Tag Archives: Avocado

Super Bowl Sunday: The Best and Worst Dips

Dips are as big a part of the Super Bowl as chicken wings and a six-pack. And just like wings and a six-pack, some of them come with tons of empty calories, salt, and fat. Find out which dips are packed with nutrients, fiber, and protein, and learn how to transform your favorite dip into a healthy topper.

Dips to pick

Salsa (per 2 tablespoons: 6 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g protein, 1 g fiber)
Packed with tomatoes, peppers, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and spices, salsa is loaded with nutrients and flavor – and for minimal calories. Tomatoes add a dose of cancer-fighting lycopene, while the capsaicin in jalapeños revs metabolism and helps improve cardiovascular health. Scientists have also recently isolated the compound dodecenal in cilantro, which has been found to kill Salmonella strains as twice as effectively as a common antibiotic. Add kick, and more nutrients, to your salsa with black beans, mango, and avocado cubes.

Hummus (per 2 tablespoons: 50 calories, 2 g fat, 2 g protein, 2 g fiber)
A chickpea-based spread that hails from the Middle East, hummus is a good source of both protein and fiber, making it a snack with staying power. It is high in iron, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin B6, and tahini (a blend of sesame seeds) and olive oil add monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. If your team loses on Super Bowl Sunday, have an extra serving of hummus: Israeli researchers believe the high tryptophan content of chickpeas may increase the amount of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, thereby alleviating depression.

Tzatziki (per 2 tablespoons: 50 calories, 1.7 g fat, 5.2 g protein, 0.2 g fiber)
Tzatziki is a traditional Greek dip made with yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, and garlic. Often served with greasy, fatty gyro and souvlaki dishes, it offers a tangy, refreshing taste, but you can also serve it with fresh vegetables. Yogurt provides muscle-building protein as well as probiotics to improve digestion, and cucumbers offer a surprising amount of antioxidants, including quercetin, luteolin, and kaempferol. Whip up your tzatziki with nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to squeeze out more protein and less saturated fat.

Guacamole (per 2 tablespoons: 50 calories, 4.5 g fat, 0.6 g protein, 1.5 g fiber)
Although it gets a bad rap for being high in fat and calories, guacamole is incredibly nutrient-dense. Avocados contain high amounts of monounsaturated fats, which reduce the risk of heart disease and improve insulin sensitivity. Other studies have found that avocados, while not touted as a superfruit, are comparatively high in antioxidants. Add chopped tomato and bell pepper to your guac: the fats in avocados increase the absorption of beta-carotene and lycopene up to 400%.

Dips to Skip

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (per 2 tablespoons: 120 calories, 12 g fat, 1.2 g protein, 0 g fiber)
This virtuous-sounding dip is misleading; instead of a base of vegetables, most recipes call for huge amounts of cream cheese, mayonnaise, a medley of melted cheeses, and sour cream. The spinach and artichoke skillet even manages to pack in 1610 calories and 103 grams of fat! If your Super Bowl Sunday won’t be the same without it, whip up a lightened-up version that adds creaminess with white beans and flavor with capers and lemon juice, like this version from Health Magazine.

Queso (per 2 tablespoons: 90 calories, 70 g fat, 3 g protein, 0 g fiber)
A staple of Tex-Mex cuisine, queso is a creamy dip made primarily of cheese, often with tomatoes, beans, or peppers added for flavor. At best, queso is simply high in calories and fat; at worst, the jarred versions are filled with additives, preservatives, and trans fats. Skip the queso altogether; if you’re craving a creamy dip, pick one based off blended beans, and if you’re looking for cheese, nosh on a few squares of sharp cheddar.

Crab Dip (per 2 tablespoons: 124 calories, 10 g fat, 6 g protein, 0 g fiber)
With lean seafood as an ingredient, this dip may sound healthy; but like spinach and artichoke dip, the crab only plays a supporting role to cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheese, and sour cream. Pick five large shrimp with one tablespoon of cocktail sauce to save 74 calories and knock off 10 grams of fat for the same succulent seafood taste.

Seven-Layer Dip (per 2 tablespoons: 80 calories, 6 g fat, 2 g protein, 2 g fiber)
This layered dip is dangerous for two reasons: with layer upon layer of dip, you don’t exactly know what you’re putting on your chip, and, because of those layers, each chip is piled precariously high with each flavorful layer, making for one high-calorie bite. The dish is, after all, layer after layer of fat (and it’s not the good kind like in guacamole): fatty cheese, greasy beef, refried beans, sour cream…If you’re after a dip with Mexican flare, choose a black bean dip with chopped tomato and cilantro. Black beans contain protein and fiber and help regulate blood sugar, keeping you satisfied until half time.

30 Days to Better Health: Part III

15. Bring your own lunch to work. Depending on where you work, you probably have very limited options for lunch. For many, the company cafeteria offers unbeatable convenience; others trek to a line of food trucks waiting on the streets; and more have local delis and coffeeshops on standby. Cafeterias are dangerous because they offer American favorites – lasagna, chicken tenders, Chinese food, salad bars – made with cheap and fattening ingredients. And while there are several food trucks devoted to healthy, fresh food, many trendy trucks offer indulgent specialties like popcorn chicken, gyro, and sliders. Most importantly, by packing your own lunch, you control the ingredients – and the amount of nutrients and calories you consume. Lunch can be as simple as leftovers or a sandwich, or you can put together a tapas style meal with hummus, olives, pita, and cut vegetables. Other options: grain- or bean-based salads, soups, pasta, or chicken lettuce wraps.

16. Use avocado or hummus as a spread instead of mayo. Mayonnaise made its debut in America after Richard Hellman (of Hellman’s “Blue Label” Mayonnaise) was served a sandwich made with the French spread. A mix of oil, egg yolks, and either vinegar or lemon juice, mayo is an energy-dense spread: per two tablespoons, it has 114 calories and 10 grams of fat. While it does contain some healthy monounsaturated fats, the sheer volume that most delis use makes it unhealthy – especially for something that doesn’t add a lot of taste to your meal! Try switching your sandwich spread to hummus or avocado: since they add a rich, creamy flavor, you can use less spread (and save room for other tasty toppings). Two tablespoons of avocado has 40 calories and less than 2 grams of fat (the healthy monounsaturated kind); two tablespoons of hummus has 54 calories and 2.6 grams of fat. And while there are no studies proving mayonnaise’s health benefits, avocado has been shown to increase the absorption of carotenoids by 200-400% and acts as a potent anti-inflammatory; hummus helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and provides omega-3 fatty acids.

17. Sandwich an unhealthy day with two healthy days. If you have a special occasion coming up, where you know there will be plenty of tempting foods, plan ahead: make the days before and after your special occasion super-healthy. Since you’ll be indulging on the “filling” day, limit treats and sweets on the “bread” days. Try to fill up on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein. Eating super-healthfully will likely cut out a few hundred calories from your “bread” days, making room for an extra serving of mashed potatoes, that huge slice of cake, or triple servings of French baguette. Making a vow to eat healthfully the day after will also get you back on track on your regular, balanced eating plan.

18. If you’re going out to dinner, front-load your day with vegetables. At a nice restaurant, many diners are faced with the dilemma of which appetizer to order: go for the salad, to up your vegetable intake, or go for the oysters, since they’re restaurant-famous? If you know you’re not going to order the salad – but that you’ll also feel guilty if the only vegetable on your plate is a carrot garnish – make room for tons of extra vegetables throughout the rest of the day. Start your day with a vegetable omelet loaded with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus,and anything else you can find. If you usually snack on yogurt and fruit, switch into savory gear and try crudites and hummus; at lunch, pick a big salad with plenty more vegetables. Add another vegetable- (or fruit-) based snack in the afternoon, so that come dinner, you won’t have to think twice about ordering that non-salad appetizer.

19. Slow down. For years, research has confirmed that eating slowly and mindfully is tied to eating fewer calories as well as a lower body mass index. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to register fullness; faster eaters simply eat more calories in this time period and therefore overshoot their point of satiety by a couple hundred calories. If you’re used to inhaling your dinner in under five minutes, try drinking more water with your meal; each sip you take displaces a bite of food, giving your body more time to register fullness. Or, try concentrating on all the sensations of your food: taste, texture, smell, temperature. If you’re really struggling, require yourself to chew your food a certain number of times. Not only will this slow you down; it will also improve digestion and improve the absorption of nutrients.

20. Flavor with herbs and spices. Most chefs and kitchens rely on fat, salt, and sugar to improve taste. And while these ingredients certainly do boost flavor, over time they can increase the risks of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity. Instead of butter, oils, and salt, reach for the spice jars and fresh herbs. These potent flavorings are calorie-free but enhance the taste and aroma of any food. Spices and herbs have benefits beyond taste, however: cayenne pepper, for example, contains the chemical capsaicin, a compound that raises body temperature and thus the rate of thermogenesis, ultimately increasing your metabolic rate by about 8%. And although you’re using just a sprinkle, herbs and spices are rich in antioxidants (one teaspoon of cloves has more antioxidants than ⅔ cup of blueberries!), vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Some notable herbs and spices: rosemary, which helps prevent cancer-causing heterocylcic amines; turmeric, an Indian spice containing curcumin, a compound that may help manage Alzheimer’s disease, cancers, and diabetes; and cinnamon, a spice proven to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

21. Create an eating schedule. Just as doctors recommend consistent sleeping patterns – going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – nutritionists recommend maintaining consistent eating patterns. Having a set schedule of when and how much of which food you’re going to eat allows you to plan balanced meals and snacks. Even if your routine changes – whether you’re on vacation, it’s the weekend, or the month-long span between Thanksgiving and New Years  – you’ll have healthy foods on hand. The National Weight Control Registry, whose members have lost an average of 33 kg and maintained their losses for more than five years, found that participants who reported a consistent diet were 1.5 times more likely to maintain their weight than those whose diet was more varied. Eat breakfast every day; plan for two to three snacks; and eat dinner around the same time every night.

22. Check your labels. Many packaged foods appear healthy with labels like “whole grain,” “low-fat,” and “trans-fat free.” But if you don’t check the nutritional information and ingredients panel, you don’t really know what you’re eating. Bread, for example, can be labeled “whole grain” if it contains some whole grains; products can be labeled “trans-fat free” if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Packaged foods that are “low- or reduced-fat” are certainly tempting picks for shoppers looking to avoid fat, but most of these foods replace healthy fats (like peanuts) with nutritionless and sugar-packed fillers. Scan the ingredients label: ingredients are listed by weight, so make sure the first couple ingredients are  real, whole foods (peanuts for peanut butter; whole grains for breads and cereals; milk for yogurt). Avoid products with added sugars, preservatives, and fillers (or at least make sure they’re at the bottom of the list).