Tag Archives: whole grains

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.

Protein Series, Part 2 of 3: Lean Protein is Good for Heart Health

Introduction:  Recent research indicates that a moderate serving of high-quality protein (3-4 oz) with each meal can make a significant difference in healthy aging, body strength, weight management, and disease prevention. This is especially significant since approximately 20 percent of older adults do not meet the USDA’s recommended dietary allowance of protein. Read my three-part series on Protein to learn how you can achieve optimal health as you get older.

Lean Protein is Good for Heart Health

Eating lean beef daily, as part of a heart-healthy diet, can help lower LDL-cholesterol ( bad cholesterol), lower triglycerides ( blood fats), and raise HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) more than excluding beef, according to new research published in the January 2012 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  In this study, 5 oz of lean beef were consumed daily, as part of an overall healthy, plant-based, nutrient-rich diet (DASH), which included a variety of foods from all food groups.

Lean Beef by the Numbers

Americans can feel confident in their decision to eat lean beef daily, in moderate amounts,  as part of a low saturated fat diet which meets the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It’s a complete package! A 3 oz. serving of lean beef contributes less than 10 percent of calories to a 1,500-2,000-calorie intake daily and it supplies more than 10 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for 10 essential nutrients. On average, a 3 oz. serving of lean beef (about the size of a deck of cards) contains about 150 calories and is an excellent source of six nutrients (protein, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin and selenium) and a good source of four nutrients (phosphorous, choline, iron and riboflavin).

Lean Beef by the Cut  –

Did you know 17 of the top 25 most popular fresh meat cuts sold in retail are lean? Some of my favorite choices in cuts are  Tenderloin, Top Sirloin, Flank, T-Bone steak and 95% lean Ground Beef. It’s simple to pair these delicious cuts with nutrient-rich vegetables, grains and dairy foods for an overall healthy diet.

Other Heart-Protective Foods

How can you protect your heart? Eat the right type and amount of wholesome foods! Choose colorful fruit, vegetables, and beans; wholegrains; lean protein foods ( fish, poultry, lean beef, low-fat cheese); non-fat or low-fat dairy; and the right types and amount of fat and oils  to reduce artery inflammation and lessen the development of hardening of the arteries, which underlies most heart attacks.

Lifestyle Factors that Reduce Heart Disease

  • A healthy weight
  • Aerobic exercise, 30+ minutes, 3-5 times weekly
  • Healthy eating
  • Healthy blood pressure (<120/80)
  • Not smoking
  • Treating depression
  • Managing stress
  • More vitamin D3
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Ample sleep

In summary, lean beef protein can be beneficial to your heart as long as it does not exceed saturated fat limits (3-4 oz lean beef contains 4-6 gm sat fat out of 15-22 gm sat fat limit daily). Realize the value in varying protein sources – it’s good for your taste buds, adds nutrient variety, and helps your heart. It takes your total lifestyle to keep your heart running right…combine eating right and regular physical activity for optimal health.

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.

Protein Series, Part 1 of 3: Benefits of Lean Protein for Healthy Muscle Mass

Introduction:  Recent research indicates that a moderate serving of high-quality protein (3-4 oz) with each meal can make a significant difference in healthy aging, body strength, weight management, and disease prevention. This is especially significant since approximately 20 percent of older adults do not meet the USDA’s recommended dietary allowance of protein. Read my three-part series on Protein to learn how you can achieve optimal health as you get older.

 

Benefits of Lean Protein for Healthy Muscle Mass

Given the growing baby boomer population (approximately 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old every day), loss of muscle mass in older adults is becoming an increasingly significant public health issue.

It’s a fact of life that our body changes as we age. Those transformations happen in body composition, skeletal changes, metabolism slows down, aerobic (oxygen) capacity declines, and our immune system weakens. So, how do we prevent these changes?

The most practical dietary strategy to stimulate muscle growth is to include high-quality protein during each meal, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Aug 2007). Research indicates that a moderate serving of high-quality protein (3-4 oz) with each meal can make a significant difference in body strength. This is especially significant since approximately 20 percent of older adults do not meet the USDA’s recommended dietary allowance of protein.

Be Lean Protein Savvy

Enjoying these high-quality protein foods can help you build a healthy lifestyle at any age:

  • Consume 3-4 oz servings of protein-rich foods at each meal daily.  ( 1 protein equivalent = 1 oz meat or 1 cup milk or yogurt or ½ cup beans or 1 egg )
  • Vary protein sources weekly. Try poultry,  fish, lean beef or pork,  bean or all-vegetable meals, low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, cheese.
  • Choose low-fat toppings. Top baked potatoes with cottage cheese, yogurt, marinara sauce or salsa, and top salads with balsamic vinegar, lemon, cottage cheese, or yogurt.
  • Snack on healthy alternatives such as nuts, popcorn, wholewheat bagels, pretzels, popsicles, frozen nonfat yogurt, carrots, homemade Chex cereal mix, wholegrain crackers or toast. 

Add Muscle with Protein

Building optimal muscle mass comes from pairing the right types of high-quality protein with the right exercise routine, and making that a habit. First, exercise is not all about the amount that’s important, it’s the type of exercise that’s important. Did you know that starting at age 25, you can lose 8-10 lbs of muscle mass each decade? Did you know cardio workouts such as walking and running will help you maintain muscle, but resistance training is what really helps you build muscle? Stimulating the right muscles, over several repetitions, helps you build muscle mass over time. In addition, eating lean protein within 30 minutes after resistance training helps builds muscle more effectively. 

Exercise Variety Leads to Optimal Benefits

Enjoy changing up your routine with these exercises. And, remember to set goals that are appropriate to your age group and ability to get the most out of all of your efforts.

  • Aerobic (heart, lungs, weight, stamina, balance)
  • Flexibility/stretching (joints, range-of-motion)
  • Strength (bones, muscles, core)
  • Balance (reduces falls, hip & spine fractures; adds stability, coordination, functional fitness)
  • All-in-one (yoga, pilates, aqua exercise, Zumba, bar/ballet classes, functional fitness, bands with cardio, circuit classes)

Sample Weekly Workout Plan/Goals*

  • Cardio – moderate intensity, 30 minutes, 5 times/week OR vigorous intensity, 20 minutes, 3 times/week
  • Strength – 8-10 exercises, 10-15 repetitions, 2-3 times/week
  • Balance/Core – 3 or more times weekly
  • Stretching – 5-10 sets per day

*Note: these particular sample exercise goals are intended for adults over the age of 65. See a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

In summary, you can age gracefully. Achieve optimal health as you get older with 1) 3-4 oz. lean protein with each meal daily along with other nutrient-rich foods, and 2) exercise for cardio, strength, balance, and flexibility weekly. Become proactive and live a healthy, active lifestyle starting today.

Remember to sign up for my blog, so you don’t miss out of part 2 and 3 of Protein series. You can also follow my updates on Facebook.com/GeorgiaKostasNutrition and Twitter @GeorgiaKostas. For more nutrition and wellness tips, recipes, handouts, and to get a copy of my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009), visit my website www.georgiakostas.com.

Healthy Dish, Healthy Thanksgiving

Berries, spinach, nuts, oranges, red bell pepper are considered “super-foods” because they contain  exceptional amounts of nutrients that promote specific health benefits.  What if you could consume all these great foods in one simple dish? Try the recipe below – it is one of my favorites and perfect for Thanksgiving Day or any occasion. It is beautiful, delicious, easy to make, and wows your guests.

Specific health benefits?  Enjoy these huge health-boosters along with the great flavors! Berries provide anti-oxidants that block cholesterol -hardening plaque (atherosclerosis) in arteries and provide anti-inflammatory agents that prevent plaque from breaking off, forming blood clots. Further, berries contain components that block platelet stickiness (clots). Besides these heart and artery benefits, berries provide  lots of fiber, Vitamins A and C, and potassium, among other healthy nutrients. Cranberries help prevent urinary tract and bladder infections, as well.  All berries are all-star fruits. 

Spinach, like all green leafy vegetables, provide a wealth of health- Vitamins A, C, K, almost all B’s, magnesium,  potassium, zinc, calcium, manganese, copper, iron, fiber  – all of which conduct primary metabolic functions in the body crucial for heart, bone, muscle and overall health.  Greens help prevent cancer, heart disease, hypertension, cataracts, vision loss and cognition loss with age, and they block inflammation and unhealthy  free-radical created during metabolic processes.

Nuts lower LDL cholesterol, when consumed as part of a low saturated fat diet; and reduce diabetes risk, due in part to their high-magnesium content and fiber. Nuts contain a great mix of quality nutrients. 

Oranges and red bell pepper, both loaded with vitamins A and C, are key anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents for the body, fighting heart disease, cancer, and infection, and boosting immunity. So, enjoy this holiday favorite – and appreciate it being a recipe for health!

Spinach Cranberry Salad

8 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed and torn

One red bell pepper, diced

One fresh orange, segmented and sliced

1/3 cup green onion, minced

¼ cup walnuts or almonds or pistachios or your favorite nut

Dressing:

¼ cup whole-berry cranberry sauce (homemade or canned)

 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground pepper

1. Combine first 4 ingreidnets in salad bowl.

2. Combine and whisk dressing ingredients.  Add to salad and toss.

Serves 6.       

Nutrient analysis per serving:   125 Calories, 9 gm fat, 150 mg sodium, 4 gm fiber. Standouts: meets 51% of your day’s needs for Vitamins A & C; 40% of folic acid needs; 15-20% of iron, Vitamin E, magnesium needs; 15% of Potassium needs .

Source:  The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution by Georgia Kostas, available at Amazon or http://www.georgiakostas.com          

Heathy eating can transform your health, energy and weight. For more resources and nutrition and healthy eating tips, visit www.georgiakostas.com/Products.aspx . Follow me on Twitter / @georgiakostas, Facebook / Georgia Kostas Nutrition, and LinkedIn / Georgia Kostas.

Share the Importance of Food Day 2011

Food Day 2011 is less than a week away! On Monday, October 24, join the likes of Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher; Celebrity Chef, Author, and Registered Dietitian Ellie Krieger; and thousands of parents, teachers, students, health professionals, community organizers, local officials, school lunch providers, neighbors and friends across America—to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.  
 

The overall goal for Food Day is to transform the American diet. I personally see this as a wonderful opportunity and challenge for all of us across America to build our meals around REAL foods. We should enjoy the great flavors and reap the powerful nutrient-rich benefits of consuming vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meat, and low-or-no fat dairy foods each day. Adversely, overly processed foods are usually high in added solid fats, sugar, and salt are often high in calories, low in nutrients per calorie, and are  packaged in non-biodegradable  plastic , making them increase our waistline, heighten chronic disease risk , harm our health and  the environment.

Need help getting started to improve your eating? Download one of the delicious, healthful, easy-to-prepare recipes from some of the country’s most prominent chefs and cookbook writers in the Food Day cookbook.

You can also try a favorite recipe of mine from my book, The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step up to the Plate(2009). This recipe is full of delicious, fresh ingredients that you can find in season now at your local farmer’s market or in the produce section of your grocery store.

Ranch Pasta and Vegetable Salad

6 ounces corkscrew pasta, uncooked

¼ pound fresh snow peas, trimmed (about 1 ½ cups)

1 ½ cups fresh broccoli flowerets

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1 cup fresh cherry tomato halves

2 medium fresh yellow squash, trimmed and cut into 2” x ¼” strips

¾ cup nonfat buttermilk

½ cup 1% lowfat cottage cheese

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, chopped

¼ teaspoon salt

1 green onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (about 2 Tablespoons)

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain; rinse under cold water, and drain again.  Place in a large bowl.
  2. Blanch snow peas, broccoli and squash in boiling water 30 seconds; drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking process. Drain well; add to pasta.
  3. Process buttermilk and next 4 ingredients in an electric blender until smooth; add green Onion, jalapeno and cilantro; process until minced.  Pour over pasta mixture, and toss.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Yield: 8 cups (8 servings) 

Per Serving: 125 Calories, 1 g Fat, 3 g fiber, 7 g protein

For more resources and nutrition and healthy eating tips, visit www.georgiakostas.com/Products.aspx . Follow me on Twitter / @georgiakostas, Facebook / Georgia Kostas Nutrition, and LinkedIn / Georgia Kostas.

National Cholesterol Education Month is Now!

Do you have a happy heart? This is a perfect time to get your cholesterol checked; then be pro-active to achieve and maintain a low (healthy) cholesterol level (below 200) and low LDL cholesterol (below 130).  LDL is the cholesterol that sticks to arteries, hardens, and creates plaque.  It eventually builds up and narrows and stiffens arteries, blocking blood flow and causing clots.  The result?  Heart attacks and strokes.  You can lower LDL and total cholesterol the same way.  My top ten tips:

  1. Eat more fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.  Their natural anti-oxidants block LDL from oxidizing (hardening) in arteries, causing plaque.  They also prevent LDL-inflamed arteries, which spin off clots. Red foods in particular are natural clot-busters.  Eat red apples, berries, tea, red grapes, and red onions, tomatoes …particularly rich in the artery-protective polyphenols and flavanoids.
  2. Eat seafood 2-4 times a week…particularly omega-3 rich salmon, tuna, bass, sardine, swordfish, and cod.  And take a fish oil supplement with 1000 mg EPA/DHA omega-3’s from marine sources only.  Fish oils protect arteries from inflammation and clots, and keep the heart beat in rhythm.
  3. Eat lean protein – fish, poultry, lean beef and ham, nonfat dairy; 3-7 eggs a week.  Keep fish/poultry/lean meat at 6 -8 oz daily to not exceed safe amounts of hidden cholesterol and saturated fat.
  4. Keep fiber intake high as possible, particularly insoluble fiber sources – as in oatmeal, Kasha, beans, oat cereals (like Cheerios and oat squares), and psyllium.  You may also add one tsp of sugar-free Metamucil (psyllium) to a glass of water at 2-3 meals daily to lower cholesterol.  Three whole grain foods daily will also lower cholesterol.  Example: oatmeal, 100% whole grained bread, popcorn or corn.
  5. Use healthy oils – olive and canola, nuts, nut butters, avocado, olives – to lower LDL.
  6. Add special sterol-fortified foods (like Smart Balance Heart Right spread or milk). Two servings daily will lower cholesterol in 6-8 wks.  Many more are on at your grocery store. Ask a dietitian.
  7. Lose 5-10 lbs – cholesterol will drop 15-25 points.
  8. Do not smoke.
  9. Limit alcohol – 1 drink a day for women; 2 for men.
  10. Keep moving!  Aerobic activity 150 min a week and weight training (30 min twice a week) will do the trick!  You will lower cholesterol and build healthy HDL cholesterol, which transports LDL out of your arteries.  You will decrease your blood pressure, blood sugar and unwanted pounds.

Lowering cholesterol with food, exercise, weight, and lifestyle is the key.  Check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution:  Step up to the Plate (2009) for more ideas of menus, snacks, cereals, cheeses, beef cuts, vegetable ideas to make all this easier for you . Or call me for a phone consult at 214.587.4241.  I want to help you be healthy and have a happy heart!

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

Image: “Mixed Vegetables Healthy Lifestyle” by Grant Cochrane

Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

Back-to-school gets us back-to-basics…including wholesome meals in and out of school. With everyone busy and needing quick meals on-the-go, brown-bagging lunch is an easy way to ensure healthy, calorie-appropriate, portion-appropriate meals. Take this opportunity to add to your best health.  Try homemade.  As you plan your lunches, select foods from each category – wholegrains, dairy, fruit, vegetables, lean protein. Smart options are abundant.

Here are some easy, kid-approved lunch ideas to start the school year off right.

Sandwiches:

  • First, choose your “wrap”: 100% wholewheat bread , bagel, tortilla, pita pocket, hamburger bun, English muffin or corn tortilla                                                                                   
  • 100% wholewheat lighter versions – 100 calories for 2 slices of:
    • Lower-calorie bread (i.e. Sara Lee, Nature’s Own)         
    • Sandwich thins or bagel thins (i.e. Pepperidge Farms, Sara Lee)
    • English muffins or hamburger buns (i.e. Nature’s Own, Thomas)
    • NEW 50-calorie, higher-fiber tortillas
    • 100%  wholewheat crackers – i.e. Triscuits 
    •  2 thin pizza slices with crust facing outward – fill with chopped lettuce or ham slices
    •  Large lettuce leaves (may need a toothpick to keep filling inside)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ealthy,

Tasty fillings – add lean protein and vegetables:

  • Leftover chicken breast, turkey, ham, roast, steak, burger, meatloaf, meatballs, etc.
  • Lean deli meats (turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef)
  • 2% milk cheese slice
  • Peanut butter or almond butter with apple or banana slices (sprinkle with orange or lemon juice to prevent darkening)
  • Tuna-fish salad made with lower-fat mayonnaise, chopped onions, apple, celery, relish
  • Smoked salmon or boiled shrimp
  • Hummus (any flavor) – eat with roasted or fresh red bell pepper slices or baby carrots
  • Ground turkey patty or soy-burger;  soy pepperoni rounds or Canadian bacon slices
  • Tomato slices – remember tomato sandwiches? Update with feta spread and olive tapenade 
  • Grilled eggplant slices sprinkled with grated Parmesan; add grilled onions and roasted red bell pepper
  • Grilled Portobello mushroom slices and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Any combination of roasted vegetables – may add hummus or cheese
  • Tossed salad with cheese slice or hummus in a wrap or pita

Add Vegetables – for flavor and nutrients (inside sandwich or on the side):

  • Tomato and lettuce slices
  • Sliced cucumbers, radishes, mushrooms, onion, or bell peppers
  • Coleslaw or broccoli slaw or grated carrots (in pita pockets or wraps)
  • Pico de gallo, avocado slices, or leftover cooked broccoli slices
  • Baby spinach, watercress, sprouts
  • Cooked veggies such as roasted peppers or Portobello mushrooms

FruitDon’t forget Nature’s sweetest, nutrient-rich desserts:

  • Apple, pear, banana, berries, melon, cherries, peach, orange, raisins – choose fresh seasonal fruit first
  • Water or juice-packed individual fruit servings

Other cool foods your kids will enjoy:

  • Sliced apples and pears with almond butter or ricotta cheese
  • Individually-wrapped cheese portions – Laughing Cow rounds or wedges, Cabot cheese slices, string cheese – enjoy with fruit, cherry tomatoes, wholewheat crackers or bagel
  • Fresh veggies with Ranch dressing, hummus or bean dip – baby carrots, cucumber, broccoli, celery, yellow squash, grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, sugar-snap beans
  • Fresh fruit salad or store-bought sliced fruit-in-juice individual packs; serve with yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Pineapple  slices with ham,  smoked turkey or cottage cheese
  • Cold pasta salad; coleslaw; cherry tomatoes; cold bean salad (black bean/corn combo or lentil salad or 3-bean salad)
  • Tossed salad with hard-boiled egg and grated cheese or turkey slices; dressing in side container
  • Mix of Chex cereals and nuts

Try these ideas, and you’ll find yourself budgeting calories, time, and money. In addition, a “fix-your-own” lunch habit could help your kids shed 2-3 pounds a month!

For more resources and tips, visit http://www.georgiakostas.com. Follow me on Twitter @georgiakostas or like my professional Facebook page, Georgia Kostas Nutrition.  Check out my book, The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate, where you’ll find balanced no-fuss meals, quick recipes, snack ideas and more.

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tips for Eating the Mediterranean Way

For Good Health, Lowering Cholesterol, Preventing Heart Disease & Diabetes

May is National Mediterranean Diet Month, so what better time to start eating more healthy foods and beverages than now. Here is a list of some of my favorite foods that fit into the Mediterranean Diet. They are delicious, colorful and packed with nutrients that are scientifically proven to promote good health. I encourage you to give them a try today!

  • Seafood:  Eat seafood two to four times a week. Try salmon, shrimp, snapper, tilapia or tuna fish. Choose light white tuna chunks (note: albacore may contain mercury). The American Heart Association recommends 500-1000 mg omega 3’s daily, which equals 7 grams (7000 mg) weekly.
  • Berries:  Try fresh or frozen bags of mixed berries such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries. Top pancakes, oatmeal, toast, yogurt and light ice cream with berries. Make a smoothie by blending together yogurt, berries, half a banana and a little orange juice.
  • Red foods:  Enjoy red foods daily. Try tomatoes, marinara sauces, carrots, cantaloupe, oranges, red onion, red bell pepper, red cabbage, red beets, red apple with peel, red grapes, purple grapes, cherries, berries eggplant and sweet potatoes.
  • Greens:  Try spinach, asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce (with red veins) and broccoli.
  • Fruit & Vegetables:  Have two fruit and three vegetable servings (1/2 to 1 cup) each day. For picky eaters, get creative and find ways to sneak veggies into favorite foods.
  • Beans:  Enjoy a half cup of beans almost daily. Try different kinds of beans such as hummus, lentil soup, black bean soup, limas, black bean & corn salsa, butter beans and black eyed peas. Prepare navy beans cooked with carrots, onions and celery, or combine garbanzo beans with rice and serve on top of spinach. Dip baby carrots and red bell pepper strips in hummus as a snack.
  • Oatmeal and Whole Grains:  Oats lower cholesterol. Prepare a fiber-rich bowl of oatmeal by combining half a cup of dry oatmeal with one heaping tablespoon of Quaker Oat Bran. Add your favorite toppings such as raisins, berries, peanut butter, or chopped almonds or walnuts. Or eat three cups of Cheerios.
  • Enjoy three servings of whole grains a day. One serving equals half a cup of cooked oatmeal, brown rice,  corn, barley, a corn tortilla, two cups popcorn, six low-fat Triscuit crackers or one slice of 100% whole wheat bread such as Sara Lee, Nature’s Own or Orowheat. Choose items with the highest number of whole grains (Nature’s Own: 23 grams of whole grains per slice; Quaker oatmeal: 38 grams per bowl).
  • Lean Protein:  Choose lean beef and pork cuts, poultry without skin, seafood, nonfat milk and yogurt and 2% or low-fat cheese. Visit http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/ for recipes using lean beef.
  • Healthy Fats and Oils:  Use olive, canola, soy or sunflower oil and tub spreads such as Smart Balance HeartRight Buttery Spread (stanols added). Consume two tablespoons of healthy fats and oils daily. Eat 1.5 oz (3 tablespoons) of walnuts, almonds or pistachios daily…they lower blood fats.
  • Products that Help Lower Cholesterol:  Add one heaping teaspoon of sugar-free citrus-flavored Metamucil to a glass of water at three meals daily. Eat soluble fiber found in beans, bananas, apples, oranges, carrots, oats and eggplant. Include new foods with stanols or stenols. Consume 2 grams (2 servings) a day to lower blood fats. One cup of Smart Balance HeartRight Milk or Kroger Active Lifestyle Fat Free Milk counts as one serving, and are delicious!
  • Physical Activity:  Get up and move every hour of the day! Walk around, move your feet and arms as you sit, march in place, climb some stairs. Use bands or hand weights, toss a ball, play ping pong, throw a tennis ball, dance or do a quick set of jumping jacks. By remaining on the move, you get the benefits of improved circulation, energy and health; plus a smile on your face.

For more resources and tips, visit http://www.georgiakostas.com/. Follow me on Twitter @georgiakostas or like my professional Facebook page, Georgia Kostas Nutrition.

Celebrating National Nutrition Month (Part 1 of 3)

Getting to Know Your Plate

In honor of National Nutrition Month, let me fill you in on two simple tips to help boost the nutritional value of every meal you eat. Start by looking at your plate. What do you see?

Tip #1:  Is it bursting with color?  If it is, it’s bursting with nutrients! Does it boast color variety? If it does, it’s boasting nutrient variety! And the brighter the colors…you guessed it…the more nutrients present!

Tip #2:  Is it divided into four different foods of equal portion? By dividing your plate into four equal food portions, you get the proper amount, proper food balance and proper calories in return.

Now combine these two tips and you’re on your way to better health.

Remember this example:

Choose a fist-sized portion of a green vegetable, a fist-sized portion of a red/orange vegetable, a fist-sized portion of a healthy starch (potato, brown rice, pasta, or wholegrain), and a palm-sized portion of protein.  These portions represent about 1 cup of everything; and a 3-4 oz piece of protein. Now you have a perfectly balanced, healthy meal…rich in nutrients and fiber, and low in calories…all for under 600 calories!

Try these delicious meal ideas:

  • 3-4 oz chicken breast, 1 cup broccoli, 1 cup carrots, 1 cup brown rice
  • 3-4 oz lean beef tenderloin, 1 cup spinach, 1 cup yellow squash, one small sweet potato
  • 2 cups of salad consisting of dark lettuce greens, tomato, red bell pepper, red onion slices, mushrooms, celery, radishes, and cucumber slices and carrots, topped with 3 thin slices of fajita meat or a chicken breast and dressed with a touch of salsa or vinaigrette
  • 2 cups of mixed vegetables, such as broccoli,  snow peas, cabbage, carrots, onions and mushrooms, stir-fried with 3-4 oz of scallops, shrimp, lean meat or poultry, and served over 1 cup of brown rice

Need more ideas for building a healthy plate bursting with color and in appropriate proportions? See my book, The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution (2009). Quick meal Ideas in my book are just 400-500 calories!

Next time you sit down to eat, ask yourself: are there four colors or more? Are there four different foods of equal portion? If yes, enjoy! You are treating yourself to better health and easier weight control.  If no, simply add a splash of grape tomatoes, radishes, baby carrots, or a bright salad to your plate. Check out Part 2 of my National Nutrition Month blog series: Color Your Plate like an Artist’s Palette.

For more healthy plate ideas, or to order a copy of my book, visit www.georgiakostas.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @georgiakostas or like my Facebook Fan Page, Georgia Kostas Nutrition.

Putting the NEW 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans into Action

This morning, the eagerly-awaited 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released to help Americans eat better, become more active, enjoy better health and a healthier weight, and prevent the most common chronic diseases – heart disease, lung disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, cancer.  These health issues decrease quality of life, yet are 80% preventable with proper food, physical activity, weight, and lifestyle (not smoking and alcohol limits).

Here is my take on the 2010 Guidelines – what they say and how to live them:

  • Eat with the plate approach. Divide your plate into fourths. Make one half of your plate fruits and vegetables at lunch and dinner.  Choose lean protein (fish, poultry, lean beef/pork cuts, beans/peas) and starches/whole grains to make up the other two one-fourth portions. The divided plate creates food variety, nutrient-richness, balance and appropriate (moderate) portions.  No calorie or fat counting needed! The more color, the better.
  • Avoid over-sized portions. Remember just 3 “portion-right” visuals:  1) a baseball = 1 cup – Eat vegetable and fruit portions at least the size of a baseball ; eat starches (potatoes, pasta, rice, corn) no bigger than a baseball;  2) a deck of cards = 3 oz lean protein;  3) a golf ball = 2 tablespoons – the maximum amount of total fat (oil, spreads, dressings)  we    should add to our foods daily.  Choose healthy fats (liquid oils, soft tub spreads) rather than solid stick margarine, shortening, and foods with trans fats (French fries, doughnuts, many commercially prepared snacks, desserts, fast foods).
  • Increase no-fat or low-fat milk. We need the Calcium, Vitamin D and eight other key nutrients that are concentrated in dairy foods (milk, cheese, yogurt). Choose dairy 2-3 times daily.
  • Choose lean protein. Eat more seafood - at least twice weekly. Choose lean beef cuts, which concentrate large amounts of 8 key nutrients in just a 150-calorie, “right-size” 3 oz cooked portion (4 oz raw).  No need to overeat protein. Beans, peas, nuts are alternative plant proteins.
  • Good news! We do not need to eliminate any foods.  Enjoy eating! Go for balance and quality. Select lower-fat options; minimize sugar, salt, and processed foods which tend to have more calories, fewer nutrients. Choose “real food,” or wholesome foods with maximum nutrients and fiber, less salt, sugar, fat, and processing.
  • Exercise daily. Drink water instead of sugary beverages.  Eat breakfast. Watch snacks. Be mindful of calories in/calories expended, to keep weight healthy, and prevent weight gain. Seek the help of a registered dietitian to help you understand how to do this, for your body size.
  • Eat more nutrient-rich, fiber-containing whole grains. Choose 100% whole wheat bread and cereals, oatmeal, corn, popcorn, Kashi, reduced-sodium Triscuits.
  • Cut salt in half or more. Eat less salt and high-sodium foods. Read and compare food labels, choosing lower- sodium soups, snacks, crackers, etc. Target levels: 2300 mg for healthy adults and children; 1500 mg for those 51 years old and older, African Americans, and those with or at risk of hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease…more than half of Americans.   Why? Excess sodium hurts arteries, the heart, and blood pressure. Current intake daily for adults averages 3400 mg.  Stick with fresh or frozen produce , dry beans and peas, unsalted nuts, and more natural (less processed) plant foods…no sodium exists in these fresh foods.

Want to implement these guidelines today? My latest book, The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009) offers you quick and easy solutions…realistic meals, divided plate menus, quality snacks, brand-named products to spare you time from label-reading. Find “how to” tips on every topic mentioned in the new Guidelines. Enjoy reading food tips instead of food labels. Book available at http://www.georgiakostas.com/Products.aspx or Amazon.

Take even two of these steps this year, and you will find yourself healthier, at a better weight, enjoying fresh food more, and saving health dollars in 2011. That’s a lot of good news!