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Spring Picnics and Gatherings Don't Have to Mean Packing on the Pounds

picnic image As the weather gets warmer and spring turns into summer, the season of picnics, barbecues, and outdoor parties is almost upon us. But that doesn't mean that just because you aren't choosing all of your meals, that you have to pack on the pounds this summer.

Traditional picnic fare often consists of starch-laden fatty foods such as potato or pasta salads. According to MSNBC.com just a half cup of either of these salads is packed with 180 to 260 calories and 7 to 16 grams of fat. A substantial portion of just one of these salads can easily end up with almost a meal's worth of fat and calories.

By keeping these simple tips in mind when you attend or host your next picnic, party or barbecue, and your diet won't go down the tubes this summer:

Choose lean ground meat when making burgers. You should also try low-fat hot dogs, sausages and bratwurst and other grilled favorites. The intense heat of grilling can produce carcinogens in animal proteins, so keep your portion to the size of a deck of cards. To reduce this risk, lower the temperature, flip the meat frequently, and avoid burning or charring.

If you can't resist bringing your famous pasta salad use whole grain pasta instead of the traditional refined versions. You can also limit fat content by using reduced-fat dressing or mayonnaise, or changing the proportions of oil and vinegar in a homemade dressing.

Seafood and chicken are great grilled foods and are both still healthy picnic options.

Bring whole grain buns or rolls instead of the white, refined version.

Put a new twist on potato or pasta salad by substituting chopped veggies for high-calorie potatoes or pasta.

Bring trays of fruits and veggies to brighten up an overly starchy picnic spread. Remember your veggies as they are also great on the grill and in side dishes, especially summer time veggies like squash and zucchini.

Instead of chocolate desserts, think fruity desserts instead, and take advantage of a season when fruits are plenty.

If you prefer chocolate desserts such as brownies try cutting a pan of brownies into two-inch square portions and let those who want more take two. Smaller portions will help picnickers who are watching their calories avoid the challenge of trying to stop halfway through a brownie that is too large.

 

Avoid Summer and Sports-Related Injuries by Adjusting Your Diet

sports related injury The summer months are the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy sports and other summertime activities. But sports and activity-related injuries can happen at any age, so it's best to be made aware of foods that can reduce inflammation, the leading cause of summertime injuries.

There are a number of anti-inflammatory foods that are out on the market that you can buy and add to your daily diet that can help reduce the number of injuries that may plague you over the summer. According to MSNBC.com, some of these include:

Omega-3 fatty acids- While other foods increase levels of inflammation in the body, omega-3s actually work to decrease inflammation by suppressing the production of cytokines and enzymes that erode cartilage. Some of the best foods for Omega -3 fatty acids include: salmon (wild, fresh or canned), herring, mackerel (not king), sardines, anchovies, rainbow trout, Pacific oysters, omega-3 fortified eggs, ground flaxseeds, walnuts, seaweed, and soybeans.

Extra virgin olive oil- Olive oil contains the “good” monounsaturated fat, which protects the body against inflammation because it contains antioxidants called polyphenols. Try using olive oil when cooking, instead of vegetable oil or butter. Don't load it on; just substitute one for the other in equal or lesser amounts. For the highest antioxidant content, choose “extra virgin” olive oil.

Antioxidants- Inflammation produces free radicals, those cell-damaging molecules that are formed in response to toxins or natural body processes. Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, selenium, carotenes, and bioflavonoids, protect the body from the effects of free radicals, and are a critical part of an anti-inflammation diet.

Vitamin C- Some of the best foods include guava, peppers (yellow/red/green), oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, pineapple, kohlrabi, papayas, lemons, broccoli, kale, potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Selenium- Some of the best foods include Brazil nuts, tuna (canned light in water), crab, oysters, tilapia, lean beef, cod, shrimp, wheat germ and whole grains

Beta carotene- Some of the best foods include sweet potato, carrots, kale, butternut squash, turnip greens, pumpkin, mustard greens, cantaloupe, sweet red pepper, apricots and spinach.

Beta cryptoxanthin- Some of the best foods include winter squash, pumpkins, persimmons, papaya, tangerines, peppers (red chili and red bell), corn, oranges, apricots, carrots, nectarine, and watermelon.

Quercetin- Some of the best foods include onions (red, yellow, white), kale, leek, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, blueberries, black currants, elderberries, ligonberries, cocoa powder (unsweetened), apricot, apple with skin (*Red Delicious), and red/purple/black grapes.

Anthocyanidins- Some of the best foods include blackberries, black currents, blueberries, eggplant, elderberries, cherries, boysenberries, red/black/purple grapes, strawberries, plum, cranberries, rhubarb, red wine, red onion, and apples.

Vitamin D- Although we mostly think of vitamin D as important for bone strength, it is also critical for a number of other body functions, including joint health. Some of the best foods for Vitamin D include, wild salmon, mackerel (not king), sardines, herring, milk (skim, 1 percent, low-fat, skim plus), enriched soy milk, egg yolks, and mushrooms.

Spices- Certain spices, such as ginger and turmeric, seem to have anti-inflammatory effects. Among the most promising are ginger and turmeric.

All of these foods will help to reduce inflammation and help you better enjoy your sports and your summer, too.

 

How to Control Weight Without Exercise

food portions If you're looking to control your weight (and really who isn't?) you need to focus not only on what foods you're eating but also on how much and how often you eat. The information outlined below will show you the difference between a portion and a serving, how to control portions even when dining out, and how to eat just enough for you.

A portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time whereas a serving size is the amount of food listed on a product's Nutrition Facts. The serving size is used to inform consumers about how many calories and nutrients are found in an amount of food. The serving size found on the Nutrition Facts is not the recommended amount to eat but rather a measurement.

According to the Weight Control Information Network normal portions sizes may be equal to two or three standard servings. For example if you take a look at the Nutrition Facts for a package of macaroni and cheese the serving size is one cup, but the entire package actually has 2 cups of food found in it. If you end up eating the entire package, you must remember that you are eating two servings of macaroni and cheese therefore doubling the calories and fat.

By learning to recognize serving sizes you can better judge how much food you are eating. If you're cooking at home it‘s important to look at the serving sizes listed on the Nutrition Facts of the packaged food products that you eat. Use measuring cups and spoons to put the suggested serving size on your plate. This will help you recognize how much one standard serving size looks like compared to how much you may normally eat.

Another effective way to keep track of portions is to keep a food diary. By keeping a good record of how much, what, when, where and why you eat, you can help yourself become more aware of the amount of food that you're eating and when you tend to eat too much. Through your diary, you can become aware of the times and reasons that you eat too much which may help you try to make different choices in the future. You can keep your food diary in a notebook, on your cell phone or at a myriad of online trackers. Don't worry- you do not need to measure and count every little thing you eat for the rest of your life, just long enough to decipher patterns and recognize typical serving sizes.

Here are some additional ideas from the Weight Control Information Network to help you control portion sizes at home:

  • Take the amount of food that is equal to one serving, according to the Nutrition Facts, and eat it off a plate instead of eating straight out of a large box or bag.
  • Avoid eating in front of the TV or while busy with other activities. Pay attention to what you are eating, chew your food well and fully enjoy the smell and taste of your foods.
  • Eat slowly so your brain can get the message that your stomach is full.
  • Try using smaller dishes, bowls, and glasses. This way, when you fill up your plate or glass, you will be eating and drinking less.
  • To control your intake of the higher-fat, higher-calorie parts of a meal, of vegetables and salads (watch the toppings) instead of desserts and dishes with heavy sauces.
  • When cooking in large batches, freeze food that you will not serve right away. This way, you will not be tempted to finish eating the whole batch before the food goes bad. And you will have ready-made food for another day. Freeze leftovers in amounts that you can use for a single serving or for a family meal another day.
  • Try to eat meals at regular intervals. Skipping meals or leaving large gaps of time between meals may lead you to eat larger amounts of food the next time that you eat.
  • When buying snacks, go for single-serving prepackaged items and foods that are lower-calorie options. If you buy larger bags or boxes of snacks, divide the items into single-serve packages.
  • Make snacks count. Eating many high-calorie snacks throughout the day may lead to weight gain. Replace snacks like chips and soda with snacks such as low-fat or fat-free yogurt, smoothies, fruit, or whole-grain crackers.
  • When you do have a treat like chips or ice cream, measure out 1/2 cup of ice cream or 1 ounce of chips, as indicated by the Nutrition Facts, eat it slowly, and enjoy it!

It's often more difficult to eat a healthy meal when going out to eat. Research shows that the more often a person eats out, the more body fat he or she has. When possible try to prepare more meals at home that way you have control over what and how much you are eating. Eat out and get take-out less often. But when you do eat away from home, below are some tips for controlling portions:

  • Share your meal, order a half-portion, or order an appetizer as a main meal. Examples of healthier appetizers include tuna or chicken salad, minestrone soup, and tomato or corn salsas.
  • Take at least half of your meal home. Ask for a portion of your meal to be boxed up when it is served so you will not be tempted to eat more than you need.
  • Stop eating when you begin to feel full. Focus on enjoying the setting and your friends or family for the rest of the meal.
  • Avoid large beverages such as “supersize” sugar-sweetened soft drinks. They have a large number of calories. Instead, try drinking water with a slice of lemon. If you want to drink soda, choose a calorie-free beverage or a small sugar-sweetened soft drink.

The amount of calories you eat ultimately affects your weight and your overall health. In addition to selecting a healthy variety of foods, look at the size of the portions you eat. By choosing nutritious foods and keeping portion sizes sensible you will better be able to control and stay at a healthy weight.