Hello Loyal Soup People! This week I’d like to chat about grains. Many people have developed a fear of grains because of an aversion to gluten. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans calls for six servings of grains daily! Adding a variety of whole grains into your diet will help you reach your daily fiber goal (at least 21 grams!) and will help balance your blood glucose levels. Whole grains are also delicious and can help add healthy variety to your diet. Plus, many are gluten free!

Some of our favorite whole grains include:
– Freekah
– Bulgur Wheat
– Barley
– Farro
– Quinoa (gluten free!)
– Millet (gluten free!)

When purchasing whole grains, avoid those which are described as “pearled” or “semi-pearled.” This means that part of the grain has been removed, and it isn’t really “whole” anymore.

Whole grains can be added to meals in many ways. If making a stir fry, serve the vegetables and protein over quinoa instead of white rice. When eating a pureed soup, pour it over some farro or barley. Add freekah to a salad for a bit of extra protein, fiber, and flavor! Looking for a quick snack? Chopped apples and walnuts stirred into quinoa with a dash of cinnamon is delicious! And incredibly nutritious!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! This week I’d like to chat about smoothies. These seem to be so popular these days. They are advertised as healthy meal replacements and snacks. Even McDonald’s is in on the trend! As you probably can guess, I’m not a fan! Most of these smoothies are, quite simply, “sugar bombs.” They come in huge sizes (40oz!) and are often full of added sugar.

Even smoothies that sound healthy (for example,a Kale Ginger Apple) are full of sugar. Notice how much kale goes into the smoothie versus apples and apple juice. Worse, some stores use “natural flavorings” or “fruit concentrate.” Translation – more sugar. Some offer “added protein” – often in the form of a small dollop of yogurt, which doesn’t add more than 2-3 grams of protein.

If you find a shop that uses real fruit, look at the amount that is put in a typical smoothie. Often you’ll see five, six, or even eight pieces of fruit go into the blender. While I’m a huge proponent of eating fruit – that’s A LOT at once. Fruit should be eaten in single servings. No need to blend so many of them together into a drink. Instead of having a ginger kale apple smoothie, how about have an apple, and then enjoy a kale salad with a ginger dressing?

If you do enjoy smoothies, I highly recommend making your own at home. That way you know exactly what’s going into them. Better yet, have a bowl of fruit and another of mixed nuts on your counter. An apple and a handful of almonds is always going to be a better choice than a “mocha-frappa-kale-apple-passion fruit” smoothie!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! Over the many years of writing this column, I’ve learned how important visual cues are to eating healthfully. From using smaller plates to displaying bowls of fruit on your counter, changing what you see can make a big difference in your food choices. In the past I’ve provided suggestions about what foods to keep in your refrigerator. This week I’d like to write about healthy swaps you can make in your pantry:

– Trade salted nuts for raw nuts. Peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, and more – nuts are very healthy! In moderation, they are excellent sources of healthy fat, protein, and fiber. However, roasted nuts are often loaded with added oil, salt, and sugar. Instead, buy raw nuts and roast them yourself. It takes very little time and makes your kitchen smell heavenly!

– Swap out store bought salad dressings for homemade versions. Most commercially made salad dressings are loaded with sugar, salt, and preservatives. Making your own salad dressing is easy, costs half the money, and results in a more flavorful and healthy product. Search online for some fun, homemade dressing ideas.

– Watch out for tomato sauce! Tomato and pizza sauces are surprisingly full of sugar and salt. This time of year, tomatoes are EVERYWHERE. Have some fun and make your own sauce. Make a big batch and freeze several portions to use throughout the winter. If you do buy a store-brand, make sure it is low salt.

– Beware of nut butter – Like tomato sauce, nut butters can often be full of added sugar and salt. Fortunately, there are great, natural brands that add nothing to their products. You’ll often see separation between the nut butter and the naturally occurring oils. Just give a good stir to mix everything together. Or, you can make your own nut butter at home! Beware – this can get messy!

Many shelf stable items can be sneaky sources of added sugar, fat, and salt. If you’re unable to make these things at home, be sure to read the labels!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! My daughter mentioned that people are drinking gazpacho as a post workout drink. I love hearing this because, as you can probably guess, I’m not a big fan of sports drinks in general. Beverages that were created for professional and extreme athletes such as football players or marathon runners are now marketed to the general public and children. Most of us simply don’t work out enough to require much more than water and a light healthy meal in the hours after we exercise.

If you do find yourself extra sweaty after a hard workout or from being outside in the heat and humidity, you do need to refuel. Your body needs hydration, electrolytes, some carbs and protein, a bit of salt, and potassium! When you sweat excessively, you lose a lot of these essential nutrients. It is important to refuel smartly. What you don’t need is added sugar and caffeine – the primary ingredients in so many sports drinks.

Water, tea, and yes, gazpacho are perfect post-workout beverages. Watermelon is an excellent food to eat after exercising! Steer clear of bottles filled with bizarre colors. I’ve never seen all natural drinks that are “electric blue” or deep purple! After you’ve worked so hard to exercise – why would you fill your body up with chemicals and additives? Approach sports hydration like you approach food – all naturally!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! A lot of attention lately is being paid towards mindfulness when it comes to healthy eating. It turns out that our environment can play a very big factor when it comes to eating healthfully. Creating a environment that is conducive to a mindful eating experience can play a major role in our food choices. Here are a few tricks to help you create a healthy eating environment:

– Create a visually appealing plate. Think like a chef when plating your food. When healthy food looks visually appealing, we’re more likely to enjoy it! Create a colorful plate, full of seasonal vegetables, grains, and aromas. Don’t just toss your food on your plate. Arrange it in a way that makes it appetizing.

– Table-Plate-Chair (TPC) – Don’t stand. Don’t sit on the couch. Don’t eat on the go. Sit in a chair, at a table, with a proper plate. Take a few minutes from your day to focus solely on the meal you are eating. The fewer distractions you create, the more likely you are to listen to your body and eat mindfully.

– Take a break from your phone – The phone is a major distraction when it comes to eating mindfully. Put it away for a few minutes and pay attention to your meal.

– Find a quiet place – Many studies have shown that a quiet environment helps us to pay attention to our food and to listen to our bodies. Also, when we can hear ourselves chew, we tend to eat less! The more we pay attention to our eating habits, the more likely we are to improve them.

In short, don’t treat your meals like a fast chore that needs to be rushed. Give yourself a few minutes each day to enjoy your meals. Your mind and your body will thank you!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! As you hopefully know, we here at Soupergirl are big proponents of eating seasonally. Fuel your body with what’s in season! For example, in the summer, we need to hydrate more, so we naturally tend to eat more water-filled produce such as cucumber, watermelon, and tomatoes. In the winter, our bodies need fuel to stay warm and fight the cold, so we eat more starches such as sweet potatoes and winter squash. This week I’d like to highlight the health benefits of one of my favorite summer fruits – watermelon!

True to its name, watermelon is 92% water. This means that it is surprisingly low in calories per serving. On average, two cups contain only 80 calories. Watermelon can be the perfect summer dessert. A good, local watermelon (we buy ours from Garners Produce in Virginia) can be sweeter than any piece of candy!

Each slice you bite into is bursting in vitamin C, vitamin A and lycopene – essential anti-oxidants. These nutrients have been linked to all sorts of healthy benefits, including disease prevention, inflammation reduction, and more. Watermelon also contains various amino acids and potassium, which are popular in sports recovery drinks. Skip the sugary, processed sports drinks and nosh on watermelon after your work out! Combine these nutrients and vitamins with the high water content, and you have the perfect, natural post-workout nourishment.

The list really does go on and on. But I don’t really need an excuse to eat copious amounts of watermelon! There is little that is more refreshing to me than biting into a slice of juicy, crispy watermelon on a hot summer day.

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! The results are in! According to the US News & World Report, the Mediterranean-Style has been ranked the best among forty diets reviewed by health experts. The reason is quite simple – it isn’t really a “diet.” The Mediterranean Diet (MD) is more of a lifestyle. Rather than encouraging people to count calories and monitor every morsel of food eaten, the Mediterranean approach (as I like to call it) focuses on overall wellness and a healthy approach to food.

MD is extremely focused on nutrient-packed, plant-focused meals and snacks. It encourages eaters to consume at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day, along with whole grains, healthy fats, and legumes. Followers are encouraged to avoid added sugar, butter, and other saturated fats.

The experts say that this diet is excellent for both heart health and weight loss. In fact, according to a British Study published in 2016, 6% of all heart disease cases may be prevented by simply adhering to the Mediterranean Diet!

This approach to eating incorporates much of what I’ve been writing about in this column for many years. Fill your plate with lots of seasonal vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fats. Snack on nuts and avocado toast instead of chips and pretzels. Choose water over soda. The evidence keeps pouring in that this style of eating can literally save your life!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! I recently read a blog post about how Sam Kass, the former White House executive chef transformed the Obamas’ eating habits. It turns out that back in 2008, the first family wasn’t as healthy as we thought! However, with a few tricks, Sam was able to transform the Obamas’ kitchen and get them eating much healthier. I wanted to share a few of the changes Sam made to their kitchen, that are quite easy to do.

It seems that the most important trick is to make healthy food visually appealing and easily accessible. So, when you’re craving a snack or trying to figure out dinner, your eyes immediately see healthy and appetizing choices. Some examples:

– Remove fruits and vegetables from the refrigerator and put them in a bowl on the counter. If you are worried they will spoil, just pull a few items out at a time. That way, if you’re hungry, you’ll see a bowl of juicy, fresh peaches waiting for you in the kitchen! (Yes, summer is the best time to get into this habit!)

– Take your vegetables out of the crisper drawer and display them on the top shelf. Some produce really must be refrigerated (salads, etc.). But why do we bury them at the bottom of the refrigerator where they get spoiled? Instead, put them right at eye level so they are the first things you see when you open the refrigerator.

– Put tasty snacks in glass jars in your pantry. When you open your pantry, make sure you are greeted with jars full of nuts and seeds. Put the crackers and cookies on a top shelf that requires a step or stair to climb on in order to reach them. So, next time you’re hungry, you’ll see a juicy peach and roasted almonds waiting for you in your kitchen. That sounds like a delicious snack to me!

– Use the same trick in your refrigerator. Have jars or Tupperware full of pre-cut produce ready to grab – right at eye level. Put them next to hummus or nut butter so you have a light meal or snack ready to eat.

They key to healthy eating is to retrain your cravings and habits. If you make healthy eating as easy as possible for yourself, the new habits will come naturally!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! Last week I talked about the importance of wearing proper sunscreen, which is even more important this time of year. This week I’d like to follow up on that message and discuss protecting your eyes. The sun can cause incredible long term damage to your eyes if you don’t properly protect them from its harmful rays.

Too much exposure to UV lights can drastically increase our risks of eye diseases, including cataracts, growths, and cancer. The best way to protect our eyes is to wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat. This is important on cloudy days as well. Don’t be fooled by the clouds – the UV rays pass right through them. Be sure to double check your sunglasses to make sure they block UV-rays. If they don’t – they are just fashion accessories!

Also – never stare directly at the sun. Everyone knew about this rule during the eclipse – but it should be applied at all times. Staring at the sun can cause solar retinopathy – damage to the eye’s retina from solar radiation.

We should care for our eyes all year long – but especially in the summer when the sun is extra bright and shining for longer hours.

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! Memorial Day Weekend is here! Which means summer has officially begun, and it is time for me to remind everyone to wear sunscreen! Sunscreen is essential to protect our skin from harmful damage that is caused by exposure to the sun.

However, remember that sunscreen should be your last defense against skin damage. Try to wear hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing when out in the sun. Avoid sun exposure during the middle of the day and find shade whenever possible.

Not all sunscreens are created equal. Our skin can absorb many of the chemicals found in commonly used sunscreens. While some are harmless, others can be dangerous. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released its 2018 Guide to Sunscreen. I very highly recommend downloading the guide and searching for recommended sunscreens. This year, EWG is very concerned about the chemical oxybenzone. It has been shown to be harmful to both humans and the oceans – and is contributing to the destruction of coral reefs. The state of Hawaii has proposed banning all sunscreens containing this chemical because it is so harmful to marine life.

Thankfully, the guide provides plenty of safe sunscreens that are free of this harmful chemical, and still provide excellent protection against the sun.

Remember – a tan may give the look of health, but is actually a sign of serious damage to your skin. Burns are even worse! Protect yourself against the sun and have a safe summer!