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!

Hello Loyal Soup People! A lot of people look for the “best” ways to lose weight. Using apps to count calories, joining clubs, resorting to fad diets, and more. I’d like to propose that the traditional technique of simply counting calories should no longer be used. While it may work for some people, it doesn’t encourage people to take a holistic view of their diet and overall health.

We now know that not all calories are created equal. A 100 calorie snack pack may have the same amount of calories as an apple, but those calories are lacking in fiber, vitamins, nutrients, and anti-oxidants. You’re fueling your body with calories that will do nothing but satiate you for a very short amount of time.

I encourage people to approach weight loss as a longer journey, not a short term solution. Calorie counting isn’t something that most people can do forever. And if you haven’t truly adopted new healthy eating patterns, the minute you stop counting, the pounds creep back on.

Instead, try mindful eating, retraining your palate, listening to your body, and slowly adopting new eating habits.  Start adding more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds into your diet. Don’t do it all at once! Start selecting single meals on certain days, and then add more and more. See how you feel. Eat slowly. Become aware of why you are selecting the foods that you are eating.

While it might take a little longer, you’ll probably find that the pounds will stay off, and you’ll have embraced healthier eating habits for 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! We all know the benefits of eating foods containing plant based protein, fiber, anti-oxidants, etc. But did you know that eating certain foods together boosts their health benefits even more? This concept is called food synergy – the benefits of two foods eaten together is greater than the sum of their two parts. It turns out that adding spices to your soup provides more than just flavor!

Here are a few tips to harness the power of food synergy:

– Add fat to your salad. A study published in the 2017 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate salads containing healthy fat improved their absorption rates of important vitamins and nutrients including vitamins A, E, & K, beta-carotene, and lutein. So, while it may seem like a healthy choice to eat a “naked” salad – adding healthy fat will make it even better for you! Add nuts, avocado, seeds, and/or a light olive oil based dressing (not ranch!!).

– Add spices to your cooking. We’ve all heard about the potential health benefits of turmeric. The benefits are tied to its high levels of curcumin – a bioactive compound that we have trouble absorbing on its own. However, when turmeric is combined with piperine, a naturally occurring chemical found in black pepper, our curcumin absorption rates go up. Add turmeric root or powder to your cooking, season with salt and pepper, and start absorbing that curcumin!

– Pair probiotics with fiber. We’re learning so much about how probiotics (beneficial gut bacteria) can help our digestive systems. However, they can’t survive on their own! These bacteria need plant-based fiber to grow and thrive. If you’re consuming foods that contain probiotics such as saukeraut and kombucha, be sure to eat a lot of fiber-rich foods as well – such as legumes, whole grains, fruits, and nuts.

– Pair iron with vitamin C. The type of iron found in plant based foods such as lentils, tofu, and spinach is not well absorbed by our bodies on its own. Luckily, vitamin C can come to the rescue. Pairing iron-rich foods with those heavy in vitamin-C such as bell peppers, citrus fruits, and broccoli, aid in our bodies’ absorption of plant-based iron.

What does all this mean? Have fun in the kitchen! Spice up your foods, add fat to your salads, and get creative with your flavors. Your taste buds aren’t the only things benefiting!

*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! Every day I read about another reason to avoid the “Western Diet” (heavy in processed foods, sugar, and red meat) and focus on the foods in the “Mediterranean Diet.” Researchers at Harvard University just published the results of a study in JAMA Oncology that connect diets that promote chronic inflammation (i.e. the “Western Diet”) with higher rates of colorectal cancer.

Participants in the study who ate inflammatory promoting food – such as red and processed meats, soda, and simple carbohydrates like white bread – had higher rates of colorectal cancer over those who avoided these foods. The connection was alarming. Men had a 44% elevated risk, and women had a 22% higher risk. The study also noted that people who ate these types of food also consumed fewer vegetables.

Other studies have shown connections between diets that promote chronic inflammation and other diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. We can now add colorectal cancer to that list. In short – eating a traditional “Western Diet” is simply not a good idea. It actually is quite dangerous. Focusing on a diet that incorporates whole grains, plants, and natural foods can quite 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! Every few weeks, I sound the alarm bells about the dangers of obesity and diabetes. I just read another article on this subject that propelled me to dedicate another column to this matter.

According to research, excess weight and diabetes are directly linked to higher rates of cancer. Researchers recently found that four percent of cancer cases were caused by obesity, or even just excess weight, and two percent were caused by diabetes.

Even more, both conditions (obesity and diabetes), lead to biological differences including high sugar levels and chronic inflammation – both of which can cause cancer and other illnesses such as heart disease.

According to recent data, approximately 422 million people worldwide have diabetes and more than two billion adults are obese. We clearly have our work cut out for us. The need to focus on proper diet and exercise has never been more urgent.

*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 washing your produce. Unfortunately, fresh fruits and vegetables can harbor harmful bacteria that can lead to some troublesome food borne illnesses. This can cause anything from an uncomfortable few hours in the bathroom to a trip to the hospital. In extreme cases, consuming bacteria can have fatal consequences.

The good news is that proper washing can remove most of the harmful bacteria. There is no need to purchase expensive produce washes. Instead, a dedicated produce brush, a spray bottle, and white vinegar will do the trick. Fill 3/4 of your bottle with vinegar and the rest with water, and you’re ready to go.

For firm produce such as cucumber and apple, spray the produce and scrub it with your brush to remove bacteria and wax. For soft fruits such as peaches and plums, fill up a bowl with 75% vinegar and 25% water. Soak the fruit and then rinse gently with cold water. Put berries in a colander, spray thoroughly, and rinse. For cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, separate the florets, and then soak in the “vinegar bowl” for a few minutes. Swish the contents around to get the dirt out and then rinse with cold water. Do the same thing for greens and herbs.

Most people don’t clean fruits that have a rind, such as pineapple, oranges, and melon. This is not a good practice! If you don’t wash the fruit, the bacteria adheres to the knife and contaminates the flesh of the produce. The bacteria and dirt also get onto your cutting board. Wash these fruits the same way as you wash firm produce – with a scrub brush and spray. To keep your brush clean, toss it in the dish washer whenever you run the machine!

The few extra minutes it takes to properly wash your produce will keep you and your family safe and healthy!

*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 energy. Too often I see people consuming “energy shots,” “energy bars,” and sugary drinks and smoothies in an attempt to get a boost of energy. While these products will indeed give you a quick jolt of energy from the injection of sugar directly into your bloodstream, you’ll soon feel even more fatigued as the effects wear off, and you’ll be craving another quick “shot” of sugar. This is not a healthy cycle! If you’re looking for true, sustained energy throughout the day, look to real, whole foods that will provide a steady supply of energy.

Whole grains, high quality proteins, fruits, and vegetables are digested slowly by your body. As you digest these nutritious foods, their energy is slowly and steadily released into your body. So, instead of a quick jolt of extreme, sugar-induced energy, you’ll have a steady supply and no sugar crash!

The best foods to provide steady energy are high fiber, complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, quinoa, freekah, and bulgur, as well as seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. A snack of carrots and pita, or apples and nuts, is going to keep you far more energized than a can of soda. Also, try to avoid huge meals in the middle of the day. People can often feel lethargic after a large, unhealthy meal as the body attempts to digest all the fat, salt, and sugar. If you snack periodically, you won’t approach lunch in a state of extreme hunger. You’ll be more likely to eat a lower calorie, healthy lunch.

Also, be sure to stay hydrated. One of the primary signs of dehydration is lethargy. Sip water or tea throughout the day to stay energized and hydrated.

Remember – any product that promises a quick fix is exactly that – a short term band-aid rather than a long term solution. Take the extra time to properly fuel your body, and you’ll be more energized and productive throughout the 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!