The Scoop on Salt

Sitting at the Father’s Day dinner table last night, somehow the topic of salt came up. Everyone was discussing the difference between table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, etc. Low and behold, the most common myth about sea salt came up.

Does sea salt has less sodium and is it better for you than regular table or kosher salt?

The simple answer is no. All types of salt are about 40% sodium (by weight) meaning that sea salt has about the same amount of sodium as an equal amount of any other type of salt. So, don’t think that swapping sea salt for your regular table salt will work wonders on your blood pressure.

But here is the catch- when measuring salt with measuring spoons, 1 teaspoon of sea salt may have less sodium than 1 teaspoon of table salt. This is because sea salt is typically larger crystals so fewer will fit in the measuring spoon (compared to the finely ground table salt). This is the basis behind the common myth that sea salt is “better for you” and contains less sodium.

With that being said, there are some differences between the various types of the most commonly used salts.

  • Sea salt is usually less processed and will contain small amounts of minerals (like potassium, magnesium, and calcium) from the ocean.
  • Table salt is processed to a fine texture (good for mixing into recipes) with impurities and minerals removed.
  • Table salt is usually iodized (it has added iodine) to prevent iodine deficiency which can lead to hypothyroidism and goiter.
  • Kosher salt is coarser and flakier making it good for sprinkling on top of foods for lots of flavor
  • Pink Himalyan salt has lots of minerals giving it more flavor and makes it popular for skin and spa treatments.
  • Check out this link for info about 12 different types of salt http://www.wideopeneats.com/12-different-types-salt-use/

Which type of salt should you choose? You should leave that up to your taste buds. Some may say the minerals in sea salt make it superior, but the amounts are so small that it is almost insignificant. You can get all those same minerals from nutrient dense fruits and vegetables.

Just keep in mind, regardless of the type of salt, they all have almost the same amount of sodium, which one of the largest contributors to high blood pressure and heart disease in America.

The American Heart Association recommends an ideal limit of 1,500mg of sodium per day (max of 2,300mg per day), but the average American has over 3,400mg per day! Watch out though because more than 75% of the sodium most people consume comes from packaged foods like chips, muffins, crackers, cereal, microwave dinners, and canned goods (not from the salt shaker).

Here are some tips to cut back on sodium and prevent high blood pressure:

  • Choose the low sodium or sodium-free version of popular snacks (especially broths and condiments) at the grocery store
  • Buy the “no salt added” canned goods, or rinse your canned veggies and beans off with water before eating them
  • Use spices to add flavor when cooking as opposed to salt
  • Avoid foods with the words pickled, brined, cured, and smoked – this usually means high salt
  • Potassium has the opposite effect on blood pressure than sodium (it can help reduce blood pressure) so incorporate foods like sweet potatoes, bananas, yogurt, and other high potassium foods into your diet

Peruvian Cuisine

After an amazing and adventurous 10 days in Peru, I am home and back to reality. Since food is always the topic of conversation here, I thought I would share some of my experience and thoughts on Peruvian foods I had while in Peru. Here are a few highlights:

  • Quinoa or Kiwicha (amaranth) is very popular and is in many traditional dishes. They even use quinoa to make risotto calling it quinotto. Peruvians also refer to Kiwicha as quinoa with a lot more nutrients. It is used to make oatmeal, muffins, and bread or added to yogurt or cereal.
  • Corn and potatoes are major crops in peru, each being grown in hundreds of different varieties. Lots of candies, chips, and snacks are made of corn or corn flavored. At least one of the two comes with almost any entrée you find on a restaurant menu.
  • Rice is another common grain that comes with many meals. My favorite dish was arroz tapado, which is rice with ground beef cooked in a dressing, with hardboiled or fried eggs.

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    Alpaca for dinner

  • As for animals, alpaca can be found on many menus (which I tried once! – it is a mix between lamb and beef. It was a bit tough but had good flavor) along with beef, pork, and chicken. Guinea pig is a delicacy that can be found at some fancier restaurants (and is typically only eaten by Peruvians on special occasions).
  • Fish, especially trout, is on almost every menu due to the long Pacific coast and wildlife in the Amazon River. Other seafood, including octopus, shrimp and oysters, are also common specifically in Ceviche

Aside from these main foods and dishes I found throughout Peru, I also got the chance to visit a farm in the rainforest and eat some fruits that grow there. Some include:

  • Mandarins and oranges

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    Our guide peeling a lime for us to try.

  • Limes- which weren’t really sour
  • Cocoa- The beans of the cacao used to make chocolate come in a big pod. Surrounding each bean is a jelly-like coating that you can eat, which is actually really fruity tasting.
  • Grapefruit
  • Cedro- A fruit similar to lemons, which is very high in vitamin C and used by the locals to stop itching.
  • Mocambo- Imagine the taste of a cantaloupe in the shape/texture of a banana–I didn’t enjoy it.
  • Camu camu is another popular fruit, which is known for its high vitamin C content. I didn’t get to try the fresh fruit, but I did try camu camu juice. It wasn’t bad but didn’t have tons of flavor.

While we visited the Amazonian farm, our guide taught us a lot about how various fruits, leaves, and plants were used by the Amazonian people to cure everything from itches and stomach aches to ulcers, cancer, and conjunctivitis.

Finally, because we all know how much I love grocery shopping, I had to spend some time roaming the aisles of Peruvian grocery stores. Most of the grocery stores are much smaller than the ones in the U.S., but they have quite a variety of products. I found Ritz crackers and Oreos but also many of the traditional foods I mentioned like kiwicha, corn, and quinoa.

While the grocery stores did have some meat and produce, I learned that most Peruvians get those types of food on a daily basis at local markets. I visited the San Pedro market in Cusco where hundreds of local farmers, butchers, and vendors were selling cuts of meat, fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, cheeses, and some grains.

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Slices of fresh watermelon and pineapple on the street

Personally, as someone who loves grocery shopping and cooking, I love the idea of getting fresh food at a market everyday. I wish I had had a place to cook while I was there because I would have had a field day buying all the fresh food.

Overall, it was an exhausting but amazing, memorable, and delicious trip, but I am glad to be home and back to cooking in the kitchen (instead of eating every single meal at a restaurant).

Dana

Graduation and Travel Days

I am officially a college graduate! On Sunday, I walked at Case Western’s 2017 commencement and received my Bachelor of Science in Nutrition. That means it is officially summer vacation, but so far I have barely had one minute to sit down. I was up early Monday morning packing up my apartment with my parents and made the drive back home to Michigan. By the time we got home I had exactly 48 hours before my family and I would be on a plane to Peru. The last two days have been filled with unpacking from school, more laundry loads than I can count, and packing again for our trip. I am writing this blog post to pass some time on the second leg of our journey– a 7 hour flight from Atlanta to Lima. I think this is the first time I have flown internationally during the day and had to stay awake on a long flight; so far we are only an hour in and I am not enjoying it. 

Now onto some food related topics. The last time I went on a big trip was almost exactly a year ago when I was studying abroad. Living abroad for almost five months, I kept a pretty tight budget (and so did most of my friends). Instead of eating at restaurants three meals a day, we often packed food for travel days and airplane rides and went to local grocery stores for turkey, hummus, cucumbers, and bread to make sandwiches for lunch. I had gotten so use to traveling this way that instinctively I stood in the kitchen yesterday packing meals for our long day of travel. After realizing that this was a family trip and I didn’t really need to do that, I still went ahead and packed my reusable ziploc bags with food for the day. I figured we would be eating out in Peru for the next 11 days and the food I packed from home would be much healthier (and cheaper) than most things I would find in the airport. 

I wish I would have taken pictures of my little bag meals, but I ate them before I decided I would share them with you…oops! Anyways, I will still share what I packed. For lunch: a whole grain hamburger bun with avocado tuna salad and some string beans. For dinner: a whole grain hamburger bun, mashed avocado, white meat turkey slices, and some lettuce leaves. If you couldn’t tell, we hand some hamburger buns and avocado in the house that needed to be eaten before we left, haha! I also brought an apple, a banana, and some string cheese sticks to have as snacks, but so far I haven’t really needed them. My little bagged meals have kept me pretty full and they were really good! I definitely would pack food like this again for future trips. It is such an easy way to eat healthy and wholesome foods while on the road (or in the air). Plus, I think I enjoyed my homemade meals more than I would have enjoyed the grab and go meals in the airport. 

That is all for now. 

I will hopefully continue to post about some of the health- and food- related finds in Peru, but if you would like to follow our daily journey, check out my Peru blog perutrip2017.wordpress.com

Dana 

Kodiak Cakes

Since school is out and I have plenty of time in the mornings to make a big breakfast, I thought I would share one of my favorite grocery finds: Kodiak cakes.

Kodiak Cakes is a company that makes all sorts of pancake & waffle mixes, dessert mixes, oatmeals and granolas. While I haven’t tried many of the products, the two pancakes and waffle mixes I have tried are delicious!Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 11.35.10 PM

The two I have tried are the Protein Packed Flapjack Mix and the Protein Packed Peanut Butter Flapjack Mix. Why Kodiak Cakes over the other pancake mixes?

  • The protein packed kind I buy has 14g of protein per serving!
  • The mix only has whole wheat grains (including whole grain wheat flour and whole grain oat flour).
  • I can read and pronounce every single ingredient in the mix (and there are only 7 of them).
  • There is no bleached white flour or artificial additives in the mix.
  • They only have 3g of sugar per serving.

In order to have a healthy and balanced meal, we need a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat at each meal. Because pancakes are typically all carbs, they can get a bad wrap for being too much like dessert for breakfast. That is why I love this protein packed mix. It takes care of the protein that is typically missing in pancakes.

Now, since Kodiak Cakes has our carb and protein needs covered, all we need is a little healthy fat. That’s where I turn to my beloved nut butter collection. Just drizzle some nut butter on your pancakes and you are good to go with a balanced breakfast.

Still aren’t convinced these pancakes can be healthy?

Lets take oatmeal, for example. Many times, the little instant packets of oatmeal have just as many (if not more) carbs than a serving of regular pancakes mix, with no fat or protein. We often make oatmeal out to be some much healthier than pancakes when really they have almost the exact same nutrients (almost all carbs).

I will say that oatmeal typically has more fiber than regular, white flour pancakes, but neither makes for a very balanced meal because there is no fat or protein. Now, oatmeal can be made into a balanced meal by added protein (egg whites or greek yogurt) and healthy fat (nut butter, flax seeds, chia seeds, almonds, etc.) just the same way that protein and fat can be added to pancakes.

My point is that we just have to be aware of what is in our food. Oatmeal may seem healthier than pancakes, but they are really quite similar. By adding protein and fat to either oatmeal or pancakes, you will have equally healthy and balanced meals.

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My Protein Packed Kodiak Cakes with banana slices and cashew butter

I happen to love mixing up my typical morning oatmeal with a big plate of pancakes every now and then so I always turn to my Protein Packed Kodiak Cakes for a balanced breakfast.

Want more info on Kodiak Cakes? http://www.kodiakcakes.com/

Bowls

If you haven’t noticed, bowls are one of the biggest food trends right now. Buddha bowls, poke bowls, acai bowls… they are everywhere!

Last week I checked out a new restaurant in Cleveland called Rebol. Guess what they serve?? You got it—bowls! They are 100% nonGMO, organic when possible, don’t use any refined sugar, and only cook with avocado, coconut, and olive oils. You can see why I had to try it :).

Anyways, I got a chicken bowl with zucchini noodles, corn salsa, cauliflower & bok choy, apricot ginger honey mustard, cashews, and toasted sesame. It sounds like a strange combination, but it was delicious. They use lots of bold spices to make the food super flavorful. It just goes to show that healthy food doesn’t taste bad (contrary to what some people believe).

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This week I decided to jump on the “bowl” train and make my own at home. Since I move out of my apartment in about a week I have been trying to use the ingredients I have instead of buying more food. I put my cooking skills to the test and was trying to use up some quinoa and BBQ sauce. I think my hours in the kitchen are starting to pay off because my bowl turned out super yummy…so yummy that I have made it for dinner every day this week.

Here’s how to make my BBQ Chicken Quinoa Bowl:

  • Grab a bowl
  • Add about ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • Toss in 3-4oz of shredded baked chicken breast
  • Throw in a handful of broccoli
  • Drizzle on about 1 Tbsp of BBQ sauce (try to choose one that is low in sugar!)
  • Top it off with a fried egg
  • Mix it up and enjoy!

Since I wanted this every night for dinner, I ended up making a bunch of quinoa, baking two big chicken breasts, and steaming a large head of broccoli all on Monday so each night all I had to do was assemble to bowl. No excuses for not eating healthy because it literally takes 2 minutes to put this bowl together, pop it in the microwave, and then add a fried egg.

*Note: I just baked my chicken completely plain because I knew I was going to add BBQ sauce to the bowl but feel free to add any more spices you like.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Dana

P.S. I officially took my last final exam on Wednesday so I am officially done with undergrad! T-9 days until graduation.

Summer Plans and Future Blogging

As promised, I am back with a summer plans update. (If you want to know what I have been up to the past 5 months, check out my last post.) Being that my Dietetic Internship (DI) starts August 7, my summer is cut a bit shorter than usual…and it is probably my last summer ever since my DI/grad school will run from August 2017-December 2018 without much of a break. That means I am planning to have a very exciting and busy summer, hopefully with some relaxation involved too!

If you know me, you know traveling is obviously #1 on my to do list. Here are the plans so far:

  • Two days after commencement, my family is going to Peru for 10 days of adventure
  • We have a long weekend in New Jersey for my cousin’s graduation
  • A girls, long weekend trip planned in Chicago with my mom and cousins
  • My grandma and I are spending a week in San Francisco and Napa in July
  • I have a trip to Boston in the works with a friend
  • And hopefully I will also be able to squeeze in a weekend visit to see my friends in Cleveland and Columbus

I’ll also be working and coaching gymnastics here and there, cooking up some new recipes in the kitchen (my goal is to make 1-2 new recipes each week, which I will share…if they turn out well, of course), trying new Detroit restaurants while I am home, and getting ready to move into my first solo apartment. I will be living in Downtown Cleveland for the duration of my 18-month program. I am excited to not only live downtown close to all the good restaurants (obviously food is #1) but also experience Cleveland from a new angle. Since I want to move to Downtown Detroit when I graduate, I think this will be a great way to make sure I enjoy living in a growing urban area.

This brings me to my plans for future blogging. Part of the reason I took a little break from blogging is that I started to run out of ideas. Between gathering images, information, and trying to figure out what the lesson from each post should be, it was just a little too time consuming and began to feel like a chore.

With that being said, I still love writing these posts and sharing my experiences with you. That means, I am still going to be posting (hopefully even more now!) but the posts won’t be so much about sharing information and research or trying to teach a lesson. I will probably be writing more about healthy (and yummy) new things I find at the grocery store, healthy and cool new restaurants I try, and my travel adventures (which obviously will include a lot of food). I’m sure there will still be tips for making healthy choices and probably some interesting food facts here and there, but those won’t be the focus of the posts.

Honestly, I’m not sure how it is going to work out so I guess we will find out together 😉

Dana

Back & Better Than Ever

I guess senior year got the best of me and The Lemon Wedge took the back seat. But no worries, I am back to blogging. I thought I would use this post to update you on what I have been up to this last semester and what I have planned for the future.

As I have talked about before, in order to make my dreams of being a Registered Dietitian (RD) come true, I have to complete a Dietetic Internship (read more here). Soooo last summer and fall took the GRE, narrowed down the list of programs I would apply to and began working on my applications. The process to apply is similar to a residency after medical school where you apply to many programs but are only “matched”/accepted to one program (or you don’t match at all and have to reapply the next year). Deadline for applications was February 15th so I kept busy over winter break and the first few weeks of my semester writing, revising, and re-revising my personal IMG_7271statements over and over and over again until I could practically recite them to you by heart. Finally, on February 14th, with trembling hands, I clicked the infamous “submit” button. From there, it was a big waiting game until “Match Day” when you find out the results.

I ended up applying to 6 different Dietetic Internships, all which were combined with a Master’s degree program: University Hospitals (Cleveland), Veteran’s Affairs Hospital (Cleveland), Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland), Ohio State (Columbus), Rush Medical Center (Chicago), and Tufts Medical Center (Boston).

Finally, Match Day (April 2) rolled around and at 7pm on the nose I logged into my online application to find out that I had matched with my first choice- University Hospitals (Cleveland) and I would stay at Case Western Reserve University to get my Master’s in Nutrition! It was quite an exciting day and I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders…I was officially and “RD2Be”!

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Celebrating with Tacos and Sangria

In other exciting news from this semester:
-I had my first research paper published in the Current Nutrition Reports journal. It was a paper that I co-authored as part of my independent study class last semester about dietary supplement use in older adults.

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President Snyder and I 🙂

-I also was selected to be one of the students who decided which professor at the university receives the Excellence in Mentoring award. Being on this committee got me an invitation to Barbara Snyder’s house for a fancy reception…exciting!! (She is the president of the university and basically a celebrity around here!)

That brings us to today. I am currently writing this blog post, as it seemed like a great way to procrastinate studying for my last final exam as an undergraduate (#senoritis). I have one last exam in Pathophysiology next Wednesday before I am done. Then there is a week and a half of lots of food and fun activities with my fellow graduating seniors before commencement.

Now that you are up to speed on the past 5 months, and this post is getting long, I am going to call it quits here. I should get back to studying, but in the next few days I will be writing another post about my summer plans and my future plans for The Lemon Wedge.

Glad to be back!

Dana