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Time more important than increased funding when it comes to SNAP benefits



A new paper in JAMA Network Open by Barbara Laraia, PhD, MPH, RD, Professor of Public Health at Berkeley, PhD, RD, Anil Aswani, PhD, Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at UC Berkeley, and Matt Olfat, PhD, of Citadel LLC, notes that SNAP recipients (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps) who had more time to spend were able to prepare higher quality meals, reducing sodium consumption for them and theirs Families reduced.

The analytical model used in the study examines a barrier to healthy eating: the time it takes to prepare meals from scratch. The results suggest that increasing SNAP funding alone will not provide access to nutritious meals if recipients do not have the time resources to prepare them from fresh ingredients

“The paper suggests that the amount of funds available to buy food and the time available to prepare meals are not strict substitutes for one another,” says Aswani. “Increasing availability of time is associated with improved nutritional quality of meals, even if funding is increased.”

Headshot of the faculty for Barbara Laraia

Barbara Laraia, BPH Professor for Community Health Sciences

“Traditional wisdom suggests – and data supports – the reality that cooking from scratch and eating at home provides more nutritious meals than eating out at a restaurant or buying processed, prepared foods,” says Laraia. “Cooking takes time, and the average American family spends less time shopping, prepping and cooking food at home than ever before. Meanwhile, fresh nutritious foods cost more money than highly processed foods. Many low-income families in the United States suffer from a lack of time and financial difficulties in shopping and preparing meals at home. We found that simulating an increase in the time US families had to prepare meals from scratch actually improved the number of meals eaten at home and several nutritional indicators. Increasing funds can also help, but time seems to be a little more important. “

Their work has the potential to have great real-world implications by providing guidance to the USDA for designing an updated SNAP model; the formula for SNAP has not been updated since the 1970s.

“Currently, food insecurity-related policy interventions are mostly focused on either spending money on food purchases or providing prepared meals,” Aswani says.

“Interventions to help families with time – such as Things like working from home, getting help with shorter commutes and / or looking after children – are needed to spend more time preparing meals, cooking and eating at home, ”says Laraia, who says The Thrifty Food Plan , which forms the basis for determining SNAP performances, needs to be reassessed to account for the time it takes to prepare meals. “The Thrifty Food Plan allows unlimited time to buy, prepare, and cook all meals from scratch, which is unrealistic in today’s job market and food environment.”

This research is particularly relevant right now; President Biden recently issued an executive order calling on the USDA to update the model that was used to shape the Thrifty Food Plan. The implementing regulation explicitly requires that the new model take into account the preparation time of meals.

“Convenience is a fact of our modern life,” says Laraia. “We need a more nutritious food supply to meet our busy lifestyles, especially in low-income households with limited time and financial resources.”

Read the paper on the JAMA Network Open website

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Healthy Eating

7 Best Foods to Eat on the Mediterranean Diet for Brain Health, Weight Loss and Heart Health



The Mediterranean diet is a flexible way of eating that emphasizes wholesome plant foods, limits heavily processed foods, such as sweets and processed meats, and embraces eating for pleasure. Hundreds of studies point to the health benefits of eating this way. In honor of International Mediterranean Diet Month, here are the best things to eat on this top-ranked diet.

Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Before we dive into the foods eaten in the Mediterranean region, let’s discuss why this eating pattern is so healthy. Research suggests that the Mediterranean diet may protect against strokes and heart attacks, memory decline, type 2 diabetes and depression. It’s also associated with a longer lifespan. On top of all of these benefits, the Mediterranean diet is linked with healthier body weight.

The reason the Mediterranean diet is so helpful is its focus on plant foods. These foods contain fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients that get at the root of most health problems. In a nutshell, substances in plants limit inflammation, promote a diverse and healthy gut environment, and counter free radical damage that contributes to oxidative stress.

RELATED: 7-day Mediterranean diet plan to help boost your metabolism and energy

Here are some of the all-star staples of the Mediterranean diet to thank for these impressive health benefits:

Extra virgin olive oil, EVOO, is a pillar of the Mediterranean diet. EVOO is high in monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, antioxidants that guard against free radical damage. When there’s an imbalance of antioxidants to free radicals, it leads to oxidative stress and promotes various diseases. But, a diet rich in antioxidants, such as those found in EVOO and other plant foods, can protect against this occurrence. The compounds in EVOO also have a positive effect on gut health.

To eat like the Mediterraneans, make EVOO your go-to cooking oil. Cook your veggies in it and use it as a condiment over salads, pasta and bread. To retain EVOO’s health properties, buy oil within the expiration date and store it in a cool, dark place. Make sure your EVOO is in a dark bottle since light can diminish the quality.

Fruits and vegetables

You’re probably familiar with the fact that fruits and veggies are nutritional superstars, which is why these gems are the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. At mealtimes, Mediterranean eaters fill most of the plate with produce. In the Mediterranean region, fruit is eaten a couple of times a day, and may be featured in desserts (think berries marinated with balsamic vinegar or poached pears with yogurt sauce).

When it comes to veggies, forget about wimpy salads or puny portions on the side of your plate. These foods take center stage in luxe salads and veggie-heavy pasta dishes, grain salads, soups and stews.


Fish are a top animal protein source on the Mediterranean diet, and they’re eaten at least twice a week, which is in line with recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association. According to a landmark study, this amount lowers your chances of dying from heart disease by 36%. Another study found that people who eat fish often live an average of 2.2 years longer than those who skip it. Plus, evidence suggests that fish eaters have a lower risk of depression plus better brain health and thinking skills as they age.

If fish isn’t a regular part of your menu, consider eating it with familiar foods. For instance, add smoked salmon to scrambled eggs, make fish tacos and add shrimp to your favorite stir-fry.


Nuts are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet and each variety has unique superpowers. For example, among nuts, almonds are the richest in vitamin E, Brazil nuts are the highest in magnesium, and walnuts are the only nut that contains an excellent source of the plant-based omega 3 ALA. These plant-based fats are cousins ​​to the omega-3s in fish and they offer potent anti-inflammatory protection. A 2022 review study found that plant-based ALAs can lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. Study authors also report promising evidence that ALAs may counteract age-related cognitive impairment and protect against type 2 diabetes. And, they say, benefits are associated with about ½ ounce of walnuts per day, though the Mediterranean diet calls for up to two 1-ounce servings of various nuts daily. You can easily get to this amount by adding nuts and seeds (such as chia, pumpkin and sesame seeds) to stir-fries, baked goods, fruit dishes and trail mixes.


Pulses include beans, lentils and chickpeas, and they’re packed with health-promoting nutrients. Eating these foods often promotes better heart health, good health, longevity and a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

In keeping with the Mediterranean tradition, try to eat pulses in place of meat at some meals. One strategy is to use them in flavorful dishes that ordinarily call for meat, such as burgers, chili and tomato sauce. On the Mediterranean diet, pulses are eaten at least twice a week, but it’s easy to work them into any meal or snack. Toss white beans into a smoothie or add them to sautéed greens, snack on roasted chickpeas or hummus, and add beans to soups, salads, grainy side dishes and pasta.

Whole grains

Typically, one to two servings of whole grains are eaten at each Mediterranean meal. Evidence suggests that eating whole grains as part of the Mediterranean diet can lower your risk of heart disease and dying from heart disease, as well as reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. According to a 2022 study, the fiber in whole grains is especially protective against disease-promoting inflammation. Note, however, that portion sizes may be smaller than the standard American diet. In 2019, Italian scientists proposed an updated Mediterranean diet pyramid, calling for 90 to 180 grams of whole grain carbohydrates per day, which translates to one to two cups of whole grains at each meal. The rest of the plate is filled with veggies and other plant foods, such as nuts and pulses.


Pasta deserves special attention because it’s a part of Mediterranean cuisine, yet it’s also a refined grain. Overall, refined grains are eaten less often on the Mediterranean diet, but when pasta is eaten, it’s enjoyed with other Mediterranean diet staples, like veggies, pulses and EVOO. Or it may be added to soup or eaten alongside a portion of fish or shellfish. Plus, the portions may be smaller than what you’re used to. However, when eaten in this fashion with wholesome foods, pasta can help you get more protective nutrients in your diet.

4 easy ways to get started on the Mediterranean diet

The only things you need to begin the Mediterranean diet are a well-stocked kitchen and a willingness to try. Here are some other pointers for embracing this lifestyle:

● Aim to fill your plate with 75% plant foods. The rest of your plate may include fish, poultry or eggs, if desired.

● Reduce your intake of red meat, heavily processed foods and sweets. This includes ultra-processed refined grains.

● Take time to sit and appreciate your meals.

● Don’t worry about foods inherent to the Mediterranean region. The plant-based focus of Mediterranean eating can be expanded to suit other cuisines. Start with the plant foods your family enjoys and go from there.

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Healthy Eating

RECIPE: Lois’ seared tuna birthday dinner



Seared ahi tuna with coconut rice and fiddlehead ferns. Photo: Bob Luhman

Every year, when it comes around to Lois’ birthday, I never have to ask what she’d like for her birthday dinner. Seared tuna is always on the menu. Having been together for 15 years, that means I’ve tried many different preparations just for her birthday alone. Some have been successful and some not.

One of the preparations I’ve not mastered is an olive oil poached tuna, which Lois especially loved when she ordered it while dining at Blue Heron Restaurant & Catering in Sunderland, Massachusetts. The restaurant is owned by Deborah Snow and Barbara White, with Executive Chef Justin Mosher leading the kitchen. They’re 2022 James Beard Foundation Award semifinalists, so replicating their dish to my satisfaction was a high bar to clear. Rather than continue to chase mastery of their wonderful dish, I chose to sear tuna more traditionally this year.

Giant yellowfin tuna. Photo courtesy of

First, let’s talk a bit about tuna.

There are several species of tuna, including skipjack, albacore, yellowfin, bluefin, and bigeye. When taking all these species together, tuna is the most consumed fish in the world. It can also be the most expensive. The record price was $3 million for what was deemed a perfect 600-pound bluefin tuna in 2019. The tuna species used most for searing and sushi are yellowfin, otherwise known as ahi, and bluefin. Ahi tuna is leaner and milder with a lighter flavor, while bluefin is richer and fuller flavored with the fattiest flesh of all tuna varieties. Ahi tuna are comparatively smaller than bluefin, with a top weight of 400–500 pounds, while bluefin can top out at about 1,500 pounds. Having done my share of saltwater fishing, I can’t imagine what it would be like to land even a smaller yellowfin tuna.

Next, there are issues to consider when preparing seared tuna. Seared tuna is essentially raw, which can lead to problems if not purchased carefully, handled correctly, or eaten in moderation. Being a predator at the top of the food chain — consuming smaller fish contaminated with varying amounts of mercury — tuna’s mercury levels are high. Tuna is also susceptible to parasites which can cause food-borne illness. Because of these issues, children, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and those who are immunocompromised should avoid raw tuna. The FDA recommends eating no more than 6 ounces of tuna steaks per week for healthy adults. This is not a problem for me, as sushi-grade bluefin tuna steaks usually retail for $30 or more per pound!

World record bluefin tuna. Photo courtesy of

On the plus side, in addition to being luxuriously delicious, tuna is extremely nutritious. It’s packed with lean protein, and what we’re looking for when seeking to lose weight. A 6-ounce serving of ahi tuna contains 35 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, and 94 calories. It’s an excellent source of iron, potassium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, which helps form red blood cells preventing anemia. It’s also an excellent source of selenium, a trace mineral that acts as an antioxidant. Eating tuna contributes to lowering the risk of heart disease because its high level of omega-3 fatty acids help reduce LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol.

Whether fresh or frozen, purchasing sushi-grade tuna is important, as it means it’s been judged safe to be eaten raw. With all this information in mind, we happily have sushi-grade seared tuna as an occasional luxury, and I’m careful about where I purchase it. I prepare it as soon after I’ve either thawed my center-cut saku block ahi tuna from Wild Fork Foods in the refrigerator for two days, or prepare it the day I purchase it from my favorite local fish vendor, Mazzeo’s in Guido’s Fresh Marketplace . Speaking with Mazzeo’s fish department, they stressed their fresh bluefin tuna is sushi grade and completely additive and chemical free, unlike many frozen tuna steaks which have been treated with preservatives.

Lois’ Seared Tuna Birthday Meal
(Serves 2)

So many recipes claim to be quick and easy, but this really is. It’s my version of Tuna Tataki which, instead of using all sesame seeds, I use half sesame seeds and half mustard seeds, giving it a bit more zip. I particularly love the crunch of the seeds contrasting with the rich tuna. If you’re not familiar with ponzu sauce, it’s a citrus flavored soy sauce-based dressing readily available in most grocery stores.

I served the tuna over a bed of jasmine rice made with coconut milk, which I finished with chopped cilantro. This coconut rice recipe is a stickier, cooktop version, while this recipe is a fluffy Instant Pot version. It’s all a matter of taste; you may have a favorite of your own and there are countless other recipes to be found online. Alongside the tuna and coconut rice, I served steamed and buttered fiddlehead ferns because we love their asparagus-like flavor, and I’d just plucked my first batch of the season.

Any leftover seared tuna can be used the next day to make summer rolls: chill the seared tuna, slice it thinner, and use it for summer rolls as a wonderful addition for a picnic with friends. Tanglewood anyone? Here’s a YouTube video with basic instructions for putting together summer rolls.

Seared tuna summer roll with coconut rice, mint, cilantro and julienned vegetables. Photo: Bob Luhman

(2) 6-ounce sushi-grade tuna steaks
1 cup ponzu sauce, divided
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons raw sesame seeds
½ cup high heat oil such as grapeseed, sesame, avocado or peanut

Whisk together ½ cup of the ponzu sauce with the toasted sesame oil and pour it into a nonmetallic container large enough to hold the tuna. Place the tuna in this marinade, making sure both sides are coated, and refrigerate for an hour or two.

Discard the marinade and spread the sesame seeds and mustard seeds on a plate. Firmly press the tuna steaks into the seeds on both sides and refrigerate for an additional ½ hour or so to allow the seeds to adhere.

Heat the oil in a heavy-duty sauté pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until it just begins to smoke. Sear the tuna between 30–45 seconds per side.

Slice the tuna into approximately ¼-incg slices and serve with the remaining ½ cup of ponzu sauce mixed with the grated ginger for dipping.

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Healthy Eating

Quality sleep may be the key to weight loss



Share on PinterestA study shows that sleep duration and quality may be the key to managing weight. and ljubaphoto/Getty Images

  • Adults should sleep at least 7 hours a night for health and well-being, yet more than one-third of American adults fail to get enough sleep.
  • A new study has shown that short-term low calorie diets can increase sleep quality in adults with obesity.
  • The study also demonstrates that lack of sleep may prevent weight loss maintenance in adults with obesity and that regular exercise may promote the maintenance of good sleep.

Adults ages 18 to 60 should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night to promote health and well-being, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends.However, data from the (CDC) shows that more than 30% of American adults regularly fail to get enough sleep.

According to the Sleep Foundation, adequate quality sleep is important for healthy weight loss. Studies have shown poor quality, and limited sleep may increase the risk of metabolic disorders, weight gain, and obesity. Lack of quality sleep has also been shown to increase the desire for high calorie and high carbohydrate-containing foods associated with weight gain.

New research has found that lack of quality sleep can also undermine people’s attempts to maintain weight loss after dieting.

Researchers with the University of Copenhagen presented their findings at the 2022 European Congress on Obesity held in Maastricht, Netherlands.

dr Signe Torekov, the study lead and a professor of clinical translation metabolism, spoke with Medical News Today.

“Adults who aren’t sleeping enough or getting poor quality sleep after weight loss appear less successful at maintaining weight loss than those with sufficient sleep.” dr Torekov explained.

Using data from the S-LiTE randomized placebo-controlled trial, the researchers studied the quality and duration of sleep in 195 adults with obesity. The participants followed a low calorie-restricted diet for 8 weeks and lost an average of 12 percent body weight.

For the following 12 months, participants committed to receiving either a:

  • daily placebo injection
  • daily placebo injection and exercise
  • daily 3 mg injection of the weight loss drug liraglutide
  • daily liraglutide injection and exercise

Sleep quality was measured by a questionnaire using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), where a score of 5 or more indicates poor sleep and below 5 good sleep. The participants wore accelerometers to measure sleep duration before and after the 8-week low calorie diet and at weeks 26 and 52 of the weight maintenance study.

Researchers found that sleep quality increased by 0.8 global PSQI score points and sleep duration increased by 17 minutes per night after the initial 8-week restricted-calorie diet.

MNT spoke with Dr. Jane Odgen, a professor of health psychology who was not involved in the study, she highlighted that “Weight and sleep are linked – we don’t know which way round ie poor sleep causes weight gain or weight causes poor sleep.”

Giving her take on the study, Odgen explained: “The first part of the study shows weight loss is associated with improved sleep.” However, she added a note of caution: “But for this part, there was no control group and no randomization. So it might not have been the weight loss and could have been something else, such as time, being in a study, or eating more fruits and vegetables regardless of weight loss.”

The longer-term study showed that adults with obesity who slept less than 6 hours a night or had poor sleep quality increased their BMI by 1.1 kg/m2. In comparison, obese adults who achieved over 6 hours of quality sleep each night reduced their BMI by 0.16 kg/m2.

“The second part shows less sleep and poor quality sleep at baseline predicted weight gain,” says Dr. odgen “This was not the randomized bit. So an association but not causal, such as poor sleep, might lead to eating more in the night, which leads to weight gain, and it’s not the sleep,” she added.

Researchers found that the more active participants maintained the diet-related sleep quality improvement compared to the less active participants.

“Weight loss maintained with exercise seems promising in improving sleep,” said Dr. Torekov. “Adults who aren’t sleeping enough or getting poor quality sleep may benefit from sleep pattern support as well as weight loss maintenance support.”

She added that “before initiating weight loss maintenance, it may be helpful to identify sleep patterns.”

When asked about the research findings, Dr. Ogden said that “[..] the take-home message is that sleep and weight are associated but we still don’t know whether this is causal. But it does indicate that exercise promotes the maintenance of good sleep.”

“The best intervention would therefore be to do more exercise, improve your sleep, and then maybe also show weight loss,” Dr. Oden explained.

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