Category Archives: Nutrition

Fall Produce Picks

fall-veggies

The sun is setting sooner, the nights are getting cooler and wool socks are starting to sound like a cozy idea. This is the perfect time to celebrate the seasonal gems of autumn! Head to your local market and fill your basket with these fall produce picks.

Pumpkin
“Fall is the season for winter squash — satisfying, hearty vegetables perfect for a cool night,” says Academy Spokesperson Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN. “While butternut squash is a go-to winter vegetable, pumpkin is another delicious squash, even after Halloween! Pumpkin is full of fiber and vitamin A, which is great for your skin and eyes.” Foroutan likes to balance pumpkin’s sweetness with savory herbs, such as sage and curry. “Dishes such as pumpkin curry soups are the perfect balance between sweet and savory. Use coconut oil and coconut milk instead of butter and cream to switch up the flavor profile. Turmeric is curry’s base, so you get great anti-inflammatory benefits with each bite.”

Beets
Beets are edible from their leafy greens down to the bulbous root. The leaves are similar to spinach and are delicious sautéed. The grocery store most likely will carry red beets; your local farmers market may have more interesting varieties, such as golden or bull’s blood, which has a bullseye pattern of rings. The red color in beets is caused by a phytochemical called betanin, making beet juice a natural alternative to red food coloring. Beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates and may help to support healthy blood pressure. Roasting or steaming beets whole takes the fuss out of peeling — the skin easily slides off after cooking. They also are delicious raw, shredded and tossed in salads or thinly sliced and baked into chips.

Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes charge ahead of white potatoes in terms of fiber and vitamin A. “Sweet potatoes can make a great breakfast side dish” suggests Foroutan. “Cube left-over baked potato and sprinkle them with cumin and coriander. Toast them in the oven until golden and serve them with poached eggs and sliced avocado.”

Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is a fun, kid-friendly vegetable that is a lower-calorie and gluten-free alternative to grain-based pasta. Cut it in half to reveal a pocket of seeds; scoop those out and pop the two halves into the microwave or oven and cook until tender. Scrape a fork into the flesh and spaghetti-like strands appear! Voilà! Toss with pesto or marinara sauce for a quick veggie side dish.

Kale
Kale is a current media darling — from food writers to restaurant chefs, and farmers markets to school cafeterias — we can’t get enough of this luscious leafy green and with good reason. Kale is a nutrient powerhouse. It tastes sweeter after a frost and can survive a snowstorm. If you plant kale in your garden, you can dig it out of the snow and serve fresh salad in January! One cup of raw kale has only 8 calories and is loaded with vitamins A, C and K as well as manganese. Kale is great sautéed and cooked in soup, but also is excellent raw in salad; simply remove tough stems, slice into thin slivers and pair with something a bit sweet such as carrots or apples. One advantage of using kale for your leafy greens is that you can add your dressing ahead of time; the kale becomes more tender and delicious, not wilted.

Pears
When we can buy fruit year-round, we tend to forget they do have a season. However, pears are the most delicious in the fall when they’re at their peak. Pears are unique in that they do not ripen on the tree; they will ripen at room temperature after they’re picked. How do you know when they are ready to eat? Check the neck! If the fruit near the stem gives to a little pressure, it is ripe. There are a wide range of pear flavors and textures. And, just like apples, some are excellent eaten fresh while others are best cooked or canned for the winter. Try pears on the grill, poached in red wine, tucked into a panini, pureed into soup or a smoothie, or simply sliced with cheese and wine. If you eat the peel too, one medium pear has 6 grams of fiber – that’s 20 percent of the daily recommendation!

Okra
Okra commonly is fried, but also is wonderful in more nutritious dishes. Around the world, chefs cherish the thickening properties of the seed pods in dishes from Louisiana gumbo to Indian curries and other stews. If you wish to minimize the thickening property, try okra briefly stir-fried. The pods are high in vitamins K and C, a good source of fiber and folate and low in calories. At the market, look for pods that are no longer than 4 inches and are bright green in color and firm to the touch.

Parsnips
Parsnips are cousins to carrots — they have the same root shape but with white flesh. They’re typically eaten cooked, but also can be eaten raw. One-half cup of cooked parsnips is full of fiber (3 grams) and contains more than 10 percent of the daily values of vitamin C and folate. Try these pale beauties roasted, pureed into soup or mashed. You can even top a shepherd’s pie with mashed parsnips instead of the traditional mashed potatoes!

Cranberries
Fall is the time to get to know these tart berries and their wealth of nutritional benefits. Cranberries may help protect from urinary tract infection. They contain a compound called proanthocyanidin which prevents harmful bacteria from sticking to your bladder wall. Fresh and dried cranberries pair well with a variety of meats and poultry. Fresh cranberries can be eaten raw but often are cooked. Dried cranberries are delicious in grain and vegetable salads and make a healthy snack on the go.

CalFresh Challenge

Could you feed yourself three nutritious meals a day with only $5?

That’s the average CalFresh benefit amount in California. Thousands of our neighbors in Mendocino County subsist on such a budget for themselves and their families through their CalFresh benefits. Whether due to a minimum wage job, job loss, health issue or simply bad luck, thousands of local families are income eligible for CalFresh. This program provides households with the financial resources to purchase groceries—literally putting food on tables for millions of American children, adults and seniors; giving them the fuel to better their lives and create stronger, healthier communities.

Many families survive entirely on the food acquired through their CalFresh benefits. That budget, on average, equates to only $35 per week for food. What if that’s all you had to spend on groceries?

We challenge you to try living on such a food budget for five days. Find out about the CalFresh Challenge, read what other participants are saying, and then share your experience.

The CalFresh Challenge gives participants a glimpse into some of the struggles faced by millions of low-income Americans who are trying to put food on their tables. The challenge provides an opportunity for participants to experience how difficult it is for families living on CalFresh to simultaneously avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with limited resources.

You can register here. If you prefer a plant-based diet, try

This challenge is open to all individuals and involves living on what would be the weekly CalFresh allotment in California for five days, so you can get a sense of what it would be like to subsist on CalFresh. This means spending only $5 per day, per person, on everything that you eat, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, seasonings and drinks.

After you register for the CalFresh Challenge, you will receive a booklet in the mail to record your experience over the 5 days of the Challenge (any 5 consecutive days you choose during the month of October). Once you’ve finished, we’d like to learn about your thoughts and ideas during the Challenge, so please return your completed booklet to:

Food for All Mendocino
c/o North Coast Opportunities
413 N. State Street
Ukiah, CA 95482

WHY RETURN YOUR BOOKLET?
First of all, every returned booklet will be entered into a drawing to win an INSTANT POT! So please don’t forget to include your name and phone number on your booklet before returning.

Second, your experiences and comments will provide us with insights and quotes we can share to highlight the successes and challenges of the CalFresh program.

Third, a deadline is always a good way to actually do a challenge!

Completed booklets are DUE BY OCTOBER 31, 2017 in order to be entered into the prize drawing.

Here’s a sample menu plan to get you started. If you prefer a plant-based diet, try these ideas.

CalFresh Challenge Guidelines

  • Each person should spend up to $5 for food and beverages per day during the Challenge period, which is the average benefit for a CalFresh beneficiary in California. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including dining out, must be included in the total spending.

  • During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. If you eat food that you already have at home or that is given to you by friends, family or work, account for it in your CalFresh budget.
  • Keep track of food spending and take notes of your experiences throughout the week.
  • Share your experience.
  • CalFresh Challenge participants are encouraged to keep a daily journal and share their experiences—during and after the challenge—with their friends, family and others.
    Once you register, you will receive a CalFresh Challenge booklet in the mail for you to record your food log, as well as your thoughts and ideas.

Reflections and Food For Thought

Here’s what you may find when you keep a food diary.

You may notice these pitfalls:

  • Your food costs are really high (way higher than a CalFresh budget of $5/day/person!)

  • You eat a lot of packaged, pre-made, or restaurant foods and drinks
  • You engage in lots of unplanned eating (snacking)
  • You don’t eat enough (skipping meals)
  • You eat too much (larger portions than necessary)
  • Your diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables
  • You forget to drink plenty of water instead of sugary drinks

You may notice these successes:

  • You are doing a great job at preparing meals at home (that can be very economical!)

  • You are eating five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day
  • You eat fresh, nutritious food from local farmers and ranchers
  • You drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • You limit expensive snack and drink purchases

Take time to reflect on what you’ve noticed after completing your food diary. Have a conversation with friends about the true cost of food. Think about:

  • The average CalFresh benefit for a low-income household is $5 per day per person. Is it possible to feed yourself well on $5 per day every day? What would you have to change in order to keep to that limited budget?

  • Why it is that some food is really cheap (food like ramen noodles and chips), and other foods can be more expensive (food like apples and peanut butter, and local foods from the farmers market)?
  • What are the “externalized” hidden costs of cheap foods? How does some food get so cheap? For some answers, check out this 2 minute video.

Going Nuts!

With mounting evidence showing their many health benefits, it’s OK to include nuts as part of a healthy diet. In fact, it’s more than OK.

Tree nuts are plant-based proteins that contain fiber and a combination of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for each variety. They have cholesterol-lowering properties and are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a health claim for food labels that states: Eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. These nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts — which contain less than 4 grams of saturated fat for a 50-gram (about 1.5 ounces) serving.

The combination of fiber, protein and fat in nuts provides satiety to meals and snacks, making them an excellent option for weight management. There is a caveat, however: portion size. While nuts are healthy, they are calorie-dense. Nuts range from 160 calories to 200 calories per ounce. To get their health benefits without breaking the calorie bank, it’s best to replace them in the diet for other foods, particularly those high in saturated fat. This can be achieved with one to two ounces a day.

It’s easy to lump nuts into one category, but what makes each nut meat special is its unique package of nutrients, taste, texture, origin and culinary uses. Here’s a taste … in a nutshell.

Pistachios
(Approximately 49 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Contain antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Eating in-shell helps slow consumption. Bright color makes for great addition to salads, grain dishes and as a coating for meats. Native to the Middle East, home of favorites like baklava, halvah and ma’amoul, a shortbread pastry.

Almonds
(Approximately 23 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, also provides calcium and folate. Versatile ingredient, can be used whole, sliced, blanched to remove skins, and as flour, paste or butter. California provides 80% of the world’s supply, but almonds are enjoyed in savory and sweet dishes globally.

Cashews
(Approximately 18 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Excellent source of copper and magnesium. Soft consistency with delicate, sweet flavor. Native to South America, but introduced by colonists to Africa and India. Commonly eaten as a snack, raw or roasted, but often used in Asian recipes and to make a rich, creamy nut butter or vegan cheese.

Macadamias
(Approximately 10-12 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Native to subtropical rain forests of Australia, this nut is high in fat, but 17 of the 22 grams are monounsaturated. Excellent source of manganese. Unique rich, buttery taste and smooth texture lends to eating as a snack raw or roasted. Often baked into cookies and coated with chocolate.

Hazelnuts
(Approximately 21 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Also known as filberts, they are rich in monounsaturated fats and an excellent source of vitamin E, copper and manganese. Available in-shell, whole, diced, sliced and as a meal for gluten-free baking. Pairs well with savory, citrus and sweet flavors, particularly chocolate, and commonly used in confections.

Pecans
(Approximately 19 halves per 1-ounce serving)
Rich in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Sweet, mellow flavor and meaty texture lend well to a variety of dishes, including salads, as a coating for fish, and in sweets such as pralines and pecan pie.

Walnuts
(Approximately 14 halves per 1-ounce serving)
Integral part of Mediterranean diet, contributing to health benefits of this style of eating. Rich in antioxidants and excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based form of omega-3. Grooves hold onto flavors well and are delicious when seasoned sweet or hot. Oil can be used in dressings and sautés.

Brazil Nuts
(Approximately 6 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Largest nut commonly eaten. Grows wild on trees in Amazon rain forests. In addition to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, contain more than 100 percent of the daily value for antioxidant selenium. Rich, creamy texture lends well to snacking, raw or roasted, and confections.

Pine Nuts
(Approximately 167 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Soft nut found inside the cone of several varieties of pine trees. Good source of vitamin E and phosphorus. Standard ingredient in Italian cuisine and most known for its use in pesto. Light, delicate flavor also lends well to pastas, salads, sautés, breads and other baked goods.

Carbohydrates: Complex Carbs vs. Simple Carbs

carbs-in-foods

Carbohydrates are the main source of calories in a healthy diet and are the primary fuel for the brain and muscles. Typically, about three-fourths of daily calories should come from carbohydrates. It’s also important to choose the best carbohydrate sources. That means two things:

• Choose complex carbohydrates, rather than simple carbohydrates.
• Choose carbohydrates that still have their fiber, like brown rice or brown bread, rather than white rice or white bread, from which the fiber has been stripped away.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates may be referred to as dietary starch and are made of sugar molecules strung together like a necklace or branched like a coil. They are often rich in fiber, thus satisfying and health promoting. Complex carbohydrates are commonly found in whole plant foods and, therefore, are also often high in vitamins and minerals.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are sugars. All simple carbohydrates are made of just one or two sugar molecules. They are the quickest source of energy, as they are very rapidly digested.

Getting the Best Carb-Rich Foods

Choose whole, unprocessed foods from plant sources. Choosing whole fruit instead of juice, a whole-grain side dish instead of crackers, and fresh vegetables instead of potato chips will ensure you are getting complex carbohydrates, complete with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Remember also that all types of meat and eggs are essentially devoid of carbohydrates.

When buying packaged foods, check food labels for the word “whole” in front of the word “grain” and make sure that corn syrup or one of the other simple carbohydrates listed above doesn’t appear among the first few ingredients on the list.

Carbs

Antioxidants – Protecting Healthy Cells

antioxidant

Our bodies are battlegrounds against infection and diseases. Normal body functions, such as breathing or physical activity, and other lifestyle habits (such as smoking) produce substances called free radicals that attack healthy cells. When these healthy cells are weakened, they are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers. Antioxidants — such as vitamins C and E and carotenoids, which include beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein — help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Carotenoids

Among the 600 or more carotenoids in foods, beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein are well-known leaders in the fight to reduce the damage from free radicals. Foods high in carotenoids may be effective in helping prevent certain cancers and may help decrease your risk of macular degeneration.

Foods high in carotenoids include red, orange, deep-yellow and some dark-green leafy vegetables; these include tomatoes, carrots, spinach, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, winter squash and broccoli.

Vitamin E

Research has demonstrated the broad role of vitamin E in promoting health. The main role of vitamin E is as an antioxidant. It helps protect your body from cell damage that can lead to cancer, heart disease and cataracts as we age. Vitamin E works with other antioxidants such as vitamin C to offer protection from some chronic diseases. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, salad dressings, margarine, wheat germ, whole-grain products, seeds, nuts and peanut butter.

Vitamin C

Perhaps the best-known antioxidant, vitamin C offers a wide-variety of health benefits. These benefits include protecting your body from infection and damage to body cells, helping produce collagen (the connective tissue that holds bones and muscles together) and helping in the absorption of iron and folate.

To take advantage of these benefits, eat foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits and tangerines), strawberries, sweet peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and potatoes.

The best way to build a healthful eating plan is to eat well-balanced meals and snacks each day and to enjoy a wide variety of foods. Eating at least 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables daily is a good start for healthful living.

Wellness Challenge: June

fuitandveg
June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month!

Your goal for this month is to have a serving of fresh fruit and vegetables every day (Monday through Thursday) for the month of June.

1 serving (in general) = a small whole fruit/veggie, 1 cup raw, ½ cup cooked

Not only are fruit and vegetables low in calories, they are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that can really have a positive impact on our health.

Vegetables and fruit are an important part of a healthy diet, and variety is as important as quantity.

No single fruit or vegetable provides all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. Eat different kinds every day.

A diet rich in vegetables and fruit can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect on blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check.

Eat a variety of types and colors of produce in order to give your body the mix of nutrients it needs. Try dark leafy greens; brightly colored red, yellow and orange vegetables and fruit; and cooked tomatoes. Click here to learn more about the nutrients in fruit and vegetables.

Whole Grains

wheat-300x194

Whole Grains are important sources of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, several B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin & folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).

Dietary fiber from whole grains or other foods may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It also helps reduce constipation and provides a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.

The B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin play a key role in metabolism – they help the body release energy from protein, fat and carbohydrates. They are also essential for a healthy nervous system.

Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells and can reduce risk of neural tube defects during fetal development.

Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood.

Magnesium is used in building bones and releasing energy from muscles.

Selenium protects cells from oxidation and is also important for a healthy immune system.

Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel:

The Bran: Outer shell (protects seed), contains fiber, B vitamins, trace minerals
The Germ: Nourishment for the seed, contains antioxidants, vitamin E, B vitamins
The Endosperm: Provides energy, carbohydrates, protein

Examples of whole grains:

  • Brown rice

  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Whole-wheat cereal
  • Quinoa
  • Whole-grain barley
  • Whole-grain cornmeal
  • Whole rye
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Whole-wheat sandwich buns and rolls
  • Whole-wheat tortillas
  • Wild rice
  • Whole cornmeal
  • Shredded wheat cereal

How to identify whole grains:

  • Look for the word “whole” as the first word on the ingredients list

  • Look for the whole grain stamp on a product:

WG-Stamp-4C-100-16g

Do your best to incorporate whole grains into your diet! Your body will thank you!

Daily Recommended Servings of Fruit & Vegetables

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2010 that only 33% of adults were eating the daily recommended amount of fruit, and even fewer — 27% — were meeting their veggie quota. And that’s adults; the numbers for teens were worse.

What’s a Daily Recommended Serving?

There’s not a lot that nutrition scientists agree on, but almost everyone seems to think we should eat more vegetables, and that they should make up a greater part of our plates. To this end, they recommend a very basic guideline:

Someone who needs 2,000 calories a day should eat:
•2 cups of fruit
•2 1/2 cups of vegetables

These recommended servings come from widely accepted dietary guidelines that are still, of course, just rough guidelines. Everyone is different, and has different nutritional needs, so there’s no one-size-fits-all plan, and perhaps you eat a lot more veggies than this every day (or a lot less fruit).

While that 2,000 calorie standard is an average that suits a lot of people, of course it doesn’t fit everyone. Fruit and vegetable servings are calibrated off of calorie requirements, which in turn are set by a person’s sex, age, and activity level.

You can calculate your own daily recommended servings of fruit & vegetables here.

A Few Tips on Calculating Fruit & Vegetable Servings

How do servings work? For the most part, a cup means a cup — just measure out a cup of grapes or a cup of chopped carrots, and ta-da, you have your measurement. There are a few exceptions, though:

When it comes to salad, a cup is not a cup. It takes 2 cups of leafy greens to equal 1 cup of vegetables.

Juice does count as a fruit. According to the CDC, a cup of fruit juice does count as a serving of fruit, but nutritionists caution that you’re not getting the fiber and other good benefits of eating whole fruit.

When it comes to dried fruit, cut the amount in half. A half cup of dried fruit equals one cup of fresh fruit.

One big piece of fruit is roughly a cup. An apple, an orange, a large banana, a nectarine, a grapefruit — one piece of fruit gives you one cup.

Keeping this in mind, here are some looks at a full daily serving of fruit and vegetables:

fruit1

Berries at breakfast, berries for dessert, and vegetables for lunch, snack, and dinner.

Fruit: 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup strawberries (about 8 large)
Vegetables: 1 cup coleslaw, 6 baby carrots with dip, 1 cup sautéed kale

fruit2

Let’s get snack happy! If you just snack on fruit and vegetables all day, this is the way to do it. Cut up some vegetables and pack them in your lunchbox with some hummus.

Fruit: 1 cup cantaloupe, 1 cup champagne grapes
Vegetables: 1 cup sugar snap peas, 1 yellow bell pepper, 1 stalk celery

fruit3

Eat a big salad for lunch or dinner, and round it out with some fruit. You could even put the fruit on the salad.

Fruit: 1/2 cup dried cherries, 1 apple
Vegetables: Large salad with about 5 cups salad greens

Weight Loss Tips

diettips
Struggling to shed weight and keep it off? Seven dietitians offer the most important weight loss tip they share with patients:

Tip 1: Don’t let hunger deter you from sticking with your diet.

Whatever diet you choose — and many different diets can help you lose weight — don’t give up because you get too hungry.

“Hunger is one reason many people don’t stick with a weight loss plan for more than a few weeks. When you eat less, your fat cells release more hunger hormones, which increases your appetite,” says Dawn Noe, RD, LD, CDE. “Higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate meal plans are best for controlling your hunger and appetite.”

When you have diabetes, a diet with fewer carbs (like bread, pasta, rice, desserts, sugary beverages, juice) is also important because you’ll need less insulin. And that can help prevent hunger, fat storage and weight gain.

Replace processed carbs like white bread, bagels, muffins or donuts for breakfast with high-protein foods like eggs, or Greek yogurt mixed with chia seeds and berries. You’ll find that you stay fuller, longer.

Tip 2: Don’t eat a carbohydrate unless it has fiber attached to it.

“This method forces you to forgo the bad carbs (candy, white bread, soda) and stick only with high-quality carbs,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD. “The more fiber in your diet, the better!”

Fiber helps improve blood sugar control, helps lower cholesterol, and reduces your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, colorectal cancer and heart disease.

Foods rich in fiber include legumes (dried beans, lentils), veggies (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach squash, sweet potatoes) and fruit (apples, berries, oranges, pears).

Tip 3: Focus on healthy behaviors, not the number on the scale.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you look only at your weight. “Focus instead on making good food choices, watching portions and exercising regularly,” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD. “If you lead with these behaviors, the weight loss will follow.”

Replace a goal like “lose 2 pounds a week” with specific mini-goals, like “eat 1 cup of veggies at dinner,” “walk 20 minutes a day,” or “keep a daily food log.” If you’re disappointed with your weight progress at week’s end, reflect on how well you stuck to each goal.

“If you’ve made healthy changes, congratulations!” she says. “If you fell short, ask yourself why. Were the goals too difficult? Do you need a stronger support system? Is a major barrier in your way? Then either tweak your goals or focus on the factors you can control.”

Try tracking lifestyle changes, food, exercise and weight in a journal. At the end of each week, check off which new habits are going well and which need more work. “Your health is a lifelong journey,” she says.

Tip 4: Make plants the foundation of your diet.

Different weight loss approaches work for different people. But plant foods should be the foundation of any diet.

“Research strongly supports the benefits of plant-based nutrition approaches for weight loss, disease prevention, and overall health,” says Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD. “Whether you’re eating vegetarian, paleo, high-fat, vegan or pegan (a combination of paleo and vegan), your diet should include a variety of foods from the earth.” That means enjoying lots of non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cucumbers and bok choy, and fruit like berries, apples and pears.

Plant-based foods contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that help support your cells and reduce inflammation, she says. They also provide fiber and water, both of which help you feel fuller.

Tip 5: No foods are 100 percent off-limits.

When you label foods as “good” and “bad,” you naturally fixate on foods you shouldn’t eat but typically still crave —and likely will crave more when they’re totally off limits.

“Focus instead on choosing the right portions of healthy foods 80 to 90 percent of the time,” says Jennifer Willoughby, RD, CSP, LD. “That, paired with a healthy exercise routine, can lead to long-term weight loss success. And it leaves some wiggle room to enjoy ‘fun foods’ occasionally without feeling guilt or resentment.”

When working with children, she teaches them which choices are better and will fuel their bodies more effectively, rather than giving them lists of foods to eat and foods to completely avoid.

Feelings of guilt from eating forbidden foods can snowball into unhealthy emotions in childhood, adolescence and even adulthood, she says.

Tip 6: Spend your calories wisely.

All calories are not created equal. “If your diet consists mainly of sugar, saturated/trans fats and salt — all of which can be very addictive — you can develop consistent cravings for dense, high-calorie foods with little nutritional value,” says Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.

“This leads to excess calories and weight gain or inability to lose weight.”

Eat foods that are high in lean protein, healthy fats and fiber, and you’ll feel satisfied throughout the day and will rarely get cravings. This will help you maintain a lower calorie level, which will lead to weight loss.

Tip 7: Plan tomorrow’s meals today.

Planning ahead stops that “grab what you see” panic that sets in when you wait to plan dinner until you’re starving at 6 p.m. Scaring up dinner on the fly is likely to bring less nutritious, higher-calorie choices to your table.

When you sit down for dinner tonight, plan what you’ll eat for dinner tomorrow. “It’s so much easier to do when you’re not hungry,” says Andrea Dunn, RD, LD, CDE.

“This also gives you time to take something out of the freezer, chop veggies tonight to put in the crockpot tomorrow morning, and ask which family members will be home for dinner.”

Wellness Challenge: Replace Sweets with Fruit

fruit

Your wellness challenge for the week is to replace sweets with fruit. Remember, your challenge is to do this at least 4 days this week.

Many types of candy are loaded with artificial dyes and flavors, high-fructose corn syrup and an array of other additives. Skip unhealthy ingredients and replace candy with fruit, nature’s sweet treat. While fruit contains natural sugars, it also delivers beneficial nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The fiber in fruit also makes you feel full, unlike most candy.

Out With the Candy

The first step to replacing candy with fruit is to remove temptation. That bag of taffy you have in your desk drawer and any other stashes of candy need to go. If you do not want to throw them away, take them to work for coworkers or give them to a friend. This prevents you from giving in to a candy craving, since the prospect is less appealing if you have to go out and buy candy to get your fix.

Fresh Fruit around the House

Keeping a fruit bowl in the rooms you frequent makes your new candy replacement more appealing and convenient. Wash the fruit so they are ready to eat, set out only as much as you plan to eat in a week and restock when the bowls are empty. Cut fruit that require peeling into candy-size pieces and store mini fruit salad bags in your refrigerator. Reach for these when you feel like snacking, instead of grabbing a bag of candy. If possible, store bags of fruit in a refrigerator at work to replace your visits to the vending machine.

Frozen Fruit Instead of Hard Candy

If your favorite is hard candy, buy a bag of frozen berries or chopped fruit. Alternately, make your own: prepare the fruit, spread it on a baking sheet and freeze it for an hour before putting it in a bag to keep the fruit from sticking together. Pop a piece of frozen fruit in your mouth and suck on it until it has thawed enough to chew. Keep some frozen fruit at your office as well, if you have access to a freezer.

Dried Fruit on the Go

For chewy sweet treats, dried fruit is your best choice. Most grocers have a wide selection of dried fruit; avoid sweetened varieties, which are nearly as bad as candy. Keep a bag of dried fruit in your desk, candy dish, or anywhere else you like to snack. You can also dry your own fruit. Slice them thinly, spread them on a baking sheet and place them in a dehydrator or in a 150-degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 to 12 hours. The fruit will not retain their color unless you dip them in ascorbic acid — or some type of citrus juice — before you dry them. This helps kill bacteria as well.