Kitchen= A Cooking Lab

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“The kitchen’s a laboratory, and everything that happens there has to do with science. It’s biology, chemistry, physics. Yes, there’s history. Yes, there’s artistry. Yes, to all of that. But what happened there, what actually happens to the food is all science.” Food critic-Alton Brown

No-one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Chef Julia Child

“It is important to experiment and endlessly seek after creating the best possible flavors when preparing foods. That means not being afraid to experiment with various ingredients.” – Chef Rocco DiSpirito

Every now and again, I get inspired in the kitchen.  I look at things a different way and want to experiment.  I come up with concoctions that some people would consider weird or odd.  But, to my surprise they come out quite tasty!  For example, I make a  cookies and cream protein shake in a shaker bottle with milk and ice after my workouts.  One day, I decided to blend my same shake with a scoop of hazelnut chocolate spread. It came out AMAZING!  I was wowed by the taste and texture change!  Another time, I needed to make a quick meal.  We had cooked noodles already, but I wasn’t feeling red sauce.  Instead, I mixed 1 tablespoon with a few shakes of garlic powder, minced onion, and parmesan cheese.  Viola, homemade garlic parmesan pasta sauce!

I’m sure most people would say these recipes are too simple or easy to make.  But, I just want to make a point here.  You can view your kitchen as a science lab.  You see, cooking is a form of science.  Different cooking methods use heat, cooling, mixing, blending, and others to create chemical and physical changes to the ingredients.  When these ingredients react and/ or interact with each other, the possible combinations are endless!

Long story short, cooking is a skill.  Anyone can learn the skill.  It comes with trial and error.  It’s ok to move out of your comfort zone in the kitchen.  Trying something new can be an exciting experience.  That’s how you can get better.  The resulting dishes you make may surprise you!  As Always, Eat, Move, and Improve!

*Readers: Have you ever cooked up anything in the kitchen that was new to you?  How did it go?  Comment below and let us know your experiences!*

Happy Easter

This year, Easter Sunday is on Sunday, April 20 2014.  For most, this means Easter Baskets full of chocolate eggs, jelly beans, large chocolate Easter bunnies, and much more!  We also usually have a large Easter dinner meal.  Depending on your tradition, that could mean sliced ham, casseroles, hard boiled eggs, or, if you’re like my family, pasta and red sauce!  With all this great food and  good company, it can be easy to go overboard with the foods we eat.  Here are some tips to make your Easter healthier! 

Instead of candy in Easter baskets, try these:

  • Whole pieces of fruit
  • Bags of popcorn
  • Small toys
  • Granola Bars
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Fun books

If you are planning to eat a large Easter dinner, follow these tips:

  • Fill your plate only once
  • Drink water
  • Have a small meal a few hours before
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables

I hope you and your family have a happy and healthy Easter!

Be Wary of Fad Diets

This past month, U.S. News ranked the most popular diets from best to worst.  You can read them here: http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-overall-diets

Fad diets and special diets are popular for their promises for weight loss and a healthier life.  This is pertinent especially in January when everyone has made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight.  However, some weight loss diets are more effective and safer than others.  Some weight loss diets are just downright wacky.  U.S. News ranked the Dash Diet, the TLC Diet, and the Mediterranean Diet as the best 3.  The worst 3 diets included the Dukan Diet, the Paleo Diet, and the Raw Food Diet.

Still having trouble choosing the correct diet for you?  Want to find out if a diet is a fad diet?  Here are some things to look for to find a fad diet:

  • If the diet promises rapid weight loss
  • If the diet does not recommend exercise
  • If the diet has special rules and regulations
  • If the diet claims to be a “scientific breakthrough”
  • If diet claims tend to be too good to be true

As Always, Trust Your Gut!

Eat Less Salt

This post is the 4th in a series of 10 called “10 Simple Steps to Make Good Habits More Delicious” courtesy of the Sport, Cardiovascular, and Wellness nutrition group.

Too much sodium in our diets has been linked with high blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.  The dietary guidelines recommend that we eat less than 2300mg of sodium a day and less than 1500mg after the age of 51, are African American, or have issues with hypertension, diabetes, or have kidney disease,  However, slat is not the enemy; too much salt is.  We need sodium to survive because it helps us maintain fluid balance and helps with heart rhythms.

Here are a some foods that are high in sodium:

  • Salt
  • Processed meats
  • Canned foods
  • Cheese
  • Pickles
  • Snack foods

Want some tips on lowering salt in your diet?  Try these:

  • Know your salty ingredients: Salt can be named in several different ways on a nutrition label.  Look for these words: sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, sodium ascorbate, and MSG.
  • Make it at Home: Prepare foods at home so that you can control how much salt goes into your food.
  • Focus on Fresh: Sodium is used to preserve foods.  Therefore, foods with long shelf lives tend to be high in salt.  Try to decrease the amount of processed meats, canned foods, and some soups.
  • Hide the Saltshaker: Avoid adding salt to your meals at the dinner table.  Try other spices such as pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, basil, parsley, etc. to add flavor.
  • Buy fresh or frozen vegetables and beans:  They will have less salt than the canned alternative.
  • Look for low salt alternatives: Many foods are made with less sodium now; Foods with the label “low sodium” or “reduced sodium” will have vastly less sodium than the regular item.

As Always, Trust Your Gut!

Size Your Serving Sizes Right

This post will be the first in the series of 10 from SCAN (Sport, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition).

While the quality of food we eat is important, so the the quantity, or amount, we eat.  With food, you can definitely eat too much of a food at expense of others.  This is where portion control comes into play.  Portion control means making dietary choices in a way that controls the amount of food you eat so that you eat the correct number of calories for your body.  Each food group has a range of portion sizes that are healthy and realistic.  For example, the correct portion for any and all fats and oils is 1 tablespoon.  3 ounces are a good portion for a piece of lean protein.  1/2 cup of fresh fruit is typically the norm.  You can even compare household items to your food to make sure your portions are correct.  Here are some examples:

  • 3 ounces poultry/ beef= a deck of cards
  • 3 ounces fish= a checkbookImage
  • 1 ounce of nuts= cupped palm of your hand
  • 1 baked potato= a computer mouse
  • 1 dinner roll= a yoyo
  • 1 cup cereal/ pasta/green salad = a baseballgreen salad
  • 1 serving of fruit/ vegetable= a light bulb
  • 1 ounce cheese/ 2 tablespoons peanut butter= ping pong ball
  • 2 tablespoons salad dressing= a shot glass
  • 1 tablespoon margarine= Your thumb
  • 1 teaspoon margarine= a scrabble tile

This is just a general list.  When there is a nutrition label available, use the serving size on that label.  Also, you may need more or less of these serving sizes depending on your energy needs.  Listen to your body and hunger cues to make better choices.

As Always, Trust Your Gut!

10 Simple Steps To Make Good Habits More Delicious

Recently, I ordered a promotional handout from one of my Dietetic Practice Groups SCAN (Sport, Cardiovascular, & Wellness, Nutrition).  This pamphlet has a lot of great information and recipes with 10 realistic and sustainable changes you can make to drop weight, improve performance, or just be healthier.  For the next 10 posts, I will outline these steps in more detail.  Here is a sneak peak of what’s to come:

1. Size Your Servings Right

2. Switch out the Saturated Fats

3. Make Half Your Plates Fruits and Vegetables

4. Eat Less Salt

5. Watch out for Solid Fats and Added Sugar

6. Go Lean with Protein

7. Make Half Your Grains Whole

8. Make Healthy Plates with MyPlate

9. Be Food Safe

10. Move More!

Shout out to SCAN DPG, Country Crock, and I Can’t Believe It’s not Butter for creating this neat little handout.

As Always, Trust Your Gut!

The Party Problem

Have you been at a party and eaten too much?  We’ve all been there.  I just did it yesterday at my aunt’s 50th birthday party.  It’s so easy to do.  We are all out of our normal eating routine.  There are so many dishes that are equally delicious.  You’re around people who encourage you to try all the dishes.  Plus, I don’t want to forget to mention how many courses might be served.

Parties can be very fun, but dangerous to your dietary goals.  There are so many temptations at these special events.  And, since it’s a special time, calories don’t count, right?  Not so much.

But, don’t get discouraged about it.  You can still eat healthy and enjoy the party & all its dishes.  I think the best thing you can do is PREPARE.  Before the party, plan your dish (if you’re responsible for one) as a healthy food.  Next, have a plan on how you would “attack” the buffet.  Pick only the foods you know you will like and know are healthy choices.  You don’t have to sample every dish.

Here’s another strategy.  Try to limit each course to 1 plate.  Sample one small plate from the appetizer spread.  Fill your dinner plate only once.  Finally, pick one dessert.  And as always, listen to your hunger cues. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied.  Try this next time and see if it works for you!