NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Diversify Your Diet: Try Some Healthy New Ingredients

GettyImages-641965214Do you feel like you get stuck in a rut eating the same things from week to week? On one hand it makes life a lot easier, right? You don’t have to scour through recipes, find that one illusive ingredient on the top shelf in the last aisle you looked in, or put the effort into prepping a meal that claims “30-minute prep” but in fact took you two hours. I completely understand!

What if instead of a total diet makeover you just try a few small things—that might in fact add up to a more diverse diet? And it just might end up being healthier!

Flaxseed

Bob’s Red Mill sells whole flaxseed and ground flaxseed (called “meal”) at most stores—usually next to the baking items or in the cereal aisle by the oats. Flaxseed is so versatile. It’s full of healthy fats and fiber. It has a subtle taste that many won’t notice, especially in small amounts. Flaxseed is great for putting on top of oatmeal, adding to a fruit and yogurt parfait, and even substituting in a recipe as egg (flax egg)! Just make sure to grind the whole seeds as you use them to obtain the freshest healthy fats, or keep your flaxseed meal in the fridge because the fats do start to spoil at room temperature after a few months.

Bananas

Top your toast with something besides butter. Spread a thin layer of nut butter like peanut butter or almond butter on top of toast and add thin slices of banana. It’s a great way to get your protein and healthy, fiber-loaded carbohydrates every morning. Not willing to part with the usual breakfast? Freeze your ripe bananas and blend them with a little peanut butter, milk of your choice, and chocolate chips for a sweet treat similar to ice cream!

Applesauce

Keep unsweetened applesauce in the fridge for occasions where you are baking. Applesauce is a great substitute for oil or eggs. One tablespoon of applesauce is equivalent to one egg, and you can substitute equal amounts for the oil.

Tofu

Trying Meatless Mondays in the New Year? Substitute tofu for any of your go-to meats. But if the texture is an issue, here’s what you do: Grab an EXTRA FIRM block of tofu (usually found near produce), cut into small cubes about half an inch or less, spread on a baking sheet with parchment paper, and bake at 375 for 25–30 minutes or until the tofu is golden brown and crispy. You can then easily toss your tofu into your stir-fry or fajita pan, or toss it onto your salad and avoid that soggy, wet mess that tofu can easily turn into.

Chickpeas

This little legume, also known as a garbanzo bean, is protein-dense and nutrient-rich. Pick up a super-cheap can of these beans in the canned goods aisle and add them in for snacks and meals. Simply toss in a little bit of olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper, and bake in the oven on a baking sheet for 20–25 minutes at 375 until they are crispy. Toss on salads, mix in with quinoa, and top with your favorite sauce (we love a little citrus–olive oil mixture or even a soy-ginger dressing!), or eat them all by themselves.

Try just one of these new ideas this year—you might just find it becomes one of your go-to foods that you’ll grab on a quick weeknight trip through the grocery store.

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

Topics: nutrition healthy eating protein fiber whole foods whole grains fats

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

Eat Better, Work Better? Three Nutrition Tips for Productivity

GettyImages-171693421.jpgWe’ve all heard the phrase that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but who knew that eating a balanced diet would also make you more productive at work? That’s what was found in a study conducted by Brigham Young University on 19,000 employees from three large companies (published in the Population Health Management journal). It was discovered that employees with unhealthy diets were 66% less productive than those who ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

So how can you be a more productive employee? Try these three simple ways to eat more balanced meals and then get ready to impress your boss.

Whole-grain Goodness

Swap out your old rice, pasta, bread, and cereal for grains that are higher in fiber and are less processed. Brown and wild rice are excellent alternatives to white rice. Whole-wheat pasta, couscous, quinoa, millet, and oats are more high-fiber options to incorporate into your diet.

When it comes to breads and cereal, check the label. Choose options that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Check out the Whole Grains Council website for more information.

Fabulous Fruits

Most people need three pieces of fruit per day to meet their individual requirements. This can easily be done by incorporating a fruit in your morning cereal or oatmeal, grabbing an apple or banana for a quick and portable snack, or having a bowl of sweet berries after dinner for dessert. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber in fruit are all great reasons to include them in your diet.

Varied Veggies

One of the most challenging food groups to get into your diet, but also one of the best for you, is vegetables. It can be difficult to meet that 4–5 recommended servings per day, so how can you get these in to help balance your diet?

One way is to make sure that you are spreading them out throughout the day by including a vegetable serving at lunch and/or snack time. At lunch, grab portable veggies such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, mini bell peppers, and sugar-snap peas to add some variety and crunch along with your typical sandwich. Or nibble on veggies with a hummus dip for an afternoon snack. Make it a goal to try one new/different vegetable each week.

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Now that you know the impact of nutrition on employee health and productivity, you can follow these three tips for healthy meals and snacks.

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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 snacks lunch employee health productivity fiber vegetables whole grains fruit