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Curcumin―the active form of turmeric―has shown promise in the prevention and therapeutic management of Alzheimer’s Disease. While much research remains to be done for conclusive evidence, adding turmeric in food preparation may show some benefits. The appropriate amounts of curcumin supplements remain unclear. Without more definitive research, it is wise to avoid these supplements and rely on its use in foods.

While the use of curcumin supplements remains uncertain, a little turmeric added into your dishes can provide one more step toward healthy eating. I recall as a child my mother sprinkling this distinct flavored spice on coleslaw. Occasionally, I do the same. Curious as to how I could use this spice that has been advocated for several years as affecting memory, I sought new recipes. You can find a few online, but I stayed with the tried-and-true, a Green Tomato Relish. This recipe has been handed down in my family from generation to generation for about 100 years.tomatoes green

 

Green Tomato Relish

1 gallon ground green tomatoes

5 green sweet peppers

1 hot red pepper

6-8 small white onions

1 stalk celery

1 medium head cabbage

½ cup salt (not iodized)TURMERIC .jpg

4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon mustard seed

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 quart vinegar (5 percent acidity)

juice of 4 lemons

Grind vegetables together. Add salt. Put into a cheesecloth bag and drip (several hours or overnight). Mix spices, sugar, lemon juice, and vinegar. Heat to dissolve sugar. Add vegetable mixture gradually, combining with vinegar mixture, and heat thoroughly. Pack into hot, sterile jars and seal. (I water bath for about 20 minutes to make sure no microbes remain). This can remain sealed and stored for several months.

Another choice is to use curry. How does curry compare to turmeric? Curry is a combination of spices; turmeric, chili powder, and cumin. Because it has turmeric in it, it has similar qualities and nutritive values but in smaller quantities. Include this spice as well not only to enhance flavor of favorite dishes, but as a bonus to a healthy diet. Below is another family favorite, Chicken Asparagus Casserole, that began with my generation.

Chicken Asparagus Casserole 

8-10 frozen chicken breasts stripsCURRY

¼  cup olive oil

1 can asparagus pieces (15 ounce)

1 can asparagus spears (15 ounce)

1 can (10 1/2 ounce) low-fat cream of chicken soup

½ cup calorie reduced salad dressing (Miracle Whip)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon curry powder

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Defrost 8-10 chicken breast strips. Place in a microwavable dish, cover and cook until tender (or brown lightly on both sides in a skillet with cooking olive oil). Drain asparagus (or peas) and place in bottom of 9″ X 9″ X 2″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. (I often use 2 (15 ounce) cans of Lesueur sweet peas instead of asparagus or one can of peas and one can of asparagus spears). Top with chicken strips. Mix together soup, salad dressing, lemon juice and curry powder. Pour over chicken and asparagus. Top with shredded cheese. Cover and bake at 375o F. for 30 minutes. Leftovers freeze well.

How do you use turmeric or curry? Please share some of your favorite healthy dishes. We all want new ways to keep our memories intact.

 

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What do you think about requirements for restaurants to show calorie counts on their menus? Do you use them?

As of May 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stipulated restaurant chains with 20 or more locations must serve essentially the same menu items with calorie counts and do business under the same name. Written nutrition information stating total carbohydrates, added sugars, fiber, and protein must be available for those who request it.

Before requirements were initiated, I often drove through Wendy’s drive-thru for their Frosty when shopping or running errands. Their refreshing drink perked me up. When I noticed the calorie count on the menu board, I was shocked. Now I love Frosty, but it’s no friend to maintaining a healthy weight. It had to go. It wasn’t easy to stop this delightful treat, but it was better than the extra exercise needed to get rid of added weight.

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Americans consume about one-third of their daily calorie intake from food and beverages consumed away from home. These items contain more calories, sodium, and saturated fats than most home-prepared foods. The average person who eats one meal away from home each week will gain about two extra pounds over the course of a year. To abate the problem of extra calories when eating out, consider these three suggestions adapted from FDA.

  • Know your calorie needs. While 2,000 calories a day serves as a guide, needs vary according to sex, age, and physical activity. See the Estimated Calorie Needs Table to determine your needs.
  • Check calorie and nutrition information of menu items. Find information on menus or menu boards next to the name or price of the item. Deli counters, bulk food items in grocery stores, food trucks, airplanes/trains, and school lunches are not required to list calorie counts. Foods with two options or with a side will be listed with a slash―200/300. Multiple food items of three or more choices or different flavors (think ice cream) will be shown as a range of calories―200-300 calories.
  • Choose what is best for you.
    • When you choose an entrée, check the available sides and choose those with fewer calories.
    • If servings are more than you usually eat or want, don’t hesitate to ask for a to-go box.
    • Order salad dressings, gravy, and cream sauces on the side to limit what you consume.
    • Choose foods that are baked, roasted, steamed, grilled, or broiled.
    • Avoid those described as creamy, fried, breaded, battered, or buttered.
    • Try water with lemon for a refreshing beverage with your meal and avoid or limit sweetened beverages.

Eating out should be a pleasant event, not a time of restricting your diet and enjoyment. These simple guidelines will help you choose wisely while enjoying your dining experience.

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Share your thoughts with other readers about inclusion of calorie counts on menus and menu boards.

 

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New research on eating habits implicated a need for revised food labels to reflect updated scientific findings. Labels provide useful information to help consumers choose foods wisely. While companies with annual food sales in excess of $10 million have until 2020 to initiate new labels and companies with less than $10 million in annual sales have until 2021, at least ten percent of manufacturers already use them.

An earlier blog listed eight changes to expect on updated food labels. In a condensed version these included:

  • Manufacturers will use larger fonts in bold to print “calories” and “servings.”
  • Serving sizes will more readily reflect what people actually eat.
  • New labels will identify “added sugars.”
  • Packages with from one and a half to two servings will change to one serving to reflect what most people actually consume.
  • DV (daily values) of some nutrients will indicate recommendations based on the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Institute of Medicine.
  • Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and iron will include actual gram amounts plus %DV while vitamins A and C will no longer be required on labels, but food manufacturers may choose to list them.
  • Total calories from fat will be deleted, but the types of fat―“Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat”―will remain.

What do consumers want on a food label? Recent changes seek to help interpret and use labels to make better choices. What else would be helpful? A random online survey of more than 1,000 people ages 18-80 revealed that a whopping 95 percent most always looked for healthy food selections. Information on food labels influenced decisions, and that could lead to better dietary choices. While consumers want to eat healthy, only slightly more than a fourth (28 percent) thought the task easy. Eleven percent thought it difficult to identify nutritious foods.

Most in the survey (69 percent) agreed the nutrition Facts Panel on labels was their primary source of information followed by the ingredient list (67 percent). Participants paid attention to iconography such as the American Heart Association certified seal, “Heart-check Mark,” and believed additional information would be even more helpful. Nearly half of respondents checked front-of-package icons with millennials the most aware of symbols. They advocated universal icons or images to identify and encourage food selections of higher diet quality.

Joseph Clayton, the CEO of International Food Information Council Foundation and one of the sponsors of the survey, suggested that “Even subtle changes to food labels could have a positive impact on public health.”

Confusion over food dates may be among future changes. Currently, “best before” and “sell by” dates are unregulated but about 1/3 of consumers believed they were. Consumers perceived “best used by” as a quality standard while they interpreted “expires on” and “use by” as a safety standard. In 2017, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) proposed consistent wording with two standard phrases, “Best if Used By” for product quality and “Use By” for more perishable items and those that may be unsafe after the date stated. By December 2018, 87 percent of food products used these terms to bring clarity of product quality and safety to consumers.

While updated labels help us make nutritious and safer choices, future changes in food labels may ease the process even more.

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Nutrition information seems ubiquitous, but is it reliable? Who can we trust? March is National Nutrition Month® (NMM). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, promotes NMM as the valuable and creditable source of scientifically-based food information. The Academy recognizes its 100,000 plus members each year and celebrates Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Day on the second Wednesday of March. This year, March 13, 2019. 

The Academy’s mission is to promote optimal nutrition and well-being for all people. As nutrition experts, RDNs assist Americans as well as people everywhere translate scientific knowledge into practical application for healthy eating. RDNs individualize information to help each person make positive lifestyle changes. 

To improve your nutritional status and choice of healthy foods, see the “19 Health Tips for 2019” from the Academy. If you are a crossword fan, check out this puzzle. Then test your knowledge with the NNM 2019 quiz “Fact or Fiction?” Celebrate this month with healthier eating and make it a lifetime habit. 

 

 

 

Diet, Remove, Nutrition, Tomato, Cucumber, Olive, Eat
When it comes to food, I’m all about choice. But, as it turns out, not everyone is. While I find it easy to decide, others find it hard. According to registered dietitian Samantha Cassetty in her article “Why We’re so Obsessed with Rigid Diets like Keto,” many like the structure of  stringent diets. Most of us prefer the simple way out, and allowing someone to make our food decisions somehow seems easier. We don’t have to think. It’s either on the diet list or not. That throws a whole new light on the word dieting.

Cassetty first describes decision fatigue. We become so overwhelmed with decisions demanded of us, we gratefully accept someone deciding what we should eat. Rules simplify decision-making. Likewise, diet structure helps us feel in control, empowered, and excited to find a plan that works. The predictability of what to eat helps reduce stress and maintain calm.

Cravings are complex traits we learn. A “diet” generally nixes high-fat, high-sugar foods we desire. The problem is, we soon tire or become discouraged with this restriction. According to Cassetty, most diet plans are unrealistic and can damage our relationship with foods. She suggests we 1) find a plan that appeals to our taste buds, 2) have a flexible backup plan, 3) create a healthy foundation with exercise, appropriate sleep, and minimal stress, 4) watch for red flags that hamper lifestyle, and 5) decide what about the diet works.

Image result for free clip art dietsCertainly, there’ a protocol to eating. Perhaps if dieters learned the best one, they would enjoy structure yet still have choices. The USDA Healthy Eating Pattern has such a structure. Below are three options for a 2,000-calorie diet, the recommended calorie level for a healthy weight woman. All plans meet daily food needs of 2 cups fruits; 2½ cups vegetables; 6 ounces grains (at least half from whole grains); 5 ½ ounces protein foods; and 3 cups dairy.

While the pattern doesn’t list specific foods, it does give appropriate guidelines for a healthy diet. That narrows a lot of choices but leaves selections up to us. Do we want a bowl of cereal or a slice of bread? Do we choose a half-cup of blueberries or a medium orange? Think of the freedom with limited decision-making efforts.

Healthy Eating Pattern

Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
1 ounce Grains 1 ounce Grains 1 cup Fruit
½ cup Fruit 1 cup Dairy 1 cup Dairy
½ cup Dairy 1 ½ ounces Protein Foods  
Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack
1 ounce Grains 1 cup Fruit 1 ounce Grains
1 cup Fruit ½ cup Dairy ½ cup Dairy
1 ½ ounces Protein Foods
Lunch Lunch Lunch
2 ounces Grains 2 ounces Grains 2 ounces Grains
1 cup Vegetables 1 cup Vegetables 1 cup Vegetables
½ cup Fruit ½ cup Dairy 1 cup Dairy
1 cup Dairy 2 ounces Protein Foods
2 ½ ounces Protein Foods
Afternoon Snack Afternoon Snack Afternoon Snack
½ cup Vegetables 1 ounce Grains 1 ounce Grains
½ cup Dairy ½ cup Vegetables ½ cup Vegetables
½ cup Dairy 2 ounces Protein Foods
Dinner Dinner Dinner
2 ounces Grains 2 ounces Grains 2 ounces Grains
1 cup Vegetable 1 cup Vegetable 1 cup Vegetable
1 cup Dairy 1 cup Fruit 1 cup Fruit
3 ounces Protein Foods 1 cup Dairy 2 ounces Protein Foods
2 ounces Protein Foods

It’s up to us. We can have structure and make healthy decisions work.




 

 

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With the new year now underway, many resolved, “This will be the year I will lose weight.” If that was your resolution again, how are you doing?  Repeated disappointment to lose weight requires a change in mindset. What do you really want—to lose weight or to be healthy?  Remind yourself it isn’t about losing weight. It’s about getting and keeping a healthy body. Weight is only one aspect of that goal. When you strive for better health through wiser food choices, weight loss will come―without all those weird, expensive, and/or dangerous diets.

 

So stop! Change that resolution now. Too many of us become discouraged with diets in a few short weeks. We may eat something that isn’t on our new “diet” and decide we are a failure. We aren’t. That’s the problem with all these “eat this, don’t eat that” rules. If you truly need to lose a few pounds, how can you do that without “going on a diet?”

  1. Eat more. That’s right. Too many starve themselves, feel weak and famished, and then try to make up for it by choosing foods or drinks that don’t help weight or how they feel. Intermittent diets have become popular. That is, choosing a time to skip eating. In the right conditions, it may help some people. But for most of us, it’s probably not a good idea.
  2. Look for ways to give up junk foods or extra snacks without missing them. So often we eat foods just because they are there. We aren’t hungry. We just want something to munch. Or we see food and think we have a responsibility to eat it. Not so. When you feel any of these urges, ask yourself if you want it, do you need it, or can you do something else to get your mind off eating.
  3. Stop eating when you aren’t hungry. This may be a continuation of the above. Are you starved for that bedtime snack? Will something bad happen if you take a few sips of water and go to bed without eating again? How about those break times? I know how tempting chocolate can be, but if you must indulge with everyone else, choose just one piece or one cookie you believe will have the fewest calories and walk away. Who will notice (or care) if you pick a bottle of water instead of some sugar-sweetened beverage? Ask yourself, “Should I allow others to dictate what I should and shouldn’t eat?”

Keep in mind that those with diabetes need to eat in sync with medications. When properly regulated, eating extra foods may not be necessary, and if they are, those in the junk food categories aren’t a good idea.

Stop the dieting habit. Many weight-loss diets are dangerous, and few people stick with them for very long. Healthy weight doesn’t depend on any one food. It depends on you making better choices and eating smaller amounts. Try it. What do you have to lose but unneeded weight? Happy new year.

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Christmas Blessings

Greetings faithful readers. 

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Christmas evokes traditions, memories, gifts, and much more. It’s the time of year when foods play a major role in our celebrations. Instead of more information to close out this holiday season, I refer you to a few previous Christmas posts from my blog.

While these food or food-related posts are important snippets of information, let’s not forget the most important aspects of this Holy Holiday.

For those who have forgotten or never knew, Christmas is the observance of the birth of Jesus Christ. In his brief ministry of about three years, Jesus declared many truths about himself. In John 6:48, he refers to himself as the “bread of life.” Indeed, he is. While residents of this world, the foods we eat feed our earthly bodies. Jesus alone is the bread of life for eternity. He proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to [God] except through me” (John 14:6).

Enjoy the holiday and all it has come to represent but don’t forget that Jesus is the real reason for this season. God bless.

Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

 

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What is Thanksgiving turkey and dressing without cranberry sauce? This unique, brightly colored food is a must for most during the holiday season.

Now, just in time for Thanksgiving comes information from the Cranberry Institute about the many health benefits of this bright red addition to our holiday meal. Alas, cranberries aren’t just for urinary tract infections (UTI). In a paper titled “A Berry for Every Body,” the Institute confirms a number of positive effects on human health. They identify seven specific conditions:

  • Anti-bacterial benefits: Compounds found in cranberries may help stop bacteria which can irritate infections in several body organs by sticking to cells.
  • Heart health: On going research shows promise of a connection between consumption of cranberries and heart health. A 2016 study showed that cranberry juice may help improve blood flow and blood vessel function.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Studies in 2009 found that in animal models, consuming cranberries significantly lowered pro-inflammatory markers. This suggests a potential protective effect for specific body functions impaired by inflammation.
  • Urinary tract health: This ongoing controversy continues. For decades, researchers have battled whether cranberry juice can help prevent UTIs. According to The Cranberry Institute, cranberry products help reduce the incidence and recurrence of UTIs. Some studies indicate otherwise and suggest that cranberry juice may not treat UTIs or bladder infections.
  • Antioxidant activity: Studies indicate that antioxidant activity in cranberries protects against destruction of free radicals. This is significant in such disease conditions as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • Glucose metabolism: A 2017 study showed that dried cranberries added to a high-fat meal lowered glucose response and inflammation.
  • Gut health: Gut microbiota is a newer area of concern in physical health. Recent research indicates that cranberries may affect the gut microbiota in positive ways.

Cranberries are good sources of fiber plus the vitamins C, E, and K and the minerals copper and manganese. They contain high amounts of some plant compounds and antioxidants. Less familiar to us than vitamins and minerals, these substances include myricetin, peonidin, ursolic acid, and A-type proanthocyanidins which have shown promise in prevention of stomach cancer.

While these tasty red berries may or may not be a cure-all for ailments, it is a healthful food to include at Thanksgiving or other times. Try this Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Cranberries that I discovered and slightly modified last week.

Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Cranberries

2             acorn squash

1             cup onion, chopped                                                   Step 1 QUINOA CRANBERRY

1             cup celery, chopped

1             cup quinoa, plain or flavored

2             cups vegetable or chicken broth

1             teaspoon rosemary

1             teaspoon thyme

1             teaspoon sage

½           teaspoon black pepper                          FINAL QUINOA (2)

½           cup pecans, chopped

½            cup crumbled feta cheese, optional

1-2         tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Prepare the acorn squash. Wash outside of squash and cut into vertical halves. Remove seeds and pulp. Place cut side up in a baking dish and cook until tender, about 30 minutes, in a 400o F. oven.

Heat oil in a skillet and add onion and celery. Cook until tender and yellowish. Add quinoa, cranberries, seasonings, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 18-20 minutes. Add pecans.

For larger acorn squash, cut halves vertically and spoon quinoa mixture onto each quarter. Sprinkle with feta cheese, if desired, and place under oven broiler unit until cheese begins to brown. This is such a filling dish a quarter should be enough for a serving. For vegetarians, use this tasty dish as a complete meal.

While this is a great fall dish when acorn squash and cranberries are plentiful, don’t forget the cranberry sauce to go with your turkey and dressing. It’s great from the can, either jellied or whole berry, or make your own from fresh berries. Most packages have a recipe.

COOKED CRANBERRIES

However you serve it, enjoy your Thanksgiving Day knowing that cranberries are nutritious and a delightful low-calorie addition.