Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to Eat Healthier at Japanese or Sushi Restaurants

sushi_roll.jpgThe first thing many ask about Japanese or Sushi cuisine is, "what about all the rice?" Yes, Japanese food is typically served with rice. But, not all traditional Japanese food includes rice.

So, no need to worry about those extra carbohydrates. I will review the best and worst health choices for when dining out at Japanese restaurants.

Tempura and Katsu: Means breaded or battered and fried.Condiments and sauces on sushi: Sushi with cream cheese and sriracha chili sauce mixed with kewpie mayo (the standard spicy mayo sauce) can increase the calories.Other sauces: Soy sauce, brown sauces, and miso all contain high sodium, so if you are following a low sodium diet, ask for these sauces on the side.Fried Rice: Thousands of calories. Think of all the surface area the grains of rice allow the oil and butter to soak in to.Kimchi: Can be found at some Japanese restaurants (is a Korean dish), but is high sodium at over 1000 mg of sodium per cup!Rice balls and fried rice ballsBento Boxes: Are easy and convenient. But, eat only half the rice they give you, and do not choose any fried items.StewsGrilled seafood or poultry: Most other fish-based dishes are also a great choice unless they specifically say they are deep fried. Another example is yakitori which is a skewer of grilled chicken.Teriyaki: Most dishes are a lighter option.Gyoza: Another name for potstickers. Make sure these are steamed.Traditional seaweed or ginger salad.Sunomono: Seaweed and seafood salad with a vinaigrette dressing.Ohitashi: A simple spinach dish.California roll: The simple classic is usually about 200 calories or less!Nigiri sushi: Only 30 to 70 calories per piece depending on the type of fish or seafood.Edamame: Contains plenty of filling fiber, and is a lower calorie item.Soba and Udon Noodles: You may find a variety of dishes with these noodles. Most are lower calorie options. Green TeaI always get confused when I see words I am not familiar with on the menu. So, it can be hard to know when something is high calorie or not. When in doubt, just ask how it is prepared.

Do you have any Japanese food favorites?

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Weight Watchers Smart Ones Satisfying Selections: Smart or Not?

Weight Watcher's and Heinz team up to produce Smart Ones, frozen meals that are designed to be used with Weight Watchers PointsPlus or for anyone looking to cut calories, but avoid the kitchen.

I was sent a few coupons to try the new Smart Ones Satisfying Selections. Since we focus on healthy eating, let's see how these low calorie, frozen meals measure up.

I sampled Smart Ones Sesame Chicken, which comes in a single serving bag. It can be heated by placing the whole bag in the microwave or the contents can be placed in a non-stick skillet. An 11.7 ounce serving delivers; 360 Calories, 7 fat grams, 6 grams of fiber, 25 grams of protein, and 49 grams of carbs with 10 of those coming from sugar.

The meal was a satisfying portion and it tasted good. It looked to me like there were less vegetables in the actual product, then were pictured on the package and the chicken was breaded, which was a little soggy. I'm not sure why they went that route since breading only adds calories.

Here's where Smart Ones Sesame Chicken derails a bit. This frozen meal contains over 50 ingredients and while this is largely due to the the breakdown of how each main ingredient is made i.e. noodles, sauce, breaded chicken etc., there are some processed ingredients that we should be aware of.

Wheat- This product is predominately wheat based so people with gluten sensitivity should avoid it.

Sucralose- This product is artificially sweetened. Some people have reported allergic type reactions to this sweetener.

smart-ones-ingredients.gifChicken fat- This ingredient is added for flavor, but it also adds cholesterol and saturated fat.

Soy- Soy sauce, soybeans, soy protein, and soybean oil are used in this product so people with soy allergies should avoid it.

Preservatives- This product does contain preservatives. Potassium lactate and sodium phosphate are both used. Both are generally considered safe, but sodium phosphate is also a drug given to people to empty the colon prior to a colonoscopy.

While the taste of Smart Ones Sesame Chicken and portion size are definitely positive, I think the product could be improved nutritionally. They could use grilled chicken instead of the breaded chicken, which would cut down on processed ingredients and calories. To make up the calories saved by this change, they could add more vegetables to the product to increase its vitamin and fiber content.

Overall, Smart Ones seems to be one of the better frozen meal options available, especially for people following the Weight Watchers program who need some quick lunch or dinner options. However, the majority of their meals should be ones in which they prepare themselves using fresh, wholesome, non-processed ingredients.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hemp: Power Food or Just for Smoking?

hemp-products.jpgIs the hemp plant the world's answer to our dietary and sustainable resource woes?

Its fiber is praised as one of the strongest to make textiles with and its seeds are touted for their oil and complete protein.

But, should we be buying stock in hemp farms? Or, are hemp food products just a fad?

First of all, before all of the anti-marijuana people get fired up, I'm talking about the 2 very low THC producing sub-species of Cannabis. One which has fibrous stems and the other which has oil rich seeds.

Hemp is a highly sustainable crop because it grows fast and requires little to no pesticides or herbicides. However, it does require nutrient rich soil, so fertilizers are normally used.

Non-THC crops are used to make clothes, rope, biofuel, paint, and food products. They have been cultivated for 1000's of years.

hemp-oilHemp Seed Oil: This oil is cold pressed from the hemp seed and is marketed as a better choice than olive oil. The oil has a light nutty taste and can be used on salads or for cooking. It has a smoke point of 330 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower than that of olive oil.

It contains less saturated fat than olive oil as well as provides 2.5 grams of omega-3 and 7.5 grams of omega-6. The oil I sampled was "GOOD Original Hemp Seed Oil". They also use this oil to make a line of salad dressings and mayonnaise.

hemp-protein.gifHemp Protein: This has become a popular choice among vegans as a way to get extra protein their diets. The hemp crop has less environmental impact than the soy crop and I won't even go into the impact the dairy industry places on the environment in oder to produce whey protein.

The downside to hemp protein is that it is more expensive and yields less protein per gram of product. 30g of hemp protein powder yields 15g of protein, while the same amount of whey yields 21g and soy 24g. However, hemp protein powder delivers 8 grams of fiber, while the other two have very little to none. I looked at Nutivia hemp protein for this comparison.

Hemp Milk: This cow's milk alternative is also gaining popularity as yet another way to avoid the cow puss. I recently wrote an article comparing the nutrition of milk alternatives, so I won't repeat that here.

I think any plant that can be grown easily, that's good for the planet, and that has a lot of practical applications should be considered a viable crop. The USA has been reluctant in allowing farmers to grow hemp, so most is imported from China.

Hemp protein is a great option for those that need more protein in their diets, but can't or don't want to use whey or soy. I'm a bit 50/50 on the use of the oil. Although it does have healthy omega-3, it also has quite a bit omega-6. Many nutritionists believe these should be consumed in a balanced ratio.

Perhaps hemp food products will come down in cost as more brands enter the marketplace providing increased competition.

Have you tried hemp protein or oil? What did you think of it?

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Smart Halloween Candy Removal Tips

Halloween_candy_corn.jpgGrowing up, I always had a massive bag of Halloween candy that lasted me a whole year.

Any food that has such a long shelf life is probably not a good choice. I know that many who are trying to lose weight worry about the temptation of candy.

So, even if you don't recognize Halloween, here are some ideas for removing candy from the house.

Participate in a candy buy back program. Dietitians are not the only ones who want you to consume less candy. Dentists want to save your teeth as well! In the USA, we have a buy back program where your local dentist will buy back candy in exchange for coupons, prizes, and cash. The UK also has similar programs.Send your candy to US troops. Many living away from home would love to receive a care package of candy. Soldiers' Angels is one program that will send your candy to the soldiers. Many dentists are also doing this in the buy back programs.Make a craft project! Make a candy mosaic (a picture out of candy), or a festive candy wreath.Call your local hospital or nursing home and do a reverse trick-or-trick. Go around to patients' rooms, and give out candy (as long as you get permission for which patients can eat the candy).Save the candy for the next Holiday. At Christmas, you can make decorations out of it, or use it to make Gingerbread houses. At your next birthday party or gathering, stuff a piƱata full of the candy. Donate to a food bank, or shelter. If you live in the USA, contact Feeding America. For Canada, try Food Banks Canada. For Europe, try the Federation of Food Banks. For other countries like New Zealand, try the Salvation Army.

Of course you can eat a few pieces of candy without ruining your health! If you are going to choose to eat candy, I would recommend a healthier option like some dark chocolate.

However, if you ate just three extra pieces of candy per day and kept the rest of your diet the same, it could lead to weight gain over time. And for those dedicated to their weight loss routine, candy in the house is a frustrating obstacle.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Light Laughing Cow Cheeses: Healthy or Not?

laughing_cow_cheese.jpgIn my house, we like to keep laughing cow cheeses around for snacks. You can find them on most grocery store shelves advertised as a lighter cheese option.

I find them pretty satisfying for only 35 calories per wedge. But, how is it possible to keep the calories so low?

1 Wedge of Light Laughing Cow Cheese: Light Cheddar, Cheddar, Swiss and Semisoft Cheeses (Cultured Milk and Skim Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Whey, Cream, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Salt.

The ingredients are comparable to other soft cheese spreads like cream cheese. The only unnatural ingredients are the sodium phosphate and sodium citrate which are both preservatives. Sodium phosphate is typically used to preserve meats, and is a healthier preservative to use than nitrites. Sodium citrate is regarded as safe since it is just the salt of citric acid.

light-laughing-cow-nutrition.gifAs you can see, one wedge is very light, and adds a very small amount of calories to your diet. The main negative nutrition fact is that one wedge contains 210 mg of sodium. This is quite a bit for such a small piece of food. For the average person, it is recommended to eat less than 2400 mg of sodium per day.

The added bonus of this cheese is that one wedge delivers 8% of your daily needs for calcium. This is higher than I would expect for a small piece of cheese.

Light Laughing Cow Cheese has six different flavors: creamy swiss, garlic and herb, French onion, blue cheese, mozzarella with sun-dried tomato and basil, and queso fresco and chipotle.

My favorite is the French onion. It tastes the most like a real cheese to me. The others all taste a little artificial or have some kind of slight chemical aftertaste. Other people I know do not think so. They love all the flavors and detect no chemical taste.

I don't like a lot of additives in my food, or preservatives, but for this particular product, I still consider it an option to include in a healthy diet. Plus, I don't buy Light Laughing Cow Cheese all of the time. I do try to stick to real cheeses, but smaller amounts. That is how they keep the calories so low with this product--the serving size. One wedge is only 21 grams, and can be eaten in just a few bites.

What do you think? Would you include this product in a healthy diet?

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Special K Cereal: True Health Revealed

speical_k_cereal.jpgSpecial K cereal is probably one of the most popular cereals for adults.

But, does that make it the healthiest? Probably not, considering the majority of people are overweight.

If you choose Special K cereal for your breakfast or as part of the Special K Diet, you may want to think again.

special-k-nutrition.gifRice followed by wheat gluten, and sugar are the first ingredients in Special K, original flavor. High fructose corn syrup follows closely after.

So far, this says to label readers that this cereal is sugary and likely has a high glycemic index. This means that the food will cause a faster spike in blood glucose, and then leave you feeling tired and hungry.

Wheat gluten is used to improve the texture and flavor.

Wheat germ is what gives the cereal most of its nutrition. Defatted means that the fat is taken out so that the grain has a longer shelf life. The wheat germ is what adds the small amount of fiber, and some of the protein to the cereal.

Special K contains a significant amount of salt (223mg). When reading cereal labels, I like to see the sodium below 200mg.

Dried whey is a common food additive used for flavor, and is actual whey protein with the moisture removed. This contributes to the protein content of the cereal.

Malt adds flavor as well. The remainder of the ingredients are added vitamins and minerals.

The calories aren't high, and the actual sugar (4g) is not outrageous even though the first few ingredients are sugar. This is surprising, but still does not make Special K cereal a healthy choice. The fiber content is actually less than a gram! The main problem I have with this cereal is that it is not a high enough quality grain. It lacks the necessary fiber, nutrients, and phytochemicals to start the day off right.

Many people use this cereal to control calories, but you would be better off eating a piece of fruit with a few almonds.

Do you eat Special K or have you tried the Special K Diet?

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Spirulina: An Aquatic Superfood?

spirulina.jpgYou may have heard of spirulina before and wondered what this health supplement is all about.

Spirulina is rare blue-green algae that is a powerhouse of health. It is said to have all the health benefits of multiple fruits and vegetables, yet packed into an algae that is normally fed to fish!

Complete Protein: It contains all the amino acids necessary for health. This makes spirulina a great food or supplement for vegetarians and vegans, or for those who eat less meat. However, with the recommended daily dose of 1 teaspoon, you will only be getting 2 grams of protein.B12: One of the few plant sources. Spirulina does not produce B12, but, rather it is a byproduct of animal contamination. No need to worry about contamination and toxicity as long as you are getting your spirulina from a reliable source. In addition, the type of B12 found in spirulina is questionable. We are still unsure if it gets absorbed by the body or not. So, vegetarians and vegans should continue to supplement in other ways.Trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, iron, copper, and manganese in one teaspoon of dried spirulina.Chlorophyll: A pigment found in spirulina that gives it a green color. Can help to improve digestion, improve the circulatory system, and heal the liver. Serving size: 1 teaspoon There isn't any concrete scientific evidence about what spirulina can be used for, but here are a few possible health claims: Alleviate PMSReduce depression, anxiety, and other mood disordersIncrease energyWeight lossBetter blood glucose controlImprove skin toneDecrease inflammation and arthritisReduce cancer riskYou can buy spirulina in a pill or powder form. But, please remember to buy from a well known brand, and do not take excessive forms of this supplement as it is not well researched.

Spirulina seems to be a superfood and a highly digestible source of protein. But, it is still fairly new on the market, so I would recommend caution when consuming it by only taking the recommended daily dose.

Have you tried spirulina, and if so, have you noticed any health benefits?

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Muesli Fusion All-Natural Raw Cereal: Put to the Test

muesli-fusion.jpgIf you have ever been to Europe or Down Under, you know that muesli is standard breakfast fare there.

However, muesli has never really caught on in the USA, which is a shame because it's usually really healthy and a great way to start the day.

A new company, Muesli Fusion, hopes to change that and they recently sent me samples of their all-natural muesli to review.

If you are unfamiliar with muesli, it's basically a raw rolled oats based cereal that includes nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and other raw whole grains. It isn't the same thing as granola, which is sweetened and then baked.

Muesli Fusion is only sweetened by the dried fruit used and can be eaten cold with milk, soaked in water, soaked in juice, or prepared hot as you would oatmeal.

I tried four varieties of Muesli Fusion; An Ox, Harvest Festival, Athlete Fuel, and POW. For the sake of time and space, here's how An Ox stacked up.

muesli-fusion-nutrion.gifIngredients: Organic Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Goji Berries, Blueberries (blueberries, sugar, sunflower oil), Organic Whole Grain Rolled Rye, Walnuts, Organic Cocoa Nibs

Muesli Fusion contains only simple, wholesome ingredients, but I'll expound on just a couple of them.

Goji Berries: These tiny berries grow in parts of china and are rich in antioxidants. The have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries for their health promoting properties.

Sunflower Oil: This oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, there is debate concerning the dangers of consuming too much omega-6.

Rolled Rye: This is a great choice for many, but those with gluten intolerance should be aware.

Cocoa Nibs: These are the real deal folks. Just small pieces of roasted cocoa beans.

Having lived in New Zealand for 4 years, I came accustomed to having half the cereal aisle filled with different types of muesli. Now back in the States, I miss this raw cereal. Muesli Fusion is a great find. All the varieties are tasty and contain only simple, natural ingredients. On the downside, as with many of these specialty products, Muesli Fusion is on the expensive side.

I know I could make my own muesli, but for me and other busy people Muesli Fusion is a great ready-to-go option. If you've never tried muesli, it can be a great addition to your healthy diet. Not only can it be eaten for breakfast, but muesli is a great addition to yogurt and muffins as well as can be added to desserts like apple crisp to make it more nutritious.

Overall, Muesli Fusion is a clean, wholesome product and a nice addition to the marketplace.

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