Nutrition

A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning

Is cooking more meals at home one of your goals for this year?  Great!  Now the next question:  where to start?  Standing in front of the fridge at dinnertime hoping to find some inspiration might work for some, but if cooking at home is new for you it’s probably a good idea to adopt a habit of meal planning.  Essentially, meal planning helps answer the question “what’s for dinner?” for the whole week.  If done regularly, it can help reduce some of the stress of cooking weeknight dinners and save money.  Begin your meal planning practice with these tips:

Plan:  Set aside time to devote to meal planning.  The weekend is usually a good option as you can plan your meals for the following week.  Decide how many meals you will need to prepare, choose your recipes and make a grocery list.

Shop sales/shop in season:  Read through grocery store flyers and plan your menu around what’s on sale.  Fruits and veggies are less expensive (and more flavorful) in season.  Also, look for opportunities to use the same ingredient(s) in more than one recipe.

Stay organized: Get a calendar and fill in the menu for the week.  Keep it someplace you can see it easily (like on your refrigerator).  Save all your recipes in one place so you can find them easily.  If you find recipes online, a Pinterest board may be a good option.

Prep ingredients:  Do as much of the prep work as possible ahead of time.  This is another reason it’s helpful to do your meal planning over the weekend.  Chopping the veggies you need for each recipe or making a big batch of quinoa on Sunday saves time during the week.

Use leftovers:  Practice “cook once, serve twice” when possible.  Make extra servings and bring some for lunch the next day.  Soups and chili can also be frozen for later (just thaw and reheat).

Have a backup plan:  There’s always the chance something unexpected will happen to throw off your plans.  Keep a couple of simple recipes on hand to fall back on in a pinch.

If you’re just starting to cook more at home, start small.  Maybe plan for one or two meals a week.  As you gain more confidence in the kitchen, you’ll be able to do more.  Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do meal planning.  The most important part is finding a system that works for you and that you can stick with.

Post content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

 

Health

Wishing you a Healthy Holiday

Thanks to everyone who joined and followed our healthy holiday photo challenge!  Wishing you a happy and healthy new year.

BeFunky Collage

Gratitude – Gratitude can reduce stress/anxiety and improve relationships.

Colors – Quick and healthy holiday appetizer: colorful veggies and hummus.

Evergreen  – Sneak some exercise into your day:  use the season as an excuse to go for a walk and take in the holiday decorations.

Prioritize – Trying to “do it all” is a common cause of holiday stress. Focus on the things that are most important to you – anything else is bonus.

This makes me happy – Taking time to do something you enjoy (any time of year) helps reduce stress.

Relax – Research shows listening to your favorite music can help you relax.

Healthy Swap – Steamed fresh or frozen green beans are a healthy side dish alternative to green bean casserole.

Exercise – Sneak some exercise into your holiday shopping by doing an extra lap around the mall.

Breathe – When the holiday cheer starts getting to be too much, try a mini meditation like this one from the Benson-Henry Institute.

Peace – Remember to take time for activities (yoga, meditation, even a walk outside with family) that help you unwind and find peace.

Hydrate – Keep a water bottle nearby to remind you to sip water through the day.

Moderation – Using a smaller plate at meal time can help with portion control.

Decorate – Multitask to fit in some fitness:  turn up the holiday music and dance while you decorate.

Sports – Winter activities like sledding, skiing, ice skating or making a snow man are great ways to exercise outside with family in winter.

Unplug – Putting away phones and other devices for a time can reduce stress and help you feel more connected with loved ones.

Light – Happy #Hanukkah! Enjoy this sweet potato pancake recipe from MGH Be Fit.

Minimize – Over scheduled? It’s okay to say no! Only take the commitments you want/can do.

Sleep – Stick with your regular sleep routine during the holidays.

Something I enjoy – There’s so much to do during the holidays, but be sure to plan some fun activities too!

Mindfulness – Choose foods you really want to eat and focus on the taste and texture of each bite.

Fun and games – Plan family activities that take the focus away from food.

Fresh – Buying produce in season is a great way to save on fruits and veggies. DYK – Brussels sprouts (in season now) are a source of vitamin C?

Anything you like – Finding a way to laugh (like a surprise visit by a cute puppy) is a great way to relieve holiday stress.

Act of kindness – Research shows simple acts of kindness can reduce stress levels.  These gifts were wrapped as part of a charity toy drive.

Healthy treats – Don’t go to the party hungry! Have a healthy snack (like a handful of nuts) before you leave the house.

Cranberry – DYK cranberries are a good source of vitamin C? Try them in this recipe from the MGH Be Fit program: Parmesan Almond Crusted Chicken Breast Stuffed with Cauliflower and Dried Cranberries.

Positive vibes – A positive outlook will help with coping with challenges you may face during the holidays.

Memories – Remembering loved ones who aren’t there is helpful in bringing the family together. H/t MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds.

Tradition – As you take part in holiday traditions, take a deep breath and savor the moment.

Community – Schedule “together time” with those you most want to see during the holidays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

recipes

Be Fit Basics: Sweet Potato Pecan Pancakes

Ingredients:
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans, divided
2¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or ½ tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp allspice or nutmeg, with a pinch of cloves)
1/4tsp salt
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp canola oil, plus more for the pan (est. 3 tbsp for greasing)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 (16 ounce) can of unsweetened sweet potatoes or yams, liquid drained and solids mashed together

Instructions
Combine flour, half the pecans (2 tbsp), baking powder, spice(s), and salt in a large bowl. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the milk, sugar, oil (1 tbsp), vanilla extract, and eggs; add these wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix until smooth; stir in sweet potatoes.

Heat a griddle or sauté pan.  Pour enough canola oil to grease the griddle or pan.  Spoon about ¼ cup batter (per pancake) onto your hot cooking surface. Flip each pancake when bubbles start to form on the surface and the edges look cooked.  Cook about 1 minute more, or until both sides are golden.  (Turn down the heat if the pancakes start to brown too quickly.)

Repeat with the remaining batter until all batter has been used, using additional oil to grease the pan as needed. Sprinkle pancakes with the remaining pecans.

Yield: Serves 6 (2 pancakes per serving)

Nutrition Information per Serving:
Calories:  310 • Protein: 8g • Sodium: 345mg • Carbohydrate: 37g • Fiber: 3g • Fat: 15g • Sat Fat: 1.5 g

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light. Originally posted on clubsatcrp.com
Health

Healthy Holidays Photo a Day Challenge

Join us for a healthy holidays themed photo a day challenge starting November 27!

PhotoADay

 

How to play:  Take a photo each day of the challenge, using the prompt for that day as inspiration.  Post your photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook (or all three!) with the hashtag #DSMEHealthyHoliday.  Follow along on our  Instagram page for healthy holiday tips.

Daily Prompts:

Gratitude
What does gratitude look like for you?

Colors
Post a picture of something colorful you saw today.

Evergreen
Go outside sometime today and take a picture of an evergreen (or anything green).

Prioritize
What is most important to you during the holidays?

This makes me happy
What makes you happy during the holidays?

Relax
The holidays can be stressful. What’s something you do to relax?

Healthy Swap
What’s something you do to make a recipe healthier?

Exercise
There’s always so much to do during the holidays.  How do you fit in exercise?

Breathe
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stop and take a breath.  What does that look like?

Peace
What does peace look like to you?

Hydrate
Enjoy your holiday drinks, but don’t forget water! How do you remember to drink water through the day?

Moderation
The holidays are full of treats and feasts. How do you practice moderation?

Decorating
Share how you incorporate physical activity in your holiday decorating.

Sports
Do you enjoy winter sports? Share an outdoor activity you did today.

Unplug
Power down your devices for at least an hour today. Show us what you did!

Light
How is light used in your holiday celebrations?

Minimize
Trying to do EVERYTHING is a big source of stress. Show us how you keep your “to do” list from becoming too overwhelming.

Sleep
Getting enough enough sleep helps keep the immune system healthy which can protect against colds and flu.  How do you make sure you get in your 8 hours of sleep during the holidays?

Something I enjoy
What do you enjoy most about the holidays?

Mindfulness
How do you practice mindfulness during the holidays?

Fun and Games
Fun activities with friends/loved ones can help reduce stress. What did you do today?

Fresh
Post a picture of something new or fresh you saw or did today.

Anything you like
Wildcard! Post a picture of anything holiday related today

Acts of Kindness
Small things mean a lot. Share an act of kindness you experienced today.

Healthy treats
Do you have a go-to healthy holiday treat? Show us!

Cranberry
Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C. Show us how you use cranberries in your holiday meals.  Or, take a picture of something cranberry colored.

Positive vibes
How do you stay positive in times of stress?

Memories
The holidays can be difficult for some. Post a picture of something that brings back a happy memory.

Tradition
What are some holiday traditions in your family?

Community
How does your community come together for the holidays?

Nutrition, Uncategorized

Other Whole Grains

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
Nutrition, Uncategorized

Serving Up Satiety

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
Health

Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

By Annabella He
MGH Dietetic Intern

It’s 2017! At the start of year, you may be making a New Year’s resolution to better manage your diabetes by eating healthier and exercising more. In order to stick to the plan, your New Year’s resolutions should be specific, measurable and reasonable. The following are some specific tips to get you started. Pick one or a couple to work on!

  1. Cut down on portion size: The amount of food you eat for each meal has a huge impact on your blood glucose and weight control. Having a smaller meal keeps your glucose and insulin levels more stable. Also research shows that lowering total calorie intake helps with long-term weight loss, so portion control is the key. Use food labels and measuring cups to accurately gauge your intake.
  2. Eat breakfast: Have a filling breakfast to keep yourself full for longer. Eating breakfast reduces your hunger levels later in the day. A balanced breakfast like whole-wheat cereal with low fat milk and nuts, or scrambled egg with some vegetables are good options. Instead of topping the toast with butter, try avocado to make it tasty and healthy.
  3. Make a balanced plate: Fill half plate with fruits and vegetables, especially brightly colored ones, ¼ plate protein, ¼ plate starch.
  4. Eat more non-starchy vegetables: We always say eat more vegetables, but the kinds of vegetables we eat also matter. Starchy vegetables like corn, green peas, winter squash and potatoes are high in carbohydrate. Eating too much of those will increase your blood sugar, so it’s important to moderate the portion size of these vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables like carrots, broccoli, salad greens and beets contain little or no carbohydrate. Eating more of those vegetables not only stabilize your blood sugar level, but also help fill you up without gaining much weight.
  5. Choose healthy snacks: It’s okay to have some snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar stable and promote energy levels. Again, make sure to control the portion size and make healthy choices. Here are some examples of healthy snacks: whole fruits, cut vegetables, almonds, Greek yogurt and low-fat popcorn.
  6. Learn a new healthy recipe every month: Search for new healthy recipes and practice. Cooking at home is fun and it saves money. You are in full control of what’s in your meal. Also, by December, you will master cooking 12 recipes. How exciting is that?!
  7. Drink more water: The daily recommendation is 8 cups of water or other non-caffeinated beverages. Drinking enough water helps you stay hydrated and energetic. Sometimes you may feel hungry, but actually you are dehydrated. Drinking water helps you to not get hunger and thirst confused.
  8. Go to bed early and get enough sleep: Going to bed early keeps you from eating too late at night. Also, getting a good night sleep helps your body process carbohydrate and has a positive effect on weight control.
  9. Exercise more: Try different types of exercise such as walking, running, hiking, yoga or a group class at the gym. Get a pedometer or use phone app to record your steps while walking. Recording your steps can motivate you to try to reach a higher goal by walking more miles.
  10. Stay up to date with medical appointments: See your provider regularly to make sure everything is going well with your diabetes and that you are up to date on your health screenings (including eye exams).
Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE