It’s summer, and I cannot figure out why I am so busy! Today, as has been the case for the last few weeks, I am short on time. I decided to hit my favorite area specialty grocery store this morning for some “back-up” type meals to avoid being tied to the kitchen later in the day. I like to keep a few “convenience” type meal alternatives that do not require either thinking, or labor, when I am either very tired or too busy to spend time in the kitchen. My criteria when purchasing such foods is typically limited to evaluating: total fat, calories, and sodium. For many convenience foods, it is easy enough to find limited fat and calories, or limited sodium, but rather a difficult task to find convenience foods already prepared that are acceptable in all three categories.
Here are my favorite “go-to” foods from Trader Joe’s
Breaded Tenderloin Chicken Breasts (per 66 gram piece, has 110 calories, 3.5 gm total fat, 180 mg sodium); toss on a bed of lettuce greens for a quick meal.
Roasted Vegetable Multi-Grain Lasagna (per 1/4 package, has 240 calories, 7 gm total fat, 480 mg sodium)
Wild Salmon in Yogurt and Mint Sauce with Orzo Pasta, Spinach and Zucchini (one container has 350 calories, 10 gm fat, 310 mg sodium)
If you have a beef with carbs, you might want to rethink avoiding them. There are technically many reasons to actually eat the right amount of carbs. For whatever reason, the topic of carbohydrates fuels a firestorm of controversy. Look anywhere on the internet, and you will find a preponderance of carbohydrate criticism and vilification. It’s true that not all carbs are the same. The carbs which should be emphasized for health are the complex carbohydrates. These carbs are high in nutrient density. Complex carbs include lentils, grains, fruits, and vegetables. 20 of the many reasons to eat your carbs are listed, so check out the list!
Penne with Chickpeas, tomato, and feta
20 guilt-free reasons to eat nutrient dense carbs
They provide a rich source of B-complex vitamins not found in other food categories.
In the form of fruits and vegetables, they are an excellent source of vitamin C.
Complex carbs provide significant sources of potassium.
They are naturally low in fat.
Provide health protecting phytonutrients found almost exclusively in complex carbs.
Complex carbs are high in fiber to aid digestion and prevent constipation.
Fiber-rich complex carbs aid in blood glucose control.
Complex carbs fill you up and help you stick with a weight loss diet.
Sufficient carbohydrates prevent ketosis.
Carbohydrates spare the protein to function in growth, healing, and repair.
When decreasing carbs, you then need to increase your calories from another nutrient such as animal protein, which in excessive amounts may weaken bones.
Cut your carbs, then you need to increase your calories from other nutrients such as fat. This may lead to plaque build up on your arteries.
A low carbohydrate intake might increase cortisol levels. This may increase risk of some cancers.
A low carbohydrate intake might lead to an increased animal protein intake, which can increase painful gout.
You need carbohydrates in your diet to make glycogen.This is your storage fuel for endurance athletic events and can be a fuel source if food is not available.
Dairy products are nutrient dense carbohydrates which have important nutrients for strong bones and normal blood pressure.
Most Americans do not consume enough magnesium. Many good sources of magnesium are complex carbs like spinach, bran cereal, beans, lentils, and dairy products.
Strong bones need more than just calcium. And, many of the nutrients necessary for strong bones-vitamin K, various B vitamins, and magnesium are readily available from complex carbs.
As food, they create less of a carbon footprint than growing animals to eat.
They are satisfying and taste good! Don’t you miss them?
For these reasons, emphasizing unprocessed nutrient dense carbs such as lentils, beans, fruits, vegetables, fat-free dairy, and whole grain foods is not controversial, it is intelligent eating for the 21st century.
Exotic fishing cat pushed to extinction by shrimp farmers
Not very long ago, I was in a major Chicago suburban grocery store planning to buy some frozen shrimp. With the globalization of our food supply, I am in the habit of checking where a food item originates from in order to be “respectful” to the planet. I would prefer to avoid purchasing seafood from the other side of the world. This shopping day, I was actually unable to find any frozen shrimp other than shrimp from Thailand. I put the shrimp back, as I just had an unsettled feeling about making such a purchase. So, why am I saying don’t buy shrimp from Thailand? The beautiful exotic fishing cat seen in the photo is becoming extinct due to the shrimp farming in Thailand.
Extinction of an exotic fishing cat when you buy shrimp from Thailand
This week, tuning into the late hour US ABC Nightline news show, there was a story about a beautiful exotic cat from Southeast Asia which is becoming extinct. This wild cat, called the fishing cat, is a native to the wetland areas of Southeast Asia. These same wetland areas of Southeast Asia are also being utilized for the farming of shrimp. And, much of that shrimp ends up in the United States. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen frozen shrimp in a grocery outlet that is not from Thailand! This includes all my local Chicago area grocery store chain shopping options : Whole Foods, Jewel, Walmart, Target, Marianos, and Trader Joe’s.
According to the ABC Nightline story, the shrimp farmers take over the wetlands and encroach on the native home of the fishing cat. Now, the fishing cat population has declined to near extinction. As this exotic web-footed cat actually swims in the water for food, this encroachment by shrimp farmers has affected the natural habitat as well as the ability to access fish for food. With diminished capacity to find fish to eat, fishing cats are often forced to hunt for alternative food sources. They may resort to farmers’ livestock, which then allows them to meet their death with a shotgun.
Regardless of how you connect to this story, it points out there are multiple good reasons to purchase food locally. If purchasing shrimp raised closer to home stops extinction of a species, that means a lot to me. If it means our planet degrades less quickly, it should mean the world to you.
While daily use of multi-nutrient supplements has fallen out of favor by some health professionals due to some recent studies, there are five supplements many seniors should take. While food is always the best source of nutrients, certain circumstances with aging may warrant adding these supplements to your diet! Here are the 5 recommended supplements for seniors :
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We have too little of these essential fatty acids in our diet. While fish can be a good contributor of omega-3-fatty acids, eating fish a few times a week is not necessarily going to be insurance requirements are met. Other food sources include walnuts and flaxseed, but consistency is key. If these foods are not eaten regularly, a fish oil supplement a few times per week may be helpful.
We make this nutrient, but we make less of it as we age. If you are taking a statin drug to lower your cholesterol level, the statin drug will limit your body’s ability to make this nutrient. Consider taking CoQ10 if you are aging or on a cholesterol lowering statin!
While distributed in a wide variety of foods, my clients are often consuming too little of this nutrient. Magnesium may be easily washed and peeled away from foods during processing. A decreased calorie consumption also means less is being consumed through food.
It is best to get your baseline blood vitamin D levels checked, but chances are you will benefit from at least some additional supplemental vitamin D. While we can make this vitamin, we make less as we age. Increased use of sunscreen will further decrease production of vitamin D. With mounting evidence that vitamin D plays roles in promoting strong bones, healthy blood pressure, fighting infection, and decreasing inflammation and cancer risk, supplementation is frequently warranted. For more information on why it is hard to actually get enough vitamin D from foods, read on.
If you skip the dairy group, there is a good chance you may not be meeting your calcium requirements. Calcium is important for more than our bones-it also protects against colon cancer and high blood pressure. If you opt out of drinking regular milk and eating dairy products, choose soy, rice, or almond milk. Just make sure the brand you choose is fortified with calcium. If you avoid these products altogether, consider a supplement. Consume 1000 mg up to 50 years of age; for 50+ the requirements increase to 1200 mg.
While my preference is always going to be to get nutrients through food, eating less as we age, medication, and lifestyle may impact our nutritional status.
Any one have other supplements they think we should be taking as we get older?
I was a child in the 50s. Mothers back then frequently cooked with a “scary” piece of equipment called the pressure cooker. I remember being afraid of the loud sounds it made. I distinctly feared that the rattling piece of metal sitting atop the lid would fly off. When my mother gave me her pressure cooker after I myself became a mom, it sat in my cabinet and was never used. It was just way too intimidating to me with three small children to feed. After all, I was also concerned for their “safety”! But, oh times have changed, and modern pressure cookers are much less scary!
Fast forward to now. Like most people, I am very busy. I still work and I will always want to be eating healthier foods. Pressure cookers made today are much different than in the past.
Modern pressure cookers
The newer pressure cookers seem to be the perfect solution to preparing healthy food in limited time. They are equipped with a variety of settings, such as browning, sauteing, and warming, along with both low and high pressure settings, making it easy to prepare a complete gourmet meal in no time. For instance, rather than going through the hassle of soaking lentils overnight, with a pressure cooker you can cook with them immediately.
What’s more, modern pressure cookers have safety features to help prevent kitchen accidents. There are many other benefits to using a pressure cooker. Aside from saving time, using a pressure cooker limits nutrient losses. Because all the recipe components are in one pot and the liquid is part of the main dish, all nutrients are retained. Additionally, preparing a meal with a pressure cooker saves money. Tough and more economical cuts of meat can be used very successfully in the pressure cooker because the high pressure will tenderize the meat. Two of my favorite pressure cooker recipes can be found on this website.
Do your regularly eat cereal? While cereal can be a great source of health enhancing fiber, it can be loaded with too much iron. Iron consumption is critical for the health of all-especially women of childbearing age, infants, and children. Iron deficiency can cause a range of symptoms from energy draining anemia to disruptive behavior in children. Because adequate dietary iron is so critical to health, many of our foods are fortified with iron to lessen the public health risk of too little iron.
But, what happens if a lot of this highly fortified cereal is eaten by men and older women who have significantly lower iron requirements than younger women and children? Women of childbearing age need 18 mg of iron, but men and women in menopause need only 8 mg of iron. While a healthy body can actually exert some control over absorbing too much iron, once in the body, it can be problematic to excrete. If too much iron is absorbed on an ongoing basis, it can cause a range of symptoms from increased infection to organ failure in susceptible individuals.
Cereals with too much iron can be avoided by checking the Nutrition Fact Label
How much iron is in your cereal? How much iron do you need?
If you walk down the cereal aisle and start looking at the Nutrition Fact Label on cereal boxes, you will see that some of the most popular cereals-including some of the healthier high fiber whole grain varieties- are often packed with 50 to nearly 100% of the recommended 18 mg suitable for younger women. So, what about a man or older woman who chooses to eat multiple servings of a these cereals in a given day? They would be ingesting much more iron than they need, potentially placing themselves at medical risk over the long run.
Let’s look at how some popular cereals stack up per serving with regard to the 18 mg iron requirement:
Cheerios have 6.3 mg
Special K has 6.3 mg
Corn Chex has 9 mg
Corn Flakes have 9 mg
Raisin Bran has 6.3-10.8 mg (depends on the brand)
Wheat Chex has 14.4 mg
Frosted Mini Wheats have 16.2 mg
Multi-Bran Chex has 16.2 mg
Total has 18 mg
For those who love their cereal, but need less iron, there are some lower iron choices such as:
Kashi cereals range from virtually no iron up to 2 mg depending on the variety selected
Given that many people eat more than the standard ½-1 cup serving size, there is little doubt that some of you are consuming very large amounts of iron from cereal. Couple large serving sizes of iron fortified cereal with a glass of orange juice, and the iron absorption triples from the vitamin C in that orange juice!
Grapes are a healthy and easy snack for adults. And for toddlers, they are a great finger food. They are a rich source of cancer fighting phytochemicals. One-half cup of grapes have about one gram of fiber and only 60 calories. As a dietitian, I am eager to recommend grapes to my patients as part of a healthy eating plan. But, grapes for dogs is another story. This fruit has to stay in the fruit bowl for humans and far away from our furry friends. As a dog owner, I wish to share a story and a word of caution about how dangerous this fruit can be for our four-legged dog friends.
My story about grapes and dogs
Recently, my family gathered together for a Sunday dinner. My beautiful one-year old granddaughter was “eating” grapes, but really just sucking the juice out of them. After she sucked the juice out of the grapes, she pitched them on the floor. With all the dinner chaos, most of us hadn’t noticed that the grapes were ending up on the floor. Our family dog, Mollie, came over to help “clean up” the scattered food on the floor.
My family did not know grapes are poisonous to dogs. Being the animal lover I was, I knew better. As I saw what was happening, I yelled out a warning that “Dogs can’t eat grapes!” My family, aghast, was thinking perhaps I was mistaken or overreacting. They proceeded to verify the dangers of grapes for dogs online. As they went online, I immediately called the animal hospital. After very little discussion, the vet’s office decided it was best to bring our dog Mollie in. Vomiting was induced. Ultimately, we found that Mollie hadn’t actually eaten any grapes. But had she, she might have suffered kidney damage or death. The harm from eating grapes to a dog comes within a short time-span. Those grapes can hurt the kidneys in as little as six hours, unless the necessary precautions are taken.
A family learned a lesson on grapes and dogs
Pay attention to what’s on the floor when your pets are with you, especially if there are young children around! Let’s face it, kids love to throw food on the floor. So, until they stop, you will always need to keep on eye on the floor while your dog is around. And, be aware, that the ASPCA Poison Control Center also sounds an alarm for the following foods which are toxic to dogs:
raw yeast dough
artificially sweetened foods
Our pets are counting on us to keep them safe, so I hope my sharing this experience will help keep other pets safe as well. For more information on preventing pet poisoning click here.
Does anyone else have a story to share about keeping their 4-legged friend safe from poisonous substances?
It’s relatively easy to add flaxseed to your diet in order to reap some significant health benefits. Flax seed is a rich plant based source of omega-3 fatty acids, making for a nice dietary alternative to fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are protective against heart disease, hypertension, certain cancers, and some autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Americans typically do not eat enough of these healthful essential omega-3 fatty acids so, understanding how to add flaxseed to your diet can help improve your diet.
Flaxseed and fiber
Flaxseed is a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber aids in reducing blood cholesterol and insoluble fiber prevents constipation. The anti-cancer benefits of flaxseed are due to plant estrogens called lignans. Flaxseed contains more lignans than any other known plant material.
Easy ways to add flaxseed to your diet
a topping for salad
a thickening ingredient for soups
a topping for cottage cheese
adding to yogurt
adding to condiments such as mustard or mayo when making sandwiches
using as part of a baked product recipe or pancake mixture*
adding to hot and cold cereal
Purchasing and storage
Flaxseed can be purchased as a whole seed, or a milled or ground meal. Whole flaxseed, such as pictured above, is shelf stable for up to a year, but needs to be ground up to derive the health benefits. If the product is purchased already ground or milled, once the package is opened it should be kept in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to 3 months.
One tablespoon of flaxseed has 45 calories, 2 grams of fiber, a little protein, and a large amount of the omega-3 fatty acids. This is definitely food worth chewing on. Here’s a great recipe to use up that garden zucchini and get your flaxseed eaten:
Add flaxseed to your diet with this easy muffin recipe
*Chocolate Zucchini Muffins~ Recipe makes 24 muffins
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup ground or milled flaxseed
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups finely grated zucchini
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and ground flaxseed in a bowl. Cream the margarine, oil and sugar in another bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and the applesauce. Then, add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients and lightly mix. Lastly, add the grated zucchini.
Use paper baking cups to line muffin pan or generously oil or use baking spray on muffin pans. Fill tin or paper cups half way. Bake about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean. Remove, cool and enjoy.
Calories-175 Fiber- 1 gram Potassium-85 mg
Sodium-250 mg Fat-6 grams Carbohydrate-26 grams
Do you have a favorite recipe or way you add flaxseed to your diet?
Are you constantly feeling like you’re up against the clock when it comes to getting a meal on the table? Healthy eating strategies must be planned, as healthy meals do not magically appear on the dinner table. You most likely have been in the situation where you had no food to pull a meal together. The lack of food staples for meal preparation then became an excuse to dine out or order in. Poor planning when it comes to grocery shopping can lead to the same scenario. If you constantly rely on food prepared by others, chances are pretty good that you are eating too many calories. And most likely too much sodium, total fat, and saturated fat as well! Do this too often, and your overall health will eventually decline while your waistline goes the opposite direction.
Time management is key for healthy eating strategies
One key aspect to eating a healthy diet is time management. And, its imperative to apply your time management skills to your food activities. Considering the huge impact one’s diet has on health, it seems wise to budget a certain amount of time for meal planning. This planning can make a huge difference in getting healthy meals on the table for you and your loved ones. While eating is basically instinctive, healthy eating needs some thoughtful planning.
Suggestions for pulling off healthier eating
Dinner planning is also key for healthy eating strategies
As dinner is typically the most problematic meal, take about 20 minutes on the weekend to map out your dinner eating strategies for the entire work week. This advance planning allows you to think through your evening commitments and plan appropriately. For instance, you can keep dinner very simple if you need to run to a school function or evening meeting. For the tough evenings, you can plan on cooking ahead or purchasing already cooked entrees such as a roasted chicken. Or, with some advance planning, you can use a slow cooker or pressure cooker/instant pot.
Have a well stocked kitchen
Having a well stocked kitchen can allow you to eat a healthy meal without any effort. There is nothing wrong with cereal, milk, and fruit for dinner or a sandwich and fruit. Such labor-free meals can easily have the same nutrients as a hot meal. Granted, a hot meal is more comforting, but nutritionally speaking it really makes little difference to your health!
Prep your produce well in advance of eating
While most people say they like fruits and vegetables, very few people eat the 5 servings a day recommended by the National Cancer Institute. I have concluded, in part, this is due to the fact that fruits and vegetables can take some time to prepare and even eat. A little planning and preparation for the week’s menus can cut down on the struggle to find the time during the week to get these foods into your diet.
The above photo is from an organized mother of an infant and toddler. She works full-time and still manages to feed her family an extraordinarily healthy diet. With her well thought out eating strategies for the week, she is ready to start cooking with either a slow cooker or on the spot when arriving home. All she needs to do is pull her ingredients out of the refrigerator to pull this off.
Did you ever wonder what dietitians do for clients or patients? The range of our services is tremendous. We address most aspects of eating and exercise behavior needed to sustain a long-term quality of life. In order to help you understand what a dietitian does and does not do, I present a brief overview below which can better prepare you should you decide to consult with a dietitian. Bear in mind that each dietitian has a unique counseling style, and various areas of strength. For example, I consider myself to be a seasoned generalist, with the following areas of specialization: weight management, gastrointestinal diet therapies, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiac disease, cancer, wellness, and nutritional supplement strategies.
What this dietitian does for you
You speak and I listen. By gathering information relating to your diet and lifestyle we are able to launch a realistic food plan tailored to your specific needs. For my practice, this initial information gathering session is a minimum of 2 hours. By the end of the appointment, you will have your own personalized food plan.
We evaluate your food intake patterns and work on improving them to help you achieve your health and weight goals. Evaluation processes vary from dietitian to dietitian. Most dietitians would like clients/patients to document their food intake. As of this month, I have a new online platform for clients to document their food. This means I can see how you are doing between appointments!
Often, sticking to a diet and exercise plan requires having someone to oversee it. Dietitians offer this accountability by helping you to monitor your diet and eating behavior on an ongoing basis. That way, it becomes more difficult to put off your healthy lifestyle goals.
Starting a new diet or exercise regimen is not an easy process. Dietitians provide encouragement and support. We help you brainstorm ways to keep you on the path to a healthier lifestyle. We have suggestions for how to eat well away from home, eat well when there is no time, eat well when you are not feeling well, and eat well when life gets in the way. Clearly, dietitians play a crucial role in the formulation and maintenance of your diet and exercise plans.
What this dietitian won’t do for you
Create prefabricated cookie cutter food plans
While certain tools such as the new USDA food plate and old food guide pyramid have a place in nutrition education, such tools are not the centerpiece of my counseling. Each client is presented with cutting edge information and individually tailored dietary recommendations.
While clinical dietitians generally have significant medical knowledge, they are not physicians and do not prescribe medicine. I may, however, suggest supplements if I find a nutritional gap in your diet based on your food preferences and my monitoring of your diet. So we don’t write prescriptions in a conventional way, but we do prescribe in our own way.
While I have no magic wands, I am confident that in working together, I can help you achieve your goals for a healthier lifestyle. A few examples from my 25 years of nutritional counseling best illustrate this:
A physician referred a patient to me who needed to lose 100 pounds in order to undergo a heart transplant. After receiving my nutrition counseling services, the patient lost the 100 pounds, and ultimately no longer required the heart transplant. His significant weight loss allowed for his cardiac enzymes and heart function to return to normal.
Hundreds of my patients have had their physicians discontinue certain medications altogether as they have either successfully lost weight or modified their diets to address their specific medical conditions. Although many physicians are frequently surprised at the outcome of medical nutrition therapy, I don’t believe most dietitians are at all surprised because we know counseling and diet therapy are effective.
As you can see, the impact of nutritional consulting can be tremendous. Dietitians are able to do a great deal to help you achieve your diet and exercise goals. Ultimately, this sets you on a path to a healthier lifestyle. And, while there are many that dispense advise, dietitians are uniquely trained to do so. There are “purists” and “realists”, as a coin them. The realists are the counselors that can work with your needs, and not their own, to get your goals accomplished.