Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stuff You Gotta Have in Your Kitchen

Tools are what set us apart from monkeys.  The right tools in your kitchen can set you apart from your former, fat self.

Here are a few must haves. I picked these because they promote eating more veggies, fresh foods, less salt, less oils and fats, and help you cook in healthier ways.

 With all the fruits and veggies you're eating, you need a way to wash them.  Beets fresh from farmers' markets will usually come with a little dirt (bonus!). Drop all your veggies into the colander and rinse for at least 20 seconds under warm (yep, warm) water.  Doing so will eliminate some of the microbes that are naturally living on the veggies and in the dirt.  Most of them can't hurt you, but you should still always wash.
In my opinion you need at least 2 types of colanders: One for salad greens that has some sort of spinning mechanism, and a basic stainless steel type. If you don't have a salad colander, you can always let your leaves dry on a paper towel. The stainless steel steamers can double duty as a steamer as well!

Vegetable Brush
It looks something like a nail brush. Gently scrub the outside of each piece while you're rinsing your veggies and fruits.  *You should definately do this to melons, oranges, etc.  Most of us thing that just because we're not eating the rind of these, you don't have to scrub them. To the contrary, cutting and peeling them exposes the inside fruit to the stuff that was on the outside. Just something to keep in mind.


Truly one of the best ways you can cook your vegetables is by steaming them.  I picked up mine a target for under $10 and it's the best thing ever!  Steaming saves flavor and nutrients that other cooking methods zap.  I like the kind that collapse down for storage and expand to sit on top of a pot of boiling water.


Microplane Grater
If your goal is to cut down on salt, try adding a bit of lemon peel or garlic to your dish.  Gently grate these on a microplane grater for tasty results!

Olive Oil Mister
 Two rewards in one handy tool. First, by misting your olive oil, you're likely to use much less of it. Although olive oil is considered a "good fat", there is still 21% of your daily allowance of fat in a single tablespoon. The other benefit is that, unlike PAM, these require zero propellants (usually alcohol and emulsifiers). Try misting your salad greens with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with coarse ground salt. You'll be surprised at how much flavor you're missing with heavy dressings.


A GOOD Chef's Knife
This one is directed at my dear mother-in-law, who refuses to keep a single sharp knife in her house :)
We regularly spend part of our Sundays chopping up snack veggies for the week. Hang on to those salad greens containers, btw, they are super for putting all your cut veggies in them!

I'm sure I've missed a few! Let me know what some of your favorite cooking gear is.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Most Nutritious Veggies

There are nearly 14 Thousand antioxidants in just a 1/2 cup of red beans.

The healthiest veggies are not only easy to find, but also easy to prep.

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potato skin contains high concentrations of folate, a nutrient that protects us against most cancers. The sweet potato is also loaded with beta-carotene, the essential ingredient our body needs to create vitamin A, which is used to manufacture skin and hair cells, plus aids immunity and eye health.

Yummy Sweet Potatoes
Toast a few raw walnuts with olive/peanut oil. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2" cubes and saute in olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper until they're fork tender. Toss with walnuts and top with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Brussels Sprouts
A cousin of the cabbage, Brussels Sprouts have 4 glucosinolate compounds that protect against cancer. They lower cholesterol and fight inflammation (the marker for heart disease and Alzheimer's disease).

Yummy Brussels Sprouts
Try a TRR favorite Roasted Brussels Sprouts w/ Cranberry Chutney

This dark, leafy green is super-concentrated with sulfur-antioxidants, which keep mental decline, heart disease and cancer at bay. Loaded with fiber, kale can help you stay trip and regular, plus optimize the absorption of vitamins and minerals into your bloodstream.

Yummy Kale
(coming soon... more recipes from TRR team members)
Steam the kale leaves until they're soft (~3 min), drizzle with olive oil, 3 oz. canned anchovies, juice of 1 lemon, salt and cracked pepper.

Onions have an interesting antibacterial property, meaning they're able to reduce/kill food borne illnesses like E. coli and hepatitis (these same properties are also found in chili peppers & cinnamon). Onions can also protect against heart disease by thinning blood, lowering blood pressure, and preventing artery plaque buildup.

Yummy Onions
Saute sliced onions in olive oil until they're translucent. They will make a great additive to Hobo Chili, Chicken in Simmered San Marzano Tomatoes, veggie omelets, and more!

Chili Peppers
Chilies get their heat from capsaicin, which is known to reduce inflammation and block the pain pathways much like aspirin and ibuprofen. As mentioned above, capsaicin also breaks down harmful microbes, plus breaks down carcinogenic preservatives and pesticides.

Yummy Chili Peppers
Ground chili peppers can spice up fruit, eggs, squash, anything. We love Penzy's chili powder as a salt alternative.

Pumpkin can lower some of the more deadly cancers (eg. lung). Truly a superfood, it can regrow pancreatic cells in diabetics! The seeds of this tasty gourd pack some serious muscle too: they contain the building blocks for serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitter).

Yummy Pumpkin
(coming soon... more TRR recipes)
Slice and roast (w/ skin) in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the skin and top with red pepper, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, or top with aged balsamic vinegar.

Beets are one of the best sources of betaine, a compound that the brain uses to form SAM-e (a natural antidepressant). Uridine is also found in the root veggie, which tells the brain to make phospholipid fats (really good fats). They also fight heart disease with B-vitamins.

Yummy Beets
Try our TRR recipe for Roasted Beets with Blue Cheese
Canned beets in a bit of white vinegar, topped with black pepper are also an amazing snack!

Red Beans
The winner of the highest antioxidant-containing vegetable out of 147 of the most commonly eaten vegetables (USDA tested).

Yummy Red Beans
Ever had red-bean hummus? Soak the beans over night (makes some of the nutrients available to the body). Simmer the beans in water until tender (~2 hours), then puree with olive oil, minced garlic, salt, fresh pepper, and some hot sauce.

Source: Men's Journal (Dec 2010 - Jan 2011) "The Most Nutritious Vegetables: A Guide to Preparing the Healthiest Plants Known to Science." pp. 104.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Health Habits Result in Health Costs Going Up or Down

Many of the risks we take day-to-day, such as smoking, overeating, being inactive, having a high blood pressure level, and etc., are associated with a much greater likelihood of future health conditions and increased health care costs. Certain behaviors can increase your health care costs significantly. Take action now to reduce your risks and give yourself the best chance for a longer and healthier life.

% Higher Health Costs Each Year

If you suffer from frequent bouts of depression 70%

If you have a high level of stress on a regular basis 46%

If you have a high blood sugar level 35%

If you are overweight 31%

If you regularly smoke cigarettes 20%

If you have high blood pressure 12%

If you don't exercise regularly 10%

All of these are true for you +225% increased cost

SOURCE: Goetzel RZ, Anderson DR, Whitmer RW, Ozminkowski RJ, Dunn RL, Wasserman J. (1998, October). The relationship between modifiable health risks and health care expenditures: An analysis of the multi-employer HERO health risk and cost database. Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine, 40(10):843-54.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Top 10 Diet Tips

Sometimes you just have to make a list... here are some of my favorite tips about nutrition:

1. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Spend less time around those who aren't
I can't overstate the importance of this one.

2. You've gotta have goals
I'm going to make a bold statement. Goal setting is the single most important thing you can do. period. Without a goal, you're bumping around aimlessly. This is bigger than nutrition, weightless, or diet. Setting a goal creates a benchmark for your success in any realm. Not only does a well-written goal tell you where you're going, how you plan to get there, but it should also tell you how far you've been.

3. Tell others your goals
Not only with this help with some accountability, but your friends can encourage you along the way.

4. Your home is your fortress
Sometimes you just gotta have an Oreo. But here's the deal, don't bring them into your house. If you've just gotta have them, go out and get the small snack size pack. Throw the Girl Scout cookies away, or if you just can't because you spent $27 on cookies, give them to someone who will keep you honest (see #1, #3)

5. Don't eat anything your grand-parents wouldn't recognize as food
Gogurt, Splenda, Stuffed Crust Pizza, Energy Drinks, Jalapeno Poppers, Pop Tarts, Chicken Nuggets, Fritos, Skittles, Fruit Roll-Up, Juice Box...
'Nuf said!

6. Don't eat anything you don't recognize as food (see #5)
I have a book on my shelf that is 1-1/2" thick, it's an encyclopedia of food additives. You wouldn't believe the things that are added to our food. Stuff to make it colored, stuffed to make it not separate on the shelf, stuff to make it last longer, taste sweeter, on and on. The way I see it is this: if it's created in a lab, chances are your body doesn't have any idea what to do with it. So one of two things can happen: 1) (best case) it just passes right thru you; 2) (worse case) it gets stored somewhere. Neither is acceptable.

Spend a little time on this site, and you'll see what I mean about food additives:

7. Eating out, Just Say NO
Easier said than done, I know. But if you at least try, you're more likely to eat out fewer times that you would without the goal. Remember, the "chef" who designed the recipe at your favorite restaurant is not interested in your health. S/he is cooking for flavors, textures, smells, appearance, and experience. The price is added lard for texture and richness, salt for enhanced flavor, and so on. So keep this in mind when you order.

8. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store
I call this the "Fresh U" most grocery stores are laid out so that all the fresh foods are kept along the perimeter of the store, because they have to be refrigerated. Here you'll find your friends broccoli, cauliflower, yogurt, lean meats, and eggs.

9. Shop from a list
So when you have to go down the long aisles that are outside the "fresh U", you only grab exactly what you need: coffee and tea, paper towels, oatmeal, nuts. And for the sake of Pete, don't go hungry!

10. Delete the word "Diet" from your vocabulary
"Diet" implies something that has a beginning and an end, and usually has something to do with losing weight - and fast. For a sustained weight loss, healthier lifestyle, and well-being, you're improving your nutrition. Focusing on the NUTRIENTS in your food. And this is a life-long process.

Friday, January 14, 2011

10 Great Sources of Iron

Here are the top 10 food sources of iron, according to the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It's worth noting that Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from food

Iron is essential for building healthy muscles and maintaining healthy blood.

It can be a challenge to get as much iron you need in a day. Knowing which foods contain the most amount of that nutrient can make the task easier. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iron is 18 mg for adult women, and 8 mg for men.

Surprise! Clams take the top prize for providing the most iron. Three ounces of the shellfish provide 23.8 mg of iron and 126 calories. Whether you like them raw on the half shell or cooked in your clam chowder, clams are also a surprising king of the superfoods: clams are also a top source of potassium and Vitamin B12. Clams are unlikely to be contaminated, and according to the Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector, the farming of the most common clams in the U.S. (northern quahogs) does little ecological damage.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

This includes cold and hot ready-to-eat cereals. The amount of iron you can get from cold cereals ranges from 1.8 to 21.1 mg of iron, but it's typically lower for hot cereals (4.9 to 8.1 mg), so check those labels. Ready-to-eat fortified cereals are also often a good source of calcium.

Three ounces of wild oysters contain 10.2 mg of iron and 116 calories. A true superfood, oysters are also a top source of Vitamin B12. Wild oysters can have high amounts of contaminants, and may be harvested using destructive methods, according to Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector, so stick with farmed Pacific or edible (a.k.a. European) oysters. Enjoy them on the half shell, or try these recipes:

Roasted Oysters with Shallots and Herbs
Oyster Chowder
Fresh Oysters with Champagne Vinaigrette 

Organ Meats
Animal bits such as liver and giblets offer between 5.2 and 9.9 mg of iron, and 134 and 235 calories per three ounces.

A half cup of cooked soybeans contains 4.4 mg of iron and 149 calories.Parents monitoring their children's health, as well as anyone concerned about intake of estrogen, should be aware that soy contains plant estrogens that may cause health problems in high doses. Add them to a salad or try one of these recipes:

Farm Stand Succotash
Edamame Lo Mein

Pumpkin Seeds
Just in time for the Halloween, an ounce of roasted pumpkin and squash seed kernels contain 4.2 mg of iron and 148 calories. Try these recipes:

Baked Acorn Squash with Red Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Stuffing
Pumpkin Seed Brittle

White Beans
White beans deliver 3.9 mg of iron and 153 calories per half cup. A true superfood, white beans are also a top source of potassium.

Creamy Italian White Bean Soup
Escarole and White Bean Soup
Quinoa Salad with Roasted Asparagus and White Beans
Easy Minestrone

Blackstrap Molasses


Answers to Your Health Questions from Trusted Sources

We've added a new feature to the TRR "Healthy Living" page. You'll find a search bar at the bottom of the Healthy Living page in which you can ask any health, sports, wellness, injury and nutrition question. The answers are provided by the site "ShareCare" which uses experts such as: American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Dr. Oz, Cleveland Clinic, Discovery Health, AARP, and more...
Please, give it a try!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Apples to Apples on Oatmeal

Today I was listening to the radio on my way home, and there was an advertisement for the latest addition to the McDonald's menu that sounded something like this: "Keep your New Year's Resolution with our Apple & Maple Oatmeal Breakfast"

Admittedly, I'm a critic of anything that comes from the Golden Arches. In fact, as a rule, I will not go there - not even for coffee. But I have to admit, after looking up the nutrition information on the McD's website, the oatmeal breakfast choice is not too bad:    - see page 6 for the Oatmeal

McOatmeal w/ Apples Topping w/o Brown Sugar (serving: 9.2oz)
Calories           290
Fat                  4.5g
Saturated Fat  1.5g
Cholesterol      10mg
Sodium            160mg

Homemade w/ Apples Topping (serving: 1/2 cup oatmeal + whole apple)
Calories           205
Fat                  3.2g
Saturated Fat   0.5g
Cholesterol      0mg
Sodium            591mg
  • My recipe includes:  1/2 cup Plain Oatmeal cooked on the stove, a whole (red) diced apple, and a dash of    salt.  Cinnamon would be optional, but would ADD NO NUTRITIONAL DOWNSIDE (calories, fat, sodium, etc)... but it does include antioxidants!

This comparison makes me ask a few questions. First, why the differences in Fat / Saturated Fat and Sodium.  Oatmeal by itself doesn't have a lot of flavor, hence the apples and a dash of salt. The salt is only there to bring out some flavor. Clearly (at least to me) McDonalds has used a fattier oatmeal (or perhaps an added hint of fat) for flavor... we'll never know! I also don't know if you get an entire apple in the McD's version - but with an entire apple, mine comes packed with 6.5g of fiber.

Now, all this criticism should come with a grain of salt. You can CERTAINLY make a better choice if you order the McDonald's Oatmeal over the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit (my old favorite!) which contains 420 calories, 23g of Fat (12g of which are Saturated) and 235mg of cholesterol (holy cow!)

My point here is this:  Listen and look critically at foods that are touted as "Healthy" and decide for yourself if it's true.