Romancing the Plant: a Smart Start to Love Your Heart

Valentine’s Day is all about flowers, chocolate and love, but the entire of month of February is devoted to the heart. Show yourself and those you care about some love by being smart about what you put in the grocery cart. Fruits and vegetables have a significant role to play in keeping hearts healthy every single day.

PRODUCE FOR HEART HEALTH

The DASH diet- Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension has produce as it’s foundation recommending 4-5 servings of fruits AND veggies daily. The TLC- Therapeutic Lifestyle Change Diet recommends 4 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables daily.

PRODUCE PROVIDES THE PREVENTION AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE TREATMENT

  • The fiber in fruits and vegetables , especially the flesh or soluble fiber can help to lower triglycerides ( blood fat)  and cholesterol. Beans, potatoes, apples, pears and citrus fruits are top notch
  • The Phyto or plant nutrients such as flavonoids, quercetin, and resveratrol can help keep arteries healthy- think berries, pomegranates, tomatoes, soybeans, carrots and red grapes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel sprouts, onions and garlic
  • The monounsaturated fat in avocados may help to lower LDL or bad cholesterol
  • Vitamin K in Dark green leafy vegetables and soybeans can help with blood clotting
  • The potassium in all fruits and vegetables can help to lower blood pressure
  • So make #haveaplant part of the romance all month long. Here are a few ideas to tempt your taste buds

BREAKFAST
Berries in cereal or oatmeal
A Breakfast burrito with spinach, onions, salsa and eggs
A citrus, banana, pineapple smoothie

LUNCH
Pasta salad with cannellini beans, red onion, shredded carrots and broccoli with Vinaigrette
A kale and spinach salad with pomegranate arils, clementine segments, edamame, and almonds
Lentil soup with added mushrooms, canned tomatoes and escarole

SNACKS
Strawberries with a vanilla Greek yogurt/cocoa dip
A trail mix of prunes, walnuts and whole grain cereal
Hummus or other bean dip with raw veggie dippers or veggie based chips: beets, carrots

DINNER
A radicchio, endive, fennel salad with goat cheese grapefruit salad
Crispy roasted vegetables: Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli with garlic, Harissa and olive oil
Roasted multicolored potatoes with sesame seeds, Tamari, Five spice seasoning

DESSERT
Grilled pineapple with red pepper jelly
Baked apple with currants, baked in pomegranate juice
An orange half filled with citrus sorbet and topped with orange slices marinated in Grand Marnier

Time to shout, eat your heart out- fruits and veggies every day in every way to help you create a #healthyselfie with the foods on your #shelfie! #haveaplant

2020 Best Diets Review: Top Picks for Athletes

January is the month when many resolutions revolve around losing weight and getting healthy.

It’s also the time when U.S. News and World Report publishes their annual rating of the best and worst diets. Many consumers turn to this list for guidance, but are the meal plans appropriate for athletes? I took a look and want to share my thoughts on the best eating plans and why they may be beneficial.

First, let’s talk about the word diet. Although the ranking refers to the list as best diets, they should be referred to as eating plans as they are not meant to restrict eating. The top-rated plans were found to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against heart disease and diabetes. And, while they were not rated on their ability to fuel sports performance, many of the eating patterns work well for athletes.

Second, it’s important to remember that eating to alter body composition should be done at the right time to prevent any deleterious impact on strength, speed and stamina. Athletes should start well in advance of their upcoming season or at the very beginning of the offseason. That way, when goals switch from altering body composition to fueling sports performance, they are ready to go.

Here are my thoughts on the best eating plans for athletes and why they may be beneficial.


Click here to download full 2020 Diet Review for Athletes packet


Mediterranean Eating Plan
This plan is based on an abundance of fruits and vegetables, small amounts of meat and poultry, moderate amounts of fish and generous amounts of beans. Full-fat yogurt and cheese are the predominant dairy foods. Pasta, rice, potatoes, farro and breads make up the majority of the carbs. Olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds are the recommended fat sources. This eating plan is not just heart healthy –  it also includes anti-inflammatory foods, so athletes don’t have to train in pain.

DASH Eating Plan
DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Although healthy blood pressure may not be a concern now, maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system is important for all athletes. Coaching is stressful as well, so that’s all the more reason to choose an eating plan that is protective. The DASH diet emphasizes lots of fruits and veggies, three servings of low or non-fat dairy daily, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts and beans. The produce provides carbs, fiber, vitamins, plant nutrients and fluids. The dairy foods provide protein and minerals that are important for bone health.

Flexitarian Eating Plan
This is a mostly plant-based plan but, as the name implies, it suggests flexibility for those who want to include meat and other animal foods like eggs and dairy. The base of the diet is plants – fruits, veggies, beans, peas and whole grains. Those provide the energy for sports. The Flexitarian plan suggests getting the majority of protein from plants, which can be done with beans, peas, nuts, seeds, tofu, veggie burgers and other soy-based products. Fat will come from nuts, nut butters, seeds, seed butters, oil and avocado.

Volumetrics Eating Plan
This plan is great for athletes in weight-class sports, as well as those looking to lose weight without feeling hungry. The concept of volumetrics is to increase the fluid content in the foods consumed to feel fuller. This also supports the increased hydration needs many athletes face. Examples of foods included in this plan are smoothies, soups, stews, chili, salads, bean dishes, stir-fries and oatmeal. Feeling fuller helps to stave off hunger and makes less food look like more. The pairing of protein with carbohydrates that athletes need can come from a Greek yogurt dip along with veggies, or a shrimp-veggie stir fry over whole grain rice. Extra lean beef chili with beans over a baked potato also provides the fill factor, as well as the fuel for sport.

Vegetarian Eating Plan
Athletes looking to follow a vegetarian diet have lots of options. The key is remembering that it’s not just what you exclude from the plate but what you include. Vegetarians can be lacto-vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian. Here is what each of those eating plans looks like.

  • Lacto-vegetarian – includes eating a variety of fruits, veggies, pasta, rice, bread, cereal, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds. While meat, poultry, eggs, and fish are excluded, athletes can meet their protein needs by incorporating dairy foods like milk, yogurt, cheese– into their meals.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian – similar to the lacto-vegetarian mentioned above, but athletes that choose this plan can also incorporate eggs into their diet.
  • Pesco-vegetarian – eating plan includes the same fruits, veggies, pasta, rice, bread, cereal, potatoes, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs and dairy foods as the above two plans, but also allows fish and shellfish.

A plant-based diet can be appropriate for an athlete, but it has to be well planned to ensure adequate intake of calories, macro and micronutrients.

BOTTOM LINE
At the end of the day, eating is not one size fits all. Any one of these diets can help you improve body composition while supporting your health. It’s important to choose an eating plan that is sustainable, affordable, doable and palatable. Bodies need to be fueled to perform well. That means choosing an eating pattern that provides enough calories to optimize strength, speed and stamina and enough macronutrients to attain and maintain one’s goals – and doing so with foods that you like, can prepare and will eat.

Restock vs Detox

For most of us, January is the month to reset, regroup and focus on the year ahead. Oftentimes, the New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, exercise, get enough rest and work in time to destress fall by the wayside because of other obligations and unrealistic expectations.

So perhaps this year can be about solutions to strive and thrive, not just survive.

As a registered dietitian, I never cease to be amazed by the number of diets/products hawking the need to detox. Many of these extreme plans result in dehydration, fatigue, water and lean mass loss and are not sustainable.

In addition, most of these plans focus more on what you don’t eat, with a very restricted allowed food list. Even though that might sound like the best way to reset, the problem is that the eating plan is all about body neglect. Eliminating entire food groups or macronutrients is certainly not the way to a #Healthyselfie. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, why feel compelled to do so. The body does an excellent job of getting rid of what it doesn’t need,, we don’t need to detox, but if you shortchanged your produce intake over the holidays, now is the time to do right by your body.

So why no focus on what to, rather than what not to do when it comes to self-restoration and renewal? I love the idea of add rather than subtract and produce can help you do just that. The beauty of produce is that it can help you fill up, not out. Produce has a high water content to take up more stomach share for fewer calories. Produce has fiber to make you feel fuller between meals. Produce provides the chew so you get mouth enjoyment from what you eat. Produce provides visual appeal from the rainbow of colors. From fresh to frozen, canned or dried restock your fridge and cupboard for #healthontheshelf with produce any day in every way @fruitsandveggies #haveaplant

So instead of the idea of detox, how about restock? How can you add more produce to every meal and snack?

BREAKFAST
Extra spinach in your morning smoothie
Berries in your bowl
Applesauce or pumpkin in your oatmeal
Peppers, mushrooms, onions in your eggs
Breakfast burrito with leftover veggies, veggie sausage and salsa

LUNCH
Canned tomatoes in your salad
Frozen veggies added to your soup
Shredded cabbage in your wrap
Fruit on your salad
Bean dip as a salad dressing

SNACKS
Veggie chips that are made from freeze dried vegetables
Salsa with mango added
Roasted chickpeas or other beans on their own or added to popcorn
Hot tomato juice
Fruit s-mores with fruit and nut butter or fruit and a thin spread of cheese

DINNER

Want to capitalize on the Dry January trend?  You are not limited to plain water. How about mocktails of vegetable juice, or a loaded Virgin Mary- bring on the veggies, or a spritzer of 100% juice, added fruit and seltzer water, or a margarita without the tequila but frozen berries with lime juice and a flavored, no sugar added seltzer?
Roasted vegetables with fruit added for that sweet surprise
Stirfries with extra veggies over a layer of diced cauliflower, shredded carrots or Brussel sprouts
Tacos with red cabbage, mango, salsa, black beans
Lettuce wraps filled with shredded veggies and edamame
Chili with extra beans and veggies added
Dessert of baked fruit with a drizzle of juice for sweetness

A plate that delivers on eye thrill and gut fill with flavor to savor will help you restore and allow your body to do more. #plentyin2020 @fruitsandveggies #haveaplant #producetoperform

The Gift That Lifts

What do the holidays mean to you? Family time, delicious food, buying, wrapping and exchanging gifts, parties, festivities? Rather than send cards, we post pictures, view holiday commercials , listen to holiday music, watch others loading up carts at the supermarket, as well as malls. But what if you didn’t have anything? No tree, no food, no gifts for your children. The holidays would be all about how to survive, not thrive. For some the gift of a toothbrush, or feminine hygiene supplies, or pjs is as meaningful as a Peloton bike.
I am privileged and honored to be part of an initiative of helping a family in need to brighten their holiday through kindness, love, sharing and caring. The power of a simple request from a colleague who was made aware of a family in dire need rallied an online group to come together to help them have a happy holiday.

Part of the joy of the holidays is the joy of giving without expectations by helping others. Giving of our time, resources and heart is a great start. Putting a smile on a face. Instilling hope. In a season that is all about opulence and indulgence we tend to forget about the 50% of the population that lives paycheck to paycheck. Forty two million people in the US struggle with food insecurity. This is not about a sumptuous holiday meal, it is not being able to afford to consistently purchase foods that provide the necessary nutrients for health and well-being. And the need extends beyond food to other necessities such as such as toiletries, feminine hygiene products, shoes, clothing, pet food and cleaning supplies. This is more than a handout , it is a movement the goal is to end the shaming and start instilling the dignity and the possibilities.

Let’s embrace the gift of giving, not just receiving. Experiencing gratitude from joy on a family’s faces when they see a tree with gifts underneath. Deriving pleasure from knowing that we can be a part of the wonder and delight from opening packages and tasty bites. Acting with kindness and compassion through giving on and giving to especially to those who find themselves in difficult situations through no fault of their own. We live in a world that operates at a fast pace, too much food waste, and excess material goods. How can we share the wealth and bring dignity and happiness to those with much less?

This community of stealth elves united to provide toys, crafts, winter clothing and gear, essential hygiene products, gift cards, kitchen supplies, art sets and pet food for a family in need. These simple gestures eased a mother’s fears that she would have nothing to give to her children and instead gave her hope that there are nice people in the world. “These three children witnessed kindness, hope and love because of 17 people from around the United States. Most importantly, they feel valued and seen which will transform how they view themselves and our community.” Clancy Harrison , president of the West Side Food Pantry, Kingston, PA.

We can provide the gift of support, respect, and understanding. Boosting others selflessly and stealthfully as we unite to make the holiday lights shine bright for those we help as well as ourselves.

It truly is a far greater gift to give than receive. Let’s share, let’s care, let’s be aware of those who would appreciate the gift of compassion and give others the gifts of comfort and joy of this holiday season.

Fermentation Nation

Growing up, my dad always had a jar of sour dill pickles in the refrigerator. He enjoyed the crunch, and taste and also put more produce on his plate. The sour, briny flavors of sauerkraut, pickles and olives are great on their own and also paired with other foods and best of all, they add more produce to the plate! Sauerkraut, noodles and yogurt is a delicious and nutritious way to do a perfect produce and dairy pairing. Kalamata olives, and aged cheeses are my go-to appetizer and yogurt is used in every way every day. I had the opportunity to travel to Seoul in 2017 and ever since, have been a kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage) fan. These photos are from a kimchi festival in Seoul.

These foods provide more than great taste. They also have health benefits and are a staple in our house, We are big fans of #fermenttoaugment taste, food safety and health.

So what exactly is fermentation?

This is a process that has been around forever but is now considered to be on trend.

Fermentation occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, mold, yeast feed on starch, sugar and other food components. The sugar in these foods is converted into acids, alcohol and carbon dioxide. Not only does this enhance flavor and change the texture of foods but also can:

  • Enhance the benefits of certain nutrients- increased bioavailability of B vitamins, magnesium and zinc
  • Remove/reduce antinutrients in raw foods such as phytic acid
  • Improve food safety – fermentation can inhibit the growth of food borne pathogens
  • Extend shelf life of foods
  • Increase the amount of probiotics (good bacteria) in the gut and

diminish the presence of pathogenic (bad) bacteria

In dairy foods such as yogurt and kefir (a cultured dairy beverage) lactic acid producing bacteria feed on lactose and other sugars in milk to produce compounds that can change the flavor, texture and nutrients.  Fermented dairy foods are more digestible than nonfermented milk because the lactose (milk sugar) is broken down, making it easier to tolerate for those with lactose digestion issues. In addition, fermented dairy foods may lower risk of Type II DM, CVD, and overall mortality.

In plant-based fermented foods- fermentation may occur naturally such as in fresh kimchi, sauerkraut, and certain types of dill pickles as well as brine cured olives.

All of these foods contain microbes that are still alive when consumed and therefore confer benefits. You can buy shelf-stable pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut and olives, but the microbes are destroyed during the heating/canning process so you still get the benefits of the vegetables, but not the fermentation.

If your goal is to add more fermented foods to your diet, the label should say naturally fermented. In the refrigerator case, the presence of bubbles in the liquid

(pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut) indicate that those foods are fermented.

Perfect Pairing

  • Parmesan with pickles and olives
  • Kimchi with yogurt- the heat of the kimchi can be tempered by the creaminess of yogurt
  • Kefir- blueberry smoothie
  • Sauerkraut with potatoes and yogurt
  • Kimchi, broccoli and tofu stirfry

So for improved health on your fridge shelf join the #fermentationnation.

#haveaplant with different types of produce on the plate. Reach across the produce and dairy aisles for the 1-2 punch of nutritious and delicious and get more benefits per bite with taste delights.

Posh Squash

October signals the fall with beautiful leaves, crisp air, Halloween and of course pumpkins. My favorite color is orange not just to wear but also to eat. Pumpkin is so incredibly versatile. It can be a key component of breakfast in oatmeal, smoothies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes. Pumpkin is delicious in soups, sauces, stews, and even stuffed with rice, barley, quinoa or farro.

I love pumpkin not just for the color but also the nutritional benefits. Low in calories but high in fiber, potassium, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin for lung and eye health.

You most certainly can buy pumpkins, scoop out the pulp and use it in recipes , but for those of us who are time crunched, canned pumpkin is a fabulous option. Ready to use, just open the can and add to recipes. And if you have leftover pumpkin, freeze in ice cube trays to add nutritional benefit to soups, stews, smoothies or sauces.

Going to the pumpkin patch is always fun. Here is our little princess with some pumpkins.

And carving pumpkins to decorate is great, but why not think about adding pumpkin to your glass, bowl or plate?

Here are a few recipes to try.

PUMPKIN  OVERNIGHT OATS

Making breakfast at night means one less thing you have to do in the morning. Adding pumpkin gives you vegetables to start the day but in a sweet way. For those who are vegan, this is a great breakfast or snack option.

½ cup oats, dry
½ cup canned pumpkin
3 TBSP orange juice
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 TBSP dried cranberries
1 TBSP pecans, chopped

Mix together oats, pumpkin, orange juice, spice and maple syrup.

Place in the  refrigerator in a covered container and let sit overnight or for a few hours. When ready to eat, top with cranberries and pecans.

YIELD: 1 serving

PUMPKIN AND CANNELLINI BEAN SOUP

1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated gingerroot
4 cups chicken broth
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree ( not pumpkin pie filling)
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp Italian seasoning
raw pumpkin seeds

In a small pan, heat the oil and lightly brown the onions, garlic and gingerroot.

In a large saucepan, add the broth, pumpkin, beans, spices, onion, garlic and gingerroot.

Sinner about 8-10 minutes.

Add to a blender in small batches to blend well

When ready to serve, sprinkle soup with pumpkin seeds

YIELD: 6 servings

PER SERVING
Calories: 108
Carbohydrate (g): 18
Fiber (g): 3.35
Sugars (g):4.9
Fat (g):2.8
Protein (g):5
Potassium (mg): 288

PUMPKIN AND PRUNE MUFFINS ( PLUMKINS)

1 can ( 15 ounces) pumpkin
4 eggs
¾ cup + 1 TBSP sugar
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2/3 cup plum puree *
½ cup dried plum bits
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp orange peel
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together pumpkin, plum puree, sugar, oil, vanilla, orange peel and eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Place paper muffin cups in muffin tins. Fill 2/3 of the way with the batter.  Bake 12-15  minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  • To make prune puree- blend 1 -1/3 cups prunes with 6 TBSP hot water. Puree until smooth.

Yield : 42 muffins

Per muffin:
Calories: 105
Total Fat: 3.3 gm
Total Carbohydrate: 16 gm
Dietary Fiber: 2.1 gm
Sugar: 7.2  gm
Protein1.5 gm

This is the time of year to be awash in squash. Stuff it, roast it, blend it, bake with it. An easy and delicious way to add veggies every day. @fruitsandveggies  #haveaplant

Boost Your Nutrition Score with More

Inspired by 2 recent trips to the Central Valley in California , I am sharing a  recipe that combines pantry staples in a delicious and nutritious way to help you boost your produce and add some pow to the palate. The stars of this dish are canned tomatoes and prunes for year round enjoyment with haste , no waste and fabulous taste. I have taken the mole and elevated it by adding more produce (prunes) resulting in a fruit and vegetable sauce/dip that both meat eaters and vegetarians will love. September is National Fruit & Veggies month ™  and time to score with one more when it comes to adding produce to the plate,. This dish contributes to your produce intake with flavor to savor. And the good news is that extra can be frozen in ice cube trays. Mole, hooray! #haveaplantpledge @fruitsandveggies #haveaplant #producetoperform

CALIFORNIA INSPIRED MOLE

1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes, not drained
1 TBSP diced green chilies, canned
12 pitted prunes, sliced in half
1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
dash of cloves
dash of cumin
2 TBSP orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder

Saute onion and garlic in oil until golden brown then add tomatoes, prunes, orange juice, cocoa powder and spices.. Cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Serve over chicken, pork, turkey or tofu or use as a dipping sauce with raw vegetables or to spread on a tortilla with meat and/or beans and avocado.

YIELD: 2 cups ( 4 , ½ cup servings)

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING

Calories: 112
Fat: 3.6 grams
Carbohydrate: 18.7 grams
Fiber: 2.75 grams
Sugar: 8.95  grams
Protein: 1.6 grams

Why I am a Canfan

As a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in sports dietetics I am all about helping my clients optimize their health within their calorie cap, salary cap and hourly cap. With busy lives and endless items on the to do list, many feel time challenged, money pinched and lack the knowledge or desire to spend countless hours in shopping or food preparation. As a PBH Fruit and Vegetable Ambassador in Action I want to help to close the gap between recommendations and reality. As only I in 10 is eating enough produce every day – it is time to spread the words that must be heard. #haveaplant

Let’s broadcast and reinforce the message that all produce can have a place on the plate. Fresh is fine, but availability, seasonality and palatability can diversify one’s produce portfolio. This past week I had the opportunity to do a tour of farms and canneries- and follow the journey from field to sealed. So why am I a #canfan? Canned produce provides great taste, with haste and zero waste.

Here are some highlights and insights into why canned produce should be part of a #healthyshelfie

Hard hats and hairnets were on display as we spent the day touring the plant in Oroville, CA where fruit such as peaches and pears are packed alone or mixed with other fruit for fruit cocktail.


Reach for a peach!

Peaches are picked at point of ripeness and transported to the plant within a few hours. Fruit is removed from the bins, washed and then sized. Peaches are then pitted and checked for quality. Peaches and pears are then cut into various sizes and placed into different sized cans or cold full fruit bowl lines. Once in the can or fruit bowl, they are cooked and sealed to retain the nutrients, the flavor and food safety.

I was surprised to find out some facts about canned peach compared to fresh: They are-
Higher in vitamin C
Higher in folate
Higher in antioxidants
Comparable in Vitamin E

For those of you who have canned at home, or have relatives who canned foods, the plant
uses the same techniques: You start with the fruit or vegetables and then:
Wash
Peel
Core
Slice
Trim
Chop
Fill can with food, liquid, seasoning if part of the recipe
Seal
Heat
Cool

Filled, Sealed, Delivered, their yours!

These are beauties from the peach orchard that look absolutely gorgeous and taste fabulous on a summer day in California. But in Western Pennsylvania where I live, fresh peaches will not be available most of the year. So what can you do?

Why Your Snack is the New Black

Many of us are working longer, needing to make our income go further yet trying to keep ourselves as healthy as we can. That often means needing to make a choice between going to the gym, or preparing a meal. Although we may feel time pressed and income –stretched, the good news is that we don’t have to feel guilty if we are not making or consuming regular meals. A survey from the Hartman group found that mealtimes are no longer the backbone of a daily eating plan.

More than half of Americans eating occasions are snacks and 91% of us snack multiple times a day.. So if snacking is the new meal, why have we turned to the shelf rather than the plate?

WHAT ROLE DO SNACKS SERVE?
Snacks are important as form of fuel, as a way to optimize our eating or address health issues and also for enjoyment.

FUEL
Snacks can provide an energy boost and help tide us over until the next eating occasion. Since snacks can help with energy, we may find ourselves less likely to skip a workout. Because snacks can also be in liquid form such as a smoothie- they can be an opportunity for hydration. Snacks don’t just alleviate hunger but they can also boost our concentration so we can be more productive during the day. The go-to food and beverage components to provide fuel are; water, whole grains, protein, fiber, fat, and probiotics as well as seeking out foods with less sugar.

EATING OPTIMIZATION
For certain diseases, smaller more frequent eating occasions may be beneficial so snacks can be a great way to provide and distribute nutrients throughout the day.. Snacking can alleviate the stress of a busy day. A strategically timed snack can help us to prepare or repair from a workout. In addition for those watching weight, a snack can be portion controlled to make it easier to stay within a calorie cap. Snacks chosen to optimize eating may include: beverages or foods with caffeine, protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, a lower sugar content, minerals and phyto(plant) nutrients.

ENJOYMENT
There are times when we want to eat for comfort, or reward , to satisfy a craving or for indulgence. We want great taste, flavors, interesting textures,, and excitement. Most of us would not sit down to a pouch for a meal, but the idea of squeezing is cool and fun in a snacking occasion. Who would have dreamed that kale is a popular snack chip? And for those who have not grown up with beans on the plate, a small sized hummus with carrots or pretzels, or roasted , flavored beans are increasing in popularity. We don’t have to sacrifice flavor and taste to optimize health.

THE APPEAL OF SNACKS
When we hear the word snack we think flexible, fun and easy.

FLEXIBILITY
We can fit in snacks whenever we want. Snacks are portable, shelf stable and suited to on the go lifestyles. Whereas a meal is typically composed of a protein of some kind, grain and vegetable- snack choices can be much more varied in texture, flavor, look and form. For instance, a bar could contain fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains in a convenient , portable form that we can eat on our feet-whereas a salad which could contain the same ingredients requires prepping or ordering out, a utensil and the need to sit and eat.

FUN
Snacks are an opportunity to try something new. Flavor profiles, texture and form as well as packaging make foods fun. Snacking can be a reward as well as comfort and also a source of pleasure. Eating a salad doesn’t seem fun, but having a smoothie with veggies or trying veggie chips helps us boost our produce intake in an enjoyable way.

EASE
Snacks do not require preparation and they do not have to be planned. If we felt guilty about feeling the need to choose between a workout and meal preparation, snacking can alleviate the guilt by providing nourishment within seconds. And the good news is that there are so many healthier options for snacking.
We can choose from
Nuts and seeds or spread made from nuts or seeds
Fruit in a fresh, dried, and freeze dried form
Vegetables such as baby carrots, kale, carrot or beet chips, pickles, roasted soybeans, broadbeans, lentils and chick peas
Bean based dips and chips
Yogurt based smoothies
Fruit and nut bars
Snack “kits” with cheese, fruit, nuts or meat, cheese, crackers

HOW DO YOUR SNACKS STACK UP?
Snacks can be a replacement for not a complement to meals, but in order to get the most out of your snacks do have a snacking checklist:
Do some of your snacks contain produce?
Do all of your snacks contain protein?
Do you have fluids with or as your snacks?
Do your snacking occasions make you feel satisfied?
Are you snacking throughout the day or uploading your eating?
Do you enjoy what you are snacking on?

Make your snacks work for you.

Clinch Not Grinch- Here’s to Positivity and Productivity This Holiday Season

Here we are again, at the end of the year, ready for some feasting, friendship and fun. Yet if visions of sugar plums make you feel guilty, you may deprive yourself rather than thrive over this holiday season.

Let’s take a look back and do a recap of the diets and eating trends of the year and hopefully I will offer you some strategies that make you cheer not tear.

Too many quacks, disputing the facts
Added fear to what we eat
Cleanses are cool, enhanced waters rule
Plant based substitutes for meat

Juicing is hot, food waste is not
Vegetables now swap for grains
Plants in our pour, snacks that do more
And foods that MIND our brain

Prebiotics, probiotics, fermentation’s in
Avocado, vegan, keto
Foods we choose are more than macros

Let’s not food fight, enjoy every bite
And take the time to chew
There’s room on the plate for food that tastes great
For a happy, healthy you

There is a lot of food bullying , shaming and guilt encompassing everything from gluten, GMO, sugar, dairy and meat. And while many of us intentionally eliminate foods from our plate there are too many people who are in great need because they do not have enough to eat.

In addition to the confusion on the plate there are too many so called nutrition experts weighing in with evidence based on the listserv not the literature. This results in unnecessary food avoidance and phobia based on opinion rather than fact.

We are all entitled to eat within our salary cap, our calorie cap and be nourished with foods we enjoy, based upon our food preferences, medical needs and culinary ability. We don’t need hydrogenated or alkaline waters. Our bodies are very good at eliminating toxins without the help of a cleanse.

For those who choose to be meat-less, that does not mean protein deficient. There are many palatable and affordable plant based meat alternatives that can be eaten alone or used as a base for chili, tacos, meatballs and soups. Rather than cut out grains, we can cut down and at the same time, ramp up our produce intake through the versatile and flavorful vegetable based rice and noodles, as well as cauliflower pizza crusts.

Eating fruit and vegetables provides the chew and versatility that we don’t get through juicing. If you opt for a non dairy milk alternative, do be selective with your pour to ensure that you are getting more nutritionally.

We all know that it is important to take care of our heart, mind our waist and move our body, but we should pay as much attention to our brain and incorporate foods such as fatty fish, berries, olive oil, nuts, beans and whole grains.

Taking good care of our gut is more than planks and crunches but also consuming food sources of prebiotics, probiotics and fermented products. Add yogurt, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and even kombucha to your diet to support a healthy gut.

It’s ok to try a food trend but the focus should be more on what you do rather than don’t eat. If you like animal protein, a vegan diet may be wise. If you enjoy carbs, the keto diet may not be one to try. Avocados are great but they are not the only type of fat that has to go on your toast, bowl or plate.

Enough with body bashing, and food trashing. Let’s make peace with our plate, let’s enjoy foods that taste great and let’s make this a season to celebrate. Create an enabled table with people you love, foods that excite and memories that delight.

Happy Holidays!