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This post was sponsored by the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED). All thoughts are my own.

A new study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) examining the relationship between omega-3s and heart disease and cancer was recently released. The initial conclusion has some headlines saying omega-3s are ineffective, while others tout the benefits of taking omega-3 supplements, leaving the public confused on what to do when it comes to these vital nutrients. It has become commonplace in our society that every time a new study is released, headlines confuse consumers because they don’t put the study into perspective with all the other research that is out there. Upon thoroughly reading the study, it shows promising results, especially among two groups of people. Here’s a look into what is called VITAL, and what it means for your omega-3 intake.

A Look Into the VITAL Study

The VITamin D and OmegA-3 Trial (VITAL) was conducted among 25,871 older adults (ages 50 and older), over the course of five years. The question was whether taking 2,000 IU daily of vitamin D3 and/or 1g of omega-3s (supplying 840 mg of EPA and DHA) reduces the risk of major cardiovascular events*, that is: heart attack, stroke, or death related to cardiovascular disease (CVD). The study also examined the total invasive cancer (such as breast, prostate, and colorectal) in people who do not have a history of cancer.

*[Think of an event like something that occurs in a moment in time, like a heart attack or, well, death. A condition is something you’d have for a while, like coronary heart disease.]

At the end of the study, there was no meaningful risk reduction when these cardiovascular events were looked at all together, as the researchers originally intended. But after looking more closely at the data, researchers found that omega-3s reduce risk for certain specific events and conditions:

  • There was a 28% reduced risk for non-fatal heart attacks among the omega-3 group (145 reported heart attacks in the omega-3 group compared to 200 among those taking placebo).
  • There was a 50% reduced risk for fatal heart attacks (although to be fair there were not a lot of fatal heart attacks reported: the omega-3 group had 13 fatal heart attacks compared to 26 in those taking placebo.)
  • There was a 17% reduced risk for total coronary heart disease (CHD)*, with the omega-3 group reporting 308 CHD cases verses 370 in those taking placebo.

*[Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a term that encompasses the heart and all blood vessels in the body. It includes events such as heart attacks (impaired blood flow to the heart), stroke (impaired blood flow to the brain) and conditions that can lead to these events such as clogged arteries. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is a type of CVD that affects the heart only.]

In addition, there were two specific groups of people where the results are really promising: those with a low fish intake and African Americans. More research is needed to really understand these findings.

The study results also found that whether a person was given omega-3 or placebo, it did not change the effects of cancer. This is not surprising, given that cancer protection is not a known benefit of taking omega-3s.

Putting the Research into Context

It is important to put this study in perspective as this is one of more than 3,000 human clinical trials on EPA and DHA omega-3s. Adding VITAL to the pool of research, when you take all the data from all the people involved in all the trials on omega-3s and cardiovascular effects, the evidence that omega-3s help reduce the risk for CHD and non-fatal heart attacks is even stronger.

How Much Should You Take?

After thorough review of international standards for EPA and DHA intake, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) recommends the following daily intake:

  • 500 mg per day for healthy adults to lower risk of coronary heart disease.
  • 700-1000 mg per day to slow the progression of cardiovascular disease after it’s been diagnosed.
  • For pregnant and lactating women, 700 mg per day of EPA and DHA, with at least 300 mg as DHA.
  • More than 1 g (1,000 mg) per day for adults with additional health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels or other cardiovascular risks.

You can reach the daily recommended intake by eating two servings of fatty fish per week or taking a daily omega-3 supplement.

One More Thing

Heart health isn’t the only area where omega-3s have shown to be beneficial. Omega-3s are found in every cell of the body, and EPA and DHA are associated with cognitive health, eye health and prenatal health. The website AlwaysOmega3s.com has a lot of great information, written in easy-to-understand language, as well as videos to help educate on the importance of omega-3s.

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Getting quick, healthy meals on the table isn’t easy. The school year is under way, yet many folks are still struggling with dinner (and other meals!). That is why I am giving away three cookbooks filled with simple ideas to get meals on the table quickly. The cookbooks include The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook, The Easy 5 Ingredient Slow Cooker Cookbook, and my Smart Meal Prep for Beginners. Below you’ll find a description of each of the cookbooks, and a few questions I just had to ask the authors of the other two cookbooks.

I had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Walker Caron, author of The Super Easy 5- Ingredient Cookbook about her new meal planning book.

Q: Many vegetarian recipes have a lot of ingredients. Do you have any tips for vegetarians who are trying to cut down their shopping list?

If you are cooking with recipes with lots of ingredients, your shopping list will be long — regardless of whether you are vegetarian, vegan or omnivore. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of long, complicated recipes, learn to cook simpler and cook in greater quantity for double duty meals. In my cookbook, I suggest, for instance, doubling your batch of rice early in the week so you can enjoy rice again (perhaps as a fried rice) later in the week. You’ll also want to learn techniques that celebrate the naturally wonderful flavors of produce. For instance, roasting is a great technique that often brings out natural sweetness in veggies. Drizzle whatever you’re roasting with a little olive oil and season it with salt and pepper before sliding into the oven. When completed, those roasted veggies can be enjoyed on top of rice, tossed with pasta, folded into a wrap and so much more. And one final note: When you eat seasonally, you’ll spend less on the season’s freshest and best produce.

Q: What are the ingredients you recommend keeping on hand that you can use in many simple or 5-ingredient dishes?

Staples like olive oil, salt, pepper and a good vinegar or two are a must. They are used in so many recipes. I am partial to keeping a balsamic vinegar and a seasoned rice vinegar on hand because these are what I use most. Canned tomatoes in a few varieties will last for a while and can be used in so many recipes. Pasta, rice and quinoa are great non-perishable options for carbs with your meals. Also, dried herbs and spices like chili powder, dried basil, dried thyme and paprika as well as fresh garlic can transform dishes.

Sarah was kind enough to share a recipe from her new cookbook for Teriyaki Salmon and Avocado Bowl with Pickled Radishes

Teriyaki Salmon and Avocado Bowl with Pickled Radishes
Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

1⁄2 cup (about 4 to 5) thinly sliced radishes
6 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar, divided
Salt
1 pound salmon, cut into 4 (4-ounce) fillets
Ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup teriyaki sauce
4 cups cooked rice
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the radishes and 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar. Season lightly with salt. Let sit, stirring a few times, for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, arrange the salmon fillets on a baking sheet. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until opaque. Remove from the oven and brush thoroughly with the teriyaki sauce. Return to the oven and cook for an additional 5 to 6 minutes, until cooked through.
  4. Divide the rice evenly among four bowls. Drizzle each with 1 teaspoon of the remaining rice vinegar, and season with salt. Top with one-quarter of the avocado and one-quarter of the pickled radishes.
  5. Using a fork, flake the salmon fillets one at a time, transferring the salmon from each fillet to one of the prepared rice bowls and serve

Nutrition Information (per serving): Calories: 489; Total Fat: 18g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 62mg; Sodium: 754mg; Carbohydrates: 50g; Fiber: 6g; Protein: 30g

I had the opportunity to speak with Karen Bellessa Petersen, author of The Easy 5-Ingredients Slow Cooker Cookbook.

Q:  What is the advantage of using a slow cooker verses just cooking the recipe stovetop (like a chili)?

My favorite reason to make a recipe in the slow cooker is freedom and flexibility. When you make dinner early in the day you feel so free because you know what’s for dinner and the question “what should we have for dinner” doesn’t plague you all day. It also offers flexibility. If you’re serving a family in shifts between sports practices and activities you can keep everyone’s dinner hot and ready to go by keeping the slow cooker on the warm setting.

Q: When you think slow cooker, dishes like chili and soup come to mind. What else can you cook in a slow cooker that may be surprising?

There are lots of interesting dishes you can make in the slow cooker. Some of them are apple cinnamon oatmeal, Southwestern stuffed bell peppers and peach crisp.

Karen was kind enough to share a recipe from her new cookbook for Turkey Meatballs

Turkey Meatballs
Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 hours

1 pound lean ground turkey
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1⁄2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder
1 (28-ounce) jar all-natural or organic spaghetti sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Cooked spaghetti, for serving (optional)

    1. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, egg, bread crumbs, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder, and mix with clean hands to combine thoroughly. Shape the mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Place the meatballs in the slow cooker. Pour the spaghetti sauce over the meatballs.
    2. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
    3. Remove the lid and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the meatballs and sauce. Cook on high without the lid until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
    4. Carefully scoop the meatballs and sauce onto serving plates—over spaghetti, if desired.

Nutrition Information (per serving) Calories: 311; Total Fat: 13g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 115mg; Sodium: 1,336mg; Total Carbohydrates: 21g; Fiber: 3g; Protein: 27g

This meal prep cookbook goes beyond general meal prep guidance, and provides a 6-week plan to make a habit of meal prep and keep your fridge full. With specific, step-by-step instructions and meal prep plans that eliminate the guesswork of what to eat and for which meal, this cookbook is your kick-start guide to meal prep like a pro.

The point of meal prep is to set yourself up for success, not stress. This meal prep guide and cookbook gives you the tools you need to make meal prep a regular part of your routine, with:

  • 6-Weekly meal prep plans that progressively ease beginners from prepping breakfast and lunch (2 plans) to a full day’s meal prep featuring breakfast, lunch, and dinner (4 plans)
  • Must-have meal prep tools that include prep day guidance, shopping lists, plus storage and reheating information
  • Meal prep 101 gets you started with need-to-know info about meal prepping, including meal prep Dos and Don’ts and food storage guidelines Smart Meal Prep for Beginners is a fool-proof plan to meal prep like a pro and have healthy meals ready-to-go, no questions asked.

Samples recipes from the cookbook include:

Enter For Your Chance To Win

The Super Easy 5- Ingredient cookbook, and The Easy 5-Ingredient Slow Cooker Cookbook and Smart Meal Prep for Beginners is already. You can enter for your chance to win a copy of all 3 cookbooks below.

Giveaway Begins: Tuesday 9/18/18 at 12:00 am ET
Giveaway Ends: Friday 9/21/18 at 11:59 pm ET

You can enter my giveaway for one copy of The Super Easy 5- Ingredient Cookbook, The Easy 5-Ingredient Slow Cookbook Cookbook and Smart Meal Prep for Beginners by doing any of the following:

  • Go to my Instagram page and tag two people in the giveaway post
  • Go to my Facebook page and tag two people in the giveaway post
  • Follow me on Instagram
  • Follow me on Facebook
  • Copy and paste this tweet, “Enter for your chance to win 3 cookbooks on @TobyAmidor #giveaway ”  (only one time per day)
  • In the comments below, tell me how these 3 cookbooks will help you during the week get dinner on the table.

You do not need to purchase anything to win. Only open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. states, D.C. or Puerto Rico, and you must be at least 18 years of age to enter. Books provided by Rockridge Press.

 

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This post was sponsored by American Dairy Association Northeast. All thoughts are my own

Start the school year off by sending your kids to school with simple, creative lunchboxes. When putting together my kid’s lunchboxes, I always keep in mind the flavor, nutrition, and eye appeal. I also want to make sure it’s easy to pick up with smaller fingers and not too messy. Here are three fun lunchbox ideas that my kids love made with Cabot cheese. You can then enter for your chance to win a Cabot cheese gift basket to make any of these creations!

What to Pack?
When I think about what to pack for my kid’s lunch, I always make sure to include at least three food groups coming from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein. That way I know my kiddo is getting the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

Dairy is one of the most important ingredients in building a lunchbox because it gives kids the nutrition needed to stay focused to learn. Dairy, like cheese, provides protein and calcium kids need to fuel growing bodies. Whether it is sliced or cubed in a bento box, shredded on a wrap or stacked on their favorite sandwich…any which way you slice it, cheese helps fuel their school day! Some of my favorite go-to ingredients from each of these categories include:

  • Fruits: Grape halves, berries, melon chunks, and apple or pear slices (with a squeeze of lemon or orange juice to prevent browning)
  • Vegetables: Baby carrots or carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber coins, canned low-sodium vegetables like green beans or carrot coins, jicama
  • Whole Grains: Whole grain crackers, whole wheat tortilla (filled with cheese or beans), 100% whole wheat bread
  • Dairy: Cabot cut slices of cheese, Greek yogurt, drinkable yogurt, low fat chocolate milk
  • Protein: Hard boiled eggs, sunflower seed butter, turkey, chicken, beans, lentils, edamame, canned tuna or chicken, hummus

And don’t forget the milk money – at just 0.35 cents and kept cold at 35-degrees – this farm fresh beverage is something ALL schools have available that you don’t need to worry about packing.

3 Lunchbox Ideas

Here are three of my kid’s favorite lunches I pack for them.

The All-American

As PB&J being the quintessential lunch sandwich, I incorporate it into my kid’s lunchbox. As most schools are nut-free, I used sunflower butter instead of peanut butter. I also incorporate purple and green sliced grapes, sliced red bell peppers, pumpkin seeds, dried tart cherries, and slices of Cabot cheese

The Mediterranean

I grew up eating a Mediterranean diet, so I have always incorporated Mediterranean-style foods into my kid’s lunch boxes. This lunchbox contains my Israeli-Style Salad topped with a hard-boiled egg, canned chickpeas (rinsed and drained), whole wheat crackers with Cabot cheese slices, and diced watermelon.

 The Mexican-Style

I’m a huge fan of Mexican fare and so are my children. In this lunch box I made cheese quesadillas using Cabot cheese slices, a side of low-sodium black beans, salsa, and long carrot and celery sticks (my kids love them this way), and skewered grapes and strawberries. For a variation, you can make the quesadillas with both beans and cheese.

Enter For Your Chance To Win

One randomly selected participant will win Cabot’s Cracker Cut Gift Box, Cabot tin lunchbox, Cabot water bottle, and 2 VIP coupons.

Giveaway Begins: Friday 9/7/2018 at 12:00 am ET
Giveaway Ends: Tuesday 9/11/18 at 11:59 pm ET

 You can enter my giveaway for the Cabot gift basket above by doing any of the following:

  • Go to my Instagram page and tag two people in the giveaway post
  • Go to my Facebook page and tag two people in the giveaway post
  • Follow me on Instagram
  • Follow me on Facebook
  • Copy and paste this tweet, “Enter for your chance to win @CabotCheese delicious gift basket on @TobyAmidor #giveaway from @AmericanDairyNE https://bit.ly/2CwglJm”  (only one time per day)
  • In the comments below, tell me which lunchbox you will make for your kids.

You do not need to purchase anything to win. Only open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. states, D.C. or Puerto Rico, and you must be at least 18 years of age to enter.

 

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Do you remember the Seinfeld episode of the woman with the goiter on her neck? That’s the possible consequence of iodine deficiency. There hasn’t been much talk of iodine and goiter since the 1920’s when a salt iodization was launched. However, recently there has been an increase in iodine deficiency. Find out what’s causing the deficiency and what you could be doing to ensure you’re taking in this important mineral.

Are You Putting Yourself At Risk?
With the increase in non-iodized salt and a use of more sea salt (which doesn’t usually have iodine added), there is now an increase in the number of people being diagnosed with iodine deficiency. A 2015 commentary published in The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists discusses the decreased intake of iodine by 50% since the 1970’s and the reemergence of mild iodine deficiency. In addition, the same issue of the journal discusses a case study of four New Jersey women who were found probably iron-deficiency goiter.

Why Is Iodine So Important?
Although we only need a small amount, iodine plays many important roles in the body. It’s used by cells to covert food into energy and also needed in order for your thyroid to function properly and produce just the right amount of hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for both children and adults, assisting in growth, brain development, reproductive health, and metabolism. This development starts in utero, which is why its critical pregnant women receive adequate amounts.

Signs of Iodine Deficiency
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that iodine deficiency is one of the four major deficiency diseases in the world. Symptoms of deficiency can include enlargement of the thyroid gland, also known as a goiter, fatigue, constipation, unexpected weight gain, hair loss and sensitivity to cold temperatures. There are all the symptoms you’d also find with hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones) since iodine is used to make thyroid hormones.

Iodine deficiency can be especially dangerous when you’re pregnant or in children since it can affect brain development and reproductive health. Since iodine isn’t naturally found in many foods, cutting iodized salt out of your diet could be leaving you falling short of this essential nutrient.

How Much Do You Need?
The current daily Adequate Intake (AI) is 110 micrograms for children 0-6 months and 130 micrograms for those 7 to 12 months. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 90 micrograms for children ages 1 to 8 years old, 120 micrograms for children 9 to 13 years old, and 150 micrograms for those 14 years and older. Pregnant and lactating women require up to 220 micrograms and 290 micrograms, respectively.

To give you an idea of how much that is, ½ teaspoon of iodized salt has 150 milligrams.

Where Is Iodine Found?
Since iodine is found in the soil, the amounts found in certain foods vary depending on how much iodine is present in the soil where the crops are grown. Some foods that are considered good sources of iodine include:

  • Seaweed
  • Cod
  • Yogurt
  • Shrimp
  • Eggs
  • Tuna
  • Dried prunes
  • Enriched grain products

If you’re worried you may be at risk of a deficiency, the best way to insure you’re getting enough is to cook with and sprinkle a dash of iodized salt on your food. Just half a teaspoon over the course of the day is enough to avoid a deficiency.

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