Spring Clean Your Diet, Satisfy Cravings

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If warmer weather and fresh air send you into tidying mode, don’t forget your pantry. Spring clean your pantry and refrigerator and you’ll make better food choices and improve your health in the long run.

Count on Color for Protecting your Body

The colorful compounds in fruits, vegetables and grains protect plants from diseases and pests. In your body they help protect your tissues including skin, bone and muscle, from harm. Think of all forms of produce and grains in a variety of colors (see below). Fresh, frozen, 100% juice, dried or roasted veggie snacks and dried fruits with no added sugar (I often turn to figs and raisins when I want something sweet).

Here’s an example of of what color can do for you:

Orange fruits and vegetables may be protective against bone loss.

Black, deep red and dark purple produce and grains (examples: black rice, purple carrots, 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes, 100% pomegranate juice) are good for artery health; they help expand arteries to accommodate greater blood flow (very important for maintaining healthy blood pressure).

Dark greens are good for skin and eyes. They can help eyes adjust to bright light and also support night vision. Some examples include spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens, broccoli, zucchini, Brussels sprouts and romaine lettuce.

Add Snacks that Satisfy Hunger and Taste

When you want to satisfy hunger, look for foods high in protein and fiber. If you want to satisfy hunger and taste at the same time, consider options that fulfill your cravings. Looking for salty and crunchy? Beanitos hint of lime chips are amazing with guacamole. Searching for something sweet? Yogurt parfaits, granola + milk (Purely Elizabeth’s and The Toasted Oat are 2 of my favorites). There are also a number of bars that satisfy hunger and taste at the same time. Check out the newest Luna bars including chocolate dipped coconut (you won’t miss Mounds or Almond Joy). Find a few other crave worthy options here.

Discover Missing Nutrients

Vitamin D has been the rage for years but there are other nutrients that are ‘shortfall nutrients,’ those most of us do not consume in adequate amounts. Among them are potassium and magnesium.  Potassium is important for healthy blood pressure, nerve and muscle functioning and removing waste products from cells. Branch out from bananas and consider including leafy greens, carrots and potatoes and citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits for potassium. Think out of the box with kale chips, roasted carrots and potatoes or slow cooker vegetables with potatoes. Magnesium is  necessary for muscle and nerve functioning, blood sugar control, bone health, blood pressure regulation, energy production and normal heart rhythm. It also helps with sleep and muscle relaxation. Get a little more magnesium with beans, nuts, seeds, dark green leafy veggies, avocados and potatoes.

In addition to focusing on the food mentioned here, place foods you want to consume at eye level and treats you want to eat rarely in the back of the cabinet or bottom of the freezer out of sight and reach. Chances are, you’ll forget they are there.

 

Food & Nutrition Trend Setters – the Latest & Greatest from Expo East 2012

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Natural Products  Expo East and West showcase the latest and greatest in natural, organic and healthy products. Here is a review of the trends I saw as well as some of my show favorites:

  • Coconut – this flavor trend is still growing and can be found in several different beverages, confectionaries, packaged foods and dairy products (yogurt, frozen yogurt, coconut milk).
  • Lentils – lentils are hot and I tasted several lentil crackers, chips, pasta, ready to eat meals, and breads made from lentil flour and/or lentils. Lentil flour increases the protein and fiber content of gluten free foods providing products with a better nutrition profile.
  • Gluten free
  • Non GMO
  • Chocolate and cocoa
  • Probiotics naturally found and added to yogurt, “shots”, frozen yogurt and confectionaries.

A few of my favorite finds:

Rob’s Really Good Coconut Zero

Rob’s Really Good Zero is indeed really good! It is sweetened naturally with erythritol and monk fruit extract. No calories, tastes great. I was hooked on the coconut and coconut pineapple flavors at Expo East.

Mediterranean Snack Foods Rosemary Lentil Crackers

There were several lentil chips and crackers and all of the ones I tried had a good taste profile and the texture of a typical non-gluten free cracker. Mediterranean Snack Foods Lentil Rosemary Herb are so good you might not want to share them with a dip or spread.

Explore Asian Cuisine Black Bean Spaghetti, Organic Mung Bean Fettuchini and Organic Soybean Spaghetti are the best tasting high protein pasta products I have ever had. In fact, I prefer the taste and texture of Explore Asian Cuisine pastas (I tried all three) over all white American pasta. And they take just 6-8 minutes to make. My quick prep lunch today was black bean pasta, sauteed yellow bell peppers and fresh Parmesan cheese. I love it when a protein-rich, veggie meal is quick and easy to make.

My colleague Elizabeth Jarrard, RD introduced me to this Vega Sport Natural Performance Based Protein . If you are looking for a vegan protein, look no further. This one contains 26 grams of protein and it has over 5 grams of added BCAAs (smart move!), glutamine and digestive enzymes. I was thrilled to find a performance-based natural, vegan product that is so well formulated. Thank you Elizabeth for taking so much time to speak with me!

Purely Elizabeth granola

Since I don’t live in Phoenix I can’t pick up La Grande Orange’s outstanding homemade granola on a regular basis (if you are visiting Phoenix, schedule a trip to this store, you won’t be disappointed). And….just when I thought my granola fix would go unmet, the people I work with at KIND Snacks introduced me to KIND Healthy Grains as soon as it hit the marketplace (their Oat & Honey Clusters with Toasted Coconut is my favorite but, I adore coconut). And, after this past weekend I have another favorite that doesn’t require a trip to Phoenix (though of course I won’t turn down a trip there) – Purely Elizabeth Original Ancient Grain Granola. Once you taste it and check out the nutrition facts panel you’ll realize why it has been featured in several magazines including Women’s Health Magazine’s 125 Best Packaged Food for Women. And, the beauty of Expo East and West is that you can talk to the person behind the food, beverage or natural product and hear their story. Like all of the other people I met, Elizabeth was an absolute delight to speak with and passionate about tasty, nutritious natural foods.

Wow Baking Ginger Molasses cookies

And of course if you want a sweet gluten-free treat, try Wow Ginger MolassesGlow gluten free cookies Udi’s Gluten Free or Glutino. All of these brands carry baked goods that will make you forget all about your grandma’s freshly baked cookies. Even if you don’t eat gluten free, you will want to try these!

On the beauty side, fragrance is a hot topic because one fragrance could contain a number of ingredients including ingredients people are sensitive to.  If you want to follow everything natural in beauty products, follow Jessica Rubino. And on that note, it would be nice to see “natural” and “artificial” flavors include a list of ingredients as well.