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Last night we kicked off another year of the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market at the Illinois State Fairgrounds! Time and time again, we share how important a well balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables is to you health. What better way to stock your shelves with fresh, local produce than by taking a trip to your local market?
The Farmers’ Market offers not only produce, but organic meat, eggs and plants for your own garden. Come on out and enjoy a night of fun and health. Stop by the Springfield Clinic tables on the following dates to meet us! For more information on the market, visit our website.
Genetically Modified Organisms…what a complicated topic. A question about the safety of GMOs was asked at our recent Doctor Is In, Ask a Dietitian panel. This is also a question that my family and I often get asked; I’m married to a 6th generation conventional farmer and I’m a registered dietitian, so it’s inevitable that some questions about GMO, antibiotics and/or hormones are going to get asked. Of all these, I personally feel the GMO topic is the toughest question to answer. Why? Because there is so much information/marketing out there to try and decipher. What is factual and what is not can be difficult to figure out. So here is some factual information I feel good in providing to you regarding GMOs.
1. What is a GMO? A genetically modified organism (GMO) is created by taking a beneficial trait, like insect resistance, from one living thing and introducing it into another to help it thrive in its environment.
2. There are currently 8 commercially GMO crops available: corn, soybean, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, canola, papaya and squash.
3. For thousands of years, humans have been genetically enhancing organisms through the practice of selective breeding (what we learned about in Science class in school). Believe it or not, seedless watermelon, honeycrisp apples, grape tomatoes, broccolini, wheat and sweet corn came about due to selective breeding, which took many years, but not the use of modern technology.
4. Today the technology we have can better help us with the process of selective breeding and better gene enhancement. Today’s crops can use water more efficiently, allow farmers to use less pesticide/herbicide/insecticide applications and have larger harvests. This ultimately allows farmers to grow crops that are sustainable and to improve soil health, water retention, and reduce runoff.
5. Genetically modified crops have to be safety tested by a certified independent third party using protocols required by the government and regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Untimely the choice is yours whether or not to consume foods that have been genetically modified. As a farmer’s wife, I feel good stating that GMO foods are safe to eat, and as a Registered Dietitian, I don’t have a preference whether the food is GMO, non-GMO, organic or conventionally grown — as long as you are getting your fruits, vegetables, whole foods and less processed foods in, the healthier you will be!
This video, I feel, explains WELL what a GMO is:
GMO Answers is good website that can answer more questions you may have.
It’s the time of year that many of us dread…flu season. You try to take every precaution you can by washing your hands, sanitizing grocery carts and not touching your face—but sometimes even that isn’t enough to prevent the nasty flu bug! In the past, I would get sick at least once every fall/winter and would always have 1-2 sinus infections on top of that. That was until I changed my diet up a few years ago, and I have enjoyed the last few years sick-free!
Remember, no one single food will make you healthier and improve your immunity. But I do suggest that it may be more beneficial to get your vitamins from your fruits and veggies rather than a packet of Emergen-C.
Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Veggies
Ideally, your goal is to consume a wide variety of colors when choosing your fruits and veggies. Each color introduces a powerful antioxidant or plant nutrient into your system. For example, red-orange colored produce such as sweet potatoes, squash and carrots are great sources of Vitamin A and beta-carotene while blue, purple and dark red fruits like blueberries, raspberries and cherries deliver phytochemicals such as flavonoids that help reduce inflammation. Vitamin C can be found in red bell peppers, oranges, broccoli, kiwi and strawberries.
Eggs, Nuts and Seeds
These quick bites are good sources of zinc, which helps your T-cells and other immune cells function properly. Swap your afternoon wheat thins or granola bar for a handful of mixed nuts and seeds or even a hardboiled egg or two. In addition to the improved nutrient intake, you’ll also satisfy your hunger better and have more controlled blood sugars by choosing these good protein sources.
Proteins. Eggs, fish, chicken, lean or organic beef
Some studies suggest that inadequate protein intake can weaken the immune system by showing a decrease in the number of T-cells and antibodies being produced. A good goal to work towards is having protein with all your meals and with most of your snack choices.
Fatty fish and avocados
There are two great examples of healthy fats in the diet (omega-3 and omega-9s). Essential fats (fats that the body cannot produce) help decrease inflammation in the body as well as improve the integrity of our cell walls. I’ll explain in the next paragraph why this integrity is so important to immunity!
Immunity begins in the gut.
You gastrointestinal tract is your internal layer of skin. It can protect you from harmful agents invading your circulatory system; however, if its cell wall is compromised, you may be at a greater risk of getting sick this flu season. (This could be related to “leaky gut syndrome or intestinal permeability” however, not all practitioners believe in this concept). I know what you’re thinking—so what are the foods that damage my gut’s lining? Some of the main culprits could be foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates such as candy, juice, soda, cereal, chips, crackers, pretzels, pasta and white bread. Three years ago, I pretty much cut out all of these foods from my diet. Could it be coincidental that I didn’t get sick the same time I cut out processed sugars and starches? Yes. However, I will remind you that I work in health care and am exposed to a lot of sick people on a daily basis during the flu season. In addition to not getting sick the past couple winters, I also noticed that I was less bloated, slept better and had more energy after changing my diet. While my results may differ from others following the same meal plan, it is certainly something to consider if you find yourself chronically getting sick all fall and winter long.
Remember—your immune system is exactly that—a system, not one single entity. To function well, it requires overall balance and harmony between all your health habits: diet, exercise, stress management and sleep.
Is the Freshman 15 a myth or fact? It’s, actually, a little of both. Did you know that the phrase “The Freshman 15” was coined by Seventeen magazine in 1989? I learned this fascinating fact while doing a research project in college. What’s even more incredible is that the research evidence available at the time suggested that weight gain experienced during the first year of college typically only ranged from 0-8 lbs. The iconic tagline took off and continues to instill fear in many college-bound students. Rather than take the approach of “how to avoid the freshman 15,” I’d like to address what actually happens during your first year away from home.
What are some of the causes of weight gain during freshman year?
Complete access to dining halls. Guess what? If you want to eat pizza every day, you can—because it’s always available! There is no one to tell you what to eat and what not to eat, and no one to control what is being served for dinner. Sometimes with this new freedom of dietary choices, we forget the importance of balanced meals.
No more PE. Your life changes a lot when going to college. Previously, you may have been involved in multiple sports or participated in physical education every year. PE is not a requirement for college curriculum, so it’s up to you to follow an active lifestyle! Many students overlook how important regular physical activity is for keeping a healthy weight.
Late-night habits. In high school, I would hit the hay routinely around 10pm. Once I went to college, that bedtime could be anywhere from midnight–2am. Drastic changes in one’s routine, lack of sleep and excessive late-night snacking can all alter your metabolism and cause weight gain.
Alcoholic intake. For those that choose to drink alcohol, remember it is a source of non-nutrient calories. Alcohol can also impair our good judgment skills. Suddenly, you find yourself justifying that an extra-large pepperoni pizza at 1am sounds like a perfectly good idea! Research suggests that students who gain the most weight are typically heavier drinkers.
Is weight gain in college really all that bad?
Absolutely not. For a lot of people, their bodies are nowhere near done maturing at the age of 18. Boys can continue to grow taller and develop more muscle mass. Girls’ bodies may mature more with continuous breast and hip development. Both of these growth examples are natural and have no correlation to being in college. Weight gain among college students is quite variable and some even lose weight their first year.
Should I be worried?
Nah. College was one of the best experiences of my life! Plus, you don’t have to follow a perfect diet to maintain health and wellness. Focus on all the new opportunities you will experience, such as a gym membership, culturally-diverse food choices and social gatherings. It was in college that I took my first group fitness class, fell in love with it and became an instructor. My taste buds exploded with all the new foods I was trying. And I met some pretty incredible people and made memories to last a lifetime.
It’s really simple. You’re going away to college.
-try to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep every night
Packing your lunch and snacks from home is one of the easiest ways to avoid unhealthy temptations at work, but how do you stick to a healthy diet when you have to eat on the go? There are plenty of healthy options that can be chosen from fast food restaurants such as salads, wraps and grilled chicken but many of us struggle with the temptations of fries, deep fried foods and readily available sweets, and would rather avoid going through a drive-thru. Luckily, a drive-thru is not the only way we can get a quick bite to eat. Check out some of these alternatives the next time you’re eating on the go.
More and more grocery stores are now equipped with healthy salad bars and grab-n-go meals. The other day I saw that our local HyVee had a turkey wrap, apple and Greek yogurt as a to-go lunch meal. You can also quickly grab a piece of fruit and a protein pack (cheese, nuts and meat like the ones shown here) or an individual container of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. Watch out for the deli bar, where tempting potato salads, fried chicken and desserts can be found.
It’s quick and more likely to offer healthier selections than what you would find at McDonalds or Taco Bell. Repulsive hospital food is a thing of the past. Today, hospitals pride themselves in their food service departments and often offer cuisine similar to those of sit-down restaurants. You can easily pair together a healthy soup and salad combination or take advantage of the healthy menu item of the day which may include chicken or fish with roasted or steamed veggies.
I hold true to my advice that you shouldn’t buy your food where you get your gas, but sometimes you are left with no other resort, especially if you have to travel often for work. Rather than picking the bagel sandwich or slice of pizza, opt for a protein bar or protein shake. When selecting a protein bar, go for the one with the less added sugar. Many gas stations also offer fresh cut fruit or raw veggies with ranch as healthier side options.
If you’re stuck in a situation where the vending machine is your only option, go for the selection that offers the most protein. These items would typically be nuts, trail mix or beef jerky. Foods that include protein are more likely to keep your fuller longer and less likely to cause a blood sugar/insulin spike like chips, pretzels or chocolate would. When it comes to beverage selections, water is always your best option and if you prefer a sweetened beverage, try to choose the options that are sweetened with stevia/truvia such as Sobe Lifewater Zero or use a packet of Crystal Light Pure to sweeten up your bottle of water.
We all know that consuming fresh fruits and veggies is healthier than consuming canned and sometimes frozen varieties; however, one of the downfalls of purchasing fresh produce is that you have to cut it yourself. Most grocery stores offer pre-cut varieties but these items are more costly due to the labor cost factored into the price. I always purchase whole fruit, but sometimes cutting these items can be quite timely! This short tutorial will give you tips on how to decrease your time spent cutting fruit in the kitchen.
I’m not a big proponent for cutting out the yolks in eggs. The yolk is a nutrient powerhouse (choline, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A and D for example) and research finds that the cholesterol found in egg yolks really have no effect on our serum cholesterol levels. However, if you are someone with Chronic Kidney Disease (specifically with stage III or stage IV), you may be recommended to cut back on consumption of egg yolks due to their phosphorus content (a mineral that the kidneys help filter in the blood). They do make egg products without yolks such as Egg Beaters; however this product now contains food dyes and preservatives. In general, the fresher the food item is, the better it is for your body. Here is a quick tip on removing egg yolks from whole eggs.