In this week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I debunked the myth that you should avoid certain types of fruit, either because they are higher in sugar or higher in fructose. All fruit can be part of a healthy diet–especially if you are eating fruit in place of other less healthy choices.
But if you’re curious to see how various types of fruit stack up in terms of total sugar content as well as fructose and glucose content, here’s a chart of some common fruits. You can click on any column to sort by that value.
Fruit (1 cup serving)
Total Sugars (g)
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
In my house, kitchen appliances live in one of two places: in the kitchen or in the basement. The ones in the kitchen are the ones that I use constantly. The ones in the basement are the ones that only come out once in a while.
My Constant Favorites
This lives right on the kitchen counter because I use it almost every day. I have a Vitamix which is no small investment, but this workhorse has served me well for years. I’m actually on my second Vitamix. After 15 years, I decided to retire my original, and Vitamix has a trade-in program that gave me a discount on my new purchase. There are less expensive options, such as the NutriBullet Blender–and the Vitamix is more power than you’d need for smoothies. However, its heavy duty parts and high powered motor can also turn whole wheat into flour, nuts into nut butter, and other tasks that might cause a lesser motor to wheeze.
Instant Pot Electronic Pressure Cooker
I hesitated before jumping on this particular bandwagon because I’d never used a pressure cooker before and didn’t particularly miss it. Turns out that was just because I didn’t know what I was missing. Instant Pot fans tend to be a bit cult-like, but I’ve totally drunk the Koolaid. I use it to hard-boil eggs (perfect every time!), make stock in 30 minutes instead of two hours, cook hard beans and steel cut oats to tender (but not mushy) perfection in 15 minutes, and countless soups, stews, and one-pot meals. There are many sites, cookbooks, and Instagram feeds dedicated to Instant Pot recipes, so inspiration and instruction is never more than a click away. Easily the best kitchen purchase I’ve made in ten years.
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.
The list you scribbled in the car five minutes ago rests between your fingers and the grocery cart’s handlebar as you embark on what you hope will be a quick grocery run. As the produce section starts to feel like a corn maze and the frozen aisle makes your brain freeze, you wonder how people manage to conquer this meal-prep thing weekly. If this sounds like your typical grocery run, then these dietitian-approved meal-prep tips might be for you.
Understand the value. Before heading to the store, you should recognize that cooking meals is about self-care, says Julie Duffy Dillon, a North Carolina-based registered dietitian and eating disorder specialist. She adds that meal-prepping should not be stressful. “It’s compassionate to you and your family,” Dillon explains.And being organized about meals can help you reach your nutritional goals, Claire Chewning, an R.D. and blogger located in Virginia, said. “You have to align your actions with your intentions.”
Plan strategically. “Meal-prep doesn’t have to take place on Sunday afternoons,” Rachel Meltzer Warren, a New York-area R.D. and nutrition writer says, though many find that to be a convenient time. Using grocery delivery apps and preparing food in increments can help you “carve out time in a busy schedule,” she adds. It’s also helpful to “know when your energy is,” University of Maryland’s campus dietitian, Jane Jakubczak, says, laughing while explaining that she makes salmon at 6 a.m.
Shop smart. Having a general idea of the foods you want to purchase can minimize food waste, Warren says. She advises clients to fill out grids – which become grocery lists – when mapping out meals for the week. “I know I have big eyes when I shop,” Warren says, chuckling. “If I have no plan, I grab everything, and [then] the food goes bad.”
Meal Planning on the Fly
To stay on track when shopping while still allowing room for creativity, Chewning considers each meal as a triangle; it’s three points are the macronutrients. “At every meal, if you want full balance to keep you satiated and to keep all the little cells in your body happy, you have a protein, you have a carbohydrate and a healthy fat,” she said. “In the center of the triangle, you have a big empty space, and that’s where fruits and vegetables come in.”
The carbohydrate sources Chewning, a lacto-ovo vegetarian, enjoys include rice, potatoes, peas, beans and corn. For protein, she likes tofu, seitan and fish prepared in olive oil, a healthy fat. “If I plan to have those foods cooked, it gives me the freedom and the ease to eat them in a way that sounds good to me at that moment in time,” Chewning said.
Jakubczak purchases salmon, chicken and lean meats in bulk, the cheapest option per-unit, she says. After cooking proteins on Sundays, she portions them into labeled containers and freezes them – essentially “creating [her] own frozen food.” She takes the containers out to thaw and uses a microwave to accelerate defrosting before mealtimes. “If we don’t plan and prep in advance, it’s almost too easy to get take-out,” Jakubczak says. “Make the healthy option the easy option.”
Plan for chaos. A busy schedule shouldn’t stop you from consuming balanced meals and snacks. Dillon plans to cook two longer-to-prepare recipes, two 15-minute recipes and one “super easy” recipe weekly, for nights when “life happens.” Warren keeps frozen riced cauliflower on hand to fry with tofu and eggs for times when she lacks fresh ingredients. Jakubczak bags vegetables and portions watermelon into containers in advance so she can grab them on busy mornings. “Prepare to be unprepared,” Warren says. “Have ideas that can be thrown together without much prep.”
Make it simple. “In the end, having canned peas versus fresh peas isn’t going to make a difference,” Dillon says. “If you can try not to be too [much of a perfectionist] or all-or-nothing, then you will be able to be honest with where you are now. Then you’ll be able to start cooking.”
Dena Gershkovich is a dietetics and journalism double major at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is hoping to become a registered dietitian and nutrition writer. To read more of Dena’s work, check out her blog, The Artsy Palate, for original recipes and tips for how to stay healthy in college and beyond.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.