This fairly mild green plant has amazing versatility. Raw spinach is the basis of many wonderful cold salads. Spinach is also included in many cooked meals, from breakfast dishes with eggs to a variety of wonderful dinner recipes where it blends well with an array of flavors and foods. Fresh spinach, quickly sautéd with olive oil and garlic, is a classic Italian dish and is seen as an appetizer in some Italian restaurants. Spinach provides an astonishing amount of nutrients, including phytonutrients, water-soluble vitamins, and fat-soluble vitamins. Some of these nutrients are more available to us when eaten raw and some when eaten cooked. So should you eat it raw or cooked? Look at this great Vegetarian Times article, Nutrition Face-Off: Raw vs. Cooked Spinach. My husband and I like our spinach just sautéd lightly in olive oil and garlic. Watch here for a very impromptu spinach sauté. Click on the picture below for a great vegetable dish whether you sauté the vegetables or not.
I know it seems that that the nutrition community just can't get it right. One day the headlines say eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat and the next day the headlines claim that eating eggs will result in an early death. Actually, the headlines blow up a small piece of the puzzle and miss the big picture. There is no doubt that the egg is a marvelous nutrition package. It has 6 grams of protein with all essential amino acids in the perfect ratio for our body to use. It also has 13 essential vitamins and minerals. So why would this nutritious food be maligned?
Well, the problem is the cholesterol. This is what keeps the headlines going back and forth. The Dietary Guidelines from the USDA and American Heart Association had previously recommended limits of 300 mg of cholesterol for the general population and 200 mg for people with heart disease. And one egg has almost 200 mg of cholesterol. Recently, these two organizations have eliminated the limits, saying that it was not important to worry about the exact cholesterol number. Hence, the "eat all the eggs" you want headlines. However, this elimination of cholesterol limits has a caveat which proves those headlines wrong. The caveat is that you don't have to worry about the cholesterol number in the context of a heart healthy diet like the Dash Diet. If you look at the daily menus for this diet, few of them even reach 200 mg of cholesterol and there is only an occasional egg.
The bottom line: the general recommendation is that an occasional egg is a wonderful nutritional package to add to your diet. I've included the final part of the American Heart Association's recommendation below.
"Healthy individuals can include up to a
whole egg or equivalent daily."
Remember, this is a general recommendation. If you have heart disease or other health issues or if your cholesterol is very high you need to eat less. Clearly, eggs do have a lot to offer and in moderation are a very delicious and nutritious addition to your diet. Click on the picture below for the recipe for an "improbable quiche" which allows for unlimited variations. This quiche can be part of your heart healthy diet!
Black beans are versatile, cheap, tasty, and loaded with many health benefits, a true wonder bean. You can get a dynamite recipe for Cuban Black Beans by clicking on the picture below.
I love this recipe for lots of reasons, one of which is that the beans for this recipe cost under $1.00 and my husband and I enjoyed them for two dinners. Since I used dried beans, the soaking time and cooking time in a slow cooker was long, but the preparation time was pretty minimal. You can make bean dishes more quickly with canned beans and still have tasty, nutritious and economical meals.
The nutritional benefits of this bean go on and on - see their article in The World Healthiest Foods. But the one benefit that I will mention here is that of their 70% carbohydrate, most is resistant starch. Why in that important? It digests very slowly so that it doesn't cause a steep rise in blood sugar and is able to reach the lower part of the intestine where it can feed the good bacteria in our microbiome.
If you've not eaten for a while and your blood sugar is starting to drop, you probably are getting "hangry" (bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger). At this point almost any food, particularly a sugary food that is quickly absorbed, will make you smile and give you comfort.
Unfortunately, that food will absorb quickly and more will be needed to keep you smiling. Also, sugary food is not apt to provide the nutrients that will keep your hormones and immune system functioning optimally. Though one piece of that wonderful chocolate cake may be the perfect choice occasionally, eating that on a regular basis has the downside that your scale and overall health will make you frown.
So What Should You Do?
Don't wait until you get hangry. Have a daily routine of three or four eating times per day. This predictability will make your whole body smile. Become aware of how hungry you are and get familiar with your own hunger scale. Choose foods and meals that have lean protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates to keep you feeling terrific from one meal to the next. Check out the recipes on this website - they'll keep you smiling. Click on the picture to see what recipe is making these people happy.
This is an easy recipe and fun to make. I was surprised when the sides rose up so high. It's also not a heavy pancake, since the main ingredients are two eggs and with only 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup milk. This recipe is from the King Arthur website and the pancake can also be made in a cast iron skillet, but I didn't have the right size. And for this recipe size matters! When I try it again, I won't let it get quite so brown. Click here for the recipe
Our world has suddenly changed completely. Social distancing, a phrase we never have heard before, is now on everyone's tongue. Taking time in the grocery store to make choices or googling recipes is no longer a reasonable plan. Have a list and get in and out as soon as possible with foods that are nutritious and will last. You want to go grocery shopping as infrequently as possible. Fresh or thawed fish will not last in the refrigerator for long, but frozen fish can last for months. You can check on the label to see if they are responsibly sourced; however, some stores, like Aldi and Whole Foods, only carry frozen fish with those labels.
Fish is wonderful and lean protein source that contains other important nutrients as well. To safely unthaw the fish, just take it from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator for tomorrow's dinner. You can look at some of the great fish recipes on my site, cookingtogetherwithfriends.com. Click on the picture below to get a great shrimp recipe. A 12 ounce package of the easy to peel shrimp at Aldi was under $7.00.
Get your shopping list together. Include some frozen fish. Now, Get in and Get out!
Has your belly ever felt bloated? When this happens, what should you do? Finding the answer isn't easy, since this problem hasn't seemed important enough to the medical community to study it. Fortunately, a dietitian, Tamara Duker Freuman, working with a gastroenterologist took the problem seriously and wrote a comprehensive book called the Bloated Belly Whisperer. She starts her book by including a questionnaire to help you decide where in your gut your problem originates. Is it the stomach, the intestine, or the colon? After you answer this questionnaire she directs you to the right chapter or chapters you need to read. Although a standard recommendation for the problem is to "eat more fiber", the type of fiber you are eating may be the culprit. Some fibers are more gut friendly than others. Quinoa includes this type of fiber. It is easy to cook and is gentle to your gut. Click on Quinoa Primavera (pictured below) for a tasty recipe using this versatile food. Click here for a website with lots of other wonderful quinoa recipes.
Of course it's not possible to summarize all of Freuman's findings in this blog. However, I can tell you that many bloated belly issues come from fermenting carbohydrates that your gut does not handle well. A trial elimination diet called the FODMAP diet was developed at Monash University in Australia and has been used for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and related issues. There is a lot of information about this diet on the web as well as wonderful free apps. After the elimination period, foods are reintroduced to find the triggers. Working with a dietitian knowledgeable about the FODMAP diet is the best way to design your personalized plan.
You want to make a great meal for Valentine's Day. (Eating out on that day can put you in a crowded restaurant with harried staff.) An aphrodisiac sounds like the right ingredient for the meal, though this term often applies to pretty weird stuff, check out Rocky Mountain Oysters. What does result in lifting moods are foods that taste good and increase serotonin, the "feel-good" hormone. One such food is the sweet potato. A warm sweet potato is a super comfort food. Besides being versatile and great tasting, it is so nutritious. This is definitely the sweet valentine that will make the heart smile.
Actually, just a plain baked sweet potato is a marvelous food. However, this versatile vegetable can be cooked in many different ways and I've included the link to four recipes for you to consider from my website. Pictured above is a stew with turkey, sweet potato, and peanut butter. (The combination of sweet potato and peanut butter is found in many versions of West African dishes, many of which are vegetarian.) There are three other recipes featuring sweet potatoes, they include sweet potato wedges, sweet potato salad, and sweet potato and black bean burrito.
Mindfulness has certainly become one of the new buzz words, but is mindful eating with kids a reasonable goal? Isn't just getting kids enough food to eat between all their activities enough of a challenge? Clearly that alone takes real effort. Many of us have chosen a very busy, tightly scheduled life style that our children share. Mealtime is often not on the schedule and includes something quick on the way to the next activity - confirmed by the long lines in the drive-through lanes at fast food establishments. However, learning about eating mindfully is important for kids today, as well as for adults, precisely because of all the activity. We all find ourselves in a very toxic food environment with supersized portions and foods that have been manufactured with increased sugar, fat, and sodium to make them what some researchers are calling "hyper-palatable" because they encourage overeating.
These foods and this environment result in the large percentage of eating disorders we see in young people today. As a consequence, obesity, binge eating, and anorexia, as well as other common diseases of our civilization like diabetes, reflux, and bowel disorders, are increasingly showing up in children. How can we start to incorporate mindfulness into children's lives? To consider the issue more completely, I recommend getting the book, Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, co-abbot at the Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon. There is a chapter specifically dealing with children. Remember, mindfulness is about awareness, making eating a more enjoyable, nourishing experience. As you become more mindful of the food you eat, it can also help you make decisions about what to eat.
Below is my 13 year old grandson, Ryan, practicing taking a bite of bagel mindfully. Video
Take a Deep Breath and Start Slowly
Mindful eating is an important for all of us, but it's important not to make it an all or nothing goal. In her book, Chosen says, "We can get off to a good start by lowering our standards and initiating our mindful eating by having one conscious sip of tea in the morning" . Or, like Ryan, 1 bite of a bagel.
In my weeks with my grandchildren, we did some mindful exercises. One they liked best was cooking a favorite dish. Here are their recipes, cranberry sauce, and tuna cakes. Although not the recipes I might have chosen, they ate them mindfully because they had chosen them. You can check out the videos of their cooking in the following links.
Ryans cranberry sauce Willow's Tuna Cakes
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Nuts to the Holidays! Looking at the December food magazines at the bookstore, I got a "sugar high" by just looking at all the cakes, cookies, and candies on the covers. So, am I going to cloister myself away to avoid these "tastes of the season". That's what I would have to do to avoid some of the Christmas goodies. No, I'm not, but I am going try to sneak some tasty nutritional ingredients into my diet to help balance my sugar high. Nuts are the perfect antidote. By themselves, they contain mostly good fat, protein, and no carbs - the perfect sugar balancer. This is true of all nuts. Each one is a wonderful source of vitamins and many of the minerals lacking in our normal American diet. My newsletter this month will focus on walnuts with their super nutritional profile, including omega fatty acids. So - nuts to holiday cooking. Check out the recipe for this wonderful orange walnut torte. Happy Holidays.
An Italian Orange Walnut Torte
Tricia Gregory, MA,RD/N
A dietitian who is a foodie and loves a great dinner party with wonderful food and terrific friends.