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Thurs, Sept. 22
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Sara Mitchel, RDN, NASM
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Simplifying Meal Preparation/Back-To-School Lunches:
As stated in last month's newsletter, we at Nutrition Energy understand that Fall means schedules often get busier - unfortunately leading to an increase in quick, unhealthy meals (i.e. ordering more take-out/delivery, frozen meals, etc.). For parents with kids going back to school (and teachers going back to school/work), most evenings are spent doing after-school activities and homework - and less time thinking about preparing a healthy meal at home. Individuals/families without kids tend to also get busier when fall rolls around. Whether it's a push at work towards end of the year sales or deals, or the fact that you are part of a team training for the NYC marathon, a busier fall often means
Don't let this ball continue to roll! If staying healthy and maintaining energy and focus are important to you, then let us help you make nutrition a priority again
! Read on for our tips to help get you started.
1) Make a Meal Plan: You may think this is a ridiculous sounding idea, but hear us out! Most Americans do not know what they are going to eat for dinner until they get home from work - and most often by that time, they are most likely to order-or scrounge around and find "whatever they can". If you had taken a few minutes the weekend prior to create a plan for the week, you would already know what you would be making and it would already be in your kitchen! (Now you can start to see how this will change your life for the better!) Weekly meal plan takes much the pressure off when you arrive home HUNGRY. Put your plan together on a weekend or your least busy day/night, and then plan in grocery shopping (or do it online! Keep a list of 10 meals your family currently likes, and when you have extra time, browse online or in cook books for other healthy options.
2) Shop Strategically: When your meal plan is set, make a grocery list. Write down everything you need to make the meals you decided on. Having a set list will keep you focused when grocery shopping, and prevent you from buying (too many) items you don't need! It doesn't matter if you go to a store, or shop online, but a goal here is to only shop once a week, saving you time and money!
3) Prepare Several Meals in Advance (including school lunches!): A starting strategy will be to prepare several meals in advance, either partially or completely. Many find the weekend easiest. An example of this that my family loves, is fish tacos on Sunday night, with the goal of making enough rice, beans and veg to then prep a few burritos for kids lunches and a Mexican salad for myself for Monday. As the temperature cools off this fall, bring out the crockpot! With a little advanced chopping, dinner will be ready and waiting when you get home!
4) Keep a Supply of Storage Containers: When you prepare ingredients and meals in advance, you will need a safe place to put them! Have a ready supply of fridge and/or freezer friendly bags and/or containers available. If you can do much of your meal prep in one day, these will come in handy when you want to grab and combine when you're cooking!
5) Make it Family Time: If you have kids, include them in this process, especially if you have picky eaters! Let them help choose the meals (within acceptable choices you provide), shop for ingredients, have them measure (and practice math!), stir a pot, or - if they are older - peel or chop veggies. When kids are involved in the process, research shows they demonstrate more confidence in their ability to choose healthier foods - plus you have more help in the kitchen!
We've included some healthy - and easy! - recipes to try; we hope you like them! :)
(a great alternative to Lunchables, and kids can put together themselves!)
- 2 pita breads
- 1 tomatoes
- 1 (8 ounce) container hummus
- 1 (6 ounce) bag spinach
- 1 (8 ounce) jar black olives
Heat pita breads in the oven at 350 degrees F.
Spread hummus on warmed pita breads.
Cut the tomato and add slices on top of the hummus.
Place spinach on top of tomatoes.
Add olives to taste.
Slow Cooker Butternut Squash, Bean, and Barley Stew
Servings: 8, Serving Size: 1.25-1.5 cups
- 6 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup dry kidney beans (or mixed beans)
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- 28 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tbsp. chili powder (or Italian seasoning for a non-spicy version)
- 2 tsp. ground cumin (leave out if using Italian seasoning)
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
- Soak the beans overnight in water. Alternatively you can use boiling vegetable broth when you start the recipe if you forget to soak the beans.
- Add everything to the slow cooker and stir. Cook on low for 8 hours or until beans are tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Honey - The Good, the Bad and Uses for Athletes
As you may already know, honey is made by bees from the nectar they collect from flowering plants. Many characteristics of honey including flavor, antioxidant content, and color are dependent on the specific flower from which the bees get the nectar. The use of honey by humans dates back to ancient Egypt, where it was used to heal open wounds, sweeten food and it was even given as a gift to gods! Today we know honey provides a myriad of health benefits ranging from antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, to soothing effects for throats and coughs, and even improving endurance performance.
THE GOOD - Energy, Vitamins and Antioxidants
The "buzz" on honey wavers from good to bad, as yes, honey is composed of 80% sugar in the forms of glucose and fructose. However, honey is also composed of 18% water and contains vitamins, minerals, and some protein. On the positive side, honey is a great source of carbohydrates; one tablespoon provides 17g of carbohydrates, 64 calories as well as B vitamins, iron, sodium, potassium and protein. Due to the vitamins and minerals honey contains, one could say that honey is far superior to nutrient-void table sugar and artificial sweeteners. Additionally, honey has a lower glycemic index than table sugar (sucrose), 55 versus 68, respectively. This means that in theory, honey will not spike blood sugar levels as much as table sugar, thus preventing your body from releasing an excess amount of insulin and causing the "dreaded" sugar crash. Polyphenols - natural compounds found in many plant sources including fruits, vegetables, teas and olive oil - are responsible for the antioxidant properties of honey. Antioxidants undo the damage that can be done by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Therefore, consumption of polyphenols are suggested to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
The composition of honey makes it a useful and healthy substitute for sugar, primarily because it adds a distinct flavor and provides nutrients when used. Additionally, the fructose in honey is perceived by our taste buds as sweeter than glucose, so it takes less honey to achieve the same sweetness as table sugar. Honey is often used in dressings, marinades, and slaws, or stirred into a cup of tea. If you are going to add sweetener, why not use honey to pack more antioxidants into your next cup of green tea?!
THE BAD - It's Still Sugar
Despite the positive aspects of honey, it is still comprised mostly of sugar. Again, one tablespoon contains 64 calories (17 grams of carbohydrates), so it must be consumed in moderation, especially by anyone sensitive to carbohydrates or with diabetes or PCOS. We need to remember that sugar is sugar, regardless of the form. Whether you ingest glucose, fructose or sucrose, it will be absorbed, and will increase your blood sugar levels, and it will deliver calories. This point is especially important for anyone looking to achieve weight loss, or if diabetes management is the goal.
Studies have shown that honey is a very effective carbohydrate to consume prior to exercising and even during long-distant events. The secret is the natural combination of glucose and fructose. Glucose is absorbed and utilized by the muscles quickly, while fructose is absorbed more slowly and evenly providing sustained energy for endurance sports. A slice of whole-grain bread with half a banana, drizzled with honey is a delicious pre-workout snack. Honey can also be used as a natural replacement for energy gels. You can purchase packs of honey or simply squeeze several tablespoons of honey into a gel flask for easy consumption during your next epic workout! Of course you will still want/need to
consume fluids and salt either by water + salt tabs or in a sports drink.
You may also want to try the recipe below for an energy-rich, protein-packed snack
Honey Roasted Cinnamon Almonds
- 1 cup of almonds
- 4 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Generous sprinkle of salt (Limit for non-athletes or anyone with hypertension/high blood pressure)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Spread almonds evenly on cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.
3. Heat the water, honey, and cinnamon in a saucepan on the stove-top, stirring to mix well. Once the mixture is about to simmer, add the almonds to the saucepan.
4. Cook on the stove-top, continuing to stir to ensure the almonds are evenly coated. Continue to heat until the honey/water mixture resembles a thick syrup, about 5 minutes.
5. Place almonds in a single layer on the cookie sheet to cool. Sprinkle with salt if desired.
(Recipe adapted from www.dietitiandebbie.com)
A Note from Lauren...
September is here and we have started a new school year, which means new habits for kids, adults, and families. It's time to get used to a new, busier routine - so let's make it HEALTHY! Take a few minutes to read some of the suggestions written above to help you keep your routines and nutrition goals on track. As with all new routines and habits, give yourself and your family plenty of time to adjust!
And we can't forget about our athletes! We know you are upping your training schedule now that the weather is (slowly!) starting to cool down, so take time to prepare getting together what you need (shoes, equipment, nutrition!) to ensure your training is focused and effective. Also, make sure to spend more time resting to recover from heavier training, especially leading up to big events!
Lauren Antonucci, Director