This Probiotic Cereal Doesn’t Make Me Happy Inside

Probiotic foods continue to be one of the hottest food and nutrition trends. And now Kellogg’s has jumped on the bandwagon with a new probiotic cereal called Happy Inside. While this new offering is certainly on trend, I think they’ve missed the mark in a number of ways:

1. “Yogurty probiotic pieces” that are neither yogurty nor probiotic.

Don’t be fooled by the mention of “yogurt,” these are pieces of candy. They’re made of unnecessary ingredients like sugar, palm kernel oil, and Greek Yogurt Powder (which is heat-treated, killing any beneficial bacteria.)

2. Four kinds of added sugar, totaling 9 grams per serving

I’ve certainly seen worse, but it reminds me of General Mill’s “healthy” fail a few years ago with their high protein Cheerios, which added only a modest amount of protein but a whole lot of sugar. (What were they thinking?)

3. A single strain of probiotic bacteria

When it comes to live and active cultures, it’s just one lonely strain (Bifidobacterium lactis HN019) with a limited amount of research to back it up. Although HN019 may enhance immune function in the elderly, the strain otherwise has a small portfolio of effectiveness.

4. Plenty of marketing gloss

The cereal calls itself a 3-in-1 product because it contains fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics.  However, “prebiotic” and “fiber” are just two ways of saying the same thing.   (See also: What are prebiotics?)

The Bottom Line on Happy Inside

Rather than spending big bucks on this highly processed food, you can get more pre- and probiotic benefit at a lower cost with higher nutritional value.  For example, stir 1/3 cup of Swiss Muesli (I like this no-added-sugar brand from Familla) into 2/3 cup unsweetened kefir and refrigerate overnight for a gut-friendly breakfast without all the junk.

 

Thinking of cooking that romaine? Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Lettuce soup recipe on Epicurious.com

Like many of you, when the CDC issued the warning about romaine lettuce last week, I had a package of romaine hearts in my fridge. Even though I had already eaten one, with no ill effects, the CDC is very clear that the rest should be discarded–just in case.

For reasons explained by food safety expert Dr. Robert Brackett in this episode of the Nutrition Diva podcast, washing the lettuce is not enough to remove E. coli..  The only way to kill those bugs is to heat them up to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit and hold them there for a while.

But, like you, I hate to waste food. And I remembered being intrigued last winter by some lettuce soup recipes. Wouldn’t cooking the lettuce thoroughly in a soup be a way to safely avoid throwing this (probably perfectly fine) lettuce away? And a chance to try a new recipe to boot?

When I sat down this morning to write this post, I intended to propose just that: Make soup from whatever romaine lettuce got stranded in your crisper drawer last week.  Fortunately, I decided to run that advice by an expert before publishing it. And I’m glad I did.

Dr. Brackett has once more come to our rescue, explaining why this might not be good advice:

“While it is true that ‘thorough’ cooking should kill E. coli…it depends on the physiological state the bug is in (i.e. phase of growth, individual cells versus “clumps”, etc) as well as where the cells are physically located (internalized in the lettuce, in the middle of a clump of leaves, etc). One would really need to validate the lethality of heating romaine before one could say it was ‘thorough’.

However, another reason why CDC recommends simply discarding all romaine, is that…one could be potentially be bringing E. coli into the kitchen and creating a cross-contamination situation (counters, refrigerator, utensils, etc), or even contaminating one’s hands (and perhaps inadvertently to mouth) and risk illness if they are handling the lettuce. “

If you do have some lettuce on hand, throwing it away really is the better part of wisdom. It’s also not a bad idea to give that crisper drawer a thorough cleaning. (Let’s be honest: this is probably long past due…). Finish up with a proper hand-washing and toss the dishtowel in the laundry. (Most of us don’t do that nearly often enough either.)

Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake that the source is identified quickly. Those sickened by the bug are not the only victims here. Outbreaks like this can have a devastating–and lasting–financial impact on growers and farm workers as well.

In next week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I’ll be talking about a not-so-new technology that could potentially prevent the next outbreak.

Healthy is Better Than Perfect: 5 Must-Know Insights

Healthy is better than perfect

Ever feel like you have to do something dramatic to turn your diet around or get a grip on your eating habits? Like put a lock on your pantry or only drink green juice?

Well, let me tell you, the drama isn’t necessary. And the participants in my most recent 30 Day Nutrition Upgrade program are proof: eating healthy doesn’t mean restricting yourself or being anywhere close to “perfect.”

Here are 5 takeaways participants had (along with extra resources) to help you bring balance into your own diet:

1. Perfection isn’t the goal. Awareness is.

“I weighed myself for the first time since doing the 30-Day Nutrition Challenge and was down 8.5 lbs, all because I was more aware of the type of food I was eating.”

A little awareness can go a long way. A lot further than a set of arbitrary rules which, once you break them, ultimately lead to giving up. If mindful eating sounds like a drag or a bore, check out this article on How We Get Mindful Eating Wrong.  Also, check out these Four Ways to Eat More Mindfully. 

2. You can stay on track without logging everything you eat.

“This approach keeps me mindful of what I’m eating without all the logging.”

Keeping a record of everything you eatcan be a very effective tool for improving your eating habits. Most people start to drift away from the habit after a week or two–often, when they have a day they’d just as soon be “off the record.” And the benefits of that increased awareness and accountability gradually slip way.

The Nutrition GPA app was developed as a solution to this dilemma–a way to get the benefits of awareness and accountability without the burden of logging every bit of food every day.

3. Adding foods is more fun than subtracting.

“It hasn’t seemed like the ‘I can’t wait until this is over’ diet plan.” 

Improving your nutrition isn’t just about eliminating unhealthy foods. It’s also about adding healthy ones!

4. Bad days don’t have to mean reaching for Ben and Jerry’s.

“I’m far less likely to succumb to bad choices in weak moments.” 

Strict dieting rules often lead to an all-or-nothing attitude. One moment of weakness derails the entire project. Not so in the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade. Although we use the Nutrition GPA app as a way to get feedback on our daily choices, perfection is not the goal. Cultivating consistent healthy habits means there’s room for a little indulgence too.

But if your sweet tooth is your weakness, here’s something that can help keep those sugar cravings from getting the better of you.

5. Remember: it’s a lifestyle, not a sprint.

“This is a lifestyle I intend to keep up.”

And when it comes to healthy habits, the ones we can sustain long term are the only ones that really make a difference. I’d rather see you cut your added sugar intake by 25% forever than to go 30 days without any added sugar at all…and then go back to your old habits. Remember: it’s not your best days or your worst days but your typical day that ultimately determines the quality of your diet and your results!

Congratulations to all the recent Upgraders.  If you’d like to participate in the next one, sign up  here and I’ll be sure to notify you when registration opens.

For what are we grateful? Let’s start with these people

Faces of Farming

Every Thanksgiving we prep the turkey, mash the potatoes, dice, slice, and garnish the side dishes, and set the table. Finally, the feast is spread before us and we go around the table, each saying what we’re grateful for.

“Family.”
“Friends.”
“The food we’re about to eat.”

But how often do we think to extend our gratitude to the farmers who made it all possible?

Farmers are often the unseen faces behind the food that fills our bellies.  As we focus on what’s in front of us, it’s all too easy to overlook their crucial role.

It’s not just a farmer’s job to grow and produce the food we eat. It’s their life’s work–and it’s truly a labor of love: love for the land, for the earth and its precious resources, for the communities that they nourish and support.  All the dedication it takes to get the fruit, vegetables, dairy, and meat to our table deserves much more of our awareness and gratitude.

Especially because agriculture is dwindling in the United States. A hundred years ago, 1 in 4 Americans was employed in agriculture. Today it’s just 1 in 50. At the same time, we have over 3 times as many people to feed.

A hundred years ago, 1 in 4 Americans was employed in agriculture. Today it’s just 1 in 50. Click To Tweet

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the people who dedicate their lives to feeding us. And I want you to meet them too.

That is why, in the weeks leading up to the American Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve been talking to some people who are helping bring that feast (as well as our everyday meals) to our table on the Nutrition Diva podcast.

You can hear the entire series on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify  or wherever you like to listen to podcasts or scroll down to listen here. Shownotes for all episodes are at QuickandDirtyTips.com

The Faces of Farming from the Nutrition Diva Podcast

Faces of Farming #1: Hear from Dale Huss, as he shares the challenging realities of growing and managing his crops, the risks and rewards, and the pride that comes from producing a great harvest.

 

Faces of Farming #: Meet Dr. Tera Barnhardt, coordinator of animal health and welfare for Cattle Empire, as she explains the ranch’s feeding operations, her “welcoming committee” approach, and how technology plays an unsuspected, yet vital role.

 

Faces of Farming #3: I speak with Tara Vander Dussen, a fifth generation dairy farmer. Learn about her journey to rediscover her heritage, the farm’s cow care, as well as the surprising (and famous) dairy specialty out of New Mexico.

 

Faces of Farming #4: Strawberry grower Greg France talks about how learning to grow organic strawberries changes how he thinks about farming, and a farmer’s unique connection to the land and his community.

 

Faces of Farming #5: LA native Brian Wahlbrink explains why he traded his surf board for a tractor and decided to dedicate his life to cultivating the world’s most popular nut.

Is Durum Wheat Semolina a Whole Grain?

In the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade program, players earn points by choosing whole grain foods instead of refined grain foods. But distinguishing one from the other can sometimes require an advanced degree in label reading! As one of my Upgraders recently posted in our private Facebook group:

“Labels on food can be confusing. Pasta labels are especially confusing – one says ‘durum wheat semolina’ and another says ‘enriched durum wheat semolina’. I know enriched means refined but if it doesn’t say enriched does that mean it’s whole grain?”

Let’s break down some of this terminology:

Durum” is a strain of wheat that is used mostly for pasta, due to its higher protein content. (Think of “Durum” as its first name and “Wheat” as its family name.) But unless it says “whole grain” you can assume that it is refined, which means that the nutritious germ and fibrous bran have been removed.

The word “Semolina,” on the other hand, refers to the fact that the durum wheat is coarsely ground–again, in order to produce good pasta texture. The word “semolina” is sort of like the designation “Esquire” after a lawyers name; it’s not part of the lawyer’s identity like her first or last name but an indication of her preparation and function.)

The word “enriched” almost always signals a refined grain. Refined grains are often enriched in an effort to replace the nutrients that are lost to refining. You will virtually never see “enriched whole wheat,” because it would be unnecessary to replace nutrients that have not been removed.  However, the absence of the word “enriched” doesn’t mean that it is not refined.

You can save yourself a lot of label reading by looking for the 100% whole grain stamp. When you see this (or the words “100% whole grain”) on the front of the package, you don’t even need to flip the package over to see the ingredient list….that’s the golden ticket right there.

 

2 Minutes a Day = Better Eating Habits

Think you don’t have time to get your diet under control?

What if you could improve your eating habits in just 2 minutes a day?

The Nutrition GPA™ app (recently named by the New York Times as one of 4 Best Food Tracking apps) asks you ten yes-or-no questions about what you ate that day and then gives you a grade for that day’s nutrition. Not happy with your grade? You’ll know exactly what to do differently tomorrow.

It’s a fun and easy way to create awareness of how your choices impact your nutrition and health.  And it’s not just about cutting things out of your diet! It’s also about adding more healthy foods to your day.

The daily quiz takes less than two minutes a day (a lot less time than logging everything you eat into a food tracker!) and gives you an accurate picture of how your choices stacked up nutritionally. But the real power is in taking the quiz every day, because your daily scores are averaged to reveal your customized Nutrition Grade Point Average (GPA).

And here’s the good news: Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be healthy! A Nutrition GPA of B or better means you have a healthy diet, but still leaves room for some treats and indulgences.

READY TO ADD THE JET FUEL?

Knowing is one thing. Doing another. And that’s where the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade™ program comes in. This online group challenge combines the awareness and accountability of the Nutrition GPA with the power of community and expert coaching to create positive momentum that will last far longer than 30 days.

One recent participant wrote:

“This has been a really, really great experience. I’ve wanted to eat healthier for a long time and always got overwhelmed and confused not really knowing where to start. This has been a super easy, accessible way to start. I’m very grateful!”

Another said:

“This program is really helping me fix my attitude towards food. Previously, if I had a “bad” meal, I would write off the rest of the day (or week!). Last night I had Chinese takeout for dinner. Because I’d had such healthful meals earlier in the day, I still scored a B. After I’d eaten, rather than feeling guilty or wallowing all evening, I got up and prepped breakfast and lunch for today so I’m on track for my A. One meal does not a whole diet make (or break!).”

The next round of the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade starts Friday October 19 and I’d love for you to join us!

In a live one-hour kickoff, I’ll explain the research and nutritional science behind the app, how the questions were designed, and why it works. Then, you’ll have daily access to hundreds of current Upgraders and alumni who will cheer you on, plus a direct line to me with your thorniest diet and nutrition questions!

Over the course of these 30 days, you’ll experience how small, sustainable changes can fit into any lifestyle–and will have a positive impact for years to come.

Come join us! Can’t wait to see you there.

The Good Enough Diet: A Drama-Free Approach to Better Nutrition

How many times have you given up on a diet or a detox because you ate one off-plan food?

I already screwed up, you might think, so it doesn’t matter now! And maybe you go from having one extra drink at happy hour to a whole weekend of indulgent food and drinks.

Or maybe you don’t even want to try eating a healthier diet, because you know you can’t live up to that stringent vegan/paleo/no-added-sugar diet your sister or friend or co-worker is touting.

This kind of black-or-white thinking drives me crazy! Continue reading “The Good Enough Diet: A Drama-Free Approach to Better Nutrition” >

Healthy Sources of Omega 3 and 6

This week’s Nutrition Diva podcast talks about the recommended intake of omega 6 fats.  How much is enough? How much is too much?

Here’s a guide to the omega-6 and omega-3 content of a variety of healthy foods. Click on any column to sort the list by that value.

Want a food added to the table? Add your request in the comment section and I’ll do my best to add it.

FoodServingGramsTotal Fat (g)Total PUFA (g)O-6O-3
Brazilnuts1/4 cup3322770
Canola oil1 Tbsp1414431
Chia seeds1 Tbsp103212
Corn oil1 Tbsp1414770
Flaxseeds1 Tbsp11430.52.5
Grapeseed oil1 Tbsp141410100
Hemp hearts1 Tbsp105431
Peanut butter2 Tbsp3216440
Pecans1/4 cup2518550
Pinenuts1/4 cup342311110
Pumpkin seeds1 Tbsp3216770
Rice bran oil1 Tbsp1414550
Salmon, cooked3 oz85730.52
Sesame seeds1 Tbsp96220
Sunflower seeds1 Tbsp3619820
Tofu, firm3 oz855220
Tuna, white3 oz853101
Walnuts1/4 cup302014113