Seasonal Classics Made Nutritious

Hot stews, hearty meats, delicious fruit pies … does your mouth water at the thought of this season’s specialties? To keep enjoying them throughout the season without doubling in size, try these simple tips for enhancing your favorite dishes’ health factor.

Pork Chops

Flavorful pork rubs help incorporate some of the smoky, rich tones of the season. For a change of pace, consider Greek-inspired spinach-and-feta-cheese-stuffed pork chops. Go light on the feta, but feel free to have a heavy hand with the spinach. The leafy green is chock-full of healthy phytonutrients and vitamin K: Just 1 cup boiled spinach provides 1000+ percent of your daily K requirements, and this vitamin is key for maintaining bone health.

Butternut Squash Soup

“Butternut squash is a great way to get in some nutrients, including vitamin A and folate,” says registered dietitian Beth Warren. Unfortunately, many recipes call for heavy cream, which is not necessary to savor this flavorful squash. Instead, Warren recommends relying on the creaminess of the pureed butternut squash. If you really need a little boost, she says that adding in some low-fat milk can create this creamier texture.

Classic Apple Pie

What’s more classic than a piping-hot apple pie? This feel-good favorite contains apples, which provide a special sweetness. Apples have also received considerable praise in recent years for their polyphenols (many of which function as antioxidants), offering up healthy benefits.

Many recipes call for a ton of sugar, but fresh apples have their own sweetness, which is enough, says Warren. If you still need a flavor boost, you can enhance your pies with cinnamon. Can’t live without the sugar? Add a small amount of honey.

Delectable Parfaits

Yogurt parfait is a great breakfast food: It enables you to enjoy the nutty flavors of the season. It’s typically layered with fruit and granola, but for a more nutritious version, try swapping granola with a fiber-containing cereal to help stay full, recommends Warren. One great option is Kellogg’s® All-Bran® cereal: Each serving contains 3 g soluble fiber and 51 percent of your recommended daily fiber.

Is It Hunger … or Just Appetite?

It’s 3 p.m. and your concentration is being compromised by recurring thoughts of food. Are you really hungry? And how can you honestly tell?

“Hunger is a physical need,” says New Jersey-based registered dietitian Robyn Flipse. “Your blood sugar level drops, and there are contractions in the stomach that cause growling and rumbling. They are signals to go seek food.” If you aren’t feeling any of those, chances are it’s boredom, habit or some other emotion that’s making you want to eat. “Appetite is the psychological desire for food,” says Flipse. Here’s how to spot the difference throughout the day.

Odds are good you wake up with genuine hunger, since it’s the longest stretch of time you go over the course of a day without putting food in your mouth. Make a wise choice with your breakfast to stay satiated, setting yourself on course for a healthy mealtime hunger schedule throughout the day. (Our pick: Kellogg’s Raisin Bran® cereals. Not only are there four delicious varieties, but all are made with whole grains and are a good source of fiber.)

It may be noon, but if you’re racing to the refrigerator, cafeteria or drive-thru even though you just had a bagel an hour before, it’s habit that’s driving you, not famine. “If we only responded to hunger, we wouldn’t be looking to eat until we felt the physical signals,” says Flipse. Break from your pre-set routine and wait to grab a bite until genuine feelings of hunger emerge. “A lot of people have never experienced hunger,” says Flipse, “because they have so blunted it through appetite as an excuse to eat.”

This is perhaps the time of day when emotions like stress or boredom are most likely driving your urge to eat -- not to mention other temptations like office birthday parties or snacking with your kids. “Our culture has so many cues to eat all around us,” says Flipse. “We can have our appetite stimulated because we’re constantly exposed to food.” Before you put anything into your mouth, pay attention to what your tummy is telling you.

If you’ve had a balanced dinner -- lean protein, fiber-full whole grains and vegetables -- odds are good that it’s not hunger catapulting you to the freezer for a pint of ice cream. Unless you have a non-traditional sleeping schedule, after-dark noshing is very, very rarely because you’re starving. Ask yourself this before you put anything in your mouth: When is the last time I ate anything? If the answer is within an hour or two, you’re probably not hungry. The culprit may actually be that you didn’t drink enough water at dinner and are dehydrated instead of hungry; try filling up on a glass of water to see if it eases your hunger pangs.

Walk Your Way to Better Health

A healthy heart benefits from regular cardiovascular exercise. If you’re not a runner, you’re still in luck: Walking can be just as effective at keeping weight off, lowering blood pressure, and controlling cholesterol.

You can start these two heart-pumping walking plans today: Plan A if you’re brand-new to exercise and Plan B if you’ve been at it a while. Both versions prompt you to alternate between moderate- and fast-paced walking. This interval technique helps increase the number of calories you’ll burn -- both during your workout and afterward. Do either of these plans at least three times a week.

Walking Plan A: 30 minutes

5 minutes: Walk at an easy pace.

1 minute: Walk at a moderate pace. (You should be breathing somewhat hard but still be able to speak.)

20 minutes: Alternate between 1 minute at a moderate pace and 30 seconds at a very brisk pace (fast enough that it’s difficult to keep up a conversation).

4 minutes: Walk at an easy pace to cool down.

Walking Plan B: 45 minutes

5 minutes: Walk at an easy pace.

1 minute: Walk at a moderate pace. (You should be breathing somewhat hard but still be able to speak.)

35 minutes: Alternate between 1 minute at a moderate pace and 30 seconds at a very brisk pace (fast enough that it’s difficult to keep up a conversation).

4 minutes: Walk at an easy pace to cool down.

Good-for-You Grocery Shopping Habits

Navigating the grocery store intelligently means having a plan. And with the overwhelming amount of options on the shelves, it’s easy to see why it’s necessary! Without a shopping strategy, “many folks fall into the trap of buying bulk food items just because they’re cheap,” says registered dietitian Jenny Champion.

While buying bulk on sale is an effective way to save money if have a large family or are stocking up for a gathering, “most likely, you don’t need all that food, especially if it’s just two of you,” she says. Also, both impulse buys and over-purchasing may mean choosing “bad” food options and overeating, which can be detrimental to your -- and your loved ones’ -- health.

If you’ve been known for making a grocery faux pas or two in the past or just need a refresher on supermarket best practices, review these smart tips from Champion. She provides some guidance on bringing home the healthiest picks that are still cost-effective:

1. Don’t shop hungry.
You’ve likely heard this one before, but it’s incredibly easy (and likely) that you’ll make impulse purchases if you head to the grocery store on an empty stomach. Before you shop, “eat a breakfast containing fiber,” says Champion, as well as other good-for-you ingredients.

2. Shop the perimeter.
The outer aisles of the grocery store contain much of the fresh produce and dairy you need for a healthy diet, says Champion. Plan to spend most of your time there, while of course making a pit stop to pick up essentials, such as bread, rice, pasta and cereal. If you aim to spend the majority of your time browsing fresh produce, you’ll have less time to be tempted by calorie-laden candy.

3. Visualize your meals.
As you shop, think about the delicious meals you’ll create with each ingredient. Not only will this motivate your meal creation, but it will enable you to weed out the extras and prevent mindless shopping. “As you pick up the candy bar, think to yourself, ‘Does my meal include this item?’” says Champion. If not, put it back and focus on the foods and ingredients that do make the cut.

4. Always check nutrition labels.
The National Institutes for Health recommends you consider serving size and number of servings the package contains as you scan the labels. Get the best option by comparing the total calories in similar products and choose the lowest-calorie items.

5. Plan ahead.
Make a list and stick to it. Not only will this mean thoughtful purchasing of nutritious ingredients, but it can also help you stay within a budget. Unless the item is on your list, don’t pick it up! A list keeps you from seeing increased numbers on your bill -- and the scale.

Are You Getting Enough Water?

Water is the single most important element of the human body. It makes up more than two-thirds of our body weight and helps every cell and organ to function properly. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), water also acts as a lubricant, keeping our joints loose and body temperature regulated through perspiration. Our digestive system is also dependent on our water intake, as water helps food move through the intestines properly.

Fortunately, you can look beyond the faucet to reach your adequate daily water intake, which is about 13 cups for men and 9 for women, according to the Institute of Medicine. Beverages like milk and juice are made up of predominately water. Consuming foods touting high water content is also an effective way to reach your daily water goal. “Hydrating foods contain a large percentage of water, and as the body digests them, it uses that water to function,” says registered dietitian Debi Zvi.

Incorporate these foods and drinks into your routine to meet your daily fluid needs:

  • Fruits: Tomato, watermelon and grapefruit are high in water content and can be consumed any time of day. Fruits like these are also low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals, says Zvi, so you can fill up on them throughout the day virtually guilt-free.
  • Vegetables: Cucumber, broccoli, spinach and cauliflower are made up of more than 90 percent water and are great additions to lunchtime salads and soups. Carrots, peas and even potatoes contain a high concentration of water, so consider them at dinnertime.
  • Grains: Cooked whole-grain products, which may not seem high in water content, can contain up to one-third water. For a healthy, hydrating way to start your day, add milk, which has high levels of water, to your morning bowl of grains and top it with fruit.

Yogurt: Another way to power up your breakfast -- and boost your water intake -- is with yogurt, which Zvi says is a hydrating food. Top yours with high-water fruits like blueberries or raspberries; for texture and crunch, top add a fiber-rich cereal, such as Kellogg’s® All-Bran® Bran Buds®.