All Entries For healthy eating

Which Fruits and Veggies are in the New Dirty Dozen?

We often hear that organic produce is "cleaner" than conventional (non-organic) produce and free of pesticides; however, organic remains more expensive and isn't available everywhere.

Which conventional fruits and vegetables contain more pesticide residue? Which ones have the least?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently completed an analysis of conventional produce to measure pesticide residue levels. Based on the results of almost 34,000 samples taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal Food and Drug Administration. Samples were tested after being washed or peeled, to mimic what consumers would do. Therefore, unwashed and unpeeled produce would likely contain even more concentrations of pesticide residues.

Eating the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables, referred to as “The Dirty Dozen,” exposes the average person to about 15 different pesticides each day, while someone eating the least contaminated will be exposed to fewer than two pesticides each day. (To see the full list, go here).

The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Foods to Buy Organic

If you have budget constraints, your money is doing more for your health when you put it towards organic varieties of the following fruits and vegetables (listed in descending order, starting with greatest levels pesticide contamination):

1. Apples
2. Peaches
3. Nectarines
4. Strawberries
5. Grapes
6. Celery
7. Spinach
8. Sweet Bell Peppers
9. Cucumbers
10. Cherry Tomatoes
11. Imported Snap Peas
12. Potatoes

The Clean 15: Save Your Money & Buy Conventional

If going totally organic is too difficult or pricey, play it safe and eat the following conventional produce items to minimize your exposure. These are known to have the least amount of pesticide residue (listed in ascending order, starting with of lowest levels of pesticide contamination):

1. Avocados
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Frozen sweet peas
6. Onions
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Papayas
10. Kiwis
11. Eggplant
12. Grapefruit
13. Cantalope
14. Cauliflower
15. Sweet potatoes

To see receive a PDF version of the guides, you can sign up for the EWG's newsletter here).

When eating conventional foods, be certain to peel away edible skins and outer leaves (such as those on lettuce) as pesticides are often concentrated there. Remember to wash all produce (conventional and organic) thoroughly with a natural fruit and vegetable cleanser. Peeling and washing can help reduce (not eliminate) pesticide exposure, but also results in the loss of valuable vitamins and nutrients (like fiber). When you have the choice between an organic item and one that’s conventionally grown, choose organic as much as possible. 

For more information on eating organic foods on a budget, read this article.

I keep a copy of this list on a note in my phone, and I consult it when I go to the grocery store.

Do you have "priorities" when buying organic? Do you follow this list?

Last updated in September 2015

Posted 9/28/2015  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 114 comments   20,155 views
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12 Healthy Dishes Served on a Stick

The kids might be back in school and store shelves are filling with fall merchandise, but we’re not ready to let go of summer just yet. With the weather still warm and Labor Day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to take advantage of one of summer’s favorite foods: the kabob! Popping meats, veggies, fruits and even whole sandwiches on a stick is a great way to add fun and variety to your meals and parties, no matter the time of year. Plus, presenting a meal on a stick will certainly grab the attention of little picky eaters.
Reflect on a summer of sun and fun by assembling and cooking up a few of these crowd-pleasing healthy kabobs. 
Posted 9/4/2015  12:00:00 AM By: Denise Tausig : 2 comments   5,008 views
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Beat the Heat with 12 Summer Salads

Back to school and pumpkin beers at the grocery say summer is coming to a close, yet no one seems to have told the sun as temperatures remain hot in most of the country. Salads are a cool and refreshing way to beat the heat and change things up at the dinner table after a summer filled with grilled meats. Plus, with minimal prep time and simple ingredients, you'll spend less time with a hot stove and more time enjoying the sunshine. The many fresh fruits and other foods available during the summer months (farmers market, anyone?) allow you to add flavor and variety to your salads--no boring meals here! Hold on tight to the last bit of summer by enjoying a few of these summer-friendly salads in the coming weeks.

Summer Salad with Peaches and Goat Cheese
 Sweet summer peaches and tangy goat cheese top the season’s freshest vegetables in this crowd-pleasing salad.

Summer Salad with Chicken and Berries With berries reaching their peak sweetness levels, now is the perfect time to incorporate them into a salad. Let a range of fresh berries shine in this filling lunch dish.
Coach Nicole's Favorite Summer Salad Add your favorite dressing—balsamic vinaigrette works great—to this filling and effortlessly delicious salad.

Spinach-Berry Salad Fresh and juicy strawberries mingle with tender spinach, goat cheese and crunchy almonds in this salad that even kids will devour.

Cool Cucumber Salad Cucumber, red onion and a simple dressing are all you need to create this fantastic dish, which happens to pair well with grilled meats.

Caprese Salad Simple flavors combine in this timeless salad that is sure to win fans at your next backyard BBQ.

Easy Watermelon and Feta Salad Watermelon is a favorite summer dessert, but it makes a lovely addition to a dinner salad, too. Here, creamy citrus dressing and crunchy celery pairs with the sweet melon.

Peach-Tomato Salad with Basil and Feta Sweet, juicy peaches, tangy tomatoes, fresh basil and feta come together in a salad that is sure to make your taste buds do the happy dance.

Israeli Salad When the ingredients are fresh, salads can be simple, yet impressive. This traditional Israeli salad is perfect as a side, lunch salad or as a filling for your pita.

Spinach and Pear Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette Up your salad game with this spinach and pear salad topped with a homemade Dijon vinaigrette.

Waldorf Salad The classic Waldorf salad gets a healthy makeover thanks to the addition of low-fat yogurt.

End of Summer Salad A hot summer afternoon is the perfect time to enjoy this sweet and savory watermelon salad.

Do you eat more salads during the summer months? Which of these recipes will you try first?

Click here for even more summer salad recipes.

Posted 8/21/2015  12:00:00 AM By: Denise Tausig : 2 comments   10,522 views
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The Natural Benefits of Ginger

The next time you get an upset stomach, you might be relieved to know that you don't have to down spoonfuls of gross pink fluid or chew chalky tablets. In case of bellyache, stock your fridge with one thing: Ginger. Hundreds of years ago, people sailed all over the globe in search of this natural soother of upset bellies. Ginger has been proven to reduce nausea and vomiting, even in chemotherapy patients. But that's not the only reason you should start consuming more of this spice. 

Posted 7/28/2015  9:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 11 comments   18,470 views
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9 Ways to Get Healthy Fats Into Your Diet

Life is full of ambiguity and challenges. Few challenges in life can be as complex as proper nutrition. Your body is your greatest possession. You owe it to yourself to find out all you can about staying healthy. Most diets imply giving up something. However, the diet we will discuss is about taking advantage of something. You will learn how to take advantage of fats by incorporating healthy fats in your eating habits. By making small changes, lasting results will come.

Don’t Throw Out the Sweets

This sounds counter-productive, but throwing out all the unhealthy food is the first step to failure. Humans have an affinity for sugar, which causes those pesky sugar cravings. When you can’t get to sugar, your body craves the most-caloric foods: fat. If you snack on candy or other concentrated sweets now and then, it’s okay. Just limit yourself to one or two high-sugar items a week.

Don't Go Fat-Free

Your body needs fat to survive. Fats are used by the body in many different chemical processes, which are required to survive. For example, your skin contains fats to help prevent bacteria and elements from entering the body.  

Reduce Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature, as well as a few tropical oils. When you cook, use fats that exist as a liquid at room temperature. This includes olive, vegetable, canola, and peanut oil. These make excellent bases for creating a home-made dressing, which can be used on salads, breads, pasta, or anything else you eat.

Snack on Nuts

Nuts are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which promote heart health. Nuts contain huge amounts of proteins as well. This gives your body a source of energy without the high caloric values of common snacks. However, avoid purchasing nuts processed with additives, such as salt, sugars, or even electrolytes.

Have Fish Once a Week

Fish contains high levels of beneficial Omega-3s and other healthy fats. Furthermore, the Omage-3s reduce low-density lipids and triglycerides—bad forms of cholesterol. Some fish lack high values of these nutrients, so stick to Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Mackerel, and Lake Trout. Also, do not deep fry your fish. What’s the point of eating healthier foods if it’s swimming in pure fat?

Travel South of the Border

Mexican food contains many antioxidants in addition to being lower in unhealthy fats. Avocados, pinto beans, and fresh fruit and vegetables all promote healthy fats in your body. You can even purchase avocado oil for much of your cooking.

Make Specialty Butters

When you use butter for your food, you are actually using an unhealthy fat. However, you can reduce the amount of unhealthy fat by making home-made specialty butters. Take a typical stick of butter, add some seasonings to it, and let it set in the fridge for a few days. The flavor imparted in the butter will be pronounced, which results in using less butter for your foods.

Ditch Boxed Food

Processed foods contain an extraordinary amount of substitutes, fats, and preservatives. These substances encourage and reinforce cravings for unhealthy foods. When you shop for food, avoid going down the center aisles of the store. Fresh food is kept on the store’s perimeter for freshness, and fresh food has more healthy fats than processed items.

Eat  Your Eggs

You have heard of the dangers of egg yolks for cholesterol. However, whole eggs are very beneficial when eaten whole and in moderation. Try to limit yourself to less than six eggs per week. This will actually give you some of the healthy fats from the eggs without worrying about the excess cholesterol caused by overindulgence.

With the above steps in mind, you can incorporate more healthy fats into your diet. Don't feel like you have to use all of these tips at once--start with slow changes to allow for natural integration of healthy fats into your diet.
Posted 6/25/2015  9:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 0 comments   10,007 views
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12 Hot-Off the Grill Recipes

Summer brings to mind a number of scents—sunscreen, salty sea air, chlorine—but for our money, the smell of a hot grill cooking up a meal is the best of them all. Whether you’re making lunch or dinner for you and the family or you’re entertaining guests, grilling is a great option for making quick, flavorful and healthy meals. From chicken to pizza and everything in between, there is an easy grilling recipe for you to love! Fire up the grill and try one of these new recipes this summer.

Tropical Grilled Chicken 
This sweet and savory chicken is delicious as is with a side of grilled veggies, but can also be shredded for tacos.
265 Calories, 3g Fat, 34g Carbs, 28g Protein

Grilled Garlic Citrus Flank Steak Pair this flank steak with Chef Meg's Garlic-Citrus Parsley Sauce, plus a green salad and some whole-grain bread--warmed on the grill, of course!--for a completely delicious meal.
231 Calories, 12g Fat, 4g Carbs, 24g Protein

Simple Grilled Salmon 
If you’ve never considered grilling salmon, this recipe will change your mind. Fresh dill and lemon shine through in this light, quick and easy dinner.
210 Calories, 10g Fat, 0.5g Carbs, 29g Protein

Southwestern Grilled Pork Tenderloin The "other white meat" is perfect for grilling! The simple four-ingredient rub helps create a very flavorful dish.
170 Calories, 5g Fat, 1g Carbs, 28g Protein

Honey Grilled Chicken Breasts Ginger and garlic are the stars of the sauce in this easy chicken dish. Just marinate overnight and throw it on the grill the next day.
189 Calories, 3g Fat, 12g Carbs, 27g Protein

Balsamic Grilled Chicken Breast The marinade in this grilled chicken recipe can be easily altered to suit your taste. The final product pairs nicely with roasted potatoes, a green side salad and fresh fruit.
210 Calories, 10g Fat, 3g Carbs, 26g Protein

Lime-Grilled Chicken with Cuban Salsa 
Looking for a lot of flavor? This lime-grilled chicken is bursting with fresh, tropical ingredients that are sure to please your taste buds.
373 Calories, 7g Fat, 30g Carbs, 48g Protein

Grilled BBQ Chicken Flatbreads A fun take on pizza that is also lighter on calories! Pile on extra veggies to make it even more nutritious.
233 Calories, 5g Fat, 21g Carbs, 26g Protein

Grilled Pesto & Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breasts This delicious chicken recipe requires just four ingredients and takes no more than 25 minutes to make. 
382 Calories, 15g Fat, 2g Carbs, 55g Protein

5-Ingredient Grilled Rosemary Chicken Breast Grilling doesn’t get much easier than this chicken, which cooks up in just 15 minutes. Serve with a green salad, summer fruit and whole-grain bread to round out the meal.
170 Calories, 7g Fat, 1g Carbs, 26g Protein

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms on the Grill 
These cheesy stuffed mushrooms are the versatile food every grill master needs. Serve them as an appetizer, a light vegetarian meal or a hearty side dish.
94 Calories, 4g Fat, 10g Carbs, 7g Protein

Grilled Perch with Citrus Salsa Citrus and cilantro really complement this grilled fish. The light perch goes well with brown rice or whole-grain tortillas warmed on the grill, along with a salad or steamed vegetables.
241 Calories, 8g Fat, 13g Carbs, 29g Protein

What is your favorite grill-out recipe? Which of these recipes will be on your grill this summer?

Click here for more grill out recipes and resources.
Posted 6/23/2015  12:00:00 AM By: Denise Tausig : 0 comments   17,139 views
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FDA Snack Attack: Are Kind Bars Unhealthy?

At least four types of Kind Bars are in violation of the FDA's "healthy-labeling" requirements. The problem? Too much saturated fat. The FDA is considering pulling the bars from grocery shelves until Kind changes the labeling to meet the requirements.

Will you continue to buy Kind Bars?

The FDA has found that at least 4 types of Kind Bars are in violation of the FDA's "healthy-labeling" requirements... in SparkPeople's Hangs on LockerDome

Posted 4/16/2015  9:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 25 comments   12,794 views
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Happier Meals: Cool School Lunch Strategies

As summer starts winding down and back-to-school shopping begins, lunch boxes and supplies might be on your list. What can you do to help ensure that your kids eat the healthy food you pack instead of trading it for chips and cookies--or even throwing it away? There are lots of cool accessories to make lunchtime more exciting. Looking for ideas to turn boring carrot sticks into a food they won’t want to turn down? Here are some of our picks to brighten up lunch and make healthy eating fun! 
Posted 8/18/2014  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 5 comments   29,891 views
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Clean Eating 101: Healthier Eating Made Easy

Are you curious about the term clean eating? Have you ever wondered what it is exactly or whether it might benefit you?
In my experience as a "clean eater," this way of eating can be a fabulous way to improve your health.
Clean eating in the most simple terms means eating real food—foods that are whole (unprocessed) and in their most natural state. In other words, people who subscribe to clean eating try to avoid foods altered or processed by humans or manufacturers.
That being said, there are many different approaches to eating clean, and none of them are wrong. Everyone from carnivores to vegans can eat clean and it doesn’t have to be complicated. While some people put lots of strict dieting rules around their "clean" diets, that's not the case for everyone. Eating clean really can be delicious, fulfilling, filling and simple! Here's how.
Posted 5/22/2014  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 23 comments   422,048 views
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Our 5 Favorite Spring Foods

I don't know about you, but I'm so over winter. I'm so grateful that spring is officially here. I'm tired of eating heavy comfort foods that our bodies crave all winter.

One of the best things about spring is all the all the fresh, light, delicious produce that starts to appear at farmers markets and in the supermarkets.

Today we're counting down our top five spring foods (in video format!):

Posted 3/26/2014  12:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 7 comments   9,751 views
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How to Prevent Muscle Loss When Losing Weight

When starting a weight-loss plan, most of us hope to lose body fat, specifically—not muscle mass. But when we lose weight, a large percentage of the total weight lost can be muscle. Is there any way to reduce that muscle loss?
Posted 3/22/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 12 comments   109,063 views
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Why Fruits & Vegetables Are So Good for You

The 2010 U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that all Americans eat more fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Government guidelines aside, you surely grew up with your mom telling you to eat your vegetables. Or maybe you even hear it now from your doctor.  
When you're new to adopting a healthy diet, you may wonder: What's so good about fruits and vegetables anyway? What kind of benefits will I see if I eat more?  Here are four good reasons to be like Bugs Bunny and chomp away on more fresh produce.
Posted 3/9/2014  12:00:00 PM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 3 comments   17,907 views
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6 Surefire Ways to Make Your Resolution a Reality

There's no time like January to start fresh! It may be the dead of winter, but everyone's spirits are up and our willpower is in full force. We are ready and committed to make a change.
As a fitness instructor, I love this time of year. The energy in the gym is contagious and the classes are packed! And as a SparkPeople employee, it's a great time, too. So many new people find us and join our site to reach their goals!
But as you probably know, this New Year motivation fades quickly. It's easy to give up on your goals when you don't have a plan, don't have support, or don't have a realistic way to keep yourself motivated. Let's vow to make this year different. Let's commit ourselves to just one simple goal to keep our focus. You might not be able to do everything on your giant list of goals, but you can be successful with one or two things when you have a good plan in place.

SparkPeople has a lot of fun, simple and effective challenges that are the perfect way to get started and stay motivated. I would recommend choosing ONE program listed below to focus your efforts, but if you're feeling extra motivated, try a couple! Don't worry: You can join in the fun any time, even if you can't commit to everything you'd like to do at once. These are all great ways to hit the ground running in January!  
Posted 1/7/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 4 comments   40,639 views
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15 Surprisingly Healthy Restaurant Dishes

Just because you're trying to eat healthier this year, doesn't mean you can never go out to eat with your friends or family. Instead of getting frustrated and throwing caution to the wind, just do a little research ahead of time to identify menu options that fit in with your nutrition goals.
We've scoured popular restaurant menus to give you a head start with 15 healthy dishes that will fit into most eating plans. And don't worry, even if you do make a less-than-ideal choice at one meal, that doesn't mean you have to give up on healthy eating. Just go right back to your plan at the very next meal and don't waste time feeling guilty!
Posted 1/1/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 7 comments   18,744 views
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The 15 Worst Foods of the Year

Each year many people make food-related New Year's resolutions or goals. Figuring out how to make dining out fit in with those goals can be a big challenge. Over the years, we've highlighted many of the healthier options in our Diet Friendly Dining series. Last year we were encouraged by the increased number of nutrition conscious restaurant options that were available.

This year, we've seen all sorts of new foods hit the market. Some, like the recently invented Cronut, throw nutrition caution to the wind. Others, like Satisfries, are an attempt to create tasty lower-calorie favorites. We scoured restaurant menus to find the biggest nutrition disasters so you'll know what to avoid when eating out in the new year.  
Posted 12/27/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 31 comments   85,998 views
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