Orange is the color of summer and fall. It symbolizes joy, sun and the tropics.  It’s hard not to feel positive when you’re enjoying the beautiful bounty of orange fruits and vegetables that are available each season!

According to the “color wheel”, orange marries the energy of red, and happiness of yellow. This week’s series features all things orange.

Starting your day with an orange food is a great way to stay healthy. But don’t limit yourself to just orange juice. Fresh oranges, Clementines, and tangerines are just a few of the many delightful orange citrus fruits that are loaded with vitamin C, potassium and fiber. But consumers may want to watch how much time they spend in the sun when they eat citrus. Studies show that citrus fruit contain furocoumarins, a class of photoactive compounds that when combined with UV rays, can induce skin cancer. 1 The study used data from over 56,000 women in the Women’s Health Initiative and found a direct relationship between citrus consumption, sun exposure and risk for cutaneous melanoma. To be safe, be sure to wear sunscreen, which also protects you from wrinkles and premature aging.

Cantaloupe and mush melon (popular in the Midwest), are other beautiful orange fruits that are a great source of heart healthy potassium and cancer-fighting beta-carotene and vitamin C. They can be eaten by themselves or topped with low-fat cottage cheese or Greek yogurt to boost protein in your meal.  Tropical mangoes are also popular in spring and summer and also provide potassium, beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber. They’re great to use in smoothies, added to yogurt or processed in a cold, summertime soup.

Don’t just limit yourself to orange fruit. Orange vegetables are also highly nutritious and there’s a variety to choose from, especially in the fall months. Orange bell peppers add crunch, color and nutrition to several dishes or can be eaten raw with hummus for a snack. Sautee them and add them to egg dishes, pasta, rice or Mexican cuisine. Orange bell peppers contain more vitamin C than their green counterparts.

Acorn squash is a winter vegetable. And while it may be green on the outside, it’s a beautiful bright orange on the inside. Like other squash, it's an excellent source of cancer-fighting beta-carotene and vitamin C and potassium to aid in blood pressure reduction. It’s also a decent source of fiber and folate. Acorn squash can be cubed, then brushed with olive oil and dried herbs and roasted. A one cup serving provides just over 50 calories.

Sweet potatoes are another celebrated orange vegetable, but don’t just eat them at the holidays. These versatile gems can be roasted, mashed or chopped an added to soups, stews or chilis. Similar to other orange vegetables, sweet potatoes are high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium and fiber. Try them mashed with grated ginger, orange zest and cinnamon. You’ll never go back to that marshmallow casserole!

Finally, don’t forget the humble carrot. Carrots make a great snack solo or with hummus or are often the base of mirepoix in soup when paired with celery and onions. They are delicious when roasted or added to a stew along with potatoes and onions. The beta-carotene in carrots is more bioavailable when cooked, than raw.

Reference:

  1. Melough MM1Wu S2Li WQ3Eaton C4Nan H5,6Snetselaar L7Wallace R7Qureshi AA3Chun OK1Cho E3. Citrus Consumption and Risk of Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma in the Women's Health Initiative. Nutr Cancer.2019 Jul 23:1-8. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2019.1644353. [Epub ahead of print]

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

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It’s been said that the color red represents fire, passion, desire and love. It’s also a color of courage, action and confidence. When most of us hear the phrase, “eat colorful fruits and vegetables”, red nearly always come to mind. Researchers find that the color red is stimulating, exciting and associated with increased activity. It’s also associated with fast food, which is why people assume it increases appetite. However, it doesn’t increase your desire to eat. Studies show that if a color is associated with a fond memory (such as eating a happy meal as a kid), we’re more attracted to it, which could be why so many fast food restaurants use red in their logos.1

This next series on Food and Health Communications will focus on eating the rainbow. Red is the first color we’ll review. The color series is inspired the salad we created for our new rainbow poster!

Currently, nearly everyone in the country is experiencing tomato season. There are over 3000 varieties of tomatoes available from tiny grape tomatoes for snacking or salads to beefsteak tomatoes enjoyed on sandwiches and in salads. Tomatoes provide the phytochemical lycopene, which has been linked with reduction of hormonally based cancers including prostate and ovarian cancer. New research also indicates that lycopene may improve vascular function and reduce atherosclerosis. 2 While tomatoes are often enjoyed fresh, lycopene becomes more bioavailable when a tomato is cooked or processed. Watermelon is another source of lycopene. In addition to lycopene, tomatoes are also a great source of vitamin C and potassium, making them heart-healthy and good for immunity.

Strawberries are still in season around the country as well, though their peak season is late spring. It’s no coincidence that strawberries are heart-shaped. Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C in addition to folic acid and fiber. Raspberries are another beautiful red fruit to enjoy, though they parish quickly. Raspberries provide a whopping 8 grams of fiber per cup and only 65 calories, making them a great snack for dieters. Strawberries and raspberries are both high in ellagic acid, a polyphenol with anticancer properties that’s also shows promise in reducing inflammation related to pancreatitis. 3 Berries of any kind should be stored unwashed in the refrigerator and used within 2-3 days of harvest or purchase. They can also be frozen to be used in smoothies, fruit compotes or sauces.

Another red food to encourage in your clients’ diets is bell peppers. In addition to vitamin C, bell peppers are a great source of beta-carotene. In fact, red peppers contain 10 x the amount of vitamin C and 1.5 times as much beta carotene as green peppers. Peppers can be eaten raw with a dip, tossed in a salad or sautéed and used in Mexican and Italian cuisine, soups, stews and egg dishes. They add beautiful color, taste and texture to several recipes.

Finally, you can’t beat a beet! Beets are known for their beautiful crimson hue, but they’re also a nutritional powerhouse. Beets are high in folate and manganese and provide just 44 calories in a 3 ½ oz. serving. Fresh beets can be sliced, seasoned and roasted and served as a side dish or chopped and added to salads. The pickled beets you find in a can are also nutritious, but may contain a bit more sodium. Unsalted varieties are also available.

Beets make great pickles! The acid in the cooking liquid locks in their beautiful color.

Red Pickles

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 4 cups sliced beets

Roast the beets for 1 hour at 350 degrees on foil or a baking tray until they are fork tender. Allow the beets to cool so you can handle them. Slip the beets out of their skins and slice into 1/4 inch slides. Discard the skins. Set the beets to the side.

Combine vinegar, onion, sugar, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 2 minutes. Add the beets. Bring the liquid and beets back to the boil. Remove from heat and place beets and liquid in canning jars

Add beets and bring to a boil.  Place beets and liquid in canning jars with tight lids and refrigerate. Serve the red pickles with salads, sandwiches, baked or grilled items, or on veggie burgers!

Here is a printable PDF handout about eating more red fruits and veggies. 

References:

  1. https://www.businessinsider.com/why-are-fast-food-signs-red-2015-9
  2. Ioana Mozos,1,2,*Dana Stoian,3Alexandru Caraba,4 Clemens Malainer,5 Jaros?aw O. Horba?czuk,6 andAtanas G. Atanasov6,7,* Lycopene and vascular health. Front Pharmacol. 2018; 9: 521.

3. Polyphenols in the Prevention of Acute Pancreatitis in Preclinical Systems of Study: A Revisit

Elroy Saldanha, ... Manjeshwar Shrinath Baliga, in Polyphenols: Mechanisms of Action in Human Health and Disease (Second Edition), 2018

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

 

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You’ve likely heard your clients say “I don’t have time to cook”, “We’re empty nesters and don’t have anyone to cook for” or “It’s too hard to cook for one person”. Another reason people don’t make food for themselves is that they simply lack cooking skills. Enter the frozen dinner. Peel off the plastic, pop it in the microwave and dinner is done.

Frozen dinners have come a long way and are certainly improved from the high fat, low fiber varieties that were mainly meat and potato based. Now consumers can buy vegan, gluten-free, calorie controlled, kid-friendly and other varieties of frozen meals. But are they the healthiest option on the shelf? This week we’ll take a look at the good, bad and the ugly in the frozen meal section.

For starters, a frozen meal does not need to be a full meal. You can add frozen vegetables or a salad on the side to increase the nutrient quality.  For blood sugar management, be sure to include some protein such as frozen fish, lean meat, beans or legumes. Edamame adds an elegant touch to meals and is an excellent plant-based protein. A “meal” should run you about 300-500 calories.

Ideally, a product should be low in total fat, trans and saturated fat. If a product contains 300 calories, it should have no more than 9 grams of fat per serving to be considered low-fat (3 grams fat per 100 calories). Saturated fat should be 1 gram or less per serving or 15% or less of the calories from saturated fat, but with most choices, you’re lucky to get below 3 grams. 1  Meals containing red meat, cream, butter sauce or cheese may be off limits if low-fat is the goal.

While your meal may not taste sweet, sugar seems to be fairly prevalent in many frozen meals. The US Dietary Guidelines advise that no more than 10% of total calories come from sugar, which means 10 tsp. per day for men and 6 tsp. per day or less for women. 2 Look for frozen meals containing 8 grams or less (2 tsp.) per serving. Typically, meals containing teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauce, fruit glaze or a dessert in the meal (cooked fruit in sauce, mini cake or brownie), will be higher in sugar.

Sodium seems to be an overly dispensed ingredient in most frozen meals. Even the “Smart Ones” may contain 600 mg or more per meal. We could all use a little less sodium in our lives given the connection between sodium intake and hypertension. Ideally, most Americans should aim for 2300 mg or less, and even less (1500 mg per day) for those with hypertension, kidney disease, congestive heart failure, liver disease, Africa American heritage or age over 50.2  Dietitians at the Cleveland Clinic suggest looking for meals with 500 or less calories, 600 mg or less sodium and 3 grams of saturated fat or less per meal. 3

A nutrient we could all use more of is fiber. It’s estimated that only 5% of the US population meets the recommended amounts of dietary fiber set by the US Dietary Guidelines. 4 Ways to improve fiber intake when choosing frozen meals include choosing entrees that include whole grains like brown rice or quinoa or meals with beans or legumes in vegetarian entrees. Adding a side salad, microwaved or steamed vegetable or fruit for dessert will also round out a meal and boost fiber intake.

A few brands that fit the above bill some of the time include Luvo, Amy’s (primarily vegetarian and vegan meals), Trader Joe’s and Healthy Choice entrees. Because there are so many varieties of meals out there, reading labels will still be a great tool to teach your clients to weed out the real healthy choice meals.

Finally, rather than relying completely on frozen, pre-packaged meals, why not try a few easy tips to create your own meals? Here are a few items to keep on hand for quick meals:

Staples:

  • Cooked batches of brown rice, couscous, or quinoa to mix with fresh meats and fresh or frozen veggies
  • A variety of frozen veggies
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Lean protein such as frozen fish, pork tenderloin or skinless poultry
  • Vegetarian entrees with less sodium

Make your own meal kits:

  • Stir fry dinners using squeeze ginger, low sodium soy sauce and jarred garlic
  • Lower sodium chicken entrees paired with veggies and brown rice
  • Seafood that can be baked or broiled and paired with frozen veggies and yams
  • Fresh chicken with frozen veggies and quinoa
  • Orange chicken (use only a quarter of the sauce) and serve over frozen brown rice and a big salad

Go easy on:

  • Cheesy items like pizza, lasagna and pasta, which are usually too high in saturated fat and sodium
  • Most pasta entrees are high in sodium
  • Pot pies or “pocket sandwiches” are high in fat and sodium
  • Fried items
  • Items that are high in saturated fat, sodium, and or calories.

References:

  1. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/factsheets/Saturated_Fat.pdf
  2. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15426-sodium-controlled-diet
  4. Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN and Patricia Felt-Gunderson, MS, RDN, LDN. Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap. Communication Strategies From a Food and Fiber Summit. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2017 Jan-Feb; 11(1): 80–85.

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

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Who doesn’t love fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice? It’s refreshing, delicious and nutritious. But unless you live in a tropical climate year-round or have oodles of time to squeeze your own citrus, you’re probably not enjoying fresh juice very often. How about juice from frozen concentrate or some of the other popular juice drinks? This week, we’ll take a look at what’s juicy on the market.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re likely aware of the celery juice craze. According to the “Medical Medium”, celery juice can help with weight loss, clearer skin, improved digestion and other medical issues. Given its bitter taste and “stalky” texture, it doesn’t sound like the most palatable thing to consume, which is why most recipes for celery juice include other items like apple juice, strawberries, kale, bananas and more. While all of these items are healthy, there’s nothing magical about celery juice, per se. If you leave the pulp with the juice, you’ll get the benefit of fiber and depending on which fruits or vegetables are added, the juice will contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Currently few (if any) studies have evaluated whether or not celery juice may benefit your health. Most concentrate on the nutrients contained in the vegetable, which may be available in other produce. Don’t let your clients be fooled by this “magic” juice.1

Orange juice from frozen concentrate has been around for years. Concentrated juice is just that- the extra fluid from the juice is taken out, so just the orange solids are concentrated and left to be packaged and frozen. This creates a more compact product. The juice is then “reconstituted” before use. Check the label for added sugars such as sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. Light juices are also popular for weight control or blood sugar management. Some contain half the calories and carbohydrate than traditional juice. Not surprisingly, the first ingredient is water, not juice and most contain some type of artificial sweetener. Perhaps juice can just be mixed with half water and have the same effect? Reduced calorie juice is often simply watered down.

Juice cocktails tend to contain less juice and potentially more added sugar. For example, a popular cranberry juice cocktail contains 140 calories in 8 oz. with 31 grams of sugar, 11 of them added. Beyond carbohydrate, the only other nutritional advantage to the juice is vitamin C (150% of the Daily Value). Straight cranberry juice tastes more tart, often contains a blend of other juices and may be sweetened with added sugar. Calories are not much lower than traditional juice (119 VS 140 per 8 oz.).

Juice boxes are popular among the toddler crowd. One nice feature is the prepackaged serving size, along with the non-spill portability for small hands. Most juice boxes are between 6.7 and 8 oz. in size and contain either 100% juice or a blend of juice. Beware of juice “waters” or juice drink blends. These may contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners, which you may or may not want your child to consume. In addition, it’s important to look for juice with no added color as these have been linked with hyperactivity in some studies. 2

Bottom Line:

The new Nutrition Facts Label, showing added sugars will appear on most items by January 2020. This will enable consumers to quickly check the Nutrition Facts Label to read the amount of added sugar in beverages. It is always a good idea to check the ingredient list and the percent of real juice used in a beverage. Healthy sounding drinks might actually contain quite a bit of added sugar and calories.

Since juice can be fairly high in calories, easy to drink in large quantities, and low in fiber, it might be best saved for athletes or other individuals with higher caloric requirements. Or it can be used as a flavoring agent to make your own soda and ice cubes for water.

If your clients are seeking something flavored because they’re not wild about plain water, here are a few options beyond juice:

  • Unsweetened iced tea with lemon
  • Flavored seltzer water
  • Fruit or vegetable infused water (such as cucumbers or berries)
  • Soda water with a twist of lemon or lime

References:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324932.php
  2. 2. L. Eugene Arnold, 1,2 Nicholas Lofthouse,1 and Elizabeth Hurt2 Artificial Food Colors and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Symptoms: Conclusions to Dye for. Neurotherapeutics. 2012 Jul; 9(3): 599–609.

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

Click here for a printable handout about juice:

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Your new client complains of being hungry mid-morning at work. He doesn’t want to eat too much and spoil his lunch, but also doesn’t want to be ravenous during his meeting. He’s been packing various bars and wants your opinion on which to choose. With so many bars and packaged goodies to choose from, how do you know which ones are best to give you more than just a sugar rush? This week’s blog will focus on snack time. It’s not just for kids.

Let’s start with grain bars. Most will run you between 100-150 calories and many of them claim to be “made with real fruit”. While that may be true, it can hardly be counted as a fruit serving once all is said and done. A closer look at Nutrigrain bars shows a snack with 130 calories, 1 gram of fiber and 12 grams of added sugar. Where’s the fruit?  While, the bar provides 10% of the Daily Value for a handful of vitamins and minerals, with only 2 grams of protein, your client won’t be very satisfied.

Poptarts are another convenience item people often pack in their lunch or grab for a snack. “Baked with real fruit” is proudly displayed on the front package. But a closer look at the ingredient label reveals a combo platter of sweeteners including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose and sugar added. Keep reading and you’ll see dried apples and pears listed on the ingredient label. This one will give you a whopping 16 grams (4 tsp.) of added sugar, 2 grams protein and less than 1 measly gram of fiber. According to the American Heart Association, men should aim for 9 teaspoons of sugar or less per day and women should eat less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar. 1 Eat one of these and you’re well on your way.

Granola bars seem pretty innocuous, right? A peak at the front label indicates the bars are made with 100% whole grains. If this is true, why is there only 1 gram of dietary fiber per bar? The fiber likely comes from the itty-bitty amount of rolled oats drizzled on top. The lower sugar options give you 7 grams of sugar compared to 12 in the original. This still accounts for 28% of the total calories in the product. Look for bars that contain at least 3 grams of dietary fiber to provide some satiety as well as other health benefits. 2

If granola isn’t the answer, how about a protein bar? Clif bars offer a high protein version, but unless your client is really active, it will add an extra 270 calories to his daily total. One of their builder bars provides 10 grams of protein, 6 grams of saturated fat and 21 grams of added sugar. You may as well have an ice cream sundae with chopped nuts, cause that’s pretty much what you’re eating from a nutritional standpoint.

There are a handful of bars that may be worth your money. Look for those with 5 grams or less added sugar and 3 grams or less saturated fat. RX Maple bars offer 12 grams of protein, 1.5 grams saturated fat and no added sugar. While there are sugars listed on the label, these come from dates (maple water is added for flavor). KIND Nuts and Spices line have a few bars with 5 grams of sugar or less including maple pecan sea salt and caramel almond and sea salt. Lemon Luna bars by Clif are a wee bit high in sugar (9 grams/serving), but provide 9 grams of protein and 3 grams of dietary fiber.

Perhaps it’s just best to skip the bars and Eat. Real. Food. Here are some simple snack ideas to suggest:

  • A mini box of raisins and handful of almonds
  • Light string cheese and whole grain crackers
  • Apple or banana with peanut butter
  • Raw veggies and hummus
  • Greek yogurt and berries
  • 100 calorie bag of popcorn
  • Low-fat cottage cheese and tomatoes

These foods are likely less expensive, less processed, more nutritious, and easy to pack. The bar never even needs to be raised.

References:

  1. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/dietaryfiber.html

Submitted by Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

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It’s been said before, and is usually true. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The same holds true for the food industry. Let’s face it. Marketing of products is big money and companies are targeting your senses to get you to buy their product over the competition. Did you know, the grocery industry makes over 700 billion in sales annually? This next series in Food & Health communications will highlight a few food labels that may or may not live up to the hype. We’ll start with breakfast cereal. 1

A popular frosted breakfast cereal boasts “colors and flavors from natural sources”. But what does “natural” mean? According to the FDA, the term natural flavor is defined as a “substance extracted, distilled or similarly derived from plant or animal matter, either as is or after it has been roasted, heated or fermented, and whose function is for flavor, not nutrition”. Natural flavors include spices, fruit or fruit juice, vegetables or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herbs, bark, buds, root leave or plant material. They may or may not be vegetarian. Dairy products including yogurt or kefir, meat, poultry or seafood or eggs may be considered natural flavors.  Several flavors make up “natural flavors” and are considered on the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list, though many have not been studied for long term safety or approved by the FDA. 2

Added colors in food are used to improve color lost from light exposure, extreme temperatures, moisture or storage conditions, to correct variations in color that occur naturally, to enhance naturally occurring colors or to provide color to otherwise colorless foods. Colors that are allowed are either certified by the FDA or exempt from certification. Certified colors are synthetic colors that are certified each time a new batch is produced. Both undergo rigorous testing for safety before being added to foods. Natural colors are colors that are sourced from vegetables, minerals or animals. They are usually more expensive than certified colors and may impart an unintended flavor to food. Some examples include annatto extract (yellow), dried beets (bluish-red or brown), caramel (yellow to tan), beta-carotene (yellow to orange) and extract from grape skins (red, green). 3

While most natural colors and flavors may be considered “safe”, the food containing them may or may not be nutritious. For example, a breakfast cereal with natural colors and flavors may still be full of sugar. Remember, four grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 tsp. added sugar. In the case of Frosted Mini Wheats (above), each serving contains 11 grams of added sugar, which is nearly 3 tsp. per serving. Sugar is the second ingredient in the nutrition facts panel.

Cookies for breakfast? It may as well be. Keep your cart going if you pass this gem in the cereal aisle. Oreo cereal has almost no food in its food. The “cereal” has 13 grams of sugar, .5 grams of fiber and 1 measly gram of protein per 1 cup serving. Over 40% of the calories come from added sugar. 4

How about some Fruit Loops(R)? Fruit for breakfast sounds healthful, right? The package claims to have 25% of the Daily Value for vitamin C AND no high fructose corn syrup. In addition, if you buy them on Amazon, the claim “good source of fiber” is also included. Unfortunately, fruit loops are not made with significant amounts of real fruit and will add a mere 2 grams of dietary fiber and 10 grams of added sugar (2 ½ tsp.) to your morning routine. For vitamin C, you’d be better off eating a bowl of strawberries or a few cuties with breakfast.

A popular breakfast throughout the year is oatmeal. The front of the popular package claims “Heart Healthy since oatmeal is a source of soluble fiber. But the flavored varieties provide 12 grams of added sugar (3 tsp), which is far from heart healthy. A better option would be to use either plain rolled oats, which take 2 minutes in the microwave or instant oats in a cylinder. Either can be flavored with cinnamon, vanilla or a small amount of brown sugar. Chopped nuts, ground flax seed or chia seeds can also be added to oatmeal to improve flavor, texture and nutritional value.

To reduce sugar at breakfast, clients can mix half of a serving of sweetened cereal with half of a serving of unsweetened/high fiber cereal (such as shredded wheat, bran flakes or plain Cheerios). This cuts the sugar in half but does not compromise the dose of fiber or flavor in the cereal. I use the rule of thumb of 5 and 5. Five grams of sugar or less and 5 grams of fiber or more per serving. Other cereals can be combined in this manner, too.

References:

  1. https://www.fmi.org/our-research/supermarket-facts
  2. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=101.22
  3. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/color-additives-questions-and-answers-consumers
  4. https://www.postconsumerbrands.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/OreoOsCereal-NFP.pdf

Submitted by Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

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