4 Smart Superbowl Swaps

After the holiday madness, most of us made a resolution to start the new year on a healthy note.  We are only one month in and with Super Bowl weekend quickly approaching, many of us will be thrown off track by the endless buffets of fried foods, chips and dips.  You don’t have to deprive yourself during the big game, just make sure to practice intuitive eating and consume foods in moderation. Pay attention to portions, and always stock up on proteins and fresh fruits and veggies since they will help keep you satisfied longer!  If you are hosting the party or looking for something to bring, why not try a few of these healthy alternatives to traditional Super Bowl Sunday favorites that everyone will love and will not have you missing the extra fat and calories!

Broiled Buffalo Wings

INGREDIENTS
Serves 10

2 pounds chicken wings, split at the joint 
(~20 wings)

1/4 cup of your favorite hot sauce

Dash of cayenne pepper

1 clove garlic

METHOD

Place wings into a large pot and fill the pot with cold water to cover the wings by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. While chicken is boiling heat your broiler to HIGH. When done, drain and place chicken wings on rimmed cookie sheet. Broil 6 inches from element or flame for 5 to 6 minutes per side. The skin should blister and brown. You will notice that the skin appears to be crispy. While chicken is in the oven, combine hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and garlic in small bowl.  Set aside. Put chicken wings into bowl or dish and toss with hot sauce to evenly coat.

Serving Size: 5 wings, 240 calories, 12 g fat, 4 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 1 g fiber

Broccoli and Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes

INGREDIENTS
Serves 8 

8 large baking potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 pound broccoli florets (approx 5 cups)

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups grated low-fat Cheddar

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1/4 cup skim milk

Salt and pepper

 Preheat oven to 375°F. Rub potatoes with 1 Tbsp. oil; pierce with a knife. Bake until tender, 1 hour and 30 minutes. Steam broccoli until tender, 5 minutes. Drain; rinse. Pat dry and roughly chop. In a skillet over low heat, warm 1 Tbsp. oil. Sauté onion until soft, 10 minutes. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Let potatoes rest until cool enough to handle. Set oven to 350°F. Cut top 1/4 inch off potato. Scoop out flesh. Mash potato flesh. Mix with remaining ingredients. Fill potato shells with mixture; bake 30 minutes.

368 calories, 6.0g fat, 10.4g fiber, 64.4g carbohydrates, 16.4g protein

Chili Lime Tortilla Chips

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

12 6-inch corn tortillas

Canola oil cooking spray

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

METHOD 

Position oven racks in the middle and lower third of oven; preheat to 375°F. Coat both sides of each tortilla with cooking spray and cut into quarters.
3. Place tortilla wedges in an even layer on 2 large baking sheets. Combine lime juice and chili powder in a small bowl. Brush the mixture on each tortilla wedge and sprinkle with salt. Bake the tortillas, switching the baking sheets halfway through, until golden and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes.

90 calories, 1.0g fat, 17.0 g carbohydrates, 3.0g fiber, 2.0 g protein

Cucumber Salsa

Serves 8

 INGREDIENTS

2 cups finely chopped seeded peeled cucumber

1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomato

1/4 cup chopped red onion

2 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and chopped

4-1/2 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed

1/4 cup 0% nonfat Greek yogurt

1-1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1-1/2 teaspoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

METHOD

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and serve with toasted pita wedges or tortilla chips.

12 calories, 0.1g fat, 1.8g carbohydrates, 1.0g protein

 

A Soy-licious Dinner

Last month, Solae hosted a dinner created by Chef Peter Berley, former executive chef at Angelica Kitchen NYC and author of The Flexitarian Table. Held at The Kitchen NYC, the event provided for a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, learn more about soy protein isolate, and try  Chef Berley’s soy-licious dishes!

Prior to the dinner, we learned about a few soy-based products that work with Solae. Now if you aren’t familiar with Solae, it is a company that produces soy protein isolate, which can be found in some foods like energy bars, soy milk, and protein shakes. In the first hour, Chef Berley prepared hors d’hourves made with Morningstar Farms. The chicken-less nuggets and soy-based bacon wrapped in lettuce were both crunchy and unexpectedly flavorful! As a vegetarian and fan of meat-less products and chicken-less nuggets included, I was amazed at how Chef Berley had transformed these foods into an elegant bite.

When it came time for dinner, we were intimately seated around Chef Berley, who demonstrated how each dish was prepared. With volunteers, the demonstration quickly turned into an interactive and lively dinner, where we learned how soy was incorporated into the dishes in very different ways. The 4-course meal consisted of:

Lemon Tofu Ricotta with Parmesan and Mint – The “ricotta” was actually Morinaga Silken Tofu (Firm) that was mashed with a regular potato masher, and sautéed with garlic, lemon zest, parmesan and mint. Served over a thin-crusted bread, don’t let the simple ingredients fool you–this tofu ricotta was packed with bold flavor and the just the right texture to recreate a “ricotta-like” mouthfeel.

Romaine Hearts with Creamy Soy Miso Vinaigrette — With the consistency of Caesar salad dressing, these romaine hearts were dressed in a vinaigrette contained no eggs or mayo, but tofu!

Miso Vinaigrette

Three Bean and Bell Pepper Chili with Chipotle Soy Sour Cream — As his cookbook suggests, Chef Berley chose to incorporate a bit of meat into this dish using 1/2 organic beef and 1/2 tofu. With the tofu thrown into the blender, it became a smooth consistency and acted somewhat like a thickener that helped the chili come together.

Three-Bean Chili

Maple Sweet Potato Tart with Ginger Soy Ice Cream — As you may have noticed, Chef Berley is quite the fan of substituting half of the main ingredient with half soy. But which component of the dessert was made with soy? If you guessed the less obvious—potato tart—then you are soy-ly right!

Sweet Potato Tart and Ginger Ice Cream

From start to end, the dinner was excellent. At the end of the event, we received a copy of the Chef’s book along with a backpack full of Solae goodies. Now after learning about several innovative ways to incorporate tofu in just about any food, perhaps it may inspire you to try new ingredients or use an old favorite in a new way. In fact, you can even get inspired by recipes from your very own copy of The Flexitarian Table–which we will be giving away to one lucky reader! Check out the entry details here.

7 Tips to Build Healthy Habits

With the holidays quickly approaching, it may seem like a daunting thing to try to stick to your healthy eating habits.  Here are a few habits to try to stick to not only during the holidays but everyday.  These things can have a major impact on your health and wellness!

1. Stay hydrated!  We often forget about this one, but make sure you try to get at least 6 glasses of pure water a day.  If regular water seems boring try things such as sparkling water or adding fresh fruit and vegetable slices such as oranges, grapefruit, and cucumber to your water to add fresh flavor!

2. Don’t skip meals.  While many of us are on the go, it is important not to skip meals.  This will only slow down your metabolism and cause you to overeat at your next meal.  Keep things such as almonds and pumpkin seeds in your bag as they will provide that extra boost of protein to help satisfy hunger on the go.

3. Try eating a variety of foods so that you do not become bored with your meals.  One way to do this is to select a new fruit or vegetable at the market each week so that it not only allows you to explore a new food but also provides variety.

4. Try to get about 45 minutes of physical activity a day. Yoga is a great way to fit in exercise and wind down during the holiday craze. To enter for a chance to win a free yoga session in New York City’s Jivamukti Yoga Center, click here. While this may seem like a lot for your busy schedule, you can easily break it up into increments if needed, such as taking a 20 minute walk during lunch, taking the stairs instead of elevator, and getting off of the train one stop earlier than your usual stop.

5. Take time for yourself each day.  Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour, do something that helps you relax and is something you enjoy.  It could be taking a yoga class, writing in a journal, or simply reading a few pages in your new book.  This will help you become less stressed, especially during the holidays.

6. With tempting things in your house such as tortilla chips, cookies, nuts, and other snacks, one of the best things you can do is to buy serving size baggies and measure out the serving size into each individual bag.  This not only helps you avoid overeating, but it also helps you visual what an actual portion looks like.  It also makes it easy to grab when you are in a hurry or looking for a quick snack.

7. Set aside one afternoon during the week if you can to prepare most of your meals for the upcoming week.  You can make your stocks and broths, cook your meat, roast your veggies, etc. so that come the busy workweek, all you have to do is add in your fresh ingredients and seasonings.  This will save time during the week but still allow you to have those quality family meals.

Veggie Burgers: How They Stack Up

Are veggie burgers really meatless? Yes, it is exactly as the name suggests—no meat. Yet in the eyes of many meat lovers, comparing the taste and texture of veggie burgers just does not stack up to its meat counterpart. While some are made to mimic the taste, texture color and feel of meat burgers, veggie burgers aren’t just a meat substitute. Veggie burgers are available for those who may not like the taste of meat (but still want something hearty and healthy), have dietary restrictions, share different beliefs or simply just prefer the flavor and ingredients that make veggie burgers stand on its own.

Veggie Burgers

Gone are the days when veggie burgers were the lonesome, meatless option at a backyard barbecue. With the rise in vegetarianism and veganism in recent years, came an increase in consumer demand for more veggie burgers. In turn, the market for veggie burgers has also become widespread. They have successfully made their way on to fast-food menus like Burger King and McDonald’s and are even served by upscale restaurants.

For many vegetarians/vegans, people who are watching their intake of saturated fats or simply prefer the taste of it over a beef or turkey burger, veggie burgers can be a great option! However, if you have ever tried a veggie burger and are still eating veggie burgers today, odds are that you’ve probably tried many. There are dozens of varieties and flavors. Some are too dry or beany, too salty or contain fillers and tastes like cardboard. Then there are some that contain a long list of ingredients that you’ve never heard of before and probably can’t pronounce. On the other hand, there are those that contain less than 5 ingredients, contain wholesome ingredients like vegetables and grains like quinoa, which make it flavorful and savory. Let’s see how these meatless burgers stack up!

How These Veggie Burgers Stack Up

Veggie burgers can be quite delicious, and make for quick go-to lunches. But with so many options in the grocery aisles many are left to wonder, “Which brands are the best?” Not all patties are vegan or soy free. As some of the more familiar ones on the market are Amy’s Garden Burger, Boca, Morning Star, we thought we’d point out some of the ones that are lesser known and reason why we like them (in no particular order).

De Cantos

Vegan: Yes
Dairy, gluten and soy free
Fairly new to the market, these burgers deserve some spotlight.
Each burger contains 5 raw veggies and no fillers like wheat, gluten,
soy, dairy or added sugar. It is “meaty” in the sense that it is fulfilling,
but does not have a “meaty taste.” While the company delivers
locally in New Jersey, if you’re having trouble finding this product,
try looking at Whole Foods!

Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burgers

Vegan: Yes
Soy Free: No
Certified Kosher
Ingredients: Carrots, Onions, String Beans, Oat Bran, Soybeans,
Zucchini, Peas, Broccoli, Corn, Soy Flakes, Spinach, Expeller Pressed
Canola Oil, Red Peppers, Arrowroot, Corn Starch, Garlic, Corn Meal,
Salt, Parsley, Black PepperSome people prefer the taste and texture of “just vegetables” in their
veggie burgers. If that’s the case, then Dr. Praeger’s is just that. Only
downside is that it may be flimsy and may not hold up as well if you’re
throwing it in the microwave. To make sure the patty holds its shape,
it’s best prepared on a grill or flat pan.

Hilary’s Eat Well

Vegan: Yes
Gluten free, dairy free, soy free, corn free, yeast free, egg free,
and nut free.
Plus side: They’re packaged in biodegradable plastic pouches!
Ingredients: Water Millet Quinoa Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil
Spinach Onion Garlic Psyllium Husk Powder Arrowroot Sweet
Potato Real Salt Apple Cider Vinegar Sunflower Seed OilThis burger is packed with great spices and tastes close to a fresh
veggie burger. For those who are big on texture and don’t like to
be left wondering “Is this a veggie burger??” Well this one holds
its shape and has a balanced texture, not too chewy or soft.

 

Sunshine’s Organic Quarter Pound Original Veggie Burger

Vegan: Yes
Soy Free: No
Gluten free
Ingredients: Organic cooked brown rice, organic ground raw
sunflower seeds, organic carrots, organic spices, sea saltThis burger is rich, savory and packs a slightly nutty flavor. If you
are a fan of sunflower seeds, this is the burger for you.

Are Veggie Burgers Better for You?

When dining out, be mindful that the nutrition content of a veggie burger may vary depending on its cooking process. While the veggie patty itself may be a healthy option, as with ordering any burger at a restaurant, any fixin’s like cheese, condiments, or a side of fries alongside the bun can sometimes stack up in terms of calories and fats.

Our Favorite Veggie Burger

What’s our favorite veggie burger? Ideally, it is the one we can make ourselves!  While making veggie burgers from scratch can call for a bit of time and preparation, if you make them in big batches, you can simply freeze them and voila! You’ve got veggie burgers on the ready, made with your favorite vegetables and grains… ingredients that you yourself know and can pronounce! With a little research, you can find tons of recipes on the Internet. Or, if you want to start with an easy but homemade classic, try Portobello mushrooms. With light marinade, they can be hearty and mouthwatering.

If you haven’t found your “perfect veggie burger” and making one from scratch doesn’t sound very appetizing, don’t give up just yet! With a little patience and perhaps a lot of tastings, it’s possible to find a veggie burger that is more flavorful and delectable (if not more) as its counterpart!

Dishing It Out

Founder and blogger behind Mom Dishes It Out, check out what Laura Cipullo RD, CDE has been up to! From nutrition advice, recipe ideas, to the latest in the health and food world, here’s the latest dish:

Dinner Makeover

The Real Simple food team called in Laura Cipullo, for new dinner ideas and healthy cooking tips.

 

Shedding Pregnancy Pounds

Registered Dietician Laura Cipullo appears on Headline News (HLN) dishing on how Moms can shed the pregnancy weight.

How to Eat Healthy When You Work Odd Hours

If you missed Laura’s appearance on CBS’ The Couch, tune in here for tips on how to eat and what to eat.

Eating Healthy: What you need to do and why

As featured on The One World Initiative Blog, kick-start your journey toward eating healthy with these 6 philosophical yet super-practical tips!

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

 

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

 

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?

How to Grow a Pest-Free Organic Garden

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As grocery store produce prices continue to soar, more and more people are looking elsewhere to get pricey organic produce. One way of doing this is by growing your own organic garden. However without proper preparation you can end up spending ample amounts of time and money battling bugs and pests that want your produce just as much as you do. The problem? They can be very efficient at getting what they want. The solution? Planting the right plants to keep your garden as pest free as possible. When you start your organic garden keep these things in mind:

 

 

  1. Plant basil and oregano: Both of these plants have very heavy, potent scents that repel garden pests, making them the perfect addition to an organic vegetable garden. They also are both found frequently in recipes and are usually expensive to buy in small quantities at the store, so having them in your garden will help it remain pest free and will help your wallet from taking a heavy hit in the herb section of the grocery store.
  2. Plant marigolds: If you plan on planting fruit in your garden then beware that flies will flock to the fruit plants and destroy them. Unless, of course, you decide to arm your fruit plants with their own weapons, which can be found in the form of adding marigolds around the plants. These bright flowers will help keep the flies away and add a nice pop of color to your garden.
  3. Plant rue: To keep worms and other leaf-chewing pests at bay plant rue in your garden. Rue is a type of subshrub that is well known for its robust scent, feathery leaves, and yellow flowers. Without proper repellants, leaf-chewing pests can wreak havoc on gardens.
  4. Plant onions and garlic: When planting your vegetable garden consider adding onions and garlic into the rotation as well. Bugs aren’t keen on their powerful scents, and will stay away from these types of plants, keeping your other vegetables safe as well.
  5. Plant citronella:Mosquitos may not eat your plants, but they will eat you as you work out in your garden. If spraying yourself down with bug spray every few hours or lighting citronella candles throughout the day doesn’t seem feasible then plant citronella in your garden to naturally repel mosquitos.

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Growing your own organic garden will help save you tons of money at the grocery store each week if you are able to actually produce the fruits and vegetables without them getting eaten by pesky bugs, caterpillars, snails, and other garden pests first. To counteract them, however, you don’t need harmful chemicals and sprays; you just need to plant the right types of plants in between and around your produce. Use this list as a guide for arming your garden with natural defenses.

Author Bio

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to hire a nanny by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

The Chia Seed Craze

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Açai berries, wheat grass, flaxseeds, it seems with every year there is a growing list of health food trends. Yet, if you’ve taken a stroll along the beverage aisle or health food section of a natural foods grocery store lately, you may have noticed new products labeled with chia seeds. Raved about for their exceptional nutritional value, chia seeds have gained quite a lot of attention. But what is a chia seed and what makes it so special from the rest of these superfoods?

 

Chia has a long history, where it used to be a staple food for Mayans and Aztecs. It is an edible seed that comes from a plant called Salvia hispanica. Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds do not have to be ground for the body to absorb its benefits. It can be eaten whole, ground, raw, and cooked. Chia seeds are not a supplement or replacement, but can be eaten as an addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes fresh and wholesome foods like veggies, fruits, proteins and grains.

What are the health benefits of eating chia seeds?

Chia seeds contain a high level of soluble fiber, which helps slow down digestion and regulates blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Just three tablespoons of these seeds can provide 37-44% of the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of fiber per day.

Rich in protein, chia seeds are an ideal food for vegans and vegetarians who may want an alternative to soy products. It provides a complete source of protein, containing all essential amino acids. One ounce, which is about 2 tablespoons, contains 4 grams of protein.

Chia seeds are an great source of omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 fatty acids. As both fatty acids are essential to our health, the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 is important.

Do chia seeds really help promote weight loss?

While chia seeds are high in fiber and protein, and can thus help keep you feeling fuller for longer, studies have shown that chia seeds do not actually promote weight loss.

 

If you’re looking to boost your fiber, protein, omega-3 intake, here are 7 delicious ways to incorporate chia seeds into your daily meal:

  • Smoothies
    Blend or stir 2 tablespoons of chia seeds into your smoothies for fiber and crunchy texture.
  • Baked Goods
    Add whole or ground seeds to homemade muffins, breads or pancakes. You can even mix 3/4 tablespoon of chia seeds for every 1/4 cup of water, and you’ve got yourself an egg substitution.
  • Yogurts and Parfaits
    For a nutrient boost, kick your favorite greek or soy yogurts up a notch by sprinkling chia seeds in layers, or sprinkle on top. Not a fan of the texture but still want to reap the benefits? Simply grind the chia seeds before adding it in.
  • Soups, Spreads, and Dressings
    Combined with liquid, chia seeds can act as a natural thickener. Add chia seeds to any liquid recipe, like soups or vinaigrettes and it will help thicken the mixture. For a tasty breakfast spread, add ground chia to peanut butter or almond butter.
  • Meatballs and Burgers
    Grind chia seeds in a blender or coffee grinder before forming your meatballs and burgers and it can transform lean meatballs and burgers into a more nutritious meal.
  • Desserts
    The ability of chia seeds to form a gel-like consistency make it an excellent ingredient for creating rich, yet healthy desserts. One of my favorite recipes is vanilla chia pudding, topped with fresh berries.