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Meal Planning: Healthy Snacks

 Sometimes, healthful snacks don’t make it onto the grocery list, and we end up with unhealthy, processed foods to tide us over between meals. This week, add these four foods to your grocery list for a more nutritious midday break!

Snacking during the day can be a healthy habit, as it can help to keep blood sugar and energy levels steady. However, what you choose for midday edibles is important - use the four suggestions below for some healthy snack ideas.

  1. Berries. They are sweet, easy to pop into your mouth, and a much healthier choice than a candy bar. Try raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries: all are anti-inflammatory, rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, and offer immune-boosting antioxidant activity. Choose organic when possible.
  2. Crudités. The fiber in veggies will help fill you up, and they provide a nice, satisfying crunch. Choose a wide range of colors (broccoli, cauliflower and carrots are good choices) and serve with hummus or organic, unsweetened yogurt - add some fresh herbs and seasonings for flavor.
  3. Nuts. When eaten sparingly, raw or lightly roasted nuts are a terrific snack. Walnuts are one of my favorites, as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds and roasted soy nuts are also good choices. Nuts can be high in calories and fat (even if it's the healthy monounsaturated kind), so don't overindulge.
  4. Dark chocolate. An ounce of dark chocolate now and then will satisfy a sweet tooth while providing antioxidant polyphenols. Choose high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70 percent pure cocoa, and enjoy the rich flavor.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s tip when we cover snacks not to buy!


Meal Planning: Buy These Canned Goods!

Looking for a cost-effective way to get nutrient-dense foods into your meals this week? Consider canned foods. Quality canned foods offer a convenient and economical alternative to fresh foods, and can provide nutritional benefits from seasonal items all year round.

Before you start perusing the canned goods section, however, keep in mind that canned foods are often high in sodium, so always choose no- or low-sodium versions. Also, a recent study indicates that daily intake of canned soup appears to raise levels of BPA, an endocrine disruptor, dramatically for short periods, so choose jarred soup over canned soup if possible. Some canned items to look for include:  

  1. Fish: Sockeye salmon is a great choice, as it is always wild caught, and the canning process softens the bones, making them an edible source of calcium. Sardines packed in water or olive oil are also a good option.
  2. Beans: Always a healthy addition of fiber and protein to your meals, these time-savers can be used straight from the can after a quick rinse. Look for organic varieties of kidney, pinto, black, and garbanzo.
  3. Fruits and vegetables. Because fruits and vegetables are usually canned soon after they are picked, many of their nutrients are maintained. Some types of processing - heat processing of sweet corn, for example - even boost antioxidant activity. Look for brands made from organically grown produce and choose canned fruit that is packed in its own natural juices or water, rather than in heavy syrup, which adds unnecessary calories and sugar.

More research is needed to determine if foods like canned soup raise BPA levels. So consume canned goods in moderation to round out your diet, and eat fresh or frozen foods instead whenever your time and budget permit.
Try these recipes!

When You Eat May Matter More than What You Eat

New research from the Salk Institute suggests that the timing of meals and snacks may influence weight control more than the number of calories you consume. This approach hasn't been investigated in humans yet, but studies with mice have shown that limiting food consumption to an eight to 12 hour period during the day resulted in healthier, slimmer mice even when they were fed a high-fat diet. That wasn't so for other mice fed the same diet but allowed to eat any time of day or night. The research has also shown that allowing the mice to eat only during a specified eight-hour period reversed obesity and diabetes. In their latest study, the Salk researchers assigned nearly 400 mice, some of normal weight and some that were obese, to a variety of diets and differing time restrictions. Results showed that the benefits of time-restricted feeding held true regardless of mouse weight, the type of diet and, to some degree, the length of time restriction. The study showed that mice limited to eating during a window of 9 to 12 hours gained less weight than the "controls" that were allowed to eat at will, even though both groups consumed the same number of daily calories. The time-restricted mice also developed more lean muscle mass than the mice that ate without restrictions.