Category Archives: Nutrition

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.

More Budget Friendly Healthy Foods

We recently posted about some healthy foods that are also healthy for your budget. Here are some more ideas. Enjoy!

parsley
Pass the Parsley, Please
What it costs:
11 cents per serving (1 cup, raw)

Why it’s good for you: Go ahead and munch on that sprig of parsley garnishing your plate. One ounce of this unsung herb (about half a cup) supplies nearly 50 percent of your daily vitamin A (as beta-carotene) and more than 60 percent of your vitamin C needs. A recent study found that the beta-carotene and vitamin C combo may help protect against dementia. It’s also loaded with vitamin K, which helps your blood clot when you have a wound but keeps it from getting too sticky and clotting the rest of the time.

How to use it: Who says pesto can only be made with basil? Try our Spinach Parsley Basil Walnut Pecan Pesto With Green Beans recipe.

cabbage
Head Off Health Issues With Cabbage
What it costs:
8 cents per serving (1 cup, raw)

Why it’s good for you: Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage may help prevent prostate and colon cancer, as well as increase survival rates in women with breast cancer. Cabbage is also a good source of folate, fiber, and vitamins C and K.

How to use it: Try this recipe for Crunchy Peanut Slaw, adapted from the Environmental Working Group.

barley
Do Your Body Good With Barley
What it costs:
7 cents per serving (1/2 cup, cooked)

Why it’s good for you: Chewy and nutty, barley is rich in both protein and fiber — the ultimate combination for knocking out hunger. And because barley is digested slowly, it keeps your blood sugar — and appetite — stable for hours. “This grain is high in soluble fiber, which tends to bind with bile acids and take cholesterol out of the body,” explains Jamieson-Petonic. Translation: It helps brings your LDL (lousy cholesterol) levels down.

How to use it: Barley lends itself well to risotto recipes — just go easy on the cheese. Toss the grain into a slow cooker with low-sodium broth and your favorite spices. Stir in 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese just before serving, and season with pepper or fresh chopped herbs like basil and chives. The grain also makes a great oatmeal alternative, says Jamieson-Petonic, who likes to dress hers up with cinnamon, almonds, dried cranberries and milk.

salmon
Bone Up on Salmon
What it costs:
72 cents per serving (3 ounces)

Why it’s good for you: Canned salmon is an inexpensive and convenient way to load up on fish oil, vitamin D and calcium all at once. Omega-3 fatty acids help protect the brain from shrinking as we age, and they reduce the inflammation that contributes to heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s. Omega-3s may even keep your vision sharp. The salmon bones, which are edible and can be mashed with a fork, provide more than 160 percent of your daily vitamin D needs. Low levels of D have been linked to heart disease. Another great thing about canned salmon: Much of it comes from wild Alaskan sources, and it’s much cheaper than wild-caught salmon fillets.

How to use it: Use canned salmon in sandwiches, the way you would tuna, or in place of deli meat. Canned salmon also works well for salmon burgers and fish tacos. Or try our recipe for Grilled Salmon with Pineapple Pecan Salsa.

turkey
Turkey Breast Is Best
What it costs:
36 cents per serving (3 ounces, cooked)

Why it’s good for you: Because most people associate turkey with Thanksgiving, buying it year-round can be a cheaper alternative to chicken. “Even though it may be more expensive, we recommend white meat over dark, which can have as much saturated fat as certain cuts of red meat,” says Kirkpatrick. One serving of white turkey meat provides 25 grams of protein and virtually no saturated fat. Turkey is a valuable source of selenium, which helps neutralize damaging free radicals in the body and may guard against age-related diseases. This poultry pick also provides vitamins B6 and B3 (niacin), needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes and nerves.

How to use it: Use ground turkey in your turkey burger, chili, meatloaf and meat sauce recipes. Mix in a package of defrosted and well-drained chopped frozen spinach for a simple way to get your greens. For a cheaper and healthier alternative to cold cuts, roast a turkey breast in the oven and refrigerate to use on sandwiches during the week.

beans
Get to Know Beans
What it costs:
Black beans and chickpeas, 6 cents per serving; pinto beans, 4 cents per serving; red kidney beans and black-eyed peas, 14 cents per serving (1/2 cup, cooked)

Why it’s good for you: “Protein, when you’re buying beef, turkey or even chicken, can be really, really expensive,” says Jamieson-Petonic. “But if you buy beans and lentils, you’re getting a lot more for your money,” she says. Undurraga agrees. “When you’re trying to eat healthfully on a budget, there shouldn’t be a lot of meat in your diet,” she explains. The average woman needs about 46 grams of protein per day, and most Americans have no trouble meeting that number. One cup of beans will supply one-third of your daily protein requirement. Eating beans in place of protein sources like red meat and full-fat dairy can improve your blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

How to use it: While beans’ high fiber content is a nutritional boon, people who aren’t used to that much roughage may not see it that way. The secret, says Jamieson-Petonic, is to start slowly and gradually increase your fiber intake so your body can adjust. And, because fiber absorbs liquids in your digestive tract, always drink plenty of water to avoid getting bound up. Grill up a batch of our Black Bean Oatmeal Burgers, or, for a healthy sandwich spread, try this recipe for pinto bean hummus.

lentils
Pack in Protein With Lentils
What it costs:
6 cents per serving (1/2 cup, cooked)

Why it’s good for you: A good source of protein and B vitamins, lentils can help people steer clear of diabetes and heart disease. “They’re an anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-free substitute for meat, so they help reduce cardiovascular risk. They’re also high in fiber and a low-glycemic way to stretch your dollar while controlling cholesterol and blood sugar,” explains Jamieson-Petonic. They’re also loaded with essential nutrients like folate and iron.

How to use it: Unlike other dried legumes, lentils cook quickly without any pre-soaking. Brown lentils, the least expensive variety, break down during cooking and are best used in soups. These three soup recipes offer a tasty introduction to lentils and make the perfect cool-weather meal: Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup With Shiitake Mushrooms recipe, Pumpkin Lentil Soup recipe, and Collard and Lentil Soup recipe.

sunflower
Make Sunflowers Your Top Seeds
What it costs:
16 cents per serving (1/4 cup)

Why it’s good for you: “Sunflower seeds are really a good snack for a lot of reasons: They give you vitamins and minerals you won’t be getting from other foods,” says Jamieson-Petonic. Those nutrients include vitamin E, which helps safeguard cells from damage and may protect against heart disease and cancer; magnesium, which may help stave off depression, migraines and hearing loss; and selenium, which may help lower cholesterol and prevent hardening of the arteries.

How to use it: Avoid going overboard; eat sunflower seeds sparingly. A quarter-cup serving makes a 200-calorie snack. To keep from overindulging, use sunflower seeds in a trail mix with dried fruit and nuts, suggests Petonic. Or use them in place of more expensive pine nuts in pesto or sprinkled over salads or vegetables. Or buy them in the shell.

canola
Get Cooking With Canola Oil
What it costs:
2 cents per serving (1 tablespoon)

Why it’s good for you: Canola oil has the least saturated fat of all vegetable oils. Saturated fat contributes to disease-causing inflammation. The good fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, can help reduce your heart disease risk by lowering cholesterol and inflammation.

How to use it: Whereas extra-virgin olive oil is great for drizzling over food before serving, canola oil, whose smoke point is 470 degrees, can withstand high-heat cooking and works well for pan-frying, grilling and sautéing. Because of its mild flavor, canola oil can also be used in any baking recipe.

yogurt
Build Bones With Yogurt
What it costs:
62 cents per serving (1 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Skip the sweet stuff and go with nonfat plain yogurt. Fruit-on-the-bottom varieties aren’t just more expensive; ounce for ounce, they contain more sugar than most soda. While almost half of that is naturally occurring lactose, more than half isn’t. Sweetened yogurt tacks more than 14 grams of added sugar onto your diet. That’s nearly the recommended daily limit of 20 grams. One cup of nonfat plain yogurt, on the other hand, provides nearly one-quarter of your daily protein needs, as well as half of your day’s calcium.

How to use it: While we love Greek yogurt for being lower in sugar and higher in protein than conventional kinds, it is more expensive. When making dips or looking for a sour cream alternative, splurge on Greek, which has a much thicker consistency. Use conventional plain, nonfat yogurt in smoothies or mixed with fruit and honey for a snack.

Wellness Challenge: Cooking at Home

cooking

Your wellness challenge this week is to cook at home four or more days this week. Here are just some of the benefits of cooking at home:

Nutritious – Restaurants, both fast food and otherwise, are known to be notoriously high in calories, sugars, fats, sodium and carbohydrates. Even the healthier, low-cal options can contain a high level of sugars and fats. Eating at home allows you to cut out what you may deem unnecessary in your diet. You’re in control of the food you cook and the food you consume.

Increase knowledge of food – Food is much more than just something that tastes good and fills up your stomach. Cooking your own meals can teach you what foods are high or low in certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It will even boost your creativity as you learn to combine nutritious foods to satisfy your palate!

Savor your food – The physical act of preparing your own meals will lead to a newfound appreciate for the food you consume. This is very important since mindless munching and emotional eating can contribute to unhealthy weight gain because you’re not fully conscious of the foods you’re eating. Being more aware of what you consume when you prepare it will make you less likely to overeat.

Appropriate portions- Restaurants are notorious for their extreme portion sizes. Preparing meals at home gives you the ability to exercise portion control and help curb the temptation of overeating.

Builds healthy habits- Cooking at home can jump-start your healthy lifestyle! By discovering healthy recipes, learning about food, creating and sticking to a meal plan, you and your family can be inspired to living a healthier life.

Encourages family bonding – Family dynamics can greatly improve with more at home, family meal times. Children benefit from the ritual of preparing and eating meals together. This is also a great teaching tool for parents to instill healthy eating habits in their children. In fact, several studies conducted by the University of Michigan found eating family meals at the dinner table is associated with fewer psychological issues and higher academic success in children and promoted sociability in the family.

Food safety – According to the CDC, foodborne illnesses (also known as food poisoning) affects 1 in 6 Americans every year. Cooking at home will give you the peace of mind you need in knowing you have the freshest ingredients (or at least since your last trip to the grocer’s!), and you can rest assured knowing your food has been stored and cooked at the correct temperatures.

Awareness of food allergies & sensitivities – While we’ve mentioned that you control the nutritional intake of your meals, cooking for yourself and your family also gives the control to avoid food allergens.

Cleanliness – Cooking at home can give you the clean conscience of not only knowing what’s in your food, but how clean your food is. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure your kitchen and dinnerware are sterile and your ingredients are prepared thoroughly before eating.

Saves money – Eating dinner out is expensive! It is a lot more cost-effective to purchase groceries than ordering take out or going to restaurants.

Budget Friendly Healthy Foods

Think you can’t afford to eat healthfully? It may be easier and less expensive than you imagine. According to Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, RD, director of wellness coaching at the Cleveland Clinic, it’s a myth that kale costs more than cookies. A 2012 USDA study found that junk foods cost more per portion than the good guys like legumes, whole grains and vegetables. The secret to getting the most nutritional bang for your buck: embracing a back-to-basics eating style, says Environmental Working Group (EWG) nutritionist Dawn Undurraga, MS, RD. To help you navigate the aisles, EWG crunched some numbers to determine which foods offer the most nutrition for your dollar and the least exposure to environmental toxins like BPA, pesticides and mercury. Here, your guide to the best buys in the supermarket, and how to add them to your diet.

bananas
Go Bananas!
What it costs:
24 cents per small banana (1 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Though they may be the cheapest fruit in the produce section, bananas are no nutritional slouch. Among their greatest benefits are their fiber and potassium content, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic’s Lifestyle 180 program. Potassium blunts the effects of a high-sodium diet and can even help lower blood pressure. Eat bananas between meals to curb afternoon munchies. “As with anything that’s high in fiber, bananas will help you feel full for longer,” says Kirkpatrick.

How to use it: Buy bananas when they’re still slightly green, so they’ll last you the entire week. If you don’t eat them in time and they start to turn brown, peel them and store them in the freezer to use later in smoothies, muffins or bread, like our Nutty Banana Muffins recipe. One of Kirkpatrick’s favorite ways to eat bananas: dark-chocolate-dipped frozen banana pops. Or try this easy banana “gelato” recipe for a sweet, creamy treat.

pears
A Pear to Remember
What it costs:
33 cents per medium-size pear (1 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Research shows that apples and pears may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Another study found that eating plenty of white-fleshed fruits and vegetables could protect against stroke. Plus, just one pear packs in 20 percent of your daily fiber needs. Think of fiber as your stay-slim secret weapon: The more fiber in your food, the less you’ll need to eat to feel full.

How to use it: If you’re not in love with the pear’s grainy texture, bake it with a sprinkle of cinnamon, walnuts, no-sugar-added apple juice and cloves for a wonderful treat. Or try our recipe for Roasted Pears With Maple Crunch. You can also use roasted pears in a salad with dried cranberries and blue cheese or shaved Parmesan.

watermelon
Get Sweet on Watermelon
What it costs:
26 cents per 1 cup

Why it’s good for you: You might think of this sweet summer treat as a luxury, but watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, says Jamieson-Petonic. Lycopene is a type of carotenoid (a pigment that gives fruits and veggies their orange, red or yellow hue) found in red produce that may guard against some cancers, as well as help improve the skin’s natural defenses against the sun. Plus, it’s one of the few foods that contain citrulline, a chemical that helps relax your arteries and lower blood pressure.

How to use it: Though watermelon is high in sugar, eating it with other foods helps keep it from wreaking havoc on your blood sugar levels, notes Jamieson-Petonic. Watermelon’s nutrients are best absorbed with a little fat or oil. Instead of saving it for dessert, turn watermelon into an entrée. Toss cubed watermelon into a salad bowl with diced avocado, cucumber, chopped mint and feta. Drizzle lightly with lime juice and olive oil.

prune
A Prune by Any Other Name
What it costs:
19 cents per serving (1/4 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Though we may think of prunes as nature’s little movers and shakers, that isn’t their only claim to fame. A daily dose of dried plums may help reverse bone loss and prevent osteoporosis, but wait, there’s even more. Prunes have a phytonutrient content rivaling that of blueberries, and at just half the cost.

How to use it: Dress up brown rice or couscous with chopped prunes, lemon zest, sautéed onions, garlic and rosemary. Or try this delicious recipe: Arugula, Radicchio, Orange, and Dried Plum Salad. Then try this when you’re baking brownies: Replace ¼ cup butter with 1/4 cup pureed prunes. The chocolate’s deep color and rich flavor will mask both the color and taste of the prunes. You’ll get extra fiber and nutrients instead of all of the cholesterol and saturated fat from butter.

broccoli
Bulk Up on Broccoli
What it costs:
36 cents per serving (1 cup, raw)

Why it’s good for you: It’s hard to beat the health benefits of broccoli. One serving of these tree-like veggies delivers more than a day’s worth of vitamins C and K. Vitamin C helps the body repair wounds and maintain healthy cartilage and bone. It also wards off free radicals that cause aging inside your cells. Vitamin K strengthens bones and fights inflammation. Plus, eating several servings of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli each week may help reduce your risk of cancer.

How to use it: Reap the benefits of broccoli with a dip made from Greek yogurt and fresh dill (try our Turkish Cucumber Yogurt Dip). According to Undurraga, getting kids to eat broccoli may be as easy as roasting it, which adds a sweet taste dimension through the process of caramelization. Simply toss bite-size florets of broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper (and fresh garlic if desired) and roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice or grated Parmesan before serving.

collard
Give Collard Greens the Green Light
What it costs:
27 cents per serving (1 cup raw)

Why it’s good for you: “Leafy greens have the biggest association with cancer prevention. The darker the green, the better it’s going to be for you,” says Kirkpatrick. Collard greens are high in calcium and folate, which helps prevent DNA changes that can lead to cancer. Plus, leafy greens have been linked to fewer vision problems with age, as well as a lower risk of diabetes.

How to use it: One of the easiest ways to get your greens? Toss them into a morning smoothie. Try collards instead of kale in our Lifestyle 180 Green Smoothie. Another option: Finely chop up a few leaves of collards (minus the ribs if you’re in a hurry; they take longer to cook), sauté until tender, and stir in an egg or combine with pasta sauce.

romaine
Spruce Up Your Salad With Romaine Lettuce
What it costs:
27 cents per serving (1 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Fancy salad greens can be pretty pricey if you don’t find them on sale. But that doesn’t mean your salad’s foundation has to be lacking in nutrients. Swap out iceberg lettuce for romaine, which is loaded with almost a day’s worth of vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene may help protect against breast cancer, vision problems and sun damage to the skin.

How to use it: You can meet your daily leafy green quota with just ¼ cup of romaine per day. Double up on lettuce when making sandwiches or salmon burgers. Use the inner portions of the romaine head as crudités when putting out veggies and dip. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try grilling the romaine hearts. Remove the outer leaves, slice the head lengthwise into quarters, and brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill until slightly charred. Sprinkle with vinaigrette.

carrots
Care for Some Carrots
What it costs:
29 cents per serving (1 cup, raw)

Why it’s good for you: Besides beta-carotene, carrots are also brimming with a relatively unknown but highly potent plant chemical called alpha-carotene. Research suggests that regularly consuming large amounts of this carotenoid, by way of orange and dark green vegetables, may reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.

How to use it: Keep peeled carrot sticks and hummus ready to go in your fridge for impromptu appetizers or snacks. Incorporate root vegetables like carrots into your meals by making a big batch of soup that you can freeze and reheat. Or pair our Butternut Squash, Carrot and Ginger Soup recipe with a rotisserie chicken and side salad for a quick weekday meal.

potatoes
This Spud’s for You
What it costs:
11 cents per serving (baked with skin, 1 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Poor potatoes sometimes get a bad rap when it comes to nutrition, but the real villain isn’t the potato itself but how it’s usually prepared (as French fries or baked with butter, bacon and sour cream). Per serving, potatoes are the cheapest source of potassium in the produce aisle. This mineral is crucial for heart health and muscle function. Plus, it can help keep blood pressure down.

How to use it: Don’t discard the most nutritious part of the spud: the skin. Boil Yukon Golds or other thin-skinned taters and make smashed potatoes. You don’t need butter to get that creamy, rich taste. Instead, use vegetable or chicken broth and milk, along with minced garlic, salt, pepper and your favorite chopped herbs.

onions
Add Flavor With Onions
What it costs:
18 cents per serving (1 cup, raw)

Why it’s good for you: Adding white-fleshed fruits and veggies like onions to your daily diet can lower your risk of stroke. It may also help keep colon and liver cancer at bay. Some research even suggests that onions and their relatives (scallions, garlic, shallots) may reduce rates of arthritis.

How to use it: Onions are a cheap way to add a lot of flavor. Sauté chopped onions in olive oil and garlic and add to any savory dish, from scrambled eggs to vegetable or chicken stir-fry. For a warming meal, try our decadent Simple, Delicious Onion Soup. Or make chicken fajitas with grilled onions and peppers. The secret to superb Mexican: lots of cumin, chili powder, black pepper and garlic. Garnish with plain Greek yogurt, salsa, cilantro and avocado slices.

Wellness Challenge: Salads

salad2

What could be better than a taste of summer in the depths of winter? Your wellness challenge for this week is to have a side salad with dinner for four or more nights this week. Need some motivation? Here are some reasons why eating salads is good for you:

Eat Salads for the Fiber

Eating a high-fiber diet can help lower cholesterol levels and prevent constipation. And eating more fiber can help you feel fuller, eat less, and ultimately lose weight.

Eat Salads for the Health Benefits of Fruit and Vegetables

Many experts agree that Americans need to eat more fruit and vegetables (especially dark green and orange vegetables) and legumes — all popular salad ingredients. There is plenty of evidence that nutrient-rich plant foods contribute to overall health. If you frequently eat green salads, you’ll likely have higher blood levels of a host of powerful antioxidants (vitamin C and E, folic acid, lycopene, and alpha- and beta-carotene,) especially if your salad includes some raw vegetables. Antioxidants are substances that help protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.

Eat Salads to Cut Calories and Increase Satisfaction

If losing weight is your goal, you may want to start your meals with a green salad. Studies have shown that eating a low-calorie first course, like a green salad of 150 calories or less, enhances satiety (feelings of fullness) and reduces the total number of calories eaten during the meal.

“Bigger is better” as long as the salad is bigger in volume, not in calories – which means more veggies and less dressing and other fatty add-ons.

Eat Salads to Get Smart Fats

Eating a little good fat (like the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, avocado and nuts) with your vegetables appears to help your body absorb protective phytochemicals, like lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from dark green vegetables.

A recent study measured how well phytochemicals were absorbed by the body after people ate a salad of lettuce, carrot, and spinach, with or without 2 1/2 tablespoons of avocado. The avocado-eaters absorbed eight times more alpha-carotene and more than 13 times more beta-carotene (both of which are thought to help protect against cancer and heart disease) than the group eating salads without avocado.

If you dress your salad with a little olive oil, there may even be some additional years in it for you. Italian research on people aged 60 and older has suggested that a diet that includes plenty of olive oil and raw vegetables is linked to reduced mortality.

Click here for some ideas on delicious side salads. Enjoy!

Why Cruciferous Vegetables Are Good for You

cruciferous

What do broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy have in common?

They’re all members of the cruciferous, or cabbage, family of vegetables. And they all contain phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, and fiber that are important to your health (although some have more than others.)

Various components in cruciferous vegetables have been linked to lower cancer risks. Some have shown the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells for tumors in the breast, uterine lining (endometrium), lung, colon, liver, and cervix, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. And studies that track the diets of people over time have found that diets high in cruciferous vegetables are linked to lower rates of prostate cancer.

Lab studies show that one of the phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables – sulforaphane – can stimulate enzymes in the body that detoxify carcinogens before they damage cells. Another way cruciferous vegetables may help to protect against cancer is by reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the overload of harmful molecules called oxygen-free radicals, which are generated by the body. Reducing these free radicals may reduce the risk of colon, lung, prostate, breast, and other cancers.

To maximize taste and nutrition, here are some tips for buying and cooking cruciferous vegetables:

• Don’t overcook cruciferous vegetables. They can produce a strong sulfur odor and become unappealing.
• You can buy several types of cruciferous vegetables ready-to-go in the frozen or fresh packaged sections of your supermarket, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
• No raw veggie platter is complete without dark green broccoli or snowy white cauliflower florets.
• Add raw broccoli or cauliflower florets to your green salad to give it a big nutrient boost.
• Add chopped cruciferous veggies to soups, stews, and casseroles.
• When buying fresh broccoli, look for firm florets with a purple, dark green, or bluish hue on the top. They’re likely to contain more beta-carotene and vitamin C than florets with lighter green tops. If it has yellow in it or is limp and bendable, the broccoli is old — don’t buy it.

What are Legumes?

legumes

Legumes are a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils, and are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also contain beneficial fats and soluble and insoluble fiber. A good source of protein, legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol.

If you want to add more beans and other legumes to your diet, but you aren’t clear about what’s available and how to prepare them, this guide can help.
Many supermarkets and food stores stock a wide variety of legumes — both dried and canned.

Below are several of the more common types and their typical uses:

Adzuki beans, also known as field peas or red beans: Soups, sweet bean paste, and Japanese and Chinese dishes
Anasazi beans: Soups and Southwestern dishes; can be used in recipes that call for pinto beans
Black beans, also known as turtle beans: Soups, stews, rice dishes and Latin American cuisines
Black-eyed peas, also known as cowpeas: Salads, casseroles, fritters and Southern dishes
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo or ceci beans: Casseroles, hummus, minestrone soup, and Spanish and Indian dishes
Edamame, also known as green soybeans: Snacks, salads, casseroles and rice dishes
Fava beans, also known as broad beans: Stews and side dishes
Lentils: Soups, stews, salads, side dishes and Indian dishes
Lima beans, also known as butter or Madagascar beans: Succotash, casseroles, soups and salads
Red kidney beans: Stews, salads, chili and rice dishes
Soy nuts, also known as roasted soybeans or soya beans: Snack or garnish for salads

Dried beans and legumes, with the exceptions of black-eyed peas and lentils, require soaking in room-temperature water, a step that rehydrates them for more even cooking. Before soaking, pick through the beans, discarding any discolored or shriveled ones or any foreign matter. Depending on how much time you have, choose one of the following soaking methods:

Slow soak: In a stockpot, cover 1 pound dried beans with 10 cups water. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Quick soak: In a stockpot, bring 1 pound of dried beans and 10 cups of water to a boil. Cover and set aside and let beans soak for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature.

After soaking, rinse beans and add to a stockpot. Cover the beans with three times their volume of water. Add herbs or spices as desired. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender. The cooking time depends on the type of bean, but start checking after 45 minutes. Add more water if the beans become uncovered.

Other tips:

  • Add salt or acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, tomatoes or juice, near the end of the cooking time, when the beans are just tender. If these ingredients are added too early, they can make the beans tough and slow the cooking process.
  • Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork.
  • One pound of dried beans yields about 5 or 6 cups cooked beans. A 15.5-ounce can of beans equals about 1 2/3 cups beans, drained and cooked.
  • Lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas don’t need to be soaked. In addition, some legumes are “quick-cooking” — meaning they have already been pre-soaked and re-dried and don’t need extra soaking. Finally, canned legumes make quick additions to dishes that don’t require long simmering. Just be sure to rinse prepared and canned legumes to remove some of the sodium added during processing.

Consider these ways to incorporate more legumes into your meals and snacks:

  • Prepare soups, stews and casseroles that feature legumes.
  • Use pureed beans as the basis for dips and spreads.
  • Add chickpeas or black beans to salads. If you typically buy a salad at work and no beans are available, bring your own from home in a small container.
  • Snack on a handful of soy nuts rather than on chips or crackers.

As you add more beans and legumes to your diet, be sure to drink enough water and exercise regularly to help your gastrointestinal system handle the increase in dietary fiber.

Sugar

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According to the American Heart Association, the recommended amounts of daily sugar intake are:

Women: 6 teaspoons
Men: 9 teaspoons
Children: 3 teaspoons

Here are some foods that contain sugar. You may be surprised! Read labels carefully.

- Condiments, such as ketchup and relish
- Pasta Sauce
- Soda and other sweetened drinks
- Peanut Butter
- Soups
- Salad Dressing
- Cereals
- Bread
- Granola Bars
- Yogurt

How do you know how much sugar is in a product? You can figure it out by doing some quick and easy math:

4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon = 1 sugar cube
12 teaspoons = 1/4 cup sugar

Divide the number of grams of sugar by 4 to find the number of teaspoons.
Then multiply the teaspoons of sugar by the servings per container.
Voila! You have the amount of sugar in the product.

Example:
A 20 ounce bottle of Coke has 27 grams of sugar. Divide the 27 grams by 4. That’s 6.75 teaspoons of sugar.
There are 2.5 servings per container. Multiply the 6.75 teaspoons of sugar by 2.5 servings. That’s 16.875 teaspoons of sugar, or rounded up, 17 teaspoons.
That means there are 17 teaspoons or cubes of sugar in one 20 ounce bottle of Coke, almost three times the recommended amount of daily sugar intake for women and almost six times the recommended amount for children.

Dark Chocolate Frozen Banana Bites

banana

We all deserve a treat once in a while! Try this delicious, not too sinful confection!

Ingredients:

• 1 banana
• 3 ounces dark chocolate, 70% cocoa or greater
• ½ teaspoon instant espresso (optional)

Directions:

1. Slice banana into 16 quarter-inch slices.

2. Skewer each slice with two prong skewers and place on wax paper; freeze for one hour.

3. Create double boiler by placing metal bowl over saucepan with one inch of simmering water; add chocolate, espresso (if using) and stir continually until 3/4 melted.

4. Remove bowl from heat and continue stirring until completely melted.

5. Take banana slices from freezer and dip in chocolate until completely coated, allowing excess chocolate to drip off.

6. Place on wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Why Diets Don’t Work

Most fad diets will not do much for your health and in fact, may even harm your health.

One of the reasons that these diets attract people is that they are a fast way to lose some unwanted pounds. Even the worst diets lead to weight loss, at least at the beginning, mainly because they restrict calories. Not because they are a long term solution to weight issues.
Fad diets not only fail to produce long term weight loss, but they can also lead to feelings of deprivation, discouragement, and weight gain. Many people who go on an unrealistic diet that has restrictions become frustrated and give up. This can lead to feelings of failure, which can then make the person feel worse than they did before they started the diet. It can be a never-ending cycle that people get trapped in and causes them to lead unhealthy lifestyles.

When it comes to diet plans, there is no one right solution for everyone. The key is to find something that fits your lifestyle that you can realistically commit to for the long term.

A successful eating plan should focus on balance and variety. There should be no foods that you cannot have. Instead, there should be foods that you should be mindful of and eat only on occasion and in moderation.

Don’t worry about “being on a diet”. Instead, think about healthier ways to satisfy your hunger by eating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats.

A simple tip:

Think of what your weakness is (snacking, eating out of bags/boxes, large portions, too much alcohol/sugary drinks, too many sweets, etc.) and work on that weakness. If you feel that you eat large portions, be mindful when you serve yourself and portion out your meals. If you have a snacking problem, just make sure to provide healthy snacks for yourself, such as fruit or veggies, rather than cookies or chocolate. Or if you do have chocolate, just have one small piece of chocolate or half of a chocolate bar rather than the whole bar, and save the other half for later.

Choose one small thing to change to begin with, and once it becomes a habit, move on to the next change until you establish healthy habits that you can sustain long term.

Just Remember:

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