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Diets to Avoid in 2017

The British Dietetic Association releases a list of diets to avoid every year. I found an article highlighting the top five. (link here)

I was slightly surprised at first to see Clean Eating as their number one choice. At its most basic form, clean eating is just avoiding processed foods and refined sugars. We should all be doing that. But as I read the reasoning, I totally agree. It isn’t great to classify foods as “clean” or “dirty”. Sometimes, we get it wrong.

Here’s an example. Recently, I was teaching a nutrition lesson to some cub scouts I work with (8 year old boys). I brought a bunch of toy food and had them sort them into the categories of MyPlate. They had no idea where to put French fries. When I told them it was a vegetable, they didn’t believe me. Once we talked through it, they understood. French fries are potatoes. Not the healthiest version of potatoes, but potatoes none the less. Potatoes aren’t clean or dirty. It is how they are prepared.

The idea of orthorexia nervosa mentioned in the article was also new to me. They defined this as an obsession with defining foods as healthy or unhealthy and eliminating the unhealthy ones. Most (I’ll admit not all) foods fit somewhere on the spectrum of healthy to unhealthy. It is hard to draw a line. Eliminating foods is not a solution I recommend. Moderation and control are better options.

Hope you enjoy reading these! Happy New Year!

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New Year’s Word-solution

It’s that time again. Time to review the year that is ending and make plans of how to make next year better. I’ve posted many ideas for setting goals in the past (here, here, and here). This year, I have two thoughts for you.

First, I recently started listening to Gretchen Rubin’s podcast “Happier“. Highly recommend it. She proposed the idea of having a one word theme for 2017 that all of your goals or resolutions revolve around. I think this is an awesome way of combining your nutrition and health related goals with your other goals for the year. As you might have guessed by the image above, I have chosen the word focus. I am constantly either multi-tasking or leaving something half finished because I’m distracted by something else only to come back later and realize I still didn’t finish the first task. Neither of these use my time efficiently. My goal this year is to focus on what I’m doing while I’m doing it. If I’m playing with my kids, I’m only playing. If I’m eating, I’m focused on what I’m eating and why I’m eating it. If I’m exercising, I’m focused on pushing myself. Several of the workout videos I’ve watched recently have mentioned, “If you are going to workout, make it count” or “If you are here, be here 100%”. It’s so true.

Let me know your themes or resolutions in the comments!

Second, I heard an interesting statistic. Apparently, data shows that the first Thursday in February is when all of us have fallen of the bandwagon of our health goals. It is when the decline in gym attendance and the rise in fast food intake intersect. The second Friday in February is the most popular day for fast food eating. So not only have we all fallen off the bandwagon, but we have no intention of getting back on (apparently). So this year, mark February 2nd and February 10th on your calendar. Don’t go out for fast food. Go exercise and eat a healthful meal. Your body and your resolutions will thank you. (Statistics from episode 3 of Tell Me Something I Don’t Know)

If you are hosting a New Year’s party, here is a link to recipes and tips for lighter cocktails. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

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Gingerbread Pancakes

Breakfast is a nutritionally important meal of the day. But I also find it to be an emotionally important meal. When I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I need a good breakfast to help me turn my day around. And it really works. No bowls of cold cereal. I need warm food that makes me feel happy. I love easy ways to make breakfast seem special, since I usually don’t have much time on those days.

These gingerbread pancakes fit that bill. If you tried my gingerbread pancakes last year, these are even better.  Lighter and more fluffy.  Still great gingerbread flavor without being overpowering.  And no sugar in the batter besides molasses!  Hooray!

Gingerbread Pancakes (Makes 10-15 pancakes)

Gingerbread Pancakes

1 large egg
1 ½ cups skim milk
5 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ⅓ cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, milk, molasses, oil, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

2. Heat a griddle or non-stick pan to medium-high heat (350 if electric). Lightly spray pan with cooking spray. Pour about ¼-⅓ cup batter onto griddle for each cake. Cook until they start to bubble and bottom looks set. Flip and cook until browned.

Nutritional Information (Amount per pancake):

Calories: 110
Protein: 3 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 16 mg
Carbohydrates: 18 g
Fiber: 2 gm
Sodium: 138 mg

Notes: I prefer white whole wheat flour, but “regular” whole wheat flour also works here. As with all pancake batters, I find the amount of liquid is a little bit tricky. You can add more milk if you need a thinner batter.

Source: Children’s Museum Denver

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Blue Apron Review

I have been hearing about Blue Apron for a couple years now. It is one of several meal delivery services available these days. They send you ingredients and recipes for you to cook yourself. They offer a variety of meal plans – vegetarian. Most advertise sustainability in some form or other. The ingredients are fresh and seasonal. It seems like a busy person’s dream – groceries perfectly matched to recipes show up at your door.

I looked into Blue Apron a few times, partly because I heard of discounts on a variety of podcasts. But, I wasn’t ever quite willing to take the plunge. While the meals are pretty affordably priced, I always seemed to look when my grocery budget was feeling extra tight. But last week, I happened to stop by a friend’s house right when she got her Blue Apron box AND her fridge was broken. She didn’t know how long it would take to fix it plus she was leaving town in a day or two. So, she generously gave me her box of two meals.

I thought I’d share some pictures and my thoughts on the meals for you today.

First meal: Pan-Seared Barramundi with Prince of Orange Potatoes and Spinach

Blue Apron Barramundi

I thought the recipe had the timing of steps very well planned out for you. There was generally something to be doing even if another item was cooking. I liked the efficiency of that, which I’m not the best at figuring out on my own.

I think they could have been a bit more specific on size of dice for the potatoes, as mine cooked MUCH faster than the recipe suggested.

I did find on both recipes I made that the cook time on the front of the recipe card did not match the actual cook times on the back. For example, the potatoes were supposed to roast 28-30 minutes. But the front of the card said cook time was 25-35 minutes for the whole meal. I was confused on that.

I really enjoyed the spinach. I definitely want to try and cook spinach like that again on my own. Made for a yummy side.

Overall, this meal was okay, but I wasn’t wowed by it. It seemed under seasoned overall to me. There are a lot of steps of adding salt and pepper throughout, but I felt it could use more variety in the seasonings. Even some garlic powder or something for the fish and potatoes.

I will say my kids devoured the fish and potatoes, which is always a win in my house.

My biggest complaint with this meal was the portion size. I don’t know what four small people would be able to divide the amount of potatoes I received and feel satisfied. I had to ration them between me, my three year old, and my one year old to leave ANY for my husband (who ate later).

Second meal: Lemongrass Roasted Pork with Braised Cauliflower and Bok Choy (sorry the picture isn’t great)

Blue Apron Pork

My husband and I enjoyed this meal a lot more than the barramundi. I think a lot of it had to do with the seasoning. This had a lot more flavor: spice rub for the pork, cilantro in the rice, a chili sauce.

I did not feel like this meal was as well timed out as the fish. I found myself standing around waiting a lot. And I found their time estimates on almost everything to be off. I braised my cauliflower almost twice as long as they said. And I live at high altitude, so it should have gone faster. My sauce and rice cooked faster than they said. And there was the same issue with the overall cook time being off like I mentioned above.

I think part of the reason we liked this meal more was I felt the portion sizes were more accurate. We all ate until we were full and even had a (very) little left over. I would expect to have leftovers from a meal designed for four, since two of our four people are toddlers.

I did enjoy the cauliflower, and especially liked pairing it with bok choy. I feel like I always want to try and use different vegetables more but never know how. I do feel like this was a little under seasoned. Soy sauce or something like that would have really made this work better for me.

The chili butter sauce was very good. Really tied the whole meal together. We are sauce people, so I would have liked a little bit more, but it was sufficient.

As an overall service, I think Blue Apron could be a great option for busy people that still want home cooked meals. The meals are balanced, well-rounded, and have a great variety to them.

I personally will not be switching to Blue Apron any time soon. And here are my reasons:

-We have leftover night once a week, every week. With this service, there are no leftovers. As odd as that may sound for many of you, just cleaning out my fridge and not really having to cook dinner once a week is a lifesaver for me.

-I’d still have to grocery shop. I need lunch, breakfast, snacks, etc for my family. This doesn’t eliminate going to the store. So for me, might as well go for everything.

-Maybe it was just the two meals I tried, but neither exactly hit the flavor profile I’m going for in my cooking. I prefer to use other seasonings besides just salt and pepper. I try to limit my salt use actually. Their philosophy seemed to be salt and pepper is the only thing you need. While that is simpler for a service like theirs, it kind of made for food on the bland end of the food taste spectrum.

-Cost. I don’t think they are unreasonably priced, by any means. However, I try to feed my family for about $10/day. Their cost is over $8 per serving. And that is only one meal. For the quality you are getting and the service, it is probably worth it for some. In my life circumstances, I can’t justify that expense.

However, those are very personal reasons. Overall, I think it would be a great idea for many people. Hope this helps anyone who has been thinking about it. If you are interested, they are usually offering $30 off your first order and free shipping when you sign up.

Happy eating!

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Kitchen Safety

Short post today. Yesterday, I had a bit of an accident in my kitchen and nearly chopped the tip of my finger off. Four stitches and a bunch of bandages later, I look like this:

img_4804

Not exactly conducive for cooking, which is pretty essential for healthy eating. (Nor is it conducive to typing, hence my brevity today). People come up with a lot of reasons why they can’t cook, but I think lack of “skill” is lumped into many of them. If you don’t know what you are doing or aren’t very good, cooking can be intimidating. Here is an awesome video from Jamie Oliver (one of my favorite celebrity chefs) on cutting skills. Watch it so you don’t end up in the ER like me. And listen to what he says. We all have accidents. We all have to start slow. But with the right techniques, you can gradually speed it up and have fewer accidents. Enjoy!

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Absence

Sorry gang. I’ve only been posting sporadically lately and now I’m really off track. I had great plans of getting things going again this week, but I’ve run into some rather large computer issues. I’m sure once those get resolved, everything will be back to normal. I’ll be back in a week or so. Promise.

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Chili

Recently, we were having a chili dinner fundraiser at my church. The person in charge of the food asked if I had a good, basic chili recipe, and I suddenly realized that I didn’t. They used a recipe from someone else, but I did help cook some of the chili. It turned out tasty, but the whole experience got my brain going.

This recipe is inspired by the recipe we used for the fundraiser, but trying to raise the health level a bit. I was shocked at that amount of meat and the lack of vegetables in that recipe. This recipe tries to ramp up the health level without sacrificing on the flavor. Next week, I’ll show you my new favorite way to eat this chili, too. Enjoy!

Chili (Serves 8)

Chili

½ tablespoon canola oil (if needed)
10 ounces lean ground turkey
1 large onion, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced carrots
½ jalapeno, diced (seeds and membranes removed per preference)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
½ tablespoon oregano
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can low sodium pinto beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup corn
1 can tomato paste
1 (8 ounce) can no salt added tomato sauce
¼ cup masa
½ cup water

1. Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add turkey; cook until browned. Add onion, pepper, carrots, and jalapeño. Saute until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, and cinnamon. Saute for about 1 minute more, stirring constantly. You want the spices to begin to be fragrant but not to burn.

2. Add in both beans, corn, tomato paste, and tomato sauce. Stir to combine well. Bring to a boil. Simmer for at least 1 hour, up to 3 if you have the time.

3. About 30 minutes before serving, mix ¼ cup masa with the water until not lumpy. Stir into chili. Cook for 30 minutes more.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories:
Protein:
Fat:
Saturated Fat:
Cholesterol:
Carbohydrates:
Fiber:
Sodium:

Recipe Notes: If you don’t get lean turkey, then you won’t need the oil. I usually aim for 90/10 or 93/7 turkey. If you can’t find that, you can use a higher fat percentage. Just don’t add the oil, and make sure to drain some of the excess fat before adding the vegetables. All you need is a light coating to prevent sticking. You could easily substitute kidney beans, which are more traditional. I happened to have pinto and liked the taste. The step with the masa and water is somewhat optional. I think it adds good flavor and thickening. But if you don’t have it around, don’t stress out about it. This is pretty thick chili, but I liked how hearty it was.

Source: Adapted from Joy of Cooking and The Pioneer Woman

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