It’s National Cheese Lover’s Day! You Can Eat Cheese as Part of a Healthy Diet

It’s true: You can have your cheese and eat it, too, especially on this national food holiday. Many cheeses are naturally lower in fat and calories, like Parmesan and Romano. Use the size of your thumb for measuring the proper portion, which is about an ounce of cheese. One ounce of Parmesan has more protein than the same amount of red meat (10 grams) and clocks in at 111 calories, 7 grams of fat and 5 grams of saturated fat. An ounce of whole-milk mozzarella has 85 calories, 6 grams of fat and 4 grams of saturated fat. Cheese also has calcium, vitamin B12 and phosphorus, and counts towards the USDA’s recommendation of three daily servings of dairy.

In honor of National Cheese Lover’s Day, we chatted with perhaps the biggest cheese lover of them all, Cathy Strange, the global cheese buyer for Whole Foods Market, about how she incorporates cheese into her overall diet (which we think probably consists 95 percent of cheese). She and her team carry over 1,500 varieties of cheese that are free of artificial flavors, added growth hormones and preservatives.

• Buy only the amount of cheese you will actually eat within three days. Keep it in your crisper drawer wrapped in wax paper or in a Tupperware container. Cheese is actually alive, so the more it sits and is exposed to air, the less delicious it will taste.

• Buy more-flavorful cheese. High-quality and tasty cheeses like clothbound cheddars, intense blues like Stilton and creamy Camemberts mean that you’ll feel totally satisfied by eating the recommended 2 ounces. That’s actually a lot of cheese.

• Cheese is actually a probiotic and is easy to digest (especially older cheeses).

• Cheese should really have only four ingredients. If your cheese has more, it’s likely processed. Know what you’re eating by looking at cheese labels and making sure the primary ingredient is: milk.

• No lactose? No problem — 97 percent of lactose is eliminated when whey is removed from milk in the cheese-making process. And aged cheeses like Parmesan have no detectable lactose whatsoever.

• Pair cheese with fruit or nuts for a balanced snack. A handful of skin-on nuts (for bitterness), or a few slices of apple or even pineapple, is the perfect pairing for cheese.
So go ahead and celebrate!

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EHR Incentive Programs: Where We Go Next

Where We’ve Been

As we mentioned in a speech last week, the Administration is working on an important transition for the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program. We have been working side by side with physician organizations and have listened to the needs and concerns of many about how we can make improvements that will allow technology to best support clinicians and their patients. While we will be putting out additional details in the next few months, we wanted to provide an update today.

In 2009, the country embarked on an effort to bring technology that benefits us in the rest of our lives into the health care system. The great promise of technology is to bring information to our fingertips, connect us to one another, improve our productivity, and create a platform for a next generation of innovations that we can’t imagine today.

Not long ago, emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and other facilities were sparsely wired. Even investing in technology seemed daunting. There was no common infrastructure. Physician offices often didn’t have the capital to get started and it was hard for many to see the benefit of automating silos when patient care was so dispersed. We’ve come a long way since then with more than 97 percent of hospitals and three quarters of physician offices now wired.

It’s taken a tremendous commitment by physicians, hospitals, technologists, patient groups and experts from all over the country to make the progress we’ve made together in a few short years. The EHR Incentive Programs were designed in the initial years to encourage the adoption of new technology and measure the benefits for patients. And while it helped us make progress, it has also created real concerns about placing too much of a burden on physicians and pulling their time away from caring for patients.

Transitioning From Measuring Clicks to Focusing on Care

Last year, the Administration and Congress took two extraordinary steps to put patients at the center of how we pay for care and support physicians. First, the Administration set a goal that 30 percent in 2016 and 50 percent in 2018 of Medicare payments will be linked to getting better results for patients, providing better care, spending healthcare dollars more wisely, and keeping people healthy. And, second, Congress advanced this goal through the passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), which considers quality, cost, and clinical practice improvement activities in calculating how Medicare physician payments are determined. While MACRA also continues to require that physicians be measured on their meaningful use of certified EHR technology for purposes of determining their Medicare payments, it provides a significant opportunity to transition the Medicare EHR Incentive Program for physicians towards the reality of where we want to go next.

What Comes Next

We have been working side by side with physician and consumer communities and have listened to their needs and concerns. As we move forward under MACRA, we will be sharing details and inviting comment as we roll out our proposed regulations this spring. All of this work will be guided by several critical principles:

  1. Rewarding providers for the outcomes technology helps them achieve with their patients.
  2. Allowing providers the flexibility to customize health IT to their individual practice needs. Technology must be user-centered and support physicians.
  3. Leveling the technology playing field to promote innovation, including for start-ups and new entrants, by unlocking electronic health information through open APIs – technology tools that underpin many consumer applications. This way, new apps, analytic tools and plug-ins can be easily connected to so that data can be securely accessed and directed where and when it is needed in order to support patient care.
  4. Prioritizing interoperability by implementing federally recognized, national interoperability standards and focusing on real-world uses of technology, like ensuring continuity of care during referrals or finding ways for patients to engage in their own care. We will not tolerate business models that prevent or inhibit the data from flowing around the needs of the patient.

What This Means for Doctors and Hospitals 

As we work through a transition from the staged meaningful use phase to the new program as it will look under MACRA, it is important for physicians and other clinicians to keep in mind several important things:

  1. The current law requires that we continue to measure the meaningful use of ONC Certified Health Information Technology under the existing set of standards. While MACRA provides an opportunity to adjust payment incentives associated with EHR incentives in concert with the principles we outlined here, it does not eliminate it, nor will it instantly eliminate all the tensions of the current system. But we will continue to listen and learn and make improvements based on what happens on the front line.
  2. The MACRA legislation only addresses Medicare physician and clinician payment adjustments. The EHR incentive programs for Medicaid and Medicare hospitals have a different set of statutory requirements. We will continue to explore ways to align with principles we outlined above as much as possible for hospitals and the Medicaid program.
  3. The approach to meaningful use under MACRA won’t happen overnight. Our goal in communicating our principles now is to give everyone time to plan for what’s next and to continue to give us input. We encourage you to look for the MACRA regulations this year; in the meantime, our existing regulations – including meaningful use Stage 3 – are still in effect.
  4. In December, Congress gave us new authority to streamline the process for granting hardship exception’s under meaningful use. This will allow groups of health care providers to apply for a hardship exception instead of each doctor applying individually. This should make the process much simpler for physicians and their practice managers in the future. We will be releasing guidance on this new process soon.

These principles we’ve outlined here reflect the constructive and clear articulation of issues and open sharing of views and data by stakeholders across the health care system, but they also promote our highest priority – better care for the beneficiaries of the Medicare and Medicaid program and patients everywhere.

The challenge with any change is moving from principles to reality. The process will be ongoing, not an instant fix and we must all commit to learning and improving and collaborating on the best solutions. Ultimately, we believe this is a process that will be most successful when physicians and innovators can work together directly to create the best tools to care for patients. We look forward to working collaboratively with stakeholders on advancing this change in the months ahead.

The post EHR Incentive Programs: Where We Go Next appeared first on Health IT Buzz.

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The New Wave of Frozen Dinners

Have you taken a stroll down the frozen-foods aisle lately? Dinner options are a lot different than you might remember. There are way more choices to select from, including many that claim to be a healthier choice. As if that weren’t confusing enough, there are also delivery services that bring frozen meals to your doorstep. But are these frozen meals really healthier, quick alternatives to a home-cooked meal? Here are four you may want to give a try.

Luvo (pictured at top)
Luvo believes that frozen meals should be delicious, nutritious, convenient and environmentally friendly. They use antibiotic-free meat and poultry, and non-GMO ingredients whenever possible. The meals contain no high-fructose corn syrup, no artificial preservatives, no artificial flavors or colorings, and no hydrogenated fats. All entrees contain one or more servings of fruits and vegetables. Sample meals include Kale Ricotta Ravioli, Chicken & Harissa Chickpeas, Quinoa & Vegetable Enchiladas and Red Wine Braised Beef & Polenta.

Evol Lean & Fit
Evol, which is “love” spelled backward, has a Lean & Fit line of delicious meals like Parmesan Polenta & Veggies, Coconut Lemongrass Chicken and Fire Grilled Chicken Poblano. The Lean & Fit line is low-fat, gluten-free and made from chicken raised without antibiotics. Meals range from around 250 to 300 calories, and their sodium content is between 15 and 25 percent of the daily recommended amount.

Elite Lifestyle Cuisine
This healthy-meal delivery service uses flash-freezing to help maintain the quality of their food. They have also found it to be the best method to help preserve the quality and taste of their products. Meals are prepared with calorie balance in mind, using high-quality proteins, small amounts of healthy fats and low-glycemic-index carbs. The meals are additive- and preservative-free, with low amounts of sugar and sodium, and the meats in them are hormone- and antibiotic-free. Dishes include 3-Bean Chili, Asian Stir Fry with Chicken Over Brown Rice and Heart-Healthy Salmon. The cost is the downside of these meals, which run between $8.95 and $12.50 each if you order a la carte; you can choose a package plan to save.

Amy’s Organic Light & Lean
Although the Amy’s brand isn’t new to your grocery aisle, its Light & Lean choices are a newer addition. Amy’s offers 18 products in this lighter line, such as Macaroni & Cheese, Sweet & Sour Bowl and Black Bean & Cheese Enchiladas. Amy’s doesn’t use additives, preservatives or GMO ingredients. All foods are vegetarian and a good choice paired with a fresh green salad on the side.

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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5-Ingredient Salmon and Broccoli Stir-Fry

After New Year’s Day, when I’m back from holiday travel and indulging, my body craves a clean-eating detox diet. Light and flavorful seafood dishes hit the spot, since they’re packed with protein and good fats. Alas, fresh wild Alaskan salmon is out of season, so what’s a girl to do? It’s frozen salmon to the rescue. Since the texture of seafood changes from freezing, it’s important to add moisture back in and cook it right. I’ve also discovered that cutting salmon into bite-size pieces, like those in a stir-fry, also enhances the texture of this omega-3-rich fish.

Lately I’ve turned food waste prevention into high gear. You can nearly double your dollar by using the broccoli stems, a part of the plant that many people throw away. The key is slicing the meaty stems lengthwise once or twice, and then slicing crosswise 1/4-inch thick. This results in the stems cooking to the same doneness as the florets.

You can enjoy this dish as is, or served over steamed brown rice or brown rice noodles.

5-Ingredient Salmon and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 10 min

1 large bunch broccoli, florets cut bite-size, long stems sliced (about 4 cups)
1 medium orange, zest finely grated, fruit juiced*
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 pound salmon, skinned, patted dry, cut bite-size
2 cloves garlic, minced

Add 1/2 inch water to a large wok or saute pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli, covering loosely to allow steam to escape. Cook until bright green and nearly fork-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and transfer broccoli to a plate. Wipe remaining broccoli debris from the pan.

Combine the orange zest, juice and soy sauce in a small bowl. Season the salmon with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Place the pan on medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon high-heat cooking oil, like rice bran, canola or grapeseed. Tilt the pan to thoroughly coat the surface where you will be placing the salmon. Carefully add the salmon to the hot oil, reduce heat to medium, and sprinkle in the garlic. Cook undisturbed until browned on the bottoms, and the sides of the salmon turn opaque, about 3 minutes. Pour in the orange and soy sauce, and turn the salmon. Add the broccoli. Cook until the salmon is cooked through and the juice thickens a bit, about 3 minutes, reducing the heat to medium-low. To serve, spoon the sauce over the salmon and broccoli. Serve with rice or noodles, and additional soy sauce.

*Cook’s Note: If you prefer a bit sweeter and more orangey taste, prepare this dish with the zest and juice of 2 oranges.

Per serving: Calories 265; Fat 14 g (Saturated 2 g); Cholesterol 50 mg; Sodium 240 mg; Carbohydrate 15 g; Fiber 5 g; Protein 22 g

Michelle Dudash is a registered dietitian nutritionist, Cordon Bleu-certified chef consultant and the creator of Clean Eating Cooking School: Monthly Meal Plans Made Simple.

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Order This, Not That: Applebee’s

This neighborhood grill and bar is a convenient spot to take the family any night of the week. But does it offer the healthy choices you and your family deserve?

Appetizers

Order: If you need an appetizer, your best bet is to choose a warming bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup. It’s a touch high on the sodium, but it contains only 240 calories. If you’re really craving a finger-food app, then select the Grilled Chicken Wonton Tacos to split with a friend. These are spicy chicken-stuffed wonton shells with slaw and cilantro.

Per dish (Grilled Chicken Wonton Tacos): Calories 490; Fat 15 g (Saturated 3 g); Sodium 1,720 mg; Carbohydrates 48 g

Skip: Skip the Brew Pub Pretzels & Beer Cheese Dip, where the pretzels and cheesy dip are providing little or no nutrition. Not only are the calories insanely high in this appetizer, but the sodium is also through the roof.

Per dish: Calories 1,060; Fat 45 g (Saturated 15 g); Sodium 3,120 mg; Carbohydrate 131 g

Salads

Order: The Thai Shrimp Salad (pictured at top) has far fewer calories than any of the other choices. It’s an oriental salad blend with almonds and edamame, tossed in a chili lime vinaigrette and topped with shrimp, wonton strips, peanut sauce and fresh cilantro. To help cut back on the sodium, request the dressing on the side.

Per dish: Calories 390; Fat 19 g (Saturated 3 g); Sodium 1,490 mg; Carbohydrate 93 g

Skip: The Oriental Chicken Salad may seem like a similar healthy pick, but this mixture of greens tossed in a vinaigrette and topped with crispy noodles, toasted almonds and fried chicken is a calorie and sodium bomb. The grilled version has 110 fewer calories but a whopping 2,270 milligrams of sodium.

Per dish: Calories 1,390; Fat 97 g (Saturated 15 g); Sodium 1,600 mg; Carbohydrate 93 g

Mains

Order: If you’re looking for some lighter dishes, the Pub Diet menu is the place to look, with options all under 600 calories. The lightest dish on the menu is the Pepper Crusted Sirloin with Whole Grains. It’s a perfect way to take in your daily dose of whole grains and vegetables, including sauteed spinach and fire-roasted tomatoes.

Per dish: Calories 370; Fat 10 g (Saturated 4 g); Sodium 1,540 mg; Carbohydrate 43 g

Skip: Many of the burgers top the 1,000-calorie mark, but the worst offender in this category is the fish and chips (who would have guessed?). The Hand-Battered Fish & Chips are fried white fish fillets served with fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce. If you’re craving fried fish, you can make a healthier version at home tomorrow.

Per dish: Calories 1,970; Fat 136 g (Saturated 24 g); Sodium 4,180 mg; Carbohydrate 134 g

Desserts

Order: Applebee’s solved the problem of huge desserts by offering some smaller selections, such as the Blue Ribbon Brownie Bite and the Hot Fudge Sundae Dessert Shooter. Of the two, the brownie bite has the fewest calories.

Per dish (Brownie Bite): Calories 380; Fat 18 g (Saturated 9 g); Sodium 220 mg; Carbohydrate 52 g

Skip: The Blue Ribbon Brownie is a luscious, moist brownie with chunks of dark chocolate, nuts and hot fudge served with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. If you really want it, make sure to share it with at least three people!

Per dish: Calories 1,670; Fat 78 g (Saturated 40 g); Sodium 950 mg; Carbohydrate 220 g

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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Savory Rosemary Goat Cheese Quick Bread

It’s soup season, and serving homemade bread makes even ordinary soup from a can taste better. This savory quick bread lives up to its “quick bread” name in that it mixes up in a jiffy and requires no yeast rising time.

Goat cheese and rosemary are a classic flavor pairing from sunny Provence. (The third element of that classic pairing is Sauvignon Blanc, just as an FYI!) Sun-ripened golden raisins are added for contrasting sweetness — and because you can’t have too much sunshine in January.

If you’ve made banana bread, zucchini bread or another sweet quick bread, you’ll likely find savory quick breads to be a pleasant — and healthy — surprise. This savory quick bread has zero added sugar and is infinitely adaptable to what’s in your pantry; it can be stuffed with all sorts of nutrient-rich ingredient combinations, including:

• Sun-dried tomatoes, olives and feta cheese
• Green peppers, frozen corn and pepper Jack cheese
• Shredded carrots or parsnips, nuts and Swiss cheese

The core of this recipe is additional nutrient-rich ingredients — including reduced-fat milk, an egg and fiber-rich whole-grain flour — to help you make the most of your calories. And for a flavor-studded quick bread, there aren’t many of those calories: A slice has only 129 calories and a big 4 grams of protein.

This higher protein count is mostly thanks to the use of white whole-wheat flour, which has about 25 percent more protein than all-purpose flour. A mix of white whole wheat and all-purpose flour is used, since the all-purpose helps produce a lighter texture; but you could use entirely whole wheat — just add 1 additional tablespoon of milk and expect a bit denser bread.

So try mixing up this bread as soon as you get home from work; it bakes up in just 50 minutes. That’s enough time for you to change into some comfy clothes, warm up a can of soup, toss a bit of salad — and pour that glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Savory Rosemary Goat Cheese Quick Bread

Ingredients:
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup reduced-fat 1% milk
4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon dried cracked rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 ounces goat cheese, very cold and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Directions:
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.
2. Place the egg in a medium bowl; whisk in milk and butter. (It’s OK if there are still small chunks of butter remaining after whisking.)
3. In a large bowl, mix together baking powder, rosemary, salt and flours with a fork. Add the egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon just until combined. Sprinkle raisins and goat cheese over batter; gently fold in with just 2 or 3 strokes.
4. Pour into prepared pan; bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of bread comes out clean.

Makes about 12 servings.

Per serving (1/12th of recipe): Calories 129; Fat 5 g (Saturated 3 g); Sodium 701 mg; Carbohydrate 16 g; Fiber 2 g; Sugars 5 g; Protein 4 g

Serena Ball, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com, sharing tips and tricks to help readers find cooking shortcuts for making healthy, homemade meals. Her recipes are created with families in mind.

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Nutrition News: Best Diets, Blown Diets and Why Red Wine Is Better than Grape Juice

Resolve to Forgive Yourself

If you’ve already blown your New Year’s resolution to diet, don’t be too hard on yourself; it may be evolution’s fault. According to researchers at the University of Exeter, in England, humans have a natural urge to overeat in the winter because our ancestors needed to build and maintain body fat to survive when food was scarce. “Storing fat is an insurance against the risk of failing to find food, which for pre-industrial humans was most likely in winter,” Andrew Higginson, the study’s lead author, said in a news release. “This suggests that New Year’s Day is the worst possible time to start a new diet.” Now they tell us.

DASH Does It Again

Then again, if you are going to diet, you might as well pick a good one. After consulting a panel of health experts, U.S News has released its annual best-diet list, ranking diets based on which were “easy to follow, nutritious, safe and effective for weight loss and preventing diabetes and heart disease.” For the sixth straight year, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, originally developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to combat high blood pressure, claimed top honors as the Best Overall Diet. (It was also named the Best Diet for Healthy Eating.) The panel commended DASH — which encourages the consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, but little salt — for its “nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes and role in supporting heart health.”

Red, Red Wine (Will Make You Feel So Fine)

If wine is good for you, would grape juice be better, carrying all the same health benefits minus the alcohol? Actually, no. In response to that reader-posed question, New York Times Well blogger Karen Weintraub consulted experts and concluded, “Red wine is probably better for you than grape juice because the fermentation process involved in making wine changes the makeup of the juice, and the skin of the grape, which is loaded with healthful antioxidants, is more likely to be used in the winemaking process.” In terms of healthfulness related to nutrients known as polyphenols, red is better than white, which is better than beer, she noted. Plus, it’s not clear if the resveratrol in wine, which also has health benefits, is present in grape juice. Also, grape juice has a lot of sugar, which isn’t so great. And the alcohol in red wine isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Many observational studies have shown that drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation reduces the risk of coronary heart disease,” Weintraub noted. Cheers!

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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