Making Water Wise Food Decisions

June 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Biotechnology, Meat

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If you live in California, no doubt you are getting seriously concerned about our drought. But regardless of where you live, water is a precious resource and all consumers can make small changes to be more water wise when it comes to food buys.

According to the LA Times, 80% of California’s water use goes to support agriculture. Individuals have become increasingly conscious of water usage as water conservation regulations continue to tighten. Typically we hear about water saving strategies like cutting sprinkler use or only doing full loads of laundry. More and more individuals are becoming aware of their diet’s impact on water usage.

The most water requiring protein is beef. An 8-ounce piece of steak requires 850 gallons of water (that’s like flushing your toilet 530 times!). Other examples of foods that require a lot of water include pork, lamb, goat, chickpeas, lentils, mangoes and asparagus. More water-wise foods include cabbage, strawberries, onions, lettuce, carrots, eggplant, grapefruit, and tomatoes. Producing chicken uses 10 times less water than beef making chicken a more water-conscious protein.

Hungry for more details regarding water-conscious foods? Check out this fun interactive plate graphic from the LA Times to learn more about how much water your favorite foods actually require to produce.

Here are some additional tips to help you make water-wise food choices:

  1. Reduce the number of animal products from your diet to conserve water.
  2. Shop consciously and only purchase what you know you will use. It is easy to let a bag of lettuce rot in the bottom drawer of the fridge and go wasted. Plan meals and purchase foods intentionally.
  3. Don’t stop eating vegetables because they require water use! Instead try to make water friendly choices like carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce. Purchase vegetables that require a lot of water more sparingly.

Special thanks to dietetic intern Brittany South for her contributions to this post.

Drinks Full of Sweet Take a Back Seat

June 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns

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Have you heard the term: Sugar-Sweetened Beverage? Perhaps you have seen materials labeled “Re-think Your Drink”. Both of these refer to the movement in public health agencies, health organizations, and school systems to reduce the amount of sugary drinks people consume. These organizations and many other health professionals are promoting replacement of added sugar drinks with drinks like water, to help people lower their disease risks.

A recent article on the New York Times blog Well stated that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is getting onboard with this guidance by officially reporting their recommendation to limit added sugars to no more than 10% of an adults total calorie intake. This ends up looking like about 12 teaspoons of added sugar that may come in the form of soda, juice, energy drinks, or sports drinks. These recommendations are what is put into a report every five years and then is sent to the US Department of Health and Human Services, along with the US Department of Agriculture who then use them to publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

So, why is everyone picking on sugary drinks and not just sugar in all foods? According to this report, American’s on average drink 22-30 teaspoons of sugar per day instead of healthier drink options. Beverages are so easy to gulp down, that most people forget to think of these as a big contributor to weight gain and then disease risk. Starting with a healthy change in American’s beverage choices could decrease disease and obesity risk more than focusing on general sugar, fat, overeating, exercise, and all the other recommendations for solving these problems.

Here are some tips on how to start making this change in your own life:

  • Only keep water in the house. Save sodas and other high-sugar drinks for special occasions or nights out. By doing this you keep them to a minimum.
  • Replace your sugar-sweetened beverage habit with a healthier one. Make your own fruit or herb-infused water beverage at home. You can be creative with seasonal fruits (berries, melon, grapes, etc.), or other herbs (mint, thyme, rosemary, etc.), or you could use sparkling water instead of still.
  • Replace your sugar-sweetened beverage habit with a diet choice. While, water is the #1 choice, some people have a really hard time with their cravings for sodas or sweetened tea drinks. So, swap out for the diet version that may satisfy that sweet tooth without adding in all the sugar and calories.

The sky is the limit when it comes to your creativity. So, play with your infusions and ask friends or family to weigh in on which flavor they like best. Remember that you’re making this change in order to benefit your health and to lower your risk of obesity-related diseases like diabetes. And here’s to smart sippin’!

Special thanks to dietetic intern Rebecca Dehamer for her contributions to this post.

The Recipe for a Longer, Livelier Life

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We’ve all heard how people today are living longer than in generations gone by. Turn on the local news and you’re bound to see another man or woman celebrating 100 years.

It’s a comforting thought that we individually might have more time with our loved ones, right? What we may be forgetting is that living longer may not be in the form of a healthy elderly adult, but instead as a sick elderly adult.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal The Lancet reported a 45% rise in diabetes from 1990-2013, as well as a rise in cancer. This study stated that there might be a link to the fact that we are living longer.

But don’t fret just yet! The authors also reported that in the US, diabetes complications (like amputations, kidney failure, heart attacks, and strokes) are actually down, due in part to advancements in medical care and monitoring.

What this means is that the gift of longer life comes with an obligation to take care of ourselves. Make sure to take action now regarding your health and wellness, so that your future years will be long and happy.

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables every day
  • Make half your grains, whole grains
  • Schedule cooking meals at home so you can control your healthy choices
  • Schedule your physical activity every week for a minimum of 150 minutes
  • Get annual physicals from your doctor
  • Get your teeth cleaned regularly by your dentist
  • Get 8 hours of sleep every night (or make-up sleep in the form of naps when you can!)
  • Remove excess stressors from your life
  • And, remember to laugh and seek out the things that bring you joy!

While these are general things we all have heard, they can be hard to remember to do regularly. Start with one of the items listed above and slowly make them a normal habit in your life. In no time at all, you can have a whole new group of healthy habits that will help you on your way to a healthy future!

Special thanks to dietetic intern Rebecca Dehamer for her contributions to this post.

Why What You Eat Affects Your Sleep…and Vice Versa

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Carrying excess fat can increase risk for developing obesity, diabetes and heart disease. That excess fat is usually a result from eating too many calories and being sedentary. To maintain a healthy weight, many people simply try to eat less (or more healthy) and workout more. This is a rationale approach, but it cannot be successfully implemented unless you are able to rectify the underlying causes of why you are making unhealthy choices in the first place. There are many factors that may influence our food intake, including sleep.

An article recently published in the Journal of Health Psychology (JHP) found that sleep problems are associated with increased food intake. Researchers compiled a review of studies to ascertain that a poor night’s sleep can affect one’s eating habits and behaviors. The studies analyzed collectively demonstrated that after sleep restriction, both adult men and women increased their daily energy intake by 20 percent and increased portion sizes irrespective of food type. Short sleep duration was also associated with specific eating patterns, such as eating at irregular hours and/or eating quickly and higher rates of external and emotional eating.

Adequate quantity and quality of sleep was found necessary to properly regulate biological, cognitive, emotional and behavioral mechanisms; both having significant effects on appetite and food choices. The researchers reinforce that sleep should be actively considered in efforts to modify dietary behavior.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

Special thanks to dietetic intern Grace Gontarski for her contributions to this post.

Summer Produce Takes Center Stage

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With summer just around the corner, chances are you are firing up your grill and gearing up for backyard barbeques. If you want to make a splash this summer dining season, fix your focus on fruit.

Summer means peak season for lots of fruits (and veggies too!). For your next get together, why not gather up what’s fresh and in season? Check your local markets for apricots, blueberries, blackberries, bell peppers, melons (cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew), corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, nectarines, strawberries, summer squash, raspberries, peaches, plums, radishes, tomatoes, and zucchini.

Eating a variety of these foods will not only provide you with great sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, it will also add some festive colors to your plate.

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate seasonal produce into both sweet and savory dishes:

  • Corn and summer veggie sauté
  • Cucumber salad
  • Fruit kebabs with melon
  • Summer squash pizza
  • Stone fruit salad
  • Summer veggie omelet
  • Fruit smoothie with berries
  • Pasta with tomato and eggplant
  • Frozen melon pops
  • Tomato and corn salsa
  • Peach ice cream
  • Chicken with blueberry sauce
  • Zucchini muffins
  • Water infused with strawberry and mint

For more creative fruit and vegetable ideas check out Fruits & Veggies More Matters.

Special thanks to dietetic intern Megan Fobar, MS for her contributions to this post.