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 Plant Powered Lifestyle

Sharon Palmer, who is also a Registered Dietitian, recently sent me a copy her new book, The Plant Powered Diet. (We’re also giving away one copy to a lucky reader.. for details read on!) While incorporating research studies, an array of informational charts and recipes, Sharon’s book comes down to one main point:

EAT MORE PLANTS!

After a few pages and a chapter or two in, it became clear that despite the title, this is not a typical “how-to diet book.” In fact, the author does a great job of not labeling any foods good or bad, but does an excellent job of providing an abundant amount of information, allowing readers to make his or her decisions about which plant-based foods are best to eat. From shopping organic, cooking, dining out, and teaching you how to calculate your protein needs, Sharon has covered nearly every topic or question you might have about eating more plant-based foods.

Nearly every holiday is centered on the 4 F’s: family, friends, fun and food! Quite often, the day is centered on the latter. For many, a turkey, chicken or roast beef is a focal point of the holiday meal. This year however, I challenge you to power the holidays with a more plant-based approach.  Whether you’re a committed omnivore, vegetarian or vegan, try incorporating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains into the holiday festivities! With family gatherings and parties, take advantage of this holiday season by using it to expose your loved ones to more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

A great takeaway from this book is that vegetables, fruits and whole grains can be incorporated into many dishes, savory or sweet. They can act as substitutes in your favorite dishes or shine on their own. The important thing to remember is that this shouldn’t be view as a temporary diet, but rather a lifestyle change. Change doesn’t begin overnight but it can be a start! Begin by trying one new vegetable every week, or simply ensuring you are eating vegetables throughout your day, whether in your meals or snacks.

Here are 3 of our favorite tips from Sharon’s book, that can help steer you in a healthier direction:

1. Stem-to-Root Eating — One of our favorite sustainable tips from the book, Sharon emphasizes consuming every part of the plant. Sometimes we lose site of the best parts of a plant that are very much still edible. Instead of tossing out your broccoli stalks, kale stems or beet tops, give it a second chance to become a tasty part of your meal!

2. For any favorite recipe, try substituting a whole plant fat like avocado for refined oils — In cakes, you can substitute half the amount of butter or even a mayonaise-like spread with pureed avocado.

3. For dessert recipes, try substituting whole fruit for added sugar instead — “Use the natural sweetness of fruits to sweeten breads, cookies and desserts while gaining a serving of antioxidant-rich fruit.”

For a chance to enter into our giveaway for a copy of Sharon Palmer’s The Plant Powered Diet, click here!

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.

Energy Bars: The On-the-Go Nosh

In today’s society, we are constantly on the run. If we’re not students rushing to class, parents rushing to pick up their kids or dropping them off, then we’re probably rushing to meet our friends or medical appointments. Sometimes, we are so busy and exhausted that many of us just do not have the time to sit down for a bite. So what happens to those of us who finally sit down but are crunched for time? Whether consumed as a snack or meal replacement, many of us opt for an energy bar. With so many options, which bars give a healthier boost? Here are 5 of our favorite energy bars for an on-the-go nosh:

1. Zing

This gluten and soy-free bar is so tasty, we almost forget it’s an energy bar. With about 20 grams of carbohydrates per bar, Zing may be ideal for those who have diabetes, have celiac disease or food intolerances.

2. LaraBar

These bars generally contain less than 8 ingredients and are made of fruits, nuts and spices. Flavorful, but some varieties can contain up to 14-17 grams of sugar so beware. However, we do love the sweet and saltiness of the Roasted Nut Roll, which at 7 grams of sugar per bar, contains half the amount of sugar than the others. The raw nuts make this bar a tasty choice for those following a raw food lifestyle.

3. Kind Bars

These bars are generally made with about 10 rather simple ingredients, many which include nuts, honey, puffed rice and dried fruits. The use of whole, not ground nuts, contribute to the texture and “homemade” feel.

5. Health Warrior Chia Bars

Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids! When we discovered that these vegan bars were made with chia, we were glad to see them successfully added to more foods! Every bar is 100 calories and contains 4 grams of sugar. With 15 grams of carbohydrates, these chia bars may be ideal for someone who has diabetes.

In spite of a hectic schedule, the busy individual should never feel like they need to rely on energy bars to meet calorie or nutritional needs. Although energy bars can be incorporated as a healthy part of a meal structure, there’s nothing quite like fresh or wholesome foods.  Moreover, many of these bars appear nutritious but can have hidden levels of high sugar, additives, carbohydrates and calories. Keep in mind that many of these energy bars were created for athletes, and not for those who do minimal to no exercise.  If given the option between an energy bar or meal when crunched for time, it is best to grab a quick meal. However, if there’s absolutely no way around to grabbing a quick meal (let’s face it, sometimes that’s just not practical) follow this bar code when searching for an on-the-go chew:

  1. Keep it simple – Don’t be tricked by the word “energy bar.” When it comes to figuring out the nutritional value of an energy bar, a consumer’s best bet may be to first scan the back for a list of ingredients, then look at the nutrition label. If there is a long, running list of unfamiliar ingredients that you are unable to pronounce, another bar may be a better option.
  2. Consider your energy and activity needs – Think about your activity for the day. If you will be going on a long run, you may chose a bar with a different nutritional content than an individual who will be doing minimal activity.
  3. Create your own, healthy & homemade energy bars – If you have time, consider making a large batch of bars ahead of time. Not only are they easy to make, but you will also know exactly what ingredients went into them. You can even make them ahead of time and store them for an easy, on-the-go chew! For an even easier and quicker recipe, try packing a homemade trail mix.
  4. Think outside of the box – If you’re looking for energy bars to be your meal replacer, consider grabbing a Greek yogurt and enjoy it with a banana or top it with fresh berries.

 

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!

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?

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: The Scoop You Didn’t Know

Over the past few years, omega-3 fatty acids have received a lot of attention and promotion. Yet when you pick up your supplements at the local pharmacy or health food store, the label includes omega-3’s, omega-6’s omega-9’s and oh my mega confusion! What is the difference between these essential fatty acids and what is this talk about keeping a ratio? This blog will help demystify the omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6 fatty acids confusion. Find out if you need to add omegas to your nutritional intake and which omega.

The Difference Between Omega-3 and Omega-6

Both omega-3 and omega-6 are termed ‘essential fatty acids’ (EFA), since our bodies cannot readily produce these, we must obtain them through foods or supplements.

While there are many types, the three most common omega-3 fatty acids are Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA). DHA and EPA are mainly found in cold-water fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines, while ALA is found in plant sources like canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and soybeans. Unlike DHA or EPA, which can be readily absorbed by our bodies, ALA from plant sources like seeds, nuts or vegetable oils are only partially converted (about ten percent) by our bodies into the beneficial forms EPA and then DHA. Studies have shown that the health benefits of EPA and DHA are greater than ALA. Therefore, the goal is to try to get Omega 3 FA’s in the form of DHA and EPA.

Unlike omega-3‘s, omega-6‘s consists of only one type of fatty acid, Linoleic Acid (LA), which is later converted into Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA). As opposed to omega-3‘s, getting omega-6‘s from the foods we eat daily, is rather simple. LA is commonly found in seed oils like corn, canola, sunflower and soy — ingredients found in many of the processed foods Americans typically consume in abundance. The better sources of omega-6’s include raw nuts, like pistachios and seeds like chia. Since Americans typically consume much more of the fatty acid omega-6, it is more important for one to focus on including omega-3 fatty acids in their diet or through their supplement. However, for an individual following a low processed food lifestyle such as a paleo, vegan or vegetarian diet, omega-6’s must be included. A great source of an omega-6 fatty acid is the seed known as chia.

Helpful Hint: Two tablespoons of chia seeds provide a 3:1 ratio of omega-3:omega-6 FA. With 3x more omega-3 than omega-6, adding chia seeds to a diet can help an individual reach optimal health by balancing out the ratio of fatty-acid intake in one’s daily nutrition.

Both Are Beneficial

Omega-3’s have been found to lower the risk factors for heart disease and cancer, as well as have anti-inflammatory properties (whereas some omega-6 can contribute to inflammation). This fatty acid is necessary for brain function, healthy development of nerves and eyesight. Omega-3’s have been linked to the prevention and treatment of several other conditions like arthritis, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, depression, diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis to name a few.

Omega-6’s provide a defense against and can aid in reducing symptoms in diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, allergies and high blood pressure. Studies also show that consuming 5-10 percent of energy from omega-6’s may help decrease the risk of CHD and cardiovascular disease.

Together, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids produce many of the health benefits described above. The catch? Eating them in the right amounts.

As In Most Things, Balance Is Key

In today’s society, the convenience of fast-food and heavily processed snacks makes for a not-so convenient way for us to maintain a balanced consumption of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Most processed foods contain a high amount of omega-6 and data shows that a Western diet may contain too much omega-6 fatty acids. If we recall, some omega-6’s may promote inflammatory properties but too much can result in inflammation. Recent research suggests that this imbalance may contribute to health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and more. One such study shows that while the dietary intake of omega-3:omega-6 ratio should range from 1:1-4 for optimal health, the evolutionary changes in the Western diet has led to an increase in consumption range of 1:10-20. To reach a healthier balance between the two, experts suggest that a lower ratio of omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids is more desirable for reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.

However, just as important as it is to consume a healthy ratio of the two, it is equally important especially for vegetarians and vegans, to consume enough essential fatty acids as to prevent deficiencies. Remember, as remarkable as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids exhibit in aiding our brain development, immune system function and blood pressure regulation, sources should be consumed in healthy moderation!

Take Home Message:
Aim for a dietary intake with a ratio of 1 omega-3 FA : 1-4 omega-6 FA.

Low Cost, Effortless Lunches

Healthy and Effortless Pack Ups

By Carlo Pandian, Guest Blogger

I’m not sure how Japanese mothers find time to create the mini-masterpieces for their children called Bento. To us that means packed lunch – but the Japanese take the cultural tradition of ‘presentation’ to the extreme with these works of art. Shaped to resemble teddy bears, pandas or cartoon characters kid’s packed lunches in Japan not only manage to look incredible but they’re even full of all kinds of foods to fuel healthy, energetic kids. I could probably knock together a Telly-Tubby mashed potato sculpture if I was pressed, but this level of dedication is beyond me, especially at half six in the morning! In my case, I’m afraid that quality, not presentation, is difficult enough to achieve on a daily basis. For those of you who sympathize, here are three packed lunch ideas to turn the kids away from crisps and chocolate. These are focused on three essential ingredients for mums; cost, effort and vegetarian/healthy options.

Vegetarian, Low Cost and Low Effort Ingredients

A vegetarian packed lunch is a good idea to include in your weekly pack-ups even if you and the kids are not full-time vegetarians. With health warnings about the risks of too much red meat in our diets ringing in our already overloaded brains, it makes sense to include a vegetarian choice now and then. It also adds variety to the menu – which is half the battle.

• Hummus is great source of protein and energy and can be added to wholesome pita bread with green salads. Tasty and slightly messy this should appeal. Add chunks of cucumber for additional sources of five a day. A fruit Fromage Frais can be included for dessert along with grapes and a milk.
Cost is on everybody’s mind at the moment and pack ups are the original money saving lunch idea, which have been common for centuries. Low cost doesn’t mean unhealthy. The following are useful ideas:

• Toasted sandwiches fall into the low cost options. Tuna with canola oil mayo or low fat cheeses are excellent fillings. The toasted effect keeps the bread from getting too mushy for our picky kids. Whole grain pasta is another great, low cost buy to keep handy. Beans or vegetables can be added to make a tempting pasta salad and this can be prepared and packed in advance.

As mentioned, half six in the morning is not a good time to design and implement a food sculpture. Half six in the morning is the time for battling with the cat over the familiar issue of her food and your coffee. For those with several kids to coax downstairs as well, effortless pack ups are a godsend.

• Pita breads are an excellent pocket lunch and unlike bread they don’t need cutting! I use them a lot. Fillings can include bean salads, or egg salads and green salads. Teach your kids to love dried fruit like apricots, at an early age and brook no resistance; they’re healthy and preparation is limited to taking them out of the packet. String cheeses are just as easy and a great source of protein and calcium.

These of course are just a few ideas, but some of the ingredients, particularly pita bread and pasta are fantastic basics for a range of easy lunches. Your imagination is the only limit. Keeping packed lunches varied can be a chore of a task, but using staples as mentioned above and varying the ingredients daily can help to break away from the boredom of meat based sandwiches! Keeping kids interested is, as we all know, more than half the battle.

 

Author

Carlo is a freelance writer and blogs about food, culture and technology covering everything from grocery shopping to contemporary art. He loves gardening and can’t stay a week without his fruit boxes and Italian wine. Carlo loves to eat with his niece, Clotide.