Tag Archives: real food

Melissa’s Take on Bacon… And Other Forms of Fat

photo (2) The word ‘bacon’ grabbed your attention, didn’t it? People love to talk about bacon and how much they love it, but what about bacon makes it so desirable to many people? On a psychological level, a hankering for a hot, dripping slice of crispy bacon goodness is probably tangled up in its ‘forbidden fruit’ status for those trying to lose weight or keep a healthy heart. Physiologically, the craving is related to the fact that we require a certain amount of fat in our diets to regulate countless essential functions within our bodies. Considering that I enjoy bacon as much as the next person, I have been intrigued by the increasing number of recent reports rejecting low-fat diets and re-considering the role of fats, including the previously frowned upon saturated fats, in the diet.

A few decades back when Americans started realizing that they were gaining weight at about the same breakneck pace as reality TV was skyrocketing in popularity, they desperately searched for a way to trim back their diets. Fats (9kcal/g), being twice as dense as carbohydrates (4kcal/g) or proteins (4kcal/g) in caloric value, were denounced as the cause of expanding waistlines, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. By cutting the fat out of a food, the total number of calories can be decreased. Conventional wisdom says that weight management depends on the careful balance of calories in versus calories out, but it seems that there is in fact more to the equation. Cutting out fat also means cutting out flavor, as well as fat’s important role in providing satiety. To improve flavor, food manufacturers add sugar, sugar substitutes, and salt. By acting like engineers, taking things out and adding other things in, food becomes increasingly processed and distant from its natural, most nourishing state.

While monounsaturated (olive oil, canola oil, avocado) and polyunsaturated fats (sunflower and safflower oil) have been fairly well accepted as heart healthy, the reputation of saturated fats (bacon, cheese) has been less favorable. Information sources including Harvard Health, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post reveal that previous studies warning about the dangers of saturated fat were based on only a few shaky studies. Harvard Health characterizes saturated fats as ‘in-between’ fats that are not tied to ill health in moderation. Further, they seem to be neutral in their effect on blood sugar (insulin) levels, which is crucial to weight management and prevention of chronic diseases, like Type 2 diabetes.

Those who fear fat, consider this. Fat plays a critical role in the absorption of vitamins and minerals from food. Ever seen someone restricting their diet who’s skin was cracked and dry, hair and nails brittle and dull? A diet rich in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, with moderate amounts of saturated fats makes hair shiny and silky smooth, skin clear and radiant, and nails strong. It’s not about a vain interest in appearance, these outer indicators are directly correlated to the health of the body below the surface. Fat also plays key roles in building cell membranes, sheaths around nerves, and in hormone regulation.

So does this mean that you should start gorging on bacon everyday? Eating all the ice cream and pizza that you want if fat is okay? No! That is not what I am recommending. I am saying there is no need to be fat-phobic. Fat should be one part of a healthy diet along with high quality carbohydrates and proteins. Avoid fat that comes from processed food items. Make your own nourishing versions at home instead.

Reading about and ruminating over the fat debate reminded me what we all tend to forget sometimes- there is not one singular nutrition rule that will keep us in good health and at an appropriate weight. Let’s do away with the disjointed and archaic fat-free, low-carb diets of the past. It’s all about real food. Embrace all unprocessed, whole foods- fresh fruits, vegetables, full fat meat and plain whole milk dairy products, whole grains, nuts/seeds, even some treats in moderation. When possible, choose organic, sustainably farmed, non-GMO, and animal products from humane farms. Take the time to sit down and enjoy your meals with people you care about. Commit yourself to a holistic approach to health. It’s nourishing in more ways than one.

Notes: Some of you may notice that my views on nutrition are constantly evolving as I talk to more professionals in the field of food, nutrition, and wellness. I am always striving to learn more about health and deliver the best, most informed information to my readers that I can. What remains constant is my belief in unprocessed, real, whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible.

Today’s topic was inspired in part by Elyse Kopecky, a food writer and whole foods chef. Check out the awesome new cookbook she is writing with her friend and olympic marathoner, Shalane Flanagan: http://www.runfasteatslow.com/#cookbookproject

Title for this article was inspired by Christine.

Advertisements

Beet That Holiday Bulge

IMG_4117

Pureed beet pizza sauce

If you haven’t caught on by now, part of what I love about cooking is the chance to experiment! Because so many people find eating healthy to be flavorless and boring, I embrace the challenge of finding new, and I admit sometimes unusual, recipes to satisfy their cravings without leaving them saddled with guilt and love handles.

If the eggnog and holiday cookies got the best of you, and even if they didn’t, try this yummy pizza recipe that is loaded with flavor… and vegetable superpowers : )

Instead of regular tomato sauce, this recipe uses pureed beets. Like most vegetables, beets have numerous health benefits. The nutrient, Betaine, found in beets has been shown to prevent inflammation and protect cells from environmental stress. If you are an athlete, consider making beets a part of your training regimen as they have been shown to improve performance by increasing tolerance for high intensity exercise and decreasing the oxygen cost of low intensity exercise. The effect of drinking beet juice 2-3 hours before workouts is not minor. According to Runner’s World, performance is increased 12-14% which translates to a 1-2% decrease in race time. For more details on the ergogenic properties of beets, click here. Or, ask Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall who is reportedly a fan of the juice.

To make this pizza, I made a homemade crust out of 100% Whole Wheat flour and pre-baked the crust before topping it. Directions for making the crust can be found here. For the sauce I pureed 1 can of beets in a food processor with 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, juice from half a lemon, and a dash of salt. Next I piled on spinach, organic shredded cheddar cheese, diced mushrooms, and olives. Bake for 10-12 minutes @ 350 degrees and enjoy!

Clean Eating in the Freezer Aisle #Convenient

IMG_2485 (1)

 

 

It is a myth that fresh foods in the produce department or at the meat/seafood counter are nutritionally superior to their frozen counterparts. Frozen fruits and vegetables may actually have a higher vitamin and mineral content than fresh versions due to the fact that they are often frozen immediately after harvest, eliminating the nutrient losses that are inevitable as produce sits on grocery store shelves. Another benefit of frozen foods can be convenience and lower prices.

Well, then why do people say that frozen foods aren’t healthy? Because many frozen foods are processed and very poor nutritional choices: Lean Cuisines, frozen vegetables in buttery sauces, or frozen fruit with sugar added… The trick is simply to read the label and opt for frozen foods with short, ‘real food’ ingredient lists. If you are buying frozen fruits and vegetables, such as green beans for example- the only ingredient should be green beans! Be weary of sodium content or strange added preservatives. If you pay attention to what you’re buying, clean eating in the frozen aisle is possible and a great option for many people!

Last night I was in need of something quick and easy for dinner so I threw together this simple, yet satisfying meal. I pulled a frozen salmon filet out of the freezer and put it right into the oven to cook for 25 minutes at 400 degrees F. Before putting the fish in the oven, I lightly seasoned it with thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper. Right before the fish was done cooking, I microwaved a cup of frozen green beans, grabbed a wheat dinner roll, and my nutritious meal was complete- in less than 30 minutes!

Light and Healthy Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

IMG_1747Ingredients:

  • 2 portobello mushroom caps
  • Tomato paste/puree (ingredients should be only tomatoes!)
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Garlic-stuffed olives
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Asparagus

Directions: Spread tomato paste on inside of each mushroom. Slice 3-5 garlic-stuffed olives longways and place flat side down on top of tomato sauce. Sprinkle each pizza with nutritional yeast, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Meanwhile steam asparagus in a covered microwave safe dish and 1/4 inch of water for 2-3 minutes. Plate asparagus and pizzas and enjoy!

Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

IMG_1739Ingredients:

  • Eggplant
  • Tomato puree
  • Nutritional yeast flakes
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Pour apple cider vinegar into a small bowl. Add basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. The amount will depend on how heavily you usually prefer to season your food. Slice eggplant into thin discs. Dredge each slice in vinegar mixture thoroughly. Let soak about 5 minutes. Cook slices in a skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, flipping half way. Cover a plate with a bed of spinach. Stack eggplant slices on spinach bed, layering tomato puree and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast between each slice. Top with a an extra pinch of oregano and you’re good to go!