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Super Bowl of Snacks

Turkey is to Thanksgiving as snack foods are to Super Bowl parties. In fact, the USDA reports that Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest day of food gluttony in the United States after Thanksgiving! So much for finally getting on track with losing those holiday pounds. Kickoff to final touchdown can mean three to four hours of noshing on gooey dips, salty chips, and greasy meat sticks. Try this tasty menu with lean protein, fiber, and healthful fats and nutrients. Shhh, just don't mention to your party crowd that you've fine-tuned their eats—bet they won't notice! 

Walnut Hummus surrounded by an array of crispy baked snacksWalnut Hummus — In a food processor, puree a 19-ounce can of chickpeas (drained) in small batches until smooth. Add 1/4 cup walnuts and process until smooth. (Optional: Add 1/4 cup jarred, drained roasted red peppers and puree.) Finally, add one teaspoon garlic powder and salt to taste. A final pulsing and you've got a rich-tasting nutritious dip. My favorite munchies to serve with it are baked and reduced in fat and sodium: Cedar's Pita Chips, Hint of Salt Triscuits, Tostitos Baked Scoops, and Synder's Organic Honey Wheat Sticks.

No Sweat Turkey Chili — This recipe is so SO easy and can be made the day before and reheated (actually tastes better). Serve over rice or with pita chips or baked Tostitos. Click here for the recipe.

Chocolate Dipped Fruit — You can't leave out the sugar so you might as well sneak in some nutrients. You can get this grand Super Bowl chocolate covered Edible Arrangement for $76 OR get inspired by the photo to make your own! Slice apples into wedges and cut bananas into marshmallow-sized chunks. Place one cup chocolate chips in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds on high power; stir well. Heat for another 30 seconds if not completely melted and stir again. Dip end of apple wedges into chocolate and lay on waxed paper to cool. Put a toothpick in center of bananas and dip ends in chocolate, then into crushed walnuts (use food processor) or ready-sliced almonds. Pineapple rings, melon wedges, and strawberries also dip well. You can refrigerate the fruit to speed up the cooling process.


Dear FitMamaEats: Feed My Bones!

Dear FitMamaEats:

Can you give some info on bone health? Many of my friends have osteoporosis and can't tolerate Fosamax. I have osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis) and take Viactiv calcium supplements, which taste like real caramels! Are they ok to use instead of regular calcium pills? I know about milk and yogurt—what else has a lot of calcium? I've also heard vitamin D is important. I think that since we live in the north, we get less vitamin D from sunshine. Is there another way to get it, other than moving to Florida, which doesn't sound too bad right now! Do weight-bearing exercises help much?

Feeble Bones

Dear Feeble Bones:

More than half of Americans 50 years and older have osteoporosis, a condition of porous bones that become fragile and susceptible to fractures. There are ways to help or prevent this condition at any age:

Calcium.  The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that both men and women 19-50 years old get 1000 mg of calcium daily, and 1200 mg over 50 years of age. You know about dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt, which are the richest sources of calcium, but you can also find the mineral in canned sardines or salmon (with the bones), green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, and turnip greens, as well as a growing number of calcium-fortified products like orange juice and cereals. Some people still don't eat enough calcium and may need supplements. The two common forms are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Both are absorbed well, but people with low levels of stomach acid can absorb calcium citrate more easily. Calcium carbonate is less expensive and easier to find (it's found in TUMS and Viactiv chews). Whereas you should take calcium carbonate with food to improve its absorption, you can take calcium citrate on an empty stomach. With either type, taking too much at one time can lower absorption. So, for example, if you use two 500 mg pills a day, take one in the morning and one in the evening.

Vitamin D.  This mineral has been making headlines lately, with early research suggesting a protective effect against certain cancers and diabetes. However, its role in bone health is definite, aiding the absorption of calcium and promoting bone growth. Many of us may not be getting enough, particularly if you live in northern climates where the sun is not as strong certain months of the year, and because most of us now regularly use sunscreen, which lowers vitamin D absorption through the skin. Another reason is that the best food sources are probably not on our daily menus: cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, and fortified milk. Although the current recommendations for adults range from 200-400 IU daily, many experts now recommend closer to 800-1000 IU based on research findings. If you are over 50 years and have dark skin, you are at greater risk of not absorbing the vitamin effectively. It would be safe to use a supplement with at least 400 IU and eat some foods rich in vitamin D. You may want to ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels with a blood test measuring 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which will show if you are deficient.

Exercise.  When bones are challenged, they get stronger. This means using a controlled weight such as your body weight, hand weights, weight machines, or resistance exercises to strengthen your bones. Low and high impact exercises like jogging, dancing, walking, hiking, and stair climbing also help to build bones. Yoga and Pilates are excellent for improving balance, posture, flexibility, and muscle strength, which can help prevent falls and fractures. Swimming, bicycling, and stretching exercises that do not use your body weight are not good for building bone; they are best used in combination with strength-building exercises. For more information on starting a strength-building regimen visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation and Tufts University's Growing Stronger program.

Other Great Resources:

National Osteoporosis Foundation: Vitamin D

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements

Photos courtesy of whymilk.com


Two Thumbs Up for Two New Products

I know this may read like one big ad but it's just my excitement over two new food products I found in the supermarket last week, both variations on longtime favorites.

Chocolate Cheerios – Well, why not? Aside from the popular classic plain, Cheerios comes in nine other flavors like Apple Cinnamon, Banana Nut, and Yogurt Burst, so a chocolately version was inevitable. Made with naturally low fat cocoa, the nutrition content of Chocolate Cheerios isn’t too far off from the original with a few more calories and grams of sugar per serving. Although still a good source of iron, it contains less than the original (something moms of finicky toddlers might want to know since Cheerios is often a big source of their iron intake). The taste isn’t as sweet as Cocoa Puffs but has just enough cocoa to satisfy a chocolate craving and yes the milk gets chocolately! Here's a yummy prescription for that chocolate itch: add a half cup of Chocolate Cheerios to a container of Yoplait Whips Chocolate Mousse (only 225 calories and 5 grams of fat and you get a boost of calcium and protein).

Peter Pan Whipped Peanut Butter – What a great way to improve a nutritious but high fat staple: simply whip in air and you remove almost a third of the fat without sacrificing flavor. You also get a product that is remarkably lighter and easier to spread than the original. My knife literally flung out of the jar when scooping out the spread because the consistency was so much lighter than I expected, almost like that of a chocolate mousse. Nutrition-wise, Peter Pan original peanut butter has 210 calories, 17 grams fat, and 8 grams protein per serving; Peter Pan Whipped contains 150 calories, 12 grams fat, and 6 grams protein. Although I don't mind the taste of reduced fat peanut butters, they can be sticky and hard to spread. This whipped version glides easily onto thin crackers and apple slices. Keep in mind it's still a high calorie food that is very easy to overeat, so stick with the serving size of two tablespoons.