Sunday, April 15, 2018

Not Sponsored. Just A Fan. Part Deux.

I wrote a piece a few months back about food bloggers and dietitians being sponsored to promote products.  You can read about it here.  While I am not a famous dietitian (or blogger for that matter) I didn’t receive much feedback or commentary.  No problem.  I'll just keep doing what I’ve been doing for the last 5 years.  If my piece gets noticed, so be it.  I know that I have a few followers that do read the blog and for that, I’m grateful.  The reward for me is educating people and I hope through my blog I’m able to show people that healthy can taste delicious…I think my pictures are proof.

The background on my last piece is in regards to food bloggers and dietitians alike being paid sponsors for products.  Social media in the last couple of years has paid attention to certain marketing techniques (pun intended) and this is the new wave of how advertising is going.  A popular food blogger will write a quick blurb promoting said product in a cute fashion and somewhere in this blurb will need to use the hashtag #ad #sponsored  These hashtags are used to readily make the public aware that they are being paid to say this.  But in my mind I would believe that this food blogger might just believe in this product if they are being paid to sponsor it…or do they? Not all food bloggers are dietitians.  And even though they may not know the science behind whether a food is healthy or not they do have the power to influence their followers to buy the product.  Hence why companies are using this technique.  I readily admit to being prey to this said tactic.  Enter chocolate covered hemp seeds.  Probably never would’ve bought them until I saw them used as a garnish and thought…I have to have them!  Spoiler alert – I did not have to have them. 

On the flip side there are some food bloggers that are dietitians.  This is where in lies the problem (in my humble opinion).  There are dietitians promoting products, ambassadors if you will, that are not healthy.  If I were an unsuspecting consumer that saw a semi-famous dietitian (just checked one dietitian’s followers right now – 54,000 – there are obviously some with more or less, but holy smokes that’s a lot of people seeing what she posts.  Not to mention she recently promoted a sugar substitute that is now listed on CSPI’s “red” list – Chemical cuisine).  Talk about an ethical issue…#amIright??  All the work that I do to promote actual education to the community all down the drain by one single post that now confuses the community to think that a sugar substitute is healthy.  All because she’s getting paid.  Hmpf.  My job has gotten that much more difficult.  I was approached by a couple of companies a few years back and I’ll be honest, I turned them down.  Sure I was enticed by the money.  But it’s too hard to keep up with all the products they may produce and at the end of the day I didn’t want all my allegiance going to any company.  My allegiance is to educating and remaining unbiased.  But the truth is, money talks.  Dietitians need to be paid more as a profession.  I’m all for entrepreneurship and making something of yourself.  I am not for being paid to represent a product that isn’t healthy just to say how to use it in some recipe which then confuses people to wonder is it healthy or not?

At the end of the day patients do request for certain brands so that they can know what to buy while in the store.  I’ll say it again and again and again, it’s more about the education of the nutrition label than it is the actual brand because whether you’re in San Diego, CA shopping at Von’s or you’re here in Miami, FL shopping at Publix you should be able to know what to buy simply by looking at the ingredient list. If you need help Navigating The Supermarket, we offer store tours (for free!).  Take a look to see the upcoming tours in both Dade and Broward county!

The following are products that I use in my kitchen – no I am not sponsored and these are not ads.  It’s just what I eat.  And while this might seem like a product endorsement, I like to see it as I discussed, a teaching moment.  Read on to see what I say about the items and again, forget the brand, buy whichever brand you want that fits the bill of what I describe. 
Whole Grains.  Brown Rice.  Whole Wheat Flour.  Oats.  Barley.  & more!  Hard to believe that quinoa is now considered “old”.  But the truth is that recently other whole grains have started to gain ground in popularity.  I wouldn’t say they’ve gotten as popular as quinoa did, but I do believe that people are starting to try new whole grains out.  I myself just recently purchased wheat berries.  And while wheat berries are simply a whole wheat kernel, I’ve never tried it.  I won’t take it as far to grind these berries into my own whole wheat flour (because you can), but suffice it to say I too am experimenting with different whole grains.  Variety really is the spice of life.  The most common response I hear is that people don’t know how to cook these grains (or rather they don’t always turn out just right).  The truth is they do cook similar as you would brown rice.  These whole grains are going to be nuttier, chewier, and earthier in taste as they are whole grains.  So, find a recipe – hot or cold – that you’d like to try and see if you like them.  Always remember, rotate and keep trying!  Here’s a recipe to get you started.

I’ve still been on the search for a few more whole grain crackers.  If you follow me on Instagram I’ve featured a few recently on my #TasteTestTuesday.  I do ultimately want to make a homemade version, but until I do, here are a couple more that I’ve thrown into the mix and rotate through for my snacks or even a cheese board (shhh no one will know they’re healthy!)

This is the only flavor I have tried and that I can vouch for.  Two ingredients:  wheat bran and oat bran.  I think you know what that means.  Loads of fiber.  You WILL go to the bathroom.  If fiber is something you struggle with then these crackers will help.  Just remember to drink water to help with the increase in fiber you’ll be ingesting.  As for some of their marketing ploys – “appetite control” and “only 2g Net Carbs – I could do without.   I guess you can’t call them healthy without appealing to the masses without using some kind of recent “fad” in the news.  Me?  I just call them #dietitianapproved and #notsponsored  #justafan I simply aim to educate that with only 2 ingredients they’re a definite product to use!

This company makes a lot of different crackers, but they only have ONE that’s whole grain.  They are light and airy and paper thin, but they really paired well on one of the cheese boards that I did recently with some of the soft cheeses.  Options is what I say.  Definitely starting to get a slew of whole wheat crackers that I feel confident about and that I can rotate through.  And yes, I will still try to make some homemade, but in the mean time you can call me lazy…or maybe just resourceful.

The dairy aisle is/can be daunting.  I’m not going to discuss some of the controversies with dairy in general here on the blog today.  Rather I’m going to show you two products that are #dietitianapproved.
The first is a lower sugar option yogurt.  Yogurt these days can almost be considered dessert depending on the amount of added sugar they’ve included.  Chobani finally came up with a version that has minimal added sugar (probably to rival Siggis brand.  Although on a side note, Siggis now manufactures a version that really has no added sugar, however, it is 4% milkfat.  If you take sugar out, nine times out of 10 you add fat back in.  Animal fat that I choose not to ingest due to familial hypercholesterolemia). They need to adapt to the new label and tell you how much added sugar there really is, but for now this new “Hint” variety is their best version and your best version to transition to less sugar.  Because if you were able to see how much added sugar were in their “Flips” you’d realize it’s dessert.  The truth is my ultimate recommendation is to aim for plain yogurt and add your own fruit in.   I use non-fat yogurt and either add in some actual nuts for crunch or stir in some nut butters for some plant-based healthy fats.  I should’ve taken an after picture to show you how pretty the blackberries looked after I smashed them.  Next time.

People are realizing that nut butters are healthy for them as they are a source of protein with healthy fats (source is from a plant and not an animal).  However, companies are adding in either trans fat to make the nut butter solid and/or sugar to sweeten their product.  Why can’t we leave well enough alone?  I know people complain about stirring the nut butters, but the truth is the moment they’ve added “partially hydrogenated oils” into the mix I feel there went the health component and why are you even eating the product?  I was at the store yesterday and saw this brand (remember who cares about the brand, just using this as an example.)

Do NOT buy!!  This picture is ONLY for educational purposes.  Read below.
They were right next to each other and neither one is one I would recommend to buy.  I am showing the picture for educational purposes only.  Companies are trying to steer away from labeling their product with “partially hydrogenated oil” but instead using “palm oil”.  As if palm oil is healthier? Um, no.  If you want to read more about palm oil and the reasons why not to use it, check out what CSPI had to say here.  If you're concerned about how it effects the environment there’s a whole report about that here.  

I shouldn’t assume but I do think it’s safe to say in this situation that the average consumer would grab the “Bare Smooth” making the connotation that if it is bare then it doesn’t have anything added to it.  WRONG.  They added palm fruit oil in.  Can we just leave well enough alone and keep it to just one ingredient? Almonds plain and simple.  Is that too difficult?  Stay aware and watch that ingredient list.  Moving on. 
Tuna in a package.  Another example of what should be something simple to buy that isn’t.  I looked at a few different options that are sold in the stores and what you’re aiming for is no added flavors.  Once they start calling them “Creations” they’re adding in way too many additives that you should have more control over.  One brand even used MSG – which some people are sensitive to.  It takes a little more work, but go ahead and add in your own spices.  I use a little mustard to make it creamy (so that I use less mayonnaise) and if I have it, I’ll even mash up avocado to give it some flavoring.  I cannot promise that it will look Instagram worthy, but the taste?  Out of this world.  I’ve even been known to make it completely Mediterranean in flavor and only use olive oil and red wine vinegar (as well as sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, red pepper, and cucumber).  The sky is the limit, but definitely aim for plain when it comes to tuna so you can have the control.

Spiralizers are still having their moment.  But who wants to add another gadget/appliance to their kitchen?  Not me.  I don’t have enough space for that.  Although I was just gifted a really tiny hand-held spiralizer that definitely does the trick on zucchini.  Sweet potatoes, not so much.  I think making food attractive can be helpful in people trying new foods.  I am not for zoodles taking over the world and replacing them as carbs at a meal (that’s a topic for another day), but I am for including more non-starchy vegetables.  Enter these frozen options (there were a few companies in the store, I happened to take this brand’s photo).  I’ve noticed them fresh and in the produce area, but the truth is they are super expensive if you buy them fresh.  This frozen version was well within reason for cost based on amount and I’ve even seen them as a BOGO (buy one get one free) deal.  So keep your eyes peeled and stock up on a few of these if you don’t own a spiralizer and have been wanting to try them out.

My job as a dietitian is to educate people on how to make better food choices with the ultimate goal of helping people become healthier.  It’s a hard job to do with so many food options available, not to mention sifting through all the marketing confusion.  As a dietitian I don't want to be a part of the confusion.  Promoting a product and being sponsored by a food company might seem like a good way to bring in a few extra dollars to some, but to me that only creates even more confusion for the consumer.   I'll continue doing #TasteTestTuesday and showing different products on the market that are #dietitianapproved.  I'm NOT being sponsored and it's definitely NOT an ad, it's just me doing my job as a dietitian, promoting health and awareness.  

Sunday, April 1, 2018

That's A Keeper 9

If you’re new to the blog, That’s A Keeper is a series I do where I round up some of the latest recipes I’ve tried that are successful KEEPERS!  They’re recipes that you want to hold on to and make over and over because they’re just that good.  And in my case, I have them on reserve as a just in case.  Again, for those that don’t know me well, I rarely make the same recipe twice.  But if needed, I have my KEEPER recipes, ready to go to for that special brunch or shared gathering.  KEEPERS:  Where I try the recipe so that you don’t have to and pass on only the best of the best.  

In this series of That’s A Keeper, I even bring you a recipe all my own – with a little inspiration from food bloggers and from my last few years of cooking, I finally have put together a concoction I can call my own.  I’ve always been told that I need to do a cookbook.  To which I respond that the recipes I’ve been trialing are mainly recipes from other people and I really don’t have that much creativity or science backing to be able to create a recipe all on my own.  But I’m here to tell you I can see my kitchen skills evolving (not to mention how much my photography has improved!) and I am starting to get some creativity when putting recipes together.  I like to think of it as adding my own flair.  So if that’s a recipe I can call all my own, I don’t know.  But what I do know is that I have been inspired and the creative juices have been flowing.  Read on for my latest keepers that I hope are yours too.

Breakfast, Lunch, or DinnerA Frittata.  Eggs are most likely the quickest thing to make in the kitchen.  They can serve as breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and are a lean protein – minus the accompaniments:  bacon, cheese and butter, what really raise your blood cholesterol (due to the saturated fat).  Back to the recipe, a frittata.  A frittata is cooked in a cast iron pan or an oven-safe skillet, because you start the cooking on the stovetop and finish it in the oven.  A one-pan meal which translates to less dishes and equals winning in my opinion.  Frittatas are also great because I like to think they can pass for any meal and are made in less than 30 minutes.  Even better?  You can throw whatever vegetables you have on hand that are leftover from the week to make as many different concoctions as you like.  As I mentioned simply be careful with some of the add-ins like meat and cheese.  I used reduced-fat feta in my version seen here and loaded it up with a LOT of veggies.   Peruse through the many recipes here, and see what one fits the bill.  I ended up making a version all my own.  The key is to have your go-to base and then have add-ins as you like.  I’ve done zucchini, peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  I’ve had one just with kale and even made one with leeks and asparagus.  The combinations really are limitless.  Experiment and most of all enjoy and have an easy meal.

VegetarianMarinatedChickpeas – One of my favorite food bloggers, HowSweetEats, just released her second cookbook, ThePretty Dish.  I tagged all the recipes that I want to make and then determined which ones I already had the ingredients for.   I can’t be the only person that wants to make all the recipes when they get a new cookbook.   Or maybe I am?  Anyhoo, HowSweetEats made this recipe awhile back and to be honest I wanted something quick and easy as a go-to lunch last week.  These marinated chickpeas are one to have in your back pocket.  No joke.  They are so simple and so good.  I served them over a bed of lettuce and added tomato and some avocado.  While I can’t post a recipe from her cookbook, just know that this recipe here – is the same.  The only difference is she added roasted red peppers into the mix.  And the bonus with this recipe is the chimichurri.  Her chimichurri made it in a series of my “Keepers” before.  So this really is a double keeper.

SaladMarinated Zoodle Salad (no link to the recipe because this one's all my own)– If you’ve never liked zucchini raw or cooked this is your chance to try it!  Zoodles, aka zucchini made to look like noodles but have no carbs, have been the rage for a while now.  I always teach patients that zucchini, as all non-starchy vegetables, should be included in an unlimited amount.  It’s the reason why ½ the MyPlate is illustrated this way – we need to eat MORE veggies!  Zoodles were never created in my opinion to eliminate carbs from the mix, but unfortunately it has shifted this way a bit.  You’ll see many a picture on social media depicting zoodles with marinara sauce on it and calling it a meal.  Nope.  Not even close.  You can add zoodles in with your pasta if you’d like to cut back on the total volume of carbs because we do eat too many carbs.  But eliminating pasta?  Um no.  This combo is my take on eating a salad and not having to make it all leafy greens.  There is spinach on the bottom and your standard tomatoes, but there’s something about mixing it up and not having it be the same old boring that makes my salad new again.  The recipe for the vinaigrette is simple:  2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and a dash of black pepper.  Think of it as an outline for any vinaigrette you want to make.  You can always mix it up and add in some vinegar, red wine or balsamic, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and any other spices you’d like.  It’s simple to make a homemade dressing.  Play around with the combos, but the ratio of 2:1 for the olive oil to lemon juice (or vinegar) is how I make the base.  The other add-ins are just bonus in changing flavors.

CondimentCucumbers and Pickled Shallots – Try and feed me a pickle from a jar and I’ll tell you, “no thanks”.  Give me a homemade pickle?  Now you’re talking.  And don’t just stop at cucumbers.  Give me all the pickled anything!  Recently I’ve been pickling red onions – I mean the color alone is reason to at least try them, shallots, cucumbers, radish, and carrots.  I haven’t tried any other veggies, but I typically add them on to tacos.  Amazing crunch and flavor addition.  Not to mention more non-starchy vegetables for ya!  You know me, the sneaky dietitian trying to get you to eat more veggies in your everyday life.  And not a bad way I might add.  #amIright  This recipe for the cucumbers and shallots by itself is amazing and my go-to recipe to use.  Occasionally I add in the fried shallots, only because they’re fried and no one needs fried non-starchy vegetables…that wasn’t the deal.  But when you mix the cucumber with the pickled shallots and then add that fried shallot on top?  Whoa!  THE best!  This is a must try and again your way to add more veggies into your life and enjoy them.  Tears aside from having to cut the onions, this is a happy cry!

Vegetarian Main DishKimchi “Fried” Farro – GOYA had a contest a couple of weeks back where all you had to do is use the hashtag #HEATGameDayMeal and show them what your “recipe to win” was.  I love the Miami HEAT and to have a chance to win game tickets and more, I was like count me in!  I picked at random just one of my more recent pics that I posted and thought, what the heck?  I never win anything, but knew I had to take a chance.  It was simply adding a hashtag to one of my pictures.  Not too hard.  Well I am here to say that I can never again say that I don’t win anything.  Because guess what??  I WON!! I went to the game last night and got to watch the pre-game shoot around. 
May I just say that Justice Winslow didn’t miss any shots?  En fuego.  For tickets, I had FRONT ROW FLOOR tickets.  Had to let that sink in for just a second.  I mean pinch me, is this for real?? When the HEAT do their introduction they have flames that ignite (there is a pyro tech crew there just in case.  Don’t try this at home.) and they do bring the heat, literally. 
I thought we were at least a ways away, but even still we felt the heat.  Insane!  The game was exciting, back and forth, and even went to OT.  I will say there were lots of missed calls and our boys just need to play.  I’m looking at you Hassan.  But when the last play looks like DWade was robbed and it would have come down to free throw shots, it leaves me still mad that we got the L.  After the game there was a meet and greet with Rodney McGruder.  I’m not sure he was thrilled to meet everyone in line, but I think he’ll remember me.  I was the one with the GOYA basket. 
And if you’re interested in the recipe I made, that just happened to use GOYA red beans, here’s the recipe from Lindsay Maitland’s book, Healthyish.  Simple and thrown together with some leftover farro I had.  Those meals are always the best.  Not sponsored by GOYA, just a proud sweepstakes winner.  Thanks GOYA!

Dessert Vegan Chocolate Mousse – This is one recipe I have repeated too many times to count.  It’s just that good.  I know, I know, I said I almost never repeat a recipe.  But when it’s this good you want to make it for everyone.  Yep, that good.  I froze them once and realized they still turn out okay after being defrosted.  I had a friend tell me they tasted good right out of the freezer, kind of like an ice cream fix.  And I even had one friend heat it in the microwave for just a few seconds after coming out of the fridge.  I have yet to try it either of these ways, so I guess that means I’ll just have to make this recipe again.  Me?  I just eat it straight from the fridge.  Don’t think that it’s light and airy like egg whites make normal chocolate mousse.  It’s not that.  This is vegan.  But what it is, is full of chocolate creamy goodness that doesn’t taste a lick like coconut if you were worried.  So yes, make this and thank me later.  P.S. I have tried at least two other “vegan” chocolate mousse recipes and none have paled in comparison to this.  What can I say?  I’m a connoisseur of chocolate mousse.  And when I was making this for someone that doesn’t consume dairy, I considered it my mission to find a great recipe.  Mission accomplished. 
So there you have it, my latest round-up of recipes that have made it to “keeper” status.  I’ve found the more and more that I trial recipes the pickier I become.  I think that’s a good thing – for all my readers out there, you’re only getting the best of the best!  And I’m even getting better at selecting recipes to know that they’re keepers.  There’s only been a few misses as of recent.  If you try some of these recipes, let me know.  I hope they make it to “keeper” status for you too!
No April Fool's - I really WON and was on center court!!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

National Nutrition Month® Part 2

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. 

Go Further with Food is the theme for 2018.  What does it mean to go “further with food” – whether it’s starting the day with breakfast or fueling up before your afternoon workout, the foods you choose can make a direct impact on your performance.  Preparing your foods to go further, by planning meals and snacks in advance will also help to reduce food loss and waste.  Go Further with Food encourages us to gain the benefits from eating healthy all while encouraging us to also find ways to cut back on food waste.  That's the challenge, eating healthy all while managing our food resources. 
I wrote about this in my last blog.  Here’s the update after just three weeks.  I am happy to report I have been saving money at the store as well as on eating out.  Win win for all!  Yes, I know it has only been three weeks, but it really was important for me to realize that I need to do better.  I truly was testing/trialing so many recipes at a time that I started to waste more than I realized.  Just this week alone I saved $35 on my grocery bill from re-using some frozen items for lunch as well as re-purposing some farro from last week (I froze the extra and will use it as a lunch a couple of days this week).  It’s all about making something look new and not having to eat the same thing over and over.  I love looking for new recipes and trying new recipes out – proud to say I rarely use the same recipe twice.  So, this week while searching I started looking for recipes with farro since I knew I had some leftover to use up.  I think that probably is the hardest part of it all – staying within my budget for food all while having a hobby that involves food as well.  Yes, I still pass some food items on to others, but at the end of the day, I had to realize I am a single person household and I can’t cook as if there are 5 people in the house.  I also allot a day here and there to eat out with friends.  Food is social, it’s important here and there to have that connection.  This allows me to try something new without breaking the bank.  I was definitely eating out way too many times and often not enjoying it.  It’s strange, but I’ve been making better choices (taste wise) when eating out these last few times.  Smarter meal planning and less eating out has been helping me to go further with food.
In other news – Last weekend was the time change, when we all “spring forward”.  Ultimately it is darker in the morning so that we “gain” extra daylight in the day.  Normally I’m not too affected by the time change, but I am here to tell you the struggle was REAL this past week.  Who knew that March 16, 2018 was World Sleep Day and that one of my nutrition magazines had a whole article just on sleep?  Perfectly and purposefully timed.  Here are a few suggestions if you were like me and had some problems adjusting to the time change.  And even if these seem obvious, go through and simply do a checklist just to make sure you’re doing things right to help improve your quality of sleep:
Avoid caffeine.  It can take up to eight hours to wear off.  Some people think they’ll just have an extra cup or two and it won’t do any harm.  Don’t fall into the trap of taking in more caffeine simply then to have to wean it away – I stuck to my 2 cups/day and didn’t falter.  What I did adjust was the time that I was having my 2nd cup.  I spaced the caffeine better (at least I think it was better) to avoid the temptation of having a 3rd cup.  So far so good.

Limit alcohol at night.  It’s tempting as it does help many people fall asleep faster.  But what ends up happening is that alcohol cuts the time you spend dreaming and in deep sleep.  Watch the alcohol not only for empty calories but also for your sleep hygiene!

Unplug.  Seems obvious in this day and age – there are many bloggers writing about this and trying to disconnect from being on social media all day – but you do want to avoid bright lights, the phone, a computer or tablet, and the TV for an hour before bed.  I just checked out a book from the library so I can get back into the habit of reading before bed.
Set bedroom boundaries – No eating, reading, or TV viewing - Again, seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people do have a TV in their bedrooms.  This goes back to unplugging as well as the following tip.

Adopt a routine.  A regular pre-bedtime routine helps the brain recognize that it’s time to go to sleep.  This week I tried to read for a few minutes before bed as well as meditate for a few minutes.  I’m not sure if it totally helped, but it seems like the suggestion says, simply adopt a routine and your brain will recognize it.  Aiming for consistency with this in the weeks to come.

Reduce noise.  Avoid falling asleep to music or the TV.  If necessary, use a white noise machine or a fan for soothing sounds. 
Stick to a schedule.  Aim for a regular bedtime and rising time.  Avoid naps after 3 pm.  This was a tough one to stay consistent with this past week – I had a few night programs and getting home later ended up having me stay up later.  My body did wake at its normal time.  The problem was I had gone to bed so much later than normal.  I’m working on having a better balance and adjusting my schedule for when I work a little later.  It will all come down to consistency.

Try a hot bath before bed.  Afterwards, your body temperature drops.  That may trigger sleep.  This isn’t always an easy one to do here in Miami.  I can’t sleep when I’m hot and after taking a hot bath I tend to stay warm (even though it says my body temperature will drop).  I’ll keep this in mind, but would be my last resort.
Keep in mind that there are many factors that contribute to poor sleep, but there are also ways to fight back.  Here’s hoping this next week I’m getting in a little more high-quality sleep. 

And last but not least, a few recipes that I want to share with you.  I’ve been to the store countless number of times trying to find what I would term a better “energy/granola/nut” bar if you will.  (All food is energy, but for some reason they’re called energy bars in the store).  So it led me to start trying a few recipes of homemade versions.  I searched for ones that only used dates as the sweetener, because in my search that is what I would find, too much added sugar.  In the bars defense I know the honey (or agave, or whatever sweetener is used) is partially used to help bind the ingredients all together, but truth be told they were too sweet for me.  So here are two recipes for homemade bars if you’re wanting to lessen the amount of added sugars in your diet and have them still taste delicious.

Almost Raw Cherry Almond Butter Caramel Bars – Don’t be misled thinking that there is actual caramel in these bars.  It’s simply the dates turned into caramel.  The most unbelievable flavor you will ever taste!  I have a 6-inch cake pan that I use to make this recipe (it makes two of them) and I normally keep one frozen and leave one in the refrigerator for the week.  When cherries aren’t in season I use strawberries.  Either way, it’s still delish.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Brownie Bars - Again, a little hard to believe there is no added sugar in this recipe, just wholesome goodness.  Make these, you won’t regret it.  And to be honest, I’ve made them with almond butter, mixed nut butter, and cashew butter – yes, this is a recipe I’ve repeated.  But when it’s this good (for you and tasting) you know it’s a keeper!

When I bake desserts, I bake desserts.  What do I mean by that?  I use sugar and other sweeteners, butter and/or coconut oil if the recipe calls for it.  I’m the dietitian who brings desserts to parties.  Yes, me!  Recently I was asked to look for recipes with little or no added sugar for a dessert/treat.  That’s where I stumbled on those two “energy bar” recipes in all honesty.  I felt like they were healthy yet kind of fit the bill for someone to be a dessert too.  And truth bomb coming your way, if you’re taking sugar out of a recipe, odds are you have to increase the fat content.  It’s just the way the cookie crumbles.  See what I did there?  I love a good food pun too.  Here are two recipes that are high in fat and have low or no added sugar for a dessert.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cakes - A cross between a soufflé like taste and/or a light and airy brownie.  I used a raspberry preserves sweetened with actual raspberry juice, not added sugar.  On her website the food blogger promotes a preserve that actually does use sugar to sweeten the preserves but says it doesn’t have added sugar.  Just an FYI.   It’s a popular promotion recently in social media to list something as “naturally sweetened” even when using something like maple syrup.  Maple syrup is still added sugar even though it’s not actual white table sugar.  Maybe I’ll have to do a whole blog on just this.  But for now, just know this recipe is delish, has little to no added sugar, but definitely not low calorie due to all the fat it contains.  It’s definitely dessert.

Chocolate Mousse - Didn’t even plan for it, but my other keeper recipe happens to come from the same food blogger.  1 tablespoon of maple syrup is all in this recipe.  I was able to make almost 10 portions total – that’s what I would call minimal added sugar for dessert that tastes this good.  It’s vegan as coconut milk is used.  And I consider that hard to make a version of chocolate mousse vegan.  I’ve tried using coconut cream and dark chocolate chips, but the variability of many coconut creams is unreal.  It never turns out and then I’ve wasted way too much coconut cream (which isn’t cheap).  This version has been the best.  And no one will ever guess that it has cashews in it.  Pinky swear.

"Going Further With Food" is the theme of this years National Nutrition Month®, but the truth is every day and every month we should be striving to go further with food.   I eat healthy and I eat balanced.  The challenge for me is making sure I'm wasting less food - which is huge considering there are so many new recipes I want to try!  What's your challenge?  Take time to consider what "Going Further With Food" means to you this National Nutrition Month®.   And may the challenge be accepted!   Happy National Nutrition Month®!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

National Nutrition Month® - Go Further With Food

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. 
Go Further with Food is the theme for 2018.  What does it mean to go “further with food” – whether it’s starting the day with breakfast or fueling up before your afternoon workout, the foods you choose can make a direct impact on your performance.  Preparing your foods to go further, by planning meals and snacks in advance will also help to reduce food loss and waste.  Go Further with Food encourages us to gain the benefits from eating healthy all while encouraging us to also find ways to cut back on food waste.  That's the challenge, eating healthy all while managing our food resources. 
Sunday is typically the day when I plan my meals for the week and then meal prep.  I sit down and gather all the recipes I’ve seen throughout the week that interest me (or browse through my cookbooks) and start making my grocery list.  I go to the grocery store and then do 1-2 hours of meal prep – washing and cutting veggies, making grains for the week, draining tofu to sauté, etc.   Some people ask me actually how long this takes me and the answer is that it just depends on how much food I’m making and also how intricate the recipes are.  Meal prep doesn’t have to take you hours on end, but this truly does help me so that I don’t have to literally cook every night after getting home from work.  Find what works for you and you do you.
I’ve always boasted that I eat most of my meals at home and keep my grocery bill down to less than $100.  But recently, not only have I been spending more but I’ve also been eating out more.  You may wonder how that’s possible – how can she be spending more money at the store if she’s eating out as well.  I’ve been experimenting with recipes here and there and that takes extra ingredients.  But with all this experimenting I’ve noticed as of recent that I’ve been wasting some food I prepare because I might in fact eat out instead of eating what I’ve prepared.  So I’m calling myself out this National Nutrition Month® and making it my aim to reduce the amount of food that I’ve been wasting.  Now don’t get me wrong I do share some things that I’ve prepared that make an excess amount – just ask my dad or brother – but come the end of the week and I’m cleaning out the fridge and I can see where some things go bad because I haven’t eaten them in time.  I’ve got to plan my week better and stay strong when asked to eat out and just eat my own food.  Call me a food snob, but 9 times out of 10 I prefer my food anyways.
We as individuals can implement small changes that make a BIG difference in the amount of food we throw away each year.  Just pick and choose from the list of the following tips for reducing food waste.  Even better? Try to do them all, implementing them one at a time.
Shop smart.  Only buy what you need.  This sounds obvious, but it’s the truth.  How many of us have the best of intentions of cooking every meal for the week?  Okay, maybe not everybody, but my point is to PLAN YOUR MEALS.  Again, this may sound obvious, but even I need reminding of this.  I planned my meals for this week and know that my Wednesday is going to be an early day and a long day.  What that means for me is that I need to plan something to have for lunch and dinner and bring it with me.  Too many times in this past month I’ve been eating lunch out and end up wasting what I brought.  This has been the pattern and I recognize it and I’m changing it all in the hopes to reduce my food waste (and money!).
Shop more often – This might sound absurd, but hear me out.  Your initial thought might be that this will make you end up spending more money, but overall it might be helpful in avoiding having to throw away unused items that go bad by the end of the week.   Perfect example?  Bananas.  I buy a couple of bananas for the beginning of the week to enjoy when they’re ripe and not too brown, because I definitely don’t like a too ripe banana (and no I do not freeze bananas for smoothies.  #worsttrendever).  If I need more throughout the week I pick a few more bananas up.  Sometimes I find that the other fruit I’ve bought for the week ends up being enough and don’t even need to pick up more bananas.  This has been helpful for bananas as well as for when I am experimenting with new recipes – I will give some of my already prepared food away (less food waste) so that I’m able to make the new recipe I’ve been wanting to make.  Bonus is that I am in walking distance from work to a grocery store – but of course, only shop more often if it’s a possibility.
Lists are your friends – Apparently now some refrigerators have an app that you can see into your refrigerator?  I’m not that high-tech, yet.  For now I make a running list of things as I run out of them.  This allows me to know what I need to buy at the store.  Efficiency at its best.  Otherwise I’m buying double of something and end up wasting what I already had.  Now if it happens to be simply extra vegetables see my suggestion below.  But sometimes it’s milk or creamer and that should really be FIFO (first in first out) and I can only drink so much of that at a time.  The list is my friend and helps me buy what I need in the moment.  And shopping more often helps me pick up when I need more, so I don’t feel pressured to pick it up on my weekly shopping day.  I hope that made sense.  Remember, these are just tips to get you thinking and ultimately you’ll need to reflect and find what works for you.
Watch out for BOGO (buy one get one) – while it may be a deal, think about if it’s actually a healthy food (Publix I’m looking at you and all of your tempting unhealthy BOGOs) and if you really will be able to use them all.  Strawberries this week are 3 for $6.  Keep in mind some stores will let you get just one package for $2.  It doesn’t mean you have to get all 3 packages. (& yes, I know that some stores do make you get all 3, but the point is to check out the store’s policy).  The deal is good, but maybe then you need to freeze what you won’t use!   Just please don’t make a smoothie #worsttrendever.
One bad apple can ruin a bunch – I’ve had this happen all too often with oranges recently.  I’ll buy the bag of oranges and there will be just one bad one that starts to mold the others.  I’ve recently bought a nice fruit bowl and I take the oranges out of the bag so they don’t even have a chance to spoil the others.  Fruit in sight makes for a healthy snack too!
Bread can freeze and so can leftovers.  I know most people know this and I also know that most bread doesn’t mold (that’s a problem to talk about for another day).  However, it’s important to point out for the mere fact that not just bread freezes.  Mind blown?  Stating the obvious?  Maybe, but how many of us utilize the freezer and freeze leftovers?  I use my crock-pot occasionally to make homemade soups.  As a single person household that’s a lot of soup.  I utilize a few portions of the soup for the week and then save some for the upcoming weeks.  It’s a win-win:  food for the week, less food waste, and food already prepared when I’m too busy to cook! 
Freeze Leftover Fresh Herbs – I’ve been buying fresh herbs more and more often.  I would grow them but I do not have a green thumb to save my life.  My problem most times is that I may not use all of them for the recipes for that week.  And me being me I buy the fresh herbs to make sure the recipe tastes the way it should.  But how much tarragon can you use in a week really?  Answer to my problem (not really a problem) – freezing the herbs in olive oil.  So simple and so life-changing.  Now to simply label the frozen items a little better.  And the other thing I really try hard to do is to make recipes that might call for the same herbs throughout the week (so that it’s all used up).  But again, how much tarragon can I really use?  Freezing the extra has been my solution.
Tupperware.  I invested recently and switched out almost all of my storage containers for glass.  After starting my new job, I found out real quick glass weighs WAY too much.  So I went on the search for storage containers that were safe.  Thanks Container Store for the find -  Décor TellFresh – free of BPA, PVC, lead and phthalates, so they’re completely safe for storing food.  Pantry. Freezer. Microwave.  And the best part?  They have the measuring amounts on the container.  Call me a nutrition nerd if you want, but that helps/take the guessing out of some measuring when I need to!
Cook with every part of the food.  I’m calling all you “zoodlers” out there.  How many of you zoodle your way through the zucchini and simply throw the core away once you’re done zoodling?  I’ve seen it happen.  It doesn’t look like the zoodle and so you toss it to the side.  Well, that my friends is the opposite of going further with food.  Another thing to point out is that you can eat the greens of many vegetables.  Beet greens sautéed are delish!  So what you might thing is waste is actually edible.  Re-think all parts of your vegetables.
Make frittatas with your leftover vegetables.  A frittata is a quick and simple meal for breakfast or dinner (aka brinner).  And the best part is that almost any vegetable combination will work.  So instead of tossing some of those vegetables, sauté them up and add eggs and cheese and you’ve got a simple weeknight meal.  We’re filming an upcoming video for our series of #BaptistHealthy.  Stay tuned and I’ll post that video in the next few months (if you want a sure proof combination!)
When all else fails, compost.  Hate potato skins?  Don’t feel like turning wilted vegetables into soup stock?  No worries; food scraps still don’t need to be tossed.  Just start a compost pile in the backyard and convert food waste into a useful resource.  Don’t worry, I’m writing this partially for myself.  I’ve always wanted to start one.  Maybe this will be the year to do so!
Cutting back on food waste is incredibly easy.  I hope these tips were helpful and have made you think about how you and your family can help to “Go Further with Food”.  Happy National Nutrition Month®!