Life Ever Changing

A pursuit to become a Registered Dietitian and to promote healthy living

Nutrition Facts: A guide to food labels

The Nutrition Facts label is required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on most packaged foods and beverages. The Nutrition Facts label provides detailed information about a food’s nutrient content, such as the amount of fat, sugar, sodium and fiber it has. In 2016 the FDA announced changes to the label aimed at helping consumers make more informed choices. Manufacturers will have to use the new label by July 26, 2018. The changes include:

  • Making calories and servings per container more prominent by using larger print.
  • Adding “added sugars” as a category under “total sugars.”
  • Removing “calories from fat” because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  • Updating which nutrients must be listed. Vitamin D and potassium will be added; vitamins A and C will no longer be required but can be included on a voluntary basis.
  • Updating serving sizes to better match how much people actually eat. Serving sizes are not meant to tell people how much to eat.
  • Listing calories and nutrients for a single serving as well as the whole package for foods that are typically consumed in one sitting.

In addition, daily values for nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D are being updated based on the research that was used to develop the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Knowing how to read food labels is especially important if you have health conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and need to follow a special diet. It also makes it easier to compare similar foods to see which is healthier.

The more practice you get reading food labels, the better you can become in using them as a tool to plan your healthy, balanced diet. To help you decode the new label, each section is explained in the example.

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  1. Serving size: Serving sizes are listed in standard measurements, such as cups or pieces. Similar foods usually have similar serving sizes, so you can compare them more easily. The label also includes the number of servings per container to help you calculate the calories and nutrients in the entire package. Be sure to check the serving size against how much you actually eat. If a serving is 16 crackers but you eat 32 that doubles the calories, sugar, fat and other nutrients you eat.
  2. Calories: The calories listed show the amount of calories in one serving of this food. You can use this information to compare similar products and choose the one that is lower in calories.
  3. Nutrients and daily values: The label must list the amounts of total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium that are in one serving. The daily value (DV) percent tells you how close you are to meeting your daily requirements for each nutrient. It’s based on a typical 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. The DV can help you track whether you’re getting enough — or too much — of all the nutrients you need in a day.
  4. Nutrients to increase: The typical American diet is low in fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium. They’re listed on the label to encourage Americans to include more of these important nutrients in their diet.

Tip of the Day

Garden anywhere! Try growing your own vegetables and herbs. You can start small with a few pots on your balcony or patio or even indoors.

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Fiber Helps Prevent Chronic Diseases

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A high-fiber diet is best for healthful aging, according to a study published online in Aging. Researchers followed the diets of 1,609 healthy people and monitored incidence rates for cancer, heart disease, depression, and cognitive impairment. Those who consumed the most fiber, especially from grains and fruit, were more likely to remain disease-free later in life, compared with those who consumed the least fiber. Possible mechanisms include fiber’s anti-inflammatory properties.

Gopinath B, Flood VM, Kifley A, Louie JC, Mitchell P. Association between carbohydrate nutrition and successful aging over 10 years. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. Published online June 1, 2016.

Tip of the Day

Want to try meal planning? Want to try meal planning, but don’t know where to start? Plan out a week of meals for you or your family before the week starts. By planning ahead you can save time and money by only buying the foods you need and making fewer trips to the store.

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Vegan Diets Do Least Environmental Damage

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A vegan diet leaves the smallest environmental footprint, according to an article published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. Researchers assigned 63 participants from the New Dietary Interventions to Enhance the Treatments for weight loss (New DIETs) study to a vegan, vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, or omnivorous diet and monitored changes in their environmental impact. Those in the vegan group decreased their environmental footprint the most when compared to the other diets. A vegetarian diet provides cost savings and uses significantly fewer resources for purchasing and producing plant-based protein, compared with animal-based protein. The authors hope these environmental findings, in addition to the health benefits, compel policymakers to consider plant-based diets in their recommendations.

Turner-McGrievy GM, Leach AM, Wilcox S, Frongillo EA. Differences in environmental impact and food expenditures of four different plant-based diets and an omnivorous diet: results of a randomized, controlled intervention. J Hunger Environ Nutr. Published online April 25, 2016.

Tip of the Day

It’s not about perfection! Healthy eating doesn’t need to be perfect! Remind yourself that your healthy eating style over time is what matters most.

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7 Mistakes Even Healthy Eaters Make

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You’ve taken the first step: vowing to eat well, starting now. Many dieters are so determined to finally lose weight that the pounds will indeed start to whittle away. The problem, though, is that many haven’t learned from their mistakes — and within a month or so, they’ve returned to their poor eating habits. Here are seven of the most common dieting mistakes.

Not Eating Enough Protein with Breakfast

A person decides to eat healthy and chooses a bowl of cereal with non-fat milk and a banana; one hour later, he or she starts complaining of hunger. People who make this mistake are definitely moving in the right direction, but if they are truly watching their serving sizes, the 8 grams of protein from the milk is most likely not going to keep them full until lunchtime. Consequently, they wind up over-snacking until then or eating a lunch that’s too big. Adding a healthy fat to the cereal mix, like slivered almonds, or having a little extra protein — like a hard-boiled egg — can make a big difference in their satiety level.

Having a Snack

This is a tricky one. Most dietitians recommend a mid-morning snack if it’s going to be more than four hours between breakfast and lunch. But often, people misjudge the size of their snack and create another actual meal. A 1-ounce serving of almonds is not the same as a 2-ounce serving. Remember, a snack is a mini-meal, and it ought to be less than 200 calories. Plus, it should contain protein, healthy fat or both, or you will most likely be hungry one hour later. In other words, don’t just grab a piece of fruit. And guess what? If you aren’t really hungry, there’s probably no need for a snack at all.

Not Counting the Calories from Alcohol

You would think this would be a no-brainer, but too many people sabotage their weight-loss efforts by their cocktail consumption. Cocktails don’t need to be flat-out avoided, but you can’t drink like a fish on the weekends and reach your weight-loss goals — no matter how well you eat during the week. And watch the size of your weekday pour — a 6-ounce glass of wine doesn’t have the same calories as a 12-ounce glass.

Eating a Salad for Lunch

Dieters often boast they’re eating salads for lunch, as if they think they’re following the No. 1 weight-loss guideline. Here’s the thing: Some salads are healthy, and some are not so healthy. If you’re piling your salad with everything but the kitchen sink, it’s closer to the latter. Croutons, bacon bits, lots of cheese and a creamy dressing can be just the tip of a diet disaster. Too much chicken, too much avocado and too much olive oil can push it over the edge. So just because you’re eating all those healthy greens, you need to make sure all the other ingredients follow suit.

Leaving the Carb Off the Dinner Plate

This is a really popular mistake. Believe it or not, you can lose weight and enjoy carbs with dinner — too many people think more protein on the plate is far better than adding a carb; when you do the math, however, it doesn’t usually work out in the protein’s favor. For example, a plain 8-ounce chicken breast is around 375 calories, but if you were to eat a 4-ounce serving and add a half cup of brown rice, you would save about 78 calories. A small baked potato (topped with salsa) can save you 105 calories, if you stick with a 4-ounce serving of broiled salmon versus an 8-ounce. And besides saving calories, you’ll be getting fiber, which overall may help with weight loss.

Avoiding Your “Bad” Foods

This is probably the No. 1 diet mistake. Ask yourself: What do you love to eat? And don’t list what you think you should be eating. It’s important to continue to eat those foods you really love — though you likely think you should avoid them. Sound crazy? Well, whenever someone completely avoids the foods they love, they inevitably feel deprived and give up on healthy eating. The key is to find a way to keep the favorites in the mix without sabotaging weight-loss goals. For example: Occasionally having a slice of pizza for lunch with a side salad, enjoying french fries with your burger, but losing the bun and/or sharing dessert at a restaurant when dining out, while consciously passing on the breadbasket.

Trying the Next Fad Diet

If you hear about a diet that promises quick weight loss, run. If you hear about a diet that eliminates food groups, run faster. And if you think trying yet another diet instead of attempting to make lifestyle changes is the answer, think again.

Tip of the Day

Make half your grains whole grains! Read the ingredients list and choose products that name a whole-grain ingredient first on the list. Look for “whole wheat,” “brown rice,” “bulgar,” “buckwheat,” “oatmeal,” “whole-grain cornmeal,” “whole oats,” “whole rye,” or “wild rice.”

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Real food on a budget

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Are you concerned with the cost of your new good-for-you food choices? Some healthy real foods, such as fresh produce and fish can be expensive. But your overall grocery bill may actually be lower because you’re eating less of other costly foods, namely all those pricey processed offerings: chips, cookies and ice cream. Plus, you may find that you’re eating more meals at home and fewer in restaurants, which can also save money.

Here are some ideas for sticking to your grocery budget while eating healthy foods:

  • Plan ahead. With smart planning, you can obtain your recommend daily servings of fruits and vegetables at a very limited price. Shop smart at your grocery store and watch for specials.
  • Buy grains such as oatmeal and brown rice in bulk. Food co-ops are often good at offering foods in bulk.
  • Visit farmers markets for summertime deals. You can usually pick up the freshest produce at the lowest prices.
  • Consider growing some of your own produce. It’s not as hard as you think. If you don’t have room for a garden, you can grow items such as tomatoes and peppers in outdoor pots.
  • Eat simple meals sometimes. A peanut-butter sandwich made with whole-wheat bread or a bowl of soup and a few pieces of fruit don’t cost much.

And remember, your health is worth the investment. Making good choices now will make your life easier later — and it may just save you money down the road.

Tip of the Day

Have fun with physical activity! Exercise can help you feel better and have more energy. Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit your lifestyle.

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8 solutions to healthy-eating roadblocks

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Life doesn’t follow a perfectly smooth course. You will inevitably run into obstacles on the journey to healthy eating. It’s how you respond that makes the difference. For long-term success, you’ll need strategies in place to solve problems as they arise. The first step is to identify and define potential roadblocks and brainstorm solutions. Identify the barriers most likely to get in your way and plan ahead how you’ll face those challenges.

Roadblock: “I don’t have time to make healthy meals.”

Healthy detours: If you use smart cooking strategies, creating a healthy meal doesn’t have to take too much time. Planning ahead is a great time-saver. For example, shop for several meals at one time, or prepare foods over the weekend and then freeze meal-sized portions to reheat during the week. You can also keep it simple with a fresh salad and low-calorie dressing, a whole-grain roll and a piece of fruit, or a healthy sandwich, soup or entree from a deli or grocery store.

Roadblock: “I don’t like vegetables and fruits.”

Healthy detours: You don’t need to like all fresh vegetables and fruits. Just find some that you enjoy. Experiment by sampling produce you’ve never eaten before. Add fruits or veggies to your favorite recipes, or replace meat with vegetables when possible. Experiment with new ways to prepare produce, such as grilling pineapple or lightly cooking vegetables if you don’t like them raw.

Roadblock: “I don’t like to cook.”

Healthy detours: Not interested in becoming a gourmet chef? No problem. Many cookbooks offer recipes for quick and easy healthy meals. Or you can use creative shortcuts that don’t require a lot of cooking, such as prepackaged vegetables and lean meats. Also, remember that cooking is a skill: The more you practice, the better you will become.

Roadblock: “My family doesn’t like to try new things, and it’s too much work to make two different meals.”

Healthy detours: You’re right — you don’t want to fall into the trap of making the “good” food for the family and the “diet” food for yourself. So instead, ask for your family’s input — and help — on healthy foods they’d like to try, which may make them more willing to experiment. Take it slow, and make a few small changes each week. You may be able to make some dishes healthier and tastier and your family won’t even realize it. If you have a favorite dish that you don’t want to abandon, prepare it with a different cooking method, such as baking rather than frying.

Roadblock: “I can’t resist junk food!”

Healthy detours: As you prepare your healthy-eating plan, ask yourself how you can fit the occasional treat into the plan without derailing your overall weight-loss efforts. If you give up all your favorite foods, you’ll feel deprived, which decreases your chances of successful weight management. Give yourself permission to eat them on occasion and in moderation. Find a happy medium for high-calorie foods.

Could you take the kids out for ice-cream cones once a week or buy a small bag of chips for the Sunday-afternoon football game? That’s better than buying a gallon of ice cream for your freezer, where it causes constant temptation. You can also try healthier versions of your favorite snack foods, such as baked, rather than regular, potato chips. In addition, eat healthy foods before having your treat. It can help you eat less of your favorite treats.

Roadblock: “When eating out, I like to eat large portions of my favorite foods, not something healthy.”

Healthy detours: It’s OK to occasionally have your favorite foods if you do it healthfully. For example, when at a restaurant, eat half of your favorite meal and save the other half for the next day. Or, if you know you’ll be eating extra calories, increase your exercise for the day. Explore ways to make your favorite dish healthier. If your meal contains a rich sauce, for instance, ask for it on the side so that you can control how much of it you eat. If you dine out often, however, it’s best to make healthy choices part of your routine. You don’t want a large indulgence to cancel out all your good efforts.

Roadblock: “I don’t eat breakfast because I’m not hungry in the morning.”

Healthy detours: Research shows that eating breakfast helps people better manage their weight, in part because it helps keep them from feeling ravenous and overeating later in the day. So, even if you’re not hungry, try to eat a little something in the morning. Start gradually by planning to have breakfast twice a week and then work toward eating breakfast every day. Keep foods on hand that you can take with you on busy days, such as apples, bananas, whole-grain bagels and low-fat yogurt in single-serving containers.

Roadblock: “Keeping food records — measuring food, keeping track and figuring out calories — takes too much work.”

Healthy detours: Losing weight does take time and effort. That will gradually lessen as you get used to knowing what serving sizes should look like and how many calories you should have each day. But, initially, keeping detailed records will help you work toward your main goal: reaching a healthy weight. Make these initial steps easier on yourself by keeping your food record and serving-sizes chart handy and logging your entries after each meal instead of at day’s end.

Tip of the Day

It all adds up! What and how much you eat and drink, along with regular physical activity, can help you manage your weight and lower your risk of disease.

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DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure

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DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that’s designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). The DASH diet encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.

By following the DASH diet, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks. Over time, your systolic blood pressure could drop by eight to 14 points, which can make a significant difference in your health risks. Because the DASH diet is a healthy way of eating, it offers health benefits besides just lowering blood pressure. The DASH diet is also in line with dietary recommendations to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

DASH diet: Sodium levels

The DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods — and moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts. In addition to the standard DASH diet, there is also a lower sodium version of the diet. You can choose the version of the diet that meets your health needs:

  • Standard DASH diet. You can consume up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day.
  • Lower sodium DASH diet. You can consume up to 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

Both versions of the DASH diet aim to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet compared with what you might get in a typical American diet, which can amount to a whopping 3,400 mg of sodium a day or more. The standard DASH diet meets the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to keep daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day. The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg a day of sodium as an upper limit for all adults. If you aren’t sure what sodium level is right for you, talk to your doctor.

DASH diet: What to eat

Both versions of the DASH diet include lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. The DASH diet also includes some fish, poultry and legumes, and encourages a small amount of nuts and seeds a few times a week. You can eat red meat, sweets and fats in small amounts. The DASH diet is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat. Here’s a look at the recommended servings from each food group for the 2,000-calorie-a-day DASH diet.

Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day

Grains include bread, cereal, rice and pasta. Examples of one serving of grains include 1 slice whole-wheat bread, 1 ounce dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta.

  • Focus on whole grains because they have more fiber and nutrients than do refined grains. For instance, use brown rice instead of white rice, whole-wheat pasta instead of regular pasta and whole-grain bread instead of white bread. Look for products labeled “100 percent whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat.”
  • Grains are naturally low in fat. Keep them this way by avoiding butter, cream and cheese sauces.

Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day

Tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, greens and other vegetables are full of fiber, vitamins, and such minerals as potassium and magnesium. Examples of one serving include 1 cup raw leafy green vegetables or 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables.

  • Don’t think of vegetables only as side dishes — a hearty blend of vegetables served over brown rice or whole-wheat noodles can serve as the main dish for a meal.
  • Fresh and frozen vegetables are both good choices. When buying frozen and canned vegetables, choose those labeled as low sodium or without added salt.
  • To increase the number of servings you fit in daily, be creative. In a stir-fry, for instance, cut the amount of meat in half and double up on the vegetables.

Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day

Many fruits need little preparation to become a healthy part of a meal or snack. Like vegetables, they’re packed with fiber, potassium and magnesium and are typically low in fat — coconuts are an exception. Examples of one serving include one medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit, or 4 ounces of juice.

  • Have a piece of fruit with meals and one as a snack, then round out your day with a dessert of fresh fruits topped with a dollop of low-fat yogurt.
  • Leave on edible peels whenever possible. The peels of apples, pears and most fruits with pits add interesting texture to recipes and contain healthy nutrients and fiber.
  • Remember that citrus fruits and juices, such as grapefruit, can interact with certain medications, so check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if they’re OK for you.
  • If you choose canned fruit or juice, make sure no sugar is added.

Dairy: 2 to 3 servings a day

Milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products are major sources of calcium, vitamin D and protein. But the key is to make sure that you choose dairy products that are low fat or fat-free because otherwise they can be a major source of fat — and most of it is saturated. Examples of one serving include 1 cup skim or 1 percent milk, 1 cup low fat yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces part-skim cheese.

  • Low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt can help you boost the amount of dairy products you eat while offering a sweet treat. Add fruit for a healthy twist.
  • If you have trouble digesting dairy products, choose lactose-free products or consider taking an over-the-counter product that contains the enzyme lactase, which can reduce or prevent the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
  • Go easy on regular and even fat-free cheeses because they are typically high in sodium.

Lean meat, poultry and fish: 6 servings or fewer a day

Meat can be a rich source of protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. Choose lean varieties and aim for no more than 6 ounces a day. Cutting back on your meat portion will allow room for more vegetables.

  • Trim away skin and fat from poultry and meat and then bake, broil, grill or roast instead of frying in fat.
  • Eat heart-healthy fish, such as salmon, herring and tuna. These types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower your total cholesterol.

Nuts, seeds and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week

Almonds, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, peas, lentils and other foods in this family are good sources of magnesium, potassium and protein. They’re also full of fiber and phytochemicals, which are plant compounds that may protect against some cancers and cardiovascular disease. Serving sizes are small and are intended to be consumed only a few times a week because these foods are high in calories. Examples of one serving include 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked beans or peas.

  • Nuts sometimes get a bad rap because of their fat content, but they contain healthy types of fat — monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids. They’re high in calories, however, so eat them in moderation. Try adding them to stir-fries, salads or cereals.
  • Soybean-based products, such as tofu and tempeh, can be a good alternative to meat because they contain all of the amino acids your body needs to make a complete protein, just like meat.

Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day

Fat helps your body absorb essential vitamins and helps your body’s immune system. But too much fat increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The DASH diet strives for a healthy balance by limiting total fat to less than 30 percent of daily calories from fat, with a focus on the healthier monounsaturated fats. Examples of one serving include 1 teaspoon soft margarine, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or 2 tablespoons salad dressing.

  • Saturated fat and trans fat are the main dietary culprits in increasing your risk of coronary artery disease. DASH helps keep your daily saturated fat to less than 6 percent of your total calories by limiting use of meat, butter, cheese, whole milk, cream and eggs in your diet, along with foods made from lard, solid shortenings, and palm and coconut oils.
  • Avoid trans fat, commonly found in such processed foods as crackers, baked goods and fried items.
  • Read food labels on margarine and salad dressing so that you can choose those that are lowest in saturated fat and free of trans fat.

Sweets: 5 servings or fewer a week

You don’t have to banish sweets entirely while following the DASH diet — just go easy on them. Examples of one serving include 1 tablespoon sugar, jelly or jam, 1/2 cup sorbet, or 1 cup lemonade.

  • When you eat sweets, choose those that are fat-free or low-fat, such as sorbets, fruit ices, jelly beans, hard candy, graham crackers or low-fat cookies.
  • Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) and sucralose (Splenda) may help satisfy your sweet tooth while sparing the sugar. But remember that you still must use them sensibly. It’s OK to swap a diet cola for a regular cola, but not in place of a more nutritious beverage such as low-fat milk or even plain water.
  • Cut back on added sugar, which has no nutritional value but can pack on calories.

DASH diet: Alcohol and caffeine

Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that men limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day and women to one or less. The DASH diet doesn’t address caffeine consumption. The influence of caffeine on blood pressure remains unclear. But caffeine can cause your blood pressure to rise at least temporarily. If you already have high blood pressure or if you think caffeine is affecting your blood pressure, talk to your doctor about your caffeine consumption.

DASH diet and weight loss

While the DASH diet is not a weight-loss program, you may indeed lose unwanted pounds because it can help guide you toward healthier food choices. The DASH diet generally includes about 2,000 calories a day. If you’re trying to lose weight, you may need to eat fewer calories. You may also need to adjust your serving goals based on your individual circumstances — something your health care team can help you decide.

Tips to cut back on sodium

The foods at the core of the DASH diet are naturally low in sodium. So just by following the DASH diet, you’re likely to reduce your sodium intake. You also reduce sodium further by:

  • Using sodium-free spices or flavorings with your food instead of salt
  • Not adding salt when cooking rice, pasta or hot cereal
  • Rinsing canned foods to remove some of the sodium
  • Buying foods labeled “no salt added,” “sodium-free,” “low sodium” or “very low sodium”

One teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 mg of sodium. When you read food labels, you may be surprised at just how much sodium some processed foods contain. Even low-fat soups, canned vegetables, ready-to-eat cereals and sliced turkey from the local deli — foods you may have considered healthy — often have lots of sodium. You may notice a difference in taste when you choose low-sodium food and beverages. If things seem too bland, gradually introduce low-sodium foods and cut back on table salt until you reach your sodium goal. That’ll give your palate time to adjust.

Using salt-free seasoning blends or herbs and spices may also ease the transition. It can take several weeks for your taste buds to get used to less salty foods.

Putting the pieces of the DASH diet together

Try these strategies to get started on the DASH diet:

  • Change gradually. If you now eat only one or two servings of fruits or vegetables a day, try to add a serving at lunch and one at dinner. Rather than switching to all whole grains, start by making one or two of your grain servings whole grains. Increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains gradually can also help prevent bloating or diarrhea that may occur if you aren’t used to eating a diet with lots of fiber. You can also try over-the-counter products to help reduce gas from beans and vegetables.
  • Reward successes and forgive slip-ups. Reward yourself with a nonfood treat for your accomplishments — rent a movie, purchase a book or get together with a friend. Everyone slips, especially when learning something new. Remember that changing your lifestyle is a long-term process. Find out what triggered your setback and then just pick up where you left off with the DASH diet.
  • Add physical activity. To boost your blood pressure lowering efforts even more, consider increasing your physical activity in addition to following the DASH diet. Combining both the DASH diet and physical activity makes it more likely that you’ll reduce your blood pressure.
  • Get support if you need it. If you’re having trouble sticking to your diet, talk to your doctor or dietitian about it. You might get some tips that will help you stick to the DASH diet.

Remember, healthy eating isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. What’s most important is that, on average, you eat healthier foods with plenty of variety — both to keep your diet nutritious and to avoid boredom or extremes. And with the DASH diet, you can have both.

Tip of the Day

Don’t forget dairy! Foods like fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt help to build and maintain strong bones needed for everyday activities.

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Grains Aid Weight Management

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Grains aid in weight maintenance, according to an abstract presented in April 2016 at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology. Researchers compared diets that both included and excluded grains in adults and children from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Despite a higher reported caloric intake, those who consumed the most pasta, cereals, rice, and other grains weighed 7.2 pounds less and had a smaller waistline than those who did not consume grains. Rolls, tortillas, and other bread products contributed to daily intakes of fiber, folate, iron, zinc, and other nutrients, while salty snacks and crackers were associated with higher fruit intake and an overall better diet.

Papanikolaou Y, Fulgoni VL. Abstract presented at: American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2016; April 2-6, 2016: San Diego, CA.

Tip of the Day

Snack on whole grains! Whole grains can be healthy snacks. Make popcorn with little or no added salt or butter. Also, try 100% whole-wheat or rye crackers!

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6 strategies to help control eating triggers

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Identifying the situations that trigger poor eating habits can help you develop strategies to overcome them. Do any of these areas trip you up? Try these simple solutions to inspire healthy changes in your everyday life.

Activities

Situation: When you watch TV or read, do you always have a snack at hand? Do you eat at your desk while you work or while you’re preparing dinner?

Solution: It’s all too easy to take in excess calories without realizing it. To change your habits, keep track of everything you eat — and where and when you eat it — for a few days. It can be eye-opening! Once you become more aware of your snacking, you may find it easier to stop the nibbling or substitute other behaviors for it.

Favored foods

Situation: Are there some foods that you can’t eat in moderation, such as cookies or potato chips? Do you find that the sight or smell of certain foods tempts you to overeat?

Solution: Keep exposure to these foods to a minimum. Don’t keep tempting treats at home — if it’s in the house, it’s in your mouth! However, don’t deny yourself your favorites, either. Portion out a small amount — but not when you’re overly hungry or you’ll be more likely to take more. Split a favorite treat with a friend when eating out, or buy yourself a small portion every couple of weeks.

Time of day

Situation: Are there certain times of the day when you’re more susceptible to overeating? Do you crave a snack after work or a late-night bowl of ice cream?

Solution: Identify your vulnerable times of day. If hunger is a factor, keep yourself well-stocked with handy healthy foods, such as mandarin oranges, walnuts or whole-wheat crackers. If eating at certain times is simply a habit, find a substitute, such as a cup of chamomile tea or a relaxing bath.

Social settings

Situation: Do you eat more when you’re around certain people? Do you snack anytime your partner does? Do social outings lead to nonstop noshing?

Solution: Social eating patterns can undermine weight-loss efforts. Recognize where and when social influence plays a role in your eating habits and decide what you want to change. Keep in mind that you can affect when and what others eat as well — take the lead!

Physical factors

Situation: Does skipping breakfast cause you to lose control of your eating? When you’re tired, do you turn to junk food for energy?

Solution: Following your meal plan — including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks — can help keep hunger under control. Regularly getting a good night’s sleep helps with weight management, too.

Emotions

Situation: Do certain feelings cause you to snack — boredom, loneliness, stress or anxiety? Do you use certain foods to self-soothe?

Solution: Learn to separate food from mood. Monitor your mood, and strive to distinguish true hunger from emotion-driven eating. When emotions are high, use other coping strategies, such as calling a friend or taking a walk.

Tip of the Day

Got a green thumb? Start a garden for fresh, inexpensive, flavorful additions to meals. Herbs, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes are good options for beginners and can be grown in the ground or in a pot.

Daily Inspiration 

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Are you salad-bar savvy?

 

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Opting for the salad bar? It might not be healthier than ordering from the menu. Unless you make careful choices, you could unintentionally end up with a plate overflowing with calories and fat. Don’t be a victim of this common diet trap — be proactive. Before you order, peruse the salad bar and consider these points.

  • Go green. Lettuce or fresh spinach is generally the foundation of a healthy salad. Do the greens look fresh and plentiful?
  • Survey the fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to greens, you’ll want to pile on fresh vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, cauliflowers, cucumbers, beets, radishes, bell peppers, pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapes and strawberries. Is there a good offering of these items?
  • Acknowledge the extras. Many people go wrong at salad bars by including too many high-fat ingredients — like cheese, chopped eggs, bacon bits, buttery croutons and pasta or potato salad. When you go through the salad bar, take only very small amounts of these items or avoid them all together. If there are too many enticing foods and you don’t feel confident you can make good choices, consider healthier options from the menu rather than facing temptation from the salad bar.
  • Don’t forget the dressings. Look for fat-free or low-fat, low-calorie dressings, such as low-fat Italian or reduced-calorie French. Other options include vinegars. You can also add flavor to your salad with lemon, herbs and peppers. Check to see if any seasonings are available.

You can enjoy a healthy meal when dining out at a salad bar just by taking a moment to give careful consideration before grabbing those tongs.

Tip of the Day

Read the label! When choosing whole-grain breads at the store, remember that color is not an indication of a whole grain. Bread can be brown because of molasses or other added ingredients. Read the ingredients and look for a whole grain listed first.

Daily Inspiration 

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