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

The Facts on Fat

Despite what has seemed like a two-decade-long war against fat in food, the truth is that your body needs dietary fat for a multitude of reasons.  It gives you energy for now and stored energy for later, helps your body absorb important nutrients, produces hormones, protects organs, and keeps you warm.  Americans’ real issue with fat is over-consumption.  Fat should make up between one-quarter to one-third of you daily calorie intake and should be comprised of plant fats, like canola, vegetable, and olive oils, nuts, seeds and avocado.

There are four major types of fat: Saturated, trans, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.  They differ in their chemical structure, their source and how they affect the body.  A simplified way to understand fat is that the less-healthful fats are animal derived and solid at room temperature- think butter, lard and the fat on meat and poultry.  The more healthy fats are plant- and seafood- derived and liquid at room temperature like olive oil.  High intakes of saturated and trans fat are linked to increased heart disease and stroke risk while moderate intakes of unsaturated fats, especially olive and fish oils, are linked to decreased heart disease risk and improved cholesterol levels.  Every type of fat contains 9 calories per gram.  So although the cardiac health effects may differ, a food with 12 grams of fat has 108 calories from fat no matter if the fat is saturated or unsaturated.  It is important to note that a food labeled “trans-fat-free” does not mean it is fat-free, or even saturated fat-free, and such a label is no indication of a food’s healthfulness.

In Williamson Hospitality kitchens you will not find any artificial trans-fats.  Our chefs cook with a variety of vegetable, canola and olive oils and always attempt to achieve the perfect flavor and health balance.

 

Published by Anna Bullett, MS, RD, on August 4th, 2011 at 9:00 am. Filled under: Fat,Health,nutritionNo Comments

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