Crock Pot Mac ‘n Cheese

I just LOVE the American Dietetic Association’s quote of the week:

“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley

Could this be any less true? Along the same lines is financially supporting health and disease, putting in a bit more each trip to the grocery store can same hundreds of thousands in medical expenses down the road. That’s all I’ll say, I don’t have time to step on my soap box today!

My morning started off with a delicious smoothie to go, containing whey protein powder and flaxseed oil. As for fruit, I threw in raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, banana, kiwi, grapes, peach, and pineapple. Did I miss a color in there? Definitely started the morning off with a rainbow of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals – yum! A friend at work was asking for my smoothie recipe, so I hooked her up with a mini smoothie, too! P.S. The cup wasn’t as big as it looks…I got a serious close up!

Today was taste test day at work. Some of the employees requested comfort food, so I chose a mac’n cheese recipe…made in the crock pot (but of course!). It was my first time trying this recipe and I will SURELY be making it again…it was amazing! Almost TOO cheesy, I may use 3 cups of cheese next time. It served a bunch of people, though…and all good reviews!

Crock Pot Mac ‘n Cheese

1 c. skim milk 1 can evaporated milk 1 can cheddar cheese soup 4 c. 2% cheddar cheese, shredded 16 oz. box elbow macaroni 3/4 c. egg substitute (i.e. Egg Beaters) 1/2 c. Smart Balance butter 1/2 Tbsp paprika (optional)

Directions:

Start crock pot. Melt butter in crock pot and pour into separate dish after melted. In a pot, boil macaroni until almost done. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, milk, evaporated milk, soup, and 3 cups of cheese. Pour macaroni into bowl, pour over butter and then wet mixture. Mix slightly.

Allow to cook on low for 3 hours. Pour remaining cup of cheese on top and sprinkle with paprika.

Makes 30 servings (1/2 c. per serving)

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 143 calories, 6 g. fat, 15 g. carbohydrate, 8 g. protein

Eggcellent!

Eggs are rich in choline – a nutrient receiving much attention for its proposed role in brain function and memory performance. Additionally, eggs contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that can preserve eye health and reduce macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness [1].
Recently, the Journal of Nutrition suggested eggs be looked at as a “package deal” – they are inexpensive, contain the highest-quality protein known to man, and are loaded with vital nutrients such as folate, riboflavin, selenium, B12, and choline. For a mere 75 calories, eggs are considered nutrient-dense, low-calorie food that can enhance any menu [1].
But of course, shopping for eggs can be as tricky as every other food product in the grocery store. Free range versus organic versus this versus that. Here’s a Chicago Tribune run-down on 12 “egg terms” to increase your knowledge of eggs and egg shopping [2].
Natural: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service defines “natural” as not containing “any artificial or synthetic ingredients, and it must be minimally processed.” By this definition, almost all eggs would be considered natural.

Free range: Indicates that hens have access to the outdoors, but there are no regulations on the duration or quality of their access.

Pasteurized: Eggs that have been treated with heat to eliminate salmonella bacteria and make them safe to eat raw or undercooked.

Pasture raised: This unregulated term implies that hens are raised outdoors and moved regularly in mobile hen houses to different grassy lots on the farm. This gives them access to a variety of foods found on the ground — bugs, grubs and other small creatures — as well as chicken feed.

Fertile: Hens are raised in barns that also house roosters. The term is unregulated but implies that the hens are uncaged.

Food Alliance certified: According to Food Alliance, their certification requires “Healthy and humane treatment of animals, safe and fair working conditions, soil and water conservation, pest and nutrient management, protection of wildlife habitat and other agricultural concerns.”

Animal Welfare Approved: Hens must be kept cage-free and allowed to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching and dust bathing. Outdoor access is required at all times, and forced molting and beak cutting are prohibited. Certifies mostly family farms.

American Humane Certified: Hens must be kept uncaged, but access to the outdoors is not required. Space requirements allow for natural behaviors. Forced molting is prohibited, but beak trimming is permitted in some cases. AHC has certified about 85 percent of cage-free eggs in the United States.

United Egg Producers Certified: This certification allows hens to be caged, does not require access to the outdoors and does not prohibit beak cutting or forced molting. It does require that hens have “access to clean water and are fed several times a day.” The UEP literature suggests caged hens are safer and healthier than uncaged birds.

Certified Humane Raised and Handled: Hens are uncaged inside barns or warehouses and may have access to the outdoors. Includes space requirements for hens to perform natural behaviors. Forced molting is prohibited, but beak cutting is permitted.

USDA organic: Hens are kept uncaged in barns or warehouses, are allowed access to the outdoors and are fed an organic, vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides. Forced molting and beak cutting are permitted.

Do you purchase a certain type of egg? Free range? Natural? Pasture raised?
[1]. Callahan, Maureen. 5 foods that should have a place in your diet. Cooking Light; CNN Health. November 6, 2007.
[2]. Eng, Monica. Egg confusion. Chicago Tribune. September 23, 2009.

Acai Craze

When yet another patient came into my office carrying a myriad of Acai berry supplements for “weight loss”, I figure it’s time to address this topic on my blog…

The acai berry is being touted as a “power” food, “super food”, and everything in between. Acai berry information can be found scattered across food labels, Oprah, and the all-powerful Google.com. But, what’s the real deal? Read on.

The acai berry (pronounced “ah-sigh-ee”) is a native to tropical regions of Central and South America, specifically in Brazil. The berry is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, oleic acid, and potassium…among other things. The berry is dark purple in color and approximately the size of a grape which grows on the acai palm [1]. The acai berry taste is described as being a vibrant blend of berries and chocolate [2]. Yumm! The pulp of acai berries is extremely delicate and is thus only available in pulp, juice, or tablet form.

Boasted as the No. 1 Super Food on Oprah’s “Health” site the acai pulp contains [2]:

- 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes - 10-30 times more anthocyanins than red wine - a “synergy” of monounsaturated fats, dietary fiber, and phytosterols to help promote heart and digestive health - an “almost perfect” essential amino acid complex in conjunction with valuable trace minerals vital to muscle contraction and regeneration

While that’s all fine and dandy, a few bummers according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest [3]:

1.There is NO evidence supporting the use of Acai berry in weight loss. 2. Free trial offers asking for credit card information (i.e. to pay for shipping) are a SCAM. 3. While acai berry supplements are available, purchase USP Verified products, or those endorsed by companies presented in this article entitled, “What’s Really In Supplements?”.

CNN Health published an article on weight loss claims surrounding the acai berry supplement. After the berry was discussed by an MD on Oprah and a guest on Rachel Ray last year, the popularity of the berry soared. Oprah and Rachel Ray have since publicly disassociated themselves from sites which claimed weight loss endorsed by the celebrities [3].

Just like most berries, acai has strong nutritional qualities such as anti-inflammation and antioxidant properties. It just so happens that the acai berry is exotic and has been marketed as a “magic ingredient” targeting in health and weight loss advertising [3].

Selling for as much as $40 a bottle, “acai berry is triumph of marketing over science” says Jonny Bowden, a nutrition author. While the berry is not “useless”, it’s over-hyped according to many nutrition and weight loss professionals. Keri Gans, dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietitic Assocaition, recommends that customers turn to local vegetables and fruits as it would be much less expensive. She also warns against one food appearing “too good to be true”, or a health “miracle” [3].

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), FWM Laboratories received an “F” rating. Other acai berry companies receiving a “F” grade include Advanced Wellness Research, AcaiBurn, FX Supplements, and SFL Nutrition [3].

In short: there’s no magical berry coming from Brazil to cure obesity or any other ailment.

Have you tried acai berry juice, pulp, or supplements? Do they really taste like a berry blend + chocolate?!

Off to do some pilates since the rain ruined my plan for a run! Have a great night!

Improve your foodship

Foodship — your relationship with food. Humans make more than 200 food-related decisions every day! Talk about lots of opportunities to make a wrong move! Knowing more about food, such as how it’s grown and produced, can help improve our foodship. Improving our relationship with food can also help us reach and maintain a healthy weight [1].

5 Ways to End Dysfunctional Eating [1]

1. Turn off the screens. TV’s, computers, cell phones, and iPods should be turned off while you’re eating. Distractions away from what you’re doing — eating — can cause you to overeat. Connect with your food and gain a stronger interest in how food looks, smells, and tastes. Duly noted: no “catching up” on emails during lunch at my desk….

2. Broaden your concept of local food. Don’t limit your local selections to fruits and vegetables. There’s a good chance there is locally produced eggs, meat, poultry, milk, cheese, maple syrup, honey, and breads near you. Check it out! The more effort you make to purchase your groceries locally, the more likely you are to learn how it’s produced and to have a closer connection to what you eat. Unlike commercial produce, local produce is picked at it’s peak ripeness and thus, it’s peak nutritional value. Nutrients found in foods are physically fragile — the less distance to get your produce from it’s origin into your system, the more nutrients are preserved. Does the same go for wine? Even in Oklahoma there are local wineries with daily tours — make it a day trip and enjoy the fruit of the land…literally : )

3. Get closer to a farmer. Go in Whole Foods and look for information on local growers in the store. Or, become a grower yourself. Shifting the relationship with food to becoming a producer or close to the source of your food makes us more invested in what we eat and what it provides for us nutritionally. When you buy locally, it is a positive, powerful, and constructive way to encourage local farmers, as well as good production and manufacturing practices.

4. Cook with a kid. Teaching children about food, where it came from, how it was produced, and ways to eat different foods is a fun and joyful occassion. Cooking is much more commonly taken out of the home and today’s children have less exposure to different varieties of foods and cooking methods. Parents also falsely assume that children are picky eaters. Don’t dumb-down your child’s palate by making assumptions — offer them a wide variety of foods, even foods you personally do not enjoy. Limit snacking and poor eating habits — children should be hungry or ready to eat when they come to the table. Being a little hungry is the best way to learn to appreciate the flavors and varieties of various foods; when kids are not hungry, they do get finicky with their food selections.

5. Don’t buy into grocery buzz words. Of the terms local, organic, and sustainable found on packaging, only “organic” has a specific, legal definition with legal guidelines. If a product label does not explain its marketing terms, consider that a reason to research further. Head to the company website for details. Start by learning more about the foods you commonly purchase such as milk or cereal. [1]. Moores, Susan. Boost Your Health by Improving Your Relationship with Food. MSNBC. August 7, 2009.

A glass a day keeps the doctor away?

Quite possibly.

Red wine contains a potent antioxidant called resveratrol. It is found in highest concentrations in the skin of the grape to protect the fruit from bacterial and fungal invaders. Resveratrol is also found in peanuts, blueberries, and cranberries, however the skin of the grape and long fermentation process of red wine produce the highest concentrations of resveratrol [1].

It was suggested by top Harvard biochemists that this antioxidant can extend life by activating the “longevity” gene (sirtuin), slowing the body’s aging process and prolonging the development of chronic disease [2]. Research still in the works on those guys at Harvard…

Is red wine the ticket to eternal youth? I’m sure Dr. 90210 has something to say to the contrary. But, what does Mayo have to say?

Mayo Clinic supports the role of red wine in the reduction of LDL cholesterol (recall, this is the “bad” stuff), while protecting arterial walls of the heart. However, their stance on

resveratrol’s role on this matter remains up for dibs. There are studies out there suggestion resveratrol as the ingredient to thank, and others suggesting red wine providing no increased benefit to that of spirits or beer. Hmm…

Research confirms the role of alcohol (not just red wine) in the diet to 1) raise HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind), 2) lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind), and 3) reduce the incidence of blood clots [1].

To keep things in perspective, research is performed on those with “moderate” alcohol consumption. “Moderate” consumption would be defined as 1 serving of alcohol a day for women, and 2 a day for men. Professionals

do not encourage the intiation of alcohol in the diet if one abstains. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, obesity, liver damage, increased risk of certain cancers, and accidents [1].

Additionally, resveratol studies have been performed on animals and the dose used to produce desired health benefits would require the consumption of 100 to 1,000 bottles of red wine to produce similar results. So, as you can imagine, resveratrol supplements were produced as to offer the public highly concentrated doses. Mayo Clinic stated in March 2009 that more research is needed to support the role and required dosing to confirm suspected health benefits of the antioxidant. But, they do state that the evidence looks good for red wine! [1]

What we know:

1. If you drink alcohol, consuming a “moderate” amoung each day may provide health benefits. 2. When you drink alcohol, red wine may be your best alternative health-wise. 3. If you don’t drink, don’t start for health reasons.

All good news here for this vino lover!

I suggest: Ruffino Chianti (approx. $8-15/bottle) Collazzi Chianti Classico ($20/bottle) Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva ($16/bottle)

…Just for you, Mary! Salute!

1. http://mayoclinic.com/health/red-wine/HB00089/NSECTIONGROUP=2
2. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/25/60minutes/main4752082.shtml