Recently, The Wall Street Journal featured an article about how Olympic gymnast John Orozco is forced to head home after some disappointments. Although this young man overcame injury and other challenges in order to compete at the 2012 Olympics, he didn’t do all he set out to do–and it certainly makes sense for him to feel that not having a medal to show for his efforts is a personal fail. The way I see it, the fact that he worked hard enough to compete on a world stage, and the fact that he did so many things so well are, indeed, wins.

Reading about John, and seeing him perform at and be interviewed about the Olympics, has made me think about the lessons the rest of us mere mortals can learn by watching them. It also makes me think about how we parents can use those lessons to guide our children–especially those who love sports and the thrill of competition.

So far, I’ve found the Olympics to be riveting. I have especially loved watching the gymnastics, the diving, and the swimming. And while my children are spending another week and a half at overnight camp and are unable to watch the Olympics (incidentally, just today, their camp broke their own Olympics…so excited for them!), I will continue to email them about Olympics (especially about men’s basketball!). When they’re home, I plan to talk to them a little about the ups and downs, the successes and disappointments, and how they can apply the lessons inherent in all of that to their own lives as they pursue their goals and dreams, both in sports or in life.

When I watch the Olympics, I cry a little when I see the look of exuberance on an athlete’s face when he or she medals. I cry when I see how proud the athlete’s parents, siblings, and other family members are as they watch from the stands. I cry when I see the tears of disappointment that stream from an athlete’s face when he or she fails to win a gold medal, or any medal at all. Hearing the athletes stories moves me, and they also inspire me. The sacrifices they make are so great, and I hope and wonder if, no matter what the results, they truly love what they’re doing and have enjoyed the process. But, sad as it may be, it’s easy to understand why not winning may very well make athletes have regrets.

As a little girl, I watched in awe as Dorothy Hamill took to the ice. With my hair cut like hers at age 8, I took ice skating lessons, which I truly loved, and had dreams about skating like her to win an Olympic gold medal. Falling off of a balance beam at age 7 (I did a split and waved my arms in the air, just as an Olympian would–before I fell, that is!), and falling down a flight of stairs at age 8, I recovered from both a broken arm and two broken vertebrae, still thinking I could be an Olympian. But by the ripe old age of 11, I remember deciding, once and for all, that while I truly loved figure skating, I probably didn’t have the talent, nor was I really willing to make the commitment and sacrifices necessary to train towards that goal. To this day, I have no regrets about that decision, and I still love to ice skate.

Now, as the mother of two sons–ages 14 and 10–who truly love basketball, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope to one day see them play in a national championship (or two). If they are good enough and want to play on their high school or college teams, you can bet I’ll be at many of their games–even if I need to fly there! But my one wish for them when it comes to sports and life is for them to do what they love, and to try to do it well..to dream big, and to work hard to achieve their goals and ambitions. Who am I to say they’ll never make it? I won’t lie to them and tell them they’re amazing if they’re not, but I will always support them and try to be positive. More than anything, I want them to enjoy the process of trying to improve and to play the best they can. I want them to be a team player, and to know there’s no “i” in “team.” And I want them to know that even if they don’t make a team they want to play for, or win an award, that doesn’t mean that their efforts haven’t paid off. I want them to know that one can learn so much just from being a part of a team, and from setting goals and working hard.

Although the lessons my sons may learn while pursing their goals and dreams may not be obvious, they will become ingrained in who they are, and who they become. And even if they won’t get to ultimately stand on a podium or enjoy a moment during which all their hopes and dreams are actualized, perhaps they’ll learn to see the light and take pride in how hard they’ve worked, and to be happy they really went for whatever it is they wanted in the first place.

When you win a gold medal, or a big championship, of course you should savor the moment and be proud. But I imagine that some who do so at some point realize that what goes up must come down, and there’s only one direction in which to go from that point on. Pessimistic as that sounds, it may be true–though it shouldn’t be. And shame on the news media, so quick to pounce on Michael Phelps for not winning a medal in his very first race in the 2012 Olympics. He’s now the most decorated Olympian in history–go Michael! He could have easily retired, but instead sought to extend his career and compete in these games when he could have very well rested on his laurels!

I want my sons to learn from these Olympics that even if they don’t reach an athletic or other personal goal they set for themselves, they can still aim for a personal best; for some, just staying in the game by continuing to play or do the sport or activity you love is enough of an accomplishment in and of itself. In my mind, while winning is everything to some–especially when it comes to sports–sometimes, simply putting yourself out there and trying the best you can should be, and sometimes has to be, enough. We’re all not meant to be Olympic athletes, or superstars. But we can all be good enough. I just hope my children can appreciate and learn from the stories of those who triumph, those who miss the mark, and those who fall somewhere in-between. There are so many lessons to be learned from all of these experiences if you simply seek to find them.

What lessons have you learned–or hope your kids learned–from watching the Olympics?

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you or your kids have a burning food, nutrition, fitness, lifestyle or all around silly question for Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Shawn Johnson and current Olympic hopefuls? 20 of your questions will be answered by several amazing, inspiring athletes during the Summer Olympics.

As part of P&G’s “Thank you, Mom” campaign, Shawn and the other athletes want to tell you what you really really want to know, so please–post your questions* below!

*Feel free to ask Shawn a question, OR post a generic question to any of the athletes.

Disclosure: No goods or services were accepted in exchange for this post.

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What a way to eat a salad! This delicious recipe from the book, Flavor First, from former Biggest Loser dietitian, Cheryl Forberg, can help you meet your omega 3 fatty acid needs in a satisfying way. The protein and beneficial vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals from the asparagus also make it a hearty, nutritious meal. 

You can use fresh grilled or seared tuna in this salad if you prefer, but canned tuna works just as well and makes this simple meal quick and easy to assemble. For a dish that more closely resembles the classic French salad, you can also substitute haricots verts for the asparagus.

Makes 4 (1-cup) servings

Ingredients:

4 ounces drained canned wild albacore or wild skipjack light tuna (I used Wild Planet brand)

1/2 pound asparagus, steamed or grilled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 hard-boiled eggs, finely diced

1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and diced

1/4 cup (about 16) pitted kalamata olives or other intensely flavored olives, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup Creamy Mustard Dressing*

Directions:

1. Gently toss all the ingredients in a bowl.

2. Divide among 4 salad plates. Drizzle each salad with 1 tablespoon of the dressing.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:

Calories: 150; Total Fat: 8 g; Saturated Fat: 1.5 g; Cholesterol: 120 mg; Sodium: 480 mg; Total Carbohydrates: 6 g (Sugars: 2 g); Fiber: 2 g; Protein: 14 g.

*Creamy Mustard Dressing

This rich-tasting dressing contains no oil so it’s low in calories but very high in flavor. It takes just minutes to make and is a perfect accompaniment to grilled fish.

Makes 1 1/4 cups (20 Tablespoons)

Ingredients:

1 cup soft silken tofu

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers

1 tablespoon chopped shallots

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon smoked salt (optional)

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. For a thinner dressing, add 2 tablespoons of water. The dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition Information Per 2 Tablespoons:

Calories: 15; Total Fat: <1 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 75 mg; Total Carbohydrates: 1 g; Fiber: 0 g; Protein: 1 g.

Source: Flavor First, by Cheryl Forberg, RD.  Copyright © 2011 by Cheryl Forberg, RD.  Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA  18098.

No goods or services were exchanged for posting this recipe.

What’s your favorite salad combination?

 

 

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Want to add some color and flavor (not to mention nutrients) to your meals? This delicious recipe comes from the book, Flavor First, by former Biggest Loser dietitian, Cheryl Forberg. It’s sure to be a winner to whomever you serve it!

It takes only minutes to grate peeled, raw beets in the food processor. If you prefer, you can also use diced cooked beets, though the texture of raw beets gives this salad more volume and a bit of crunch.

Makes 8 (1/2-cup) servings

Ingredients:

4 cups grated raw beets (about 1 1/4 pounds)

1/4 cup Citrus Vinaigrette*

2 tablespoons crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions:

1. Toss the beets with the dressing.

2. Top with the feta and chives.

3. Serve at room temperature.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:

Calories: 80; Total Fat: 3 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 20 mg; Sodium: 300 mg; Total Carbohydrates: 12 g (Sugars: 9 g); Fiber: 2 g; Protein: 2 g.

*Citrus Vinaigrette

This vinaigrette tastes indulgent. Thanks to a dollop of Greek yogurt, it has a creamy, luscious texture. It is a delicious dressing for salads like the Shredded Beets with Crumbled Feta or drizzled on grilled fish or chicken. Try substituting other combinations of citrus fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, or blood oranges to create unique flavors.

Makes 1 cup (16 Tablespoons)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

1/4 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1/4 cup canola or light olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Combine the yogurt, lime zest and juice, cilantro, agave nectar or honey, vinegar, and garlic in a food processor and puree until smooth.

2. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the oil until incorporated.

3. Season with salt and pepper. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.

Nutrition Information Per Serving (1 Tablespoon):

Calories: 40; Total Fat: 3 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 g; Sodium: 0 g; Total Carbohydrate: 2 g (sugar: 1 g); Fiber: 0 g; Protein: 1 g.

Source: Flavor First, by Cheryl Forberg, RD.  Copyright © 2011 by Cheryl Forberg, RD.  Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA  18098.

No goods or services were exchanged for posting this recipe.

How do you like to eat beets?

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Photo courtesy of Suat Eman/freedigitalphotos.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m happy to share two delicious recipes from the new book, Eating Free, by registered dietitian Manuel Villacorta. Serve these to family and friends this summer to fill them up and add some flavor to meals (or that next barbecue).

Roasted Vegetables

This is similar to a traditional ratatouille, and it is one of my best secret weapons. I use this as a side, in pasta sauces, in salads, on meats—you name it. The combination brings a different dimension to your dishes, and it gives you so many great vegetables. Once you bring this into your recipe list, you’ll always go back to it.

Serves 12 (1 cup each)

Ingredients:

Olive oil spray

1 large red onion, cut into large pieces

2 red bell peppers, cut into large pieces

4 medium zucchini, cut into large pieces

1 large eggplant, cut into large pieces

1 large cauliflower, florets only

A pinch of garlic powder

Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

1.     Preheat oven to 400°F.

2.     Spray a large roasting pan with olive oil.

3.     Place the cut vegetables into the pan, making a single layer, and spray olive oil over them.

4.     Sprinkle garlic powder, salt, and black pepper over the vegetables to taste.

5.     Place roasting pan in the oven for about 20 minutes.

6.     Stir the vegetables and place them back in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes or until desired color/tenderness (I prefer mine slightly soft and browned).

Nutrition Information:

Calories 66; Fat 1.6g; Protein 4g; Carb. 11.6g; Fiber 4.6g; Sugar 5.8g

 

Farro Roasted Vegetable Salad

Farro has long been a staple in Italy. It’s a whole grain similar to barley, and it has become one of my top choices. It’s so filling, and I prefer it to pasta in soups and meat dishes. Try it, and I know you’ll be sold.

Serves 8 (1 cup each)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon crushed garlic clove

4 cups chicken or vegetable  broth

2 cups farro, dry uncooked

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 bunch fresh basil, chopped

4 cups roasted vegetables (see recipe, above)

Salt and pepper (optional

Directions:

1.     In a medium-size pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until golden brown.

2.     Add chicken or vegetable broth and let boil. Then add farro and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Note: Farro cooks like brown rice.

3.     When farro is cooked, add tomatoes, basil, and roasted vegetables; mix.

4.     Add salt and pepper to taste before serving (optional).

Nutrition Information:

Calories 234; Fat 3.9g; Protein 9.1g; Carb. 44.1g; Fiber 11.1g; Sugar 4.2g

Source: Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good, by Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD.

No goods or services were exchanged for posting these recipes.

What are your favorite ways to eat your veggies?

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I love milk. I’ve been drinking it since I was a kid. I love nonfat milk in my cereal, especially, and as an adult have taken to organic, low fat chocolate on most if not all days (except when I’m on vacation, like right now). To get my three-a-day dairy as recommended by current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, I consume milk, eat cheddar, mozzarella, and other cheese, and yes–I do get calcium from broccoli and some leafy greens.

My husband and children drink lots of nonfat milk too, and they also get calcium from low fat or nonfat yogurt and beans, especially black beans and lentils. 

As for vitamin D, we all take 1,000 IUs a day, smother ourselves with sunscreen, and we do eat some fatty fish (like salmon and tuna) and eggs to get vitamin D as well. 

We all try to eat a healthful diet. We’re not perfect, but we try. And we’re also extremely active, and exercise in some way shape or form practically every day. 

This morning I came across “Got Milk? You Don’t Need It!” by Mark Bittman in this morning’s New York Times (online). As a registered dietitian, I felt compelled to respond, and provide at least a partial counterpoint to his arguments. [In the interest of full disclosure, a year and a half ago, I worked as a spokesperson for the Got Milk? campaign. I've done some talks on behalf of the Dairy Industry. BUT I did all these things, representing the industry, because I was already a lover and consumer of milk and dairy products--it wasn't the other way around. Representing them was a true pleasure for me because I truly believed--and continue to believe--in the virtues of milk and dairy foods in the context of a healthy diet and lifestyle.]

As a lover of dairy–but even moreso, wearing my hats as a registered dietitian and health professional who wants to provide information to consumers to help them make their own decisions about what a healthy diet looks like for them as individuals–I wanted to a few moments to share my thoughts about the Bittman piece.  The article struck a chord with me, and I’d be remiss not to voice my opinion as should you (if you have strong thoughts about it, one way or another). Whether you agree or disagree with my points below, I look forward to our conversation, so please share your thoughts below.

In Bittman’s article, he shared his experience with reflux and the fact that he is finding that a no-dairy diet dramatically helps his symptoms. I’m truly happy for him, because I imagine living with reflux is very difficult and challenging to say the least.

I agree with the point he makes about how water is the perfect beverage (I drink tons of it myself), and that certain people–those with milk allergy–cannot and should not have milk, since that’s a matter of life and death. (So far, we are on the same page.)

But I take issue with a few of Bittman’s points.

First and foremost, while lactose intolerance is prevalent in the US, studies support the idea that those with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of dairy–milk, yogurt, and hard cheese. Having small amounts with meals can help with tolerance, and for those who have a problem digesting lactose, the sugar in milk, there are lactose-free dairy products that contain the same composite of nutrients found in dairy foods (namely calcium, and in the case of milk and many yogurts, vitamin D–not to mention several other key nutrients including protein, potassium, riboflavin..but I digress).

Bittman concedes that for those who like dairy, one or two servings a day is probably fine. I agree and disagree with this. While I encourage consumers to aim for three a day of dairy as recommended in current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, if you only consume one or two a day, it’s important to consume other foods rich in those nutrients, primarily calcium and vitamin D, to meet current needs (for adults, the current RDAs are 1,000 to 1,200 mg calcium and 600 to 800 IU vitamin D). In the case of calcium, that includes beans, leafy greens, fish with bones; calcium fortified foods including fortified soy beverages are also an option, though I believe the absorption of calcium from those foods may not be as high as it is from milk. Non-dairy foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel); eggs, and even mushrooms, contain some too as does fortified margarine and ready-to-eat cereals. Children’s needs for calcium and vitamin D are lower than adults (see Institute of Medicine recommendations here), but it’s critical for growing bodies to meet their needs for these key nutrients during their bone-building years to lay the best foundation for strong, capable bones.

If you see, based on a look at your diet or those of your children, that you cannot meet current needs, I urge you to discuss supplementation with a physician and, ideally, a registered dietitian.

One of Bittman’s statements that I disagree with is, “You don’t need milk, or large amounts of calcium, for bone integrity.” As it is, many Americans fall short on both calcium and vitamin D. Milk is a great vehicle for these nutrients, and even though this was not mentioned in the article, while dairy foods ARE a big source of saturated fat in the American diet, low- and non-fat dairy foods provide little fat and saturated fat to the diet and are loaded with key nutrients that optimize bone health and can help prevent osteomalacia (softening of the bones) and eventual osteoporosis. However, these nutrients can’t work their magic alone…an overall healthful dietary pattern that includes plenty of foods, namely fruits, veggies, beans, nuts and seeds, fish and lean meats, and in my opinion, low fat dairy if you like it and can tolerate it, plus exercise (on that point, Bittman and I agree) not only optimize not only bone health, but overall health as well. (Let’s not forget the other elements of a healthy life–love, laughter, and purpose.)

One other point I take issue is with the blanket statement in which Bittman says you can get Vitamin D from sunshine. Yes, of course that’s true–but most experts agree that relying on the sun for vitamin D ups skin cancer risk. In my opinion, it’s best to look first at food to get the vitamin D you need. The problem is that there are few food sources naturally rich in vitamin D, and many of us don’t consume nearly enough fatty fish to meet our vitamin D needs. If we don’t eat enough fish and also exclude dairy from our diet, as many vegetarians and those with lactose intolerance do, it’s very hard to get enough. Fortified foods are a backup option, as are supplements.

There’s no one diet that fits all. I hope you take the advice in Bittman’s article with a grain of salt, think about your own current diet, food preferences, health status, and lifestyle and decide what’s best for you. If you like and enjoy dairy foods and don’t have any apparent adverse health effects from doing so, there’s no reason to exclude dairy from your diet. I’ll continue to do it–not overdo it–and feed it to my children, again in the context of an overall healthful dietary pattern and lifestyle. What about you?

Do you do dairy? Why or why not? Do you think Bittman is on to something or is missing the boat?

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The following recipe (in my mind, it has SUMMER written all over it!) comes from the brand new book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide Quinoa Cookbook (Penguin, 2012) by The Bikini Chef herself, Susan Irby. Hopefully this recipe (and the gorgeous photo) will inspire you to try this not-so-common grain. If you make it, please send a shot of yourself (or friends and family) enjoying it.

Asparagus’ slightly bitter flavor is the perfect balance for tart lemon, sweet cilantro, and earthy quinoa.  Not only is this dish flavorful, it’s super healthy for you too.  Packed with antioxidants from asparagus, vitamin C, and the centerpiece of this dish ~ quinoa.  Quinoa is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids, is naturally gluten-free, and is high in fiber.  Add chopped grilled chicken to this recipe for extra protein. 

Makes 4 cups

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

4 cups water

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

3 medium asparagus spears, stems trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons chopped white onion

¼ cup chopped red bell pepper

¼ cup chopped yellow bell pepper

2 teaspoons fine lemon zest

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Fill a medium mixing bowl with ice and add about 2 cups of water or enough to cover ice.  Set aside.

2. Fill a medium stockpot or saucepan halfway with water.  Place on high heat until boiling.  Add ½ teaspoon sea salt to the boiling water.  Quickly add asparagus pieces and boil for only a few seconds, about 15 seconds.  Quickly drain and transfer asparagus to the ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Drain thoroughly and set aside.

3. In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine quinoa, white onion, and remaining 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to simmer (or low).  Simmer for 15 minutes or until almost all liquid has been absorbed.  Remove from heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Add asparagus, bell peppers, lemon zest, lemon juice, cilantro leaves, remaining teaspoon of salt, and black pepper to quinoa.  Stir well and serve in 1 cup servings, or as a side dish, serve in ½ cup servings.

Serving size: 1 cup as an entree

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 185

Carbohydrates: 34 g

Fat: 3 g

Fiber: 4 g

Protein: 7 g

Source: The Complete Idiot’s Guide Quinoa Cookbook (Penguin, 2012) by Susan Irby The Bikini Chef. To learn more about Susan, click here  

Do you eat quinoa? How do you like to prepare it?

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not sure if birds or bees do it, but it seems celebrities, chefs, and even some health professionals do it more and more these days—they eat (or at least recommend) coconut oil!

Last year, this New York Times piece documented coconut oil’s transformation from a villain to a health food.

I don’t personally consume coconut oil—not because of any thoughts I have about it one way or another, but because I’ve never tasted it or been exposed to it. But it’s something that has garnered more and more attention when it comes to media headlines, so it’s definitely something worth taking a look at.

What’s In It?

In a nut shell (forgive the pun), coconut oil, like other oils, is rich in calories and fat. One tablespoon packs in 117 calories and 13.6 grams of total fat; of that, most—about 11.8 grams—is saturated (the kind of fat usually associated with clogging arteries and promoting heart disease). It also has about one gram of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat (usually deemed as “healthy fats”) combined.

At first glance, the stats on coconut oil look appealing…for one, most of the saturated fat it contains is in the form of lauric acid. There’s some evidence that lauric acid doesn’t adversely affect blood cholesterol levels (and promote heart disease) the way saturated fats in butter or other animal fats does.

In a Huffington Post piece about saturated, David Katz, MD summed it up well by saying “There is less, but increasing evidence that lauric acid — a very short saturated fat molecule—may also be innocuous…the jury is still out on the health effects of its use.”

Another perk: unlike butter or other animal foods, coconut oil contains no cholesterol—certainly an attribute for those looking to make more heart-healthy food choices.

But what about weight loss…is coconut oil the magic bullet?

Where’s the Proof?

When I googled “coconut oil and weight loss,” I generated 1.1 million results. But when I took a closer look for peer-reviewed scientific research to support a coconut oil/weight loss connection, I came up VERY short. I was surprised, however, to find a nice roundup of peer reviewed research on coconutoil.com.

The most recent human study mentioned on the site was one in which a relatively small sample of women was instructed to consume a reduced calorie diet and walk 50 minutes a day for 12 weeks; they took coconut oil or soybean oil in supplement form (not as cooking oil used during meals). The study showed that while all participants lost weight, only the coconut oil supplement group lost weight specifically from their mid-section (their waist circumference went down).

If you happen to know of more recent (or even older), well-done studies published in peer-reviewed journals that look at coconut oil and it’s potential role in weight loss, please share it with me and my readers in a comment below.

The Bottom Line

We need far more studies than the one above to conclude that consuming coconut oil can enhance weight loss. But if you want to consume coconut oil because you like the taste—and perhaps you want a more healthful alternative to butter or spreads made with trans fats (also known to promote heart disease), in my opinion, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try it. But the key is to consume it—like all other high calorie dietary fats—in small amounts to keep your total calorie intake in check, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

What does “in small amounts” really mean, you ask? To be prudent, you can follow current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations (they’re spelled out for you on the MyPlate web site). They count coconut oil as Solid Fat. For a 1,600 calorie a day dietary pattern, the maximum SOFA calories (calories from Solid Fats and Added Sugars) is 121 calories (that equals about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil); for a 2,000 calorie pattern, the allotment is 258 calories (about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil).

Keep in mind you may not want to have all your SOFA calories from coconut oil (for example, you may want to have a slice of cheese on your sandwich, have some steak, or dare I say some ice cream or other sweets)—in that case, stick to 1-2 teaspoons or so of coconut oil daily (or when the fancy strikes you) if you choose to include it in your diet.

If you’re wondering what type of coconut oil should buy, culinary nutritionist and author Jackie Newgent recommends unrefined organic coconut oil to use when baking or cooking at a moderate (not high) temperature and you want a coconutty flavor. She adds, “When naturally unrefined and organic, I know the oil hasn’t been chemically processed. There may be little nutritional difference between unrefined and refined coconut oil, but I prefer a less processed oil as there could be greater antioxidant potential.”

If this blog whet your appetite to learn more about coconut oil and its potential perks, take a look at this excellent roundup on WebMD.

Do you like coconut oil? Why (and how) do you use it?

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Do you have a favorite breakfast? Maybe it’s something you like to make for or with your kids. Maybe it’s something you enjoyed as a kid. Whatever it is, I’d like to hear all about it–especially if it packs in key food groups to keep you healthy.

One lucky winner who posts a comment below before 5 pm on Sunday June 24th, 2012 will be chosen to win a Pass the Puffins Prize Pack. This prize, donated by Barbara’s Bakery, includes three boxes of Puffins cereal, a canvas tote bag, and a cute Puffin plushy. How cute (and delicious) is that?

What’s your favorite breakfast and why?

Disclaimer: I accepted no compensation for this giveaway from Barbara’s Bakery or anyone else. I simply enjoy the cereal myself and was happy to share an adorable tasty prize with you, my readers!

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Doesn’t this salad spell S-U-M-M-E-R?

This recipe from the timely new book, The Plant-Powered Diet, can help you not only meet your daily fruit, vegetable, and lean protein quota, but do it in a fresh way because of the addition of mache lettuce (also known as corn salad, or lamb’s lettuce). Here’s what author Sharon Palmer, RD, has to say about it.

“Tender mache lettuce is the backdrop for this fruity salad that offers yet another way to highlight luscious strawberries—rich in sweet flavor and antioxidants—during their spring through summer harvest.  This colorful salad is pretty enough for a buffet or holiday meal, yet it can also grace your lunch box or dinner table just as easily.” 

Makes 4 servings (about 1 ½ cups each)

Ingredients:

4 cups packed mache greens

1 ½ cups sliced fresh strawberries

2 tablespoons sliced red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 ½ tablespoons orange juice

1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped Brazil nuts

Instructions:

  1. In a large salad bowl, combine mache, fresh strawberries, red onion, and fresh basil.
  2. In a small dish, whisk together blueberry juice, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and black pepper.
  3. Toss the salad with the dressing.  Garnish the salad with Brazil nuts and serve it immediately.

Note:  Mache, also called lamb’s lettuce, is grown in California and may be available at many supermarkets.  If you can’t find it in your supermarket, substitute any other tender lettuce green, such as butter lettuce or mesclun mixed greens.

Nutrition Information per serving:

Calories: 87

Fat:  7 g

Saturated Fat: 1 g

Sodium:  4 mg

Carbohydrate:  7 g

Fiber:  2 g

Protein:  2 g

Source: The Plant-Powered Diet (The Experiment, 2012) by Sharon Palmer, RD.

 

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