Monday, November 28, 2011

Craving Sweets?

Did you know that sweet cravings can be significantly reduced by including more sweet veggies in your diet? Sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, beets and squash are a few that works wonders on taming sweet cravings. Sweet potatoes elevate your blood sugar in a slow manner so there is no sugar crash after you eat them. They are more nutritious than regular potatoes are and a great source of Vitamin A. Try this recipe and see what you think!

Recipe of the Month: Sweet Potatoes with Lime and Cilantro

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

4 sweet potatoes
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
2-3 limes
butter or olive oil, salt (optional)

1.   Wash the sweet potatoes and bake them whole, in their skins, at 375 degrees until tender, about 40 minutes.
2.   Wash and chop cilantro leaves.
3.   When sweet potatoes are done, slit open the skin and place on serving plate. Season with salt and dots of butter or a sprinkle of oil, if you like, then squeeze fresh lime juice all over, and shower with cilantro leaves.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Few Tips to Get Through the Holidays Without Packing on the Pounds

-       Trays of food at holiday parties can be dangerous, especially if there is someone circulating with food. It’s best to fill a small plate with your selections so you can see what you are eating instead of taking a sample here and there. Try to fill your plate with vegetables, fruits and lean meats. Avoid fried foods and cheese-laden options. All of those samples add up in no time and it might not even seem like you ate very much.

-       Going out to dinner to celebrate the holidays? Be careful if you are sharing dishes with friends or family at restaurants. We often tend to overeat if there is more than one option available. A small bit from each plate can add up to a lot without us even noticing! Your best bet is to order your own plate and commit to a healthy choice from the menu.

 -       Helping cook a large holiday meal? If you find yourself in the kitchen helping to prepare a holiday meal, be sure to eat some healthy food beforehand. It’s easy to unknowingly snack when you are cooking on an empty stomach. Also, make sure to stay hydrated. Often times we confuse thirst with hunger.

 -       Going for a seconds? Before you take a second helping, sit back and enjoy the company and conversation. Hydrate. Relax. Then if after 20 minutes you still aren’t satisfied, go ahead and have a few more veggies or another piece of turkey.

 -       Dessert. Let’s face it, most of us look forward to some freshly baked pie or other sweet treats during the holiday season. Of course you can indulge in some dessert once in a while, but perhaps this year only have a small slice of pie or share a piece with someone. 

 -       Keep Moving. Make exercising a priority during this busy time of year. Holidays can be stressful and stress can cause some people to overeat. Try going for a run or a bike ride instead of reaching for leftovers or that box of Oreos.
Remember, it's OK to indulge once in a while, but stuffing your face during the holidays is a quick way to put on a few pounds. Stay active this holiday season and with a little awareness, you can stay on track. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Multi-Grain vs. Whole Grain

Multi-grain. What does it really mean? Does the product contain whole grains? You would think so, but the multigrain claim can be slapped on a loaf of bread and not contain one whole grain! Many “multi-grain” breads only contain multiple refined grains. The FDA does not require companies to use whole grains in multi-grain products such as bread, so the consumer is frequently fooled by misleading claims.

What should we do as consumers?

Read the ingredient list carefully. Is every grain a “whole grain”? The ingredient list should specifically say “whole “ before the name of the grain. It’s also a good idea to look for the claim “100% whole grain”. This statement is actually regulated by the FDA to assure consumers that all of the grains in the product are indeed “whole grains”.

Why Whole Grains?

A whole grain consists of three parts: the bran, the endosperm and the germ. Refined grains are processed which removes the bran (the outer layer) and endosperm. The only part of the whole grain that remains is the germ, which means it is no longer a whole grain. During this refinement process, the whole grain is stripped of phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Research has shown that including more whole grains in your diet can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. Why eat empty calories found in refined grains when there is the option to eat whole grains that are delicious and healthy?


Friday, November 4, 2011

Snacking at the Airport

I recently traveled from Laguardia Airport to Detroit Metro Airport and noticed all of the new snack options. Yes, there were the usual suspects of sugar, highly processed snacks and candy bars, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a very wide variety of nuts, trail mixes and fresh foods. Sure a $.30 banana will cost you a $1.00 or more, but at least the option is there.

I went with the fresh cut fruit and some raw walnuts. I love fruit and nuts for breakfast and snacks, so some strawberries, blueberries and walnuts hit the spot. It was nice to see berries and not just discolored melon and bland grapes.

Another new find were Mann’s Snack on the Go! trays. They contained chilled and bite-sized broccoli, carrots and celery paired with a lite Ranch dipping sauce/dressing in a small tray that is easy to throw in your bag and perfect to eat off of on the plane. The raw veggies are an excellent choice, but the Ranch dressing is an easy way to make this snack not so excellent. The Ranch dressing contains MSG, added sugar and additives like modified cornstarch. Eat the veggies and use very little of the dressing or better yet, skip the dressing altogether and buy some hummus to dip the veggies into.

Also, as I was checking out the nuts and trail mixes, I did discover that some of them had a long list of preservatives and additives. Some even added High Fructose Corn Syrup. So, before you buy, take a look at the ingredient list. Some options that seem like a good choice, may actually not be so good.

Soon I will bring some meal options from the airport restaurants.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eating Locally Grown Food

photo: Maria Quiroga

I would like to be able to call myself a locavore (an individual eating primarily locally grown food), but it's difficult living in the center of Manhattan. I am fortunate enough to live unique building where we grow some basil, chives, parsley and strawberries on our roof but most New Yorkers don't have outdoor space or time to grow anything. One great option for city dwellers is going to the Farmer's Market. There are quite a few in and around the city and more popping up every year. Another option that is becoming increasingly popular is joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Although you are never sure what you will receive from the farmer's crops, this can be a positive thing because maybe you will try a new vegetable you would never think to buy. Veggies from CSAs are also cheaper than purchasing veggies at the market. Also, in addition to vegetables, some CSAs offer the option to include local fruit, eggs and even meat to your weekly order for an additional fee. Of course the winter months put a damper on most CSAs but some do offer a small variety of vegetables and greens, so be sure to check what your area offers.

But why eat locally? First, I think local food tastes better since it is fresher. For example, local tomatoes are picked off the vine when they are just about ripe and almost ready to eat. Since they only have to travel a short distance, there is no need to pick the tomato early in order to allow it to ripen on it's long journey to your grocery store. Also, if food is traveling a shorter distance, this is better for the environment since there is less pollution. It feels good to support the local economy that you live in, so why get bland tomatoes from California when you can get some tasty ones from a small farming community 40 miles away?