Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

NIFS Nutrition: 8 Tips to Eat Smarter

eat_smartMany people don’t know where to start when eating healthier.  Here are eight tips to help you eating smarter.  You don’t need to do them all, but by incorporating just a couple of changes each week, you will find yourself on a path to better health in no time!

1. Snack Smarter

Start by changing the ‘snack ratio’ in the house.  Slowly and gradually have more fruits, veggies and baked snack foods around, rather than the typical, higher calorie, highly processed junk foods.  For instance, have at least three types of fruits and veggies (apples, carrots, grapes) on hand at all times to replace some of the cookies, ice cream or candy bars.  Don’t forget the almonds, nonfat Greek style yogurt and hummus too!

2. Get a “Hand”le on Portions

Develop a healthy habit of selecting sensible sized food portions.  If your plate has a serving of rice that can’t fit into the cupped palm of your hand, then in most cases, the amount of food you’ve chosen is too much.  Same goes for nuts, pretzels and pretty much any snack food.  Keep your plate full of fruits and veggies and limit the large portion sizes of meats, refined grains (like white rice, pasta and bread) and high fat dairy foods.  Check out choosemyplate.gov for a better understanding of portion sizes.

3. Slash Your Soda Intake

Try slowly weaning yourself off calorie-containing soft drinks.  The sugar and calories add up and can cause unnecessary weight gain.  Good alternatives include unsweetened iced tea or water.  If you like the carbonation, try using carbonated water (club soda or seltzer) mixed with ¼ cup 100% fruit juice.

4. Go Easy on the Sauces

Choose low fat and low sodium versions of your favorite condiments.  Ask to have your sauces and dressings served on the side.  This will save many calories since you will be in control of how much is consumed.  Usually more sauce is poured on than what is needed.  Dip your fork into the sauce or dressing, and then dip your fork into the food.  This will give you the flavor with every bite, but without the extra calories and fat!

5. Eat Breakfast

Eating breakfast is not the only tip, you must try to make it a good choice because it may establish your hormonal appetite regulation system for the day.  A donut or muffin with coffee may sound good, but it won’t tame your cravings or temper your appetite as much a s a protein-rich breakfast from eggs, egg whites, oatmeal with peanut butter, yogurt (especially Greek yogurt), cottage cheese with fruit or nut butters with a whole grain bread.  If you are eating cold cereal, look for brands that provide at least six grams protein per serving and 10 grams or less of sugar per serving.  Use skim or 1% milk to add additional protein.

6. Try Meatless Mondays

Or any day of the week really, but the point is to try to eat vegetarian one day a week to lower your animal protein consumption and increase your plant protein intake (beans, lentils, soy, tofu).  This will help to lower your cholesterol, increase your fiber intake, and is better for our ecosystem. 

7. Keep Variety in Check

The more variety of foods, flavors and textures you have to choose from the more likely you are to eat (think buffets).  So try to make a grocery list and stick to it, planning your meals and snacks everyday so you eliminate unnecessary food choices that may derail your diet. 

8. Make One Change at a Time

One way researchers suggest to conserve your daily willpower is to focus on only one positive diet behavior at a time, until that behavior becomes an automatic response.  If you try to do too much at once, or take your diet to the extreme, chances are you cannot stick with the routine long enough to provide lifelong changes in your health. Take is slow and steady and stay focused on your goal at hand!

Try a couple of these tips and find what works for you.  Small steps to a healthier lifestyle are key. What have you found works when maintaining a healthier diet? 

 

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Topics: healthy food choices healthy diet nifs nutrition news

NIFS Nutrition News: Six Foods to Increase Vitamin D in Your Diet

Are you struggling with the winter time blues? Is it cold and dark and dreary in your part of the country? When was the last time you felt and saw the sun? You could be lacking Vitamin D and this can lead to depression and a lower immunity to fight colds.  So, if you aren’t able to get your much needed 15 minutes of sunlight each day to acquire your body’s Vitamin D needs then here are some other ways to get it in until we have some sunshine in the spring!

    1. Fatty Fish – salmon, mackerel, canned tuna, and sardines.  3 oz of salmon provides 450 IU of ojandeggsVitamin D…almost all of the 600 IU that are recommended daily. The canned tuna and sardines are an inexpensive way to get in seafood, heart healthy omega 3’s and 150 IU of Vitamin D per serving. Another bonus is the long shelf life if you haven’t been to the grocery store to get fresh protein choices.
    2. Milk – Almost all cows’ milk in the US is fortified with Vitamin D.  A lot of other dairy products are too, but not ice cream or cheese.  Typically an 8 oz glass of milk has 100 IU’s of Vitamin D and most yogurt has around 80 IU for a 6 oz container.  If you are choosing soymilk or almond milk, most are fortified but check the labels to be sure.
    3. Fortified Orange Juice – If you aren’t a fan of milk or have lactose intolerance, 100% orange juice is an option.  Typically an 8 oz glass has the same amount of Vitamin D as a glass of milk (100 IU).  Just make sure you are buying the fortified kind!
    4. Egg Yolks – Eggs are a great way to get in Vitamin D.  However, you have to eat the whole egg and not just the whites to get the benefit.  One egg yolk has 40 IU’s. 
    5. Fortified Cereal – Another way to double up on Vitamin D is to choose a fortified cereal to have with your milk or glass of OJ at breakfast.  1 cup of Multi Grain Cheerios provides 90 IU’s of Vitamin D.  Add that with the milk and you are close to 200 IU’s!  Just be sure to choose cereals that are labeled fortified with Vitamin D.
    6. Supplements – If you still have trouble getting all of your Vitamin D needs met through food and the sun, an alternative is to take a supplement.  The upper limit dose for individuals over age 9 is 4000 IU per day.  Consuming more than this can lead to higher blood calcium levels and increased risk of kidney stones.  Always talk to your physician before starting a supplement.

Recent studies have found that nearly 3 out of 4 individuals have either a Vitamin D deficiency or borderline deficiency.  Most of this is due to the increase of being indoors compared to our parents and grandparents.  Longer work hours, longer commutes in a vehicle, and more screen time indoors definitely plays a part.  Get outside, incorporate more of the foods above, and chat with your doctor about supplementing.  All of this can mean a healthier immune system, stronger bones, and lower risk of some cancers. 

Follow us all month long via social media for tips from our registered dietitians using #NIFSNutrition!

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Topics: healthy food choices healthy diet nifs nutrition news

NIFS Nutrition News: Is It Possible to Do a “Safe” Juice Cleanse?

man using a juicerJuicing is the process of extracting juice from the flesh or the pulp of a fruit or vegetable. This technique has been used for hundreds of years as a way to maximize nutrient intake by drinking only the juice of various vegetables and fruits. I wanted to get the New Year off to a healthy start and reset my digestive system, so I researched how to complete a “safe” juice cleanse.

The idea of a juice cleanse is pretty simple: all meals and snacks are replaced with juices made from (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables for three to ten days. The main health advantage of a juice cleanse is based on the theory that our bodies are more efficient at metabolizing and excreting toxins when our digestive system is freed from the burden of digesting solid food.

Additional Benefits of Juicing

Here are some additional benefits of juicing:

  • It is an easy way to get your recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies.
  • Since your digestive system does not have to break down the pulp or flesh of the fruit or vegetables, your body rapidly absorbs the vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, enzymes, carbohydrates, chlorophyll, and phytonutrients. This is thought to boost your immune system and prevent disease.
  • Juicing experts believe these nutrients are better absorbed when separated from fiber (most juicers remove the pulp, aka fiber).  

Trying a Three-Day Juice Cleanse

After much research, I decided to try a three-day juice cleanse. It wasn’t the best three days of my life, but here are some of my observations:

  • There are many different juicing recipes to try, and most of them are pretty tasty!* (I discovered that lemon helps reduce the bitterness of dark, leafy greens like kale.)
  • After day two, my cravings for carbs/sweets were greatly reduced. (This was a nice surprise!)
  • Cleaning the produce and the juicer took a lot of work and time. (This got old very quickly as I am the mother of two small children and spend enough time preparing food and cleaning!)
  • My energy did increase, but the first day was rough…I was pretty hungry and grouchy.
  • After three days, I missed food, so I slowly added it back into my diet by eating meals that included whole fruits and veggies, lean protein, and some whole grains. My stomach would ache if I ate processed foods.
  • Even though weight loss was not my goal, I did lose several pounds of water weight. This was expected since our bodies require water to properly digest whole food; if you take away the whole food, your body doesn’t require as much water to complete the digestion process. This can translate to a drop on the scale. However, once you start eating whole food again, the water weight will come right back. (This is a major reason why weight loss should not be a main goal of a juice cleanse.
  • As a Registered Dietitian in corporate wellness, I would only recommend a juice cleanse for a maximum of three days as way to “jump start” habits of eating more whole foods and less processed items.

Disadvantages of Juice Cleanse

There are, however, disadvantages of juice cleanses. For example:

  • Juice cleanses that last longer than three days can cause extreme moodiness, irritability, depression, fatigue, constipation, constant/obsessive thoughts of food, and rebound overeating.
  • Individuals who take medication to regulate their blood sugar or blood pressure should be cautious and consult with their physician before beginning a juice cleanse. Blood sugar levels can quickly rise and fall when drinking juice, and a lack of solid food can cause low blood pressure, dizziness, or fainting.
  • Cleanses are strictly off limits to children or to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If your goal is to eat healthy, you don't need to juice as a way to cleanse or detox your body. Juicing can be an easy way to get in your greens (for instance, without having to eat fistfuls of kale), but juices should be used to complement a balanced diet that includes minimally processed foods, good-quality lean protein, and plenty of whole fruits and vegetables—which, ironically, are the real cleansers. The fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables act like a scrub brush for your digestive tract.

Juice Cleanses: Not a Long-Term Solution

Bottom line, although a juice cleanse could feel like a psychological jump-start to healthy eating, it is not a solution for long-term wellness. Simply put, being healthy is a lifestyle event, not a three- or ten-day adventure.

*Recipes were found on Reboot with Joe or in The Big Book of Juices by Natalie Savona.

Topics: nutrition weight loss antioxidants diet and nutrition energy level healthy diet juicing

NIFS Nutrition News: Beware of AdvoCare® Weight-Loss Supplements

food vs supplementThis time of year many people are looking to drop excess weight. In their desire to see rapid results, many start a supplement program such as AdvoCare®. I’m writing to warn individuals who may be interested in trying this particular program. First, I will describe the program before sharing my professional (and maybe blunt) opinion as a Registered Dietitian.

The AdvoCare® Weight-Loss Program

AdvoCare® offers a variety of supplements and weight-loss programs, with the 24-Day Challenge being the most popular program. The 24-Day Challenge is the most popular program because it supposedly helps people “get skinny” in just 24 days. The program consists of a 10-day “cleanse” phase followed by an additional 14 days of a “Max” phase. AdvoCare® advertisements claim that the supplements taken during the “cleanse” phase will rid your body of toxins and prepare your body to better absorb nutrients. These supplements include an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement and an energy drink. According to AdvoCare®, these supplements will help jump-start your weight-loss efforts by ridding your body of water weight.

The “Max” phase consists of a “metabolic nutrition system,” which claims to increase metabolism, control your appetite, and support core nutrition when the user consumes meal-replacement drinks and more energy drinks. Additionally, this phases includes a meal plan that emphasizes lean proteins (such as ground turkey and chicken breast), non-starchy vegetables (such as asparagus, broccoli, and tomatoes), and complex carbs (such as whole grains, oatmeal, and quinoa).

Why the AdvoCare® 24-Day Challenge Is Bad For You

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, let me break down the reasons why this particular AdvoCare® program should come with flashing signs that say “WARNING! DANGEROUS DIETARY HABITS AHEAD!”

  • The supplements included in the “cleanse” phase are quite simply glorified laxatives. Will this reduce your overall body weight? Sure…anything that purges your body of water will reduce your overall body weight. However, these supplements can create electrolyte imbalances within your body that can lead to serious complications, like a heart attack.
  • Any program that advocates the consumption of energy drinks should be considered potentially dangerous. The ingredients in energy drinks are NOT regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and contain artificial ingredients and stimulants. Last I checked, these particular foods are not considered to be a part of a “healthy” meal plan!
  • The meal plan in the “Max” phase claims to provide “core nutrition” without ever defining what this means. If you have to question the definition, it’s probably not a good idea.
  • The good thing about the meal is the emphasis on lean protein, complex carbs, and non-starchy vegetables. The bad thing about the meal plan is its lack of dairy and fruit, which fall far below the number of daily servings recommended by most nutrition professionals. No amount of supplements can replace the natural vitamins and nutrients you get from these foods.

Other Warning Signs About AdvoCare®

Those are my complaints as an RD; however, there are other warning signs that everyone should know. Numerous reports are popping up online in different forums warning other consumers about the safety of these supplements. People are reporting severe health complications such as gastric pains that require hospitalizations, organ failure, and adverse medication interactions. One of my own corporate wellness clients experienced a very serious medical scare while participating in the 24-Day Challenge. Not only did her blood pressure spike significantly during the program, but she also experienced kidney failure despite having no previous risk factors or pre-existing medical problems. Her doctor immediately told her to stop the supplements, and luckily her kidney function and blood-pressure levels were moving back toward normal after two weeks.

To be frank, I’m appalled that products like AdvoCare® are allowed to be sold in our country. It just demonstrates that although many supplements can benefit one’s health, they are not tested and regulated by the FDA.

I encourage anyone who wants to try AdvoCare® or a similar program to consider the warning signs of an unhealthy (and potentially dangerous) diet plan:

  1. If the claim of the program sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Supplements will NEVER replace the nutrient content of whole foods!
  3. Save your money and put it toward your grocery bill. Stock up on the healthy foods your body needs and you’ll be just fine.

The old-fashioned way of losing weight will never change: eat healthy and exercise. Simple, but true.

This blog was written by Laura Zavadil, RD, LDN

A message from the author.

Topics: nutrition weight loss diet and nutrition healthy diet supplements

NIFS Nutrition News: Pumpkin isn't just for pie

One of the most versatile and healthy foods out there also happens to be a favorite for most when decorating this time of year.  Pumpkins are not only something that can be used to spruce up your front porch in the fall but is also an excellent addition that should be incorporated into your daily eating routine!pumpkins

Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, which helps with vision.  The carotenoid, beta carotene, in pumpkins is converted to Vitamin A for even more eye protection! This antioxidant has also been found to have a role in cancer prevention.  It is also loaded with fiber (3 grams for 1 cup), which we know is excellent for heart health.   One final perk of pumpkin is the amount of potassium it contains.  Electrolytes, especially potassium, are important after a hard workout, and 1 cup of pumpkin provides more potassium than a banana (564 milligrams vs. 422 milligrams).

Try these recipes to obtain all of the health benefits that pumpkin has to offer!

Pumpkin Pie Dip

Ingredients:

1, 15 oz can of pumpkin
1, 5 oz box of instant vanilla pudding, just the powder
1, 16 oz container of low fat cool whip
1/2 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 Tbsp Cinnamon

Directions:

Mix pumpkin, pudding mix, cool whip, and pumpkin pie spice together by hand in a very large bowl and chill for several hours before serving.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve with fresh apples slices, vanilla wafers or ginger snaps.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 cup pumpkin (canned or freshly cooked)
1/2 frozen banana
3/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
pinch of ground ginger

Directions

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients

1lb ground beef
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling)
1 (15oz) can pinto beans, not drained
1 (15oz) can black beans, not drained
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes, not drained
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil

Instructions

In a large soup pot, brown ground beef with pepper, onion, and a drizzle of olive oil. As the meat and veggies are cooking, sprinkle over chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion, powder, and a healthy pinch of salt and pepper. When the meat is cooked through, and the veggies are tender, add pumpkin puree, undrained beans, and the tomatoes with their juice to the pan. Cover and simmer until ready to eat.

Pumpkin isn’t just for pie!  These recipes can be included anytime during the day. 

For more information on pumpkin or other super foods, please contact Angie Scheetz, RD at ascheetz@nifs.org or 317-274-3432 ext 239.

 

 

Topics: employee health active aging healthy diet nifs nutrition news angie scheetz