How to Get Enough Fiber: An Important Nutrient for Health

fiber how to get enough

Fiber does a lot for your health. If you are skipping this key nutrient, then you are missing out on a lot of potential health benefits. People that eat more fibrous foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lentils are statistically healthier. And, the impact is not just on the digestive tract. Sure, it can relieve constipation. It also helps with a digestive tract condition called diverticulosis. But, beyond the gastrointestinal tract, it affects cancer risk, immunity, and helps stabilize blood and cholesterol levels. And, it even helps with weight loss. As fiber rich foods are a key source of phytochemicals and anti-oxidants, they are important in fighting inflammation in the body. With so many health benefits, let’s check out how much we need and how to get enough. Once you know how much to eat and where to find it, you can reap the health benefits.

Requirements

Requirements vary by gender and age. Adult women up to 50 years of age need 25 grams. After 50 years of age, requirements decrease to 21 grams. Adult men up to 50 years of age need 38 grams. After 50 years of age, requirements decrease to 30 grams. And, what about eating more than the requirement? You should be aware that excessive fiber intake beyond these recommendations may actually be harmful for some. Too much dietary fiber limits absorption of: iron, zinc, and calcium.

Impact on health

fiber impact on healthConstipation

Fiber help moves your food through your digestive tract by softening the stool. Some types of fiber swell (soluble) when exposed to water. In the digestive tract, this causes your bowel movements to soften, easing the constipation. Other types of fiber that are coarser (insoluble) will stimulate the colon to make mucous and water, which also enlarges and softens the stool.

Gut bacteria

Fibrous foods are a source of prebiotics for your gut bacteria. Prebiotics are essentially the food or fuel for gut bacteria. It’s important to feed your gut bacteria because a healthy balance of bacteria has the potential to have a huge impact on your overall health. While researchers have known for some time that the mix of gut bacteria can affect our digestion and immunity, it’s becoming apparent that there’s more to it. In fact, gut bacteria may affect metabolism, heart disease, and even mood.

Diverticulosis

If you have this condition, then you have pouches known as diverticula that balloon out from the colon wall (see photo below). This should not be confused with diverticulitis, which is the same pouches that are inflamed or infected.

diverticulosis and fiber benefitWhen you eat enough fiber, it pushes on the muscular colon from the inside out. The pushing outwards of the colon wall will eliminate or shrink the pouches, and reduce the diverticulosis. As the pouches lessen or decrease in size, there is less likelihood of inflammation or infection occurring. And, random food particles from corn, nuts, and seeds will not readily lodge themselves in the colon as these pouches shrink. Think of the fibrous foods as free weights for your colon! The colon is a muscle, and the fiber will work it and push it outward.

Cancer and fiber

There is a decrease in colon cancer risk as dietary fiber consumption increases. Fibrous foods may protect against certain cancers by binding, diluting, or removing cancer causing agents from the body.  As fiber speeds up the time it takes food to move through the digestive tract, cancer causing agents that might be in our food are removed more quickly from the body. This decreases the amount of time a cancer causing agent is in contact with the body, and reduces cancer risk. Alternatively, the abundant phytochemicals found in fibrous foods may be protective from cancer. These phytochemicals may also decrease inflammation, which is thought to be the root of all diseases and even the aging process.

Blood sugar

It’s well known that fiber can affect blood sugar levels and have a positive impact on diabetes management. When low fiber foods are eaten, blood sugar levels rise rapidly. When high fiber foods are eaten, blood sugar levels rise much slower. For instance, eating a piece of low fiber white bread would cause a sharper spike in blood sugar than eating a slice of high fiber whole grain bread.

Blood cholesterol

Fiber can almost act like a sponge when it comes to blood cholesterol levels. It can bind to cholesterol and bile acids, which are made from cholesterol. By binding to both, they are removed from the body in your poop! This makes the body resort to using the cholesterol from the blood to make more bile acids. In doing so, blood cholesterol levels are automatically lowered as they are used up to produce more bile.

Weight control

Who doesn’t want to lose weight and feel full? That’s what fiber helps with. The actual fiber in food passes through your digestive tract and is excreted. It contains no calories. The calories in fibrous foods, such as apples, come only from the natural carbohydrates in the apple. But, that calorie free fiber does make one feel full. And, remember, blood sugar levels will stay elevated for a longer time period. Hunger kicks in when blood sugar levels drop, so by keeping your blood sugar elevated for a longer time period you’ll feel less hungry. Less hunger can mean better weight control!

fruits and vegetables for fiber

How to get enough fiber with fruits and vegetables (3 or more grams per serving)

  • raspberries, 1 cup has 8
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils have 8
  • blackberries, 1 cup has 7.6
  • black beans, 1/2 cup has 7
  • pear, one medium whole has 6
  • garbanzo beans, 1/2 cup have 6
  • 3 oz. of avocado have 5.7
  • baked beans, 1/2 cup has 5.5
  • 1 apple, medium whole has 5
  • hummus, 2 Tbsp. have 3.7
  • blueberries, 1 cup has 3.6
  • carrots, 1 cup chopped has 3.6
  • banana, medium has 3
  • celery, 3 stalks have 3

How to get enough fiber with whole grains (3 or more grams per serving)

  • Awake High Fiber Bran Buds, 1/2 cup has 17
  • Kashi Golean Cereal, 1.2 cup has 13
  • All Bran, 1/2 cup has 12
  • Ezekiel Cereal, 1/2 cup has 6
  • Shredded Wheat, 1 cup has 5
  • Flax Plus, 0.8 cup has 5
  • Natural Ovens, Everything Bagel, 1 Bagel has 5
  • Orowheat High Fiber bread, 1 slice has 5
  • Natural Ovens, Whole Grain bread, 1 slice has 4
  • Oatmeal, 1 cup has 4
  • Barley, cooked, 1/2 cup has 3
  • Wild Rice, cooked, 1 cup has 3
  • Cheerios, 1 cup has 3

How to get enough fiber from a breakfast bar (3 or more grams per bar)

These products do not have the nutritional quality of the above list, but they can be used to fill in as needed. If you are going to indulge in a breakfast bar or snack bar, I always say get some important nutrients while indulging. I’ve even used some of the sweeter bars as a dessert!

  • Quest Bar has 17
  • Fiber Love Bar has 12
  • Fiber Plus Protein Bar, Kellogg’s has 7
  • Cliff Luna Bar Peanut Butter Strawberry has 7
  • Isagenix Fiber Snack Bar has 6
  • Meleluca Bar has 6
  • Fiber One Bars, all varieties have 5
  • Fiber Now Bar, Millville has 5
  • Advocare Bar has 5
  • Meta Health Bar has 4
  • Special K Fiber Bar has 3

Easy ways to improve your fiber intake

Consider focusing on a plant based diet. Emphasizing more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will automatically improve your fiber intake. Keep in mind there is absolutely no fiber in meat or pure fat (sorry keto diet fans). Use lentils on salad and in soups. Mix vegetables into noodle dishes. Add grains like oats into recipes such as meatloaf. And, consider making your own smoothies.

Adjusting to increased fiber

Go slowly when you start adding fiber to your diet. It can take some time for your gut to adjust and you may feel gassy at first. If a particular food seems to cause a lot of gas, move on to another food with fiber. All foods will not cause the same amount of gas in all people. You need to experiment to find the best foods for your gut. Lastly, be sure that as you increase your fiber you also increase your fluid intake at the same time. This will keep your food moving nicely through your digestive tract!

Take away messages

Skipping this key nutrient will have a negative impact on your health. For gut health, it reduces constipation and diverticulosis. It also feeds your gut bacteria which can impact your overall health. It’s able to help regulate both your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. And, for many, it’s a perfect tool for weight loss. The fiber helps fill you up, providing that full feeling to help manage your appetite.

Anyone have any great high fiber recipes to share? I’d love to add to this post.

Nutrition for Aging Eyes: How to Eat to Preserve Vision

nutrition for aging eyesOh, the aging process! It comes with so many challenges in terms of health. Aches and pains are only a few of the issues. For Americans aged 40 years and older, eyesight can be jeopardized in a variety of ways. Common eyesight disorders related to aging include: age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and glaucoma. Despite being unable to reverse the aging process, there is good news in that better nutrition can help our aging eyes. Since our diet is highly modifiable, adapting good nutrition strategies is pretty easy once you know what to eat to preserve your vision.

Nutrition for aging eyes should include tons of green foods

color it green for healthy eyes

Green foods are rich sources of plant chemicals called lutein and zeaxanthin. These plant chemicals actually protect plants from diseases. But, when we eat those same chemicals, we are also able to gain some protection as well. Lutein and zeaxanthin are anti-oxidants that filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light. Common sources of blue light include sunlight, fluorescent light, and LED televisions. Blue light exposure also comes from our electronic toys-smart phones, computer monitors, and tablets.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are very unique in that they actually accumulate in the human retina. Our body cannot make these compounds, so we must eat them. There is mounting evidence that these antioxidants help protect against both macular degeneration and cataracts.

Key food sources for these plant chemicals are just about any green leafy vegetable. These green leafy vegetables are also recommended by the Glaucoma Research Foundation to reduce glaucoma risk. Topping the list are spinach and kale (recipe). But, if you are not a fan of those two vegetables, pick any green vegetable and you will be upping the odds of getting this protective nutrient into your body and then to your eyes. Egg yolk is a non-vegetarian source of both lutein and zeaxanthin.

On the topic of green foods

While you’re thinking about green foods, drink some green tea too. Green tea is an excellent source of compounds called catechins. In particular, it’s loaded with a specific catechin called EGCG. This catechin is showing promise in protecting from corneal ulcers, but needs more research. Catechins can also function as antioxidants. With glaucoma, oxidative stress is associated with damage to the optic nerve. Ingesting antioxidants to counter that oxidative stress would be helpful in preventing further injury.

Nutrition for aging eyes should include orange foods

Orange colored foods are a rich source of beta-carotene. Your body converts beta-carotene to the active form of vitamin A after it is eaten. Vitamin A helps prevent dry eyes and night blindness. Both beta carotene and vitamin A reduce eye infections.

Pretty much all orange colored foods are rich in beta-carotene. Think pumpkin (healthy pumpkin pie recipe), squash, sweet potatoes, yams, cantaloupe, carrots, apricots, and mangoes. There’s something for everyone’s taste! And, if you follow the guideline to “go green,” note that many green foods are actually orange underneath all that green chlorophyll. So going green is also going orange. You can also get vitamin A from milk, eggs, liver, and cod liver oil.

Get enough vitamin C

citrus fruits for beautyVitamin C is a key dietary antioxidant for our eyes and seems to protect against both cataracts and macular degeneration. Some good news is vitamin C is in all fruits and vegetables. So, if you don’t like citrus foods, then you don’t need to eat them. By following the “go green” recommendation and also eating orange foods, you’ll easily meet your vitamin C requirements.

Get enough zinc

Zinc is a mineral that activates enzymes in the body and plays a key role in helping to produce the active form of vitamin A in our visual pigment. Zinc concentrates in the eye just like lutein and zeaxanthin. Poor night vision and cataracts are linked to zinc deficiency. As the body does not produce zinc, it must come from food or supplements.

The landmark Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) showed that people at high risk for age related macular degeneration could slow the progression of advanced disease by 25% and visual acuity loss by 19% by taking very large amounts of zinc (40-180 mg/day). These amounts are much higher than the recommended amount of 8-11 mg/day for women and men respectively. Your eye care specialist should prescribe the higher dosages only as part of a treatment plan. High dosages of zinc can upset the stomach and interefere with copper and iron absoption. Food sources of zinc include animal protein, shellfish, dairy products, and enriched cereal.

Get enough vitamin E

Vitamin E is an strong antioxidant that is a key player in reducing the risk for cataracts and macular degeneration. When the lens of the eye oxidize in response to the UV rays of sunlight, cataracts form. The role of vitamin E in the diet would be to counter that oxidation. Vitamin E in conjunction with zinc, vitamin C, and beta-carotene were found to lower risk of age related macular degeneration in the landmark AREDS study noted above. Research has not supported any significant benefit of vitamin E to date for glaucoma.

Fatty foods like oils, seeds, nuts, and wheat germ are good sources of vitamin E. However, high frying temperatures or extreme processing destroy vitamin E. Work around this problem by eating more unprocessed sources of oil and fat (salad oils, nuts, seeds) and you’ll be more likely to meet your vitamin E requirements.

Strong bones may mean healthy eyes

Osteoporosis linked to macular degenerationThere has been speculation that vitamin D status may be related to risk of macular degeneration. It appears that there are conflicting scientific opinions on the role, if any, vitamin D plays in protecting from macular degeneration. However, there does seem to be a strong association between osteoporosis in women and age related macular degeneration. As vitamin D is a key player for strong bones and prevention of osteoporosis, I guess the verdict is not in on this nutrient as it relates to eye health.

Osteoporosis prevention can include lifestyle and diet strategies such as:

  • getting adequate calcium
  • meeting vitamin D requirements
  • getting adequate vitamin C
  • eating adequate vitamin A (orange foods)
  • consuming vitamin K rich vegetables (green foods)
  • eating the correct amount of protein, not too much OR too little
  • limiting dietary sodium
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • smoking avoidance
  • being physically active

Strengthen your gut health when thinking about nutrition for aging eyes

New evidence supports that our gut bacteria also play a role in preventing macular degeneration. Every day we hear about how important our gut health is to overall health, and here is yet another example. Gut health is always improved when the diet is nutrient dense and those bacteria in your gut are fed healthy prebiotics. Prebiotic rich foods are the fuel for your gut bacteria. Fruits and vegetables are a typically some of the best prebiotic foods you can feed those gut bacteria. By “going green” and adding orange foods to your diet you will be feeding your gut bacteria a healthy diet.

Decrease your sodium

decrease sodium or saltLastly, you’ve always heard you should watch your sodium. This is a good recommendation for not just blood pressure, but your eye health as well. Health care providers know that too much salt or sodium can increase blood pressure. This may lead to increased intraocular pressure in the eyes which can worsen glaucoma. Excessive sodium may also be a risk factor for cataract formation. Eat more fresh, unprocessed foods at home (vs. in a restaurant) to easily lower your sodium intake.

A few words about omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil

Research has not supported a clear preventative effect of these fats for cataracts, macular degeneration, or glaucoma. But, there was high hope that these fats could  improve a common condition called dry eye syndrome. The syndrome is so common, that one 2017 reference states that 25% of visits to eye care providers is for dry eye disease. Unfortunately, a 2018 NIH study did not support this line of thinking. So, while these fatty acids cannot currently be recommended for dry eye, they are important to overall health. In fact, most Americans have too low of an intake of these fatty acids, so sound nutrition strategies would suggest getting these fats into the diet regardless of the impact on your eyes. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish, flaxseed, chia seed, and walnuts.

A word on eye supplements

Although food is your best source of lutein and zeaxanthin, supplements are widely available. The American Optometric Association suggests a supplement with 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin. While there is no recommended intake for lutein and zeaxanthin, a supplement could be a good safeguard for those that aren’t consistently eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and/or are at risk for eye disease. Take supplements with a little bit of dietary fat to increase absorption.

Key points on nutrition for aging eyes

nutrition for aging eyesYou can eat better today, for healthier vision in the future. Adequate nutrition for aging eyes includes plenty of green food and even green tea. Add plenty of orange foods, which are secretly green as well, and you are off to a good start. All those green and orange foods will also give you plenty of vitamin C. Make sure you are eating enough zinc by eating some good quality protein from meat, poultry, or dairy foods. Keep your food sources of vitamin E unprocessed and watch your sodium consumption. Make sure you strengthen your gut bacteria with plenty of fiber rich fruits and vegetables of all colors. And, remember that your bone health may be tied to your visual future. Eat right and stay active to keep your bones strong so you have a “clearer” future.

Please share this post if you found it enlightening. And, please share your comments.

 

 

Baked Beef Stew: A Perfect “Halloween” One Pot Meal

halloween baked beef stewThis one pot beef baked stew was always fondly referred to as “Halloween Stew” by my kids because year after year I made this for my children to enjoy after trick or treating. You can prep this ahead of time, even the day before Halloween. Head out to trick or treat for up to 3 hours while it bakes. And then, return for a yummy and nutritious one pot comfort meal. It was always a pleasure, after a raw and windy October Halloween, to come home to this nutritious and already cooked one pot meal. It is comfort food at its best, and can be enjoyed throughout the crisp fall and winter days ahead. Enjoy this baked beef stew recipe as a “prep ahead” comfort food on Halloween and all year for that matter.

baked beef stew ready to pop in the oven.

Baked beef stew ready to pop in the oven.

"Halloween" Beef Baked Stew

Comfort food at its best!
Cook Time3 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 10
Calories: 200kcal

Equipment

  • Oven

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds lean beef (sirloin works well)
  • 20 oz. can of tomatoes with liquid
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in hot water
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 large onion
  • 8 carrots, cut up
  • 3 celery stalks, cut up
  • 4 large potatoes, cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 1 small package frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup tapioca

Instructions

  • Take the lean beef and cut into 1 inch cubes. Spray a large corning ware dish and the inside lid with a spray such as PAM. Place the cut up beef in the bottom of the corning ware.
  • Lay all the vegetables (except the peas) on top of the meat.
  • Pour the tomatoes, wine, bouillon cubs (dissolved in 1/2 cup water) and tapioca over all.
  • Bake for 3 hours, covered, in a 325° oven. Sprinkle the frozen peas on top fifteen minutes before the stew is done cooking.

Notes

NUTRITION INFORMATION:
1/10 of this recipe is about 200 calories; 12 g protein, 5 g fat, 25 g carbohydrate
 

one pot baked beef stew

Now served-delicious beef baked stew

This dinner has protein and vegetables in one dish. Serve with a healthy beverage (or wine if you are the parent). Add a serving of fruit or a green salad, and this becomes a very nutritious dinner so you don’t need to feel guilty with the candy treats that will follow.

An elderly aunt passed this family recipe on to family members. Now my adult children also make this stew on Halloween for my grandchildren. My adult kids have those fond memories of this comfort food and are sharing with the next generation. That’s comforting to me, and a new type of “comfort” food!

I hope your family enjoys it as much as my family has.

Tips for Healthy College Eating: From a New Grad

Written by Tess O’Brien and Edited by Sue Rose, MS, RD, LDN
hleathy college eating tips

Now that you’ve been in college for a few months, you may find it challenging to eat healthy. Based on my experience, I often blamed my irregular schedule, super-tight budget, lack of sleep, and insubstantial meal plan. Adjusting to the college lifestyle is not easy and it may seem that weight gain or “malnutrition” are inevitable. However, utilizing tips for healthy college eating will help you be mindful in seeking healthier, accessible options on campus.

The first few years: on-campus living and dining hall tips

During your first year at college, you may be living in a 130-square foot dorm room that doesn’t provide you with many options for food storage. It is also common for 1st year and on-campus students to depend on a meal plan that is strictly valid for dining halls which are not typically recognized for providing nutritious options. Thus, the first year or two of college are probably the most difficult time to achieve a healthy eating routine, let alone adjust to a new style of eating altogether. Here are some personal tips for healthy college eating that helped me during the initial years spent eating dorm food.

My personal tips for healthy college eating as you begin college

  • Keep a loaf of whole grain bread in your dorm. Buy spreads that don’t have to be refrigerated – like peanut or almond butter!
  • Drink plant-based milk! Milk alternatives such as almond milk can be purchased in single servings. No refrigeration is necessary until the seal is broken.
  • Store canned goods anywhere there’s space. Get creative and don’t forget the can opener!
  • Enjoy a sweet potato by poking holes in the skin with a fork, microwaving for 5-6 minutes, and topping with black beans or salsa!
  • Cold cereals and oats can be stored in a dry environment and last for a long time. These staples are good sources of iron and fiber, both needed by college aged students to stay healthy!
  • Microwave ½ a cup of oats and 1 cup of almond milk. Add a tablespoon of your favorite nut butter.
  • Buy apples that can be used for a grab-and-go snack.
  • Buy bananas in a variety of stages of ripeness and enjoy throughout the week.
  • Purchase nuts in bulk and enjoy for an easy late night snack. Raw unprocessed nuts are the most nutritious.
  • Pack your mini fridge full of fruits and vegetables!
  • Buy green or herbal tea bags and microwave water as the boiling/heating method.
  • Most dining halls provide a salad bar, so utilize it and add as much color to your plate as possible. Color is key to a healthier diet.
  • Skip the heavier salad dressings. Instead, opt for a more vinegar-based dressing such as red wine vinegar mixed with a small amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Add beans (kidney or black) or chickpeas to your salad as a source of protein rich fiber.
  • Carry a water bottle around campus. Fill it up at the dining hall to prevent drinking sugar and calorie laden beverages.
  • Don’t get carried away by the endless dining hall options. Portion control is key in preventing over-eating.

The last few years: off campus living and apartment eating tips

healthy college eating tips

You are now living on your own and don’t have to depend on a meal plan or limiting yourself to a mini fridge for perishables. For some of you, retreating from your meal plan may be a relief. You are now free to expand your food options from outside of a dining hall. However, some of you may be uncertain on how to provide yourself with nutritious choices while dealing with a tight financial budget and time constraints. Personally, I was excited to move out of my dorm room and be in charge of my food options. However, I was a non-working, full-time student so I utilized these tips for healthy college eating that worked with my restrictive budget and schedule.

My personal tips for healthy college eating off campus

  • Find restaurants/stores that offer healthy options and student discounts. For example, Sweet Tomatoes gives students 10% off everything you can pack into your bowl at their salad bar!
  • Skip the dairy in your daily coffee and opt for a dairy-free option (almond, oat, coconut, soy). Tip: If there is a Whole Foods near you they don’t charge extra for dairy-free options!
  • At the grocery store, buy foods that can be prepared quickly and taken on the go (oatmeal, pre-made salads and wraps).
  •  I ate a lot of canned soups while in college. My favorite was the Amy’s Organic Soup that was only about $2.50 per can and was enough to fill me up. Be sure to check labels for the sodium content though, as canned soup can be loaded.
  • Always carry healthy snacks with you throughout the day (fruit, nuts, veggies, granola bars) so you aren’t craving junk food when you finally get home from the library. Here’s a list of 50 calorie snacks.
  • Some grocery stores offer a small discount when you bring your own bags to carry your groceries (Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Target).
  • Obviously, alcohol consumption is not healthy and is often referred to as “empty calories” due to the lack of nutrients. If you do choose to drink alcohol, avoid sugary drinks, and opt for a lighter alternative such as a vodka soda with fresh lime.
  • After a few evening alcoholic drinks, treat yourself well. Drink plenty of water, eat foods high in nutrition and vitamins (fruit and green leafy vegetables), drink lots of water, and eat a healthy snack before bed!

Grocery store tips for easier healthy eating at a savings

  • Eggs are super inexpensive- even organic and cage-free eggs can be priced around $4.00 a dozen! I’d often hard-boil an entire carton at a time and eat a few of them throughout the day to keep me satisfied.
  •  Buy frozen fruits and vegetables! In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables are actually picked when they’re perfectly ripe so they still have all the nutritional value and flavor. They are also reasonably affordable and easy to store in your freezer for very long periods of time. Frozen fruits are perfect for a fast and nutritious smoothie recipe.
  • Adding a plant-based protein option to your grocery list can be significantly cheaper than buying animal products. While you don’t necessarily have to be a vegetarian to maintain a healthy diet, you can seriously save some cash by going meatless a few days a week.
  • Buy food in bulk such as rice, pastas, and nuts. This will not only save you money, but also save you time consuming trips to the grocery store.
  • If you have roommates, consider investing in a food delivery service (Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, etc.) and splitting the cost. It’s a fun activity to cook your meals together and it’s super convenient! It is delivered every week right to you with pre-measured out ingredients and instructions on how to make every meal. Also, it will save you a trip to the grocery store, giving you more time to study or have fun with your friends.

Planning your eating at home and out

cooking at home

  • Meal prep is a key strategy! Meal prepping helped me so much in college because after spending long periods of time preparing meals for myself, I felt less tempted to eat out. Also, your groceries will be used up and won’t go to waste.
  • Obviously you don’t want your healthy eating getting in the way of going out to eat with your friends. I feel I’ve been most successful when I look up the menu beforehand to make sure there is something healthy that I can eat on the menu. If you find there isn’t anything on the menu, you can always suggest a different restaurant or eat a meal beforehand and just order something small. I try to never let my dietary choices get in the way of having a fun night with my friends. When I plan accordingly, I always seem to find an option that works out for everyone. Here are some more tips for healthier dining out.
  • Try to avoid late-night junk food snacks and fast food runs by keeping plenty of healthy snack options at your disposal. You will save money and feel better the next day.
  • Don’t 100% limit yourself to only eating super healthy foods all the time. Treat yourself to your favorites every once in a while. Everything in moderation is key.
  • Lastly, train yourself to bring a reusable water bottle with you everywhere. Drinking enough water and staying hydrated plays a very important role in staying healthy and feeling your best. It’s also great for your skin (more eating tips for great skin)!

Take-Away

While college is all about adjusting to a new and independent lifestyle, it’s OK to have a less than perfect diet. Being on your own and learning how to nourish yourself appropriately are important college lessons too!  A healthy diet is a challenge at college, but key to preventing that feared “Freshman 15.”  Knowing how to make better dorm food choices and provide for healthier food options are important in the beginning of college as you navigate your first few years on campus. As you branch out on your own as an upperclassman, shopping know how and planning are key. Learning healthy eating strategies now will be a useful lesson for your entire life.

Please share your healthy eating tips for college! And, please share this post if you learned something.

Oat Cereal: The Good and Bad

oat cereal Oat cereal, including oatmeal, can dish up some serious health benefits. When we think of oat based foods, we typically think of them as being a good source of health enhancing fiber, particularly soluble fiber. By definition, soluble fiber actually dissolves in water. In foods, soluble fiber adds a pleasing consistency. When we eat foods with soluble fiber, we can potentially decrease our blood sugar and cholesterol levels. There is scientific evidence that soluble fiber, once fermented in the gut, can reduce inflammation and even support our immune system. And fiber, in general, fills us up so it’s easier to lose weight! With so many health benefits, why would we hesitate to eat it?

Oat cereal may have gluten

If you need to avoid gluten, not all oat cereal is gluten free. Oats do not contain gluten, but they may become contaminated with gluten if processed with other gluten containing foods. Choose brands of oat based cereals manufactured in a gluten free facility if there is a medical reason to avoid gluten. These products, such as the one in the below photo, can state they are gluten-free. They can state this because there were no other gluten containing products made at the processing facility that could contaminate the oats.

gluten free oatsOat cereal and weed killer

Glyphosate is a weed killer that is sprayed on many of our conventional crops including oat crops. This compound has caused reproductive problems in animals and is thought to be a potential carcinogen in humans. The common weed killer Roundup contains glyphosate.

Published safety limits are hard to find. As is the case with a lot of controversial food topics, it’s hard to get at some of the facts. According to a Consumerlab.com. review, California has set a daily limit of 1100 mcg. In contrast, European countries set a higher adult limit of 34,000 mcg. The same review states a standard 3/4 cup serving of Original Cheerios contained only 32 mcg of glyphosate. If this is still not low enough for your healthy eating strategies, you can always opt for organic versions of your favorite oat based foods. You may not be able to totally avoid ingesting some of the glyphosate, but you can decrease your exposure by going the organic route.

Fungal contamination

Ochratoxin is a fungal toxin found in foods of plant and animal origin. Molds produce the Ochratoxin when exposed to heat and moisture during crop production. Up to 70% of oat-based cereals in the United States have been reported to contain this toxin. And, it’s a compound strongly linked to cancer. According to research, choosing organic over conventional counterparts will not be helpful. Cooking does not destroy this toxin. The best practical risk reduction strategy is watching your portion sizes! This will obviously limit your exposure to the toxin if it’s in the cereal.

The good news: Oat cereal is a good source of fiber and protein

oatmeal labelSo should you skip the oat cereals? I think definitely not! Oatmeal and other oat cereals are a source of healthy complex carbohydrates and a fairly significant source of dietary fiber. A single 40 gram serving of oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. Choosing gluten free organic options and watching portions will go a long way in making sure the oat cereals you choose are the best possible choices for your health.

Oat cereals are low in iron and sugar

And, what may not be readily apparent is the fact that oatmeal is a cereal that is low in iron. While cereal for much of the population is an important source of necessary dietary iron, there are many people that do not benefit from that iron. In fact, the iron may harm their health. Most men and older women should be picking cereals that are lower in iron. And, if your oat cereal is unflavored or plain, the sugar content clocks in at virtually nothing. Given the sugar content of most cereals, that is actually unusual and clearly a nutritional advantage.

Oats are a good prebiotic food

Your gut contains many bacteria that help you stay well. This is frequently referred to as the gut microbiome. The make-up of your individual gut bacteria is unique and hinges, in part, on the types of foods you eat on a regular basis. When you have the right mix of gut bacteria, your immune system is stronger and your digestion is better. While bacteria reside in the gut, people can also consume bacteria known as probiotics. The gut bacteria may be altered to improve overall health when these probiotics are consumed in adequate amounts. Certain foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut are rich sources of probiotics. Probiotics are also available as a supplement (purchasing tips).

Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics. Prebiotics serve as food for probiotics, assuring their viability. Prebiotic foods are usually rich in fiber. While the fiber is in the digestive tract, the bacteria use it for food. Eventually, the fiber is excreted in digestion, but while in the digestive tract, it plays a crucial role in feeding the gut bacteria. Oatmeal is a classified as a prebiotic food.

Take away

As is the case with many foods, oats are at risk for pesticide and toxin contaminants. Choosing smaller amounts and organic versions of oat cereals can lessen risk from these contaminants. The good news is oats are low in sugar and iron (good for many people). They are a lower calorie source of protein and fiber. That fiber lowers your blood sugar and cholesterol levels and aids in weight loss. And, it’s critical for feeding your gut bacteria. Bottom line, oats are a pretty good fuel for both you and your gut bacteria.

While I like oats for the above reasons, another researcher suggests oats may be the next superfood as they are loaded with anti-oxidants!

If you want to try the very popular overnight oats, the basic recipe is here.

Why do you think oats are healthy? Please share so I can add to this blog. If you learned something from this blog, please share as well.

 

 

All for Pediatric Brain Cancer Research: Chicago Marathon

team emma chicago marathon raising funds for pediatric brain cancerThe 2019 Chicago Marathon is around the corner on Sunday, October 13. If you are a non-runner sort of person, did you ever ask yourself why anyone would run that 26.2 mile distance? According to one running blog full of fun stats, there are about 570 marathons held in the United States each year and only 0.5% of the population has run a marathon. Some of those super motivated athletes just want to test themselves, improve fitness, or say they’ve accomplished a feat few athletes have achieved.

Aside from the varied personal reasons for running, some runners have goals such as raising money for charity. Team Emma, named after my granddaughter, is a marathon team with such a goal. This team raises money for pediatric brain cancer research. The marathon team has run in 2017, 2018, and runs again on October 13, 2019. All funds raised go directly to the brain tumor research program at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, IL.

Our brief story on fighting for the life of a child

My family is not really unique. We are just a normal family that never had any cases of pediatric cancer anywhere in the family. Suffice it to say that if pediatric cancer can strike my family, it can lash out at any family. But, my sincere hope is it doesn’t ever affect anyone you love. It’s devastating and it shakes the core of every family it strikes.

Ewing’s sarcoma was my 35 month old granddaughter’s cancer. Her tumor was in her brain. It was the size of a tennis ball. Over the course of 10 months, Emma had 4 surgeries, 11 rounds of chemo, 5 weeks of radiation, and 36 blood and platelet transfusions. She had countless scans, blood draws, tests, and spent 50 nights in the hospital. Even with all she has endured, she is thriving, happy, and well adjusted. She is two years disease free.

Fast facts on pediatric cancer and brain tumors

  • More children die of brain tumors than any other form of cancer.
  • Only 4% of the billions of dollars that are annually spent on cancer research and treatment are directed to treating all childhood cancers. That leaves virtually no funding for pediatric brain cancer.
  • More than 28,000 children are living with brain tumors.
  • 13 new cases of pediatric brain tumors are diagnosed daily.
  • There are over 100 different types of pediatric brain tumors which makes diagnosing and treatment challenging.
  • While survival rates have improved, survivors suffer lifelong side effects caused by surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
  • Brain tumors of children are NOT like brain tumors in adults. Kids’ brain tumors require specific research and different treatment. It’s time to change the landscape of pediatric cancer treatment.
  • Research that focuses specifically on pediatric brain tumors is critical to saving kids’ lives and improving their quality of life.

Source: Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, 2016

More pediatric brain cancer research funding needed to keep kids alive

running for pediatric brain cancer research Team Emma Marathon

In an effort to move research forward to help others like Emma, the Team Emma Marathon and now Teamemma.org have evolved. For the marathon, all funds raised go directly into the hands of researchers that will make the difference in the outcome of a child’s brain cancer prognosis. Pediatric brain cancer is devastating. Saving a child really saves a whole family.

If you can make a donation, please know that no donation is too small. In fact, there is a “tipping point”  for all things in life. Your extra dollar in the hands of researchers could be that “tipping point” for finding a cure for a child. All donations are tax deductible and will be acknowledged by Lurie Children’s Foundation. Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to read about our cancer story.

Awareness=Funding=Research

Want to make a difference with a DONATION? PLEASE CLICK HERE. Remember, every little bit helps a child, which helps a family, and then helps a community. And, on behalf of all pediatric cancer families, thank you!

Good luck to all the Chicago Marathon Runners!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating for Beauty: Pick These Foods!

eating for beautyWritten by Tess O’Brien and Edited by Sue Rose, MS, RD, LDN

If you are what you eat, then eat beautiful food! Eating for beauty is easier than you think. There’s growing evidence to support that the food we eat makes profound changes to both our health and beauty. Our body’s beautifying process is very complex. As food digests into smaller nutrients, it affects hormone balance, inflammation, and skin health. Since eating is an everyday activity, it’s important to eat foods that your body and skin will thank you for. Glowing skin, shiny hair, and more energy will be your body’s way of expressing gratitude. And, with skin cells renewing every few days, it’s no wonder that our food selection has a dramatic impact on us both inside and outside. Eating for beauty is a possibility, if you choose foods wisely.

Walnuts

walnuts for fatty acids for beautyWhen eating for beauty, omega-3 fatty acids are important. Walnuts have significant amounts of this essential fatty acid. Skipping out on the recommended intake of omega-3s may give way to health complications including heart disease and diabetes. According to Dr. Lisa Drayer, MA, RD, author of The Beauty Diet, an omega-3 deficiency can also result in dry, scaly skin or eczema.

Kale

It ‘s already established that a diet filled with fruits and vegetables can help fight chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. However, greens, greens, and more greens will also aid in delivering you the most organic makeover ever. Greens are key when eating for beauty! Cruciferous vegetables, like kale, contain vitamins C and A, which are key anti-aging nutrients. Vitamin C is necessary for the production of collagen which is a type of protein we need for connective tissues. That collagen also strengthens your skin on your face. Vitamin A from kale is actually called beta-carotene. Vitamin A and it’s beta-carotene derivative are needed by all skin cells throughout the body. Too little vitamin A will result in both dry skin and poor vision. As a green leafy vegetable, kale is a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin (critical nutrients for preserving eye health). These two nutrients are crucial in protecting your skin as well as vision. Additionally, kale’s omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and nourish the hair follicles, favoring overall hair growth and strength. Want to get started eating this right away? Here’s a great kale salad recipe.

Citrus fruits

citrus fruits for beautyCitrus fruits such as limes, lemons, oranges, and grapefruit help maintain an alkaline state of the body while reducing inflammation. Additionally, the rind of a citrus fruit, such as an orange peel, contains an oil compound that provides UV-protective benefits. In fact, many nutrition experts encourage the consumption of citrus zest due to its DNA-repairing (aka skin-damage repairing) properties. Eat a citrus fruit daily when eating for beauty.

Kiwi

While oranges, limes, and lemons also contain a lot of vitamin C, kiwifruit is often underestimated for its vitamin C and health benefits. According to the founder of NutritionFacts.org, Michael Greger, M.D., kiwis can even be a holistic prescription for insomnia! According to Greger, just two kiwis an hour before bedtime appears to significantly improve sleep onset, duration, and efficiency. And, we all know how important a good night’s sleep is to our overall well-being and how we look in the mirror (think bags and dark circles).

Sea Vegetables

Sea vegetables such as seaweed have a high content of iodine. Iodine is essential for regulating thyroid hormones, metabolism, and growth. If iodine is deficient, thyroid hormones cannot be synthesized. And, without sufficient thyroid hormones, metabolic rate slows, causing weight gain and fatigue. Many spas and skincare companies use seaweed as detoxifying body wraps or an ingredient in skincare formulas due to the belief that it improves circulation and reduces cellulite. However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that seaweed actually reduces cellulite. We do know eating it provides trace nutrients in addition to the iodine. The fiber content is also helpful for gut health and blood sugar control.

Berries

Beauty companies around the globe are also promoting the benefits of antioxidants. These antioxidants are formulated into their topical products and marketed in such ways that leverage the glowing skin effects and anti-aging properties, Ex: Skincare by Alana’s Skin Script Acai Berry Moisturizer. “More and more scientific studies are proving their effectiveness, not only in helping to reduce wrinkles and aging, but also reducing inflammation, such as rosacea, or even helping prevent skin cancer” (Best Health). Berries contain large amounts of antioxidant rich polyphenols. These polyphenols work to visibly repair environmental damage which rejuvenates the skin’s natural defenses for a fresh-looking complexion.

Avocados

avocado for for beautyAnother beauty boosting food on our list is avocados. Avocados are rich in vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant for protecting cell membranes. Vitamin E works to protect lipids throughout the body by neutralizing reactive oxygen compounds before they can cause damage. This protective activity then aids to prevent collagen fibers from free-radical damage, UV ray damage, and solar radiation damage. This in turn stimulates the healing of damaged skin (such as stretch marks and scars), fights wrinkles, and improves skin elasticity.

Soybeans

Soybeans have a high concentration of isoflavones. Isoflavones are a type of plant chemical found exclusively in soy foods, including soybeans. These isoflavones mimic estrogen and are antioxidants. Some studies show that those who eat more soy have fewer wrinkles and more skin elasticity.

Green tea

Although not a food, tea is a widely consumed beverage and another important source of polyphenols. It has varying amounts of caffeine, minerals, vitamins, and unique amino acids which are crucial for our body’s beautifying process. Green tea’s phytochemicals are a potent source of external antioxidants that could reverse excess skin-damage inside the body, and thereby diminish photoaging (Prasanth, Sivamaruthi, Chaiyasut, Tencomnao).  But green tea is not just for drinking! Green tea extracts are a popular ingredient in skin care products and science backs its use as an ingredient for moisture retention to aid in reducing dry skin. For some more fun green tea information and brewing tips, see a previous green tea post.

Water

water for beautiful skinWater is an essential but often overlooked nutrient. Delivering adequate water to your body allows your digestion to move along smoothly. Efficient delivery of nutrients to your skin’s surface occurs with proper digestion. Since your skin is the largest organ of the body, a lack of hydration can affect the skin’s appearance. Skin may appear dry, flaky, and rough. And, those little wrinkles may be more prominent without enough water.

Take away

While there are many advantages to consistent hair and skincare beauty routines, the most crucial (and often overlooked) part of any daily beauty regimen is incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your diet. And, since mother nature packages the best nutritional formulas, eating whole food for beauty is better than taking supplements! For those actually needing a supplement, choose wisely. From the oxidation-inhibiting antioxidants in berries to the hormone-regulating iodine in sea vegetables, each beauty-boosting food contains unique compounds. These compounds can produce the beautiful results of glowing skin and strong, shiny hair. Do you have a favorite food you enjoy eating for your beauty routine?

Restaurant Dining: A Cost to Your Health and Wallet

Resturant dining and cost

My spouse and I are health conscious because I am a dietitian and not a hypocrite, and his life depends upon it. We regularly visit an area of southwest Michigan, and recently had breakfast at a local diner with great TripAdvisor reviews. Unfortunately, we did not agree with the great reviews on TripAdvisor. Here’s why I think there’s a restaurant dining cost to your health and wallet!

Restaurant dining menu and cost

The menu was limited, but I will be the first to state that this is not necessarily a bad thing. A limited menu may end up focusing on food quality, rather than an abundance of mediocre dishes. The good news here was the staff was more than happy to substitute requested egg whites for whole eggs.

Now the bad news: the nice multi-grain bread was already buttered on the bottom of the toast (so did not realize it until it was eaten), the portions were huge (I know many people want large portions for the money being doled out), and I saw no fruit options on the menu. Other bad news: the bill was $30.00 for what we could have made at home for probably a dollar at most, and made it a lot healthier in a shorter amount of time. This is, in fact, the key issue with dining out on a regular basis.

Restaurant dining cost to your health and bank account

More fat 

If you make the same food at home, you can control the fat in the dish with very simple recipe tweaking. Restaurants don’t typically care about the high fat content in their meals because fat carries flavor and texture. And of course, they want you to return for another meal! You can bank on eating more calories than you anticipated due to the higher fat content. You can also assume that it will be more difficult to meet your weight loss goals.

More calories

And, let’s not forget the simple concept that larger portions, when eaten, yield more calories. Unless you can exercise a lot of self-restraint while dining out, you will most likely eat your whole meal. If you can consistently ask for healthy substitutions such as fruit for fries, you are on the right track. Also, you need to get in the habit of bringing at least half of your meal home. And who doesn’t want that yummy appetizer, dessert, or cocktail while dining out? It’s probably safe to say that if you are eating at home you are not eating those extra high calorie goodies.

Salt in restaurant food

More sodium

If you are fortunate to find a nice restaurant meal low in fat and overall calories, the sodium is probably lurking. I have yet to see a healthy restaurant meal that is low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, calories, and sodium. If you think the sodium content does not matter because your blood pressure is fine, you need to think again. High sodium intakes cause other health problems such as bone loss and are correlated with increased cancer risk. And, if you hop on the scale the next day, you can credit that weight gain of several pounds to fluid retention from all that salt you ate.

More money

My husband made a lower sodium chili on Sunday, and pointed out that the entire pot of chili cost less than a few dollars. Purchasing a bowl of chili at a restaurant would have cost about $6.00. He used half a packet of low sodium chili powder and added additional beans plus veggies, creating a healthier chili.

When you must dine out at fast food restaurants

Ironically, thinking in terms of restaurant food chains rather than non-chain full-service restaurants may serve your health concerns more effectively. Unless you live in a cave, you have seen nutrition information is posted at your favorite fast food restaurant. In 2014, the FDA set into motion new labeling requirements for chain restaurants. By now, all that nutrition information has been available to customers for years. If you pay attention to that posted nutrition information, it can help you make better decisions while dining out. There are lots of helpful websites to start planning for healthier choices. One that I really like is HealthyDiningFinder. Put in your zip code and you can start your search for healthier cuisine.

Casual dining establishments

Consider frequenting casual dining restaurants that actually have a set calorie controlled menu with a lot of choices such as the Cheesecake Factory. While in the past I would have cringed at dining there, they have made great strides with their Skinnylicious menu options. I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the food was from that menu and ecstatic with all the choices for under 600 calories. I can’t say the sodium was acceptable across the board with that menu, but as I stated, it’s very hard to nail the fat, calories, and sodium content of any restaurant meal.

Full service restaurants

Restaurant dining cost to health and walletClearly, fast food options are not always what we want or need for social occasions. Always try and check out the restaurant menu online prior to arriving there. This will at least allow you an opportunity to avoid split second and thoughtless decisions when ordering. Socializing with friends while trying to order without some prior thought does not usually translate to a healthy choice.

Dining at restaurants without published nutrition information

Looking for plain menu options like a ladies’ cut filet or chicken that is not smothered in sauce might be good options. Add some steamed vegetables and plain baked potato and you’ve made some wise choices. By skipping the appetizers, cocktails, and desserts you are on your way to helping your waistline. And that bread basket is always a problem, right? Ask the wait staff to keep it in the kitchen or move it to another part of the table. And, if portion sizes of your meat based entree are larger than a deck of cards, bring the leftovers home if you are serious about managing your healthy diet. Help yourself with that action by asking for the “doggie” bag at the beginning of the meal!

Final thoughts

While eating out is recreational for many, it should be a treat for special occasions rather than your regular diet. Eating at home more often will result in a healthier diet and bank account. With that stated, here are some additional tips to manage food choices and calories when eating away from home. Eating at home is a win-win scenario, except for the dirty dishes. With all the money you can save, you can buy a new dishwasher!

Do you have any strategies for managing your calories, fat, and sodium while dining out that I didn’t mention? And what recommendations can you share to keep restaurant dining cost to a minimum when you do splurge?

If this blog post was helpful, please share it with a friend!

 

Fast Breakfast Ideas: Easy and Nutritious On the Fly

fast breakfast ideas chocolate chip buckwheat muffins

Grogginess in the morning? You know you should eat some breakfast and not just gulp down java. But, creative and fast breakfast ideas are often limited and with tight schedules, most of us could use some help. Breakfast does not need to be complicated or labor intensive. We just need to do a little thinking a ahead and maybe outside the box. Here are some fast breakfast ideas that are easy and require very little time to pull off.

Nutritionally speaking, there are a lot of important reasons to fuel up in the morning. Research has noted that breakfast eaters have a jump-start on: maintaining a healthy weight, meeting daily nutritional requirements, and performing better physically and mentally all day. However, the issue is always what to eat, how long will it take to prepare, and how fast can it be eaten!

Fast breakfast ideas that are easy and nutritious

Smoothies are a versatile and fast breakfast idea

fast breakfast ideasTry a breakfast smoothie. The most time consuming part of making a smoothie is rinsing your blender!

For my creamy berry smoothie, blend 1.5 cups of blueberries (may start off as frozen and let thaw while in shower), ½ cup 1% milk fat cottage cheese, and ½ cup orange juice in a blender until thoroughly mixed. Yes, add the cottage cheese or cultured cottage cheese. It makes the smoothie thick and gives a very slight “cheese cake” twist to the smoothie along with some major high quality protein.

Each 12 ounce serving has 260 calories, 15 grams protein, 48 grams carb, 2 grams fat, 7 grams fiber, and 275 mg. of potassium.

Muffins made ahead and frozen are a fast breakfast idea

This is about as easy as it gets and you know what’s going into your body. Make ahead of time, freeze, and grab as needed. Let thaw as you shower. Enjoy with some orange juice or low sodium V-8 juice.

Consider making oat bran muffins as a healthy alternative to hot cereal. When evaluating an oat bran muffin recipe consider recipes without dried fruits if you are watching your waistline. Those additional ingredients will make the overall calorie value of your muffin much higher. If a recipe calls for applesauce, that allows for a moister oat bran muffin. Here’s a healthier oat bran muffin recipe.

For those needing a change of pace, I recommend this buckwheat chocolate chip muffin recipe that has gotten great personal and client reviews. The blog photo on top shows what these delicious muffins look like.

Improvise with an English Muffin for more fast breakfast ideas

Toast an English muffin, add one slice low-fat cheese and a slice of Canadian bacon. Now you have an Egg McMuffin, sans the egg, and you don’t need to stop at the drive through and get tempted with those fatty hash browns.

What about English muffin pizza for breakfast? Toast each half to make it crispy. Spread some pizza sauce on each half, some shredded mozzarella, and zap for a few seconds in the microwave. Who doesn’t enjoy pizza for breakfast?

Improvise with a waffle for a fast breakfast

Take your favorite regular or gluten free waffle and smear on some peanut butter. Top with a sliced banana for a nice dose of potassium. Or, instead of peanut butter, melt a slice of your favorite cheese on top of the waffle.

Standby eggs always work as fast breakfast ideas

Consider hard boiling several to grab during the week. Each egg is a nice packet of nutrients and only about 80 calories. Or, consider making small cheese and spinach quiches in muffin pans and freezing. This is one of my favorite breakfast foods of all time for myself and if I am hosting guests. They always freeze great and can defrost in the microwave in seconds. Making that little bit of effort ahead of time in order to grab these will be worth it as you head out the door.

Overnight oats

overnight ats fast breakfast ideasThis takes a little effort the night before, but “little” is the operative word here. This is very easy to toss together the night before, and enjoy in the morning. To prep the basic overnight oat recipe take:

1/2  cup of oatmeal, combine with 1/2 of any type of milk (skim, 2%, soy, almond, coconut, rice, cashew), add 1/2 yogurt or skip the yogurt and use an additional 1/2 cup of milk. Add a pinch of salt and whatever sweetener you desire.This basic recipe can be modified by adding chocolate chips, Nutella, peanut butter, a mashed banana or berries. If you need more of a caffeine jolt on top of your java, add some instant coffee to your oats!

Mix your basic ingredients and your optional ingredients and place in any container with a lid. Mason jars are popular at the moment for this recipe, but any container that can be capped will work. Place in the refrigerator overnight, and you are done. The oats will be ready to eat in the morning. They can be eaten cold, or gently warmed in the microwave if warm oatmeal is your preference. Another advantage of this recipe, as it will last about 4 days in the refrigerator, so it’s not impeative to eat it the very next day.

 No crust  pumpkin pie

crustless pumpkin pie

Crust free pumpkin pie is perfect to start out the day. I bet you didn’t see that one coming as a fast breakfast idea! It’s full of anti-oxidants and with some good quality protein from the eggs and milk used in this recipe. Even my crust free version that does not use splenda is healthy for the whole family. And, it would work to decrease the sugar a bit more in the conventional recipe if you like. When my kids were growing up, I often made this recipe and served it for breakfast. No one was complaining at all. As long as it doesn’t get eaten first, it will last all week. Make it on Sunday night for the work week.

Bottom line, a better breakfast will mean a better you and better day. If you are also thinking of lunch and dinner, here are some other suggestions! 

Do you have a favorite, fast, and healthy breakfast idea? If so, please share so I can add to my blog.

 

 

Getting More Potassium: A Dietary Challenge

getting more potassium: a dietary challengeIf you are concerned about healthy eating, you might want to ask yourself if you are getting enough potassium! As both a dietitian counseling private patients and former college level nutrition instructor, I have observed the difficulty that people of all ages have in getting adequate dietary potassium. Given that the daily dietary recommendation for North Americans is about 3500 to 4700 mg, it’s not that surprising that people fall short of meeting their requirements.

Why it’s important

potassium and health

Why is potassium so important for our health and well-being? First and foremost, it’s inside every cell. It’s a key factor in maintaining our fluid and electrolyte balance. And, it’s critical for maintaining a normal heartbeat. Sudden deaths that occur during fasting and the severe food restriction seen in anorexia are usually due to heart failure caused by inadequate intake. It’s also a key player in maintaining healthy nerve functioning and muscle contraction.

Even if the diet is very low in potassium, the body can usually handle maintaining blood potassium levels in order to maintain heart stability and nerve function. Although the body is able to maintain blood potassium levels despite eating less than the recommended amount, there are still health concerns tied to chronic low potassium diets. Low potassium diets are a trigger for hypertension. Research also suggests that diets low in potassium promote blood sugar problems, kidney stones, and increase calcium loss from bones. Calcium lost from bones can lead to osteoporosis.

Unprocessed foods are rich in potassium

Knowing how important this nutrient is to overall health, a healthy diet should be packed with potassium rich foods. Since potassium is found in all plant cells, just like it’s in our own cells, all plant foods that are unprocessed will yield plenty of this nutrient! Need “unprocessed food” defined before reading on? It’s a food that has not been altered in terms of chemical treatment in order to preserve it, improve the taste, or alter the appearance of the food.

Examples of unprocessed foods

unprocessed foods and potassium

Think of the potato as an unprocessed food, but potato chips are processed. Corn is an unprocessed food, but caramel corn is a processed food. If it looks like it did as grown in the ground, then it’s unprocessed! Unprocessed fruits and vegetables will have the potassium left intact, and upon eating that food, we are able to benefit nutritionally. That’s why many excellent sources of potassium in the following list are whole fruits and vegetables that have not lost their potassium content from any processing. Some animal protein and whole grains also provide this nutrient.

Stumbling blocks to getting enough potassium

Although many health care providers think it’s an easy process to eat this much potassium on a daily basis, Americans usually eat too few servings of unprocessed foods to get the job done. As unprocessed foods are the leading dietary source of potassium, therein lies the problem. Additionally, as chronic dieters edit out calories to lose weight, they may also be editing out potassium rich foods in the process. Popular diets such as the keto diet also put the dieter at risk for a low potassium intake. With that stated, consuming enough does not have to be as difficult as one would think. The key is knowing the best food sources, and making sure these foods are consumed on a regular basis.

Target unprocessed foods high in potassium

  • 1/2 cup baked beans have 285 mg
  • 1/2 cup lima beans have 476 mg
  • 1 cup cooked spinach has 466 mg
  • 1/2 cup soybeans have 476 mg
  • A large can low sodium V-8 juice has 1180 mg
  • 1 small can low sodium V-8 juice has 700 mg
  • 6 prunes have about 290 mg
  • 1/2 cup navy beans have 376 mg
  • 1 cup orange juice has about 500 mg
  • 11.2 fluid ounce box Naked brand coconut water, about 530 mg
  • 1 cup of skim milk has about 400 mg
  • 1 banana has 420 mg
  • 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal has about 335 mg
  • 3 oz. salmon has about 380 mg
  • 3 oz. chicken or beef has about 290 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked carrots has about 185 mg
  • 1 cup of honeydew melon has about 400 mg
  • 1 cup cantaloupe has about 417 mg
  • 1/3 avocado has about 360 mg
  • 6-oz. baked potato has about 850 mg
  • 1/2 cup sweet potato has about 400 mg
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries have about 250 mg
  • 1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice has about 200 mg

Other benefits

The beauty of this list? Adding more of the above foods will not only increase your potassium, but also add other valuable nutrients to your diet such as fiber, and vitamins A and C. Potassium rich fruits and vegetables are also the foods with high levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants. In one large study, women who ate over five servings of fruits and vegetables had a lower risk of aggressive tumors in comparison to those who ate only two servings.

How do you manage to get your fruits and veggies into your diet? Do you add any toppings to certain recipes or use in smoothies? I know making smoothies is my easy way of getting my own potassium requirements met! Please share your ideas.