Category: Nutrition

Mindful Eating

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is the act of creating awareness of the food and beverages you are putting into your body while acknowledging your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations surrounding taste, satisfaction, and fullness. Mindful eating involves: (1) using and recognizing all of your senses to find pleasure in your food, (2) chewing, swallowing, & savoring each bite, and (3) having a non-judgmental awareness of external & internal cues influencing the desire to eat, food choice, the quantity of consumed, and the setting in which food is consumed. 

When you are more closely in tune with your internal hunger cues as well as your external environment, you can better control portion sizes, know the exact moment you are satisfied from eating, and better manage your weight.

Benefits of Mindful Eating

  1. A  non-diet, non-judgmental approach to eating 
  2. Increases awareness of portion sizes eaten to reduce likelihood of overeating
  3. Reduces stress & alleviates health problems
  4. Enhances the entire eating experience
  5. Helps you recognize differences between emotional & physical hunger
  6. Helps you learn to control the urge to eat when you are emotionally hungry

Brain-Stomach Connection

Fun Fact: It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register the chemicals released by your stomach that indicate when you are full. 

Most of us eat our meals on the-go, in our cars on the way to work or school, at our desks, or distracted in front of the TV or computer. Feeling full is a result of your brain registering the chemicals that are released once you put food and drinks into your stomach. When we eat our meals in under 20 minutes, we are not allowing the brain-stomach connection to occur. This diminishes our ability to recognize our true fullness levels and could potentially lead to overeating. Once you complete your meal, chemical levels continue to rise over the next 10-30 mins and stay elevated for about 3-5 hours. This helps keep you satisfied until the chemical levels fall again, yielding the return of hunger. 

To determine how long it takes you to finish your meal, set a timer and put it face down. Eat your meal like you normally would, without peaking at the timer. If you finish your meal in under 20 minutes, you ate too fast. 

Here are some helpful tips to help you slow down your eating: sip water in between bites, put your fork down between bites, eat with your non-dominant hand, eat with chopsticks instead of a fork or spoon, and chew your food thoroughly before going for the next bite. If you still do not feel full directly following your meal, the best thing to do is wait. The level of chemicals will increase with a little extra time making your hunger fade.

First Step in Mindful Eating: Assess your Hunger Levels

When practicing mindful eating, it is important to first differentiate between emotional vs. physical hunger cues. Signs of physical hunger include: headache, dizziness, stomach growling, feeling faint, lightheadedness, irritability, or a gnawing in your stomach. Emotional hunger includes eating when

bored, happy, stressed, angry, anxious, depressed. Once you have determined you are physically hungry, assess your hunger level using the hunger scale. It is always best to keep your hunger levels between 3-7 so that you don’t end up in cycles of under eating or overeating. A good rule of thumb is to always eat in order to feel “satisfied” not “stuffed.”

Second Step: Establish Awareness

Establishing awareness helps you build a connection between your hunger and your environment in order to help control possible episodes of emotional eating. Use the awareness checklist to help guide you through the process. I recommend printing and hanging it either in your desk drawer at work or on the inside of your snack cabinet at home for when you have any urges to emotionally eat. You can also keep a screenshot on your phone for those difficult times when you feel a lack of control. The awareness checklist is also a helpful tool for guiding you through mindful eating. 

Third Step: Be Present

After you have determined that you are in fact physically hungry and you have established awareness of your environment, it is time to practice being present. Shifting out of auto-pilot can be very difficult, especially when we are all so busy. However, mindful eating cannot be practiced without attentiveness. Take some time to look at the texture of your food and soak up each unique scent. With each bite, savor the flavor. If someone was to ask you what you had to eat, are you able to describe to someone each spice detected, each flavor tasted, and what it looked like? If not, then ensure you are in an environment free of distraction.

Mindful eating takes time to master so do not be discouraged if you have difficulty in the beginning. Your practice will certainly pay off as your portion sizes decrease while your ability to control hunger levels increases. Continue to utilize these tips and tools and eventually you will be an expert.

Let’s Talk Hydration

Water is necessary for our survival. About 60% of the human body is composed of water. 

Water serves many purposes in the body including:

  • It serves as a vital nutrient to the life of every cell
  • Helps deliver oxygen and nutrients all over the body
  • Regulates our internal body temperature through sweating and respiration
  • Helps metabolize carbohydrates and proteins from food
  • Flushes waste through urination, sweating, and bowel movements
  • Acts as a shock absorber for the brain, spinal cord, and fetus
  • Forms saliva
  • Lubricates joints

Dehydration can lead to a number of serious conditions such as: kidney failure, seizures, shock, and death. But how much water do we actually need to prevent dehydration? 

Water requirements are highly dependent upon the individual for factors such as exercise, environment, overall health, pregnancy, and medical conditions (i.e. kidney or heart disease), can all influence your exact needs. You have probably heard the advice, “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.” While this is a good starting point for healthy individuals, it may not be enough for some or it may be too much for others.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is: 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men & 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends a total of: 

  • 13 cups (about 3 liters) of fluid for men
  • 9 cups (a little over 2 liters) of fluid for women
  • 10 cups of water daily for pregnant women
  • 12 cups a day for breastfeeding women.

You may notice that both of these recommendations are higher than the recommended 8 cups a day. The reason is because they include fluids from all other beverages, such as tea, coffee, and juice, and foods such as soup and produce. Vegetables and fruits (cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, citrus, berries), have a high water content and can help you stay hydrated. While caffeine in coffee and tea can make you pee more frequently, the water from these beverages still leads to a net positive contribution to total fluid consumption. Juice, sports drinks, coffee drinks, and smoothies are packed with sugar, so be mindful of those calories when counting them toward your fluid needs. Water is calorie-free.

It is certainly harder to track your water intake when you count foods in the mix so to know if you are truly meeting your fluid needs, check your urine. The darker the urine = the more water and fluid you need. The clearer it is = the more you are hydrating properly.   

Immune-Boosting Recipes

Staying healthy is more important now than ever as we learn to navigate through our new reality. Nourishing our bodies with healthy food not only helps us fight infection, but it also helps us: manage our weight, prevent disease, gain energy, and promote longevity. 

I am so excited to share these five healthy recipes with you. Not only are they delicious, but the ingredients and spices were carefully and purposefully selected for their containment of specific nutrients that help support a healthy immune system. Every dish hits the 7 major immune boosting nutrients: Vitamins A, C, D, E, probiotics, zinc. Not to mention spices, such as garlic and turmeric, are utilized for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

The main dish includes: Salmon & Vegetable Skewers with a Nonfat Greek Yogurt Tzatziki Sauce. Side dishes include: Quinoa & Spinach, Cucumber, Tomato, & Avocado Salad with a Garlic, Lemon, & Olive Oil Dressing. For dessert, you have an antioxidant packed fruit salad.

This meal is not full of immune boosting nutrients, but it is perfectly balanced as it includes foods from all five food groups. If you are vegetarian, you can always substitute tofu for salmon. If you are vegan, you can substitute the nonfat Greek yogurt with a non-dairy yogurt substitute.

I recommend batch cooking the salad, quinoa, and fruit salad to save yourself time later on in the week with meal prep.

I would love to hear your comments if you try any of the recipes. Happy cooking : )

Salmon & Vegetable Skewers with Nonfat Yogurt Tzatziki Sauce

 

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 4 people

 

Ingredients:

  • Wooden skewers (any length)
  • 1 pound of fresh salmon (remove the skin and bones)
  • 1 medium zucchini or squash
  • 2 bell peppers (choose a variety)
  • 4 Tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika 
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Pepper to taste (optional)
  • 8 oz. nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ medium cucumber
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 mint leaves
  • Food safe gloves

Preparation:

  1. Submerge the wooden skewers in ice cold water. Set a timer for 30 minutes
  2. Pour 8 oz of nonfat Greek yogurt into a bowl.
  3. Peel ½ a medium cucumber. Grate it using the largest-sized blades. Then squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can until the pieces feel dry. Set it aside.
  4. Chiffonade 10 mint leaves by stacking them on top of each other, rolling them up, then making small cuts with a knife.
  5. Combine the cucumber, mint, 2 tsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice, ½ tsp minced fresh garlic, and ¼ tsp kosher salt in the yogurt. Mix well until the contents are evenly distributed. Store in the refrigerator until use.
  6. Remove the skin and bones from the salmon using deboning tweezers. Carefully cut the salmon into 1” in cubes. The pieces need to be large enough to put through the wooden skewer. 1 pound of salmon yields roughly 25-30 1” pieces. 
  7. Chop the zucchini and bell peppers into 1” pieces and place them into a bowl.
  8. Combine 4 Tbsp of olive or grapeseed oil, ¼ tsp turmeric, ¼ tsp cumin, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp paprika, and ½ tsp Kosher salt into a bowl and mix with a spoon. 
  9. Put on food safe gloves to avoid staining your hands, clothes, linens, and surfaces.
  10. Pour the marinade over the zucchini and bell peppers and using your hands, ensure it evenly coats all of the contents in the bowl. Next, carefully add your salmon into the bowl and coat each piece with the marinade. 
  11. Remove wooden skewers from ice cold water.
  12. Assemble your skewers as desired.
  13. Turn the stove top on medium heat. Place the assembled skewers on the grill pan. Grill each side of the salmon for 1-2 min/side or until fully cooked. There are a total of 4 sides. The salmon should be a bright pink color when fully cooked. Let the pieces cool before serving.

Tips: 

  • Substitute salmon for extra-firm tofu or skinless, boneless chicken breast.
  • If you are vegan, lactose intolerant, or allergic to dairy, you can substitute the nonfat Greek yogurt for a non-dairy yogurt. 
  • You can cook the skewers in the oven instead of grill them. Set the oven at 350 degrees and cook for 15 minutes, making sure to rotate them so that all sides of the salmon are cooked.
  • You can also BBQ them.
  • Use any extra mint leaves to make spa water.

Spinach, Avocado, Tomato, & Cucumber Salad with a Garlic, Lemon, & Olive Oil Dressing

 

Prep time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4 people

 

 Ingredients:

  • 8 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes (about 16 pieces) (halved)
  • 1 medium avocado
  • ½ medium cucumber
  • Mason jar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice 
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon of pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt

Preparation:

  1. In a mason jar, combine ¾ cup olive oil with ¼ cup lemon juice. Add 2 garlic cloves, ¼ tsp pepper, and 1 tsp salt. Shake everything together and store it in the refrigerator. 
  2. Place 8 cups of spinach in a bowl. 
  3. Cut the 1 cup of tomatoes in half, chop ½ of a cucumber, and cut up 1 medium avocado. Add the tomato, cucumber, and avocado in the bowl. Set aside. 

Tips: 

  • Double up on the recipe to sneak in more vegetables or to have as leftovers. 
  • You can substitute baby spinach for kale, baby spring mix, or chopped romaine. 
  • If you suffer from kidney stones, substitute the spinach for one of the options above
  • To cut the avocado, hold each end with your hands. Slide the knife directly in the center and rotate the avocado until your knife has made its way around the entire thing. Use your hands to rotate it open and remove the pit. 

Quinoa

 

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4 people

 

 Ingredients:

  • ⅔ cup of dry quinoa (any color)
  • 1 ⅓ cups of water

 Preparation:

  1. Optional: pour ⅔ cup of dry quinoa into a fine mesh colander and rinse under running water for at least 30 seconds and drain well. This step helps remove any bitterness 
  2. Combine ⅔ cup quinoa and 1 ⅓ cup of water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat for 10-20 minutes, then decrease the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
  3. Remove the quinoa from the heat. Let it steam on the stovetop for an additional 5 minutes keeping the lid on. This step gives the quinoa time to pop open, so it’s nice and fluffy. 

Tips: 

  • You can substitute the quinoa with a whole-grain option such as: brown rice, buckwheat, farro, amaranth, etc.

Fruit Salad

 

Prep time: 5 minutes

Serves: 4 people

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cartons of raspberries
  • 1 carton of blueberries 
  • 1 carton of blackberries
  • 4 cuties

Preparation:

  1. Rinse and dry all of the berries. Combine them in a large bowl.
  2. Peel the cuties, ensuring you remove any fibrous pieces. 
  3. Add cuties to your bowl and mix the fruit together.

Tips: 

  • You can substitute any of the berries for a different berry of your choice.
  • Cuties can be substituted for oranges or grapefruit slices

These recipes were developed and are owned by Melody Sayers, MS, RDN, NASM-CPT. They cannot be published or adapted without permission from the owner. Reposting or sharing must include an acknowledgement of the original recipe owner @elevateyourplate. Please contact elevateyourplatenutrition@gmail.com to be granted permission access for republishing or adaptation.

Eat Potassium-Rich Foods

Did you know that potassium is listed as a “nutrient of public health concern” in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

Potassium is an essential mineral that has many functions in the body including: helping with muscle contraction, regulating fluid balance in and out of cells, supporting proper nerve transmission, and promoting kidney function. Potassium also plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure by limiting the effects of sodium as well as helps prevent against bone loss.

Have you ever experienced muscle cramping, kidney stones, high blood pressure, or bone loss? Eating potassium-rich foods can help with that.

Adults ages 19+ need 2,600-3,400 milligrams/day (depending on gender, pregnancy, or breastfeeding). Potassium-rich foods include: apricots, lentils, squash, potatoes, kidney beans, soybeans, bananas, avocados, dairy milk, yogurt, cooked spinach, raw carrots, cooked broccoli, chicken breast, and salmon.

Nutrition for Immunity Support

As people around the world cope with the coronavirus pandemic, we find ourselves asking whether there are any particular foods we can eat to boost our body’s natural defense system. While regular hand washing and self-isolating have now become part of our daily routines, there are several key nutrients we can focus on, which support a strong and healthy immune system.     

Protein 

  • Immunity Functions:
    • Amino acids (the building block of protein), play an important role in immune response by activating the “killer” cells that destroy bacteria and harmful cells
    • Amino acids regulate the production of antibodies, which are proteins in the blood that bind to specific invaders, such as germs, viruses, or tumor cells. Without antibodies, bacteria and viruses would be free to multiply in the body
  • Recommended Daily Amount (RDA): 
    • Adults 18+ years: 0.8 grams/kg body weight
    • More is needed during pregnancy, lactation, illness, sports, and advanced age
  • Dietary Sources of Protein:
    • Animal (contain all 9 essential amino acids): meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk
    • Plant-based (contain all 9 essential amino acids): tofu, tempeh, edamame, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, hemp seeds
    • Plant-based (missing 1 or more essential amino acid): Nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, lentils 
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Protein supplements are generally not needed because most Americans consume more than the RDA
    • Ensure you eat a variety of protein sources from the options listed above

Vitamin C

  • Immunity Functions: 
    • Our bodies cannot make the vitamin; therefore, we must obtain it from food
    • Serves as an antioxidant that fights against free radicals in the body
    • Stimulates white blood cells at the site of infection and enhances microbial killing
    • Helps prevent or delay certain cancers and heart disease, promote healthy aging, and prevent and treat respiratory and full-body infections 
    • Vitamin C intake cannot prevent a common cold; however, some evidence shows that doses of >200 mg/day may decrease the length or severity of symptoms by >1 day. Taking Vitamin C after symptoms begin does not appear to be beneficial 
  • Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA):
    • Men 19+ years of age: 90 milligrams
    • Women 19+ years of age: 75 milligrams
  • Dietary Sources of Vitamin C: 
    • Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, red/yellow bell peppers, papaya, strawberries, berries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, broccoli, cherries, guavas, spinach, kale, kiwis
  • Supplemental Facts: 
    • Make sure to look at the labels of Vitamin C boosting products such as: Emergen-C, Ester-C, and Airborne. They often contain syrups, added sugar, dyes, and other additives
    • Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning the body does not store it. This is particularly important for those who overload on supplements, for the body will just excrete any excess via the urine
    • Always ensure you obtain Vitamin C through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement

Probiotics 

  • Immunity Functions: 
    • Live microorganisms or “good” bacteria that support a healthy microbiome 
    • Inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms in the GI tract, neutralize toxins, produce cytokines (messenger molecules that help immune cells work together against an infection)
    • A 2015 evaluation of 12 studies with 3,720 total participants found that people taking probiotics may have fewer and shorter upper respiratory infections. However, the quality of evidence was low. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have the strongest antiviral activity against respiratory viruses, particularly influenza virus type A
  • Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 
    • More research is needed on the recommended dosage, however 1 – 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU)— the amount contained in a capsule or two — can be safely taken several days per week
  • Dietary Sources of Probiotics: 
    • Cultured dairy products such as yogurt and fermented foods such as: kimchi, kombucha (a fermented tea), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), miso (a fermented soybean-based paste), and raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Always ensure you obtain probiotics through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement
    • Supplements can be found in different forms. Ensure the supplement has a variety of bacterial strains and does not include any additives

Vitamin A

  • Immunity Functions: 
    • A fat-soluble vitamin that helps protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines, and respiratory system healthy
    • Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which protects cells from free radical damage
    • Involved in the production and function of white blood cells, which help capture and clear bacteria and other pathogens from your bloodstream
  • Recommended Daily Amount (RDA): 
    • Men 18+ years of age: 900 micrograms
    • Women 18+ years of age: 700 micrograms
  • Dietary Sources of Vitamin A:
    • Sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe, apricots, mangoes
    • Dairy/meat: beef liver, eggs, salmon, tuna, fortified milks, yogurt, cheese 
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Always ensure you obtain Vitamin A through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement

Vitamin E 

  • Immunity Functions: 
    • A fat-soluble vitamin that increase the body’s immune response and function by acting as a powerful antioxidant against free radicals
  • Recommended Daily Amount (RDA): 
    • Men and women 14+ years of age: 15 milligrams
  • Dietary Sources of Vitamin E:
    • Fortified cereals, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower oil), hazelnuts, peanut butter, peanuts, broccoli, spinach
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Always ensure you obtain Vitamin E through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement

Vitamin D 

  • Immunity Functions: 
    • A fat-soluble vitamin naturally produced in the body via sun exposure
    • Can help reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections, including colds and flu, particularly among people who are severely deficient or those with little exposure to sunlight
    • Immune cells (B and T cells) from multiple autoimmune diseases appear to respond well to Vitamin D
  • Recommended Daily Amount (RDA): 
    • Adults 19-70 years of age: 600 IU
    • Adults 71+ years of age: 800 IU
    • Upper limit: 4,000 IU/day
  • Dietary Sources of Vitamin D: there are very limited food sources of Vitamin D, so it is important to incorporate them as frequently as possible
    • Fatty fish such as: salmon, tuna, mackerel, swordfish, cod liver oil, dairy (choose non-fat options): milk, yogurt, cheese, beef liver, mushrooms exposed to UV light for at least 10 minutes, and fortified non-dairy milks and 100% orange juice
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Vitamin D is made from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to the sun’s UVB rays. Spend 10-30 minutes in the sun daily without sunscreen, then immediately apply sunscreen. The best time of day to get sun is midday 10AM-3PM
    • At nutritional doses Vitamins D2 and D3 are equivalent, but at higher doses Vitamin D2 is less potent. If you need purchase a supplement, choose Vitamin D3
    • Always ensure you obtain Vitamin D through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement

Zinc 

  • Immunity Functions: 
    • A mineral that helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses
    • There is no evidence that zinc doses >100 mg/day leads to better treatment of the cold. However, taking zinc at the beginning of a cold may shorten its duration 
  • Recommended Daily Amount (RDA): 
    • Men 19+ years of age: 11 mg
    • Women 19+ years of age: 8 mg
  • Dietary Sources of Zinc:
    • Oysters, beef, crab, lobster, beans, chicken, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, whole-grains
    • Zinc is best absorbed from animal sources. Foods such as whole-grains and legumes have phytates, which bind to zinc and inhibit its absorption 
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Aside from vegetarians and vegans, most Americans get enough zinc in their diet
    • Supplements may interfere with certain medications and could cause side effects such as loss of taste
    • Long-term zinc consumption over 40 mg/day for adults can result in copper deficiency 
    • Always ensure you obtain zinc through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement

Other nutrients that support a healthy immune response include: Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, copper, folate, selenium, and iron. Several herbs have also been linked to an increased immune response including: ginger, ginseng, elderberry, turmeric, and garlic. In addition to eating a diet rich in the immune-supporting nutrients listed above, ensure you sleep 7-9 hours a night and keep your stress levels to a minimum. By following these recommendations, you can help reinforce your body’s fight against infection and foreign invaders. 

 

 

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When Life Gives You Lemons

We have all heard the old adage, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Life is challenging and with that, we can experience misfortune and adversity. However, trying to take a sour experience and turn it into something sweet can have a profound effect on many areas of our lives, including our health.

Starting a nutrition-counseling program can be a scary and difficult step for many. The first word that appears in peoples’ minds when they think of a “registered dietitian” is “diet.” They are worried they will be told to restrict, eliminate, and give up the foods they enjoy; while also being told to eat more foods they dislike. Worst of all, they are fearful that they will not be able to experience life to the fullest because they have to alter their eating habits.

What if I told you could have a glass of lemonade every day? What if I told you the sour taste of lemons does not match their sweet nutritional value? While metaphorical lemons are obstacles that bring us down both mentally and physically, real life lemons are nutritious and offer several health benefits. Lemons are low in calorie but high in Vitamin C and fiber. They can be used in multiple ways including: flavoring beverages, flavoring meat such as chicken and fish, flavoring baked goods or bars, and used as salad dressing. Lemons help lower cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease, help absorb iron, help keep skin looking vibrant, help slow the digestion of sugars and starches, and help improve digestive health. Even though lemonade does contain high amounts of sugar, an 8-ounce glass can easily fit into an overall healthy diet. Try preparing the lemon juice with a more natural sweetener such as honey instead of table sugar. If you need a sugar substitute, use stevia and prepare the recipe using less than half the amount.

Part of my mission as a Registered Dietitian & Certified Personal Trainer is to help people enhance their current diet rather than hit a total reset button. Through a non-judgmental yet effective approach, you can create a more balanced life full of moderations rather than eliminations. By helping you shift your belief system and attitudes towards eating in a more affirmative light, you can create a more symbiotic relationship with healthy food.

Now I challenge you to shake that lemon tree, grab those lemons from the ground with confidence, and make some sweet lemonade. Don’t let life’s obstacles or nutrition challenges get in the way towards a healthier you. Cheers to a new, positive mindset and a higher quality of life!

Healthy Tailgating Tips

It is that time of year again. The time when you hear the marching band play loudly to the crowd, the time when you see the cheerleaders wave their pompoms high in the air, and the time when you wait in anticipation for the referees to blow their whistles indicating the start of the game.

Fall marks my favorite time of the year. No I’m not talking about pumpkin spiced lattes or oversized sweaters…I’m talking about the return of football season!

Whether you root for your favorite college team or you only focus on the pros, the game is the same. No matter where you view your sporting events – at the sports venue itself or watched at home – they all have one common denominator: food. Tailgating (or pre-gaming as college kids call it) is meant to be a fun event shared with family and friends. However, often times these events pose a major roadblock for those of us who want to stay on track with our health. The following tips can help ensure that you are adequately prepared to tackle the tailgate without compromising your ability to maintain healthy eating habits in social events. For those of you who prefer baseball, hockey, soccer, or basketball to football, have no fear because these tips can be applied to any sporting event!

Make the Play Call and Plan Ahead

Before going to a tailgate or hosting one of your own, the first step is to plan ahead. Ask yourself “will there be healthy options where I am going?” If not, offer to bring items such as: cut-up vegetables, a fruit salad, vegetable chili, ground turkey burgers with whole wheat buns, grilled vegetable kabobs, baked chips, guacamole, hummus, or air popped popcorn as your contribution to the tailgate. If you are hosting your own game watching party, you’re in luck because this means you have full control of the menu. By hosting, you can ensure you have healthier options on hand for both yourself and your guests.

Avoid the Hunger Blitz

This tip particularly applies to afternoon and evening games. Avoid skipping meals before the tailgate to save room for calorically dense food and beverages. The skipping approach will inevitably back fire for two reasons:
1) you will over indulge at the tailgate/game watching party due to increased hunger, ultimately leading to an avoidance of portion control and
2) frequent episodes of under-eating and overeating can slow your metabolism.
Be sure to eat regular meals and snacks (breakfast, mid-morning snack, or even lunch) on the day of the event. This will keep your hunger hormones remain regulated and keep the starvation blitz in check. Choose pre-tailgate foods that contain protein, fiber, and healthy fat so that you will be less tempted to overeat when you arrive.

Defend Against Added Fat, Sodium, and Sugar

Most foods for sporting events are high in fat, sodium, and sugar. There is usually no green in sight (except for that 1 piece of lifeless iceberg lettuce on your burger…yikes!). In these situations, practice the act of “swapping.” Swap fried wings, potatoes, meats, chips, and vegetables for foods that are baked or grilled. Swap the fatty dip for a healthier one like Greek yogurt ranch dip (see recipe below), guacamole, salsa, or hummus. Swap chips for whole-wheat crackers, roasted, unsalted almonds, baked pita chips, or air popped popcorn. Swap beef burgers, hot dogs, and wings for salmon, lean ground turkey or skinless, boneless chicken breast burgers on whole-wheat buns. Swap large pizzas for mini vegetable pizza bites baked on cauliflower or whole-wheat crust. Swap baked goods for fruit salad or fruit kabobs. If you are watching the game in a sports venue, try your best and look for a concession stand that offers vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein options. Perhaps the venue offers fans a burrito bowl, wrap, or salad. Remind yourself that you are the one and only defender for what foods go into your body. Will it be something you will regret later on or will it be something that is nutritious?

Intercept Large Portion Sizes

Tailgates and game watch parties can often lead to increased portion sizes of foods such as chips, pizza, wings, and beer. One way to intercept the incoming portion sizes is to eat from a plate instead of continually grazing from the buffet, snack table, BBQ, or kitchen. This will help you keep track of how much you are eating. Prepare a plate containing half vegetables and fruit, ¼ protein, and ¼ grains. Fill up on those healthier items first so you are not as tempted to overdo the portions of foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal from your stomach that you are full. This means wait at least 20 minutes to assess your hunger before going for second helpings.

Ice the Kicker, Not the Beer

Sporting events often revolve more around alcohol than they do food. However unlike food, alcohol does not contribute any nutritional value. Alcohol has “empty calories” for it provides more calories per gram (7) compared to protein and carbohydrates (4) and does not provide any vitamins, minerals, or other important nutrients that your body actually needs. Additionally, alcohol impairs your judgment and may cause you to make poor dietary decisions such as forgetting how many times you stuck your hand in the chip bowl or how many wings you had (oops!). If you want to indulge, choose light beer varieties or mix hard liquor with sparkling soda (naturally fruit flavored or plain). Stay away from sugary beverages like soda, punches, cranberry cocktails, margarita mixes, and non-100% juices. If the game is stressful and you need that alcohol to get through, a good rule of thumb is to have at least 8 ounces of water between drinks. You can even get creative and make spa water using colored herbs, vegetables, and fruit of your favorite sports team.

Use Halftime to Get Moving

Halftime is typically 30 minutes, which means this is a perfect time to get out of your seat at the stadium or get your booty off the couch and get moving. Climb up and down the stairs from your seat or take a walk around the neighborhood or venue. There is probably a football, Frisbee, soccer ball, or corn hole set-up laying around waiting to be used. Use this time to clear your mind, unwind from the stress of the game, enjoy a breath of fresh air, and most importantly keep you away from the readily available concession stands and snack bowls.

Celebrate a Touchdown in the End Zone

Overall, tailgating is about having fun with friends and family. Make your focus about watching your favorite team versus the food. Practice balance and moderation – especially if you tailgate at every home game. One unhealthy meal or alcoholic beverage does not ruin everything, but an entire day of unhealthy eating and drinking may throw you off course. If this happens, pick yourself up the very next day and do not wait until the week starts to get back on your A game. Whether your team loses or wins, always remember to celebrate your efforts staying healthy during a sporting event. Now go get ‘em tiger!

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp dried parsley

1 ½ tsp dried dill

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dried onion flakes

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp dried chives

1 tsp salt (optional)

Ingredients for Base: 1-16 oz container plain, nonfat Greek yogurt

Instructions:

  1. Whisk all spices together until well blended.
  2. Mix 3 tbsp of the spice mixture into the Greek yogurt base (save remainder of spice mix in sealed container for future uses).
  3. Refrigerator or serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts:
Serving Size: ¼ cup dip
Calories: 33
Total Fat: 0g
Sat Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Carbohydrates: 2g
Fiber: 0g
Protein: 6g
Sodium: 166mg                         

Fiber1

Are You Part of the Fiber Tribe?

Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for your body, yet most Americans do not meet the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA). In fact, dietary fiber is so important, that the most recent 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans list it as “one of the nutrients of public health concern because low intakes are associated with health concerns.”[1] A national survey found that the average dietary fiber intake for all individuals 2 years and older was 16 grams per day, with males averaging 18 grams per day and females averaging 15 grams per day.[2] This is certainly something to talk about considering the RDA for women 19 years and older is 25 grams of fober per day and the RDA for men 19 years and older is 38 grams of fiber day.

bowl-close-up-dry

Fiber has countless health benefits including: reducing blood sugar, reducing total cholesterol, reducing the risk of colon cancer, managing diverticular disease, reducing the risk of heart disease, ensuring transit within the gastrointestinal tract, and managing loose bowels. Additionally, fiber aids in keeping you full after meals and snacks, which is particularly helpful for those trying to manage their weight. So if you need a reason to increase your fiber intake, I just gave you eight.

Fiber comes in two different forms: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool, helping food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines. It is found in foods such as wheat bran, whole-grain flour, potatoes with the skin, root vegetables, cauliflower, dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, nuts, seeds, and beans. So, if you are feeling bloated, backed up, and constipated reach for insoluble fiber foods. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, attracts water and turns to a gel-like substance during digestion. This in turn helps slow down transit in the gastrointestinal tract. So, if you feel you are visiting the bathroom more often than you would like, reach for the following foods: oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, flaxseeds, carrots, apples, strawberries, apricots, psyllium (fiber supplements), and citrus fruits.[3]

peas

While insoluble and soluble fiber can easily be obtained through food sources, several people take a supplement in the form of a pill, chewable tablet, capsule, or powder.[4] Popular products such as Metamucil, Benefiber, FiberCon, and Citrucel do contain fiber, however they also contain additives, dyes, and synthesized forms of chemicals. Therefore, if you are unable to meet your RDA of fiber with food and need to head the supplement route, be sure to check the label to ensure you are getting the least processed product.

By eating a diet rich in whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes you will ensure to meet your insoluble and soluble fiber needs while also reaping the many benefits this nutrient has to offer. So, if you are not part of the fiber tribe yet, consider becoming a member. Your body (and bowels) will thank you later.

[1] https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
[2] https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/DBrief/12_fiber_intake_0910.pdf
[3] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002136.htm
[4] https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/ask-the-doctor-what-are-the-differences-between-soluble-and-insoluble-fiber