Nutrition Tips

Dining Out: A Survival Guide

Did you know that the average person eats out 205 times a year? That is equivalent to buying lunch out four times a week.

It is easy and convenient to order out for lunch and dinner, but many times these foods are loaded with more sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol than home-made food. Diets high in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol are linked to higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. Following these healthy tips can help you avoid added sodium, fat and cholesterol if you eat out.

Though you may know that grilled, baked and steamed foods are better options than fried foods, you should also look out for words that indicate a high sodium content, like marinated, pickled, smoked, teriyaki, soy sauce or in broth.When choosing sandwiches and salads, remember that fresh meat is lower in sodium and fats than luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs, sausage and ham.

Seemingly healthy food options, like salads, can actually be worse choices! For example, a Taco Bell Chipotle Steak Taco Salad has 900 calories and 57 grams of fat, 380 calories and 26 grams of fat more than a cheeseburger and large french fries. To avoid loading up your salads with unnecessary calories and fat, keep it simple and skip the extras, like croutons, cheese and creamy sauces.

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Eating for Weight Loss

The USDA, in conjunction with Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, released a new plate icon to replace the food pyramid. Visit the website choosemyplate.gov to review the newly simplified nutritional guidelines and learn how you can make better food choices.  

It’s not just what we eat, but how much. One simple way to get the results you want is to eat smaller portions, both at meal time and when snacking.  Just a few small changes will start to add up!  Try to swap out an unhealthy snack for some fresh fruits or vegetables.  

Healthy Eating Can Boost Your Energy

Fuel yourself for your walk, and for your workday, through healthy eating. With health and wellness, every small change counts.

Consider some of these tips for eating for energy throughout the day.

  • Don’t skip breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day. View this list of healthy breakfast ideas.
  • Pack healthy snacks so you are not at the mercy of the vending machine at 3:00 p.m.
  • Stay hydrated with water. Beware of an overdependence on caffeine to get you out of bed and through that afternoon slump. Too much caffeine can keep you up at night, and also lead to dehydration.

Healthy eating requires you to be mindful of what you are putting in your body, and how much. A good way to be more mindful of what you eat is to keep a food log, even if it’s just for a few days. This will help you get a better picture of what you are eating and how you can improve. A couple of good online tools for tracking your diet and physical activity are SparkPeople (free) and Calorie King (paid subscription required).

Remember, the more you walk, the more energy you will have and the more energy you have, the better you will feel. Healthy eating can boost your energy!

How To: Label Reading

Ingredients on food packaging are listed in descending order of predominance. The first two or three ingredients are the ones that matter most. Ingredients at the bottom of the list may appear in only very tiny amounts.

If you are trying to eat healthy, it’s usually a good idea to read the nutrition label on your food to see if it’s a good choice. But if you find reading one confusing, here’s a simple way to learn how to read a nutrition label and make better food choices.

When reading the nutrition label you should look for the following:

  • (Start at) Serving size: This information is found at the top of the label. The serving size tells you what the food maker suggests is the proper amount of food to eat, while number of servings tells you how much food is in the package. For example, a large bag of potato chips may have a serving size of 10 potato chips.
  • Calories: This is the amount of calories in a serving and is important if you want to watch your weight. If you eat more than the serving size, the more calories you eat. So if you ate the whole bag of potato chips and each serving is 150 calories, then you ate 9 servings or about 1350 calories. As a guide, 40 Calories is low, 100 Calories is moderate and 400 Calories or more is high.
  • Percent Daily Value (DV): This number lists the amount of nutrients an average person needs in a day. Keep in mind that 5% or less is low and 20% or more is high.
  • Nutrients to limit: Look for a DV of 5% or less (low) for these nutrients: total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Choose foods that have trans fat of 0g.
  • Nutrients to get more of: Look for a DV of 20% or more (high) for these nutrients: fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.

Remember to use label reading to make better food choices that will benefit you and your family.

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Visual Calorie Count Reader:

Journaling for Weight-loss Success

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that people who keep a food journal lose twice the weight of those who rely on dieting and exercising alone. Time to write your own weight-loss book…keep a food journal!

So you’re exercising, eating right and still can’t seem to lose the pounds – what’s going on? Even though you are living healthier, you may still be eating more than you burn. And sometimes that occasional high-calorie treat, like a bagel with cream cheese, can sabotage your weight loss goals.

Most people tend to overestimate their physical activity and underestimate the amount that they are consuming. Know what your daily caloric intake should be (the recommended daily intake is 2,000 calories) and keep track of what you eat and how much (and yes, sauces and oils count).

If you find keeping a written journal too stressful, there are also many online calorie counters that will do the calculations for you, such as:

Try tracking your calories for a week to see what you’re eating, it can help you figure out where you may be going wrong and help you reach your weight loss goals.

Portion Control

Research has shown that Americans often underestimate how many calories they are consuming each day by as much as 25%. This is equal to 200 to 500 extra calories a day, or an extra 10 pounds of added body weight each year!

Portion control at home is just as important as portion control when dining out. Studies show that people tend to eat more calories when portions are larger and this increased intake can ruin efforts to eat healthy. Here are some tips to help you avoid some common portion-size mistakes.

  • Many restaurants often serve more food than one person can eat in a sitting. To avoid overeating, split your meal with a friend or take half of it home to go.
  • When eating in, put meals on individual plates instead of having ‘serve yourself’ type meals. To master portion control during meals, fill ½ of your plate with veggies, ¼ with meat/protein and the rest with a carb (like potatoes, rice or pasta) for a balanced meal. Doing this keeps food out of reach and makes it harder for you to overeat.
  • It is very easy to mindlessly eat in front of the TV; you may have only meant to eat 3 cookies but instead ate the whole pack! Avoid this common mistake by pouring out into a bowl or on a plate what you want to eat, instead of eating from the bag. Even better, focus on getting more vegetables and fruits into your diet as they contain fiber which keeps you fuller longer.

Practicing these portion control tips whether outdoors or at home is key to maintaining weight and avoiding overeating.

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Top Ten Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Our colleagues from Be Fit to Be'ne'fit at the Columbia University Medical Center put together a list of ten great tips to help you stay happy and healthy during the winter months. 

Smart Snacking

As your increase your activity, you may sometimes find that you are hungrier and in need of a snack. Many people think snacking will lead to weight gain, but snacking can be healthy, and if done properly, can even help you lose weight by helping you to control your appetite and avoid overeating! The key to healthy snacking is to plan ahead and choose healthy snacks that fill you up and give you nutrients.  You should aim for snacks to be about 100 calories per serving. So, snacking can be part of healthy eating if you choose the right snacks.   During the week, try to swap out something unhealthy like chips for a healthier choice like celery sticks and peanut butter.  You’ll feel better and won’t even miss your old snacks!

Swap out! Simple Ways to Eat Healthier While Cooking at Home

Did you know that when cooking in a non-stick pan you can substitute broth or fruit juice for oil or butter when sautéing? There are lots of ways that you can swap out ingredients in your favorite recipes to make them more heart-healthy or to lower calories for those watching their weight.
Instead of butter, try using small amounts of vegetable oil or better, non-stick sprays like Pam. Butters have saturated fats that can cause heart disease. When baking swap out 2/3 of the butter with applesauce.
  • For breakfast, reduce fat and cholesterol by swapping whole eggs and bacon with egg whites (remove the yolk) and turkey bacon.
  • Instead of reaching for the salt shaker, try adding herbs like basil or oregano for added flavor.
  • Even vegetables come in healthier, more nutritious versions: when making salad, choose romaine lettuce or baby spinach instead of iceberg lettuce, as darker greens have more iron and fiber to fill you up.
  • To further increase fiber in your diet, replace white bread, rice and enriched pasta with whole grain bread, brown rice and whole grain pasta.
  • For dessert, reach for low-fat/fat-free frozen yogurt instead of ice cream and replace sugar (both brown and white) and syrups with substitutes like Splenda.

Swapping out ingredients doesn’t have to mean swapping flavor for health, with this guide you can make great tasting food while still eating right.

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Last Updated: 
12/30/15