Monday, May 1, 2006

Finding Nutrition at The Grocery Store: A Guided Tour

Here it is…some of our favorite items for your next grocery list. The sacred list revealed just for you.

The Breakfast Bundle:

  • Kashi GoLean Cereal – You’ve heard us boasting about this cereal again and again. You can’t get much better than 10 grams of fiber, 13g of protein and a mere 6g of sugar all for just 140 calories per cup. Toss in a few blueberries or strawberries, some skim milk, and you’ve got a champion breakfast that’s kind to your waistline and cholesterol. It’ll keep you satiated and energized throughout the morning. Skip over GoLean’s “Crunch” counterpart and save your sugar for a fresh piece of fruit instead! If you need to go easy on your digestive system, check the shelves for Kashi’s Heart to Heart cereal. Still low in sugar and calories it’s another healthful start to your morning.
  • McCanns Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal -- Oatmeal’s an excellent, nutrient-rich jumpstart to your morning. Steel cut oats in particular rise above the rest in whole grain content, containing more fiber, iron and B vitamins than standard types of rolled oats. With this hot cereal, a little goes a long way. Though the portion size is just ¼ cup of uncooked oats, the end product is a hearty bowl of steaming oatmeal – a great breakfast to fuel you first thing in the morning or as an energizing snack before hitting the gym or anytime.
  • Fage Total Greek Yogurt (0% or 2%) – So many of you can’t seem to stop raving about Fage yogurt, we just had to include it in our ‘best of’ list. Packed with 7 more grams of protein than most other plain low-fat yogurts, this container of Greek goodness is low in sugar and touts a deliciously creamy consistency. Pair with fresh fruit or a sprinkling of high-fiber cereal and you’ve got a calcium-rich, low-calorie breakfast or sprinkle with cinnamon for a satisfying snack. Stonyfield Farms Organic Low-fat Plain Yogurt and Horizon Organic Non-fat Plain Yogurt are also great choices.

Lovin’ the Lunch Crowd:

  • La Tortilla Wraps – A world of exciting lite lunch options awaits you with La Tortilla wraps. Why are these particular tortillas so darn special? With a mere 50 calories, 8 grams of dietary fiber and 2 grams of fat, you can’t beat the nutrition facts on this label. Most other wrap brands average between 130-250 calories and usually skimp on the fiber content (fiber is digested more slowly and helps us maintain satiety much longer). Choose from a variety of flavors and spice up lunchtime. Get creative with healthful ingredients such as grilled chicken strips, turkey slices, lite tuna salad, a rainbow of veggies, low-fat cheese, avocado slices and much more!
  • Applegate Farms Turkey Slices – No nitrates (chemical preservatives) or antibiotics, low in sodium and very versatile…we’re big fans of this brand name for deli meats. Great for sandwiches, wraps, to toss into salads or even just as a quick, filling snack on their own, test out these turkey slices, we’ll think you’ll be quite pleased.

Snack Attack (Go ahead, you’ve got the tools to handle it!):

  • Low-fat Laughing Cow Cheese – We’re bringing you back to your childhood with these fun circles of red-cased cheese. Low-fat Laughing Cow circles or wedges are super-easy to toss in your work/travel bag when you’re on-the-go or to keep on-hand in your fridge. Just 35 calories a pop and a good source of calcium, 1 or 2 pieces serve as great snacks alone or with high-fiber crackers or apple slices.
  • Glenny’s Soy Crisps – If you craving that ‘chippy’ crunch, we’ve got just the answer. Soy chips pack in crunch, flavor and a nice dose of protein to fill you up without all the extra-calories or hydrogenated fats found in many other chips. Reach for the 1.3oz – with 140 calories and 10 grams of soy protein per bag.
  • Lara Bars – A wholesome, all-natural snack, Lara Bars are made with organic fruits and nuts making them great sources of vitamin E, healthy omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, and fiber not to mention antioxidants and an array of other vitamins and minerals. Be mindful that these bars are slightly higher in calories and healthful fats -- excellent to keep around for when you get caught in a bind and hunger hits! They’re also great go-to items for travel, long runs or hikes, or simply running errands all weekend!
  • Gnu Bars – Relatively new to the market, Flavor & Fiber bars by Gnu Foods provide a powerful punch of fiber along with complex carbohydrates that will rev you up around the inevitable 4pm slump. At 130 calories, these are great organic option for an afternoon or pre-workout snack or a quick breakfast on-the-run. Bonus points, the kids will love ‘em too!

DeLITEful Dinners:

  • Amy’s Kitchen Organic Bowls – Can’t bear to think about making dinner after a long day? Skip the high-calorie Chinese take-out and reach into the freezer for an easy, flavorful meal by Amy’s Organics. Don’t fear, you can still go ethnic – high on flavor and healthful ingredients. Amy’s has a great line of vegetarian entrees that convey realistic portion sizes to the tee (amazing what a normal portion looks like isn’t it!). Our favorites happen to be loaded with veggies and protein. In particular, we love the Tofu Vegetable Lasagna, Low-Sodium Brown Rice, Vegetables & Tofu Bowl, Indian Palak Paneer, Indian Mattar Tofu, and Low-Sodium Black Bean Vegetable Enchiladas to name a few!
  • Shirataki Noodles – For all you pasta lovers out there, this favorite pick is for you! Shirataki noodles are a fabulous substitute for pasta or rice in a variety of dishes. Made from tofu, Shirataki noodles go well with any dish or flavoring, Italian, Asian, you name it. And yes, at 40 calories for the entire 8oz serving, you can have the whole bag!

Tasty Treats:

  • Stonyfield Farms Squeezers – Pop these organic yogurt tubes in the freezer for a fun, creamy evening treat for a skinny 60 calories and get a boost of your daily calcium need at the same time!
  • Tofutti Fudge Pop Treats – We’re big chocolate fans, and we know many of you are too! Yes, chocolate, in moderation, can fit into a healthful diet. Satisfying that craving with Tofutti Fudge Pops – rich flavor for only 30 calories!

Movie Theatre Munchies:

  • Smart Pop Mini Bags – Heading to the movie theatres is always a fun activity until you hit the snack bar…watch out for a high-calorie disaster zone! Bypass the movie popcorn, a small with butter is a whopping 580 calories and 47 grams of fat! Instead, bring your own – Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop Mini Bags are a tasty, healthful choice at 110 calories and 2 grams of fat per bag. What a difference, munch away! We also love Good Health Half Naked Popcorn with Olive Oil (but be sure to stick to the 4 cup portion size!)
  • Essence Water (by Glaceau)– Need something cold to go with your popcorn? Essence Water brings a little excitement to your good ol’ H20. Naturally flavored and zero calories, pick your favorite fruited flavor to sip on. Great for when you’re watching the big screen or anytime.

Nutrition Properties of Mint

It’s 3pm, you’re stuck behind your computer at work daydreaming away about the gorgeous warm weather outside. If this situation sounds all too familiar you might want to reach for a cup of mint tea, a breath mint or gum, or some minty-fresh hand lotion to perk you back up. Studies show that the aroma and flavor of mint can enhance motivation, concentration, stimulate our central nervous system and decrease fatigue. When the weather gets warmer, try a glass of unsweetened mint iced-tea or toss some chopped fresh mint leaves into salads or yogurt sauces for grilled meat and chicken. Mint’s also a deliciously refreshing way to end a perfect summertime meal, try it sprinkled over fresh fruit.

Minted Summer Fruit Salad
Serves 8
2 mangoes, cubed
3 kiwis, cubed
2 nectarines, cubed
1 medium, cantaloupe, cubed (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped + a few fresh mint sprigs for garnish
2 Tablespoons honey

Mix chopped mint with honey in a small bowl. Assemble diced fruit in large serving bowl, drizzle mint-honey mixture over fruit, toss and serve. Can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead of time and chilled.

Nutrition Facts: 110 calories, 0g fat, 26g carbohydrate, 3g fiber.

Hoodia Know?

We know many of you have been inquiring about Hoodia, a natural appetite suppressant that has recently received quite a bit of media exposure. We’ve broken down all the research and the claims to answer your questions.

What is it? Hoodia Gordonii is a natural appetite suppressant that originates from cactus plants grown in Africa’s Kalahari desert. Tribal bushmen in Africa have used hoodia for thousands of years to stave off hunger during long-hunting trips.

How does work? Hoodia sends signals to the brain that indicate a sense of fullness, similarly to what occurs when we eat a meal and our blood sugar levels rise, but no food has actually been consumed. The claims state that hoodia wipes out any thought of food or hunger pangs. Hoodia also kills signs of thirst, which can lead to dehydration and potential health risks.

Is it safe? To date, there are no long-term studies to show the safety and effectiveness of hoodia. Diabetics should not use the supplement as it has a clear effect on blood sugar levels. Individuals with diabetes need to ensure they maintain steady blood sugar levels through a healthful, balanced diet and good sources of complex carbohydrates.

The bottom line: Choosing hoodia or weight-loss supplements over wholesome foods can deprive your body of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive and prevent disease. A healthy diet and exercise is always the optimal choice for weight loss, well-being and disease prevention.

Diet Tips to Look Your Summertime Best

Ready or not, it’s time to shed those layers of clothing. Play smart and prep ahead of time for upcoming events so you look and feel your ‘summer best.’

  • Break a Sweat – There’s no better time to intensify your exercise routine. Diet, exercise and adequate sleep are the integral pieces to the slim down/tone up puzzle. Warm weather is a great motivation to get moving and mix it up. Give your body and metabolism a nice jumpstart, try incorporating various workouts into your weekly schedule -- a scenic run through Central Park or a cycling class, some light to moderate strength training for toning, maybe a yoga or pilates class or two and you’re set! Choose a type of exercise you truly enjoy and success is a sure thing.
  • Fill Up on Fresh Fruits & Vegetables – Spring and summer bring endless delicious fresh fruits and vegetables to your table. Hit the farmers’ market or your local grocery store and stock up on seasonal produce. Color your plate with greens, asparagus, artichokes, red peppers, berries, peaches, plums, melon, snap peas, tomatoes, basil, summer squash and an array of other fresh picks. Keep cut veggies in your fridge directly at eye level when you open the door – they’re great for a quick munch or to pair with a lite yogurt dip or ¼ cup of hummus for a healthy snack. Aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day! (1 serving of raw vegetables = 1 cup • 1 serving of cooked vegetables = ½ cup • 1 serving of fruit = 1 piece or 1 cup fruit salad/berries)
  • Water…and More Water! – Staying hydrated in the heat is a key component to replenishing your body’s needs and keeping a slim, fit figure by promoting healthy metabolism and digestion. We often misread signs of ‘hunger’ when in actuality, we’re thirsty! Quench your thirst before you get dehydrated by keeping a bottle of water with you at all times. Our bodies adapt to warm weather by perspiring more efficiently, meaning we need pay that much more attention on maintaining hydration levels. Guzzle 2 or 3 – 24oz sport bottles or 2 liters a day and that unwanted ‘beach bloat’ will be history in no time! Tired of plain ol’ water? Spruce it up with a slice or two of lemon or lime or try unsweetened iced herbal or green tea. (If you’re on the go, try Starbuck’s Passion or Green Iced Teas with a little Lemonade for a fun treat – just ask for it unsweetened to keep the calories and sugar to a minimum!)
  • Beat the Bloat – Feeling a bit bloated is never welcomed, particularly when we’re dawning summer clothing and beachwear. A few quick tips to slenderize your stomach – skip things that increase your consumption of extra air such as carbonated drinks (diet sodas, seltzers etc), gum, and drinking through a straw. Limit your consumption of salty, sodium-rich foods such as canned soups and vegetables, frozen dinners, cold cuts, processed snacks – remember the daily recommended intake of sodium is 1,500 milligrams with a maximum upper limit of 2,300 milligrams. Try a quick trick and check food labels to ensure you’re staying below your sodium goal – just one cup of canned soup can have upwards of 800-900 milligrams of sodium! Also, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to decrease sodium and water retention and to keep your digestion going strong! Finally, if you’ve got a sensitive stomach, watch out for artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame etc) in beverages, gum and foods – they may act as diuretics and can cause a bloating effect.
    Do reach for citrus as well as fruits and vegetables with high water content like watermelon and cucumber which help encourage water loss, again helping to bring down bloating.
  • Think Lite & Turn on the Grill – Summer is the perfect time to lighten up at meal and snack times. Winter’s hearty comfort foods are a thing of the past. Indulge yourself in healthy, satisfying dishes packed with vitamins, minerals and flavor that happen to be on the lighter side. Grilling is an incredibly healthy, easy cooking method that allows you to whittle down the fat and boost aroma and flavor. Get creative and grill up your favorites -- chicken breasts, fish, seafood, vegetables, or even some fresh pineapple or peach slices for a new, lite twist on dessert! A little olive oil, fresh lemon or citrus, herbs and spices are excellent ways to enhance grilled foods and bring dishes to life healthfully!
  • Homerun Snacks at Baseball Games – Summertime is synonymous with an exciting baseball game. If you’re worried about what to eat when you head into that extra inning, think again! Surprisingly, you can find some great choices at the ballpark. For a nutritious, satisfying snack, look to the guy selling roasted peanuts. Share the bag with others, though peanuts are loaded with healthy fat, they are high in calories. Aim for a serving, about 28 peanuts (165 calories). If you’re not a nut lover, many stadium concession stands now carry veggie dogs and veggie burgers, an excellent choice without the saturated fat of a regular burger. If nothing else, come prepared…pack a turkey sandwich on whole wheat or some fresh fruit or veggies to snack on. Moderate your beer consumption, enticing as they are. Sip on one or two lite beers and keep water by your side over the course of the big game.
  • On Top of Your Diet & Your Golf Game – Play a round of 18 holes can certainly stir up a hearty appetite. Pack some healthy snacks like fresh cut fruits and vegetables or high fiber crackers and low-fat cheese to bring in the golf cart. Read your hunger cues to keep your metabolism, energy levels, and your golf swing going strong. Allowing yourself to go too long, over 4-5 hours, without any food can set you up for over doing it at your next meal.
  • Handling Happy Hour – Who doesn’t love finishing out a long workday with a cocktail or two, especially when the weather’s warm. But when happy hour invites start piling up, so can the alcohol calories. Drink in moderation, one or two lite beer, glasses of wine or liquor drinks. Switch to club soda or seltzer as a no-calorie mixer instead of sugary tonic water, soda and cranberry juice. Stay hydrated by sipping on a glass of water in between drinks. You can always surpass alcohol altogether and hold onto a glass of refreshing club soda and lime. Let yourself get engrossed in a great conversation with a colleague or friend, remember you’re there to socialize and enjoy the company of others, not just the drinks.
  • Stay Focused on Your Goal -- Our most important tip on this list, stay motivated and focused on your ultimate goal! Reward your hard work every now and again, treat yourself to something just for you that’s not food related…a massage, a manicure, a new CD – you pick! Eat healthfully, stay active and restore energy levels with sound sleep and an incredible summer is around the corner.