It’s that time of year again to open up the windows and give the house a good scrub-down. This is also a perfect opportunity to clean out the cupboards and fridge and fill them with better choices for a healthier you this Spring! Here are a few good places to start with your cleaning:
Throw out the vegetable oil! A fellow dietitian of mine stated that vegetable oil should be renamed “inflammation oil”. Contrary to its name, there are no actual vegetables in this popular oil. It contains a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids, and when these occur in abundance in our diets, it can cause inflammation in the body. Vegetable oil is one of the main oils used in processed foods. Opt for olive oil with marinades and dressings and coconut oil for high temperature cooking.
Rid your fridge of low-fat and fat-free salad dressings and replace them with healthy vinaigrettes.
Canned vegetables may be economical since they have a long shelf-life, but many of the vegetables’ nutrients are lost in the canning process plus they now are packed with sodium. Clean your fridge and make room for high-nutritious, low-calorie vegetables such as: spinach, red bell peppers, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini and carrots.
Replace sugar-sweetened cereals with natural oats. You can dress up plain oatmeal by adding puree pumpkin and cinnamon, berries, peanut butter or apples and chopped nuts.
Purge those cabinets of pop-tarts, sugary granola bars and Little Debbie snacks and stock up on a variety of healthy snack options such as nuts, yogurt, raw veggies dipped in humus, hard-boiled eggs and fresh fruit.
Make sure you have small water bottles that can be packed for lunches instead of Capri Suns, Juicy Juice boxes or soda.
Swap flavored yogurt for plain Greek yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt contains less lactose, more protein and is not loaded with added sugars like the flavored varieties are.
Ready to take on a health challenge? Throw out your pasta noodles and begin purchasing spaghetti squash. Once cooked, the squash can be scooped out into perfect spaghetti threads. If you have a food spiralizer on hand, you can do the same with butternut squash and especially a great summer vegetable choice like zucchini!
Spring kicks off the start of many seasonal fruits and vegetables. During the spring and summer, produce tends to be cheaper and tastes better since its now in season. Be sure to head to your nearby Farmers Market to enjoy local seasonal produce!
Is it just me or does everyone have at least 6 almost-empty bottles of salad dressing in their fridge? I’m sure this is a trait I picked up from my mother and it drives my husband insane. If you’re like most people, a salad just isn’t complete until it has the perfect dressing to tie all those nutritious ingredients together. While there appears to be hundreds of varieties of dressings available at the grocery store, choosing the right salad dressing not only creates the perfect salad ,but it can be beneficial to your health. Too often, our healthy salad creations are sabotaged by choosing the wrong salad dressing. Here are a few simple tips to help guide your next salad shopping adventure.
Don’t always go with the fat-free variety. There are several reasons why fat-free salad dressings are not the best selection. First of all, they don’t taste good…at all. I know this because during my early college years, I had convinced myself everything I ate had to be fat-free. Fat, along with sugar and sodium help flavor the foods found on the shelves at the grocery store. If you remove one of those elements, you’re going to have to add more of the other two in order to make up for lost flavor. We also need a healthy source of fat in order to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins that are found in the colorful vegetables that make up our salads.
Do monitor portion sizes. A serving of salad dressing is 2 Tbsp which is about the size of a golf ball. If you don’t’ trust yourself in only pouring 2 Tbsp on your salad, serve your salad dressing on the side and dip the tip of your fork into the dressing before each bite. This is a great technique to help control your portion size of salad dressing and it can also help slow down your speed of eating.
Don’t dress your salad too early. You only need to make this mistake once before learning this lesson. It was one of the first holidays I was spending with my boyfriend/now husband’s family. I decided to prepare a delicious spinach salad with a homemade salad dressing for everyone. Unfortunately, I put the salad dressing on the salad an hour before it was served and left everyone with a soggy, sad representation of my culinary skills.
Do try to choose a vinaigrette dressing more often.
Vinaigrettes spread easier than other dressings. This can help you keep your portion size of salad dressing under control.
Try making your own vinaigrettes at home by using heart-healthy olive oil as your base. A simple balsamic vinaigrette only needs:
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dark brown sugar (optional)
1 tbsp chopped garlic
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground pepper
¾ cup olive oil
Do be adventurous. I was always scared of choosing vinaigrette in the past simply because of the word “vinegar”. By trying new foods, I have discovered that some of my favorite dressings are different blends of vinaigrette’s like citrus-lime or roasted red pepper.
Reading food labels can be very advantageous; you can find information on serving sizes, calories, amount of fat, calcium content and many other nutrients. However, if you’re like most people, reading food labels can become quite overwhelming. I’ve had a family friend tell me that she doesn’t read food labels because there is too much information on there. I began reading labels when I was in high school. Unfortunately, the only thing I looked at was the amount of fat
The truth about food labels.
and paid no attention to the rest of the information provided. Just like everyone else, I could have used a little help from a Label Reading 101 course.
Label Reading 101
“Reduced fat” and “fat-free”
Serving Size: The serving size of a product is located at the very top of the nutrition facts label. This is the foundation for all the nutrient information because all the numbers listed below are pertinent to that listed serving size.
I want to make a little side-note; serving size ≠ portion size. Serving size is the amount recommended on the food label; portion size is the amount you actually serve yourself. For example, not many people actually measure their cereal in the morning; rather we pour until we think we’ve got the “right amount” in our bowl. The serving size of most cereals is ¾ cup. As an experiment, pour the amount of cereal you normally have and then measure out your portion to see how closely your estimates are to the recommended serving size.
Calories: Calories is the first bolded item found on the label. The calorie amount shown is based on the listed serving size. Keep in mind some products may contain several servings per container. In this case, you may see two columns of information: one indicating the calories per serving, and one for the entire container. You will often see this format on candy, chip and beverage containers. “Calories from fat” is a little unnecessary. It’s more important (and, to be honest, much easier) to pay attention to total fat and its other components (saturated, trans and unsaturated fats) instead of monitoring “calories from fat.” Below is my explanation of this.
Fat: The total fat value is a sum of all the different types of fat in that product. Nutrients that are indented under a bolded item means that they are components of the total value. Saturated fat, trans fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat all make up the total fat value. Saturated fats and trans fats are the types of fats to consume less of in the diet. Try to find products with no more than three grams of saturated fat per serving and no amounts of trans fat.
Sometimes, we get turned away from a food item because the fat content is much higher than other products. For example, peanut butter has a fat content of 16 grams per two tbsp serving size and a four ounce serving of salmon has around 12 grams of fat. However, these total fat values are mainly composed of the healthy fats that we strive to get in our diets; mono- and polyunsaturated fats. This is why looking at “calories from fat” can be misleading. The value listed doesn’t indicate if those are calories from good fats or the unhealthy fats. An example of an unhealthy fat is Chili’s nachos on their appetizer menu; just four chips with all the toppings contain almost 30 grams of fat and over half of that is saturated fat (aka the kind of fat that is not kind to our waist lines).
Labels that say “reduced fat” or “fat-free”: Many people purchase these types of items like fat-free salad dressing or reduced-fat peanut butter because the label makes it sound like they are healthier options. Unfortunately, in many cases, they’re not. One solid piece of advice to remember is fat-free does not mean “calorie-free.” Often, the fat-free or reduced-fat options of foods have almost the same amount of calories as the regular version. Sometimes health halos accompany food labels with the words “fat free” on it. This means that people tend to consume larger portions of the food because they believe that it is healthier than the regular version. Unfortunately, I speak from personal experience on this one.
Another important piece to remember is that fat flavors our food. When fat is taken out of product, it is often replaced by extra sodium and extra sugars which doesn’t necessarily make a healthier food product. Reduced-fat peanut butter has twice the amount of sodium in it compared to regular peanut butter. Fat is important in our diet; we especially need it to absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) which are often found in our non-starchy vegetables. This is why fat-free salad dressing is not the best choice to make. If you don’t have any fat in the meal, your body will have a hard time absorbing the vitamin K from your spinach or the vitamin A from the raw carrots in your salad. Stick to a vinaigrette; they spread easily and your portion sizes tend to be smaller.