Dietary Guidelines

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Parsnip – pasty but tasty!

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

parsnip  The parsnip – that pale and pasty relative to the carrot and the celery root.  They remind me slightly of a Vermonter’s legs during the winter months.  But, don’t let this straggly appearance fool you.  This winter vegetable has an intense, sweet, herbal flavor that lends a unique taste to dishes.  Parsnips pair well with pork, other root vegetables, and dark leafy greens.  When roasted, they caramelize on the outside and turn creamy within. Parsnips can also be used in baked good to give a spicy sweetness.

When buying parsnips, keep in mind that the small ones aren’t necessarily more tender. Choose fairly big ones (less peeling!) that are sweet-smelling, firm, and free of blemishes or soft spots. Avoid ones with a sprouting top. Parsnips will keep for weeks when stored in a crisper in a ventilated plastic bag.

To cook, first peel and trim as you would carrots. If you find one with a woody core, remove the core with a paring knife.  Parsnips are softer and quicker cooking than carrots.

So head to the store, grab yourself a bag of pale Vermonters’ legs, and give one of the following recipes a try!

 

Beef Stew with Potatoes and Parsnips

¼ cup all purpose flour

2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion, diced medium

4 garlic cloves, chopped

¼ cup tomato paste

1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise

1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into ½ by 2 inch pieces

1 tbsp white vinegar

 

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, season flour with salt and pepper. Coat beef in flour, shaking off excess. In a large heavy ovenproof pot, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium. In batches, brown beef on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon oil, onion, garlic, and tomato paste and sauté until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Add beef and any accumulated juices, potatoes, parsnips, 1 ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until meat is fork-tender, 1 hour. Stir in vinegar and serve.

 

 

Spiced Parsnip Cupcakes

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp ground cardamom or 1 ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp fine salt

¾ cup packed light-brown sugar

2 large eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tbsp vanilla extract, divided

2 cups grated parsnip (from 1 large peeled parsnip)

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

 

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, eggs, oil, 2 tsp vanilla, and parsnip. Stir in flour mixture.

Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners. Divide batter among cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

In a large bowl, with a mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, and remaining vanilla until combined. Spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

To store, refrigerate cupcakes in an airtight container, up to 2 days.

Carnivores

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

carnivore  Are carnivores doomed?  Red meat has earned a bad reputation in parts of the health community and media but is this a deserved pooh-pooh?  What is it about red meat that makes it so bad supposedly?

Research studies that try to find links between diet and disease have shown a repeated association between the intake of red meat and two major health conditions, heart disease and cancer. In these studies, those people that ate larger amounts of red meat tended to have a higher risk for both conditions.

Regarding heart disease, some of the proposed elements in red meat that are to blame are saturated fat, cholesterol, carnitine, choline, and/or heme iron content.  Studies have shown that an increased intake of each of these is related to an increased risk for heart disease; however, current thinking is leaning more heavily on excessive sugars and omega-6 fatty acids as the dietary factor most likely causing heart disease. 

There are two proposed explanations for the increased risk for cancer seen among meat-eaters.  Meats naturally contain nitrite and nitrate, both of which are believed to be carcinogenic.  Heterocyclic amines (HCAs), compounds which are formed on cooked meat and poultry, is the other component that could be to blame. HCAs have been shown to be carcinogenic in animals.

Bottom line: For whatever the reason, eating large amounts of red meat doesn’t appear to be the healthiest thing to do.  Most food eaten should be plant foods.  Limit your intake of red meats (beef, pork, and lamb) to no more than 18 oz (cooked weight) per week and completely avoid processed meats (ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs, and sausages.) Use the following tips to decrease the HCAs in your meats and poultry:

  • Marinate and then remove the marinade mix before cooking the meat and poultry.
  • Microwave for about 1 ½ – 2 minutes and pour off the juices before cooking on the grill to decrease the grilling time.
  • Try seafood instead of meat or poultry.  Seafood won’t have as many HCAs.
  • Keep meat and poultry moist. Drier and more well done meats contain more HCAs.
  • Bake, roast, or stir fry. These cooking techniques make less HCAs than grilling.
  • Flip frequently. Turning meat and poultry over every minute can cut HCAs down by 75-90 percent because the surface temperature stays lower.
  • Toss the pan drippings because they can contain more HCAs than the meat or poultry itself.
  • Cook in liquid by boiling, steaming, poaching, or stewing.  These techniques create no HCAs because the temperature never tops the boiling point of water.
  • Eat vegetables which make no, or very few, HCAs

Dietitians NEVER eat bad food. Ever. Right?

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

oreos   I heart double stuff Oreos. And – are you ready for this – I also eat them. Shocked?? Many people are often quite shocked to hear that a dietitian would consume Oreos and, that said dietitian would also admit to this in written print. It is true that Oreos are a pretty sugary, processed, nutritional zero of a food, one of those types of foods often referred to as “bad” or “junk” food. That being said, allowing oneself to include foods such as Oreos in the diet, is a key element to healthy, functional eating because there are no bad foods, only bad amounts.  Whole foods with minimal processing tend to be more nutrient dense and should make up the vast majority of the diet. If this is the case, adding the occasional less nutritious food won’t throw off the overall average intake. For example, a bad amount of Oreos would be to eat them many times a week or in large quantities, particularly if not physically hungry.  Teach your child this tidbit of nutritional wisdom to help them understand the concept of moderation.

Calcium supplements

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

A recent study out of Sweden found that long term use of a calcium supplement was associated with a higher risk for heart disease in middle-aged women. No similar increased risk was seen among women who met their daily calcium needs from diet alone.  Previous research has also shown a link between calcium supplements and heart attacks – so what’s the deal, are calcium supplements doing more harm then good?

Like all things in nutrition, research studies should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.  Nutrition is a new science and we are far from understanding how best to feed ourselves.  Until further studies are conducted, the best strategy is to get calcium predominantly from your diet.  See below for a list of sources.  Obtaining your nutrients from the foods that naturally contain them are always your best bet. If a supplement is needed, such as for severe osteoporosis, reduce the dosage to the smallest level needed. 

 Dietary sources of calcium:

Dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese)

Soy products (soymilk, tofu, soybeans)

Dark green vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, bok choy, okra, collards)

Sardines, canned salmon (with bones)

Blackstrap molasses

Almonds

Beans, chickpeas

Caffeine Buzz Kill

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

 Time was, a person looking for a caffeine buzz headed for a cup of coffee or can of soda.  These days, all kinds of things are being caffeinated. There are drinks such as Monster Energy Drink, concentrated drinks, such as 5 hour Energy Shot, and even inhalable caffeinated products, such as AeroShot.  Frito Lay, the makers of that carmelized popcorn with the toy inside, Cracker Jacks, recently released a new line of caffeinated snacks, called Cracker Jack’d. A popular product in this line is Perky Jerky, a caffeinated beef jerky.

 Is there really a need for these products by our body? The answer is no. Caffeine is a stimulant drug with an addictive quality that can vary greatly among people based upon genetic differences. In addition to being a stimulant, caffeine blocks a chemical that helps calm the brain. When this chemical is blocked, stress hormones increase. Increased stress hormones can increase insulin resistance and fat storage, suggesting a link to obesity and diabetes.  Caffeine also increases water loss from the body, increasing risk for dehydration.  Sleep deprivation is also linked to caffeine use – aren’t we all always looking for more sleep?

 These caffeinated products create the need for more caffeine, ensuring a quite profitable demand curve for manufacturers. Unfortunately, this “need” for a buzz is being created in younger and younger children. According to the Journal of Pediatrics, at least 75% of children surveyed consumed caffeine on a daily basis. Researchers at the University of Buffalo have been studying the effects of caffeine on adolescents and their studies have shown that teens, particularly teenage boys, can quickly become “addicted” to caffeine even after being exposed to it for a short period of time. They have found that it was not the marketing or taste of caffeinated products that drew teenagers in but the caffeine itself. Once exposed to caffeine, researchers found that teens were sometimes so motivated to get more that they resorted to behaviors including lying and stealing. 

 The Food and Drug Administration does not require the caffeine content to be stated on the package, raising concern about the total amount of caffeine being consumed daily, particularly with the new surge in caffeine-containing food products. Consumers, particularly children, are often unaware of how much caffeine they are ingesting. Consider the caffeine (in mg) in these few products:

 22 oz NOS High Performance Energy Drink: 357 mg

16 oz Monster Energy Drink: 160 mg

9.5 oz Starbucks Frappuccino: 115 mg

6 oz coffee: 80 mg

8.4 oz Amp energy drink: 74 mg

12 oz Mountain Dew: 54 mg

16 oz Snapple (peach): 42 mg

12 oz Coca-Cola: 35

8 oz hot cocoa: 9 mg

 Talk to your kids about caffeine.  Teach them that it is a drug with an addictive effect. If nothing else, talk to your teens about the dangers of drinking caffeinated alcoholic drinks, products which have resulted in numerous hospitalizations. And, while talking about all this, try not to do so while snuggling with your own cup of Starbucks.

Getting your kids off their keister

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

 Take advantage of these fabulous fall days to get outside and get moving!  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends (how many times have you heard this??) at least 60 minutes of activity each day.  No one argues that it can require some effort and creativity to get in the full 60 minutes some days BUT the benefits and importance of staying active should push this up the priority list.  Setting limits on sedentary behavior, such as video games, computer, and television time can help open up more time for staying active.  Use reward charts to help motivate your children to do something active without nagging.  Be a good role model yourself and encourage your children to join in if they are able.  Remember, staying active doesn’t just mean going to the gym.  Play tag or monkey in the middle, kick around a soccer ball, find some youtube videos that can teach some new dance moves and get your groove on, squeeze in an after dinner family walk, bike or walk to the store instead of taking the car – get moving!

Donuts are more fattening than chicken – true or false?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

   False. Donuts do contain more fat than chicken but it is the calories, not the fat content that determines if the food is fattening or not.  Any calories (energy) eaten beyond the amount needed by the body are saved by the body. The body stores excess calories (energy) in the form of body fat.  Body fat is, in essence, the body’s rainy day fund.  So, if you eat 100 calories of donuts or 100 calories of chicken and these are 100 more calories than your body burns, the 100 calories are turned to fat.  Dietary fat does provide more calories (energy) per gram, thus making foods high in fat high in calories as well and more likely to tip your energy balance toward
weight gain.

Calorie confusion

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

  A calorie is a measure of energy.  Calories are the energy that fuels our body, similar to the way gasoline fuels our car.

One calorie of energy is the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.  One calorie from fat has the same amount of energy as one calorie from protein or one calorie from carbohydrate. To determine the number of calories (or energy) provided by a certain food, the food is placed in a sealed container and burned.  The amount of heat generated indicates the caloric content of the food.

Understanding the amount of calories needed by your each day and how that compares with the amount of calories you are taking in is very important in meeting your personal health goals.

“8”

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Years ago, it was pretty much just the talk of athletes. Then, Dr. Atkins brought it to the forefront.  Now, everyone is asking for it.

What is this increasingly popular nutrient?  Protein. Protein is known as the basic building block of the body because it plays a role in virtually all structures and functions in the body.    A protein is made up from a set of 20 amino acids, of which 9 cannot be made by the body and must be supplied by the diet.

How much protein do most people need?  In general, most people after the age of 15 need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight.  For example, a 70 kg healthy woman needs 56 grams of protein daily (70 x 0.8 = 56).  Protein needs increase in situations of growth such as childhood, muscle building, and wound repair.   For example, a child aged 7-10 or a casual athlete would need 1.0 grams per kilogram of their body weight.

How much protein is in one serving of food?  On average, there are 7 grams of protein per egg, per serving of nuts and nut butters, per ounce of meat, pork, or fish, and per serving of cheese.  Tofu and beans deliver 8 grams of protein per serving.  Milk and yogurt also weigh in with a high protein content of 8 grams per servings but aren’t often classified as a protein because they contain a lower ratio of protein to carbohydrate and fat content.

A general rule of thumb for protein is to make a protein food comprise ¼ of your plate.  It is recommended to choose a plant-based protein at least twice a week and a fish at least twice a week as well.  And, be sure to include a protein with snacks.  Protein takes longer to digest and aren’t cavity-producing so protein-rich snacks will keep the stomach full longer and the teeth enamel stronger when compared to carbohydrate-only snacks.

“7”

Monday, July 25th, 2011

On NBC’s popular reality show, “The Biggest Loser,” contestants compete to lose the most amount of weight.  Each episode ends with a climatic weigh-in where contestants reveal the amount of weight they have lost since last week’s episode.  In these reveals, it is not unusual to see weight losses in the teens and even as high as twenty-odd pounds.   Hmmmm.  Are there any reality shows on television that are actually close to reality?

The reality is that in 7 days, the most amount of weight that should be lost is 1-2 pounds.  Any more than that is not only unhealthy, but it is also not “true” body mass but mainly fluid losses.  Furthermore, that degree of loss is usually achieved through extreme actions and changes in routine.  For example, exercising for 4+ hours a day or dropping caloric intake from 2200 to 1000 calories per day.  These changes are more often than not hard to sustain.  Thus, the actions or changes do not last and the weight is regained.

As this show climbs in popularity, I have noticed a trend in my clients to expecting similar results in their weight loss efforts.  They feel frustration and disappointment time and time again if they don’t lose more than ten pounds in a week.   I encourage these clients to do two things.  First, focus on the positive changes you feel as a result of the healthy changes made.  For example, are your pants more comfortable?  Are you sleeping better or feeling less short of breath?  Are you feeling more energy?  The second thing that I encourage my clients to do is change the station.   Television shows, such as The Biggest Loser, are not based in reality and create false expectations that lead to eventual disappointment in people trying to lose weight.