2/11/08- 2/15/08


Friday, February 15, 2008

Keep Fresh with Fruits and Veggies

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I did it. Yep, I ate two-thirds of a piece of chocolate cake. Talk about calorie-dense! A good buddy cooked a wonderful steak, some fresh veggies and a tomato soup to die for. I may have exceeded the 2,200 calories, but it was Valentine’s Day. Now I may have to extend my walk to 20 miles to even out the calorie intake/calorie burned ratio.

For dinner my buddy prepared fresh asparagus with a wonderful sauce. I love fresh vegetables. But in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I resort to canned and frozen stuff from time to time (actually, more than I want to admit). That stuff in the can or from the frozen food section just isn’t as good. I did a little research and found that canned and frozen foods are very good, but there are some things you should watch for.   

First, read the labels. The fruit or vegetable product may be fine, but what is packed in with it? If it is a fruit with heavy syrup, you may want to drain the syrup before serving. If is a canned good, you may want to watch the salt content. Read the label and make a smart choice about what you prepare. Also, examine the label carefully to see what has been added to preserve the product. Look for excess salt, fat and sugar. Read the label.

Second, inspect the package. Make sure the canned goods are not leaking or bulging. Either one is a potential problem. If it is a frozen product, make sure the product is still firm. Defrost frozen vegetables properly and consume them in a timely manner once defrosted. Frozen products lose quality quickly. Inspect the package.

I still prefer the fresh. For example, imagine the fresh Louisiana strawberries that are becoming available. There is no comparison between the fresh berry and one from a frozen food section. No comparison whatsoever.

The USDA has several publications with guidelines on how to buy frozen fruits and vegetables. 

Maybe if I carry a heavy backpack, I can get away with only a 10-mile walk today to make up for the chocolate cake. Aren’t we out of holidays for awhile? I’m holidayed out!

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Most of the time we recommend using fresh fruits and vegetables, but frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can be a good substitute for fresh. They can stay in the freezer or in the pantry for a long time and are, therefore, convenient to have around if fresh produce is not available. They are handy to have around in an emergency. They are already clean; they are ready to be used straight out of the can or a box.

Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are picked at peak ripening times, and they are processed quickly to preserve as much of the nutrients as possible. Therefore, nutritionally they are healthy products. There are many different types of frozen preparations of both fruits and vegetables in the grocer’s freezer, some healthier than others. Watch out for vegetables that have added fats such as butter or cheese sauce. They most likely have a lot of added salt too. If you buy frozen, look for the plain fruits or a vegetables without any added sauces. They have the least salt, sugar and fat.

Canned fruits and vegetables are inexpensive and are often on sale. They are particularly handy to have at camps because they are ready to go straight out of the can. Most canned vegetables have too much salt, unless you can find low salt variety. So it is a good idea to drain the vegetables and rinse them under cold water to remove any excess sodium. Canned fruits are stored in water, fruits juice or sugar solution. Opt for the ones stored in water to limit the intake of sugars.

When you buy frozen products, make sure that the packaging is original, is sealed and does not have cuts or leaks. Make sure cans don’t leak, bulge or have dents before buying the product.

Heli Roy


Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Little Chocolate Goes a Long Way

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Today is a serious chocolate day. Temptations abound. We’re like Forest Gump trying to decide which chocolate candies we like and which we don’t. By now you know the approach I plan to take. Share in a little chocolate treat but in moderation. I will not eat the whole box of chocolate turtles. Even with permission to consume in moderation, I still would like to remove all the guilt regarding this chocolate holiday. Are their good qualities in chocolate?

I did find some interesting things in the Pennington Nutrition Series published by the LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Cacao beans contain a lot of antioxidants called polyphenols. Learn about the healthful qualities in the nutritionist’s response below. Unfortunately, many sources of cacoa polyphenols are foods high in fat and heavy in calories. 

After reading all the stuff about cocoa and chocolate and their products, it appears to me that while these products are a dream to consume, their nutritional impact is not helpful if over-consumed. We all know that we will enjoy a piece of chocolate from time to time, but like many other food products, moderation is the nutrition rule.

Enjoy some chocolate today with a loved one and do so without guilt. I plan to do just that and keep in strict moderation. The saying that you can’t eat just one chocolate turtle is a myth. I know that and today will prove it to myself. Perhaps if I keep telling myself that, then I will be successful in eating just one.

Fresh fruit and veggies are wonderful. But what about those in cans and frozen? I will let you know what I found out in tomorrow’s blog

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

The Aztecs used cacao beans – from which we get cocoa that is made into chocolate – as currency. A potion made of pulverized cacao beans and chili peppers was a food of the gods or consumed only by the priests and royalty in the Aztec culture. Cacao was used in sacred ceremonies. It was part of many medicines and was used to invigorate the nervous system, improve digestion and treat burns, cuts and skin irritations. The pulverized cacao bean contains a lot of antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols subdue oxidants known as free radicals. Oxidation has been linked to aging and to degenerative changes seen in arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Foods have been assessed for the capacity to subdue oxidants and are given a rating called Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity or ORAC. Dark chocolate has one of the highest ORAC values in foods. The darker the chocolate, the higher the value.

  • Dark chocolate 13,120
  • Milk chocolate 6,740
  • Blueberries 2,400

Different types of chocolate have different amounts of cacao, which results in a wide variation in antioxidant content. Cacao content can range from 7% to 35% in milk chocolate to 30% to 80% in dark chocolate. Cocoa consumption has the same effect as aspirin. It reduces platelet aggregation. It can also reduce lipid oxidation in the bloodstream – one of the problems that results in atherosclerosis and heart disease. Inflammation is believed to be behind chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, heart failure, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and cancer. Cacao polyphenols reduce inflammation by reducing inflammatory chemicals in the body.

One of the negative sides of chocolate is its fat content. And the fat in chocolate is mostly saturated fat to keep it solid at room temperature. Although cacao has excellent polyphenols that eliminate oxidants, it is a good idea to limit the amount of chocolate eaten at a time to reduce the intake of calories and fat. Using cocoa powder in foods without the additional fat is the best way to get the beneficial antioxidants without getting the fat.

Heli Roy

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Go For Healthy Snacks

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Is there such a thing as a healthy snack? Or is “healthy snack” an oxymoron? And, why do we snack? Is it a conditioned response? We even snack when we are not hungry. Have you snacked while cooking? Doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? But we might as well face it, snacks are here to stay, and we need to find out what are the healthy snacks and which ones are not.

I take the safe approach with snacking – most of the time. Almonds and fruit with an occasional cracker or two or three. I like peanut butter and, in moderation, peanut butter and crackers, when I just have to have little something. Since the nutritionists recommended that I incorporate more fruit, I use bananas and other natural fruits for snacks. I try to avoid candy and those calorie-dense snacks. I prefer salt to sweet and have just had to eliminate salty snacks from my arsenal of items. I haven’t had a potato chip in four months. I have even had to drastically curtail my craving from French fries.

You do get a free pass for tomorrow – in moderation, of course. Valentine’s Day is ripe for chocolate snacking. Enjoy a small sampling of chocolate with your favorite special person.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Snacks can be an important part of a healthful diet and help you manage weight, hunger, health and energy. Eating small healthy snacks between meals helps with weight loss by preventing excessive hunger that may lead to overeating.

Healthy snacks are nutrient-dense, which means they are rich in important nutrients that contribute to meeting your nutritional needs. Try these healthy, nutrient-dense snack ideas from the MyPyramid food groups:

Grain foods supply carbohydrates, some B-vitamins, iron and fiber. Choose whole-grains more often.

  • Wheat crackers topped with low-fat cheese slices
  • Whole-wheat pita with hummus
  • Air-popped popcorn topped with Italian seasonings and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese
  • Trail mix...ready-to-eat cereals mixed with raisins or other dried fruit
  • Baked tortilla chips topped with salsa

Veggies supply beta-carotene, folate, vitamin C, carbohydrate and fiber.

  • Vegetable sticks such as carrot, celery, green pepper, cucumber or squash with low-fat salad dressing
  • Blanched broccoli, green beans, or sugar peas with low fat dip (immerse veggies in boiling water for three minutes and then chill)
  • A small salad with sliced deli meat, tuna or beans
  • Vegetable soup

Fruits provide beta-carotene, folate, vitamin C, carbohydrate and fiber.

  • Apple slices spread thin with peanut butter on apple slices
  • Fruit as a whole, sliced or in sections
  • Canned fruits packed in juice
  • Fruit juice

Milk is a rich source of protein, calcium and vitamin D.

  • Milk shakes made with fruit and skim milk
  • Yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
  • String cheese or individually wrapped slices of low fat cheese

Meat and Beans
Meat and beans provide protein, iron, zinc, thiamine, niacin and vitamin B-12. Snacks containing a small amount of protein will help you stay fueled longer.

  • Hard-cooked egg
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Bean dip spread thin on crackers

In addition, a variety of healthy snacks now come packaged in single-serving portions. So go ahead and snack. Just make sure you choose wisely.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spice It Up

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OK, I grew up in the Midwest where, when you spiced up your food, that meant you put salt and black pepper on it. When I moved here, did I get an education about spices and spicy food! The reason I mention spices is that when you start a nutrition program, with weight loss as one of your goals, you may think you’re doomed to eating bland food. You know the old adage, “if the food tastes good, it isn’t good for you.” When I started this nutrition program, I thought the same. But, I’ve been able to learn a little more about spices beyond salt and pepper, and I find that not only do certain spices offer taste to food, many provide positive properties. If used properly, some are actually good for you.

Take garlic, for example. While we often joke about garlic, not only does it add to taste, it also is one of the best-known and widely used herbal medicines. It is reported to fight infection and is a natural antibiotic. It also appears to have some effect on reducing cholesterol and reducing high blood pressure. I was fixing a dish for Mardi Gras that I found in a local newspaper, and it called for a whole bulb of garlic. I should be infection-free for years to come.

I found that one of my favorite spices, cayenne pepper, reduces achy joints. At my age anything that relieves achy joints and improves any food as good a cayenne pepper does is a good spice to use in cooking. Some reports also indicate that not only does cayenne pepper help those creaky joints, it also increases metabolism and fat burning ability by up to 25 percent. Another one of the hot ones that I like with my sushi is wasabi. It is often credited with helping prevent ulcers – it kills some of the bacteria that cause ulcers – and may also prevent tooth decay.

There are many spices out there, some of which I didn’t even know were spices. Just imagine what healthy benefits one could have if you could invent a tasty dish, low in calories and filled with garlic, cayenne pepper and served with wasabi.

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment. We get used to eating something a certain way and don’t venture out too far. Because I include a lot of chicken breast into my nutrition plan, I look for different ways to prepare and spice up the chicken. Yes, I’ve tried garlic, cayenne pepper and wasabi. But in the end it does still taste like chicken.

I’m always looking for healthy snacks . I have eaten enough almonds now to sink a small aircraft carrier. Let’s explore healthy snacks tomorrow.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and I know you are thinking about how to have a little chocolate and stay on your plan. Is a little chocolate good for you?

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Cuisines around the word have formed because of the types of spices and herbs used in local foods. If you think about preparing Italian food, you almost cannot prepare it without tomatoes, garlic, basil and oregano. Moroccan food is made up of a combination of Middle Eastern and African spices. Indian curries are made up of coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and cloves, while we associate ginger and soy sauce with most Asian foods. Here in Louisiana, our wonderful cuisine is a blend of many cultures and incorporates spices and herbs in a unique blend. We use garlic, thyme, black and red pepper, bay leaves and marjoram and more.

Many spices have what are called volatile components that have health benefits. Cinnamon is under study for helping regulate blood glucose and insulin levels. Cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity, and it actually may slow the absorption of carbohydrates from the small intestines so that we don’t get a large increase in blood glucose after a meal. Cinnamon is also effective in reducing blood lipid levels. Intake of cinnamon has resulted in reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Garlic has been used as an antimicrobial and as a cure for many ailments throughout history. Garlic seems to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease; it stimulates the immune system; it restores physical strength; and it can help against sun damage. Ginger has been used for motion sickness, but research shows that it has anti-inflammatory properties. It can reduce blood pressure, blood clotting and blood cholesterol levels. Ginger also has antimicrobial properties. Ginger has a component 6-gingerol that is effective in preventing tumor formation. Another component in ginger is effective in reducing the inflammation of arthritis.

Turmeric is a colorful, yellow spice used in Indian cuisine. Turmeric has strong antioxidant activities similar to vitamins C and E. Studies have demonstrated that turmeric is effective in inhibiting cancer formation at three stages: during tumor promotion, angiogenesis or blood vessel formation, and tumor growth. Turmeric also enhances wound healing by preventing viral, fungus and bacterial growth. Turmeric is studied for possible prevention and treatment of certain diseases like cancer, chronic inflammation and atherosclerosis.

There are other spices as well that have these volatile components: cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, saffron and fenugreek, just to name a few. It is a great idea to experiment with spices when cooking. They add taste and they have components that can improve health.

Heli Roy


Monday, February 11, 2008

Get Cooking Kid!--Guest Blogger

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( Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blog is from 18-year-old Lauren Ogles, a 4-H’er from Ouachita Parish who has embarked on a one-person campaign to limit childhood obesity. She has developed a workshop aimed at fellow 4-H’ers called “Get Cooking, Kid!” So far, she’s taught more than 200 students and created her own Web site – www.getcookingkid.com – which includes her teaching materials and recipes. In January, she was invited to do a guest interview for celebrity chef Rachael Ray’s Web site. The interview is in the Incredible People Archive. Go to the Rachael Ray Show .)

Because I have been involved in 4-H nutrition programs since the 4th grade, I have learned how to eat a balanced diet and be healthy. Because of this education and my love for cooking, I plan to attend culinary school to become a chef. Because I love cooking so much, I have decided to try to teach others about what I know. I want to help others with what I am concerned most – childhood obesity. There are so many problems with childhood obesity, and prevention is the answer.

With this in mind, I created the “ Get Cooking, Kid! ” workshop. The workshop is geared toward 4th through 6th grade students who learn to prepare very easy, nutritious and fun dishes. In my workshop, I also incorporate the Food Guide Pyramid , food label information and portion control guidelines. I also show the students that exercise can become part of their daily routine. Some kids go home and watch TV while eating a whole bag of chips or a half gallon of ice cream. I want to show them what a real serving of these foods looks like so they know the difference and can make the right choices.

I have been teaching this workshop for over three years. Recently, I got some help with this project as a delegate to the John Deere Leaders Academy in Washington, D.C. While there, I learned about how to take my project to the next level and create a more defined project plan. I have now begun to teach others how to present this workshop themselves. My excitement about my project is growing as I have had opportunities to speak about my project to national audiences including the 2006 National 4-H Conference and the Rachael Ray Talk Show . In March, I will again have this national opportunity. I will present my workshop to the National Afterschool Association Conference.

The workshop is not only fun for the kids, it’s fun for me. I enjoy seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces at the end of the workshop because they realize they made all these wonderful dishes all by themselves. My hope is that if I teach these kids what to do and they begin to make healthy choices that they will show other kids how to make healthy choices, and this will just keep growing and growing.

Lauren Ogles

Nutritionist’s Response

One of the best ways to get children to eat many different types of foods is to get them excited about cooking. Many times children show interest in cooking but we do not take the time to show them what to do because we are in a hurry. However, once children learn some basics, they can go far in being able to prepare simple dishes. Not only will they be able to prepare foods, but also the skills they learn in the kitchen can translate to other areas in their lives. They become more confident about their abilities. They can be more independent in many ways. Once they learn how to prepare simple foods, their own diet will improve because they will be able to see how foods are prepared. They will want to go to the grocery store and help buy their own vegetables and fruits and other foods to prepare. Preparing some simple dishes for a snack or a meal is much healthier than reaching for most prepared snack foods. Not only is it an excellent idea to teach children how to cook, but once they become young adults and move out on their own, they will be able to prepare their own meals. They won’t have to depend on ready-made meals or restaurants meals. It will save them money, and they will be healthier as well.

Heli Roy

2/10/2009 1:16:36 AM
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