Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Would an in-store nutritionist help you shop healthier at the grocery store?

I was reading this article the other day and it really got me thinking. The article discusses a study in which a nutritionist was available in the store for a 10 minute in-store counseling sessions with a nutrition educator to understand labels better. It was found that those who had received the counseling had carts with a greater number of fruits and veggies, particularly fruit, green and yellow vegetables.

I think that many people have the intention of eating well, but often times are unsure of what a healthy diet really consist of and the labeling used on a lot of food packaging make it even more confusing to eat healthy. During a trip to the supermarket we are bombarded with claims and labels that elude to items being healthier than they often are (often obscuring what's really in the foods). A few examples of these misleading food labels are as follows:
  • "All Natural" - FDA and USDA have very lenient rules on these claims (although they are working to make them more strict). It may claim "all natural" but still be loaded with high fructose corn syrup, additives, and other not so natural products. Many juices claim natural fruit flavors, but that's nothing more than concentrated fruit extracts that have little to no nutrition benefit.
  • "0 grams of trans fat" - While it's great there is no trans fat, it doesn't mean that it doesn't contain other harmful things such as high levels of saturated fats, high sodium, total fat and so on.
  • "Whole grains" - Being made with whole grains is great, but don't forget to check the sugar content too. Lots of cereals and breads are made with whole grains, however are loaded with sugars and sodium (breads are guilty of having high sodium levels so keep an eye out).
  • "Fat free" - A lot of foods with high sugar contents will label it as fat free to elude to being healthier than they are. While it's great that it's fat free, the sugar content is usually much higher than is recommended and that can lead to adverse health effects.
The above are only a few examples of some labels that can misleading. For those that are trying to eat healthier and lose weight they may believe that they are eating "healthy" based on the foods they buy due to misleading labeling. I think that having a nutrition educator or nutritionist would be a great opportunity for some people to address their food concerns. Not only could they have a better understanding of what these labels mean, but also have a greater understanding of what a healthy diet consist of and what these labels may also be covering up. 

Earlier this year, I planned a program during my internship called Know Your Nutrition. This program was set up on campus to allow students an opportunity for a mini-assessment with a registered dietitian (Kati Mora from Around the Plate). During the evaluation we found that many students found this to be an enlightening and educational experience in which they were able to gain much knowledge and answer many questions that they had and something that they wished would be available more often (or even on a regular basis). Incorporating something like this in a large scale setting, such as grocery stores, could have a great effect in creating awareness and educating consumers on the importance of a healthy diet to their and their families long term health. 

Do you think that you would utilize a program such as in-store nutritionist/dietitian sessions? 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to enjoy a salad.

In our household we take salad seriously.

We don't make a salad with just some meager iceberg lettuce and boring shredded cheddar cheese in our household, but instead a decadent and loaded meal with veggies, fruits, nuts, delicious cheeses, flavor packed dressings and succulent meats. 

There are so many people that shudder when they think about salad and have this totally bland, boring impression of them. Salad's don't have to be boring...the more colors the yummier and more nutritious. If you're not already salad lover take the following steps to break that. 

Steps for how to enjoy a salad:
  • Skip the iceberg lettuce. Instead try a spring mix, endive, arugula, spinach, kale, and/or romaine. Not only will you enhance and experience different flavors, you'll get additional nutrients and health benefits.
  • Add more veggies. Love tomatoes - add them! How about peppers? Add them! The more the better, and it'll help keep you full longer too and create a more substantial meal. Any easy way to add more is to use coleslaw & broccoli mix and add a handful each time.
  • Try new protein sources. Everyone's go to is chicken to add to salads, but there are so many different protein sources you can try. Some examples, how about hard boiled, or even fried eggs. Tofu is great and can take on most any flavor it is cooked and/or seasoned in. What about beef? Try slicing steak to use on your salad or even taco seasoned ground beef to make your own taco salad. A handful of beans are a great way to add some more protein as well. Nuts are another great source and can add some great healthy fats (that lower LDL cholesterol). Some great ones to add: walnuts, pecans and almonds. Another favorite is spicy shrimp (saute with Cajun seasoning). In a pinch for time? Add deli meat or rotisserie chicken or even tuna.
  • Throw in some fruit. I love cutting up grapes, strawberries, raspberries and apple and adding it my salad. The sweet contrast against the dressing is amazing (especially with grilled chicken and a vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing). Another option is dried fruit (cranberries are my favorite).
  • Add in's: Sunflower seeds, tortilla chips, homemade croutons, corn, chickpeas (roasted are tasty), pasta, avocado, roasted veggies, the list goes on...
  • Serve along something you love. One of my favorite things is rosemary bread. I could eat it by the loaf. Pairing it with a salad is even better. I love taking a piece at the end and wiping up all the leftover dressing. A classic pairing with a savory soup is another instance of a filling meal.
  • Find a dressing you love. This is huge. I went years eating lack luster dressing. Splurge for a dressing you really love, it's worth the extra few cents or venture out and make your own. My favorite right now, Bolthouse Farms Chunky Blue Cheese, seriously amazing and healthier than most others because it's made with yogurt.
  • Interesting cheeses. Feta, blue cheese, gorgonzola, grunyere, goat, Vermont white cheddar, are a few great ones to try.
  • Heat it up. Did you know you can grill salad too. Drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings of your choice on romaine and throw it in the oven or on the grill. It can add so much extra flavor. Saute some additional veggies and add them to the mix too (my fav's: zucchini, squash and caramelized onions).
  •  Be careful for some add-ins because they can pack a calorie punch. Stick with fresh, non-processed and non-fried items. 
Below are a few of the creations that we feast on a regular basis:

Kale and spinach salad with grilled chicken, strawberries, red onion, walnuts, cranberries, cucumber,
orange pepper with yogurt blue cheese dressing served along with toasted rosemary bread.

Spring mix with walnuts, berries (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry) with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

Spinach with chicken tomatoes, carrots, coleslaw mix, onions and  blue cheese dressing.

Tomato, zucchini, squash, red onion with balsamic dressing and dash of pepper.

Spinach, Cajun shrimp, strawberries, egg whites, assorted veggies with Italian dressing.

Spring mix, onion, tomato, and Caesar dressing.

Spinach, romaine, pea pods, black beans, diced turkey deli meat, tomato, peppers, egg whites and  Greek dressing.

Spring mix, roasted chickpeas, broccoli, egg whites, orange pepper and Italian dressing with cheese quesadillas.

What are your favorite add-ins to salads or the best salad you've had?