Dust off the Dora lunchbox, school is back in session. And like every busy parent, you may be thinking, “what else can I pack in my kid’s lunch besides PB & J?” And with the risk for allergies, you may not be able to even pack that! Thankfully, there are lots of other options available.
Unless you’re living in California where Caesar salad is the norm, school lunch may or may not have much to offer. Many schools offer ‘kiddy’ favorites’ like chicken nuggets and burgers and fries, which are not very nutritious and may lead to poor eating habits over time. Below are some new ideas for lunch.
Beans are an excellent protein source, as well as being high in fiber, folate, zinc and iron. Serve cold black beans in a salad tossed with tomatoes, corn and quinoa, or warm them up and transfer to a thermos with rice.
Wrap sandwiches. Have your child pick their favorite filler such as hummus, turkey breast or refried beans. Tuck in some fresh spinach, salsa and shredded cheese and voila!
It’s no wonder fruit is the number one snack among kids. It’s packaged simply and there’s a wide variety to choose from. Pick some seasonal favorites like apples, grapes, peaches or plums.
Tuna salad. Fish is known to be brain food because of its perfect amino acid profile. Toss white albacore tuna with some light mayo, sweet relish and chopped apples for something different. Serve with whole wheat crackers or pita.
Trail mix. No time to make a sandwich? No problem. Grab some almonds, Chex or Cheerios, dried fruit and throw it in a baggy. Add a banana and milk money and your job is done.
Lunchables. Bad choice. These tiny trays of processed meat, cheese and refined crackers are overpriced and over-salted. You’re better off packing whole grain crackers, string cheese and fruit, which is just as simple.
Mac n’ cheese. While macaroni has some nutritional value, the typical enriched elbows and cheese dust that make up boxed mac n’ cheese served in most cafeterias is little more than refined carbs, fat and salt.
Granola bars. Disguised as ‘health food’, most granola bars are little more than oatmeal with chocolate coating, a few nuts and a lot of sugar. Don’t fool yourself.
Juice boxes. Though many juice boxes contain 100% fruit juice, your child is better off eating fruit than drinking the nectar. Juice contributes excess calories and sugar- two things most kids don’t need.
Soft white, ‘wheat’ bread. Sorry Charlie. All bread is ‘wheat’ bread. Companies are just trying to market this as whole grain, when it really isn’t. Unless the first ingredient reads “100% whole wheat flour”, you’ve got an imposter flanking your lunch meat.
Sometimes, the universe is telling you something. Yesterday was one of those days. I’d asked Fox 19 if I could do a segment on minority health in April. They replied, “how about something on diabetes prevention”? Sure, I said. Having 2 parents with diabetes and clients struggling with the disease, I know diabetes prevention pretty well. What Fox 19 didn’t know, was that I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes 2 weeks earlier. It was time to come out.
The crazy thing is that I’ve devoted my life to health promotion and disease prevention. I keep my weight in check, eat green leafy veggies daily and walk 4 days a week. But, to be honest, my diet wasn’t perfect. I’d grab a cookie now and then between or after meals or take my girls out to ice cream once or twice a month and not think twice about it. I enjoy wine, beer and chocolate like everyone else. To me, this is living!
I suppose my genes just caught up to me. Since my diagnosis, I’ve reduced my sugar and alcohol intake and upped my exercise to 30-40 minutes daily. I opted to start medication because I don’t want to end up with the complications my dad suffered- heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and amputation. Diabetes really took a toll on his health. My mother also has diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and dementia. Many people don’t know that diabetes can also affect your brain.
Below are some tips of what to eat and what to avoid to prevent diabetes. #moreplantslesscow
Whole grains (especially those with gluten). Cereal fiber (bran flakes, shredded wheat) has been found to be protective in preventing diabetes. Following gluten-free (without needing it) raises risk for diabetes.
Full fat dairy– studies show that people that consume full fat dairy products (yogurt in particular) have lower rates of diabetes. Researchers believe in part that full fat dairy helps to control weight and low fat dairy products tend to be higher in sugar.
Beans- beans and legumes have a low glycemic index, meaning they don’t raise blood sugar as quickly as other starchy foods. Beans are high in soluble fiber, which also helps to lower cholesterol. Aim for 3 servings a week.
Veggies- more and more research points to a plant-based diet in preventing diabetes. Green leafy vegetable intake in particular (spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale) has been found to reduce risk. Most vegetables are also naturally low in carbohydrates.
Calorie free drinks (seltzer)– these are all the rage as people are looking for “more natural” beverages. They are a good substitute for soda as they’re fizzy, but do not contain artificial color or flavor.
Red meat- increasing red meat intake by just ½ serving (1-2 oz) per day raises risk of diabetes by 48%. Reducing intake of red meat lowers risk of diabetes by 14%. Red meat includes beef, pork, goat, lamb.
Processed meat- research shows a 19% increased risk of diabetes with processed meat intake (sausage, ham, bacon, hot dogs, etc).
Gluten-free products- gluten free products tend to be lower in fiber, which may increase risk of diabetes. If you don’t need a gluten-free diet, don’t follow one! Only 1% of the US population has celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Soda and other sweetened drinks- the soda industry downplays the risks of regular soda consumption, but the reality is that soda and diabetes (as well as obesity) are very strongly linked. Drinking 1-2 cans of regular soda/day raises risk for diabetes by 26%.
Heavy desserts- doughnuts- high calorie/processed desserts high in sugar and fat raise the risk of weight gain, obesity and insulin resistance. Doughnuts = crispy crime. Eat now and then, but not daily.
November is National Healthy Skin Month. Why not “feed your face” something good to look younger? Below are some tips to keep your face (and body) young and healthy.
Peel an orange. Oranges and grapefruit are in season now, so enjoy them while they last. A recent study shows that individuals who eat a diet rich in vitamin C have less wrinkles than those who don’t. Tomatoes, bell peppers and broccoli are also great sources.
Go Mediterranean. Olive oil, a staple in Mediterranean diets can be used topically to provide smoother skin. When eaten, olive oil is rich in anti-oxidants that help reduce inflammation and stamp out free radicals, which can cause wrinkles.
Enjoy a spot of green tea. Green tea is loaded with anti-inflammatory chemicals that may reduce your risk of skin cancer. Squeeze some fresh lemon in your tea to boost the vitamin C content.
Eat edamame. Green soybeans make a great snack and happen to contain a special fat (phosphatidylserine) that helps create collagen. Enjoy as a snack or steam for a side dish.
Get fishy. Fatty fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, a fat that helps fight inflammation and improve skin tone. Enjoy tuna, mackerel and salmon twice per week or more.
Bottoms up! Adequate water helps hydrate your skin and prevent eczema. Aim for 6-8 (8 oz) of water daily.
Tame your sweet tooth. Excess sugar in your diet may inhibit the effectiveness of collagen, which can increase the risk of wrinkles. Choose fresh or dried fruit when your sweet tooth kicks in and limit intake of junk like cake, cookies, pastries and other high sugar treats.
Curb your cocktails. Alcohol is not only dehydrating, it can wreck your sleep, leaving you with dry skin and dark circles under your eyes. Be moderate in your cocktail consumption this season.
Turn away from trans. Trans fat (from processed foods) is linked with heart disease and some cancers, and can also age your skin. Limit fast food and avoid products containing hydrogenated oils.
Decaf a bit. Excessive coffee, tea or soda consumption can cause dehydration, which results in dry, sallow skin. Enjoy a cup in the morning, but switch to decaf (or water) for the rest of the day.
I am so thankful it’s almost fall. Growing up in Northeastern Ohio, summers weren’t quite as hot as they are in Cincinnati. To me, once the neighborhood pool is closed, I am done with super hot weather. Not to mention what it does to my hair. Not pretty.
In addition to the difference in weather growing up, our grocery stores didn’t stock the same produce you see now. Today, you can get strawberries in winter and citrus fruit in summer. Food is available regardless of season. It just doesn’t seem right! When I was a kid, the change in weather was just one sign the season was changing. The biggest one for us was what was brought home from the store.
While strawberries are plentiful, they’re also going to be much higher priced and not as sweet as their season fades. The same holds true for asparagus. Bananas are available all year round since they are shipped from Central America anyway. This time of year, take advantage of apples, pears and melon as they’re at their peak season to be picked and consumed. Other seasonal produce includes beets, peppers, tomatoes and squash.
The beauty of changing seasons is experiencing different flavors as well as the nutritional benefits of various produce. Apples are an excellent source of fiber and eating one daily has been found to reduce the risk of stroke. Oranges and other citrus fruit are high in vitamin C as well as potassium, a nutrient found to lower blood pressure and aid in muscle recovery. Tomatoes and bell peppers are also a good source of vitamin C, so don’t limit yourself this season.
If you need different ways to season fruits and vegetables, keep a few spices on hand like cinnamon or nutmeg for apples or pears, ginger for butternut squash and green beans or garlic for kale and fresh tomato sauce. Peppers are delightful when sautéed in olive oil with onions or garlic. Add them to sandwiches, pizza or pasta to add color and nutrients to your meal.
Whatever you choose to eat (seasonal or not), go for a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. It’s your best defense to prevent chronic diseases like obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease that plague our society.
It seems as though the number of people complaining of (and being diagnosed with) IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) has gone up. IBS is a condition of the large intestine (colon) that may cause pain, bloating, gas, constipation and/or diarrhea. And while IBS does not cause permanent damage to your large bowel, it can make you miserable when it flares up. Scientists recognize that stress has an impact on IBS and reducing stress will certainly help in managing IBS, but so can diet.
In the past five to ten years, scientists have discovered that reducing certain types of carbohydrates may help alleviate the symptoms of IBS. These carbohydrates are known as FODMAPS. The term FODMAP sounds strange, but stands for Fermentable carbohydrates, Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. Foods containing these types of carbohydrates may be poorly absorbed in those with IBS.
Foods containing lactose (dairy) as well as high amounts of fructose (fruit) may exacerbate IBS. Gallacto-oligosaccharides in beans, lentils and soybeans may also increase gas production in the colon, exacerbating IBS. Polyols from sugar-free products (read sorbitol or mannitol, often found in gum) as well as cherries, apricots and apples may affect IBS as well. In addition, gluten (found in wheat, rye and products containing barley) may also be poorly absorbed in those with IBS. And while it pains me to have an image of “NO APPLES”, this is only meant as a guide for people with IBS. Typically an elimination diet is followed for at least 4 weeks, then suspect foods are added back in slowly to evaluate their effect on the gut. Below are a few more examples of a low FODMAPS diet.
Almond, rice or soy milk. These dairy-free products are low in lactose, which appears to be poorly absorbed in those with IBS. Not that:
Cow’s milk. Cow’s milk contains lactose, as does yogurt and ice cream. Soymilk may contain galacto-oligosaccharides, which are not absorbed well. Bite this:
Green beans, kale, lettuce, spinach, tomato, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, eggplant, Swiss chard, bok choy, bean sprouts. All are low in inulin, a substance that can increase gas and bacteria production in the large bowel. Not that:
Artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, garlic, onions, peppers, sugar snap peas. These contain inulin, which may promote gas production. Avoid breakfast or snack bars containing inulin or chickory root as well. Bite this:
Bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, Clementines, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, papaya, pineapple and strawberries. These are lower in fructose. Not that:
Apples, apricots, cherries, figs, peaches, mango, pears, plum, watermelon. All are higher in fructose, which may increase gas production. Bite this:
Corn or rice-based pasta, corn flakes, puffed rice, oatmeal, oat bran, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, tapioca. These foods are gluten-free. Not that:
Wheat, wheat bread or pasta, bran cereal, shredded wheat, rye-containing products, barley, beer. All contain gluten, a protein found to be poorly absorbed in those suffering IBS. Read the label for products containing wheat or gluten. Bite this:
Cashews and pistachios. These are lowest in galacto-saccharides. Not that:
Peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds. The jury is still out on almonds, macadamia and other nuts. If you find that they increase your discomfort, cut them from your diet for a few weeks to see if it helps.
For a more complete guide to FODMAPS, click on the link below.