10 Healthy New Years Resolutions

As 2009 rolls to an end, too many of us are still eating too much cholesterol, sodium, sugar and unhealthy fats.  We’ve made resolutions each year, but daily stressors and our constant time-crunch lifestyles lead to mindless and unhealthy eating.  Here are ten simple steps to a healthier diet and lifestyle for 2010, so cross off your list of excuses and start January on the right foot.  Healthy diets don’t require a major overhaul, just a few changes here and there is all you need.

Don’t Cut Out, Simply Add In

Instead of depriving yourself of the foods you love, start slowly by adding in healthy, wholesome foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables at each meal.  Avoiding the foods you cannot live without will only set you up for disaster.  Moderation is key to enjoying some unhealthy foods, so don’t beat yourself up for savoring sweets, just be sure to keep yourself in check throughout the rest of the day.

Watch Where Your Calories Are Coming From

If you’re eating a white bagel for breakfast, a smear of Jiff on Wonder bread for lunch and a frozen entrée for dinner, it’s a smart choice to re-consider the source of these processed foods.  Aim to eat as close to the natural source as possible and revamp your pantry with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.  For instance, opt for a whole grain bagel with lox, almond butter on whole wheat bread for lunch and a tofu stir fry for dinner.  You’ll be amazed at the surge in energy these simple swaps will make in your daily life.

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs

Hop off the Lo-Carb bandwagon, which phased out years ago; by now you should know healthy carbs do exist.   Enjoy nutrient-rich whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which contain complex carbs and fiber to keep you satiated longer than the nutrient-void simple carbs found in candy, soda, white bread products and juices.  Simple carbs are nothing but empty calories and will leave you unsatisfied with a blood sugar surge and crash, therefore opt for your whole grain friends in lieu of their white counterparts.

Enjoy Heart-Healthy Fats

All fats are not created equal.  Forgo the fat phobia and enjoy healthy unsaturated fats from oils, fish, seeds and nuts in moderation.  Steer clear of saturated fats found in whole milk, meat and cheese.  Make an effort to scan nutrition labels for trans fats, which are unhealthy and found in many products containing hydrogenated oils.  Moreover, limit your intake of full fat dairy and red meat; opt for skim milk or unsweetened soy milk in your morning cereal and swap ground chicken in place of beef in your evening tacos.

Increase your Fiber

Americans typically don’t get enough fiber in their diets, therefore make it a ‘Must’ for 2010 to increase your fiber intake with whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat.  You get more fiber, vitamin E, B6, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and potassium in whole wheat than in refined ‘enriched’ white flour.  Moreover, toss in fruits, beans and vegetables to your morning omelet, afternoon salad and evening chili to reap the heart-healthy benefits of fiber.  Get creative and opt for a breakfast parfait, whole wheat zucchini bread, hummus with vegetables or bean burgers.

Up Your Water Intake

It’s quite easy and free.  Keep bottled water with you all day long; one at your work desk, another in your kitchen fridge and yet another along your bedside to give your body a fluid boost and help flush out toxins.  Opt for a glass of water with fresh mint, cucumber slices, oranges or limes, which will give your taste buds a refreshing treat without the calories and sugar of soda or juice.  Avoid sodas and sugar-laden juices by slowly transitioning to a mixture of seltzer and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Create A Rainbow

Vary the rainbow of produce in your meals; try adding a new fruit and vegetable to your meals each week.  Toss an apple in your brown bag or whip up a fruit smoothie for breakfast.  When creating dinner, opt for topping your fish or chicken with vegetable and fruit purees.  Keep handy bags of frozen fruit and vegetables in the freezer and create ready-to eat crudités in your fridge.  Need an emergency snack to keep in your gym bag? Why not create a mixture of dried apples, apricots, pears and cherries? Dried fruits are a tasty way to satisfy your sweet craving and add to your fiber quota for the day.

Nix Mindless Munchies

Keep yourself busy with a mint or a piece of gum.  Moreover, make a habit of brushing your teeth after each meal.  After your meal, enjoy a hot herbal tea or hot water with lemon while you digest your food and give your brain enough time to register that you are full.  Take a walk, call a friend or journal; make a list of things to do when you are ‘bored’ and find yourself mindlessly devouring the pantry.  Post this list on your fridge and refer to it each time you find yourself reaching for the pint of Breyer’s.

Forgo Temptations

Leave the chips, cookies and candy in the food store, not in your pantry.  Unfortunately these tasty treats seem to creep into our kitchens and the outcome is never enjoyable.  Instead of depriving yourself of sweets, think about what you are craving and what would satisfy your need for sweetness.  Perhaps it’s a cup of hot coco with skim milk, cinnamon and coco powder, or an apple dipped into agave nectar and sprinkled with unsweetened coconut.  If you are a chocolate fan, enjoy a square of rich dark chocolate or a few raw cacao nibs to cure your sweet tooth.

Enjoy Your Food

Create an eye-appeasing dish and sit down in an enjoyable environment while you dine.  Many people eat while standing up and end up inhaling food out of the fridge.  Turn away from the computer at lunch and savor your food, turn off the television at night and focus on your food presentation.  Taking the time to prepare a beautiful dish is the name of the game and easier to do than you think.  The only way a healthy diet will work is if you enjoy the foods you are eating so be sure to savor each bite of your meal and concentrate on your hunger and satiety levels before reaching for seconds.

In The News…

General Mills Launches Liveglutenfreely.com

General Mills To Reduce Sugar in Cereals

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TLT (Tofu, Lettuce n’ Tomato) Sandwich

I just made this divine TLT sandwich for my lunch today and I cannot stop raving over it! I will definitely be making this my lunch staple a few times each week!

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Ingredients

  • 1 medium tomato
  • 2 pieces Kale (or your green “a.k.a. lettuce” of choice)
  • 14 ounces water packed extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon Reduced Sodium Tamari (Wheat Free Soy Sauce)
  • 1 Tablespoon Veganaise (Vegan Mayonnaise)
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Scallions
  • Toasted Bread of choice (Pita, Bread, Bagel, Naan)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Combine Tamari and Dijon mustard in a small bowl.
  • Pat tofu with a paper towel to soak up excess water and slice tofu crosswise into 8 pieces
  • Using a spoon, spread the mustard mixture on the tofu slices (both sides)
  • Bake tofu for 20 minutes
  • Spread Veganaise onto toasted bread and place the tofu, lettuce, tomato, cilantro and scallions on top.
  • Enjoy!

I love Tofu, not only is it delicious, it’s healthy and packed with a beneficial amount of iron and has no saturated fat or cholesterol.   Tofu is also high in calcium and magnesium as well as a great source of soy protein.  Moreover, the FDA claims, “25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Although I am Not a vegetarian, I do love my tofu.  Do you enjoy Tofu?  Share with us some of your favorite ways to prepare and incorporate Tofu into your meals.

Deciphering Fats

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Look beyond the total fat in a given food.  Don’t focus on the percentage of calories from fat per serving…this number does not decipher between your good and bad fats.  Therefore, it is more important to focus on the type of fat that is beneficial to heart health than a particular food’s ratio of calories from fat.   For instance, instead of using butter to saute vegetables, use canola oil.  Moreover, snack on a handful of nuts instead of pretzels.  These small changes may help protect you from heart disease.

Check the nutrition label for the amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.  These are the healthy unsaturated fats, who’s numbers should be higher than those for trans and saturated fats, both of which are linked to heart disease.  If your food does not have these nutrients listed, you can easily figure out these good fats by subtracting the amount of trans and saturated fats from the total fat.  This number will give you the estimated unsaturated fat amount.  Make sure to minimize saturated and trans fat in your daily diet and try to incorporate foods with healthy unsaturated fats.

Fats that raise your cholesterol are saturated fats, trans fats and dietary cholesterol.  Saturated fats originate from animal foods such as whole milk, cream, ice cream, whole milk cheeses, butter, lard and meats as well as from certain plant oils such as palm, palm kernel, and coconut oils, and cocoa butter. Trans fats, whose source is from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are found in cookies, cakes, crackers, French fries, fried onion rings, and donuts.  Trans fats result from adding hydrogen to vegetable oils used in commercial baked goods and for cooking in most restaurants and fast food restaurants.  Lastly, dietary cholesterol is found in animal food sources such as meats, egg yolks, dairy products, organ meats, fish and poultry.

On the other hand, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats both lower your cholesterol.  Polyunsaturated fats are found in certain plant oils such as safflower, sesame, corn, soy, and sunflower-seed oils, as well as in nuts and seeds.  Monounsaturated fats are found in certain plant oils, as well such as olive, canola, and peanut oils, along with avocados.

Overall, the type of fat is what is most important for us to focus on for our health.  For a quick rule of thumb regarding your fat intake: unsaturated fats are to be emphasized, trans fats are to be avoided, and saturated fats are to be kept on the lower level.

What are your favorite “good fats’ that you incorporate into your daily meals/snacks?

The GOOD Healthy Fats…choose Unsaturated

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It’s been a long asked question: “Is fat good for me?”

The answer is: Yes. Well, certain fats.  Read on to make sure you are incorporating the Good Fats into your daily meals.

It is important to note which type of fat you are eating, this is what will tell you how heart-healthy it is for your body.  For instance, you can start by replacing a portion of your calories with unsaturated fats, such as cooking with canola oil rather than butter or adding raw nuts to your meal instead of processed, white flour additives.   The type of fat is what is most important for your health.  We should be avoiding Trans fat, keeping our saturated fat low, and use unsaturated fats as often as possible.

Be sure to note the nutrition label of your foods before you purchase.  Make sure you check for the amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which should be higher than those for trans fats and saturated fats.  The reasoning behind avoiding both trans fats and saturated fats is that studies show they lead to heat disease.  If these numbers are not listed on your nutrition label, simply take the total fat number and subtract the saturated and trans fats.  This will give you an estimate of your unsaturated fats.

Here are a few Healthy Fats for you to incorporate into your daily dishes:

  • Avocado
  • Raw Nuts (Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Walnuts)
  • Seeds (Pumpkin, Sesame)
  • Sunflower, Corn, Soybean, and Flax-seed Oils (Polyunsaturated)
  • Organic Nut Butters (Peanut, Almond, Cashew, etc.)
  • Organic Seed Butters (Sunflower Seed butter)
  • Plant Oils (canola, peanut, olive) (Monounsaturated)
  • Flax Seeds
  • Oily Fish such as Salmon, Sardines, Mackerel, Tuna
  • Homemade Hummus

So, for instance, try swapping:

  • Salmon for Steak
  • Avocado for Brie
  • Olive Oil for Butter
  • Homemade Hummus for Processed Mayonnaise

Remember , by incorporating these healthy, unprocessed fats into your daily diet you will learn to avoid the processed hazards of saturated fats.

Experiment with these healthy fats and try to incorporate into your meals.  Try an avocado on your sandwich tomorrow, or perhaps some almonds in your morning oatmeal and a touch of soy nuts on your dinner salad.

What are your favorite “heart-healthy” fats?