To Snack or Not to Snack? Intuitive Eating Answers the Question

That is the question of the hour! Popular media is full of nutrition advice, often encouraging wacky diets that cut specific food groups, macronutrients, or favorites. (Like cupcakes, I can’t live without cupcakes!) In this landscape of restrictive eating, I see people struggling with the constant merry-go-round of weight loss, weight gain, loss, gain… I know people not eating for long stretches each day or only eating every other day. The truth is, most of us can lose weight if we’re motivated. But, diets don’t teach us to listen to our bodies, which can lead to weight gain.

Intuitive eating is a lifestyle strategy that encourages mindfulness – listening to your body, rather than telling it what to do. It’s not a radical concept, but it’s one that encourages a healthy relationship with food and the body. By letting go of the diet mindset, rejecting the good food/bad food dichotomy, and allowing ourselves to enjoy food while listening to what we need, we can cast off the media spell that our bodies were all made from the same mold — and live better lives. Here are five of my favorite principles of intuitive eating…

1. Honor your hunger. This is simple: If your body is hungry, nourish it.

2. Respect your fullness. Listen to your body. When it tells you it’s no longer hungry and is comfortably sated, it is appropriate to stop eating. If you’re a fast eater like me, consciously take your time, rest your fork, and listen to what your body is saying.

3. Discover the satisfaction factor. If you truly “allow” yourself to enjoy favorite foods, you will feel more satisfied – likely with less food.

4. Honor your feelings without food. Instead of finding comfort in food when you are sad, stressed, or bored, find other activities that fill emotional needs.

5. Honor your health. Your health is a composite over time, not one snack or meal. Listen to what your body needs, choose foods that nourish, and eat with compassion.

So, what is the answer, should we snack or not? If your body says it needs a snack, then, listen to your biology. When a little hunger kicks in I try to reach for a yummy snack that fuels my busy life, like a pear with peanut butter. Living healthfully feels good, but it feels better off the carousel.

For more information, visit http://www.intuitiveeating.org.

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5 Tips for Plant-Powering Your Eating Style

Plant-based eating is hot, hot, hot! More and more people are turning away from the traditional American plate – with a slab of meat at the center – towards a gorgeous, colorful, plant-centric plate filled with pulses (beans, lentils, peas), whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. No wonder this eating style is catching on—it’s downright delicious! From a whole grain bowl filled with chickpeas, pears and sunflower seeds, to a homemade veggie burger with avocado slices, there are so many delicious offerings.

A plant-based diet doesn’t mean that you have to give up meat altogether if you don’t want to; it just means that your diet focuses mostly on plants. This flexitarian eating style is linked with a boatload of benefits, such as lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and obesity, as well as lowering your carbon footprint. With so many reasons to go crazy for plants, what are you waiting for?

My Top 5 Tips for Plant-Powering Your Diet

1. Breakfast with Plants 

Kick off the day by flooding your body with feel-good nutrients from plants. Try nutritious, tasty starters, such as oats topped with pear slices and walnuts, buckwheat waffles with almond butter and berries, or a veggie burrito stuffed with sautéed veggies and black beans. See what I mean?

2. Whiz Up a Plant Smoothie

For energy and protein fuel, turn to your blender to create a plant-powered smoothie for a healthy snack or light meal. Throw in soymilk, a handful of nuts or seeds, sliced pears, and greens to create a lean, mean, green smoothie

3. Meal Prep

Instead of turning to takeout or fast food, pack your own nutritious lunch combinations by prepping your meals at the beginning of the week following this easy formula:

In an individual, airtight container layer: Salad greens (kale, arugula, spinach) + whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, farro) + plant protein (beans, lentils, tofu) + veggies (bell pepper, broccoli, snow peas) + fruit (diced pears, raisins, blueberries) + sauce (tahini dressing, vinaigrette, hummus) = nutritious and delicious.

4. Let Plants be the Star on Your Dinner Plate

When you ask the question, “What’s for dinner tonight?”, go straight to the plants in your fruit bowl, refrigerator and pantry. With simple ingredients, such as pears, quinoa, carrots and pistachios, you can create a flavorful pilaf. Yum!

5. Snack on Plants

You don’t have to limit your plant offerings to mealtime; munch on them between meals by dipping snow peas into tahini, pear wedges into almond butter, and whole grain flatbread into hummus.

Looking for more ins-pear-ation? Here’s my easy, delicious recipe for Jade Pear Pistachio Salad.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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6 Ways to Eat Well, Waste Less and Save Money

Each March ushers in spring and National Nutrition Month! This annual celebration of nourishing the body through food began with the presidential proclamation of National Nutrition Week in 1973. This year’s theme is Go Further with Food, which encourages us to achieve the benefits of eating well while reducing food waste. In other words, planning and managing food resources will save both nutrients and money! The message of eating well while saving money is particularly close to my heart, and who doesn’t want more money in the bank?

We can also think about nutrition status as a bank. We have nutrients stored in the body; when we eat we make a deposit and when we’re active we make a withdrawal. Throughout the day, the goal is to maintain appropriate fuel for living our best lives, and the same idea is true for your food budget. If you eat mindfully, you’ll get more out of your resources on hand rather than be relying on the bank. How can you eat well, waste less, and save more money? Start with these six steps…

1. Plan ahead! Some people spend an afternoon preparing food for the week. My weekends are too busy for this, but I still manage to plan at least 1-2 days ahead to prevent splurging. This means I eat better and spend less on food!

2. Visit the grocery store more often. This seems counterintuitive, but shopping more often means you can purchase less at a time, have fresher food on hand, and waste less food.

3. This may be the easiest change to make: Think about what you already have in the fridge before purchasing at the store. This deters spending more and prevents food waste!

4. Eat only until you’re satisfied. Overeating means spending more calories and money over time. Instead, portion out how much your body needs and slow down!

5. Fuel properly. Being active is important, so fuel your body with a wide variety of foods to go further.

6. Think about alternatives to more expensive foods. Usually, the most expensive choices are animal proteins and out-of-season or exotic produce. Consider vegetarian protein choices, such as legumes, whole grains, eggs, and low-fat dairy. Likewise, choose fruit and vegetables that are in season, or choose frozen or low-sodium canned options. Some fruit, such as pears, are available year-round for a delicious, nutritious option!

With a little forethought, you can go further with food. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for more ideas!

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Want more ideas? Check out delicious, heart-healthy recipes at USA Pears!

3 Simple Ways to Spring Clean Your Diet

They say that summer bodies are made during the winter. If that’s the case, what happens during spring? For many of us, when spring has finally sprung, crunch time inevitably has as well.

Say goodbye to wintertime excuses and say hello to a version of yourself that looks and feels the way that you want to. Spring is a time of renewal and growth, after all! To start summer with a clean slate, it’s crucial to look at what you put on your plate. Here are 3 ways to do so:

1. Fiber up – When it comes to cleaning up their diets, most people focus on what they can’t have, rather than what they can have. This notion of deprivation can make eating healthily seem, well, dreadful and depressing. Fear not: clean eating need NOT involve deprivation, dread, or depression. One of the most simple, enjoyable, and effective ways to make healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes actually comes down to adding MORE to your diet—adding more fiber, that is. A diet rich in fiber is associated with a host of health benefits, such as fighting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancers, and, yes, dreaded weight gain. Fiber acts as a “broom” that sweeps harmful toxins from your body.

So how do you get your hands on some of the good stuff? Well, pears are a delicious way to start. A medium-size pear packs 6 grams of fiber, which brings you closer to your daily needs. What are these needs? Women should aim for 35 grams, and men should aim for 38.

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – As the days become longer and temperatures begin to increase, so does your body’s need for water. Make sure that you sip on water throughout the day and with meals, aiming for 2-3 liters of water a day. Water is involved in nearly all bodily functions, and fiber, as mentioned above, needs water to work its magic! Your hydration need not be sourced entirely from liquids though—piling your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables can help keep you hydrated too, as they tend to have a high water content. Pears, for example, are 84% water. Pair that with some actual agua, though, to ensure that you’re consuming an adequate amount of water.

3. Clean out and stock up – Spring cleaning shouldn’t just take place in your closet. Show your pantry and fridge some TLC during this season of renewal, too. Get rid of the products and ingredients that have been sitting around collecting dust and freezer burn and use the season of rejuvenation as a time to clean house. To set yourself up for success, attack this task with a plan: make a list—and check it twice, taking into consideration the tricky temptations and tastes that tempt you. Then, select better-for-you options that will satisfy those pesky cravings and keep you looking and feeling your best. If potato chips are your thing, try popcorn, which is also salty and crunchy, but has 3g of fiber per serving too. If your sweet tooth occasionally seems to be your only tooth, or if you suffer from spring allergies, purchase pears, which not only contain fiber, but are also rich in quercetin, a flavonoid that can also help to prevent immune cells from releasing histamines, which worsen seasonal allergies. Better-for-you options are easier to find than you think!

A refreshed, rejuvenated you awaits! So long, winter—lean, green spring is calling!

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Want more ideas? Check out delicious, heart-healthy recipes at USA Pears!

Do’s and Don’ts of a Heart-Healthy Diet

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? In response, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recently released stricter high blood pressure (hypertension) guidelines, narrowing the diagnosis from ³140/90 mmHg to ³120/80 mmHg. These numbers represent the amount of pressure exerted against the blood vessel walls when the heart contracts and relaxes. Over time this elevated pressure damages the heart, blood vessels, and increases risk for heart attack and stroke. The stricter guideline means more people will be diagnosed with hypertension, but instead of a push for pharmacologic remedies, the American Heart Association recommends improving diet for long-term heart health. February is American Heart Month, the national campaign to tackle heart disease. Is there a better time to love your heart?

A heart-healthy diet is attainable for everyone, with more DOs than do NOTs. For instance…

-Do eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, such as oatmeal or whole wheat bread.

-Do replace solid fats with unsaturated liquid fats or unsalted nuts and seeds.

-Do eat more fish and plant-based proteins.

-Try not to eat excessively salty or processed foods. This may mean eating fewer meals and snacks on the go.

For me, eating hearthealthy means running out the door with portable food in hand to prevent vending machine and fast food temptations. Preparing larger amounts and portioning them into portable containers for one-pot meals is my secret! Try

– Sprinkling sliced pears, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, and gorgonzola atop a bed of lettuce or quinoa; drizzle with olive oil and vinegar.

– Mixing grilled veggies, chicken, brown rice, and a splash of seasoning or lite soy sauce.

– Tossing together oats, diced pears, dried cranberries, a dash of cinnamon or brown sugar (if you like), and low-fat milk. Refrigerate overnight for refreshing overnight oats, pop in the microwave for a comforting breakfast or lunch, or check out this One Pot oatmeal recipe!

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Want more ideas? Check out delicious, heart-healthy recipes at USA Pears!

I’ve Fallen Off The Wagon. Now What?

The holidays are behind us and grey months are ahead of us, which makes today a good day to consider the rest of 2018. Many of us make health-related New Year’s resolutions, and only 9.2% of people feel they successfully meet these goals. The problem may be that our goals were too drastic or too restrictive. We are all guilty of this type: “I’m going to run five miles every day” or “I’m only eating 1000 calories a day!” Unfortunately, drastic pledges that limit enjoying our lives generally don’t work. Plus, shouldn’t we enjoy life? YES! So, what can you do?

Step 1: Keep it simple. Counting calories or minutes on the treadmill may not be the best way to tackle your goals. If you currently don’t exercise, try adding one or two short walks during the day – even just ten minutes adds up to 70 minutes each week! If eating out is your doom, split a meal, try an appetizer instead of an entrée, or swap a side of fruit for a sugary dessert. Small changes really do make for long-term changes.

Step 2: Start fresh. Instead of drastically cutting calories, swap fresh fruit and a glass of water for a sugary/salty snack or side dish. Or maybe you don’t love veggies or you’ve grown tired of your go-to items – try something new! I get in ruts like everyone else, but a stroll through the produce section usually produces fresh ideas. It’s also easy to start the day fresh, I add sliced pears to cereal, oatmeal and yogurt, or diced veggies and salsa to eggs.

January 1 is no more magical than February 1 (or today, for that matter!). Start fresh and see how you feel in a few days! For more ideas, check out what the USDA suggests for small changes that lead to lasting results.

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Celebrate Pear Love During American Heart Month

With an occasion like Valentine’s Day, there’s no better month to celebrate the heart than February. Embracing heart-healthy habits this Valentine’s season can translate to a lifetime of improved wellness, and one is as simple as eating more of a delicious food you enjoy – pears!

According to the American Heart Association, many factors contribute to heart disease, including your diet, activity level, age, and genetics. However, eating more produce may help fend off a heart attack or stroke. Pears in particular are an excellent source of fiber and a good source of immune-supporting Vitamin C – both key nutrients linked to heart health. With 6 grams, one medium pear provides nearly a quarter of the daily recommended fiber intake.

Including more pears in your diet – especially Green Anjou, Red Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc pears, which have all been Heart Health Certified by the American Heart Association – is one simple tactic for taking good care of your ticker. And it’s easy to incorporate pears into meals, snacks, and desserts. Blend a ripe pear into your morning smoothie or fold a diced or shredded pear into your oatmeal. Add fresh or oven roasted pear slices to a garden salad or mix chopped pears into a gingery stir-fry. At snack time, pair a fresh sliced pear with either almond butter or Mediterranean olives. For dessert, drizzle whole pears with a combo of maple syrup, fresh ginger and cinnamon, and bake in the oven, or dip fresh pear slices into melted dark chocolate.

Another savvy heart-health strategy is to simply keep more fruit, including pears, on hand, within sight and reach. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 90% of Americans fall short of the recommended minimum daily fruit intake. During American Heart Month, USA Pears is promoting a social contest called #WhatsInYourFruitBowl. The belief is that keeping a well-stocked fruit bowl within easy reach is a simple way to inspire more people to reach for fresh fruit. Give it a try and track your own fruit intake. And for more information about pears and heart health, visit http://usapears.org/heart-disease-and-stroke/.

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Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

5 Meal Prep Tips for a Healthy New Year

A healthier new year starts with building better nutrition habits. Cooking is one way to get yourself into a healthier groove, and adding a little bit of meal planning to make a significant difference! Making sure you have a well-balanced, varied diet can easily be achieved with meal prep. Here are 5 meal prep tips to give you a head start:

1. Less is more

Begin meal prepping with recipes that are easy to prepare and require simple ingredients. I like to select recipes with no more than 10 ingredients (less is better!). Once you get the swing of preparing these recipes, you can expand to more robust dishes.

2. Batch cook

Cook a large amount (double or triple the quantity of a recipe) so you can enjoy part of it that day, and then save or freeze the rest for another day in the week. Dishes that freeze well include chili, soups, meatballs and muffins.

3. Creatively reuse

Eating the same exact meal every night can get boring, especially if you have kids! Repurpose your meal creatively throughout the week. For example, grilled pears can be enjoyed in a sandwich, sliced and diced into a salad, or blended into a savory soup.

4. Don’t forget snacks

Snacks should include foods and nutrients that you may not get enough of during meals. As 90% of Americans don’t get enough vegetables and 85% don’t get enough fruit, snacks are a perfect way to add them to your healthy eating plan. Plan for snacks like sliced pears and cheese, Greek yogurt topped with granola, or trail mix.

5. Stock up on containers

The right containers are everything to a meal prepper. Stock up on containers that take up less space and are BPA-free, leak-proof, dishwasher safe, freezer safe and microwave safe. You may also want to stock up on glass jars or bento boxes so you can easily tote your meals to work.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD is a nutrition expert and author of best-selling The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook and The Greek Yogurt Kitchen.

Fresh Fruit for the Holidays!

Tis the season for gift-giving, social gatherings, and indulging. With all the excitement of the season, it’s important to make sure you add eating healthfully to your to-do list. It’s the most wonderful time of the year to savor everything the season has to offer, and December also happens to be National Pear Month! Pears are an especially festive fruit and a refreshing change of pace during a season chock full of high-calorie food and drink. If you are attending bunches of social events, fruit is an excellent addition to your daily intake, particularly considering the sometimes frenetic and unusual eating schedule during the holiday season. Consuming fruit provides necessary nutrients to maintain energy for the endurance needed on long days, and may fight cravings by maintaining satiety and blood sugar levels. I like to drink a glass of water and eat a piece of fruit or some fresh cut veggies before meals, errands and gatherings – this way I’m not ravenous and prone to undesirable decisions.

The fiber boost from pears is filling, so I’m not hangry when I arrive, and also helps limit blood sugar peaks and valleys that can trigger cravings or overindulging. And if alcohol will be consumed, it is even more important to eat! Fiber and other food components can reduce the absorption rate of alcohol, and this delay is enhanced when consumed with protein and/or fat. Pears are a festive and fitting addition to your wine and cheese board, in part because cheese contains both protein and fat, but also because the creamy texture complements the sweet and refreshing flavor of pears. Not sure which pear to pair with your favorite cheese or wine? For ins-pear-ation, check out these pairing suggestions on our site.

During the holiday season, it’s important to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of everything else. Even if you aren’t following your usual routine, adding a quick nosh on fruit is a convenient and delicious fix. Happy holidays!

We’re celebrating National Pear Month by giving away a box of pears! Enter HERE.

3 Sweet Reasons to Choose Pears if You Have Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month and it’s also a great time to find perfectly ripe pears, which comes in handy since pears have a lot of the attributes we recommend in a diet to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. Pears are a low glycemic index (and low glycemic load) food – a medium-sized pear ranks 38 on the glycemic index – which means they have a mild effect on blood sugar levels. While there isn’t a cure for diabetes (yet!), we do know that food is a very powerful tool that can be used to reduce symptoms and improve overall quality of life. As registered dietitians, we see the power of food every day, and the research supports just how much of an effect food can have on reducing the impact of diabetes.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or want to make some preventative dietary changes, we think including pears in your diet is a great idea. Here’s why:

Fiber. Soluble fiber, the type that binds with water to form a gel-like substance in your digestive tract, slows the rate that your body pulls glucose from food in your stomach. In other words, soluble fiber can help slow down the rate at which your blood sugar rises. A medium pear contains 6 grams of fiber (24% of your daily needs), and some of that 6 grams is in the form of soluble fiber! From a preventative perspective, eating a diet rich in high fiber foods (like pears) might reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Flavorful sweetness. Reducing added sugar is an important part of keeping blood sugar levels stable at meals and snacks and avoiding spikes, or quick rises, in blood sugar levels. When you use pears to add flavorful sweetness to things like plain oats or yogurt, you get sweetness along with lots of flavor, so you wind up needing to use a lot less sugar (and oftentimes you won’t need any sugar at all!). Pears also add natural sweetness to smoothies and peanut butter sandwiches, so you can skip the added sweeteners altogether.

Kitchen creativity and fun. Being diagnosed with diabetes can feel overwhelming when it comes to revamping your food choices to keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Pears are a delicious way to add flavor and fun to your time in the kitchen, whether it’s diced in a chicken salad, sliced in a turkey sandwich, or ”pear-ed” with aged cheddar cheese for a snack. A diabetes diagnosis might mean changes to the way you eat, but it certainly doesn’t have to mean bland or boring meals and snacks!

For additional information on pears and diabetes, check out this link.