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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Are You Eating Enough Fruits, Vegetables, and Other Whole Plant Foods?

GettyImages-1142790917“Aim to consume a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables.”

“Make half of your plate a fruit and vegetable.”

“Consume 5 to 6 servings of vegetables and fruits every day.”

This nutrition advice has been the standard from physicians, food and nutrition scientists, and even dietitians. However recent research is revealing that just as important as quantity may be the diversity of your diet. What fruits and vegetables do you pick up from the store on a weekly basis? Do you spend a significant amount of time in the produce section and fill your cart with plant foods? Or do you end up lingering for half an hour in the center aisles and packing your cart with processed food products?

The SAD Truth About the Standard American Diet

Check out these scary statistics… The standard American diet (termed the “SAD diet”) is often very high in animal protein, saturated fats, added sugar, and refined/processed foods. In fact, it is estimated that the average American consumes 32% of their calories from animal foods, 57% from processed foods, and only 11% from whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts (Source: USDA). Three out of four Americans don’t eat a single piece of fruit in a given day, and nearly 9 out of 10 don’t reach the minimum recommended daily intake of vegetables (Source: National Cancer Institute)!

Promote Gut Health with Whole Plant Foods

To create a healthy gut microbiome (meaning the trillions of bacteria that live in your digestive tract), increase the variety of whole, plant foods in your diet. The American Gut Project found that individuals who ate 30 or more different types of plant foods every week had gut microbiomes that were more diverse than those who ate 10 or fewer types of plant foods every week. A healthful plant-based diet improves the health and diversity of your gut microbes and may help prevent conditions like obesity, heart disease, inflammation, and diabetes by turning the genes on and off that affect these conditions.

How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

I often find myself picking out the same fruits and veggies every week, and this has made me stop and think about what’s in my shopping cart—if I bring it home, I will usually eat it! Freezing fruit and veggies is also a great way to make sure nothing goes to waste before it’s used. Below I offer some advice on how to add more plant foods into your weekly routine. I would also like to challenge you to see how many different fruits and vegetables you can eat this week—anything that is a whole plant food and that you eat a decent portion of counts. The goal is to not only increase plant foods in your diet, but also the diversity.

  • Aim to include a piece of fruit and one vegetable at every meal—including breakfast! Instead of a fried egg on a piece of bread, scramble the egg with spinach, mushrooms, or onions. For an even bigger impact, replace your egg with soy and make a tofu scramble.
  • Eat two meatless meals during the week. Replace your animal protein with beans or lentils, or try making your own veggie burger.
  • Make snack time a chance to shine. Skip the vending machine and bring carrot sticks with hummus, a piece of fruit, dehydrated fruit, or mixed nuts.
  • Try smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to disguise vegetables if you have trouble hitting your goals. Add spinach, kale, avocado, or celery to a smoothie. The strong flavor of the fruit hides most of the flavor of these greens and eliminates issues with texture many people face with avocado.
  • Ditch refined grain products like noodles, white bread, and white rice. Try spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles in place of spaghetti noodles, or try cauliflower “rice” in place of white rice. Instead of crackers or bread, use sliced cucumbers for crackers or Portobello mushrooms, peppers, apples, or lettuce for wraps/bread.

What I’m Eating

Here’s peek at my list of plant foods consumed over the course of three days. You’ll notice a lot of repetition, so by midweek I am still only at about 15 different types of plant foods. I have 15 more to go by the end of the week!

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Apple
  • Lunch: Lettuce, veggie sushi (asparagus, cucumber, avocado rolls)
  • Dinner: N/A (no veggies! Even dietitians sometimes eat just a bowl of cereal—oops!)

Monday

  • Breakfast: Rolled oats, banana, ground flax
  • Lunch: Roasted asparagus, grapes, avocado (on toast), roasted chickpeas
  • Dinner: Kale, red bell pepper, cherry tomato, carrots, roasted chickpeas (all combined as salad and topped with olive oil and lemon juice)

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Rolled oats, strawberries, ground flaxseed
  • Lunch: Apple, kale, red bell pepper, cherry tomato, carrots
  • Dinner: Roasted asparagus, grapes

Stay tuned for updates on the “30 Plant Foods Challenge” here at NIFS—can we find a member who eats more than 30 plant foods weekly? Do you think you can do it?

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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 gut health whole foods fruits and vegetables plant-based

Back Away from the Sugar: Making Better Nutrition Choices

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 5.16.05 PMEaster might be over, but the candy lingers. There is no escaping the colors of the sugary candy that is around every corner. From jelly beans to chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs, the temptations are endless and the calories are empty.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it is important for you to know what you’re getting yourself into when you reach for that fluffy pink and yellow Peep. Brace yourself…this might hurt.

Sugar Is Harmful to Your Body

Sugars are caloric, sweet-tasting compounds that occur widely in nature, including in fruits, vegetables, honey, and human and dairy milk. We are born with the desire or preference for sweet taste. The presence of lactose in breast milk helps ensure that this primary source of nutrition for infants is palatable and acceptable. Chemically and with respect to food, sugars are monosaccharide or disaccharide carbohydrates, which impact sweet taste. Most foods contain some of each.

Monosaccharide is a single molecular unit that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. The most common monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, galactose, and mannose.

Disaccharide is sugar containing two monosaccharides that are linked together, and which are broken down in the body into single sugars. The most common disaccharide is sucrose, which is also known as table sugar.

What Happens When You Eat Sugary Candy

When you consume Easter candy, you are getting a large dose of sugar. Whether it’s in the form of high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar, it slams into your system like a bowling ball, and the effects are disastrous. Within the first 20 minutes or so, your blood-sugar level spikes as the sugar enters your bloodstream. It arrives there in the form of glucose, which is your body’s main source of energy. This sudden rise in blood glucose stimulates your pancreas to start pumping out large amounts of insulin, which is the hormone that helps your cells take in the available glucose. Some of this glucose is used instantly for energy, but the rest is stored as fat by insulin, to be used later.

I know what you’re thinking, “But it’s Easter and it only happens once every year!” No it doesn’t! There are always going to be excuses to eat poorly. Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve also “only happen once a year!”

The holidays alone aren’t the only times that we allow the excuses to take over. Daily your efforts to eat well are sidetracked by busy schedules, which include business diners, birthday parties, evenings out with your friends, fundraising banquets, breakfast meetings, church dinners… the list goes on.

Alternatives for Healthy Eating and Celebrating

At some point, you have to stop making excuses and start making better decisions to put your health first. Here are some healthier alternatives. Don’t forget that you also have the option to meet with our Registered Dietitians on staff to help you get on the right path.

Let’s look at ways to enjoy Easter and not feel like you have to munch on carrots and lettuce the whole day. Alternatives to candy:

  • Dried fruit (eat with protein such as nuts)
  • Very dark chocolate (choose some with very little sugar)
  • Nuts
  • Fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain crackers and pretzels
  • Cheeses
  • Popcorn

And start thinking about next Easter with these non-food ideas for kids’ Easter baskets:

  • Play dough
  • Balls
  • Jump ropes
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Crayons
  • Garden starter set
  • Butterfly habitat
  • Beading supplies
  • Swimming toys
  • Card games

The possibilities are honestly endless. It’s just a matter of taking the time to think healthier and smarter next Easter!

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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: nutrition weight loss snacks holidays diabetes sugar blood sugar

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

Heart-Healthy Trends: Weighing Nutrition News

GettyImages-636162332When it comes to nutrition and your heart, the things you hear in the news can be very confusing:

Don’t eat eggs.
Eggs are good for you.
Coconut oil is amazing and should be in everything.
Coconut oil is full of saturated fat and is bad for your heart.
Fat-free dairy is the only kind you should eat.
Fat from dairy is good for you and your heart.

A lot of time there is a study that comes out saying something isn’t good for us, and then there is one that follows that says it is good for us. Hopefully after reviewing some of the tips below, you will feel more confident in making the best nutrition choices for your heart.

Remember the Basics

When it comes to heart health, we know that unprocessed whole foods are best. These foods are higher in fiber, which is helpful in lowering cholesterol. They are also lower in added sodium and preservatives that can affect your blood pressure.

As much as possible, aim to eat foods that are fresh and not packaged or processed. This includes fruits and vegetables, lean meat and eggs and beans, milk and yogurt with minimal or no additions, and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and whole-wheat pasta. At each meal aim to incorporate at least three of these food groups. At snack time, choose two food groups that have some fiber and protein to help keep you full.

Everything in Moderation

Eggs, coconut oil, and dairy can definitely all be a part of a balanced diet. However, if you are eating a dozen eggs per day, putting scoops of coconut oil in everything, and consuming dairy all day long, that can affect your health and your heart. Anything that you consume to excess will provide excess calories, which leads to excess fat being stored in the body if it isn’t burned off.

Therefore, remember to enjoy all foods, but in moderation. One or two eggs per day at breakfast is ideal. A teaspoon of coconut oil to sauté your veggies in is an appropriate serving size, and 3 servings of dairy per day is recommended.

The moderation rule applies to not only these foods but also sweets, higher-fat foods, and alcohol. Learn to enjoy these foods in moderation, with the majority of your choices coming from whole and unprocessed foods, and you will keep your heart healthy.

Pay Attention to Details of Health News

If you are watching a news story or if you see an article on the internet that is talking about the newest trend in nutrition, dive a little deeper. Check to see whether this was a major study that was done by a reputable source. Or is it just an article written by someone who doesn’t have the credentials that are important when trying to come up with recommendations for health.

Something else to look at is the sample size of the study and how long it was. Did they only have a handful of subjects do the testing, and was it for a short period of time? If so, then this isn’t something you can rely heavily on. Studies that have very large sample sizes (think thousands of participants) and go on for years (20+) are the ones that most nutrition recommendations come from, and these are the ones you want to pay attention to. Otherwise, remember to stick to the basics and enjoy a balanced diet with all foods in moderation.

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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 protein fiber whole foods whole grains heart health

Flu Fighting Foods: Boost Your Immunity This Winter

GettyImages-928034704The 2017–2018 flu season was one of the worst on record. It was the first time that flu had been classified as high severity across all age groups and led to more than 80,000 deaths. If you are like most people, the dreaded winter flu season can be scary. However, certain foods can help you fight off the flu or lower your chances of catching that nasty bug.

Immunity-Boosting Foods

Here are some foods (and drinks) to fill up on to help fight the flu:

  • Green tea: Green tea is packed with antioxidants; sip it hot or cold throughout the day to help keep the flu away.
  • Sweet potatoes: This bright orange food is packed with Vitamin A to help keep those free radicals at bay that can threaten to weaken your immune system. Pop a sweet potato in the microwave for 7 minutes for a quick and easy addition to lunch or dinner.
  • Yogurt: Yogurt naturally contains probiotics that help keep your immune system healthy and strong. It's such an easy and filling snack to grab or use as a substitute for sour cream, mayonnaise, or cream in high-fat recipes.
  • Tuna: Tuna is an excellent source of selenium and Vitamin D, which helps protect cells from free radicals and improve your immune system. Try mixing a pouch of tuna with some plain Greek yogurt and serve it atop a bed of leafy greens.
  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms are rich in selenium, low body levels of which have been found to increase your chance of getting the flu. Chop them up and add them to a pasta dish, salad, or soup.
  • Peanuts: This tasty snack is full of zinc, which helps keep your immune system working properly. A handful is the perfect amount to grab for an afternoon snack or to throw in a stir-fry at dinner.
  • Water: This essential nutrient keeps the body running efficiently. Getting fluids in various forms is vital. Tea, 100% juice, coffee (preferably decaffeinated), and water-filled foods such as fruits and vegetables all count toward your hydration needs.

A Yummy Flu-Fighting Recipe

Try this recipe that incorporates a couple of these flu-fighting foods:

Sweet Potato Tuna Melt

1 large sweet potato (halved)
¾ cup canned tuna
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ tsp garlic seasoning
½ tsp onion seasoning
Lemon pepper to taste
½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes, cut side down, on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove potatoes and allow to cool. Meanwhile, combine tuna, Greek yogurt, and spices in a bowl.
  3. Top potatoes with tuna and sprinkle with cheese. Place under the broiler for 1 minute or until the cheese has melted.

Enjoy with a glass of green tea!

Nutritional Balance Is the Key

As with most things, a balanced diet is the key. A diet high in a variety of produce, lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, along with moderate exercise, adequate sleep, and minimal stress, contributes the most to a well-functioning immune system and faster healing if the flu does strike. Incorporate these foods, but also continue to work on overall balance to your life.

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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 winter immunity whole foods wellness fruits and vegetables flu

Healthy Lifestyle: Three Key Ways to Prevent Disease and Illness

GettyImages-926422030What’s your motivation for working out? Eat healthy? What’s your motivation to get enough sleep or practice de-stressing with yoga or foam rolling? What’s your motive to get your friends and family to go on a walk or to the gym with you?

What’s YOUR Motivation?

In a matter of minutes you can change your mindset. In a matter of minutes, you can be inspired to want to live a healthy lifestyle and to prevent disease and illness. But it involves commitment and no excuses.

“I have cancer.” Those are the three tragic words that no one wants to hear. But I’ve heard my mom tell me this three times. These words changed my mind in three seconds. They are the three words that motivate me to motivate you.

Did You Know?

Some statistics about illness in America:

  • Approximately 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2013–2015 data from https://www.cancer.gov).
  • Did you know that about 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year?
  • Did you know that about 735,000 Americans die from a heart attack each year?
  • Did you know that about 32.3% of males and 35.5% of female adults are obese in America?

These statistics are not meant to scare you; they are meant to bring awareness. And these are the conclusions of just a few of the studies relating to health issues in the US.

Did you know... you have the power, through your choices, to not become one of these statistics?

Where to Begin

Mapping out goals to create healthier habits for different areas of your life can be a great first step in preventing deadly diseases. So what are some things that doctors recommend you do on a daily and weekly basis to help prevent becoming one of these statistics?

  1. Movement is Medicine: A study showed that Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day and sleeping an average of 8, which means they are sedentary 21 out of the 24 hours of the day. This is a leading factor for disease in America. Get up and incorporate movement into your day to get your heart beating and blood flowing. Incorporating movement for blood flow helps carry oxygen and nutrients to cells and organs for nourishment. If cells are not activated, it can lead to their mutations, which leads to cancer or other diseases.
  2. Proper fuel: The average American eats way too much added sugar and processed foods because they are convenient. But as important as nourishment is to the cells, you want to nourish them properly with fuel. What we put into our bodies effects what nourishment and vitamins our bodies receive. Eating fruits, vegetables, healthy carbs, and lean meats gives you key nutrients to fuel properly. Eating in a caloric range that is appropriate for the body and practicing portion control is just as important. One way to figure out what your body needs is to get a BodPod or RMR assessment test to find the range best for your body’s needs. In addition to food, our bodies need water to flush out toxins constantly and properly hydrate the control systems. Drink lots of water every day.
  3. Relaxation: Stress is arguably one of the leading causes of disease. When someone is stressed, it often leads to the other healthy habits going out the window. Learning to clear the mind and de-stress can be so beneficial in the long run. There are many ways to do this, but a few cheap methods that you can incorporate daily are meditation, yoga/stretching, and foam rolling. Releasing built-up toxins in the body can aid in natural detoxification and preventing cell and organ mutations.

There are many other methods of prevention to incorporate into your lifestyle, but these are the three key factors. Make it a goal to start incorporating these and then slowly add more disease and cancer-prevention modalities. 

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This blog was written by Brittany Ignas, BS in Kinesiology, 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified, Stott Pilates Certified, and Fitness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition stress motivation disease prevention cancer relaxation sitting assessment movement

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

New Year, New Weight: Burning Calories for Weight Loss

GettyImages-6291562403,500. What does that mean? If you can be in deficit 3,500 calories or burn 3,500 calories, you are rewarded with a one-pound fat loss. As the New Year begins, many individuals will be striving to get rid of or burn many of those 3,500 calories to get started on weight loss.

Here are ways to burn calories that bring it back to the basics: eat less, move more, and you will lose weight.

Think Your Drink

Studies have shown that when liquid is consumed with a meal, whether or not it is calorie-free, the person’s level of satiation does not change. This means that all of those calories are being drunk but no food is given up to balance them out. The average 12-ounce soda has 150 calories, and the Big Gulps can have more than 400 calories. If you order a soda at a restaurant, it’s hard telling how many calories you will consume due to how often the waiter fills your glass.

Specialty coffee drinks can be loaded with calories, too. Ask for nonfat milk in place of the standard 2% milk and save 40 calories. Say “no whip” and save 70 calories. And finally, getting the smallest size can save numerous calories depending on the beverage. Load up on plenty of liquids that are low in calories such as decaffeinated coffee and tea, flavored water, and low-calorie juices. Each of these simple swaps can save multiple calories on the way to 3,500.

Portion Distortion

The portion sizes that are served today are considerably larger than they were 20 years ago. Therefore, more calories are being consumed in serving sizes that seem “normal.” In order to cut more calories, attempt to stick to a single serving or the smallest offerings of items. For example, you can save 140 calories by ordering the cheeseburger instead of the double cheeseburger, and save 210 calories from the Quarter Pounder with cheese. Look at labels and use the serving size on the nutrition facts panel as a guide. Aim to stick to the amount recommended.

Filling Fiber

When weight loss is the goal, it is easier to stay in control of calories when you feel satiated. Foods that offer fiber help the body stay full; therefore, the need to eat more is lessened. Reach for whole-wheat bread, pasta, and brown rice versus the non-fiber-filled counterparts, and the fiber will help keep your stomach from growling for a longer period of time.

The same is true when you eat a piece of fresh fruit or veggies, which are higher in fiber, instead of chips or pretzels that have no fiber. The more fiber you eat, the fuller you will feel and the fewer calories you will consume.

Move More

Whatever exercise that is currently part of your routine, increase it:

  • Park farther away at stores.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Work out for 25 minutes instead of 20
  • Go for a walk after lunch or dinner.
  • Play your child’s Wii games.
  • Take hourly stretch breaks.
  • Wear a pedometer.
  • Add strength training to your normal cardio routine
  • Sign up for a race and start to train for it.

Whatever you choose, make sure it is something enjoyable so you will continue for the long term. All of these simple changes equal more calories burned.

Track Your Choices

Start writing down your food and beverage choices daily. If what you choose to eat is going to be recorded, it might make you think twice about the extra helping of dessert. Seeing what you eat can be very helpful to guide serving sizes and the types of food you choose—and helps with accountability.

A helpful online food journal database is MyFitnessPal. This allows you to pick from a large database of food choices and see where your diet is lacking or in excess. In addition, physical activity can be tracked, too. But be honest; on average, users underreport around 10% of their food intake.

***

This year make an effort to change small things: replace the usual soda with water, measure the servings of cereal that go into your bowl, eat the orange vs. drinking the juice, walk the dog for an extra 10 minutes, or start recording your food intake. Every small change is one step closer to that magic number of 3,500.

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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 weight loss calories accountability water fiber new year movement

Helpful Kitchen Gadgets for Balanced Eating

GettyImages-673500198When my husband and I got married and combined our kitchens, he was appalled at the amount of gadgets that filled my drawers and cabinets. I have always loved the single-use items such as the pineapple peeler and corer, the avocado slicer, the strawberry-top remover, the banana case keeper—and the list goes on and on and on!

If you are a minimalist and don’t want your drawers and cabinets overflowing with kitchen items, hopefully you can use this list of five helpful gadgets to help with balanced eating. Lucky for you the holidays are coming up, so any and all of these would be great gifts or something to add to your own wish list!

Pasta Portion Control Container

A serving of cooked pasta is ½ cup, but the average person eats around six servings at a time! This handy pasta portion cooker will help keep those pasta serving sizes in check. Use the basket to portion out 1–3 servings of your favorite smaller pasta noodle. Then place the basket in boiling water; when it is ready you just lift the basket out and the water will drain right into the pot! Then just add your favorite protein and sauce and enjoy. If you prefer skinnier noodles such as spaghetti or fettuccini, there is a hole on the basket to help measure the correct amount. Look for the pasta portion control container here.

Stainless Steel Vegetable Steamer

One product that I use almost nightly is the stainless steel veggie steamer. It is super easy to plop the steamer in a pan with a little water in the bottom. Fill it with your favorite veggie like broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower. Then cover with a lid and cook for around 10 minutes. Perfectly steamed veggies are the result with almost all of the nutrients intact since they aren’t submerged in water or cooked until they are mushy. You can purchase the vegetable steamer here.

Salad Dressing Shaker

One of the first foods you think of when trying to eat healthier is salad. However, you can make a bowl full of veggies very unhealthy if you top it with a high-fat processed salad dressing. If you have ever flipped over the bottle of salad dressing, a lot of ingredients are listed! To cut back on all of those additives, purchase this little salad dressing shaker to make your own. It comes in small and large depending on how much dressing you want to make and is easy to clean and use. Start with some heart-healthy olive oil and add your favorite spices to top your next salad. Purchase the salad dressing shaker here.

Collapsible Salad Bowl

Not having a plan for lunch can be a killer if you have to order in or go out each day. Instead, you could purchase this handy contraption to make bringing your own salads to work much more tasty. This space-saving bowl collapses for storage and has a tray on top for all sorts of toppings or sides. Toss a few whole-wheat crackers, veggies, diced chicken, tuna or egg, and your homemade salad dressing on top and you can have a balanced, high-fiber lunch without having to go out. A fork and spoon attach to the lid so you don’t have to go searching for one at the office. You can purchase the salad bowl here.

Olive Oil Sprayer

The benefits of a Mediterranean diet have been researched and proven. The base of that diet is using olive oil. However, even though olive oil is good for you, it is still very high in calories, so the key is to not overdo it. One way to help with this is to use an olive oil sprayer. This is another gadget that gets pulled out almost nightly at our house. Just spray your pan before adding your protein or veggie, or add a spritz to your cooked veggies when they are done. You can even spray your air-popped popcorn with it too! Just grab your favorite olive oil, fill the container, and spritz away! You can purchase a Misto here.

Hopefully one or all of these gadgets will find their way into your kitchen soon!

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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 lunch cooking fats portion control salad

Thinking About Diabetes During the Halloween Candy Season

GettyImages-500664508It’s Halloween time, and that can only mean one thing: sugar, lots of sugar! Toward the end of summer, stores start to taunt us by placing all of the Halloween candy out on display. What’s worst of all is that the candy is in tiny, easy-to-eat servings. By the time the actual day of Halloween rolls around, we’ve already been thumbing through fun-sized candy the entire month.

Each holiday has its traditional treats we enjoy, but Halloween takes the prize for being the most focused on candy. And no matter how hard you try to avoid it, the temptation of it all might possibly get the best of you.

Can You Fight the Temptation?

While one piece of candy won’t make or break your health, very few of us stop at just one. In fact, most see Halloween like we see other festive holidays from Thanksgiving and Christmas, to cookouts in the summer: a perfect reason to indulge in whatever kind of temptation is available.

But those temptations can eventually start to take a toll and contribute to the current epidemic of type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of Americans, or more than 100 million adults, are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Without significant changes, as many as 30% of people with pre-diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

What Is Diabetes?

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use as energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood.

Why Put Down the Halloween Candy?

The more sugar you eat, the harder your pancreas has to work to produce insulin and keep your blood sugar within in a safe/healthy range. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce any insulin, when the pancreas produces very little insulin, or when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin, a condition called “insulin resistance.”

How Can You Prevent Diabetes?

Perhaps you have learned recently that you have a high chance of developing type 2 diabetes. You might be overweight or have a parent, brother, or sister with the condition. Here are some ways you can lower your risk.

These simple lifestyle changes are what will send type 2 diabetes out of your life like a kid running out of a haunted house. Choose future health over present pleasures.

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan B.S., ISSA-CPT, Nutrition Specialist, ACE-HC,
NIFS Weight Loss Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating holidays NIFS programs diabetes sugar dietitian halloween