Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Foods that Improve Your Mood

You may have heard the old saying you are what you eat. Have you ever given it much thought? The food you eat becomes a part of you, but take it a step further and you might find that the foods you eat can also improve your mood!

When I was pregnant, I felt the healthiest I've ever felt in my entire life. I felt truly happy, blessed, and amazing, for starters, plus I had a very good pregnancy. But I also tried to eat healthier and, except for some cookies and chocolate chip muffins here and there, I found that I often felt healthier than ever before, even though I was a bit more tired at times.

Chocolate is known to release endorphins that
can bring about a temporary good mood.
You may have heard, or experienced, that chocolate impacts the brain’s release of hormones, specifically endorphins and serotonin. This release of endorphins and serotonin bring about feelings of pleasure and comfort. Almost any woman can vouch for the power of chocolate! Some researchers attribute this to the small amounts of caffeine found in chocolate.

Of course, if you go about eating chocolate all the time to stay happy, you may find yourself dealing with other problems, like skin breakouts and a sugar rush that has you bouncing off the walls, or even a sugar crash an hour or so later, where you can barely keep your eyes open. Take some time to explore the best options in food to improve your mood.

How to Improve Mood with Food

If you find yourself easily
frustrated and moody, food may
improve your mood.
Eating some healthier foods can improve your life in a number of ways. First, you may notice improvements in your weight and body image. If you are watching your cholesterol and blood pressure, eating foods lower in fat and sodium will help your numbers. That in itself can improve your mood! However, a variety of special foods may also result in a mood change, giving you a more optimistic point of view and a happier perspective.

Some research suggests that vitamin D can increase serotonin levels, which may result in an improvement in mood for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Some top Vitamin D foods to boost your mood may include egg yolks, fish with bones, and low-fat milk, to name a few. Foods rich in omega-3 fats also seem to have a mood-lifting impact that might chase away depression. Oily fish like salmon and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids, as are walnuts, canola oil, and ground flax seeds, among other nutritious foods.

Folic acid (folate) and Vitamin B Complex also offer tremendous health benefits for improving your mood and your health in general. Consider foods like broccoli, beets, oranges, sunflower seeds, fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, and oatmeal, as well as lean meats, shellfish, low-fat yogurt, and eggs, to get your food and mood on the right path.

Many people take medications containing serotonin for depression relief and to uplift their moods. Some foods for serotonin production include those with B vitamins and those with tryptophan, such as turkey, soy products, and bananas. You can include other foods to improve your mood and ensure your diet is healthy, balanced, and rich in these elements. Increases in serotonin and food choices rich in vitamins and healthy nutrients can dramatically impact your state of mind. Knowing when and what to eat for snacks as well as mealtime may give you just the right mood boosting benefits to make a real difference in your life and your perspective.

Remember to limit refined carbohydrates, like white rice or bread, while increasing your consumption of healthy proteins as you are able. Choose desirable carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, beans, and brown and wild rice to get your carb fix. Enjoy poultry, veal, seafood, eggs, and other healthy protein options as a great step in improving your mood with food.

The next time your mood leaves something to be desired, don’t reach straight for the junk food. Consider chowing down on some of these more nutritious snacks to help boost your frame of mind.

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Type 1 Diabetes - Snack Helps

When you think of healthy snacks for your kids you probably think of fruit, baby carrots, granola bars, and maybe popcorn without the butter.  But what if your child has Type 1 Diabetes, would it be the same kind of snacks?  In most cases yes, but in small amounts.  When your child has Type 1 Diabetes it is a whole new ball game on what is considered “Healthy.”  When you hear about diabetes and food to avoid it can get a little overwhelming and you shouldn't feel that way.  The simple rule of thumb is to stay natural and eat healthy.  It really isn't that difficult.  Selecting the right food for diabetics is actually learning how to eat healthy and developing a healthy lifestyle that everyone should be doing anyway.  Good food for diabetics is also great food for people that don't have diabetes.

The easiest way to figure out a healthy snack for a child with Type 1 Diabetes or even a good diet for Type 2 Diabetes is to know how much carbohydrates and fat grams are in the snack and the amount that is being taken in.  Diabetics can’t take in high carbohydrates or fat mainly because it causes their blood sugars to spike.  If you stick with low carb and low fat snacks and stay away from sugary and high fat snacks (fruit snacks, cookies, chips, crackers, ice cream, candy, canned or dried fruit etc...) you will be fine and so will your child.  You won’t have to always be worrying and it makes everyone’s life a lot easier and less stressful.

Since I work with children all day long at my preschool and see what they like and don’t like; I came up with the top 10 snacks of what I consider would be good food for a child with diabetes that will satisfy their craving/snack attack and make Moms happy, too. 
snack time helps type 1 diabetes
Leaning tower of bananas & peanut butter
  1. Trail mix (over the age of two)
  2. Low fat string cheese
  3. Melon balls (make people out of them with toothpicks)
  4. Carrots or cucumbers with a tablespoon of ranch (little added zing)
  5. Grapes (frozen grapes are great in the summer)
  6. Apple wedges
  7. Rice cakes with all natural fruit spread or peanut butter
  8. Banana slices with peanut butter (make the Leaning Tower of Pisa by alternating banana slices & peanut butter
  9. Low fat popcorn
  10. Best for last -- low fat frozen yogurt (I just tell them its ice cream and they don't know the difference.)
Make sure the peanut butter you use doesn't have any added sugars and also that your child is over two, just in case of any nut allergies.  If they do have allergies you can easily substitute peanut butter with low fat cream cheese.

You know your child best and it just depends on what your child likes to eat.  My top ten above are the foods that almost all my preschoolers like and will eat without complaining.  When they are happy; we are all happy!  Your child may also like these suggestions if you want to mix it up so they don't get bored with the same food. 
  • Rolled up turkey meat in lettuce or just plain
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Pears 
  • Celery with low fat cream cheese or peanut butter
  • Yogurt covered raisins (not the best for their teeth, but the kids love them)
  • Peaches 
  • Strawberries
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Snap Peas (another popular veggie, but either they love them or they turn their nose at them)

food for diabetics
Snack time bowl idea is a win win for everyone!
Snack Time Bowl Ideas
If you need some snack time help I would recommend putting a bowl in the fridge or on the counter with your child’s favorite snacks already prepared and ready to go.  A lot of kids will grab a snack that is convenient rather than healthy.  What we do in our home is keep a big bowl full of fruits and vegetables that are individually wrapped in baggies.  All my girls have to do is grab the snack and go.  Not only is it convenient, it also gives them the right portion amount.  You can do the same on the counter for dried snacks.  Divide the low carb and low fat snacks into individual baggies and  place them in a bowl and then they can grab a bag at snack time.  This will also help you know how many carbohydrates they are taking in and it will be easier to keep track of their blood sugar levels.  If you have very small children only bring the bowl out during snack time so they aren’t trying to grab a snack every 10 minutes.  The bowl gives them options and they will feel like they have some kind of say on what they are eating.  It’s a “Win Win” situation for everyone!

Enjoy all these snacks ideas that promote good food for diabetics and children that have Juvenile Diabetes.

Contributing Writer

Monday, July 30, 2012

Feeding Type 2 Diabetes

Food - our society loves food, however, too much of a good thing can be bad for a person and lead to serious health issues like diabetes.  In fact, Type 2 diabetes statistics reveals that 90-95 percent of diagnosed cases of diabetes are connected with overweight and obesity. And the number of children being diagnosed with type two is climbing.

Diabetes and diet obesity
Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health issues.
We hear all about diabetes on commercials and in the news, but what exactly is it?  According to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) type 2 diabetes means that your body does not make enough insulin nor does it use insulin effectively to regulate your blood sugar.  This can lead to serious health complications such as heart disease, stroke, eye and kidney problems.

After a blood test last year, my doctor sent me a note in the mail telling me that I am pre-diabetic, meaning that my fasting sugar level was higher than it should be, but not high enough to diagnose type 2 diabetes.  I asked what I should do. The answer was lose weight, eat healthier. Watch carbohydrate intake. But the question lingered, "What if I develop full-blown type two diabetes anyway?"

I learned there is a connecting factor between weight and diabetes; and type two diabetes is linked to obesity.  The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) states that 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.  People managing type 2 diabetes should continue their prescribed treatment and work with their doctor and/or diabetic counselor, however, organizations studying diabetes say that losing weight and maintaining healthy nutrition can lower blood sugar, making the challenge of this serious disease much easier to manage.

Weight Control Helps Control Diabetes

Web MD states that losing 5% to 10% of your body weight significantly reduces blood sugar levels.  Some diabetics, with the advice of their doctors, have been able to stop using insulin altogether.  The American Diabetic Association (ADA) recommends cutting about five hundred calories per day by cutting down all food groups:  proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.  So what is the recommended daily percentage for each food group?
  • Proteins: 10% to 15%
  • Fats: 30%
  • Carbohydrates: 50% to 55%
American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Christine Gerbstadt, M.D. recently told Web MD that carbohydrates have the biggest effect on blood sugar levels because they are broken into sugars faster than fats or proteins.  Two concerns for diabetics are high blood sugar level and low blood sugar level.  Since insulin is used by the body to control blood sugar, a spike might not be handled well due to too much insulin or not enough. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and vegetables, are absorbed more slowly. They lower the risk of spikes in blood sugar when eaten. The more slowly our body can digest a food, the more slowly the food is turned into sugar.
diabetic diet
Fruits and vegetables are healthy foods for type 2 diabetics.
Luigi Meneghini, M.D., director of the Kosnow Diabetes Treatment Center at University of Miami School of Medicine, advises undertaking a weight loss plan while working with a doctor and a diabetic nutritionist because it is important to monitor insulin levels in order to avoid high or low blood sugar levels.

Is there a diabetic diet and are there many recommended foods for type 2 diabetics?

What can a diabetic eat?

A diet that incorporates superfoods and whole foods like fruits, veggies, proteins and complex carbohydrates.  Another food that is recommended by the ADA are  superfoods.  These are foods that are low in calories, fat and starch, but rich in nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, and fiber.  They keep you fuller longer, help to maintain a healthy weight, and lower blood sugar.  Of course, the ADA also warns that even too much of good foods will add unwanted calories, so portion control is necessary.  The portion size plate on Web M.D. can help with understanding correct portions in each food group.  You can also refer to two previous blogs that may provide insight on portion sizes:  Healthy Eating Serve It Up and The Blue Plate Special: Food Serving Size.

What are these super foods and what is so super about them?
  • Beans - high in fiber and protein, low in fat
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables - low in calories and carbohydrates
  • Whole grains - high in nutrients, folate and are digested more slowly than other starchy carbohydrates
  • Fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids - salmon is high in Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Citrus fruits - contain soluble fiber and vitamin C
  • Nuts - an ounce of nuts is a source of healthy fats, fiber and are a good snack for controlling hunger
  • Berries - high in antioxidants, fiber and vitamins
  • Tomatoes - contain vitamins C and E plus iron. (Grape tomatoes make a great in-between meal snack instead of candy or chips.)
  • Fat free milk and yogurt - high in calcium and fortified with vitamin D
  • Sweet potatoes - great source of fiber and vitamin A
Balance is key, however contrary to what I previously believed carbohydrates are an important part of a type two diabetes diet.  We should have 50% to 55% of them per day.  That's half our calorie intake!

How do we do that without risking diabetes, or worsening it?  The ADA recommends eating whole grain carbohydrates instead of refined grains:  brown rice and whole wheat pastas versus white rice and pastas.

The benefits of  whole grain:
  • Provides needed fiber and nutrients
  • Longer digestion, which means:
    • Longer fuller feeling
    • Higher utilization of calories for energy
    • Lesser breakdown of carbohydrates into sugars
  • No spiking of sugar unlike chips, candy, and cake and other foods a diabetic should avoid.
Other tips for healthy eating as indicated by Web M.D. that help lower blood sugar and help us get the right amount of healthier carbohydrates are oatmeal, broccoli, spinach, green beans, strawberries, salmon and lean meats, cinnamon, and plenty of water!

Even with proper food some people may need medications.  If you use prescription medications for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, the FamilyWize discount prescription drug card can help you manage the cost of your prescription drugs and medical devices like: anti-diabetic (non-insulin), diagnostic and dietary products, and insulin.

You can get your free card on the FamilyWize website.  You can also use the drug look-up tool to see if your medication or device is covered.

After studying this information, I realized that although dieting is a challenge and losing weight can be difficult; it can be made easier by becoming knowledgeable about diabetes and diet.  The more I study about weight loss for diabetics, the more I realize that it's more about what we CAN eat and include and less about what we shouldn't eat or cannot have.  Basically we don't have to diet harder, we need to eat smarter.

Caroline Carr
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Healthy Eating - Serve It Up

Do you live to eat or eat to live?  Food in our society serves several purposes: taking in proper nutrients, maintaining health, and let's face it, being satisfied! It is also a big part of our social lives - so many a gathering over food!

Sooo many food options - diet or pleasure.  However, whenever I diet, it often leaves me wondering, "Where is the rest of the food?"  Diet is often viewed as what we cannot eat with a focus on how to portion control as a way of cutting down.

Diet definition - food and drink considered in terms of its quality, composition, and effect on health

New Perspective
  • What if we looked at the problem as if we simply don't eat enough (of the right foods)?  
  • What if we were more concerned with healthy eating, less about small serving sizes and letting the scale take care of itself? 
  • What if we rearrange our refrigerators, picnic tables, and holiday feasts so that healthier, more filling foods are within easy reach and more appealing to the eye and palate?

Sounds great, right? But you're probably wondering how much time and effort this will take. Well, it's actually quite easy. 

I Can See Clearly Now

A study published in Environment and Behavior clued me in on healthy eating.  Researchers Gregory J. Privitera and Heather E. Creary found that when a group of college students were given a choice between food placed in bowls closer to them and food in bowls that they had to walk to, they chose food from bowls within arms reach.  Students also chose larger food servings from food placed in clear bowls than food placed in opaque bowls. Being able to see the food makes it more visually appealing and more likely to wind up on our plates than food served in ceramic or opaque plastic dishes.  Check out some more insights at Science Daily.

I even go for the clear view.  At the supermarket I look for fruits, vegetables and proteins packaged in clear containers. What's more disappointing than coming home with those juicy red strawberries only to find that the ones on the bottom are not ripe or worse, overripe and not edible? I like to see what I am getting ahead of time.
portion control portion size
A clear view of healthy foods promotes healthy eating.

Tip:  Put it to work in the refrigerator. Keep healthy foods, fruits and vegetables, in clear bowls or plates and move them to the front of the shelves for easy reach.  Store sugary snacks and high calorie foods to the back and keep them in opaque containers.  This will discourage choosing them at snack time.

Serve It Up The Right Way

Reaching for a crisp, juicy apple and an ounce of fat-free cheese is a tasty and filling snack that gives energy and satisfies for a longer period of time than a cookie or piece of cake. Cutting up a piece of fruit, pairing it with a low-fat protein and serving it on a small dessert plate is a great way to achieve portion control.  The snack will look like more when served on a smaller plate, creating the illusion of more food.  Creating the perception that there is more when there is less will keep us fuller and make us take less. (Portion Tricks)
  • Keep smaller dishes and paper plates available for company and use them at all meals. A good portion plate should be about six inches in diameter, according to the Journal of Consumer Research. Eliminate the "dinner plate" and think of the smaller dishes as healthy portion plates.
  • Put away those large serving spoons and use teaspoons or tablespoons instead. People will take less and save calories. 
  • Even using tall, skinny glasses for beverages tricks us into thinking we are drinking more than if we use short, fat glasses. 
Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., author of Volumetrics (Harper Collins, 2000), discovered that giving healthy foods more volume aids portion control for weight loss and healthier eating.  Adding pureed vegetables, like squash and cauliflower, to soups, sauces or even macaroni and cheese will add volume to these dishes without adding calories. Therefore, we can eat more food but consume fewer calories. We can even go back for seconds. By using healthy eating tips like these, we can confidently say, "Super size it!"  

portion size
Super size vegetables for healthy eating.

Tips on healthy portion control:
  • Eat a small appetizer before a meal
  • Add vegetables to everything, whole or pureed
  • Choose a smaller plate
  • Add protein servings (energy)

 Determining what is a serving size on the go is easy.
  • A correct portion size of meat is about three ounces. (Imagine a deck of cards.) 
  • A serving of nuts and seeds is about the size of a ping-pong ball 
  • A serving of beans is about the size of a billiard ball. (Portion Sizes)
Eating healthy and nutritionally isn't just about what or how much we eat. It's also about the sizes and colors of the dishes and utensils we use as well as perception.  In a world where we often eat on the run or as an after thought and we tend to eat our food very fast, without giving our brains time to notify our bodies that we are full, choosing smaller plates, dishes, and serving utensils can help us control our portions, our health, and our weight.

Contributing Writer

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Blue Plate Special: Food Serving Size

"Your eyes are bigger than your stomach!" 

How many of us heard those words from our grandparents as we heaped more of our favorite foods, mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, onto our plates at family dinners? Yet somehow I always found myself squinting when it came time to serve the broccoli or green beans! 

color plate test
Are the black circles the same
size or is one larger than the other?
Delboeuf Illusion
Washiucho/Wikimedia Commons
What I thought was just healthy eating now appears to be a little more involved.  Several factors probably influenced what and how much we ate back then and today.  Brian Wansink, a Cornell eating behavior expert, suggests that plate color influences serving size.  Based on the Delboeuf illusion, an optical illusion that demonstrates two circles of the same size placed inside two other circles where one is larger than the other, the two circles of equal size will appear to be different sizes. Wansink shows that the greater the contrast between the color of food and the plates, the smaller the portion size - regardless of plate size.  No contrast or low contrast produces larger portion size.  This occurs because the plate where there is higher contrast appears smaller in size than the plate with lower contrast.

In his color plate test, published in 2011 in Journal of Consumer Research, a group of diners was randomly given either a white plate or a red plate and were served pasta with either white sauce or red sauce.  People using plates matching the color of their food, pasta with white sauce on a white plate, served larger portions, as much as 22% more.  Those using dishes that contrasted their food, pasta with white sauce on a red plate, served smaller portions. Further consumer research concludes that lowering the contrast between the plates and the background, place mat or tablecloth, reduces serving size up to 10% more. (Cornell Research )

So, how can we use this research to control our portion size? Well, whether you're trying to take off a few extra pounds or trying to eat healthier, using plate color can help control our serving size. Try these tips when serving up your next meal.

portion size plate color
Blue Plate Special
Blue Causes You to Eat Less
1. Choose dishes that contrast your food choice. For example, pasta with red sauce on a white plate is a high contrast. If you are unable to change the dish color, minimize the illusion by using a place mat or tablecloth that lowers the contrast between the background and the plate color . This will create the illusion that the plate is smaller and could lead to smaller portion size.

2. Serve food on plates or in containers that are a color you dislike. This could make you eat less as the background color is unappetizing to you.

3. Eating dessert on a blue plate is a great idea for dieters. Blue is considered unappetizing to most adults. Since there are very few blue foods that occur naturally, blue could act as an appetite suppressant. (Color & Appetite)

4. Serve green salads on a green plate to encourage you to take more. The lower the contrast, the greater the portion.  Use matching food colors and plates for healthier, lower calorie foods.

Various factors determine what and how much we eat. Some factors such as altering our behavior may prove more difficult to tackle than others. However, we can alter our environment by using simple tips from above. Whether by using a smaller plate or creating the illusion of a smaller plate, we can reduce our portion sizes to eat and live healthier.


Friday, July 6, 2012

National Ice Cream Month - Sweet Treats in July

ice cream flavor
Ice Cream Deliciousness!
As the temperatures have soared to the upper 90's and 100's and storms across the country have knocked out electricity - many are doing anything possible to keep cool.  I have the perfect solution - ice cream!  July  is after all - National Ice Cream Month!

I didn't realize it was National Ice Cream Month until I received an email from Blue Bunny Ice Cream - a company for which I was a contributing writer for their online magazine.  Of course, since that email I have had ice cream on my brain all week!  So to support, celebrate, and provide a solution to the sweltering heat - let's scream for ice cream!

Fun Facts About Ice Cream:
  • In 1984, former President Ronald Reagan designated July the National Ice Cream Month.
  • The 3rd Sunday in July is National Ice Cream Day!
  • 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream and other frozen desserts were made in 2011 in the US (International Dairy Foods Association; source USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service)
  • 90% of American households eat ice cream (National Geographic article)
  • In 1919, the "I Scream Bar" was invented, later to be renamed Eskimo Pie in 1921 by Russell Stover (Source: The Facts of File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 1/1/2004)
  • The term "brain freeze" was trademarked by the retail chain "Seven-Eleven". Scientific name is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia - which happens when the extreme cold hits the roof of your mouth and causes an increase in blood flow in the anterior cerebral artery according to a study led by Dr. Jorge Serrador of Harvard Medical School. (Reported by American Physiological Society)
ice cream flavor
Sharing an ice cream cone is twice the fun!

Facts and fun aside; eating ice cream is not just an American past time.  This cool treat began in early Europe in the second century B.C. with snow ice (maybe that is where snow cones originated).  The frozen sweet treats of sweet milk, cream, butter and eggs (originally reserved for the elite in the 1800's) are now enjoyed by people of every culture.  In 1925 the Waring's Pennsylvanians even had a musical hit that we all know a version of called, "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream."

From ice cream cones to ice cream sodas, to sorbets, sherbet, and frozen yogurt - the concept of cool treats has evolved through the years.  And although ice cream is not considered a food group - I am sure some would disagree.  Some of the more popular types and flavors of ice cream listed by the International Dairy Foods Association are:
  • Ice Cream - homemade ice cream, hard or soft ice cream
  • Frozen Custard or French Ice Cream
  • Sherbets
  • Gelato - Italian ice cream
  • Sorbet / Water Ices
  • Frozen Yogurt
  • Mochi - Japanese confection of sticky rice with an ice cream filling (I added this one.)
Nutritional information and value aside; tomorrow as the heat of summer hits 102 degrees in eastern Pennsylvania, you can be sure that my family and I will be taking in the coolness of a sweet ice cream cone or ice cream sundae or other ice treat at the local ice cream shop.  We will just have to decide whether that is at the local Cold Stone Creamery, Dairy Queen, Maggie Moos, Rita's or the mom and pop stand down the street - sooo many choices!

Join our ice cream poll and tell us what your favorite ice cream flavor is!