Friday, July 22, 2011

Supermarket Rules

  • Work the Edges - For the most part, the healthiest food in the supermarket can be found around the edges of the store - meats, seafood, dairy, and produce. The inner aisles of the store are dominated by boxes, bags, and cans.
  • Look High and Low - Many supermarkets charge "slotting fees" to food companies who want prime food placement on shelves - eye level (or kids' eye level in the case of candy and sugary cereals). Thus healthy food (from smaller companies) can normally be found more on the top and bottom shelves.

  • Go for Fewer Ingredients - When you must choose from two or more competing products, one of the easiest ways to tell which is better for you is to choose the one with fewer ingredients.  For example, real peanut butter has only two ingredients - peanuts and salt.
  • Watch the Totem Pole - Think of the ingredient list as a totem pole.  The ingredients at the top are the most abundant in the product.  So if you are trying to avoid corn syrup, you are better off with a product that lists it 10th in the ingredient list as opposed to a product which has it listed second.
Hope this helps everyone! I hope to be posting weekly from this point forward.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blueberries...Real or Fake?

If you like eating cereals, muffins, or other snacks with blueberries inside, get ready to have your world rocked.  Most likely, those are not real blueberries, but blueberry 'crunchlets', 'blueberry bits', or 'artificially flavored blueberry bits'. What does this mean? It means that you are not getting the antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber provided by the actual fruit. Instead you are eating 'sugar, artificial dyes, and soybean oil.'

The problem with these blueberry-flavored things is that they almost always contain oil or hydrogenated oils, increasing the fat and trans fat content, which actually detracts from the health value of the product.

I really can't say it better than this video from NaturalNews:

Just thought you all should know.  Buyer beware.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Recipe Four: Turkey Meatballs and Sauce

Here's a healthier (turkey) meatball option for when you cook, with a delicious homemade sauce to go along with it.

Turkey Meatballs
Makes 6 servings


  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 16 oz can whole cut tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Small can sliced black olives

  1. Mix turkey, parmesan, egg, basil, breadcrumbs, parsley, and oregano in a bowl
  2. Form into 1 - 2 inch meatballs and sautée in large skillet until no longer pink in center
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the meatballs in a large pot
  4. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes
  5. Salt and pepper to taste, serve over hot pasta
Nutrition Information
  • 213 calories
  • 16 g carbohydrates
    • 2 g dietary fiber
    • 4 g sugar
  • 5 g fat
  • 25 g protein
This is such an easy recipe to make, and once you are done forming the meatballs, you basically just let them sit and cook - very little attention required. Bon appétit! 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Grill Safely

There is a small cancer risk associated with grilling meat since carcinogens are created during the grilling process, however vegetables (even when they char) do not produce carcinogens. Taking a few precautions while barbecuing minimizes the health risks without sacrificing that delicious charcoal taste. 

Grilling protein-filled foods such as meats and fish creates two kinds of chemical compounds that may contribute to cancer: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs form when meat is cooked at a high temperature. While frying and broiling produce these chemicals as well, the charred bits at the edges of barbecued meat contain HCAs in their purest state. PAHs form when juices from meat drip onto coals or other hot surfaces and create smoke. The smoke contains these carcinogens, which are deposited onto the surface of meat as it swirls around the food on the grill. 

To cut down on the amount of carcinogens produced, you can microwave meat 60-90 seconds to reduce the amount of time needed to grill it. You can also cut off the charred parts of the meat which means you won't ingest the purest HCA's contained there. Certain recipes can also make grilling safer; vinegar or lemon marinades act as a shield to prevent PAH's from sticking to the meat. Instead of grilling meat, try grilling some vegetables like squash and asparagus, or fruits like pineapple.

Though grilling is not the greatest cancer risk, we should still take precautions to reduce known risk.  I hope everyone has a great summer grilling season! (I sure have some new recipes ready to go.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Range at Harrah's, Las Vegas

This is the first, and will probably be the most fancy (at least for a long while) restaurant review on my blog. While in Las Vegas this past week, we decided to splurge and eat at The Range steakhouse at Harrah's hotel and casino. Let me tell you, it was amazing.

I have a feeling that the pictures of the food will speak for themselves, but let me tell you a little about the experience. After ascending an elevator into the restaurant, we look out onto a beautiful view of the Las Vegas Strip at night.  The service was fantastic, our waiter (actually from Texas, awesome) was extremely attentive and made sure that we were well taken care of.  But enough of that, onto the foooooood:

Assortment of breadsticks

Surf and Turf (6 oz filet with a 4 oz lobster medallion, accompanied by spinach and potatoes)

10 oz filet mignon, topped with a caramelized onion. You can see also the heaping mound
of delicious grilled asparagus we ordered as a side dish.
And Tiramisu for dessert. Yum.

I would highly recommend The Range if you ever find yourself in Las Vegas and hungry for a delicious meal.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Nuts About Peanut Butter

Many of us looooove peanut butter - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, peanut butter on bananas, Reese's peanut butter cups, and the list goes on and on. But nowadays how do we know which peanut butter is the best for us, with all of the different brands, varieties, and marketing schemes?

Walking through the grocery store, there is a huge section in one of the aisles devoted to peanut butter.  I kind of find this ridiculous, since you only need two ingredients to make it: peanuts and salt.  Though, I don't think any of the jarred peanut butters have only two ingredients. Personally, I like Jif, so I am going to use their products here for comparison, but other brands like Skippy could be compared in pretty much equivalent ways.


  • Regular Jif - Roasted peanuts and sugar, contains less than 2% of molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, mono- and diglycerides, salt
  • Reduced Fat Jif - Peanuts, corn syrup solids, soy protein, sugar, contains less than 2% of molasses, salt, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, folic acid, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, alphatocopheryl acetate, copper sulfate, ferric orthophosphate, magnesium oxide, zinc oxide (whew!)
  • Simply Jif - Roasted peanuts, contains less than 2% of fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, mono- and diglycerides, molasses, sugar, salt
  • Natural Jif - Peanuts, sugar, palm oil, contains less than 2% of salt, molasses
Personally, looking at this list, I would choose the Natural Jif, or any other peanut butter with the fewest unpronounceable ingredients.

America is focused on losing weight, and low-fat, low-calorie type foods, but I have a problem with reduced fat peanut butter. Yes, some of the fat is gone, but it has been replaced with cheap carbohydrates or chemical fillers used in many processed foods.  This means you're trading the healthy fat from peanuts for empty carbs (7g per serving up to 13g per serving of carbs), four times the amount of salt of the natural Jif, and more sugar. 

What you want to find is a peanut butter with the bare minimum: peanuts and salt; try to reduce on the oils and ingredients you can't pronounce. Also, try something new like cashew or almond butter. Since these products are a bit more rare, the ones I have seen are more 'natural', with fewer added ingredients. Most importantly, just read the ingredients list - don't be fooled by marketing claims without understanding them fully.  Now that my appetite is all worked up, I'm off to go eat some PB&J!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ingredient Highlight: Asparagus

I think asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables - it can be served warm or hot, and blends well many different types of food. For example, asparagus is a staple green in the Norwegian society, along with fish and potatoes, but with the right sauce can also be served with almost any Asian cuisine. A great spring/summer vegetable, asparagus provides the body with ample amounts of folate, a B vitamin that protects the heart by helping to reduce inflammation. Asparagus also provides huge amounts of vitamin K, along with large doses of vitamins A and C. The many different nutrients in asparagus have anti-aging functions, can protect against cancer, can prevent osteoporosis, reduce the risk of heart disease, and can help prevent birth defects.

Asparagus is a perennial garden plant in the Lily family (Liliaceae). While over 300 varieties of asparagus have been found, only 20 are edible. While the most common variety of asparagus is green in color, you can find two other edible varieties in stores. White asparagus (which has a more delicate flavor and tender texture) is grown underground to inhibit the development of chlorophyll content, thus creating its distinctive white coloring. It is usually found canned, although you may find it fresh in some select shops. The other edible variety of asparagus is purple, is much smaller than the green or white variety (usually just 2 to 3 inches tall) and features a fruitier flavor. This variety also provides health benefits from phytonutrients called anthocyanins that produce its purple color.

When at the store, you may notice that some asparagus spears are thin and some are thicker. The thick ones are best for roasting or steaming. I find steaming the best and also very quick. The thin spears are ideal for the grill or if you are planning to sautée. Before cooking or consumption, the woody end of the stem should be snapped off. Asparagus may be served warm or cold, with many different seasonings or in many different types of sauce. Look for asparagus recipes coming soon!

Peak season: March to June
Tip: Asparagus has a much higher respiration rate than most vegetables, which means that it should be consumed within 48 hours of purchase