Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Finding {Food} Balance

Being a new Mom to eight-month old twins I’m loving every minute of it, but I’ve found that my personal health has become short changed and even though I preach proper nutrition all day long, all that seems to fly out the window once I walk through the door at home in the afternoons.  I have to remind myself that a balanced diet is a cornerstone of health and if I’m not healthy, how can I take care of my sweet babies?

A few things to remember when seeking nutritional balance:

Women should enjoy a variety of foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Nutrient-rich foods provide energy for women’s busy lives and help to prevent disease.

A healthy daily diet includes:

•At least three one-ounce servings of whole grains such as whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice or oats.
•Three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese.
•Five to six ounces of protein such as lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans or peas and nuts.
•Two cups of fruits, fresh, frozen or canned without added sugar.
•Two-and-a-half cups of colorful vegetables, fresh, frozen or canned without added salt.

Iron is one of the keys to good health and energy levels in women. Being a Mom of two babies under the age of one, I really focus on getting these in every day.  Iron-rich food sources include red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils and fortified breads and cereals. Plant-based sources of iron are more easily absorbed by your body when eaten with vitamin C-rich foods. So eat fortified cereal with strawberries on top, spinach salad with mandarin orange slices or add tomatoes to lentil soup.

To keep weight in check at any age, women should avoid a lot of excess calories from added sugars, fat and alcohol.

•Limit regular soft drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, baked goods and fried foods.
•Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
•Opt for low-fat dairy and meat products instead of their full-fat counterparts.

Eat fewer foods that are high in saturated fat—the kind found in fatty meats, sausages, cheese and full-fat dairy products, baked goods and pizza.  This is not only good for your waistline, but really great for your heart health.

Balancing Calories Throughout Your Day

Snack time isn’t just for kids.  It’s for grown-ups, too, and can be an important part of a healthy diet.  Snacks get such a bad rap, but really it is beneficial to have about three meals and one or two healthy snacks every day.  Having one or two healthy snacks in your day may help you get through that late afternoon slump and prevent you from eating too much at your next meal.  And healthy snacks can be really colorful and tasty, too!

Eating fruits and vegetables with snacks is always recommended because these are food groups most of us don’t get enough of, and they are the lowest calorie food groups, so we can eat a lot of them.  But did you know that you can mix and match healthy foods from any of the five food groups?  Worried about overdoing it?  Just keep your snacks to under 200 calories each.  So get creative with those lonely baby carrots—what else can you eat with them that you love?  How about hummus, low-fat yogurt dip, nuts, mango salsa, wheat crackers, bean dip?  Any of these choices are winning snacks that will taste great.

Other ideas include:

•   4 ounces lean deli meat
    1 large fruit
•  Whole Wheat crackers                                                                            
    1 – 2% string cheese
    3-5 thin slices lunch meat

•  1 pack Nature Valley Granola Bars
    1 – 2% string cheese

•  ½ peanut butter sandwich on                                                              
   whole grain (1 Tbs. PB)                                                                            
   1 small apple

•  2 oz beef or turkey jerky
   1 – 2% string cheese
   15 nuts                                                                                                                

•  1 light yogurt w/                                                                                          
   1 Tbs. lite cool whip
   1 fruit

•  Kashi TLC Granola Bar
   15 nuts
•  10 pretzels                                                                                                    
    1 Tbs. peanut butter                                                                                    

•  Chewy Quaker Granola Bar                                                                                                            
    12 oz skim milk
•  1 pack (of 6) peanut butter                                                                      

•  Homemade Trail Mix
   1 cup whole grain cereal
   15-20 nuts
   1-2 Tbs. dried fruit

•  Energy Bar                                                                                                    
   (South Beach Protein, Clif Mojo,                                                                    
   Power Bar Harvest, Zone, Luna,                                                                  
   Advantage Peanut Butter Granola)                                                              

• 1 pack South Beach Cookies
  10 oz skim milk or a string cheese

• 1 small banana                                                                                            
   ½ peanut butter sandwich on wheat                                                  
   (1 Tbs. PB)

• 1 light yogurt                                                                                                          
   ½ cup whole grain cereal mixed in                                                                              
  15 almonds

• 2 graham crackers
  1 Tbs. peanut butter
  Light yogurt                                                                          

• Slim Fast High Protein Drink

Some important healthy snacking rules to remember are:

One or two healthy snacks that are carefully planned in your day may help keep you from overeating at your next meal and provide you with valuable nutrients if you choose wisely. Consider having at least one food group for a snack, if not two.  For example, consider having a fruit and a protein for a snack, such as applesauce and pistachio nuts.  Combining nutrients this way helps that snack to do its job as a mini meal.   The carbohydrates will give you immediate energy while the protein takes longer to digest- keeping us satisfied until our next meal time.  Please don’t mistake healthy snacking for grazing throughout the day, which is not recommended.

Eat snacks that are under 200 calories.  This fits for most adults, but you may need more or fewer calories for snacks based on your physical activity level and how your calories are divided into your other meals.

Healthy snacks are limited only by your imagination.  Many meal items in small portions make great snacks, too, such as a ½ sandwich or cup of soup.  And a piece of whole fruit, handful of nuts, or a slice of veggie pizza makes quick snacks.

We have become a very mobile society.  You may feel like you spend half your life in a car just trying to get from one place to another.  It makes the trip a LOT longer if you are hungry.  Keeping portable snacks with you helps curb the need to go through a drive thru.  Nuts, granola bars, bottled water, crackers, etc. are all great snacks to keep in the glove compartment to bring out when you are hungry.  Portable snacks are snacks that don’t need refrigeration, don’t expire quickly, don’t squish or smash easily, and fit in a bag or container well.

Life is so busy, but it makes it so much easier to manage when I’m properly nourished and feeling good!  Our families are important, no doubt, but making time for taking care of ourselves should be at the top of that list of daily to-do’s!  

Amber Massey is a registered dietitian for the Executive Health Program at Texas Health Harris Methodist 
Hospital Fort Worth and Mom to twin girls.

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