Archive for April, 2014


The best foods to eat for breakfast

Although it is the most often-skipped meal of the day, there are many reasons not to skip eating breakfast. Skipping a morning meal can set you up to overeat later in the day. A proper breakfast, including good carbs, fiber and lean protein can help you get off to a good start and perform at optimal levels all day.

Almond butter

Filled with monounsaturated fat, almond butter is an excellent source of protein. It’s great on whole grain bread or paired with fruit such as bananas or apples.


Added into cereal or oatmeal, or eaten alone, bananas are full of potassium and carbs that can help you feel full longer.


Truly one of the superfoods, blueberries help brain function, blood pressure and metabolism. They’re full of antioxidants and lower in calories than most other fruits.


A whole-grain or bran cereal with at least 5 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of sugar is best. Top with skim milk and fresh fruit for a great breakfast with everything you need to start the day.


High in protein and vitamin D, eggs are a great choice for lean proteins. If you want to avoid cholesterol, use only the whites for an omelet; however, recent research indicates that cholesterol in food has less of an impact on blood cholesterol than previously thought.


Another great additive, two tablespoons of flaxseed has more than 100% of your recommended daily allowance of omega-3 fatty acids.


Not only is grapefruit packed with antioxidants, it helps your blood sugar and insulin levels, while actually helping you lose weight.

Greek yogurt

Add some fruit to plain, nonfat Greek yogurt and you’ve got a satisfying breakfast loaded with calcium and protein – nearly twice as much as regular yogurt.


With almost as much vitamin C per serving as an orange, kiwi is rich in potassium, copper and fiber.


Long considered a way to cut cholesterol, oatmeal is rich in omega-3s, folate and potassium. Avoid the flavored, instant kind; they’re full of sugar and chemicals. Opt instead for steel-cut oats, which have more fiber than rolled oats.


A perfect addition to cereal or yogurt, or mixed into a smoothie, raspberries are high in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K.


Added to cereal, yogurt or eaten alone, strawberries are full of fiber, folic acid, and one cup has a full day’s supply of vitamin C.

Wheat germ

One of the power additives, wheat germ can be sprinkled onto cereal, stirred into yogurt or mixed into a smoothie and has vitamin E and folate.

Whole wheat bread

To get optimal fiber and nutrients, choose whole wheat or whole grain English muffins and bread over white options for carbs in the morning.


Watch for misleading claims on food packaging

If you’re becoming more health conscious, like a lot of Americans, you may be making a habit of reading labels and food packaging. That’s definitely a good thing.

The problem is that some of the claims made and verbiage used to promote health benefits can be somewhat misleading, if not downright untrue. The Food and Drug Administration regulates the information that goes on labels. But on some things, the FDA may let manufacturers get away with using vague health claims and lingo that don’t really mean anything, but are there to convince unsuspecting consumers that their products are healthy.

Here are some of the most common – and perhaps the most misleading – phrases that manufacturers use on food packaging that you should be wary of:


This is one of those terms that the FDA hasn’t defined. For example, since high-fructose corn syrup originally comes from corn, manufacturers can make the claim that it’s “all natural,” even though it may not be in its natural state.


Organic food can still be packed in fat, calories, and sugar, as long as 95% or more of the ingredients have been grown or processed without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

Fat free

Products claiming to be fat free sometimes contain nearly as many calories as full-fat versions because they’re loaded with sugar. Check the label for calorie content and compare it to the full-fat version.

Zero trans fat

Companies can make this claim if a serving contains less than 0.5 grams. But the serving sizes are small when company is trying to disguise unhealthy ingredients.

Whole grain

Fiber-rich whole grains are healthier than refined grains and flours, so companies love to use “whole grain” on the label. They can use that term even if it’s mostly refined flour with some whole grains added at the end.


This term usually means that a product contains refined wheat and corn flours, but not whole grains. The only claim you can trust to be healthy is “100 percent whole grain.”

Made with real fruit

The FDA doesn’t dictate how much real fruit must be used in order to make the claims of “made with real fruit” or “contains fruit juice.”


To make this claim, a food simply needs less of something – usually either calories or fat – than the original or similar products on the market. Often whatever is missing is replaced with sugar or artificial ingredients to make up for lost flavor.


This is important for people living with diabetes. Sugar-free foods can be loaded with carbohydrates, such as maltodextrin, which can raise blood sugar. Also, watch for labels that say “no sugar added.” Some foods – fruits, vegetables, and dairy – naturally have sugars in them. Again, watch serving sizes.


Remember, “free” doesn’t mean zero. If something doesn’t contain cholesterol, but does have saturated fat – which “cholesterol-free” foods are allowed to have – it can still raise your cholesterol levels. Watch serving sizes.

Free range

Although the US Department of Agriculture does define the words free range, there are no requirements for the amount, duration, and quality of outdoor access. It really means that they just have exposure to the outdoors.


Tips to improve your heart health

There’s little doubt that keeping your heart healthy is important. After all, it pumps the blood that takes oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Diet and exercise play an important role in helping your heart do its job, but there are other things you can do to help keep your heart healthy.


There’s no shortage of research, strategies and plans for exercise. But varying your routine, including cardio and weight training, is important.

Maintain a heart healthy diet

Again, there are many diet theories out there. But for heart health, make sure you get enough omega-3s and other healthy fats included in salmon and other fish – fiber from oatmeal, beans and nuts – and vitamins and minerals from orange vegetables, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, citrus and blueberries.

Have a drink

The emphasis here is on moderation. For years, the health benefit of a glass of red wine has been in the mainstream. But studies show moderate consumption of any alcohol can raise your HDL (good cholesterol) levels, reduce blood clot formation, and help prevent artery damage.

Cut the salt

Become a label reader. Most of the salt in the American diet comes from processed foods. Avoiding canned and jarred food as much as possible will help cut your salt intake tremendously.

Get enough sleep

For most people, that means somewhere between six and eight hours. A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that getting too little or too much sleep increases your risk for heart disease.

Laugh a lot

Laughing is a stress reliever and the less stress you have, the better it is for the heart. Research from the University of Maryland Medical Center shows that laughter helps relieve the stress that damages the endothelium, the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels and helps your blood flow. It also promotes the healthy function of blood vessels.

Get back to nature

Being outside and enjoying the outdoors is a great way to lower stress levels. Whether you take a leisurely walk, a brisk hike, or just sit outside in your garden, it’s a great way to reduce stress and your blood pressure.

Have a hobby

Doing something with your hands helps your mind unwind. Woodworking, gardening, knitting, sewing and crocheting are all great ways to help relieve stress and help the heart.

Pay attention to the numbers

Talk to you doctor about blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides. Learn how to keep your numbers at optimal levels.


Controlling pet allergens in your home

Many of us face a dilemma every day. We may be a dog or cat lover, but also have allergies. This can make people miserable.

Pet dander is a combination of dead skin cells and hair that can trigger allergic reaction and even asthma attacks in people sensitive to the allergens. The highest sensitivity is to cats, but dogs, rodents and even birds can trigger sensitivities in pet owners that may necessitate them finding a new home for their pets.

If you are facing that situation, there are some things you can do to minimize pet allergens in your home.

Keep pets out of the bedroom

If you or your children are allergic to dander, it is important to keep the pet out of the bedroom. Adults spend nearly 1/3 of their day in the bedroom; children spend almost half. It is essential to keep allergens out of the bedroom. Using allergen-resistant bedding will help minimize contact to any dander that makes its way into the bedroom.

Keep pets off the upholstery

This includes carpets, furniture and even your vehicles. Anything they do come in contact with should be vacuumed or washed frequently, including throw rugs, blankets, cushions, pillows and pet beds.

Clean often

Replacing wall-to-wall carpets with wood floors makes it easier to remove pet dander. If that’s not possible, vacuuming and dusting as often as possible will keep dander to a minimum. Vacuuming may not get all the allergens from the lower levels of a rug and may actually stir up dander as you clean. Use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. It’s also a good idea to dust or vacuum when the person with allergies or asthma is not at home.

Close registers

Try replacing the filter in your furnace or air conditioner with a HEPA filter. You may also want to close the register, at least in the rooms where the person with allergies spends the most time, especially the bedroom.

Give your pet frequent baths

After a five-minute bath, dogs’ allergen levels were reduced by 85%. However, levels return to normal after three days, which suggests that dogs need to be washed at least twice a week.

Clean cages once a week

Because pets such as hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and birds are usually confined to cages, they tend to be less problematic. However, dander and urine can still provoke allergic reactions and asthma attacks. Bird and rodent cages should be cleaned at least once a week and, if possible, the cages should be moved outside to a garage or shed.

Minimize contact

You can reduce dander in your home by keeping pets outside as much as possible. Children with allergies, in particular, should also avoid petting or touching them.

Finally, you have to weigh the pros and cons of having pets if you or a family member have allergic reactions to dander produced by the pet. If the problem persists or becomes too severe, it may be necessary to find the pet a new home.


Finding consensus among diet experts

If you read anything about diet and nutrition, or see anything on TV about it, you’ll know one thing for certain: Experts cannot agree on anything when it comes to diet and nutrition. Some will tell you not to eat carbs; others tell you they’re a necessity. Some say to eat like a caveman. Still others say not to eat fruits because they’re high in sugar while others say to eat a lot of fruit.

The problem seems to be that research comes out supporting one theory or another, then some people jump on the bandwagon while others take the opposite approach and refute the findings.

There are some things that nutritionists can agree on.

  1. You should eat more often. Have a meal or small snack every three to four hours. This keeps your metabolism going and gives you energy throughout the day. It also helps you prevent the need to overeat and blood sugar crashes.
  2. You should include protein at every meal. Consumed at the same time, these foods take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates. You’ll stay fuller longer, and avoid the urge to snack.
  3. Get moving! Everyone knows that exercise burns calories. It helps your metabolism and your mental awareness.
  4. Drink more water. As a rule, most Americans subsist in a state of low-level dehydration.

There are some foods that most nutritionists eat, according to a recent Redbook article.

  • Avocados – A great source of healthy fats
  • Almond milk – Consistency of cow’s milk, with half the calories
  • Cinnamon – Can help regulate blood sugar
  • Dark berries – Can help curb the craving for something sweet, contain fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants
  • Greek yogurt – Two times the protein and less sugar than regular yogurt
  • Eggs – High in protein, vitamins and minerals, and only 70 calories
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – Great for sautéing vegetables, with antioxidants and mono unsaturated fats
  • Hummus – Snack filled with fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fat from the olive oil
  • Nuts – Full of fiber, protein, antioxidants and healthy fat, taken in moderation are a great snack
  • Kale – Versatile, nutrient-dense leafy green, fiber-rich, antioxidants, calcium, vitamins… truly a superfood
  • Quinoa – High in fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, making it more complete than brown rice or whole-grain pasta

While we may be no closer to a consensus among nutrition experts, maybe it’s a place to start.