral and electrolyte that helps balance the amount of fluid and other minerals in your body. It also plays an important role in nerve and muscle function. The terms “sodium” and “salt” are typically used interchangeably; however, sodium is a mineral and one of the chemical components found in salt (also called sodium chloride). Sodium is found naturally in some foods, and added to others for flavor or preservation.

While some sodium is necessary for the body to function (~500 mg/day), over time consuming too much sodium can have undesirable health effects. One of the most notable consequences of consuming too much sodium is high blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the U.S., as well as kidney disease, loss of vision, and many more health complications.

Where Is Sodium Found in Foods?

Although most people believe their sodium intake mainly comes from salt they add to food by hand, only around 10% of the average American’s sodium intake comes from salt added while cooking or eating. Instead, more than 70% of the sodium consumed by Americans is from packaged and processed foods and food from restaurants. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the largest contributors of sodium in the American diet include sandwiches (including burgers and tacos), pasta and other grain dishes, soups, pizzas, and meat and seafood dishes.

How Much Sodium Can I Consume?

The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2,300mg (1 teaspoon) of sodium per day; however, consuming less than 1,500mg is preferred, especially in those with preexisting high blood pressure. Despite these guidelines, the average adult in the U.S. consumes close to 3,400mg of sodium each day.

How Can I Reduce My Sodium Intake?

To help reduce your sodium intake and promote overall health, try some of the following suggestions:

  • Compare Nutrition Facts labels of various packaged foods and choose the one with the lowest sodium content.
  • Select canned foods, such as vegetables and beans, with “no salt added” or “low sodium” listed on the label.
  • Use herbs, spices, and other sodium-free seasonings to add flavor to food, rather than salt and salty seasoning blends.
  • Limit foods that are pickled, cured, or smoked, as these tend to be high in sodium. Foods that are grilled, poached, or roasted may be better options.
  • Choose whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods tend to be very low in sodium.
  • Minimize the amount of salt added during cooking and at the table.
  • If you currently eat a lot of salt/sodium, try gradually reducing your intake to give your taste buds time to transition.

Sodium and Exercise

The recommendation to consume less than 1,500mg per day does not apply to everyone, particularly individuals who lose excess amounts of sweat, such as competitive athletes or outdoor construction workers. Sodium and potassium are the two major electrolytes lost in sweat, although the amount lost varies from person to person. Typically, it is appropriate to replenish these electrolytes after intense exercise (typically >60 minutes) or excessive sweat loss.

When choosing electrolyte replacement drinks, select one with about 14–16g of carbohydrates and between 100 and 165mg of sodium per every 8 ounces for optimal recovery. And as always, it is important to talk with your physician or registered dietitian to determine how much sodium is appropriate for you based on your health status and other contributing factors.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating sodium hypertension

Five Nutrition-Focused New Year's Resolutions That Aren’t About Weight

2023 Food TrendsWhile having a New Year’s Resolution to “lose more weight” isn’t a bad thing, it’s not easy. And depending on how much you want to lose and in what time frame, it’s not always realistic. To benefit your overall health without focusing on your weight, try setting (and sticking to) some of the following nutrition-related resolutions going into 2023.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

About 80 percent of the US population doesn’t meet their fruit intake recommendations, while close to 90 percent do not meet their suggested vegetable intake (source: CDC). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage adults to consume around 2–2.5 cups of fruit per day and 2.5–3 cups of vegetables per day. Although this may be a lot for some, simply aiming to eat one additional fruit or vegetable each day is still beneficial.

Drink More Water

Water is essential for the body. It aids in digestion, regulates body temperature, cushions joints, and helps remove wastes from the body. Not drinking enough water increases the risk for dehydration, which can cause dizziness, confusion, fatigue, headaches and dry skin and mouth (source: CDC). A general rule of thumb is to consume at least 1 milliliter of water for every 1 calorie consumed. For example, if you consumed 2,200 calories per day, you would want to aim to consume 2,200ml, or 2.2 liters of water per day.

Consume Less Alcohol

Excess alcohol intake has both short- and long-term health consequences. In the short term, drinking too much can result in risky behaviors, injury, or violence. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of high blood pressure and heart disease, certain cancers, weakened immune system, learning and memory issues, and social problems. Most professional health organizations such as the CDC and WHO agree that men should limit alcohol intake to less than two drinks/day, while women should aim for less than one drink per day (source: CDC).

Decrease Sodium Intake

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest consuming less than 2,300mg of sodium per day to promote optimal health and reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death for adults in the US. However, in the US, the average sodium intake for individuals older than 1 year of age is ~3,400mg/day. Strategies for reducing sodium intake include cooking at home more often, using herbs and spices to season foods rather than salt, and consuming fewer packaged/prepared foods.

Limit Saturated Fat Consumption

Like sodium, excess saturated fat consumption is linked to an increased risk for heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily calories, while the American Heart Association recommends even less, at less than 5–6% of daily calories from saturated fat per day. Saturated fat is found in most animal-based foods such as beef, poultry, pork, full-fat dairy products, and coconut and palm oils. To cut back on saturated fat, reduce your intake or eat smaller portions of the foods listed above and replace them with healthier options, such as fat-free or low-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition resolutions weight loss healthy eating hydration goals new year's sodium alcohol dietitian fruits and vegetables fats healthy living