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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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

Healthy Lifestyle Habits for Lowering Your Risk for Diabetes

GettyImages-892674198nMost of us are aware that the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes is increasing, but so is the number of us at risk. The American Diabetes Association says you now have a 1 in 7 chance of developing diabetes if one of your parents was diagnosed with the disease before age 50, and a 50 percent chance if both of your parents have it.

Genetics plays a role, but what can you do to reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes? Lifestyle changes can be your best bet. Here are three areas that can have the greatest impact.

1. Practice Healthy Eating Habits

Eating a wholesome diet that is focused on plant foods is key. A large meta-analysis found that those who chose a Mediterranean-style way of eating were 23 percent less likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes. This style of eating is high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, seafood, olive oil, whole grains, herbs, and spices but moderate in meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. 

2. Move More, Sit Less

Physical activity can improve insulin resistance for as long as two days following the activity. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people at risk for Type 2 diabetes exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. This could be as simple as a 30-minute brisk walk, five days per week. 

3. Sleep

Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation impacts glucose metabolism. Aim for at least 7 to 8 hours per night for lowered risk of developing the disease.

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Just because you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, doesn't mean you will automatically have it too. If you can make healthy lifestyle changes in nutrition, exercise, and sleep, you can lower your risk and improve the quality of your life.

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This blog was written by Judy Porter, RD, CD. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits walking healthy eating diabetes sleep sitting healthy lifestyle sleep deprivation

Fall Superfoods: Recipes for Delicious, Healthy Eating

GettyImages-531781862The air is crisp, football season is in full swing, and the plentiful bounty of summer’s gardens is all gone. Instead of reverting back to the frozen fruit and veggie staples that are typical of fall and winter, experiment with some of the tasty foods that give fall the name the harvest season!

Favorite Fruits and Vegetables for Seasonal Eating

Here are some of my favorite fall foods and the nutrients they provide.

  • Apples: Easy and portable for a lunch bag or a snack. They are also high in fiber and can help decrease cholesterol. (Read more about apple nutrition.)
  • Acorn squash: Packed with Vitamin A and C to keep your immune system healthy during flu season.
  • Brussels sprouts: These little balls of cabbage are known to be cancer fighters.
  • Grapefruit: Citrus comes into season in late fall, so grab these pink treats that are high in fiber and immune-boosting properties.
  • Parsnips: Not as starchy as a potato and loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Pears: Another fruit that comes in season in the fall and is full of Vitamin C and fiber.
  • Pumpkin: The most popular of the fall produce is great for more than decorating! One cup of canned pumpkin has 7 grams of fiber, which is one-third of your daily needs.
  • Spaghetti squash: This fun alternative to pasta is high in beta carotene, potassium, and antioxidants.
  • Turnips: Surprisingly high in Vitamin C; if you eat the greens, you add a ton of Vitamins A, C, B6, and calcium and magnesium.

Fall Recipes

Try these recipes as a way to incorporate some of these fall powerhouse foods into your meals.

Turnip, Apple, and Acorn Squash Soup

1 acorn squash, peeled and chopped
3 medium turnips, peeled and chopped
3 small or 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped acorn squash, turnips, apples, and salt and pepper to pot and continue to cook on medium for 5–10 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until ingredients are softened, about 45 minutes.
  3. Once ingredients are softened, add water or low-sodium vegetable broth and continue to cook for another 5–10 minutes on medium heat until soup is warm.
  4. Remove pot from heat and add through blender or food processor, or use immersion blender.
  5. Garnish with fresh or dried cilantro and serve. Serves 4.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears and Pistachios

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
3 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 pear, halved lengthwise and cored
¼ cup shelled pistachios, chopped coarsely
Juice of ½ large lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place the prepared Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and pour on the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the pear halves, cut sides-down, on the baking sheet, making sure there is enough oil to coat their cut surfaces.
  2. Roast the Brussels sprouts and pear for about 20 minutes. Then turn the Brussels sprouts so that both sides become caramelized. Check the pear—it might not be caramelized at this point.
  3. After another 10 minutes, turn the Brussels sprouts again. Flip the pear. Reduce the oven heat to 375°F.
  4. Add the pistachios—you just want to heat them up and toast them slightly. 
  5. After 5 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Squeeze lemon juice directly over all the ingredients. Use your spatula to chop up the pear halves. Toss everything thoroughly. Serves 2.

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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 recipes holidays fall fruits and vegetables seasonal eating

10 Foods That Will Keep You Satisfied with Fiber, Protein, and More

GettyImages-855098134Are you one of those people who are always hungry? Are you constantly thinking about your next meal or snack and what you’re going to eat? The issue could be that you aren’t choosing meals or snacks that fill you up and keep you satisfied. So the alternative is grazing constantly to get that full feeling.

Luckily there are lots of foods out there that are filling and will keep you satisfied longer. These foods are ones that are high in protein, fiber, or good-for-you fat. Here’s a list of 10 foods to choose when you want to stay fuller longer.

  • Nuts: Nuts have all three things that help keep you full: healthy fat, protein, and fiber. The key is to stick to a serving size because they are calorie dense. Measure out an ounce and enjoy all types of nuts at snack time or meals to keep you full.
  • Avocado: Loaded with good-for-you fat, these tasty treats are a nice addition to a sandwich or salad, or as a dip for veggies. Like nuts, they are very calorie dense, though, so a little goes a long way. Stick to a fourth of an avocado as a serving and enjoy the benefits of staying satisfied.
  • Eggs: Studies have found that protein keeps you more full than carbs. When you eat eggs versus a bagel for breakfast, the eggs win every time for post-meal satisfaction. Start your day with this complete protein; grab a hard-boiled egg for a snack or add it to your salad at lunch and enjoy staying fuller longer.
  • Popcorn: This tasty snack is high in fiber, which helps with the full factor. It also takes up a lot of volume, which means a serving size is pretty large (3 cups!) for a snack. So, if you like to reach for a larger snack, popcorn could be your new go-to item!
  • Berries: Loaded with fiber, these sweet and tasty fruits are an excellent way to increase your fullness factor. They can easily be added to breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack time. The cancer-fighting antioxidants are just an added bonus.
  • Cottage cheese: Dairy foods are high in protein, which is a plus for keeping you full. Cottage cheese is also a great way to vary your snack routine. Toss in some fruit, veggies, or nuts for some crunch, and every day can be a different experience.
  • Celery: If you have heard that celery is a negative-calorie food, you know this a great go-to item for filling you up and keeping you full. It’s low in calories and high in water and fiber content, both of which will help keep those hunger pangs away.
  • Greek yogurt: Another protein-packed goodie is Greek yogurt. Choose a 2% variety to add some fat to your snack or meal. The portion-controlled cup is also nice to help keep the serving size in check.
  • Beans: You get protein and fiber-filled goodness with all of your bean varieties! Toss them into soups, salads, and dips and enjoy the benefits of staying full longer.
  • Sugar-snap peas: Another high-fiber veggie that you can add to your routine is sugar-snap peas. They are crunchy and filling and super easy to prepare. Just wash and go!

Add some or all of these 10 foods to your daily routine and enjoy the benefits of keeping that growling stomach at bay!

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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 snacks lunch protein fiber fruits and vegetables fats

Fair Food Finds: Healthy Eating While Having Fun at the Fair

GettyImages-886128934It only comes around once a year, so why not just indulge, right? Well, some of your favorite fair foods might only be consumed once per year, but if you aren’t increasing your exercise, too, the extra weight gained can stick around for longer.

Top 6 State Fair Foods—and How to Burn Them Off

Here are some of the more popular fair food items and how far you will need to walk to burn off the calories.

  1. Elephant ear: Average is 310 calories and 15 grams of fat—3 miles
  2. Funnel cake (6”): 276 calories and 14 grams of fat—3 miles
  3. Lemon shakeup: 254 calories: 2½ miles
  4. Deep-fried everything: Fried Snickers, 444 calories and 29 grams of fat; fried Twinkie, 420 calories and 34 grams of fat—either would take 4.5 miles. One Oreo, 98 calories—1 mile
  5. Corn on the cob: 250 calories and 12 grams of fat—2½ miles
  6. Corn dog: 200 calories and 10 grams of fat—2 miles

Fair Food Fixes: Better Nutrition Choices

There are some easy ways to save some of these calories or burn them off. Try these tips:

  • Think your drink—grab bottled water, sugar-free lemon shakeups, unsweetened tea, or diet sodas to drink instead of empty calories from other beverages.
  • Don’t arrive starving, which can lead to you wanting to purchase everything in sight. Have a balanced snack before you head to the fair.
  • Share with friends and family so you can try smaller portions of more foods.
  • Sit down and eat versus walking and grazing. This can help you feel fuller faster and more satisfied.
  • Wear comfy shoes to maximize your walking! Park farther away and avoid taking the shuttles or train services.
  • Check out all booths and choose your absolute favorite…you’ll eat less and walk more.

As with holidays, vacations, and other events that come around infrequently, the goal is to enjoy the day and then get back to balanced eating at the next meal. All foods can be a part of a balanced diet as long as it is done in moderation. Be sure to plan healthier meals and snacks leading up to and surrounding the higher-fat choices that will be available at the fair!

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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 walking healthy eating calories summer fair food

How to Eat Red, White, and Blue on the Fourth of July

GettyImages-181065096Here are some recipes for patriotic healthy eating. Bring one of these red, white, and blue creations to your Fourth of July holiday barbecue so that you will have the most patriotic dish to celebrate Independence Day!

Patriotic Veggie Platter

Arrange the following veggies in the shape of a flag with rows of red and white veggies on a large baking sheet. Place a yogurt-based dill or ranch dip in a blue bowl in the corner.

  • Red veggies: Red peppers, grape tomatoes, radishes
  • White veggies: Cucumbers, cauliflower

Independence Fruit Bowl

Toss strawberries, blueberries, starfruit, and watermelon in a bowl and sprinkle with unsweetened coconut flakes.

Red, White, and Blue Popsicles

1½ cups blueberries
1 cup raspberries
2 cups limeade

Divide blueberries and raspberries among freezer-pop molds. Pour limeade over the berries. Insert sticks and freeze until completely firm, about 6 hours. Makes 10 popsicles.

45 calories, 0g fat, 12g carbohydrates, 0g protein.

Fruity Fourth Quinoa Salad

¾ cup wild rice
½ cup quinoa (red if available)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup raspberry vinegar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup halved, pitted fresh sweet cherries
1 cup blueberries
2 stalks celery, diced
¾ cup diced goat cheese
½ cup chopped pecans, toasted

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add wild rice and cook for 30 minutes. Add quinoa and cook until the rice and quinoa are tender, about 15 minutes more. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch; drain well.

Meanwhile, whisk oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the rice and quinoa, cherries, blueberries, celery, cheese, and pecans and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or cold.

I hope you have a happy, healthy, and delicious Fourth of July!

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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 recipes holidays grilling

How Many Calories Are You Consuming When Dining Out?

GettyImages-523697434In 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act, it was required that all chain restaurants, groceries, and convenience stores post their calories for customers to see. Some started right away, and you might have noticed them pop up at Starbucks or McDonalds over the years. However, on May 7, 2018, it finally took effect that all food sellers with more than 20 locations now must have the calorie postings visible, with access to all nutrition information available upon request.

Why This Change Is Such a Good Thing

Americans currently eat and drink a third of their calories away from home. The purpose of putting the calorie count on the menus, display boards, and digital screens was to help Americans make more informed choices and hopefully choose healthier options that are available. The FDA has shown that since menu labeling began, consumers have decreased the number of calories ordered by 30 to 50, which could mean a 3–5-pound weight loss in a year.

Tips for Better Nutrition When Dining Out

If you currently dine out, here are some tips to help make the best decision when ordering:

  • Think your drink. The drink you choose can add up to 500 calories to your meal, yet doesn’t affect how full you will feel when you drink it. Instead, look for calorie-free drink options. Water and unsweetened iced tea are the best; however, occasionally you can choose a diet soda or sugar-free lemonade to go along with your meal. This new labeling will also list the calorie content for alcohol, so make sure to include those calories when planning a balanced meal.
  • Load up on veggies. Consider swapping the traditional side of fries, chips, tots, etc. for a vegetable. Salads, raw veggie sticks, or a hot vegetable option when available will keep the meal high in fiber and lower in fat and calories.
  • Choose a protein. Protein helps keep you full and satisfied, so if you don’t want to be reaching for a snack an hour after your meal, be sure to have a protein source at every meal. Anytime you can choose a lean protein like poultry, seafood, and lean red meat, it’s even better!
  • Go for the whole grain. Protein isn’t the only thing that will keep you full; so does fiber. Choosing a whole grain when available is another must for staying satisfied longer. Choose a whole-wheat pizza crust, brown rice, or whole-wheat pasta or rolls when they are offered.
  • Practice portion control. Many meals eaten out are so large that you can easily save half and have it for another meal or split the meal with your dining partner. Keep in mind portion sizes: one serving of meat should be the size the palm of your hand, sides are around the size of a tennis ball, and added fat like butter is the size of the tip of your thumb.
  • Try mindfulness. So many times when you dine out, it’s for a quick and easy meal or a celebration or social event. During these times you could be distracted and not paying attention to your hunger and fullness levels. Take time to pause between bites and assess whether you are full and can save some of the meal for later.

Take advantage of the new labeling as a way to help you stay informed about your choices. Look over the menus and choose a reasonable meal that will let you leave the restaurant happy with your choice!

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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 dining out restaurants