Archive | Ask the Dietitian RSS feed for this section

GMOs – What’s The Latest?

by Jennifer Benedetto MS, RD, LD, CNSC at LMC

The United States House of Representatives recently passed a bill that will block states from requiring GMO food labels. What are GMOs? Should we be concerned that these items are hidden in our food supply?

CornGMOs are genetically modified organisms.These plants, animals or microorganisms have had their genes changed in a way that is not possible in nature. These changes make the organisms thrive in their environment. For example, GM crops are produced by transferring a gene responsible for a beneficial characteristic into the DNA of a host plant’s cells. The cells within the seeds grow into a mature plant that displays the desired characteristics. Plants have been changed to be insect resistant, drought resistant, and virus resistant. GMOs are argued to be sustainable crops that will be available to feed a growing population.

SoybeansThe first GMO crops became commercially available in 1996. The major commercially available genetic engineered crops include alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, squash, sugar beet and sweet corn. GMO varieties became the majority of the US corn crop in 2005 and the majority of the soybean crop in 2000. It has been reported that “trillions of GM meals” have been consumed in the US. It is estimated that there is at least 1 GMO in a given processed food. High fructose corn syrup is a frequent GMO ingredient. But since these foods are not monitored or labeled, there is no way to study patterns of consumption and their impacts. Even though the vast majority of scientists say that eating GMO’s is safe, their inclusion in the food supply is controversial. In a January poll, 57% of Americans feared that GM foods are unsafe.

GMO SealUnfortunately it seems the jury is still out on the safety of GMOs. For the time being, the only way to know that you are avoiding GMOs is to either eat organic foods or find foods with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal. The USDA National Organic Program prohibits the use of GMOs in any product that carries the “certified organic” label. The “Non-GMO Project” is an independent verification system dedicated to identifying products made without GMOs. A list of tested and approved products can be found on their website:

PapayaSo for now, the government is not going to require GMO labeling, but with a little leg work, you can find non-GMO foods at your local supermarket.

Healthier Vacation Eating

By Laura Stepp, MA, RD, LD, CDE at LMC

Its summer, time to live care free and enjoy life! Wait, eat healthy on vacation? It’s summer, I’m traveling and eating out, not cooking!

sunscreenWe have all experienced the challenges eating out while on vacation and for some trying not to gain weight can be a greater challenge. It seems we are surrounded by high calorie, high fat and high sugary foods when we travel. As we drive down the road, every mile brings a dozen fast food options all trying to temp us to stop. As you walk through an airport not only are many of the food choices high in calories, they are also expensive! Although it is sometimes difficult to find a “healthy” choice or to decide what to make while on vacation there are a few options try.

Healthy Snacks to the Rescue! In many cases, eating a snack replaces a meal especially if you are driving longer distances, flying, or spending a day on the beach or in the mountains. Snacks are going to be necessary to keep you going. Below are some ideas to help you eat healthier and save your waistline:

veggie tray•1 oz (1/4 c) servings of raw or dry roasted nuts. Any nut is good
•½ c- 1 cup individual servings of a lower sugar, higher fiber cereal
•Personalized trail mix: combo of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Approx ¼-1/2 c serving
•1 oz individual cheese sticks or rounds
•1 -2 Tbsp Natural peanut butter or almond butter with 1 oz serving of whole wheat crackers, graham cracker or gluten free crackers
•½ – 1 oz sliced cheese with crackers or fruit slices
•PB & J sandwich on sandwich thins
water pouring•Raw veggies of your choice: cut carrots or baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, celery, yellow squash, zucchini or cherry tomatoes (all better dipped in hummus or a little of your favorite salad dressing)
•Fruit: banana, apple, pear, peach, berries, orange, melon
•Low sodium lunch meat and cheese roll ups with or without tortilla

Remember to drink water. Traveling, especially in airplanes is very dehydrating. Drinking water will help to keep you alert when driving and keep you from over heating if you are at the beach or hiking in the mountains. Water is the most important nutrient for our bodies and especially important when we are traveling and not in our regular routine.

The DASH Diet: Good for Your Blood Pressure

By Laura Stepp RD,LD, CDE at LMC

High blood pressure (hypertension) and pre-hypertension are two conditions that can be controlled with diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is estimated that about half of all Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease. High blood pressure (140/90) or Pre-hypertension (120/80-139/89) is one of those risk factors.

shutterstock_200040200Making a few changes to your food choices can help to naturally lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure can go unnoticed therefore it is important to have your blood pressure checked annually.

The DASH diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension is a well-researched and documented pattern of eating that has been shown to help lower blood pressure. The DASH diet is a plant-based diet high in potassium and fiber and lower in saturated fat and sodium. In addition to helping to lower blood pressure, the DASH diet has been shown to help people naturally lower cholesterol and for many obtain a healthy weight. The DASH diet is closely related to another very well researched diet: the Mediterranean diet. Both of these dietary lifestyles are based on increasing ones intake of whole foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts/seeds. Adopting the DASH diet lifestyle helps to increase the intake of vitamins and minerals (such as Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium) needed by the body to help maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight.

A DASH diet based on 2000 calories per day (what the food labels are based on) consists of:
Whole Grains and whole grain products: Wheat, Barley, Rye, Oats, Quinoa, Corn
6-8 oz (1 oz = 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of cereal hot or cold, ½ c cooked grain)

4-5 (1/2 cup cook or 1 cup Raw = serving)

4-5 (small/medium, ½ cup cooked, 2/3 cup mixed raw = serving)

Low Fat Dairy
2-3 (8 oz milk, ½ cup plain yogurt, 1 oz cheese = serving)

Nuts, Seeds, Legumes (dried beans, black eyed peas, split peas, lentils)
4-5/week (1 oz nuts/seeds = ¼ cup; ½ cup cooked legumes)

Lean Meats: Fish/Poultry (skinless)
2 (for Women 3-4 oz = serving; Men 4-6oz = serving)

Fats & Sweets
Limited: keep small and in moderation, use liquid oils such as Canola or olive oil, use butter spreads with expeller pressed oils vs stick margarine. If used, limit butter and other high saturated fat foods. Desserts on special occasions vs. daily.

A fresh and simple recipe we tested (which received good reviews for both taste and simplicity):

chickpea-wraps.jpg_1_272×1_005_pixelsChickpea Wraps with Grapes and Walnuts

    1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
    2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
    1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted walnuts
    1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
    1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
    1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
    1/2 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
    2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
    1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    Freshly ground black pepper
    8 (8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas

    In large mixing bowl, gently mash chickpeas with potato masher just to break skins. Add all remaining ingredients except tortillas and gently combine.

    On bottom half of tortilla, spoon 1/2 cup mixture in broad line. Fold left and right sides toward center until almost touching. Fold bottom edge toward center. Roll wrap firmly upwards. Place toothpick 2 inches from each end. Slice wrap diagonally and place cut side up on plate or platter. Repeat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    Makes 8 servings
    Per serving (2 halves): 367 calories, 10 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 58 g carbohydrate,
    15 g protein, 10 g dietary fiber, 425 mg sodium (lower with low sodium beans & no added salt)