Ancient grains

Nutrition Notes: Serving up the scoop on ancient grains

by Jenna Olson, RD Nutrition & Wellness Educator

Below are a few of the great grains. This week, try incorporating one or two of them into your favorite dish. You will not be disappointed!

1. Quinoa: (pronounced “keen-wah”)  This South America native grain can be substituted for rice in any dish. It cooks rather quickly, is high in protein, and is a great source of iron and magnesium. Try Quinoa Veggie Salad for a fresh lunch!

2. Spelt Berries: This sweet and nutty grain tastes a little like barley and dates back to a time before wheat was commonly used. It was an important grain in ancient Greece and Rome. It is high in protein and fiber and when cooked, can be similar to a risotto. Try this protein-packed salad: Energizing Protein Power Salad.

3. Amaranth: This grain was a favorite among the Native Americans and the Aztecs (not San Diego State Aztecs). This grain is rich in iron, protein, and calcium. Switch out your usual morning oatmeal for this: Blueberry Amaranth Porridge.

4. Millet: This is the smallest of the ancient grains and is actually the name given to a group of several different small grains. It is a great source of magnesium and can be added into your favorite breads, cereals, or soups. Try Millet-Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes” as a new side dish this week!

Incorporating different grains is a great way to get a variety of nutritional benefits and can give family favorites fun and exciting new tastes! Do you have any favorite recipes that use ancient grains? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!

Source: Food and Drug Administration

Nutrition Notes: Nutrition Label Makeover

Deciding which foods to buy at the grocery store may soon get a little easier. A major buzz over the past few weeks has involved the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed changes to food and drink nutrition labels. The changes will be the first major makeover in the last 20 years. The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which first passed in 1990, was the first regulated food packaging requirement that mandated all packaged foods to have nutrition facts and health claims. With the variety of packaged food products on store shelves today, many health professionals felt these changes are well overdue.

The alterations of the nutrition label, as seen above, will spotlight calories and will update serving sizes to match what consumers actually eat or drink. For example, a 20 ounce soda that is usually consumed in one sitting will no longer be two and a half servings. Instead, its label will represent the nutrition information for one serving, making the label more user-friendly. Another addition to the new label will be a line for added sugars. Although natural sugar and added sugar are chemically the same, studies show that many Americans typically eat more sugar than they realize. By adding an additional line to the nutrition label to draw focus to packaged foods’ added sugar content, it will allow consumers to gain a better understanding of what they choose to eat and drink.

All in all, these proposed changes will help shoppers by making it easier to pinpoint a healthier option when comparing products in the grocery aisle. What do you think of the proposed nutrition label changes? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook and Twitter!

Read more about the proposed changes on CNN.

A spoonful of nutrition

Nutrition Notes: March is National Nutrition Month

by Jenna Olson, RD Nutrition and Wellness Educator

This coming weekend marks the beginning of National Nutrition Month. This campaign was launched in 1973 when it was initially recognized as National Nutrition Week. This week provided an opportunity to promote and educate the public about health and wellness. By its fourth year, National Nutrition Week had grown immensely in the number of people it reached and in response to the campaign’s growth; it was expanded to National Nutrition Month in 1980. Every year, the month of March encompasses a different nutrition-focused theme to encourage nutritious choices. This year’s theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” Research shows that taste is a driving force when making food choices, so learning ways to make healthy and tasty meals is an important step to healthy eating. Challenging lifelong eating habits may be hard, although with the right tools it can be easy to modify your habits to start on a new path to a happy, healthy you!

Here are a few tips to make sure nutrient-dense choices are always an easy go-to option anywhere, anytime!

- Choose whole grain bread over white or enriched wheat flour when making sandwiches.
- Avoid fried or battered foods and instead look for bakes or broiled options.
- Choose low-fat plain Greek yogurt and top with frozen fruit and granola for a delicious, pre-made parfait.
- Adopt ‘Meatless Mondays’ in your home and try new colorful vegetable-based recipes.
- Cut up fruits and vegetables right after you bring them home from the store, so they are an easy-to-grab snack.

“Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” by consuming meals that pack the most nutrients for their punch, try to eat a meal full of color. So this month, try a new fruit or vegetable, or better yet try a fun new recipe! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Spaghetti Squash Primavera                                           Lemony Kale Salad
How to Prepare an Artichoke                                          Mashed Cauliflower

American Heart Health Month

Nutrition Notes: Heart Health

by Jenna Olson, RD Nutrition & Wellness Educator

In honor of American Heart Health Month, this week’s blog post has a few tips on how to revive poor eating habits and get them on a heart-healthy track. According to the American Heart Association, nine out of ten Americans consume too much sodium. On average, Americans consume more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium on a daily basis, which is well over the recommended amount of 1,500 milligrams. So, where does all the sodium come from? The majority of the sodium consumed by Americans is found in packaged store bought foods along with restaurant meals.

Excess sodium consumption increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke later on in life. In order to lower your risk of developing health problems like the ones previously mentioned, try to choose low-sodium options when possible.

Here are some tips to help you keep your heart pumping:

1. Choose low-sodium foods when shopping at the store by taking time to read the Nutrition Facts label.
- Try to choose individual food items that have 200 milligrams of sodium or less.
- Try to choose meal options that have 650 milligrams of sodium or less.

2. Try to incorporate new spices and herbs when cooking like the one below:
- All-Purpose Seasoning

3. Take the salt shaker off the kitchen table.
- If it is out of sight, it is less likely to be used.

Try out a few of these heart-healthy recipes from that will help get you in the spirit of Heart Health Month!

Quick Stir-Fry

Quick and Easy Quinoa

BBQ Turkey in Pepper Shells

How much sugar do you think is in a soda?

Nutrition Notes: Sugar, How Much is Too Much?

by Jenna Olson, RD Nutrition & Wellness Educator

February marks the beginning of the American Heart Health Month and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, how much sugar is too much? A recent article in the Jama Internal Medicine found that most adults consume about 10% of their recommended daily calories from added sugar alone. So, what is the recommended daily limit for added sugar consumption? For men, it is recommended to keep added sugar limited to nine teaspoons per day, which breaks down to 36 grams or 145 calories. Then, when it comes to women, they should keep it to six teaspoons a day, which the equivalent of 24 grams or 100 calories.

With these recommendations, it should be noted that sugar can be found in two forms within the diet, either it is produced naturally or it is added. Natural sugars are found in fruits and dairy products and they provide us with additional nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy. On the other hand, added sugars are sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup and white sugar that are added to products during the manufacturing process. These added sugars provide the body with ‘empty’ calories, meaning that they provide little to no nutritional value.

So, how do we determine the sugar content of food items at the store? Take your favorite snack bar for example, look at the nutrition facts label. How many grams of sugar does it contain? If you take the total grams of sugar and divide that number by four, that will equal how many teaspoons or sugar cubes your snack bar contains per serving. (Note: 1 teaspoon = 1 sugar cube.) This exercise not only provides a great visual, but also an understanding of how much added sugar is hiding in foods consumed on a daily basis. So, when it is time for an afternoon snack, be sure to check the label! How does the sugar content stack up?

Here are a few examples of sugar content in common foods:

- Snack bar: 21g of total sugar = 5 sugar cube
- 20 oz. bottle of soda: 65g of total sugar = 16 sugar cubes
- Breakfast pastries (2): 34g of total sugar = 8.5 sugar cubes

Innovations Restaurant Academy

Local students cook up a fundraiser to help the Food Bank

by Stephanie Schauer, Communications Associate

Students at Innovations Academy in Scripps Ranch showcased their fall projects for family and local community members back in December. One project that made a big impact was their cooking project. Middle school students volunteered at the Food Bank and felt inspired to do more to help hungry San Diegans.

“After visiting and volunteering at the Food Bank, we decided that this was the project we wanted to donate our Empty Bowl Fundraiser proceeds to. We really liked how much they are doing to help fight hunger in our community,” said eighth grade student, Spencer Ryan, and sixth grader, Paige Hugelmaier.

To prepare for the Empty Bowl Fundraiser, students went to Claytime Ceramics in Ocean Beach to design the donated ceramic bowls that were later auctioned off at Exhibition Night. They also featured the school’s Top Chefs (students who earlier participated in a school cook-off challenge) and prepared dishes to sell to people that evening. The night was a great success and students were able to donate two bins full of nonperishable food items and also collected $823 in monetary donations, which will provide 4,115 meals to hungry individuals and families. They were so inspired that they have decided to continue collecting food for the Food Bank and its hunger-relief programs for the remainder of the school year.

“This is the meaningful learning that we believe is the pillar to preparing our students for the twenty-first century, where they will be expected to collaborate, communicate, and interface with challenging problems,” said Innovations Academy teacher, Beth Foster.

Sit those chips on the sideline and reach for something more healthy.

Nutrition Notes: Taming the Super Bowl frenzy

by Jenna Olson, RD Nutrition & Wellness Educator

America’s second largest day of overindulging (second to Thanksgiving) is only days away. According to the Snack Food Association, Americans on average will double their daily food intake on Super Bowl Sunday by consuming about 1,200 calories while watching the big game. So where you will be watching the big game this Sunday? Although, more importantly, what dish will you be bringing to pass around to your friends and family? The Super Bowl is typically associated with high calorie foods and drinks as everyone cheers on their team (or finds a spot on the couch to watch every commercial along with the big half-time show), so try balancing those wings with a healthy dip or alternative.

The last nutrition post discussed the importance of incorporating the MyPlate guidelines into each meal to stay on track with a healthy lifestyle. So with those tips in mind, try a new dish on Super Bowl Sunday this year! You never know it may be a huge hit that will be requested at other events throughout the year! A few recipes listed below are easy to make and are sure to be crowd pleasers without the guilt-ridden calories!

Spring Spread                                                 Crispy Taquitos

Black Bean Dip                                               Baked Mozzarella Sticks

Southwestern Layered Bean Dip                 Baked Chicken Fingers

Choose My Plate

Nutrition Notes: Healthy meals made simple

by Jenna Olson, RD Nutrition & Wellness Educator

Almost two years ago, the USDA unveiled the MyPlate food guide. The MyPlate graphic was designed to make it easier to visualize what a healthy meal should look like when it comes to what you are eating. Listed below are a few tips to help your plate look more colorful at each meal. So, when you sit down to eat your next meal, check your plate. How many tips does your meal incorporate?

Balance calories:
Find out how many calories you need each day to help manage your weight. Check out to find an estimate of how many calories you need each day.

Enjoy your food, but eat less:
Try slowing down when eating and pay attention to hunger and satiety cues.

Keep size in check:
Avoid oversized portions.

Take a bite out of fresh produce:
Eat more fruits and vegetables by making them fill up half your plate at each meal.

Change it up:

- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
- Make half of your grains whole grains.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Here are a few sample recipes that you can try out that follow the MyPlate guidelines:

Brown Rice with Sizzling Chicken and Vegetables

Spinach Salad with Apples and Eggs

Herbed Garden Pizzas
(Note: If you do not have pizza crust, try using whole wheat tortillas to make individual pizzas.)

Do you have any favorite recipes that fit the MyPlate guidelines?

Share them with us on Facebook & Twitter!

Just one cup of coffee can have anywhere from 40 to more than 100 milligrams of caffeine.

Nutrition Notes: Kicking the caffeine habit

by Jenna Olson, RD Nutrition & Wellness Educator

Caffeine is a widely used stimulant found in coffee, soda, chocolate, tea, energy drinks, and over-the-counter medications. Caffeine is even found in certain food products now! Since it is classified as a stimulant, caffeine is often taken to help promote alertness and reduce fatigue. Moderate caffeine intake is okay, but too much can lead to unwanted side effects. It is important to cut back and look for caffeine-free products. (Note: Make sure to always look at the sugar content on the nutrition label, too. Try to keep it under 10 grams of sugar!)

Here are a few key points to remember:

- Reduce caffeine intake slowly by cutting out one caffeinated beverage each day. Try replacing it with a caffeine-free option.
- Start decreasing caffeine by drinking a mix half decaffeinated and half regular coffee or tea.
- Find natural energy by eating a power packed breakfast each morning! Try oatmeal with raisins and nuts!
- Make sure to get enough sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to feel well-rested.

When trying to cut back your caffeine intake, try incorporating smoothies, sparkling water, or decaf tea. Here are a few recipes to help get you started!

- Raspberry Lime Fizz
- Jicama Pina Breeze
- Triple Berry Smoothie
- Watermelon Water

From left to right: Parke Troutman (San Diego Hunger Coalition), Senator Ben Hueso, Melanie Nally (Community Health Improvement Partners)

San Diego-based advocacy coalition honors Senator Ben Hueso

by Lisa Bacon, Nonprofit Services Manager

On January 9th, the Hunger Advocacy Network hosted a reception at the New Children’s Museum to celebrate the work of its partners and honor Senator Ben Hueso for his work on a bill to reduce hunger among veterans. The No Hunger for Heroes Act (SB134), authored by Hueso and co-sponsored by the Hunger Advocacy Network and the San Diego Hunger Coalition, was signed into law last year. This legislation prevents counties from denying food assistance to unemployed veterans and instructs counties to refer veterans to local offices and training agencies that specifically cater to veteran needs.

Senator Hueso attended the Thursday evening event, and said a few words about hunger among his constituents. The great need in his district became evident to him while on a visit to a rural community. During this visit, he noticed a large gathering of people, which caught his attention due to the small population of the city. He approached the group and was offered fresh baked goods by one of the people in line. The woman explained to the senator that she was waiting in line for food assistance, and brought baked goods out each month to share with the other people waiting in line. Hueso was struck by the generosity of the woman, who was in such great need herself, and became determined to work on hunger relief efforts to ensure that none of his constituents went without such a basic need.

The event was also attended by staff members from other local political offices, including Senator Block and Senator Feinstein. Attendees had the opportunity to meet and speak with Hunger Advocacy Network members, and learn about the coalition’s priorities for the coming legislative cycle. To learn more about the Hunger Advocacy Network and its initiatives, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


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