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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topics: nutrition snacks lunch breakfast protein fiber

Are Recent Changes to Restaurant Menu Ingredients Good for You?

ThinkstockPhotos-200325352-001Have you heard the news about Panera? How about Chipotle? It has been in the news a lot recently that these chains are making dramatic changes to their menus. So, what are the changes and will they make for more healthy eating?

Panera Drops Artificial Ingredients

Panera has decided to drop all artificial ingredients from its menu. This list of 150 ingredients is called the No-No List. This list includes artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and flavors, and these ingredients will all be removed by the end of 2016. 

Even though the debate is still ongoing as to whether these ingredients can cause harm to consumers, Panera decided to not take the risk. It was reported that reconfiguring the salad dressing to meet the standards was the toughest menu item change. As of now there are no plans to increase the cost of the menu items to offset these changes. 

Chipotle Gets Away from GMOs

Chipotle has also decided to clean up its menu recently. The chain announced that it would be serving only food that is free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. In 2013 Chipotle was the first restaurant to show which menu items contained GMOs, and now it is the first chain restaurant to remove them. As with artificial ingredients, GMOs have not been found to be harmful to humans, but environmental working groups are concerned about the effect they might have on the food chain and environment. 

Are These Changes Better for You?

It is great that these companies are making an effort to provide safe food choices; however, these changes do not mean that the food is necessarily better for you. Most calorie contents won’t be affected by these changes; and in foods where artificial sweeteners are removed the calories may actually increase. 

So, if you are watching calories or wanting to lose weight, don’t be fooled into thinking the giant blueberry muffin will be the best option to help you get to your goal. That will still have 460 calories and 18 grams of fat! With any change in a nutrition announcement, the rule of thumb is not more is better. The goal is to stick to the basics. Incorporate as many fresh and unprocessed foods as possible into your diet. This includes reaching for 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day!

Be on the lookout for more companies to make similar announcements soon. Kraft has decided to remove artificial coloring from its Mac & Cheese, and Pepsi is removing aspartame from its diet drinks. Each announcement can be a positive for consumers, as long as they remember to get in a balanced and fresh diet the majority of the time. 

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

Topics: healthy eating calories lunch artificial ingredients

The Health Benefits of Greek Yogurt—Plus Recipes!

There are a lot of hot new food fads right now, including coconut oil, kale, quinoa, and chia seeds. It seems like I have been seeing these foods everywhere, and while I do love them, I have been obsessing over another food fad for a while. Greek yogurt is one of those amazing foods that can be used in so many ways and is extremely good for you.

Why You Should Eat More Greek Yogurtgreek-yogurt

Here are the reasons why Greek yogurt can help with your healthy eating goals:

  • It is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, zinc, protein, and vitamins B6 and B12.
  • It contains probiotic cultures, which can help with gut regularity.
  • It's lower in lactose for those who have trouble digesting other dairy products.
  • Greek yogurt contains twice the amount of protein as normal yogurt, which can help keep you full longer and makes an impact on your weight management.
  • It has half the amount of sodium regular yogurt has, which is a plus for those watching blood pressure.
  • It can be enjoyed as a sweet or savory treat!

Recipes

Here are some recipes that can help you incorporate this super food into your meals and snacks.

Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

If you want to start your day with a protein-packed punch and also get to work on time, here is a quick and healthy breakfast smoothie incorporating Greek yogurt that can help you start the day off right!

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Bored with your normal lunch routine? Try this tasty buffalo chicken salad that has tons of flavor without all of the fat of traditional chicken salads.

Tzatziki Sauce

Stumped as to what to fix for dinner? This delicious topping for chicken, fish, or lamb is a quick and easy solution!

Creamy Peanut Butter Dip

Need to have that sweet ending after dinner? Try this alternative as a healthy treat! It's also a great midday snack.

I hope you try this tasty treat! Watch out for some varieties on the market that can be extremely high in sugar, calories, and fat. Look for a nonfat version to keep your saturated fat grams lower, and consider buying plain and flavor it yourself with fruit and flavored extracts to decrease the added sugar. The possibilities are endless!

Learn more about Nutrition and Wellness services at NIFS.

This blog was written by Angie Sheetz, NIFS Registered Dietitian. Read more about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating recipes snacks calories lunch breakfast weight management

Celebrate National Kale Day with Three Healthy Recipes


There are a lot of different days throughout the year devoted to certain foods, and October 2 is no exception. This day is reserved for all things kale!

So, if you have been hearing about this wonderful green, leafy vegetable and have been wanting to try it, or if you are already a lover of the vitamin-K-packed wonder, then definitely take this day to enjoy some recipes that incorporate kale.

Since kale thrives in cooler weather, this time of year is the perfect opportunity to sample it when other vegetables are out of season. To find the freshest kale, search for deeply colored leaves with hardy stems.

If you want to increase your intake of folate, calcium, iron, fiber, and phytonutrients, here are three ways to incorporate kale into your diet for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack time.

Orange-Blueberry Kale Smoothiekale smoothie

If the thought of drinking a green smoothie doesn’t appeal to you, try this delicious option that keeps the color a gorgeous purple!

1 whole orange

1 cup blueberries

½ cup vanilla almond or soy milk or ½ cup skim milk

2 cups chopped and loosely packed kale

1 cup ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Makes three 8-ounce servings or two 12-ounce servings.

 

Kale Salad

1 big bunch kale; chopped fine

1 cup cooked wild rice or brown rice, cooled (or try cooked quinoa)

1 red or orange bell pepper; chopped

¼ cup thinly sliced red onion or green onion

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins or bothkale salad

½ cup feta cheese

¼ cup grated parmesan

 

Dressing:

2 to 3 TB. olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 TB. Dijon mustard

1 to 2 TB. honey

Juice of 1 lemon (add zest if you want)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Toss salad. Put all dressing ingredients in a shaker and combine. Pour over salad and enjoy.

 

Kale Chips

Slice kale into bite-sized pieces. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

 

For more information and recipes, check out the National Kale Day website.  

Schedule a personal nutrition consultation to plan how you can incorporate more veggies like kale into your diet.

This blog was written by Registered Dietitian at NIFS, Angie Scheetz, RD. To meet the NIFS Bloggers click here.

Topics: nutrition recipes snacks lunch breakfast

What’s In My Lunch? Nutrition for a Productive Day

We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but what about lunch? Lunch is just as key because it allows your body to rest and renew and get geared up for the second half of the day. If you are choosing the wrong thing at lunchtime or skipping altogether, this can lead to overeating in the afternoon and evening, poor performance at work, or an unproductive evening workout.ANGIE2

Whenever people find out I’m a dietitian, I get asked a lot of questions about what I eat. My typical response is “I eat normal.” However, I guess everyone has a different version of normal! For me that means following the recommendations in the USDA guidelines at ChooseMyPlate.gov. Half of my plate is filled with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of my plate grains, and a quarter of the plate protein. Then you can sprinkle in a little dairy with that. There is also room for some good, healthy fats and even the occasional dessert!

My rule of thumb is 80/20. 80 percent of my diet is filled with fresh, unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and nonfat dairy; and 20 percent includes foods such as cheese, chocolate, and alcohol. On most days I try to make sure I get the 80 percent met first before even thinking about the 20 percent!

What Angie Eats for Lunch

So, what do I eat for lunch? Well, I tend to switch up the main part of my meal each week, but the rest stays pretty constant. I always have a Greek yogurt, some baby carrots, and a Clementine. Every Monday I bring to work four yogurts, four Cuties, and a bag of baby carrots. That way I don’t have to worry about it the rest of the week. Then, I make a homemade chicken salad, tuna salad, or egg salad mixed with nonfat Greek yogurt instead of mayo and put it on whole-wheat bread or whole-wheat crackers. Other weeks I choose an old standby: peanut butter and jelly on whole-wheat bread. Sometimes it is turkey sandwiches or even leftovers from dinner the night before. There are even a few days here and there that I grab a frozen meal because they are quick and convenient.lunch

If I want a sweet ending to my lunch, I typically stop by my co-worker’s office for a few of the M&Ms she keeps on her desk. This is much better than buying the whole package from the vending machine!

One day a week I go out to lunch with some friends, and it can be challenging to choose the healthiest options. However, the main thing I always try to do is to balance my plate! So, if I really want a slice of pizza one day, then I opt for a side salad instead of a breadstick to go with it. Or if it is a sandwich place, I will bring my own sides such as the Clementine and carrots to go with the sandwich instead of the chips. The key is to picture the plate and then fill in the holes!

Need Advice on Healthy Lunches? Ask the Dietitian!

Packing your lunch can sometimes be a pain, but it is definitely worth it in the end! Figure out what works for you so that you can make it part of your weekly routine. If you need assistance planning your meals, please contact Lindsey Hehman for a personal nutrition consultation at lhehman@nifs.org or 317.274.3432, ext. 239.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating lunch employee health

Avoiding Sweet Office Temptations for Employee Health

office sweets

Eating healthy in the workplace is an obstacle that most of us face. There are constantly birthdays, going-away parties, welcome lunches, you name it! Often, these events include desserts and special treats, so it can seem as if cookies, cupcakes, and sweet treats are a staple of your office environment. This doesn’t even account for the candy bowl that is always left sitting out.

Even at NIFS you can find us gathering for an ice cream social to welcome a new employee, bringing our favorite treat to welcome or say goodbye to our interns, and indulging in foods that you wouldn’t expect to find in a fitness center.

Simply because sweet temptation is there doesn’t mean you have to overdo it. The occasional cookie or brownie is fine, but when it seems as if these “special treats” become a daily occurrence, or you find yourself frequenting that candy bowl several times a day, it can be hard to cut those sweet temptations from your routine.

Here are five tips for handling those indulgent treats in your office setting

1. Prepare ahead of time.

Get used to packing your lunch and bringing it with you to work. This will allow you to control what you eat during your midday meal, and it will save you money by eliminating the cost of going out to lunch on a daily basis. Packing your lunch the night before while cooking dinner will save you time and enable you to sharpen those multitasking skills. If you know that there is a potluck or special lunch at work the next day, bring in part of your lunch (maybe just the sides or a healthy salad) and supplement your packed lunch with some indulgent office treats.

2. Pack healthy snacks.

Having snacks on hand will prevent you from getting overly hungry with only unhealthy foods as an option. Packing things like low-fat cheese sticks, nuts, apples, bananas, homemade trail mix, and Greek yogurt will allow you to be prepared and stay satisfied throughout the day. This may increase your work productivity, too!

office sweets

3. Drink lots of water.

Not only is it important to stay properly hydrated throughout the day, but water helps you feel fuller longer. It can be hard to remember to drink water even if you have your favorite bottle with you, so set a reminder on your calendar telling you to drink! Emptying your water bottle will cause you to have to refill and use the restroom, which are both great excuses for getting up and out of your seat during the workday.

4. Bring a healthy dish to share.

If you know that your office is holding a gathering with food, offer to bring a healthy dish! That way, you know that there will be at least one nutritious option available. Veggies and whole-wheat pita with hummus, fruit trays, or homemade granola bars are always popular options.

5. Indulge responsibly.

Have a cookie, bowl of ice cream, or donut and enjoy every bite of it! If you never have any of the office treats, this may leave you feeling deprived and craving sweet treats all day, which could lead to overindulgence later. Just remember that it is a treat, and treats are a rare occasion!

Written by Tara Deal, NIFS Membership Manager, Group Fitness Instructor, and author of Treble in the Kitchen.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits healthy eating snacks lunch employee health