Nutrition Labels — So What’s New About the “New” FDA Rules?

We have all seen them: Nutrition labels. They come in all shapes and sizes, in all sorts of different places on packaging, and most of them are in such tiny print that you need a magnifying glass to read them! Do YOU pay attention to them at all? Should you?

The answer is YES! But what is most important to look for? And why has the FDA come up with new requirements for these labels?

Seems like the obesity epidemic is what is driving the new requirements, which deal mostly with added sugars and servings size. These new guidelines are meant to make it easier to make healthier choices, if the consumer is aware of the calorie and sugar count in the entire package as well as in a serving size. Changes regarding serving size and what information is included in that area of the label are also coming into effect soon.

Here is a link to a recent article regarding the new FDA labeling requirements:http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/05/new-fda-rules/483653/

But to a nutritionist like me (whose main concern is what is REALLY in the foods we consume), what is MOST important is what the ingredients list contains, along with other labels that will either make you purchase the product or place it back onto the grocery store shelf and walk away.

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Just remember to take your time in the grocery store and READ the nutrition facts panel AND the ingredients list. Have a good pair of reading glasses or a magnifying glass (I am SERIOUS here!!), and pull your cart over to the side so that you do not impede traffic in the aisles. Once you get the hang of it, it will not take you as long to glean all the information you need, but it is a learning process to be able to identify what is good — and not so good — for you and your family on a nutrition label.

Health & Happiness,

~ Doneane

Proper Storage for Produce

Produce can be finicky.  Most fruits and vegetables are not meant to last more than about 5 to 7 days beyond their purchase date, so knowing the best ways to store them will help you to prevent waste and save you money.

A good deal of fruits and vegetables can be left out on the kitchen counter. If it is not kept refrigerated in your local produce department, then chances are you do not need to do so at home (unless it is your personal preference).  Fruits and vegetables with a thick peel can generally be left out (bananas, oranges, grapefruits, avocados, and cucumbers for example).

Grapes and berries do not need to be kept cold, but if it is your personal preference to have these treats cold, then pop them in the fridge. Berries and grapes also keep well when portioned into small baggies and placed in the freezer, which makes for a nice treat on a hot day or provides convenience for making fruit smoothies.

Leafy greens that are “spritzed” at the store can be treated like cut flowers — trim the stems, place them into a jar with a bit of water, cover with a Ziploc bag, and place in the fridge. Things like bunch spinach, kale, mustard greens, and asparagus can be treated this way. Herbs like humidity, so they can be bagged and left out on the counter (they will keep for about 5 days this way).

Fruits like the humidity low, whereas vegetables like it a bit more humid. So for whatever you place into the crisper drawer, if you are able to adjust the humidity be sure and do so for whatever you are storing.

Those “green bags” and other things claiming to keep produce fresher longer: don’t waste your money! You want your fruits and veggies to be able to breathe, and not close them up in plastic bags. Use these tips and tricks to keep your produce fresher longer and save money at the same time!

Here is a link to my recent TV segment showing you these helpful tips: https://youtu.be/7Tg41Pg0NEk

And, my thanks to HGTV  for inspiring this idea for a topic. Here is a recently posted short video from their Facebook page on the same topic: https://www.facebook.com/HGTV/videos/10153856652254213/?pnref=story

So be sure and treat your produce in they way that it will stay fresh longer, so that you save money from going right into the compost pile!

~ Doneane

Weekly Meal Prepping: The Ultimate Time and Money Saver!

For anyone who has not tried weekly meal prepping, the task seems daunting at first. I know it did for me. But now that I have been doing this for about 10 years, I have honed my meal prep skills and have it down to an art form! My kitchen looks like an assembly line for a small army, and when I am done, my freezer and fridge are so organized Martha Stewart would be jealous!

It really is about time management. To prep an entire week’s worth of meals — breakfast, lunch, and dinner, together with snacks does sound time consuming. But in reality, the time you spend prepping for the week you will get back tenfold during the week when all you have to do is open the fridge or freezer and grab what you need for the day and you are out the door.

Meal prepping also saves money. Prepping in advance prevents a good deal of waste, especially of produce. When it is prepared and packaged, chances are it will be consumed and not end up in the compost pile or the garbage can, which will save your family money in the long run.

And, being prepared prevents you from indulging in whatever unhealthy thing your office mate brought to share, or from going to the vending machine in the break room. Having your own stash of healthy prepped meals and snacks will help you stay on track when changing your eating habits, trying to lose weight, or just wanting to eat clean.

I do all of my shopping, cooking, and prepping on the weekend, usually on Saturday, but sometimes I will wait until Sunday afternoon just depending upon what activities are going on in my life. Pick a day that is good for you and your family — it an be any day of the week, so long as you can try and do it that same day each week.

Here is a guide to help you get started:

Some things that you will need, if you do not have them already:

Good quality plastic food storage containers with lids (at least 15 or more)

Glass mason jars with lids (about 5 is all you need)

Ziploc bags (variety of sizes)

Steamer or crock pot/muffin tins/cooking pots, pans, utensils/smoothie maker (optional)/juicer (optional)

Here is a snapshot of my meal prep day:

Hit the local farmers’ markets to get the freshest local produce, eggs, and other wonderful things!

Stop by the grocery store to pick up proteins and other items not available at the markets

Chop, season, and prep everything for cooking

Load up steamer with proteins and veggies (stackable steamer by Oster will cook an entire week’s worth of meals in under an hour!) See the steamer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGDQCvvCEKU

Broil other veggies in the oven or on the grill (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, and cauliflower all are awesome broiled or grilled in olive oil and garlic)

Boil and peel a dozen eggs (great for snacks or breakfast)

Make 5 or more salads in a jar (sealed in a glass jar keeps them fresh all week, just put your lettuce on the top so that it does not get soggy). Watch the YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eulb27Q-2vQ

Make breakfast egg muffins (eggs, spinach, onions, turkey bacon, cheese, poured into muffin tins sprayed with coconut oil and bake until eggs are done. These keep well in an airtight container or Ziploc bag all week!)

Make a small pot of oatmeal (portion into small containers and add fruit, granola, honey, and freeze. Great for breakfast or a bedtime snack)

Wash, slice, and portion out greens and fruits for smoothies and juices into Ziploc bags and place them in the freezer for use during the week (yes, you can freeze the greens also!)

Once everything is cooked, I portion all of my meals into plastic containers. About half goes in the freezer for later in the week, and the rest goes in the fridge for the earlier part of the week. Be sure to let everything cool to room temperature before sealing and placing in the fridge or freezer!

This schedule may look like it takes all day, but I can do all of this in about 2 hours (cooking/prepping time). Add the farmers market and grocery store time and it is maybe a total of 3 – 4 hours tops.  I am typically out the door Saturday morning around 7:30AM to get started. If you feel like you do not have that large of a block of time to set aside in one day, consider doing your shopping on one day and your prepping on the next.

Meal prepping is a skill that you can perfect over time, with your own personal twist on how to get things done. Once you have it down as part of your healthy eating routine, you will want to do it every week!

Health and Happiness,

~ Doneane

 

The Wonderful World of SALT

Have you noticed that there are just about as many varieties of salt on the store shelves as there are varieties of sugar and flour? So what about them, are they all the same? Should you be concerned about which type to use?

No, they are not all the same, and yes, you should be concerned about which type to use. Some salt varieties are loaded with sodium while others have less, some have mineral content that is healthy for our body. And if you suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease, or have been told by your doctor to limit your sodium intake, your choice should be for a lower sodium variety.

Regular table salt, with iodine, is 99% sodium. It also has been chemically processed to appear white and have tiny grains, and may also contain preservatives or other additives. Kosher salt is not chemically processed and has no additives, but still is high in sodium content.

Mediterranean Sea salt and pink Himalayan salt have much less sodium (about 85%) and contain other healthy mineral content, but typically contain none of the artificial stuff you find in other varieties (but be sure to read the label just to be certain there are no additives). Pink Himalayan salt especially: it has 27 different minerals along with sodium, and these minerals help your tissues to become more alkaline. These types of salt add interesting flavor to any dish, and it does not take much!

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for sodium is 1500 mg, which is about 1/4 teaspoon. This is not much, but the problem is not in the extra salt we add to our foods, but the salt that is already present in them. If you eat a lot of packaged or processed foods (frozen dinners, lunch meat, canned vegetables, canned meats) then you are getting probably well over the RDA for sodium on a daily basis. This is where label reading becomes SO important, especially if you need to watch your sodium intake.

Salt is one of those things that we love on our foods, but we tend to take it for granted as just another spice and do not keep up with how much or how often we are using it. Mindful sodium intake could be the key to your healthy journey, so start reading labels for sodium content and try a different variety of salt with less sodium.  You may notice a difference right away!

~ Doneane

(c) 2016

Healthy Gut = Healthy Immune System = Fighting Seasonal Allergies

Did you know that the key to fighting off seasonal allergies lies in your gut?

Your immune system “lives” in your digestive tract, where all of the healthy bacteria live. If the balance of healthy bacteria gets out of whack, your immune system is compromised. Which means, for those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies, we cannot fight them off on our own and might resort to taking OTC meds (and have the resulting side effects like brain fog!).

In order to keep your gut in tip top shape for allergy season (and all year long!), try these:

Probiotics

Foods containing probiotics will help your gut replenish its supply. Especially if you have been on medications, some of which can kill both bad and good bacteria and get your system off kilter. Things like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese with live active cultures, Kefir, and fermented foods like Sauerkraut and Kim Chee.  Apple Cider Vinegar also contains probiotics.

Omega 3 Fats

Olive Oil, avocados, wild caught salmon, and fish oil tablets all contain the healthy fat Omega 3, which also keeps your gut in good function. If probiotics do not appeal to you, then add more healthy Omega 3 fats to your daily intake.

Supplements

There are a number of probiotic supplements on the market, all containing varying levels of these good little fighters. If you have never taken a probiotic supplement, or if you are on any prescription medications, please check with your doctor before you begin a supplement regiment.

So, to help your body to make its own antihistamines, and avoid the brain fog associated with some OTC meds, consider these tips to keep your gut healthy and your immune system strong.

Hoping your allergy season is not too bad,

~ Doneane

(c) 2016

 

What you need to know about FISH

Every healthy eating plan should include several servings of healthy fish per week. If you are wondering how to best purchase this healthy protein for your family, read on . . . .

Most supermarkets have a great variety of fish, from fresh to frozen, breaded and stuffed, wild caught and farm raised, you name it. But what does a savvy consumer need to know about how to purchase the healthiest fish for your family? Let’s review just a few basic rules . . . .

First rule of thumb: WILD CAUGHT.

Fish caught in the wild eat what fish eat – plankton, algae, other small fish. And because of this they develop Omega 3 fats – the healthy fats that our bodies need. You may have read about mercury contained in wild caught fish – but recent studies have shown that mercury levels in wild caught fish are not enough to be concerned about.

Farm raised fish, on the other hand, are grain fed – mostly corn. We all know about the issues surrounding corn (pesticides, GMO’s, etc.). And, this diet causes the fish to develop Omega 6 fats – the unhealthy trans fats that clog up arteries and are not good for our bodies. Interestingly, farm raised fish often contain MORE mercury that wild caught fish.

Second rule of thumb: FROZEN/PREVIOUSLY FROZEN IS OK, BUT . . .

Be SURE that there are no additives to preserve color or freshness. If you are purchasing pre-packaged frozen fish, READ the label. Look for “wild caught” and also look in the ingredients list for additives (they will be among the last of the ingredients listed on the label).

If you are purchasing fish from the fish market or counter, the tag on the fish variety may say “previously frozen,” which is fine, but do not be afraid to ask the person behind the counter if they douse it with salt or pump it with carbon dioxide when it gets to the store. Also, be sure the tag says “wild caught,” and if it does not, ASK!

Third rule of thumb: FRESH FISH DOES NOT SMELL FISHY!

Ask to look at a sample of the fresh fish you want to purchase. It should NOT smell fishy, and should not be slimy. It should be shiny, and should bounce back when you press your finger into the flesh. If purchasing a whole fish, the scales should be shiny, not slimy, the eyes should not be sunk in or bulging out, and the skin should bounce back when depressed with your finger.

To get the most benefit of the Omega 3 fats, wild caught salmon will be the best choice. Wild caught halibut and tuna are also high on the list of Omega 3 content. The fish to stay away from: Tilapia. This variety of fish is probably the MOST farmed fish in the world, rarely will you see “wild caught Tilapia” on a label, at least in the United States. While it is easy to find and relatively inexpensive compared to other varieties of fish, recent studies show that this fish is the worst choice in an otherwise healthy eating plan.

So spend some time at your local fish market, and read the labels to see what is available in your area. And don’t get caught up in the marketing on the package of frozen fish – just because the brand name is “wild something” does NOT mean it was wild caught. Flip that package over, and if the first ingredient is NOT “wild caught whatever fish” then do not purchase it.

Happy fishing!

~ Doneane

Healthy Bedtime Snacks

Do you sometimes get some hunger pangs close to bedtime? Wondering what would be good to eat and not sabotage your weight loss goals or healthy eating plan? Here is a video segment explaining a few snack options for just before bed:

http://www.fox4beaumont.com/news/features/setx-live/stories/doneane-talks-nighttime-snacks-1945.shtml

The rule to follow about eating during evening hours is to eat your last meal MORE than 2 hours before going to bed. Digestion slows to a crawl as you sleep, and anything eaten soon before laying down does not effectively get digested. So your last meal of the day should be backed up to occur well before that 2 hour window.

But, if you should feel hungry just before bed, try drinking a glass of room temperature water to see if it quenches your hunger. If not, some healthy bed time snack options are:

2 cups of air popped pop corn (no butter!)

2 slices of natural cheese

a small apple and 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter

a few carrot sticks or celery stalks, dipped in hummus

4 ounces of cottage cheese

4 ounces of Greek yogurt (option: add a few blueberries or a bit of granola)

Each of these snacks should calm down the feelings of hunger, and should not impede your ability to fall asleep.

If you are eating six small meals a day as most nutritionists suggest (myself included!) then you should not feel hungry at bedtime, unless you had a hard workout or some other activity that revved up your system just before time to call it a night. If so, try one of the above options!

~ Doneane

Gray Winter Day Blues . . .

Did you happen to catch my TV segment last Friday about how to beat the winter blues? If not, here is the quick run down.

The gray skies of winter can actually cause you to experience seasonal depression, due to lack of exposure to sunlight. Our brains need those “feel good” chemicals that are produced by adequate Vitamin D, which is made by our bodies after sun exposure.

If you have a few gray days and the accompanying gray mood, try adding a good dose of Vitamin D supplement and B Complex, both of which work to regulate mood. You can also add Turmeric to your cooking, or eat a few helpings of sweet potato, as these also contain compounds which help elevate mood. If you want to go all out, you can purchase a light therapy lamp, which tricks your eyes and your brain into thinking you have been out in the sunlight (don’t worry, it is not like a tanning bed and will not cause sunburn).

Now, if those gray days leave but your gray mood stays and lingers for more than just a few days, check with your doctor to be sure there is not something more serious going on that is causing your mood to swing in the wrong direction.

Come on summer . . . . I miss you already <3

~ Doneane