Tag Archives: nutrition

GMO’s – Good or Bad?

I recently listened to a very interesting podcast about bananas on Freakonomics. It highlighted how modern farming techniques have made producing bananas fairly inexpensive. Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the world. However, this plentiful fruit is at risk of extinction due to a fungus. This risk is partly due to our production efficiencies that make it so affordable.

The podcast highlighted something I hadn’t thought of before. You go to the grocery store. How many kinds of apples are there? Probably at least half a dozen. How many kinds of bananas? One. The whole world (for the most part) consumes one variety of banana. However, this variety is threatened by a fungus that could literally wipe out all the banana plantations. For THIS variety of banana.

Interestingly, some scientists have found a solution. They have successfully modified the DNA of some banana plants to be resistant to this fungus. The scientists have put one gene from a wild banana plant into the current banana plant used and found that it is immune. One gene. Brilliant, right? Except, this hasn’t taken on like wildfire because of the widespread concern over GMO’s in our food.

Now, I’m not telling you that you have to be for or against GMO’s. I think everyone is entitled to an EDUCATED opinion. But I would strongly encourage you to learn more about what we actually do and do not know about GMO’s related to our food supply.

It reminds me of a speech I heard from a food scientist years ago. He talked about how as healthcare professionals we (often) tell people to stay away from food additives. But then we complain about the cost of fresh foods and it being unavailable for all people. He pointed out you can’t have it both ways. The scientists came up with the additives to lower the cost of food and increase availability.

I just think it is important to understand both sides. You don’t want GMO bananas? That’s fine. But don’t complain when they are basically non existent or very expensive in a few years.

For the record, I don’t have a firm opinion on GMO’s. I think there is a lot of information out there, good and bad. And a lot we don’t know yet. I just post here to remind us that when we form one opinion, we have to accept the ramifications.

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Leftovers

I think I’ve waxed poetic about the beauty of leftovers before. But I feel like it bears repeating.

There are so many great things about leftovers.

1) Delicious lunches that take little time to put together. As you put food away after dinner, portion it into containers so it is ready to grab for lunch the next day.

2) A no brainer dinner. We have leftover night every Tuesday. My kids LOVE it because they feel in control of what they eat. They (with guidance and some rules) can choose whatever leftovers they want for dinner. I don’t have to plan it. I don’t have to cook again. I don’t have to clean up much. Wins all around. (This does mean we don’t eat any leftovers for lunch until AFTER Tuesday night though, so there is that trade off.)

My husband calls it the “best of” night. Here’s my plate at leftover night recently. It’s pretty random: lasagna, lo mein, pork chops, and mashed potatoes/turnips. But it was yummy!

Leftover night

3) Some food tastes better with time. The minestrone soup I love tastes WAY better as leftovers. Something about sitting makes the flavors better. Many people swear by assembling an entire lasagna then letting it refrigerate for a day or so before baking to improve the taste. (Real caveat: some foods DON’T improve with time or reheating. Seafood is a particular culprit I can think of in that category.)

4) Saves money. You are throwing out less food. You are buying less food (less stuff for lunches or dinners, depending on how you use them).

5) Simplifies other meals. Just this last week, I was grilling chicken for dinner one night. I saved one piece aside to make pizza later in the week. I always double up on soup or spaghetti sauce recipes and freeze the extra. Super simple meal in the future.

Like I said, I LOVE leftovers. However, there are some rules for being safe with leftovers.

1) All leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees F. This is easiest with soups or sauces – if it’s bubbling throughout, it’s good.

2) Food needs to be cooled quickly. Don’t stick a giant pot of soup in the fridge to cool down. Put it in smaller containers. If possible, don’t put the hot pan in the fridge. Transfer things to a new container that isn’t hot.

3) Wrap leftovers well. This will prevent bacteria in the air from getting in there.

4) Leftovers should only be kept for up to 4 days in the fridge, about 3-4 months in the freezer. The USDA does say frozen foods will last longer but will lose moisture and flavor after that amount of time.

5) Leftovers of leftovers? The USDA says it is safe to refreeze previously frozen leftovers IF you heated it to the appropriate temperature of 165 degrees F. I probably wouldn’t recommend this due to loss in quality of product.

Do you like leftovers or loathe them? Share in the comments!

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Meal Planning Tips

A common complaint I hear from many people is that meal planning is hard/time consuming/frustrating/boring, etc. I told someone I didn’t love meal planning either, and she seemed shocked. “Isn’t that what you do for a living?” It’s true that I did learn a lot about meal planning in school. In ways, that only makes it harder for me, since I can think of more “rules”.

While I don’t always love meal planning, I don’t hate it. Usually my problem is having the right ideas to fit my schedule and budget at the time. Here are some tips I try to follow to make meal planning easier.

1) Don’t try to plan too much at one time. For me, a week is plenty. I plan to grocery shop once a week. Produce doesn’t last much longer that anyway. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have more ideas than one week worth. I often have more ideas than days (or ideas that won’t fit my schedule for the week). File those away in your brain for the next time.

2) Have a set time you meal plan. Find a consistent day and time of day that works. I like to meal plan during breakfast or lunch. I’m a little hungry so I can think of foods that sound good. And I can multi-task doing it while I eat. This makes it feel like less of a time drain. Also, if you have a set time, it doesn’t feel like it is taking over your life.

3) Have a few “set” days. We have a leftover night every Tuesday. Breakfast for dinner is every Wednesday. I don’t have to think about two out of the seven days. Win! Maybe you do Taco Tuesdays or Meatless Mondays. Just having some parameters will speed things up.

4) Know your categories of foods. I like to have soup generally once a week. Then I know we’ll probably want Mexican and or Asian food. Fridays and Saturdays I like to have “weekend food” – pizza, sandwiches, burgers, faster foods to cook. Having those categories helps me know which types of foods I’m thinking about.

5) At the end, double check for repeats. This is a key step. I skipped it a couple weeks ago and ended up with 4 nights of chicken in a row. Whoops! This isn’t to say I might not repeat chicken in a week, but I try to space it out.

6) Look at food magazines and blogs in your free time. I know, I know. We don’t have free time. But instead of scrolling Facebook for the third time today, go check a couple food blogs you trust. Subscribe to a good food magazine for your lifestyle. I really like Cooking Light, but there are plenty of other great options. Just browsing these will file dinner ideas away in your brain. Seriously. Years later, I will suddenly remember a blog post I saw and wanted to try. If you use pinterest, actually USE it to help you plan your meals.

7) One idea to try, which may or may not work for you. Pick one blog or one cookbook or one magazine. Find all your meals from there. It is tricky, but it can save time flipping around endless places for ideas. When I’ve done this, I usually get about three recipes from the same place. My other two ideas are recipes I know and love.

8) Don’t try all new things. Keep some tried and true recipes in your line up each week. It is mentally exhausting to figure out a new recipe every night. Keep it real. Keep it simple.

Do you meal plan? I’d love to hear what you use to help in the comments!

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The Pegan Diet

I hear about the paleo diet fairly frequently still, but I recently heard about new variant of paleo – the pegan diet. The pegan diet is sort of a combination of paleo and vegan. At first, I thought that sounded impossible. The whole point of paleo is to eat meat, the whole point of vegan is to not. But this a unique diet that takes ASPECTS of each individual diet.

Followers of the pegan diet eat 75% of their food as fruits and vegetables. These should mostly be non-starchy and “low glycemic” fruits. All of this is to help balance your blood sugar levels.

The other 25% of the diet is made up for grass-fed, responsibly raised animal protein. Fish is especially encouraged. Healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and omega-3s are also encouraged.

Both of these steps seem much less restrictive than the original diets to me, and mostly in line with a general healthy diet. The real kicker is eating less than ½ cup of gluten-free grains per meal and less than 1 cup of legumes(beans) per day.

The diet creators state that the benefits are reduced inflammation and better blood glucose control. There are no long term studies to prove any benefits of this diet.

Overall, I don’t see anything wrong with the diet itself. It would be difficult to follow and could be quite expensive – focusing on organic, responsibly raised foods, etc. Some sites point out dining out would be quite difficult which could be isolating to some. It does seem unnecessarily restrictive – if you aren’t allergic to dairy or gluten, there isn’t a NEED to avoid them. However, if you are diversifying your intakes, you could have a nutritionally adequate diet without them.

My final thought: compared to vegan or paleo, this is less restrictive and possibly easier to follow. But I don’t know that it is necessary for good health.

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New Year, new plans?

Hi everyone! I hope you are having a great start to your 2019. Mine is frigid cold, unfortunately. But otherwise, 2019 is starting good on my resolutions.

I’ve talked about resolutions on here A LOT before. I think they are great. I am still solidifying mine for the year. We traveled a bit for the holidays, so I’m starting some of mine today, the second. Some may start next week when my daughter goes back to school and life is in more of a routine. But it’s ok. Just pick any day and start.

Did you make any food or health related resolutions? This is my third year making the exact same resolution – only eat “treats” 2 days per week. The first year I didn’t do well. Last year, I did awesome until May then was pretty hit or miss (mostly miss) for the rest of the year. But that’s ok. I’m not perfect and never will be. But I can keep trying to be better. What are you trying to be better at in 2019?

One goal many people have is to meal plan better. Meal planning is GREAT for your budget, your daily stress level, and your health. You eat more healthful foods if you plan it out. However, planning can be a chore. I do it every week, so I know.

One solution many seek are either menu services or meal delivery services. I tried out Hello Fresh recently, so I thought I’d give a quick review here. (I previously reviewed Blue Apron here.) I am not sponsored by Hello Fresh. I used a discount coupon I got in the mail, but it was a generic coupon code. Hello Fresh doesn’t know I am reviewing them and did not give me anything to do so.

Hello Fresh Review

I was fairly impressed with the different recipe selections they had. It seemed a wide variety and food my kids would eat. When the box arrived, I felt like the ingredients were good quality for the price I paid. Of the recipes I got, I’m sharing today about the Cherry Balsamic Pork Chops with Garlic Herb Couscous and Roasted Broccoli.

And the food…

Hello Fresh Cherry Balsamic Pork Chops

was delicious! I was actually pretty impressed. I’m not always a huge fan of couscous, but this was really good.

Pros:
– The food was good. Close to restaurant quality. Not an average weeknight dinner for us.

– It was fast and easy to make. This recipe in particular was pretty quick and straightforward. I even felt like it worked well. Pork and I have a hard time, but I felt like it cooked in the amount of time it stated (I often find I need to cook pork much longer than suggested cooking times to reach appropriate temperatures).

– I could make this again. I liked that I know exactly how much of all the ingredients were included so I could easily make this on my own if I wanted. Blue Apron was not that way, which I found frustrating. I wouldn’t keep ordering the same thing from a service, so I like getting the recipe for myself.

Cons:
-Price. Hello Fresh is at least $7 per serving. I try to budget around $10 per DAY at my house. I’m not always successful. But more than half of that at dinner kills me.

-Serving sizes. I personally found the serving sizes a little odd. The pork chops and veggies were good sizes. The couscous was a little scarce for 4 servings at my house (and 2 of my servings are little kids). But that just may be my house. A relative of mine says she serves 6 people fine off of 4 serving boxes.

-What is it saving you? Meal box services always kind of confuse me. They provide 2-4 dinners per week. So…I still have to plan and grocery shop for all the other days and meals. To me it just doesn’t move the ball enough to be worth the money. If that doesn’t phase you, great! Go for it!

Hope you are having a great new year! Let me know in the comments your experiences with Hello Fresh and any resolutions you have for 2019!

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Product Review: Quaker Overnight Oats

Hi friends!

With back to school time, we are all trying to get into good routines in the morning. There’s plenty of information out there showing that a good breakfast helps kids at school. But getting that good breakfast in before school can be tricky.

Recently, I heard about these Quaker Overnight Oats cups. They were on sale so I gave a couple flavors a try. This review is unsponsored. I bought these on my own. Quaker has no idea I exist.

We tried two flavors: Toasted Coconut and Almond Crunch; Blueberry Banana and Vanilla.

Overnight Oats

The instructions are very straightforward. Fill to the line in the cup with milk (or non-dairy milk substitute). Close the lid. Let steep in your fridge overnight. In the morning, you get this:

Steeped Overnight Oats

You can eat them cold or the package has instructions for how to heat it up.

Our rating (mine and my husband)? Neither of us were very fond of them cold. I liked the blueberry one cold more than the coconut. Warmed up, they were pretty good. These were very easy and made for a fast morning.

I think overall I give them a 3 out of 5 stars. Maybe I would have liked a different flavor cold more (it does come in 6 total flavors). The biggest downside is I don’t really see the purpose or cost effectiveness. It is very easy to make your own cup of cold overnight oatmeal like this. I have recipes here for that. But even on the webpage for this product, Quaker gives directions of how to make your own.

As for cost, each of these cups cost me $1.50 on sale. Normally they are $1.79. A big container of oats is less than $5 and will give you 15+ servings of oatmeal. You save a little time on measuring the oats themselves. They have thought out the fruit for you.

So in the end, I’m not going to judge you if you like these and use them. You are getting a healthy breakfast. And they are tasty (although in our family’s opinion more tasty if warm). But if you like the idea, you can make them pretty easily on your own for much cheaper.

Cold oatmeal not your thing? Oatmeal in the crockpot is also super easy and makes your house smell delicious when you wake up: Slow Cooker Overnight Oatmeal

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Q&A: Ketogenic Diet

Q: Is the ketogenic diet helpful for brain health, remembering, clear thinking, etc?

A: Thank you as always for questions. I love hearing what nutrition topics are concerning everyone. With so much in the media, it is very hard to know what “real” people are focusing on.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. Our body actually wants some level of carbohydrates for energy. Some organs, such as the brain, actually greatly prefer carbs to fats. If there are not enough carbohydrates, the body will burn fat and produce something called ketones. The brain can then use these ketones as a source for energy.

The ketogenic diet has been part of the treatment for epilepsy for many years. There are proven benefits for people whose epilepsy is not controlled well with medication alone. However, the diet needs to be closely monitored by a dietitian to ensure overall nutrient adequacy.

The ketogenic diet most people using it under generally “healthy” circumstances is really just another low carb diet like Atkins or South Beach. There are no proven benefits for weight loss or mental health or clarity. Many people do succeed with weight loss, but as with most diets, it is not sustainable when they go back to their traditional eating pattern.

Sorry this won’t give you the memory recall you hoped! Thanks again for the question.

Don’t forget you can always ask questions in the comments here or email me at kimberlykmarshgmail.com!

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