Tag Archives | eating healthy

Easter candy can quickly add up

{guest post By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.}

With Easter just around the corner, baskets are filling up with candy for kids. Sugar-packed treats are also part of the celebration for many adults.

Easter candy

Pop a Peep bunny or chick in your mouth and you’ve just enjoyed a teaspoon and a half of sugar. Sink your teeth into a and you’ve had 5 teaspoons. Four jelly beans equal a teaspoon of sugar.

It’s easy to see how Easter candies quickly load up our diets with added sugars.

Sugar can be natural or added. Natural sugars are found in whole fruits, vegetables and milk products. Added sugars are put into foods during manufacturing or at the table. Added sugars have many names that include corn syrup, date sugar, dextrose, fructose, glucose, honey, maltose, molasses, sucrose and fruit juice concentrates.

The American Heart Association and the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting how much added sugar we consume. These calories crowd out other foods that provide important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that we need to keep us healthy.

Eating too much sugar can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and obesity. Added sugars can also increase inflammation by releasing inflammatory messengers called cytokines.

Most Americans eat 22 teaspoons or a ½ cup of added sugars a day. That adds up to 156 pounds a year, or 15 10-pound bags. The American Heart Association recommends only 6 teaspoons of added sugars each day for women and children and 9 teaspoons for men.

Reading food labels can help you see how much sugar you’re eating. However, it is sometimes difficult to decipher how much of that sugar is natural or added since the amount listed in the nutrition facts includes both. If you don’t see any of the names for various forms of sugar, then the total sugar comes from natural sugars. For candy, the total sugar is added sugar. It’s more difficult for a product like yogurt that has natural sugars from milk and usually has some added sugar. The label also lists grams so remember that four grams equals a teaspoon of sugar.

We like things sweet because we are born with a desire for sweet foods. Foods that are high in sugar and fat release “reward chemicals” in our brain and give us a strong desire to eat more.

This Easter season, start something new by rewarding your family with some alternatives to candy. Then rely more on the natural sugars in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products that also provide vitamins, minerals and many phytonutrients to keep your immune system strong and help improve or prevent many chronic diseases.

SIDEBAR: Easter basket alternatives

Create new traditions this Easter that include less added sugar. Try filling Easter baskets with fun alternatives to candy:

Bunny ears
Balloons
Bubbles
Colored pencils or crayons
Coloring books
Stickers
Sidewalk chalk
Toothbrush
Toys for the tub, beach or sandbox
Squirt gun
Stamps and ink pads
Jump rope
Hair bow/barrettes
Fun socks or tights
Gift card for phone apps or music
Seed starter kits
Baseball or tennis balls
Yo-yo
Bubble bath
Nail polish
Sunglasses
Movie tickets or DVD
Zoo admission

Happy Easter!

Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health

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How to navigate food marketing in the grocery store

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

 

A visit to our favorite grocery store can become routine. We know where items are located and we pick up our favorite brands.

What we may not understand is why the grocery store is laid out the way it is. Why are some items displayed at the end of an aisle or at the cash register? Why do some brands get shelved at eye level while other brands get the bottom shelf or the very top one? The answer is food marketing.

Nearly all large American supermarket chains generally follow the same layout, offer the same products, and use the same display techniques, according to Gary Rivlin, an investigative reporter who wrote “Rigged: Supermarket Shelves for Sale” for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 2016.

Grocers use a plan to keep customers efficiently moving through the aisles and spending money. End aisle displays, center aisle cardboard displays and the checkout aisle are prime real estate to sell more products, often as impulse buys. Food manufacturers pay for these locations in large grocery store chains, Rivlin found. Grocers only have so much space, so it may be necessary for food manufacturers to make a deal.

The payments or trade fees that manufacturers make to retailers influence which products are offered and how they are displayed. Many consumer and nutrition advocates believe these placements help drive what we buy. Rivlin says contracts can insure that manufacturers’ products will be in the store and be well located. They may even pay to have them featured in the weekly advertisement or on the supermarket’s website.

The “bull’s-eye zone” is the front and center location on the shelf that manufacturers often pay for. Similar products by brands that are not nationally recognized may be below this eye-level location and can cost less. Top shelves may hold some local items or products from small companies that the store’s management has chosen.

Space by the cash register is prime. It’s often stocked with candy because many shoppers don’t go in the candy aisle. But everyone needs to go through the checkout. Impulse buys at the checkout can account for more than half of a candy-maker’s profits in a store.

Mary Story, associate director for academic programs at the Duke Global Health Institute, is a leading scholar on child and adolescent nutrition and child obesity prevention. In Rivlin’s report, she says: If you look at the checkout aisle and the endcaps, it tends to be soda and snacks and other highly processed foods. If you want people to eat healthier — and if you don’t want them to get soft drinks or Pop-Tarts or chips or any of these foods that are highly processed — we need to better understand the factors that put those foods there in the first place.”

Trade fees can also include a slotting fee that manufacturers pay just to get their product in a store. The Federal Trade Commission studied slotting fees in 2001 and 2003. The FTC noted the fees shut out smaller competitors and meant fewer choices for consumers but both reports concluded further study was needed before the federal agency could take action.

Your favorite grocery store may or may not be operating with trading fees but it still pays to be a savvy shopper. Here are some tips to help you be a better shopper – and eat healthier:

  • Always shop with a list and stick to it to help avoid impulse buys. Often our impulses tend toward less healthy products with more sugar and more sodium.
  • If you’re pulled to an end aisle display, check similar products in the aisle itself to see if the displayed product is really a good deal. Then check up and down the shelf, not just the products at eye level. You may even find a product that’s lower in sugar and sodium. For example, I find my favorite unsalted chicken stock on the bottom shelf. I’ve never found it on an end aisle.
  • Experiment with new brands of a product. If you’ve used the same brand for decades, you may be pleasantly surprised to find another that tastes good and is healthier.
  • Buy more fresh produce since trade fees are rarely allotted in this area. It will also help you eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Promote a healthier checkout space by requesting a candy-free aisle in your favorite store.
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Take cabbage beyond St. Patrick’s Day {#HealthyRecipes for the cabbage lover)

(Guest Post from Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health}

St. Patrick’s Day brings out the cabbage. It’s the biggest holiday for fresh green cabbage consumption in America, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

cabbage

The Irish found cabbage a sustainable vegetable during the Great Potato Famine that began in 1845. Cabbage grew well in Ireland and when the potato crops failed, cabbage was the main course in many meals. The Irish ate a lot of it – about 65 pounds per person each year based on crop production at that time.

Cabbage is a green leafy vegetable that is known as a cruciferous vegetable. It’s related to broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts. High in vitamin C, cabbage also contains vitamin K that’s good for bone health and contains phytochemicals called indoles that may help prevent cancer. The inexpensive vegetable is easy to grow and stores well through the winter.

Varieties include green cabbage, which is known as the king of cabbage, and red cabbage, which is similar but has dark red or purple leaves. Then there’s Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, which is oblong shaped and has thick yellow-green leaves. Savoy cabbage has the round shape similar to green cabbage but has crinkly dark green leaves. Bok choy is another loose-leaf variety with dark green leaves and tender stems.

Cabbage can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be eaten raw, steamed, stir-fried, sautéed, stewed or pickled. Pickling or fermenting is one of the favorite ways to preserve cabbage, such as creating sauerkraut or kimichi. Kimichi, which is often made with Chinese cabbage, is a spicy condiment often found in Korean recipes.

Avoid overcooking cabbage. Its characteristic flavor comes from glucosinolates, which contain sulfur. Overcooking cabbage produces a hydrogen sulfide gas that releases its unpleasant odor.

Expand your menus beyond corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. Here are some tasty recipes that use the budget-friendly and healthy vegetable.

Here’s a great low-sodium alternative to corned beef and cabbage.

Cabbage and Beef Hot Dish
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
1½ cups onion, thinly sliced
4 medium carrots (about 2 cups), grated
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (3 cloves)
3 cups green cabbage, shredded
3 cups red cabbage, shredded
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger or 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes or hot sauce (optional)

Add olive oil to large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and brown. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Cook until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, salt, pepper and hot pepper. Cook until cabbage is soft, about 15 minutes. Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition facts
Serving size, 2 cups; calories, 215; total fat, 10 grams; saturated fat, 3 grams; cholesterol, 50 milligrams; sodium, 200 milligrams; potassium, 640 milligrams; carbohydrates, 15 grams; fiber, 4 grams; protein, 17 grams.

Celery Seed Coleslaw
14-ounce package classic coleslaw mix (or 4 ½ cups shredded fresh cabbage and 1 cup shredded carrots)healthy coleslaw recipe
2 stalks (¾ cup) celery, diced
1 small (¾-cup) green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons distilled vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon celery seed
⅓ cup olive oil mayonnaise

Combine all vegetables in a large bowl. In separate small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, olive oil, celery seed and mayonnaise. Mix well with a wire whip. Add dressing to vegetables and mix well. Yield 10 servings.

Nutrition facts
Servings size, ½ cup; calories, 55; total fat, 3.5 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 65 milligrams; potassium, 110 milligrams; carbohydrates, 5 grams; fiber, 2 grams; protein, 1 gram; and calcium, 25 milligrams.

This recipe is a lower sodium alternative to sauerkraut. Sauerkraut has about 750 milligrams of sodium in one-half cup.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 small head (8 cups) red cabbage, shredded
1 large (1 1/2 cups) Granny Smith apple, chopped
1 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Put oil, cabbage, apples, onion and sugar into a large pot. Pour in the vinegar and water. Add salt, pepper and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. If you want it thicker, mix 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 2 teaspoons cold water in a cup until smooth. Add to cabbage mixture and simmer on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until liquid thickens. Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size, ½ cup; calories, 120; total fat, 3.5 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 90 milligrams (if you added optional salt); potassium, 200 milligrams; carbohydrates, 22 grams; fiber, 2.5 grams; protein, 1 gram.

This soup is a great low-calorie, low-sodium vegan option.

Cabbage Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
½ pound carrots, sliced
½ bunch celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
½ pound frozen green beans
28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
½ head green cabbage
6 cups unsalted vegetable broth
¼ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

Add garlic and onion to a large soup pot along with the olive oil and sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft and transparent. Add carrots, celery, bell pepper and frozen green beans. Add diced tomatoes (and their juices) and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Allow the vegetables in the pot to heat while you chop the cabbage. Chop the cabbage into 1-inch strips or squares, then add to the pot. Add the vegetable broth, chopped parsley, paprika, oregano and thyme. Stir to combine. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the pot to simmer until the cabbage is tender (about 20 minutes). Finish the soup with lemon juice. Start by stirring in one tablespoon of lemon juice and add more to your liking. Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition facts
Serving size, 2 cups; calories, 120; total fat, 2 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 200 milligrams; potassium, 730 milligrams; carbohydrates, 22 grams; fiber, 6 grams; protein, 3 grams.

Bonnie Brost of Essentia Health

Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health

Go ahead. Have a snack (healthy snack option that are under 200 calories!) #EssentiaHealth

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

Choosing healthy snacks is more important than ever in our culture because very few of us eat sit-down meals. Often we race through each day without much thought about when or what we will eat.

More than nine out of 10 American adults snack at least once a day. Eight out of 10 snack at least twice a day, and six out of 10 snack three or more times a day.

Snacks are an important part of a healthy eating plan, if meals are more than six hours apart. Our bodies have small gas tanks that need to be refueled several times a day. Going more than six hours without eating when we’re not sleeping sets us up for feeling starved.

When we get really hungry, we cannot make a healthy choice. We get sucked into buying the candy bar in the store’s checkout line, driving through the fast-food restaurant, hitting the vending machine for a bag of chips or candy or taking extra-large portions at our next meal.

eating junk food

Make a plan to have healthy snacks available. Pack snacks to take with you if you will not be home for several hours. Put healthy snacks in a convenient place at home. Keep a list posted in the kitchen of snacks available for you and other family members. Pre-measure and pack healthy items in snack-size baggies, so they’re easy to grab and you can keep the calories in check.

My definition of a healthy snack is:

healthy snack

 

  • 50-200 calories

 

  • A whole fruit or vegetable

 

  • Contains whole grain, if a cracker, chip, cereal or bread-type product

 

  • Contains beans or lentils

 

  • A nut or seed that doesn’t have a dressing or is not candy-coated

 

  • Low in saturated fat; less than 2 grams per serving

 

  • Low in added sugar; less than 1½ teaspoons of added sugar or 7 grams. (Natural sugar in dairy products, fruits and vegetables aren’t included even though their sugar will be listed on the label.)

 

With so many snack products available, it can be very confusing when trying to choose a healthy option. A great cellphone app called “Fooducate” can help. Scan a product’s barcode, and the app offers a grade of A, B, C or D. It also explains the grade, such as whether it contains a whole grain or added sugar. The app will even offer names of “alternative” products that may be better. “Fooducate” is maintained by registered dietitians.

 

Here are a few ideas for healthy snacks:

 

Snack Portion size Calorie range Comments
Fresh fruit

Banana, apple, orange, clementine, pear, grapes, berries

1 each or 16 grapes or 1 cup berries 50-110 Whole fruits have no added sugar and are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Frozen grapes are a great treat.
Fresh vegetablesCarrots, snap peas, jicama, fresh bell pepper, cherry tomatoes 1 cup 25-50 Whole vegetables have no added sugar and are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Eat with hummus dip found in the produce case.
Whole-grain crackersTriscuit, Hint of Salt Wheat Thins, Crunchmaster crackers 1 ounce is 6-16 crackers 120-140 Portion these out.  Loaded with whole grains that are high in important minerals and antioxidants. Serve with hummus instead of cheese.
Whole-grain chips

Food Should Taste Good multigrain chips

1 ounce (about 10 chips) 140 High in whole grain, low in sodium and gluten free.  Serve with lower sodium salsa or hummus.
Bean chips

Beanito chips or Tostitos Black Bean chips

1 ounce (9-12 chips) 140 Portion these out. High in fiber, low in sodium.
Popcorn

Boom Chicka Pop Sea Salt or Skinny Pop popcorn

3-4 cups 100-140 Whole grain, high in fiber. Includes good fats and low in sodium. Some microwave popcorns are too high in sodium and bad fats.
Light string cheese 1 each 60-80 Low in saturated fat, high in protein and calcium.
Fat-free or low-fat yogurts. Light or Greek yogurts are lower in sugar. 5-ounce cup 80-140 Greek yogurt is high in protein. Light yogurts have less added sugar. High in calcium.
Snack bars

Kashi bars, Kind bars, That’s It Fruit
Bars, Pressed Bars, Pressed Fruit Bars, Nature Valley Thins

1 each 90-200 Convenient.  Grains used are whole grain. Very little added sugars.
Nuts (undressed)Almonds, peanuts, mixed nuts ¼ cup 150-180 Choose lightly salted if available. High in the good fats and have protein.

 

So go ahead, have a snack. Just be mindful to make it a healthy choice!

 

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