Friday, January 28, 2011

Foodie Friday: Roasted Kabocha Squash

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

I was introduced to the lovely kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin by my mom, who's from Thailand.  I remember it vividly because in Thailand they call it "fak thong", which in English sounds like a 4-letter word,   so she was a bit embarrassed talking about it over dinner.  The kabocha is fairly new on the scene in the U.S., so it's pretty hot in the world of winter squash right now.  Kabocha has a lovely sweet flavor and smooth texture when cooked.  It's chock full of nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, manganese, and fiber.  It can be prepared in many of the same ways that other winter squashes, such as butternut or acorn squash, are prepared.  In sticking with my theme of "simplicity" this month, I am introducing you to a simple roasted kabocha.  Though simple, this can serve as a great springboard for a variety of other preparations for kabocha, such as mashed or pureed kabocha or kabocha soup.  Now go! Explore and let me know what you think.

Roasted Kabocha Squash 

1 kabocha squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 Tbsp Olive oil or an olive oil mister
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Cut the kabocha into about 1/2-1-inch thick slices.  Place the squash in a large bowl and drizzle (or mist) with the olive oil.  Toss to coat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss again.  *Note: You can also experiment with other seasonings, such as sage, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, shredded or shaved Parmesan, or cinnamon and a touch of brown sugar.     
  3. Arrange in a single layer onto a baking sheet.  Heat in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until soft.  (Even the skin gets soft, so you can eat it, too!)
Serves: 6-8
Nutritional Information: 
Calories: 94   Carbohydrate: 16 g   Fat: 3.5 g   Monounsaturated fat: 2.5 g   Protein:  1.4 g   Cholesterol: 0 mg   Fiber:   2 g   Sugar (natural)   3 g   Sodium:  26 mg    

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How a food journal will help you achieve your weight and health goals

Photo credit: CFleenor (Flickr)

One of the first things that I ask of my clients to do before I even meet with them is to keep a food and activity journal for at least 3 days.  What I love about this is that not only will these records help me in my nutrition assessment, but they also serve as a powerful starting point for a nutrition intervention before I even meet with my client.  It's a great conversation starter because it gives them some insight into their food intake, eating habits, and physical activity behaviors. During these 3 days, my clients almost always admit to changing their food or eating habits because they suddenly became more aware of them.  All of this, and I haven't even met with them yet.  There's definitely power in that!

How will it help you with weight and health management?  First of all, you've got to know what you're eating in order to change it as well as the behaviors around it.  I call a food journal the GPS for weight and health management.  A food journal helps you see where you've been, where you're at, and where you need to go.  By looking at where you've been, you get clues about the patterns of food intake and behaviors that were strengths as well as those that present opportunities for change.  Maybe you've been eating consistently throughout the day, but you haven't been hitting the mark with your vegetable and fruit intake.  You've now identified a great starting line toward your weight and health management goals.  By looking at where you're at, you can assess your progress, reinforce positive behaviors, and identify areas of opportunity.  When a client sees that she has been eating breakfast daily and she feels more energy throughout the day, then that behavior is strengthened since she sees the positive behavior and the benefit that results from it.  On the other hand, a client may notice that every time she misses the afternoon snack, she tends to overeat once she gets home from work.  Because of the awareness of this pattern, the client can then work on strategies to ensure that she includes the afternoon snack.  Finally, a food journal provides direction on where you need to go.  If the foods and behaviors that you're keeping track of in the food journal are leading to the results that you desire, then keep doing what you're doing.  If not, then it's decision time.  It may be time to re-evaluate your goals to decide whether or not they're still the same.  If your goals are still the same, you may need to pinpoint some areas in which you're willing to step it up a notch.  Maybe it's time to practice maintaining those behaviors before ratcheting things up.  Maybe you need some additional professional guidance, such as a therapist, to gain support in other areas of your health or well-being.

So how do you get started?  There are lots of tools for keeping track of food intake and physical activity.  Some people prefer the good ol' pen and paper method.  Others prefer online tools, such as MyPlate or MyFitnessPal.  Others like phone apps, like Lose It! or MyFitnessPal Mobile.  There are lots of options, so check them out and choose what's best for you.  I have my clients use the pen and paper method to start since there is usually additional information that I like to assess, like hunger levels, activities, emotions, or thoughts, that aren't always included in digital programs.  (But if you know of one, please let me know!)  It's best to record everything that passes your lips:  foods, beverages, and condiments.  Amounts and times are also helpful.  Sometimes clients get overwhelmed at the idea of keeping track of everything they eat, so I suggest that they just start writing down the foods they consume.  This still provides helpful information.  Gathering additional details, such as hunger levels, signs or symptoms, and activities, emotions, or thoughts while eating can also provide helpful insights.  Including information about the type, time, intensity, and duration of physical activity is also very useful.

Whether you're just starting out or you've hit a bump in the road, a food journal could definitely be the key to discovering what you need to do in order to best achieve your goals.  Go after a life of health because you deserve it!

Have you kept a food journal before?  What method do you prefer? What's your favorite digital tool?      

Friday, January 21, 2011

Foodie Friday: Cauliflower Popcorn

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about "dry" foods, and how these foods can sometimes sabotage the diet. If you ever crave savory snacks and want a more nutritious and satisfying alternative to what you've been eating, you may want to try out Cauliflower Popcorn.  I love the ease of this dish.  It's great as a side dish for a main meal or even as a snack.  Cauliflower is heaping with nutrients, including vitamin C, K, B6, folate, and fiber.  This creamy-white cruciferous vegetable is also a fabulous source of potent phytochemicals, such as indole and quercetin.  While this dish doesn't necessarily taste exactly like real popcorn, it definitely is capable of satisfying some of those cravings for something both crunchy and salty.  I really love this dish, and I hope you do, too.  Enjoy!

Cauliflower Popcorn

1 head cauliflower, cut into small, bite-sized florets
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, shredded or shaved

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Place the florets into a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Toss well to coat.  (Try other seasonings, such as paprika, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, turmeric, or garlic powder, if you like.) 
  3. Transfer the florets to the baking sheet, spreading in a single layer.  Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden brown and tender-crisp.  
  4. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Return to the oven for another 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven, cool slightly, and enjoy!  
Serves: 6
Nutritional Information: 
Calories: 64   Carbohydrate: 5 g   Fat: 4 g   Saturated fat: 1 g  Monounsaturated fat: 2.7 g   Protein: 2.7 g   Cholesterol: 2 mg  Fiber: 1.7 g  Sugar:  2 g   Sodium:  82 mg
Excellent source of: vitamin C, B6, folate
Good source of: omega-3 fatty acid and calcium

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Are dry foods sabotaging your diet?

Photo credit: kmohman (Flickr)

If you find yourself noshing on foods, like pita chips, baked chips, or whole grain crackers and you're trying to lose weight or eat healthier, you may want to perk up your ears...I mean, eyes.  Although possibly better options than what you were previously consuming for snack time, these foods could be sabotaging your diet.  So, how can this be?  First of all, "dry" foods tend to take the place of whole, fresh vegetables or fruits that could be eaten instead.  Most people need at least 4-5 cups of vegetables and fruits daily.  Vegetables and fruits are generally low in calories and heaping with a variety of nutrients.  Not only are they filled with satiety-enhancing fiber, but they are also higher in water content than "dry" foods.  Foods with a higher water content may help reduce calorie intake, which is helpful for someone trying to lose weight.  For example, a 1 oz bag of Pop Chips offers 120 calories, 4 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, 1 gram of fiber, and a minimal amount of other nutrients.  On the other hand, a small baked sweet potato with 2 Tbsp of 2% Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of cinnamon offers about 75 calories, 0.5 g fat, 2 g fiber, 4 g of protein and a host of essential nutrients, like vitamins A and C.  Which snack option do you think would offer greater between-meal staying power -- the dry 1 oz bag of Pop Chips or the moist sweet potato/yogurt combo?  You drink a large glass of water with those dry snacks, you say?  Well, while that water will definitely satisfy your thirst, it is not as effective at satisfying your hunger as foods that have a high water content.  I also find that people sometimes find it more challenging to control portions with "dry" foods since they need to eat more to feel more satisfied.  For instance, which would satisfy hunger more effectively -- 10 grapes or 10 raisins?

I understand the role that some dry foods play in the diet.  Maybe they satisfy that craving for something salty, crunchy, or savory.  That's fine.  At the same time, if your goal is to lose weight and/or eat healthier, then you might consider increasing your intake of whole vegetables and fruits first.  Including more vegetables and fruits in your diet will boost your intake of a variety of nutrients and naturally crowd out excess calories from other foods, including "dry" foods.  Then you'll definitely be on the path to achieving your best health.

Thank you for visiting and make it a nutritious day!       

Friday, January 14, 2011

Foodie Friday: Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Could 2011 be the year of the sweet potato?  Some predict that it could be. Why not?  This bright, velvety, and sweet-tasting tuber is chock full of nutrients, including vitamin A, C, B6, and fiber.  I've enjoyed exploring this lovely root vegetable, so I thought I'd share a simple sweet potato soup recipe this week.  Maybe it'll be the perfect way to warm up with this colder winter weather we've been having.  (Okay, I can't complain because I live in Southern California and my "cold" is definitely nothing in comparison to many others' "cold".) Enjoy!  

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 c vegetable broth or stock
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 c 1% milk

  1. Cook the sweet potatoes, vegetable broth, onion, and curry powder in a large sauce pot over medium heat until the sweet potatoes are tender.  
  2. Pour into a blender (or use hand blender) and puree until smooth.  
  3. Stir in the milk, and cook over low heat until heated through.  
Serves: 4
Nutritional Information:
Calories: 127   Carbohydrate: 26 g   Fat: 1 g   Protein: 3 g  Cholesterol: 1.5 mg   Fiber: 4 g   Sugar: 10.6 g   Sodium:  276 mg   
Excellent source of: vitamin A, C
Good source of:  riboflavin, vitamin B6, and potassium

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Plan to fail your New Year's resolutions

Photo credit: EvelynGiggles (Flickr)

Yes, you read that title right. I said plan to fail your New Year's resolutions.  I'm not trying to be a pessimist. I am trying to be a realist here.  First of all, if you have a detailed plan for your New Year's resolutions, then good for you.  I truly believe that the skill of planning is a must when it comes to making lifestyle changes.  When most people plan, they tend to be quite optimistic with their plans.  They enter their plan-making with the best of intentions.  They're going to do P90X workout5 days a week in the evenings.  They're going to eat breakfast and take their lunch to work daily.  As a dietitian, I do hope those plans work out.  At the same time, I know that a lot can happen in a week or even in a day and stumbling blocks will arise.  Neglect to plan for these glitches and getting back on track is much more challenging.

So how do you plan to fail?  Well, you need to have a plan, so start there.  After you finish detailing your best plan, look for holes.  Play devil's advocate with your plan by asking questions, like "Where could my plan go off track?" or "What will be the biggest challenge?".  Cross-examining yourself in this way will help you strengthen your plan as you come up with your own suggestions on how to handle these potential pitfalls.  These pitfalls are often times the very things that end up completely derailing someone from their ultimate goals.  So arming yourself with some alternative strategies or addressing your potential barriers will definitely give you a boost of confidence and help you more effectively accomplish your long-term goals.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Foodie Friday: Kale Chips

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Are you off to a strong, healthy start this year?  I bet you are, and good for you!  As I pondered about what recipes to share this month, the word "simple" came to mind.  So simplicity it is this month!  These kale chips offer a perfectly simple and nutritious alternative to salty and crunchy snacks, like potato chips.  Kale is a cruciferous powerhouse of health-boosting nutrients, such as vitamin A, C, K, and manganese.  Try these kale chips out, and let me know what you think.

Kale Chips

1 bunch of fresh kale (I usually use curly kale.)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
Sea salt
Cheese - optional (Shaved or grated Parmesan or Asiago are great.)

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.  
2.  Thoroughly wash and dry the kale. (I usually use a salad spinner to do this.)  Cut or tear leaves off of the stems.  Spread the kale leaves into a single layer onto a baking pan or baking sheet. (You can also line the pan or sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up.)  You may even need to use 2 pans or sheets, if needed.
3.  Drizzle with about 1 Tbsp of olive oil (or spritz with olive oil).  
4.  Sprinkle with salt and cheese (optional).  Try other seasonings, such as paprika or cayenne pepper, if you like.
5.  Place the baking pan or sheet into the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown and the kale is crisp.
6.  Place pan on rack to cool and enjoy!   

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Serves:  4
Nutritional Information: (including 1 Tbsp shredded cheese)
Calories:  77   Carbohydrate: 8 g   Fat: 4 g  Protein: 3 g   Cholesterol: 0.9 mg   Fiber: 1.7 g  Sugar: 0 g   Sodium: 127 mg
Excellent source of: vitamin C, A, K, manganese
Good source of:  omega 3 fatty acid, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, iron

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Strategize Your New Year's Resolution

Photo credit: kansas_city_royalty (Flickr)

If you're at all a football fan, you may know that we're heading into playoff season.  I won't tell you who I'm rooting for, but their name {might} start with the letter C.  As these teams are heading into the playoffs, we know their goal is to end up winning the ultimate showdown, the Super Bowl, right?  But is that goal enough to really get them there?  No way!  Not only do they have to have a goal (i.e., win the Super Bowl), they've also got to have a strategy or two or fifty that will help them accomplish that goal.

If you made resolutions this year, then hopefully you made SMART ones because those will definitely offer you a strong place to start.  Let's imagine that one of your SMART resolutions is to eat three cups of vegetables each day.  Great. Now what?  Just as the football teams will develop strategies for each game and even for each moment in the game, you need to create your own strategies in order to more effectively accomplish your goals.  While I'd like to say that just because you set your intention on eating three cups of vegetables each day that it will happen, this goal will not be realized without some strategizing.  Think of it as your blueprint to success as it will take a lot of the guess work out of your efforts.

So how do you strategize?  Ask questions.  When will you eat those three cups of vegetables? Will it be 2 cups at lunch and 1 cup at dinner? Maybe it'll be 1 cup at lunch, 1/2 cup at two snacks, and 1 cup at dinner.  What do you need to do to make sure you have three cups of vegetables available to you every day?  Will some of these vegetables be eaten during the work day? If so, what do you need to do to ensure that you have them at work?  The more that you dig into the details, the stronger your plan will be and the more successful you will be at achieving your goals.  

At this point, you might be saying to yourself, "That sounds like a lot of work."  Well, I won't lie. It will take work at first.  That's to be expected with any new behavior.  However, it will definitely get easier with practice.  And guess what? You and your health and well-being are worth it.

Do you need more support in getting off to a strong start this year?  Check out these other posts for more inspiration.

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