Posts Tagged ‘diet’

Is Salt the Enemy?

Is Salt the Enemy?Two years have passed since the New York City Health Department announced its national initiative to reduce American’s salt intake twenty percent by the year 2015.  Being sited as the catalyst for increased blood pressure, heart attacks and stokes, salt in some circles is seen as public enemy number one.  Just last September the Department of Health and Human Services announced its own national campaign against heart attacks (and indirectly sodium intake) called Million Hearts. This national initiative has set the ambitious goal to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

But is salt really the problem?  Yes and no.  Salt consumed at the recommended serving size of 2300 mg a day is fine for seventy percent of the population who are not considered sodium sensitive.  The problem is that on average Americans consume two to three times the recommended serving size…every day.  But the larger issue is that many of us are completely unaware that we’re sodium offenders.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about ninety percent of Americans eat more than the recommended amount of salt.  We think we are eating right by counting calories, bringing our own lunches to work, and refraining from sprinkling salt on the more bland foods we consume.  Unfortunately, you can remove calories without removing salt.  And did you know that if you dined out for even just one meal today, it’s possible you’ve already reached or exceeded your sodium allotment for the day?

The good news is that you can easily take control of your sodium intake.  The CDC has identified the ten offending food types responsible for nearly half of the sodium we consume; those foods include: breads, cold cuts and deli meats, pizza, fresh and processed poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat mixed dishes such as meat loaf with tomato sauce, and snacks such as chips, pretzels, and popcorn. That doesn’t mean that you can never eat these foods, but that you should be on the lookout for sodium information when you do.  As part of the National Salt Reduction Initiative, many companies are reducing the sodium they put in their products. On the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygene website they have a list of companies committed to reducing the amount of sodium in their food products.  The list is a good one and includes pre-packaged food products you can buy at the grocery store as well as commercial restaurants.

Another great way to track your salt intake is with your smart phone.  There are lots of apps out there that provide a free and easy way to record what you eat by scanning the barcodes on food packaging, counting your calories for you,  or even evaluating your personal sodium consumption.

As you evaluate what you eat and the salt that comes along with it, you will often find you do not need to add any additional salt to your food.  At Emory Healthcare we have a helpful chart that makes recommendations for herb and spice substitutes to salt.  We hope you find this chart useful and incorporate it into your diet strategy.

10 Examples where Healthy = Cheap when Dining Out

eat healthy to save money dining outAccording to the Bureau of Labor, Americans spent 2.6% more at restaurants in September of this year than last year, but at the same time, the price of food at supermarkets is up 6.2%. Dining out doesn’t have to be bad for your health or your wallet. Below you’ll find our top 10 ways you can lower cost and boost your health when eating out:

Drink Water – soda, juice and alcohol all add money and calories to the bottom line. Eating out is a great time to prioritize getting your daily fill of water (~2L for women, ~3L for men) while cutting costs. For more on why hydration is so important, check out our h2O 101 blog.

No Dessert – skipping dessert when you’re eating out has positive implications for both your waistline and your wallet. Reducing or eliminating simple sugars from your diet is a good way to lower your risk for excess weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. Furthermore, baked goods served in restaurants can contain loads of trans fats, which have a negative impact on your cholesterol and your heart.

Steamed Rice instead of Fried – when you’re eating out at an Asian restaurant, especially those that offer hibachi grilling, you often get to choose between steamed and fried rice. This is a perfect opportunity to save between $3-$5, and cut about 300 calories.

No Extras (dressing, bacon, etc.) – We all love extras. Adding bacon to a burger, or extra ranch dressing to a salad can add lots of flavor, but these extras can add dollars and lots of empty calories to your meal.

Split Big Meals – Portion size is at an all-time high in America. If you have a hankering for steak and potatoes, or are craving something that’s only offered as a big entree, split your meal! Saving half your money and half the calories every time you eat will add up quickly!

Eat More at Lunch – When you eat your largest meal of the day earlier, your body has time to process the nutrition you consume more effectively than if it were eaten a few hours before bed. When choosing when to eat out, opt for making your dining out experience a lunch time one. Lunch menu items are often drastically cheaper than the same items on the dinner menu. Do yourself a favor by eating earlier for less.

Take it Home – If there’s more food on your plate than you’re hungry for, don’t eat it all. A recent study compared the eating habits of those in France vs. Americans and found that lower obesity and heart disease rates among the French may be because they know when to stop eating. Americans rely more heavily on visual cues than their own bodies’ signals to tell them when to stop eating, a trend that may correlate with our rising obesity rates. If there’s more on your plate than you’re prepared to eat in one sitting, listen to your body and wrap it up and take it home. You’ll get more bang for your buck and will support your body’s natural circadian rhythm by not weighing it down with excess food late at night.

Get it in a Salad – Ever noticed that restaurants often offer almost the same meal as both a salad and an entree? You could opt for the grilled chicken (with potatoes, bread, fries, etc.) for $15, or the grilled chicken salad, for $10. You could opt for the buffalo shrimp po boy for $11, or the buffalo shrimp salad for $9. Either way, you’re usually getting about the same amount of protein, but when you opt for the salad, instead of filling up on heavy carbs, you support that protein with loads of vitamins and minerals, and often, save some money in the process.

Substitute – Many restaurants will let you swap out a side for no extra cost. Fruit instead of fries or grits? Salad instead of a baked potato or pasta salad? When you have the option, swap your side for a lighter and healthier one than the standard option. This is a great free way to make every meal more healthy.

Think Local – food that’s available to restaurants locally is fresher and also often cheaper, since restaurants don’t have to incur added costs for shipping. Favorite local dishes are also often cheaper, because restaurants must compete with others in the region serving up the same dish (i.e. – clam chowder in Boston, gumbo in New Orleans, etc.). Go local for increased freshness and lower prices.

Any other examples you can think of? Share them with us in the comments below!

Quinoa – Hard to Say, Easy to Cook!

Quinoa

Quinoa. Ever taken a stab at pronouncing it? Don’t worry; its’ a tough one. It is pronounced KEEN-wa. With or without being able to pronounce it, have you ever tried it?

Quinoa is a nutty brown grain that sounds intimidating, but is packed with nutrition and is as easy to cook as rice. Bring it to your next dinner party and impress your friends with your new, exotic (but oh so easy) ingredient.

Quinoa plants are colorful, flowering plants grown primarily in South America. In areas where it’s grown, people eat the leaves as well as the abundant seeds that we are more familiar with.

It is a great source of folate, manganese, B vitamins and zinc; however, the unique part of quinoa is its protein content. Quinoa includes all eight essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. Almost all other complete proteins in our diets are animal products. This makes quinoa a sound protein source for vegetarians and infrequent meat-eaters.

Cooking Quinoa

As previously promised, quinoa is simple to cook. As you make it more, feel free to experiment with adjustments and additions to the recipe. As you will find, quinoa is quite forgiving for even inexperienced cooks.

Basic quinoa recipe:

  1. Rinse Quinoa – If you do not have a colander with small enough holes, lay cheese cloth inside your colander to keep the quinoa seeds from escaping.
  2. Add one part quinoa to two parts liquid to a medium-size pot. (Chicken broth works well as a liquid over water for added flavor.)
  3. Bring to a simmer, and then turn on low. Cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Turn off the burner and allow to sit for five to 10 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and serve.

Serve as a simple side item; add to soups; or serve under stews, curries, or thick and chunky sauces. Refrigerate leftovers and add to your salad for lunch the next day.

Eating Right When Your Budget is Tight

Eating right on a budgetPacking your food lineup with nutritious choices doesn’t mean you have to go to the store with a big wallet. With a little strategy, you can eat right even when your budget is tight. In fact, here is a selection of tips to empower you to eat right, while still keeping an eye on your budget.

Shop Sales

  • Choose in-season produce to buy fresh. Out-of-season items tend to be more expensive. Opt for frozen on those.
  • Look for meat sales. Most grocery stores run specials. By watching out for these, you can cut down much of your meat costs.
  • Clip coupons. A $1.50 Sunday paper could save you a lot more than that during your weekly grocery trip. Plan your meals around what is on sale.

Waste Less

  • Freeze. If you think your fruits, vegetables, herbs or meats could go bad before you have time to eat them all, freeze them. Frozen fruits make great smoothies or compotes, and frozen vegetables are great for cooking.

Make Your Own

  • Cook your own sauces and soups rather than buying canned. It can be less expensive and healthier, because you have more control over the ingredients.
  • Shred your own cheese, which is typically less expensive than buying pre-shredded cheese.
  • Wash and cut your own lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, etc., rather than buying the pre-washed and bagged versions.

Buy Store Brands

  • Buy store brands instead of name brands. Check out the ingredients label. They’re usually almost identical.
  • Check the unit price (the price per oz/lb/gm) on the price tag of a certain item and compare across brands and item sizes.

Buy in Bulk

  • Buy in bulk and separate. Get the big bag of rice or pasta and separate.
  • Avoid single serving items, if possible. Buy the bigger item and split into bags or cup-size servings.

Make Things Last

  • Stretch your meats and cheeses. These items are usually the more expensive items in your basket. Think of them more as a garnish or side item than a main dish.

Do You Need to Be Gluten Free?

Gluten FreeAs companies are increasingly advertising gluten-free on their products, questions are starting to pop up on the benefits or issues with gluten. Diets have been started, books have been written and people have started spending more money to add the phrase “Gluten-Free” to their chosen lifestyle. While this is an excellent advancement for the gluten-intolerant community, there seems to be some misconceptions concerning gluten.

Where is gluten found?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. However, due to the extensive processing of most foods we consume today, we find gluten showing up in places it normally would not. Ice cream, vitamin supplements, toothpaste and even the glue on envelope seals often contain gluten.

Why would someone choose gluten-free?

Celiac disease, gluten intolerance and wheat allergies are disorders that require constant attention and diet adaptation from those who suffer from them.

NOTE: These conditions are the only reasons an individual would be required to eliminate gluten from his or her diet.

What is celiac disease?

People with celiac disease lack the ability to absorb gluten in their intestines. When the gluten goes undigested, the protein triggers an immune response, resulting in damage to the intestines. These continual immune attacks can compromise the body’s ability to adequately absorb nutrients and result in permanent absorption problems.

How do I know if I have gluten intolerance?

Recently, there has been a significant increase in the amount of people with some type of intolerance to gluten. If you find yourself suffering from frequent bloating, diarrhea or abdominal pain, it is certainly worth being tested for. If you have an intolerance, it is best to avoid commercially processed foods completely. Fresh produce or meats and foods bearing the “gluten-free” stamp of approval are the safest way to go.

So, despite the rising confusion and concern, rest assured that gluten-free is not a trend or a fad diet. It is a way to manage the symptoms and prevent the consequences of a serious disease.

Think in Color for a Nutritious Diet

Colorful fruits vegetables for healthDo you ever feel overwhelmed by all the foods you feel you should or shouldn’t consume every day? Ever wish for a more intuitive way to recognize nutritious foods? Well, maybe it isn’t so hard after all! Often, just thinking about incorporating a variety of colors into your diet will put you on the right track. In fact, many of our needed vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are found in the actual coloring of a food.

As such, try using the following colors to liven up and enhance your diet:

White

White foods contain powerful antioxidants that have been shown to help respiratory health, heart health and thyroid function.

  • Key Nutrients: Xanthines, Selenium
  • Examples: Garlic, mushrooms, potatoes, parsnips, bananas, brown pears

Orange/Yellow

These foods contain nutrients important for maintaining healthy vision, immune function and wound healing capabilities.

  • Key Nutrients: Carotenoids (Pre-Vitamin A), Flavanoids, Vitamin C
  • Examples: Carrots, pumpkin, squash, apricots, lemon, mangoes, oranges, peaches

Red

Red fruits and vegetables help lower the risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.

  • Key Nutrient: Lycopene
  • Examples: Tomatoes, watermelon, beets, cherries, pink grapefruit, red peppers

Green

Green foods contribute ingredients that help digestive health and help keep you feeling full longer. They also contain vitamins that influence the production of new cells and prevent changes to DNA that can lead to cancer.

  • Key Nutrients: Fiber, Folate
  • Examples: Asparagus, leafy greens, avocados, broccoli, artichokes, brussel sprouts, green beans

Blue/Purple

This color group contributes another antioxidant shown to have anti-aging, memory and urinary tract health benefits.

  • Key Nutrient: Anthocyanins
  • Examples: Blackberries, blueberries, grapes, plums, purple cabbage, eggplant, purple potatoes

So, if you find yourself feeling intimidated by all the vitamins and minerals, don’t. In the end, you don’t need to know the chemical names of all the different nutrients; you just have to know your colors!