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

Monday, March 2, 2009

Atkins Revisited

In honor of Diet Week here on Keen, I thought it would be a nice idea to pay tribute to one of the most well known diet trends in America, the Atkins Diet. I'm pretty sure that at some point or another, almost every person who reads this blog has heard of the Atkins Diet. I remember about 5 years ago, Atkins was a common dinner table term that everyone thought of as being the ultimate low-carb, quick weight-loss fad. There were success stories left and right of people who had abandoned their beloved breads and pastas in exchange for high fat, high protein only meals like steak and bacon. The results were intriguing, and it turned out people were actually losing weight. What was the secret behind the mystery?

Here is the quick breakdown of how Atkins works: By drastically reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed, the body is forced into a ketogenic state where fat stores become broken down for energy. Essentially, you are tricking your body into starvation mode, which results in the break down of stored fats.

There's a TON of information out there for those who are interested in pursuing this diet. Here are a few links for those out there who are interested:
Atkins Diet

There are also a slew of videos on YouTube. Here are some interesting ones that I saw:

There's the Atkins Diet in a nutshell. We at Keen do not endorse nor reject any one diet plan. My advice to anyone out there looking to change their calorie intake, is to read up and do your research first, and then decided on a diet plan that works for you. Atkins has helped a lot of people lose weight, but it doesn't mean anything if you can't make it last in your long term goals. Good luck everyone!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Next Week is Diet Week

I am addicted to celebrity gossip.  I love reading about their troubles and seeing the fashion.  This week, my fascination with all things celebrity turns to photoshop.  Most celebrities keep a personal photoshop technician on their staff and make sure that any photos that are released are first 'touched up' by their photoshop technician.  Below, you can see an example of Faith Hill on the cover of the July 2007 Redbook.

In the before picture, Faith is a beautiful, thin, (then) 39 year-old woman.  In the photoshopped cover picture, she is much thinner and younger looking.  Look at the headlines, Redbook wants to tell us about "The New Skinny Pills".  Have you ever heard of a pill that was healthy and provided long-term weight-lost?  I haven't.  How are we, who don't have personal trainers and photoshop technicians, supposed to achieve what the media tells us is beauty?

We can't.  All that we can hope for is maintaining a healthy weight for our height by eating healthy foods.  Now comes the tricky part; what are healthy foods and what diet do we follow?  The New England Journal of Medicine published a study yesterday (here) which focused on comparing three major diets, Atkins (low carbs), Dean Ornish (low-fat) and Mediterranean (low animal protein).  The diets were randomly assigned to the study participants and all reduced calorie consumption but none of the diets had less than 1,200 calories per day.  After two years, all of the participants lost and regained the same of weight regardless of the diet they were on (13 pounds after six months and 9 pounds after two years).  The lesson is that the best way to lose weight and to keep it off is to reduce your calorie consumption by following a diet that you enjoy.

Next week, we hope to shed some light on all this diet stuff for all of you.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Vitamins 2.0

As a continuation of my last post on vitamins, I decided to focus on the health affects of Vitamin D. For those of you out there who don't know, Vitamin D is an important vitamin found in a variety of foods including milk and certain fish species such as salmon, tuna, and herring. The cool thing about vitamin D is that we can also make it in our own bodies- all we need is to be exposed to sunlight. In our bodies, vitamin D is responsible for helping the body absorb its required calcium, regulates certain hormones and also plays a role in the immune response. Deficiency can lead to rickets, a condition in which the bones become soft and brittle.

In a article I read recently (which may or may not have been from the Science Times), researchers have demonstrated on various occasions that consuming adequate amounts of Vitamin D is linked to good health outcomes. Researchers also noted that many Americans feel that they are consuming enough Vitamin D, but few actually do. These studies have shown that consuming high levels of Vitamin D is associated with fewer colds, decreased incidence of cancer, decreased bone fractures, to name a few. Also, researchers noted that individuals with Type I diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis tended to have lower levels of Vitamin D. From this data, it truly seems like Vitamin D is the superman of vitamins.

While I admit that these results are pretty convincing, it is important to realize that everything can be bad if taken in large enough quantity. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning that the body has a harder time removing it than other vitamins. Furthermore, consuming too much Vitamin D will cause the intestines to absorb too much calcium, which leads to deposits in places like the heart and lungs. The moral of this story, like my post last week, is to strive to maintain a well-rounded diet. Fish like salmon have many health benefits outside of their ability to contribute vitamin D. Consuming low-fat milk or even skim milk, an important source of vitamin d and it provides lean protein. Finally, if anyone wanted to further research this stuff, the NY Times has their own Vitamin D page. Here's the link:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dear Keen Society:

Every once in awhile, people write to us asking for advice on nutrition and their health. We'd like to share with you one such letter:

Dear Keen Society,
I am a 45-year-old woman and about 10-15 lbs over my goal weight. I have tried everything – SlimFast, Atkins, and not eating. Nothing’s working! My doctor keeps telling me to continue a healthy diet and exercise but I don’t think my body responds to that. What should I do?
Wants to look good for high school reunion
Nyc, NY

Dear Wants to look good,
First, you need to figure out whether your goal weight is a reasonable weight. There is a healthy range for weight – you may be on the heavier side but still be in the healthy range. That’s completely fine! Secondly, muscle weighs more than fat, so more important that weight is WAIST size. According to some doctors, the ideal waist size can be calculated as half your height in inches. Thirdly, your doctor was right; diet and exercise is the best way to lose weight. Try getting an RMR test to see if you and your doctor can design a weight-loss plan specifically for you.
Best of Luck,
Keen Society

Keep the questions coming!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Grade "A" Snacks

My glamorous life as a full-time student is stunningly predictable. If I’m not studying, then I’m probably worrying about where I’m going to be getting my next meal. But during exam season, the last thing on my mind is what to cook for dinner or how I can track down something healthy to eat. Suffice it to say, when I’m hungry and crunched for time, all I want to do is to reach for a greasy burger or a tub of ice-cream. Recently, during another one of my All-You-Can-Cram & Eat sessions, I resolved to give this whole “snacking healthy” thing a try and compiled a list of my favorite snacks that are fast, simple, affordable, and of course, healthy and yummy too. Whether you’re a student, working professional, jet-setter, rockstar, or simply a hungry, hungry, hippo, hopefully these ideas will help get through the day and leave you feeling healthy and happy!

• Low-fat yogurt with cut fruit (my personal favorite are banana slices or cantaloupe) or with granola sprinkled on top.

• Whole wheat/grain bread with cheese sandwich. Be sure to look for the whole wheat or whole grain label on the package.

• Rice cakes topped with natural peanut butter and banana slices.

• Edamame steamed with a bit of salt and lemon juice.

• Chocolate dipped strawberries. I have a terrible sweet tooth, so this is one of my personal favorites. But don’t forget, everything in moderation!

• Fruit salad. The key to this snack is to make it in bulk and have it already prepared so that it’s waiting in the fridge when you want it. Drizzle a bit of lemon juice as a natural preservative and it will stay fresh for longer.

• Lettuce wraps with ham, turkey, or chicken breast slices, tomato slices, and string cheese. Or cut the string cheese in half, so that way you can enjoy another wrap!

• Low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk. This is absolutely one snack that I can’t live without. Sometimes cereal can be the best meal of the day!

So the next time, you’re low on time and on brain fuel, go for a healthy snack instead of a greasy bag of chips, and you’ll be well on your way to earning that “A”. Go get ‘em, Tiger!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

For Optimum Health Buy and Eat Local

Have you ever thought about how long it takes your food to get from the field to your table? If you buy produce from across the country, do you factor in the time for packaging, shipment, and eventual consumption? Not only is purchasing food that has traveled a long distance unsustainable in practice, but fresh produce loses nutritional value sitting on the shelf or in your refrigerator waiting to be consumed. Buying locally can be easy and inexpensive when you’re armed with the right information. A great site for information on where to buy locally is Food Routes. Another resource, and local advocate of fresh and healthy eating, is the the Urban Nutrition Initiative, a Philadelphia based organization.

A great dish to make with local produce that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare is this Creamy Vegetable Combo. Try out the recipe below!

Creamy Vegetable Combo
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's Healthy Request Condensed Cream of Celery Soup
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
3 cups chopped vegetable combination, such as: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots

Heat the soup, milk, lemon juice, black pepper and vegetables in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Calories: 65
Total Fat: 1g

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Easy Peppers

A friend just made me this for dinner, so delicious! She paired it with an argula salad and a king cake in honor of New Orleans...both of which I agree with:


6 med. green peppers2 c. cooked rice1 lg. egg, slightly beaten or 1/4 c. Eggbeaters1 c. chopped onion1 sm. can tomatoes or 1 (10 oz.) can Rotel tomatoes1 tbsp. vegetable oil1 c. bread crumbs or wheat germ1 1/4 c. grated Cheddar cheese
Cut off tops of peppers and remove and discard seeds. Dice tops, discarding stems, and mix all ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup cheese. Stuff peppers and place in a round microwave casserole. Put extra filling around peppers. Peppers should fit tightly. Cover with plastic wrap, piercing 4-5 times for vents. Microwave on High 15 minutes. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Cover; let stand 2-3 minutes. Then serve. This dish can be made ahead and frozen for later use. Do not cook until after thawed.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vitamins: The Secret to a... Shorter Life?

As I went through the grocery store the other day, every product seemed to be fortified with one vitamin or another. Some touted "extra anti-oxidants," others had "B vitamins for energy" and some had "calcium for strong bones." Vitamins are indeed important substances, many of them essential for human life, but is this fortification necessary? Is it possible that all these vitamins could actually be dangerous?

To shed some light on these issues, I did a quick search online and came across a NY Times article from Tuesday (see bottom of post for link.) The Times cited a few recent studies in which increased intake of multivitamins in women had no appreciable health benefits. Another study reviewed the results of several studies on antioxidants and found that in the population taking the extra antioxidants, deaths were actually higher than in the control group. Even more alarming was a study completed at UNC in which mice given a vitamin depleted diet actually had smaller tumors than control mice.

How could this all be? Does this mean that we should all try to avoid vitamins? While these studies are definitely thought provoking, it is important to realize that avoiding vitamins is a bad idea. Without vitamin c, we can develop scurvy, without folic acid in the womb, babies develop a serious birth defect known as spina bifida, just to name a few serious conditions associated with inadequate vitamin intake. I feel the most important thing to take away from these studies is realizing that simply taking more vitamins will not solve our health problems. Vitamins are important and should be taken in with a balanced diet. Many foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc are rich in essential vitamins and will more than supplement our needs. Therefore, like many of the previous posts have said, healthy living can be accomplished by eating a diet low in processed food, high in vegetables and lean protein sources. Easier said than done.

NY Times article:

Really? Chicken Soup Cure for Colds


Like ice for a burn or a lozenge for a cough, a cup of hot tea is an age-old balm for sniffles, sneezing and stuffiness.

Hot liquids, it is said, help loosen secretions in the chest and sinuses, making them easier to expel and ultimately clearing up congestion.

The fluids are also meant to reverse dehydration.

But only recently have scientists examined whether the effect is real. In December, researchers at the Common Cold Center at Cardiff University in Britain looked at whether hot beverages relieved the symptoms of 30 people suffering from the flu or common cold any better than drinks at room temperature. The found that the contrast was marked.

"The hot drink provided immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness," they reported, "whereas the same drink at room temperature only provided relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough and sneezing."

While this was the first study to look specifically at the effects of hot drinks on cold and flu symptoms, others have looked at hot foods like chicken soup and had similar results.

Chicken soup also contains cold-fighting compounds that help dissolve mucus in the lungs and suppress inflammation.


Research confirms that a hot beverage can reduce congestion and other cold and flu symptoms.

From The New York Times, "REALLY?; Hot liquids can ease symptoms of a cold or flu.", Anahad O'Connor, January 27, 2009.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

To be or not to be...vegetarian, that is.

We haven’t seen this big of a rise in vegetarianism since the 60s, when everyone chanted peace, love, and harmony. Today, in our fast-paced, financially-driven society (a far cry away from Woodstock), about 4.7 million American adults are vegetarian, says the Vegetarian Resource Group.

There are four main categories of vegetarians:
• Ovo-Lacto vegetarians don’t eat meat but eat eggs and diary products
• Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but no dairy
• Lacto-vegetarians eat diary but no eggs
• Vegans don’t eat any animal products at all

Yet, as healthy as it may seem, many vegetarians miss out on essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Vegetarians also run the risk of protein deficiency.

Ovo-lacto vegetarians can get their protein from eggs and dairy products. Other vegetarians can get protein from great sources such as, legumes (lentils, beans, etc.), nuts, seeds, whole grains, and soy products.

Green, leafy vegetables are a vegetarian’s best friends. They have calcium, vitamin B, and iron. Despite having options to get the macro- and micro- nutrients that vegetarians may miss out on normally, many medical specialists recommend vegetarians, especially, to take a multi-vitamin daily.

So the moral of the story is if you want to embark on a meat-free journey, make sure youre aware of the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs so everything works in tip top shape!

Enjoy your life and eat well while youre doing it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Healthy Valentine's Day?

Valentine's Day can be a pretty fat filled holiday what with all the chocolate and eating out and possibly drowning your sorrows with a big tub of ice cream. Here is a quick recipe for some healthy heart cookies to replace the usual sugar overload:
Sugarless Heart Cookies
by Becky Jones
To make these cookies, you will need the following ingredients:3/4 cup margarine, softened1 package (0.3 ounces) mixed fruit sugar-free gelatinEgg substitute equivalent to 1 egg1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 3/4 cups all purpose flour1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Directions:In a mixing bowl, cream together the margarine and gelatin. Beat in the egg subsitiute and vanilla. Mix together the flour and baking powder and add to the egg mixture, mixing well. Chill for 1 hour.Preheat your oven to 400. Roll the dough mixture out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out cookies with heart-shaped cookie cutters (or any shape you desire). Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 6 to 7 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned and the cookies are set. Cool on wire racks.
Yields about 6 dozen
Diabetic Exchanges: One serving (2 cookies) equals 1/2 starch, 1/2 fat, 59 calories, 49 mg sodium, trace cholesterol, 5 gm carbohydrate, 1 gm protein, 4 gm fatNote: You can change the taste of these cookies by trying different flavors of gelatin.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Last Meeting

Now that we've gotten this blog rolling a little bit, I feel like it's a good idea to explain a little about what we do. As stated in the title, we are two groups of students working together to increase our understanding about food and the effects of proper nutrition on our overall health.

In the age of fast food, eating an unhealthy diet of cheeseburgers and pizza is far and away the easiest way to consume our calories. The convenience of strolling into the local McDonalds and ordering off the value menu is quick, satisfying, and instantly gratifying. Going out to the grocery and spending time buying veggies and fruits and other "healthy stuff" is challenging and downright time consuming. Finding the time to make those trips (especially with the current school environment I find myself in) is some times a futile effort.

As the American trend of obesity and other diet related health issues continue to rise, I think the overall perception of the public is going to change. People are starting to see the effects of those Big Macs on their waist lines, and they want to do something about it. That's where our groups come in to play.

I think our groups are particularly cool because we span a broad range of ages. We have students from middle school to med school who are all interested in gaining awareness about the current situation, and making adjustments in our own lives to be healthier and happier.

As an example, I want to share some pics from our latest meeting. During the last interaction between the Keen Society and the Urban Tree Connection, we did a little bit of schooling on the anatomy of digestion. What did we look at? Well, we checked out the digestive track, the brain that controls it, and the skeletal system that supports it. Going in order, here are some pictures that detail some of our adventures:

This is a picture of Ben doing some teaching on the finer points of the digestive track.

Here you see the awe inspiring power of the brain!

And here you can see Brian giving a little lesson on endochondral ossification. OK, just kidding. But he did confirm that bones are cool for the body :)

As you can see, our two groups are making some progress and moving in the right direction. This was one of many meetings we have planned with the Urban Tree Connection, and I'm looking forward to working with this enthusiastic group of like-minded individuals in the future. Thanks guys for a fun meeting, and I look forward to the next one!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fried Plantains (Platanos Maduros)

Plantains are larger, starcher cousins of bananas and are the staple food in parts of West Africa and the Caribbean.  Plantains are uglier, longer and have tougher, thicker skins than bananas.  Above on the left, are bananas and on the right is a plantain.  Plantains can be bought at most grocery stores.  Many smaller corner stores that cater to Caribbean or West African residents sell plantains too.  

When they're green and under-ripe, they have a similar taste and be cooked like potatoes.  As they become riper, they become sweeter .  Over-ripe (black), they can be fried or baked into a delicious dessert.  

To fry plantains, peel the plantain and cut into one inch slices.  Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium heat.  Once the oil is warm, add the plantains.  When the edges of the plantains brown (like on the left) they're done!  You can season with lime juice, pepper or salt if you'd like.

To bake plantains, heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Peel and slice plantains in half length-wise.  Place in a greased pan and sprinkle with oil and a little salt if you'd like.  Bake for 10 minutes.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's the deal with High Fructose Corn Syrup?

As I was watching tv the other night with the spare time i don't have, I witnessed the following commercial from the corn refiners of america (see bottom of page for link.) Basically, they believe (and desperately want us to believe) that HFCS is "made from corn, has the same calories as sugar, and like sugar is fine in moderation." In other words, we shouldn't worry about the fact that HFCS is in everything everything we eat these days. Obviously, I was a bit skeptical and decided research this bold claim a bit more.

According to wikipedia, HFCS is simply corn syrup that has undergone enzymatic reactions to increase the fructose content and then this is mixed with pure glucose. Typically, the HFCS found in soft drinks is 55% fructose, 45% glucose. HFCS is found in many products, ranging from soft drinks, certain types of juice, salad dressings and even bread. HFCS is also used in low fat snacks in order to make them taste better. Now that we know that HFCS is everywhere, what does this mean for our health?

This past tuesday in Science Times, Jane Brody wrote a piece enititled "America's Diet: Too Sweet by the Spoonful" in which she analyzed the potential contribution of sugar and HFCS to America's obesity epidemic. I will post the link at the end of this, but to sum up her story, humans should take in (at maximum) 8 teaspoons of sugar a day. (By comparison, a 20 oz soda has 9-10 teaspoons). She argues that all of America's weight problems can be explained by our massive intake of sweetened products. In this way, she views sugar and HFCS as simliar enemies, with both causing equal destruction. Does this mean the Corn Refiners Association is the correct in its assertion? I will let you all decide.

HFCS Commercial:

Jane's Article:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

5 Foods That Get a Bad Rep

Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan aren’t the only ones getting a bad rep.

Here are a few foods that may have gotten a bad reputation in the past, but new studies have shown how beneficial they are:

“Negatives”: high in fat and calories
Positives: peanuts have been shown to lower the risk of coronary heart disease and lower total and “bad” cholesterol. Also, a little fat before meals or for a snack will help control your hunger.

“Negatives”: high in cholesterol
Positives: eggs have the highest concentration of choline, a nutrient critical for healthy brain function. Recent studies have shown that eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants that keep eyes healthy, prevent blindness and muscular degeneration. In summary, eggs are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food that makes a great contribution to any menu.

“Negatives”: coffee is only a caffeine source
Positives: coffee has hundreds of chemicals in it, which may be the reason for its negative press in the past. But newer studies have shown that coffee has many benefits, such as improving memory, and decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Just avoid multiple cups at one time to prevent the caffeine jitters!
“Negatives”: too high in fat
Positives: avocados are high in monounsaturated fats (the heart-healthy kind). Initial studies have shown that avocados have cancer-preventing properties. This is most likely due to the overwhelming amounts of antioxidants present in avocados.

“Negatives”: no nutritional benefits
Positives: mushrooms boost immune system function, suppress breast and prostate cancer, and have a high concentration of antioxidants, studies show. Interestingly, one medium Portobello mushroom has more potassium than a glass of OJ. Who would have thunk?!?

Information comes from's article "5 foods that should have a place in your diet"

Monday, February 9, 2009

Digesting Digestion

For me (and perhaps many of us out there), learning about nutrition is fun and exciting, but even the smallest attempt to learn about digestion leaves my stomach tossing and turning. But to really understand nutrition means knowing about all the microscopic events that occur. I’m well into my first year of medical school, well into memorizing pages after pages of textbooks, and well into many late nights of deciphering the different paths that fats, proteins, and carbohydrates take in the human body. And with all these facts, I’m left feeling a little disoriented, unsatisfied, and with my stomach in knots.

I’m a visual learner, avoid details like the plague, and crave to see the “big picture”. So for all of you visual learners, I’d like to bring the big picture to motion picture, and suggest my personal remedy for making digestion fun and exciting again: the digestion episode of the Magic School Bus! I remember watching this in elementary school and thinking it was coolest thing ever (and I haven’t changed much). From time to time, I like to revisit this video just to feel good about how much I know … and remind myself of how much I don’t know.

Below is the For Lunch episode of the Magic School Bus. (Leave it to YouTube to have everything!) Parts 2 and 3 of the episode will automatically upload from the playlist. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Bread Hero

I am a very big bread eater. I would rather have a well-baked roll and some rich olive oil to dip it in than pie or cake for desert. I started baking when I was about 14, but only recently discovered the underlying chemistry of bread making through Peter Reinhart, an awesome baker and a great teacher.
I first heard Peter Reinhart speak at TED. TED is a very cool conference that features the most interesting/creative/successful/far-out people in the world giving 18 minute talks. Of course, most of these talks are available online for free. Here is the talk Chef Reinhart gave at the TED conference in the summer of 2008 that inspired my new bread baking perspective:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Comfort Food Upgraded

I love to cook. I love to eat. And I love food that tastes good, which to me usually means swimming in fat and oil. So, this is a problem. And in an effort to be healthy, I have looked into upgrading some of my favorite comfort foods so they are still delicious, but have a healthier aspect to them. I think it is a great way to ease into eating healthier foods if the thought of it makes you cringe.
Since I will be posting on here regularly, I might as well make a confession up front: I love the magazine Real Simple. It is a bible of sorts to me and this recipe is from there. You will be hearing about this magazine a lot I am sure (next week, I am thinking of cheap healthy recipes...send suggestions, if you have any!), so I thought I would just be up front about my obsession from the beginning.
This recipe is for crispy chicken and collard greens. To me, the recipe is not only healthier, but also makes cooking the chicken a lot easier than frying it (which, to me, is a nightmare and I always manage to get hot oil all over my hands and never get quite the amount of crispiness I want). And actually, this recipe is relatively cheap too as most of this food would probably already be in your house. And, then you have some leftover healthy cereal in your cupboard too.
Alright, I'll stop blabbering. Nutrition info follows the recipe.

Crispy Chicken and Garlicky Collards

Improve on the cornflake-coating trick (my mom used to do this!!) by using multigrain cereal to increase the fiber. Baking rather than frying the chicken eliminates a whopping 24 grams of fat per serving.
1 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces and skin removed 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cups multigrain cereal flakes, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
2 bunches collard greens, thick stems removed and leaves cut into 1-inch strips
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Heat oven to 400° F. In a large bowl, toss the chicken and mustard to coat. In a separate bowl, mix the cereal, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Coat the chicken with the cereal mixture and bake on a baking sheet until golden and cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the collards in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse, and squeeze out the excess water.Heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, collards, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with the chicken and lemon.
Yield: Makes 4 servings


Friday, February 6, 2009

First Post!

Hi Folks. First post here. I'm excited to get this blog rolling, as I think it will be an interesting source of info and a fun stop to visit on the interweb. To get things started off here, I have a little YouTube video of some interesting things you can do with food. As a blog on nutrition, we are interested in ALL things food and health related. I look forward to sharing more interesting finds, and I hope this will be a fun project for the folks of the Keen Society and Urban Tree Connection. Thanks for checking us out.