Happy Birthday To Me!

So it’s getting to be close to my birthday, and every year, I try to give myself the same present: a day that I can eat anything that I want. Anything. And you know what? Every year, I never give myself that gift. I simply cannot do it.

When I was younger and had no knowledge of nutrition, it was much easier to devour as much ice cream, cake, pizza and Fruit Loops as I wanted, especially if it was the day before I was going to start a diet. Because, as you know, the day you start a diet, at least when you are fourteen years old, it is all about deprivation, starvation, and drinking as much water as you can to fill yourself up. So if you’re going to have to face that for several weeks in a row, you might as well enjoy your last moments when you can actually eat food, and man, did I do a great job. I could start breakfast with bowls of cereal and pizza, followed by chocolate chip cookies and Top Ramen for lunch, and maybe even the same thing for dinner! And, as many of us know, we experience these “diets” several times a year due to the dreaded “yo-yo” effect, so I could look forward to multiple opportunities to eat a lot of absolute junk. Wow, the things I used to do to my poor body!

As I grew out of those “diets” and into a better understanding of calories and metabolism and how our bodies work, I also gave up those crazy pre-diet days and developed a more responsible way to eat, but that doesn’t mean that a small part of me doesn’t long for a guilt-free day of eating whatever I want, just like the old days. That’s where the birthday present to myself comes in.  Wouldn’t it be fun to just eat pasta, dark chocolate, pizza, and French fries and not give it a second thought? To not care about the extra calories or the blood sugar levels, or how much fiber I should be getting? A special day like your birthday is the perfect reason!

Alas, it is not meant to be. Here’s why I can’t give this gift to myself. It’s not about the guilt. It’s not about not having this stuff in the house. It’s not about knowing better (well maybe it is just a little!). It’s really because I just have no desire to eat most of that stuff anymore, and if I do want to have something like dark chocolate, I just eat it. So easy, and guilt free. My tastes have changed so much since those days that brown rice with sauteed mushrooms and a nice big salad are really what I crave now. Really. Yes, there are still times when I want to treat myself to a little more ice cream than I should have, just like everyone else, but these times are few and far between, which I suppose is the very reason I don’t need a special day to eat whatever I want – I do it every day! Turns out I’ve been giving myself that gift all along.

So this year, I’m changing it up. Why keep giving myself a gift that I don’t need? This year, I’m going to enjoy the fact that my diet doesn’t deprive me of anything, and that it keeps me happy and healthy so that I’ll hopefully have many more birthdays to celebrate. Happy birthday to me!

National Nutrition Month is here!

Each year, many of us make a New Year’s resolution to save more money or to get more exercise, but during the month of March, we get to focus our powers of resolution specifically on nutrition.  The holidays are over, we’ve run out of Valentine’s Day chocolates, and now we can take some time to look at our eating habits and maybe even make some changes. March is National Nutrition Month, and it a great opportunity to improve your diet.

All too often, we tend to eat the same foods because for the most part, it’s easier. We’re all too busy and stressed, and paying attention to what we eat or purchase just becomes another thing that can make us feel overwhelmed. If you have people in your life that aren’t easy to please or who are picky when it comes to food, it can make even thinking about change that much more difficult.

The good news is that moving towards better nutrition doesn’t have to be a big challenge.

There are so many small things that you can do that can make a huge impact on your life and the lives of your family. To get you off to a great start, here are just a few things you can try:

  • Adopt Meatless Mondays for the month of March and try out some new vegetarian or vegan recipes or restaurants. Increasing plant foods is an important part of a healthy diet.
  • Try “light” ice creams or reduced-fat dairy products that can significantly reduce the amount of fat you consume. Higher intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol have been associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk.
  • Start reading nutrition labels if you don’t already, paying special attention to the number of servings per package/container. You may be consuming more calories than you think!
  • If you’d like to decrease your weight, decrease your portion sizes by one-quarter to one-third. If you usually serve yourself one cup of rice, try three-quarters of a cup instead.
  • Try a new whole grain that you’ve been curious about. Quinoa, millet, farro, and steel-cut oats are just a few of the delicious options now widely available. You’ll be getting increased fiber, protein and phytonutrients.
  • Make vegetables the focus of your plate by filling up at least half of your plate with them, and treat meat as a side dish if you choose to have it at all.
  • Trade in your calorie-laden drinks for calorie-free versions like unsweetened coffees, teas, diet drinks, or water. Sugary beverages not only add extra calories but they spike our blood sugars. And yes, 100% fruit juices are included here if you have more than ½ cup.

Making just one of these changes can put you on a path to a new discovery. You might find out that your family really enjoys brown rice, or that you don’t feel as “heavy” after you’ve eaten dinner, or that your clothes fit a little looser after a few weeks. Before you know it, you’ll not only be implementing that change into your regular diet, but you may decide to add in a few more as well.

So make March the time to change it up. You’ll never know unless you start. Now.

Games for Foodies!

Board games, party games, and card games, many people are re-finding good old-fashioned board games lately. Is it because we have become so disconnected from each other through all of our forms of electronic communication and video gaming that we are trying to reconnect with actual people? I don’t know, but as a gamer myself, I’m pleased about this resurgence of uniting for a bit of fun.

I own many board games with varying themes, but one of my favorite themes is food! Shocking, I know, but I thought I would share a few of these games as I’m guessing many of you have never even heard of them before. They are all very different from the types we all grew up with, especially if you grew up in the U.S., so I say it’s time to explore a new genre of board games!

The games I am going to tell you about range in complexity from easy to very challenging, and most rely on some sort of strategy, versus luck, to win the game. I want to share a few of these with you in an effort to spread my love of board games – and food!

Wasabi!

This is a fun and fairly easy game in which you compete against others to build unique sushi recipes. You collect ingredients and place them on your sushi mat based on your recipe, and as you build more sushi, the space to build additional sushi recipes decreases. Completing each sushi roll gives you points, depending on how many ingredients are involved, and if you build it in the same order as in the recipe, extra points! Of course, there are also ways to disrupt your opponent’s efforts to complete their sushi rolls, so getting the ingredients you need to win may not be as easy as it sounds. Lots of fun, colorful, easy to learn – and it makes you hungry for sushi!

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Foodie Fight

This is a trivia game, where you answer various questions from the following six categories:  “Foodiesphere” (food people, world cuisines, food places); “Food Stars” (food on film and in print); “Company’s Coming” (party planning, table etiquette, wine and food pairing); “Lab and Field” (cooking science, nutrition and food production); “Dining Out” (eateries, chefs, menu matters, restaurant service); and “What’s Cooking?” (cooking techniques, tools and ingredients). Not only is it a lot of fun to test your food knowledge, you also get to mark your correct answers on these very cute plates. The first person to complete all of their plates wins! Plays up to six people.

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There is also a second addition, Foodie Fight Rematch, which adds even more foodie trivia, and in the same vein, Wine Wars is a trivia game with five categories to test yourself and your friends.

Morels

Morels is a two-player card game in which you forage and collect up to ten different kinds of mushrooms with the goal of cooking the most sets, and the most expensive mushrooms, to win the game. Once you collect at least three of the same kind of mushroom, you place the cards in front of you on a frying pan, and if you collect a large enough set, you can earn extra points by adding either butter or cider to your pan. Yum! The player with the most sets of cooked mushrooms wins the game. With limited numbers of each type of mushroom (the most expensive mushrooms have the fewest cards of that type) and a limited number of cards you can hold in your hand, it makes for some very tough decisions. This is a great game to play in a coffee shop as it is a small box and game play doesn’t need a lot of room on the table. The artwork on the cards is beautiful too!

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These next two games I would consider to be “heavier” strategy games, meaning that there are a lot of different things going on in the game simultaneously that you need to keep track of in order to do well. These two games also happen to be a few of my favorites, so I will give you a brief overview of each one to whet your whistle.

Viva Java

This is a semi-cooperative game in which you try to buy the best coffee beans and blend the best coffees. You select the region of the world where you want to collect beans, and you may be forced to team up and work with different opponents throughout the game to create the best blends, depending on the region you select. You can either play nice together or make a few enemies along the way (that’s the semi-cooperative part!), or you can try to go solo, but you might not be able to buy the best beans or make the best blends. You may also spend time doing research to improve your buying and blending abilities. A medium-heavy game as far as rules and strategy go, but a great game that you can work up to. Another great thing is this game plays up to eight people, so it’s great for large groups. You can almost smell the coffee roasting!

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Vinhos

This is my “heaviest” foodie game, and a big favorite. You are a wine maker in Portugal, and the game play spans six years. Your goal is to make the best wine each year, and in order to do this you will try to: buy more vineyards, buy wine cellars for aging your wines, establish vineyards in other parts of Portugal where different types of grapes are grown, hire an enologist, sell to local businesses as well as export to other parts of the world. Obviously all of these things involve money, so balancing your finances is key. Additionally, there are wine fairs where you can put up your best wines for awards and try to get the judges to give you favors.  This game is fantastic, but as you can see, it’s complex and not for one who is just getting started in this genre of board games. Plays up to four people. Love it.

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Well, that should be enough to possibly spark your interest in checking out some of these great games. More information on each of these games can be found at http://www.boardgamegeek.com. Make some time to get together with friends or family and play a few of these “foodie” games. You will be happy that you did! Bon appetit!

New York, New York ~ How Sweet It Is(n’t)

On September 13, 2012, New York City’s Board of Health banned sugary beverages in serving sizes over 16 ounces, except if they are sold in grocery stores or convenience stores. This ban does not apply to water (vitamin waters?), diet sodas (these would be reduced sugar drinks?), alcoholic beverages, drinks containing at least half milk, or beverages containing at least 70% unsweetened juice.

One might think that I’m thrilled with this ruling, given that fact that I have written previously about reducing all of the sugary drinks that we consume these days, but I really have mixed feelings about this. Do I love the thought that the largest sugary drink you can now order at a coffee shop or restaurant in New York City is 16 ounces? Yes! Do I love how we got to that place? Not so much.

Why is it so difficult for us as a society to take personal responsibility for our choices? We have been aware for quite a long time now that we are consuming too much sugar and that our rates of overweight and obesity in the U.S. are skyrocketing, and yet we can’t seem to get it together. Is increased government regulation really the answer? Will this new law be the start of what turns that around?

Additionally, in this morning’s paper, there was an article about how drinking sugary beverages actually impacts the genes that affect our weight, and the word “proof’ was used. The article discussed three separate studies that all came to the same conclusions – sugary drinks are tied to increased risks of overweight and obesity, independent of other unhealthy factors such as too little exercise or overeating. Finally! This notion has been tossed around for years now, but without strong studies to point to, it has been a tough sell.

Does this latest information increase the need for laws similar to what the city of New York enacted or will it spur us into making better choices on our own? Granted, lately we don’t have a very good record on that front, as it seems like everyone has a reason for their lack of self-monitoring or parental responsibility and is very willing to point the blame finger at someone else. And let’s not forget that sweetened beverages over 16 ounces can still be purchased at the local corner market or grocery store, where young, uninformed and unmonitored children can use their lunch money to buy that 32-ounce drink after school, or (gasp!) before school. Not sure how that gaping hole occurred, but there it is.

Maybe if we get educated and take a minute to understand the ramifications of continuing to make these poor choices, maybe we can turn it around without having to create more legislation. Maybe.

Did the Mayor of New York City start something that other major cities across the country will follow? Will it make a difference in our health? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Rethinking the Value Meal

Sometimes I really wonder about the future of the human race, at least the American version of it. I’m talking about people who live in America and partake, for the most part, in the American culture. Yes, there are a lot of great things about our culture, but some of the not-so-good things are causing some serious damage to our future as a strong nation.

Take, for example, the importance we put on getting a good deal. Whether it is for a piece of furniture or a box of waffles, it has become ingrained in us to look for the best deal that our money can buy. If we can get a small burger for $1.29, that’s okay, but if we get the bigger burger that also comes with a large fries and large drink for $2.99, well that’s an even better deal! Thirty more ounces of soda for an extra ten cents – yes please!

Now who can argue wanting to get the most for the money – it seems it would be foolish to think any other way – we all work hard for what we earn, and yet our blind allegiance to the almighty deal, when it applies to food, is costing us our health.

So, what are we really buying with that extra ninety-nine cents when we get the value meal or the keg-sized vat-o-soda? In most cases, we are buying extra calories, made up of lots of unhealthy fats and sugars. Rarely do we get anything of nutritional value when we succumb to these “deals” because selling us the fats and sugars is very cost effective for the food producers and increases their profits tremendously. And our thirst for a bargain has not been overlooked by the media and food marketers who often make “the deal” irresistible to us and impossible to refuse.

But it’s hardly a value when it comes to our health, as these extra calories, fats and sugars cause us to gain weight, increase our risk for developing diabetes and heart disease, give us mood and energy swings, and generally decrease the length of our lives. The sad truth is that a large percentage of us no longer pay attention to the quality of what we are buying when it comes to our food, as long as it’s cheap and it tastes good.

So what’s it going to take for the American public to understand that the true value of food is its effect on our overall health and not its effect on our wallets? Is it going to be a diagnosis of diabetes or cardiovascular disease that will finally get someone to pay attention to what they are consuming? By then, it’s most likely too late. We have gotten used to paying the minimum amount for food, and in most cases, we are getting the minimum amount of nutrition. Unfortunately, people don’t see that we are paying higher prices in other ways.

Yes, it’s probably going to cost people a little more to buy fresh produce instead of that drink bucket at the corner market, but how much more is it going to cost people later in life for hospital visits, expensive medications, and treatments? Possibly their life savings. And there’s also the increased cost to all Americans for national health care programs. I know that most people want to live to a ripe old age and have a good quality of life as well. For that to happen, we have to make our own “value meals” that put nutritional value before the dollar value.

You can create your own value meal that includes fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean meats. Think of it like this: the slightly higher cost you may pay now is really an investment in your health. Better to pay yourself now than a pharmaceutical company later, don’t you think? Eat well.

Peace, Love, and Whole Grains

Back in the day, we used to equate anyone who ate whole grains to being “hippies” and “tree huggers.” They would get shunned as being too “earthy” and not being as “sophisticated” as those of us who ate foods that were processed. Well, the tables have turned my friends, and guess who had it right all along? Not those of us who ate white bread and sugary cereals for breakfast, that’s for sure. On top of that, those “hippies” seemed to stay pretty thin, while the rest of us “sophisticates” started to gain weight. What we are learning about how our body metabolizes processed grains may explain why those two disparate conditions were occurring. Whole grains are important, and we are now starting to fully understand why.

There are three major components to a whole grain: the bran, or outer layer of the grain which contains the fiber and a lot of minerals and vitamins; the germ, which is the new plant that would grow if you planted that grain, where we find additional vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, and protein; and the starch, also called the endosperm, which is essentially the energy that the baby plant would use to grow.

When that grain gets processed, the bran and the germ are removed, which causes the nutritional value of that grain to diminish drastically. Not only that, but what you are left with is essentially the starch, which our bodies can very quickly turn into sugar.

It’s already bad enough that we are losing the most important components when we process grains, but to make matters worse, we are now understanding that our bodies metabolize a whole grain very differently than a processed grain. While the whole grain is more nutrient dense, the fiber and oils it contains help to slow down the digestive process, meaning that 1) we will feel fuller for a longer time and not eat as often, and 2) as the starch enters our blood stream, it does so at a much slower rate, which means that our blood sugar levels are much more stabilized. Having stable blood sugars is important for your body because that means that less insulin is moved into your blood. Insulin’s job is not only to move the sugar into your cells, but it is also responsible for storing fat in your cells. The more sugar/refined carbohydrates consumed, the more insulin is needed, the more fat is stored. That doesn’t sound good to me at all. When we eat whole grains our mental focus, physical endurance, and blood sugar levels are all improved, and we’re not feeding our fat cells either.

In comparison, eating a lot of processed grain means that there aren’t the oils and fiber slowing down the sugar absorption, causing large amounts of sugar to be dumped into your blood stream at one time. Not only are we dealing with the metabolic effects of processed grains, but once all of that insulin has moved the sugars and fats into our cells, we can also see a dramatic drop in blood sugar levels, which in most cases affects our ability to think clearly, makes us want to take a nap, and may cause us to eat another “high sugar” food to get our energy levels back up. It’s a vicious cycle that can ultimately lead to overweight or obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. What a bummer.

So, the bottom line here is to decrease the amount of processed and refined grains in your diet as much as possible. Whole-grain breads, cereals, rice and pastas are now easily found at your local grocery store – and you don’t even have to go to the “Natural Products” aisle to find them! And let’s not forget that portion control also plays a role here too. Just because you have changed to eating brown rice doesn’t mean you can have three bowls of it. Enjoy your whole grains in moderation. Yes, you might have to get used to the subtle flavor changes, but before you know it, you will not only find yourself enjoying whole-grain products, but you will find that you will be feeling more energized throughout the day, eating less frequently, and you just might lose a pound or five as your body begins to thank you for taking better care of it. So, embrace your inner free spirit and get that burger on a nutritious whole-wheat bun. Whole grains are cool man! Peace.

“The Skinny Rules” – A Book Review

Welcome to my first book review!

Whenever I see a new book, whether it’s a book on nutrition or the latest novel, I try to read the reviews first so that I can get an idea of 1) it’s premise, 2) what it can offer me that is new and important, and 3) the overall impact of the book – is it going to change my thinking, my world views, or improve my knowledge base in a significant way? This is what I will try to share in my book reviews so that you can decide if it’s worth not only your money, but your valuable time as well. So, on with the review!

“The Skinny Rules” is a new book by fitness trainer Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser TV show. The premise of his book is that if you follow his 20 Rules, you will not only lose weight but you will keep it off. For good. The first half of the book is his Rules, the second half is filled with menus and recipes. It’s basically another book telling you to eat whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, written by another fitness trainer who thinks he is a dietitian. Yes, another one of those.

His Rules state things like “Slash Your Intake of Refined Flours and Grains” and, “Don’t Drink Your Calories,” which you know is near and dear to my heart, and “Get Rid of Fast Foods and Fried Foods.” Nothing too revolutionary here. There are a few Rules that I thought were great to include, such as the importance of reading nutrition and ingredient labels, noting not only serving size, but number of servings per package – something most people don’t pay attention to at all.

He’s fairly good about backing up his Rules with studies to prove his points, until there is some science that he doesn’t really agree with, and then he says things like “Trust my process” and “I’m saying it works.” These kinds of statements make it seem like the author is discounting the science of nutrition in favor of what he thinks works. Not my favorite approach if you are trying to build credibility.

This was most obvious when he talked about “Rule 3: Eat Protein At Every Meal –or Stay Hungry and Grouchy.” This Rule states that you should divide your weight in pounds by two to get the number of grams of protein you should eat each day.

He further states that “no one really knows” how much protein we need, and in a very small way, almost mocks authorities such as the FDA, The National Research Council, and The National Academy of Sciences for the differing amounts of protein each recommends. While I’m not so fond of the “I know what’s best, don’t worry about what everyone else is saying” attitude, I do need to give him kudos as he would prefer you to eat plant proteins over animal proteins, which is not only healthier for you but also better for the planet. The only issue here is that if you are focusing on plant proteins (good for you!), it may be difficult to meet his recommendation for protein.

For the most part, his message is a healthy one. His Rules, though some lack scientific evidence to back them up (Rule 7: No Carbs After Lunch), provide a fairly strict regimen for those opting to jump on board, and offer little leeway in terms of moving into healthier eating patterns at a more gradual pace.

I feel that some of the weaker areas of this book are when he attempts to get all “sciency”. As he shares reasons to get processed grains out of your diet, he makes this statement:

Without the bran, starchy carbs get stuck in your gut for much longer than they should, and begin to interrupt normal bodily processes.

What does that even mean? In reality, it’s the reverse: it’s the bran (fiber) that causes the carbs to stay in your gut longer, and the removal of the bran and germ actually increases the rate of digestion, turning the starch into sugar much more rapidly!

And then there’s this one:

Let’s get schooled. There are two different kinds of fiber. The first, soluble fiber, is just that. It gets dissolved by water and absorbed into the bloodstream, where cells use its various components for vital functions.

Last time I checked, fiber doesn’t get absorbed into our bloodstream, no matter the kind, and our cells certainly don’t use fiber for anything! He also believes that fiber is a phytochemical (it’s not).  Let’s get schooled. Good one.

Another item of concern is the caloric restrictions he recommends. For men, it’s 1,500 calories a day, and for women, only 1,200 calories a day. How does he come up with these numbers? No idea. If you are going on the assumption that the average female needs roughly 1800 calories a day, that is a 33% reduction – far too severe in my opinion if you are expected to stay on it for an extended period of time. Better to cut out 200-300 calories a day and build good eating habits that will last than to cut out 600 calories a day and risk feeling deprived and miserable!

While I haven’t reviewed the recipes, I’m sure that most are healthy and affordable. There is no mention of where the recipes came from, but he does refer to them as “my recipes,” whatever that means. Who knows, maybe he’s whipping up new frittata recipes every Sunday morning!

So, what’s my opinion of this book? If you are ready to make some serious changes to your diet, and you’ll have to be honest in your own assessment of that, it can probably help you to lose weight. Even if his science isn’t correct (or proven in some cases), the ultimate goal is to get you to improve your habits and food choices. It’s too calorically restrictive for my liking, but if you’re looking for big changes and big commitments, then I’m sure these Rules will help you achieve your goals. B-

Goodbye My Sweet

How much sugar did you drink today?

Energy drinks, fruit juices, smoothies, coffees, sodas, sweetened teas, and flavored waters. We love ‘em! But that little innocent sweet tooth that we are all born with has taken over our lives and, unfortunately, derailed our concept of what a healthy diet is.

Back in the day, before the energy drinks and fruit smoothies ever existed, it was considered a treat to get a soda with your meal, and for most families this didn’t happen very often, usually only when you ate out. And when you did get that treat, it was served to you in a small glass or bottle, maybe eight ounces or so. And your fruit juice used to be served in a four-ounce glass. Just enough. And it was special.

Fast forward forty or fifty years and enter today’s world. That eight-ounce soda and four-ounce glass of orange juice have turned into 20 and 30-ounce drinks. And not only are we dealing with increased sizes, but there are now dozens of these sugary options luring you in from every street corner. We can get them hot, cold, caffeinated, and caramelized. We have been told that they can take the place of your breakfast, your daily fruit servings – even your water. And we believe the hype.

This love affair with sugary drinks used to be exciting and fun. So intriguing. Well, as can happen, our love affair has turned into an unhealthy relationship. Our overconsumption of sugar has caused us heartache (literally!), overweight and obesity, an epidemic of diabetes, as well as a myriad of other inflammatory conditions, all of which have been shown to decrease our life spans. And one of the biggest problems is that these chronic diseases are being seen in younger and younger people.

I see 10 and 12-year olds at popular coffee shops in the morning ordering beverages, and some of these drinks contain over 90 grams of sugar.  What does that really mean?

Go get a pencil and paper and write this down:

One level teaspoon of sugar contains four grams of sugar.

Now go put it up on your refrigerator. I’ll wait.

Now, back to those 12-year olds. Ninety grams of sugar divided by four grams of sugar per teaspoon means that in that one beverage, they are consuming almost 23 TEASPOONS of sugar. TEASPOONS! That’s 360 empty calories. Wow.

Try to find one parent who would allow their child to put 23 teaspoons of sugar on their cereal in the morning. Or any sensible adult that would willingly add 23 teaspoons to their morning coffee. Not an easy job, is it?

This problem didn’t exist forty years ago, but it’s our reality today. We have to get a better handle, not only on the amount of sugar that we are drinking (let’s not even talk about all of the other sugar we eat every day!), but also the impact that this is having on our health and longevity. It’s not good. There also seems to be a belief that because we are drinking a beverage and it doesn’t really make us feel full, the calories and sugar don’t count. Like they somehow magically turn into a fine mist and float out through our pores. We have to change this thinking, because they count more than you know. Fruit juices, sodas, energy drinks – it’s all just sugar.

The good news is that it’s never too late to change. You don’t have to give up your favorite coffee drink, you just have to ask for smaller sizes, less syrup, and/or sugar alternatives. The choices are there. Of course, you could always just throw them all out the window and opt for good old-fashioned water, but that may be asking for too much too soon.

Ideally, we should aim for six teaspoons of added sugar daily – and no, this doesn’t include the natural sugars found in fruits, dairy, and other healthy-carbohydrate foods. Read your nutrition labels and pay attention to your sugar intake – that note you just put up on your refrigerator will help you visualize how much sugar you are getting. If the number of teaspoons sounds like too much, make a different choice!

We can prevent ourselves from becoming the next statistic, the next person with diabetes or obesity. It’s not as tough as you may think. We can do it. We have to.

Krazy for Kale!

There’s a cool, not-so-new veggie in town, my friends, and its name is kale.

Actually, this veggie was, and probably still is, most famous for lining the ice bins at your nearest restaurant salad bar. Well, the times they are a-changing, and the decoration that used to get thrown out after a hard days work is finally being appreciated for its dark-green looks and nutritional sex appeal. Kale is being whipped into smoothies, oven-baked into tasty chips, and gently tossed into salads like never before.

Kale is a vegetable that some might call a “superfood” due to its powerful, nutritional punch. Kale is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables that includes brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage. The word on the street is that these cruciferous veggies may offer powerful protection against cancer, in addition to providing high levels of the antioxidant Vitamins A, and C, and Vitamin K. Antioxidants, as you know, may help delay the aging process and increase our longevity. All of that is pretty darn good, but wait – there’s more!

There’s an essential fatty acid that’s getting a lot of attention lately as well. You know the one – Omega-3. Turns out that most of us aren’t getting enough of that kind of fat in our diets. Well, kale’s got some of that too. And let’s not forget all of the fiber, iron and calcium it provides. Where does it stop?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. How can I incorporate kale into my life? Would you believe me if I said it was super easy to do? Here are just a few ways you can experiment with it – try a few of these to see which best fits into your lifestyle:

Salad: Tear the leaves off of the main stalk and throw them into your next salad. Lightly massaging them until they are soft also makes them less bitter.

Kale Chips: Put the leaves (minus the stalks) on a lightly-oiled baking sheet after tossing with a little oil and a dash of salt, and bake them at 325F for about 10-15 minutes or until the leaf edges turn light brown. Enjoy immediately!

Smoothies: Place about one cup of the kale leaves into a powerful blender and get creative!

You could add various fruits (bananas, blueberries, apricots), use fruit juices (not too much!) or non-dairy milks to adjust the thickness of the smoothie, and even throw in some ground flax seeds or chia seeds for an additional fiber and Omega-3 boost. There are no limits to the variety of kale smoothies you can create!

Kale really is a powerhouse of nutrition, and any way that you can find to incorporate it into your diet is a good thing. Anti-cancer? Antioxidants? All of those vitamins and minerals? I don’t need to be told twice. I think it’s about time that kale earned a spot in your refrigerator’s veggie bin, don’t you?

Welcome to my new blog!

Hi All,

Welcome to RDNutrition.org! Today begins a new chapter in my life, literally. My new blog could, in its entirety, be the beginnings of the kind of book about nutrition and healthy eating that I would enjoy reading. Little, usable nuggets of information that we can incorporate into our daily lives and share with our families and friends. I can just hear it at your next cocktail party, “Did you read yesterday on RDNutrition.org that you can make chips with kale? And it’s so easy, darling!”

My hope is to share information and maybe even put a little smile on your face in the process. Additionally,  I hope that you enjoy reading my blog and that you are able to take something from it to live a healthier life, whether it’s finding a new way to incorporate whole grains into your diet, or learning about the latest diet craze.

I hope you enjoy what you find here and if you have comments and/or suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Be happy and healthy,                                                                              Karen.