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Tips for a Satisfying and Healthy Thanksgiving Feast

thanksgiving turkey image Thanksgiving has almost arrived- the season of family, camaraderie, decadence, over-eating and ultimately heartburn and weight gain. My last couple blog posts may help to diagnose and settle an upset stomach that you will inevitably, or at least I will inevitably face. But I also wanted to give you some ideas on how to enjoy the food of the holidays without overindulging and the guilt that often accompanies the Holiday season post-meal.

With all of the rich and heavy choices associated with Thanksgiving dinner, we often find ourselves staggering away from the table in search of an elastic waistband and a couch to pass out on. But it's possible to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal without feeling horribly over-stuffed afterward. By following these tips from eatingwell.com, a combination of reasonable portion sizes (check out my blog dated October 6) and healthier dishes that don't sacrifice flavor, Thanksgiving can be joyful, delicious and healthy!

1. Skip the fat but retain the flavor- Rather than rubbing your bird with butter before roasting in order to keep it juicy. However, if you roast a turkey without overcooking, it won't dry out and there's no need to rub it with butter beforehand. Instead try chopping fresh herbs and garlic mixed with a little olive oil instead. Healthy and tasty!

2. Avoid salt- Conventional turkeys often contain an added salt solution in order to stay moister. But if you're watching your sodium intake, avoid them and avoiding adding extra salt to any dish.

3. Skip the skin- By simply skipping the skin you can save yourself a heap of calories and fat. According to eatingwell.com a 3-ounce portion of light meat without skin has only 132 calories and 3 grams of fat. However, with skin those numbers jump to 168 calories and 6 grams of fat. In addition, dark meat has more calories but also more iron.

4. Try broth- A majority of stuffing recipes call for butter. Rather than calories and fat associated with butter use a bit of chicken broth instead to keep it moist and flavorful.

5. Keep it sweet but hold the sugar- Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and yummy. Rather than loading them up with additional brown sugar and marshmallows just add a touch of maple syrup or honey to accentuate their great flavor.

6. Ban the butter- To make a tasty gravy use the drippings from the roasting pan with the fat skimmed off. This maintains the flavor without the added fat and calories. In addition, forgo adding butter to this or any other part of your meal. Butter majorly bumps up the fat and calories.

By adhering to adequate portion sizes and integrating these few simple ideas into your meal you can easily combat Thanksgiving meal over-indulgence while still enjoying a wonderful meal. Cheers!

A Crash Course on Organic and Natural Foods

organic food image If your idea of an organic meal consists of dry tofu and a handful of nuts, then think again. It is no longer a world of unconvincing fake meat and alfalfa sprouts. World-class beef, produce, dairy products, even chocolate and coffee are organically made. Shopping and eating organic is not only good for you, it's good for the planet. Below is a crash course on organic and natural foods that may have you eating better before you can say “environmentally-friendly free-range chicken”.

If you haven't noticed the increased quantity and variety of organic foods and organic food stores then it's a safe bet that you need to get out more. This trend may have you wondering if organic foods are healthier or safer. Are they worth the extra money and how do they taste? And what does “free-range”, “grass-fed”, and “fair-trade” even mean?

To meet the organic standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture an organic food is one that is grown without pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, herbicides, antibiotics, bioengineering, hormones, or ionizing radiation. Organic animal products come from animals that are fed 100% organic feed products, receive no antibiotics or growth hormones and have access to the outdoors. In addition, for a product to be labeled organic, it requires inspection and approval from a government-approved certifier to ensure that the farmer followed all the rules necessary to meet the USDA's standards. The certifier also ensures that the farmers use renewable resources that conserve the soil and water. Any company that handles the food in between must be certified organic as well.

According to kidshealth.org in order for foods to be labeled “organic” they can be:

100% organic: They're completely organic or made of all organic ingredients. Organic: They're at least 95% organic. Made with organic ingredients: The food contains at least 70% organic ingredients but can't have the organic seal on its package

In contrast, natural foods are minimally processed but don't have to adhere to the same meticulous standards that organic foods do. Natural foods normally have no artificial ingredients or preservatives and the meat and poultry is also minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients.

The USDA does not officially claim that organic foods are safer or more nutritious than those that are not considered organic. According to WebMD a large scale study conducted by the Consumers Union found that organically grown crops consistently had about one-third as many pesticide residues as conventionally grown crops. Organic foods are also far less likely to contain residues of more than one pesticide. However, experts agree that the best way to safeguard yourself from harmful pesticides is by thoroughly rinsing all fruits and vegetables regardless of if they are organic or not.

Besides lack of harmful pesticides there is another nutritional certainty of eating organic food and that is its freshness. If you want to get the most from your food, eat it while it's fresh. Nutrients such a vitamin C oxidize over time so the longer your food sits in the refrigerator or the longer it takes to ship to you, the less nutritional benefit it has. Organic farms tend to be smaller operations and sell their products closer to the point of harvest which results in fresher and more flavorable foods.

Regardless of proven nutritional value or health benefits more and more people are becoming fans of organic foods and are buying more and more of it. Sales have risen more than 20% every year in the past decade and the Food Marketing Institute says that more than half of Americans buy organic food at least once a month.

It's easy to find a well-rounded selection of organic products. Grocery stores offer organic produce, juices, cereals, baby food, dairy products, and more. In addition, many stores are 100% organic or natural. Oftentimes these stores are more expensive than your run of the mill grocery but it's up to the individual to decide if it's worth the extra money to ensure organic and natural food.

 

Carbohydrate Health in an Unsalted Nutshell

It seems lately that carbs have been designated the dieters ultimate enemy- they're not to be trusted and avoided at all times. So are carbs really that bad or are they just getting a bad rap? Achieving overall carbohydrate health is essential toward a balanced diet and total wellness. 2 carb image In actuality not all carbs are as terrible as they've been touted. There are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. Fortunately for us, it's easy to achieve carbohydrate health and separate the good from the bad. As consumers we are able to reap health benefits associated with good carbs by choosing high-fiber carbs such as whole grains and vegetables and avoiding refined and processed carbs such as white bread and white rice.

To assume that all carbs are bad is unreasonable. Carbohydrates are needed fuel for our bodies. In a National Academies Institute of Medicine report from 2002, it recommends that in order for adults to meet the body's daily nutritional needs while minimizing risk for chronic disease that they should get 45%-65% of their calories from carbohydrates. The same study also recommends that people focus on getting more good carbs with fiber into their diet.

According to WebMD we can reap health benefits of good carbs by choosing to consume carbohydrates full of fiber. Carbs that are naturally high in fiber slow down the absorption of other nutrients eaten at the same meal, including carbohydrates. This slowing prevents peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels, which reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes. Certain types of fiber found in oats, beans, and some fruits help to lower blood cholesterol and fiber also helps people feel fuller. This in turn, helps moderate the amount of food you eat. There is also evidence to suggest that a high fiber diet may also help to prevent colon cancer and promote weight control. In addition, studies show an increased risk for heart disease with low-fiber diets.

“Another important point about fiber-rich foods is that they tend to be loaded with phytochemicals that appear to have anticancer functions,” says Nagi Kumar, PhD and director of clinical nutrition at the Moffitt Cancer Center at the University of South Florida.

"Pertaining to cancer, we've found 65 or so non-nutrients and nutrients that have action against cancer," she says. "We've seen soy, lycopene, bicarbanol, to name just a few of these, have significant effect against various cancers."

Along with these benefits and its role in weight maintenance, fiber helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, and diverticulosis.

The easiest way to include fiber and all of its health benefits in your diet is to eat plant foods. Plants such as fruits and veggies are quality carbohydrates that are loaded with fiber. Besides fiber, plant foods also deliver vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals along with grams of carbohydrate, such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Overall, a carb can't be considered “good” without considering its fiber content.

Here are a few fiber recommendations from WebMD: Men aged 50 or younger should get 38 grams of fiber a day. Women aged 50 or younger should get 25 grams of fiber a day. Because we need fewer calories and food as we get older, men over aged 50 should get 30 grams of fiber a day. Women over aged 50 should get 21 grams of fiber a day.

Getting some fiber into almost every meal takes a little effort. Here are three tips: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Just eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables will get you to about 10 or more grams of fiber, depending on your choices. Include some beans and bean products in your diet. A half-cup of cooked beans will add from 4 to 8 grams of fiber to your day. Switch to whole grains every single possible way (buns, rolls, bread, tortillas, pasta, crackers, etc).

In a nutshell, carbohydrate health revolves around consuming plenty of high fiber carbohydrates and steering clear of bad carbs that strip away such beneficial fiber.

MSG Monosodium Glutamate and Your Health

Something menacing in your food awaits and it's called MSG. MSG Monosodium Glutamate is a salt of the amino acid Glutamic Acid (glutamate) and has been found to cause harmful reactions in many people who consume it. The unfortunate part of this story is that MSG is hidden in many of the foods that we consume on a daily basis.

MSG is a flavor enhancer that is commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. It can also be found in most cheese powders, broths, dressings, and processed foods made with “natural flavoring”. It tastes like salty meat and offsets the metallic-tasting deposits that find themselves on your food if stored in cans for an extended period of time. MSG Monosodium Glutamate is processed food's best friend.

The Food and Drug Administration has classified MSG as a food ingredient that is “generally recognized as safe”, however the use of MSG remains controversial. Monosodium Glutamate has been linked to autism and chronic stomach pain. It's also associated with obesity due to its addictive qualities.

MSG image Here's an example of MSG's addictive nature- when you eat sugar, your pancreas produces insulin to neutralize the sugar. The insulin tells the cells in your body to absorb the excess sugar. The problem is that MSG causes an insulin response but MSG isn't a sugar. So the MSG-induced insulin produced by your pancreas tells the cells in your body to absorb sugar. Within an hour or two you are low in sugar and your body thinks that you're hungry again. So you eat something but the food you eat has more MSG in it and you produce more insulin than you need again. A perpetual cycle of eating and feeling unfulfilled caused by MSG.

According to the Mayo Clinic a comprehensive review of all available scientific data on glutamate safety sponsored by the FDA in 1995 acknowledges that some people may have short term reactions to MSG. These reactions include:

Headache, sometimes called MSG headache Flushing Sweating Sense of facial pressure or tightness Numbness, tingling or burning in or around the mouth Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations) Chest pain Shortness of breath Nausea Weakness

The only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid foods containing MSG. The FDA requires that when MSG is added to a product that "monosodium glutamate" be listed on the label or on the menu, in restaurants.

But watch out, oftentimes MSG is hidden under other names so as not to be as easily identified. Here are a list of different pseudonyms, names and ways that MSG can find itself on your plate from an article published on healthy-holistic-living.com.

Food Additives that ALWAYS contain MSG: Monosodium Glutamate, Autolyzed Yeast, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Hydrolyzed Protein, Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, Plant Protein Extract, Sodium Caseinate, Calcium Caseinate, Yeast Extract, Textured Protein (Including TVP), Hydrolyzed Oat Flour, Corn Oil

Food Additives That FREQUENTLY Contain MSG: Malt Extract, Malt Flavoring, Bouillon, Broth, Stock Flavoring, Natural Flavors/Flavoring, Natural Beef Or Chicken Flavoring, Seasoning, Spices, Maltodextrin and Whey Protein

Food Additives That MAY Contain MSG: Carrageenan, Enzymes, Soy Protein Isolate, Soy Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Concentrate

The only way to curtail the side effects and potential long-term effects is to stay away from processed foods often found in boxes and bags. Dr. Gerard Guillory of The Care Group in Denver, CO reaffirms that eating local and organic is the only way to go, "We need to get back to eating food, the whole food, and nothing but the food."

By purchasing pure and natural foods, consumers have an advantage in the fight against processed foods and MSG. We do the buying, which means we can eventually change the market. It is time that we take some responsibility in what we consume and focus our efforts on putting healthy foods in our bodies instead of the alternative.