Recently I was reminiscing with my family about how much I loved Saturday mornings as a child. Yes, my day would start with cartoons, and if I woke up early enough, my all-time favorite show – Chief Halftown! However, my best memories are what happened after getting in some TV time.
My mother would load my brother and myself in the car, and we were off for groceries. We didn’t head to the IGA in town, however. We went to the butcher, the baker, and the dairy (you thought I was going to say “candlestick maker,” didn’t you?). At each stop, we left with not only fresh, healthy food for the week, but also goodies to keep us satisfied until our next stop.
Last summer I took my youngest to a local farm, and it was just like the good old days. We had so much fun picking out fresh vegetables, cheeses, and baked goods to surprise the family with. And, all the way home, we munched on the best carrots we ever tasted!
This weekend we’ll be heading to that same wonderful farm, and have plans to visit a local farmer’s market as well. Just in case this post has you hungry for some of the healthiest and yummiest foods on the planet as well, I thought I’d share some tips with you.
So, not sure where find local farms and farmers’ markets in your area? Just go to Local Harvest and type in your city or area code for a list of farms, farmers’ markets, and even CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) near you. Just some of my personal favorites in the Lehigh Valley are the Emmaus Farmers’ Market, Macungie Farmers’ Market, and Willow Haven Farm.
So, if this post still hasn’t convinced you it’s time to start enjoying ultra-fresh food with tons of flavor and vitamins, then you need to read The Benefits of Shopping at a Farmers’ Market. For those of you that I have persuaded, though, I’d love to hear about your experiences!
“We started out to save the family farmer. Now it looks like the family farmer is going to save us.” – Willie Nelson
Gardens are great, and now is the time to get planting! Below, check out the five reasons to grow a garden, along with suggestions for what to grow and how to grow it!
Why Grow a Garden?
5 Great Things to Grow in Your Garden…
BONUS: As an added bonus, try growing any kind of herb . You can put it in a pot, container garden, or even a planted bed garden, depending on your space. Herbs add a lot of interest and flavor to any dish. And, if you are gardening with children, they are often amazed by picking a plant like mint and smelling its wonderful aroma. Herbs are awesome for that.
NOTE: If you have plenty of time for the whole gardening process, go ahead and plant seeds. If you’re pressed for time and want to get a head start on making your garden shine, purchase small plants from a local nursery instead.
How Can I Choose What to Grow?
Are you following the same diet as your friend, but feel frustrated because you are not experiencing the same wonderful results? If so, this article by Marcell Pick, OB-GYN N.P. is for you!
“Vegan, Macrobiotic, Paleolithic: Is it Time to Let Go of the Label?”
I think we can all agree that for some people, eating in America has become a way to define yourself. Some chose their label for political or social reasons, and others are doing it for their health. We have vegetarians and vegans, people who follow raw food diets, macrobiotic diets, Paleolithic diets, the list goes on and on. My son has recently subscribed to a raw food diet, where he eats fruit, nuts, raw vegetables and some cooked quinoa. As he whips his smoothies up in the blender and prepares his meals, it all looks delicious and healthy, but I have to admit, I’m not sure how sustainable this diet will be for him.
It got me thinking, are these labels for how we eat serving us?
I’ve seen many women in my clinic who are vegetarians, for example, who come to me for help with weight, hormonal balance, or other issues after following a vegetarian diet for years. In many cases, the root of their health concerns is that they aren’t getting enough quality protein. This is not to say that it isn’t healthy to be a vegetarian. It just might not be healthy for everyone.
Though the news and medical literature bombard us with advice on the best way to eat, the truth remains the same. The best way to eat for you depends on YOU.
How do you determine whether your current diet is best for you?
It’s easy to get attached to popular health movements and diet fads. For example, I was a full supporter of the low-fat movement until I realized how important quality fats and proteins were for maintaining healthy weight, hormonal balance, and overall wellness. Something we all think is healthy at one point in time may change. And the reality is it’s how you feel that matters most.
I was recently on a short vacation at the lake with a friend of mine who likes to eat very rich foods with elaborate sauces and cheese toppings. I experimented with this style of eating, but unfortunately, I just don’t feel well when I eat this way. It makes me feel bloated and heavy. For me, simple is always better — salads with oil and lemon, grilled or baked fish or organic meat, and steamed or sautéed vegetables.
Take a minute to think about how you feel by answering these questions:
Do you wake up in the morning with energy?
Do you have enough energy to accomplish your daily tasks?
How is your memory and thinking?
Do you have digestive issues like heartburn, bloating, loose stools, or constipation?
Then, assess your body with the following questions:
Is your skin relatively smooth and healthy?
Is your hair healthy?
Are your nails strong?
Are your muscles lean?
And finally, assess how satisfied you feel after eating a meal. Do you feel pleasantly calm and satisfied or deprived, edgy and anxious?
Spending some time with these questions will provide a lot of insight into how your current diet is serving your body. If you don’t feel enough energy to get through your daily tasks, you might consider adding more protein and eating less carbohydrates (especially those that contain gluten). If you’re not feeling satisfied after a meal, consider adding more fat or lean protein. There are many ways to experiment if you start to pay attention to what feels good.
If you’re committed to finding your best eating style, you can keep a food journal and write down what you eat and how you feel for a week or two. There is also genetic testing you can have done to help you determine the best eating and exercise style for your genes.
Less About Labels, More About You
I have a friend who’s been vegan for nearly 10 years and has experienced wonderful health benefits from it. She’s lost weight, for one, and learned much more about cooking and nutrition. But in the past few years she’s been getting sick a lot. She also fractured a bone and has intense cravings for cheese. She told me she thought she was “addicted” to cheese and that she can’t even be around it or she’ll eat all the cheese in sight. I reassured her that she was probably not “addicted to cheese” and that her cravings were likely stemming from either a food sensitivity or something her body needed that was missing in her diet.
We talked about how being vegan was great for her to get over a lot of hurdles, but now it might be time to get more protein in her diet. She’s trying things in small steps, but letting go of the vegan label is going to be difficult for her, especially because she’s connected with a whole vegan community around it.
We get attached to these labels, but sometimes forget to check in with how we actually feel once we’ve made a political or health decision around food. I hope that we can listen to the wisdom of our bodies and not feel so locked into these diets that we can’t change if we don’t feel well.
As promised, here’s a follow-up to last week’s “Blending vs. Juicing” article by Jane Lear.
Jane Says: All Juicers Aren’t Created Equal
Juicers are selling like hot cakes as more and more Americans have started drinking their fruits and vegetables in the hopes of losing weight, eating more healthfully, and/or detoxing. Just last week, in fact, Debra Mednick, executive director and home-industry analyst at the market-research firm NPD Group, wrote on the company’s blog that juice extractor sales have more than doubled in the past two years. “But there’s more to the trend than just juicing,” she elaborated. “High-performance blenders effortlessly chop and pulverize just about anything … while still retaining all of the whole food benefits. This changes the game for how consumers ‘eat’ their meals.” Someone who would have been gratified by this juice-blend trend was Jack LaLanne, the father of the modern physical fitness movement. He opened his first gym and juice bar in 1936.
A top-of-the-line juicer (more correctly called a juice extractor) or blender can easily set you back $400 or more, and it hogs valuable real estate—both on the kitchen counter and, when you think about it, in the refrigerator. After all, because it takes a number of servings of whole vegetables or fruits to yield one serving of juice, you’ll be buying organic produce and lots of it, which is also far from cheap.
I’m not saying liquefying your food isn’t worth it—for the full scoop, check out last week’s column—but if you don’t have the time to shop for produce, wash and prep it, and clean the machine after each use, perhaps patronize your favorite juice bar (and support the local economy) instead.
You still want one. I can tell.
Okay, then, below is a general rundown of the different types of juicers you’ll find on the market. No matter what kind you buy, look for features that will make it a pleasure to use. These include a long cord, for counter-top flexibility; a large feeder chute to accommodate big or multiple pieces of fruit and vegetables; a clear juice container so you can see how much you’re making; and dishwasher-safe, easily removable parts.
High-speed juicers (aka fast or centrifugal juicers)
These juicers shred produce with a sharp blade, then separate the pulp through high-speed spinning to yield thin, pulpless juice. They tend to handle carrots, beets, and apples better than leafy greens or wheatgrass. High-speed juicers include LaLanne’s Power Juicer and the Breville Juice Fountain series, popularized by the documentary Fat Sick & Nearly Dead. What’s not to love about fast juicers? The blades and spinning mean the foods you’re juicing come in contact with more air during the process; that oxidization causes nutrients to break down quickly, so you should drink a serving as soon as you make it. The machines also generate about two degrees Fahrenheit of heat—a tiny amount, but many juice proponents believe that also destroys nutrients. Hey, did I mention Jack LaLanne lived to the age of 97?
Slow juicers (aka masticating or single-gear juicers)
These juicers use an auger to crush the juice out of foods, including leafy greens. They leave more pulp (i.e., fiber) in the juice than a high-speed juicer does; consequently, there is less waste (and thicker juice). They can also be used for making baby food, nut butters, or even ice cream. Because there are no blades or spinning, a slow juicer is quieter than a high-speed type; for the same reason, less heat and oxidization are created. Popular brands include Omega, Hurom, and Champion. In general, slow juicers are more expensive than fast juicers. They also have smaller feeder chutes, so there’s more prepping of ingredients involved.
Triturating juicers (aka twin-gear juicers)
These top-of-the-line juicers are for the seriously dedicated enthusiast. They turn at a slower speed than a masticating juicer, and by pressing foods between two interlocking gears, they extract a larger volume of nutrient-rich juice from leafy greens and other vegetables, fruits, herbs, wheatgrass, and novel ingredients (to most of us, anyway) like pine needles. Green Star, Samson, and Angel are three brands to look for. The major drawback here is price: The Super Angel retails for about $1,500, and Green Stars start at about $630. Give me a gym membership, any day.
“Whole foods” juicers (aka high-performance blenders)
These blenders liquefy whole fruits and vegetables while still retaining the fiber. Juicing advocates say the machines produce smoothies, not juices, but the semantics don’t seem to bother the cult followers of Vitamix (starting at $600) and the less-expensive Ninja and NutriBullet (made by Magic Bullet).
Tips on Juicing and Blending
• Always start with well-washed fresh produce (preferably organic) and a clean juicer.
• To keep the natural sugar content low, a combination should be mostly vegetables.
• Include a veggie with a high water content, such as a cucumber or large stalk of celery, to balance out denser leafy greens such as kale, chard, or spinach.
• Add an apple, pear, carrot, or beet for sweetness and a more rounded, complex flavor. A tart green apple like a Granny Smith will cut the sweetness of carrot or beet juice.
• For brightness, add ginger, lemon, lime, and/or a favorite herb.
• When blending, you’ll need to add ice cubes or a liquid such as coconut water, juice, or almond milk. You can also add ingredients like flax or chia seeds.
• Although I question many of the health benefits touted in The Juicing Bible (2nd ed.), by Pat Crocker, the book contains 350 recipes for juices, smoothies, and more.
If you’ve been trying to decide if you want to jump on the juicing bandwagon, this article by food expert, Jane Lear, is for you!
Many of those who have jumped on the juice wagon have been inspired to “reboot” by the 2010 Joe Cross documentary, Fat Sick & Nearly Dead. Juicing makes it easier and faster to get more vegetables and fruits (and a greater variety of them) into your diet, or that of your family. And because it usually takes a number of servings of the whole vegetables and/or fruits to produce a few ounces of juice, it’s a highly concentrated source of nutrients. You could argue, in fact, that juice is the ultimate convenience food: You don’t even have to chew, let alone cook.
I’m not being snarky: The most up-to-date U.S. dietary guidelines call for five to 13 servings (2½ to 6½ cups) of fruits and vegetables a day, based on calorie intake, but the average American consumes a dispiriting total of just three cups (not including potatoes) per day. If he or she swings into 7-Eleven or Whole Foods to pick up a juice instead of a soda, how could that be bad?
Many advocates say juicing beats eating whole vegetables and fruits because you can better absorb the nutrients. They also say it can help reduce your risk of cancer, boost your immune system, remove toxins from your body, and help you drop unwanted pounds.
There is some evidence to suggest that some nutrients, especially cancer-fighting carotenoids (which are found in carrots, spinach, apricots, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and more) do seem to be absorbed more readily from juice. But juicing does not provide fat, protein, and complex carbohydrates—all essential to good health. And many foods—including carrots, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, cabbage, and peppers—supply even more antioxidants (lycopene and ferulic acid among them) to the body when cooked. It’s also worth noting that because most juicing removes fiber from vegetables and fruits (I’ll get to that in a minute), the natural sugars present in the plants (in particular, fruits, carrots, and beets) are absorbed easily, too, causing a spike in your blood sugar (and, not surprisingly, in your energy level) and putting your pancreas into overdrive.
As far as detoxing goes, I’ll explore that subject in greater detail another time, but in short, there is absolutely no scientific evidence showing you can remove toxins by juicing. Our organs (especially the liver) and digestive system do that job by converting toxins into nontoxic substances we excrete. That said, however, our natural detoxification system is made stronger by many foods, including some entire food groups, such as the Brassica family (which counts broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and watercress among its members) and alliums like garlic, leeks, and onions.
Okay, about dietary fiber: When you toss veggies and/or fruits into most juicers, you are kissing the fiber, which is in the skin and pulp, goodbye. We all know that fiber prevents or relieves constipation, but it also helps you maintain a healthy weight (it provides a sense of fullness) and steady blood sugar levels, and also lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends that children and adults consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories of food they eat each day. For an adult male between the ages of 19 and 30 who eats about 2,800 calories per day, that means 38 grams of fiber per day; for an adult female of the same age who eats about 1800 calories per day, that means 25 grams.
Any mention of fiber brings us to blending, the act of whizzing up fruits and/or vegetables in a blender. Like juicing, blending is a great way to sneak vegetables and fruits that you otherwise might not eat into your diet. But blending always leaves the fiber intact, and if you aren’t eating enough fiber-rich foods, then working a smoothie into your daily routine is a smart thing to do. In general, blenders are less expensive than juicers, and, because they have fewer moving parts, they’re simpler to clean. You still need to take good care, however: just in from NSF International (founded as the National Sanitation Foundation in 1944) is the news that one of the kitchen items most contaminated with E. coli, salmonella, yeasts, and molds (yeesh) is the blender—specifically, the gasket and rubber seal—so take it apart before cleaning.
Next week, I’ll give you the scoop on the types of juicers available and some tips on juicing. In the meantime, go chew something.”
One of the top snacks I recommend to my clients is fruit with nuts. The health benefits of fruit are endless … from helping to prevent a host of diseases to greater longevity. As for nuts, in addition to their heart-healthy fat content, they are also a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And, both rank high on the satiety index, which means no hunger pangs for you!
Unlike fruit, however, nuts have a high calorie and fat content, so even though they are healthy, it’s not a good idea to eat more than a serving or two each day. For this reason, I recommend buying individual packs of natural nuts, and pre-measured pouches of nut butters. In addition to keeping you from eating too much, they offer the convenience of being portable. If you cannot find your favorite nuts in single serving packs, I encourage you to create your own small snack bags. Here is a list of 100-calorie portions to help you out:
100 Calories =
3 Large Brazil Nuts
6 Macadamia Nuts
7 Walnut Halves
1 Tablespoon Most Nut Butters
Do you remember when we thought eggs were for bad for us? How about when fat-free products lined supermarket shelves? And, of course, we cannot forget the most recent “low-carb” phase! Well, just walk into any grocery store, and it’s not hard to tell that the new bad guy in town is gluten. Now don’t get me wrong, for people with celiac disease, cutting out gluten leads to a healthier, happier life. But what about the rest of us? Will going gluten-free finally help shrink our waistlines, or is this just another diet fad? I think this wonderful article by Danielle Rosenfeld, RD sums it up perfectly.
Gluten needs a PR agent. Judging by supermarket shelves and bakeshop windows, half the country’s sworn off this protein fragment, found in wheat and related grains such as barley and rye. It’s getting blamed for everything from intestinal pain to infertility. But can this ingredient, which provides the delicious, chewy, crumby texture and signature flavor in most every baked good, really be that bad for everyone? In a word, no.
Who Should Give Up Gluten? Gluten-free diets were designed as a treatment for individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that affects one in 133 people in the US. For people who have celiac disease, consuming gluten can damage the small intestine and lead to a range of symptoms including bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting, as well as adverse health consequences such as infertility, osteoporosis, and neurological disorders. Celiac commonly goes undiagnosed, slowly damaging the intestines and impairing their ability to absorb essential nutrients the body needs. The only known treatment for celiac disease is to completely eliminate gluten from the diet. But this isn’t an easy task, given that gluten is added to such random foods as deli meats and nutritional supplements.
“Patients may also have an allergy to gluten, which is different than Celiac Disease,” says David H. Berman, MD, FACP, FACG at the Mount Sinai division of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology and Park Avenue Medical Professions. “Approximately 1 in 30 adults with abdominal symptoms are actually allergic to gluten.” Gluten allergies can produce symptoms similar to Celiac but will not cause the more serious side effects associated with the disease. According to Berman, patients with gluten allergies can tolerate small quantities of gluten, but only if they are currently symptom-free. That being said, gluten-free diets can be useful for a large portion of the population — as long as it’s done right.
Is Gluten Bad For the Rest of Us? It seems you can’t walk down a supermarket aisle or scan a restaurant menu these days without seeing the words “Gluten Free!” The gluten-free market is a $6.3 billion industry, up 33 percent since 2009, as reported in The New York Times Magazine (November 2011). The proliferation of gluten-free foods is good news for those with an allergy or Celiac disease, but for the rest of us, it’s simply confusing. As a result of the increased awareness of gluten in the marketplace, many people have put themselves on gluten-free diets, thinking it will improve their health or enhance their weight loss. However, there is no clinical evidence to support that a healthy individual will benefit from going gluten-free. In fact, the majority of current research on gluten-free diets examines its effectiveness in improving clinical conditions rather than overall health and weight loss.
Cutting gluten-containing grains from your diet can deprive your body of essential micronutrients, such as iron, calcium, fiber, and critical B-vitamins. Eliminating these grains means you need to get these nutrients from other sources. A gluten free diet can be nutritious— if you replace gluten-containing products with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and nutrient-rich gluten-free grains such as quinoa.
Dropping gluten from your diet in order to shed pounds can seriously backfire. Many gluten-free grains, such as buckwheat, are higher in calories. “Gluten-free versions of packaged foods also tend to be higher in calories and fat and lower in fiber compared to their regular counterparts,” says Michelle Nabatian, Registered Dietitian at Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life in New York City. “They can also be more expensive.” The bottom line: Make an appointment with your doctor if you think you remove gluten from your diet; he or she can let you know if it’s a medically sound idea.
Today my family is going to the movies. For those of us trying to make healthier food choices, the movies can truly be horrifying. Researchers have found that movie theater popcorn offerings can range from 400 to 1,200 calories, with one to three days’ worth of saturated fat, and up to 1,500 milligrams of sodium. And that doesn’t even include candy and a soft drink!
The best way to avoid temptation at the theater is to eat a balanced meal beforehand, and always pack your own snack. Some things I recommend are: pretzels, a 100-calorie pack of almonds, dry cereal, a 100-calorie bag of popcorn (pre-popped, of course!), or my personal favorite … a 1-ounce bag of Pirate’s Booty.
For those of you who just cannot enjoy your film without actually purchasing something from the theater’s concession stand, your best bet is to share a small, unbuttered popcorn with a friend, or savor a warm soft pretzel with mustard. Always be sure to wash it down with water, and … ENJOY THE SHOW!
Okay, I admit it. I have a sweet tooth. If you do too, then you know that Halloween can be one of the most challenging “holidays” of the year. Between handing out the sweet stuff to trick-or-treaters, and the many goodies our children bring home, this particular day can be truly haunting.
Well, I have some good news. Sweets can be part of a balanced diet as long as you pay attention to portion sizes. When it comes to Halloween candy, fun-size bars are clearly a better choice than having a full-size candy bar, but even these tiny treats can be a bit ghoulish. Just because they are small, doesn’t mean they are calorie free! To help make this Halloween a little less scary, below is nutritional information for some popular fun-sized treats. As long as you keep your snack within the 100 to 200-calorie range, you can satisfy your sweet tooth, stick to your healthy diet, and have a Happy Halloween!
(Important Note: 1 teaspoon sugar is equal to 4 grams, so some of these little treats contain 3 to 4 teaspoons of sugar. Just because it’s low in fat and calories, doesn’t mean it’s a good pick!)
Almond Joy Snack Size – 1 bar (17g): 80 calories, 3g sat fat, 8g sugar
Baby Ruth Fun Size – 1 bar (0.65 oz/18.5g): 85 calories, 2.3g sat fat, 10g sugar
Brach’s Candy Corn – 1 bag (15g): 53 calories, 0g sat fat, 11.7g sugar
Butterfinger Fun Size – 1 bar (0.65 oz/18.5g): 85 calories, 1.8g sat fat, 8.5g sugar
Charm’s Blow Pop – 1 pop: 60 calories, 0g sat fat, 13g sugar
Dots Mini Box – 1 box (21g): 70 calories, 0g sat fat, 11g sugar
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Fun Size – 1 bar (0.49 oz): 77 calories, 2.7g sat fat, 7g sugar
Kit Kat Wafer Bar, Snack Size – 1 bar (0.49 oz/14g): 70 calories, 2.3g sat fat, 7g sugar
Milk Duds Snack Size – 1 box (12g): 53 calories, 1.2g sat fat, 9g sugar
Milky Way Bar Fun Size – 1 bar (0.58 oz/17g): 80 calories, 2.3 g sat fat, 10g sugar
M&M’s Milk Chocolate Fun Size – 1 bag (15g): 73 calories, 2g sat fat, 9.3g sugar
M&M’s Peanut Fun Size – 1 bag (18g): 90 calories, 1.8g sat fat, 9g sugar
Mounds Snack Size Bar – 1 bar (17g): 80 calories, 3.5g sat fat, 7g sugar
Nerds Mini Box – 1 box (13g): 50 calories, 0g sat fat, 12g sugar
Nestle 100 Grand Fun Size – 1 bar (21.5g): 95 calories, 2.5g sat fat, 11g sugar
Raisinets Fun Size – 1 bag (16g): 67 calories, 1.7g sat fat, 9.7g sugar
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Snack Size – 1 cup: 110 calories, 2.5 g sat fat, 11 g sugar
Reese’s Pieces Snack Size – 1 bag (13g): 67 calories, 2.7g sat fat, 7.3g sugar
Rolo Snack Pack – 1 roll (18g): 80 calories, 2.5 g sat fat, 11g sugar
Skittles Fun Size – 1 bag (15g): 60 calories, 0.7g sat fat, 11.3g sugar
Smarties – 1 roll (7g): 25 calories, 0g fat, 6g sugar
Snickers Fun Size – 1 bar (17g): 80 calories, 1.5g sat fat, 8.5g sugar
Sour Patch Kids Mini Bag – 1 bag (15g): 50 calories, 0g fat, 10g sugar
Starburst Fun Size – 2 Starburst candies: 40 calories, 0.8g sat fat, 6g sugar
Sugar Babies, Snack Size – 1 pack (21g): 80 calories, 0g sat fat, 15g sugar
Swedish Fish Mini Pack – 1 pack (15g): 50 calories, 0g sat fat, 11g sugar
Three Musketeers Fun Size – 1 bar (15g): 63 calories, 1.3g sat fat, 10g sugar
Tootsie Pop – 1 pop: 60 calories, 0g sat fat, 10g sugar
Tootsie Roll Snack Bar – 1 bar (14g): 50 calories, 0.2g sat fat, 7g sugar
Twix Fun Size – 1 bar (16g): 80 calories, 3g sat fat, 8g sugar
Wonka Mini Laffy Taffy – 1 mini taffy (8.6g): 30 calories, 0.3g sat fat, 4.2g sugar
York Peppermint Pattie, Snack Size – 1 piece (13.6g): 50 cal, 0.7g sat fat, 9g sugar