A Healthy Plate is a Happy Plate: 20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruits & Veggies

Author: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics staff registered dietitian nutritionists

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Building a healthy plate is easy when you make half your plate fruits and vegetables. It’s also a great way to add color, flavor and texture plus vitamins, minerals and fiber. All this is packed in fruits and vegetables that are low in calories and fat. Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal.

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Try the following tips to enjoy more fruits and vegetables every day:

  1. Variety abounds when using vegetables as pizza topping. Try broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini.
  2. Mix up a breakfast smoothie made with low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.iStock-485076210.jpg
  3. Make a veggie wrap with roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla.
  4. Try crunchy vegetables instead of chips with your favorite low-fat salad dressing for dipping.
  5. Grill colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
  6. Add color to salads with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves or mandarin oranges.*
  7. Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner. Ready-to-eat favorites: red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or whole radishes.
  8. Place colorful fruit where everyone can easily grab something for a snack-on-the- run. Keep a bowl of fresh, just ripe whole fruit in the center of your kitchen or dining table.iStock-832079576.jpg
  9. Get saucy with fruit. Puree apples, berries, peaches or pears in a blender for a thick, sweet sauce on grilled or broiled seafood or poultry, or on pancakes, French toast or waffles.
  10. Stuff an omelet with vegetables. Turn any omelet into a hearty meal with broccoli, squash, carrots, peppers, tomatoes or onions with low-fat sharp cheddar cheese.
  11. “Sandwich” in fruits and vegetables. Add pizzazz to sandwiches with sliced pineapple, apple, peppers, cucumber and tomato as fillings.
  12. Wake up to fruit. Make a habit of adding fruit to your morning oatmeal, ready-to-eat cereal, yogurt or toaster waffle.
  13. Top a baked potato with beans and salsa or broccoli and with low-fat cheese.iStock-140256741.jpg
  14. Microwave a cup of vegetable soup as a snack or with a sandwich for lunch.
  15. Add grated, shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach and carrots to lasagna, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce and rice dishes.
  16. Make fruit your dessert: Slice a  banana lengthwise and top with a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of chopped nuts.
  17. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables to steam or stir-fry for a quick side dish.iStock-530627641.jpg
  18. Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Add chickpeas or edamame (fresh soybeans). Top with low-fat dressing.*
  19. Fruit on the grill: Make kabobs with pineapple, peaches and banana. Grill on low heat until fruit is hot and slightly golden.
  20. Dip: Whole wheat pita wedges in hummus, baked tortilla chips in salsa, strawberries or apple slices in low-fat yogurt, or graham crackers in applesauce.

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*See “Color Your Plate with Salad” at www.eatright.org/nutritiontipsheets for more tips on creating healthy salads

For a nutrition consultation with our dietitians, please call (504) 702-5700 to schedule an appointment.

 

 

To learn more about healthy lifestyle choices, visit our new Primary Care Center at 2003 Tulane Avenue or www.umcno.org/primary-care.

 

 

For information about the UMCNO Cancer Kitchen, which happens every other month at Simplee Gourmet, email Laura Kerns or call her at (504) 702-3691.

 

 

 

Beware and Be Aware of Carnival Cravings!

Author: Amanda Mitzel, RN, University Medical Center New Orleans

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Carnival season (and let’s be honest, living in New Orleans) can often make mindful eating a hard practice with which to stick. Between king cake, jambalaya and Popeye’s chicken, it seems everyone has food on the brain, but especially between King’s Day and Fat Tuesday.

Although the spirit of Mardi Gras has the power to get people thinking about eating, it does not always promote thinking about what they’re eating.

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If you’ve never heard of the term until now, mindful eating is the art of being aware of what you consume. It’s important because eating mindfully brings a steady awareness of our decision-making when it comes to food, encouraging healthy options and habits (while also making sure we aren’t unkind to ourselves if we have the occasional treat).

Mindful eating is not about restricting food. It’s not a diet.

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It’s about immersing ourselves in the experience, and it’s easy — not to mention, beneficial. Here’s how:

  • It increases your awareness of being full: Being mindful helps us notice when we’ve had enough, so we’re less likely to eat beyond the point of feeling satisfied.
  • It helps with identifying triggers: Our tendencies to eat for reasons other than nourishment are brought to light, such as stress eating or eating to comfort an emotion (sadness, anger, grief).
  • It aids in identifying habits: We can better see our habits, such as eating out of boredom or always having a certain snack during a particular activity. This awareness can help us challenge our need to always do something a certain way, especially if it’s unhealthy.
  • It promotes understanding the need for better coping mechanisms: As we uncover our triggers, we start to clearly see the need to deal with these emotions in a different way. Mindfulness helps give ourselves the space we need to process our feelings in a healthier way, such as breathing exercises, going for a walk, or talking with a friend.
  • It inspires you to make smarter food choices: This inspiration comes from a better awareness of how what you choose to fuel yourself affects how you feel. We start to notice the difference in how we feel when we eat a healthy meal versus post-junk food lethargy and anxiety.

So, now you may ask: How can I begin to integrate mindful eating into my everyday life?

Listed below are some tips to consider the next time you eat, whether it’s a healthy snack or that single slice of king cake you’re determined to savor mindfully:

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Cut out Distractions

Turn off your TV, your cell phone – anything that will distract you from the food in front of you. Focus fully on the meal if you are alone. If you are with loved ones, minimize distractions to the extent that you can. Immerse yourself in the conversation rather than checking your email or going over the day’s events in your mind.

Savor the Flavors

Enjoy your food! Use all five senses to heighten the experience.

Notice Reactions

Be aware of any emotions that come up. Do certain foods make you feel upset with yourself? Or do certain emotions cause you to reach for food as a nervous habit? Noticing these tendencies will help you highlight the need to work on managing your stress in other ways, decreasing that knee-jerk reaction to grab for food.

Don’t Judge

Try your best to keep that feeling of equanimity, no matter what emotions come up. Let those feelings come and go like clouds passing in the sky.

Pause

Make sure to slow down and give yourself enough time to notice when you’re feeling full. We often eat past the point of satiety simply because we’re distracted.

Be Kind to Yourself

Remember that this is not restricting yourself. It’s about paying attention and allowing this process to build the presence of mind to make choices that help us feel good about ourselves.

Making healthy choices becomes easier when we quiet down all the distractions around us and within our minds, and starting a mindful eating practice is as simple as giving your full attention to the plate in front of you.

Join me in trying to stay mindful this Carnival season, which will heighten the experience…and it might just keep us from eating the whole cake, too!

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You Are What You Eat: Lifestyle Tips for Managing Your Cholesterol

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Author: Rosetta Danigole, Lead Dietitian at University Medical Center New Orleans

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to consider food and lifestyle choices that benefit your health and prevent illness like heart disease.

For a long time, dietary cholesterol was considered a risk factor for heart disease. More recent recommendations suggest foods high in dietary cholesterol and low in saturated fats – foods like eggs, shellfish and liver – are acceptable and not of as great a concern as once thought in increasing cholesterol levels for most of the population. Keep in mind, however, that saturated fats – those fats found in animal products and solid fats, such as red meat and butter – are still considered to raise cholesterol levels.

Nutrition is an emerging science and dietary recommendations may change, but there are some tried and true guidelines:

A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, low or nonfat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts.

It is moderate in alcohol and lower in red and processed meat and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.

More studies show it is not only about the cholesterol numbers.  It’s about the inflammatory process associated with disease.

In order to reduce inflammation and reduce the damage caused by oxidative stress and the negative effects of so-called “bad cholesterol,” here are some dietary tips:

  • Fruits and vegetables: At least 4 to 5 cups a day.
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: Try to make it 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit for reduced sugar and calories.
  • Fish (preferably oily fish, like salmon): At least two 3.5-ounce servings a week.
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: While eating tilapia, for instance, is a good choice, the oily fish has more benefits — try it twice per week.
  • Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce servings a day.
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: Breakfast is a great time to get this one in. Try oatmeal instead of grits this month — but go easy on the brown sugar.
  • Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings a week, opting for unsalted varieties whenever possible
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: Keep this as your snack daily — you only need a small handful. Portion it out when you get home and make 4-5 small bags per week so you won’t forget!

Other dietary measures:

  • Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day.
    • Remember: One teaspoon of salt contains 2,400 mg if sodium per day. Processed food is packed with sodium, so avoid processed foods and the salt shaker. Read labels!
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: Excessive sugar is very inflammatory.  Avoid if at all possible. Drink water and herbal tea instead. Natural sweeteners such as Stevia seem to be a good choice.
  • Processed meats: Most people should try to avoid this altogether.  We suggest peanut butter, fresh tuna and chicken salad sandwiches with olive oil mayonnaise, and grilled chicken sandwiches to name some options. Also, there are other options such as bean burgers and hummus burgers if you want to try something new and vegetarian.
  • Saturated fat: The American Heart Association continues to recommend no more than 7% of your fat intake come from saturated fats. Trans fats have been of special concern over the last few years. Read your labels and be aware that anything that is a commercially baked good has the potential of some trans fats.

NOTE: Having a cholesterol level that is very low also has potential negative effects and may increase risk of dementia, autoimmune disorders and infections.

Try not to focus on the numbers. Focus on healthy lifestyles, healthy diet and exercise. Epidemiological data reveals that cardiovascular disease occurs within people who have low, normal and high cholesterol.  The implication from this is that total cholesterol is not the only marker for the assessment of cardiovascular risk.