Healthy Living Help: How to Gain Weight the Right Way

Healthy weight gain is not a very common topic these days. With so many North Americans overweight or obese, most of us are interested in weight loss instead of gaining weight. But there are still some people who are underweight and who want to know how to achieve a healthy weight without eating junk food. And of course, healthy weight gain during pregnancy is also a concern for many of us.

So today I wanted to write a little about how to put on weight the right way. This post is prompted by a reader who asked if I would write an article on healthy ways to gain weight. But it’s also for anyone who experiences loss of appetite due to cancer treatments, ADHD medication, or chronic illness. And it’s for parents of picky eaters, and adults who are caring for elderly parents who have trouble eating. If you or a loved one need tips to promote gradual, healthy weight gain, I’ve gathered the best expert advice for you here.

 

Healthy weight gain can be a challenge | #24CarrotDiet
Healthy weight gain can be a challenge. Learn what foods will help you put on pounds safely.

Healthy Weight Gain Starts with Healthy Food

I’m sure you already know that in order to gain weight, you’ll have to consume more calories. But the trick to healthy weight gain is eating the right foods to get those calories. If you start pigging out on chips, fried foods, and desserts, you will gain weight. But it will likely be fat instead of healthy muscle mass. And you’re also going to expose your body to a ton of trans fats, sodium, and added sugars that will put your health at risk.

If you want to gain weight the healthy way, you need to eat healthy foods. If you think that means eating “rabbit food” like carrot sticks and spinach leaves, think again! There are plenty of healthy foods that are dense and higher in calories than carrots and greens. These foods will help you to achieve a healthy weight gain, especially if you can also adopt a few simple changes to you usual eating habits.

 

 

Weight Gain Calls for Healthy, Dense Foods

When you’re trying to gain weight, choose foods that are low in volume but rich in calories and nutrients. Think nuts and nut butters, starchy vegetables and fruits like potatoes, winter squash, or under-ripe bananas, and also dense fruits like mango and avocado. Choose dried fruits like raisins or dried apricot slices over their fresh counterparts.

Eat dense cereals like granola and muesli. Opt for fatty fish like salmon, and indulge in red meat. Treats like granola and cereal bars, and nutrient-dense baked goods like oatmeal cookies or bran muffins make the list of recommended foods as well. Just be careful to balance out the more processed foods with whole foods like lean meat and fish, fresh produce, raw nuts, and healthy dairy options.

Eat More Often to Gain Weight

There is some controversy over whether fewer or more meals are better for weight loss, but if you’re trying to gain weight the experts are unanimous on the subject. You need to eat more often to ensure weight gain.

Underweight individuals may feel full faster, says Mayo Clinic dietitian Katherine Zeratsky. She recommends eating 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day instead of 2-3 larger ones. Most experts say you should try to space meals and snacks about 3-4 hours apart. This will encourage you to consume enough calories to promote your weight gain. But just as importantly, it will prevent your body burning off stored fat between meals.

Insulin levels in your body rise soon after you eat a meal. For a healthy person eating moderately, insulin levels return to normal about 2-4 hours after eating. While insulin levels are up, your body uses glucose for energy. Once insulin levels drop, your body will start to burn fat. While this is desirable for people trying to lose weight, if you are underweight it can deter your weight gain.

Combine Foods from Different Food Groups

This last habit change is important for everyone, whether you’re trying to gain or lose weight, or just maintain a healthy body weight. For people trying to gain weight, it helps to ensure that you are maximizing the calories in a meal or snack. But just as importantly, combining foods from different food groups ensures that you’re getting a good variety of nutrients to keep your body healthy.

Try to aim for combining at least three different food groups in any snack or meal. This encourages you to be more mindful about what you eat, and to make healthy food choices instead of reaching for processed foods that contain less healthy fats, added sugars, and refined carbohydrates.

You don’t necessarily need to cook. Just choose foods that complement one another. So don’t just eat just that handful of nuts by itself. Throw in some dried fruit to create a healthy trail mix, and drink a glass of milk with it. Instead of reaching for a package of string cheese, cut a slice of Gruyère and toast some multigrain bread. Top your sandwich with some sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and half a ripe avocado, and you have a balanced meal that will satisfy you and help nourish your body while you work on your weight gain.

 

 

Other Tips for Healthy Weight Gain

  • Enrich foods: It’s pretty easy to sneak healthy calories into foods or beverages. Drizzle a healthy fat like olive oil onto your baked or mashed potato, or sprinkle on some grated cheese. Top a salad with some pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, or ground flax seed, or add them to your favourite whole grain bread recipe. Enrich your tuna casserole with some a little powdered milk. Snack on energy balls enriched with protein powder.
  • Drink your calories: If you’re having a tough time getting all the calories you need, sometimes a glass of juice or a smoothie can help. You should also make a habit of drinking milk, or perhaps you might want to try kefir. Cut back on beverages such as tea and coffee, as these aren’t dense in either calories or nutrients – but they do fill you up. You should also avoid drinking empty calories in the form of soft drinks or other sugary beverages. Choose unsweetened juices made from fruits and vegetables, or whip up a homemade smoothie with banana, yogurt, and your choice of fruits and vegetables.
  • Make your own: You may be ditching the low fat salad dressing and the zero calorie sugar substitutes, but that doesn’t mean you should load up on overly processed condiments and convenience foods. Try a homemade vinaigrette made with healthy fats or overnight oatmeal made with yogurt, dried fruit, and nuts instead of buying less healthy salad dressing or prefab parfaits.
  • Eat before bed: This tip is especially important if you are pregnant and coping with morning sickness. But for anyone trying to gain weight, eating a little something before bedtime is important. This might be the first change you make to your eating habits when you’re trying to increase your caloric intake. Remember to choose whole, healthy foods instead of processed snacks. And combine energy dense foods from several food groups.
  • Don’t fill up on water: If drinking water cuts your appetite, don’t drink a large amount right before mealtimes. Instead, sip water throughout the day whenever you’re thirsty. And remember to drink your milk, juices, and smoothies as well. Staying hydrated doesn’t have to keep you from getting the calories you need for weight gain.
  • Don’t forget to exercise: It may seem counter-intuitive to exercise when you’re trying to gain weight, since exercise uses up calories. But exercising can also stimulate your appetite. Which will help you to consume the extra calories you need. And it helps to ensure that you are gaining weight from lean muscle mass instead of fat.

 

 

Healthy Weight Gain: The Bottom Line

That about sums up the expert advice on achieving a healthy weight gain. The most important thing you can do is to eat low volume, high density foods at 5-6 small meals spaced evenly throughout the day. Remember to combine foods from three or more food groups. Keep up with healthy exercise, and stay hydrated. But feel free to enjoy healthy smoothies, milk, or a little orange juice so you’re getting calories and nutrients in your drinks too. This will help you stay healthy and lean while you increase your body weight.

 

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HEALTHY LIVING HELP: WHAT IS STARCH AND DOES IT MAKE YOU FAT?

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Healthy Living Help: What is Starch and What Role Does it Play in Your Body?

What is Starch?

Starch is a complex carbohydrate made from a chain of glucose molecules. It is the most common carb in the human diet. You’ll find it in many of the world’s staple foods, including rice, wheat, maize (corn), and potatoes. Most of the starch in your diet comes from eating grains and cereal products, legumes, seeds, nuts, and some vegetables. You probably already know that the potato is a starchy vegetable. Other examples of starchy vegetables are root vegetables and tubers like parsnips and cassava, green peas, and pumpkins and winter squash.

Starchy foods are an important source of energy for your body. Most of your body’s cells feed on glucose, in addition to amino acids and fats. But your brain, most especially, needs the glucose that comes from starch and other carbohydrates. The brain uses one half of all the sugar in your body. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Your blood sugar helps to maintain the healthy functioning of nerve cells. Glucose also feeds the production of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of your brain. Neurotransmitters help one neuron (nerve cell) to communicate with another, or with a muscle or gland cell. If you don’t have enough glucose in your body, it can be hard to focus. Low glucose levels are linked to deficits in attention and cognitive function.

Corn is more than 70% starch by weight | #24CarrotDiet
Corn is sometimes classified as a cereal and sometimes as a starchy vegetable

 

Nutrients in Starchy Foods

As we learned above, starch comes mainly from grains and cereals, from legumes, seeds and nuts, and from starchy vegetables. Starchy foods provide other nutrients too. They often contain B vitamins, including folate. They also provide minerals like calcium and iron. And they can often be a good source of fiber, another important carbohydrate.

We all know fiber as the stuff that keeps us regular. But dietary fiber also plays an important role in making us feel full when we eat. This is why eating a high fiber, low calorie soup before a meal can help you eat less and lose weight. Both soluble and insoluble fiber help to promote heart health. And the insoluble fiber also feeds your gut bacteria, which we now know can improve your immune system and help prevent everything from cancer to the common cold.

Diet Trends and Carbohydrates

A 19th Century Low Carb Diet

Diet trends change every few years, and it seems that the people who lead the trends have a fondness for blaming ill health on specific foods. In the Civil War era, Dr. James Salisbury was aware that some foods, particularly legumes and starchy vegetables, ferment in the gut. But he blamed this process for all manner of disease, including tuberculosis, which we now know to be a bacterial infection.

Salisbury recommended a diet that consisted mostly of meat, as he believed that fruits, vegetables, and bread products caused too much gut fermentation and led to disease. Salisbury steak was introduced as a health food. Salisbury’s recommended diet was two parts meat for every one part of fruits and vegetables, and an even smaller amount of bread and grain products. Several other low carb diets were championed by nutrition gurus around the early to mid-19th century.

A High Carb Diet for Weight Loss and Health

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, on the other hand, was raised a Seventh-day Adventist and believed in a vegetarian diet. Kellogg was as much businessman as he was doctor, and patented many processes, recipes, and devices. Among his inventions are granola, corn flakes and other breakfast cereals, a method for making peanut butter, and soy-based imitation meats.

Kellogg opened his infamous sanatorium around the same time that Salisbury was recommending his heavily meat-based diet. More than a hundred years later, little has changed when it comes to diet trends. The public is still bombarded with conflicting diet theories. Many of these centre around claims that carbohydrates are either the cause of our growing weight problem, or the cure for it. One school of though recommends a low carb diet, while another simultaneously recommends a high carb diet for weight loss.

 

Carbohydrates and Weight Loss

A few years back, we started hearing that we should cut back on carbs like white rice and pasta. Not long after, experts began to expand their advice. I remember a doctor about five years ago, telling my husband to completely stop eating everything white. Nutrition gurus rejected carbohydrates, and most especially starch, in much the same way that Salisbury had more than a hundred years earlier. But was this any different from Kellogg promoting a high carb diet, or nutrition experts in the late 20th century telling us to cut back on fats?

Despite all the claims for and against a diet based mainly on one type of food, the current thinking is that a balanced diet is best. The recommended diet in Canada, the United States, and Britain is one that emphasizes whole vegetables and whole grains. Meat, dairy products, and even fats all have their place in a healthy diet. But there are always going to be people who recommend cutting out carbs, rejecting all meat, dairy and eggs, or avoiding starchy foods.

Why Low Carb Diets Don’t Work in the Long Run

You’ve probably asked yourself, “Will cutting carbs help me lose weight?” Unless you’ve been eating an unhealthy amount of carbs, the answer is probably no. Christina Stiehl of Eat This, Not That! lists seven reasons why cutting out carbs isn’t the answer. Among them are the loss of fiber from your diet, and the fact that a low carb diet can leave you with a lack of energy that can actually result in you being less active.

The lack of energy is the result of lower blood sugar levels. But the loss of B vitamins that usually come along with starchy foods is also a factor. B vitamins provide energy for your body and mind. They also help in the production of neurotransmitters that keep your brain working. Eating enough carbohydrates to supply your needs is much healthier than taking supplements.

Craving Carbs

Another side effect of cutting out carbs is that you’ll start to crave them. Carbohydrates in general and starch in particular are necessary to your health. Your body is actually designed to make you crave carbs when your blood sugar starts to drop too low. And when these cravings come at an inopportune moment, you’re more likely to snack on highly processed carbs. You’re also more likely to end up eating a high-calorie fast food meal that’s low on nutrients but loaded with sodium, added sugars, and unhealthy fats.

Some fast food meals contain more than a day’s worth of meat. And even the salads sometimes supply enough calories for a whole day! You aren’t going to lose weight eating like this! Even if you do manage to lose a good bit of weight when you first start a low carb diet, it’s probably from water loss. And no carb diets or diets that severely restrict your carbohydrate intake simply aren’t sustainable. You’ll end up gaining weight from the decrease in physical activity because you have no energy. Or you’ll just gain the weight back once you stop the diet and go back to eating the way you normally would.

Resistant Starch

We’ve established that carbs are a necessary part of our diet. But what about starchy foods? Well, it turns out that all this gut fermentation that Salisbury was so distressed about is actually a good thing. Remember we discussed that foods higher in starch also tend to be high in fiber? Well, some kinds of fiber are prebiotic, meaning they feed your gut bacteria. And we’ve also learned that some of the starch from our foods does the same thing. We call this kind of starch, resistant starch. And we now know that eating resistant starch can make you healthy.

Resistant starch is linked to improved digestion and may help to lower your risk of colorectal cancer. Eating resistant starch also improves your body’s insulin sensitivity, which may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic disorder and obesity, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Resistant starch is also associated with something called the “second meal effect.” When you eat resistant starch early in the day, it will help you to avoid insulin spikes at the initial meal. Then later in the day, it can also lower the insulin spike at the next meal too. Not only that, but eating foods that contain resistant starch can also help you feel more full, which aids in weight loss.

Potato Starch for Gut Health

Despite the fact that many diet gurus and even doctors have been telling us to avoid white potatoes, they are actually pretty healthy. If you look up potato nutritional info, you’ll learn that this tuber supplies a lot of healthy nutrients, including a large amount of vitamin C and fiber that makes you feel full.

We’ve also learned that when potatoes are cooked and then cooled, a good amount of resistant starch is formed. You can also buy a supplement like Bob’s Red Mill potato starch. Adding potato starch to other foods can be an effective way to ensure you are getting enough resistant starch in your diet. The jury is still out on whether supplementation is worth it. But if you aren’t getting enough starch in your diet, it is an option you might want to consider.

The bottom line is that starch is good for you. It’s the most abundant carbohydrate in the human diet, and it provides both physical energy and brain food that your body needs. Foods rich in starch also tend to be rich in fiber and B vitamins. Both the fiber and the resistant starch that ferments in your gut are particularly healthy – and helpful for weight loss. Eating resistant starch can help you feel full, so you’ll eat less. It also helps to improve insulin sensitivity and prevents unhealthy insulin spikes.

Include whole grains, root vegetables and other starchy vegetables, and nuts, seeds, and legumes in your diet to ensure you’re getting enough starch. If you can’t eat some of these foods for whatever reason, consider supplementing your diet by adding potato starch to other foods. But in general, try to just eat healthy foods that contain starch.

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5 Basic Health Care Tips: Save Money & Improve Your Health in the New Year

Health care tips often find their way into New Year’s resolutions. We all want to be healthier, but do you ever worry that following expert health care tips will end up costing you too much money? Gym memberships, supplements, and special foods can be expensive. But it is possible to adopt a healthier lifestyle and save money too.

Instead of buying diet foods and following special diets, think about making simple lifestyle changes. Most of these changes will cost very little, if anything at all. And some of them can actually cut your food costs. Best of all, they will help you improve your overall health. And that means you’ll spend less on healthcare in the long run. Let healthy food choices be your medicine, and you may just find that you have fewer doctor visits and need medication less often. You’ll be able to do more things, and you’ll enjoy life more.

These health care tips come from a belief that prevention is the best medicine. Adopting a healthy lifestyle in the first place can prevent a lot of medical conditions before they happen. And even if you already have a chronic health condition, you may find that your symptoms improve when you adopt healthier eating habits.

5 Basic Health Care Tips to Improve Your Health & Save You Money | #24CarrotDiet
These basic health care tips will improve your health & save you money
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Basic Health Care Tips for 2018

I’ve chosen these health care tips to be easy to implement and also frugal. I tried to pick lifestyle changes that should be safe for everyone. But if you do have a particular medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor before you make any changes to your diet. Also, be sure not to make any changes to your prescribed medications without consulting your doctor or pharmacist.

As for ease of implementation, don’t feel you have to put all five health care tips into practice at once! You may find that it’s fairly easy to follow through on some of the health care tips, such as eliminating fruit juice from your diet. But other tips, like cutting back on meat or meal prepping, can take a little more work. So at first, just pick the tips that you think you can follow fairly painlessly. As you master one or two of these lifestyle changes, you can start following other health care tips a little at a time.

Give yourself the whole year to make all five changes to your eating habits. This is an ongoing project that will take time to complete. So don’t let yourself feel rushed, and be sure to reward yourself for each of the health care tips as you successfully adopt it.

1) Stop Drinking Fruit Juice

Did you know that drinking juice every day can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by 21%? This is why the very first of our health care tips for the new year is to stop drinking fruit juice.

Cutting juice out of your daily diet is an easy change to make and it will save you money on beverages, especially if you replace juice with tap water. Some fruit juices have as much sugar as a soft drink. And fruit juice, even if you are juicing with fresh fruits and vegetables at home, lacks fibre.

Dietary fibre is an essential nutrient – and most North Americans are not getting enough of it. Fibre helps you feel full, which can help you to eat less and lose weight. Some types of fibre are prebiotic: they feed your gut bacteria, the probiotics that help your body break down food.

Fibre also helps improve heart health. It can contribute to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and decreased risk of stroke and diabetes. Fibre also slows down the digestion of sugars in foods like fruit, which helps reduce the strain on your liver. When you drink fruit juice, it’s like eating several pieces of fruit at once. The liquid sugar moves through your body too fast. This can lead to increased body fat and insulin resistance.

Eat Whole Fruits Instead of Drinking Juice

Instead of drinking fruit juice, drink water and eat whole fruit. This is two health care tips in one. Drinking water has its own health benefits, and tap water is available free of charge. Eating at least two servings of whole fruit each week can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 23%. Drinking juice every day can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by 21%.

Juice is often more expensive than whole fruit, especially locally grown fruit in season. So save money by buying more fruit and drinking tap water instead of juice. Even if you only swap out three servings of fruit juice each week, you could lower your diabetes risk by 7%.

2) Respect Portion Sizes

It’s no secret that North Americans tend to eat too much of a good thing. And often, we eat too much of a less than healthy thing. We are living in the “supersize me” era. Fast food restaurants actually require employees to upsell you a larger drink or to accept a meal deal instead of a single food item. Some eat-in restaurants even serve grossly oversized meals or desserts, timing the diners and making a big deal out of whether they can finish the enormous amount of food.

We all know that in order to maintain a healthy weight, you can’t eat more calories than we’re going to use in a day. And especially if you need to lose weight you can’t afford to eat over-sized portions.

Respecting portion size is probably one of the health care tips that dietitians spend the most time working on with clients. Most of us have grown up in a meat and potatoes culture that makes the steak or the pork chop the most important food on your plate. And usually, that piece of meat is a lot bigger than is healthy for us.

Learn what foods are in each of the four food groups, and how many portions of each you need for your age, gender, and activity level. Then learn how much the portion size is and respect it. Preparing smaller portions will help you save money on your grocery bills, and eating the recommended number of portions from each food group will help you get the most health benefits from your food.

3) Eat Less Meat

This health care tip follows on the last one. The recommended portion size for meat is 2-1/2 oz, or 75 g. That’s about 1/2 cup of cooked poultry or lean meat. Or about the size of a deck of cards. Think on that for a minute, and then think about how much meat you normally put on your plate. Are you eating one or even two quarter-pound burgers at a single sitting? Do you scarf down an 8-ounce steak in one meal? If so, you’re eating too much meat for one meal.

And remember too, that meat alternatives like eggs, peanut butter, nuts, tofu, and legumes also count towards your daily meat servings. If you grabbed two Egg McMuffins on the way to work this morning, you’ve already eaten almost two portions of meat alternatives. Did you know that teen girls and adult women are only supposed to eat two servings of meat or alternatives in a day? You’d better be planning on a meatless supper! And really, that means a meal with no nuts, legumes, or tofu as well. Are you regretting those breakfast burgers now?

But I don’t want you to think that you shouldn’t eat your meat alternatives. Just that you should respect the number and size of portions each day. In fact, in 2015 the World Health Organization and the American Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended that we reduce the amount of meat we eat. So do eat nuts and seeds. Do make meatless meals that feature legumes or tofu. Do eat eggs for supper once in a while. These sources of protein tend to be less expensive than meat, so they will cost less.

Comparing Meat with Legumes

Choosing to make bean soup for supper will save you money over eating burgers, especially if you normally buy your burgers at the drive-thru. Legumes are also loaded with fibre, which meat lacks. Legumes also tend to have more protein and iron, and less fat, than a comparable amount of ground beef.

For example, a single hamburger patty (one serving of meat) weighs in at 254 calories. It provides 26% of your daily protein requirement, 14% of iron, and 11% of calcium. It also supplies 15% each of your total fat and sodium for the day.

By comparison, one cup of cooked kidney beans is 225 calories and supplies 30% of your day’s protein. It also provides a whopping 44% of fibre (burgers supply none) and 21% of iron. In addition, there is 20% potassium, 18% of magnesium, and 6% of calcium. All of that with only 1% of total fats and less than 1% of sodium.

I hope this encourages you to replace some of the meat in your diet with legumes and other healthy meat alternatives like seeds and nuts. You can add a handful of pumpkin seeds to a salad or top your morning yogurt with some walnut pieces. Nuts and seeds are also a wonderful source of healthy unsaturated fats and omega fatty acids. They are definitely worth adding to your diet, as long as you keep in mind that they should be replacing some of the meat.

4) Eat Soup Before Meals

Studies show that eating low calorie soup before a meal helps you to feel more full. That cuts down on the overall number of calories you eat at a given meal. This is true even when you include the up to 150 calories for a bowl of vegetable soup in the count.

If you had to pick just one health care tip to follow this year, this is probably the one one I’d recommend. Eating soup before a meal encourages you to sit down and make a bit more of an occasion of your supper. And taking that extra time and preparation can lead to more mindful eating. Including a vegetable soup in your meals also means that you will eat more vegetables. Considering that few of us are getting the recommended number of servings of vegetables and fruit each day, that’s an extremely healthy choice.

Even if you were just adding a small bowl of homemade soup to a meal of takeout pizza or tacos, it’s a step in the right direction. You will need less of those foods to feel satisfied. So you can buy a smaller pizza, or have fewer slices. You might decide to eat fewer tacos. Or if you’re making them at home, you might opt for a little less meat and cheese on them because you aren’t as hungry. Maybe you’ll start putting more vegetables on them instead. Whatever the case, these small changes will add up over time. They will help you save money and shift your diet towards healthier portion sizes and meals that emphasize vegetables and whole grains, rather than meats and processed foods.

5) Start Meal Prepping

Speaking of processed foods leads me to the last of our five basic health care tips for the new year. This one is probably the most challenging, but it could also be the most rewarding. Preparing meals ahead of time can help you to eat more meals at home, instead of ordering pizza or getting burgers at the drive-thru. Eating home-cooked meals can help you to cut the number of calories you eat. And it can mean that those calories will be coming from healthier food.

Eating restaurant food, particularly fast food, is associated with being overweight. Portion sizes tend to be too large, which ignores our second health care tip. Fast food, especially, tends to be overly processed and higher in fats, sugars and sodium than similar homemade foods.

You’ve probably heard that a fast food soda contains as much salt as the burger or the fries (not true – in Canada, at least.) But did you know that even the healthier options like salad sometimes have more fat, calories, and salt than the burger you’re replacing? People with higher fast food intakes can weigh up to 13 pounds more than those who eat mostly at home. They also have higher triglyceride levels and waist circumference, and are at twice the risk for metabolic syndrome.

Prepping Lunches & Snacks

As with all else, you can start meal prepping with baby steps. Try just planning your next day’s lunch and snacks after supper each night. Take some time to prepare fresh fruit and vegetables once or twice a week, and then grab some for snacks at work or school. Mason jar salads and homemade Ramen jars are a great alternative to the fast food main dish salads and sandwiches.

Prepping Breakfasts

Instead of eating cold cereal, try eating fruit and yogurt for breakfast. This is so easy to do if you have frozen fruit on hand. Or you can top your yogurt with some of the fruit you cut up for work snacks. Remember to add a few walnut pieces or some slivered almonds, too. Other options for quick and easy breakfasts include overnight oats and vegan chia seed puddings.

Try to stay away from cold cereals, muffins, and breakfast pastries as much as possible. If you decide to eat eggs, think healthy omelettes with plenty of vegetables or poached eggs with whole grain toast and a half grapefruit or some grapes. Homemade breakfast sandwiches can be a healthy option. Just remember that the eggs and meat in the sandwich count against your meat servings for the day!

Prepping Suppers

One of the most important changes you can make to reduce food spending and improve your family’s health is to treat restaurant and take-out meals as occasional treats. It can be tough for busy families to follow this health care tip, especially if you aren’t used to cooking or don’t have a well-equipped kitchen.

A slow cooker is a great investment in your family’s health. It allows you to cook healthy meals while you’re at work, doing housework, or running the kids around. Slow cooking is also a healthier cooking method than frying, which many families fall back on if they want to cook meat in a hurry. Crockpots are available in a wide range of sizes and price ranges. Choose one that suits your family’s needs, and try to put it to use at least twice a week.

Freezer Meals

There are tons of healthy freezer to crockpot meals on the internet. Choose a few for foods your family already enjoys, and maybe one that will introduce you to a new dish. Shop for just one or two of these recipes each week, then prepare it on a day when you have an hour to spare. Many freezer meal recipes actually make up two meals. If not, you can just double the recipe and divide it between two bags.

If you prepare two double recipes each week, you’ll have four new meals in the freezer each week. That means if you eat two during the week, there will always be two more tucked away for a rainy day. With each new week, you’ll increase the variety of meals in your freezer. And you’ll start to get into the habit of meal prepping, and get a sense of what meals your family likes. With time, you’ll just naturally start to prepare a few more meals ahead of time each week. You’ll notice that you are saving money on food, and that your family is starting to make healthier eating choices at other times of the day.

Trust Your Body & Take Baby Steps

Will implementing these basic health care tips be easy? Probably not. Even when it comes to the easiest of the tips, like cutting fruit juice, it will take some adjustment. You will miss your juice. You might even miss the convenience of getting several pieces of fruit in one glass.

But if you take those baby steps and just work on one lifestyle change at a time, it will get easier. Remember that even a partial change is usually better than no change at all. So if you find some of these health care tips too tough to tackle as is, then go halfway at first. Increase your vegetable portions before reducing the size of your steak. If you eat the veggies first, you’ll fill up sooner and you won’t feel the need to eat such a large piece of meat. Trust your body to lead you in making healthier diet choices. Eventually, the changes will just become second nature.

 

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Rare Fruit Hybrids: What Do You Get When You Cross a Plum with an Apricot?

Fruit trees complement a vegetable garden beautifully. They add height to your garden and provide visual interest year round. In spring, the buds of fruit trees emerge before many of your vegetable plants have germinated. Sweet blossoms attract pollinators to your garden and draw you outside to enjoy their luxurious scent. In summer’s heat, both humans and plants can appreciate the shade provided by fruit trees.

Planting a fruit tree in your yard is a bigger undertaking than planting a row of radishes or lettuce. But it is well worth the investment if you want to have homegrown fruit. If you are considering fruit trees for your garden, why not choose a fruit that you don’t see in the grocery store every day? Horticulturist Chuck Ingels recommends plum trees and pluots for home growers. Since plums are fairly easy to find, it might be fun to try growing a pluot tree.

Plumcots, or pluots, are broadly known as interspecific plums | #24CarrotDiet
What do you get when you cross a plum with an apricot? A plumcot!
Graphic made in Canva using a public domain image by Pixabay user ponce_photography

 

What is a Pluot?

A pluot is an apricot plum hybrid. It is generally described as being 75% plum and 25% apricot, though there are now dozens of different pluot varieties. Each of these fruit trees will produce pluots with their own unique genetic makeup. Some have a little more apricot than others, but all tend more heavily towards the plum. Pluots have smooth skin and look very much like plums. They are sweeter than plums, though, and the flesh is more grainy than the flesh of a plum.

The aprium is a related apricot plum hybrid. This stone fruit has more of the apricot characteristics than a pluot does. An aprium has the fuzzy skin and freestone of an apricot. Most varieties also have the colouring of an apricot. The taste is reported to be like an apricot, but with a hint of plum. I have yet to spot an aprium at the grocery store or farmer’s market, so I haven’t tasted this particular hybrid fruit yet. If you have, I’d love to hear what you think of the taste!

Plumcots often have a dark red or purple flesh | #24CarrotDiet
A sliced pluot, showing the clingstone and the juicy flesh of the fruit
Photo by Meaghan O’Malley/Flickr and used under a Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0

 

Origins of the Apricot Plum Hybrid

Apricots and plums are, genetically speaking, first cousins. They are both stone fruits in the genus Prunus. At one time, scientists thought these fruits were too different to be crossbred. In the late 19th century, an American horticulturist named Luther Burbank proved them wrong.

Burbank hoped that by crossing plums with apricots he could select for the best characteristics of both fruit trees. Apricots are particularly susceptible to spring frost, but plum trees blossom a bit later. So if he could produce a hybrid fruit tree that flowered later in the spring, he would end up with a hardier fruit.

For its part, the plum bruises easily. Burbank wanted to create a hybrid fruit with the protective fuzz of the apricot. He hoped it would help protect the apricot plum hybrid from bruising and make it easier to transport.

Burbank’s first apricot plum hybrids were 50% plum and 50% apricot. He called them plumcots. Burbank exhibited some of the plumcots from his fruits trees at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, in 1901.

 

 

The Science Behind Hybrid Fruit Trees

Burbank’s initial plumcots were created by cross-pollination. In the 80s, biologist Floyd Zaiger picked up Burbank’s research into interspecific plums. Using the same cross-pollination techniques, he created and released two 50%-50% plumcot varieties. Growers were hesitant to try them at the time, because plumcots had a reputation for being difficult to grow and ship.

Zaiger coined the name pluot in an attempt to move beyond the reputation of the older plumcots. He trademarked the name in 1990. Technically, only pluots developed by Zaiger should be called pluots. But today some growers and distributors are using the word “pluot” more generically.

You may find some non-Zaiger fruit trees sold as pluots. And sometimes grocers will sell all interspecific plums as plumcots, regardless of whether they come from Zaiger’s patented strains or not. Don’t let the different names confuse you: both plumcots and pluots are apricot plum hybrids.

Plumcots need a pollenizer nearby. Plant two compatible fruit trees for a plentiful harvest. | #24CarrotDiet
If you want to grow pluots you need to have two compatible fruit trees. The blossoms of one tree provide pollen for the other.
Public domain image by Pixabay user cocopariesienne

 

Hybrid Genetics and the Pluot Tree

Pluots and apriums grow on fruit trees that have some characteristics of both plum trees and apricot trees. Unlike the so-called fruit salad tree or five fruit tree, they are real hybrid fruits. Each pluot and each aprium is distinct from the parents fruits. This isn’t a case of apricots on one branch of a tree and plums on another.

Plumcots and pluots are “interspecific plums,” meaning they are plum-like fruits that are the result of a cross between two species of fruit trees. They are also considered complex hybrids because they are the result of several generations of cross-breeding. Oranges are another example of a complex hybrid fruit. I’ll bet you never realized that!

Is the Pluot a GMO?

Pluots may sound like weird fruit hybrids, but breeders grow them pretty much like any other fruit. Remember that Burbank developed the first plumcots decades before the first GMO foods. At that time, conventional breeding methods were the only way to develop new vegetables or fruit.

I know that Zaiger’s company, Zaiger Genetics, sounds like a biotech company. And that trademarking names and patenting fruit trees sounds like something Monsanto would do. But neither pluots nor plumcots are not transgenic food. Zaiger’s company uses traditional breeding methods to develop their new fruit trees.

Interspecific plums are the result of selective breeding. Breeders cross-pollinate fruit trees to produce the kind of fruits they are hoping to develop for market. Once that happens, they can graft cuttings from those trees onto rootstocks that are suited to the growing environment. Why grafting? Because most fruits, including apples, don’t grow true to type.

If you plant the seeds from a particularly tasty apple, the resulting fruit trees will grow apples. They just probably won’t be as tasty as the apple you were hoping to reproduce. So it is with plumcots and pluots. Once breeders produce fruit trees that yield the kind of fruit they were looking for, they graft cuttings from those trees onto strong rootstocks. Voila! New fruit trees, without planting seeds!

Hybridization vs GMO

The difference between GMOs and hybrid foods is that breeders use physical methods to develop hybrids. Biotech companies use direct genetic modification instead of selective breeding. Yes, humans are manipulating the genetics of the fruit trees in both cases. But breeders do it by growing fruit trees in a controlled environment and then choosing which trees should be used to pollinate others. They mimic nature’s own processes.

With genetically modified organisms (GMOs) the manipulation happens in a lab under a microscope. It may involve switching off a specific gene. Or it may mean transferring genetic material from one species to another. Either way, modern biotech uses completely different means than the selective breeding methods used to develop hybrid fruit trees like the plumcot.

Pluot Nutrition

As pluots and plumcots are still not terribly well-known, it isn’t easy to find nutritional information on this fruit. The USDA does have nutritional data for certain specific pluots, such as the Dinosaur Egg pluot. According to this data, 100 g of Dinosaur Egg pluots supply 46 calories. That’s the same as a plum. They contain just under 10 g of sugars, including 1.4 g of dietary fibre. Again, this is the same as a plum.

The sugars in pluots are natural fructose and dietitians consider them healthy sugars. The fibre in the pluots helps to slow down the absorption of the sugar, which apparently gives pluots both a low glycemic index and glycemic load.

Pluots have a modest potassium content and supply just under 13% of your daily vitamin C requirement. They contain no sodium and almost no fat. They do, however, supply a small amount of protein and plenty of water.

 

 

Where to Buy Pluots

You might think because pluots and plumcots aren’t well-known, that they’d be difficult to find. But if you’re thinking about growing fruit trees in your yard, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a nursery that sells pluot or plumcot trees. If you can’t find a local nursery that carries them or can order them for you, you can definitely find pluot fruit trees for sale online.

Pluots need a winter chill to ensure they’ll set fruit, so they grow best in places where the winters are cold but there is no danger of late spring frost. When you buy your plumcot tree, buy two fruit trees. One should be the variety you want to grow. The other is your “pollenizer,” a compatible plumcot or plum tree. Ask the nursery to recommend varieties that will grow well together, and talk to them about where to plant fruit trees in your yard.

Want to Try Pluots Before You Buy a Fruit Tree?

As for the fruit itself, pluots and plumcots are beginning to show up at farmers markets. You may also be able to find them in grocery stores, even in small rural towns like mine. We found what I think were Dapple Dandy pluots here a few years ago. (They were labelled as plumcots, but they matched the description of Zaiger’s patented pluot variety fairly closely.)

Apparently, there are more plumcots and pluots in the marketplace than we would expect. That’s partly because grocery stores know that consumers are a bit shy of trying new foods. People worry about unknowingly eating GMOs, and they tend to stick to foods they know. This has led to some grocers selling pluots and plumcots as plums.

You May Be Eating Pluots Without Realizing It

“Pluots now make up a majority of the plum market,” said NPR’s Pat Tanumihardja in a 2009 report. So the growers favour these apricot plum hybrid fruit trees – but grocers don’t always tell consumers the fruit they’re buying is a hybrid. In Canada, labelling regulations say that vendors should label a fruit using its usual name. Since pluots are interspecific plums, it’s legal to label them as plums.

If you want to taste pluots before buying your fruit trees, you may have to do a bit of sleuthing. It’s fairly safe to say that if you find fruit labelled as a specific variety of pluot, that’s probably what it is. But you may already be eating plumcots without realizing it. And in some grocery stores, you may even find that the same fruit is being sold as “plums” for one price and as “pluots” for a higher price. Grocers often do the same thing with sweet potatoes, selling the ones they label as “yams” at a higher price. So be alert when you shop!

 

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Pluots are a complex apricot plum hybrid
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Bid Goodbye to the Old Year: Looking Back at Your Top 10 Picks for 2017

I can hardly believe it’s New Year’s Eve already! At times it seemed like 2017 was just dragging on forever. But then all of a sudden we went, fast forward, through several months and several major holidays. Not to mention several milestones in our family – including a high school graduation, a new job, and birthdays celebrating 18, 20, and 50 years on earth. I think we hit some of the top 10 moments in my kids’ lives this year. It will be interesting to see what 2018 will bring their way.

Top 10 Accomplishments on the Blog

Tonight I’d like to talk about the blog, though. In particular, I’d like to share with you the top 10 posts on 24 Carrot Diet for the year 2017.

Looking back at my editorial calendar for the past few months, there is a lot of blog content that I wanted to publish but I just didn’t find the time for all of it. I did, however, manage to move to a self-hosted blog and to publish fairly consistently these past few months. I’ve also been growing my social media following for 24 Carrot Diet, slowly but surely.

I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made in 2017. And of course, much of it is only possible because of you, the readers. So I thought it would be fun to look back through some of the posts I’ve written this year, and to reveal which ones were the most visited.

I have to say that when I look at the top 10 list, there are a few posts there that I didn’t expect to see. And a few posts I thought would be among the most popular, but that didn’t quite make the cut.

Let’s take a look at what did…

A Tie for Last Place

These two posts had the same number of visits in 2017. It’s interesting that they were both in my top 10 posts, since one was originally published more than a year ago. The other was written fairly late in the year, in mid-November. One post looks at a vegetable many North Americans have never cooked or eaten. The other is a frugal post that looks at how we can repurpose food scraps instead of throwing them away. I just randomly assigned these to posts 9 and 10 of the top 10. But really, they’re a tied entry for number 9.

10) 5 Fantastic Ways to Liven Up the Humble Turnip

This is actually a post from 2016 that I updated a few months ago. Since then, it’s gotten a fair bit of attention. One of the things I learned as a result is that many North Americans aren’t familiar with turnips. This really surprised me because we grew up eating yellow turnip, and I’ve always seen it in the grocery stores year round. Most seed catalogues offer several types of turnips for sale, including the Japanese turnips my family discovered in 2017.

Turnips are brassicas, cousins to broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. They are packed with antioxidants and other nutrients, and they are really versatile to cook with. You can make everything from turnip greens to turnip salad and baked turnip “fries.” If you aren’t already cooking with turnips, check out this post to learn more about it and to get ideas for preparing it.

9) Orange Peels: The Free Ingredient You’ve Been Throwing Away

When you eat oranges, do you throw the peels in the garbage? If you do, you’re throwing away free food! Orange peels and orange zest are used in so many different recipes. Plus, you can use them to make skin care products like sugar scrubs. And they’re a very useful ingredient for DIY cleaning products. Orange peels have antimicrobial properties, but they’re non-toxic and safe for the environment. If you are tossing them out, it’s like throwing money out the window!

Healthy Living in 2017

The next several posts in my top 10 all emphasized making choices for healthy living. I wrote one specifically for the holiday season, because I know most of us worry about gaining weight when we go to Christmas parties and big family dinners. A related post looked at serving size and calories in oranges, because many of us tend to binge on citrus fruits in December.

The third of these posts is more about everyday healthy eating habits. And it might seem a bit old fashioned to you. But eating dark green vegetables every day is a habit with a purpose. There are some really delicious vegetables in this group, many of which supply antioxidants that can slow the signs of ageing and help keep us healthy longer. You’ll be amazed when you see the list!

8) How to Survive the Holidays Without Gaining Weight

Did you know that most people gain just under a pound over the Christmas holidays? That’s a lot less than the 5-10 pounds that many of us believe we’ll gain. But holiday weight gain is still an issue – precisely because it’s such a small amount. We tend to write it off because our clothes still fit and it’s easy to forgive a tiny weight gain. But this is how we fall prey to creeping obesity, which is a serious health concern. This post offered tips for how to treat yourself a little at Christmastime without abandoning your healthy eating habits.

 

 

7) Are You Eating Enough Dark Green and Orange Vegetables?

You probably have a vague childhood memory of being told to eat your greens. Or maybe you were told to eat one dark green vegetable and one orange vegetable every day. Do you ever think about that when you plan meals for yourself and your family? If you’re like most people, probably not! Most of us didn’t grow up eating this way, so it never became a habit. And since we were never told why these vegetables were important – or why some green vegetables count and others don’t – it just didn’t seem like a priority.

Well, it turns out the reason for eating these veggies is to ensure we get enough of important nutrients like vitamin A. Many North Americans actually don’t get enough vitamin A from our diets. And taking supplements is apparently not the best way of topping up. Want to learn more about why these particular veggies are so important to our health? Check out the post! There’s also a great listing of dark green vegetables and orange fruits and veggies.

6) How Many Calories are in an Orange?

I’ll bet you never asked yourself how many calories are in an orange. But with so many oranges around at Christmas, it can be easy to start eating several oranges a day. Fruit is healthy, but health experts sometimes tell us to limit our intake of fruits and fruit juices. They want us to emphasize vegetables instead. Could it be that there are too many calories in fruits like oranges? Or maybe too much sugar? Click through to the post to learn more about the nutrients and calories in oranges. Find out if you should limit your intake, or if it’s safe to eat more than one a day.

More on Vegetables

The next two posts in my top 10 both looked at specific vegetables: sweet potatoes and broccoli. But one of these most visited posts looked at the vegetable from a historic point of view. The other explored a micronutrient whose name you may not have heard. From food history to food science, you can be sure that 24 Carrot Diet will help you learn more about the vegetables that are important to our health!

5) Sweet Potato or Yam?

Do you make sweet potato casserole at the holidays, or maybe candied yams? Did you know that the vegetables sold as “sweet potato” and “yam” in most grocery stores are exactly the same tuber? And real yams are nothing like sweet potatoes. They actually taste more like plain old white potatoes!

Why is there so much confusion over the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? There is a reason for calling some sweet potatoes “yams.” It has a history that reaches back to the days of the slave trade, and then forward to the early 20th century. If you love reading about where our food comes from, you are going to be fascinated by the tale of the sweet potatoes that are sometimes called yams.

 

 

4) Why You Shouldn’t Cook Broccoli in Your Slow Cooker

Slow cookers are a huge help for any busy family. I know we use ours at least once a week, and sometimes almost daily. But there are a few things, like dried beans, that we probably shouldn’t cook in our crockpots. And broccoli is one of those foods. Despite the popularity of recipes like crockpot beef and broccoli, cooking broccoli in a slow cooker can produce some less than desirable results.

One really important thing you should know about cooking broccoli is that prolonged heating can prevent the formation of a potent cancer-fighting antioxidant named sulforaphane. Learn more about the benefits of this phytochemical, and how you can prepare broccoli to make sure you’ll get more of it.

A Little Comfort Food for Our Top 10

If you’ve known me for a while, you’ll know I’m all about comfort food! And when the weather turns cold, I love to make lots of warming soups and stews. Casseroles can be very comforting as well, and one of my favourite casseroles was in the top 10 this year.

3) The Best Shepherd’s Pie Recipe Ever

Shepherd’s pie is popular in North America and abroad. Sometimes you’ll find it under different names, like cottage pie or hachis Parmentier. But it’s usually some combination of meat, vegetables, and mashed potatoes. In Quebec, it’s called pâté chinois, and it’s so popular that the Québécois have chosen it for their national dish.

The version of shepherd’s pie people make in Quebec has three main ingredients: ground beef, corn, and mashed potato. My recipe kicks it up a notch. And I discuss some of the nutritional concerns people have about eating this calorie-rich food, as well as some of the healthier substitutions you can make.

Who Knew Food Storage was Controversial?

In the past few years, I’ve written about the best ways to store different vegetables in order to extend their shelf life. I’ve also written about how – and when – to wash vegetables, and sometimes how to prepare them too. When the tomatoes were starting to ripen, I wrote about the best way to store tomatoes. I knew it would be appreciated, but I didn’t expect it to end up being in the top 10 posts for 2017. I also didn’t expect the reactions to be as heated as they were!

2) Can You Store Tomatoes in the Fridge?

Growing up, my mother always kept tomatoes in the fridge. I never really questioned that until I had moved out on my own. Since then, I’ve learned that most food experts recommend storing tomatoes at room temperature.

There is actual science behind this, and there are also a few exceptions to the rule. With many grocery store tomatoes, the damage may already be done before you bring them home. Even with heirloom tomatoes from your own garden, if you’ve refrigerated them you can recondition them to restore their flavour.

Even so, there were a lot of folks who got very indignant at the mere suggestion that tomatoes might be stored in the fridge! I was really surprised at some of the reactions I got to this post, both on the blog and on social media. Regardless of where you stand on the question of proper tomato storage, it’s worth reading this post to learn more about what gives tomatoes their flavour and why the taste changes when tomatoes are chilled.

The Most Visited Post of 2017

I rarely write about sweets, so it’s ironic that the most popular post of the entire year is a recipe for something that’s almost pure sugar. Well, sugar and fat. Still, I had expected my top 10 for the year to be headed up by a post about crunchy, healthy vegetables. Or maybe a main dish recipe. The stats have spoken, though.

So, it’s time for the reveal. What was my most visited post for 2017? Drum roll please!

1) Traditional French Canadian Fudge

When you think fudge, is it kind of cakey and soft? Does it have chocolate in it? Or maybe peanut butter? When you eat it, does it stick to the roof of your mouth? If you’ve always eaten some version of foolproof fudge, made with icing sugar, marshmallow creme, or chocolate and condensed milk, you will be amazed at how different fudge can be! French Canadians call fudge sucre à la crème. The classic Québécois recipe is basically just brown sugar and heavy cream. But the important thing is how you make the fudge.

There are very few traditional French Canadian recipes for fudge that have been translated into English. And do not entrust the translation to Google! You’ll end up with a list of ingredients that sounds like it belongs at the mechanic shop instead of in your kitchen! Check out my post for a traditional sucre à la crème recipe in English – plus tips for how to ensure that the fudge turns out right. This fudge is light and sweet, and it will melt in your mouth. If you’ve never had brown sugar fudge, you absolutely must try it. There really is nothing else like it!

What Do You Think About Our Top 10?

So there you have it! These were the top 10 posts on 24 Carrot Diet for the year 2017. There are a handful of others that received a lot of attention later in the year, but just didn’t have quite enough traffic to make the list of most visited posts. I may do a bit of an honourable mention roundup as we move into January, because some of those posts raised topics that you were eager to discuss. And I do intend to follow up on those subjects – for example parenting and food – in 2018. There’s a lot to say on that topic, so watch for more in the new year.

What were your favourite posts for 2017? Are there things you learned on 24 Carrot Diet this year that you’d like to read more about? Are there topics I didn’t cover, but that you’d like to read about? I know one reader has recently asked about healthy ways to gain weight, and that is definitely on my list of topics for the year ahead. Drop me a comment to let me know what you’d like to read about. I’ll try to cover anything related to good food, healthy living, or growing your own food.

Happy New Year from 24 Carrot Diet!

It’s getting late in the day so I’m going to get this post uploaded and published before it’s time to bid goodbye to 2017. Thanks to all of you who have been stopping by to read, share, and comment on 24 Carrot Diet. Your support and kind words mean so much to me!

I wish you all the best of health, happiness, and prosperity for the year to come. And I hope you will all see the new year in safely. Take care of yourselves, and have a very Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year! Bid goodbye to 2017 with a roundup of our top 10 blog content! | #24CarrotDiet | most visited | most popular
What posts made 24 Carrot Diet’s top 10 list for 2017?
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Original content © 2017 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter

This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

Healthy Living Help: Eating Low-Calorie Soup Before Meals Can Help You Lose Weight

Low calorie soup is making a comeback these days. Whether it’s a no calorie soup diet, the best fat burning soup, or a heart healthy cabbage soup recipe, everyone seems to be talking about tasty soups for weight loss. So is soup the newest superfood? And can eating soup actually help you lose weight?

You might be surprised to learn that low calorie soup can actually contribute to weight control. There is actual science to back this up, so it’s not just a diet fad. But you can’t just eat any old soup and expect to lose weight. There are specific types of soup that will help you control your weight. And you have to eat them at the right time. Even if you’re already eating soup for weight loss, you may not be getting the benefits. You could be eating the wrong kind of soup, or maybe the right soup at the wrong time.

Read on to learn the evidence-based way to low calorie soup can help you lose weight. Done right, eating soup can be an effective strategy for weight loss programs that really work.

What Happened to Soup as a First Course?

When I was in high school, I remember the school cafeteria serving really massive lunches. They always started with a bowl of soup. It wasn’t anything fancy. No cream or cheese. And usually there wasn’t even any meat. It was just a thin broth with some diced vegetables added. But this small portion of vegetable soup was so welcome, especially in the colder months of the year. It made me feel warm inside and, despite seeming insubstantial, it really helped to fill me up.

Later when I worked in a hospital, I always ate at the cafeteria whenever I was on duty. There too, every meal began with soup. Though I tended to favour the creamy soups, there was also a thinner vegetable soup on offer at every meal. Again, never a very large portion. It was always just enough soup to give you a taste. Serving soup was a way to prime your body for digesting the rest of the meal.

I never really got into the habit of eating that bowl of soup before a meal at home, though. And that’s one thing I wish I could go back and change. There’s just something that seems right about eating soup before the main course. It makes the meal feel somehow more civilized. And it turns out that eating low calorie soup at the beginning of your dinner offers health benefits too. Science now shows eating a soup course can help you eat less during the rest of the meal.

 

 

Do North Americans Eat Low Calorie Soup?

Sometimes I feel like “soup” is just an ingredient we add to a crock pot recipe. And that may be true. Statistics collected for soup manufacturers show an ongoing decline in soup consumption. In 2011, only 64% of US households ate soup at least once in six months. Even fewer consumed soup on a weekly basis. (“Heavy” soup consumption means eating soup four or more times per month, or weekly on average.) Just 34% of Americans are heavy users of soup.

By comparison, the average Japanese household eats soup seven times a week. Close to half of Europeans, for their part, eat soup three to four times each week.

I couldn’t find specific data for Canadians. But I did learn that declining soup sales are an issue north of the 49th, as well. That’s due to competition from other products such as noodles, and a preference for homemade soup.

How North Americans Eat Soup

At the beginning of this discussion, I mentioned that low calorie soups were making a comeback. But we’ve seen that North Americans aren’t buying soup. If we’re eating homemade soup, what kind of soup is it? From what I can see, a lot of that soup is thick and heavy. We’re leaning towards hearty main-course soups. We aren’t really eating the kind of low calorie soups that make up a light, first course.

Look for soups on Pinterest, and you’ll find pages of really filling soups. There are creamy squash soups, roasted tomato soups, and cheesy broccoli soups. I scrolled through multiple pages of soups with added cream and cheese. Even the“skinny” soups were a meal all by themselves.

There were “weight loss” soups that started with 8 or even 10 cups of vegetables, but maybe only 6 cups of soup stock. These soups would be so filling that you wouldn’t need to eat anything else afterwards! With recipes like these, it’s a safe bet that most North Americans aren’t eating even the homemade soup more than a few times a month.

Preloading with Low Calorie Soup Reduces Calorie Intake

The thing is, we really ought to get back to eating soup every day. Scientists tested the effects of eating low calorie soup before a meal, and they discovered that this “preloading” cuts down on how much we eat at the meal. People who eat soup before the main dish tend to feel more full. And that means they eat fewer total calories during the meal than if they hadn’t eaten soup at all.

Even when the calories from the soup are counted, the total calorie intake for the meal is lower. Which is good news if you’re trying to lose weight or you just want to maintain a healthy body weight, particularly during the Christmas season.

In order to benefit from this reduced calorie intake, it’s important to choose low calorie soups. That is, soups that are broth-based with vegetables in them. They should supply no more than 100 to 150 calories per serving. Avoid soups that are higher in calories, especially cream-based soups. These can actually lead to you eating more calories at your meal, instead of fewer.

Healthy Resolutions for 2018

Are you making any health resolutions for 2018? If you are, I hope you’ll allow me to suggest two resolutions based on recent discussions here at 24 Carrot Diet:

  1. First of all, try to eat at least one dark green vegetable each day. If you can, add an orange fruit or vegetable, as well. If not, at least try alternating between the orange and the green foods so you can keep a steady supply of vitamin A;

  2. Secondly, start adding low calorie soup to your diet on a regular basis. You don’t have to do it every day at first. Try making one batch of healthy vegetable soup a week, and just eat a small bowl to the beginning of meals whenever you feel like it. Even if you only do it once or twice a week at first, it’s probably an improvement. And any step in the right direction is going to help establish a healthy habit.

Remember to also think of your friends and family when you’re making these positive changes for your health. If you bring food to a gathering, choose a dish that incorporates those orange or dark green vegetables. If you’re hosting a dinner party or a family Christmas dinner, serve that low calorie soup as a first course. You’ll be helping your loved ones to make their first steps towards a healthier year for 2018 as well!

 

 

 

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Reduce your caloric intake with a starter course of low calorie soup
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Best Vegetable Recipes Ever: Sweet, Tangy Root Vegetable Mash Will Kick Plain Potatoes Off Your Plate!

Root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and beets are popular foods for fall and winter because they store well. Along with winter squash, they are vegetable crops that generally take a longer time to reach maturity. We harvest them at the end of the growing season. By that time, the plant has had lots of time to store sugars in the roots. Around the same time the weather starts to turn cold, our bodies begin to crave squash soup and stews thick with root vegetables.

Besides being well suited for long storage, root vegetables also provide fibre, starch, and low-glycemic complex carbohydrates. When we eat them, we tend to feel full and to stay full longer. This is important during the cold weather when we might otherwise sit around nibbling on less healthy foods. That feeling of satiety can mean that we will eat less during meal times. It may also help prevent between meal snacking. Eating root vegetables regularly throughout the winter is just one strategy for maintaining a healthy diet and preventing holiday weight gain.

Humble Root Vegetables for Special Occasions

While root vegetables may seem very earthy and humble, they can become the stars of a meal if you know how to cook them. Sweet potatoes and carrots contain a ton of vitamin A. Their bright orange colour reminds us how nutritious they are. Plain old boiled potatoes scored the highest of 38 foods on the satiety index. Compared to other foods, you need to eat less of them to feel full. One study even showed that if you eat boiled potatoes with a pork steak, you’ll eat less during your meal. The boiled potatoes also produced less of an insulin spike than rice or pasta. And potatoes may even affect how your body responds to the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin.

The rutabaga, also called yellow turnip or swede, is a new vegetable for a lot of people. I was actually surprised by this when I first wrote about turnips. It seems many of my readers and social media connections have never eaten either a turnip or a rutabaga. I heard from, a lot of people who said they’d been nervous about trying these root vegetables. Many decided they wanted to try them after reading about the different ways you can cook turnips. You probably didn’t know that the turnip is related to cabbage and other brassicas. If you eat the turnip greens, you can taste the similarity to leafy green vegetables like kale or collards. But that connection isn’t as obvious if you’re just eating the root.

Rotmos, Mashed Root Vegetables

I first had root mash when I worked at a chronic care hospital, where the cafeteria served it regularly. Their version of the traditional Swedish dish was very simple: basically just carrots and rutabaga boiled together and mashed. I loved the tangy taste of the rutabaga with the sweet carrots. When I started making root mash at home, I cooked it very simply. And because I liked the smooth look of the mash when it was pureed for patients who had difficulty chewing, I often pureed my own root mash to make it smoother.

A traditional rotmos is a bit more involved than just boiling carrots and rutabaga together, though. In Sweden, there is a dish called fläsklägg med rotmos, or ham hock with root mash. To prepare this dish, you cook onions and carrots in a pot with a cured ham hock. When the meat comes away from the bone, you remove it from the pot and add more root vegetables. Cook the vegetables in the ham broth until tender, then mash them. Most recipes include rutabaga and potatoes. But you’ll also see some recipes that call for parsnips or the root of Hamburg parsley.

I’ve chosen to create a recipe that includes the ham hocks, since this recalls a Québécois Christmas dish that I love. Since it’s rare to find Hamburg parsley in North America, my recipes calls for parsnips. But if you can’t find parsnips at your grocery store or farmer’s market, just use a little extra rutabaga.

 

 

Mashed Root Vegetables, The Recipe

2-1/2 lb cured ham hocks
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1/2 carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
5 whole allspice berries
a few peppercorns

4-1/2 carrots
2-3 parsnips
1 medium rutabaga or 2-3 medium turnips

6 potatoes

1-2 tbsp butter (vegan butter or margarine, for vegan-friendly option)
a little ground nutmeg or allspice
a handful of chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a heavy pot with about 3 cups water, cook the ham hocks with the onion, half carrot, allspice, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, covered; reduce heat and simmer about 2 hours or until the meat comes away from the bones.

  2. When the meat is almost cooked, peel and dice the root vegetables. Keep the peels and end bits of the vegetables for your soup bag.

  3. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside. Strain out the whole spices and any really big pieces of onion that remain. Add the carrots, parsnips, and rutabaga to the pot. Cover and return to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes.

  4. Add potatoes and cook about 15 minutes more, or until the vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and drain, reserving the cooking liquid.

  5. Mash the vegetables, adding the butter and just enough of the cooking liquid to make the root mash smooth. The traditional way to serve rotmos is with a little bit of the chunks still in it. But I like to mash very well, or even to puree the root vegetables. You can do this with an immersion blender to speed things up a bit. Taste before adding salt and pepper, as the ham hocks are salty and you’ll have cooked the vegetables along with the peppercorns.

  6. Serve the mashed root vegetables alongside a portion of meat stripped from the ham hocks. Spoon a little of the cooking liquid over the meat, or use it to make gravy. Add a leafy green vegetable such as garden peas, kale or turnip greens to the plate for colour

Serves 6-8 people

Variations:

  1. If you can’t find cured ham hocks (pig’s knuckles) you can substitute a bone-in ham.

  2. To make just the mashed root vegetables, omit the ham hocks and cook in 3 cups of vegetable stock. Since there’s no meat to cook, put all the vegetables except the potatoes in the stock and cook for 30 minutes only. Add the potatoes and cook another 15 minutes.

  3. If you have a garden, consider growing Hamburg parsley for this dish. Like many other root vegetables, it’s dual purpose. You can eat the parsley greens throughout the summer while the roots are maturing. In the fall, harvest the roots. They taste like parsnips, but with a hint of parsley. Use the roots instead of the parsnips in this recipe; substitute the greens for the Italian parsley.

  4. Feel free to experiment with other root vegetables. I have seen recipes that include celeriac root and even sweet potatoes. You might also try adding peeled kohlrabi roots to the mash. The leaves of the kohlrabi make a lovely cooked green.

 

Helpful Hints:

  1. When you cook rotmos and ham hocks, save the bones for making pea soup. Or add them to your soup bag and use them to make a meaty stock.
  2. Save any leftover cooking liquid in labelled jars for later use, or freeze in ice cube trays for smaller portions.
  3. If you have small amounts of leftover root vegetables, you can use them to make a small batch of creamy root vegetable soup.

 

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This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!