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New Product Finds from ExpoWest

In March, I got to attend ExpoWest, a trade show for natural, organic, and healthy foods from all over the world (imagine a giant Whole Foods on steroids–and you get to sample everything!) The following new products, most of which are already in select stores or sold online, are my favorites for their combination of superior nutrition and taste.

The GFB (Gluten Free Bar)

From the company: “GFBs are crafted in small batches to achieve a taste and texture that other bars cannot match.”

My Nutrition Take: The Gluten Free Bar is free from more than just gluten: it’s vegan, dairy-free, casein-free, additive free, cholesterol free, preservative free, and trans fat-free. It’s also high in protein (with 11-13 grams per bar) and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (vegan, of course). GFBs stand out for their simplicity (which, in the world of snack bars, is a good thing): they use real, whole, and unprocessed ingredients like california almonds, organic roasted peanuts, dates, certified gluten free oats, and golden flaxseed. And unlike other gluten free bars, GFBs don’t use fillers and additives to make up for a lack of texture and flavor.

Nutritional Info: 220-240 calories, 6-10 grams of fat, 2-3.5 grams of fiber, and 11-13 grams of protein

Taste: The bars come in four flavors: Cranberry + Toasted Almond, Peanut Butter + Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Oatmeal + Raisin; each tastes like a denser, chewier, and heartier version of a cookie. While I always advocate snacking on whole, unprocessed foods, GFBs are a healthy choice when you’re on the run or traveling.

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Where to buy: GFBs can be found in select stores nationwide, or you can order them online.

Path of Life Side Dishes

From the company: “Path of Life manufactures the best organic and natural foods, prepares them to exceptional taste standards, then packages them to meet the lifestyles of today’s health-conscious individuals and families who are busy following their own paths— and know that good, nourishing foods are important for the journey.”

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My Nutrition Take: Path of Life’s Side Dishes, which come in steamable bags, are at the top of the frozen meals market. Unlike other frozen meals that use excess sodium, preservatives, and unpronounceable ingredients, the Side Dishes use only ingredients that you’d use to make the same dish at home. The Lemon, Spinach, and Artichoke Quinoa, for example, contains cooked white quinoa, cooked red quinoa, artichoke, spinach, olive oil, garlic, thyme, sea salt, black pepper, and lemon juice concentrate–nothing else. These Side Dishes (which could also substitute as a meal; just add a salad) are perfect for on-the-go parents, workers, and students who don’t have time to throw together a homemade quinoa salad. And as a bonus for the consumer and environment alike, the ingredients come from farmers who use sustainable farming methods and don’t grow GMOs.

Nutritional Info: (per cup): 130-210 calories, 6-7 grams of fat, 2-3 grams of fiber, 0-1 grams of sugar, and 3-5 grams of protein

Taste: The Quinoa Side Dishes come in four flavors: Lemon, Spinach, and Artichoke Quinoa; Mediterranean Quinoa with Feta Cheese; Southwest Quinoa with Lime, Cilantro and Mango; and Quinoa with Brown Rice. Each tastes like a homemade versions of quinoa salad–and there’s no evidence of these having sat in your freezer for weeks!

Where to buy: Keep an eye out for Path of Life Steamable Side Dishes this Fall!

Tolerant Foods Black Bean or Red Lentil Pasta

From the company: “At Tolerant, we take organically grown natural legumes and make delicious organic red lentil (or black bean) rotini loaded with goodies.”

My Nutrition Take: Tolerant Foods pastas are made with just one Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 7.50.38 PMingredient–black beans or red lentils–but they still taste like your favorite noodles. As far as pasta alternatives go, these are one of the best on the market: because they’re made with legumes, as opposed to processed wheat, they’re high in protein and fiber and have a low glycemic index. Essentially, you’re getting the nutrition of a plate of black beans or red lentils with the taste of pasta–a great tradeoff for pasta lovers! Compared to regular pasta, Tolerant Foods has five times more fiber and twice as much protein, making Tolerant Foods pastas a more satiating choice.

Nutritional Info (per 85 grams, of about 1.5 cups cooked): 320 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 15 grams of fiber, 22 grams of protein

Taste: Both the Black Bean and Red Lentil flavors taste and feel like regular pasta; and like regular pasta, they’ll mostly take on the flavor of your sauce.

Where to buy: Look for Tolerant Foods in Whole Foods and Wegman’s.

NuDeFood Breakfast Boost

From the company: “Ultra-Dense Breakfast Boost supplies generous quantities of naturally present vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein…Perfect for smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, pancakes, applesauce, and more!”

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My Nutrition Take: NuDeFood Breakfast Boosts come in small, single-serve packaging, making them perfect for a nutritious-conscious traveler. If you usually add things like chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, or cinnamon to your breakfasts (oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, etc.) but can’t carry them with you (whether you’re in the airport or hiking Machu Picchu), Breakfast Boosts fill the gap. They’re also great to have on hand when you’re eating something that just doesn’t fit your nutritional needs (if your cereal doesn’t have enough fiber, if your smoothie doesn’t have enough protein, or if your pancakes were made with white flour instead of whole wheat flour, for example). Each tablespoon adds six grams of heart-healthy fat, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 4.5 grams of protein. The ingredients aren’t processed, either: they’re ingredients you’d find in your own pantry or fridge, like California almonds, sunflower seeds, golden flaxseeds, and cinnamon.

Nutritional info (per package; 1.2 ounces): 170-210 calories, 12-16 grams of fat, 5-7 grams of fiber, 0-8 grams of sugar, 7-9 grams of protein

Taste: NuDe Breakfast Boosts come in three flavors. Original Spirulina has a mildly nutty taste; Antioxidant Berry Blend mixes tart with nutty, and Coconut Pecan Probiotic Blend has a sweeter coconut taste.

Where to buy: NuDe Foods hail from my hometown of Boulder, CO and can be found in stores throughout Colorado; you can also buy them online.

Superfood Snacks

From the company: “We source the highest quality organic & wildcrafted fair trade ingredients for all of our recipes…High ORAC antioxidant rating; boosts energy and vitality.”

My Nutrition Take: Superfood Snacks are small energy bites made with organic and raw ingredients that you’ve probably seen on superfood lists:  goji berries, maca root powder, walnuts, schisandra berries, reishi mushrooms, and green algae, to name a few. The bites are energy-dense, but they’re a great pick for an afternoon pick-me-up or to appease a sweet tooth (these are a much healthier choice than a fun-size Snickers bar).

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Nutritional info (per bite): 55 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 4.5 grams of sugar, and 1.5 grams of protein

Taste: Superfood Snacks comes in four flavors: Brazilian Chocolate Ecstasy, Chocolate Cherry Qi, Chocolate Goji Treats, and Green Chocolate Dream. Their taste and texture resemble a chocolate truffle, but with a little more zing, thanks to interesting ingredients like cayenne pepper and Himalayan sea salt.

Where to buy: Superfood Snacks can be purchased online.

Thanks to Jessica, Christian and Vicky from Patafoods for hosting me; and thanks to all the vendors for all of the samples!

14 Nutrition Hacks to Cut Calories, Refined Carbs, and Unhealthy Fats

It might not be so easy to switch from potato chips to kale chips or to trick yourself into believing that chia seed pudding is just as delicious as chocolate mousse, but some swaps and tricks–like the ones below–are so easy and sneaky that’s it’s pointless not to try them. These “nutrition hacks” focus on cutting out unnecessary calories, unhealthy fats, and refined carbs; look out for the next set of nutrition hacks, which will focus on adding vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and boosting their absorption!

1. Replace mayo, sour cream, or cream with Greek yogurt in both sweet (banana bread, muffins) and savory (tortilla soup, chili, spinach artichoke dip) recipes to slash saturated fat and boost protein. Or go above and beyond and try Greek yogurt in cupcake frostings, marinades, and French toast.

greek yogurt

2. Swap half of the ground beef for mushrooms in burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, and taco meat. Mushrooms have a similar meaty taste and texture in addition to valuable nutrients like vitamin D, niacin, copper, potassium, and antioxidants.

3. Add spiralized zucchini or carrots to spaghetti to bulk up your pasta dinner zucchiniand add vitamins and fiber.

4. Add equal amounts of potatoes and cauliflower to your favorite mashed potato recipe to cut calories and add glucosinolates, a type of antioxidant that helps in the detoxification process, as well as anti-inflammatory vitamin K.

5. Use hummus or avocado in place of mayo or butter as a spread in sandwiches or toast to add healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to boost satiety and heart health.

6. Swap half of your favorite cereal for a low-sugar, high-fiber cereal (try Nature’s Path Multigrain Flakes, Barbara’s Shredded Spoonfuls Multigrain, or Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs) to cut sugar and calories and boost fiber. You’ll be able to enjoy a bigger and just-as-tasty bowl of cereal for a similar amount of calories and more nutrients.

7. Use fresh fruit instead of dried fruit in salads, oatmeal, yogurt, and cereal: one cup of fresh apricots totals 76 calories, while one cup of dried apricots adds 212 sugar-packed calories.

8. Skip the sugary syrup in your morning latte, and add flavor with cinnamon, nutmeg, or cocoa powder. A regular latte made with 2% milk contains 190 calories and 17 grams of sugar, compared to a flavored latte 250 calories and 35 grams (8.75 teaspoons!) of sugar.

9. Substitute riced cauliflower for rice in stir-fries, curries, pilafs, and burritos to cut down on refined carbs.

10. Skip the pizza dough and pile your choice of toppings on a portobello mushroom cap or eggplant slices.

Nutrition hacks

11. Serve your food on 9-inch plates as opposed to 12-inch ones: in a recent study published in the journal Appetite, diners ate 48% fewer calories (up to 275-350 calories!) when they ate off smaller plates.

12. Buy a good non-stick pan; the oil you use to prevent sticking adds 120 calories per tablespoon. The flavors of oil disappear during the cooking process anyway, so if you’re looking for flavor, add a light drizzle after cooking.

14. …or, instead of using oil for flavor, use vegetable or chicken broth to prevent vegetables, chicken, and fish from sticking to the pan.

5 Common Breakfast Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

If you find yourself in line for another iced coffee or nibbling on leftover office donuts at 10 AM, don’t blame your lack of willpower–blame your breakfast. With a little help from a balanced and wholesome mid-morning snack, breakfast should give you the energy to reach lunchtime; but many Americans feel famished and fatigued far before then. Take a look at your breakfast and make sure you’re not making these mistakes:

1. Not eating breakfast at all

According to a report from the USDA, 93% of American believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day–but only 44% of Americans actually eat it! Breakfast jump starts your metabolism; without it, you’re fasting for 15-20 hours, which hinders the production of fat-metabolizing enzymes. But it does more than that: breakfast-eaters have lower cholesterol levels, feel more energized, perform better on cognition and memory tests, and have better blood sugar levels. And if you’re skipping breakfast to cut calories (or “save” them for later), heed this: people who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely than their breakfast-eating peers to be overweight. According to the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks people who have lost and maintained a 30 pound-or-more weight loss for over a year, 80% of their members eat breakfast every single day. If that’s not enough to convince you to start eating breakfast, consider this: according to a study from the Dairy Research Institute, those who skip breakfast consume 40% more sweets, 55% more soft drinks, 45% fewer vegetables, and 30% less fruit than those who ate their morning meal.

2. Not eating enough protein

Typical breakfast foods are made of refined carbohydrates: processed breakfast cereal, a bagel with jam, a muffin, a breakfast bar. But the convenience of these grab-and-go carbs is overshadowed by their lack of quality protein; at most, you’re likely getting 2-5 grams of incomplete protein. Adding just a little high-quality protein to your breakfast–a handful of nuts or a hardboiled egg, for example–might be the key to boosting your breakfast: research from the University of Missouri found that eating a high protein breakfast increases satiety and reduces cravings throughout the day. And even if you’re increasing the overall calorie content of your breakfast overall, it likely won’t hinder your diet efforts, either: people who eat a high-protein breakfast reportedly eat 200 fewer calories throughout the day. Look beyond eggs: add an ounce of smoked salmon to your English muffin (5.2 grams of protein), serve your cereal over one cup of cottage cheese (28 grams), or add some Canadian bacon to a breakfast sandwich (12 grams per two ounces).

High Protein Breakfasts

3. Not eating enough fiber

Another nutrient that most of those cereals, bagels, and muffins are missing? Fiber. The three most commonly eaten breakfast cereals in America (Cheerios, Special K, and Honey Bunches of Oats) each have less than three grams of fiber per serving (Special K has zero grams!); bagels and muffins have even less. But fiber is just as important as protein in a healthy breakfast: it reduces hunger and boosts satiety by slowing the rate of digestion and maintaining steady blood sugar levels. Fiber has a myriad of other health benefits, too: it helps lower cholesterol levels, boosts digestive and cardiovascular health, and may reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. If your heart is set on cereal, look for brands with at least five grams of fiber. Keeping that in mind, look for naturally occurring or intact fibers, like those found in whole grains or oats. Avoid “isolated” or “functional” fibers, like polydextrose, inulin, oat fibers, or soy fibers, which have been extracted from plants or manufactured in a lab and may not carry the same health benefits. To get extra fiber outside of the cereal box, look to fruits, vegetables, whole oats and other grains, nuts, and seeds.

Fiber Boosters

4. Not eating enough (or any) fat

You might be noticing a pattern at this point: that a healthy breakfast should include all three macronutrients (protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and fat). Besides being absolutely necessary for everyday functioning (it’s a component of myelin, the material that sheaths nerve cells, as well as brain tissue, Healthy Fats to Add to your Breakfasthormones and other biochemicals, and it helps protect our organs), fat is required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. But adding a little healthy fat to your diet boosts satiety: in addition to adding craving-crushing flavors and texture (you can thank fat for the creaminess of an egg yolk), it increases the amount of GLP-1, a gut hormone that increases fullness and suppresses appetite, in your blood. In a 2008 study published in the journal Appetite, overweight and obese volunteers who supplemented their diet with 1300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids experienced fewer hunger sensations immediately following and two hours after test meals. If you’re eating skim milk or nonfat yogurt now, switch over to 1 or 2%; the difference in calories is negligible, especially when you factor in the added satiety. Or simply add a handful of nuts or seeds (try flaxseed and chia seeds) to your favorite breakfast.

5. Not eating the right breakfast for you

According to a 2008 study, individuals who ate a 610-calorie breakfast shed more weight–and kept that weight off for longer–than individuals who ate a breakfast with 290 calories. But according to a 2011 study, all participants ate the same amount of calories later in the day, regardless of the amount of calories they had consumed at breakfast–meaning that those who ate a large breakfast consumed more calories overall. Either way, it seems like eating the right breakfast for your body is what’s key: just because a study says that a huge breakfast of bacon and eggs–or a light breakfast of blueberries and almonds–will aid in weight loss doesn’t meant that it’s the right breakfast for your lifestyle and body. So if it takes a 600-calorie breakfast to feel energized, go for it: just go for whole, unprocessed foods with a balance of protein, fiber, and fat, and think about downsizing your other meals. If you prefer light breakfasts, just make sure to eat enough to prevent cravings and overeating later in the day. And if you can’t stomach a big enough breakfast to keep you going until lunch, try eating two small breakfasts.

Breakfast

5 Foods That Sound Healthy — But Aren’t

Low fat, low sugar, low salt, whole grain, gluten free, organic, natural, low carb: these are just a fraction of the adjectives you see splashed around food products in the grocery store today. In the food industry, food manufacturers have one goal–and unfortunately it’s not the health of their consumers. Profit is the name of the game; but because consumers are becoming more food-savvy, food manufacturers have had to step up their marketing game in order to sell otherwise normal products. Splenda comes with antioxidants; chocolate milk has omega-3 fatty acids; water can now put your to sleep. Keep an eye out for these five food products that aren’t as healthy as they seem:

5 Foods That Sound Healthy -- But Aren't

1. Better’n Peanut Butter
Better’n Peanut Butter is marketed as a low-fat, low-calorie, “diet” peanut butter spread. It contains 85% less fat and 40% fewer calories than regular peanut butter. But taking an already healthy, whole foods product, taking away its satiating and heart-healthy fats, and adding highly processed ingredients is not an improvement, by any means. At around 180 calories per two tablespoons, peanut butter is absolutely an energy-dense food–but every single one of those calories is high quality and satisfying. Better’n Peanut Butter’s 100 calories of processed paste (with fillers like tapioca syrup, dehydrated cane juice, rice syrup, glycerin, and tapioca starch) doesn’t match up in taste or nutrition, potentially setting you up for cravings and overeating down the line. And for the record: when a high-fat food is converted into a low-fat version of itself, it’s usually pumped full of extra carbs, sugars, and fillers to make up for the loss of taste and consistency (Better’n Peanut Butter contains 13 grams of empty carbs; regular peanut butter contains just four carbs, two of which are fiber). Stick with regular peanut butter–just keep portion sizes in check.

Healthy Alternative: Regular peanut butter made with two ingredients: peanuts and salt

5 Foods That Sound Healthy -- But Aren't

2. Who-Nu Nutritious Cookies
From the front of a box, you’d think you’re reading the label of a superfood: “As much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal! As much calcium and vitamin D as a glass of milk! As much vitamin C as a cup of blueberries!” But eating Who-Nu Nutrition-Rich cookies certainly won’t give you any of the same health benefits as eating oatmeal, milk, or blueberries. These aren’t cookies made with wholesome ingredients; they’re made with processed flour, corn syrup, and additives, making them no healthier than eating an Oreo along with a multivitamin. Plus, added vitamins and minerals aren’t absorbed by the body in the same way that vitamins and minerals from whole foods are: vitamins and minerals from whole foods are naturally packaged alongside other nutrients, like phytonutrients, cofactors, and enzymes, that maximize their absorption. Cookies are fine in moderation, but take them for what they are: dessert.

Healthy Alternative: Regular or homemade cookies, in moderation

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3. Fat-free Salad Dressings
Recently, salads have been made out to be the enemy in fast food restaurants: news sites decried McDonald’s Caesar Salad for being more fatty than their burger; Shape Magazine lists “12 Salads Worse Than A Big Mac,” and Eat This, Not That! slams “The Worst Salads in America.” And it’s true: these salads are packed with fat and calories, hitting the 1,600 calorie and 121-grams-of-fat range. But while salad dressings are partly to blame, add-ons like fried chicken, cheesy croutons, deep-fried tortilla shells, and sour cream also beef up the calories. Reaching for fat-free salad dressings isn’t the answer; vegetables contain fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A and K and lycopene that require fat to be absorbed. Plus, fat-free salad dressings, like reduced-fat or “diet” peanut butter, use fillers and added sugars to make up for lost taste. In the toss-up between 120 calories of olive oil, lemon juice and herbs and 35 calories of sugar, sugar alternatives, artificial flavorings, and additives, go with the former.

Healthy Alternative: Homemade salad dressings; or look for store bought dressings made with as few ingredients as possible

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4. 100 Calorie Snack Packs
100 Calorie Packs are supposedly a dieter’s dream — they offer built-in portion control for easy-to-overeat snack foods. And the diet market has certainly eaten them up; they’re now part of a $200 million industry. But just because they’re 100 calories doesn’t make them healthy. Most 100 Calorie snack packs are comically small portions of processed foods like Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Cheez-Its, even Hostess cupcakes–and they still contain the same unhealthy ingredients as their full-size counterparts. They’re short on hunger-quashing nutrients like fiber, protein, and healthy fats and high in sugar, saturated fats, and refined flours–ingredients that will spike insulin levels and leave you just as hungry as before. Plus, they’re not even economically advantageous: snack packs can cost more than three times per ounce than full-size versions. You can still snack on 100 calorie portions; just make your own with healthful, wholesome ingredients like nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Healthy Alternative: 100 calories of unprocessed food, preferably high in protein, fiber, or healthy fats

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5. Enhanced Water
Vitamin Water XXX claims to “help fight free radicals and help support your body;” Dream Water supposedly helps you to relax and fall asleep. Even with health claims from boosting your immune system to heightening passion, enhanced waters (also called fitness water, functional water, or fortified water) are little more than water with the same vitamins you could get with a multivitamin (or better: real food) and trendy, buzzword ingredients. But for the most part, the efficacy — and safety — of these ingredients aren’t yet backed by science. Look out for added sugars (Vitamin Water has more than twice the amount of sugar in a can of soda), which might be hiding under names like crystalline fructose and fruit juice concentrate. If regular, free water is too boring, flavor it with sliced cucumbers or citrus, berries, or herbs.

Healthy Alternative: Regular water; tea

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5 Junk Foods that are Actually Healthy

Generally, nutritionists and dietitians refrain from labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” as it can promote unhealthy attitudes towards food — and, for the most part, any food can be eaten as long as it’s in moderation. But we’re all familiar with junk food: heavily processed and often packaged food products that are high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium and generally void of nutrients. Cheeseburgers, Cheetos, Twinkies, and french fries might come to mind. But some “junk foods,” like the ones listed below, actually have some redeeming nutritional qualities. They may not be as nutrient-dense as whole, unprocessed foods like blueberries, kale, salmon, and lentils, but they do have a place in any healthy diet (especially when you’re in a pinch and are staring at a Cinnabon menu!). Just eat them in the most unprocessed form you can find– think air-popped popcorn instead of movie theater popcorn.

Chocolate
As long as you’re sticking to dark chocolate–with a cocoa content of 70% or higher–a few pieces of chocolate might just be the perfect dessert. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, antioxidant compounds also found in green tea and red wine, that have been shown to boost heart health by improving cholesterol levels and relaxing blood vessels. One study from San Diego State University, comparing the health effects of dark chocolate versus white chocolate, found that individuals who ate dark chocolate had lower blood sugar levels, perhaps because its antioxidants help the body use insulin more efficiently. But more noteworthy, perhaps, is that white chocolate-eaters experienced a decline in skin blood flow, indicating that the antioxidants present in dark chocolate cancel out the negative effects of fat and sugar.

Pick it: Chocolove Currants & Almonds in Dark Chocolate (73% cocoa content); Scharffen Berger Dark Chocolate (70%); Michel Cluizel Grand Noir (85%)
Skip it: White chocolate; milk chocolate; grocery store truffles

Dark chocolate

Popcorn
A recent study found that popcorn contains more antioxidants than many fruits and vegetables. Because popcorn is only 4% water (fruits and vegetables, in comparison, contain up to 95% water), the antioxidant polyphenols, found in the hull, are more concentrated. One of these polyphenols–ferulic acid–has been found to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. Of course, smothering your popcorn in oil, butter, and salt will reduce the protective benefits of its antioxidants and fiber. Air-popped popcorn is best, as it’s an undoctored whole grain; add flavor with ingredients like turmeric, cardamom, cumin, parmesan cheese, and truffle oil. Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories, so indulge in moderation.

Pick it: Air-popped popcorn with spices, herbs, nuts, or a little butter or parmesan cheese
Skip it: Microwave popcorn; movie theater popcorn

Popcorn

Full-fat salad dressing
Restaurant and fast food salads are often at the top of “worst foods for your waistlines” lists, and that’s often because their dressings pack a ridiculous amount of calories and fat. On The Border’s Chipotle Honey Mustard Dressing adds at least 310 calories and 29 grams of fat to your meal–and that’s only if the chef adheres to the serving size. But the fats found in salad dressings help us absorb nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K and E, lycopene, and beta carotene. In one study, individuals who ate a salad with avocado (rich in monounsaturated fats) absorbed two to fifteen times more lycopene, beta carotene, and alpha carotene than those who ate a fat-free salad. The key is portion size: a standard serving size for salad dressing is two tablespoons, a mere fraction of what you’re likely served at restaurants. Ask for dressing on the side and pour judiciously; or simply dip each bite into the dressing. Look for dressings made with monounsaturated fats (look for olive, canola, avocado, or sesame oil); these will enhance nutrient absorption no matter how much you use, so you can keep calorie consumption in check.

Pick it: Olive-, canola-, avocado-, sesame-, peanut-, and other monounsaturated fat-based oils
Skip it: Fat-free and reduced-fat salad dressings; high-sugar salad dressings; salad dressings high in saturated or trans fats; salad dressings with more than five ingredients

Salad Dressing

Beer
Red wine might steal the spotlight when it comes to antioxidant-rich alcoholic drinks, but don’t overlook beer: it contains just as many antioxidants as wine plus B vitamins and minerals. The hops (which are actually flowers from the plant Humulus Iupulus and are responsible for adding that bitter taste and aroma to beer) contains xanthohumol, an antioxidant that exhibits antiviral, anti-allergic, anti-clotting, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor activity. According to Donald Buhler, PhD., lead author of a study testing beer’s antioxidant effects, xanthohumol is especially potent because of its unique chemical structure that allows it to survive longer in the body, thereby maximizing its disease-fighting effects. As always, drink in moderation: research shows that one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men is associated with improved brain and heart health and stronger bones. Pick stouts or dark ales, which contain higher levels of antioxidants.

Pick it: Guinness Draught; Newcastle Ale; Beck’s Premier Light
Skip it: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot; Samuel Adams Boston Lager; high-calorie beers; sugary cocktails

Red Meat
Good news for most Americans: it’s perfectly healthy to indulge in steak, bison burgers, and lamb chops every so often. Red meat is packed with protein (20-24 grams per three ounce serving), as well as iron, vitamin B12, and zinc. And grass-fed beef has even more benefits: it contains up to one third the amount of fat as corn- or grain-fed beef, and the fats it does have contain more omega-3 fatty acids in addition to conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that is linked with weight loss and a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. Pick leaner cuts of meat like sirloin and top round; steer clear of fattier cuts, like rib-eye, T-bone, and strip steak, as well as processed meats like bacon, sausage, and deli meats.

Pick it: Grass-fed beef; eye, top, and bottom round roast and steak; sirloin; leg of lamb; bison meat
Skip it: Bacon, sausages, cured meats; hot dogs

Red Meat

Five Ways to Eat More Mindfully

Back in the caveman days, we spent a good part of our day (and a lot of our energy) looking for food — hunting it, gathering it, picking it. Now, food is literally at our fingertips, whether it’s in the plastic bag in front of you or a phone call away. As a result, eating has become relatively automatic: we’re hungry (or bored, or sad, or happy…), so we head to the pantry and pick whichever snack looks good. Most people no longer think about the short- or long-term impact of that food; they’re focused on the immediate gratification of America’s favorite snack foods: salty chips, sugary cookies, and greasy donuts. So how can we re-teach ourselves to appreciate and select the right foods for us? The answer, according to experts, lies in mindful eating: being present and aware of what you’re eating, its sensations, and its impact on your body and feelings. Mindful eating has multiple benefits: it can reduce the risk of diabetes; it may curb overeating; it could help you lose weight; it can help you manage your emotions. Below are five strategies to eat more mindfully:

Mindful Eating
1. Unitask
Whether you like to watch Food Network, catch up on the news, write emails, or chill out with your Kindle while you eat, unplugging at mealtime can help you focus in on the sensations on your meal. Other sensations apart from those you get directly from food (taste, smell, texture, appearance) can distract Printyou from focusing on those sensations, making it more difficult to register how much you’ve eaten or whether you’re full or not. Sit down at a (preferably set) table and take a minute to appreciate the food you’re about to eat and your surroundings. And at the very least, keep stressful stimuli (like responding to work emails or planning a dinner party) at bay: a study published in the journal Gastroenterology found that attending to two stimuli at once can alter metabolism and halt the digestive process.

2. Eat with your non-dominant hand
Popcorn-eaters who ate with their non-dominant hand ate far fewer calories than Chopsticksthose who snacked with their dominant hand. According to lead researcher David Neal, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, “When we’ve repeatedly eaten a particular food in a particular environment, our brain comes to associate the food with that environment and makes us keep eating as long as those environmental cues are present.” Altering those environmental cues–that is, by eating with your non-dominant hand–removes the “automatic” part of eating, forcing us to pay attention to our intake. For an extra challenge, try eating with chopsticks using your non-dominant hand–research shows that doing so activates both hemispheres of the brain, strengthening neural connections and stimulating creativity.

3. Chew 40 times
In a recent study, individuals who chewed their food 40 times consumed 12% fewer calories than those who chewed each bite 15 times. The mechanism may be as simple as limiting the amount of food you can actually put in your mouth in a certain time, or it may be physiological: chewing stimulates the production of appetite-suppressing hormones like PYY and curbs the production of ghrelin, an appetite-boosting hormone. As a bonus, more chewing means that your food is broken down further, which may lead to better absorption of nutrients.

4. Put your fork down
You’ve heard it before: it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness. But because most of us can put down a burrito in less than five minutes, it’s important to slow down in order to let your brain catch up with your stomach. Putting your fork down between bites simply prolongs the eating period, allowing you to stop eating when you feel full and not when your food is gone. It also lets you focus on the taste, smell, and texture of your food (as opposed to getting your next forkful ready), so that you can truly taste your food.

Ingredients

5. Identify all the ingredients in the meal
Take a bite of your food and really focus in on the different flavors. Is the overall taste sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or savory? Which herbs and spices can you detect? Identifying each ingredient in a dish helps you stay in the moment and focus exclusively on your meal as opposed to thinking about tomorrow’s deadline.