Eating Healthy on a Budget

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By: Gabrielle Lambie- Nutritionist

If you listen to economic news around The Globe these days you are almost certain to hear talk of economies that are on the brink of recession or already in a recession. Here in Trinidad, we are already in a recession. ‘Recession’ seems almost like the latest buzzword. It’s on our minds and has more than likely begun to affect our lives.

No matter how the economy may change however, some things remain necessities, and the need to eat to improve and maintain our health is one of those things.  So, how do balance a healthy diet with reasonable food bills?

  1. Buy local

Not only are you likely to spend less on locally produced/grown food, buying local also stimulates the local economy in the long run. When you buy from local producers, more of what you spend is kept within your community rather than in a foreign market.  As more money is kept in the local market, farmers and producers are able to grow their businesses, supply can increase which in turn lowers prices and creates jobs. It’s a win-win situation all around!

  1. Prep for your Grocery trips

Always make a grocery list and stick to it.  Plan your meals for the week, or month, check the pantry, and compile a list of what you need (only what you need!).  At the supermarket, avoid the temptation to impulse buy! Or at the very least, limit your impulse purchase to one item per shopping trip.  Also, it is often worthwhile to explore the idea of using more than one supermarket and produce market to buy the items on your list. This approach takes away the convenience of ‘one-stop-shopping’ but with prices sometimes varying widely among food retailers, the effort to shop-around will definitely pay off in terms of savings and variety. 

  1. Focus on quality

Use your hard earned dollars to buy nutritious food. Buying food items full of empty calories is like throwing away your money. Your body doesn’t benefit in any way and in the long run, your health may actually suffer leading to increased medicals bills or more money spent at the gym trying to lose weight.  This goes for both grocery shopping and when buying prepared foods. On the days when there just isn’t enough time to  prepare lunch or dinner, opt for a healthy, pre-packaged lunch made from whole foods, as opposed to fast food. For example, the meals offered by GoSmart (available both by order and pre-packaged at various retail locations such as Puff n Stuff) are of a superior quality and make for convenient guilt-free meals any day of the week.  Use the money you would usually spend on items such as snacks, cookies, soft drinks, juice drinks and cakes to buy more nutritious items. The bottom line is to make sure your body & health benefit from whatever food you buy.

  1. Buy whole, less processed foods

Generally, the more processed a food item is, the more expensive it is, and the less healthy it is. Buying foods that are as close to their natural state as possible increases your savings and benefits your health. A whole block of cheese is cheaper than the same weight in shredded cheese. Dried beans are cheaper than canned. Whole chickens are less expensive than chicken parts. Whole fresh produce is cheaper than pre-peeled and cut vegetables. The list goes on.  

  1. Re-evaluate who prepares your meals

Cooking at home is many times cheaper than buying prepared food. Cooking more meals at home will benefit both your pocket and your health.  Find some recipes that are easy and quick to prepare. Save time by planning what meals you will be cooking the week ahead and prep those meals on the weekend.

Of course, for many of us cooking all our meals at home simply isn’t feasible and we need the convenience of pre-packaged meals. In such instances, choose a company like GoSmart that focuses on providing healthy gourmet food that you never have to feel guilty about enjoying.  Again, the focus is not simply on saving money and cutting costs, we want to ensure that whatever food we buy is nutritious and beneficial to us.

  1. Eliminate wastage

Once you have spent money on food, you want to ensure none of that food is wasted. Wasted food = wasted money. To help eliminate wastage, package, label and refrigerate or freeze your leftovers for use at a later date. Leftovers can be used in other recipes or enjoyed as part of a meal later in the week. Vegetables can be added to soups, stews, or pies. Left over poultry or meat can be used to make sandwiches or to top a homemade pizza.

‘Leftovers’ also applies to unused fresh produce. Produce can also be frozen and stored until you need them.  This may change the texture of some produce but most of their nutrients are preserved. Frozen fruits are especially great for use in smoothies or juices while frozen herbs and vegetables are perfect for use in soups.

Lastly, don’t let food get lost in your refrigerator or pantry. Keep both storage areas well organised and clean and always be familiar with exactly what food you have in there. Adopt the First In- First Out (FIFO) method of food storage used by restaurants and other food-service establishments.  Store items bought from a longer period or closer to their expiry dates near the front so they are used first, and store more recently purchased food behind them. This way you are less likely to end up with food past their expiry dates lost in the deep dark corners of your pantry/fridge-freezer.

  1. Buy produce that is in-season.

Produce that is in-season is cheaper because the supply is greater and transportation costs are lower as they do not have to be sourced overseas.  In-season produce is also more nutritious because the time between harvesting and consumption is less than with imported, out-of-season produce.  Want to enjoy your favourite fruits later on? – Buy them in bulk and freeze them yourself.

 Try new foods

Keeping your diet interesting doesn’t have to expensive. Be open to trying new herbs and spices, cheaper vegetables and fruits or even new types of cuisine. For example, Mexican food is full of flavor, uses cheap staples like rice, and incorporates beans- a less expensive alternative to poultry and meat with the added benefit of dietary fibre. Mexican food also allows you the flexibility of switching up ingredients and is a great way to use leftovers.  Arabic cuisine also combines easily available and inexpensive herbs, spices, vegetables and staples to make dishes that are as tasty as they are nutritious without placing any strain on your food budget. Being on a budget doesn’t have to limit your creativity or result in a mundane diet that feels like punishment.

Eating healthy on a budget is definitely possible. It may take some extra time, effort, and planning while making you tap into your organisational skill set; but, in the end it is all worth it!

How the GoSmart Food Co. Is Revolutionising Food Delivery in Trinidad

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By Emma InstaBaby, Marketing Intern

“Its 11:30am and I’m starving!  All I can think of is what I’m having for lunch. Gosh, I only have an hour though…and with the traffic I probably wouldn’t have time to go out and make it back on time. I should probably just call for a pizza…”

In the midst of a hectic day, the option of Food Delivery usually comes to mind for many people who simply don’t have the time to get in the kitchen or even go out for a meal. The unfortunate reality is however, in Trinidad, Food Delivery has traditionally been synonymous with meals that are convenient, but are certainly not the most wholesome or nutritious.  The Global Fast Food Industry is valued in excess of $250 Billion USD and each day the average person adds more to it without even realising.  Pizza, Fried Chicken, Cheeseburgers, BBQ and Chinese Take-Out are some of the most common suspects for choice.  These fast food meals are indeed tasty and easily accessible, but are known to be loaded with trans fats, saturated fats and high sodium.

When it comes to meal delivery of 100% nutritious, freshly prepared food using high quality ingredients, truthfully, in Trinidad the choices are little to none. This is really disappointing as busy individuals choosing food delivery are left with either having to settle for the unhealthful options available or simply skip lunch and wait until they get home to prepare something better.  This, of course, leads to the good ole body going into starvation mode, which then leads to it storing fat to be ready for the next time it’s starved.

Over the recent years, both childhood and adult obesity has increased dramatically in Trinidad & Tobago.  This is not something we should be proud of.  Did you know Trinidad & Tobago is the third most obese country in the world?  In 2013, T&T found itself on the list since at least 60% of our entire population is obese.  This sounds alarming when you look around and you don’t see that many people looking overtly ‘obese’ walking around.  Obesity however isn’t measured by how ‘overweight or fat’ one appears to be, but by one’s Body Mass Index (BMI) being more than it should be for the individual’s body type, height and weight category, and with it comes many health issues and risks.

It can be hard for us to say no to the doubles, fried ‘bake & something’, roti, currants rolls and yummy cakes as there’s no argument that Trini food is among the best in the world.  As a society however we are seeing the effects of our dietary choices. Obseity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are more prevalent than ever before and as a result, our well being as a society is at stake. Every year, millions of dollars is spent on the treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and hypertension.

The good news, however, is that the solution to this growing concern is very simple. The answer lies in education about how we live and the choices we make. We need to learn to say “NO” to regularly consuming all of the sugary and fried delicacies that are so tempting to us.  We cannot simply say “NO”, but must mean it by understanding the kinds of nutrients our bodies need to thrive. We should ensure that we are feeding ourselves and our children balanced meals made up of the essential nutrients we need.  We get one body in this life, so we need to love it and look after it well.

It is important to lead an active and healthy lifestyle, where we should aim to get at least thirty minutes of exercise five times a week, while eating a balanced diet.  If we are however, not exercising like we should or living as actively as we should, it is even more important that we are eating healthily.

Many of the world’s trendiest cities like New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and London have seen emerging companies that are seeking to progress the health food movement. Restaurants, cafes and even many fast food chains are now trying to adapt to these health trends by offering menu choices that are wholesome and more nutritious.

In Trinidad, with people being heavily engaged in social media and other influencers like The Food Network, we are slowly becoming aware of this movement. It’s definitely important if we are being influenced that this does not simply apply to fashion or gadgets, but also applies to adopting trends that promote a positive and healthy lifestyle.  Some supermarkets and Gourmet food shops have started carrying orgranic produce and an array of foreign, diet friendly ingredients like quinoa, almond milk and coconut sugar. All there is to do is to turn up the creativity in the kitchen! Preparing healthy, delicious meals can be fun and definitely rewarding as you are not going to feel bad about eating these meals vs. the guilt that comes at times from eating fast food.

If you are however short of time to go to the shops, you’re stumped with what to buy or how to plan meals and have no time to prepare your meals, this is where the challenge comes to eat smarter.  You more than likely will default to an unhealthy alternative if a colleague is popping to the nearby food fast food stop, or you might even go on your own if you can fit it into your schedule.  If you do however muster up the will power to say “No” to the regular fast food option, what are you choices then? If you want to have a healthy meal at lunch or dinner delivered to your door, your choices are almost nil.

The GoSmart Food Co. however, shatters that ideology by offering a convenient lifestyle service that is indeed revolutionising Food Delivery in Trinidad.  The Company exists to promote a lifestyle where people are encouraged to ‘Live Smarter & Live Better’ through the choices they make with food consumption.  You can have fresh, tasty, healthy gourmet meals handmade for you everyday using the highest quality organic ingredients…the best part is these meals are promptly delivered straight to your door.  This service is available for both lunch and dinner Monday – Friday.  Happy to be trendsetting with revolutionising the Food Delivery options in Trinidad, The GoSmart Food Co. is now here to offer ‘Good Fast Food’.  To check out this remarkable service visit www.gosmartfood.co or call 39SMART today.

 

You – A Meatless Pro?

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By: Gabrielle Lambie- Nutritionist

When fasting from meat, whether it be for ‘Meatless Mondays’, religious seasons like Lent, or a lifestyle change to veganism, the most important nutritional consideration is ensuring that you are still getting all the nutrients you would regularly get from meat from other sources. The main nutrient that comes to mind is, of course, Protein. By cutting meat and poultry out of your diet you are now eliminating your main dietary source of protein. Protein, present in every single cell and tissue in the body, is an extremely important macronutrient that has several key roles. These include maintaining lean muscle mass, building and repairing tissues, helping the body fight infection, repairing and maintaining skin cells, facilitating metabolism, and creating protein messenger cells like hormones that transport various compounds throughout the body.

So, by going meatless how can you still ensure you meet our RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of protein? (The RDA for protein for men is 56g and for women it is 46g). The first option most of us turn to is fish, which can provide more than an adequate supply of protein. However, there are downsides to relying primarily on fish or seafood for protein. Price is a major factor. At this time of year fish prices tend to skyrocket. It simply isn’t affordable for most of us to eat a variety of high quality fish and seafood on a daily basis. Also, depending on your reasons for going meatless, fish and seafood may not be included in the list of foods you can eat. Personal taste and the presence of food allergies often also place limitations where this option is concerned.

We must then turn to plant based sources of protein. These sources are not only able to provide all the protein the body needs, they come with the added nutritional benefits of a greater dietary fibre intake, potassium, antioxidants and phytonutrients, and less saturated fat and cholesterol than animal-based protein sources.

What exactly are plant-based options for protein?

Beans, Peas and Lentils – Several of the most popular beans and peas used in our local diets offer approximately 15g of protein per cup! They are also more cost-effective than animal-based protein and are a cholesterol-free, low-fat source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Soy- based products like Edamame, tofu and tempeh also fall into this category.   You may be raising an eyebrow here wondering if you can ever become a Meatless Protein lover but have you ever tried spicy bean burgers? They are really yummy and a lot healthier than those store bought ‘mystery ingredient’ veggie patties!

Vegetables- Doesn’t it seem like there is a never-ending list of reasons to include more vegetables in your diet? Meeting your protein requirements is definitely on that list! Vegetables may not immediately come to mind when thinking about protein, but most vegetables contain an impressive about of protein per gram. For example, spinach and broccoli both contain about 5g of protein per serving. Other vegetables with relatively high protein contents are mushrooms, brussel sprouts, corn, and potatoes eaten with the skin.

Nuts, Seeds and Grains – In addition to providing fibre, vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats, these sources also contain protein.  Including options like chia and hemp seeds, quinoa, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, oats, brown rice and whole wheat will definitely help you reach your protein goals each day.

It is important to mention that not all protein in food is the same. The protein from different sources is made up of different combinations of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). There are 20 different amino acids and of these the human body is able to produce 11 of them on its own. The other 9 must be obtained from food and are called essential amino acids. Animal sources of protein like meat and poultry are considered ‘complete’ proteins because they contain all 9 essential amino acids.  Most plant based proteins are incomplete because they are lacking one or more of the essential amino acids. However, providing your body with all 9 amino acids is simple – you need to vary your plant-based protein sources and mix and match them in every meal. A basic rule of thumb is have beans with whole-grains since the essential amino acids missing from beans are present in grains. Therefore once you are eating a varied and balanced diet with several different plant-based protein sources you can be sure your body is getting all the essential amino acids.

Aside from all the plant-based sources of protein, eggs and dairy products are also high-quality protein sources. Stick to low-fat options like low fat yogurt and skimmed milk.

So, if during this Lenten season you are trying to see if you can become a Meatless Pro it does not have to translate into a more expensive, boring, protein-deficient diet. On the contrary, with a little extra thought and planning your diet will not only have enough protein, but will also be more nutrient-rich and contain more dietary fibre which will benefit your overall health and well-being over time.  Don’t forget to use the opportunity to expand your palate and see how delicious you can make these choices!

 

The Last Minute Carnival ‘Diet’

The Last Minute Carnival Diet

By: Gabrielle Lambie- Nutritionist

Whether it’s because of a New Year Resolution to lose weight and be healthier or because it is less than a month to go before Carnival Monday and Tuesday, the word ‘diet’ is on many people’s minds right now.  For those of us wanting to look our best while in costume or dressed to kill at a fete, and for those just wanting to jump start our weight loss plan, the  goals are similar – reduce caloric intake while still meeting out nutrient requirements and providing enough energy to enjoy all the fun activities we have planned. Starving yourself into an unhealthy, lethargic state is NOT an option!   These are however:

Reduce calories

Calorie counting is time consuming and often inaccurate when done by the average person.  Here are two simple yet effective ways to reduce overall calorie intake.

  1. Reduce your portions sizes at each meal, especially your carbohydrates. Have one spoonful less of rice or one slice of bread instead of two. How drastically you reduce your portion sizes or carbohydrate intake is up to you. Remember of course that your carbs should always be whole grain carbs. Brown rice and pasta, whole wheat or whole grain bread, quinoa, couscous… you get the picture.
  2. Cut out added sugars completely. Fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars as well as other nutrients and dietary fibre. Added sugar is just empty calories waiting to wreak havoc on your weight loss attempts. Drink water instead of fruit juices or sodas with your meals. The additional water intake will also help digestion and help keep your skin hydrated. Try unsweetened tea for your caffeine fix, it takes some getting used to but there are so many tea flavours available now you are sure to find one that appeals to you. Other places you find added sugars are snacks, flavoured yogurt, and most cereal and granola. When unsure, check the labels. If sugar (or corn syrup etc) is listed as an ingredient then that’s added sugar.

Get your nutrients

The key here is to eat fruits and vegetables. Reducing calories doesn’t have to mean barely eating. Vegetables especially are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that keep you healthy and maintain or improve your immune system. You can easily enjoy a wide variety of vegetables in hearty portions without adding a lot of calories to your diet. Just pay attention to how vegetables are prepared. Choose raw vegetables or those cooked using healthy methods such as roasting, sautéing (in healthy oils) and blanching. Beware of overcooked and fried vegetables as this reduces their nutrient content and adds oil and unwanted calories to your meals.

Provide your muscles with energy

You are trying to lose weight or at the very least not gain weight but still have energy to enjoy your activities. Complex carbohydrates like those found in oats, whole grains, pulses and nuts, gradually release glucose into your blood thus providing a steady supply of energy.  This is a key reason why I seldom advise anyone to cut out all carbohydrates. Other reasons are the supply fibre and essential nutrients they provide. So as mentioned above, reduce your carbohydrate intake and ensure that the carbs you do choose are complex, not refined.  Another tip is to eat small portions more often. This way you avoid feeling sluggish while your body tries to digest large amounts of food and also keeps your blood glucose level steady. Also, don’t forget your B-vitamins. B vitamins play a role with converting the food you eat into energy your body can use. Fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, meat and fish all contain B-vitamins.

In addition to these steps, remember to eat lean protein like chicken, fish and peas to boost cell and muscle growth and maintenance and improve your immune system. Healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil will help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

Of course, ‘diet’ alone is not everything. Continue to exercise regularly and get as much rest as possible during this hectic season.  It may be too late for miracles but it’s never too late to make a start and aim for improvement regardless of what stage you are at!

Guilt-free Christmas Eating

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by: Gabrielle Lambie- Nutritionist

We are well into the Christmas Season and many of us are fighting that battle of enjoying the seasonal treats and dishes that are such an integral part of our local Christmas traditions while trying to stick to our healthy eating plans, or simply not letting our indulgences reflect in our weight. Unlike other religious festivals or holidays, Christmas is not preceded by a period of fasting. The culinary treats are enjoyed throughout the season which for some can stretch for over two months, depending on how soon the Christmas spirit hits you.  So, how do we find that happy balance between not denying ourselves the foods we have waited all year to enjoy and spending the first few months of the New Year trying to get our bodies back to the size we were at the end of October?

Firstly, get the guilt and denial of the way and replace it with some honesty – you are going to eat. You are going to enjoy eating. Once you have done that you can move on to implementing some realistic measures to manage your indulgences and strike the balance mentioned above. Also, accept that you are going to have to make some changes and some effort.

Next, it’s best to have a plan. When you know you have a function or gathering to attend, cut back on your calories throughout the day. This can easily be done by eating smaller portions of your regular meals throughout the day. You should also never attend such functions on an empty stomach. Have a light, healthy snack or meal before you leave home. This will ensure that you don’t overzealously pile your plate too high. It’s the same concept as never going to supermarket when you are hungry. Don’t forget to be deliberate in your choices as well.  Try to balance your meal and include healthier options like vegetables, fruits and salads. Leave room on your plate for that salad that is usually positioned at the end of the buffet. Many Christmas themed salads have fruits included in them so it’s a good time to add some fruit to your diet. It’s really all about taking control of what you eat in every situation.  

What about when you are preparing your own Christmas menu or dishes at home? The advantage of this situation is that you have even more opportunities for control. Not only can you control how much you eat when you’ve finished cooking, you can control what you put into each dish to make it healthier while still preserving that special quality in your treasured Christmas recipes that give you that feeling of nostalgia and satisfaction when you eat them. Here are some substitutions and changes you can choose from:-

  • Punch de Crème
    • Use skimmed milk or low-fat milk instead of Full Cream (or substitute half or more of the Full Cream milk for skimmed or low fat.
    • Reduce the number of eggs used, if your recipe calls for eggs
    • Use sugar as a sweetener instead of condensed milk. You will get the sweetness without the added fat from the condensed milk.
    • Reduce how much sugar you use and instead experiment more with flavourings like nutmeg and cinnamon. You will realise that when you use less sugar, your taste buds are free to enjoy all the other flavors present in your drink.
  • Black Cake/ Sweet Bread
    • Substitute all or some of the white flour with whole wheat flour
    • Remember that black cake can be enjoyed over time, the alcohol acts as a preservative. There is no need to finish it all at once.
  • Pastelles
    • Use lean meats like chicken breast, lean cuts of beef and pork and then mince them yourself to reduce the total fat in your recipe.
    • Fresh seasoning or your own blend of powdered seasonings has a lot less sodium than pre-packaged seasoning.
    • Try making mini-pastelles. Then have the same number per sitting as you would have with your regular sized pastelles, not twice as many!
  • Remember that some dishes like Ham cannot be altered that much, you really just have to exercise some portion control.

These alterations will not miraculously make any of these dishes a ‘superfood’ but they will make them considerably healthier, in appropriate portions.

Lastly, make every effort to incorporate some exercise into your daily routine. Even with the measures outlined above, you are most likely going to be consuming more calories than you regularly would during this season. Exercise is the perfect way to counteract that. Start exercising if you don’t already have a regular exercise routine or add a few extra workouts to your existing routine.

Use these strategies to ensure that guilt or regret don’t overshadow your enjoyment of this integral part of how we celebrate the Christmas season.

The Cancer Prevention Diet

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By Gabrielle Lambie – Nutritionist

Almost every month of the year is dedicated to the awareness of some form of cancer. Last month was Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this month is ‘Movember’, dedicated to raising awareness of the types of cancers that affect men. Cancer is without a doubt a disease that unfortunately touches most of our lives in some way or the other. With over 200 types of cancers affecting millions of humans worldwide, it is no surprise that this disease warrants year-round attention.

The saying goes – ‘prevention is better than cure’. Well, when it comes to cancer, in the absence of a cure, prevention is that much more important. Without prevention, all that is left to focus on is the treatment of cancer and acceptance of its death sentence or reduced quality of life patients have while being treated for this horrible disease.   To look at cancer prevention, we must first start with the factors that increase your risk of developing cancer. These include your genetics, the environment, lifestyle choices, and of course, your diet. Other than genetics, the other factors are in many ways under our control. This article is about taking control of one of those factors- your diet.

What you drink and what you eat, and don’t eat, all have a tremendous effect on whether or not you get some form of cancer. Some experts say that approximately 50% of all cancers in developed countries are attributable to the food we eat, and don’t eat. That figure more than highlights the powerful role diet can play in cancer prevention.

The good thing about eating to prevent cancer is that a diet that could reduce cancer risk really doesn’t look that different from the healthy foods you should be eating everyday anyways.  Such a diet will also help you lower your risk of other diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.  If that’s not enough reason to start using your diet to prevent cancer, there is yet another bonus- you will also find it easier to maintain a healthy weight.  Having a healthy weight in itself is a preventative measure against cancer as obesity has been found to increase the risk of several cancers including endometrial cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and colon cancer.

So what does a cancer prevention diet actually look like? For starters, don’t think of it as a ‘diet’ in the restrictive sense of the word. Instead it is steps you take every day through the foods you choose to eat and those you limit that make you a healthier person with the long-term benefit of a reduced risk of cancer.  Here is a list of strategies for preventing cancer through diet.

Increase your intake of:

Fruits and Vegetables

It should be apparent by now that fruits and vegetables are the foundation of any healthy diet and it is no different for one focused on cancer prevention. Aim for a variety of colours as these are indicators of the presence of various antioxidants and phytochemicals. Antioxidants and phytochemicals are chemical compounds found in plants that protect cells from harmful compounds in food and the environment, as well as prevent cell damage and mutations. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts), tomatoes, berries and dark leafy green vegetables are especially important in cancer prevention.

Dietary fibre

You want to aim to get at least 25g of dietary fibre per day – some experts estimate that for every 10g per day of dietary fibre in your diet, your risk of developing colon cancer is reduced by 10%. Dietary fibre is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and peas and beans. Dietary fibre also helps with weight loss and maintenance, overall digestive health and cardiovascular health.

Essential fatty- acids

Essential fatty acids reduce your risk of cancer by reducing inflammation in the body. Sources include salmon, mackerel, sardines, nuts, beans, and avocadoes.

Green tea

Green tea contains compounds called catechins that protect against DNA damage, strengthen the immune system and activate enzymes that curb tumors. Experts recommend at least 3 cups a day and it is available decaffeinated for those concerned with caffeine intake.

Reduce your intake of:

Red Meat and Processed Meat

Last month the WHO confirmed what many health experts had suspected for a long time – processed meat in carcinogenic and red meat is possibly carcinogenic. What this means is the intake of these should be greatly limited in your diet. Remember that processed meat includes any meat that has been salted, fermented, cured, smoked, canned, or otherwise processed to enhance flavor and improve preservation. Red meat includes not only beef, but also lamb and mutton, pork, veal, and ‘wild meat’.

Alcohol

Alcohol is believed to increase the risk of cancers of the oesophagus, liver, breast and mouth. Men should limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day and women should limit it to no more than 1 drink per day.                    

Eliminate trans-fats

Trans-fats increase the risk of prostate cancer and invasive breast cancer. They also increase your chance of becoming overweight or obese, which in turn increases your risk of several cancers. To help identify products with trans-fats, check the ingredients list and avoid products with partially hydrogenated oils.

These dietary guidelines, along with healthy lifestyle choices like not smoking and engaging in regular physical activity will reduce your risk of developing cancer and make u an all-round healthier person. We continue to hope for a cure but in the meantime, and even after cure is found, prevention should be every person’s focus.

All You Need To Know About Whole Grains

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We’ve all heard that eating whole grains is healthier and can help with weight loss and maintenance and in this case, what you have heard is correct. Diets rich in whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes, certain cancers, obesity and heart disease. Whole-grain diets also improve the health of the digestive tract by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon and improving regularity.

But why do whole grains offer all these benefits and what makes them so much better than their refined counterparts?  It mainly has to do with what whole grains actually are and how they are processed, or rather the fact that they are processed much less than refined grains. A grain in its natural form is made up of three parts -the bran, the germ and the endosperm. In whole grains, all three parts are left intact whereas refined grains only contain the endosperm because the bran and germ are removed during processing.  The bran and germ happen to be the parts of the grain that contain most of the protein, dietary fibre and nutrients which is essentially why whole grains are the healthier option.  The nutrients include B vitamins, folate, selenium, antioxidants and trace elements like zinc, copper, iron and magnesium. The protein and dietary fibre keep you feeling full and satisfied longer as they are digested more slowly than refined grains. Whole grains are also much more flavourful and have more texture than refined grains and while these are attributes that may take some getting used to if you have been eating mostly refined grains all your life, when you get used to them you may realise that the nutty, earthy flavours and stronger texture make your meals and dishes more complex and enjoyable.

So, how can you tell if a product is whole grain? In Trinidad, there is no local regulatory board or council that sets any standard for products to meet to be considered ‘whole grain’ so determining if a product is whole grain requires some investigation of your own.  You’ve got to read your labels and know what you are looking for. The best indicator is the ingredients list which should give a list of all the ingredients in the product in descending order by weight, meaning that the ingredient present in the greatest amount is listed first and so on.

There are two things you are looking for in the ingredients list –

  • The word ‘whole’ must precede the grain e.g.’ whole wheat flour’ or ‘whole oats’.
  • The whole grain should be the first ingredient on the list, or, if there is more than one whole grain included, they would be at the top of the ingredients list.

It is also important to remember that terms like ‘stone ground’, ‘multigrain’, ‘100%wheat’, ‘bran’, and ‘organic’ do not actually indicate that a product is whole grain. Think about it, ‘100% wheat’ says nothing about the type of wheat or how much or how little the wheat has been processed. A product can be 100% wheat made from refined white flour and it would be very accurate to print 100% wheat on the label. ‘Multigrain’ simply means that the product contains different types of grains but again, those grains can be in a refined form and can also be included in very small quantities. Reading the ingredients list is your best option, no matter what claims are printed on the rest of the package.

Imported products can be somewhat easier to decipher because countries like the USA and those in the European Union do have regulations and standards set for whole grains. For example, the  US’s Whole Grain Council’s whole grain stamp shows how many grams of whole grain per serving is in the product or displays 100% is all the grain is whole grains. Also, the  FDA approved health-claim that states ‘diets rich in whole grains and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers’  is only allowed on products that have at least 51% whole grains ingredients by weight. However, keeping up with what all the stamps and claims mean may not be very practical, so again, take a few seconds to check the ingredients list when shopping for whole grains.

Now that you know how to find whole grains, the next step is actually incorporating them into your diet. The simplest way of course is to simply replace all refined grains in your meals with whole grains.  For example, instead of cooking white rice, buy and cook brown rice. This seems simple enough but for some of us actually making the switch proves to be a more of a challenge, most often because we have to get accustomed to the taste and textural differences associated with whole grains. Here are a few tips on introducing whole grains into your diet.

  • Mix ½ refined and ½ whole grains to ease yourself and your taste buds into the transition to a diet rich in whole grains. For example, when making rice, use 1 part white rice to 1 part brown rice. For pasta, replace half of the regular pasta with whole wheat pasta.
  • Experiment with different whole grains and recipes. Many whole grains are ‘new’ to us (e.g. quinoa, bulgur wheat, rye, wild rice, brown rice etc.) and incorporating them into our diets is an opportunity to add much needed healthy variety to your everyday meals.
  • Remember that popcorn is a whole grain! Make popcorn the old fashioned way and you have an easy whole grain snack to enjoy without any guilt (once you don’t add too much salt!)
  • Replace 1/3 of the flour in your recipes with whole oats.
  • Introduce your children to whole grains from an early age. Their first grains should be whole grains!

Once you’ve starting adding whole grains to your diet the only thing left is to make sure you are getting enough each day. The exact amount of any kind of grain recommended per day varies depending on factors such as age, gender, and level of physical activity. In general, adults need about 5-8 ounces of grains per day and you should aim for at least half of those to come from whole grains. As a point of reference, 1 oz. of grains is equivalent to about 1 slice of bread, ½ cup of rice or pasta or 1 cup of cereal. So let’s say you are aiming for 5 oz of grains in your diet per day. If you have a cup of whole grain cereal for breakfast, a sandwich made with two slices of whole grain bread for lunch, a snack with ½ cup of whole oats over yogurt and a ½ cup of brown rice with your dinner, you would have not only reached your grains goal for the day, but made all your grains whole grains! That’s very simple and do-able; and your heart and waistline will thank you if you make it a habit.

By: Gabrielle Lambie –Nutritionist

 

 

The Clean Eating Concept

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By: Gabrielle Lambie – Nutritionist

Anyone who is even vaguely interested in eating healthier has undoubtedly come across the term ‘clean eating’. Clean foods are also referred to as ‘whole’ foods or ‘real’ foods. But what is clean eating actually?  The concept is basically being mindful about your food’s pathway from its origin (on the farm) to you (on your plate) and trying to consume foods that go through as little processing as possible between those two points. Clean foods are as close to their natural form as possible and have been minimally processed.

Technically, processing of food is anything that is done to it to change its state, adds ingredients to the food, or is manufactured in a lab. In other words, washing, peeling and chopping a carrot is processing it. So it is taking that same carrot, turning it into a powdered form, adding artificial products to it to preserve it, enhance its colour and flavor and then using that powder in a convenience product like instant soup.  The big difference that makes the chopped carrot healthier to consume than the powdered carrot-containing product is the amount and kind of processing it has gone through.

Eating clean means choosing less processed foods instead of highly refined or processed options. You want your food to look like its name at the point at which you are going to consume it. Why? The more you process food and change it from its natural state, the more chances there are for nutrients to be lost from that food and unhealthy compounds or ingredients to be added to it.  For example, removing the bran or germ from grains greatly reduces their fiber and mineral content; boiling vegetables or fruits causes water soluble vitamins like vitamin C to be lost. However, not all processing is bad – cooking carrots makes the beta carotene they contain more bioavailable and drizzling raw tomatoes with oil makes it possible for lycopene, a fat-soluble vitamin, to be absorbed and utilized by the body. When purchasing the food you eat or are about to prepare, consider how much processing the product has already been through and what you plan to do with the food before you consume it.  Aim to keep the processing steps to a minimum.

The main benefit of clean eating is that your diet becomes full of fresh fruits & vegetables, whole grains and minimally processed animal products. This type of diet has been shown to curb or prevent certain life-threatening diseases like High Blood Pressure, Type-2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke and Obesity.  As an added bonus, your skin, hair and nails will also benefit!

Here are some examples of minimally processed, clean food options vs. highly processed options.

MINIMALLY PROCESSEDPARTIALLY PROCESSEDHIGHLY PROCESSED
Fresh vegetablesWashed, diced, pre-packaged vegetablesCanned cream vegetables
Fresh beef (unfrozen, grass-fed)Deli roast beefStore bought meatballs
Freshly husked corn on the CobCanned Corn kernelsCorn Flakes
Soup with all natural ingredientsCanned SoupDehydrated/ powdered soup mix
Fresh fruit100% fruit juice freshly squeezedFruit canned in heavy syrup

Eat Right. Eat Smart. Be healthy.

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By: Gabrielle Lambie – Nutritionist

I have never been an advocate for ‘going on a diet’. Being healthy and staying healthy is all about eating smart everyday and choosing a lifestyle that keeps you active and happy. That’s the secret right there! No miracle pill, no ‘recently discovered super food that fixes everything’.

When you consistently eat a balanced diet consisting of a variety of healthy foods:-

  • You optimize your energy level
  • You reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • You look healthier
  • Your immune system is stronger
  • You think more clearly
  • Your response to stress is improved
  • Your bones are stronger
  • You have a better sense of well-being

So, how do we ensure that we are eating well?  Start by making better choices each day and continue to make those choices until they become a habit.

  • Eat a salad with each meal- salads don’t have to be complicated or expensive and they are an easy way to get dietary fibre and vegetables into your daily diet.
  • Have 2 more fruits than you usually do each day;
  • Buy wholegrain bread or brown rice instead of the refined options;
  • Replace a carbohydrate dish with a vegetable dish at big meals like Sunday Lunch;
  • Drink water instead of juice or soda;
  • Add less sugar to your tea or coffee
  • Eat less fast food
  • Try one new vegetable every week or every month to add variety to your diet
  • When indulging in high-calorie or high-fat foods, limit your portion sizes and the frequency with which you have them. Remember, the real indulgence is in the healthy foods you eat every day.

The list of healthy changes you can make is endless. Little by little all these small changes will add up to have a lasting, positive effect on your health and well being. The Go Smart Food Company understands the importance of daily nutrition to overall health and creates all its menus and recipes with the goal of providing balanced, nutritious, wonderfully tasty and enjoyable food. ‘Buy meals from the Go Smart Food Company when you can’t prepare them yourself’ can easily be added to the above list of healthy changes. Your diet will be not only be healthy, but also be enhanced with flavors and variety that will make eating healthy a treat!