Nutrition, recipes

“Everything in moderation!”

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
Health, Uncategorized

Another “Mini”Relaxation Exercise

Meditation picture

The holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year.”  It’s also the time of year many feel the most stressed! The relaxation response is the body’s natural counter to the stress response.  If you’re feeling holiday stress starting to creep in, take a few minutes to try this mini relaxation breathing exercise from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine

INHALE, pause- 1,2,3         EXHALE, pause, 1,2,3

  • After each inhalation, pause and count: 1,2,3 (breath is held in)
  • After each exhalation, pause and count: 1,2,3 (breath is let out)
  • Do this for several breaths.
Health

Healthy Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

The holidays are a time of fun and excitement, but they can also be a time of added stress.

While stress is a normal part of life, it can have an impact on diabetes management. Stress hormones can raise blood sugar, and prolonged stress weakens the immune system and interferes with healthy self-care routines.

Stay healthy and enjoy the season with these techniques for managing holiday stress:

  • Prioritize – A common cause of holiday stress is trying to do too much at once. Focus on those things that are most important to you, and don’t be afraid to say “no” to taking on new commitments.
  • Take “time out” (Find a distraction) – Take a break and do something to clear your mind. Spend time with or call friends. Engage in some other activity you enjoy (like a favorite hobby).
  • Get Moving – Exercise is a known stress reducer, and sticking with your regular fitness routine can help with maintaining good blood sugar control. Small steps make a difference! Go for a walk, put on a yoga video or dance to a song on the radio.
  • Relax – Mind-body activities like meditation, deep breathing or positive visualizations elicit the relaxation response, the body’s built-in counter to the stress response.

Losing or maintaining a healthy weight is another source of stress for many during the holidays. The added pressures of the holidays can also contribute to emotional or stress eating (eating for reasons other than hunger). Signs of stress eating can be turning to comfort food after a difficult day, or mindlessly munching on snacks to burn off nervous energy. The downside is many comfort foods are high in sugar (which can raise blood sugar), fat, and calories. Distracted snacking makes it easy to take in more calories than expected. Consider preparing some healthy snacks to have accessible.

The techniques above can help with coping with stress eating as well, but if you’re still craving a crunchy snack or Mom’s Mac and Cheese go ahead and have some – just do so mindfully. Keep track of portion size, and eat slowly so you can really enjoy the food’s taste and texture.

It’s not possible to avoid all stress completely, but one final thing to remember is the holiday season (and the stress that comes along with it) is temporary. Slow down and enjoy the best the season has to offer. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed or think you might be experiencing diabetes burnout, talk to your health care provider or a diabetes educator.

(Post content reviewed by the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine)
Nutrition

Healthy Holiday Swaps

By Veronica Salsberg, MS
Dietetic Intern

It’s estimated that approximately 26 million Americans, or just over 8% of the population, are living with diabetes.  Nearly 3 times as many Americans may have prediabetes.  Many people believe a diabetes diagnosis means the end to indulging in their favorite foods, making this festive time of year filled with holiday parties and traditional family meals suddenly feel especially stressful.  Yet others believe any attempts at maintaining a healthy diet during the holidays are doomed to fail. The truth is neither of these is the case! You can still enjoy celebrations with friends and family without that all-or-nothing mentality.

Heading out to a holiday party? Follow these tips to help you stay on track this season:

  • Stick to your normal eating routine as much as possible both leading up to the party and afterwards
  • Never go to a party or event hungry.  Have a small snack with a little protein, healthy carbohydrate and fat (such as a cup of low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fruit or raw veggies dipped in 2 tablespoons of hummus) beforehand
  • Hydrate! We often feel hungry when we’re dehydrated, so make sure you’re drinking water throughout the day
  • Don’t graze from the appetizer table.  Use a plate and serve yourself small portions
  • Use smaller plates to help control portions.  Stick with 1 small plate of appetizers and 1 small dessert (or split 2 small desserts with a friend or relative)
  • If you’re drinking alcohol*, alternate with water or seltzer.  Flavored, calorie-free seltzers are a fun and festive non-alcoholic beverage that won’t leave you feeling deprived (*Check with your doctor if drinking alcohol is ok. General recommendations are no more than 1 drink/day for women and no more than 2 drinks/day for men)
  • Bring your own healthy snacks to your next party.  If you’re hosting, provide your guests with plenty of healthy options!

Helping to cook the holiday feast this year? Talk to your loved ones about putting a healthier spin on traditional recipes. Save on calories and fat and boost flavor in mashed potatoes by swapping out cream and butter for low-fat Greek yogurt and fresh snipped chives. On stuffing duty? Use whole wheat bread for added fiber and nutrients, and replace the melted butter with olive or canola oil. Check out the recipes below for ideas for healthier, but still delicious, holiday side dishes!

Sizzled Green Beans with Crispy Prosciutto & Pine Nuts ~ EatingWell

This green bean dish is just under 100 calories per serving, making it a much healthier alternative to the traditional green bean casserole.

Mushroom and Leek Stuffing ~ MyRecipes

Full of fresh vegetables and herbs,  and with fewer than 200 calories per serving this stuffing is sure to satisfy your taste buds without breaking the calorie bank.

Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Shallots ~ MyRecipes

Try mashed sweet potatoes as an alternative to traditional mashed potatoes this holiday season. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin A.  Crispy shallots and fresh rosemary add flavor without adding to your waistline.

Butternut and Barley Pilaf ~EatingWell

Simple yet bursting with fresh flavors of parsley, lemon, and garlic, this dish has the added health benefits of whole grains from the barley and vitamin A from the butternut squash. It’s low in fat and calories and high in fiber which means you can indulge without guilt!

Mini Apple Pies with Cheddar ~ Eating Well

Save room for dessert! These adorable mini pies mean automatic portion control.   The white whole wheat flour, oats, pecans, and abundance of apples means each little pie has about 5 g of fiber!

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and tasty holiday season!

(Post reviewed by Debra Powers, MS, RD, CDE, LDN, Senior Clinical Nutritionist)
Nutrition

All About (Cooking) Oil

The last time you went to the supermarket, did you happen to notice all the different types of cooking oils on the shelf?  There’re the old standbys olive and canola oils, but you may also encounter things like walnut, sesame and even avocado oils.  All cooking oils are a type of fat made from plant sources (typically nuts and seeds), and many are the heart healthy mono- and polyunsaturated types which may help raise “good” cholesterol; especially when substituted for butter.  We all need some fat in the diet to help build and maintain cells and absorb certain vitamins.  Plus, fat adds flavor and texture to food and baked goods.  Specialty and gourmet oils can even add their own distinct flavor to your dishes.

When deciding what type of oil to use when cooking, the most important thing to be aware of is the smoke point:  the temperature at which heated oil starts to smoke.  Heating oil beyond this point will cause it to break down and leave an unpleasant flavor in your food.  (Not to mention a good chance the oil will catch fire!)  The smoke point is different for each type of oil, making some better choices than others for certain cooking methods.

If your holiday menu includes fried foods (like latkes), an oil with a high smoke point like canola or corn oil is best.  Canola oil can even be used as a substitute for butter or margarine in some recipes; its neutral flavor won’t affect the taste of the finished dish.  Oils with a lower smoke point, such as some types of sesame or walnut oil, are better suited to use as a condiment to add flavor to finished dishes or cooking at a lower heat.  Olive oil, a main feature in the Mediterranean Diet high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, falls somewhere in the middle.  Extra virgin olive oil can be used in baking or sautéing foods at medium heat, but its distinct flavor is also well suited to dressings and sauces (or even drizzling right on steamed veggies).

Whichever type of oil you choose, it will stay fresh if stored in a tightly closed container away from heat and light.  It’s also good to keep in mind that all fats, even heart-healthy olive oil, are high in calories.  At nine calories per gram and about 100-120 per tablespoon, those calories can add up quickly!  Paying attention to portion size can help prevent holiday weight gain.  And as always, include a variety of fruits and veggies; whole grains; lean meat, fish and poultry; and low fat dairy in your meal plan.

Wishing you a happy holiday season!

(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition)
recipes

Apple Spiced Sweet Potatoes

Jazz up your Thanksgiving table with this sweet potato recipe from the MGH Be Fit program that features seasonal spices and a healthy dose of vitamin A to help protect your body against infection.

Ingredients:

1½ pound sweet potatoes
1½ cup sliced apples (skins can be left on)
¼ cup raisins
2 tsp canola oil
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar
3 tbsp pecans, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 2” chunks. Slice apples. Add potatoes, apples, raisins, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and brown sugar to a casserole dish. Toss to combine and cover with foil. Cook until fork-tender, approximately 45 minutes. While potatoes are cooking, toast pecans in a skillet on medium heat until they start to turn brown and give off a nutty aroma, approximately 3 minutes. When potatoes are fully cooked, top with toasted pecans and serve.

Yield: About 5 4oz servings

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING:
CALORIES: 212 • PROTEIN: 3g • SODIUM: 195mg •
CARBOHYDRATE: 40g • FIBER: 5.5g • FAT: 5g • Sat Fat:0.5g

(Recipe adapted from MGH’s Eat Street Cafe)