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

Bountiful Beans

We are happy to spill these beans: Whether drained, canned, frozen or fresh, these special seeds, which come in many varieties, are filled with major health-boosting benefits.  Sometimes referred to as pulses or legumes, these fiber-filled vegetables – half a cup of cooked chickpeas contains 5 grams of fiber – also pack quality protein – 7 grams in half a cup.  Did we mention beans are virtually fat-free?  The soluble and insoluble fiber in beans helps the body maintain regularity, control cholesterol levels, regulate blood glucose levels and reduces risk for certain cancers.  And, beans are a super source of potassium, folate, magnesium and thiamine.  Large-scale studies have shown that bean-eaters are less likely to be obese than their non-bean consuming peers.  All beans, from black and kidney to fava and navy are soft when cooked making them easy to eat with dentures or a tired jar.

Concerned about gassy side effects?  There is no need to be embarrassed by nature.  To calm an active gastrointestinal system, ease into bean eating with a small amount each day.  Eventually your body will adjust to the habit of consuming more fiber.  Some of Williamson chefs’ favorite ways to serve beans: In soups, salads, dips, with Mexican food and in vegetarian casseroles.

Published by Anna Bullett, MS, RD, on August 8th, 2011 at 9:00 am. Filled under: Diet,Fiber,Health,nutrition,Protein,Uncategorized,VegetablesNo Comments

Know the Lingo

Mineral – A chemical element needed for the health and maintenance of your body.  Helps build body tissue such as bone and regulates vital functions like heartbeat.  Sodium and potassium are examples of minerals.

Vitamin – A compound needed to help sustain life; vitamins do an enormous list of activities like preventing sickness, aiding in the body’s processing of other nutrients and helping all of the body’s organs work efficiently.

Macro-nutrient – These are nutrients that supply the body with energy in the form of calories.  The three macro-nutrients are carbohydrates, fat, and protein.  Alcohol also provides calories and is considered a forth macro-nutrient (of far inferior nutritional quality).

Micro-nutrient – These are non-calorie providing nutrients, which are needed in small amounts everyday (vitamins and minerals are examples).  They allow the body to produce substances needed for growth and development.

Antioxidant – A molecule that helps stop cell damage caused by toxins.  Fruits, veggies and whole grains contain high levels of antioxidants (vitamin C is an example).

Phytochemical – Natural substances found in plants that protect your body against some cancers and heart disease (broccoli and blueberries are high in these).

Published by Anna Bullett, MS, RD, on July 25th, 2011 at 9:00 am. Filled under: Antioxidant,Diet,Health,Minerals,nutrition,VitaminsNo Comments

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