Lemon Chia Muffins

Two years in the books! I am not quite sure what I expected when I started blogging, but I never imagined that I would keep it up for this long (I honestly thought it might be one of those novelties that is cool at first but wears off). Either way, I have really enjoyed writing about my food and nutrition experiences.

Just like last year, I thought I would share healthy and lemony recipe to celebrate: Lemon Chia Muffins. Testing out this recipe was just a little more exciting than any other recipe I’ve made. Why, you ask? Because it was the very first thing I ever cooked/baked in my very own apartment! Technically my Blogiversary is August 1, but I was a little busy moving back to Cleveland. There are lots of “firsts” for me this month: first apartment, first day of my Dietetic Internship, and first day of grad school so I am sure I will have lots to share.

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Anyways, back to the muffins. They are packed with tons of nutrients that you wouldn’t find in your typical sugar-filled muffins. The whole wheat flour provides more protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium than white flour. That being said, baking with whole wheat flour makes cakes and muffins a lot more dense and chewy (I thought these tasted great with this texture but it is not your typical crumbly muffin). The chia seeds also pack in some fiber and the Greek yogurt adds protein and calcium.

Each muffin comes in at about 140 calories, only 1g of fat, and 6g of protein (that’s the same as 1-2 egg whites- but tastes much better!).

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Diets and Restriction

My birthday was back at the beginning of July and I got this card:

First, can we all just admire how perfect it is for an aspiring Dietitian like me? It just made me so happy!

Ok, on a more serious note, it made me think a lot about how different people perceive food. Everywhere you go, you can find someone who doesn’t eat dairy, is vegetarian, is on a low carb diet, etc. On one hand, I am happy that people are becoming more and more interested in nutrition, but on the other hand, I cringe when I hear exaggerated news headlines become the basis for everyday food choices. One study on mice finds that bread made the mice gain weight and all of a sudden nobody will eat bread.

My guess is that the minute those “anti-bread” people walk into an Italian restaurant with fresh baked bread and butter sitting on the table, their “no bread” rule flies out the window and the next thing they know, they are 4 slices deep.

IMG_3533That’s because restriction leads to binging. When we restrict ourselves from eating bread (or any food/food group) we feel deprived. It is not practical to say you’ll never going to eat bread again. It is much more reasonable to allow bread in your everyday diet in smaller amounts. And guess what, you’ll probably end up eating less bread this way because you won’t sit down and devour a whole loaf like you would if you were deprived. You also won’t end up with any horrible guilt after you eat it.

The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t eliminate any food or food group from your diet. While some research might say bread is “bad”, I can almost guarantee that there is equally as much research stating the opposite. So, think twice before that news headline affects what you eat today.

I know it is cliché and I have said it before – everything in moderation, enjoy the foods you love, and no foods are bad foods.

Chicken Curry

I am not going to lie, I think I have been lacking on coming up with new things in the kitchen lately. It is just the avocado toast, quinoa bowls, protein pancakes, zoodles with meatballs, and Greek yogurt smoothies are so good. But, last week I decided to try something totally new. I don’t love super spicy food and I have only had curry once, but I thought I would try it out.

The result: Yum!

 

After some Pinterest searching I pulled a few different chicken curry recipes together. I took some parts of all the different recipes and kind of made my own. I was very happy with how it turned out and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to make.

Like I said, I am not a fan of super spicy, but if you like the heat, you can always add more curry powder in at the end.

In addition to the recipe that I used (see below), I saw that lots of curry recipes added coconut milk or coconut cream. I wasn’t going to add this to mine but I wanted my curry to be a little bit thicker when it was done so I stirred in about 4-5oz of coconut cream at the very end. It only added a little bit of a coconut flavor but it was perfect!

Of course you can enjoy this curry plain but I liked it over a mix of brown and cauliflower rice (Hint: cauliflower rice with brown rice is a great way to add more volume to your meal without adding tons of carbs). It would probably also be good over quinoa, pasta, or boiled potatoes.

 

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Enjoy!

Salads: Healthy or Not?

Salads. They are the probably the number one food people think of when they want to lose weight or go on a diet. There is a perception that salads are super healthy, and they can be, but you have to be careful.

For example, check out these two items on the McDonald’s menu. The salad has more calories and more fat than the burger!

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How could this be? Salad dressing plays a big part. Creamy salad dressings are often packed with loads of fat your salad’s calorie count to skyrocket. Watch out though, low fat salad dressings can be filled with salt and sugar to make up for the missing flavor. Your best bet is to choose a salad dressing that is oil based, not cream. The first three ingredients on the label should be oil, water, and some kind of vinegar. But, even if you pick the healthiest dressing, it doesn’t entitle you to use half the bottle. Always ask for dressing on the side and drizzle it on (don’t drown your lettuce). Better yet, dip your fork into the dressing and then get a fork-full of salad so you aren’t using any more than you need. Making your own salad dressings is also a great way to make sure there isn’t any extra preservatives or additives.

With all that being said, a high calorie salad isn’t always bad. Yes, if all those calories are coming from creamy dressing and fried chicken then there is a problem, but high calories sometimes means high nutrients.

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I started thinking about this last weekend when I was in Toronto while I was eating one of many huge (and delicious) salads. It had kale, quinoa, poached eggs, curried cauliflower, chickpeas, sweet potato, cashews, nori, and avocado. Obviously I don’t know the exact nutritional value of it, but I’m guessing it was around 700 calories. You could easily eat 700 calories worth of cookies or ice cream, but you would be missing out on so many nutrients. That salad was packed with so much good fuel for the body — ie. Vitamin K in kale, vitamin A in sweet potato, healthy fats in avocado, iron and protein in quinoa, and the list goes on.

The moral of the story is that it is not always about the sheer number calories. Two salads, both with 700 calories, could have very different health effects. The one with fried chicken and creamy dressing are NOT going to help you lose weight and WILL contribute to heart disease. The one with lots of vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats will keep you full longer and give your body nutrients that it needs.

The next time you eat a salad, or any food, don’t just think about the calories; think about what is in it and how those ingredients will or won’t be good for your body.

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 have 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