Good-for-Your-Gut Vacation Foods

Summer is the time to hit the road and explore someplace new. But changes in time zone, cuisine and your daily routine can leave your stomach feeling less than stellar. “Your digestive system works on a schedule, and you get away from it when you are on vacation,” says Beth Warren, a registered dietitian based in New York City. Here’s how to choose on-the-go eats -- and avoid vacation pitfalls -- to keep your system humming.

Choose Fiber-Rich Foods
Vacations provide ample opportunity to explore new kinds of foods. But these sneaky delights are often more fattening and exotic than your system can handle. To sidestep digestive distress, opt for foods with plenty of fiber, which helps aid digestion, prevent constipation and keep you regular. A bowl of fiber-rich Kellogg’s All-Bran is a good option, as are fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.

Drink Plenty of Water
Hydration levels are more easily depleted when you’re spending the day at an amusement park, beach or pool. But beyond keeping you hydrated, water is essential for good digestion, since it can help flush the fiber through your digestive system, says Warren. Drinking eight glasses per day is the conventional wisdom, but your body may require more or less depending on your activity level, the temperature and the amount of watery foods you consume.

Pack Your Own Snacks
Give your digestive system a little familiarity on your next trip by eating foods it knows and loves. Pack cereal, nuts or fruit (dried or fresh) in your carry-on or tote bag so you won’t need to resort to less healthy, stomach-churning fare at the airport or gas station.

Add Yogurt to Your Morning Cereal
Yogurt can be a good source of probiotics, which are beneficial, living microorganisms similar to those naturally found in the intestinal tract. “Your gut is made up of billions of bacteria, and you want good bacteria to help battle the evil ones,” says Warren.

Follow these four simple tips, and you’ll spend less time worrying about tummy troubles and more time sharing memories with those you love. Isn’t that what vacation is all about after all?

Fill Up With Fiber

Chances are, you celebrated your last birthday with an unwelcome party crasher: an extra pound … or five. The body’s metabolism naturally slows when adults hit their 40s.

Couple that with a drop in physical activity, unchecked stress, and perhaps less-than-stellar eating habits and you’ve got the formula for creeping weight gain. [1]

While there’s no magic trick for keeping the pounds off, research has demonstrated an association between women who eat more fiber and have lower body weight. [3] It may be because fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes help you fill up, making you less likely to overeat. [2,4] Because the stomach digests fiber-full foods at a slower pace, you’re also less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks between meals. [3,4] While the mechanism for this association is unclear, it makes good sense to incorporate more high fiber foods into eating occasions throughout the day.[2,3,4]


Here are a few simple ways to add more fiber to every meal. Aim for 21 g to 38 g each day. [4,6]


Choose a cereal that is a good source of fiber (3g) [5] and top it with fresh blackberries (4g of fiber per 1/2 cup). [7] Two options: Special K® Red Berries (3g of fiber per cup) [8] or Special K® Multigrain [per 9] Oats & Honey (3g of fiber per 2/3 cup). [9]


Build a sandwich starting with a whole grain bread like rye (2g of fiber per slice). [10] Instead of mayo, try a hummus spread 2 tbsp has 8% of your daily fiber needs) [11]. And add fresh vegetable toppings, like lettuce and tomato.



Nosh on popcorn (3.5g of fiber per 3 cup serving) [10] or almonds (3.5g of fiber per ounce, or about 23 almonds), [10] with slices of pear (5 to 6g of fiber with skin). [10]



Make a big pot of whole wheat spaghetti or other whole grain pasta (about 6g of fiber per cup) [10] and serve it with steamed broccoli (5.1g of fiber per cup). [10] Tip: Steam the broccoli just until crisp-tender; the longer vegetables cook the more nutrients they lose. [12,13]


1. Medline Plus: Unintentional Weight Gain

2. Medline Plus: Dietary Fiber

3. Liu S, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB, Rosner B, Colditz G.

Relation between changes in intakes of dietary fiber and grain products and changes in weight and development of obesity among middle-aged women.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Nov;78(5):920-7

4. Mayo Clinic: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a healthy diet

5. Mayo Clinic: Healthy Breakfast

6. Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber

7. USDA Database: Blackberries

8. Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries

9. Kellogg’s Special K Oats & Honey

10. Mayo Clinic: Chart of High-Fiber Foods

11. Sabra Hummus Nutritional Information

12. USDA database broccoli raw

13. USDA database broccoli cooked

Fill Up on Fiber to Support Heart Health

Most people equate high-fiber diets with healthy digestive systems. But did you know that certain types of fiber play an important role in heart health?

Fiber is the part of a plant that the body can’t digest, meaning it’s not absorbed into the bloodstream. Of the two types of fiber—insoluble (does not dissolve in water) and soluble (dissolves in water)[2,4]—soluble deserves a big chunk of credit for helping the heart.[2,4] Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain some type of dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, may reduce the risk of heart disease, a disease associated with many factors. [2,3,4,14] Viscous soluble fibers (a kind of soluble fiber found in oats and barley) can help lower total and LDL cholesterol. Although the mechanisms for how they do so are not fully known, they seem to benefit heart health by lowering these cholesterol levels.[6] Insoluble fiber has also been associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals.[12]  Because this type of fiber can make you feel full, you may eat fewer calories and less unhealthy foods.[1, 11, 12]

Many plant-based foods contain varying degrees of both types of dietary fiber, but you’ll find higher levels of fiber in foods like oats, ready-to-eat whole grain cereals,[12] peas, beans, carrots, and citrus fruits, to name a few. [4] One type of soluble fiber found in oats and barley, called beta-glucan, [5,6] has been shown to be particularly helpful in lowering levels of LDL cholesterol. [5,6] Insoluble fiber is abundant in wheat-based cereals, whole wheat breads, apples and cauliflower.[4, 12]

But helping to manage cholesterol isn’t the only way fiber benefits your heart health. You can also thank fiber’s filling characteristic for helping to protect your ticker. Eating a high-fiber food can help fill you up.[3, 4] Here’s where other fiber properties kick in: Some types of fiber bind with water in the stomach so you may feel full enough to say no to seconds.[3,4,5] And because it takes longer to move through the stomach, eating fiber also means you may be less likely to crave something higher in fat or cholesterol later on.[3,4,5,11]

The Daily Value for fiber for all Americans is 25 grams per day based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.[2] But estimates show that most adults are consuming only about half of that.[1,2] To help get your daily fiber fill, do some advance planning and aim to get a third of your needs in each meal, plus a snack or two. [1,2]

Get a Head Start on Fiber

Starting your day off with a high-fiber breakfast is an easy way to help you meet your daily fiber quota.  One serving of Kellogg’s® All-Bran® Original cereal provides 10g of fiber (40% of your recommended daily intake). [7] Another tasty choice that is an excellent source[8, 13] is Kellogg’s Raisin Bran®[per 8] cereal, which provides 28% of your recommended daily fiber (with 7g of total fiber). [8] To up the fiber content of your morning meal even more, top your cereal with fiber-full fruits, like strawberries (3g of fiber per 1 cup serving) and bananas (4g of fiber per 1 cup serving). [10]


1. Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber


2. University of Florida IFAS Extension

Nutrition for Health and Fitness: Fiber and Your Diet:


3. American Heart Association: Diet and Lifestyle recommendations:


4. Mayo Clinic: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a healthy diet


5. Jiezhong Chen, Kenneth Raymond

Beta-glucans in the treatment of diabetes and associated cardiovascular risks

Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2008 December; 4(6): 1265–1272.


6. Thomas MS Wolever, Alison L Gibbs, Jennie Brand-Miller, Alison M Duncan, Valerie Hart, Benoît Lamarche, Susan M Tosh, Ruedi Duss

Bioactive oat β-glucan reduces LDL cholesterol in Caucasians and non-Caucasians

Nutr J. 2011; 10: 130.


7. Kellogg’s All Bran Original

Accessed 8/8/2013

8. Kelloggs Raisin Bran Cereal


9. USDA Database Strawberries


10. USDA Database: Bananas


11. Mayo Clinic: Breakfast: How does it help Weight Control?


12. American Heart Association: Whole Grains and Fiber


13. American Heart Association: Reading Food Nutrition Labels:


14. American Heart Association: What are my Risks for Getting Heart Disease?

Fight Cholesterol With Healthy Fats

When it comes to improving your cholesterol numbers, the popular line of thinking goes something like this: “Eat less of this. Don’t eat that. Never, ever even think of looking at those!” Now what if we told you that not all fats are created equally? In fact, eating more of certain everyday foods may help tip the numbers in your favor.

This list includes a few of what health and nutrition experts have be­gun referring to as good fats. They’re still fats, but they count as good because they fall into the category of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Studies have shown that these types of fats (found mainly in cold-water fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils) may help lower your odds of developing heart disease and other health conditions. They’re also sources of omega-3 fatty acids (part of the polyunsaturated fats family), which your body needs to build cells and control blood clotting. Omega-3s are also considered an important part of a heart healthy diet. Good sources of omega-3 include cold-water fish, such as salmon and tuna. [1,2,3,4, 14, 15]

Trans and saturated fats remain the problematic fats, and you’re wise to carefully watch your intake of these types.Your daily saturated fat intake should be less than 7% of your total calories per day, and your trans fat intake should be less than 1%, according to the American Heart Association [6]. For most people, that means consuming 15g or less of saturated fat each day. [6] But if you can take steps to think more about what you can eat (like guacamole made with heart-healthy avocado, trail mix with nuts and seeds, and a grilled salmon steak) [16] rather than what you should eat less of, suddenly a healthy eating plan is more than doable -- it’s delicious!

Keep in mind that all fats -- healthy or otherwise -- have a fair amount of calories (about 9 calories per gram), [1,4] so aim to keep your calories from fats to no more than 25 percent to 35% of your total calories (about 56 to 77g per day based on a 2,000 calorie diet) [1,2]. Here are some good sources of heart-healthy fats:

1.    Avocados

In addition to heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which help lower LDL cholesterol, avocados include other heart-healthy compounds, such as soluble fiber, vitamin E, folate and potassium. [7,16]

2.    Flaxseed

Flaxseed not only has heart-healthy fiber, it also contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. [10,11,15]

3.    Fatty fish

Replacing foods high in saturated fat with those abundant in the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, herring and sardines may help support healthy cholesterol. [12,14,16]

4.    Olives and olive oil

Olives and their oil are abundant in beneficial monounsaturated fats. They also contain phytochemicals like polyphenols, associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.  [8,9]

5.    Walnuts

Walnuts have the highest level of omega-3 fats of any nut. Just one small handful (about 14 walnut halves) supplies 2.6 g of omega-3 fats. [12,13]

Note: All fats -- healthy or otherwise -- contain a fair amount of calories (about 9 calories per gram), [1,4] so aim to keep your fat calories to no more than 25 percent to 35 percent of total calories. [1,2]


1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010

2. American Heart Association: Know Your Fats:

3. Fats & Oils: AHA Recommendation:

4. Mayo Clinic: Dietary Fats: Know Which Types to Choose

5. Mayo Clinic: Mediterranean Diet


American Heart Association Nutrition CommitteeLichtenstein AHAppel LJBrands MCarnethon MDaniels SFranch HAFranklin BKris-Etherton PHarris WSHoward BKaranja NLefevre MRudel LSacks FVan Horn LWinston MWylie-Rosett J.

Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee.

Circulation. 2006 Jul 4;114(1):82-96. Epub 2006 Jun 19.

7. NYU Langone Medical Center: Avocado

8. Mayo Clinic: Olive Oil: What are the Health Benefits?

9. Castañer OCovas MIKhymenets ONyyssonen KKonstantinidou VZunft HFde la Torre RMuñoz-Aguayo DVila JFitó M.

Protection of LDL from oxidation by olive oil polyphenols is associated with a downregulation of CD40-ligand expression and its downstream products in vivo in humans.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 May;95(5):1238-44. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.029207. Epub 2012 Mar 21.

10. NCCAM: Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil:

11. University of Maryland Medical Center: Flaxseed

12. University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 fatty acids

13. USDA Database Walnuts

14. Omega 3 fatty acids

15. American Heart Association Omega 3

16. American Heart Association: Knowing your fats

Walk Your Way to Lower Blood Pressure

You hit the snooze button one too many times this morning, got handed a new project at 4:45 p.m. or used up your lunch break buying a gift for a friend. No matter the reason, many people have a hard time finding a solid 30-minute window to exercise.

That’s the number of minutes experts recommend we get our hearts pumping each day in order to maintain our overall health. [1]

Here’s the good news: It turns out that quick, 10-minute workouts sprinkled throughout your day may be even more beneficial for your heart health than one half-hour sweat fest. In studying the health effects of shorter workout sessions, researchers from Arizona State University assigned one group three 10-minute walks a day and another group a single 30-minute walk. They found that doing multiple mini-sessions is a smarter strategy for blood pressure control: The 10-minute-at-a-time exercisers not only reduced their systolic blood pressure (that’s the top number) during the day and evening (similar to the 30-minute group) but also continued to benefit from a lower BP the following day. [1]

Why do these shorter strolls yield a longer-lasting benefit? Walking -- even for a short period -- lowers blood pressure after each bout, so you wind up with a more pronounced reduction by walking three times each day compared with just one. To reap the greatest decrease, walk at a quick pace. That means you should be able to keep up one end of a conversation with some moderate huffing and puffing. If you haven’t exercised before or it’s been a while, talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.[2]

Here are some ideas for fitting in those 10-minute walking breaks throughout your day:

  • During work: Suggest a walk-and-talk meeting to discuss a project(chances are your co-workers could use an excuse to break away from their desks too).
  • On your lunch break: You have got to stop to eat at some point, so why not brown-bag it to save time at the lunch counter? Then use those 10 minutes you save by walking around the building or up the stairwell.
  • Before your coffee date: Plan to arrive early so you can do a few laps around the block.
  • After work but before dinner: Walk while the chicken is in the oven.
  • When it’s time to call your parents or kids at college: Don your ear buds, pocket your cell phone and hit the sidewalk.
  • In the parking lot: Yes, it may sound cliché, but parking a little bit out of the way counts too!

Note: These tips are most beneficial when combined with a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables and grain products that contain some types of dietary fiber. [3, 4]


1. Bhammar DMAngadi SSGaesser GA.

Effects of fractionized and continuous exercise on 24-h ambulatory blood pressure.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Dec;44(12):2270-6.

2. American Heart Association: Getting Started: Tips for Long-term Success

3. World Health Organization: Diet and Physical Activity: A Public Health Priority

4. Mayo Clinic: Eating and Exercise: