Tag Archives: national nutrition month

Added Sugars and Nutrition Labels

How much sugar should we eat? Is high fructose corn syrup bad for me? What sweeteners should I use in my home? These are questions I frequently get asked. A dietitian friend of mine, Melanie Betz (@the.kidney.dietitian) did a great post on instagram recently about sugar.

First off. Sugar is sugar is sugar. I don’t care if it is white sugar, honey, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, or whatever other sugar you have seen. These are all sugar. They all are broken down into sugars that are used by our bodies. Having too much of ANY of these isn’t a good thing. There is no evidence in human studies to date that shows a strong difference between caloric sweeteners.

What about non-calorie sweeteners? People are often concerned about these. In moderate amounts, these are generally considered safe. However, it likely isn’t good to rely on these as a stop gap to solve your eating pattern issues. If you are eating too many sweet treats or drinks, just switching to a sugar free version will not fix the overriding problem. The overriding problem is you are consuming these foods that do not provide necessary nutrients. Switching from regular Coca-Cola to Diet Coke saves you 140 calories per can, yes. But did you gain any nutrition? No. Plus you’ve consumed lots of other additives that can have health effects – phosphorus on your bones and kidneys for example.

So how much sugar should you eat in a day. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to 10% or less of calories per day. For the generic 1800-2000 calorie diet, that translates to 45-50 grams of added sugar per day. For reference, one 12 oz can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association is even more strict. They recommend 100 calories per day of added sugar for women and 150 for men. That translates to 25 and 38 grams respectively.

But how do I look at added sugars? The Dietary Guidelines points out that what we are looking at is an overall eating pattern. MOST people consume too many added sugars in sweet beverages and desserts. However, not all sugar is evil. Sometimes it is added to make healthy things more palatable.

I think the classic example to look at is cereal. Here are pictures of 3 cereal labels I found in my cupboard. Let’s take a look and compare.

Cereal Comparison

So let’s look at the carbohydrate section.  Both Raisin Bran and Frosted Mini Wheats have more total carbs than Honey Nut Cheerios.  For total sugars, Raisin Bran has the most at 17 grams.  Until a few years ago, this is all a label would say, total sugar.  Why is Raisin Bran, which you think is healthy, so high in sugar you say?  Two reasons.  First, it has raisins (and bananas in this box), which NATURALLY has sugar in it.  Second, you do need some sugar to make the bran palatable for most people.

Now let’s look at the added sugars.  Raisin Bran is actually the lowest at 11 grams, compared to 12 grams in both of the others.  This is a classic example of why I’m so incredibly glad “added sugars” has been added to nutrition labels.

But wait?  Mini Wheats and Cheerios are the same in added sugars?  Let’s delve one step further then.  In this case I would go look at the fiber.  Mini Wheats’ 8 grams of fiber definitely beats out the 3 grams in Honey Nut Cheerios.  (Another place you could look would be protein, but that is a discussion for a different day).

I hope you found this helpful as you look at added sugars and nutrition labels!

Disclaimer:  I have no vested interest for or against any products mentioned in this post.  Similar comparisons could be made between any regular vs diet soft drink.  These three cereals happened to be in my cupboard that I purchased at the most recent sale at the grocery store.

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Happy National Nutrition Month

It’s finally March which means it is National Nutrition Month. Double hooray because it also means we are closer to spring. The theme for National Nutrition Month this year is Eat Right Bite by Bite.

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That’s easy to say, but is it easy to practice? It takes a little thought and planning, but it can be pretty easy. Healthy food also doesn’t have to be time consuming. I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s books and podcast. She suggests that you time activities, especially if it is something you don’t like to do. Then you know exactly how long it takes. I like to apply this practice to making a healthful breakfast or lunch. It can seem really overwhelming and like it would take too much time. But when I stop and actually do it, it only takes a few minutes.

Today’s example is a spin on avocado toast. I’m calling it omelet avocado toast as it has some of my favorite omelet ingredients. To really speed this up, you can cook up lots of veggies one day and store them in the fridge for subsequent mornings. Then you just need to heat them up with your eggs. The more variety of colors of vegetables the better! You can cook your eggs however you’d like. I’m on a poached egg kick, but this is great with scrambled or fried eggs as well. Enjoy!

Omelet Avocado Toast (Serves 1)

Omelet Avocado Toast

1 slice whole wheat bread, toasted
½ avocado, mashed
¼ green bell pepper, diced
¼ cup sliced mushrooms
½ tomato, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped zucchini
1 egg

1. Heat a small pan over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Lightly cook pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomato until desired softness (usually about 5-7 minutes).

2. Cook eggs as desired.

3. Top toast with avocado, vegetables, and egg.

Nutritional Information:

Calories: 325
Protein: 13 g
Fat: 21 g
Saturated Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 186 mg
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Fiber: 10 g
Sodium: 223 mg

Recipe notes: As I mentioned above, you could easily make a large batch of veggies one day. Then heat them up with eggs to make toast, an actual omelet, scramble, or whatever variation you like to keep it interesting. Mix up the veggies to what you like.

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Put Your Best Fork Forward!

It’s March which means it is National Nutrition Month! This year’s theme:

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I love the idea of putting your best fork forward. It means doing what is best for yourself, every day. Make choices that count, make you feel good, and help you become the person you want to be. Here are 3 tips for putting your best fork forward this month and any time.

1) Plan ahead. Good nutrition and health doesn’t just happen. Make a menu, write a grocery list, prep veggies ahead of time, join a gym, buy workout equipment, etc. Think through what it takes to eat and feel the way you want, then take steps to doing that. Set yourself up to succeed.

2) Move on from a set back. Did today get the better of you? Not feeling like exercising this morning? A party at work led you in the path of a bunch of sweets? It is OK. I repeat, it is OK. But move on. Don’t let one side step from your plan turn into a complete new path. Step back on track with you next choices and move on.

3) Start your day out right. Try to start you day with a good for you breakfast or exercise. A good choice first thing in the morning can really help set the tone for your day. I’ll admit, I don’t LOVE exercising. It’s work, guys! But, I do love how I feel the rest of the day when I do exercise and get myself going on the right foot.

And in that mindset, here’s a delicious smoothie I tried this morning that helped set me up for success today.

Berry-Beet Smoothie (Serves 3-4)

Berry Beet Smoothie

¼ cup orange juice
1 cup plain or vanilla fat free Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups frozen mixed berries
1 medium raw beet, peeled chopped into chunks
1 bunch beet greens, large stems removed
1 banana, frozen
Water or skim milk, as needed

1. Layer ingredients in order in a blender. Start blender on low, then gradually increase speed as needed to get smooth consistency. Leave blender on each setting at least 30 seconds. Add water or skim milk if needed to thin out the smoothie. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 158
Protein: 12 gm
Fat: 1 gm
Saturated Fat: less than 1 gm
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Carbohydrates: 28 gm
Fiber: 5 gm
Sodium: 114 mg

Recipe Notes: I just squeezed a fresh orange and pulled some of the pulp in too. Bottled orange juice would be fine. I used plain yogurt. It tasted fine to me, but the kiddos around me were a little less thrilled. The vanilla yogurt with its extra sweetness would have helped them. I just used the greens from my bunch of beets, then roasted the extra beets up for my lunch. You might not need extra liquid; it will depend on how thick your yogurt is and how strong your blender is.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle – Lunch

I find lunch is the hardest meal to make healthy choices. We frequently eat out for lunch, which can limit healthy choices. Or if you are at home or packing a lunch, you want something that is quick and easy. I know many people have a “no cook” lunch rule, which I admire and find too limiting at the same time. When I worked full time, many of my coworkers relied on frozen meals for their lunches. It’s the time of day when we are hungry, but not in the mood or mode to spend a lot of time or energy.

One of my goals for the past several years has been to get at least two servings of vegetables in at lunch most days of the week. That way I know I have gotten something good in me, even if dinner ends up being an “I only have energy for pancakes” affair. But that goal hasn’t been as easy as it would sound. I’ve documented here several of my lunches and some of my tips for getting more veggies in at lunch. All of these take 5 minutes or less and can be done very affordably.

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-Have cut up veggies ready to go. I cut up a big bunch of carrots and celery every week. Then, if all else fails, I can grab a handful of each and go.

-Along with those veggies, have some dips for yourself:  hummus, baba ganoush, ranch dressing, peanut butter, or whatever your poison is. Make sure to keep the dip portion in control, as you don’t want to eat a ton of fat. But do what it takes to get those veggies down!

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-Be creative. You don’t have to eat something the way it was “intended”. I had some leftover marinara sauce, which I had packed full of extra carrots and chunky tomatoes, but nothing to eat it with. Ramen noodles minus the seasoning packet to the rescue. Or a leftover naan bread with a little barbecue sauce, tomatoes, and some cheese becomes a pizza.

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-Stock your kitchen with easy “add-ins”. Here, I added frozen broccoli, a few spears of broken up asparagus, and chopped tomato to some leftover pasta. A little jarred pesto stirred in made it a yummy lunch.

-Mix veggies into other things. I love having frozen broccoli or fresh spinach on hand. A quick microwave and they mix in to whatever else I’m making, be it soup or macaroni or whatever.

-Embrace salads. I’m sorry if you don’t like salad. I like salad, but can easily get sick of it. Here are a few tips I’ve found for making salads more palatable and still a quick option.

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-Pick your green and your dressing. For me, I can eat a pretty simple salad of just spinach and poppyseed dressing. Give me lettuce or any other dressing, I need a lot more toppings to enjoy it. Find what works for you and stick with it.

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-Add fruit. Grapes, apples, pears, strawberries, and many other fruits lend themselves very well to being a salad mix-in. The sweetness and the juiciness can help tone down the bitter, crunchy veggies.

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-Use your salad as a base for something else. This salad was one of my favorites. I had some leftover filling from quesadillas the night before. I just put that on top of a small bed of spinach. It was so yummy, and I almost forgot I was eating salad.

-Don’t eat only salad. As you can see in the picture above, I had a quesadilla with that salad. I often have a sandwich or something else with the salad. But I always eat my salad first. Then I can savor and enjoy my other items, knowing I got the healthy things in first.

I hope some of these ideas help you. Lunch is a tough meal to conquer. I’d love to hear your lunch go-to ideas in the comments.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Baba Ganoush and National Nutrition Month

Happy National Nutrition Month! The theme for this year is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle”. The first thought that popped into my mind when I heard the theme was carrot and celery sticks. Something about the crunch and fresh taste of raw veggies epitomizes that idea to me.

However, I’m going to be completely honest with you. I really don’t like eating raw veggies without some sort of dip. I know that is very un-dietitian of me. But I need my ranch, peanut butter, something to help get them down. I especially like this baba ganoush, since it is veggie based. It’s like getting an extra dose of veggies as I’m eating my carrots. Win!

Enjoy!

Baba Ganoush (Makes about 1 ½ cups)

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1 large eggplant
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons feta cheese crumbles

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Prick eggplant all over with a fork. Place on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes, until it is soft inside. Let it cool until you are able to handle it. Cut in half lengthwise, let any water drain, and then scoop the pulp into a food processor.

3. Add salt, tahini, lemon juice, and most of the dill to the food processor. Blend until smooth. Garnish with remaining dill and feta just before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per ¼ cup)

Calories: 58
Protein: 2 g
Fat: 3.5 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 3 mg
Carbohydrates: 6 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 85 mg

Recipe Notes: Most recipes include garlic. I made this once with garlic and found the raw garlic way too overpowering. I opted not to add it the second time and didn’t seem to miss it. However, I am pregnant, so my tastes are a little sensitive. I would keep the garlic to one small clove, finely minced, if you were to add it. Parsley is more traditional than dill. But I had dill on hand, and I really liked the flavor punch. Parsley would be a more mild herb to add, if you don’t like dill.

Source: slightly adapted from Ellie Krieger

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National Nutrition Month

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March is National Nutrition Month.  The theme this year is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”.  We all know that if we have to choose between eating something that tastes good or something that’s nutritious, we will generally choose the tasty option.  But just because it is good for you doesn’t mean it can’t taste good, too.

Here are some tips on how to enjoy nutritious foods more:

-Try a new recipe.  Sometimes all you need is a different cooking method and something you disliked becomes something you like.

-Have nutritious foods easily available.  Have cut fruit or vegetables ready in the fridge.  Buy cheese sticks or yogurt cups.  The more grab-and-go these items are, the more likely you are to eat them.

-Eat dark chocolate if you need a treat.  Dark chocolate has more beneficial antioxidants.  It is also richer, so it can be a little easier to eat in moderation.

-Start your day with a balanced breakfast.  This can help you prevent overeating later in the day.

-Add some sauce or cheese.  A sprinkle of cheese or a little bit of salad dressing can make vegetables more appetizing.  As long as you don’t overdo it, these can be a healthy addition.

Happy National Nutrition Month!

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