Category Archives: Dietary Guidelines

Celebrate National Nutrition Month

Summer HarvestMarch is National Nutrition Month. It’s a time to re-assess our eating habits and re-focus our attention on nutrition. Are you living a healthy, energetic and fulfilling lifestyle? Spring forward and start today!

This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle.” Here are some bite-size changes to get you started towards a healthier you.

Make Water Your Drink of Choice

What you drink is as important as what you eat. Many drinks have added sugars and little to no nutrients. Your body needs pure water to hydrate cells, so you feel healthy and energetic. Your brain alone uses two cups of water a day! Try aiming for 32 ounces of water daily, plus an additional 32 oz of water or other beverages. If you drink sugary juices or soda each day, start by replacing one of these with a glass of water and try this for a few weeks. Once you’ve made this switch, try swopping out another serving, replacing it with water. Add a slice of lemon, lime or orange to make it more flavorful. You’ll find kicking this habit is easier than you think.

Try New Foods

It’s an exciting time to explore healthy and delicious foods you might not already know. The Internet and social media have made so many great recipes available at our fingertips. Vow to try a new fruit, vegetable or whole grain each week. Pick out a different variety of apple, a different kind of leafy green, a new color of bell pepper and a new “ancient grain” (popular are amaranth, kamut and millet). And in the kitchen, you can even refresh your go-to dishes by using new cooking techniques. Try grilling instead of baking or sautéing instead of frying. Bring new life into mildly flavored foods with a pinch of different herbs and spices or the new “smoked” seasonings like smoked paprika and smoked pepper. 

Go Low on Sugar

The U.S. Nutrition Advisory Panel’s recently released recommendations for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines made one thing loud and clear – Americans need to reduce sugar intake. And that’s not just the extra spoonful of sugar you put in your coffee or cereal. It’s important to be aware of the amounts of “hidden” sugar you eat each day that are added to foods and drinks by manufacturers. The FDA and American Heart Association recommend cutting down sugar intake to less than 10 percent of your daily calories, meaning 150-200 sugar calories a day. A 12-oz soda has 150 calories of sugar alone. By limiting added sugars in drinks and sweets, avoiding excessive snacking of processed foods (typically high in added sugar) and reading food labels carefully, you can make better and more informed choices on your sugar consumption.1

Eat More Fiber

Research has found eating a fiber-rich diet can lead to reducing your risk of chronic health diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. Studies have also shown that consuming fiber-rich foods can boost weight loss by helping you feel fuller after you eat. The reality is most Americans aren’t consuming nearly enough fiber. In fact, nutrition guidelines recommend 25 to 38 grams per day, but the average American only consumes only about 10-14 grams. Simple ways to boost your fiber intake? Try eating more fruits and vegetables (including their fiber-rich skins and peels) and add more beans, peas and lentils to your diet. Get creative and add beans to salads, soups, rice, chili, tacos, side dishes, and snacks (think edamame pods and hummus). Be sure to compare nutrition labels to discover more fiber-rich food choices to up your fiber intake.2

Connect with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Registered dietitian nutritionists are experts in developing a personalized nutrition plan for you. RDNs help you translate nutritional science into ideas and tips you can use to keep you on track to a healthier life. By consulting with an RDN you can learn to “eat healthy”, dispel food and diet myths, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, feel better and reduce your lifetime risk of chronic disease that impacts your heart, cancer, muscle and bones. To find an RDN near year, go to www.scandpg.org or www.eatright.org , click on “find a dietitian”, and insert your zip code. Remember, all RDN’s are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are RDN’s. RDN’s have met all the national educational, traineeship, and continuing education requirements by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to safely practice nutritional guidance with expert advice you can trust.

1 Source: Health.gov, 2 Source: Annals.org

For more ideas on heart-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.

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

 

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Step Up the Flavor of Fall Foods

Fall Healthy Eating

This time of year, there is an abundance of fall foods to enjoy that are as healthy as they are delicious. They even fall into fall colors – reds, oranges, golds and deep greens. As temperatures drop and we start to crave heartier foods, remember that fall and winter foods can be both hearty and healthy. When looking to step up the taste and nutrition of your fall and winter meals, go for color. Brighten your plate with colorful food options as these are often the foods with the most nutrients and vitamins.

Here’s a look at a variety of colored foods to enjoy this time of year and their benefits.

Reds Foods

Smart Options: pomegranate seeds, cranberries, tomato sauces, beets, red beans and lentils

These foods contain heart-healthy flavonoids, which are anti-oxidants and reduce inflammation, fighting heart disease and keeping artery walls healthy. They also contain vitamins A and C, which boost the immune system and promote healing and are good for eyes, skin, and hair.

Orange and Golden Foods

Smart Options: oranges, butternut squash, acorn squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, golden raisins

These foods contain vitamin C needed for good eye health, wound healing, strong bones and a stronger immune system.

Greens

Smart Options: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, green bell peppers, coleslaw and cabbage

These foods are rich in minerals, phytonutrients, anti-oxidants and vitamins, including vitamins A, B’s and C. These are important nutrients for overall health and well-being as well as disease prevention.

Spices of the season

Smart Options: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, and cumin

These spices all have powerful anti-oxidant properties and fight inflammation in joints and arteries. Cinnamon also helps manage blood sugar levels. Add these enticing flavors to cooked apples, teas, beef sauces, poultry, salmon, sweet potatoes, and foods suggested below.

So get creative! Enjoy these foods and flavors in new inspiring ways. Some suggestions:

  • Pomegranate seeds sprinkled on salads and yogurt
  • Dried cranberries in oatmeal and salads
  • Roasted or pickled beets as snacks or in salads or as sides
  • Tomato sauces in stews or spaghetti or chili or soups
  • Red beans with rice or in chili, lentil soup or cold lentil salad
  • Butternut squash soup, mashed butternut squash or roasted butternut strips or rings
  • Baked, mashed or roasted sweet potatoes – a great option for both breakfast or a snack
  • Stuffed bell peppers or cabbage rolls
  • Coleslaw with diced apples, cranberries and walnuts
  • Cinnamon added to oatmeal, yogurt, stews, roasts, spaghetti sauce, butternut or acorn squash
  • Ginger added to stir-fries, broccoli, butternut squash, cranberry sauce, apples, salmon, chicken
  • Cumin added to stews, meat sauces, chili and beans

To inspire your fall and winter cooking, here are a few recipes to get you started.

Fall Recipes

Butternut Squash Soup by Georgia Kostas, MPH, RD, LD

Ingredients

Yields 6 servings

1 large butternut squash

½ large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, sliced

1 pear or apple, peeled and sliced (1 cup)

1-2 teaspoons olive oil

4 cups (2- 15oz cans) chicken broth

½ cup orange juice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ tsp cumin

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon all-spice

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground red pepper

2 Tablespoons sherry or white wine

½ bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Scrub butternut squash. With fork, poke several “vents” for steam to escape when cooking. Place in microwave, on paper towels. Cook on High for 10 minutes. Remove. Let sit 5 minutes, wrapped in a kitchen towel. Scoop out the flesh to add to the soup pot.
  2. While squash is cooking: sauté onion, garlic, carrots, pear in oil in a large soup pot for about 5 minutes, till softened.
  3. To soup pot, add broth and juice; heat to boil. Then add scooped butternut squash, wine, seasonings.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add cilantro. Blenderize to create a smooth creamy texture.

Stove-top Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Walnuts

Ingredients

1 lb Brussels sprouts, washed, outer leaves trimmed, cut in half

1 Tbsp olive oil

1-2 cups chicken broth

¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup walnuts, sliced

2 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add and stir Brussels sprouts in oil 5 min; add broth a little at a time, as needed, to prevent sticking; cook till sprouts are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Add remaining three ingredients, stir, and cook 5 minutes more.

For more ideas on how to feel satisfied and not overeat, as well as how to enjoya healthy diet and succeed with weight loss, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips 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.

On Campus Vegetarian: Going Vegetarian in College

Yogurt2

This is a guest blog post submitted by Michelle McAllister, sophomore at University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.

Are you a vegetarian? Do you have little access to a full kitchen? Are you a college student with little means to prepare a healthy vegetarian meal?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I can relate to you one hundred percent. Throughout various stages of my life, I have wavered back and forth between being a vegetarian and continuing to eat meat. After my freshman year of college, I finally decided make the change permanent. College cafeterias don’t exactly prepare meat in a healthy or appetizing way. There is also a lack of variety in vegetarian options that have enough protein to sustain a healthy and balanced diet.

This semester, I now prepare meals in my dorm, which has a kitchen area without a stove. I have all of the basic dorm-friendly appliance: a microwave, toaster over, and a refrigerator with a small frozen compartment. To ensure I am eating a well-balanced vegetarian diet, there are several staple items I recommend and have in my mini-fridge at all times. These items include:

  • Vegetables and fruits – Carrots, celery, bananas and pre-bagged apple slices so I am ready to add fruit and vegetables into my meals
  • Portable protein – Recently I have discovered that grocery stores have begun selling packaged hard-boiled eggs in packs of two and four. These have become something I like to have around because eggs cooked in any way are one of my favorite foods.
  • Go-to dairy – I am always sure to have plain, Greek non-fat yogurt on-hand along with protein shakes, soymilk, cheese slices, jelly and hummus in various flavors.

Greek yogurt is a great, versatile vegetarian option. It is high in protein and calcium, and I can mix it up in a number of ways. I enjoy mixing it with mashed avocado and using it as a dip for vegetables and crackers. For a sweeter taste, I mix Greek yogurt and honey which is great with a mashed-up granola bar in the morning for a quick breakfast before my first class.

Soy milk and raisin bran cereal are another one of my favorite breakfast options and I especially enjoy this with a cut up banana. On mornings when I am in a rush to walk all the way across campus, I grab a protein nutrition shake from my fridge and drink it on the way or when I get to class. I also like to keep an energy bar of some sort or a package of mixed nuts or trail mix in my backpack. This is really convenient as I snack during my day when I don’t have a chance to make it back to my dorm between classes.

For lunch, I usually have a peanut butter sandwich with jelly or sliced bananas.  I also use my toaster oven to make a ‘grilled cheese’ sandwich. I usually have carrots and a variation of Greek yogurt dip along with my sandwich. Hummus and pita bread are also one of my favorite lunch options and if I have planned ahead, I like to add pre-chopped peppers to this sandwich.

I often eat many of these same meals for dinner since I have never been one to be picky about what kinds of foods I eat at certain times of day. In my small freezer compartment I usually fit two frozen bean and cheese burritos and a package of black bean veggie burgers.  Cans of black, pinto and red beans are always kept in my cabinet along with packages of microwave brown rice which I mix together with salsa. Every evening I wind down with a cup of soymilk and a textbook in hand reading for the next day’s class.

I encourage you to try these options and adapt them to your own taste. Next time your cafeteria is serving mystery meat casserole and oil-covered vegetables, perhaps you will choose to just return to your dorm room to have a vegetarian meal that is fresh and made with all of the right ingredients that will keep you energized and healthy.

Dietitian’s Note: In effort to find ways to encourage you to eat right, your way every day, consider having healthy dorm foods on-hand to incorporate into your daily routine. Great options include apples, grapes, oranges, nuts, raisins, dried cranberries or cherries, grape tomatoes, sliced celery, broccoli , sugar-snap peas, edamames, pico de gallo, whole wheat or nut crackers, cans of tuna and bean soups, and individual cheese slices to grab and go!

For more ideas on 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 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.

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Think About What You Drink

Nearly one fifth of the calories Americans consume daily come from beverages, according to a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.1 In fact, sweetened beverage consumption has increased drastically over the past few decades. A recent report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed that half of Americans consume at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day. The study also found men consume an average of 178 calories per day from sugar sweetened beverages and women consume 103 calories per day.2

What many people fail to realize is being mindful of beverage calories is equally as important as minding our food calories. Why? They all count! What’s more, calories in liquid form don’t satisfy hunger as effectively as calories consumed in food form. Those consuming large amounts of beverages each day end of up consuming more total calories, which often leads to weight gain.

So what should we be drinking and what should we cut back on? As liquid calories add up, following are guidelines on how to select what you sip.

Drink up on…

Water. Drinking water is vital to your health. Not only does it transport nutrients and oxygen into your body’s cells but it also keeps your body, skin, and brain hydrated. Plus water quenches thirst and  has zero calories.

Skim or low-fat milk. There are many nutrients in milk. Benefits include calcium for healthy bones, phosphorous, magnesium, protein, vitamin B12, vitamin A, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin C and most widely-known, vitamin D. This nutrient-packed beverage provides a lot of nutrients per sip.

Soy beverages. Soy milk, which is made by grinding soaked soy beans in cold water, is a common alternative to cow’s milk and has great health benefits, too. It contains natural compounds known as “isoflavones” that help reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood. It is also increases calcium retention in the body, which contributes to bone health.

Drink in moderation…

Alcoholic beverages (adults only). Limit yourself to no more than one drink per day for women, two for men. And remember, a drink is one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce drink of distilled spirits, each contributing 100-150 calories. Be aware: alcoholic drinks are high-calorie drinks that add up fast.

Fruit juice. Fruit juice doesn’t offer any greater benefit than what you can get from eating a whole fruit. In fact, often the juice has a lot more calories and sugar added; and no fiber. If getting enough fruit in your diet is an issue, think about adding a 4-ounce glass of juice per day – just be sure it’s one that is low in added sugar.

Avoid if you can or consider making drastic cutbacks on…

Soft drinks. Besides packing on the pounds, soda can have a serious impact on your overall health, if consumed in excess of 12 oz a day. Limiting consumption is important. A recent study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Nutrition found an increased risk of stroke in people who consumed more than one soda per day.3 

Sugar-sweetened tea and coffee drinks. Yes, they might be delicious but don’t let your special coffee or tea order fool you. These drinks are often made with two percent or whole milk and can contain up to 800 calories and a third of the daily recommended maximum intake for saturated fat. To keep these choices in check, try limiting your coffee and tea choices to under 150 calories a day. For Starbucks fans, here’s a helpful list of smarter and healthier options for getting your caffeine fix.

Sweetened sports drinks. Unless you exercise for over an hour, you do not need the extra sugar calories nor electrolytes from these drinks. Why drink the calories you just burned?

–Energy Drinks. Promises of energy in these sugary, caffeinated drinks rarely justify the caloric overload you’ll consume.

Vitamin enhanced water. It’s just water, right? Wrong. It may include a few extra vitamins but more often the reality is that it’s chock-full of sugar. Be sure to check the label. When there’s more to the ingredients than water and natural flavors, reach for something else.

The bottom line – re- think your drink and enjoy the beverages that offer you the most for each sip!

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://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.

Sources:

1       “You are What You Drink.” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. March 2011. http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/beverage

2       National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes.htm

3       “Soda Consumption and the Risk of Stroke in Men and Women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. May 2012. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2012/04/03/ajcn.111.030205

Step Up To Plate!

I love the new MyPlate graphic just released by the USDA! Having used a plate graphic for more than 30 years, I’ve helped people eat better and lose weight with the plate! In counseling consumers on how to live healthier lifestyles and prevent the leading causes of chronic health problems, I am a big believer that “a picture says a thousand words”!  People respond to the simplicity of the plate! 

The plate and cup convey food variety (5 food groups) to maximize nutrient quality at each meal; balance (proportionate mix of protein, carbohydrates, and hidden fats); and moderation (right-sized portions). All key principles of optimal nutrition conveyed in one concept:  just look at your plate!

For those who want to manage their weight without counting calories, MyPlate makes it easy! Here are two additional tips:

  • a plate with 3 oz of protein and ½ cup each of a starchy food, vegetable and fruit, plus 1 cup nonfat milk –contains just 400-450 calories!  Season with 3 tsp of healthy oils. All of this food for just 500-550 calories. Perfect for weight loss!
  • a plate with 3 oz of protein and 1 cup each of a starchy food, vegetable and fruit, plus 1 cup nonfat milk –contains just 600-650 calories!  Season with 3 tsp of healthy oils. A delicious and satisfying meal for just 700-750 calories. This is ideal for man wanting to shed pounds, or for women seeking to maintain weight!

Try it out!  Start with dinner this week.  Plan meals that fit this visual concept.  At the end of one week, count how many leaner, nutrient-rich, basic foods you have consumed! No doubt, you will have improved your diet tremendously, and may even lose weight!

For more than 90 meal ideas that fit the plate, please see my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution (2009)!  And, check out the cover of the book!

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!