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Summer is often a time to relax and rejuvenate, but it can also feel just as hectic as the rest of the year. Between trips to the pool, sports games and camps, celebrations, vacations, school programs, and regular work, our daily schedules are about as unpredictable as they can be.
This unpredictability can present a challenge at meal time. It’s often easier to grab food on the road or rely on processed/packaged foods than it is to prepare healthy food at home. However, we can make healthy meals part of our summer experience without getting in the way of the fun.
Here are three easy ways to get the most nutritional benefit out of your summer meals.
In-season fruits and vegetables are your biggest nutrition allies during the summer months. Fresh produce is not only packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water, but most varieties also taste best at this time of year, which means that you don’t have to dress them up with a lot of extras!
Look for ways to use fruits and vegetables in snacks/appetizers, side dishes, and desserts, and season foods with fresh spices to add flavor without adding calories.
You can also give yourself an extra activity boost by growing and harvesting these foods from your own garden, or walk or bike to your local Farmers’ Market and pick out a variety of fresh produce each week.
Take advantage of nice weather to prepare your food on the grill. Grilling can be one of the quickest ways to prepare meals (you can even grill ahead of time and save food for later in the week), and it’s also a very healthy cooking method when you use proper techniques.
According to eatingwell.com, cooking meats at the high temperatures used when grilling, broiling, and frying creates compounds that are linked to some cancers. That said, there is no evidence that grilling causes cancer, and there are steps you can take to prevent the formation of these chemicals.
Make sure to keep your grill clean, trim excess fats from foods, and use marinades and rubs to act as a protective barrier against the high heat while adding some extra flavor.
Additionally, cook meat and fish to the right temperature while avoiding excessive charring. Food safety guidelines indicate that poultry should be heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, ground red meat and pork to 160, and red meat steaks or chops and fish to 145.
Traditional summer beverages including lemonade, smoothies, soda, beer, and other sugary alcoholic beverages can add a lot of extra calories and not much nutritional value to your meal (see our post on 5 Steps to a Healthy Margarita to learn how to make your favorite beverages healthier).
First and foremost, the beverage accompanying your meal should help keep you hydrated during warm weather. Your best options limit extra sugar and avoid the diuretic effects of alcohol and excessive caffeine.
Healthy examples of refreshing summer beverages include ice water, sparkling water, or unsweetened iced tea with lemon or lime. Low-fat milk, fruit spritzers (or watered down juices), and homemade, no-sugar added smoothies can also be great options.
Summer meals can be healthy, delicious, and easy and fun to prepare. Not only will you feel the added satisfaction of growing and/or preparing fresh foods, but your body will also thank you for limiting your intake of processed items.
Here’s one more bonus tip – take advantage of opportunities to slow down and create a more relaxed atmosphere during meal times. It might be tough in the midst of a busy schedule of activities, but taking your time will prevent overeating and help you enjoy the full flavor of the season.
What are some of your favorite, healthy summer recipes?
March is National Nutrition Month, and today is Registered Dietitian Day, which was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to increase the awareness of registered dietitians as indispensable providers of food and nutrition services and to recognize them for their commitment to helping people enjoy healthy lives.
To celebrate, Midtown Athletic Club in Rochester Nutritionist Sarah Guilbert is back to talk about how to properly fuel up for your workout, and what you should eat post-workout as well.
Pre-workout nutrition is important for ensuring that you have adequate energy stores (through carbohydrates) to fuel your workout. Consuming a moderate amount of protein before your workout is thought to increase muscle mass and strength performance.
Post-workout nutrition is important for repleting your carbohydrate stores (glycogen) in your muscles, repairing muscle damage, and helping to synthesize muscle mass through protein.
The number of carbohydrates that you’ll need will vary slightly depending on whether you are trying to lose/maintain weight (30g carbs/10-15g protein) or build more mass (40-50g carbs/15g protein). If you have a long workout day, try to get slightly higher carbohydrate repletion so that your glycogen stores are refueled optimally for the next workout.
Pre-workout snacks should be eaten 30-60 minutes before you begin exercising. Post-workout recovery eating is optimal within 30 minutes of exercise completion. Note that liquid nutrition will get into your muscles faster than solid food because solid food has to be broken down more and has a longer transit time through the GI tract.
Whey protein is quickly absorbed by muscles and has also been shown to have a greater effect on stimulating muscle protein synthesis than casein and soy. However, slower-absorbed proteins do have their benefits for providing repletion to muscles for a longer period of time after a workout.
Here are some appropriate pre- and post-workout snack options, whether you like to add protein to your shakes, have cottage cheese and fruit, or go old-school with skim milk and fruit smoothie. Try one and let us know what you think!
Strawberry protein shake
12 oz skim milk
1 cup strawberries
1 cup ice
177 calories, 13g protein, 30g carbs
Tropical fruit smoothie
4 oz vanilla non-fat Greek yogurt
1 cup mixed tropical fruit (frozen)
4 oz vanilla almond milk
½ cup ice
195 calories, 10g protein, 38g carbs
½ large banana
8 oz chocolate soymilk
1 T peanut butter
1 cup ice
276 calories, 10g protein, 38g carbs
Berry Vanilla Smoothie
¾ cup blueberries
¾ cup blackberries
4 oz light vanilla soymilk
½ scoop vanilla protein powder
1 cup ice
193 calories, 15g protein, 34g carbs
6 oz flavored fat-free Greek yogurt + ½ banana
201 calories, 15g protein, 36g carbs
6 oz vanilla yogurt + ¼ cup granola
228 calories, 11g protein, 39g carbs
4 oz 1% cottage cheese + 1 cup mango
187 calories, 15g protein, 32g carbs
1/4 cup egg whites + 2 slices toast
187 calories, 12g protein, 30g carbs
*The fat in peanut butter will delay gastric emptying and may cause GI distress if you have a sensitive stomach. This one is better to have post-workout.
Midtown Athletic Club in Rochester, NY Nutritionist Sarah Guilbert takes over the blog to talk about dietary changes you can make right now to improve not only your heart health, but also your overall quality of life as well.
Today is Go Red for Women day to promote women’s heart health. I have the pleasure of working in the Cardiac Care Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where I speak with patients about heart-healthy diet strategies after they have had a heart attack or other cardiac event.
Here are the dietary strategies I share with them. Please use them to make healthy food choices to protect your heart on Go Red for Women Day and every day.
Fruits and Vegetables: Produce has dietary fiber, which is important for lowering cholesterol levels. Those whose diets are rich in fruits and vegetables often have lower blood pressure. Try adding a cup of berries to your regular breakfast, or enjoy some raw veggies with hummus as a mid-afternoon snack.
Nuts: Studies have shown that nut consumption correlates with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Eat walnuts, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids (more on these next), pistachios, or almonds to keep your heart strong and healthy.
Salmon and Tuna: These two fish have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a type of essential fatty acid that have a number of health benefits, including reducing your risk of death from coronary artery disease, reducing inflammation, and potentially lowering your risk for chronic disease. Fish intake also correlates with lower risk for cardiovascular disease in general.
Total Fat: Keep your daily total fat intake within a moderate range, or within 25-35% of your daily calories. For a 1,500- calorie diet, this is approximately 40-to-60 grams of fat per day. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this is approximately 55-to-75 grams of fat per day.
Bad Fats: Keep saturated fat to <7% of your daily calories. Limiting fried foods, fatty cuts of meat, and added butter will help you reach this goal. Trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, should be limited to <1% of your calories, and ideally, you should consume foods with trans fats at all. Try to avoid margarine, commercial baked goods (like pies and cakes), and fried foods in order to limit your trans fats consumption.
Dietary Cholesterol: Limit the amount of cholesterol you eat because high levels of cholesterol consumption correlates with higher levels of LDL cholesterol in plasma. Stick to less than 200-to-300 milligrams per day. Limit consumption of egg yolks to four per week, avoid fatty meat products, and limit shellfish consumption to better manage your cholesterol intake.
Sodium: Too much dietary sodium can raise blood pressure and cause the heart to work harder. Limit your intake to <2,000 milligrams per day. 1,500 milligrams per day or less is ideal. Also, avoid these high sodium foods: canned items (especially soups and sauces), prepared foods/restaurant food, frozen dinners, snack items (chips, crackers, popcorn), condiments and sauces, deli meat (especially ham), and cheese.
Heart disease takes the lives of 1 in 3 women each year. According to the American Heart Association, studies show that healthy choices have resulted in 330 fewer women dying from heart disease per day. Make these changes to your diet, exercise regularly, and you’ll place yourself on the right track to a long and healthy life.
For even more ways you can protect your heart, check out these tips.
What do you do to keep your heart healthy and strong?
College students have plenty to worry about these days, with finding a job in a tough economy topping the list. Between the job search, studying, campus activities, and time spent “living the college life,” it’s easy to put your health on the back burner.
And that’s okay, right? I mean, you’re young, and your body can handle the stress of too little sleep and exercise, and too much unhealthy food…
Or can it?
In truth, it’s only a matter of time before the poor health choices you make as a young adult catch up with you. Your health is no one’s responsibility but your own and maintaining it takes constant effort. Learn that lesson now and you will set yourself up for success in the years to come.
Here are 3 of the most common health mistakes college students make and how you can avoid them:
Eating Too Much Junk Food: Dorm cafeterias put soft-serve ice cream machines and waffle makers at your finger tips, and campus convenience stores provide all of the salty snacks and sugary sodas you could ever want to propel yourself through late night study sessions. Add in a few midnight pizza runs and party binges and you’ve created quite a mess for your body to clean up.
In fact, according to teenshealth.org, studies have shown that snacking between 8PM and 4AM is a leading contributor to weight gain.
Avoid It: Eat at regular times without skipping meals and incorporate plenty of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Pay attention to portion sizes and nutrition labels (many dorm menus provide them) and limit your intake of high-calorie foods, including alcohol.
If you are up late, fuel your food cravings with lower calorie fruits, vegetables, or sugar-free drinks. Your body will thank you for it!
Not Exercising Enough: Without high school sports or gym class programmed into your daily schedule, many college students let exercise fall by the wayside. Combining lower activity levels with increased caloric intake makes putting on the “freshman 15″ a real possibility.
Avoid It: Take at least 30 minutes every day to do something active, such as walking, jogging, swimming, taking a group exercise class or working out at the campus gym. Also get up and stretch or walk around if you catch yourself sitting for an extended period of time.
Researchers have found that students who exercise at least 3 days a week are more likely to report better physical health, as well as greater happiness, than those who do not exercise. Students who stay active are also more likely to report using their time productively. If just a little bit of exercise can help boost your health and your grades, it sounds like a no-brainer.
Sleeping Too Little (and No, Naps Don’t Count): From studying and other school-related activities to social outings and noisy roommates, it’s hard to avoid poor nights of sleep in college. Among other consequences, a lack of quality sleep can lead to increased stress levels and weight gain.
Avoid It: Do the best you can to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Don’t rely on naps or power 10+ hour sleep sessions to catch up on missed sleep. Finally, avoid caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime, as well as other stimulating activities such as exercise, TV, texting and Facebook.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself this school year is to keep your health on track. If your health is not already a priority, begin introducing positive changes slowly and build healthy habits now. You’ve got a lot of off-campus years ahead of you, and it’s up to you to make sure that you will be healthy enough to enjoy them.
What are your tips to help stay healthy on campus?
If you spent the weeks leading up to the summer season getting “swimsuit-ready” only to realize that mid-way through the summer, you’ve put on a few pounds, you’re not alone. Experts agree that summer weight gain is common among both adults and children.
Check out some easy ways to avoid the pitfalls, so you can stay healthy, fit, and ready to put on those skinny jeans this fall.
1. Plan Meals and Snacks.
Summer’s laid-back feel and variable schedule can derail your motivation and ability to plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks. However, maintaining a healthy menu and eating schedule over the summer is key to controlling your weight.
Schedule time during your day to shop for and prepare healthy foods. This might actually help you feel less stressed, because both your mind and body will appreciate a nutritious energy boost.
2. Watch What You Eat at Summer Parties.
From your son’s graduation celebration, to your cousin’s wedding, to the family backyard BBQ, summer calendars are packed with events that include an unlimited amount of fatty, sugary foods.
To avoid overindulging, focus on catching up with family and friends. Don’t overload your plate, and avoid going back for seconds and thirds. You will have more time for conversation and ready to take on the next activity!
3. Limit Summer Treats.
It’s perfectly healthy to enjoy an ice cream cone once a week, but if that cone is accompanied by a frappuccino here and a margarita there (even one made from our healthy recipe), the extra calories can add up quickly. Less obvious, or seemingly “healthier” options, such as frozen yogurt, lemonade or Gatorade, and light beer, can also lead to weight gain.
With a little willpower and planning, you can decide for yourself when it’s okay to enjoy a refreshing summer treat, and when to say, “I’ll try it next time!”
4. Maintain Your Exercise Routine.
When regular schedules are thrown out of the window, as they often are during the summer, it’s easy to let your daily trip to the gym fall by the wayside. Staying active with regular exercise will ward off extra pounds and preserve your fitness.
Summer is a great time to enjoy a wide variety of fitness activities – from the pool, tennis court, and golf course, to regular classes and exercise equipment at the gym. The bonus? You can do many of these activities with friends and family who need to exercise too!
5. Have a Goal.
Spending the hot summer months inside a cool, air-conditioned house, moving from the couch to the computer with stops at the fridge in between is a quick way to gain weight. Avoid falling into this rut by aiming for specific goals.
Combine physical goals, such as training for a summer 5K or learning a new sport, with activity-based goals, such as volunteering, working a summer job, or taking a class. Keeping goals in mind may just be the motivation you need to stay energized, healthy, and slim this season.
What strategies keep you and your family healthy over the summer?
A recent study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that although junk food was found to be cheaper per calorie, healthy foods (foods from specific food groups whose nutritional values fell below a maximum amount of saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium) were cheaper by portion size and weight. In other words, it costs less to put healthy food on your plate than junk food when you adhere to serving sizes.
Here’s an example. According to this Mark Bittman column, four “complete” meals from the leading fast food restaurant cost just under $30. But you can easily feed four-to-six people with a roast chicken, vegetables, salad, and milk for under $14. Choose a meal of rice and beans instead, and your total bill goes down about $5 more.
You might think, “that’s all well and good, but it still feels like junk food is cheaper and easier to put on the table. Why is that, and what can I do about it?”. In a country whose obesity-related medical expenses already cost $147 billion per year, that is one of the billion dollar questions.
The answer is complex. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless.
Here are some steps we can take now to curb the ever-widening effects of our “junk food” culture:
Ignore Manipulative Food Marketing: Fast food companies alone spent $4.2 billion on marketing in 2009, and the Food and Beverage industry as a whole has done a pretty good job convincing consumers that the foods they sell are cheap, convenient, and tasty.
It’s important to recognize that the tactics used are just that – ways of enticing you to buy products. Their bottom line doesn’t care if you enjoyed your burger after you bought it, or if it caused you to gain weight. But, your body cares, and who would you rather listen to?
Banish the Fast-Food Habit: Sixty years ago food was less plentiful and more expensive than it is today. Now, in part because of the overabundance of food, Americans dine out about five times per week. We have to reverse this trend. Our bodies do not need large portions of oil-saturated foods, a staple in many fast food restaurants.
We can also get more comfortable saying “no” to our kids, who sadly, are unfair targets of manipulative marketing. We need to show them that grilled chicken and potatoes can taste just as good as chicken nuggets and fries.
Know Your Options: Healthy food can be cheap and convenient too; it just takes a little more knowledge and forethought than ordering a Value Meal. The cost of organic produce and $5 loaves of hearty whole-grain bread (vs. $2 white loaves) can be discouraging, but buying store brands and in-season produce, and taking advantage of coupons and sales can help keep costs low.
Embrace substitutions. Less expensive, conventionally grown foods can still be healthy, and brown rice is an alternative whole grain that costs under $1 per bag. Take 10 minutes to plan your trip to the store, and you can be in and out in less time than it would take for you to wait in a drive-thru line. Plus, you’ll have a smaller tab!
Get Cooking: Americans are watching more cooking shows, but spending less time in the kitchen. What’s wrong with this picture? There is a misconception that cooking takes lots of time and skill. Stock “staple” items, such as rice and beans, chicken breasts (which freeze well), and spices. Also, invest in a good knife and large cutting board, and use the Internet to find healthy and easy recipes you can prepare in 15-minutes or less.
If you have time to watch your favorite TV show, you have 15 minutes to prepare dinner for your family. Try it for a month and see if your bills and your belt stay a little tighter.
We don’t like to hear that healthy food is cheaper than junk food because it gives us one less excuse to eat junk. While it’s easy to go out and eat 5,000+ calories a day, our bodies simply can’t handle that lifestyle, even with exercise. Our choices impact the quality of our lives, and it’s up to us to embrace a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t include junk food products.
Do you think it’s possible to eat healthy on a budget? What challenges have you faced in providing healthy meals for your family, and how have you overcome them?
As the obesity epidemic grows in scope, so too does the “blame game.” Lack of exercise, over-consumption of food, sedentary work environments, lifestyle choices, biological predispositions, genes…the list of possible culprits for America’s fatness goes on.
Fast food is a common target. Earlier this month, an advocacy group launched a campaign petitioning 26 hospitals across the country to remove a major fast food restaurant from their cafeterias with the aim of sending a “better message” to consumers.
Some of the reasoning behind the group’s initiative comes from a 2006 study published in the journal Pediatrics that concluded that allowing fast food centers to operate in hospitals not only affects guests’ consumption of fast food on the day of their visit, but also unintentionally boosts the perception of the “healthfulness” of fast food in general. Here’s more research that supports the initiative:
So being near to fast food increases the likelihood of obesity, but will removing fast food from hospitals (and other institutions and neighborhoods) help solve the problem?
Blaming fast food restaurants for obesity can place us on a slippery slope. Should we remove buses from our streets to force people to choose the less convenient, but “healthier” walking or biking options? After all, sitting for long periods of time is correlated with obesity, and most adults do not get the recommended level of exercise.
Similarly, while we should limit consumption of fast food, we can’t eliminate it from the American diet as long as there is a demand for convenient, inexpensive, and (arguably) tasty food. We need to improve health through education and develop incentives that encourage healthy lifestyle decisions, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Perhaps a partnership between hospitals and Weight Watchers (or other proven commercial weight loss programs), or the establishment of walking groups or active events within hospital walls, could promote lasting change.
We won’t make any progress in the fight against obesity by playing the blame game at the expense of taking responsibility for our health into our own hands.
What do you think? Will restricting fast food lead to a decrease in obesity? How can we as individuals, families, and institutions promote a healthier America?
March is National Nutrition Month, and this year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is urging Americans to “Get Your Plate In Shape.” With the help of the “My Plate” model, which replaced the Food Pyramid in June 2011, the experts are giving us a reminder of the healthy nutrition goals we have heard before:
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