Low-Calorie Options for Adding Flavor to Water

June 13, 2017 at 10:30 am | Posted in Nutrition | Leave a comment
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By Melanie Pearsall RD, LDN, CDE
Sr. Clinical Nutritionist

Water is the healthiest drink for people of all ages. Drinking enough water is an important part of helping your body “detoxify,” and even mild dehydration can cause problems with concentration.  Americans tend to drink a lot of beverages other then water. Many of these drinks have a lot of added sugars and fat’s which are high in calories and cause weight gain. But the one thing these beverages have is flavor!   Many people know it’s important to drink water and stay hydrated but hate to drink “plain” water. Here are some suggestions to help even the pickiest water drinker succeed:

  • Flavor your water with orange or lemon slices, cucumber slices, berries or fresh herbs like mint or basil
  • Try flavored or plain seltzer waters! Sometimes that added fizz is enough to tickle your taste buds.
  • Herbal teas are a great way to flavor water. I often add an herbal tea bag to my cold water bottle and let it steep slowly, flavoring the water. Tea also provides an extra health benefit from anti-oxidants.
  • Add small amounts of sugar free type flavorings like Crystal Light to your water. I suggest people start off with just enough to add some flavor but without making it overly sweet.
  • Buy a water purifier for your home or individual bottle. This can make the water taste clean and refreshing as it removes some of the impurities that cause an aftertaste
  • If you like to drink pre-flavored water just double check the label to make sure it is low calorie (fewer than 10 calories per serving)
Article originally appeared in Summer 2013 DiabetesViews

Other Whole Grains

May 25, 2017 at 9:28 am | Posted in Nutrition, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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By now you’ve probably heard about the many health benefits of whole grains (and hopefully started making half your grains whole grains).  Brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat bread are some of the go-to whole grain options but there are many, many other kinds to choose from.  Here are some other types of whole grains to try.

Barley

Barley is a really good source of fiber.  In fact, it has the most fiber of all the whole grains.  Barley has been shown to help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and keep blood sugar stable.  When shopping for barley, look for hulled barley rather than “pearled” barley.  Although pearled barley cooks much faster (about 30 minutes vs. an hour for hulled barley), pearled barley has had much of the bran scraped off.  Without the bran, it is no longer considered a whole grain.

Serving ideas:  Barley can be eaten alone as a hot cereal, used to thicken soups and stews, or as a substitute for rice.

Buckwheat

Like quinoa, buckwheat isn’t really a grain (it’s a seed).  It’s also not a type of wheat – it’s more closely related to rhubarb.  Buckwheat is high in protein and gluten-free, making it a good option for people with Celiac or other gluten sensitivity.  The kernels (called “groats”) cook in about 20 – 30 minutes.  If you’re short on time, look for toasted buckwheat groats (called “kasha”) which typically cooks in 15-20 minutes.

Serving ideas:  Cooked groats can be eaten alone in place of oatmeal, or added to salads or soups.  Buckwheat flower is used to make soba noodles.

Oats

Oats are a good source of fiber and are known to help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure.  Some different types of oats you may find in the store include oat groats, steel cut oats, and rolled oats.  The difference between each of these is how they’re processed.  Oat groats are whole oat kernels.  Steel cut oats are oat groats that have been cut into smaller pieces, while rolled oats are groats that have been steamed and flattened.  Processed oats cook faster, but here’s the good news:  all processed oats are still whole grains!  Even instant oatmeal counts as a whole grain, but read the nutrition facts label very carefully and choose brands that do not have a lot of added salt and sugar.

Serving idea:  Make up a batch of this Be Fit Power Granola for a healthy snack

One final thing to remember:  whole grains are still high in carbohydrate.  While you’re trying out new whole grain options, remember to pay attention to portion size.

 Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

Serving Up Satiety

March 23, 2017 at 8:24 am | Posted in Nutrition, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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By Elizabeth Daly
Dietetic Intern

In today’s society, we are constantly tempted by food. Whether we are commuting to work, out with friends or watching TV at home, we are influenced by messages encouraging us to eat more. Living in an environment surrounded by food can make it challenging for people to make healthy choices, lose weight and manage their diabetes. There are many different weight-loss diets advertised in the media, but dieting often leaves us feeling hungry, deprived and ultimately defeated. How can we better control our intake without feeling the need to eat all the time?

Satiety is the feeling of fullness that comes after eating. If we feel satiated after a meal, we are less likely to snack between meals or eat large portions the next time we sit down to eat.  Learning how to feel more satiated after a meal may help us better control how much we eat, aid in weight loss and better control blood sugar levels.

Feeling satiated takes time, often up to 20 minutes after eating a meal. It is controlled by a number of factors that begin once we take our first bite of food. When we eat, our stomach expands, we begin absorbing and digesting nutrients and the brain receives signals that lead to feelings of being full.

Not all foods produce the same level of satiety. Here are a few tips to help you feel fit and full:

  1. Add lean protein to meals and snacks

Adding protein to meals or snacks helps keep you full for longer and control blood sugar levels. Meals that only contain simple carbohydrates are digested quickly, spike blood sugar, and make you feel hungry again soon after.

~Ex.  1 oz low fat cheese or ¼ cup hummus or 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter or 1 oz nuts

  1. Add fruit and vegetables to meals

Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and water.  Both of these help you feel full. They are also good sources of important nutrients and contribute to overall good health.

~Ex. Add a side salad with meals, add berries to cereal or yogurt, add vegetables in soup

  1. Limit sugary beverages

Sweetened beverages are high in sugar and calories but low in nutrients. They do not cause your body to feel as full as solid foods do, and can lead to spikes in blood sugar and weight gain.

~Try swapping sugar sweetened beverages with water at meals to curb your hunger!

 Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

Plant-Based Protein

March 2, 2017 at 11:13 am | Posted in Nutrition | Leave a comment
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Alexandra Regalado
Dietetic Intern

What is Protein and How Much Do You Need?
Along with carbohydrates and fat, protein is part of a balanced diet and is essential for life. Protein plays key roles in building and maintaining muscle, keeping the immune system working, regulating hormones, and healing wounds.  Protein is made up of compounds called amino acids. Some amino acids are made by your body, while others come from the food we eat. Amino acids that come from food are called essential amino acids. This is why it’s important to eat protein from a variety of sources, including plants!  The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for the average adult is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight.  To find out how many grams of protein you need to eat each day, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36.

Sources of Plant-Based Protein
Protein is found in a number of plant foods.  While plants provide quality protein, they typically do not contain all of the essential amino acids. But, if you eat several sources proteins throughout the week, you will have no problem getting all the amino acids and nutrients your body needs. Some plant-based protein, such as beans and legumes, contain carbohydrates, so always check the nutrition facts label for grams of carbohydrate per serving and factor them into your meal or snack.

 Some Examples of Plant-Based Protein

  • Beans and Legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, lentils
  • Nuts and Nut Butters: Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts
  • Seeds:Chia, flax, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, quinoa
  • Soy and Soy Products: Soy milk, edamame, tofu, tempeh
  • Meat Substitutes: Veggie burgers and sausages, seitan, faux “chicken” and “burgers”

 Benefits of Plant-Based Protein
Most plant-based proteins are naturally low in calories, saturated fat, and sodium; have no cholesterol; and are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. The combination of protein and fiber helps to slow digestion so you feel fuller longer, and raises blood sugar gradually after a meal or snack (avoiding blood sugar spikes).  Many plant-based proteins are more environmentally sustainable and affordable than animal sources of protein, too!

Plant proteins can be incorporated into any dietary pattern. Vegetarian and vegan diets are especially high in plant proteins and are also rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The American Diabetes Association recommends plant-based eating patterns because they can help prevent and manage diabetes. Research shows plant-based diets are good at lowering A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index.  Studies have also shown that plant-based diets are helpful for losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight.  Including more plant-based meals in your routine, such as by following “Meatless Monday,” is a wonderful way to fuel up on more plant-based protein!

Ideas for adding Plant-Based Protein to Your Meals
Breakfast:

  • Sprinkle nuts and seeds on oatmeal or yogurt
  • Sautee tofu and veggies for a breakfast scramble
  • Spread hummus or nut butter on toast

Lunch & Dinner:

  • Use beans or lentils to make “meat” sauce
  • Add tofu or tempeh to a stir-fry meal or sandwich
  • Top salads or grain bowls with beans or edamame
  • Vegetable or black bean burger

Snacks:

  • Hummus with raw veggie sticks
  • Roasted chickpeas or edamame
  • Handful of nuts
  • Plant-based protein bar
 Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

Eating Healthy on a Budget

January 5, 2017 at 10:51 am | Posted in Nutrition, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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By Josann Nichols
MGH Dietetic Intern

You don’t have to break the bank to have a healthy diet. Below you’ll find tips and tricks to eat well on a tight budget.

  1. Get produce in season. Buying produce in season and from local farmers is often less expensive. More corn on the market means competition, which drives prices down. For example: 4 ears of corn in season costs about $1 from local sources compared to $18 on Amazon during the winter. Produce you buy in season is also picked at peak ripeness, which packs in more flavor and nutrients.
  1. Try frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce is a cheaper alternative to many fresh fruits and vegetables. They’re also picked at peak ripeness, meaning they have the same nutritional quality as fresh produce. You can also store it longer, leading to less food waste which saves money over time.
  1. Stock up on canned fruits and vegetables. Canned fruits and vegetables are a very cheap option and can be stored longer than either fresh or frozen produce. Make sure to buy fruit canned in its own juices to avoid added sugar. To reduce sugar and salt, rinse before eating.
  1. Don’t give up on meats. There are many cheaper cuts of meat available such as brisket, skirt, flank and top rump. Typically, these cuts are cheaper because they are a bit tougher but don’t be discouraged! Cooking meat like pot roast in fluid for a long period of time can make it so tender it falls off the bone! Another money saving tip: check with your local grocery store for sales on older meats. These should be used within a few days or immediately frozen.
  1. Substitute other protein sources for meat more often. Plant-based protein sources are inexpensive, contain fiber and higher-quality fat than meat and will last longer in the kitchen. Beans and lentils for example are usually purchased canned and/or dried. Use them as a substitute for meat in stews, salads, casseroles and side dishes to help your dollar go a little farther. Peanut butter, seeds and eggs are also excellent sources of protein. Add an egg to your breakfast for only $0.25!
  1. Try canned fish. A healthy diet includes seafood, which can often be pricey. Tuna is one cheap alternative, but if mercury is a concern try sardines. Not only are sardines rich in protein, they’re another source of anti-inflammatory fats. Again, watch out for added salt!
  1. Go whole grain. Fiber is your friend! It helps manage blood sugar levels and keep your digestive system healthy. Whole grains have more fiber than white flour products and can be affordable. Instead of expensive specialty grains, try switching to old-fashioned oats, whole wheat bread and brown rice.
  1. Buy in bulk. This can include frozen, canned or dried whole foods. The larger the quantity the cheaper the price per unit, so even though you pay more up front you end up saving money over time.
  1. Choose generic brands. These typically have significant price cuts. Check the ingredient list, though, to make sure you aren’t losing any quality of the product.
  1. Take advantage of sales and coupons. Stores frequently have deals on fresh, canned and dried foods.
  2. Don’t feel pressured to buy organic. Organic farmers do not use chemicals on their crops, but that doesn’t mean non-organic produce is full of chemicals. Many non-organic farmers use little to no chemicals on their produce and simply can’t afford to get the organic certification. Research has also shown that conventionally grown organic and non-organic produce does not differ in nutritional content. So you can be just as healthy eating non-organic foods while saving big bucks at the checkout line.
  1. Follow the Balanced Plate Model. Protein-rich foods tend to make the largest dent on your wallet, compared to starchy foods and vegetables. By maximizing plant-based foods and limiting your meat portions, you’ll improve the quality of your meals and make your dollar stretch farther.

Just follow the tips above to mix and match your protein, starch and vegetables to maximize your dollar and eat healthy!

Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

Easy and Delicious Ways to Eat More Fruits and Veggies

December 28, 2016 at 9:14 am | Posted in Nutrition | Leave a comment
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Kelsey Vilcek, Dietetic Intern

We all know that fruits and vegetables are needed for our health, but sometimes it is quite difficult to add them into our meals. For anyone who thinks fruits and vegetables are “bad” for people with diabetes, think again! Fruits are great because they are an easy way to enjoy something sweet without creating large spikes in blood sugar levels compared to eating candy or desserts. This is because fruits are high in fiber, which helps to keep blood sugar levels steady. As for vegetables, only the starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas, winter squash and corn have an effect on blood sugar. Non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, carrots, greens, cauliflower, etc.) are important to eat because they are low in carbohydrates and calories. Eating vegetables is another simple way to feel full and satisfy your appetite, while adding vitamins and minerals and minimizing rises in blood sugar.

Some easy ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet:

  • Use vegetables for dipping in hummus or low-fat dressings
  • Make kebobs: grill vegetables such as peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomatoes with chicken as a fun meal (You can even do this with fruit!)
  • Veggie wraps: roast vegetables and roll up in a whole-wheat tortilla
  • Add vegetables as toppers to salads
  • Smoothies (low-fat milk, frozen fruit, frozen spinach or kale, and nut butter)
  • Try vegetables as pizza toppings
  • Puree vegetables as a sauce for pasta, chicken, pork, or seafood
  • Chop, grate, or shred zucchini, carrots, or spinach and add into lasagna, casseroles, or meatloaf
  • Have an apple or banana and peanut butter as a snack
  • Egg omelet with vegetables
  • Oatmeal with fruit
  • Substitute butter with avocado
  • Puree prunes, bananas, peaches, or apples and use in place of ½ of the fat in recipes for muffins, pancakes, breads, etc.
  • Add carrots or zucchini to baked goods
  • Low-sodium vegetable soup with beans
  • Leave fresh fruit out on the counter where you can see and grab it easily
  • Consider making fresh vegetables juices
Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

Blood Sugar: What Does It Mean for Your Health?

November 23, 2016 at 9:01 am | Posted in Health, Nutrition | Leave a comment
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By Felicia Steward, Dietetic Intern

Blood Sugar Defined

Blood sugar is the measurement of the amount of glucose, or sugar, in your bloodstream. This is important because it tells us how much energy our cells and tissues are receiving from the food we eat. Some foods affect blood sugar more than others. Any food that is mostly carbohydrates will affect blood sugar levels. These include dairy (milk and yogurt), all fruits and fruit juices, starches (pasta, bread, rice, and tortillas), and starchy vegetables (corn, peas, beans, potato, and butternut squash). Eating more carbohydrates at a meal can raise blood sugar, so it’s important to think about portion size along with when we eat and what food items we choose to eat together.

Why Care About the Amount of Sugar in My Bloodstream?

 Glucose provides our body with energy, and is needed for the brain to properly function and process information. Therefore, it is important that we choose foods containing small amounts of carbohydrates whenever we have a meal or a snack throughout the day so there’s enough glucose to support our tissues and cells.

When someone with diabetes eats large portions of carbohydrate-rich foods, too much sugar is released into the blood stream and, because there’s either not enough insulin or they have insulin resistance, their body is unable to use this sugar for energy effectively.  It builds up in the blood stream, causing damage to the body.  Over an unhealthy extended period of time, the body will eventually store much of the excess sugar as fat, which can lead to weight gain. Therefore, it is important to be aware of how the food we eat influences the amount of sugar in our bloodstream and how it affects our weight.

How is Blood Sugar Managed?

helthy-plate

 A healthy eating pattern that includes balance and portion control is an important part of managing the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.  Pairing whole grain, carbohydrate-rich foods with protein and fiber helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Eating a meal or snack that contains foods that increase blood sugar with those that do not affect blood sugar means the glucose is absorbed slowly into the blood and prevents blood sugar from spiking too high. Paying attention to portion size will also ensure that we are providing our body with exactly what it needs each time we eat. What the body doesn’t use for energy right away can be stored as fat and cause weight gain.

Balanced Lunch Examples:

  • PB&J on whole wheat bread + 1 cup carrot and celery sticks dipped in plain yogurt
  •  2 cups tossed salad + 3 oz. grilled chicken + oil/vinegar dressing + 1 banana
  •  3 oz. salmon + 1 cup brown rice + 1.5-2 cups cooked green beans
  •  2 oz. tuna salad (with light/mayo), lettuce, and tomato on whole wheat bread + 1 small apple + 8 oz. of skim milk
 Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

 

 

“Everything in moderation!”

October 27, 2016 at 9:00 am | Posted in Nutrition, recipes | Leave a comment
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By Melanie Schermerhorn, Dietetic Intern

Most of us have heard the phrase, “everything in moderation.” Many say moderation is the key to success; for someone who has diabetes this phrase is especially true when it comes to what you eat. Moderation in relation to healthy eating habits, especially portion control, can have a huge effect on your overall health! To break the phrase “everything in moderation” down further, let’s talk about what it means. What your healthcare providers are saying is:  eat a balanced diet most of the time, but do not deprive yourself of the not-so-healthy things you enjoy. In other words, it’s alright to eat them but be sure to have them less frequently and in a smaller portion.

With diabetes this is important for your blood sugar management. The goal is to not completely deny yourself things like chocolate chip cookies, but instead maintain a healthy lifestyle while still treating yourself.  A tip to do this is buy smaller portion sizes, so having one small cookie won’t have as much of an effect on your blood sugar as a larger one would.  Another great way to keep track of your portions is reading the labels on packages for serving sizes. Sometimes a package could be more than one serving!  Sharing a baked good with a friend instead of eating the whole thing can help you consume less as well. You could make homemade treats with healthier ingredients like in the recipe below so you aren’t consuming a heavily processed carbohydrate.  So aim to keep your portions in check and when it comes to sweets “Everything in moderation!”

Recipe: Healthy Banana PancakesCombine 1 ripe banana, 2 large eggs, and a few shakes of cinnamon in a bowl until smooth. Heat up a pan on medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Put a few spoon fulls of the “batter” into the pan. Cook until lightly brown on each side and serve.

Post content reviewed by Department of Nutrition and Food Services

Be Fit Basics: Quinoa Parsley Salad

September 14, 2016 at 9:48 am | Posted in Nutrition, recipes | Leave a comment
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Celebrate Whole Grains Month with this easy grain salad.  One serving is a good source of iron.

Ingredients:
1 cup of water
½ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¾ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
½ cup thinly sliced celery
½ cup thinly sliced green onion
½ cup finely chopped dried apricots
¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Directions:
Bring water and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.  While the quinoa is cooking, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork and place in a bowl.  Add the parsley, celery, onion, and apricots.  Toss with the dressing to coat and top with pumpkin seeds.

Yield: Serves 4

Serving Size:about 2/3 cup.  Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 195 calories • Protein: 5 g • Sodium: 160 mg • Carbohydrate: 33 g
Fiber: 4 g • Fat: 6 g • Sat Fat: 1 g

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light.  Originally posted on mghbefit.com.

My Story: Gaining Confidence in the Kitchen

September 1, 2016 at 10:31 am | Posted in My Story, Nutrition, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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By Kait

I never used to cook at home. In fact I HATED cooking. I had no confidence in the kitchen and burned everything, even toast. Time was another reason I didn’t cook often. I always thought cooking a meal had to take a ton of time; I really just wanted my food to appear in front of me. At the same time, I wanted to eat healthier but had no idea where to start or what to do with things like vegetables and spices. Then a coworker mentioned she had signed up for Plated [a subscription meal service] and suggested I give it a try. It sounded like an interesting concept, so I went for it.

What I like most is that it saves time and effort. Everything you need to make the dish is included and portioned out for you. Some recipes use ingredients I never would have bought on my own because I didn’t know how to use them, so it’s a great way to try new things. I also discovered that cooking doesn’t take up as much time as I thought. We typically cook at home 3-4 times a week (usually dinner). We’re definitely eating as a family more often, and I enjoy getting to spend time with loved ones while preparing meals.

We’ve been using Plated for about a year now and I feel much better about my cooking skills. I know if I made a recipe once I can do it again. You get to keep the recipe cards, so we’ll usually do a little experimenting the next time we make the dish. I’m eating healthier now, too. Before, I never really ate vegetables (or if I did they were just raw). I’d go into the grocery store and see all these wonderful looking vegetables but feel intimidated not knowing what to do with them. Now that I have a better idea how to cook them, I include vegetables with my meals often.

I recommend signing up for something like Plated if you don’t have much confidence with cooking. The recipes are easy and they tell you about how much time it takes to make. You’ll learn how to cook new things and different types of vegetables. My parents actually signed up for another meal delivery service, Blue Apron, because of my experience with Plated.

 

 

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