Natural Foods

Popcorn Can be a Healthy Snack

Posted on Wednesday, May 10th, 2017 at 7:00 am
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popcornPeople who want to stay healthy often seek out healthy snacks. It turns out that popcorn can be a healthy snack. It all depends on what kind of popcorn it is, and the quality of the ingredients that have been added to the popcorn.

First, the good news. Popcorn is naturally a whole grain. This means it provides the healthy benefits derived from the nutrients in every component of the whole grain. Popcorn contains about 4 grams of dietary fiber for every 4 cups of popped corn. Popcorn contains an antioxidant called polyphenols.

Popcorn, all by itself, is gluten-free. That’s great for people who have celiac disease, an allergy to wheat, rye and/or barley, or who have a gluten intolerance. It is also dairy free (if you don’t add butter or cheese to it). Popcorn does not naturally contain eggs, shellfish, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, or soybeans. It is naturally free of all of the eight most allergenic foods.

Now, the bad news. The more things you add to the popcorn, the more calories it contains. People who are trying to lose weight may be able to fit some popcorn into their diet – but will quickly go over their daily calories if they add a lot of extra things to the healthy popcorn.

Consumer Reports points out that a little bit of salt and oil in popcorn, or sugar in kettle corn, might not be so bad for your health. Be aware that popcorn becomes less healthy when you “load it up” with a lot of butter, extra salt, or cheese.

Make sure to check the nutrition label on the box of popcorn before you buy it. The front of the package might tell you the calorie count of one cup of popcorn. But, the nutrition facts label lists values for one ounce of popcorn – not one cup. That can make it difficult to compare one brand to another.

Check to see how many servings one bag of popcorn has inside it. In general, one bag does not equal one serving. People tend to eat the whole bag and consider that to be a healthy choice. In reality, they are probably eating more than one serving.

Bagged, pre-popped, flavored popcorn could have a wide variety of things added to it. Cheese, caramel, sugar, chocolate – and more. These additions add to the calorie count. Some bagged popcorn might contain artificial ingredients.

One way to keep popcorn a healthy snack is to make stovetop popcorn yourself. This lets you control the portion size, the amount of salt, and the type of oil that is used.

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Gallup Releases 2016 Community Rankings for Healthy Eating

Posted on Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 at 4:15 pm
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Fruit & Vegetable PlatterGallup and Sharecare released a report called “Nutrition Across the Nation: 2016 Community Rankings for Healthy Eating”. It includes a list of the communities in the United States where people are making the healthiest food choices.

According to Gallup and Sharecare: “Healthy eating is at its lowest level in 2016, with 63.2% of U.S. adults reporting eating healthy all day the previous day, down from a high of 67.7% in 2010, representing a decline of over 10 million American adults eating healthy on any given day since that year.” They asked adults “Did you eat healthy all day yesterday?”

In addition to identifying the communities where adults were making healthy food choices, the report also explores the relationship between healthy eating and various chronic illnesses. Some of those chronic illnesses include: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and stress.

Gallup and Sharecare said that overall, they found that those who ate healthy all day the previous day had lower disease burden across conditions than those who did not. Gallup and Sharecare state: “This research suggests that an emphasis on healthy eating and sensible food policies could have a positive impact on lowering disease burden within communities nationwide.”

The following communities have the healthiest eaters:
Naples, Florida
Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
Santa Cruz, California
Salinas, California
McAllen, Texas
Santa Rosa, California
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
San Luis Obispo, California
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
El Paso, Texas

The following communities have the least healthy eaters:
Little Rock, Arkansas
Topeka, Kansas
Wichita, Kansas
Lexington, Kentucky
Clarksville, Tennessee
Hickory, North Carolina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Memphis, Tennessee
Lubbock, Texas

Is the community you live in listed among the top ten healthiest? Did it end up in the list of the least healthy eaters? If you don’t see your community in these two lists, there is potential that it could be on the full list put together by Gallup and Sharecare. There are a total of 189 communities in their ranking.

No matter where your community ended up, there is some wisdom to take from this report. Ask yourself the following question: “Did I eat healthy all day yesterday?” If the answer is “no”, it might be time to start making some changes in the kinds of food you eat and/or the portion size you are eating.

If possible, swap out sugary sodas with water. Tea with no sugar added, or coffee with no sugar added, are two more choices that are healthier than sodas. Try to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet.

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Healthy Bodies Need Some Fat

Posted on Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 at 7:00 am
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fat in our daily dietIt seems like the dieting trends focus on one type of food – and emphasize how bad it is for people’s health. Over the years, we have been told to avoid sugar, carbs, and fat. It turns out that not all fats are equal and healthy bodies need some fat.

Why Do Our Bodies Need Fat?

Fat helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins (like A, D, E, and K). Vitamin A helps your bones and teeth grow, and helps moisturize your skin end eyes. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Vitamin E has antioxidant qualities. Vitamin K maintains bone health and helps blood clotting.

Fat also helps brain development. It cushions the organs in your body and protects them from injury and trauma. It helps you to maintain your body temperature.

Not all fats are the same, though. Some are better for the body than others. Here is a quick look at the different kinds of fat found in foods.

Saturated fat comes from animal sources like meat and dairy. Certain plants, like coconut and palm, and their oils, are high in saturated fat. It is advisable to eat less saturated fat because it raises LDL cholesterol, a risk factor in heart disease.

Trans Fat are made synthetically by taking liquid saturated fat and blasting it with hydrogen. Doing so adds to the shelf life of the fat and makes it easier to cook with. Trans fats are found in many food products because manufacturers like how long it lasts before it goes bad. Trans fat is even worse for your body than saturated fat is.

Monounsaturated fat (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) are found in high-fat plant based foods (like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olives). They are also found in fatty fish (like tuna, salmon, and mackerel). This is a healthy type of fat for people to consume.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 technically are polyunsaturated fats. Our bodies cannot produce omega-6 or omega-3 on their own. The only way to get them is to consume them. Omega-3 and omega-6 is essential for developing our vision and nervous systems. Omega-3 is found in fatty fish. Omega-6 can be found in soybean, safflower and corn oil.

Fat helps people to feel full and to maintain a steady blood sugar. One of the problems people face when they cut out all fat is they end up feeling hungry. This could lead them to eat more than they should be eating. That’s counterproductive for people who are trying to lose weight.

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How to Pick a Healthy Cereal

Posted on Wednesday, April 5th, 2017 at 7:00 am
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Finding a healthy cereal at the grocery store can be difficult. These tips will teach you how to pick a healthy cereal.It has been said that starting your day with breakfast is good for you. A bowl of cereal is a common breakfast selection – in part because it is quick and easy. Finding a healthy cereal at the grocery store can be difficult. These tips will teach you how to pick a healthy cereal.

How to Choose a Healthy Cereal

Read the Nutrition Label

Some cereals will have the word “healthy” on the front of the box. The word “healthy” on a package of food doesn’t have a specific meaning and is not regulated. You have to read the nutrition label to find out if a cereal is healthy or not.

How many servings of cereal are in the box? Check the serving size. Compare that to the amount of calories in each serving. Read the list of ingredients. They are listed in order of amount. A cereal with wheat or oats as the first item listed is probably healthier than one that has sugar at the top of the list.

Whole Grains are Good

Whole grains are good because they don’t go through the processing that removes the healthy part of the grain. Whole grains contain vitamins and minerals. The fiber in whole grains helps people to feel full. Check the nutrition label on the cereal box. Ideally, you want to choose a cereal that has 100 percent whole grain listed as its first ingredient.

Compare Brands

Before you buy your favorite type of cereal, take a moment to compare brands. There are several versions of puffed rice cereal, or wheat cereal, or raisin bran cereal. You might discover that the store brand version has the exact same ingredients as the name brand one. Typically, the store brands cost less than the name brands.

More importantly, you might discover a healthier version of the cereal that you enjoy. Look for one with less than 8 grams of sugar.  Find out if there is one with whole grains. Pick the cereal that has less than 3 grams of fat.

Add Some Fruit

People who have been eating large bowls of cereal in the morning might be eating more than one serving size. When they switch to the actual recommend serving size, they might not feel full. One healthy way to solve that problem is to add some fruit to the cereal.

Cut up a fresh banana for your cereal. Or, add some blueberries. Doing this gives you some fiber (which can help people feel full). It’s also an easy way to get one serving of fruit into your day.

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What You Should Know About a Recent Gluten Free Diet Study

Posted on Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 at 7:00 am
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DeLallo PastaThere are two kinds of people who eat a gluten-free diet. In one group, there are people who are doing it because they have celiac disease or an allergy or intolerance to foods that contain gluten. In the other group, are people who chose a gluten-free diet because they think it will make them lose weight. A recent study about gluten-free diets is going around the internet, but is being presented in a misleading way.

A person who has been diagnosed with celiac disease must avoid consuming gluten. Their doctor will recommend these people eat a gluten-free diet because it is the only form of treatment for celiac disease. Gluten will actually cause damage to the intestines of a person who has celiac disease.

Other people, who have been diagnosed with an allergy to wheat, rye and/or barley, will also hear their doctor recommend that they stay away from gluten. The same is so for those with a diagnosed gluten intolerance.

Other people choose a gluten-free diet because they believe it will help them to lose weight. This group doesn’t have to avoid gluten. (Their bodies can safely process it.) Typically, if you visit a doctor and ask for advice on how to lose weight – the doctor is going to suggest getting more exercise and avoiding sugar (not gluten.)

A study done by researchers from the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Michigan, and Dartmouth University is being passed around the internet. Unfortunately, some people are presenting the results of that study in a misleading way.

You may have heard that a gluten-free diet results in increased levels of arsenic and mercury – two toxic metals that can lead to cardiovascular disease, neurological problems, cancer, and other health problems. What isn’t being emphasized is that the result came from a relatively small sample size of people who ate a gluten-free diet.

The study includes 7,471 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Of those people, only 73 reported being on a gluten-free diet. Tests of urine and blood found that arsenic levels were almost twice as high in the gluten-free group compared with the much larger group that ate gluten. The same tests found mercury levels were higher in the gluten-free group.

There are two things you need to understand about these results. One, more studies need to be done before we can conclude that a gluten-free diet poses a significant health risk. Two, there is speculation that the health risks have to do with the amount of rice that people who eat gluten-free are consuming – but this has not yet been proven.

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March is National Nutrition Month

Posted on Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 at 7:00 am
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National Nutrition Month is a great time to improve the way your family eats by making healthier food choices.The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants you to know that March is National Nutrition Month. Their website has plenty of helpful information about eating right.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. It was founded in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1917 by a group of women who were dedicated to helping the government conserve food and improve the public’s health and nutrition during World War II.

The theme for the National Nutrition Month 2017 is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”. The theme reminds people that each bite counts. It also is meant to inspire people to start with small changes in order to make healthier lasting changes that they can enjoy.

Here is some helpful information that can be found on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website:

* Ease your family – and yourself – into healthier ingredients one at a time. Buy whole-wheat bread instead of white sandwich bread. Swap the whole milk for low-fat milk.

* Make fresh fruits and vegetables convenient to grab and eat. Clean and cut fresh vegetables and right away and put them in plastic bags. Fill a bowl with fresh fruit.

* Canned foods retain as much nutrient value as their fresh or frozen counterparts. Choosing canned fruits, vegetables, beans, and meats can lighten the burden on your wallet.

* Every person in your family should eat a minimum of two pieces of fruit per day. Take the number of people in your family and multiply it by two. That’s the number of pieces of fruit that you need to have in your home for one day.

There is a section of the website dedicated to information regarding food allergies and intolerance. It includes articles that help you understand the difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy, signs that your baby may have a sensitivity to a certain food, and ways to manage food allergies during the holidays.

You can also browse sections of the website that are dedicated to food and health for men, for women, for seniors, and for parents. There is also a section for kids which is split into sections based on a child’s age. Choose from: for baby, for toddler, for preschooler, for gradeschooler or for teen.

There are plenty of recipes for a variety of healthy food choices that can be found on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Find one that sounds good, go shopping for the ingredients, and give it a try!

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How to Make a Healthy Sandwich

Posted on Wednesday, February 15th, 2017 at 7:00 am
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How to Make a Healthy SandwichLunch often includes some kind of sandwich. Not all sandwiches are equal, though. Some are loaded with more calories than you need, while others are a fairly healthy choice. It all depends on what the sandwich is made of. Here are some tips to help you make a healthy sandwich.

How to Have a Healthy Sandwich

Share with a friend
Restaurants and fast food places are notorious for selling people a much larger portion of food than is healthy to eat. Bring a friend or family member to lunch with you and split that giant sandwich into the two portions that it is supposed to be.

Another option is to set aside half of the sandwich right away. Eat half the sandwich for lunch, and save the other half for later.

Make an open sandwich
One way to reduce the amount of calories you are eating is to make a sandwich with only one piece of bread (instead of two). Pile plenty of vegetables and protein onto the bread. You won’t have to worry about how to fit it all between two pieces of bread.

Try a wrap
The number of calories in a slice of bread differs, depending on exactly what kind of bread you are using. A romaine lettuce leaf doesn’t have many calories at all. Some restaurants offer wraps in addition to sandwiches. Fast food places might have a “low-carb” option. They will wrap your burger in a lettuce leaf instead of a hamburger bun.

Read the labels
If you don’t read the nutrition labels on food very often – you are in for an unpleasant surprise. There are a lot of processed foods that contain sugar. Most people know that cookies contain sugar. Did you know that some condiments contain sugar, too?

Before you add ketchup, or mustard, or mayonnaise to your sandwich, take a minute to read the label. Find out how much sugar that condiment has hiding inside it. Check the amount of calories. You can skip the condiments and add moisture to your sandwich with tomatoes (or other juicy vegetables) instead.

Avoid processed meats
The easiest thing to throw onto a sandwich is some processed, sliced, lunchmeat. It might be tasty, but lunchmeat can contain a lot of sodium. A healthier option is cooked chicken breast, or leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner. If you need a quicker option, try canned tuna or canned chicken. Look for a can that is labeled “no salt” or “low salt”.

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February is American Heart Month

Posted on Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 at 7:00 am
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that February is American Heart Month. Here are some tips for keeping your heart healthy.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that February is American Heart Month. They point out that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Heart disease is preventable. Here are some tips for keeping your heart healthy.

The CDC recommends that people eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthy meal and snack options can help a person to avoid heart disease and its complications. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Adults should have at least 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Limit the amount of processed foods that you consume.

Eating foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limit salt or sodium in your diet. Doing so can also lower your blood pressure.

The CDC also recommends that you exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Speak with your doctor to find out what kind of exercise he or she recommends for you and how long or often you should do it.

Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. The CDC recommends that you do not start smoking. If you are a smoker, the CDC says you should talk to your doctor for suggestions on how to quit smoking. Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink can help. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure.

The Mayo Clinic has more advice on how to keep your heart healthy. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you control your portion size. How much you eat is as important as what you eat.

The portions sold in restaurants are more than anyone needs. Unfortunately, people tend to forget that and end up overeating. The Mayo Clinic recommends that people use a small plate or bowl to help control their portions.

Another helpful way to control your portions is to keep track of the number of servings you eat. One serving of pasta is ½ cup (or about the size of a hockey puck). A serving of meat, fish, or chicken is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards. When in doubt, use measuring cups and spoons, or a scale, to figure out portion size you should be eating.

The Mayo Clinic also recommends that you create daily menus. Planning ahead makes it easier to ensure you get a variety of different nutrients in your diet. Variety can also make your meals and snacks more interesting.

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Pilot Program Lets SNAP Recipients Buy Healthy Food Online

Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 at 7:00 am
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The USDA has created a pilot program that can help people who receive SNAP benefits to purchase healthy foods. Learn about all the details.The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created a pilot program that can help people who receive SNAP benefits to purchase healthy foods. The goal appears to be to give more options to people who live in “food deserts”.

SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In the past, the program was called Food Stamps. People were given stamps that they used to pay for their groceries. Today, people who receive SNAP benefits get a certain amount of money on an EBT card. The SNAP program is for people who are very low-income.

The USDA describes SNAP this way: “As the nation’s first line of defense against hunger, SNAP helps put food on the table for millions of low income families and individuals every month and has never been more critical to the fight against hunger. SNAP is a vital supplement to the monthly food budget for more than 43 million low-income individuals. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children, 10 percent are over 60 and more than 40 percent of recipients live in households with earnings.”

The USDA has created a pilot program designed to enable SNAP participants to buy groceries online. This decision was made to help people who live in communities where access to fresh produce and other healthy food choices is limited. For example, a person who lives in a area that does not have any grocery stores would have to rely on getting their groceries from convenience stores. Those stores don’t typically have a lot of healthy foods to choose from.

The pilot program is slated to start this summer and will last for two years. At first, the pilot program will be testing online ordering and payment. The USDA says the online payment part of the program presents technical and security challenges that they will need to fully examine before they can offer the program nationally. SNAP online purchases require a higher level of security than do most other online purchases.

Here are the retailers that are participating in the SNAP pilot program:

* Amazon – Maryland, New Jersey, New York

* FreshDirect – New York

* Safeway – Maryland, Oregon, Washington

* ShopRite – Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania

* Hy-Vee – Iowa

* Hart’s Local Grocers – New York (based in Rochester)

* Dash’s Market – New York (based in Buffalo)

The USDA anticipates being able to add more retailers to the program. Eventually, the goal is to allow SNAP participants, nationwide, to be able to use their benefits to make online purchases that will help them to obtain healthy foods.

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Reasons Why Raw Cookie Dough Can Make You Sick

Posted on Wednesday, January 4th, 2017 at 7:00 am
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People can get sick after eating raw cookie dough because of it contains raw eggs. There is another ingredient to watch out for too!Raw cookie dough can be very tempting, but that isn’t a good reason to eat it. You may have heard that the reason why people get sick after eating raw cookie dough is because of it contains raw eggs. There is another ingredient to watch out for that you may be unaware of.

Why Raw Cookie Dough Can Make You Sick

People who eat raw eggs risk getting sick from food poisoning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) point out that the inside of eggs that appear normal can contain a germ called Salmonella. The germ causes diarrhea and severe stomach cramps. Most people get over it in about a week, but Salmonella can be very dangerous for older adults, infants, and people who have weakened immune systems.

The way to avoid the Salmonella germ is to avoid consuming eggs that are raw or that are only lightly cooked. Raw cookie dough contains raw eggs. That’s one reason why eating raw cookie dough can make you sick.

The other reason is due to an ingredient that you know is in raw cookie dough but may not have realized could make a person sick. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants people to be aware that raw flour can make people sick because the flour may have a harmful strain of E. coli on it. This means that eating raw flour can make you sick – and playing with raw flour can also make you sick.

In 2016, many people got sick from a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121. The FDA traced it to flour that was used in raw cookie dough that people handled or ate before they got sick. The flour came from a specific company’s production facility. That company voluntarily pulled their flour off the market. To be clear, the recall does not mean that it is suddenly safe to eat or play with raw flour.

The FDA notes that it isn’t just the flour in raw cookie dough that can make people sick. It is also possible to get sick from the flour that is in any kind of raw dough that contains flour. Some restaurants give children raw dough made from flour to play with while they wait for their meal. The children might be happy to play with the dough. They won’t be happy later on if the dough makes them sick.

That means the homemade play dough that you made for your kids could make them sick just from touching it if the dough contains contaminated flour. Raw flour could be in the play dough that is used at your child’s school or day care. Kids often put their fingers into their mouths while handling play dough (and some will taste and eat some of the dough).

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