Friday, May 4, 2012

Killer Kale

Ingredients for Kale Pesto!

You have probably figured it out by now, but Kale is all the rage these days.  It’s as trendy as skinny jeans.  It’s all over at the farmers markets, in grocery stores, and in restaurants.  And not without good reason.  Kale packs quite a nutrition punch.  It’s loaded with vitamin K, A, and C and chock full of a variety of minerals, antioxidants and fiber.  Other health properties are it’s anti-inflammatory effects on the body and cancer-preventive glucosinolate compounds.  So, if I haven’t convinced you yet, you should be eating this stuff! 

The next question  Kale can have quite bitter flavors and may taste less than appealing to the average crowd.  Adding a bit of lemon or vinegar to sautéed kale can combat some of the bitter qualities, but for some people that is not enough. 

I started experimenting with different ways of using kale so I could come up with something that everyone would enjoy!  Below are two different ways of preparing kale that will knock anyone’s socks off. 
The finished pesto sauce...looks good, right?

1) Kale Pesto

Who doesn’t like pesto?  I simply replaced the basil with kale in this recipe to make a delicious pesto sauce for sandwiches, pasta, or pizzas!  Here is a great recipe… the only changes I made were: 1) dry roasting the walnuts in the oven instead of in a frying pan 2) Adding a splash of lemon juice

I tossed the pesto with some homemade gnocchi and sundried tomatoes- Delish!

2) Kale Chips

If you haven’t tried Kale chips yet you are missing out.  They are crunchy and flavorful…you could eat a whole head of kale! 
Crunchy Kale Chips

Here is the recipe I used:

1 cup cashews

1/2 red bell pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
¼ cup water

Throw all that in the food processor until it makes a creamy sauce.  Wash and trim the stems off of a bunch of kale. (You can use any kind you like; there are so many varieties!) Tear or cut leaves into smaller pieces. Dip the kale leaves into the sauce, and place onto cookie sheets.  Bake at the lowest setting on your oven for 2-3 hours until crispy!  Yum! 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Skinny on Fat

There are a lot of people out there that think, if I eat fat, then I will get fat. And rightfully so, I mean they are both the same word. Fat in food = fat on the body. Well readers, I am here to tell you, not so.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day; we were talking about low-fat muffins. If you take the fat out of a muffin, what is left? Flour and sugar. Not a good combination. Once that fat free muffin hits your digestive tract it is rapidly absorbed into your blood stream, causing blood sugar and insulin to spike. Fat helps slow down digestion and your blood sugar will remain more stable over a longer period of time. So, although that muffin with fat may have more calories, it may prevent you from eating another one later on, when your blood sugar plummets. Or it may help you only eat one instead of two because fat increases feelings of fullness. But I digress; because we all know that there are better things to eat than muffins, fat-free or full of fat.

Fat is necessary in the body for so many reasons. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. This means they need dietary fat to be absorbed by the body. If you are drinking vitamin A and D fortified skim milk, good luck getting any of that A and D.

Did you also know that our brains are made of 75% fat? This is the primary reason why doctors recommend that little ones need whole milk until age 2, while their brains are rapidly developing. But guess what? The brain doesn’t stop developing until adolescence, or perhaps even later in life according to this study. So why do we recommend low fat for kids past the age of 2?

The cell walls in our body are made of fat, both saturated fat for structure and polyunsaturated for fluidity. This helps with cell signaling, and proper metabolism. In addition, fat keeps our hair and skin supple and soft instead of dry and brittle.

Getting back to the muffins, fat in the diet also increases feelings of fullness and may help us eat fewer calories over time, which is how to promote weight loss. In 2005, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health studied weight and milk consumption in children ages 9 to 14. They found that skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, while dairy fat was not.

Yet plenty of registered dietitians promote fat free products like skim milk and suggest removing egg yolks from eggs. When will nutrition professionals stop suggesting these ridiculous ideas and start teaching people how to eat more whole, natural foods that include fat as a part of a healthy balanced diet? We need to end fat phobia and start focusing on limiting items in the diet that truly lead to weight gain and poor health, like added sugar and processed food.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

I have people ask me all the time, “why wont my kid eat vegetables?” Getting your child to eat a healthy balanced diet can be a challenge, but here are a few tricks of the trade that will help you to raise a healthy, independent eater!

1) Eat vegetables yourself! Why on earth would a child eat a green mysterious looking vegetable on his or her plate if there is none on yours? Children learn by example, and if Mom and Dad aren’t excited about vegetables, it is certain that your child wont be either. Don’t like vegetables yourself? To get the whole family started on a veggie kick, start with simple, familiar, less bitter choices like carrots, sweet potatoes, romaine lettuce, zucchini and cucumbers. Don’t be afraid to make them taste good too! Try a delicious dip like hummus or tzatziki for raw vegetables and serve cooked vegetables with a little pat of butter and sea salt.

2) Don’t buy “kid food”. One of my biggest pet peeves is junk food that is marketed to children. Hot dogs, macaroni and cheese out of the box, chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs, little rainbow colored crackers, sugary cereal with Dora the Explorer on the front of the box. Your child does not need this food. It is often sugar and preservative laden and when given the option, they will choose this food over others because of the marketing. If you grocery shop with your child and they beg for this food, which they will, simply explain to them that there is nothing in the food that will help them grow up big and strong. Then, allow them to choose a fruit or vegetable out of the produce section.

3) Make ONE meal. You are not a short order cook. When you prepare dinner for the family every evening do you make 3 different meals to please everyone in the house? The family should eat together seated at the table, and they should all eat the same thing. If you have a baby that eats pureed food, include a simple fruit or vegetable in the family meal and reserve a little to mash up for baby. You can do the same for your toddler by cutting up the fruit or vegetable into bite sized pieces and/or fun shapes and wait to add strong spices after his or her food has been reserved. Make sure that you serve one item in the meal that you are sure everyone will enjoy and then you wont be jumping up to cater to your picky eater.

4) Don’t force it. If your kid still refuses what you would prefer they eat, never force it. Forcing your child to take 5 more bites is torture. Imagine if you were forced to eat when you weren’t hungry or to eat something that tasted terrible to you. Not nice. It is not up to you how much your child eats or whether or not they eat at all. Forcing food can establish unhealthy eating behaviors and negative feelings about food so if your kid says they are done with dinner then respect your child’s decision. You CAN remind them that food won’t be available again until the next meal or snack, and if they still refuse, then drop it.

5) Never bribe with food. “Clear your plate and you can have dessert.” “If you are well behaved today then you can have ice cream.” Parents do this all the time, and again you are setting your child up for unhealthy eating habits. You are telling them that if they are really “good” then they can eat something “naughty”. You are also teaching them to ignore their hunger and fullness cues.

6) Don’t give up! It can take a child up to 20 times of being introduced to a new food before they want to eat it and enjoy it. If your child refuses avocado one day, they may eat it the next so keep offering but again, don’t force.

7) Have fun and relax! Don’t let mealtime be a stressful time in your household. Feeding your children can be fun and exciting. Worrying about them eating too much or not enough not only causes you undue stress, but it stresses out your child. Children are quite in tune with their bodies and recognize hunger and fullness, better than most adults. Allow your child to make some of their mealtime decisions but don’t let them run the show. Do the best you can do by providing wholesome and appealing food at set times and trust your kid can figure out the rest!

For more information on feeding your child visit:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sunshine, Salmon, and Supplements

(A rare sunny day in Seattle)

After a much needed hiatus from the blogosphere, I’m back. Sorry, just needed a little time to finish my dietetic internship and get my RD. That’s right folks, it’s official! Sarah Seppa is a registered dietitian. SO…if you didn’t believe any of the stuff I have told you up to this point, well then you had better start listening because dietitians are the experts on food and nutrition and now I am one of them. ;-)

So this expert went to her doctor last week and had her vitamin D tested. I got the results and back the other day and my serum level was 31ng/ml. There is a disagreement in the literature stating what the acceptable vitamin D levels are, however the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently revised the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) from 400 IU to 600 IU per day for vitamin D, to maintain serum levels at or above 50 ng/ml. This was necessary to sustain bone density, calcium absorption, and to minimize risk of osteomalacia and rickets (bone mineralization disorders related to vitamin D deficiency). So basically what I am saying is I am deficient. Deficient, you say? How can a food and nutrition expert be deficient in Vitamin D? Well I was as surprised as you since I thought I was doing a good job keeping my level up.

Here are the ways that you can get vitamin D:

Sunlight exposure at least 2 x/week from 10am-3pm for 5-30 minutes on arms and legs. But this depends on a lot of factors: If you live somewhere that sunlight is marginal (Ahem…Seattle), seasonal (only in the summer months), the angle of the sun is also important (latitude- the closer you are to the equator, the better). Sunscreen use is also a big factor. People are afraid of getting too much sun because of skin cancer, rightly so. Also, darker skin can’t convert vitamin D as easily so people of African American decent often are deficient. Additionally, as you age your ability to convert vitamin D from the sun decreases.

Okay but I have all these things covered…I’m a white chick that just lived in Houston, TX for 6 months who likes to sunbathe and run outside and only uses sunscreen on her face. And I’m not THAT old…32 is the new 22, right?!

(Sunbathing in Houston while studying for the RD exam)

Here is another way you can get vitamin D: Take a supplement. WAIT?! What about food, you say? Normally I’d be with you on this but here are the best food sources of vitamin D:

Salmon (canned w/ bones) 2oz = 343 IU

Sardines (canned w/ bones) 2 oz = 150 IU

Milk 8 oz = 100 IU

(Fink HH, Burgoon LA, Mikesky AE. Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition. 2nd Ed. Sudsbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 2009.)

Now if the IOM is recommending 600 IU a day that means you would have to eat 3.5 ounces of canned salmon (plus the bones) or drink 6 glasses of milk to get the RDA!

Okay now let’s back up a second… I WAS taking a supplement. I was taking 2,000 IU/day. Which begs me to ask…is the recommendation of 600 IU enough to keep levels above 50 ng/ml?

(Delicious salmon dinner this past weekend with beet salad and cream of asparagus soup, made creamy with oatmeal!)

So, for now my doc is recommending 5,000 IU a day so that is what I’ll be doing. I’ll also be getting out into the sun as much as possible and eating lots of salmon because I love it. I’ll also have my levels tested in another 6 months to see if they are back up in the desirable range. I highly recommend having your levels tested, even if you think you are doing enough to keep your vitamin D up. Another note…don’t mega dose on your supplement unless you have instructions from your doctor to do so. And for now… get out and enjoy the sunshine. Unless you live in Seattle of course, but then you can always eat lots of salmon!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fruity Fermentation

(Patiently waiting for fermentation...)

I have done a few posts on probiotics in the past but never have I mentioned how easy it is to grow your own! Basically you just leave your food out on the counter for a week or so and there you have it. No, I’m serious. It’s hard for many people to grasp the concept of fermentation and feel safe eating the food, but it can be done safely, I am living proof. Fermenting foods is great because you not only get the nutritional benefits of the food but you add healthy living bacteria, which improve digestion and help maintain a healthy gut! This stuff is great for IBS, indigestion, and other unresolved digestive issues.

(Fermenation bible)

(Fruit Kimchi?! Oh yes.)

There are many different types of home ferments to be made and last week my housemate Elizabeth and I tried a fruit kimchi. We used the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz (the guru of fermentation) for the recipe, but truth be told, it was so easy you don’t really need a recipe. Here is what we did:

Step #1: Chopped up pineapple, apple, pear, plum, kiwi, grapes, onion, garlic, cilantro, nuts and hot chili peppers.

(The beautiful mixture of fruit, nuts, and spices)

Step #2: Add salt and cram the stuff in a glass jar

Step #3: Put the jar on the counter and wait one week (this is the hardest part)

Step #4: Enjoy! Your taste buds and your belly will thank you!

(Final product...1 week later, delish!)

When the ferment is as tangy or as mild as you like, stick it in the fridge. Do you ferment food at home? What do you make?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blogging Elsewhere (for today!)

Check out this blog post on real food for athletes I wrote for my amazing and talented preceptor, Penny Wilson! She is the registered dietitian at Ironman Sports Medicine Institute at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. She is also certified specialist in sport dietetics and works with endurance athletes to get their nutrition dialed in and perfected so they can perform their best. I have learned SO much from working with her. Thanks Penny!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Snack Attack!

(Yummy, fast, easy, portable, whole food snack! Yeah Larabar!)

Yesterday I had a 12-mile training run. Sometimes on the day after long runs I am hungry, like all day long. Today is that kind of day. This morning I planned on that and packed a morning snack, apple and peanut butter. I also packed a yummy lunch, leftover couscous salad with veggies and garbanzo beans. I also threw in some grapes and snap peas to munch on in the afternoon. Yum! Around 10:30 I am ready for my apple and peanut butter and I reach for my lunch sack and…I forgot my lunch! So much for all my planning…

I’m a snacker. I always have been. Jon tells me that I need to carry a bag of nuts with me at all times. I get hungry between meals and if I don’t eat something I get really hungry. Then when it comes time to eat, I binge. Everyone does this, and the best way to avoid it is to snack. When we make healthy snack choices, it’s easy to make a wise decision at mealtime about what to eat and how much. When you go into a meal feeling super duper hungry because you haven’t eaten in 6 or 7 hours, you are likely to eat WAY too much. I have been seeing a lot of clients in my sports nutrition rotation that are interested in weight loss. The first thing that they do, before talking to a dietitian, is cut calories by cutting out snacks. Bad idea. First of all, when you are exercising more, you need a steady stream of calories throughout the day to balance your blood sugar and to give you fuel for your workouts. Second of all, everything I just mentioned.

(Watch out. It's easy to eat the whole bag of trail mix. Portion out 1/4-1/2 cup before you start munching!)

Not sure what to snack on? Here is a list of healthy “real food” snacks between 100-200 calories to get you through your day full of energy! Carry one with you in car, bag, or purse for when hunger strikes.

Snack ideas

  • 1 medium apple and 1 oz cheddar cheese

  • ½ banana and 1 tablespoon peanut butter

  • 6oz, 2% Greek yogurt and 1 cup strawberries

  • 1 brown rice cake and ¼ avocado

  • ¼ cup 2% cottage cheese and 1 cup diced cantaloupe

  • 1 slice of deli turkey, one slice Ezekiel whole grain toast, 1 tablespoon yellow mustard

  • 1 string cheese and 1 Wasa cracker

  • ¼ cup trail mix

  • 1 hard boiled egg and 14 baby carrots

  • 1 corn tortilla, 1 oz pepper jack cheese, and 2 tablespoons salsa

  • ½ whole wheat English muffin, 1 ounce part skim mozzarella cheese, 2 tablespoons marinara sauce

  • 3 celery stalks and ¼ cup hummus

  • 10 whole wheat pretzel sticks and 2 tablespoons low fat garden vegetable cream cheese

  • 2 whole wheat graham crackers and 1 cup of applesauce

  • Small bowl of miso soup with tofu and seaweed

  • 1 oz smoked salmon, 1oz goat cheese and 2 Ak Mak crackers

  • 1 stalk of “ants on a log” celery with peanut butter and raisins
  • 1/2 cup pistachios with the shells on
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds in 4 tablespoons milk of your choice with a couple drops of stevia
What did I end up eating today? 1/2 a Lara bar that was in my bag (thank god), and a so so sandwich from Au Bon Pain. What is your favorite healthy snack?