The Skinny About Fat

Many people make the assumption that eating fat makes you fat. However, this is not entirely true. In reality, our bodies need some fat to stay healthy and functional. Also many products that claim to be low fat or fat free are still high in calories, and many are packed with additional sugar or other additives to make up for the missing fat. There is also research that shows people on low-fat diets have the same risk of stroke, heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, and obesity as those who aren’t.

What really matters is the type of fat that you eat.

Most nutritionists will distinguish between “good fats” and “bad fats.”

Bad Fats:

  • These are saturated fats and trans fatty acids. Saturated fats are found in animal products (meat, poultry, and many dairy products). Saturated fat is also found in certain oils, such as, coconut and palm oils. Saturated fats can raise cholesterol, increase the risk for heart disease, and increase colon and prostate cancer risk.
  • The other bad fats are trans fatty acids (or trans fats). There are small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats in dairy and meat, but the ones to be concerned about are artificial trans fats. These are found in many fried foods, baked goods, crackers, cookies, processed snack foods, and in (some) margarine. These fats are considered to be the very worst health offenders. Studies have shown that consuming even small amounts of trans fats can increase LDL cholesterol, decrease HDL cholesterol, and contribute to a higher risk for heart disease.

Good Fats:

  • The good fats are unsaturated fats. The first of these are polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are found primarily in vegetable oils. Omega-3s are also polyunsaturated fats, and these are found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and some nuts. The beauty of these fats is that they have been shown to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Omega-3s are also great for brain health and reducing inflammation.
  • The other good kind of fat is monounsaturated fat. This fat also reduces the risk of heart disease, and is generally a good natural source of vitamin E. One of the greatest sources for monounsaturated fat is olive oil. It can also be found in avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, sesame seeds, canola oil, and peanut oil.

The key to being healthy is to limit the amount of bad fats, and increase the amount of good fats that you consume. You do not have to eliminate all fat from your diet, just make better choices (skim milk vs. whole, etc.), and be sure to read food labels carefully.

Lazy Day Turkey Chili Recipe

turkey chili recipe

The change seems to come quickly; from a long string of hot days, to suddenly cool nights, and now a constant chill in the air. Winter is suddenly right around the corner, and as the evenings grow colder we begin to crave warmer and heartier foods.

One of my favorite cold weather dinners is chili. It is warm, satisfying, and allows you to mix and match ingredients to create endless different varieties.

Try to keep it healthy by using ground turkey instead of ground beef, and make sure to include at least one or two kinds of beans. The following is a great and easy chili recipe (most of it from cans), perfect for a lazy day.

Turkey Chili:

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey

½ onion diced

1 can black beans

1 can yellow corn (fresh or frozen is also great)

1 large can (or two small cans) diced or stewed tomatoes

1 jalapeno seeded and diced (optional)

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 pinch of cinnamon

1 pinch of cayenne

Preparation:

Sautee the ground turkey with the onion until lightly browned. Drain and rinse the corn and black beans. Add the turkey mixture and all remaining ingredients to a large pot and let simmer for at least one hour, stirring occasionally (the longer it simmers, the thicker and more flavorful it will become).

Alternately, you could simply put all of the ingredients into a slow cooker and let it simmer all day long.

Serve it with whole-wheat tortillas and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt!

5 Quick and Healthy Breakfast Ideas

healthy breakfast ideas

Breakfast may truly be the most important meal of the day.

The food we eat is fuel for our bodies and minds, and a healthy breakfast can give you a great boost to start your day off right.

Not only that, but studies have shown that people who eat a healthy breakfast have less chronic health issues, increased longevity, and tend to weigh less than those who don’t. Skipping breakfast also causes tiredness, irritability, a shorter attention span, longer reaction time, and decreased productivity.

Here are some healthy, simple, and delicious breakfast ideas…

Cereal

It really doesn’t get much easier than this; have a bowl of cereal with low fat milk or soymilk. The key is to be sure that you choose a healthy cereal that you actually enjoy eating. Ideally look for one that is low in sugar and high in fiber. You can also increase the health factor by adding in sliced banana, strawberries, or a handful of blueberries.

Hard-boiled eggs

This is easy because hard-boiled eggs can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. One egg has only 70 calories, but is packed with protein and vitamin D. Enjoy it sliced on whole-grain toast and have a piece of fruit on the side.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is another healthy option that can be made ahead of time and eaten over the course of the week. Try making up a batch and adding some cinnamon to make it naturally sweet. It is also delicious mixed with a small handful of chopped walnuts and some raisins.

Greek yogurt and fresh fruit

Greek yogurt is thick, rich, and full of protein. Choose a low fat or nonfat plain yogurt and mix in your favorite fruit. If you need it sweeter, try using stevia (calorie-free) or a little bit of honey. You can add a sprinkle of granola if you need the crunch, but use it sparingly (it can be very high in fat and calories).

Quinoa

Quinoa is great when you are looking for an alternative to oatmeal. It is very high in protein and packed with nutrients. Cook up a batch at the beginning of the week and try mixing in fresh or dried fruit. It is also delicious with just a spoonful of pure maple syrup mixed in.

Super Foods

Food is the best medicine .

I’m sure you are familiar with this saying, but have you stopped to consider how true it is?

Eating the right food can affect not only how you look, but also how you feel.

The following is a list of some great super foods. Now, these are not fad foods or ones that are difficult to find. They are nutrient-rich foods that are readily available in any grocery store…

Greens:

Greens are at the very top of the super food list, and beneficial to health for a vast number of reasons. They are low in calories, but nutrient-dense. They are also a great source of fiber.

Beans:

Beans and legumes are truly a nutritional powerhouse. They are very high in fiber, protein, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and a host of other nutrients. Regular consumption of beans has been shown reduce risk for both diabetes and cancer. There is also research showing that those who eat beans weigh less than those who don’t.

Nuts:

Nuts are not a low calorie snack, but they are extremely nutrient rich (and delicious). They are full of monounsaturated fats, which decrease the risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. The key is to enjoy them in moderation, and be sure to choose unsalted nuts.

Berries:

Blueberries come in at the very top of this list. They are packed with antioxidants, phytoflavinoids, potassium, and even vitamin C. Blueberries can lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, and they also help to reduce inflammation. The other good news is that frozen berries are just as good as fresh!

Wild salmon:

Salmon is a powerhouse food. It is high in protein, and one of the very best natural sources for omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3s can lower the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation, and improve brain health. The monounsaturated fats in wild salmon can also help to lower cholesterol.

Tea:

All tea, but particularly oolong tea and green tea are full of powerful antioxidants. Regular tea consumption is linked with lower cholesterol levels, lower risk of cancer, and lower risk of obesity.

Yogurt:

Yogurt is one of the oldest known foods in existence, and there is a reason for it. Low-fat or nonfat yogurt is one of the best natural sources for probiotics. These probiotics support digestive health, and can help to stimulate the immune system. Yogurt is also a great source for both protein and calcium.

Avocado:

Avocados are very nutrient dense, and ounce for ounce, one of the healthiest fruits around. They are packed with magnesium, potassium, folate, and vitamin E. They are also very high in the monounsaturated fat oleic acid, which has been shown to both lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.

Dark chocolate:

Rejoice chocolate lovers; it’s true that dark chocolate is good for you. Dark chocolate is rich in cell-protecting antioxidants, and studies continue to show that it is good for the cardiovascular system and heart health. Be sure to choose a dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao, and enjoy in moderation.

20 Snacks Under 200 Calories

It can’t be said enough: snacking is a great way to support a healthy diet.

Having a snack between meals keeps your blood sugar boosted, your metabolism revved up, and can prevent you from overeating later.

Here are healthy low calorie snacks to keep you inspired…

20 Snacks Under 200 Calories:

  • Fruit and Greek yogurt: A small Greek yogurt is low in calories and packed with protein. Top it off with a handful of berries for a sweet addition.
  • Whole grain crackers and Laughing Cow Cheese: 6 or 7 whole grain crackers with one cheese wedge are delicious and low in calories.
  • Veggie sticks and hummus: Find your favorite hummus flavor and enjoy ¼ cup of it with some baby carrots or bell pepper wedges.
  • Blue cheese stuffed olives: Perfect if you are craving something salty. Have 5 or 6 of these, they are delicious and packed with good fat.
  • Peanut butter and apple slices: Opt for natural peanut butter, and enjoy one tablespoon for dipping.
  • Edamame: A great snack that is packed with nutrition. Sprinkle a little sea salt onto one cup of cooked edamame and enjoy.
  • Chips and salsa: This is all about portion control and choosing the right chips. Picked baked tortilla chips and you can have 16 of them along with ½ cup of salsa.
  • Fruit and cheese: Enjoy eating a pear and having some string cheese as well. Or, opt for an apple and a slice of cheddar cheese.
  • Caprese salad: Slice up one tomato and layer it with fresh basil and a few slices of mozzarella.
  • A bag of nuts and an orange: There are a number of brands that are now pre-packaging 100 calorie bags of almonds or mixed nuts. Grab one and have a piece of your favorite fruit.
  • Dried figs: A great way to satisfy a sweet tooth and they are high in calcium, fiber, and potassium.
  • Pistachios: They are one of lowest calorie nuts, and if you buy them in the shell they take longer to eat. ½ cup (with shells) only adds up to 170 calories.
  • Cottage cheese and berries: Cottage cheese can give you a protein boost and fresh berries will up your antioxidants.
  • Seasoned tuna and crackers: There are now to-go servings of tuna that are flavored with herbs (rather than mayonnaise). Grab one of these and 4 or 5 whole grain crackers.
  • Seasoned popcorn: If you make air-popped popcorn and sprinkle it with seasoning, you have a low calorie snack that is high in fiber. Want salty? Sprinkle with a little bit of grated Parmesan. Or try cinnamon if you want something sweeter.
  • A hard boiled egg and a piece of whole wheat bread: Eggs are packed with protein, and combined with a slice of bread make a satisfying snack.
  • V8 and string cheese: One 8oz can of reduced sodium V8 helps increase your vegetable intake and is very low in calories.
  • Veggie sushi rolls: These can now be found in single servings at many grocery stores. Look for sushi made with brown rice and indulge in up to 6 pieces.
  • Celery and cream cheese: Have four or five celery stalks smeared with 2 tablespoons of reduced-fat cream cheese.
  • Turkey and apple slices: wrap up to four slices of deli turkey around apple wedges. Sweet, salty, and full of protein.

Food Sources of Calcium

food sources of calcium

Calcium is the most prevalent mineral in the human body, and one of the most beneficial.

You know that calcium is necessary for bone health and preventing osteoporosis, but it has many other benefits. It also helps to protect cardiac muscles, prevent colon cancer, alleviate the symptoms of PMS, and helps to maintain body weight and prevent obesity.

The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for calcium in adults ages 19-50 is 1,000mg daily; and 1,200mg daily for women over 50. However, only a small percentage of us actually meet this daily recommendation.

Of course, the easiest way to get calcium is through milk and other dairy products, but for those who either don’t like milk or are lactose intolerant here are some other great options…

Get your greens

Greens are a terrific natural source of calcium. Coming in at the very top of this list is collard greens, which have 357mg of calcium per cup (chopped). Some of the other calcium-rich greens are kale, okra, spinach, mustard greens, and seaweed. Other good veggie options are broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. One great advantage to getting calcium from greens is that the calcium absorption rate from these vegetables is actually higher than that of milk.

Beans, nuts, and peas

Soybeans and processed soy products (such as tofu) pack the highest punch in this category. White beans are the next best option, as well as, navy beans, black beans, and chickpeas. There is also a good amount of calcium in nuts (specifically almonds and Brazil nuts). Sesame seeds are also a terrific source of calcium at 351mg per ¼ cup.

Fish

Seafood may not seem like an obvious choice, but there are a number of options that are packed with calcium. The best in this category is sardines. Sardines (canned with bones) will give you 370mg of calcium in just a 3oz serving. Other good options are salmon (canned, with bones), shrimp, mussels, and oysters.

Fruit

While they can’t beat greens, there are a number of fruits that can also help you to eat your calcium. The number one calcium rich fruit is dried figs. These are followed by rhubarb, dates, dried apricots, oranges, tangerines, and prunes.

Supplements

Food should always be the first choice before supplements. However, if you choose to take a calcium supplement instead, be sure to choose a good formula. Look for one containing calcium citrate, which is more easily absorbed than calcium carbonate.

Foods For Your Mood

foods for your mood

“You are what you eat.” We have heard it again and again throughout our lives, but it is still very much true. The foods that we take into our bodies can have an effect on many aspects of our health, including our energy, stress level, and even our moods. If you are feeling extra irritable or down in the dumps, try some of these strategies to help yourself feel better – from the inside out.

Eat foods rich in vitamin B12 and folic acid:

B vitamins have been shown to help us to maintain a healthy emotional balance, and folic acid helps to defend our bodies against the effects of stress. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between depression and a deficiency in these vitamins. Foods that are high in vitamin B12 include shellfish, liver, beef, chicken, fish, and whole eggs. Some foods that are high in folic acid are liver, legumes, wholegrain breads, sweet potatoes, and spinach.

Get your Omega-3s:

Omega 3 fatty acids have innumerable health benefits. They are terrific for brain health in general, but have also been used specifically to help treat depression. The best way to eat your Omega-3s is by consuming a fish on a regular basis. The kinds of fish that contain the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, herring, rainbow trout, and tuna. Flaxseed is also a good natural source of omega-3’s, however this form is not as well processed by the body as that found in fish.

Get your vitamin D:

Higher blood serum levels of vitamin D have been shown to help prevent PMS, depression, mood disorders, and seasonal affective disorder. Exposure to the sun for short periods of time is the ideal way to get vitamin D, but there are food sources as well. Some of these are fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), cheese, egg yolks, and beef liver. Alternately, taking a daily supplement of vitamin d3 can be very beneficial.

Grab a high protein snack:

Your blood sugar can start to drop significantly within a couple hours after a meal. This can equal translate to hunger, exhaustion, and irritability. A great way to keep blood sugar from crashing to far is to make sure that you have a healthy snack between meals. It will keep you more energized, productive, and focused.

Low Fat Alfredo Sauce

It can’t be said enough; eating healthy does not have to mean sacrificing delicious food.

If you are willing to experiment, try new things, and learn some simple substitutions, you will see that it is possible to create healthy versions of some of your favorite meals.

The following recipe is a perfect example. What could be more decadent than Alfredo sauce? This is a delicious, low fat version that is just as good as the real thing…

Low Fat Alfredo Sauce

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter or Smart Balance
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
¼ cup fat-free cream cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon parsley
¼ teaspoon pepper
A pinch of nutmeg

Preparation:

Melt the butter in a nonstick saucepan. Add the minced garlic and sauté over medium heat for 1-2 minutes (you do not want it to brown).
Whisk in the flour and then add the milk slowly, stirring constantly until the sauce has thickened.
Add the cream cheese and Parmesan and stir until smooth.
Finish with parsley, nutmeg, and pepper to taste.

If you toss this with whole wheat pasta, you will have a creamy, delicious and satisfying meal without all of the fat and calories.
Also, you can make it even healthier by adding in steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or whatever vegetables you love.

Eat and enjoy!

Benefits of Fitness

Physical fitness is truly one of the most important aspects of health. The more we exercise and take time out for physical activity, the healthier and happier we will be. We all know that exercise helps us to get in shape and to lose weight, but there are so many other health benefits of fitness…

Immune Support:

Research has shown a link between regular moderate exercise and increased immunity. The more consistent the exercise, the more substantial the benefits will be.

Heart Disease:

Regular physical activity can help to prevent heart disease and strokes. It strengthens your heart, lowers blood pressure, improves blood circulation, and can even help to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and to increase good cholesterol (HDL).

Bone Strength:

A good fitness routine is one of the best ways to keep your bones strong. It is proven that exercise (particularly weight bearing exercise) helps to increase bone density and to prevent osteoporosis.

Cortisol:

Exercise is a great tool to help lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is released when we are under stress. It is beneficial in small doses, but when we are under constant stress, it raises blood glucose levels and this encourages the body to store fat.

Depression/Anxiety:

Research is proving that regular physical activity is one of the best treatments for mild to moderate depression and anxiety. It boosts self-esteem, stimulates relaxation, and also releases natural endorphins (feel-good chemicals) into the bloodstream.

Try to make exercise a part of your routine. You can walk, dance, bike, swim, or any activity that most appeals to you. If you take the time to do it on a regular basis, you will look better, feel better, and be making a great investment in your health!

Making Smart Restaurant Choices

Being on a diet shouldn’t mean that you have to deny yourself the pleasure of eating out with family or friends.

After all, restaurants have become places for lunch meetings, catching up with loved ones, and celebrating special occasions.

With a few simple tips and (a little bit of thought), you can enjoy any restaurant meal without sabotaging healthy eating habit.

Here is a little bit of advice for making smart restaurant choices…

Portion control:

This is key when dealing with almost any restaurant meal. Very few restaurants are interested in modesty when it comes to the amount of food in an entrée. The trick is to order wisely, and then eat only half of the food on your plate. This will prevent you from overindulging, with the added bonus of taking home the leftovers to enjoy the next day!

Be aware of cocktails:

A drink with dinner is okay, but at a restaurant, it is very easy for one drink to turn into two or three. Not only are these additional calories (especially many of the fancy mixed drinks that restaurants offer), but you are also less likely to eat wisely if you drink too much.

Don’t assume that salads are better:

There are still those among us who think that if we order a salad for dinner that we are being healthy. This is often untrue. Many salads at restaurants are oversized, and when you combine all of the various toppings and salad dressing, they can be extremely high in calories and fat.

Have an appetizer for dinner:

If you don’t trust yourself to order an entrée and eat only half, try an appetizer instead. (Now, this doesn’t mean choosing a giant plate of nachos and polishing it off by yourself).  Try to find something that sounds delicious but will be a smaller portion. Also, many restaurants are now offering small plate options and/or a section on the menu dedicated to healthier or lower calorie options.

If you can’t skip dessert, share it:

A huge caramel covered dessert can undo even the healthiest of restaurant meals. If you just can’t say no, I recommend ordering one dessert and sharing it. This way everyone gets to indulge their sweet tooth, but can stop after a bite or two.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Results may vary.