Understanding Food Allergies

Food allergies are getting more attention in recent years – which is a good thing! Around 32 million Americans, including 5.6 million children, are living with a potentially life-threatening food allergy. The more we know about allergies, the better!

Food Allergy vs Food Sensitivity

First things first; food allergies and food sensitivities or intolerances aren’t the same thing. Food allergies are a serious medical condition where your body’s immune system reacts to a specific food protein. It can look like getting a rash or hives, swelling, dizziness, itching, and even anaphylaxis (a serious reaction that can affect breathing and blood pressure read more here).  

If someone thinks they or a family member may have a food allergy, a medical provider should be the one to test and diagnose the allergy.

Food sensitivities or intolerances do not involve the immune system. Things like lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity, and others are in the digestive system. They can cause serious discomfort like bloating, constipation, cramping, and nausea, but they can’t be fatal. Read more about food sensitivities.

Most Common Food Allergies

People can be allergic to many different kinds of food. Common food allergies are:

  • Peanuts – One of the most common food allergies in children and adults, peanuts – a legume (different from a tree nut) – is usually a lifelong allergy.
  • Milk and Dairy Products – Cow’s milk is the most common allergy in infants and young children, though most outgrow it. It is also one of the most common adult food allergies too.
  • Eggs – A common food allergy for babies and children, many will outgrow it. Some adults remain allergic, and it can be to egg whites, or egg yolks since they contain different proteins.
  • Shellfish – Allergies to this type of seafood, including shrimp, prawns, lobster, and crayfish are typically lifelong, though most people don’t experience a reaction until they are an adult.
  • Soy – Most common in infants and young children, most outgrow a soy allergy. Soy is a legume like peanuts but being allergic to one doesn’t mean someone will be allergic to the other.
  • Wheat – This allergy affects children the most, but many outgrow it by age 10. This is not the same a celiac disease, wheat allergies are to the proteins found in wheat, not gluten.
  • Tree Nuts – Not the same as peanuts, tree nuts include almonds, cashews, walnuts, and more. An allergy to these nuts also includes things like nut butters and oils. Being allergic to one type of tree nut increases the risk of becoming allergic to other tree nuts.

What Next?

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with a food allergy, try not to feel overwhelmed. While it does mean you need to change what you eat, there are many resources and people and groups to support you, including NOAH’s Nutrition Services team.

Make sure you have a proper diagnosis with a medical provider. Discuss with them what the diagnosis means. Will the child outgrow it? What medications should you have? What does a severe reaction look like?

Finally, the most important thing to know is that the best way to prevent an allergic reaction to food is to avoid that food. That is what most doctors recommend along with having an epi-pen on-and always to treat any reaction to food allergies. Even a small amount can cause a reaction, but here are some tips.

There is promising news about a new intensive treatment called “food allergen desensitization” which is available and can resolve the allergy in some cases – though definitely not all cases. If you are interested in learning more about this treatment, ask your medical provider if this is right for you.

To get you started on figuring out your food allergies and staying safe, check out our recipes with different ingredient options.

Fiber and Your Colorectal Health

By Stephanie Olzinski, MS, RDN |Nutrition Supervisor

Fiber is an important nutrient. But why is it important and what can we eat for more fiber are common questions.

Simply put, fiber helps keep us ‘regular’ going to the bathroom more frequently. That is a good thing! When we are regular, stool spends less time in the large intestine. That means less chance of harmful bacteria or carcinogens (substance capable of causing cancer) building up. In a study, The American Medical Association found that when 1,500 patients with early-stage colorectal cancer began eating more fiber-rich foods, it reduced their risk of dying from colorectal cancer by 20%!

Good Sources of Fiber

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Oats or oatmeal
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains or whole wheat products like wheat bread and wheat pasta

A good tip for determining what foods are a good source of fiber is to read the nutrition facts label on products. Grab a package of bread at your house or the next time you’re in the grocery store – if the line for fiber says one serving contains at least three grams of fiber per serving, then it’s a good source of fiber. You can also look for 100% whole wheat as the first ingredient. 

Daily Fiber Intake

Fiber recommendations are different for everyone depending on age and any other medical conditions. In general, achieving an intake of over 20 grams of fiber per day is recommended. Start by trying to add just one extra fiber source daily, like switching to oatmeal for breakfast or adding a larger serving of vegetables at dinner. Not only does a gradual approach make it easier to adapt to new eating habits over time, introducing fiber into your diet slowly prevents bloating and cramping sometimes associated with increased fiber intake.

Kickstart your new eating habits with these tasty, fiber-rich, recipes:

Pozole Verde with Chicken - A Good Source of Fiber

Pozole Verde with Chicken

Hominy is a product of corn and is considered a grain. Low in fat and high in fiber, it has a similar taste to corn though the texture is much different. A main staple in Mexican cuisine, hominy is highlighted in this flavorful soup. We’ve taken it to another level by using chicken instead of the traditional pork shoulder. Also, add in those veggies for an added nutrition benefit and this hearty soup will be a crowd pleaser on any table.

Summer Black Bean and Rice Salad - Good Source of Fiber

Summer Black Bean and Rice Salad

This cold salad is perfect for a warm spring day! It’s packed with protein, high in fiber and delicious flavors that will rock your taste buds. Make this dish ahead of time and keep refrigerated until it’s time to serve! Make this recipe even more fiber-rich by choosing brown rice over white.

Avo Mango Smoothie - Good Source of Fiber

Avo-Mango Smoothie

The bright flavors of the mango and the creaminess of the avocado and banana is a perfect match. Plus you get some amazing health benefits from this smoothie that make it a yummy treat for anyone!

Drink Plenty of Water

Speaking of helping things move through your digestive tract, it is extremely important to drink more water once you start increasing your fiber intake. Constipation can be an unwelcome side-effect of consuming fiber without being sufficiently hydrated. Most people require a minimum of 64 ounces of water per day. You can use the same gradual method here and start by drinking one extra glass or bottle of water each day. It can also be fun to get a special water bottle for yourself, or set a reminder on your phone to remember to take a few extra sips of water throughout the day.

While making just a couple adjustments to your diet can impact your colorectal (and overall) health; there are many other factors like age, family history… that contribute to your risk of colorectal cancer. The next step after prevention is detection. If you are age 50 or older and at average risk for colorectal cancer, NOAH providers recommend you begin your regular screenings now.  It just might save your butt.

Let’s Talk About Eating Disorders

By Maggie Hensley, RD | Registered Dietitian

The last week of February is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. This week helps raise awareness on how common eating disorders actually are. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), 28.2 million Americans experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week also helps end the stigma of getting help and treatment for them. Have questions about eating disorders, signs, and treatments? You aren’t alone.

What’s an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are mental and physical illnesses. People of all ages, genders, and ethnicity can face eating disorders. In general, an eating disorder involves a person becoming focused on food and weight issues to the point where it gets harder to focus on other parts of your life.

Eating disorders include several related conditions each with its own unique symptoms. Some of the more well-known eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa – involves weight loss and challenges having a healthy body weight for age and height.
  • Bulimia Nervosa – is when a person goes between cycles of binge eating and getting ride of the excess food they ate, either by vomiting, laxatives, or excessive exercise.
  • Binge Eating – involves someone losing control over their eating, usually eating large amounts of food even when they aren’t hungry.

The more we learn about eating disorders, the more we realize these illnesses can affect any type of person; people who have larger bodies, men, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and people of minority or marginalized identities can have eating disorders. Many people who don’t fit our perception of what an eating disorder looks like don’t get diagnosed because of current kinds screening tools used.

Signs & Symptoms of Eating Disorders

According to the NEDA, there are emotional and physical signs that someone might be living with an eating disorder. Some signs like weight fluctuations, extreme mood swings, uncomfortable eating with others, dizziness, sleep problems, and others listed here.

The NEDA also has a confidential online screening for those 13 years and older here. The earlier an eating disorder is detected, the sooner treatment can begin, and the better the person’s recovery. And recovery is important, because after opioid-dependency, eating disorders are the second most deadly mental illness.  

Eating Disorder Prevention

The best way to avoid an eating disorder is to have a healthy relationship with food. That usually means ditching diets that call for heavy calorie restriction or eliminating an entire food group. Anything less than 1800 calories per day is usually not advised. When thinking about any diets, remember that all food groups are important, even carbohydrates!

It is also important to practice body positivity or body neutrality. This helps us realize we are so much more than just our bodies. This can help us learn that bodies come in all kinds of shapes, colors, and sizes and to celebrate that amazing diversity!

If you are unhappy with your current eating patterns or want to pursue a healthier relationship with food, talk to NOAH. We have on-site dietitians who are experts in nutrition and can help you with those needs.

Mouth Healthy Eating

Recipes and Tips to Keep Your Heart Healthy

By Brandon Bolton, RDN | Nutrition Educator

February is American Heart Month, so let’s raise awareness and support for heart health in the fight against heart disease!

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, and it is the leading cause of death worldwide. There are many risk factors that impact your chances of having heart disease. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states that preventing heart disease starts with knowing what your risk factors are and what you can do to lower them.

Some risk factors for heart disease include:

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood cholesterol
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • smoking
  • lack of physical activity
  • unhealthy eating behaviors

Heart Healthy Eating Habits

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by maintaining a heart healthy diet. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

  • Eat a balance of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein sources
  • Try to have at least half of your grain intake come from whole grains such as 100% whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa
  • Aim for 1 to 2 cups of fruit daily
  • Aim for 1 to 3 cups of vegetables daily
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products when having milk, cheese, or yogurt

If your menu needs a pick-me-up or you’re looking for some heart healthy recipes to get you started, try these yummy options which are brand new to NOAH’s recipe collection:

Peaches N’ Cream Overnight Oats

This yummy breakfast tastes great and includes plenty of fruit, dairy and fiber to get your day off to the right start. It’s super easy to whip up before bedtime and ready to enjoy the next morning. Swap out the peaches for seasonal fruit and enjoy a variety of flavors throughout the year.

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

This salad packs a punch when it comes to heart health. Lentils are high in potassium which counters the bad effects of salt and lowers blood pressure. Bonus, just 1/2 cup of lentils contains almost one-third of the recommended daily fiber intake.

Jackfruit “BBQ” Sandwiches

Grab some extra napkins because this sandwich is dripping with classic barbecue flavor. While jackfruit can be used as an alternative source of protein, it only contains about three grams of protein per serving so you may want to add some beans to your plate for a well-rounded meal. Since cholesterol is only found in foods that come from animals, switching to a plant-based protein meal one night a week is a great way to lower total cholesterol intake.

For even more tasty menu options, check out our full library of nutritious recipes.

Snack Food Month – Tips for Healthier and More Satisfying Snacks

By Mina Goodman, RD | Nutrition Educator

When thinking about snacking, what often comes to mind is chips, cookies, ice cream and more foods we consider to be “junk foods”. What we may not realize is that snacking can be a healthy way to keep blood sugar and energy levels steady between meals, prevent overeating at mealtimes, and provide more opportunities to get the right nutrients each day. Below are some tips for healthier snacking that are easy, delicious, and dietician approved.

  • Think of snacks as small meals. Use the MyPlate model to plan your snacks. At a minimum, try to include a source of protein and a source of carbohydrate, for example an apple with peanut butter or grapes with cheese. When possible, add vegetables to the snack to add fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals to your diet.
  • Make small changes to your current snacks. For example, if you like snack packs from the supermarket that include a mix of meat, cheese, nuts, crackers, or fruit, try to recreate your own healthier (and less expensive) version at home. Look for low sodium cold cuts, low fat cheese, unsalted nuts, berries, and high fiber or whole grain crackers.
  • Enjoy a variety of healthy snacks. Check out NOAH recipes or speak with a dietitian at NOAH for personalized snack ideas.

Here are some examples to get you started!

  • 2 Tbsp hummus with 1 cup cucumbers, carrots, grape tomatoes and/or celery sticks
  • 4 dates with 1/4 cup almonds
  • 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter with 2 celery stalks and raisins (ants on a log)
  • 1/4 cup salsa and 1/3 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup low sodium cottage cheese with fresh tomato and basil
  • 6 oz Greek yogurt with
    • 1/2 Tbsp honey
    • 1/2 sliced apple or mango
  • 20 grapes dipped in Greek yogurt and frozen
  • Brown rice cake and 2 Tbsp almond, peanut, or sunflower butter
  • Turkey jerky and 1/4 cup mixed nuts
  • 1 hardboiled egg with whole wheat bread or high fiber crackers

10 Bright Ideas for Weight Loss

By Kahti Paydar, RDN | Registered Dietician

Are you finding yourself wanting to lose weight?  Do you feel your weight loss New Year’s resolution got off to a late start?  Believe it or not, there’s still time to achieve your health goals!  Make small, gradual, and realistic changes that will build upon one another, creating a healthier future.  Start today by reviewing these strategies to help you control your weight:

1. Think “choose well” not “diet.”

Instead of trying to starve yourself, choose foods that allow you to fill up on fewer calories.  These are foods that are:

  • Minimally processed
  • High in fiber
  • Low in fat and sugar

Examples include fruits, vegetables, cooked whole grains such as barley, oatmeal, buckwheat bulgur (cracked wheat), quinoa, millet, wild rice and brown rice and legumes for protein. Always pick leaner choices such as white breast meat of poultry (without skin), pork loin, lean beef (eye of round roast and steak, sirloin tip side steak, top round roast and steak, bottom round roast and steak, and top sirloin steak), legumes, and seafood.  Prepare these items with little added fat.

2. Don’t skip breakfast.

Starting the day with a high fiber, low fat breakfast will help you consume fewer calories the rest of the day.  Never skip breakfast!

3. Only eat when you are hungry.

Avoid eating to relax, cure boredom or overcome depression.  These are emotions that trigger a desire to eat. Instead, brainstorm better ways to distract, calm, comfort, and nurture yourself without turning to food.  Take a walk or call a friend.

4. Snack for better health.

  • Snack only when hungry.
  • Instead of packaged snacks, think “out of the bag” and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables with low fat dips or fat-free, light yogurt.  Baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and oatmeal also make great snacks.

5. Limit sugar & refined starch.

  • Limit the amount of foods you eat that contain added sugars.
  • Limit refined starch foods that are made with flour and are low in fiber.  Fill up instead with high-fiber choices such as corn, potatoes, yams, lima beans, peas, dried beans, and whole grains.

 6. Use less fat when cooking.

  • Prepare foods using lower-fat cooking methods such as baking meats on a rack, broiling. Grilling, roasting or steaming instead of frying.
  • Eliminate “extra” fats.  Trim visible fats from meats.  Rinse cooked ground meat.  Remove skin from poultry.

7. Be a smart shopper.

  • Avoid shopping when tired or hungry as that’s when you’re more likely to walk away with unnecessary impulse buys.
  • Fill grocery carts 2/3 full of whole foods instead of convenience foods.  These include fat-free dairy, fruits, whole grains, vegetables, seafood, chicken, and lean cuts of meat.
  • Spend most of your time in the produce section of the store.  Buy plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Aim for 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Follow these storage tips to keep produce fresh longer.

8. Be a little adventurous.

  • Be adventurous and expand your range of healthful food choices.
  • Buy a low-fat cookbook to help you modify traditional high-fat favorites, and to introduce quick healthful dishes.

9. Take care when eating out.

  • When you eat out, choose soup and salad or smaller dishes that are low in fat.
  • Ask for sauces and dressing on the side.
  • If portions are large, take half home.

10. Try to make exercise fun.

  • Take up several aerobic activities that are enjoyable, such as an aerobics class, walking, bike riding, swimming, running, hiking, tennis, softball, etc.
  • Work out aerobically at least an hour a day, five or six days a week.
  • Include weight lifting, also known as resistance training, three to four times a week.
  • Celebrate your effort by determining the number of calories used in your workout.

Cook Your Way to a Better Weight

By Kahti Paydar | Registered Dietitian

You can cook healthier at home without sacrificing flavor.  It’s easy to make your own recipes a little lower in fat and calories and make progress towards a better weight.

Just follow these tips to lower the fat content of your meals and snacks.

Cook With Less Fat

It’s great to start with low-fat ingredients, and a little know-how is all that’s needed to keep them low in fat by choosing the right cooking method. Clean up is usually easier, too.

  • Nonstick skillets usually require very little fat for cooking.
  • Bake, broil, microwave, grill, or steam.
  • Avoid frying and pan frying.  Most recipes can be adapted by baking items instead or by using less fat.
  • Defat gravy by using a special cup or chilling so fat rises and hardens at the top.

Reduce Refined Oil, Reduce Fat

Use fat-free salad dressing or a small amount of oil and vinegar to dress salads.

Measure, don’t pour!

Whenever possible, you should use liquid oils such as olive oil and canola oil, instead of shortening, lard, or butter.

Choose Lean Protein for Better Weight

  • Lean cuts of meat/poultry:
  • Chicken or turkey: white meat, no skin
  • Tenderloin of beef
  • Pork loin
  • Seafood without breading or topping
  • Trim excess fat before cooking
  • Use less meat: A 3-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards.  Think of meat as a condiment.  Fill in with more vegetables.

Choose Fat-Free Dairy

There are lots of products on the market to help you make better choices in the dairy case, but going for fat-free or reduced-fat is a great start. Consider these:

  • Skim milk
  • Fat-free sour cream
  • Light margarine (look for trans-free)
  • Fat-free half-n-half (you can cook with it!)
  • Reduced fat cheese (use cheese sparingly)

Use More Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables, for the most part, are naturally low in fat and sodium.  Add more vegetables to casseroles, soups, stews, and pasta dishes. Here are some great produce guidelines from one of NOAH’s other Registered Dietitians.

NOAH’s Nutrition Services team works with patients to help them achieve a healthier, better weight. Learn more here!

Celebrate Soup Month With Some New Recipes

Soup can be one of the best meals. Not only can it be an all-in-one meal, but it can make you healthier! A study by Iowa State University found that eating soup was tied to a lower body-mass index, smaller waist circumference, and a reduced risk of being overweight. People who eat soup also usually get more servings of vegetables in their diet.

January is a great time to enjoy your favorite soups and try some new recipes as well. NOAH’s Nutrition Services Team has a number of delicious, nutritious, and comforting soups to enjoy all year!

Three Soups to Try to Celebrate Soup Month

Lemon Chicken Soup

This soup is both delicious and packed with immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin C. It is full of vegetables and uses orzo pasta to bring the whole meal together. Substitute another pasta or rice for the orzo if you prefer, and throw in extra vegetables to really increase the benefits from this meal.

Hearty Beef Stew
Hearty Beef Stew

Rosemary & Garlic White Bean Soup

This recipe could not be easier. With just a few ingredients, this dish packs a powerful punch giving you both a healthy, filling meal, and something that is delicious. You can enjoy this as a main dish, or on the side of a lean protein.

Hearty Beef Stew

This is a classic comfort meal during winter months. It is a filling, complete meal by itself. Make a full – or double – recipe for plenty of extra to freeze for another time.

Kale & White Bean Soup

This delicious soup packs a punch of nutrients with turmeric, garlic, and kale accompanying the other ingredients. It is also dairy-free and make a great side dish or main dish.

These and other recipes from NOAH’s Nutrition Team are sure to get you started on a healthy 2022. Contact NOAH if you are interested in meeting with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

Is Your Produce Storage Helping or Hurting Your Foods?

By Noel Ugarte, MS, RD | Registered Dietitian

Where we store produce – our fruits and vegetables – impacts their shelf-life. Some fruits and vegetables like high humidity, others can sit on the counter, while some put off high amounts of ethylene gas causing nearby produce to ripen (or spoil) quicker. If you’re trying to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, then knowing where they should live in your kitchen is very important, but it can be confusing. Here is a quick produce storage guide to help you store food in the correct location:

Produce Storage Tips

Crisper Drawer:

  • Apples*
  • Pears*
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Watermelon (cut)
  • Broccoli*
  • Cauliflower*
  • Peppers
  • Leafy greens (kale, lettuce, spinach, arugula, etc.)
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Cucumber*
  • Mushroom
  • Zucchini

Countertop:

  • Bananas*
  • Citrus
  • Stone fruit
  • Tomatoes

Dark and away:

  • Onions*
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes*
  • Winter squash
  • Watermelon (whole)

Pro Tip 1: If you’re wondering about produce that is not on this list, notice where the produce is stored at your grocery store. Are they misted in a refrigerated shelf? Are they in a room temperature bin? This can tell you where to store them at home.

Pro Tip 2: Want to eat a piece of produce that is not yet ripe? Place the unripe produce in a paper bag on the counter for 1-2 days. This traps the ethylene gas around the fruit or vegetable and promotes quicker ripening time.

Pro Tip 3: Is your countertop produce ripening a bit too quick? Toss them in the crisper drawer in the fridge to slow the ripening process and get a few more days out of them.

*These are fruits and vegetables that emit especially high amounts of ethylene gas. Ethylene is a natural gas produced by fruits and vegetables as a growth regulator. The more ethylene a fruit or vegetable produces, the quicker it will ripen. Unfortunately, the gas can also quicken the ripening process of other surrounding produce. Store these fruits and vegetables away from others to help prolong shelf life.

If you have more questions about what foods are helpful for a healthy diet, or for specific health needs, contact NOAH today to speak with one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists. To learn healthy meals, snacks, and more to make with your produce, check out the NOAH recipe library!