Learn to Eat Smart
Eating smart just got a lot easier! Find a wealth of information on ways to incorporate healthy options on the Eat Smart Blog. Know what you're looking for? Try the search term box to look for specific topics that meet your needs.
Juice Up Your Water!
Deanna Anderson | 03/22/2016
A few simple tricks can turn a plain glass of water into a tasty, refreshing beverage.
We all know that drinking water is important for, well, just about everything! Not only does it help with weight loss because it replaces the high calories in fruit drinks and sodas, but our bodies also need to be hydrated to stay healthy. Water is good for our complexion, maximizes muscle performance, helps balance our bodily fluids, aids in kidney health and function, and helps to maintain proper bowel functions.
Despite all these benefits, drinking more water and fewer sugary drinks is often easier said than done. A common complaint is “water has no flavor” or “I get tired of drinking just water!”
Luckily a few simple tricks can turn a plain glass of water into a refreshing, healthy beverage that not only tastes great but has added benefits for our bodies.
- Mint Leaves: Adding a few crushed mint leaves adds a light, refreshing zing (crushing them releases the oils for optimum flavor). Mint is also an excellent herb for easing an upset stomach.
- Citrus Fruits: Squeezing lemon, lime, grapefruit, or orange juices into water adds Vitamin C. Citrus fruits can also reduce the risks of strokes and cancer and improve eyesight. Slices of fruit can also be added to the water for added favor (don’t forget to eat the fruit when you’re done!).
- Herbal Tea: There are many wonderful herbal teas on the market. Teabags can be placed into a bottle of cold or Luke-warm water, and they will steep the same as in hot water. Herbal teas have a variety of benefits; look for one that suits your needs. .
- Lavender: Fresh lavender buds dropped in a water bottle not only adds a unique flavor but also has a soothing and calming effect that is perfect at the end of a long day.
- Other Fruits: Just about any fruit can be added to water such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, and even a few vegetables like cucumbers. Berries carry anti-oxidants which help fight disease, and cucumbers have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Adding natural flavors to water is a great way to increase your water intake. (Plus, an added benefit is that you will have plenty of leftover fruits or herbs on hand to add to wraps, salads, or other dishes!) Looking for more ideas? A search on the internet will yield even more flavor combinations, or you can have fun creating your own unique ways to juice up your water. Drink up!
Hannah Walters | 02/19/2016
Remember Chia Pets? Turns out chia seeds are good for much more than growing goofy chia pet hair!
Remember Chia Pets? (I was a big fan back in third grade.) Turns out chia seeds are good for much more than growing goofy chia pet hair!
Chia seeds, once a staple of Mayan and Aztec diets (cool, huh?), have re-emerged over the past decade as a popular health food. And for good reason. Just one tablespoon packs 3 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, and a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids—in only about 60 calories.
Chia seeds have a mild nutty flavor, but are fairly tasteless, which makes them a great addition to many popular meals or snacks. I often add them to smoothies, oatmeal, salads, granola, and baked goods (like muffins or quick breads). One of my favorite ways to use chia seeds is making chia seed pudding (chia seeds can absorb up to 10 times their weight in liquid, which makes them a great thickener). Chia seed pudding is quick, easy, and makes a unique breakfast, snack, or even healthy dessert option. If you Google chia seed pudding, you’ll be hit with thousands of interesting, yummy recipes, but the basic concept is to mix a quarter cup of chia seeds with one cup of liquid (usually milk or a milk alternative). Then you can add whatever flavors or extras you like. Let it thicken in the refrigerator for a few hours (overnight is best)…and voila! You have a delicious, simple pudding.
Below is one of my current favorite chia seed pudding recipes. How do you use chia seeds? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
Creamy Coconut Orange Chia Seed Pudding
(Adapted from Simple Roots Wellness)
1 cup coconut milk
Juice of 2 oranges (~1/2 cup)
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
¼ cup chia seeds*
Combine coconut milk, orange juice, zest, and maple syrup. Sprinkle in chia seeds and mix until well distributed. Pour into bowl with a lid, and refrigerate 4-5 hours (overnight is best). Sometimes I stir once in between to keep the pudding from clumping and to ensure the chia seeds remain distributed. When ready to eat, top with nuts, granola, coconut flakes, dried or fresh fruit, or any other goodies you enjoy.
*Not sure where to buy chia seeds? Trader Joes, Whole Foods Market, Wal-Mart and many other well-stocked supermarkets sell chia seeds. You can also buy them in bulk at Sam’s Club and Costco or through online retailers.
The Best Yogurts For Your Health: Greek or Regular?
Jayne Hurley | 02/12/2016
With so many options, how can you know which yogurts are the best yogurts?
The yogurt aisle isn’t what it used to be. In the last few years, greek yogurt has taken over a sizeable chunk of the refrigerator case, leaving non-greeks to compete for the remaining real estate.
Meanwhile, both greek and non-greek yogurts are branching out. Fat-free? Cream on top? You got ‘em. Fruit purée or fruit mousse? Yep. Lactose-free or no dairy at all? Got you covered. With so many options, how can you know which yogurts are the best yogurts?
What is yogurt?
Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are two of the strains of bacteria that companies add to milk to make yogurt. Many brands also add other bacteria.
You can tell if the bacteria are alive if the label says something like “live cultures” or “active cultures.” It may or may not carry the National Yogurt Association’s “Live & Active Cultures” seal, which requires a yearly fee. Live cultures decline over time, so the sooner you eat your yogurt, the more live cultures you’ll get.
So far, the only clear benefit of yogurt cultures is their ability to change milk’s naturally occurring sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. So people with lactose intolerance should have less diarrhea, gas, or other symptoms when they eat yogurt.
Does yogurt help restore beneficial bacteria to the gut after a course of antibiotics or help treat yeast infections? No good studies have looked.
Which are the best yogurts?
The best yogurts should be a good source of protein and calcium without loading you down with saturated fat, added sugars, or possibly unsafe sweeteners.
Should you look for added vitamin D?
If you need D from yogurt to help you reach your daily target – 600 IU for adults up to age 70 and 800 IU for people over 70 – check the label. Vitamin D is listed as a percent of the Daily Value (400 IU). So a yogurt with 20% of the DV, for example, has 80 IU.
What is Greek yogurt?
Greek yogurts are made by straining ordinary yogurt. The straining removes some of the liquid whey and leaves more concentrated solids behind. That makes Greek yogurt thick and rich – even if they’re fat-free – and higher in protein (about 17 grams for a 6 oz. fat-free plain) than non-Greek yogurts (about 8 grams).
The only downside: by straining out calcium-rich whey, the Greek yogurts end up with less calcium (about 15 to 20 percent of a day’s worth) than the non-Greek yogurts (25 to 30 percent).
One note about sugars in yogurt: Companies don’t have to disclose on their Nutrition Facts labels how many grams of sugar they’ve added and how many are naturally occurring in their milk or fruit ingredients. So we recommend reading the labels carefully.
Our recommendations () are plain unsweetened yogurts. We’ve listed the criteria—maximums for calories and saturated fat and minimums for protein and calcium—at the beginning of each section. We disqualified products with artificial sweeteners. Within each section, yogurts are ranked from least to most calories, then least to most saturated fat, most to least protein, and most to least calcium.
And one last caveat regarding the best yogurts: Some items with yogurt included as an ingredient may not contain all that much in the way of actual yogurt. For instance, Post Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch has very little Greek yogurt in it.
How to Turn your Child into a Healthy Eater
Brie Holmes | 12/08/2015
With a little work, it's possible to get even the pickiest eaters to enjoy their fruits and vegetables.
As parents, we want to do everything possible to make our children happy. When it comes to health, it isn’t always easy–kids are notorious for being picky eaters. If left up to them, many children would stick to just three food groups: desserts, goldfish, and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets! Alas. These narrow tastes can leave us frustrated and desperate for quick solutions. “You’re not leaving the table until you finish your broccoli,” quickly turns into, “fine, you can have extra dessert if you eat your peas without throwing a tantrum!” They say to pick your battles, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Health is a value that is inherently transferred from parent to child. From a young age, our children differentiate between “good” and “bad” foods based on what we teach them. If they are rewarded with unhealthy foods, they will continue to eat and enjoy these foods regularly as they grow. It’s up to us to instill healthy values in our children.
But how?! Fortunately, with a little work, it’s possible to get even the pickiest eaters to enjoy their fruits and vegetables. Here are some tips:
- Start a dialogue. When your child asks, “Why do I have to eat my (insert green vegetable here)?!” It’s tempting to respond with, “because I said so.” Instead, explain why that food is a good choice for your child and how it will help him or her grow big and strong. Talking about health is the key to starting a healthy lifestyle. Take your child grocery shopping with you and let them help decide which healthy foods they’d like to try. When you get home, invite your child into the kitchen with you to help cook a meal. Make it fun! Children will be more open to trying something that they helped cook.
- Don’t reward bad behavior. Make the same meals for everyone at your table. Don’t make a separate meal for your child because he or she doesn’t like what you’re already cooking. Instead, introduce “scary” foods slowly and incorporate them into dishes that your child already likes. Making a separate meal teaches a child that it isn’t important for him or her to try a new food because there will always be a backup.
- Offer Choices. Instead of telling your child what you’ll be preparing for dinner, give them a choice between two healthy options. Say, “do you want carrots or green beans?” instead of “we’re having green beans at dinner.” If children choose which healthy food they’d rather eat, it makes them more inclined to actually eat it. In addition, if your child is hungry (even between meals), offer healthy snack options instead of encouraging him or her to wait for dinner or preparing an unhealthy snack.
- Lead by example. Believe it or not, your food choices shape what your child craves. If you expect the rest of the family to eat salad for dinner while you eat pizza, your child will notice! Developing your own healthy habits is beneficial for everyone. In addition, emphasize health rather than dieting or weight loss. Teach your children the importance of long-term, sustainable healthy lifestyles.
Six Tips for a Healthier Halloween
Hannah Walters | 10/29/2015
Though fun, Halloween is a notoriously sugary holiday. Here are 6 tips to keep you and yours healthy this fall!
Though fun, Halloween is a notoriously sugary holiday. Here are 6 tips to keep you and yours healthy this fall!
- Focus on family fun activities rather than sugary treats. You can go pumpkin or apple picking, navigate corn mazes, carve pumpkins, make crafts and decorations, and so much more!
- Sneak in an extra serving of vegetables by adding pumpkin puree to your favorite foods! Pumpkin is packed with Vitamin A, fiber, and potassium, and tastes great in oatmeal, muffins, nut butters, soups, and many other dishes.
- Get creative with Halloween-themed fruits and vegetables. With a bit of work and imagination, apples can transform into creepy mummies, clementines can become cute pumpkins, and carrots can turn into witchs€€ fingers! (Check these Pinterest accounts for ideas: ESMMSC, CSPI, ACDKids, MomsRising)
- Skip the fried, sweetened treats at festivals or markets and take advantage of fall harvests! Apples, grapes, and sweet potatoes are all in season. Nature is sweet, too!
- Make sure your family eats a healthy meal before heading out to trick-or-treat! This can help discourage excessive snacking. Also, keep any leftover Halloween candy stored out of sight (and out of mind!).
- Instead of passing out candy on Halloween, try giving out dried fruit, fruit strips, gum, stickers, bubbles, small toys, rings, etc.
What's in Season?
Navigating your local grocery store or farmers market is easy when you know what's in season.
Navigating your local grocery store or farmers market is easy when you know what's in season. Here's a chart from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture to show you which fresh produce to buy from your local farmers in October (and every season). Time to look up recipes for apples, squash, grapes, sweet potatoes and more!