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Metrowest Nutrition

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10 Reasons to Eat Local

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Eating locally.  We hear about it all the time but why is it important?  Eating locally means choosing foods that are raised, crafted or grown nearby.  Where do you find these foods?  At your local farmers market, farm stands, Community Shared Agriculture programs (CSAs) or even in your grocery store.  Some local restaurants even source local ingredients for their dishes.  A hint for finding locally grown foods at your supermarket is to read the sign or label on the food.  Of course, you could also just ask! 

Here are 10 great reasons to eat local

1.  Help your local economy.  It makes sense, right?  Buying from local farmers puts money right in their pocket.  Money in their pocket helps feed other local businesses. 

2.  Fresher produce.  Local produce comes right from the farm to you with very little to no travel time.  Less handling and travel time mean less chance of bruising or acquiring parasites.  There is also less likelihood that the nutrient content has decreased over this time.

3.  Taste.  Local food simply tastes better.  This directly relates to the prior reason - it's fresher.  Have you ever eaten a strawberry or blueberry right off the vine?  Enough said!

4.  Longer time to ripen.  Local farmers can wait longer to pick their produce because it's not going far.  It doesn't have to be rugged enough to endure the handling and travel time and has a longer time to absorb powerful nutrients. 

5.  Less environmental impact.  There's less gas, energy and resources spent in transporting food.

6.  Promotes food safety.  Local food is less likely to become contaminated by food-born pathogens or bacteria due to less time in storage, transport and less overall handling.

7.  Helps enhance mindful eating.  One of the first steps to mindful eating is selecting your food and asking yourself, "where did this come from?".  When you talk to the farmer who grew the food, you not only know the answer to this but have and wonderful story behind it; this can really enhance the overall eating experience.

8.  Helps preserve green space and farmland.  Supporting local, small farmers preserves our natural green space and farmland.  This is great for air and water quality and also makes for a bucolic living area.  Plus, farms offer a great opportunity to teach children about food and where it comes from which increases the likelihood of them eating it!

9.  Promotes variety.  Farmers who run Commmunity Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs), sell at local farmers markets and to local restaurants, have greater demand and this allows them to raise a wider variety of crops and livestock.

10.  Helps create a sense of community.  Knowing where your food comes from connects you to those who grow it.  Instead of having a single, more detached relationship with your grocery store, you have numerous intimate connections with your local farmers, growers and artisans.

Looking for a farmers market?  Check out this site for a list of farmers markets throughout Massachusetts.  Are you a commuter?  If you travel on I-90, make sure to check out the MassDOT farmers markets located at 18 state service plazas. 

Water

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Water.  It's so easy to forget it this time of year but SO important not to.  50-60% of the body is water and it's a critical ingredient for all metabolic processes.  We need about 1ml of water for every calorie we consume daily; this equates to 48-64oz for most - more if you are an athlete. 

So, how do you know if you're not getting enough?  Fatigue, dry skin and headaches are a clue.  More severe signs of dehydration include extreme thirst, irritability, restlessness, dry mouth, little or no urine output (or very dark colored urine). 

During the colder months, we're less likely to crave a cold beverage.  However, there are other ways to get your fluids in.  Try decaffeinated or herbal tea or hot water with lemon.  Even coffee and regular tea offer the benefits of water intake but also may increase your need for fluid due to the diuretic effect. 

A good way to ensure you're getting enough is to shoot for 16-20oz of fluid with or between each meal.  After breakfast or lunch, fill up a water bottle or travel mug and keep it with you.  Having a water bottle or mug handy makes it more likely you'll take opportunity to get fluids it.  Another option during cold weather is soup.  Have a 16oz bowl of soup with your lunch and you've just about met your fluid needs for that meal.  Here are some great soup recipes from one of my favorite sources, Eating Well Magazine.

 

Pass the Cheese Please!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Are you a cheese lover?  If so then you're in good company!  This time of year definitely puts me in the mood for some warm brie, a nice viney blue or our family favorite, Dubliner.  Which is why this article in Food & Wine about the best artisinal cheese got my mouth watering.  It features some local New England cheeses including one from Shy Brothers Farm in Westport, MA.  Luckily, we don't have to travel to Vermont, Connecticut or even Westport to enjoy these delicious artisinals.  If you visit the farm's websites, you can find out where their products are sold or possibly order online.  

Many people assume cheese isn't "healthy" due to it's high fat content.  Before I argue that point, let's just say, so what if it isn't healthy?  Must every morsel we put in our mouths be contributing to the greater good of our body?  Is enjoying food important?  Is it possible to balance nutrition with enjoyment?  What happens when you deprive yourself of foods you love?  Managing your relationship with food is a personal matter and these are good questions to ask yourself. 

More often than note, deprivation leads to over-indulgence.  Think about this throughout the holiday season.  Let go a little more and let your body cues guide the way.  Try to avoid 'all or nothing' mentality.  Instead think 'some'.  Many people give themselves unrestrained permission to eat throughout the holidays with the caveat "my diet starts in January".  This can be a set up since the message remains that it's really not ok to eat these foods and therefore, you better get it all in while you can!  I'm going to repeat my favorite quote from Ellyn Satter once again, "when you give yourself permission to eat, you can give yourself permission to stop."  

Now for the health benefits of cheese.  It is "healthy".  Cheese is an excellent source of protein (5g/oz) and of course, calcium (~300mg/oz).  It also has a good amount of fat to help with satiety .  Cheese satisfies the palate's craving for creamy, rich and savory food.  Finally, recently a lot of attention has been placed on the importance of our microbiome (see former post,  "Getting to Know Your Microbiome" for more on that).  While there is still a lot of research to be done, probiotics appear to help improve gut bacteria. One of the best sources of probiotics is raw milk.  That's right raw, as in not pasteurized

If interested in raw milk, you will want to find a local farm that sells it. The Raw Milk Network within the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) is a great resource for finding local dairy farms.  You will also find more information here on local, organic foods.  Eastleigh Farm in Framingham offers raw as well as pasteurized dairy. 

So go on, enjoy your cheese; along with a variety of other foods this holiday season!  

Here are some of our favorite combos:

1.  Baked brie with fruit.  Try this one Baked brie with apples and cranberries .
2.  Fruit and cheese platter.  Here are some tips for creating it.
3.  Baked into things like in these cheese crisps.
4.  Sprinkled on salad.  Read about 5 great cheeses for salads.


Chocolate's Hidden Bounty

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Is chocolate your friend or foe?  People often describe themselves as being “addicted to chocolate”.  Of all foods, chocolate is likely the most commonly craved, particularly for women.  The winter months seem to heighten these cravings.  Many people also express guilt over eating chocolate, assuming it has a negative impact on health. 

You may be surprised to learn, chocolate actually has significant health benefits.  Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean, originating from South America.  Mayans historically used it for medicinal purposes.  It’s ironic that something we often assume to be a an indulgence actually has more antioxidant power than most "super fruits" (acai, pomegranate,goji berries, etc).  

Cocoa improves mood.  It’s rich in agents that enhance the production of various feel-good chemicals in the brain, notably serotonin and dopamine. This means that cocoa possesses anti-depressant, mood-elevating properties.  

It also contains theobromine and a small amount of caffeine which have a mild stimulant effect.  The combination of these chemicals provides the perfect neurological cocktail.  It’s no surprise that some people use chocolate to self- medicate.  And...ahem, no surprise that my children's chocolate has quickly disappeared from their Halloween stash (to no fault of their own). It makes sense that cravings seem to increase in the winter months when depressive symptoms are on the rise. 

Cocoa is also great for your heart.  The polyphenols in cocoa are cardio-protective in two ways.  They help to reduce the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or “bad cholesterol”.  Oxidation of LDL is considered a major factor in the promotion of coronary disease, most notably heart attack and stroke.  Additionally, polyphenols inhibit blood platelets from clumping together.

 

Cocoa is a great source of magnesium and zinc.  Magnesium is an important and often over-looked mineral.  It’s critical for activating muscles and nerves, creating energy in the body, helping with digestion and producing serotonin and other neurotransmitters involved in mood.  Magnesium is also critical for the heart which holds the largest amount of magnesium in the body.  Zinc also plays a role in in neurotransmitter function.  It is also critical for growth and plays a role in immune function, smell and taste perception.  

So, you can feel great about eating chocolate and serving up the hot cocoa to your kiddos this winter, right?  Yes, but.  Cocoa clearly has some impressive health benefits.  Though, as with most things, when processed and mixed with other ingredients, the nutritional value diminishes.  The chocolate in a Milky Way is off-set by its high sugar & fat content and artificial ingredients to give it a longer shelf life.  

Alternately, pure cacao bars and powder have 0g of fat,, 0g of sugar and 2g of fiber per tablespoon along with the previously mentioned nutrients.  It is the best way to fully obtain cocoa’s nutritional bounty.  Consider using it as a base for hot chocolate or mixing it into your favorite recipe.  Chili and mole sauces are great ways to add some cocoa into your food in a flavorful way.  When searching for a chocolate bar, look for one that has no more than 2-3 ingredients, at least 65% cacao and < 5g of sugar. 

Here's a homemade hot cocoa recipe that's kid-approved: 

Homemade Cocoa

For every serving use:
1 cup or mug of milk (1%, almond, soy)
1 to 2 teaspoons of Cacao
2 teaspoons water
2-3 teaspoons of sugar, agave or honey*
Gently heat the water, sugar, cocoa and vanilla over medium heat, stirring until dissolved.  Add milk, lower heat and stir.  Heat until desired temperature is reached.
Your hot cocoa can be spiced up by adding any of the following during the heating phase:
Cinnamon stick, Orange or Lime Zest, Chile Powder, Nutmeg, Vanilla.

*You can start with less and add to taste - this way you can minimize the sugar content, unlike with commercial mixes.

Eat Your Fat Folks!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

For years, health practitioners led by USDA guidelines, have been encouraging people to cut out fat.  The result has been an influx of highly processed, low fat options that are higher in sugar and/or simple carbohydrates.  We've also led on the assumption that a calorie, is a calorie, is a calorie.  Hence, if calories in are less than calories out, weight loss is guaranteed, right?  This mentality has failed many of my clients.   

The reality is we now know that cutting out fat is detrimental to weight management.  Fat is essential for satiety, the feeling of fullness we get after a meal.  It staves off hunger much longer than carbohydrates and even protein.  We are learning more about how genetics and our microbiome (gut environment) impact weight and overall health.  It's not simply about calories or fat OR perhaps even saturated fat.  Research does support opting for cardio-protective, mono-unsaturated fats such as olive oil, those found in fatty fish, avocado, etc.  However, it seems villainizing fat has led to increased consumption of simple carbs and sugar which are more likely to lead to weight gain, diabetes and related health conditions.

This is a great clip from a recent Time Magazine piece entitled "Eat Butter".

 

Move over big agriculture, there's a new (old) farmer in town!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Farming is hot and farmers are cool!  Who would've thought twenty years ago that farming would be fashionable?  When I was in college (yes, I'm dating myself I know) one of my dorm mates was majoring in horticulture and agriculture and it seemed so obscure to me at the time.  It made sense for her having grown up on a farm and as she put it "being a hick" and all but there was no way that farming was going to compete with computer science and at the time, I was completely unaware of how closely it tied to my own discipline.

Nowadays,  with more insight into farming practices and how they impact the food we eat, we're becoming more selective in our food choices.  Specifically, we want to know where and how food is grown and what happens after.  Organic farming in particular has exploded.  On May 15th, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal indicating that "organic farming is not sustainable".  Here's a great response to that article by the Cornucopia Institute.

Many young college grads and professionals are forgoing the rat race in pursuit of a more bucolic, rustic life on the farm.  Don't be fooled though, this lifestyle is anything but "less work".  It is however a different kind of work; a lifestyle that keeps you fit and healthy and connected to the earth.  In recent history, big agriculture took the place of small, family run farms.  However, we seem to be reverting to our original small scale farming efforts in favor of better quality and in hopes to preserve our land for generations to come.  Interested in becoming a farmer?  Check out this great site, sustainable-live-work-play

First class in 'Yoga of Eating' series was a success!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Liz and Alex kicked off the 'Yoga of Eating' series last Thursday with a huge success. The session was fully booked and participants had rave reviews after the first evening.

The two hour group includes an experiential yoga activity, a mindful eating exercise and discussion of mindfulness application in daily life. Attendees reflected that the experience enabled them to truly experience their hunger cues and eat accordingly. It was also helpful to have Liz and Alex provide a safe environment and join the others at the meal.

This is how they thoughtfully set the stage for a mindful meal.

We know that we had to turn some away because the group was full, but given the level of interest, we will certainly run it again.  So, stay posted!









June is National Fruit and Vegetable Month!

Monday, June 02, 2014

To celebrate this delicious and nutritious time of year, here are a few of our favorite fruit and veggie activities for you and your family.

Visit a Farmer’s Market- have children be on the lookout for a certain colored new fruit or veggie to try or make a scavenger hunt to find a rainbow of produce.

Make Fruit Wands- Stack a variety of cut up fruits on a kabob stick and top with a slice of star fruit for a magical and tasty treat.

Plant a Veggie Garden- Planting vegetables can be a great way to increase your child’s interest in trying new, healthy foods. Take a look at some of our tips here for getting started.

Veggie Builders- Make a variety of veggie buildings, animals and people out of cut up vegetables, tooth picks and cream cheese for the “glue”.

Make Fruit “Sundaes”- Layer fruit, low fat yogurt and crunchy cereal or granola in a pretty glass and enjoy!

Dinner Switch Ups

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tired of the same old chicken every night? Shake things up a bit with our fun dinner switch ups!

Stir Fry Saturdays: We love this “take-out fake out” for weekends. Wok cooking can be a quick, fun and healthy alternative to make some of your favorite Asian cuisine favorites. Keep it healthy by limiting the oil and loading up the vegetables.

 
Breakfast for Dinner: An oldie but a goodie! Eggs can be an easy option to whip up during the week- make omelets packed with favorite veggies and low fat cheese. Pair with whole grain toasted English muffins and a fresh fruit salad.

Meatless Mondays: This is a great idea to bring into your weekly dinner line up. Vegetarian meals can be filling, tasty and a healthy alternative to your typical meat-lover choices. Check out this fantastic site: www.meatlessmonday.com  for recipes and to learn about this health movement.

Make Your Own Pizza: Another fun alternative to delivery foods- there are so many options to choose and everyone can make their own personalized pizza. For crust, there’s many options out there – you can get adventurous and make your own from scratch or take a shortcut by using pre-made dough from the grocery store (most stores even carry wheat dough now). If the thought of rolling out dough is too much at the end of a long day, buy pre-cooked pizza crust such as the Boboli individual crusts or try Naan flat bread (one of my personal favorites) from the bakery section. Get out everyone’s favorite toppings and start the pizza party!

Kiddos in the Kitchen: Getting your children involved in cooking is a great way to peak their interest in trying new foods as well as teach them a useful skill for lifelong healthy eating. Children can start with simple tasks in the kitchen and work to create their “signature dishes.” It can be a fun idea to have children create their own “restaurant” by decorating the table, designing their own placemats and even make menus for the night.

New Ideas to Avoid the Post-Lunch Energy Crash

Monday, April 14, 2014

Has post-lunch lethargy got you and your kids sleeping on the job?

In a recent article from Dr. Sears, it’s suggested to be mindful of the types of protein and the amount of carbohydrates we eat at lunch to keep our minds stimulated.  When it comes to kids lunches, Dr. Sears recommends packing protein foods that are high in the amino acid tyrosine such as seafood, turkey, tofu, legumes and tuna, to perk up the brain. Along with this he recommends that keeping the calories appropriate (for children 600-800 calories, for most adults 400-600 calories), keeping to 1-2 servings of a complex carbohydrate (such as quinoa, wheat bread or fruit), including to 1-2 servings of a healthy fat and aiming to eat the protein first, followed by the carbohydrates is the perfect recipe for a brain-stimulating lunch.  Foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid that sedates the brain, include eggs, milk, bananas, dairy, sunflower seeds and meat. These tryptophan-rich foods paired with a large amount of carbohydrates as part of a higher calorie lunch can lead to a sluggish child after lunch as tryptophan is able to get into the brain at a high rate with this combination according to Dr. Sears.   As all children, and adults, are different, use these recommendations only if you see an improvement in your child’s attentiveness/behavior.

For more tips on keeping your energy up throughout the day, contact Ashley Bade Cronin at Ashley@metrowestnutrition.com or 617-332-2282 and make an appointment at one of our offices in Northborough, Framingham or Newton.



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