Strawberry Bliss

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It’s strawberry season in Central New York! I love strawberries-they’re one of the best sources of vitamin C around! And I have good news for diabetics…these incredibly sweet treats are low in sugar! Strawberries are a great choice if you have a sweet tooth, but are trying to control your sugar intake. In addition to vitamin C, strawberries are loaded with an antioxidant mineral called manganese and dozens of phytonutrients that have proven to help your cardiovascular system.

Looking for some ways to enjoy strawberries now that they are available in your backyard and are the freshest they will be all year? In addition to eating them by themselves, here are ways I enjoy them:

  • Freeze a handful or two of them (de-stemmed) and toss them into your morning smoothie!
  • Strawberries and arugula make quite the pair. Slice strawberries and add to a bed of arugula along with crumbled feta. Dress with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. So yummy!
  • Breakfast just got better! Add strawberries to Greek yogurt and granola and you have a fantastic, nourishing, protein and fiber-rich breakfast that is oh so tasty!
  • Make a healthy rendition of strawberry lemonade. Blend a pint of strawberries until juice consistency. Add to a quart of water, squeeze in juice from 4 lemons. Stir in 4 Tablespoons of stevia. Add ice for a most refreshing summer drink!
  • Combine strawberries with rhubarb and you have a dynamic duo. Both are harvested in June. Take the antioxidants of strawberries combined with those in rhubarb and you will get a spark of energy, some pep in your step. Eating Well has put together amazing strawberry rhubarb recipes like Strawberry Rhubarb Quinoa Pudding, Strawberry-Rhubarb Fruit Bars, and even Chilled Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup. Click here to check them out!
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Heal your gut, reduce your stress

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April was Stress Awareness Month, but stress is a part of our everyday life!

If left unchecked, stress can be deadly. In fact, stress is often referred to as the silent killer because although its effects are not immediately apparent, it can lead to several serious health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

The biochemical changes that occur during times of stress have significant and immediate impact on gut and gut function.

Stress “kills” the good bacteria that is essential to your body—it keeps your immune system strong, helps you digest your food and absorb the nutrients, regulates your hormones, and prevents inflammation. Inflammation is the worst enemy of all as it is the precursor to all diseases.

All of us have experienced stress at some point in our lives, which means out guts have been compromised. And an unhealthy gut only exacerbates your stress.

I have three tips that can help you restore your gut flora and help you reduce stress.

  1. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners and Added Sugars

Several studies have shown that artificial sweeteners (such as those in diet soda or those little pink or blue packets you pour into your coffee can literally destroy your good bacteria.

Added sugar literally feeds the bad bacteria lurking in your gut. Not to mention more and more studies are linking added sugar to heart disease. Food brands will be required to list the added sugars in their products by July 2018.

I suggest honey or stevia as good alternative sweeteners.

In terms of honey, I especially love using Wedderspoon Raw Manuka Honey. Manuka honey has antimicrobial and ant inflammatory properties—basically the opposite of artificial sweeteners. This honey can strengthen your immune system and improve your gut flora.

Stevia is an awesome sugar alternative—it is not an artificial sweetener and it has no added sugar. I turn to Sweetleaf Stevia; this brand is the authority when it comes to stevia. Stevia comes from a plant and a little bit goes along way as it is 30 times sweeter than sugar. For example, a typical soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar. To achieve the same sweetness with stevia, you would only need one teaspoon and wouldn’t have the harmful effects that added sugar causes!

Stevia contains dozens of nutrients as well. Stevia is a great choice for diabetics because it has a non-glycemic response. Visit Sweetleaf.com to find delicious recipes using stevia

  1. Take Probiotics

Probiotics are live, good bacteria. Taking probiotic supplements actually replenish good bacteria in your gut.

My favorite probiotic is Just Thrive. Many of the probiotics on the market not survive in your intestinal system so they aren’t all that helpful. With Thrive, 100% of the healthy flora, in their capsules, survives and hence, you thrive quite literally.

  1. Fill up on fiber.

Most people do not get nearly enough fiber in their diet. A healthy gut depends on fiber to move food along!

Be sure your diet has plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Make sure your snacks are fiber-ful too. Grab a piece of fruit or a 100-calorie pack of Setton Farms pistachios. Pistachios are not only loaded with fiber, but also have been proven to reduce stress. A recent Penn State study showed that the healthy fat and fiber combo in pistachios can reduce vascular stress, keeping your blood vessels open and relaxed during stressful moments.

Keep your gut in check—keep your stress in check! Your gut is often referred to as your second brain.

Treat your gut well and you will feel well.

 

Fuel your energy with fiber, healthy fats and protein

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Depletion. Fatigue. Lack of motivation. These are three tell-tale signs that your nutrition needs a checkup. Let’s talk about three nutrients that can tackle these feelings: fiber, healthy fats, and protein. I will share examples of each. And for those of you with busy lifestyles, I will recommend a healthy treat with all three of these nutrition powerhouses that you can grab on-the-go.

Perk up because I promise you if you apply these recommendations, you will feel like a million bucks in no time!

Fiber

Only 10 percent of Americans are consuming enough fiber every day. Fiber is essential in achieving a healthy, vibrant lifestyle. It aids in weight loss, helps lower cholesterol levels, and keeps your blood sugar levels stable. Unstable blood-sugar levels will destroy your energy!

The American Heart Association eating plan suggests eating 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. Great fiber choices include whole grains, nuts and seeds, apples, berries, peas, lentils, and beans.

Healthy Fats

Dietary fat provides you with energy, builds healthy cells, and regulates your hormones. Your brain needs fat to function properly—in fact, did you know that your brain is 60 percent fat? Studies have linked lack of dietary fat in one’s diet to depression as well as cognitive decline.

The types of fat that are super for you are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. My favorite foods that have these types of fats include essentially all nuts; olive oil in my salads and cooking; salmon; tuna; and flaxseed or chia seeds added to my oatmeal or smoothies.

Protein

Proteins are considered a major nutrient for the body; it grows, maintain and replace tissues in our body, like our muscles. Protein makes up hemoglobin in our blood, which is what carries oxygen throughout our body. A low hemoglobin level will result in low energy levels. My favorite protein choices are eggs, nuts, seeds, lean meats like chicken breast and ground turkey.

A Powerful Nutritional Punch

If you want to pack all three of these nutrients together in a healthy snack, you must give Setton Farms’ Pistachio Blueberry Cranberry Infused Chewy Bites. These all-natural bite-sized bars packed with pistachios, antioxidant-rich cranberries, coconut, and a touch of maple brown rice syrup. They are filled with protein, potassium, and fiber and have ample healthy fats as well for that precious brain of yours! Pistachio Chewy Bites is the answer for those who need a convenient fiber/healthy fat/protein snack in between meals.

For more nutrition tips, visit www.kellyschoice.org and find Kelly’s Choice dietitians’ advice throughout social media. Click here for Facebook. Click here for instagram. Click here for Twitter, Click here for Linkedin.

Real Food First

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We live in a convenience society and because of this, we have turned to eating processed food and we are destroying our health in the process. This blog is all about choosing real food first! It may be a hard step to make at first, but once it becomes routine, it becomes second nature. You have to trust me here!

What do I mean by real food? I mean whole, single-ingredient food. Here are just some of the reasons why you should choose real food first.

Real food is loaded with important nutrients

Unprocessed animal and plant foods contain the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health. For instance, one cup (220 grams) of red bell peppers, broccoli or orange slices contains more than 100% of the RDI for vitamin C. Eggs and liver are especially high in choline, a nutrient that’s essential for proper brain function. And just a single Brazil nut provides all the selenium you need for an entire day.

Real food is heart-healthy

Real food is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that support heart health, including fiber, magnesium and healthy fats.

Real food is high in antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that help fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage your body’s cells. They are found in all real foods, especially plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and legumes

Real food is low in sugar

Some research suggests that eating sugary foods can increase your risk of obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and heart disease. Even though fruit contains sugar, it’s also high in water and fiber, so it’s much less concentrated than sugar in soda and processed foods.

Real food helps control blood sugar

Eating a diet high in fibrous plants and unprocessed animal foods may help reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and people who are at risk of developing the disease.

Real food is good for your gut

Eating real food may be beneficial for your gut microbiome, the bacteria that live in your digestive tract.

Real food promotes dental health

Sugar and refined carbs promote dental decay by providing food for the plaque-causing bacteria that live in your mouth.

Real food Is good for your skin

Eating real food nourishes and helps protect your skin from the inside out. Did you know that some foods are natural sunscreens too? Some examples are carrots, citrus fruits and strawberries.

Start thinking about healthy swaps you can make in favor of real food. Instead of candy, keep fruit on hand. Instead of sugary breakfast feel, have yogurt with nuts and fruit. Instead of granola bars with 25 ingredients in them, have a snack-size bad of raw nuts and dried fruit. There are so many ways to start transitioning to more real food. Be sure to keep some with you at all times so that you don’t need to turn to fast food or gas station snacks when you’re ravenous!

Welcome whole grains

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I know, I know, you are going to tell me that you are trying the ketogenic diet, or paleo, Atkins, South Beach, or some other diet that “bans” carbs! I think each diet has merit to some degree or another, but I am actually going to tell you why you would want whole grains!

First of all, let me set things straight. I am NOT advocating refined carbs like crackers, cookies, white bread, flour tortillas or even white rice. I am suggesting you welcome whole grains—grains that contain the entire grain kernel—the bran, germ, and endosperm (for example, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, and popcorn).

Whole grains are filled with fiber and almost every person I know (even healthy eaters) do not get enough fiber in your diet. Fiber helps keep things moving in your digestion system, keeps you fuller longer (so yes, it can help with weight loss), and it also lowers your risk of getting heart disease.

Whole grains also loaded with important B vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are amazing for reducing stress levels and giving you energy.

Speaking of energy—if you experience major dips in your energy throughout the day, whole grains can help prevent that! Why? They help regulate your blood-sugar levels. Lulls in your energy level often indicate that your blood sugar levels are not remaining steady throughout the day. Fix that with whole grains!

Are you unsure about how to try incorporating whole grains into your diet? Here are just a few tips:

  • Use whole wheat pasta when you would normally use regular pasta.
  • Swap white bread for whole grain bread.
  • Eat oatmeal for breakfast!
  • Look for whole grain crackers!
  • Instead of white rice, try cooking with brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, or millet.

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The Power of Five

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How good are you at assuring that you get the five powerful foods in your diet every single day? I’m talking about protein, dairy, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains? My guess is that you may have the protein part down (specifically if it is meat), but the other groups are more challenging.

Let’s go through each group and I will provide some suggestions about how you can incorporate these essential foods into your everyday-life.

I’ll start with whole grains. Too many people turn to refined grains and this is not smart because refined grains (pasta, white bread, cookies, crackers, etc.) are devoid of nutrients. Whole grains, on the other hand, have fiber, helping you to feel full longer, not to mention protecting your heart! You are supposed to aim for 6-8 servings of whole grains a day.

  • Make sure you sandwich bread is whole grain.
  • When you cook brown rice, wild rice, or quinoa, cook extra for another meal!
  • Oatmeal is a great choice for a whole-grain breakfast.
  • There are whole grain crackers too—look at the fiber content; if there is a decent amount of fiber, it’ s likely whole grain.

Dairy isn’t too hard to work into your daily regimen and dairy is a great source of calcium and protein. Always choose low-fat or skim (otherwise, you have to worry about bad cholesterol). Use cheese as a condiment on your salads or as a flavor enhancer to your meals. Try cottage cheese or yogurt for breakfast or a snack. Smoothies made with skim milk are delicious as well.

Protein is an easy group for people. Did you know you only need 6 ounces of protein a day? My suggestion is to turn to lean options like chicken breast, lean ground beef or turkey, and definitely fish! I also recommend eggs and plant protein (nuts, seeds, beans, etc.).

As for vegetables, aim to get 4-5 servings a day! Sometimes you just do not have the energy to cook a veggie at the end of the day so stock your freezer. Frozen veggies are as nutrient-rich as fresh and they last way longer! Keep salad greens on hand and veggies that last a while in the fridge like peppers and carrots.

Fruit is the dessert of food. You should try to consume 4-5 servings of fruit a day. Always have a fruit bowl near you—at work and home! Add fruit to your lunch or dinner salads and to your breakfast cereal.

The best way to assure you get the power of five in your day-to-day life is to go for combinations, like these in your meals:

  • Strawberry spinach salad
  • Tarragon chicken salad
  • 3-bean salad with kale
  • Fresh mozzarella and tomato salad
  • Healthier cobb salad
  • Blueberry overnight oats
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies
  • Hard- boiled egg
  • Berry and yogurt smoothie

And skip the candy bar or cookies for your snack! Look to the power of five. Here are more than a dozen options:

  • Mixed nuts
  • Trail mix
  • Edamame poppers
  • Hummus dippers
  • Greek yogurt and granola
  • Tuna and whole grain crackers
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Popcorn
  • String cheese
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Greek yogurt & berries
  • Dried fruit
  • Frozen watermelon kiwi or grapes
  • Melon kabobs
  • Cherry tomato & cheese kabobs
  • String cheese
  • Whole grain cereal dry

I hope these suggestions help you! The power of five is the best way to assure a balanced and healthy life!

 

 

The Difference between Insoluble and Soluble Fiber

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You’ve heard this from me before: EAT MORE FIBER!!! In fact, only 10 percent of Americans are consuming enough fiber every day. Fiber is absolutely essential in achieving a healthy, vibrant lifestyle. It aids in weight loss, helps lower cholesterol levels, and keeps your blood sugar levels stable.

The American Heart Association eating plan suggests eating 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.

In order to reap all of these benefits of fiber, it’s important that you consume both soluble and insoluble fiber.

When soluble fiber dissolves, it creates a gel that helps improve digestion. These fibers absorb water, increasing stool bulk, and lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Insoluble fiber helps soften the stool because it attracts water into your stool; this prevents constipation and keeps your intestines healthy.

The best types of soluble fiber are fruits like apples, grapefruits, and oranges, as well as beans, lentils, peas, oats, oat bran, and barley.

The best types of insoluble fiber include vegetables and whole grains like wheat, quinoa, stone ground cornmeal, bran, buckwheat, and brown rice.

So now you know what foods are great fiber choices. Here are some tips to get a fantastic amount of fiber in your body every day:

– Choose fruit for your snacks!

– Oatmeal for breakfast!

– Add a banana to your cereal

– Cook with brown rice instead of white rice.

– Always, always, use whole grain bread for sandwiches and toast.

– Add chickpeas, kidney beans, or black beans to your salad (one of the easiest salads every is a couple cups of mixed greens, a half-cup of black beans or kidney beans, a few tablespoons of salsa and a quarter cup of low-fat shredded cheddar cheese)

– Always have a vegetable with dinner—hey even sweet potatoes count for my “meat and potato” fans!

I hope I have inspired you to eat your fiber! Let me know any tips that have helped you!

By Kelly Springer RD, MS, CDN