Tag Archives: nutrition

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.

Foods that Can Help Lower Breast Cancer Risk 

Healthy Vegetables Fight Cancer

Many people are unaware of the important role nutrition plays in fighting off breast cancer and all chronic diseases. A growing body of research highlights diet’s role in not only lowering the risk of developing breast cancer, but warding off re-occurrence, too.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’m sharing my top picks for cancer-fighting foods. Take a look at the following list and aim to regularly consume a wide variety of these nutrient-dense foods.

Whole Grains – Whole grains are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and natural plant compounds that help fight cancer.1 Have three a day. Good sources of whole grains include:

  • Brown and wild rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole-wheat pasta and bread
  • Whole- wheat cereal flakes
  • Corn
  • Whole grain snacks including whole grain crackers, tortillas and bagels and popcorn. Yes, popcorn!

Fiber – Research has found that fiber helps reduce the risk of breast cancer by lowering the amount of estrogen in the body. In fact, a study reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that those who consumed the most fiber had an 11 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who ate the least. Aim to consume 30 grams of fiber a day. Good sources for fiber include:

  • Vegetables like romaine lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower,  broccoli and sweet potatoes
  • Pinto beans, black beans, lentils and kidney beans
  • Brown rice, oatmeal, kashi cereals, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat bread and tortillas

Vitamin D – Studies have revealed a strong link between vitamin D and breast cancer.3 Women with breast cancer often have low levels of vitamin D and those with higher vitamin D levels have been found less likely to develop breast cancer. Good sources of vitamin D include:

  • Fatty fish including salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and canned tuna
  • Vitamin D-fortified milk, orange juice and cereals
  • Egg yolk
  • Fish oils
  • Omega-3 supplements fortified with extra vitamin D

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Research suggests omega-3s reduce inflammation which can encourage breast cancer cells to grow.4 Good sources include:

  • Chia seeds and ground flaxseed
  • Walnuts and walnut oil
  • Canola oil and soy oil
  • Edamames

Folate – Those with higher folate (a vitamin B) levels have been found to have more than a 40 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest folate levels.5  To reach a healthy level of folate, try to consume 400 micrograms of folate each day. Good sources include:

  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans, black beans
  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale and arugula
  • Fortified cereals , breads, rice, pasta

Don’t forget that it is your total lifestyle that counts the most – your entire eating pattern of lean meats, healthy oils, whole-grains, colorful beans, fruit, and  vegetables, and low-fat dairy – combined with a healthy weight and regular exercise ( 150 minutes a week), a healthy attitude about life, and relaxation or happy events you plan daily. A  handful of healthy food choices help but nothing compares to a healthy re-vamped TOTAL style of eating and living everyday!  What is good for your whole body helps prevent cancer and energizes your life.


  1. Health Benefits with Whole Grains. Journal of Nutrition, May 2011;141(5):1011S-22S. Epub March 30, 2011
  2. Dietary fiber intake and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011. bit.ly/qKtsU2
  3. Intake of fish and marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of breast cancer. BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f3706. 27 June 2013.
  4. Folate, vitamin B12 and postmenopausal breast cancer in a prospective study of French women. Cancer Causes Control. Nov 2006; 17(9): 1209–1213.


RECIPE: Grilled Salmon & Vegetable Packets

Recipe & Tips reprinted from Tufts Health & Nutrition Newsletter Jan 27, 2014


Cooking fish and vegetables together in a foil packet on the grill is an excellent technique for healthy outdoor cooking. Because the food is cooked by the steam, which develops in the packet, you don’t have to be concerned about potentially harmful carcinogens and Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs; see March, 2010 issue of the Tufts Health & Nutrition Newsletter) that form when food is charred on a grill. What’s more, this cooking method delivers lots of flavor with a minimum of fat, and cleanup is a breeze. It is also a great way to incorporate colorful vegetables into your entrée. In this recipe, a savory Asian glaze enhances richly-flavored salmon. Round out this simple meal with brown rice or quinoa.


  • 3 cups sliced (1/2 inch-wide ribbons) napa cabbage
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 3 tsp minced fresh ginger (divided)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (divided)
  • 2 1/2 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinager
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 8 ounces salmon fillets or archic char, skin removed (see Tip), cut into 2 portions
  • 1 tbsp chopped scallion whites


  • Preheat grill to medium-high. Cut two 12 x 16-inch sheets of aluminum foil. Fold each one in half to form a 12 x 8-inch rectangle.
  • Combine napa, bell pepper, 1 tsp ginger, ½ tsp garlic, 1 tsp soy sauce, and sesame oil in large bowl; toss to coat.
  • Mix hoisin sauce, vinegar, crushed red pepper, remaining 2 tsp ginger, remaining ½ tsp garlic, and remaining 1 ½ tsp soy sauce in small bowl.
  • Open a foil rectangle. Spray half of the rectangle with cooking spray. Place half of the vegetable mixture on sprayed side of rectangle. Top with a piece of fish. Spread half of the hoisin sauce mixture over fish. Sprinkle with half of the scallions. Fold the other half of the foil rectangle over to enclose contents. Seal packet. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 1 more packet.
  • If using a gas grill, turn off one of the burners. If using a charcoal grill, push hot coals to one side of the grill. Place packets on unheated portion of grill. Cover grill and cook packets over indirect heat for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness of fish, or until packets are puffed and fish just begins to flake. (When you open a packet to check for doneness, be careful of steam.) To serve, use a wide spatula to transfer contents of each packet to a plate. Spoon vegetables around fish and pour any accumulated juices over fish.

Yield: 2 servings.

  • Per serving (with wild Coho salmon): Calories: 262. Total fat: 10 grams. Saturated fat: 2 grams. Cholesterol: 57 milligrams. Sodium: 449 milligrams. Carbohydrates: 12 grams: Fiber: 3 grams. Protein: 30 grams.
  • Per serving (with Atlantic farmed salmon): Calories: 284. Total fat: 15 grams. Saturated fat: 3 grams. Cholesterol: 63 milligrams. Sodium: 457 milligrams. Carbohydrates: 12 grams: Fiber: 3 grams. Protein: 25 grams.
  • Tip: You can ask the fish counter to remove the fish skin for you. But it is easy to trim the skin yourself. Place salmon fillet, skin-side down, on cutting board. Use paper towel to grasp the edge of salmon skin with your free hand. Holding a chef’s knife at a 45º angle towards skin, ease knife forward to separate skin from flesh. 
  • Tip: If the weather is not suited to outdoor cooking, you can cook the packets (use foil or parchment paper) in a 400ºF-oven for 15 to 17 minutes.
  • Shopping for Salmon: Seafood Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium lists wild-caught Alaskan salmon as a “Best Choice” because of the clean waters in its habitat and carefully managed fishery practices. Most farmed Atlantic salmon, on the other-hand, falls into the “Avoid” category because of high levels of PCBs, and the farms’ harmful effect on the environment and wild salmon population. If using farmed salmon, be sure to trim skin and fatty portions because that is where the contaminants collect. For more information on sustainable seafood, check out web sites, such as (montereybayaquarium.org) and www.nrdc.org(Natural Resource Defense Council


6 Tips for Enjoying a Healthy Holiday Happy Hour


As holiday gatherings ensue, many of us begin celebrating with festive, seasonally inspired drinks. Many of these beverages, however, are loaded with sugar and high in fat and don’t do your waistline any favors.

While most of the focus this season is how to keep from overeating, those Christmas sips sure add up, too. This holiday season, give your holiday cocktail hour a healthy makeover by following these simple tips.

The skinny on the nog – Eggnog is certainly a holiday favorite but chock-full of calories and fat. Eggs, whole milk or heavy cream, sugar, brandy and rum are the main ingredients, which gives one six ounce cup of eggnog nearly 300-400 calories and over 15-20 grams in fat. Limit this caloric holiday treat or trim the fat by blending 3 parts 2% or skim milk to 1 part eggnog. Consider also trading eggnog calories for a holiday “must” food.

Go bubbly! Ring in the holiday season with a traditional sipper – champagne. At approximately 100 calories per flute, this low-calorie sipper becomes a true a calorie-treat. Add 100% orange juice to turn it into a mimosa and get a jolt of vitamin C.

Nix the alcohol – At your next holiday happy hour, choose a festive, virgin alternative to your go-to cocktail. Or consider club soda with a splash of 100% fruit juice. Cranberry and pomegranate juice are festive options and loaded with healthful antioxidants.

Mix it up – Though alcohol is typically the main culprit for packing on the pounds, cocktail mixers are a big source of unwanted calories, fat and sugar. Choose soda water, diet soda or other zero-calorie options when possible and beware of high-calorie sweet liqueurs.

Alter serving size – Choose smaller glassware to house your holiday drinks. Using a champagne flute instead of a regular glass will cut down the portion size and make you feel like you are still enjoying a full glass. For higher-calorie beverages, serve them up in shot glasses to keep serving sizes in check.

Don’t deprive yourself –There’s no reason to completely miss out on a holiday cocktail. Drink one high-calorie beverage per party and lots of water;  stick to healthy eating most days, and up your exercise routine in December to balance out those cocktail days.

For more ideas on holiday and 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.

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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.

Eat Local to Enjoy Summer’s Freshest Foods

Today’s grocery shoppers have no shortage of options. You can buy produce that was once just available for a few weeks each year on any given day. Fresh blueberries in February or corn on the cob in November, Americans have the luxury of choice, no matter what the time of year may be.

Eating locally grown, seasonal foods, however, has a wealth of benefits. It’s not only better for the environment, but also your health. In fact, locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables are usually purchased just after harvest time. Because nutritional value can decline dramatically as time passes after harvest, eating locally grown produce ensures you are eating foods at their peak quality of freshness and nutrition.

This summer follow these tips to give your pantry a seasonal makeover and ensure your food picks offer the optimal nutritional value.

Find out what’s in season. Stay in the know on what’s in season and consider making a seasonal buying guide. This summer, be on the lookout for cucumber, eggplant, peppers and summer squash and fruits like apricots, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries and watermelon. When summer closes, consider altering your shopping list for in-season foods locally grown, instead of shipped in from thousands of miles away.

Hit up farmer’s markets. Did you know there are over 3,100 farmers markets in the U.S.? Most farmers’ markets have formed relationships with local farmers and feature locally grown products at their food stands. Enjoy the bounty of fresh, beautiful produce in season like melons, tomatoes, peaches, plums, sweet corn and asparagus. To find what markets are in your area, go here.  Be sure to ask vendors where their foods are grown.

Read labels. Look for signs at grocery stores that tell you where your meat, seafood and produce come from. Opt for foods grown closer to home. Shop at grocery stores that indicate the geographic origin of foods. More and more mainstream grocery stores are catching on to this trend.

Get digging. There are many foods that are easy to grow in your very own backyard and you often don’t need a full-fledged garden. Consider planting a simple herb garden. If you don’t have a lot of space, use a window box or flowerpot. Lots of food can grow and be ready to eat in just a month’s time, including lettuce, arugula and radishes, and herbs such as basil, dill, mint and cilantro.

Dine out, mindfully. Choose restaurants in your area that purchase foods from local and regional farms. Ask around at restaurants about their ingredients and find out where they come from. You can also ask folks at the farmer’s market what restaurants typically purchase food from them.

You are likely to find eating locally grown food can be a big transition but the benefits are plentiful. Consider making the change gradually and your choices will add up over time. And be sure to keep in mind the big picture – the closer the food is grown to home, the better the food is likely to be for your taste buds and health.

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.

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.