Friday, February 18, 2011

Gooey Double Fudge (& Black Bean) Brownies

Check out this recipe from the American Dietetic Association!

Think you don't like black beans, give this recipe I try!

You will need:
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup of splenda)
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup cooked black beans (or drained and rinsed canned black beans)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (if you don't have whole wheat flour just use 1/2 cup of all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and stirred
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
To make:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x9 inch pan with spray.
  2. Combine the sugar, egg, beans in a food processor until smooth like a criminal.
  3. Transfer beaniness mixture to a mixing bowl. Stir in the flour, butter and chocolate. Mix until smoother than a criminal. Add the vanilla, chocolate chips and stir again. Transfer to the baking dish.
  4. Bake about 25 minutes. Middle should be jiggly and wet when removed from the oven.
  5. Cool. Don't touch.
  6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  7. Enjoy!
Makes 9 servings.

Nutrition breakdown per serving:
  • 230 calories
  • 10 g fat
  • 34 g carbs
  • 2 g fiber
  • 3 g protein

How to Use F&V to Manage Your Weight

If you've read my blog much at all, you know I am a fan of tossing in veggies when I cook to stretch out high calorie dishes/meals. In other words, I rarely make a plain pasta sauce. Instead, I'll saute whatever veggies I have on hand and toss them into a jar of sauce to make a lighter and healthier pasta primavera. Similarly, I try to beef up (he he) my oatmeal with dried fruit, my soups with added veggies or beans, and add spinach, onions and celery to nearly everything.

So when I was recently looking over some information on the CDC's website, it came as no surprise that they recommend the same methods for increasing F&V as a means of weight loss/management.

In addition to the suggestions I just gave, here are some ideas for you to use this easy/healthy method of weight loss:
  • Substitute some sauteed spinach, onions, or mushrooms for one of the eggs or half of the cheese in your morning omelet.
  • Cut back on the amount of cereal in your bowl to make room for some cut-up bananas, peaches, or strawberries.
  • Substitute vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, or onions for some of the meat in your sandwich, wrap, or burrito.
  • Add chopped vegetables, such as broccoli, celery, carrots, onions, tomatoes, or bell peppers to your favorite broth-based soup. Add beans to add even more fiber and some protein.
  • Add chopped vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, squash, onions, or peppers, while removing some of the rice or pasta in your favorite dish.
  • Take a good look at your dinner plate. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains should take up the largest portion of your plate. If they do not, replace some of the meat, cheese, white pasta, or rice with beans and veggies. This will reduce the total calories in your meal without reducing the amount of food you eat.
  • Choose fruits and veggies as snacks throughout the day. Try an apple with a little peanut butter, celery with Laughing Cow cheese, dried fruit and nuts, homemade fruit salad with a with a little greek yogurt, slices of red pepper and hummus, etc.

How Does Your State & County Stack Up?

Do you like playing with interactive web tools?
Are you curious about how obese and inactive your state and county are compared to others?

Then check out this nifty new tool from the CDC. It illustrates state and county level estimates of inactivity, diagnosed diabetes and obesity. Just select your state and which estimates you want to see. And, yes, the 2008 data is the most current they have, so the estimates are probably low (ie, it's probably worse now than it was then.)

If you look at the national map, you'll see certain "trends." Much of the Deep South has high rates of inactivity and also have high rates of diabetes and obesity. On the opposite side of the spectrum, check out Colorado. What are they doing right that the rest of us can mimic/learn from?

After you are done pondering the state of your county or the state of your state, take a few moments to check out the resources on the CDC website. Although I didn't include it on my recent list of reliable websites, I will now be adding it. It has solid information and data related to a variety of health issues.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reliable Sources of Nutrition Information

If you have a nutrition/diet/food related question, please please please do not just google it and accept the first thing you read.

And please please please do not believe every thing you hear on TV about diet, exercise, nutrition, etc. Those who are technically doctors and have their own shows (you know who I mean) are not experts on nutrition and will sell their soul to the highest bidder.

And please please please do not turn to your personal trainer (or one you see on TV) for diet advice...unless that trainer is also a RD or qualified health professional.

But what should you do if you do have questions???

Here is a list of places I recommend looking for nutrition/diet/food answers:
  1. Me or another Registered Dietitian
  2. Your MD, but remember that MD's are not nutrition experts. (And I will never diagnose your illness.)
  3. The American Dietetic Association dedicates half of their site to providing public information.
  4. The Mayo Clinic has a nice website with reliable, although sometimes sparse, information.
  5. The American Heart Association has a website with tips related to heart health and diet.
  6. On the USDA's site you can have your food analyzed or look at the nutrition content of any food imaginable.
  7. The CDC offers facts, trends and information on a variety of health related issues.

The Cost of Produce

While giving a lecture recently, I was asked a ton of questions. I'm going to turn some of these into blog posts.

At one point in my presentation I was talking about how just increasing the servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet can help you lose weight and improve your health.

One person interrupted and said: "You keep saying that we need to eat more fruits and vegetables. How do you expect us to do this when they are so expensive?"

I know I've touched on this topic before, but I thought I would mention it again.

Here are my thoughts on purchasing fruit (and produce):
  • First, I recommend trying to buy in season, when you can. At the present time of year this won't get you very far. But if you buy strawberries in the Spring and apples in the Fall, they will cost less. If you try to buy apples in the Spring, you will pay more for them. Hit up the farmer's market when it's open and indulge in whatever item is in season and cheapest.
  • When eating seasonally isn't really an option, I recommend being smart at the store. My first suggestion is to loot the reduced price produce bin. This is usually the first place I look for fruits and veggies and I base my meals around what I find there. If there are a bunch of mushrooms, I'll make a stir fry or a shroomy pasta dish. If there are super ripe avocados, I'll make some guacamole. If there are apples or bananas that are a little brown (there almost always are), I might not eat them by themselves, but I can still use them in a parfait, a smoothie, in a bread or other baked item, or I can make a dessert with them.
  • Next, I suggest buying what is on special that week. If that means you don't get any strawberries, but you get to load up on blueberries because they are BOGO, do that. If celery is on special, get a few packs. If greens are cheap, get those. You get my drift. Does it mean you have to be creative and more flexible with your meal planning? A bit. But it will save you money. I always buy LOTS of fresh produce at the store and I never have a huge bill.
  • Buy frozen produce. Frozen produce has the same nutritional value as fresh stuff. The only difference is the texture and taste can be different. There are more and more options in the frozen section every day. You can buy pretty much any veggie and many fruits. But BEWARE of the sauces and added flavorings. Aim to buy the plain ole veggies, not the ones with the cheese sauce or "asian flavor" or whatever. These add calories, sodium, and sometimes fat. Or at least be smart about the ones that you do buy. Some of them are not that bad and can provide a quick side that doesn't require seasoning or any kind of preparation.
  • Try dried fruit. This recommendation comes with a caveat. You can't eat too much because dried fruit can pack in the calories and the sugar. But a sprinkle of cranberries can go a long way in your oatmeal or yogurt. You can also get different types of dried fruit and make a healthy, homemade trail mix. I stock up on dried fruit when it goes on sale. It doesn't go bad, so take advantage of BOGO specials and the like.
  • If you can, shop around a bit. I know that TJ's has organic bagged baby spinach for $2.49, all colors of peppers for $1-ish, bananas for cheap, etc. So I buy what I can at the traditional store and then I buy some stuff at TJ's. I know this isn't an option for everyone, but if you can, make the most of the different stores in your area that might be running different specials on produce or have different pricing levels. I'm not a fan of Wally World, and I don't think their produce is the best quality...but it is another source of cheap produce if you have one in your area.
  • You can drink juice but in general I do not recommend it except as a treat. Juice, like dried fruit, has a high concentration of calories and often includes added sugar. But if you don't have any other way to get some fruit into your diet, drink some OJ or 100% juice. You can even try making a juice spritzer by mixing juice with soda or seltzer water. This will reduce the overall calories and sugar consumed and it makes a fun, virgin cocktail.
  • Be creative with the produce that is almost always cheap, like carrots, onions and potatoes (does that have an "e" or not?). I put carrots in everything: soups, stews, stir fry, etc.
  • Finally, you can prepare. Stock up when you see a good deal and try freezing or canning your own produce. Freezing is easy enough, just be careful if you try to can, as it has to be done correctly to avoid food safety concerns.
Now go forth and eat your F&V and no excuses about the cost! ;)

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Challenge You To Complete A Komen 5K

119 Days
2866 Hours
171998 Minutes

Do you have a weight loss goal?
Have you always wanted to complete a 5K?
Do you want to get in better shape?
Do you want to do something good for yourself AND for others?

Then, I challenge YOU to run/walk the Komen 5K. For those of you in the Raleigh area, this year's race is on June 11th. If you do not live near Raleigh, don't fret, there are Komen races all over the country!

If you have never done a race before, this is the one for you!

Not only is it for a great cause (fighting breast cancer and supporting/celebrating breast cancer survivors), but it is fun, exciting and NOT AT ALL INTIMIDATING.
Every year, I have seen thousands of people of all shapes, sizes, abilities, colors, genders, and ages gather together and walk or run 3.1 miles together.

This year, it's your turn to join us.

If you are looking for a training plan, I recommend this one or this one.

I promise, you are not too out of shape, old, or overweight to do this. You can do this. And in doing it, you will probably find other rewards along the way.

Sign up today. It's a small price to pay for your health and achieving a goal.

Running was not always easy for me. In fact, it's still hard sometimes. I'm not fast. In fact, I'm pretty dang slow by the standards of the running community. But I'm now stronger and healthier than I've ever been. And I cannot explain the feeling of community and personal achievement I experience every time I run a race...especially this one.

I can do it and you can do it.
What do you have to lose except your gut and 20 bucks?

If you are in the Raleigh area, I will even do it with you if you want a running/walking partner.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Took The Krispy Kreme Challenge....Sort Of

On Saturday I ran the Krispy Kreme Challenge with Sir Cakewalk and two friends. This was my first year doing it. And what a challenge it was!

It poured the rain. And it was cold. And it was still packed with donut lovin/runnin fools.

We ran 2 miles (really about 2.35) to the Krispy Kreme store. There we had the option of eating a dozen donuts (or as many as we wanted) and then running the 2.35 miles back. The real challengers ate the donuts, ran back in under an hour and didn't hurl.

I did not fully accept the challenge. I ate two donuts. Then Sir Cakewalk told me he ate 3, so I ate one more. I had to man up. Couldn't let him beat me.

As I ran back, I didn't feel ill at all. No upchuckin or ass-plosions or GI distress.

And it was a blast despite the conditions. Folks dressed in all sorts of crazy outfits. Some ran barefoot, others ran in pajamas. The atmosphere was fun and friendly, not competitive or anxious like some races. I'll definitely do it again next year and I might even accept the full challenge!

Here is the caloric breakdown of my run:
  • 3 donuts = 220 * 3 = 660 calories consumed
  • 4.7ish miles = 100 calories * 4.7 = about 470 calories (maybe more since I was drenched and my clothes were weighing me down) (this is a rough estimate)
  • Net GAIN = 190
Oh well, it was all for charity. ;)

Next month I am running another 8k. This will be my 3rd race at that distance so I'm looking for a PR.

What races will you be running this Spring?
How many donuts did you eat this weekend?

Key-nuh-what? Quinoa!

I knew I would have an early morning today (Sir Cakewalk had a 6am flight and I wanted to get a run in before work), so I knew I needed to pack my lunch last night.

But what to pack? It looked like I was going to have to make something. Cakewalk had just bought me a TJ Cookbook so I thought I'd search through the recipes for something simple, cheapish, and lunchable (not everything tastes good after being microwaved.)

I know I talk about TJ a lot. I do not work for them or receive free food from them. I wish! But I do like them and think they are a great resource for cheap, sometimes healthy food. I recommend taking advantage of this fun store if you have one in your area.

The recipe I chose uses quinoa.

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wa, is a whole grain packed with nutrition. It has fiber, duh, and more protein than any other grain. It is pretty quick to cook (quicker than rice) and has a hearty, almost nutty flavor.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but here is what I did.

I used:
  • 1 cup of organic quinoa
  • 1/2 jar of TJ vegetable bruschetta (basically tomato and garlic spread so you could use other things instead like a bit of a good tomato sauce or blend up your own tomato/garlic concoction)
  • 2 cups of baby spinach, chopped
  • 2 cups of broth
To make I:
  1. Made the quinoa according to package directions. I only wanted a smallish portion, so I put 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of broth in a pot and put it on high.
  2. Meanwhile I chopped the spinach and add it to the pot.
  3. Once the broth was boiling, I turned it down to simmer and let it do it's thing for about 15 minutes (until the quinoa was translucent.)
  4. Then I fluffed it a bit and stirred in the vegetable bruschetta business.
  5. This made about 4 cups of food.
I would have taken a picture...but alas! my lovely phone isn't functioning at full capacity since I dropped it yesterday. :(

But anyway, I split the quinoa into two bowls and ate the first for lunch today. It was delicious!!! The tomatoes and garlic gave it a great flavor and the quinoa had a nice texture. It filled me up and kept me from being hungry all afternoon, even after two workouts earlier today.

A friend told me she has been eating quinoa on her salads. She makes a whole mess of it, then keeps it in the fridge and sprinkles it on top of greens for extra fiber and protein.

It is very similar to rice and could be used as a simple side or even in a stir fry.

Here are some recipe ideas from my favorite recipe website.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dietary Guidelines Informal Survey

One of the controversies surrounding the Dietary Guidelines produced by the USDA is that they are inconsistent in their recommendations. In some instances they recommend increasing or decreasing specific foods (ex. eat more fruit). In other instances they recommend increasing or decreasing specific nutrients (ex. eat less solid fat, eat less salt) rather than making the recommendation based on the food in which the nutrient is most commonly found.

I think this is confusing, especially for the average American who isn't obsessed with nutrition like I am but who wants to follow the guidelines and eat healthier.

What do you think?
  1. Would you rather get recommendations based on nutrients (more vitamin D, more folate, less salt, less fat, less sugar, etc) or would you rather get recommendations based on foods (less red meat, more vegetables, more low-fat dairy, more fish, etc)?
  2. Have you heard of the Dietary Guidelines?
  3. Have you read them or do you know what they generally recommend?