Beat the Candy Attack with Your Own Healthy Trail Mix

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It happens every year; your kids go trick or treating; your office mates’ kids go trick or treating and candy dishes abound everywhere! Your candy of choice calls out your name. For some its peanut butter cups, for others its Smarties or tootsie rolls. Whatever candy it is, it’s going to sabotage your nutrition goals! Fear not because I have a sweet, healthy and delicious solution for you! Make your own trail mix!

Common Components you can use in your Trail Mix:

Nuts:

These nutritional dynamos are loaded with healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin E, and other essential vitamins and minerals. These should be the base of your trail mix.

Whether they’re raw or roasted, go for unsalted, unsweetened nuts to keep sugar and sodium under control.

Some of my favorites are: almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts.

Seeds:

For those with nut allergies (or just looking to mix things up), seeds provide many of the same nutritional benefits as nuts. Hemp seeds, and Chia seeds for example, are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, gamma linolenic acid, protein, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.

Sprinkle a handful of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax, or hemp seeds in trail mix for an extra boost of nutrients.

Grains:

Add some complex carbohydrates to your custom blend for extra fiber, which boosts overall energy and helps to keep you full .

Choose whole grains whenever possible and avoid highly processed cereals that add unnecessary sugar and sodium.

Shredded wheat cereal, pretzels, whole-grain cereals like cheerios or chex, bran flakes, whole-wheat crackers, granola, toasted oats, puffed rice cereal, and air-popped popcorn can all add a little bit of crunch.

Something Sweet:

Lastly, t’s totally acceptable to have a little something sweet in your trail mix. This will help deter you from the candy bowl.

Dried fruit can be a great source of fiber, antioxidants, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K.

Look for dried fruit options with as little added sugar and preservatives as possible.

Dried apples, cherries, cranberries, goji berries, blueberries, strawberries, apricots, raisins, banana chips, figs, pineapple chunks, mango, and dates.

Dark chocolate chips are a good source of antioxidants.

And once in a while, don’t fret adding a little bit of M&Ms.

Some of My Favorite Combos:

Hiking Power:

  • ALMONDS
  • WALNUTS
  • DRIED CRANBERRIES
  • ORGANIC TYPE OF CHERRIOS
  • CASHEWS
  • PECANS
  • RAISINS

Peanut Butter Lovers:

  • BANANA CHIPS
  • PEANUT BUTTER CHIPS
  • PEANUTS, ALMONDS
  • DARK CHOCOLATE CHIPS

Movie Night:

  • POPCORN
  • PEANUTS
  • M&MS
  • DRIED CRANBERRIES

Try some of these combos and make some unique signature recipes. You have so many options! It’s a great way to defeat the candy bowl and also the holiday sweets that are around the corner. I suggest making little baggies of them to bring to work, carry in your purse, etc. It is possible to overindulge so be careful not to do that. Depending on the ingredients< I recommend ½ cup to ¾ cup serving.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate Blueberry Month with Me

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Yay for blueberries! According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, July is Blueberry Month. Go pick some at a local you-pick farm! Freeze a whole bunch of them and then you will have nutrient-dense blueberries to use for months ahead. Here are just some of the reasons that I love blueberries.

Blueberries contain more antioxidants than almost any other food. In fact, they help protect against oxidative damage. What’s that you ask? It’s a process that takes place every day at the cellular level; in short, it’s a fancy way to say “aging.” So, consider blueberries a great anti-aging food choice.

I have a great example of how blueberries counteract oxidative damage. In a 2007 study, 168 research subjects were instructed to drink one liter (34 ounces) of a mixture of blueberry and apple juice, every day. At the end of the study, oxidative DNA damage due to free radicals was reduced by 20 percent.

Oxidative damage to the brain creates problems like dementia and Alzheimer’s. A recent study examined elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment. The researchers gave each subject blueberry juice every day. After 12 weeks, they had seen improvements in several markers of brain function

These antioxidants that I speak of also help to lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, making blueberries an awesome choice for your heart health.

Also, blueberries contain salicylic acid—the natural version of aspirin. Salicylic acid is known to thin the blood and reduce pain. I know so many older adults who take an aspirin a day for their heart. I think that making good food choices is the best way to protect your heart.

Blueberries are also high in lutein; this phytonutrient is particularly helpful when it comes to your vision.

Aging isn’t just marked by wrinkles on our skin; our organs age as well.

We often forget of all of the amazing things that are happening to our body on a cellular level and I think it’s so awesome that we can make good things happen to our cells with our food choices. One thing is for sure, blueberries will always be in my food repertoire!

Blueberries are a superfood choice to keep you energized and young inside and out!

 

Celebrate Cherry Season

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Cherry season is upon us in Central New York and I love it! Cherries are the perfect snack and they are a nutrition-boosting compliment to every meal. Add them to your yogurt, smoothie, or oatmeal for breakfast. Toss them in a salad for lunch or dinner. The best news about cherries is their health benefits. In fact, they are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Here are a few reasons why.

Cherries can help with weight-loss efforts.

Cherries are a high-fiber food, which is always good for weight-loss because fiber keeps us fuller longer. A lab study actually proved that cherries can in fact help prevent weight gain. In a study published in the Journal of Medical Food, rats that were given tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet didn’t gain as much weight as rats consuming the same diet without cherries. The cherry powder intake was associated with lower lipid (fat) levels in the blood, percentage fat mass and abdominal fat weight as well.

Cherries can help you sleep better.

We could all use some good slumber, right? Well, cherries can help with this! Cherries are a great source of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone. Very few foods contain melatonin. Our bodies can manufacture a little bit of it through the pineal gland in our brain—consuming cherries can give us some extra melatonin to make sure we sleep soundly.

Cherries can increase your energy levels.

Of course better sleep can help with better energy levels, but there’s something else about cherries that can help boost your energy. The natural sugar and water content of cherries along with a plethora of antioxidants will no-doubt help prevent any energy dips you might experience during the day.

Cherries can protect against Diabetes

A lot of people with diabetes deter from fruit because of the sugar content. Cherries have a low glycemic index though so they don’t sky-rocket your sugar levels. Cherries have a glycemic index (GI) of 22 compared to say grapes that have a GI of 46, strawberries that have a GI of 41 or apples that have a GI of 39.

Cherries can reduce muscle and joint pain.

Hold off on the ibuprofen please! Cherries can reduce muscle and joint pain! A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that cherries helped prevent post workout pain in runners. Another study conducted at the Osteoarthritis Research Center found that cherry consumption greatly reduced the pain experienced by patients with osteoarthritis.

Cherries can protect your heart.

High in antioxidants and fiber, it should come as no surprise that cherries can protect your heart. The potassium content of cherries is particularly healthy for the heart by helping to regulate blood pressure,

Get yourself to the market and get some cherries today. They’re in season right now in Central New York through the month of July! And for a special treat, dip them in dark chocolate, which is also high in antioxidants!

By Kelly Springer RD, MS, CDN

Spring into Health: Spring out of your Salad Rut

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Spring is th5778152162_c738cc70cd_oe perfect time for fresh salads, but I have found with many clients that they get into salad ruts…they get bored! Well do I have some pointers to you to prevent those salad ruts.

Aim for color!

The more colorful your salad, the better. You get more nutrients that way!  Toss in some red, yellow, green, and orange bell peppers for their crazy amount of carotenoids—thee are antioxidants that prevent chronic diseases! In addition to several vitamins and minerals, red onions contain quercetin, which is very protective against cancer and allergies, so toss in some red onions. You can add white with jicama; low in calories but high in a few vital nutrients, jicama provides one-quarter of what’s needed daily in fiber per serving. Toss in eggplant or purple cabbage for even more color; both are loaded with fiber and nutrients! Your bed of salad greens will give you fiber, calcium, iron, vitamins A and C among other nutrients.

 Switch up your greens!

Speaking of greens, you can totally change a salad by changing the greens. Go for some crunch with some cabbage, a phenomenal cruciferous veggie that is protective against cancer. Kale falls into the cruciferous category too! For a zesty flavor, go for arugula! Spinach and Romaine are popular tasty choices too.

Sprout it up

Sprouts are one amazing way to boost the nutrition of your salad. The nutrients in sprouts are exponentially higher than their non-sprouted counterparts.  And there are such a great variety of sprouts available at the typical (alfalfa, clover, sunflower, lentil, etc.).

Power it up with protein!

Experiment with different ways to add protein to your salad. Beans, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds are great plant protein choices. You can add hard-boiled egg or low-fat cheese as well. Or, add some grilled chicken, tuna, or salmon! If you like your red meat, sirloin is a healthy choice too from time to time.

Fruit fever!

Fruits can add a lot of excitement to a salad. I love strawberries in my salads and they’re high in vitamin C! It’s just about berry season after all—you save when you buy them this time of year! Take advantage!

Dress it up!

A dressing can make or break a salad! There are so many easy ways to make healthy salad dressings. Click here for 50 dressings to try! And remember, a little dressing goes a long way!

I hope I have motivated you to stay satisfied with salads! How many different salads can you have this week?

 ~By Kelly Springer, RD, MS, CDN

Five Surprising Foods that are Super for your Heart

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February is National Heart Health Month. Last February, I wrote about why the Mediterranean Diet is great for your health; click here to read up on that. I’m going to do something a little different for this blog. I am going to clue you in on five surprising foods that keep your health beating strong!

  • Potatoes

Potatoes get such a bad rap when fad diets accuse them of being a scary carb! This is not true, well sure, they are carbohydrate-based, but get this? One medium potato has only 118 calories and it is loaded with heart-healthy fiber, especially if you eat the skin! They are also high in potassium and magnesium, which research has proven, can lower your blood-pressure. And what can be easier than a baked potato? Wrap one in foil, stick it in the oven at 450 and in 45 minutes, it’s done. Add some low-fat cheese and broccoli and you have quite a healthy dinner!

  • Lean Beef

When I have clients who are red meat lovers, I don’t shun them. There are actually forms of red meat that are healthy choices. In fact, a recent study by Penn State researchers found that those who ate lean beef as part of a heart-healthy diet lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol by 10 percent. If you love your red meat, choose cuts that are loin or round; these are the leanest types. Grass-fed loin or round is your best bet!

  • Coffee and Tea

Caffeinated coffee and tea can raise your blood pressure due to the caffeine; however, it’s only a temporary rise if you consume either within reason (less than four cups a day). The good news is that coffee and tea are both high in antioxidants that have heart-protecting properties.

  • Spicy Foods

Some people get heartburn from spicy foods, but, keep in mind that the feeling of heartburn stems from your esophagus. If you can handle spicy foods, add some chili peppers or jalapenos to your meals; they help blood flow freely to your heart.

  • Eggs

I swear that for years, researchers’ stance on eggs seemed to vary weekly, but now, the general consensus is that eggs are good for your heart; eggs can increase your HDL (good) cholesterol levels. They’re a great protein-rich source for energy so they can also help curb you from snacking on refined, processed foods that are bad for your heart.

So plan your meals and snacks with your heart in mind. Protecting your heart is an important part of living a long and healthy life!

 

 

Help prevent cancer this New Year

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The scary “c” word is hard to think about. Chances are you have known someone diagnosed with cancer. In fact, 40 percent of all men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime! It’s a terrible, terrible disease, one that you wouldn’t wish upon even your worst enemy.

Unless the person has been previously diagnosed with cancer, it’s rare that I have a client who creates a New Year’s Resolution about developing a cancer prevention plan. In my series about New Year’s Resolutions, I am including this because I think it’s a great one for everyone to have! Here are my top tips to help prevent cancer through your food choices.

Tip # 1: Focus on eating mostly WHOLE foods.

You don’t have to become a vegetarian on my cancer prevention plan, rather, just eat food in their most original form. Eat potatoes, not potato chips or French fries. Aim to have half of your plate be vegetables and include dairy and a lean meat. Try to kick out most of the processed food in your diet.

Tip # 2: Get serious about increasing your fruit and veggie intake!

Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They contain minimal fat, sodium, and calories. These characteristics are what your immune system requires to protect against illness, including cancer! Try to get in at least five servings of veggies and fruit!

Tip # 3: Reduce your meat intake and increase your fiber!

While I mentioned that you don’t need to become a vegetarian on my cancer prevention plan, you should at least reduce your meat intake. Research does show that vegetarians are 50 percent less likely to get diagnosed with cancer. The main reason for this is that meat lacks fiber, so reduce your meat intake and increase your fiber intake.

You will automatically increase your fiber intake by following tip # 2. Another way to increase your fiber is by consuming whole grains, which in part, is what tip # 1 includes. Have oatmeal for breakfast. Have whole-grain bread when you eat sandwiches. Have brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, or millet with your dinner.

When it comes to meat, pay special attention to reducing red meat and processed meats (deli meat, hotdogs, sausage, bacon, etc.). Reduce the portion sizes of meat. Consider adding it for flavor in a casserole instead of having a whole hunk of it as the main portion of your meal—see it more as a condiment!

Tip #4: Get 30 minutes of exercise a day!

Most people don’t associate exercise with cancer prevention, but there is a huge association! Physical activity decreases the risk of colon, endometrial and postmenopausal breast cancer. As fitness improves, aim for 60 minutes or more of moderate, or for 30 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity every day. Definitely be under a doctor’s guidance if you are not used to regular exercise.

I sincerely hope you follow these tips not just for the New Year, but as a lifestyle. Not only will they help lower your risk of cancer, they will help you live a healthier life for a long time!

 

Easy Go-Tos for Recovery after your Kids’ High-Intensity Sports Practice

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Fall sports are upon us! How do we get our kids to recover from intense practice and games? Even as the weather gets colder, hydration before and throughout the practice or game is paramount. Just as important is getting some high-quality protein in your diet and a colorful array of fruits and veggies for their antioxidant value. Protein builds lean muscle, helps with recovery, and improves strength and performance. Antioxidants help prevent inflammation, reducing the likelihood of injuries!

Here are some go-tos that I suggest parents pack for their kids to have after their sports practices and games; these are especially handy for away games when the food stop on the way home almost always is fast-food.

Protein Suggestions:

  • Make a yummy trail mix of raw nuts and dried fruit (a big favorite I find is raw almonds, cashews and raisins)
  • Another all-time favorite is banana and peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread
  • A super easy protein-packed protein option is EAS’s 100% whey protein shakes. They’re pre-made and so easy to take with you. Each one contains a whopping 30 grams of protein. Whey protein is awesome because it is digested and absorbed faster than any other protein source.

Antioxidant Suggestions I especially recommend for Athletes:

  • Red and green bell peppers with hummus
  • Apples
  • Blueberries (they’re so tasty frozen too—keep them frozen using an insolate lunch bag with an ice pack)
  • Edamame (soybeans that you have to pop out of their pods…kids love the opportunity to “play with their food,” even teenagers love it!
  • Cherries

Find a way to incorporate these food choices in your kids’ post-practice or game repertoire and they’ll be at the top of their game for sure!