Learn to Eat Smart
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5 Tips To Becoming a Smarter Shopper
Jasmine Guest | 06/18/2018
Use these tips to become a more effective grocery store shopper:
Have you ever found yourself at the grocery store checkout line with a ridiculous bill, even though you only went for a couple of things? The grocery store is filled with various gimmicks and insidious monetary schemes to get customers to buy more while in the store. The onset of buyer’s remorse quickly sets in before you even leave the exiting doors. Use these tips to become a more effective grocery store shopper:
- Create a List Before you Leave Home: Use your phone to take stock of what you already have and what you need. There are a number of grocery list apps available for effective family meal planning. This tip will help you eliminate the purchasing of unnecessary good and prevent you from falling victim to flashy in-store promotions.
- Take advantage of Weekly Sales and Coupons: Cell phone applications can also help you keep track of sales and coupons as the Walmart Mobile App, LIDL or the Shopular app which which aids in itemizing cost effective things you can purchase in store.
- Maneuvering the Grocery Store: We often end up on aisles filled with processed foods, and the temptations start to mound. If you’re trying to eat healthy or lose weight try not to even bring these type of foods in the house. Stick to the outer portion of the store where whole foods or proteins are usually stocked. Start in the produce section, and make your way through the dairy and meat aisles.
- Never Go to the Grocery Store Hungry: We have all done it. After a long day’s work, we enter the grocery store agitated and hungry. Eat a snack or drink a bottle of water before entering the grocery store so your hunger pangs don’t influence your purchases.
- Try to Make Healthy Food Choices: Be smart and invest your hard earned cash into the health of your loved ones. Spend in a way that incorporates healthy foods in your family’s daily diet and the lifelong benefits of investing in your health. As the saying goes, we are what we eat!
Remember, enter the grocery store with a clear mind and your list in hand, and move through the aisles thoughtfully with certainty and with purpose!
Why Have Broccoli When You Can Have Fries?
Jasmine Guest | 05/22/2018
The introduction of good or bad food choices in a child's life has lasting effects on their physical and mental health.
Hey Lady, Where Are My Fries?
As a child my mother would always tell me the story of the “Hey Lady, Where are my Fries?” incident, and till this day it’s a hilarious inside joke between us. I was a very picky eater as a child, and the thought of eating broccoli was the last thing I wanted on my plate. The only thing I would chow down on were McDonald’s fries - talk about an unhealthy diet for a kid!
As the story goes ... My mother and I were in the McDonald’s drive through, and I almost went into shock that the attendant forgot my fries! The line was born: “Hey Lady, Where are my fries?” It has been an inside joke with our family ever since.
My unhealthy eating habits as a child had serious consequences later in life as my growth and height were severely stunted. Many children throughout the country suffer from nutritional deficiencies and disease due to their lack of nutritional substance in their daily diet. This is due to several reasons:
- There is a lack of education and resources for organic and healthy food options, especially in impoverished areas.
- Many children suffer from hunger. In fact, one out of five children in South Carolina struggle from hunger.
- Low income families rely on outsourced food from school or afterschool programs to subsidize their hungry bellies.
- For many children, the thought of a healthy food diet is far removed from their way of life.
The introduction of good or bad food choices in a child's life has lasting effects on their physical and mental health. The diet of a child sets the pace and mentality for the food choices they will make well into adulthood. South Carolina's leading causes of death are attributed to cancer and heart disease, which are proven to be diet related.
What actions can be taken to increase awareness of healthy lifestyle choices in the underprivileged population?
Through proper education, action can be taken to reduce health disparities and increase the participation of healthy diet choices. More funding is needed to increase the number of health educators and communications of health and wellness to communities.
The demonstration of healthy food preparation is another effective practice that visually teaches how to cook and eat healthy. Another reason for high rates of childhood obesity is the infrequency of cooking healthy meals at home. Many families just aren’t aware of how to cook delicious tasting vegetable dishes.
By understanding how to improve my own health and wellness, I have grown to love broccoli and found wonderful ways to incorporate vegetables and fruit in my every day diet. My own personal health journey has not only changed my perspective, but the perspective of family and friends as well. Spreading health and wellness is a wonderful gift to others that truly keeps on giving!
Sugar: The Good, Bad and the Ugly
Charlton Goodwin | 05/15/2018
Here are four things to know that can help you enjoy sugar moderately at a healthy level.
The word “sugar” has a sinful connotation. It’s turned into this affliction we know we should avoid. It is true that sugar in excess can potentially be dangerous to our health, but here are four things to know that can help you enjoy sugar moderately at a healthy level:
What is “Sugar” Exactly?
Sugar is the sweet carbohydrate that contains a group of molecules that include carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen (think CARB-O-HYDRate). Sugars are created by these three elements linked together in some form or another. The smallest sugars are called monosaccharides (mono- means “one”), and you may have heard of them:
Think of each of these monosaccharides as a pearl on a necklace. Each pearl can stand alone as a single unit of sugar. Now, take two of these pearls and bind them together on that necklace. These two pearls form the second type of sugar - disaccharides which are two monosaccharides linked together. The disaccharides are:
- Sucrose (glucose + fructose)
- Lactose (glucose + galactose)
- Maltose (glucose + glucose)
Sucrose forms what we know as “table sugar.” It can be processed and refined into the white granular stuff that we sprinkle in our coffee, dump into our cakes and pies, and that serves so many other purposes besides these mentioned. Monosaccharides and disaccharides are called 'simple sugars” or “simple carbohydrates.” They are very small units, typically found in baked goods, and milk products. They are also found in fruits, but the naturally occurring simple sugars in whole fruits are accompanied by a host of fiber and other nutrients. When you begin to link these small, simple carbohydrates into more complex chains, they become complex carbohydrates, or “polysaccharides.” They are larger and take longer to break down than simple sugars. Complex carbohydrates are found in many vegetables and whole grains. These are all foods that are good for you because the sugar occurs naturally and generally isn’t added by food manufacturers!
Sugar Tends to Make You Hungry
Remember those simple sugars? Well, they have a way of playing tricks on us. When we over-consume our sweet treats, our bodies react in different ways, and one of those ways can ultimately lead us to more hunger even after we’ve eaten. Because they are small, simple sugars break down very fast. When sugar is broken down, our blood sugar levels increase. An increase in blood sugar triggers our bodies to release insulin into our blood streams.
Insulin is a hormone used to regulate our blood sugar level. Regularly functioning insulin does a great job of this, but when we over-consume sugar, our body’s ability to tell insulin when to stop working is weakened. Thus, our blood sugar level falls to a low level, and our bodies react by sensing hunger. In short, too much sugar triggers a quick rise in insulin which ultimately lowers our blood sugar, making us feel hungry even AFTER we’d just eaten (Harvard School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source).
So if you’re hungry, don’t reach for something overly sugary like a candy bar, because the chances are that the candy bar will only make you feel more hungry! Instead, choose a snack with more complex sugars to keep your blood sugar more even.
Avoid Quitting Cold Turkey
A fairly common occurrence when it comes to making any change in life is letting our zeal and enthusiasm become an enemy. It’s exciting when we make the decision to make a positive shift in the way we normally do things. This is much the same with food, and particularly added sugar. Often times, we become so excited about our decision to rid ourselves of sugary sweets that we think the best thing to do is quit them altogether.
When we jump into diet changes abruptly, we face a daunting task. It requires eliminating the foods that we love to eat while beginning to consume things that we may have never tried before. The American Psychological Association recommends making smaller, gradual changes. Instead of going cold turkey on added sugars, turn those two packs of sugar in your morning coffee into one. Or try cutting back on consuming soda or juice throughout the day by replacing those sweet beverages with water or seltzer. But remember, always consult your doctor before making any dramatic shift to your everyday diet.
Enjoy In Moderation
I would be remiss to end this on a sour note (did you catch the pun?). Sugar is not necessarily the evil villain. And thankfully so. I would hate to have to face the task of eliminating sweets, especially my personal favorite, PB&J. But moderation is always the key.
If you want to know how much added (vs naturally occurring) sugar you’re consuming, look at the ingredients list on the nutrition label. If sugar in any of its forms (e.g., corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, etc.) is listed near the top of the list, then it’s a good indicator that there’s a lot of it in the food. Thankfully by 2018, all packaged food items will have new nutrition facts labels that tell you how much added sugars are in the packaged foods that you buy. This is a great move by the FDA to help consumers become healthier shoppers and eaters.
Pleasantries all. Happy eating!
Ace Your Meals with Asparagus
Although asparagus is available almost year-round now, it’s always exciting to see the spears — green, white, or purple — in th...
Although asparagus is available almost year-round now, it’s always exciting to see the spears — green, white, or purple — in the produce section at spring. This is when this vegetable is at its best. With so many ways to prepare it, asparagus also wins points for its good nutrient profile and ability to partner with many flavors from chiles and sesame to fresh lemon. Here’s how to make the most of this versatile vegetable.
Nutrition Notes on Asparagus
Asparagus spears are a great vegetable choice with plenty of nutrients to offer for few calories. Just four large spears of asparagus contain less than 20 calories and provide a good source of iron, folate and vitamin A while supplying almost 45% of daily vitamin K needs. What’s more, asparagus is a natural source of the savory, satisfying, almost meaty fifth flavor umami.
Selection & Storage
Forget the idea that the thinnest asparagus spears taste best. You want the freshest spears — either thick or thin — that feel firm and have straight stalks with tightly closed tips. Asparagus should be a consistent color from top to bottom. And make sure that if you’re buying several bunches, you choose ones that are similarly thick or thin to ensure even cooking times for your recipe. Eat fresh asparagus as soon as possible though it can be kept in the refrigerator for three or four days. For best results, stand the spears in an inch or so of water in the bottom of a container, and cover with a plastic bag. Alternately, wrap the stem ends in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag.
Prep School, Plus Recipes
Once you are ready to prepare asparagus for cooking, simply take a stalk in your hands and bend until the woody end snaps off. Cook just the tender upper portion of the spears, and compost the ends or use them to make vegetable stock. Here are some of our favorite ways to use those spears:
- Don’t even cook them! Use a veggie peeler to shave thin ribbons to make a quick Lemony Asparagus Salad. (Thick-stemmed asparagus are best here.)
- Roasted asparagus (without oil!) is an easy side dish for spring entertaining. Or make a big batch during the weekend for quick meals later in the week. Leftovers work well in omelets or quinoa or rice bowls.
- The star of the season shines when puréed in Creamy Spring Asparagus Soup.
- Lightly steamed asparagus is wonderful with just a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Or chop and add to tuna, shrimp,
chicken or egg salads.
Keep stalks crisp, tender and bright green by blanching asparagus. Then serve with a dip, as a simple side, as a fresh twist on a potato salad, or the perfect springtime risotto.
What is your favorite way to enjoy asparagus?
- Don’t even cook them! Use a veggie peeler to shave thin ribbons to make a quick Lemony Asparagus Salad. (Thick-stemmed asparagus are best here.)
Beyond the Kale
You’ve probably heard about the many virtues of kale and its mighty nutrient powers, but when it comes to gorgeous bunches of g...
Hail to the kale! You’ve probably heard about the many virtues of kale and its mighty nutrient powers, but when it comes to gorgeous bunches of greens, don’t stop there. There are all kinds of versatile and tasty varieties of dark leafy greens that add nutrients and beauty to your plate, bowl, or even glass. I’m always looking to incorporate more greens into my family’s dishes. Whenever I make a pot of beans, soup, chili or stew, in go the greens too. While every variety of greens has its own particular flavor and characteristics, they are easy to use interchangeably in most recipes. Creamy Sesame Greens is another regular recipe on my list and a great one to use when trying out different types of greens.
Here’s my method for braising all types of greens for a simple side. Take a large bunch (or two) of greens, rinse and then shake gently to dry. Cut or strip leaves from the tough stem and then roughly chop. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of stock, water, or white wine in a large pan and add as much or as little minced onion as you like. Sauté, stirring often, until the onion starts to soften and becomes translucent, then toss in your greens. Stir occasionally until wilted and brilliantly colored. Add a splash of tamari if you like. Either stop here, or if you prefer your greens more mild and tender, add about ¼ cup of stock, cover, and simmer for another five minutes. You can cook just about any greens like this, but here are some of my favorites along with other delicious ways to use them.
Tender, mildly flavored and readily available year round, collards are one of my staples. With their flat broad leaves, they are also easier to chop than curly greens, and make delicious and colorful stand-ins for tortillas in wraps or in “sushi” rolls. I’ll cut out the stem and use a raw collard leaf or blanch the leaves to soften them as in these beautiful Collard Rolls. Subtly flavored collards also are lovely with spices such as in Collards with Lentils, Tomatoes, and Indian Spices or in Indian Spiced Garbanzos and Greens.
Swiss, green, red or rainbow, all these members of the chard clan can be used interchangeably. Chard makes a great stand-in for spinach with its velvety texture. But with its large leaves you can be even more creative with it, using it for layering in casseroles, wrapping around fish to bake or as a colorful new take on cabbage rolls. Check out these chard dishes too: Mushroom, Chard, and Caramelized Onion Tacos, Chard with Sherry Vinegar and Walnuts and Swiss Chard with Black-Eyed Peas.
Greens with a Bite
Do you like it spicy? Then don’t skip these sassy greens. You may pull them out of your lawn, but you should be putting them on your plate. Sharply pungent and a bit bitter, dandelion greens can be added raw to salads or sautéed to temper its bite. Mustard greens are peppery, pungent, boldly delicious — and packed with antioxidants and a wealth of other nutrients. Steam or sauté them with other strong flavors like garlic and soy sauce or add them to red beans and rice for a welcome tang.
And whenever I’m buying beets, turnips or daikon radish I always am so happy to find ones with their bountiful green tops attached. Not only do these pretty tops reflect the freshness of the roots, but they are an added valuable bonus! Try simmering turnip tops until silky for traditional Southern-style greens; tossing beet greens in with roasted or steamed beets towards the end of their cooking time; or adding chopped daikon greens to miso soups.
Lastly, perk up salads, wraps and sandwiches with the more delicate of the leafy greens. Mizuna brings a subtle exotic spice to dishes, arugula offers a peppery kick, and watercress, my favorite, brings a buttery texture and a sharp pleasing bite. Try it in Quinoa with Watercress, Pears, and Pomegranates. And keep broadening those green horizons. Mache, endive, escarole and even Italian parsley all provide new dimensions to your dishes and nutrient intake.
What’s your favorite green and how do you like to eat it?
5 Things to Start & Stop Doing When Eating Healthy
Ken Immer | 04/30/2018
When we are trying to eating healthy, we can feel like we are in uncharted territory.
When we are trying to eating healthy, we can feel like we are in uncharted territory. The thing is, we tend to approach it from the wrong angle. We start cutting out a lot of our favorite foods and replacing them with unfamiliar and often expensive products. The focus tends to be on the ‘challenge’ of eating healthy which creates a ‘winners & losers’ type mentality, and this is a recipe for failure.
To break it down into something simpler, we’ve created a list of 5 things to start & stop when eating healthy that can help you develop a better strategy. Consider these five ideas, and it might transform the way you look at food, which is the path to long-term success!
- Seek out balance versus deprivation.
Instead of spending all of your time focused on totally removing the ‘bad’ foods from your diet, try identifying the ways you’re already doing some of the ‘right’ things, and do just do more of it. Drink more water, or have an extra helping of your favorite vegetables. Totally removing foods that you love cold-turkey is hardly ever a successful strategy. Simply limiting some of these ‘bad’ foods can make a big difference with your health, and you don’t have to give them up completely. For instance, make a plan not to drink soda when you’re at work, but allow it when you’re at home or out. Small changes like that can be easy to stick with and can really add up over time; this is how you keep feeling balanced.
- Learn how to buy foods for ‘value’ versus just for the ‘cheapest price.’
Food can be one of our biggest expenses; there is no doubt about that. Reducing our grocery bill and eating out can seem like a great way to save money. However, there are ways of choosing foods that can help you meet both goals. The focus is not only on buying all the ‘healthier’ ingredients and products that are out there but also on creating a nice balance in your whole shopping cart. When finding a really great deal or super sale, think about using those savings to pay for another nutritious item that you usually think of as ‘expensive.’ Frozen fruits and vegetables can be cheaper and less wasteful than fresh, and they’re almost as nutritious! When comparing products, read the Nutrition Facts panel, and look at the ‘dietary fiber’ numbers. Choosing products where the percent daily value (%DV) is over 10% can help you avoid empty calories. Start grading prices on how much nutrition they offer, and you start to see what foods truly ARE expensive.
- Pay attention to all the ways that your body is getting healthier when you make better choices, and stop focusing solely on weight loss.
The number one thing that people say they want from a healthy eating plan is to lose weight, which is totally understandable and a great goal. Losing weight is associated with lower disease risk factors, and gives you a higher quality of life. Some of the physiological changes that happen to your body that we associate with losing weight, such as more energy, better skin, improved mood, and better sleep, are not just results FROM losing weight, but they can also start to show up BEFORE losing weight (and actually accelerate the weight loss you want!). When we have more energy, we’ll be more likely to move more and start exercising because it feels easier. When you start sleeping better, it gives you more energy but also helps you feel less stressed and anxious, which encourages weight loss. Studies show that increased stress and anxiety are associated with gaining weight and making losing that weight difficult. Looking for these indications that your body is getting healthy is a great way to stay motivated even when the numbers on the scale aren’t moving.
- Find out what foods work best for you, and don’t just follow fad diets or what other people are doing.
Your personal healthy eating plan is exactly that: very personal. Each person has different needs, and what can produce quick results for one person, may not work for another. Your needs also change as your body changes, so the diet you start today may not be the same diet you need after you drop 20 pounds and your doctor recommends that you stop taking your blood pressure medication. It does mean that learning about nutrition would be a good idea. You don’t have to become a nutritionist to be healthy, but knowing some basic facts about which foods contain specific nutrients that matter to you (i.e. if you know that you are anemic, knowing about foods high in iron is a good idea). Being aware of your personal state of health is also important. Having a blood test drawn to inspect the levels of most vital nutrition is simple. It narrows down your study into something manageable. Once you and your doctor discuss which foods are important to you, you can experiment and start to really customize your choices based on how they make you feel and their overall health results. You might be surprised to find some small, simple changes that produce big results!
- Take your healthy food journey one day at a time, and stop expecting immediate results.
It’s understandable that we are impatient when it comes to getting specific health results and outcomes, especially in our fast-paced culture these days. The truth is, however, that ‘quick fixes’ are rarely sustainable over the long-term. While getting quick results can be exciting in the moment, when we truly ask ourselves what we want, it’s that long-term solution. The good news is that there is a combination of quick results and long-term success that is available to you when you use the first four items in the list above as a guide. They can be seen as four simple steps towards creating a personal healthy eating plan- NOT a diet- that can last a lifetime. According to new research, your ability to follow a diet may be a larger predictor of your weight-loss success than the diet you choose. So, this is a pretty obvious conclusion that staying on your diet is the best “diet.” The nature or the method isn’t as important. So don’t deprive yourself, buy foods for value which includes considering both price and nutritional value, and find out what foods actually work for you which means paying attention to all the ways that your body responds to the foods that you are eating.
These five tips can serve as a guide to help you transform the way you see food, and make it so that you’ll never ‘diet’ again. This is what we truly call ‘lifestyle change’: a change that you can stick with, because a lot of consideration is given to your preferences and your choices, and is truly tailored to your needs.
- Seek out balance versus deprivation.
Decoding Food Labels
Hayley Weise | 04/17/2018
Reading food labels can sometimes feel like trying to understand a foreign language.
Reading food labels can sometimes feel like trying to understand a foreign language. It seems like every fad diet tells us to pay attention to a different nutrient one week, you're told to restrict calories and limit carbohydrates; and the next week, fat and sugar are off limits.
If you're struggling to understand food labels, you're not alone. These guidelines may help you the next time you're trying to decide between two snacks.
- Start with the serving size. Serving sizes are standardized to help you better compare foods. The serving size influences the number of calories and other nutrient amounts listed on the food label. Before having a snack, ask yourself, how many servings am I consuming?
- Consider the calories. Despite the heightened attention on calories, they are not the be-all and end-all of nutrition. Calories are units of energy, and your body needs energy to survive. In order to understand the caloric value of a food, you must first understand the serving size. This tool will help you understand exactly how much you should be eating based on your individual needs.
- Which nutrients to limit. The first nutrients listed on a food label are fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Too much of these nutrients can increase your risk of certain chronic diseases. Keep in mind that while you should limit the amount of these nutrients that you consume, they're still necessary for a healthy lifestyle. For example, avocados, nuts, and fatty fish are all sources of good fatt are better choices than pre-packaged snack foods.
- Which nutrients to get enough of. Other nutrients to pay attention to are fiber, calcium, iron, and Vitamins A and C. According to the FDA, eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some health conditions.
- Look at the carbohydrates. Carbs is often a buzzword when it comes to dieting. Low carb has become synonymous with healthy. However, that's not always the case. The key is to make sure that most of the carbohydrates you eat are good or complex carbohydrates like sweet potato, whole grain pasta, and beans as opposed to bad or simple carbohydrates like candies, pastries, and white rice or bread. Simple carbohydrates are higher in sugar and lower in fiber, and they contain little real value for your body.
- Sugar. Sugar can be naturally occurring (like in fruits) or added artificially (like in desserts or cereals). If you're watching your sugar intake, make sure that added sugars aren't listed as one of the first ingredients. Sugar can be disguised as corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey, and maple syrup.
- Anything else? Of course! Protein. Protein is found in meat, eggs, beans, and nuts. Foods that contain protein are known to keep you fuller longer, so if they're low in sugar and fat, they can be a great snack!
Above all, it's important to practice balance. Every nutrient is important to nourish your body and keep it working the way it's supposed to. Try these tips the next time you go to the grocery store! Don't be fooled by common phrases like all natural, or low carb, because now you have the tools to know better.
The Importance of Eating Smart
Use our Eat Smart blog to stay updated on healthy eating tips and trends.
Everyone knows that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is good for the body, and contributes to good health and wellbeing. Taking care of your body also means drinking water and beverages with few or no calories. A healthy diet can reduce your risk of developing:
- Heart Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Bone Loss
Today, with busy schedules and on-the-go lifestyles, eating and drinking healthfully has become a challenge for many. The good news is that communities are making it easier for you to make healthy choices. This is evident in roadside stands and farmers' markets that accept SNAP, WIC, and Senior Vouchers (credit and debit too!), and farm share programs, where you buy a "share" of a local farmer's harvest.
Use our Eat Smart blog to stay updated on healthy eating tips and trends that you can use to make healthy changes to your diet. You may be inspired to visit a local farmers' market, join a farm share program, or even start your own garden!