Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hot Topics-New Year's Resolution

Just in time for new year's resolutions and post holiday budget blues, recent research looked at the cost of a healthy diet.  The good news is swapping less expensive, high volume processed foods for fresher and more nutritious foods cost just about $1.50 per day. 

Analyzing 27 studies from 10 countries, it was summarized that yes, leaner proteins and fresh produce do cost more, but it is a slighter increase than you might have thought.
Less than a latte.  Less than a bag of chips.  Less, on a monthly basis, than a mani/pedi.  Way less than cigarettes.  At $1.50 a day, that's about $550 per year.  Less than some high tech gadgets you thought you needed.

The key is swapping healthy foods for unhealthy ones.  Just like swapping OUT unhealthy lifestyle habits.  Just like swapping more movement and activity INTO your day.  Choices.  Small steps.  Swap-portunities.
You are not adding healthy foods to your diet, you are substituting healthy ones for unhealthy ones - perhaps spending more now - but investing in energy, wellness and the satisfaction of doing the best you can for yourself.  Now there's a new year's resolution!

Monday, December 30, 2013

What's In My Garden Now? More Square Footage

Winter gardening.  A hobby gardener's work is never done.  Yet, it usually not work, but much enjoyed time outdoors, super physical activity and gratifying effort.  We've had way too many of those sunny, almost 50 degree winter days here in Virginia the past few years.  My winter memories as a kid in Virginia are of random, wonderful snow falls and crisp clear days. Lately, it seems they are of pleasantly warm days, stink bugs and ticks that never quite die off, and worries about adequate snow for family ski trips.

Today was a great, sunny almost 50 degree and the beds called to me. Our vegetable garden is a grid of 16 raised beds.  I never seem to have enough space to plant, especially as we plant more perennials each year, such as berries and asparagus, which take up bed space year around.  Between the beds we have grass, which is a huge chore to mow each week, fighting with the mower to turn the corners around the beds.  We have talked about killing off the grass, laying down landscape fabric, and bringing in rock for the paths between the beds, but the cost and effort required has deterred us.

So today I turned 3 paths over to bed space by filling in the space between raised beds with a little herbicide, layers of newspaper, and many wheelbarrows full of compost and soil.  This will give me essentially 3 new beds, to plant tomatoes which really did not need to be in a raised bed.  One wheelbarrow was full of the solid gold dirt from our outdoor chicken coop area, a live compost pile of sorts, with the chickens scratching, fertilizing and making compost of the fruit, grain and veggie scraps I give them.  It is dark, rich, well aerated soil.

I'll be eager to see how this works in terms of weed control, one of the benefits of raised beds which I will lose. I intend to mulch heavily around the tomato plants to stay ahead of the weeds and short periods of drought.

I plan the rotation of our beds carefully, to maximize production in the summer months.  With the extra space, maybe we can try some new veggies!

Friday, December 27, 2013

What Was On the Menu?

Christmas Eve:

Homemade Sweet Potato Soup - with sage and a surprisingly pleasant ingredient - apple cider
Homemade Seafood and Corn Chowder - shrimp, clams, creamed corn and bacon
French Bread

Christmas Day:

Appetizer - Baked Tomato Tarts - the mini muffin tin Pampered Chef recipe
Glazed Ham - easiest entrée ever
Spinach Casserole - with cottage and cheddar cheese
Home Grown Collards - made the day before
Carrot Soufflé - evaporated milk and eggs make this soufflé like dish
Yams - with mini-marshmallow topping
Pineapple Bake - the old fashioned one with tidbits, cheddar cheese and Ritz crackers
Dinner Rolls
Homemade Fudge & Christmas Cookies!

We are enjoying what I call "planovers" rather than leftovers.  I very intentionally make a lot of side dishes to stretch the entrée, enjoying several dinners from a feast like turkey or ham.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Have an F4 kind of day - with food & fun  -  and family and fellowship!  Merry Christmas!




Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hot Topics-Movie Messages

Heading to the movies over the holidays?  Researchers at the University of North Carolina looked at kid-oriented movies and noted more unhealthy subtle messaging than healthy hints.  Movies featured unhealthy snacks, sugar sweetened beverages, exaggerated portion sizes and negative weight-related messages.

In the 20 G- and PG- rated movies reviewed, unhealthy habits were actually made to seem glamorous.  Inactivity was promoted by star characters watching TV and playing video and computer games.
If you go to the movies, check your own snack, beverage and portion size choices.  Try not to make stopping at the snack counter an automatic thing.  You will save your finances and  your fitness. Yes, you and your family can sit through a 2 hour movie without eating.
Is the answer to skip the theatre and head to the park on a rainy day?  No, of course not.  But model healthy habits and choose active indoor family activities such as indoor jump houses, bowling, skating, mall walking, skateboarding, active video games, swimming, home gym family time, racquetball, and the like.  Find balance in your eating habits as well as your choices for free time.

(Obesity, December 2013)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hot Topics-Have Your Cake And Enjoy It Too

I've written about enjoying food and the fellowship that frequently goes with it. I've encouraged you to be moderate about food choices, with no guilt or compulsions.  I'm in favor of teaching about a healthy diet in terms of whole foods and cooking methods, not grams of this and vitamin alphabet soup from that.  And no "clean your plate" clubs and no "good foods/bad foods".
Here is some research to back up that balanced, healthy approach.  Dieters who felt guilty after eating treats actually gained more weight than those who felt happy about it.  Three hundred females were asked if they were trying to lose weight and if eating a piece of chocolate cake would make them feel guilty or happy.  They were followed 18 months later.  Those who saw it as a celebration were more successful in losing weight.

Guilt can be a diet controlling habit.  Researchers concluded that enjoyment of food should receive more attention.  Yes! 

Have your cake and eat it too, slowly, savoring it, enjoying it - not every day, it is a treat, and treats are meant to be enjoyed.
(Science World Report, sciencewr.com, December 2013)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Chuckles From the Chicken Coop-Not Funny

I went to check on the chickens and found a pile of feathers.  Not good.  No other evidence of body parts.  These feathers were from the old grey bird that was no longer laying eggs. 

I looked in the coop, thinking she was in there.  But, I found not a chicken but an opossum, curled up, sleeping contentedly after eating several fresh eggs (based on the number of cracked shells in the nesting boxes).  This time is the first time we have had a possum in the coop.

After poking, prodding, and banging around, he or she finally scurried out.  I found a big hole in the chicken wire and patched that up, closing the super highway to fresh eggs.

Based on the lack of evidence of the chicken, I think something larger than a possum may have come through that hole and got her.  Interesting how the predators go for the oldest, weakest prey.  That is the proverbial food chain, up close and personal. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hot Topics-Hungry and Obese?

Once again, the link between food insecurity and childhood obesity was confirmed in a study funded by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation.

We talk about parents role modeling healthy eating.  What does this look like in food insecure families?  What cooking techniques are modeled?  What food items are on the weekly grocery list?  What habits are established?
Cooking techniques may include microwaving processed items for lack of cooking equipment or knowledge.  Standard food items may include processed or canned and shelf stable items from food pantries.  Eating habits are formed in children by what, where, when and how they eat.

WHAT:  Ideally, it is whole foods, cooked in a healthy way but it may be high sodium veggies, little fresh produce, high fat meats and powdered drink mix.
WHERE:  Ideally, it is seated around a dinner table, but it may be on a hotel bed, in the car, or on TV trays in front of, inevitably, the TV.

WHEN:  Ideally, it is 3 balanced meals with healthy snacks in between but it may be catch as catch can between shifts, daycare, and being latch key kids. Food insecurity may also be worse at the end of the month, as aid runs out.
Awareness of the problem is a good thing.  The overweight child you see may not be that way because they are lazy, sedentary or pigging out on junk food after school.  They may be that way for many reasons, some of which include lack of access to healthy food.

How can low income families eat healthier? Start with a healthy, balanced, free or reduced price breakfast and lunch for children in school. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hot Topics-Drink Your Milk!

In a legitimate study (96,000 participants, men and women over age 50, followed for at least 22 years) from Harvard Med School and Brigham & Women's Hospital, milk consumption during teen years was not linked to either less risk or greater risk of hip fracture later in life.

Based on biannual questionnaires from ages 13 to 18 about diet, milk consumption, smoking, meds, physical activity, weight  and  health history, researchers looked for clues to determine later risk of bone fracture.
Controlling for known risk factors for hip fracture and milk consumption, researchers found no link between teen milk consumption and risk in women.  In men, there was a slight increase in risk with more milk consumption, but this association declined when adjusted for height.

So, I still talk to my teen children and students about the importance of calcium consumption and how milk is the perfect nutrient package of protein, carbs and vitamins and minerals. Milk is equally valuable for the unhealthy beverages it displaces from the diet.  However, this study just goes to show how complex is the link between general dietary advice and specific outcomes.

We try to decipher research and pass along the best tidbits of advice, but nutrition is just as much as art as a science.  To me, art comes in to the picture when we talk about the taste, the texture, the presentation, the flavor, the freshness and the enjoyment of food.  I think these may be as important to healthfulness of food as the nutrients and micronutrients they contain.
(JAMA Pediatrics, November 2013)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hobby Farm Life Abundance

I usually blog about what our hobby farm garden provides, but lately we've had some good eats from not just the flora but the fauna.

My son shot and cleaned a rabbit and I made a delicious, fall-off-the-bone stew in the Crock Pot with a simple soy sauce and onion gravy.  It does taste like chicken.

He also shot a deer and we have a lot of venison in the freezer and we had some delicious bacon wrapped venison steaks, hot off the broiler. I make a fabulous venison stew (secret ingredients:  juniper berries and Marsala wine).  It he has continued success with hunting, I may be in the market for a meat grinder.

The five chickens are laying about three eggs a day.  One of the two who weren't laying is now laying a couple of times a week, enough to earn her board. The other one may be heading towards the Crock Pot.

Thanksgiving was a turkey and Christmas dinner will be a ham.  For the Protein Group, I think we have variety covered!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hot Topics-Eliminate or Moderate?

We preach moderation, but does it work?  Recent research suggests it does.  Dieters who continued to eat their favorite treats still shed pounds. This survey by YouGov, an online market research company, polled 2100 dieters who use calorie counting apps.  In this case, the treat was chocolate (yes!) and 91% of men and women who lost the most weight continued to eat their normal amount of daily chocolate.   Other studies show diets with forbidden foods usually make the dieter crave them and eat more of them.  Deprivation doesn't work.

Eliminating "bad" foods doesn't make you want "good" foods.  It makes you crave the forbidden food.  Enjoying things like holiday foods in moderation may be the best way to help you resist them.
Have your pumpkin pie - you only do this once a year.  Enjoy 1 or 2 Christmas cookies a day.  Indulge in an adult beverage if you want, enjoy it, but just one.  No guilt.  No compulsions.  No counting calories.  Enjoy food.  Enjoy fellowship.  Enjoy your holidays!

Friday, December 13, 2013

How Do You Serve It Up At Home?

Do you serve dinner at the table with serving bowls and plates full of options?  Do you serve buffet style from an island or counter in your kitchen ?  Do you prepare your child’s plate for them?
Cornell University is well known for its behavioral economics studies.  Click here to learn more about their work in the child nutrition arena.  Recently they determined that at buffets, folks filled up 2/3 of their plate with the first 3 foods they saw on the buffet table.  Think about this at your holiday events. Check out the whole buffet before you go for what's at the beginning. (Besides, don't you hate it when your plate is full and then you come to something really good?)

Researchers suggest putting healthy foods at the beginning of a buffet makes it more likely people will choose them and less likely people will fill up on the higher calorie foods thus placed farther down the buffet. 
Try this at home with your dinner spread.  Serve from a counter in the kitchen, don't put large serving dishes right in front of your diners.  It makes seconds a little too easy. Lay out your dinner choices on the counter with the veggies first, entree next, grains last.  Remember My Plate, make half your plate fruits and veggies.

Let your children walk along the counter with you and suggest how much of something they would like.  You might not know how hungry they are or are not.  And please, no "clean your plate" club.  But yes, they have to try a little of everything, including the veggies.

If you fill your grocery cart with the healthy stuff, and you plan your menu with the healthy stuff, and your choose the healthy stuff for your snacks, you will have less room in your healthy life for the unhealthy stuff.  Right?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Art of Cooking

A friend and I were talking about cookbooks.  She asked me if I had a lot . . . yes.  I say I need another cookbook like I need a hole in the head.  But we both agreed that "cookbook people" read cookbooks almost like novels, perusing the ingredient lists, techniques and photos, storing them away for future reference.

In a recent post, I talked about how practice makes more perfect with cooking.  The more you do it, the more comfortable you are with cooking, the more your intuition kicks for knowing things like how much, how long, etc. 

My son recently asked me, "Mom, do you ever measure anything?"  Mostly, no.  Very little except baked goods require precise measuring.

To me, measuring takes a lot of the fun and whimsy out of cooking.  It also requires more planning to follow a recipe (having the proper ingredients in the house) than to cook off hand.

In parent and child cooking classes I have taught, called "Chef Smarts", patterned after an extension program in North Caroline called "Eat Smart, Cook Smart", we talk a lot about substitutions.  That's the reality of many a quick family meal - making a meal out of what's on hand.  But a premise of the class series is keeping a well, fundamentally stocked pantry.  This allows you some flexibility and options.

Think about My Plate for a healthy, well stocked pantry/freezer.  It includes basics in the grain group:  whole grain pastas, brown rice, frozen dinner rolls, tortillas.  It has protein options:  chicken breasts or thighs, frozen tilapia or salmon, lean ground beef, boneless sirloin, and tuna.  And it has veggie options, including frozen veggies of your choice, salad fixings, or better yet, an abundant garden with seasonal options.  From these, you can make variations of your favorite Italian, Mexican, Asian, comfort food and other dishes by adding sauces and condiments.

My favorite cookbook is one I received as a wedding gift, "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook".  What's yours?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Do Dietitians Do It Differently?

Cooking that is.

I think there may be some culinary techniques, menu planning and food prep techniques we do intuitively and inherently, as part of our training, preferences, and habits.

For example, I don't butter my toast, English muffins, bagels or other items that come out of the toaster.  Just don't need it.  Just don't like it.

I absolutely don't like mayonnaise - the "mouth feel" is all wrong for me.

I don't add salt at the table, certainly not before tasting, and I always go for pepper first.

I always go for oil before butter or margarine for sautéing.

I recently made turkey soup and a key step for me is after removing the bones and skin, putting the broth in the fridge to allow a layer of fat to congeal.  Then I scoop off that layer, removing a lot of unpalatable fat.

I take my coffee black, saving thousands of calories on sugar and creamer over the years.

I love water.  It still tastes good to me - I haven't altered my palate with too many diet sodas or other sweet drinks.

I almost always cut the sugar or brown sugar in baked good recipes, just a little, usually they are too sweet anyway.

I think about My Plate when packing my lunch - always including a fruit and/or veg, and dinner - always including veggies. I try to do it a breakfast - adding some fruit or juice.

For most of my baked goods I add at least 1/4 to 1/3 whole wheat flour in place of all purpose flour.  When I do more, the family protests.

Certain things are treats at home:  liver, bacon, sausage, French fries from the freezer, cinnamon buns, Pop Tarts, Oreos, potato chips.  These make it in the shopping cart a couple of times a year (well, actually that depends on who goes to the store with me).  They are "sometimes" foods.

I reach for herbs instead of the salt shaker when cooking.

If we add up all our daily food related decisions (we make thousands of them), and alter many of them to be the healthy choice, the potential for healthier eating is great.  What habits can you ingrain?  What practices can you model for your children?  What small steps can you take in the right direction?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Busy Mom?

In an article with a rather foretelling title "Maternal Inactivity", authors used national time-use data from a five decade study to compare activity levels of moms over 50 years.  Physical activity was cooking, cleaning, food preparation and clean up, playing with children, and exercising.  Sedentary activity was all other time outside of work and time spent in front of the screen (yes, all the various screens in our busy lives) and driving. 

Comparing time use from 2010 to 1965, mothers with children under 5 spent 14 hours LESS per week being physically active.  Mothers with children ages 5-18 spent 11 LESS hours per week being active.
Now here's an interesting tidbit:  the time spent being active decreased more for non-working mothers than for those who work full time.  And another one:  moms who don't work full time still spend more time being physically active than those who do work full time.

I would venture to say the routine forced upon working moms actually facilitates their exercise routine.  I would also speculate that the home based responsibilities of non working moms facilitates their being more active with cooking, cleaning, and playing with children.  Either way, the result is good for both groups of moms.
At the caloric level, mothers today burn between 1,238 and 5,835 calories less each week than mothers did in the 1960s.   To put that into perspective, a pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories so if the midpoint between 1200 and 5800 is about 3500, that's a pound a week on the mid line.  Vastly simplified, but you get the picture.

Technology, as in washing machines, may have been good for mom, but modern technology, think tablets, may not. Sedentary time increased for all moms about 6 hours per week.  And yet we are so busy. 

It's not just about how we spend our time.  It's not about working versus non-working moms. The real crux of the problem is modern day kids may see busy mom living a life centered around cars and screens.  Look again at the definition of sedentary activity in the first paragraph.  What are you role modeling?

Mayo Clinic Proceedings, December 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

Thanksgiving - What Was On the Menu?

I always plan lots of sides to enjoy with the leftover turkey.

Turkey - Butterball of course! In 23 years of marriage, I have never made a bad or dry turkey when I've stuck with Butterball.
Stuffing - Kitchen Sink Stuffing made by my husband - it has just about everything - raisins, walnuts, celery, onion, water chestnuts, mushrooms
Gravy - from the turkey drippings (and I can make some GOOD gravy!)
Creamed Onions - the little cocktail ones from a jar - family fave for generations
Green Bean Casserole - yep, with the fried onions on top, but made with frozen not canned green beans to make it a little healthier (very little)
Cranberry Sauce - canned, nothing fancy
Collards - fresh, from our garden
Corn Casserole
Hot Artichoke Dip - appetizer
Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie - yes, homemade

And what did I do with the leftovers and the turkey carcass?
1.  Turkey Noodle Casserole
2.  Turkey Curry over Rice
3.  Turkey Pot Pie
4.  Two quarts of turkey broth for the freezer for soup at a later date
5.  Turkey Sandwiches (white meat, Miracle Whip, wheat bread, a little pepper and lettuce - yum!)

We also had some great eating over the long Thanksgiving weekend with rabbit stew (in the Crockpot - easy!) and fresh venison (bacon wrapped venison steaks) from my son's hunting successes.

Now . . . on to Christmas dinner!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Welcome Back - to ME!

I took a break to finish a quilt, to spend Thanksgiving with my family, 2 of whom were home from college, and to fix some hardware issues.  I'm sitting under the quilt with the new laptop right now and my college students are back at school, prepping for exams!

I'll be back to blogging this week!