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Carbohydrate Series: Fiber

The buzz in the media around carbohydrates is very loud these days.  This has prompted me to tackle the topic. However, carbohydrates are complex (no pun intended), so I will break it down into a few posts.  This week we will discuss fiber.

 Carbohydrates are in everything, except meats, eggs and some cheeses. The most common forms of carbohydrates are sugars, starches and fiber.  Fiber is a very beneficial part of the diet.  It not only helps you stay regular, it promotes health and reduces the risk for some chronic diseases.  Fiber helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.  It decreases the risk of heart disease  and diabetes by lowering cholesterol and  helping to regulate blood sugar.  Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes (beans).

Fiber is not digested in the body, therefore it does not contribute to calories.  Since it is not absorbed into the bloodstream, it passes through the digestive system.  There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel as it passes through.    Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, passing through the body largely intact.  Most foods high in fiber have both types of fiber in them. Since it is important to have both types of fiber in the diet to reap the health benefits, don’t worry about choosing a specific type of fiber.

Sadly, most Americans don’t even come close the recommended amount of 20-30g of fiber each day.  The common refined and processed foods Americans eat, such as white bread, are not only low in nutrients, they are usually low in fiber too.  The best way to get your fiber requirement is through whole foods.  Eat whole fruits and vegetables, not just drink the juice.  The skin and pulp is where you will find the fiber. When reading food labels, look for foods with at least  5g of fiber per serving.  If you have at least 6 servings of fruits and vegetables and 3 servings of whole grains per day, you are likely to meet your fiber goal.

Best sources of fiber:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Oat bran
  • Nuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
 If you find it difficult to get enough fiber each day, you can take a fiber supplement.  Add fiber, especially supplements, in slowly.  Otherwise, it can cause gas, bloating and even make constipation worse if added too quickly.  Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water each day.
 
Try this recipe packed with fiber, protein and deliciousness!
 
Avocado Pesto Pasta with White Beans and Spinach
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup whole wheat spaghetti
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mash together the avocado and garlic using a fork or potato masher.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Heat up olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add spinach.  Cook until wilted, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and add avocado mixture, white beans and spaghetti and toss together.  Cook until warm through.  Remove from heat and add cheese.  Serve immediately. 

Nutrition Information:

479 Calories      23 g Protein

57g Carbohydrates     17g Fiber

 Enjoy!

Next post in this series we will discuss starches. 

Disclaimer: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. The videos, techniques, ideas, and exercise suggestions presented on this website are not intended to be professional training advice. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. All exercises you perform at your own responsibility and at your own risk.

Carbohydrate Series: Sugar vs. Carbohydrate – Is There a Difference?

The buzz in the media around carbohydrates is very loud these days.  This has prompted me to tackle the topic. However, carbohydrates are complex (no pun intended), so I will break it down into a few posts.  This week will discuss sugar and carbohydrates.

Popular fad diets usually come with a list of “good” and “bad” foods they claim are the key to health and weight loss.  Sugar and carbohydrates (carbs) are often interchangeable words associated with being a “bad” food in many popular diets these days.  So are they good or bad and what is the difference between sugar and carbs?

I will come back to the good and bad of sugar and carbs.  Let’s first make sure we are clear on what is sugar and what is a carbohydrate. 

Carbohydrates are  nutrients that the body breaks down into a form of sugar, glucose, to be used as energy.   Carbohydrates are in everything, except meats, eggs and some cheeses.  The most common forms are sugars, starches and fiber.    Some foods are higher in carbs than others.  For example, bread is high in carbs, while many vegetables, like broccoli, are very low in carbs. 

As stated above, sugar is a type of carbohydrate.  It is found naturally in some foods, like fruit,  and milk.  Sugar is also added to numerous foods, including most yogurts, muffins, cookies, salad dressings, etc. 

So now let’s discuss the good and bad of carbs and sugar.

Carbohydrates are an important fuel source for the body.  The type of carbohydrate you choose does make a difference.  Less processed, natural sources of carbs, like whole grains and fruit, can and should be included in your healthy diet.  Processed, and sugar-added foods like cookies, however, should be limited. 

Too much sugar in the body is not good for many reasons.  High blood sugar leads to diabetes and causes inflammation in the body.  It is important to limit sugar, especially added sugar.

The main reason carbs have gotten a bad rap lately is because a low carb diet is an effective way to lose weight.  However,  I am not a fan of really low carb diets.    We all love our carbs and sticking to a really low carb diet usually doesn’t work for long and then the weight comes back.  Keeping total carbs in check and making healthier choices with carbs is a better choice for long term success.  Remember, there are carbs in both healthy and unhealthy foods.    Stick to healthier choices, but don’t go crazy with them!

Sugar, on the other hand, should not be a big part of any diet.  Splurge once a while on your favorite dessert, but  dessert every day is not a good idea.  Be aware of added sugar in other  foods too.  Read labels!  Sugar comes in many forms, such as honey, syrup, brown sugar, and agave nectar.  If you see these on the ingredient list of a food, it is added sugar.  Don’t be fooled in thinking some of these are “healthy”; the body sees them all as sugar, so they should be limited.

Try this easy hummus recipe for a healthy-carb snack full of fiber. Serve with your favorite crunchy veggies for dipping. The addition of ricotta adds protein and lightness to traditional hummus.

Hummus and Ricotta Dip (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 can garbanzo beans (or favorite white bean), drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic (raw or roasted), minced
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon paprika or cayenne pepper
  • Vegetables, for dipping (carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, sugar snap peas, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)

Instructions

  •  Put beans in food processor and process until smooth.  Add rest of ingredients (except vegetables) and process again until smooth.  Adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Can be served immediately or chill.  Serve with vegetables for dipping.

Nutrition Information

184 Calories    24 g Carbs   9g Fiber   8g Protein

Enjoy!

 Next blog: Carbohydrates and Fiber… stay tuned!

Disclaimer: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. The videos, techniques, ideas, and exercise suggestions presented on this website are not intended to be professional training advice. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. All exercises you perform at your own responsibility and at your own risk.

Spring has Sprung! Motivation to Make Healthy Changes

Now that the New Year’s Resolutions have faded, it’s time to find new motivation to get healthy.  Since it’s getting warmer out and we are all coming out of hibernation, let’s make some diet changes for the better.

One of the healthiest changes you can make is to add more vegetables to your diet.  If you have read a few of my posts, you know that I’m a big fan of vegetables.  It’s not because I’m a dietitian and I’m supposed to tell you to eat them.  It’s because they are delicious, full of vitamins and minerals, low in calories and high in fiber.  The fiber will help you feel full, which can help with weight loss and weight maintenance (as well as keep you regular).

If you don’t share my love and enthusiasm for veggies, you are not alone.  Sadly, many people do not eat the recommended 6-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  Here are some ways to get more veggies in you and your family:

  1. Keep trying!  It can take 10-15 tastes of something to like it.  So don’t give up on those veggies!
  2. Cook vegetables in different ways.  Often the texture, not the flavor, is what you may not like about a vegetable.  You may prefer your veggies raw, a little cooked or really cooked.  Also, instead of steaming or boiling your vegetables, try roasting them in the oven with a little olive oil and your favorite seasonings, the texture and flavor is great!
  3. Sip on soup.  You can throw a bunch of vegetables into your favorite soup (like peas and carrots in chicken noodle soup) or make a pureed soup (like butternut squash or tomato soup).  If you buy canned soups, look for low sodium options.
  4.  Plan your vegetables.  Often vegetables are thought of last and then you run out of time to add them to your meal.  For quick vegetable side dishes you can microwave fresh, frozen or canned vegetables quickly.  Cut up raw vegetables, like carrots, celery and bell peppers, in advance so you can just grab and go with them.
  5. Hide them!  It works for kids, it can work for adults too.  Chop vegetables and cook well in a pasta sauce.  Add spinach to scrambled eggs or peas to mac n cheese.  Cook and chop cauliflower and mash with potatoes.

Try this recipe to get lots of veggies in a classic spring pasta dish:

Garden Pasta Salad  (Serves 6)

A colorful mix of bell pepper, carrot, cucumber and grape tomatoes with flavorful kalamata olives and basil. Serve on a bed of spinach or spring mix.  Add canned tuna or cooked chicken for a complete meal in one dish!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole-wheat rotini
  • 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 Tablespoons low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon red-wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced seeded and peeled cucumber
  • 10 chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or parsley)

Directions:

  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 8-10 minutes or according to package directions.  Drain and rinse under cold running water.
  • Whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, oil, vinegar (or lemon juice), garlic, salt and pepper until smooth.  Add pasta and toss to coat.  Add rest of ingredients; toss to coat well.
  • Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 30-45 minutes.
  • Serve cold on a bed of spinach or spring mix.  May add tuna or chicken for complete meal.

Nutrition Information per serving:

151 calories, 13g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 3g protein

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. The videos, techniques, ideas, and exercise suggestions presented on this website are not intended to be professional training advice. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. All exercises you perform at your own responsibility and at your own risk.

Slow and Low Can Be Quick and Healthy

Between work, running  kids to and from after sworking-momchool activities, and the holiday shopping that’s around the corner, time is often in short supply this time of year.  Finding a few extra minutes to cook a healthy meal during the week can be challenging and often running through a drive-thru seems like the only option.

Don’t worry, it’s your friendly, household crock-pot to the rescue! The slow cooker is a great way to get a delicious and nutritious meal on the table in minutes, no drive-thru needed!

Slow CookerThere are so many healthy crock-pot recipes out there. Some are one-pot meals with protein, carbs and veggies all cooked together.  Other recipes just ook the protein, like a roast.  To balance out your meal, try stocking the freezer with steamable bags of your favorite vegetables and brown rice for quick and nourishing sides.  Low carb tortillas and bags of salad are other side options to complete your meal.

Try this healthier version of a classic, stuffed peppers.  It’s a super-momone-pot meal that takes just minutes to assemble.  To save time in the morning, you can stuff the peppers the night before then in the morning, put them in the crock-pot with the broth.  Dinner will be waiting for you when you get home from work or running the kiddos around after school. And now you’re the hero of dinnertime!

 

Stuffed Bell Peppers    (serves 4, 1 stuffed bell pepper each)

crock-pot-stuffed-peppers

Ingredients:

  • 4 large bell peppers (any color)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped mushrooms, fresh or canned
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium fat free broth (vegetable, chicken or beef)
  • Optional toppings; fresh cilantro, guacamole, salsa, plain Greek yogurt

Instructions:
1. Cut just the tops off of peppers and remove seeds and ribs from inside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine lean ground meat, cooked rice or quinoa, diced tomatoes and seasonings. (uncooked meat works just fine)
3. Pour broth in the bottom of the slow cooker and turn slow-cooker to low or high setting.
4. Fill peppers completely with ground meat mixture. Transfer peppers to slow-cooker, cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours or on low for 8 hours.
5. Serve stuffed bell peppers with a salad.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 246   Carbohydrates: 20g   Protein: 27g   Fiber: 4g   Sodium: 390mg

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. The videos, techniques, ideas, and exercise suggestions presented on this website are not intended to be professional training advice. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. All exercises you perform at your own responsibility and at your own risk.

Plan, Plan, Plan

So you have made your New Year’s Resolution to start eating   healthier.  Great!  Now what? 

time-to-plan

Now it’s time to start planning.  Planning a weekly menu is the key to successful healthy eating.  Take a little time to write down what you will eat for each meal and snack, then make your grocery list from your menu.  You can use a menu sheet like the example here to help menu-planneryou. When you hit the grocery store, stick to your list while you shop. Getting yourself into the habit of doing this weekly will save you time, money, stress and calories!

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Look at your schedule for the week to see what you have time to cook and when you don’t.  Days you don’t have a lot of time, use your slow cooker or have leftovers.
  2. For a budget friendly menu, check store ads for sales and coupons.
  3. Plan balanced meals that include protein, vegetables and fruits, whole grains and dairy.
  4. Save your menus and rotate them out.  Make sure to note where to find the recipes you use.
  5. Cook once, eat twice.  Double some of your recipes and either eat leftovers later in the week or freeze for a future, quick meal.

Here is one of my favorite quick and healthy weeknight meals. 

2-ingredient-slow-cooker-mexican-chickenTwo Ingredient Salsa Chicken

(Makes about 2 ½ to 3 cups shredded chicken and servings will depend on how you’re using the chicken)

Ingredients:
1 lb. (about 2) raw boneless chicken breasts
1 ½ to 2 cups salsa, your favorite

Instructions:
1. Place whole chicken breasts, which have been seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper, in your slow cooker and cover with salsa. Toss chicken with salsa until well coated.
2. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 6-8 hours. Remove each chicken breast out of the slow cooker and onto a cutting board or plate to shred with a fork. Add shredded chicken back to the slow cooker and toss with remaining salsa and juices. Serve immediately in your desired recipe, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
My favorite way to serve this is over brown rice and a sprinkle of shredded cheese and avocado chunks.  I like to pair this meal with a simple green salad, making the dressing with salsa and a little olive oil for a southwest kick.
For more planning tips, check out MyPlate, MyWins website: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate-mywins-tips-meal-planning-made-easy

Happy Planning!

goal-without-a-plan

 

 

Disclaimer: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. The videos, techniques, ideas, and exercise suggestions presented on this website are not intended to be professional training advice. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. All exercises you perform at your own responsibility and at your own risk.