Posts Tagged ‘healthy food’

Savor the Flavor during National Nutrition Month

salt-sugar250x250March is National Nutrition Month® and the theme this year is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” Flavor is a big part of why we choose to eat the foods that we do. We want the food that we eat to be flavorful, but at the same time it’s important that the food we eat is healthy.

Foods are often flavored with salt, sugar or fat. The 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises us to consume less added sugars, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium (commonly referred to as salt). It’s important to remember that we don’t need to limit natural sugar, which is found in fresh fruit and dairy products, but we should limit sugar that is added to products.

Salt, sugar and fat don’t have to be avoided completely, but it’s best to eat them in moderation or choose healthier alternatives. So how can we reduce the amount of salt, sugar and fat in the foods we are eating?

Instead of salt, try:
• Dried or fresh herbs like basil, oregano, cilantro or parsley
• Spices like cumin, pepper, chili powder, dill or curry powder

Watch out for high levels of salt in:
• Frozen meals and side dishes
• Canned items (soups, vegetables, sauces, etc.)

To reduce sugar buy:
• Frozen fruit that does not contain added sugar
• Canned fruit that has been packed in water or juice, not syrup

To tell if sugar has been added to a product, look for these words on the ingredient list:
• Corn syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, honey, malt syrup, nectars, maple syrup or molasses

For a list of more added sugars, visit: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/added-sugars

Choose healthier fats:
• Look for unsaturated fats (olive oil, corn oil, peanut oil and soybean oil), which are liquid at room temperature

Limit fats that are not as healthy:
• Saturated fats, which are typically solid or closer to solid at room temperature and include butter, cream and lard
• Trans fats which are often found in baked goods and snacks

For more information visit the following websites:

Choosing Foods & Beverages
Dietary Guidelines
Helpful Nutrition Tips
2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines

The Gluten Free Diet: Is It for Me?

Gluten FreeThere has been a lot of hype around “gluten-free” diets in recent years. While thousands tout the benefits of going gluten-free, many people aren’t exactly sure what it is or if it’s the right diet for them. If you’re unsure of what “gluten-free” really means or if you should give it a try, here’s a quick and dirty rundown of things you should know:

  • The first thing you should know is that a gluten-free diet is used to treat celiac disease.
  • So what is celiac disease? Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the small intestine is sensitive to the protein gluten, often found in wheat, rye and barley.
  • What are the symptoms of celiac disease? It’s a digestive disease, and symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, iron-deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, missed menstrual periods and numbness in the hands and feet.1
  • How does an allergy cause such a wide array of symptoms? The effect of celiac disease is twofold. First, when gluten is ingested by a person with celiac disease, it can damage the lining of the small intestine, causing uncomfortable digestive symptoms. Secondly, due to the damage of the small intestines, crucial vitamins and minerals don’t get absorbed properly, leading to malnutrition and long-term negative health effects.
  • How do I know if I have it? Celiac disease is genetic, so if anyone in your family has tested positive, it’s probably a good idea for you to get checked, too. The disease can occur at any age, and affects people in all parts o f the world. You can get tested for celiac disease with a simple blood test. People with the disease will probably have higher levels of certain autoantibodies that your doctor will be able to identify.
  • What if I don’t have celiac disease? Can I still do a gluten free diet? Gluten free diets are only necessary for individuals with celiac disease or a wheat allergy. Before going gluten free, take a closer look at your diet- Is your diet balanced? Are you eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes/beans, nuts/seeds, whole grains, and lean meat/low fat dairy? Often, when someone goes from a diet high in processed foods to “gluten free” they end up increasing other foods groups. This increase in fruits, vegetables, legumes/beans, nuts/seeds which may actually be reliving the symptoms, not the avoidance of gluten. If you’re not convinced, make any appointment with your gastroenterologist and discuss how to determine food allergies or sensitivities.
  • Will eating gluten-free help me lose weight? Not necessarily. Don’t fall prey to the idea that “gluten-free” equals “healthy” or “low-fat.” Some processed gluten-free foods are low in fiber so you won’t stay full as long, and they’re often stripped of important nutritional elements. In one case study, the vast majority of participants that adhered to a gluten-free diet gained significant weight.3 And since gluten-free foods often carry a heftier price-tag, you might want to think twice about going free just for weight-loss’ sake.

Takeaways: The gluten-free diet is really only necessary for people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Don’t get sucked in to the mindset that gluten-free equals a healthier diet. If you want to improve your health choose a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, lean meats, low fat dairy, and whole grains.

Related sources:

References:

1. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) . http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/#1
2. Antonio Di Sabatino, Gino Roberto Corazza. “Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: Sense or Sensibility? Annals of Internal Medicine. 2012 Feb;156(4):309-311.
3. T. A. Kabbani, A. Goldberg, C. P. Kelly, K. Pallav, S. Tariq, A. Peer, J. Hansen, M. Dennis andD. A. Leffler. “Body mass index and the risk of obesity in coeliac disease treated with the gluten-free diet.” Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 35:.6; 625-744, March 2012.
4. Biesiekierski JR, Muir JG, Gibson PR. “Is gluten a cause of gastrointestinal symptoms in people without celiac disease?” Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2013 Dec;13(6):631-8.

Four “Healthy” Foods That Sabotage Weight Loss

Multigrain BreadIf you’re trying to lose weight, it’s easy to fall into the trap of all of the “healthy” products food companies are pushing these days. Extra calories can be cleverly hidden in these products, sabotaging even the most well-intentioned consumer. The best way to manage or lose weight healthily is to control portion sizes and to eat a balanced diet consisting of lots of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies, lean proteins like chicken, fish, and beans, and low fat dairy. Do your best to avoid these sneaky “health” foods at your grocery store.

Fruited or flavored yogurt
The benefits of yogurt are plenty. It’s a good source of calcium, the live active cultures in yogurt help promote a healthy and happy digestive tract and it packs a protein punch (especially Greek yogurt). But this health food angel can often be a devil in disguise. Fruited or flavored yogurts are usually low fat or fat free, but can have as much as 31 grams of sugar in one six-ounce container! That’s almost eight teaspoons of sugar in your so-called “healthy” snack. Get all the benefits of yogurt without the extra sugar by buying plain, nonfat yogurt (Greek or regular) and adding your own fresh or frozen fruit.

Enhanced waters
Staying hydrated is important to maintaining a healthy weight, but getting the recommended eight glasses a day is difficult for some. Many people fight plain-water boredom by drinking enhanced waters like Vitaminwater. These are basically sugar water and a vitamin pill. If you eat a well-balanced diet filled with fruits, veggies, whole grains, and low fat dairy, you may be getting enough nutrients from food. Do your waistline a favor and drink plain , calorie-free tap, purified, or bottled water. Check out this previous blog post for ideas on making regular water taste delicious without the extra calories.

Fast food salads
Fast food chains want you to believe you really can eat healthy at their restaurants. Many have extensive salad offerings to reel in weight conscious consumers. But beware: the dressings, toppings, and add-ons for these salads can add as much as 500 extra calories to your healthy bowl of fresh veggies. What’s more, the nutritious parts of a salad, like tomatoes and cucumbers, are often used sparingly. If you find yourself with no other choice besides fast food, your best bet is a grilled chicken sandwich — hold the mayo — paired with a side salad. Don’t forget to use the dressing sparingly!

‘Multi-grain’ products
Whole grains are an important part of a balanced diet, giving us carbohydrates for energy and several key nutrients. But don’t confuse ‘multi-grain’ with whole grain. A whole grain product will contain all parts of the grain: the germ, the bran and the endosperm. Whole grains provide essential fatty acids, fiber,and B vitamins. Unfortunately, a lot of the grains in our food supply are refined. A refined grain has the germ and the bran removed, leaving the endosperm, which is mostly nutrient-poor starch. Refined grain flour is easy to work with in cookies, cakes, and breads, which makes it a cheap and versatile ingredient for food manufactures. A food company can claim their product is ‘multi-grain’ even if all of its grains are refined. The term implies nothing about the product’s nutritional value, and it could still have the same amount of calories and fat as any other cookie, cake or cracker out there. To make the right choice, look at the ingredients list on the package label. Look for the word “whole” before the grain listed, and make sure it’s one of the first two ingredients. Better yet, avoid packaged or processed foods and choose whole grains you can see: oats, brown rice, bulgur or quinoa.

Author: Courtney Plush, MS, Emory Healthcare Dietetic Intern