The Down & Dirty on “Clean” Eating

It seems everywhere we turn someone is talking about “clean” eating.  In general the term “eating clean” refers to consuming food as close to its natural state as possible, and avoiding processed foods and those with added refined sugar, sugar substitutes, excess sodium, modified food starches, additives or dyes.  Examples include eating fresh string beans with olive oil instead of canned string beans with processed butter sauce or whole fruit and fresh bread instead of toaster pastries.  It is not a diet, but more a lifestyle approach.  There is, however, no government, academic or medical definition of “clean eating”.  It is important to note that all food ingredients in the United States are approved by the Federal Drug Administration as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).  Any new additive – such as a new sugar substitute – must go through rigorous testing before companies may incorporate it into foods for human consumption.  Much of the promotional information on the web and in magazines for clean eating is anecdotal, stories from individual experiences, not evidence from scientific experiments.  A diet composed of mostly vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and minimally processed meat and dairy is one any Registered Dietitian will get behind.  This is what we like to call “clean eating”, not to be confused with “clean eating” trends that include cleansing or fasting for weight loss or health goals.

To determine a food’s healthfulness, one must consider its nutrient density: The concentration of naturally occurring protein, carbohydrate, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants in relation to total calories.  Foods that are closest to their whole state are far more nutrient dense than their processed, sold-in-a-package counterparts.  Translation, a meal of steamed brown rice with fresh sautéed vegetables packs a higher nutritional value and a lower calorie level than boxed rice mix and anything with “helper” in the title.  Reach for an apple, not a packaged apple pastry.

While focusing on nutrient-dense food is certainly a great approach to following a meal plan that promotes good health and weight control, remember that even “clean” foods can lead to weight gain if too much is consumed.  Recommended daily calorie intake levels based on age, weight and activity level can be calculated at choosemyplate.gov.

Published by Anna Bullett, MS, RD, on August 17th, 2011 at 8:05 pm. Filled under: Diet,Fruit,MyPlate,nutrition1 Comment

5 Ways to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables Everyday

  1. Kick it off with breakfast.  Jazz up your morning hot or cold cereal by adding blueberries, sliced bananas or diced peaches.  Instead of jelly on your peanut butter smeared toast, sprinkle on some raisins.  Remember to ask for spinach and mushrooms in your scrambled eggs or omelet.
  2. Super-size it.  If there is a certain fruit or vegetable you love, don’t hesitate to ask for a double portion or second helping.  Williamson team members are always at the ready with serving spoons and smiles.
  3. Try Something New!  Choose a fruit or veggie you’ve never had before.  Go for ones with interesting colors and textures.  Reach for cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and carrot sticks with hummus for an afternoon snack.  Or nosh on strawberries dipped in chocolate syrup.
  4. Pair up veggies with your favorite foods.  Instead of extra cheese or meat on pizza, ask for vegetable toppings like broccoli and peppers.  Add extra lettuce and extra tomato to an old-fashion BLT sandwich.
  5. Write yourself a vegetable prescription.  You would never skip a does of an important medication prescribed by your doctor, so why would you skip two of the most essential foods in your diet?  Post a brightly colored note on your bedside table or in another visible location, like on the bathroom mirror, to remind yourself of your daily goal: At least three to five ½-1 cup servings of fruits & veggies every day.
Published by Anna Bullett, MS, RD, on July 28th, 2011 at 9:00 am. Filled under: Antioxidant,Calcium,Fruit,nutrition,Vegetables1 Comment

Fruit vs. Juice

Ask any dietitian, when pitting fresh fruit against juice, fruit always wins.  While juice may contain the same important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as fruit, much of the benefit of eating fruit comes from its fiber and low-calorie content, both of which contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.  Since juice is concentrated and strained so that it doesn’t require chewing, it has almost zero grams of fiber, contains more calories and sugar, and takes much less time to consume.  As a result, juice does not satisfy hunger as much as solid fruit does.  While it may be tasty, juice should not count for more than one of your daily fruit servings.  Lastly, limit your juice glass size to 8 ounces.

If chewing the hard flesh or getting through the skin of certain fruits poses a challenge, try these tips.

1. Ensure fruit is ripe; it should give to slight pressure and smell sweet.

2. Choose easy-to-eat fruit prepared by the Williamson chefs such as sliced melon & pineapple, segmented oranges and  freshly washed grapes.

3. Choose soft fruits such as bananas, strawberries, blueberries, plums and peaches.

4. Snack on dried fruit such as prunes, raisins and dried cranberries.

5. Ask for a fruit smoothie!

Published by Anna Bullett, MS, RD, on July 21st, 2011 at 9:00 am. Filled under: Diet,Fruit,nutrition2 Comments

Fabulous Fiber

People who eat a fiber-rich diet are not only less likely to become constipated; they enjoy many health benefits beyond regularity.  Fiber helps fight against heart disease, defend against diabetes, combats some cancers, aids in the lowering of cholesterol, slows digestion, helps with a weight loss diet and prevents hemorrhoids and bowel disorders.  What a list!  Despite fiber’s fundamental role in a healthy diet, most Americans only consume one-third of the daily recommended amount from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 25 – 35 grams for adults.

To make sure you are eating enough fiber, have fresh vegetables with every meal.  Choose fruit instead of juice and eat the skin (on apples, pears, peaches, etc, not on citrus).  Eat cooked lentils, peas and beans often.  Choose whole grain breads and cereals.  Start the day with oatmeal.  All of these fiber-rich options are readily available in Williamson Healthcare dinning rooms and cafes.

If you are just starting to increase you fiber intake, start slowly, add a few more grams per day until you reach the recommended intake level.  Make sure to increase your fluid intake to prevent cramping or gastric distress.

Published by Anna Bullett, MS, RD, on July 15th, 2011 at 12:00 pm. Filled under: Diet,Fruit,Health,nutrition,Vegetables,Whole GrainsNo Comments