Thursday, April 2, 2009

Health Quiz

Have you heard of the RealAge quiz?  It's on-line and it asks you to answer questions about your health history and life-style.  After you're done, it projects your "real age" based on those answers.  It's fun but RealAge sells your answers and e-mail address to drug companies.  Those companies than use the information to target advertisements to people who have certain diseases, sometimes before they have been diagnosed by a doctor.  

A better quiz is Your Disease Risk.  For this site, you click on a disease and it asks you targeted questions to assess your risk.  Once done, it tells you your risk and says what you're doing well and how you can improve.  It even makes suggestions on the type of food to eat!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Michelle, My Hero

Michelle Obama has been showing up in the news recently with an endeavor to start a vegetable garden at the White House. Along with the garden, she has been touting healthy lifestyle choices and overall nutrition for youngsters. I've always liked Michelle's style, and this is one more reason to give her some positive acclaim.

Here is the story:

First lady Michelle Obama and 26 fifth graders armed with shovels, rakes and pitch forks Friday started work on the vegetable garden at the White House.

Make that the organic vegetable garden, which is intended to grow year-round produce for the White House and Miriam’s Kitchen, a nearby soup kitchen. The Obamas are advocates of healthy eating based on fresh, organic meals with loads of vegetables and fruits.

This is the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden during World War II. “Wow, this is exciting, you guys ready to roll?” Obama said to the students from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C. “This is a big day. We’ve been talking about this since the day we’ve moved in.’’

The children will be involved in planting crops, tending the garden and harvesting.

Obama set aside a shovel and used a pitchfork to work up the area where the pea patch will be located in the 1,100 square foot garden. She told the group the point of the garden was to make sure her family had access to fresh vegetables and fruits.

“My girls like vegetables more if they taste good,’’ Obama said and added, “Especially if they’re involved in planting it and picking it.’’

And nothing tastes better or sweeter than a freshly picked pea.

For information on how to start organic farming, the Rodale Institute’s website is fertile ground.

Healthy eating combined with exercise helps people maintain their ideal weight and avoid a myriad of problems that come from living an unhealthy lifestyle. Sixty-six percent of Americans are overweight or obese, knocking years off their lives.

My Pyramid, created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, explains the different food groups and offers personalized eating plans, including one for pre-schoolers.

Obama’s fellow gardeners got a healthy snack when they were done working the soil. Apples, apple cider and sugar cookies -- with organic flour -- and in the shape of shovels.

Photo by Win McNamee, USA TODAY: First lady Michelle Obama and students break ground on the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn.

--By Janice Lloyd, USA TODAY

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Fever

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want - oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” Mark Twain

Well, I think it's official - spring feels like it's here today. After a long test week last week, I know that I am not alone in saying that I'd rather be outside playing than typing up blog entries on a day like today.

So here is a happy St. Patty's Day recipe to keep things short and simple:

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

2 c. whole wheat flour (or any combo of whole wheat, whole wheat pastry and Irish style)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
2-3 tblspn. honey
turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and honey. Add more or less honey, depending on how much sweetness you prefer. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour mixture. Stir until just combined.

Sprinkle some sugar in the center of the parchment paper and spoon the dough out on top. Use a spatula to shape it into a circle, roughly 8-9 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches high. Sprinkle sugar all over the top of the loaf. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, and bottom of loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool completely on a rack (at least 2 hours), then cut into slices. Keeps in the refrigerator for 5 days and in the freezer for 3 months.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Diet Rant

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the way we talk about weight to one another. A good friend of mind has recently gained a few pounds and she is constantly talking about how fat she is and how she just wishes she was thin again. I am so sick of this kind of talk! We need to change the way we talk about our bodies RIGHT NOW. It is absurd to act like gaining a few pounds makes you automatically fat! First of all, we need to start thinking of our bodies as healthy versus unhealthy. Another good friend of mine told me the other day that her BMI was 24.5, almost overweight according to the rules of BMI. But she is one of the healthiest people I know, very fit and athletic and she eats great. So the words we are using to describe our bodies are obviously not the right ones. Second of all, diets are not a lifestyle. In order for our bodies to be healthy, we need to not focus so much on dieting and getting the numbers on the scale to change, but to fueling our bodies with the nutritious things they need in order to be active and feel that we have enough energy to be focused, happy people.
So my idea is this: next time someone is talking about their weight in terms of fat and skinny, or if you are thinking of it yourself, change the words you are using. Think to yourself, is my body image healthy or unhealthy? Is this food I am about to eat fueling me or dragging me down?
It is time to change the conversation about our bodies.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Let Me See You Flex

If you’re not doing it to save the cows, you can do it to save your heart.

In recent years, a new form of vegetarian has emerged: those who eat meat. Since eating a fruit and vegetable rich diet is one of the best ways to get all of the nutrients you need for a healthy lifestyle, many have adopted the idea of going almost vegetarian, but keeping a few of their favorite foods with meat in their diet. They’re called “flexitarians” and adopting their diet strategy is one of the best steps you can take towards improving your health. This is a big shift from the traditional American diet, which often features a large piece of meat as the main entrĂ©e with vegetables being a very silent side note. However, it is an important change, and one that can help you combat everything from obesity to cancer.

Some ideas for starting to eat like a flexitarian include adding two or three vegetarian meals to your weekly dinner menu, or devising dishes that make vegetables the primary focus, but still contain some meat such as pork, poultry, or fish. Another option is to take your favorite meat dish and turn it vegetarian, like this recipe for Portobello Philly CheeseSteaks listed below. So this Monday, perhaps try to participate in Meatless Monday, an effort to reduce heart disease, stroke, and cancer 15% by the year 2010. Below is a recipe to get you started:

Portobello Philly CheeseSteak Sandwich:

Makes 4 sandwiches

ACTIVE TIME: 25 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 25 minutes


2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

4 large portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed, sliced

1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

3 ounces thinly sliced reduced-fat provolone cheese

4 whole-wheat buns, split and toasted

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft and beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, oregano and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are wilted and soft, about 7 minutes. 
2. Reduce heat to low; sprinkle the vegetables with flour and stir to coat. Stir in broth and soy sauce; bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, lay cheese slices on top of the vegetables, cover and let stand until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. 
3. Divide the mixture into 4 portions with a spatula, leaving the melted cheese layer on top. Scoop a portion onto each toasted bun and serve immediately.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 268 calories; 10 g fat (4 g sat, 4 g mono); 15 mg cholesterol; 35 g carbohydrate; 13 g protein; 7 g fiber; 561 mg sodium; 707 mg potassium.

Nutrition bonus (all those veggies!): Vitamin C (140% daily value), Selenium (49% dv), Vitamin A (30% dv), Calcium (25% dv), Potassium (20% dv), Magnesium (16% dv).

Recipe from

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

To diet, or not to diet...

This past summer I stumbled upon Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma. In the book, Pollan breaks down three different ways that we, as a nation, tend to obtain our food. There is the industrial route, or as he argues, the corn route. While we have all heard the facts that high fructose corn syrup is in almost everything we eat (see my earlier post) he also explains that it is also in less known places, like beef. Many of the current industrial farming practices use corn to feed the animals, even though corn is not the animals diet of choice. This leads to many of the problems we see today, such as tainted food, among others. Another route he details is the so-called organic route. Upon further investigation, he finds that many of the organic foods we buy/eat, while adhering to the "organic" standards, are grown use similiar methods as industrial farmers. Finally, he attempts the foraging route, meaning he both hunts for his meat and grows his vegetables.

All in all, The Omnivore's Dilemma is probably one of the most thought provoking books I have recently read. Pollan concludes that each of these "food webs" has its downsides, whether it be impracticality (foraging) or unsustainable (industrial farming). In the end Pollan argues for transparency in the food processing industry and that we re-examine our notions about food. He believes that if we all knew what we are putting into our bodies, our diets would inevitably change. In the beginning of the book, Pollan makes a reference to any of the other purchases we make on a day-to-day basis. For example, when buying a car many agonize over the sticker price, safety features and even gas mileage. Unfortunately, this same scrutiny does not hold for food- many of us simply eat what is around without any thought given to how it was grown/produced and what it will do when it gets inside.

In terms of a "diet", Pollan coins what he calls the American paradox: "Americans are a people so obsessed with nutrition yet whose dietary health is so poor." Instead of recommending a diet, he takes a more holistic view of eating and believes eating should be a communal experience centered on the cooking and sharing of a meal- something our fast paced society has definitely moved away from. In conclusion, The Omnivore's Dilemma is a book I think everyone should read, whether you feel confident in your dietary decisions or have no idea where to go, or like me, fall somewhere in between. If you want to check out more of Michael Pollan, here is a link to his recent interview in the NY Times:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Break your nighttime fast with BREAKFAST

If you're like me you HAAATEE breakfast foods. Pancakes, waffles, omelettes are just not your idea of a good time. Could not agree more, my friend.

The sad part is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day! It kick starts your metabolism, gives you tons of energy for the day, and keeps you full so that youre not engulfing anything and everything that you see come 12pm.

Here's a non-traditional breakfast recipe I found from Ameet Maturu, Intuitive Cook.

Serves 1-2

2 eggs
4 bok choy stem/leaves
1 carrot, diced
1 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
Sesame seeds or gomasio (optional)

Beat eggs in a small bowl. Separate bok choy leaves from stems. Chop both into bite sized pieces.

Heat oil in frying pan over medium-low heat. Saute bok choy stems, carrots for 4 minutes. Add bok choy leaves, cooked rice, vinegar and tamari and cook for another couple minutes. Remove vegetables and put on plate.

Add a little oil to pan if it's dry, add the eggs, and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until eggs are mostly cooked. Scramble eggs and add to plate. Add Sriracha, Gomasio to taste. Enjoy!

more information can be found at