Nutrition Myth Busters- Vegetarian Diet

Myth-busters

This week I had the exciting opportunity to do a guest post on the SPE Certified Blog! I chose the topic of nutrition myths because there are so many that run rampant through our society and the media. I believe that it is important that these myths be proven or dis-proven with current, science-based information. For the post I decided to focus specifically on myths surrounding vegetarians. Though I am not personally a vegetarian, I still found it interesting to learn what goes in to making a meatless diet healthy.

Myth: “It is impossible to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet”

Facts:

  •  Not only is it possible to get enough protein from plant sources, there are other nutritional benefits as well, including a greater intake of fiber, potassium, immune system-boosting phytonutrients, and a lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Plant-based protein sources generally have lower digestibility than animal protein. Therefore, vegetarians should consume more protein on average than their meat and dairy-eating counterparts. The RDA recommends .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. Vegetarians should aim for .41 grams per pound.
  • Healthy plant-based sources of protein include legumes, soy products, whole grains, and nuts. Legumes, such as black beans and lentils, are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals and low in fat.
  • Soy products, such as tofu or tempeh, are some of the most versatile vegetarian protein sources. Tofu can be incorporated into soups or stir-fries, and tempeh can be marinated or grilled to be included in salad or sandwiches.

Myth: “You must eat dairy products to build strong bones”

Facts:

  • The key nutrients for bone health are calcium, vitamin D, and protein. While these nutrients are present in dairy such as cow’s milk, they also exist in many plant-based foods.
  • Some studies show that the ratio of dietary calcium to protein is a better predictor of bone health than calcium intake alone. Vegetarians should try to consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods such kale (1 cup=179 mg calcium), tofu (4 oz= 11 g protein, 200-300 mg calcium), and soymilk (1 cup= 7g protein, 200-300 mg calcium).
  • While spinach and rhubarb are good sources of calcium, they are also high in oxalates, which decrease calcium absorption in the body. Therefore it is advisable to favor other green vegetables more often.
  • Vegetarians may find it is easier to meet the 1000 mg daily requirement for calcium needs if calcium-fortified foods or dietary supplements are utilized.
  • Calcium absorption can be maximized by pairing calcium-rich foods with foods containing vitamin C.

Useful resources:

http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php

http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/calcium.php

How to Build a Healthier Sandwich

build_healthier_sandwich

I have a theory.

My theory is that food tastes best when you take a big bite full of different textures and flavors all at one time. You see I’m not much of a nibbler, which probably explains why I love sandwiches so much. You get crunchy, creamy, sweet, and salty all in one epic bite. On top of that, there’s nothing complicated when it comes to sandwiches, except for maybe how difficult it was for me to spell the word growing up…sandwitches? sandwhiches? It took me a while to get that part right.

Even though building these beauties is simple, sometimes it can be tricky knowing how to build sandwiches that are healthy. Follow some of these tips and I guarantee you’ll want to make a sandwich your new simple go-to meal.

Step 1: The Bread

Like all great masterpieces, we must begin with the foundation. White breads spike blood sugar levels and lack protein, fiber, and essential B vitamins that give your body energy.  Try some of these whole grain options that are both nutritious and filling:

  • Whole wheat baguette
  • Whole wheat English muffins
  • Whole grain pita bread
  • Rye
  • Pumpernickle bread
  • Whole wheat Ciabatta

Quick tip! Scoop out the inside of thick crusty bread, such as a baguette and Ciabatta, to remove some calories. You can use the bread to make breadcrumbs by blending it in a food processor and baking it in the oven at 300°F until brown.

Step 2: The Moist Maker (aka Spreads)

Here’s where the calories can really start to sneak up on you! Many of us spread thick layers of oil-based spreads to add moistness to our sandwiches. What if I told you that the moist factor could be achieved without adding excessive calories?

Add a light layer of spreads like mayonnaise, Aioli, and creamy dressings on one side of your bread.  By adding a thin layer, you will experience the full flavor without piling on the calories. Keep in mind only one tablespoon of mayonnaise has 94 calories and 10g of fat!

Feel free to add more of your favorite low calorie spread. Try some of these delicious options:

  • Hummus
  • BBQ sauce
  • Mustard such as Dijon, honey, spicy, etc.
  • Avocado or guacamole

Don’t want to use spreads, but still want to add flavor? Toss your veggies in your favorite salad dressing and add it to your sandwich.

Step 3: Cheese

Look for your favorite cheese made from skim or part-skim milk, which has less calories and saturated fat. Use just one thin slice!

Step 4: Vegetables

This is where you can experiment with your favorite veggies! It’s also the perfect chance to try new vegetables you’ve seen at the farmers market. It’s more than just lettuce and tomatoes now…here are my personal favorites:

  • Spring mix
  • Arugula
  • Caramelized onions
  • Avocados
  • Roasted peppers
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Cucumbers
  • Beets
  • Pickled vegetables

Step 5: Protein

Some things to consider when looking for meat:

  • Look for meats naturally low in fat and saturated fat.
  • Aim for less than 500 mg of sodium per serving. Some processed meats are very salty.
  • Choose deli meats free of nitrates and nitrites, which are used as preservatives.

Try some of these:

  • Turkey
  • Roast Beef
  • Chicken breast
  • Chicken, tuna, or egg salad made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
  • Eggplant
  • Tofu: made from soybeans and is subtle in flavors so it will easily absorb any spices or marinades.
  • Tempeh: made from fermented soybeans and has a unique flavor different from tofu. It has a great chewy texture and it is packed with protein and fiber.

You can also make it without meat and pile on hummus and more veggies!

The last step is slicing it diagonally… it makes the sandwich infinitely better.

Ask a Dietitian! We are compiling a list of nutrition-related questions readers have for a special post in September. Simply fill out your name, email, and question in the feedback form below. 

Food Trends

foodtrendv2“Gatorade? Pass. Lay’s Sour Cream and Onion? Next.”

“I’ll have the coconut water with a side of kale chips, please.”

Have you noticed the shift of popular foods that has been sweeping through magazines, organic grocery stores, and devoted foodies? Of all the trendy foods that are on the shelves, I’ll admit that it’s hard to decide which one is worth the hype. I’ve compiled a list of myths and facts for the latest food trends to help you decide.

Coconut

Myth: Coconut water is better than water during and after a workout

Fact: Coconut water has been glorified as nature’s sports drink because of the amount of electrolytes it contains. However, for most individuals consuming well-balanced meals throughout the day, water can hydrate them just as well as coconut water does. Also, coconut water contains high amounts of potassium, but after a long high intensity workout what your body really needs is sodium.

Tea

Myth: Drinking green tea will cause weight loss

Fact: Although green tea temporarily boosts metabolism slightly, it’s not enough to cause weight loss. Tea is still beneficial to the body in other ways with its ability to:

  • reduce blood pressure
  • lower cholesterol
  • decrease risk of heart attack
  • promote eye health by reducing risk of cataracts

Grains

Myth: Grains are bad for you because they contain gluten

Fact: Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, rye and oats. Individuals with celiac disease will experience intestinal damage and discomfort when they consume gluten. However, for individuals without celiac disease, gluten is safe to eat and there’s no proven benefit of eating a gluten-free diet. Most grains are actually good for you, such as:

  • brown rice
  • wild rice
  • barley
  • oats
  • whole grain pasta and bread

Remember to look for 100% whole grain products

Sustainable and Local Products

Myth: Eating sustainable and local is too difficult

Fact: Sustainable farming results in nutritious food that supports farmers and local businesses that will help the economy.

What does it mean to eat locally?

  • Food is produced locally rather than nationally or internationally
  • Food is grown close to your home and distributed in short distances.

What is sustainable food?

Raising food that is

  • healthy for consumers and animals
  • doesn’t harm the environment
  • humane for workers

You can make easy changes by going to the Davis Farmer’s Market and purchasing products that are grown and made locally.

Asian Fusion

Myth: Chinese food is bad for you

Fact: Many people believe that Chinese food is nutritionally bad for you because of high levels of sodium and oil in the food. Although Chinese food is known for containing MSG, a salt added to enhance the flavor of food, you can ask for food without MSG! Also, ask for your food to be cooked with less oil to reduce the calories. There are many healthy options you can try, such as varieties of Asian vegetables and lean protein such as tofu, shrimp, and chicken. When you want to add Asian flavor to your dishes at home, try using ginger, garlic, green onion, or low sodium soy sauce, all of which add flavor without calories.

Alternate forms of protein

Myth: I need to eat meat to get enough protein in my diet

Fact: There are plenty of vegetarian or vegan sources of protein, such as nuts, grains, tofu, beans, eggs, and dairy products (low fat yogurt and milk)

It’s important to consume foods with amino acids that your body can’t make. These foods are considered “complete protein” sources. Combinations of vegetable foods creating complete proteins include:

  • corn and beans
  • brown rice and split peas
  • avocado, sprouts & almond butter on whole wheat bread
  • tofu

Smaller portion sizes

Myth: The Freshmen 15 happens to everyone

Fact: Weight gain can be easily avoided by being aware of the portion size you’re eating inside the dining commons. Try to grab one plate at a time and enjoy the food while you’re eating it. Here are some other tips for controlling portion size:

  • use smaller bowls, plates, and cups
  • when you eat out only eat half or split the meal with a friend

What are the correct portion sizes?

  • a teaspoon of margarine is the size of one dice
  • three ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards
  • one cup of pasta is the size of a baseball
  • an ounce and a half of cheese is the size of four stacked dice
  • one-half cup of fresh fruit is the size of a tennis ball