spotlight

Sorry I disappeared for a few days! Work has been pretty busy, but I’m back!

to start off, if you don’t have yummly, go sign up right now. it’s a recipe search engine that has TONS of awesome recipes in a very easy to read format:

ScreenHunter_75 Oct. 14 20.52

If you don’t get pulled in to the million recipes on yummly (there are SO many!!), here are a few more I came across this week that I can’t wait to try! Enjoy!

this pumpkin greek yogurt banana bread looks like a fun (healthy!) twist on a fall favorite

easy southwest mac + cheese…much better for you than the boxed variety

red beans and rice is another easy, delicious weeknight meal

for some reason, I always forget about popcorn as a snack but it is so filling…and a whole grain! can’t wait to try this curried popcorn

greek salad bites!

if you ever have trouble eating/liking vegetables, roasted veggies are the way to go

 

 

spotlight

Fall foods are taking over my kitchen in full force lately! There are some on today’s list that you don’t want to miss – like homemade applesauce! It’s so easy! Enjoy!

if you’re not sure how to use all the spices in your spice cabinet or just want to be more creative in the kitchen, this infographic is perfect for you. so much great info!!

if you don’t mind a little spice, you’ll probably love this sriracha roasted chicken

do you make homemade pizza? I used to make it at least once a week but I’ve gotten out of the habit. this thai chicken pizza would be a nice change of pace

I think I have my favorite pizza crust recipe on this blog somewhere from back in the day, but this whole wheat pizza dough is even faster. now you have no excuse NOT to make pizza this week! :)

did you jump on the kale chip bandwagon a couple years back? I know…it sounds like major hippie food but they’re pretty darn good and these masala kale chips look incredibly addicting.

I’m not a fan of tomato soup, but this one actually looks pretty incredible

a souffle pancake with cinnamon apples sounds like the perfect fall Saturday morning treat

fried chicken is high in unhealthy saturated fats but if it’s a routine part of your dinner menu, you can make a lighter version like this oven fried chicken

nachos are one of my favorite foods and they don’t have to be unhealthy. load them up with fiber-filled black beans, healthy fats from avocado, and veggies like bell peppers and corn for a filling meal you can enjoy and feel good about.

fall is full of all kinds of squash. if you haven’t tried it, what better way to start than squash covered in sweet and sour sauce?

everyone in the family will like easy cheese baked tortellini. bonus – it can easily be frozen so make a couple batches at once!

if you have a slow cooker and you haven’t made homemade applesauce yet, you are missing out. it is so incredibly delicious and EASY….and makes your house smell amazing.

dietary fat: part 3

Just to recap, in part 1 we discussed how to spot nutrition misinformation since that seems to be common when it comes to dietary fat. In part 2, we discussed the different types of fats and which are best to avoid.

Now for the fun part: how to actually add more good fats into your diet and make sure you’re keeping the bad ones to a minimum!

avocado[used with permission by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]

In part 2, I mentioned that you should keep saturated fats should be less than about 20 grams per day (depending on your calorie needs) and trans fats should be eliminated from the diet. The following are some foods high in saturated fat:

ScreenHunter_74 Sep. 23 18.59Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and any foods containing these as an ingredients will also be higher in saturated fats. Processed foods like boxed meals and snack foods often contain palm kernel and/or hydrogenated oils. Desserts and processed meats like sausages also tend to be higher in saturated fats.

Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats like those found in olive or canola oil, nuts, flax, nuts, and avocado has been shown to decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Olive oil starts to break down at high heats, so canola oil is better to use when cooking at high temperatures. Here are some ways you can increase the amount of unsaturated fats in your diet (I hope you’re prepared for some recipes!):

 

 

dietary fat: part 2

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about how to determine if the latest piece of nutrition advice is worth following, let’s talk specifics about dietary fats!

First, fat is a necessary part of everyone’s diet. The brain is largely made up of fats, fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) require fat to be absorbed properly, your body uses some fat for energy, and fat is used to make up cell membranes and hormones in your body, just to name a few things.

Here’s a breakdown of the different types of fats:

ScreenHunter_74 Sep. 23 15.51Saturated and trans fats are in red because they should be minimized, as they increase blood cholesterol levels and can be harmful to your health. Saturated fats should be kept to less than 10% of your total calories (less than 20 grams per day on a “typical” 2,000 calorie diet) or less than 7% of your total calories if you are at risk for heart disease. Trans fats should be avoided as much as possible.

Unsaturated fats should make up the majority of the fats in your diet and can be found in both poly- and monounsaturated forms. The often talked about omega-3s and omega-6s are long chain polyunsaturated fats and are considered essential because the human body can’t make these fats on their own – only plants can. Humans can, however, use some other shorter chain fatty acids from the diet to make the longer omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-6s are in yellow because we already get plenty in our diets and having far more omega-6s than omega-3s in the diet can interfere with the process I mentioned above of converting shorter fatty acids into the longer omega-3s (like EPA and DHA) that are particularly beneficial to our health. Intake of omega-3 fatty acids is encouraged to help balance out the ratio between omega-6s and omega-3s.

So, which fats are provide more healthy unsaturated fats and which provide more unhealthy saturated fats? Let’s take a look at a comparison between different types of fats/oils and the amounts of each kind of fat they contain. The information in the graph is for 1 tablespoon of each kind of fat/oil.

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We can learn a lot from that graph up there! First, let’s consider the butter vs margarine debate. As you might be able to tell, only two items in that graph have a noticable amount of trans fat: butter and margarine. Many people think margarine is healthier because it doesn’t have as much saturated fat but, if we think back to the recommendations above, trans fat is considered far worse (elimintate) for heart health than saturated fat (<20 grams per day) and margarine has much more trans fat than butter. Either should be used in moderation, but I always use butter over margarine.

Palm kernel oil and other tropical oils (such as coconut oil) are notorious for their high saturated fat content, as you can see above. You may have never purchased palm kernel oil or seen it next to the olive oil at the grocery store but it is in I would say a majority of processed foods. You’re probably more familiar with coconut oil.

coconut oil[source]

While some research suggests that coconut oil may have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels due to the different way it is absorbed in the body, the results overall appear to be mixed. Without evidence of definite health benefits, I don’t recommend using coconut oil in place of other heart healthy oils. Regardless of its benefits, I wouldn’t use it more frequently than I would any other oil or fat. We know that olive oil is a heart healthy choice because of it’s high percentage of unsaturated fats, specifically monounsaturated fats. However, no one recommends going around and pouring olive oil onto everything you eat. When you need to use oil, olive oil is a good choice but it is still a concentrated source of calories (~120 calories per tablespoon) and should be used in moderation to leave room for other important nutrients in the diet. The same idea applies to coconut oil.

That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about dietary fats! Monday will be part 3 – ways to actually add more good fats in and cut some of the bad fats out of your diet.

 

 

spotlight

Clearly fall is in full swing because today’s round-up of recipes is definitely heavy on the comfort food.

some soups are definitely not enough on their own to be a meal (I’m looking at you, vegetable). mediterranean chicken, bean, and pasta soup, on the other hand, has everything you need for a meal

roasted potatoes are hands down one of my favorite comfort foods. barbeque roasted potatoes take it up a notch.

guacamole tacos…what more could you possibly need??

sneak in some veggies with cinnamon butternut squash bread

no-bake coconut raisin crunch bars

homemade indian food seems intimidating but this cauliflower coconut masala seems totally doable

baked apple chips would make the perfect fall snack

I think I’ll be making these peanut noodles for lunches next week!

veggie potato breakfast tacos would make a fun weekend breakfast/brunch. I’m betting you could even wrap the leftovers up as burritos and pop them in the fridge/freezer for easy weekday breakfasts….

this one-pot herb roasted chicken looks incredible

homemade cheeze-its!

 

 

 

dietary fat: part 1

olive oil

Fat will probably always be a hot topic in the world of nutrition.

Fat is bad. Fat is good. Eat less saturated fat. Eat more saturated fat. Eggs are bad. Eggs are good. Margarine is healthier. Butter is healthier. Coconut oil is healthier.

All sounds pretty contradictory, right? There’s one thing I can promise you. All the dietitians don’t just get together and then go changing their mind every once in awhile on what people should eat. Several things cause the confusing messages you’ve no doubt heard. Two major ones are:

1) Research. Dietitians use evidence-based practice, meaning we look at what multiple well-designed studies are finding and use that to make nutrition recommendations. Sometimes there isn’t much research yet and we have to use what knowledge we have to make a recommendation. Research is also always changing. We’re always learning more, which is good and helps us improve our recommendations, but the updated recommendations sometimes confuse people.

2) Media. Lots of times, the media will grab on to one sentence or headline from a research article and that becomes the thing that everyone hangs on to regarding that food. What you must remember is that they probably don’t take the time to see if the study was well designed or if more than one study found similar results. If a study was completed in animals, a very specific population, had a small number of subjects, used a research environment that isn’t representative of what people actually experience in daily life, or the results weren’t replicated in other studies, the findingss aren’t really applicable to the population at large.

As you can see, this is part 1 on dietary fats. Because I’ve seen so much misinformation going around about dietary fats in particular, I felt like it was important to talk a little bit about why it’s best not to just jump on the latest bandwagon/diet craze without further information. Of course, that goes for really any part of your diet.

Check back Friday for part 2, which will talk more about specific types of fats and what they do. Next Monday will be part 3 on how to actually add more good fats into your diet and take out some of the bad!

what’s the deal with dairy?

dairy[source]

I received a recent question about dairy and it is definitely a timely topic. With all of the milk/dairy alternatives these days, it can be confusing to know which one to pick and why.

Although soy, almond, rice, and coconut milks are all increasing in popularity as “healthier” choices, dairy is still considered part of a healthy diet. Let’s start by taking a look at a comparison of nutrition facts between the different kinds of milk available these days:

ScreenHunter_74 Sep. 22 13.57All of the above nutrition information is for one 8 oz serving. Cow’s milk will all have the same amount of protein and carbohydrate per serving. The only difference between skim, 1%, 2%, and whole milk is fat, and thus calorie content. The coconut milk in the table above is the kind found in the refrigerated section next to all the other milk alternatives, NOT the canned kind. The beverage coconut milk is more watered down and with more added ingredients than the canned variety, which is meant more for cooking.

Looking at the other milk options, most have only half (or less) the protein of cow’s milk. As you can also see from the differences in carbohydrate content, many also have loads of added sugar for taste. All cow’s milk/dairy has naturally occuring sugar in the form of lactose, so any dairy product will have at least that much sugar (plain yogurt, for example).

 

milk[used with permission by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]

A little over 1 gram of the fat in 1% milk is saturated fat, while whole milk has just over 4.5 grams of saturated fat per serving. For that reason, it is recommended that most dairy you choose be low fat (skim or 1%). When you consider all of the other beneficial nutrients found in milk (high quality protein, calcium, etc), a little saturated fat is not an issue. Especially in the context of an overall healthy diet. While some plant foods have a fair amount of calcium in them, the absorption of calcium is improved in the presence of lactose and vitamin D (found in milk) and decreased in the presence of fiber and phytates (found in plant foods).

Dairy protein also comes out on top when considering a protein supplement. Cow’s milk is made up of 2 proteins: casein (80%) and whey (20%). Whey is considered the best for muscle protein synthesis because of it’s rapid absorption and the quality of dairy protein. Animal proteins have large amounts of all 9 essential amino acids in a form that is easily digestible and this is what makes them “high quality” proteins. Whey also seems to be the best source of leucine, the most important amino acid when it comes to muscle building.

Supplements[source]

For those who do not consume any animal products or who choose to avoid dairy, I would recommend soy milk as the next best alternative. Soy is one of the only plant proteins that contains an adequate amount of all of the 9 essential amino acids and provides several other beneficial phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients). While there has been some concern over the health and safety of consuming soy in recent years, all the research I have read has suggested that consuming whole, minimally processed soy (think tofu, whole soy beans/edamame, soy milk, etc) is safe and provides health benefits.

shelled edamame[from the United Soybean Board]

This has all been a somewhat long way to say that, unless you’re lactose intolerant or have some other reason for avoiding dairy, I typically recommend it as a better choice over the dairy alternatives. Milk/dairy products are a great way to get calcium, vitamin D, and high quality protein throughout the day. However, as with all caloric beverages, you should also consider the calories milk is providing in the context of your overall diet. If you have small children who have transitioned to milk, it is also important to remember that milk and other beverages are filling and should be monitored so your child doesn’t fill up before eating their meals.