Amy Stephens

MS, RDN, CSSD, CDCES

Licensed dietiTian

specializing in sports nutrition and diabetes

Always Hungry? Here’s Why

Article from NY Times

Sunday Review/Opinion

 

By DAVID S. LUDWIG and MARK I. FRIEDMAN  MAY 16, 2014

CreditSarah Illenberger

 

FOR most of the last century, our understanding of the cause of obesity has been based on immutable physical law. Specifically, it’s the first law of thermodynamics, which dictates that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. When it comes to body weight, this means that calorie intake minus calorie expenditure equals calories stored. Surrounded by tempting foods, we overeat, consuming more calories than we can burn off, and the excess is deposited as fat. The simple solution is to exert willpower and eat less.

The problem is that this advice doesn’t work, at least not for most people over the long term. In other words, your New Year’s resolution to lose weight probably won’t last through the spring, let alone affect how you look in a swimsuit in July. More of us than ever are obese, despite an incessant focus on calorie balance by the government, nutrition organizations and the food industry.

But what if we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?

The more calories we lock away in fat tissue, the fewer there are circulating in the bloodstream to satisfy the body’s requirements. If we look at it this way, it’s a distribution problem: We have an abundance of calories, but they’re in the wrong place. As a result, the body needs to increase its intake. We get hungrier because we’re getting fatter.

It’s like edema, a common medical condition in which fluid leaks from blood vessels into surrounding tissues. No matter how much water they drink, people with edema may experience unquenchable thirst because the fluid doesn’t stay in the blood, where it’s needed. Similarly, when fat cells suck up too much fuel, calories from food promote the growth of fat tissue instead of serving the energy needs of the body, provoking overeating in all but the most disciplined individuals.

We discuss this hypothesis in an article just published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association. According to this alternative view, factors in the environment have triggered fat cells in our bodies to take in and store excessive amounts of glucose and other calorie-rich compounds. Since fewer calories are available to fuel metabolism, the brain tells the body to increase calorie intake (we feel hungry) and save energy (our metabolism slows down). Eating more solves this problem temporarily but also accelerates weight gain. Cutting calories reverses the weight gain for a short while, making us think we have control over our body weight, but predictably increases hunger and slows metabolism even more.

Consider fever as another analogy. A cold bath will lower body temperature temporarily, but also set off biological responses — like shivering and constriction of blood vessels — that work to heat the body up again. In a sense, the conventional view of obesity as a problem of calorie balance is like conceptualizing fever as a problem of heat balance; technically not wrong, but not very helpful, because it ignores the apparent underlying biological driver of weight gain.

This is why diets that rely on consciously reducing calories don’t usually work. Only one in six overweight and obese adults in a nationwide survey reports ever having maintained a 10 percent weight loss for at least a year. (Even this relatively modest accomplishment may be exaggerated, because people tend to overestimate their successes in self-reported surveys.) In studies by Dr. Rudolph L. Leibel of Columbia and colleagues, when lean and obese research subjects were underfed in order to make them lose 10 to 20 percent of their weight, their hunger increased and metabolism plummeted. Conversely, overfeeding sped up metabolism.

For both over- and under-eating, these responses tend to push weight back to where it started — prompting some obesity researchers to think in terms of a body weight “set point” that seems to be predetermined by our genes.

But if basic biological responses push back against changes in body weight, and our set points are predetermined, then why have obesity rates — which, for adults, are almost three times what they were in the 1960s — increased so much? Most important, what can we do about it?

As it turns out, many biological factors affect the storage of calories in fat cells, including genetics, levels of physical activity, sleep and stress. But one has an indisputably dominant role: the hormone insulin. We know that excess insulin treatment for diabetes causes weight gain, and insulin deficiency causes weight loss. And of everything we eat, highly refined and rapidly digestible carbohydrates produce the most insulin.

By this way of thinking, the increasing amount and processing of carbohydrates in the American diet has increased insulin levels, put fat cells into storage overdrive and elicited obesity-promoting biological responses in a large number of people. Like an infection that raises the body temperature set point, high consumption of refined carbohydrates — chips, crackers, cakes, soft drinks, sugary breakfast cereals and even white rice and bread — has increased body weights throughout the population.

One reason we consume so many refined carbohydrates today is because they have been added to processed foods in place of fats — which have been the main target of calorie reduction efforts since the 1970s. Fat has about twice the calories of carbohydrates, but low-fat diets are the least effective of comparable interventions, according to several analyses, including one presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association this year.

Photo

CreditSarah Illenberger

A recent study by one of us, Dr. Ludwig, and his colleagues published in JAMA examined 21 overweight and obese young adults after they had lost 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, on diets ranging from low fat to low carbohydrate. Despite consuming the same number of calories on each diet, subjects burned about 325 more calories per day on the low carbohydrate than on the low fat diet — amounting to the energy expended in an hour of moderately intense physical activity.

Another study published by Dr. Ludwig and colleagues in The Lancet in 2004 suggested that a poor-quality diet could result in obesity even when it was low in calories. Rats fed a diet with rapidly digesting (called high “glycemic index”) carbohydrate gained 71 percent more fat than their counterparts, who ate more calories over all, though in the form of slowly digesting carbohydrate.

These ideas aren’t entirely new. The notion that we overeat because we’re getting fat has been around for at least a century, as described by Gary Taubes in his book “Good Calories, Bad Calories.” In 1908, for example, a German internist named Gustav von Bergmann dismissed the energy-balance view of obesity, and hypothesized that it was instead caused by a metabolic disorder that he called “lipophilia,” or “love of fat.”

But such theories have been generally ignored, perhaps because they challenge entrenched cultural attitudes. The popular emphasis on calorie balance reinforces the belief that we have conscious control over our weight, and that obesity represents a personal failure because of ignorance or inadequate willpower.

In addition, the food industry — which makes enormous profits from highly processed products derived from corn, wheat and rice — invokes calorie balance as its first line of defense. If all calories are the same, then there are no bad foods, and sugary beverages, junk foods and the like are fine in moderation. It’s simply a question of portion control. The fact that this rarely works is taken as evidence that obese people lack willpower, not that the idea itself might be wrong.

UNFORTUNATELY, existing research cannot provide a definitive test of our hypothesis. Several prominent clinical trials reported no difference in weight loss when comparing diets purportedly differing in protein, carbohydrate and fat. However, these trials had major limitations; at the end, subjects reported that they had not met the targets for complying with the prescribed diets. We wouldn’t discard a potentially lifesaving cancer treatment based on negative findings, if the research subjects didn’t take the drug as intended.

There are better ways to do this research. Studies should provide participants with at least some of their food, to make it easier for them to stick to the diets. Two studies that did this — one by the Direct Group in 2008 and the other by the Diogenes Project in 2010 — reported substantial benefits associated with the reduction of rapidly digestible carbohydrate compared with conventional diets. We need to invest much more in this research. With the annual economic burden of diabetes — just one obesity-related complication — predicted to approach half a trillion dollars by 2020, a few billion dollars for state-of-the-art nutrition research would make a good investment.

If this hypothesis turns out to be correct, it will have immediate implications for public health. It would mean that the decades-long focus on calorie restriction was destined to fail for most people. Information about calorie content would remain relevant, not as a strategy for weight loss, but rather to help people avoid eating too much highly processed food loaded with rapidly digesting carbohydrates. But obesity treatment would more appropriately focus on diet quality rather than calorie quantity.

People in the modern food environment seem to have greater control over what they eat than how much. With reduced consumption of refined grains, concentrated sugar and potato products and a few other sensible lifestyle choices, our internal body weight control system should be able to do the rest. Eventually, we could bring the body weight set point back to pre-epidemic levels. Addressing the underlying biological drive to overeat may make for a far more practical and effective solution to obesity than counting calories.

David S. Ludwig directs the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and is a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Mark I. Friedman is vice president of research at the Nutrition Science Initiative.

 

Is organic better for your health? A look at milk, meat, eggs, produce and fish.

Washington Post Article

By Tamar Haspel, Published: April 7

 

Organic or conventional? It’s a choice many grocery shoppers are faced with, over and over. The price difference is easy to see; it’s right there on the product. The quality difference is much harder. Is the organic milk better for your kids? Is the conventional lettuce more likely to carry pathogens?

Leave aside for the moment whether organic agriculture is better for the planet and whether organic livestock have better lives, although there’s a strong case for both of those arguments. Leave aside flavor, too, because it’s subjective and variable. What motivates many organic buyers, particularly the parents of small children, is health benefits, and there are two questions: Do organics do us more good (in the form of better nutrition), and do they do us less harm (in the form of fewer contaminants and pathogens)?

Because the risks and the benefits vary by product — meat is different from produce — it’s important to look at each category separately. While every category has the potential to harbor pathogens (such as E. coli in produce and salmonella in chicken), there are some product-specific concerns, including pesticide residue in produce and hormones in milk.

Here’s a rundown of the evidence on nutrition and contamination levels for organic and conventional products in five categories — milk, produce, meat, eggs and fish — to help you decide whether to buy organic or stick with conventional.

 

Milk

Nutrition: Compared with conventional milk, organic milk has higher levels of omega-3 fats, which protect against heart disease and may decrease the risk of depression, stroke, cancer and other diseases, but the quantities are too small to be very meaningful. (It takes 11 quarts of organic milk to equal the omega-3s in four ounces of salmon.) Milk’s omega-3 content is a function of the cow’s diet, and higher levels reflect more grass. (A few other nutritional differences between organic and conventional milk have been studied, but there isn’t enough research to draw conclusions.)

Contamination: Neither organic nor conventional milk contains antibiotics. By law, every truckload of milk, organic and conventional, is tested for veterinary drugs, including antibiotics, by trained dairy workers. Any load that tests positive is pulled out of the food supply. In 2012, that was one in 6,000 loads. Organic cows aren’t given antibiotics, and conventional ones are given them only for illness, and their milk isn’t used until after a withdrawal period.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture tests for pesticide levels and has found them to be “very low.” The main culprit is DDE, a remnant of the agricultural pesticide DDT.

DDT was banned years ago, but the USDA said it “is very persisten[t] and remains in many cropland soils. It is also in the body fat of all Americans and most farm animals and wildlife. Conventional and organic farmers can do little to avoid the DDE residues in milk. Over the next thirty to fifty years these residues will gradually decline below limits of detection.”

Pasteurization fails some of the time, allowing milk contaminated with bacteria to get into the food supply, but there are no reports comparing illnesses caused by organic vs. conventional milk.

Hormones: The issue with milk is that many conventionally raised dairy cows, unlike organic ones, are injected with bovine growth hormone (BGH, the synthetic version of which is called either recombinant bovine growth hormone, rBGH, or recombinant bovine somatotropin, rBST) to increase their milk production. The problem isn’t the hormone itself — it’s unlikely to survive pasteurization or human digestion and, even if it did, its mechanism doesn’t work in humans — but rather a compound called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I).

Both organic and conventional cows have IGF-I in their milk, but cows that get hormone treatment may have more of it. Humans also produce IGF-I, and a recent review of many studies concluded that milk drinkers generally have higher IGF-I levels. But it may not be because of IGF-I in milk. Eating animal and soy protein can also increase IGF-I levels in our bodies. It’s not the IGF-I in foods, but how the body responds to other compounds, that increases human levels.

Some research has linked IGF-I to cancer. The American Cancer Society found that “some early studies found a relationship between blood levels of IGF-I and the development of prostate, breast, colorectal and other cancers, but later studies have failed to confirm these reports or have found weaker relationships.” The organization concluded in 2011 that “the evidence for potential harm to humans is inconclusive.” A 2009 FDA report says that IGF-I levels in rBGH milk are safe

The use of rBGH has fueled concerns among some parents about giving milk to children, but the FDA report concluded that “consumption by infants and children of milk and edible products from rBGH-treated cows is safe.”

Bottom line: Organic milk has higher omega-3 fat levels, but probably not enough to make a difference. Exposure to pesticides, contaminants or hormones is not a significant risk in either organic or conventional milk.

 

Produce

Nutrition: Many studies have compared the vitamins, minerals, macronutrients and other compounds in organic and conventional produce, and a 2012 review concluded that the results were all over the map. The one exception was that the phosphorus content of organic produce is higher, although the review, done by Stanford University scientists, calls that finding “not clinically significant.” Along with calcium, phosphorus helps build strong bones and teeth.

Contamination: There are two issues for foods that grow in the ground: pesticides and pathogens. There is widespread agreement that organic produce, while not pesticide-free, has lower residue levels and fewer pesticides. A study using USDA data found that 73 percent of conventional produce sampled had residue from at least one pesticide, compared with 23 percent of organic, though that study is more than 10 years old. There also isn’t agreement about whether that’s meaningful for human consumption.

Carl Winter, a toxicologist at the University of California at Davis, says that the Environmental Protection Agency, working from animal research and factoring in the special sensitivities of human subgroups such as babies and children, has found that lifetime risk of adverse health effects due to low-level exposure to pesticide residue through consumption of produce is “far below even minimal health concerns, even over a lifetime.”

Dana Barr, a research professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, has less faith in the EPA standards. She points to one particular pesticide class, organophosphates, and notes evidence — including a 2013 review she co-authored — correlating exposure to possible neurological problems such as ADHD and lower IQ in children, which she says the EPA standards don’t adequately consider.

But another review last year by a different group of scientists found “the epidemiologic studies did not strongly implicate any particular pesticide as being causally related to adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in infants and children.” As of December 2013, the position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was that high levels of organophosphate exposure were associated with some neurobehavioral problems in farm communities with exposure higher than that in the general population.

An American Academy of Pediatrics 2012 report noted the correlation between organophosphate exposure and neurological issues that had been found in some studies but concluded that it was still “unclear” that reducing exposure by eating organic would be “clinically relevant.”

The EPA expects to have a new assessment of organophosphates in 2016. In the meantime, the agency has determined that certain foods —snap beans, watermelon, tomatoes and potatoes — are likely to have higher residues of the pesticide than other produce. If you’re pregnant or feeding small children, you may want to consider organic versions of those foods.

As for pathogens, the 2012 Stanford review found that E. coli contamination is slightly more likely in organic than conventional produce.

The best strategy to reduce risk from produce isn’t to buy either organic or conventional. Rather, it’s to cook your food. A CDC review notes that leafy vegetables, led by lettuce and spinach, are the No. 1 cause of food-borne illnesses, responsible for 22 percent of food-borne illnesses.

Bottom line: While there may be no significant nutritional difference between organic and conventional produce, organic does have lower levels of pesticide residue. However, there isn’t universal agreement on the risk those residues pose.

 

Meat

Nutrition: As with milk, the main issue here is omega-3 fats. Some organic meat and poultry have more of them than conventional products do. The reason is diet: Animals that eat more grass have lower fat levels overall and higher omega-3 levels than animals fed more grain.

Although measurements of omega-3 fats in beef vary, the numbers are low and substantially below what can be found in a serving of salmon.

Contaminants: The USDA randomly tests carcasses for residues of pesticides, contaminants and veterinary drugs including antibiotics. In 2011, it screened for 128 chemicals, and 99 percent of the tested carcasses were free of all of them.

It found a few with residue violations and a similar small number with residue within legal limits (mostly of arsenic and antibiotics). Although the USDA doesn’t report organic and conventional separately, contaminant risk overall is extremely low.

The bigger concern is pathogens. Studies of bacterial contamination levels of organic and conventional meat show widely varying results. These findings suggest that organic meat may be slightly more likely to be contaminated, possibly because no antibiotics are used. But conventional meat is more likely to be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The 2012 Stanford review found that slightly more organic chicken samples were contaminated with Campylobacter than conventional samples and that organic pork was more likely than conventional to harbor E. coli. But the risk in meat overall was essentially the same. And whether meat is conventional or organic, the solution is adequate cooking.

 

Bottom line: There doesn’t seem to be much difference, health-wise, between organic or conventional meats. Grass-fed beef has a slight edge over grain-fed because of higher omega-3 levels, but the amounts are probably too small to affect human health.

 

Eggs

Nutrition: As with milk and meat, the omega-3 levels of eggs are affected by the hens’ diet and can be increased by pasturing or diet supplementation for either organic or conventional hens. Eggs high in omega-3s are generally labeled.

Contaminants: There’s very little research on contaminants in eggs. The USDA’s 2011 National Residue Program tested 497 egg samples and found no residues of pesticides, contaminants or veterinary drugs, including antibiotics. This isn’t surprising because, according to Pat Curtis, a poultry scientist at Auburn University, laying hens aren’t routinely given antibiotics, and there is a mandated withdrawal period after they do get the drugs (to treat illness) before their eggs can be sold. The 2012 Stanford review concluded that there is “no difference” in contamination risk between conventional and organic eggs.

 

Bottom line: There are no significant differences affecting health between organic and conventional eggs.

 

Fish

The USDA has not issued any organic standards for farmed fish or shellfish, but several overseas organizations have. (Because there’s no way to control the diet of wild fish, “organic” doesn’t apply.) Canadian standards prohibit antibiotics and hormones, restrict pesticides and set criteria for acceptable feed. There’s not enough research comparing organic and conventional fish to draw any conclusions about their health benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chia-Seed Pudding for Breakfast: Tart, Sweet and Good for You

Posted in NY Times, April 2014.

 

APRIL 14, 2014

Photo 

Chia seed breakfast pudding. Credit Evan Sung for The New York Times

Chia seeds may be having their moment as the darling of the natural food set, but that’s not what made me want to sample the unusual chia-seed pudding at El Rey, a coffee bar on the Lower East Side that offers a small menu of dishes and pastries.

For me, the lure is in the seeds’ tapioca-like texture (and, I won’t lie, the fact that they are related to chia pets, which I loved as a kid).

When chia seeds are soaked in some kind of sweet, milky liquid (milk, coconut milk, almond milk), the whole thing turns custardy, and the seeds take on a pleasingly slippery texture while remaining very slightly al dente at the core. The pudding has the appeal of tapioca, but is easier to make (you don’t need to cook it), nutritionally dense and slightly more exciting to crunch.

The simplest chia-seed pudding doesn’t even require a recipe. Just cover the raw seeds with some kind of liquid, sweeten it to taste and let it sit at room temperature. After as little as 15 minutes, the seeds soften and swell, and the liquid all but disappears. Instant pudding, but good for you, too.

At El Rey, the chef Gerardo Gonzalez offers a breakfast version that’s a more sophisticated take. He mixes the seeds with both coconut milk and almond milk seasoned with sugar and sea salt, then garnishes it with apricots simmered in passion-fruit nectar, toasted almonds and coconut flakes.

It’s a complex jumble of tart, sweet and milky flavors, with a multitude of interesting textures. It makes an excellent breakfast, an unusual and not-too-sweet dessert and, if you mention the pets, an amusing conversation starter too.

 

Chia seeds are nutritionally dense seeds that will thicken any liquid you add them to. Mix them up with coconut and almond milks and you’ve got an almost instant pudding with a tapioca-like texture and gently sweet flavor. This recipe is meant for breakfast, but if you add a little honey to the seeds as they swell, it will be sweet enough for dessert. You can use either black or white chia seeds here, or a mix. The pudding will continue to thicken as it sits, so feel free to thin it out to taste with a little more almond or coconut milk before serving.

TOTAL TIME
1 hour
Ingredients
  • 130 grams whole dried apricots (about 20), more as needed
  • 1/3 cup passion-fruit juice or nectar (passion fruit-pear is fine)
  • 50 grams sugar (3 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Fine sea salt, as needed
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 85 grams chia seeds (1/2 cup)
  • 45 grams toasted kasha (1/4 cup), optional (see note)
  • Roasted whole almonds, coarsely chopped, as needed
  • Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, as needed
  • Sliced banana, as needed, optional

Preparation

1.
Coarsely chop half of the dried apricots. Place chopped apricots in a small pot with passion-fruit juice, 25 grams sugar (1 1/2 tablespoons), lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Simmer very gently over low heat until apricots are soft and liquid has turned syrupy, about 30 minutes.
2.
While chopped apricots cook, put remaining whole apricots in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak until plump, 10 to 20 minutes. Drain and reserve plumped apricots and the apricot sauce for garnish.
3.
Meanwhile, in a quart container with a lid (or use a cocktail shaker), combine almond and coconut milks, remaining 25 grams sugar (1 1/2 tablespoons) and a pinch of salt. Stir in chia seeds and kasha, if desired; shake thoroughly so that seeds are evenly hydrated. Let rest at least 20 minutes or until pudding has a rich, creamy texture. Seeds should be fully hydrated. (Pudding will keep for up to 3 days but may require rehydrating with more almond or coconut milk as the seeds continue to absorb liquid.)
4.
To serve, spoon pudding into bowls. Top with apricot sauce, plumped apricots, almonds, coconut flakes and sliced banana, if desired.
YIELD
4 servings
  • NOTE

    Toasted kasha, also known as buckwheat groats, can be hard to find. But you can easily toast raw kasha in a dry skillet for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Or leave it out.

Study shows twice as likely to lose weight by meeting with Dietitian-Nutritionist

Two year study published in Managed Care, January 2013 with 1,400 participants with either receiving nutritional counseling or dieting on their own.  Participants who met with dietitians were two times as likely to lose weight and increase exercise than no nutritional counseling.

 

Bottom line:  Make biggest impact with your weight loss efforts by working with a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist.  Skip the misinformation and inappropriate dieting techniques and obtain guidance by an educated professional.

 

Managed Care Article, 2013

Vanilla-Almond Chia Breakfast Pudding

Recipe by Renee Blair.

Once the ultimate energy food for ancient Mayans and Aztecs, chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants, omega-3s, calcium and fiber. Plus, they absorb over 10 times their weight in water, which makes them an unlikely hydration source too. In this recipe, chia seeds are soaked in almond milk, which transforms them into a luxurious and creamy tapioca-like pudding. Top this easy-to-make chia pudding with some fresh seasonal fruit, and you have yourself an incredibly nourishing breakfast.

Photo by Renee BlairPhoto by Renee Blair 

Vanilla-Almond Chia Breakfast Pudding

Yields 2 servings

Prep time: 5 minutes
Soak time: 1-8 hours

The Skinny

Per serving (without fruit):

  • 280 calories
  • 7 g fat
  • 45 g carbs
  • 12 mg sodium
  • 29 g fiber
  • 15 g protein

Ingredients

2 cups unsweetened almond milk, homemade or store bought (see recipe for homemade almond milk below)
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or raw honey
Seasonal fruit for topping (blueberries, peaches, figs and plums are pictured here)
Almonds or other nuts for topping

Preparation

  1. Combine almond milk, chia seeds, vanilla and sweetener in a bowl. Mix well until combined and the mixture begins to thicken. Store covered in the refrigerator overnight or for at least an hour.
  2. Stir well before serving and add a bit of water to the pudding if it becomes too thick. Top with fresh fruit and nuts of your choice.
    Note: This recipe makes enough for two large servings, but feel free to double the recipe and keep it in your refrigerator so that you have breakfast for a few days in a row. It will keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Bonus Recipe:

Homemade Unsweetened Almond Milk

Yields 1 quart

Prep time: 5 minutes
Soak time: 3-8 hours

What You’ll Need

1 cup raw almonds
4 cups water

What to Do

  1. Put almonds in a bowl and cover them with water. Let them soak in the water for at least three hours, but preferably overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the almonds and put them in a blender with 4 cups of water. Blend on high for one minute.
  3. Strain the almond milk through a fine mesh strainer or a nut milk bag into a container of your choice. Cover and refrigerate for up to five days.

For more recipes from Renee, visit www.nourishtheroots.com and follow her on Facebook.


 

Chia Seed Apple Pie Pudding Recipe

It’s hard to find another nutrient-packed food with fiber, omega-3’s, and is low in calories.  Chia Seeds, yes as in, 80’s Chia Pet.  These tiny seeds are packed with nutritious fiber and can be used to create a variety of pudding-like foods.  Can be mixed with Almond milk (as in recipe below) to make a raw, great tasting, and vegan/gluten-free pudding that non-vegans  will also love.  Low in carbohydrates, 1 Tbsp has 7 grams carb (mostly complex),  5 grams fiber, 70 calories, and 4 grams fiber (mostly omega-3).

 

Modification for diabetes or blood sugar issues –  use 1 date as a natural sweetener (recipe calls for 4-5).  Each date has 66 calories, 16 grams carbohydrate, 1.6 grams fiber and 167 mg of potassium.

 

 

Recipe from Jennifer Vagios

Serves: 1 (make more, trust me)

Time: 10 minutes (if pre-soaked chia pudding) otherwise 40 mins-overnight.

Equipment:

Food Processor

Ingredients:

For the chia pudding:

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (black variety is nutritionally superior)
  • 3/4 cup almond milk

For the Apple Pie Bit:

  • 1 green apple (I think I’ll use 1.5 apples next time)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or other nut)
  • 4-5 dried medjool dates (pit removed)
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice (make your own: 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg + 1 teaspoon ground cardamom-yields 2 tablespoons).

Assembly:

1. Make the pudding by combining the chia seeds and almond milk. Place in a mason jar or other cute container you can seal. Refrigerate while you make the pie mix.

2. Place all other ingredients in the food processor and pulse. Be careful not to over mix. It will become paste like..and that’s okay, but I prefer a little chunkiness.

3. Pause for a moment and appreciate the fact that your kitchen will now smell like apple pie. It’s pleasant to notice the little things now isn’t it? (there’s the yoga teacher in me telling you to PAUSE & BREATHE).

4. Combine 1/2 a cup of the apple pie filling with the chia pudding, stir well and place back in the refrigerator. Let the flavors merge and get cozy with one another for 20 minutes up to an hour or even overnight.

You’ll want to make a double batch. Trust me.

 

Make it more Awesome: (Yes, you can).

 

  • The leftover Apple Pie filling can be used as a dip, added to your oats, or smeared on some toast. Endless possibilities here. Make a smoothie!
  • Use other nuts, I think I’ll pre-toast some almonds next time.
  • Use other liquids like coconut milk, cashew or even hemp milk.
  • Breakfast in a pinch! Make this at night and have it ready to grab in the morning.

 

Heidi’s Kale

We know kale is a superfood and we need to eat more but are not sure how to make it taste good, too.  Kale is loaded with potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A.  One cup raw kale has just 33 calories and 7 grams of carbohydrate which is similar to 1/2 apple.

I call this raw kale salad, Heidi’s kale, because I had it at my friend Heidi’s house and loved it.  Since then, my dinner guests are always impressed at how good kale can taste.  You can make this recipe healthier by using pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and apples or more decadent by adding goat cheese and cranberries.  Since there is no cooking, the nutrients stay more intact.

1 or 2 bunches of kale. Massage with olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Set aside for a few hours.

Add:

  • cranberries
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Apples
  • Goat cheese

Dressing:

  • Lemon, 1/2 squeezed
  • olive oil, 3 Tbsp
  • honey, optional 1 Tbsp
  • Salt and pepper to taste

You can also add lots of veggies like cucumber, olives, chick peas, beets, avocado, carrots; basically whatever I have lying around. It always tastes good if the kale is softened.

 

 

 

Marcia’s Chili con Carne

This is a great recipe, easy to make and can be made ahead of time.  Recipe can easily be adjusted to accommodate vegetarian or vegan diets.

 

 

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 lb. ground beef/turkey or 10 oz tofu

1 – 15 oz can chopped tomatoes

2 Tbsp. chili powder

2 cloves garlic

1 cup chopped carrots

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1 can red kidney beans

1 can Cannellini beans

1 can corn (no juice)

 

Directions

1.  Cook onions in oil until tender/golden.  Add carrots cook additional 5 min.

2.  Add ground beef/turkey or tofu and cook until brown.

3.  Add minced garlic

4.  Add can of tomatoes with 1/2 can boiling water

5.  In a little cup, mix chili powder, salt and sugar with cold water to create a paste.  Add to meat.

6.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Check regularly that it is not losing too much liquid.  Can easily burn on bottom.

7.  Uncover and add beans and corn.

8.  Cook for 1/2 hour longer.

 

Notes:

Best when left over night.

Serve with sour cream and grated cheddar cheese.

Sustainable Resolutions for Your Diet – by Mark Bittman

I love this flexitarian review of New Year’s resolutions. Mark Bittman does a great job reviewing the most common resolutions with some great strategies.

New Year’s resolutions tend to be big, impressive promises that we adhere to for short periods of time — that blissful stretch of January when we are starving ourselves, exercising daily and reading Proust. But, and you know this, rather than making extreme changes that last for days or weeks, we are better off with tiny ones lasting more or less forever.

Frozen fruits and vegetables, grains and beans.
Mostly, though, when it comes to diet, we are told the opposite. We have a billion-dollar industry based on fad diets and quick fixes: Eat nothing but foam packing peanuts and lemon tea, and you’ll lose 30 pounds in 30 days. Then what? Resolutions work only if we are resolute, and changes are meaningful only if they are permanent.

What follows are some of the easiest food-related resolutions you will ever make, from cooking big pots of grains and beans once a week, to buying frozen produce, to pickling things à la “Portlandia.” Committing to just a few of these, or even one, will get you moving in the right direction toward eating more plants and fewer animal products and processed foods. My suggestions are incremental, but the ease with which you can incorporate them into your normal shopping, cooking and eating routines is exactly what makes them sustainable and powerful.

Flexitarianism is about making a gradual shift, not a complete overhaul. It is a way of eating we are much more likely to stick to for the long term — which, after all, is the point of resolutions in the first place.

Cook simple, unseasoned vegetables every few days.

You can steam or parboil or microwave. Once cooked, vegetables keep a long time. And then they’re sitting there waiting to top pastas and grains, to bolster soups and salads, to whip up veggie wraps or just to reheat in oil or butter with seasonings.

Leftover vegetable spread. Purée any leftover vegetables (as long as they are tender) in the food processor with olive oil, fresh parsley leaves, lemon juice, salt and pepper until the mixture reaches the consistency you want. Serve with bread, crackers or crudités. It’s nice on toast as breakfast.

Cook big batches of grains and beans.

Because it’s nearly effortless, and having cooked grains and beans on hand at all times makes day-to-day cooking a breeze. They will keep in the fridge up to a week.

White beans with kale and sausage. Sauté some loose Italian sausage in olive oil until lightly browned. Add minced garlic, cooked white beans, chopped kale, a splash of bean-cooking liquid or water, salt and pepper. Simmer until beans are hot and kale is wilted. To garnish, add oil and parsley.

Buy half as much meat, and make it better meat.

Thinking of eating meat as an indulgence lets you buy tastier, healthier, more sustainable meat without breaking the bank.

Thai beef salad. Grill, broil or pan-sear a small piece of flank or skirt steak until medium-rare; set aside. Toss salad greens; plenty of mint, cilantro and basil; chopped cucumber; and thinly sliced red onion. Dress with a mixture of lime juice, fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar and minced jalapeño. Thinly slice the steak and lay it on top; drizzle with a little more dressing and any meat juices. Garnish with herbs.

Splurge when you can.

That way, the foods you consider special treats are truly special. For me it’s dark chocolate, meat and cheese.

Dark chocolate ganache. Heat 1 cup cream in a saucepan until steaming. Put 8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream on top. Stir to melt and incorporate the chocolate; use immediately as a sauce, or cool to room temperature and whip to make a smooth frosting or filling.

Buy frozen fruits and vegetables.

Because out-of-season produce from halfway around the world doesn’t make much sense or taste best. Fruits and vegetables (from peaches, to corn, to squash) frozen when they are ripe are a better alternative, and incredibly convenient.

Frozen peach jam. Combine 1 pound frozen peaches, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, then adjust heat so it bubbles steadily. Cook, stirring occasionally until thick, 15 to 30 minutes. Cool completely; it will keep in fridge at least a week.

Pickle.

So the copious amounts of fresh produce you buy never have to go to waste. And because it tastes good.

Quick-pickled cucumbers and radishes. Put thinly sliced cucumbers and radishes (use a mandoline if you have one) in a colander. Sprinkle with salt, gently rubbing it in with your hands. Let sit for 20 minutes, tossing and squeezing every few minutes. When little or no liquid comes out, rinse and put in a bowl. Toss with some sugar, dill and vinegar, and serve. Garnish with dill.

Make your own hummus, bean dips and nut butters.

With those around, vegetables and fruit practically dip themselves. You’ll be filling up on produce without even noticing it.

Hummus. In a processor or blender, combine cooked chickpeas, minced garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Purée; taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with oil, lemon and smoked paprika.

Make your own condiments.

Store-bought versions of ketchup, barbecue sauce, salsa and the like are often loaded with preservatives and sugar. Besides, creating your own recipes is a blast.

Marjoram pesto. In a small food processor, combine a cup of marjoram (leaves and small stems) and some garlic; process until finely minced. Add red wine vinegar and olive oil; purée. Add capers (about a tablespoon) and pulse a few times. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Eat vegetables for breakfast.

You already eat fruit for breakfast, so what’s so strange? Veggie-based breakfasts are common around the world: cucumber and tomato salads in Israel, pickled vegetables in Japan, a bean and tomato stew in parts of Africa. Think of it as a très chic international trend.

Cauliflower tabbouleh. Pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor, or chop them by hand, until they are small bits resembling grains. Toss with chopped tomatoes, plenty of chopped parsley and mint, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Cook plants as you would meat.

Because bold, meaty flavors aren’t reserved just for flesh.

Breaded fried eggplant. Dredge 1/2-inch-thick eggplant slices in flour, then beaten egg, then bread crumbs. Put on a baking sheet lined with parchment and refrigerate at least 10 minutes (up to 3 hours). Shallow-fry (in batches, without crowding) in 1/4 inch olive oil in a large skillet until browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Garnish with parsley and lemon.

Cooking for carnivores? Make extra sides.

Let the people around you have their fill of meat while you eat a bit, but fill up on vegetables, beans and grains.

Roasted broccoli gratin. Put broccoli florets in a baking dish; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees until the tops are lightly browned and the stems nearly tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with bread crumbs (preferably homemade), mixed with Parmesan if you like, and a little more olive oil. Continue roasting until the bread crumbs are crisp.

Cook out of your comfort zone.

Because some of the best vegetable-centric food comes from halfway around the world, where it is “food,” not “flexitarian.”

Caramel-braised tofu. Put 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a deep cast-iron skillet over medium heat; cook until sugar liquefies and bubbles. When it darkens, turn off the heat. Carefully pour in 1/2 cup fish sauce and 1/2 cup water; cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until it becomes liquid caramel. Add sliced shallots, cubed, pressed or extra-firm tofu, lots of black pepper and lime juice. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the tofu is hot.

A version of this article appears in print on January 1, 2014, on page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: Sustainable Resolutions.