RD Q&A + a few moving pics

Day 3, here we come. But first, a few pictures of the “fun”…

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 Okay, now onto the Q&A :)

Jess from Flying on Jess Fuel: Can you suggest some of the best yogurts with highest culture counts?

Prevention RD: Great question, Jess! Activia (3 strains), Oikos (5 strains), and Kefir (12 strains) are some of the most popular and easiest to find yogurts with the highest number of cultures and CFU’s. There’s many more out there, but why talk about products no one can find? There are two things to consider with cultures – the number of bacterial strands and the number of CFU’s (culture forming units). The more of each, the better. Yogurt can be a tricky beast because so many of the flavored varieties include tons of sugar. One serving of flavored yogurt can contain over 20 grams of sugar! My personal pick would be which ever plain variety you enjoy (I love the plain Kefir as a drinkable yogurt that can be added to fruit smoothies), without adding in too much sugar. As a side note, many companies will offer up the number of bacteria strands, but not necessarily CFU’s. As usual, it’s hard to be a consumer…but this is my $0.02!

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Eva of Eva Bakes: What differences, if any, are there between grocery store-bought eggs and ones I’d get at a local farmer’s market or farm? Do organic or natural eggs actually have any added benefits?

Prevention RD: Nutritionally, no difference…unless they are fed a diet rich in omega 3’s, in which case the yolk will contain omega 3’s (this can be regardless of organic vs. inorganic). Organic eggs have to do with the diet the chickens are fed – organic vs. non-organic (potential for pesticide-containing feed). Eggs can be hard to purchase with the considerations of cage free/free range (ethics), organics (pesticides), and diet (grain/organic). With each step in a the earth-friendly, “healthier” direction, the price tag will increase from about $1.20/dozen to $5/dozen. It really boils down to personal choice more than nutrition.

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Lena: Vitamin Water seems to be really popular here in Singapore. But is it worth anything? Or is it just watered down kool aid :)? Does it help provide those extra vitamins?

Prevention RD: It’s not going to harm a healthy adult to take in the added vitamins and minerals, but 120 calories and over 30 grams of sugar might! I am pretty certain there are low-calorie or calorie-free versions, as well…but then I could argue for and against artificial sweeteners ;) My impression of Vitamin Water is that they are very good advertisers. Will 100% of Vitamin A help me “focus” (yes, they have a flavor called “Focus”) at work? I sure wish, however nearly no one in the US is deficient in Vitamin A…or the B vitamins. Vitamin E is the most “valuable” addition, and it’s only in about half of the flavors. As for antioxidants, those are best coming from whole food sources, like fruits and vegetables. Vitamin waters offer a small leg up on regular soda, but probably not worth the cash.

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Rumana: Hey Nicole, could explain why people say that vegetable oil (including canola) is bad and that you should avoid it like the plague?

Prevention RD: I’m really glad you asked this question! To start, “vegetable oils” would include canola, soybean, sunflower, and safflower oil (I may be missing a few). Hundreds of years ago, we didn’t derive oil from these plants and the process by which it is extracted is where in lies some of its opposition. Nutritionally, canola oil offers up the lowest amount of saturated fat, which we want to limit in the diet. I posted about canola oil back in May of 2010 and I still feel the same way. Here’s the post: Is Canola Oil Good for You?.

Let’s take a look at this graph (which I love and used when teaching college nutrition courses):

You can clearly see fat proportions this way. Ideally, you want less red (saturated) and blue (omega 6) and more orange (omega 3). That said, canola and flaxseed oil clearly win out. Flaxseed oil is the winner here, however, it is quite expensive. I would choose olive oil as a second choice because of its moderate saturated fat content and low omega 6 content. It is also a more “natural” choice. You can see that the other vegetable oils don’t offer up much of any omega 3 and tend to be high in omega 6’s.

You may be wondering about omega 3’s vs. omega 6’s and why we won’t want too many omega 6’s. I mean, they sound healthy…right? In the American diet, we have PLENTIFUL amounts of omega 6’s and we really don’t want any more. Our body prefers to keep a healthy ratio of omega 6’s to omega 3’s and ideally that ratio should be lower to help prevent everything from heart disease to breast cancer to rheumatoid arthritis. Many sources believe that humans started with a 1:1 ratio and we have evolved to intake up to a 1:17 ratio in America (a good goal would be 1:3 to 1:5). In short, we need less vegetable oils, such as corn, sunflower, and soy (sources of omega 6’s) and more flax, walnuts, and fish (sources of omega 3’s) to keep this ratio balanced. Personally, I think canola oil can help people obtain this goal as it is so plentiful in omega 3 fatty acids, but it’s not the only way to get’em in!

Thanks for all the wonderful questions!

Have a question YOU would love answered? Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at preventionrd at gmail dot com! Thanks for all the wonderful questions…hope you find the answers helpful!

Be well,

Crockpot Sausage, Peppers & Onions

As February started coming to a close, I had this yearning to make easy, flavorful comfort food. Unlike Mr. Prevention, I love sausage — Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, turkey sausage…love it all. Needless to say, it’s not the best for you. That said, turkey sausage has come a long ways and I find it to be a perfectly acceptable and flavorful alternative to the pork counterpart and offers up far fewer calories and significantly less saturated fat.

Outside of the sausage, this recipe contains just a few simple ingredients. And truth be told, I’m a lover of all recipes that call for just a bit of wine. What better excuse to drink wine with dinner mid-week?

sausageandonions1Speaking of wine, do you see that there (up above) wine cork? Hilarious. That fine little lady was a Christmas gift from one of my best friends, Megan. I absolutely had to capture a shot of that…it’s just a surprise to me that it’s taken this long.

But anyways, back to the crock. I started this recipe around 10am. I had a small serving before going to teach around 4:30 and it was certainly cooked and ready by that point. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I assumed husband would turn OFF the crock pot when he got home around 5:30ish and after serving himself up a plate.

Silly me.

When I called at 8:30 on my way home from class, the man thought he was to wait for me to have dinner. I thought this was 1) kind of ridiculous of him to think — this is not the evening routine at all, but 2) really, really sweet. The point of that tale is two-fold.

  1. When it comes to men — spell it out. Literally. Note, email, text, voicemail…something. If yours is anything like mine, he’s a little lot helpless at times.
  2. This meal can withstand durations in the crock pot. Not to say that it gets any better over time, but if you leave this on for 8 hours – no biggie. It’ll be just fine.

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Crockpot Sausage, Peppers & Onions slightly adapted from I Was Born to Cook

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided 2 1/2 lbs hot turkey Italian sausage (about 10 links, cut into 4 pieces each) 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips 2 large yellow onions, halved and sliced 5 garlic cloves, chopped 1-15 oz can crushed tomatoes 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning 2 tsp garlic powder 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions:

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet and add half the sausage. Cook until brown on all sides, set aside. Repeat with remaining teaspoon of oil and sausage.

Place onions and bell peppers into the crock pot. Top with sausage and remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 5-7 hours. Serve with pasta or bread.

Yield: 7 servings (~6 pieces of turkey sausage with 1/2 cup peppers and onions).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 259 calories; 12.7 g. fat; 79 mg. cholesterol; 647 mg. sodium; 11.7 g. carbohydrate; 2.9 g. fiber; 23.7 g. protein

Result: Packed with spice and Italian flavor, this simple meal is perfect to go with a crusty loaf of bread and a killer glass of wine. A very simple crock pot recipe that is sure to please! Even the sausage-hating hubby liked this one. Enjoy!

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I am so glad it’s the weekend! Other than making pancakes this morning, doing some grading and syllabi writing, and working out…I have no plans for the day :-D

Be well,

Love Your Heart: Light Fettuccine Alfredo

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Another week in February and another recipe you can make to love your heart…and what you eat! Because really and truly, you should love what you eat. Perhaps you will love one of these recipes, too:

Today’s recipe isn’t the absolute lowest in calories or fat, but it’s a perfect example of a much scaled down version of one of America’s favorite guilty pleasures: Fettuccine Alfredo. Loving your heart doesn’t mean having to sacrifice taste…or your favorite foods.

Making a lighter version at home, however, can save you nearly a day’s worth of fat, two day’s worth of saturated fat, and whole lot of calories. That is certainly something for your heart to love!

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You can love what you eat and still feel good about it, too? Indeed!

If that’s not convincing enough, how about a recipe that takes less than 30 minutes from start-to-finish? Yes, even for the novice at-home chef. This recipe, it’s calling your name. It may even be saying, “I’m better Olive Garden…no, really. And way better for you, too!”

So true. So true.

fettuccinealfredo2Here’s a run down on a few heart-healthy tips you can apply to your at-home cooking.

  1. Butter vs. margarine. Choose butter (unsalted). Margarine is hydrogenated vegetable oil, or in other words, a liquid vegetable oil turned into a solid. This process is possible through hydrogenation which add trans fat to foods. Trans fat is doubly dangerous to the heart because it not only raises “bad” LDL cholesterol, but it also lowers “good” HDL cholesterol. Limiting or omitting trans fats is one of the best things you can change in your diet to keep your heart healthy.
  2. Low-fat dairy. Choosing low-fat dairy products, such as milk, helps to decrease saturated fat in the diet. Similar to trans fats, saturated fat can cause an unfavorable rise in LDL cholesterol levels. With all milk being fortified with vitamins A and D, there’s no reason not to choose a low-fat variety.
  3. Be weary of fat-free foods. While low-fat options generally offer up a lighter version of its full-fat counterpart, fat-free products are often high in salt and sugar to help improve flavor and make products more palatable. Be sure to compare products for not only calories and fat, but also for sodium, sugar, and a plethora of other additives and preservatives that are used in food manufacturing.
  4. Remember to control portions. Though lightened up versions of your favorite foods are preferred, over-eating is never recommended. Keeping your heart healthy can be as simple as controlling intake to avoid over-consumption of fats and calories. Pair your meals with a healthy vegetable side to increase volume, add nutrition, and keep calorie counts in check.

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I paired my Lighter Fettuccine Alfredo with a garden salad dressed in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My dinner came in right at 500 calories and offered up a balanced meal with added fiber and nutrition.

My only regret was that Mr. Prevention wasn’t at home to enjoy this meal with me. I will have to make it again soon…it was WAY too good and WAY too easy not to!
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Light Fettuccine Alfredo adapted from Cooking Light and That Skinny Chick Can Bake

1 Tbsp unsalted butter 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour 1 1/3 cups 1% low-fat milk 3/4 cup (3 oz) Parmesan cheese, finely shredded 2 oz 1/3 less-fat cream cheese 1/4 tsp salt 8 oz dry fettuccine 2 tsp flat leaf parsley, chopped Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Boil 3-4 quarts of water in a large pot. Add fettuccine and cool until al dente.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook just till fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Whisk in flour, then gradually whisk in milk, stirring constantly till mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes. Add the Parmesan, cream cheese, and salt, stirring till cheese melts.

Add hot, drained pasta and toss to distribute. Serve with a sprinkle of the parsley and black pepper, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (1 heaping cup each).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 388 calories; 13.5 g. fat; 32 mg. cholesterol; 379 mg. sodium; 2 g. fiber; 17.8 g. protein

Result: Low-fat dairy and high quality Parmesan couldn’t have come up with anything better – truly wonderful. Creamy and rich…you won’t believe for a second that this is a lightened up version. But put away the gobs of butter, and all that heavy cream…you won’t be needing it! Enjoy!

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Be sure to head on over to Lauren’s blog, Healthy Food for Living, for your chance to win a copy of The Vegan Slow Cooker and wild salmon from Pure Alaska Salmon!

Be well,

Meatless Monday & Mr. Prevention Picks: Beer-Cheese Fondue

Remember when I told you guys Mr. Prevention was going to start picking out a weekly meal…or, whenever I can get him to commit? Well, here we are. His choice, that I am not allowed to veto, was cheese fondue.

He wasn’t specific on what kind of fondue, so naturally, I seized the opportunity to lighten things up. Would you believe we pigged out on cheese fondue for less than 500 calories? Believe it.

I don’t throw out too many product plugs, but Cabot offers up some really great low-fat cheeses (that I can find at my Kroger, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods). When you take all of the fat out of cheese, it loses many of its properties…like the ability to melt. Fat-free cheese also gets a little powdery – bleck!

Low-fat cheeses are challenged to ride that fine line between health and flavor. Some rise to the challenge, others…not so much. But I can assure you, this fondue had flavor and cheesy, melty goodness.

To add additional flavor, I used my favorite cheese – Gruyere, and a high quality winter ale (I’m a huge Sam Adams fan but use something you enjoy).

While a fondue pot is ideal for fondue (duh), don’t underestimate the powers of the “warm” settings on a stove top range. This recipe is 100% doable for anyone. No fancy fondue forks? No problem. Toothpicks and skewers work just fine!

And before you reach straight for the bread cubes, don’t forget your fruits and veggies. The apple chunks were actually our favorite to dip’n dunk!

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Beer-Cheese Fondue

6 oz (3/4 cup) winter ale beer 9 oz 75% reduced-fat Cabot white cheddar cheese, grated 4 oz Gruyere, grated 1 clove garlic, minced 1/4 tsp ground mustard pinch of cayenne

1 apple, diced 1 cup broccoli, broken into bite-sized pieces 1 cup cauliflower, broken into bite-sized pieces 1 cup baby carrots 3 thick slices multi-grain bread, cubed

Directions:

Combine ingredients for the fondue in a fondue pot over low heat or in a small sauce pan, stirring frequently. Serve warm with veggies, apple, and bread pieces. Yield: 3 entree servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 445 calories; 19.7 g. fat; 63 mg. cholesterol; 981 mg. sodium; 26 g. carbohydrate; 3.3 g. fiber; 41.7 g. protein

Result: Rich and creamy! This is a great, simple fondue that’s perfect for the calorie-conscious and beer-lovers alike! Enjoy!

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One day of work, another day in court, and then I’m Chicago-bound! :-D

Be well,

Meatless Monday: Quinoa Mexican Soup {vegan}

Can I be brutally honest?

I made this soup thinking I wouldn’t enjoy it. And Mr. P? Forgetaboutit.

But as it ends up, I was very, very wrong.

It’s no secret that I’m still warming up to quinoa, especially in savory dishes. And seeing as I love all things dairy (mmm…cheese), vegan meals aren’t usually my style — my cholesterol levels can confirm this, unfortunately for me. And naturally, I want to resolve this — heart disease and high cholesterol run very strongly in my paternal side.

That said, I kind of refuse to eat food that I don’t enjoy. And by kind of I mean, no way. There are far too few calories in the course of a day to waste them on anything sub-par.

But when you can have a totally satisfying meal for under 250 calories and a filling 10 grams of fiber with negligible amounts of saturated fat….well, that’s success. Huge success. (Success that can’t be reached with cheese.)

Why does this nutrient-packed meal pack so much flavor? Thank the peppers. Between a jalapeno, a poblano, and a red pepper that have all been roasted and charred…the flavor is all there. Bold and rich. Plus some of my favorite spices — chipotle chili powder, paprika, cumin, and coriander. Vegan masterpiece.

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Quinoa Mexican Soup adapted from Virtually Vegan Mama

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 2 (14.5 oz) cans low-sodium fire roasted diced tomatoes 2 tsp olive oil 1 medium red onion, chopped 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 poblano pepper 1 red bell pepper 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed for less spic 1 cup dry quinoa (I used red quinoa)
1 Tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
pinch ground cinnamon
1 avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 lime, cut into wedges

Directions:

Set your oven to broil at 550 F.

Cut the poblano, red bell pepper, and jalapeno in half, removing the stem and seeds. Place peppers on a baking sheet cut side down and roast 2-3 minutes or until charred and black. Check frequently to avoid over-burning. Once charred, place peppers in plastic baggie, close, and allow to steam. Peel the charred skin by hand and dice the peppers.

Heat a dutch over over medium heat and add olive oil. Add diced onions and stir. Keep stirring until the onions start to stick and add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable stock. Repeat this step, stirring often for 30 minutes, deglazing pan every so often with a small amount of vegetable stock. Cook onions for 30 minutes or until onions are a dark in color with the desired caramelized flavor.

While onions are caramelizing, combine the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for ~30 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

To the dutch oven, add remaining vegetable stock, fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno, poblano, red bell pepper, paprika, coriander, cumin, bay leaves, cinnamon, and chipotle chili powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaves. Add cooked quinoa and stir to combine.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with diced avocado. Serve with lime wedges. Yield: 6 servings (about 1 1/3 cup each).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 244 calories; 7.7 g. fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 452 mg. sodium; 38.2 g. carbohydrate; 10 g. fiber; 6.7 g. protein

Result: This had amazing flavor – and Mr. Prevention-approved! I was very hesitant about this soup as I was 90% sure he would hate it. But nope…loved it! It takes a bit of babysitting (for all of 5 minutes), but the roasted peppers make this soup. I skipped a few steps from the original recipe to make things a bit easier, and it worked. This soup is uber healthy and truly delicious…plus it’s vegetarian, vegan, and under 300 calories per serving! Enjoy!

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I need to get my rear in gear. I haven’t worked out since Friday morning and I have no excuse. The quarter ends this week and while things have been busy with grading, exam-making, holiday shopping, and so on…there’s just no excuse for not getting in a workout both Saturday and Sunday. Grrr, self. At least I have a weekly menu packed with healthy eats!

Be well,