Tag Archives: healthy

Tips for Eating Healthy on the Road

Sticking to healthy eating while traveling is no easy task. Away from a regular cooking and exercise routine, temptation often sets in, putting a real dent in your diet. Rationalizing food choices, eating in excess and throwing moderation out the window, vacations are a quick way to pile on the pounds.

This summer vacation, don’t let your travel plans sabotage your health! Follow these tips to make the most of your summer vacation and ensure you stay healthy and energized all summer long.

Get packin’. Packing up for vacation isn’t just about picking out the right swimsuit and flip-flops. It’s the time to plan ahead for healthy food choices. Pack a small cooler with nutrient-rich snacks for the road. Choose ones that are easy transportable like bagged low-fat popcorn, sliced apples, fresh grapes and cherries, raisins and vegetable sticks with hummus. Keeping these healthy grab-n-go foods on hand will keep you satisfied while on the road.

Plan ahead. Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean you have to avoid sticking to any type of routine. Plan out a day ahead of time where and when you will eat your meals. This will ensure you aren’t skipping meals, which often increases the likelihood of overeating later in the day and choosing less nutritious foods.

Sip smartly. Vacation time often means extended coffee and cocktail hours, however, caffeine and alcohol are sure ways to leave you dehydrated and running on empty. Take along a refillable, aluminum bottle on road trips and be sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after a flight. When it comes to eating out, make water your primary beverage. Sweetened soft drinks and sodas have added sugar, adding extra calories with no additional nutritional value. Water does a body good!

Stay in control. Traveling allows for less control over what and when you eat. Packing your hotel fridge or vacation home with nutritious foods, however, will increase your chances of eating healthy and prevent unplanned, unhealthy snacking. Make a trip to the grocery store on your first day of vacation and stock your pantry and fridge full of fresh produce and real foods. Stick to your typical eating habits as much as possible.

Go local. Forgo rest stop vending machines full of empty calorie snacks and opt for independent restaurants and cafes on the road. For a look at food stops with nutritious offerings, check out Healthy Highways: The Traveler’s Guide to Healthy Eating, which lists health food stores and vegetarian restaurants across the country. If fast food is your only option, check posted calories and opt for salads, grilled sandwiches, small burgers, yogurt and fresh fruit which are now showing up on menus at most of the fast food restaurants across the country. You may also choose Subway Fresh Fit meals, which feature a variety of 6-inch subs served with apple slices and water. These meals meet the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Meal certification for nutritional criteria for levels of sodium, calories, cholesterol, saturated fat and trans-fats.

Stay active. Use vacation as a positive excuse to expand your exercise horizons. Get active in ways you never have before. Grab a bike and hit up a mountain trail or test your skills on a paddleboard or kayak. Consider taking a new class at a local gym or yoga studio. After introducing yourselves to new exercises, you may decide to bring these activities home and make them part of your weekly routine.

No matter what your destination may be, remember to not use a vacation as an excuse to be lazy and indulgent, but as an opportunity to try new activities and have fun. Make fit resolutions before hitting the road and enjoy a healthy and fun-filled vacation!

For more ideas on heart-healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating fun and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

Celebrate Your Red, White and Blue!

Wave your flag and celebrate your All-American spirit by adding a little red, white, and blue to your menu. For a festive and nutritious patriotic celebration, check out the following food inspirations:

  • Top your breakfast cereal, yogurt, ice cream or salads with fresh blueberries, strawberries and white slivered almonds.
  • Add dried cherries or cranberries to salad or coleslaw. Enjoy cherries and watermelon and red, purple and Concord grapes as snacks or dessert.
  • Make two red and blue jello layers filled with cherries and blueberries, and add a thin spread of soft, lower-fat cream cheese mixed with light sour cream between layers.
  • Make a big pizza cookie out of prepared vanilla cookie dough topped with a spread of light cream cheese and powdered sugar blended together as “icing.” Sprinkle red and blueberries on top and consider adding pineapple, peach and mandarin orange slices, too.
  • Make fruit kabobs with several fresh fruit slices. Try red and blue berries and red plums.
  • Make vegetable kabobs with several veggies, including red bell peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower and onions.
  • Make a fruit salad with 5-6 different types of fruit, such as melon, grapes, pineapple, apples, berries and cherries.
  • Add black beans, red beans and white navy beans to your baked bean dish.
  • Make a smoothie with ½ cup Concord grape juice, 1/2 banana, ½ cup non-fat vanilla or Greek yogurt, ½ cup berries or peach slices and 5-6 ice cubes for a refreshing blue smoothie.

Not only are these foods a fun way to honor your American pride, they add great nutrition to your day. Red foods carry Vitamins A and C, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that promote good health, lower cholesterol, and prevent heart disease and clogged arteries. Blueberries contain more valuable antioxidants than most foods, boosting overall health. (ORAC values which measure antioxidant ability, score blueberries at 2400, cherries at 670 and pink grapefruit at 485). Blueberries and grape juice have recently been shown to boost cognition and memory, keep arteries elastic, and promote immunity. White foods, like garlic, onion, potatoes and cauliflower, offer Vitamin C, healthy antioxidants and many other significant nutrients, including Vitamin B, minerals and phyto-nutrients that help fight heart disease and cancer, and promote your overall well-being. Almonds, like other nuts, have been linked to a reduced risk of heart attacks, if consumed in 1 oz. (about 3 Tbsp) servings five or more times a week.

Celebrate your patriotism with a menu that’s both healthy and crowd-pleasing. Good food decisions mixed with physical activity will ensure this holiday is a memorable one.

For more ideas on heart-healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating fun and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

Healthy Grilling Tips

With the first long weekend of the season under our belt, summertime is here and grilling season is in full swing. Follow these tips to pump up the flavor and enjoy a backyard feast that is healthy and tasty.

  • Go lean. Put the focus of your cookout on lean meat. Toss omega-3 rich fish, like salmon and tuna steaks, on the grill and add a squeeze of lemon and fresh dill for extra flavor. For red meat lovers, cuts that include the words “loin” or “round” will be your best bet. Be sure to trim excess fats before grilling.
  • Rub it in. Choose dry rubs over marinades, which often contain unhealthy syrups and oil. For an extra punch, consider rubbing your meat with a favorite spice like cumin, rosemary, chili or garlic.
  • Control portions. With buffet style eating at backyard BBQs, it’s easy to help yourself to excessive amounts. Keep in mind that a serving of meat should be about the size of the palm of your hand.  To avoid over-eating, try cutting meats, veggies and fruits in small pieces and put them on a skewer. Enjoy the variety of textures and flavors along with healthy sides.
  • Mix it up. Add fresh foods, like veggies and fruits, to your grill. Some great grilled veggie options include asparagus, broccoli, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, sliced sweet potatoes, squash or zucchini. For fruit, pineapple and peaches are great options as their natural sugars caramelize and enhance the flavor.
  • Top it off. Forgo high-calorie toppings, like mayo and full-fat cheese. Instead, serve up chopped cilantro leaves and shredded cabbage with a squeeze of lime. Spice it up with some jalapenos and fresh salsa. Add avocado slices for some healthy fat with that similar, creamy consistency of mayo or cheese.  Or try a little low-fat sharp cheese like Cabot Reduced-Fat Jalapeno Jack  – a little goes a long way for flavor.
  • Think outside the bun. Choose wholegrain breads to house your grill favorites. Pita bread and tortillas also make great options. Be sure to choose the wholegrain variety.
  • Eat seasonal. Pick the perfect produce and offer up healthy side dishes incorporating your favorite foods that are in season. This summer, look for berries, watermelon, tomatoes and corn. Use leftovers to add crunch and flavor to salads the next day.

For more ideas on heart-healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating fun and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

Get in Shape with the Plate!

Take a part in helping America observe March National Nutrition Month today, tomorrow, this month and all year long. Look at the plate shown on the right. It can help you eat better and even lose weight! Portions and colors are the key to healthy eating and weight control. Just look at your plate to simplify both. Divide your plate by fourths, proportion 4 different foods with different colors in each section, and you automatically control calories and maximize nutrient variety.  This means more plant foods, less (and ample) protein, for most folks. And you feel fuller, longer.

Here’s a simple example – from the cover of my book:

The 4 oz. lean beef filet, 1/2 cup steamed red new potatoes, 1/2 cup sugar-snap green beans, and 1/2 cup steamed fresh carrots, for a total of only 350 calories. Spritzed with butter-flavored spray, calories may become 360-370. Add 1 teaspoon of healthy cooking oil (40 calories) to sauté beef,  and 3 teaspoons of reduced-fat spread (50 calories) to flavor veggies and the whole meal is still under 450 calories.

The plate concept makes it is easy to plan healthy meals, lose weight, and keep it off. 

Can you really lose weight and expect to keep it off?  The National Weight Control Registry tracks 3,000 successful weight loss participants whom have kept at least 30 pounds of weight off for at least 10 years. According to the latest research for the Registry, this group has kept off an average 51 pounds of 69 lost. Those stats are very encouraging.

The participant’s maintenance tips include:  

  • Eat breakfast regularly.
  • Walk about an hour a day.
  • Track food intake, calories and fat grams.
  • Limit eating out.  
  • Seldom splurge.
  • Watch TV less than 10 hours a week.
  • Weigh weekly
  • Average about 1,800 calories a day, less than 30% from fat.

Give it a try! Use the plate – when you shape up your eating and exercise, youcan shape up your health for a lifetime!

Looking for more meal ideas, eating tips, or recommendations for organizing your plate?  Check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution:  Step up to the Plate (2009), or email me at Georgia@GeorgiaKostas.com to schedule a nutrition consult in person, over the phone or online.  You can follow me on Twitter/GeorgiaKostas, Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition or visit my website www.GeorgiaKostas.com.

Heart Smart Foods for February Heart Month

Healthy heart, healthy body. 

How can you prevent artery and heart disease that a majority of Americans develop over a lifetime? Take action now. Focus on heart smart foods that keep your artery walls strong, elastic, and free of plaque (from cholesterol deposits and oxidation), inflammation and clots. Heart-Smart foods fight for your life every day, by protecting your arteries from:

Cholesterol build-up:  Eat plant foods (fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, oils), foods with soluble fiber such as oats, beans and psyllium seeds; fish, poultry without skin, lean beef and pork and lamb cuts; skim milk, low-fat cheese, and spreads and special foods with stanols or sterols (i.e Smart Balance Heart Right spreads and milk). Avoid saturated, hydrogenated and tran fats in lard and fatty cuts of beef, pork, lamb, hot dogs, sausage; burgers, hardened margarine sticks, commercially prepared desserts, snack foods, icing, fried foods.

Cholesterol oxidation:  Eat anti-oxidant-rich fruit and vegetables of all types, particularly deep red/blue/purple foods such as red grapes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, grape juice, red wine, dark chocolate, tea, eggplant, raisins, tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Artery stiffness:  Eat olive oil, canola oil, seafood (omega 3’s), nuts, and fresh produce that contain anti-oxidants, phyto-nutrients and potassium.  Skip the salt shaker, packaged and canned foods, and salty foods that stiffen arteries.

Artery inflammation:  Select anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant-rich foods such as fresh produce, whole grains, beans, seafood, omega 3-rich foods. Eat regular meals with reasonable portions        (large meals or large portions inflame artery walls by elevating blood sugar, fats and salt). Avoid excessive sugar, salt, saturated, trans and hydrogenated fats; excess body fat, particularly middle fat; and sitting long hours. Get up and move. Treat and control elevated blood pressure and diabetes. The bottom line: reasonable portions, reasonably sized meals and regular exercise prevent inflammation.

Clot formation:  Eat nature’s natural blood thinners to prevent clots, such as seafood, olive and canola oils, red foods with polyphenols (red grapes, red onions, tea, wine, red apples, garlic, grape juice) and red/orange foods such as tomatoes, red bell pepper, berries, cherries, carrots, oranges, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cantaloupe- all are good for your arteries and blood flow. Omega 3s are found in oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, tuna, herring, bass, trout; walnuts;  canola and olive oil, as well as omega 3- fortified spreads, milk, orange juice, low-fat cheese.

In essence, enjoy 2-3 fruit and 2-3 cups of fresh vegetables daily…especially colorful ones, and a variety, to reap the greatest heart-health benefits. Eat beans 4 times a week; nuts 4 times a week -one shot glass of nuts is a serving; seafood at least twice a week; 3 whole grains daily; healthy oils; non-fat or low-fat dairy and lean protein foods.

Limit alcohol, which raises blood pressure and weight, and can interfere with medications. The American Heart Association guideline: “Limit alcohol to no more than one can of beer, five ounces of wine, or one and a half ounces of 80 proof alcohol per day,” for women; two for men. Exceed these amounts, and the benefits of alcohol are countered by increased heart risk.

Remember to get up and move for at least 30 minutes daily. Schedule a little exercise each day for fun, relaxation, stress release, and recreation. You heart and arteries will sing. Plaque and inflammation and clots lessen, artery elasticity and strength increase, LDL (bad) cholesterol lowers, healthy HDL cholesterol rises, blood sugar, fats, and pressure normalize. A little goes a long way to improving your overall health, heart health and sense of well-being.

Seemingly little decisions daily as to what to eat and how much, when to exercise and how much, make a HUGE impact on your heart, and your life.

Discover more heart healthy tips by visiting my website, www.georgiakostas.com. Order my book, The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009), for recipes, teaching tips, menu planning and more. You can also follow me on Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition or twitter @georgiakostas.

Renew Your Health in the New Year!

If you are committing to “eat better” in 2012, and want to reap the greatest benefit with the least amount of change, where will you begin? Most health experts agree:  “eat more fruit and vegetables”!  Here are four good reasons why:

  • their unique nutrients help reduce chronic disease – heart, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity
  • their low-calorie, high fiber, and water content will help you lose weight faster, while feeling “full”  
  • their potassium, magnesium, and fiber content counters common nutrient shortfalls
  • their nutrition impact trumps genetics in reducing genetic-related heart disease

Not convinced?  The Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which followed the diets and health of 110,000 men and women for 14 years, found that eating more fruit and vegetables helped people lose weight faster and more easily, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke by 30%. Those averaging 2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily had the greatest reduction in cardiovascular risk.  Although all fruits and vegetables likely contributed to this benefit, the greatest impact seemed to come from green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens; cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale; and citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit (and their juices).

Beyond the cholesterol-lowering benefits of fresh produce, their anti-oxidant content improves artery health. A Swedish study released in December 2010 quantified the antioxidant value of diets in over 35,000 older women. Those who ate the most fruit, vegetables, and whole grains had the greatest anti-oxidant intake and greatest reduction in stroke risk.

Anti-oxidants have many beneficial qualities, including: 1) block cholesterol-plaque build-up and hardening in our arteries, keeping artery walls (muscle) pliable and healthy for better blood flow, and 2) lessen plaque-related inflammation in artery walls, leading to blood clots. Stiff, plaque-narrowed arteries and clots lead to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Supplemental anti-oxidants have proven unhelpful, and in some cases, even dangerous.  Nature provides the right form and balance of anti-oxidants in foods, conferring health benefits, as well as the right mix of vitamins, minerals, fiber, phyto-nutrients, and phytosterols, which most likely are at the heart of the benefits.

Another interesting study reported in 2011 found that adding fresh produce and other heart-protective foods to one’s diet reduced the risk of heart attacks more powerfully than merely subtracting the “bad” stuff – saturated fat, sugar, trans fats, salt.

I love this finding because I have long been an advocate of adding quality foods rather than merely subtracting foods when helping my clients to eat better, lose weight, or lower cholesterol or blood pressure.  My clients tell me they prefer this positive approach and are more successful with their health and weight results.

So, if you make one change this year, begin by adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals daily! You may start with just one extra fruit and one vegetable today. Or, follow the recommendations of the 2011 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans:   fill “half your plate with fruit and vegetables and lunch and dinner”.

Need more ideas?  Check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution:  Step up to the Plate (2009), or email me at Georgia@GeorgiaKostas.com to schedule a nutrition consult in person, over the phone or online.  You can follow me on Twitter/GeorgiaKostas, Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition or visit my website http://georgiakostas.com. Let the New Year begin with renewed health and zest!

Happy, Healthy Holiday Tips

“Tis the season to be jolly! A season filled with festivities, friends, family, fellowship…and yes, food!

How can you enjoy the season and not give yourself the typical 2- 8 lbs at Christmas that may linger all year? Here are a few top survival tips:

  1.  Focus on the people and conversation everywhere you go — let food be a secondary joy.
  2. Arrive at events satisfied, not starving. 
  3. Drink 2 glasses of water before walking in the door, and drink 2 glasses of water for every higher calorie beverage.
  4. Fill up first on veggie and fruit options (easy on the dips, dressings, sauces).
  5. Go lean with protein, such as turkey, meatballs, ham, roasted chicken, beef tenderloin slices.
  6. Pay attention to liquid calories, such as holiday punch, soda, beer, wine, eggnog, which pack hundreds of extra calories…and pounds. 
  7. Use small plates, which lends to smaller portions. Imagine each bite providing 50 calories…100 bites = 5000 calories (= 1.5 lbs of weight gain per party!)
  8. Think small and special, so skip “usual” foods like chips and dips, and head to seasonal favorites.
  9. Cut portions into smaller bites than usual.  More bites = more chews = more filling.
  10. Offer to bring a dish, such as a fruit trays, vegetable tray, coleslaw, pico de gallo, Heavenly Seven-Layer Dip (recipe below), turkey slices, vegetable wraps, popcorn, chex mix with added popped cereals (rice, oats, wheat, etc).
  11. Keep moving –walk the mall or walk your neighborhood! Every step helps.
  12. Remember that eating scheduled meals and exercising at scheduled times will help you survive the stress of the season, so you can enjoy the holidays even more.

For easy tips, meal plans, recipes and more, check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution:  Step up to the Plate (2009). Or, send me an email at Georgia@GeorgiaKostas.com, for a nutrition consult in person, over the phone or online.  I want you to be at your healthiest and happiest this holiday season, and carry that well into the New Year!

Follow me on Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition or Twitter @georgiakostas.

Healthy Seven-Layer Dip

Guacamole (buy at grocery store or make homemade below). Set aside.

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 teaspoons lime juice, fresh or bottled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons salsa or fresh chopped tomato
Garlic powder or garlic salt to taste (optional)
Black pepper to taste

Dip layers-   Prepare and set aside each item below.

8 ounces fat-free or light sour cream
1-ounce packet taco seasoning mix
15-ounce can fat-free or vegetarian refried beans
1 cup diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican-style cheese blend (i.e. Jack and cheddar)
2 1/4-ounce can sliced black olives (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In small bowl, blend sour cream with taco seasoning.
  2. Spread the refried beans in the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate or glass pan (you can warm the beans up in the microwave briefly to make them more spreadable.)
  3. Top the beans with the sour cream mixture; then top each layer as follows: guacamole, tomatoes, green onions, shredded cheese, black olives.

Serve with reduced-fat tortilla chips or reduced-fat crackers or baby carrots, jicama sticks, red bell pepper slices, broccoli or cauliflower pieces,

Makes 16 appetizer servings.

Per serving (dip only): 85 calories, 5.2 grams protein, 6.4 grams carbohydrate, 4.4 grams fat (1.9 grams saturated fat, 1.9 grams monounsaturated, .3 grams polyunsaturated fat), 7 milligrams cholesterol, .7 grams fiber, 258 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 46%.