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How Much is Too Much Caffeine?

(And an aside on pumpkins)

To be honest I have no idea how much is too much caffeine. No, no, no – I do. I’m just not sure I TOTALLY agree with the generally recognized recommendations. Be that as it may, I am here to inform your sweet, knowledge-seeking buns.

Before we get started, can I just say this whole pumpkin shortage thing is very alarming. This is coming from a girl who stockpiles canned pumpkin. If there was a show devoted to people who hoarded canned vegetables, I think I would be the host. Welcome folks, today we meet Becky from Rhode Island who has so much canned rutabaga in her basement, her house is actually sinking! *Cue enthusiastic eye roll* Just FYI – the pumpkin shortage is coming from too much rain in the Midwest. Libby’s, the largest producer of canned pumpkin, gets most of their pumpkins from Illinois. I’m sorry. If you don’t believe in global warming now, you never will. Pumpkins man. Pumpkins.

So what is the deal with caffeine? Please repeat that question as Jerry Seinfield would. Do it. Now. 

The going recommendation for healthy, older adults is 400mg of caffeine per day, that is about four cups of joe. Adolescents, you get 100mg per day. The Caffeine Informer can provide you with more information on the caffeine content of various drinks, all the information you do and don’t want to know.

Boom end of post. But seriously, if you experience insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach aches, rapid heart beat or muscle twitching this may be a sign of too much caffeine and you need to tone it down.

Basically, too much caffeine feels a lot like this…

 

Yes. We know.

Please drink responsibly.

*Pumpkin knowledge gathered from NPR.

I’m Bringing Pumpkin Back. Yeah!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought we’d talk a little bit about pumpkin. And seriously, in the season of dry skin, what else is there to discuss as the temperature drops around us. I’m serious, these days my skin looks like I have a serious problem. No lie, I literally Googled ‘itchy arms’ today and went through a slide show titled, ‘The Ten Most Common Skin Rashes’ on WebMD. The good news: I am 95% sure I do not have ring worm. Fingers crossed. PS – when did googled become a verb?

Let’s get back to pumpkin. Boasting ~50 calories per cup (cubed), this little wonder should be a fall/winter staple in your kitchen. While it’s low in calories and fat, it also contains an ample, almost excessive, amount of vitamin A – a key nutrient in maintaining healthy skin, teeth, bone, retina and soft tissue. It is found in vegetables and fruits in the form of pro-vitamin A, beta carotene. If you did not know, beta carotene is an antioxidant crucial in protecting cells from damage.

For more benefits of the beautiful of pumpkin, click here.

In the meantime, here is one mean pumpkin recipe sure to provide you with warm comfort food during the week or please your Thanksgiving Day (Vegetarian) crowd.

Kale, Pumpkin and Chickpea Skillet

Serves 4-6 (entree)

1 bunch of kale, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh pumpkin
1 can chickpeas, partially drained
1 small jalapeño, minced*
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
Olive oil
Juice from 1/2 Lemon

Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat, add chickpeas and simmer for ~10 minutes until liquid is mostly absorbed. Add minced jalapano and continue to sautee until liquid is gone and pepper is slightly cooked.

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LRN

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LRN

Meanwhile, in a duct oven, heat 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add pumpkin and continue sauté for ~15 minutes until pumpkin is fork tender.

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Stir in kale and garlic cook for another 3 minutes until kale has wilted and garlic is fragrant, but not browned.

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Remove from heat. Fold in chickpeas, walnut, parmesan and lemon juice.

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Plate and serve!

Recipe Notes:

Jalapeño – I kept 1/2 the seeds from the pepper, feel free to adjust seed amount. The more seeds, the hotter this dish.

Dearest Martha: Why You Need a Dietitian (*Me) On Your Staff

For the longest time, Martha Stewart has been an idol of mine. Her successful entrepreneurial spirit and love for simple yet delicious cooking is all I’m looking for in a career role model. Naturally, I subscribe to Martha Stewart Living, her monthly publication. Its arrival month after month puts me in a state of utopia simply thinking about the domestic wisdom this goddess chooses to bestow on her readers. So it pains me to write that she and her staff made a slight misstep in the October issue which featured a spot on coconut oil, highlighting its ‘benefits’ and uses. The article includes recipes for a smoothie, soup, scallops, and chocolate bark.

The article opens with the following paragraph:

It’s soaring in popularity – and well on its way to becoming a kitchen stable. After all, it’s as rich as butter (without the cholesterol) and as versatile as vegetable oil. Grocery stores now stock the good stuff…and it’s a wonderful vegan substitute for butter in baked goods.

Shoot girl – this the not the promotion coconut oil deserves, despite how popular it may be. To me, it is the equivalent for promoting bacon for its health benefits.

Image from Google

Image from Google

Coconut oil, be it ‘refined’ or ‘virgin’, contains more saturated fat than butter. One tablespoon of this solid fat contains 117 calories, nearly 12 grams of saturated fat and less than one gram of monounsaturated fat. You want to limit your saturated fat consumption because it raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. The mono- and polyunsaturated fats are the ‘healthy fats’. Found in plant-based foods, these fats help to lower your LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol).

The American Heart association recommends limiting your saturated fat consumption to 5-6% of your daily calories.

Bottom line: if you MUST have your coconut oil, reach for the virgin coconut oil. It’s high in lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid found in the saturated fat family, which has been shown to raise both your good and bad cholesterol levels. If I were you, I’d stick the olive, canola or avocado oils.

Resources:
http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442477202
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Saturated-Fats_UCM_301110_Article.jsp
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Monounsaturated-Fats_UCM_301460_Article.jsp

Final Summer Snack Attack

Well, it’s official. With Labor Day weekend on the horizon, our last days of sweet, sweet summer are numbered. I mean you might as well be spending your weekends digging out those moth-eaten sweaters because once August is over, you know its time to hunker down in your home and watch the days get shorter. Not depressed yet? You should be. All that is standing between you and a pair of long underwear is a mere 2-3 months. So this is a call to all you ‘could-be-more-tan’ people – get out there and soak up the final days of summer.

There’s a very real possibility this coming weekend could be my final trip to the beach for the season. In that spirit, I give you my summer beach snacks! Pick up a bag of ice, clean out that cooler, and load it up with some delicious, refreshing and nutritious snacks. You will be all set for hours of leisure time without ever feeling pangs of guilt or hunger. These nom noms are perfect for the beach, pool, lake, river, swamp or local watering hole.

THR’s Healthy Summer Snack Attack

  • Aged White Cheddar Pirates Booty
  • Hummus with Sea Salt Pita Chips, Carrot Sticks and Cucumber Slices
  • Watermelon Slices (leave the rind on for easier eating)
  • Pineapple (take some toothpicks for clean hands)
  • Snyder’s of Hanover Mini Pretzels
  • Mini Babybel Cheese Wheels, Light or Original (wrapped in wax, safe unrefrigerated for 2-4 hours)
  • Raw, Unsalted Nuts
Image from google.com

Image from google.com

The Nuttiness of Natural Peanut Butters: Fad or Fact?

Smuckers, Skippy and Jif – they all have ‘natural’ peanut butters, but are they really natural? What does one qualify ‘natural’ peanut butter as in the first place? Well I’m sure there is some FDA branch who has determined this definition, but I’ll tell you the simplest definition there is going. In my mind, the ingredients label should read ‘peanuts and salt’. That’s all folks.

While at a friend’s house for brunch last week, a jar of Skippy Natural Peanut Butter was placed on the dining table. Being the freak dietitian I am, I hustled on over and read the ingredients list. Look nothing gets this RD more excited than a bomb peanut butter just placed on a brunch spread, but the ingredients need to be right. I don’t care if it has less fat or more sodium or more freaking peanuts, the ingredients list is where it’s at people!

Now that you know, below is THR’s breakdown of ‘natural’ peanut butters hot on the market.

1. Skippy Natural Peanut Butter: FAIL

Image from Google

Image from Google

Ingredients: Roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil, salt

The minute you see ‘oil’ in the ingredient list of any nut butter – go running. Nuts are naturally oily, that is why they are considered a fat. There is absolutely no need to add oil to an already oily product. I don’t care if that oil is ‘natural’.

2. Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter: WIN

Image from Google

Image from Google

Ingredients: Peanuts and salt

3. Jif Natural Peanut Butter: FAIL

Image from Google

Image from Google

Ingredients: Roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil, salt, molasses
*See oil comment above.

There’s countless niche natural peanut butters out there. As a New Englander, I LOVE Teddies. Not living in my area? Hop on over to Walmart, Target or Amazon to purchase your first jar today! But seriously, feel free to experiment. Natural peanut/nut butters have come a long way in the last 5-10 years. They don’t always required heavy stirring and are far from their initial chalky prototypes. So get out there nut lovers and rediscover what it means to eat natural peanut butter!

 

The Crockery of Food Labeling – As Told by John Oliver

There are three things I love in this world: vulgarity, British men and bad-mouthing the United States’ food industry. This video combines all three for this Friday bonus post!

I have a hunch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is quickly going to become one of my favorite shows on television. It debuted on HBO April 27 and its very first episode featured a segment on the tragic food labeling standards in the United States. I don’t have much to say in this post because Mr. Oliver literally says everything there is to say in the near 6 minute video. Click the photo below to take you to the video!

Note: Video is not safe for work or around sensitive ears – language warning!

Watch. Learn. Laugh.

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 5.20.42 PM ‘Hey, we didn’t spend years misleading people about the health benefits of our snake oil for you come in and lie about how much snake oil you have in your product’