The holidays are officially upon us and that means people everywhere are breaking their diets in order to enjoy all of their favorite seasonal dishes, snacks and drinks. While it’s easy to pack on the pounds during the holidays, you can make some small healthy choices that will help you avoid that post holiday bulge. Instead of stuffing your face with cookies and pies this holiday season, try munching on these 5 festive snacking idea that are not only tasty, but healthy for you as well.
When you’re hit with a craving for something sweet, try snacking on some fresh seasonal fruits and berries such as cranberries, pomegranates, pears, currants or persimmons.
You may also want to keep a jar of nuts handy during the holidays to curb your hunger in between meals. A few holiday favorites include pecans, chestnuts, almonds and cashews. If you want to add a festive twist to your nuts, roast them or toss them in an herbal spice blend consisting of rosemary, thyme and olive oil.
Believe it or not, pure chocolate is actually quite healthy for you as it provides the body with lots of antioxidants. Try to opt for the dark variations of chocolate and stay away from chocolate bars that contain added sugar.
When you cuddle up with your loved ones to watch those classic Christmas movies, try munching on a bowl of popcorn. Keep in mind that it’s best to stay away from popcorn loaded with butter and salt and instead choose one that is seasoned with sea salt and low in fat.
Certain types of cheese can be good for you when eaten in moderation and Parmesan, ricotta and aged cheddar are all excellent options. Just be sure to look for a label that identifies the product as “pasteurized process cheese”, which ensures the cheese is free of additives.
There’s no need to break your diet during the holidays! Simply choose to munch on these healthy snacks during the holiday parties, family gatherings and other festivities you will be attending.
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In times of stress, many of us turn for consolation to sugary, fatty, high-calorie foods. Macaroni and cheese? Meatloaf and mashed potatoes with extra butter? A massive hunk of buttercream-frosted cake? They don’t call them “comfort foods” for nothing.
“I often see unmanaged stress lead to overeating and binging with my clients,” says Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, RYT, author of Nourish Your Namaste e-bookandblogger at The Foodie Dietitian. “When we push away our basic needs for self-care — relaxation, spirituality, fun, sleep — we wind up feeling overexerted, depleted and stressed and turn to food as a way to fulfill an unmet need. Overeating because of stress often leads to more stress and anxiety and it becomes a vicious cycle.”
Given that, the results of a recent British study that found a link between long-term stress and obesity may not come as much of a surprise.
The study, conducted by researchers at University College London and published in the journal Obesity, looked at hair samples representing about two months of growth from more than 2,500 men and women age 54 and over participating in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to determine the levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, present in the hair. The researchers found that those with higher levels of cortisol, which plays a role in metabolism and fat storage, were more likely to be overweight or obese – to have a larger waist circumference, weigh more and have a higher body-mass index.
Although the study found only an association and not evidence of cause or consequence, the study is important in light of the dangers of excess abdominal fat, including heart disease, diabetes and early death, lead author Sarah Jackson, a research associate in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, maintains.
“I think the take-home message from our study is really to try and maintain awareness of healthy lifestyle habits during times of stress,” Jackson tells Healthy Eats. “When we’re stressed out we may find it more difficult to find the motivation to go for a run or resist unhealthy foods, and that’s when it is easier for weight to creep on.”
The study also underscores the need to find ways of curtailing stress or dealing with it in ways that don’t involve food, Jackson says.
Lydon agrees. She recommends that, when you feel compelled to binge or overeat in times of stress, that you pause and ask yourself the food you’re about to tuck into is really what you need. “Often times, taking a walk outside to connect with nature or taking a warm candlelit bath is enough to fulfill an unmet need and the craving subsides,” she says.
Because everyone is different, Lydon suggests making a list of non-food-related things that help you combat stress – and keeping them handy. “Things like yoga, deep breathing, meditation, going out with friends, coloring, venting to a loved one, or getting a hug can all release some stress,” she says.
And unlike that buttercreamy hunk of cake, a hug, while equally sweet, is calorie-free.
Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.
The latest fad diet riding on the coat tails of the low-carb trend is the ketogenic diet. This nutrition plan has been around for ages, and has been effectively used in the treatment of epilepsy, but it’s also become popular to help folks shed pounds. Here’s what you need to know about this diet plan before you hop on another fad diet bandwagon.
About the Diet
This diet promotes low carb, moderate protein, and high fat intake touting health benefits such as weight loss and improved overall health. It promotes an extremely low intake of carbs: about 30 grams per day. For the average American on a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be 120 calories of any type of carb per day. You can find carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and legumes — which, when minimized in the diet, limits food choices dramatically. The distribution of macronutrients recommended is 5% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 70% fat.
The fats recommended include both unsaturated like avocado and fatty fish along with saturated like whole milk, sour cream, and mayonnaise. Flour, sugar, and other such carbs are not recommended on the plan. Fruits are eaten in very small amount, low carb vegetables are recommended, and nuts in moderation.
The purpose of taking in so few carbs is to put your body in a state called ketosis. As carbs (AKA glucose) is the body’s primary source of energy, 30 grams of carbs runs out quickly forcing the body to utilize fat and some protein (or ketones made from fat) as a source of energy. When excess fat and protein is used for fuel, it creates an acidic environment in the blood, known as acidosis. Long-term acidosis can cause damage to your organs and is potentially deadly. While in this state, the body acts as if it is in starvation mode and other side effects include headaches, fatigue, irritability, and loss of muscle mass.
Although this diet eliminates added sugars, the plethora of protein and fats can cost you a pretty penny (avocados and meat aren’t cheap!). Further, it’s very tough to follow a diet with a maximum limit of 30 grams of carbs, which is equivalent to 2 slices of bread.
This plan also eliminates many food groups, especially fruits and vegetables which have been shown to help lower the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease. The 2015 dietary guidelines found that 90% of Americans don’t eat the recommended amount of vegetables, while about 85% don’t eat the recommended amount of fruit. Eliminating most fruit and vegetables also takes away many important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that can help keep you healthy in the long run.
Other huge costs include taste and sustainability of the diet. Eating loads of meat, cheese, and avocado can get boring without fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. Go ahead and try it for a few days, or even a week or two, and you’ll miss out on those other food groups in no time.
The diet has been shown to be effective with those with epilepsy to help reduce the number of seizures. These folks are very carefully monitored by a physician.
Added sugar is decreased dramatically
It’s a dangerous diet! Setting your body into ketosis can lead to increased acid levels in the blood, which has severe health consequences.
The elimination of multiple food groups removes many nutrients the body needs to stay healthy.
Many of the foods recommended are high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease.
It is tough to follow this diet at social events or when travelling, and isn’t conducive to a household filled with children.
The meal plan isn’t tasty, and it’s extremely tough to sustain over a long period of time.
Between the lack of nutrition, health consequences and lack of flavor, this is one diet plan that just isn’t healthy (or tasty!) to follow.
ROCHESTER, Minn. – A new survey by Mayo Clinic revealed that more than two-thirds of African-Americans are concerned about their heart health (71 percent), which is significantly more than Caucasian (41 percent) or Hispanic (37 percent) respondents. Respondents from the South (51 percent) were also significantly more likely to express concern than those in the Northeast (39 percent) or West (35 percent).
These findings were uncovered as part of the Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup, which first launched in January 2016 and provides a quick pulse on consumer health opinions and behaviors at multiple times throughout the year.
“The Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup helps us to better understand the health knowledge and practices of all Americans, beyond the patients that walk through our doors,” says John Wald, M.D., medical director for Public Affairs at Mayo Clinic. “With each survey, we’re able to pinpoint what we’re doing well as a nation and what needs improvement, so that we can create a dialogue about those important topics.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Kelly Reller, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, [email protected]
Search engines help consumers learn more, manage health conditions
When it comes to knowledge of heart health, doctors (81 percent) were cited as having the biggest influence on consumer knowledge, followed by family members (63 percent). The most likely reasons to think about heart health include:
A family member or friend being diagnosed with heart disease (84 percent)
Visiting a primary care physician (80 percent)
Conversations with a significant other or children (69 percent)
1 in 4 has family history of heart disease before age 55
Nearly a quarter of respondents (24 percent) cited a family history of heart disease (i.e., heart attack, bypass surgery or stents before 55). This history impacted knowledge and behaviors for many respondents:
Eighty-five percent answered that they were more aware of the symptoms of a heart attack because of their family history.
Among baby boomers, 53 percent of those with a family history of heart disease answered that they took a daily aspirin, and the same percentage kept an aspirin with them at all times.
When asked what they do to help prevent heart disease, men (68 percent) were more likely than women (60 percent) to say that they exercise regularly, and women (68 percent) were more likely than men (58 percent) to answer that they eat heart-healthy foods.
“Knowledge is power,” says Dr. Wald. “You can manage your risk for heart disease by taking proactive steps, such as improving your diet, exercising regularly, and keeping a check on your cholesterol and blood pressure. To top it off, Mayo Clinic now offers a blood test that can predict the likelihood of having a heart attack within one year, which helps us intervene early and prevent a heart attack before it happens.”
Women exercise for weight loss; men exercise for recreation
The survey also explored healthy behaviors, such as exercise, revealing that men and women have different motivators. Women (70 percent) are more likely than men (60 percent) to exercise for weight loss or management; whereas, men (59 percent) are more likely than women (45 percent) to exercise for recreation. Less than half of respondents answered that they knew what their target heart rate should be during exercise. Maintaining a target heart rate can reduce the risk of overtraining or not training enough.
Job and/or school ranks as top stressor for Americans
Unrelieved stress can damage your arteries and worsen other risk factors for heart disease. When asked to pick the one factor that contributed the most to their level of stress over the past year, respondents were most likely to answer their job and/or school (29 percent):
Baby boomers (17 percent) were more likely than millennials (10 percent) to cite politics as a top stressor.
Hispanic respondents (41 percent) were more likely to answer job and/or school than Caucasians (27 percent) or African-Americans (18 percent).
African-American respondents (20 percent) were more likely to list health issues as their primary cause of stress than Caucasians (10 percent) or Hispanics (4 percent).
“Our third National Health Checkup revealed that African-Americans not only are more concerned about their heart health, but they also experience significantly more stress as a result of their health issues,” says Dr. Wald. “It is clear that we need to help empower all Americans, and in particular those who are most concerned about their heart health, to help manage their risk. Discuss these concerns with your doctor, and know your family history.”
About the Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup The Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup was conducted through an ORC International Telephone CARAVAN survey of 1,005 adults living in the continental U.S. and was conducted Dec. 15-18, 2016. To learn more, visit healthcheckup.mayoclinic.org.
Two of the most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and get healthier. In order to achieve these goals, many folks jump on the fad diet bandwagon. But many of these diets require complete elimination of certain food groups, have you eating close to nothing or recommend a boatload of supplements that empty your wallet. Instead of looking for quick results that will probably not last long, make these small changes instead. Make these small changes for at least 6 months, and they can become lifelong healthy habits.
Large portions are one way folks overconsume calories. This is especially true with certain high calorie foods, including nuts, salad dressing, oil, peanut butter, granola, rice, pasta and juice. Although all these foods can be part of a healthy weight loss plan, eating controlled portions will help keep calories in check.
Eat At Least 2 Whole Grains per Day
The 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans recommend getting half your grain intake from whole grains. If you’re not used to eating any whole grains, start with two serving per day. For example, make your sandwich with 100% whole wheat bread, or swap your pasta from traditional white to whole wheat.
Plan Weeknight Meals
When it comes to the hustle and bustle of weeknight dinners, all bets for healthy can be off. Instead of getting stuck ordering in or heading to the nearest fast food joint, take a half hour on Saturday to plan out your weeknight meals. Create a shopping list of the ingredients needed and head to the market on Sunday.
Cook and Freeze for Later
Go a step further and cook double batches of weeknight favorites and freeze half for a super busy week. This way if you don’t have time to cook, you’ll always have something you can pull from the freezer. Dishes that are perfect to freeze include meatballs, lasagna, soups, chili, and stew.
Up Your Fruits and Veggies
Although this is a change you may think you’re making, the 2015 dietary guidelines found that up to 90% of Americans don’t eat their daily recommended amount of vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables are relatively low in calories and provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients (plant chemicals that help fight and prevent disease). Make it a point to eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every snack and at least one fruit and one vegetable at every meal. When you reach those goals, kick it up another notch.
Up Your Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt
The dietary guidelines recommend 3 servings of dairy every day, but found that Americans are eating only 2. Milk contains 9 essential nutrients, including 3 that were flagged as nutrients that most Americans are lacking. These nutrients include potassium, vitamin D, and calcium. Taking in that last serving of dairy can help close the gap on nutrients you may be missing.
Get Your Zzs
Lack of sleep has been associated with overeating. When you’re tired, rational decisions to choose healthy food are compromised. Make sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.