The Most Important Meal of The Day

breakfast

You’ve heard it before, Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but have you ever been told why?

Eating a healthy breakfast has been liked to increased insulin sensitivity, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Need more proof? Infrequent consumption of breakfast has been shown to increase risk of diabetes by 28%in women compared to women who consume breakfast daily. Daily breakfast consumers have lower rates of diabetes, abdominal obesity, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension than people who eat breakfast three times a week or less.

But what you eat for breakfast matters. A healthy breakfast should include:

  • Whole grains. Whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Read the nutrition label; many cereals are made with refined grains which can cause your blood sugar to spike
  • Lean Protein. This will fill you up for the day, without increasing your cholesterol levels. Think egg white omelet or 4 oz of plain nonfat Greet yogurt.
  • Fiber. Fiber is the non digestible component of plant food; it lowers blood sugar and cholesterol, and can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Women shoot for 21-25g fiber per day, 30-38g fiber per day for men. Adding a Tbsp of Flax seed to your whole grain cereal is a great way to increase your fiber intake.
  • Low Sugar. Many cold cereals are preloaded with sugar. Look at the nutrition facts on the side of the cereals box and try to stick to no more than 5g of sugar per serving.
  • Low Sodium. Aim for a cereal with no more than 200mg of sodium per serving. If you’re going for a savory dish, try adding non-sodium spices or fresh herbs to increase the flavor of your dish.
  • Low Calories. Look for cereals with less than 150 calories per serving, and use a measuring cup when serving yourself. Many cereals bowls are larger than the average serving.

coffee

Like your morning coffee? Moderate Coffee consumptions has been associated with lower coronary artery calcium scores and could therefore be inversely related to cardiovascular disease. So enjoy your cup or morning coffee! Just stay away from artificial sweeteners, added sugar or cream. If you don’t like your coffee black, try adding unsweetened almond milk and a dash of cinnamon.

Read Here for 56 Cheap and Healthy Breakfast Options. 

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Your Summer Farmers Market Guide!

Summer offers a bounty of fresh produce. Strolling through the farmer’s market and shopping local produce is one of my favorite ways to kick off a healthy week. Each week I challenge myself to try something new – the experiment is half the fun! Farmer’s Markets offer local seasonal produce – maximizing flavor and nutrients, while helping to cut down on environmental pollution (all at a low cost to you).

farmers-market-veggies

What’s in season now? 

Cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, kale, watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, blueberries, peaches, apricot, kiwis, figs, and plums. (YUM)

Here’s some tips for picking the sweetest fruits: 

Watermelon: The heavier the watermelon – the juicier the inside! Look for a yellow “sun spot” on the bottom. Always wash the watermelon before cutting into it to avoid contaminating the inside with bacteria.

Peaches: Opt for organic here! Peaches are found to have one of the highest amount of pesticides. For the sweetest peaches, look for a darker skin with a soft give. (avoid storing in the fridge – it dilutes the flavor!) Want to speed up ripening? Place it in a brown paper bag!

Kale: Look for full dark green bunches! Store in a dry paper towel lined zip-lock bag in the fridge for up to a week.

Here are some more tips!

Bring your own bag: canvas totes, back-packs, beach bags, etc. You’ll be able to carry more and help the environment by avoiding plastics.

Try something new! Ask the vendor questions for samples or how to prepare it- you’ll never know what you’ll love!

If you find yourself seeking the same samples – it’s time to cough up! Treat yourself and buy it.

HAPPY EATING!

Go Nuts You Health Nuts!

Calling all Health Nuts!

If you’re like me, one of your go-to snacks is probably one or two (ok, let’s be honest…or three) handfuls of nuts. My favorite are roasted, unsalted almonds. But not all nuts are created equal! Thank to aloha.com, here is everything you need to know the next time you are headed down the nut aisle…

nuts

Almonds

Best Benefit: More calcium than any other nut—385mg per cup. That’s more than the amount of calcium in a cup of milk and about 39% of your daily calcium needs.

Serving Size: 23 almonds (163 calories)

Did You Know? Almonds are in the peach family; the seed of the almond fruit is actually what we call the nut.

Brazil Nut

Best Benefit: Richest dietary source of magnesium (107mg/ounce) and selenium (about 90mcg/nut). Best when consumed in moderation, as the tolerable upper intake level of selenium is 400 micrograms per day—anything above could cause potentially harmful side effects.

Serving Size: 6 Brazil nuts (186 calories)

Did You Know? The pod of the Brazil nut actually contains 8 to 24 seeds (what we consider the nut). Due to the their high fat content, Brazil nuts go bad pretty quickly. So store them in cool, dry places.

Cashew

Best Benefit: Lowest fat per ounce. Rich in mineral copper, an essential component of many enzymes.

Serving Size: 16-18 cashews (157 calories)

Did You Know? Cashews are always sold shelled because the interior of their shells contains a toxic resin that must be carefully removed before they are safe for consumption. The cashew is a distant relative to poison ivy and sumac, so even its foliage must be handled with care.

Hazelnut

Best Benefit: High in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, which helps to lower cholesterol. They also have a high concentration of vitamin E (4.26mg), second only to almonds.

Serving Size: 21 hazelnuts (180 calories)

Did You Know? A hazelnut is also known as a filbert. The name most likely originates from the day of St. Philibert, celebrated on the August 22, when the harvest of hazelnuts usually starts.

Macadamia Nut

Best Benefit: They are a rich source of energy, providing 718 calories/100g, one of the highest values among nuts, and a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids

Serving Size: 10-12 macadamia nuts (204 calories)

Did You Know? Macadamia trees were imported to Hawaii in around 1882 as a windbreak for sugarcane, which was a major commercial export for Hawaii at the time.

Peanut

Best Benefit: Higher folate content (68mgc) than any of the tree nuts

Serving Size: 28 peanuts (166 calories)

Did You Know? Classified as legumes, peanuts contains cancer-fighting compounds such as resveratrol and beta-sitosterol. Ancient Peruvians entombed peanuts with their mummies to nourish them in their journey to the afterlife.

Pecan

Best Benefit: Highest antioxidant content, with ORAC value of 17,940 μ mol TE/100g [ORAC, or oxygen radical absorbance capacity, is a system of measuring antioxidant capacities.]

Serving Size: 19 pecan halves (196 calories)

Did You Know? The name “pecan” is a Native American word that was used to describe “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.” Pecan is the only tree nut native to the United States.

Pine Nut

Best Benefit: Appetite-suppressing nut, contains pinolenic acid, which makes you feel quickly satiated.

Serving Size: 167 kernels (191 calories)

Did You Know? Pine nuts grow under the scales of pinecones and have two shells.

Pistachio

Best Benefit: Highest potassium, with 295mg

Serving Size: 49 pistachios (162 calories)

Did You Know? The semi-opening of the shell led the pistachio to be termed the “smiling nut” in Iran and the “happy nut” in China.
Walnut

Best Benefit: The only nut that contains a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant based omega-3 fatty acid. One ounce provides more than the recommended daily intake for men and women.

Serving Size: 14 walnut halves (185 calories)

Did You Know? The Greeks called the walnut “karyon,” meaning “head,” because the shell resembles a human skull and the walnut kernel looks like a brain.

For your best health bet, stick to raw or roasted unsalted choices! 

GO NUTS YOU HEALTH NUTS! 

Keys for Success: Changing Your Unhealthy Diet to a Healthy One

People often ask me how they can change their eating habits to increase their intake of healthier foods and lose weight. For many people, changing their diet can be a daunting task. Growing up, you may have never learned how to eat healthy and these unhealthy food choices carried into adulthood. You may have also grown up in a family where a bad day was made better by a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies or a trip out for ice cream. When you have established behaviors that span over many years, of course it can be hard to change. But it’s not impossible. With a little education and a few simple steps, you too can be on your way to enjoying a healthier diet…and the many health benefits that come with it.

Here are my Keys to Success:

Keep a Daily Food Diary

Keeping a daily food diary has many benefits. For one, seeing every choice you made in a given day allows you to not only monitor caloric intake, but also helps you realize patterns of behavior that you weren’t otherwise aware of. For example, after a month of keeping a food diary, a woman noticed that every Monday she would eat a muffin or donut at her weekly staff meeting. The next week, she made sure to have a breakfast high in fiber and protein to keep her full longer throughout the morning. Additionally, she brought a small plate of fresh fruit with her to snack on during the staff meeting. The amount of sugar in the fruit helped satiate her craving for sweets, allowing the temptation to grab a muffin or donut to greatly reduce.

Gradually Add Healthy Foods Into Your Diet

Don’t expect to reinvent the wheel here. You don’t have to throw away everything in your cupboards and replace the items with healthier options all at once. And you shouldn’t. Extreme measures such as these set people up to fail because the expectations are just too high. Make small changes to start. Still want to enjoy your pasta every Thursday night? How about replacing it with whole wheat pasta? Are you a huge fan of taco salad? Make your own, using ground turkey, sautéed bell peppers and onions and serve it with a small amount of cheese and avocado. Your revamped taco salad is now packed with nutrition and still very satisfying.

Gradually Decrease the Unhealthy Foods in Your Diet

Say you have coffee every morning with half and half or milk. Next week, try swapping your traditional milk or half and half for creamy almond milk. The following week, make a goal to replace 3 processed meals with vegetable-packed salads and lean proteins. Do you typically drink soda everyday? Replace at least one soda with a sparkling water. Easy. Again, small steps will set you up for success.

Pay Attention to Your Overall Calorie Consumption

There are many fitness and diet apps out today that allow you to easily keep track of your calories. FitDay and MyFitnessPal are especially popular and allow users to count their calories and track their exercise throughout the day.

If You Make a Mistake, Don’t Beat Yourself Up. Just Put Yourself Back on Course Right Away.

Are you human? I am. And I make mistakes. We all do. The worst thing you can do when you make a mistake, is beat yourself up endlessly about it. This will undoubtedly sour your mood and could likely cause you to continue in an unhealthy pattern. Made a mistake? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and begin again.

6 Steps to Help You Reset Your Diet After Thanksgiving

diet-reset-after-thanksgiving

By Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD   Photo: Getty Images

If, despite every intention of balance and moderation you completely overindulged on Thanksgiving, don’t panic. While a gluttonous yesterday may leave you feeling sluggish and heavy today, the truth is that a handful of simple strategies can help you undo the damage and get back on track fast. Here are six tried and true steps to help you lighten up, and get those uncomfortably tight jeans feeling loose again.

Step 1: Get back to your normal eating schedule
I know you may be tempted to just not eat, but skipping meals only forces your body to shift into conservation mode and burn fewer calories. Skipping can also make you more likely to hang onto any fat you’ve gained, rather than letting it go. Steady meals, on the other hand, maximize metabolism, and help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as hunger hormones. Try to eat breakfast within an hour of waking up, and eat your remaining meals three to five hours apart. Also, consider selecting a day’s worth of clean go-to meals to repeat for a few days. Your body loves consistency, so after it’s been thrown out of whack, repetition and regularity can go a long way in restoring balance.

Step 2: Reconfigure your proportions
Rather than drastically cutting calories, make non-starchy vegetables the focus of your meals, paired with lean protein, a bit of good-for-you fat, and small portions of healthy, slow-burning starch. One of the reasons you feel heavy after overeating is because your body stockpiles carbs in a form called glycogen, along with water. Cutting back, but not cutting carbs out completely, can help you level your energy and hunger (so you won’t pig out on Thanksgiving leftovers at night), while still allowing your body to let go of surplus starch. Aim for just a third to a half cup of whole food carbs in each meal, such as whole grains, and starchy vegetables.

Step 3: Get more potassium
On top of helping nerves and muscles function properly and regulating blood pressure and your body’s pH level, potassium acts as a natural diuretic. Eating more helps you de-bloat and feel lighter by sweeping excess sodium out of your body and relieving water retention. Good sources include lima beans, spinach, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, tomatoes, avocado, lima beans, salmon, and mushrooms.

Here’s a day’s worth of meals that combine steps 2 and 3:

Breakfast

An omelet made with one whole organic egg and three whites, plus a third of a cup of each: baby spinach leaves, chopped mushrooms, sliced grape tomatoes, and cooked quinoa. Season it with a handful of fresh cilantro, and once it’s ready, top it with a quarter of a ripe avocado, sliced. (For a vegan version, you can swap eggs for mashed chickpeas.)

Lunch

A tablespoon each of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, whisked together with a little fresh squeezed lemon and dried Italian herb seasoning, tossed with a cup and a half of torn romaine, a quarter cup each minced red onion, and chopped red bell pepper, topped with a half cup of lima beans and a third cup of cooked, chilled wild rice.

Dinner

One cup each baby Brussels sprouts and white button mushrooms, oven roasted, paired with three ounces of broiled salmon, and a half cup of mashed baked sweet potato, seasoned with a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil and a dash of pumpkin pie spice (for a vegan version trade salmon for lentils).

Step 4: Drink water only, and sip more of it
Make water your only beverage and up your intake. H2O supports optimal metabolism, and helps naturally curb appetite. Drinking more water also flushes out excess sodium to help you quickly de-bloat, and it gets your digestive system moving to relieve constipation. Aim for 2-2.5 liters of water a day (about 8-10 cups).

Step 5: Tune in
Eat slowly, pay attention to your body’s signals, and stop when full, even if you haven’t finished your meal. Eating at a slower pace can automatically help you curb your portions while feeling more satisfied. When you chew carefully, set your fork down between bites, and tune into your body’s signals, you’ll be able to detect your tipping point – that feeling of just right fullness. One study found that this process was just as effective for weight loss as a formal class.

Step 6: Up your activity
One way to feel lighter quickly is to torch glycogen, the carbs your body stockpiles when you’ve eaten more starch than usual. To burn it up, get your muscles moving and your heart rate up, through anything from brisk walks to a Zumba class. And remember that small boosts in your activity level add up to help, including taking stairs, or dancing in your living room!

If you give this six-step strategy a try, please tweet us about your results @CynthiaSass and @goodhealth.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.