by Amy Mullins | Nov 24, 2021
The holiday season is finally upon us. It’s a time for enjoying family, friends, and food!
You can make healthy habits this holiday season. It’s not only a single meal but rather an entire season of parties, events, gatherings festivities, and unhealthy choices that add up to that holiday weight gain we resolve to lose when January rolls around. As the holiday season begins its rapid approach, take time and consider those eating habits that set your new year off on the wrong foot. Why not make a resolution now to eat healthier this holiday season?
Just a few simple strategies can help make the difference and keep those unwanted pounds away. Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t skip meals. Eating healthy on a regular basis will keep you from overindulging at holiday gatherings.
- Use smaller plates for meals and gatherings and be mindful of portions
- Choose more vegetables and smaller helpings of entrees and desserts
- Drink more water and minimize alcoholic drinks and eggnog
- Make healthier recipe ingredient substitutions when cooking and baking
Take a mindful approach to keeping your personal health goals in-check. We can all still experience the joy of the holiday season, without making food the focus. Make a resolution to be mindful and eat healthier this holiday season, and your waistline will thank you!
Learn more about making healthy habits this holiday season!
— Tips for Making Healthy Choices
— Simple Substitutions
— Diabetes During the Holidays
— How to Add Fruits and Veggies
— Cranberry Nutrition
— Cranberry Sauce Recipe
— Holiday Food Safety Tips
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by Amy Mullins | Nov 23, 2021
Take care of your bones today for better quality of life tomorrow!
According to the National Institutes of Health, about one in every two Americans over the age of 50 may already have or be at risk of developing osteoporosis. (1) Osteoporosis is a disease where, over time, bone quality and strength decline, making bones more likely to fracture and break. Fractures can develop not only as a result of a slip or fall but also from everyday sneezing or coughing. If your doctor diagnoses you with osteoporosis, the best course of action for slowing its progression may be prescription medication. However, nutrition and exercise can help provide a good foundation to prevent or delay disease development. (1)
Know Your Risks
While all risks are not completely understood, there is a genetic factor linked to osteoporosis – mainly, if poor bone mineral density runs in the family. In addition to genetic factors, poor nutrition, smoking, excessive alcohol, and a lack of exercise can all increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. It is important to talk to your doctor to discuss your level of risk and prevention measures. (1)
Build More Bone
Although they may not seem like it, bones are a living tissue and go through times of building and breakdown during the life cycle. Bones grow the most during childhood, but they also change and become stronger as an adult by doing exercises like weightlifting or running. (1) Similar to a savings account or retirement fund, the more you build when you are young, the more you can afford to spend as you age. Current recommendations to support strong bones include muscle strengthening exercises at least two times per week. These exercises require your muscles to do more work than doing just day-to-day activities. Additionally, strength training exercises should be done to the point where it would be difficult to perform one or two more repetitions. Examples include lifting weights, working with resistance bands, and doing body weight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, and planks. Additionally, climbing stairs, and carrying heavy loads (such as groceries and heavy gardening) also count when done frequently.(2)
Support Your Bones
In addition to exercise, nutrition plays a large role in promoting healthy bones. The two most important nutrients for bone health are calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is what gives bones their strength but is also involved in many other processes in the body. If you do not regularly consume enough calcium, your body takes it from your bones. (3) If this happens for long enough, your bones will become weakened and begin to develop osteoporosis. Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium. Not having enough vitamin D can impact your bones, even if you get enough calcium from your diet. (4)
||Vitamin D (IU/day)
|Infants 0-6 months
|Infants 6-12 months
|1-3 years old
|4-8 years old
|9-13 years old
|14-18 years old
|19-30 years old
|31-50 years old
|> 70 years old
|14-18 years old, pregnant/lactating
|19-50 years old, pregnant/lactating
Recommended Calcium and Vitamin D Intakes (5) Definitions: mg = milligrams; IU = International Units
Bone Strengthening Foods
There are a variety of food sources that provide calcium and vitamin D. Calcium can be found in dairy products, green vegetables, and calcium-fortified foods. Examples of calcium-containing dairy products include cheese, yogurt, and reduced-fat milk. Other calcium-fortified foods include breads, orange juice, cereals, and tofu. When it comes to vitamin D in your diet, be sure to include fatty fish such as tuna and salmon. There are smaller amounts of vitamin D found in cheese, mushrooms, and beef liver. Similar to calcium, there are many vitamin D-fortified foods available. Some examples are cereals, orange juice, milk, and milk products. Check out the two tables below for calcium and vitamin D food sources. (5)
Calcium Content of Selected Foods
||Milligram (mg) per serving
|Sardines, canned in oil
|Cheddar cheese, shredded
||1 ½ oz
|Yogurt, reduced fat, no solids
|2% milk (reduced fat)
||8 fl oz
||8 fl oz
|Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat
||2 cups, unpacked
|Mozzarella, part skim
||1 ½ oz
|Tofu firm, with calcium
|Orange juice, calcium fortified
||6 fl oz
|Tofu soft, with calcium
|Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft serve
|Ready-to-eat cereal, calcium fortified
|Turnip greens, boiled
|Vanilla ice cream
|Soy beverage, calcium fortified
||8 fl oz
||1, 6” diameter
|Sour cream, reduced fat, cultured
Adapted from Office of the Surgeon General (US). Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. (7)
Vitamin D Content of Selected Foods
||Micrograms (mcg) per serving
||International Units (IU) per serving
|Cod liver oil
|Rainbow trout, cooked
|Salmon (sockeye), cooked
|White mushrooms, raw, exposed to UV light
|2% milk, vitamin D fortified
|Soy, almond, & oat milk, vitamin D fortified
|Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% DV vitamin D
|Sardines (Atlantic), canned in oil, drained
|Beef liver, braised
|Tuna fish (light), canned in water, drained
|Portabella mushrooms, raw, diced
|Chicken breast, roasted
|Ground beef, 90% lean, broiled
|Broccoli, raw, chopped
Adapted from Vitamin D – Fact sheet for health professionals (8)
Stay Safe and Healthy as You Age
Osteoporosis can be a serious and life changing diagnosis. However, adopting healthy habits like limiting smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can decrease your risk. Consuming enough calcium and vitamin D each day and getting regular muscle building exercise at least twice a week can also help protect your bones. Women over the age of 65, or anyone diagnosed as “at risk,” should be regularly screened for osteoporosis by a doctor during their yearly physical health exam. (6,7,8)
Making healthy lifestyle choices from a young age can help prevent or delay osteoporosis, but once you’re diagnosed, the best course of action for slowing its progression may be prescription medication. Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program or for interactions with medications.
- “Osteoporosis Overview.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/overview.
- S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018.
- “Osteoporosis.” Edited by Susan Randall, Osteoporosis | Office on Women’s Health, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 20 May 2019, https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/osteoporosis.
- “Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 22 Mar. 2021, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminD-HealthProfessional/
- S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov
- Palmer S. Bone Health and Diet. Today’s Dietitian. 2013;15(2):44.
- Office of the Surgeon General (US). Bone health and osteoporosis: A report of the surgeon general. Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US); 2004. Table 7-2, Selected Food Sources of Calcium. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45523/table/ch7.t2/
- Vitamin D – Fact sheet for health professionals. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#h3. Published August 17, 2021. Accessed November 11, 2021.
Guest contributors: Andrew Treble and Lexi Fraino are master’s students and Dietetic Interns from Florida State University’s Department of Nutrition & Integrative Physiology.
by Amy Mullins | Sep 24, 2021
September is National Cholesterol Awareness Month. Understanding how to adjust cholesterol and fat in our diet can help to reduce the risks associated with heart disease.
What is Cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy type of fat found in all animal cells. This means both the animal-based foods we eat and our own bodies contain cholesterol. Cholesterol is essential for many processes in our bodies, including hormones and vitamin D production. However, we only need a certain amount, and too much can cause problems. Diet and exercise play a key role in keeping our cholesterol levels “in-check.”
Good vs Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol is often broken down into good and bad cholesterol categories.
- HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein and is considered the good. Higher amounts of HDL can help bring fatty components in your blood back to your liver. The liver helps clear these fatty deposits from your body and can reduce the risk of developing heart disease. You can think of HDL as the helpful cholesterol. HDL can be increased by eating more heart-healthy fats. These are fats low in saturated fat, high in omega-3 and include olive oil, nuts, avocados, and fish.
- LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein and is considered bad. LDL cholesterol does the opposite of HDL. It deposits these fatty deposits to your arteries. You can think of LDL as the lousy cholesterol. LDL can be lowered by reducing the amount of trans fats and saturated fats from the diet. We can also reduce LDL cholesterol by increasing the amount of fiber in our diet.
- According to the CDC, desirable cholesterol values include:
Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
HDL cholesterol: greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL
Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products for less saturated fat and cholesterol.
Photo credit: USDA SNAP
Cholesterol in Foods
Animal-based foods not only contain cholesterol, but are also high in saturated fat. Our bodies use saturated fats to make cholesterol, which can increase our LDL cholesterol. Limit your intake of these high-saturated fat foods:
- High-fat dairy, such as cheese, whole-milk
- Egg yolks
- Fatty cuts of meat, hot dogs, bacon, and high-fat cold cuts
- Animal fat, such as lard, tallow, duck fat
- Fried foods
- Baked goods and snack foods made with lard, butter, palm kernel, coconut oils, or trans-fat
How to Lower Your Cholesterol Intake
- Opt for plant-based fats
- Plant-oils have NO cholesterol!
- They are a great substitution for cholesterol-containing fats such as butter. Not only do they replace cholesterol in your diet but they can also help lessen the absorption of cholesterol from other foods.
- Healthy plant oils include olive, safflower, canola, flaxseed, and sesame oils
- Avocados, walnuts, peanut butter, and other nut-butters are great options!
- Select lean protein foods
- Swap out ground beef for ground turkey or chicken
- Replace grilled steak with grilled chicken or fish
- Remove the extra fat cap on large cuts of meat
- Opt for skinless options of poultry. Skin contains a significant amount of fat.
- Choose low-fat dairy options
- Reach for the low-fat or fat-free options for cheese, yogurt, milk, and cottage cheese.
- This will reduce the amount of cholesterol you eat but still allow you to enjoy these foods.
- Step-up your fiber game!
- Just like plant-based oils, fiber can help reduce the amount of cholesterol you absorb from foods. Fiber creates a gel-like substance in your stomach and can whisk away cholesterol from being taken up into your blood.
- Fiber is in so many delicious foods! High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, beans, and nuts.
- To incorporate more fiber into your diet, try:
- Going for a plant-based dinner once a week by including beans, tofu, or lentils instead of meat.
- Making ½ your plate fruits and vegetables at mealtimes.
- Swap refined grains for whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, faro, oatmeal, popcorn.
Replacing foods high in saturated fats with heart-healthy fats can be an effective way to improve your cholesterol levels. This can be as easy as using olive oil in place of butter. Try swapping whole milk in your cereal with 1% or skim milk. Never underestimate how even the smallest changes can make a big difference!
Guest contributor: Stephanie Hill, Master’s student and Dietetic Intern from Florida State University’s Department of Nutrition & Integrative Physiology.
4 ways to eat your way to lower cholesterol. Harvard Health. (2021, February 3). https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/4-ways-to-eat-your-way-to-lower-cholesterol
What is cholesterol? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/heart-and-cardiovascular-health/what-is-cholesterol
Heart Healthy Eating to Help Lower Cholesterol Levels. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17281-heart-healthy-eating-to-help-lower-cholesterol-levels
Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fat/art-20045550
LDL & HDL: Good & Bad Cholesterol. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 Jan. 2020, www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm.
by Amy Mullins | Aug 27, 2021
Healthy snacks fuel the athlete! Photo credit: Amy Mullins
When it comes to your kids, you’d do anything to help them succeed… in the classroom, in their relationships, in life. So, why not on the basketball court, soccer field, swimming pool, or whichever sport they’ve fallen in love with? They may have the best equipment, participate in extra training lessons, and put in 110% during every practice and event. But, is this enough? Is there something missing?
It’s no secret that your child is growing. In order to function in their sport, improve performance, and promote recovery, kids need food to help support the increased energy requirements. This ultimately means more planning and more groceries!
Follow these guidelines to fuel your superstar during the week, before the game/event, and after the game/event.
Eat a good-sized meal at least three hours before the event. This gives the tummy time to process all the food to prepare it as fuel. Have a light balanced meal with some carbs and fats. These will sustain you throughout your exercise! Carbs and fats are both great fuel sources, and the fats digest slower to help keep you feeling full. Pick foods that digest well to avoid any nausea or upset stomach. Don’t forget to drink some water to start off hydrated!
- Breakfast Ideas: fruit, lightly sautéed potatoes, scrambled eggs, or toast with nut butter or smashed avocado
- Lunch Ideas: turkey or ham sandwich (avoid fatty cheeses and condiments), peanut butter and jelly, fruit, pretzels, or cereal
- Snack 30 minutes before the event: peanut butter crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, or goldfish crackers
During Practice and Games
For exercise lasting less than an hour, sip on some water to stay hydrated. For exercise lasting longer than an hour, a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade will help replenish lost carbohydrates and electrolytes. For longer lasting activities or day trips, bring along some easy to eat snacks with lots of carbs, and some fats and proteins. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and granola bars are great options!
After exercise, it’s important to recover, refuel, and re-hydrate. Protein will help our muscles recover while carbohydrates will help refuel for the next activity. Drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate! Good choices for quick, easy snacks include chocolate milk, peanut butter crackers, cheese sticks, bananas, apple slices with peanut butter, or smoothies with or without protein.
Dinner Plate After Practice and Games
- Grains/Carbs: Should take up roughly 35% of the plate
- Lean Protein: Should take up roughly 25% of the plate
- Fruits and Veggies: Should take up roughly 40% of the plate
- Hydration: Focus on replenishing lost electrolytes and fluid loss
Components of a well-balanced meal include:
- Meat & poultry – great protein sources for recovery. Pair it with a carb!
- Whole grains, fruit, pasta, rice, potatoes – great carb sources to complement your protein. These will help replace the energy you burned during exercise.
- Water, milk, and fruits will help replenish fluids lost during exercise.
Eating right not only on game day but throughout the week will do wonders for your child’s athletic performance. Not only that, it will set them up to be successful and healthy adults in the future!
Guest contributors: Patrick Burns and E. Jane Watts, Dietetic Interns from Florida State University’s Department of Food, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences
The use of trade names in this post is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. It is not a guarantee, warranty, or endorsement of the product.
Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Ellis, E. (2020). Hydrate Right. https://www.eatright.org/fitness/sports-and-performance/hydrate-right/hydrate-right
American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, American College of Sports Medicine,
Rodriguez, N. R., Di Marco, N. M., & Langley, S. (2009). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 41(3), 709–731.
by Amy Mullins | Oct 9, 2020
By Matthew Poland and Amy Mullins, MS, RDN
For Floridians, getting enough sunlight during the winter may not be an issue that frequently crosses our sun-kissed minds. However, by spending winter vacation up north or by simply not spending the recommended 10-30 minutes per day outdoors, we could be putting ourselves at risk. In fact, it is estimated that between 20-80% of men and women from the US, Canada and Europe are vitamin D deficient, with rates as high as 45-100% of vitamin D deficiency in some places throughout Asia (1). Even though Florida seems to be as good as it gets for soaking in the sun, a 2005 study of residents of Miami found that between 38-40% were vitamin D deficient (2).
Vitamin D plays a much larger role in our health then we tend to realize. In addition to being a hormone responsible for regulation of bone metabolism, vitamin D has important functions in pregnancy, inflammation, cell growth, neurotransmitter production, immune and neuromuscular function, and glucose metabolism (3). Meanwhile, low vitamin D levels have been associated with increased risk for various diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and even an increased risk of mortality (1).
Go outside Photo Source: Matthew Poland
It is well known that sunlight exposure is the major source of vitamin D in our bodies, although some can be absorbed through our diet. However, as we spend less and less time outdoors, our risk of vitamin D deficiency steadily increases. On top of this, there are a variety of factors that can play a role in the ability of an individual to produce vitamin D including skin pigmentation, clothing, sunscreen, and of course where we live. In addition, a likely reason for such a high amount of Miami’s residents being vitamin D deficient is due to the smog levels of larger cities. Air pollution can absorb the UVB rays that our bodies convert into vitamin D, and prevent them from ever reaching us. Plus, in the wintertime, there is less sunlight to be had, which brings into play the next dangerous winter side effect: seasonal affective disorder, appropriately given the acronym, SAD.
While SAD may seem like a northern phenomenon, and it is with up to 9% of Alaska’s residents experiencing SAD compared to Florida’s 1%, it also involves the lack of sunlight during the winter (4). This lack of sunlight interferes with the body’s ability to regulate its circadian rhythm, the 24-hour internal clock that is typically synced with the light-dark cycles of our environment (4). Having shorter days and longer nights in winter is not unique to the north. With some Florida days offering only 10 hours of sunlight and indoor jobs that often consume 8 to 9 hours of our day, there is suddenly limited time to be in the sun (8). Vitamin D has been theorized to play a role in serotonin production, a neurotransmitter responsible for our feelings of well-being and happiness, and the insufficiency or deficiency of vitamin D has also been associated with clinical depressive symptoms (5). In summation, the lack of sunlight during the winter can create depressive symptoms and decreased absorption of vitamin D also leads to further depressive symptoms.
Although this self-perpetuating spiral of doom and gloom may be a bit of a downer, here are a few tips for getting through winter while keeping your vitamin D levels, circadian rhythm, and sanity in check:
- Go outside! Unfortunately, the angle of the sun in the wintertime reduces the availability of ultraviolet sunlight. It is important, however, to spend some time outdoors on sunnier days to allow for vitamin D synthesis, even if it’s not at optimal levels.(6).
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet consisting of a wide variety of foods. Although most foods don’t naturally contain vitamin D, wild-caught salmon and mushrooms being the exceptions, many foods like dairy are fortified with vitamin D (1). However, diet alone has been shown to be insufficient in providing vitamin D to children and adults in the US (7). If through food and sun, your vitamin D levels are not where they need to be, supplementation of around 1000 IUs per day can bring levels back to normal.
- Always talk with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplements. Have your vitamin D levels evaluated by your physician. Many people can go throughout life not knowing they are deficient in vitamin D until a broken bone necessitates testing.
So, with winter approaching, keep in mind the importance of being outside and eating well to feel your best as we roll into 2021!
Photo credit: Matthew Poland
Matthew Poland is a Graduate Student in the Department of Food, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University who is currently working on the Dietetic Internship to become a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN).
- Hossein-nezhad, A., & Holick, M. F. (2013). Vitamin D for health: a global perspective. Mayo Clinic proceedings, 88(7), 720–755. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.05.011
- Levis S, Gomez A, Jimenez C, et al. Vitamin D deficiency and seasonal variation in an adult South Florida population. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005;90:1557–1562.
- Vitamin D – Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. (2020, September 11). Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
- Melrose S. (2015). Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depression research and treatment, 2015, 178564. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/178564
- Kerr, D. C., Zava, D. T., Piper, W. T., Saturn, S. R., Frei, B., & Gombart, A. F. (2015). Associations between vitamin D levels and depressive symptoms in healthy young adult women. Psychiatry research, 227(1), 46–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2015.02.016
- Webb, A. R., Kline, L., & Holick, M. F. (1988). Influence of season and latitude on the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3: exposure to winter sunlight in Boston and Edmonton will not promote vitamin D3 synthesis in human skin. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 67(2), 373–378. https://doi.org/10.1210/jcem-67-2-373
- Moore, C., Murphy, M. M., Keast, D. R., & Holick, M. F. (2004). Vitamin D intake in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 104(6), 980–983. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2004.03.028
- Tallahassee, Florida, USA – Sunrise, Sunset, and Daylength, September 2020. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2020, from https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/usa/tallahassee