Apples to Apples

Apples are one of the most iconic fruits of the fall season. Fall marks back to school themed apple decor and the fun tradition of bobbing for apples. Apples serve as a symbol for healthy eating. Many families use apples in theirapples everyday diet from a snack to an apple pie.  In fact, most are familiar with the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. But is there any truth behind this old proverb? This happens to be one saying worth repeating.

  • Apples under the microscope:
    • Quercetin, a flavonoid found in apples has been studied for its possible protective benefits against prostate cancer.
    • Researchers at Cornell University showed that nutrients found in the skin of apples inhibited the reproduction of colon cancer cells by 43%.
    • The National Cancer Institute released a statement saying that the flavonoids, like the ones found in apples, may reduce the risk of lung cancer by as much as 50%.
    • Other studies have shown that apples can also help reduce the risk of asthma and possibly type 2 diabetes.
    • Apples contain pectin, which is a valuable source of soluble fiber (1.0 gram per medium-sized apple). Soluble fiber can help reduce cholesterol levels and possibly help control blood sugars. The average apple contains 3-5 grams of total fiber, which can help support digestive health.
  • Choosing your perfect apple:
    • Apples come in many varieties. They can be sweet, tart, crisp, soft, red, yellow, green; the combinations are endless! I personally love a sweet, crisp apple so I tend to stick with Gala, Fuji or the Honeycrisp varieties. Picking the perfect apple can depend on your usage of the apple. Different varieties are recommended if you’re simply snacking or using apples for cooking/baking purposes. Below is a list of apples, their profiles and recommended uses. appleVarietiesChart

    Eating an apple a day can definitely be part of a healthy diet. The phytochemicals and antioxidants found in apples help our bodies defend itself from oxidative stress. However, processed apple products, such as juice, typically do not retain these nutritious properties. When choosing an applesauce, opt for the no-sugar added variety. You can naturally sweeten it with cinnamon, if needed. For a balanced snack, combine an apple with 1-2 Tbsp of peanut butter or a low-fat cheese stick. Apple chunks can be added to salads, cereal and make creative slaws and salsas! Apples are so versatile; everyone can enjoy the fruit of the season!

 

 

Your Skinny Vacation

vacationVacation and weight gain; unfortunately, the combination is a very common reality for many people. Vacation, for a lot of us, is a time to relax or take on new life adventures. My husband and I recently accomplished both of these objectives on our last vacation. While staying at an all-inclusive resort, we didn’t have to worry about grocery shopping, meal preparation or household chores. Instead, we had full access to a wonderful breakfast and lunch buffets, exquisite dinner restaurants and 24-hour room service. While I did my best to order vegetables with every meal and stay away from fried foods, my fear became a reality when I stepped on the scale my first day back at work. Yes, even a dietitian gains weight on vacation.

Despite working out almost every morning and going for long walks on the beach, the truth was I over-ate my calorie needs. Portion control and a little overindulgence in high-fat foods were the causes of my excessive caloric intake. Common vacation-diet villains that make their presence on our tropical get-a-ways include:

The buffet. No, not Jimmy Buffet; I’m referring to the endless tables of tantalizing foods filled with everything from decadent desserts to bacon wrapped jalapeno peppers. My own response to all this food was, “Oh, this looks good and that looks good and that and that!” You get the picture. It has been well researched that increasing the variety of an assortment increases the quantity consumed. Please visit Dr. Brian Wansink (2004) research on this fascinating food consumption observation: http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/pdf/permission/2004/Assortment_Structure-JCR_2004.pdf

Tips for the buffet-goer:

  • Scan and Plan. Before you grab your utensils, walk around the buffet and compare the variety offered. Try to choose at least one lean protein and fill at least ½ your plate with non-starchy vegetables.
  • Plate size. Choosing a smaller plate will force you to take smaller serving sizes of the variety of foods you consume at that meal.
  • Don’t feel like you’re forced to clean your plate. Most of the time, we take too much food anyway.
  • Sit facing away from the buffet – A tip created by Dr. Brian Wansink, researcher at Cornell University. Wansink suggests that this will help keep your mind from being fixated on the food.

Alcohol. The saying is, “Its 5 o’clock somewhere,” right?  Our favorite poolside beverages are cool and refreshing, but they are often the biggest source of calories consumed on our vacation days. Some of the heftiest calorie-containing beverages include margaritas, pina coladas, strawberry daiquiris, long island iced teas and mudslides. One ounce of 80-proof spirits (rum, vodka, gin, whiskey) contains about 65-90 calories. After adding fruit juice, syrups, mixes or soda, the calorie content of the drink goes through the roof! The pina colada takes the prize for most calories. According to Forbes magazine, a pina colada contains more calories than a Big Mac!

vacation2If you want to consume a refreshing “vacation” beverage, but not pay the caloric price, here are some alternatives:

  • Vodka and water. You may also add a sugar-free water enhancer. In fact, Crystal Light now makes three “mocktail” flavors including margarita, appletini and mojito flavors.
  • Light beer. Most light beers contain anywhere from 65-105 calories.

Remember to alternate alcoholic beverages with water to help prevent dehydration.

frenchfat-mWhile vacations are not the best time to lose weight; the ultimate goal is to maintain one’s “pre-vacation” weight. Make plans to fit in physical activity every day. Luckily for us, there was an accommodating fitness center at our hotel. My husband and I also enjoyed daily walks along the beach, snorkeling and other fun, scenic activities that included physical activity. Don’t deprive yourself of your vacation favorites, but enjoy smaller portion sizes.  Whether the beach, mountains or amusement park call your name this summer, remember to relax, enjoy, take pictures and live well.