Bake or Bake not—But there is no fry!

Popular fried foods include fish, chicken strips, corn dogs, cheese and French fries. But thanks to our Illinois State Fair, we have learned that you can deep fry just about anything.

What’s the difference between fried and baked food?

The main difference between a fried menu item and one that is baked is the amount of calories and fat. When foods are deep fried, they lose their water content and absorb more fat. Depending on the food item, the caloric value can double or even triple when fried. If your goal is to lose weight or even maintain a healthy weight, fried foods are not a good choice.

We now know that fat is actually very healthy for us. Unfortunately, fried foods have the highest content of trans fat, which is a terrible source of fat for your body and arterial health.

What are some healthy fat sources?

Healthy fats like those found in salmon and avocados are excellent for reducing inflammation in your arteries and joints. However, the oils most often used for frying contain high amounts of inflammatory fatty acids. Consuming fried foods can cause inflammation in the gut and aggravate joint and muscle pain.

One last thing…

Don’t be fooled by frozen fried foods. Those frozen chicken strips and French fries that you are “baking” in the oven? They were fried prior to being frozen. Baking is simply the method preferred for reheating them.

Ready to try a non-fried fish meal? Check out my easiest salmon recipe ever for a delicious and nutritious baked dinner!

School’s Out! Now What?

School is almost out for the summer, and, honestly, I’m not really looking forward to that. Yes, I will love having all three of my kids home, but I keep thinking about two things:

  1. I’m going to be refereeing a whole lot more!

and

  1. My grocery bill is going to skyrocket in two weeks.

What is it about kids being home all day that makes them so hungry? Sure, I’m the dietitian, and I should be providing the answers, not asking the questions. I think we can all agree that it’s tough being asked for something to eat all day, so here are a few things I plan to work on this summer to help my own children eat right while they’re home.

Schedule/Routine

As with adults, when we are bored we tend to want to eat more—kids are no exception. So still trying to have routine or schedule during the summer can help alleviate the feeling of always being “hungry.” (Note: I do believe there’s nothing wrong with kids being bored and having to figure out things to do for themselves. However, a daily routine will still help keep them from boredom snacking.)

Snack Drawer

Having a snack drawer in the fridge and in the cabinets will allow the kids to go help themselves. However, you’ll have to make sure the snacks are ready to go, so here are tips for having the food prepared and portioned out.

For the fridge:

  • Cut up strawberries, watermelon, cucumber, celery, peppers
  • Blueberries, grapes, baby carrots, pea pods, grape/cherry tomatoes
  • Fruit cups of peaches, pears, applesauce, mandarin oranges
  • Hard boiled eggs, string cheese, sliced cheese, Greek yogurt, hummus, single-serving containers of natural peanut/almond butter

For the cabinet/drawer:

  • 100 calorie packs of nuts
  • Single-portion baggies of cheese its, pretzels, goldfish crackers, animal crackers, vanilla wafers, trail mix
  • Single-serving containers of peanut butter
  • Suckable applesauce, applesauce cups, fruit cups

Food Activities:

Having the kids “play” with their food takes time for the kids and also can get them exposed to new foods. 

  • Try having kid’s string fruit and cheese onto a stick or necklace. No more candy necklaces required.
  • Make watermelon popsicles, with slices of watermelon and popsicle sticks.
  • Create playful scenes with vegetables. Check out com for more information—such a cute idea!
  • Have your child help an adult make fruit ice cream, popsicles and smoothies.
  • Make a meal on a stick, such as pizza kabobs with pita, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, vegetables and pizza sauce.

Physical Activity:

Help your children incorporate physical activity into their daily routine. Keeping kids active will help keep their minds off food and prevent weight gain over the summer. My personal goal is for the kids to have a set number of minutes of activity before they can have screen time. Now, realistically, I know this is not going to work every day, but it’s certainly something to work toward and on. As my motto goes, progress not perfection.

Hydration:

Hydration is often overlooked on a day at home and more thought about when out and about. However, this is one of the most important things for both kids and ourselves during the summer. Plain water is most certainly the best option, but with all these great fruits and vegetables coming in, experiment with fruit infusing waters.

The Benefits of Spring Cleaning on Your Mental Health

For many, spring means warmer, brighter weather—and that means it’s time to throw open the windows and start spring cleaning!

We’ve discussed before how spring cleaning has health benefits. Opening the windows to let in fresh air can actually improve the humidity and change the oxygen balance in your home. Even sunlight coming in through the windows can help clean the air. But spring cleaning also has associated mental health benefits, including improved mood, decreased stress and heightened creativity. Here are some specific mental health benefits of spring cleaning:

Gets you moving

Spring cleaning is a physical activity, and it gives you a sense of accomplishment. Cleaning gets the happy chemicals moving around in your brain, propelled by an increased heart and respiratory rate. Spring cleaning can give you some of the same mental health benefits as physical exercise, such as running or biking. What’s more, a disorganized space is associated with less physical activity, while organization and order have been associated with choosing to eat more healthy and taking charge of your general health

Reduces stress

Clutter and stress are related, and we know stress is bad for mental health. For example, piles of paper can create a false image that work is endless, and that even when we finish what we are working on, there is more to be done. Looking at the clutter in your home can bring on the anxiety of incomplete tasks or just make it more difficult to accomplish your daily routine. Many Americans feel that home organization and cleanliness are among their biggest stressors. Women specifically have shown to have chronic levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, if they perceive their homes as cluttered. Attacking that clutter can help reduce that stress.

Invites a fresh start

Sometimes mental health issues seem overwhelming because of their long history. You can fall into a pattern of poor mental health and get stuck there. Spring cleaning makes you feel like you are getting a fresh start. When your house looks different—decluttered and clean—you feel a greater ability to change the state of your mental health as well.

Tips for “spring cleaning” your mental health:

If you’re struggling with your mental health, why not try giving it a fresh start as well? Spring cleaning is not only a deep house cleaning, but an exercise of the mind!

  • Create a targeted, personal to-do list of what you want to achieve emotionally.
  • Divide goals into dream goals as well as short and long-term goals.
  • Get at least 20 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • Get up at the same time each day to create a better sleep routine.
  • Schedule regular social activity.
  • Nourish your body and mind with a healthy diet.

Hormones: How to Restore Balance in your Life

Hormones have profound effects on the body. They help regulate metabolism and appetite, steer our energy levels, make fertility possible, manage body temperature and control the body’s ability to lose weight or even gain muscle.

Effects of hormone imbalance on the body

When someone is experiencing hormonal imbalances, it can feel as if the world is crashing down on you. Many people go through unintentional weight gain despite following a healthy diet. Others feel sluggish all day and still have difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep. These symptoms, among many others, can wreak havoc on emotions and temperament. Hormonal imbalances can be caused by excessive stress and poor lifestyle choices but can also occur naturally with age, including when women reach menopause.

As women age, production of two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, declines. It may seem like you have absolutely no control over this, but there are ways to continue to keep these levels balanced, even though overall hormone production is lower.

Bring balance back to hormones through healthy eating 

Eating healthfully is important throughout a person’s life, and it’s no different for women going through menopause. Many women experience weight gain—especially around the belly—mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats, loss of libido and vaginal dryness. They are also more at risk for developing osteoporosis.

You don’t have to be a slave to your changing hormones. Try to bring them back into balance with these dietary tweaks.

What to eat more of: 

  • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage (Try to have at least one serving of these hormone-balancing veggies every day.)
  • Dietary fiber: oats, berries, avocados, beans, lentils, broccoli, apples, pears, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, sweet potatoes, squash (Dietary fiber helps with liver clearance of estrogen.)
  • Healthy fats: avocados, olives, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, eggs, all nuts and seeds including chia seeds and flaxseed, grass-fed beef, salmon, quinoa

Also increase sleep and exercise. Both help reduce stress. Weight training can also have further benefits on improving metabolism.

What to eat less of:

  • Processed foods: boxed meals, pre-packaged shelf-stable or frozen entrees, frozen pizza, premade breads and bread products, pre-packaged meats such as sausage, bacon and hotdogs, artificial sweeteners, fake cheese, excessive condiment use, Pop-Tarts®, snack mixes such as pretzels, crackers, chips
  • Added sugars: cereals, packaged sweets like Twinkies and Cinna-Buns, regular and some Greek yogurt varieties, sweetened milks, soda, juice, sweetened tea, granola bars
  • Drive-thru meals: Processed meats, refined grains and fried menu items can cause inflammation in the gut. They also are poor nutrient sources of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • Alcohol: One alcoholic beverage is processed as 29 grams of sugar or one serving of M&Ms.
  • Caffeine: For some, caffeine can be a source of inflammation.
  • Foods associated with inflammation such as gluten and lactose. Foods made from or using ingredients with wheat, barley and rye contain gluten. Milk and ice cream are two high-lactose containing dairy products.

Remember, you don’t have to make drastic changes to your diet all at once. But by increasing the good and decreasing the bad, even slowly, you can bring balance to your hormones and improve your quality of life.

 

First Day of Spring brings…Spring Cleaning!

Is clutter in your space preventing you from living a healthy lifestyle? Believe it or not, disorganization can do more than just make it hard to find daily things. Spring cleaning can actually help you live more healthfully.

Set a goal to declutter

This spring, set a health goal for yourself to start decluttering little parts of your life one at a time. You can use my “non-resolution” method from previous posts if you don’t have a favorite goal-setting method.

Remember to be specific with your decluttering goal, just like any health goal you have set. Here are some examples:

1) Organize your container cabinet.
You want to set a goal to take your lunch to work twice a week (or once a week or every day—tailor your goal to your life) but your Tupperware® or plastic container cabinet is a mess. Decluttering this space will make it more feasible to pack and take a lunch to work. Once this cabinet is tidy, packing leftovers directly from the dinner table into containers in the fridge is easy. Lunch for the next day is ready to go!

2) Organize your pantry.
Do you ever find yourself overbuying food because you can’t remember what you have in stock? Pull everything out of your cabinets, wipe down the shelves and strategically organize your food. You may be surprised how much you have, and this may be a good time to take a box or can to your local food bank. Put items that are due to expire in the front and work them into your meal plans.

3) Organize your refrigerator.
Your refrigerator can get dirty very quickly, so it’s time to deep clean it. Go through everything: I bet half of those condiments are expired! Store produce and other healthier foods in see-through containers at eye level in your fridge or in a pretty bowl visible on the counter. We typically eat more of what we can see, and if it looks good, it can be one less barrier to making healthy choices happen.

Declutter for better health

Add decluttering to the goals you already have to be healthy in order to make them easier to obtain and maintain. After you have met your goal for a significant amount of time, make sure you reward yourself (NOT with food!) to help you keep going. Happy First Day of Spring and spring cleaning!

Considering Diet to Help Prevent Cancer

March is colorectal cancer awareness month, and many health care organizations are promoting scheduling regular screening for colorectal cancer, such as getting a colonoscopy.

Colorectal cancer screening targets everyone over the age of 50. Your doctor might even recommend getting screened earlier if you are at higher risk or have a family history of colorectal cancer. While you should still count on regular screenings as your best bet to prevent colorectal cancer, there are some things you can do diet-wise to help prevent colorectal cancer.

Prevent Colorectal Cancer: Diet Do’s

The best things to eat—and this applies to really everyone, not just someone trying to prevent cancer—are high-fiber whole grains, green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables. The following are lists of types of these foods, so you can get an idea.

High-fiber whole grains

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Barley

Green leafy vegetables

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Romaine lettuce

Cruciferous vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts

Green leafy vegetables are important because they contain carotenoids. Carotenoids help prevent cancer by acting as antioxidants. Folate, also contained in these veggies, may offer protection against colorectal cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer.

Prevent Colorectal Cancer: Diet Don’ts

You might see a little repeat of information here from other blog posts, but only because these “diet don’ts” are pretty applicable for anyone wanting to live a healthier lifestyle. Limiting foods rich in animal fats, red meat and alcohol help prevent colorectal cancer.

Diets high in red meat have been associated with an increased risk for colon cancer. To eat less meat, think of fruits, vegetables and whole grains as the entrée at meals, with meat as the side dish. And you can drink a little, but it would be better to not drink at all. Alcohol has also been associated with an increased risk for colon cancer.

Looking for more information on colorectal cancer?

The Springfield Clinic web page for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month has a lot of information about colorectal cancer and colonoscopies, including an article written by one of our Colon & Rectal Surgery doctors, James Thiele, MD, FACS, FASCRS, about the importance of getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer and how the colonoscopy procedure works. Check out this information and schedule your colonoscopy today!