The Vegetable Butcher

I’ve been living with my parents in Springboro, Ohio for the past couple of weeks until I make the big move to Houston to being my doctoral program (more on that in a later post).  I’ve got to admit that it’s been a bit of a life adjustment living with my parents here after having lived with one of my best friends in Cleveland, especially right after the Cavs won the NBA championship.  Springboro has something, however, that Cleveland and Lebron do not: Dorthy Lane Market. Two nights ago my mom, sister-in-law, and I had a girls night at a one of the market’s cooking classes featuring The Vegetable Butcher.  First, I need to say, the kitchen at the Dorthy Lane Market Culinary Center is BEAUTIFUL.  There is something about a white kitchen that gets me. Every. Time. In a white kitchen, the food is the focus.  I also think white kitchens just epitomize cleanliness and make me feel good, knowing what I am eating is good and safe to eat.

This feeling was made even better when Cara Mangini, the owner and executive chef of Columbus’s Little Eater, and our chef for the night, took the stove. Cara launched her first cookbook, The Vegetable Butcher, a few months ago and used this stop on her book tour to celebrate local, summer vegetables. The night began with a crostini topped with goat cheese and marinated basil and garlic peppers that was sweet and tangy in all the right spots.  While making this, Cara went over the knife essentials she recommends (chef’s knife, pairing knife, serrated knife, and the optional “cashmere socks” (it is not necessary, but sure is nice!) knife, the Japanese cleaver). She also showed us a handy tip on how to chop a pepper without getting messy with the seeds.  Cut off the top and bottom, make a cut through the side and then slide the knife around the pepper’s core, cutting it away from the ribs and seeds.

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Next up, she made her seaside gazpacho, inspired by a gazpacho she had eaten in Spain with her best friend and (lots of) wine….could she have made me want her life any more?  Cara loved the gazpacho she ate in Spain, but admitted that it was hard to separate the gazpacho from her experience traveling with her best friend and, of course, the wine!  One of Cara’s main points about her food was not about the food. It was about how food is a celebration of the farmers and land that enabled it to grow and the people with whom you consume it. But, after tasting this gazpacho, I can tell you, that I would probably enjoy it even if I was eating alone in a dark box.  This is tomato time, and they truly showed themselves off in this dish.   My sister-in-law noted that it would be a great dish for her to pack for lunch at work.  Couldn’t agree more.

 

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Our next dish was corn fritters with a summer bean ragu and balsamic reduction. This one was all of our favorites.  I was nervous that the fritters were going to be too oily after being fried, but they were perfect and still had whole kernels of fresh sweet corn that gave the fritters great texture.  While making these, Cara gave us a great tip about how to shave corn off the cob without the mess: break the cob in half before cutting the corn off.  The less distance for the kernels to fall, the less mess!  Simple tips like this make all the difference!

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My favorite part of the evening, though, was when Cara freestyled to show us how to chop an artichoke.  Let’s be real. Those guys can be intimidating.  Now, though, I feel ready to take one on!  Confident that it’ll come out perfectly? Not quite, but I’m ready to try out her recipe for grilled and smothered artichokes–her recommendation for artichoke novices!

The meal ended sweetly with her olive oil zucchini cake with lemon drizzle. By now, you can safely assume, we thought it was delicious. Once again, Cara made vegetables a natural part of the plate.

I get a lot of questions about how people can make their diet better; “What is the one thing that I could change to be healthier?”  At first this was a difficult question for me to field. Aside from usually not knowing about the questioners’ current dietary habits, I believe in helping people develop their own diet to support their life, not the other way around. But the one blank advice statement I can make, that holds true no matter who you are or what you do, is to eat more vegetables. I loved how Cara never mentioned vegetarian or vegan, like so many other cooks who focus on vegetables do.  Her entire focus of this night and of her book is to make vegetables a natural part of people’s meals. Vegetables aren’t for vegetarians.  Vegetables are for everyone.

I cannot thank Cara enough for such a wonderful evening (and my father for treating his girls to a night out)!  I’m headed out for a trip to visit one of my best friends this weekend, but get ready, because I’m about to dig into The Vegetable Butcher and get real flirty with some vegetables!  First up: getting over my artichoke fear!

 

 

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Recommended Reading (before you do your eating)

I’ve got some recommended reading for you today.  My first recommendation is an article from the NY Times: How Square Watermelons Get Their Shape, and Other G.M.O. Misconceptions.  Then I want you to read your food label.

A few days ago President Obama signed a bill into law that will require the disclosure of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on food packaging.  This is in response to a major consumer movement to know what is in the food we eat.  In 2014 Vermont became the first state to pass mandatory written labeling on foods with GMOs. This law finally went into effect July 1st.  Unable to only label the products they sell in Vermont without driving up prices, many of the big food companies initiated GMO labeling nation-wide, which spurred on federal legislation.  The problem is that labels become confusing marketing tactics rather than informational if consumers don’t understand what the label means.

The NY Times article highlights some of the major misconceptions about GMOs.  It also explains how creating a meaningful label is easier said than done and how the label may not end up actually even being a reliable indicator that all ingredients have not been genetically modified. Furthermore, just because something is labeled GMO-free doesn’t necessarily mean it is any different from a different brand of the product not labeled as GMO-free.  For this the article gives the example of oats which have never been genetically engineered. Labeling oats as GMO-free is equivalent to labeling products that traditionally never contain gluten, like water or tomatoes, as gluten-free. (More on what it means when a product is labeled as “gluten-free” can be found here.)

Only after you understand what GMOs are, know how you feel about the proposed health risks/benefits, and recognize what is actually indicated about a food product’s contents by a GMO-free label can you knowledgeably read a food label and make an educated decision on whether or not to purchase the product. The same is true for the nutrition facts panel*. Food labels are only a helpful tool when consumers know how to use them.  Food label literacy is the key to being able to navigate confusing marketing claims. Below are some marketing phrases used to make consumers think they are purchasing a healthy product, but, in reality, mean nothing.  If you see any of these, know they’re trying to make you think it is healthy:

  1. Natural The FDA is currently working to define natural, as of right now it means absolutely NOTHING.
  2. Nature This one is in a lot of product names, ex: Nature Valley Granola Bars, and in no way indicates that the food is healthy
  3. Green Green as in the color of the packaging or as a descriptor meaning it is environmentally friendly…neither of which means the food inside is good for you
  4. Clean Eating clean is trendy, but the word clean doesn’t actually mean anything nutritionally
  5. Low-fat or fat-free Defined by the FDA respectively as <5 grams fat and <0.5 g fat, often low fat foods substitute the fat with a lot of added sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, so the product is probably still not your best option, just for different reasons now.
  6.  Gluten-free Gluten-free food is only healthier if you need to avoid gluten for medical reasons.
  7. Low calorie Low calorie is defined by the FDA as <40 kcal/serving.  Remember when something is low calorie it may also be low in the nutrients your body needs. So even though it might not be many calories those are still empty calories. The big exception to this is fruits and vegetables which are low calorie and full of vitamins and minerals….but unless frozen or canned, these guys won’t have a label.
  8. Multigrain or wheat Neither of these definitely indicate that you are eating a 100% whole grain product, but, boy, do they sound like it!
 …I know there are others but those are the ones popping into my head right now.
What other ones can you think of?  Food marketers are paid to be sneaky.  Don’t be embarrassed if they get you, but if you don’t know what a claim or label means on a product, look it up or ask a registered dietitian.

*The nutrition facts panel will soon be changing.  The new nutrition facts panel has a number of changes.  Notably, calories will be listed more prominently, serving sizes have been changed to reflect the typical amount of food Americans consume in a serving (ex: a 20 oz bottle of soda will be 1 serving instead of 2.5 servings), the amount of added sugars in the product will now be listed (a BIG improvement, in my opinion!), and the amount of potassium and vitamin D of the product will now be listed (in place of vitamins A and C). More information about the new nutrition facts panel can be found here. Manufacturers have until July 2018 to comply.

PB&F

Move over peanut butter and jelly, cause I know a peanut butter pairing that’s better…fruit!

6 good reasons why whole fruit is better than jelly: 

  1. Taste.  Fresh fruit has WAY more flavor than any jelly or jam. Period.  ESPECIALLY right now in the summer when fresh berries, peaches, cherries, plums, etc are all in season.  But don’t think that PB&F is only a summer dish–it’s great with apples and bananas too!FullSizeRender-2
  2. Fiber.  Essentially all of a fruit’s fiber is lost during the process of making fruit jellies and jams.  Fiber is important in slowing digestion and preventing blood sugar spikes. Even the “just fruit” varieties contain little fiber.  FYI, “just fruit” jams are your best bet nutritionally in the jelly aisle because they usually contain less added sugar, which brings me to my third point:
  3. Added sugar. Fruit naturally has a lot of sugar, which is fine because it also naturally has a lot of fiber to help slow down the digestion of that sugar to prevent blood sugar spikes (see above). Jelly and jams, however, have sugar added to them as a way to not only enhance fruits’ sweetness but also as a preservative.  Jelly can last in the fridge a long time because of its added sugar.
  4. Texture.  Adding cut up fruit to your sandwich adds multiple different textures that help mix up that tired PB&J to make it a new and exciting meal.  Switching the type of fruit you use will not only change the flavor but the texture of the sandwich as well.  Swapping out jelly flavors doesn’t do that.
  5. Appearance. PB&F looks cooler than PB&J…on Instagram and in real life.  We eat with our eyes first, so looks do matter. I like to have my PB&F as an open-faced sandwich aka PB&F toast.
  6. Accounting.  Jelly doesn’t count toward your daily fruit recommendation.  Fruit (obviously) does, making PB&Fs an easy way to add more fruit to your diet.  You can get about 1/2 cup of fruit on your PB&F.  Adults aged 19-30 should aim for about 2 cups of fruit a day.   After 30, females need less, about 1.5 cups/day. Head to MyPlate for more information on what 2 cups of fruit looks like and the recommendations for other age groups.

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There’s no recipe for this post, just a method (and it’s one you already know): Take a piece of WHOLE GRAIN bread/bagel/tortilla/etc, toast it if you’d like, and spread on some nut butter** (about a tablespoon per slice of bread).  Next cut up your choice of fruit, or a combination of fruits, and place on top.  For an extra little something sprinkle on cinnamon. Add another piece of bread with nut butter on top to make a sandwich or, my favorite way, keep it as an open-faced sandwich. Enjoy 🙂

**Quick note about the nut butter: Chose whatever kind you like: peanut butter, almond, sunflower, pistachio, cashew….just make sure its ingredient list does not contain anything besides the nut and salt. Anything else and you don’t want it. The NY Times just had an article comparing which foods nutrition professionals believe are healthy and which foods Americans think are healthy…spoiler alert: Everyone disagrees!  Part of the reason for this disagreement is relevant to our discussion today.  On the list, nutrition professionals and the general public both labeled peanut butter as a healthy food.  It is.  But, peanut butter with added sugar and partially hydrogenated oil is not.  In the article, however, this distinction is not made. The same is true with many other foods on the list.  How a food is prepared matters.  All peanut butters are not equal in taste, nutrition, or appearance.  Choice is great, but can be confusing when following a blanket statement like “peanut butter is healthy.”  So, to clarify, I would consider peanut butter that contains ONLY peanuts, and maybe some salt, a “healthy” food to eat frequently.

Why I’ve Made the Switch from Canned to Dried

{Skip the foreplay and head straight to the Spinach & White Bean Salad Recipe}

Processed foods get a bad rep, and rightly so. They can be nutritional crap nicely packaged into a bag, box, or can–but not always. Most foods are processed.  Processing isn’t black and white.  There is a processing spectrum from minimally processed to unrecognizable with a long ingredient list.  It goes from pre-washed, bagged spinach to that “strawberry” Poptart.  Today, processing is necessary for the preservation, safe storage, and transportation of food.  It is unrealistic for people to solely eat food from scratch especially given that the average American only spends 33 minutes a day doing food preparation and cleanup.

When you hear people speaking negatively about processed foods they mean the ones up there on the spectrum with the Poptarts, where any nutritional value has been completely diminished. But what about those foods in the middle of the spectrum?  When does the processing cross over from being helpful to just plain unhealthy?

Spinach & White Bean Salad

Spinach & White Bean Salad

The UN has said that this is the year of pulses.  Pulses are nutritious, inexpensive, and good for the environment.  But, these dry legumes require time-intensive cooking.  It’s easy. SO EASY to do, and is almost all inactive cooking, but forethought is required to make pulses part of your meal.  Pressure cookers cut the time down considerably, but the beans still need a least a few hours of soaking before they can be cooked.

Canned beans, on the other hand, just require a quick rinse and, unopened, they keep for an incredibly long time at that ready-to-eat stage.  TIP: Canned beans once opened can last up to 2 days in the fridge and should be kept in a non-metallic container. Dried beans also last a long time, but once they’re cooked, in that ready-to-eat form, they only last 4-5 days in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer. Still, not bad.  TIP: before you freeze cooked beans, cover them with water to prevent freezer burn.

Canned beans are more expensive than dried beans. At Walmart, a 15.5 oz can of great northern beans is $0.72 ($0.05/oz). Note: this is even kind of low, sometimes they will be closer to $1.o0.  A 2 lb bag bag of great northern beans is $2.84 ($0.09/oz).  But, here’s the kicker:  That can of beans contains 1.75 cups of cooked beans.  That bag of dried beans makes 12 cups of cooked beans.  12 CUPS! So, the canned beans cost $0.21 per 1/2 cup serving and the dried beans cost $0.12 per 1/2 cup serving. Worth pointing out that either way, beans are cheap for the nutrition they provide.

Nutritionally, canning can sometimes actually enhance various nutrients.  For example, canned tomatoes have more lycopene than fresh tomatoes. And fruits and vegetables that are frozen at peak freshness are able to keep their nutritional profile and can be eaten all year round.

Dried beans, however, are nutritionally superior to canned beans for one big reason: sodium.  You cook dried beans and therefore you have full control over how much sodium you add.  Canned Great Northern beans, for example, have 485 mg sodium in a 1/2 cup serving.  The low sodium version has 140 mg sodium…much better but still 140% times more than dried beans. You’ll see below in the comparison between dried great northern beans and (low sodium) canned great northern beans that the dried contain less carbohydrates and protein than the canned…consequently they contain a lower amount of calories.  When you look at the percentage of calories these macronutrients contribute, however, it is about the same. The take away: Canned beans are still a nutritional powerhouse.So, if the ready-to-eat convenience of canning makes you more likely to eat them, then I’m all for it.  Please do purchase the low sodium version and rinse them to get off some that starchy liquid and excess sodium.  This will also help minimize the tooting that beans are infamous for catalyzing.

So, why have I switched to dried beans?
1. Cheaper
2. Slightly more nutritious
3. Still easy to make
4. FLAVOR.

Beans from a can do not compare to the taste of dried beans.  Not kidding you.  I didn’t want to believe it, but it’s true.  TRY IT!

How do you cook dried beans you ask??  Here are the bean cooking basics:
  1. Sort through the dry beans for any pebbles or beans that are shriveled.
  2. Soak the beans in water for at least 8 hours or overnight.  You can speed this soaking part up by boiling the beans for 2-3 minutes.  Then remove from heat, cover and let soak for 2 hours. Either method requires about 10 cups of water per pound (~2 cups) of dried beans.
  3. Drain the soaking water and rinse the beans with fresh water.  Then cover with more fresh water and simmer for 1-2 hours until the beans are tender.  The beans should be covered by water throughout the entire cooking time. Drain and add to whatever recipe you’re making. TIP: Don’t add salt or any kind of acidic food (tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar, wine, etc) until the end of the beans’ cooking time.  Salt toughens the skin and acids can keep the beans from ever getting tender. 

I like to soak my beans the overnight the night before I want to have them for dinner.  In the morning I rinse them and then put them into the crockpot on low or medium (sometimes I add a bay leaf or two) and let them cook while I do my day.  When I get back, they are ready for dinner.

Now, that you’ve got your beans cooked, why not put them into this quick recipe?? Bonus with this one: because the spinach is wilted it is a great way to use up a lot of spinach if it is beginning to go bad.

Spinach & White Bean Salad Recipe

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: super simple
  • Print

Ingredients:
Salad:Spinach & White Bean Salad
-1 or 2 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth/stock
-1 10 oz bag pre-washed spinach (or more!)
-2 cups cooked white beans
-1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
-1/4 cup (a handful) fresh basil leaves, chopped into ribbons 

Dressing:
-1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
-1 overflowing tablespoon lemon juice
-1/8 cup olive oil
-salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together and set aside.  You will likely have more dressing than you will use.
2. In a skillet over medium heat add enough broth to cover the bottom of the skillet. Add the spinach and allow it to wilt and the broth to reduce.
3. When there is room in the pan add in the beans and cook for just a minute more to allow more of the broth to reduce and the beans to warm.
4. Remove from the heat and add halved tomatoes, and basil.
5.  Add the dressing a little at a time, tossing the salad between additions.  The salad will already have moisture so add the dressing a little at a time, tossing the salad between additions.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

 

2016: The Year of the Pulses

{skip the foreplay and head straight to the recipe}

Maybe you’ve heard or maybe you haven’t, but the UN declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.  Now, we usually think of a pulse as the palpitation of our heartbeats that lets us know we’re alive and signals how vigorously we’re exercising.  While this kind of pulse is definitely worth celebrating (something Andy Grammer did last year singing Good to be Alive), the UN is focusing on the other kind of pulse: Legumes. Agriculturally, a pulse is a crop that is harvested only for its dry grain.  Therefore, pulses include crops like chickpeas, lentils, beans, and split peas. These are edible seeds that grow in a pod and should be cooked before they are eaten.  In contrast, vegetables are crops that are harvested for green food and (obviously) can be eaten raw or cooked.

So, why’d the UN decide to highlight pulses this year?  Because pulses aren’t just a win-win.  They’re a win-win-win: They’re cheap, nutritious, AND they have positive effects on the environment! The nutrition profile differs based on the specific pulse, but generally speaking, legumes are a good source of plant-based protein and are high in iron, folate, and potassium.

In an effort to celebrate the year of pulses, each month (or so…) I will post recipes highlighting various legumes and their nutritional greatness.  First up: chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans.  Chickpeas are a great source of fiber, protein, iron, and a number of B Vitamins.FullSizeRender

Chickpeas can be used in many ways, but the most common way you’ll see is mashed up and combined with tahini and oil to create hummus.  I’m a huge hummus fan.  It makes a great dip for veggies and a tasty sandwich spread.  There are a number of really good store-bought hummus brands.  When buying from the store you want to aim for about 150mg sodium per serving.  This will allow you a little sodium wiggle room in case you plan to enjoy your hummus with 1/2 a serving of pretzels or pita chips in addition to your veggies (carrots, peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, snap peas etc are all great options). You’ll feel fuller after snacking on hummus and veggies than on hummus and pretzels or pita chips.

Another thing I really like about hummus is the variety of flavors it comes in. Be careful here though because the different varieties can result in a nutrition loss just as easily as a nutrition gain…the levels of vitamins as well as sodium, sugar, and fat can vary between varieties. When you make hummus at home, though, YOU have control of how much salt and oil you put in, and your flavor options are limitless!  This sunshine hummus recipe, for example, has curry powder, garlic, and turmeric which really kick up the antioxidant profile of the dip.

I was given this recipe from the Nourishing Kitchen program at the New York Presbyterian Hospital.  Started by Jackie Topol, RDN, Nourishing Kitchen is a really unique cooking demo program that teaches inpatient oncology and cardiology patients and their families diet-appropriate recipes and cooking tips they can use when they get back home. IMG_5739

This hummus recipe is intended for oncology patients, but is delicious for everyone!  One of the side effects of cancer treatments is a weakened sense of taste and loss in appetite.  Besides containing powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds these patients need, the curry, turmeric, and garlic are also really strong flavors which enables oncology patients be able to actually taste their food.  This goes a long way in getting these patients to eat during treatment, a critical component of their success.

Sunshine Hummus Recipe

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy peasy
  • Print

*Recipe from Jackie Topol, MS, RD, CSD, CDN, The Nourishing Kitchen, New York Presbyterian Hospital

Ingredients:IMG_5739
1 (15.5oz) can low-sodium chickpeas, rinsed
1 large clove of garlic
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
sea salt to taste

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients into a food processor or strong blender. Blend until smooth.
2. Adjust the spices to your taste.
3. Enjoy with cut up vegetables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you want to do AFTER you eat that?

This past weekend I had brunch at a great spot in Bushwick called Café Ghia.  I had narrowed my decision down to two menu items, and, as I often do (for better or for worse), I asked my server’s opinion.  Should I have the seasonal omelet (goat cheese, zucchini, mushrooms, and asparagus) with roasted potatoes or their breakfast mofongo (an egg overtop fried plantains)?   Both dishes looked good to me, but were very different.  The waitress thought about my question for a minute and then said, “Well it depends what you want to do afterwards today.”  That wasn’t what I had expected.

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Outside Bushwick’s brunch gem, Café Ghia

I had thought maybe she’d tell me to get the mofongo because it’s more unique–I could find a similar omelet anywhere in the city.  Or, perhaps that she would suggest I have the omelet as it’s “seasonal” and likely to change soon.  I had even semi-expected her to simply recommend the more expensive dish.

I stared at her for a second, not sure if it was a rhetorical question or if she really wanted me to tell her what I had planned for the rest of my day. Sensing my confusion, she explained that both were really good options, but that the mofongo was a much heavier dish and was likely to “sit in my stomach.” As she told me this, she kind of leaned back and set her hands on her stomach as if to demonstrate just where that mofongo was going to go.  Then, putting down her hands, continued to say that if I had a more active day planned I might want to opt for the omelet. My dietitian-to-be brain turned on.  The waitress, whether she understood why or not, was completely correct.  With the main part of the dish being fried, high-glycemic carbohydrates, the mofongo would be considerably higher in fat and be slower to digest, making me feel kind of sluggish.  I ordered the omelette.

The interaction got me thinking: What if we approached all our eating decisions asking, what do I want this food to do for me, or, maybe more importantly, what do I not want this food to do to me?  Would we make more nutritious decisions? One of the reasons I love food so much is the culture and experience of eating and cooking, but I think food’s main purpose: to fuel us, can easily get lost within all the rituals and social pressures surrounding it.

As often as we use a machine as a metaphor for the human body, we aren’t machines.  Food is more than fuel to us and not considering the many other reasons why we eat isn’t practical.  So, I’m not going to tell you not to have dishes that might “sit in your stomach.”  I’m not suggesting that you avoid cookies at Christmas or stop making rolls with your mom. And, I’m not saying that you need to stop enjoying a happy hour with your coworkers at the end of a particularly long week.

I am going to remind you, however, that none of these things should be done everyday, let alone every meal.  Your default eating habit needs to be one of health.  One doughnut because it tastes so. freakin. good. or a few pieces of pizza is fine. Totally fine.  But it’s a slippery slope because repeated crap food decisions can lead to the development of chronic health problems–heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, etc.

In fact, one of the main things emphasized in the recently released 2015 dietary guidelines was a shift towards the importance of meal patterns versus specific foods or nutrients. This adjustment in thinking about how we eat is an important one, and has been applauded by many dietitians because it isn’t what you eat one time, it’s what you eat, on average, all the time that matters.

Unfortunately we don’t always have mindful waitresses following us around to help us connect our food choices with the rest of our lives. We have to do it ourselves.  So be mindful: What do you want to do after you eat?  Me? I want to live healthfully.

 

Food Addiction and How to Finally Beat it This Year

Resolved to eat better this year?  To stick to your resolution, you’re likely going to have to battle some addictive foods.  You know which foods I’m talking about: those foods you think about even after you’ve just eaten a full meal.  The ones you crave like french fries, pizza, soda, and ice cream. Specifically, sugar, fat, and salt trigger your brain to say, “Mmm, I like this.  Give me more!” And after a while, you need a greater amount more to get the same fix, which can result in excess lbs and health problems down the road.  This year resolve to curb your cravings by avoiding processed foods and opting for low-glycemic index, whole foods like these easy food swaps below.

Check out this post I helped write for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute to learn more about addictive foods and how to combat them!  

Eat roasted sweet potatoes instead of french fries. Why? Sweet potatoes have more micronutrients than white potatoes. Roasting requires less fat than frying, and by making them at home YOU control the amount of sodium.  Bonus: leave the skin on for extra fiber to help slow digestion and keep blood sugar levels more constant.

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This veggie pizza has tomato sauce, brussels sprouts (I put them in the oven as it preheated and took them out after the crust had completed its first baking and I was ready to top the pizza), red bell peppers, mushrooms, and a mix of fontina and parmesan cheeses.  When the pizza was all done baking I drizzled a balsamic glaze on top.

When eating pizza, opt for a whole grain crust with lots of vegetables.  Why? Vegetables offer delicious, nutrient-packed flavor without a lot of extra kcals. Whole grains provide dietary fiber to help slow digestion helping you stay fuller longer and have been associated with longevity. Try this recipe for a cauliflower crust, or my mom’s whole wheat crust.  Many pizza parlors are offering a whole grain crust now, all you have to do is ask!Ice cream is one of my all-time favorite foods. I’ve spent a quarter of a century tasting any and all potential substitutes (research is rough, but someone has to do it), and haven’t found a swap out there that comes even close to a scoop of my favorite flavor. My suggestion: Just don’t buy ice cream from the store. Why? If there’s ice cream in my freezer I’ll eat it. Forcing myself to go out to the local ice cream shop for a scoop of the real thing makes it a special treat and helps with portion control. For those of you for whom that suggestion just won’t do, try banana ice cream. It’s not ice cream, that’s for sure, but it’s the next best thing I’ve found. Most importantly, it’s made from nutrient-packed frozen bananas and avoids all of that artificial crap and added sugars found in “low fat” ice creams.

Really serious about eating better this year?  Book an appointment with a Registered Dietitian for help creating a plan that will work for you.  You can find a dietitian near you at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The site allows you to filter your search by location, expertise, and language to easily help you find a dietitian that can meet your needs.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

Skip the foreplay and head straight to the recipe

I am extremely fortunate to be in a dietetic internship that satisfies my love of traveling and trying new things through a variety of rotations in different locations.  My most recent rotation was at a hospital in Chicago.  Not only did I realize that I enjoyed clinical dietetics–something I previously wasn’t so sure about–but I had a fantastic time in Chicago hanging out with family and friends I don’t regularly get to see!

While in Chicago I was also able to eat at some amazing restaurants. One such restaurant was Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, a tapa spot with a thirty year reputation for reliably providing delicious spanish cuisine.  Not only did Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba satisfy the craving I’ve had for patatas bravas since my trip to Barcelona, but it introduced me to an AMAZING salad.  The salad consisted of shaved brussels sprouts, almonds, and manchego cheese with a light dressing that perfectly complemented  the heavier bread and potato dishes we had also ordered.

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Weeks later I still can’t stop thinking about this salad–yes, it was THAT GOOD.  Back in Cleveland and unable to get my fix, I’ve attempted to recreate it.  The dressing I made isn’t exactly the same and I added kale, but I’m really happy with how it turned out!

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad Recipe

  • Servings: 4 side salads
  • Difficulty: easy peasy
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Ingredients:
Salad:
3-4 cups shaved brussels sprouts (can buy pre-shaved)Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
1 cup kale, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup carrots, julienned
1/4 of a large onion, finely diced
1/4 cup almonds, roasted and chopped
1/4 pound manchego cheese, shaved

Dressing:
1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 small clove)
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
Notes on ingredient preparation:

  • You want the onion to be finely diced to achieve the onion flavor without any big bites of onion.  Alternatively you could grate the onion.
  • The manchego cheese is, in my opinion, the star of this salad and worth the extra few dollars.  But, if necessary you could substitute parmesan.  The cheese could be grated instead of shaved, but I like the bigger chunks of cheese.
  • Roasting the almonds is a must-do.  To roast, put almonds in a skillet on medium heat (no oil needed) until start to brown and be fragrant, about 3 minutes. Alternatively, place on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 min at 375 until brown and fragrant.  The almonds might also start to “crackle.”

1. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Toss salad with dressing.  This salad is tasty right after preparation, but this is one of those salads that is even better after it has sat for a little while because the sprouts and kale get softer and more flavorful as they absorb the dressing!

Pass the bread; I’m not a glutard.

{Skip the foreplay and head straight to the black bean-sweet potato soup recipe that pairs oh-so-well with a crusty piece of glutenous bread.}

My college swim coach was always encouraging our team to go see a sports nutritionist.  He knew that nutrition was a critical element in our training.  Brief pause right here: HE WAS SO RIGHT.  I don’t generally like to play the what if game because I find it gets me into trouble, but the more I learn, the more I can’t help but wonder what if.  What if  I had realized the importance of nutrition and had made sure that I was properly fueled when I was swimming?  How much faster could I have been?  Would I have been able to recover in between workouts and after meets faster?  Would I have felt better?  Been stronger?  If you’re reading this and training for anything I STRONGLY urge you to consider the role nutrition could play in your performance.

But to continue my glutard story: In the Fall of 2011 I went to see a dietitian who specialized in sports nutrition.  The appointment was similar to going to the doctor–I filled out a form with my medical history and checked boxes next to symptoms I was currently experiencing.  But, instead of taking my weight and height (actually she never even measured me, just asked me how tall I was), the registered dietitian determined my body composition with a Bod Pod and measured my metabolic rate with a Medgem indirect calorimeter. She also had me tell her what I typically ate in a day.  The big take-away she gave me from my appointment was that I likely had celiac disease or a wheat intolerance and should stop eating gluten for 6 weeks to see if I felt any better.  She said that if I was going to see a difference, I would see it in 4 -6 weeks.  Not really sure how to avoid gluten because, as she told me, it’s in practically everything I was eating, I pony-uped the extra hundred and something dollars (okay, my parents did) for her personalized meal plan….which, I was very disappointed to find, ended up not being very personalized.  After following it for two days, I couldn’t deal.  I went online.  My mom went online. And we figured out what I needed to avoid and what foods I could have, and how I was realistically going to do this.

The first week was really hard.  I was kind of scared to eat and was extremely cautious about what went into my mouth.  Even so, I sometimes slipped up and would realize after I had eaten something, that it actually had wheat in it.  Did I need to avoid food that didn’t contain gluten itself but was manufactured in a place that also made food that did contain gluten?  How big a deal was this cross-contamination thing? Did I need to stop sharing peanut butter with my roommates because the knife they used to scoop out the peanut butter might have also touched a piece of bread?  It was SO confusing.  I ended up just avoiding most processed  and shared food.  I began baking gluten-free bread.  Which is not the same thing.  At all.  But can be tasty, as long as you don’t think of it as bread.

My roommates were incredibly supportive and nice as I went through this process.  I don’t think I ever thanked them.  But, if you’re reading now, thanks guys!  You really were so great.  One of the most difficult parts about not eating gluten is dealing with social situations and you guys helped alleviate a lot of that stress for me by being so accommodating and supportive.  My now brother-and-law, on the other hand, called me a glutard.  My sister scolded him.  I wanted to be offended, but I was laughing, so that just wouldn’t have come across very genuinely… Continue reading