Top 10 Nutrition Hacks for 2022

Are you ready to learn simple ways to improve your nutritional health? We all want to eat healthy and delicious meals regularly. However, even though many of us try, we often don't give ourselves the best nutrition. Misinformation is a significant problem that prevents individuals from easily selecting and eating nutritious food.

Don't worry; try these top 10 nutritional hacks to take back the power and eat your healthiest meals.


#1. Don't Fall for Nutrition Scams
#2. Watch What You Drink
#3. Buy Fruits and Vegetables in the Freezer Aisle
#4. Eat 2-3 Different Colored Vegetables
#5. Disconnect Before You Start Eating
#6. Cook Once, Eat Three Times
#7. Review Your Diet
#8. Eat Using Smaller Plates
#9. Store Cut Hardy Vegetables in Water
#10. Prepare and Have Healthy Snacks Always Available

#1. Don't fall for Nutrition Scams

Every month you see advertisements for the "best" nutritional supplement or some excellent health food. Unfortunately, many of the advertised supplements and nutrition are not as good as they claim to be. Focus on nutritional facts, not what companies advertise.


Examples of Common Nutrition scams


Buy Multigrain Bread


Multigrain bread can be misleading as some multigrain bread are mainly simple carbohydrates like white bread, resulting in spiked blood sugar levels. The term multigrain is so ambiguous that it only indicates that the bread contains multiple grains without specifying the degree of refinement of the grains, which truly determines the bread's nutritional value. Hence, multigrain bread could have a mixture of mostly refined grains and small amounts of whole grain and be referred to as multigrain. Even terms like "contains whole grains " and "12-grain" can be used to promote bread containing mainly refined grains.

Look for bread with whole wheat, rye, or oats as the main ingredient. Whole grain adds fiber, minerals, and vitamins to your diet. If the bread contains whole wheat and oats (more than one whole grain), that would be even more nutritious.


Fresh Is More Nutritious Than Frozen


When it comes to fruits and vegetables, most people buy fresh over frozen produce. However, frozen could be better than fresh for some fruits and vegetables. In general, frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at or near peak ripeness and are often frozen within a few hours of being collected. Several studies have shown that frozen fruits and vegetables retain the nutrient content found in fresh fruits and vegetables. Though, be wary not to buy frozen fruit that has been stored for more than one year as some nutrients start to break down after this time. Also, try to avoid canned fruits and vegetables as the nutrient loss occurs faster than frozen produce.


Yogurt with fruit at the bottom is best


Yogurt is a great food source for probiotics, and fruit is an excellent source of numerous vitamins and other beneficial compounds. Combining them is a "no-brainer", so yogurt with fruit at the bottom should be a winner. However, when you look at the yogurt with fruit at the bottom, you notice that the fruit is usually like jelly or paste. What most don't know is that this form of fruit adds high sugar levels to your diet (20-28g). Want yogurt with your fruit? Just add fresh or thawed frozen fruit to your yogurt before eating them.


#2. Watch What You Drink

As pre-diabetes and diabetes continue to rise in the US and worldwide, renewed efforts are needed to reduce the high consumption of sugary drinks.

A 2019 comprehensive study looked at the effect of sugar-sweetened beverages or artificially sweetened beverages on people's risk of mortality (1). This study included 37,716 men and 80,647 women free from chronic diseases at the start of the study for 28 to 34 years.


After adjusting for significant diet and lifestyle factors, they found:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages increased mortality or death.

  • Sugar-sweetened drinks increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

  • High intake of artificially sweetened beverages was associated with cardiovascular disease and total mortality, mainly in women.

  • Drinking artificially sweetened beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with moderately lower mortality risk.

Several studies suggest that sugar-sweetened beverages increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and some diet-related cancers, like breast cancer and colon cancer (2,3,4,5).

Two quick facts about sugar-sweetened beverages (6):

  • The single largest source of added sugar in the US diet

  • Soda/energy/sports drinks represent 11.1% of carbohydrates in 2 to 18-year-olds

A typical soda can add 13% of an adult's sugar daily requirement. This is equivalent to 9.75 teaspoons of sugar (39g). Next time you go to the grocery, look at the sodas and the amount of sugar (carbohydrate) in each can, then try putting nine tablespoons of sugar in a glass and decide if you want to consume this in one drink.


#3 Buy Fruits and Vegetables in the Freezer Aisle

Save money on your favorite produce in the freezer aisle year-round! Research shows that frozen fruits and veggies, picked and prepped at their prime, can be even more nutritious than the fresh stuff. Just steer clear of anything with added sugar, syrup, or sauces.


#4. Eat 2-3 Different Colored Vegetables


We have all heard you must eat your fruits and vegetables for good health. To ensure you are getting enough vegetables and a good variety of vegetables, try to eat at least two different colors of vegetables with lunch and dinner.

Why are vegetables so important in our diet?

Eating three servings of vegetables each day lowers the risk of several diseases and increases longevity (7).


Pro-tip: Buy vegetables that are in season for your local area so you would get fresh produce for the lowest price.


#5. Disconnect Before You Start Eating


Do you enjoy eating, drinking, watching TV, YouTube, or checking your email? Chances are you do. Consider this: a 2013 analysis of twenty-four studies (8) showed:

  • Eating when you are distracted causes a moderate increase in immediate food intake

  • Eating when you are distracted causes an even larger increase in later food intake

Hence, you should practice attentive eating if you want to consume less.


#6. Cook Once, Eat Three Times

We waste time when we cook for one meal. If you are cooking lentils or brown rice, cook enough for at least three meals. Cooked lentils and brown rice last for four days in the fridge and at least three months in the freezer. If you find it difficult to cook so many dishes simultaneously, consider joining a freezer bag cooking group (sometimes called divide and conquer groups). Each person cooks 2-3 dishes in very large proportions to share with others in these groups. If you cook two dishes and the group has four members, you could have eight dishes. Not only does it save time to cook more, but it also allows you to have a wider nutritional variety for each meal.

For example, you cook brown rice, lentils, stew chicken, sweet potatoes, green beans, squash, and zucchinis. On Monday you can have brown rice, lentils, stew chicken and squash, on Tuesday you can have sweet potatoes, stew chicken, green beans, zucchinis, and on Wednesday you can have brown rice, lentils, green beans, and squash. Okay, I am getting hungry thinking about these meals, so I need to go to the next top nutrition hack.


#7. Review Your Diet

Do you have nutritional goals? Do you want to lose weight, gain weight, or have more energy when you work out? Determine how many calories you take in on average every day over one week. Once you know, you can take steps to reduce or increase your calorie intake as needed. Remember, although calories are important, it is also important to take into account the quality of the food to obtain your nutritional goals.


Pro-Tip: If you want to diet to lose or gain weight, you are more likely to achieve your goal if the diet is easier to follow. Customize your diet to your lifestyle.


#8. Eat Using Smaller Plates

Yes, studies have found that we are likely to eat less if we use smaller plates. When people were given larger bowls, they ate 16% more than when given smaller bowls (9). Using smaller diameter and volume plates, bowls, and serving utensils were also beneficial for reducing food intake (9).


#9. Store Cut Hardy Vegetables in Water

Having precut, easily accessible vegetables will make your life so much easier. Certain vegetables like carrots, celery, parsnips, and radishes retain their freshness longer when stored in water in the fridge than just leaving them in a container. How long can these vegetables last in water? About five days. For best results, replace the water every two days. You can also store cut potatoes in water, but it is best to leave them for no more than one day.


Pro-Tip: If you cut apples and can't eat all of them, store the rest in water. This prevents the apple's exposure to oxygen which causes the apple to turn brown.

#10. Prepare and have healthy snacks always available

Spend an hour and pre-portion single servings of different healthy snacks for the month. When you are hungry at odd hours or need a snack after lunch or dinner, you now have well planned healthy snacks available.


Some examples:

  • Almonds

  • Dry Roasted Edamame

  • Pistachios

If you don't have the time to portion your snacks, try to buy prepacked healthy snacks like roasted seaweed packs or plain yogurt, to which you can add fresh berries easily.


Remember

"If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!"

- Benjamin Franklin


Pro-tip: When shopping at the grocery store, shop mainly around the perimeter, which contains fresh produce and whole foods.


Bonus: If you have trouble implementing the food hacks suggested, use a food app to help you.

Are you overwhelmed with remembering what is healthy and most nutritious for you?


Several apps are available that can simplify your life. Apps that I use include Fooducate and Yuka. With Fooducate, you can enter your recipes and get their nutritional value. Yuka allows you to scan food barcodes and see their potential impact on your health in the form of a rating. When a product could negatively affect your health, the App recommends healthier alternatives.


With these top food hacks, you are ready to develop healthy habits that will help you throughout life.


Written by Aldrin V. Gomes, PhD, FCVS, FAHA


References


(1) Vasanti S. Malik, V.S, Li, Y, Pan, A, De Koning L, Schernhammer E, Willett WC, Hu FB. (2019) Long-Term Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Mortality in US Adults. Circulation. 139:2113–2125.

(2) Malik VS, Pan A, Willett WC, Hu FB. (2013) Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 98:1084–1102.

(3) Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després JP, Willett WC, Hu FB. (2010) Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 33:2477–2483.

(4) Fung TT, Malik V, Rexrode KM, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. (2009) Sweetened beverage consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 89:1037–1042.

(5) Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. (2014) Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Intern Med. 174:516–524.

(6) Reddy J, Krebs-Smith SM. (2020). Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. J Am Diet Assoc 110(10):1477-84.

(7) Dong D. Wang et al. (2021) Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mortality. Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies of US Men and Women and a Meta-Analysis of 26 Cohort Studies. Circulation. 143:1642–1654.

(8) Robinson E, Aveyard P, Daley A, Jolly K, Lewis, A, Lycett D, Higgs S. (2013) Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. Am J Clin Nutr. 97(4): 728–742.

(9) Robinson, TN, Donna M. Matheson, DM. (2015) Environmental Strategies for Portion Control in Children. Appetite. 88: 33–38.


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