Are Processed Foods Bad For You (or is this just another diet fad)?

We’ve been through the low-fat-high-carb and the low-carb-high-protein phase.  We’ve read about Paleo, intermittent fasting and green coffee beans. Now ‘experts’ are telling us to forget everything we’ve learned so far.  What we need to do is remove the processed foods from our diet and eat ‘real’ food.

That sounds pretty simple but what exactly does that mean? And, more importantly, is this just one more fad that we’ll find doesn’t work either?

This is where it all began.

This is where it all began.    Flickr photo by (Bayswater 97)

Is Swanson To Thank (or blame)?

When the Swanson TV dinner made its debut in 1954 the convenience food blitz began.  The Swanson TV dinner was a novelty and  moms that needed a break from the kitchen were crazy about them. Mom would heat up the frozen meals (on occasion) as a treat to dad and the kids for dinner.  More than 10 million TV dinners were sold during their first year in production.

The spin-offs that came from the original Swanson turkey and dressing dinner with corn that was packaged in a tin foil tray are beyond imagination. Today supermarkets are lined with heat-and-eat dinners and other easy-to-prepare packaged foods that provide meals for millions of Americans three times a day (plus snacks) every day.

Each time you buy one of these easy to prepare food you’re getting more than you realize.  Along with your Swanson turkey and dressing and Kraft mac and cheese you’re getting preservatives to keep the food from rotting, colorants that increase eye appeal, flavor enhancers for taste, and texturants that make the foods more palatable.

Processed foods also contain varying amounts of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and vegetable oils. Processed foods are typically low in fiber and nutrients and are easy to digest so we want to eat again sooner than we would if we ate a whole food.

To top that off, researchers are now convinced that these foods that we’ve all become so accustomed to are addictive.  People that eat them develop cravings that keep them coming back for more. The more you eat the more you want and the harder it is to stop.

Processed Foods and Chronic Disease

There’s some pretty compelling evidence that shows the impact that the deluge of processed foods has had on our health since families sat down to the Swanson TV dinner 40 years ago. Over the last four decades there has been a sharp increase in the consumption of processed foods.  Processed foods now make up 70% of the Americans diet.

The rise in overweight, obesity and chronic disease runs parallel to that trend.  Diseases that were at one time associated with aging – diabetes, fatty liver, cardiovascular disease and cancer– are now being diagnosed in children as young as three and four years old.

Scientists have also linked processed foods to autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, alopecia, asthma and eczema.  And a 2012 study suggests that the epidemic of autism in U.S. children may be associated with the American diet.

Not All Processed Foods Are Bad

Most foods that you purchase have been through some processing. Whether it’s a bag of fresh-cut spinach or a container of frozen blueberries, something has had to take place to get the food from the farmer to the grocer.

Frozen and fresh packaged fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are minimally processed foods that have been prepped for packaging. There’s no reason to avoid buying and eating these foods unless you have access to fresh foods all of the time.

Foods with ingredients added for flavor, texture, and preservation are more heavily processed. These foods may not need to be completely avoided, but a quick look at the label will tell you if they contain ingredients that are risky to consume. A long label with a list of ingredients that you don’t recognize and can’t pronounce is a red flag. So are foods that have added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and trans fats.

The most heavily processed foods are the most convenient.  Ready-to-eat foods like frozen pizzas, microwave meals, and foods that can be prepared by adding boiling water all indicate that they have been through a radical procedure and are the farthest away from resembling a real food. A dependence on these foods increases your risk for obesity and chronic disease.

Take Care Of Yourself First

The idea that eating ‘real’ food is the solution for weight management and overall better health is here to stay.

The correlation between processed foods and poor health has been proven. What you can do is look at what foods you’re eating and feeding to your family and decide if that’s the healthiest choice you can make.  It’s up to each of us to stop buying the crap that the food industry is trying to sell us.  That alone will inspire them to change.

If you want to learn more about the food industry and the products that are on the shelves of groceries everywhere, check out the trailer of the documentary “Fed Up” that reveals how processed foods have led to one of the largest health epidemics in American history.

If we are going to change our health, we have to change the way we eat. Giving up convenience foods might not be easy but it will be worth it. To get started, head over to the 100 Days of Real Food web site and sign up for the 10 Day Challenge. If you take it 10 days at a time you’ll find it’s easier to get off the heat-and-eat-train and on the road to better health.

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Prunes: A Sweet Swap With No Added Sugar

When’s the last time you ate a prune?  If it’s been awhile it may be because you associate them with your grandma or another ‘person of age’ in your life.

Prunes aren’t just for mature audiences.  They are a sweet, nutritious treat that can tackle a sugar craving and keep you from giving into some of the less desirables (like candy and pastries) as you work to reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet.

Prunes

Why Prunes?

Dried plums, or prunes, are full of phenols that function as anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants are effective in neutralizing potentially dangerous free radicals that can cause cell damage and over time lead to chronic disease.

The abundance of soluble fiber in prunes helps normalize blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which the food leaves the stomach.  Soluble fiber increases insulin sensitivity which plays a role in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Eating foods that are high in soluble fiber also decreases the risk for colon cancer and provides food for healthy gut bacteria

Plus, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as prunes, helps prevent heart disease.

Prunes are also a very good source of vitamins A and B6, potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, and niacin.

A Sweet Swap

Try replacing the Fiber One bar that you eat for breakfast or the afternoon 100 calorie snack pack that holds you over until dinner (but offers nothing in the way of nutrition) with a serving of pitted prunes. The prunes are naturally sweeter and lower in calories yet higher in nutrients than granola and cereal bars.  A fourth of a cup of prunes is only 104 calories.

Prunes have made a comeback because of their health benefits and versatility. Prunes can be added to brown rice, steel cut oats, Greek yogurt and salads.  Use them as you would raisins or dried cranberries to add flavor, fiber and nutrients to your favorite dishes.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy one of the world’s healthiest foods?

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Seven Is Is Your Lucky Number When It Comes To Fruits and Veggies

Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat each day can have an impact on your longevity.  A recent study shows that seven servings of fruits and veggies a day is the magic number and vegetables have a greater impact than fruits do.

The study, led by Dr. Oyinloao Oyebode, of the Health and Social Surveys Research Group in the University of London, looks at 65,226 participations age 35 years or older. The participants were asked about all of the fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables they ate each day over a period of seven years.

Giving children Cuties and other soft fruits and veggies will get them in the habit of eating healthy foods.

Giving children Cuties and other soft fruits and veggies will get them in the habit of eating healthy foods.

The researchers found the average participant ate 3.8 portions of fruit and 1.5 portions of vegetables a day. During the study period, 4,399 participants died which is about 6.7 percent of this group. Of those 4,399, 1,398 died of cancer and 1,554 died of heart disease.

Participants who ate at least seven daily portions of fruit and vegetables had a 42 percent loser risk of death from all causes. They also had a 25 percent reduced risk of dying from cancer and a 31 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease and stroke.

The researchers concluded that vegetables offer more protection than fruits and that adults should eat seven or more portions of fruits and vegetables per day.

“The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age,” said Oyebode. “Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you’re happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good.”

What This Means For You

If you have trouble getting enough servings of fruits and vegetables, don’t get too hung up on the number seven.  If you’re eating zero and you add two or three, you’ll still better off.  Every serving is worthwhile.

In fact, Oyebode encourages people to not “feel daunted by a big target like seven. Whatever your starting point, it is always worth eating more fruit and vegetables. In our study even those eating one to three portions had a significantly lower risk than those eating less than one.”

If you want to set a stretch goal for yourself to get up to seven servings a day, here are 10 easy ways to add more fruits and veggies to your life:

1.  Add fresh, chopped vegetables to eggs, pasta and poultry dishes.  They add flavor, color and nutrition.

Greek Chicken

Greek chicken is loaded with fresh vegetables and olives.

 2.  Have a fruit smoothie at least twice a week with breakfast or lunch.  Throw in a bunch of spinach or other leafy green for an additional serving of vegetables.

3.  Take mini sweet peppers and baby carrots to work each day to snack on. Keep them visible throughout the day.  You’ll be surprised how quickly they disappear. You can also stuff them for a healthy appetizer.

Sweet Mini Peppers are an excellent replacement for chips and other crunchy snacks.

Sweet Mini Peppers are an excellent replacement for chips and other crunchy snacks.

4.  Make salad the main dish for supper at least once a week and load it up with a variety of green vegetables and fruits.  Add grilled salmon or chicken for protein and the salad will seem more like a real meal.

5.  Before you toss a pizza in the oven, top it off with some chopped fresh mushrooms and colorful bell peppers.

6.  Make a batch of tasty fermented vegetables.  Delicious!

Fermented Vegetables

7.  Add thinly sliced cucumbers and bell peppers and coloful lettuce and to your sandwiches.

8.  Try roasting cherry tomatoes in the oven. You can find the recipe here.

Slow roasted tomatoes

Slow roasted tomatoes

9.   Instead of buying yogurt with the fruit in it, buy plain Greek yogurt and add you own fresh or frozen fruit.  You’ll cut back on sugar and get in a couple of servings of fruit.

10.  Incorporate Meatless Mondays and focus on vegetarian dishes that supply an abundance of vegetables.

There are many more ways to get more fruits and vegetables in your diet each day.  By making fruits and vegetables the main dish a couple of times a week will give you a surplus.

What are some of the things you do to ramp up your fruit and vegetetable consumption?

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Fermented Vegetables: Probiotics in a Jar

Have you attempted to solve the probiotic puzzle? It’s hard to know whether or not probotics are something that you need or just another fad.

The fact is, probiotics play a huge role in maintaining a high functioning immune system and something almost everyone could benefit from. There are some options when it comes to making sure you’re getting what you need.

Fermented Vegetables

Why Do We Need Probiotics?

Most of us don’t have enough ‘good’ bacteria (gut flora) in our intestinal track. Gut flora consists of trillions of complex microorganisms that assist in the digestion process and contribute to our overall health.

Ninety percent of our immune system lies in the healthy bacterium that resides in our gut. Our traditional American diet is full of things that destroy this gut flora.  Sugar, antibiotics – not only the ones that we take, but those found in meat and dairy products – and genetically modified grains are all good gut flora zappers.

Not having adequate amounts of good bacteria weakens our immune systems and puts us at risk for autoimmune diseases and irritable bowel syndrome, and increases our risk of succumbing to viral infections. New research is showing a link between abnormal gut flora and Autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, and ADHD. Although more work will needs to be done to prove these theories, the preliminary findings provide hope that there may be help for people that suffer from these afflictions.

Because these healthy flora are so critical to good health and our western lifestlye leaves them in short supply, supplemetation makes sense.

Supplementing: The Easy Way

If you want to increase the good bacteria in your system, the easiest way is to purchase a supplement from your local CVS or health food store.  You’ll find there are a wide range of probiotics on the market that contain various strains of bacteria that provide different functions.

I am not an expert on the various strains of bacteria so I did some research to find out what we should be looking for.  There is an excellent article on probiotic supplements at Lean It Up.com that you should check out before you make a purchase. But . . . . .

before you do that, keep reading for an even healthier way to boost immunities.

Supplementing: The Natural Way

There are ways to increase your gut flora without purchasing expensive supplements. A better and less expensive approach is to make probiotics in your own kitchen by fermenting fresh vegetables. It’s an easy process, and not only do you get the benefit of the healthy bacteria, you get all of the vitamins, minerals and fiber from eating the veggies.

The Process For Vegetable Fermentation

What you’ll need:

- One or two glass jars with plastic or glass lids (I used jars with the lids that latch.)
- Sea Salt (you can add more salt to taste)
- Filtered Water
- Fresh Vegetables of your choice

 *You don’t have to use cabbage but I read that it will help the fermentation process, so I put some chopped cabbage into each of my jars.

Directions:

- Dissolve one and a half tablespoons of sea salt in one quart of filtered water.
- Chop the vegetables you’re going to use and put them in the jar leaving a half an inch at the top.
- Add spices, peppercorns or other seasonings.
- Pour the salt water in the jar to cover the vegetables.
- Place a cabbage leaf on top of the vegetables and press it under the water so that all of the vegetables are submersed.
- Allow the filled jars to sit at room temperature for five to seven days.
- Open the lids of the jars once a day to release the gases (and taste the vegetables to see if they’re ready).
- Once the vegetables have fermented, move the jars to the fridge where they will keep for several weeks.

Vegetable fermentation takes anywhere between three to seven days depending on the temperature of the room.  You’ll know when the vegetables have fermented because they will have a sour (pickled) taste.  If any mold or scum forms on the top of the jar, simply skim it off.

Fermented vegetables contain several bacteria: Lactobacillus brevis, Lb. plantarum, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Pediococcus acidilactici and Ped. Pentosauceus.

Kefir Is Another Option

Homemade kefir and  yogurts also provide an abundance of probiotics and the strains are different than the ones found in fermented veggies.  I wrote a how-to on making kefir awhile back that you can check out here: How To Make Your Own Kefir

Kefir

Most of us could beneift from a daily dose of probiotics and they are even more essential for people that have been taking antibiotics. Long term antibiotic use can result in a condition known as C.difficile which is life threatening inflammation of the colon.

Individuals with chronic conditions or that have active auto-immune disorders should consult with their doctor before supplementing with probiotics.

Are you boosting your immune system with probiotic supplements or fermented vegetables?

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The Truth About The Baby Carrot Lies

As George Takei would say, “Oh my”.

A writer for the Huffington Post has gotten so carried away with her attempt to demonize the baby carrot it’s funny. Maybe that’s what she’s trying to be.

Baby Carrots

In the article “Getting To The Bottom of The Baby Carrot Lies” in the Huff Post on March 17, the author, Julie Thomson, tells readers:

We’re just going to come right out and say it: what you know as baby carrots are not, in fact, baby carrots. They’re just thin carrots that have been cut in half.

There, now you know. Sorry to lift the veil of cuteness off your eyes, but it had to be done. No longer can the carrot industry trick us into eating carrots just because we’re drawn to all things baby sized.

We know, this feels like the day you found out Santa was a sham — worse even. We’re sorry to be the ones to burst your tiny carrot bubble, but we can’t have you living this food lie any longer. Especially if it means you’ll stop buying those watery, stumpy carrots and start enjoying whole, full-flavored carrots again. Don’t believe us? See for yourself.

What follows are video clips (originally from Buzz Feed) that shows the way carrots are peeled, cut and washed in mass production and then bagged to sell to grocery stores.  And the clips have words on them to let you know they are “FAKE  FAKE  FAKE!” and it’s all a BAG OF LIES! Truly, if you don’t click this link and see it for yourself you’re missing out:  Click here.

To Julie and all of the other baby carrot haters out there I say, “Calm Down”.  It’s a bag of carrots that have been cleaned, peeled, washed, and cut and so that they are lunch-box-ready. You can open the bag, take out a half a dozen and dip them in hummus for a low-calorie healthy snack, or put them into a steamer for a nutritious side dish on a hectic evening.

The Truth About Baby Carrots

I was fascinated with “Getting To The Bottom of the Baby Carrot Lies” because I know that some people do think that baby carrots are a processed food.  I went to an outdoor barbeque last summer and someone brought in a tray loaded with fresh vegetables that included, you guessed it, baby carrots. One of the other guests pointed out that she wouldn’t touch them because they weren’t real.

Huh?

Just to be sure, when I got home I looked at the ingredients on my bag of baby carrots. There was only one: Carrots.

I thought before I started flapping around about how silly all of this is I would do my homework. What better resource than Lisa over at “100 Days of Real Food” to answer the question, “are baby carrots real food?”

Lisa says, yes they are and not only that, the stories that you may have heard about them being soaked in chlorine- enough chlorine to make them unhealthy and turn white – isn’t true either.

Lisa went straight to the source and talked to a representative from Grimway, a manufacturer of baby carrots, and learned that “the carrots are treated with WATER that contains a small amount of chlorine. And this water/chlorine solution is “well within the limits established by the EPA and comparable to the amount acceptable in [public] drinking water.”

Another baby carrot myth has been dispelled.

And, all of the leftover stuff that comes from skinning and chopping the big carrots to make baby ones becomes part of the food chain for livestock.

Don’t Freak Out About All The Lies

I think most of us know that baby carrots are not the offspring of a mommy carrot.  We know that they were not hatched or delivered or anything else. We know that ‘baby’ carrots are regular carrots that have been cut and peeled and packaged to make our lives easier. We did not need anyone to tell us that.

I’m guessing someone is trying to be cute using the sequence of videos to show us that what happens to a ‘real’ carrot is similar to what happens an animal at a slaughterhouse. Not true.

I absolutely agree that the flavor of a baby carrot pales in comparison to a fresh, whole, ‘real’ carrot. I always buy whole carrots when I’m making soups or stews for that reason.

The best snack for kids and adults - hummus with baby carrots.

The best snack for kids and adults – hummus with baby carrots.

To the manufacturer of the babies I say, “Thank you”. These carrots are helping people eat a nutritious, now-calorie snack that satisfies the desire to chew on something.  People (and children) can eat them by the pound and not gain weight.  They are a handy, crunchy, inexpensive snack in a bag.  They are not a Dorito.

What more do you want?

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What To Do With Kale and Why

At the market on Sunday when the checker scanned my extra-large bag of kale she asked what I was going to do with it.  “Do you eat it?”

I’m not sure what the look on my face was but I’m guessing it was surprise.

Oh yeah. I’m going to eat it.

I explained to her how nutritious it was and that I was so happy to find the large bags of pre-washed chopped kale at the grocery.

Kale

The conversation went on from there and she explained that at the last grocery she worked for she was in the deli and they used it on the trays for decoration. She didn’t really know that anyone actually ate it.

I wonder how many other people don’t know that kale is one of the healthiest vegetables and is a superfood with health benefits ranging from lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol to reducing the risk for certain cancers?

Kale = Superfood

What makes kale a superfood?  Here’s a list of just a few of the characteristics of the leafy green that puts it at the top of the healthy veggie chart.

  • Kale has over 45 different flavonoids that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits  which play a role in reduced inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • The high concentration of two types of antioxidants in particular – carotenoids and flavonoids – are directly linked to cancer prevention.
  • The presence of glucosinolates found in kale provides even more anti-cancer benefits.
  • New research shows that kale provides support for the body’s own detoxification system and helps regulate detox activities in our cells.
  • Kale contains seven grams of fiber per 100 calories which provides support to the digestive system.

Kale provides an abundance of micro nutrients that many people are deficit in. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, copper and manganese. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B2 and omega-3 fatty acids.

A one cup serving has about 36 calories.

Preparation Tips

If you buy kale whole rather than in the bag like I did you’ll need to rinse the leaves under cold water and chop the leaves into half-inch pieces and the stems into quarter-inch lengths for even cooking.  Pat dry with paper towels.

After the kale is rinsed and dry you can use it in salads and smoothies, drop it into soups and stews, or steam it for a quick side dish.

Below is a fuss-free sautéed kale recipe that uses a little garlic, olive oil, chicken broth and red wine vinegar:

Sauteed Kale with Red Pepper

Ingredients

2 large bunches kale
1 large red pepper, sliced in thin strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

1. Cut the kale into bite-size pieces, removing any tough stems. Rinse and shake dry.
2. Warm the oil and garlic in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Remove the garlic as soon as it browns (don’t let it burn).
3. Add the slices of red pepper and stir fry until tender-crisp.
4. Add the kale and stir-fry 5 minutes.
5. Add the chicken stock, cover, and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender.
6. Uncover and add the salt.
7. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid has evaporated.
8. Spoon into a serving dish; scatter the garlic over the top. Drizzle with the lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sauteed Kale and Red Pepper

Nutrition

Serves 8:  One serving is 118 calories; carbohydrates 15 g; cholesterol 0; Fat 6g; Fiber 2g; Iron 2 mg; Protein 4 mg; Sodium 534 mg.

Do you have a favorite kale recipe?

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Black Bean and Guacamole Burritos

Finding new ways to use black beans and avocados is a win-win.  Both are highly nutritious super foods that are inexpensive to buy and provide some variety to the evening meal-time blues.

This recipe takes only a few minutes to prepare and will provide you with a healthy meal on a busy evening.

Black Bean Guacamole Burritos

Ingredients

2 Avocados
1 clove garlic, minced
½ red onion, minced
1 lime
¼ teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
½ cup Cilantro, minced
1 small Tomato, diced
6 – 8 large flour tortillas
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups Moneteray Jack cheese

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the guacamole, peel the avocados, place in a bowl and mash. Add the garlic, onion, lime juice, salt, and cilantro to the avocados. Fold in diced tomatoes.

Guacamole
Spread two tablespoons of the guacamole in the center of each tortilla. Spread rice, beans and cheese on top of the guacamole. Roll into a burrito

Burritos with Black Beans

Place in a glass baking pan, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes or until warm. Serve with salsa or low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt.

Delicious!

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Sugar Is Bad For Your Waistline and For Your Heart

Sugar doesn’t just make you fat, it also increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.  And, according to Quanhe Yang, a senior scientist with the Center for Disease Control, a recent study shows that the more sugar you eat the more your risk of death from cardiovascular disease increases.

Sugar

Flickr photo by Umberto Salvagnin

Yang was the lead scientist on the largest study to date that shows a link between sugar consumption and cardiovascular disease.  For the study, Yang and his colleagues reviewed data from more than 31,000 people that participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The goal of the survey was to look at trends in added-sugar intake and evaluate dietary habits based on personal interviews. According to the study, most adults (71%) consume 10% or more of their daily calories from added sugar.  Nearly 10% of adults consume 25% or more of their daily calories from sugar.  In a typical 1,600 calorie-a-day diet that amounts to 160 and 400 calories of sugar, respectively.

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories a day (6 teaspoons) and men no more than 150 calories a day (9 teaspoons) of added sugar.

More Sugar Means More Health Risks

At the conclusion of Yang’s study, the following findings were published in the online JAMA Internal Medicine article:

  • People who consume more than 21% of their calories from added sugar are at twice the risk of dying from heart disease than people that consume less than 10% of calories from added sugar.
  • People who consume between 17% and 21% of their daily calories from added sugar have a 38% higher risk of death from heart disease than people who consume less than 10% of calories from added sugar.

The study also showed that even if you eat a healthy diet, and keep you weight under control, the extra sugar still takes a toll on your health.

“I could be eating a 2,000-calorie diet, not overeating, not overweight. But if I just drink a can of soda a day, I increase my risk of dying from [heart] disease by one-third,” said Laura Schmidt, a professor of health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine who wrote an accompanying journal commentary. “I think people would assume one can of soda a day would not have that kind of impact over the course of their lives.”

But it does.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

You might not be washing down a Krispy Kreme with a McDonald’s sweet tea but that doesn’t mean you’re not consuming more sugar that you should.  Many foods and beverages are marketed and labeled as ‘healthy’ but aren’t.

An innocent looking 16 ounce bottle of Minute Maid orange juice has 48 grams (10 teaspoons) of sugar. One cup of Kellogg’s Smart Start Strong Heart cereal has 14 grams (3 teaspoons) and a 5.3 ounce container of Chobani blackberry Greek yogurt has 15 grams (3 teaspoons).

Sugar can add up very quickly so it’s good to get in the habit of reading food labels and tracking sugar consumption. The three items in the paragraph above could easily be consumed in one day which would supply a total of 16 teaspoons of sugar.  Then, eat  a couple of foods with minimal amounts of sugar and you’re way over the top and into the unhealthy range.

Need Help?

Some experts believe that sugar is as addictive as cocaine so kicking the habit is easier said than done.

Margaret Wertheim, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist and author of the book Breaking The Sugar Habit has 10 tips to help you break up with sugar. Giving up soda is the first step but beyond that there are many things you can do to limit sugar in your diet.

Below are some tips Margaret shared with me to get you started:

1. Never eat sweets on an empty stomach. This is a recipe for a “carb coma”: high blood sugar with an energy rush followed by an energy crash that leads to subsequent sugar cravings. The earlier in the day you start eating sweets, the more likely it is that you’ll continue to eat sweets throughout the day.

2. Always eat desserts from a plate instead of  the container. Eating out of the container is a surefire way to overeat desserts. Use small bowl and plates for small servings of desserts. If you use a large plate or bowl, your portion is likely to be too large.

3. Brush your teeth after eating. Sometimes the sweetness of the toothpaste is enough, and the act of brushing your teeth means that mealtime is over, helping you move on to other activities. Also, ice cream or a cookie just doesn’t seem quite as appealing when you have a minty taste in your mouth.

4. Get enough sleep. It’s more difficult to make good decisions when you’re sleep deprived, and inadequate sleep is associated with decreases in levels of the hormone leptin, leading to decreased satiety and increases in ghrelin, which in turn increases appetite.

Keeping your sugar intake within the recommended guidelines is the key to maintaing a healthy weight and heart so taking the steps to get the sugar out of your life will be worth it in the end.

Breaking The Sugar Habit is available for $3.99 at Amazon.com.

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Shrimp Quinoa: A Hearty and Delicious One Dish Meal

I’m always trying new, healthy recipes.  I made Shrimp Quinoa last night and it was so delicious I have to share.

Shrimp Quinoa 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked, quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of onion, diced
  • 8 spear fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (I used frozen asparagus and steamed it for about three minutes in the microwave first.)
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • ¼ cup of raisins
  • Dash of ginger
  • 1 pound of uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (fresh or frozen will work)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

 

Directions:

  • Cook the quinoa in the chicken broth for about 15 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and let the quinoa absorb the remaining liquid.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, cut up the pepper, asparagus, and mushrooms.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic, onion, and bell pepper.  Cook until the onion has softened.
  • Add the asparagus, mushrooms, raisins, and ginger.  Continue cooking until the asparagus and mushrooms are tender.

Shrimp Quinoa Skillet

  • Stir in shrimp and cook just until they have turned pink.
  • Stir the lemon juice into the quinoa, then toss the quinoa with the shrimp and vegetable mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shrimp Quinoa

It is so similar to shrimp stir-fry that we added a little soy sauce which was perfect.

Using quinoa in place of rice or other grains is a good way to take advantage of this super, superfood. This recipe for Shrimp Quinoa is one of my absolute favorites.  It is a meal-in-one that takes only a few minutes to make.

I hope you like it!

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Healthy and Delicious Taco Chili Recipe

Super Bowl Sunday usually means football, beer, chicken wings, and chili.

This healthy taco chili recipe that I adapted from Skinny Kitchen.com would be perfect to serve at your own bowl party or take with you if you’re attending as a guest.

Taco Chili

I used ground turkey, but you could use lean ground beef and still keep the fat and calories in line. Also, the original recipe called for kidney beans, but I substituted a large can of pinto beans.  I’m sure you would find that you could use the beans and meat of your choice and add your own flair for a delicious chili.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey (or extra lean ground beef)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 28 oz can of pinto beans
1 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 packet taco seasoning mix
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder

Instructions:

1.  Brown turkey or beef in a large nonstick pan.  Add chopped onion and cook until meat is no longer tender.

2.  Add the remainder of the ingredients and cook on low heat for 30 minutes.

Toppings:

Get creative with chili toppings.  Sour cream, block olives, crushed corn tortilla pieces, shredded cheese and green onions are all good options.

Nutrition:

A one cup serving has 245 calories; 4 g fat; 0g cholesterol; 36 g carbs; 9g fiber; 856g sodium, 5g sugar.

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