Smart Summer Snacking

Kind Bars

Photo courtesy of KIND bars

Summer can be one of the easiest times to eat healthfully with so many seasonal and fresh options; however, it’s also a time when we’re on-the-go. Don’t let your summer schedule disrupt healthy habits. Stay healthy and happy all summer with this list of tasty and refreshingly nutritious snacks perfect for your next road trip, picnic, beach day or other summer adventure.

  • Fruit skewers or melon balls – place a few chunks of melon or pineapple on a barbecue skewer and add your favorite berries; then grill. Or enjoy fresh.
  • Homemade hummus – puree garbanzo beans with garlic powder, lemon juice, Greek yogurt and tahini (optional) for a delicious dip for fresh vegetables or whole-wheat crackers.
  • KIND Bars – packed with wholesome all-natural ingredients, including whole nuts and real fruit and GMO-free, there are a wide variety of KIND Bars all offering a healthy way to satisfy sweet and/or salty cravings
  • Frozen pineapple or grapes – put a bag of red grapes in the freezer for a healthy treat to grab on hot summer days. Frozen banana slices are yummy, too.
  • Cherries – enjoy this summer-friendly fruit packed full of vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber.
  • Chilled gazpacho or cucumber soup – beat the heat and cool down with a chilled summer soup of fresh tomatoes or cucumbers.
  • Cooked apples or peaches with cinnamon – forgo the pie and sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on baked or simmered sliced apples or peaches for a sweet, decadent treat without the guilt.
  • Homemade fruit juice popsicles – make with 100% fruit juice.
  • Fresh watermelon– what is summer without refreshing watermelon? And it’s full of Vitamins A and C, potassium, and lycopene.

National Nutrition Month – Slow Down and Be Mindful

Nutrition Month

Photo courtesy of http://www.notyourstandard.com

It’s National Nutrition Month and March 9 is National Dietitians’ Day!

This year’s theme from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is simple: ‘Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.’ In order words, each time you eat, truly focus on enjoying each bite. Appreciate the flavors, colors, aromas, textures and social experiences associated with eating your favorite foods. Too often we eat rushed, while doing tasks, and miss out on the enjoyment that food is meant to have. This can lead to over-eating. Sit down. Slow down. Enjoy. You will eat better and enjoy it more.

This month, create healthful meals with your favorite foods, to achieve your health and wellness goals. Inspired by the latest changes to the federal Dietary Guidelines released a month ago, here are some steps to take:

Cut added sugar

If you are like most people, you are probably eating and drinking more sugar than you are aware of. Added sugar is found in surprising places like salad dressings and sauces. Your goal? No more than 150 calories for women and 200 calories for men of added sugars. Read food labels and know what you are eating. “Added sugars” are listed in grams. For women, aim for 35 grams of sugar at most daily. Men, aim for no more than 50 grams of sugar.

  • What you can do: Reach for protein-rich nuts or seeds, fresh fruit or veggies, like baby carrots, cucumber or red bell peppers with hummus, or edamames. Try fresh sliced fruit served with Greek yogurt or Siggi’s thick Icelandic yogurt (both have less or no sugar). Make your own trail mix with wholegrain cereals, raisins and nuts. Enjoy crunchy whole wheat crackers with a soft cheese slice and zippy tomato juice.

Limit saturated fats

Eating too much saturated fat can increase risk of chronic illness such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Did you know the majority of saturated fat we eat is NOT in red meat and cheese, but rather in commercially prepared snack foods with “partially hydrogenated oils” such as in biscuits, cinnamon rolls, cookies, popcorn, cupcakes, cakes, frosting, French fries and many commercial snacks?

  • What you can do: Make any of the above foods at home with healthy oils and ingredients. Or choose fruit, beans, veggies, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, homemade snacks to avoid hydrogenated (factory-made) oils. Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy foods, lean beef trimmed of fat, skinned poultry and seafood that is not fried. Avoid frying anything. Keep meat to 5-6 oz daily. Use oil in cooking rather than butter. And check food labels. You want no more than 13-16 grams of saturated fat a day.

Reduce sodium

The new federal dietary guidelines call for cutting back sodium to 2,300 milligrams or less each day for those ages 14-50 and 1,500 milligrams daily for those older than 50 or African-American. Begin by cutting 1000 mg sodium daily….substitute ingredients and put the salt shaker away.

  • What you can do: It’s more than just stopping table salt or cooking salt. The bigger culprit is sodium packed in processed foods, such as condiments, pizza, sauces, soups, packaged snack foods, cold cuts, sausage, hot dogs and meals out. Read nutrition labels! Look for no more than 800 mg sodium in a frozen dinner, soup meal or entire dinner. Buy lower-sodium canned beans, soups and tomato or spaghetti sauces. Go fresh as often as possible. Nature does not put salt in fruit, fresh vegetables, potatoes, corn, dried beans and peas, etc. Be aware of the sodium in your bread. Often, a slice of bread contains 150-200 mg sodium, which is almost 10 percent of your day’s total.

Slow down and enjoy

Take time to enjoy mealtime. Food is more than nourishment and fuel for your body. Meals nourish our entire being, providing pleasure, relaxation and socialization. Sit down for meals. Be mindful of what you are eating. Stop. Take time between bites. Take smaller bites. Put away that cell phone. Don’t multitask while eating. Take a break from what you are doing to savor everything about the meal – the place, people, type food, time of day, etc. Savor each bite. Starting today, make the most out of every eating experience, and Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.

For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable 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.

 

The inclusion of links to other websites does not imply any endorsement of the material on the websites or any association with their operators.

Deck the Halls with a Healthy Holiday Season

Dec Post 2

The holiday season is in full swing and finalizing your holiday party plans is likely underway. As you finalize menus and make the holiday party rounds, vow to make this year’s celebration a festive and healthier one. Here are some tips to do so.

Make Smart Substitutions

Some people may be hesitant to modify traditional or family recipes because they’ve come to know, love and trust these recipes through the years. The good news is minor tweaks to recipes can make them so much healthier without sacrificing taste.

For cooking, try swapping in an easy and healthier ingredient like yogurt. Yogurt works as a perfect and nutritious substitute for rich and high-calorie ingredients like butter, cream cheese or mayonnaise. Check out smart options like Siggi’s Icelandic-style yogurt. Siggi’s also has a host of festive and healthy recipes and a helpful guide on ingredient swaps listed here.

For baking, try substituting whole-wheat flour for all-purpose flour in baked goods. This will add a fiber boost and give baked goods a denser taste to fill you up faster and longer. Instead of covering baked goods with icing, consider just drizzling on top or using a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg instead for a sweet boost.

Keep Choices in Check

Before diving in, take a look at the party buffet and plan selections ahead of time. Assessing options and coming up with a strategy before will make you less likely to overeat. Go big on lean protein like meat and seafood skewers or prosciutto-wrapped dates. This protein will keep you fuller longer. Balance your meal with larger portions of veggies and fruits and save less room on your plate for high-carb options like mashed potatoes or stuffing and sugary desserts. Portions are key!

Plan Indulgences Consciously

You don’t need to deprive yourself over the holidays and forgo all holiday treats. A little planning goes a long way. Decide on what to indulge in and what to skip. A good rule of thumb is to sample treats that are homemade with real and natural ingredients instead of the processed packaged party sweets. Better-for-you options include dark chocolate covered berries and fruits, gingerbread cookies, hard candies like peppermints, puddings and candy cane and chocolate kisses.

Add to your Christmas, Hanukah and New Year’s celebrations the gift of a few smart decisions and pre-planning. This will keep you healthy and happy this holiday season. Now that is something to celebrate!

Tricky Treats: Don’t Be Tricked by Your Halloween Sweets

Halloween Candy

Mounds of Halloween sweets and delighted trick-or-treaters will fill homes this weekend. Thankfully, there are ways to get festive and in the Halloween spirit and satisfy your sweet tooth without the excessive calories and sugar overload.

Below I’ve rounded up a list of my top picks for Halloween treats and highlighted those that should be consumed in moderation – or better yet, not at all.

Top Picks

  • Lollipops: These can be a really satisfying treat as they take a long time to eat and contain no fat. Blowpops have just 70 calories.
  • Mini Candy Bars and Fun-Size Portion Packs: Smaller candy bars are lower in calories and fat than their larger counterparts (at 60 to 110 calories each). Also, fun-size pouches help you watch portion size. For example, the Fun-Size Peanut M&M packs contain 90 calories, 5 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar. Plus, you get a bit of protein from the peanuts, too, which keeps you feeling fuller longer and makes you less inclined to reach for more.
  • Jolly Ranchers: Enjoy three Jolly Ranchers for just under 100 calories with no fat.
  • Dark Chocolate: Look for 70% cocoa when choosing your chocolate to take advantage of chocolate’s disease-fighting antioxidant. Another great option to satisfy a chocolate craving is a York Peppermint Patty (with just 60 calories and 3 grams of fat), which is lower in calories and fat than most chocolate bars. Full-size chocolate candy bars average 200-300 calories and 10-15 grams of fat.
  • Fruity Candies: At just 20 calories per piece, Starbursts make a low calorie sweet option. Jelly beans, too, are low in calorise at just 3 calories each. Twizzlers have just 30 calories per twist. Be careful, though, as a big handful and larger portions make calories in these treats add up pretty quickly.

Top Skips

  • Butterfingers: In just one bar, you’ll eat 280 calories, 10 grams of fat and 5 grams of saturated fat.
  • Mounds Chocolate Bars: Half of the fat in these chocolate bars come from fat (22 gm fat)  with 6 grams of saturated fat and 195 calories.
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: Though often a Halloween favorite, these each have 105 calories each with 50 of those calories from fat. That’s 210 calories per package of 2 pieces (45 grams in weight size) and 14.5 grams of fat.
  • Kit Kats: High in calories and fat, each regular-size bar has 7 grams of saturated fat and 22 grams of sugar. One package contains 220 calories and nearly 13 grams of fat.

Bottom line:  balance out sugary candy with real foods and real meals consumed first– and you can “trick” and treat yourself to better health, even at Halloween.

Benchmarks? Aim for no more than 150-300 calories of Halloween sweets per day and keep saturated fat at 10-15 grams for a daily maximum. For sugar, look to consume no more than 25-50 grams daily and total fat at 50-70 gm daily.  Be mindful on how each of your Halloween treats stack up.

For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition 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 Lunches for School or Work

Lunch

Photo courtesy of AboutLunch.com

Back-to-school season provides a perfect opportunity to make wholesome meals part of your daily homework. It is easy to make healthy, enticing, portion-controlled brown-bagged lunches that your kids – and whole family – will love.

I recommend this 2-step action plan:

  • Select foods from each food category, including wholegrains, dairy, fruit, vegetables and lean protein
  • Prepare lunches from the night before to be ready-to grab-and-go in the morning

Sandwiches – Choose your “wrap” first. Great options include:

  • 100% wholewheat bread or sandwich thins, bagel thins, hamburger bun, pita pocket, 90-calorie flatbread, wholegrain sprouted bread (such as refrigerated Ezekiel bread) or wheat or corn tortillas
  • 100% wholewheat crackers (i.e. Triscuits)
  • 2 small thin-crust pizza slices (press top-sides together, crust facing outward)
  • Large lettuce leaves

Healthy, tasty fillings – Fill your wrap with:

Lean protein, such as:

  • Leftover chicken, turkey, ham, roast, steak, burger, meatloaf or meatballs from last night’s dinner or store-bought rotisserie chicken or turkey
  • Nitrite-free lean deli meats, including turkey, chicken, ham and roast beef
  • 2% milk cheese slice, using just one slice per sandwich
  • Peanut butter or almond butter (add apple or banana slices sprinkled with orange or lemon juice to prevent darkening)
  • Tuna-fish salad made with lower-fat mayonnaise, chopped onions, apple, celery and relish
  • Smoked salmon or boiled shrimp
  • Hummus (any flavor) ; enjoy with roasted or fresh red bell pepper slices, baby carrots, cucumber slices
  • Ground turkey patty or soy-burger, bean or veggie burger (buy frozen)
  • Soy pepperoni rounds or Canadian bacon

Then add vegetables you love:

  • Tomato slices and olive tapenade topped with a little Feta cheese
  • Grilled eggplant slices sprinkled with grated Parmesan; and/or grilled onions and roasted red bell pepper
  • Grilled Portobello mushroom slices with sun-dried tomatoes
  • Roasted vegetables (add a dollop of hummus for flavor and “holding” veggies together)
  • Tossed salad leftovers without dressing (add a cheese slice or hummus in a wrap or pocket)
  • Cucumber slices in turkey or chicken sandwiches
  • Cooked leftover spinach and/or mushrooms in beef sandwiches
  • Fresh onion slices
  • Coleslaw or broccoli slaw or grated carrots
  • lettuce or kale

Add these on the side (we cannot eat enough veggies!):

  • Sliced cucumbers, radishes, green onions, or colorful bell peppers
  • Pico de gallo or avocado slices
  • Bean salad (3-bean, lentil, or black-eyed pea)

Or skip the “wrap”, and simply pack cool foods to enjoy. Healthy ideas include:

  • Sliced apples and pears with almond butter or ricotta cheese – bring along a baggie filled with two tablespoons of almond butter or ¼ cup ricotta cheese; add a handful of almonds or walnuts
  • Individually-wrapped cheese portions such as Laughing Cow rounds or wedges, Cabot cheese slices or string cheese to enjoy with fruit, cherry tomatoes, and wholewheat crackers
  • Fresh veggies, like baby carrots, cucumber, broccoli, celery, yellow squash, grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, sugar-snap beans, with hummus or bean dip or cottage cheese for dipping
  • Fresh sliced fruit served with yogurt or cottage cheese; and wholewheat crackers
  • Pineapple slices with ham or smoked turkey or cottage cheese
  • Cold pasta salad, coleslaw, cherry tomatoes and cold bean salad (black bean/corn combo, lentil salad, etc)
  • Tossed salad with hard-boiled egg, grated cheese, and turkey slices; dressing on the side in a small container
  • Your own mix of chex cereals, raisins and nuts, served with yogurt or a cheese slice and tomato juice
  • Kashi Go Lean Crunch, yogurt, berries in baggies to combine as a parfait

Fresh Fruit – Bring along Nature’s sweetest dessert:

  • Fresh seasonal fruit such as an apple, pear, banana, berries, melon, cherries, Cuties, orange, grapes
  • Pre-packaged sliced fruit (such as apple slices or pineapple chunks or fruit salad)
  • Grape tomatoes

Try these ideas! You’ll save calories, time and money; enjoy fresh flavors; and your new “homemade lunch” habit may help you shed 2 pounds a month! Why not start today?

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For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). You will find ideas for vegetables, leaner desserts, bars, cereals, cheeses, soups and more. My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition 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.   

Cool Treats to Beat the Heat

Smoothie

Ice-cold treats are as much a part of summer as beach days and barbecues, but some of these frozen sweets can pack on extra pounds. The good news is cool treats on a hot summer day don’t have to be unhealthy. Luckily, there is a wide range of lower fat calorie options that can satisfy your craving for a cool treat when temperatures rise.

Here are my recommendations for some homemade cool sweets and some smarter and healthier store-bought options to choose from.

Homemade Treats

Smoothie – Blend half a cup of frozen or fresh berries or fruit of choice with a half a banana, six ice cubes, and a half a cup of orange juice (or ¼ cup juice and ¼ cup of Greek yogurt).

You can even add a few spinach or kale leaves for added nutrition!

— 150 calories, no fat

Popsicles – Freeze ¼ cup of 100% juice in individual ice cube or popsicle containers

— 25 calories, no fat

Frozen Fruit – Freeze grapes or peeled banana slices on a cookie sheet; then store in freezer safe containers for sweet cold treats.

—50 calories, no fat per ½ cup

From the Store

  • Dreyers’/Edy’s Slow Churned Light/ Breyer’s Double Churn Light (100 calories; 0-3 g fat)
  • Blue Bunny frozen yogurt or fat-free, no-sugar-added ice cream (100 calories; 0-3 g fat)
  • TCBY Nonfat frozen yogurt (100 calories; 0-3 g fat)
  • Sorbet, sherbet, fruit Ice, Italian ice, water-based gelato (about 100 calories; 0-2 g fat)
  • Skinny Cow bars -Fudge , Truffle, Dipper, Fudgesicle, Popsicle, Juice (about 100 calories; 0-2 g fat)
  • Sugar-free Fudgesicle or Popsicle (15-40 calories; 0 g fat)

For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas , www.georgiakostas.com; and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition.

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

 

Make This Your Mediterranean Diet Summer

Mediterranean Diet Foods

Enjoying summer’s fresh, colorful bounty of delicious foods with amazing health benefits is what living the Mediterranean lifestyle means. And this is the perfect time of year to experiment with Mediterranean foods and flavors with your own local foods.

Key components of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts – plant foods should cover 3/4ths of your plate
  • Use herbs and spices, fresh lemon juice, garlic and onion instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Choosing lean protein-rich foods (fish, poultry, lean red meat cuts) and limiting to 3 oz portions and choosing non-fat and low-fat dairy foods
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as liquid oils (olive, canola, sunflower, etc) and nuts, seeds, olives, avocado

Whether you are cooking up fresh summer squash, corn or asparagus or lightening up your next barbecue with olive oil, fresh herbs and lemon juice, the Mediterranean diet principles can be applied to any recipe or cuisine and the benefits go a long way. In fact, research has shown the Mediterranean diet drastically decreases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, obesity and cognition loss. Studies show deaths from these diseases can be reduced by 30 percent by following a healthy Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.1

The health and longevity benefits of the Mediterranean diet, however, are not just a result of food choices but also from overall lifestyle. The Mediterranean lifestyle encourages you to eat socially in relaxed settings and seek out fresh and locally-grown foods. There is also a big focus on adding fresh herbs, fresh vegetables, and leafy greens to your cooking to intensify flavors and provide satiety. And where sun and sea come together, quality is key – rather than quantity – with an emphasis on exercise and social connections.

This summer, make an effort to not only eat a Mediterranean diet but try to complement your eating plan and live the Mediterranean way! Start with these tips below.

  • Vow to put a focus on physical activity, enjoying relaxed meals and taking a less hurried approach to your day. Turn off the TV, phones and tablets and enjoy a meal with loved ones – engaging, laughing and talking.
  • Get up and out the door. Take a walk in the sunshine, even for 25 minutes.
  • Socialize and eat with your friends. Add a big salad with tomatoes at lunch or dinner. Add vinaigrette or oil and vinegar to your salad and eat cooked vegetables. Enjoy a 3-ounce portion of fish, poultry or lean lamb or beef at mealtime or beans as a protein entree. Try adding more whole grains to your day like whole wheat bread or brown rice or oatmeal. Top salads with nuts and/or beans.
  • Snack smart and reach for an apple or nuts. And don’t forget a little cheese and nonfat Greek yogurt, topped with fresh berries and/or nuts, make a delicious snack option, too. On of my favorites is fresh veggies dipped in hummus/Greek yogurt blended as a dip.

This is how you protect your health, your life and your zest for living.

Source: 1 New England Journal of Medicine

For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition 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.