Smart Healthy Eating Strategies to Get You Through the Holidays

healthy eating

 

The holidays are quickly approaching, which means it’s time to plan your healthy eating strategy for the season. Because most holidays are food-focused, they can cause a large intake of calories and throw your otherwise-healthy lifestyle off track.

Prevent the holidays from sabotaging your healthy lifestyle by putting a plan in place for handling all the extra food and drinks that will come your way during the season. Follow the tips below to celebrate guilt-free!

Plan activities that don’t center on food

Whether you’re hosting a holiday gathering or going to someone else’s house, keep some activities in your back pocket to take you away from the snack table. For example, bring a few favorite board games or set up some simple physical activities that children and adults can enjoy, like a bean bag toss or a relay race.

If you enjoy running or walking, sign your family up for a local 5K event. There are always a ton of turkey trots, jingle bell 5Ks and other holiday-themed races at this time of year. If you’ve never done one, you’ll be hooked after your first race!

Not only will these ideas get your mind off food, but they’ll give everyone something fun to do together. And isn’t that really what the holidays are about?

Avoid skipping meals

Many people make the mistake of skipping meals on the day of a holiday party to “save” their calories for the event. Skipping meals is unhealthy, however, as it leads to poor food choices and often results in overeating.

Instead, eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your appetite controlled. When you get to the party, you won’t risk derailing your diet because you’re starving.

Practice mindful eating

The most important thing to practice is being mindful about your food choices and portion control. When you’re mindful about selecting your food, you’ll choose a satisfying portion instead of piling your plate high. You’ll take a small amount of an “indulgent” food to enjoy and balance it out with healthier foods, rather than filling your entire plate with unhealthy choices.

The best part of mindful eating? When you pay attention to what you eat, you’ll actually taste and appreciate your food! Eating mindlessly, on the other hand, always results in the realization that you didn’t enjoy the ton of calories you just consumed.

Make food swaps

As you make your holiday cooking plan, choose your ingredients carefully to keep your dishes on the healthier side. For example, prepare traditional stuffing with whole wheat or whole grain bread rather than white bread. Make a cauliflower mash in place of the traditional mashed potatoes. Substitute whole-wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour in your favorite baking recipes.

Limit your cocktail consumption

The empty calories in alcoholic beverages add up. If you want to enjoy your favorite cocktail occasionally throughout the season without overdoing it, add some mineral water or seltzer to it to keep it light.

 

While food and drinks are certainly a great part of the festivities, holiday celebrations are not just about eating. Focus on the joyous, giving spirit of the season and enjoy spending time with your family, friends and colleagues.


Artificial sweeteners are not as sweet as they seem

artificial sweeteners

For years, people have used artificial sweeteners to lose weight. Once they begin a diet, they switch from consuming sugar to using products such as aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda) and steviocide (Stevia) in hopes of satisfying their sugar cravings without interfering with their weight loss efforts.

But do artificial sweeteners really help with weight loss? According to a recent ABC News article, they don’t. In fact, studies show the opposite: Over time, artificial sweeteners are actually linked to weight gain.

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain

Thirty studies from the Canadian Medical Association Journal that followed groups of people using artificial sweeteners over several years have recently been newly reviewed. The new analysis of these studies looked at the long-term heart health, stroke incidence and blood pressure levels of more than 406,000 people who said they use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar.

Instead of finding that consuming artificial sweeteners had positive effects, the analysis found that regular consumption of these sweeteners was associated with:

  • Modest long-term increases in weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Higher risk of obesity
  • Higher risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Higher risk of stroke

Even people in studies that took place over a shorter period of time did not show any consistent weight loss after six months.

Why Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Help Weight Loss Efforts

In the ABC News article, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief women’s health correspondent, states that any sweetener can trigger the same response from the brain, whether it’s regular table sugar, honey or an artificial sweetener. Ashton says that all sweeteners trigger the reward centers in our brains, ultimately leading us to want more — so we end up eating more.

When people use “diet” products like sodas, food or sweeteners, they tend to eat more calorie-heavy foods as a “balance.” The medical world has known for quite some time that artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain, and some experts believe that the chemicals in artificial sweeteners may create a reaction in the human body that causes weight gain.

What does this mean for people looking to lose weight? It’s pretty simple. Forget the “diet” foods and drinks and focus on learning proper portion control and eating a healthy, balanced diet.


Which vitamins and minerals does your body need?

vitamins and minerals

We all know that one of the most important parts of any weight loss program is diet. Eating healthy, whole foods in the right amounts is crucial to weight loss.

It’s very important to make sure your body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly and stay healthy. Below are the top vitamins and minerals you need to maintain good health.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is extremely important to the health of your eyes, as well as red blood cell production, immune function, skin health and embryonic development.

Vitamin A can be found in fortified milk, organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and carrots.

B vitamins

B vitamins include B-1, B-2, B-6, B-12, pantothenic acid, niacin, biotin and folic acid. These vitamins play a critical role in your body’s ability to create and release energy. B vitamins are also responsible for creating red blood cells, which allow oxygen to move throughout your body.

B vitamins can be found in leafy green vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, seafood and eggs.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is particularly important when your body is under stress, including the type of stress that can often come with dieting: food deprivation, calorie reduction and cravings. Vitamin C helps your body maintain a healthy immune system and correct any damage done to your body by stress. It also works as a disease-fighting antioxidant that keeps your cells healthy.

Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruit, orange juice, kiwis, guavas, red and green peppers, cabbage and tomatoes.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps maintain the tissues in your body, such as your liver, skin and eyes. It also prevents the pollution in the air from causing damage to your lungs and works with the B vitamins to create red blood cells.

Vitamin E can be found in egg yolks, sardines, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, almonds, peanut butter and some oils.

Calcium

Calcium is essential for bone health. As a matter of fact, 99 percent of its role is to keep your bones and teeth strong, supporting skeletal structure and function. Calcium is also important for cell signaling, blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function.

Calcium can be found in dairy products, dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale) and some fish (like sardines, salmon and rainbow trout).

Magnesium

Magnesium helps develop and maintain bones, maintain normal nerve and muscle function, support a healthy immune system and maintain a steady heartbeat. It also helps regulate blood glucose levels and aid in the production of energy and protein.

Magnesium can be found in nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, milk, bananas, dried apricots, avocados, halibut and other fish.

Potassium

Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure, reduce the effects of salt and maintain regular digestive and muscular functioning. It may also reduce the risk of recurrent kidney stones and possibly decrease bone loss.

Potassium can be found in tomato paste and puree, white beans, yogurt, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, soybeans, bananas, potatoes and fish (such as flounder, sardines, cod and salmon).

Regardless of what type of diet you’re following, be sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of these vitamins and minerals every day to avoid deficiency and keep your body healthy and functioning at its best.

If your specific diet doesn’t allow some of the food sources mentioned for a specific vitamin or mineral, talk about taking supplements with your doctor.


Spices with health benefits

spices with health benefits

Do you use spices regularly in your cooking? If not, you should start. Here’s why.

The Benefits of Using Spices

Not only do spices add a ton of flavor to your food, but they offer great health benefits. Here are a few ways spices are good for your health:

1. Aid Weight Loss

Spices can help to increase your metabolism, helping you to lose weight. For example, studies have shown that capsaicin (found in chili peppers), may cause the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after eating.

2. Improve Heart Health

Research has shown cultures that eat spicy foods have a lower rate of heart attack and stroke. This may be because chili peppers can reduce the damaging effects of bad cholesterol (LDL). Additionally, the capsaicin in chili peppers may fight inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease.

3. Protect Against Cancer

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, capsaicin has the ability to kill some cancer and leukemic cells. Also, turmeric (a spice found in curry powder and some mustards) may slow the spread of cancer and the growth of tumors.

4. Protect Against Diabetes

Inflammation and high blood sugar levels both largely contribute to diabetes. Spices can improve blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation, helping to prevent or improve diabetes.

5. Improve Your Mood

Spicy foods increase your body’s production of “happy” hormones, like serotonin, which can help lessen stress and mild depression.

How to Get Spices into Your Diet

Small amounts of both dried and fresh spices can provide health benefits, so don’t worry if you’re not a spicy food person!

Below are some easy and delicious ideas for using spices in your cooking:

  • Put some slices of ginger or a pinch of cumin in a cup of hot tea
  • Add chopped chili peppers to soups, stews and chili
  • Coat shrimp in cumin and coriander and then sauté
  • Grate fresh ginger into vinaigrette
  • Add red pepper flakes or chopped ginger to stir-fry dishes
  • Make chicken curry
  • Sprinkle ground ginger on cooked carrots
  • Add cumin to brown rice or red lentils
  • Sprinkle ground cloves on applesauce or add to quick bread batters
  • Sprinkle turmeric* on egg salad, add to a chicken or seafood casserole or add to water when cooking rice

*To absorb 2,000 percent more turmeric, pair it with black pepper

Start with the suggestions above and then let them inspire you to experiment with your own ideas. In no time, you’ll be a pro at using spices in cooking and will enjoy the great taste of your food, as well as the added health benefits.


The importance of teaching your kids healthy habits from a young age

healthy habits

Today, about one in three American children is obese or overweight. While these numbers are sad, the truth is that parents can turn this epidemic around by teaching their kids healthy habits while they’re still young.

It’s important to teach your kids about eating healthy and getting lots of physical activity from an early age. This is because people who learn healthy habits as children are more likely to live a healthy lifestyle for the rest of their lives.

If you teach your child to live a healthy lifestyle when they’re young, they are less likely to grow up to become overweight or obese. It can also decrease their risk of health issues that can develop due to being overweight. These include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, certain types of cancer and more.

How to be a healthy role model for your child

Here are six simple but powerful ways you can be a strong role model for your kids and teach them to live a healthy lifestyle.

1. Be physically active together

Regular physical activity is important for your kids’ growth and overall well-being. Encourage them to get moving by changing how your kids spend their free time. Instead of letting them spend hours watching TV or surfing the web, get the whole family moving! Ride bikes together, go for a daily walk after dinner or simply head into the yard to kick a ball around or play a game of tag.

2. Drink lots of water

Water — not soda, fruit juice or sweet tea — is the best thing you can drink to quench your thirst, and our bodies need lots of water each day to run smoothly. Plus, water doesn’t have added sugars like fruit juice and soft drinks do.

Make sure your children see you drinking water throughout the day, and give them plenty of opportunities to drink water too. Get everyone their own special water bottles in different colors and patterns to make it more fun.

3. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

Eating fruits and vegetables every day helps children grow and develop, and it can reduce their risk of many chronic diseases. Always keep fresh fruit on hand for a quick, healthy snack, and include fruits and vegetables with every meal.

4. Introduce new foods often

It’s important to introduce your kids to new foods and flavors regularly. Offer your kids the new food along with something they already like, and encourage them to at least try the new food. If they don’t like it after tasting it, they don’t have to finish it — but it’s important that they at least try.

Be sure to keep serving the foods your kids have tried and don’t like over and over. It can take as many 30 tries for your child to develop a taste for the food! This is a great way to get your child to try out all types of vegetables.

5. Eat healthy snacks

Healthy snacks help kids get all the nutrients they need, but not all snacks are created equal. The healthiest choices include fresh fruits and vegetables, reduced-fat dairy products and whole grains. Stock your fridge with things like apple slices with peanut butter, baby carrots with hummus, low-fat string cheese and hardboiled eggs. Limit or avoid snacks that are high in sugar or saturated fats, like chips, crackers and snack cakes.

6. Plan activities that don’t revolve around food

Instead of making eating out at a restaurant your main family outing, try to plan an activity that isn’t focused on food. Go bowling, take a painting class, go to the library and take out a bunch of books or go see a family-friendly play. The options are endless.

Not only will this create strong family bonds, it will also help your children appreciate things other than food, helping them to become well-rounded adults with a healthy relationship with food.

Starting a healthy lifestyle early in life is critical to giving your kids a shot at becoming healthy adults. Use the tips above to put your children on the path to living a healthy life in the long run.


Healthy substitutes for pasta and other high-calorie foods

pasta substitutes

Keeping track of your calories is crucial to weight loss. Losing weight is all about taking in fewer calories than you burn.

Unfortunately, there are lots of delicious foods that are high in calories. Regularly eating high-carb or high-calorie foods like pasta will prevent you from losing weight and keeping it off.

So how can you make do without these items? One of the best options is to sub out unhealthy ingredients with healthier ones.

Here are some great substitutes for high-carb, high-calorie foods.

Whole-grain pasta for white pasta

A simple change you can make when you want to eat pasta is to choose whole-grain pastas over regular pastas. This is because whole grains are complex carbs, which take more work for your stomach to digest, so they keep you full longer.

That said, even whole-grain pasta can be high in the carbs and calories. So while eating whole-grain pasta once in a while is fine, you don’t want to make a regular habit of it.

Veggies for pasta or rice

If you’d like to cut out pasta altogether, simply sub it out for healthier options, like using vegetables in place of noodles.

Veggies are a wonderful “blank canvas” that allow the flavor of the sauces and proteins to shine. They contain many of the nutrients that are part of a healthy diet, and they contain far fewer calories and carbs.

Shred or julienne zucchini or summer squash, and you can create pasta-like ribbons. (You can also buy a special gadget called a spiralizer to make veggie “noodles.”) Try “ricing” cauliflower to sub out rice for finely chopped cauliflower. Green beans go great with pesto sauce, and eggplant strips taste delicious with marinara.

Greek yogurt for sour cream

Greek yogurt is a fantastic protein-packed snack. But you can also use it in place of sour cream.

Greek yogurt is naturally sour, like sour cream. If you’re making a dessert recipe that calls for sour cream, you can make a 1-for-1 substitution to give your dessert a protein boost and cut saturated fat.

Or squeeze a lemon into a small container of Greek yogurt to make a great condiment for tacos. Just make sure you select plain Greek yogurt, without added fruit or sugar.

Ground turkey for ground beef

Not all proteins are created equal. Go for lean proteins, including skinless chicken breast, salmon and turkey, rather than high-fat meats like beef.

Turkey is a fantastic substitute for ground beef when you’re cooking burgers, tacos or casseroles. The consistency is the same, but turkey lacks the high saturated fat and cholesterol of red meats, while maintaining a high protein content.

It’s a quick and easy substitution, and it can go a long way towards your heart health.

Extra-virgin olive oil for butter or other oils

Extra-virgin olive oil is one of the best all-around oils. You can use it for salads, for cooking and for finishing dishes. It’s packed with the good fats you need for heart health, and it’s much healthier than butter or other kinds of oil, which can be high in saturated fats.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean cutting your favorite foods out of your diet. That can be depressing and even counter-productive. Instead, get creative by finding healthy food substitutions.


How to read a nutrition label the right way

nutrition label

Eating smart means paying close attention to what you’re eating. Nutrition labels on food and drink items are an important but sometimes confusing resource for people who want to stick to a healthy diet.

But what do the numbers on nutrition labels actually mean? Which of the nutrient items really matter? And how do you use a nutrition label to make healthy eating and drinking decisions?

Here’s what you need to know.

What are food labels?

Food labels refer to any of the packaging that describes a food or drink item. They contain language that persuades you to buy the item, but they also contain the facts you need to make good health decisions.

What are nutrition facts?

On food labels, you will often find a mix of marketing messages and hard facts. It’s generally a good idea to ignore the fluff and go straight to the box labeled “Nutrition Facts.”

The Nutrition Facts box is a standard section that appears on all processed foods. It lists important information, such as the serving size, calories, fat content, carbohydrate content, protein content and more.

Serving Size

Starting from the top of the Nutrition Facts box, you’ll find a line that says “Serving Size.” Similar foods have the same serving size. This helps you compare foods more easily. The information about calories, fat, carbs, protein, etc. refers to the amount of that nutrient in the given serving size.

For instance, if a gallon of Vitamin D milk lists its serving size as 1 cup, and if the fat content is 8 grams, then that means there are 8 grams of fat per 1 cup of milk.

It’s important to be aware of how many servings you are consuming. If your glass is larger than 1 cup, you’ll consume more than 8 grams of fat.

Servings Per Container

Underneath the Serving Size item will be a line that says “Servings Per Container.” This item is designed to help you understand how many servings there are in a container.

For a gallon of Vitamin D milk with a serving size of 1 cup, the servings per container will say 16. In other words, there are 16 1-cup servings in that gallon jug.

Calories

The next major item in the Nutrition Facts box is the “Calories” listing. Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of a food or drink item.

For a gallon of Vitamin D milk, the calorie number may be around 150. That means there are 150 calories in each 1-cup serving. (Again, if you consume more than one serving, you’ll wind up consuming more than 150 calories.)

Keeping track of your calories is among the most important — if not, the most important — things you can do when you’re trying to lose weight.

When you’re trying to lose weight, you want to consume fewer calories than you burn every day. If you take in more calories than you use up, you’ll gain weight. Use the nutrition facts to make sure you don’t go over your daily limit of calories.

Fat

Under the nutrients section, the first item you’ll see is “Total Fat,” subdivided into “Saturated Fat” and “Trans Fat.” While fat gets a bad rap, there are numerous types of fat.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a good type of fat which are important for many of your bodily functions. Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, nuts and leafy vegetables. If you were to look at the Nutrition Facts label on such food items, it would would likely show a higher Total Fat number.

So how do you know what food items with a high fat content are good and which you should avoid? Look at the Saturated Fat and Trans Fat lines. These are the two main types of potentially harmful dietary fat.

Saturated fat comes mainly from animal sources of food, and can raise your LDL cholesterol levels and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Trans fat is made from a food processing method called partial hydrogenation. It can also increase your LDL cholesterol levels and boost your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Try to stay away from foods with high saturated fat content (more than 2 grams) and any trans fat content.

Cholesterol

Dietary cholesterol occurs in animal products, such as meat, milk, cheese, eggs and butter. It can contribute to heart disease. Stay under 200 mg per day if you are at risk for heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

Sodium

After “Cholesterol” comes “Sodium.” Sodium is a mineral associated with salt. Salt, processed foods and most restaurant food contains a lot of sodium.

Because consuming high levels of sodium is linked to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke and heart and kidney disease, you should be sure to keep your sodium intake in check.

For healthy adults, the recommended max is 2,300 mg of sodium per day. If you have high blood pressure or are older than 51, don’t consume more than 1,500 mg per day.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are found in many foods in a variety of forms, such as sugars, fibers and starches. Eating the right kinds of carbs is essential to a good diet.

The right kinds of carbs are unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. The sorts of carbs that deliver fewer nutrients and satisfaction (so that you wind up getting hungry and eating again sooner) are refined or processed foods, including white bread, pastries and sodas.

How do you know whether your carbs come from the right source? Jump to the Ingredients section, which is located near the Nutrition Facts box. There, words like “enriched” or “white” mean the item contains refined/processed grains, while words like “whole,” “rolled” or “cracked” show the item contains whole grains (the type you want).

Dr. Dirk recommends a low-carb diet for losing weight and keeping it off. Make sure the few carbs you do eat are nutritious whole grains.

Protein

The last nutrient above the vitamins and minerals is “Protein.” Protein is a vital nutrient that powers many chemical reactions that your body needs to perform in top condition.

Dr. Dirk recommends a high-protein diet for individuals trying to lose weight. Keep in mind, though, that foods with high protein content, such as meats, can come along with high saturated fat or cholesterol levels. That’s why it’s good to rely on lean protein sources, such as skinless chicken breast and salmon.

Vitamins and Minerals

The final section in the “Nutrition Facts” box contains information about vitamins and minerals. Specifically, it provides a percentage. That percentage indicates how much of your daily recommended intake a serving of a food/drink item fulfills.

For example, a 1-cup serving of Vitamin D milk provides 30 percent of your daily recommended calcium intake.

Eating abundant vitamins and minerals is crucial to your health. Try to make sure you get enough vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.

Food labels can be informative and helpful if used correctly. Remember to use the numbers to make good health decisions. Along with regular physical activity, eating a good diet is the key to losing weight and living a healthy life.

 


Healthy ways to satisfy your sweet tooth

sugar cravings

Few things are as addictive as sweets, and giving into your sugar cravings can have a huge negative impact on your weight loss efforts.

Fortunately, there are smart ways to satisfy your sweet tooth or avoid sweets altogether. Consider the following strategies to have your cake and stick to your diet, too:

Eat fruit

Yes, it’s obvious. But nature’s candy can provide a satisfying hit of sweetness while also delivering the nutrients, vitamins and fiber your body need.s

In particular, berries (especially blueberries, blackberries and strawberries) are an excellent source of natural antioxidants, which help reduce the “oxidative damage” that leads to a range of diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Quality over quantity

Controlling your sugar intake doesn’t have to mean giving up sweets forever. Instead of gorging on a pack of cheap candy or a devouring a half-pint of generic ice cream, treat yourself to smaller but higher-quality desserts in moderation.

Whether it’s a fresh, from-scratch cookie, a gourmet chocolate bonbon or a decadent macaron, savor a small, quality treat occasionally rather than eating low-quality packaged treats every day.

If you have a weakness for chocolate, try dark chocolate, which has a range of positive health benefits when eaten in moderation. The key is to buy real (not processed and sweetened) dark chocolate. That means a cocoa content of 60 percent or more.

Don’t waste your sugar

It takes some planning, but consuming sugar wisely can make the difference between reaching your weight loss goals and giving in to your worst impulses.

A simple way to regulate your sugar intake is to make trade-offs. Do you love the occasional soda? Fine, but be sure to take a pass on dessert. Or if you have a craving for dessert, try to forego soda for water.

But remember to avoid making soda a regular habit. They may seem harmless, but sugary drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.

Sodas and other sweetened beverages, including juices, are packed with sugar and calories. Naturally, if you drink sugary beverages, you won’t feel as full as if you’d eaten the same calories in the form of solid food.

Distract yourself

Cravings are all about psychology. The more you focus on a food you crave, the stronger and more undeniable that craving gets.

So to avoid giving into a sugar craving, consider distracting yourself. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Strike up a conversation with someone. Anything to get your mind off of that sugary sweet lurking around the corner.

You can also remove yourself from environments that keep dangerous sweets top of mind. For instance, instead of working at a coffee shop with a display full of decadent pastries, try spending time at a food-free coffee shop.

Find a healthy way to make what you love

Here’s a secret: You don’t have to say goodbye to your favorite desserts. You just have to get creative with how you make them.

There are countless ways to reinvent your favorite desserts, replacing empty-calorie, high-fat, sugar-loaded ingredients with comparatively healthy alternatives.

Some of our favorite healthy desserts include:

You deserve a sweet every now and then. Using these strategies, you can treat yourself on occasion or find ways to avoid indulging when you know you shouldn’t. All it takes is a little planning and a little strategy, and you can have your dessert while sticking to your weight loss plan.


Dr. Dirk’s Favorite Protein-Packed Dinner Recipes

One of the keys to successful weight loss is a good diet. In fact, eating the right food in the right amounts is probably the most important step you can take if you’re serious about living a healthy lifestyle.

For people who are overweight or obese, Dr. Dirk recommends a high-protein, low-carb diet with plenty of lean protein, vegetables and whole grains. (Here’s why this diet is best for people who want to lose weight and keep it off.)

If you’re looking for some healthy spring dinner recipes, try one or all of these high-protein, low-carb meals this week.

Protein-Packed Dinner Recipes

Stir-Fry Sesame Chicken with Brown Rice

This recipe is a great way to get in some lean protein (in the form of skinless chicken breast) and a variety of delicious, nutritious vegetables. Add a side of brown rice, and you have a tasty dish that beats your favorite Chinese takeout. Serves six.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups stemmed and chopped fresh green beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions, sliced diagonally, or chopped cilantro
  • 1/8 cup sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently. Set aside.
  2. Coat chicken strips in half the teriyaki sauce. Add oil to a pan or wok over medium heat. Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side until golden and cooked through. Set aside.
  3. Add green beans and water or chicken stock to the pan. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until beans are crisp-tender. Add sesame oil and peppers to the pan with the beans. Cook uncovered for about 4 minutes. Add garlic and some teriyaki sauce, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
  4. Return chicken to pan and add remaining teriyaki sauce. Cook for one minute, until warmed. Remove from heat and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Garnish with scallions or cilantro.
  5. Serve with brown rice.
Protein-Packed Dinner Recipes

Wild Salmon with Rainbow Salsa

Wild salmon is one of the best sources of protein you can get. Not only is it lean, but it’s also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids (the good kind of fat). This recipe pairs zesty salmon with a colorful sweet and sour salsa. Serves two.

Ingredients:

Miso-lime marinade

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 teaspoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Salmon

  • 2 fillets (6 ounces each) wild salmon
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • Fresh parsley sprigs to garnish

Rainbow salsa

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 large ripe tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Mix together the ingredients for the lime marinade and smear over the salmon fillets. Set aside for at least 30 minutes so the salmon absorbs the flavor of the marinade.
  2. While the fish is marinating, prepare the salsa.
  3. Char the outside skin of the peppers and jalapeño. You can do this by holding them with tongs over an open flame, turning them so the outside chars evenly. Put the peppers and chili in a paper bag so they sweat (this makes it easier to remove the skin). After about 5 minutes, remove the peppers and jalapeño from the bag, and the charred skin should slide off easily.
  4. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and chop finely. If you don’t want the salsa to be too hot, remove the seeds from the jalapeño before chopping.
  5. Place the peppers and jalapeño in a bowl with the tomato and garlic. Add the lime juice, sea salt, honey, and cilantro and mix well.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Lay enough lime slices on an oven tray so that the fish can sit comfortably on top. Place the fish on the lime slices and place the tray on the top shelf of the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through. (The thicker the fillets, the longer they will take to cook through.)
  8. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter, keeping the lime slices underneath. Serve immediately with the rainbow salsa.
Protein-Packed Dinner Recipes

Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon Stew

Beef can be high in fat, so try to limit your intake of red meat and choose leaner cuts of beef, like strip steak and eye of round roast.

Of course, there are those days when nothing will satisfy like a hearty beef stew. For those days, use this low-carb, veggie-packed recipe. Serves eight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean beef chuck, cut into bite-size cubes
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large cubes
  • 2 carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 2 stalks celery, thickly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 whole sprig rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1 pound white button mushrooms, halved
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef stock
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 10 pearl onions, halved or 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle beef cubes with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Dredge in flour to coat.
  2. Put 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add half the beef cubes and brown on all sides, for about 5 minutes. It is not necessary to cook the beef all the way through yet. Repeat with the second batch. Set the beef aside.
  3. In the same pan that the beef was browned in, add 1/4 cup of the wine and scrape the bottom, allowing some of the liquid to evaporate. Add herbs, mushrooms, pearl onions or diced onion, celery, carrots, and 1 more tablespoon of olive oil and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
  4. Pour everything from the pan into the slow cooker. Add the rest of the wine, the stock, the rest of the salt, the bay leaf, the potatoes and the beef cubes. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, or on low for 8 hours.

Apple Cider Vinegar Promotes Weight Loss: Fact or Fiction?

apple cider vinegar

So-called health experts love to tout the health benefits of certain “superfoods” like apple cider vinegar. While many of these foods can indeed be nutritious, these broad health claims are often exaggerated or completely unsupported by science.

In recent years, apple cider vinegar fans have claimed that the superfood can boost weight loss efforts.

But is the link between this so-called superfood and weight loss a verifiable fact or just a myth? Here are the facts:

What’s the hype around apple cider vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple sugars. For decades, people have proclaimed that apple cider vinegar is a magic elixir with a range of health benefits. Those supposed health benefits include:

  • It helps keep blood sugar under control, decreasing the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
  • It supports good digestion and an improved immune system.
  • It promotes weight loss.

Are the health benefits of apple cider vinegar real or just a myth?

Studies show that, of the purported health benefits of apple cider vinegar, only some are true. Let’s look at each claim one by one.

Consuming apple cider vinegar may help keep blood sugar under control.

There is substantial evidence that apple cider vinegar has a positive effect on regulating blood sugar. According to Carol S. Johnston, associate director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University, vinegar appears to inhibit the enzyme that aids in the digestion of starch. Because less starch is digested, less of the starch sugars make it into the blood.

In the long run, keeping blood sugar in check can help reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

It’s important to note that all vinegar — not just apple cider vinegar — produces this blood sugar effect. That’s because all vinegar contains acetic acid, the ingredient that inhibits starch digestion.

Apple cider vinegar may aid digestion.

Since apple cider vinegar is derived from fermented apple juice, it can contain probiotics, like many other fermented foods. Probiotics are bacteria that help keep the stomach and digestive system healthy.

The probiotics are contained in the “mother,” or the cobwebby strands that are found in raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Pasteurized apple cider vinegar is clear because the pasteurization process removes the “mother,” which takes away the probiotic benefit.

Still, while raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar may offer probiotic benefits, this has not been verified by research.

Apple cider vinegar — like all vinegar — may have a prebiotic effect, however. While “probiotic” refers to live bacteria, “prebiotic” refers to a type of plant fiber that nourishes the beneficial bacteria already living in the large bowel and colon. The healthier the good bacteria, the more robust your digestive system.

Does apple cider vinegar promote weight loss?

Unlike the other benefits of apple cider vinegar, the purported weight loss benefit is a myth.

There is simply no science to back up the claim that apple cider vinegar triggers a metabolic process that results in weight loss, according to Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness.

Other experts share this conclusion. Carol S. Johnston, the Arizona State University nutrition specialist, agrees: “Vinegar is not a magic bullet for weight loss.”

How to consume apple cider vinegar

If you want to consume apple cider vinegar for its blood sugar benefits, it is important to consume it correctly.

Dilute 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar in 8 ounces of water and drink it right before eating, once or twice a day.

But don’t overdo it. Consuming too much apple cider vinegar can have adverse health consequences. Because of the acidity of apple cider vinegar, overconsumption can cause stomach irritation, wear away at your tooth enamel and harm your esophagus.

What is an effective weight loss program?

Health and wellness specialists and doctors — including Dr. Dirk — agree that the most effective weight loss program doesn’t rely on a single superfood, but a comprehensive program of diet and exercise.

Fad diets, superfood and lose-weight-fast regimens are often ineffective and can even be detrimental to your health. Healthy and sustainable weight loss depends upon eating a healthy and balanced diet and incorporating calorie- and fat-burning workouts into your lifestyle.

So what are the real superfoods?

“Real superfoods are any type of food made by nature,” Dr. Dirk says. “Eating a balanced diet of small, frequent meals with minimal amounts of processed foods helps make you super-healthy.”

To learn more about Dr. Dirk’s nutrition recommendations, set up a consultation today.