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.

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Avocado Toast

Throughout middle and high school I was never much of a breakfast person, but over the past few years I have discovered how important breakfast really is. It took a while for me to get use to eating food so early in the morning, but it is nice to not be starving by the time lunch rolls around. Over the past year, oatmeal has always been my go-to breakfast, but in the spirit of trying new things (and after drooling over foodie Instagram posts), I decided I would give the avo-toast trend a try.

Want to make my favorite avocado toast breakfast sandwich?

  1. Toast a piece of whole grain bread (or use a piece of homemade spelt bread)
  2. Mash half of an avocado on the toasted bread
  3. Layer on some smoked salmon
  4. Top it off with a fried egg

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This sandwich combo may not be as fast or easy as oatmeal in the morning, but it definitely makes for a more complete meal. It has healthy fat (avocado), protein (smoked salmon/egg), and whole grains (bread) to keep you full and energized all morning.

What is your favorite avocado toast combination?

Homemade Bread

Since coming back to the United States after studying abroad, I have missed the bread-filled lunches I had with my host family. I tried buying bread at the grocery store but it just didn’t add up to the seed-filled bread I learned to love in Europe. Thankfully, a friend in Germany sent me a bread recipe to try and it was just what I was looking for! I also love this bread because all the seeds give it protein. Depending on what types of seeds you use, one slice can have over 6 grams of protein!

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The recipe is below, but here are some more helpful hints to make this delicious bread:

  • Be sure to pay close attention to the measurements. Since the recipe is from Europe, all measurements are in weight (grams) so you will need a small kitchen scale to make it.
  • As for the ingredients, I found everything I needed at Whole Foods. The trickiest one to find was the fresh yeast, but a Whole Foods employee knew exactly what I needed when I asked. It comes in a small cube in the refrigerator section.
  • As the recipe says, I used an electric mixer but you can also mix the ingredients with a spatula. Either way you mix it, the dough should be slightly thicker than cookie dough but still sticky and wet.
  • You can bake the dough as soon as you are done mixing. No need to wait for it to rise!

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Enjoy the bread fresh for 3 days or freeze some to eat later! I like mine with honey as a sweet snack, but it is also good for making sandwiches.

Bread for Lunch?

This post is a little different. I wanted to share this little anecdote about how studying abroad has changed the way I describe healthy dietary patters- so here I go…

“The buns are in the oven”. This is what my host mom told me around 11:00am on my first day after arriving in Copenhagen. She explained that homemade buns (rundstykker) are a traditional Danish food- which are basically just big bread rolls. Each family has a unique recipe and the fluffier the buns, the better. Around 11:30am she asked me to help set the table. I put out plates, forks, knives along with the butter, jams, cheese, honey, and Nutella she pulled out of the fridge and cupboard. As the fresh buns came out of the oven just a few minutes later, my host parents, their three year old son, and I sat down at the dining room table for what I thought was a little, traditional mid-morning snack. My host mom cut the buns in half and passed them around the table until we each had a hot bun on our plate. We all helped ourselves to the toppings in the middle of the table easily spreading them as they melted over the warm crumbly surface. For the next hour or so, we sat around the table talking and getting to know each other. I had a total of one and a half buns, as I didn’t want to fill up on bread before lunch—even though they were delicious and I could have had many more. Over the course of the hour that we sat there, my host mom and dad had three or four buns each and continuously offered me more. When they finally finished cutting, spreading, and eating each bun and our conversation had come to a breaking point we cleared the table and washed the dishes. I went to my room to finish unpacking my luggage and take a nap to catch up on my jet lag. I was expecting a nice hot lunch to be ready when I woke up an hour later. Much to my surprise, I woke up from my nap with no food in sight. I didn’t want to ask my host parents when our next meal was because I was starting to get the feeling that lunch was the buns that we had had earlier. As the clock neared 3:00pm and my stomach started to grumble, I went in the kitchen and grabbed an apple to hold me over until dinner. Fast forward to the evening when I went to pack my lunch for Monday, my host mom suggested that I take some leftover buns with butter and cheese for lunch. It finally clicked! Apparently that meal of bread, butter, and cheese was actually a typical Danish lunch. I began to have a slight internal panic attack when I realized that I would be having a light, bread-filled, and protein-lacking lunch for an entire semester.

Among other things, getting used these light Danish lunches (which are almost always filled with bread) was has been a major food obstacles that I have had to overcome since coming to Denmark. Coming from living in a university apartment where I can buy and eat whatever I want (I try not to eat lots of processed food and simple sugars/grains), to not being able to choose what food is in the house and becoming accustomed to eating bread at every single meal has not been easy.

Now, almost two months into my new Danish eating habits, I actually have a newfound appreciation for the diet patterns. At first, it was difficult to overcome the uncomfortable feeling of eating mostly bread for lunch, but I have actually discovered that eating nut and seed filled rye bread actually fills me up quickly and keeps me full throughout the day. These rye breads with lots of nuts and seeds, which are very common in Denmark, have a lot more nutrients—including some protein—than most bread in the long American grocery store aisles. I have had to add an American touch by having peanut butter on my rye bread to make up for some of the protein and healthy fats I am lacking during lunch, but other than that, I have realized that the Danes actually are not crazy just having bread and some toppings for lunch. It has taken some getting use to but I now feel good about eating all of the wholesome grains in bread for lunch every day.

Eight weeks ago, when I realized I would be having bread for lunch everyday, I nearly had a panic attack. I would have never predicted that, today, I actually look forward to my rye bread sandwich everyday for lunch. As a nutrition major at school and an aspiring dietitian, it is fascinating to learn about the various eating patterns of people around the world. Throughout my education, I have always been taught that bread is full of empty calories and should not be the main part of any meal. Not only has living in Denmark given me new cultural experiences, but it has also changed how I look at diet choices of those in different counties and given me a fresh perspective on what healthy eating is defined as.

Study Abroad Update
It has been 3 days since returning from Riga, Helsinki, and Stockholm and had some really interesting (but some boring) lectures on health care. It is definitely interesting to see how cultural differences (such as Latvia’s conservative views on HIV/AIDS and family planning) can have such a large impact on the health care that is (or is not) provided to the citizens. Some unique food experiences on my trip included traditional Swedish meatballs (which were delicious) and reindeer (which was not so delicious)!

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Tomorrow will take me to Dublin, Ireland for the weekend as my next stop in this amazing adventure!