Nutrition Corner: Food for a healthy 2016

Mary R. Ehret Nutrition Corner


    Happy New Year and welcome 2016!

    The media can bombard you with successful diets and secret weight loss products, especially this time a year. The new year is an opportunity to some goals and develop a plan to reach them. If trying to lose a few pounds is your goal, it can be hard to figure out what works and what doesn’t. More protein, less sugar, more liquid fats, less solid fats, more non starchy vegetables — what does it all mean?

    The USDA does recommend two “diets,” the DASH diet and Mediterranean Diet as being those diets that can be part of a healthy eating pattern. Along with these two healthy eating patterns, daily physical activity is recommended to reduce stress, build strength and flexibility.

    The DASH Diet, “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” is a research-based eating plan funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The final results showed the DASH “combination diet” lowered blood pressure in persons who followed the eating plan. Even if you do not have high blood pressure, the DASH diet is a good eating plan to follow as a preventive measure.

    The “combination diet” is rich in fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy foods and low in saturated and total fat. It also is low in cholesterol, high in dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium and moderately high in protein.

    The DASH eating plan is based on 2,000 calories a day. Depending on your caloric needs, your number of daily servings in a food group may vary from those listed.

    Basic eating plan for 2000 calories:

    Six to eight servings of grains, 1 slice of bread equals a serving. Half of the servings should be from whole grains.

    Four to five servings of vegetables, 1 cup raw leafy or ½ cup cooked

    Four to five servings of fruits, 1 medium fruit equals a serving. Adults are advised to eat fruits instead of drinking juice

    Two to three servings of fat free or low-fat milk and milk products

    Six ounces or less of cooked meats. One egg equals one ounce

    Four to five serving of nuts, seeds and legumes per week, 1/3 cup nuts, 2 TBSP peanut butter or ½ cup cooked beans

    Five or less per week of sweets and added sugar, 1 Tbsp. sugar or 12 grams of carbohydrate (added sugar, example: 1 can of soda could contain 24 grams of carbohydrate which would equal two servings)

    The maximum amount of sodium per day is 2300 milligrams.

    The Mediterranean Diet eating plan comes from a group of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The traditional eating patterns have shown to be very heart-friendly. Research based on these eating patterns comes from around the island of Crete and from a time frame around the 1960s. The USDA Dietary Guidelines reports that these traditional eating patterns are associated with a low risk of cardiovascular disease. We use the word “patterns” because it is a blend of several countries’ habits and not just one specific diet.

    In general terms, the Mediterranean Diet consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil, fish and seafood and grains. Often the grains were whole grain. Only small amounts of meats and full-fat milk and milk products were included in this eating pattern. Often wine was included with meals. MyPlate graphic can follow this eating plan if plant protein such as dried peas and beans and low-fat dairy were selected.

    The Mediterranean Diet is not a weight loss diet, but rather an eating plan designed for good health. The plan includes physical activity as well as socializing. Both contribute to a healthy outlook on life and stress reduction.

    The type of fat prominent in the Mediterranean Diet eating plan is monounsaturated fat. Nuts, olives and olive oil are key sources of this type of fat. Red meat and whole milk products have a different fat — saturated fat. Commercially prepared desserts and crackers have trans fats which act much like saturated fats.

    Together, the DASH and Mediterranean Diet eating plans are made up of everyday foods which can be prepared in the home. They should not cost more to eat and they recommend less meat and more vegetables and fruits which can be seasonal.

    Here is a recipe from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which uses vegetables and fat free milk, two main components of the DASH diet.

    Broccoli Soup

    3 cups chopped broccoli (or 2 10-ounce packages frozen broccoli)

    1/2 cup diced celery

    1/2 cup chopped onion

    1 cup low sodium chicken broth

    2 cups nonfat milk

    2 Tbsp. cornstarch

    Dash pepper

    Dash ground thyme

    1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese


    Place vegetables and broth in saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook until vegetables are tender (about 8 minutes). Mix milk, cornstarch, salt, pepper and thyme; add to cooked vegetables. Cook, stirring constantly, until soup is lightly thickened and mixture just begins to boil. Remove from heat. Add cheese and stir until melted.

    Mary R. Ehret Nutrition Corner R. Ehret Nutrition Corner

    Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at [email protected]

    Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at [email protected]

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