Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tidbits: Safe Eggnog!

Did you know that safe eggnog begins with happy eggs (see photo above)?

Well, not really.  But if you are planning to make your world-famous homemade eggnog, you are probably going to want to make it safe for your guests and family. No sense ruining a nice party with a trip to the Emergency Room.

Here are commonly made statements about eggnog that I have heard over time, disguised as a quiz for  you, with my answers:

Yes or No: Putting lots of alcohol in the eggnog kills the salmonella or other bacteria that may be in the eggs. 
(No.) The bacteria may be happy, but they don’t go away.

Yes or No: Fresh and/or organic eggs are more safe than regular grocery eggs.  
(No.) Bacteria love protein, and that’s what an egg is made of.

Yes or No: Freezing eggnog, then thawing before serving kills bacteria. 
(No.)  The freezing just slows down the bacteria’s growth, but they are still there.

There are three ways to have safe eggnog (from a food safety perspective). 
  • First, you could buy ready-made eggnog. The word “pasteurized” on the label means the eggnog has been brought up to a certain temperature for a certain amount of time to kill potential bacteria, then is quickly cooled. (Click the word pasteurized to learn more; the science majors can click here to learn even more.) 
  • Second, if making homemade eggnog, you could use a pasteurized egg product such as Egg Beaters, or check brands in your store that say “pasteurized”. 
  • Third, and a little more work, is making your own eggnog, but using the methods from the American Egg Board for “Classic Cooked Eggnog”.  See their recipe below: 

Classic Cooked Eggnog  from the American Egg Board 
6 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla

Step one: BEAT eggs, sugar and salt in large heavy saucepan until blended. STIR IN 2 cups milk.

Step two: COOK over low heat, stirring constantly but gently, until mixture is just thick enough to just coat a metal spoon with a thin film and temperature reaches 160°F, about 15 minutes. Do not allow to boil. REMOVE from heat immediately.

Step three: STIR IN remaining 2 cups milk and vanilla. REFRIGERATE, covered, until thoroughly chilled (several hours or overnight).

Makes 12 servings. Nutrition information per serving: 94 calories, 4 grams fat, 6 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrate, 100 milligrams cholesterol, 122 milligrams sodium. 

Visit the American Egg Board’s Eggcyclopedia for A-to-Z information on eggs and cooking with eggs. It’s my go-to spot for any questions about eggs.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What's For Dinner: Quick White Chicken Chili

There are many recipes for white chicken chili around, but I like this simple one that calls for ingredients I always keep on hand. It’s tasty enough for company, but we usually make a double batch for ourselves once the weather turns cold (leftovers are good, and half the batch goes in the freezer for a later meal).

RECIPE:  Quick White Chicken Chili

1 48-ounce jar of great northern beans, rinsed
2 14-ounce cans of reduced sodium chicken broth (or 1 can broth, 1 can water)
1 8-10 ounce jar of chunky salsa
1 12.5 ounce can of either white meat chicken or turkey, rinsed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1-2 cloves garlic, minced

In a large Dutch oven, add the beans, chicken broth, salsa, chicken, cumin and garlic powder and stir.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes to blend flavors (it tastes even better the next day).

Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or crackers.  Makes about 10 cups.

Nutrition information per 1 cup:  192 calories, 16 grams protein, 1 gram fat, 28 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 227 milligrams sodium.
Cook’s notes:  
  • You can always use leftover chicken or turkey in the soup; measure about 1.5 to 2 cups or so of chicken chunks (or more if you want). 
  • You also could use fresh chicken breasts instead of the canned. Cut into chunks 2 large breast halves or 3 small halves. Sauté chicken in 1-2 teaspoons olive oil until chicken turns from pink to white. Add to soup.  (If using minced garlic, sauté it along with the chicken.) 
  • Choose a salsa that is one step hotter than you normally use, because the beans tone down the hotness, especially by day 2. 
  • The cumin is a must. If you are out of cumin, don’t make this recipe until you get some from the store. Seriously.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tidbits: Top 10 Superfoods for Diabetes

One of my patients, new to diabetes, had done some research before coming in to see me. She told me she found a top 10 diabetes superfoods list, and had been enthusiastically eating these foods.

I am a skeptic at heart, but I do look into that people tell me about. Sure enough, the American Diabetes Association had a superfoods list on their site that bears repeating.

I am not a fan of the word “superfood”, simply because nutrition is a young science; researchers are learning new things about foods, seemingly everyday. People sometimes take that as a negative, with comments such as “why are they changing their minds about nutrition all the time?” I take it as a positive, that new things are being learned regularly about the benefits of the foods we eat.

Here are the American Diabetes Association’s Top 10 Superfoods for Diabetes:

DRIED BEANS (any color)
Dried, cooked beans are loaded with fiber, protein, and some carbohydrate, and this combination of nutrients makes beans very easy on blood sugar. If you use the canned beans, rinse them first to reduce the sodium content.

Any dark green leafy vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients. If you don’t care for kale or turnip greens, give baby spinach a try. They can be eaten as desired.

People with diabetes can be scared to eat fruit because of the natural sugars. But fruit is a good carbohydrate, and citrus has lots of soluble fiber and vitamin C. It’s the portion size of fruit that matters.

These potatoes are full of vitamin A (beta carotene) and fiber, and may have less of an effect on blood sugar than white potatoes. But portion size matters here, too.

Berries of all types are packed with antioxidants. No need to purchase exotic fruit for antioxidants; blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries have plenty. Try fresh or frozen berries with yogurt or in smoothies.

Either raw or cooked in sauce, tomatoes are full of vitamin C, iron and lycopene, with minimal effect on blood sugar.

Fish is heart healthy, especially the ones high in Omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna and herring).  Aim for at least 2-3 servings a week.

This is another category of food that people sometimes skip. Why? They are afraid their blood sugar will go too high. But whole grains offer lots of benefits, such as fiber for intestinal health, magnesium, chromium and folate.

Nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy fats, but if weight loss is one of your goals, you will need to substitute the calories in nuts for the calories in another snack. Don’t just load up on nuts, or you’ll wonder where that 10 pounds came from.

The benefits from milk and yogurt start with calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones and teeth. Calcium also helps muscle contractions (so you won’t get cramps).  But portion size matters here, too, because milk contains natural carbohydrate that could raise blood sugar if you have too much.

Now that you know about the diabetes Superfoods, you may be wondering how to put them all together. Here are a couple of good diabetes cookbooks to check out.

By Patti Geil MS, RD, CDE and Tami Ross RD, CDE
Contains good general information, plus diabetic diet meal plan ideas.

Healthy Calendar Diabetic Cooking, 2nd Edition, by Lara Rondinelli, RD, CDE and Chef Jennifer Bucko

This cookbook a full year of menus and easy recipes, based on the season.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What's for Lunch: Nancy's Fruit Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

This recipe is for the poppyseed dressing part of the fruit salad. The original recipe, which Nancy clipped from a Denver newspaper many years ago, called for pineapple, strawberries and cantaloupe as the fruit.

But any fresh fruit would work, especially now that so many fruits are in season. Nancy used mostly farmer's market finds in her fruit salad:

  • Mango
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
Recipe: Nancy's Poppyseed Dressing for fruit salad
3/4 cup corn oil
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup white vinegar (Nancy used lime juice)
1 tablespoon poppyseed
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients to blender. Blend 20 seconds at medium speed. Pour into jar with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate.  Makes about 1-1/3 cup dressing. 

Nutritional information per 1 tablespoon: 80 calories, 8 grams fat, 0 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 49 milligrams sodium, 0 milligrams cholesterol.

Note: Nancy used about one-third of the above recipe to dress her fruit salad, which contained about 4 to 5 cups of diced fruit.

And Rocky kept us company while we ate and chatted.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tidbits: Figuring Fair Foods for Fun

What do you do if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes and your family or friends talked you into going to the local or state fair?  Sooner or later it will be time for you to eat; what should you do?

Some people think ahead and bring along a small picnic lunch, while others would consider bringing their own food a big bother, and simply hope they will find something to eat. And we all know what is typically offered at fair food booths. Plenty of yummy-smelling but heavy choices such as deep fried onions, French fries, sausages, ice cream, caramel corn, donuts, etc.  

The diabetes educators at the International Diabetes Center at Park Nicollet (in Minnesota) put together a fabulous list of typical fair food items, with the calorie, fat and carbohydrate values for each food. Even if you are simply interested in the calorie value of the foods, click here to see a pdf list.

The one food that surprised me was the blooming onion with dip…over 1500 calories, 80 grams of fat and 180 grams of carbohydrate? You better have lots of friends helping you eat that item!  Have fun with this list!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Q & A: Is chicory root extract another name for sugar?

Blue-flowered chicory, a summer roadside staple.

 Q.  I was reading the ingredient list for Fiber One bars, and the first ingredient is chicory root extract. Is that a tricky name for sugar?  B.H. Holland, MI

A.  No, chicory root extract is not a sugar.  While chicory root extract has a little sweetness (one-tenth the sweetness of table sugar), it is more valued as a type of soluble fiber. This fiber is called inulin (not to be confused with the hormone, insulin) and is a polysaccharide similar to starch.  The Fiber One bars are high in fiber with 9 grams fiber per bar, and the chicory root extract is part of the fiber count.

Chicory grows wild throughout the world. In West Michigan it is a summer roadside staple (along with Queen Anne’s Lace and other wildflowers). But the makers of fiber bars are not digging up chicory from along the road; it is grown as a crop for the fiber content. Chicory root also can be roasted and used as a caffeine-free coffee additive (a popular beverage type in New Orleans).  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What's for Breakfast: Yogurt and fresh fruit with cereal

I just had to show you what I have been enjoying for breakfast for the past week.

Fresh blueberries are in season, and I love to pair them with Grape-Nuts. The peach-mango yogurt added a nice touch (rather than plain milk), and the fresh peaches complemented everything in the bowl.

To make one serving of this breakfast:

1/3 cup Grape-Nuts cereal
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh peaches, cubed
6 ounce carton of low-fat peach-mango yogurt

Combine ingredients above and eat!  Very filling for the small amount of calories -- it easily lasts me until lunch.

Nutrition information per serving: 316 calories, 1 gram fat, 15 grams protein, 64 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 4 milligrams cholesterol, 381 milligrams sodium.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What’s For Dinner? Black Bean and Corn Salsa

What, you wouldn’t consider salsa a dinner? Well, for the past week, in our part of Michigan, it has been 90 degrees plus, and that means it’s time for no-added-heat meals!

You really can make a light meal out of this dish, by adding corn chips  and your favorite beverage.  Or bring this to the next potluck you are invited to. Keep these simple ingredients on hand to combine at a moment’s notice.

Recipe: Black Bean and Corn Salsa

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can yellow corn, drained and rinsed
3 cups of your favorite salsa
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped fine
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped fine

Combine all ingredients, and chill for at least 2 hours to blend the flavors (I keep it in the refrigerator overnight before using for best flavor.)

Nutrition information per half cup:  63 calories, 0 grams fat, 3 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 261 milligrams sodium.

Cook’s tips:
  • Look for a lower-sodium salsa; there is a large difference between various types.
  • You are rinsing the black beans and corn to get rid of unwanted liquid and to reduce the sodium content as well.
  • Choose a salsa one step hotter than what you normally buy; the black beans and corn really tone down the heat.
  • Use this salsa as a topping for taco salad (another hot-weather favorite at our house).

Here’s how I made the Taco Salad shown below:

For each serving, layer in individual bowls:

1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
About 10-15 tortilla chips, crumbled
1/3 to 1/2  cup browned and crumbled lean ground beef (seasoned with 1/8 teaspoon chili powder and garlic powder while cooking)
1/2 cup of the Black Bean and Corn Salsa (recipe above)
Extra tomato wedges for garnish, if desired

Nutrition information per taco salad: 329 calories, 15 grams fat, 21 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 56 milligrams cholesterol, 377 milligrams sodium.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tidbits: Setting up your Environment for Weight Control Success

I have noticed a pattern this summer with many of my nutrition counseling clients. Many are “stuck” in their weight loss efforts.

Usually, summer is the easiest time to make a dent in your weight, because the weather (at least in Michigan) is so nice.  It’s easy to be outside and be more active. Also, there are a lot more fruits and vegetables in season and they are usually very tasty.

So what seems to be getting people stuck? Here’s what they have been telling me:
  •  Invited to too many Potlucks
  •  Invited to too many Graduations
  •  Lots of Weddings to attend
  •  Have to keep Ice cream in the freezer “for the kids”
  •  Having company over for an extended time (so there’s lots of eating out and extra snacks and goodies that you normally don’t keep around)
  •  Kids home from college (ditto for having to keep more food and more goodies available for all the eaters)

Do you see a pattern here? It boils down to external control over your eating vs. you being in control.  Just because you are invited to a party or event does not mean you have to eat like it’s your last meal!

Here are just a few things to help you reframe your thinking about all these excuses for not losing weight this summer:
  • If you have company over, why not invite them to come along on your walk around the neighborhood? If they decline, don’t feel guilty, just take your walk like you planned and you’ll be on track.
  • Why not keep healthy food in the fridge for the company and the kids? Have some fresh cubed melon and berries ready to go, or just pieces of fruit (peaches, plums, grapes, etc.)
  • If you hate to prep raw vegetables but love to eat them, why not buy a ready-to-go veggie tray?  If you have lots of eaters in the house, it will get eaten.  I have no problem with having dip to go with the veggies, but maybe get the light kind this time.
  • Don’t keep calorie-containing beverages in the fridge. Have plenty of ice and water available, but “forget” to buy the soda pop, the fruit punch and juices.
  • If you’re going to a potluck, bring a food along that you know is “safe” for you, in case all the other selections are heavy. One time I brought a bowlful of snipped grapes (with 5-6 grapes per snipped cluster); they gotten eaten up in a hurry.  Another time I brought fresh sliced tomatoes from the garden dressed with a homemade vinaigrette. Those also were eaten right up.

 Do you have any favorite tips that helps keep you on track with your weight? Leave a comment on this blog, or email me at (vfergrd at gmail dot com).