5 Tips to Curb Your Late-Night Snacking

snacking

After-dinner and before-bedtime snacking when not hungry can result in consuming unneeded calories. Often this may be due to boredom, stress or tiredness. Try these tips to banish evening cravings and curb after-dinner snacking; and, if you must snack, go for nutritious options.

End Mealtime Madness

Spend a little time planning ahead and grocery shopping for nutritious meals, including breakfast, and snacks throughout the week. When you eat a variety of foods throughout the day according to your hunger and fullness, you’re less likely to overeat at night. “Eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day provides your body with a steady source of energy to fuel daily activities,” says Torey Armul, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, who is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It also helps to maintain blood sugar levels and ensure greater intake of nutrients that are important for your health.”

Boost Protein and Load up on Fiber

Armul advises individuals to try to eat 20 to 25 grams of protein at each meal, although needs vary by person.

For instance, a breakfast of oatmeal with a cup of low-fat or fat-free milk, small handful of nuts and fruit can provide approximately 20 grams of protein. At lunch, a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter (7 grams of protein), half a can of tuna fish (16 grams of protein), half a cup of black beans (7 grams of protein) or a small 4-ounce salmon filet (25 grams of protein) can help push up protein. At dinner, most people actually get too much protein because portion sizes of popular protein sources are too big. Go for recommended serving sizes such as a small — the size of a deck of cards — 3-ounce chicken breast (27 grams of protein) or a 3-ounce lean top sirloin steak (26 grams of protein).

Dietary fiber also helps us feel full, in addition to being protective of intestinal and heart health. Find fiber in whole grains, legumes such as beans and lentils, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. The Institute of Medicine recommends women strive for 25 grams of dietary fiber each day while men should get 38 grams.

Get Sleep

“Research shows that sleep deprivation can impair glucose metabolism and affect hormones linked to hunger, appetite and body weight regulation,” says Armul “We often confuse hunger and tiredness, especially at night. If you’re tempted to keep snacking after a balanced dinner, your body may be signaling that it needs rest.” Adults should strive for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.

Turn off the Screen before You Pick up Your Fork

Screen time has been linked to mindless eating and increased food intake. Eating in front of the TV, while playing video games or surfing the Internet can distract attention from what and how much is eaten, reduce satiety signals sent to the brain and lessen memory of snacking.

“Eating in front of a TV or mobile device makes it harder to detect your body’s satiety signals,” says Armul. “It also can reduce the enjoyment and mindfulness of your meal. Avoid these types of distractions during mealtime, and sit down at a table to eat so you can focus on your food and practice mindfulness. You also may feel a greater satisfaction with your food and notice satiety cues that are otherwise missed when you’re distracted.”

Still Starving after Dinner?

People often eat out of boredom, or because of stress, or just out of habit rather than from true hunger. Consider asking yourself the following questions before eating: Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Am I tired? Am I bored? Am I sad?

If you ate a balanced dinner, go for lighter snacks. “If you’re still hungry after dinner and have ruled out other factors, it’s OK to have a small snack,” says Armul. “Opt for something with protein or fiber to provide satiety and nutrients. Good choices are Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, veggies with hummus and air-popped popcorn. If you’re craving dessert, keep your portion small and eat slowly and without distractions.”

Friendship Is Good for You

friendship

Family and friends are two important kinds of relationships in your life, no doubt. But when it comes to making you happier over the long term, you might be surprised which group is the more powerful. While family members are important, when it comes to better health and happiness, it’s friendships that make the biggest difference—especially as you get older, according to new research.

An article published in the journal Personal Relationships, which summarizes the findings of two related studies, revealed that while both family and friends contribute to health and happiness, it was the relationships people have with friends that have the biggest impact later in life. In total, more than 278,000 people of varying ages from nearly 100 countries were surveyed, rating their health and happiness levels. Notably, in the second study (which focused on older adults, specifically), it was found that when friends were the source of tension or stress, people reported more chronic illnesses, while when someone felt supported by their friendship, they reported fewer health issues and increased happiness.

Why? It all comes down to choice, says William Chopik, Ph.D., author of the paper and a professor at Michigan State University. “I think it might have to do with the selective nature of friendships—we can keep around the ones we like and slowly fade out of the ones we don’t,” he explains. “We often spend leisure activities with friends too, whereas family relationships can often be stressful, negative, or monotonous.”

It’s also possible that friends fill in the gaps left by family or provide support in ways family members can’t or won’t, he adds. Friends may also understand you on a different level than family, due to shared experiences and interests. This is why it’s so important to maintain ties with old friends or make the effort to reconnect if you’ve lost touch with your childhood bestie or sorority sister. While life changes and distance can make this difficult at times, the benefits are well worth the effort to pick up the phone or send that email.

“Friendships are among the hardest relationships to maintain across the lifespan,” says Chopik. “Part of that has to do with a lack of obligation. Friends spend time together because they want and choose to, not because they have to.”

Thankfully there are some simple steps to maintain and enhance important friendships. Chopik recommends making sure to be a part of your friends’ day-to-day lives by sharing in their successes and commiserating with their failures—basically be a cheerleader and a shoulder to lean on. In addition, he says sharing and trying new activities together helps, as does expressing gratitude. Telling people that you love them and value their presence in your life is such a small thing to do, but it can make a huge difference in everyone’s lives.

Nutrition Basics: Proteins

protein

Proteins are an important part of your bones, muscles, and skin. In fact, proteins are in every living cell in your body.

Proteins perform many functions, including:

• Building structures
• Breaking down toxins
• Act as enzymes, antibodies and hormones

Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. Your body can make some amino acids but not others. Proteins that you get from meat and other animal products and some plant sources contain all the amino acids you need. These include both those your body can make and those it can’t. These are known as complete proteins.

However, there are also some proteins from plant products that don’t contain all the amino acids your body needs. These are known as incomplete proteins. Nevertheless, you can combine plant products to form a complete protein. For instance, eating rice with beans or peanut butter with bread will give you complete protein.

Good sources of protein include:

• Quinoa
• Amaranth
• Buckwheat
• Nuts
• Peanut butter
• Nut butters
• Seeds
• Beans
• Peas
• Lentils
• Soy products (tofu, tempeh, vegetarian burgers)
• Fish and shellfish
• Poultry
• Red meat (beef, pork, lamb)
• Eggs
• Milk
• Milk products (cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt)

Nutrition Basics: Carbohydrates

carbohydrates

The role of carbohydrates is to provide energy, as they are the body’s main source of fuel, needed for physical activity, brain function and operation of the organs.

The foods you eat contain different types of carbohydrates. Some kinds are better for you than others. The different types of carbohydrates are:

• Sugars are found naturally in fruit, vegetables, milk, and milk products. Foods such as cakes and cookies have had sugar added. Table sugar also is an added sugar. All of these sugars can be converted in your body to glucose, or blood sugar. Your cells “burn” glucose for energy.
• Starches are broken down in your body into sugars. Starches are found in certain vegetables, such as potatoes, beans, peas, and corn. They are also found in breads, cereals, and grains.
• Dietary fibers are carbohydrates that your body cannot digest. They pass through your body without being broken down into sugars. Even though your body does not get energy from fiber, you still need fiber to stay healthy. Fiber helps get rid of excess fats in the intestine, which helps prevent heart disease. Fiber also helps push food through the intestines, which helps prevent constipation. Foods high in fiber include fruit, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and whole-grain foods (such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice).

In general, you want to limit carbohydrates that increase your blood glucose levels. If your blood glucose stays high for too long, you can develop type 2 diabetes. To keep your blood glucose in check, limit the amount of table sugar you eat. Also, limit foods with added sugars. You can tell if a food has added sugars by looking at the ingredients list on the package. Look for terms such as:

• Corn sweetener
• Corn syrup
• High-fructose corn syrup
• Dextrose
• Fructose
• Glucose
• Lactose
• Maltose
• Sucrose
• Honey
• Sugar
• Brown sugar
• Invert sugar
• Molasses
• Malt syrup
• Syrup

Healthy carbohydrates include:

• Natural sugars in fruits, vegetables
• Dietary fiber
• Starches in whole-grain foods, beans, peas, and corn

Health Benefits of Aromatherapy

aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a fascinating alternative medicine that involves the use of volatile plant materials, also known as essential oils, that can be aromatically inhaled by patients of a wide variety of health conditions. It is often used to improve mood, change cognitive states, and can also be utilized as a supplemental medicine. Some of the most common health benefits of aromatherapy are explained in greater detail below.

Stress Relief: Perhaps the most widespread and popular use of aromatherapy is for stress relief. The aromatic compounds from many different essential oils are known as relaxants and can help to soothe your mind and eliminate anxiety. This is what most people who perform aromatherapy at home use it for, since the mixtures are very simple and the research on this aspect of aromatherapy is very well-known and widely studied. Some of the best essential oils for stress relief are lemon oil, lavender, bergamot, peppermint, vetiver, and ylang ylang essential oils.

Boost Energy Levels: We can all use more energy to get through the hectic daily tasks of modern life. While diet and exercise can also help, many people turn to aromatherapy to put a bit more pep in their step. Many essential oils are known to increase circulation, raise energy levels, and generally stimulate the body and mind. The best essential oils for giving yourself an energy boost include black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, angelica, jasmine, tea tree, rosemary, and sage.

Headaches: Everyone gets headaches from time to time, and aromatherapy can be a wonderful solution that may not only eliminate your current headache, but possibly reduce the stress, anxiety, or origin of your headaches to prevent them in the future. Some of the best essential oils that have been connected to reducing headaches and migraines are peppermint, eucalyptus, sandalwood, and rosemary essential oils. You can also mix these oils in a carrier oil and spread that oil onto your skin, scalp, neck, and temples. Some of the best carrier oils for headaches include almond, avocado, coconut, apricot kernel, and sesame oils.

Sleep Aid: Not getting enough sleep can exacerbate or cause a huge range of medical conditions and can leave us feeling unproductive and devoid of energy. Luckily, aromatherapy can provide us with a more balanced sleep schedule and even realign our Circadian rhythms so our body naturally gets tired at an appropriate time, sleeps restfully through the night, and is energized in the morning to face the day. Some of the best essential oils for managing your sleeping habits and having a healthy, sedative effect on the body include lavender, chamomile, jasmine, benzoin, neroli, rose, sandalwood, sweet marjoram, and ylang ylang essential oils.

Whatever your condition, and whatever essential oils you choose to use, always consult your doctor before embarking on a new treatment plan. Also, be sure to only acquire essential oils from approved sources and don’t attempt to mix and use oils unless you have been trained as a professional aromatherapist.

Nutrition Basics: Water

waterdorp

Water is an important part of your body. In fact, it makes up more than 60 percent of your body weight. Among other functions, water:

• Moistens tissues, such as those around your mouth, eyes, and nose
• Regulates your body temperature
• Cushions your joints
• Helps your body get nutrients
• Flushes out waste products

Without water, you would die in a few days. So it’s important that you get enough water. But how much water is enough? Experts generally recommend that you drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid every day (although everyone’s needs are different). But it doesn’t have to be all water. You could satisfy some of your fluid needs by drinking other liquids. Just remember that juice, sodas and milk are high in sugar. Many fruit and vegetables, such as watermelon and tomatoes, are also mostly water.

If you’re being physically active, sweating a lot, or if the weather is hot, you’ll need more fluid. Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding also have increased fluid needs.

It’s generally not a good idea to use thirst alone as a guide for when to drink. By the time you’re thirsty, you may already be a bit dehydrated. On the other hand, you don’t need to be constantly carrying around water bottles and drinking lots of water. You are probably getting all the fluid you need if you are rarely thirsty and you produce a little more than six cups of colorless or slightly yellow urine a day. Dark urine can be a signal that you need more fluid. So drink up and stay hydrated!

Nutrition Basics: Fats

fats

Your body needs some fat to function properly. Fat:

• Is a source of energy
• Is used by your body to make substances it needs
• Helps your body absorb certain vitamins from food

But not all fats are the same. Some are better for your health than others. To help prevent heart disease and stroke, most of the fats you eat should be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Foods high in monounsaturated fats include:

• Olive oil
• Peanut oil
• Canola oil
• Avocados
• Most nuts

Foods high in polyunsaturated fats include:

• Safflower oil
• Corn oil
• Sunflower oil
• Soybean oil
• Cottonseed oil

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that appear to reduce your risk of heart disease. Good sources of omega-3s are fatty fish. These include salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. You can also get omega-3s from plant sources. These include ground flaxseed (linseed), flaxseed oil, and walnuts. Small amounts are also found in soybean and canola oils.

Less healthy kinds of fats are saturated and trans fats. They can increase your risk of heart disease by causing the buildup of a fatty substance in the arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood to your heart. When this happens, your heart does not get all the blood it needs to work properly. The result can be chest pain or a heart attack. These fats can also increase your risk of stroke by causing the buildup of the same fatty substance in arteries carrying blood to your brain. Research also suggests that eating lots of trans fats may increase your risk of breast cancer.

Foods high in saturated fats include:

• Red meat (beef, pork, lamb)
• Poultry
• Butter
• Whole milk and whole milk products
• Coconut oil
• Palm oil

Trans fats are found in foods made with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Look on the ingredients list on the food package to see if the food contains these oils. You are likely to find them in commercial baked goods, such as crackers, cookies, and cakes. Trans fats are also found in fried foods, such as doughnuts and French fries. Stick or hard margarine and shortening are also high in trans fats.
As with saturated and trans fats, eating too much cholesterol can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in animal products, such as:

• Red meat
• Poultry
• Seafood
• Egg yolks
• Milk and milk products
• Lard
• Butter

Although monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are better for your health than saturated and trans fats, eating large amounts of any fat can cause weight gain. You should eat fats in moderation. And make sure that fatty foods don’t replace more nutritious foods, such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

Breakfast Alert!

Healthy breakfast. Yogurt with granola and berries

As a teenager, you may have rolled your eyes when your mom insisted that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” as you were running out the door. But guess what? She’s right. A new study just found a link between skipping breakfast and what may seem like an unrelated condition: atherosclerosis, otherwise known as hardening of the arteries.

In the study, those who skipped breakfast or ate very little for breakfast were more likely to have the condition — and also have unhealthy cholesterol levels and a higher waist circumference, blood sugar, and body-mass index. What’s the connection? Research suggests that eating a healthy breakfast may help to regulate your appetite throughout the day, leading to fewer cravings and more appropriate portions. So frequently skipping breakfast may spell bad news for your eating patterns, which can affect your heart health.

The researchers emphasized that people who eat little or nothing for breakfast tend to have a less healthy lifestyle overall. Which is why skipping breakfast may be a signal to take a look at your daily habits. Keep a journal for a week or two, without trying to change anything, and record your habits without judgment. Write down how much time you spend exercising, your ratio of whole foods (spinach, apples, legumes, brown rice, salmon) to processed foods (frozen pizza, white-flour bread, packaged muffins or cookies), how often you cook, order in or eat out, your alcohol intake, and your sleep. When you’re done, don’t try to overhaul your whole life at once! Get support from a health professional, and from family and friends, for any changes you’d like to make. And by all means, add in a bowl of oatmeal in the morning — try the steel-cut variety, with nuts and fresh berries.

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.