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Steps for Healthier Diet

Healthy Foods Cube – Free Printable Activity

Fun activity with kids and students to educate about Healthy Foods of each category! See activity instructions below. Enjoy!

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Download PDFs:

Colored version: cube_healthy_food_color_full

Black & White version: cube_healthy_food_blackwhite_full

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Which is healthier: Hot Cereal or Cold Cereal?

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Whole unprocessed oats are better for you as it takes longer to digest (steadier rise on blood sugar) compared to Cheerios and other processed cereals which are rapidly digested, creating a spike on blood sugar which doesn’t last through morning.

On the article, Dr. Mozaffarian also mentions about a practical way to choose healthful whole grain products: look for products with a total carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio that’s less than 10 to 1 (which means products with less total carbohydrate and more fiber are better).

List of Prohibited Ingredients by NYC School Food

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This is a list of prohibited food additives of School Food in NYC. Although these additives are approved by FDA for consumption, they aren’t necessarily essential or nutritious in a diet. For some of these additives, there are studies showing that they can even be harmful to our health and/or the environment in the long run. For example, processed/ cured meats (e.g. ham, hot-dogs, sausages) which have sodium nitrate are considered as carcinogenic by WHO (IARC).

This list can be a helpful guide for you and your family to shop and consume more nutritious and safer foods.

Reducing Sugar in our Diet

Helpful tips from AHA to reduce consumption of sugar in our diet (and even more now that the Holiday season is coming!)

How to choose a Healthy Cereal

how to choose a healthy cereal:

How to Buy Healthy Breakfast Cereals

  • Look at the Nutritional Facts and Ingredients List

It is helpful and important to read the Nutritional Facts and Ingredients List when choosing food items. For cereals, you can compare basically the amount of sugar, the presence of whole grains and fiber, and sometimes the amount of saturated fat.

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For Healthier Cereals, look for:

  • Less Sugar

Most of the sweetened cereals have approximately 10g of sugar per cup. That’s like eating sugar of 4-5 mint candies every breakfast! Avoid words like Frosted, Honey, Cocoa, etc.

Choose cereals with less than 6g of sugar per cup. Less is Better.

  • Whole Grains

Check if the whole grains are the major ingredient of the cereal. As the ingredients are listed by decreasing weight, it should be mentioned in the beginning of the ingredients list. Example of Grains are Oat, Corn, Wheat, Rice, etc.

Bran is also a good source of fiber, as it is the hard outer layer of cereals. It should be the main ingredient of the Bran cereal.

Some cereals make claims of being a good source of fiber and whole grains in front of the box, but remember to check how much sugar they have in it. The bad effects of high amounts of sugar surpasses the benefits of a small amount of fibers.

  • Less or No Artificial Coloring

Although they are approved by FDA, there are still concerns about the link between artificial coloring and behavioral problems in children such as ADHD.

  • Examples:

gray  Avoid:  

– Frosted Corn Flakes or similar:

In a serving of 30g (3/4 cup), there is less than 1g of fiber (made of milled corn – it is a refined grain) and 11g of sugar.

– Honey Nut Cheerios or similar:

In a serving of 28g (3/4 cup), there are 2g of fiber (made of whole grain oats) which are good, but a high amount of sugar of 9g.

– Froot Loops or similar:

In a serving of 29g (1 cup), there are 3g of fiber, but 12g of sugar and artificial coloring. It was made with a mixture of refined and whole grains, and the first ingredient is sugar. (So, whole grains are not the main ingredient of this cereal).

blue  Recommended:

– Cheerios or similar:

In 28g (1 cup), there are 3g of fiber and 1g of sugar. Made of whole grain oats.

– Multi Grain Cheerios, Kroger Multi-Grain Toasted Oats or similar:

In 29g (1 cup), there are 3g of fiber and 6g of sugar. Made with a variety of whole grains.

– Kroger Wheat Puffs or similar:

In 17g (1 cup), there are 2g of fiber and 0g of sugar. Made of durum wheat.

  • Healthy Tips

– Unsweetened cereals may taste too bland for some people, particularly kids. Mix a small portion of sweetened cereal with a large portion (a bag) of an unsweetened cereal! The less you add of the sweetened cereal in the unsweetened cereal bag, the less you and your family will consume sugar. Try to mix the cereals when you’ve just opened the bags because it will be more convenient than mixing the cereals in your bowl every morning.

– Adding milk to your cereal will reduce the taste of sweetness because it dilutes the sugar. So, Instead of adding more sweetened cereal, sugar, honey or etc., choose dried fruits high in fiber like prunes or fresh fruits. (Avoid raisins and dates because although they are dried fruits, they are too sweet with too little fiber.) You can also add dried fruits and nuts to your cereal bag.

Interesting articles:

How to choose a healthy breakfast cereal – Time

Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet – Mayo Clinic

Sugared cereals: Should kids avoid at all costs? – CBS News

Sugary cereals: Which are the 10 “worst?” – CBS News

Share with us other Healthy Breakfast Cereals that you like or have found on the comment section below! Yum!

See you soon!

[how to drink less sugar] TIP #4

Tip #4: Skip the Non-caloric Sweeteners!

So far, we’ve decided to cut sugar out of beverages, but we tend to replace it by using non-caloric sweeteners. There are many types and the most common are:

1. Aspartame

It is a compound of two amino acids with a chemical modification in one end.

Brands: Equal, NutraSweet and Canderel – Blue packets

2. Saccharin

Saccharin is unstable when heated, so it can’t be used in cooking or baking.

Brands: Sweet’N Low – Pink packets

3. Sucralose

It is manufactured by replacing specific parts of the sucrose molecule (table sugar) with chlorine atoms. Most of it is not broken down when ingested and it is stable under heat (so it is used on baking and cooking products).

Brands:  Splenda – Yellow packets

4. Stevia

It is a natural sweetener extracted from the Stevia plant. (We should remember that it is not because something is natural, that it is necessarily good for our health.)

Brands: Truvia, PureVia, Stevia in the Raw

5. Acesulfame Potassium

It is mostly used by the food industry than used directly by the consumer. It’s present in a lot of artificially sweetened foods and drinks because the blend with other sweeteners results in a similar taste of sugar by masking the off-tastes.

Brands: Sunett, Sweet One

These non-caloric sweeteners are still controversial regarding their safety and toxicity to our health and the environment (here is an interesting article from the NYT’s Well Blog).

We still don’t know what are their long-term consequences and more has to be studied and analyzed to assure us about their safety.

So, it’s better to be safe than sorry by using less (or none) of them. Instead of substituting regular sodas for diet sodas, choose Water! Water is still the best option!

[how to drink less sugar] TIP #3

TIP #3: Water, please!

In this fast-paced world, we usually find ourselves eating out. The food portions have increased and so have the beverages. We drink a lot more (more than we need) and, moreover, we are free to ask for refills.

So, you can use this third tip when eating at a restaurant: Ask for water! If you are going to refill, choose water or unsweetened tea. Avoid sugary sodas,  juices and teas as these should be rare treats rather than the main beverages. Keep up the good work!!

[how to drink less sugar] TIP #2

TIP #2: Carry a bottle of water!

Specially on these summer hot days, we want to refresh ourselves and we tend to buy those large sugary sodas and sports drinks because they are tasty and cheap. But we should remember that even though they are refreshing, they are filled with loads of sugar that are bad for us.

We can cool ourselves by drinking water (or other non-sugary drinks) instead! Don’t you think that rather than a short-term pleasure, it is worth the “sacrifice” for a long-term health benefit?

Refillable water bottles: Choose one which is a Stainless Steel or BPA-free, as the chemical BPA (Bisphenol-A) has raised health and environment questions. (NYTimes).

The Insulated Stainless Steel Bottle is a great choice as it maintains the temperature of your beverage, so you can enjoy a cold water on hot days and hot teas on cold days!

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