Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Freaky Foods

In celebration of Halloween, let me share with you some of the freaky foods hiding in my kitchen!

“Whoa” shrieks the clerk as the checkout belt delivers a frightening surprise before him. “That’s absolutely disgusting. Is that a brain?” I can’t help but start to laugh, which escalates into a full-blown ‘I can’t even look at you anymore without concealing it’ giggle session for one. Since I couldn’t pull it together to explain to this nauseated clerk what exactly was living in the glass jar, let me at least take a stab at convincing you it’s really not that freaky, and in fact might be pretty good for you.

  •            What is that?
First up, the brain-looking SCOBY that is responsible for the creation of kombucha (kom-BOO-cha- pretty fitting for Halloween right?) Kombucha is a fermented tea made of live bacteria, yeast and sugar. The SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) looks like a gelatinous pancake, flattened jelly-fish, mushroom, or as the grocery checker would claim, a brain. This powerful little colony is added to tea and sugar and left to ferment for 7-21 days (depending on environment and taste preferences). The liquid (much more tart and significantly less sweet now) is then bottled and brewers have the option of adding flavors (juice). The mini masterpiece is left to sit at room temperature while it carbonates as the vinegary sharpness mellows out. Next it’s thrown in the fridge and ready to be consumed in the next several months.

  •               Where do I find it?
Not ready to turn your kitchen into a chemistry lab? There are ready-to-drink bottles stealing space in the refrigerated section of mainstream stores such as Safeway and Fred Meyer. You will find more flavor and brand options at Whole Foods, PCC and natural markets (Madison and Metropolitan Markets).

  •      Why in the world would you consume this stuff?
 It tastes good to me (if you aren’t a vinegar fan, you may disagree), and it might be beneficial for your health. Since it’s fermented, it contains probiotics, so may aid in digestion, support your GI tract, and alleviate some common unpleasant GI complaints. It also contains prebiotics (which feed good microorganisms in your GI tract) and polyphenols (found naturally in tea).

  •              WARNING:
If you have a compromised immune system, ask your MD before experimenting with the stuff.
If you want to brew at home, make sure you are working in a sterile space and know what you are doing, otherwise you are risking contamination and sickness.
Don’t drink it because you think it will solve all of your health problems. Scientific evidence backing some of the health claims is limited.

Second victim item across the scanner, kelp noodles. “That’s weird – I thought noodles where only supposed to be made of wheat?” Yeah well this gluten-free girl has a thing for seaweed so thought I would give these fun noodles a chance.

  •        What is that?
Kelp noodles are, well just that – a raw noodle made of kelp (seaweed), salt and water.

  •        Where do I find it?
Check out Whole Foods, PCC and natural markets. There are multiple varieties of kelp noodles, and they may neighbor similar noodles such as Miracle Noodles (made of a root which is essentially soluble fiber). 

  •        Why in the world would you consume this stuff?
They are low in calories (18calories a pack), carbs, fat, and are incredibly allergy-friendly (no gluten, dairy, soy, egg). They are incredibly boring right out of the package, but are incredibly versatile and can be dressed in exciting sauces and spices to create amazing dishes. Check out some of the suggested recipes here.

  •        WARNING: You might want to let wheat know there’s a strong competition in the cart.

Third victim to cross the scanner, “this feels like a brick.” Since I wasn’t paying extra for the personal opinions, I decided to reveal confidently that this “brick” is the best tasting, nutritious brick I’ve ever discovered.

  •         What is that?
No, not mochi ice cream. Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made by pounding glutinous rice (aka sticky or sweet rice) into a paste and then into the desired shape. This particular brand I am a fan of is Grainaissance. Thaw the ‘brick’ and then cut into 1-1 ½” square and place on baking sheet. Place in preheated oven and bake 10-12minutes at 450F. They puff up into little pillows of happiness. You can enjoy them plain, or dress up with your favorite spreads and sauces.

  •         Where do I find it?
I’ve found it at Whole Foods, PCC and natural markets in the frozen aisle. Not sure if it’s gone mainstream yet.
  •          Why in the world would you consume this stuff?
Allergy friendly - Gluten, dairy, wheat free and depending on the flavor can be nut and soy free. All natural with no artificial additives, colors or preservatives. My favorite (and the one that has the most success with picky kids that you are trying to wean off commercial sweets) is Chocolate Brownie topped with peanut butter and fresh raspberry jam. Tastes like incredibly rich brownie squares, yet the ingredient list is nothing to be embarrassed about (Organic sweet brown rice, Filtered Water, Organic Evaporated Cane Crystals, Walnuts, Unsweetened Cocoa, Unsweetened Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Natural Vanilla Flavor, and Sea Salt).
  •        WARNING: I said they taste better than brownies, but the catch is that there is no batter to lick out of the bowl.

Last scrutinized purchase, snack size roasted seaweed. “Weird chips.” These are the best chips I’ve ever had. And they’re not even chips.

  •   What is that?
Roasted seaweed, oftentimes with oil and a pinch of salt or spices.

  •                Where do I find it?
Trader Joes, Whole Foods, PCC, natural markets.

  •              Why in the world would you consume this stuff?
Because you will forget potato chips exist. They are packed full of vitamins and minerals (B, C iron, iodine – the thyroid requires iodine to make hormones,) and fiber. They are low in calories, carbs, sugar, and fat. 

  •              WARNING: They are more expensive than potato chips, but undoubtedly more addicting.

So hopefully you are inspired to give Kombucha a swig, whip up a spicy peanut kelp noodle salad, bake up some sweet-tasting mochi, crunch on some seaweed snacks, or simply ring up my groceries without freaking out.
Happy Halloween!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Appetite for Autumn

DISCLAIMER: I’m writing this wearing flip flops. My accuweather is set to a place just south of the equator. There’s a beach towel in my car. I’m still (guiltlessly) pinning BBQ recipes on Pinterest. Even so, I am ready to at least talk about Autumn foods (after all, that is my job).

Perhaps a recent flip of the calendar and a gentle drop in the thermometer has reminded you that it’s time to transition from the hassle-free and spontaneous raw meals of summer to the grounding and planned dishes autumn warrants. Despite claiming that we enjoy this season of change and appreciate the opportunity to readopt routines and schedules, most likely we will get lost in our obligations, stretch the limits of our clothing seams, let the darkness of the early setting sun bury our guilt for abandoning the gym, and then collectively and excitedly gear up for fabulous health resolutions when the clock strikes midnight on December 31. Kidding. In all seriousness, I hope you can utilize the following tips and suggestions for transitioning to fall foods while successfully avoiding the seamstress.

Fall Favorites

Yes, this vegetable has more to offer than serving as a medium for displaying your fine carving skills. The flesh is an excellent source of vitamin A, and significant source of vitamin C and potassium. Dr. Oz may have already told you that the seeds encased in this Cinderella superstar are on his “5 Super Foods” List thanks to their magnesium content. I could write a blog on magnesium, but much easier to simply direct those that are interested to this site here

Serving Suggestions:

§          Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
            Remove stem with knife, cut off top (3-4”) of pumpkin and scoop out insides with spoon. Separate seeds from pumpkin flesh and strings by placing in large bowl of water and rubbing seeds between hands and then placing in strainer and running under water until clean. One medium size pumpkin should yield approximately 2 cup of seeds. Drain well and pat dry. Place in large bowl and add seasoning (see suggestion list below) and stir to coat. Spread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet and bake up to an hour in preheated 250F oven, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
            Spice suggestions (for approximately 2 cups seeds):
o       1 TBS vegetable/olive/peanut oil, 1 tsp salt
o       1-2 TBS Soy sauce/tamari
o       1 TBS vegetable/peanut oil, ¼ tsp each of salt, cumin, cinnamon, ginger and pinch of cayenne         
o       1 TBS vegetable/olive/peanut oil, ½ tsp each garlic salt, cumin, coriander, cardamom
o       1 TBS vegetable/olive/peanut oil , 1 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and 1 ½ TBS brown sugar
o       1 TBS vegetable/olive/peanut oil, rosemary, basil to taste         

§          Pumpkin Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
    I encourage you to try using pureed pumpkin in places beyond the inside of the all too predictable pie crust. Try this festive recipe from Whole Paycheck

As the temperature drops, days become shorter and the to-do list balloons, it’s a bright idea to begin featuring warming, fiber filled, grounding foods on the table. A wonderful transitional vehicle that invites the light, fresh vegetables of summer to marry with the dense root veggies, legumes and warming spices is soup. I automatically think utterly forgiving and unarguably one of the most versatile and limitless possibilities when I excitedly grab for that soup pot. I encourage you to get creative and ditch the recipe and instead fearlessly use your favorite vegetables of summer and fall, or simply utilize what’s already in your fridge.

General Tips for Building A Soup
1)     Marinate aromatic vegetables such as onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and ginger in olive oil or butter
2)     Add salt, pepper and dried spices (Bay leaves, oregano, thyme).
3)     If non-vegetarian, brown meat now. 
4)     Add the liquid base (vegetable/chicken/beef broth, water, wine (oops can I say that?), cream.
5)     Get creative.
Add longest cooking vegetables first (think root vegetables such as potatoes, yams). Lastly add delicate vegetables such as spinach. Always add tomatoes at the very end as the hault the cooking process. Cooked legumes and grains can be added at the end to bring to desired temperature.  Add fresh herbs once the heat is off.

Like to follow directions? Check some of my favorite recipe indexes out!


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Busy Morning Breakfasts

Breakfast = Break the fast. As long as you aren’t participating in ‘Fourth Meal’ (I’m hoping you don’t even know what this is), breakfast should be the first opportunity of the day for a healthy meal (well even if you did have Fourth Meal, this still holds true). Breakfast can be quick, easy, and good for you. You’ve heard before it’s the most important meal of the day (studies have shown improved cognitive function and maintenance of a healthy body weight), so here are some ideas to help you get off to a greeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaat start!

If you don’t have time in the morning…
Make sure you have some staples on hand that won’t take more than a few seconds to serve up. Eat at home or you can put cold cereals in pyrex/gladware, grab a spoon and single-serve milk and enjoy while you get settled into work (or during carpool). 

Cold Cereals:
  • Select a breakfast cereal with roughly 5g fiber per serving and at least 5g of protein to keep you satiated and power through until lunch. Options include- Barbaras High Fiber Cranberry, Quaker Squares, Cascadian Farm Organic Hearty Morning Fiber, Yogi Products Walnut Spice Crunch, Peace Cereal Blueberry Pomegranate Crisp, Kashi Go Lean Crunch, and Smart Start Healthy Heart.
  • Or try a low-sugar cereal such as Cheerios or Rice Chex and add nuts or berries to boost the nutritional punch in your breakfast bowl. Sorry, Tony the Tigers’ Frosted Flakes didn’t make the cut.

If you can prepare the night before:  
  • Hard-boil eggs in a batch and keep in the fridge for several days.
  • Yogurt parfait- Select a low-fat or soy yogurt (with no added sugars) and top with fresh berries, sliced nuts or seeds, and even a high fiber cereal (see cold cereal suggestions above).
  • Seasonal fruit bowl tossed with shredded coconut, lime juice, dried berries, seeds and nuts.
  • Trail Mix: Create your own using nuts (soy, tree), seeds (sunflower, pumpkin), dried fruit, and high-fiber and high-protein breakfast cereals.
  • Warm cereals can be made the night before and reheated in the am. Experiment with various grains such as millet, rice, buckwheat, oats, amaranth or quinoa. You can simmer in water or milk (cow, rice, almond, soy, hemp) and once cooked sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, raisins, currants, plum, dates, apple, pear, nuts/seeds as desired.
  • Quinoa Cereal

2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
½ tsp cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup berries (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry or strawberry)
1 tablespoon hempseeds

Place water, quinoa and spices in saucepan and stir gently. Turn heat to high until just bubbling, then cover and reduce to simmer for approximately 15 minutes. After cooking time is complete and water has been absorbed, remove lid and fluff lightly with a fork. Add honey, berries and hempseeds and stir gently to combine. May be enjoyed warm or cold. Serve over yogurt if desired.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes total
Yield: 4, 1 ¼ cup servings. 
Original recipe by Tarynne L. Mingione, 2012.

If you have a minute in the morning…
  • Berry and soaked nut smoothie.
  • Toasted rice or whole wheat bread with nut butter and fruit spread. Add a glass of real OJ to the meal.
  • Rice crackers and hummus. Hey, nobody is going to judge your breakfast if you have it at home.
  • Munch on rice cakes, sliced apples, bananas, carrots or celery dipped with almond/cashew/sunflower/macadamia/soy nut butter as you prepare for the day.
  • Warm applesauce sprinkled with toasted nuts, cinnamon and touch of nutmeg.

If you have 2 minutes but want more of the “feels like Sunday” effect ……

  • Baked mochi with jam, nut butter, honey, hummus, or avocado, etc.
  • Quesadilla: Whole wheat tortilla filled with low-fat cheese, chicken and tomatoes topped with salsa and shredded cheese.
  •   Breakfast Burrito: Leftover meat/beans/gluten-free grains with onion, spinach, and scrambled eggs wrapped in a whole grain tortilla and topped with salsa and cheese
  • Scrambled eggs with peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cheese, seasoned with salt and pepper.  Add a slice of whole wheat toast and real juice.
  • Crepes: Sweet rice or wheat flour crepes folded over fresh berries and sprinkled with honey, nuts and a pinch of powdered sugar.
  • Pancakes/Waffles: Batter can be mixed the night before and stored in the refrigerator. Add mashed banana or ground flaxseed/almond meal into the mix. Once cooked, top with berries, real maple syrup and honey.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gluten-Free in a Gluten-Filled World

For this French/Italian girl that grew up on bagels and loaves of bread, it wasn’t easy to read the lab results telling me gluten was the source of all my problems (digestive anyway). Thank goodness I was on the path to pursue my degree in nutrition, this ought to be pretty easy to figure out, right? I’m here to break the news that it’s far from easy, not just for me, but the unfortunate waiter, the distressed party hostess, or the sibling that doesn’t quite understand why you are no helping devour the Oreos.
 This blog is for anyone with a new diagnosis, those just coming to terms with an old diagnosis, and those that think thatgluten intolerance might be a possibility. It’s also for the friends and family of those affected by celiac disease or gluten intolerance, and for those that just want to learn more about it.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

Celiac Disease

What is it: Not an allergy, but a genetic autoimmune disorder (onset can be triggered by severe stress, surgery, trauma, pregnancy, or viral infection) that causes damage to the small intestine. We all have tons of little fingerlike-projections lining our small intestine that convene to significantly increase the intestinal surface area, therefore assisting in absorption of nutrients. Normally as nutrients are passing through the small intestine, they are absorbed through the walls of the villi and into the bloodstream. However, when a person with celiac disease is exposed to gluten, their immune system responds by attacking and destroying their own villi. The result is malabsorption of nutrients.

Symptoms: Vary by individual (and can actually be “silent” and present with nothing at all), but classic symptoms may include:

Diagnosis: If you or your doctor suspects Celiac disease, the first step is blood tests (TTG-IgA/IgG and EMA-IgA/IgG). If these come back positive, then a definitive diagnosis is to complete a biopsy of the small intestine. 

Treatment: The only treatment is complete lifelong elimination of gluten. 


Gluten Intolerance

What is it: An inability to tolerate gluten, however not an autoimmune disorder or an allergy.

Symptoms: Similar to celiac disease (constipation, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting).

Diagnosis: You likely will complete a blood test for celiac disease  (it would be negative). The next step to confirm gluten intolerance would be to complete an elimination diet, where all gluten is avoided and symptoms are recorded. If there is improvement in symptoms, then intolerance to gluten can be assumed

Treatment: Avoidance of gluten. There is likely no damage to the small intestine if gluten is ingested, however the presentation of undesirable symptoms can be expected shortly following exposure. Is that bagel really worth it?



What to Avoid (if you have Celiacs or gluten intolerance)

Wheat (einkorn, durum, faro, graham, kamut, semolina, spelt), rye, barley and triticale.
Beers, ales, lagers and malt vinegars that are made from gluten-containing grains that are not distilled.
Frequently overlooked foods that may contain gluten and need to be verified:
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Breading & coating mixes
  • Croutons
  • Energy Bars
  • Flour or cereal products
  • Glucose syrups
  • Imitation bacon
  • Imitation seafood
  • Marinades
  • Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • Pastas
  • Processed luncheon meats
  • Sauces, gravies
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soy sauce or soy sauce solids
  • Soup bases
  • Stuffings, dressing
  • Thickeners (Roux)
  • Communion wafers
  • Herbal supplements
  • Drugs & over-the-counter medications
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Vitamins & mineral supplements
  • Play-dough (I hope you aren’t eating it, but if kids are playing with it and then put their hands in their mouth then you might have a problem). 


What to Include (if you have Celiacs or gluten intolerance)

Rice, corn (maize), soy, potato, tapioca, beans, fava, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth, teff, Montina®, flax, and nut flours.
Distilled alcoholic beverages (wine/hard liquor) and vinegars are gluten-free.


What to Ask your Doctor or Dietitian About

Oats- These are controversial and you may or may not react to oats. Some research has shown that pure, uncontaminated oats up to ½ cup daily may be tolerated.



The list of foods to avoid can be overwhelmingly long. Remember that consuming whole foods that have been minimally processed may be one approach. Whole fruits, vegetables, meats, legumes, nuts and seeds should be safe, but always check (sometimes even plain salted nuts may have flour on them). 
Do you need to go out and buy only gluten-free cookbooks? No! If you know how to make appropriate substitutions for gluten-containing recipes, then go ahead and adapt any recipes you like. From my own experience, it’s not really intuitive how to substitute flours. The elasticity and rising actiongiven from gluten is hard to replicate and usually requires a number of ingredients in place of one (example of a current substitution for whole wheat flour is a combination of: white rice, brown rice, tapioca, sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, and potato starch). Therefore,  I would encourage gluten-free baking cookbooks to start as baking tends to be a bit of a challenge!


So… you’re allergic to wheat?

No!!!! Gluten intolerance, celiac disease and wheat allergy are three separate things. For people with gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease, in addition to wheat, both rye and barley (and sometimes oats) must be avoided. 


Where to Get More Information

I absolutely love this group, and this page will direct you towards valuable information.
o        Celiac Disease Foundation

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Culinary Herbs

Like most bright ideas, this one was sparked while sipping a mojito – why am I not growing mint? Well, this “little project” turned into a full-blown garden last year. Yes, citrus trees included. So my challenge this year is to share with you how to grow some culinary herbs, simply, and enjoy them fully.

Why Growing Herbs at Home is Great…

It’s fun. Trust me, the smell of basil straight from the ground will take your mind on a direct flight to Italy.

It’s economical. How many times have you purchased a ginormous bunch of parsley, only to use a few sprigs? Having live plants means you can take as little as you need, when you need it. One $3 basil plant can save you well over $20. You will waste less, and likely will use herbs more frequently since they will always be available.

It encourages your creativity. When you have an assortment of plants begging to be used (and if you tend to be indecisive like me) you might take a handful of each and add it to the recipe. You can create endless combinations of herbs and spices to a variety of dishes.

It’s easy. Whether you have an amazing boyfriend that will clear out a couple hundred square feet, a balcony that sees the sun, or just a naked windowsill, you can grow herbs anywhere.

Getting Started…

Two ways to do it, from seed or from starters:
Seed: Rather than dig into the details, I recommend you talk to the “green thumbed” people at your favorite garden center for tips on getting seeds started indoors or sowing directly into the soil once it’s warmed up.

Starters: I recommend this route for those of you who prefer the “quick start” guide. Head to the nursery and pick out your favorite herbs that are already a few inches tall. Most nurseries will carry rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano and sage. Be sure to mention the environment you are transplanting these herbs to and ask for tips on caring for  your new friends.

What to do with Them…

Possibilities are endless. My absolute favorite is rinsing clean straight from the garden and adding to foods once I flip off the stove top. Here are a few other ideas:

Preserve them. Can’t use them fast enough? Pick the herbs right before the plant is flowering.

                Drying: Rinse gently using cool water (heat will destroy the essential oils). Wipe to remove moisture. Low-moisture herbs can be air dried (hanging in a cool, dry, dark place). High-moisture herbs (think basil and mint) should be dried using an oven (low temperature and leave the oven door open) or dehydrator.

                Freezing: Chives, fennel, parsley and tarragon can all be frozen. You can rinse, shake dry, and place in a freezer bag, or you can put chopped herbs into an ice cube tray and add water (½oz herbs: ½oz water in each compartment).  Add these cubes straight to recipes when you are cooking!

                Oils: Basil, dill, fennel, mint, rosemary and thyme all make amazing oils. First, crush herbs (using mortar and pestle) to release those amazing-smelling essential oils. Then transfer to a clean glass jar and add a good quality oil. Shake occasionally and let infuse for up to 2 weeks. Once the fortnight is up, strain the oil into another clean glass jar.

Eat them. When you use fresh herbs, add them to the very final stages (as in the end) of cooking. High heat can destroy the essential oils. When using dried herbs, you can add them at the beginning of cooking so that their flavors and fragrance infuse the dish and heighten as the cooking duration extends.

Not Convinced?

Then I at least encourage you to pick up a fresh bunch at the farmers market or grocery store.

Basil: Think pesto. This mint-family member is essential in Mediterranean cooking and takes on several different faces, lemon, anise, clove, and cinnamon basil. Store upright in a glass of clean water with its produce bag draped loosely over the bunch. Switch out the water every few days and it will keep for up to a week.

Cilantro: Also called Chinese parsley, and is actually the leaves and stems of the coriander plant (no wonder these two infuse so well in recipes!) This herb has a permanent parking spot in most grocery shelves. Select bunches that feature bright green, evenly colored leaves, that don’t reveal signs of wilting.

Parsley: Although there are over two dozen varieties of parsley, the ones you will most commonly encounter are curly and Italian flat-leaf. Select as you would basil (above), however to store you can rinse gently and wrap in a paper towel before putting in a plastic bag and refrigerating.

Rosemary: This member of the mint-family has been thought to cure aliments of the nervous system, and I first encountered it while being passed around on undergraduate exams (thought to improve the short-term memory). You can find this fresh or dried in most grocery stores.

Thyme: A combination of minty and lemony. I encourage you to buy a starter and stick in the ground – it will take off without tender care and is a great ground cover.

Oregano: Related to both marjoram and thyme and also a member of the mint family. Choose bunches with no signs of yellowing, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Mint: Like parsley, there are over two dozen varieties, the most popular being peppermint (the more pungent) and spearmint. This herb grows wild, like a weed, so I encourage you to pick a contained spot in the garden or a pot and let it grow.

A word about all dried herbs: Store in a cool, dry, dark place for no more than 6 months. 


There are few things that smell as captivating as fresh picked herbs that you add straight to your tea or use to accentuate the flavors of your finely crafted meal. Now is the perfect season to experiment with growing your own!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yes, it’s here. Pastels, the opportunity to congratulate Seattle for behaving according to season, tulips that Dougie in the spring breeze, and that near drowning experience after that first panic wave reminds you that you’ve got only a few weeks before bikini season (guys you get the point). Your innocent neurons automatically fire “detox diet’ and “cleanse”. Well, let me warn you that I am not a fan of the “drink maple syrup and eat lemon wedges” diet. Not because nutritionally they are a joke, but if you follow one, you morph into a mix of Tasmanian devil and Garfield, a creature with a short temper, little patience, an appetite with no boundaries, yet profound laziness. Instead, how about something realistic with sustainable results?  These are tips to clean up your eating behaviors and make sure you are on track to tackle your goals.

Track Your Intake:

Do you know how much calories, fat, sugar, fiber, fluids, fill in the blank nutrient you are concerned about, that you are consuming these days? This is where you need to start. Portions and packages are blowing up, so chances are that our “guesstimations” are undershooting significantly. For all of you smart phone owners, try MyNetDiary, MyFitnessPal, or Lose It! All are incredibly simply to set up and use. Scan barcodes of your own foods, enter in your own recipes, or select from the available reference library to input items into your daily log. Track for a minimum of three days (5 if you are willing) to get an idea of what you are consuming on average.

How many calories do you really need?

So you know what you are consuming, now look at how this compares to what you really need. Most tracking apps will tell you how many calories you need to achieve your goal (if you have entered your height, weight, and age). If you want to know how to arrive at that answer (or you don’t have the app), try this equation:
Men: REE kcal/d = 66.5 + 13.8(wt) + 5.0(ht) – 6.8(age)
Women: REE kcal/d = 655.1 + 9.6(wt) + 1.9(ht) – 4.7(age)
Weight: Use kg (take pounds and divide by 2.2 to get kg)
Height: Use cm (take inches and multiply by 2.54 to get cm)
Age: Use whole years (be honest)
REE stands for resting energy expenditure. This is the baseline for your body to maintain normal physiological functions, regardless of physical activity. If you are physically active, then you would multiply your REE by the following: 1.0 if you don’t engage in physical activity and you have a desk job, 1.1-1.2 if you are relatively sedentary (some physical activity), 1.2-1.4 if you are moderately active (making an appearance at the gym 5-6 times weekly and have a job on your feet), and only those who are really physically active and athletes (no your adult softball league once weekly is not cutting it) would multiply by 1.5 to arrive at the estimated energy intake to maintain weight.
Refer to this post (Establishing Healthy Habits) to find the Hamwi equation to determine what a healthy weight is for your height. If you need to lose a few L-Bs, then try subtracting about 250 calories from the estimated energy expenditure (after multiplying for physical activity) to arrive at the total. This is pretty close to what is considered the “mindless margin,” according to researcher Brian Wansink, PhD. This margin of 100-200 calories are calories you won’t realize you’re missing (i.e. You shouldn’t be complaining “I’m starving.”) Alternatively, a couple hundred extra calories consumed during the day might go right under your radar, and over time can lead to noticeable increases in your weight. Examine your daily log you’ve completed previously, and look to where you are overindulging to cut there first (cutting down by ½ cup of rice can be the easy fix).


Hydration is key always, but deserves special attention on the topic of cleansing as most of these crazy plans hone in on fluid intake. In addition to temperature regulation, and roles in vital cellular functions, fluids assist in removing toxins from the body. You need to know what your body requires, and there are several options to figure this one out:

·         The no-brainer:
o        Look at your urine color. If it’s clear, you are hydrating appropriately (if you are taking vitamins this might be difficult to tell). If it’s dark, you need to up your fluid intake.
o        If you are thirsty- This mechanism doesn’t fire at the optimal time to remind us to drink- in fact, it’s likely past the point that you need to hydrate.
·         Listen to the Institute of Medicine:
o        General recommendations for women are ~2.7 liters (91 ounces), men ~3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of water daily from foods and beverages.
·         The mathematical way:
o        The easiest is 35ml/kg.
o        If you want to make this difficult to arrive at the near same answer (this one is likely slightly higher), take 1500ml for the first 20kg of your body weight, then add 20ml/kg if you are less than age 50, or 15ml/kg if you are greater than age 50.
o        Some people recommend 1ml per 1kcal, however if you are on a calorie restriction, this may be leading to under hydration.
·         Replacement Fluids:
o        If you are physically active, replace fluids you have lost via exercise. How do you do it? The Sweat Test. This test takes your pre and post-workout weights, fluid intake and urine output, and duration of activity to determine your sweat rate (in ounces per hour). One pound of weight loss equates to approximately 15floz of fluid needed for replacement. Check this calculator out (http://www.triharder.com/THM_SwRate.aspx)

The Cleanse…

There are thousands of books out there, everything from an intensive fasting period to a detailed 21+ day program. Pick one that seems like it would yield the highest degree of success for you, but remember these basic parameters of all detoxes and cleanses:
Don’t go less than 1200 calories a day, doing so stimulates a decrease in your metabolism, which unfortunately won’t immediately correct once the cleanse is completed.
Don’t expect more than 2 pounds of weight loss per week. I f you see this on the scale, it means you are losing lean muscle mass (not a brilliant idea since this tissue is most metabolically active = your best friend in the battle of the bulge) or you are under hydrated. The goal is gradual fat loss, hydration maintenance, and preservation of lean muscle mass if you want your results to last.
Avoid junk (caffeine, alcohol, sodium, artificial sweeteners, refined sugars and refined grains). You want to get the biggest bang for your caloric buck, so opt for whole grains, fruits and vegetables rather than processed crap.
Assess your tendency for withdrawal – this can be from caffeine, alcohol, salt, refined grains/sugars, or simply the habit of heading for frozen yogurt on weekends. 
Caffeine: Depending on your intake, you probably don’t want to go cold-turkey. Take a few weeks to wean yourself off (from all sources – coffee, soda, chocolate) and look for alternatives if you choose to keep the habits you’ve established around consumption of these items (ex: Choose herbal tea on your Starbucks run rather than your usual espresso).
Salt: Cut down slowly – eating out or excessive use of the salt shaker at home may have caused your salt taste buds to become desensitized to sodium. It will take a few weeks for your taste buds to adjust to a reduced sodium diet. Flavor foods with spices and fresh herbs, and keep sodium to less than 2300mg daily (that is just one teaspoon daily!) 
Artificial sweeteners and refined sugars: Switch these out for whole fruits with skins on them and berries, which are full of antioxidants and loaded with fluids and fiber to keep you hydrated and satiated.
Refined grains: replace with whole grains. Consuming whole grains may regulate blood sugars, keep your gut happy, and can keep you full longer.
Organic: If the point of your cleanse is to rid the body of toxins, then it makes sense to select foods that offer the least amount of exposure to the junk that can be found in conventionally grown foods. Organic foods are grown without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, sewage sludge, irradiation, and toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Select local, if possible, to maximize nutrients found in these foods.  

What’s the deal with juicing?

My advice here is to follow the guidelines above, as you would for any cleanse. If you can keep calories at an appropriate level, use organic fruits and vegetables, and incorporate sources of protein (good luck with that - most juice cleanses lack protein) and find a way to sneak in fiber, then go for it (as in use juices to supplement a balanced, whole foods diet).
Is juicing healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables? Not necessarily. In fact, most juicing cleanses will lack fiber and be lower in vitamins and minerals than the whole foods, since fiber and some vitamins and minerals are found in the skins of fruits. If you end up with pulp that goes into the garbage, then this is evidence that you are getting cut short and whole fruits and vegetables would be a better nutritional (and cost) value. However, if you don’t presently consume whole fruits and vegetables and are the ecstatic new owner of a Vitamix, then yes juicing probably is the preferable route for you, as you are probably going to be consuming more of these foods than you would otherwise. Along similar lines, most of us will be more likely to add a variety of fruits and vegetables to create interesting juice recipes. We may not have been willing to achieve this variety if we were, for example, assembling a salad.
Bottom line, juice cleanses lack protein. They may serve as great snacks, but should be part of a healthy, balanced, wholesome diet.
Whether you are looking for a jumpstart to a serious body makeover, or if you have already established a routine you are proud to continue, these tips are aimed at a healthy way to clean up your act before the summer fun begins.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

An Appetite for Spring

The start of Spring doesn’t just mean we can now justify complaining about the weather (you know you did starting March 20th), it is the exciting start to a vibrant produce season! You may have received the hint from bundled asparagus spears taking over the produce displays at your local supermarket that the season has indeed changed, now aren’t you curious to know what else will be taking the place of those winter root vegetables on your plate?

Spring Produce

Some of the produce you will be seeing this season includes rhubarb, chives, bamboo shoots, asparagus, Chinese vegetables, lettuce, radish, and spinach. Berries will be beginning to make an appearance by the end of the season.

Why eat seasonally?

If you are eating according to season, you are probably eating locally as well. Besides the obvious benefit to the environment, if your food isn’t traveling far, you will be saving money and will get a bigger nutritional bang for your buck. You will enjoy your produce at the peak of ripeness, so your taste buds will thank you as well.

What do I do with…?

  • Rhubarb-Low in calories, yet high in dietary fiber and vitamin C! Try this Rhubarb-Cherry Sauce recipe on your favorite meat dish. Alternatively, experience the sweeter side of this vegetable with a Rhubarb Crisp (http://www.marthastewart.com/article/rhubarb-crisp).
  • Radish-This root vegetable is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, meaning it provides the same cancer-protective actions. All varieties of radishes are low in calories and high in vitamin C, and the leaves contain up to six times more vitamin C, as well as provide calcium. Try out this simple Cucumber Radish Slaw to accompany your next meal (http://www.marthastewart.com/332417/cucumber-radish-slaw) .
  • Asparagus-A member of the lily family, these spears are surprisingly rich in protein compared to other vegetables. Also an excellent source of potassium, vitamin K, folic acid, vitamins C and A, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B6. Roast asparagus and drizzle with a little olive oil and salt, or steam and serve with lemon vinaigrette for a light salad. Incorporate asparagus in a variety of dishes, including pastas, stir-fry, omelets, and salads. Start with keeping it simple with this Oven Roasted Asparagus Recipe
  • Lettuce/Spinach-A general rule-of-thumb is that the darker the lettuce, the greater the nutrient content. In general, all varieties are high in vitamin K, A, C, and folic acid. Spinach is known for its alkaline producing effects on the body, as well as its high lutein content, which promotes healthy vision. Try this Spinach Salad with Dried Cherries recipe for a gentle transition into lighter spring fare.

Check out this link link for more fabulous spring recipes!

For more information about what’s in season in the Puget Sound Region please visit here