At first glance, brunch menus may seem lighter and healthier than foods shared during winter holidays, but pastries, high-fat meats, and heavily-dressed salads can add unnecessary calories and unhealthy fat to your meal. By making a few simple changes, you can stay on track and enjoy a healthy brunch.
Work in more spring fruits and vegetables.
Spring means more fresh fruits and vegetables are available so don’t pass up the opportunity to fill the table with healthy options. Radishes, asparagus, spring peas, spinach, arugula, raspberries, and strawberries are just a few of the healthy foods that you can work into soups, salads, and fresh salsas. Center your dessert options around fresh fruits by serving yogurt parfaits or incorporating them into frozen yogurt and frozen pops.
Keep heavy food portions small.
On special occasions, it’s okay to enjoy higher calorie foods like cheese, sausage, or bacon in moderation. You can help to keep servings under control by using limited amounts for flavor and keeping portions small. Use half the amount of cheese or meat in baked casseroles and omelets. Instead of sausage patties, serve smaller sausage balls. Fill plates with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and use meats and cheeses as a small side to complement healthier foods.
Modify your baked goods.
Serve biscuits and scones made with whole grain flours. Add oatmeal to pancake and muffin batters. Whole grain flours and oats will add fiber to make these foods more filling. Substitute mashed fruits and apple sauce to reduce the need for excess oil and sugar.
Find substitutes for alcoholic drinks.
Alcoholic drinks can drastically increase your calorie intake. Find appealing substitutes to ensure you pass them up without feeling deprived. Make alcohol-free Bloody Mary’s and create spritzers with fresh fruit juices and sparkling water.
Having a plan in place will help things run smoothly and reduce the chance that overlooked details will force you to grab an unhealthy option. The spring brunch menu plan below will help you outline your shopping list and estimate the time needed to prepare your meal. The recipes can easily be doubled for larger crowds. Sit down to a portion of each of these foods and you will only consume 449 calories and 4.2 grams of saturated fat along with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Carbohydrates are often the first food component to be blamed for empty calories, excess sugar, and weight gain. The truth is that carbohydrates play an important role in health. They are the body’s main source of energy, and they fuel the central nervous system and influence mood. There are plenty of refined, high-fat, and high-calorie carbohydrate sources with little nutritional value, but don’t label all foods that contain carbohydrates as bad. The following healthy foods are high in carbs and provide many nutritional benefits.
Bananas contain natural sugar, but they also contain pectin, potassium, soluble fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese. Pectin aids digestion and regulates the impact a banana has on spiking blood sugar; potassium helps to maintain normal blood pressure; and soluble fiber is linked to a reduced risk for heart disease.
Oats, oatmeal, and oat bran are another valuable source of soluble fiber. Research shows that the soluble fiber in oatmeal can lower total cholesterol, which can lead to a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Research also suggests that unique antioxidants in oats may also help to protect against heart disease. The beta-glucan in oats has been found to reduce a rise in blood sugar in type 2 diabetes patients, when compared to white rice and bread.
Beans provide complex carbohydrates with heart-healthy soluble fiber, as well as plant-based protein. Beans are full of vitamins and minerals, such as folate, iron and potassium, many of which are linked to reduced cholesterol and blood pressure. Different varieties of beans also contain unique phytonutrients that act as antioxidants.
Peas contain unique phytonutrients that act as antioxidants to fight inflammation. These phytonutrients have also been associated with protecting against stomach cancer. Peas contain omega-3 fatty acids, and each cup provides about 7 grams of protein.
Sweet potatoes are full of vitamin A, which plays a role in the health of the eyes, skin and teeth. Substances responsible for the color of sweet potatoes, such as anthocyanins, help to fight inflammation that is often associated with chronic disease. Sweet potatoes have also been found to help regulate blood sugar.
While it’s tempting to drastically reduce calories in an effort to lose weight fast, research has shown time and time again that this is not an effective approach to long-term weight loss. While it’s important that you control the number of calories you consume, too much restriction can halt your progress.
How many calories do I need?
The number of calories needed for weight loss is determined by several factors, and varies from person to person. MyFoodDiary uses the information you provide such as age, gender, and current activity level to determine a safe and effective number of calories to eat each day to reach your goals.
As you decrease calories, it’s important not to drastically cut food intake. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that women eat no fewer than 1,200 calories per day and that men eat no fewer than 1,800 calories per day. These numbers can change based on the individual. The Mayo Clinic recommends talking with your doctor about the minimum number of calories that are safe for you. Any intake lower than these recommended amounts should be closely monitored by your medical professional.
What happens if I don’t eat enough calories?
Extreme calorie restriction affects your health and your ability to lose weight. Low calorie intake reduces the amount of food you can eat and may prevent you from getting all necessary nutrients. Research shows that calorie restriction reduces leptin, a hormone that helps to regulate appetite. Low levels of leptin can lead to hunger and overeating. Research also shows that low-calorie dieting increases stress and the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. As a result of this stress response, the body conserves energy and the metabolism slows to combat the risk of starvation. While you might think that drastically cutting calories is sure to result in weight loss, these changes in stress levels are actually associated with weight gain.
How can I reach my goals if I can’t reduce my calorie intake?
Losing weight at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week has been found to be the most effective method to keep it off for good. In order to lose weight at this rate, you will need to reduce calorie intake by 500 to 1000 calories per day. This reduction could put some people below the recommended 1,200 and 1,800 calorie minimum. This is one reason that exercise is an important tool for weight loss. The calories burned during exercise contribute to the calorie deficit you need for weight loss. By combining reduced food intake with regular exercise, you can still lose weight without severely limiting your calorie intake. This will prevent your metabolism from slowing and ensure your rate of weight loss remains steady.
Eating to improve health is a positive change, but sometimes a focus on food and controlling body weight reaches extreme levels. When healthy habits turn to an obsession with food, restricted eating, or excessive overeating, it’s important to take action. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) provides helpful tips for identifying eating disorders and provides guidance for seeking help.
Types of Eating Disorders
The NEDA recognizes three main eating disorders -- Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. A fourth group is titled, Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder, or OSFED. Disorders in this category have similarities to those mentioned, but may not fit the specific requirements to be diagnosed and classified under them.
While all three involve eating patterns that can lead to life-threatening results, each has unique practices and characteristics. Anorexia Nervosa is marked by self-inflicted starvation that leads to concerning weight loss. Bulimia Nervosa involves binging on large amounts of foods and then purging in some way, such as by self-induced vomiting. Binge Eating Disorder involves binging on large amounts of food, but there is no purging component, which can result in excessive weight gain and obesity related diseases.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
It’s important to know the warning signs and symptoms of eating disorders so that you can identify when healthy habits and weight loss have gone too far. Both Anorexia and Bulimia can include a strict exercise routine, along with a withdraw from family and friends. Additional signs of Anorexia include inadequate food intake, an obsession about body weight, and an extreme concern over specific components of food, like calories or fat grams. Being fat is a common complaint, and all these practices persist despite reaching a healthy weight. Over time, the severe food restrictions and over exercise lead to a dangerously low body weight.
With Bulimia, large amounts of food are consumed at once and eating may be followed by frequent trips to the bathroom. In addition to vomiting, other forms of purging can include the use of laxatives or diuretics. Major concern over weight loss and food control become evident, and the binge and purge cycle becomes a ritual that disrupts normal, daily life.
Binge Eating Disorder also involves eating large amounts of food and is associated with feelings of being out of control. Eating is associated with shame or guilt. Those affected eat until they feel discomfort and often eat when they are not hungry.
Ways to Help
Eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of age or gender. These disorders have many underlying issues that can vary by person, which makes them challenging to treat. It’s often difficult for a person suffering from a disorder to see the need to get help. As a friend or loved one, it’s important that your concern be expressed in a loving way and that you remain supportive. It’s also important to take action as soon as you notice that there could be a problem. The longer eating disorders persist, the more dangerous they become. Once medical tests are conducted to diagnose the disorder, a path of treatment can be outlined to help patients return to better emotional and physical health.
A long, dreary winter can easily get you down, but paying special attention to your food intake may help combat this seasonal slump. Healthy eating has a positive influence on your mood and attitude while reducing stress, anxiety, and the symptoms of depression. Try incorporating healthy foods that are loaded with these nutrients to beat the winter blues.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acids that is not produced by the body, so it must be consumed from foods. It works with other vitamins and minerals to make serotonin, a neurostransmitter (a chemical messenger in the body). Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, and higher levels of serotonin may help improve mood.
Foods that contain tryptophan: Meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids found in fish and some plant foods. They are important for the health of the brain and the central nervous system. Mood swings and depression are some of the symptoms associated with omega-3 fatty acid deficiency.
Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout and sardines, algae, nuts and nut oils.
Vitamin B12 plays a part in the production of brain chemicals that influence mood. Other B vitamins, like B6 and folate, also play a role, but inadequate B12 can be of special concern for vegetarians. It’s possible to get the B12 you need, but this is a vitamin that requires special attention when cutting out animal products. Low levels of B vitamins have been linked to depression.
Foods that contain vitamin B12: Lean meats, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs.
Low magnesium has been found to reduce levels of serotonin. Getting adequate magnesium can be accomplished by eating magnesium-rich foods, but also stay aware of other foods and drinks that have been found to lower magnesium, such as excess coffee, soda, salt, and alcohol.
Foods that contain magnesium: Whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D is most often associated with bone health, but levels may also be related to mood disorders. Studies show that low levels of vitamin D are linked to a greater risk for depression. While the easiest way to boost vitamin D is exposure to sunlight, it can also be consumed through food.
Foods that contain vitamin D: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring, fortified dairy, and eggs.
Selenium is a mineral that acts as an antioxidant. Lower intakes of selenium have been linked to poor mood. One study in older adults suggests that adequate selenium intake may reduce the symptoms of depression.
Foods that contain selenium: Seeds, Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, and whole grains.