The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming and the temperature is rising. Now that spring has arrived and you’ll be peeling off excess layers of clothing, it’s also a good time to take stock of the extra pounds that may have accumulated over winter. Let’s start cleaning up your act by spring-cleaning your snacks.
Whether at home, work, school, the gym, in your car or on a plane going to or from wherever life takes you, snacks could be trusty companions. It’s important, though, to proceed with caution, because not all snacks are created equal. Some between-meal treats boost your energy and help carry you through until your next meal, while others zap vitality by filling instead of fueling, leaving you feeling hungrier and heavier.
My idea of an ideal snack contains a combo of nutrients: whole grain carbohydrates to provide thatahhhh feeling and to supply energizing fuel; powerful protein to keep you feeling alert and satisfied; and healthy fat to keep you from feeling hungry and to provide decadent flavor. Here’s my list of healthy snack swaps that’ll add some spring in your step:
1. Instead of a 100-calorie snack pack of cookies, try an individual pack of almonds. Just because something is portion-controlled doesn’t make it a health food. I was thrilled when 100-calorie packs hit the shelves because I firmly believe that super-sized portions are the main reason why we’re not a slimmer nation. These packs were rarely packed with nutritious foods and instead just included hard-to-pronounce ingredients. A pack of almonds, on the other hand, wears an ingredient list of one item: almonds. That’s the way it should be—a simple, recognizable ingredient, naturally packed with protein, fiber, monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, calcium and lots of crunch. Basically, a clean label for clean eating.
2. Instead of a cereal bar, choose a well-rounded energy bar. It seems like there are more snack bars in the store today than shopping carts! Watch out for the ones that contain mostly sugar or fat and only have 1 gram of protein. Even if the calories are not exorbitant, they could be unbalanced and contain little nutrient value. Instead choose a bar that has around 5 grams of protein and at least 4 grams of fiber, and check the ingredient list to see if the main source of sugar comes from fruit—and not sugar in its many disguises (corn syrup, agave and cane sugar, for example. Bars are perfectly portable and certainly portion controlled.
3. Instead of plunging chips into a sour cream and onion dip, try scooping some fresh colorful veggies into guacamole. You’ll regret the fluid retention you’ll feel in your fingers and feet arising from the salty chips and dip, and in addition, you’ll be diving into sour cream that has little, if any, nutritional value. Guacamole, on the other hand, is made with avocado, loaded with fat that’s heart healthy and has nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds. Other components, like tomatoes, onion and garlic, also provide a multitude of benefits. (Check here for my guac recipe, including a secret ingredient.) For an even bigger burst of goodness, serve this with colorful veggies like carrots, zucchini, jicama and sugar snap peas. Even your kids will love it.
4. Instead of cheese crackers, swap DIY cheese and crackers.The numbers will tell the story: Some cheese crackers weigh in around 150 calories per serving, along with 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, barely any fiber and only 2 percent of the calcium you need. If you instead pair some fiber-rich whole-grain crackers with an individually wrapped, portion-controlled cheese, you’ll get half the fat, sodium and calories, twice the protein and 10 times the calcium.
5. Instead of light ice cream, swap a frozen container of Greek yogurt. Although “light” ice cream may have fewer calories than its regular counterparts, that doesn’t make them all low in calories, sugar or fat, for that matter. Fat-free versions may leave you feeling unsatisfied, leading you to reach for larger portions and sugar-free types that may contain harmful trans fats. You’re better off popping a container of Greek yogurt into the freezer an hour or so before you’re looking to calm a snack attack. An average container of Greek yogurt has as much satisfying protein as 2 ounces of chicken, while accompanied by friendly bacteria (probiotics) for your gut, as well as a cocktail of calcium, vitamins and minerals. If you need an on-the-go snack, just grab a container and add some chopped nuts or a high fiber cereal, or toss your yogurt into a blender, and add your favorite fruit and a few ice cubes for a refreshing smoothie.
6. Instead of cookies and whole milk, swap cold cereal and skim milk. Cookies tend to supply more value to your mouth than to the rest of your body, and a cup of whole milk is like a cup of skim milk with 2 pats of butter melted within. Studies show that most of us are not getting enough fiber or calcium, and cereal and milk could be a great source of both. Choose wisely—select skim milk for 9 essential vitamins and minerals without saturated fat. The best cereals have whole grains listed as the first ingredient, at least 5 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
Snacking hot-spots usually occur around 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., when your meals are out of your system and your blood sugar may be dropping. You might need a little pick-me-up to stabilize these levels and help you feel stronger and think more clearly. And although the most common time for snacking is at bedtime, that’s when food is probably the last thing you need. Even if you were going to dream of mountain climbing … you don’t need a three-course meal before hitting the pillow! Too many of us over-snack at this sleepy time of day, leading to gastrointestinal problems, weight gain and a restless night. Nothing dreamy about that!
What are your favorite go-to snacks? Do share!
Follow Bonnie’s blog by visiting US News & World Report’s Eat+Run Blog” and here’s the link: http://health.usnews.com/topics/author/bonnie_taub-dix
In the 1980s, people treated foods that contained cholesterol as if they carried a disease, not realizing that trans and saturated fats were more harmful to their bodies than cholesterol itself. Eggs are one of the best and most affordable sources of high quality protein available to us. This protein-rich, satisfying food can also help you lose weight by keeping you full at only 70 calories per egg.
Some foods, like the egg for example, provide a host of other benefits that supersede their cholesterol content. Eggs have been linked to aiding health from head to toe. Macular degeneration, the main cause of blindness, and cataracts, both diseases of the eye, may be prevented through eggs’ rich content of lutein and zeaxanthin. Eggs are also a strong source of choline, a nutrient that plays a key role in brain and nervous system regulation.
It used to be easy to buy eggs, but now it might take you longer to read an egg carton than a short novel. Not all eggs are alike, so here’s what you can eggs-pect to see in the supermarket: Continue reading
With Passover looming right around the corner, I’ve already started to get the questions I usually hear this time of year, like: How can I avoid holiday weight gain? How do you count matzo? And how do you avoid that corked-up constipated feeling?
When I was a kid, there were slim-pickings on Passover. The supermarket shelves weren’t filled with the copy-cat granola bars and cereals we see today. Now we find full shelves carrying products that wear the ‘Kosher for Passover’ label, making Passover a little more interesting, and even better … a little healthier. Let’s walk down the aisle together and do some comparison shopping: Continue reading
Editor’s note: A state judge has halted the ban on large sugary sodas, calling it arbitrary.
As of tomorrow, March 12, your cup may no longer runneth over. New York City restaurants are starting to order new glassware to comply with what’s being called “the Soda Ban.”
Let’s get something straight: This is not a soda ban. Soda machines will not dry up, and the city will still sell this sweet stuff. Rather, the ban forbids the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, and other food service establishments regulated by the city’s health department. Grocery and convenience stores are not included in this regulation.
So for those of you who love sugary soft drinks, you will still be able to buy any quantity you desire at the supermarket, and you can still purchase a 16-ounce cup (which is equivalent to about 12 packets of sugar). You’ll even be able to buy two or three of those sized portions, if you so desire. However, you won’t be able to purchase a cup of soda the size of a small swimming pool. Although these may have seemed like they were saving you money (yes, we’ve all been tempted when we could double the size of our soda at the movie theatre, for “only 25 cents more), the price paid in health care costs out-weighed the cost of the pop.
Moreover, this “ban” is not just about soda. Other sugary drinks like presweetened coffee, tea, lemonade, sports drinks, and energy drinks will all be included. Here’s where it gets confusing: If the beverage includes more than 50 percent milk (or milk substitute), it’s exempt from the ruling because it has some nutritional value. Diet sodas served in containers greater than 16 ounces that have fewer than 25 calories per 8 ounces are also exempt, but diet sodas are far from health foods.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to ban the sale of cups larger than 16 ounces for sugary beverages has caused quite a stir among health professionals, media, and family members. Some of the questions raised include: Will this ban take away personal freedoms? Will this bold move inspire other cities to follow suit, as was the case with calorie labeling of restaurant meals? Will food companies downsize to help Americans downsize? It’s uncertain where this will lead, but there are a few things I do know for sure: Continue reading
Let’s face it: Sometimes it’s how much, not what, you eat that causes you to blame the dry cleaner for shrinking your clothing. So often clients come to me frustrated and puzzled about why their pounds aren’t pouring off, even though they’ve slashed carbs and ditched fats. What they don’t realize is that even healthy foods have calories. A piece of fish the size of your plate and a mountain of edamame is not going to lead to that svelte silhouette. Keeping an eye on portion sizes and eating with your stomach instead of your eyes, mouth, or wallet is a surefire way to help you get where you want to go.
Here are five important tips that will help keep you from tipping the scale:
1. Don’t use body parts. A 6-foot-4-inch male construction worker’s palm is a very different size than a 5-foot female ballerina’s. To assess how much protein, like meat, fish or poultry, is on your plate, use a deck of cards as a guide. One deck is equivalent to about 3 ounces. A tennis ball is about the size of one cup of pasta, and a golf ball is equivalent in size to about 2 tablespoons of almond butter. Continue reading
If you knew you could have stopped that balsamic vinegar from splattering on your favorite white sweater, would you have done something to prevent it from happening? And if you knew you were going to drive into a pothole, causing your tire to go flat, would you have taken a different route? I’m sure you also wish your child had moved the toy he tripped over so that he wouldn’t have hurt his knee.
Yes, all of the above situations could have been prevented if you would have anticipated these problems in the first place, but unless you’re clairvoyant, it’s not very easy to prevent something you can’t predict. When it comes to your body, right now, as you read this story, there are accidents inside you waiting to happen: whether it’s potential damage from high blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels, this is the time to take charge of your health. Many of us are also fighting against our family histories.
[See Best Heart-Healthy Diets.]
For too many years, I’ve seen women in my practice overcome with worry and concern over their husband’s health. They know every little detail about his medical history, laboratory values, and current medications. Yet when it comes to themselves … their chief complaint is, “I hate the way I look.” It’s not until I scratch below the surface or consult with their physicians that I discover they have a soaring cholesterol level, or a family history of diabetes, or that they’re going through menopause and have a mother and grandmother suffering from osteoporosis.
These women don’t realize that they too can stand among their sisters, who together make up one scary statistic: More than 435,000 women have heart attacks each year. In fact, more women die of heart disease than of all types of cancer combined. And more than 42 million women are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease, and many don’t even know it.
To underscore the need for corporations, media, doctors, researchers, friends, and neighbors to speak up and promote a healthier lifestyle for women, I had the pleasure of attending the Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards at Lincoln Center in New York City. As honoree and Today show contributor Joy Bauer mentioned, this was probably the closest we’ll ever get to the Academy Awards. My connection to this event, however, was close to my own heart. My dad, mom, brother, and sister all had or have heart disease. That means that this silent killer could be at my doorstep … but that doesn’t mean I’m answering the door! You may not be able to pick your parents, but you can pick what goes on your plate.
Fighting heart disease in women is not just about putting on a red dress or eating heart-healthy foods during February, which isAmerican Heart Month. It’s about making some room on your own to-do list and trying to take small steps to promote a healthy lifestyle. As a mom of three and a diehard foodie, my kitchen is the heart of my home. Let’s all fight together to keep our hearts safe and strong.
Follow Bonnie’s blog by visiting US News & World Report’s Eat+Run Blog” and here’s the link: http://health.usnews.com/topics/author/bonnie_taub-dix
Whether it’s for a birthday, a holiday, or just for no reason at all, we shower our kids with gifts throughout their lives. As our children grow, their closets and dressers see many articles of clothing come and go, but how many of those items will remain indelibly etched in their minds? When making memories, it’s not usually the material items that get remembered and re-emerge on a daily basis; it’s the life lessons that really penetrate.
The other day, my middle son was about to embark on his first business trip. Right before he left for the airport, he asked, “Could you teach me how to iron?” That question hit me like a ton of bricks. All I could think about was: “My father was a tailor … how could I have never taught my kids how to iron—or sew, for that matter?” I proceeded to pull out the ironing board that was neatly nestled in the closet and quickly enrolled him in Ironing 101. And it was after his plane took off that I thought about one of the most important lessons I have taught my children: I showed them how to have a wonderful and healthy relationship with food.
As parents, whether we like it or not, we are teaching lessons every day. Our children observe our moves, our decisions, and our habits, even if no words about these actions are ever spoken.
Although our hectic lives don’t always allow us to share a meal or snack, numerous reports have shown that when families grab some table time together, kids tend to eat more vegetables and fruits and have less fried foods and sugared soft drinks. Moreover, family meals may even influence younger children to be less likely to be overweight. Less drug use, alcohol abuse, and cigarette smoking have also been shown among families that share a meal.
But don’t let carpools, after-school activities for kids, or your own after-hours work make you feel like bringing the family together over a meal is impossible. Recently, a survey called Welch’s Kitchen Table Report found that despite frenzied schedules and increasing demands, American families are making time to eat together and share quality time as a family. Here are some of their uplifting results: Continue reading
“Dense morning fog, followed by gusty winds with temperatures soaring to a potentially record-breaking 60 degrees by this January afternoon, followed by drenching rain and a flash flood watch by this evening with temps dropping to the 30s.”That’s what the morning news reported, and wow—what a perfect day to meet with a weatherman!
For 27 years, viewers have been relying on Al Roker, Today show co-host and weather reporter, to tell them whether to carry an umbrella or leave their jackets at home. What Roker’s audiences may not have realized, though, was that his eating habits were as turbulent as his forecasts—laden with erratic weight patterns and unpredictable clothing sizes.
Roker’s newest book, Never Goin’ Back, uncovers the weight battle he has fought since childhood up until now, when he stopped fighting and learned to compromise through the use of a balanced diet and lifestyle. Here’s a slice of the conversation I had with Roker, and a taste of what it’s like to get off the roller-coaster approach to dieting: Continue reading
Comfort food delivers just what it describes: a taste that pacifies the mind and body. This week, when I asked my patients what ‘comfort food’ means to them, I heard responses like brownies, ice cream, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes. For me … it’s tea.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not one for passing up a bubbly molten lava cake, but when it comes to choosing a trusted companion, it’s a soothing steamy mug of tea that greets me on a chilly morning, acts as a speed bump to unnecessary snacking in the late afternoon, and lets me know that dinner is done in the evening. My personal favorites include Tazo’s Passion with a sprig of fresh mint and drizzle of agave, or a basic Earl Gray with some warmed milk and honey. Perhaps the toughest part about drinking tea is deciding which one to select while strolling down the ever-expanding tea aisle in the supermarket—and being prepared to lay down some cash for the fancier brands.
You’ll find teas that profess to calm your mood, lull you to sleep, ease constipation, boost energy, improve immunity, and help you speak with an English accent (just kidding about that one). Although these health claims are not clearly labeled on the box, their benefits are implied in their names, like Smooth Move, Sleepytime, or Tummy Tamer. The options for tea-lovers seem limitless, and these tasty brews bring lots of good reasons to get into hot water with their surprising health benefits. Continue reading
Fad diets are just that: fads. Although I still like my hula-hoop and I’d enjoy dancing the twist, fads are only successful while they last, and then … they’re gone. Diets, on the other hand, cannot be fads. We don’t want good health to come and go, nor do we want to shoot for success that will be temporary and perhaps even cause more harm than good.
For more than three decades, I’ve been highlighting the warning signs of potentially damaging diets to my clients. Here are some tips to help you proceed with caution as you’re trying to drop pounds safely: Continue reading