Following a healthy diet can be challenging, especially during holidays. We often focus on what to eat or how much we should have. These concerns can increase stress and discourage sustainable habits.
This can be distressing with frequent holiday gatherings where we have less control over what is offered. Instead of over-restricting, eating mindfully can help us enjoy the food we love and has been shown to reduce stress and emotional eating.
What is Mindful Eating?
The definition of mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindful eating is one way to practice mindfulness. It helps us to appreciate food and can enrich our eating experience. Eating mindfully is associated with decreased distractions and increased awareness of the flavor of food.
5 Tips to Practice Mindful Eating this Season:
By Yu-Hsiang Chiu, MS
MGH Dietetic Intern
Bennett BL, Latner JD. Mindful Eating, Intuitive Eating, and the Loss of Control Over Eating. Eating Behaviors. 2022; 47:101680.
Garrett E, Licata A, Hoffman J. Mindful Eating and Perceived Stress in College Students. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2021;121(9): A94.
Kabat-Zinn J. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Revised and updated edition. New York: Bantam Books; 2013.
Khan Z, Zadeh ZF. Mindful Eating and it's Relationship with Mental Well-being. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2014;159:69-73.
Morillo-Sarto H, López-del-Hoyo Y, Pérez-Aranda A, et al. ‘Mindful eating’ for Reducing Emotional Eating in Patients with Overweight or Obesity in Primary Care Settings: A Randomized Controlled Trial. European Eating Disorders Review. 2023;31(2):303-319.
Nelson JB. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectr. Aug 2017;30(3):171-174.
According to the CDC, only 10% of adults in the US are consuming adequate vegetables and only 12% are consuming adequate fruits. Shopping at a farmers market is a great way to get fresh tasting produce and mix up your fruit and vegetable routine.
Why Eat Seasonally?
One of the best things about getting produce from the farmers market is the great taste. There is nothing like the taste of a crisp apple in the fall. Beyond the flavor, shopping at a farmers market is a great way to engage with your community and try new foods.
Research shows affordability of fruits and vegetables can be a barrier to eating them regularly. If you are worried about the cost of foods at a farmers market, remember that you can use SNAP benefits there. The Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) even gives you cash back on your EBT card if you purchase produce. You may also be eligible for the farmers market coupon program in Boston.
What is in Season in New England During Early Fall?
There are many health benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants. For example, pumpkins contain vitamin C, copper, fiber, and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is part of the carotenoid family, a group of antioxidants that may offer protection for your heart.
Pumpkins can be delicious in both sweet and savory recipes. Try a savory pumpkin stuffed with your favorite vegetables, rice, and cheese if you want something hearty and savory. Follow along with this recipe here.
Lee SH, Moore LV, Park S, Harris DM, Blanck HM. Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2019. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2022; 71:1–9.
Miller V, Yusuf S, Chow CK, Mente A. et al. Availability, Affordability, and Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables in 18 Countries Across Income Levels: Findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) Study. Lancet Glob Health. 2016; 4(10): e695-703.
Xavier AA, Pérez-Gálvez A. Carotenoids as a Source of Antioxidants in the Diet. Subcell Biochem. 2016; 79:359-75.
By Abigail Harrison, MS
MGH Dietetic Intern
Magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, can be found naturally in foods and is crucial to a variety of bodily functions.
Why is magnesium important?
The mineral plays a key role in bone mineralization and vitamin D synthesis, making adequate amounts of magnesium vital to building and maintaining healthy bones. It is also involved in energy production and regulation of blood sugar. Lastly, magnesium is critical to muscle and nerve function, acting as an electric conductor to contract muscles and help keep the heart beating steadily.
What happens if you don't get enough?
Magnesium deficiency can result if your diet is too low in magnesium-rich foods. Other factors that influence magnesium intake include how food is grown and processed. Digestive disorders and chronic diseases, like diabetes, can also increase deficiency risk. Early signs of deficiency can include fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle spasms, nausea, and weakness. If the deficiency is left untreated, more severe symptoms, like abnormal heart rhythms and seizures, can occur.
Here are some tips to boost your intake:
Magnesium is found in a wide variety of plants. To increase your intake, aim to include a handful (about ¼ cup) of nuts or seeds per day. Switching from refined grains (like pasta) to whole grains (like quinoa) helps too. Try to eat leafy greens as often as you can and consider adding beans to salads.
Some of our favorite magnesium-containing foods are:
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating. Cleveland Clinic. Published March 2023. Accessed June 2023.
Magnesium. The Nutrition Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Last Reviewed March 2023. Accessed June 2023.
Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Last Updated June 2022. Accessed June 2023.
Razzaque MS. Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough?. Nutrients. 2018;10(12):1863.
Signs You May Have a Magnesium Deficiency Cleveland Clinic. Published October 2022. Accessed June 2023.
Volpe SL. Magnesium in Disease Prevention and Overall Health. Advances in Nutrition. 2013;4(3):378S-83S.
By Isabel Balady
MGH Dietetic Intern
Did you know that there are certain foods that are considered “brain healthy”?
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health introduced the MIND diet, a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets, to support brain health. This dietary pattern is believed to have protective effects against cardiovascular disease, a benefit that may also help preserve brain function.
Regularly eating the following foods may benefit your brain. Here's how to do it. Aim for:
1 or more serving(s) of vegetables per day (other than leafy greens - includes peppers, squash, carrots, broccoli, celery, tomatoes, string beans, beets, corn, potatoes, and peas)
1 fish-based meal per week (e.g. tuna sandwiches, fresh fish - does not include fried fish)
2 or more servings of berries per week (e.g. strawberries)
2 or more poultry-based meals per week (e.g. chicken, turkey)
3 or more servings of whole grains per day (e.g. oats, quinoa, brown rice)
4 or more bean-based meals per week (e.g. kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, edamame)
5 or more servings of nuts per week (e.g. walnuts, almonds)
6 or more servings of leafy green vegetables per week (e.g. kale, collards, spinach, tossed salad)
For an extra boost, try adding in omega-3 fatty acids, known for supporting learning, memory, and blood flow to the brain. Some good sources of these healthy fats include:
Dighriri IM, Alsubaie AM, Hakami FM, et al. Effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on brain functions: a systematic review. Cureus. October 9; 14(10): e30091.
Marcason W. What are the components to the mind diet? Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015;115(10):1744.
Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, et al. Mind diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimer’s & Dementia. 2015;11(9):1015-1022.
Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Bennett DA, Aggarwal NT. Mind diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer’s & Dementia. 2015;11(9):1007-1014.
By Jessica Karasik, MS
MGH Dietetic Intern
July is National Picnic Month - whether you prefer a relaxing beach day or a weekend camping trip, picnic foods are an essential part of summer. Read on for tips on how to balance your picnic basket to keep you fueled and energized for any outdoor activity.
What’s a picnic without an abundance of sides to snack on? Though simple carbohydrates such as potato chips and crackers are convenient choices, try choosing whole grains, fruits, and veggies with more fiber to increase feelings of fullness and help prevent overeating. Power up your picnic basket even further by pairing these supportive carbs with a protein source for long-lasting energy.
Hamburgers and hotdogs are a crowd favorite for outdoor gatherings, but there are plenty of ways to get creative with the main course. Take advantage of all the fresh produce this summer and prepare a salad with seasonal fruits and vegetables, topped off with a lean protein like grilled chicken. (Try this Mediterranean pasta salad.)
Or go the simple route with sandwiches. Start by choosing a whole grain bread and upgrade your sandwich with veggies and a heart-healthy spread, such as hummus or avocado. (Need some inspiration? Check out this video for a quick Asian sesame chicken wrap. Or perk up your sandwich with these additional suggestions.)
Looking to add more seasonal produce? Here is a comprehensive list.
Refueling with plenty of fluid is necessary on a hot afternoon, but classic picnic beverages can contain significant added sugar. Swap the lemonade and soda for flavored sparkling water or infused water with lemon or herbs if you struggle to stay hydrated with water alone.
Guan Z-W, YU E-Z, Feng, Q. Soluble Dietary Fiber, One of the Most Important Nutrients for the Gut Microbiota. Molecules. 2021; 26(22):6802.
By Lydia Marks, MS, Dietetic Intern
Have you been struggling with eating healthier while also balancing family dynamics? Are you wondering how you can have both healthy meals and happy kids? Try these tips!
INVOLVE KIDS IN MEAL PREP
They can help you prepare by:
Involving your kids in cooking is a great way for them to start learning about food and healthy eating. Research even suggests cooking with kids may increase their preference for vegetables.
LET THEM PICK OUT FOOD
Use this as an opportunity to teach your kids about healthy eating with family activities.
CONSULT A FAMILY-FRIENDLY COOKBOOK OR TRY ONE OF THESE HEALTHY RECIPES:
Sometimes complicated meals can feel overwhelming for kids, stick to the basics and work from there.
American Heart Association editorial staff. When Kids Help Cook, Healthy Family Meals Are Easier. American Heart Association. Updated August 23, 2019. Accessed April 2023.
Asigbee F, Davis J, Markowitz A, et al. The Association Between Child Cooking Involvement in Food Preparation and Fruit and Vegetable Intake in a Hispanic Youth Population. Current Developments in Nutrition. 2020; 4(4).
Spill M, Callahan E, Johns K, et al. Repeated Exposure to Foods and Early Food Acceptance: A Systematic Review. USDA Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review. 2019.
By Maria Cherry, MGH Dietetic Intern
If you have decided to ramp up your exercise, congratulations! Now comes the next big question: what to eat to optimally support workouts? And does meal timing and quantity matter?
The short answer: it depends. If your goal is to build muscle or to increase your workouts in length or intensity, you may benefit from taking a closer look at your diet.
What to eat?
The ideal post-exercise meal should contain both carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, fruits, etc.) and proteins (meats, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, beans, etc.).
This is important because protein helps to repair and build muscle, which maximizes your efforts from exercise. Carbohydrates are necessary to replenish energy stores and prevent your body from breaking down muscle for energy.
How much to eat?
Research suggests aiming for 1 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 165 pounds (75kg) then 75 grams of carbohydrate at your meal would be appropriate. This might look like:
¼ cup granola + 1 cup vanilla yogurt + banana OR
1½ cup cooked pasta with ½ cup tomato sauce
Research suggests aiming for roughly 25 grams at meals. This might look like:
Cup of Greek yogurt + small handful of nuts OR
A small chicken breast (about the size of a deck of cards)
When to eat?
This largely depends on when you last ate. If you ate 1 to 2 hours before your workout, then the post-exercise meal can be delayed up to 4 hours. However, if you ate 4 to 6 hours prior, then you should eat soon after (within 2 hours).
Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: Is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2013;10(1).
Poole C, Wilborn C, Taylor L, Kerksick C. The role of post-exercise nutrient administration on muscle protein synthesis and glycogen synthesis. J Sports Sci Med. 2010;9(3):354-363.
Smith JEW, Holmes ME, McAllister MJ. Nutritional considerations for performance in young athletes. Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015;2015:1-13.
By Qian Liu, MGH Dietetic Intern
This time of year, it seems everywhere you turn—the internet, social media, television, magazines, friends and family—someone is giving out nutrition advice. With so much information from so many different sources, it can feel overwhelming trying to identify what is fact and what is fiction.
Credible nutrition advice should be backed by scientific evidence. There are red flags that can help you spot potential misinformation that is not evidence based. Next time you are questioning nutrition advice, stop and ask:
Does this sound like click bait?
Sensationalized headlines, quick-fix solutions, and anything that sounds too good to be true, likely is.
Does this sound oversimplified?
Nutrition isn’t black and white. No one food is a “cure” for all ailments and no food or ingredient is “poison.” If someone is putting forth claims that lack nuance, that’s a red flag.
Who is providing this advice?
Is it coming from a reputable website? Has the person been educated on nutrition? Look for websites with .edu, .gov, or .org addresses and experts with credentials, like a registered dietitian (RD or RDN). Ideally, they should also list references used to support their claims.
Bellows L, Moore R. Nutrition Misinformation: How to Identify Fraud and Misleading Claims. Colorado State University Extension. Accessed January 3, 2023.
Goldberg JP, Sliwa SA. Communicating Actionable Nutrition Messages: Challenges and Opportunities. Proc Nutr Soc. 2011;70(1):26-37.
By Melissa Ferris, MS, MGH Dietetic Intern
The holiday season is upon us and with it brings celebration, social gatherings, and - of course - food, glorious food. Mindful eating is an approach that focuses on being fully present in the moment, helping you to better judge fullness, decrease mindless eating, and make more intentional food choices.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate mindful eating through the season.
Eat Sitting Down When Possible
It can be so easy to munch on snacks and appetizers without thinking while talking to friends and family. The act of sitting down reminds your brain that you are eating and allows you to be more in tune with hunger and fullness cues.
Wait Before Getting More
After finishing your first plate, give yourself a few minutes to check in with your fullness. Are you satiated? Would more food make you feel uncomfortably full?
Savor Each Bite
What do you notice about the food you are eating? Is it sweet, salty, crunchy? How does it smell? Aim to focus on the taste and texture of each mouthful.
Harris C. Mindful eating: studies show this concept can help clients lose weight and better manage chronic disease. Today’s Dietitian. 2013;15:42.
Laitinen J, Ek E, Sovio U. Stress-related eating and drinking behavior and body mass index and predictors of this behavior. Prev Med. 2002;34:29-39.
Mathieu J. What should you know about mindful and intuitive eating? J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:1982-1985.
Nelson JB. Mindful eating: the art of presence while you eat. Diabetes Spectr. 2017;30(3):171-174.
By Phoebe Zhou, MGH Dietetic Intern
Fall is the perfect time to enjoy apples, though their health benefits can be experienced throughout the year. Apples are source of fiber and contain protective plant compounds like quercetin and pectin.
Quercetin may help control blood sugar and eating foods containing this compound has been associated with decreased diabetes risk. It may also offer protection for your heart. Pectin may help to lower cholesterol though more research is needed.
Try adding more apples into your cooking this fall:
Not a fan of apples? Quercetin can also be found in:
Boyer J and RH Liu. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutrition Journal. 2004; 3:5.
Brouns F, et al. Cholesterol lowering properties of different pectin types in mildly hypercholesterolemic men and women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012; 66: 591-599.
Dabeek, WM and MV Marra. Dietary quercetin and kaempferol: bioavailability and potential cardiovascular-related bioactivity in humans. Nutrients. 2019; 11(10):2288.
Dhanya R. Quercetin for managing type 2 diabetes and its complications, an insight into multitarget therapy. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2022;146:112560.
Gerhauser C. Cancer chemopreventive potential of apples, apple juice, and apple components. Planta Medica. 2008;74(13):1608-1624.
Koutsos A, Tuohy KM, Lovegrove JA. Apples and cardiovascular health--is the gut microbiota a core consideration?. Nutrients. 2015;7(6):3959-3998.
Wojdyło A, Oszmiański J, Laskowski P. Polyphenolic compounds and antioxidant activity of new and old apple varieties. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2008;56(15):6520-6530.
Yao Z, Gu Y, Zhang Q, et al. Estimated daily quercetin intake and association with the prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in Chinese adults. European Journal of Nutrition. 2019;58(2):819-830.
Yi H, Peng H, Wu X, et al. The therapeutic effects and mechanisms of quercetin on metabolic diseases: Pharmacological Data and clinical evidence. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2021; 6678662.
By Ummu D Erliana, PhD, CLC, MGH Dietetic Intern