Be present this Holiday Season!

 

With the holiday season in full effect it can become easy to wish yourself into the New Year.  The stress of buying gifts, preparing holiday meals and being in constant contact with endless arrays of cookies can leave some us feeling uneasy.  We often feel guilty and unable to enjoy the pleasures the holiday season brings.  This season give yourself the gift of being present (pun intended  ;) ).

The Situation: The Cocktail Party

You know how this goes.  You walk into the room and see a beautiful spread of appetizers and delicious desserts.  Your heart begins to flutter and anxiety begins to creep in.  How are you going to refuse all this yummy food?  You start with the veggies and dip, then dabble in some shrimp cocktail, and then grab a handful of nuts.  You are being good, right?  Then as you mingle with the guests you keep thinking about the cookie dough cheesecake.  In fact, you are not even paying attention to the conversation because you are thinking about the cheesecake.  Later in the evening you become tired of refusing and you decide to have  just a bite of cheesecake.  Then a bite turns into the whole thing, and now what?  That’s right! You figure you might as well eat more because you have already fallen of your diet. At the end of the night you feel stuffed and regretful.  Who wants that?  I have another method for you.

Be Present

Before you arrive to the party check in with yourself.  Ask yourself, “Am I hungry?”

How hungry are you?

What do you feel like eating?

Sweet? Salty?  Savory?

What do you want feel like when the party is over?

As you begin to scout the spread of food, pick out your favorite food items and place them on your plate.  It might be tempting to try everything at once but focus on your favorite ones.  Remember the rest will still be there later.

As you begin to eat your food, begin to savor the flavors.  What do the textures feel like?  Being present allows you to appreciate those salted caramel shortbread cookies.  Often times we rush through eating these “sinful” foods and don’t enjoy the experience.   What’s the fun in that?

Allowing yourself to enjoy the pleasure of the food will leave you feeling more satisfied and less likely to over indulge.  Check in with your hunger scale as you are eating.  Do you still feel hungry?  If you are beginning to feel your stomach, then you have likely filled your biological hunger cues.   If you are continuing to feel hungry then honor your hunger and if you feel satisfied then respect your fullness.   By you using this approach you will not feel deprived or sick from over eating.

I know this method may be much easier said than done, but as with everything it becomes easier with practice.  I encourage you to try being more present at your next party and see what happens.

The Situation: All the Extra Sweets in the House

Cookies.  Brownies. Cupcakes. Oh my!  It seems like everyone is giving you gifts of food during the holidays.  You know they are well-intentioned, but it makes you uncomfortable having so many “decadent” foods around the house.  You end up eating the cookies on the counter as you pass through the kitchen without even noticing, or grab the bag of caramel popcorn as you watch your favorite Christmas movie (Home Alone anyone? :) ).  Sound familiar? You don’t even like sugar cookies but some how they disappear…. So what is the solution?

You guessed it!  Be Present!

Okay, so you have all this extra food in your house.  Once again pick out your favorite items.  You love the chocolate peanut butter balls, but those chocolate chip cookies are little on the too crunchy and flat side for your taste.   Keep what you love and get rid of what you don’t.  Maybe you could bring the cookies to work (Of course if a co-worker gave them to you it could be a little awkward :) ) or place them on the dessert table during a holiday party.  The point is you are not obligated to eat the food you do not love.

Next place all the food you love into a designated area.  It might help to put it out of view because we all know how the See Food Diet works.  This helps to prevent you from mindlessly eating, because you want to enjoy the food you love, right?  Then when the moment is right and you desire to have that homemade toffee you will be present to enjoy it.

It helps to turn off distractions while you enjoy the foods you love.  When the TV is on or you are playing on the computer it becomes much easier to not be present to the food you enjoy.   Once you become present you will begin to notice you may not eat as much as you usually do.  And of course periodically check in with your hunger scale to help be your guide.

Being present not only allows you eat the foods you love, but it also provides you with the opportunity to savor and remember this holiday season.  Really listen to the conversations you have, feel the music you hear, and embrace the ones you love.  Happy Holidays everyone!

 

Viral MarketingAre you confused about nutrition?  I understand why.  Every day it seems like there is a breaking news story telling you what you should or should not be eating.  It is so frustrating! They use a catchy title (like the one I used :) ) to get your attention and then they unload information that may or may not be true.  The media is sabotaging your diet because they tend to take one study about a food item or diet and promote it like it is the holy grail.

Take for instance the debate between low-fat/high carb versus low carb/high fat.  At one time low fat/high carb diets were all the craze and now low carb/high fat diets are the new thing.  The media is constantly vilifying one food item and glorifying another.  Living in these extremes can create a poor relationship with food.

Food is not the enemy!

Carbs are not the enemy!

Fat is not the enemy!

Even calories are not the enemy!

So what is the enemy?  Would I be too “Zen-like” if I said there is no enemy?  :)

A healthy, nourishing diet includes all the macronutrients- carbs, protein and fat.  Is there an optimum amount of each? Maybe.  It depends on activity level, individual metabolism and genetics. I encourage my clients to include a little fat, protein and carbs at each meal.  This will help prevent blood sugars from spiking and provide sustained energy throughout the day.

So what is important in a healthful diet?

Quality

Focusing on the quality of the diet will help you maintain your health and avoid unwanted weight gain.  Including more whole foods and eliminating processed foods tends to be a good bet.  For instance include lean proteins such as fish, chicken, and lean cuts of beef instead of more processed proteins such as sausage or pepperoni.  Include complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, and quinoa instead of refined carbs like white rice, white bread, pastries.  Focus on including more healthful fats such as olive oil, avocado or even butter instead of margarine or vegetable oil.  And of course make sure to include  fruits and veggies :) Even though the media likes to single out some of these as being a “superfood,” all fruits and vegetables carry some benefit.

Focusing only on macronutrients such as carbs, protein and fat can get you into trouble.   For instance, if you are on a low fat diet and replacing the fat calories with refined carbohydrates such as pretzels, crackers and sherbet then this might be detrimental your health in the long run.  If you are on a low carb diet and replacing the carbs with sausage, lard, and T-bone steaks then this could also have long-term consequences.

Focus on the quality of the diet and not the latest news story.<—Tweet this

There is always going to be the next superfood or new diet to try. But remember, sticking with whole foods and eating a variety of different nutrients never gets to be old news :)

 

 

 

 

06. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Healthy Eating, Supplements

Interracial Group of Three Beautiful Women Friends SmilingThe answer is yes!  Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a metabolic disorder that affects 6-10% of women in the US and can often go undiagnosed or untreated.  If left unmanaged it can lead to diabetes, heart disease, endometrial cancer and/or reproductive issues such as irregular periods, infertility, and pregnancy loss.  Some bad stuff, huh?

So what exactly is it?

The exact mechanism is unknown but PCOS is an endocrine disorder that affects your hormones. Typically your ovaries produce a small amount of testosterone and other androgens, but with PCOS they produce more than a normal amount and can cause extra hair on your body or acne. Due to the hormone imbalance many women with PCOS develop small cysts on their ovaries, hence the name “Polycystic” meaning “many cysts.”  Women with PCOS are also typically insulin resistant and do not metabolize carbohydrates efficiently .  Their blood sugars tend to be high and they crave carbohydrates.   Since about 50% of women with PCOS are obese, those women who are lean are often overlooked at having PCOS.

How do you know if you have it?

As with any diagnosis it requires a doctor to make the final confirmation.  However, if you have the following symptoms I encourage you to let your doctor know so he/she can run the proper tests.

  • Irregular (more than 40 days) or absent periods
  • Excess hair growth on face, chest, stomach
  • Acne
  • Infertility
  • Excessive abdominal weight
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Hair loss from head
  • Dark, dry patches of skin
  • Intense carbohydrate cravings

Is it treatable?

Yes, but first it must be diagnosed. The good news is PCOS can be managed with drugs and lifestyle changes. Many women are placed on Metformin or thiazolidinediones to help manage their insulin levels.  Diet and lifestyle changes can also have a big impact on blood sugar levels, heart health, weight loss and fertility.  Here are some ways to to help mange PCOS with diet and lifestyle:

  • Weight loss of 5-10% can improve fertility and blood sugar levels in those that are overweight/obese
  • Participate in 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week
  • Eat less refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta, white rice, candy, cookies, and pastries
  • Eat more fiber containing carbohydrates such as 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice rice, whole grain pasta and fruit
  • Include lean proteins such as chicken, fish and turkey in your meals
  • Include healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil and peanut butter
  • Check out ChooseMyPlate.gov to learn about portion sizes
  • Certain supplements such as cinnamon may help manage blood sugars

Diet and lifestyle changes can be in integral part in managing PCOS. Such changes may be easier said than done. Working with a dietitian can help make the journey easier and provide you with the skills you need to succeed.  If you would like to learn more on your own I would recommend the PCOS Workbook by Angela Grassi.  Most importantly, if you feel you may have PCOS please see your doctor soon.

16. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Healthy Eating
IBS can be a debilitating condition. A Low FODMAP diet may help.

IBS can be a debilitating condition. A Low FODMAP diet may help.

During the past few years the Low FODMAP diet has gained international attention and has recently been making its way to the United States. “The FOD what?” you may ask. The Low FODMAP diet is intended for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). FODMAP’s, otherwise known as Fermentable Oligo Di-, and Monosaccharides & Polyls, are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the gut. FODMAP’s occur in many of our everyday foods, even “healthy” foods. Unlike many diets, the Low FODMAP diet is not intended for weight loss, but rather for improved bowel function and to relieve abdominal pain.

Does this mean you should try it?

If you are one of the 10-15% IBS sufferers in the United States, then yes the low FODMAP diet may help. Common symptoms of IBS, according to the Mayo Clinic include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • A bloated feeling
  • Gas (more than normal)
  • Diarrhea or constipation: Sometimes alternating
  • Mucus in stool

These symptoms are usually an ongoing issue before being considered IBS.

Normally carbohydrates are absorbed in your small intestines. However, FODMAP’s are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and then make their way down to the large intestine. The bacteria in the large intestine then begin to feed on these FODMAP’s. This fermentation process increases water delivery to the bowel and hence bloating and GI issues can occur. Everyone absorbs FODMAP’s poorly, and this is normally a good thing because you want to feed the good bacteria in your gut. But for unclear reasons it exacerbates GI issues in the IBS sufferer.

FODMAP’s include a variety of short chain carbohydrates including fructose, lactose, fructans, mannitol and sorbital. Fructans include barley, rye and wheat based products. People who believe they have a gluten sensitivity may actually be having a reaction to the fructans instead, which is why they have relief when they remove gluten products. Interesting, huh?

What other foods contain high amounts of FODMAP’s

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Artichokes
  • Milk
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas
  • Cauliflower
  • Wheat products

All high FODMAP foods are not included here and new ones are coming out all the time. I highly encourage anyone who wants to begin this diet to meet with a Regisitered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) to make sure their diet is not lacking in any nutrients because many foods are eliminated on the diet.  If you would like more information regarding the Low FODMAP diet then click here for a more comprehensive food list from Stanford University. Not all foods need to be eliminated forever, but it is helpful to remove all high FODMAP’s at first from your diet and then add them back in slowly to see which ones cause you to react.  You might be reactive to gluctans but not those high in fructose. Everyone is different. With patience your gut may be back onto the road of recovery soon!

On a side note, please consult your doctor if you are concerned you have IBS :)

The See Food dietRemember that bad joke we used to say in the 90’s?  “I am on the see food diet.  I see food and I eat it. Haha!”  Well it turns out there is some truth to that statement.  We tend to eat the food we see.  You know what I am talking about!  How about those brownies in the break room? Can’t resist.  Or the Costco freebies?  Consider it a meal! Or the times when you are not hungry but you find your hand in the candy bowl?  It happens. Why?

Because you think about the food more. The moment you see the food you are hardwired to want it.  Your mouth begins to salivate and you begin to think about what it would be like to take a bite.  Even your digestive enzymes begin to increase.  At first you may say no, but every time you see those brownies again it becomes harder to resist.  In fact it can be exhausting.  If you are hungry then it becomes even more difficult to refuse the food item.

In Mindless Eating, the author discusses an experiment he performed with a group of secretaries.  One group was given clear glass bowls with lids on them containing 30 Hershey Kisses inside.  The other group was given a solid color glass bowl with a lid containing 30 Hershey Kisses inside. Every night the researchers would replenish the bowl of chocolate.  The researchers reported that the group with the clear glass bowl had their hand in the bowl 71% more often, and ate an average of 77 more calories.  This just goes to show that we tend to eat what we see.

But how can you use the see food diet  to your advantage?

You got it! Showcase more foods that are good for you.

Instead of putting your fruits and vegetables in the drawers of your your fridge, put them on the shelves where you can SEE them! Place your cheeses, meat or condiments in the drawers instead. This way when you open the fridge you see fruits and veggies first. In sight in mind! This might also help reduce the amount of produce you throw out.

Instead of a bowl of candy  or cookies on the kitchen table, place a bowl of cherry tomatoes or plums.

Rearrange your cupboards. Try to move chips, soda, and candy to areas you will not see them as much.  That could even mean placing them in a cupboard in the garage.  Out of sight out of mind! Instead place whole grains, nuts, dried fruits, and homemade snacks in sight. In sight, in mind!

Can’t refuse stopping for doughnuts in the morning?  Try taking a new route to work.  Changing up your routine may help stop you from having to make a decision in the first place.

But are these suggestions going to stop you from seeing food that is not good for you?  Of course not!  During the moments of brownies in the break room, or cookies on the kitchen table, just stop and be aware.  Become aware of what is happening and how you are feeling.  Know that you are programmed to want the food.  You may choose to eat it or not.  To be honest it does not matter.  But being aware of what is happening is the first step toward mindful eating.

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Healthy Eating, Supplements

Stomach Ache RefluxMost people have experienced heartburn at some point in their life.  A few of us may have it every once in a while, but for others it is a daily occurrence.  During normal digestion food enters your stomach after chewing and is prevented from coming back up your esophagus by your lower esophageal sphincter (LES).  When heartburn occurs your LES is weak and allows your acidic stomach juices to flow back up into your esophagus.  This can be very painful and limiting, especially for those who experience it on a daily occurrence. Overtime the acidic stomach juices can irritate the esophageal lining and may even cause esophageal cancer.  The chronic condition of heartburn is known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

Luckily,  I have some tips on how to manage heartburn with diet and lifestyle changes

1.  Limit/Avoid Trigger Foods- The most common trigger foods are mint, chocolate, and caffeinated drinks like coffee or soda.  These can cause the LES to have reduced pressure and therefore allow the stomach juices to flow back up into the esophagus. The key is to to make sure the LES is tight so nothing can get back into your esophagus.  Even if you eat acidic foods such as, tomatoes or oranges, this should not bother you because when the LES is working properly it should not allow stomach contents back up into the esophagus.  However, citrus, raw onions, tomatoes and spicy foods may aggravate symptoms even further.  It may help to keep a food diary to know which foods bother you the most.

2.  Limit/Avoid Alcohol & Smoking- Alcohol and smoking are notorious for lowering the pressure of the LES.  Everyone is a little bit different in their tolerance level.  Some people may be able to tolerate 1-2 drinks but other people may not be able to tolerate any drinks.

3.  Eat Until Your Satisfied-  Overeating will most likely will  cause extra pressure on the stomach resulting in heartburn.  Your stomach is a reservoir for food items you eat.  Its purpose is to mix and breakdown the food and pass it into the small intestine.  If the stomach is overfull then it will not do as good of a job of breaking down the food.  Think about it.  When you want to clean a jar of peanut butter, do you fill the water to the top or do you fill it half way and then shake?  You fill it half way, right?  This gives the liquid more room to break down the food.  Your stomach is the same way.  By not overeating you are giving your stomach more room to help break down your food and

4.  Avoid Laying Down After Eating- After a long day at work it may be tempting to lay down and watch TV on the couch.  But this can increase your risk for heartburn.  Why? Because you are not using gravity to your advantage.  When you sit straight up gravity can help keep food contents in the stomach where it should be, but if you lay down then gravity may pull the stomach contents back up your esophagus.

5. Avoid High Fat Meals-  Fat is good in moderation, but when you eat a high fat meal this can delay your stomach contents from emptying into your intestines.  So you are left with a very full stomach and increased pressure in the abdomen area.  This will likely lead to heartburn if your LES is dysfunctional.  Aim for 20-35% of your calories to come from fat at each meal.

6.  Go for a Walk After Meals- Walking after meals can help with digestion. Physical activity stimulates the GI tract to start working, otherwise known as peristalsis.  This will help empty the stomach contents sooner into the small intestines.   Even a five minute walk can help!

7.  Supplements-  Some supplements have been shown to help with heartburn symptoms.  There is not a lot of clinical research but the studies that have been done are promising.  According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database caraway oil, artichoke leaf extract and angelica may be used to help in treatment of indigestion.  Please speak with a health care professional before starting any supplements.

8. Weight Loss-  If you are overweight, weight loss may alleviate your heartburn.  It is believed that excess weight can cause extra pressure on the stomach which pushes the stomach contents into the esophagus.  A small,  1-2 lb/week weight loss might give you dramatic relief.

If none of the above methods work for you, then I encourage you to see your doctor.  He/She may be able to provide you with medication to help give you with some relief.  You might also want to ask if any medications you are currently on have a side effect of heartburn such as blood pressure medications.

Heartburn can be a very painful condition.  I hope the strategies I provided you with today give you the relief you deserve.  If there were any strategies that helped you that I did not mention, please comment below.

 

20140810-133859.jpgWe have all been there. You want to try a new activity or goal in life but you are not quite sure how to get there. Daydreaming about it can be fun, but starting it can be challenging and overwhelming. So you think maybe some other time. Today I want to share with you how I recently stepped out of my comfort zone and how you can too!

For years I have been wanting to use a pressure cooker. I always heard about the fun things you could do with it like canning and reducing your time in the kitchen. You can cook dried beans within 6-8 minutes without pre-soaking! Truly an amazing accomplishment when it normally takes 3-12 hrs depending on the type of bean. As you might expect, I was thrilled when we received a pressure cooker as a wedding present three years ago.

The only problem was I did not use it. It just sat in my cupboard and collected dust. Why?

Because I was scared. I was scared of trying something new. I blamed the fact that I had no one to teach me. I heard so many horror stories about how dangerous a pressure cooker could be that I did not try. Despite articles I read about how much safer they are, I still did not pursue it. But the truth was I was scared to try something unknown to me.

20140810-133910.jpgAbout six months ago I bought a pressure cooker magazine to help inspire me to cook something. Still nothing…

Then last weekend my husband said, “I think we should start using the pressure cooker.” Apparently that was all I needed as a catalyst to try to use it.

The next day I picked out a recipe while Eric put together the pressure cooker parts. We decided to choose something easy for our first experiment…beets! A friend of mine gave me a bunch from her garden so we wanted to put them to good use. Then the fun started.

I was gritting my teeth when the steam began rising out of the pressure control due to my nervousness. But guess what? Nothing scary. No eyes went missing. No faces were burned off.The only thing that happened was delicious beets in a quarter of the time. I am now very eager to try other recipes. It was super easy and a great time saver. Now I know what to expect and I am no longer afraid to use it.

20140810-133922.jpgWe all tend to have things we are nervous about trying, whether it be trying a new class at the gym or presenting a new idea at work. Stepping out of our comfort zone can be a scary process, but that is where the magic happens. You begin to feel more confident in your abilities to do other things as well. Here are 5 ways you can learn to step out of your comfort zone:

 

 

 

20140810-133930.jpg1. Focus on the Excitement- When you try something new there tends to be two feelings: nervousness and excitement. I encourage you to focus more on the excitement. Excitement is going to give you the energy and confidence to complete the task at hand.

2. Share the Experience- It can be overwhelming learning something new. By sharing the experience with someone else it can be make the activity less daunting. If it wasn’t for my husband wanting to use the pressure cooker, I don’t know how long I would have put off using it. By sharing the experience it can also make you more accountable for your actions. You don’t want to disappoint others when you don’t follow through.

3. Get Inspired- Watching your favorite chef on TV or picking up the latest fitness magazine can be motivation to get you started on your goals. Who or what inspires you? It might be a biography of someone you admire, or maybe you like to create inspiration boards to achieve your goals or dreams. Whatever inspires you, start doing more of it :)

4. Start with Baby Steps- Sometimes it is easier to focus on individual steps than the whole activity. When you focus on the whole activity it can seem overwhelming and easy to back away from. First, focus on looking up what time the gym class is. Second, write the class into your schedule. Third, put on your gym clothes and so on. You get the idea :) With this approach you can focus on the barriers as they come instead of focusing on them all at once.

5. Enjoy the Journey- I know. I know. This sounds corny, but it is so true. Learning and appreciating the process is all part of stepping out of your comfort zone. Making mistakes is expected. Learning from mistakes is what is important. I have made raviolis from scratch many times. Each batch is a little different and I improve each time. Sometimes I take a couple steps back and they are less than edible, but that is okay. I am learning and it is about enjoying the process.

Everyone has different personal goals or dreams. Some are easier than others, but for most goals it’s about stepping out of your comfort zone to get there. Good luck :)

 

 

 

05. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Healthy Eating

Nutrition factsWhat comes to mind when you think about eating healthy?  Fruits and vegetables?  Lean proteins? Vitamins? Fiber?  These are all important components of a healthy diet, but we often get stuck on counting calories and miss the big picture. Counting calories can be a successful strategy to help with weight loss, but a healthy diet is much more than that!

Why do you want to be healthy?  Everyone has different answers to that question, but most involve wanting to feel better, look better, have more energy and prevent chronic illnesses.  Can a 1500 calorie diet provide you with that?  Maybe.

Healthy eating involves eating a variety of different fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.  The more variety your meal plan contains the more likely you are getting all of your vitamins and minerals for the day.  If you are focusing on just counting calories then you might be missing key nutrients in your diet.  A 1500 calorie diet containing multiple protein bars or processed foods may lack the necessary fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and trace minerals that your body requires.

Even if your protein bar or meal replacement diet is fortified with all the necessary vitamins and minerals, research has shown they do not function the same way in your body as they would from whole foods.  Real food is key for a healthy diet.

Counting calories can often leave you feeling bored with your meal plan.  You end up eating the same foods because you know how many calories are in them.  While this may help in initial weight loss, you are less likely to stick with this sort of meal plan long term.  Most people do not want to eat the same thing everyday.  Variety is the spice of life, right?

I like to encourage my clients to focus on eating a variety of different whole foods as opposed to counting calories.  Aim to include at least 3 different food groups at each meal, and 2 at each snack.  This will increase your chances of meeting all your nutritional requirements for the day.

If you enjoy counting calories and feel it provides you with the structure you need, then check out myplate.gov. This website gives you an idea of how many foods from each food group to include in your daily diet based on how many calories you require.   It also provides sample menu ideas and budget shopping tips.

No matter what your health goals are, solely counting calories tends not to be the answer.  Try to remember to look at the whole picture.  Am I eating at least 3 servings of veggies daily?  Do I have enough carbs in my meal to help me power through my next exercise routine?  If you need help balancing your meal plan with your personal health goals,  a dietitian can be great source to start with :)

08. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Healthy Eating · Tags: , , ,

Blanched beans being quenched in iced waterHave you ever seen the word “blanching” in a recipe and have been too intimidated to give it a try? If you have, you are not alone. I tend to skip over recipes that call for blanching because it has seemed too sophisticated and fancy. Blanching is a technique that gourmet chefs use, not normal cooks like myself (well somewhat normal :)). The other day I tried a delicious pizza recipe and it called for blanching so I decided to give it a try. Here is what I learned.

– It is super easy!!!

– It helps preserve the nutrients and flavor of the vegetable/fruit

– It involves 4 steps. 1) Boil water. 2)Toss vegetable/or fruit into water for 30 seconds. 3) Remove vegetable/fruit 4) Immediately submerge vegetable into ice water and dry.

So what is the point of blanching?

Blanching is used for a variety of reasons. It helps to bring out the vibrant color in green vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, or green beans. Boiling helps to soften it a little bit and submerging it in ice water stops the cooking process, so you are left with a tender crisp vegetable. This can be a great technique to use for broccoli salads or stir frys.

Blanching can also be used to soften the skin on fruit or vegetables. Blanching tomatoes can be a useful technique prior to making tomato sauce to help remove the skin. It makes the peeling process so much easier!

Lastly, blanching should be used to stop the enzyme action of produce prior to freezing such as in carrots, spinach or peppers. For recommended blanching time for freezing please check out this website.

Personally, my favorite part about blanching is the way green vegetables look more vibrant. Have you ever wondered how restaurants make a vibrant green pesto sauce and why yours always looks dull? It is all in the blanching :)

 

meat and pork liver with sauteed vegetablesThe Paleo Diet has exploded on the American culture within the last couple years and many people are wondering, “Is it for me?”  Lots of people have claimed to lose weight with the diet and feel better mentally and physically.  I am always asked, “What do you think? Is it good for me?  Is it bad for me? My cousin lost 20 lbs and I thought I would try it.”  My answer usually entails something to the effect of,  “There are some concepts about the Paleo diet that I really like, but others that I do not think are necessary.”  Will you lose weight?  Most likely, but what are you missing in order to lose those 20 lbs?

The concept behind the Paleo Diet involves eating like those of our caveman ancestors. It encourages consumption of lean meats (preferably grass fed and organic), seafood, fruits, vegetables and a variety of nuts and seeds. The diet discourages the intake of dairy products, legumes, grains, potatoes, refined salt & sugar, and processed oils.

So what is good about the diet?  The inclusion of fruits, vegetables and nuts are my favorite parts about this diet.  Fruits,  vegetables and nuts provide a variety of different antioxidants and minerals to help your body function properly.   They also include fiber which is an important component of any diet.  In addition, eliminating processed foods from the diet tends to be a good thing for your body. Lots of excess fat, sugar, salt and preservatives found in processed foods do not provide any nutritional benefit and may lead to negative health consequences.

So what is bad about the diet?  The exclusion of any food group such as dairy or grains can put you at risk for nutritional deficiencies.  There are a variety of B vitamins and minerals found in whole grains which are important components of any diet.  Dairy contains calcium for bone health which many people are already lacking in their diet. Lastly, The Paleo Diet eliminates one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet…Legumes! While it is true that protein and other nutrients are more easily absorbed from animal sources than with legumes, I do not feel beans need to be eliminated from the diet.  They contain vital nutrients that animal products cannot provide enough of such as folate and fiber.  Folate is an important component of DNA synthesis and legumes are an excellent natural food source.  In addition, the fiber in legumes may be more effective against colon cancer than other fiber sources (1).

My question for you is, “Why do you want try this diet?”  If it is too lose weight then I feel there are many other ways to lose weight without feeling so deprived.  Any diet you are on should be something you enjoy and are willing to stick with long term.  By using the word “diet,” I mean what you eat normally everyday, not what you eat to lose weight.  Eliminating dairy and grains can be very socially isolating and you may miss some of your favorite foods.  Most people lose weight on this diet because they end up eating less calories and are hungry because they are not allowed to eat a variety of foods that are available to them.  When I spoke to people who have tried this diet they stated they ended up eating a lot of meat because it was easier to eat on the go.  A vegetarian diet consisting of only broccoli is not healthy, just how a Paleo Diet consisting of only meat is not healthy either .  A variety of whole foods is the key to health.

I have also heard stories from people who say they have more energy and generally feel better when they are on the Paleo Diet.  These people may have an intolerance against dairy or gluten.  It is difficult to diagnose an intolerance but if a client states they feel better when they eliminate a certain food, then I think they should continue eliminating it. But it is still important to make sure you are getting the nutrients from another type of food.  If you would like to try the Paleo diet, I encourage you to visit with a dietitian to make sure you are getting all of your necessary nutrients.