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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’

Lentils Are The New Beans

I hope we all enjoyed the Mini Turkey Parmesan Meatloaves. I know you all made them over the past week. Don’t lie, it’s unbecoming. As Spring settles in and beach season approaches, if you’re like me, there’s one thing on that fine mind of yours: How can I eat more lentils? No? Oh that’s just me then. Let me put it to you this way, if lentils were ingestible self-tanner, I’d be Snooki.

Clearly lentils have nothing to do with beach season, but rather everything to do with finding an alternative, non-meat protein. I will not lie to you. I love a good piece of steak or salmon just as much as the next red-blooded American, but damn, can we ease up on the animal flesh? I don’t boast being a vegetarian, but I do try to limit animal proteins to one meal per day (excluding eggs, those things are absolutely delicious).

Lentils are one such example of a solid vegetarian protein source. They house themselves in the legume family along with their sister, beans. Little known fact, lentils are actually seeds originally harvested in central Asia. Grown in pods, you can find these little guys in either the whole or split variety. I prefer the whole lentils; I find them to be a bit meatier. Lentils are also available in a range of colors, but the green and brown varieties tend to hold their shape best during the cooking process. Readers take note: lentils can deteriorate under heat. Choosing the proper form and cooking technique are essential to avoid eating colored mush for dinner. Prepare as directed and trial and error are my two best recommendations when it comes to cooking lentils. Alas, I am not a cooking expert on everything.

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Lentils are an excellent source of B vitamins and iron. You menstruating or pregnant? You’re going to love these little suckers! Sorry boys. Lentils also carry a sizable fiber punch – one half cup serving contains 8 grams of dietary fiber. I’m talking the good stuff, the fiber that helps lower your cholesterol. Just dare me to take care of my heart! I’ll do it too, don’t test me dude! Lastly, as mentioned above, they are well endowed in the protein department with 9 grams (a little over 1 ounce) per half cup.

While lentils are loaded with nutrients, one to not ignore is their carbohydrate content. Lentils are what we dietitians call a ‘dual food’. Yes they pack the protein, but they also carry carbohydrate. Not a bad thing, but something to be conscious of nonetheless. If we return to the half cup portion example, lentils have about 20 grams of carb (equal to an average slice of bread). This doesn’t make them off-limits. Just don’t fool yourself eating them with a load of brown rice, a few potatoes and peas smothered in yellow curry sauce. Easy does it young grasshopper.

I have a few lentil tricks in my wheelhouse. Throw them onto salad or into a broth based soup. A favorite post-run snack of mine is lentils atop steamed broccoli and a little marinara. See below for picture-based knowledge.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada

In closing, if you want to get a little fancier, I really enjoy lentils in vegetable marinara. Free (hidden) recipe alert! Oh wait, this is all free for you. For 4 people, I’ll sauté 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1 chopped yellow pepper, 8 ounces of chopped button mushrooms, a few minced cloves of garlic and some chopped fresh herbs. Stir in marinara and precooked lentils. Serve over some whole-wheat pasta, top with a little shaved Parmesan cheese and BAMB! You got a mighty tasty din-din at your fingertips.

Come back next week for my all-time favorite lentil recipe. Clue – they are delivered in patty form and incorporate cashews. Get so freaking excited. I mean it, right now!

Corn – The Forgotten Whole Grain

Slama lama ding-dong, let’s kick off this Wednesday with a discussion on the long forgotten whole grain, corn. It is a vegetable people often write off their diets (much like peas) when it comes to eating ‘low carb’. Sure, the summer months bring this vibrant grain back around, but why do we forget about it the other 9 months of the year? It deserves more attention than that! You see, carbohydrates are an essential part of the human diet. They provide our bodies with the energy necessary for day-to-day living and it’s a macronutrient found in many different types of foods. Whole grains live in one featured corner of the carbohydrates world. Wheat, wild rice, oats, quinoa, millet and barley are just a few of the heavy hitters. These days, it seems as though everyone is either swearing off grains all together or trying to find the next ‘it’ grain. We’re here today to talk about one sadly forgotten whole grain, corn.

For a refresher on whole grains (what are they and why are they important?), please see The Healthy Revival’s Holy Whole Grains post.

Corn

When we think of ‘bad’, natural foods many will reference potatoes, peas and corn. Corn. Psh! It’s just a carbohydrate trying to pass itself off as a vegetable! In some ways, sure. But corn is not the enemy nor should it be forgotten. Taco shells are one prime example of this corn misconception. While out to lunch with a friend a few short weeks ago, I recall my eating partner changed her entrée of choice due to the fact her fish tacos were to be served in corn tortillas. When I inquired what made her change her mind, she simply replied ‘corn tortillas’. Now I wasn’t about to get into the fact that she probably could have asked our server for an alternative option because it took her a solid 20 minutes to decide between Fresca and lemonade. I’ve learned to pick my (nutrition) battles. But really? Are we all under the impression white flour tortillas are healthier than their corn counterparts? I got news my friend, they ain’t.

Corn Tortillas

To focus on tortillas for a minute, corn tortillas have fewer calories than flour tortillas. They are also a whole grain, unless you’re buying whole wheat tortillas – then it’s all the same. Corn tortillas are typically smaller than flour, so you’re also exercising portion control in the process. Don’t let the fact that something is made from wheat fool you like it did my dear lunching friend.  The key when looking for corn tortillas (or anything corn derived) is to make sure the words ‘degerminated’ are not used in the ingredients list. Opt for products with ingredients listing ‘whole corn’.

You see corn is a great source for fiber (both soluble and insoluble), folate, vitamin C, potassium and protein.  Corn is a grain that has a lot to offer your diet and as long as you don’t confuse it with eating a vegetable, I think we’ll all be okay. It’s a grain developed nearly 7,000 years ago in Mexico, spread to the United States and Peru (thanks to Columbus) and is now grown on every continent expect Antarctica.  Corn also happens to be an agricultural titan of the United States’ food industry – which I think may be another turn off for some. Corn syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup. Guess what. I’m not some corn junkie asking you to go to your nearest food store and purchase their last 20 bottles of Karo syrup. It should be clear by now I am pushing for whole corn.

Beyond tortillas, as mentioned above, other sources of whole grain corn include popcorn, polenta, corn muffins, corn on the cob, and corn cakes. Not to mention, eating corn with beans creates a complementary mix of amino acids (protein) which increases the protein value for our bodies. Just be sure that when you’re combining the two, you have plenty of non-starchy vegetables on the side.

Corn can be used a multitude of ways; fold it into salsa, steam corn kernels as a side dish, mash with cumin and tomatoes, throw into salads or added to soups. Bringing this dietary staple back into your diet is simple! Fresh, frozen or canned, it’s available 365 days a year! A food often featured in the summer months has plenty to offer your diet September through May.

Come back next week for a featured whole corn recipe!

References:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/summer-corn-more-than-delicious
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=90