Which Airlines Have the Healthiest Food?

When we book airplane tickets, most of us consider things like timing, cost, and whether or not a given flight includes a layover. We probably don’t factor in the healthfulness of the airline’s food. But maybe we should.

Some airlines serve healthier meals than others, and a new study helps travelers figure out which keep calories and cost to a minimum in the meals and snacks they offer, while maximizing nutrition, taste and sustainability.

“Transparency is critical, and consumers are very interested in know about the foods they eat,” Charles Platkin, PhD, JD, MPH, the director of the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College, who conducted the study and edits DietDetective.com, tells Healthy Eats. “Often, travelers don’t have the time to plan out and pack their own meals. Their only choice at 30,000 feet is the food on the plane.”

Platkin’s airline food study found that, overall, the average calories per in-flight food item has risen slowly and steadily in years past — from 360 in 2012 to 388 in 2013 to 297 in 2014 and 400 in 2015 — before decreasing 8 percent last year, to 392. 

Rated according to “Health Scores” on a scale of zero (lowest) to five (highest) stars — taking into account criteria including health and calorie levels, improving access to healthy options, innovation and the availability of nutritional information — the study ranked 12 popular airlines. Virgin America Airlines earned 4.25 stars and healthiest airline honors, followed by Delta and Air Canada with 4 stars apiece, Alaska Air (3.75 stars), JetBlue (3.5 stars), United (3.25 stars), American (3 stars), Southwest (2 stars) followed by Allegiant Air and Hawaii (1.75 stars each). Spirit Airlines and Frontier Air shared the bottom spots on the list with just 1 star apiece.

Platkin suggests that airlines can increase customer satisfaction and brand loyalty by offering healthier foods on flights.

“There is a plethora of research on healthier food improving mood,” he observes, noting that eating a meal or snack that is heavy on fat, sodium and sugar “could make passengers grumpier and create a less than positive travel experience.”

To prevent mid-flight “hanger,” Platkin urges flyers to expect trips to take longer than scheduled and bring healthy snacks along. (You can take most foods through security, he notes, just not liquids or gels.)

Travelers should try to plan out their meals as they do their trip, Platkin advises. “Even if you ate before you left home,” he notes, after hours of travel, “you are still going to get hungry.”

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

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6 Tips for Integrating Exercise Into Your Workday

So many of us worker bees spend our weekdays glued to our desk chairs, wondering, perhaps, if tapping at our keyboards counts as exercise. (Sadly, it doesn’t.)

But the prospect of spending a huge chunk of our day working out may seem daunting and frankly, unworkable. A new study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity indicates that, in fact, spending just five minutes getting up and engaging in moderately intense exercise (like a walk) every hour may actually be better for us, in many respects, than a solid 30-minute daily workout before we slide into our cubicles in the morning and start our long sit.

The study, conducted by researchers affiliated with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, among others, concluded that introducing short periods of activity spread throughout the day would help not only boost workers’ energy levels, but also elevate their moods and lower their sense of fatigue and appetite, calling it “a promising approach to improve overall well-being at work.”

Moving throughout the day can burn calories and elevate levels of an enzyme — lipoprotein lipase – that aids in the conversion of fat to fuel, explains Pete McCall, senior personal training expert at the fitness certification and education non-profit American Council on Exercise. “Sitting for long periods reduces levels of the enzyme and it is easier for fat to be stored rather than used,” he notes.

Exercise can also boost blood flow, including blood to our brains, and the levels of dopamine and serotonin, which can elevate our moods.

While longer periods of exercise are beneficial, McCall says, even those who exercise regularly may suffer health consequences from long periods of inactivity, like sitting behind a desk for hours on end.

“It is still important for individuals to exercise regularly but adding more activity, even five minutes an hour of moving around an office, can help improve health-related markers,” he says, adding that this approach is not only a good supplement for those who already exercise, but also a “great starting point” for those who are not getting enough exercise in general.

“It’s a lot easier for someone to add five minutes of activity to an hour than it might be to set aside 30 to 45 minutes for specific exercise,” McCall observes.

But how can you make sure that you get exercise during your workday, even while working diligently to get that report in on time and keep your boss at bay? McCall offered some tips:

1. It’s all in the timing: “Use an activity tracker with a reminder function or a timer on a smart phone. Set it to go off once an hour and then take a ‘stand-up’ break to move around for a few minutes.”

2. Phone it in: “Get a phone headset and stand up when making phone calls.”

3. Stand up for yourself: “If possible, get a standing desk. Working while standing can help you be more alert and think more clearly.”

4. Take the stairs: “Use the stairs instead of the elevators. Some buildings are making stair access easier. If you constantly go between floors for your job, this can add up to significant calories [burned].”

5. Good parking karma: If you drive to work, “park far from the office and walk the entire parking lot.”

6. Hoof it: “If you commute via public transit, when the weather is nice get off a stop early or late and walk the extra distance home.”

Start tomorrow – or even right now. It all adds up!

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

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How To Get Your Fruits and Vegetables During Winter

During the dead of winter, fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables become slim pickings. However, eating fewer fruits and vegetables is not an option if you’re looking to stay healthy. According to the 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans, 80-percent of us don’t eat the daily recommended amount of fruit, while 90-percent of Americans don’t take in enough vegetables. Now is the perfect time to turn to canned and frozen produce, as they absolutely count towards your servings of produce, plus they’re brimming with good-for-you nutrients.

But Isn’t Canned Bad?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that fresh is the only healthy option. Because produce is easily perishable, both freezing and canning were created in order to extend shelf lives. Further, the 2015 dietary guidelines specify that canned and frozen also count towards your daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.

Canned fruit retains much of its vitamin C, which can be diminished in its fresh counterparts if it is stored for a long period of time, or shipped long distances. Canned produce is also packed at the peak of ripeness and within hours of being picked from the fields. This summer I visited a tomato farm and cannery in Sacramento, California and I saw tomatoes picked in the fields and quickly delivered to a nearby cannery within several hours to be processed and packed. In fact, tomatoes are an example of produce that actually has higher nutritional value when cooked or processed since canned tomatoes contain 2 to 3 times more lycopene compared to fresh. (Lycopene, naturally found in tomatoes, help protect against the damaging effects of oxidative stress and inflammation.)

What About BPA?

Although BPA (Bisephenol A) has been around since the 1960’s, numerous studies have raised question to its safety. Although the FDA concluded that the amount of BPA in canned products are safe for human consumption, many want the industrial chemical banned from our food supply. If you’re worried about BPA, many BPA-free cans are now available at grocery stores. Several companies that are BPA-free include Eden Organic, Earth Pure Organic Tomatoes, and Muir Glen.

What About Frozen?

Fruits and vegetables are frozen at their peak of freshness in order to maximize the nutritional value. Plus, frozen produce is usually trimmed and cleaned before being packed, which is a huge time saver on busy weeknights. You can also find good deals on frozen produce, which is a great money saver, especially when out-of-season prices are high.

You can also choose to freeze fresh produce at home when fruits and vegetables are bountiful. For example, there are lots of extra zucchinis at the end of the summer. Slice and freeze for the winter months, when fresh varieties are pricey and not easily available.

Read the Label

When buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Look for canned fruit in their own juice or in water. Avoid those canned in heavy or light syrup, which are high in sugar.
  • Select low- or no-added sodium versions of canned vegetables. If they’re not available, then rinse the vegetables to reduce sodium by up to 40 percent.
  • Avoid frozen vegetables that contain high calorie sauces made with oil, cheese or butter.
  • Choose frozen fruit that contains one ingredient, the fruit itself, without added sugar.

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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What You Should Know About Hydroponic Vegetables

Soil seems so essential to our concept of vegetables that those grown hydroponically – that is, in water rather than soil – may seem confusing. Even futuristic. But hydroponic crop farming is in fact here now. In the last five years, the hydroponic crop farming industry has shown an annual growth of 4.5 percent, according to the U.S. market research firm IBISWorld, and new companies are projected to continue to expand over the next five years.

Hydroponic farms produce high yields in a small area. Often grown indoors – in warehouses or greenhouses and in artificial light instead of sunlight – they are protected from extreme weather. Hydroponically grown vegetables, which are fed by nutrient solutions in the water, may be just as nutritious as field-grown vegetables and, depending on the solutions they’re fertilized with, can help meet the rising demand for organic produce.

Curious to learn more about hydroponic vegetables, we asked Rebecca Elbaum, MPH, RD, CDN, a clinical dietician in New York City who has worked with hydroponic farms, particularly small, rooftop gardens, to fill us in on some of the basics:

 

What, exactly, are hydroponic vegetables?

Hydroponic literally means “water-grow or survive,” so basically hydroponic vegetables are those that survive, and likely thrive, in water. Hydroponic vegetables are grown in a closed system in which their roots are submerged in water. This water is fortified or “spiked” with nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. In conventional farming, natural soil contains vitamins, minerals and trace elements that water does not, so hydroponic farmers need to add those nutrients into the water. Conventional farming also uses the natural light of the sun, which helps vegetables develop their nutrients.  Hydroponic farming mimics sunlight through greenhouses. 

 

How do they compare to field-grown vegetables from a nutritional standpoint?

It is not yet fully known whether hydroponically grown vegetables are nutritionally superior to conventionally grown ones. There are studies that show the nutrient content to be the same, while there are others that show hydroponic vegetables to be richer in nutrients than conventional. While we can artificially add nutrients to water, we might not know certain components in soil that are important for the growth of nutritious vegetables. We also don’t know the impact of natural sunlight versus greenhouse light on the nutritional quality of the vegetables.

 

What are some of the nutritional advantages of hydroponic vegetables, and what are the disadvantages?

In hydroponic cultivation, nutrient quality can be very carefully controlled. While nutrients are also added to soil in conventional farming, it is more difficult to control and more likely to have fluctuations in its nutrient content. The downside of hydroponic vegetables is that how trace elements in soil affect the nutrition of vegetables is unknown. We might not be able to replicate the nutrient quality as well in hydroponic farming.

Another advantage is we can grow almost any produce locally, all year round.  Lettuce and tomatoes grow beautifully hydroponically. A local tomato contains more nutrients than one that has been imported and has sat on a truck for a few days before making it to your plate.

 

Do you see hydroponic vegetables as assuming a greater role in American diets?

Since hydroponic vegetables can be grown just about anywhere with the right space, I do think they will become more prevalent in American diets. Hydroponic gardens are playing a bigger role in cities, with people growing fruits and vegetables on their rooftops. With a growing population and climate change, alternative methods of growing fruits and vegetables are coming into play. We may already be buying hydroponic vegetables in grocery stores without knowing it. Growing hydroponically allows us to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables locally, rather than importing them from other countries, which causes a loss of nutrition in transit. This not only improves the nutritional quality of the vegetables that make it our plates or kitchens, but it is almost more environmentally friendly.  We unfortunately won’t know the nutritional impacts of hydroponic vegetables for a number of years, as more studies need to be done, but I think we will see them become more prevalent in grocery stores and on menus.

 

What do you see as the key takeaway for consumers here?

Bottom line: Eat vegetables. These alternative methods are growing and are here to stay with the boom in agricultural technology and climate change. Since we don’t have conclusive evidence at the current time about which method produces nutritionally superior vegetables, I would tell my patients to buy any vegetables they can get their hands on. Since very few people actually consume the three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruits recommended daily, I would not want to restrict consumers further on what produce they should buy. As the research continues to grow however, it will be interesting to see if indeed hydroponic vegetables can be nutritionally superior to conventional.

Also, though it would be great to have delicious local lettuce and tomatoes all year round, there is something very special about savoring the fresh tomatoes of summer while they are in season.

 

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

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Diet 101: Whole30

As a registered dietitian, I’ve got a healthy skepticism towards most diets. Being in private practice for almost a decade will do that to you. I’ve seen clients come in on just about every eating pattern imaginable, from raw-food to paleo and everything in between. With the growing popularity of Whole30, I set out to examine the basics of the diet and nutritional truths behind some of the claims.

 

What is Whole30?

Whole30 is an elimination diet, with shares a similar philosophy with the Paleo trend. Both recommend eating lots of fresh, high-quality foods while ditching anything processed. Specifically, you are removing all grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, certain preservatives and artificial sweeteners from your diet. According to the authors, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, these foods have been linked to hormonal imbalance, systemic inflammation, gut issues and more, though most of those claims aren’t backed by evidence-based research. Ideally, Whole30 is to be done strictly for 30 days; afterwards you can gently add back in said foods to see how your body responds.

 

Mindful eating

In addition to the diet recommendations, Whole30 encourages no calorie counting, measuring or weighing yourself for the entire 30-day process. Instead, the program focuses on non-scale victories, like improved sleep, skin, energy and overall feeling. The program isn’t promoted to be a long-term diet, but instead a reset button to focus on whole-foods that nourish your body.

As a long-time student of intuitive eating, I’m a big fan of switching the focus to non-scale victories and removing the added pressure of specific numbers and goals. For most dieters, these are big detractors and can often feel like punishment rather than an empowered choice. However, one of the tenets of intuitiveness is allowing yourself to eat whatever you want, without any parameters in place. Whole30 can fit this mindset if you are truly enjoying the foods you are eating and don’t feel deprived, but it’s not an automatic switch to mindful eating.

 

Whole grains are not the enemy

Whole30 encourages the removal of all grains; whole, unprocessed grains included. While some people report feeling better after the removal of gluten from their diets, many grains are naturally gluten-free. But in fact, eating whole grains may be more beneficial than taking them out. Grains contain essential micronutrients and both soluble and insoluble fiber, and they are also inexpensive and may improve longevity. In a recent meta-analysis published in BMJ, whole grains can help you live longer by reducing your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and infections diseases. The same report also states than consuming 90 grams of whole grains daily cuts risk for all mortality by 17 percent.

While you can get enough fiber from fruits and vegetables, there is likely not an additional need to cut out all grains. If you feel that you do better without gluten, check out gluten-free varieties like quinoa, millet, oats, sorghum and brown rice.

 

Processed-free

While the term processed-free gets thrown around often, there is some benefit in reducing intake of packages snacks, sugary treats and preservatives. For one, eliminating intake of these foods almost all but forces you to cook from scratch, which has big payoffs. Cooking your own meals, especially for novice chefs, reinforces life-long habits, improves kitchen confidence and helps you control exactly what goes into each meal. For those who have shied away from cooking before may find that they actually enjoy the process and will continue to do so well after Whole30 is complete.

It’s no secret that the Standard American Diet is high in refined grains, sugar, salt, processed meats and salt. An excess of any of these has been linked to both chronic disease and a lower mortality rate. Tackling the Whole30 plan allows you to check-in with your current diet to asses how much of these foods you currently eat and positive ways to cut back.

 

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.” 

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Strategies For Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

We swear off pizza, ditch the cookies and vow to exercise every day. But research shows that this is the time of year when we start backsliding on our resolutions. In fact according to polling, more than 20% of us aim to lose weight and eat better in 2017, but less than 10 percent actually succeed. Here are 5 practical strategies to help you keep your resolutions and reach your goals.

 

Set (small) goals

Stay motivated by setting and accomplishing weekly or even daily goals. Have one less cup of coffee, go an extra half mile on the treadmill or add an extra serving of fruit to your daily diet. Establish some foundational habits you can build on as time goes by.

 

Splurge…occasionally

Dramatic changes almost never last, and giving up on foods you absolutely love typically just breeds resentment. Allow yourself to indulge in a not-so healthy food or beverage from time to time – not depriving yourself completely will set the stage for long-term success.

 

Have a plan B

Have a plan for when things start to slip. If you never made it to the gym, do some sit ups and push-ups at home. Forgot to pack a healthy lunch? Check an online menu ahead of grabbing something to-go to make a comparable choice. Instead of beating yourself up about things not going as planned, get over it and move on. No one is perfect, especially when it comes to eating.

 

Find accountability

Having someone hold you accountable for your actions can have a big impact. Team up with a friend or join a group class for exercise, and trade nutrition goals with someone so you can both stay on point. If you need help getting started, a few sessions with a registered dietitian is a very worthwhile investment (some are even covered by insurance). You can find one near you at EatRight.org

 

Reward yourself (just not with food)

It’s important to celebrate your health and wellness accomplishments, but cupcakes probably aren’t the best prize. When you reach certain milestones on your quest for better health, reward yourself with calorie-free incentives such as a massage, new running shoes or some music for your exercise play list.

 

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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The New World of Sodas

Love a fizzy beverage but know better than to reach for the usual can of high-sugar soda? If you’re mindful about nutrition but enjoy something sweet and bubbly, these four better-for-you choices might be for you.

 

Soda Specifics

A can of a traditional soda contains carbonated water spiked with high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, flavorings and possibly caffeine. Many also include phosphoric acid. You don’t need to be a nutrition expert to know that soda can be bad for you. Aside from all the empty calories, all those processed ingredients can have a negative impact on digestion and bone health. There are some sodas on the scene that use better quality ingredients and cut back on some of the sugar by using fruit juice. Despite the higher end quality of these sparkling drinks, it’s still best to sip in moderation.

 

San Pellegrino Fruit Beverages

Juices of citrus, pomegranate and prickly pear are combined with sugar and carbonated water. These taste fairly sweet, so it’s a nice idea to dilute with some San Pellegrino sparkling water. Try the Aranciata Rossa (blood orange) for a sweet and sour treat.

 

Dry Sparkling

These artfully packaged drinks are lightly sweetened with cane sugar. Available in a wide variety of not-too-sweet flavors including Cucumber, Rainier Cherry and Rhubarb, the website features food pairings and mixology recommendations.

 

Izze

These carbonated juices are made from blends of juice and sparkling water. Flavors include Grapefruit, Blueberry, Apple and Raspberry Mint, and all are naturally colored.

 

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale

Bruce Cost makes icy cold bottles of unfiltered effervescent ginger root and cane sugar. Spicy fresh ginger can act as a digestive aid and creative flavors like Jasmine Tea and Passion Fruit with Turmeric contain other antioxidant rich ingredients.

 

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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