Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Party Survival

Maybe this post is late, but then again maybe I'm hitting it right in the middle.  The holiday season is said to last from Halloween through New Years, but I'd bet that it really lasts until Valentines day.  With all the candy, cookies, cocktails, and dinners what is a person to do when trying to stay healthy and/or lose weight this time of year.  It takes more than willpower to say no to that first or second helping of pumpkin pie.  Before heading off to another ugly sweater party, make sure you have prepared yourself biochemically to handle the onslaught of sugar.
the dreaded candy dish...
1. Eat breakfast and lunch and snacks!  Whatever you do don't starve yourself.  Without enough fat and protein in your stomach at throughout the day, you are setting yourself up for some major blood sugar fluctuations and a lack of neurotransmitters in your brain.  You will undoubtably show up at the party famished and grumpy and inhale every bowl of chex mix in sight and not stop to think when piling your plate high with mashed potatoes.

2. Bring something to share.  If you know the host or have been to the party previously, bring something to share.  Fresh veggies (red peppers, mini cucumber, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes...) and homemade ranch.  Deviled eggs topped with smoked salmon or Mini Meatballs or kale chips! This is especially important for people with food sensitivities.  Not every host will be gracious enough to accomodate your nutrition needs.

3. If you are going to drink...red wine is your best choice.  But this doesn't make it a free for all.  Alcohol decreases your metabolism by 30%, and after one or two glasses, inhibitions are lowered and that fruit cake starts to look more appetizing.  To stay hydrated and give your liver the best chance possible, drink two glasses of water between each alcoholic beverage.

4.  Focus on protein and non starchy vegetables, and pick one to two FAVORITE high carb items.  If there is a special desert you only get once a year, you may need to pass on the Pillsbury croissant rolls.  This might be easier said than done when other guests are passing processed foods past your plate, but if you've come to the party with balanced blood sugars and brain full of serotonin, you'll be better able to let them pass.

5.  Think of how you will feel or how you want to feel.  Do you want to leave the party feeling bloated and depressed?  Probably not.  Or do you want to leave the party feeling satisfied and happy with your food choices.  When the store bought sugar cookies come out, remind yourself of how you want to feel and how much your health means to you.  Remind yourself that the trans-fats in those cookies lead to crusty cells, heart disease, and a slow metabolism.  Now how bad do you want that cookie?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Whipped Coconut Milk

So... not only are you lactose intolerant, but you are in fact 100% dairy intolerant.  That stinks.  I'm thankful that this is not the case for me, but for some of my friends and clients it is.  While team teaching the Nutrition for Weight-loss Program with my coworker Oralee, she requested that I try and make whipped coconut milk.  One of our favorite dessert or bedtime snacks that we recommend to participants is berries and cream.  But not everyone can tolerate even this high fat, low protein, low lactose dairy.  For them the obvious substitution is coconut milk.  However, sometimes you want something a little more special than just pouring the liquid "milk" over the berries.  TADA! Whipped coconut milk.

There are countless directions on the internet describing how to make it, but here I go any way.

1. Refrigerate your can of coconut milk over night or during the day.

2. Spoon of the solid portion that has condensed on the top and place it in a stand mixer or a large bowl.

3. Whip for 3-5 minutes.  You may have to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple times.  While whipping add 1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp honey.

4.  Serve immediately or place in an airtight container and refrigerate for several days.

5. Spoon onto low carb pumpkin pie instead of cool whip, or just put a big dollop on top of some berries.  I'm partial to organic black berries since a bag of the frozen ones are a whole dollar cheaper than strawberries or blueberries!

Of course now you are left with the liquid portion in the bottom of the can.  I thought it would taste like the expensive coconut water sold in stores.  It's actually more coconuty and creamier and much much tastier!  I couldn't find any nutrition stats on this liquid portion, but go ahead and drink up as is, or add to a smoothie.  If you're feeling festive warm it on the stove or pour over ice and stir in some kahlua or rum or chocolate liqueur.  Mmmm....

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Ryan and I love brussels sprouts.  I'm not sure how this love came about, but frozen or fresh we always have some on hand.  This very polarizing vegetable probably has more haters than lovers, but my theory is that people who don't like them, just haven't had them cooked properly.  Sprouts don't need a lot of added seasonings, but over cooking makes them mushy and bitter.  However, if they are are cooked for too short a time period, their natural sweetness won't come out.  Why these little gems haven't made it as a supper food yet we may never know.  A cup of B-Sprouts contains: 8g carbohydrate and 3g of fiber.  But it's also packed with 195% of your DV for Vit. K and 125% of your DV for Vit. C.  These sprouts also contain large quantities of anti-oxidants similar to those found in other cruciferous veggies (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) so they are super stars when it comes to preventing cancer.  The question is...what to do with them.

1.  Shred
2.  Roast
3.  Braise
4.  Saute with Bacon  
5.  Eat leftovers for breakfast with chicken sausage or eggs.

If you are new to b-sprouts, skip the frozen ones for now and stick with fresh.  They are much more tasty and less likely to become over cooked.  If you're still putting together your Thanksgiving menu, perhaps you may want to think about serving up some brussels sprouts.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Deutschland, AKA: Germany

After 2.5 years of no vacation, Ryan and I decided to jump the pond for 6 days of walking, eating, and beer drinking in Deutschland (Germany).  Actually, the beer drinking was just Ryan, I stuck with my wine.  We had a great time and are already planning a trip back.  Even though Germany is known for bread and brats, we were still able to make healthy choices...when we wanted.

Both hotels we stayed in served continental breakfasts that supplied the usual "liquid" eggs, but Cocoon in Munich had a very nice spread of sliced deli meats and cheese, potato salad, fresh cut fruit, plain yogurt, muesli, cherry tomatoes with mozzarella balls covered in balsamic vinaigrette, sliced cucumbers,  smoked salmon, pickled asparagus, hot and cold sausages, various whole grain breads, cream cheese, and coffee.  It was a great way to start our day; giving us lots of energy to walk and sight-see.  At the Hofbahnhof (train station) I frequently saw business people ordering sandwiches or big cups of muesli with whole milk for breakfast.  Both are much better options than a bowl of Special K with skim milk, as so many of my clients have done in the past.

In Munich we did the touristy thing of eating Sauerbraten at the Hofbrauhaus.  Unfortunately, it didn't even come close to being as tender or flavorful as what my aunt Rosie made at christmas last year.  But the wine and beer and atmosphere made up for it.
Near the English gardens Ryan and I ate a couple of delicious salads.  Later that day we enjoyed a couple of drinks at the Japanese pagoda in the gardens while listening to an umpa band.
For supper we found a traditional German restaurant the Haxenbauer, near Marion Platz, with what I thought were rotisserie chickens in the window.  Come to find out they were schweinshaxe (pork knuckle/ham hock) and were one of the best things I've ever eaten.  Seriously.  The skin was crispy and the meat was fall off the bone tender.

In Frankfurt we of course tried the traditional Grune Sosse (green sauce) at Metrapol Cafe.  This was the only restaurant without an English menu.  But our waitress was very helpful, and knowing a bit of German did come in handy.  The grune sosse was amazing!  It was served with hardboiled eggs and potatoes which had been boiled and then pan fried till crisp.  We almost licked our plates.  In Frankfurt, Ryan discovered a new love for Apflewein or apple wine.  I thought it tasted like rotten apple juice that had sat in an old shoe, but to each their own.

On our last day we had lunch at Cookie In The Box just up from the Rhine River.  I enjoyed a bowl of creamy pumpkin carrot soup, and since we were on vacation...gave in for a scrumptious chocolate-white chocolate chip cookie.  mmmm....
What we found interesting were the number of people who were not obese, but had either a pronounced beer belly or "spare tire."  I'm not sure if this is something we would have seen 50 years ago due to the nature of the country (beer, pretzels, bread, deserts), or if like the U.S., this is a new occurrence.  While people may have been carrying extra weight, I did not see people who looked sick, lethargic, and sallow.  I'm guessing this is because people are still eating more real foods, and foods that contain real fats.

Germany is a beautiful country, and if you have never thought of going, you should.
Happy cows come from Bavaria

Monday, October 1, 2012

Vegetarian Myth Review

Just finished reading "The Vegetarian Myth" by Lierre Kieth.  Maybe I can't say I finished it...because I didn't actually read it through to the end, kind of skimmed the last section.

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  Kieth tackles the political, environmental, moral, and nutritional beliefs/myths that surround vegetarian and vegan eating.  Her personal experience from carnivore to vegetarian to vegan and back provide a nice story line amidst all the research.

Instead of chapters, the book is broken into sections; each supported by a mountain of research.  These are my favorite points or take home messages of the book.

1. In order for people to survive, someone/something must die.
2. Agriculture is destroying the planet.  Govt. subsidies that support corn, soy, wheat... encourage this destruction.
3. Soy is bad for you.  Don't eat foods made with soy unless they are fermented. (Soy Sauce, Miso)
4. The planet is overpopulated.  We can no longer support it through sustainable farming.  Sorry.
5. You may be "healthy" on a vegetarian diet now, but where will your health be in 20 years?
6. Buy local and sustainable when you can.  This includes produce, but also poultry, pork, beef, eggs.... get to know your farmer and his farming practices.

My biggest criticism is Kieth's feminist views.  I would have preferred if these were left out.  They were strongest at the end when she discusses how to "Save the World."  She likens the destruction of the planet and the CAFOs treatment of animals to that of female oppression.  I don't quite understand her spin on it all, and that is why I chose not to finish the last section.

While I cannot fully relate to Kieth's personal story, I can remember the days and meals when I did not consume animal protein or enough fat; I often felt hungry and unsatisfied.  Our meatless meals of black bean burrito bake, black bean burgers, oatmeal with peanut-butter, cereal with skim milk or soy milk. None of these meals provided enough protein or fat to support a healthy metabolism.  No wonder I was hungry within 1-2 hours.  Many of these recipes I've blogged about; believing them to be healthy.  At the time I did not fully understand how they were sending me on a blood sugar roller coaster.  Suppose I will have to take them down, or find a way to revamp them.  Lets just say life is a journey with lots of learning along the way.

Working with vegetarian clients or even "flexitarian" clients I can see the symptoms of protein deprivation: Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue, Poor hair and nail growth, Insomnia, Osteoporosis, Frequent illness, Cravings.  By increasing their protein intake, these symptoms disappear.  Maybe not in the first few days, but within 1-2 weeks they notice a difference.  This doesn't mean they begin eating steak overnight.  I might have them start with a little organic yogurt, some wild caught fish, eggs, even whey protein powder.  Each person has their own reason for choosing vegetarianism, so it's important to work with their beliefs, educate them properly, and reintroduce foods at the appropriate pace.

For anyone questioning starting or stopping a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle I do highly recommend reading this book.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Menu, Shop, Chop

When losing weight, or just trying to get healthy, clients often tell me the hardest part of staying on track is the planning.  To eat well balance meals and snacks every day we have to plan ahead.  Is it tedious?  Sometimes.  Is it time consuming? Kind of.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  Here's what it takes to make sure you always have healthy foods around.

1. Make a menu:  This is where routine comes in handy.  I know we always have eggs for breakfast, Ryan always eats yogurt for snacks, and I typically bring salads for lunch.  Supper is where we have the most variety.  But even here there is still a lot of stability.  Many of our favorite recipes call for similar ingredients, or at least nothing too crazy.  Stir-frys can include any meats and veggies, meat loaf can be as simple or complex as you want it, and baked chicken thighs go with any number of roasted veggies (even frozen).  Planning 3 main suppers per week typically leaves us with enough leftovers for one or two nights, possibly a hot lunch option, and not sooo many groceries around that things start to go bad.

Frozen turkey patties and corn.
2. Take stock: Now that you have a list of ingredients that you need, go through your pantry, fridge, freezer and make sure you know what to buy.  What do you have that you want to use up?Don't wing it!  Otherwise you will end up with 3 jars of chili powder, and rotting lettuce in the back of your fridge.

3. Write a grocery list:  If you need a specific amount of something (ex: 2 pounds pork loin) write it down. Again, you run the risk of coming home with only 1.5 pounds, or an entirely wrong cut of meat.  Without a list it's also easy to forget little odds and ends such as mustard, coconut milk, or fresh herbs.

4. Prep foods:  After bringing groceries home, take the time to prep some foods.  Cut carrots and celery and bell peppers and put them in containers or snack bags.  Dice onions and store in glass containers.  Pull leaves off kale stems for easy use in eggs or soup.  You can easily store kale in a ziplock bag or even in the plastic containers that precut lettuce comes in.  Freeze meat that you are not planning to use right away.  If something comes up, you don't want it to go bad.  Frozen meat can be placed directly into a crock-pot before work, so you're guaranteed to come come to a great smelling house and warm meal.

Roast Beets While Chopping Veggies
Beet greens blanched for later use
Veggies chopped for the week

5. Cook:  This can be done simultaneously while prepping.  Boil eggs for snacks.  Bake sweet potatoes or winter squash while prepping other foods so they just have to be reheated at meals.  Sweet potatoes can also be placed whole in a crock-pot for 6-8 hours.  Form meatballs or turkey patties and freeze for an easy quick meal.  After prepping veggies, use some of them to make a crock-pot stew.  It will cook while you finish up any other activities around the house.  Use the leftovers for lunches, snacks, and dinners.  Blend up several smoothies and freeze for breakfasts or snacks.  Any time you turn on the oven or grill, make extra!  Even if it's just one serving.
prepared shepherds one day, baked it for supper the next night.

6. Repeat: Some people find that taking one Saturday a month, and cooking up extras of many different items including chili, egg bake, protein bars, grilled chicken, wild rice or quinoa.  By planning ahead, you'll have easy proteins and healthy carbs available.  Proteins are typically the hardest nutrient to have available quickly, so if you're just starting out, focus your efforts there first.  A few hours spent prepping and cooking one day, will save you time, money, and stress in the future.
egg bake that will be frozen for quick breakfasts.
What changes can you make in your routine, so you always have healthy meals and snacks ready to go?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tomato Takeover

Just like every other gardener in the midwest we have been inundated with tomatoes.  Between our CSA, Ryan's best friend Keith, and our lone cherry tomato plant, the past few weeks have been filled with these beautiful fruits.  That's right, if you haven't heard, botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit not a vegetable.  But nutritionally (carbohydrate wise) they are more similar to a vegetable.  Plus, by USDA standards, keeping tomatoes as a vegetable means that processed tomato paste on pizza and tomato sauce on pasta counts towards the allotted vegetable servings in school lunches.

The question becomes, what do we do with all these tomatoes?  As a kid, I remember picking tomatoes from our garden and eating them over the sink with my dad.  Liberally salting each slice.  We aren't so overtaken that we need to make jars and jars of salsa and tomato sauce, but just slicing them onto salads becomes a bit boring.  The past couple mornings I've sauteed them and then added them to eggs for breakfast.  This weekend I think I'll just make a Mediterranean salad with cucumbers, onions, purple green beans, and a vinaigrette.

Why bother planting and over running yourself with tomatoes any way?  Because they are high in lycopene!  and they taste so good.  Lycopene is the antioxidant polyphenol that supposedly helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men.  However, in order for our bodies to access and utilize the lycopene, the tomato must be cooked.  This is where raw foodists make a mistake.  Yes fresh produce is nutritious, but some nutrients can only be accessed when a food is heated.  If you want the benefit of lycopene, find ways to include a cooked tomato product in your diet several times a week. Ketchup doesn't count.  Canned tomatoes in soup or chili, pasta sauce over meatballs (hold the pasta), chicken legs Osso-buco style, roasted tomato salsa, ratatouille, shakshuka eggs.  Your options are just about endless.

All this talk about lycopene and it's prostate benefits made me wonder if there is a difference between prostate cancer occurrence in the US compared to the UK/Italy.  Surprisingly, or not, there is a huge difference.

From the CDC Website...

In 2008 —
  • 214,633 men in the United States were diagnosed with prostate cancer.*†
  • 28,471 men in the United States died from prostate cancer.*†

  • In 2009, 40,841 men in the UK were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
  • 10,721 men in the UK died from prostate cancer in 2010.
In Italy...
  • prostate cancer is the first cancer that hits men, with an incidence of 12%, surpassing lung cancer which is around 10%. Every year in Italy 42,804 prostate cancers are registered with 9070 fatalities (statistics from The Epidemiological Cancer Department – The National Epidemiological Centre, Surveillance and Promotion of Health – The Superior Institute of Health 2005).

Obviously we can't say that a higher consumption of tomatoes is the reason for fewer prostate cancer cases in the UK and Italy.  For one, the US has more people in it than Italy, so more chances for cancer to occur.  There are also other diet and lifestyle habits that vary greatly.  People in European countries walk more than Americans, and exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of just about every cancer.  Many European countries have banned trans fats, another known cause of cancer.  

For now, lets just say that tomatoes are delicious and nutritious and fun to grow; so eat more tomatoes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Backpack Mini Feast

The weather is turning here in Minnesota, the state fair just 2 weeks away, which means fall is coming. Days are hot, but nights are cool.  Ryan and I headed out on another 1 night backpack adventure.  This time at St. Croix St. Park.  We parked the car and hiked 5 easy miles to our site.  Look what awaited us. Adirondacks!  Three sided structures, which were really 4 sided, since they had a screened in front wall.
Ryan checking for wasps

Instead of packing the dehydrated lazy camper meals, we went a little more whole foods style this time by cutting up a bell pepper, 2 jalapenos, and 1/2 an onion at home then storing them in a plastic tupperware.  I also brought along 3/4 can of black beans and white hominy in a plastic bag.  At the campsite I began by sautéing the peppers and onion in palm oil.  Once they were cooked I added the black beans, hominy, and two 5oz cans of chicken.  While it was not the most flavorful of meals, it was satiating, nutritious, and did not leave us feeling bloated and gassy.

For breakfast we boiled water and made Proat-meal.  Quick-oats + vanilla whey protein powder + almonds and walnuts.  The whey protein did coagulate a little bit when cooked, but it was still pretty good.  At 6:30am, after 3 hours of sleep...we weren't going to complain, especially since we didn't have to take down the tent.

Most hardcore lightweight backpackers use dehydrated foods since they weight almost nothing.  It's what the lazy camper meals are made from.  Dehydrated veggies are easy to find and purchase, but making our own would be so much better.  Plus we could load up on the non-starchy veggies, and skip all the extra corn and peas.

beautiful campfire

Monday, August 6, 2012

Blackberry Bounty

Ryan and I recently went on a quick overnight backpacking trip at Afton State Park.  A few weeks prior we had been there just to hike and noticed a lot of blackberry brambles, but not many ripe fruits.  We figured the critters would have gotten to all the good ones by the time we arrived for our overnight...but we were wrong. 
At first we were not sure if they were blackberries or black-raspberries, and didn't really know if there was much of a difference.  With a quick google search (at home, not in woods), I identified them as blackberries.  Raspberries have a 'rasp' which holds the berry to the vine.  When the berry is pulled off the vine, the center is hollow.  A blackberry does not have a rasp, and is not hollow when pulled off the vine.  Another interesting fact; blackberries are not actuall berries.  They are in fact an aggregate fruit.

 How to pick blackberries in 3 short steps.
Enter blackberry bramble avoiding thorns, poison ivy, and nettles.

Gently pluck ripe berries, avoiding spiders and other insects.  


After eating a handful of berries, we used Ryan's bandana to cary about a 2 pints worth of berries back to camp.   Ryan wanted to use his hand to demonstrate just how much we picked.  We did eat a few for breakfast with instant coffee the next morning, but most of them we took home.   Ryan enjoyed putting them on his yogurt, I just ate them with a little heavy cream.
Why eat blackberries?  Besides being delicious they are high in many antioxidants including: tannins, anthocyanin, quercetin, and ellagic acid.  
A cup of berries contains only 15g of carbohydrate and whopping 8g of fiber!  Berries are also high in vitamin C (50% DV), and vitamin K (36% DV)

The blackberries were much more nutritious and satisfying than our 'lazy camper' meals.  Too much carbohydrate, and not enough fat.  I felt bloated and burped more than I have in months. Gross.  Not something I feel like repeating anytime soon.  Also, the dehydrated onions made for a stinky night in the tent.  Next time we're bringing tuna packets, instant rice, and veggies.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Perfectly Imperfect Produce

This summer we have been splitting a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box with a family friend, and it has been a fantastic experience.  We have received everything from kohlrabi and garlic scapes, beets and potatoes, and  now on to swiss chard, cauliflower, and carrots.  The day I realized how much I loved our Featherstone Farm CSA was one of the first mornings I tried out my new frittata making skills on Ryan.  I was washing and ripping up some kale to be sauteed in butter, when I noticed little holes in some of the leaves.  It warmed my heart to know that this produce was so perfect and nutritious, that it was now imperfect.  How often have you found holes in your store bought spinach or beet leaves?  Not to many thanks to pesticides.

Like so many other CSA members, each week we are faced with the question, "what do we do with it?"  Here's what we've been making:

Breakfast Frittatas with kale, chard, or spinach.  Then topped with Goat Cheese (not from CSA).

Sauteed Kohlrabi with garlic and lemon

Yogurt Veggie dip with CSA diced onion, garlic and dill,  eaten with CSA snap peas

Stir Fry and Curry with zucchini, snow peas, and cauliflower

Salads...no brainer for the leaf lettuce

Roasted Beets and Broccoli

Dilled Potato Salad  and German Potato Salad

Beef Pot Roast with CSA carrots and garlic

Cucumber, Tomato, and Sardine salad with olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette

The produce we receive from Featherstone farm is so precious to me, I hate to waste any of it.  Not only did I roast the beets, but the greens found their way into several morning scrambles.  Not wanting to even waste the cauliflower leaves, I discovered that both cauliflower and broccoli are related to collard greens.  Therefore you can cook their leaves in a similar fashion.  Unlike collards which have very little flavor, the cauliflower leaves still retain their very distinct flavor when simmered for 45 min.
The summer is already half over, and I'm sad that soon we will no longer be receiving our perfectly imperfect produce.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sexy Cholesterol

My Cholesterol is sexy.

In 2008, during my RD internship, I had my cholesterol checked at the WVU health fair.  When I got the results back I was thrilled.  No risk of heart disease!  Little did I know, or so much had I forgotten, cholesterol is about much more than just heart disease.  I didn't realize my cholesterol was actually TOO low.  Sure my weight was fine, and my blood pressure was low 110/60, and I worked out religiously; but was I really "healthy?"


After starting with NW&W I learned that normal cholesterol is actually between 140-220. (140 may even be on the low side)  Ultimately, total cholesterol tells us nothing!  When I told Dar about my exceptionally low cholesterol levels, her jaw about hit the floor.  Very low cholesterol is a sign of autoimmune disease and/or cancer.  Also, women with very low cholesterol tend to die sooner than women with higher cholesterol.  YIKES!  Some endurance athletes also have very low cholesterol, but I wouldn't count my training at the time for a 1/2 marathon as high enough mileage (20-30miles/wk) to put me in that category.  However, during that year I did develop seborrheic dermatitis, to go along with my chronic dandruff.  I already had rosacea like my grandmother, and within a year would develop Reynaud's syndrome in my fingers.  All are symptoms of autoimmune diseases, and are often associated with Lupus.  again YIKES!

High cholesterol does not cause heart disease, elevated cholesterol is a symptom of inflammation.  The cause of the inflammation is what causes the heart disease.  Smoking, excess alcohol, trans fats, high blood sugar, exposure to toxic chemicals, processed carbohydrates, high blood pressure, stress.  Notice that a high fat diet isn't on the list.  Cholesterol increases with inflammation because it floats through our blood stream repairing the damage caused by those inflammation makers. Cholesterol is also used to make hormones (estrogen, testosterone, adrenals...), repair nerves, make bile for fat digestion, it is a structural component of cells, and it synthesizes vitamin D.  Hmmm....all of those sound like things I want to have happen.

Due to my diet of processed carbs and lack of protein and healthy fats, my cholesterol was too low to help repair my body.  This is part of the reason I experienced 5 stress fractures in high school, and never got my period until the age of 16.  More on that and the female athlete triad later.  I didn't have enough fat or protein in my diet to make healthy cells, or cholesterol, or hormones.  I was a train wreck and didn't even know it.  I now believe that for the past 26 years I have been lactose intolerant, and may have a mild gluten sensitivity.  Consuming low fat dairy 3x every day along with cereal, bread, and granola bars began to stimulate autoimmune reactions throughout my body.

 Now that I have been following a lower carb, higher fat/protein, whole foods diet my cholesterol is up!  You don't hear people getting excited about higher cholesterol very often do you?  But I am.  Now my body can make hormones and repair tissues.  Health is about more than weight, or exercise, or physique.  It's about how well the body functions.  My weight is the same, actually it's about 4-6 lbs less than back in 2008.  However, I'm stronger now than I was then and I'm able to recover from my workouts faster.  Today my cholesterol levels are...

LDL= 78
Trig= <45
Total/HDL= 2.18

Those are some sexy cholesterol numbers.  What I think is most amazing is the difference in my Trig/HDL ratio.  This number is typically not printed on any lab results, but it helps indicate cardiovascular disease risk.  A number less than 2 is great, but less than 1 is ideal.  Even though my LDL or "bad" cholesterol is up, there is a good chance it's made up of big fluffy Type A particles.  So all in all, my blood vessels are healthy, and so is the rest of me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fantastic Fermentation

Zymology, the study of fermentation
Ever since starting at NW&W, I've been intrigued by fermented foods and their health benefits.  As nutritionists and educators we encourage our clients to consume more fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha).  Why?  These fermented foods contain good bacteria; probiotics, that when eaten on a regular basis populate in our intestines and push out bad bacteria, viruses, and candida.  The United States, is one of the few countries that does not eat a fermented food at every meal, or at least 1+ times per day.  In Korea people eat a small amount of kimchi with each meal.  In Japan, miso broth is served with meals, or is incorporated into the meal.  In Poland, some people consume up to 1 quart of plain full fat yogurt each day.  And what do people in these countries have to boast about thanks to these fermented foods?  Happy digestive tracts and therefore fewer illnesses!  Our intestinal tract houses a majority of our immune system; if bad bugs can't multiply there, we stay healthy.  

Growing up in the midwest I learned to enjoy sauerkraut with my brats and pork chops.  However, I've learned that the canned varieties and even the refrigerated ones packaged with vinegar do not contain probiotics.  These types have been heated to too high of a temp, and this kills off any happy bugs they may have contained.  Instead, you must buy kraut with only three main ingredients: cabbage, water, and salt.  A very tasty brand is Bubbies, they also make great pickles.  Ryan has now become addicted to both.

So how do these happy bacteria get into these fermented foods?  We either add them from previous batches of fermenting, or they enter on their own through the air (think sour dough bread starter).  Instead of going to in-depth, checkout this website for more on how fermentation works.

Just like sauerkraut, not all fermented foods are created equal.  Kombucha is a great example.  Yes, its a  nice effervesant treat, but many brands contain too much sugar, and too few live organisms to really do much good.  Yogurt, including Activia, has become a perverse version of its original self.  Yogurt is supposed to have fat and be tangy.  It's not supposed to be pink, blue, and sickeningly sweet.  Excess sugar in our diets will feed the bad bacteria in our guts.  Instead, choose full fat plain yogurt and add your own fruit and a drizzle of honey.

Maybe you are like me and want to try making your own fermented foods.  Guess what?  It's supper easy!  Even though I have never eaten Kimchi, I've been curious about it, and decided to make my own after reading about it in my Urban Farm magazine.  The recipe they suggested came straight from "Nourishing Traditions"  by Sally Fallon.  After having already made my kimchi, I looked at several recipes online, and I believe Sally may have simplified her recipe and toned down the flavors for American taste buds.  Here are a couple recipes that seem much more traditional and probably pack quite a flavor punch.  All Recipes  and Maangchi

For my first batch I'm pretty happy.  After one day on the counter I could start to see small bubbles, and the cabbage mixture began to rise to the top.  Once refrigerated it dropped back down into the jar.  But it's fun to see how much it "expands"  This batch was salty, not really spicy at all, but very fermented.  I've enjoyed adding a fork full to my salads, using it as a burger topping, and having a few bites with stir-fry.  I now feel confident that I can try fermenting other foods.  Think I'll try radishes next.  The process is very easy, and is a great project for kids.  It will teach them about food science, and give them a chance to incorporate more probiotics into their diet.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Do you eat this way?

Many of my clients ask, "Do you eat like this?" after they see the meal plan I put together for them.  The answer is, yes.  I eat lots of veggies, lots of protein, less dairy, and have cut out most gluten containing foods.  This did not happen overnight, its been in progress for many years.  These changes occurred as I learned more about real nutrition.  The biggest and fastest changes came when I started working at NW&W this spring.  Have a look for yourself.

What I ate in High School:
Breakfast: Big bowl of Cereal+ Skim Milk, or Carnation Instant Breakfast + Granola Bar

Snack: Nutrigrain bar or an apple

Lunch: PB&J sandwich + Fat-free Yogurt + Carrot Sticks, Occasionally School Lunch.  I would usually buy a school made granola bar or Twix because I was still hungry.

Snack: maybe leftover school granola bar before track practice or nothing.

Supper:  Spaghetti + Broccoli, Grilled Chicken + Broccoli + Potato, or Hamburger Helper+Broccoli, (mom made me eat lots of broccoli)

Snack:  Low-fat Ice Cream or bowl of cereal 

What I ate Last Year:
Breakfast: Big bowl of high fiber cereal + Soy Milk, Or two eggs + toast

Snack: Fat Free greek yogurt + fruit + Nuts

Lunch: Salad + PB&J sandwich, or something from the hospital cafeteria

Snack: Apple or Granola Bar

Supper: Spaghetti, Tacos, Stir-Fry, Black Bean Burgers, Pizza

Snack: More Yogurt+Fruit, or Low-fat Ice Cream

What I'm Eating Now:
Breakfast: 2 eggs + 1 cup veggies cooked in butter + 1/2 sweet potato or a slice of Udi's bread with PB.
Snack: Fruit Smoothie 

Lunch: 5 cup salad + sardines,  or Leftovers.

Snack: Small Fruit + Deli Meat + Almonds

Supper: Salads, Stir-fry, Curry, Meatloaf, Chili, Tacos

Snack: 1/2 Banana + PB or Berries + Cream

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mexican Meatballs

Ryan and I have a propensity for taking basic recipes and molding them into whatever we want.   I've found this to be especially important as we have started eating fewer processed foods such as pasta and pizza.  As delicious as grilled meats are in the summer, no one wants to eat them every night.  For a little variety this week I used this recipe as a guide to craft some Mexican Meatballs and then paired them with roasted eggplant for supper.
cumin spiced eggplant ready for roasting
During hot summer days I still try to use the oven as little as possible like I did in Georgia.  When I do turn it on, I try to maximize its use as much as possible.

My meatballs were a little different from the recipe since I found it after having already gone to the grocery store.  You can always simplify this recipe by making basic meatballs (Meat+Eggs+Seasonings), then pour a jar of salsa over them, and bake till done.  When life gets hectic, keep it simple!  For any pescatarians or vegetarians out there, tuna, salmon, or black-bean balls could be made and then baked with mango chutney or peach salsa for a Caribbean twist.

Mix together 2# ground turkey, 1/2 large onion diced, 1/2 can diced green chiles, 2 eggs, 2-3 Tbs heavy cream, 1 Tbs ground flax seed, 3 garlic cloves pressed, 1 tsp dried Oregano, 1/2 tsp dried cumin.
some with sauce, some without

Form into balls and place in a greased baking dish.  Refrigerate.

Render fat from 2 slices of bacon in a medium sauce pan.
Remove bacon, and eat.
Sautee 1/2 large diced onion and 3 pressed garlic cloves in bacon fat over low to medium heat until translucent.
Stir in 1tsp ground  cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, dash of chili powder, stir and cook until dry.
Add 3 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce diced, and the remaining green chilies.  Cook 1-2 minutes.
Stir in 1, 14oz can diced tomatoes, simmer for 15 minutes.

Pour sauce over meatballs and bake at 400 degrees for 20-40 minutes depending upon your meatball size.
Serve over rice/beans and top with guacamole and sour cream.
Warning, This dish has a Kick! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Don't Always Be The Food Police

After seeing the light of good nutrition, some people become 'The Food Police.'  Sometimes it is good to be the the Food Police, most notably when eating at home, shopping for groceries, or if you have food allergies/sensitivities.  However, there are times when leaving your badge at home is a better idea.

1. You've been invited to a picnic and have been instructed to bring your own meat to grill, sides and condiments will be provided.  While standing around chatting please do not make the host ashamed of their potato salad by discussing the evils of the processed fats in lowfat mayo, or the fact that the ketchup is full of high fructose corn syrup, or how even diet soda may lead to diabetes and Alzheimer's.  Unless they ask of-course...  Ultimately, people are there to enjoy the food and the company; lets keep it light hearted.  You could always bring some veggies to grill for yourself or just offer to make the potato salad.

2.  You're at a party and someone offers you a slice of store bought cake.  Be polite, and simply say no thank-you.  A birthday or graduation is not the time to educate people on trans fats and artificial food colorings.

3.  You're at a party and someone offers you a slice of homemade cake (butter, sugar, flour...) the real deal.  EAT IT!  Unless it sends you into a sugar binge, then a simple "No Thanks" is just fine.  When love is put into baking something like a cake, it's fine to have a treat.  It's not something you eat everyday.

4.  While eating out, do not interrogate the waitress about every ingredient, especially if you are at an Applebees, Chili's, or TGI-Friday.  Do your homework beforehand and look at the menu and ingredients at home on the internet to help you make an informed decision.  "May I have real butter on my potato?" or "May I just have some olive oil for my salad dressing?" are some appropriate non-threatening questions.  When eating out, you give up a large portion of control and to some extent will have to deal with it.

5. The grandparents are watching the grandkids for the weekend.  Yes, you can request that they not go to Mc Donalds, or that Spaghettios not be heated on the stove.  Unless your little ones have food allergies/sensitivities, you might have to accept the fact that a little soda, a few Cheeze-its, and even an ice-cream cone are going to make it into their mouths.  I promise they will live.  If you know that your child reacts poorly to certain foods or ingredients, help out by supplying some safe foods, or giving a list of foods that are and are-not appropriate.  This will make the weekend much more enjoyable for everyone.

6. You don't want your kid eating the school lunch.  Most schools will print out the month's menu, as well as post it on their website.  Instead of packing the same turkey sandwich everyday, see if you can't include some similar items with what the school is serving.  Preservative free hotdogs, homemade meatballs or chicken nuggets, full fat yogurt with real fruit.  There will probably be days when the lunch is not too offending: chili, chicken noodle soup, and tacos.  Let your child eat the school lunch some days, this helps them feel more like their peers.

7.  Your doctor sent you to a dietitian for your high cholesterol and she wants you to eat low fat and count calories.  Please don't be rude, or discourteous.  She is only telling you what she learned in college and during her internship.  Let her know that you appreciate the time she is taking with you, but that you feel some of her information is outdated.  You are trying a whole foods approach to eating and want to see what kind of difference it makes.  She spent a lot of money on her education, please don't make her feel stupid.  It's not her fault the USDA and ADA propagate an inflammation and disease promoting diet.

8.  You have changed your diet, but your spouse has not.  Educate them slowly on why you are making these changes.  Constant comments about their diet habits and how bad that bag of popcorn is for their blood sugar, will not make them want to change.  Even if they are not on-board with everything, they can still help cook the meals that you eat together.  After a while they will probably come around, at least a little.

As educated consumers, and health conscious eaters it is our job to spread the word of balanced eating and good nutrition. However, if we beat people over the head with information when they are not ready, it only builds resistance and resentment.  Be an example to others by bringing your lunch to work.  When people ask why you eat the way you do, an answer such as, "I'm eating in balance; it's much different from what most typical diets promote, but I feel really good and have more energy."  This type of phrase is non-threatening and will probably stimulate some good conversations.

Remember to be the good cop, not the bad cop when it comes to food.  You will meet less resistance when your not handcuffing people into your ideals.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Versatile Turkey Burgers

Ahh... the humble and "healthful" turkey burger.  Many restaurants add turkey burgers to their menu as a more healthful option compared to their regular beef burgers.  Not surprising though, they often do not taste as delicious as the original.  Also, they really are not that much better for you.  At Ruby Tuesday, a regular hamburger contains 877 calories, 55g fat, 57g carb, and 42g protein.  Comparatively, their turkey burger also comes with 801 calories, 48g fat, 56g carb, and 41g protein.  And these numbers don't even include the french fries.  Still think it's a healthy alternative?

Instead of going out for an overpriced burger, here is what I propose...Buy a box of Trader Joe's frozen turkey burger patties.  Any other plain turkey or beef patty would work well here, but these are what I've been using.  Each patty is a nearly perfect portion of protein (22g).  And the ingredients are simple: turkey, kosher salt, rosemary extract.

While you can of course grill the patties and make burgers, I've found a tastier alternative.  Add them to vegetable salads!  This is not just another lettuce salad, but a more calculated concoction of veggies, herbs, and spices. 

For the basic dressing stir together: 1tbs olive oil, 1tbs vinegar or citrus juice, 1/4tsp dried thyme (basil, oregano, chili powder, cumin would be tasty as well).

For the veggies pick any three of the following and thinly slice about 2-3 cups worth: Fennel, Red Onion, Cucumber, Celery, Radish, Zucchini, Carrots, Bell Pepper, Asparagus, Jicama. 

After the burger is done cooking cut it up into bite size pieces and add it to the veggies and dressing.  This dish travels well; take it to work and you'll be then envy of everyone ordering out.

For a creamy version, use a tablespoon of real mayonnaise such as Hain or Lemonaise, add a table spoon of stone ground mustard and several good dashes of curry powder.  Top this one with some chopped nuts or green onion.  For anyone who's a vegetarian, this same idea can be done with canned tuna or salmon, 3 hardboiled eggs, or even extra firm tofu/ tempeh.  

Some men and very tall or active women may need to cook up two patties for a lunch or supper, but one patty should suffice for most people's breakfast.  Just sprinkle on a little extra rosemary and black pepper for a quick breakfast "sausage."  Eat right away, or pack it up with leftover steamed cauliflower and carrots for a commuter friendly breakfast.  Either way, you are well fueled and ready to face the day!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mighty Magnesium

After starting with Weight and Wellness I have re-learned the importance of magnesium.  This is not to say I ever thought it un-important.  It's just that the notion of someone being magnesium deficient had never really crossed my mind.  HOWEVER!  Approximately 62% of the U.S. population is magnesium deficient.  Unfortunately, blood tests will not be able to tell you if you are.  Blood levels of electrolytes are monitored very carefully by the body, and nutrients will be pulled from other sources (bone and muscles) to keep serum levels normal.  Do any of these symptoms sound familiar to you...

Magnesium is for Muscles!
Chocolate Cravings
Leg Cramps
Restless Leg Syndrome
Difficulty Falling Asleep
Anxiety and Depression
Slow Metabolism
High Blood Pressure

Hmmmm.... I know almost every client I see has at least one of these symptoms.  While in college I had to create a poster depicting the Krebs Cycle, AKA-Metabolism.  It was amazing how almost every process needed magnesium in order for it to function properly.

I avoided taking a magnesium supplement for a while, but then it's allure got to me.  Taking a couple hundred milligrams before bed is amazing!  It really does help my body relax and put me to sleep fast, especially when I am stressed about school.  Ryan loves that it helps his achey muscles relax after hard workouts.

If you are not interested in taking a magnesium supplement, make sure to include foods high in magnesium in your diet.  These include: Grass Fed Beef, Salmon, Leafy Greens, Nuts/Seeds.
A meal plan high in magnesium might look something like this...
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs over sauteed kale
Lunch: Large Spinach Salad with Canned Salmon, and Sunflower Seeds.
Dinner: Grilled steak with lots of veggies!
Bed Time Snack: Slice of Whole Grain Toast with Almond Butter

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Food with Family

Getting a walk in with mom after a delicious lunch of chicken curry.
Ryan and I recently took a weekend trip to Iowa to visit my parents.   I've written posts on how to eat healthy when traveling however, eating well while staying with relatives is another topic entirely.

-Breakfast is easy, even if other family members do not like eggs by themselves, they are usually a refrigerator staple.  Once you start frying some up in butter, it's likely others will want some too.  If other people want pancakes or waffles, no one says you can't have some, but remember to stick with small servings, and limit the amount of REAL maple syrup you use.  

-Contrary to my usual recommendation, it can be helpful to eat out, especially if other members of your group are picky or do not like many of the foods you do.  Maybe you have a favorite local eatery that serves a favorite dish or a great burger.  Or, maybe there is a new ethnic restaurant where you can get some great curry.  Many grocery stores now have large salad bars, these can be used to create a great salad with lots of veggies.  Forgo the salad dressing and use the olive oil and vinegar for your healthy fat.  

-During warmer months, suggest grilling for supper.  This makes it easy to include all the necessary food groups: Grilled Protein, Grilled Veggies, even Grilled Fruit.  Use coconut oil or butter to keep everything from sticking.

- No one wants to be hangry when hanging with family.  Make sure to keep some snacks on hand when traveling  This might mean you have to bring some dried fruit and nuts and jerky from home, but at least you will not be tempted by a mid-afternoon ice-cream cone or cookie.      

-There's no need to forgo desert.  If a family member has made a family favorite, go ahead and have that homemade apple pie.  That is if you are not prone to sugar cravings.  For people who cannot stop with just one brownie, it may be best not to start.  Instead, suggest making some sauteed apple or pear slices with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Then top it with a little heavy whipped cream. 

Just because you are traveling don't let your health, especially your digestive health suffer.  If you have special dietary needs, such as being gluten or dairy free, it will probably make things easier if you bring along some of your own foods.  This might include bread for french toast, almond milk and protein powder for smoothies, and even gluten free BBQ sauce for grilling.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Soup's On

After an exceptionally warm winter and spring, we've had several days of chilly and windy days.  As much as I love a good salad, these kind of days call for something a little warmer.  So for a quick lunch the other day I cooked up a quick skillet soup.

In a large sauté pan, melt 1tsp of butter, olive or coconut oil.  Sauté 1 cup frozen broccoli over medium heat till almost cooked through.  During this step I added some dried rosemary and thyme for extra flavor.

Add 3oz of cut up deli meat (turkey) and 6 cut up black olives to the pan and warm through slightly.

Pour in 1.5 cups of tomato soup.  I like Pacific and Trader Joe's brands.

I simmered the mixture for about 5 minutes till everything was warm.

After pouring it all into my bowl I topped it off with a sprinkle of feta cheese.

Even for a bunch of leftovers, this meal still came out perfectly balanced between protein, carbs, and fat.  Canned or boxed vegetable soups can serve as a healthy base for meals and snacks.  But it's important to beef them up a bit with other whole veggies, protein, and fat.  This can be done by scrounging up about 4oz of leftover meat from last nights supper and keeping frozen veggies on hand.  Other flavor combinations that would work well include:

Tomato soup, Basil, broccoli, leftover steak, 2 Tbs heavy cream

Butternut Squash Soup, Ginger or curry, Cauliflower, and sauteed shrimp, 1/4 cup coconut milk

Black Bean Soup, Sauteed Peppers and Summer Squash, Rotisserie Chicken, 1/2 avocado

Lentil Soup, Green Beans, and Pork chops or roast, 2 Tbs sour cream

Potato soup, fresh or frozen spinach, Ham (potato soup is typically made with heavy cream, no need to add more fat to this one).

Vegetable Minestrone, frozen carrot/cauliflower/broccoli blend, white fish such as cod or haddock, 10 green olives.

Chicken and Rice Soup, wilted kale or swiss chard (start with 1 tbs olive oil), leftover grilled chicken

Your options are only limited to your imagination.  This type of meal could easily be made while cooking breakfast and be ready to go with you to work for lunch.  Or as quick supper after a busy day.  For a bigger meal, go ahead and add a side salad.  You can never have too many leafy greens

Friday, April 6, 2012

America's Sugar Addiction

If you didn't see it on TV, I highly recommend watching the 15min video from 60 minutes earlier this week.  Then ask yourself, "How much sugar am I consuming?"

Is Sugar Toxic?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

To Gluten or Not to Gluten

If you haven't noticed, gluten free foods are taking over the shelves of grocery stores as well as restaurant menus.  BUT WHY?  and What IS gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in the grains: Wheat, Rye, Barley, Spelt, Kamut, Farro, Semolina, Bulgur, and Durum.  Oats that have been transported in trucks that carried these grains have been contaminated, and should also be considered as "gluten containing."  Oats also contain a compound similar to gluten, so for some very sensitive people, even gluten free oats are not an appropriate choice.  Gluten is what gives bread and pizza dough it's elasticity.  When a person cooks pasta, the residue left in the pan and colander is starch and gluten.

At one time, people with Celiac Disease (CD) would have had a difficult time navigating the menus at most restaurants thanks to the hidden flour found in many dishes such as sauces, gravies, salad dressing,  pre-packaged foods and cross contamination.  CD is an autoimmune disease where the body views gluten as a threat and attacks the intestinal villi where gluten is absorbed.  This typically leads to GI distress of varying degrees depending upon the person.  For some though, it leads to a rash called Dermatitis Hepetiformis.  The only treatment is a gluten free diet.  While the medical community has known about CD for a long time, the concept of Gluten Sensitivity (GS) is new and upcoming.  GS is where people's bodies react negatively to gluten, but they do not have CD.

The fact of the matter is, humans were never meant to eat the amount of gluten that we do.  Wheat in the US is specifically grown so that it contains at least 50% more gluten than it did 50yrs ago.  This makes for lighter, fluffier baked goods.  Gluten is also used as a food additive and stabilizer in just about every processed food product.  When Julia Child wrote 'The Art of French Cooking' she already knew that American flours contained more Gluten than French flours.  Thus she had to formulate the recipes taking into account these differences.  The increase in gluten consumption has not been benign though.  In her book "The Gluten Connection", Shari Lieberman PhD, CNS, FACN discusses how this increase is wreaking havoc on our health.  Today some nutritionists and doctors recognize this and instead of promoting more medications to cover up symptoms, they are recommending gluten free diets.  People who may benefit from a gluten free lifestyle include those with: Eczema/Psoriasis, Asthma, ADD/ADHD, Autism, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease, Osteoporosis, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, and just about any other autoimmune disease.

Unfortunately society has caught the GF craze and people now use it as weight loss/health fad diet. I think a lot of this was sparked when Elizabeth H. from The View wrote her book The G-Free Diet.  If you are in the process of cutting out gluten for health reasons fear not! You are not missing out on food.  As mentioned before you can still have a little toast with peanut butter for breakfast thanks to GF companies like UDI's.  However, filling your cabinet with GF products is not the route to take.  Replacing a regular cookie with a GF cookie, means you are still eating a cookie.  Just like any person trying to improve their health, you should fill your pantry with real food:  Meat, Veggies, Fruit, Rice, Quinoa, Sweet Potatoes, Nuts, Butter, Olive Oil, Spices, coffee, and tea.  Buyer beware though, gluten lurks in unexpected places.  Foods such as soy sauce, BBQ sauce, ice cream, salad dressings, frozen veggies with butter and cheese sauce, and flavored yogurt.  To truly go GF you will have to become a Nutrition Label Detective.  Labels now post allergen information denoting if a product contains wheat, but not gluten.

If you want to go GF for any number of reasons, it's best to meet with a Dietitian or Nutritionist to make sure you do it right.  It's best to try going GF for at least 3 weeks, but 3-6 months is best.  If you do not completely eliminate gluten, you will not be able to feel the difference.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Popcorn Veggies

Just by chance, I threw together a "one oven supper" last night.  In one dish we placed frozen pork-chops sprinkled with salt and pepper.  In another larger dish I mixed together frozen broccoli and frozen brussels sprouts, and drizzled them with sunflower oil (I always used olive oil in the past) salt and pepper.  On the other side of that baking dish I halved an acorn squash and just put a pat of butter in each side.  Everything baked at 370 degrees for about  45 minutes.  Easy right!

While the pork chops may have ended up a touch dry...nothing a little BBQ sauce or mustard can fix; the veggies were INCREDIBLE!  At first I thought it was just me, but then Ryan said "This is the best broccoli ever!"  Then it dawned it me, they tasted like popcorn.  I was about to say it, when Ryan beat me to the punch.  I wish I had made more, because we both gobbled our servings down.

Needless to say, if you have a family member who is a picky eater, or doesn't like their veggies; instead of roasting with olive or canola oil, switch it up and use Sunflower Oil.  Not only does it add amazing flavor, it works well for stir-fry and grilling since it can stand up to higher heat.  It is also high in Vitamin E, a potent anti oxidant.  The phytosterols and monounsaturated fatty acids found in sunflower oil have also been shown to help reduce cholesterol.  I have no doubt any veggie: cauliflower, peppers, carrots, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes, parsnips, rutabaga, or turnips.  So eat up!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Intuitive Eating-Review

I recently read Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD; and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA.  Since starting this blog, this has to be my favorite nutrition/diet book I have read so far.  The authors wrote the first edition in 1995 after becoming dissatisfied with the typical dietitian mentality: serving sizes, exchange system, calorie counting, and so on.  The book focuses on several areas, but as the name implies, learning to eat intuitively is the main premiss.  The practices in mindful eating are now being used in eating disorder clinics around the country.  However, anyone suffering from a life of chronic dieting or food worry will identify with the example patients the authors use to help present the program.  I should make a huge disclaimer here, much as ET and ER do in their book.  THIS IS NOT A DIET!!!  By following the practices of mindful eating, people who are overweight will probably lose weight, and people who struggle with chronic dieting will come to peace with food.

1. The weight-loss industry is a $30+ billion a year business.  (Programs, Pills, Shakes, Bars, Surgery)
2.  90-95% of all diets fail.
3. Restricting food slows Metabolism.
4. 45% of adults feel guilty about eating foods they like.
5. The US is the most preoccupied country with regards to weight and health concerns, we are the most overweight, yet we take the least amount of satisfaction and pleasure from eating.

There are 3-4 main types of eating disorders recognized within the medical Community and are considered a mental disorder, not a physical disorder; even-though they wreak havoc on the body:

Anorexia nervosa: Restricting food to lose weight below 85% of what is considered ideal.  Often starts off with the simple quest to lose a little weight, but spirals out of control to where patients may only eat 1 apple or a few carrots each day.

Binge Eating Disorder: Consuming more than what is considered a normal amount within a 2hr time period.  Binges may consist of 2000-4000 calories. Typically follows a time of food restriction.  People are typically of normal weight, but may be overweight.

Bulimia Nervosa:  Similar to Binge Eating, but each binge is followed by purging.  Purging may be done through laxative use, vomiting, or exercise.  Sometimes people begin to purge even after normal size meals.  The act of vomiting after a large binge of say 2000 calories, will only rid the body of approximately 800-1000 calories.  Patients have been know to purge more than 20x per day.  Patients may be of normal weight, underweight, or overweight.  

Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified: When people do not meet all the criteria for one of the other eating disorders.  Ex: A woman with Anorexia Nervosa who still experiences menstruation even though at 5'5" she only weights 100lb = 80%ideal body weight.  This is also where people who are chronic dieters or yo-yo dieters would fall.  People who are preoccupied with thoughts of food, nutrition, and distorted body image.  Again, these patients may be a wide range of body sizes.  Surprisingly, almost 50% of the female population could fall into this category.  Think of how many women have gone on a diet, regained the weight and then some, gone on another diet...only to then regain more weight.  It's a vicious cycle, and one that has a very devastating impact on the psyche and body.

There are ten steps to becoming an Intuitive Eater, and the book does an excellent job of outlining each.
  1. Reject the diet mentality.
  2. Honor your hunger.
  3. Make peace with food.
  4. Challenge the food police.
  5. Feel your fullness.
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor.
  7. Cope with emotions without the use of food.
  8. Respect your body.
  9. Exercise-feel the difference.
  10. Honor your health-gentle nutrition.
The authors stress that intuitive eating is a process, unlike diets there is no linear thinking.  It is not starting at one weight with the sole intention of losing a certain amount of weight.  It is a journey.  Some days will be better than others, but each part of the journey should be see as a positive experience.  Almost each step towards becoming an intuitive eater encompasses the need to enjoy food, enjoy life, and love your body.  Think about weight watchers statement that it is not a diet.  Of course it is!  It does not teach a person to listen to their body, it teaches them to focus on points.  And what is a person to do when their points run out at the end of the day, and they are still hungry or at a party with lots of delicious food?  Quite the quandary.  My favorite statement in the book is "If you don't love it, don't eat it, and if you love it, savor it."  

If you or someone you know struggles with chronic dieting or poor body image, I highly recommend reading Intuitive Eating. While you may be able to practice the principles on your own, like any journey it's best to have support from a friend or family member.  It can be scary to let go of the diet mentality and food rules, but being able to sit at a meal knowing you can eat without worry is liberating.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sugar Alcohols

In my most recent post I discussed sugar imposters.  AKA: sugar substitutes, or non-caloric sweeteners.  However, I left out one large group that deserves its own posting.  They are the sugar alcohols.  These products are made by hydrogenating carbohydrates.  This is different from the hydrogenation process used to turn liquid fats into solid fats such as margarine.  However, both process do require the addition of a hydrogen molecule, and the breaking of a double bond.  Sorry if this is making you reach far back into your high school chemistry years.  There are approximately 10+ sugar alcohols available for use as a food additive, the ones listed below in bold are the ones you will most frequently run into on a nutrition label.

  • Erythritol: Discovered in 1848, it naturally occurs in some fruits and fermented foods.
  • Glycerol: Typically used as a filler in baked goods as well as a thickener in viscous foods.
  • HSH: Hydrogenated Starch Hydrosylate, used as a humectant in order to retain moisture in foods.
  • Isomalt: Naturally found in beets, and used widely in sugar sculptures because it does not crystalize as quickly as sugar.
  • Lactitol: Non active ingredient in many medications, but an active ingredient in some laxatives.
  • Maltitol: Widely used in candy, chocolates, and chewing gum.
  • Mannitol: Found in almost all plants, and occurs during fermentation.  Used in medications needed to affect the brain, as it is capable of crossing the blood/brain barrier.  Sometimes used as a filler in illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine...
  • Sorbitol: Used as a thickener in many food and cosmetic products.
  • Xylitol: Most easily tolerated of all SAs.  May aid in increasing bone density, preventing ear/upper respiratory infections, as well as controlling yeast infections.

Unlike the other sugar substitutes, sugar alcohols are not as sweet as sugar.  Products that use other artificial sweeteners, often add SAs in order to mask the flavor of the other sweeteners.  Because they are poorly absorbed by the body, and typically contain between 1/8 to 1/2 the calories of sugar, SAs contribute very few calories to the diet.  This means they also cause only small changes in blood sugars which can make them appealing to people with Diabetes.  However, since they are poorly absorbed in the intestines, overconsumption of foods made with SAs may lead to gas, bloating, and diarrhea.  People who have undergone any form of gastric bypass surgery should be especially wary of these side effects.

Sugar alcohols do not brown, and are not suitable for baking when used alone.  This is why they are most often seen in candy products, chewing gum, and mouth wash.  These products are used world wide, and do not appear to cause cancer.  People with diabetes, especially those taking insulin do need to be aware that these products will increase their blood sugar.  There is some evidence that excess intake of sorbitol by people with diabetes may increase their chances for nerve/small blood vessel complications.

As with most things dealing with food, I say if you want to eat it, eat the real thing.  These sweeteners have their place, most notably in chewing gum and breath mints.  But if you notice that a large proportion of your pantry contains foods with these or other artificial sweeteners in them, it may be time to take a step back and reevaluate your diet.  As I mentioned in the previous post, artificial sweeteners contain no important nutrients, so just like sugar, they should be consumed minimally.