Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Food Journaling & Mindless Eating

I recently gave a nutrition seminar with a friend and fellow RD.

A gentleman in our audience shared his story about losing a significant amount of weight but hitting a plateau. After some discussion we learned that while he is still exercising quite a bit he is also eating more that he was when he started dieting because he is now living in a retirement community that emphasizes social gatherings, where there is usually food. He told us he has a hard time saying no and a hard time not overeating when he does snack.

First, I recommended he keep a food journal. Writing down (or keeping track electronically) of what you eat has been shown again and again to help in weight loss. It helps us learn portion sizes, portion control, calorie and nutrient content of foods, helps us self-monitor our eating, and helps us find simple ways we can adjust our eating to improve our health. If you haven't done it, I highly recommend it, even for just a few weeks. If you want to do it the new-fangled way, try sparkpeople or myfitnessapal. They are free. And I think they both have smart phone apps. Or you can just do it the old fashioned way with a notepad and pen. Either way works!

I have a basic food journal that I developed. If you would like a copy to use, email me.

Next, my friend and colleague recommended that the gentlemen read the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink. She said it might teach him why and how he is overeating and help him learn how to stop. I have not read this book, so I cannot fully endorse it yet. But I did just purchase it online for less than $10 and plan to read it ASAP. I might do a book review when I'm done.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Green Beans: An Experiment, A Method & A Recipe

As a nutritionist, I often get questions about the difference between fresh, frozen and canned vegetables.

Do they have the same nutritional content?
Can you interchange them in recipes?
Do they taste the same?

To answer these questions, let's consider green beans.

Growing up I think I only ever had canned green beans. That wasn't an accident. Canned vegetables are the cheapest and they last a flippin long time. But they are also processed and contain a lot of sodium. They are typically limp and a rather unappealing color. If you have no other means of eating vegetables, then canned veggies are a great option, just be aware of the sodium content.

Frozen green beans (and veggies) do not have the added sodium of their canned counterpart. Unless of course you purchase frozen veggies with a sauce or seasoning. They are, for the most part, the same as fresh produce, nutritionally speaking. They are usually cheaper than fresh produce (unless you are buying in season or on special) but more expensive than canned. Many stores usually have specials and sales, though, so buy when they are cheaper and stock up. They last quite a long time, so long as you have the freezer space. Unfortunately, while they are just as good for us as fresh produce, they don't always taste quite the same or have the same crunch/texture.

Here is a fun experiment that I did in a food science class during graduate school that I would highly recommend you try at home:
Purchase a can of green beans, a bag of frozen green beans and some fresh ones. Microwave each without seasoning. Then put them in separate bowls by each other for comparison. It's really interesting to see just how different they will look, smell and taste.

Of course, microwaving is not the tastiest preparation. And I recently found a new recipe for fresh greenie beanies that also uses a fun technique.

Green Beans, using two preparations:

You will need:
  • As many fresh green beans as you want to prepare
  • Lemon juice (a few tablespoons) I use the bottled kind because it keeps longer and is much easier to use in a recipe than fresh juice from a lemon.
  • EVOO
  • S & P
  • Garlic (2 cloves unless you really like garlic like me, then use as much as you want)
  • Fresh or dried herbs such as chopped rosemary (a tablespoon or so of fresh or a teaspoon of dried)
  • Saute pan
  • Steamer or steaming device
  • Large bowl
  • Ice
To prepare:
  1. Trim and wash the green beans
  2. Steam the beans until just tender and bright in color, 8-12 minutes. I do this in a stainless steamer basket placed into a large pot of boiling water. These baskets cost less than $10.
  3. Immediately plunge the beans into a bath of ice water. This stops the cooking process.
  4. Heat the saute pan/skillet with the evoo.
  5. Cook the garlic in the skillet until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Do not allow to burn.
  6. Place the beans in the skillet with the garlic.
  7. Add the S&P, a dose of lemon juice and the herbs. Again, the amount you use will depend on your tastes and the amount of beans you are preparing. I made about 3 cups of beans and used 3 Tablespoons of juice and about 1 Tablespoon of herbs.
  8. Saute beans for a few minutes until softer and slightly browned.
  9. Serve!

This recipe/method may sound complicated and time consuming. But I assure you it isn't that bad. Just have all the equipment and items you need handy before you start. In total it took me 15 minutes to make them. I am pretty picky about fresh green beans and I love this recipe.

If you have never had fresh green beans (or other veggies), I encourage you to try them. Even if you think you don't like them, you may have only had canned, which does not taste the same at all.

All of this said...I will probably be making green bean casserole with canned green beans this weekend for the Easter holiday. Everything in moderation and with perspective....

The Market Is Looking Good

Have you been to your local farmer's market this season?
This year?

If so, what have you purchased?

Lately I've been buying farm fresh eggs from local, happy chickens each weekend. I promise, once you taste fresh, local eggs you won't go back!

I've also been buying greens, plants for my garden, greenhouse tomatoes, homemade jellies, and some meat for the hubster. This past weekend I also got to buy local strawberries that were picked the morning I bought them. Sooooooo good! Yay for strawberry season!

If you haven't been to your local market and don't even know where it is/they are, try searching here. You might even have multiple markets that offer different things or are open at different times.

For instance, I have:
  • the state market which is open year round every day but doesn't always offer local produce (many booths supplement with out of state items) and most of the produce is not organic. But it's still nice to purchase fresh produce and plants there when other options are not available.
  • a small market for the town I live in, which is about a mile from my house. It's only open a few hours on Saturday during the summer. The selection is small, but it's a nice community market.
  • a relatively large market in a neighboring town that is filled with local produce, meat, cheese, plants, etc. It's mostly organic and sustainable.
  • there are also markets in the cities near mine (all within 20 minutes or so) that I could visit for something different.
  • there are some markets that are only open one day a week, that meet in a parking lot and cater to working individuals.
I have nearly endless choices each week!

All you need is to locate your market, get some cash (I recommend about $20) and go stroll around! The farmers/vendors will answer any questions you might have whether it be "are you organic?" or "what the heck is that and how do you cook it?" Many will also gladly give you samples. Last week I got to taste freshly made risotto, goat cheese, salad greens and a ton of different strawberries.