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Jog, hop or skip for health, but don’t skip breakfast

breakfast

I often hear people say that mornings always feel rushed. Even on weekends it seems like there are a million things to get done. For many, one way to save time is to skip breakfast. However, that is not a very wise choice. Even though there might be kids to drop off at school, work to get to on time and other deadlines in the morning, breakfast is important: it helps with attention span, weight control and helps replenish your body with nutrients.

While it is preferable to have a sit-down breakfast, sometimes that’s simply not an option that fits into our schedules. Many people have shared with me their strategies and food items that ensure breakfast is part of their morning routine, no matter how hurried they feel. Below are a few recommendations.

1. Set the breakfast table the night before. Give kids simple but healthy options to choose from and put non-perishable items (breakfast cereals, fruit cups, whole fruit, etc.) out on the table.

2. Pack a breakfast bag and put it in the fridge. Grab it as you walk out the door. Continue Reading »

The anatomy of a grain

grainanatomy

The seeds of certain plants such as wheat, corn and rice that are used for food are called grains. There is much confusion about what constitutes a whole grain, the benefits of whole grains and what foods routinely contain whole grains.

To better understand what constitutes a grain it is important to understand the anatomy of a grain.

Bran
A single grain kernel has a multi-layered, outer, edible coat or skin called the bran. The bran contains a variety of B-vitamins, fiber and antioxidants.

The Germ
Inside the kernel of grain is a small ‘embryo’ which has the potential to grow into a new plant. The germ contains B-vitamins, some protein, minerals and health fats.shutterstock_75767707

The Endosperm
The majority of the space inside a kernel of grain is made up of endosperm.  It is the largest portion of the kernel and is rich in starchy carbohydrates, contains some protein and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. The germ feeds off of the endosperm which can provide necessary energy should the seed sprout and grow roots.

Whole grains
According to the Whole Grain Council a whole grain contains “all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions.” That is, a whole grain contains all of the bran, germ and endosperm.

If the grain has undergone any kind of processing such as cracking, crushing, rolling, extrusion or has been cooked the food “should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients found in the original grain seed” to be considered a whole grain.

Corn is an example of a whole grain as well as oats, wild rice, brown rice, barley, millet, quinoa, amaranth, wheat berries and others.

Whole grain stamp
Knowing when a food product contains whole grains can be tricky. Claims like natural grains, multi grain and more flood food packages. There is a quick way to ensure that the product you are buying is made from whole grains, and that is by locating the whole grain stamp on the product packaging.

StampCollage150dpiWhole grain stamps are yellow and have the shape of a postal stamp. There are two types of stamp: the basic and the 100% whole grain stamp.

If a product has at least eight grams of whole grain (half a serving) it can list the basic stamp on the package and list how many grams of whole grains it has. Even if a product has a large amount of whole grain, it will use the basic stamp if it also contains refined flour, extra bran or germ. If all of the grain ingredients of a food is whole grain, AND it has the minimum requirement of 16 grams of whole grains per serving (a full serving), then it will use the 100% stamp.

The stamps on the packaged food are an easy way to ensure that you are choosing a food with whole grains. You can of course always read the ingredient labels to make sure that they list whole grains such as whole wheat.

Happy shopping!

Cooking oils: What you need to know

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Some of the most frequent questions I get asked have to do with oils. “Which oil is the healthiest?” “Which oil should I use for cooking?” “Is coconut oil good for you?” These questions came up at the most recent grocery store tour I did this past weekend.

There are no straight answers to any of these questions. In some circumstances a very healthy oil is not one most chefs would use for cooking; and in some cases a good cooking oil is not one a dietitian would recommend for health.

Oils that are suited for cooking have to withstand high heat. Certain oils, when heated, undergo changes that render them unstable and therefore are not the best choices for cooking. For example, olive oil – which is recommended for good health since it contains unsaturated fats and has low levels of omega 6 fatty acids – is not well suited for frying.  Olive oil has a low smoking point, meaning it will start to smoke at a lower temperature than other oils. Olive oil is better used for dressings, marinades and baking. Conversely, palm oil, which is good for frying, scores low for health. So that’s the dilemma.

After reviewing many sources, searching the Internet and exploring nutrition and culinary references, I came across a chart that does a nice job presenting the dichotomy between culinary and health preferences. It includes information about the nuances of different oils such as the level of refinement, the presence of omega 3 and 6, and even includes some information about genetic modification. Continue Reading »

Staying Healthy During Flu Season

sneezingThe flu season is under way in Wisconsin and confirmed cases have been reported. While the best way to stay healthy this flu season is to get vaccinated, there are some other things you can do to protect yourself.

Here are a few:

1.  Practice good hand hygiene. Encourage everyone in your family to practice regular handwashing, especially after using the bathroom, before and after handling or eating food and after coming in from the outdoors. Handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others.

2.  Take cover. Get into the habit of sneezing into your inner elbow. If you have a tissue, cover your nose and mouth with it when you sneeze or cough.

3.  Don’t touch. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.

4.  Replace and wash items. Buy a new toothbrush after a cold or other illness. Wash your bedding at least once a week, especially pillow covers. Wash gloves, scarves and any other attire that covers your face or mouth. This is helpful in keeping germs away.

5.  Stay hydrated. Dry nasal passages make it easier for the flu virus to breed, so its important to drink plenty of fluids. Water is a natural moisturizer for the inside of your body. Aim for eight cups of water a day. Swap out fizzy carbonated drinks for herbal tea. Increase your fluid intake if you are on a high-fiber or high-protein diet. Continue Reading »

Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup

butternut squash soupBeing lactose intolerant I have to watch my consumption of dairy. As much as I like cream based soups, they don’t like me. So whenever I come across a smooth textured hearty soup that does not call for cream, I get a little excited.  This recipe caught my eye as it calls for an in-season ingredient (squash) and one of my other favorite ingredients, ginger.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and halved*
  • 1 (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons (1-inch) slices fresh chives
  • Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a roasting pan or jelly-roll pan; toss well. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Cool 10 minutes.
  3. Place half of squash mixture and half of broth in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large saucepan. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture and broth. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top with chives and pepper, if desired.

Yields six 2/3 cup servings.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories:   112
Total fat:   2.5 grams
Saturated fat:   0.4 grams
Monounsaturated fat:   1.7 grams
Polyunsaturated fat:   0.3 grams
Protein:   3.3 grams
Carbohydrate:   22.4 grams
Fiber:   3.6 grams
Cholesterol:   0 mg
Sodium:   266 mg

*shallots: are similar to onions and garlic. They can be used like an onion, however grows in a bunch like garlic.  They have a milder taste than most onion

Recipe from: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/roasted-butternut-squash-shallot-soup-10000001854009/

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