About Sue Rose

Sue Rose, MS, RD, LDN is a dietitian/nutritionist that has been practicing for decades. She has had a private practice for over 30 years and worked in numerous and varied settings as a clinical nutritionist and consultant. She has also taught nutrition at the college level for almost a decade. Her blogs cover nutrition for wellness and disease, as well as lifestyle. Her goal is to provide current nutrition content for educational and informational purposes that the public finds beneficial.

Healthy Eating in 2020: See How Easy It Is!

easy steps for healthier eating

The new year is here. Maybe a new you? As is often the case with every new year, there’s a “to do list” which may include getting rid of your paunch and boosting your energy level with a healthy eating plan. So, you start thinking about healthy eating, and as usual, it’s very confusing. If only you could come up with some easy steps for healthier eating in 2020 that might even help you lose weight!

And, if you come up with a plan, will your best intentions actually last long enough to get your goals and weight loss accomplished? If your efforts were like most Americans last year, your good intentions may fizzle out around February. Sometimes it’s just too hard to sustain those steps you came up with. They are not realistic for your busy life!

Initial realistic healthy eating steps

easy steps for healthier eating

For 2020, consider beginning with small painless changes. These tiny changes can make a monumental dent in your bad health, waistline, and poor energy levels. The first suggestions revolve around how you plate your food of all things! How you portion your food and the color of your plates and tablecloths can all make a difference!

Portions and plate size. Focus on smaller portions of all foods placed on smaller plates. It may sound ridiculous, but smaller portions always yield less of all nutrients. That includes both fat and calories, both of which are important in achieving weight loss.

Contrast your plate and food color. Research has suggested that contrasting plate color and food color may aid in prompting smaller food portion sizes. For instance, pasta covered with red sauce served on a white plate would tend to cause less to be eaten. A serving of pasta covered in red sauce served on a red/orange plate would potentially trigger the consumption of a heftier portion! I think because we should be eating a rainbow of colored foods, white plates are often the best color for plates.

But don’t contrast your your plate and tablecloth color! The same researchers also found that food portion sizes could be reduced by limiting contrast between the dinner plate and the tablecloth. So a white plate on a cream tablecloth would be more effective in cutting food portions than a white plate placed on a black tablecloth.

More steps to accomplish healthy eating

eat more plants and less meat

Eat more plant based foods every day. Plant based foods yield fiber which fills you up and offers endless health benefits. These plant based foods are rich sources of phytochemicals which help ward off disease. These disease fighting compounds are not found in vitamin pills. They are, however, readily available in whole grains as well as fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables!

Eat less animal protein. You will help your waistline and the planet at the same time. Each 1-oz. serving of animal protein may actually hide as much as a pat of butter in the muscle. By slashing your intake of animal protein, you are also cutting down on saturated fat. Saturated fat is considered to be the type of fat with the least benefit to overall health. For the planet, cutting down on animal protein consumption cuts down on energy usage and pollution.

Drink more water. Sometimes you think you’re hungry, but you are really thirsty! Drink a glass of water automatically before each meal. Include more lighter soups in your diet. The fluid will also fill you up as well as alleviate your thirst. If you don’t like plain water, add more calorie free teas like green tea to your diet. Wondering if you drink enough fluid? Check your urine. If it’s clear to pale yellow then you are hydrating enough.

Get into the habit of planning your eating

Planning does take some practice. It doesn’t matter what is being planned. With that stated, I think it is easier to plan something like a vacation than eating. Because eating happens every day, it is often unplanned. Unfortunately, that lack of planning can often lead to poor choices in food. Starting this food planning process does not need to be difficult.

Start with cleaning out and organizing your food storage areas. You need “tools” to pull off healthy eating. Your tools are healthy foods and ingredients you have on hand to make sure you eat at home more than you eat out!

Make a menu. This doesn’t need to be elaborate. It can be as simple as a sheet of paper posted to your refrigerator. Most people have the toughest time at dinner. Start with planning out a business week of dinner meals and post it where you can easily see it. This will allow you to pull foods from the freezer, use up leftovers, and gather what you need to make your dinners. Once those dinners are planned, you can embrace the process and move on to lunch and breakfast! For fast and nutritious breakfasts, here are some options.

Key messages

Start out easy by paying attention to how you present food to yourself. Portions of food always matter, so use smaller plates so your portions seem larger than they are. Consider using light colored plates to contrast with colored food in order to eat smaller food portions. Go a step further by making your plate and tablecloth colors similar to aid in smaller food portions.

Moving on to actual eating, choose more plant based foods. By increasing plant based foods and decreasing meat, you are easily improving the quality of your diet. Drink plenty of calorie free liquids to fill you up. Consider planning out your most difficult meals, such as dinner. Get your kitchen organized and make a menu to begin improving your diet each and every day. A little thought and organization is monumental in straightening out a poor quality diet quickly. Remember, small but consistent changes in eating behavior can affect your health for the rest of your life!

Cheers to a better diet for you in 2020.

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Weight in Winter: 5 Tips to Halt a Gain

winter weight gainDo you worry about your weight in the winter? As frigid temps keep us bundled up, many of us keep eating. And, it’s so easy to keep eating because it’s easy to hide under loose sweaters and big coats. Weight gain in winter happens so easily. We may not have gotten out of the December holiday spirit as far as eating goes. Or, perhaps we are eating just because we are feeling “blue.” Winter can be depressing for many, so it might be time to figure out how to keep your weight in winter under control, to make for a more pleasant spring!

Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder sunshine on lady helps her mood, fights winter weight gain

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD

I have heard repeatedly from clients that all they want to do is keep eating because they feel so “blue” this winter. Occasionally, the clients suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This form of depression is related to seasonal changes. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects up to 5% of the population and can last almost half the year. It strikes both men and women, but more women are affected. Younger adults are more prone to SAD than older adults.

But, sometimes clients are just feeling down in the dumps because the winter is so long in the Midwest. So, barring a tropical vacation or moving, here are a few steps that can be taken to raise spirits and lessen weight gain this winter. Hopefully you can stop inappropriate eating and stop winter weight gain at the same time. Get healthy and manage your weight this winter for a joyous spring-sounds great, right?

1. Sunshine can halt weight gain in winter

Even the gloomiest areas in the Midwest will occasionally be sunny. Therefore, be sure to capitalize on it even if you need to bundle up to do so. Take a walk outside in those rays of sunshine. This will elevate your mood because the exercise and sunshine will affect your balance of key brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters include serotonin, melatonin, and endorphins. Serotonin helps regulate both your mood and appetite. Melatonin is necessary for regulating healthy sleep cycles-and we all know how important sleep is to our thought processes and overall well being. Endorphins are chemicals that lessen pain and can make us feel less hungry.

2. Light therapy instead of sun

Along the lines of catching natural light rays, researchers are aware that certain light spectrums, such as blue light, seem to help alleviate SAD. Many free-standing blue light lamps are available for easy purchase online. If purchasing a light therapy lamp, keep in mind that are many types available and there are a lot of factors to consider in terms of safety and efficacy. Eye safety is one factor to consider. Those with certain conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, or diabetes should always check with their doctors before purchasing a light box.

3. Weight in winter and vitamin D

Many Americans have inadequate blood vitamin D levels. It’s an ongoing challenge for many to get enough vitamin D for various reasons. Research supports that getting your blood vitamin D levels in the right range is ammunition in fighting seasonal affective disorder. Bleak days and lots of warm bulky clothes limit the body’s ability to make the so-called “sunshine” vitamin. This is because vitamin D is produced by the body when sun shines on a compound on our skin. If that skin is covered, you are not going to be making it. If we cannot make it, we are able to supplement our diet with vitamin D. During winter months, dosages in the 1000-1200 IU range are probably safe for most people who have limited sun exposure. With that said, your blood levels are easily checked. Once checked, seek advise from a trusted medical professional on dosing for supplements.

4. Control your eating environment

While waiting for spring weather and freedom from the winter doldrums, don’t undo previous successful weight loss with binge eating just because of SAD or depression. Control your eating environment at home by ridding it of high temptation and high calorie foods. Setting yourself up for temptation with favorite treats staring you down will never work for weight loss or control as willpower is typically a short-term strategy.

5. Stock your kitchen appropriately

a well stocked kitchen

A well stocked kitchen goes a long way to both nourish and “comfort” you. There are plenty of healthier low sodium soups to stock up on. Consider some batch cooking of homemade soups and meals to grab when you want homemade comfort food. Increase your consumption of fruits, veggies, and lentils to increase your anti-oxidants and fiber. In addition to a myriad of health benefits, fiber fills you up which helps with preventing weight gain. Don’t be afraid of opting for frozen fruits and veggies at this time of year. They are just as nutritious as the fresh varieties which are harder to buy in the winter. When the warm weather comes, you will be happy that you did not pile on the weight due to winter blues.

Takeaway tips for winter weight control

Here’s to wrapping up winter. The sooner the better! Remember, an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Find you “light” to lift your mood, whether it is sunshine or blue light therapy. Check your vitamin D levels. Be smart with your kitchen by keeping it well stocked with nutrient dense lower temptation foods. By watching the quality of your diet this winter, you will be in a better position mentally and physically when springtime springs!

 

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Lose Weight, No Diet Required: Just Take These Steps

lose weight withou a dietIf you just can’t take another popular weight loss diet that causes “hangry” symptoms or constipation, here are some super easy steps to help you. These easy steps can help you lose weight without any sort of restrictive weight loss diet. These steps are simple actions that anyone can implement to promote weight loss effortlessly and without a structured meal plan. Part of the weight loss process is just finding the mindset to get focused on the process. By starting with these steps first, the weight loss will follow. You’ll get more and more motivated as you lose weight without a structured diet. Then, if more steps are necessary, you’ll be in the right frame of mind to implement them. Having had initial success will spur you on! Here’s how to easily lose weight with no diet required:

No diet weight loss begins by cleaning

lose weight with a clean kitchenClean more than your kitchen floor! Clean out all your food storage areas as well. If you do not have a bunch of junk food in your house, that will decrease the availability of foods that trip up your weight loss attempts. I’m a firm believer in forgetting about willpower to lose weight.

Go through all food storage spaces: the cabinets, freezer, and refrigerator and eliminate the foods that are hindering a healthy diet and weight loss. Consider taking a few minutes to also evaluate your high temptation “trigger” type foods (salty foods, peanut butter, sweets, or whatever) to capitalize on this first step. Make sure those foods are not stocked in your cleaned up kitchen. By cleaning up your eating environment, you can basically avoid temptation, at least while at home. And, you probably spend at least 65% of your time at home.

1. Cabinets

Keep healthy staples to allow you to toss together a quick meal. Consider stocking:

  • Brown rice and and whole grain pastas
  • Cereals that are high in fiber to fill you up. And, cereal that is lower in sugar.
  • Canned tuna, salmon, and chicken
  • Low sodium soups
  • Reduced fat or organic peanut butter or other favorite nut butters. As long as you can watch the serving size, this is fine to add to a healthy eating regimen.
  • Rice cakes and popcorn cakes (they have come along way, so consider keeping those in your cabinet as a crunchy snack). There are even chocolate rice cakes.
  • Healthy canned juice such as low sodium V-8, which is a great nonperishable vegetable serving and loaded with potassium.
  • A source of calcium “on standby” in the cabinet. Consider stocking boxes of almond, soy, rice, or oat milk that do not need refrigeration.

2. Freezer

First go through your freezer and toss foods: that you don’t recognize, that you won’t ever eat, or that you know are just bad for you! After that step, you’ll have space to add the right foods to have on hand. Keep the following in your freezer:

  • A variety frozen fruits and vegetables that you enjoy eating. They keep for months and the nutritional content is on par with with fresh version. Use the frozen fruits for smoothies when you feel lazy about meal cooking. My smoothie recipe is considered an actual meal replacement.
  • Consider making batches of healthier muffins along with other breakfast items to store and pull out for a healthy and fast breakfast.
  • When you do cook, don’t forget to double up the recipe, portion the leftovers immediately, and freeze for a later date. Always label foods with name and date frozen to make it easier to pull out when needed.
  • Healthier frozen meals. The calories, fat, and sodium will be noted and you know exactly what’s going into your body. A good quality frozen dinner is much better for weight management than running to a fast food chain or ordering take out! The nutritional pitfalls of restaurant dining are numerous.

3. Refrigerator

Do the same with the refrigerator, and toss foods that are bad for your health. Stock staples in your refrigerator on a regular basis. Suggestions include:

  • Eggs and egg substitutes
  • Milk (consider including probiotic rich Kefir products)
  • Protein rich cottage cheese and yogurt
  • A variety of fresh produce that you know you will eat (lettuce, carrots, celery, radishes, cucumbers. berries)
  • Cheese (all varieties including string, 2% milk fat American, Parmesan, Bon Bel, fresh mozzarella, Laughing Cow)
  • Healthier cold cuts such as lower sodium chicken, turkey, roast beef
  • 100% pure juices (I enjoy the freshly squeezed and bottled orange juice)
  • Kombucha
  • Ice tea you brewed yourself so it’s low in sugar and without preservatives

Lose weight, no diet required, just start PLANNING-Action Steps

lose weight without a diet through meal planning

It always strikes me how easy it would be to eat better with better planning. Winging each meal without thought is not the best way to manage a healthy eating plan to lose weight. How many times have you been out of food, been tired, or just had no idea as to what to eat? Probably more often than you’d like to admit. Although eating is instinctive, what is eaten is not. You must do some planning to make healthy eating happen. When more healthy eating than unhealthy eating occurs, weight loss and weight management are easier.

1. Planning starts before the grocery store

Get and idea of both your daily commitments, those of your family, and what kind of time constraints you’re up against for each day of the week. By thinking this through, you can plan simpler meals, faster meals (instant pot meals), or plug in the slower cooker in the morning. If you don’t have a plan, then the instant pot meal might not get thrown together and the crock pot won’t be plugged in on time. After you’ve mapped out your dinners (usually the most problematic meal), then start your shopping list. As you need to eat breakfast, lunch, and snacks you’ll obviously plan for those eating events as well.

2. Off to the grocery store (or computer)

Stick with the list. Shop the perimeter of the store if possible. Yep, don’t shop hungry. Add, don’t shop tired and pressed for time, if possible. Being hungry, tired, and pressed for time will usually result in impulse purchases. Limited time to shop? Consider using one of the easy grocery shopping alternatives. Peapod, Amazon Prime Now, Instacart, and Shipt come to mind. Consumer Reports did a recent online evaluation of the more popular grocery services along with offering some insightful guidance. From a dietitian’s perspective, I love that you can: skip the lines, check labels out before clicking, and if need be check if you have the item for a recipe while ordering. I love the efficiency and convenience of this. The time saved is enough to justify the few extra dollars.

3. Follow through on step 1

Use your dinner planning outline and personal calendar to implement a week at a time. Skip heavy or complicated dinners when running to evening commitments. Consider breakfast food for dinner? That’s always a great solution when pressed for time. Consider purchasing a precooked entree such as a rotisserie chicken and using for several days’ worth of meals (dinner as the entree, low fat chicken salad the next day for lunch).

Here’s a free meal planning template from Office 365 to download to start drafting your meals. Or, check this link out for another planner with the shopping list attached. I know people love to put lists into their phones, but some of us are strictly pen/paper visual for things like lists!

Self monitoring to lose weight with no diet

lose weight without a dietTrack food eaten

Sorry, at some point you need to be aware of what you are eating and drinking. Mindless eating, stress eating, boredom eating, and comfort eating all take their toll on your weight. Find an app you are comfortable using, and just start tracking your food. My favorite app to use with clients is Myfitnesspal. Most of my clients track their food with this app, and then I review their records at their appointment. I always tell them to be sure to document the bad days as well as the good. This helps with the self monitoring process between appointments. Even if you are not under a nutritionist’s care, you can track your food yourself to get an idea of what goes into your mouth and why!

Weigh yourself

Yes, this may mean hopping on a scale! Apparently, self-monitoring has not gone out of style as an effective weight loss tool. In one recent study, 74 adults were monitored during a 3-month Internet based weight loss program that focused on behavior. The participants were required to weigh daily with results transmitted to the researchers. They also were required to answer questions each week on mood and behaviors associated with weight. The results indicated that a greater self-monitoring frequency helped participants stay on task. They exhibited better mood, had less temptation to eat poor food choices, and were less bored with weight control efforts. While not everyone can be in a study, you can always seek the services of a health care provider such as a dietitian to assist with this monitoring. If you don’t have the resources for that, get a scale and monitor yourself consistently!

Key points for no diet weight loss strategies

Weight loss can be a struggle. Fad diets come and go. They are usually difficult to adhere to over the long haul. Sometimes, refocusing on issues not related to calories and deprivation can be the jump start to weight loss and even the key to ongoing sustained weight loss.

You must have your “tools” available to succeed-namely, foods that facilitate health and are personally satisfying to you. Clean out your food storage areas of junk and replenish them with healthful food options. After you’ve pitched the bad stuff and purchased better food choices, you need a game plan for eating. For most, healthy eating is not instinctive. Instead, it requires organized thought with a plan. Plan your “problem” mealtimes and snacks. Once you’ve come up with some structured food plan options that are realistic, make sure you follow-through on eating what you planned. Track your food. Check your diet to determine if you are following your planning! And, consider hopping on the scale to keep yourself honest.

Please share your own non-diet strategies and how you lose weight without a diet.

 

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How to Lose Weight By Thinking Differently!

how to lose weight by thinking differentlyDo you play mind games that prevent you from winning at losing weight? Are you always having a conversation with yourself that manages to sabotage your newest Monday efforts to lose weight? If so, chances are pretty good that you have a dialogue in your head that needs to change. If you’re having the following self conversations, it’s best to change your dialogue. Changing your self talk is a great first step when you feel you absolutely can’t lose weight.

The clean plate game to lose weight

You know this game: eat it all up because some people are starving! If you eat up all the food when not hungry, you are not helping anyone that is starving! Or, you paid for it so you must eat it. At home, put less food on your plate. In a restaurant, ask for the people box prior to digging into the large plate of food. Acknowledge that while you still paid for it, you now have food for another meal so you doubled your value. This is a hard habit to break, but it can be done with practice. These portion control strategies are always going to help when one has trouble losing weight. The portion control automatically decreases your calorie consumption. It’s such a simple concept that is often overlooked.

Skipping breakfast may slow weight loss

You think you will eat less overall calories by limiting what you consume in the morning. Many studies indicate that when people do this, they manage to consume more total calories in a given day. In other words, this eating strategy can backfire for some people. Other studies show that when people consume substantial calories in the morning, they use those calories to meet energy requirements more efficiently, and store less of that energy in fat cells. Eating the bulk of your calories at the tail end of the day is, therefore, theoretically less efficient for your body weight and overall energy levels.

I will add, however, that some studies also suggest that whether someone eats breakfast or not has no impact on weight status. With that said, skipping breakfast and lighter daytime eating can put you at some degree of nutritional risk. It is very difficult to meet overall nutritional requirements with almost no daytime food and just dinner. And, if your blood sugar takes a nose dive during the day, you are at risk for an eating binge.

Use caution with foods prepared elsewhere

pizza takeout food and weight gainDo you really know what is happening in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant and take-out place? I would venture to guess that this food has much more fat, calories, and sodium than you would find in your own kitchen. Try to limit relying on outside sources for your meals unless you are able to confirm with nutrition labels that it is a healthy option. When you do dine out, at least try and check the nutrition information out ahead of time. There are so many websites and apps available to the consumer to do some pre-planning for healthier options. HealthyDiningFinder is a site where you input your zip code and nearby dining options are noted.

Review menus in advance

While not all restaurants can make their nutrition information available, you can at least take a peek at the menu online. That way you can begin thinking about the better meal options in advance of stepping foot into the restaurant. This helps you avoid quick impulse decisions on your selections. Once with friends socializing at the restaurant, your planning strategies to pick healthy choices may fizzle. Having thought about what to order in advance will keep defensive dining tactics in play.

It’s for “company” game

bowl of candy and weight loss

There are many variations to this one: there is also “It’s for the kids.” Do the M & Ms really need to be in a bowl for your grandchildren and shouting to you all the time? I have grandchildren too, but I would not have a candy bowl sitting out all the time. I certainly like the chocolate as well and I would not be able to stare it down. Get the treats for kids, grandchildren, and company, but keep a limited stock that is purchased just prior to their arrival. Or, hide it from yourself. Better yet, get a treat that does not pose a high temptation threat to you! The less you like that treat, the better you can resist it.

Willpower for weight loss

I don’t feel that most people successful at long-term weight loss can use the concept of willpower. Over the long haul, they should instead think “smart” on eating strategies: keep a clean kitchen free of high temptation foods, keep small amounts or portion controlled foods that you conceptualize as treats, or if food is just too tempting to avoid once in your kitchen, just don’t put it into your grocery cart in the first place. Willpower, in my opinion, is not a good long term weight loss strategy.

Reflection for weight loss

Taking a step back to evaluate how you think about eating may be just the solution for trouble losing weight! By managing your thoughts along with your eating environment, you can start down the weight management road without tripping up too much. While summer is over, the holidays are right around the corner. Thinking differently could be just the torture-free weight loss fix you need when you think you can’t lose weight. Anyone can lose weight with the proper tools. After you change your thinking, consider these next weight loss steps.

Care to share your strategies for helping to “win” at the weight loss game?

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Alcohol Drink Calories: Here’s How to Choose Wisely

alcohol drink caloriesThe festive month of December has arrived. Along with extra holiday calories from cookies, candy, and restaurant fare, there are those often shrugged off alcohol calories you drink and forget about. Those high calorie beverages don’t need to contain alcohol, but many are frequently alcohol based. Without being mindful of those alcohol drink calories while you are humming holiday carols, you might be singing the blues come January 1. Anyone hoping to avoid moving out a belt notch in January would be wise to be mindful of the extra alcohol drink calories being consumed while out socializing. Just because your alcohol and party drinks disappear quickly, doesn’t mean they don’t count. While you may not be mentally counting those alcohol drink calories, your body knows better. And, how about some lower calorie snacks to accompany those alcoholic drinks at the next party?

The good news is that there are some festive drinks that will do less damage to your waistline. Your secret weapon here is to watch the portion size of your holiday beverages and be mindful of the calories contributed to your daily intake. Taking it a step further by tracking all your calories (not just thinking about them), usually ends up really helping to keep the belt notch in one spot. If looking for suggestions on how to decrease alcohol consumption in general, here are a few steps to start you off.

Alcohol drinks that are 125 calories or less

lower calorie alcohol drinks

  • 4 fl. oz. champagne- my favorite at only 65 calories a glass
  • 12 fl. oz. most non-alcoholic beers-70 calories
  • 4 fl. oz. Mimosa-75 calories
  • 12 fl. oz. Michelob Ultra-95 calories
  • 12 fl. oz. Miller Light Beer-96 calories
  • 12 fl. oz. Amstel Light Beer-96 calories
  • 1.5 fl. oz. gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, or tequila-about 97 calories
  • 1.5 fl. oz. brandy-98 calories. Consider drinking on the rocks to give the illusion of a larger serving!
  • 12 fl. oz. Corona Lite Beer-99 calories
  • 12 fl. oz. White Claw hard seltzer-100 calories
  • 12 fl. oz. Coors Light Beer-102 calories
  • 8 fl. oz. Rum and Diet Coke-100 calories
  • 4 fl. oz. Sangria-100 calories
  • 2 fl. oz Martini-120 calories
  • 5 fl. oz. of most wines (red or white)-120 calories
  • 2.25 fl. oz. traditional Martini-124 calories
  • 5 fl. oz. Bloody Mary-125 calories

Alcohol drinks that are over 125 calories

  • 6 fl. oz. Mojito-145 calories
  • 12 fl. oz. Beck’s Dark Pilsner Beer-142 calories
  • ½ cup low-fat eggnog-150 calories
  • 12 fl. oz. regular beer-150 calories
  • 10 fl. oz. Irish coffee-160 calories
  • 1 fl. oz. of most liqueurs-165 calories
  • 4 fl. oz. Margarita-168 calories
  • 8 fl. oz. Rum and Coke-185 calories
  • 7 fl. oz. Gin and tonic-190 calories (diet tonic water can slash the calories)
  • 4 ounces Cosmopolitan-200 calories
  • ½ cup regular eggnog-220 calories
  • 4 fl. oz. Daquiri-225 calories

Splurges that are 300 or more calories

  • 5 fl. oz. Mai Tai-310 calories
  • 6.5 ounces Margarita-330 calories
  • 10 ounces Hurricane-380 calories
  • 6 ounces Amaretto Sour-420 calories
  • 9 fl oz. Pina Colada-490 calories
  • 7 fl. oz. Grasshopper Martini-525 calories
  • 8 fl. oz. White Russian-570 calories
  • 12.5 fl. oz. Mud Slide-595 calories

Tips to lighten up alcoholic beverage calories

alcohol drink caloriesWhenever a diet version of a standard ingredient can be used, the calories of your cocktail will be decreased. Note the regular rum and coke is 185 calories. But, the rum and coke using diet coke slashes the drink to 100 calories. You can also use diet tonic water and diet seven-up when possible. While these tactics may not always be an option at a restaurant or bar, you can improvise at a party hosted at a home. Think more ice, water, maybe even adding some frozen fruit puree to your cocktails to displace some of the alcohol calories.

A favorite “trick” of mine when watching calories at parties was to simply put flavored seltzer water in a pretty wine glass. There’s something very psychologically uplifting to drinking plain water or flavored seltzer water in a nice cocktail glass! And, it’s always a good plan to have your alcohol drink followed by plain water before you opt for another serving of alcohol.

Portions sizes always matter

Just as when selecting food for a healthy diet, portion sizes matter! Note the fluid ounces of each beverage are noted above. If your standard serving is slightly more, you need to account for that increase in size. Multiple servings of some of these high calorie beverages, coupled with typical high fat snack foods often served along with these drinks will most likely blow your calorie intake to the North pole. In addition to selecting your alcoholic beverage for your party, consider setting a limit for the event or party as well. And, if dining out at a restaurant this holiday season, consider some of these smart dining strategies as well.

Take away

If you care about maintaining your weight during the holidays, it’s wise to be thinking about the calories you are drinking. Know the better lower calorie options and try to plan for them. Be aware of serving sizes of alcohol just as you would do for food. Try to figure out how to dilute those alcohol calories with water, ice, or diet versions of ingredients when possible.

There’s an old saying, “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so enjoy your party beverages, but think about your choices as you enjoy the holiday spirit this month. Doing so will make for a healthy and easier transition to 2020. Portion control tactics and smart eating strategies in December will yield a lot less work at the gym in January. Cheers!

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Healthy Spinach Dip: A Nice Appetizer With Less Calories

low calorie spinach dip recipe

The merry holidays have arrived, bringing with them plenty of social engagements and delicious food. For many people, delicious often means “full of calories.” However, it doesn’t have to. With a bit of crafty cooking, you can make your favorite holiday recipes tasty, but with fewer calories. A healthy spinach dip made lower in calories is a personal favorite. This skinny version recipe always gets rave reviews. No one ever seems to notice that all the fat has been removed from this healthy and classic Knorr spinach dip recipe!

Great tasting dip for fewer calories

A favorite of many, this dish packs a mean 72 calories in each tablespoon. That may not seem like a lot, but remember most of us don’t stop at a just a tablespoon! Making a few key changes to this recipe can reduce the caloric count to 50 calories per tablespoon. It may not seem like 20 calories is a big deal, but keep in mind that most people probably eat about five tablespoons or more. As a result, at least 100 calories saved! During the holidays, those calories add up quickly.

An appetizer dip with important nutrients

In addition to being reduced in fat and calories, this appetizer offers some significant nutrients. In fact, spinach has a reputation as a superfood. It’s a source of lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene, which contribute to eye health. It’s also loaded with antioxidants, and has almost as much as kale. Those antioxidants protect the body’s cells from oxidation which is damaging to the body. Spinach is also a source of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium. It should be noted, however, that the calcium in spinach is not readily absorbed. This is because spinach has oxalic acid which binds the calcium to prevent absorption. So, while spinach is not a great source of calcium, it’s a great source of other key nutrients. Include it in your diet for beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, potassium, and magnesium.

The slimmed down healthy spinach recipe

Conventional Spinach Dip Recipe: 1 Tablespoon serving size = 72 calories

Resized Spinach Dip Recipe: 1 Tablespoon serving size = 50 calories

"Resized" Holiday Spinach Dip

Lower caloried classic spinach dip appetizer
Prep Time10 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Servings: 20

Ingredients

  • 3 green onions
  • 1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 package KNORR brand vegetable soup
  • 1 cup fat-free mayonnaise
  • 1 container no fat sour cream
  • 1 8 oz can chopped and drained water chestnuts

Instructions

  • Make sure the spinach is thoroughly thawed and drained. I usually thaw it and then place it in a strainer and press on it to get as much moisture out as possible. Next, mix all the ingredients together. Chill for several hours to blend flavors. Stir well. Serve with crackers, cut up vegetables, or cubed bread as pictured.
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    NUTRITION INFORMATION: 1 Tbsp. is about 50 calories

This goes nicely into a scooped out round loaf of sourdough bread with the scooped out bread used for dipping. This recipe can also be made several days in advance of your party. So, it’s a great make-ahead appetizer to lessen holiday stress. Just make sure you give it a final stir before placing in a pretty bowl or the scooped out bread.

Substituting the fat-free versions of mayonnaise and sour cream in this recipe will help whittle your waist without compromising the taste! If the fat-free versions are not available at your grocery store or in your part of the country, then use the reduced fat versions. I hope you enjoy my version of this low calorie healthy spinach dip.

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Low Calorie Snacks: 60 Simple 100 Calorie Choices

100 calorie snacksThe holidays have arrived. You don’t want to gain ten pounds this season. So, you are trying to be mindful about your eating habits-including snacking. By setting a 100 calorie limit for snacks, you’re sure to stay on track with your diet and weight management. Smart snacking strategies work during the holidays and really all year long. Personally, I think that to make snacking options really work for a person, they need to be super easy. While Pinterest and the rest of the internet have many great snack recipes, it’s nice to have 100 calorie diet snack options that are NOT recipes! Sometimes, it’s necessary to make snacking fast and effortless! Any preparation beyond getting to the grocery store and simply eating the snack may actually be a mental roadblock. With no recipes or preparation, these 100 calorie simple snacks will help straighten out your eating quickly.

Some of these 100 calorie diet snacks are easily purchased in prepackaged servings. Other 100 calorie diet snack options listed here just combine simple foods. Or, it might be necessary to count certain food items to reach the 100 calories. There are no recipes, just 60 easy 100 calorie simple diet snacks.

Benefits of snacking

Snacking can prevent you from overeating. By incorporating a snack into your day, you can offset a downward blood sugar spiral which could lead to severe hunger. Untamed, severe hunger can lead to a calorie binge that was not anticipated. You will simply eat too much, too quickly, and possibly the wrong foods if you become ravenous. It’s always best to avoid that scenario so you avoid eating the whole kitchen. Strategically placed snacks throughout the day do more than raise your blood sugar to prevent overeating. They can also be a significant source of nutrients-depending on what snacks you opt for. There are many “treat” type snacks noted below, but there are many 100 calorie options noted that are high in nutrients. By adding several planned snacks to your daily eating regimen, you are more likely to meet your overall nutritional requirements.

By choosing more of the nutrient dense options, your snacks can contribute specific key nutrients and have a huge impact on your biochemistry. If you opt for fruit and vegetables as snacks, you’ll be getting more fiber, potassium, and phytochemicals into your diet. If you opt for protein rich snacks, you’ll be satisfied for a longer time period because the protein stabilizes your blood sugar levels. As far as your sweet tooth, sometimes it just needs to be satisfied, right? Knowing how to stop the sweet tooth snack attacks at 100 calorie will be helpful for all your weight and health goals!

20 salty/crunchy low calorie snacks

100 calorie diet snacks

  1. 1 bag of Skinny Pop popcorn
  2. 25 baby carrots
  3. 2 celery stacks with 1 Tbsp. reduced fat peanut butter
  4. 20 dill pickles
  5. a medium sized apple
  6. pretzels, 3/4 oz.
  7. 25 pistachio nuts
  8. 40 raw almonds
  9. 11 cashews
  10. 16 peanuts
  11. 2 Tbsp. roasted chickpeas
  12. Simply Quinoa Chips, 3/4 oz.
  13. Soy nuts, 3/4 oz.
  14. 15 Tostitos tortilla chips plus 2 Tbsp. salsa
  15. 5.5 ounces of tomato juice plus 1 oz. vodka, plus 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  16. 3 Tbsp. toasted and salted sunflower seeds
  17. Pirate Booty, 3/4 oz.
  18. Amy’s Minestrone Soup, 1 cup
  19. Trader Joe’s Pickled Beets, 3/4 cup
  20. 28 Veggie Straws

20 sweet low calorie snacks

snacks for sweet tooth, waffle with whipped cream

  1. Low fat waffle, 5 strawberries, aerosol whipped cream
  2. 10 jelly beans
  3. 27 M & Ms
  4. 4 Hershey Kisses
  5. 1 oz. box of raisins
  6. 4 large marshmallows
  7. Ice cream float made with diet soda and 1/2 cup ice cream
  8. 11 Frosted Mini Wheat Biscuits
  9. 2/3 cup Honey Nut Cheerios
  10. 2 fig bars
  11. Baked apple sprinkled with cinnamon, stevia, and spray of whipped cream
  12. 3/4  cup skim milk sweetened with 1 Tbsp. Hershey’s Lite Syrup
  13. Medium sized banana (4.2 ounce)
  14. 20 strawberries with 2 Tbsp. aerosol whipped cream
  15. 2 cups of watermelon
  16. Salerno Butter Cookies, 4
  17. Rice Krispie Treat, 1 package
  18. 1/2 cup strawberry Halo Top Ice Cream
  19. 60 grapes
  20. Creamsicle, 1 bar

20 protein rich low calorie snacks

high protein 100 calorie snacks

  1. 3 oz. cooked shrimp plus 1 Tbsp. cocktail sauce
  2. Hard boiled egg, Extra Large
  3. One cup low fat milk
  4. 2 oz. cooked chicken
  5. 2 oz. flank steak
  6. 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 4% milkfat
  7. 1/4 cup cottage cheese, 4% milkfat, plus 5 oz. cantaloupe
  8. 1 oz. brie cheese or provolone cheese
  9. 2 slices of 2% milkfat American cheese
  10. Yoplait Greek Lemon Yogurt, 1 container
  11. Oikos Mixed Berry Yogurt, 4.5 ounces
  12. 1/2 cup light tofu
  13. 1 string cheese
  14. Belgioioso fresh mozzarella balls, 1 oz. plus 2 water crackers
  15. tuna packed in water, 4 oz.
  16. 2 Tbsp. humus plus one whole carrot
  17. Edamame, 1/2 cup
  18. 2 wedges Laughing Cow Extra Light plus 2 Melba Toast
  19. Babybel Light Cheese & Crackers prepackaged snack
  20. 1 Luna high protein bar

I hope you enjoyed this list of snack options for your salt cravings, sweet tooth, and protein fixes! Snacking can be an important part of a high quality diet. Choosing your snacks wisely can increase key nutrients in your diet. It can reign in your sweet tooth to help manage your weight. And, it can even help stabilize blood sugar to curb hunger and control diabetes. These are great options to add to your eating plan to round out your taste preferences without rounding out your waistline! If looking for a few less calories, check out 50 calorie snacks!

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Healthy Thanksgiving Food: Low Calorie and Delicious

healthy Thanksgiving foodThe big turkey day is nearly here and many cooks are already planning their menus for Thanksgiving. Across the country, people will eat dinner with family and friends in homes and restaurants. Many of my clients feel it is difficult to focus on health and wellness at this time of the year. For Thanksgiving gatherings, I tell my clients it is “just one day” of dining. This holiday meal should be viewed as a meal enjoyed with those that matter in your life, a time to be thankful, and a time to reflect. And, with a little planning, most traditional Thanksgiving menu choices can end up being truly healthy Thanksgiving food! Let’s take a look at some typical foods and decide how to make them healthy, lower calorie, and still delicious Thanksgiving menu options.

Healthy Thanksgiving food to serve

Low calorie Thanksgiving pumpkin pie

Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene which is the plant derived form of vitamin A. That beta-carotene is loaded with cancer fighting anti-oxidants. Along with a lot of other nutrients, it helps protect our vision, our skin, immunity, and is necessary for reproduction. In children, it plays a critical role in bone development.

With traditional pumpkin pie, the vast majority of the calories are from the crust. Consider offering your guests a slimmed down crust free pumpkin pie option. You can still offer the traditional version in addition to the no crust pie. The no crust pie tastes exactly like the version with a crust except except it has a slightly different texture. The crust-free version has 1/2 cup of Bisquick added to the filling to give it some stability upon slicing since there is no crust. Here’s the slimmed pumpkin pie recipe to try. And, top with aerosol whipped cream to limit calories. That aerosol whipped cream is full of air! Air does not yield any calories.

If you want a second dessert option, try my ice cream roll cake. You can tweak this recipe so many ways. Make it lactose free, gluten free, chocolate, or vanilla. It’s perfect for entertaining because you can prepare it way in advance. It’s only about 200 calories a slice. What’s not to love about stress free entertaining?

Sweet potatoes

sweet potatoes as healthy Thanksgiving foodThis is another beta-carotene superstar. Keep the calories in tow by limiting the brown sugar, butter, nuts, and marshmallows used in traditional recipes. You can try slimming down your own traditional recipe by cutting the high calorie ingredients (sugar, butter, nuts, marshmallows) in half or try a new recipe! Here’s a slimmed down sweet potato recipe that looks like it’s worth a try!

Mashed potatoes

Potatoes sure get a bad and undeserved wrap. It seems everyone is afraid to eat them these days. You know, too many carbs! The problem with that thinking is that potatoes are loaded with potassium! In fact, white potatoes are much higher in potassium than bananas (see how potatoes rank in potassium). Potassium is critical to a healthy diet and most people are not meeting their potassium requirements. There should be no guilt in eating mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving or at any meal for that matter. It’s simple to make healthier lower calorie mashed potatoes by just tweaking your standard recipes. Try cutting your added butter in half. Consider using skim milk, low sodium chicken broth, or fat-free sour cream in your recipe to slash the fat and calories. These recipe alterations will have an amazing impact on the calorie content per serving of your mashed potatoes.

Cranberries are healthy Thanksgiving food

cranberries as healthy Thanksgiving foodCranberries are loaded with cancer fighting plant chemicals, vitamin C, and fiber. No need to limit its use to just cranberry bread and sauce which are both high in sugar. Consider using it in a fruit compote instead. Here’s an interesting recipe that foots the bill for a cranberry compote which is low in calories. It gets its reduced calorie content due to the monk fruit used as the sweetener.

Turkey is healthy Thanksgiving food

Traditional Thanskgiving turkey is always healthy Thanksgiving food

Turkey is full of lean good quality protein. A 4 oz. serving of lean turkey has 200 calories, 36 grams of protein, and only 2 grams of fat. Watch your gravy portions or opt for a low fat or fat-free gravy. Just a word on that stuffing, be sure to roast your turkey separately from the stuffing. Baking stuffing in a separate casserole dish will make it less fatty since the fatty turkey juices will not be in contact with it.

Post Thanksgiving meal strategies

For Thanksgiving foods that are not low calorie, consider boxing them up for guests to take home. You might want to have inexpensive containers ready and waiting for those leftovers. Then you can pack them up immediately and get them refrigerated if need be. Send guests home with any personally high temptation foods if you are trying to manage your weight. Otherwise, you’ll need to rely on willpower to stop yourself form overindulging, and that usually fails!

You should eat your turkey leftovers within five days. Sometimes those leftovers just end up sitting in the refrigerator too long, so consider freezing the meat immediately if you think you’ve had enough turkey for awhile. Or, consider using the leftover turkey scraps to make a family favorite turkey croquette. You can just prep the turkey scraps in a food processor, bag them up, and pull the turkey out when ready to make the croquettes.

leftover turkey scraps made into croquettesTake Away

Enjoy the day and the health benefits of a traditional Turkey day menu lightened up. There is always a way to lighten the calories of any traditional recipe. Top your meal with a nice family walk, and you will be slim and ready for the next round of holidays in December!

Do you think any of my suggestions would work for your Thanksgiving menu planning? Do you have any other suggestions to add to this blog? Please share this post if you found it helpful.

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A Diet High in Fiber: A Solution for Many Health Problems

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. 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 of a diet high in fiber.

Fiber 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 of a diet high in fiber

fiber impact on health

Diet high in fiber for constipation

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 benefit from fiber

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.

Diet high in fiber for 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.

High fiber diets and cancer

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.

Diet high in fiber helps 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.

Diet high in fiber helps 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

Fiber in fruits and vegetables (3+ grams)

  • 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

Fiber with whole grains (3+ grams)

  • 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

Fiber from a breakfast bar (3+ grams)

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.

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Foods for Eye Health: How to Eat to Preserve Vision

foods for eye healthOh, 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 foods to eat for eye health.

Foods for eye health should be green

green foods for eye health

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.

Foods for eye health should be orange

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 fruit foods for eye healthVitamin 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 rich foods for eye health

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 for eye health

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.

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.

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