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.


Here's to 2014!

Nutrition Notes: New Year, New You!

by Jenna Olson, RD Nutrition & Wellness Educator

Happy New Year! The first few weeks of January are always a time where you can never have enough Wite-Out as we train our brains to remember to write 2014 instead of 2013! New Year’s resolutions are in full swing and the top five most popular resolutions include: to lose weight, to get organized, to spend less money and save more, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to stay fit and healthy. These resolutions are all great goals although they are very broad. So instead of having similar resolutions year after year, it is time to get specific! Perhaps one of the resolutions listed below will spark a few ideas:

- Incorporate at least one fruit and vegetable in each meal

- Try one new recipe every other week (you can even try to incorporate a few vegetarian options)

- Instead of checking email at lunch or break, bring gym shoes to work and go for a 15 minute walk outside each day at work

- Go on a hike or explore a new area of San Diego once a month to stay active

By creating more concrete resolutions, it makes it easier to reach our broad goals of losing weight or staying fit and healthy year round. So start a checklist and see if you can spice up your resolutions!

Here are a few healthy recipes to help you get started! Happy 2014!

Apple Turkey Gyro

Quick Stir-Fry
(Note: You can substitute your favorite beans for the ground turkey to make this vegetarian friendly.)

Brown Rice and Black Bean Power Meal

Roasted Vegetables

Veggie Tortilla Roll-Ups

What are your new and improved resolutions? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!

Pumpkins are in season!

Pumpkins: Not just for carving!

by Lisa Bacon, Nonprofit Services Manager

From Pumpkin Spice Lattes to jack-o’-lanterns, it’s hard to escape the pumpkin madness that comes around each fall. Although many people are familiar with pumpkins in the form of sweet treats (think pumpkin pie!) and festive décor, not everyone is aware of the many health benefits of this versatile vegetable. The beloved orange squash is an excellent source of fiber, beta-carotene, potassium, and Vitamins A and C. Pumpkins also contain carotenoids, which are known to fight cancer, and phytosterols, which have been shown to lower cholesterol.

There are many different kinds of pumpkins, but not all of them are designed to be eaten. Sugar  pumpkins are the most common kind used in recipes, and can be found at most major grocery stores during the fall months. You can also purchase pumpkin puree in a can, but you’ll want to double check the label as many stores also sell pumpkin pie filling, which has a similar packaging but is pre-sweetened for baking.

Listed below are a few traditional pumpkin recipes, as well as a few more adventurous ways to use this healthy and seasonal veggie.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Skinny Pumpkin Pie

Low Fat Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin No Bake Energy Bites

Pumpkin Spiced Oatmeal

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oat Bars (Vegan & Gluten Free!)

Crockpot Turkey, White Bean & Pumpkin Chili

Roasted Pumpkin Sage Soup

Breakfast... the most important meal of the day!

September is also Better Breakfast Month!

by Lisa Bacon, Nonprofit Services Manager

As you know, September is nationally recognized as Hunger Action Month. But did you know that it’s also Better Breakfast Month? You’ve heard it said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet so many of us skip this meal due to busy schedules and lack of time. Others skip it because they do not have enough food in the house. Unfortunately, skipping breakfast can have serious impacts on health and overall wellness, including poor school and work performance and weight gain.

The Food Bank works diligently to promote healthy eating, and to provide nutritious food to families who struggle to put food on the table each day. This week, among many other things, the Food Bank is distributing apples and plums to food insecure San Diegans, which are great additions to any healthy breakfast. Here are a few healthy and low maintenance breakfast recipes that are perfect for anyone on the go!

Apple Oatmeal (replace the apple juice with unsweetened vanilla almond milk for another healthy option!)

Strawberry & Mango Smoothies

Peachy Peanut Butter Pita Pockets

Frozen Waffles Topped with Greek Yogurt & Fruit (use frozen fruit or shop fresh fruit that’s in season to cut costs)

Apple & Peanut Butter Sandwich

Feel free to share any of your favorite (healthy!)breakfast options on our Facebook page.

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