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.

 

 

Be Fit Basics: Sesame-Miso Cucumber Salad

June 30, 2016 at 11:09 am | Posted in Nutrition, recipes | Leave a comment
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A quick and easy side dish to bring to this weekend’s cookout.  Miso is typically found in the refrigerated food section, often either by the dairy or chilled salad dressings.

Ingredients:
1½ tbsp sesame seeds, roasted
2 tbsp white miso
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
4 cups thinly sliced cucumber

Directions: 
Combine the first 6 ingredients and whisk in 1 tbsp hot water.  Add cucumber and toss to coat.

Yield: 5 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 100 • Protein: 2 g • Sodium: 260 mg • Carbohydrate: 13 g • Fiber: 2 g
Fat: 5 g • Sat Fat: 1 g

Recipe adapted from Cookinglight.com. Originally posted on mghbefit.com.

Smart Grocery Shopping Strategies

June 2, 2016 at 10:15 am | Posted in Nutrition | Leave a comment
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By Nichole Reed, Dietetic Intern

When you have diabetes, it’s critical to stay on top of what you eat on a day-to-day basis. Cooking meals at home gives you more control over what goes into your food. Of course, this is all easier said than done – so here are some quick tips for meal planning and grocery shopping to help get you started.

Sit down and plan your weekly menu: Taking a moment to plan out your week ultimately saves you time and money. Knowing the answer to What’s for dinner? keeps you from going through the drive-thru or ordering take-out. Pick a few main dishes and rotate them throughout the week. (Use this menu planning tool to make it even easier.) Choose recipes that you will both enjoy and are willing to make! Sites like Pinterest, Eating Well or our own MGH Be Fit page are great resources for recipe ideas.

Make a shopping list: We all make the mental notes of what we need to pick up, but actually writing it down commits you to the list. You can do this on paper or even your phone. Having a list keeps you on a mission. Otherwise, your eye will wander and your cart will end up looking like you bought the whole store.

Shop locally: Farmers market season has arrived! The grocery store can seem chaotic and more like a chore. Buy your produce from local vendors. Enter your zip code on Mass Farmers Markets and see the one closest to you! You’ll get to enjoy some fresh air, beautiful weather, and support your local farmers. Make a day of it and take some family or friends.

Remember, keep it simple. You don’t have to be five-star chef to make delicious meals. Getting organized makes grocery shopping a breeze and gets you one step closer to taking control of your diet.

Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services

National Nutrition Month 2016

March 10, 2016 at 10:10 am | Posted in Nutrition | Leave a comment
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By Melissa Rowe, Dietetic Intern

It’s March and spring time is in the air but that’s not the only exciting thing about this month. March is National Nutrition Month®! Every year since 1973, we have celebrated National Nutrition Month® as a way to promote the nutrition profession, educate individuals on the importance of making informed nutrition choices, and help develop healthy diet and exercise habits.

The theme for 2016 is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants to “encourage everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives.” While it is important to “focus on the numbers” when managing diabetes, it is also important that you remember to enjoy the food you are eating. Eating should not be considered a task but rather a pleasant activity.

We often forget how important the food we put into our bodies is because we are busy, but how and why we eat is just as important as the food itself. Developing a practice of mindful eating will help you slow down and notice the flavors and textures of your meals. Exploring how, when, where and why you eat can affect blood sugars as well.

I challenge you to commit in March to start making small changes in your diet. Small changes are far more achievable and realistic than drastic changes. These changes don’t have to be something you do every day, but working a few into your day a couple times will help you start to form a habit of choosing healthier options. For people with diabetes, these changes will help with blood sugar and weight control. Start small to make long term changes!

A few ideas to get you started:

Healthy Swaps

 

Post content reviewed by the MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services

Trans Fat: What is it and Why Should I Avoid it?

January 21, 2016 at 10:10 am | Posted in Nutrition, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Alison Bliven, Dietetic Intern

What is it?

Trans fat has been used since the 1950’s in order to add certain tastes and textures to packaged and prepared foods while also increasing their shelf life. These fats naturally occur in small amounts in some animal products and oils, but the product used in processed foods is man-made and differs slightly from the naturally found substance. Hydrogen ions are forced into oil in a process called ‘hydrogenation’ which turns the oil into a solid. This product is called partially hydrogenated oil (PHO for short) and is filled with trans fats. This PHO is what is used in place of butter or oil in a variety of processed foods in order to keep them fresher longer.

Why is it bad for me?

For half a decade trans fats were included on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Generally Regarded as Safe list. However, more recent studies have linked the consumption of trans fats to increased risk of coronary heart disease: by raising ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and lowering ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL), trans fat contributes to the buildup of plaque in arteries which can lead to heart attack. Insulin resistance, a sign of Type 2 Diabetes, has also been shown to have strong connections with trans fat intake.

What foods contain trans fat?

Trans fats naturally occur in meat, dairy, and some oils. The amount of trans fats found in these sources make up an insignificant part of the American diet and are not considered a health concern. The majority of trans fats come from processed foods.  For example:  crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies, microwave popcorn, stick margarine, coffee creamer, biscuits, cinnamon rolls and ready to use frosting. Luckily, the number of foods containing trans fats is decreasing, and should soon be nonexistent.

What is being done to protect us?

As mentioned above, studies have overwhelmingly shown a direct connection between trans fats and certain negative health outcomes. This evidence has led to the FDA passing laws that will phase trans fats out of food manufacturing completely. The first step in this process is including the content of trans fats on the nutrition label. This allows the consumer (you) to know what the product contains, to an extent. Food companies are allowed to put ‘0 grams trans fat’ on their labels if the product contains less than 0.5 grams per serving. There are two problems with this: 1) foods with small amounts can add up to a significant intake when more than one serving is eaten and 2) the Institute of Medicine has concluded that there are no safe levels of artificial trans fats in the diet. Even though the FDA is attempting to preserve Americans’ health, there is only so much it can do during the lag time before trans fats are outlawed completely.

What can I do?

Read the label! Look for products that include the phrase ‘trans fat free’ – by law these products can contain no trans fats. Also, scan the list of ingredients for words such as ‘hydrogenated oils’, ‘partially hydrogenated oil’, ‘PHO’, and ‘vegetable shortening’. If the food contains any of these ingredients, there is sure to be some amount of trans fat in it. Other tips include choosing liquid oils or soft tub margarine over stick margarine, and avoiding or limiting commercially baked foods and packaged snacks. Filling up on foods naturally high in fiber (whole grains, beans, peas, fruits, vegetables) means there will be less room for foods containing trans fats and will help promote general health as well.

Remember, Trans Fat Free ≠ Healthy!

One very important takeaway from this article is that just because a food is trans fat free or has very low trans fat, it doesn’t automatically make the food well-balanced or healthy! Limiting trans fats is just one component of a healthful diet that includes lots of fruits and veggies, a focus on whole grains, and limited intake of higher fat meats and dairy products.

(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)

 

 

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