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It's Turkey Time: Nutritional Aspects of Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Written by Lisa Jillanza

As another Thanksgiving rolls around, it's time to get out the roaster and prepare another turkey to ring in the holiday season. But what do we know about this wild bird besides that nearly every home serves it for Thanksgiving? There is plenty to learn.

Along with chicken, turkey has quickly become a favorite of those on low-fat diets according to Homecooking.about.com. Health studies have also shown that cooking turkey with the skin on seals in the natural juices and the fat from skin does not seep into the turkey. To avoid any extra fat just make sure to remove the skin before eating.

According to Urbanext.illinois.edu, one good thing about the nutritional value of turkey is that it is very low in fat and high in protein. In fact it only has 1 gram of fat per ounce of flesh. It is also a good source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins. All of these nutrients have been found to keep blood cholesterol down, protect against birth defects, cancer and heart disease, aid in nerve function and growth, boost the immune system and regulate blood pressure.

The fat and calorie amounts vary though because white meat has fewer calories and less fat than dark meat and skin. Turkey is also naturally low in sodium. It typically contains less than 25 milligrams (mg) of sodium per ounce on average.

The meat fiber in turkey is easier to digest than other types of meat, so that makes turkey a good choice for individuals that have digestion problems.

While turkey is already a nutritious meat, it can be made even more nutritious if you stick to white turkey meat and if it is prepared using a low-fat cooking method, such as baking, broiling, or grilling. You can also try steaming the turkey or poaching the turkey pieces in water, wine or a broth with herbs and spices. Another healthful and delicious way to prepare a turkey is to sauté it in as little oil as possible, using broth, lemon or orange juice as a basting sauce.

Now that you know more about this delectable and nutritious bird you will enjoy this year's Thanksgiving meal even more.


Avoiding Sugar Hangover this Halloween: Tips to Make this Year's Trick or Treat Healthy and Fun

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Long gone are the days when young trick-or-treaters would go door to door to get fruit and popcorn from their neighbors. Instead, Halloween is now all about how much candy and other sugar-filled, unhealthy items children can collect and consume in the shortest amount of time.

Halloween is a fun holiday and should consist of some candy and treat consumption but it's important to monitor this. Nutrition experts (and dentists) cringe every time October 31 rolls around, but this year parents can not only do their part in giving out healthier treats, but they can also be sure to monitor what their children are eating, too.

We all know that too much sugar is bad for anyone, but do we know what effects too much sugar can have on our children? Nutrition experts offer the following points:

Children that consume too much sugar and too many carbs can suffer from hypoglycemia causing fatigue, poor concentration, mood swings and frequent illness.

Too many “empty calories” can mean that children aren't getting the nutrients they need on a daily basis.

A new diabetic is diagnosed every 8 minutes, a threefold increase in the past 5 to 6 years when a new diabetic was diagnosed every 23 minutes.

Recent research has shown that more than 20% of school-aged children are obese and more than 50% are overweight.

Too much sugar can cause chronically elevated blood insulin levels triggering inflammatory problems and elevated cholesterol.

Now don't get us wrong, this Halloween doesn't have to be all “doom and gloom” when it comes to having a few treats. Parents need to be very careful in monitoring what their child puts into their mouth and how often they are turning to sugary items.

Ration the sugary products over a longer period of time and incorporate them with a protein snack. Having a protein, especially before the sugar snack, will slow and reduce the rate and quantity of insulin secreted by the pancreas, thereby reducing many of the risks stated above.

According to MSNBC.com you can also try some more healthy Halloween treat alternatives that still have great taste without all the sugar and fat. You can make your own healthful Halloween treats and contribute to a healthier Halloween for all of the little goblins in your neighborhood without sacrificing taste or fun.

Start by replacing up to half of the butter, margarine or shortening with heart healthy oils, such as canola or olive oil. Be careful though, cookies that use oil instead of butter often end up crispier and run the risk of drying out sooner so make sure to store them in airtight containers.

Try a fruit puree like applesauce, pear butter, prune filling or canned pumpkin. Using fruit puree in place of fat will produce cookies that are cakier and chewier.

You can also reduce fat in cookies by using nonfat yogurt or buttermilk instead of more traditional ingredients. This helps maintain moisture without the fat content. Try using 1 to 4 tablespoons of any of these ingredients to replace up to 4 tablespoons of butter.

Here is to a Healthy and Happy Halloween!

Understanding Fats: A Brief Explanation of the Four Types of Fats

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Those people looking to understand what their dietician is talking about when they compare good fats to bad fats will not find these terms on food labels. Instead you will see words like polyunsaturated and Trans fats.

This article will give you a brief explanation of the four types of fats (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and Trans fats) and how they affect your body.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are the fats that stay solid at room temperature, such as lard, coconut oil and cow butter. Saturated fats are what dieticians consider “bad fats” because they raise your bad cholesterol level, thereby raising your total cholesterol level.

According to Kristensguide.com saturated fats are often found in animal products such as animal flesh, dairy products and eggs and some vegetable products like coconuts and palm oil. People whose diet consists of many foods high in saturated fats typically are at a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats have a lower melting temperature than saturated fats, which means that they do not stay solid at room temperature. These types of fats can be found in: canola oil, peanut oil, olive oil, nuts and avocados.

Monounsaturated fats are what dieticians consider the “good fats” that lower bad cholesterol without lowering your levels of good cholesterol. In addition, monounsaturated fats help to prevent against cardiovascular disease.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats, otherwise known as essential fatty acids, are fats that can stay liquid even at lower temperatures. Polyunsaturated fats are found in safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybeans, fish, and fish oil.

Dieticians consider polyunsaturated fats the “good fats” as they lower cholesterol and they help prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering the amount of fat in the blood.

Trans Fats

Trans fats, often called “hydrogenated” are man-made fats that are created during the hydrogenation process. They are usually monosaturated or polyunsaturated fats that have been processed to make them solid at room temperature. These types of fats are unnatural and toxic to your body. Trans fats are abundant in packaged and processed foods. Some of the foods that Trans fats are found in include vegetable shortening, margarine, and some dairy products.

Dieticians consider Trans fats the “bad fats” as they can cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, birth defects, low birth weight babies, and sterility.

How Fats Affect You

Fats are essential to your overall health. Fats provide energy and certain types of vitamins and minerals can only be processed by your body when fats are present. Trying to eliminate fats from your diet can lead to problems like vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

While you cannot eliminate fats completely from your diet, you should be conscious to consume fats in moderation.

Most dieticians will recommend that no more than 10 percent of your daily calories come from saturated fats, with up to 10 percent coming from polyunsaturated fats and up to 15 percent coming from monounsaturated fats. No amount of Trans fats are safe or are recommended on a daily basis.

The best way to keep an eye on your daily fat intake is to be cautious of what you eat and to be a good label reader. This will help you to keep your dietary fats at a healthy level.


Fall Squash: Don't Miss Out on These Fantastic Fall Fruits

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Now that summer is coming to a close, it's time to enjoy one of the most popular fruits that fall has to offer: squash. While they are commonly thought to be vegetables, botanically speaking squash are actually considered a fruit due to the fact that they have their seeds on the inside.

According to everynutrient.com, the winter squash group includes pumpkin, acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash. Winter squash, like other richly colored vegetables, provide excellent sources of carotenes. The richer the color, the richer the concentration. In addition they are also a good source of vitamins B and C, folic acid, fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium. Studies even show that winter squash exert a protective effect against many cancers.

Summer squashes which include yellow squash and zucchini, have a higher water content, therefore are not as nutrient dense as the winter varieties. But they still provide nutritional benefits including low calorie count, vitamin C, potassium and carotenes.

When it comes to picking out the best squash at the grocery store, thenibble.com says that summer squash are thin-skinned and bruise easily, so look for firm, blemish-free ones with taut skin. The smaller ones are sweeter, tenderer and tend to last in the fridge for about a week before they start to wrinkle.

Winter squash have hard, thick rinds and often may require a hammer to cut one in half. Their thick skin makes them last longer. You can often keep winter squash fresh in cool, dark places for one to three months.

Here are a few storage tips for squash:

Avoid storing squash near apples, avocados or passion fruit, all of which are are natural ripening agents that release ethylene gas. While they are great to throw into a paper bag to aid the ripening process of other fruits like pears, bananas and tomatoes (and to quicken plant flowering), they only discolor and decay zucchini and other dark green squash.

When storing winter squash with woody stems, leave a 4-inch (or longer) stem on the fruit. Fleshy or softer stems, such as those found on banana and hubbard squash, can be cut to one 1 to 2 inches. This helps to retain moisture.

The squash is also very versatile when it comes to using them to cook. While some require cooking others, like zucchini can be prepared in every conceivable way: raw, sautéed, grilled, steamed, boiled, broiled, baked, fried, microwaved or freeze-dried. They can be easily puréed for soups, cakes, pies and quick breads; it also can be spiced and added to rice pilafs, cubed and grilled on skewers, added to stews and made into famous dishes like ratatouille and pumpkin pie. Served alone or as a side dish, the diverse flavors of squash lend itself to any occasion.


Great Summertime Fruits: Get Them While they Last!

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Summer is a great season to partake in the numerous delicious seasonal fruits. Not only do these summertime fruits taste great, but they also give you many nutritional benefits. According to MSNBC, electrolytes and water are readily available in foods such as fresh fruits. Summer offers a wider selection of yummy and juicy fruits than any other season making it super easy to get your daily helping of fresh produce.

Some fruits to enjoy before the season ends include:

Berries- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries and more are high in fiber and vitamin C. In addition, the phytochemicals in blueberries, strawberries and blackberries all boost immunity, and protect against heart diseases and circulatory problems. Cherries are another summer ripe fruit that contain these wholesome nutrients as well.

Peaches and plums- Full of vitamin C and beta carotene, peaches and plums help to eliminate free radicals from the body. Purple and red plums also contain fiber and the skins contain anthocyanidins, potent antioxidant phytochemicals.

Papayas and mangoes- Irresistibly mouth-watering summer fruits, both papayas and mangoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, beta carotene and fiber. Papayas also contain potassium and folate. Folate prevents developmental defects in fetuses and supports cardiovascular health.

Figs- Summer is the season for fresh figs. Fresh or dried, sweet figs are one of the highest fruit sources of fiber, and they also contain significant amounts of minerals potassium (great for replenishing losses in sweat), calcium and iron.

Melons- You can't forget about ice-cold, refreshing watermelon! All the melons, including cantaloupe, casaba, and honeydew, are summer fruits. Cantaloupe with its peachy-orange flesh is rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C. Juicy watermelon is a rich source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, and a good source of lycopene. Lycopene, most popularized in tomato products, is an antioxidant carotenoid that has been shown to prevent prostate cancer.

There's nothing quite as tasty or nutritious as beating the heat with the thirst-quenching and nutritious fruits of summer- make your summer a savory experience.