Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

Fiberiffic!

Now I realize fiber isn’t a very sexy topic, but it sure is important! 

What is fiber? Technically, it’s the undigestible portion of plant foods that helps other foods move through the digestive system. The category of fiber includes cellulose and is a non-starch polysaccharide (which is a category of carbohydrates). 

What are the health benefits of fiber? Among other things, tt lowers the occurance of obesity, diabetes, digestive disorders, colon cancer, and heart disease. The recommendation for fiber is 25-38 grams, but most Americans average only 12-15 grams! There are two main types of fiber, insoluble and soluble, and the recommended ratio of consumption is 3:1.

Insoluble fiber has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. The water-attracting properties increase bulk and help regulate your bowel movements. Sources include whole wheat, bran, flax, certain vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Soluble fiber can reduce LDL cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar. Sources include oats, oat bran, beans, peas, legumes, barley, citrus fruits, and strawberries. 

So now we understand why fiber is good for your health. But how can fiber help you lose or maintain weight? Fiber increases satiety (by slowing the emptying of your digestive tract) and provides bulk. An increase in fiber intake also leads to drinking more water, which often helps with snacky feelings that aren’t true hunger. 

So how should you increase your fiber intake?

  • Choose whole wheat options whenever possible. Make sure the first ingredient on the ingredient list is some type of whole grain (not enriched flour).
  • Increase your intake of fruits (especially raspberries!) and vegetables, both at meals and snack times. 
  • Eat more beans, peas, and lentils. These have the highest fiber levels!
  • Increase your intake of nuts and seeds (with portion control, of course, as these foods are calorie-dense).
  • Choose a high-fiber, low-sugar cereal for breakfast in the morning or as an afternoon snack. 
  • Use whole-grain, high-fiber ingredients in unexpected places: crush up crackers or cereal to make a breading for chicken or fish, add wheat germ or pulverized oats to any type of cookie or pancake batter, and use whole-grain flour when you bake.

However, be mindful to increase your fiber intake slowly, and make sure you subsequently increase your intake of water. 

And for a tasty, fiberful treat, head over to Meghann’s blog and try her recipe for Apple & Pork Stuffed Acorn Squash! This tasty recipe is well-balanced and includes good fiber sources such as acorn squash, apple, bulgur, and pecans.

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Cook, Eat, Enjoy

A couple of posts ago I commented on eating in, and I’d like to elaborate a little more on that. Eating in, and helping people realize the benefits of eating in, is one of my passions. I have reaped so many benefits from cooking for myself, and I’d like to share those with others.

Anyone you ask can tell you about America’s obesity problem, and it’s only growing. It’s a combination of poor eating habits and a lack of physical activity. Since it’s my goal to help America eat healthier (quite a lofty one, I’ll admit), I have spent a lot of time thinking about this problem. Let’s talk about the poor eating habits.

As you can see from the stats I quoted in my other post below, Americans are spending much less time in the kitchen today than they did years ago. As Americans are getting busier and busier, we devote less time and energy to food. That leads to eating out more and turning to convenience foods (prepackaged items, fast food, etc.) more frequently. The problem is that those types of foods and meals are not in accordance with the goals of healthy eating.

Restaurants tend to load their dishes with unhealthy ingredients to excess, often to make them more extravagant and make them taste richer. Convenience foods and fast foods are created with poor-quality ingredients (and in some cases addicting ones!) in order to reduce costs. They also use preservatives and manufactured ingredients that are shown to have negative health effects in humans. Yes, at times it seems like fast food is cheap. But it adds up and it is not worth it. None of this is good for us.

Therefore I’m devoting my time, energy, and passion to promoting healthy cooking and eating in. Why? I believe in it and I believe it can change people’s lives. The benefits, which I’ll attempt to enumerate below, are so numerous and can affect so many aspects of our lives.

1) It’s healthier

This is the number one reason for eating in and cooking your own meals. First of all, you have ingredient control. You get to pick what goes into your food, and anything you cook for yourself will not include trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, or other preservatives and harmful ingredients. You know when you pick up a packaged food at the grocery store, turn it over to see the ingredients label, and read a lot of ingredients that you can barely pronounce, let alone recognize? That won’t happen if you cook your own food.

You can also control your portions when you cook your own food. When you eat at a restaurant, often you’re served a portion that is sufficient for two or three or even more people. This problem disappears when you cook your own food. And taking care with the atmosphere in which you prepare and eat your food increases your mindfulness, which generally means you’ll eat slower and eat less.

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2) It’s cheaper

Eating out in restaurants or even picking up fast food often is expensive. Spending your money on high-quality ingredients in the grocery store and taking the time to cook your own meals (especially freezing the leftovers!) is much better for your wallet, especially if you plan well. If you’re still uncertain, budget it. Study the numbers, and you’ll see that eating in is much more economical.

Eating in is also much friendlier to the environment. If you buy your own food, you can control the quality of the ingredients. If you’re able to buy organic foods or shop at a farmers’ market, all the better. You could even grow your own fruits and vegetables. Also, you’ll save the gas by driving to a restaurant!

3) It’s good for your soul

Simply put, cooking is fun. It increases your appreciation and gratitude of the food that is available to you. When you take the time to choose your meal and then prepare it and share it with others, food takes on much more meaning and through this it can enrich our lives.

Cooking is a great way to express your creativity. Looking around for recipes based on your preferences and which ingredients you have, or even creating your own recipes, is fun and if you’re not used to it, it stretches your mind in a different way. Cooking is also relaxing. Put some music on, pour a glass of wine if you’d like, get your hands into it, and have fun! Take cooking as a fabulous hobby, use it as relaxing time, and get all these benefits! 

Whether you’re eating alone or with people, don’t neglect your eating space. Try to eat fewer meals in front of the TV or the computer, and just enjoy your food. Pay attention to the smell, the taste, and the look of the food. Take care with all of this–you deserve it! Therein lies a problem, I think. So many Americans now are so preoccupied with being busy, working, and helping other people that we forget to take time for ourselves. Cooking for yourself or your family is a wonderful way to work on this virtue. 

Food is also a wonderful thing to share. Use it as precious time to spend with your family and your friends. Many of my greatest and most precious memories revolve around food and sharing it with people.

Thanks so much for reading my ramblings. 🙂 Do you like to eat at home? Why do you like it and devote time to it? Do you support my mission to increase the number of meals people cook at home? Leave a comment and let me know!

Valentine’s-Inspired Recipe

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Yum! 🙂 That’s a picture of my recipe I entered into Angela’s Healthy Valentine’s Recipe Contest over at Oh She Glows. Here is what I said in my entry:

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When I think of Valentine’s Day, I immediately think of love and happiness. Therefore, I decided to create a recipe that is good for your heart nutritionally and emotionally. This is 1/3 cup of oats made with 1/2 a banana, 1/3 cup soymilk, and 1/3 cup water. I then mixed in cinnamon and 1/2 tablespoon of almond butter. On top, I created a heart with walnuts and dark chocolate (the food of love!). But it’s not just dark chocolate…it’s an Adora disc! Adora discs are real dark chocolate fortified with 50% of your daily calcium needs, all for 30 calories. They’re fabulous! So in short, this oatmeal is full of heart-healthy ingredients and also warms your soul…look at that melty chocolate and even the cute, happy bowl! 🙂 Thanks guys!

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Today’s Inspiration

Welcome readers! Here is what I found today that inspired me…

“It is difficult to quantify a decline in cooking skills, but many studies show that time in the kitchen has declined steeply since 1965, when American women spent a weekly average of 13 hours cooking…Today, women in the United States report spending an average of 30 minutes a day preparing meals. The percentage of women who are overweight has risen to about 65 percent from about 30 percent in the 1960s”  (New York Times).

Please use the comments to tell me what you think about this. I have decided to use this blog as a vehicle to promote the benefits of cooking your own meals, both nutritionally and emotionally. Are you with me?

Heart-Healthy Nutrients

Hello blog readers! The info I have for you today is from a MSNBC article about women heart health. This article listed five important nutrients for women and easy ways to incorporate them into your diet.

  • Omega-3s: There are three of them, and DHA is best for your heart. It lowers blood fats and raises good cholesterol (HDL). Salmon and other fatty fish are the best sources, and if you don’t like fish look into a supplement or other foods that are fortified with DHA. You need two fish servings a week or 200mg a day.
  • Soluble fiber: Insoluble fiber is in whole wheat and vegetables, while soluble fiber is found in fruits, oats, and legumes. Soluble fiber lowers your LDL (bad cholesterol). Aim for 25 grams of fiber a day, with several sources of the insoluble type.
  • Folate: B vitamins reduce homocystine in the blood, which lowers your risk of heart disease. Try to eat two sources of high-folate foods (green/leafy veggies, orange juice, legumes) to help your heart.
  • Antioxidants: These attack free radicals (oxygen fragments that can damage your cells). Colorful fruits and vegetables are your best bet. Keep eating all your servings!
  • Vitamin D: Many, many Americans are lacking in this vitamin, and studies show it can lead to heart disease. Get your few minutes of sunshine a day and look for Vitamin D-fortified foods (800-1000 IU/day).

Check out the article here for some more info and meal ideas that incorporate these essential nutrients!

(Please don’t forget to leave me a comment with your thoughts and subscribe to the blog with the button on the right!)

More Fish

Welcome back to Bites du Jour and thanks for visiting! I have another recipe today, and coincidentally it’s another fish one like Angela’s from the other day. This one comes from one of my other favorite bloggers, Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point

This is a recipe that uses tilapia, a mild white fish, but you could substitute another type of flaky fish here if you wish. Ground turkey, chicken, or even lean beef could work wonderfully, too. Here I am trying to demonstrate one of my favorite things about recipes: they give me an idea that I can adapt to what’s in my own kitchen. Maybe I think this recipe looks really great, but I don’t have tilapia, just some ground turkey. No problem, just make the substitution and enjoy the idea of the recipe.

I love this recipe because it includes veggies, lean protein, and whole grains…aka a perfect dinner! Also, feel free to substitute any combo of veggies. Caitlin gives her suggestion, but incorporate whatever you have. Please enjoy the recipe and remember to subscribe to this blog using the button on the right or leave a comment letting me know your thoughts!

Fish Burritos (you need to scroll down a little bit to get to the recipe)

Welcome from Oh She Glows!

Hello to my readers! I know Angela posted a link to this blog in her morning post, and I’d like to extend a welcome to any of her readers and thank them for stopping by. If you’d like, please leave me a comment telling me what you like or don’t like about the blog and anything that you would like to see!

More Info on Fish and Post-Super Bowl

Since I just featured a salmon recipe from the lovely Angela here, I figured it would be beneficial to include some more info about fish. Here’s an article about sustainable seafood and this is one regarding the best eco-friendly fish choices. And we should all know about which fish to choose when it comes to mercury levels, particularly pregnant and nursing women, so here’s is a handy guide from the FDA and the EPA.

Let’s move away from fish and talk instead about the Super Bowl! Though it might have been more beneficial for me to post this article before the Super Bowl, it still has valuable information that you can keep in mind before the next big eating holiday. What was your strategy for eating during the Super Bowl and how did you handle it?

Quick Dinner with a Pantry Staple

Here’s a great recipe that utilizes mainly pantry staples: particularly frozen veggies, canned tomatoes, and canned salmon. Canned salmon is a wonderful deal…it’s far cheaper than fresh salmon, but if you buy wild salmon it’s just as nutritious. You can use it to make salmon salad (I made a fabulous wrap with it that I will post) or a bigger mish-mosh similar to the one Angela of Oh She Glows has created. She cooked some fresh vegetables and combined them with frozen veggies, canned salmon and tomatoes, and some seasonings. This is a very quick, economical, and healthy recipe that’s perfect for a weeknight meal. You could also put this in a wrap or in a pita to make it a little more filling with some whole grains and fiber. This recipe is a good way to work toward the goal of more fish servings a week. Salmon is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that’s very good for your heart and that many Americans don’t get enough of.

Check out her recipe!

Salmon Vegetable Medley

A Better Explanation

Hey guys! I have been racking my brain, trying to come up with a unique twist for this blog that differentiates it from the other blogs out there. I turned to what I know and what my passion is…educating people about nutritious food and healthy lifestyles. There is so much information out there, which is wonderful, but I believe it has more value when the info about nutrition is attached to practical applications. 

Sure, I know that I need whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats in order to have a balanced diet. But if I don’t know where to find those things or how to cook my meals in order to incorporate them, there is a missing link in the education process.

That’s what I aim to change. The food blogger community is so fabulous and offers so much information that I want to integrate it more. So through this website I plan on featuring many recipes and healthy tips from the other great food bloggers out there as well as myself. I truly want to provide bites du jour. If you follow this website, I’ll give you a recipe every day for dinner, for example. The recipes will be nutritious and delicious. I will also try to attach healthy ideas and tips to the recipes. Coming up soon…a great recipe from one of my favorite bloggers! Stay tuned!