Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Week in Review

I’ve been trying to write my blog every other week.  I always said I’d write when I had a topic.  This past week I missed a week because I was in California and I didn’t really have any pressing nutrition topic to discuss.  This week I still didn’t have an actual topic to discuss but instead started writing about a few things that happened over the past week.  So here it is, random thoughts and events in my life:
This past weekend I went to California to visit my nephews.  I used to live in San Diego and I do miss California.  Going to visit my nephews feels like a mini-vacation.  The bonus is they live in a great destination.   It’s amazing to see how much they’ve grown and changed in such a short period of time.  My one nephew loves to read and any chance he gets he’s immersed in a book.  My other nephew is a bundle of energy at age 5.  I’m not sure how I kept up like I did, but I think I didn’t want to miss out on anything!  From going to the Botanical Gardens and making our own origami boats to race at the stream (Curious George made some boats in a book my nephews had read and my nephew remembered and thought it’d be a good idea for us to bring our own boats.  The origami making ensued.)  to jumping on the trampoline and creating super powers to fight off the “bad guys”, there wasn’t a dull moment in the visit. 

 It got me thinking.  They’re so full of energy and they just inherently have the instincts to eat when they’re hungry.  I’m not sure where that gets lost along the way, but somehow it does.  We had our three main meals and if they were hungry they ate, if they weren’t hungry they played with the food.  It was pretty simple.  In between if they were hungry they’d ask for a snack (maybe they didn’t eat enough from the previous meal or maybe they were busy burning off the energy they just consumed or maybe they’re in a growth spurt) – it was simple, if they were hungry they ate!  Now they are pretty normal 5 and 9 year olds and vegetables are not their favorite thing in all the world.  But the truth of the matter is you just have to keep offering them the vegetables and offering them in different ways.  Some days the 5-year old will eat the mushrooms and some days he does not.  It’s the truth.  No need to get riled up when he doesn’t and no need to beg them to eat them, simply keep offering.  Get creative with the vegetables and make sure they’re full of flavor – healthy foods can taste good!  Here are a few to get you started.
Zucchini Crisps, because they do crisp up (even as watery as zucchini is)

My flight was delayed on the way back from CA.  I was expected to get in at an appropriate time – ample sleep before the next day, or so I thought.  It ended up being just 5 hours of sleep.  And while my work week was just a four day week each day was BUSY with late nights.  Let’s just say I think I finally wore myself out!  It was the perfect storm – adjustment to the time change, lack of sleep, long work hours – my immune system tried but was finally depleted.  I haven’t been sick with a cold or the flu in over 2 years!  I like to think that I feed myself and am overall healthy so I can fight anything off.  This time, not so much.  Sore throats are the worst.  Everything you eat tastes off.  Then mix in the now stuffy nose and I can’t smell anything – that makes eating more of a challenge.  Resting and blogging today.  Hopefully the worst has passed over.  Aiming to get lots of natural vitamins and antioxidants, I’ve been loading up on all the colors of the rainbow.  Even if I can’t taste it I’m making sure I’m getting it (and not in a juiced form). 
One of the spices that has become quite popular in this past year is turmeric.  Turmeric contains loads of nutrients especially antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.  Patients are always asking me how they can incorporate this spice into their routine, since they’re not too familiar with it.  Here are a few helpful hints:
-Add it to a scramble or frittata.  Simply add a pinch of turmeric when you’re scrambling your eggs or tofu.  It’s a great way to start using turmeric – the color is familiar and the flavor will be subtle (just a sprinkle, not too much).

-Toss it on roasted vegetables:  turmeric has a slightly warm and peppery taste.  When I roast my vegetables for the week I simply add in a dash as I do my pepper.  Depends on what I’m using these vegetables for, but if it’s my rice or quinoa bowl, I definitely add it in.  If they’re for my pasta type dishes, I leave it out.
-Add it to rice.  A dash of turmeric will bring color and flavor to a pot of plain rice.

-Sprinkle it on your greens.  If you sauté or braise greens like kale, collards, or cabbage, sprinkle some turmeric in (key word being sprinkle – it WILL stain your fingers – so be thankful the spice container has holes for sprinkling).
-Use it in soups:  another way to add it into your everyday items, adding it to soups will simply make the soups feel more warming (although now that we’re entering spring, you might hold off on this till the fall).

-“Golden Milk” – simmering turmeric with milk and a small amount of honey or agave will make an earthy and comforting beverage – it’s quite popular right now.  I even made it into “ice cream” – the funny story is I let my “ice cream” melt and simply had it as a drink.  I actually enjoyed it more this way.
Every day is EARTH day!  This past Friday was Earth Day.  I’m always telling people that every day is EARTH day.   Here are a few small changes that we each can make.  When we all come together with these changes the results will be helping to preserve Earth.  We are all connected. 
·        Use reusable bags.

·        Turn your computer off.

·        Go outside – when you connect with Earth you are more likely to feel a responsibility to protect it.

·        Go Meatless – at least one day/week.  Following a plant-based diet would cut down on food-related emissions by 70% (according to Oxford University).  A plant-based diet is healthy for your body and good for the environment.

·        Recycle – how many people are actually doing it all the time?  Make a conscious effort to recycle versus throwing it in the trash for convenience.  My goal is to remember to bring my coffee cup when getting coffee at a coffee shop.  Small changes, big difference.

·        Bring silverware to work – that’s right, stop using plastic as much as possible.  There are glass storage containers, glass water bottles – this helps avoid the toxins in plastic while also reducing the overall production. 

·        Compost your food!

·        Save water by taking fast showers, running full loads of laundry, and always brushing your  teeth with the water off.

Remember each and every one of us can make changes.  Live more sustainably and in return be kinder to our Earth because EVERY day is EARTH day.

I’m always searching the internet/social media for recipes.  I follow lots of food bloggers (probably too many at this point) and round up my recipes that I’ll try for the week.  I’m behind and have a stack of “to try” recipes because I can only make so much food (and probably because I’m following too many people).  The other reason I try recipes is to pass them on.  If I’m able to find a “keeper” recipe why shouldn’t others be able to access easy to make, healthy recipes?  Here are a few I’ve found just in the last couple of weeks.  Mind you I did alter one of the recipes because even though it’s overall healthy, I’m constantly trying to balance the carbohydrate with the protein and fat.  Some recipes these days are still carbohydrate heavy.  While I never isolate any one nutrient, I am more conscious of carbohydrates (seeing as I work as a diabetes educator) - we've got to lessen the load of carbohydrates at meals.  When food is balanced with all nutrients you feel fuller longer and satisfied. 
Cashew Butter Granola - I used one less tablespoon of the maple syrup and a little more cashew butter.  Today I ate it in my plain full-fat yogurt.  Delish.
Coconut Cashew Energy Balls - not even on purpose did I plan that they were the same flavor! I only used 5 Medjool dates and added one more tablespoon of the cashew butter.  These were great for having on the plane as a quick snack (with all the delay).
Homemade Enchilada Sauce - Still keeping to my “trying to make everything homemade”.  I made this homemade enchilada sauce by cookie and kate.  I’m making the rest of the filling for the enchiladas now and can’t wait to try the finished enchiladas!
Homemade Taco Seasoning - I'll be honest, I can't remember where I found the homemade taco seasoning mix recipe.  But when I just “googled” it right now, tons popped up.  This one by the Pioneer Woman, Foods and Friends, is quite similar to the one I used.  It’s so simple with all the ingredients people tend to have right at home in their pantry.  Make some up and you’re good to go for Taco Tuesday.  The benefit of making your own?  Controlling the sodium.  The packaged ones are loaded.  This way you have the control and can alter the other spices so it’s not without flavor! 
That was my week in review.  Random musings in the day to day life of a registered dietitian and diabetes educator.   Packing my lunch now, soba noodle bowl, and going to bed early.  I need my rest.  Have a great week!





Sunday, April 3, 2016


I have been subscribing to CSPI, Center For Science In The Public Interest, for the last 10 years.  I call them the Nutrition Watchdog or the Nutrition Police.  Sometimes family members joke I’m the food police.  CSPI is “an aggressive non-profit consumer organization conducting innovative programs in nutrition and food safety.”  If you read their newsletter or follow them on social media, they’re there to give you some of the latest and most update nutrition information.  They also go after the industry for false claims.  One recent lawsuit was against General Mills:

They boasted that Cheerios Protein had 11 grams of protein; four of those coming from the milk, leaving seven grams from the cereal.  The portion size compared to regular Cheerios wasn’t equivalent making the appearance seem greater in regards to protein.  In reality, Cheerios Protein had 17 times as much sugar as original Cheerios.  Consumers thinking they’re buying something healthier when in reality are buying a more expensive product that’s less healthy.  CSPI’s other complaint is a commercial showing a child eating Cheerios Protein getting “fueled up” and racing off to school – this type of advertising is false and misleading.  It’s these false claims that CSPI investigates and helps consumers know fact from fiction.  Their latest newsletter helps read through the fine print with a few items.  The problem is that foods sound healthier than they really are.  And the fact is that it’s hard to know as a layman what to buy when you’re at the grocery store.  It’s confusing.  And people do want to eat healthier.  Here are a few foods that sound healthier than they really are.  And after, I’ll talk a little about my experience with making a few homemade items (instead of even having to navigate the packaged products at the supermarket).

“No Nitrate or Nitrite Added” – many bacon labels and even luncheon meat packages have these listed as a marketing tool for consumers.  So are they lying and are there really nitrates (or nitrites)?  Yes.  They list it in teeny tiny print and in a hidden way you won’t think is harmful – celery powder.  Yep, celery powder.  Celery powder (or juice) is naturally high in nitrite.  Nitrite is a preservative added to food to stabilize the red color in cured meat (otherwise it’d look gray).  Adding nitrite to food can lead to small amounts of potent cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines.   The bottom line is that NO bacon is nitrate – or nitrite- free.  Sorry not sorry.

Green juice – do they even have any greens? This whole green juice, green smoothie trend is big.  See previous blog, - but oh, how I’d wish it’d stop.
But in the meantime if you aren’t at home making your own green juice, companies are out there making them for you.  At a high cost.  This particular brand, Suja, that CSPI reviewed, sells for roughly $5 for a 12-ounce bottle at many stores – Whole Foods, Safeway, Target, etc.  Many of their green juices, Green Supreme, King of Greens, and Mighty Greens – have cheap apple juice as the FIRST ingredient.  And their Suja Power Greens while it may not have apple juice, it does have more cucumber, celery and grapefruit juice than it does any juice made from spinach, chard, or kale.  The bottom line, and what I’ve been saying for quite some time now, EAT your greens.  Juicing and smoothies (bowls included) removes the complete goodness that these vegetables give to you – fiber!!  And not to mention chewing plays a critical role in digestion that liquids aren’t able to do.  The juicing/smoothie trend needs to end.  I’m just a little passionate about this one.

Eat Your Vegetables…as a chip – You heard me right.  A company advertising that they “combine an amazing chip taste with so much veggie goodness”.  Remember the old saying, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is?  This fits the bill.  They claim they have 8 delicious veggies in every ounce.  What they fail to tell you is that the chips have more dried potatoes (technically a carbohydrate), rice and oil than actually any vegetables!  CSPI joked that the company Snikiddy should change their name to Sneakiddy.  Chips disguising themselves as healthy has been around for years.  Chips are highly processed foods, whether they are baked or fried, and they need to be treated as such.  Chips are far from being a health food.  And to think you’re getting vegetables in a chip?  Shameful.  Veggies come from the produce area in the supermarket, not the chips and snack aisle.

Back to Nature – CSPI reviewed a product by this company.  Their motto is as follows: “For over 50 years, Back to Nature has passionately created foods with whole-some grains, real nutrition, and the delicious flavors of nature free from artificial ingredients.”  This leads us to the question is white flour, cane sugar, and palm oil healthy?  Me thinks not.  Many of their cookies do use this in their products and while some of their cookies have some oats or other grains, the majority do not.  Please do not also be fooled by this notion that cookies are healthier without high-fructose corn syrup.  Brown rice syrup and cane sugar are no better.  I can’t wait for the Nutrition Label to start showing the amount of added sugar in products.  So, let’s be real here.  As CSPI states, “a cookie is a cookie.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking that some have ‘real nutrition’.”  Not to isolate Back to Nature, this holds true for Annie’s and Newman’s Own as well.
Navigating all the new products in the supermarket can be tough.  Their labels are confusing and the bottom line is the marketing people want you to buy their product.  I have a cereal box in my office (to show for this very reason).  It claims to “boost a healthy metabolism”.  What it doesn’t tell you is that if you were to eat a normal sized portion you’d almost be getting all of your carbohydrates for the day in one meal.  How does that boost a healthy metabolism?   Marketing a product to get you to buy it, that’s how – it sure sounded good!  

At the start of this year, I challenged myself to start making things homemade, as much as possible anyways.  I know time is of issue for people and many times convenience is the driving force when buying products at the grocery store.  So this homemade thing might not be for everyone, but I do challenge people to make things homemade when they can.  I think it actually started with homemade cheese-itz if I’m really being honest.  I wanted a cheese cracker I could eat that didn’t have so many additives, trans fat, etc.  While mine didn’t turn out the 1st time I didn’t get dejected.  It only made me that much more determined to keep trying new recipes and try ones that I’d be successful at.  Baking is not my forte.  I don’t know if I have just have trouble with rolling out the dough or making sure the yeast is at the right temperature? I’m really not sure yet.  So again I started making recipes that would be almost fail proof.  I’ve been making “energy” bars for the longest.  They’re so simple to make and I can add the amount of dates and nut of my choice in the right ratio for what I need (more carbs or more protein, all depends on my activity).  But now the homemade has spread to everything from homemade marshmallows to homemade jelly and even homemade bread.  
The bread still needs work (or maybe I just need a bread maker?) and some things I made just to test myself, for if ever a need arose to have homemade marshmallows.  Am I right?  The truth is, I believe everyone can still improve upon their health.  And for me, I eat healthy day in and day out, making all of my food and rarely eating out.  However, I was relying on a few shortcut type items in my pantry and decided that for me this would be an area I could improve upon.  Not to mention that being in the kitchen and trying some recipes out has allowed me to teach my patients through application – showing a kid how to try a vegetable out in an alternate form – I admit as a dietitian I did not like radish until just recently.  I wanted to like them and would keep trying to add them in salads for the crunch, but the honest truth?  I didn’t like them raw.  That is until they were “pickled”. 
And that’s what I tell some of my patients, adults and kids.  Find the form of the vegetable in the way that you like it. There are TOO many vegetables out there for people to tell me they don’t like them.  Of course I don’t have to like every vegetable, but I do think that’s a prime reason as to why people think they don’t like vegetables.  I can now say I like radish.
Some of the food I’ve been making homemade people might look at and say that it isn’t healthy (and I have been told that), but the truth is that this is my road to becoming healthier and a challenge to myself.  Teaching people as I’m learning through this process has only been a bonus.  I’m a dietitian and people are always looking at my food and what I eat.  I try to teach people that food shouldn’t be labeled as “good” or “bad” and that all foods can fit.   I model what I teach and I hope that’s what people truly learn from.  Variety, balance, and moderation are truly a motto that I live by.   Homemade ice cream?  Of course it can fit.  I made a homemade green tea, matcha, ice cream the other day that only had 4 ingredients – Thanks Martha!  Sure there was cream and sugar (hint hint, that’s what goes into ice cream), but it was less processed than any ice cream you’ll find in the supermarket.  Not to mention, it was a flavor I actually wanted to try.  
I know not everyone can make everything homemade all the time.  I get it.  I hope what you take away from this is the idea to maybe pay more attention to the ingredients in products you are buying.  CSPI helps steer you in the right direction.  Here's one of their reviews on pasta sauces:

Don’t be fooled by the marketing.  Intend to choose products with the least amount possible in their ingredient list.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll aim to make something homemade this week.  Make the time; you’ll be glad you did.
My homemade journey continues.  I must master homemade bread - that Irish Soda Bread was no-knead.  That doesn't count.