5 Foods Guaranteed to Get Your Heart Racing (While Keeping Your Waistline in Check)

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Love is in the air! Okay, so maybe not literally, but around this time of year my mind goes back to grammar school days of inking sweet nothings and hoping to receive a bounty of confectioneries on February 14th. We’ve all come a long way since then, but Valentine’s Day is still a great opportunity to pack some amazing nutrition into your diet.  I can’t guarantee you a date on the 14th but I can certainly help you stock up on foods of love!

5 Foods Guaranteed to get your heart racing

Chocolate

Yes, we’ve all been bombarded with the whole chocolate thing but did you know that it was considered the “Nourishment of Gods” by early Aztec cultures? Chocolate contains two properties, caffeine and theobromine, that act as natural stimulants in the body.  Besides revving you up for a hot date, it also contains more antioxidant properties than a glass of red wine! Don’t go overboard! This doesn’t mean you can eat a two tier box of truffles. Brands like Bissinger’s and sweetriot keep it simple with 45 cal squares and 100 calorie bars of dark chocolate decadence. sweetriot also has tins of flavored cacao nibs that are ideal for an on the go fix.  Or get a dose of calcium and sweetness with Adora chocolate discs; they satisfy a sweet tooth AND provide your daily calcium requirements.

Asparagus

These sexy spears have tons of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamine. They also contain a healthy dose of folic acid, boosting histamine production, a hormone that regulates other “feel good” chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine. Try a quick steam by placing in microwave with a damp paper towel over them. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and a pear vinaigrette for great flavor. Delicious served chilled as a salad course!

Sweet Basil

Said to increase fertility in women, sweet basil has an intoxicating smell and taste. Simmer tomato sauce with a few leaves and pair with a serving of whole wheat pasta. Sweet basil is also delicious in salads or simply as a topping on a freshly sliced tomato.

Garlic

You should probably keep a tin of Altoids on hand if you plan on indulging, but the health benefits are well worth it! Packed with the chemical allicin, garlic increases overall blood flow in the body. Skip the capsules and get this V-day staple directly from food for a full effect.

Red Wine

In moderation, we all know that wine can be beneficial to our body.  Even my 21 day Bread is the Devil Blueprint plan allows you to have a glass.  Red wine contains polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants associated with increased heart health. A healthy ticker equals a healthier you! Enjoy, but keep in mind any more than 2 glasses will have the exact opposite effects on the body.

Whether you’re single or attached at the hip, it doesn’t matter! Enjoy these foods regardless of your relationship status and you’ll feel a warm glow of love from within!

‘Water’ You Drinking?

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The summer may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean that your level of hydration should take a dip as well. Through the summer months it’s important to keep your body hydrated for a number of reasons. Did you know that our body uses 2 to 3 quarts of water per day to keep up basic functions such as body temperature regulation and metabolic processes? As a point of reference, that’s anywhere from 64 to 96 fluid ounces of liquid! Not only is water needed for homeostasis, but it is essential for joints and muscle mass. Think of it as the fluffy pillow of fluid between your bone and cartilage. Don’t be discouraged, though; there are plenty of ways to incorporate water into your diet. It doesn’t have to be all about plain old H2O! Keep these tips in mind as you “wet” your appetite.

1. Skip the Cubism — It’s easy to get your chill on while keeping hydrated. Toss some fresh berries, sliced peaches and pineapple wedges into the freezer. The next time you’re craving a chilly refresher, use the frozen fruit instead of regular ice cubes. Not only will the fruit cool down your glass of water, but it also adds taste without tons of calories! Once you’ve slurped down your beverage, enjoy the fruit for a boost of filling fiber.

2. Find Some Flavor — I often hear complaints from clients about the lack of flavor in water. No argument here — water definitely isn’t the most daring of beverage choices. Keep it interesting by adding Nuun All Day flavor tablets. They have fewer than 10 calories per tab and come in some amazing flavor combinations like Tangerine Lime and Cucumber Mint.  A simple plop, plop, fizz, fizz and you’ve got yourself some serious hydration! They also have high levels of potassium and magnesium, which are essential nutrients when it comes to your fluid electrolyte balance, cell growth and muscle contractions. Toss a few in your gym bag to avoid dehydration after an intense workout, or add a couple tablets to a pitcher of water and pour into Popsicle molds. Stick in the freezer for the perfect summertime treat.

3. Get It in Early — This is one of my favorite tips to offer up to clients. Aim to reach at least half of your hydration goal by noon. This way, you’ll feel less pressured as the day wears on. I call it the Liter by Lunch. It’s not uncommon for one to let a whole morning pass away and consume only a single cup of coffee. Instead, commit to a full glass before your AM java jolt. Keep a water bottle in front of your computer screen or by your phone at all times. We use these items so frequently, and the visual reminder of water next to them can result in increased sippage!

4. Consider Double-Fisting — Just kidding, well, sort of. Before heading out for a long night, you’ll want to start off with one large bottle of water. This sets the hydration precedence for the entire night. Follow up by alternating between one alcoholic drink and one non-alcoholic drink. This doesn’t mean you can imbibe soda, juice or tea instead. Keep your non-alcoholic choice to either water or seltzer. Be sure to steer clear of tonic.  People tend to think it’s similar to seltzer or club soda, but it actually contains just as many calories as soda and juice.

5. Eat to Hydrate — Don’t get caught up in thinking that all your liquid requirements have to come from a glass. There are plenty of foods that have high water content to quench your thirst. Celery takes the prize by having 95 percent water content, in addition to essential electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium and potassium. Veggies like cucumbers and bell peppers pack a satisfying crunch yet tons of H2O! Or choose fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, and cantaloupe for seasonal satisfaction. Not only do these foods up your hydration ante, but they also have a significant filling effect on the stomach. This means you’ll consume less but feel fuller. Perfect for weight loss!

Water plays a significant role in weight loss, athletic performance and day-to-day functioning. So the next time you want to reach for that iced tea or soda, consider the abovementioned five tips. Keeping hydrated has never been so easy!

The Anatomy of a Healthy Salad

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How many times have you been in a restaurant with a friend and heard her  say, “Oh, I’ll just have a salad,” with a satisfied look on her face?  When looking for a healthy option,  it’s not uncommon for people to immediately rely on salad as their  go-to meal. Often associated with being low in calories and high in  nutrients, salads seem to make sense. The truth is, sometimes opting for  a salad can be one of your worst dieting downfalls. On the other hand,  salads don’t have to equate to a wider waistline. Research shows people  who eat salads are more likely to have higher levels of key nutrients  that prevent cancer and heart disease, and may consume 12 percent less  calories throughout the meal. It’s all about preparing them correctly  and knowing what to add in and what to take out. Below are my five top  tips on how to slim down your salad, without sacrificing flavor or  nutrition.

Throw Some Fat Into the Mix

Salads can fall on complete opposite ends of the spectrum if you’re not careful. Eating a bowl full of green leaves  and raw veggies with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar is one of the  biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight. Sure, it’s low  in calories, but in order for your body to effectively use the abundant  nutrients in the vegetables, some type of fat needs to be added. Choose  an unsaturated one, and remember, a little goes a long way. Your body  only requires a small amount of fat in a meal to absorb the nutrients.  Consider using two to three thin slices of avocado to not only add in  heart-healthy fats, but also potassium, fiber, and vitamin E. At 50  calories, you can’t go wrong!

Remember, It’s a Salad, Not a Sandwich

Often,  devoted salad eaters choose to add in items like bacon, chicken, or  steak to make their salads more fulfilling. While it may do just that,  it can potentially add too many calories. If you must, pick one meat or  poultry option, but make sure to skip the cheese to avoid calorie  overload. Another idea is to garnish your greens with two egg whites  instead. This adds approximately 8 grams of protein for less than 50  calories. Or choose a legume, such as navy or kidney beans, to pack in  protein as well as fiber. An optimal serving for navy beans is ¼ cup,  which contains about 4 grams of both protein and fiber for 65 calories.  Just because your sandwich comes with bread doesn’t mean your salad has  to. Skip the breadsticks or pita typically offered on the side. They only add empty calories.

Swap Croutons for Crunchy Snack Mix

Ever  notice that most croutons don’t even crunch when you bite into them?  That’s because they’re drenched in either oil or butter to make up for  their lack of flavor and freshness. Regardless, a small serving of  croutons can contain anywhere from 50 to 90 calories without adding much  satisfaction. Instead, sprinkle your salad with Sheffa Zesty Snack Mix.  Made with ground chickpeas, the noodles are a great source of vegetable  protein that fall low on the glycemic index, which allows for a slower  release of sugar in the bloodstream, stabilizing appetite. One serving  will give your salad added crunch, taste, fiber, and protein to keep you  satiated for a longer period of time. Or crumble a high-fiber cracker  like GG Scandinavian Bran Crispbreads on top for some crunchy flavor.

The Darker the Better

When  it comes to being savvy about your salad, use your eyes! Swap pale  greens such as iceberg lettuce for leaves like kale, arugula, and  romaine lettuce. Dark green leafy vegetables rank high on the  nutritional scale, and are packed with fiber, phytochemicals,  antioxidants, and vitamins. Most people think of dairy foods as the  ultimate way to ensure enough calcium in their diet.  But leafy veggies such as mustard greens, kale, and bok choy all  contain considerable amounts of this bone-building nutrient for fewer  calories than dairy products. For example, adding 1 cup of kale to your  mix can amp up your salad by providing well over 100 percent of your  daily value for nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K.

Opt for Homemade Dressings

Have  you ever looked at how many ingredients are in most store-bought salad  dressings? And can you even pronounce half of them? Homemade salad  dressings are pretty simple. Start with an oil base (I prefer olive  oil), which acts as the emulsifier. Then, add in your favorite type of  vinegar. Although balsamic is popular, it’s fun to play around with  other flavors such as pear, raspberry, or even pomegranate! Next, chop  up some fresh herbs, which add flavor but not sodium.  The best varieties for salad include basil, thyme, marjoram, and  chives. Fresh is always best, but dried herbs can suffice in a pinch.  Ground pepper is also a must. Lastly, add in a pinch of sea salt to  taste. You can also experiment by adding different types of mustard to  provide another depth of flavor. Varieties like Dijon, whole-grain, or  sweet mustards all pack in flavor without tons of calories.

Chia: Not Just for Pets

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Chi chi chi Chia! Most people hear the word chia and have flashbacks of cheesy ’90s infomercials and bad Christmas gifts. Yes, chia can be used in lieu of a pet, but there is so much more that you can do with this spectacular seed! Let’s start off with a little Chia 101. Typically seen in seed form, the plant originated from Mexico and Guatemala. The word chia is derived from the word chian, which translates to the word oily, and is one of the main reasons there are so many health benefits. This gluten-free wonder can be eaten in raw seed form, ground into a fine powder or pressed into oil.

Raw Chia Seeds

Change up your morning routine and turn breakfast into your most powerful meal of the day. Mix two tablespoons of raw chia seeds into a 0 percent Greek yogurt to add four grams of fiber to your meal. Read about the amazing benefits of fiber in my previous post. You’ll also up your protein intake by five grams. That’s approximately 15 grams in total!

Chia Seed Oil

Next time you’re craving some greens, switch up the olive oil for chia seed oil. It’s loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in the prevention of heart disease, hypertension, stroke and depression. For an innovative twist on your standard green salad, mix 1/2 cup cooked quinoa with some parsley, green onion, basil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Drizzle with a 1/2 tablespoon chia seed oil for a salad that’s sure to please inside and out! Another option is to use chia as a micro green and add the sprouts to a traditional salad. It’s an effortless way to boost your protein, fiber and calcium intake!

CocoChia Living Fuel Snack Mix

A satisfying blend of coconut and chia seeds, this snack mix is an ideal option when searching for a snack on the go. Filled with antioxidants, one single-serve packet contributes to 20 percent of your daily fiber intake yet comes in under 150 calories. Opt for a pack instead of conventional, high calorie trail mix, or try swirling it into your morning oatmeal.

Chia Seed Powder

Put a little pizazz into your next smoothie and switch out conventional protein powder for chia seed powder. Start with ice, 1 cup of almond milk and 1 cup of non-fat Greek yogurt. Add in 1/2 cup raspberries,1/2 banana and 1/2 cup blueberries. Blend well and toss in three tablespoons of chia seed powder. The result? A delish summer refresher that packs in a whopping 10 grams of protein and fiber! It’s the perfect treat to recharge after a workout.

Fight the BBQ Bulge: Your Guide to Summer Sauces

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Schools are out, beaches are open, and the sun is blazing! With all  this summery goodness comes one of my favorite events: Outdoor  barbecues! It just wouldn’t be summer without an outdoor gathering of  your closest friends and family.Ribs, steaks, and chicken kebabs … what  do all of these things have in common? Sauce! It’s usually slathered on  thick or used as a marinade before cooking protein or veggies. But  certain ones can wreak havoc on your carefully chiseled summer  waistline. Below is a guide to sauces that will get you through the season without the barbecue bulge!

Limit your sodium

Sodium  is the biggest offender when dealing with sauce, because it adds flavor  and is often used as a preservative to increase shelf life. Since  barbecue sauce is used in such plentiful amounts, adhere to strict  sodium guidelines when choosing one, or you’ll certainly feel the bloat  the next day. Aim for under 250 milligrams per 2-tablespoon serving.  This may be hard to find with many popular sauce brands, so look for  unique food companies that focus more on flavoring with spices instead  of loading on the salt. One of my favorites is Danielle’s Sauces, which  is built on the belief of “clean cooking,” so their products are free of  preservatives and additives. I love the company’s Smoke & Spice BBQ  Sauce, which contains only 240 milligrams of sodium per 2-tbsp. serving  but packs tons of flavor and kick. Or, infuse some Asian flavor into  your dish by using the brand’s Chiliyaki sauce, a spicy teriyaki that’s  one of the lowest-sodium sauces on the market.

Beware of sugar

So  many sauces are flavored with molasses, brown sugar, or even corn syrup  to maintain a smoky sweetness, but sugar can cause your calories to add  up faster than you think. As a rule, try to look for sauces that are  less than 50 calories per 2-tbsp. serving. Chris’ and Pitt’s Bar-B-Q  Sauce is perfect to spread on ribs or chicken and has just 30 calories  in 2 tablespoons. If you opt for a sauce that’s higher in calories, try  to keep the sauce on the side to use as a dip. You’ll most likely use  less if it’s not slathered on beforehand.

Hot  sauce is another great option because it’s low in calories, and you only  need a dash or two to make things interesting. Among the numerous  varieties of hot sauces available, Shiracha hot sauce is my go-to summer  barbecue staple. It provides a spicy flavor, not a five-alarm fire. A  teaspoon or two is all you need and adds just 10 calories and 200  milligrams of sodium to your dish.

Swap sauce for salsa

There’s  something to be said for barbecue sauce, but you may find that topping  your freshly grilled salmon or scallops with a heap of homemade salsa  can add a refreshing aspect to your dish.  Dice an avocado, and combine with half a cup of quartered grape  tomatoes, a three-quarter cup of fresh corn and 1 tablespoon of fresh  cilantro. Add a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of salt, and you’re  ready to go. The unsaturated fat from the avocado, combined with the  citrus flavoring will create such a bold flavor, you’ll never miss the  sauce! If you’re pressed for time, consider a jarred salsa. The Brooklyn  Salsa Company creates unique blends from local, sustainable  ingredients. Enjoy The Green flavor, which combines cumin, ginger, and  heirloom tomatoes for about 100 milligrams of sodium and only 10  calories per serving.

Make it homemade

Creating your own sauce at home can ignite your creative side and inspire you to add unique spices and fresh flavorings. Keeping it homemade  also gives you control over the nutritional content of the sauce. Start  with a tomato base of either no-salt-added ketchup or no-salt-added  tomato sauce which you can find in the condiment aisle of any large  supermarket. Add 2 tablespoons of molasses, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and  a sprinkle of brown sugar. Season with freshly ground pepper and  one-half teaspoon of garlic powder. You can stop right here, and the  sauce will be delicious, or consider experimenting with spices such as  curry or ginger powder. For a different flavor, try apple cider or red  wine vinegar.

Summer is not a time to be a wallflower! So enjoy the beach, the sun, and the barbecues, knowing that you don’t need to sacrifice flavor when watching your calories.

Gluten For Dummies: Real Tips From a Nutritionist

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“Gluten Free” is everywhere: supermarkets, magazines, and celebrity diets. Is it good for you? Does it have real health advantages? Can it help you lose weight and stay healthy? As a nutritionist to celebrities and professionals alike, I get these questions constantly. With all the hype, it’s easy to forget that there is an actual medical reason for cutting out the gluten.

What is gluten, anyway?

Gluten is a protein found in certain types of grain — wheat, rye, barley — that can cause an autoimmune reaction in in the small intestine, resulting in symptoms ranging from stomach pain to nutrient malabsorption. People that suffer from this are often diagnosed with celiac disease, which affects more than 3 million Americans nationwide. The most effective solution is a strict, gluten-free diet.

Just how many people can’t tolerate gluten?

A much wider audience is suffering from milder symptoms of gluten intolerance than previously realized — nearly 18 million Americans. Those with even the slightest bit of intolerance are turning their focus to gluten-free foods to alleviate these uncomfortable side effects.

Should I go gluten-free?

Stocking up on every food item that touts the “gluten-free” label seems like a no-brainer — but that’s not always the best-case scenario. Gluten binds foods like pretzels and cake together. Without it, food companies are forced to add extra fat and sugar to make up for the lack of texture and flavor. Hello, extra calories! Gluten-free foods can be quite expensive, too (bread at $6?). These products may be the remedy to your GI issues but could be causing a thickening waistline and a thinning wallet. My advice: Seek out foods that are naturally gluten-free, instead of trying to eat something that’s trying to be something it’s not.

5 gluten-free carbs that won’t break the bank or widen your waistline:

Oatmeal — I get this question all the time: “Is oatmeal gluten-free?” The answer is yes, naturally it is. That being said, oats are usually processed in food facilities that also contain wheat products so the chance of cross contamination is high.  However, there are companies that have isolated, specialized farms that produce gluten-free grains without this concern. Bob’s Red Mill has an entire line of oat products ranging from quick rolled or steel cut oats to GF oat flour. Pick your pleasure!

Polenta — This freshly-ground corn product actually yields a lot of options. Trader Joe’s offers an organic variety that works great as a substitute for pasta or used as a pie crust in an egg white and spinach quiche. Since polenta is gluten-free to start with, you won’t find any extra sugar or fat. A 1/4 tube serving is only 70 calories and provides two grams of protein.

Buckwheat — People usually group buckwheat into the cereal grain category, but it’s actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and is packed with magnesium and phosphorous. Replace rice side dishes with buckwheat or add to soups instead of using noodles. Besides its hearty flavor, buckwheat satisfies hunger with six grams of protein and five grams of fiber per one cooked cup serving.

Wheat free tortillas — Going Gluten-free can make sandwiches and wraps difficult. Using a low calorie, wheat free tortilla makes an excellent substitution. French Meadow bakery uses tapioca starch and rice flour to make a delicious wrap at only 120 calories.

Amaranth — One of the lesser-known grains, amaranth contains more protein than wheat in a form that is more readily available to the body. When compared to other grains, it’s also the front runner in calcium, iron and an important amino acid called lysine.  You can find amaranth in one of my favorite fiber bars by Oskri.

Try all of these alternatives and see how gluten-free works for you. It might make you feel fuller, healthier, and refreshed. But don’t let it rule your life.

DIY Greek Yogurt Desserts: Delicious and Nutritious

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As a nutritionist I want to give you delicious, healthy recipes that won’t break your calorie bank. As I tell you in my book, Bread is the Devil, it’s crucial to live your life, not your diet. So yes, dessert is allowed! Greek yogurt has seen a recent popularity in every facet of the food world — even Ben & Jerry’s has created a frozen swirl. What’s not to love? Greek yogurt is high in protein, low in sugar and is one of the most versatile ingredients around. When it comes to sweet treats, Greek yogurt is the way to go. Here are three ways to knock out your sweet tooth while whittling your waistline.

Frozen Yogurt

Mainstream ice cream brands are pumping out their Greek yogurt lines faster than dietitians are comfortable with. It’s tempting to toss a few pints into your shopping basket and call it a day, but buyers beware! Some of these brands contain over 400 calories per half-pint, which is the same amount as regular ice cream. And let’s face it, who really eats just a half-pint anyway? I could put an entire one away before you say “30 Rock.” This doesn’t mean that you can’t partake in an icy indulgence. My best advice is to try making your own fro-yo at home. You’ll need an ice cream maker, but it’s well worth it.

To make:

Combine 2 cups of 2% plain Greek yogurt, ¼ cup honey and a ½ teaspoon of vanilla into an ice cream maker to yield one pint. If you’d like to add fresh pureed fruit, this is the time to do it. Be sure to blend well! The amount of time the yogurt will need to mix will vary by manufacturer. The key to a great consistency is the second freeze. After the yogurt is done “pre-freezing” in the machine, place the mixture in your regular freezer for at least four hours. The result will be a smooth, creamy delight!

Parfaits

One of the simplest things to make at home, store-bought parfaits can clock in at about 40 grams of sugar and 350 calories per serving. That’s one way NOT to start off your day. By switching to this homemade approach you can avoid extra calories and sugar while still getting over 15 grams of protein and six grams of fiber.  They are also a dinner host’s dream, as they can be made ahead of time and placed in the fridge to set.

To make:

Choose your favorite individual sized 0% or 2% Greek yogurt and mix well. Scoop half of the container into a parfait glass. Instead of using high-fat loose granola, crumble one half of a Kashi TLC Crunchy Granola Bar on top of the yogurt. Sprinkle a handful of berries over the granola. Repeat, and enjoy!

Creamy Popsicles

Fruit and cream is a delicious combination, and can be done in a healthy way that will still satisfy even the strongest sweet tooth. Store-bought brands are loaded with added sugar and lack fresh fruit, that’s why I prefer to make these pops at home. They take about 10 minutes of prep and then you’re done! To make six pops, puree 1 cup each of plain 0% Greek yogurt and fresh berries with 2 tablespoons of honey in a food processor. Fill 3-oz. paper cups with mixture, insert Popsicle sticks and place in the freezer for at least six hours. These are great to make in bulk and keep in your fridge for guests, kids or a simple craving!

Fad Dieting: It’s a Don’t, and Here’s Why

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What do Kate Middleton, Victoria Beckham and Kourtney Kardashian reportedly have in common? A nasty three-letter word. Can’t figure it out? It’s F-A-D. As in fad diet. I can’t even stifle my frustration, it’s a confusing and dangerous trend that dumbs down the science of nutrition and point fingers at unassuming foods, causing a tailspin to ensue. Sure, it makes perfect sense to inject female pregnancy hormones into your belly, or even better let’s exist on 500 calories a day and walk around with jars of baby food. If the newest thing was the “Air Diet” people would jump on the bandwagon and start saying “Gosh, I feel great, all I’ve had today is this amazing AIR! One thing you’ll never see me or any of my clients do is a fad diet. As a registered dietician, I believe in eating whole foods, as unprocessed as possible and not starving yourself. Where is that going to get you?

So what’s the problem with a fad diet anyway? Fad diets typically eliminate a food group, possibly causing nutrient deficiencies in your daily intake. I know it’s tempting to believe every diet claim that pops up on your morning show, but here are four questions you should ask yourself to determine if it’s actually legit:

1.) Where did the information come from?

Legit health claims come from academic institutions and medical centers. Research done by a food company always raises eyebrows. For example, most studies touting breakfast as the most important meal of the day are funded by huge cereal and grain companies…

2.) Is the information applicable to you?

If research found that a small group of 25-year-olds in Alaska tended to have lower cholesterol when eating salmon, take a moment to think. Are you in that age category? Are you from that region? Does your genetic or ethnic background even closely resemble theirs? If not, you should probably wait until larger studies are done among the masses before heading to Costco to buy that family pack of salmon. Don’t be a narcissist, not all nutrition research applies to you!

3.) Are the foods recommended appropriate for your diet?

Remember this: foods that are supposedly good for you are only going to help if they work into YOUR personal eating habits. Grapes are a convenient snack that travels well and tastes great. But, if you are prone to overeating pickable, poppable foods, they may not be the best thing for you. A hand fruit, such as an apple or orange, would probably be a better choice.

4.) Does it eliminate an entire food group?

Yes, my book may be called Bread is the Devil, but let’s clear things up. I’m not saying that all carbs are bad for you and that we shouldn’t eat them. It’s simply a commentary that refined carbs (like the ones we find in that piping hot bread basket) typically lead to eating more unhealthy foods like cookies, cakes and candy. I even encourage sandwiches! A turkey sandwich on whole wheat is a great lunch option. So don’t trust anything that tells you to eliminate a certain color food, or an entire food group for that matter.

Leave the science of nutrition up to the researchers in the lab. Everyday nutrition is not rocket science. Most importantly, remember that food is meant to be enjoyed. Every meal does not have to turn into a mini-crisis. You wouldn’t take on every single fashion trend that came your way (hello, neon leggings) so try not to do it with your diet.

Under the Sea(weed)

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You’ve seen it around your sushi, most likely. Not the soy sauce or the little green mound of wasabi, but the seaweed that holds everyone’s favorite food together. It makes sushi rolls delicious and portable, but it’s a lot more than wrapping paper. Did you know that seaweed has virtually no fat and large amounts of iodine? There are three main groups of seaweed: red algae, green algae and brown algae. It’s time to incorporate such a healthy food into your diet, and not just in sushi. It’s a wrap-up, if you will:

Nori

Part of the red algae family, this type of seaweed is commonly used to wrap sushi, but also sliced into strips, toasted and used as a garnish on soups and salads.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Department touts this as the most nutritious variety of seaweed, because it’s loaded with B vitamins and iodine. Originally harvested from the ocean, it’s now produced on specialized farms to meet increasing demands.  This salty snack is typically eaten by the sheet (thin and flaky), which only contain 5 to 10 calories, yet pack a gram of fiber each. It even has more vitamin C than an orange!

Wakame

Vegan alert! It’s the leathery, green substance that’s found floating around in your miso soup. Delicious! This popular brown seaweed variety contains a plethora of nutrients that are typically lacking in the vegan diet. Not only does wakame have calcium, but it’s also full of vitamin D, which aids in the calcium absorption process. In addition, it’s loaded with folate and vitamin C, a proven dynamic duo that aids the body in soaking up iron. Ancient medicine associates this green goodness with alleviating constipation and preventing colon cancer. Beware of the sodium content though. A 50 gram serving can have over 400 mg of sodium, which may not be ideal for those prone to high blood pressure.

Ulva

Also referred to as sea lettuce or “dead man’s fingers” (yum!) this is the most common variety of green algae seaweed that resembles fresh cabbage. Ulva is the ideal substitute for regular romaine or iceberg leaves. Simply soak in cold water to remove the salty flavor, towel-dry and then use the same way you would use lettuce. Pair with Asian components such as ginger, daikon and wasabi for a refreshing salad that packs protein, vitamins and minerals. Seaweed is one of the healthiest vegetables around, and a simple addition to your menu. Toss the chips and start crunching on SeaSnax instead. They have a Grab & Go pack that’s only 16 calories! Or crumble Annie Chun’s seaweed snacks in roasted sesame flavor into your soup or salad instead of croutons. They add a hint of flavor without increasing the calories.  Mix fresh red and green seaweed with sliced carrots, rice wine vinegar and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for a low-cal side that packs fiber and fullness.

The bottom (of the ocean) line is this – you can’t go wrong with seaweed. So pick your color, and eat up.

Figuring Out Fiber

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By now the secret is out. Fiber keeps you-um- regular. But fiber gets a bad rap, because it promotes images of your grandma’s prunes and weird, grainy orange drinks. Not so yummy. It’s no wonder that according to National Health and Nutrition Examination survey (NHANES), 9 out of 10 Americans aren’t getting enough fiber. It may not have the most glamorous role in a healthy diet but trust me, it’s important. So let’s take this intriguing lesson from the top.

There are two types of fiber. Insoluble and soluble. The basic rule of thumb is that soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble fiber does not. Soluble fiber is attracted to water so it’s best to drink lots of water in order for it to work most effectively. When it is ingested, the fiber pulls in water from the body, forming a gel which pulls out cholesterol and delays digestion. By slowing the rate at which the stomach empties, soluble fiber gives the body a better chance to control blood sugar levels. This has been shown to be extremely beneficial for those with insulin sensitivity and diabetes. Delayed stomach emptying from the ingestion of fiber is also useful in keeping you fuller for longer periods of time. Recent research shows that even a small increase (5 to 10 grams) of soluble fiber per day can reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) by 5 percent.  Soluble fiber can be found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, bran, nuts and seeds.

Insoluble fibers consist mostly of compounds found in plant cells and bran layers in cereal. They play a vital role in keeping your gastrointestinal tract on track. Because they do not dissolve in water, they pass through the digestive system intact and relatively quickly. This in turn promotes regularity by stimulating the movement of the intestinal muscles, pushing out waste and cleaning out your intestines. Insoluble fiber can be found in the skins of fruits such as apples and pears, root and leafy vegetables.

Use these three meal ideas below to get you started! Just remember, work yourself up to a high-fiber diet and drink at least one full glass of water with each meal to avoid stomach discomfort, cramping and bloating.

Breakfast:

A guaranteed way to amp up your intake is to start your day with a ½ cup of oatmeal, topped with 3 tablespoons of GG Bran Sprinkles and a ½ cup of sliced strawberries. That’s 11 grams of fiber for less than 200 calories! This breakfast is sure to get you through until lunchtime without a case of the mid morning munchies.

Lunch:

Take your typical lunchtime sandwich order and kick it up with some fiber! Switch to 100% whole grain bread, top turkey with spinach, tomatoes and sprouts and swap chips for carrots and cucumbers.  By making these 3 small changes to your sandwich you can add 5 to 7 grams of fiber without sacrificing taste. When packing lunch for myself or my family I rely on Trader Joe’s 100% Mulitgrain Fiber bread. One slice has 6 grams of fiber and only 100 calories.

Dinner:

Change up the typical green starter salad by adding some extra ingredients. Toss in ¼ cup of navy beans and you’ll add 4 to 5 grams. Add in hearts of palm, which is the tender cord taken from the center of a cabbage palm, as an easy way to increase fiber content. They typically are sold canned, so remember to rinse thoroughly to lower the sodium content before loading them onto your salad. One cup contains 4 grams of fiber and less than 50 calories!

For an entrée, cook up a cup and a half of Al Dente BonaChia Fettuccine  and toss with marinated artichoke hearts. Instead of refined white flour, this pasta is made with chia grain and provides 4 grams of fiber per serving. By adding in a half cup of artichokes you’ll amp up the fiber content by 7 grams. This delicious pasta dish is only 300 calories and packs in 11 grams of fiber!

The moral of the story?  Fiber is very important to health, digestion and weight loss. But there’s no need to rush out and buy a chalky powder or supplement to increase your fiber intake. It’s just as easy to obtain fiber through food, and so much tastier! If you’re curious to try some of the fibrous products mentioned check out my June Bestowed box for GG Bran Sprinkles and Al Dente BonaChia Fettuccine. Eat Well!

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