Eggs: What do all the label claims mean?

$1 for 18 or $6 for a dozen? Standing in front of dozens of eggs (no pun intended) on the self at the grocery store makes for a very confusion decision. Free range or pasture raised? Cage free or Organic? – don’t worry, it confuses me too so I thought I would break down just a few of the many claims on egg packages to help you make a more educated decision the next time you pick up a carton.

  • Cage free means that the animals don’t live in cages

You are all probably thinking..”duh”. But just because the animals aren’t in cages doesn’t mean they aren’t packed in a barn, and most of the time they never step foot outside.

  • Free range means that animals have “access to the outdoors”.

While this “access to the outdoors” has to be government certified, there really aren’t any guidelines, criteria, or qualifications on the quality or size of the outdoor space. That means the area could be anything from a small cement square to a grassy field.

  • Pasture Raised usually means that animals spent the majority of their time in a large open grass field – think the classic image of chickens in a field.

While pasture raised sounds the best, it isn’t regulated by the government so technically some unethical farmer could slap “pasture raised” on their conventional eggs and wouldn’t get in trouble for it.

  • Organic requires that the chickens be raised in conditions that accommodate their natural behaviors.

This includes area to roam outdoors in fields, but the key word is “accommodate”. Yes, they may accommodate for natural habits, but that doesn’t always mean they actually have the ability to live naturally 24/7. On another note, “organic” eggs also come from chickens that are not treated with any antibiotics and they are fed all organic feed – all of which are tightly regulated by USDA.

This chart is a pretty good summary of all the different egg labels- but remember, while it shows that pasture raised is the best, that term isn’t regulated so anyone can use it willy-nilly. Do some research into the brands of eggs at the store to see how they actually treat their chickens.

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So you choose…what kind of eggs do you buy?

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Are egg yolks bad for you?

It is no secret that egg yolks are packed full of cholesterol (I think they win the gold medal for cholesterol content and are typically the number one source of cholesterol in our diets). People commonly opt for egg white omelets or low cholesterol egg substitutes to cut back on their cholesterol intake.

What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance both in food (like egg yolks) and made by your liver, which is needed by all of your body’s cells in order to function. In other words, without cholesterol, we wouldn’t be able to survive.

Cholesterol Recommendations
In the 1960’s, American Heart Association, along with many other health organizations, recommended limiting cholesterol intake after researchers found high blood cholesterol levels were linked to heart disease. The typical recommendation was no more than 3 egg yolks per week.

But wait! Researchers are rethinking their “low cholesterol” recommendations. High blood cholesterol levels are still liked to heart disease, but we aren’t so sure that eating cholesterol really increases cholesterol levels in the blood. I know that seems illogical, but our liver actually produces way more cholesterol than we eat, so cutting back on your egg intake won’t really affect your cholesterol levels.

Don’t worry, I’m not just spewing science here… the U.S. government agrees and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (published every 5 years by the USDA) eliminated the recommendation of limiting cholesterol in 2015.

Dietary Fat
While monitoring your cholesterol intake can be a thing of the past, you should keep saturated and trans fat on your radar. Newer research is showing that these two types of fat play a much more significant role in increasing blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk compared to dietary cholesterol.

So when it comes to eggs, there is no need to trash the yolk. The yolk won’t increase your cholesterol levels, and it is full of healthy vitamins and minerals! Plus, eating whole eggs has been found to keep you more full, promote weight loss, protect brain health, and decrease inflammation.

Don’t Forget…
Diet isn’t the only thing that affects heart disease risk. High levels of inflammation, stress oxidative damage, along with high blood pressure, smoking, and low physical activity levels can all increase your risk, too.

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.

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?

Fantastic Food Find + Paleo

Last Friday, I stumbled upon this pretty awesome little restaurant in the Glass Market in Copenhagen. Several glass sheds are filled with little restaurants, food stands, and farmers selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. After walking around for 20 minutes drooling over all of the delicious options, I convinced my friend that we had to eat at a restaurant called Palæo (Paleo).

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Inside the Glass Market

Paleo is a diet that consists of foods that could be found during the Paleolithic period (essentially the foods eaten by cavemen). The diet includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and meat and excludes sugar, processed grains, and dairy. While I am not a huge fan of following any specific diet, my mom, who is a true Paleo fanatic, inspired me to give it a try. Plus, after eating bread and pasta for every meal with my host family, I was in need of something different.

It took many questions to figure out what we wanted off of the menu written in Danish, but I decided on a salmon wrap with smoked salmon, guacamole, cabbage, spinach, and pomegranate seeds. The wrap? Since Paleo means no flour, it was wrapped in an omelet! While it wasn’t authentic Danish cuisine in any way it has been one of my favorite meals since I’ve been here!

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Like I said before, I am not a huge fan of following any specific diet, I do think the Paleo diet has some good principles. For example, wrapping my sandwich with egg instead of flour adds much more protein to make for a more satisfying meal. It also helps you steer clear of some of the crazy, zillion letter chemicals that can be found in lots of processed foods. Just keep in mind, you don’t have to follow a diet of any kind to be healthy. Using principles of diets like Paleo to guide your eating patterns while still including some sweet treats and bread is a great way to have a well balanced diet.

As for my study abroad adventures, I am currently on a study tour with my core public health class in Western Denmark (Odense and Vejle) until Wednesday visiting various health care institutions across Denmark. Next stop: Brussels, Belgium on Friday with friends. Can’t wait to eat tons of waffles and chocolate!