Week 5 Tips: Healthy Cooking

I thoroughly enjoy cooking. From looking for a recipe or making one up, to the grocery shopping, to the prep work, and then serving it the whole process is like my therapy. Eating well and living well starts in the kitchen. Here are my tips for cooking healthier at home.

  1. Saute in oil instead of butter. Look, don’t get me wrong butter tastes great but it’s also loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol. Oils like canola, olive, and one of my personal favorites grape seed are low in saturated fat and have no cholesterol. Fun fact: teaspoon for teaspoon oil and butter have the same calories and fat grams.
  2. Use tons of veggies. Just when you think you can’t add any more, try it ūüėČ But seriously half of your meal should be veggies so go for it! Instead of loading them up with butter, flavor instead with veggie/chicken broth, onions/garlic, lemon/limes, herbs, spices, hot sauce, and my personal favorite vinegar/vinaigrettes.
  3. Lean on whole grains instead of prepackaged processed grains. Sure Hamburger Helper is quick and easy but it’s also loaded with salt, fat, has no fiber, and little nutrition. To ease into the whole grain world you can definitely try the boxed grains with added flavor. They are higher in sodium than just plain grains but it’s a great start. Ideas include¬†whole wheat pasta, barley, quinoa, farro, brown rice, black, rice, and wild rice.
  4. Choose lean meats. Beef, pork, and lamb are considered red meat. Loin (sirloin, pork loin), lean ground beef, pork chops, eye of round, top and bottom round roast are the leanest. Chicken and turkey breast (white meat) is leaner than the dark meat. Dark meat is leaner than red meat. Although salmon is considered an oily fish and is higher in fat, the fat is WONDERFUL for your health. White fish like haddock and cod are super lean.
  5. Don’t be afraid to play with flavor! Adding herbs and spices to your cooking makes the flavor of your dishes pop without adding too much salt. Admittedly I use some salt in my cooking but not a lot because of herbs and spices.¬†I obviously have my favorites but will branch out depending on the type of food and recipe. Experiment with them and don’t be afraid of flavor!
  6. Gather kitchen equipment. Truth be told I don’t have many expensive items¬†in my kitchen. I like to cook but I’m also pretty simple and use¬†my favorites. These are the cooking tools I use every week: some pots and pans (I prefer stainless steel but you don’t need a huge set, just the necessities), sharp knives (I’m very picky about my knives and I don’t buy sets I just buy the ones I need), cutting boards (wood), silicon lid (to steam veggies in glass), slow cooker (I have a programmable one which helps people who work longer hours), pressure cooker (nothing fancy just works well).
  7. Keep the necessities. Herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, garlic, onions, frozen veggies (and fruits), grains, and beans can be on hand because they stay for a long time and you can use them in healthy cooking every week.

Eating out isn’t terrible. I actually think it is good to go out and try new things but make sure you’re eating in more often than out. Cooking healthy doesn’t mean you’ll be eating “cardboard” or spending a ton of money. I’ll be doing later blogs on saving money while eating well so stay tuned. Cooking well can be delicious, quick, and fun. Experiment. Being a good cook doesn’t happen over night. Ask any chef ūüôā Work at it, eat out less, and I assure you this will help with your long term goals.

Week 4 Challenge: Eat more plants

Eating more plants really isn’t about going vegetarian or vegan. Eating more plants is about much more than weight management too. Sure, non-starchy veggies are super low in calories and fruits, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), grains, and nuts have so much fiber to keep you full they all help with weight management but it doesn’t stop there.

Here’s what research tells us about eating more plants:

  1. Reduce your risk of heart disease
  2. Reduce your risk of ALL TYPES of cancer
  3. Reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  4. Reduce your cholesterol
  5. Reduce your blood pressure
  6. Reduce your weight
  7. Reduce your blood sugars
  8. Improve your gut bacteria
  9. Help you to move your bowels

For the record, I’m talking about whole plant foods not processed plant-like substances.

Here’s a list of plant based foods that you could start incorporating into your diet:

  • Fruits
    • Fresh: go seasonal – right now that would be your tropical fruits: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, clementines, mandarins, pineapple, mango, papaya, bananas
    • Frozen: shoot for ones without added sugar – these are great for smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt parfaits
    • Dried: raisins are the best because they do not have any added sugars; cranberries do have added sugar (you wouldn’t eat them otherwise); watch out for the word “chips” which could mean they are deep fried
    • Canned: unsweetened applesauce and other canned fruits in light syrup (which means they are canned in the fruit juice without added sugar) are a good source of vitamins but not a lot of fiber. The words “no sugar added” usually means there is artificial sweeteners used.
  • Non-starchy vegetables
    • Fresh: go seasonal – right now where I’m at, this is tough because the only thing “in season” is what was harvested in the late fall and can stay fresh in a cool dry place. Other times during the year go for whats growing in your garden or at the local farmers market.
    • Frozen: this is best in the winter as these veggies were picked in season and then frozen keeping their nutrients in tact! Plus they tend to be less expensive in the winter than fresh.
    • Canned: although these have less fiber than fresh or frozen they are a less expensive alternative and still provides your body with nutrients. Get the ones without the added salt and season yourself.
  • Starchy vegetables
    • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, parsnips, pumpkin, and winter squashes are all considered starchy. These guys make a great source of carbohydrates for energy and are SO full of nutrients!
  • Beans
    • Black, pinto, lima, soy (edamame), kidney, cannellini, etc. These gems are packed with protein, fiber, and tons of nutrients! I love black beans on my salad for some carbohydrates (energy) too.
  • Peas
    • Snow peas, green peas, black eyed peas, chick peas (garbanzo beans – they are actually peas not beans). Similarly to beans, peas are packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients!
  • Lentils
    • The forgotten legume, lentils are easy to cook, go well in almost any soup, stew, or salad and pack a protein, fiber, nutrient punch to any dish they are in!
  • Nuts
    • In order of awesomeness: walnuts, pecans, the rest. All nuts are great but walnuts and pecans have more omega-3 fatty acids (the ones that are really good for your heart). I like to mix them up so that I can gain the benefits of as many as possible. I’m the one who buys the mixed nuts container at the grocery store.
  • Seeds
    • We tend to think of seeds as sunflower and pumpkin but there’s a whole array of seeds that are super beneficial as well. Chia, flax, hemp, and sesame seeds are great additions to your diet. All but the sesame seeds need refrigerated. FLAX SEEDS MUST BE GROUND IN ORDER TO GET THE BENEFIT. I add chia and flax to oatmeal and smoothies almost daily. Chia can be put into tea and drank as well.
  • Whole grains
    • Whole grains aren’t “bad for you”. Ugh when I hear that I want to cry tears of grains. Wheat isn’t bad for you either unless you have Celiac disease. Now that we have that out of the way whole grains are a wonderful addition to get in daily. Bleached, no fiber, processed grains are less than nutritionally dense but that doesn’t mean they are “bad” (again changing mindsets about food). Just don’t eat them often. I’m really talking about the true WHOLE grain.
    • My top 10 favorite whole grains to use/cook with are: oats, barley, wheat berries, brown rice, farro, quinoa, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, black rice, and corn. If there are some in this list that are unfamiliar to you, check out your local grocery store to see if you can find them and give them a try! Keep checking the blog for more recipes that I’ll be featuring wheat berries, farro, and black rice. Curious about quinoa? Check out this recipe.

Plants are awesome. Plants are an important part of a healthy diet. Plants are a critical piece to the weight management journey. Eat more plants!

Week 2 Challenge: Be Balanced

You can think you are eating the best diet but if you are missing foods or if you are not balancing your meals and snacks you may find yourself engulfed in cravings.

Every so often a new wave of fad diets come in the scene and it takes years to phase out. Low fat diets and low carb diets, especially, have distorted our view of eating foods that are actually quite good for us! Here’s a quick list of different foods and why they are so awesome for our bodies.

  • Fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and carbohydrates for energy
  • Vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and tons of fiber. There are two types that give our bodies different benefits.
    • Starchy vegetables have a good source of carbohydrates for energy (like potatoes, yams, and winter squash like pumpkin and butternut squash).
    • Non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes have a small amount of carbohydrates but are loaded with¬†filling fiber.
  • Whole grains have been given a bad rap but these gems of the plant world are great sources of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Don’t box yourself in with just wheat either. Whole grains include oats, barley, quinoa, amaranth, farro, brown rice, black rice, and wild rice.
  • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are incredible little wonders of the nutrition world. They are super high in protein…I mean really high. They are also rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Nuts are a food group you don’t want to miss out on (unless of course you are allergic then by all means please miss out!). These foods are unique in that they have a great amount of protein and¬†also super heart healthy fats along with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Animal products¬†are not necessary to a diet but can provide some health benefits. Fish is an incredible addition to your diet, especially cold water fish. They have omega-3 fatty acids, protein, sometimes calcium and vitamin D. Other meats (chicken, turkey, beef, pork) are rich in zinc, B12, and protein. Dairy products like yogurt and kefir are loaded with probiotics which help your gut.

Why all this? Because you need to know that all¬†foods are important to keeping you healthy. Your body relies on nourishment that you give it. Without a good balance of all of the above foods, your body isn’t getting the nourishment it deserves.

Check out the tips to understand a balanced diet!

Anticancer Eating

For many years I practiced oncology nutrition (nutrition for people with cancer). To say that it was one of my most rewarding jobs would be an understatement. I loved meeting new people but more than that I loved meeting people who had the strength of titanium and hearts of gold.

I became interested in cancer prevention during that time. What could I do to help people prevent cancer from coming back and what could I do to help people never have to go through this terrible disease at all? As I began researching there were tons of research articles on diet and cancer prevention. After digging deeper, going to conferences, and reading evidence based books written by dietitians and medical doctors, I discovered that diet has a lot to do with cancer prevention…a whole lot!

In fact, a lot of lifestyle choices have to do with preventing cancer whether it is a recurrence or preventing it all together. What you eat, being active, lowering your stress, and having a healthy mindset are pillars to your well-being and help to reduce your cancer risk.

Here are the top 10 diet changes you can make to reduce your risk of cancer:

  1. Eat more plants: I mean, a lot more than you probably do right now. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends your diet should be at least 2/3 plants. Plant foods include: fruits, vegetables, whole grains (brown rice, wild rice, corn, whole wheat, barley), nuts, seeds, oils, herbs, and spices.
  2. Eat a lot less animal products: that includes meats, cheeses, butter, creams…anything that comes from an animal. I didn’t say avoid them because there are some¬†benefits to eating a moderate amount of¬†animal products (some of which include essential vitamins and minerals that you can’t get from plants). Our society just eats way too much!
  3. Focus on getting colors from your diet: and I don’t mean from m&m’s and skittles…for real. Eating a variety of colors from plant foods, gives your body a variety of antioxidants. Antioxidants can protect your cells from the nasty changes that form cancer cells.
    • Red – tomato, watermelon, red bell pepper, red apple,¬†sweet potato
    • Orange – Oranges, pumpkin, cantaloupe, orange bell peppers
    • Yellow – lemons, summer squash, yellow bell pepper, yellow tomatoes
    • Green – broccoli, green beans, limes, green apples, lettuces
    • Blue/purple – blueberries, purple cabbage, egg plant, purple onion, grapes
    • White/tan – banana (you don’t eat the yellow skin), mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes, whole grains, nuts, seeds
  4. Do what you can to avoid processed animal meat. Processed meats have been preserved by smoking, salting, curing or adding different preservatives. Deli meats, bacon, ham, hot dogs, and smoked sausage are all examples of meats that have been processed.
  5. Drink less alcohol. Men that means 2 drinks daily and women that means one drink daily (12 oz beer, 1 oz shot, 5 oz wine). Alcohol increases the risk of many cancers including breast, colon, liver, and mouth. If you don’t drink, don’t start. The cancer risk far outweighs the heart healthy protection of red wine. There are other things you can do to keep your heart healthy.
  6. Lose weight the healthy way. Being obese increases your risk for cancer. This doesn’t mean to start losing weight in an unhealthy way. Reduce portion sizes, be smart about food choices, eat a balanced diet, and discuss your goals¬†with a registered dietitian.
  7. Eat more fat. But not just any fat, omega-3 fats. These fantastic foods help to reduce inflammation in your body which can help decrease your risk for cancer. Fit in more walnuts, pecans, canola oil, flax seed, chia seed, salmon, and tuna to get those wonderful omega-3’s!
  8. Drink tea. Green and white tea have a phytonutrient called EGCG. This powerful antioxidant has shown to be a super cancer fighter. Using tea bags instead of buying it pre-made in the store is much more effective. A splash of lemon or lime in your tea will increase the effectiveness of EGCG!
  9. Fermented foods. Yep, you read that right! Fermented foods have amazing bacteria that our bodies need in order to keep a good balance in our gut which may help to protect our body from cancer cells. Sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, kefer, sourdough bread (the real stuff), yogurt, kimchi, and tempeh are all great sources of those friendly bacteria.
  10. Incorporate herbs and spices. Especially ones like turmeric, rosemary, basil, parsley, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. These have been shown to protect cells against cancer. Try to incorporate them in your typical diet to flavor your food and added protection.

Cancer prevention is so important. Each one of you reading this have been impacted by this terrible disease. Maybe it was you who was diagnosed. Perhaps a parent or sibling. Maybe a grandparent or extended family or a close friend. Regardless, we are fighting a war against cancer. Diet change is the military that can help protect our body from an infiltration of enemy cancer cells.

I’m so deeply passionate about eating for an anticancer lifestyle because I’ve seen cancer at its worst. I have seen it take the strong and make them weak. I’ve watched as it stripped away peoples sense of self. I sat with an individual who used to love to eat and cook not be able to even look at or smell food. I’ve held the hand of people who cried because they never thought it would have been them. But you know what? I’ve seen people rise¬†victorious¬†from cancer. I talked with¬†survivors who can now appreciate the small things in life. I have laughed with survivors who look forward to a brand new life with a brand new outlook. I have eaten with survivors who taste food with so much appreciation. I have been thanked by survivors who said my simple diet tips had made them look at diet as an expedition with others not a journey alone.

Let’s do this together. Let’s change our eating habits together to help fight this terrible disease. Who is with me?!?!

Stay tuned, later this month, for an anticancer eating plan and more tips on making your diet powerful in the fight against cancer!

For more information on anticancer eating check out the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Endometriosis Diet

There are many women who struggle with a disease called endometriosis. Not many dietitians have approached the subject because there is not a lot of research for diet and endometriosis but it is a huge problem for millions of women. It¬†is an inflammatory disease¬†of the endometrium (a thin sheet-like tissue that surrounds the uterus). When it starts to creep out into areas that it shouldn’t, it is called endometriosis.

This is a significant¬†issue for women and can cause severe abdominal pains, bowel issues (constipation or diarrhea), bladder incontinence, and infertility. It can disrupt a woman’s life more than many people think but there are things women can do to reduce the symptoms.

Because endometriosis is an inflammatory disease, an anti-inflammatory diet may be able to help reduce the symptoms. Please do not read¬†me incorrectly, I do not think an anti-inflammatory diet will cure endometriosis…I’m not that kind of “nutritionist”. But I think it could significantly make a woman’s quality of life much better and reduce the syptoms.

So what is an anti-inflammatory diet? It is a way of eating to reduce inflammation in the body…a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oils, nuts, seeds, fish, herbs, and spices. If you are wanting an anti-inflammatory meal plan please see your local dietitian who can discuss this with you personally and work with you to create a diet that will work for you.

Foods to incorporate into your diet:

  1. Fruits – fresh and frozen are the best. Get a variety and at least 2 servings daily. Just eating apples and bananas are good but you’ll be missing out on antioxidants found in tropical fruits, berries, melons, and pit fruits like peaches.
  2. Vegetables – similar to fruits, fresh and frozen are the best and getting many different colors will give your body tons of antioxidants. You need at least 3 daily but I’m a big fan of getting in as many as possible. Shoot for reds (tomatoes, bell peppers), greens (spinach, asparagus), yellows/oranges (butternut and summer squash), blues/purples (purple cabbage, eggplant), whites/tans (mushrooms, cabbage).
  3. Grains – because they are a plant food they also have antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Along with those benefits these power foods also have protein and fiber! Instead of the processed grains like white flour (white bread) and white rice choose whole grains like whole wheat bread and brown rice. PS corn is a whole grain not a vegetable ūüôā
  4. Oils, Nuts, and Seeds – these super important fats are needed in our bodies ESPECIALLY on an anti-inflammatory diet. Canola oil¬†and walnut oil¬†are very high in omega-3 fatty acids and are great to cook with. Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally anti-inflammatory. This means that eating more foods that are higher in omega-3 fats will help your body with¬†inflammation. Along with canola oil and walnuts (walnut oil), flax seeds, chia seeds, pecans, and wheat germ are also high in omega-3’s. Other oils, nuts, and seeds are beneficial as well for your heart health and overall well-being.
  5. Oily fish Рsalmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines are packed with those anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Fit these in to your weekly meal plan or consider taking a quality tested fish oil supplement (check with your doctor before beginning any supplement). Canned salmon and tuna are very budget friendly ways to get in these fish. I prefer them on salads or sandwiches!
  6. Herbs and Spices – many herbs and spices are naturally anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is a heavy hitter in this department. This proven inflammation reducer has shown to be a big player in the anti-inflammatory world. Other herbs and spices have shown some benefit as well like ginger, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper.

So what would an anti-inflammatory diet for endometriosis look like? Here’s a glimpse with two examples:

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with walnuts, chia seeds, and blueberries
  • Whole wheat toast with almond butter and banana

Lunch:

  • Salad with canned salmon¬†and black beans
  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread and carrot sticks

Dinner:

  • Grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, and brown rice
  • Baked mackerel, asparagus, red skinned potatoes

Snack:

  • Raisins and walnuts
  • Celery sticks and hummus

I recommend, for those that have endometriosis, to meet with a registered dietitian and go over your diet to see how you can make it more anti-inflammatory. Again, it will not cure the disease but if it can improve your symptoms and overall well-being then it is worth a shot! Some insurances may cover nutrition counseling for diseases like endometriosis so check with your health insurance company prior to your appointment.

To find a dietitian in your area check out: http://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert

*If you think you have endometriosis please see your gynecologist. For those that have endometriosis and decide to change your diet please let your gynecologist know*