soyfoods add variety to the diet

Soy is for Everyone!

This post was written a guest blog for The Soyfoods Council during National Nutrition Month 2014. You can read the original post here.

Being a vegetarian isn’t the only reason to eat soy-based products. There are benefits for all of us – young or old, vegan or omnivore – to incorporating more soyfoods into our meals. Although most of the benefits center on improved health, I think the biggest advantage to adding soyfoods to our meals is the way they can increase the variety in our diets.

With all the news we hear about superfoods, it’s easy to become convinced we can eat all we want of some foods (we can’t) or meet all our nutritional needs by just eating foods on a “top ten” list (we won’t). Eating a greater variety of foods is the best way to achieve optimal nutrition.

I also like to focus on variety because it’s an easy way to make sure no food takes up more space on our diet than it should, and that helps us deal with the hard-to-grasp concept of moderation. Simply put, it means we must control the amount and frequency of everything we eat to have a balanced diet. Too much of anything is not good, but there is room for everything when all foods are eaten in moderation.

If you want to expand the variety of your diet there are soy-based options in every section of the grocery store that can be incorporated into every part of your menu. For example, you can substitute soy strips for bacon in your BLT and soy crumbles for ground beef in your taco. And veggie burgers made with soy protein are now available in flavors ranging from spicy chicken to savory mushroom.

If you don’t think you’re ready to use a soy-based meat alternative, why not start with a soy snack? Try dipping soy crisps into your guacamole or spreading soy nut butter on an apple. Or you can take a soy bar along on your next hike or toss some roasted soy nuts into your trail mix. Remember, the goal isn’t to only eat soyfoods; it’s to add them to your diet to increase the variety of foods you eat every day.

Use this handy guide to add more soy foods to your shopping list.

Where to Find Soyfoods in the Supermarket

SECTION SOY PRODUCTS

Produce fresh soybeans, tofu, tempeh, miso

Freezer edamame, meat alternatives, dairy-free frozen desserts

Dairy soymilk, soy yogurt, soy cheese, soy margarine

Snack soy nuts, soy bars, soy chips, soy crisps, soy crackers, soy pretzels

Staples canned and dried soybeans, soy pasta, soy flour, soynut butter

Condiments soy sauce, soy oil, soy mayonnaise

Assorted dried fruit, nuts and seeds for a gluten free snack

Great Gluten Free Snacks in a Hurry

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, so the post has been reproduced here.

CONVENIENCE STORES OFFER MANY GLUTEN FREE SNACK ITEMS TO ENJOY ON THE GO

If you or someone in your family is on a gluten free diet, then you know how hard it is to find something to eat when you’re in a hurry and hungry. Even though there are more gluten free items in stores and on menus than ever before, they’re hard to spot when you really them.

At least that’s what I’m told by people who are trying to avoid gluten.

They say eating healthy meals and snacks is easy when they plan ahead, shop regularly and prepare or pack their food for the day, but that doesn’t always happen.

Sound familiar?

Of course, the rest of us can always grab something to eat on the go from a vending machine, at any checkout counter or the drive-up window of a quick service restaurant. But if you must steer clear of all wheat, barley, rye and oats, it’s another story.

The best way around this dilemma is to keep a supply of portable, non-perishable, single-serving gluten free snacks on hand wherever you spend a lot of time, like your job or the car. A trip to your local supermarket or specialty food store is the best way to stock up on your favorite gluten free products or by placing an order online.

It also helps to know what you can buy when you’re out and about and forgot to tote your own.

Fortunately, there are many gluten free foods as close as the neighborhood convenience store, chain drug store, or even the corner Starbucks – a great place to find KIND bars. Just reach for a piece of fresh fruit or single-serve fruit cup, some sliced or string cheese, or a raw vegetable and dip combo for gluten free munching.

There are also some national brands you can count on for gluten free options right alongside the other crunchy, crispy and chewy snacks on the shelves.

In honor of Celiac Awareness Month, I have 10 recommendations to help you with your search for gluten free snacks. Just be sure to check the ingredient list on all packaged foods before making your purchase since manufacturers can change their formulations at any time.

10 Grab & Go Gluten Free Snack Foods

KIND all natural whole nut and fruit bars that deliver the perfect combination of protein, carbs and heart healthy fats to keep you feeling fuller longer.

Blue Diamond single or mixed nuts sold raw, dry roasted, or seasoned for naturally gluten and wheat free munching.

Quaker rice cakes made from white or brown rice for a snack that can be sweet, salty or savory.

Indiana Popcorn FIT bagged popcorn for a whole grain snack from non-GMO corn.

Frito Lay white, yellow and blue tortilla chips in different shapes suitable for dipping.

Kettle brand potato chips that are baked, reduced fat or fried in more than 15 flavors.

General Mills Rice and Corn Chex cereal you can eat right from the box or add to a custom trail mix.

Sun Maid raisins and other dried fruit that deliver natural sweetness with no added sugar.

Welch’s chewy fruit snacks and fruit ‘n yogurt snacks for a fat free fortified snack.

Dove chocolate bars and novelties (just don’t leave them in the car in hot weather!)

Confused about who should be on a gluten free diet and why? Read my Q&A on gluten free eating here.

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?

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”
Eating regular meals provides a way to slow down a busy day.

Being Busy Interferes with Eating Regular Meals

Eating regular meals provides better nutrition and an antidote to busyness

When I was growing up, no one I knew had an appointment book. The families in my neighborhood all got a free calendar from the bank at Christmas time and it hung inside a kitchen cupboard. The boxes for each day of the week weren’t that big, but it didn’t matter since people didn’t have much to keep track of then.

Today people have calendars on their walls, desks, computers and phones to stay on schedule, and get electronic reminders to tell them what to do next. When people say “time flies,” I think what they really mean is they are too busy being busy.

One of the most dangerous effects of being so busy is its impact on our meal patterns. You remember meals, don’t you? When you were a child they probably involved daily rituals like washing your hands before coming to the table, saying grace before eating, not talking with your mouth full, being excused when you finished what was on your plate, and taking turns washing and drying the dishes.

In addition to feeding us and providing a means to transfer family values, regular meal times serve as the anchors in our day. A time to regroup, while we refuel. Meals provide the perfect antidote to busyness.

When not eating meals people tend to snack and graze their way through the day. No rituals, no table manners and certainly little attention to nutritional needs. Just one more gulp and go day in an eat and run world.

Diet plans and nutrition information may change over time, but meals remain the same. Here’s all you need to know:

  • Sit down to eat
  • Share the meal with others
  • Eat foods from at least three different food groups
  • Use eating utensil, not your hands
  • Disconnect from the outside world – no television or texting at the table

Think about it, is that really too much to ask? And what have you got to lose but another appointment in your PDA?

Bon appetit!