If you're among the many people who make New Year's resolutions, chances are one of them involves eating better, losing weight and/or getting fit. All commendable goals.
To help improve your healthy eating know-how this year, take a few minutes to complete this nutrition-knowledge quiz. Your answers may determine your resolution list. (Don't look ahead at the answer key.)
1. This year, you're committed to eating more protein from plants and less of it from meat. Which plant food adds the most protein to an entrée salad?
a) 3/4 cup lentils
b) 3/4 cup quinoa
c) 3/4 cup edamame, shelled
d) 3 tablespoons hemp seeds
Answer: c). The edamame provides 15 g of protein (along with 13.5 g of fibre). Lentils are a close second (13 g), followed by hemp seeds (10 g) and quinoa (6 g).
The richest sources of plant protein include pulses (e.g. black beans, chickpeas and lentils), edamame, soybeans and tofu. Nuts and seeds also provide protein.
2. True or False? If your 2017 health goal is to lose weight, weighing yourself every day will increase your success.
Answer: True. Research indicates that those who weigh themselves daily lose more weight than dieters who step on the scale less often. They are also more likely to adopt weight-control behaviours such as reducing portion size, cutting back on restaurant meals and watching less television.
If daily weighing isn't for you, do so once a week. Stick to your weigh-in schedule, even if you feel you've gained weight or hit a plateau. Weighing yourself reminds you that you're working toward a goal; it also provides accountability, feedback and motivation.
3. You've heard that certain foods, called prebiotics, feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. Which food is not considered a prebiotic?
d) Aged cheese
Answer: d). Prebiotics are fibrous, non-digestible carbohydrates that, once consumed, make their way to the colon where they feed probiotic bacteria in your intestinal tract. And that's a good thing since so-called good gut microbes are thought to promote healthy bowel function, improve the immune system and may even prevent you from becoming overweight.
Cheese does not contain fibrous carbohydrates. Prebiotic foods include asparagus, spinach, banana, Jerusalem artichoke, kefir, garlic, leeks, onions and whole grains.
4. True or False? You'll burn more body fat if you eat breakfast after, not before, an early morning cardio workout.
Answer: True. A handful of small studies have shown that participants who ran or cycled for 60 minutes before eating breakfast burned more fat during the workout and for up to eight hours afterward than if they ate breakfast before exercising.
If a 30- to 60-minute morning aerobic workout is part of your fitness regime this year, consider doing so on an empty stomach. (I do recommend eating, however, before longer cardio workouts and strength workouts. A pre-workout snack provides fuel and enhances post-exercise muscle repair.)
5. Which cooking oil is not suitable for sautéeing vegetables over medium-high heat?
a) Walnut oil
b) Avocado oil
c) Extra virgin olive oil
d) Peanut oil
Answer: a). Walnut oil has a low smoke point (320 degrees F), the temperature at which it starts to burn and smoke. Heating an oil past its smoke point creates free radicals and destroys beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals.
The smoke point of extra virgin olive oil (410 degrees F) is suitable for sautéeing foods at medium-high heat, but not higher. Avocado oil (520 degrees F) and peanut oil (450 degrees F) can be used for medium- and high-heat cooking.
6. True or False? Bananas have a high glycemic index (GI) value causing your blood sugar to spike quickly after eating one.
Answer. False. Contrary to popular belief, potassium-rich bananas are low on the glycemic index scale, having a GI value of 51. Foods with a low GI value cause your blood sugar to rise gradually, not quickly, after eating them. (GI values less than 55 are considered low.)
Another misconception is that bananas have a lot more natural sugar than most other types of fruit. Yet, one medium banana has 27 grams of carbohydrate, not more than a medium pear (27 g) and not much more than one medium apple (25 g), one cup of pineapple (21 g) or one cup of blueberries (21 g).
7. You've heard that cruciferous vegetables may help guard against colon, breast and prostate cancers and have decided to eat more of them this year. Which veggie does not belong to the cruciferous family?
a) Bok choy
Answer: d). Unlike bok choy, kale and turnip, spinach is not a cruciferous vegetable and, as such, does not contain anti-cancer phytochemicals called glucosinolates. (Even so, there are plenty of other reasons to include spinach in your regular diet.)
Other members of the cruciferous family include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kohlrabi, radish and watercress.
8. True or False? When reading nutrition labels, the grams of sugar indicate how much added sugar is in a product.
Answer: False. You can't tell how much added sugar is in a product by reading the nutrition facts box. That's because food labels lump together refined sugars added during processing and naturally occurring sugars in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose).
A vanilla-flavoured yogurt, for instance, can have as much as 19 g of sugar per ¾ cup serving. Some of that, however, includes natural sugars from milk.
Still, if a food product has very little or no milk or real fruit, then the sugar numbers will tell you how many grams of added sugars are in one serving. Divide the grams by four to get teaspoons of sugar.
9. Potassium helps your muscles contract, your nerves work and your heart beat properly. The mineral can also help manage high blood pressure. Which food has the most?
a) 1 medium russet potato, baked
b) 1 cup cooked kale
c) 1 medium banana
d) 1 cup of cooked lentils
Answer: a). While all are good sources of the mineral, the baked potato is the winner providing 952 mg of potassium (adults need 4,700 mg per day). Runners-up: lentils (730 mg), banana (422 mg) and cooked kale (356 mg). The best sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish, yogurt and milk.
10. This year, you're determined to be mindful of calories when eating out. Which dinner entrée at the Keg Steakhouse is the lowest in calories?
a) Black cod with asiago rice and steamed asparagus
b) Top sirloin (8 oz.) with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables
c) Portobello mushroom burger
d) Thai chicken with rice, sautéed vegetables and sweet chili sauce
Answer: b). The top sirloin with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables clocks in at 600 calories followed by the black cod (774), Thai chicken (1,038); and the meatless portobello mushroom burger (1,154). Ouch.
More shocking are the sodium counts: 1,179 mg (top sirloin dinner); 1,784 mg (black cod); 2,015 mg (Thai chicken); and 2,292 mg (portobello mushroom burger).
To make wise choices when dining at chain restaurants, consult the online nutrition information in advance. Or, if available, read the calorie counts on menus.
How did you do?
To get your score, add up the number of correct responses.
8 to 10: Excellent. Continue to expand your nutrition knowledge in 2017.
5 to 7: Fair. Review your answers to see where you can improve.
Less than 5: Needs improvement. Consider consulting a dietitian this year.
Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto.