Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday's Hodge Podge

I just LOVE the American Dietetic Association’s quote of the week:

"Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness." - Edward Stanley

Could this be any less true? Along the same lines is financially supporting health and disease – putting in a bit more each trip to the grocery store can same hundreds of thousands in medical expenses down the road. That’s all I’ll say, I don’t have time to step on my soap box today!

My morning started off with a delicious smoothie to go, containing whey protein powder and flaxseed oil. As for fruit, I threw in raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, banana, kiwi, grapes, peach, and pineapple. Did I miss a color in there? Definitely started the morning off with a rainbow of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals - yum! A friend at work was asking for my smoothie recipe, so I hooked her up with a mini smoothie, too! P.S. The cup wasn't as big as it looks...I got a serious close up!

Today was taste test day at work. Some of the employees requested comfort food, so I chose a mac'n cheese recipe...made in the crock pot (but of course!). It was my first time trying this recipe and I will SURELY be making it was amazing! Almost TOO cheesy, I may use 3 cups of cheese next time. It served a bunch of people, though...and all good reviews! 

Crockpot Mac ‘n Cheese

1 c. skim milk

1 can evaporated milk

1 can cheddar cheese soup

4 c. 2% cheddar cheese, shredded

16 oz. box elbow macaroni

¾ c. egg substitute (i.e. Egg Beaters)

½ c. Smart Balance butter

½ Tbsp paprika (optional)


Start crock pot. Melt butter in crock pot and pour into separate dish after melted. In a pot, boil macaroni until almost done. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, milk, evaporated milk, soup, and 3 cups of cheese. Pour macaroni into bowl, pour over butter and then wet mixture. Mix slightly.

Allow to cook on low for 3 hours. Pour remaining cup of cheese on top and sprinkle with paprika.

Makes 30 servings (1/2 c. per serving)

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 143 calories, 6 g. fat, 15 g. carbohydrate, 8 g. protein

My email was PACKED with some really interesting articles out today and of course, I would like to share them with you.

Mega doses of antioxidants such as vitamin C and E may do more harm than good in type-2 diabetics

While exercise increases insulin sensitivity, exercise also produces oxidative stress. What we know of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E is that they help reduce free radicals in the body produced by oxidative stress. According to recent research, antioxidant supplements may block the oxidative stress…but also interfere with the beneficial effects of exercise on insulin sensitivity. While exercise is a proven means for increasing insulin sensitivity in the body and reduces the risk of developing diabetes, antioxidant intake may be best advisable through whole foods and not supplements [1].

Case in point: move more and never neglect the diet; supplements are not a cure-all and not always advisable.

The changing dinner party -- cooking together in the Chicago Tribune.

This article hit close to home as the subject lives in Forest Park, Illinois, one suburb west from my home town of Oak Park. Sheridan, an interior designer and avid home cook, has switched gears for entertaining -- she asks her guests to bring ingredients with them and she and her dinner guests cook together as a team. This way, the preparation, cooking, and cost are distributed among both host and guests. A Chicago-based research firm, Technomic, states that 33% of polled consumers reported entertaining in the home more often than a year ago. With economic hardships, American’s are finding new ways to get together without stretching the budget. Sheridan states, “There’s something so earthy about cooking with other people in your home. I think people are going to do more of this [2].”

What do you think of this means of entertaining and hosting a dinner party?

I have to admit, I think it’s a WONDERFUL idea! I think there’s lots of positives that come from participating in such an event, such as:
- Trying new foods
- Learning the preparations of new foods
- Locating new foods in the grocery store – wouldn’t want to bring the wrong item!
- Increasing the frequency of get-togethers with friends
- Saving money
- Eating less (restaurant portions are huge!)
- Togetherness (the home seems much more intimate than a restaurant to me, anyways)

On a completely unrelated note…

Study links kids’ unhealthy exercise and eating habits to moms who work.

British researchers found that children of mothers who worked part-time of full-time were more likely to have bad diet and exercise habits than those whose mothers stayed home. The results were recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The children of working moms were more likely to drink sugary beverages between meals, watch TV or use the computer at least two hours a day, and be driven to school rather than walking or biking. Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in private practice in Atlanta and co-author of a book on parenting says she worries that “parents will feel guilty about working, when most do so out of necessity…Parents shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving kids in other people’s care [3].”

Of the 12,576 5-year old children assessed in the study, 37% snacked on potato chips or sweets, 41% drank sugary beverages between meals, and 61% watched television or used the computer at least 2 hours a day. It should be noted, “In initial analyses, children whose mothers worked actually had healthier habits. But after adjusting for possible confounding factors, such as income and education, those relationships reversed.” Why was this? Likely due to the fact that most of the working women were “relatively advantaged” and had higher levels of education and incomes, according to the researchers who concluded in saying, “Health behaviors in childhood are going to be influenced by a range of factors, and this might be one [3].”

Interesting. Do you feel the children of stay-at-home-moms are at deceased risk of developing poor diet and exercise habits?

Hopefully I can catch up with DVR and watch the Biggest Loser, but it may get pushed back another night, we'll see! Catch ya tomorrow...Day #1 as a diabetic!

[1]. Neff, Barbara C. Vitamins, Exercise & Diabetes. Naperville.
[2]. Levin, Amelia. The Dinner Party Has Changed: Sharing the Cooking – and Costs – of Dinner Parties at Home. Chicago Tribune. September 30, 2009.
[3]. Fiore, Kristina. Kids May Be Less Healthy if Mom Works. MedPage Today; ABC News. September 30, 2009.

Review of the Flat Belly Diet

I'm surprised I don't hear MORE about fad diets, but after a patient told me about the "Flat Belly Diet" and her consumption of "Sassy Water" I just had to delve deeper.

WebMD performed a thorough amount of research on the current diet trend, commonly referred to as the "Flat Belly Diet". The cover of the book instructs a flat tummy being thanks to food and attitude...not crunches. Oh, and for the record, exercise is encouraged...but not necessary.

The Flat Belly Diet includes four 400-calorie meals spaced 4 hours apart. Prior to starting on this plan (to be followed for 28 days), however, Flat Belly dieters are to go through a four-day "anti-bloat jump-start", knocking their calories down to 1,200-1,400 calories a day. During this time, it is instructed that dieters consume 2 liters of "Sassy Water" -- water chilled over night with cucumber, lemon, ginger, and mint leaves. Volunteers explains that the Sassy Water "reduced bloating, constipation" and helped them rid of the "sluggish feeling" [1]. Interesting thought...sounds delicious!

After the four-day jump start, Flat Belly dieters consume their four 400-calorie meals that are consistent with a Mediterranean-style diet with a strong emphasis on monounsaturated fat, which are consumed at every meal from sources such as olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, soybean, flax, and olive and sunflower oils. Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD and nutrition director at Prevention, states that research has linked monounsaturated fatty acids to belly fat reduction [1].

Belly Fat dieters do not count calories. Rather, they choose from a list of 28 interchangeable mix-and-match breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snack packs. Eight recipes are also included with a nutrition analysis including calories, protein, carbohydrates, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and fiber [1].

Depending on the combination dieters choose, it is possible to intake 40% of calories in the form of fat on the Flat Belly Diet -- this exceeds the National Institutes of Health's recommended 20-35% of calories from fat. Individuals can, however, go online to configure a diet providing a total calorie intake between 1,200 and 2,000 [1].

The diet "works" based off the premise of calorie restriction (1,600 calories a day), consuming a monounsaturated fat at each meal, eating every 4 hours, and getting regular exercise (though it is listed as "optional") in order to produce belly weight loss of 15 pounds in 32 days [1]!

What does Mayo Clinic say?

Dr. Michael Jensen, Mayo Clinic obesity researcher and endocrinologist specialist, states that while excess belly fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, it is premature to associate belly fat loss with a specific food (MUFAs) or diet plan, such as the Flat Belly Diet. Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, encourages consumers to remember the acronym "SED" which stands for "strength", "exercise", and "diet" when wishing to address belly fat. Those seeking belly weight loss should STRENGTH train to build and preserve muscle mass, EXERCISE aerobically on a regular basis to burn calories, and focus on DIET to include a healthy, calorie-controlled intake which includes healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats, over the unhealthy trans and saturated fats [1].

While the Flat Belly Diet can certainly produce weight loss, always consider the feasibility of a diet long-term. Weight loss and maintenance goes beyond one's ability to follow a meal plan for 32 days, so I encourage everyone to find a sustainable, healthy approach suitable for themselves, whatever that may be.

[1]. Zelman, Kathleen M. The Flat Belly Diet. WebMD: Expert Review.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Tribute to Crock Pots and Whack Weight Loss Products

It's no secret: I'm obsessed with my crock pot. I catch a lot of grief from my husband over my crock pot usage...who continues to inhale my slow-cooked suppers. So, thanks to Easy Reader News, here's a public tribute for crock pot users and lovers out there....'cause really, what's not to love about a crock pot?

Reason #1 to go crock: Vitamin and mineral preservation.

Similar to braising, crock pot cooking produces low, steady, moist heat for hours -- approximately 300 degrees for 4 hours on high and 200 degrees for 10 hours on low. When you place wholesome, nutrient-dense foods INTO the crock pot, that's what you get out of the crock pot. No nutrient loss!

Sarah Krieger, RD and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association explains the unfortunate vitamin and mineral loss through standard cooking methods. Nutrients are lost through heat, oxygen, and water. A crock pot, however, contains all of these elements throughout the cooking process and thus, retains nutrients in your food.

Reason #2 to love your crock pot: Lean and cheap -- make it great!

Cuts of beef such as chuck, shoulder, and bottom-round are exceptionally lean and cheap...but they're also rather tough. The low-temperature, moist-heat cooking of a crock pot, however, breaks down tough muscle fiber and connective tissue in these leaner, cheaper cuts. You're left with a healthy, iron-packed, tender beef cut...and gaining convenience in preparation!

Reason #3 to use your crock: There's better things to do during the evening hours!
The crock pot is a time-saver. Rather than meal preparation and cook time in the 60-90 minutes after getting home from work, I can enjoy the time playing with Lily, visiting with my husband, or going for a workout! After loading up your crock, your job is done! And crock pot liners save on dishes...big time. I highly recommend using them! If you've ever "finished" dinner before work, you know how great a feeling it is to know it's one less thing on your plate come 5 o'clock when you punch out for the day.

My friend Kristin recently  purchased a crock pot in order to try many of the recipes I post. Kristin, this post is in honor of your recent purchase....I hope it brings you many years of crock pot happiness and delectable meals!

On a completely unrelated note, ABC News put out a fun article entitled, "Top 5 Weird Weight Loss Products". I thought I'd share a recap as it was rather entertaining to read...

Weird Weight Loss Product #1: The Hula Chair

Gain an exotic dance workout inspired by dance-exercises such as Zumba and sitting in a hula chair! Dr. Steven Blair, professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina stated, "Standing, you'd be burning even more calories, and standing on one leg, you'd be burning even more calories than before." Rather than buying this expensive, large hula chair, Blair suggests going on a walk...and saving your money. If you're looking for a laugh, however, Ellen DeGeneres trying to pour a glass of water while sitting in the hula chair WAS rather amusing.

Weird Weight Loss Product #2: Power Plate
A vibrating platform which supposedly causes the body to burn more calories due to the higher difficulty in balancing. Again, Dr. Blair recommends going for a walk for increased calorie burn. The Power Plate is beneficial for bone density, however.

Weird Weight Loss Product #3: Thermal Suits
Water weight through sweat is not a feasible means of losing weight. Using such suits can be dangerous, decrease endurance, and cause the body difficulty in regulating body temperature. Not smart, not useful.

Weird Weight Loss Product #4: Sound Waves for Muffin Tops and Belly Fat
This Vaser technology uses sonic waves to dissolve a layer of fat which is then sucked out through a vacuum. These procedures are marketed as "sculpture" liposuction and are meant to assist those who are relatively fit rather than the general obese population looking to shed lots of weight quickly.

Weird Weight Loss Product #5: The Tongue Patch
Dr. Nikolas Chugay, a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, developed the tongue patch as a temporary way to lose 20 to 40 pounds. The procedures involves stitching a prolene patch to the tongue, causing discomfort and pain to chew and swallow food. Patients of Chugay's receive 700 calories of daily nutrition through a liquid drink mix containing carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins, and minerals. The patch is removed after a month. Wow, just wow.

Question: Has anyone tried one of the whack weight loss products discussed above? I've heard of a lot of Power Plate users in the Chicagoland area; that products appears the most feasible of the 5.

Looking forward to Biggest Loser tonight! Have a wonder Tuesday!

Monday, September 28, 2009

2 new recipes, and some low oxygen?

I donated blood on Thursday afternoon. I was instructed not to perform strenuous lifting or cardiovascular activity for 48 hours. So, yesterday (Sunday), I went for a run. Well, it was torture to say the least. I had a 4-mile run planned and had to stop home half way through for water. I honestly didn't know if I would finish the loop that second time...I really wanted to give up. For me, a 4-mile run is a great workout, but it's nothing to send me to such a state of struggle and discomfort. I called my nurse friend, Kristen, to confirm the possibility of low hemoglobin and/or hematocrit. She concurred that this is a feasible cause of my extreme fatigue and shortness of breath. What positive came from giving blood? I possibly helped save a life, and I found out my blood type -- A+. And, as expected, my cholesterol is just fine : ) Anyways, I'm holding off another day for a workout, and increasing my iron intake with some leafy greens and lamb last night at dinner.

Tonight, however, I am going to town in the kitchen. On the menu is fall roasted vegetables: red potatoes, carrots, and yellow squash. Look at those colors...aren't they gorgeous fall colors?!

We're also trying a TWO new recipes: Potato Soup and Crunchy Ranch Chicken. I wanted leftovers for the week, and I'm going to get them! Soup, especially, travels so well for lunches...I always look forward to reheated soup, especially a comfort soup like potato! Yum!

Potato Soup

1 bag frozen has browns
32 oz. 98% fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 can 98% fat-free cream of celery soup
1 can 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. fat-free sour cream
2 tsp. black pepper

Mix together and warm on the stove over medium heat. Stir occassionally and add water if the consistency becomes too thick (mine was just fine...just heated and served).

Yield: 10 cups

Nutrition information per serving (1 cup): 120 calories, 1 gram of fat, 2.5 grams of fiber

Crunchy Ranch Chicken*
Serves: 4

1 cup Corn Flakes, crumbled (I used bran flakes for more fiber)
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (powder)
4 chicken breasts
Cooking spray or egg substitute

Preheat over to 350. 

Mix crumbled Corn Flakes, Parmesan cheese, and ranch dressing together in a low bowl or plate. Spray chicken with cooking spray or coat in egg substitute. Roll in mixture and place on a cooking sheet lined with tin foil, lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 30-35 minutes.

*This recipe turned out too salty for me - I wasn't a huge fan. I think I'll make it again, but without the ranch dressing...and it'll save a lot of sodium, too! Husband, however, really liked the Crunchy Ranch Chicken. To each their own, I guess!

Tonight I ALSO made diet soda cupcakes. If you've never heard of this low-calorie, low-fat delight...keep reading! Take any cake mix and any can of diet soda - mix together. Cook according to directions on the box (varies based on the variety of cake mix). My selection: Chocolate Fudge cake mix with Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi. For a cupcake "frosting" I mixed Cool Whip Free with a JELL-O Sugar-Free Black Cherry packet. The recipe made 15 cupcakes and came out to: 135 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 27 grams of carbohydrate, and 1 gram of fiber.

Happy 21st birthday to my awesome sister-in-law, Michelle! Too bad she's stuck with midterms this week - ugh! 

I've officially decided to go diabetic for 30 days, starting October 1st -- Thursday! I'll post my daily intake with carbohydrate counting. Hopefully I will find it a useful, humbling experience and others will enjoy learning more about diabetic carb-counting and meal patterns!

Have a wonderful week, all! Thanks for reading!

P.S. Any comments on the new formatting? I have been taking pictures with my phone which can't be enlarged, so I will have to convert to make digicam on a full-time basis!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Under Construction!

I'm making some improvements (I hope, anyways!)...bear with me, I'll try to be quick!

College Football Snackies

Question to bloggers: how can I get my text box where my posts go to be wider? There's so much wasted margin room...I hate that! Also, I've had some requests to not use white font so people can read blog posts on their Google Reader. Is there a way to change the font color of ALL my previous posts to make that transition easier? Thank you!

My poor Illini got pummeled by the Buckeyes yesterday...*tear*. I figured we were in for a tough game, but not even a field goal? Ouch! Yet, we were still able to enjoy ourselves with good drinks, good friends, and of course, good food!

Our weekend beer of choice as of lately has been Michelob Ultra -- lower in carbohydrate than nearly all other light beers. I'm gearing up for my 30 days as a diabetic, I guess!

And as for our snackies: Buffalo Chicken dip - yum! While it's certainly not THE healthiest thing in the world, it's a nice treat...especially if you enjoy it on celery stalks like myself! Also, in adopting this recipe into my arsenol, I did some research on "wing sauce". Ends up, there's more to wing sauce than mild, medium, and hot! Hooters wing sauce, for example, has 80 calories and 9 grams of fat (5 grams of saturated fat!!!) in just 2 tablespoons! Moore's Buffalo Wing Sauce contains 15 calories and 1 gram of fat per tablespoon. Both are packed with sodium, though...beware! Anyways, the Buffalo Chicken Dip is a fun crowd-pleaser, and a lighter version of many football weekend snackies!

Buffalo chicken dip

1 package (8 oz) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
1/2 cup fat-free ranch dressing
1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1 cup shredded reduced-fat Colby Jack cheese blend or reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green onions (2 medium)
Whole grain crackers or celery sticks, if desired 

Heat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in dressing, buffalo wing sauce and water until blended. Stir in chicken and cheese. Spread in ungreased 1-quart baking dish or 9-inch pie plate; cover with foil. 

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Stir and top with onions. Serve hot with crackers or celery sticks.

Our OSU friends brought over chili...and if anyone knows how to make chili, it's them! It ALMOST makes up for the fact that they're OSU fans. And here they are in their OSU jerseys and their poisonous nut necklaces (*eye roll*)!

Josh and Tiffany

 Josh and Tiffany being silly...and our ugly red couch

And here's our happy family...even Pinky (our snake) came out to join the party yesterday (he's crawling on Mark's arm)! Not a great picture of anyone, especially of me...trying to hold up our 35+ pound bundle of joy!

Lily caught a nap at half time...

Enjoying a relaxing Sunday with plenty of sleep and the usual fresh fruit smoothie beefed up with flaxseed oil and protein powder - yum! Enjoy the rest of the weekend, thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Orange Hoisin Chicken and Baked Ziti Casserole

Both of these recipes are borrowed from Cooking Light, and both were fantastic! While I did forget to take a picture of the ziti, Google hooked me up with a nearly identical picture (but more artistic, of course) of the ziti my kitchen turned out.

Orange Hoisin Chicken

2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate (thawed)
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 slices fresh ginger (peeled about 1/4-inch thick)
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons cold water
6 frozen boneless skinless chicken breast halves (do not thaw)
In a zip lock bag, combine the orange juice, honey, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. One at a time, put the chicken in the bag, seal, and gently shake to coat with the sauce. Transfer the coated chicken to the slow cooker, then pour the remaining sauce over the chicken. 

Cover and cook on low until the chicken is tender and cooked through 5-6 hours. 

Transfer the chicken to a warm platter. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a small saucepan. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water. Bring the sauce to a boil over high heat, add the slurry, and cook, stirring a few times until thickened, 1-2 minutes. Pour some of the sauce over the chicken & pass the rest on the side. 

Yield: 4 servings
Nutrition Information (per serving)*: Calories 335 Calories from Fat 53 (15%) Amount Per Serving %DV Total Fat 5.9g 9% Saturated Fat 1.1g 5% Monounsaturated Fat 2.0g Polyunsaturated Fat 2.1g Trans Fat 0.0g Cholesterol 102mg 34% Sodium 748mg 31% Potassium 564mg 16% Total Carbohydrate 27.0g 8% Dietary Fiber 0.5gm

I served over brown rice with a side of steamed broccoli - delicious!

Baked Ziti Casserole
6 ounces uncooked, whole wheat ziti (short tube-shaped pasta)
2 cups marinara
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded Asiago cheese, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
6 ounces ground turkey breast
Cooking spray 

Preheat oven to 350°.  
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Brown ground turkey in a pan over medium heat until cooked through. 
Combine pasta, marinara, 1/2 cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Asiago, salt, pepper sauce, and turkey in a large bowl. Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons Asiago. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.      Yield: 4 servings 
Nutrition Facts (per serving)*: CALORIES 362 FAT 10.5g FIBER 3.5g      *Nutrition Facts not verified.       
Today is Ohio State vs. Illinois -- game on! We're having people over (OSU fans, none-the-less) to celebrate the friendly rivalry. The fridge is stocked with (light) beer, and I do believe chili and a healthy version of Buffalo Chicken Dip are on the menu. More on that tomorrow...have a wonderful Saturday!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The sad truth about luncheon meat...

Wonder why that pre-packaged turkey breast has an expiration date 6 weeks away? Me too.

The deli meat business brought in roughly $17 billion dollars in 2004 according to a report by Packaged Facts. There are 3 types of deli meats out there: whole cuts of meat (roast beef, turkey breast), sectioned and formed prodcuts (cooked hams), and processed products (bologna). Most all lunch meats contain nitrites and nitrates which are preservatives, coloring, and flavoring additives which have been linked to some forms of cancer, such as stomach, liver, esophagus, mouth, and larynx [1].

Processed meat consumption has been associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer in some epidemiological studies among Swedish women according to the National Institute of Environmental Medicine, published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2006. The culprit to blame? Nitrosamines, it seems. The study prospectively examined the association between intakes of processed meat, other meats, and N-nitrosodimethylamine (most frequently found in nitrosamine-containing foods). A total of 61,433 women were included in the study. After an 18-year follow-up, there were 156 incidences of stomach cancer which appeared more prevalently in those women consuming higher levels of processed meats, but not of other meats such as red meat, fish, and poultry. Stomach cancer risk was 2-fold higher among women in the top quintile of N-nitrosodimethylamine intake when compared with the bottom quintile. And thus, high consumption of processed meats may lead to an increased risk of stomach cancer [2].

When shopping for lunch meats, you may have seen some verbage along the lines of, "contains up to 10% added moisture". Many lunchmeats, including ham, roast beef, and turkey contain added solutions of water, sodium, and water with spices [1], which can drastically increase the sodium content of these meat products [1].

According to one source, cold cuts will last only 3 to 5 days after being opened while deli cuts will only last one to three days [1]. Consume safely!

Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer, is also found in various lunch meats. MSG is recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as "GRAS" (generally recognized as safe). Long-standing research has made no definitive link between MSG and serious health risks, including Alzheimer's disease and various cancers. Noted, however, are short-term reactions to MSG ingestion, such as: headache, flushing, sweating, sense of facial pressure or tightness, numbness, tingling, or burning around the mouth, fluttering heartbeats, chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and weakness. Symptoms reported are generally mild, according to Mayo Clinic [3].

[1]. 15 Things You NEver Thought You Needed to Know About Lunchmeat. SixWise.

[2]. Larsson, SC, Bergkvist, L., Wolk, A. International Journal of Cancer. Processed Meat Consumption, Dietary Nitrosamides and Stomach Cancer Risk in a Cohort of Swedish Women. August 15, 2006.
[3]. Zeratshy, Katherine. Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Is it harmful? Mayo Clinic.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Granola 'n Margaritas

"I got my toes in the water, a$$ in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand
Life is good today. Life is good today."
~Toes, Zac Brown Band

Random, yes. Great song, heck yes! While I frequently enjoy an evening brew, I have to tell readers about Baja Bobs. While I am not likely to change my opinions of margaritas

(hello, sugar!), Baja Bob's offers consumers a much more health-conscious margarita option, using Splenda. While I've only tried the Original Margarita mix thus far, I also ordered the daquiri and pina colada mixes. I'll have to share my thoughts on those once I try them...but the margarita mix gets a HUGE thumbs up! The calorie-free mix offers a low-calorie drink option with your calories coming from tequila mixed in only. Go light on the pour, and us ladies can shamelessly enjoy 2 a day!  

And one more food find: Bear Naked All Natural Granola. I found this product at Wal Mart (ugh, I know), but I'm sure it's available many places if it's here in Oklahoma. Unlike most granola, this particular granola is lower in calories -- 140 calories for 1/4 cup. The ingredients (listed in order as they appear on the label): whole grain oats, honey, canola oil, almonds, raisins, coconut, sweetened dried cranberries, pecans, walnuts, maple syrup, oat bran, ground flax seeds, and toasted sesame seeds. How cool! And, it is delicious! My morning snack today was 4 ounces of non-fat yogurt with 1/4 cup granola -- simple, sweet, and completely satisfying!

And just like "Toes" says -- life is good today! I found out at work today I have the go ahead to wear scrubs to work. I always said my dream job would be working in a comprehensive care team completing one-on-one nutrition consult with diabetics and weight loss patients...while wearing scrubs. What can I say? Life is good today : )

"Got my PJs on, tush on the couch
Not a worry in the world, sugar-free margarita served up
Life is good today. Life is good today."
~Happy RD

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Eggs are rich in choline – a nutrient receiving much attention for its proposed role in brain function and memory performance. Additionally, eggs contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that can preserve eye health and reduce macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness [1].

Recently, the Journal of Nutrition suggested eggs be looked at as a “package deal” – they are inexpensive, contain the highest-quality protein known to man, and are loaded with vital nutrients such as folate, riboflavin, selenium, B12, and choline. For a mere 75 calories, eggs are considered nutrient-dense, low-calorie food that can enhance any menu [1].

But of course, shopping for eggs can be as tricky as every other food product in the grocery store. Free range versus organic versus this versus that. Here’s a Chicago Tribune run-down on 12 “egg terms” to increase your knowledge of eggs and egg shopping [2].

Natural: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service defines "natural" as not containing "any artificial or synthetic ingredients, and it must be minimally processed." By this definition, almost all eggs would be considered natural.

Free range: Indicates that hens have access to the outdoors, but there are no regulations on the duration or quality of their access.

Pasteurized: Eggs that have been treated with heat to eliminate salmonella bacteria and make them safe to eat raw or undercooked.

Pasture raised: This unregulated term implies that hens are raised outdoors and moved regularly in mobile hen houses to different grassy lots on the farm. This gives them access to a variety of foods found on the ground -- bugs, grubs and other small creatures -- as well as chicken feed.

Fertile: Hens are raised in barns that also house roosters. The term is unregulated but implies that the hens are uncaged.

Food Alliance certified: According to Food Alliance, their certification requires "Healthy and humane treatment of animals, safe and fair working conditions, soil and water conservation, pest and nutrient management, protection of wildlife habitat and other agricultural concerns."

Animal Welfare Approved: Hens must be kept cage-free and allowed to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching and dust bathing. Outdoor access is required at all times, and forced molting and beak cutting are prohibited. Certifies mostly family farms.

American Humane Certified: Hens must be kept uncaged, but access to the outdoors is not required. Space requirements allow for natural behaviors. Forced molting is prohibited, but beak trimming is permitted in some cases. AHC has certified about 85 percent of cage-free eggs in the United States.

United Egg Producers Certified: This certification allows hens to be caged, does not require access to the outdoors and does not prohibit beak cutting or forced molting. It does require that hens have "access to clean water and are fed several times a day." The UEP literature suggests caged hens are safer and healthier than uncaged birds.

Certified Humane Raised and Handled: Hens are uncaged inside barns or warehouses and may have access to the outdoors. Includes space requirements for hens to perform natural behaviors. Forced molting is prohibited, but beak cutting is permitted.

USDA organic: Hens are kept uncaged in barns or warehouses, are allowed access to the outdoors and are fed an organic, vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides. Forced molting and beak cutting are permitted.

Do you purchase a certain type of egg? Free range? Natural? Pasture raised?

[1]. Callahan, Maureen. 5 foods that should have a place in your diet. Cooking Light; CNN Health. November 6, 2007.

[2]. Eng, Monica. Egg confusion. Chicago Tribune. September 23, 2009.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blog topic request: sleep and diet

Our friend Lena requested a blog topic: sleep and eating. She asked, "How does sleeping tie into what/how you eat? Is there really much of a connection?" Lena, I'm so glad you asked!

Yes! There most definitely is a connection between sleeping and what and how one eats. There has been a lot of recent research focused on sleep and diet/weight/nutrition with the ever expanding obesity epidemic.

What's the deal? There's lots of theories and ideas, let's discuss.

Scientifically speaking, hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, and cortisol can become out of whack with insufficient sleep. Leptin is the hormone playing a central role in fat metabolism; ghrelin is a hormone counterpart to leptin, which stimulates hunger -- increasing before meals and decreasing after meals; cortisol is a hormone commonly referred to as the "stress hormone", which helps the body use sugar (glucose) and fat for energy (metabolism). A lack of sleep triggers a wave of reactions in the body that begins with the hormones mentioned above. This results in the body waking up exhausted and craving fat and carbohydrates, says Dr. Joseph Koninck, director of the University of Ottawa's Sleep Research Laboratory. There is no doubt that the hormones which control appetite are effected by insufficient sleep [1]. So, sleep more!

Basic math would also lead any logical person to the conclusion of less hours awake leads to less hours of eating, and thus, less calories consumed. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Those staying up late to watch TV, catch up on emails, or surf the Internet are more often than not consuming high-calorie foods. When you eat late at night, Dr. Koninck suggests one's sleep is more fragmented due to the body's digestion process. Lack of deep sleep can also cause a drop in the "satiety hormone", leptin. This can cause excessive hunger the following day, even after eating. All the while, ghrelin, the "hunger hormone", is rising...setting one up to overeat [1].

Stanford University connected a lack of sleep to the rise in obesity back in 2004. Their 15-year study of 1,024 volunteers with sleep disorders found that individuals sleeping less than 4 hours a night were 73% more likely to be obese [1]. If you don't have time to sleep, you certainly don't have time to cook or eat properly, right?

Think YOU'RE getting enough sleep? Maybe not!

In 2006, University of Chicago researchers found that while adults may be in bed for 7.5 hours, the average woman slept for 6.7 hours, while men enjoyed a mere 6.1 hours of rest [1].

How much sleep does one need? Follow these steps to find out...

1. Set a bed time. Calculate back 7 1/2 hours from the time you need to get up to figure out what time that bedtime ought to be.

2. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier every day. Make note of what length of sleep leaves you feeling refreshed and awakening without the use of an alarm clock. This is your optimum length of sleep -- likely between 7 1/2 and 9 hours each night.

3. Keep a journal. Track when you go to bed, when you get up, any restless periods, when you ate and exercised before bed, whether or not you napped, and if so, for how long.

4. Keep on this schedule! Your body and waistline will thank you!

Key points to remember:
- exercise 30 minutes daily, but not within a few hours of your bedtime
- keep your bedroom a place for sleep and sexual activity only
- get into a pre-bed routine (i.e. bath, music, reading)
- DO NOT check email, watch TV, or play video games before bed -- it can leave you sleeping restlessly or unable to get to sleep
- cut out caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours
- DO NOT go to bed on a full stomach OR hungry
- use alcohol in moderation, and not as a sleep aid!

I have to say, I may ace this test. Mark and I climb into bed around 9:40 every night. My alarm goes off at 6:22 am, which is when I get up, so long as Lily has a restful sleep, too. Generally, I feel refreshed and ready for the day. While I still require one dose of caffeine and an alarm clock, I think we happily master the sleep routine.

What time is your bedtime? Are you often tired? What gets in your way of getting more sleep?

[1]. Beun, Chown, Julie. Dozing to diet: Sleep as a diet aid works, research shows.
Canwest News Service. September 18, 2009.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Keeping with my endeavors to try more new recipes, I made Chicken Cordon Bleu last night...and it
was delicious! My husband doesn't care for ham, so next time I may make his portion with turkey pepperoni. I made rosemary potatoes as the side and we had a fresh garden salad with Kraft Light Asian Sesame Ginger dressing.

Yum! I forgot to take pictures last night, but here's my leftovers for lunch today, sans the salad...those never travel well for me.

For a snack, however, I will be spreading leftover Laughing Cow onto a ripe, delicious Gala apple (my favorite variety!).

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Taken from Weight Watchers, Inc.

4 - 4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 wedges Laughing Cow Light (I used original)
4 servings extra lean ham (I used Deli Select)
1/2 package Shake 'n Bake (I used less -- looked like too much!)
crushed garlic


Pound each to about 1/4 inch thickness. Spread one wedge of cheese and garlic on top of each breast. Put 2 to 3 slices ham over the cheese and garlic. Roll up the chicken and secure with toothpicks. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with Shake N Bake.

Bake at 400 for about 35 to 40 minutes.

I have a blog topic request I'll post on tonight if the day isn't too hectic. If not, catch ya tomorrow! Have a great day!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cultural tweeking

An RD at my work passed along a most interesting article highlighting the benefits of culturally-based nutrition education. Specifically, this article was summarizing research performed on a very specific cultural group: Native Americans (the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, most specifically). Why of such interest to me? I work with a Native American population, predominantly Cherokees.

Upon moving to Oklahoma, I accepted my current position working with this most unique population, native to Oklahoma following the Trail of Tears. While I’m not a history guru by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve learned a lot about Native Americans, Cherokees, Indian culture, and of most importance to me, the food-based practices surrounding this population.

If you’ve never heard of fry bread, Indian tacos, or goulash, you’re on par with my prior knowledge of Cherokee food preferences. While I’m still not quite clear on goulash, I have the basics down. In addition, popular Cherokee foods include: black-eyed peas, fried potatoes, poached eggs, fried okra, cornbread and beans, beets, turnips, and much, much more. I’ve received a thorough first-hand education on Cherokee food culture and I find it fascinating…being the Yankee that I am. Cherokees like pizza, too, don’t worry!

My advice to fellow nutrition providers is to expand your cultural awareness and meet the needs of your patients. I’ve converted the word “refrigerator” to “ice box”… and “lunch” to “dinner” …and “dinner” to “supper” …and “morning” to “of a morning” …and “evening” to “of an evening”. While such dialect, if you will, if not native to me, I consider it a form of cultural sensitivity. I have far fewer patients asking me today if I’m Indian compared to my first few days in my role…and my hair remains blonde and my eyes remain blue. I do believe my “dialect” and “cultural awareness” have enabled me to appear more credible to my patients.

Somewhat similarly, culturally adapted diabetes education was associated with a reduction in both weight and BMI among type 2 diabetics from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, according to research published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. A six-month study performed by Kendra K. Kattlemann, PhD, RD at South Dakota State University in Brookings revealed said results. The study included 114 type 2 diabetic Northern Plains Indians from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe aged 18 to 65 years. The participants were randomized to receive either standard care diabetes education or diet education based on the components of the traditional Medicine Wheel which includes foods common to the tribe including: water, teas, corn, bread, potatoes, seeds, nuts, greens, elk, buffalo, and rabbit [1].

When compared with the control group receiving traditional diabetes care education, the culturally-adjusted group had significant weight loss and a decrease in BMI at the 6-month mark [1].

This research speaks volumes on the importance of knowing your patient culture. While I was largely familiar with African American and Hispanic cultures of Chicago, I am widening my span of cultural practice with the Cherokees…learning, loving, and having a blast!

What cultural make-up do you work with in your practice? Do you adapt your message based on the recipient? Age group? Gender? Diagnosis? Prognosis?

And I’ll take this opportunity to show-off my office and my FOOD MODELS! How COOL are they? Other employees are so jealous of my fun, colorful office. I think it’s super inviting and non-threatening to patients. What do you think?

 Food models galore!

My food products for label reading 

Indian Fry Bread (food model)

My favorite poster!

More nutrition posters in my office!

[1]. Culturally Based Nutrition Education Helps Weight Loss. Modern Medicine; Health Day News. September 16, 2009.