Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gout on the Rise in the US!

Did you know that gout, a type of arthritis, effects 4% of the US population?  A disease once thought of as the disease of kings plagues an estimated 12.5 million Americans.  True, some cases of gout are genetic but it has been associated with opulence for centuries for a reason: lifestyle plays a huge factor!

Gout is characterized by the painful build-up of uric acid in the joints due to either trouble eliminating uric acid (90%) or by making too much uric acid (10% of cases).  Uric acid is the break-down product of alcohol, especially beer, red meat and refined sugars so the easiest way to prevent a gout attack is to cut down on those offending foods.  You may even loose weight in the process!

NPR recently did a study on the rising rate of gout in the United States.  Click here to listen.

I hope you find it as fascinating as I did!

Monday, July 25, 2011

2011 Meat Eater's Guide from the Environmental Working Group

2011 Meat Eater's Guide from the Environmental Working Group

Do you eat meat and dairy?  Do you eat it occasionally, or for every meal?  Where does your meat come from?

The 2011 Meat Eater's Guide from the Environmental Working Group examines the impact of meat and dairy production on the environment and provides guidelines on what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.  There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint and everyone seems to have a different opinion; the Environmental Working Group's is just one perspective.  A quick internet search reveals organizations criticizing the EWG... and organizations criticizing those organizations!  The dairy council, beef council and tobacco industry are not pleased with the EWG's opinion, and many call it flat out wrong.

So, assuming you choose to accept the Environmental Working Group's findings, do you need to become a vegetarian?  In my opinion, no.  You can eat less, and in this country of plenty it turns out we need to eat less of just about everything. Why not eat less of those foods that appear to damage the environment and our health?

The bottom line seems to be this: eat meat and dairy, but perhaps eat a little less, and choose grass-fed and organic over CAFO-raised animals.  (CAFO: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or industrial factory farms)

Here are the highlights for those of you who want them:
  • Over one year, if everyone in the US ate no meat or dairy 1 day a week, it would be equivalent to taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
  • Production of lamb, beef and cheese generates the most greenhouse gases.  In fact, beef production creates 13 times the emissions of vegetarian protein sources, such as lentils and beans.
  • Cheese, pound for pound, created the third highest greenhouse emissions, so reducing meat consumption isn't enough.
  • Humans are exposed to toxins, hormones and antibiotics through meat and dairy consumption, which are associated with cancer and antibiotic resistant infections.
  • High red meat consumption is associated with cancer and heart disease.

What can you do with this info?  Here are three additional suggestions:
  • Use dairy as a garnish rather than a main dish and switch from cow's milk to rice, almond or soy milk for your morning breakfast and latte.
  • Eat meat for one meal a day instead of all three.  Eat no more than four ounces at a sitting, and make up the difference in calories with legumes, veggies and nuts.
  • Purchase grass-fed meat and dairy.
If you have the opportunity to play around on the 2011 Meat Eater's Guide website, they've created some amazing graphics to illustrate exactly how greenhouse emissions are created and what you can do to improve your carbon footprint.  Check it out, come back here, and let me know what you're going to do with the information--if anything!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Healthy Breakfast using the MyPlate Model

Scrambled Eggs on Corn Tortillas with Avocado and Peppers

Over a month ago, a request came in from a loyal reader to do a post on what a healthy breakfast looks like.  With little fanfare and a slightly red face, I finally bring you the MyPlate breakfast!  My only excuse is that life has been busy at FoodWise Nutrition and next month (barring natural disaster or spontaneous vacations), I hope to unveil super secret project X!

Scrambled Eggs on Corn Tortillas with Avocado and Peppers (MyPlate View!)
Enough about me, on to breakfast.

The basic principle of creating a healthy breakfast is to pair a fruit and/or veggie with a protein and carbohydrate.  Choose foods you love that you know you can put together in the time you have.  Breakfasts on weekends may look very different than breakfasts during the week, and that's OK.

Bob's Red Mill GF Cereal with Strawberries and Walnuts

So, why should you eat breakfast?

Our metabolisms don't get going until we put food in our bodies.  It's the equivalent of filling up an empty gas tank: the car isn't going to move until it has something to burn!  We can all function (sort of) without breakfast, but until you actually eat, your metabolism is going to stay depressed and burn fewer calories.  That's especially bad news for weight maintenance.

Egg and Avocado on Udi's Whole Grain Bread with Apples

Why should you eat protein with breakfast?

We use protein to build our bodies, and protein (along with fat) keeps us full longer.  Have you ever noticed how quickly you get hungry if you just have a fruit smoothie for breakfast?  Eating protein also allows us to eat fewer carbohydrates.  We use carbs for energy (and you need to eat them, despite what Atkins disciples say), but eating too many carbs leads to sluggishness and weight gain.  Do you feel better if you have a breakfast of eggs and toast with fruit, or waffles with strawberries and whipped cream?

Poached Egg with Chard and Steamed Potaotes

Finally, how do you include veggies with your breakfast?

Despite popular belief, breakfast doesn't have to be made up of special breakfast foods.  You can eat your leftover dinner for breakfast.  Really!  If that doesn't sound appealing quite yet, try sauteed greens or a veggie scramble.  If I have leftover chard or kale, I often throw a poached egg on top.  Or if you're making scrambled eggs, just throw in some diced zucchini and peppers.

Poached Egg with Chard and Steamed Potaotes

You'll notice these photos are egg-heavy because I ate all the food after taking pictures, and I eat a lot of eggs!  So, what didn't I take pictures of?  Well...
  • Peanut butter on whole grain toast with fresh berries
  • Eggs scrambled with mushrooms and peppers with melon
  • Cream cheese and lox with tomatoes
  • Yogurt with granola and nuts
  • Cereal with milk, nuts and berries

Bob's Red Mill GF Cereal with Strawberries and Walnuts

It's important to note that like any other meal, breakfast requires a touch of your mental energy and a bit of preparation time.  I can prepare a poached egg with toast and fruit in about 5 minutes and that's my standard, quick breakfast.  Another trick is to prepare a big batch of breakfast food, say hot cereal, and then reheat it in the microwave.

What are you favorite breakfasts?  How do you incorporate vegetables into your first meal?
What's your breakfast challenge?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Grilled Ratatouille

Summer in the Pacific Northwest has been elusive, but the sun is out NOW so we’d best break out the grill while we can!

Since my previous post oh-so-long ago on the new MyPlate model, I've been working on getting half my plate full of veggies.  I know that the federal government's picture shows part fruit and part veggies on one half of the plate, but I don't think fruit belongs at every meal. To shore up the difference, I fill up the entire side with delectable vegetables instead!

Grilled Ratatouille (with Carne Asada from Trader Joe's)
You may notice that this particular plate doesn't have a grain or starch.  I chose to have wine with my meal and used that as my carbohydrate.  It's important to remember that booze has 7 calories per gram (protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram) and tons of sugar.  In the context of a healthy diet it's reasonable to eat a whole grain with your meal, but remember to drink a reasonable portion when consuming liquor as well. 

How does alcohol fit into your meal plan? 

In the Beginning...

We've been doing a lot of our shopping at Trader Joe's for the price and variety.  I love seasonal, fresh produce, but a girl can only eat kale and cabbage for so many months without going a little bonkers! We'll start going back to the farmer's markets again now that the selection is improving, but we're going to continue to do some of our shopping at Trader Joe's because fresh produce can be expensive!  Just because you can't afford the organic everything doesn't mean you shouldn't eat enough fruits and veggies.  Wash your produce well and enjoy the bonanza of colors and textures vegetables have to offer, wherever you buy them!

Where do you like to buy your produce?

Grilled Ratatouille

Grilled Ratatouille

1 large eggplant
3 medium zucchini
1 large fennel bulb
½ pound cherry tomatoes
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 clove garlic, crushed

  1. Cut eggplant into ¾-inch thick rounds and zucchini into ½-inch thick rounds.  Chop the bottom off the fennel bulb and cut vertically into ¼-inch thick slices.  Thread tomatoes onto a wooden or metal skewer.
  2. Lightly coat all veggies with olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. 
  3. Grill over medium heat, turning vegetables once during cooking.  Grill eggplant 8 to 10 minutes, zucchini 8 to 10 minutes, fennel 7 to 9 minutes and tomatoes 3 minutes.
  4. To make the sauce combine balsamic vinegar, basil, thyme and garlic.
  5. Remove veggies from grill, cool slightly, and cut into bite-size pieces.  Toss with sauce and serve warm.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated July & August 2011