Nuts in Your Gym Bag

I’ve been teaching about healthy eating for a long time. I can remember back when the commonly accepted recommendation was to cut out nuts due to the amount of fats and calories. We’re not saying this anymore.

I probably don’t really need to talk most people into eating nuts. This is a fairly easy sell for most.

Current research shows that nuts can be part of a healthy diet. The most recent version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we all “choose a variety of protein foods, which includes seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products,  nuts, seeds and soy products.” They also recommend limiting the intake of saturated fats and trans fats and replacing them with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in seafood, nuts, seeds, and oils.

Proponents of the Mediterranean Diet say to aim for at least three-ounces of nuts per week. Now this doesn’t mean to eat nuts on top of what you’re eating now. The key is to have nuts INSTEAD of the other potentially less healthful foods.

Nuts are easy to overdo and do have lots of calories. One ounce of nuts can range from about 160 to 200 calories—depending upon the type of nut. On the other hand, nuts are good sources of fiber, protein, magnesium, copper, potassium, folic acid and vitamin B. One ounce is a small handful or about 1/4 cup.  If it comes down to counting: 14 walnut halves and 24 almonds, 16 cashews, 45 pistachios or 18 pecan halves.

Single serving packs of nuts are also available to purchase ready to go.  I know you’re probably saying it’s cheaper to make your own, but for some people that just doesn’t work https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/perspective/.

I’ve never really been a snack or protein bar person so putting a little bag of nuts in my gym bag to take to the pool is an easy choice.  They are portable and I don’t need to worry about food safety or a banana getting squished at the bottom of the bag.

I do make my own portion controlled bags from bulk nuts. I like to toast the nuts before I put them into the little bags—I just think the flavor is better.  I dry roast them in a fry pan. Slow heat or they burn easily.  My favorites are pecans, but just pick your favorite or go for a combination of mixed nuts.

Grab and go.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

The butter dish is empty

We haven’t had butter in our house for over eight months.  We’ve made a conscious effort to do this.

It all started while reading and learning about the Mediterranean Diet.   Traditionally people that live in this region of the world eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, more fish, nuts, beans, seeds and olive oil. Eating a Mediterranean-style diet has shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

With the concerns about trans fats I had previously switched from margarine to butter. We weren’t eating that much butter anyway, but now my goal was to get rid of the butter.  The Mediterranean Diet concept is to substitute solid fats with unsaturated versatile olive oil.

I’m here to say…you can do it!

I’ve seen lots of website and recipes that talk about substituting oils for the solid fats and increasing the olive oil.  Using olive oil in stove top cooking works. So does making a salad dressing.  These substitutions were easy.

Others were a little more difficult.

I’ve heard people suggest that you even use olive oil on your toast in the morning.  I’ve had bread dipped in olive oil with herbs and olive oil on whole grain toast and both are good.  But olive oil on cinnamon toast wasn’t that great. In my opinion cinnamon toast is better just plain. 

While on vacation in Florida I went to a special olive oil store where they have samples of olive oil and flavored vinegars (similar to a wine tasting). It was fun to taste the different types and flavors.  I bought several to try including the “butter flavored” olive oil —thinking it might be good on the cinnamon toast.  Nope, I’m sticking with just plain toast—or peanut butter (another monounsaturated fat).

There have been times when it took some extra thinking or a change in “what we’ve always done”.

One of these times I thought of making a special candy as a holiday gift, but I didn’t have butter in the house.  Then I thought why am I making something that isn’t that healthy to give my loved ones?  So I didn’t buy butter.

Another time also involved guests. I usually make a local specialty of shrimp and grits when we have house guests.  The original recipe that came from a restaurant called for sautéing onion and shrimp in two sticks of butter.  I’ve worked to modify this recipe to start sautéing the onions in a small amount of olive oil, adding celery (to get another vegetable in) and then adding chicken broth for the sauce.  Some folks like it better than the original –they ask for the “healthy” version—and others don’t know there was another version.

I’m just not putting butter on the shopping list.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Eat Eggs—No Yolking!

Earlier this year I posted an Egghead Quiz.  We love to hear from readers about our posts and this one got lots of responses. One reader indicated she wished I had also addressed eating egg whites vs the whole egg.  This got me thinking and doing some additional research in this area.

Like many of you, I’ve been teaching healthful living and nutrition-related topics for many years and the “bad guys” seem to come and go.  This is based on current research and longitudinal studies.  As I tell my students, as we learn more, we know more and things change.

Eggs (and specifically the yolks) used to be one of the “bad guys”. What we were talking about here was cholesterol and the belief that eating eggs and other foods containing dietary cholesterol increased the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease.  Early versions of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg per day.  This is no longer believed! 

The 2015 DGA do not contain this recommendation because research does not show a relationship between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol.  Cholesterol is no longer considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.  The American Heart Association recommendations agree with this.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage the consumption of healthy dietary patterns that contains all foods and beverages at an appropriate calorie level while limiting saturated fats, added sugars and sodium.

Saying that, where do eggs fit in?

They can be part of a well-balanced healthful diet. According to the USDA Nutrient Data Base one large (50 grams) hard-cooked egg contains 78 calories, 6 grams protein and 5 grams of fat (1.6 g is saturated, 2 g monounsaturated and .7 polyunsaturated) and varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals. While egg whites contain almost half of the egg’s protein along with riboflavin and selenium, the majority of the nutrients are found in the yolk.  If you break it down, the yolk contains all of the egg’s fat and 76% (59) of the calories, 42% (2.52 g) of the protein and all of vitamins A, D, and B6, zinc, iron and choline.  Egg yolks are one of the only foods that naturally contain vitamin D.

The biggest concern about eggs would be about in the area of saturated fats.  Animal products, including eggs, do contain saturated fat, which can raise blood cholesterol. Too much bad (LDL) cholesterol in the blood can contribute to formation of plaque and narrowing of the arteries. The DGA recommendation is that less than 10% of your total daily calories come from saturated fats. For someone eating 2000 calories a day that’s about 13 grams of saturated fats.

While the numbers are small, if you are concerned about saturated fats and calories you could choose to eat one whole egg plus two egg whites instead of two whole eggs. But, don’t skip the yolk altogether, it contains a lot of the “good guys”.

A calorie comparison shows that portion control is important so you eat a 2 egg equivalent instead of 4:

  • 4 egg whites (2 egg equivalent) = 68
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg whites (2 egg equivalent) = 112
  • 2 eggs = 156
  • 4 eggs = 312

Cost comparison shows real eggs are cheaper by 50%:

  • Egg substitute (nonfat) = .16 ounce or about .32 for one egg equivalent
  • Eggs .16 each average cost (averaging store brand and free range eggs at $2 per dozen)

The real issue with eggs may be the high-saturated-at additions often added to eggs and omelettes:

  • Cheese – just one ounce is 110 calories, 20 grams of fat and 6 grams of saturated fat
  • Butter – just one tablespoon is 111 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 7 grams of saturated fat
  • Whoa – this means a 4 egg omelette cooked in a tablespoon of butter with one ounce of cheese would rake in 533 calories and over 30 grams of fat.

Solution:

Go with a 2 egg equivalent and prepare them scrambled with a little cooking oil spray in a nonstick skillet or poached or hardboiled. Skip the butter and cheese.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

References:

https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/pdfs/scientific-report-of-the-2015-dietary-guidelines-advisory-committee.pdf   Part D, Chapter #1, page 1

https://www.incredibleegg.org/egg-nutrition/cracking-the-cholesterol-myth/

http://www.eggnutritioncenter.org/science-education/health-professional/eggs-cholesterol-getting-heart-matter/

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1 2013 American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association Guidelines on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/ USDA Food Composition Databases

http://peapod.com for cost comparisons

Want heart healthy teaching tools? You are in luck:

Fresh Local Corn–Enjoy While You Can

We all know that local corn-on-the-cob tastes the best. One of the reasons is that corn’s natural sugars change quickly after harvest causing the corn to lose its sweetness quickly. Corn is one of those great summer farm market treats.

When selecting sweet corn look for husks with good bright green color that are snug to the corn ear and the silk dark brown. Avoid silk with worms or decay. Select ears that are full of kernels. These kernels should be well developed and plump, tender and milky.  If they are too large or too dark they can be tough, chewy and pasty.

For best quality, store corn in the husks uncovered in the refrigerator. If you have corn without the husks, put them in a perforated plastic bag. Corn is best when eaten within two days. After removing the husks and silk, wash the corn in cool running water before eating, cooking or preserving.

Nutritionally corn is a good source of carbohydrates as well as small amounts of Vitamins A and C.  It is sodium-free and low in fat.  Depending upon the size, corn can yield 2/3 to 1 cup of corn per ear. One medium ear of corn contains about 90 calories. Corn provides folate and thiamin as well as fiber.  It can also be a source of zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that may protect against age-related eye disease, such as macular degeneration.

Even though corn is a starchy vegetable, it can still fit into a healthy balanced diet.  According the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans we should try to eat 2-2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day and this can include 5 cups of starchy vegetables a week. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-3/ The key here again is balance and moderation and an occasional ear of corn-on-the cob when it’s fresh adds variety.

Instead of the traditional boiled and slathered with butter and salt corn-on-the-cob, try roasting on the grill with a little olive oil. I recently placed husked corn in a zip-top bag with a small amount of olive oil and added an herb blend. I turned the bag over several times to coat the ears with the oil and seasoning.   Then I took the cobs out of the bag and placed the cobs directly on a hot grill turning them several times until the kernels were slightly charred and golden. The flavor was great and there was no need to add extra salt or butter. Do be careful to watch the corn as it cooks, you don’t want it to overcook and dry out.

Judy’s favorite method for grilled corn is to start in the microwave and then finish on the grill at the same time the other items are cooking. That keeps it sweet and from getting tough and burnt. She cooks it in husks or in a covered dish for 2 minutes per ear. See her recipe below for corn salad using leftover cooked corn.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Here is one of Food and Health Communication’s Favorite recipes for corn:

Fresh Corn Salad

Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1 cup
Total Time: 15 min | Prep: 15 min | Cook: 0 min

Ingredients:

6 cups dark green lettuce, preferably red leaf
2 ears of corn, shucked and cooked
1 large, ripe tomato
1/2 medium-sized, ripe avocado
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons flavored vinegar
Black pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and soak in a large amount of cold water; allow to stand so the dirt sinks to the bottom. Drain the lettuce well in a colander. Place the lettuce in a salad bowl.

Cut the corn off the cob and place on top of the lettuce. Core and dice the tomato and place on top of the salad. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop out the flesh from the rind. Dice the avocado and place it on top of the salad.

Chill and cover the salad until ready to serve, up to 3 hours.

When ready to serve, drizzle oil and vinegar over the top and add black pepper to taste.

Serves 4. Each 1 cup serving: 148 calories, 8g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0gtrans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 18mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 4gsugars, 4g protein.© Food and Health CommunicationsAnother article in the blog on Corn-on-the-Cob

Shucks with the husks

Do You Have to Drink Green to Eat Clean?

Green drinks and clean eating are all the rage, but what exactly is “clean eating?”

Margaret McCartney, GP, notes in the British Medical Journal,

“The command to eat cleanly implies that everyone else is filthy, being careless with their bodies and lives. It comes with promises of energy boosts, glowing skin, spirituality, purity, and possibly immortality. But this nonsense is all based on a loose interpretation of facts and a desire to make the pursuit of well-being an obsessive, full-time occupation.”

Let’s also add that there isn’t a single definition of clean eating that everyone agrees with. Here are a few examples…

  • At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.  Fitness Magazine
  • It used to imply eating lots of whole, real foods — veggies and fruit, whole grains, animal and plant-based protein, nuts, seeds, and oils. It also meant that what you eat should be as close to nature as possible — minimally processed, not packaged or originating from a factory. Good Housekeeping
  • The soul of eating clean is consuming food the way nature delivered it, or as close to it as possible. It is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation, leading to an improved life — one meal at a time. Clean Eating Magazine
  • Eating clean is simply the practice of avoiding processed and refined foods and basing your diet on whole foods. Eating Clean for Dummies Cheat Sheet

Some clean eating programs ban gluten, dairy, sugar, any food that’s not organic, or any food that isn’t sourced locally. What starts off sounding like a simple concept can get buried in an overwhelming list of food don’ts – without any science to back it up.

It’s clear from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that eating plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy, protein foods, and more healthful types of fat while limiting added sugars, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium will result in a healthful eating pattern. Clean eating and green drinks aren’t mentioned.

How do you define a processed food?

While we probably all agree that Twinkies or frozen meals are processed, what about bread? Do you have to make your own bread to avoid processed foods? Do you have to mill your own flour? We most likely think of fresh fruit as fitting into the clean eating concept, but what if that fruit is shipped to my home in Arizona from China? It’s easy to overthink clean eating to the point where we throw up our hands and head to the nearest fast-food drive-through.

Here’s our take on clean eating: read the list of ingredients, and choose foods where you can visualize each of the ingredients. The Triscuits cracker label states: whole grain wheat, vegetable oil (soybean or canola oil), sea salt; while the Carr’s Rosemary Cracker label lists: enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate <Vitamin B1>, riboflavin <Vitamin B2>, folic acid), vegetable oil (sunflower, olive, canola and palm kernel oil), leavening (yeast, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), contains two percent or less of dextrose, salt, maltodextrin, rosemary, spices, dried garlic, malt extract, onion powder, sugar, whey, natural flavor, and soy lecithin.

Which cracker contains ingredients you can visualize?

Now, if you relate to Sam I Am from Dr. Seuss and don’t like to drink anything green, does that mean that you’re missing vital nutrients? I’m convinced the green smoothie/juice craze was started by companies who make super blenders like Vitamix as a way to market their products. Before juicing became a health fad, we either ate vegetables raw in salads or cooked, drank fruit or vegetable juice, and ate fruit. While eating plenty of vegetables is of course an important component of a healthful eating pattern, you don’t have to drink green juice to get the health benefits of vegetables. Choose a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for optimum nutrients. Red, purple, blue, white, brown, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables are important sources of phytochemicals that are crucial to good health. Stick to green veggies only, and you’re missing out on essential nutrients.

If you enjoy making your own vegetable/fruit juices or smoothies, use these tips:

  1. Choose plain, unflavored Greek yogurt for an excellent protein source without added sugar.
  2. Use ½ – 1 cup total fruit, choosing a variety of colors of fruit and incorporating fresh, frozen, or fruit canned in its own juice.
  3. Toss in 2-3 times the amount of vegetables as fruit. For example, if you use ½ cup fruit, use 1-1 and 1/2 cups vegetables. Vary the colors of vegetables for the most nutrients.

If you’d rather purchase juices or smoothies, follow these recommendations:

  1. Read the list of ingredients to make sure you can visualize each ingredient and that you’re purchasing a beverage made from whole foods.
  2. Avoid juices/smoothies with added sugar, even from healthier-sounding sweeteners such as brown rice syrup, raw cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, etc. The fruit in the juice/smoothie will provide all the sweetness you need without added sugar.
  3. Note the number of calories per serving – you might be surprised! 1 cup of 100% fruit juice has about 100 calories, and 1 cup of tomato juice has about 40 calories.

By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDE, CPT, CHWC

References:

Margaret McCartney:  Clean eating and the cult of healthism. BMJ2016; 354:i4095

Jocelyn Voo. The Complete Crash Course on Clean Eating. Fitness Magazine. http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/weight-loss/plans/diets/clean-eating/ Accessed 3-20-17

Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN. Why Clean Eating is Total BS. http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/a37595/what-is-clean-eating/ 3-29-2016. Accessed 3-20-17

What is Clean Eating? Clean Eating Magazine. http://www.cleaneatingmag.com/clean-diet/what-is-clean-eating 4-29-13. Accessed 3-20-17.

Eating Clean for Dummies Cheat Sheet, from Eating Clean for Dummies, 2nd edition. http://www.dummies.com/food-drink/special-diets/eating-clean-for-dummies-cheat-sheet/ Accessed 3-20-17.

Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/executive-summary/ Accessed 3-30-17

Eat a Colorful Variety Everyday. Fruit & Veggies More Matters. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/eat-a-colorful-variety-of-fruits-and-vegetables Accessed 3-30-17

Key Messages from MyPlate

It’s time for another sneak peek, this time into the Food and Health Online Classes!

Today’s sneak peek comes from the increasingly popular MyPlate for Educators Course. After you’ve finished this 2-hour CPE class, you will be able to…

  1. Discuss the history of MyPlate and its connection to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  2. Understand the foods and food groups that make up MyPlate, along with the food elements that should be reduced/consumed in moderation.
  3. Articulate MyPlate’s advice about portions and proportions.
  4. Know the serving sizes for each food group as recommended for different ages, sexes, and activity levels.
  5. Explore and provide makeovers to dishes in order to bring them into alignment with MyPlate.
  6. Discuss shifts in eating patterns that will bring about a healthier eating style.
  7. Understand the health impact associated with a variety of foods in each food group.
  8. Successfully navigate the MyPlate website and know where to look for further resources.

In this little preview, you’ll get a glimpse of a few key messages from MyPlate.

Are you ready? Here we go!

One of the themes that you will see over and over in MyPlate’s educational materials is the importance of variety. Yes, there are 5 main food groups, but there are lots of different foods in each one. Just because the proportions don’t change doesn’t mean that the content shouldn’t. Be sure to keep the choices nutrient dense and in reasonable portions and you’ll be building a healthy plate.

Another key to MyPlate is bringing all the pieces together to form a healthy eating style. This means choosing proper portions of nutritious foods in enough variety to meet your nutrient needs. A healthy eating style is also low in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars.

Why?

Well, according to the USDA, “Eating fewer calories from foods high in saturated fat and added sugars can help you manage your calories and prevent overweight and obesity. Most of us eat too many foods that are high in saturated fat and added sugar. Eating foods with less sodium can reduce your risk of high blood pressure.” Plus, these empty calories and sodium have been linked to an increased risk of chronic disease.

Yet another key message from MyPlate is the importance of making small shifts in order to create a healthier eating style. This is very closely in line with the recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as are most of MyPlate’s messages.

You don’t have to upend all your eating habits in order to start building a healthy eating pattern. Instead, make small changes that you know you can sustain over time and build from there.

This presentation goes on for a total of 45 slides, but I think we need to stop here. I hope you liked the sneak peek! For more great information about MyPlate, check out the MyPlate for Educators Course.

And here are some other MyPlate resources that I thought you might enjoy!

8 Things We Learned About Sugar

Sugar Math PosterWhen the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) released their recommendations about sugar intake, we thought they made a lot of sense. After all, the World Health Organization has been recommending a 10% calorie limit on added sugars for over a decade. The DGA committee now recognizes that sugar makes up about 30% of daily calories in our country, so changes are needed to cut down on sugary beverages, snacks, and desserts with added sugars. Treat foods and beverages are no longer treats but daily staples, which in turn is a significant cause of obesity when people are not getting enough physical activity and when high-sugar foods are replacing high-fiber foods that can help people feel more satiated.

Yet if you tell people to keep their sugar intake to 10% of their daily calories, this advice doesn’t necessarily have much real-world meaning.

People would have to do a bit of math to figure out how much sugar that that recommendation is allowing for each day. To calculate it, they would first need to land on a daily calorie intake. A 2,000-calorie-per-day eating pattern is pretty typical, so in our example let’s use that as a base number. 10% of 2,000 calories is 200 calories each day. There’s the maximum in an easier format to apply to day-to-day life.

Of course, some people prefer to calculate their sugar needs in grams. To do that, divide the daily total calories from sugar by 4 (calories per gram). For a 2,000-calorie diet, the max is 50 grams.

Just for kicks, let’s set that out in teaspoons too. There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. That means that the daily cap is set at roughly 12 teaspoons of added sugars per day.

I hope those mathematical measurements can help your clients apply the DGA’s sugar recommendations to their daily lives. You can find all these measurements in the Sugar Math poster, which is what started this entire mathematical exercise.

Of course, the importance of sugar math isn’t the only thing we learned as we were putting the poster together. Here are the top 8 lessons that really made us think as we created that resource…

  1. One 12-ounce soda can have about 40 grams of sugar. That’s almost a full day’s supply of added sugar. Kid-sized sodas at most fast food places are 12 ounces — the same amount as that can of soda!
  2. Regular and large sodas at fast food places are usually equivalent to 2 or more cans of soda.
  3. Sweetened iced tea contains a surprising amount of sugar, roughly 22 grams per cup. Most bottles contain a couple cups or more, which in turn makes it easy to consume a day’s supply of sugar in one bottle of iced tea.
  4. Sweet treats are not only high in sugar but they are also high in calories. The average large cookie contains over 400 calories and a day’s supply of added sugars.
  5. Coffee drinks, tea, sodas, snacks, sweetened yogurt, and dessert can easily supply three days or more’s worth of sugar. It all adds up.
  6. A surprise to our team was that a can of soda is equivalent to a serving of candy!
  7. 50 grams can add up quickly, but if we could get to dinner without putting sweetened beverages in our day, then we had a little of our sugar budget left over for a half cup of frozen yogurt. In a typical day, I used the rest of my budget on a cereal bar and jam for a sandwich. Overall, the guideline helped us lower our calories, especially in beverage calories.
  8. It’s a great idea to track what you eat and drink in a day so you can make better choices.

And there you have it! 8 things we learned while putting together the Sugar Math poster. I’m really proud of this poster — it’s a great resource for nutrition and health educators because it lays out key lessons about added sugars in a fun and memorable way.

Want to share these lessons with your clients? From our collection of free printable nutrition education materials comes a new PDF handout all about added sugars!

Free Added Sugars Handout

And here are some other fantastic sugar education resources, straight from the Nutrition Education Store!

Easter Candy and Your Health

Easter is the second biggest candy holiday in the United States.* According to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), over 120 million pounds of Easter candy is purchased each year. This includes 16 billion jelly beans, 90 million chocolate bunnies, and an untold number of marshmallow peeps.

That’s a lot of sugar!

Moreover, according to research from the NCA, 87% of parents will make Easter baskets for their children this year. It’s also interesting to note that 81% of these parents will then steal candy from their children’s baskets.

So, what are parents usually putting in Easter baskets?

  • 89% say Easter candy and chocolate
  • 79% include non-edible items like crayons, stuffed animals, books, and movie passes
  • 46% add candy with “added benefits” like dark chocolate or chocolate with added fruits and nuts
  • 44% fill the baskets with what they call “heathier snacks” such as granola bars or dried fruit
  • 35% include gums and mints

How about you and your clients?  How do you fill the baskets?

That stash of Easter candy can easily put everyone in the family over their recommended sugar intakes for the day. Remember, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans assert that people should “Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.”

Perhaps it’s time to think outside the jelly bean.

A full 11% of the families surveyed by the NCA didn’t add any candy to their baskets, so I’m not being unrealistic when I say it can be done. Although candy is part of Easter traditions, consider at least limiting the amount and types of candy you put in the basket. I do like the idea of chocolate with “added benefits” like nuts. Other healthful food ideas include some 100-calorie snack packs, nuts, dried fruits, little boxes of raisins, and trail mix.

There are lots of suggestions online for non-edible items like marking pens, money, stickers, and toys. Our own Chef Judy has some great ideas for non-candy items that could also promote physical activity and healthful eating. How about replacing at least some of those jelly beans or marshmallow peeps with:

  • Noodles for the pool
  • Jump ropes
  • Balls
  • Bubble supplies with big wands
  • Colorful athletic shoes
  • Activity passes for fun things to do in the area
  • Family board games
  • Pool towels and swim goggles
  • Athletic clothes
  • Frisbees
  • A healthful cookbook
  • Cooking equipment for foodie kids
  • A new reusable water bottle

Anything that gets the kids and family outside and moving or interacting together makes a great stuffer for an Easter basket, and they’ll last longer than candy too!

So, what will you be putting in your baskets this year?

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

* Halloween is the first.

And here are some other fun prizes that you can put into Easter baskets…

Sugar Math Misconceptions

Recently, a dietitian reader reached out to us with some old information about people’s recommended intake of added sugars. This interaction made me realize how much misinformation is still out there about sugar, so I want to set the record straight right now.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people “Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.”

That recommendation can be hard for people to apply in their daily lives if they struggle with calculating their total calorie intake and then what 10% of that number would be, so my team and I did a little math to  make the guidelines’ recommendation clearer to consumers.

Here’s what we did…

  • We found that the average daily calorie intake for most Americans is roughly 2,000 calories per day.
  • We calculated how many calories make up 10% of that daily intake.
  • We converted the number of calories to grams of added sugars so that people could easily calculate how much a food would impact this upper limit by using the Nutrition Facts label.
  • Just for fun, we also converted that amount to teaspoons of sugar. That way, people would have one more strategy for applying these numbers to their own lives.

All that math revealed that people should get no more than 200 calories per day from added sugars. That’s only 50 grams of added sugars per day! Since there are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon, that comes out to only 12.5 daily teaspoons.

We put all that information into our eye-catching Sugar Math poster and a tearpad to match. Take a look!

The information on which we based all these calculations has been supported by MyPlate, which is a publication of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also known as the USDA.

And of course, the fun doesn’t stop there!

We then delved into the sources of added sugars in the American diet, figuring that knowing the top sources of hidden sugars in an eating pattern would be useful for consumers who are looking to follow the new sugar limits. We poured a lot of that knowledge into the Sugar Math poster and tearpad, along with the Are You Drinking Candy? poster and handout set. The lollipops in the latter really highlight how many added sugars are in a variety of common drinks. See for yourself!

Anyway, I just wanted to shine a light on some of the latest information about added sugars and empty calories. Misconceptions can lurk where you least expect them, but they sure are great teaching opportunities!

Oh, and here is a closer look at some sugar resources that my team and I have made…

Supporting Healthy Eating Patterns: Walking the Talk

We have a wonderful group of neighbors in a dining group, and each month we gather for drinks before going to a local restaurant for dinner. Each couple takes their turn hosting the get-together, and some folks go all out and serve a buffet of appetizers and other nibbles. In fact, quite often the guests complain that they’ve eaten too much before dinner. I often wonder why people (even those that are usually very mindful of what they personally eat)  always seem to pull out the most unhealthful, high calorie, and high fat foods they can find when they have people over.

Slice that Melon

This month it was our turn to host. Everyone knows that I personally try to eat and serve healthful foods when possible. The neighbors also know that I frequently write and teach about healthful eating. So I really felt that I needed to “walk the talk” at this gathering.

The pressure was on. What to offer?

I wanted something in addition to the ubiquitous carrots and celery sticks that often make up the “healthful option” at gatherings. To me, fruit was the obvious answer and watermelon was plentiful. I’d seen some Pinterest photos of “the right way to cut a melon,” so I thought I’d give it a try.

Sliced Watermelon, Pinterest Style

The concept was to cut the watermelon into sticks, leaving the rind attached so that guests could use their fingers when eating the “spears” of fruit.  My version didn’t look as good as those I saw in the photos online, but it was well-received by our guests!

Here are a few things I noticed about this particular way to prepare watermelon, in case you’d like to try it too…

  • There were pieces near the edges that were more white rind than fruit—so I pitched them.
  • Don’t try to move your watermelon after cutting it!

Watermelon Spears

One of the key messages from the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans is “everyone has a role in supporting healthy eating patterns.” This doesn’t only have to be in governmental, organizational, or educational settings. We can always encourage healthful eating patterns whenever possible, even closer to home with family and friends.

It’s always a challenge to “walk the talk” For those who try… keep up the good work!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here are some other resources that can help you walk the talk at work and at home…

And here’s a free printable handout with instructions on how to make this simple summer appetizer…

Watermelon Appetizer