Sunday, September 30, 2018

October 1st

Tomorrow is the 1st day of October.  How did that happen?  Where did September go?  For me it definitely FLEW by.  From having a busy work schedule, traveling to Virginia for a training for an upcoming Diabetes Prevention Program (more on that later), and celebrating National Yoga Month at various events, yes, September FLEW!  I'd like to say October is going to slow down but seems like it is going to be just as busy.  Although I will be taking a few days off, so there's always that to look forward to.  Ahhh yes, a little rest and relaxation.  I'm ready.


A couple of posts back I talked about using the Instant Pot®.  The first recipe I experimented with was beans.  I’ve always wanted to make homemade beans and let me just tell you, my only problem was finding enough containers to store the beans (as I put some in the freezer).  They were phenomenal and so super easy to make.  I’m not here to convince you to buy an Instant Pot® (I’m not sponsored, but if they want to sponsor me I wouldn’t say no, ha!) but I will say this, they are quite convenient because they really are all the appliances you need in one – rice cooker, pressure cooker, slow cooker, and more!  I’ve made beans, yogurt, applesauce, pork tenderloin (and I don’t even eat meat!), sweet potatoes, soup…I mean what haven’t I made??  Dessert.  Note to self, make a dessert in the Instant Pot® and soon!  Let me know if you all want to see some recipes for the Instant Pot®.  I’ll be starting a new feature on the blog, where I’ll be starting to post my own recipes.  Yep, my very own recipes.  I’ve been reading blogs and cookbooks over the years and I finally started experimenting on my own.  I’m proud to say I’ve been doing a little creating over here.  So, recipes to come.  And some of those recipes will be with the Instant Pot®.  Just let me know what other recipes you might be interested in seeing!  Thanks in advance.  



I was in Charlottesville, Virginia this past week for a training to be a lifestyle coach for the Diabetes Prevention Program.  We currently have our 2nd cohort finishing up here in Miami and we’ll be starting another cohort in Miami in 2019.  We’ll also be expanding to Broward County in 2019.  The Diabetes Prevention Program is a year long program aimed at changing lifestyle habits with both diet and exercise in order to prevent diabetes.  The original study done in the early 2000s showed a reduction in the onset of diabetes by 58% from participants losing 5-7% of their body weight combined with 150 minutes of weekly exercise.  Seems simple enough, right?  Changing lifestyle habits is hard!  If everyone knew it was this simple to help themselves prevent diabetes, don’t you think more people would be joining a program like this?  I’d like to think so.  So here’s my friendly PSA: 

If you or someone you know has prediabetes (never been diagnosed with diabetes) and is interested in joining a diabetes prevention program, message me.  I can give you more details and believe me when I tell you, it’ll be life changing. Promise.


Just a few notes about my trip to Charlottesville – I definitely have the travel bug.  Traveling lets you see new things, experience new adventures, and more importantly allows you to grow richer.  As a young child I did travel a lot with my parents.  I’ve even lived in quite a few cities.  But the one area of the United States that I haven’t traveled is the Northeast, minus New York.  I’ve always wanted to see the leaves change colors.  Even though they weren’t yet changing just yet, there were a few trees here and there that were starting to change colors.  I definitely never imagined this Florida girl in an apple orchard (I only know mango and avocado trees).  But there I was, having an actual apple cider donut from farm to table apples.  Might have been the best donut I’ve ever had.  Seriously that good.  And as for other adventures on this trip, let’s just say that every Uber ride was an adventure.  Seriously glad I had my co-worker with me, because you might not believe some of the stories if there wasn’t back-up proof.  Next trip, Denver.  Stay tuned for more adventures to come!



The PSL (pumpkin spice latte) has been out for a few weeks now and all I’ll say is can we have a little less sugar and a little more pumpkin please?  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m on a mission for people to drink LESS sugary drinks.  And while I know the PSL is released in the fall and is only here for a few weeks, hear me out when I tell you that there will be a new drink in the winter that is sugar-laden as well.  So, I don’t have a problem with the PSL per se, but I do have a problem with the frequency that people have of consuming sugar-laden drinks.  Okay, rant over, back to the actual health benefits of pumpkin (which was my reason for even starting to talk about the PSL).  


Pumpkin is a powerhouse when it comes to fiber.  One cup of canned pumpkin has 7 grams of fiber.  And while fiber may be known to help you go to the bathroom, it also helps reduce cholesterol, as well as helps you feel fuller longer.  Fiber factor.  And pumpkin has a ton. 

Pumpkin’s brilliant orange coloring comes from all the beta-carotene that pumpkin contains.  Beta-carotene is then converted to vitamin A in the body.  Vitamin A is essential for eye health and helps the retina absorb and process light.  A single cup of pumpkin contains over 200 percent of most people’s recommended daily intake of vitamin A.

Pumpkin contains a lot of vitamin A and vitamin A helps our bodies fight infections, viruses and infectious diseases.  So, if you’re looking for a way to ward off illness and improve your immune system, try including a little pumpkin in your diet.

Beta-carotene is not only great for your eyes and skin, but you know what else?  Fighting cancer, that’s what!  Research shows that people who eat a beta-carotene-rich diet may have a lower risk of some types of cancer, including prostate and lung cancer.  Think of vitamin A as kind of a cell defense squad.  Vitamin A is an antioxidant that acts as a shield for your cells against cancer-causing free radicals.

I’m glad the PSL brings attention to pumpkin every year.  My hope is that people start including pumpkin this time of year in other ways, ways that aren’t included with loads of sugar (and possibly fat, hello pumpkin pie).  Add some canned pumpkin to your overnight oats, roast pumpkin for a side dish, or even have pumpkin seeds as a snack.  The possibilities really are endless when it comes to adding that fall flavor to your dishes. 

And that’s a wrap September.  October I’m ready for you – birthdays, football, and Denver – let’s go! 



Sunday, September 9, 2018

September is...

We're a little over a week into September and the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL)has been released - love it or hate it, it keeps getting released earlier and earlier.  Not to mention people all over the country are saying that it's starting to feel like fall.  Just an update here in the good old MIA, it's still humid, there's been a lot of rain recently, and we're still in the heart of hurricane season.  Even as I write this Hurricane Florence is heading towards the east coast and is looking to be a threat to make landfall.  Yes, these are the end days of summer here in Miami.  Not complaining just laying the land for those not from here.  Yesterday at the store the stone fruits are no longer readily available and apples and pears are now starting to surface.  We may not have much of a change in seasons here in Miami but I definitely pay attention to the fruit as it makes it's way here (from other parts of the country) and try to eat as much in season as possible.
Stone Fruit Tart before Stone Fruit season ends
September is National Whole Grains Month.  While whole grains are to be celebrated throughout the whole year, September is a time to raise awareness of not only the importance of whole grains but quite possibly a chance for you to try a new whole grain, since we do get stuck in our ways, hello creatures of habit, and start eating the same thing over and over.  

Eating whole grains is linked with numerous health benefits, including lower cholesterol, body fat, and healthier blood sugar management, as well as lower risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many cancers, and death from all causes.  If you're looking for the studies, there's a quite a few.  Here's a round-up of all the research.  
Overnight Oats made with Rolled Oats

Many times as I'm giving the benefits of whole grains I highlight fiber.  I think it's so important and often times not talked about enough.  If you've been around the blog for awhile now you know I call it the "fiber factor".  Here are the known benefits:


-Regularity.  Yes, this is true.  Not only does it help normalize bowel movements, but it also increases the weight and size of our stools.  People will often ask then is there such thing as having too much fiber?  Not really – I mean, you just have to increase your water intake due to the increased fiber intake, otherwise you can get gas and bloating.  I always say, the more fiber the better (and increase your consumption gradually)!

-Lowers cholesterol levels:  lowers LDL, aka the lousy cholesterol, as well as other heart health benefits of lowering blood pressure and inflammation.

-Improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.  Fiber is the part of the plant that you don’t absorb.  So naturally if you’re not absorbing it, it helps slow down the absorption of the carbohydrates, ultimately leading to an improvement in blood sugar control.  So, fiber is a dual benefit in those with diabetes, improved blood sugar control and improved heart health (people with diabetes are twice as likely to have a cardiac event).  I call that a winner if you ask me.

-Aids in achieving a healthy weight:  high-fiber foods tend to be more filling than low-fiber foods.  Odds are you’ll eat less and stay satisfied longer.  Also, high-fiber foods are less energy dense – fewer calories for the same amount of food – and can take longer to eat.

-Reduce the risk for some cancers.

So yes, fiber goes beyond just regularity.  Dub it the fiber factor – don’t worry about how much you need, just eat more whole grains.  You’ll notice the benefits.  Trust me.
Steel-Cut Oats Made Simple in the Instant Pot
This past week I gave a presentation to a group of police officers.  And while I normally suggest changing one thing at a time and continuing to make improvements/changes, when it comes to whole grains, I'd prefer for people to eat more whole grains than not.  But the truth is you really do need to meet people where they are at and I do understand this.  In the presentation I was discussing rice and all its forms - brown rice, wild rice, black rice - many of the police officers didn't even realize black rice was a thing!  
Black Rice aka Forbidden Rice Bowl
So I'm not saying to jump from white rice to black rice, unless you really want to try it and do fall deeply in love with it, but rather try making brown rice and then move to trying the black rice.  You move in stages with these changes.  I wouldn't tell someone to go from instant oats to steel-cut oats because it's almost too much of a change.  Work your way up.  And if brown rice still isn't your thing, try a completely different whole grain - amaranth, barley, farro, freekeh, quinoa, spelt, teff - you see?  There's bound to be some grains that you haven't tried before (or heard of before) and always keep in mind to simply rotate the grains you are eating.  We really do start eating some of the same things over and over.  Bored much?   There's no reason to be when you can eat different whole grains as well as preparing them in different methods too.
My favorite form of quinoa isn't as a substitute for rice, it's these Quinoa Patties!
September is National Yoga Awareness Month - An awareness campaign to educate about the health benefits of yoga as well as inspire a healthy lifestyle - or as I like to call it, why not give yoga a try month?  I've heard many times from people that the reason they don't want to try yoga is because they're not flexible or their mind races too much they wouldn't be able to sit still.  Um, hate to break it to you, but ALL reasons why you should try yoga.  I'm not saying to do something you don't like,  hear me out.  But I'll be the 1st to tell you that it wasn't a complete love affair for me the 1st time I tried yoga.  Rather it was a chance to get away from work for an hour to help try to clear my mind so then I could go back to work for another 3-4 hours.  Yeah, that was my first exposure to yoga.  And it continued to be my exposure for the next few years.  Little did I know yoga was not just about the asanas (poses) and there was so much more to it.  I wrote a whole post a few years back if you want to give it a read here.  My yoga teacher, Marianne Wells, also gives a really great explanation of what yoga really is all about.  Read about it here, since she's a little more eloquent than I.  And if you want a quick re-cap of what yoga means/what it's all about/why you should give it a try this month, here you go:

Just Breathe - Yoga is the union of the breath with the movement of the poses.  As you breathe you go further into the poses (if you aren't able to breathe easily then that's the limit for you in that pose...for now anyways).  But breath is really the heart of yoga.  Every day at work throughout the day I take time to sit and just breathe.  Some days it's two minutes and some days it's 10 minutes.  Breathing helps me reset and reconnect.  When my mind is focused on all that lies before me for the rest of the day, I focus on nothing else but just breathing.  A morning re-set.  Mid-day recharge.  Or evening unwind.  "Before you can breathe to learn, you must learn to breathe."
Lots of practice and lots of breath work to finally be able to do a headstand.
Move - 6 years ago I broke my foot.   I was literally stopped in my tracks and felt like I couldn't MOVE.  Little did I know all that I had in store to learn during the following 6 months.  Injuries teach you a lot.  I now can appreciate being able to move daily.  I've slowed down and am more mindful with each movement I do make.  And I definitely remind everyone around me never to run in the rain in flip flops (you won't get there ANY faster!)  "It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop."  ~Confucius~

Meditation - Meditation sharpens our concentration, our power of thought, and allows personal transformation.  I like to use the quote that Dan Harris says about meditation when I describe it, "It's like a bicep curl for the brain."  Meditation isn't easy for me.  My mind is always wandering.  I simply acknowledge that my mind has wandered and begin again.  It's literally a bicep curl - strengthening each and every time I meditate.  Some days are easier than others.  The key for me has been consistency.

Food - I think this goes without saying, but food does play an integral part of yoga and that might not be the 1st thought that comes to mind.  I always teach variety, balance, and moderation when it comes to food.  But within yoga there's an Ayurvedic proverb that really takes it a step further, "When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.  When diet is correct, medicine is of no need."  I'm not here to talk about diseases outside of our control, but the truth remains that food can be a form of medicine.  And yes, food can be so much more (there are more social components not being discussed today).  But getting back to the basics of eating whole, less processed foods truly can help us to stay healthy and happy.

Rest/Sleep - "Sleep is the most underrated health habit."  Cheating your body out of the R&R it needs can make you more prone to illness, stress, traffic accidents, and weight gain.  My Garmin watch monitors my sleep patterns.  When I include yoga and meditation, my sleep improves.  It's as easy as that (and the reports prove it too).  Don't believe me?  Give it a chance.

Love - I always tell my nephews that "I love them to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond, forever and ever!"  When they were younger they thought it was just a funny quote.  But as they are getting older they understand how deep my love for them is.  Yoga is a way to learn things on the mat and then to translate them off the mat.  One key teaching that I have learned along the way is how to love myself.  It's not that I didn't know how before yoga, but being on the mat puts things in perspective - each and every day on the mat is different and so too is life - I love myself whatever comes my way.

Really Real Yoga - My yoga teacher uses this mantra and recites it often.  It helps you understand what Really Real Yoga is and incorporate it into your daily life.

"If my heart could do my thinking, and my head could truly feel, then I would know what is really real."

Yoga has forever changed my life (and continues to change me.)  I often used to think that yoga came into my life at just the right moment.  I didn’t choose yoga, yoga chose me.   I found a renewed faith in myself.  I began to settle into myself and as I began to settle I began to see that peace is the way.  Maybe this short post has inspired you to try yoga or maybe it's simply because it's National Yoga Month.  Whatever the case, I encourage you to find yoga (or whatever exercise it may be that yoga is for me).

If you are looking for a yoga class, check out the listing for a class near you here.  All classes are free to the community.  And later this month we are partnering with the Miami Dolphins to host a FREE yoga class in their training facility.  Register here for the class and get a free yoga mat!  

~Namaste~


So there you have it, a few health celebrations happening in the month of September.  I hope you try a new whole grain this month and maybe even sign-up for a yoga class.  You never know until you try!  Here's wishing hurricane season flies by, the days get cooler as fall approaches, and instead of PSL maybe there's a new drink in town, how's a Cardamom Spice Latte sound?



Sunday, August 26, 2018

August Highlights

It's been a hot-second since I last released a post.  August has been BUSY.  Last weekend I was at the AADE's (American Academy of Diabetes Educators) annual conference.  The weekend before that I was teaching my Type 1 diabetes carbohydrate counting class.  And just this past week family was in town.  Phew.  I'm just tired of thinking about all that I crammed in these last few weeks.  Here's a few of the highlights from my life in August.  

Views for days - acting like a tourist in my hometown
Type 1 Diabetes Class - I used to work at a diabetes center that was focused on mainly diabetes, specifically Type 1 DM.  Here at my new job the focus isn't on 1:1 counseling but rather group education.  I received a request to teach a class from the community (based on a need) for people with Type 1 diabetes.  I jumped on the chance.  I always loved teaching carb counting and while it is a science it is also an art.  It also takes practice, time, and patience.  

In a study published by the Clinical Diabetes Journal they investigated carb counting accuracy.  So while the technique is super helpful in allowing people the ability to individualize their insulin needs based on what they're eating, it does take practice.  This particular study conducted a carb counting accuracy test in 18 different foods.  The results?  59% out of 100% - a failing grade!  Whether carb counting has become so routine people aren't really measuring anymore or whether people really did just guess, the study proved the point that people's carb counting skills needed to be brushed up on.  

My 1st first class was held in June.  And I just had my 2nd class in early August.  I'll be having another class coming up in November.  The classes are completely FREE, so if you know of someone that might benefit from this class, let me know!
Carb Counting Lab - how well do you carb count??
Instant Pot Crazed - I borrowed my mom's instant pot and I must say that even though I'm late to the ballgame on this here food trend, I must say I'm impressed.  I've heard many mixed reviews  (some either LOVE it and some just plain HATE it).  I figured I needed to try it out on my own and see what the fuss was all about (and you should too.  Not endorsing, just giving my review here and think you should make up your own mind too).  Here is why I think some people really do love it - it has a slow cooker, pressure cooker AND a rice cooker all in ONE device.  It's hard not to love something that gets rid of other gadgets in your house (I'm sure all the rice cooker and slow cooker makers in the world are not loving it, but you know what I mean).  And to make it even more user friendly there are certain buttons on the Instant Pot that let you cook various foods based on their settings (already programmed in the settings for you).  For example I made a pork tenderloin and I was able to sear the meat with the "sautĂ©" function along with some onions and garlic.  Then I used the "meat" setting to pressure cook the tenderloin for ~17 minutes and then let the steam release for another 10 minutes.  While I don't eat pork I allowed a few people to taste test the end result and it was definitely tender.  Approved.

I've always wanted to make homemade beans, but truth be told, I never wanted to have to soak the beans overnight and then make a whole pound of beans up all at once.  It just seemed like such a process and a pound of beans just for me?  Too much even for this bean loving vegetarian.   But I figured since I'm borrowing my mom's Instant Pot and I'm on the "make everything homemade" kick I decided I should at least try to make homemade beans.  Guess what?  Simplest process ever.  I didn't even soak the beans (Shhh, don't tell your grandmothers - for them it might be a tradition/process, but seems to me everyone is too busy these days to have to wait for the soaking, so I wanted to try it without soaking the beans.  I'm here to tell you, it worked!)  No final pictures of the beans, but believe me when I tell you they were delicious.  And just so I wouldn't waste any food, I froze the extra beans.  Talk about meal prepping at its finest - after my trip I had two ready made meals just waiting to go.  Win.  Win.  Now to see if my mom will let me "borrow" her Instant Pot for just a little while longer...Let me know if you want the recipe!


AADE - American Academy of Diabetes Educators - Let me first start off by saying that as a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) we are required to have 75 hours of continuing education units/hours (CEUs) every 5 years.  I'm in my 3rd year and only have 15 hours.  Talk about being behind!  In my previous job I had 12 hour days and the last thing I wanted to do was spend a weekend immersed in learning when my brain was already fried.  Glad to say I obtained 30 hours at this conference and now am back on track.  Note to self, never fall behind on my CEUs ever again.  Seriously.  
The conference was held in Baltimore
So what did I learn?  I did learn a few things, rather reiterated a few points that were important and so I will share those with you.  While these may not be new to you facts, I do think it's important to share.  I'm not going into great detail here, just simple statements (based on research).  Each point could truly be a blog post on its own (and maybe I will do that).

Gut Health:   Our microbiome - We depend on a vast army of microbes (bacteria) that protects us against germs, breaks down food to release energy, and produces vitamins.  Other core functions of our microbiome include regulating our immune function, modulating GI hormone release, and even regulating our mood and behavior.   The microbiome is a living dynamic environment where the relative abundance of species may fluctuate daily, weekly, and monthly, depending your diet, medication, exercise, and a host of other environmental exposures.  So yes, you can see now why there is so much research geared towards improving our microbiome - it's linked possibly to so many different disease states.
Sourdough Starter aka Flor
Let's cut to the chase:  what can you do to keep your microbiome in good shape?  This is where prebiotics and probiotics come in (thinking you've probably heard of these terms before).  Prebiotics are substances like inulin (fiber) that help microbes to thrive (think of it like food for the probiotics).  Prebiotics are not digested or absorbed in the small intestine, but rather fermented in the microbiota.  Whereas the probiotics are microbes, live organisms, as well that are thought to be beneficial to our health.  Two specific species are the Lactobacillus and the Bifodbacterium.  

Prebiotics are found in foods such as the Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, raw dandelion greens, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, whole grains, beans, green bananas, wheat, oats, soybeans, and psyllium husk.

Probiotics are found in sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, soy sauce, miso, kefir & yogurt, sour dough bread, & kombucha.  Think fermented foods - live bacteria.

My 1st sourdough loaf made with the starter Flor
Where does that leave us?  More research is needed.  One of the conundrums is how and why the different strains of bacteria have different effects.  Researchers are also developing studies to explore how the microbiome influences our response to food, and how different diets can tweak the microbiome.  Plant-based diets are looking quite promising, so stay tuned!

Telehealth - Technology is passing me by sometimes (or at least I think it is).  And if it's passing me by just think about all the people older than me and how they must feel.  Telehealth is definitely the future.  I used to see patients 1:1 and would try to follow-up with them via email, whether it was in regards to their blood sugar levels and/or their food recalls.  Enter telehealth:  Now there are digital portals where their blood glucose meters can sync as well as their diet recalls.  I can review them all online and either contact them virtually or just email/call them back.  All outside of your typical doctor office visit.  That's definitely one way to improve diabetes management.  Care within their scheduled appointments, because we all know 3 months in between appointments is too long to make changes/adjustments.  What I dealt with?  Lots of "I don't have my meter with me today."  "I didn't bring a diet recall.  Nobody told me to do that."  And then we'd have a wasted hour of teaching theories without the application.  Yeah, telehealth has only just begun.  I'm excited to see where it's going.
Not the best picture, but if you look close you can see a gentleman gave himself 8 units of insulin with the meal and adjustment for starting above target.  After two hours he saw his blood sugar went up to 243 mg/dL.  He proceeded to give himself 6 more units of insulin.  Two hours later and he was 56 mg/dL - while he did need a tad more insulin he did over inject.  Having these downloads make for teachable moments.
Plant-based Eating - I teach a whole class on defining what plant-based eating is.  It can get confusing with all the new classifications out there.  But in terms of the studies presented at the conference and as they were aiming to look at better glycemic control, I will be referring to a vegan diet for this discussion here.  VEGAN - meaning NO animal products whatsoever.  None.  Zero.  And additionally not only vegan but also low-fat.  In terms of ratios we're looking at 70% carbs, 20% plant-protein, and 10% fat.  That's high carb, low-fat with all of the carbohydrates coming from complex carbs (mainly) and no refined carbohydrates (so no white bread, white sugar, etc.)  We're talking high-quality carbs here.  Some of their fiber intakes increased from 18g of fiber to 36g of fiber and some of the highest intakes were even up to 65g of fiber.  
Yes, with that much fiber you will be a pooping king/queen.
What did these studies ultimately show?  Improved beta cell function with not only an increase in insulin secretion but also a decrease in insulin resistance.   For anyone that's curious, that's basically the whole premise as to why diabetes occurs.  Why aren't we promoting this more then??

This led to a reduction in overall incidence of diabetes occurrence as well as even in some patients looking as if the diabetes was reversed - I don't like to use that exact term as I never want people thinking diabetes just disappears.  But again these studies are improving the beta cell function which in diabetes is ultimately impaired.  If the beta cells are working then it could appear as if the diabetes disappeared.  The key would be to keep it functioning properly in order to stave off the diabetes.  My mind was definitely blown away by some of the research.  The key underlining theme is they have to be completely VEGAN and low-fat.  The patients were only allotted a 1/4 cup of nuts.  They couldn't switch back and have fish or meat for once a week for that matter.  Completely VEGAN.  This appears promising and should be an option when talking to patients.
Vegan cuisine
While it's always important to learn at these conferences and stay up-to-date on the latest research, I always find it important to explore the neighborhoods and go out and talk to the community.   You can learn a lot just by being present and seeing what the needs are.  
Baltimore's Farmer's Market blew me away - amazing wild mushrooms
My nephews and brother were in town this past week.  They were doing all things touristy - airboat ride, science museum, beach, and more.  I joined up with them on most days.  I enjoyed being a tourist in my own city.  I posted about this concept on Instagram the other day, but it's the truth.  How many times do we get so busy that we don't even enjoy our free time - we're too busy running errands, grocery shopping, cleaning, whatever it is, that we don't take time to explore.  Sure I had a list of things I thought I needed to do.  But the truth of the matter is that most of it could and did wait.  It was just my routine, what I'm so used to doing.  Besides being a little tired because of a lack of sleep, I actually felt renewed and energized all from a visit from loved ones and spending time in nature, forgetting about all the stresses of daily life, and being present in the moment.  We could learn a lot from kids.  I know I did.  Go explore and feel like a tourist again.
Frost Science Museum Aquarium



Sunday, August 5, 2018

Yes, You Can Cook

I've heard it said before, "I can't cook.  How do you expect me to eat healthy?"  If I had a nickel for every time a patient had told me this, well I'd probably be a millionaire.  Okay, maybe not, but you get what I'm saying.  It's a common problem.  I completely get it.  Cooking can seem overwhelming and intimidating in the beginning.  But I am here to tell you that anyone can cook.  All it takes is a little time, patience, and practice.  There will be mess-ups (we all have them, even I do to this day).  But as you begin to practice, you'll see that with a little quick assembly of items, you'll be on your way to eating healthy, great-tasting food!
Proof in the pudding - all of these are easy peasy!

There was research done to show that cooking at home improves people's health.  Said summary of study can be read here.  But then more recently they looked again at this cooking at home to see if in fact it really did lead to a cause and effect of improving health.  You can read this study here.  Their conclusion was that while it did lead to overall improved dietary quality and lower adiposity, i.e. obesity.  The study went on to say though that in order to identify if cooking at home really did have causal effects on diet and health more studies would need to be conducted.  Okay, so there went the proof that I so proudly boasted to my patients now blown out of the water.  Or did it?  I included these studies here because this is nutrition.  It's a science and we always want the proof with research.  But I can tell you that by seeing patients one-on-one for many years, people's health improved when they simply began to eat healthier, one change at a time, whatever that looked like for each individual.  And for some that meant simply cutting back on the frequency of meals that they were eating out.  
Having a go-to sauce to add to food can take a meal from ordinary to out-of-this-world.  Ingredients for homemade chimichurri.
And part of that conclusion goes back to the original reason for my post - people didn't think they can cook.  There were other reasons as well, i.e. time, time, and no time - I mean isn't that the truth??   But the biggest complaint I would get is people would just want me to tell them what to eat.  They didn't want to have to think about it.  Creating menus back in my college days was the bane of my existence.  While I did love creating general menus, making a menu for someone in particular is not so glamorous.  How am I supposed to know what each person is going to eat/have time to make?  And the whole point of a menu is to make sure that they are nutritionally sound.  If you have someone that isn't willing to vary his vegetables up, then Houston we have a problem.  It all goes back to what I like to think is the most important part of my job.  Giving patients the tools in order to be able to fly on their own.  I teach you and you put it into motion.  Am I right?  Unless you want to hire me as a personal dietitian and chef (for a nice sum of money) then we can talk.  Until then, let me educate away.

So this is what I thought I would do.  I'll take you through a few steps of how to make a simple wrap with a few step-by-step pictures.  I definitely want to do videos in the future, but until then, this will be a start/new feature I think that people have been asking for and also need.  How's that sound?  Are you ready?  Here we go!

As I've said before, my keepers may not always be your keepers, but that's the beauty of cooking.  Finding what you like in flavor and bringing it to life.  So, here we go.  

Kale and Mushroom Wrap.  The hardest part of this recipe is prepping the kale.  No, seriously.  In total this recipe took me about 30 minutes to prepare including all of the chopping and cooking.  I doubled this recipe today in order to use the whole bag of kale and also to have enough (that kale does shrink down like spinach does to almost nothing) for a few wraps this week.

Step 1 - Thinly slice your leek.  If you're not sure what a leek is, it has a more mild flavor than an onion.  But you can definitely use an onion if you prefer.  Remember I am making double and this is actually two leeks (I just forgot to take a picture of the whole leek).  Cut off the green leaves of the leek.  Slice in half so you can slice them in these round moons.


Step 2 - Thinly slice a shallot.  Shallots are also a part of the onion family.  Less abrasive in flavor, but again you can simply use an onion in place of the leek and shallot if you like.  I think that the leek and shallot do provide a little more flavor than just onions.  But you do you.


Step 3 - I wanted all baby bella mushrooms but alas they weren't on sale.  I opted to get one of each as I was going to be making double.  I use a damp paper towel to clean the mushrooms.  If you use too much water to clean them they do absorb the water.  Paper towel for cleaning it is.  Then I diced them into tiny pieces.  My preference.  You can always just slice them as well.  8 oz of mushrooms total.


Step 4 - I bought a bag of curly kale this time.  If I buy lacinato kale then I use the whole bunch.  But this bag of kale is 16 oz. and it is a lot of kale.  This recipe only needs about 8 oz. of kale.  I sift through the kale and pick out the hard rib pieces (over on the left side there) and leave only the curly part.  This is what I told you is the time consuming part.  But to me it's worth it.

Step 5 - I used my dutch oven pan here instead of a non-stick skillet.  This had a white bottom and it actually helped with pictures, but you can definitely use a non-stick pan, but you still need the olive oil.  Heat over medium-heat for a minute or two.

Step 6 - Add the shallot, leek, mushrooms, and a dash of black pepper to the pan. I typically never use salt in my recipes.  Occasionally I will, but never the amount called for in a recipe.  I find it too salty.  You can add some here if you like, but I'm used to less sodium in my food.  Less sodium doesn't mean less flavor.  This kale/mushroom mixture will be placed in a wrap.  Typically bread has a lot of sodium and it can all add up.  I think the mixture has enough flavor all on it's own.

Step 7 - Cook the shallots, leek, and mushrooms, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes.  The first picture is when it began to cook.  The second picture although steamy from the heat is after it has cooked for 8 minutes.

Step 8 - Add the kale and cook until wilted, about 8 minutes.  Looks like a lot, but it will shrink aka cook down.  Totally a technical cooking term. Ha!

Step 9  - Once the kale has cooked down, add in 1/4 cup of chicken broth (or vegetable broth).  Sprinkle with a few dried cranberries.  I used the dried cranberries here, but almost never used dried fruit.  I thought about it after, but I should have just used fresh cherries (and not cooked them) and then added them into the wrap.  Didn't think about it quick enough.  For next time.  The broth will come to a boil and you'll scrape the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  If you thought you were burning the leek and shallot mixture, that was really just another way to add more flavor to the dish.  

Step 10 - Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 2 oz of goat cheese.  Divide the filling among your wrap.  I ate mine like an open-faced sandwich.   So even though the picture shows my filling in the center of the wrap, I ended up spreading the mixture all over the wrap and eating it with a fork and knife.  Sorry, didn't take a shot of the final final.  I was too hungry.  

And that my friends is how to cook a kale/mushroom wrap.  Voilá.  I didn't do an exact cost analysis for this recipe, but I did use the whole bag of kale as I mentioned earlier in order to avoid food waste.  I could have used the leftover kale for a salad during the week, but I opted to have more filling for the wraps.  In quickly doing a rough estimate for the cost, each wrap would cost $4, making enough for 4 wraps and still having one flatbread leftover.  And yes, I know the time it took me to go to the store, cut/prep all the veggies, etc. were not included in this "cost", but I will tell you this.  I had a $10 salad the other day that definitely wasn't worth $10.  (I ate out for social interaction once again, but hear me when I say I will NOT pay $10 for a salad ever again in my life that I could make for a fraction of the cost.  Nope.  Not gonna do it...well, maybe if it's for recipe inspiration, then maybe).  

The morale of the story is that Yes, You CAN cook.  Start with simple recipes that make you feel like a rock star.  Use Instacart to deliver your groceries if that will help cut down on time you don't have to go to the store.  What might even be better are some of those meal delivery services that bring the ingredients with a recipe to your house.  Yes, you have to cook them, but they're giving you tried and true recipes that people have already taste tested.  Not to mention they're giving you recipes that you can use over and over.  Bonus.  I know we don't have a recent study for proof to tell you that if you cook at home you'll improve your overall health status.  But I'm here to tell you that you will.  Not to mention in the long run you'll end up saving yourself money - eating out is expensive and doctor visits/medicines are expensive.  Invest in yourself now!  And as I said earlier, I'm not here to tell you that you have to cook every meal at home.  Remember, baby steps.  Maybe it's simply cutting back on the frequency of your meals eaten out.  And just remember, you CAN cook.
Just a little more inspo in case you needed it.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Summer Is Flying By


Summer Is Flying By

It’s already late July.  Where does the time go? It definitely feels like the summer is flying – or is it just me?  Either way, one thing I do know is that it is H-O-T hot!  Yes, I know it is summer in Miami, but it doesn’t make the days any easier when it is this hot out.  I’m constantly reminding people to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  I went for a walk this morning from 7 am – 8 am and I was thankful there was some cloud cover.  Still hot, but the best time to fit in a little exercise.  


Using nuts to make a vegan version of “cheese”.  I’m of the notion that I don’t like calling a food something that it’s not.  You feel me?  I will never call cauliflower rice or a steak because it is neither of those two things.  Which is why I’m not really sure what to call this recipe I’m about to share with you.  It’s where I take a nut, i.e. almonds, cashews, ANY nut, and turn them into a replacement of sorts otherwise known as “cheese”.  You will see these many times classified as nut “cheese” but once again I hate to call something that it’s not.  So, if you have a good name, let me know! 

I make different versions of this simply by changing out the nut, almonds and cashews are the most versatile, but the one I made with macadamia nuts might have been my favorite!   I typically use this spread, if you will, as a replacement where cheese would typically be used, but only where it doesn’t need to be cooked.  I did recently put it on top of my lasagna, but it was only to warm it up – I personally find that it doesn’t cook well, but to each his own.  And btw, this one is more like a ricotta version.  You can change the consistency by adjusting the amount of nuts and/or liquid you are using.  And even better?  you can make a sweet version using dates.  Delish! 

p.s.  I am not vegan, nor do I like putting a title on what I am.  I eat.  Period.  But I DO love trying out new recipes and taking on the challenge to find a replacement for people that may want to follow a vegan diet.  You’re welcome.

-          ½ cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 1 hour
-          1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
-          1 teaspoon mellow miso
-          1 garlic clove
-          1 tablespoon lemon juice
-          ¼ teaspoon onion powder
-          Dash of salt and pepper, to taste
-          ¼ cup water

Drain and rinse the cashews.  In a food processor combine the cashews, nutritional yeast, miso, lemon juice, garlic, onion powder, ¼ cup water, salt & pepper to taste.  Pulse the mixture until the cashews are finely chopped.  Then run the motor on high until you have a smooth, lightly textured ricotta-like mixture.  Add 1 teaspoon of water at a time (1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons) if necessary to reach the desired consistency.  Scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl.  Check ricotta for seasoning – some like a salty ricotta, so add more salt here if you like.

So there you have it.  A vegan alternative to cheese made with nuts – too long a name, but you know what I mean.

Intuitive Eating (IE)– I could write a whole blog post on this very topic, but I’m not.  Suffice it to say there are quite a few books written about this topic as well as many dietitians on social media talking about this very topic.  I just want to say a few words in general about IE. 

I will start off by saying that I have always been an intuitive eater.  I never needed it to be defined as I truly believe that I started off in my childhood with the ability to have all foods fit and never feel as though that food should/could be restricted.  I carried this on into my teens, college years, and now beyond.  I am thankful to my mom for instilling in me this very healthy relationship with food.  As I was in college and studying nutrition I saw how apparent it was that many people around me did not have a healthy relationship with food.  So, I get this whole online movement that many in my profession are trying to educate people about IE.  I do.  In case you are not familiar with IE, here a few key points:

1    Reject the diet mentality.  Throw out the false ideas of losing weight quickly and stop looking for a quick fix.  This leads to feeling like a failure if/when the diet fails and then gain the weight back.

Honor Your Hunger – Keep your body biologically fed to help offset the trigger to overeat (by waiting too long it can trigger a primal drive to overeat).

Make Peace With Food – Give yourself unconditional permission to eat.  There are no cheat days and there is no “good” or “bad” food, there is just food.

Challenge the Food Police – The Food Police are there to monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created – and there are some unreasonable rules.


I could continue, but that’s not the purpose of this post.  You can read more about IE here.

Recently I have seen many a picture of donuts, ice cream, and fries with the notion of spreading the word about IE.  Along with a few words such as these:

“You do you. When you want ice cream eat the damn ice cream.” 

“I used to think donuts were nowhere near “healthy” enough to eat for breakfast.  That starting the day with a ‘sugar bomb’ would somehow control the rest of my day and food choices.  Now, I understand the value of eating the donut when I want the donut, and that it has absolutely no effect on how I eat the rest of the day.

Those are just two posts of many that I’ve seen recently online.  I am ALL for all things intuitive eating stands for.  I truly am.  It’s how I was raised, and it was just innately in me.  And it’s my hope that everyone can make peace with food and ditch the diet mentality and food rules and yes, eat intuitively.  Kudos to all the dietitians out there preaching this message.  But here’s the thing.  I think some of this real talk and in your face education about intuitive eating needs to meet people where they are at.  It’s not always as easy as they’re making it out to be, do, and/or practice.  What do I mean?
Watch this video by Dr. Robert Lustig to see a whole other issue that we’re facing:



How are these people to eat intuitively if they must eat more and more just to have that feel good feeling and truly aren’t able to stop?  Obesity is a complex, multi-organ disease.  To say it’s complicated is an understatement.  It isn’t as easy to teach people to eat intuitively if their brain doesn’t allow them to shut off and make that connection (i.e. Leptin tells your brain you’ve had enough.  But when your brain doesn’t get the leptin signal, your brain thinks it’s starving).  I know people want to eat intuitively, but we need to consider these biochemical issues that are real and affecting many people, just look at the obesity stats in America.

And that’s not to say that my fellow dietitians haven’t taken this into consideration.  My point is this.  Showing pictures all throughout your feed of donuts, ice cream, over-portioned burgers and fries isn’t the way to teach intuitive eating to everyone.  There are many people that even though they know the concepts behind IE aren’t able to eat intuitively – “No one can exert willpower over a biochemical drive that goes on every minute of every day.”  ~Dr. Robert Lustig  Seriously go watch the video with the good doctor.  He has done lots of research and is not a quack.

Social media - Instagram, Twitter, Facebook - has created this mecca of learning that I think can be helpful to us but also hurtful all at the same time.  I guess my hope is that we start early on teaching kids how to eat healthy, embrace food for all that it is – fuel but also fun, and obviously ditch the diet culture.  Yes, I am all about intuitive eating.  But my hope is also that we get to the root cause of why someone is struggling with food, like I mean really getting to the cause (because it never is about the food).  Dig deep.  Find the reason and heal.  And more importantly my hope is to really understand the biochemistry of the brain.  Clearly the signals are NOT working – because at the end of the day, it isn’t about willpower.  It’s SO much more complicated.  All the endless pictures of donuts and words telling people to eat the damn donuts isn’t going to help.  In my humble opinion.