Thursday, April 4

Spring Clean Your Diet and Your Kitchen

Laura Hartung, MA, RD, LDN
Today's Guest Post is from Laura, a Boston-based Registered Dietitian and exercise enthusiast. Read Laura's bio here. As part of our blog series to spring clean your life, Laura's post below details how you can pack more veggies into your diet and go through your cabinets to clean out the junk!
Let’s face it, a healthy and happy home starts in the kitchen!  Do you know what’s in your cabinets and refrigerator? You know how great it feels to get the junk and garbage out of your closets, car and storage spaces, but now it’s time to spring clean your EATING!   


First and foremost, you need to GET MORE VEGGIES, people!  Fresh, frozen and canned are ALL great choices!  How many of you are getting 9-13 servings of fruits and vegetable per day, as recommended by the American Cancer Society? Most people get enough fruit, but it’s the red, yellow, orange, purple and green veggies most people lack! 

  • Fresh: buy local veggies when you can, they are even better than going organic! Find your local farms and load up weekly on seasonal produce!  Spring brings in broccoli! 
  • Canned: pumpkin and tomatoes canned are chocked full of vitamins and antioxidants that aren't as available when uncooked.  Add canned plain pumpkin (chocked full of vitamin A) and canned tomatoes (loads of lycopene) to your daily diet!
  • Frozen: stock up on the plain frozen veggies that are on sale so you can make stir fry and veggies side dishes in minutes!  Get some green bean and veggie medleys.  Don’t forget about frozen blueberries!  They are cost effective and can be thrown into smoothies, salads, yogurt and your morning oatmeal!
Note:  Rinse canned vegetables to reduce sodium content by 40%.  Buy frozen veggies without added salt and frozen fruit without added sugar.  
Research show that people who eat more vegetables and fruit are have smaller waistlines. You also gain a plethora of plant chemicals and antioxidants, which help keeps inflammation and disease at bay.  Make sure your produce is in sight and not out of mind!  I call the refrigerator “crispers” the “rotters” because veggies usually go in there to perish!  Make sure you keep your greens and other vegetable in plain view so you can eat them while they are FRESH!!
A serving of veggies = 
  • 3 cups green leafy veggies (kale, spinach, romaine)
  • 1 cup chopped veggie (cabbage, carrots, tomatoes)
  • ½ cup cooked vegetables (green beans, zucchini)
  • ¼ cup canned plain pumpkin

Did you know that people who read the nutritional information on food labels are generally thinner than those who don’t read labels? April 11th was recently appointed National Read Your Nutrition Labels Day by the Citizens for Health advocacy group. Some things to look out for include:
  • SUGAR FREE – More and more consumers are looking for products that are low in sugar; however, beware of sugar-free claims as these foods typically use artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols which often cause digestive issues.
    • Label Lesson: Be on the lookout for ingredient lists that include artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose and erythritol.
  •  LIGHT – A product claiming to be light must have one-third fewer calories, fat or sodium than the regular version of that same product. Be on the lookout, though, as a light ice cream, for example, may have less fat but around the same calories.
    • Label Lesson: Before piling up on what you believe is a ‘light’ snack, be sure to read the label to see which category the food has less of and more importantly, stick to the serving size! 
  • NO TRANS FAT – Any products with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat – an artificial ingredient that leads to increases in artery-clogging bad cholesterol (LDL) – can be legally claimed as having zero trans fats. If you happen to eat several servings or a few different ‘trans fat-free’ foods a day, you can wind up consuming a measurable amount. 
    • Label Lesson: Avoid products with partially hydrogenated oils, which contain trans fats, listed as an ingredient. 
  • MULTIGRAIN– Many of us confuse the ‘multigrain’ claim on our bread, pretzels and even chips to be the same as “whole grain” or “whole wheat” – both of which are associated with reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Don’t be fooled – multigrain means the product is made from several types of grains which can include refined and less nutritionally-positive varieties.
    • Label Lesson: To make sure the product is made primarily with whole grains, check the first ingredient listed on the label – it should have the word “whole” in it.
  • SUGAR –  Americans are averaging 88 grams of added sugar per day or 22 teaspoons!!!!  Health experts cap added sugar intake to no more than 40 grams (some say even lower @ 36g  for men, 20g for women and even less for kids) or 10 teaspoons,  per day. Although the food industry is going for 50 grams.   Too much sugar can crowd out more nutritionally dense foods and cause inflammation in the body, which is the root all disease.
    • Label Lesson: Check grams of added sugar to see how your favorite sweet can fit healthfully (or not) into your daily eating plan!
  • SALT –  Let’s decipher- salt is comprised of about 40% of sodium. The risks to your health: Too much SODIUM can cause high blood pressure- a known contributor to CVD and stroke. Nearly all of our sodium intake is from salt added to food. The vast majority is already in processed and restaurant foods. A small amount of sodium in food occurs naturally (e.g., fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). More than 75% of the sodium we eat comes from restaurant, prepackaged, and processed foods. Only 5% of dietary sodium is added during cooking, and only 6% is added at the table. The remaining 12% occurs naturally in foods. So: THE SALT SHAKER IS NOT TO BLAME!
    • Label Lesson: If you must buy a processed food, check to see if it is 250-300 mg of sodium per serving.
So, get out there and take control over your diet!

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