By Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

People who frequently cook at home – for themselves or for their families – consume fewer calories. Not only is planning meals and cooking at home healthier, it also costs less, creates less stress around mealtimes. Furthermore, time together in the kitchen and around the table is for building relationships, reconnecting at the end (or beginning or middle) of a day, and to help teach kids about food and nutrition.

Research has shown that 11-14 homemade meals per week can cut diabetes risk by as much as 13%, in comparison to six or fewer homemade meals per week [1]. Another positive observation from a different study is that home cooks tended to consume fewer calories on average, even when dining out [2].

Meal planning is an important part of eating more home-prepared meals. But for these and many additional good things that can be said about meal planning and eating more homemade meals, I’m regularly confronted with: “Where do I begin?” or “How can I do it when I juggle so many other things?” or even “Why bother?”

So, in light of the upcoming National Family Meals Month in September, we will look at the basic elements of meal planning and how to make it a success.

Why plan meals?

  • To provide wholesome, balanced meals for yourself/your family.
    – Planning and shopping ahead allows you to offer fresh, nutritious ingredients made using preparation methods you feel good about.
  • To decrease stress and save time.
    – Having a set plan eliminates last-minute scramble through the refrigerator and kitchen cupboards on the heels of a long day, or at the start of one, which relieves tension and gives you more time to enjoy other things you and your family love. (And also minimizes that mindless munching we often succumb to during that hunt!)
  • To keep the food budget in check.
    – Without a plan you’re more likely to purchase unnecessary ingredients that attract your attention in the store, or unnecessary ingredients that ultimately go to waste.
    – A study from the Natural Resource Defense Council found that each month Americans trash roughly 33 pounds of food, averaging about $40.
    – Wandering time is also when marketers earn their salaries: According to the Food Marketing Institute, you spend $2 for every minute you are in the grocery store.
    – A commitment to meals made at home — even if only 1-2x/week to start — spares the cash (and calories) that come with regular dining out or ordering in. Shopping “seasonally” further decreases costs, as fresh local produce is often less expensive when in season and abundant.
  • To promote stronger family ties and long-lasting healthy habits.
    – By involving the whole family in meal planning, shopping, prep, and/or cooking, you not only take advantage of extra help but inherently get to spend more time together.
    – These activities also provide opportunities to be a good role model to impressionable little eaters, instilling positive habits and attitudes that will last a lifetime!

How to begin?
Adopting meal planning as a regular healthy habit for you and your family comes down to a few basic steps. Like any new routine or habit, it’s best to start small. My recommendation is to plan only one week at a time.

  1. Take inventory of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to see what you do and do not need.
  2. Write/type up a realistic plan of the week’s meals and/or snacks, adding clipped, printed out or links to the recipes you’ll use for ease – snag ideas from these free online menu-creating tools on Cooking Light + Eating Well.
  3. Use your plan to create a grocery list so you have everything you need to prepare the week’s recipes – then stash the list in a place you’ll remember it — in a wallet, purse, car, reusable shopping tote, tacked on the fridge, in Google Keep (free for both Android + Apple) or etc.
  4. Stick to your list to save headaches, time and money at the store!
  5. Most important: BE FLEXIBLE, because life happens – pick up the meal plan on the next day if a wrench is thrown in your original plans.

Meal planning is a routine that becomes easier with practice, and will absolutely eliminate some of the stress from shopping, cooking and at mealtimes – whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack. This one simple weekly habit is a delicious investment in your health and the health of your family.

Bonus Tips:

Plan once to eat twice. Purposely repeat ingredients throughout the week, and make extras for supper to include in the next day’s meals or snacks!
Farmers’ markets are plentiful this time of year, and a great activity for the whole family.
Don’t go into full blinders mode when shopping – keep an eye out for non-perishable staple items on sale that you could stock up on (if you have room at home), as well as for less expensive seasonal fruit and veg. There are overlooked gems on those “bargain produce” tables!
And finally, please don’t worry about aiming for perfection – no one but Martha Stewart is Martha Stewart. Besides, she has a whole staff on hire!

 

RESOURCES

Family Food Pinterest boards for recipe ideas
Pinch Your Pennies: Ten Tips for Eating Right without Breaking the Bank, Family Food Blog
Save More at the Grocery Store, Eat Right
Family Dinners in a Flash, Eat Right
Cook Once, Eat Safely Throughout the Week, Eat Right
The Most Important Meal of the Day: The Family Dinner, Forbes
The Family Dinner Project – a national endeavor providing resources and an online community to promote family bonding at the table
75+ ideas for quick pantry meals, the kitchn

REFERENCES

Zong, G; Eisenberg, DM; Hu, FB; Sun, Q. Consumption of Meals Prepared at Home and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: An Analysis of Two Prospective Cohort Studies. PLOS Medicine. 2016 Jul 5. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002052
Wolfson, JA; Bleich, SN. Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Public Health Nutr. 2015 Jun;18(8):1397-406. doi: 10.1017/S1368980014001943. Epub 2014 Nov 17.

By Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

 

Sleep deprivation extends far beyond lack of energy. From depressed mood and decreased cognitive ability, inadequate pillow time can also limit the immune system’s ability to fight off colds and infections, impair judgment and memory, and put a damper on sex drive.
A recent study found that weekday sleep debt may be linked to worse metabolic health, including lower HDL cholesterol levels, impaired glucose metabolism, elevated levels of C-reactive protein or CRP (a marker for inflammation), and impaired thyroid function [1]. This research, and many others [2], also show that fewer hours of sleep is associated with overeating, poor food choices, and weight gain.

Several of the reasons why less sleep can equate to weight gain are:

* less energy and therefore less physical activity;
* increased levels of the hunger hormone (ghrelin) plus decreased levels of the hormone that signals satiety/fullness (leptin) [3];
* increased levels of endocannabinoids – hormones that promote eating for pleasure, or so-called ‘hedonic eating’ – that triggers a preference for high-fat and sugary foods [4];
* increased levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) that shifts the body into energy conservation mode, which can contribute to weight gain over time (additionally, researchers find that stress may cause people to eat more than usual and choose junk food instead of healthier options [5]);
* consuming more calories overall in a day, even if foods consumed are healthy [1], simply due to the fact that amount of awake time is extended, meaning more time to eat.

Of course every person is different, and the “correct” duration of sleep is unique to each of us, a recent UK study of more than 1,600 adults found that people who sleep fewer than 7 hours nightly are more likely to have an overweight or obese BMI when compared to individuals who get 7 or more hours of sleep. In general, a good recommendation is to aim for a solid 7 to 9 hours every night. (A full nine hours is the sweet spot for me!)


Tips to Get Your ZZZs + Improve Sleep Quality

Power up during the day. Physical activity during the day, promotes better, more restful sleep at night.

* According to a national health survey from the CDC, 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (the minimum weekly recommendation for all adults from the Dietary Guidelines of Americans 2015-2020) led to a 65% improvement in sleep quality of responders [6].
* However, working out right before bed increases adrenaline and brain activity, and can make it difficult to get to sleep. If you typically don’t unwind well before hitting the sack, give yourself a buffer of 2 to 3 hours between your workout and bed time.
Power down at night.
After a full day – particularly stressful or just run-on-the-mill routine – taking time to unplug and relax so you not only fall asleep more easily, but also prevent a “too active” brain from waking you up in the middle of the night.

* Research shows that exposure to bright screens (e.g., televisions, phones, computers, tablets) increases brain activity, and also delays the body’s natural trigger to release the sleep-friendly hormone melatonin when in a dark environment. About 1 hour before bed time, switch off or put away your screen devices and if you can, dim the lights a bit.
* Create a relaxed environment with peaceful background noise.
* Other techniques to help you relax and calm down for a quicker trip to dreamland is guided meditation (either at night or during the day), and the 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
* One kind-of-exception to the rule is employing an app to track your sleep habits.

Maximize melatonin. Certain foods are natural sources of melatonin, and certain nutrients help our bodies promote its utilization, for yet more (delicious) ways to help improve sleep quality.

* Melatonin is found in tart cherries (and their juice), oranges, pineapple, oatmeal and walnuts.
* Additionally, magnesium and vitamin B6 help the body produce and release melatonin – look to almonds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), spinach, lentils and dark chocolate for magnesium; chickpeas, bananas, fish and fortified cereal for a boost of vitamin B6.

Avoid stimulants and disruptive foods. There are also foods that interfere with the body’s ability to fall and stay asleep. While every person responds differently, a few culprits commonly to blame for sleep disruption:

* Caffeine is a natural stimulant, and some individuals are very susceptible to its effects; others not as much. I, for one, have trouble falling asleep if even a small amount passes my lips after noon – see what works for you.
* Research suggests that while alcohol may increase drowsiness, it also suppresses entry into the rapid eye movement (REM) – a sleep pattern crucial for a restful night’s sleep.
* Eating a full meal close to bedtime, particularly one containing high-fat and high-protein foods that require more from your body to digest, may contribute to restlessness for some. Some experts recommend a “front-loading” of calories in a day, putting a curfew on the kitchen 2, 3 or even 4 hours before going to bed. (Bonus: This focus on earlier eating not only benefits weight loss efforts, but may also be linked to decreased risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension [7].)

The main takeaway from all of this is that sleep is integral to the human body, and getting enough quality shut-eye may help improve your mental, emotional and physical well-being. More than an increased risk of impaired judgment and feelings of sluggishness, people often make poor food choices when sleep deprived, which can lead to weight gain and obesity; not to mention an increased risk of a variety of mild to serious health issues.
Implement or focus more on some of the tips above, and set yourself up for 7 to 9 hours of snoozeland success. Pleasant dreaming!

REFERENCES

1. Potter GDM, Cade JE, Hardie LJ. Longer sleep is associated with lower BMI and favorable metabolic profiles in UK adults: Findings from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. PLoS ONE. 2017; 12(7): e0182195.
2. Patel SR, Hu FB. Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity. 2008; 16:643–653. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.118.
3. Quan S. “Too little sleep and too much weight: a dangerous duo.” Harvard Health Publications. Updated 29 October 2015. ‪https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/too-little-sleep-and-too-much-weight-a-dangerous-duo-201510078396‬. Accessed 10 August 2017.
4. Sample I. “Lack of sleep alters brain chemicals to bring on cannabis-style ‘munchies’.” The Guardian: Neuroscience. 29 February 2016. ‪https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/feb/29/lack-of-sleep-alters-brain-chemicals-to-bring-on-cannabis-style-munchies‬. Accessed 10 August 2017.
5. Liu Y, Song Y, Koopmann J, Wang M, Chang CH, Shi J. Eating Your Feelings? Testing a Model of Employees’ Work-Related Stressors, Sleep Quality, and Unhealthy Eating. Journal of Applied Psychology. 2017; DOI: 10.1037/apl0000209.
6. Oregon State University. “Physical activity impacts overall quality of sleep.” Science Daily. 23 November 2011. ‪www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111122143354.htm‬. Accessed 10 August 2017.
7. Jakubowicz D, Barnea M, Wainstein J, Froy O. High Caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women. Obesity. 2013; 21: ‪2504–2512‬. doi:10.1002/oby.20460.

By Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN

 

According to some recent studies, yes!

In a study on meal timing and weight loss, participants who reported eating their main meal earlier in the day (before 3:00pm) actually lost more weight than those who reported eating their main meal later in the day (after 3:00pm). Energy intake, dietary composition, estimated energy expenditure, appetite hormones and sleep duration was similar between both groups. But the late-eaters did report having smaller breakfasts or skipped breakfast more often than the early-eaters.

Another study found similar results – participants were randomized into two groups, each received 1400 calories a day, but one group received a 700 calorie breakfast and 200 calorie dinner, while the other group received the opposite. Both groups received a lunch that was 500 calories. The 700-calorie breakfast group showed greater weight loss and waist circumference reduction as well as greater reductions in triglycerides and blood sugar levels. Interestingly, the larger breakfast group also reported higher satiety with the meal plan than the small breakfast group.

Why, despite controlling for calorie intake, did the early-eaters experience better outcomes than the late-eaters? This may have to do with circadian rhythms, a topic that’s getting a lot of attention recently. Circadian rhythms are “physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in the environment.” Because of circadian rhythms, many of our metabolic processes operate at different rates over the course of a 24-hour period. For example:

Insulin sensitivity is highest in the morning and midday and decreases throughout the afternoon and evening

Triglycerides are often highest at night

Thermogenesis is lowest at night and highest in the morning

These metabolic shifts help explain why eating later in the day makes it harder to lose weight, and why shift workers or nighttime eaters suffer higher rates of obesity and related health issues. This could also help explain why breakfast eaters overall have healthier weights than breakfast skippers.

The Take-Away: If you are trying to lose weight despite following a low calorie diet, switch up the timing. Try to front load calories and eat larger breakfasts and lunches, but smaller dinners.

by Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN

As of now, the research tells us that yes, the consumption of soy foods is associated with health benefits, including but not limited to:

·       reduced risk of breast cancer

·       risk of recurrence of breast cancer

·       decreased LDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides

·       reduced blood pressure

·       decreased risk of heart disease

According to the United Soybean Board, 81% of consumers view soy as healthy, which means about 19%, or 1 in 5 people view soy as unhealthy or neutral.

What’s in soy?

Soy is a higher-fat legume that contains about 27% carbohydrate, 33% protein and 40% fat. It is a complete protein and is easily digested.

Doesn’t soy contain phytoestrogens?

Soy contains both phytoestrogens and anti-phytoestrogens. What this means, is that soy contains a chemical structure that looks a lot like human estrogen. This fact has led people to fear that the consumption of soy can affect estrogen levels in humans, thus making them at higher risk for estrogen sensitive diseases like breast cancer. We now know that this is not true. These compounds sometimes act like estrogen in the body, but other times they exhibit effects that are opposite to estrogen.

From the American Institute for Cancer research Website:

Because soy contains estrogen-like compounds, there was fear that soy may raise risk of hormone-related cancers. Evidence shows this is not true.

A good comparison is the sterols in animal vs. plant foods. Cholesterol in animal foods is very chemically similar to phytosterols in plant foods, but as we all know, they exhibit very different effects in the body. Just because a molecule is similar, does not mean it will produce the same results in the body.

How much soy do I need to reap the health benefits?

Dr. Messina, recommends 2-4 servings per day or about 25g or soy protein a day, while the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a moderate amount of soy per day, which is 1-2 servings. 1 serving = 1 cup soy milk, ½ cup edamame, or 1/3 cup tofu.

How about soy and thyroid health?

Soy can interfere with absorption of thyroid medication (as does calcium, iron, dairy, etc.), so the recommendation is to separate levothyroxine from soy by about 4 hours. Whether soy itself can interfere with thyroid function, or even contribute to hypothyroidism, is a hotly debated topic. Dr. Messina’s research purports that soy is not currently contraindicated in the hypothyroid patient, nor should it impact the thyroid health of healthy individuals. I would love to see any articles for or against soy and thyroid health!

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) website is a good resource to provide you with the latest research.

Practical ways to increase soy in diet:

·       Try unsweetened soy milk instead of cow’s milk or almond milk

·       Snack on edamame or add a handful to salads

·       Try tofu scramble instead of scrambled eggs

 

Resources:

1)    To Soy or Not to Soy: Effects of Soybeans on Breast Cancer, Menopause and Heart Disease

2)    Top Five Soy Myths

 

by Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

June is Dairy Month. All cow’s milk, like human milk, inherently contains growth hormones. Among the most publicized is bovine growth hormone (BGH), or bovine somatotropin (BST) – a hormone that cows naturally produce. The synthetic form, rBGH or rBST, is given to cows to extend the lactation period by increasing levels of another hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), ultimately increasing milk production with less feed, less animal waste and less methane production.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion about these hormones, as well as the use of antibiotics. While more research is warranted, here’s where we are thus far regarding some of the more common concerns:

  1. Does drinking milk that contains these hormones increase a person’s individual level of hormones? Testing has found no significant difference between the levels of growth hormone between milk of rBGH-treated cows and non-rBGH-treated cows. Additionally, the human stomach naturally breaks down protein hormones, rendering them inactive. Furthermore, bovine growth hormones are just that – bovine, meaning they are not recognized by human protein receptors.
  2. Can consumption of milk from rBGH-treated cows that may have increased levels of IGF-1 increase risk of certain cancers in humans, particularly prostate and breast? While early studies suggested such, the most recent research does not confirm these initial associations, or demonstrates much weaker associations. What we know now seems to suggest that there is no cause and effect chain linking these two hormones to increased risk of cancer or other disease in drinking milk with rBGH. The exact relationship requires further study.

Still, milk from rBGH-treated cows was found to have slightly higher IGF-1 concentrations than untreated milk. Though the human digestive system would likely break down and deactivate any IGF-1 in our milk, it is yet unclear as to whether or not, and if yes, to what extent, the hormone may be absorbed. Researchers compared blood draws of adults who drank milk (3 glasses/day) vs. those who drink little to no milk, finding that the former had about 10% higher levels of IGF-1. However, this exact same finding was also reported in adults who drank only soy milk (no cow’s milk), suggesting the IGF-1 increase may actually be the result of a different nutrient or entirely other factor unrelated to rBGH.

  1. Treating cows with rBGH can result in mastitis, which can lead to antibiotic use that promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While antibiotics are used to treat mastitis and other infections in cows, the farmers have a financial incentive to avoid antibiotic use unless absolutely necessary. Among other reasons, sick cows are generally separated from the herd for special care, increasing labor- and housing-related cost burdens. An even greater deterrent is the FDA requirement that during and for 96 hours following antibiotic treatment, a treated cow’s milk must be discarded, i.e., wasted without profit. Furthermore, incoming milk tanker trucks are mandatorily tested at dairy processing plants upon arrival. If a tanker’s load – often comprised of milk from more than one farm – is found to contain any level of antibiotics, the offending milk can be traced back to the specific farm. That farm is then on the hook for the disposal and shipping costs of both its own wasted milk plus that from any other farms, and repeat violations jeopardize their ability to sell milk at all. Thus, treatment without antibiotics is highly preferred.

Despite best efforts, it is possible that milk containing antibiotics can make it into our refrigerators, but as yet the extent to which these are, or are not, transmitted to humans is unclear. In terms of cancer and other diseases, evidence thus far suggests that there is no increased risk associated with drinking pasteurized milk from cows treated with antibiotics.

Bottom Line

Stay tuned. More research is warranted, and underway. As of this time the American Cancer Society has “no formal position regarding rBGH,” and goes on to state that “it is not clear that drinking milk, produced with or without rBGH treatment, increases blood IGF-1 levels into a range that might be of concern regarding cancer risk or other health effects.”

For those who are truly concerned, there is also no significant human health risk in drinking milk without hormones or antibiotics. The only downfalls are higher price, and the possibility of purchasing milk that has become tainted (taste sour or spoiled) as the result of untreated infection.

Routinely used antibiotics for cows are ampicillin and erythromycin. And for anyone who is extremely sensitive or allergic to ampicillin, erythromycin, or similar antibiotics, avoidance of treated milk is likely wise to avoid any potential problems.

What are your thoughts on dairy milk hormones and antibiotics? 

 

RESOURCES

  1. Food & Nutrition Magazine, In the Matter of Milk
  2. Ingles Supermarkets, What is rBGH?

REFERENCES

  1. American Cancer Society, Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone
  2. Today’s Dietitian, Organic Milk and Meat—Are They Healthier than Their Conventional Counterparts?
  3. US Food and Drug Administration, Report on the Food and Drug Administration’s review of thesafety of recombinant bovine somatotropin

by Elizabeth May, RDN, LDN

Carrageenan has been in our food supply for decades now and is one of the most hotly debated food additives, but why?

What is it?

Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed, mostly imported from Indonesia. The red seaweed is dried and processed into a fine powder where either an acid (“degraded” carrageenan, not used for food) or an alkaline substance (“food grade” carrageenan).

 

What does it do?

Carrageenan acts as a thickener, emulsifier, and preservative. When carrageenan is removed from a product, manufacturers normally replace it with a mixture of gums such as guar gum and xanthan gum.

 

Where can I find it? According to the Cornucopia Institute, carrageenan is found in:

Chocolate milk

Ice cream

Sour cream

Cottage cheese

“Squeezable” yogurt

Soymilk

Almond milk

Hemp milk

Coconut milk

Soy desserts

Soy pudding

Sliced turkey

Prepared chicken

Nutritional drinks

Canned soup

Broth

Microwaveable dinners

Frozen pizza

 

What’s all the hype surrounding carrageenan?

Carrageenan is considering safe by the FDA , WHO, and European Commission. However, many organizations and individuals including Food Babe, Cornucopia Institute, National Organic Standard Board (appeals to USDA), and many other professionals, point to studies that have linked this food additive to inflammation, digestive disease risk, and cancer. In 1970, 5,000 tons of red seaweed were harvested for carrageenan production. Today, more than 200,000 tons are harvested for the global use of carrageenan. Some blame this increase in carrageenan use to the subsequent rise of digestive issues and IBD in children.

 

What does the research say?

Research regarding carrageenan is mixed.

According to Jessica Levings, MA, RDN, writing for the Food and Nutrition Magazine, “Recent research findings published in the journal Food and Toxicology and funded by the industry-backed International Food Additives Council indicate that carrageenan does not cross the intestinal epithelium — a barrier that keeps out the bad stuff and lets in good stuff — and does not cause intestinal inflammation. The findings may seem biased to some, since the study was funded by the food industry — this alone, however shouldn’t indicate bias. The food industry has a vested interest in only using ingredients that are safe for its consumers”.

However, just this year, a review from the Frontiers in Pediatrics, concludes that “animal studies consistently report that carrageenan and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) induce histopathological features that are typical of IBD while altering the microbiome, disrupting the intestinal epithelial barrier, inhibiting proteins that provide protection against microorganisms, and stimulating the elaboration of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Similar trials directly assessing the influence of carrageenan and CMC in humans are of course unethical to conduct, but recent studies of human epithelial cells and the human microbiome support the findings from animal studies. ” The review did state that carrageenan and CMC are unlikely to be the only environmental trigger to IBD.

 

Conclusion:

There is no known safety level of carrageenan so it is best to consume in moderation, if at all. More research is needed. We recommend to read ingredient lists and buy whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish, as much as possible.

What are your thoughts on carrageenan? Do you think it should continue to be a GRAS food additive?

 

References:
http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Stone-Soup/November-2016/Should-You-Be-Concerned-About-Carrageenan-in-Your-Food/
http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/070113p16.shtml
http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/12/12/504558025/carrageenan-backlash-why-food-firms-are-ousting-a-popular-additive
https://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CarageenanReport-2016.pdf
Research Studies:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691516302265
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5410598/

Image by Susan Albers

Have you been mindful lately?

Mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating, is the concept of becoming more in tune with our bodies and being more present in the moment with our food. When was the last time you truly enjoyed your meal? Truly tasted, savored and respected all of the flavors that were present. Do you know where your food came from? How it was prepared? These are all questions you might want to ask yourself when trying to be more mindful with your eating.

Recognize your hunger signals. Try to distinguish the difference between being satisfied, instead of stuffed or full. As an experiment, rate your hunger level on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being completely full and not hungry and 5 being absolutely famished. What level were you when you began the meal? What level were you after?

Enjoy the experience. Grab a small square of chocolate. Turn off all distractions (computers, devices, phone, etc). Place the chocolate in your mouth and let it melt for 15 seconds without chewing it. What sensations are you experiencing? How does it smell? Taste? Think of as many descriptions as you can and write them down.

Apply some of these tactics to your next meal. Try eating lunch away from your desk and without any distractions. Leave your phone behind and savor each bite. Be present in the moment. Recognize when you are satisfied and stop eating.

 

Further reading:

Mindful.org

Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food by Susan Albers

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole M.S. R.D

Have you jumped on the Millet band wagon yet? Move over quinoa there is a new grain making the rounds! Though, it is not new, millet is gaining popularity again. It must be due to the protein and fiber content, as it contain almost 10% of your fiber needs and 6 grams of protein per cup of cooked millet.

You may have previously seen millet in your bird seed, but it is not only for birds. Add this grain to your diet as a good source of minerals such as copper, phosphorus, manganese, as well as magnesium which is particularly important for our heart health, bone health and even blood sugar management.

A favorite recipe of ours features millet in a Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf.

Enjoy recipes like this, as well as other healthy whole grains on our Whole Grains Pinterest Board.

Most of us are blessed with a bounty of delicious foods and drinks – during the holidays and throughout the year. We may even have more than we can handle between gifts and leftovers! Many others around the country aren’t as fortunate.

According to Feeding America, 1 in 6 Americans struggles with food insecurity, meaning that “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” Food insecurity can affect those who are ill, injured, out of a job, or just down on hard times. These affected might be senior citizens, college kids, or children. They may be members of your church, coworkers, neighbors, or even close friends or family. It can happen to anyone.

If you want to help those in need, consider donating food and other needed goods, money, or your time as a volunteer. Here are a few resources to get you started:

  • Visit Feeding America and Foodpantries.org – enter your location to find nearby food banks, pantries, and shelters.
  • Check with your local churches, hospitals, community centers, schools and universities to see if there are opportunities for you and your family to help those struggling with food insecurity.
  • Philabundance is a great organization helping those in need around the Philadelphia area – donate goods or your time at various locations and events, or donate money on the website.
  • MANNA is another Philadelphia-based charitable organization, the goal of which to provide meals to those in need, specifically battling serious diseases.

Share the love this holiday season – and throughout the year!

Unsurprisingly, pumpkins reign in autumn, but there is a bounty of other produce at their best in these cooler months. Today’s post is all about offering the respect these colorful, delicious, and nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables deserve.

Here are 8 of our favorites:

  • Apples eaten with the skin are low-calorie, high-fiber fruits that promote digestive health and satiety (those feelings of fullness after eating), and may help lower cholesterol and risk of type 2 diabetes. The antioxidant flavonoids found in apples have been linked to a reduced risk of some cancers and heart disease. There are approximately 2,500 types in North American alone, and each is worth sampling!
  • Beets are root vegetables rich in cancer-fighting, inflammation-lowering compounds called betalains – the pigments responsible for their vibrant hue. Beets are also a good source of fiber, iron, manganese, and antioxidant vitamin C. For the ladies planning for pregnancy or who are expecting, beets contain high amounts of folate, which is important for prevention of birth defects and lower birth weights. 
  • Brussels sprouts are low-calorie (28 in 1/2 cup cooked), and contain less than 10 grams of carbohydrate per serving, yet deliver roughly 80% of your daily vitamin C plus more than 100% of your vitamin K. Like other cruciferous veg (e.g., cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, dark leafy greens), Brussels sprouts provide a variety of phytochemicals and compounds linked to decreased risk of infection, inflammation, and certain cancers.
  • Cranberries are an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C, and a 1/2-cup serving is only 23 calories but offers nearly 20% of your daily fiber needs. Vitamins E and K, manganese, and potassium are also present, and studies show that compounds called proanthocyanidins, found in rich supply in cranberries, promote dental and urinary tract health, and may lower cholesterol and reduce risk of atherosclerosis – the dangerous buildup of plaque in your arteries that can obstruct blood flow and lead to heart attack or stroke.
  • Pears are an excellent source of dietary fiber (keep that skin on!) that promotes decreased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and can help lower cholesterol levels. Another fiber benefit is increased satiety that can aid in weight loss and weight maintenance efforts. Pears also contain carotenoids that benefit your eyes, antioxidant flavonoids, and potentially anti-cancer phytonutrients called cinnamic acids.
  • Pomegranates, beautiful, tart jewels of the fruit world, are a good source of vitamins C and K, and may be richer in antioxidants than red wine, green tea, and most other varieties of fruit. Per 1/2-cup serving of pomegranate arils you take in only about 70 calories, a small amount of folate, potassium, and copper, as well as more than 3 grams of fiber. Recent research links small amounts of pomegranate juice to increased production of nitric oxide in the body, which aids in proper circulation, and may speed the growth and recovery time of exercised muscles.

image1

Photo credit: Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

  • Sweet potatoes may just be nature’s best food source of beta-carotene – the red-orange pigment that on its own helps fight free radicals, and then is converted by our bodies into vitamin A that promotes immune and bone health. In addition, one 1/2 cup of cooked sweet potato with the skin on provides roughly 15% of your daily fiber, nearly 30% that of the trace mineral manganese, more than one-third of your vitamin C, and a small amount of several B vitamins.
  • Winter squashes, such as butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti and, yes, pumpkins, are, like sweet potatoes, rich in beta-carotene and antioxidant vitamin C to promote good vision and healthy skin. Squashes in general are also good sources of fiber and potassium, several of the B vitamins, and magnesium – a trace mineral many Americans do not regularly consume enough of. Stretch your dollar by saving and toasting the nutritious seeds!

Tell us: Which autumn fruits or veg are your favorites? How do you prepare them healthfully?