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DIY Monday: Homemade Lunchables

Re-blogged From: The CSI Project

Homemade Lunchables
By: Nike

I’m thrilled to be here sharing back to school ideas this morning to help me and my six kiddos this year!

So here’s the deal:

I have a love/hate relationship with my kids’  lunches. 

hate shopping trips with my kids begging for all the pricey, pre-packaged lunch stuff that’s loaded with preservatives and wasteful packaging.

Sheesh that junk is expensive.

But the convenience? Oh how I love the convenience.

And there are times of the year when our schedule is so crazy that I cave and load up the cart with lunchables, little bags of crackers and jello packs just so that we can pull a lunch or snack together in two seconds flat.

But no more!

I’m here today to share my plan to eat healthier, save money and still enjoy the convenience that me and my kids crave.  And I hope you’ll tweak the ideas below to fit your family’s budget and nutritional preferences.

#1 – The Lunchable

Why?

Reusing the store bought tray and packing your own lunch meat, real cheese, crackers and a little treat will save you 40% — $0.60 for homemade vs. $1.00 for the store bought one. Plus the homemade version boasts real cheese, extra calcium and fewer preservatives.

A quick layer of Glad press ‘n’ seal or aluminum foil keep everything in place just like the original.

Don’t have a left-over lunchable tray? Or want a bigger tray to up the serving size for older kids?

No problem. You make your own dividers like I did for this dollar store container using an empty milk jug.

And that extra space means you can supplement that lunchable with some fruits and veggies without spending more than the store bought version.

Which $1 lunch would you rather send with your kids?

For a drink my kids prefer the juice pouch …

… while I’m more in favor of the reusable water bottle which make lunch $1.20 the first day and $0.98 every day after.

So we’ll do both: water most of the week and juice boxes on Friday for a little bit of a treat.

Either way these lunches come in significantly less than our $1.60 school lunch and WAY CHEAPER than the big-drink-included-lunchables at the store:

Really? $3.00 for a $1.00 lunchable and $2.00 juice pouch? Um, no thanks.

#2 – The Pudding & Jello Packs

Why?

Reusing those little cups (or the small tupperware containers with lids) and making your own will keep the cost and preservatives way down.

Same thing for the gelatin cups:

Making just this switch alone will save you a truck load. Six cents a cup vs. $0.56 for Jell-o brand? You could easily cover back-to-school paper supplies, back packs and shoes with just that little switch.

#3 – The Fruit Cups

The reduction in packaging, costs and preservatives make these easy switches.

 

#4 – The Mini Cracker Bags

You can enjoy the name brand crackers and still save almost 40% when you prepackage them yourself using $0.01 snack size sandwich bags. Just check out the cost per serving:

If you don’t mind generic, you can reduce those costs another 50+ percent.

And it’s just as convenient to grab a home-packed bag as the store packaged variety. The only difference is the price.

A few more THRIVE tips:

1. The ideas above are only guidelines. Each family will have their own nutrition and budget preferences. The idea is that by getting creative with recycled/reusable packaging, you can still enjoy the convenience of off-the-shelf while controlling costs and ingredients. So feel free to make your own tweaks with whole grain crackers, organic produce and nitrate-free meat. Or try packing a lunchable with mini tuna or PB&J sandwiches. Have fun!

2. Make your kids help with the prep work! They’re the ones asking for the “cool” packaging so they can help. It’s also a great way to teach basic food prep and math skills like measuring ingredients and dividing portions.

3. Have your kids help you shop! Don’t laugh — I’m serious. This is a fantastic chance to practice real life math skills as they determine price per unit, ounce or pound.  There’s also lots of fun ways to to teach math, spelling and budgeting with kids during shopping trips here.

3. Have cheese for sandwiches or lunchables pre-sliced at the deli. I buy the economy loaves and have them sliced right there at the store for no extra charge. It saves so much time and keeps the portions equal.

4. Rock What Ya Got! If your kids are like mine and want the meat for their homemade lunchables to be round like the store bought variety, trying using the lid of a spice jar.  (My cookie cutters aren’t the right size). Stack the meat in three layers and cut away. The lids from my 2/$1 Walmart spices worked perfectly.

And don’t toss those scraps! I save mine in a ziploc bag in the frig to use in omelets and salads.

5. Incorporate fresh produce from the garden! Now is a great time to up the nutrition with yummy, home ground fruits and veggies. I love it when I can ditch the high fructose corn syrup fruit snacks and send my kids with the homemade variety.

They have a soft, chewy texture like other dried fruits and are only $0.01 per serving vs. $0.20 for the cheapest store bought variety!  You check out the recipe here.

Yum!

… and finally …

6. Pennies add up! I know some of you may look at $0.25 or $0.50 savings a day and think it’s not worth it. But trust me – it so is! My kids have been back to school for a month now (year round school) and I’ve kept track of what we would have spent to buy the prepackage stuff vs. packing our own.  So far our averaging savings is around $8 a week.

If our family takes out the money saved each week and transfers it into savings (or puts it in an envelope Dave Ramsey style), that $8/week times 25 weeks of school should work out to $200 by the end of the year.  And $200 divided between my four school-aged kids equals $50 a piece, or enough to buy a new pair of shoes, back pack and classroom supplies for each of them.

Eating healthier, using less packaging, teaching my kids about cooking-meal planning-math-budgetting AND financing back-to-school shopping for next year? That’s so worth it to me!

Hope you and your kids have fun shopping for your own creative ways to make smarter lunch choices! And be sure to stop by THRIVE for more ideas for living and crafting without spending a dime. Hope to see you soon!

COPYRIGHT © 2012 · GENESIS FRAMEWORK

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The Nutrition Of Whole Wheat Bread

So what is the big deal with the nutrition of whole wheat bread? As far as calories go, refined white bread and whole wheat bread are very similar. Both breads contain approximately 70 calories per slice. The difference is what kind of calories you are getting. Whole wheat bread gives you many important nutrients. Many processed breads add vitamins to the flour, but it is best to get your nutrients from the grain itself and not artificially through the refining process. It is important to note that white bread can come from “whole wheat” and wheat bread can become as processed as white breads. The key is to make sure you are buying bread that says whole grain wheat. This article discusses the nutritional components of whole wheat bread.

Fiber

Unlike processed white bread, whole wheat bread contains bran, which contributes to its high fiber content. Processed white bread has undergone a refining process which strips it of fiber. White bread contains approximately .5 grams of fiber per slice, whereas whole wheat bread contains approximately two grams of fiber per slice. Fiber is beneficial for many reasons. Fiber will leave you feeling satisfied for a longer period of time. Fiber decreases low-density lipo-protein cholesterol, and contributes to a healthy heart.

Protein

One slice of whole wheat bread contains just less than five grams of protein. The protein concentration varies in whole wheat breads. As a general rule, the more “hard” the wheat bread is, the more protein it contains. Processed bread contains less than two grams of protein per slice. The protein found in whole grain can contribute to the daily recommended amount, without adding saturated fat. The protein in whole wheat bread comes from wheat gluten.

Carbohydrates

The carbohydrates in whole wheat bread can provide your body with the energy it needs. One slice of whole wheat bread contains approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates. The carbohydrates in whole wheat bread can actually contribute to weight loss, so don’t fear them. These carbohydrates are low on the glycemic index, so they won’t increase your blood sugar, like many simple carbohydrates.

Wheat Germ

Whole wheat bread still contains the wheat germ. Wheat germ is a part of the seed of the grain. Wheat germ contains many nutrients like vitamin E and folate. These vitamins are important for a healthy heart. Vitamin E promotes healthy skin and hair. Wheat germ also contains essential omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s protect against heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Omega 3 fatty acids have also shown to contribute to brain function.

As you can see whole wheat bread can be an important source of nutrition and part of a balanced diet. If you prefer the sweeter taste of white bread, don’t worry. You can buy whole wheat “white” bread which is actually wheat bread that is made from an albino grain, instead of the red grain from which traditional whole wheat bread is derived. The albino wheat grain, which resembles the taste of “white” bread contains as many nutrients as the red grain wheat bread.

Whole-Wheat Bread vs. Multigrain Bread

In order to have a productive day, you need a healthy breakfast. Toast is a staple of the most important meal of the day. However, it can be difficult to know which bread offers you the most health benefits and can help you create a well-rounded, heart healthy diet. Though multigrain bread is all the rage these days, research suggests that whole wheat bread may be healthier for you. In fact, experts recommend that adults eat at least three servings of whole grain products, such whole wheat bread a day. Here are some of the ways that whole wheat bread differs from multigrain.

Whole Grain Contains More Essential Nutrients

The term “whole grain” refers to flour that is made from all parts of the wheat grain kernel–the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran and germ are the most nutritious parts of the wheat grain. They contain vitamin B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, cooper, iron and dietary fiber. During the refinement process, the majority of these nutrients get lost. Multigrain bread is made from a variety of different types of grains, such as wheat, oat and barley. However, unless the label indicates that a product is made from whole grain, your multigrain bread may be made of refined flour and missing the key nutrients found in the bran and germ.

Whole Grains Take Longer to Get Absorbed into the Body

Eating a diet full of whole grains can reduce your risk for diabetes and heart disease. It takes the body longer to absorb whole grain products like whole wheat bread. The slower absorption rate prevents sharp rises in sugar and insulin levels. If multigrain bread is not whole grain, it gets absorbed by the body at a quicker rate and could spike insulin levels.

Whole Grains Have More Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is a crucial part of any weight loss regime. Soluble fiber slows down the digestive process, allowing the food to spend more time in the digestive tract and increasing the amount of nutrients absorbed into the body. Fiber also creates a feeling of fullness, making you less likely to over indulge. Fiber can also reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. Whole wheat bread has a ton of dietary fiber, as the majority of the fiber is found in the germ. However, most multigrain bread is refined and does not have the fiber content of whole wheat.

Whole Wheat Bread is a Great Source of Complex Carbohydrates

Your body needs sufficient fuel to get through challenging workouts. Whole wheat bread is a great source of complex carbohydrates. A few slices of wheat bread can give your body the energy it needs to get through even the most grueling exercise routines. Unless it is made with whole grain, multigrain bread is full of simple carbohydrates. These carbs take less time to process and are quickly converted into glucose.

If you’re looking to lose weight and build muscle, whole wheat bread is the safest and smartest food choice. Multigrain may sound appealing. However, unless it’s made with whole grains, it has the same nutritional value as processed white bread. Consumers should choose anything that says whole grain. Read labels carefully. Something that says “made with whole grain” usually means made with very little. I look for 100% whole grain or if the first ingredient is whole wheat flour. If it says wheat flour that means it is refined flour, not whole wheat. Consumers need to be familiar with which grains are whole grain and look for those as ingredients. The Whole Grain Council also has a stamp that they put on whole grain products, so people can look for that whole grain stamp on the packages of whole grain products.

So there you have it – this information should make us all better-informed whole wheat/whole grain shoppers.

Source:Fit Day

Infused “Spa” Water

For years, top spas from around the world have touted the amazing health benefits of healthy hydration and strived to create healthier more delicious and aesthetically appealing fruit, herb and floral infused waters to pamper their guests. These naturally infused vitamin waters not only replenish and enhance relaxation but are also beautiful and refreshing!

So do you want to give your home spa the finishing touch? Want to calm yourself in a sip? Or maybe you just need a more interesting way to get the recommended 8 glasses a day. Whatever your motive, infused “spa” water is perfect for this purpose. It’s healthy, tasty, inexpensive, and refreshing too. Try some, your body will thank you!

Infused “Spa”  Water FAQ

What size containers do you use?

For an individual serving use a 28 oz ball or mason jar. Try to drink two of mason jars a day to make sure you are properly hydrated. Using measurable containers helps to regulate how much water you are drinking, plus they are cheap and convenient. Want to make a batch for the whole family?  Go ahead, knock yourself out and make a pitcher full.

How long should I infuse the water?

Each water recipe is different, but a good rule of thumb is to infuse for at least four hours to get the most flavor. The best way is to infuse waters overnight in the refridgerator.

Can I leave the infused “spa” water out overnight?

Absolutely. Would you be worried if you left a lemon or some raspberries out overnight at room temperature? Probably not. Fruit immersed in water will not change its chemical structure or cause bacteria to grow.

Is it important to use organic fruit and herbs?

If you are infusing fruit with the rind on, such as lemon slices, you should use organic fruit. Otherwise, you could potentially be drinking pesticides – gross! If you don’t have access to organic produce, simply cut the rinds off.

Is there any nutritional value to infused waters?

Yup. Nutrients leak out of the fruit into the water. You don’t get as many vitamins as you would if you were drinking fruit juice, but you don’t get the extra calories or fructose either.

How To Make Infused “Spa” Water

1. Decide what type of spa water you want- here are the main types, but feel free to improvise.

  •  Lemon Water: Pure, fresh water with crisp lemon slices and maybe a dash of sugar. Best as a healthy alternative to lemonade, or to relax and perk up after a hard day.
  • Orange and Lime Water: Clean, mineral enhanced water with a few small slices of lime and orange alternating. Best for spa treatments.
  • Cucumber Water: Clean, pure water with 3-6, depending on pitcher size, large cucumber slices. Best after working out. Also, if you’re a kid, a less embarrassing way to get your vegetables.
  • Peach Water: Just plain yummy! Peach slices in clean water. Also good in seltzer, these are good for parties (spa night, anyone?)

2. Gather your ingredients.

3. Fill a pitcher with cool water, and add a few ice cubes if desired.

4. Slice chosen fruit(s) into desired size- this varies depending on the size of the container you are using. Be careful not to put in too many or too large slices- this will cause the water to be overpowering, and make it seem pulpy and more like juice. Which you don’t want. Spa water should hint at the taste of said fruit, not completely give it.

5. Put the slices into the container(s), shake a little, and wait a few hours or overnight for the taste to set in.

6. Pour a little into a glass and sample it. There should be little to no pulp, just a hint of flavor, and you should feel refreshed

Source(s):

  1. InfusedSpaWater.Com
  2. SpaWaterRecipes.Com
  3. WikiHow.Com/Make-Spa-Water

Vitamins and Minerals

Breakfast cereals advertise that they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. Sports drinks claim they can rev up your flagging energy with a jolt of vitamins or minerals (sorry, but even powerful vitamins and minerals can’t act that fast!). You know vitamins and minerals are good for you. But which ones does your body really need? And is it possible to get too much of a good thing?

What Are Vitamins and Minerals?

Vitamins and minerals make people’s bodies work properly. Although you get vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat every day, some foods have more vitamins and minerals than others.

Vitamins fall into two categories: fat soluble and water soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins — A, D, E, and K — dissolve in fat and can be stored in your body. The water-soluble vitamins — C and the B-complex vitamins (such as vitamins B6, B12, niacin, riboflavin, and folate) — need to dissolve in water before your body can absorb them. Because of this, your body can’t store these vitamins. Any vitamin C or B that your body doesn’t use as it passes through your system is lost (mostly when you pee). So you need a fresh supply of these vitamins every day.

Whereas vitamins are organic substances (made by plants or animals), minerals are inorganic elements that come from the soil and water and are absorbed by plants or eaten by animals. Your body needs larger amounts of some minerals, such as calcium, to grow and stay healthy. Other minerals like chromium, copper, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc are called trace minerals because you only need very small amounts of them each day.

What Do Vitamins and Minerals Do?

Vitamins and minerals boost the immune system, support normal growth and development, and help cells and organs do their jobs. For example, you’ve probably heard that carrots are good for your eyes. It’s true! Carrots are full of substances called carotenoidsthat your body converts into vitamin A, which helps prevent eye problems.

Another vitamin, vitamin K, helps blood to clot (so cuts and scrapes stop bleeding quickly). You’ll find vitamin K in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and soybeans. And to have strong bones, you need to eat foods such as milk, yogurt, and green leafy vegetables, which are rich in the mineral calcium.

Fuel for Growth

People go through a lot of physical changes — including growth and puberty — during their teenage years. Eating right during this time is especially important because the body needs a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow, develop, and stay healthy.

Eating a variety of foods is the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals you need each day, as well as the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and calories. Whole or unprocessed foods — like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, and poultry — are the best choices for providing the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and grow properly.

It’s OK to eat foods like potato chips and cookies once in a while, but you don’t want to overdo high-calorie foods like these that offer little nutritionally.

To choose healthy foods, check food labels and pick items that are high in vitamins and minerals. For example, if you’re choosing beverages, you’ll find that a glass of milk is a good source of vitamin D and the minerals calcium, phosphorous, and potassium. A glass of soda, on the other hand, offers very few vitamins or minerals — if any.

You can also satisfy your taste buds without sacrificing nutrition while eating out: Vegetable pizzas or fajitas, sandwiches with lean cuts of meat, fresh salads, and baked potatoes are just a few delicious, nutritious choices.

If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll need to plan carefully for a diet that offers the vitamins and minerals found primarily in meats. The best sources for the minerals zinc and iron are meats, fish, and poultry. However, you can get zinc and iron in dried beans, seeds, nuts, and leafy green vegetables like kale.

Vitamin B12, which is important for manufacturing red blood cells, is not found in plant foods. If you don’t eat meat, you can find vitamin B12 in eggs, milk and other dairy foods, and fortified breakfast cereals. Vegans (vegetarians who eat no animal products at all, including dairy products) may need to take vitamin supplements. If you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about how to plan a healthy, balanced diet.

Common Concerns

Lots of teens wonder if they should take vitamin or mineral supplements. If your diet includes a wide variety of foods, including whole-grain products, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, nuts, seeds, eggs, and meats, then you are probably getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

But if you’re skipping meals, dieting, or if you’re concerned that you’re not eating enough items from a particular category, such as vegetables or dairy products, then talk to your doctor or to a registered dietitian. These professionals can help you create an eating plan that includes the nutrients your body needs.

Check with your doctor before taking vitamin or mineral supplements. Some people think that if something is good for you, then the more you take in, the healthier you’ll be. But that’s not necessarily true when it comes to vitamins and minerals. For example, fat-soluble vitamins or minerals, which the body stores and excretes more slowly, can build up in your system to levels where they could cause problems.

If you do take supplements, you should be careful not to get more than 100% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for a particular vitamin or mineral. The RDA is calculated to provide 100% of the dietary needs for 98.6% of the population. Chances are that’s all you need.

There are hundreds of supplements on the market and of course their manufacturers want you to purchase them. Beware of unproven claims about the benefits of taking more than recommended amounts of any vitamin or mineral. A healthy teen usually doesn’t need supplements if he or she is eating a well-rounded diet.

Your best bet for getting the vitamins and minerals you need is to eat a wide variety of healthy foods and skip the vitamin pills. You’ll feel better overall and won’t run the risk of overdoing your vitamin and mineral intake.

 *DISCLAIMER: All information is for educational purposes only.

For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2012 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.

Becoming A Vegetarian

Why Do People Become Vegetarians?

For much of the world, vegetarianism is largely a matter of economics: Meat costs a lot more than, say, beans or rice, so meat becomes a special-occasion dish (if it’s eaten at all). Even where meat is more plentiful, it’s still used in moderation, often providing a side note to a meal rather than taking center stage.

In countries like the United States where meat is not as expensive, though, people often choose to be vegetarians for reasons other than cost. Parental preferences, religious or other beliefs, and health issues are among the most common reasons for choosing to be a vegetarian. Many people choose a vegetarian diet out of concern over animal rights or the environment. And lots of people have more than one reason for choosing vegetarianism.

Types Of Vegetarians

One thing that many people don’t realize or understand is that there are different types of vegetarians. Each individual vegetarian has his or her own personal reasons for choosing their diet, and these reasons determine exactly what foods they eliminate. Although a few different reasons and motivations are described in the Why? section, below is just a brief definition of some types of vegetarians.

  • Total Vegetarians eat only plant food. They do not eat any animal foods, including fish, eggs, dairy products, and honey.
  • Vegans not only omit all animal products from their diets, but they also eliminate them from the rest of their life. Vegans use nothing from animals, such as leather, wool, and silk.
  • Lacto-Vegetarians will include dairy products into their diet of plant food.
  • Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarians eat both eggs and dairy products.
  • Pesco-Vegetarians include fish into their diets.
  • Pollo-Vegetarians eat poultry, such as chicken, turkey, and duck.
  • Pollo-Pesco Vegetarians which includes poultry and fish, or “white meat” only.
  • Macrobiotic diet consist mostly of whole grains and beans.

Is A Vegetarian Diet OK?

In the past, choosing not to eat meat or animal-based foods was considered unusual in the United States. Times and attitudes have changed dramatically, however. Vegetarians are still a minority in the United States, but a large and growing one. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) has officially endorsed vegetarianism, stating “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”

So what does this mean for you? If you’re already a vegetarian, or are thinking of becoming one, you’re in good company. There are more choices in the supermarket than ever before, and an increasing number of restaurants and schools are providing vegetarian options — way beyond a basic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

If you’re choosing a vegetarian diet, the most important thing you can do is to educate yourself. That’s why the ADA says that a vegetarian diet needs to be “appropriately planned.” Simply dropping certain foods from your diet isn’t the way to go if you’re interested in maintaining good health, a high energy level, and strong muscles and bones.

Vegetarians have to be careful to include the following key nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet:

  • iron
  • calcium
  • protein
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin B12
  • zinc

If meat, fish, dairy products, and/or eggs are not going to be part of your diet, you’ll need to know how to get enough of these nutrients, or you may need to take a daily multiple vitamin and mineral supplement.

Iron

Sea vegetables like nori, wakame, and dulse are very high in iron. Less exotic but still good options are iron-fortified breakfast cereals, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, and baked beans), soybeans and tofu, dried fruit (raisins and figs), pumpkin seeds, broccoli, and blackstrap molasses. Eating these foods along with a food high in vitamin C (citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, and broccoli) will help you to absorb the iron better.

Girls need to be particularly concerned about getting adequate iron because some iron is lost during menstruation. Some girls who are vegetarians may not get adequate iron from vegetable sources and they may require a daily supplement. Check with your doctor about your own iron needs.

Calcium

Milk and yogurt are tops if you’re eating dairy products — although vegetarians will want to look for yogurt that does not contain the meat byproduct gelatin. Tofu, fortified soy milk, calcium-fortified orange juice, green leafy vegetables, and dried figs are also excellent ways for vegetarians (and vegans) to get calcium. If you are a teen you’re building up your bones for the rest of your life.

Because women have a greater risk for getting osteoporosis (weak bones) as adults, it’s particularly important for girls to make sure they get enough calcium. Again, taking a supplement may be necessary to ensure this.

Vitamin D

We need vitamin D to get calcium into our bones. Your body manufactures vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Cow’s milk is top on the list for food sources of this vitamin. Vegans can try fortified soy milk and fortified breakfast cereals.

Some people may need a supplement that includes vitamin D, especially during the winter months. Everyone should have some exposure to the sun to help the body produce vitamin D.

Protein

Before, it was thought that vegetarians needed to combine incomplete plant proteins in one meal — like red beans and rice — to make the type of complete proteins found in meat. We now know that it’s not that complicated. Current recommendations are that vegetarians eat a wide variety of foods during the course of a day.

Eggs and dairy products are good sources of protein, but also try nuts, peanut butter, tofu, beans, seeds, soy milk, grains, cereals, and vegetables to get all the protein your body needs.

Vitamin B12

B12 is an essential vitamin found only in animal products, including eggs and dairy. Fortified soy milk and fortified breakfast cereals also have this important vitamin. It’s hard to get enough vitamin B12 in your diet if you are vegan, so a supplement may be needed.

Zinc

If you’re not eating dairy foods, make sure fortified cereals, dried beans, nuts, and soy products like tofu and tempeh are part of your diet so you can meet your daily requirement for this important mineral.

Fat, Calories, and Fiber

In addition to vitamins and minerals, vegetarians need to keep an eye on their total intake of calories and fat. Vegetarian diets tend to be high in fiber and low in fat and calories. That may be good for people who need to lose weight or lower their cholesterol but it can be a problem for kids and teens who are still growing and people who are already at a healthy weight.

Some vegetarians (especially vegans) may not get enough omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are good for heart health and are found in fish and eggs. Some products, such as soy milk and breakfast bars, are fortified with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid.

High-fiber diets tend to be more filling, and as a result strict vegetarians may feel full before they’ve eaten enough calories to keep their bodies healthy and strong. It’s a good idea to let your doctor know that you’re a vegetarian so that he or she can keep on eye on your growth and make sure you’re still getting adequate amounts of calories and fat.

Getting Some Guidance

If you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian, consider making an appointment to talk with a registered dietitian who can go over lists of foods that would give you the nutrients you need. A dietitian can discuss ways to prevent conditions such as iron-deficiency anemia that you might be at an increased risk for if you stop eating meat.

Also, remember to take a daily standard multivitamin, just in case you miss getting enough vitamins or minerals that day.

Tips for Dining Out

Eating at restaurants can be difficult for vegetarians sometimes, but if you do eat fish, you can usually find something suitable on the menu. If not, opt for salad and an appetizer or two — or ask if the meat can be removed. Even fast-food places sometimes have vegetarian choices, such as bean tacos and burritos, veggie burgers, and soy cheese pizza.

Vegetarians can opt for pasta, along with plenty of vegetables, grains, and fruits. You may also find that the veggie burgers, hot dogs, and chicken substitutes available in your local grocery store taste very much like the real thing. Try the ground meat substitute as a stand-in for beef in foods like tacos and spaghetti sauce.

Regardless of whether you choose a vegetarian way of life, it’s always a healthy idea to eat a wide variety of foods and try out new foods when you can.

Famous Vegetarians

All of these actors, musicians, writers, scientists, and artists have maintained a vegetarian diet. Although probably all would testify of reaping many physical benefits, some even contribute their creativity and clear thinking to their healthy eating style.

Paul Newman Paul McCartney Bob Dylan John Denver

“Chubby” Checker Gladys KnightThe B-52’s Leonardo da Vinci

Leo Tolstoy Sir Issac Newton Ralph Waldo Emerson Upton Sinclair

Charles Darwin Ghandi Henry David Thoreau Socrates

*NOTE: All information on Becoming A Vegetarian is for educational purposes only.
For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2012 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.

The Best (and Tastiest) Foods For Your Heart

A heart-smart lifestyle starts with the foods on your plate. Improve your diet with these tasty choices that contain the top nutrients your heart needs, from vitamins and minerals to antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.

“Most people know that heart-healthy foods are a big part of heart health. The key is educating them on how to make changes in their diet,” says Cindy Neels, MPH, RD, LDN, a dietitian with the cardiac rehabilitation program at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass. Great heart-healthy foods that include antioxidants, lean proteins, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids will all help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your lipid levels in check for better heart health — and best of all, they taste good, too.

Salmon Delivers Omega-3 Fatty Acids

“Coldwater fish like salmon contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and are a great source of lean protein,” says Neels. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids because they are important for heart health — and your body can’t make them. That means you need to include them in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut at least two times every week.

Go Nuts for Walnuts

“Walnuts and other nuts have plenty ofomega-3 fatty acids, but they are also high in calories,” says Neel, so stick with a handful. “You also want to eat them without salt.” Studies show that walnuts can lower bad cholesterol levels, as well as lowering a chemical called endothelin that contributes to the inflammation that causes plaques to form in coronary arteries. Also to consider: Nut oils are one of the highest sources of dietary omega-3 fatty acids for heart health.

Try Blueberries for an Antioxidant Boost

“Blueberries are packed withantioxidants, which help remove free radicals that can cause damage to heart cells,” says Neels. Free radicals are harmful molecules that get into your system when you break down foods and from environmental pollutants such as tobacco smoke. These molecules contribute to heart disease, so foods with antioxidants are especially good for heart health.

Mom Was Right: Eat Your Spinach

“Spinach is a really great heart-healthy food,” says Neels. “Spinach has just about everything your heart needs, including plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber.” Spinach is particularly rich in the water-soluble B vitamin called folate. Folate is important for building and maintaining healthy cells, especially healthy red blood cells needed for heart health.

Use Olive Oil for Heart-Healthy Fat

Olive oil, an unsaturated fat, is one of the key ingredients of the Mediterranean diet, and studies have found that people who follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop heart disease. Unsaturated fat has the ability to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, so it’s excellent for heart health. Olive oil also adds a rich taste to cooking and makes a great salad dressing for heart-healthy greens when paired with a little red wine vinegar or lemon juice.

Enjoy Natural Whole Grains for Fiber

The grains in whole-wheat breads and other whole grain products are great heart-healthy foods. “These whole grainsreduce bad cholesterol and add an important source of fiber,” says Neels. “Since fiber fills you up and slows down your digestion, it is important for maintaining a healthy weight.” In addition to whole wheat, barley and oats are other good options to include in your diet. Natural whole grains deliver B vitamins, iron, and magnesium for heart health.

Opt for Brown Rice Instead of White

The difference between brown and white is the difference between whole and refined grains. When grain products like rice, pasta, and bread are refined, the outer kernel of the grain is removed, and so are most of their heart-healthy food benefits. The outer capsule of the grain is where most of the vitamins and fiber are. Think of that capsule as a slow-release pill — grains with their capsule are always better for heart health.

Eat Poultry for Lean Protein

Although you should base your heart-healthy diet around fruits and vegetables, you also need protein. Saturated fats in many meat proteins are not heart-healthy foods, but poultry can be. “Chicken or turkey without the skin is a great source of lean protein, almost as lean as fish,” notes Neels. Watch out for chicken that is pre-marinated or self-basting, such as rotisserie chicken. These products may have lots of added salt and calories that are not conducive to heart health.

Be Mindful of Other Meats

“Other than chicken, the best lean meat for heart health protein is pork tenderloin,” says Neels. If you just have to have some red meat, round steaks, roasts, tip loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder are better for you than other cuts. “Read the label carefully if you are buying ground beef,” advises Neels. “‘Reduced fat’ ground beef can still be close to 30 percent fat. You can get down as low as 3 percent if you look for it.”

Substitute Beans for Meat

Dried beans are a great meat substitute. For optimum heart health, at least once a week, base a meal around beans instead of meat. “Beans are non-fat, high protein, and fiber-rich, so they are great heart-healthy foods,” says Neel. One final thought as you cook with beans and other heart-healthy foods is to reduce your salt intake. Too much salt is a major cause of high blood pressure and heart disease. Try using fresh herbs and a little touch of antioxidant-rich lemon juice to flavor your foods in place of salt.

Copyright © 2012 Everyday Health, Inc.

Why Antioxidants Are Vital To Your Health

Antioxidants have gotten a lot of good press over the past decade or so. The more we learn about them the more we realize just how essential they are to good health. Among the things we know they do: fight disease, boost the immune system, nourish healthy skin, fight the effects of aging, preserve or restore heart health, increase stamina, kick start your energy, and combat cancer. Scientists are still discovering all of the things antioxidants can do.

After 40

Why do we age? And, more importantly, why do we have to look old as we age? One theory of aging that is gaining a lot of traction today is the free-radical theory of aging (FRTA). Free radicals are rogue, unstable molecules that cruise around the body. Because the free radicals are unstable and off-balance, they seek to attach themselves to more stable molecules, including the cells of your skin, your heart, your lungs, and other important body areas. But once the free radical gloms onto the healthy molecule, it creates damage. So now you no longer have a free radical, but you do have a damaged cell. Everybody has free radicals, even babies. The miraculous human body contains many built-in systems aimed at keeping these rogue molecules in check and destroying them. But sometimes the free radicals overwhelm the body’s natural defenses. This can happen when you get sick, you are overly stressed (including being tired), or you do not nourish your body properly. Many foods are just loaded with free radicals, so you could be doing some of this damage with your own fork. One other thing that can cause the free radicals to go haywire—age. As we get older, our bodies’ natural defense systems get weaker. The FRTA theory states that over time, damage from free radicals builds up and we start to look and feel old. Antioxidants are substances that take out free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules and the very name antioxidant tells us that these substances are “anti” free radicals. Antioxidants wipe out free radicals and, in so doing, may reduce the signs of aging, preserve health, boost the immune system, raise our energy level, and make us feel good.

Seven Good Food Sources For Antioxidants

So now you need to know: just where can I find these antioxidant free-radical-busters? Three of the best known antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E, but did you know that there are more than 4,000 compounds that have antioxidant properties in the foods that we eat? That’s right, many foods contain antioxidants. And, no, these foods are not cheeseburgers and Twinkies. There are lots of benefits to eating a healthful diet, and top on the list has to be that you get plenty of natural antioxidants. Here are the big seven antioxidant-rich foods.

Berries

All kinds of berries are good sources of antioxidants; Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and cranberries. The best way to eat these are fresh or frozen (frozen is nearly as good as fresh). Strawberry jam or strawberry flavoring doesn’t count—these have sugar and sometimes chemicals in them. Stick to natural food and eat it as close to its natural state as you can to get the maximum antioxidant punch.

Broccoli

Broccoli is powerhouse of a vegetable. Besides its high amount of vitamin C, it also supplies calcium, minerals and other vitamins. It can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, roasted (try roasting it in the oven), or even juiced.

Beans

Small red beans are rich in several nutrients including iron, magnesium potassium, copper, thiamin and phosphorus. Other beans with high antioxidant content are pinto, black and kidney beans.

Nuts

Almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts are high in antioxidants. They’re also cholesterol-free and low in sodium. They can be high in calories, so you cannot overdo them. However, adding some nuts to salads or taking a handful of almonds as a mid-afternoon snack is a great idea that gives you an antioxidant kick.

Veggies & More

Berries are the antioxidant king of the fruit world, but most fruits contain lots of antioxidants. Apples (eat the peel), cherries, pears, peaches, plums, red grapes, pineapple, kiwi, orange, and grapefruit are all excellent sources of antioxidants. Broccoli is the standout in the vegetable world, but nearly all veggies contain some antioxidants, with carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoe, spinach, and potatoes particularly high in antioxidant content. Remember; eat the veggies as close to natural as you can. French fries are not a good source of antioxidants!

Green Tea

It is hard to go wrong with a few cups of plain green every day. This super-drink contains lots of vitamin C and many other powerful disease-fighting substances. This is an antioxidant cocktail and the best part … zero calories and a boost in hydration.

Grains

Just about any whole grain (whole wheat, whole rye, brown rice) contains a lot of antioxidant goodness. Oat based products are thought to have higher amounts of antioxidants than other grains.

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