The use of sea salt is becoming more popular these days, its presence can be found in savory and sweet dishes alike. Some tout it to be a healthier alternative to regular table salt, stating that it offers more trace minerals and a “saltier” taste per teaspoon -thus reducing the amount needed in cooking to add flavor. But is there really a difference between the two types or should this proclamation be taken with a “grain of salt”? Read more.
Too often, individuals with good intentions to improve their diet end up abandoning their attempts just a few months into their health makeover. Various reasons can account for the departure, ranging from time and financial issues to just plain frustration with a process that seems to be taking longer than expected to achieve desired results. Although obstacles and setbacks cannot be completely eliminated, a little planning prior to beginning your endeavor to live a healthier life can help you progress forward, even during the most challenging times. Here is what you should consider:
- Are you ready? Are you willing to put forth the effort that is necessary to improve your health? If not, what will motivate you? Do you want to lose weight so that you have more energy to play with your children/grandchildren? A lifestyle change made with a half-hearted attitude is less likely to succeed than one that is made with a whole-hearted desire to make a change. Discover what will motivate you and realize that what motivates you may change as time goes on.
- Is now the right time to make a change? Will you be leaving for an overseas trip where you will lack control of your dietary intake? Or, will a family member be undergoing a surgical procedure after which you will need to spend a great amount of your time caring for them? Making a change amidst “chaos” will prove to be a challenge to maintain. Consider delaying your efforts until things have calmed down or devise strategies that will help you to adhere to your program during major life events.
- Set specific short- and long-term attainable goals. Instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” say “I want to lose 10 pounds by December 1.”
- Devise and outline a plan to achieve your goals. Your plan should include clear actions that you will take to make the change (e.g., “I will replace the cream in my morning coffee with skim milk.”). Your plan should also account for obstacles that will be encountered and contigency plans should be in place. For instance, on days that you know you will be attending a dinner party, choose to eat a light lunch composed of fruit and low-fat yogurt.
- Be realistic. Progress is the goal, not perfection. Circumstances will (and do) arise that will interfere with your attempts at living a healthier lifestyle. That’s okay – don’t let it frustrate you. Take this time to reevaluate your plan and goals and make changes accordingly.
- Keep it fun and make it enjoyable. Reward yourself when you achieve your goals (e.g., give yourself 15 extra minutes to read the newspaper before starting on household chores). Keep it interesting by trying healthy cuisine from another culture or by eating your favorite fruit prepared a different way (e.g., poached and served with a yogurt sauce).
- Enlist support. Let friends, family and coworkers know you are making a change for the better and ask them to help or even join you in your efforts. Sharing success stories or discussing challenges with others can help motivate you to stay on the right path.
Having the right mindset and being prepared to make a change toward healthier eating will help to make your transition toward better nutrition a success. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks, rather use them as lessons for a better future. And remember, it is a process that will contiually evolve overtime.
What has helped you maintain a healthy diet? Share with us, we want to know!
Do you tend to have a heavy hand with the salt? If you do, you are not alone. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a sodium intake that is no more than 2,300 mg/day for individuals 2 years of age and older – that is about 1 teaspoon of salt per day. The recommendations for at-risk populations (African-Americans, adults 40 years and older, and hypertensive individuals) is lower, set at no more than 1,500 mg/day. However, the average American consumes more than 3,400 mg/day of sodium. Why is this so bad? Sodium stimulates your kidneys to retain water. This, in turn, increases your blood volume. An increased blood volume can cause hypertension (high blood pressure). And, hypertension increases your risk for developing heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.
Individuals who are at-risk and/or are “salt sensitive” – that is, more susceptible to the effects of salt on the body – need to take particular care concerning sodium intake; however, all individuals need to lower consumption to reduce health risks. Last April, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its report Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States. In this publication, the IOM states that a collaborative effort is needed to reduce the amount of sodium Americans consume. Part of this strategy entails new government standards for sodium content in foods produced by food manufacturers, restaurants, and foodservice providers. The ultimate goal is to set a standard sodium level for commercially prepared foods that is considered to be safe. This reduction is to occur graduallyso as to allow the American palate to adjust accordingly without change being significantly noticed. Likewise, the IOM is calling upon Americans themselves to make wiser choices about food products and to limit sodium content in home-prepard foods. Other sectors of society, such as health professionals and public-private corporations are asked to support the implementation of sodium guidelines by food producers as well as to encourage fellow Americans to follow a lower sodium diet.
How can you take action to reduce the sodium in your diet?
- Gradually lower your intake of sodium to the recommended level.
- Purchase items labeled as “low salt,” “low sodium,” “no salt added,” and “sodium free.”
- Avoid adding salt while cooking foods such as rice, pasta, whole-grain cereals, and vegetables.
- Add flavor by using salt-free spices and herbs instead of salt. Good salt-free alternatives include lemon-pepper blends, all-spice, paprika, curry powder, turmeric, dry mustard, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, basil, dill, and garlic. Using lemon juice and vinegar can also add flavor without the need for salt.
- Watch out for hidden sources of sodium, such as some over-the-counter and prescription medications, certain natural foods (e.g., olives and seafood), and baking soda and baking powder.
Although it is important to reduce your sodium intake to the recommended safe level, do not eliminate salt completely from your diet. Sodium is essential for proper muscle function, neurotransmission of impulses and fluid regulation and balance in your body.
How have you reduced the amount of sodium in your diet? Share with us, we want to know!
Sources for more information
Institute of Medicine
American Dietetic Association
American Heart Association
Welcome to Simply Sunday here at the Health and Food Forum’s Blog. Today’s topic of discussion is healthy cooking. A quality diet isn’t just characterized by the type of foods that you eat, but how you prepare and cook them. Using proper tecnniques will lessen the chances of decreasing the vitamin and mineral content of foods and adding unnecessary amounts of fat and sodium to meals. Here are a few tips to follow when in the kitchen:
- Do not peel away the edible skin of fruits and vegetables (e.g., apples, peaches, potatoes, etc.,). Most of the vitamins and minerals are not found in the middle, rather they are present in the skin and just below the skin. By removing the peel you are stripping away vital nutrients.
- Steam rather than boil vegetables. There is very little or no contact with water during the steaming process; therefore, most of the vegetable’s nutrients can be retained. Because some of the vitamins can be dissolved in water, boiling vegetables can lead to a loss of nutrients. If you need to boil your produce, save and freeze the cooking water to be used at a later date for soup stock, sauces, etc.,. This way, you can still obtain the water-soluble nutrients that were dissolved in the water during the boiling process.
- Roast vegetables using nonstick cooking spray to enhance flavor while cutting down on fat content.
- Do not overcook vegetables. Overcooking destroys vitamins and minerals.
- Rinse canned fish and meat before consuming to lower sodium and fat content.
- To lower the fat content of your meal, trim the fat from cuts of poultry and meats before cooking and remove the skin from cooked poultry before eating.
- Microwave meats and produce. The fast-cooking process of microwaving decreases the time that the heat-sensitive nutrients of food are exposed to high temperatures. Also, you do not need to add any fat to your meal to cook it in the microwave.
- Baste using low-fat or fat-free liquids such as lemon juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, tomato juice, fat-skimmed stock, and wine.
- When sauteing, use wine, lemon juice, or fat-skimmed stock and/or broth instead of oil or butter to lower fat content.
- When roasting, grilling, and broiling use a rack so that fat drippings fall away from meat and poultry.
What techniques do you use for healthy cooking? Share with us, we want to know!
Are you guilty of mindless snacking? Here are a few tips to help you break the habit.
- Eat Breakfast: By replenishing your energy stores from the fast incurred by sleep, you will prevent unwanted “crashes” later in the day that lead to the “munchies” and/or binge eating. Eat a balanced breakfast composed of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep: Lack of sleep and/or restless sleep upset the hormonal balance, increasing enzymes that trigger your body’s hunger center. Adequate sleep will help to keep this system in check.
- Practice Stress Relaxation Exercises: The stress hormone, cortisol, can stimulate hunger. Minimize triggers of its secretion by keeping the body in a calm state through such techniques as deep breathing, meditation, Yoga positions, etc.,.
- Take a 5-10 Minute Walking Break: Are you feeling the urge to nibble on the surplus of donuts in the conference room at work? Try hitting the halls for a quick jaunt instead. Exercise can suppress appetite and can lower stress levels that stimulate hunger.
- Put Temptations Out of Sight: Avoid succumbing to the “power of suggestion” by storing unhealthy snacks out-of-view in the back of the pantry and/or refrigerator or areas that are not readily accessible – better yet, don’t even buy them. Prevent temptations on-the-go or at work by not keeping sugary, empty calorie items in your car or office desk drawer. Instead stock up on nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc.,.
How do you avoid unwanted snacking? Share with us, we want to know!
Eat What? recommends what to eat from grocery stores and restaurants.
Last month, PICKKA launched a cool new app for the iPhone – “Eat What?“. This nifty app provides you with a list of recommended products to buy at the grocery store and/or suggestions of menu items from a restaurant based on your dietary objectives (e.g., management of diabetes, prediabetes, weight, cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and/or adhering to healthy eating). Eat What? is simple to use.
First, select your health objectives.
Second, specify whether you want to search restaurant menu items or products from the grocery store. Then, type the name of the restaurant, product brand, or food category for which you would like recommendations.
Third, review the list of recommendations. Nutritional information is provided as well as consumer ratings of taste to help you narrow your choice.
“Eat What?” eliminates the guess work out of deciding what to eat so you can spend more time enjoying your food and less time analyzing it. For an easy way to stay on track, download the “Eat What?” app for your iPhone.
Don’t have an iPhone? Try PICKKA’s “Eat This?” app now available for the Android market. Visit “Eat This?” to learn more and to download the app to your Android phone.
Healthy eating during adolescence is necessary to meet the nutritional demands placed on the body by puberty – a time when there is an increased need not just for calories, but for nutrients such as protein, calcium, and iron. Getting your teen to choose the right types and amounts of food can be a challenge considering that this time of growth is characterized by a greater need and desire to become increasingly independent from parents and a sense of urgency to “fit in with the crowd,” and so, decisions are easily persuaded by their peers. Further adding to the challenge for parents is that many teens eat more meals away from home (and you) due to sporting and social events prevelant during this stage of development in comparison to younger children.
Fortunately, there are some steps that you as the parent can take to increase the chances that your teen will pass-up the soda pop for water and the fries for fruit. These include:
- Provide your teen with peer-accepted literature, such as teen magazines and books, that promote healthy eating and exercise habits.
- Convenience is important at this age so make healthy snacks and ingredients for “make your own” meals readily accessible for your teen. For example, have individual servings of homemade vegetable soup in the freezer to be quickly grabbed and cooked in the microwave.
- Heed your teens suggestions for meals. Offer healthier versions of the theme if necessary and shop for, prepare, and cook the meal together to make it a family experience.
- Allow your teen to invite friends over for meals and/or parties in which healthy appetizers, entrees, snacks, etc., are served. Better yet, have your teen plan the menu with the help of their friends.
- Talk about health and nutrition from a positive frame of reference. Avoid negative comments and address their concerns.
- Be a role model and follow healthy eating and exercise habits yourself; in other words “practive what you preach.”
With your help, your teen can develop healthy eating skills and practices. If your child expresses concern about his or her body weight or body image, schedule an appointment for your teen to meet with your family physician.
How do you foster healthy eating habits in your teen? Share with us, we want to know!
For more information on getting your teen to eat healthy visit MyPyramid or Team Nutrition.