Posts tagged ‘nutrition’
During my last post, I asked for some healthy living challenges to be used as part of SlimKicker.com‘s healthy living level up game. Congratulations to Maddie for being chosen for her excellent idea!
“A good challenge to do is to have at least 1 home cooked meal a day (bringing in your own lunch counts too). Eating out is bad for the waistline!”
I have been trying to take Maddie’s advice, even on my busy surgery rotation. My secret for overcoming the early morning rush for a 5:30am start time is to pack my lunch the night before. Not only is it good for the waistline but also for the wallet… salads at the hospital cafeteria are ridiculously overpriced! Maddie – you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize!
In the process, a friend posed another challenge in her comment to me. She will soon be going to Kenya, and will be teaching a nutrition course while there. On top of that, they will be planting a garden of chaya, mustard greens, moringa tree, cucumber, cranberry hibiscus, cauliflower, beets, and carrots. She wants to be able to leave behind some simple, healthy recipes using some or all of these vegetables and has asked for some brainstorming help! Keep in mind that this is a rural community, so access to ovens and appliances is limited.
To give you some starting points: Chaya is a bitter leafy green that is sturdy, able to stand up to bugs and draughts. It is most often boiled before being eaten. Mustard greens are another leafy vegetable, prized for their cholesterol-lowering ability. Again, these are best steamed or sauteed with onions and garlic. Moringa tree is being grown frequently in poverty stricken nations because of its high-protein leaves and seeds. I have also seen it ground and used in a “Moroccan spice blend,” which I actually have in my cabinet right now! (Sources: Wikipedia and here)
Some ideas I have brainstormed so far: a raw (or lightly steamed) shredded beet and carrot salad with a squeeze of fresh citrus juice, salt and oil and moringa seeds for protein. Along similar lines, cucumbers and carrots sliced with fresh ginger also makes a great vegetable side! For chaya leaves and mustard greens, a simple saute with garlic and onion sounds like a great way to add in greens, or they could be steamed and added to traditional soups and stews! Cranberry hibiscus seems to be perfect for a drink – maybe boiled in tea or blended with citrus juice and a bit of natural sugar. Cauliflower is another vegetable that would be a great addition to traditional soups. It could also be blended into a puree with onions and garlic.
I am sure that there are many far more creative and knowledgable ideas out there – I would love to hear what you think! Anyone ever cooked with any of these tropical ingredients and want to share their expertise?
Way back in February (where does time go?!) I won a give-away that Sarah at The Smart Kitchen hosted! I was so excited to win this, not just because it meant free yogurt and granola, but also because I am excited about the cause that prompted the give-away. To enter the drawing, you had to sign Jamie Oliver’s petition to demand healthier food in school cafeterias. I was a huge fan of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution reality show, and was happy to learn how to participate in this cause. Pediatric obesity is a growing problem in our country, and cannot just be tackled at home. As kids spend more of their time daily in school, it is important to know that they have healthy food to nourish them throughout the day.
In full disclosure, I was not the healthiest eater when I started high school. I would be known to call a soft pretzel lunch, or grab a package of Nutty Bars to hold me over through dance practice after school. Looking back, I don’t know how I got through the day on just salt and carbs! Obviously, I have come a long way since then! These Chobani yogurts and Love Grown granola would have been much healthier options for lunchtime and after school snacks, had I been wise enough to make healthier choices as a teenager!
I was happy to try out some different combinations with the goodies I received. I loved the Vanilla Chocolate Chunk Yogurt – it was like having Cookies n’ Cream fro-yo for breakfast. Combine that with some fresh berries and a handful of the Cocoa Goodness Granola… what could be better?
Frozen yogurt! My friend used to freeze single servings of yogurt all the time, so I knew I wanted to turn this into real fro-yo. I mixed in a few more chocolate chips to make this more like a dessert, and then popped it in the freezer overnight. I popped it in the microwave for 20 secs to take the chill off, and then enjoyed a healthy, single serving dessert.
I love the Orange Vanilla flavor as well. I used it in a Strawberry Mango Smoothie, and loved the extra flavor it added. I also love it for breakfast with a sprinkle of the Simply Oats Love Grown Granola. For as much as I liked the chocolate, the simplicity of this granola has really won me over. There is the perfect amount of clusters to sneak as a snack, and the lightly sweetened granola is perfect for breakfast. If the taste alone wasn’t enough to sell me, the simplicity of the ingredients was! With little more than oats, honey, agave, and a few mix-ins, I love this granola as a quick morning breakfast on days I don’t have time to make oatmeal.
So go sign Jamie’s petition. Learn about pediatric health and nutrition. And treat yourself and a kid you know to a delicious, healthy snack!
Even though I might be struggling without cheese, I am still the person who has the most knowledge about a vegan diet out of the 4 of us. Not wanting anyone to fail, I sent along some things to remember during our month of veganism. Even as a vegan, you should be getting enough protein and feel full after meals. You should eat tons of veggies, not just vegan junk food. And it is okay to treat yourself every once in a while! Here were my initial tips:
Fall is in the air and the blog world is abuzz with pumpkin, squash and cinnamon. I am loving all of the new meal ideas, especially anything with pumpkin pie spices! Recently, my friend turned me on to spiced coffee. In your regular drip coffee maker, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg over the coffee grinds. Brew your coffee as normal and a hint of the spices will shine through. It tastes like fall in a cup! As good as gourmet pumpkin spice roasted coffee blends without the cost.
More than just the season is changing around me. School is picking up intensity faster than I ever could have imagined. I am already two exams in with only harder modules in sight. I have a lot less time to cook, and also less of a need to cook since it is just me. (Marie and I are still working on that big batch of winter melon soup from last week!) I also have a lot less time for blogging, necessarily prioritizing school on certain days. I love cooking and writing and sharing and will still plan on doing so, but will have to pull back from daily posts. I do not want to promise a schedule either, since this blog is something I do to unwind and have a stress-free outlet. I hope you will continue to read and enjoy my adventures, even as I become a busier and busier student!
Last change – I am giving up sugar! For three weeks at least… My hiking buddies and I are running the Boston Half Marathon over Columbus Day weekend, and we talked about nutrition and training during our hike. We are all dedicated to running and eat pretty healthy (whole grain, vegetarian, mostly unprocessed) diets, but want to be at our peak for the upcoming race. We committed to forgoing added sugars until the race (with one cheat day allowed for a pre-planned event). I am even planning to avoid natural sweeteners like honey and agave, hoping to better taste the sweetness of fruits for dessert. I started yesterday and was already craving a biscotti from Starbucks, so this will likely be harder than I expected.
Challenge: Want to join me, my roommate, and friend as we give up added sugar for the next three weeks? It is simple! Avoid most desserts, choosing fruit instead, and check your normal spreads and sauces for added sugars. It is always helpful to have accountability partners in lifestyle changes, whether near or far!
Before leaving for the wedding weekend on Thursday, I got to attend a lunch talk by Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and professor at the Sargent School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at BU. I have heard this same talk twice before, but she always has so many excellent points that I come away with at least one or two new ideas each time! Her talk was entitled, “How to Win the Weight Loss Battle” and focused on the obesity epidemic, potential reasons why weight is becoming such a problem, and strategies to help people make small changes. Here are some of my favorite tips from her lecture:
You have to move more! But don’t reward your hour-long walk with the dog or half hour at the gym with an extra serving of dessert! She has a client vignette that cracks me up every time: an older man had reached a plateau with his weight loss, so she recommended that he walk the dog for 45 minutes every night before dinner. He did, came back and only had lost 1 pound. Frustrated, he exclaimed, “I did exactly what you said, and only lost 1 pound. The dog, on the other hand, lost 11! What gives?!” She later got him to own up to his extra serving of dinner each night because he thought he burned it off walking. So be careful that you aren’t overcompensating for calories burned!
Have family dinner! As a kid, we used to eat dinner together as a family at least 5-6 nights a week, but that is becoming a thing of the past in many households. Even with busy schedules, for both kids and adults, it is still important to slow down and share food together. This gives time to only eat as much as you are hungry for, and also increases the likelihood of it being healthier food.
Find life outside of the
kitchen pantry. This is the only point that I slightly disagreed with Joan about. I think more people need to find life inside the kitchen. Cooking can be fun and simple; it is not that hard to eat healthy, and even easy to make healthy food taste good! The problem is that so many people are kitchen-phobic. Cook dinner, sit down with friends and family around the dinner table as mentioned above, and enjoy real food. Find life outside the pantry, the snack closet, the cookie jar, or whatever other food force enslaves you, and replace the time spent mindlessly snacking in front of the TV with a new movement based hobby, but find life inside of the kitchen to find new favorite healthy dinners.
Remove the myth around frozen veggies. Many people think that it is only good for you if it is fresh, but that isn’t always the case. Many vegetables are picked early and allowed to ripen so they are fresh in the grocery store. Frozen vegetables are picked at their peak and then flash frozen, making them just as good as fresh. Plus, they are often pre-chopped and really convenient for easy weekday meals. Watch out for mixes that contain any sort of dressing or added salt, and stay away from canned. But eating frozen veggies on weeknights for convenience is much better than eating frozen dinners or fast food!
Eat pasta in a 1:1 ratio. Joan is a NJ Italian, so she understands the “mangia” mentality about some beloved Italian American foods. Even if you aren’t Italian, who doesn’t love pasta?! The only problem is that it can be calorie dense without nutrient dense. Instead of eating 2 cups of cooked pasta (400 calories), eat a cup of pasta with a cup of cooked vegetables mixed in (250 calories). Same amount of volume, equally satiating, and an easy way to cut 150 calories from your meal. Similar to this idea, take some of the meat and cheese of your sandwich and replace it with veggies, and load up your omelets with veggies. Your stomach’s hunger signals respond to volume faster than calories, so be sure to satiate yourself with low-calorie, high-nutrient foods like fruits and veggies! Joan’s famous catch phrase: “They fill you up before they fill you out.”
Eat on smaller plates. Standard dinner plates used to be 8 inches. Now they are 12. Most of us are not gourmets and will not leave a large rim around the plate for decoration. Instead, we eat with our eyes and fill our plates. Then we clear them, remembering times at the dinner table when mom wouldn’t let us leave food behind. This can lead to up to a 500 calorie increase in dinner! If we use smaller plates, we eat less but feel equally as satisfied after clearing our plate. Even more, you should use the plate method, newly adopted to replace the outdated food pyramid. If you divided your plate down the center, half should be fruits and veggies. The other quarter should be lean protein, and the last quarter should be whole grains.
You gotta eat! A hungry person is a cranky person, and cranky people are far less likely to make healthy decisions. You need to eat 3 meals a day, but they should be smaller. In between meals, snack on whole fruits and veggies or small servings of air-popped popcorn. Look for things that are full of fiber but low in calories for snacks. Don’t let your day be a triangle, with all of your calories consumed at night. Space your meals pretty evenly throughout the day, and have protein at every meal to help you stay full longer!
Breakfast is always the hardest for me to incorporate protein into. It is pretty natural to add beans to my salad, have quinoa at dinner, and ensure that I get protein at other points of the day, but it is not always so easy first thing in the morning. Recently, I have been adding a tablespoonful of peanut butter to my oatmeal, and that really makes a difference in staying full until my lunch break. This breakfast burrito is another great way to stay full all morning. It kept me full for 5 hours while running around all morning setting up for my best friend’s rehearsal dinner (more on the wedding soon!) Eggs can get a bad rep with dieters because they are high in cholesterol. The bigger problem than eggs, however, is that with eggs usually comes gobs of cheese. To keep this breakfast full of flavor without all of the added cholesterol, I filled it up with veggies and spices! In this breakfast alone there is a full serving of veggies, whole grains and proteins, and you won’t miss the cheese at all.
Question: What is your favorite take-home point from Joan’s talk?
High Protein Breakfast Burrito
1 tbsp milk
3/4 cup black beans (half a can)
1/2 yellow squash
1/2 red pepper
2 whole wheat tortillas
2 tbsp salsa
1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Dice the red pepper and yellow squash. Coat a frying pan with cooking spray and saute the vegetables over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, until they are soft. Add the black beans and cumin. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Pour over the vegetables and scramble. When eggs are mostly cooked, add the salsa. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half into each tortilla, roll, and serve warm.
Hopefully I am in Bosnia by now! I am so excited to be reunited with great college friends, and am really looking forward to trying exciting new foods. This post is about smoothies… not exciting or new for most people, but they are for me! Enjoy :)
Another smoothie post! This is a huge step for me. I have been smoothie and milkshake adverse for years, mostly because of the liquid diets I had to adhere to after numerous surgeries in high school. My wonderful family always treated me to McDonald’s chocolate or homemade milkshakes after surgery, but soon I began to associate these frozen treats with pain and recovery. In an effort to let the past be the past, I have been trying out smoothies again! And I am loving them! Babysteppin’ to the elevator (What About Bob, anyone?) The other problem I have had with smoothies is when to eat them. I need to chew at breakfast, and so smoothies often leave me feeling unsatisfied, and yet they tend to be a little too much for a snack. Lately, I have found them as a great post-run treat! I usually have a piece of banana or a handful of raisins before heading out for a run, and am not as hungry as I should be after exercising. Smoothies hit the spot on these days! Below is one recipe made two ways – the same flavor, but one with a green kick. I have seen the concept of a green smoothie floating around some other blogs and was really curious to try it out. The sweetness of the fruit and honey hides the fact that you are getting a whole lotta green goodness from the 2 cups of spinach! Plus, the vitamin C in the strawberries and kiwi help you absorb the iron from the spinach – a one, two nutrition punch.
My sister is still not sold, so if you are in her camp, just leave the spinach out. The smoothie is still delicious and nutrient-packed. Even if you are suspicious, though, try out the greener smoothie. I promise you that it still tastes like an all-fruit smoothie!
Question: Are you a smoothie fan? What is your favorite flavor combo?
Strawberry Kiwi Smoothie
Adapted from GreenLiteBites
2 cups spinach (optional)
2/3 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 banana, frozen and broken into pieces
1/2 tbsp honey
3/4 cup water
Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until well combined and no chunks remain.
“Do you take a daily multi-vitamin?” This is a question that the doctor I am shadowing asks every one of his patients. It is also something my dad asks me on a daily basis, and my friends are forever curious about. There is a lot of controversy over this little supplement. Sure, it doesn’t do any harm to take vitamins since most of the excess is water-soluble and you’ll pee it out. (The caveats to this are the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K). However, is it really worth the money? If you aren’t getting it from your diet, then yes! Here is what my research has turned up:
- Most people get the appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals from eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. However, a lot of Americans do not fall into this category, and therefore should consider supplements. You veggie haters probably already know who you are…
- Children, teenagers and the elderly are most likely to be vitamin deficient due to poor diet, and therefore supplements are usually recommended.
- Women with heavy menstrual periods should consider taking vitamins to regulate their iron levels.
- Women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding definitely need vitamin and mineral supplements, regardless of diet balance.
- People with gastrointestinal absorption issues may need to take vitamins due to excessive mineral loss.
- Vegans need to take vitamin B12, since this necessary cofactor can only be found in animal products (poultry, meat, fish, milk, eggs).
As part of the Student Nutrition Awareness and Action Council (SNAAC), I have spent the past year learning more about nutrition and how to bring awareness and action to medical students, patients, and the community. One project that some of my classmates are working on is getting “SNAAC approved” items in the cafeteria, which currently boasts an impressively unhealthy selection of fried foods and oily entrees. This post is definitely SNAAC approved! A recipe for healthy, homemade salsa (see end of post) and a recap of an interesting documentary about nutrition and chronic disease!
There are some things I thought I would never be able to make from scratch, like pasta or sauce or ravioli. Some things you just have to buy from the store, right? Salsa also fell in the from-a-jar category in my mind as well. However, my friend Kat enlightened me during one of our girl’s nights, and I have been making fresh salsa ever since! It requires no equipment or know-how, and the recipe can be modified to suit your tastes. Plus, it is chock full of good-for-you veggies with a lot less sodium, making it an even better treat! Make it for your next party (I brought mine to our SNAAC end-of-year potluck) or make it and keep it in your fridge (should last about a week). You can add it to spice up rice and beans, black bean omelettes, veggie burgers – go crazy! Salsa is an easy and tasty way to add extra vegetables without even realizing it!
After our mini-potluck, some classmates and I headed to Kendall Square Cinema to see the documentary Forks Over Knives. The movie focused on the link between nutrition and chronic disease, and specifically advocated for a whole food, plant-based diet. I really enjoyed the movie, much more than I was expecting actually, despite not agreeing with all of their conclusions.
- I was impressed by the amount of science that was contained in the documentary – I felt like I was studying for histology or endocrinology at certain points! I was also impressed by the substantiative research that was presented, and the way that they tied this much information into a rather cohesive story line. Most of the featured research was from Dr. Campbell’s China Study, in which he partnered with a Chinese researcher with data from a nationwide study to look at variable diet factors and their correlation with cancer and chronic disease. This study found over 9,000 statistically significant correlations between nutrition and health outcomes – pretty impressive! They also featured Dr. Esselstyn’s clinical studies showing the survival of a small cohort of patients put on a plant-based diet after undergoing major bypass surgery and their ability to reverse some of their disease process with their diet. I am astounded by the health outcomes that people were able to achieve simply by committing to a changed diet. Patients were able to halt the progress or even reverse heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, and even breast cancer!
- The filmmakers were rather brilliant to choose the terminology of “plant-based diet” rather than “vegan”, since veganism tends to be stigmatizing and associated with animal rights. Because of their terminology, it allowed viewers to assess the health claims made and evaluate it apart from their associations with sad cows.
- With that being said, I did not agree with the extent to which the health claims of this diet were extrapolated. It seemed to propose that a plant-based diet is a cure-all for disease, a miracle therapy of sorts. Sure, it would be great if we could cure cancer, heart disease and diabetes just by eating more real food. I agree that it will lower the incidence of these epidemics, but, as my friend Joy pointed out, Africans (who traditionally eat mostly unprocessed plant foods) still have diseases despite all of this. Whether we like it or not, we will have to face mortality and disease is a fact of life. I still agree that we should do everything we can to prevent and help treat these diseases with as easy a fix as diet modifications, but this will never eradicate chronic disease.
- There was very little done to address the practicality of this diet for most Americans. Fruits and vegetables still remain inaccessible for many people (see my post about Whole Foods and food deserts for more thoughts.) And even if they are available at grocery stores, many people are bewildered at how to prepare them in a way that makes them taste good. Even more, a plant-based diet does take more time, effort, and money – it is undeniable. For working families who are already time crunched, this radical lifestyle change may seem inconceivable. It would be helpful to offer ideas of where to start first, and how to practically make steps towards this type of lifestyle, especially while trying to fit it into a busy schedule and tight budget.
- I also still am not convinced that you should never eat animal products. In one of the main studies presented, rats fed a diet of 20% animal protein were more likely to develop liver cancer, while rats fed a diet of 5% animal protein never developed this complication. That is strong evidence to show that animal proteins in high quantities are carcinogenic, but not that animal proteins (found in milk or eggs) should never be consumed. Plus, we may be able to get all of the essential amino acids we need from plants and grains, but animal proteins are the only source of vitamin B12 short of vitamin supplements.
Regardless, I thought the documentary was well-made and thought-provoking, and definitely reaffirmed my desire to eat a less processed and more plant-based diet. It is only playing in small theaters, but check your local theaters to see if it is playing near you. If not, definitely check it out when it is released on DVD. It will really make you evaluate how and why you eat the way you do!
If you want to read more on the health benefits of a plant-based diet, check out some of these links:
Question: Do you ever make meatless meals for you or your family? Do you know sources of protein that are not animal based?
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
3/4 green pepper, finely chopped
large pinch kosher salt
2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp cilantro, minced
2 jalapenos, minced (seeded for less heat or with seeds for extra spice)
Chop onions and garlic and combine in a bowl with olive oil. Let marinate while chopping the rest of the vegetables. Combine the rest of the ingredients and adjust seasoning to taste. Let stand in the fridge for a few hours before serving to let all flavors combine.
Breakfast just happens to be my favorite meal of the day (Exhibit A). As a kid, my friends would always laugh at me during sleepovers because the first words out of my mouth were always, “So, what are we having for breakfast?” Things still haven’t changed. I usually wake up starving… maybe it is my quick metabolism or my early-ish dinner time, but there is nothing better than a hearty, healthy breakfast. So many of my friends are not breakfast eaters, which just breaks my heart. Not only are there so many great breakfast foods, but it is also essential for weight management, focus, and good nutrition!
Skipping breakfast can make you feel more tired, perpetuating the morning haze that most people cure with coffee. Instead of grabbing that second or third or fourth cup, reach for some almonds, an apple, or a granola bar. This morning fuel will naturally rejuvenate your energy levels, and will help your focus and attentiveness without giving you the caffeine shakes.
Skipping breakfast can also lead to weight gain. This could be because your low blood sugar puts you in a bad mood, which makes you more likely to choose “comfort” foods at lunch. It also could be that you tend to eat more at lunch to compensate for your long fasting period, which is not good for the waist line either. Unfortunately, so many people skip breakfast as a dieting strategy, which is, as our beloved histology professor would say, shooting yourself in the foot.
As with all good sermons, my third and final point… breakfast is the best time to start out your day making health conscious decisions. Oatmeal, whole wheat toast, or whole grain cereals are a great way to get some healthy carbs and fiber into your diet. Milk, yogurt, and non-dairy alternatives are crucial to ensure you get calcium and vitamin A or D, and breakfast can often be the only place these treats make an appearance in an adult meal. Fruit is also a delicious addition to breakfast, whether it be mixed into oats or cereal or served whole on the side. We want to make sure we get those 5 a day!
Question: Are you a breakfast eater? What is your favorite breakfast? I am such a breakfast fan that it is impossible for me to choose. I tend to go through phases, and definitely have trouble having the same thing multiple days in a row. Oatmeal has been my go-to most mornings because the possible variations are endless, and it is so cheap! My breakfast in the picture above is a bowl of CCK’s voluminous oatmeal with frozen blueberries, walnut pieces and chia seeds mixed in. Antioxidants abound… yum!