July 31, 2008
What Fish is Best?
We all know that fish are good for you – low fat or high in healthy fat – as long as they are not fried in lots of oil. So that means bake, broil or grill.
There is a concern, however, about a few types of high fat fish that are high in a not-so healthy kind of fat. Quick review – some fish are high in a type of polyunsaturated fat called omega-3 fatty acids. These fats have been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower triglycerides, prevent further heart attacks, and reduce inflammation in your body. Omega-3s also help balance out the omega-6s in our body (another kind of polyunsaturated fat). Problem is our food supply is abundant in omega-6s resulting in a very unbalanced ratio in our bodies. We typically consume a 20-1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s when the recommendation is more like 4-1. Omega-6 fats are also found in many commercially made foods such as cakes, cookies, chips due to the use of vegetable oil in these products.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week. Examples include salmon, bluefish, carp, catfish, halibut, herring, lake trout, mackerel, albacore tune, whitefish and anchovies.
Recent research suggests that 2 common types of fish – farmed tilapia and catfish – may contain more omega-6s than omega-3s. This is most likely because these farmed fish were raised on commercial feeds that were high in omega-6 fats. However, farmed trout and Atlantic salmon were shown to have relatively good concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.
Take home message: Wild fish tend to have more omega-3s than farmed fish (because they feed on algae, which is high in omega-3s). Farmed catfish and tilapia would not be a good choice if you were trying to eat more omega-3 fats.
July 28, 2008
Trans Fat Ban in CA
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has made it official: California will be the first trans-fat free state in the nation.
The California legislature pushed the bill through last week, and Schwarzenegger signed it into law Friday, July 25.
The ban will require food providers to begin phasing out trans fat oils by July 1, 2009. Thereafter, noncompliance with the ban will result in fines of up to $1,000.
Trans unsaturated fatty acids are the partially hydrogenated oils that result from a chemical process producing solid fats with a longer shelf life.
These so-called "trans fats" were once thought to be healthier than butter, but research in the last decade has shown that they are much more harmful to health than had been believed. According to the American Heart Association, trans unsaturated fatty acids are medically proven to increase the risk of coronary heart disease by raising bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and reducing good cholesterol levels (HDL).
July 25, 2008
Popcorn: A Whole Grain Snack
There's so much more to topping popcorn than a little salt. Even butter by itself is boring. And adding plain old Parmesan cheese? Please.
According to The Popcorn Board, a non-profit organization founded in 1998 on behalf of the United States popcorn industry, out of the four most common types of corn - sweet, dent, flint and popcorn - only popcorn pops. Inside each kernel of popcorn is a drop of water surrounded by starch. When heated, the water expands and causes the popcorn's hull to burst, inflating the starch into a puff of popcorn.
A whole grain, popcorn by itself is a nutritious snack. Recent studies have shown that people who regularly ate popcorn had about 250 percent more whole grains and about 22 percent more fiber in their daily diet than those who did not eat it regularly.
There are several ways to complete the popping process, some more nutritious than others. Air popping without oil is the healthiest. A more flavorful option is to use a little bit of healthy oil such as canola oil, which provides healthy fats and is not as expensive as olive oil and other types of oil.
Now that you have healthier popcorn as your base, there's a little more room to experiment on toppings without ruining your waistline during bathing suit season.
Try these recipes from The Popcorn Board:
Sugar and Spice Popcorn
2 quarts air-popped popcorn
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Butter-flavored cooking spray
Combine brown sugar, chili powder, paprika and cumin in a small bowl and mix well. Place cooked popcorn in a bowl; spray lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with spice mixture. Toss to mix until kernels are coated.
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried mixed Italian herbs (or use fresh herbs: rosemary, basil, oregano)
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 cups air-popped popcorn
½ cup pine nuts
In a food processor or blender, combine the first four ingredients. Process to form a paste. In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in tomato paste. Mix well. Drizzle over popcorn and toss to coat evenly. Toss in pine nuts. Serve immediately.
July 21, 2008
My version of an American-style Gyro. One of my favorites.
4 pita breads
½ cup plain yogurt
1 tsp dried mint leaves
1 small cucumber, seeded and chopped (3/4 cup)
1 pound flank steak, trimmed and cut into strips
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small onion, chopped (1/4 cup)
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 medium tomato, chopped (3/4 cup)
1. Split each pita bread halfway around edge with knife; separate to form pocket.
2. Mix yogurt, mint and cucumber in a small bowl.
3. Heat skillet over medium heat. Add steak and cook for about 4 minutes.
4. Add lemon juice, cumin, oregano, pepper, garlic and onion. Cook until steak is done.
5. Toast pita bread in toaster oven.
6. Fill pitas with steak mixture. Top with yogurt sauce, lettuce and tomato.
July 16, 2008
Eating more...fruits and veggies
Today, more than 90% of all Americans do not eat their recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. The amounts of fruits and vegetables you need each day may seem daunting, however, fruits and veggies provide the unrivaled combination of great taste, nutrition, and abundant variety.
Eating a colorful variety of fruits and veggies provides a wide range of valuable nutrients like fiber, antioxidants,
phytochemicals, vitamins and potassium.
Five ways to eat more...
1. Cut up fruits and veggies so they are ready for a quick snack; baby carrots and edamame are a cinch
2. Frozen grapes and banana slices make a cool treat.
3. Include lettuce, tomatoes and onions on all your sandwiches and wraps.
4. Forget tortilla chips! Eat raw veggies with your favorite dips and salsas.
5. Take advantage of summer berries; add to muffins, pancakes, cereal and salads.
July 11, 2008
What is a Portion?
Here are some easy ways to estimate portion sizes:
Deck of cards = 3 oz of meat, fish or chicken
Baseball = 1 cup of cooked pasta or rice
CD = 1 serving of bread
Fist = 1 serving of fruits and vegetables
Thumb = 1 oz cheese
July 7, 2008
Snacks have been a part of your life since preschool. They were built into your day to help quiet hungry tummies between breakfast and lunch, then again between lunch and the end of school, typically delivered in the form of Teddy Grahams® and a milk or Goldfish® crackers and a juice box.
Regrettably, this snack ritual gradually disappeared from your day, only to be firmly reinforced as the most important thing you did when you got home from school. Any wonder you're still looking for something to eat between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. every afternoon?
Time Versus Food
On the one hand, a snack is a time for eating, an eating occasion that falls between the all-important meals. They are often less formal than meals, rarely eaten seated at a dining table and usually eaten alone. These snacks are a good thing. Eating only three meals a day is not really the best feeding plan for humans, it just happened to be the one most compatible with a working “man's” schedule and became institutionalized.
But in a perfect world (without clocks), we would all be governed by our internal signal of hunger and only eat when the signal goes on, and stop eating when it's off. Snacks would then be no different from meals. They would just be another time to eat.
The other interpretation of the word snacks is that they are a certain type of food, a.k.a. ”snack foods.” Originally noted for their salty, crispy, eat-out-of-your-hand qualities and found predominantly in vending machines, snacks now fill miles of aisles in supermarkets and entire convenience stores. And this is where the trouble begins.
What to Eat When?
As comfortable as most people are in labeling Cheerios and milk as “breakfast foods,” a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup as “lunch foods” and baked chicken with rice and peas as “dinner foods,” there are no nutrition rules about what gets eaten when. There are also no set times in the day known as “breakfast time”, “lunch time” or “dinner time.” This leaves your personal menu wide open to interpretation.
The most important food choice you have to consider each time you reach for something to eat is this: “What else have I already eaten today and what else am I likely to eat before the day is over?” Ultimately, your choices should add up to enough of the right foods in the right amounts to meet your nutritional needs without blowing through your caloric allowance. It doesn't matter in what order the foods you need are eaten, how you combine them or how you space them out over your day.
And while meeting your nutritional needs should be one of the primary factors influencing your food choices, right behind taste but ahead of cost and convenience, not every morsel you put into your mouth has to be a icon on the Food Pyramid. There's room in every diet for some “discretionary calories,” meaning foods or beverages consumed for fun or pleasure, not necessarily nutrient content.
Here's where your favorite snack foods can fit.
BYO or Grab-n-Go
If you take a realistic look at your schedule to figure out where you'll be when you're most likely to get hungry throughout your day, you have a chance to make some strategic food decisions before you leave the house. Depending on how well stocked your pantry is, you can begin by eating some of your basic requirements while still on home turf, then taking along some provisions to satisfy additional needs later on. That's right, go ahead and eat that slice of pizza left in the box, it's a whole lot better than grabbing a bagel and cream cheese with your coffee.
Then think about the foods that are harder to find when away from, namely fruits and vegetables. There's no reason why you can't pack a fruit cup, the leftover vegetable chow mein and a baggie of grape tomatoes to take with you or pick up a banana, a box of raisins and a can of V8 juice on your way to class or work.
Next consider whether you're going to have any social eating opportunities that day that may feature foods heavy in the fat, salt, sugar and alcohol “groups” and low in the light, lean and whole grain options. In that case, your discretionary calories will be used up, so be prepared to avoid any other impulsive eating by toting your own “snacks,” like a granola bar and a yogurt (crunchy-creamy combo) or corn chips and salsa (crispy-spicy combo) or Captain Crunch® and a packet of hot cocoa (sweet and chocolate combo).
The point is, there's no wrong time to eat the right foods and there's way too many times when the wrong foods are all that's available, so take control of the situation. Eating your favorite “snack” foods is not a crime, but not eating everything else you should sort of is.
July 2, 2008
Portion vs. Serving
A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat and a serving is the standard unit of measure. The portion you choose may often contain more than the established serving size which ultimately means you can consume more calories. The Nutrition Facts label will help guide your understanding of the “appropriate” amount of a particular food.
It is very easy to overdo portions and eat more than you need, especially when you are dining out or experiencing a special occasion with family and friends. It is important to recognize these occasions by balancing a day where you may overeat with increased physical activity or simply eat less at the next meal. Most importantly, you must remember
that your total diet and exercise regime balanced over several days is what counts.
How can you watch your portion size?
• Place food on smaller plates which gives the eye appeal of more food.
• Be sure that you incorporate fresh or frozen vegetables for every lunch and dinner meal. Vegetables are delicious, packed with nutrition, often low in calories and provide a lot of bulk and fiber.
• Select frozen prepared meals that have “portion control” built right in.
• Select single-serve portions for snacks and desserts. Always use the food label to be sure you are accurately selecting your portion.
• If you select a food from a large container or bag, serve yourself one portion and put the rest away.
• Eat slowly and enjoy your meals. Research has shown it takes approximately 20 minutes for your stomach to signal that it is full.
• Keep snacking to a minimum. If you choose snacks, try to select fresh fruits or vegetables.