Monday, August 31, 2009

Southaven Farms!


Internet carbs are fabulous! Seriously, what did nutrition gurus (like myself) and diabetics DO before the internet?! My new carb craze: Southaven Farms mixes. Their products are all-natural, 100% whole grain, cholesterol-free, low-fat and unsweetened. Their website offers countless recipes for each of their mixes which include varieties such as: chocolate, whole grain, and ginger spice -- the 3 I opted to try first. Order several at a time, however...shipping can be steep as with anything over the internet.

Tonight I made
banana nut muffins using the ginger spice mix. The recipe was as follows:
3 eggs
1 3/4 c. Splenda granular
1 1/4 c. skim milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Ginger Spice Southaven Farms mix
2 bananas, sliced
1/2 c. walnuts (I used pecans)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly spray cupcake tin. Fill 3/4ths full. Bake 13-17 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes and enjoy! Yummm!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

PureVia vs. Truvia

Good morning! Husband is sick in bed -- I think I might've brought something home from work on Friday. Though, I am currently asymptomatic. Good thing with back-to-back hockey games this evening. On an unrelated note, let me re-visit stevia-based sweeteners: Truvia and PureVia.

If you read yesterday's blog, I deemed Truvia #1 to my taste-buds. Someone helpfully pointed out that they're made from the same plant -- the stevia plant. Stevia is native to Paraguay and Peru (depending on which source you reference). It is approximately 30 times sweeter than natural sugar, and is calorie free! Stevia-based sweeteners were approved for use by the FDA in December of 2008. Though they are 2-3x more expensive than saccharin (Sweet'n Low), aspartame (Equal) and sucralose (Splenda), they are gaining popularity quickly. "Truvia" is Coke's version of the stevia-based sweetener, while "PureVia" is Pepsi's version [1].

Both Truvia and PureVia are calorie-free, kosher products. One packet of commercially sold Truvia equates to the sweetness of 2 teaspoons of sugar. On the Truvia website there is a Q&A section and one of the questions is: What makes Truvia natural sweetener better than other stevia-based sweeteners? So, the research goes on [1].

The stevia plant has over 200 varieties. The quality of the "sweetness" depends on the extracted sweet compound that the leaves yield [2]. To me this reads "some parts of the plant are sweeter than others." We move on to PureVia's site where they give away the answer.

The sweeteners are made from Reb A (or Rebiana) -- the SWEETEST part of the plant. PureVia is ethanol-purified and the Reb A is blended with other "natural ingredients" for flavor. The bulking agents in PureVia include erythritol and isomaltulose [3]. Truvia does not purify with ethanol, according to what I've found thus far. Truvia also mentions no use of isomaltulose as a bulking agent [4]. Erythritol sounds bad, but it is a natural sweetener. It's found in fruits such as grapes and pears and is extracted naturally [4].

So in a nut shell, the stevia plant's sweetness varies a lot. Though both products are derived from the Reb A portion of the plant, the bulking agents and proportions of stevia vary...creating a different taste. There ya have it. Is there ANYTHING more anyone could ever want to know about stevia? : )

Last night I used some of my new calorie-containing sweeteners and made crock pot oatmeal. It was delicious. I threw into my crock pot:

2 cups of old fashioned oats
6 cups water
3 Tbsp cinnamon (I like a lot!)
2 Tbsp turbinado
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1/3 cup dates, diced

Cook on low 8-9 hours and enjoy! It was creamy and delicious! It needed no more sugar and has leftovers ready for 3 breakfasts this week! If you think I'm crock pot obsessed, you are correct!

On a completely unrelated more football-less Saturdays! It should be a good year for the Fighting Illini (#25) and Oklahoma Sooners (#2). The two teams play back-to-back next weekend on ESPN and I couldn't be more excited! I'm saving my first hoodie reveal for Saturday. Crock pot vegetarian chili will be involved, as well. What college football team are you a #1 fan of?

Lily and I are off to the dog park...have a wonderful day!

[1]. McCay, Betsy.
FDA Clears Use of Herb as Sweetener. The Wall Street Journal. December 18, 2008.
[2]. Stevia-based Sweetener Truvia Gets FDA Nod. Stevia Cafe.
[3]. PureVia website.
[4]. Truvia website.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Which sweet for me?

THANK YOU readers for all of your sugar insight! Turns out the real deal is taking a back seat to all that's out there. Between Splenda, Truvia, PureVia, turbinado, agave, etc...I do wonder how much granular sugar sales have been affected.

Anyways, while my husband (who still won't read my blog...) was napping...I went grocery shopping. While I typically avoid the grocery store like the PLAGUE on Saturday afternoons, I was interested in picking up some of your suggested sugar "substitutes" (be them calorie-free or not). So, here's what I ended up with: PureVia, Truvia, agave nectar, and turbinado -- all per your recommendations! And here's my cart:

I also picked up dates based of Gina's recommendation. I'm hoping to make some old fashioned crock pot oatmeal with the dates. Also in there was ingredients for my taste test #2 at work this week with my co-workers. I digress...

When I got home, I figured "Why not try them all and compare!?" So I did. And I took notes.

The contestants...

The set-up

The results!

Here's what I came up with...

1. Truvia: silky texture, heavier than Splenda; slightly bitter at first; granular - not powdery, if melted on tongue...tastes like room temperature vanilla ice cream : )
2. turbinado: large, sweet granules; less bold than brown sugar; maple-y
3. agave nectar: prune/date flavored; medium viscosity syrup; no after-taste
4. PureVia: sweeter and more bitter than Truvia; similar in flavor to Sweet'n Low; bitterness subsides

I have to confess that as I was leaving the store with all my new, healthy sugar alternatives...Sonic (which SHARES the parking lot with the grocery store, in my defense!) was having Happy Hour -- half-priced fountain drinks and limeades for those of you up north. Sooooooo I might' a diet cherry limeade. While I know I won't ever be fully aspartame-free, I do think it's important to decrease the bad and increase the good in our lives. And for me, that includes diet cherry limeade. I HAVE, however, abstained from diet soda for over 3 weeks! This is huge for me...even though my habit was never more than 12 ounces a day, on average.

Have a wonderful rest of your weekend and enjoy the last football-less Saturday of the year! WOOT!

Sugar Substitute Saviors

Diet analysis performed on over 300 individuals shows sugar substitutes to be a useful strategy for those looking to lose weight and/or maintain weight loss. Those included in the study also used fat intake reduction, sugar-modified foods, reduced consumption of high-calorie beverages, and an increased use of artificial sweeteners. The results of this study, published in the International Journal of Obesity report that overall, consumption of sugar-free beverages sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners increases dietary restraint – a key aspect of successful weight maintenance [1].
This study compliments the findings of a 2002 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which found that those consuming sugar substitutes had significantly greater weight loss compared to non-users. To be noted is the intended use of artificial sweeteners. When used as a weight-loss tool along with portion control and exercise, sugar substitutes aid in overall calorie reduction, resulting in weight-loss [1].
In the US, more than 194 million consume low and reduced-calorie foods and beverages according to the Calorie Control Council’s most recent consumer survey. This number is expected to rise as more consumers learn that a reduced calorie intake produces weight loss and weight maintenance [1].
While the survey does not specify WHICH artificial sweeteners consumers used, I pose to you: what artificial sweeteners / sugar substitutes do YOU use? Why is this product your top pick?
I am an avid Splenda-user, but feel I should branch out to using more agave, maple, and other commercially-prepared products such as Truvia and Stevia. Tell me about them! As a general rule of thumb I tell patients that you should never opt to drink your calories. I would personally recommend a diet soda over a regular sugar due to the calories and the need for most Americans to lose or maintain their current weight. Do you agree or disagree with this?

Do YOU drink diet soda? Crystal Light? Diet teas, Snapple, etc.? Why or why not?
[1]. Hubrich, Beth. Consumption of Sugar Substitutes Assists in Longterm Weight Control. Medical News Today. August 25, 2009.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Detox diets are baaack!

I dunno, I guess I don’t get this diet trend. My colon, clean or not, is doing just fine…thanks. And yet, since ancient times, people have followed colon-cleansing and “detoxifying” diets to lose weight and/or gain health. According to Andrea Giancoli, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, “These types of detox diets really aren’t necessary, and there really isn’t any scientific basis behind them to prove any kind of necessity.” – Phew! She goes on to explain, “In a healthy individual, we already have several detoxing mechanisms in place that are fantastic: Our liver, our kidneys, our digestive system, our lungs, etc., are our natural detoxifiers, so we don’t really need a so-called detox diet" [1].
Dr. Julie Temes Ellisa, an internist with Associates in Internal Medicine in Louisville agrees. While bowel regularity is extremely important, there are ways to alter the diet to achieve desired results. Adding more fiber and drinking more water come to mind (duh) [1].

As for weight loss, don't let Beyonce be your guide. After following a cleansing diet consisting of fresh lemon juice, organic maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water, the star boasts a 20-pound weight-loss. Just like the infamous "grapefruit diet" and "cabbage soup diet" -- one will lose weight. That weight-loss, however, is only sustained if a normal intake is not re-initiated [1].

If not for weight loss, many seek colon-cleansing and detoxification to rid of gut bacteria. McClave explains that gut bacteria are important and beneficial for optimal health. He explains that without helpful gut bacteria, bad bacteria such as pseudomonas can cause illness. For those that believe colon-cleansing regimens to rid of stored alcohol and caffeine, do your research. Caffeine nor alcohol are stored in the body so there's no need to "rid" of them [1].
And if you're thinking, "I'll give it a shot, what's the worst that can happen?" -- keep reading. Bowel-cleansing can result in electrolyte imbalance and put people at risk for cardiac dysrhythmias, muscle cramping, and dehydration. Further, many of these detox diets are very low-calorie diets (~600-800 calories/day) which can result in not only macronutrient deficiency, but micronutrient deficiency. Therefore, medical supervision is required when undertaking such regimens [1].
The DL on "MODERATE" Fasting.
There is researching showing that intermittent or moderate fasting (i.e. 1 day per week) can be beneficial. How? The body's hunger cycle can be adjusted, the body can be made to be more insulin sensitive, and there can be an overall disease risk reduction.
But of course, if you're serious about healthy living and weight loss/weight management, steer in the direction of balanced eating, portion control, and increasing exercise. Consumers should always be skeptical of regimens promising rapid results or easy weight loss. A safe weight loss is approximately 1 to 2 pounds per week.

Always remember, "If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is." - My Mama
Side note: I guess I need to get over myself, huh!? ;) Or is the quiz broken and you all really think he's a jerk to be traded in? ; ) Happy Friday, all!

[1]. Carter, Darla. Coming Clean: Detox Diets Are Back. Courier Journal. August 21, 2009.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do you know Hungry Girl? Do you do Vitas?

I’m hungry, yes…but not me. THE Hungry Girl.
If you aren’t signed up to receive daily email newsletters from HG, you ought to. Back in the day when I went from "unhealthy" to "more healthy" (to put it nicely), I guiltless-ly indulged in VitaMuffins and VitaTops. They have thus slipped my mind and out of my pantry's arsenal of healthy options...until now, thanks to Hungry Girl who advertises them regularly on her site. While I fully agree that I've gone slighly carb-crazy this week between No Pudge Fudge and now VitaMuffins and Tops...I all but apologize. Who doesn't need more guilt-free chocolate products in their lives?! That's what I thought. Go carb crazy here -- and don't feel an ounce of guilt over it! VitaMuffins and VitaTops offer lots of great varieties and flavors, and you can't go wrong. I haven't had anything I wouldn't walk a mile for! Plus, for 100 calories, lots of fiber, and minimal assured, you're choosing a great treat!

And I couldn't stop at just ONE box of I got 2! They were on sale buy 1 get 1 free!

And here's the contents...yumm!
And also from Hungry Girl, here’s a recipe I think I must try off her Tuesday emailing.
HG’s Boneless Wings
4 oz. raw boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 8 nuggets
2 Tbsp fat-free liquid egg substitute
2 Tbsp whole-wheat flour
2 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and/or spray with nonstick spray.
Place chicken in a bowl, cover with egg substitute, and toss to coat. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and black pepper. Mix well. One at a time, transfer chicken nuggets to the flour bowl, giving them a shake first to remove excess egg substitute – coat completely with flour, and then transfer to baking sheet.
Bake in the over for about 16 minutes, flipping halfway through, until chicken is fully cooked. Remove from the over and set aside.
Combine chili sauce, vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and mix well. Add chicken and toss to coat. Gobble up!
Makes 1 serving.
Per serving: 267 calories, 1.5 g. fat, 775 mg sodium, 30 g. carbohydrate, 2 g. fiber, 15 g. sugar, 31 g. protein
…Compared to Wendy’s boneless wings (8 nuggets): 550 calories, 18 g. fat, 2,530 mg sodium, 67 g. carbohydrate, 3 g. fiber, 27 g. sugars, 31 g. protein
For other great tips, food finds, and recipes visit Hungry Girl at!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fat cells for life

If an overweight individual loses weight, do you think they lose their chubby fat cells? If you thought “yep”…think again.
(This is a big “aha!” moment for most people.)
The number of fat cells you acquire by your late teens/early 20’s are yours for life. When you lose weight, those cells do shrink in size, but they never go away. THIS is why maintaining weight after weight loss is so incredibly difficult – you’re predisposed to gaining it back. Literally. This is also why childhood obesity is a risk factor for adulthood obesity [1].
Think bariatric surgery can take some of those cells away for you? Not according to a study performed by Bruce Buchholz at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
For reasons as such, prevention is being shifted to childhood-aged population [1] – childhoods build lasting blueprints of what’s to come for our weight, health, and ultimately, our happiness.
On a lighter note, I got asked at work today to contribute to tomorrow's bake sale. With a hockey game this evening, I was short on time. I stopped on my way home, all sweat and picked up break and bake chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies... and of course: NO PUDGE BROWNIES! Mint AND raspberry. I taste tested just a bit and they are delicious!!! If you haven't tried these fat free're missing out! They can be found in the baking aisle right next to their full-fat counterparts. The best part: you just add yogurt, mix, and bake. Does it get any easier than that? Try'em out!
[1]. Mahan, Rachel. Trying To Get Rid of Chubby Cells? Fat Chance. MSNBC. May 30, 2009.

Omega-3 Show-Down!

Know that omega-3’s are good for you…but that’s about it? Bruce Watkins, Purdue University professor of nutrition and director of the International Omega-3 Learning and Education Consortium for Health and Medicine helped in developing a website devoted to teaching consumers about types of omega-3’s, benefits of omega-3’s, and where to find them in the diet. They created this site in the process. The site answers basic questions about omega-3 fatty acids. Also included for doctors, medical providers, and veterinarians is a fact sheet and patient handout [1] – check it out!

Additionally, the site includes a database of foods containing omega-3’s as well as the amounts. I know Gina and I have a discussion back about the feasibility of consuming adequate omega-3’s for cardio-protective benefits through the diet alone. There is also a chart showing how much and what types of omega-3’s men and women of varying ages and with differing health histories should consume [1]. Sign-up to receive their monthly newsletter, too! Jackpot!

Omega-3’s for asthma? Heart disease? Cancer? Maternal Health? Cognitive function? Transplantation? Mental health? Eye health? Diabetes? Go here!

The run-down (per 100 grams/~3.5 ounces):
Highest overall omega-3 content (fresh fish) = salmon, Atlantic, farm-raised (2507 mg omega-3’s)
Highest ALA content (fresh fish) = salmon, wild (295 mg ALA)
Highest EPA content (fresh fish) = salmon, Atlantic, farm-raised (862 mg EPA)
Highest DHA content (fresh fish) = salmon, wild (1115 mg DHA)

Okay…salmon takes the cake for the fresh fish. Other great options include: swordfish, trout, tuna (bluefin), whitefish, halibut, catfish, and anchovies.
Highest overall omega-3 content (shellfish) = shrimp (540-601 mg omega-3’s)
Highest ALA content (shellfish) = crayfish, wild (32 mg ALA)
Highest EPA content (shellfish) = shrimp (293 mg EPA)
Highest DHA content (shellfish) = squid (342 mg DHA)
So, shrimp are a GREAT option for omega-3's. Other shellfish sources of omega-3’s include: blue crab, Dungeness crab, queen crab, spiny lobster, mussels (yum!), and scallops!
And FYI: canola oil and flaxseed oil contain omega-3’s! Per 100 grams there are 9137 mg omega-3’s in canola oil and 53,300 mg omega-3’s in FLAXSEED OIL! I must ask, who knew that canola and flaxseed oils had so many omega-3’s!? You can boast your intelligence, it’s alright!
What do YOU need?
- If you have no documented coronary heart disease, eat a variety of fish at least twice a week. Try to focus on fattier fish such as salmon. Use other products such as flaxseed and canola oil, as well as flaxseeds and walnuts.
- If you HAVE documented coronary heart disease, consume about 1 gram of EPA + DHA per day, preferably from fatty fish. Supplementation may be recommended by a physician.
- If you have elevated triglycerides, take 2-4 grams of EPA+DHA per day through a supplement provided under a physician’s care.
As always, purchase and use supplements with caution. Supplements are not FDA-regulated and are not tested for purity or potency.
All the nutrition facts are provided by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21.
[1]. New Web Site Aims To Deepen Public Knowledge of Omega-3s. Purdue University. August 21, 2009.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Diabetes + Vegan

It was news to me that positive results from vegan diets are being seen among the diabetic populations. For those that aren’t familiar with veganism, it is a diet and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Therefore, vegans consume no animals or animal products including eggs and milk.

Traditionally, the cornerstone of type 2 diabetes treatment is diet, as many type 2’s do not require oral hypoglycemic agents or the use of insulin. Diet modifications include the use of portion control through measuring foods and counting carbohydrates which fuel blood glucose so readily, and thus, are of particular interest. A new approach to diabetic diets includes the adopted lifestyle of veganism which evolved from a comparison of world populations. People whose diets consist of plant-derived foods such as rice, noodles, beans, and vegetables were less likely to develop diabetes when compared with a traditional Western diet which is high in meatier, fattier dishes [1]. Likewise, when Easterners (i.e. Japanese) move to and adopt the Western diet, their relative risk of diabetes goes up.
Studies show that the adoption of a low-fat, plant-derived diet improves insulin sensitivity, helps with weight loss, and reduces both blood sugar and blood cholesterol. Specifically, such diets are extremely low (many times void) of saturated fat which is traditionally found in meat, dairy, and tropical oils (coconut, palm, and kernel). In order to effectively remove fat from the diet, one much reduce consumption of animal fats and also reduce the use of vegetable oils [1].
In order to eat in accordance with this recommended regimen one must [1]:
- avoid red meat
- avoid poultry and fish
- avoid dairy
- avoid eggs
- avoid added vegetable oils and other high-fat foods
- avoid fried foods
- avoid avocados, olives, and peanut butter
Next, glycemic index is addressed. The glycemic index is a number identifying foods which increase blood glucose rapidly. High glycemic foods include: sugar, white potatoes, most wheat flour products, and most cold cereals. Good news: pasta is actually a low glycemic index food because of the way it’s processed!
High fiber foods are encouraged and the recommended daily intake for fiber is 40 grams. Recommended sources of fiber include beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (barley, oats, quinoa, millet, whole wheat pasta, etc.). On labels, aim for foods containing at least 3 grams of fiber and for meals containing at least 10 grams of fiber [1].
And this is new to me….VOLUMETRICS. If the grams in a portion are greater than the number of calories in the portion, it is said to be a “heavier” food which is low in calories. Such foods can increase satiety and decrease overall caloric intake. This concept was developed by Barbara Rolls, a researcher at Penn State University. Foods that are volumetric-friendly include: soups, salads, and foods cooked in water (i.e. oatmeal) [1].
Worried about protein?
Plant foods contain protein. According to this research, post-menopausal women require 10% of their calories from protein. Most vegetables contain this amount or more. Beans, lentils, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and mushrooms are high in protein.
Worried about calcium?
Plant-based diets actually reduce one’s calcium requirements. A vegan diet requires less calcium intake to maintain calcium balance. Good sources of calcium include: broccoli, kale, collards, mustard greens, beans, figs, fortified orange juice, fortified cereal, and fortified, nonfat soy or rice milks.
Worried about B12?
B12, traditionally found in meat, can become depleted in those following vegetarian and vegan diets for longer than 3 years. A B12 supplement of 5 mcg per day is recommended. Most commonly found multi-vitamin supplements will provide this amount.
Show me the RESEARCH!
So, can a vegan diet REVERSE type 2 diabetes? Prior to the below mentioned study, no vegan diet study using a comparison group had been performed. A grant provided to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine by the Diabetes Action and Research Education Foundation allowed the control-case research to be completed. A high-fiber, low-fat, vegan diet was compared to the standard American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet (think “carb counting”). Non-insulin dependent diabetic (type 2’s) were invited to follow one of the two diets for three months. Caterers prepared take-home lunches and dinners so the food could easily be heated and consumed in the home [2].
The vegan meals contained 10% fat, 60-70 grams of fiber, 80% complex carbohydrates, and no cholesterol. The ADA diet contained 30% fat, 50% carbohydrate, 30 grams of fiber, and 200 milligrams of cholesterol per day [2].
The results showed that the vegan group decreased their fasting sugars by 59% when compared with the ADA group. The vegan group also required less diabetic medication than prior to the start of the study while the ADA group required the same dosing. Likewise, the ADA group lost 8 lbs and the vegan group lost 16 lbs [2].
[1]. The Vegan Diet How-To Guide. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
[2]. Nicholson, Andrew. Diabetes: Can a Vegan Diet Reverse Diabetes? Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. February 15, 2005.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Buffets aren’t good for doggies

Lily visited her sister this weekend, it was a blast. Our little bundle of joy weighs in at 23lbs at 18 weeks of age…a moderate number when compared to her sister of 28lbs. Only 5lbs difference, right? Really, though, that would be an added 22% of body weight packed on our wrinkle butt. The difference is that Tammy Faye, Lily’s sister, has her food left out 24/7 while we feed Lily the recommended 1 ½-2 cups each day. And let’s be honest, it’s more like 2 cups…always.

When the puppies were playing, Lily was always in charge. Bigger isn’t better even in puppy play. Additionally, Lily gets 3 walks a day most days of the week. Nothing long and excessive in the Oklahoma heat, but she’s active none-the-less. She’s got quite the bull baby physique and it’s helping Mark and I get out and walk more, as well. Remember that article I reviewed a few weeks back about dog ownership increasing activity? It’s definitely true…plus it’s given me the opportunity to meet a lot of our neighbors! Go figure! Anyone else a dog owner and find their activity heightened due to their fur baby?

Admittedly, she’s still a piglet. When we arrived yesterday for the play date, Lily proceeded to inhale both bowls of food left out for her sister and mom. So much for a dainty appetite – psh.

Tonight at our household was chicken fajitas! Yumm! Look at those delicious, colorful bell peppers!

And my favorite ingredient...ONION!

Delicious! We went sans the tortillas because 1) we didn't have them, 2) I didn't want to stop to get any (grocery store at 5pm...I'll pass), and 3) you just don't need them! Salsa and light sour cream go great!

Whipped out the crock pot!

Oklahoma has had some cool(ish) weather lately...leading me to believe summer is ending and the season of football and crock pots is on it's way in. I love fall! So in light of all that excitement, I whipped out the ole crock pot last night for it's first use of the season (and in Oklahoma). The delight: Cheesy Artichoke Chicken and Pasta. While I cannot credit this as a "new" recipe we're trying, it's been a long time. Last time, I made it in Chicago for Kristen...who gave it a big thumbs up. Mark and I give it a big thumbs up, as well. Super easy, SUPER cheesy. Enjoy!

Crock pot has been cookin' away on low for 6 hours. Boiling whole wheat egg noodles now...

There's the cheesy deliciousness

Italian wine ready to go : )

Add 4 cups of hot cooked pasta and stir.


Cheesy Artichoke Chicken and Pasta

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts -- cubed (1 to 1 1/2)
4 oz roasted red peppers -- chopped (4 to 6)
15 ounces artichoke hearts -- quartered
8 oz fat-free American cheese
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 can 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
2 cups fat-free shredded cheddar cheese
4 cups hot cooked pasta (I used whole wheat egg noodles)
to taste salt and pepper

In a 3 1/2-quart or larger crock pot combine chicken, peppers, artichokes, American cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and soup in the crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. About 15 minutes before serving, add shredded Cheddar cheese and hot cooked pasta. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serves 5.
Per Serving*: 479 Calories; 2g Fat; 48g Protein; 67g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 51mg
Cholesterol; 809mg Sodium.

*Nutrition Facts not verified.

Leftovers today for lunch : ) Have a wonderful day!

P.S. We won both our hockey games yesterday - woot!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Exercise won't make you thin.

I can recall sitting in an undergrad nutrition class (who I believe was taught by the yummiest of professors) and having it explained how much more effective controlling diet for weight loss was than increasing exercise alone. Because really, weight loss is just simple math. To lose one pound, you need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories which can be done through the diet, exercise, or ideally, a combination of the two. With exercise alone, an average-sized adult owes the gym 35 hours of moderate-to-intense exercise, or approximately 35 miles of walking/running. Now that's not exact science, but it gets the point across: exercise alone will probably lead to osteoarthritis before it gets you to your weight loss goal (half jokingly). Needless to say, that yummy professor solidified my thoughts on proper nutrition -- it's important stuff, especially in regards to weight loss.

TIME put out this article on August 9th explaining why exercise won't make you thin. In addition to the information above, the article explains that some believe exercise to increase their appetite, causing them to eat more and negate the work of their exercise. Some exercisers just make poor decisions because they exercise, likely overestimating the calories they expend during exercise [1].

The article states that there are more than 45 million Americans who belong to a gym, up from 23 million in 1993. Of course, that doesn't mean that people actually GO to the gym (unfortunately a membership alone does not qualify you as physically active). A study performed by the Minnesota Heart Survey found that more people say they exercise than the number who actually do. The 20-year survey found that the number of individuals saying they exercise rose from 47% in 1980 to 57% in 2000 [1].

Until recently, exercise was deemed an integral part of weight loss, when in fact, its role is largely over-stated. Exercise does, however, play an essential role in fighting chronic disease and in particular, heart well as cancer and diabetes [1]. So it's not to say exercise isn't hugely important...just maybe not so for weight-loss endeavors.

A recent study lead by Dr. Timothy Church randomized 464 overweight, sedentary women into 4 groups. The groups were asked to workout with a trainer for 72 minutes, 136 minutes, and 194 minutes per week for six months, with the last group being a control group. The women were asked to change nothing diet-related and to fill out monthly medical-symptom questionnaires. The results? On average, all the women lost weight. The three groups meeting with the trainer for varying lengths of time did not lose significantly more weight than the control group, however. Some women in each of the four groups actually gained weight -- some more than 10 lbs! What happened? Some of the exercising women ate more because the worked out. Some "rewarded" hard work at the gym with an extra treat. Some moved less when they got home because they worked out [1].

Current 2007 recommendations for exercise put out by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association include 60 to 90 minutes most days of the week for weight loss. That's quite a lot for the average Joe [1].

A quote from the article:
"According to calculations published in the journal Obesity Research by a Columbia University team in 2001, a pound of muscle burns approximately six calories a day in a resting body, compared with the two calories that a pound of fat burns. Which means that after you work out hard enough to convert, say, 10 lb. of fat to muscle — a major achievement — you would be able to eat only an extra 40 calories per day, about the amount in a teaspoon of butter, before beginning to gain weight. Good luck with that."

So today during my TWO hockey games (makes me tired just thinking about it!), I will opt for water in place of my G2 (Gatorade's low-sugar option). While even I was thinking, "It's just 100 calories...I'm burning WAY more than that"...I am reminded of otherwise. Thanks,

[1]. Cloud, John. Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin. TIME. August 9, 2009.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nutrition Hodgepodge

It's been a busy week. I attended a Conversation MAPS training by Merck for diabetes education on Tuesday night. I got my own set of 5 maps and I'm going to start facilitating sessions next month with my patients. These maps are AWESOME! Check out HealthyI for training sessions near you. If you work with a diabetic population, or just want an awesome set of educational tools free of cost, attend one of these sessions -- it was so rewarding!

Because there's so much I want to blog about today, consider this a hodgepodge of nutrition-related news. Here we go!

First up: cholesterol-lowering supplements [1]
Of course there's a TON of supplements on the market touting to be the ultimate cholesterol-lowering aid. Please note, supplements are meant to be used
in addition to healthy diet and regular exercise regimens! Additionally, what works for one individual may not work for the next. Please consider the role an unconscious change in diet and/or a placebo affect can alter results of supplement-taking persons [1].

1. Artichoke leaf extract (also known as Cynara scolymus).

  • The good: In 2000, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial including 150 "high risk" adults (cholesterol > 280) was performed. The trial lasted 6 weeks and LDL-cholesterol (the bad) dropped 23% compared to the placebo group.
  • The bad: The results are yet to be replicated. Similar studies show a decrease in cholesterol (-4%), but no major impacts on LDL or HDL have been found.
  • The bottom line: Few studies conducted, mixed results, don't expect miracles.
2. Fenugreek.

  • The good: Studies from the 1990's show a drop in total cholesterol and LDL, and in some cases, significant drops (as much as -38% in LDL). Fenugreek contains20-50% fiber and thus cholesterol-lowering effects may be attributable to this fact, if nothing else.
  • The bad: The studies were small and poor quality questioning the validity of results noted above.
  • The bottom line: Not enough evidence to support the cholesterol-lowering effects of this supplement.
3. Fiber (soluble - found in oats, barley, bran, peas, citrus fruits, and dietary supplements).

  • The good: A 1999 meta-analysis performed by Harvard Medical School researchers contained nearly 70 clinical trials assessing the effectiveness of soluble fiber in cholesterol reduction. High soluble fiber intake was associated with reducing in both total and LDL cholesterol in 60-70% of the studies examined. For each gram of soluble fiber added to participant diets, and overall reduction in LDL was estimated at 2 points (in an average of 7 weeks).
  • The bad: That's a lot of fiber. The current recommended guidelines state 25 grams of dietary fiber and the typical intake is comprised of a mere 20% soluble fiber. For example, 3 bowls of oatmeal will provide a measly 3 grams of soluble fiber. Supplements? Fine, but many experience GI upset and some prescription interferences.
  • The bottom line: A diet high in soluble fiber can lower LDL-cholesterol, however, the drop in LDL will be relatively modest.
4. Fish oil (this is the one I was most interested in reading about!) - also known as omega-3's or EPA and DHA.

  • The good: In clinical trials assessing dosing of 3 or more grams, fish oils have been shown to lower triglyceride levels by 10-30%.
  • The bad: While fish oils do not lower LDL, they have been shown to sometimes cause the opposite: a small rise in LDL-cholesterol.
  • The bottom line: Fish oils do lower triglycerides, especially in individuals with high triglycerides. The American Heart Association recommends those with high triglycerides consume 2-4 grams of fish oil a day. Those with heart disease should consume approximately 1 grams a day of EPA and DHA (combined), preferably through the diet and the consumption of fatty fish, such as salmon.
5. Garlic (oil, extract, pill, or natural state).

  • The good: A 2000 report on garlic's impact on cardiovascular risk factors showed a small (but measurable) drop in LDL and total cholesterol.
  • The bad: Studies to follow showed less encouraging results. A well-executed study performed in 2007 compared raw garlic and commercial garlic supplements over a 6 month period and found no measurable effects in total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, or triglycerides versus the placebo.
  • The bottom line: Garlic may lower LDL temporarily but its meaningful effect on cholesterol long-term is questionable.
6. Red yeast rice - a fungus that grows on rice and contains a small amount of lovastatin (a type of statin found in prescription meds).

  • The good: Compared to most supplements, evidence in support of red yeast rice is strong. Several high-quality trials have shown red yeast rice to lower LDL-cholesterol by 20-30%, comparable to a statin drug. A 2009 trial performed on patients discontinuing the use of statin drugs, red yeast rice showed a 15% and 21% decrease in total cholesterol and LDL, respectively. Cool.
  • The bad: The amount of lovastatin in the supplements vary widely across brands.
  • The bottom line: Red yeast rice is a potentially effective way to lower cholesterol, but its potency varies dramatically. Due to safety concerns with statin use, experts discourage the use of off-the-shelf red yeast rice.
The cliff notes version of the rest...

7. Ginseng

  • The bottom line: There is not enough evidence to support the use of ginseng for lowering cholesterol.
8. Guggul

  • The bottom line: More research is needed; there is not enough evidence to justify the cholesterol-lowering effects of guggul.
9. Niacin
  • The bottom line: Niacin boosts HDL (the good), but you should NOT take it without consulting a doctor. Niacin should not be used in lieu of a prescription due to potentially serious side effects.
10. Soy protein

  • The bottom line: Soy protein lowers LDL slightly.

Next up, mercury found in ALL fish caught in US streams (!)
The government tested fish caught from 300 streams in the US. All the streams contained fish contaminated with mercury and thus the U.S. Geological Survey's research launches a comprehensive examination of mercury contamination [2]. Should this worry us? Maybe so. It was shown that 27% of the fish contaminated contained levels of mercury deemed unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency for the average fish eater, consuming fish twice weekly. Mercury is a neurotoxin which is especially dangerous to neurological development in infants and fetuses [2]. The waters in urban areas, surprisingly, were less contaminated than those in costal plain streams fed by wetlands and forests, especially in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana. The fish most highly contaminated included bass while the lowest levels of mercury were found in brown, rainbow-cutthroat trout and channel catfish [2]. To check for fish consumption advisories in your area, go here [2].

And up last, some reading material to leave you with. Is saturated fat being falsely accused? Read more!

I had planned to talk about myths surrounding egg consumption, but I'm out of time... it's off to the dog park.
Hope Lily get some energy on the ride over! Have a wonderful weekend!

[1]. Hainer, Ryan. Cholesterol-Lowering Supplements: What Works, What Doesn't. CNN Health. August 20, 2009.
[2]. Weise, Elizabeth. Mercury Found In All Fish Caught in U.S.-Tested Streams. USA Today. August 22, 2009.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One more reason to decrease the grease...

If you’re not interested in your exercise performance, you are probably interested in preserving your short-term memory, right? New research shows that consuming fatty foods appear to hinder both – exercise performance and short-term memory. In addition, we know that high-fat diets over time lead to weight gain, heart disease, and cognitive function decline [1].
When 32 rats became proficient in running a particular maze, their healthy diets were then switched to a high-fat diet containing 55% fat. Within 4 days of consuming the higher-fat diet, the mice began to double-back and falter on the maze maneuvering indicating a short-term memory error. The rats that remained on the healthful diet experienced no change in their maze maneuvering abilities [1].
Additionally, half of the study rats had also been worked out on a treadmill. After just a few days of the 55% fat diet, the rats performed at a level 30% less than they had previously while consuming the healthful diet. And after 5 days on the high-fat diet, the exercise performance of the rats on the treadmill was half of what it had been previous to the switch to a high-fat diet [1].
Though similar human studies are yet to be published, researchers have produced similar results in humans. While the mechanism for this cognitive and muscular decline are unknown, one theory suggests high-fat diets triggering insulin resistance causing the body to less effectively use blood glucose in the body, important for cognitive function. In regards to exercise performance, fatty foods appear to release certain proteins that essentially make the metabolism less efficient. Dr. Murray states, “It’s thought to be a protective mechanism to get rid of excess fat…But it was making muscles less efficient at using oxygen and fuel to make energy needed to run” [1].
The article by Tara Parker-Hope of the New York Times explains that these findings are of particular interest to the individual who consumes whatever they want…because they exercise regularly. Cough, cough. Noted.
[1]. Parker-Poke, Tara. Fatty Foods Affect Memory and Exercise. The New York Times. August 13, 2009.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Taste Test #1

So a lot of my coworkers are trying to eat healthier, and as the dietitian, I want to help them do so. So...I sent out a mass email to the clinic inviting any willing participants to contribute $1 for a bi-monthly taste testing at working during the lunch hour. I've committed to making a new, healthy, and easy recipe every 2 weeks for them to taste test and try at home. This week was taste test #1: Chinese Coleslaw. I had 9 participants and they were all impressed with the recipe. It is delicious and a perfect addition to any cook-out!

I typed up and printed out the recipes for employees to take with them. For week #1 I will say I was really pleased with the feedback.

Up next: Chicken Tamale Casserole!

Chinese Coleslaw

2 pkgs Ramen (oriental or beef), cooked and drained
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 c. almonds, sliced
2/3 c. sunflower seeds
1 lb coleslaw

Mix separately:
1/2 c. canola oil
1/3 c. vinegar
1/2 c. Splenda-sugar blend
2 Ramen seasoning packets

Mix everything together and enjoy! Best if refrigerated for several hours before serving.

Any great, crowd-pleasing recipes anyone would like to share? Thanks in advance!

Asparagus to the rescue!

The amino acids and minerals found in asparagus extract may alleviate the symptoms of an alcohol hangover and also protect the liver cells against toxins according to a new study performed by the Institute of Food Technologists and published in the Journal of Food Science [1].

Asparagus has been used throughout history as an herbal medicine known for it's anticancer, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as it's diuretic properties. It should be noted, however, that the amino acid and mineral concentrations were highest in the leaves of asparagus, and not the shoots [1].

Oxidative stress caused from chronic alcohol use can stress the lover and create unpleasant side effects such as a "hangover". It was found that asparagus leaves did, however, alleviate cellular toxicities and thus decrease the physical ill-effects of excess alcohol consumption. This is not only important for hangover relief, but also in the protection of liver cells in the body [1].

While asparagus isn't what most hungover individuals gravitate to in the morning, it's interesting none-the-less. Now, where can I find some asparagus leaves? Kidding, kidding. This thing called a job keeps my love of wine in check!

[1]. Fight the Dreaded Hangover: Asparagus Extracts May Protect the Liver. Medical News Today. August 16, 2009.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tax the people, not the products.

I think this idea is more feasible than taxing products. However, I don’t advocate BMI as an indicator of weight status. So, what gives? I’m not sure. Weigh in, folks. Pun intended : )

Undoubtedly, taxing “unhealthy” foods will lead to a further socioeconomic gap between the rich and the poor as such taxes would more proportionately affect the poor than the rich. I’m way too liberal to support such a thing – sorry, Oklahoma and your redness. But how can we quantify an American “fat enough” to be taxed? Hmm.

Many of America’s large companies and corporations reward employees for healthful actions. A friend who recently visited was given a health coach with whom she speaks with over the phone on a regular basis. She’s started keeping food records and reporting them to the coach. After my initial reaction of, “Health Coach? Can I see some credentials?”…I saw our friend recording her intake, despite our not-quite-ideal intake each day. The incentive? Money! Talk about a win-win…or at least that’s how I see it. Same goes for working out. Record your hours in the gym and receive monetary reward for your efforts. Suh-weet. Similarly with husband’s workforce, those employees who fill out the Health Questionnaire are rewarded monetarily. And they’re on the clock while they fill them out – again, win-win! Here’s the real kicker: make and keep regular preventive doctor appointments and earn money for doing so (i.e. dental exams, colonoscopies, and mammograms). Sound insane? There’s companies out there paying their employees for maintaining their health. Hard to believe there can be such extremes in the world.

More and more companies are building gyms with employee-only access, free of cost to employees. Husband’s work is hiring a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) next year, even. Seemingly, if you want the support in weight-loss and health endeavors…they’re at most people’s disposal -- especially those in corporate America. If we could get cafeterias on board with palatable (maybe even delicious…), nutritious food, maybe we’d see some overall health benefits.

Anyways. Rant over. If the US were to tax the fat – what criteria would their “fatness” be based off of?

…Waist-to-hip ratio?
…A modified Metabolic Syndrome (2-3 qualifying criteria versus the current standard)?
…A BMI greater than ______? What do you think?

P.S. I still advocate a sales tax on sugar and high-fructose corn syrup sweetened soda!
P.P.S. Thanks for the blog topic request, was a great one!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hats off to the chef!

I have to pat myself on the back for a wonderful, healthful meal last night. We had over three friends and I made a delicious meal and a new recipe! That’s one down for the month, and it was soooo easy! Everyone loved it!

We started off the meal with romaine tossed with cucumber, tomato, sunflower seeds, and a sprinkle of croutons. The salad was dressed, lightly, with homemade canola oil-based Caesar dressing, sans egg and any mayonnaise. I made fresh garlic bread with a loaf of Asiago cheese bread, made with Smart Balance and garlic powder. The main course was the new recipe, chicken tamale casserole. I added sides of squash and rosemary potatoes. The squash was cooked over the stove with a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and the magic ingredient: brown sugar. DELICIOUS! The rosemary potatoes were diced red potatoes tossed in olive oil and crushed garlic, topped with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and rosemary which were baked at 400F for 45 minutes and came out with perfectly browned edges. I typically have trouble getting my potatoes to look so gourmet, but I pulled it off for our guests.

Dessert was left up to my husband: cookie cake. *eye roll*. I really wanted to go with cheesecake, but he vetoed it. Ends up, he was the only one who would’ve passed on cheesecake. I mean, really, who passes on decadent cheesecake?!

Anyways, dinner was a huge success and I have met my goal for the month in trying one new recipe. And the leftovers at lunch were glorious! Though I don't have a picture of the masterpiece (I need to get better at this!), I will leave you with the recipe. Enjoy!

Chicken Tamale Casserole

1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (such as Martha White)
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
Cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 7 ingredients (through chiles) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces; top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Yield: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts*: CALORIES 354; FAT 14.1g; CARBOHYDRATE 36.3g; SODIUM 620mg; PROTEIN 18.9g; FIBER 2.5g

*I have not verified the nutrition facts for accuracy.