Archive | January, 2013

Nutrition Hot Topic: Lunchtime

30 Jan

Lunchtime, though it sounds juvenile, is actually one of the most important times of day. No longer (for most of us) followed by recess or down time, the lunchtime break offers something to look forward to during the day…a much-needed break. We can wish we lived in Italy or Spain or France and enjoyed a two-hour mid-day break which included a slow-simmered sauce abed pillows of hand-made ravioli, followed by a large salad and maybe some cheeses. I realize that is not our reality…I’m getting to the point, I promise.

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This post, unlike its predecessors, is to bring your awareness to a nutritional hot topic this week. I first saw this posted on Twitter, of course, but soon it went viral and was picked up by everything from local news to main cable channels! Thanks to a study published in the Journal of Obesity, it turns out that people who ate lunch earlier in the day, making it their main meal, not only lost more weight than their counterparts, but also demonstrated better insulin sensitivity, which is an indicator of pre-type 2 diabetes.While this is an observational study and “more research is needed” as always, it may give people some pause (especially those struggling with weight loss and/or type 2 diabetes). The study also found that those study participants who ate a late meal, ended up skipping breakfast the following day. This kind of behavior sets you up for failure 9 times out of 10. Dietitians are notorious riders of the breakfast bandwagon, so anything that evens out mealtimes for the better, we are fans of. Even by shifting dining priorities so that more calories are being eaten before the 3pm hour, you are setting yourself up for success. So, bottom line, think about enjoying more food throughout the day, instead of “saving” it until the end of the day. Doesn’t it make more sense to eat more during the day, and use the energy that the food provides us? It is much more fun to have energy than not.

To read more about the study, click here.

(Photo source)

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Ch, Ch, Ch, Chia!

16 Jan

Remember those catchy annoying television ads for Chia Pets, the “pottery that grows”? If you didn’t partake in that phenomenon, don’t fret:  there is an opportunity to say ch, ch, ch, chia once more. If you haven’t heard of the newest health food “it” item, chia seeds, you best keep reading. Chia seeds -grown primarily in Mexico and Bolivia – were revered by the Aztecs (and especially Aztec warriors) as a staple food, providing endurance and sustenance. Now, they are given a second chance in baked goods, yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies, to name a few. (Remember in Forest Gump when Bubba rattled off everything that could be made with shrimp? The same can be said for chia seed usage.) Why on earth would you put those seeds in perfectly good food? Well, it turns out, Chia seeds offer more than just a funny name, as they host a trifecta of good-for-you nutritional powerhouses! One glance at chia seeds and you may scoff, thinking, “How can such tiny seeds boast such a claim?”. There’s a trick to chia seeds that you must know: Exposure (about 30 minutes) to liquid gives the seeds a sticky, gelatinous coating, which is how they bond to the terra-cotta pets (NYTimes). So basically, don’t pour out a teaspoon of seeds into a bowl of yogurt and chow down: you defeat the whole purpose. Thirty minutes really isn’t that long: soak them while taking your shower, walking the dog, or getting dressed. The seeds themselves can be added to anything from oatmeal to dry cereals to baked goods! Here’s a link to 40 Ways to Use Chia Seeds!

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Chia Perks

1) Omega-3 fatty acids

Just like in fatty fish like salmon, omega-3 acids are sought-after “good” fats due to their anti-inflammatory properties and power to lower triglycerides. Comparatively, chia seeds blow flaxseeds out of the yogurt/smoothie/oatmeal. And even better?  In order to make the fatty acids bio-available (aka work best in the body), chia seeds do not have to be ground like their flaxseed counterparts.  The omega-3s in chia seeds and fatty fish are different, though: chia seeds omega-3s are in the form of ALA (alpha-linoleic acids), meanwhile fish omega-3s are in the form of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA and EPA omega-3s are considered more potent than ALA fatty acids. And, most research connecting the benefits of omega-3s center around DHA and EPA, thus omega-3s from fish oil are still considered the gold standard source (Livestrong). One Tablespoon will provide about 2.9g of omega-3 fatty acids.

2) Dietary fiber

The gelatinous nature of the chia seeds, once exposed to liquid, act the same way in your gut. “This means that they are really good for your digestive system, providing both a high amount of fiber, and also this action of forming a gel like solution moves through your body and cleans up as it goes. It’s also thought that this gel physically prevents the fast breaking down of carbohydrates in the body, by slowing down the action of the enzymes on the carbohydrates” (FoodMatters). The exterior of the chia seed is soluble fiber, which can absorb nine times the seeds’ weight in water. Soluble fiber, like in oats, helps lower cholesterol. The best part of adding chia seeds to any meal is that the fiber and gelatinous nature of soaked chia seeds just fills  you up, making you less apt to a)overeat and b) feel hungry soon after. One Tablespoon will provide about 6g of dietary fiber.

3) Protein

Chia seeds are the perfect accompaniment to a breakfast dish because of their hunger-fighting protein contribution. And like the protein in soy or an egg, chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids, thus making it a complete protein. This is great for vegans and vegetarians who are always looking for a high-quality plant-based protein. One Tablespoon of chia seeds has 3g protein.

4) Antioxidants 

Chia seeds are rich in polyphenols, which are also found in blueberries, pomegranents, wine and tea. These antioxidants in chia seeds are what help it from going rancid on the shelf!

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Here is a recipe I found on the package of the chia seeds I purchased from Trader Joes. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out chia seeds posts on Pinterest!

Chia Seed Pudding 

1/4 cup chia seeds
1 c coconut milk
1/4 c honey or agave syrup
Flavors of your choice: vanilla bean, cocoa powder, citrus, pureed fruit

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours. Enjoy!

This one’s for the dogs

9 Jan

Many of you know how obsessed I am with my dog Flynn. He is, after all, my heart on four legs. When we rescued Flynn, he was in bad shape in the sense that he had a raging episode of malassezia dermatitis (MD). MD is a common fungal skin issue among Westies, and is a manifestation of underlying chronic allergy issues. Thus, a poor diet (which Flynn had prior) can be a culprit of ongoing skin condition. With years of rehabilitation and allergen-limited, Flynn’s coat has never looked better. Like us, dogs are what they eat: don’t fill them with junk!

Like me, Flynn loves sweet potatoes and these sweet potato (or yam) chews are a healthful alternative to conventional rawhides. The concept of the rawhide is to increase jaw strength, minimize anxiety, and keep teeth clean. However, rawhides are notorious for several drawbacks: contamination, potential choking hazard, and digestive irritation. And as pet obesity is (sadly) increasing, adding too many extra calories from treats and bones should be minimized.

So, what is a dog owner to do, short of sifting through the aisles and aisles of dog treats? Answer: sweet potato chews. These starchy tubers are my favorite for dogs because the orange color means the powerful antioxidant vitamin A, which helps in overall skin health and cell turnover. In addition, sweet potatoes have gut-friendly fiber which dogs need, too!

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Doggie Sweet Potato Leathers

3 sweet potatoes (or yams)

Preheat oven to 250° F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or Silpat mats).Prepare potatoes: cut off one side of the sweet potato lengthwise, as close to the edge as possible. Continue cutting the potato lengthwise in strips, as if you were going to make french fries. There’s no right or wrong “look”, it’s a rustic attempt! Just ensure that the rest of the strips are no smaller than 1/4″. Place slices on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 3.5 hours, turning half way through. Cool completely on a wire rack. They will keep for up to 3 weeks in the fridge; up to 4 months in the freezer.

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Berry Baked French Toast

3 Jan

For New Year’s Day Brunch, I opted to ring in 2013 by whipping up an easy, beautiful fruit-laden baked french toast. It was based off of several recipes that I have seen, mostly by perusing Pinterest. I have several good options on my Pinterest Board titled Breakfast. In any case, it is a show-stealing dish that requires little effort and even allows for some creativity with ingredients that you may have on hand. It’s worthy of everyday Saturday or Sunday mornings with coffee and the morning paper.

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Berry Baked French Toast (makes 6 servings)

1 12-ounce French bread loaf , cut into 12 slices
1 cup white sugar
2 cups mixed berries (I used blackberries, blueberries and raspberries)
5 large eggs
2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 c sugar
4 ounces mascarpone cheese (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

Arrange 6 bread slices in a single layer in a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine berries and lemon zest and spoon evenly over bread, and top with remaining bread slices. Combine milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla, stirring with a whisk. Pour over bread. Dollop with mascarpone cheese. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before serving

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