Something to Chew On

A Guide to Eating Right and Living Well


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Think Healthy for the Holidays!

Looking to make something healthy and creative for your friends and family this holiday season? Watch this video  to learn about healthy choices plus see how easy it is to whip up this fun holiday treat.

7-Layer Lemon Hummus & Pesto Yogurt Dip

Ingredients
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 T tahini (sesame seed paste found in the ethnic food section, or use unsweetened almond butter)
1 lemon separated into 1 tsp grated zest, 3 T juice
3 T organic or reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup basil pesto
1 cup shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese (or use crumbled feta for a stronger taste)
1 large tomato, seeded, diced 1/4 inch (1 cup)
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded with a spoon, and diced (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced

For dipping
Serve grilled or toasted whole-grain pita chips or flatbread torn into pieces
Romaine hearts

Directions
1. To make the hummus: Purée chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, broth, salt, garlic powder, and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil. Spread hummus evenly in the bottom of a 9- X 9-inch glass dish.

2. Stir together yogurt and pesto and spoon over hummus. Evenly sprinkle the cheese, followed by single layers of tomato, cucumber, scallions, and olives. Enjoy this dish on the same or the next day for optimal freshness.

*Note: For a more festive look, use a trifle-style glass bowl rather than a square baking dish. It makes for a great-looking potluck contribution.

Nutrient Analysis per 1/4-cup serving
Calories: 77; Total fat: 5 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 4 mg; Sodium: 243 mg; Total carbohydrate: 5 g; Dietary fiber: 1 g; Protein: 4 g

— Recipe reprinted with permission from Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes With Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will Love by Michelle Dudash, RDN (Fair Winds Press, December 2012) 


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What’s Your Yogurt IQ?

Fruit-and-yogurtWhat are the health benefits of yogurt?

Yogurt is a high-quality, low-fat, easily-absorbed protein source. (Try saying that three times fast!) Additionally, yogurt is a good source of calcium and active cultures (probiotics) that can promote a healthy gut. Individuals with lactose intolerance often can consume yogurt without gastrointestinal distress. The translation of yogurt “yoghurt” means “dense and thick”. Yogurt is made by the fermentation of milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. This thicker substance is tangier in taste when compared to milk.

With so many yogurt varieties, is there any difference between them?

Not all yogurts contain live active cultures. The term “made with live/active cultures” is somewhat deceiving because all yogurts are made with live cultures; but live cultures do not survive heat treatment/pasteurization. Look for phrases like “active yogurt cultures” or “contains active cultures” to identify the yogurt varieties that contain the probiotic benefits. Dr. Ted Paradowski, Springfield Clinic Gastroenterologist recommends patients choose Activia yogurt for its probiotic benefits.

One of the main nutritional differences between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is the protein content. A standard-size container (5.3-6.0 oz) of Greek yogurt contains anywhere from 10-20 grams of protein while the same serving of regular yogurt contains only 5-6 grams of protein. Unsweetened yogurt (both Greek and regular) will contain the lowest amounts of sugars; however, most people prefer the sweetened/flavored varieties. Try to find the yogurts with the least amount of ingredients for increased nutritional value. Be careful of kid-friendly varieties such as Go-Gurt. This type of yogurt contains the highest amount of added sugars and is also lowest in protein content. Basically, your kids are getting more calories from the added sweeteners than they are from the yogurt itself. Watch the calcium content difference. In many cases, Greek yogurt contains less calcium than normal yogurt.

To Greek or not to Greek?

Greek yogurt has been a hot trend to take grocery store shelves by storm these past couple years. One thing I’ve noticed at my local supermarket is that the yogurt section appears to be phasing out regular yogurt options to make room for more Greek yogurt brands and varieties.

Many will argue that the term “Greek” is being used too loosely. Typically, Greek yogurt has gone through an extra straining process that removes the liquid whey and milk sugars. This is the reason why this type of yogurt is much thicker and tangier in taste. However, some brands simply add a thickening agent and protein concentrate to their regular yogurt and call it “Greek”.

This year especially, we have seen Greek yogurt products popping up everywhere from cereal to granola bars to veggie dips.  Greek yogurt is most notable for its lean protein content, but do all these additional products retain the same benefits or are they just a marketing gimmick?

Most of the time, the term “made with Greek yogurt” on food items is simply a way to get consumers to buy that product thinking it’s going to be healthier than the item sitting next to it on the shelf. For example, Post has recently come out with Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch cereal. Compared to their standard variety, Honey Bunches of Oats Honey Roasted cereal, the “Greek” variety contains more calories, more carbs and added sugars with just a minimal increase in protein content. Don’t be fooled by frozen Greek yogurt either. Often, these substitutions are simply sweet treats disguised as health foods.

How creative are you with using yogurt?activia-active cultures

It’s thick, creamy texture makes it a great base for smoothies or an excellent swap for mayonnaise and sour cream in recipes. Whether you use regular or Greek yogurt, these healthy recipe substitutions will add more nutrients to your everyday favorites!

  • Try mixing yogurt with herbs and spices to make a protein-packed veggie dip.
  • Add a dollop on potatoes or tacos instead of sour cream.
  • Substitute yogurt for some of the mayonnaise when making tuna, chicken or potato salad.
  • For additional ideas, download this handout: http://oldwayspt.org/sites/default/files/12ways_yogurt.pdf


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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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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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Convenience Foods: How to Make the Right Choices

flatbreadWork, dentist appointment, grocery shopping, baseball game, laundry, dinner for four, help with homework…and it’s only Monday. For most people, this is a snapshot of everyday life. Living a fast-paced lifestyle finds many individuals relying on quick, convenient food items throughout the day. Unfortunately, we are drawn to drive-thrus, vending machines and whatever is available at the gas station. Quick, easy menu items do not always have to be unhealthy. Here is a list of foods to keep handy at the office, in your car and stocked up at home.

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal packets: No kitchen should be without this hearty, fiberful breakfast staple. Look for the low-sugar or high-fiber varieties for the best picks. For $3.00 a box with 10 packets per box, this is a better choice than purchasing a oatmealMcDonald’s oatmeal meal that will cost $2.00 for a single serving.
  • Hard boiled eggs and cheese sticks: One nutrient that is usually lacking at breakfast is protein. Taking 15 minutes on the weekend to boil eggs can give you a quick, grab-and-go protein-powered breakfast addition or a quick snack. Cheese sticks are also convenient because they don’t take up a lot of space in the fridge or a lunch bag.
  • Greek yogurt: This yogurt packs in twice the amount of protein compared to regular yogurt. Extra protein can help you feel fuller longer. One setback to Greek yogurt is that it typically contains half the amount of calcium compared to the regular varieties.
  • Breakfast sandwiches: Special K flatbread sandwiches, which can be found in the freezer section, are excellent choices for people in a morning rush. At 180-240 calories, these protein-filled choices are much better than a Hardee’s Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit, which contains 450 calories.

Lunch/Dinner:

  • Frozen entrée meals: Frozen entrée meals, formerly known as TV dinners, have come a long way since they were first introduced in 1954. Thanks to Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones, you can now find lower calorie options with reduced sodium. Look for meals with less 600 mg of sodium.
  • Frozen Green Giant vegetable boxes: One common thing I see in patients is that they are not consuming enough vegetables. Vegetables are Mother Nature’s weight loss pills. Vegetables are low in calories and packed with nutrients, a win-win food choice. Each box contains at least two servings of vegetables. I’ve tried all the varieties and have been very pleased. Stock up on them when they go on sale, which is usually every third week at the grocery store.
  • Grilled fast food sandwich: If you absolutely have to go through a drive-thru, your best choice is to order a grilled fish or grilled chicken sandwich with one minor change: forgo the buns and add a side salad. By doing this, you will save yourself 200-300 calories worth of refined carbohydrates.
  • Pre-made salads: Most grocery store chains now offer pre-made salads in their produce section. You may find varieties like chef, Greek, Californian and strawberry spinach. Missing out on protein? Head to the deli section for some pre-cooked grilled chicken strips.

Snacks:

  • Pre-cut vegetables and fruits: If you don’t have enough time to cut up vegetables and fruits to take for the day, purchasing pre-cut varieties is a great option. I’ve seen mixed fruit, carrots and celery, broccoli and cauliflower, mixed bell pepper strips and more in the produce section at the grocery store. The only drawback is that these options are slightly more expensive because you are paying for someone else to cut the food for you.
  • Nuts: Nuts are great to always have on hand. They do not need to be refrigerated, which makes them perfect to keep at the office, in your purse, car, gym bag, etc. Watch out for pre-made trail mixes since they tend to be higher in added sugars from their dried fruit and chocolate candies.
  • Tuna packets and whole grain crackers: Due to its higher sodium content, this snack you would want to have less often. However, it is still better than most other vending machine items. The protein in the tuna will help keep you full. Try serving it on Special K multigrain crackers or a few whole grain Triscuits.green giant

Convenience foods don’t always have to be unhealthy. With a little training, we all can become much savvier shoppers.

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