Something to Chew On

A Guide to Eating Right and Living Well


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Figge’s Favorite Groceries

grocery shoppingWith the success of  Figge’s Favorite Things blog post, I thought I would follow up with a list of some of my favorite foods that frequently occupy my shopping list. Years ago, my diet heavily consisted of processed luncheon meats, frozen dinners and snack bars. Today, fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are typically what fill up my grocery cart. This was no overnight process, but slowly, I began to step outside my comfort zone and taught myself how to prepare and cook with fresh ingredients. To stay healthy, I rely on clean, minimally processed foods. Combined with a healthy dose of physical activity each week, clean eating helps keep my cholesterol down, energy up and promotes a good night’s sleep.

  1. Eggs. Eggs have been hounded over the years for their fat and cholesterol content. However, with today’s research on eggs, we are learning that 1) the cholesterol found in eggs is not what is causing high cholesterol in individuals and 2) the benefits of the yolks include a Vitamin B12 source, eye-healthy lutein , zeaxanthin antioxidants, and choline, which is essential for cardiovascular and brain function.
  2. fresh-spinachSpinach. This green giant gets sautéed in with my eggs each morning and makes several appearances in other meals throughout the week.
  3. Peanut or almond butter. If I could eat almond butter every day, I would; but because the cost of it is often more than peanut butter, I tend to go back and forth between these heart-healthy fat and protein snack additions.
  4. Cauliflower. My kitchen often looks like a cauliflower war zone. For those of you that regularly cut up cauliflower, you know what I’m talking about! My preferred way of cooking it is steaming in a sauce pan and then mashing it in my food processor. Add a pinch of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, butter and garnish with chives and you have a great vegetable side dish (not to mention for the cost of $3 or less!)
  5. Spaghetti Squash. We have been having a lot of fun with spaghetti squash this winter. It is a great substitute for pasta in recipes. To me, it is not very tasty when served plain, but if you add mixed vegetables, seasonings, sauces or a homemade mayo to the mix, you’re set-to-go for a delicious meal.
  6. Chicken. This is the most popular protein consumed in our household. For that reason, I am constantly finding new ways to season and prepare it. We also consume beef, pork and fish but chicken definitely takes the podium for most consumed.
  7. Apples. This fruit is a good source of antioxidants and soluble fiber. I usually have at least one and sometimes two apples a day with my peanut or almond butter for heart-healthy, filling snacks.
  8. Whey protein powder. Since both my husband and I do Crossfit, we need a quick source of protein for our post-workout snacks. One scoop of protein powder poured in 8 oz. of almond milk allows my body to quickly refuel after a workout, promote lean tissue growth and speed up recovery time.
  9. Ground flaxseed. This antioxidant powerhouse can be easily mixed into recipes or sauces or can even be sprinkled on top of foods to add fiber, omega-3 and healthy lignans to any dish.
  10. Sweet potato. These Vitamin A giants interestingly are most often consumed with my breakfast meal. I’ll sauté a medium-large sweet potato in 1 Tbsp of coconut oil on Sunday nights and then portion out servings to grab and go for the week. NCI5_POTATO


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Not Just Another Chicken Recipe

At our house we eat chicken…a lot. One goal that I have for this month is to try a variety of new chicken recipes (so my husband doesn’t get burnt out on having chicken five days a week!). You never have to sacrifice good flavor for eating healthy; however, you do need to step outside your comfort zone and experiment with spices, herbs and other fresh ingredients to create delicious, mouth-watering flavors. This is a perfect dish that incorporates natural ingredients and is solid on flavor. Want more healthy recipes? Follow our Pinterest board!

rosemary herb chicken recipeRosemary Herbed Chicken 

For the Chicken:

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic (I am very liberal with this – we love garlic!)
  • 1 Tbsp of minced fresh rosemary
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar

For the Salad:

  • Mixed greens
  • ¼ avocado
  • ¼ cup artichokes (I use frozen artichoke hearts. After heating them up in the microwave, I add flavor by using an Italian seasoning blend on top of the cooked artichokes)
  • 2 Tbsp dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

1. Pre-heat oven to 400oF. Meanwhile, brush olive oil evenly over each chicken breast.

2. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread minced garlic cloves over chicken breasts and sprinkle minced rosemary on top of each piece of chicken.

3. Cook for 20-25 minutes.

4. Toss salad ingredients together while chicken is cooking.

5. Once chicken is done, pour balsamic vinegar evenly over each chicken breast. Serve separately or together as an entrée salad.


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Fall – The Season of Sweet Potatoes

Taking advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables is a cost-effective way to consume healthy and nutritious foods all year long. The sweet potato is one fall vegetable that happens to be one of my favorite starches. If you asked me a year ago if I liked sweet potatoes, I probably would’ve responded with a big “Yuck!” The first time I tried sweet potatoes was at Thanksgiving. They were smothered in marshmallows and brown sugar and in my opinion, were a mushy mess. I later tried sweet potato fries and was also very disappointed. Knowing that sweet potatoes were good for me, I was bound and determined to find a way to prepare them that was to my liking.

steamables_sweet_lgDid you know sweet potatoes are actually not related to the potato family? They are a member of the morning glory family. Personally, I enjoy sweet potatoes with my eggs in the morning or roasted with mixed vegetables as a side dish for lunch and dinner. My favorite way to spice them is with garlic, sea salt and pepper. However, most people prefer using cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves. Sweet potatoes served with egg whites also make an excellent post-workout snack. If I’m in a rush, I grab a bag of steamable sweet potatoes at the supermarket and can have a quick side dish on hand in a matter of minutes.

A small sweet potato (about 5 inches long or about 1 cup) contains 112 calories, 2 grams of protein, 3.9 grams of fiber and is also a good source of potassium and Vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are most known for their content of Vitamin A and the antioxidant, beta-carotene which is excellent for skin and eye health. Beta-carotene is found within the deep orange pigment of the sweet potato. Other sources of (orange-pigmented) beta-carotene include carrots, pumpkin and squash and it is also found in green-pigmented vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale. Beta-carotene is best absorbed when it is consumed with a small amount of fat. This can be easily accomplished if you use a small amount of olive oil when sautéing or roasting your sweet potatoes. They also are a good source of Vitamin B6 which is essential for red blood cell formation and protein metabolism.

Using sweet potatoes in unconventional ways is a great method for consuming nutrients, especially for individuals with food allergies.  Here is a kid-friendly, gluten-free and dairy-free recipe for making:

Sweet Potato Pancakes

  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2-1 large banana
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
  • Canola, olive or coconut oil (for cooking)
  1. Wash and pierce potatoes with a fork; cover with a paper towel and microwave for 5-6 minutes until soft.
  2. In a food processor, add the scooped out portion of the flesh of the sweet potatoes, eggs and ½ – whole banana (for sweetness) and puree until smooth.
  3. Add baking soda and spices, to taste.
  4. Heat oil on skillet over medium heat. Scoop ¼ cup batter onto skillet and cook 2-3 minutes on one side. Flip carefully and cook an additional 1-2 minutes on other side.
  5. Serve with fruit, yogurt or your favorite breakfast protein for a balanced breakfast or serve by itself for a healthy, sweet treat.

A zesty way to roast potatoes in the oven:

Baked Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges

  • 2 sweet potatoessweetpotatowedges
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Olive oil (1-2 tsp)
  1. Preheat oven to 350oF.
  2. Slice potatoes into even wedges.
  3. Combine spices in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, add potato wedges and drizzle with olive oil. Add spices and lime juice; lightly toss together.
  4. Spread potatoes on baking sheet and bake 30-35 minutes, turning half-way through.
  5. Enjoy!

 

**Extremely high intakes of Vitamin A can lead to toxic levels in the body. Please consult with your physician if considering taking a Vitamin A supplement.

 


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The Unknown World of Vegetables and Kids

picky-little-eaterKIDS and VEGETABLES—two words that are usually not found in the same sentence and many times not in the same meal.

Many children in today’s society have grown accustomed to pre-packaged, processed food items. In fact, researchers in 2005 discovered that 2/3 of three year olds were able to identify the McDonald’s golden arches. Favorite foods such as mac n cheese, chicken nuggets and pizza are packed high in fat, salt and added sugars. Fruit is typically consumed in the form of juice or fruit snacks and vegetables are commonly offered from a can or box mix such as green beans, corn or potatoes.

Yes, I agree that some fruits and vegetables are better than none, but what’s concerning is the lack of fresh ingredients in kids’ diets and the overall poor quality of nutritional intake.

Researchers have been investigating children’s eating behaviors and identifying strategies to get them to eat healthier. A recently published study in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012 http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S0002-8223(11)01498-2/fulltext found that vegetable consumption (specifically broccoli) increased in pre-school aged children when a dip was offered with the vegetable. These findings support many other studies of its kind. What we are discovering is that young kids are more likely to consume raw vegetables when they have something to dip them in! One possible reason why this method is working is that a dip may help offset bitter flavors that some vegetables have. But let’s face it—dip adds fun!

Light Ranch dressing may be the easiest dip/dressing to use, but there are many other nutritious, homemade concoctions that can be created:

  • Make your own dressing by using light sour cream or Greek yogurt mixed with Ranch seasoning. In fact, you could use any spice/herb blend to create new flavors.
  • Peanut butter provides a good source of protein when added to celery or carrot sticks.
  • Hummus which is made from chickpeas provides fiber, a scarce nutrient in most kids diets. Hummus doesn’t have to be bland! You can infuse garlic, roasted red pepper and other flavors to give this dip an interesting twist.
  • Dips for fruits can be made too. Try vanilla yogurt or add a small amount of honey or cinnamon to Greek yogurt to make a great dip for strawberries, bananas, apples, grapes or pears.
  • Be cautious with unhealthy dip varieties. Dips like caramel, marshmallow crème and chocolate sauce contain excessive amounts of added sugars and unwanted calories.

If the dip method still doesn’t make your young one want to consume more fruits or vegetables, it may be a good idea to experiment with blending and pureeing these foods. Steamed cauliflower can be easily pureed and mixed in with carrotmashed potatoes or mac n cheese. Shredded carrots or zucchini can be added to spaghetti sauces or casserole dishes. To make it less noticeable and less chunky, puree the vegetables with the sauce before serving. Two great resources that provide recipes for these nutritious puree blends are: The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine http://www.amazon.com/Sneaky-Chef-Strategies-Healthy-Favorite/dp/0762430753 and Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld http://www.amazon.com/Deceptively-Delicious-Simple-Secrets-Eating/dp/006176793X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370628568&sr=1-1&keywords=deceptively+delicious

The goal for fruit and vegetable consumption is five servings per day. For additional tips and ideas for increasing your child’s fruit and vegetable consumption, please visit: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet11KidFriendlyVeggiesAndFruits.pdf


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Couponing- Is it Always Worth It?

We’ve all watched the show in complete awe and wonder. The shopper pushes their four loaded-down carts of groceries to the cashier and the ringing up begins; $20.00, $130.00, $650.00. Luckily, the shopper has come equipped with a binder full of coupons and the grand total is…$4.74. I’m usually left speechless for several reasons:

  • Where are they going to put all that stuff?
  • How much time did it take to prepare for that one shopping trip?
  • Did they seriously need 100 Hershey bars?

According to the show, Extreme Couponing, the shopper featured spends an average of 35-40 hours per week preparing for one shopping trip. That’s a full-time job’s worth of buying newspapers, printing online coupons, cutting, organizing and mapping out a plan of attack at the local grocery store. Some may view this as complete obsession while others see it as a way to make ends meet. But, is this type of couponing always worth it?extreme couponing

Time. This may be viewed as the biggest downfall to extreme couponing. Scouting newspapers, magazines, and online ads, then organizing it all is critical to making an extreme shopping trip work. For many of us who work full-time, these are discretionary hours that we just don’t have.

Space. In order to support these large grocery trips, you need to have the available storage space to keep and organize all your purchases. Preferably, this needs to be a pest-free, dry, climate-controlled room so your bounty is not spoiled by humidity or insects.

Expiration Dates. From a food safety perspective, this one worries me. When you see what appears to be a warehouse full of cereal, crackers, cookies, granola bars and condiments, you can’t help but think “how can they possibly eat all that food before it expires?” Expiration dates do not apply exclusively to foods.  Medications like Tylenol can become toxic if consumed after its expiration date. A good method to practice is the FIFO inventory principle-First In First Out. Remember to pull older items forward when restocking a similar item.

Nutritional Value. This is my biggest concern with most of the featured individuals’ purchases on the show. Saving hundreds of dollars on a shopping trip is definitely a commendable feat; but what will the shopper pay nutritionally? Loading up on sugary-sweetened cereal, candy bars, chips and soda comes with a hefty calorie bill. Consuming these foods on a daily basis (which you would have to do so they don’t spoil, right?) indicates a diet that is low in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Amanda, fruits and vegetables are so expensive!” I’m here to tell you, that is not always the case. First and foremost, sign up for your local grocery store’s rewards program. Often, you are only eligible for the sale prices or “deals of the week” if you have a rewards card membership. You also are entitled to store-specific coupons with many of these rewards programs. A friend of mine told me about the mPerks programs at Mejier and how she saves all the time on grocery items, meat and produce. Did you hear that? PRODUCE! Each week I log on and virtually “clip” coupons that get automatically added to my account. When checking out, I simply punch in my code and just like magic, my grocery bill goes down.

Buying fruits and vegetables in season is another excellent way to save. For a complete list of what’s in season this summer, please visit: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/whats-in-season-summer.  Shopping at your local Farmers’ Market is another great approach to purchasing fresh produce in season. In fact, Illinois Products Farmers’ Market sponsored by Springfield Clinic is providing opportunities to earn free “market bucks” for the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market. Each week a new recipe is handed out at the Springfield Clinic booth. Individuals are encouraged to make the recipe and then take a picture of the finished product. Market bucks can be earned by posting the recipe photo to the Springfield Clinic Facebook page. Come join us each Thursday from 4:00-7:00pm at the Illinois State Fair Grounds-Commodities Pavilion.

My intent of this post was not to bash extreme couponing but rather to highlight some of the pitfalls of the experience. I think it’s wise to stock up on items like Ziploc bags, diapers, or cleaning supplies, but there’s no real “savings” to experience with mass quantities of chips or soft drinks.

 


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Smoothies–Summer Friend or Foe?

Peach Melba Smoothies for Two. (Gluten-Free) from Springfield Clinic's health library.

Peach Melba Smoothies for Two. (Gluten-Free) from Springfield Clinic’s health library.

With the craze of juicing, blending and vitamix-ing, what could possibly sound better than a fruit smoothie on a hot summer day? Consumer research shows that even though a large percentage of meals are consumed away from the home, fast food diners desire healthier menu options. In efforts to keep up with the trends, many fast food chains now offer smoothies. With buzz words like “pomegranate” and “low-fat” circulating through ads, a fruit smoothie has got to be a healthy choice, right? In fact, a smoothie just naturally sounds healthy. One important piece of information to remember is that a homemade smoothie is very different from one prepared for you at a fast food restaurant.

McDonald’s fruit smoothies have been marketed as fresh, low-fat and a refreshing way to quench one’s thirst. According to their website, the strawberry-banana smoothie is made with a strawberry-banana fruit base, low-fat yogurt and ice. A small, 12 ounce serving contains 210 calories, 3 grams of protein and 0.5 grams of fat. At first, this looks like a great option; however, this fruit drink also packs in 44 grams of sugar. To put things into perspective, one 12 oz can of Pepsi contains 26 grams of sugar. What I find curious with these numbers is the lack of protein found in the smoothie, considering low-fat yogurt is one of the main ingredients.

A 16 ounce blue raspberry and cherry Coolata from Dunkin’ Donuts contains 240 calories, no protein or fat, but nearly 61 grams of sugar. Feeling lucky with Burger King? Their small 12 ounce tropical

Blueberry Banana Smoothie (Gluten-Free) from Springfield Clinic's health library.

Blueberry Banana Smoothie (Gluten-Free) from Springfield Clinic’s health library.

mango smoothie packs in 270 calories and 51 grams of sugar. Starbucks’ 16 ounce orange-mango smoothie comes in with 260 calories and 37 grams of sugar. However, unlike other fruit smoothies, this one packs in 16 grams of protein (mainly from the skim milk added to the smoothie).

Are these smoothies worth your money and calories? My vote leans toward no. It may be tempting to go with the larger size because of the better value, but your best bet is to stick with the smallest options available. Look for smoothies that are made with skim milk or non-fat yogurt for the additional bonus of nutrients from protein, calcium and vitamin D.

Smoothies can be a great way to incorporate nutrients into a healthy snack or meal. If you’ve got picky eaters in your household, smoothies are also a convenient way for sneaking in super foods like spinach and ground flaxseed.

How to Make a Smoothie:

Step 1: Start with fresh/frozen fruit. Popular choices include blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, bananas, mangoes, kiwi and pomegranates. Fruits with a high water content such as watermelon, oranges and pineapple may also be used, but this may cause your smoothie to be more liquid in consistency.

Step 2: Add your liquid/base. This is an excellent opportunity to include a calcium and vitamin D source into these treats. Try milk or low-fat yogurt. If you are lactose intolerant, almond, coconut or soy milk may be used in their place. Yogurts, especially Greek, will result in a thicker smoothie. Try frozen Greek yogurt as a fun replacement.

Step 3: Add your sneaky extras. Adding one tablespoon of ground flaxseed will give your smoothie an antioxidant, omega-3 one-two punch. Extra protein may be added from peanut butter or whey powder. Greens like kale and spinach also blend very well in smoothies and do not offset taste.

If you need additional sweetness added to your smoothies, try natural sweeteners first like ripe bananas, honey, agave nectar, cinnamon or vanilla extract.

Step 4: Add ice and blend away!

Here are two kid-friendly smoothie recipes that will satisfy any hot summer day:


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School’s Out for Summer!

Well, maybe our kids have replaced the lyrics of Alice Cooper with the likes of One Direction and Taylor Swift, but the story remains the same. No more pencils, no more books, and a lot more freedom to eat, play and watch TV as children please.

appleIt’s important as parents to provide a wide variety of healthy, nutritious foods at home. By improving access to healthy food options and limiting unhealthy selections, you can feel more confident knowing that your children are consuming well-balanced meals and snacks at home. As a 12-year-old, my days usually started with a big bowl of sugary, sweetened cereal, followed by mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs and an unhealthy dose of soap operas. While I was also very active with swimming, riding bikes and jumping on trampolines, my diet certainly had room for improvement. It’s never too early or too late to teach your kids about nutrition and well-balanced meals. The simplest way to illustrate a healthy meal is using the plate method. The plate method encourages you to fill half your plates with fruits and vegetables, one fourth with lean protein and one fourth with grains (preferably whole grains).myplate

Here is a list of examples to help your kids put together healthy, well-balanced meals.

Grains:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole grain cereal
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat or corn tortilla
  • Popcorn

Proteins:

  • Chicken
  • Fish,
  • Turkey
  • Lean meat
  • Eggs
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Beans

Dairy:

  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cheese/string cheese
  • Smoothies

Fruits:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • Pears

Vegetables:

  • Green salad
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh green beans
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Red, yellow, green bell peppers
  • Cucumbers

Sweetened cereals like Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms are not the best start for the day because they lack many important nutrients and contain excessive amounts of added sugars. Here’s a tip for weaning kids away from these sugar-packed cereal varieties: encourage kids to mix a healthier cereal such as Cheerios, Bran Flakes, Shredded Mini Wheats or other high-fiber variety into their favorite cereal. This will help reduce the portion size of the sugary cereal and help improve the nutrient intake of fiber. Apple chunks, blueberries, banana slices, chopped nuts or dried fruit can be easily added to oatmeal to make breakfast more well-rounded. Whole grain tortillas spread with peanut butter and banana slices or eggs, low-fat cheese, salsa and beans make two great protein-packed breakfasts.celery

Lunch meals tend to be heavy on the starches. A turkey sandwich, chips, granola bar and dessert were the typical items packed in my lunch when going to summer camp.

The results of this lunch meal: Starch=5, Protein=1, and Fruits, Vegetables and Dairy=0.

To make this lunchbox healthier, we can swap the chips with low-fat yogurt, trade the granola bar for carrot and celery sticks with one tablespoon of low-fat ranch, and include a clementine for the dessert. Mac ‘n cheese is okay to eat still, but it should be featured as a side item rather than the entrée. Pre-cutting vegetables and fruits and measuring individual containers of peanut butter, hummus, yogurt or low-fat ranch for dips can make healthy selections much more accessible.

Another valuable lesson to learn early on in life is that snacks do not equal desserts. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be fun. Try to create snacks that include at least two food groups. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and whole grain cereal
  • Celery logs topped with peanut butter and raisins
  • Small oranges with low-fat string cheese
  • Slice apples to make a mini peanut butter, granola sandwiches
  • Top a whole grain cracker with low-fat cream cheese and grape halves
  • Mix yogurt with fresh fruit chunks

grapesSometimes, rules need to be enforced on how much screen time is allowed each day. It is recommended that kids spend no more than two hours per day watching TV, playing video games, on the computer, etc. If you find  your kids do spend excessive amounts of time in front of the TV, try setting limits like “TV may only be watched from 1:00-2:30.” Physical activity should always be encouraged in a positive light and never used as a form of punishment. Encourage safe, outdoor activities; it’s summer time after all!


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High-Fiving Fiber

It was the spring semester of my junior year in college. I was engaging in conversations with my classmates as we were being handed back the results of our cholesterol screenings. I glanced down at the sheet that had been deposited on my desk and quickly went to my professor because I clearly had someone else’s results. She replied, “No, those results are yours, Amanda, and you have high cholesterol.” I thought this can’t be! I’m 21 years old, I run, teach group fitness classes, watch what I eat; how could I have high cholesterol???

This was a major scare to me, especially since heart disease runs in both sides of my family. After coming to terms with the news, I had a good hard look into how much fiber I was consuming in my diet.

Fiber has been referred to as many different things: bulk, roughage, even cardboard. Essentially, fiber is the indigestible part of plant products. It is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. The average American needs at least 20-30 grams of fiber daily, but, unfortunately, most people miss this mark…by a lot. This is due largely to our high consumption of refined carbohydrate sources and processed food items, in addition to a poor intake of fruits and vegetables. But fiber has many benefits.

  • Fiber has shown to help keep you fuller longer between meals, aiding in weight management.
  • Choosing foods that are higher in fiber has shown to benefit blood glucose control.
  • A diet high in fiber can decrease one’s risk for diverticulosis/diverticulitis. Fiber can play a role in treating both constipation and diarrhea.
  • Increased fiber can help children’s constipation problems (check out this article for tips), as well as those of adults.
  • Another great thing a high fiber intake can do (and the focus of this blog) is help lower one’s cholesterol and, therefore, reduce the risk for heart disease.

Fiber is split into two categories: soluble and insoluble, and most fiber-containing products have both. Insoluble fiber can aid as a laxative by moving intestinal contents more rapidly. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like product when entering the digestive system. Soluble fiber absorbs bile salts in the intestines, which are important for digesting and absorbing fat. In order to keep our pool of bile salts at a proper level, the body utilizes cholesterol, specifically LDL found in the blood stream, to manufacture more bile salts. The National Cholesterol Education Program’s Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes recommends consuming at least 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day to reduce LDL cholesterol by 5%. Check out the complete list of recommendations.

Good sources of soluble fiber:

Broccoli and Walnut Salad

Broccoli and Walnut Salad

  • Kidney beans
  • Oatmeal
  • Orange
  • Oat bran
  • Broccoli
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Apple
  • Banana

Other sources of fiber:

  • Blueberries/raspberries/blackberries
  • All beans/legume varieties
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Artichokes
  • Almonds
  • Shredded wheat cereal
  • Pears
  • Prunes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Whole wheat bread/pasta

Assorted fruitIn addition to consuming more fiber, there are other diet recommendations for reducing one’s cholesterol level. This includes limiting trans and saturated fats from the diet (fatty red meats, fried foods, whole fat dairy products, snack crackers, chips, candy, cookies). It is encouraged to replace saturated fats with omega 3 and unsaturated fats from sources like salmon, walnuts and ground flaxseed. Fat intake should be limited to no more than 35% of total calories. Plant foods are recommended more often. Engaging in physical activity can also be very beneficial, as recommended by one’s physician.

How does my high cholesterol story end, you ask? I first began with choosing foods higher in fiber. I replaced my regular granola bars with high-fiber bars, consumed more vegetables, snacked on nuts more often, added fruit as part of my breakfast routine and chose cereals, English muffins and bread with higher fiber contents. In six months, I dropped my cholesterol level down from 216 mg/dL to 167 mg/dL. Today, I am still going strong with my fiber intake, omega-3 fatty acid intake and consuming low amounts of saturated and trans fats. Physical activity is a priority every day, and I am constantly finding new ways to challenge my body. My most recent cholesterol level taken was 151 mg/dL and I couldn’t be happier.

When increasing fiber in one’s diet, it is recommended to make sure you consume an adequate amount of water. Although it is rare with mixed diets, too much fiber can also be a problem causing poor absorption of calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium. Always consult with your physician or dietitian before making changes to your diet.


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It’s Farmers’ Market Time!

Posted by Springfield Clinic

Springfield Clinic is proud to serve as the title sponsor for the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market!

For the second year, Springfield Clinic is the title sponsor for the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market. Beginning today, you can visit the Commodities Pavilion (across from the Grandstand) each Thursday for fresh, local produce, and products made in Illinois using Illinois ingredients. Area vendors sell fruits and vegetables straight from the farm, delicious homemade baked goods, chemical-free soaps and lotions, even locally produced beer and wine and so much more.

Tonight, join Amanda Figge, registered dietitian and your Something To Chew On bloggess herself, as she discusses family nutrition. Springfield Clinic will offer health screenings as well as educational programs related to nutrition, fitness and wellness. We will also be on hand every week with our healthy recipe.

Join us at the Illinois State Fairgrounds every Thursday! Find out more at SpringfieldClinic.com/FarmersMarket.

This weeks healthy recipe is:

Broccoli and Walnut Salad

Broccoli and Walnut Salad

Watch Amanda make the recipe of the week on WICS!

 


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The See-Food Trap

One joke that I’ve heard over and over is, “I’m on the see-food diet; if I see-food, I eat it.” Unfortunately, this is the case for many of us, even myself.

One morning as I dropped off my lunch in the fridge, I noticed that there were a couple dozen donuts in the break room. I’ll admit, they looked very enticing, but I had already had breakfast that morning and knew better than to eat something when I wasn’t hungry. As the morning went on, I began to feel hungry again and thought, “Gee, one of those donuts sounds really good right now.” I even found myself trying to bargain with the idea, with thoughts like, “I deserve it. It’s been so long since I’ve had a donut. I worked out every day this week. It’s almost the weekend.” However, planning ahead helped save me. I pulled my bag of almonds out of my purse and satisfied my mid-morning snack craving.

Eat Healthier, Resist Temptations.

Eat Healthier, Resist Temptations.

Every time I passed the breakroom that day, the thought of donuts crossed my mind. Fortunately, my co-workers rescued me and consumed all the donuts by the end of the day. The unique thing about this story is that I hardly ever have a craving for donuts. The mere sight of the donuts caused my thoughts to be plagued by these sugary-sweet, empty calorie desserts all day long!

In his book, Mindless Eating, Dr. Brian Wansink does a wonderful job illustrating this concept. He found that when 30 Hershey Kisses were placed on the desk of secretaries, the candies placed in a clear jar were consumed 46% quicker than those placed in opaque jars. It has also been found that increased effort decreases consumption. In another study involving candy dishes and secretaries, results showed the closer in proximity the candy was to the secretary, the more they consumed. More candy was eaten if the bowl was sitting directly on the secretary’s desk or within arm’s distance than if the candy dish was placed further away, or even out of sight in the filing cabinet. Other studies in support of the theory that increased effort decreases consumption includes a cafeteria experiment that showed more ice cream was consumed when the ice cream cooler lid was left open versus when it was shut. In summary, the easier it is to obtain food, the more likely we are to consume it. Check out more detailed reports of these studies and other intriguing food psychology research.

What do we do with this information? Simple. Use it to your advantage.

Do not let easy choices influence you to make the wrong choice.

Do not let easy choices influence you to make the wrong choice.

If you keep unhealthy food in the house, you are going to be more likely to consume it, especially if it is left out in the open. Even if you have a good stock of healthy items to choose from, you still are left with the big decision of choosing this or that. Let’s be honest; most of the time, we do not opt for the healthier item. This is also true for our kids. Yes, our kids may like healthy fruits, vegetables and yogurt, but, when I was kid, I would always choose Dunkaroos, Gushers or Doritos any day over a banana or apple to snack on.

The reason why? It was easily accessible. Keeping healthy food easily available and in sight can help lead to increased consumption of these items. Often, our fruit and vegetables go bad in our fridge because we forget to eat them. One of the reasons why this occurs is because they are hidden in the fruit/vegetable drawers out of our immediate vision line. Keeping these types of food more visual may help. I use this trick for drinking water. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I used to be a very poor water drinker. Hydrating myself usually only occurred at mealtimes or when I was thirsty, leaving my total consumption way under my need for the day. Now, I keep a colorful water bottle with me wherever I go. It’s visually appealing, so the thought crosses my mind more often, “hey, I should take a sip of water.” Using this “see-food” trick has helped me consume adequate amounts of water each and every day.

Have fun with your food but still make healthy choices.

Have fun with your food but still make healthy choices.

Is your environment sabotaging your healthy eating habits or do you use these tips to work to your advantage? Understanding our environment can help lead us to making healthier eating choices on a more consistent basis.

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