Eat Smart!

Less Junk Food = More Sleep

Here’s a tip to help you keep junk food out of your diet – get more sleep.

Here’s why.

During a period of sleep restriction, the activity in the brain’s pleasure seeking center increases at the sight of unhealthy foods – like pizza, cheeseburger and cake. But after a full night’s sleep the brain’s reaction to unhealthy and healthy food is about the same.

The results are from a study conducted at Columbia University and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York which involved 25 normal weight participants who were restricted to four hours of sleep or allowed a full night’s sleep for five nights.

Researchers then compared functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that were taken when the subjects looked at images of healthy and unhealthy foods.

The sleep deprived fMRIs showed a more heightened reaction in the brain’s reward centers for the unhealthy foods compared to healthy foods.

“The results suggest that, under restricted sleep, individuals will find unhealthy foods highly salient and rewarding, which may lead to greater consumption of those foods,” said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, the study’s lead researcher.

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Smart Shopping on a Budget

On a budget and trying to eat right? Sometimes all the advice and instructions on how to eat right without breaking the bank can be overwhelming. With that in mind, we found this hand tip sheet from the American Heart Association (which, by the way, has a wealth of tips, easy to read ideas and resources to help you be your best self). The smart shopping tips and advice on how to save money at the grocery store. These tips work together to help you naturally make better, healthier food purchases.

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Easy April Fool’s Day Recipes

Tradition has it that on April 1, back in 1700, English mischief-makers began propagating an annual tradition that became known as April Fools’ Day by playing tricks on each other.

April 1 has also been referred to as All Fools’ Day, and although it has been observed for several centuries by many different cultures, no one is really sure how it originated. Some historians think that April Fools’ Day started in 1582, when France swapped the Julian calendar for the Gregorian calendar.  It’s said that not all the population was aware of the switch. Some people were slow to get the news and didn’t realize that the New Year had moved to January 1 and continued to observe it the last week of March through April 1. These people became the victims of pranks and jokes. Still other historians point to April Fools’ Day being associated with ancient festivals like Hilaria, which Rome observed at the end of March and included people wearing costumes and disguises.

Wherever the tradition evolved from, everyone enjoys a reason to smile and laugh. A good April Fool’s prank should always make both the “victim” and the prankster laugh when the prank is revealed.

April Fool’s Day Sushi and Other Mischief

This week’s Eat Smart post invites you to play a prank with food.  Tell your kiddos they are going to “eat healthy” on April Fool’s Day and serve them a plate of April Fool’s Sushi – an adorable (but NOT healthy) recipe which is really a sugary concoction of Rice Krispies Treats for sushi rice, chocolate syrup for soy sauce and …. You get the idea. You’ll find this recipe over at The Food Network.

Another idea for an April Fool’s Day recipe (and a much healthier option) would be to make “fake” spaghetti using spaghetti squash and a delicious combination of black olives, feta cheese and tomatoes. You can check out the recipe for April Fool’s Day Spaghetti Squash here.


If you like the idea of making “mock food” for April Fool’s Day be sure to check out the photos below. Click on a photo if you see something you’d like to try. It will take you to the website where the recipe is found and you may just find yourself mesmerized by all the different creations people come up with for April Fool’s Day “cuisine.”

Have a Happy April Fool’s Day! Be safe, be smart, be silly and have FUN!

April Fool's Day Recipe for Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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Savor Your Food! It’s National Nutrition Month


March is National Nutrition Month®.  NNM is a nutrition education and information campaign developed annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  As you might guess, the campaign emphasizes the significance of making educated decisions about food and building solid eating and exercise habits.

The theme for 2016 is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” Everyone is encouraged to savor food traditions and appreciate all the delicious flavors while enjoying and participating in the social experiences food can bring to meals and events.

How to Savor Your Food

Take your time. It’s worth noting that Americans are known for rushing through their meals. One Tennessee historian recorded a European visitor’s comments about early American eating habits. Apparently, our propensity to rush through our meals goes back to when we were just a handful of colonies1.

Our fast and furious eating behavior would be considered rude in some countries. In certain European restaurants, it is accepted and even expected that guests will take up to a half hour to decide what to order. It’s a part of the dining ritual to ask questions of the waiter and discuss different menu items.

Don’t Overeat. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for you to feel full? If you’ve ever eaten a meal and felt nauseous, sick to your stomach or as if you swallowed a watermelon, you’ve experienced the consequences of continuing to eat after your body is full. The next time you sit down to eat a meal, keep in mind that your body won’t usually “tell” you it’s full for nearly 20 minutes. Slow your pace. You’ll eat less; feel better and cut back on a few calories, too.

Chew Your Food Completely. Here’s something to pay attention to the next time you are eating. How soon do you put MORE food in your mouth after the first bite? Many people do not finish chewing the food already in their mouth before adding more. Pay attention to how often you don’t finish chewing and swallowing before placing more food in your mouth. You will likely be surprised.

Notice Flavor, Colors and Texture. Yes, it might be your favorite meal. It’s easy to get excited and dig right in. But take a moment to notice the colors. It may sound corny (unless you’re a chef or a food photographer) but take a second to admire the texture and contrast. It’s not a bad idea to photograph the meal and share it with others if this will indirectly help you with your own nutrition goals. Many people also use “Photo Food Logs” to document their daily food intake and help them with their weight maintenance or weight loss goals.

Drop Your Fork and Knife. While you are chewing your food, put your utensils down. Don’t pick them up again until you are finished chewing the first bite. This will help you with the overall process of savoring your food. Placing your utensils on the table while you chew delays the next bite and gives you time to look at your food, noting colors, flavors, texture and contrast. It encourages you to eat slower while being mindful of not overeating.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants us to think about the how, when, why and where we eat.  Whether you are determined not to eat between meals or to stop stress eating or even to eat more, being mindful of these elements can help us develop healthier eating patterns, eliminate stress or boredom eating and improve our overall health.

Savoring your food and take time to notice all the delicious elements involved in creating a meal.  Whether quick and simple or slow and complicated, give your food a little love and you’ll find your body loving it right back.

1. Mindful Eating http://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Eating-Rediscovering-Relationship-Includes/dp/1590305310

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Using Photo Food Logs in Your Wellness Program


Face it, you want variety in your wellness program and a good wellness program includes smart meal choices. It’s Friday and after a week of rotating out meals with ground beef, chicken (or fish sticks for those with young kids), you may want to put together a meal that engages your senses, and makes you feel like it’s a special occasion.

Whatever recipe you choose, whichever wellness program you participate in, did you know that impressing your friends by posting dinner pictures on Instagram and Facebook can help you reach your weight management goals?

Introducing the Photo Food Log…

Instead of writing down everything you eat or using a food and calorie-tracking app, take photos of your food. Just pick up your phone and start snapping shots at each meal. It’s fun and it really helps you understand what you’re doing with your meals and food intake. Facebook and Instagram aside, you’ll be doing something healthy for yourself. If you decide to post your pictures online, you may find that your friends are happy to give you a thumbs-up and provide another form of motivation for you.

When you include a photo food log in your wellness program, you can look at your meals at the end of each day and mentally note what changes you’d like to make the next day. Another way to monitor your progress is to evaluate your photos on a weekly basis. For example, you can take photos of all your meals – then at the end of the week, take stock of your progress. Are you losing weight? Maintaining? How do you FEEL? Are you feeling healthier, better and more energetic? If so, your photos are a good reminder of what to keep doing.

If you feel tired, lethargic and generally not at your best AND your either gaining or not losing weight, you know that your pictures need to look different the next week.

The Importance of Food Tracking

Maintaining a daily food journal, whether written or photographic is an efficient way to track the calories you consume daily. Walkingspree members can also use Walkingspree’s online food tracker.

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood benefits of a food diary is the power of knowing what you’re taking in. Almost everyone thinks they know exactly what they eat daily. You might even go so far as to believe you know the amount of calories you’re consuming at each meal.  Still, the reality is most people eat more than three times daily. The majority of their extra calories undoubtedly come from eating between meals.

Bottom line: When you are able to see what you eat everyday, you’ll know which foods to cut from your meal plans.

A study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, discovered that women (who were overweight or obese) who were participating in a diet program only or diet plus exercise program all lost weight but the women who kept daily food journals actually lost an extra six pounds over the women who did not keep food diaries of some sort.

A Food Journal Can Help You Eat More of the Right Foods

Ever wonder if you are getting enough veggies? Well, when you record your entire daily food intake into a food journal – or when you photograph your food, you’ll begin to notice patterns and trends in how you feel as well as whether or not you reach your daily goals. Some people find that making sure their meals have a variety of color ensures their vegetable intake is optimal. Think red bell peppers or tomatoes, yellow squash, orange peppers, green peas, black beans, white cauliflower, green broccoli, purple eggplant. If you are purposefully building a colorful plate, you will usually have plenty of vegetables in your meal. With a photo food journal, you’ll enjoy taking colorful photos when you do this. You might even find yourself arranging food to make the plate “look prettier.”

Food Journals Can Adjust Your Habits Gradually

If you are writing down, digitally tracking or photographing your food, you might be surprised to notice, over time, that your eating habits change. You’ll find yourself naturally selecting healthier ingredients or menu options. It is as simple “if you feel better and healthier – you’re probably eating healthier.”

And, in any wellness program, that is always a good thing!

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