In an effort to eat as close to nature as possible and lead healthful lifestyles, many of us have growing concerns about what is added to our foods, especially processed foods. The array of chemicals meant to thicken, stabilize, color, and flavor can be intimidating enough to make one question their safety.
Viewing entries in
When it comes to protecting our hearts, there is much we can do through diet. We are becoming more aware than ever that it is the type of dietary fat, rather than the total amount of fat, that affects health.
When I look back at my childhood memories, there are a few distinct moments, almost like screenshots (keeping it current, snapshots/photo images) that are vivid in my mind of people and places. I can tell you what I wore or what song was playing at an event or moment in time, but will fail in giving you a year or telling you how old I was. I can even still hear the jingling of my mother’s favorite gold bangles as she entered a room; you always knew when she was approaching. Even stronger memories are tied to certain smells, such as the scent of Greece, the motherland of my parents. We would land every summer into the Athens airport and walk off the plane into paradise. It is something magical and unique to experience.
It is becoming increasingly evident that a plant-based diet has many health benefits including lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancers, and obesity. In fact, researchers of a study tracking plant-based dietary patterns and incidence of type 2 diabetes in the US (published in PLOS Medicine medical journal) found that those who ate more healthy plant foods (meaning whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and oils) and fewer animal foods, had a 35 percent lower risk of diabetes regardless of their weight.
The way I interpret “clean eating”—and I think most nutrition experts would agree—is predominantly choosing whole, real foods or close to how they are found in nature, as well as foods that are less or minimally processed.
We know whole grains are heroes when it comes to their strong link to a lower risk of mortality and chronic diseases including heart attack and other cardiovascular disease; stroke; cancer; respiratory disease; and type 2 diabetes. Many recent studies support the risk reduction associated with the consumption of whole grains. In addition to all this, whole grains, which essentially provide a high fiber diet, aid in digestive health and even gum disease prevention.
Eating right matters, and this does not change as we get older. In fact, it is never too late in life to see the health benefits of good nutrition. The main principles of eating well are the same no matter what age. A nutritious diet should emphasize fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins (including fish and seafood) and plant proteins (beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds), and healthy unsaturated fats while limiting processed foods, especially processed meats and fast foods.
Fact: There is no scientific data that proves that eliminating gluten promotes weight loss. Any time we try something new, we are “all in,” at least at the onset, with a keen and committed attention to our nutrition, physical activity, and avoidance of what we (or the internet) consider “bad food.” So yes, there can be indirect weight loss for some people due to cutting down on calories as a result of elimination of certain foods or even an entire food group. Additionally, if processed gluten foods are being replaced with fruits and vegetables, some weight loss will likely occur.
I am addicted to chia and flax… and even sesame seeds. I guess I love them all, and I’m in good company. Seeds are everywhere: in snack bags, in salads, and even in bread
All whole grains are healthful, in both universal and unique ways. According to the Dietary Guidelines, at least half of our grains should be whole.
I took an unscientific poll in the office and asked co-workers: “how much weight do you think people gain, if any, over the holiday season?"
The answers ranged from 2 to 15 pounds with the average number at 6.5 pounds. Well, luckily the results of my pseudo poll were way off.
As it turns out, Americans gain an average of 1.32 pounds (0.6 kg) according to a study published in September 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine. This study looked at weight gain over the holidays in three countries: Germany, Japan, and the United States. Americans participating in the study saw their weight increase by 0.2 percent during the Thanksgiving holiday and 0.4 percent over Christmas. Another study from 2000, in the same journal, found that the average holiday gain minimum was 1 pound (0.48kg). A look at studies over the last decade yielded similar results, demonstrating holiday weight gain is less than commonly asserted. Therefore, I remain optimistic for our waistlines between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
So what’s the problem?
Weight gain, even a little, is still weight gain that takes time and effort to come off. Although up to half of holiday weight gain is lost shortly after the holidays, the other half seems to remain until the summer months and sometimes beyond. Year after year, that weight can add up, not including any weight gain that occurs the rest of the year. So as hard as it is to resist the extra piece of pie or prevent weight gain during the holiday season, remember, it is much harder to lose it later.
Weight gain is not inevitable
Stay focused on all the healthy habits you have been working on the rest of the year. Here are some quick and familiar reminders from past blogs to get you through the holiday season:
- Eat complex carbohydrates with fiber, lean proteins, and healthy plant fats
- Be physically active on most days of the week – make it a priority
- Watch portion sizes – Ex: select small serving dishes
- Make traditions healthy with some smart recipe substitutes
- Be prepared ahead of time with meal and snack prep – Ex: Eat something healthy before going out to a holiday party or bring healthy options to the party
- Stay social, but not by the food table – talk more, eat less by making food less accessible
- Eat consciously, no mindless eating
- Skip the leftovers
- Watch the alcohol – these are empty calories
- Find a buddy – build a support system
The most recent study assessing weight gain in three countries concluded with the recommendation that the less one gains, the less one then has to worry about trying to lose it. I am going to agree with the researchers on this one! Check out this month’s blog to learn more on how to enjoy the holidays without packing on the pounds.
Lela Iliopoulos is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and an expert in nutrition therapy, health promotion, and education. She is passionate about impacting nutritional health through the practical application of science-based information
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic food is one of the fastest growing segments of American Agriculture, up nearly 300 percent from 2002. So is it safe to say that consumers are buying organic because they believe it is healthier and safer than conventional? And if so, are they correct?
Although Sprouted Grains are popping up in the market at an increased rate, they are a long-standing practice and not just the latest trend. You may have noticed more use of sprouted grains in recipes and food manufacturing for cereal, bread, pasta, and other packaged foods with good reason, as the process of sprouting grains maximizes the nutrition of whole grains and makes the nutrients more bioavailable, i.e. easier for your body to access the nutrients.
One of life’s greatest pleasures is eating fresh bread, soft and warm right out of the oven! Unfortunately, the clock starts ticking on quality the moment the loaf begins to cool. Nothing is sadder for a carbohydrate lover than to see a beautiful loaf of bread turn into a paper weight. If you are baking homemade bread, enjoy it as soon as it comes out of the oven. Of course, most of us buy packaged bread at the grocery store. Either way, there are several ways to maintain the freshness of your bread.
Back-to-school season conjures up awesome memories of my sisters and me buying our school supplies that—of course—had to be color coordinated to our folders (Trapper Keepers) and notebooks. Do kids do that anymore? Anyway, back to school also means back to structured schedules, hurried mornings, and school lunches.
There is some debate on the power of breakfast to boost metabolism and/or promote weight loss. There is more evidence in support of breakfast to help us burn calories throughout the day. Researchers have found that people who eat breakfast do tend to be thinner than those who don’t. When looking at the most successful weight loss stories and those individuals who maintain their weights, one common factor seems to be that they eat breakfast.
Whether it is a simple piece of toast spread with jam or a more elaborate plate of French toast with a side of eggs and bacon, breakfast is bread’s domain. From bagels and English muffins to an evenly toasted piece of your favorite bread, whole grains have long been a staple of the meal our mothers are always telling us is most important
If you think carbs are all wasted calories and bad for you, think again. Here is just one more reason to love bread, as if its deliciousness weren’t enough. Australian scientists found that the fiber in bread, cereals, and fruits helped people avoid disease and disability in old age. Their findings have been published in the Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.
Whatever your destination or mode of travel, it’s challenging to eat well while on the road. Inhibitions go down, routines are broken, the schedule is out the window, food options are limited, and then there are those wait times that make us eat mindlessly.
So how do we stay on course with a nutritious diet while hitting the road?
A lifestyle of healthy eating isn’t just good for your body; it’s also essential for good brain function. Some fad diets may warn against grains and carbohydrates, but it’s important to remember that grains are a source of protein, vitamin B2, and zinc.