A quick healthy meal made with pasta is penne with vegetables and fresh herbs

Quick Healthy Meals Begin with Pasta

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

THE BENEFITS OF PASTA INCLUDE THE QUICK HEALTHY MEALS YOU CAN MAKE BY ADDING VEGETABLES, LEAN PROTEIN AND FRESH HERBS

Remember the days when we were told fat was killing us, but we could eat all the carbohydrates we wanted? Of course, that backfired. You can never eat all you want of anything and remain healthy. But back then, pasta was considered a superfood as long as you didn’t put any olive oil on it.

Then the tides turned on food high in carbohydrate, and protein became top dog, along with whatever fat clung to it. Soon people who hadn’t sunk their teeth into a piece of prime rib in ages were hitting the carving station again.

We have now entered the era of the good fats. The marbled meats are gone, and the healthy fats found in the foods of the Mediterranean, like olive oil, almonds and sesame seeds, are in.

Since the Mediterranean Diet has been linked to better health, you might be wondering where pasta fits into the plan?

I’m here to deliver good news. There are many nutritional and culinary benefits of pasta, and we were wrong to abandon the quick healthy meals we can make with it.

The problem was never the pasta; it was how much we were eating. Let’s try to get it right this time around. With all the new shapes, sizes and types of pasta on the market, there are more ways than ever to enjoy it.

Pasta Does Not Make You Fat!

Neither pasta in particular, nor carbohydrates in general, can make us gain weight any faster or easier than any other food containing calories. All of the excess calories we consume contribute to weight gain if we don’t burn them off, no matter what the source.

If you love pasta, the key to keeping it in your diet without exceeding your daily caloric allowance is to portion it properly. Two ounces of dry pasta is considered one serving, and it has about 200 calories. There’s no law against cooking a 12 ounce box and eating half of it yourself at one meal, but you must be able to use those 600 calories, and any that were clinging to it, or they will be stored as fat.

If you have a hard time estimating what 2 ounces of penne, fettuccine, or any other pasta looks like after it has been cooked, Barilla Pasta has a great chart that tells you how to measure it both before and after cooking.

Health Benefits of Pasta

  • Source of enriched and whole grains – Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least 6 servings of grains a day, with half of them whole grains and half enriched
  • Low in fat and sodium – You don’t have to salt the water to cook pasta; let your sauce provide the flavor.
  • No cholesterol or saturated fat – If you use only plant-sourced toppings, like vegetables and beans, your dish will remain cholesterol free.
  • Enriched with thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin, folic acid, and iron – Including enriched grains in the diet is an important way to meet requirements for essential nutrients.
  • A low Glycemic Index food – This means pasta makes us feel satisfied longer than other food high in carbohydrate and it doesn’t cause blood sugar to surge.
  • Available in nutritionally enhanced varieties – The list includes whole grain, vegetable, high fiber, high protein, ALA omega-3 fatty acids, and gluten free.

Culinary Benefits of Pasta

  • Partners well with every other food group – It’s the foundation for endless quick healthy meals when prepared with vegetables, fruits, lean meats, beans, nuts, or cheese.
  • Quick and easy to cook – Depending on size, it only takes 6-12 minutes to cook pasta to “al dente”, so follow the directions on the box.
  • Variety of shapes and sizes – The names on the boxes mean different things in Italian, but the shapes are basically long or short, ridged or smooth, thin or thick, hollow or solid, flat or filled.
  • Versatile serving options – One of the few foods you can enjoy hot or cold and reheated.
  • Inexpensive and widely available – Pasta provides a valuable way to stretch food dollars without compromising on value at meals.
  • Tastes great – A favorite of children, teens and adults alike, so everyone in the family can enjoy more meals together.
Doing food prep ahead of time is one quick cooking idea to make easy family meals.

Quick Cooking Ideas for Easy Family Meals

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read my blog here.

FAMILY MEALS CAN BE EASY AND NUTRITIOUS WITH THESE QUICK COOKING IDEAS

No matter how well-equipped your kitchen or the number of cookbooks you own, food doesn’t cook itself. It still takes a little talent and some time to turn the food you buy into healthy, easy family meals. The skill can be acquired with training and practice, but the time must be stolen.

After 35 years of making meals from scratch without compromising on good nutrition, I’ve got some quick cooking ideas that can help you find the time you need.

The goal is to do as much of the prep work in advance as possible. One way is to chop, dice and slice in big batches and freeze for future use. Another is to repackage foods into smaller units so they’re ready for assembly. And to save time and money, there are ways to salvage foods you don’t use up, but may need again, especially when they are not in season or always in your larder.

Quick Cooking Supplies

The only way these cooking ideas will help you save time is if you know what you have on hand and can find it. That’s why you need a white board to keep a running inventory of what’s in the freezer. Then you must make sure you label each item with the contents and date.

  • White board and pen
  • Zipper-top freezer bags in 1 quart and 2 quart sizes
  • Clear plastic food wrap
  • Plastic ice cubes trays
  • Stackable plastic food containers with tight-fitting lids
  • Permanent markers
  • Freezer tape or labels, or masking tape

Prepping for Easy Family Meals

Follow the steps in bold type to get foods and ingredients ready for future meals. I do all of these things, but even if you only adopt a few, you will be that much closer to getting meals on the table fast.

Chop, dice or slice, bag, label, freeze:

  • Sweet onions, yellow onions, shallots, leeks – ready for the sauté pan or soup pot
  • Bell peppers in different colors – for stir-fry, chili, omelets

Clean, stem, bag, label, freeze:

  • Hot peppers – leave whole and chop while still frozen

Cook, cool, bag, label, freeze:

  • Long-cooking whole grain brown rice, barley, farro, buckwheat, quinoa – for quick side dish or stuffing
  • Rolled or steel-cut oats – thaws in refrigerator overnight, costs less than instant packets

Trim, individually wrap, label, bag, freeze:

  • Boneless cutlets of chicken and pork and small steaks – to cube or slice or use whole
  • Bone-in chops, shanks or chicken quarters – to enrich a sauce or stock
  • Patties made from beef, poultry, pork or fish – thaw, crumble and cook or season for other uses
  • Sausage links, 2-3 per bag – use whole or remove casings

Shred, bag, label, freeze:

  • Hard cheeses Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss, Provolone, Romano – ready for sprinkling and melting

Quarter, bag, label, freeze:

  • Lemon, lime and orange in skin (scrubbed) – squeeze juice as needed or add pieces to beverages

Bag, label, freeze:

  • Pancakes, French toast, waffles, sliced quick breads, muffins – ready reheating in microwave

Section into single servings, place in containers, label, freeze:

  • Cookies, brownies, unfrosted cake, fruit pie – helps deal with leftovers and regulate future portions

Crush, bag, label, freeze:

  • Crackers, pretzels, chips, cereals – coat nuggets, fish cakes, tofu slices

Crumb, bag, label, freeze:

  • Bread crusts, stale rolls, unused hotdog buns – ready for meatballs, stuffing, crumb toppings
Nutritious snacks like cheese and vegetables help kids eat less and feel more satisfied

Good-For-You Foods Make Best Snacks for Children

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see the post here.

STUDY FINDS KIDS EAT LESS WHEN NUTRITIOUS SNACKS ARE SERVED

I’ve never met a parent or grandparent who didn’t want their little ones to eat more good for you foods. That wish stems from a lesson we all learn from our personal battles with food. Simply put, it’s a whole lot easier to start out life with good eating habits than to try to establish them later.

Amen to that.

Now we can turn to snacks as a way to help our children eat better and prevent obesity says a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The researchers set out to discover whether different types of snacks for children would make them feel full, yet consume fewer calories. And the winner was cheese with cut-up vegetables!

Some Background on Snacking

Thirty years ago American children ate about one snack a day. Now they eat three. Along with those extra snacks they have put on some extra weight. Nearly one-third of our children are overweight or obese.

Since snacking is part of the culture our children are growing up in, trying to restrict or forbid it is fruitless (pun intended). But changing what kind of snacks we offer them is not. The goal is to select snacks that help meet nutrient requirements without exceeding caloric requirements.

Highlights from the Snack Study

201 children in grades third through sixth were in the study. The participants and their parents were told the children would be asked to watch some cartoons and answer questions about the characters at the end and be given snacks to enjoy while watching. Measurements of body mass index and information about food allergies were obtained.

The children were assigned to one of four “snack food groups” and screened in 24 separate experimental sessions with 5-11 children in each. During the sessions the children were given a bottle of water and identical plates of food. They were told they could eat as much as they wanted of the food provided, and asked how hungry they were in the beginning, middle and end of the 45 minute period.

The snack food options included a plate with either:

  • A tube of plain potato chips and a medium bag of crunchy cheese flavored snacks
  • 6 Laughing Cow cheese wedges and 6 Mini Babybel cheese rounds
  • 2 cups each of raw bite-sized broccoli, baby carrots and bell pepper strips
  • A combination of 6 cheese wedges and 6 cheese rounds and 1 cup of each vegetable

The food on each plate was weighed at the outset and any uneaten food was weighed at the end to determine exactly how much each child ate. No child finished it all. Parents completed a questionnaire designed to measure family mealtime habits and levels of engagement.

Surprising Results About Snacking and Kids

Children who consumed the cheese and vegetable snack ate 72% fewer calories than those eating chips and needed significantly fewer calories to achieve satiety compared to them.

The children eating the combo snack consumed roughly the same number of calories from vegetables as the children who only got vegetables, so they did not replace the vegetables with cheese.

Overweight and obese children and those from low-involvement families had a bigger reduction in calories compared to normal weight children and those from high-involvement families.

Key Conclusions About Snacks to Make for Kids

Offering cheese and vegetables as a snack leads to eating fewer calories than when salty, high-fat chips are served and provide good sources of fiber, calcium and protein.

Eating cheese and vegetables as a snack may encourage healthier eating habits in children, especially in those who are overweight.

A higher level of engagement between children and adults at mealtime is correlated with healthy weight in children.

Don’t you wish someone had given you some mini cheese and baby carrots when you came home from school?

Myths about dieting and best weight loss diet make news

Update on Dieting and Weight Loss News

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

MYTHS ABOUT DIETING AND BEST WEIGHT LOSS DIET MAKE NEWS

News about how to lose weight is always newsworthy, even when there is nothing new to say. But that doesn’t matter. We are fed a steady stream of information about dieting and weight control to keep the conversation going. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a broadcaster say just once, “There will be no weight loss news tonight.”

I know I’ve had my fill.

Last month we had the unique opportunity to hear about the best weight loss diet and the top obesity myths in the same news cycle. You can’t beat that for intrigue!

What’s True About Weight Loss?

The annual list of the best diets from U.S. News & World Report arrived with the usual excitement, followed by reflexive disappointment. Whether the goal is to lose weight, get healthy or control disease, the best diets in each category still require making better food choices and keeping track of them. Nothing new there.

The top weight loss diets were all about common sense things like eating more vegetables and less meat, taking smaller portions of food and bigger amounts of exercise, and being more focused on your food than your social networks when eating. Is there anyone left who doesn’t know that?

What’s Not True About Weight Loss?

The other story grabbing headlines last month was about obesity myths. Apparently everything we’ve told about dieting and weight loss isn’t true, or at least it hasn’t been scientifically proven.

Researchers at the University of Alabama wanted to set the record straight, so looked for the studies to back up the most popular beliefs about obesity. They reported their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine and said “false and scientifically unsupported beliefs about obesity are pervasive.”

Did you know there’s no proof that taking more physical education classes will curb obesity in kids or that eating more frequently throughout the day will help? With or without proof, it seems pretty obvious to me that the advice isn’t working. But it’s still news.

What Can We Do About Weight Loss?

Why not take a break from all the weight loss news and act on what we already know? There are no game-changing discoveries around the corner. Nothing new is in the pipeline that will make the task easier. And there is never going to be a magic potion that will melt our fat away.

It’s time to stop talking about dieting and weight loss and start doing something about it. We could really surprise all those researchers if we were successful in spite of the myths!

Some other thoughts on the issue can be found here:

  • Technology Beats Temptation in New Weight Watchers Plan
  • 3 Great Tips for losing Weight
  • 5 Sure Steps to Achieving Weight Loss
  • Choosing the Right Diet Plan
  • 8 Ways to Lose Weight This Spring
  • 10 Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss
  • What Fads Diets for Weight Loss Have You Tried?
Heart disease research shows eggs unfairly blamed for clogged arteries in cardiovascular disorders

Clogged Arteries Are Not Due to Eggs

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

HEART DISEASE RESEARCH SHOWS EGGS UNFAIRLY BLAMED FOR CLOGGED ARTERIES IN CARDIOVASCULAR DISORDERS

One of the first things I remember learning about cardiovascular disorders as a student dietitian was that clogged arteries was the common cause. I vividly recall the illustration in my textbook of a heart attack triggered by a blockage in the flow of blood. The heart disease research available at the time hinted that it was the cholesterol in eggs that was responsible for that blockage.

I’d like to revisit the subject of eggs, cholesterol and heart disease as we celebrate American Heart Month.

Eggs were first linked to the rising rates of cardiovascular disorders in this country back in the 1970s. As a result, dietary guidelines started recommending that we limit our consumption of egg yolks to no more than 3 per week.

That triggered a lot of diners to add egg white omelets to their menus, but it didn’t slow down the rates of heart disease. It is the number one cause of death for men and women alike, and has held that distinction for over 60 years. More Americans will die of heart disease this year than all forms of cancer combined.

600,000 deaths a year can’t possibly be due to eggs.

What’s Do You Like With Your Eggs?

Some of the earliest evidence used to blame eggs for heart disease was based on research that showed the people who ate the most eggs had a greater incidence of heart attacks than those who ate few eggs. But as we should all know by now, that kind of data does not prove causation.

A closer look on the plates of the egg eaters revealed they liked their eggs with bacon or sausage, fried potatoes, buttered toast and cream in their coffee, followed by a cigarette. When more diligent researchers took a look at what else the big breakfast crowd was eating, they found plenty of other incriminating evidence. Their diets were filled with meats high in saturated fats and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, yet eggs took all the blame for their chest pain.

Then there was the research that showed heart disease was caused by clogged arteries, and the plaque clogging our arteries was formed by cholesterol, and eggs were high in cholesterol. The advice that followed was to eat fewer eggs to stop plaque formation. But the dots hadn’t been connected yet that could prove the cholesterol in eggs was the same cholesterol that found in heart-stopping plaque.

As it turned out, those dots didn’t connect. The dietary cholesterol we get from egg yolks, liver and lobster is not the same cholesterol that ends up causing clogged arteries. Instead, we make our own custom cholesterol, mostly from saturated fat, and eggs are low in saturated fat.

Vindication of the Egg

A large scale study published this month in the British Medical Journal provides a much-needed defense of the egg. Scientists did a meta-analysis of 17 previously published reports on egg consumption and the incidence of heart disease or stroke. The analysis included over 12,000 cases of either heart disease or stroke and follow up that covered more than 7 million “person years.” The conclusion was that consuming up to an egg a day was not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke among non-diabetic people.

Getting to The Heart Truth About Heart Disease

Just like eating eggs does not cause heart disease, wearing red doesn’t stop it. The Heart Truth campaign uses the red dress to promote awareness of the risk factors for heart disease in women so we will take action to lower our risk. The first step is to know these numbers:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood cholesterol
  • Blood glucose
  • Body Mass Index (based on height and weight)
  • Waist circumference

If your numbers are too high, work with your health care team to lower them. At least you won’t have to worry about giving up eggs to do it!

You don’t have to serve diet snacks if you use these healthy snack ideas

Need Healthy Snack Food Ideas for the Super Bowl?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO SERVE DIET SNACKS IF YOU USE THESE HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS

When the Taco Bell advertising team came up with the idea to bash veggie platters at Super Bowl parties, they weren’t just knocking vegetables. The ad implied that all healthy snack food ideas are unwelcomed at the biggest gridiron event of the year. Now that the ads have been pulled, it has left many people wondering whether any diet snacks can be safely served on game day.

Do not despair! There are other ways to curb your party food consumption without trying to sneak broccoli into the chili con carne!

Beware of Halos

One of the biggest mistakes we can make when faced with lots of food choices is to separate the choices into “good” and “bad” foods. No matter what criteria we use to make the distinction, it always leads to the same illogical conclusion that if we eat mostly good food, it’s okay to eat some bad food, too.

This is called the Halo Effect, where we believe the good food – they’re the ones wearing the halo – can somehow magically cancel out the risks of the bad foods.

Mathematically, this just doesn’t work out in our favor. The amount of fat, sodium and calories in 20 potato chips submerged in a half cup of onion dip cannot be cancelled out by a 20 baby carrots dabbed in hummus. Same is true about eating the celery sticks served with the Buffalo wings. The numbers just don’t jibe.

This does not mean we can never eat the chips, dips and wings. We just have to be more realistic about how many we can afford to add to our fat, sodium and calorie tally for the day.

“Watch” What You Eat

As much as we all feel drawn to food by its smell and taste, our vision plays a role in what and how much we eat, too. I’m not talking about attractive plating arrangements, but the color and size of the plates and bowls its served in. Food marketers use this information to get us to eat more of their products, but we turn the tables on them and use it to eat less.

A study done in the Department of Social and Economic Psychology at the University of Basel Switzerland found people ate less snack food from a red plate and drank less soft drink from a red cup than they did when blue or white plates and cups were used. The researchers hypothesize that the color red serves as a subliminal stop sign that helps to reduce how much we eat.

That’s good news for San Francisco 49er’s fans who can use the team’s red and gold colors for their party ware.

Tackle the “Hidden Persuaders”

Even if there won’t be any diet snacks at your Super Bowl spread, there are ways to deal with mindless eating so you don’t overindulge. Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Brain Wansink, a consumer behavior psychologist, we now have proof that how we serve food is as important as what we serve.

Use these Healthy Snack Food Ideas to Eat Less at Your Super Bowl Party

  • Use tall slender glasses for drinks instead of short wide ones
  • Fill a basket with single-serving bags of chips instead of having big bowls filled with chips
  • Offer only 1 or 2 types of chips instead of 3 or more
  • Place some of the snack food just out of reach so guests have to get up to have more
  • Provide small plates for guests to fill with their own snacks and place scoops and tongs on platters so they can serve themselves
  • Offer snacks that require some effort to eat, such as peanuts or pistachios in shells, cheese you must spread, and candies you must unwrap
  • Fill candy dishes with single-colored treats, like M&Ms or Jellybeans, featuring your team’s colors rather than offering mixed colors
  • Provide medium-sized (9 inch) paper plates for the half-time buffet instead of larger dinner plates
  • Put plain names on your buffet dishes, such as “Chili,” versus more appetizing descriptions, such as “Rosie’s Three-Alarm Homemade Chili”
Nutrition facts label and good nutrition websites need activity information

New Coke Ad Goes Beyond the Nutrition Facts Label

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read my original blog here.

NUTRITION FACTS LABEL AND GOOD NUTRITION WEBSITES NEED ACTIVITY INFORMATION

There is plenty of good nutrition information in the world today, but we aren’t necessarily any healthier as a result, or any slimmer. We’ve got Nutrition Facts labels that tell us what’s in our food and nutrition websites that explain everything that happens to it once we eat it.

Maybe we need to start looking elsewhere for guidance?

A new Coke ad called Be OK spends 33 seconds equating the 140 calories in a can of Coke with fun and physical activity. It depicts someone walking her dog, getting into a groove while dancing, and doing a victory jig after throwing a strike in a bowling alley. With each fun activity we’re told how long we’d have to do it to burn off the calories in a can of Coke.

Research shows that’s a message people respond to.

What’s the Problem?
Calories are a difficult concept for Americans to grasp. Results from numerous consumer surveys done to test our knowledge of the connection between calories and weight provide all the evidence we need.

These studies have consistently shown the majority of us don’t know how many calories we are currently eating every day, how many calories we should be eating for our height, weight, activity level and health status, or how many calories we should be eating to lose weight — something the majority of us need to do.

Equally important, we have no clue how many calories we burn off each day, or more properly stated, how much energy we use to fuel the many functions our bodies perform 24/7. That is a key piece of the “energy balance” equation.

Who’s to Blame?

Caloric information has been on food labels since 1990. Books, brochures, and websites also provide detailed lists of the caloric value for everything we eat. And since 2008, chain restaurants in several big cities have been posting the caloric content for their menu items right up there along with the price.

To make it even easier for people to see the caloric content of their purchases, some food and beverage companies began putting the calories per serving on the front of their labels in 2011, not just on the Nutrition Facts panel found on the back or side of the box. But still, we have grown heavier.

What’s Been Missing?

Some researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) may have found a missing link. They designed a study to test what type of information might encourage diners to order differently from fast food menus. It compared four menu options: 1) just calorie information, 2) calories plus minutes to walk to burn the calories, 3) calories plus miles to walk to burn the calories, and 4) no calorie information.

The participants were 802 middle-aged women who were randomly assigned to one of the four groups. All were asked what they would order for themselves from a menu that featured fast food burger meals, sandwiches, salads, side orders, desserts and drinks. The only difference on the menus was the calorie and walking information.

Those who ordered from the menus with the calories and the number of miles needed to walk off those calories showed the biggest difference in their ordering preferences compared to those who had no information on their menus. Their orders contained 194 fewer calories, while the group that had calories and minutes of walking ordered 104 fewer calories, and those who had just calories ordered 93 fewer that the group with no information.

When asked which type of information they would prefer on menus, 82% of the participants said they preferred menus that showed physical activity, as minutes or miles walked, over menus that just had calories or no nutritional information at all. In their conclusions, published in the journal Appetite, the researchers state that it may be easier to imagine oneself walking a certain distance than trying to figure out what percentage of our daily caloric intake a menu item is worth.

It looks to me like The Coca-Cola Company has put the ball in our court with their new ad. What’s your next move?

Trends in Restaurant Food Service for 2013

13 Trends in Restaurant Food Service for 2013

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read my original blog here.

RESTAURANT FOOD SERVICE NEWS PREDICTS WHAT WE’LL SEE ON MENUS IN THE YEAR AHEAD

After researching all of the predictions by the people in the know, I compiled my own list of restaurant trends we can expect this year to complement my earlier post about food trends for 2013. There is some overlap in what we’ll be buying and preparing at home and what we’ll be ordering off menus, but overall it promises to be another year of adventurous eating!

Restaurant News & Food Service Trends

  1. Big breakfasts aren’t just for weekends. The most important meal of the day is catching on as a way to eat well for less than the cost of a lunch or dinner out. More protein will be seen on menus along with the eggs, such as beef and ham steaks, sausage and chorizo, and salmon and crab.
  2. Vegetables move beyond salads and side dishes. We’ll see more innovative uses of vegetables as entrees, such as cauliflower steak, without necessarily being part of a meat-free meal.
  3. Grown-up flavors appear on kid’s menus. There’ll be real fish in those tacos and a wholesome whole grains in the buns surrounding the sliders, and all of it will be much more nutritious than standard fare kid’s food.
  4. Small plates will be enough for adults. Tapas-style eating will allow you to order some fish or meat, vegetables and starch to make the right-sized meal for any appetite.
  5. Popcorn will be the snack-turned-garnish that is served with everything from soup to ice cream. The beauty of this whole grain is that it can be dusted with any flavor to complement a meal or be a great stand alone snack.
  6. Apps and iPads in the dining room. We’d all like to see fewer cell phones in use when dining, but using a smart phone app or tablet computer to peruse the menu and place your order is technology that’s on its way.
  7. New cuts of beef and more varietals make the grade. Expect to find parts of the cow you’ve never seen before on menu, including the organ meats, for those looking to expand their animal protein options.
  8. “Have it your way” isn’t just at Burger King. Restaurants are ready to accept your special requests for gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan, or whatever else it takes to keep you happy and satisfied.
  9. Food from the Southern Hemisphere is “Nex-Mex.” This year we’ll be moving beyond Mexican cuisine to the flavors and dishes of Argentina, Brazil and Chile.
  10. Adult beverages minus the alcohol make a splash. Specialty cocktails will feature herbs and exotic nectars while distilled ciders and homemade sodas appear on tap.
  11. Sustainable seafood is catching on. Just like knowing where your eggs were laid, cows were milked and tomatoes were harvested, diners will expect to know where the catch of the day was actually caught.
  12. “Know your grower” menu descriptions help sell food. Customers can help support local farmers, cheese-makers, bakers and other providers of sustainable and artisanal foods when they see their wares being advertised on the menu.
  13. Family-style take-out lets you eat out at home. You’ll find special menus in some restaurants for foods you can order in quantity and pick-up packaged with instructions for you to reheat and serve.
Cheap diet solutions for safe weight loss if trying to diet on a budget

10 Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013 but you can view the original blog here.

Trying to diet on a budget can seem impossible when you see the price tags on the latest gluten-free foods and shiny new gym equipment that promise safe weight loss for those with fat wallets. As a challenge, i took a walk through the nearest discount dollar store to identify cheap diet solutions for those with good intentions, but modest means. I wasn’t disappointed. Here are ten items you can buy for ten dollars that will help you eat right and get in shape so you can lose and save at the same time!

Blank Notebook: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

The most valuable part of any healthy makeover is a blank book. Use it to record your goals, weight, measurements, and daily food intake and physical activity. If you faithfully and honestly fill the pages each and every day, you’ll soon discover the book was the most effective weight loss program you ever tried.

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Tape Measure: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Stepping on a scale is not the only way to measure your progress, or the best. A simple cloth tape measure can be used to get some baseline measurements that will help you see the loss of inches in places where it really counts. Be sure to include: waist and hip circumference, thigh, calf, upper arm and chest.

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Index Cards: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

It may seem old school to write recipes on index cards, but not if you use them for a collection of your favorite fool-proof, quick, easy, and tasty dishes that are diet-friendly. Take the time to try new recipes and be selective about which ones you allow into your collection. If you just find one new recipe a week there will be 52 winners in the box by this time next year.

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Measuring Cups: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Like it or not, all food contains calories and the serving size of the food you eat determines how many calories it contains – no matter how nutritious the food may be. Using measuring cups to both prepare your food and portion it at home will help you stick to your calorie budget and train your eye for the meals eaten away from home when you have to guesstimate.

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Measuring Spoons: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Just like the foods measured in measuring cups, there are calories in the smaller things we eat that are measured with measuring spoons, like cooking oils, salad dressing, and soft spreads. It isn’t easy to free-pour one tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet, so it pays to measure it since each additional tablespoon adds another 110 calories.

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Food Storage Containers: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

One of the biggest challenges to healthy eating is eating out regularly. By having a complete set of food storage containers you can take your breakfast, lunch and snacks with you to work with you, if needed. It’s a great way to use the leftovers from all those meals you’ll be preparing at home, too.

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Insulated Lunch Sack: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Now that you’ve got a set of food storage containers, you need and insulated sack to carry them in when filled with food. These sacks come in enough different styles you’ll never have to guess which lunch is yours in the office refrigerator, and they’re flexible enough to slip into your shoulder-strap bag or back pack for hands-free travel.

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Freezer Packs: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Keep an assortment of these freezer packs in different sizes in the freezer so they’re ready to add to your lunch sack. Remember, there’s nothing healthy about food that hasn’t been kept at the proper temperature.

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Egg Timer: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

No matter how many features you have on your smart phone, they can only help you if you know how to use them. A simple kitchen timer is a no-brainer way to build short bursts of activity into your day. Set it to ring once every hour then, then get up and stand, walk, or stretch for 5 minutes.

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Handheld Mirror: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Give yourself some words of encouragement each and every day, you’re worth it!

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Breakfast can be made up of any foods that are part of a healthy diet

Breakfast Myth: Breakfast Foods Are Too Fattening

This blog was written as a guest post for the Bell Institute for Health and Nutrition. You can read the original post here.

It’s easy to understand how some people might believe that certain foods are more “fattening” than others. Classifying foods based on whether they can make you gain weight or not is a far simpler notion to grasp than the concept of energy balance (where calories in should equal calories out)!

So whenever the topic of “fattening foods” comes up, I try to clarify the issue with this brief lesson in anatomy: The stomach does not have eyes.

That’s my way of explaining that the body has no idea what we have eaten. It does not know (or judge!) whether we have had a chocolate éclair for breakfast or a chewy granola bar. It just sorts out the nutrients and calories that were in the food and either uses them, stores them or eliminates them, as needed.

I then explain that since the body continually “sorts” what we are eating all day long, no one food can really be more “fattening” than any other. It’s the sum of all the calories we have consumed by the end of the day that determine whether or not we have exceeded our energy needs, which could make us gain weight over time.

Once that concept sinks in, it’s possible to illustrate how all foods can actually be included in a well-balanced diet complemented by regular physical activity. It also provides an ideal time to introduce the topic of nutrient density – another difficult one to grasp.

My approach is to stress the fact that all of the calories in the foods we eat are exactly the same, but the nutrients are not. And since we need more than 50 distinct nutrients to maintain health and prevent disease, we must choose our foods so they deliver the best nutritional package for the calories they provide.

From there it’s a smooth transition to a discussion of food groups to understand how different types of foods fit together to make an overall healthy eating plan, such as in MyPlate. Any lingering thoughts about “fattening” breakfast foods are then easily replaced by the more important question, ”What are the best breakfast choices for me?”

Consider these important facts about ready-to-eat cereal with fat free milk and fruit when you answer. One serving provides:

  • Less than 200 calories per serving on average
  • Key nutrients many of which are lacking in American diets – calcium, potassium, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, folate and fiber
  • Many whole grain options that help meet the goal of making half our grain choices whole grain
  • More nutrients with the fewest calories compared to most other popular breakfast choices