Something to Chew On

A Guide to Eating Right and Living Well


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Clean Up Your Diet!

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It’s that time of year again to open up the windows and give the house a good scrub-down. This is also a perfect opportunity to clean out the cupboards and fridge and fill them with better choices for a healthier you this Spring! Here are a few good places to start with your cleaning:

  • Throw out the vegetable oil! A fellow dietitian of mine stated that vegetable oil should be renamed “inflammation oil”. Contrary to its name, there are no actual vegetables in this popular oil. It contains a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids, and when these occur in abundance in our diets, it can cause inflammation in the body. Vegetable oil is one of the main oils used in processed foods. Opt for olive oil with marinades and dressings and coconut oil for high temperature cooking.
  • Rid your fridge of low-fat and fat-free salad dressings and replace them with healthy vinaigrettes.
  • Canned vegetables may be economical since they have a long shelf-life, but many of the vegetables’ nutrients are lost in the canning process plus they now are packed with sodium. Clean your fridge and make room for high-nutritious, low-calorie vegetables such as: spinach, red bell peppers, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini and carrots.
  • Replace sugar-sweetened cereals with natural oats. You can dress up plain oatmeal by adding puree pumpkin and cinnamon, berries, peanut butter or apples and chopped nuts.
  • Purge those cabinets of pop-tarts, sugary granola bars and Little Debbie snacks and stock up on a variety of healthy snack options such as nuts, yogurt, raw veggies dipped in humus, hard-boiled eggs and fresh fruit.
  • Make sure you have small water bottles that can be packed for lunches instead of Capri Suns, Juicy Juice boxes or soda.
  • Swap flavored yogurt for plain Greek yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt contains less lactose, more protein and is not loaded with added sugars like the flavored varieties are.
  • Ready to take on a health challenge? Throw out your pasta noodles and begin purchasing spaghetti squash. Once cooked, the squash can be scooped out into perfect spaghetti threads. If you have a food spiralizer on hand, you can do the same with butternut squash and especially a great summer vegetable choice like zucchini!
  • Spring kicks off the start of many seasonal fruits and vegetables. During the spring and summer, produce tends to be cheaper and tastes better since its now in season. Be sure to head to your nearby Farmers Market to enjoy local seasonal produce!

 


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Veggie-lious!

vegetables_MP910221091We all know vegetables are part of a healthy diet. In fact, many of my patients admit that they need to eat more vegetables. But for some reason, the majority of Americans are still not meeting their recommended daily consumption of vegetables.

  • In the United States, it is recommended that adults should consume a minimum of 2-3 cups of vegetables each day.
  • Active adults should be consuming more than this.

I always tell my patients that non-starchy vegetables are like Mother Nature’s weight control pill. They’re low in carbs, low in calories and packed with vitamins and minerals. It’s a win-win-win situation. The fiber in vegetables often requires more chewing.This can help slow down your eating pace so your brain can register earlier when you are actually full. Fiber itself can also lead to higher satiety levels meaning you generally will stay full longer after consuming a fiber-rich meal. Vegetables also have a high water content. This is one of the main reasons why they are so low in calories.

  • One cup of cooked zucchini slices is a mere 30 calories!
  • One cup of cooked spaghetti noodles is over 200 calories.

They also increase the flavor of a dish whether you’re adding some sweetness from red bell peppers or a savory touch from mushrooms and garlic. Filling, delicious and low in calories-what more could you ask for?!?!

Fresh vegetables fallingTomatoes, potatoes and sweet corn are the top three vegetables consumed in the US.1 Unfortunately, white potatoes and corn are known as the starchy vegetables; they contain a higher amount of carbohydrates and calories and both have a high glycemic index. This makes them less-healthy vegetable choices, especially if one is diabetic. Another interesting fact is the form of these vegetables that are most commonly consumed. Canned tomatoes make up the largest portion of tomato consumption while frozen potatoes and corn are the forms that Americans most commonly devour. My guess is this is related to a high consumption of tomato sauce, pizza and French fries.

A recent European study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests that consuming 7 or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day reduces one’s risk of all-cause death (cancer, heart disease) at any point in time by 42%.2 Additionally, researchers found that fresh vegetables had the strongest positive effect with reducing overall risk of death. Fresh fruit also showed a positive effect; however it was much less than the risk reduction rate of fresh vegetables. Even though we really didn’t need a study to tell us that fruits and vegetables are healthy, this does support the concept that consuming more vegetables and fruits can help you live a longer, healthier life!

Make vegetables the priority of the meal-not the after-thought! Find out what counts as a serving size.

Also try to limit consumption of peas, corn and potatoes and focus more on dark green or bright red/orange vegetable varieties.

 

 

1.http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/detail.aspx?chartId=40452

2. http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2014/03/03/jech-2013-203500


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Keep calm, Eat Dairy Free

ranchy**Dairy Free Ranch Dressing

Since I have given up dairy, one of the hardest recipes that I have been trying to create is a solid ranch dressing. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the vinaigrettes, but there are certain salads (a buffalo chicken salad for example) that just needs a good ranch dressing to go with it. I tried dozens of recipes I found online that didn’t quite meet my expectations. Finally, I came across one from one of my favorite paleo website bloggers www.againstallgrain.com, I then amended the recipe to my satisfaction.

Even though I use healthy fats in the making of this recipe, one should still follow good portion control when using it and stick to a 2 tbsp serving size. This dressing is a multi-step process, but well worth it in the end if you’re looking for a dairy-free dressing variety.

For the Mayo:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • ½ tsp honey
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup walnut oil
  1. Place the first 6 ingredients in a food processor or small container and blend well with a hand mixer. It is important to have these well-mixed before adding the oil.
  2. With the blender/mixer on low, slowly add the oil, one drop at a time at first and then you can add a slow, steady stream. The goal is for your product to be a thick, mayonnaise consistency. You may add a little more oil, if desired for taste.

For the Dressing:

  • ½ cup mayo (from above)
  • ¼ cup coconut milk (from the can-stir contents in can well before adding to recipe)
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 ½ tsp dried dill
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  1. Put all ingredients in small food processor or in small bowl and use a hand mixer to blend all ingredients together. Refrigerate and serve.

** This is a higher-fat dressing, so it would best be served with non-starchy vegetables and a lean protein for a well-balanced meal.


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Get Eggy Wit It!

Eggs really are egg-traordinary!

Eggs are a wonderful source of vitamins, nutrients and high-quality protein. They are cheap, easily available and can be prepared in a countless number of ways. Unfortunately, eggs have been given a bad reputation due to their natural cholesterol and fat content, which is found specifically in the yolk of an egg.eggs-fe006757a870f68c0c9a48bf958044699860e7b7-s6-c30

“I can’t eat eggs. I have high cholesterol.” This is a statement I have heard many times. It has been long believed that in order to reduce one’s serum cholesterol levels, one should avoid foods that contain cholesterol , specifically the yolk of the egg. Many individuals choose to go with Egg Beaters or egg whites in efforts to consume the high quality protein but without the fat and cholesterol from the egg yolks. However, the yolk is also home to a variety of nutrients that are vital in our diet. Here are a few key points about this great protein source that may help you re-think how you prepare your eggs.

  • Choline: an essential nutrient that promotes cardiovascular and brain function and maintains the integrity or cell membranes. Choline is also a component of phosphotidylcholine and one of its uses is for treatment of high cholesterol. Yes, you read that correctly; a component of the egg yolk can actually help lower one’s cholesterol! Without adequate amounts of phosphotidylcholine, fat and cholesterol can accumulate in the liver.
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: These two antioxidants are key players in eye health. Many eye-health supplements include a concoction of lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fats; however, research suggests that the lutein found in eggs is absorbed more efficiently than when found in supplemental form. Lutein, which happens to be a carotenoid, is also better absorbed when consumed with a fat source (such as the fat found in the egg yolk). The same goes for all carotenoid sources such as sweet potatoes. This is why I always sauté my sweet potatoes in a small amount of coconut oil.
  • Vitamin B12: This nutrient is essential for blood and nerve health. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products; however there are some foods that are fortified with B12 such as cereals and non-dairy milk substitutes. This is why it is vital for individuals following a vegetarian diet to find a good Vitamin B12 source or take a supplement.blood_ISS_7525_00006

In efforts to reduce calories, many people (including myself) take out the yolks of the eggs or purchase products like Egg Beaters. With knowledge of the healthy benefits of the egg yolk, it would be best to include at least 1 whole egg in the recipe when making an egg dish (omelet, scrambled, hard boiled). Items like Egg Beaters are more processed and contain preservatives, food dye and added chemicals so in my opinion, it is much better to go with the natural product.

 

 


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I’m Coo-Coo for Coconut Oil!

 

imgresIsn’t it funny how you remember certain taglines for cereals, toys or even soap brands? The original line is the slogan for cocoa puffs cereal, “I’m cuckoo for cocoa puffs”. Just like Sonny the Cuckoo bird was obsessed with his sugar-sweetened cereal, I have found a new obsession…coconut oil.

For years, coconut oil has received a bad reputation in health, due to its high fat content, specifically its saturated fat content. Saturated fats are believed to be one of the contributing factors of heart disease; however, these studies typically are observing saturated fats from a multitude of different sources and typically as parts of unhealthy diet plans. One key difference here is that the saturated fat from a coconut is derived from a plant source. These fats are mostly composed of medium-chain fats known as MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) vs. other sources of saturated fats are derived from long-chain fatty acids.  MCTs are more easily digested and metabolized and also appear to be used more so for energy rather than fat storage.

Another important fact about coconut oil is that 50% of its fat is composed of lauric acid. Lauric acid has been studied for its benefits as an antiviral and antimicrobial agent. In the body, lauric acid works to help boost one’s immunity. Coconut oil is also documented as an antioxidant source.

Tips on Using Coconut Oil:

  •          It’s solid! Well, at room temperature, that is. Coconut oil will liquefy once heated to 76oF.
  •          Try to find an organic, unrefined, extra-virgin coconut oil when making your first purchase. Most grocery stores carry a few varieties to select.
  •          It’s great for high temperature cooking (high smoke point of 450oF). Use it for baking, roasting, sautéing!
  •          Remember saturated fat from coconut oil is far different from the saturated fat found in your Big Mac and fries.
  •          Be mindful of portion sizes. Even though coconut oil is raised up for all of its health benefits, one should still practice good portion control when consuming coconut oil and using it in recipes.
  •          While I have only been using coconut oil for cooking purposes, other sources suggest that it can be used for a multitude of uses such as a skin moisturizer, eye make-up remover or even as a dental health promoter.
  •          Try to avoid partially hydrogenated forms of coconut oil that can be commonly found in cereals, baked goods, biscuits and salty snack foods.
  •          Adding coconut oil into your diet will not magically make you 100% healthier. A healthy diet is based on whole, unprocessed foods and balanced in calories.


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Happy Blog-a-versary!

imagesIt’s been one year since we launched Something To Chew On! Thank you for continuing to stop by and read, comment, or share my blog posts!

What better way to celebrate than with cake, right? After all, we can have “everything in moderation.”  Before I get to my amazing gluten-free cake recipe, I want to address a few concerns regarding the definition of moderation. The whole “moderation rule” implies that you can eat anything you want, as long as you consume the less healthy foods “in moderation.” One big flaw with this statement is that everyone seems to have a different definition of what moderation actually is. For example, many think that moderation is having only a couple of chocolate candies every day instead of the entire bag. I’ll note that this is showing better portion control; however, this isn’t necessarily moderation. This is a habit. You have to look at the big picture,when analyzing your moderation skills. I’ve had patients state they only have cookies a couple of times per week, but they also had pancakes, ice cream, pizza, fast food burgers, chicken tenders “a couple times per week” as well. Try to limit unhealthy foods to no more than 2-3 times per week. This encompasses all unhealthy foods combined, not individuals foods as mentioned previously. This may be somewhat strict for some people, but it will really help open  your eyes to how much unhealthy food we are accustomed to consuming on a regular basis.

Another problem with this is that there are some really bad foods out there that we should try to limit as much as possible, such as sugar substitutes, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats and processed white grain products, to name a few.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a perfect diet, but I do practice good moderation with less-healthy food items. I do enjoy ordering French fries when I dine out; however, my husband and I only dine out about once a month. We both also love pizza, but typically only have pizza once every 2-3 months. We didn’t always practice this type of moderation; believe me, when you start eating clean, unprocessed home cooked meals on a regular basis, your body will feel on top of the world. When we go out for something that is unhealthy, I almost immediately feel bloated, sluggish and experience abdominal pains.

This is a gluten-free chocolate cake that I made for a celebration. Like all sweets, this is something that should only be enjoyed occasionally and good portion control should still be practiced. This is certainly not the healthiest recipe I have submitted, but if you have children that have celiac disease, then you know how hard it is to find a good gluten-free celebration recipe.chocolate_cake

Chocolate Gluten-Free Cake-Brownies

  • 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand is preferred)
  • 1 stick of butter (grass-fed is preferred)
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

1. Pre-heat oven to 375oF.

2. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and butter together. Heat for short intervals and stir together until melted.

3. Stir cocoa powder, honey, eggs and vanilla into melted chocolate and whisk together until smooth.

4. Pour mixture into a small baking dish (8″x8″),or smaller if you desire a thicker cake/brownie.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes (cooking longer will make the cake set more).

6. Remove from heat and set aside for cooling.

7. Enjoy a 2”x2” inch square with friends and family.


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Trying New Things With Chicken

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a chicken recipe. We’ve been eating chicken all right, but I’ve had a handful of recipe fails lately that did not make the cut to be featured on the blog. For weeks, I have been craving a solid honey mustard chicken recipe. It took me fives tries before I came out with this one, but that didn’t stop me from continuously trying to make the perfect chicken recipe. Whether your challenge is training for a ½ marathon, making strength gains at the gym or, like me, cooking new recipes… remember, taking on any new challenge can have its own set of triumphs and letdowns. It’s important to not let those set-backs get in the way of you achieving your goal and boy, am I glad I didn’t quit. My husband has already asked me to make this recipe again since finally nailing it! It’s quick, simple and can be served by itself or prepared in a salad.

Maple Honey Mustard Chicken

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  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • ½ cup Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup (not the generic syrup we’re most accustomed to)
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp of fresh rosemary or 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375oF. Lightly season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and lay in cooking dish.
  2. Meanwhile whisk together mustard, syrup and red wine vinegar. Pour mixture over chicken breasts and cook for 30-35 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle rosemary on top of cooked chicken and serve warm.


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Revisiting your New Year’s Goals

Previously, this year, I blogged about strategies to take your New Year’s resolutions and turn them into lifelong habits. Some of those strategies discussed included making SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound), grabbing a buddy to help you along the way, not giving up too soon on your goals and sharing your journey/achievements with others. Since I am a woman of keeping my word, I am revisiting and providing updates on my goals that I established for the year 2014.

Goal #1: Consume less diet soda.

This is incredibly embarrassing to admit, but I have had at least one diet soda every day for as long as I can remember (at least 10 years, eeek!). When I was in college, I could easily consume 4-5 diet sodas/day. Since then, I have cut back to one per day; but still was unhappy with my caffeine addiction and the fact that I was consuming chemicals and sugar substitutes as a beverage. It took a lot of courage and a lot of tries, but I finally did it! I went a whole day without having any caffeine or diet soda. I did have an 8-hour headache that tempted me all day long to go to the vending machine but my persistence and will-power overcame the temptation. The second day’s headache was much more bearable and after a few days, I was completely fine. Believe me, it has been hard but I feel so much cleaner and healthier knowing that I do not need to depend on caffeine every day and more importantly that I am no longer filling my body with chemicals from the diet soda. Giving up diet soda has been a goal I have made for several years. The fact that I knew I was going to be blogging about my journey additionally motivated me to stay on track!

Goal #2: Read more and watch less TV.

I started out really well with this goal, but like most people, after a month, I reverted back to my old nighttime TV-watching habits. I found myself saying “Oh I’ll read more this summer”, but then I realized I was only pushing back my goals with the thought “someday I’ll change.” It’s important to remember that someday is not a day during the week and to start making changes, you simply need to start them today.

Goal #3: Complete a muscle-up, body weight power clean and squat 185 lbs before the end of the year.

These are all part of my fitness goals at crossfit. In order to reach strength-related goals, it’s important to have proper programming and motivating coaches. This is one of the reasons why I love my crossfit box so much. For the month of January, I was very disciplined with eating clean, good sleeping habits and stretching both at the gym and at home. While I haven’t reached my goals with my power clean and squats, I am beyond ecstatic that I did get my first muscle-up at the end of January! Performing a muscle-up was something I really never thought I would achieve because it requires so much skill and upper body strength. Knowing now that anything is possible with hard work and dedication will help me continue to set high goals for myself.

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Spring is a perfect time to reflect on your own habits and see how well they are fitting into a healthy lifestyle. Maybe you started out on the right foot but then fell off track a bit. With Springfield Clinic’s Illinois Product’s Farmers Market starting back up and warmer weather, this is the perfect opportunity to revisit some of your old goals and make some new ones!

 


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Dietitian and Husband Approved!

img_3802If you’re like me and need a go-to recipe that’s quick, easy and doesn’t take many ingredients —then this one is for you! This recipe takes a healthy spin on a classic dish.It’s gluten-free and packed with tons of vegetable servings and lean protein.It’s perfect to make on Sunday afternoons and use as lunches for throughout the week  or enjoy it with a large group of people.

Baked Spaghetti Squash

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1-2 lbs of lean ground turkey
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
  • 1 cup of mushrooms, diced
  • 1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce (I used an organic garlic and herb tomato sauce)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp dried basil

1. Pre-heat oven to 425oF.Cut off one of the ends of the spaghetti squash. Lay the cut end down on cutting board and cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds and lay flat sides down on baking dish. Cook for 30-40 minutes until tender and squash threads easily with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3-5 minutes until onions become translucent. Add ground turkey and cook until no longer pink and internal temperature of 165oF is reached. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Drain excess liquid and set aside.

3. Once spaghetti squash is done, use a fork to scoop out the threads into a large casserole serving dish. Add turkey and onions, mushrooms, sauce and basil and mix evenly. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs together and then mix into spaghetti squash mixture. Stir until eggs are no longer visible.

4. Reduce oven to 350oF and cook mixture for 60-75 minutes or until top layer has slightly hardened over. Serve warm and enjoy!


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Green All Over!

20 Ways to Enjoy Something Green This St. Patty’s Day!

This St. Patrick’s Day try to add some healthy green into your diet!

Here are 20 ways to add something green on your plate and make a healthy choice.

1. Add spinach into a veggie omelet.

2. Scramble eggs and top with fresh salsa and diced avocado for a fiesta start to the day.

3. Throw some baby kale leaves into your favorite smoothie.

4. Swap sugar snap peas as a crunchy snack instead of chips.

imgres5. Order a side of steamed broccoli instead of fries with lunch.

6. Mix chopped green grapes and celery with grilled chicken, chopped almonds and some mayo for a fresh chicken salad.

7. Cut cucumbers, tomatoes and red onions and mix with 1 oz feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette for a light side dish.

8. Grab a jar of basil pesto and spread on 3 chicken breasts. Cook at 375oF for 30-35 minutes.

9. Add spinach leaves instead of regular lettuce to your salads or on sandwiches.

10. Top a bison burger with guacamole instead of cheese.

11. Roast asparagus in the oven or out on the grill. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

12. Make veggie kabobs with zucchini slices, mushrooms, onions and green peppers. Marinade in Italian dressing over night before grilling.

13. Sauté fresh green beans with onions, shallots, garlic with fresh lemon juice and garnish with lemon zest.

14. Top salads with marinated artichokes, green peppers, dried cranberries and diced avocado.

15. Make turkey stuffed green peppers.

celery-peanutbut_rgb16. Spread some peanut butter on celery for a healthy snack.

17. Make a fruit salad with cut up kiwi, green grapes, strawberries and pineapple.

18. Freeze green grapes and consume for a cold, sweet snack.

19. Slice a green apple and dip in almond butter.

20. Sauté sugar snap peas with carrots, zucchini and mushrooms for some delicious stir-fry veggies.

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