Protein is one of the 3 macronutrients in our diet and is needed for the growth, building, and repairing of our bones, muscle, cartilage, and skin. A diet high in protein helps to regulate appetite and hunger levels, increase muscle mass and strength, and boost metabolism. Protein makes us into who we are and is necessary for the body to function. properly.
Many people think of meat and animal products as our sources of protein, but there are also many plant-based sources to choose from. Unlike meat products, plant foods are not complete proteins. However, eating a variety of foods and combinations of grains, legumes, and seeds throughout the day allows the body to make complete proteins from plant-based foods. Good sources of plant proteins include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy.
Plant-based dietary patterns have been shown to decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. These benefits are related to plant-based proteins being high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals while lower in saturated fat and cholesterol compared to animal products. Incorporating plant-based proteins into your eating pattern may be health-promoting and add a good variety of essential nutrients. Below are some examples of plant-based proteins and how they can be eaten or prepared.
Soybeans can be eaten whole or made into a variety of products including tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and other dairy and meat alternatives. Tofu is a popular meat substitute because it takes on the flavor of the dish it is prepared with and provides a good source of protein, calcium, and iron.
Legumes are a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas, and lentils. Legumes may be eaten whole as a snack or added to soups, salads, and other dishes. Legumes can also be pureed and made into dips, spreads, plant-based meatballs, or burgers. Examples include kidney beans, hummus, black bean burgers, sugar snap peas, string beans, red lentils, and black eyes peas.
- Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds can be eaten whole or made into nut/seed butter, milk, and other dairy alternatives. Examples include almonds, pecans, chia seeds, peanut butter, cashew milk, sunflower seed butter, and flaxseed milk.
- Whole Grains
Whole grains can be eaten alone or added to mixed dishes like soups, stews, salads, and stir-fries. Whole grains are also made into bread, pasta, cereals, and even milk. Examples of whole grains include barley, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, whole wheat bread, and oat milk.
Be on the lookout for more meals featuring plant-based proteins at Quincy Public Schools!
Eating seasonal produce offers better taste, increased freshness, additional health benefits, lower cost, and is more sustainable. Eating seasonally ensures the produce is nutrient-dense because after fruits and vegetables are harvested, enzymes break down the cell structure which leads to a loss of flavor and nutrients. When the weather gets cooler, hearty fruits and vegetables are great additions to comfort foods like casseroles, stews, soups, mashed veggies, and pies. The fruits and vegetables outlined below are “fall foods,” harvested between the months of August and February.
Apples are high in fiber and vitamin C, and their abundance of phytonutrients may reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Apples are great on their own, in salads, and baking and there are thousands of varieties out there.
Tip: most nutrients are in the peel so never discard it
Harvest Season: August to November
Brussels sprouts are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Brussels sprouts contain vitamin K and vitamin C, which help with inflammation and immunity.
Tip: phytochemicals are better used by the body when eaten raw
Harvest Season: September to March
Cauliflower contains almost every vitamin and mineral that we need and is particularly high in vitamin C, folate, and choline. Cauliflower contains antioxidants that may slow cancer cell growth and carotenoids that help fight heart disease and cold symptoms.
Tip: can be used to replace grains and legumes to make recipes lower in carbohydrates; cauliflower rice can be purchased or prepared by chopping florets into small pieces
Harvest Season: September to February
Dates are high in fiber, iron, potassium, lutein, calcium, and magnesium which help with digestion, red blood cell production, blood pressure, eye, and bone health.
Tip: when dried, nutrients are condensed and more easily digested
Harvest Season: September to December
Kale is high in fiber vitamin A, K, and B6, calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Kale has long been considered a superfood as it is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols, but kale must be eaten with vitamin-C-rich foods and healthy oils to make these nutrients more bioavailable.
Tip: massaging the kale with lemon juice and oil helps to break down some of the tough fiber making it easier to chew and digest
Harvest Season: September to December
Pears are packed with fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc with similar health benefits as apples.
Fun fact: pears are recommended as a safe standby for food preparation as they are the least allergenic of all fruits
Harvest Season: August to February
Pomegranate is rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamin E, and C, and research suggests may help prevent high blood pressure, premature aging, inflammation, and cancer.
Fun fact: pomegranate has three times more antioxidants than red wine and green tea
Harvest Season: August to December
Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A, C, E, and B, potassium, copper, manganese, and iron. Pumpkin is high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives orange vegetables their color.
Tip: pumpkin seeds can be roasted for a snack and are high in healthy fats (omega-3 and omegas-6), protein, and minerals (phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, iron)
Harvest Season: October to February
Squash is rich in vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that supports eyesight, immunity, cancer prevention, inflammation, and heart health, and vitamin D. There are many squash varieties, including butternut, acorn, turban, delicata, Hubbard, and spaghetti that can be prepared numerous ways (steamed, roasted, baked, stuffed, pureed, mashed, or made into a soup)
Tip: choose squash that seems heavy for their size, heavier squash indicated better quality, edible flesh
Harvest Season: September to February
Sweet potatoes offer similar nutrients as squash, like vitamins A, B, and C, and are even higher in fiber and minerals like bone-building calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. Different colored sweet potatoes vary in nutrients; orange potatoes contain significant vitamin C and more vitamin A, and the purple potatoes are packed with anthocyanin which reduces inflammation.
Tip: when buying sweet potatoes, the exterior should be free of nicks or shriveling, these are signs of spoilage
Harvest Season: September to December
Importance of a Balanced Diet
Fruit and vegetables are just the beginning of a healthy, well-balanced diet. It also includes whole grains (such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice), protein (chicken, fish, turkey), dairy, and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil).
These food groups are intended to help us grow and become strong. I’m here to help you understand why eating a healthy and balanced diet is important for you.
Eating your fruits and vegetables shouldn’t just be done to please your parents; it also has a lot of benefits for you too. They help provide essential nutrients to help you grow and develop as you get older, in addition to supplying you with everything you need to be the best that you can be.
How many of you play a sport or participate in another activity, such as band or math club? A healthy diet contributes to how far you can kick a soccer ball or how fast you can solve a math equation. It might not seem like, but a balanced diet contributes to both your physical health and mental health by giving your body and brain the energy it needs.
Other balanced diet benefits:
- You will get sick less often
- Gives you the energy to get through the day
- Helps you do better in school
- Grow bigger and stronger
I’m sure you have all been told to eat a healthy diet, but what does that really mean? A healthy, balanced diet consists of a variety of different foods, of all colors and textures. You want to include all foods groups, such as protein, whole grains, dairy, and fats into your daily meals. A combination of all foods groups and including a variety of different ingredients are the key to eating a well-balanced diet.
Try experimenting with a new fruit or vegetable each week or try that meal your mom has been begging you to eat. You might discover a new favorite food while also providing your body with the energy it needs!
Fruits, Vegetables & Immunity
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults consume 1.5–2 cups of fruits and 2–3 cups of vegetables per day. Only 9% of high school students meet their recommended fruit and vegetable intake.
Fruits and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin A. Vitamin C is notoriously known for immune system boosting properties. Although flu season is coming to an end, consuming enough of these antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables year-round will help to provide your immune system with the tools it needs to protect against cold/flu viruses.
A few ways to increase your fruit & vegetable intake:
Antioxidant Packed Smoothie
- Frozen mixed berries
- 1-2 handfuls of spinach
- Greek Yogurt
- Unsweetened almond milk, skim milk or water
- Make this a smoothie bowl to eat by keeping the consistency thicker and add whole grain granola for added crunch and fiber!
Apples & Nut Butter
- Slice up apples into desired shape
- Dunk in peanut or almond butter and enjoy!
- All fruits are welcome in this fruit salad! Strawberries, apples, oranges are commonly known for their vitamin C content and are fantastic to incorporate.
Veggies & Hummus
- Consuming a variety of veggies such as broccoli and carrots to dip in hummus can be an easy, fun way to get a serving of veggies in!
Mindful snacking is a great way to satisfy your hunger between meals and is encouraged. Snacking is often viewed in a negative light as something that shouldn’t take place in a healthy diet but that is far from the truth. It’s all about what you choose to snack on and how much of it! It’s important to listen to hunger cues to ensure you’re eating enough but stopping when full.
Being aware of portion sizes can help promote mindful snacking behaviors and proper energy balance.
When snacking, take your time finishing your snack. It takes up to 20 minutes for our brains to get the signal from our stomach that we are full. Taking your time while snacking will also promote healthy digestion.
Try to aim for a snack that contains fiber, protein, and fat to help keep you satiated until your next meal.
Hydrate well between meals! 64oz of water per day is recommended to promote proper hydration and optimal digestion.
Mindful snacking examples:
- Vegetables and hummus
- Peanut butter and jelly made with whole-grain bread
- Rice cakes and almond butter
- Yogurt and fruit
- A handful of nuts
- Fruit salad
- Harvest Snapeas
- Dark chocolate in moderation
Goodbye 2020, Goodbye Dieting
As you may or may not have experienced firsthand, dieting doesn’t work and can have harmful effects. As we age, many of us get wrapped up into diet culture, which demonizes certain foods and ways of eating and praises or shames people based on how they eat and their body size. The diet mentality can lead to stress, feelings of failure, poor body image, low self-esteem, and eating disorders. Many diets are marketed as “lifestyles” but when you take a closer look, they are still diets— suggesting to restrict the amount of food one eats, to limit the variety of foods, and to use food rules and restrictions as a way to manipulate body size.
Intuitive eating is a way to free oneself from diet culture and promote a healthy relationship with food, the mind, and the body. Two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch wrote Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, a book about “rebuilding a healthy body image and making peace with food.” The book goes through the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Feel Your Fullness
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
- Respect Your Body
- Movement- Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health- Gentle Nutrition
These principles are not meant to be strict rules. Intuitive eating is not a diet and is not about perfection. It is about honoring our hunger cues, approaching food from a place of self-care, not demonizing foods, and giving ourselves permission to eat all foods. It’s about prioritizing and honoring our bodies’ physiological, emotional, and social needs. We are all born intuitive eaters, and it’s possible to get back to our intuitive eating roots even if we’ve been consumed by diet culture.
It’s also possible to help your child to nurture their intuitive eating mindset by:
- Providing your child with meals and snacks regularly that include a variety of foods to choose from.
- Not labeling foods as “good” or “bad”- try talking about foods in a neutral way.
- Trusting your child to be the expert of their body- they know how much they need to eat.
- Not focusing on your child’s weight.
- Encouraging movement that brings joy. Exercise should not be a chore or have the focus of losing weight.
- Recognizing any issues that you may have with food or your body and work on addressing them.
- Following Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Eating.
Intuitive eating is evidence-based. Research has shown that intuitive eating is associated with greater body appreciation, positive emotional functioning, greater life satisfaction, unconditional self-regard and optimism, and psychological hardiness (Bruce, et al, 2016). It is also associated with improved blood pressure, blood lipids, and dietary intake (Van Dyke & Drinkwater, 2014). Studies have found that intuitive eating during teenage years is associated with better mental health and eating behaviors in adulthood.
Want to learn more? Check out these books and podcasts:
- Intuitive Eating
- The Intuitive Eating Workbook
- The Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens: A Non-Diet, Body Positive Approach to Building a Healthy Relationship with Food
- Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming
- Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense
- Bruce LJ, RicciardelliLA. (2016). A systematic review of the psychosocial correlates of intuitive eating among adult women. Appetite.96:454-472.
- Van Dyke N, Drinkwater EJ. Relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Aug;17(8):1757-66. doi: 10.1017/S1368980013002139. Epub2013 Aug 21. PMID: 23962472.
The Science of Baking Cupcakes
Have you ever wondered what the purpose of baking powder in a recipe is? Or eggs? Believe it or not, baking is science! Try this experiment with your kids to learn about the purpose of baking powder, eggs, and sugar in cupcakes.
Choose a cupcake recipe, such as this one, and divide the recipe to make each of the four variations:
- Prepare the batter as written in the recipe (with all ingredients) for the control cupcakes.
- Prepare the batters with missing ingredients:
- One without egg
- One without baking powder
- One without sugar
- Bake the cupcakes following the recipe.
- Compare the cupcakes with missing ingredients to the control cupcakes. Notice how the variations differ in appearance, texture, and taste.
***Remember to not try the batter before baking, as raw egg and raw flour can be harmful.
Purpose of egg: Eggs are a source of both fat and protein. Eggs act as a binding agent– the protein in them provides structure. Their fat makes baked goods tender and richer. Too much egg leads to a low rise because there is too much protein structure, while too little egg results in baked goods not being tender because of the lack of fat.
Purpose of baking powder: Baking powder is a leavening agent. It contains sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar, which is an acid. The cream of tartar reacts with the sodium bicarbonate when mixed with a liquid (the batter). The reaction is activated once again when exposed to heat (put in the oven). This reaction between sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar produces carbon dioxide bubbles, leading to a light and fluffy baked goods.
Purpose of sugar: Sugar attracts and holds water, which helps to make baked goods soft and moist. When creaming butter and sugar, air bubbles are created. The air bubbles expand during baking, which makes the baked goods light in texture. Sugar is also used in food because of its sweet taste. The sweetness that sugar provides often makes food more palatable. Cupcake recipe: https://prettysimplesweet.com/vanilla-cupcakes/#wprm-recipe-container-11988
Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes
Active kids need food to fuel their workouts. Three to four hours before exercise, a meal containing carbohydrates and a moderate amount of protein will provide the energy needed to fuel athletes. Closer to the start of exercising (30-60 minutes prior), a snack consisting of easy to digest carbohydrates and a small amount of protein is best. If athletes do not eat enough carbohydrates, their performance will be impaired. Avoiding high-fiber and high-fat foods before activity will help to prevent an upset stomach. Pre-exercise snacks that contain both carbohydrates and protein include:
- Turkey roll-ups and an apple
- Grapes and cheese
- Low-fat yogurt with granola and fruit
- Cereal with milk and fruit
When participating in physical activity for more than 60 minutes, carbohydrates are needed during the activity to help maintain blood glucose levels and delay fatigue. Here are some snack ideas for refueling during exercise lasting longer than 60 minutes:
- Fruit juice
- Orange slices
After exercise, carbohydrates and protein are needed to replenish what is lost. The best carbohydrate to protein ratio post-exercise is 4:1. This will help to restore glycogen stores and promote muscle protein synthesis. It is ideal to refuel within 60 minutes after exercising. Great snack ideas for post-physical activity refueling include:
- Chocolate milk
- Fruit with peanut butter
- Crackers and string cheese
- Smoothie with fruit and yogurt
- Hummus and pita
- Turkey sandwich
Staying hydrated is also very important. Fluids are needed before, during, and after exercise— every 15-20 minutes. Water will suffice for most young athletes. Adding fruit to water, such as lemons, limes, and strawberries may help to encourage hydration in those who do not like plain water. When exercising for longer than 60 minutes, replenishing sodium may also be necessary. Pretzels or saltines are two easy options that will do the trick.
It is necessary for young athletes’ calorie needs to be met. They should still be gaining weight normally, despite their increase in activity. Children are natural intuitive eaters, so when their caregivers provide them with food to eat, they are good at regulating how much they need. Adequate nutrition helps kids to feel less tired and have more energy, helps them to grow, and can help to prevent injuries. Focus on helping your child to fuel their body with foods that they enjoy, help them to feel good, and help them to be able to perform their best!
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