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.