Archive for ‘Health & Nutrition’

January 13, 2012

Introducing New Grains to Your Family

I think that most of us can agree that white rice is pretty yummy.  But how do we balance that with the fact that it is nowhere near the powerhouse of nutrition that whole grains are (e.g. brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, and millet)?  These whole grains are not only a good source of dietary fiber, but also contain important vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.  All of these components work together synergistically to produce health benefits, which is why it is important to consume grains as a whole food rather than as a stripped version of themselves like white rice.  There are many wonderful grains out there to try, and I think I have figured out a good way to try them, while still being excited about what’s for dinner and tricking my kids into eating them as well.  It is as simple as this–cook them with white rice.  I would start out with a 1:1 ratio, and then you can lessen the amount of white rice as you become more accustomed to the tastes of the other grains.

In this picture, I cooked 1 cup white rice, 1/2 cup quinoa, and 1/2 cup bulgur wheat (totaling 2 cups).  Normally when you cook 1 cup of white rice, you add 1 and 1/4 cup water.  But when you cook a whole grain the ratio is usually more one part grain to two parts water.  So in this case, you will want to add around 3 cups of water — a little less if you are using a rice cooker and a little more if you are using the stove.  I was so impressed with how much my kids liked this that I thought I should share the trick just in case it would be helpful to you or your family.

About Quinoa: (1/4 C dried = 170 calories, 3 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 5 g protein, 10% Iron)
Pronounced keen-wah and used by the ancient Incas, quinoa is known for its high protein, soft texture, and nutty taste. Some quinoa has to be presoaked or at least rinsed; simply refer to your directions (you may have to buy a wire strainer so you do not lose any of the small seeds through holes while rinsing). You will know it is done when the germ has separated to show a tiny curl.

About Bulgur: (1/4 C dried = 140 calories, 0.5 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 5 g protein, 6% Iron)
You can buy it in bulk at certain stores or from ‘Bob’s Red Mill’ near the rice or in the health food section. It looks like a broken-up wheat berry, and it is basically just that. However bulgur is usually parboiled (which basically means blanched), dried, and then ground. You can see it has a very impressive amount of fiber and protein.

About White Rice (California Calrose): (1/4 C dried = 155 calories, 0 g fat, 35 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 3 g protein, 2% Iron)
White rice is milled rice that has its husk, bran, and germ removed (to help prevent spoilage) and is then polished, resulting in a shiny appearance. This process removes so many important nutrients that the US actually requires the enrichment of all white rice with B1, B3, and iron. The California Calrose variety is known for its taste and ability to stick together and can be used for sushi.

October 1, 2011

Yummy Salsa Dip & Eating Canned Tomatoes

We all know that dips are typically something we should just have a little of because they are usually high in calories.  Well not this dip.  I like salsa, but it is so much yummier if you add just a bit of low-fat sour cream and mix.  Just add it to taste.  I find 1 part sour cream to 4 or 5 parts salsa to be a pretty good ratio.  You can also try adding plain yogurt or Greek yogurt if you prefer.  I find that putting a little bit of sour cream in salsa makes the kids (and myself for that matter) much more likely to eat it, and we want to encourage eating salsa.  If you read the back of even a processed bottle of salsa, you will find that you can actually pronounce all the ingredients.  Salsa is a whole-food with lots of cooked/processed tomatoes.  Now you may be wondering why I would be suggesting eating the tomatoes cooked rather than raw.  Cooked tomatoes are actually better for you than eating them raw.  Tomatoes are the only exception I know to the ‘eating raw fruits and vegetables’ rule and that is due to a very powerful antioxidant called lycopene.

Lycopene is what gives red and orange fruits and vegetables their color (tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricots, etc.) It is an antioxidant that protects against free radicals (counteracts cellular damage),  thereby helping protect against cancer, heart disease, macular degeneration and other diseases.  When you cook a tomato, its level of lycopene has been shown to increase up to 250%!  So eat spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato juice, etc., and for goodness sakes eat some yummy salsa dip.

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September 14, 2011

Why Eat Raw?

To eat ‘raw’ means to eat food from nature that has not been heated (above 118 degrees) because heating food takes away a great deal of its vitamins, minerals, fiber, and live enzymes.  Live enzymes are particularly important because they aid in our body’s digestion, and if we do not consume them, they are leached from our body.

Some easy ways to eat more raw foods are to make green drinks, have lots of salads, eat fresh veggies & fruits, and prepare cold pasta salads with large amounts of fruits and vegetables.  I feel like a big trick to eating more vegetables is making sure you have yummy and healthy salad dressings and vegetable dips – they truly are the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.  (Check out my Salads & Dips section if you would like to see some of the recipes I use to eat more raw foods.)

Also, eating dehydrated food (not heated above 117 degrees), is an option.  Realistically, drying food requires the purchase of a dehydrator.  Instead of canning fruits and vegetables (heating them), try dehydrating them.  Also, you can dehydrate a one to one ratio of ground flaxseed and water, adding whatever you like to make it sweet or savory (such as honey and dried apricots, or cilantro and salt).  These are probably the most nutritious crackers I could dream up.

I suggest implementing more raw food into your diet gradually.  It can become too frustrating if you make it an all or nothing sort of thing.  A good place to start is with a goal to eat more raw vegatables and salads, and then follow this with learning to make green drinks.  You will feel so good that eating more raw foods will become something you actually crave.

September 4, 2011

Growing Sprouts at Home

I aspire to be a gardener one day, but until that day, I will have to settle for sprouting. I love it! It is fun, I include my kids, and I get a crop every 5 days (more than that if I start batches on different days). Sprouts have one of the highest concentrations of nutrition per calorie of any food. By sprouting seeds, nuts, grains, and beans, you awaken them from their dormant state, and you can have vitamins, minerals, live enzymes, antioxidants, chlorophyll, and protein right there in your kitchen at any time of the year. Have them in salads, sandwiches, stir fries, soups, or by themselves.  My 6-year-old just grabs them while she waters them and sticks them in her mouth.  I, on the other hand, have to have a little something to go with them.  My latest favorite recipe is here.  To help me grow my sprouts, I use the Sprout Garden.  I was a little intimidated about growing sprouts at first.  So if any of you are like me, here is a slideshow to take you through the process:

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August 27, 2011

The Law of the Harvest

I learned early on that if you “harvest” food with your children, they are much more likely to eat and enjoy that food.  “Harvest” can mean having your child garden with you, go to U-pick farms with you, pick out the food at the grocery store with you, or cook with you.  I have seen this principle work time and time again with my children.  For example, today I made Sushi with my 4-year-old daughter.  I was using canned wild salmon.  She looked at it and said, “Oh, is that tuna? Can I have some?”  Now first of all, she does not even like tuna.  So I said, “Here try some.”  She liked it, so I decided to tell her it was salmon and she said, “Oh, I LOVE salmon!”  She kept eating it out of the can.  I couldn’t believe it.  I know this was all because she was “harvesting” the food with me.

I knew this principle worked on children, but I did not realize it worked on adults as well.  We recently went to a nearby U-pick farm to pick blueberries.  I like to eat frozen blueberries every day in my smoothie, but I do not like them raw.  I was encouraged by the owners to eat what I wanted while picking.  I hesitantly tried one, just to make sure I was picking them at the right color, and it was really good.  I couldn’t believe it, I ate more and more.  I was sure to tell the farmer how his blueberries had converted me.  The law of the harvest worked on me (as well as the law of how much better fresh produce tastes).