Friday, December 31, 2010

How to keep your new year's resolutions

Photo credit: Grand Canyon NPS (Flickr)

When I started training for my first marathon several years ago, I learned a very valuable strategy...start slow.  If you've ever competed in any kind of a race like this, you know that this can sometimes be hard to do.  I often enter each race with a lot of energy and excitement just waiting to be unleashed.  Then there are all of those other people around me charging out of the start.  This really makes it a challenge to hold back, but I have to remind myself that starting slow will help me finish stronger.  During my first marathon, I remember seeing people whiz past me as I kept my slowed pace, and I reminded myself, "We still have 26 miles to go."  It wasn't long before I started seeing some of those people falling back one by one.  As that happened, I become more confident in my start slow strategy.  

So, why all this race talk?  We're embarking on a new year, and along with a new year comes, for some, new year's resolutions many of which revolve around diet and exercise.  With popular magazines flaunting special dieting issues, book stores showcasing diet books, gyms offering special programs, and friends sharing dieting strategies, people certainly won't be short of options.  Am I against New Year's resolutions? Not necessarily. I just think they should be SMART.  Am I against people being eager and highly motivated to attain optimal health, fitness, and wellness?  Certainly not.  In fact, I find it exciting to see people energize their health and fitness routines at this time of year.  One of the major problems that I see with new year's resolutions is how people tend to approach them.  People often make more than one resolution, and they often try to perform a complete overhaul in each area. If it's diet-related, people often start a specific diet plan that has them doing a daily 180 on their food intake.  You're really never going to eat sugar again? Ever?  If it's exercise-related, people often dive into their fitness regimen head first going from doing nothing to working out for an hour a day.  Have ya been to a gym in January?  The problem is that when a person tries to change so much so quickly, it can become overwhelming in no time.  Why do you think that 25% of people who make new year's resolutions give up after the first week?  Even more drop off at the six to eight week mark, and more than half of all people completely abandon their resolutions after six months.

One of the driving forces behind successful, long-term behavior change is self-efficacy or a person's belief in his/her ability to accomplish a specific goal.  Do I believe that you can make the changes that you want to make?  I absolutely do but maybe not all at once.  Flooding yourself with numerous changes at the same time may not necessarily bode well for your self-efficacy.  So, what alternative do I suggest?  How about the start slow strategy?  What if you focused on building momentum around only a few SMART resolutions in one specific area (eg, only diet or only exercise)?  For example, if you haven't been exercising at all, maybe you start by aiming for a 15 minute walk three days a week and strength training one day a week.  Or perhaps you zero in on one SMART resolution in only a few areas? Maybe you set a goal to increase your vegetable intake to 3 cups a day and take a walk during your lunch breaks at work.  By honing in on a few very specific goals like these, you will likely build up your confidence, which will help you maintain your motivation for the long haul.  And guess what?  I bet you will feel better, too.          

Will you lose 10 pounds in 10 days? Likely not, but is that really what you want? Really?  What do you {really} hope to accomplish, experience, or feel by eating right, exercising more, or losing weight?  Remember that because that will keep you going.  And remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint!  Start slow, stay strong!

Happy and Healthy New Year to you!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Super Foods for a Strong Immune System During Cold and Flu Season

Photo credit: Chris Costes (Flickr)

I firmly believe that one of the first lines of defense against the cold and flu season starts in the grocery cart.  What are you putting in your cart lately?  While many of us are bombarded by a milieu of cold and flu-fighting products this time of year, there's nothing like heading into the season with a well-nourished immune system.  No, that doesn't mean popping megadoses of vitamin C or Airborne when you feel like you're getting a cold.  To bolster your immune system in preparation for the cold and flu season, it's essential to supply your body with a daily dose of the most vital immune-supporting nutrients.  The best source of these key nutrients is going to be food since these nutrients, along with others, will work together to help promote overall health and an optimally functioning immune system.  Here's my top 10 list of super foods for a strong immune system during the cold and flu season.                 

Fish:  Fish, such as salmon and tuna, are excellent sources of vitamin D, which helps regulate the immune system.  In fact, a few recently published studies suggest that vitamin D may play an important role in protecting individuals from viral infections, such as influenza.  While the body is capable of making vitamin D from sun exposure, many adults fall short during the colder months as they spend less time outdoors. There are also few foods that are good sources of vitamin D. Aim for at least two four-ounce servings of fish weekly.

Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines, are chock full of vitamin C, which helps the body resist infections in a variety of ways.  Toss sections of citrus into salad for a refreshing zing.  Citrus salsas pair well with fish, seafood, or chicken.

Sweet potatoes:  These luscious, orange-fleshed tubers are loaded with vitamin A, which keeps the linings of our eyes and intestinal and respiratory tracts healthy. These parts of the body provide one of our first lines of defense against bacteria and viruses by preventing their entry into the body. Sweet potatoes are also a significant source of vitamin C.  Sweet potatoes can be baked, steamed, or pureed, and they also work well in soups or casseroles.

Sunflower seeds:  These crunchy seeds are packed with vitamin E, which influences the cellular activity of the immune system.  Preliminary evidence proposes that vitamin E may enhance immune function in older adults. Sunflower seeds are also teeming with selenium, which plays a multifaceted role in shoring up our immune system.  One report presents evidence that selenium deficiency may even change the structure and function of the cells lining the respiratory tract, making selenium-deficient individuals more susceptible to viral infections.  Toss sunflower seeds into salads or sprinkle them on hot or cold cereals. These also work well in homemade trail mixes, granola, or granola bars.

Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage, are filled with vitamin C.  Many of these veggies, such as broccoli, kale, and bok choy, also contain a bounty of vitamin A.  Some of these vegetables are often a welcome addition to any veggie platter or salad.  They also make nice additions to soups, stews, and casseroles.  Studies suggest consuming at least five servings a week.

Oats: This hardy grain provides an excellent plant-based source of zinc, which is a necessary link for the development and activation of the white blood cells of the immune system.  Researchers also pose that beta glucans found in oats may enhance the body's immune response by increasing its resistance to infections.  Oats are also a good source of selenium.  Enjoy oats for breakfast or even as a snack.  Incorporate oats into homemade granola, granola bars, or pancakes.        

Winter squash: Varieties of winter squash, such as butternut, acorn, spaghetti squash, and pumpkin, are heaping with immune-strengthening vitamin A and vitamin C.  In season from October through December, winter squashes are excellent when baked, sauteed, or steamed.  The cooked squash can be pureed and combined with seasonal herbs and spices.  They also work well in casseroles, soups, and mixed with grains, such as quinoa.
Bell peppers: Green, yellow, orange, or red sweet bell peppers all contain a favorable amount of vitamin C.  The red and orange varieties are also significant sources of vitamin A.  Enjoy them as a fresh, crunchy snack or tossed into salads.  These versatile veggies are also a nice addition to a variety of dishes from salsas to soups or serve them stuffed with other veggies, seasonings, and whole grains.

Dried beans:  Dried beans, such as black beans, navy beans, or pinto beans, are rich in plant-based iron, which is critical to the proper functioning of the immune system.  A deficiency in iron can lead to a suppressed immune system and increased risk for infections.  Consuming beans with vitamin C-rich foods will enhance the absorption of iron from the beans.  Beans are a perfect protein-packed component of salads, pasta or grain dishes, soups, chilis, and dips.  Aim for at least 3 cups a week.

Dark leafy green vegetables: Dark leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, or bok choy, are brimming with immunoprotective vitamin A and C.  Some dark leafy greens, such as spinach, are also great plant-based sources of iron.  Pairing these veggies with vitamin C-rich foods will enhance iron absorption.  Dark leafy green vegetables can be prepared and served in a variety of ways, cooked or raw.  Explore and aim for at least 3 cups a week!

What are your favorite immune-boosting foods?

Here are some links to previous blog posts about common cold and flu remedies:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Foodie Friday: Black Bean Veggie Burger

 Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

I've had my fair share of veggie burgers in my life. However, I can't say that I've been very adventurous with my homemade veggie burgers.  Usually, they've consisted of a portabello mushroom with lots of other veggie toppings.  How's that for taking a walk on the wild vegetarian side?  It's not too bold at all, I know.  I must admit that it wasn't until recently that I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could make my own veggie that was more than just a portabello mushroom.  I stumbled upon this fabulously easy and versatile recipe for a veggie burger at 101 Cookbooks.  I've tried this version and others until I came upon my own favorite version, a black bean veggie burger.  What I love about this is that it is really easy to make, and it's a fantastic make-ahead food. When I make these for dinner, I have plenty leftover and they keep well in the fridge for lunches throughout the week.  They're tasty and filling, too.  Enjoy!

Black Bean Veggie Burger
Adapted from: 101 Cookbooks, 2007
2 1/2 c cooked black beans OR canned black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c cilantro, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
Zest of one lemon
1 c toasted whole-grain bread crumbs
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  1. In a food processor, puree the black beans, eggs, and salt until the mixture is runny but textured.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the bean puree with the onion and cilantro.  Stir in the bread crumbs until well combined.  Allow the mixture to sit for a couple of minutes while the bread crumbs absorb some of the moisture. The mixture will thicken so that you can then divide it into about eight 1/2-inch thick patties.  (It's better for the mixture to be on the moist side as they will lose some moisture during cooking. If the mixture needs thickening, you can add small amounts of bread crumbs until thickened.  If the mixture is too thick and dry, you can also add more egg or water for moisture.)
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Place 2-3 patties into the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side, about 7 minutes each.  Set aside as you continue to cook the remaining patties.  
  4. For something different, you can carefully cut each patty in half and fill with toppings, such as avocado, tomatoes, sprouts, or lettuce, or simply serve them in a whole grain bun as you would a regular "burger".
*Note: You can also experiment with garbanzo beans or black lentils instead of black beans for this recipe.

Serves: 8
Nutritional Information:
Calories: 185   Carbohydrate: 25 g   Fat:  5 g   Protein: 10 g   Cholesterol:  106 mg   Fiber:  6 g   Sugar:  2.5 g  Sodium:  285 mg
Excellent source of: thiamin, riboflavin, folate, and vitamin A.
Good source of: omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, and zinc.           

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Help! I'm eating healthier foods, but I'm not losing weight.

Photo credit: catsper (Flickr)

First of all, if you're reading this because the post title hits close to home, then kudos to you!  I'm always excited to see people taking charge of their health by eating more nutritious foods.  Regardless of what the number on the scale says, this is one of the most amazing lifestyle changes you can make for yourself.  Your body thanks you for it, too!

I've definitely had clients ask why they're not losing weight even though they're eating healthier foods.  These individuals are often discouraged and frustrated, and I'm not surprised.  They've been working so hard to change their diet by eating more nutritious foods and, in many cases, increasing their physical activity.  However, the scale doesn't seem to be budging...or sometimes not as much as they'd hoped.  Based on my experience, one of the common reasons that individuals who are eating healthier and not losing weight is due to portion sizes or amounts.  

Years ago, I remember having a client who was vegetarian.  He was eating a wide variety of nutritious foods; however, he was frustrated because he was not losing weight.  We started reviewing his diet starting with breakfast. After he'd rattled off about 15 foods, I thought that he was done reporting what he typically eats in a full day. However, it turned out that the list was for breakfast alone.  The list included a variety of nutritious foods; however, there were a lot of them.  That was definitely a breakthrough finding for him.

Another client that I had was also eating more nutritious foods than he had in a long time; however, he wasn't seeing results on the scale.  Upon further investigation, I learned that he was eating at least 3-4 avocados a day.  While avocados are nutritious, they are much higher in calories than other fresh fruits.  The 3-4 avocados a day was the equivalent of about 966-1288 calories each day from avocados alone.  This was a real "Aha!" moment for him!

I have one last story to share.  I had a client who had lost weight, but then she hit a plateau.  As we explored her food intake, I learned that she was eating out several times a week, and we stumbled upon something interesting.  She had been ordering a dish that she believed to be more nutritious -- chicken and vegetables stir-fried in broth with brown rice.  That sounds pretty nutritious, right?  However, it turned out that the dish was around 1200 calories because of the portion size. What a revelation!

So, if you've been doing your best to eat more nutritious foods without seeing the payoff on the scale, it may be wise to take a closer look at your food intake to gain some insight.  You can do this by keeping a detailed record of your food intake for at least three days (two weekdays and one weekend day is a great place to start).  There are numerous websites online with diet analysis tools that you can use to analyze your own intake.  Some examples include MyPlate at or NutritionData at  Remember, the scale is not the ultimate judge of your success.  The fact that you are eating more nutritious foods is a wonderful accomplishment, and it's important to acknowledge that. Keep up your best efforts, and make it a nutritious day!   

Friday, October 8, 2010

Foodie Friday: Pumpkin Flax Pancakes

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

As we head deeper into fall, I am excited to get reacquainted with some of those fabulous fall foods. Over the last month or so I've been a pumpkin junkie including pumpkin in breakfast, lunch, or dinner in a variety of ways. One of my favorite uses for pumpkin is in pumpkin pancakes. What could be better than eating a vegetable-infused pancake? These pancakes have just the right balance of sugar and spice...and everything nice! They truly hit the spot for me and my fam. I also love that pancakes are wonderful make-ahead foods. It's easy to make extra pancakes that I can freeze in a freezer-safe ziploc bag for later use. I just pop them out of the bag and into the toaster. In just a few minutes, I have a tasty and satisfying breakfast to enjoy. Here's to fall!

Pumpkin Flax Pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 c 1% milk
1 c pure pumpkin puree (fresh or canned - If using canned, be sure it is 100% pure pumpkin not pumpkin pie filling.)
1 egg
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp vinegar
Olive oil cooking spray


  1. Stir together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil, and vinegar in a bowl.
  2. In another bowl, mix the flour, flaxseed, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and blend together with a rubber spatula until just combined.
  4. In a large pan over medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray. For each pancake, pour or scooop about 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan. (I usually can make 3-4 pancakes at a time in a large pan.) When bubbles begin to form on the surface and the edges begin to look a little dry, gently flip the pancakes. Cook another 2-3 minutes until done.
*Notes: You can also use whole wheat baking mix instead of the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. If using fresh pumpkin, be sure that you are using the right kind of pumpkin (eg, sugar pumpkin). Pumpkins that are used for carving jack-o-lanterns will not work.  You can also substitute 2-3 tsp pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger.

Serves: 6 (2 pancakes each)

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 256   Carbohydrate: 40 g   Fat: 8 g   Monounsaturated fat: 3.3 g   Protein:  10 g   Cholesterol: 39 mg   Fiber:  7 g  Sugar:  8 g   Sodium:  535 mg
Excellent source of: omega-3 fatty acids, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, vitamin A, magnesium, and zinc.
Good source of: vitamin B6, B12, vitamin E, calcium, and iron.
*This recipe is high in sodium. Most of the sodium comes from the baking soda, salt, and baking powder. The sodium content could be reduced by nearly 200 mg by leaving out the salt.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Which matters most for weight loss - diet or exercise?


I've spent most of my professional practice as a dietitian working with clients on weight management, and one of the questions that pops up frequently is, "Which matters most for weight loss - diet or exercise?"  People want to prioritize their efforts, so I understand why they'd ask the question.  Most studies, as well as my experience, provide evidence that dietary changes alone produce greater weight loss results than exercise alone.  For some people this makes complete sense while others are interestingly surprised.  I find that some people believe that exercise will make more of the difference, so they will focus their efforts on that.  However, without making changes in their diet, most people will struggle to lose a significant amount of weight through exercise alone.   

Here's why.  There are approximately 3500 calories in a pound of fat. So to lose one pound of fat per week, one would need to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day.  Let's use an example of a person who weighs 150 pounds.  If this individual wanted to focus on exercise to lose one pound per week, that person would need to burn at least an extra 500 calories per day above and beyond what she's currently doing.  This is the equivalent of running 5 miles per day or walking on the stair climbing machine for 50 minutes per day or bicycling for 56 minutes per day or swimming for 1 hour per day.  I'm not saying this is impossible, but it could be tough for someone to make that type of change.  How do I know? I've seen it happen quite a bit.  I'll get a client who's been working out like mad with a trainer with minimal weight loss results and lots of frustration.  

On the other hand, if this individual wanted to focus on dietary modifications to lose one pound per week, that person would need to create a caloric deficit in the diet of about 500 calories per day.  While there are many ways to do this, here's one example of how this could work.  Maybe instead of a tall vanilla latte-no whip for breakfast, she switches to a tall nonfat latte for a savings of 160 calories.  Instead of putting 2 Tbsp of peanut butter on her whole wheat English muffin, she opts for 1 Tbsp and saves 100 calories.  Instead of 2 ounces of almonds for a morning snack, she opts for 1 ounce and saves 170 calories.  Instead of 1 Tbsp mayonnaise on the turkey sandwich at lunch, she opts for 2 Tbsp of avocado and saves 50 calories.  Instead of 1 cup of brown rice for dinner, she opts for 1/2 cup of brown rice and 1/2 cup of a California vegetable medley and saves 50 calories. These modest dietary changes alone created a caloric deficit of 530 calories over the course of the day.     

At the end of the day, though, I tell my clients this...a combination of both dietary changes and physical activity is the best strategy for long-term weight management.  Burning an average of 250 calories a day through exercise and making some small changes in the diet to save another 250 calories is likely a lot more manageable for someone to do.  While more exercise is ideal, this is a great place to start or at least build up to in the beginning.  In addition, there are many benefits to becoming more physically active other than weight loss -- reducing the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, strengthening muscles and bones, improving mental health and well being, better sleep, and more!   In fact, exercise is so vital to health that doctors are now being encouraged to prescribe exercise, like they would medicine, to their patients.  One other side effect of including physical activity in a weight loss plan is that people tend to eat better when they are being physically active on a regular basis.  I often find that when physical activity goes to the wayside, so does the diet.  In fact, research studies have shown that people who incorporate regular physical activity into their routine tend to better manage their weight long-term. 

My honest opinion is that we do not have an epidemic of overweight and obesity in our country, but rather we have an epidemic of poor nutrition and inadequate physical activity.  These are the primary causes of a variety health-related problems for many people, and overweight and obesity are really just a couple of the possible symptoms of those underlying problems.  Rather than focus so much energy trying to see a certain number on the scale, I encourage my clients to focus on the behaviors of eating more nutritious foods and incorporating more physical activity into their lives. The weight, along with many other health benefits, will follow.  And that, my friends, is my two cents:)  

What do you think? 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Foodie Friday: Chewy Fruit and Nut Granola Bars

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

If you've been a reader of my blog, you know I am a strong believer in planning when it comes to food. I can almost always be accused of having a granola or energy bar in my purse, bag, or car at any given moment. Why? This strategy helps me set-up my environment so that I have a nutritious food option available when I'm in a pinch. Maybe I have to sit in the doctor's office for longer than I anticipated. Maybe I got a late start in the morning and although I fed my kids breakfast, I didn't feed myself. Maybe I need something convenient to eat between meetings. Whatever the reason might be, I'm relieved that I have that planned option there. That brings me to my recipe today. While I do have my fave granola and energy bars, I recently decided to venture into the world of homemade granola bars. After seeing a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for "thick, chewy granola bars", I couldn't resist taking a stab at homemade granola bars myself. I was surprised to learn how easy these bars were to make, and my daughter enjoys helping me. I also love the fact that I know exactly what went into these granola bars, and I can change it up, if I like. So, here's my interpretation. Enjoy!

Chewy Fruit and Nut Granola Bars
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen, 2010

1 2/3 c quick-rolled oats
1/3 c oat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c raw pepitas
1/2 c golden raisins
1/2 c dried cherries (unsweetened)
1/3 c almond butter (You can also use peanut butter.)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 Tbsp applesauce (unsweetened)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 Tbsp honey (You can also use maple syrup.)
1 Tbsp water

*I used a total of 1 cup of nuts and 1 cup of dried fruit. You can experiment with 2 cups of other nuts or fruit, such as pecans, sunflower seeds, peanuts, cashews, sesame seeds, dried apricots, cranberries, apples, or coconut flakes. Also, if you don't want whole pieces of nuts or fruit, you may want to toss them into a food processor for a bit to break them up a little more.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper, including up the sides if possible, and spray with olive oil cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients, including the nuts and fruit.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the almond butter, vanilla, applesauce, oil, honey, and water.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and combine until the mixture is evenly crumbly.
  5. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan making sure to evenly cover the bottom. Press flat into the prepared pan. (I like to use a rubber spatula for this.)
  6. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and let the bars cool completely. (I lift the bars out of the pan using parchment paper to place on a cooling rack. It makes the cooling quicker.) Using a serrated knife, cut into 16 squares. Enjoy!
*To store, wrap individually or place in a single layer in an airtight container or store with parchment paper in between layers of bars. Mine keep well for at least a week in an airtight container on the counter. In humid weather, it's best to store these in the fridge. You can also try freezing them.

Serves: 16
Nutritional Information:
Calories: 222 Carbohydrate: 26 g Fat: 11.5 g Protein: 6 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Fiber: 3 g Sugar: 15 g (5 g is added sugar from honey) Sodium: 79 mg
Excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids and magnesium and a good source of thiamin, iron, and zinc.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Trendy Bytes: Coconut water

Photo credit: L*u*z*A (Flickr)

I had my first sip of coconut water several years ago on the beautiful Saona Island in the Dominican Republic. My friend and I were hanging out on the beach when we noticed a vendor selling fresh-from-the-coconut water. My friend couldn't believe I hadn't tried it before, so she persuaded me to give it a go. My hopes were high for the stuff, but unfortunately, I was let down because it did not taste that great to me. I've tried it on a few occasions since wondering if I had it all wrong, and I must admit that I'm still not a convert. Still, coconut water is now taking the world by storm! I swear that nearly every grocery store I walk into lately has a special display of coconut water. I even noticed a very subtle product placement on the Top Chef finale for a particular brand of coconut water, which sparked my interest in writing this blog post.

So, why all the hype? Coconut water is natural, and that is a big draw for people when it comes to food and beverages today. It also has a long history, and people value that now, too. In fact, it's been used as a rehydration solution (think Pedialyte or IV fluids) in some parts of the world for years. It also might not hurt that celebrities, like Madonna, are going cuckoo over coconut water, too. Do a quick Google search for coconut water, and you'll probably see some recurring themes on the claims that are made for it. So let's wade through some of these claims and see if they make the cut.

Is it the best hydration beverage? Yes, coconut water can hydrate, but for most people, plain water is still a great thirst quencher for a lot less moola! The average 8-11 ounce container of coconut water costs about $2-3. To put that into perspective, that's approximately $32/gallon! A gallon of organic milk is about $6 and a gallon of gas averages about $2.75 in the U.S. In addition, plain water is calorie-free while 8 ounces of coconut water contains 46 calories, most of them from naturally-occurring plant sugars. But beware because some coconut waters actually have sugar added to them. So if you're looking to steer clear of those drinkable calories, you may want to reconsider the coconut water. You'll also find a good amount of sodium in coconut water, 252 mg per cup to be exact. So, if you're watching your sodium intake, you may not want to guzzle this stuff.

Touted as "nature's sports drink", companies selling coconut water also flaunt the fact that it has a nutrient profile similar to that of commercial sport beverages, such as Gatorade. Coconut water and sports drinks contain similar amounts of carbohydrate, so it could serve as a fuel source during activity. Coconut water also contains key electrolytes, especially potassium and sodium, that are essential for optimal physical performance and hydration during and after exercise. However, evidence suggests that coconut water is not necessarily more effective at rehydration than commercial sports drinks. Although coconut water companies praise their products for containing "15 times the amount of potassium for most sports drinks" or "more potassium than a banana", potassium is not the likely culprit for problems, such as muscle cramping, during activity. Sodium or water are really your guys there. Plus, I prefer to recommend consuming a variety of vegetables and fruits for potassium because you'll get that and a host of other important nutrients, such as fiber. For some competitive athletes with significant sweat losses during activity, the sodium content of coconut water may even be inadequate. For most individuals participating in low to moderate intensity physical activity for less than 60 minutes, water is a perfectly suitable choice before, during, and after the activity.

Will it boost immunity
? While a couple of studies have found antimicrobial and antifungal compounds in coconut water, I wouldn't rely on a daily dose of coconut water alone to avoid infectious or fungal illnesses for now.

Will it improve gastrointestinal health?
You may be surprised to find that a cup of coconut water actually contains about 2.6 g of fiber, which could add to your daily fiber intake and promote GI health. However, unless you get your coconut water fresh from the coconut, you probably won't get the fiber benefit given that commercial coconut waters do not contain fiber -- at least from what I've found. On the other hand, some preliminary research, in rats mind you, suggests that coconut water may have protective effects on stomach ulcers.

Does it promote cardiovascular health?
A couple of studies in rats found that supplementation with coconut water may have a cardioprotective effect by reducing total and LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels while raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that these studies were performed on rats, and there's still much to explore in terms of the effects on humans. In another small, short-term study, individuals with high blood pressure who drank two 300 mL servings of coconut water daily experienced some significant improvements in blood pressure. For now, there are plenty of other very effective, well-researched natural remedies, such as regular physical activity, for promoting heart health.

What's the bottom line?
Coconut water may not necessarily be as miraculous as the beverage companies that sell them would like you to believe. For most people, all-natural water remains a good hydration beverage for everyday activity as well as for physical activity. If you're going to do some moderate to vigorous exercise for more than an hour and prefer a natural source of sugar and electrolytes, then coconut water may work just as well as commercial sports drinks. There are obviously some possible health benefits associated with coconut water, but again, there are plenty of other foods that will also accomplish the same goals without the significant expense. If you enjoy coconut water, then it certainly is something that can be consumed as part of an overall nutritious diet.

Are you cuckoo for coconut water? What do you think of it?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Foodie Friday: Flower Egg in a Basket with Spinach and Tomatoes

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

In search of something new and savory for breakfast, I recently turned to something old as it turns out...Egg in a Basket! I spotted the idea in one of my fave cookbooks Ellie Krieger's So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week. I tried her tasty version, Egg in a Basket with Turkey and Asparagus, but I decided to try my own spin-off. This was super simple, satisfying, and fun. My daughter was very excited once she saw me pull out the flower cookie cutter, too! It's a fun one to do with the kids, and you can really be creative with it. Enjoy!

Flower Egg in a Basket with Spinach and Tomatoes
Adapted from: Ellie Krieger So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week, 2009.

4 slices 100% whole wheat bread
4 eggs
Olive oil cooking spray
4 cups baby spinach
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 to 3 inch cookie cutter (or even a glass)

  1. Use a 2 to 3-inch cookie cutter or the top of a glass to cut an opening in the center of each slice of bread. Save the cutouts.
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Toss in garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add tomato halves and saute for 1-2 minutes. Gradually add the spinach to the pan, about 1 cup at a time, and saute until wilted. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate with foil cover to keep warm.
  3. Spray a large pan with olive oil cooking spray and place over medium-high heat. Place two slices of bread and cutouts in the pan. Break one egg into the center hole of each slice of bread. Cook until the whites of the eggs are set, about 2-3 minutes. Gently flip the bread-egg and cutouts over and cook on the other side, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Repeat with the other bread slices, eggs, and cutouts.
  4. To serve, top each slice of bread with the spinach and tomatoes and serve the toasted cutout on the side.
*You can also serve this with no toppings or experiment with other toppings like a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese or the turkey-asparagus combo.

Serves: 4
Nutritional Information:
Calories: 219 Carbohydrate: 25 g Fat: 10 g Saturated fat: 2.4 g Monounsaturated fat: 4.2 g Protein: 11 g Cholesterol: 212 mg Fiber: 4 g Sugar: 5 g Sodium: 389 mg
Good source of: omega-3 fatty acid, thiamin, niacin, vitamin C and E, iron, potassium, and zinc.
Excellent source of: riboflavin, vitamin B6, B12, and A, folate, and magnesium.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is physical activity 80% mental?

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

I wish that I could say physical activity comes easy for me, but I'd be lying.  Because I'm a dietitian, it seems like some people believe that something in my genetic code makes me immune to having challenges with being physically active.  Unfortunately, that's wrong.  I've heard that they (whoever they is) say that physical activity is 80% mental.  I believe it!  In fact, a review of 50 studies involving modifying health-related behaviors, perceived barriers were identified as the most significant predictor of health behaviors.
A little over a year ago, I had my second little one.  When I was finally given the go ahead, I was eager to get back into running, something that I've enjoyed for years now.  Even though I wanted to run, I wasn't.  The more I thought about the logistics of running, the more I thought about the barriers to running, mostly physical.  The best time to run was going to be when it was just me and the kids. No husband, no sitter.  So that meant me pushing my 33 lb double-wide jogging stroller two kids weighing in at 40 lb and counting.  Then there was my route. The best route for me to take involved running on sidewalks that are sometimes uneven, curvy, and narrow.  And there is the big, long hill, and since what goes up must come down, that makes two hills!  Hills and I...we sometimes don't get along.  When I thought about running, these things came to mind, and all I could think was, "How was I going to push this heavy, hard-to-maneuver double jogger with two kids through this obstacle course?"

I continued to think "How?" for quite a while until one day I stopped.  I decided that I wanted to go on a run with the kids, got myself and the kids ready, and I just went.  As I faced each of those barriers that I'd mentioned before, I realized they weren't as bad as I'd made them out to be.  If I had uneven, curvy, or narrow paths, I took it slow.  When I came upon the hills, which basically has all of the above, I took it one step at a time and it was not bad at all!  Was it easy? No, but it definitely wasn't something I couldn't do.  What I realized is that all of those so-called physical barriers weren't physical at all.  They were perceived...psychological.

When facing these types of challenges in the past, one strategy that has often worked for me is the "Just do it!" strategy.  I just don't know what took me so long to do it this time;)  To quote Rick Warren, "Feelings follow action.  It's easier to act your way into a feeling than feel your way into an action."  So many times, when I just go for it, I feel more like going for it.  And I have. In fact, I added a third member to my running crew a little while now 10-month old boxer.  Yep, it's me, the kiddos, and my boxer going on runs together.  I never imagined this!  It makes me wonder what else is possible!

I thought I'd leave you with the following video about an amazing father and son -- Team Hoyt.  It is truly worth the watch.  What an inspiration! 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Trendy Bytes: Sprouted Grains

 Photo credit: (Flickr)

Sprouted grains are going mainstream these days. These used to be something that only "health nuts" consumed, but now I'm seeing more people purchasing sprouted grains or products made with sprouted grains, such as sprouted wheat, barley, millet, or spelt.  Some are even taking it a step further and sprouting their own grains at home.  You go!  Sprouting is not really a new concept. Hello -- alfalfa sprouts or bean sprouts!  So why has sprouting become so chic?  It's all about nutrition, baby!  More people are turning to whole foods for enhanced wellness and nutrition.  Sprouting fans claim that sprouted grains contain more high quality protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, a better balance of amino acids, more bioavailable nutrients, enzymes that enhance digestibility, and a lower glycemic index.  And doesn't the word sprout just sound so fresh and nutritious?  But just how well do these sprouted grains stack up nutritionally against their unsprouted counterparts?   Let's shake out the facts to see how the sprouting enthusiasts' claims compare to the evidence.

You may be asking yourself, "What are sprouted grains?". So let's start there. Sprouted grains are made by rinsing and soaking whole grains, like wheat, millet, barley, or oats, at various intervals over the course of a few days until the grains germinate or sprout.  Fresh sprouted grains are often used in sandwiches, wraps, or salads, but they can also be dried and ground for use in breads, pastas, and similar products. 

Do sprouted grains reign supreme in nutrient composition? Let's imagine you're going to eat a serving of sprouted wheat (1/2 c) and unsprouted wheat berries (1/4 c).   You will find that sprouted wheat has a modest edge over unsprouted wheat with a slightly higher content of select minerals (eg, calcium) and vitamins (eg, vitamin C).  Sprouted wheat also contains less carbohydrate, fiber, and protein along with slightly less fat and select minerals (eg, iron) and vitamins (eg, some B vitamins).  Values for many of the other nutrients are actually pretty comparable between the two.  Researchers acknowledge that while there are some nutritional gains made during the sprouting of grains, they are minor.  Studies in animals have failed to find significant benefits with consumption of sprouted vs unsprouted grains.  So, you'll find little evidence supporting the benefits of human consumption of sprouted grains over unsprouted grains.

Is the amino acid composition enhanced?  During sprouting, it appears that the content of certain amino acids increases.  However, sprouted grains still remain low in some amino acids, and the improved amino acid composition does not make sprouted grains a complete source of protein, like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or soybeans. 

Are the nutrients more bioavailable?  Sprouting does reduce the amount of certain antinutrients, such as tannins or phytic acid, that bind to nutrients, such as minerals, thereby reducing their bioavailability.  This is certainly one advantage of sprouted over unsprouted grains.  However, it doesn't mean that unsprouted grains aren't nutritious, and consuming a diet that incorporates a wide variety of foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and high quality sources of protein, helps enhance overall intake of many nutrients. 

Does sprouting boost enzyme activity? Sprouting grains for a short time appears to increase enzymatic activity, which may improve digestibility of both the protein and carbohydrate.  However, that enzymatic activity would also decrease or cease with processing, cooking, storage time, and digestion.  

Do they have a lower glycemic index (GI)?  Some sprouted grain products do appear to have a lower glycemic index than unsprouted whole grain products.  This may be most useful to individuals with diabetes.  At the same time, many factors, such as meal composition, affect the GI of a food.  Also, it's best to consider the whole diet, rather than a single food, along with other factors, such as physical activity, when discussing ways to manage blood sugar levels.   
    What's the bottom line?  While there are nutritional differences between sprouted and unsprouted grains, many appear to be minimal. These differences will likely depend on the type of grain, the quality of the grain, the length of germination, processing, and preparation method of the grain.  Basically, when it comes to nutrition, I think we might be splitting hairs when comparing sprouted to unsprouted grains.  Also, remember that whole grains and sprouted grains are both going to be more nutritious options than refined grains. While they may not be as miraculous as proponents claim, experimenting with sprouted grains can be a fun way to add variety to your diet. So go ahead, try it! 

    Are you a sprouting enthusiast?  What are your favorite sprouted grains, legumes, or seeds?    

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Foodie Friday: Harvest Apple Butter

    We're approaching fall, and while my all-time favorite season is summer, I must admit that fall comes in at a close second. I love the cool, crisp, fresh air that we get as we head into fall. It also reminds me of football season and the upcoming fall holidays.  I also love the seasonal foods and SMELLS of fall.  That brings me to today's recipe.

    Several weeks ago I was on Mission: Apple Butter -- thanks to my husband who made the request.  Even though I searched high and low, I could not find apple butter in any store.  I figured that it must be because it's not apple butter season yet.  So I set out to make my own. I've made pumpkin butter before, so apple butter couldn't be that much different.  And I love a food challenge!  What I love about this recipe is it is super easy!  It's also got a wonderful flavor and texture.  It will not be like any store bought apple butter. That's for sure!  And it is going to make your home smell like fall, and I really love that  part of it.  Enjoy this over whole grain toast, English muffins, pancakes, or waffles.  It also works well mixed into oatmeal or even yogurt.  Serve it alongside chicken or pork for dinner.  And, this sounds weird, but put a little dollop in your coffee, and it will instantly bring your coffee into the season!  Enjoy! 

    Harvest Apple Butter
    Adapted from:  Cooking Light 2004
    {Print this recipe}
    10 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into big chunks (I've used Fuji, Gala, and Granny Smith apples.  Experiment with different apples and have fun with it!)
    1/2 c brown sugar, packed
    1/4 c honey
    1/4 c apple cider
    1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
    1/4 tsp ground cloves
    1/8 tsp ground mace 

    1. Add all ingredients into a 4-5 quart crock pot.  Cover and heat on low for 10 hours or until the apples are tender throughout. This can be done overnight and would be perfect on a weekend.
    2. There are 2 options for the next step.  1)  Remove apples from the crock pot and allow to cool for a bit.  Puree in a blender or food processor in small batches until they are the consistency of a thin applesauce.  OR  2) Put a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl.  Place small portions of the apple mixture into the strainer. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press the mixture through the strainer.  Continue this process with the remaining apple mixture.  Discard leftover pulp.  I also discard the leftover juices from the crockpot before filling with the puree.
    3. Place the puree back into the crock pot and continue cooking uncovered on high for 1 1/2 hours or until the mixture is thick. Be sure to stir occasionally.
    4. Remove the apple butter from the crock pot and place into a large covered container or several smaller ones for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.  
    *You also have the option of storing these for longer in smaller jars for later use or to use as gifts.  To prime your jars, preheat your oven to 225F.  Put the jars only (I use 8 oz Kerr jars and it makes roughly 3 jars worth) on the baking racks in the oven for at least 20 minutes.  Then carefully remove from the oven.  Thoroughly clean the jar lids well in hot water and allow to fully dry.  Bring a large, deep pot of water to a boil.  Put apple butter into the jars within 1/4 inch from the top.  Clean the rim of each jar with a paper towel.  Tightly close each jar with a lid.  Carefully immerse each jar into the large pot of boiling water with tongs and boil for 10 minutes.  Voila, you now have jarred apple butter for future use or gifts.

    Serves: 48
    Nutritional Information (based on 1 Tbsp serving):
    Calories: 26.5   Carbohydrate:  7 g   Fat:  0 g   Protein:  0 g   Cholesterol:  0 mg  Fiber:  1 g   Sugar:  6 g   Sodium:  0.8 mg

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Foodie Friday: Grilled Alaskan Halibut with Fresh Mango Salsa

    Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

    When my family returned from Alaska this summer, we came back with some lovely Alaskan goodies.  One of those Alaskan goodies was some wild caught Alaskan halibut.  Thank you, Father-In-Law Loy!  I was excited because I tend to favor salmon when preparing fish dishes, so I welcomed the change.  I knew exactly how I wanted to serve this fish, too.  It was going to pair perfectly with a fresh, spicy mango salsa. I've served this mango salsa with fish before...mostly salmon.  It's very flavorful and so fresh tasting.  It's also very quick and easy to make.  So here's my simple halibut with a spicy kick!  Enjoy!

    Grilled Alaskan Halibut with Fresh Mango Salsa
    1 lb halibut (or other white fish)
    1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 small red onion, chopped
    Juice of 2 fresh limes
    1 large mango, peeled, pitted and chopped
    1 small red bell pepper, chopped
    1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
    1 garlic clove, minced
    Juice of 1/2 of a medium orange
    1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (If you like more heat, then keep the jalapeno intact.)

    1. Heat an outdoor grill over high heat. Drizzle the olive oil over the fish.  Then season with salt and pepper.  Grill the halibut for about 4 minutes on each side or until the fish is firm, but not tough, and cooked through.  
    2. In a large bowl, combine the red onion, lime juice, mango, red bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, orange juice, and jalapeno.  Stir well.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  
    3. Serve the fish topped with mango salsa.   Pair the fish with brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, or grilled whole wheat pita bread.  The salsa actually tastes very nice combined with any of these sides, too.
    *The salsa will keep covered and refrigerated for up to one day.  Serve leftover salsa in a wrap, as a salad topping, or over grilled chicken.

    Serves: 4
    Nutritional Information: 
    Calories:  250   Carbohydrate:  16 g   Fat:  10 g   Saturated fat:  1.4 g  Monounsaturated fat: 6 g   Protein:  25 g  Cholesterol:  36 mg    Fiber:  2.3 g   Sugar:  11.5 g  Sodium:  215 mg
    Good source of: omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA), thiamin and riboflavin.
    Excellent source of:  niacin, vitamin B6, B12, C, D, A, E, magnesium, and potassium.

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Spreading some yoga love

     Photo credit: Canon in 2D (Flickr)

    It's National Yoga Month, so Happy Yoga Month!  I thought I'd share some yoga love by telling you about my personal yoga experience.  Ever since I can remember, I've always been more of a "cardio" girl.  I've always preferred to "feel the burn" and sweat and raise my heart rate.  While I'd tried out yoga here and there in the past, I usually preferred to focus on doing my cardio thing or training for some event, like a marathon. However, over the last year or so I started to flirt with the idea of yoga more.  Something about it was just calling me.  I finally took the plunge last January when I was presented with an opportunity that this frugalista just couldn't refuse -- 5 weeks of unlimited yoga for half the usual price!  When I attended my first class, I must admit that I was somewhat nervous.  What yoga poses will we do?  Am I going to be able to do all of those funky yoga moves?  What I quickly realized, though, was that I didn't need to worry about any of these things.  What I learned is that yoga is about more than conquering amazing physical feats.  While my yoga practice has pushed me to incredible new places in terms of my flexibility, balance, strength and stamina, it has also motivated my growth in other ways.

    Yoga has helped me stretch my mind to create a more flexible way of thinking.  With yoga, I am encouraged to create a space free of expectations, worries, stresses, criticisms, judgments, comparisons, competitions, and tough love.   When we'd get to crow pose, maybe I'd try it and not get it. Maybe I'd try it and sustain it only a few seconds or maybe I did so for longer.  During yoga, I'm invited to practice with intention so that I am more observant and open to the possibilities.  Each possibility is okay.  There is no "right or wrong" or "do or die" or "no pain, no gain".  Yeah!  In the beginning, the more I practiced yoga, the more I also realized that many of the principles of yoga coincide with the philosophies that I've developed around food and eating. Hello -- mindful and intuitive eating!  So yoga has inspired me to expand these principles into more areas of my life.

    Yoga has also nourished me spiritually.  While some may shy away from the spiritual aspects of yoga, I embrace the opportunity to welcome God into my yoga practice...and beyond!  When I'm encouraged to open my heart center in various poses, I see it as my way of opening myself up to God...being grateful for all of his blessings and inviting him in to all that I do.  Talk about peace! 

    My experience with yoga has been incredibly surprising.  I had no idea what would be in store for me when I got started, but I think that continuing the practice beyond a few drop ins here and there has allowed me to experience more of what yoga has to offer.  I have never once dreaded going to yoga. Never!  And I don't monitor the clock wondering, "When is this going to be over?"  Unfortunately, I can't say the same about running or going to the gym.  I leave feeling refreshed, renewed, invigorated, peace!

    Given my experiences, I am not surprised to know that there has been a surge in the number of people practicing yoga over the last decade.  In fact, yoga is now often suggested as a complementary form of therapy for many conditions, including high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, chronic low back pain, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and more!  It also doesn't surprise me that eating disorder treatment programs now incorporate yoga as an adjunct therapy for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating.  Even the Army is now incorporating yoga into their fitness training and rehab programs

    I know that some people are unsure about yoga because they're concerned that they're not fit or flexible enough, but in my experience, yoga is accessible to most anyone regardless of your level of fitness or age. That is the beauty of yoga.  It is what you allow it to be.  In writing this post, I must admit that I did it in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, it might inspire another to give yoga a try.  So I do hope that one of you lovely readers takes the yoga plunge, too...and please let me know about it!

    Interested in trying it out?
    • Many yoga centers offer free classes for newbies and while it's National Yoga Month, I know many places that are doing this. So take advantage!  
    • If you're looking for deals, like me, then you may want to check out Groupon for deals in your area. I've supported my yoga practice through a string of offerings through their daily deals.
    • If you're not sure about attending an actual class, you may want to test drive yoga in the comfort of your own home.  There are plenty of DVDs available for purchase, or you can rent them through Netflix, Blockbuster Online, or even your local library!  I've also explored a variety of yoga programs through the Free On Demand options through my local cable network (eg, Exercise TV On Demand).  And there are plenty of yoga clips and podcasts online that will help you practice some of the poses.  Check out this one from CorePower Yoga.
    Are you a fellow yogi?  What do you love about yoga?


    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Foodie Friday: Spicy Hummus

    Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.!  Sometimes I like to leave the hummus-making to the pros.  My favorite is any almost any hummus from Mom's Specialty Foods, which I find at a booth at our local Huntington Beach Farmer's Market, or Trader Joe's hummus.  Sometimes I want hummus, but I don't have any on hand.  That's where this recipe comes in to play.  My friend, Tree, shared this with me many years ago, and it's still a fave of mine.  I can nearly make it at any time because I almost always have everything on hand.  It's super easy, and it's seriously tasty.  I love to pair this with whole wheat pita bread and have it as a snack or even for lunch.  Pair it with fresh vegetables, whole grain crackers, or even as a sub for mayo on a sandwich or in a wrap.  If you like spicy stuff, you'll love this.  Enjoy!

    Spicy Hummus
    From: Teresa C.
    1 c canned garganzo beans, drained and rinsed
    3 Tbsp plain yogurt
    1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
    Juice of 1/2 of a fresh lemon
    1/4 c fresh Italian parsley, chopped
    1 tsp cayenne pepper

    1. Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Using a hand blender or small food processor, blend until smooth.  Allow to chill for 2 hours so the flavors can blend.
    Serves: 4-8 (based on 2-4 Tbsp serving size)

    Nutritional Information (based on serving size of 2 Tbsp):
    Calories: 25   Carbohydrate:  5.7 g   Fat:  0.4 g   Protein:  2.1 g   Cholesterol:  0.17 mg  Fiber:  1.5 g   Sugar:  1 g   Sodium:  120 mg

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    Foodie Friday: Mango Chutney & Prosciutto Pizza

    Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

    I've mentioned in a previous post that I have a bit of a liking for Food Network shows. In fact, if I had a default channel, that'd be it.  One of the shows that I enjoyed the summer was The Next Food Network Star  Throughout this last season, I found myself becoming a huge fan of Aarti Sequeria, and on the last episode, she prepared this fantastic looking pizza.  We enjoy pizza {almost} weekly in our house. It's mostly kid-friendly and provides an all-in-one variety of foods and nutrients, depending on the kind you get.  This particular pizza piqued my interest because Aarti definitely put her unique Indian spin on it. So I set out to prepare it right away.  I ended up making a few adaptations from her original, but I believe I pulled off a lovely version of this gourmet-like pizza.  Enjoy!

    Mango Chutney and Prosciutto Pizza
    {Print this recipe}
    1/2 c no salt added tomato paste
    2 Tbsp mango chutney (This can be found in the international food aisle. I used Patak's Sweet Mango Chutney as recommended.)
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1/2 c water
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
    1/2 c shredded 2% milk mozzarella cheese
    1/2 c crumbled queso fresco (I used this Mexican cheese instead of the original paneer cheese that's called for because I just couldn't find it anywhere.)
    1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (I actually left this out so that it would be a more kid-friendly recipe.)
    1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    1 large green onion, finely chopped
    1/8 tsp ground cumin
    4 frozen naan bread (I used Trader Joe's brand as recommended.)
    4 slices prosciutto, torn

    1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
    2. Mix the tomato paste, mango chutney, minced garlic, and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Heat for about 5 minutes. Then remove the pan from stove and set aside.
    3. Mix the mozzarella, queso fresco, red pepper flakes, cilantro, green onion, and ground cumin in a small mixing bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.
    4. Place the naans on a large cookie sheet.  Coat the top of each naan with an equal amount of the tomato-mango chutney sauce.  Next, top each naan with equal amounts of the cheese mixture.  Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the edges are crisped.
    5. While the pizzas are baking, shred the prosciutto into small bite-sized pieces. After the pizzas are finished baking, top each pizza with fresh prosciutto.  Slice each naan into 4 pieces and serve with a nice hearty vegetable salad.  Enjoy!
    Serves: 4-8
    Nutritional Information (for 8 servings):
    Calories: 187   Carbohydrate:  25.5 g   Fat:  5.8 g   Saturated fat:  3.4 g   Protein:  8 g   Cholesterol:  19 mg   Fiber:  1.4 g   Sugar:  4 g   Sodium:  321 mg
    Good source of: Vitamin A and calcium.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Minimize the mealtime showdowns with your kids - a strategy that works

     Photo credit: Bruce Tuten (Flickr)

    There you are in the dining room stadium preparing for a mealtime showdown. It's you, the caring, health-conscious parent versus your challenger, a willful, anti-veggie eating child.  If this sounds at all like your meals, you are not alone. I've worked with many parents who vent frustrations about the battles they have with their children over eating...usually vegetables but sometimes other foods, too.  I can definitely understand your pain because it's not as if I've been immune to a battle or 2 or 10 of these myself;)  However, I'm not here to relish in our pain but rather to offer you a strategy that works.  Whether your child is 3 or 15 or 3 going on 15, this is something that can work for all ages.  Just keep two things in mind:

    1) It's your job to feed and your child's job to eat.
    2) You are in charge of what, when, and where your child eats. Your child is in charge of deciding how much or whether to eat.

    These are the principles of the Division of Responsibility in Feeding developed by Ellyn Satter.  I use them myself.  I recommend them to others, and I've seen them work.  Trust the process!

    Let's start here. Imagine that when it comes to meals and snacks, someone else is always telling you what you can and cannot eat or trying to coerce you into eating something that you just don't want to eat.  How do you think you'd feel?  Maybe you'd feel a lack of control?  Therein lies some of the problem when it comes to feeding children.  You really want Johnny to eat the broccoli. It's good for him. Why won't he eat it?  Maybe he doesn't feel like he has a choice, so he is making his choice known. It's a loud and clear NO!

    What if Johnny was given a choice?  Let's say that Johnny and his family sit down for a family-style meal, and you let him choose what he'd like to eat.  What if he doesn't eat the broccoli?  Is that okay?  Yes!  Making an issue of Johnny eating the broccoli will do just that...make more of an issue of it.  He will be just fine if he doesn't eat the broccoli.  Maybe he doesn't like it? Maybe he needs to get to know it a little more first with a few more exposures?  It can take up to 20 exposures to a food before kids try and learn to like some foods.  If it's snack time, maybe you give Johnny 2-3 different options to choose from rather than one.  Those three options could include three very nutritious foods or maybe you include one of his favorites, too.  Even if that favorite food is a cookie, maybe it's an oatmeal raisin cookie that you prepared with love and high quality ingredients.  It's okay to enjoy food. It's okay to enjoy cookies sometimes.  It's not something you have to do all the time, and that is the beauty of the Division of Responsibility in Feeding.  You are in charge of what you offer your child.

    Offering children choices allows them a sense of control over their little world.  When children are given the opportunity to practice their independence and responsibility, they learn valuable decision-making skills.  It's very interesting to see my daughter when I give her mealtime options. In fact, I recently offered her one of three snack options: ice cream, an orange, or a nectarine.  She thought about it for a while...longer than I'd ever imagine!  Guess what she chose?  The orange!  Amazing!  When children are allowed to make decisions about food, it minimizes those mealtime showdowns, which are really no fun for anyone, and helps them learn to enjoy a wide variety of foods.  It may feel uncomfortable to start because you will be giving up some control, but remember that as long as you remain true to the Division of Responsibility of Feeding, your child will learn to become a successful eater.

    What food choices could you start giving your child today?

    For more on child nutrition and feeding, you may want to check out these books:

    Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense
    Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: Orchestrating and Enjoying the Family Meal

    Or these previous blog posts:

    Picky Picky
    The What and When of Feeding a Toddler
    The Where of Feeding a Toddler

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    10 nutritious finger foods for older babies

    Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

    Beyond pureed baby food, I've found that many parents seem stumped about what to feed their older babies (9-12 months of age).  When parents begin to experiment with finger-feeding, I often find that they start with some of the typical foods, such as Cheerios or puffs.  While these choices provide a developmentally-appropriate and convenient start, there is a host of other nutritious and safe finger foods that parents can offer to their little ones.  I thought I'd share my top 10 list of nutritious finger foods for older babies for a little inspiration.  Keep in mind that this is not a complete list of possibilities. For more ideas, put yourself in your baby's booties.  If you had no to minimal teeth and were still developing your chewing and swallowing ability, what could you eat?    

    Black beans: Jam-packed with fiber, black beans can help ward off constipation, which can sometimes trouble infants during the transition from pureed foods to table foods.  Black beans also offer a significant plant-based source of protein, an essential building block for proper growth.  These velvety-textured beans are also an excellent plant-based source of iron, which is necessary to support their rapid growth.   

    Green peas:  Green peas are loaded with vitamin K and manganese, two vital nutrients for proper bone formation.  You've heard of carrots for vision, but what about green peas?  Yep, they are a good source of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health, especially the retina.  Look to these for a fiber boost as well.

    Egg Yolk: Egg yolk offers a significant source of choline, a nutrient that is essential for brain and memory development in infants.  It also supplies lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health. 

    Blueberries:  Blueberries are rich in vitamin C, which promotes a healthy immune system, enhances iron absorption, and helps form collagen that is needed for healthy bones and skin.  They're also a good source of manganese and fiber.

    Salmon: Salmon is a high quality, easily digestible source of protein, which is helpful for those maturing little digestive tracts.  Salmon also boasts a high omega-3 fatty acid content, specifically EPA and DHA, which promotes proper brain and vision development.  Finally, salmon is a fantastic source of vitamin D, a must-have for calcium absorption and bone building.

    Avocado:  Avocados supply healthful monounsaturated fats, which help infants meet their high energy needs for rapid growth.  These fats also form part of every cell in the body and are needed for proper brain development.  Avocados are also a source of folate, which helps form and maintain new cells during periods of rapid growth.

    Cheese:  Cheese is an excellent source of high quality, easily digestible protein and bone-building calcium.  But you knew that, didn't you?  Here's what you may not know...cheese may help combat those acids that are responsible for tooth decay.  So a little cheese may actually help promote the health of your babies new chompers!  Cheese is also a good source of the sleep-inducing amino acid, tryptophan.

    Sweet potato: Sweet potatoes provide an excellent source of vitamin A, which promotes a healthy immune system and plays a vital role in bone growth.  The sweet potato also serves up a nice helping of vitamin B6, which supports immune function.  Would you be surprised to know that these are also a good source of vitamin C? My little guy (pictured above) loves oven baked or steamed sweet potatoes!   

    Whole wheat pasta: Whole wheat pasta provides a quality source of complex carbohydrates, which promote growth and serve as a major energy source for your infant's brain.  Including adequate carbohydrate in your infant's diet also allows protein to be used to build new tissue rather than for energy. Whole wheat pasta is also a source of magnesium and zinc, which both support immune function. We also can't forget that fiber!

    Butternut squash:  This winter squash is packed with nutrients, including fiber, potassium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and A to name just a few.  Pair baked diced squash and apples and sprinkle with cinnamon for a nutritious and flavorful feast for your little one.

    What nutritious finger foods do you enjoy sharing with your baby?
    Related Posts with Thumbnails