Sugar Substitutes: A Sweet Deal?

Sugar Substitutes: A Sweet Deal?

Seated at a restaurant or standing at the coffee bar, do you reach for the blue, yellow, pink or green packet? Well, that depends. Do you prefer aspartame, neotame, saccharin or sucralose with your coffee? If you have no idea what any of these ingredients are, perhaps the names of these sweeteners will sound more familiar: Equal, NutraSweet, Sweet’N Low and Splenda. When did these artificial sweeteners become so popular? In addition to these colorful packets conveniently offered at nearly every restaurant and cafe, our current food supply provides us with an abundant array of foods in “sugar-free” forms. But are these sugar-free options really healthier for us?

Tastes like sugar, looks like sugar but is it sugar?

By themselves, artificial sweeteners contain the sweetness of regular table sugar but without the calories. As you will see in the table below, artificial sweeteners are much more sweeter than sugar.

With the rise in obesity and diabetes, it’s no surprise that sugar has gained a bad reputation. Whether it is due to personal health reasons like managing diabetes or health conscious individuals who are looking to moderate their intake, many people try to avoid sugar at all costs. But what are the health costs of subbing in artificial sweeteners for the real deal? Although artificial sweeteners mimic the sweetness of sugar, no matter how it may taste or look, artificial sweeteners are chemicals.

Currently, there is a very large market for sugar substitutes, both man-made and natural. For now, it may interest you a few differences about these popular sugar substitute brands:

Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
220x sweeter than sugar
It loses its sweetness when exposed to heat.
Made with an amino acid, phenylalanine – those who have phenylketonuria should steer clear from this!
Sucralose (Splenda)
600x sweeter than sugar
Does not break down when cooked or baked, which is why it is in many foods and drinks.
Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, SugarTwin)
200-700x sweeter than sugar
Stevia (PureVia)
200-300x sweeter than sugar
Derived from the plant Stevia rebaudiana
Although it’s only gained recent popularity in the U.S., the Japanese have been using it for decades.

In terms of safety, the FDA reviews artificial sweeteners and sets a limit on the amount people should consume which is based on an individual’s weight. Although they are generally deemed safe to consume, it is possible to get by without them. To learn more about different types of sweeteners, their composition and research studies that tested their safety, click here.

Artificial Sweeteners: The Catch 22

When it comes to artificial sweeteners, be mindful that they are not limited to the colorful packets you find in restaurants and cafés. Today, these sweeteners are found everywhere. Anything labeled “sugar-free,” or “diet” may be artificially sweetened. At zero to little calories, it’s no wonder why many artificial sweeteners are appealing to consumers. But wait—are these artificial sweeteners really zero calories? While this may be the case for sweeteners packaged in their individual packets, it is not always the case when present in foods and beverages. Sugar-free food doesn’t mean calorie-free food! With artificial sweeteners, we may trick ourselves into thinking we consumed less—when we actually end up consuming more.

Whether it is artificial or natural, consuming anything sweet generally encourages “sugar craving and sugar dependence (2).” Moreover, studies show that flavor preference for sweets can be trained by repeated exposure to sweets (3).This means that the more sweets we expose our palates to, the more our taste buds will ask for them.

The body’s reaction to artificial sweeteners raises other questions, such as whether or not substitutes are fueling our nation’s obesity epidemic. Research suggests a correlation between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and long-term weight gain (1). Although sugar-free foods can help with weight loss or aid in calorie control, artificial sweeteners can often distort our perception of calories. Consuming foods made with artificial sweeteners may satisfy our current cravings while  low in calories, but later our bodies may be searching for those calories, leading to additional cravings.

On the other hand, some people do not associate artificially sweetened foods and beverages with calories. For example, even though a sugar-free cookie is likely to contain fewer calories than a regular cookie (which in theory can help reduce one’s calorie intake) if an individual decides to eat an entire box of sugar-free cookies, then the individual will have probably consumed more calories than what would have been in one regular cookie made with real sugar.

Live a Sweet Life with Less Added Sugar

This week, challenge yourself! Our taste buds are ever changing and it is possible to retrain them. When it comes to your morning cup of Joe, try adding 1 less packet. If you typically add only 1 packet, try adding only half. If you typically drink soda, try switching to flavored carbonated water, like Perrier. Or, if you are craving for something sweet, opt for a sliced fruits on whole wheat breads with some peanut butter or perhaps a homemade smoothie. By adding fruit, not only do you get the natural sweetness, but is also full of flavor, antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. Try to cut down on sweets in general. Now this does not mean you should deprive yourself—in moderation, it is perfectly okay to enjoy sweets. If you want your cake, eat it. It is better to consume less of the real thing rather than more of the artificial one. Savor the taste and enjoy it in moderation.

Adopt small changes to turn make it part of a healthier lifestyle. When possible, it is best to avoid any added sweeteners (4). Although artificial sweeteners are considered safe and may help people manage Diabetes, they are most commonly found in processed and packaged foods. In terms of nutrition and living a healthy and happy lifestyle, they are not as nutrient-dense as whole, unprocessed foods. Since artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than table sugar, if used, should be used in very small quantities–or if you must, to stick with Stevia. Just remember, it is possible to live a sweet life, with less added sugar.

 

References:

  1. Fowler SP, Williams K, Resendez RG, et al. Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2008;16:1894–900. [PubMed]
  2. Liem DG, De Graaf C. Sweet and sour preferences in young children and adults: role of repeated exposure. Physiology and Behavior. 2004;83(3):421–429. [PubMed]
  3. Yang Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: neuroscience 2010. Yale J Biol Med. 2010;83:101–108. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  4. A/ADA Scientific Statement: Nonnutritive Sweeteners: Current Use and Health Perspectives: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association

 

Laura's Lunches

Here are three recipes to get you or your kids hungry for lunch. The three lunch ideas are all diabetes friendly. So whether you have diabetes or just want to prevent diabetes, use these recipes for lunch time options. They are all lunchbox safe too. No spoiling with this unpredictable weather. Find the third recipe on Laura’s mom blog MDIO Chicken Burritos — this recipe has been featured by Disney as well.

Hummus and Pita Wedges with a Side of Veggies and Milk


1 Whole grain pita (cut into wedges)
Sabra hummus
½ sliced apple hint – squeeze lemon juice on apple slices so they don’t turn brown
½ sliced carrot
¼ sliced orange pepper
1 small 8 oz. box of aseptic organic 1% milk 

Pb&J With A Side of Cheese and Fruit

Natural peanut butter and banana sandwich on Ezekiel sprouted bread, toasted

Hint: change to sunflower butter or almond butter if peanut free school; use 1 tbsp nut butter and ½ banana
A laughing cow cheese (in the wax)
¾ cup strawberries
1 glass of water

Chicken Burritos with a Side of Fruit and Soy Milk
1 whole wheat tortilla
1 oz. chicken
¼ cup beans
¼ c cooked, chopped spinach
A side of salsa for dipping (2 tbsp)
2 clementines
8 oz. unsweetened Silk soy milk

Sustainable Agriculture

You may have heard the word “sustainability” used quite often over the last few years, but what does it mean? Read on to learn what sustainable agriculture is, and how our everyday decisions can make a lasting impact on future generations.

What is Sustainable Agriculture?

Sustainable agriculture is somewhat of an umbrella term used to group several food-related topics under one roof. Sustainable agriculture is a method of producing foods in such a way so that it is mindful of the ecosystem; including but not limited to environmentally friendly practices, health of humans and animals, economic profitability, respects animal welfare, and promotes social and economic equity through fair wages.

Sustainable vs. Industrial

With the many food labels scattered across grocery shelves, it becomes all the more important to understand what sustainable farming is, and what it is not. Since there isn’t a legal definition or rules, a farm’s way of practicing sustainable agriculture may vary.

As you now know, part of sustainable agriculture may include respecting animal welfare. Yet when food shopping, it can be easy to mistaken “cage-free” eggs to be sustainable. While the chicken may not have lived in cages, they may have been raised in overcrowded indoor farms. Today, most of our meat supply is produced on factory farms, otherwise known as Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). CAFOs are industrial facilities where animals are raised in confined areas for mass production. Since the animals are raised in tight quarters, they are often mutilated to adapt to the living conditions, i.e. often chickens are de-beaked. Caged animals are restricted from moving, confined for their entire lives until slaughter. Due to the large scale of animals living in an enclosed area, the result is poor and unsanitary conditions. The method in which factory farms dispose of animal waste also ends up in run off, contaminating our water system. Moreover, with factory farming and mass production came the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormone use and development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria—the list goes on and on.

Sustainable agriculture is important because every action we take and every decision we make can protect the planet.

Sustainable Farms:

  • Recycle manure as fertilizer – this helps eliminate pollution in air and water systems and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers
  • Controlled use of antibiotics – animals are not given antibiotics on a daily basis but only when they are sick (animal products labeled organic are not labeled organic if they have been treated with antibiotics)
  • Animal welfare – animals are respected and treated humanely
  • Energy – they tend to save energy and decrease use of fossil fuels by using techniques like crop rotation to naturally enhance the soil
  • Food miles – sustainably grown foods are usually sold locally which not only cuts down on gas pollution, but the result is healthier and tastier food
  • Build Community – supporting local business help drive the local economy not only in terms of profits, but by providing jobs and building community rapport

These are just a few examples of how sustainable farming affects the planet. For more information on how sustainable farming compares to industrial farming, check out Sustainable Table.

Certified Organic, Not Certified Sustainable

Many people often confuse the terms “sustainable agriculture” with “organic farming.” Although both have to do with sensible food production methods, sustainable agriculture doesn’t always mean organic and organic farming doesn’t always mean sustainable practices!

A product labeled as organic means that the food was produced without the use of certain chemicals, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified organisms. Organic meats, poultry, eggs and dairy products mean that it comes from farms where the animals were not raised with antibiotics or growth hormones.

While many farms that are certified-organic do not produce foods with certain chemicals, antibiotics, growth hormones, etc., the food may still be produced on an industrial farm setting. For example, some farms that produce organic dairy products still confine cows in CAFOs. For many large corporations that are certified-organic, it is through industrial farming that they are able to drive down consumer prices. Although they are able to meet minimum requirements that allow them to be USDA certified-organic, the farm may disregard animal welfare, denying animals space to carry out their natural behaviors (which can also result to poor health and unsanitary conditions!) Therefore, if you are looking to support sustainable agriculture, it is important to keep in mind that organic can — but doesn’t always mean sustainable.

On the other hand, some sustainable farms that are not certified-organic by the USDA do produce organic foods. In order for a product to be labeled “USDA certified-organic,” it must have gone through a national certification process, which requires both additional time and money. The additional fees can make it difficult for small farmers to receive organic-certification by the USDA. In turn, grassroot organizations like Oregon Tilth, California Certified Organic Farmers, Demeter Certified Biodynamic provide less costly organic-certification that either follow USDA organic standards guidelines or have their own strict production standards.

If you prefer organic foods and wish to support sustainable agriculture, the good news is that there are farms who do produce organic foods and practice sustainable agriculture. When in doubt, try buying directly from a local farmer. The best way to find out if your food is organic and sustainable is to ask! To find the closest sustainable farm near you, check out U.S. Department of Agriculture and LocalHarvest.

A Circle of Responsibility

While there are a myriad of reasons why one may practice sustainable agriculture, a big part of sustainability is being aware of how current practices can affect our food chain and how making a simple change, while small, is still a step towards a more sustainable future. Now that you know what sustainable agriculture is, here are some of the ways you can join the circle of responsibility:

Always Ask –
Whether you’re dining out or grocery shopping, you have the right to know how your food was produced. Let restaurants and stores know that you care about where your foods come from.

Buy Local
– As consumers, we help voice our opinion by a show of what we buy and who we choose to buy from. You don’t have to make a 360 degree change in order to make an impact.  Start by shopping at a farmer’s market to support your local farmers’ sustainable methods or by buying one or two foods that are organic.

Read
– Action is best backed by knowledge! Learn more and stay informed on the latest news and food policies. Visit Sustainable Table, CivilEats, or U.S. Department of Agriculture to learn more about the food system, issues and current events.

Get Involved –Tell your family and friends all you have learned about this exciting movement. Invite them to visit farmer’s market with you, to enjoy a sustainably cooked meal, or plan to have a “Meatless Monday.”

Think Before You Buy – Everything we purchase can leave a carbon footprint. Buying less than what you think you need means less waste.

Food Cravings: Consuming Peanuts and Soy During Pregnancy

Originally published on NY Metro

Are you craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during your pregnancy? Did you religiously consume soy products like yogurt and milk before your pregnancy, but aren’t sure if you should continue to do so? Manhattan nutritionist and mother of two says it’s OK!

pregnant woman with foodMy friends used to glare at me when I ate peanut butter and soy yogurt while pregnant. They, like many other moms, believed in the notions that parents should not introduce nuts or soy to children younger than 2, solid food to infants younger than 6 months, and food like nuts, nut butters, and anything with soy while pregnant.

I loved these foods too much though; peanut butter and soy yogurt remained a primary means for me to consume protein, fat, and calcium for the duration of my pregnancies. To my content, after giving birth, I received my Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network newsletter, confirming that there was no such relationship between these ingredients, food products, and allergies. Since then, neither of my boys has developed any type of severe food allergy either.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you, your babies, and what the latest research says on consuming allergenic products while pregnant, breastfeeding, and in the first years of life.

Food Exposure While Pregnant

If you’re the kind of mom who, like me, relied on peanut butter sandwiches for simple grab-and-go lunches while pregnant, don’t feel guilty if your child has developed a food allergy. There is plenty of proof that ensures that this is not your fault.

Eliminating specific foods during pregnancy and/or while breast-feeding, prolonged breastfeeding, and delayed weaning have not been proven to prevent the development of food allergies. New research actually suggests the opposite—that this may be the ideal time to expose children to sensitive ingredients in order to induce a natural tolerance to such items.

Rather than obsessing over which foods to limit, focus on eating a variety of items on a daily basis. Identify your cravings, and be sure to consume enough calcium and omega 3 fatty acids in a moderate manner. Craving chocolate and peanuts? Don’t eat them in excess every day. Instead, rotate the foods you love and incorporate a variety of ingredients from one meal to the next.

If you are still afraid of what ingredients like nuts and soy may trigger, try using a four-day rotation that’s known to help individuals with food intolerances. For example, if you have eggs on Monday, don’t eat them again until Friday. While this may require extra thinking and work, the four-day rotation can help to calm even the most cautious mom’s fears.

When to Introduce Food to Infants

Back in the 90s, when I studying nutrition and was pursuing my RD certifications, I learned that it was appropriate to introduce solid foods to babies between 4 and 6 months. By the time I had given birth to my first child in 2006, the word on the mommy block was to delay the introduction of solids until at least 6 months or older in order to prevent the development of allergies.

Current research conflicts with this proposal. Jonathan M. Spergel, MD, Ph.D., and chief of the Allergy Sector at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says, “Delaying food introduction after 6 months could be even more detrimental in regards to developing a food allergy.” One study, reported in Pediatrics, supports this theory, suggesting that introducing solid foods at a later age was associated with an increased risk for allergic sensitization to food and inhalant allergens by the age of 5. Another proved that introducing cow’s milk, chicken, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and gluten before 6 months was not significantly associated with eczema or wheezing at any age.

So remember, while there are always exceptions, the general consensus is that introducing solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age is actually associated with the lowest allergy risk. In other words, it’s during this time, before the 6-month-old mark, that it may be best to incorporate solid foods during mealtime.

How to Introduce Peanuts and Tree Nuts to Toddlers

Based on current research, parents do not need to delay the introduction of peanut butter or nut butters until their toddler is 2 or older. However, you should wait to introduce foods that may put your child at risk for choking, such as the actual nut itself.

Also take note that nut butters are highly sticky and can get stuck on the roof of your child’s mouth. If you do choose to feed them nut butter, be sure that they have developed sufficient tongue strength and motor skills to swallow the spread. Serving these sticky products in between two soft pieces of bread may help prevent choking or difficulty chewing as well.

If there is a family history of food allergies to peanuts, nuts, or any other food, a medical physician and registered dietitian should always be consulted. Many times, the pediatrician will try exposing the child in a medical setting if anaphylaxis is of concern.  Another option to consider, of course under the recommendation or supervision of your child’s pediatrician, is to test the potential allergenic food at home with an antihistamine available in case there is an allergic reaction.

Feeding your pregnant body and your growing baby can be a joyful and exciting, not to mention delicious, period of your life. Relax knowing that you can dine on your favorite foods while sporting your bump, introduce solid foods to your bundles of joy between 4 and 6 months old, and even let your little ones nibble on some nutritious nut butter at some point before age 2.

A Desert Where Shopping Matters

From comparing grocery store prices to analyzing a product’s nutritional label, a weekend trip to the grocery store can turn into stressful and overwhelming task. Many of us want to eat healthier, but how can we shop for healthy foods while on a limited budget? Although price often plays a major role in influencing what we buy when we go food shopping, buying healthy foods doesn’t have to be expensive.

Many organizations are making an effort to tackle this nationwide issue by teaching nutrition education, but one organization’s unique efforts is City Harvest’s Shopping Matters, which takes place right in local grocery stores. And just like many other Americans, if money is what is keeping you from making healthy food purchases, I challenge you to think again. What if you could learn to stretch your budget, to buy and eat healthy foods? Read on to learn about the awesome efforts made by City Harvest, and the programs’ tips to get the most healthful bang for your buck.

What is Shopping Matters?

Shopping Matters is an initiative created by City Harvest in partnership with Share Our Strength. The two-hour grocery store tour is led by a qualified facilitator, who teaches the participants how to shop on a budget, read food labels, how to identify whole-grains and stretch your budget to create more than just one meal. After one hour, participants are presented with a $10 challenge to put what they’ve just learned into practice. Participants must follow specific guidelines, i.e. grain must be whole-grain bread or cereal, to buy at least one food from each food group totaling no more than $10. This part of the tour is particularly fun and exciting for the participants because it not only tests their knowledge but it offers motivation to try new foods like 2% milk rather than whole milk.

Another Kind of Desert

Can you imagine travelling 15 miles to buy a head of lettuce or some fresh fruit? Many of us are fortunate to be able to call Whole Foods or Trader Joes, our local market. With organic foods and fresh produce so readily available to us, it can be easy to forget that for many Americans, this is not the case. Imagine if the closest grocery store was too far to get to without transportation. An area where grocery stores are scarce or missing, this is called a food desert. Although there may be bodegas or take-out restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood, it would still be considered a food desert since many atimes only highly processed foods are offered. It is in these areas that poverty, obesity and health related diseases are at an all time high. City Harvest considers these factors and implements the Shopping Matters Tours in only specific neighborhoods. The tours currently take place in the following neighborhoods: 1) The South Bronx, 2) Stapleton, Staten Island 3). Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. By conducting the tours in the actual neighborhood markets like Key Foods, not only places the participants in a realistic environment, but makes the food culture relevant.

Build the Skills To Make Healthy Choices While On a Budget

A Shopping Matters Tour may not be taking place in your local market but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the tips City Harvest has to offer! Here’s the inside scoop on the skills you need to build to stretch your budget and make tasty, healthy meals for you and your family:

  • Buy Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables – Not only will your produce taste better, but during peak season fresh produce costs less.
  • Fresh, Frozen and Canned – People tend to think fresh produce is the “best” form. However, keep in mind that fresh produce often needs be used quickly and if not in season, can be expensive.  A more economical alternative is to buy frozen fruits and vegetables, which can cost less and is available year-round. If canned foods are on sale, they have a long shelf life and can be a good purchase. If opting to buy canned products, choose items without added sodium, low in fat, or 100% juice. If there is sodium in it, simply rinse off canned produce to reduce the sodium.  Surely every packaging has its pros and cons but by opening yourself up to fruits and vegetables in all their forms, in terms of prices, you’ll have more options to choose from.
  • Compare Prices – Use unit prices to find the best bang for your buck. The unit price shows ounce for ounce or pound by pound just how much you are paying for a particular item. For example, when comparing two bagged items of different sizes, it can help you identify just exactly which costs less.
  • Read Food Labels – Take a few seconds to check the serving size. If considering your family meals, this can be especially helpful in meal planning. Look at the calories, sodium and nutrients you will be getting from the product.
  • Read the Ingredients – Just because the bread is brown or says “multigrain” or even “100% wheat” doesn’t mean it is actually made with whole grain. Be a smart and saavy shopper and check for the first ingredient on the list. Some examples are: Whole wheat, bulgar, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice
  • Organic vs. Non-Organic – Some items need not be purchased organic. If you wish to purchase organic, check out this Dirty Dozen list for a better understanding of what items are better off organic and which ones you can do without. If cost is a factor however, getting your fruits and vegetables should be at the top of the list, even if its not organic.
  • Cut coupons and checkout weekly specials

Frozen Yogurt or Frozen No-gurt

Frozen Yogurt: Is your yogurt really yogurt?

Cold, sweet and creamy — If you’re like me, nothing screams “summer” more than ice cream! But under the heat of the sun, choosing a healthy, frozen treat isn’t always easy. In recent years, frozen yogurt chains have been making their way across the nation. Due to both food trends and as a health conscious society, many swap traditional ice cream for frozen yogurt as a lighter, healthier option than most traditional ice creams. Some people think that because it’s “yogurt,” it must be healthier. Well, fro-yo fans, read on to learn if this seemingly low-fat and cold snack is really healthier? Does it provide the same benefits as eating yogurt? And most of all, does your frozen yogurt actually contain well, yogurt?

Frozen Yogurt or Frozen No-gurt

Under the FDA, there is a standard of identity that defines yogurt: cultured dairy ingredients with a bacterial culture containing Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles. These beneficial bacteria then convert pasteurized milk, to yogurt. For frozen yogurt products however, there is no standard of identity that exists. In other words, any cold and creamy, sweet and swirly dessert can call itself “yogurt,” without actually containing any “real” yogurt! Don’t panic just yet-some frozen yogurts actually do contain yogurt.

So if frozen yogurt products aren’t required to actually contain these live and active cultures, how do we know if our favorite frozen ice cream alternative contains yogurt or no-gurt? Well thanks to the National Yogurt Association, they have developed an Active Cultures Seal, which can help customers identify what frozen yogurt products actually contain yogurt. The NYA’s Live & Active Cultures seal on frozen yogurt product signifies that it “contains at least 10 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture.” For those individuals who think they are reaping the health benefits of yogurt the Live and Active Cultures seal can help you differentiate which frozen yogurt actually contains these good-for-you active cultures.

Does your favorite brand of frozen yogurt contain yogurt? When in doubt, ask the company for the seal of approval, or check out our quick guide to see if your favorite fro-yo brand made the cut: 

 

Frozen Yogurt Brand

 

 

Contains Yogurt or No-gurt?

 

Live & Active Cultures Seal?

16 Handles

No-gurt

No

Pinkberry

Yes

Yes

Red Mango

Yes

Yes

Tasty D-Lite

No-gurt

No

TLC

No-gurt

No

 

 A “Sometimes” Food

The trending idea that frozen yogurt is “more healthy,” does have some truth to it. Ounce for ounce, frozen yogurt typically contains fewer calories, and less saturated fat than ice cream.  Plus frozen yogurt has an extra bonus; it contains the beneficial bacteria that your belly needs and loves.

Portion with Caution

Fro-yo fans should be careful with portion size, choice of toppings (ie. fruits or cookies) and amount of toppings. Be most mindful in shops where customers like you, can self-serve. Calories easily add up to the equivalent or more than traditional ice cream. The machines distort a customer’s portion control. Because it can be difficult to eyeball exactly what “1/2 cup” or “3/4 cup” looks like, we often end up buying and eating more than we think. This is mindless eating and weight gain. For those who only want a few spoonfuls of a frozen snack, opt for a kiddie cup or use my 5 second rule with the self-serve machine. (Hold machine handle down for five seconds and then lift).

Tips to Navigate the Freezer

If you are aiming for health:

  • Look for the Active Cultures Seal or do your research online.
  • Choose fresh fruit for the toppings
  • Eat real yogurt such as Greek yogurt or Better Than Whey Yogurt

If you are being mindful of your waistline:

  • Opt for places with kiddie portions or use the 5 Second Rule.
  • Opt for no toppings
  • Buy prepackaged frozen pops that are pre-portioned

If you want ice cream:

  • Eat the real thing to satisfy your cravings
  • Eat a small portion of the real thing without toppings
  • Just eat it and enjoy, but not everyday

*Whether you’re a fro-yo fan or want to try it for the first time, this week Mom Dishes It Out is giving a month’s supply of Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Bars to 5 lucky followers! To enter, visit Mom Dishes It Out!

Hemp Hearts for A Heart Healthy Diet

Written by Laura Iu, Nutrition Student and Assistant to Laura Cipullo

Flax seed and chia seed may have found its competitor. It seems like everywhere you look, there is a new seed-based product hitting the market shelves. So what’s the latest seed craze? Hemp seeds. (No, it’s not what you’re probably thinking!) Although hemp seed belongs to the same family as it illegal cousin, Marijuana, hemp seed is the “food” part of the plant and not the “drug” part that contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). There is a big difference in the level of THC found in marijuana (3-15%) and in hemp seed (0-0.3%).  Hemp producers are certified to have less than 0.3% THC levels and many guarantee there is 0%. As a food very similar to flax seed, hemp seed is one of the most healthful and nutritious foods one can eat. Yet despite hemp seed gaining popularity and making its way in bars, cereals, milks and even ice creams, many skeptics still raise an eyebrow to this superfood. Read on to find out what these seeds are, their nutritional value and how they can contribute to a heart healthy meal structure!

Hulled Hemp Seeds Vs. Whole Hemp Seeds

Hulled hemp seed, hemp seed, hemp hearts, and hemp nuts—one can surely go nuts keeping track of this food’s many nicknames!  Although sometimes called a “hemp nut,” hemp seed is not actually a nut.  To better explain the anatomy of a hemp seed, it is very similar to that of a sunflower seed. “Hulled hemp seed” refers to the whole seed removed from its hard outer shell, while “hemp seed” simply refers to the seed and its shell. Although the hard exterior is edible and contains a lot of fiber but can be difficult to eat, when you purchase “hemp seeds” typically the seed is already removed from the outer husk.

What are the nutritional benefits?

For thousands of years, hemp fibers have been used to create clothing, paper, rope and canvas. But aside from manufacturing textiles, there are far more uses for these hemp seeds than just growing more hemp plants! They also provide a wide range of heart healthy benefits.

There are very few complete protein sources that are plant-based. Like chia seeds though, hemp seed is one of the very few plant based complete dietary proteins.  It contains all of the essential fatty acids in the form of Linoleic and Alpha-Linoleic Acid, and a complete source of essential amino acids. A few weeks ago, we discussed how important it is to maintain a healthy, balanced ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. Recall, maintaining a balanced ratio of fatty acids can have a positive effect on the body. While our bodies need more Omega-6’s than Omega-3’s, a good balance means keeping an overall 1:3, Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio. Hemp seed, having a favorable ratio, can provide cardiovascular health benefits, help control inflammation and lower blood pressure. For those whose ratios are a bit off, hemp seed isn’t the immediate answer to flipping your ratio around, but it is a good start to balancing it out again.

For those who follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, this seed is an ideal source of protein. High in fiber and a gluten-free protein, this seed is easily digestible.

How to Eat Them?

Just like any other seed, hemp seeds can be eaten raw, added to baked goods, strewn in tea, grounded or made into hemp milk.  Toss them on salads, sprinkle them on yogurts and smoothies or enjoy them straight from the bag.

Perhaps the most popular hemp-based product on the market is hemp milk. But for those whose palates just don’t align with its nutty flavor and still want to reap the health benefits of hemp seed, these sources are worth trying:

  • Flour
  • Cereals
  • Tofu
  • Nut butters
  • Protein powder
  • Ice creams 
  • Oil

 

What's on our "Q"?

 The Skinny on Shakes for People With Diabetes

With so many meal replacements on the market, but how do you pick
which one is best? Taste shouldn’t be the only determining factor. It can
be important to consider the sugar, carbohydrate or even protein content.11 Nutritious, Kid-Friendly Finger Foods

Who doesn’t love meatballs? Check out this easy to follow recipe made
from lean turkey breast, which helps turn this usual calorie fest into something
a bit healthier. And while your at it, make sure to check out the Mango Tango Tortillas!

Jet-Set With Your Picnic Basket! Fun Theme Ideas for Lunch

Themed picnics are a great way to incorporate entertainment, flavor, and
even education into a family outing. Add a clever theme to your picnic by
incorporating foods from another city or, better yet, from around the world!

Also in “Q”: Remember to tune in for Restaurant Week 2012 recommendations, this Wednesday AM on CBS’s W1NY!!

 

Be Hip and Healthy at NYC’s Top Chic Restaurants

Living in NYC is about working hard and playing and who are we kidding, being our best. So while out on the town, Laura Cipullo, will give you her favorite healthy dishes at this urban’s oasis of fun summer restaurants.

Bacaro
Escape the scene and the heat and go underground to this cool bar and restaurant hidden on Division street. This is one restaurant where you can eat the pasta. Opt for the whole wheat linguine with sardines. Skip apps and dessert because you will be filled by the high fiber carbs and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Hudson Clearwater
We love the garden at this West Village restaurant. Once a bike store and now a fave of the healthy and hip! Go around the corner to find the sneaky entrance. Get your antioxidants with the calacas cocktail made from beets and lime. It looks healthy but I assure you this is no juice cleanse. Start with the lentil and braised fennel salad and then mindfully move to the entrée of Blackened Sea Bass with the most delicious array of fruits, veggies and even pesto. Hip and healthy could not be better sold!!

North End Grill
Super sleek and super sexy especially for the Wall Street Crowd. So many “yes” choices” at this restaurant. With the focus on fish appetizers and organic foods, you can come here multiple times and get a different meal favoring the healthy side every time. What’s even better is you can walk home along the Hudson River après dinner. This RD’s favorites include Heirloom Cucumbers, Hakurel Turnips, Thai Basil with black pepper and lemon juice with the King Salmom, quinoa entrée. The chicken for two is delicious sans the skin!

The Smith
After work hit the scene uptown or downtown! Start with oysters to share for the table. Low calorie and high protein so it will not spoil your appetite. Get the trout for your best bet of omega-3 fatty acids and moderating carbohydrates. The trout is served over vegetables and frisse. The trout has a kick to it, so beware!! Also, this is not the trout on Menu Pages!! Want to go vegetarian pub style? Choose the vegetable bibimbap. Vegetarian doesn’t mean lick the bowl clean so practice portion control!!

Sorella
Support the slow food movement at Emma Hearst’s new eco-fabulous restaurant. You just feel good being there, admiring the plants growing on the walls. The focus is on seasonal food so the menu will be ever changing. Instead of thinking what is lowest in calories, think like Buddha. Center before your meal. Order what you want, eat mindfully with respect to your body and don’t skip dessert. You can walk away feeling good knowing the food was made with love and locally grown.

Substitutes for the Cheeselover

Pizzas, sandwiches, quesadillas, what do all of these foods have in common? That’s right—cheese! Let’s face it, who doesn’t love the rich, creamy mouthfeel and gooey texture of melted cheese?  As a popular accompaniment to many entrées and snacks, one might just consider cheese to be a staple food. Yet whether due to food allergies or other dietary reasons, some individuals may not eat cheese and would prefer a dairy-free alternative.

Who Would Want “Fake” Cheese?

Cheese substitutes are enjoyed by individuals who do not tolerate dairy products very well or who are following a dairy-free diet such as a vegan, vegetarian, or paleo diet. Fortunately, for those who just cannot fathom saying ‘good-bye’ to grilled cheese sandwiches and ‘hello’ to cheese-free pizzas, there are an abundance of dairy-free cheese substitutes on the market. Since cheese made from cow or goat milk are usually higher in saturated fat and cholesterol, cheese substitutes can be a healthier alternative.

Always Read The Label

With a rise in allergies to milk and soy products, the market for cheese substitutes has grown as well, providing us with dozens of options to choose from. Common cheese substitutes are made from soy, rice, tofu and almond based. There are a lot of cheese substitutes out there but to check if it is really dairy-free, check the ingredient list. Many soy cheeses contain casein, a protein derived from milk. Casein is what helps hold cheese together and gives it its texture. People who are lactose intolerant can usually tolerate casein. But for those with severe milk allergies or are strict vegans, I recommend finding a vegan cheese product that is almond-based or rice-based. However, when picking out a cheese substitute, one should avoid what they are allergic to, ie. those who are allergic to soy should avoid tofu-based cheeses and soy cheeses.

Not All Cheese Substitutes Are Created Equal

From color to flavor, people want and expect a cheese substitute to be almost identical to the melt, spread and cream of regular cheese. While cheese substitutes can be bland, some products are close to the real thing. But how to pick a cheese and what to look for?

  • Low sodium
  • Close-to-cheese taste
  • Ability to melt
  • Non-rubbery or plastic texture
  • Casein protein (depending on your preference)

If you need a little direction, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve narrowed it down to my top favorites:

Vegan Pick: Daiya 

As one of the most popular vegan cheese, Daiya is known for its ability to melt like real cheese. I have found it served in delicious restaurants dishes I have ordered too. It’s shredded style makes it perfect for making pizzas and sprinking over salads and pastas. It also comes in cheddar, mozzerella, and pepperjack.

Vegan Pick: Vegan Gourmet by Follow Your Heart

Winner of VegNews’ award for best vegan cheese in 2005, in my opinion it is one of the best vegan cheeses on the market. It may not melt as well as Daiya but the cheddar has a sharpness to it that makes it almost irresistible to eat by the slice.

Nutritional Yeast

The name may throw you off but this easy to sprinkle substitute is another rather popular option in the vegan community.  When sprinkled over pasta dishes, the nutty and cheesy flavor makes a quick Parmesan substitute. When added to liquids it can help thicken sauces for a creamier texture.

Soy-Based Pick: Veggie Slices Cheddar Flavor by Galaxy National Foods

Orange colored and individually wrapped, this soy-based cheese resembles Kraft singles. With a good melt and taste, this is a good substitute for making grilled cheese.

Cut The Cheese

Deservedly or not, non-dairy cheeses often get a bad rap for lacking taste, flavor and texture. But next time you try a cheese substitute, go in with an open-mind! Without comparing it to regular cheese, try to give it an un-biased taste test. Each brand has a different texture and flavor. Which holds better for sandwiches or which melts better on pizzas? You may end up trying many before you find the one you like!

Ultimately, cheese substitutes are just substitutes. There is never going to be a product that can replicate the authentic taste, texture, or melt of cheese, except cheese. Due to the health and dietary restrictions people have these days–and some unavoidable like food allergies–when one’s body simply won’t cooperate with dairy products cheese substitutes can make life a bit tastier, a little healthier, and a whole lot happier. After all, who doesn’t love cheese?