Main Nutritious Intent Website

Monday, September 30, 2013

Getting the Real Story on Going Gluten-Free

There are a multitude of folks out there that are required to go gluten-free.  Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and certain allergies make a gluten-free diet essential.  However, for anyone without a medical reason to eliminate gluten, my advice is this: don't.  Not only does it add a layer of complication to grocery shopping, cooking and eating out, but it carries a nutritional challenge as well.  Often it becomes difficult to meet fiber and certain vitamin requirements when gluten is eliminated.  Certain B-vitamins, magnesium and iron are just a few examples of nutrients that might be deficient in a gluten-free diet. 

Now, for those that struggle with a medical diagnosis that requires a gluten-free diet, here are a few resources and suggestions to get you started. 
As you start replacing foods such as tamari for soy sauce, and corn for flour tortillas, you may feel a bit overwhelmed.  Take heart - there are more gluten-free products out there than ever before.  Just be sure to read your nutrition labels so that you can make the most nutritious choices.  Just because it carries the label "gluten-free" doesn't mean it is a healthful choice.  Look for a high-fiber, low-sugar content.  And remember that it is vital that you keep the rest of your diet as healthful and balanced as possible.  That means really going for 9 fruits and veggies per day and eating low-fat, high-quality protein, and cooking more at home. 

Going gluten-free may be challenging to be sure, but it is far from impossible.  With planning and practice you can achieve a healthful balanced diet in spite of your diagnosis. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Whole Grains: Improving America's Failing Grade

The title of this post may seem a bit harsh, but when America averages only 1 serving of whole grains per day instead of the recommended 3-5 servings, an "F" is the only grade possible.  So why do we care about whole grains?  With a whole grain, you get the bran, germ and endosperm - all three parts of the grain.  Those three provide a great balance of fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.  Nutrients found in whole grains not only fuel your body, but also help prevent heart disease, digestive problems and help with weight maintenance.  With a few minor adjustments you can increase your whole grain intake and bring it back into the "A" range again. Try:
  •  Air popped popcorn for a snack - yes popcorn is a whole grain
  • Whole grain bread, cereals, and tortillas instead of their lighter counterparts
  • Corn torillas - remember corn is a whole grain
  • Steel cut oats, bulgur or cracked wheat hot cereal for breakfast
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Pearl Barley or Quinoa in soups
  • Cereals that are high in whole grain (check the ingredient label and make sure the first ingredient says whole _____ )
For more info on ways to increase your whole grain intake, check out this segment on Fresh Living:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Home-Cooked Meals Made Easy

Recently I was chatting with a friend of mine about how stressful it can be to cook when you are gone to work all day.  You don’t have to be a gourmet to enjoy the health benefits of eating home cooked meals, nor does it have to take hours of your already busy day.  Here are a few time saving menu tips. 
Frozen bread loaves or rolls. 
  • They have whole wheat and white and if you keep some in your freezer, you can pull some out in the morning, put them in a greased pan in your fridge, then when you get home from school, pull them out of the fridge, and when they look nicely raised, preheat your oven to 375 and 30 minutes later or so, you have fresh bread. 
  • If a loaf is too much for the two of you to eat, then try tossing 4 or 5 rolls into a loaf pan and letting it raise.  I might be a bit of a bumpy looking loaf, but will be just as tasty. 
  • You could also just put them in a pie tin and let them raise as separate rolls. 
  •  Also, you could put some rolls in the fridge in the morning, then after school, roll them out flat, and make individual pizzas.  This really is super easy – a bottle of pizza sauce lasts quite a while in the fridge, you can keep grated cheese and pepperoni in the freezer, and pull some out, sprinkle on your mini pizza dough and bake at 425 for 15 – 20 minutes.  You can even open a can of sliced olives, and keep the rest in the freezer, as well as pineapple tidbits and Canadian bacon.  

Pre-made pizza crust
  • For the times when you don’t want to roll out and deal with pizza dough, keep a boboli in the freezer.  Pizza is a great way to use leftovers: leftover taco fixings become Mexican pizza, leftover barbeque chicken = bbq chicken pizza, leftover bacon = blt pizza.  

Crockpot with leftovers planned into the menu
  • Pot roast with carrots, onions and potatoes is a great meal, but don’t chuck the leftovers.  Before you put that clean crockpot away, add some tomato juice, a bay leaf, a rinsed can of white or navy beans, maybe some pearl barley and a little beef broth.  Put that on low while you’re at work and come home to a hearty soup.
  • Toss some chicken breasts or tenders into the crockpot with your favorite barbeque sauce.  When you get home, add some fruit and a salad and you’ve got a great meal.  When cleaning up dinner, shred that chicken and put in the fridge for the day after tomorrow (you may not want 2 BBQ meals back to back).  Pull a pre-made pizza crust out of the freezer before work.  When you get home, top with BBQ sauce, shredded chicken, some frozen corn and Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with a salad and you’ve got a delicious meal with very little effort.  

Salad Spinner
  • I’m not one to go for every kitchen gadget know to man (mostly because I don’t have the space).  But the salad spinner can be a very healthful gadget.  Whether you are buying a bag of salad, or harvesting your own from your garden, the salad spinner not only helps clean and dry the salad, but it is a great storage solution that will allow you to eat salad all week.   
  • Salad stays fresh for days and you can just pull some out to add to any meal.  For example: Monday you might want taco salad.  Keep the leftover greens in the salad spinner and the next day you can add a side salad to your crockpot chicken menu.  Maybe the following day you can have a salad-topped pizza (another use of the pre-made pizza crust).  And to use up the last of your salad, it might go into BLT wraps the following night. 

So for the someone trying to eat at home 3-4 times per week, the grocery list might look something like this:

            Bag of salad

            Bag of baby carrots

            1 container cherry tomatoes

            Couple (depending on family size) potatoes

            1 onion

            In season melon or fruit of choice

            1 package chicken tenders or chicken breasts (depending on family size)

            Small roast or small pot roast
          1 bottle barbeque sauce
          1 bottle salad dressing
1 can reduced sodium white or navy beans

1 can tomato juice or 1 can crushed tomatoes

2 cans reduced sodium beef broth

            1 premade pizza crust

            1 bag frozen whole wheat rolls (dough, not baked)

            1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese

            1 bag frozen corn

The menu & recipes would look something like this:

            Monday: BBQ chicken, salad, fruit & rolls

In the morning (3-5 minutes) – Turn the crockpot on high, put the chicken in the crock pot and pour ½ the bottle of bbq sauce over chicken.   Put rolls onto greased pie tin and place in fridge.  Before leaving for work, turn crockpot down to low. 
After work – set out rolls, preheat oven to 375.  When preheated, bake rolls for 20 – 25 minutes. Wash and spin bagged lettuce, wash cherry tomatoes and wash and slice melon (or fruit of choice).  Serve with chicken.  After dinner, shred the remaining chicken before putting in the fridge.

            Tuesday: Pot roast with rolls and fruit

In the morning (10-15 minutes) – Turn the crockpot on low, peel and cut onion into wedges, scrub and cut potatoes into large pieces.  Layer potatoes, ½ bag baby carrots, onion and top with roast.  Pour 1 can beef broth over, cover and let cook on low.  Set out rolls as before.
After work – Preheat oven, and bake rolls at 375 for 20 minutes.  Pull out fruit and serve with rolls and pot roast.  After dinner, shred pot roast before putting in the fridge.

            Wednesday: BBQ chicken pizza

In the morning – nothing!
After work – Preheat oven to 425.  Pull out premade pizza crust, spread with barbeque sauce, top with shredded chicken, some frozen corn and mozzarella cheese.  Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese is bubbly and pizza is hot.  Meanwhile, pull out the salad, top with cherry tomatoes slice or grate baby carrots.  Serve with pizza. 

            Thursday: Tomato beef and bean soup, breadsticks

In the morning (10 minutes) – set out rolls in a plastic bag and place in fridge.  Turn crockpot on low, add leftover pot roast & veggies, drained and rinsed beans, some frozen corn (maybe ½ cup depending on family size), can of beef broth and can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce.  You can toss in a bay leaf, and black pepper or other seasonings according to your preference.  Cover.
After work – take roll dough out of fridge, roll each roll out into a long rope and place on a greased baking sheet.  Preheat oven to 375.  Bake breadsticks 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve with soup and any leftover fruit or salad. 

 There are certainly more ideas out there, but the point is to just start with something that will make eating at home a more convenient, delicious and healthy part of your routine. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Caramel & Apple - Best Culinary Duo Ever!

There really seems to be something to the old adage, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." It's amazing the amount of health benefits found in one of nature's most modest fruits.  I can't think of a flavor combination that I enjoy more than caramel and apples.  Plus, any time you can work a fruit into dessert, you're getting a bit more nutrition.  September seems to be the kick-off month for this autumnal delicacy, so I thought post my top 5 favorite caramel apple recipes.  

#5 Caramel Apple Cheesecake.  I am a cheese cake lover and so this is a natural canvas for most any of my favorite flavors.  Plus, this one is a Cooking Light recipe, so it is a bit on the lighter side.

#4 Caramel Apple Muffins.  Let me preface this recipe by saying I do tweak it a bit.  I use whole wheat flour instead of white flour and 1% milk instead of 2%.  It is definitely more of a sweet treat for breakfast, but works well when paired with an egg and some fruit.

#3 Apple Fritter Rings.  Yes, this one is fried.  I'm a dietitian and I eat fried foods occasionally and thoroughly enjoy them.  I really like these after a nice fall hike.  Granted, they don't have any caramel, but if you want to go all out - a light drizzle of caramel sauce would be a tasty touch.  Since I hate to fry foods (it seems like such extra work and mess), I don't make these often.  But you can bet that I get them at least once in the fall.

#2 Green Apple Frozen Yogurt or Sorbet with Caramel Sauce.  You can bet that I keep a sharp eye out at my favorite frozen yogurt shops for the appearance of Green Apple.  A little dish of that with a light drizzle of caramel sauce and I'm in heaven!  However, in the process of composing this post, I came across a green apple sorbet recipe that I most definitely will have to try.  Then I won't have to wait 11 months to have it again.

#1 Caramel Apples.  Yep - my all-time favorite is plain-jane caramel apples.  Sometimes I make the lovely yet hard-to-eat variety on a stick, but most of the time it is a bowl full of caramel next to a bowl full of cut up apples.  You can eat it fondue-style or fill your own bowl.  Nothing tastes more like fall to me. 
I love the using foil muffin papers for my caramel apples.  These are sprinkled with chopped almonds, cinnamon candies, toasted coconut or mini chocolate chips. 
So here's my quick, easy, no-fail recipe for microwave caramel.

7 Minute Caramel Recipe
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
Place all ingredients in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If the consistency isn't perfectly smooth after cooking, use a hand-held, stick blender and viola!  Velvety, caramel yumminess!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Demystifying the Milk Question

The majority of milk consumed in this country remains cow's milk.  However, milk alternatives are more prolific and popular than ever.  So how does one go about deciding which milk to drink? Hopefully this infographic helps you navigate to the choice that is right for you.  Remember when all is said and done, it comes down to taste.  If you don't like the taste, you won't drink it and all the nutrition information becomes irrelevant.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Camping Food: Tasty Convenience

I took my kids camping this past weekend and the food was a highlight.  Not only was it tasty, but a lot of fun to cook as well.  I made a big batch of breakfast burritos (inspired by my sister Sandi's recipe) and kept them in a cooler to be pulled out and tossed in the coals each morning for a heartier breakfast than plain cold cereal, mini-boxes.
Fill flour tortillas with scrambled eggs, cooked sausage crumbles, hashbrowns, cheese and salsa if you like a little zip.  Roll them up into small burritos and wrap in foil. 
Toss them into some hot coals to reheat.

Another camping hit was a variation on the biscuit-on-a-stick idea.  We bought refrigerator cinnamon rolls (the kind in a can) and roasted them on skewers over the fire and they were delicious!  Made for a great addition to breakfast or as a dessert over the campfire. 
A two-tined roasting stick worked well to hold the spiral rolls in place.

They were done after a few minutes over hot coals.

Drizzle with frosting and Yum!