Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Great Pumpkin

It's rather unfortunate how little pumpkin people eat, excluding the mounds of pumpkin pie ingested at Thanksgiving.  Pumpkin is a super food; chock full of vitamins and minerals.  Even though pumpkin is a starchy vegetable, 1 cup of canned pumpkin contains only: 83 kcal, 1g fat(mostly omega 3), 20g carb, 7g fiber, 3g protein.  But it does have: 763% DV of vitamin A, 49% DV vitamin K, 17% DV vitamin C, 13% DV vitamin E, and 19% DV Iron.

While you might think that canned and home cooked pumpkin would have similar nutrient profiles, they are actually quite different.  1 cup of home roasted/steamed pumpkin contains: 49 kcal, trace amounts of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, 12g carb, 3g fiber, 2g protein.  245% DV of vitamin A, 2% DV vitamin K, 19% DV vitamin C, 10% DV vitamin E, and 8% DV Iron.  I have a feeling the major diferences come from the fact that canned pumpkin is probably more concentrated than home cooked pumpkin.  Also, some vitamins and minerals will be lost in cooking water if you choose to boil it rather than roast, steam, or sauté.  Besides making pie and jack-o-lanterns, there are infinite possibilities of what a pumpkin can become.  

Yesterday I made pumpkin oatmeal for a post 5K race breakfast.  Start by cooking 1/2 cup of old fashioned oats and 1 cup of water/milk in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Stir in 2 heaping spoonfuls of canned pumpkin, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Microwave 1 minute more.  Top with chopped pecans or walnuts, and a drizzle of real maple syrup.

My biggest accomplishment in the kitchen yesterday had to be my homemade pumpkin butter.  While it was a little labor intensive, it was for the most part, much easier to make than I would have imagined.  I found the recipe on this website, scroll down the page to November 2005.  While my pumpkin was roasting I prepared the seeds by soaking them in water to help remove the stringy pith.  After draining them, I sprinkled some 'garlic & herb' Mrs. Dash over them.  When the pumpkin came out, I roasted the seeds at 350* F for 20 minutes on a lightly greased pan; stir every 5 minutes.  Unfortunately the seasoning got slightly burnt, but the seeds are nice and crunchy.

Even-though I try not to eat lots of added sugar, I refuse to eat Splenda or aspartame.  However, if you insist on using it, I'm sure it would work fine in the recipe.  Ryan helped me can one jar of the delicious mixture, the rest is going to work for a "pumpkin cook-off" later this week.

Nutrition Bites:
pumpkin pie 1 slice (1/8 of 9" pie): 323 kcal, 13g fat, 310 mg sodium, 41g carb, 25g sugar, 2g fiber, 5g protein.

pumpkin butter 1 Tbs: 30 kcal, 8g carb, 7g sugar,   

roasted seeds 1 oz: 146 kcal, 12g fat (mostly unsaturated), 4g carb,    1g fiber, 9g protein
Starbucks tall pumpkin spice latte skim milk, no whip: 216 kcal,     216 mg sodium, 41g carb, 38 g sugar, 13g protein (contains no real pumpkin)

Cold Stone like it pumpkin ice cream: 385 kcal, 22g fat, 99 mg sodium, 41g carb, 36g sugar, 6g protein (contains canned pumpkin)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Healthy Vending

Last week the Wall Street Journal published an article called 'The Great Banana Challenge.'  The article discusses how a vending machine company in Des Moines, Ia is tackling the problem of dispensing healthy snacks from vending machines.  They have taken the idea of healthy vending one step further than just promoting granola bars and crackers instead of chips and candy, Written Group Inc and Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc, have partnered together and are now creating vending machines capable of dispensing bananas and pre-cut fruits and veggies.  The machines are very high-tech with tightly controlled temperature zones and elevators that help prevent fruit from bruising during their fall to the bottom.

Unfortunately, these machines cost $2000 more than regular vending machines.  The cost of a fruit snack can be as much as $2.50 compared to $0.75-1.50 for more traditional options. That is a bit pricey for a  snack, but companies need to cover the costs of operating the machine.  If people find this too expensive, there is always the option of bringing fresh or precut produce to work from home.  Also, many people do not even glance at the new healthy options, they habitually choose their favorite high fat, high calorie snacks.  As we know, old habits die hard.

This article was a great follow up to hearing about the carrot vending machines in Ohio Schools.  Even though there are critics of the healthy vending machines, no one can deny that they are a step in the right direction.  For companies that do not have a cafeteria they could be a great way to give employees a chance to make a healthy choice.  In the two hospitals that I work at, we are currently working with our foodservice and vending machine companies to implement a healthy vending program.  While we do sell fresh fruit and vegetables at all meals, the cafeteria is not always open.  We currently have no plans to bring in a fruit and veggie machine, but our program will make it easier for employees and patients to choose the healthier options.

What do you think?  Would you buy bananas from a vending machine?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Leggo your Eggo

 Our mothers and grandmothers have been telling us for years, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  They were right.  A substantial breakfast gives you  energy to get your day started and helps prevent high calorie late night snacking.  Many dieters think that by giving up breakfast they are saving calories and well on their way to weight loss.  WRONG!  Breakfast should consist of 400-700 calories depending upon your calorie needs.  This does not mean you want to indulge in biscuits & gravy each morning, but it does mean that wimpy bowl of Special K won't cut it either.

Not everyone likes typical breakfast fare, which is fine since a lot of typical breakfast foods are worthless. Foods such as pop-tarts, eggo-waffles, and white toast with margarine are almost exclusively refined carbohydrates that will leave you running on empty within an hour or two.  If you like foods such as chili, beef and bean burritos,  turkey sandwiches, stir-fry, or lasagna, have them for breakfast.  They all contain a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.  By having a substantial breakfast you may soon find yourself better able to concentrate at work and needing less coffee to keep yourself awake at the office meeting.

While eggs may be a typical breakfast item, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower certainly are not.  Twice this week I made a protein packed veggie scramble for breakfast before work.
1/3 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1/3 cup MorningStar Farms sausage crumbles
1 egg
1 Tbs catsup

In a nonstick skillet heat a small amount of olive or canola oil over medium high heat.  When the pan and oil are hot, add the frozen vegetables and sausage crumbles.  Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables and "meat" are cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Crack an egg over the mixture breaking the yolk.  Move the mixture around in the pan, making sure all of the egg gets cooked.  When the egg is cooked move to a plate and top with a sprinkling of shredded cheese or catsup.
Nutrition: 189 kcal, 8.8g fat, 14.5g carb, 14g protein, 591 mg sodium

Add a slice of whole wheat toast or in my case 1/2 of a sprouted grain english muffin with a smear of low-fat cream cheese and blackberry jam.  I also had a banana and 2 cups of coffee with just a dash of 1/2 and 1/2.  Total my meal came to:
456 kcal, 16.4g fat, 60g carb, 21g protein, 711 mg sodium (that's a little high, mostly from the sausage crumbles and catsup).  This breakfast is high in vitamins B6 and B12, copper, phosphorus, riboflavin,  and thiamin.  All of which are important in normal cell function and metabolism.

So the next time you want to reach for a Nutrigrain bar while running out the door, grab the leftover chicken casserole instead and reap the benefits of a high quality breakfast.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

turkey and more turkey

Last weekend Ryan and I hit the poultry jackpot, a 20# turkey at 99 cents/pound.  Thanksgiving may be less than 2 months away, but that price was too good to pass up.  Food sales and "buy one/get one" deals can be a great way to eat for cheap.  Figuring we had 30-50% waste, we still only spent $1.42 to $2.00 per pound of edible portion. There are approximately 32 4 oz servings for a 20# turkey, which means that one serving costs between 50 and 63 cents. Even with the trimmings, this is still a cheap meal.

After a mini turkey feast complete with mashed red potatoes, homemade gravy, steamed broccoli, and stuffing from a box we had approximately 5 Tupperware full of turkey.  Sorry, I did not make stock with the carcass or fry up the giblets.  The rest of the potatoes and stuffing along with a thigh were eaten over the next day or two.  Some turkey ended up on a giant salad for supper Tuesday night.  Now what to do with all those left overs.

On Wednesday I sauteed a diced onion and about 2 oz of chopped crimini mushroom in a little butter.  I mixed it with ricotta cheese and frozen spinach (thawed and drained).  I layered this with about a cup of diced turkey, 9 lasagna noodles, 1 jar of marinara sauce, and topped it off with about 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese.  It was pretty good, and Ryan was very excited when he found out we were having lasagna for supper.

This morning I woke up and started making what I'm calling Wild Turkey Soup:
In a medium stock pot saute over medium high heat sautee in 2 Tbs canola oil: 2 small onions diced, 3 medium carrots and 2 parsnips cut into thin slices.  As the onions start to soften add 2 cloves of garlic finely minced or pushed through a press.  Also add 0.25 oz of diced dried porcini mushrooms, a large dash of black pepper and thyme.  Continue to cook until the carrots just start to soften.  Pour in 32oz of low sodium chicken broth/stock.  Bring to a boil.  Add 2 cups roughly chopped leftover turkey, 3-4 cups of warm water, and 1 bay leaf.  Decrease the temperature and  back to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Just before serving stir in 1tsp of apple cider vinegar.  Ladle soup over cooked wild rice or other favorite whole grain.
-The porcini mushrooms will add a rich flavor and depth to the soup.  They may need to be reconstituted in warm water to make mincing them easier.
-Do not cook rice into the soup unless you plan on eating all of it at that time.  Otherwise the rice will turn to mush when you reheat it later.

Why eat turkey?  As long as you are not eating highly processed turkey products, and avoiding the crispy skin, Turkey is a great source of lean protein.  A 4 oz portion supplies 65% of your DV for protein.

1 oz of dark meat contains: 56kcals, 2g fat, and 8g protein
1 oz of light meat contains: 44 kcals, 1g fat, and 8g protein

Along with tryptophan the amino acid attributed to bringing on post turkey feast sleepiness, turkey is an excellent source of Selenium.  Selenium is a mineral which has strong antioxidant properties and plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong and the thyroid functioning properly.  While selenium deficiency is rarely seen in the united states it is still prominent in rural China where soil concentrations of selenium are very poor.  Studies show that low selenium levels may increase a person's chances of developing certain types of cancers and make them more susceptible to disease.

We still have about 4 tupperware full of turkey in the freezer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Food Habits

As a dietitian I quickly learned that people do not want to be judged on what they eat; they already know that candy bars are not ‘healthy’ snack choices.  Dietitians are around to help people learn what a better choice might be and how they can still fit that occasional Snicker’s Bar into their new healthy eating plan.  It’s a form of 'don’t ask, don’t tell;' minus the religious and political controversies.  If you do not ask me how to eat, I will not tell you how to eat.  If you sit down next to me and my salad with your French fries and cookie-dough blizzard, I promise not to judge.  Some days I need a little ice-cream in my diet too.  Food habits are extremely personal and deeply engrained into our lives.  They start when we are born and are influenced by many different factors including but not limited to: religion, social/economic status, family, friends, education, transportation, food availability, season of the year, and disease or medical conditions... the list goes on.

I find it interesting how many nutrition savvy people like to push their food beliefs on other people.  I was scolded the other day for eating baby carrots, and told that I really ought to know better, and that I should just buy the big ones on the weekend to peel and chop up.  For a minute I forgot which one of us was the dietitian.  I explained that I already cook enough on the weekends as it is, and that peeling carrots was about the last thing I wanted to add to my to-do list.  By the way; there is nothing wrong with eating pre-cut baby carrots.

The past couple weeks I've had a few of my new co-workers ask me questions about food/diets. I think my favorite came this week when I was asked if it was true that people should never drink cold liquids, nor should we drink any liquids 20 minutes after eating; apparently it will cause the food in your stomach to gelatinize or solidify.  What?!!  I explained that this is not how the body works and that food in the stomach is digested by stomach acid and enzymes.  However, if not drinking liquids with their meals works for them, and no harm is coming from it, why not...  But lets make sure our science is right and that we are not spreading false information.

It's also amazing how people will eat certain foods even though they hate them, just because they have heard that it is good for them.  I had a woman thank me when I told her she no longer had to eat yogurt everyday (she hated the texture).  Food should be enjoyable. If after several tries you still dislike something, don't eat it.  Of course, this does mean you actually have to try foods and not just assume you do not like them.

Contrary to what some people might have us believe, there is no one diet that is right for everyone, people are different and so are their eating habits.  Until you find out why they eat the way they do, or have solid scientific proof to back up your statements, you probably have no business giving them advice.