Posts Tagged ‘FOOD’

Greetings readers and welcome back. My abrupt departure and lengthy absence resulted from the immediate caregiving needs of my husband who died at Christmastime. Crises during the pandemic may have interrupted your schedules as well whether from illnesses or the many other disruptions caused by Covid throughout the world. I hope that, like me, you are doing well and moving forward.

As we regroup, I’m excited to announce that future posts will relate more closely to the title of this blog, “Food from the Garden.” While I will continue to update readers on recent nutritional news, I will incorporate more information on foods we prepare and eat. Many of these may include excerpts from my forthcoming cookbook. I’ll explore topics such as—what are ancient grains, who needs gluten-free diets, and a world of other questions people often ask about food and nutrition. Of course, you will find oodles of recipes from comfort foods to my famous Baked Alaska. While our well-being and longevity may depend on our balance of eating healthier foods, it’s also about enjoyment. We can indulge occasionally if we consider those sweets and fats in with our total calorie consumption. Who would want to miss my fresh coconut Christmas cake?  

During the absence of this blog, some things didn’t change. For the sixth year in a row, the U. S. News & World Report magazine proclaimed the Mediterranean diet as the best overall choice for maximum health. Why does it continue to place so high? Are we listening to the experts? The diet isn’t a specific meal plan, but instead it offers smart choices for individuals to choose what they like and want.

Research substantiates that foods which make up the Mediterranean diet—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seafood, and lean poultry along with olive oil—tend to result in better health. The January 2023 U. S. News & World Report magazine gives more information on this healthful diet known to promote longevity and quality of life.

Among other listed attributes in the article, the diet is family friendly, budget friendly, plant friendly, and low fat. The link “read more” in the article below the Mediterranean diet gives more ideas for incorporating this nutritious diet into your meal plans. It’s never too late to start. Check it out.


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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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The U. S. News & World Report recently released their pick for “best overall” diet. The DASH diet ranked number one again for the eighth consecutive year. The diet also ranked at the top in the categories “best diets for healthy eating” and “best heart-healthy” diet. “Best diets” are chosen based on how readily most people can adopt them into their diets, how easily they manage purchase and preparation, and how well users can sustain the dietary plan.

The DASH diet isn’t a fad. It emphasizes long-term lifestyle changes. Initially designed as an appropriate way to lower blood pressure, the DASH plan has been well received and accepted by the public as well as health professionals. It is easy to follow using common foods offered in the grocery store. The use of readily available foods that don’t require special preparation saves time and money. Inclusion of daily servings of foods from different food groups provides variety and the opportunity to choose many foods without becoming bored. What foods makes this diet the best?

The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and meat, fish, and poultry plus nuts and beans (legumes). It limits sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, foods high in salt/sodium, fatty meats high in saturated fat, and less-healthy fats such as the tropical coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils. Fruits and vegetable provide antioxidants and are low in sodium, factors known to constitute healthy eating.

If you follow this diet, please share your experiences of benefits you have found. For those who choose to make healthy eating a priority for 2018, check out a shopping guide, copy a list of foods included, and place on your refrigerator door as a reminder. Take along a copy when you shop. Avoid those less healthy foods you often buy, and become mindful of better choices.

It’s your life. It’s your health. Be healthier this year by choosing wisely the foods you eat.

Image result for dash diet free clip art

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A designated “day” seems to exist for everything imaginable. June 10, 2016 is National Iced Tea Day.

The history of tea goes back some 5,000 years. Recipes for cold spiked punches, made mostly from green tea, surfaced in the late 1700s. Nearly 100 years later, recipes of the iced tea we love today appeared in cookbooks. While iced tea is great unsweetened, early versions were mostly sweetened and often served  with lemon.

Iced tea became a national favorite after Richard Blechynden, a tea merchant, decided on a hot day at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis to distribute free iced tea instead of his usual hot tea. This iced beverage immediately became a hit and has become one of the most popular drinks around the world. Some 85 percent of tea drinkers want theirs iced.

Celebrate this national day with a tall glass of refreshing and healthful iced tea.

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I am a longtime hot tea fan. For decades, anytime has been tea time for me. While others order a different favorite brew, as I do occasionally, I prefer black tea. Now comes evidence of my reward for my beverage choice. As little as one cup per day may improve health.

Tea contains flavonoids which have antioxidant properties. Flavonoids come from a broad category of non-nutritive phytochemicals found only in plants. These substances help to maintain health in varied ways. Other familiar phytochemicals include carotenoids, isoflavones, phenolic acids, and many more. It is estimated that hundreds of phytochemicals are yet to be identified. Tea has one of the highest concentrations of flavonoids of any plant. The type and amount in tea varies depending on several factors.

While antioxidants are in a different category, some phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, meaning they can help prevent or delay damage to cells and tissues. Antioxidants are found in both plant and animal sources.

Green tea has more of the flavonoid called catechins. Black tea, which has been fermented or oxidized, contains more of the flavonoids theaflavins and thearubigins. Both are water-soluble and readily absorbed into the body. For maximum concentration of flavonoids, steep tea for at least one minute. The longer the brew time, the higher the concentration of flavonoids and increased health benefits.

How is tea effective in health promotion? Research shows several conditions affected by flavonoids and perhaps other unidentified phytochemicals.

  • Heart disease: Tea drinkers may be more than one-third less likely to have a heart attack. Calcium deposits are linked to heart disease and other cardiovascular events. Buildup of these deposits, associated with plaque development in coronary arteries, is less in those who drink tea.
  • Dementia: Older adults with high levels of calcium plaques in their arteries are more likely to develop dementia earlier than those without calcium buildup. As in heart disease, tea seems to decrease the accumulation.
  • Neurological conditions: Antioxidants in tea have possible neuroprotective agents and may prove to reduce risks for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Other diseases: Researchers have found favorable, but not conclusive, evidence of lower risks of skin disease, cancer, excessive weight, and other maladies in tea drinkers.

But is it the tea or something else? Although researchers have not found a direct relationship, tea drinkers tend to live healthier lifestyles. Whatever current and future findings, tea is a wholesome, inexpensive drink that contributes to a healthy diet.

Drink up!

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Will your traditional Christmas dinner boast of sweet potatoes or yams? Most likely whatever you call that orange-colored root vegetable, you will serve sweet potatoes. A good number of people think of sweet potatoes as yams, regardless of their true identity. Even if it’s sold as a yam, in the United States almost all of this valued vegetable, regardless of color or shape, will be sweet potatoes.

Yams, grown primarily in the Caribbean, have a different taste, texture, and appearance. Sweet potatoes vary in color from the well-recognized bright orange interior to white and even purple. Noted for its high content of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber, it is also high in antioxidants but considered low in calories. It’s all that sugar and butter lathered on them that make the calorie count go ballistic.

Sweet potatoes are a great choice on holiday menus and a versatile addition to any meal from main course to desert. For the holidays, try plain baked sweet potatoes. Bake a batch of medium-sized potatoes about one hour in a 350o oven. Eat straight from the oven or use for varied dishes.

Treat yourself and your holiday guests to a taste-tempting breakfast. Slice peeled baked potatoes lengthwise and heat. For a special treat, brown slightly in butter and serve with turkey bacon.

If you prefer a sweetened dish with your holiday dinner, cut lengthwise, place in a baking dish, drizzle with lite maple or plain syrup and heat in oven or microwave. This will satisfy a sweet tooth yet have a lot fewer calories than those rich casseroles with extra goodies

In addition to all the nutrients, sweet potatoes are economical this time of year and often on super sales. Take advantage of this great food. Whether you call it a yam or by its correct name, nothing beats a great sweet potato.

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As a child, i recall my Mother often saying, “their eyes were bigger than their stomachs.” She referred to those, usually  children, who filled a plate with more food than could be eaten. Adults do the same, except many times they continue to eat until they become overstuffed and miserable. When we’re hungry, normal portion sizes may look too small to curb a famished appetite. American may underestimate the number of calories consumed daily by as much as 25 percent.

Unfortunately when we wolf down more food than needed, the stomach stretches and the girth grows wider. One major cause of obesity in our society is continual overindulgence from oversized portions.

Overeating isn’t new. Gluttony is consuming more food than the body requires. Even ancient documents, including the Bible, talked about gluttony. If appetite can’t be trusted, how can we determine healthful portion sizes?

To abate this growing trend of increased serving size, thus too many calories, learn what is considered as a serving size. WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/diet/control-portion-size?page=2 gives a US Department of Agriculture list of what constitutes a serving size. The article has sage advice to help people control the amount eaten. It also gives comparisons to varied objects to use instead of attempting to remember specific ounces and cups. Some examples include:

  • Vegetable or fruit:       size of your fist
  • Meats, fish, poultry:    size of a deck of cards
  • Pancake:                    size of a compact disk
  • Potato:                       size of a computer mouse       

The June 2013 issue of Food Insight also provides helpful steps to reduce portion size.

  • Step 1. Write down what and how much you consume. What do you really eat? Put your usual serving on a dish and then measure to see the actual portion size.
  • Step 2. Measure a fixed amount of some foods and drinks to see what they look like in your glasses and on your plates. I have found this very revealing. It also gives you a future guideline to know what a portion size is in your favorite bowl, glass, or dish.
  • Step 3. Measure out small amounts to eat and drink and eat slowly to satisfy hunger.
  • Step 4. Pay attention to feelings of hunger and satiety. Many of us hang on to that “Clean plate club,” especially if we are eating someone else’s food. We keep eating way beyond our satiety level. Learn and use the “push principle.” Push your plate away when you have eaten adequately.

To these I would add Step 5. Check labels on individual packaged snacks. We often assume these are one serving portions, but the label may reveal it is one and a half or two servings.

Portion control has become a universal problem. Check what you eat and make positive changes to reduce calories. The above suggestions can help.

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In past years, milk referred to that creamy white liquid from contented, or not so contented, cows. Not anymore. Milk now encompasses a bevy of liquids from animal and plant sources. Although milk is available from goats and other animals, the word milk most often brings to mind cows. Cow’s milk comes in many forms and undergoes three primary processes before bought by consumers.

  • Pasteurization. Milk is heated for a certain time to a specific temperature, often 161 degrees Fahrenheit  for 15 seconds or an equivalent temperature and time. This kills harmful organisms and helps milk to keep longer.
  • Homogenization. Milk is mixed to break down fat globules and keep the cream from separating from the fluid and milk solids. It keeps the texture smooth and creamy.
  • Fortification. Substances are added to increase or replace nutritional values. Most milk has 400 I.U. of vitamin D added per quart.

In the supermarket, milk is mostly defined by fat content. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dairy products based on standards of identity. The following are the most common types available to consumers.

  • Whole milk has no fat removed and has 3.5% fat content with about 150 calories per 8-ounce serving.
  • 2%, 1%, and ½% refer to the percent of butter fat left in milk. In each case, fat content has been reduced to the amount indicated. Per serving, the 2% has approximately 120 calories and 1% has about 100 calories
  • Non-fat or skim milk has negligible amounts of fat of less than 0.02%. An 8-ounce serving has about 80 calories compared to 150 calories for whole milk.
  • Evaporated milk is whole or skim milk with approximately 50% of water removed. It has vitamin D added and is homogenized.
  • Condensed milk has much of the water removed and is sweetened with nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners. It is pasteurized and homogenized.
  • Raw milk is unpasteurized. Because it can transmit harmful bacteria, the FDA warms against drinking it.
  • Organic milk is produced by dairy farmers who raise their animals on land using only organic fertilizers and pesticides. Cows are not given supplemental hormones. The milk is processed in the same way as standard milk and the nutrient content is the same. Organic milk doesn’t offer any more health benefits than standard milk.

Plants provide alternative sources of milk. Many forms tout added benefits. Some of the most common plant sources include: soy, rice, oat, coconut, and almond milks. For those unable to drink cow’s milk for health reasons, these plant sources give viable alternatives. If you are new to other forms of milk, don’t expect it to taste anything like the familiar cow’s milk. Each type has its own unique flavor.

Whatever you choose, milk is a healthful choice to meet the daily requirements of many nutrients.

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In the last blog (Dumb and Dumber Diets in 2012, January 13, 2013), I identified loser diets for last year. If those diets were ridiculous, who were the winners?

Each year nutrition experts evaluate more than 25 diets for the US News & World Report to decide the best overall diet. For the third year in a row, they chose the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Scores were based on whether diets were easy to follow, nutritious, and safe and effective.

The primary focus of the DASH diet, developed by National Institute of Health, is to decrease sodium intake and thereby lower blood pressure. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend a maximum of 2300 milligrams (mg) per day, the equivalent of about one teaspoon of salt. For African-Americans, those over age fifty-one or individuals who have chronic diseases of hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease,the suggested limit is 1500 mg/day. The DASH diet also effectively lowers cholesterol and reduces risks for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

What is this #1 diet? The DASH plan requires no special foods or difficult-to-follow recipes. It is based on eating a specific amount of servings from fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk products, whole grains, and protein foods from lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts, and seeds. It is lower in sodium, sweets, added sugars, and fats than what most Americans eat.

If you choose to follow this healthy diet, change your eating pattern slowly. Sudden increased amounts of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and grains may cause bloating and digestive upsets. Symptoms subside as your body system adjusts to healthier fares. The additional fiber is a benefit for overall health. If you eat very few fruits/vegetables, start with a vegetable at lunch the first day—maybe a salad or raw carrot strips—and alternate with a vegetable serving the next day at dinner. Add a fruit of your choice during the day. Gradually add more fruits and vegetables.

Alter milk products to lower the amount of fat in your diet. Begin with 2% products and gradually reduce the amount of fat over a period of weeks. Choose low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt, and other milk products.

The DASH diet is similar to recommendations from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. A daily comparison for a 2000 calorie diet looks like this:

FRUITS: 4 Servings
VEGETABLES: 5 Servings
GRAINS: 6 Servings (1 oz./serving)
At least half from whole grain.
Choose from lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
DAIRY:  3 cups equivalent
Choose low-fat or skim products.

FRUITS: 4-5 Servings
VEGETABLES: 4-5 Servings
GRAINS: 6-8 Servings (1 oz./serving)
At least half from whole grain.
PROTEIN FOODS: Less than 6 oz.
Choose from lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
DAIRY: 2-3 cups equivalent
Choose low-fat or skim products.

Check out more information on the DASH diet at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/dash_brief.pdf.  Find sample menus at: http://dashdiet.org/sample_menu.asp, and see select recipes at: http://dashdiet.org/DASH_diet_recipes.asp

Other good choices are out there, but if you want #1, DASH is the way to go. Why wait to start getting healthier?

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November 14 is World Diabetes Day. The World Health Organization estimates that diabetes affects more than 346 million people worldwide. In the United States, diabetes afflicts more than eight percent of the population with about seven million of those undiagnosed.

Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood. The pancreas is unable to produce enough of the hormone insulin to convert blood glucose into energy. Only about five percent of those with diabetes have this form.

Type II diabetes is often called adult-onset diabetes. It is more prevalent in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and in the aged population. This type more commonly occurs as a result of excessive weight caused by a poor diet and too little exercise.

Diet is key in controlling diabetes. Often people who are overweight and diagnosed with the condition can improve or even eliminate the disease  by losing weight and eating a healthier diet. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/ provides guidelines to improve eating. These include:

  • Make healthy food choices. Choose from a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Recognize and control intake of foods that raise blood glucose. Carbohydrates raise sugar levels in the blood. The carbohydrate sugar does not cause diabetes, but consuming too much can increase blood glucose levels and result in weight gain. However, not all sugars are bad. Sugars primarily come in the form of natural sources, such as fruits which are healthy for you, and added sugars. It is the latter that can create problems. Starch is another source of carbohydrate. Choose those higher in fiber and from whole grain sources.
  • Consume more diabetes superfoods. The ADA lists the following as superfoods: beans, dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, sweet potatoes, berries, tomatoes, fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, nuts, and fat-free dairy products. Some of these foods are high in calories so enjoy but watch serving size.
  • Choose desserts sparingly and selectively. A diagnosis of diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an occasional treat. Choose those with fewer calories and savor small portions.
  • Fats. Learn the difference between good fats and bad fats. Those from animal source generally aren’t as healthy while most from plant sources are.

If you are one of those nearly nineteen million in the US already diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, review your lifestyle and keep blood sugar levels under control. If you aren’t, remember these tips to stay healthy and enjoy living without the risk of this disease and its many medical complications. For more information, see the ADA website at http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/.

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