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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Squeezing in fruits, vegetables and whole grains

With all twenty-four hours of all seven days of the week seemingly filled with work, commuting, appointments, kids and multiple other commitments, it can be difficult to get a meal on the table some evenings, let alone making sure it’s a well-balanced and healthy meal. The task of increasing fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake can appear daunting, but hopefully these tips can help:

Keep the freezer well-stocked with frozen vegetables and add a cup or two to sauces, rice or pasta dishes.

If the kids are picky about vegetables, try shredding or grating vegetables (i.e. carrots, zucchini) and adding to flavorful casseroles, where they won’t be noticed as easily.

When you do have vegetables ready with dinner, try to make half of your plate vegetables. If you’re still hungry after the first serving, go back for seconds on the vegetables instead of the protein or starch.

If you find that fresh produce sits on the counter untouched until it starts to go bad, try cutting up fruit and separate into single-serving baggies or containers that are ready to go and easy to add to a lunch bag or purse for a mid-morning snack. The same goes for vegetables.

Don’t feel caged-in by recipes. For example, if a recipe calls for “one medium green pepper,” feel free to add a red pepper as well, or even some extra tomatoes.

Try substituting brown or wild rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta or barley in recipes that call for white rice or non-whole wheat pasta. You can also make half of the flour called for in baking recipes whole wheat flour, with little to no difference in taste or consistency.

Keep in mind that, as with many changes, if you make one healthy dietary change at a time it can be easier to stick with than if you try to make multiple changes all at once. Pick one small change per week (or month) until that change becomes habit, and then tackle the next goal.

Remember, the overall goal of a healthier lifestyle will serve you best when you can maintain it.

- Lauren Burdick, Registered Dietitian, Backus Food and Nutrition Department

Friday, March 5, 2010

The ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean 15’

Catherine Schneider, RD

In the interest of eating healthfully and saving money; choose organic produce for foods with higher pesticide counts. The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides ranks pesticide contamination for 47 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 87,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2007 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Most of the studies used to create the list tested produce after it was rinsed or peeled.
The following lists called “the Dirty Dozen” and “the Clean 15” are taken from the Environmental Working group ( This site even has an app to download these lists to an iphone:

Buy these organic in order from worst to best
Bell Pepper
Grapes (Imported)

“CLEAN 15”
Lowest in Pesticides in order from best to worst)
Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Sweet Potato

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Don’t Forget the Peas!

Renée Frechette, RD

Grocery shopping is often a task on that lengthy list of errands each week. Stop approaching it as a task and embrace it as an Opportunity! Perspective! Perspective is the first P to remember when you are dashing out the door on your way to the grocery store. Don’t forget the P’s! Let’s find the other P’s along the way. Your grocery cart will appreciate a wellness tune-up. And you’ll leave with a new approach to eating well.

Don’t forget the “Peas”!

Perspective. If you are looking to make changes in the way you eat, start by making changes in the way you think. If you are overwhelmed by all that you would like to change in your meal pattern, start with just one. If for example, you’d like to eat more vegetables everyday: be specific and set a goal of eating a set amount at lunch every day. Think positivity! You can do it. Once you have made veggies a part of you lunch routine everyday, then move on to dinner meals. This is the place to pack in the remainder of the vegetable servings you need every day. Will you be perfect – maybe not? Settle for Positively Good! Once you get there you can even sneak in extra veggies as snacks.

Plan your Purchases. This two-step process that takes place before you even set foot in the grocery store. First plan your meals and second create a shopping list. Planning is key when making healthy changes. Planning saves time, money (cuts down impulse buying) and mental energy later on when you are asking yourself: “What’s for Dinner?” If you need a little help, check out the links below. The simplest method yet: a pencil and paper. Back to our Veggie example above: This week add many different veggies to your list. Think ahead of which you’ll incorporate at lunch and which at dinner.

Perimeter is the Place to be. The outer edge of the grocery store provides most of the raw materials you’ll need. Strategic slides into the middle aisles will be required to snag whole grain (breads, rice, and cereals), beans and pantry essentials. But be sure that take a quick detour around the many traps that may be lurking near the heavily processed and nutritionally void foods. If a package is smiling back at you – (that cheery cartoon character on that box of “Super Sugar Swindlers”) then pick up the pace and keep moving.

Produce! In order to produce results on your way to wellness you need Produce: Vegetables and Fruits! These are the best part of the Perimeter! Consider aiming for a minimum of 5-6 cups of vegetables and fruit daily. This is achievable by including a variety of servings at meals and making these smart choices for snacking. Vary your choices to reel in a rainbow of colors. Choose whole foods over juices.

Place Trust in the Facts Panel and Ingredient List. Avoid spending too much time reading commentary on the front of a food package. A fair portion of what you read in the front of a package may be a lure. To be a savvy shopper you need to look at the whole picture. Turn the item over and scan the ingredient list. Items are listed in order of appearance (descending order). If you are scratching your head on what to Pick and what to Pass, here are few to keep in mind. Pick: whole grains (like whole wheat, whole oats, and brown rice) and items with the shortest list of ingredients ingredients. Pass on: hydrogenated oils, sodium nitrate, added sugars (beware of all its forms) and artificial colorings. Your next tool will be the Nutrition Facts panel. For the ins and outs on label reading download a copy of the FDA’s label reading guide:

Pick a new food. This is where creativity captures your imagination and peaks your curiosity. Choose something out of your comfort zone! Pomegranate, Parsnips, pumpkin, peppers, pears, plum or perhaps PEAS! Peas, humble as they may seem, pack some power! They are members of the legume family and contain some protein along with fiber, folic acid, and vitamins A and C.

Now go ahead: Shop your Way to Wellness and don’t forget your P’s!
~Renée Frechette, RD

One last P: Paper Please! Pass on the plastic bags and Pick paper or purchase your own reusable grocery satchels.

A Special Thanks from the Backus Hospital Registered Dietitians to our Norwich Stop and Shop for the Opportunity to give our Grocery Tour Participants a new Perspective. And thank you to my grocery group for a fun journey.

Download the Eat Your Peas checklist.

Please check out these useful links:

Planning posts:

Label Links:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Food for thought: Fill your cart with healthy things and lead a healthier life

From the cereal aisle to the deli to all aisles in between, the number of products available can be overwhelming. Dietitians from Backus recently helped decipher some healthy choices out of the dizzying array of items found on supermarket shelves.

View a video from their supermarket tours here.

What are your supermarket questions, ideas and tips?