Eating a healthful diet is easier when nutritious foods are more accessible. But it’s not enough to simply buy better choices. To make a habit of choosing healthy over less-healthy options, you want to make them as easy to eat, as visually appealing, and as everyday as the packaged treats that tempt you. That’s as important for kids as it is for adults. Convenience foods got their name because they’re ready to grab and go. To make healthy diet foods more convenient, put them front and center on your counter and at eye level in the fridge, not hidden on a shelf or buried in a dark corner of a cabinet. Make healthy foods more attractive — the same way that your grocer makes beautiful displays to entice you to buy. Create a visually appealing fruit bowl or raw veggie platter for easy munching. Making healthy food the norm at your house also can involve steps like getting in the habit of serving a vegetable at every meal, and cutting up fruit chunks for breakfast the night before. This will help make grabbing a handful of cherries, rather than a handful of chips, second nature to you and everyone in your family. Additional small yet important changes all around the kitchen will support this new approach. Arrange the freezer so you see frozen peas and…  read on >

While some might be wary about the cancer risks of searing a steak on a flaming grill, a few simple changes can lower that risk, a nutritionist advises. Cooking beef, pork, fish or poultry over high temperatures can lead to the formation of chemicals that can trigger changes in your DNA that increase the risk of cancer. “It might seem like everything fun causes cancer,” said Catherine Carpenter, a professor of clinical nutrition and a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. “But it’s fine to grill meat, you just need to be aware of what parts of it increase cancer risk, and then make lifestyle changes not only that you can live with, but that you can live with for a long time,” she said. Carpenter recommends four tips to reduce your cancer risk from grilled meats. Don’t grill meat on direct heat. Turn on the flame on part of the grill, and put the meat on the other part that doesn’t have any flame. Flip it. If the meat is exposed to direct flame, be sure to turn it over frequently to reduce your exposure to the harmful chemicals. Trim it. If portions of the meat become charred during grilling, cut them off before serving. That will also help reduce your exposure to these damaging chemicals.…  read on >

As Americans, we’re making some headway in our efforts to improve the quality of our diet, but we’re far from ideal levels. Research shows that healthier eating prevented over a million premature deaths in the 13-year period from 1999 to 2012, along with 8.6 percent fewer heart disease cases, 1.3 percent fewer cancer cases, and 12.6 percent fewer type 2 diabetes cases. An index that measures diet quality increased from 40 to over 48, but that’s still a long way from the perfect score of 110. Also, most of the improvement came from just two steps — reducing consumption of trans fat (largely because of government action to ban it) and sugar-sweetened beverages. Little progress was made in most of the key components of a healthy diet. An analysis of data from the USDA Economic Research Service by the Pew Research Center found that while we’re eating more chicken and less beef, we’re also each consuming 36 pounds of cooking oil a year — three times the amount Americans ate 50 years ago. We’re also each eating on average 23 percent more calories than we were back then. It’s no wonder obesity rates are so high. And yet it only takes small changes to make a difference. For instance, one report found that what’s needed to turn the average diet into one that can reduce…  read on >

Eating a nutritionally balanced high-quality diet may lower a cancer patient’s risk of dying by as much as 65 percent, new research suggests. The finding that total diet, rather than specific nutritional components, can affect a cancer patient’s prognosis “was particularly surprising to us,” said the study’s lead author, Ashish Deshmukh. Total diet, he explained, was one that appeared to be “balanced” and “nutrient-rich” with a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins and dairy. Deshmukh is an assistant professor with the University of Florida’s College of Public Health and Health Professions. To explore the impact of nutrition on cancer, the researchers sifted through data collected between 1988 and 1994 by the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Almost 34,000 people were included in the survey, which asked all participants to offer up a 24-hour diet diary. The team then used the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” as a yardstick for ranking the nutritional quality of the diets used by 1,200 people who had been diagnosed with cancer. The USDA guidelines specify serving recommendations for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, dairy, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. In turn, all 1,200 patients were then tracked for an average of 17 years, with researchers verifying all subsequent deaths — up to 2011 — through the U.S. National Center for…  read on >

Eating fish twice a week reduces your risk of a heart attack or stroke, the American Heart Association says. The AHA recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of non-fried fish, or about 3/4 cup of flaked fish, every week. Eating just one serving a week is better than eating none, particularly if it is swapping out a higher-fat meal containing processed foods. The organization advises people to eat a variety of fish with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, including: salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines or albacore tuna.

If more Americans ate healthier diets, the nation could save tens of billions of dollars in health care costs for major problems such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, strokes, hip fractures and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s the conclusion of a new study in which researchers assessed different scenarios and determined that boosting the number of Americans with healthy eating habits could save between $21 billion and $135 billion a year in health care costs. The amounts varied depending on how many more people improved their eating patterns and the type of diet they followed, according to the researchers. The researchers suggested foods such as fish, nuts, fruits and olive oil as components of a healthful diet. The study is scheduled for presentation Sunday at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, in Boston. “We found that increasing adherence to healthy dietary patterns by even 20 percent at a population level has the potential to save more than $20 billion in both direct and indirect costs associated with 10 major health outcomes,” said study lead author Carolyn Scrafford, senior managing scientist at Exponent, a scientific consulting firm. “That’s a significant saving from what we believe is a realistic shift in diet quality,” she said in a society news release. “Our results suggest that it’s worthwhile to educate Americans on these dietary patterns and their components,…  read on >

Not every food you eat has to be low-calorie when you want to lose weight. There are many nutritious and tasty foods that can help you feel satisfied, rather than deprived, and that’s important when you’re facing calorie restrictions day in and day out. The key to including them is careful portion control. Nuts are heart-healthy, especially almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts, but they come in at about 180 calories per ounce, so make that your daily nut limit. You’ll often see a portion described as a “handful,” but that’s too subjective a way to measure them. Use a food scale. Sweet potatoes have 120 calories per half-cup, but when slow roasted, they don’t need any toppings, especially not butter, which could easily double the calories. These vitamin A powerhouses are filling and loaded with many other nutrients, making them a very worthy vegetable among starches. Yes, olive oil is a fat. However, it’s a mono-unsaturated fat, which won’t raise your cholesterol level — unlike saturated fats like butter and lard. Though it’s 120 calories per tablespoon, all you need is a drizzle of oil for salad dressing or to saute vegetables or a chicken breast. To be very judicious with your use, use an oil sprayer. Avocadoes are rich in a wide variety of nutrients and taste rich, too –important when you’re trying to eat…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — Fish is a protein-rich food that may be very nutritious. But it can also harbor dangerous levels of mercury that could add it to the “do not eat” list for some people, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says. The FDA offers these suggestions for kids and women of child-bearing age: Don’t eat fish more than two or three times per week, especially if you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Eat a variety of fish. Limit children to 1-2 servings of fish a week. Don’t feed fish to infants or toddlers younger than 2. If you eat fish that is caught locally, check for advisories. If there are none, eat one serving and no more fish that week.

Recalls of assorted foods and different brands of ice cream over the past few years have put a spotlight on the germ known as listeria. And though many of these cases happened during manufacturing, the potential for contamination is actually greater for foods after they’ve arrived at supermarkets and other food stores. And one item at particular risk is store-sliced deli meat. One study that tested samples over 6 months in the deli departments of chain supermarkets in three states found listeria in almost 10 percent of samples. Even if surfaces that come into contact with food, such as meat slicers, are cleaned thoroughly, listeria can be transferred unintentionally from moist areas where it hides — even floors and drains. And unlike other types of bacteria, it can live and grow at some refrigerator temperatures. Listeria is a type of bacteria that can cause listeriosis, a serious food-borne infection. An estimated 1,600 Americans get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die. The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns, adults 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re healthy, eating contaminated food may cause typical food poisoning symptoms that you’ll recover from. But symptoms of listeriosis include diarrhea, upset stomach, fever, aches and chills, and can take days…  read on >

If mindless eating can put on the pounds, it stands to reason that mindful eating can help with diet success. In fact, studies show that “eating-focused” mindfulness can bring significant changes in weight, in how you approach food, and even in psychological well-being. This makes it especially helpful for binge eaters, but it’s also good for anyone whose first reaction to stress or any uncomfortable emotion is to reach for food. The goal of mindfulness is to help you develop a greater awareness of true hunger and the feeling of fullness, and to identify and work through the various triggers that lead to unnecessary eating. One simple way to apply the principles of mindfulness it to keep an eating diary. Whether in a traditional journal or through a food tracking app, you want to write down not just what you’re eating but also why you’re eating — are you hungry or just bored or stressed? To delve deeper into the practice of mindful eating, your options range from books for self-starters to training through mindfulness-based weight loss programs with weekly group meetings. These meetings can include one or more forms of meditation as well as mindful-eating homework so you can put into action what you learn in class. As with any technique designed to change behavior, the more effort you put in between sessions, the…  read on >