The journey to healthy habits starts when you buy your groceries. What you buy will be what you eat, which determines how you and your family feel. That's a lot of pressure! But here are some quick tips to help keep everything on track:
- Make a list
Go in with a plan and stick to it. This will help save you money and avoid buying unhealthy items.
- Don’t shop hungry
Grocery shopping while hungry is a bad idea. You’re more likely to buy foods that trigger reward responses (highly processed items/snacks) and may buy more than you really need.
- Shop the perimeter
Buying foods from the outside perimeter of a grocery store means stocking up on fresh, whole foods...and that’s always a good idea.
- Check the dates
Make sure the food you’re buying isn’t expired to avoid getting sick from it or having to make another trip to the store to return it.
- Enjoy seasonal produce
Keep meals interesting by working in seasonal produce. For Summer that could mean corn and tomatoes and then squash and brussels sprouts in the Fall.
We love sweet potatoes. This versatile, orange root vegetable can be enjoyed a variety of ways including baked whole, smashed, or cut up as fries. They are delicious but also offer several health benefits. Let’s take a look:
• Full of vitamins and minerals
One cup of baked sweet potato with skin contains 180 calories, 41g carbs, 4g protein, 6.6g fiber, 769% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin A, 65% DV vitamin C, 50% DV manganese, along with 15-25% of B6, potassium, copper, and niacin. Needless to say, it's a very diverse nutrition profile.
• Healthy Vision
Beta-carotene, which gives sweet potatoes their bright color, can also support eye health and prevent vision loss when it’s converted to vitamin A in your body. This vitamin helps support the formation of light-detecting receptors in your eyes.
• Gut Health
Two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, are found in sweet potatoes. These can’t be digested by your body and help to keep you regular as well as feed healthy gut bacteria and keep intestinal linings strong.
• Immunity Boost
Vitamin A and beta-carotene are critical to a healthy immune system and sweet potatoes have almost 7 times your daily requirement. It reduces inflammation in your gut and keeps it able to fight off disease-causing pathogens that attack your digestive system.
• Brain Boost
Sweet potatoes of the purple variety have been shown to enhance memory and learning in mice. The high amounts of antioxidants reduce inflammation and prevent free-radical damage in the brain. Studies are yet to be done with humans and this vegetable specifically, but we already know diets rich in antioxidants can reduce the chance of dementia by 13%.
As soon as you start eating, your body gets to work breaking things down into usable states. There are many processes that take place and the food you eat can help make things easier. Here are some foods that aid digestion:
Fiber is one of the keys to healthy digestion in general. If you aren’t used to eating large amounts of fiber, it’s best to start with soluble fiber such as oatmeal, apples, and bananas and slowly increase fiber intake by one serving every 4 days.
• Leafy Greens
Packed with nutrients that support digestion, leafy greens also help feed healthy gut bacteria. Think spinach, kale, and collard greens.
Available as powder, slices, or freshly grated, ginger helps to reduce GI inflammation and can relieve bloating and nausea.
• Unsaturated Fats
These fats pair up with fiber to keep you regular and also help you absorb vitamins from things you eat. Olive oil is an easy way to add this fat to your diet.
• Vegetables with Skin
Vegetables are always a good choice and if you can eat them whole, skin included, the fiber content is even better. Examples of this include potatoes, black beans, and garbanzo beans.
Usually high in fiber and vitamins that help with digestion such as potassium and Vitamin C, fruit should be part of your daily digestion regimen.
• Whole Grains
Grains that are whole and not refined get broken down slower, which helps regulate blood sugar. They’re also higher in fiber and that’s always helpful for digestion. Go with whole grains when choosing bread and buns.
• Yogurt & Kefir
These dairy products contain probiotics that act as helpful gut bacteria.
During World War I, citizens were urged to go “wheatless” and “meatless” one day a week to help aid in the war effort. In 2003 the concept of the Meatless Monday was revived as a health initiative backed by science as a worthwhile effort. You don’t have to be a budding vegetarian to try out Meatless Mondays. There are benefits for your health as well as the environment.
Let’s take a look at those benefits:
• A reduction of red meat consumption can improve heart and kidney health.
• You can get all the protein you need for the day from foods like nuts, beans, soy, and vegetables
• You’ll experience a wider variety of nutrition options.
• Beans, peas, nuts, and seeds contain almost no saturated fats, which can help keep cholesterol low and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
• Skipping one serving of beef every Monday for a year saves the equivalent emissions of driving 348 miles in a car.
• Livestock requires more water than produce does, so you’ll be conserving water as well. It’s estimated it takes 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef.
• You’ll reduce greenhouse emissions from the production and transportation of livestock.
Earlier this week we started our climb on the list of Halloween candy ranked best to worst for calories and fat. Today we’ll keep going up the list with number 12 having the highest amounts of both:
1. Milky Way (160 calories, 6g fat for one fun size bar)
3. Baby Ruth
4. 3 Musketeers
5. Plain M&Ms
7. Almond Joy
9. Nestle Crunch
10. Peanut M&Ms
11. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
12. Twix (250 calories, 14g fat for one fun size bar)
Halloween is right around the corner and we all know there’s nothing wrong with indulging every once in a while. We were curious about how different candies stacked up and have ranked them from best to worst for calories and fat per serving. Here’s the list starting with the lowest and going up:
2. Tootsie Pops
3. Sour Patch Kids
5. Laffy Taffy
7. Tootsie Rolls
8. Candy Corn
10. Kit Kat (the lowest calorie candy bar)
With Fall underway, you’ll start to see the bright colors of Winter squash showing up at stores and farmers markets. Squash can provide you with lots of Vitamin A (for good vision, immune system, and cell growth) as well as fiber while being low in calories. You’ll find dozens of varieties of Winter squash and they all serve their purpose, but here is some info on the three most common types:
• Acorn Squash
Usually a deep green color with deep ribs like a pumpkin and overall acorn-like in shape, the acorn squash holds together when cooked. It’s a great choice for baking, stuffing, and mashing.
• Spaghetti Squash
This variety is bright yellow, shaped like a football, and what’s inside is different than all other varieties of squash. Once it’s halved and baked, the inside can be shredded with a fork to release strands of squash that resemble al-dente spaghetti. Simply add your favorite pasta sauce or some olive oil and you have an excellent low-carb alternative to traditional pasta.
• Butternut Squash
Named for it’s peanut-like shape and rich flavor, the butternut squash is very dense. Once the outer rind is peeled off, the bright orange insides can be used for soups or pies or simply diced and baked. It offers a slightly sweet flavor and smooth texture.
Spices have the ability to turn an average dish into something worth remembering. We all have a collection of various powders and dried leaves we turn to for that last bit of flavor perfection when cooking, but how do you store them to ensure lasting freshness? Here are some storage tips to get the best results from your spices:
• Air-tight Containers
This is best to preserve the spices as long as possible. This may mean transferring the spices into a different container than what they originally came in to make sure it’s air-tight.
• Dark is Better
Light exposure can decrease the quality of the spice and shelf life. If you aren’t storing them in opaque or stainless steel containers, it’s best to keep them in a cabinet.
• Away From Heat
Heat can greatly reduce the quality of spices as well. While it’s tempting to keep everything right by the stove, it’s not recommended.
• Don’t Season Over the Pot
Additionally, shaking your spice container directly over a boiling pot can introduce steam and heat back into the container, compromising it even more. You can shake spices into your hand or a separate bowl off to the side and then add it to your dish to avoid this.
When hunger hits you, protein will help you feel full and satisfied. Here are some ideas for high-protein snacks that you can take with you:
• Trail Mix - Store-bought trail mix can be high in sugar, but it’s easy to make your own and control what goes into it. Almonds and pistachios are slightly higher in protein than nuts like walnuts and cashews. Raisins are a good mix-in if you want some sweetness.
• Almonds - If you don’t feel like messing with the trail mix, carrying a bag of almonds is even easier. A couple handfuls should do the trick to get some protein and keep hunger at bay. Look for varieties with no added sugar and reduced salt if blood pressure is a concern.
• Roasted chickpeas - With the combo of fiber and protein, roasted chickpeas are a perfectly portable, crunchy snack. Roasting is as easy as adding some oil and seasoning to chickpeas and baking for 35 minutes at 450 degrees.
• Hard-boiled eggs - It doesn’t get much easier than hard-boiled eggs. Throw a couple of these and maybe a salt and pepper packet in your bag and you’ll have a high-protein snack for later on.
• Tuna - Tuna pouches are an easy way to keep it road-ready. Bring along some multi-seed crackers for even more protein and some fiber.
• Cheese - Whether it’s slices, sticks, cubes, chunks, or cottage, cheese is an easy way to bring some calcium and protein along for any adventure.
Of all the health concerns Americans face, heart disease is the deadliest and hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the leading factors in this. Reducing your sodium intake can help reduce the risks of heart trouble. Here are five quick tips for how to do it:
• Spices instead of salt: Go for black pepper, cilantro, garlic powder, dill, or oregano to add flavor without adding salt.
• Reduce portion sizes: Less food overall means less salt.
• Rinse canned items: Open, drain, and rinse canned items to greatly reduce the sodium content.
• Fresh meat instead of packaged: Sliced, packaged lunch meat contains about 60% of your daily sodium intake but fresh meat is typically around 4% DV.
• Check the labels: This may seem obvious, but don’t make assumptions about the sodium content of the foods you eat. Some things like cottage cheese may have more than you think (31% DV in 1 cup).