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Nutrition, Diet, Healthy Eating

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Contributing Experts

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD

Nutrition, Diet, Healthy Eating


Kids Are Eating Less Sugar!

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – June 28, 2013

We are all born with a natural preference for sweets and most kids grow up satisfying that sweet tooth with a wide variety of sweet foods and beverages including candies, cookies, frozen treats, pre-sweetened cereal, cakes and beverages.

Parents are making a difference according to research by The NPD Group, which measures product movement and consumer behavior. Fifteen years ago, most kids ate or drank the 20 most common sweets at an average of 126 times more than they do today. The trend tracking group based their findings on diaries from 5,000 children and adults living in 2,000 households across the country.

Most reduced in kids’ diets are carbonated beverages, pre-sweetened cereals and fruit drinks. Adults are also consuming fewer sweets consuming 49 fewer sweet occasions last year compared to 1998.

Parents are paying attention to nutrition and making a big difference. Kids who eat fewer sweets should hopefully be eating more nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Encourage your loved ones to satisfy the sweet cravings with naturally sweet fruits. Make sure your kitchen is stocked with healthy foods that contain a wealth of nutrients to help your kids grow and develop.

Make eating fruit easily accessible so your kids can reach for healthy sweets loaded with nutrients and fiber.

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Vegetarians Live Longer

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – June 21, 2013

We have always known that a diet rich in plant foods is good for you. Now we know that it may add more years to your life than meat-eaters.

A recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, studied over 70,000 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for almost six years. Researchers found that vegetarians in the study had a 12 percent lower risk of death compared to non-vegetarians. The advantage of the healthy diet appeared to impact men more than women.

There are several different types of vegetarians. In the study, researchers included a variety of vegetarians including strict vegans who follow a pure plant food diet, and those who include eggs, dairy products and fish. 

Enjoying a plant based diet has been shown to lower risk of diabetes and heart disease. A likely reason for all of these benefits is the protective effect of a diet rich in nutrients, fiber, phytochemicals (like antioxidants) and lower in saturated fat. Vegetarians in general tend to be thinner which also has a positive effect on health.

Follow the advice of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and eat a more plant-based diet to gain a multitude of health benefits. And if you are not interested in giving up your meat, eat lean cuts and keep your portions small.

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Most Powerful Super Foods Webinar Questions

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – June 14, 2013

We are delighted so many of you took time out of your busy schedules to join us and engage in "The Most Powerful Super Foods"webinar. Hopefully you were inspired with tips and ideas on how to make changes in your diet and lifestyle to gain a wealth of health benefits.

You won't want to miss my next webinar on "Nutrition is the New Wonder Drug" on Tuesday, July 9th at 11:30 CST/12:30 EST.

Now for your questions!

Best cholesterol lowering foods: To lower cholesterol, limit foods high in saturated fats, fried foods and eat plenty of produce, foods high in soluble fiber (oats, legumes, pears) and plant stanols (look for fortified foods such as yogurts, orange juice, granola bars, margarines).

Improve insulin resistance: The best way to improve your insulin resistance is to achieve a healthy weight and eat a diet high in fiber. Eating regular balanced meals (smart carbs plus fiber and/or protein) can also help regulate blood sugar.

Weight watcher power foods: Yes, super foods and power foods are similar and among the healthiest and most filling foods. Power foods are chock full of nutrients and fiber while low in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium.

Smoothies: Use up fruits and veggies that are overripe in a smoothie blended with 100% juice, yogurt and ice.

Produce that are not super foods: All fruits and vegetables are nutritious but some more so than others. For example, sweet potatoes contain more nutrients than white potatoes. Super foods are the best in class but all produce are good for you.

Fresh vs. frozen: Both are great options. Frozen veggies and fruits are usually picked at peak ripeness and immediately frozen to maintain maximum nutrients. As fresh produce sits around the grocery and your home, nutrients can be lost.

Enjoying produce with sauces: If it takes a low-fat dip, peanut butter or a sauce to get you to eat more fruits and vegetables, no problem. Aim to eat more produce and less dip.

Sugar in yogurt: Yogurt, like milk, contains a natural sugar called lactose which is listed on the nutrition facts panel as sugar. Don't confuse lactose or milk sugar with added sugars. Until the facts panel separates natural from added sugars, you need to check the list of ingredients to determine if your yogurt contains added sugars.

Grilling vegetables: This preparation style brings out the sweetness in vegetables and is a great way to enjoy veggies. Any preparation other than fried is best. Steaming is preferred over boiling to maintain the nutritional goodness. If you boil, use the water in another dish to recover the nutrients.

Juicing: Blending fruits and vegetables in a juicer or blender does not reduce the nutrients. Blenders that allow you to consume the pulp retain more of the fiber than juicers.

Grains: Yes, we do need grains. The preferred forms are minimally processed and fortified with nutrients. The more whole grains in your diet, the better.

Cod liver oil: This oil is loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and D. It is a nutritional supplement derived from liver of cod fish.

Sweet fruits: Grapes and watermelon are two of the sweetest fruits. Liberally enjoy them like all fruits.

Produce in season: When you buy fruit in season it usually tastes better, is more nutritious and less expensive. Whenever possible, buy in season.

Dried fruits: These are nutritious nuggets but because they are more concentrated in calories than their fresh counterparts, they are not on my super food list. Enjoy them in small portions.

Wheatgrass: There is no scientific evidence that indicates wheat grass cures or prevents disease. Like other leafy greens, wheat grass does contain nutrients and antioxidants, making it a healthy addition to a balanced diet.

Color of flesh of produce: The color of the skin is the indicator of a nutritious fruit or vegetable even if the flesh is not. Eating any fruit or vegetable is a good thing because they are loaded with health promoting compounds.

Too many fruits or vegetables? There is no such thing as too many fruits and vegetables. However, some veggies are starchy like peas and corn, which require controlled portions. In general, when you need more food, think whole fruits and vegetables because no one gains weight from eating too much broccoli.

Raw versus cooked veggies: Enjoy veggies in any form you prefer. Some veggies are better tolerated and nutrients are more absorbable when cooked instead of raw.

Organic food: It is a personal choice because organic is not any more nutritious than traditional produce. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), "vegetables, fruits, and whole grains should form the central part of a person's diet, regardless of whether they are grown conventionally or organically."

Fish: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 2 servings/week of fatty fish like salmon because it is rich in cardio protective Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish of any kind is healthy and a good alternative to high fat meats. Mercury is of most concern for pregnant women and young children but luckily, salmon and fatty fish are not the fish containing the greatest amount of mercury.

Learn more from my past webinars, weekly blogs, articles and videos.

UHC Television is another way to get your questions answered. Go to www.UHC.TV and click on "Expert Alley" to send me your questions or review my answers to a wide variety of food and nutrition related issues.

Looking for healthy recipes? Check out our Healthy Recipe collection.

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More Good Reasons to Eat Yogurt

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – June 7, 2013

Everyone knows that yogurt is good for you. But did you know that the live active cultures or probiotics in yogurt could boost your brain power?

A new study in the June 2013 issue of Gastroenterology showed that women who regularly ate probiotic rich yogurt influenced brain and behavior. Researchers were encouraged to learn that healthy bacteria may be able to impact brain function in disease states.

More research is needed, but consuming yogurt twice daily as the subjects did has no down side and offer a multitude of nutritional benefits.

Yogurt is a super nutritious food rich in calcium, protein, potassium and vitamin D (if fortified). The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three servings daily of low-fat or fat-free dairy because of all its nutritional goodness.

Probiotics are friendly bacteria that are beneficial to the intestines. They may help with digestion and offer a form of protection from harmful bacteria. Probiotics may help with bowel conditions, diarrhea and side effects following antibiotic treatment.

Most people can tolerate yogurt because the lactose or milk sugar content is less than fluid milk. If you are lactose sensitive, enjoy your yogurt in small amounts along with other foods.

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Seeking the Bikini Body

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – May 31, 2013

Spring is in the air and so is shedding of winter clothes and the desire to peel off those extra pounds.

It is tempting to want to lose weight quickly to be ready for bathing suit season and skimpier clothing. But don't be fooled into thinking you can magically drop 10 pounds in a week on some special detox or super-restrictive fad diet program.

Nutrition experts recommend losing about 1-2 pounds per week. This is a safe, reasonable amount to lose that, if done correctly, will be permanent. You need to cut and/or burn roughly 500 calories per day to get results. Don't cut calories below 1200 per day for ladies and 1500 for men otherwise you will be hungry all the time and won't be able to sustain the healthy eating plan long term.

As an added bonus, when you start cutting calories, you will lose "water weight" which means your initial weight loss will be greater than 1-2 pounds in the first few weeks.

Your second bonus is improved health. When you lose as little as 5-10 percent of your bodyweight, you will improve your blood pressure, blood sugars and lower cholesterol levels.

Start today and don't think of it as a bikini diet but instead a journey to improve your health, weight and eating habits.

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Tips to Add More Super Nutritious Greek Yogurt to Your Diet

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – May 24, 2013

Walk down any supermarket dairy aisle and the increasing yogurt choices are evidence that we are eating lots of nutritious yogurt. Yogurt is a terrific way to help meet your three servings per day of low or non-fat dairy.

The latest addition to the growing category is Greek yogurt – a richer, tangier and creamier yogurt with twice the amount of protein as regular yogurt. By straining the yogurt, more liquid is removed, making it thicker and a delicious mini meal or substitute in baking and cooking.

In recipes, use plain non-fat Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise, sour cream and cream cheese. In dips, you can safely replace all of the fat with Greek yogurt but in other dishes, proceed cautiously. Start by substituting about half the amount of fat with Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt can be enjoyed plain or flavored with fresh fruit, nuts, honey, maple syrup or fruit jam. Use it as a topper on pancakes, waffles, cereal or fruit.
Make your soups and sauces creamier with the addition of Greek yogurt. In hot dishes, add it slowly toward the end of the cooking or off the heat to prevent curdling.

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Magic of the Mediterranean Lifestyle Webinar Questions

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – May 17, 2013

We were delighted that so many of you took time out of your busy schedules to join us and engage in "The Magic of the Mediterranean Lifestyle: The Gold Standard for Heart Health, Longevity and Wellness" webinar and hopefully you were inspired with tips and ideas how to make changes in your diet and lifestyle to gain a wealth of health benefits.

You won't want to miss my next webinar on "Most Powerful Super Foods" on Tuesday, June 11th at 11:30 CST/12:30 EST.

Now to answer your questions –

Coconut oil. Lots of questions about the healthfulness of this oil. Even though it is oil, it is still the most saturated of all fats. According to the Dietary Guidelines, it is not better than liquid vegetable oils but can be a substitute for saturated fats such as butter.

Best nuts. All nuts, including peanuts, provide a good source of protein, fiber and other nutrients. Almonds, for example, are great source of vitamin E, whereas walnuts provide the plant version of Omega-3 fatty acids. Eat a variety and remember to keep a lid on the portion size. Peanut butter is another healthy option, free of trans fats.

Too many fruits or vegetables? There is no such thing as too many fruits and vegetables. However, some veggies are starchy such as peas an corn which require controlled portions. In general, when you need more food, think whole fruits and vegetables because no one gains weight from eating too much broccoli.

Beans can cause gas but if you slowly introduce them into your diet or use a product such as 'beano' you will tolerate them better. The more beans you eat, the more your body adapts and the flatulence is reduced. If you are not used to eating beans, go slowly, and eat with other foods.

Plant sterols (also called plant stanols) are substances that occur naturally in small amounts in many grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. They look like cholesterol and actually prevent real cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Manufacturers have started adding them to foods from margarine spreads, orange juice, cereals and even granola bars.

Raw versus cooked veggies. Enjoy veggies in any form you prefer. Some veggies are better tolerated and nutrients are more absorbable when cooked.

Organic food. It is a personal choice because organic is not any more nutritious than traditional produce. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 'vegetables, fruits and whole grains should form the central part of a person's diet, regardless of whether they are grown conventionally or organically.'

Olive oil. The difference between extra virgin and other forms is the degree of processing. Extra virgin is the first processing and thus retains more of the phytonutrients, color and depth of flavor.

Greek yogurt. It comes in all flavors and fat levels, choose the one you like best. My favorite is plain non-fat yogurt and I add my fruit and granola. Check out my Crunchy Fruit and Yogurt Breakfast Parfait recipe.

Diabetics. Absolutely, the Mediterranean diet is a great plan for diabetics.

Oatmeal. Starting the day with a bowl of oatmeal is a great way to fill up and help lower cholesterol with a whole grain. Steel cut oats are less processed than instant but both are good options.

Fish. The American Heart Association recommends two servings a week of fatty fish such as salmon because it is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which are cardio protective. Fish of any kind, as often as you like, is healthy and a good alternative to high-fat meats. Mercury is of most concern for pregnant women and young children but luckily, salmon and fatty fish are not the fish containing the greatest amount of mercury.

Whole grains, cereals, oatmeal and brown rice are perfectly healthy and because of the added fiber, won't cause blood sugar spikes like simple, refined carbohydrates.

You can find my past webinars, weekly blogs, articles and videos on Source4Women.

UHC Television is another way to get your questions answered. Go to UHC.TV and click on 'expert alley' to send me your questions and review my answers to a wide variety of food and nutrition related issues.

Looking for healthy recipes? Check out our collection of Healthy Recipes on Source4Women.

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When Choosing Carbs, Make Them Smart Carbs

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – May 10, 2013

Carbohydrates are the fuel that keep your body going and usually make up about half of your total daily calories. Carbs are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, starches, sugars and dairy products.

Health and nutrition experts frequently refer to smart or healthy carbs when describing the types of carbs you should choose. Smart carbs are the ones that include nutritional goodness in addition to the carbohydrate calories.

Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are classified as healthy or smart because they contain good-for-you fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Dairy products such as low-fat milk and yogurt also contain healthy carbs in the form of lactose or milk sugar. These carbs don't have fiber, but they do have essential nutrients including calcium, vitamin D and potassium that are typically lacking in American diets.

Carbs that fall into the 'other' category are refined carbs like white flour and all kinds of sugars (including agave, brown, table, honey and high fructose corn syrup). These carbs tend to be found in processed foods and sweetened beverages that are considered extras in the diet because there is little nutrition and lots of calories. Limit these carb choices and instead reach for the smart carbs that are naturally delicious, high in fiber, nutrients and Mother Nature's way of satisfying your sweet tooth.

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Quit the Clean Plate Club

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – May 3, 2013

I grew up with the 'clean plate' mantra in order to earn dessert. Pressuring kids to finish their plates is fairly common practice – roughly 50-60 percent of parents require their kids eat all of the food on their plates.

According to a recent study in Pediatrics, urging children to finish their plates adversely affects the way children ate as they grew older. The study also found that parents who restrict foods were more likely to have overweight or obese children. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese.

When parents restrict a food item such as sweet treats, the study found that kids crave them and often over eat that food when given the chance.

Parents have a huge influence on how their children develop eating habits and patterns. Urging kids to eat beyond fullness could lead to a lifetime of overeating because it impacts the ability to respond to hunger naturally.

Kids learn from their parents. So do your children a favor by eating family meals together, modeling healthy eating and demonstrating a normal relationship with food.

Moderation is more important than being a member of the clean plate club. Allow kids to enjoy all foods and stock the kitchen with plenty of healthy foods to encourage good food choices.

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Are Meals From Food Trucks Safe?

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – April 26, 2013

There are roughly 15,000 food trucks rolling into towns all over the country serving delicious food. But are foods served from food trucks safe or should you be concerned?

Food trucks are required to follow similar guidelines as restaurants and are inspected just like brick and mortar restaurants. But just like restaurants, some are better than others.

Here are a few tips to help make sure the food from your favorite truck is safe:

  • Before placing your order, make sure the license to operate along with the inspection grade is on display. The higher the grade, the more confident you can feel that the truck met the inspection standards.
  • Wearing gloves and hairnets or hats is another good sign that food is being handled properly. Peek into the kitchen to see if you see any warning signs.
  • Foods that are relatively safe are fruits, veggies, cupcakes, ice cream, hot dogs and most fried foods. Burgers, tacos and salads must be held at proper temperature and handled with care so proceed with caution on these items.
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Spring Clean Your Diet

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – April 19, 2013

Spring is in the air, tulips are bursting on the scene and before you know it, you will be on vacation at the beach. Now is the time to spring clean your diet and get ready for skimpier clothing.

Stocking your kitchen with healthy foods is your best bet to get your diet on track.

Start your makeover in the kitchen by getting rid of the less-than-healthy foods that sabotage your diet. Toss foods in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer that are overly processed, calorie-rich and contain excess sugar, salt or fat.

Out of sight, out of mind is a perfect strategy for slashing calories. When high-calorie foods are in sight, studies show you are more likely to eat more of them. Use this strategy to replace the unhealthy foods with nutritious and delicious foods that are kept front and center in the refrigerator and pantry.

Fill your refrigerator, freezer and pantry with a bounty of colorful, healthy and nutrient-rich foods such as like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, eggs, lean meat, nuts, beans and whole grains. These are the preferred go-to foods for meals and snacks. Limit the overly processed foods to a few simple favorites.

Always include a source of protein at your meals and snacks to keep you feeling full. Watch your portion sizes and do something physical every day. Use these easy tips to help whittle your waistline and start peeling off the pounds.

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Use Caution with Kids' Restaurant Meals

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – April 12, 2013

Parents need a break from cooking every day, but taking your kids to chain restaurants may not be the answer. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 97 percent of kids meals flunk the nutrition test at chain restaurants.

In a report released on March 28, the group found that most of the 3,500 meal possibilities were not nutritionally adequate for kids. To meet the criteria, kids' meals must not exceed 430 calories, more than 35 percent calories from fat, or more than 10 percent calories from saturated plus trans fats. Plus they could not have more than 35 percent added sugars nor more than 770 milligrams of sodium.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) launched a Kids Live Well program to encourage restaurants to offer meals that are both nutritious and delicious. Unfortunately, only 9 percent of meals at major chains meet the healthy NRA standards.

As parents, we need to be concerned about the nutritional quality of the meals served to our children outside the home. Kids' meals have not changed with the times and certainly can be fingered as contributing to the growing obesity epidemic with one in every three kids overweight or obese.

When parents start demanding choices beyond the ever-present grilled cheese, burgers, fries, fried chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese – maybe the chain restaurants will take notice and start offering healthier options that are not loaded with fat, sugar and sodium.

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Lose Weight at Work

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – April 5, 2013

Worksite wellness and weight loss programs may be more effective than doing it on your own at home. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found lifestyle weight loss programs at work could be exactly what the doctor ordered – effective weight loss.

In the study, dieters followed a low-calorie, low-glycemic, high-fiber diet along with education on how to change those habits that cause weight gain into healthier lifestyle habits.

Social support and group intervention is most likely the motivating factor that kept 89 percent of the participants in the program to complete the six month weight loss phase. Attendance at group meetings was a very high 84 percent. After six months, the average weight loss was almost 18 pounds. So impressive, 48 percent of the dieters signed up for another six-month weight maintenance program. Not only did the dieters lose a significant amount of weight, they also saw improvements in cardiometabolic risk factors including blood pressure.

Worksites have the potential to be very effective settings to help employees improve their lifestyles and lose weight. Losing weight is not just about the number on the scale or dress size. But for most people, it also reduces disease risk and health care costs associated with excess body weight.

Take advantage of the programs offered by your organization and sign up today!

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