Nutritious Dietary Patterns

Dietary patterns (also called eating patterns) are the combinations and quantities of food and beverages consumed over time. Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a plant-based dietary pattern is more health-promoting than the current average U.S. diet. However, a “plant-based” eating patterns doesn’t mean only plants; pairing high-quality protein foods, like eggs, with plants is essential for the synthesis and maintenance of muscle tissue, and for achieving optimal vitamin and mineral intakes.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three healthy eating patterns, all of which include eggs. But what are the sample eating patterns, and what are the key differences between them?

To learn more about healthy eating patterns, including those recommended in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, and how eggs fit within those patterns, explore the following PowerPoint, and feel free to share it with friends!

Healthy Eating Patterns: How do Eggs Fit?

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How to Incorporate Eggs into the Mediterranean Diet

By Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD

The Egg Nutrition Center partnered with Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD to write this blog post.

Although it has the word “diet” in the name, the Mediterranean Diet is a flexible style of eating that isn’t centered around weight loss. There aren’t any strict rules or calorie counting on the Mediterranean Diet, either. Rather, it encourages eating like people do in the Mediterranean region — a nutritious eating pattern full of whole foods.

Named as the #1 Best Overall Diet by US News & Report, the Mediterranean Diet is a healthy style of eating that promotes portion control, whole foods and an active lifestyle. Eating the Mediterranean way includes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains, fish, poultry, eggs, olive oil and fresh herbs. Even a glass of red wine in moderation is encouraged. However, this eating pattern also involves limiting intake of refined grains, red meat, processed or packaged foods and foods that are high in added sugar. 

In addition, lifestyle factors are an important aspect of the Mediterranean Diet. Avoiding tobacco and exercising regularly are healthy habits no matter what, but the Mediterranean Diet also encourages cooking your own meals, choosing seasonal ingredients and enjoying mealtime with family and friends.

The benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

As one of the top diets in the world, there is an abundance of research surrounding the Mediterranean Diet and how it affects certain health conditions. Below are some of the most promising fields of study. 

Heart health

The Med Diet is rich in nutrients that are associated with good heart health, like fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. With that, the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to help protect against cardiovascular disease. As a matter of fact, a large observational study of over 30,000 women found that those who followed the Med Diet for a 10-year period had lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. 

With the revision of the Dietary Guidelines in 2015 to remove cholesterol as a nutrient of concern, eggs have been considered a part of a heart healthy diet. On top of that, the American Heart Association (AHA) Nutrition Committee published a science advisory on Dietary Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Risk in 2019. The advisory stated that following a heart-healthy eating pattern, such as the Mediterranean Diet, is more important than adhering to a specific cholesterol number.  

The advisory also noted that healthy individuals can include one whole egg per day in their heart healthy eating patterns. Older adults can include up to two eggs per day, and vegetarians who do not consume cholesterol from animal foods may include more eggs in their diet, in moderation.

Type 2 Diabetes

According to a 2015 review, the Mediterranean diet is associated with better glycemic control in those with Type 2 Diabetes. Researchers attribute these positive results to the high intake of polyphenols (beneficial plant compounds) from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. Pairing eggs with plant-based heart-healthy foods also helps with the absorption of important nutrients, like Vitamin E and carotenoids. In addition, eating an egg-based breakfast, rich in protein (about 26 grams of egg protein), has been shown to promote glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, as compared to a high-carbohydrate breakfast.

Brain function

Another reason to incorporate Mediterranean approved eggs into your diet is that nutrients in eggs have been shown to have brain benefits. Researchers at the University of Illinois published two studies looking at the relationship between lutein status, as measured using a non-invasive eye test called Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD), and cognition in children. They found that MPOD concentration was positively associated with academic performance. Eggs also contain choline, a nutrient that is vital for the development of brain and spinal cord development in utero. Plus, dietary choline has been shown in some studies to be linked with reduced risk of cognitive decline with age. 

Eggs in the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is not only nutritious, but it’s also very accessible. By incorporating plenty of whole foods in your diet, you’re already on your way to eating the Med way. Eggs are not only a staple of the Mediterranean Diet, but they also play a role in weight management, muscle strength, healthy pregnancy, brain function, eye health and more. Here are some meal examples that combine the power of the Med Diet with the benefits of eggs. 

Addition, Not Subtraction to Best Support Clients

By: Angela Gomez, RDN

Key messages

  • Focusing on what can be added rather than reduced or eliminated, when it comes to behavior change, may help build a growth mind-set and build self-efficacy in the clients we work with.
  • Supporting clients on their health journey by adding to the behaviors they are already engaged in is a more collaborative and positive approach that may increase success and reduce harm.

When discussing behavior change, emphasizing addition (rather than harping on subtraction), can create a mind shift in the individuals and families we work with. Focusing on the addition of health behaviors gives people more options and helps create an experimental environment, rather than a “pass-fail” environment. If we help develop this skill in parents or guardians, then they, in turn, can influence their family in a similar way. This is where the “think addition, not subtraction” phrase comes into play.

I have used this phrase in my work with private clients, youth sports teams, collegiate athletes, and clients with eating disorders. In my sessions, I’ll often redirect the “subtraction talk” and ask open-ended questions to elicit some “addition talk”. I am not as concerned with emphasizing the behavior a client wants to avoid; I am interested in the behavior they want to change – given what they have available to them now (i.e., time, food accessibility, etc.). There is hope and positivity in the idea of adding small behavior modifications, whereas only focusing on avoiding habitual behaviors can feel defeating.

Need more convincing on why we should emphasize addition over subtraction? Here are three reasons to consider implementing this mindset in your own practice:

1. Subtraction represents rules and restrictions, while addition calls attention to abundance and provides options. Restriction emphasizes the “don’t” without providing options for the “do”. There are simply more possibilities with addition. Supporting clients as they build a growth mindset fosters agency, self-efficacy, and honesty in their journey towards owning their positive health behaviors. In more vulnerable populations, such as clients with eating disorders, encouraging subtractions (or restrictions) will not aid in their recovery process.

Instead of: “Stop eating ‘junk food’ or no more ‘junk food’.”
Try: “What foods would you like to add? How do you feel about brainstorming some snack ideas together that incorporate the foods you’d like to add?”
Benefit: You are discussing foods the client is already interested in adding, instead of directing the client toward restrictions (and creating stress in the process).

2. Focusing on addition fosters a relationship of collaboration between the provider and the client. Many of our clients want to please their healthcare providers and don’t want to “fail”. We can encourage the people we work with to get out of this “pass or fail” mindset by emphasizing addition and treating goals like experiments. We can accept that clients are experts of their own bodies, experiences, and lives. We have the education and experience in our field, and more importantly, our clients have the experience of being in their own bodies and living their day-to-day life. Working collaboratively sets the client up for success as we guide and support them on their health journey.

Instead of: “You should eat breakfast every morning.”
Try: “What days work for you to eat something in the morning, even if it is not a full meal – like having some hard-boiled eggs? What are some foods that sound appealing to eat in the morning?”
Benefit: You open the door to possibilities that appeal to the client, and the client tells you what days they may be able to try and eat something for breakfast. Therefore, the focus is not eating breakfast seven days a week; instead it is creating manageable change by encouraging something in the morning when it works for the client.

3. Focusing on subtraction turns individualized care into generalized care. All of our clients do not have the same access or the same ability to work towards your idea of a desirable health behavior. If you are speaking to a family who has limited resources, it may be harmful to recommend specific subtractions (such as “don’t eat canned foods because they are too high in sodium”). If you are telling individuals to remove a food that strongly connects to their family or culture, it is unlikely they will comply. We need to work with the client to tailor the behavior modification to meet them where they are.

The health of the whole being is the most important. Relying on subtractions will restrict, and may ultimately hinder not only your relationship with the client, but also their personal progress. No one wants more rules to follow or more things to avoid. Shifting to addition will encourage our clients to focus on building positive, sustainable behaviors that work within their current lives, work for their families, and allow progress to occur at their own pace.

Angela Gomez, RDN is based out of both Peoria and Phoenix, Arizona and is a School Nutrition Dietitian, an Eating Disorder Dietitian, and a volunteer Dietitian for a collegiate soccer team.

Let’s Get Cracking: Earth Month Recipes Using Pantry Staples

Kim Hoban, RDN, CDN, CPT

The Egg Nutrition Center partnered with Kim Hoban, RDN, CDN, CPT to write this blog post.

Each year around Earth Day, we try to focus on ways we can conserve resources, such as reducing food waste. Now as we experience a global pandemic, we are looking to conserve for additional reasons, like reducing the frequency of trips to the grocery store. 

If you’re using this time to spring clean the pantry, save money or reduce food waste, it’s possible to create delicious, well-rounded meals with pantry staples like oats, rice, canned beans, tomato sauce, nut butter and more. Eggs are a perfect pairing with many of these staple foods, adding high-quality protein, vitamin D and key nutrients like choline, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Baking and cooking can be a fun family activity that can help teach kids math and science, but also important life lessons like patience and problem-solving. Baking can also be a great stress reliever, so get out the flour, sugar, and eggs to bake up sweet treats like Cinnamon Banana Bread. Found a can of pumpkin in the pantry? It might not be fall anymore, but this pumpkin bread is delicious any time of year!

When it comes to fueling yourself and your family throughout the day, start at breakfast by turning to pantry staples like oats and nut butters. This Almond Butter Oatmeal with Egg is a great option, as are more traditional family favorites like French toast and pancakes. Make a single serving pancake by mixing just one banana, one egg and two tablespoons of nut butter, then cooking on a griddle like any other pancake.

When it comes to more savory meals using pantry staples, think about canned foods like diced or crushed tomatoes, tuna, beans and dry goods like rice or quinoa. Use what you have on hand to make Shakshuka or Eggs in Purgatory. Put together an easy lunch using canned tuna, mixing in hard-boiled eggs or beans for more protein. Another easy option is a stir fry or fried rice using eggs and whatever vegetables you have in the cabinet, fridge or freezer.

With many people staying home and spring finally upon us, there’s no better time to start a home garden or a compost bin. Using dried crushed egg shells to add to the compost enriches your garden soil while also reducing kitchen waste. If you have some veggies that are on the verge but not quite ready for compost, utilize these infinitely swappable meal formulas to help reduce food waste.

If you have more eggs on hand than you’ll be able to use in the coming weeks, don’t hesitate to freeze them. Follow these tips on freezing eggs to save fresh eggs for up to a year.

With so much out of our control as we await a “new normal”, it’s important to focus on all we can do, like getting creative in the kitchen, enjoying time with family and doing our part to celebrate and honor the planet.

5 Ways to Find Balance

By Stacey Mattinson, MS, RDN, LD

The Egg Nutrition Center partnered with Stacey Mattinson, MS, RDN, LD to write this blog post.

During times of uncertainty, encouraging patients and clients to focus on aspects of their health they can control is even more important. When life throws curveballs and routines fall out of whack, self-care becomes even more essential. Here are five ways we can encourage balance during hectic times:

1. Fuel your Body (and Brain!) with Combination Meals and Snacks. Often people find themselves grazing or snacking frequently because their food choices aren’t bulky enough to promote satiety. Multi-food group combos pairing protein-rich foods, like eggs, with sources of fiber and healthful fats trigger satiety signals and provide maximum nutrients and absorption.

Great examples include:

Each of these examples provides nutrient-rich sources of protein, carbohydrate and fat, coupled with colorful plants, making a perfect macro- and micronutrient matrimony. With only 1 in 10 adults eating enough fruits and vegetables1 , eggs are a particularly great vehicle in a plant-forward diet. In fact, naturally nutrient-rich eggs can help with the absorption of nutrients found in plant foods like vitamin E and carotenoids. Plus, pairing plant foods with high-quality protein foods, like eggs, can help meet protein needs to help support healthy muscles and strong bones.

2. Prioritize Family Meals. Whether this means physically in your own home or virtually, mealtime is the perfect time to check in with family. Research indicates family meals are associated with greater consumption of fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium-rich foods and vitamins.2 Kids also see improved grades, less participation in risky behaviors and less likelihood of developing eating disorders with more family meals eaten per week.3 Whether you choose breakfast, lunch or dinner, the benefits amplify with more meals eaten together each week. Try kid-friendly recipes like the Caprese Egg Muffins, Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancake Poppers, or Egg Pita Snackers.

3. Eat Intuitively. Humans are born with innate hunger and fullness cues. Although these can be overridden over time when they are ignored, they can be uncovered by practicing mindfulness around eating experiences. Evaluating hunger before, during and after eating occasions helps sharpen personal awareness and unearth habits of eating in response to stress, boredom or emotions. Alternative coping mechanisms like walking, meditation, practicing a hobby or catching up with a friend are healthy responses to external triggers unrelated to hunger.

4. Sweep Out the Negative. Give permission to not be perfect. Successful long-term healthy habits are bred from someone’s ability to quickly dive back into positive behaviors rather than ruminate on unhealthy pitfalls. The week is not botched from a cookie, a missed workout or indulging in your favorite takeout. No one has tainted the next hour or the next day. Encourage clients to hop back on the healthy train and likewise consider removing negative social media influences that might make them feel poorly about themselves.

5. Add in One New Positive Habit. If nothing else, ask your clients, “What’s one thing you could change today that would help you live a healthier life?” This question invites clients to weigh their values, empowering manageable, realistic changes.

When clients are looking for advice on how to optimize health during uncertain times, remember to look at the big picture and point them toward long-term, sustainable lifestyle changes in ways that are meaningful to them!

References:

  1. Lee-Kwan SH, Moore LV, Blanck HM, Harris DM, Galuska D. Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption — United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:1241–1247. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6645a1.
  2. Adv Nutr. Come and Get It! A Discussion of Family Mealtime Literature and Factors Affecting Obesity Risk. 2014 May; 5(3): 235–247. Published online 2014 May 6. doi: 10.3945/an.113.005116
  3. Can Fam Physician. Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth. 2015 Feb; 61(2): e96–e106.

Snacks and Small Bites to Help You Eat Right

By Kim Hoban, RDN, CDN, CPT

The Egg Nutrition Center partnered with Kim Hoban, RDN, CDN, CPT to write this blog post.

While there is no one way to eat “right,” small changes and small meals or snacks can have a big impact on health and wellness. Incorporating snacks and small bites into the day can be a simple way to help boost energy levels, regulate blood sugar and ensure adequate nutrition. If you’re busy and often on-the-go, prefer grazing over sit down meals or are trying to replenish appropriately after a workout, snacks can be a helpful tool in reaching your nutrition goals.

This month, we are joining the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in celebrating National Nutrition Month. In a nod to this year’s theme to “Eat Right, Bite by Bite”, we’ve rounded up some well-balanced snacks and small bites to fuel you all day long.

So what should snacks and small bites include? Strict rules around food are no fun, but when planning out snacks or mini meals, a good rule of thumb is to pair protein foods with carbohydrates and/or fat. Think fruit with nut butter, crackers and cheese or veggies with hard boiled eggs, like in these veggie egg pops! In fact, hard boiled eggs are such a simple, convenient and nutritious snack option, due to the one-two punch of protein and fat. Just one large egg offers six grams of high-quality protein and all nine essential amino acids. Hard boiled eggs are also great dipped in hummus or guacamole, drizzled with your favorite pesto or simply seasoned with salt and pepper.

Don’t forget to include snacks when planning your week or meal prepping ahead of time too! Egg muffins can be made in advance as an easy on-the-go option. Try these Caprese Egg Muffins or Quinoa Egg Muffins as a way to get some extra protein and veggies between meals or post workout. These Egg Pita Snackers make a great mini meal any time of day. If you’re looking for something sweeter, whip up a batch of these Cherry Cheesecake Baked Breakfast Bars to have on hand for breakfast, mid-afternoon snack or even dessert.

No matter what your meal and snack pattern looks like, you too can eat right, bite by bite this National Nutrition Month!