Savor the Flavor – March is National Nutrition Month

March 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns, General




It’s not too late to get back to the basics of healthy eating. The importance of following a well-balanced and nutrient –dense eating plan packed with tasty foods is celebrated this month. National Nutrition Month®, created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is a campaign focused on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

This year’s theme “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” encourages taking a moment to enjoy the culture and tradition of food by soaking in the flavor and pleasure that nutritious foods provide. Make it a point this month to refocus your attention from concentrating on specific food and nutrients and instead vow to implement a healthy eating pattern by balancing a rainbow of tasty foods and beverages from each food group. The goal is to promote overall health by reducing the risk of chronic disease though maintaining a healthy weight, developing individualized physical activity habits, and practicing a balanced diet that get your taste buds dancing!

If you are looking to get involved this month here are some ideas:

  • Plan a cooking demo or nutrition event
  • Organize a National Nutrition Month® presentation at your local park district or senior center
  • As a family, commit to trying a new fruit or vegetable each week during National Nutrition Month®.
  • Organize a food donation campaign for a local food pantry or shelter
  • Plan to eat more meals together as a family during National Nutrition Month®

For more information on National Nutrition Month® and how to get involved visit

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.

Unleash the Heat: Benefits of Adding Spice

March 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns, General



If you’re a seeker of spicy foods, you may not only be increasing health benefits of your diet but increasing the possibility of a longer life.

Don’t fear the heat! A 2015 study looking at half a million people over a seven year period found that the consumption of spicy foods six-times per week reduced the risk of death by 14%, a 10% decreased risk was also seen when consumed twice a week. So what are the benefits these fiery foods provide?

Weight loss – Hot peppers have been shown to speed up metabolism and curb appetite. Researchers at Purdue University found satiating effects after eating fiery foods. In addition, a senior dietitian and professor at UCLA points to the relationship of how the scorching sensation in your mouth slows food consumption saying, “If you eat more slowly, you’re more likely to notice your body’s satiety cues. Some data has even shown that capsaicin (the active component of chili peppers) can increase the ability to burn calories.

Anti-inflammatory effects – Capsaicin may help with autoimmune conditions as these illnesses are less common in countries were spicy foods are consumed regularly.

Antimicrobial effects – Hot peppers have been used to preserve food and studies show capsaicin to have antibacterial and antifungal effects.

Pain Relief – When used topically, Capsaicin aids in the release of the body’s own opioids.

Be aware that there may be some downsides to consuming these scorching morsels, such as damaged taste buds (which will regenerate), uncomfortable bowel movements, and thinning of the blood. Individuals taking medications like warfarin should be cautious of capsaicin as it may thin blood too much, for others the blood thinning effects may be a benefit.

So if you’re an enthusiast of the heat… turn up the dial, as for many the good outweighs the bad.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.

Dietary Guidelines: What’s New & Best for You?



January 7, 2016 marked the release of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020. Since the introduction of the dietary guidelines in 1980 15% of Americans were classifies as obese, now more than 35 years later this statistic has ballooned to 35% of all Americans. Obviously the intended messages of the guidelines are not impacting our society in the way they were intended. So what are the new dietary guidelines, how are they different, and how can they impact change in our society?


  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount
  3. Limit calories from added sugar and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices
  5. Support healthier eating patterns for all

How they are different:

The new dietary guidelines are much broader to allow focus on small changes in the diet instead of letting individual food groups and nutrients consume you. The key component is emphasis on a healthy eating pattern that is calorically appropriate to help support a healthy body weight and reduce risk of chronic disease. Shifts in personalized food and beverage choices need to be made to achieve a healthy eating pattern and increase nutrients of concern such as potassium, calcium, Vitamin D, and fiber.


A new specific limit on added sugars to less than 10% of calories is highlighted in the new guidelines. Paying attention to identifying sugary beverages in your diet and limiting these can make a huge impact on eliminating excessive calories in your diet and may even aid in trimming up your waistline.


There has also been a removal of a specific limit on dietary cholesterol. Evidence shows there is no relationship between dietary and serum cholesterol. It is now recommended that Americans eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.

The new guidelines offer an adaptable framework to allow food choices that fit in your budget and align with personal and cultural preferences. Benefits of these new guidelines enable you to choose a diet that is right for you.

Below are key recommendations to consider when implementing a heathy eating pattern:

  • Include a variety of vegetables – dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), and starchy
  • Focus on fruits, especially whole
  • Grab grains, at least half should be whole grains
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified soy beverages)
  • Implement in your diet a variety of protein foods (seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products)
  • When possible, choose oils as fat sources
  • Limit saturated fats, trans fats, added sugar, and sodium
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugar
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats
  • Consume less than 2,300 mg per day of sodium
  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men
  • Meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise)

Simple solutions to make these recommendations work for YOU:

  • Make a switch to replace sugary desserts with fruit instead
  • Limit soda or energy drinks to one per day
  • Tailor portion sizes to fit your needs
  • Substitute medium or high fat protein for lean choices each day
  • Cook more often at home to limit added sugar and sodium
  • Make a conscience effort to increase daily activity
  • The Mediterranean, vegetarian, and DASH diets are all examples of healthy eating patterns

Impact of society in order to implement change:

With the new dietary guidelines there is a shift toward the idea that everyone plays a role in supporting healthy eating patterns. It is time to recognize that there is more influence on our food choices than education and will power alone. Other factors play a vital role in influencing food choices such as, personal relationships, where you live, work, and shop. Health professionals, industries, government, and communities are needed to support Americans and their families in making dietary and physical activity choices that align with the Dietary Guidelines. It is important to support local farmers, get involved to increase recreational access in your neighborhood, and foster partnership with food manufacturers to align more accessibility to recommended foods. Everyone plays a role in making healthy changes and in improving the health of the current and future generation. For more information on the dietary guidelines please visit

Special thanks to dietetic intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.