We’re bombarded by food labels and health claims in grocery stores, food advertisements and in our own kitchens! Yet, can you confidently differentiate between “light” foods and “fat free?” Do you gravitate to “fat free” labeled foods because you can’t reists the word FREE?
“Light”: calorie content; a product that advertises “light”, must contain 1/3 fewer calories than comparison food. In regards to fat in food, “light” must refer to 50% or less of fat than in comparison food.
“Calorie Free”: fewer than 5 calories per serving
“Low Fat”: 3 grams or less of fat than regular
“Fat Free”: product contains less than 0.5 g fat; no added fat or oil
“Cholesterol Free”: only animal products contain cholesterol, with no more than 2 mg of cholesterol present per serving; 2 g or less of saturated fat per serving may be present
“Calorie Free”: fewer than 5 calories per serving
Have an other health terms you find on food products that you find confusing? What health claims have you come across that were skeptical?
The topic of breakfast being the most important meal of the day has been driven into the ground quite nicely. In addition, it’s a well known fact Santa Clause lives at the North Pole. Yet, the best breakfast options and how to make them are still up for discussion. It’s not a coincidence that when impending storms are on hand people run to the grocery store for milk, bread and eggs. With that said, 9/10 homes have eggs on hand in their fridge, but can be hesitant to use due to the controversy its affect on cholesterol levels and inconsistent recommendations of egg intake.
While the yolks of eggs contain the cholesterol, that doesn’t mean you have to shy away from eggs. In moderation, which means no more than seven eggs per week, having eggs can be advantageous and without concern of increased risk of heart disease*. Furthermore, in comparison to sodium, trans fat and saturated fat found in the accompaniments of eggs, sausage, ham, hash browns and the oil used to deep fry the foods, the cholesterol content found in chicken eggs is minimal. Also, using cholesterol free eggs or egg whites, which doesn’t contain the yolk part of the egg is recommended.
It’s unfortunate eggs receive such a bad wrap! If one’s mindful of the quantity of eggs consumed, more positive attention can be directed to eggs beneficial nutrient content
Hard Boiled: keeping a few hard boiled eggs on hand at all times is a great snack to take on the go; additionally can help cook eggs in advance in case of concerns of consumption prior to expiration date
Breakfast, lunch and/or dinner burrito: By adding eggs in a burrito filled with lean turkey, tomatoes and cheese, you’ll have your family asking for more! Also,make sure to add a spoonful of guacamole for extra flavor and texture!
Poached: by cooking in only water, it’s one of the healthiest ways to make eggs. You can’t beat the presentation either!
Deviled: many people put their own spin on deviled eggs. Mix up the traditional recipe with curry powder, chopped celery and mayo!
Tea Eggs: A traditional Chinese snack, soak hard boiled eggs in a mixture of soy sauce and tea
What egg-cellent ways do you make eggs? What ways do you plan to incorporate eggs into your meals?
*Seven eggs may be too much for those with diabetes, with 186 mg of cholesterol per one large egg, this may significantly increase risk of heart disease. It’s recommended that those with diabetes, heart disease and/or high cholesterol, cholesterol intake should not exceed 200 mg per day. To translate, that means no more than 4-6 eggs per week!
Described as a “family-friendly chain serving classic Tex-Mex & American fare in a Southwestern-style setting”, Chili’s originated in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but has done a tremendous job in expanding to a national level, with over 1500 locations ubiquitously found throughout the 50 states. Since inception of their Tex Mex regular menu, the company now proudly offers a nutrition menu, allergen menu, vegetarian menu and offer veggie burgers supplied by Kellogg Company. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Chili’s, so my first impression of it’s menu as “vibrant” “loud” and “inviting!” I was ready for a delicious ride of flavors!
While perusing the menu, I chuckled that the Lighter Choice (LC) options were in the back of the menu. While the acronym LC is sprinkled throughout the menu, it’s not until you’ve passed the appetizers, make your own burgers campaign, the quesadilla section and pass Go to collect your $100 that you reach the LC section. With a closer look at the LC section, there’s an explanation of the dishes under 650 calories or less that a consumer can grasp the concept of LC. After debating between salmon or tilapia, I opted for the Mango Chile Tilapia (550 calories) described as “with 6 pepper blend, drizzled with spicy habanero mango glaze and topped with chopped mango, cilantro, house made pico de gallo and fresh diced avocado. Served with rice and steamed broccoli” at $10.99.
When I ordered my tilapia, I was asked if I wanted to the broccoli and/or rice with the tilapia or if I wanted any of the other sides Chili has to offer. I thought about ordering the Spiced Panko Onion Rings, Homestyle Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, Southwestern Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Loaded Mashed Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes with Black Pepper Gravy, Sweet Corn on the Cob, Black Beans and/or Cinnamon Apples. However, if you deviate from the original menu listing, the alternative options to broccoli and rice didn’t seem to elevate the nutritional content of the dish. Therefore, I kept the order as is.
When the dish arrived, I was pleased by vivid variety of flavor, with the distinct mango and habanero smelled great! The visual layout of the dish, a rectangle dish instead of the usual circular dish, made it easy to eat–combining broccoli or rice with the tilapia for a good blend of flavors.
After evaluating the dish, I was able to retrieve further nutrition information on the mango chile tilapia on Chili’s website: 550 calories; 21 g of fat; 4.5 g of saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 70 mg cholesterol; 1600 mg of sodium; 56 g of carbohydrates; 8 g of fiber; 13 g of sugar; 38 g of protein. In comparison to the evaluations’ healthy option measures, the tilapia met some, but not all parameters. The breakdown:
Healthy Option Parameters1
Mango Chile Tilapia Nutrient Content
600 calories or less
550 calories ✓
At least 50% is fruit or non-starchy vegetables
Contained mango, avocado, steamed broccoli and tilapia ✓
Grain based item are at least 50% whole grains
No indication of whole grain rice
Total fat is less than 30% of total calories
Total fat was 34.5% of calories–550 calories contain 190 calories from fat
Sodium is less than 750 mg
Low in added sugars
Less than 10% of calories from saturated fat
4.5 g of saturated fat ✓
1Healthy Option Parameters are based upon the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for American
Visually, I would estimate I received ½ cup steamed broccoli, ½ cup rice and 3-4 oz. of tilapia. Based on recommended healthy portions, I would say this was “just about [the] right” amount of food. In hindsight, I’m glad I stuck with the rice and broccoli as my sides as they added the right balance of flavors to counteract spiciness of the pico de gallo and habanero from the tilapia.
I was beyond impressed with the flavors of the mango chile and found the price was accurately listed. In my eyes, fish is always, and appropriately so, more expensive than meat options. Again, in regards to this dish, my senses walked away very satisfied, rating the dish “liking very much.” The necessary flavors for an interesting dish were present, with evidence that thought was put into the development of the dish.
I understand Chili’s is promoting their “make their own” burgers, but instead of using LC as a obligatory side note, Chili’s could profit from using LC as a more health conscious fast casual restaurant. They certainly scored better in my book in comparison to my recent trip to Maggiano’s.
Love the taste of pasta, yet struggle to eat a balanced diet? Switch up your meals with healthier pasta options and pair with your favorite vegetables and seasonings.Whether you’re trying to limit your refined carbohydrates and/or increase whole grains and vegetable intake, by making some small changes, you can still enjoy some great tasting dishes!
Chop cauliflower. Bring vegetable broth to a boil over medium-high heat and add cauliflower. Cook until cauliflower is soft, ~15 minutes.
Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute 4-5 minutes or until soft.
Transfer cauliflower to a blender with about 2 cups of broth. Add sautéed garlic, salt, nutmeg and black pepper and puree until smooth .Stream olive oil into blender and add more broth or water if too thick.
When smooth, transfer back to butter/garlic skillet and add cream over low heat
Make It Yours: Cauliflower is an underutilized food in the kitchen, yet you should always have it on hand! Besides using as a healthy pasta alternative, use cauliflower to make pizza crust, cauliflower mash, replace chicken, cauliflower rice burrito bowl, cauliflower mac and cheese, cauliflower tots, cauliflower breads rolls, cauliflower calzones and/or baked breaded cauliflower “mozzarella” sticks.
Health Benefits of cauliflower:
Rich in fiber, which helps stay full longer and eases digestion
Folate rich to form red blood cells
Rich in vitamin C, which protects the immune system during cold and flu season
Rich in vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting
Full of potassium, which helps regulated blood pressure
Good source of manganese, which helps nerves function properly
Increases HDL cholesterol—“good” cholesterol à reduces risk of stroke
Has anti carcinogenic effects—antioxidant rich
Helps unborn babies develop properly
Vegetarian source of omega 3 fatty acids
Improves healthy cell growth
Assists with kidney and bladder disorders
Blood and liver detoxifier
Customizing Pasta Alternatives: Now that you’ve ventured out and tried non grain pasta, don’t stop there! Add more color, flavor and nutrients to your meal with the addition of your favorite vegetables and seasonings: asparagus, broccoli or broccoli rabe, spinach, arugula, mushrooms, limes, carrots, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, corn, artichokes, pesto, garlic and/or onions.
What’re your favorite pasta add ins? Suggestions for how to make regular dishes more exciting?
It’s become more common and socially acceptable to deviate from the mainstream three meals of debates. There are even debates on whether one should eat five “snacks” throughout the day instead of over sized portions of the common three meals. While the debaters figure it out for us, I’m going to zero in on snacking today. You know there’s a concept of “bad” snacking, right? I hope I’m not introducing a foreign concept today.
This blog post came about as I was at school the other day, passing the vending machine. For those that don’t know, I carry food with me everywhere I go. I’m not talking about a carrot, but full on meals. I like to defend my load of food as being prepared and boy has those meals helped me get through my current dietetic internship and master’s program. I digress. Walking past the vending machine, I asked myself, what if God forbid I forgot to back food with me and had to resort to vending machine food? I went through the vending machine options and I really couldn’t find any foods that I saw “worth” the cost. The healthiest snack might have been pretzels, yet how long would that sustain me? Not very long!
With that said. if you’re still with me, I don’t recommend or endorse vending machines. Those prcocessed treats may have to be used in the dire need of emergencies, but not for day to day energy needs! Please don’t resort to those types of foods as many are filled with empty calories, full of sugar, sodium and fat! Who needs that?!
Bad snacking can become a vicious cycle of overeating oversized portions, with many Americans easily eating 600 calories from snacks alone. As you know, too much unhealthy foods can lead to inflammation, oxidative stress, elevated triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which can directly impact one’s weight and development of heart disease.
Continuous eating also can contribute to the development of dental caries. With increased exposure to food, the enamel has more opportunities to produce damaging acids. One should be espeically careful with sticky foods or those that leave particles behind (i.e. dried fruit, granola and/or crackers). If you’re not sure about the foods you’re eating, when in doubt, use the travel toothbrush you have handy!
Be honest, do those processed leave you feeling ready to tackle the next task? I doubt it! Snacks on the go are a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your day! Yes, keeping healthier snacks on hand does require some planning, but investing in your health is a facet of our lives we should all aspire to do.
While it’s been pounded into our heads the notion of “good” vs. “bad” fats, we shouldn’t overlook such labels as they’re for valid measure. Yes, fats can be used as a type of energy source for the body, but it’s the primary source of the energy and like any subject matter, too much is harmful. In regards to our bodies, too much fat has a direct correlation with one’s risk for heart disease and/or stroke. Old news, right?
Fat intake’s contribution to cardiovascular disease(s) may be old news, but why does our society struggle with that news? Perhaps, you need a fresh thought on the concepts. Not keen on the guidelines for a low cholesterol diet? Limit cholesterol, duh! Yet, there’s more to it than that. Actually, there’s two tiers of the cholesterol diet, which was created by the National Cholesterol education Program (NCeP). The two low cholesterol guidelines continue to emphasize: low sodium, decreased total fat and saturated fat, decreased dietary cholesterol, increased fiber and complex carbs and decreased energy intake to obtain and/or maintain a healthy body weight.
I’m not a fan of the word “diet”, but that’s how dietary guidelines are phrased. Therefore, Step 1 is composed of dietary changes to reduce cholesterol levels for those over the age of 2. Step 2 of the cholesterol diet consists of more stringent limitations and is more appropriate for those with a current and/or past heart attack, stroke, high cholesterol or evidence of atherosclerosis–clog in arteries.
The portfolio diet, created by David J.A. Jenkins, MD, decreases cholesterol levels without any side effects. The name of the diet derives from the concept of figuratively “investing” in one’s health portfolio. By investing in the consumption of cholesterol lowering foods, one is ensured of a variety of foods and diversification, just as in a diverse stock portfolio.
Previous diets aim at either cutting out an entire food group, but the portfolio diet looks at the big picture and has 4 key points:
1) Soy products are consumed in replacement of meat (i.e. soy cold cuts, tofurkey)
2) 3 daily servings of Metamucil; oats and barley are primary source of grains; eggplant and okra are common vegetables consumed
3) replaces butter and margarine with plant sterol enriched margarine (i.e. Benecol, Take Control)
4) Handful of almonds consumed daily
Almonds contain cardio protective monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and vitamin E. With a daily intake, almonds provide an additional lipid lowering effect. Soluble fibers, such as oats, prunes, lentils and peas reduce absorption of dietary fat and increase loss of bile acids in feces. Soluble fiber is found in the form of beta glucans in oats and barley and as pectin in fruits and vegetables. Total cholesterol levels can be decreased 3-5% if 5-10 g of soluble fibers consumed daily.
Soy products decreases cholesterol synthesis and increases LDL receptor uptake, with the recommendation of 25 g of soy protein consumed daily. Phytosterols and stanols compete with cholesterol for absorption and are able to block uptake from gut.
While I was looking at past studies’ evidence regarding the efficacy of the portfolio diet, there was one author I couldn’t get away from. That name is ‘Jenkins.” As you know, Jenkins is the founder of the portfolio diet and his name is everywhere when it comes to the “research” of this diet. Without easy access to other researcher’s thoughts on the diet, it makes me question why the research isn’t there. While Jenkins’ Portfolio diet is not the worst of the worst diets, it’s advertisement of the the vegan diet to reduce chronic disease is questionable. Extensive studies have proven the positive impact of the adoption of this diet. 7 studies were conducted to assess the effect of the portfolio diet, specifically the consumption of almonds on blood lipid levels in those with hyperlipidemia. Over a four week period, LDL cholesterol was decreased by 30%, percentage change in LDL: 8.0%, CRP: 0.28; no difference found in blood lipids or CRP between control and experimental group.
Although there is evidence of cholesterol reduction, there have been no studies that have investigated the efficacy of a vegan Portfolio diet on healthy cholesterol levels. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Evidence Analysis Library posed the question “What’s the relationship between a portfolio diet containing almonds and cholesterol levels in patients with hyperlipidemia?”
It went on to share that in six of seven studies (with four time series studies, one positive, one neutral study and one randomized cross study), the intake of almonds was found to reduce LDL cholesterol by 30%. In addition, a self selected portfolio diet that spanned over one year was found to provide a 12.8±2% decrease in LDL cholesterol. While these numbers are promising, for a diet that has been around since 2003, there are still no present studies that have looked at the “entire diet”
1. Keith M, Kuliszewski MA, Liao C, et al. A modified portfolio diet complements medical management to reduce cardiovascular risk factors in diabetic patients with coronary artery disease. Clinical Nutrition. (0).
2. Phillips F. Natural cholesterol lowering with the portfolio diet.Practice Nurse [serial online]. July 23, 2010;40(2):19-22. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA.