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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fruit Smoothies for Weight Gain

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Whether you’re underweight, want to put on muscle or need to gain weight after an illness or injury, it’s important to eat and drink nutrient-dense food.

Doughnuts and fries might pack on the pounds, but they won’t do your mental and physical health any favors. Fruit smoothies, however, are packed with essential nutrients and can help you healthfully add calories to your daily diet.


Health Benefits

The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois specifically recommends fruit smoothies for healthy weight gain. Both fruits and vegetables make up a significant portion of a balanced diet because of their high nutrient densities, but fruits have more calories per serving and so they're a better choice for weight gain. Dried fruits, such as dates, have higher energy density levels and more calories per serving, so they also make smart additions to weight gain smoothies. In some cases, dried fruits even have higher antioxidant contents than their fresh counterparts.

High-Cal Fruits

Blending any type of fresh or frozen fruit into your smoothies will add vitamins, minerals and calories, but higher calorie fruits will make more of a difference in encouraging steady weight gain. Per fruit, some of the highest-calorie options are avocados, with 250 calories per 5-ounce serving; mangoes, with 135 calories per medium fruit; papayas, with 120 calories per medium fruit; bananas, with 105 calories per medium fruit; and dried dates, with 228 calories per 10 fruits.

Other Ingredients

Smoothies that contain only blended fruits offer plenty of health benefits, but they’re not optimal for weight gain because they have relatively few calories and little protein. Protein, in conjunction with regular strength training, is necessary for building lean muscle mass rather than putting on solely body fat as you gain. High-protein additions to your smoothie that will add calories but keep saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar amounts in check include protein powder, natural nut butters, plain, low-fat Greek yogurt, low-fat milk or silken tofu.

What to Avoid

Making your own fruit smoothies is often the healthiest choice because you can control what goes into your drink as well as the total calorie count per serving. If you’re out and ordering a smoothie at a juice bar or coffee shop, find an ingredients list or ask questions about what’s in your smoothie. Often, prepared smoothies contain generous amounts of added sugar or ice cream, which make them more like decadent desserts than healthy snacks for weight gain. Fruit by itself is almost always enough to sweeten a smoothie, so avoid added sugars, artificial sweeteners and any ingredients that are high in saturated fat or cholesterol.

Filling Up

Drinking high-calorie fruit smoothies with your meals may cause you to fill up too quickly on the liquid calories to eat much food, especially if you struggle to maintain a healthy appetite. Instead, FitnessBlender.com personal trainers Daniel and Kelli Segars recommend drinking smoothies between meals so you end up taking in more total calories.

Fruit Smoothies for Weight Gain

How to Eat Cucumbers to Lose Weight

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Fruits and vegetables, including cucumbers, aren't just good for your overall health, they're a welcome addition to weight loss diets.

Cucumbers provide generous amounts of essential nutrients, including vitamins C and K, and they have some nutritional properties that make them helpful for weight loss. You don't have to stick to cucumber slices served plain, though -- you can include cucumber in a range of delicious weight loss-friendly dishes.

Weight Loss Benefits from Eating Cucumbers

When you're trying to lose weight, including low-calorie foods like cucumbers in your diet helps you lower your calorie intake to shed pounds. Cucumbers are very low in calories -- a cup of sliced cucumber has just 14 calories, which is less than 1 percent of the daily calorie "budget" on a weight loss-friendly 1,500-calorie diet. Even eating a large portion size won't make you pack on the pounds. A medium peeled cucumber has just 24 calories, and a large unpeeled cuke still has just 45 calories. Because cucumber is low in calories even with a large portion size, it's a very low energy density food. Filling your diet with such foods is beneficial for weight loss, because they'll fill you up when you're following a calorie-controlled diet.

Other Nutritional Benefits

You'll get other nutritional benefits from cucumbers, helping keep you healthy on your weight loss journey. Eating half an unpeeled cucumber provides you with roughly one-third of the daily value for vitamin K, an essential nutrient that helps your blood clot. You'll also get 7 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, an antioxidant that also supports collagen production, which keeps your bones, skin and hair strong. Cucumber also contains several phytonutrients -- beneficial plant compounds -- according to a review published in "Fitoterapia" in 2013. These compounds provide antioxidant benefits and might offer antidiabetic benefits, notes the review, and cucumber seeds help fight constipation. These benefits may also indirectly help with your weight loss -- by nourishing your body with nutritious foods, like cucumber, you're more likely to feel energized to lead an active, healthy lifestyle.

Classic Serving Tips: Salads

Use cucumbers as a base for salads to help you lose weight. Eating a low-calorie cucumber salad before meals helps fill you up, and gives your brain time to process "full" signals so you don't overeat your main course. Try a mixture of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh basil and lemon juice for a low-fat salad, or sliced cucumbers, red grapefruit, fennel and white wine vinaigrette for a sweet-and-sour option. Alternatively, mix cucumber chunks with spinach and red peppers for a filing green salad, and add a handful of mint leaves for refreshing flavor.

Low-Cal Cucumber Beverages

When you're dieting, it's best to limit your liquid calorie intake, because liquid calories don't trigger feelings of fullness like solid foods. And those calories can really add up -- about half of Americans drink sugary drinks daily, and 25 percent of people take in at least 200 calories from sugary drinks. Use cucumbers to make beverages as a compromise between sugary drinks and plain water. You'll still get refreshing flavor, but your beverage will be relatively low in calories. Steep your water with cucumber and lemon slices for refreshing flavored water, and try adding muddled basil or mint leaves for an herbal twist. Add fresh or frozen cucumber to your fruit smoothies -- cucumber pairs especially well with unsweetened coconut water, lime juice, a few chunks of frozen pineapple, and a handful of cilantro or parsley. Or go for a greens-filled smoothie made with unsweetened iced green tea, romaine, kale, parsley, cucumber, celery and just a squeeze of lemon juice.

Low-Cal Cucumber "Noodles"

Use a spiral cutter to make cucumber "noodles" to eat in place of pasta to cut calories. While cucumber won't have the texture of real pasta, it offers a bright and crisp flavor and texture that works well in pasta-based dishes. For example, top cucumber noodles with raw tomato sauce -- made from pureed sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, olive oil and garlic -- or top them with bean sprouts, chicken and pad Thai sauce for raw pad Thai. 

Subbing out pasta for cucumber will save you lots of calories, even if you spiral-cut an entire cucumber and eat a few cups of "noodles." For example, eating a spiral-cut medium cucumber instead of a cup of cooked rice noodles saves you 166 calories -- enough to lose 7 pounds of fat if you make this switch three times a week for a year, not counting any weight loss from other dietary changes. Using cucumber "noodles" instead of spaghetti saves you even more calories -- 197 calories per serving, or the equivalent of almost 9 pounds of fat if you made this switch three times a week for a year.

How to Eat Cucumbers to Lose Weight

Muenster Cheese Health Benefits

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Muenster cheese originated in France, where its flavor ranges from mild to pungent, depending on how long it’s aged. American muenster is less likely to vary in flavor; it’s usually mild-flavored. 


Even though it has health benefits -- it contains protein, minerals for strong bones and vitamin B-12 -- all of the potential benefits must be balanced against the calories and saturated fat you’ll consume with the nutrients.


Watch Calories and Saturated Fat

With 103 calories in one slice, or 1 ounce, of muenster cheese, it’s easy to eat more than you realize if you’re not paying attention to portions. As long as the calories count as part of your total daily intake, and they’re not added on top of a normal daily diet, then an occasional serving can fit in your menu. However, you’ll need to watch the saturated fat in the foods you eat for the day. One slice of muenster has 8 grams of total fat, including 5 grams of saturated fat. This represents about one-third of an entire day’s saturated fat, according to the American Heart Association. Low-fat muenster has 76 calories and half the fat.

Basic Body Support

Proteins are essential to build and support your body. They provide resilience for bones and ensure your muscles work. They’re a source of energy when necessary and, as neurotransmitters, proteins keep your brain operating. They also form enzymes, hormones and antibodies. The proteins you eat are digested into amino acids, which are reassembled into the specific proteins each cell needs. Amino acids aren’t stored in your body, so it’s essential to get a regular supply through your diet. For women, that means consuming 46 grams daily, while men need 56 grams. You’ll get 7 grams from a 1-ounce serving of muenster cheese.

Bone-Building Minerals

Calcium isn’t the only mineral you need to build bones. Calcium binds with phosphorus to create a new substance called hydroxyapatite. Then hydroxyapatite attaches to strands of collagen, which is made from protein. The combination of collagen and minerals creates bones that have strength and resilience. Most of the calcium and phosphorus in your body is used to build bones, but they also contribute to metabolic processes outside your bones. Calcium helps maintain the activity of muscles and nerves, while phosphorus regulates the acidity of fluids in your body. One ounce of muenster supplies about 20 percent of your recommended daily intake of calcium and phosphorus.

Cardiovascular Health

Animal-based foods, including muenster cheese, are the primary natural sources of vitamin B-12. This vitamin keeps your cardiovascular system healthy through its role in the synthesis of red blood cells. It also converts an amino acid -- homocysteine -- into other beneficial substances, which reduces the amount of homocysteine in your bloodstream. High levels of homocysteine can damage your arteries and contribute to blood clots, according to FamilyDoctor.org. A 1-ounce serving of muenster cheese contains 0.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12, or 17 percent of your recommended dietary allowance.

Muenster Cheese Health Benefits

Grape Juice, Apple Juice & Vinegar for Cholesterol

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Fruit and vegetable juices combine high nutritional value and convenience in a range of delicious flavors. Many juices, including grape juice and apple juice, contain phytonutrients in addition to vitamins and minerals that add to their health-appeal and offer cholesterol-lowering benefits. Vinegar, a fermented form of fruit juice, also offers potential health-boosting and cholesterol-lowering properties.

Antioxidant

Grape juice concentrate may protect your blood cells from damage due to high cholesterol levels, according to a study published in the March 2011 issue of the "British Journal of Nutrition." In the study on laboratory animals, diets supplemented with grape juice concentrate for five weeks resulted in decreased oxidative damage to blood cell DNA. The study also looked at the potential protective effects of grape juice on liver cells in a high-cholesterol diet but did not observe any liver-protective effects in this preliminary study.

Resveratrol

Resveratrol, the high-powered antioxidant that decreases cholesterol, is present in greater quantities in grape skins and pulp, making grape juice a better source of this nutrient than whole grapes, according to Carol Ann Rinzler, author of "Controlling Cholesterol For Dummies." Dark grapes called muscadines, a large grape native to the Southern United States, are a particularly exceptional source of antioxidants such as resveratrol. Much of the grape juice you purchase at the grocery store is made from this relatively unknown grape variety.

Apple Juice

Apple juice may inhibit progression of atherosclerosis, according to a study published in the October 2009 issue of the journal "Lipids in Health and Disease." In the study, laboratory animals consumed high-cholesterol diets supplemented with 5 mL or 10 mL of apple juice per day for two months. Results showed that both dose-levels of apple juice reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation, blood clotting factors and atherosclerosis in coronary arteries. The higher dose significantly reduced low density lipoprotein, or LDL, the "bad" form of cholesterol and raised levels of high density lipoprotein, or HDL, the "good" form of cholesterol.

Vinegar

Findings suggest that taking vinegar with meals decreases the cholesterol spike that can occur after eating, according to researchers of a study published in the January 2010 issue of the journal "Lipids in Health and Disease." The laboratory animal study used a single dose of 5 mL or 10 mL of vinegar along with high-cholesterol diets and tested blood cholesterol levels after 15 hours. The higher dose resulted in significant reduction in LDL cholesterol, oxidized LDL, total cholesterol and apolipoprotein B -- the protein backbone of LDL cholesterol. Researchers concluded that vinegar may suppress cholesterol spikes after fatty meals, though further tests to confirm these results in humans is needed.

Grape Juice, Apple Juice & Vinegar for Cholesterol

Cheap Low-Carb Foods

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Following a healthy low-carb diet can help you shed excess pounds -- but if you're not careful, you might notice your bank account looking a little smaller, too.

That's because carbs are relatively inexpensive sources of energy, and filling your cart with lots of fresh meat and produce can seriously increase your grocery bill -- especially if you're eating organic. Low-carb dieting doesn't have to break the bank, though. Opt for less expensive low-carb foods, and use cost-saving tips when you're shopping for pricier produce.


Frozen Veggies Save Money

You already know that veggies make up the foundation of a low-carb diet, but fresh produce can get costly, especially if you're selecting produce that's out of season. Save your cash by reaching for frozen veggies whenever possible. They're flash-frozen at the peak of freshness, so they offer the same health benefits as fresh vegetables, and they're available at a relatively low price year-round. And because frozen veggies have a longer shelf life than their fresh counterparts, you'll waste less money via food waste.

Stick to fibrous veggies -- a group that includes lower-calorie veggies, including spinach, broccoli and cauliflower -- to keep your carbs low. One-third of a 10-ounce package of frozen broccoli, for example, has just 2 grams of net carbs -- the type of carbs that get digested and increase your blood sugar. A cup of frozen cauliflower has just 3 grams of net carbs, and a serving of four frozen asparagus spears supplies just 1 gram.

Go Nuts for Nut Butters

Stop by the nut butter aisle, and you'll find a wealth of budget-friendly staples that fit into a low-carb diet. A 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter, for example, has 4 grams of net carbs -- and all-natural varieties made without any added sweetener may be even lower in carbohydrates. And thanks to peanut butter's long shelf life and small serving size, a relatively inexpensive jar of peanut butter will last you for several meals, meaning it has a low cost per serving.

While other nut butters tend to be slightly pricier than peanut butter, they're still an economical addition to a low-carb diet. Two tablespoons of almond butter, for instance, have 3 grams of net carbs, while an equivalent serving of cashew butter supplies 8 grams.

Get Cheap Protein With Lentils, Eggs and Dairy

While meat is a great source of protein, it can also be pricey. Instead, reach for eggs and dairy as inexpensive low-carb sources of protein. Each large egg contains less than a gram of net carbs but supplies over 6 grams of protein. Their relatively long shelf life in the fridge means you'll lose less money through food waste, and their versatility in the kitchen prevents boredom, so you won't get sick of this low-carb staple too easily. In the dairy aisle, reach for Greek yogurt for low-cost protein. Each 6-ounce serving of unsweetened Greek yogurt has 6 grams of net carbs and 17 grams of protein. Buy a big container of Greek yogurt and use low-cost flavorings -- like ground cinnamon, pumpkin spice mix or frozen berries -- to add flavor. 

If you're on a more permissive low-carb diet -- meaning you can eat 40 or more grams of carbs per day -- stock up on legumes, like lentils, as a source of protein. One-half cup of cooked lentils contains 12 grams of net carbs and 9 grams of protein, and costs just pennies per serving. Save extra money by buying dried lentils, instead of the slightly more convenient, but costlier, canned version.

Cost-Saving Diet Tips

While you'll save the most money by buying cheap low-carb foods, you can also plan ahead to save some cash on costlier low-carb staples. Stock up on meat when it's on sale, and freeze single servings in freezer-safe bags to avoid spoilage. Take your portion out of the freezer the night before, add your marinade of choice to the freezer bag and allow to thaw in the fridge overnight. Use cheap foods to extend your use of costlier ones -- instead of topping your salad with 3 ounces of chicken, for example, top it with 1 ounce of chicken, shredded cheese and an egg. 

Avoid packaged foods, including precut veggies and packaged salads, since these often have a higher cost per serving than veggies you prepare yourself. And save costs by combining fresh and frozen veggies -- for example, topping a fresh spinach salad with sauteed frozen veggies, instead of using only fresh produce in your salads.

Cheap Low-Carb Foods

Free Low-Carbohydrate Diets

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You probably prefer not to spend lots of money on books, online subscriptions or weight-loss centers in a quest to drop a few pounds. Reducing your carbohydrate intake is one of the most effective weight-loss measures possible, found a 2014 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and it doesn't have to cost anything extra. You can navigate a low-carb diet on your own for free, but it's a good idea to check in with your doctor before you make major changes to your eating plan.

Atkins Free Program

The Atkins diet plan is one of the most well-known low-carb plans. It's has numerous free tools available online, including a recommendation as to how restrictive of a low-carb plan you should follow based on your weight-loss goals. The stricter Atkins20™ Plan begins with about 20 grams of carbs per day for a few weeks and gradually raises your carb intake to find your personal carb tolerance level -- the place where you maintain a healthy weight. This may be around 100 grams of carbs per day. The Atkins40™ Plan is for people looking for less dramatic weight loss, and it starts with 40 grams of carbs per day for several weeks. 

Free tools on the Atkins website include meal plans, carb counting and tracking phone apps, grocery lists and recipes.

Paleo as a Low-Carb Diet

A paleo diet plan is based on foods enjoyed by early humans who thrived prior to the agricultural revolution.The theory is that your body hasn't evolved to adequately digest all the foods of modern times, including highly processed snacks, grains, dairy and beans/legumes. These "modern" foods are supposedly responsible for unwanted weight gain, inflammation and poor energy. The diet isn't inherently low-carb, as you could load up on sweet potatoes and fruits, but if you avoid the few allowable higher-carb options, it's a free way to eat a low-carb diet.

A paleo diet emphasizes low-carb staples of grass-fed and/or wild proteins -- such as beef, pork, fish and poultry, as well as eggs. High-fiber, watery vegetables -- think lettuce, kale, broccoli, celery, peppers, cauliflower and summer squash -- are other low-carb foods encouraged. Cold-pressed oils are sources of important healthy fats to include on a paleo diet. A paleo diet does permit fresh fruit and nuts, but stick to modest servings as these foods do have carbs. For example, 24 whole, raw almonds contain about 3 grams of net carbs, and an apple contains about 16 grams. You might want to stick to raspberries or blackberries, which have minimal carbs per serving.

Counting Carbs on Your Own for Free

Many low-carb diets are defined as containing between 50 and 150 grams of carbs daily. Count these carbs by yourself with an online food diary, such as LiveStrong's The Daily Plate. Input the foods and servings you eat -- or plan to eat -- and these programs will record how many carbohydrates, protein and fats you've eaten each day. 

You determine the number of carbohydrates you need daily to achieve your goals. Aim for 100 to 150 grams per day if you're already near your goal weight, quite active and are trying to lose just a few pounds or maintain. A 50- to 100-gram per day diet assists with weight loss, but still permits some carbs from one or two pieces of fruit, 1/4 cup servings of brown rice or a 1/4 cup of beans at meals.

Ketogenic Diet Plan

Low-carb diets with fewer than 50 grams per day can be extreme, but are OK if your doctor says so. When you choose to dramatically decrease your carb intake to below 50 grams per day, you're essentially putting yourself into a state of ketosis. This is a natural body state, but involves switching fuel systems, so it takes time for your body to adapt. Instead of running off of glucose, your body becomes more efficient at burning fat and produces chemicals called ketones to use as fuel. 

You don't need a lot of expensive guidance to follow this plan -- simply focus on eating mostly no-carb foods, such as meats, fish, poultry and eggs. Round out meals with modest servings of leafy green vegetables and lots of healthy fats, which help keep you in ketosis. If you go low-fat and low-carb, you'll likely put your body in an unhealthy state of starvation due to too few calories. Healthy fats on a ketogenic diet include extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, cream and butter. 

The standard ketogenic diet has you consume approximately 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and 5 percent carbs. If you take in 2,000 calories per day, this is about 167 grams of fat per day, 100 grams of protein and just 25 grams of carbs. Use an online food diary to record your intakes. But if you stick to approved foods, you'll likely stay low-carb without having to do any carb counting or calorie keeping. 

Note that the first few days, and up to two weeks, of a ketogenic diet can make you feel lethargic. The symptoms should pass and be replaced with feelings of great energy, but if they persist, consider increasing your carb intake slightly to limit the side effects.

Free Low-Carbohydrate Diets

What Are Flavonol Antioxidants?

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Plants naturally produce thousands of substances called phytochemicals. The flavonols are just one of many groups of phytochemicals, but they have the advantage of being better researched than many other phytochemicals, according to the May 2013 issue of “Antioxidants and Redox Signaling.” Like most of the phytochemicals, flavonols are active antioxidants that may protect your health through their ability to fight inflammation and neutralize free radicals.

List of Flavonols

Scientists have identified and categorized more than 8,000 phytochemicals. One of the biggest groups of phytochemicals, called flavonoids, is large enough that it’s further categorized into several other groups. Flavonols are one of the groups in the flavonoid family. You may hear about four major phytochemicals that belong in the flavonols: quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin and isorhamnetin. Flavonols are the most abundant flavonoids found in foods, according to a study published in the May 2004 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

Antioxidant Potential

Flavonols show strong antioxidant abilities in laboratory studies. A review of research published in the May 2013 issue of “Antioxidants and Redox Signaling” reports that quercetin provided anti-inflammatory benefits to cells from human blood vessels. The levels of free radicals in damaged lung cells decreased when they were treated with quercetin, according to a study published in the December 2013 online edition of the “Journal of Applied Toxicology.” Researchers using laboratory mice reported that the antioxidant effect of quercetin helped prevent nerve damage caused by a medication used to treat colorectal cancer, according to the October 2013 issue of “Molecular Pain.”

Bioavailability of Flavonols

The limited bioavailability of flavonols, which is the amount of the phytochemical absorbed and used by your body, impacts their effectiveness. Only a small amount of most flavonoids is absorbed and then quickly eliminated from your body, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Your ability to absorb flavonols also depends on the type of bacteria thriving in your large intestine, since they help metabolize flavonoids. Quercetin is more easily absorbed than other flavonoids, noted the review in “Antioxidants and Redox Signaling.” You may also improve their bioavailability by eating flavonols together with healthy fats, according to May 2013 issue of “Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.”

Flavonol Sources

Flavonol content in foods is often reported as a range because the amount they contain is influenced by exposure to sunlight. For example, the flavonol content is higher in the skin of fruit and in the outer leaves of greens because they absorb more sunlight. Yellow onions are the best sources of flavonols. They’re followed by leeks, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and blueberries. Other good choices for adding flavonols to your diet include apricots, apples, black grapes, green beans and tomatoes. If you enjoy a cup of red wine, or green or black tea, you’ll also get flavonols.

What Are Flavonol Antioxidants?

Low-Carb Pork Rinds & Dip

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You find pork rinds in many national cuisines -- in Canada, they're called "scrunchions," in the Southern U.S. they're "cracklings" and to the Brits they're known as "scratchings."

Whatever you call them, they're pork fat, fried and salted, to make a crispy, addicting snack. They have no carbohydrates, making them a safe indulgence on a low-carb plan. Just be sure to eat them in moderation; their sodium and fat content are high. 


To punch up the flavor, serve the rinds with a creamy dip. The catch is, your dip needs to be low-carb, too, so the snack fits your low-carb diet.

Easy, Spicy Dips for Pork Rinds

Pork rinds may taste a little bland on their own, making them the perfect vehicle for bold, spicy flavors. Make an easy dip by mashing avocado -- with just 1 gram of net carbohydrate per half of a Hass variety -- with lime juice, minced garlic and chopped jalapenos. Net carbs are those that affect your blood sugar. Figure them by subtracting a food's fiber grams from its carbohydrate grams.

Melt cream cheese together with salsa for another dip that contains minimal carbs. Salsa has 1 to 2 grams of net carbs per tablespoon; cream cheese has 1 gram of net carbohydrate per tablespoon. 

Buffalo chicken wing sauce has just 1 gram of net carb per tablespoon and adds tang to the crunchy rinds.

Low-Carb Pimento Cheese Dip

Tangy pimento cheese marries well with the salty crunch of pork rinds. Stir a pinch of garlic powder and a couple of tablespoons of pimentos, which have less than 1 gram of net carb per ounce, into a mixture of mayonnaise, shredded cheddar cheese, shredded Monterey Jack cheese and cream cheese. Season to taste and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to marry. 

The cheddar and jack cheeses have just trace carbs per ounce and the mayonnaise offers less than 1 gram of net carbohydrate per tablespoon. Avoid light mayo as the flavor is sometimes boosted with added sugar, which raises the carb count.

Warm Spinach and Bacon Pork Rind Dip

Use pork rinds to scoop up a flavorful, creamy spinach and bacon dip. Cook a few slices of bacon until crisp and drain on a paper towel. In a separate bowl, steam fresh spinach in the microwave with a little water. Wrap the cooked spinach in a paper towel and squeeze out any excess water. Mix the spinach with minced garlic, a squirt of lemon juice, salt, pepper, cream cheese, grated Parmesan cheese and sour cream. Put the dip into a small casserole dish and bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven until bubbly. Break the cooked bacon into bits and sprinkle over the top before serving. 

The cooked spinach has about 1 gram of net carb per 1/2 cup. The cheese, lemon juice and garlic add 1 to 2 carbs total to the entire dish, and the bacon has a trace of carbs.

Sour Cream Dips

Whip up a tasty dip for pork rinds using sour cream as the base. Two tablespoons of the regular, full-fat variety contain less than 1 gram of carbohydrate. Light sour cream is whipped together with fillers and sweeteners to resemble the full-fat variety. It should be off your low-carb menu as it contains considerable carbs.

Dip pork rinds into plain sour cream, or into sour cream mixed with chopped, fresh herbs, such as tarragon or dill. Add chopped black olives and onion powder to the sour cream or mix the sour cream with chives and paprika.

Low-Carb Pork Rinds & Dip

Can Chicken & Brown Rice Help Me Lose Weight?

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When you're trying to lose weight, a chicken-and-brown-rice meal offers a one-two punch for burning fat. You'll get the relatively low-calorie, lean protein of chicken and the filling fiber and healthy carbs from rice.

Even though no single food is a magic bullet for weight loss, foods high in nutrients that aid weight loss -- such as chicken and brown rice -- help you shed weight. If plain chicken and rice can get dull, try other creative, diet-friendly ways to incorporate this power duo into your meal plans so that you won't get bored.

Chicken and Brown Rice: Calorie Considerations

Chicken and brown rice aren't as low-calorie as vegetables, but they fit well into a calorie-controlled diet. A roasted, skinless chicken breast served with a cup of cooked, long-grain brown rice has 358 calories -- which is about one-fifth of your daily calorie allowance on an 1,800-calorie diet -- or slightly less than one-third of your daily calorie intake, if you're on a 1,200-calorie diet. While this might seem like a lot, this serving size of chicken and brown rice -- plus a cup or two of vegetables -- will give you a filling, well-rounded meal for about 400 calories, which is appropriate for a weight-loss diet. 

To avoid eating too many calories, make sure you choose skinless chicken breast and use healthy cooking methods such as grilling, baking or roasting. Skin-on fried chicken breast that weighs roughly 3 ounces, contains 218 calories, compared to 142 for roasted, skinless chicken breast. If you were to switch from fried chicken to roasted chicken three nights a week, you'd save enough calories to lose 3 pounds of fat in a year -- not counting the weight you'll lose from making other lifestyle changes.

Fiber Is Weight-Loss Friendly

A chicken-and-brown rice meal is high in fiber, thanks to the brown rice -- and this fiber can help you lose weight. One study, published in PLoS One in 2015, found that rats who ate pectin -- a type of fiber found in brown rice -- tended to eat fewer calories throughout the day and that they lost more fat than rats that didn't eat pectin. Fiber has also been shown to help weight loss in people. One study, from a 2015 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that one simple diet change -- getting 30 grams of fiber daily -- had a significant effect on weight loss. This indicates that a simple lifestyle change of eating more fiber will help you shed pounds. A serving of chicken and rice has 3.5 grams of fiber, or 12 percent of your 30-gram goal.

A Powerhouse of Fat-Burning Protein

Chicken and brown rice also help you eat more protein -- another key factor in weight loss. Higher protein meals move slowly through your digestive tract, which literally keeps you full longer after your meal. Because you're not as hungry, you'll likely find it easier to maintain the lower calorie diet you'll need to follow to lose weight. Protein also provides amino acids -- the building blocks your body needs to build fat-burning muscle.

Eating a higher protein diet can help improve your physique as you get close to your goal weight, too. Women and men who paired a high-protein diet with strength training improved their body composition, which is boosting muscle tissue and burning fat, better than people who followed a low-protein diet. 

A serving of chicken and brown rice contains 32 grams of protein, and provides all the essential amino acids you need.

Healthy Serving Tips

Sitting down to a dinner of plain chicken and brown rice each night during your weight loss journey probably doesn't sound appealing, but these diet staples don't need to be dull. Use grilled chicken breast, brown rice and your favorite veggies to make a low-fat vegetable soup, and boost the flavor with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Or, make a grain bowl by topping a cup of brown rice with shredded chicken breast and chopped vegetables -- try tomatoes and cucumbers for Mediterranean flare, or grilled peppers and mushrooms for Tex-mex flavor -- plus a low-fat sauce such as lemon juice or Sriracha. Infuse your chicken with flavor by making a homemade marinade. Try a marinade made with rice-wine vinegar, green onions, low-sodium soy sauce and chili flakes. Or, for a sweeter option, try one made from apple cider vinegar, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Can Chicken & Brown Rice Help Me Lose Weight?

Nausea After Meals

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Nausea can be attributed to a variety of causes. Both physical illness and even psychological stress can be culprits of this bothersome symptom. 

But if you're experiencing it after eating, the list of possibilities narrows down. Nausea is not always a sign of something serious, but it's best to check with your doctor if you continue to experience it and any other accompanying symptoms.

Chronic Gallbladder Disease

Nausea and vomiting are associated with gallbladder problems. Nausea after eating is specifically tied to chronic cholecystitis, or chronic gallbladder disease. You may also experience abdominal discomfort, gas and diarrhea. Acute cholecytitis involves inflammation of the gallbladder, with gallstones being the cause in 90 percent of cases, MedlinePlus reports. Over time, these acute attacks cause the shrinking and thickening of the gallbladder, affecting its ability to function properly.

GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, better known as GERD, is another possible reason why you're experiencing nausea after meals. GERD is a condition that involves consumed food or liquids in the stomach moving back up into the esophagus. Because of the accompanying stomach acid, this event can cause intense symptoms. Besides nausea, other symptoms like heartburn, sore throat and coughing may occur. In addition, it may cause an acidic taste in your mouth. Lying down after eating can worsen the reflux. Foods that can trigger GERD include tomatoes, citrus products, fatty foods, onions, chocolate and minty foods.

Food Poisoning

Foodborne illness is a serious medical concern affecting millions of people in the United States each year. Approximately 5,000 Americans die annually as a result of the illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Food that hasn't been cooked properly causes sickness. Consuming food that has been left unrefrigerated for more than two hours can also lead to considerable bacteria growth. Symptoms including nausea, vomiting, fever and diarrhea are common. These effects may begin in as little as 30 minutes up to several days following the intake of the contaminated food.

Medical Treatment

All of these conditions may require medical treatment from your physician. Gallbladder disease usually requires surgery to remove the organ. Although mild cases may resolve on their own, severe foodborne illness requires hospitalization. Get immediate medical help if you have continual nausea, bloody diarrhea, high fever and prolonged vomiting. If you suspect GERD is the cause of your nausea, consult your physician when symptoms last longer than two weeks. Treatment of GERD involves lifestyle changes including avoiding trigger foods and losing excess weight. Both over-the-counter and prescription drugs may be recommended to control acid production.

Nausea After Meals