Kitchen Wall Color has Diet Impact

Your kitchen is the center of your nutritional hub. It’s where you make your decisions on how (and how often) to fuel your own body, and the bodies of others you may be responsible for feeding. For some of you, it’s also the place where meals are served and consumed: at a bar or island, for example, or a casual kitchen table.

You’ve already taken control of what goes in your refrigerator; now summer’s your chance to take control of the mood your kitchen sets. Believe it or not, the color of your kitchen walls can have an impact on your diet. Perhaps it’s time to evaluate how you want your kitchen to make you feel, and seize the day.

First of all, there’s a reason that McDonald’s, Burger King and every fast food restaurant known to man incorporates red and yellow in their logos and décor. Want to guess why?

Let’s start with yellow. This cheery hue is good for optimism and hope. But it also stimulates the appetite, pure and simple. You just thought you wanted a salad … now you want a Big Mac with fries.

Yellow is happy, but to overweight people, it can also be a tad dangerous when applied to kitchen walls. Better to let a good workout stimulate the appetite than the mere presence of a color. Unless, of course, you are underweight.

Need to beef up? Head for the yellow section of the paint store and slather it on. Think butter, egg yolks, lemons … mmm, I’m getting hungry already. But yellow helps the memory, so it could be useful if mom’s not available for a recipe consult.

Orange stimulates learning. If you’re a new cook, or aspiring chef or nutritionist, opt for orange.

As for red, it is a complex color, perhaps the most of all. Red engages us and brings out our emotions. Here’s the amazing thing about this color: to calm people, it is exciting, in a good way, a little thrilling. But for folks who are more anxious in nature, red is disturbing. The last thing you want is to be disturbed eight to 12 times a day, so be honest with yourself about your nature, and that of others with whom you may live.

Red walls trigger the release of adrenaline (which can be good for cooking, I suppose). And like yellow, it also stimulates the appetite, while simultaneously stimulating the sense of smell. Red walls can also increase your blood pressure and breathing rate.

Blue is opposite of yellow, on the color wheel, and in terms of appetite. It decreases blood pressure, the breathing rate, and the desire to eat, as do indigo and violet. So if you’re determined to drop 20, 30, even 40 pounds … coat your walls in hues of blueberries, grapes or plums. This will also remind you to eat antioxidants, which is a good thing. You win on two counts!

Pink is also proven as a winning weight-control color, at none other than prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical University in Baltimore.

Violet is known for its ability to create balance. So as you’re planning your menus or dishing out portions of lean protein, fresh veggies and multigrain bread, look to your walls for inspiration. (Violet is also good for migraine sufferers).

This brings us to green, the color of all things fresh and good for our bodies. Green is relaxing, and also creates a sense of balance. It relaxes the body, and helps those who suffer from nervousness, anxiety or depression. Green may also aid in raising blood histamine levels, reducing sensitivity to food allergies. Antigens may also be stimulated by green, for overall better immune system healing.

Placing your sunlit fresh herbs near a green wall brings the outdoors in. That might also make you think about starting a garden, going for a walk or run, or cycling around the neighborhood.

Brown enhances a feeling of security, reduces fatigue and is relaxing. Black is a power color. If you have six-packs and you know it, raise your hand. Gray is the most neutral of all colors for the kitchen: not much happening there. Brighter hues inspire creativity and energy, while darker colors are peaceful and lower stress. Beige and off-white are “learning” colors.

Make good choices, on your walls, as well as your plate. What color should your kitchen be?

Get Creative and Grill Your Way to Healthier Meals

Now that summer is almost here, it’s a perfect time to fire up the grill instead of the oven. May is even National Barbecue Month.

Barbecuing also offers plenty of health benefits, depending upon what you’re throwing over the flames. Groceries and farmers markets are full of fresh, locally grown produce, and Southwest Florida is blessed with an abundance of seafood.

But no matter what your favorite protein is, one thing always holds true: Grilling lends itself to a healthy diet.

Veggies never taste better than when grilled. That fresh, flavor-bursting taste is complemented by that magazine-cover grilled veggie “look” and it’s all good. It’s also nearly impossible to ruin a vegetable on the grill, so relax and experiment. You’re likely to wind up with a flavorful al dente version of corn, zucchini, peppers, onions or even something more unusual.

For something different, try grilled endive. (Joseph’s Table in Taos, N.M., serves a delicious version, with a gorgonzola sauce).

Marinating is a wonderful way to enhance veggies; they tend to caramelize when marinated. Use a large Ziploc-type bag to give them this advantage, if you have the time and inclination.

But once you’re ready to grill, avoid coating veggies (or anything else) with anything too sugar-intensive. Ingredients such as molasses, brown sugar and fruit juice tend to make foods burn in high heat. Most vegetables do best when cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch-wide pieces.

You can choose to put your vegetables directly on the grill – including speared on kebabs – or you may opt to put them in foil and lay that on top of the heat. Experiment and see what suits you.

Also, adding a dash of salt to veggies really draws out the flavor by drawing out the moisture inside them. Add the salt and any other seasonings you choose, after brushing them with a little oil. Then grill; veggies only need a few minutes.

Chicken with the skin on has a much higher fat content than that without: nearly double. So take it off before you marinate. Leaner cuts of meat can also trim up to half the fat calories overall, while still providing that yummy grilled taste. This frees you up to “spend” your calories on salad dressing, a cocktail, a simple dessert or something else.

Leaner cuts will require a marinade, however, as they can be tougher. Opt for thinner cuts of meat; marinade will penetrate only to about a quarter of an inch. Score the meat before covering it in marinade. And choose something with higher acid content, to help break down the fibrous nature of the meat.

Fish is always lean. Grilling is a great time to add salmon or tuna to your diet (tuna doesn’t want to be grilled for long). It’s very important to keep fish on ice or refrigerated until ready to grill in order to avoid food poisoning.

Depending on your meat, here are four low-calorie choices of marinade: Worcestershire sauce (2 tablespoons has only 30 calories); low-sodium soy sauce (2 tablespoons contain 120 calories), or tomato paste (2 tablespoons contain 40 calories), work really well.

For chicken, I like a tropical marinade of stone-ground mustard, honey and Key lime juice.

The sides that typically accompany a grilled dinner are where you can run into trouble. Save a lot of calories by avoiding creamy salads such as cole slaw, macaroni or potato salad; try brown rice or whole-meal pasta instead. If you plan to use bread, avoid white breads and pick up a nice whole-grain option. Fresh fruit salad is also a great substitute for potato salad, and can double as dessert.

Grilled pineapple is another delicious dessert option. Brush it with a little oil the same way you do with veggies and enjoy this delicious treat. For something really different, grill bananas!

Make sure any kids in your household understand how to be safe around a grill. And then get them involved in the process: shucking corn, skewering veggies, brushing on marinade or oil. This fun activity can become a lifelong habit, one that enhances nutrition and health.

Copyright 2010 Elaine Hastings, RD. Heath and Wellness, Nutrition Expert
Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition and Sports Specialty in Florida. Hastings can be contacted at info@elainehastings.com or by visiting AssociatesinNutrition.com. Visit her blog for the latest information on nutrition and great tips for staying healthy: AssociatesinNutrition.com/wordpress. Take the Challenge, Change your Life!

Mercury Risk from Fish Varies

Posted May 6th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Food Safety, health, In The News, Meal Tips

Last week I wrote about omega-3 fatty acids, and how they play a critical role in brain function, growth and development, and may reduce the risk of heart disease. They’re found in seafood and shellfish, and no doubt, some of my better-informed readers are weighing the risk of contaminants like mercury against the benefits of omega 3s.

You’ve possibly read about the dangers of mercury, which can occur in some types of fish. So let’s go over the facts. The most important one is this: the FDA says women who are pregnant, want to become so, or are nursing should avoid the fish most likely to have mercury contamination. This rule applies to young children, too.

Mercury levels are generally higher in older, larger, more predatory fish and marine mammals. That’s why I recommend (for people outside the aforementioned groups) consuming no more than one fishmeal per week from predatory fish like shark, tuna and swordfish. The FDA agrees, recommending no more than 7 ounces of fish from the high-mercury-potential list per week.

Do add other seafood meals to your menu, but I recommend no more than two per week from non-predatory fish (sardines, salmon, shrimp, etc.). Oily seafood such as fatty sardines, trout, herring and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They are thought to reduce the risk of death from stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association also recommends four to six ounces, twice a week, of these types of fish.

Eating a variety of fish also cuts down on any negative effects caused by environmental pollutants. To decrease potential exposure from these types of contaminants, simply remove the skin and surface fat from a fish before cooking. If you know where your fish comes from, specifically, you can also check with local and state authorities in regard to potential contamination of local watersheds.

Here’s the good news: postmenopausal women and men middle-aged or older can relax about mercury consumption. For them, the benefits of eating fish far outweigh any potential risk. The main negative effect from mercury in fish is high blood pressure.

So, as with so many other things in life, moderation is the way to go. Unless you’re in the category of pregnant/nursing/trying or that of young children, a little fish can go a long way toward your heart health and brain function. And it tastes great! Coastal residents are particularly lucky to have easy access to the freshest of fish from local fish markets, retailers and restaurants. Find one or two sources you can rely upon, and support them.

Be aware of watershed issues if eating locally caught fish, and otherwise, simply enjoy this heart-healthy choice. Seafood is lean and low in saturated fats. It’s a great entrée in the evening, too, when that too-full feeling is particularly troubling. A good piece of fish is hard-pressed to make a diner feel he or she has over-indulged, unless it’s stuffed with something and doused in a rich sauce. Fish is also great on top of a salad, whether grilled or blackened.

As summer temps heat up, the added bonus of fish is that it can be cooked outside on the grill. Save on your air conditioning while doing something good for the bodies you feed. It’s a win-win.

Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition. Hastings can be contacted at info@ElaineHastings.com or by visiting AssociatesinNutrition.com. Visit her blog for the latest information on nutrition and great tips for staying healthy: AssociatesinNutrition.com/wordpress.

Take the Challenge, Change your Life!
©2009 Associates in Nutrition. All Rights Reserved.

Be patient with picky eater – it pays off

Posted March 31st, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips, nutrition, Nutrition for Kids, Wellness

We all know that eating a variety of foods is important to promoting growth and establishing good nutritional habits for the entire family. But if you have a picky eater in your household, mealtime can be a source of frustration and battles.

Fortunately, most kids get the proper nutrition in their diets throughout the day. Children’s taste buds and food preferences mature over time, so introducing new foods can take time and patience.
Picky eaters beware – here are some tips to encourage your children to try new foods.

- Try and try again. It may take up to 10 times of trying a new food before your child likes it. It is normal for children to be cautious at first.

- Involve your child in choosing foods at the grocery store. Trying new foods is more fun for children when they pick them.

- Let your child help prepare the food. Whether it’s stirring the ingredients, cracking an egg or washing vegetables, let your child become familiar with the new food. As you prepare it together, you and they can talk about the color, shape and texture of the food.

- Try one new food at a time. Don’t overwhelm your child with too many new foods at once. Make small changes and try serving new foods alongside some of their favorite, more familiar foods. Broccoli may be more appealing if it is served with a side of macaroni and cheese.

- Minimize distractions. Turn off the TV, don’t allow toys during meals and eat at a table.

- Don’t force your child to eat. Respect their preferences. Children sometimes do not like to eat food they have never seen before. Keep serving the food to your child. As they become more familiar with it, they may decide to taste it.

- Get creative with preparing new foods in different ways. If your child doesn’t like cooked carrots, try serving it with a low-fat dip such as ranch dressing or hummus. Another option is to purée fruits and vegetables and add them into casseroles or other prepared foods. For example, add chopped vegetables into sauces or top cereals with fruit.

- Set a good example. If the adults in the family avoid eating a variety of foods at the table, then it really shouldn’t surprise you that your little shadows are following the example that you are setting. With fast foods so readily available, it is only logical that healthier options are easy to pass up.

- Don’t be a short-order cook: Serve everyone the same meal. If everyone is eating the same thing as the rest of the family, it becomes easier for children to model after healthy choices.

Meal time should be about spending time together as a family, not a battleground over what’s on the plate. However, if you are concerned that your child’s eating habits are compromising his or her growth or health, consult your pediatrician or a registered dietitian.

Research shows children who eat healthy in their early years will carry those habits into their adulthood. Keep trying, be patient and eventually your child will surprise you.

Nutrition Notes: Tips for Fueling Body Well

Posted March 9th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips, nutrition

By March, many people find their good resolutions for healthy eating and exercise have fallen by the wayside. Statistics show that just six months after the New Year, more than half of those who made resolutions have broken them. Fortunately, you can still resolve to change; it is never too late to renew your commitment to improving your health.

If you have fallen back into your old habit of grabbing a quick doughnut or pastry treat early in the morning for convenience, remind yourself one doughnut contains more than 300 calories and is high in carbohydrates, fats and sugars. That one seemingly innocent treat can send your blood sugar soaring.

Your body may feel a sudden energy surge, but this will be spent quickly. Then your system will go through a rebound that can make you feel extremely tired and out of sorts.

This is the beginning of a seesaw effect in your body that is often fueled by snack foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. Remember how difficult it was to balance a seesaw perfectly on the playground? This balancing act is what you are forcing your body to do when you eat foods that contain no real nutrition, but are heavily loaded with unhealthy fats, sugars and simple carbohydrates.

So just exactly what do you need to eat if you want to get back on the path to good nutrition and health? For starters you need to avoid fad diets and stay clear of foods filled with empty calories, sugars and fats.

Here are a few basic guidelines to get you on the right track.

- Opt for a dietary program that is packed with whole grains, fruits, veggies as well as some healthy fats and oils.

- Be sure your daily meals contain good carbohydrates such as whole grains; do not eliminate all carbohydrates from your diet.

- Include plenty of fiber by eating a variety of fruits, veggies and whole grains.

- Choose lean, healthy protein sources such as poultry, nuts, fish and beans.

- Limit saturated and trans fats; choose oils that come from nuts, fish and plant sources.

- Select calcium-rich foods such as skim or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and vegetables.

- Add color to your plate by choosing a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

- Limit your use of salt and enjoy the rich, luscious flavors of the foods or add salt-free seasonings to enhance natural flavors.

- Plan ahead by creating a healthy shopping list or selecting restaurants that offer nutritious selections.

- Track your meals, exercise and medical information online or through a food diary such as the Get Fit Lee program, a local health initiative challenging Lee County residents to collectively lose one million pounds of body fat, GetFitLee.com.

Often, making changes slowly can help you be more successful in creating new habits. Try incorporating one or more of these recommendations into your lifestyle each week. Over time, you will find that these nutritious choices will give you more fuel for your day and help improve your chances of successfully reaching your goals.

Read today’s News Article: Breakfast does matter – really

Posted March 2nd, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

Everyone has heard it at some point in their lives – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Perhaps if you are awake enough to wrap your mind around a few important pieces of information, the concept of eating a balanced breakfast will be much easier for you to swallow.

Sure, a doughnut filled with luscious strawberry jelly might tempt your taste buds, but are those empty calories and tons of carbohydrates really worth the effort? Even if you try to balance your breakfast plate by adding a glass of refreshing cold milk, you will not tip the scales toward the “healthy breakfast” side.

The hours that pass between the time you go to bed and the time you wake up give your body the opportunity to rest, but they also leave your stomach virtually empty. So by rushing out the door and into the busy day ahead, you are leaving your body without the proper fuel it needs to perform at its optimum level.

Imagine how much easier it would be to run to the next staff meeting, focus on that important sales presentation or meet that afternoon deadline if you had all of the enduring energy that a healthy breakfast will provide.

Breakfast gives your body the energy it needs to sustain activity throughout the day. Research has found people who skip breakfast often feel more tired, irritable and restless in the morning. On the other hand, those who do eat breakfast have a better attitude toward work, higher productivity and enhanced ability to handle tasks that require memory.

Breakfast eaters also have more strength and endurance and better concentration and problem-solving ability. Plus, breakfast helps you reach your recommended number of vitamins and nutrients. A whole-grain cereal with milk and citrus juice can provide 100 percent of the vitamin C, 33 percent of your calcium, thiamin and riboflavin and a good supply of fiber, iron and folate.

Although the idea of waking up a few minutes earlier each day to prepare and enjoy a healthy breakfast might be completely out of the question, there are some great “to go” options. It’s important to plan ahead so that you have some nutritious items on hand that you can quickly combine to create a well-balanced and delicious morning meal that is light on the carbohydrates and calories but heavy on the “health and nutrition.”

By using a well-balanced combination of high fiber and protein, complex carbohydrates and low-fat items, you will not only feel energized and satisfied for longer periods of time, but you will also be adding important nutrients that your body requires to stay healthy.

Whip up an omelet using nutritious egg whites, diced onions and bell peppers, a light sprinkle of sea salt and cracked black pepper with a side of tomato salsa. Make a steaming bowl of oatmeal and toss in some fresh berries or a handful of chopped walnuts, a few raisins and a touch of cinnamon.

For the “to-go” option, prepare it the night before so that you can simply grab it from the fridge and be on your way. Portion out a few slices of lean meat or a serving of tuna packed in spring water, a slice of low-fat cheese, a handful of whole-wheat crackers and fresh fruit for a breakfast-on-the-go that is as good for your taste buds as it for your health.

Regardless of the combinations you choose to use, remember that you should stick with a good balance of ingredients for a healthy and satisfying breakfast that will keep your tummy happy, calm your food cravings and give you the energy and endurance that will make you feel as though you are ready to go the distance instead of running out of fuel just an hour or two after finishing your meal.

Read my News Column: Healthy diet will help kids develop healthy teeth

Posted February 23rd, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips, Nutrition for Kids

A healthy, balanced diet supplies your children with all the nutrients they need to grow, including the proper development of healthy gums and teeth. With increased focus on the importance of oral health during National Children’s Dental Health Month in February, it is a good time to remind parents, grandparents and other caregivers about how their children’s nutrition choices can affect their oral health.

For example, we tell kids to drink milk for strong teeth and bones. From a dentist’s point of view, how important are milk and dairy products in keeping teeth healthy? Calcium is very important as teeth form, and milk and dairy products are the best source of calcium and can play a role in preventing cavities.

As young teeth develop, adequate calcium intake during childhood and adolescence is important for children in developing and maintaining healthy teeth throughout adulthood. In addition, many studies show that eating dairy products, especially cheese, after meals or snacks helps to prevent the bacterial coating on the teeth from converting food sugars to acid; reducing the risk for cavities. Cheese also stimulates saliva flow, which helps to clear acids from the mouth that can cause cavities.

Dairy products, again, especially cheese, can actually prevent teeth from losing minerals and in some people, may even restore minerals to teeth. Some studies even show that proteins and phosphorus in milk may reduce the risk for cavities.

Though eating more nutritious foods can help promote healthy teeth and gums, beware of those that can cause tooth decay. While some foods are obvious culprits, such as candy, juices and sodas, other foods high in carbohydrates such as fruits, peanut butter, crackers and potato chips increase the risk of cavities as well.

All sweet foods are not created equal. Sticky foods such as cookies and candies stick to the surface of teeth and linger. These foods should be limited because they stick to the teeth and saliva is unable to wash the sugar away.

In addition to food choices, dentists and dietitians believe that children who consume too much soda and not enough nutritional beverages are more prone to tooth decay in addition to serious ailments later in life, such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Drinking carbonated soft drinks regularly can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel, which ultimately leads to cavities. If erosion spreads beneath the enamel, pain and sensitivity may eventually result. This can cause nerve infection and necessitate a root canal.

How can you help prevent this? Encourage your children to drink plenty of water. An article published by the Academy of General Dentistry recommends that school children should rinse their mouth with water after meals, especially at school. This leaves their mouth with a reduced sugar and acid content.

While we can’t follow are children around throughout their day with healthy snacks and a toothbrush, we can instill good habits by providing them with discipline and structure in making smart food and beverage choices and encouraging routine brushing and flossing.

Certain Foods Prevent Illnesses

Posted February 16th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

In the same way that children wish for super hero powers, most of us would like to possess the ability to fight off the threat or onset of germs, the common cold or flu. In an average season, about 20 percent of Americans get the flu. This year, the H1N1 virus has led to many new flu cases, and finding ways to protect our immune systems from unhealthy invaders is mission critical.

Without super powers, we must rely on the forces we can control. Fortunately, foods with powerful nutrients and antioxidants can improve our immune system and help our bodies fend off viruses, toxins and even cancer cells. By including these nutrients in our daily eating habits, we can help strengthen a body’s immune system and improve our chances of staying healthy.

By increasing the number of white blood cells in the body, nutrients help rid our system of unhealthy toxins.

Important nutrients include beta carotene; vitamins C, D and E; iron, zinc; flaxseed oil; omega-3 fatty acids; garlic, selenium; and bioflavonoid which include citrus fruits, rose hips and other plants.

Topping the list are the three major antioxidant vitamins: beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. You’ll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables such as those with purple, blue, red, orange and yellow hues. To get the biggest benefits of antioxidants, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed; don’t overcook or boil.

Found in yellow and dark green vegetables, beta carotene increases the percentage of white blood cells in the body, acting as another defender of immunity. The best way to get beta carotene is in fruits and vegetables such as kale, spinach and carrots. 

Vitamin C enhances the function of immune cells and can be found naturally in citrus fruits, melons, berries, peppers, sweet potatoes and peas.

Vitamin E aids in the production of antibodies that destroy bacteria. In a Harvard School of Public Health study, researchers found that vitamin E lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. Good sources for this vitamin are avocados, whole grains and greens.

In addition to the top super three above, Vitamin D is also essential to a healthy diet. Yogurt and other cultured milk products that contain probiotics, beneficial bacteria with immune-boosting benefits, are especially important. Look for the “live active culture” seal, which indicates that probiotics have been added. Early research shows that vitamin D may be linked to a seasonal increase in colds and flu and a higher incidence of respiratory infections.

In addition, iron is required for the body to manufacture white blood cells. Iron can be found in healthful foods such as apricots, lentils, kale and beets. Another important nutrient the body needs is zinc, to help heal wounds and strengthen its resistance to cold viruses. Zinc also is found in whole grains, seeds and beans.

The antioxidant selenium also is found in whole grains and seeds, as well as mushrooms.

Another immune-boosting hero, omega-3, is filled with fats that increase the activity of white blood cells that eat up bacteria and help strengthen cell membranes. These also speed up healing and strengthen resistance to infection in the body. In addition, flax oil and flaxseeds, salmon, mackerel, tuna, omega-3 eggs, nuts and seeds are all excellent sources of omega-3. An easy way to include omega-3 in your diet is to add ground flaxseed to baked goods, yogurt, cereal or smoothies

Garlic, with antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agents, can also increase immune function. Garlic is an antioxidant that reduces the build-up of free radicals in the bloodstream. In addition, garlic is a good source of sulfur, which is important for healthy liver function.

Bioflavonoid aids the immune system by protecting the cells of the body against pollutants trying to attach to them. A diet that includes several servings of fruits and vegetables daily will ensure that you get the bioflavonoid needed to help your immune system work the best.

In every superhero story, there are always the villains. When it comes to your body’s immune system, there are certain foods that pose a threat to the body’s defenses. For example, consuming too much sugar, equal to drinking two cans of soda, can reduce the body’s ability to kill germs. Alcohol intake can harm the body’s immune system, suppressing its ability to produce more white blood cells. The more alcohol is consumed, the more it suppresses the immune system.

In addition, foods high in saturated fat and oils can increase the risk of obesity and harm your body’s ability to fight disease. White blood cells have to fight harder to multiply or produce antibodies, leaving your body more susceptible to germs or other “invaders.”

If you aren’t getting enough antioxidants and other essential nutrients in your diet by eating produce, a physician or registered dietitian may recommend a multivitamin. However, some nutrients can only be found naturally in foods. Be cautious when considering immune system supplements to boost immunity. Consult your physician or a dietitian who can recommend the proper vitamin regimen. Getting too much can be toxic.

By adding these super foods to your diet, you can help your body prevent — or better fight off — colds or flu this season.

In addition, you can develop healthier eating habits and contribute to overall improved nutrition and health.

Read my News-Column: Eating well fights heart disease

Posted February 9th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in health, In The News, Meal Tips, nutrition

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. In February, the American Heart Association recognizes American Heart Month as it focuses on raising awareness about the prevention of cardiovascular disease, including good nutrition. Adopting healthy eating habits is one way to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

As you make daily food choices, base your eating pattern on these recommendations from the American Heart Association:

- Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.

- Select fat-free, one percent fat or low-fat dairy products.

- Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.

- Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol. Aim to eat less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day.

- Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.

- Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Anyone with hypertension, all middle-aged and older adults should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.

- Keep an eye on your portion sizes.

As part of a healthy diet, an adult consuming 2,000 calories daily should aim for:

- Fruits and vegetables: At least 41/2 cups a day

- Fish (preferably oily fish): At least two 31/2-ounce servings a week

- Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day

- Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day

- Sugar-sweetened beverages: No more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week

Other nutrition measures:

- Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least four servings a week

- Processed meats: No more than two servings a week

- Saturated fat: Less than 7 percent of total energy intake

Be sure to eat a wide variety of nutritious foods daily. As always, small changes in lifestyle can make a big difference in improving your overall health.

Read today’s News Column: Add appeal to diet resolution

Posted January 19th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

As 2010 begins, healthy eating generally tops most people’s list of resolutions. As time goes on, it gets harder to stick to your good intentions. After a day or two of munching carrots and dry rice cakes, those high-calorie foods become more tempting than ever.

Slowly but surely, we begin to sneak those slices of pies and servings of yummy, cheese-covered casseroles back onto our plates.

In general, most people want to take better care of their bodies and shed unwanted weight. What most of us don’t want is to eat boring “rabbit” food and tasteless, unappetizing snacks. It is the lack of knowledge about food options, not necessarily an unwillingness to change, that sabotages the majority of healthy eating resolutions.

Instead of adding more salt and oil to give flavor and excitement to your meals, “fierce flavor” combinations make for a more satisfying and delicious meal that rank high in taste and visual appeal, without the high calories and fat. Here are some suggestions.

Spices are spectacular: Learn how to use a variety of spices to create some incredibly tasty, low-calorie dishes at home. Ground black pepper and garlic are common kitchen spices, but discover the difference that using more exotic ingredients can make. Saffron, ginger, rosemary, cinnamon, celery seed, curry powders, basil, fennel and dill can add zesty flavors to meats, salads, soups, stews and casseroles.

These intoxicating ingredients are as good for your body as they are for your taste buds. Even steamed carrots can become a favorite family dish when you add a bit of freshly grated ginger to the recipe.

Look for African and Middle Eastern spices and herbs such as harissa, berbera and charmoula to use in your cooking. Asian spices and herbs include items such as Chinese five spice, star anise, lemon grass and Japanese seven spice or shichimi-togarashi. If Eastern Indian cooking is one of your favorites, explore the possibilities of using ingredients such as sambar or garam masala.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and remember that fresh and high quality spices pack the most flavor and punch.

Powerful peppers: Never overlook the power of using a variety of peppers to spice up the taste of foods. Chili peppers very commonly are used in many recipes, but there are many other choices to consider.

Try flavoring up some of your favorite dishes with Anaheim peppers, baby bells, sweetly roasted red peppers, rocotillo varieties, banana peppers, poblanos or the insanely fiery power of the Scotch Bonnet pepper.

Most people have no idea that there are so many varieties of peppers available and even fewer realize that the spicy rocotillo pepper also has a sweet, fruity taste.

Choose colors: Make the most of the great assortment of produce that is available in 2010. Why settle for orange carrots and white cauliflower when you can bring vibrant color to your healthy veggie dishes?

Forget boring and bland foods. You and your family will be curious and excited to sit down to a low-calorie meal that includes a salad made with orange cauliflower and lemony, yellow-skinned cucumbers. You might also try a savory stew with multi-colored beans.

Another option is sweet and deliciously different white, yellow, red and purple carrots that are as fun to look at, as they are to eat.

With a better understanding of balancing options and adding flavor to healthy foods, there is no need to put off making more nutritious choices. By incorporating some of the small changes suggested above, you may find yourself an inch closer to meeting your healthy goals for 2010.