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Healthy Foods

Foods with Surprising Health Benefits

Go ahead. Have some chocolate. Drag it through some peanut butter. Maybe wash it down with a cup of coffee.

At some point you read an article or saw a news story encouraging you to give up these foods as being unhealthy. It’s simply not true. Over-indulging in these foods — just like over-indulging in anything — can be harmful over time. But there are plenty of foods you thought you needed to avoid that you can enjoy, in moderation.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol must be done in moderation. One alcoholic beverage a day for women and two for men may help protect from heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. But the moderate consumption must include a healthy diet and regular exercise to get the greatest benefit.

Pork

It’s lean with less saturated fat than 30 years ago. Replacing beef and chicken with pork could help you lose weight and body fat. Tenderloin is a great, lean cut.

Popcorn Bowl

Popcorn

It’s a whole grain that’s loaded with fiber, which helps fill you up and keeps you regular. It also has vitamin B, manganese, and magnesium, and antioxidants, which may protect you against disease and cell damage. Don’t drown it in butter or cover it in salt.

Avocado

They’re loaded with good fat. The kind of fat that is linked to a healthy heart and good cholesterol levels. Eating avocados regularly can help your eyes and skin and may even help with belly fat.

Raw Ground Meat on a Plate

Beef

Lean red meat with the fat trimmed away is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, and iron. Eat it occasionally and in small portions and it’s been shown to lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Chicken (Dark Meat)

Thighs and legs may have more fat, but they also have more minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium. There are more vitamins like A, B, and K. It’s also high in taurine, which breaks down fat and helps with inflammation and blood pressure.

Stacked Pieces of Dark Chocolate

Chocolate

Dark chocolate is the healthiest because it has the least sugar and is made mostly of cocoa and that’s where there are flavonoids. These plant chemicals may help protect against cell damage. They could also lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and make you less likely to have certain kinds of heart disease. Remember, only eat a little bit.

Eggs

They are rich in protein with a full range of B vitamins and amino acids. They also include vitamin D and selenium. They are NOT calorie dense, meaning they help you feel fuller longer.

Cup of Coffee Being Poured

Coffee

This can also be healthy when consumed in moderation. It can help reduce heart disease, help you process sugar, reduce your risk of Parkinson’s disease, help protect your liver, strengthen your DNA, reduce your risk of colon cancer, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and reduce your risk of stroke. Just don’t load it up with a lot of sugar and creamer.

Dairy

The full-fat variety isn’t likely to raise your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, or diabetes if it’s part of a balanced diet. Foods like yogurt, whole milk, and brie can be good for you. Just watch the calories or they will pile up.

Pasta Served in a Bowl

Pasta

Pasta fills you up, it’s a good source of energy, is low in salt, and low in fat. Just don’t cover it with heavy sauces. Try whole-grain pastas for an even healthier alternative.

Potato Salad

Cooled potatoes have something called “resistant starch,” which acts like fiber and can help keep you regular and your gut healthy. Potatoes — whether hot or cold — have lots of nutrients, like potassium and magnesium. Choose low-fat, low-calorie mayonnaise for potato salad.

Toasted Bread with Peanut Butter and Honey

Honey

It may be full of sugar, but it’s a natural sweetener with plenty of antioxidants to protect your cells. It’s also good for inflammation. It mixes well with the bacteria in your gut which helps with digestion. Local honey can also help with allergies.

Peanut Butter

It may have saturated fat, but it’s 80% unsaturated fat, which isn’t bad. Eating nuts or peanut butter regularly reduces the risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. It also has potassium. Get it unsalted for a healthier option.

Frozen Veggies

They’re affordable, convenient, and they have the same benefits as fresh vegetables. They may even be better because you can store them, so stock up when you can.

Dietician Consultations Available

No matter your age, what you eat has a huge effect on your overall health. Healthy eating isn’t hard – especially when you have someone to empower you to make good decisions and teach you how healthy food can be delicious. Our registered dietitians provide individually tailored nutrition plans to members of every age.

Patients with the following are encouraged to see a dietitian: diabetes, heart-related conditions, those considering bariatric surgery, pregnancy, gastrointestinal-related conditions, and patients with any other nutrition-related condition.

This program is available to all AltaMed patients at no cost. Ask your doctor for a referral or call (888) 499-9303 to enroll.

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Sugar

Cutting Back on Added Sugar Brings Some Sweet Health Benefits

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m not a big fan of dessert,” and wondered what’s wrong with that person? Who doesn’t like a scoop of ice cream, a slice of pie, or a piece of cake?

Most people do. The problem is too many of us like to overindulge. Too much added sugar is a contributing factor to more than two-thirds of the people in the United States being overweight.

To make matters worse, sugar is in a lot of places we don’t expect. It’s in ketchup, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, oatmeal, snack foods, salad dressings, and canned soups.

Knowing what counts as sugar and opting for foods with low or no added sugars can go a long way toward reducing your risk of developing some serious chronic health conditions.

Woman with headache

What’s at risk

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, excessive consumption of added sugars can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and other metabolic conditions.

High-sugar foods often have little nutritional value. In addition to the potential health risks already mentioned, consuming added sugar can lead to:
 

  • Tooth decay
  • Poor mental health
  • Low energy
  • Premature skin aging

Men should not consume more than 36 grams of added sugar a day or 150 calories. Women should limit their intake to 25 grams or 100 calories. Children should not consume more than 12 to 25 grams of sugar a day.

For context:
 

  • A single serving of “healthy” breakfast cereal for adults contains 13 grams of sugar
  • A breakfast bar made with “real fruit” and “whole grains” contains 15 grams of sugar
  • A small serving of low-fat yogurt contains 22 grams of sugar
  • A 12-ounce can of regular, non-diet soda contains about 39 grams of sugar
  • A single serving of store-bought, bottled apple juice contains 42 grams of sugar
Spoon with sugar

It’s all sugar

The University of California San Francisco created SugarScience to share information about sugar and its effects on health. One of its resources is a list of 61 different names for sugar that the food industry uses to sweeten products. Some are obvious with names that include the words, “sugar,” “syrup,” “sweetener,” and “cane.” But some aren’t so obvious:
 

  • Agave nectar
  • Barley malt
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Glucose solids
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Mannose
  • Muscovado
  • Panocha
  • Saccharose
  • Sucrose
  • Treacle
Chopped fruit

Tips for cutting back

This may sound counterintuitive but cutting back on added sugar is a lot easier than you may think. It’s presence in nearly everything makes it relatively simple to eliminate a few items from your diet to help reduce your sugar intake.
 

  • Off the table — Reduce the table sugar, syrup, and honey you add to tea, coffee, cereal, or pancakes. Cutting back by half is a way to wean yourself.
  • So long soda — Water is always the best choice. Diet drinks can satisfy your sweet tooth but drink them in moderation.
  • Fill up on fruit — Fruit has natural sugars and fiber. You can add berries, bananas, and dried fruit to sweeten your oatmeal, pancakes, or cereal. Frozen, dried, and canned fruits are good snacks. Just make sure canned fruits aren’t packed in heavy syrup.
  • Cut back — Start reducing the amount of sugar called for in recipes next time you bake. You won’t miss it. Extracts like almond, vanilla, orange, and lemon can be good substitutes.
Senior in the woods

The benefits

Cutting back on added sugar has lifelong benefits that include:
 

  • Reduced diabetes risk
  • Reduced belly fat
  • More consistent energy
  • Reduced weight
  • Healthier-looking skin
  • Healthier heart

Keep yourself healthy

Health care isn’t just for when you’re sick — it’s to keep you healthy, too. AltaMed offers members a wide range of programs that can make it easier to live healthy, manage chronic conditions, lose weight, and achieve other important health goals. We use proven techniques to motivate you.

Our programs include dietician consultations, STOMP — family health and fitness program, Healthy Heart Program, and so much more. Call (888) 499-9303 to get started.

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Cooking Picky Eaters

Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

A colorful variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins are key to a healthy diet. Parents need to introduce healthy foods early if they want their kids to eat them as adults.

But, as every parent knows, kids can be picky eaters. They would rather have chicken nuggets than vegetables.

Most picky eating starts around two years old and can go until age five. At this age, their appetites have slowed down and it’s also the first time they are able to express food preference.

Children are programmed to like sweeter, high-calorie foods. That’s why getting them to eat broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, and other healthy fruits and vegetables can be challenging.

Don’t Get Frustrated

Family Dinner

Getting past picky eating requires patience, experimentation, and persistence. Something a toddler likes one day may get tossed across the kitchen the next. Don’t eliminate it as an option.

Similarly, they may hate something one day and then insist on eating it four days straight. This is normal. Children’s appetites, eating habits, and food preferences need to mature just like they do.

Tips to Avoid Tension:
 

  • Shared responsibility — A parent’s job is to prepare and provide healthy options. A child’s job is to know when they’re hungry and when they’re full. Don’t force a child to eat. It could lead to a food-related power struggle. It could also lead to mealtime anxiety. They may also ignore when they’re hungry or full.
  • Eat together — This provides the adults a chance to model healthy eating habits. It also teaches children this is their opportunity to eat. You’re not going to cook a special meal for them. If you’re trying to reduce screen time, the dinner table is a great place to start.
  • Be creative — Adding chopped or shredded vegetables to sauces or casseroles is an easy way to add some healthy variety to their diets. Put sliced fruit in cereal or serve broccoli, celery, or carrots with a favorite dip.
  • Cook together — A child is more likely to eat something if they chose and prepared it.
  • Build a bridge — Once you find a food your child accepts, introduce other foods that look, feel, or taste the same. This helps expand their palate. Pairing new foods with familiar foods makes them easier to accept.
  • Start small — Don’t introduce large portions of new foods. That can lead to waste which can be frustrating for parents. Small servings are best. It also gives children the power to ask for more.
  • Teach them — Talk to children about new foods — their shapes, textures, how, and where they grow. It takes the mystery out of the meal.
  • Promote positivity — Children don’t like everything they try. They may get angry or refuse to eat. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t make threats to get them to eat. Also, set limits with children about reactions. They can say, “No thank you,” but not “blech” or “that’s gross” at mealtime.
  • Don’t bribe — Desserts shouldn’t be offered for trying a new food. It makes the new food seem more unpleasant and can lead to nightly power struggles.

Pickiness in the Pandemic

Girl Holding Sandwich

Pickiness isn’t limited to toddlers. Finding variety during the pandemic can be frustrating if you are in a meal-planning rut. Don’t be hard on yourself. It happens when you’re stuck inside, dining out isn’t an option, and easy meals get old fast.

Here are some ways to improve your meal planning and get reenergized about cooking.
 

  • Kitchen inventory — Know what you have and start there. Eat what’s perishable so you’re not wasting food. Use these items as the foundation for your meal planning.
  • Plan it out — Make a meal plan for a week or two, depending on the size of your household. This helps you create a variety of options. Look at recipes that include vegetables, fruits, protein, whole grains, dairy, and healthy fats.
  • Make a list — It’s important to know what you need. Make space to freeze ingredients until they’re needed. Also, get some other frozen foods and nonperishables to add some easy options.
  • Read labels — Know the expiration dates of what you’re buying. You don’t want to throw out food because you never used it.
  • Prepare — Portion out snacks to limit overeating. Chop the vegetables you need for meals and store them for when it’s time to cook. Also, involve other family members. This is for all of you, so make it a shared activity.

Helping You Stay Healthy

AltaMed offers a host of resources to help you and your family eat well, stay active, and take an engaged approach to managing your health. You can download information on how to prepare healthy meals and watch videos with advice on keeping everyone in your household well. Visit AltaMed.org for more information.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

Foods with Surprising Health Benefits