I blog there every day, I hope to see you there!
I have started a new blog at http://www.dailydosewellness.com/. It's not just about muscles anymore, I'm looking at the whole health picture!
I blog there every day, I hope to see you there!
I've been away from the blogosphere for a little while, so here's my triumphant return! First grad school got in the way then I had a few medical hiccups, but now I'm both spring-breaking and healthy.
This recipe is one of my favorites when I'm craving something sweet. All of the ingredients store well so I always keep them on hand. It's thick for a smoothie, more like a sherbet consistency that I eat with a spoon. If you wanted something you can drink you could add more alterna-milk or water. Because it's thick I use my food processor to blend it, but if you have a sturdy blender that would work too.
1/2 cup frozen berries (I like raspberries or blackberries)
1 Tbsp peanut butter or other nut butter
1/2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey or brown rice syrup
1/2 Tbsp high lignan flaxseed oil (I like Barlean's)
Approx. 1/4 cup alterna-milk (hemp, soy, almond, coconut)
Very complicated preparation instructions:
Place all ingredients in blender/food processor and blend until smooth. Place in a cup and go crazy with a spoon!
3g Omega 3's
I almost put the word "recipe" in quotes up top, because this is really more of an assemblage than a recipe! This is a favorite sweet snack of mine. The flavor and texture is reminiscent of a much more sugary treat- the richness of the chocolate, the creaminess of the peanut butter, the chewiness of the date. Four of these is usually just about right for a satisfying snack, which contains about 250 calories and 5 grams of fiber.
Overly Fussy Instructions:
Smear a little bit of peanut butter on each date. Break up chocolate pieces and stick on top, using peanut butter as an adhesive. Enjoy!
The Food and Agriculture Organization released a report last year that stated a shocking 1.3 billion tons of edible food get lost or wasted worldwide. That’s a lot of chow! To reduce waste and stretch a dollar in your kitchen, here are some tips for utilizing food items you may be throwing away:
Feed it to the worms. If you have a yard and you garden, a worm bin is a cheap and easy way to make your own high quality soil out of food scraps. Here are some nice detailed instructions on how to make a worm bin from somebody at WSU. If you do not have a yard and do not garden, see if your local sanitation department offers yard waste pick-up. You do not have to have a yard to request a bin; you can use it solely to dispose of food scraps. Your city will then use the scraps to make compost for parks and public spaces.
Make a broth. Meat and vegetable scraps can be used to make your own delicious broth. Store-bought broths are often extremely high in sodium, making your own allows you to add a more sane amount of salt. I keep a large zippered bag in my freezer, and throw my flavorful scraps in there throughout the month. When the bag is full, it’s time to make broth. The guidelines for this are extremely loose, just simmer it all in water with some salt in a big pot until it has a flavor you like. Strain out the solid bits and you’ve got broth! I keep broth in my freezer in one-cup servings in jars, and then defrost them as needed. When choosing items to include in your broth bag, pick scraps that will give it either a good flavor or a nice color. Some of my favorites to include are:
Make magic with broccoli stalks. Often people will only eat the pretty floret portion of the broccoli plant, banishing the homely stalk to the waste bin. I get it; the florets are tender, they look pretty, the stalk seems tough and foreboding. There are a LOT of different things you can do with that stalk. There are a number of different ways you can prepare it, but before you do anything take a vegetable peeler and take off the tough outer layer of the plant. This will make the whole thing much more edible.
Make a quick pickle. I like to cut my stems into matchsticks and make a quick pickle. Simple instructions for pickling can be found at smitten kitchen. Add tasty flavors to your pickles like garlic, dill, cayenne, or cilantro. You can add your pickles to sandwiches, salads, or just eat them by themselves!
Add your broccoli stems to your florets. This seemed like an obvious one but I’ll just throw it out there anyways. If you’re making a stir-fry with broccoli florets, chop up your stems into bite-size pieces and add them in. They will take a couple minutes longer to cook than the florets, so add them to the pan first.
Make a green pizza. On nights where we don’t want to cook sometimes Nick and I will buy frozen pizzas and load them with veggies. Sliced broccoli stems make a nice green pepperoni substitute!
There are many edible portions of plants that are often thrown out, such as chard stems and beet greens. I hope this gives you some good ideas for alternative uses for food scraps. Next time you’re chopping a vegetable and about to toss part of it out, give it a second look and ask yourself- could I eat this?
This is part 3 of an overly-long gluten discussion that started in the previous post. We're exploring the nature of gluten, why some people avoid it, and the nutritional properties of gluten-free products on the market.
Gluten-free goods on the Market
For those who suffer from Celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, the loss of familiar foods like bread and cereal can be a little depressing. Over the last few years, as food manufacturers became aware of the specialty market for those avoiding gluten, a multitude of gluten-free baked goods became available.
Gluten-free baked goods are great, because they can bring a lot of joy to people who thought they were never going to get to eat a dang piece of toast again without suffering serious side effects! But are they somehow healthier? In a word: no. A cookie is still a cookie, whether it’s made with wheat flour or sorghum. That means it’s still a source of added sugar, saturated fat, and excess calories. As with all foods, gluten-free baked goods should be eaten in moderation.
The downside to gluten-free baked goods is that they can have an incredibly high glycemic index. Eating large amounts of high glycemic index foods can wreak havoc on anybody’s blood sugar, but it’s especially a concern for those with diabetes (which means it’s a concern for a full third of the US population). Foods with a high glycemic index do not make for a very satisfying snack; they won’t keep you full for very long due to fast gastric emptying.
Am I saying that all gluten-free baked goods have a high glycemic index? No. While there’s no information on the glycemic index on a nutrition information panel, you can get an idea of how starchy a food is by looking closely at the label.
First, check out that ingredient list. It’s in order of decreasing quantity, so if something is listed in the first couple of ingredients you know it’s in that food in a high amount. Gluten-free baked goods often use starches to bind the structure of the food. An excessive quantity of these fast-dissolving carbohydrates result in a high glycemic index food. So if you see potato, tapioca, or corn starch within the first couple of ingredients- it’s not a good sign.
Another way to assess the blood sugar potential of a baked good is to check out the fiber content. The presence of fiber, an indigestible carbohydrate will slow down the gastric emptying rate and subsequently the release of glucose into the bloodstream. A good amount of fiber for a serving of food is 3 to 5 grams. A not-so-good amount is <1 gram.
Hopefully this gives you some clues on your next gluten-free shopping excursion. For further information on gluten-free resources, consult the Gluten Intolerance Group.
This is part 2 of an overly-long gluten discussion that started in the previous post. We're exploring the nature of gluten, why some people avoid it, and the nutritional properties of gluten-free products on the market.
Why do some people choose to avoid gluten?
All right, are you asleep yet? FDA regulation talk gets boring real fast! Let’s get back to why someone would care that there is gluten in his or her food. Some people avoid gluten because they are either allergic or have a sensitivity. People who have a gluten allergy have Celiac disease. This is caused by a genetic predisposition that affects about 1 in every 133 people in the US*. People who suffer from Celiac disease can experience a wide variety of symptoms after they eat gluten. Anything from diarrhea to skin rashes to fatigue, or a number of other not-so-pleasant happenings. For those with Celiac disease, gluten can actually damage the intestinal wall. People who have a sensitivity to gluten can also experience a variety of symptoms, but they are usually not as severe. The difference between an allergy and a sensitivity has to do with what kind of immune cells are reacting, but let’s not go into further detail than that.
Did I say this was going to get more boring, or less? Let’s go for less boring- more thrilling tales of wheat proteins!
Some people choose to avoid gluten because they like to try alternative grains like amaranth or quinoa (which is technically a seed and not a grain, but let’s not go into that!).
Some people choose to avoid gluten because it is a little trendy at the moment. Others are under the impression that gluten-free foods are inherently healthier than gluten-containing foods. Let’s investigate that thought in part 3 of this discussion…
*Source: Krause's Food & Nutrition Therapy, 12 Ed. (Saunders Elsevier, 2008)
I started writing about gluten and I found I had a REALLY hard time stopping. Therefore, this has become part 1 of a 3-part series of posts all about gluten. When you see how lengthy this first post is, I think you'll understand!
There are many different reasons why people choose to follow a gluten-free diet. Before we discuss them, let’s talk about exactly what gluten is, and what it means when you see the words “gluten-free” on a food label.
What the heck is a Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other members of the wheat family. It’s actually made up of two proteins: glutenin and gliadin (this one is the troublemaker for those who are allergic to gluten, but more on that below). Glutenin and gliadin are a dream team for creating fluffy baked goods that hold their shape. Glutenin strands create a solid structure for holding air bubbles and gliadin is like a firm yet stretchy cement that holds it all together. This is why gluten-containing grains are pretty ideal for creating baked goods; you get a product that is soft and springy but doesn’t crumble to bits when you take a bite out of it.
Labeling Requirements for Gluten and other Allergens
So what does is mean when you see the words “gluten-free” on a label? If it doesn’t have wheat in the ingredients- it’s gluten-free right? If there’s one simple idea to remember about food labeling, it’s that it’s never that simple. The first trick is that there are many different varieties of wheat, so wheat could show up as a lot of different things on an ingredient list. The second trick is that close relatives of wheat like barley and rye also contain gluten. Here is a list of names for gluten-containing grains (some are types of wheat, some are closely-related members of the wheat family):
If a product contains some variety of wheat in it that is not described as “wheat” in the ingredients, the FDA requires that it is stated under the label. You may have seen this for other potential allergens as well, such as nuts or dairy.
The third trick to gluten-free labeling is that non-gluten-containing grains are often processed and packaged in facilities where they also process wheat. This means that they can become cross-contaminated with gluten, which is a problem for those who have a gluten allergy. Currently the FDA does not require food manufacturers to place a warning on the label when foods are processed on shared equipment with allergens. You may see a warning below the ingredient list, but this is a voluntary statement. Smart food manufacturers often do place a shared equipment warning on their label, because they generally don’t have an interest in someone going into anaphylactic shock after consuming their food. Here’s the guideline direct from the FDA:
FALCPA's labeling requirements do not apply to major food allergens that are unintentionally added to a food as the result of cross-contact. In the context of food allergens, "cross-contact" occurs when a residue or other trace amount of an allergenic food is unintentionally incorporated into another food that is not intended to contain that allergenic food.
FALCPA stands for the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, the last major piece of legislation passed on this subject. This discussion has quickly grown longer than I wanted it to, but here’s the final piece: what exactly does it mean when you see the words “gluten-free” on a label?
The FDA is currently in the process of defining a legal definition for gluten-free, which means that there is no current standard. Generally companies will list their product as gluten-free when there is no gluten in the ingredients, and the products were not manufactured on shared equipment with gluten.
There are some foods that are certified gluten-free by non-governmental agencies, such as the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG). These certifications require higher standards than those of the FDA.
Nick and I went to Mighty-O Donuts last week, otherwise known as the home of “Food Network Challenge: Donut Champions” winner Sarah Beth Russert. For those of you who haven’t visited this vegan and organic donut shop, it’s a treat in more ways than one. Delectable fried dough in seasonal varieties (I miss the late summer peach fritter already) served with espresso from Stumptown Coffee, all nestled in a cozy shop in Tangletown. It’s a lovely place to warm up on a blustery autumn afternoon, so on one of the multiple blustery afternoons we had last week we did just that.
To say that Tangletown is a family-oriented neighborhood would be an understatement; it seems as though offspring are a prerequisite for signing a lease around there. So needless to say on a Saturday afternoon when we showed up the place was teeming with adorable tots. As we sat and enjoyed our pastries we also had the pleasure of being entertained by the sugar-fueled antics of said tots.
I was struck by the pure expressions of joy that occur when a child encounters a food that they love. I work with so many adults who struggle with feelings of guilt and anxiety when it comes to indulging in rich foods. I hear a lot of “I was so bad…” or “I felt so guilty…” from adults when they are describing a decadent food that they ate. It was refreshing to see these little humans show true excitement and unabashed satisfaction with their donut experience. They were totally wrapped up in the experience and in no hurry whatsoever; they were truly savoring the moment.
I saw one kid who had his head down, mouth clamped onto the donut he was cradling in both hands, who was clearly fully involved in his eating experience. He was almost nuzzling his donut, kind of swaying his head from side to side as if to say “Yes, this totally rules.” I saw a toddler in a high chair who had a cake donut with chocolate icing. She was working her way around the whole circumference of the donut, only taking bites out of the iced portion, smiling wide with a chocolate-stained face. These kids were enjoying their donut rapture, they were playing and interacting with each other in their donut wonderland, and it was awesome.
We could all take a cue from these kids when it comes to appreciating rich foods. The holidays are a time where we encounter all sorts of foods that perhaps aren’t the healthiest nutritionally-speaking. However health is a multi-faceted subject, and mental health is a large, perhaps the largest, piece of that healthy pie (mmm… pie).
The building blocks of a nourishing diet are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. High-sugar or high-saturated fat foods (think cakes, cookies, bacon cheeseburgers, and the like) are what I like to call “sometimes foods.” They are fine to enjoy sometimes, but you don’t want to base your diet around them.
When “sometimes” occasions arise: birthdays, anniversaries, parties and the like, make sure you have your cake and enjoy it too. There’s no need to feel guilty for having a reasonable portion of something in celebration of good times. And rather than scarfing it down and leaving yourself plenty of time to feel bad about it, give your "sometimes food" a little breathing room. Here are some quick guidelines for having a sane indulgent food experience:
Look at what you’re about to eat. What is it about the way it looks that makes you excited to eat it? Is it colorful? Does it have a beautiful texture?
Smell your food. Get right in there and take a big whiff. Does it smell like it tastes? Do you associate the smell with a happy memory?
When you do bite into it, Let the food melt on your tongue a little bit. I’ve got news for you: taste buds only exist in your mouth. They don’t continue down your esophagus so give your tongue some time with your treat. Let all the flavors sink in and resonate. Don’t stop with the first bite; examine the flavor with each successive bite that you take. Does the flavor change from the time you put it in your mouth to the time that you swallow? What kind of taste does it leave on your tongue once you have swallowed?
I hope this is helpful as you navigate your way through your next holiday event. This is a wonderful time of year with plenty of tasty treats and quality time with loved ones. Don’t waste your time feeling guilty about the fantastic foods you are lucky enough to enjoy!
By the way none of this applies unless you eat your veggies too. On a regular basis. Just had to make sure that was clear. Eat your darn veggies!
I realize that I’m tackling a very broad topic here. It’s like titling a blog post “Food: What should you eat?” My aim is to provide you with some guidelines to make your own choice, rather than give you a precise method for designing the perfect exercise program for yourself. Just like nutrition, what you learn about yourself while experimenting with different types of exercise helps to clarify what you prefer. And just like eating new foods, you never know whether or not you like it until you taste it! Or try it in this case. Don’t taste the dumbbells people; they don’t clean those very often…
The USDA recommends engaging in physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week to reduce the risk of chronic disease. That is only to reduce risk of disease. If you want to lose weight or maintain a weight loss you’re looking at 60-90 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every single day. That’s a pretty big time commitment! If you attempt to maintain an exercise routine for an hour every single day and there’s something in it that’s not sustainable or tolerable for you, you’re going to be one unhappy camper pretty quickly. The most important thing about choosing a fitness routine is that you actually do it, so it has to be viable. So here are some things to consider to find your exercise love match:
What do you like to do? This sounds obvious, but some people are under the impression that exercise can’t possibly be fun. Think about activities you enjoy, and see how you could incorporate that into a fitness routine. If you enjoy going out dancing, a dance fitness class such as Zumba or Nia might work for you. If you have a very stressful job, it might be a good idea to go to a boxing gym and take your frustrations out on the heavy bag for a couple of hours. If you have a zeal for trying new things a highly varied workout such as Crossfit may capture your fancy.
Are you more motivated to perform alone or in a group? When it comes to physical activity, you’ve got the option of doing it by yourself or in a group environment. Going it alone can be challenging for accountability. If you are the only one expecting you to show up for your workout, utilizing the snooze bar can be very tempting. A group environment such as a fitness class or a team may encourage you to show up as well as try your best. If you’re recovering from an injury or totally new to exercise, personal training might be best for you. However this can also be cost-prohibitive, which brings me to our next topic: money!
How much are you willing to invest? The cost of exercise ranges from free to pricey. Starting a walking group with your neighbors doesn’t cost any money. Personal training at a high-end gym could run a couple of hundred dollars per session. I guarantee all of it is cheaper than medical treatment for chronic disease from a sedentary lifestyle. Just like working out in a group, sometimes spending money on your workout can help hold you accountable to your physical activity goals. At most of the fitness classes I teach, students have to sign up in advance and there is a fee if they cancel less than 24 hours before the class. This is not just a cruel ploy to take your money, it’s also meant to ensure that students stick to their routine.
What is available in your area? Where you live is going to have an impact on what’s feasible. If you live in a suburban area with no sidewalks the walking group idea I mentioned above might not fly. If you live in a rural area with no Zumba classes nearby my dance fitness suggestion could be unrealistic. For those who would like guidance but have limited accessibility an online platform may be the best. What’s available near your home? What’s located near your job? Is there anything on your way to your job?
What will work with your schedule? This is another one that seems obvious but is often overlooked. If I decide I’m going to take a yoga class every day, and I live in a town where there is precisely one yoga class every morning at 8am, and I have to be at work every morning by 8:15am, is that going to work out in the long term? Not likely! I either have to find a yoga video podcast or find a different workout.
Hopefully these guidelines will grant you some insight on a past or future fitness plan. A sustainable physical activity routine is important for maintaining health, happiness, and longevity.
When monitoring a client’s weight maintenance, I look at it in terms of a simplified health trifecta: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Rest. Are they eating good foods? Are they exercising a healthy amount? Are they resting and relaxing adequately? If someone is able to maintain a wholesome balance between these three categories, their quality of life is sure to show it!
I recently did a presentation on the use and properties of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) for school. Naturally preparing for it involved slogging through oodles of documents from the Food and Drug Administration on labeling and safety requirements- oh goody! I won’t bore you with any details, but I did come across documentation of an interesting little battle that took place in 1997 between the Sugar Association, the National Soft Drink Association, and the FDA. Here is my recap in layman’s terms:
The Sugar Association filed a complaint with the FDA because they felt that soft drink labeling was dishonest. They found that soft drink companies were listing “sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup” in their ingredients, when in fact they were really only using HFCS to sweeten their stuff.
You may have seen an “and/or” ingredient on a nutrition label before. Check out that potato chip bag- it usually says something like “soybean and/or canola oil” in the ingredients. This is because the company may use either one, specifically whatever one is cheaper when they are making their chips. The FDA states that this can only be done with fats or oils, and only when they are not the predominant ingredient in the food. Since your potato chips are mostly potato, the FDA allows them to be non-specific with the oil used.
The Sugar Association got upset because (1) Sugar is not a fat or an oil, (2) Sweetener is the primary ingredient in soft drinks, and (3) The beverage industry had stopped buying their sugar but was still claiming to use it on their labels!
So what did the FDA have to say about it? Essentially that they knew it was happening but they didn’t have the time or money to deal with it:
“The Agency has not initiated enforcement actions… Because of limited agency resources and because this issue does not involve food safety, the agency will likely maintain this position.”
It’s important to remember that the FDA’s primary concern when it comes to label regulations is food safety. They are not omnipotent; they can’t make sure that every company is entirely honest all the time. When it comes to your food, asking questions and buying from manufacturers you trust is the best way to ensure clarity!
If you'd like to see the full report from the FDA you can read it here.