Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Life of a Dietetic Intern: Supermarket Savvy

wait, I get to try foods, write and create a social media plan? Of COURSE that’s what I’d love to do during my dietetic internship! One of the things I love about the University of Houston dietetic internship is the wide range of internship sites available, that show all the different aspects of the nutrition field. My 4th rotation was with the wonderful RD Linda McDonald, owner of Supermarket Savvy-a monthly newsletter for health care professionals that aims to provide them with news and facts on food items to assist them in helping their clients make healthy choices in the grocery store. With 10 newsletters a year that go out to over 600 medical professionals, she spends a lot of time researching and writing about food products, trends and health topics. The first step was to brainstorm a newsletter topic that would a. interest me and b. hadn’t been done before. A was easy-B not so much. Just two months ago vegan and vegetarian foods were featured, but gluten free hadn’t been touched for several years, so I decided to highlight gluten free vegan and vegetarian foods, nutrients of note, and trends.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation 1 in 133 people in the US have Celiac disease, for which the treatment is complete elimination of gluten from diet. An additional six percent of the U.S. population, or 18 million people, may be classified with gluten sensitivity, according to the Center for Celiac Research, University of Maryland. Currently in the United States this is a $1.3 billion industry that is expected to grow to $1.68 billion by 2015.

One of the questions I get a lot about BOTH gluten free and vegan diets is whether they are effective in weight loss. There is no scientific evidence that restricting gluten is an effective weight loss tool. Processed gluten-free items are most often no healthier or lower in calories than those with wheat. In fact most have higher fat and lower fiber, folate and iron content. Similar things can be said about processed vegan or vegetarian items. The best approach for overall health is to choose those foods that are naturally gluten-free and vegetarian, such as vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.

In my quest of foods to highlight in the article I spent a lot of time in the grocery store, pouring over food labels. I have to admit-I was quite disappointed by what I saw. Yes, the availability and selection of gluten-free items has DRASTICALLY improved in the last several years. But the quality-and nutritional profile of many items are severely lacking. It was difficult to find products that met the FDA and American Heart Association’s guidelines for a healthy food-one that is high in fiber, low in sodium and low in saturated fats. Moral of the story-no matter what your dietary restriction, it’s usually best to stick to the edges of the supermarket, and buy fresh, whole food in their natural state.

The one product that I did praise and am a huge fan of is the Food Should Taste Good chips.

If you haven’t tried these yet, run (don’t walk) to your nearest grocery store (they’re nationwide, in almost all outlets). These chips are created without trans fats, cholesterol, artificial ingredients or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). All are whole grain (15 g), certified gluten free, Kosher, low in sodium (80 mg), and a good source of dietary fiber (3 g). But the best part is the delicious, unique flavors they come in- Sweet Potato, Lime, Olive, and Jalapeño aren’t flavors you expect to find in the chip aisle, but each chip has an intriguing and unique flavor. Grab a bag, just try not to eat it in one sitting (oops).

I learned a lot from Linda about running your own business, which I hope to be able to use within the next couple of years. She was a great mentor and I will definitely be subscribing to the newsletter in the years to come! Next: Back to Clinical. 5 more weeks of hospital work. And 9 more weeks in Houston. Not that I’m counting…..

What’s the newest food you’ve tried and liked?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thankful List

This Thanksgiving I have a whole lot to be thankful for. I had one of the best birthdays of my life in Boston this past weekend, and thanks to being able to do my current dietetic internship work via the computer, I'm home in Wyoming with my family for the first "real" Thanksgiving I've had in years. I am thankful to have amazing people in my life, to be surrounded by love, and doing what I love each and everyday. I'm 9 odd weeks away from completing my dietetic internship which means I'm oh so close to becoming a RD I can almost taste it. Then it will be back to Boston to start "real life" (gulp). And I couldn't be happier!
my sister's puppy i'm obsessed with. I need a dog in my life

Here's some links I'm lovin' today:
What are you thankful for this year? Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Buckwheat Pancakes

We've been experimenting with more gluten free foods in mi casa lately. My lovely roommate is transitioning, and I am currently on a plane to home, home, and can't wait to share these with my gluten-free, vegan mother! So when I saw that this month's Recipe Redux was on trying new Whole Grains, I knew I had to share my latest favorite recipe: Whole grain, Gluten Free, Vegan Pancakes! This recipe is adapted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair, a great cookbook filled with delicious, whole food recipes. I haven't tried one thing i didn't like!

Buckwheat Pancakes (Gluten Free and Vegan)
Step one (the night before you want pancakes)
Soak 1 cup buckwheat groats with 3/4 c soy yogurt (unsweetened plain Whole Soy gets my vote) and 1/4 cup water in a blender for 12 hours. You can also sub 1 cup non-dairy milk (almond is my favorite) but the soy yogurt adds some protein and probiotics! 1/2 c pumpkin
Morning of:
Add 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1/4 c unsweetened almond milk, 1/4 t sea salt, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp vanilla and blend until pancake batter consistency.
nice n smooth
Heat a non-stick pan with coconut oil and begin to make your pancakes!
Remove when golden!
I think we got 15 small pancakes outta this batter-enough for 2 breakfasts for both of us!
I highly recommend eating them with banana, homemade syrup (thanks Mom!), peanut butter, and a latte. But that's just me...

Want to figure out what to do with other Whole Grains? Check out these RD-approved recipes!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No More New: Project Repat

You might remember my lil post about Project Repat earlier this year. This awesome little start-up is on to even bigger and better things 6 months later. They had a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year which resulted in our unique social enterprise being featured in Good, Thrillist, Boston Magazine, and, somewhat ironically, a live interview on Fox National News, Project Repat was founded to raise awareness about the billions of dollars in used clothing that is dumped on the developing world each year, disrupting local markets in Africa and adding to global waste. Instead of filling the world with even more clothing, we're helping small businesses in Kenya repurpose the millions and millions of t-shirts that already exist on this planet and creating one-of-a-kind products with an amazing story to tell in the process.

Yesterday they launched a "No More New" product line, just in time for the holiday season. For just $25, backers get their choice of one of the amazing items they're bringing back from Kenya as they work to standardize their product line with our small business partners on the ground in Nairobi. Since the holiday season is fast approaching, why not give those you love something eco-friendly and socially responsible?!

Learn more about Project Repat here

I Didn't Dance My Ass Off at Josh's Bar Mitzvah from Project Repat on Vimeo.

So this holiday season, give back to the world when giving gifts to your loved ones! Donate to Project Repat's No More New Kickstarter! Which definitely should have been included on this list of 30 gifts that give back!

What's your go-to holiday gift for friends and family?

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Bar on the Block: NuGo

A new bar is in town. I saw it first in the JFK airport of all places and decided some dark chocolate protein was all I needed to keep from melting in between delayed flights. Then I started to see it popping up in Whole Foods, right next to good ol' Luna Bars. So when they asked if I would like to try some more of their vegan dark chocolate protein bars I said 'Of Course.' And I found a new vegan protein bar-NuGo!
Dark Chocolate Pretzel with Sea Salt rocked my socks off after a define body class. The sea salt was something you never see in a protein bar, and it definitely enhanced the flavor. 10g of protein is nothing to shake your head at either.
Yup, sea salt flakes
Mocha chocolate tasted better than any Starbucks creation, the perfect blend of dark chocolate and coffee. And peanut butter tastes better than any rice krispie treat I've ever made. Plus you're getting the additional flavonoids from dark chocolate-anti-oxidants that not only taste delicious but elevate mood, improve skin and may lower cholesterol. Unlike many other bars NuGO is made from REAL dark chocolate-not palm fruit oil or "chocolaty coating."

For those with allergies, NuGo also makes a line of "Free" bars that are Gluten and Soy free as well as Vegan, using Rice protein as their main ingredient. They also have a Larabar-esque bar called the NuGo 10-with only 3 nuts, 3 fruits and 4 seeds. which can be bought for on their website (with free shipping!) You can see all their products and how they might fit into your lifestyle on their website.

In case you're curious, I eat bars when I'm in a pinch and forgot to pack a meal or snack, or if I would like a special treat. At least I'm getting extra protein right?! While I think whole food bars like Larabars are the top of the line, sometimes I crave something chocolatey. I just make sure it's a product where I will enjoy every bite! You can find NuGo bars in most natural foods stores, whole foods, or buy them online.

Want to make your own protein bars? Runner's World posted a recipe for Chocolate Chia energy bars are that look delicious, and packed with nutrition! Perfect post workout snack to make at home.

How do you feel about bars? Have you ever tried NuGo? Any other favorite bars?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mom's Split Pea Soup

This soup is not fancy, is not complicated, is not crazy. It is simple, and easy, with no frills attached, but to me, it tastes like Love. It's my mother's recipe, and it reminds me of the love she shares with my siblings and I, of the hours she's spent caring for us, healing us, and feeding us. My amazing mother is also an amazing cook, and our house is a favorite hangout for my hometown friends, because there is always something delicious waiting for them there. The more mouths to feed the better. I'm counting down the days until I get to spend Thanksgiving with my family and those friends, something that hasn't happen in over 4 years. There will certainly be some wonderful meals and even better conversation.
So today I'm channeling my nostalgia for sweater-weather Novembers and snow covered grounds with this soup. 80-degree-thunder-storm-pouring-rain will just have to do. It's not bad, just different.

Mom's Split Pea Soup
  • 1lb organic split peas
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 3 carrots and 2 parsnips
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp each sea salt, dried basil, thyme.
  • 6 cups water or vegetable broth
First rinse the split peas well. Then in your soup pan, brown the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil. Add in split peas and water (or broth) and bring to a rolling boil. Let simmer for 1 hour. Add in chopped carrots and parsnips (potatoes are tasty too) and the sea salt, thyme and basil. Let simmer for another 30 minutes. Serve!

It feeds many mouths. But if you're dining solo or with one other, it freezes beautifully. Wait until it's cool and then pour into individual tupperware containers and pop into the fridge. Then when you need a lunch or dinner you can set it out in the morning, reheat and voila-Love.
Do you have any favorite recipes that evoke special memories? Please do share!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Guest Post: Healthy protein bars?

Today I have the pleasure of sharing a great post on protein bars, and why there's still room for improvement, by Michael Shaw. Michael is a writer who tracks alternative health products, including gluten-free healthy pancake recipes, and refined sugar-free goods, at his website No Flour, No Sugar Diet.

I like to eat just as healthily as the next guy or gal, and that of course means a good daily dose of fruits and veggies, healthy grains, and limited processed and/or packaged foods. When it comes to afternoon snacks, fresh fruit and some nuts and raisins or dates is a good way to go, but every now and then I like to mix it up a bit and have a healthy protein bar, or ‘health bar,’ as they’re becoming known more recently. They’re definitely more exciting than dried fruits and nuts every day.

As I’ve written about in my protein bars reviews, a lot of the offerings on the market these days amount to nothing more than glorified candy bars. There are very few exceptions to this standard…one of them is Lärabar, which has more than 20 varieties of bars, most of which are limited to a handful of ingredients, just dried fruits and nuts, maybe a little coconut or lemon as well. But no chemicals, preservatives or additives (a few of their bars do contain Fair Trade Certified chocolate chips, but if you want to avoid refined sugar, most of their bars are free of it).

So how does one improve upon such simplicity? It doesn’t really seem possible. Good Greens, meanwhile, which is a recent entrant into the health bar arena, is bypassing the simplicity route in favor of the wellness route: they’ve injected their health bars with so many superfoods that each bar claims to provide “100% of Your Daily Fruits & Vegetables.” And indeed, each bar is packed with so many vitamins - A, C, and E (100% D.V.), Iron (20%), and Niacin/B3 (100%) - that you may feel like eating whatever you want for the rest of the day. But that would be just a tad silly, wouldn’t it?

A guy I knew several years ago would joke how he always started his day off with a vegetable smoothie full of healthy greens such as spinach and kale and the like. He hated the taste, but rationalized that he could eat donuts(!) the rest of the day. I was never sure if he was kidding or not. Here’s where Good Greens one-ups my friend with their health bars: they provide an impressively wide variety of vitamins and minerals (Magnesium 20%, Selenium 20%, Chromium 60%), all delivered in a sweet-tasting bar. Their flavors include chocolate raspberry, chocolate peanut butter, chocolate coconut, and wildberry.

But there’s a downside to that delivery system: the sugar. While Good Greens bars are gluten-free, vegan, and 72% organic, the first ingredient of the chocolate raspberry, chocolate peanut butter, and chocolate coconut bars is dairy free dark chocolate, whose own first ingredients is, brace yourself: evaporated cane juice. So yes, while you do get to all those great superfoods (which come in the form of their Z-52 formula), you get them by way of what is nothing more or less than a refined sugar, which is pretty problematic in my recipe book.

The Wildberry bar, meanwhile, is just a tasty, in a fruitier way, but avoids the ‘dairy free dark chocolate’ treatment. Its first ingredient is Fruitrim, a fruit juice and natural grain dextrin (whatever that is) mixture, followed by sunflower butter and the Z-52 Superfood Powder. Whereas the other Good Greens bars have 14 grams of sugar out of 50 total, the Wildberry bar has 12. Some of that sugar comes from the Fruitrim, and others come from agave syrup, whose qualities as a sweetener I discuss in my Unrefined Sugar guide.

While Larabars do have more grams of sugar per bar – anywhere from about 18 to 24 grams per 48 gram bar – they come only from unrefined sugars, and while I am excited about the taste and the full range of nutritional boosting one gets from a Good Greens bar, I’m a little less than charmed by the agave syrup, the brown rice syrup and the ‘natural dextrins,’ not to mention the evaporated cane juice.

For their next generation of bars, I’d like to see Good Greens look into developing a healthier delivery system for their superfoods powder- maybe by using stevia, or some luo han? Or perhaps organic maple syrup? On the other hand, if you’re not a no-sugar purist, maybe 12 or 14 grams of sugar – from whatever source – is a very reasonable price to pay for a filling snack with a panoply of nutrients. On paper it seems fine. But sugar as the first ingredient? To me that’s still a red flag.

Thank you Michael for this great post! I definitely would love to see more bars that use stevia or just plain dates as their sweetener. Perhaps Don't White Sugar Coat It and No Flour No Sugar should collaborate more often! Be sure to stop by Michael's blog for more great content!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Java Pura: Purely Heavenly

When I found out that there was 1 coffee company in Houston that roasted its beans within city limits, I knew I had to take a field trip. Since working from home creates a wonderfully flexible schedule, I ventured to the Java Pura headquarters in a very nondescript part of Htown.
I nervously rang the buzzer and was greeted warmly by co-owner Fielding Cocke. He and his team kindly took time out of their busy roasting day to show me around, treating me like I was a partner and friend, despite my being a complete stranger.
Fielding and his business partner Richards started Java Pura four years ago and it is obvious this is a labor of love. The way he describes the beans, the flavor nuances and roasting process is beautiful. He showed me the art and science behind bean roasting, starting with the fruity smell of fresh, clean beans, the smooth roasting smell, and importance of loud CRACKS as the beans heat and expand.
I also learned that coffee should NEVER be drank past 2 weeks of roasting (!!!! have you ever thought about how long beans in the grocery store sit? From roasting to distribution and the hundreds of miles they trek), freezer is where they should live, and it must be ground finely right before brewing. For the first 48 hours after roasting the coffee is still expelling CO2, but after that it starts to absorb other scents and tastes, reducing it's quality. After 2 weeks, forget about it!
All Java Pura coffees have their roasted date right on the label-something you'll never find on other brands. Plus you can only buy their coffee in their headquarters, or in Central Market, guaranteeing utmost freshness.
I got to experience a "cupping" as we tasted coffees they are considering purchasing in bulk.
Also Fielding ran back and forth between keeping a close eye on his roasting beans and making me a latte.
It was delicious. I am still working on training my palate to taste the subtle nuances of cucumber...

After seeing and smelling and taking in the Java Pura headquarters I have been officially converted. I bought beans straight out of the roaster and I'll be stocking up bi-weekly. Some of you will probably be receiving it in your stocking this year. Coincidentally Fielding's wife is also a RD-small world!

So look for the mustang and rooster, a clever take on Colt & Cocke Inc. and know that what you'll find in that bag is of the highest quality, and roasted with love and care.

I'm going back to sipping my espresso now. Have a lovely Friday!

Find Java Pura
5250 Gulfton Suite #4G
Houston, TX

Central Market Houston
3815 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77027

At the Med Center-BRC Rice
6500 Main St.
Houston, TX 77005

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Love November

I love November. My birthday, thanksgiving, weather finally being NICE in Texas, snow everywhere else.... And since today is 11/1/11 I have a sneaking suspicion this year is going to be one of the best. And here are some things I'm loving right now!
  • In case you didn't know Vegan's don't just eat granola, tofu, and grass....

  • Looking for a delicious, healthy meal that pleases the eye? Check out Healthy Aperture Taste-spotting with health in mind!
  • My rockstar roommate made Fruit Kimchi. And it is AMAZING! Check out her recipe!
  • In case you didn't know, our food system is a bit messed up. Subsidies, contamination, obesity, oh my! I highly recommend taking the time to watch part of this debate at the Harvard School of Public Health on the 2012 Farm Bill And check out this graph that explains why a salad is so much more expensive than a Big Mac, thank you subsidies

What's going to make your November extra extraordinary??