Monday, November 30, 2009

Time to Cleanse

I keep hearing and seeing ads for body cleansing. The advertisers tell you how to rid yourself of years of toxic accumulations by drinking their special potions. They say the accumulations are like "Spackle in your intestines" and when you rid yourself of them you will drop those ten extra pounds that have been haunting you for years and your energy will reappear.

I actually agree that cleansing is a good idea especially around this "excessive" time of year. In fact today I was cleaning out my nutrition files and came across years of materials that I have been saving. Stuff from 25 years ago! What surprised me the most was that much of the health and wellness information available back then is pretty similar to today's current research.

The main difference is there is a "wellness mindset" that is now mainstream and starting to appear everywhere. That same information is being translated into action and intertwined throughout the institutions that serve us: healthier menus at fast food outlets; whole grains in the grocery store; corporate gyms; healthier school lunches; more alternative medical choices. Awareness and consciousness about health (emotional, physical and spiritual) has increased a thousand fold.

Which leads me to my point. Most of us know the basics of how to stay healthy and well because information is everywhere and if we don't know, we can go to the Internet and look it up (another reason to throw away my paper files!). But it is not "knowing" that fosters change or cleansing. A look at the current statistics on obesity and disease confirms this.

So what I came away with today as I threw out pounds and pounds of paper was that each of us makes a choice about how we want to live. A week on cleansing powder will not clean you out permanently; it is a temporary fix. Permanent cleansing is a daily ritual, one in which you decide that your actions can lead to something bigger down the road. It is the accumulation of actions that determine how successful you are at reaching your goals whether they be dietary or life goals. So cleansing becomes an ongoing, vibrant and conscious way of living.

That doesn't mean you never overindulge (hello holidays!), but it does mean that you are continually seeking balance, living somewhere between today and eternity. Creating a life that gets you to where you want to be. It is helpful to map out where you are going because then you have a better chance of arriving at your destination.

So yes an occasional colon cleanse is good for the body but a guided, daily cleanse that comes from healthy living is good for the soul.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turkey Time

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it is time to talk turkey. Whether you go frozen, organic, free range, or totally vegan, preparing the meal can be fun. It can also raise lots of questions both emotional and practical.

The emotional question is usually, "How do I approach a day/weekend of overindulgence without going off the deep end?" While I am usually "GoBeFulling" it fulltime, on Thanksgiving I just enjoy the day. I love the leftovers too.

If I am preparing the meal, I try to use the GoBeFull ( principles relying on whole food ingredients, avoiding preservatives, bad fats, etc. If I am at someone else's house I just eat what I want and be thankful that someone has taken the time and energy to prepare a lovely meal. I also try to remind myself, that I don't have to be a glutton and eat until I cannot move!

The next day I am back to my normal exercise routine with a satisified smile. On the run I use self-talk to remind myself that Thanksgiving does not have to mean the start of four weeks of intense eating and drinking. A little indulgence is a good thing, too much and you will have to deal with the sluggishness and extra poundage come the new year. Awareness is the key to success.

Luckily for the easier-to-deal-with practical questions, The University of Nebraska has put together everything you need to know ( for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Be sure to click on the Kids' Corner at the bottom of the page for some fun activities.

"Thanksgiving is a special time for giving thanks and focusing on family and friends. If you're hosting or thinking about hosting a Thanksgiving meal at your house, the following links may be helpful.

NOTE: Turkey meat will be safely cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F; however, the meat may still be slightly pink. Some people prefer cooking turkey to a higher temperature (whole turkey to 180°F in the innermost part of the thigh; turkey breasts to 170 degrees F in the thickest part) for meat that is more well done. For additional reasons turkey meat can be pink, click HERE.

Quick links to different sections
Planning ahead for Thanksgiving Day
Where to call for help on Thanksgiving Day
How to prepare a turkey
Food safety questions
Carving a turkey
How to make turkey gravy
Pumpkin pie
Tips for traveling safely with Thanksgiving foods
Recipes for leftover turkey
Preparing meats other than turkey
Kids' Corner (Thanksgiving coloring sheets, games, jokes)

Planning ahead for Thanksgiving Day
1. Countdown to the Thanksgiving Holiday (source: USDA) Web page link PDF En Español PDF
Plan ahead to ease the countdown tension for your Thanksgiving meal.

Where to call for help on Thanksgiving
1. Toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline
The hotline will be staffed with food safety specialists on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time to answer your turkey questions.

For food safety questions year round, you may speak with a food safety specialist — in English or Spanish — from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern time on weekdays.
Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at:1-888-MPHotline1-888-674-6854Or send an Email to: Web page link for Hotline

How to prepare a Turkey
1. Let's Talk Turkey–A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey (source: USDA) Web page link PDF En Español
Every facet of getting a turkey from the store to the dinner table is included — buying fresh vs. frozen, safe thawing methods, stuffing, roasting, storing leftover turkey and reheating the leftovers.

2. Turkey Basics (Source: USDA)
Turkey Basics: Handling Cooked DinnersWeb page link PDF En Español En Español PDF Recommendations for take-out, deli-prepared, or convenience turkey dinners.

Turkey Basics: Safe CookingWeb page link PDF En Español En Español PDF Roasting instructions and approximate cooking times.

Turkey Basics: Safe ThawingWeb page link PDF En Español En Español PDF A turkey must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. Learn three safe methods.

Turkey Basics: Stuffing Web page link PDF En Español En Español PDF For safety, prepare stuffing or dressing for the turkey according to these directions

3. Stuffing and Food Safety (Source: USDA)Web page link PDF
Read this before you stuff a turkey!!!

4. Oven Bags (Source: Reynolds)Web page link
A turkey will cook faster in an oven bag with less cleanup afterwards. For more information about using oven bags, check this link. Directions for specific oven bags are included when you purchase an oven bag. NOTE: A thermometer can be inserted through a hole in the oven bag so you can tell when your turkey is safely done.

5. Poultry: Basting, Brining, and Marinating (Source: USDA) Web page link PDF En Español En Español PDF Don't compromise food safety when looking for new and interesting ways to prepare old standards like chicken and turkey.

6. Turkey: Alternate Routes to the Table - roaster oven, grilling smoking, deep fat frying, pressure cooker, microwave (source: USDA) Web page link
Turkey preparation methods other than the traditional method of roasting a turkey in the oven are described: electric roaster oven, grilling (covered charcoal grill and covered gas grill, smoking a turkey, deep fat frying a turkey, microwaving a turkey and cooking turkey in a pressure cooker.

7. How to Cook a Turkey the Day before Serving It Web page link
Details and tips for preparing your turkey a day before serving it are given.

8. Turduckens Require Safe Food Handling Web page link PDF En Español En Español PDF (source: USDA)
"Turducken" — a layered poultry dish especially popular during the holidays — requires safe food handling and thorough cooking to prevent foodborne illness.

Food safety questions
1. Is Pink Turkey Meat Safe? (source: USDA) Web page link PDF
Well-done, safely cooked turkey meat may sometimes have a pink color. Learn why here. (source: USDA)

2. No-Show Guests Jeopardize Food (source: USDA) Web page link
When guests encounter emergencies and the meal must be delayed or cancelled, food must be handled "just right" to remain safe.

3. "Panic Button" Food Safety Questions (source: USDA) Web page link PDF En Español PDF
During the holidays, people are busy and can sometimes forget that unsafe handling and cooking can lead to foodborne illness. Here are some questions callers have asked regarding the safety of their holiday foods.

4. Types of Food ThermometersWeb page link
Learn the difference between different types of food thermometers and how to use them.

5. Brilliant Buffets (source: page link Check the TWO links for downloading pages 1 and 2 of a related holiday brochure by clicking HERE
Learn tips for setting out food safely at holiday buffets.

6. Ask Karen (source: USDA)Web page link
An automated response system that will answer basis questions 24/7/365.

Carving a turkey (click on link at top of blog to play video)
1. Carving the Whole Turkey Brochure (source: NE Dept. of Agriculture Poultry & Egg Division)PDF En Español PDF
It may be easier and less intimidating to carve a turkey in the kitchen than at the dining table. This brochure includes step by step instructions for both methods. Several recipes using turkey meat are given.

2. Carving A Thanksgiving Turkey - - Carving a turkey in the kitchen
This video shows how to carve a turkey in the kitchen and get the most meat from your turkey.

How to make turkey gravy (click on link at the top of the blog to play video)
1. How to Make Turkey Gravy
This video gives some of the easiest instructions I've seen if you have never made gravy before.

If you should end up with some lumps in your gravy, here are some methods to remove them:

Try breaking them up by whisking the gravy vigorously with a wire whisk.

Pour the gravy through a mesh strainer.
As a last resort, try pureeing the gravy in a blender or food processor or dip an immersion blender into the gravy to smooth it.

Another possibility is to use an instantized flour, such as Wondra, that has been formulated so it doesn't lump. As a back-up, if you have never made gravy before, you may want to purchase some ready-made gravy in a can or or jar ... just in case.

1. Stuffing and Food Safety (Source: USDA)Web page link PDF

2. Almond Brown Rice Stuffing (source: USA Rice Federation) PDF
This recipe tastes like the traditional stuffing only it is made with rice.

Pumpkin pie
1. Light Pumpkin Pie (source: Food and Health Communications)Web page link
This pumpkin pie saves 100 calories per slice from the traditional version and tastes identical!

2. Pumpkin Ice Cream PieWeb page link
This frozen pie can be made in advance and removed from the freezer on Thanksgiving Day.

Tips for traveling SAFELY with Thanksgiving foods
1. Thanksgiving on the Go - if you're traveling and taking food (source: Web page link

2. Thanksgiving Travel (Source: Pat Kendall, Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist at Colorado State University) Web page link
Some excellent tips for traveling safely with a turkey.

3. Traveling with Food to Gatherings of Family and FriendsWeb page link
If people are bringing food to a Thanksgiving meal, consider assigning foods based on how far they have to travel.

Recipes for leftover turkey
1. Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes (source: National Turkey Federation) Web page link
Enjoy turkey the day after and beyond with these delicious sandwich, entree, soup, salad and appetizer ideas.

2. Turkey Anytime: A Recipe for Turning Leftovers into Planned Over's (includes 10 quick recipes)PDF link

Preparing meats other than turkey
1. Roasting Those "Other" Holiday Meats (source: USDA) Web page link PDF En Español En Español PDF
Rather than turkey, some families choose a rib roast; others, a ham; and some will have a butcher arrange a crown roast of lamb. For special holiday meals, the cook wants everything perfect — and perfectly safe.

1. Thanksgiving Coloring Game (source: Web page link
Kids can "color" Thanksgiving pictures online.

2. Thanksgiving Coloring Pages (source: Web page link
Choose from several images to print and color.

3. Thanksgiving Mazes (source: Web page link
Choose from several mazes to print and solve.

4. Thanksgiving Dinner Place mats (source: page link
Your hand print becomes the turkey's feathers.

5. Thanksgiving Quiz (source: page link
Do you know the answer to questions such as what the pilgrims ate the first Thanksgiving?

6. Thanksgiving Jokes and Riddles (source: Web page link
Can you guess the answer to riddles such as why was the turkey the drummer in the band?"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beans for Just Beans

Today I stopped by Baja Fresh and had the cheapest, most delicious lunch. For $2.88 I had a huge plate of black beans topped with a large side of fresh guacamole and three different kinds of fresh salsa. Sprinkled on top was fresh chopped cilantro.

I could barely finish the entire plate of beans. I left with a full stomach and lots of nutrients about to circulate through me! Black beans are really good for you. Here is what the experts say:

"Black beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other legumes. In addition to lowering cholesterol, black beans' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as brown rice, black beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. You may already be familiar with beans' fiber and protein, but this is far from all black beans have to offer.

Sensitive to Sulfites? Black Beans May Help
Black beans are an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like delicatessen salads and salad bars. Persons who are sensitive to sulfites in these foods may experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation if sulfites are unwittingly consumed. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because your molybdenum stores are insufficient to detoxify them. A cup of black beans will give you 172.0% of the daily value for this helpful trace mineral.

A Fiber All Star
Check a chart of the fiber content in foods; you'll see legumes leading the pack. Black beans, like other beans, are rich in dietary fiber. For this reason, black beans and other beans are useful foods for people with irregular glucose metabolism, such as diabetics and those with hypoglycemia, because beans have a low glycemic index rating. This means that blood glucose (blood sugar) does not rise as high after eating beans as it does when compared to white bread. This beneficial effect is probably due to two factors: the presence of higher amounts of absorption-slowing protein in the beans, and their high soluble fiber content.

Soluble fiber absorbs water in the stomach forming a gel that slows down the metabolism of the bean's carbohydrates. The presence of fiber is also the primary factor in the cholesterol-lowering power of beans. Fiber binds with the bile acids that are used to make cholesterol. Fiber isn't absorbed, so when it exits the body in the feces, it takes the bile acids with it. As a result, the body may end up with less cholesterol. Black beans also contain insoluble fiber, which research studies have shown not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

Loaded with Antioxidants
Research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry indicates that black beans are as rich in antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins as grapes and cranberries, fruits long considered antioxidant superstars.

When researchers analyzed different types of beans, they found that, the darker the bean's seed coat, the higher its level of antioxidant activity. Gram for gram, black beans were found to have the most antioxidant activity, followed in descending order by red, brown, yellow, and white beans.

Overall, the level of antioxidants found in black beans in this study is approximately 10 times that found in an equivalent amount of oranges, and comparable to that found in an equivalent amount of grapes or cranberries.

Promote Optimal Health
A study published in Food Chemistry and Toxicology suggests not only that black beans may help protect against cancer, but that whole foods naturally contain an array of compounds that work together for our benefit. When researchers fed laboratory animals a 20% black bean diet to see if it would cause any mutagenic or genotoxic activity, not only did black beans not promote cancer, but a clear reduction in the number of pre-cancerous cells was seen, even in animals who were simultaneously given an agent known to promote cancer, the mutagen, cyclophosphamide.

In an attempt to identify the bean components responsible for this protective effect, the researchers tested a single commercial anthocyanin, but instead of being protective on its own, the flavonoid, at the highest dose administered (50 mg per kg of bodyweight), actually induced DNA damage. The moral we draw from this tale: the synergy of compounds brought together by Mother Nature in the creation of whole foods is highly likely to be of greater benefit than a single extracted compound.

Lower Your Heart Attack Risk
In a study that examined food intake patterns and risk of death from coronary heart disease, researchers followed more than 16,000 middle-aged men in the U.S., Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan for 25 years. Typical food patterns were: higher consumption of dairy products in Northern Europe; higher consumption of meat in the U.S.; higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish, and wine in Southern Europe; and higher consumption of cereals, soy products, and fish in Japan. When researchers analyzed this data in relation to the risk of death from heart disease, they found that higher consumption of legumes was associated with a whopping 82% reduction in risk!

Check out Baja Fresh for lots of bean dishes. Chipotle and Anita's are also good choices.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nutrition and School Performance

Now that the Halloween candy is almost gone and the first semester more than halfway done, this might be a good time to start thinking about nutrition and school performance.

As parents one of our major concerns is how well our children perform in school. Our worries often lead us to consult therapists, tutors, and other specialists. Good nutrition is another important, powerful tool to help our kids reach their potential. While we all know that breakfast is crucial for feeding the brain and stabilizing blood sugars, recent studies show that certain types of fats in the diet might actually improve brain function.

Why do we want to feed kids more fat when most people say to cut down on fat?
You want to start by looking at the total fat in your child's diet. A fat free diet is not ideal for kids. Fats are important for brain function and hormone development, but not any type of fat. It needs to be healthy fat from Omega-3-fatty acids and monounsaturated fat. The problem is many children get too much of the wrong fats called trans or hydrogenated fats. They also get fat from animal foods in the form of artery clogging saturated fats. Researchers think this imbalance of too much trans and saturated fat and not enough Omega-3 and mono fat might play a role in decreased brain function.

What foods contain these healthy fats?
Monounsaturated fats or MUFA’S are found in olive oil, olives, sesame seeds, avocado, and nuts like almonds, pistachios, and peanuts. Salmon, tuna, and sardines are also high in Omega-3-fatty acids. Ground flax seed is also high in Omega 3’s.

What is a hydrogenated fat and why should they be avoided?
Hydrogenated fats are solid at room temperature. Oils start out liquid. Food manufacturers shoot hydrogen into the oil to make it solid (think Crisco). Food companies rarely hydrogenate the healthy fats like olive oil and sesame oil because of expense and taste, but rather manipulate the cheaper and less healthy oils like corn oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil. Eating too much trans fat and too little healthy fat can cause a ratio imbalance and researchers think this discrepancy causes problems and may affect learning.

How does this translate into eating?
Kids need more nuts and natural nut butters, the kind with the oil on top (refrigerate after opening). If your school has a no nut policy, then serve those foods at home. Cook with olive oil; pack olives as a snack; dip veggies in hummus made with tahini or sesame paste; snack on guacamole and baked chips. Serve more fish – smoked salmon (nitrite free) on a whole wheat bagel with low fat cream cheese; grilled salmon; pan seared halibut; grilled shrimp and other fatty fishes like tuna, though experts currently recommend limiting tuna to a few times a month due to elevated mercury levels.

What should be avoided?
Avoid anything with hydrogenated fat or partially hydrogenated fat. These fats are found in commercially fried foods like French fries, nuggets, and in commercially prepared products like frozen foods, cereals, candy, and baked goods. It is also recommended to cut back on saturated vegetable fats like palm kernel oil as well as excess amounts of animal fat.

Generally kids benefit from a more plant based diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein, and a little junk just to keep them happy!