Celebrity Night

You guys. Last night was the greatest night! I got to meet my long time hero!! This dude.

photo(5)If you don’t know who this is, you should get to know who this is. It’s

Michael Pollan!

Michael Pollan is an author of several amazing books including: Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food. He is in documentaries including: Killer at Large and King Corn. Plus he writes regularly for the New York Times. I love love LOVE all of his books and articles. A couple weeks ago I had a job interview and they asked me who my hero was and I said Michael Pollan- no joke. He is my hero because he knows what’s up when it comes to food and nutrition. He is so versed and his research is pretty ground breaking. But not only that, I idolize him because of his ability to connect with the average Joe. He has this really easy-going yet highly motivating way about him. He was completely captivating to listen to, and he reinforces my passion for nutrition and explains why I do what I do. (I didn’t get the job by the way, maybe I should have said my mom or Mother Theresa)?

But that’s enough of my public display of affection. I was able to hear him speak last night on his new book Cooked. To sum it up, Michael Pollan has discovered and decided that the way to attain good health is to spend more time in the kitchen. There’s so much confusion in regards to nutrition and diet and so much all muddled in between. But maybe the answer to good health is really as simple as cooking more. And not the type when you nuke something in the microwave for 2 minutes and call it good. In fact, he made this interesting point: His research has found that the average amount of time people spend cooking each day has decreased over the past 2 decades to a mere 37 minutes. Total. With 4 minutes a day for cleaning up. So what can you assume about that type of cooking? Ahem, Fridays potatoes skins and Stouffers lasagne… And look whats happened to our obesity rates over the same time period…

I can’t give a thorough review of the book because I am not quit finished. I just have about 415 pages left. BUT I am already captivated. There are recipes, humor, nutrition facts, etc. You will laugh and cry and mostly want to get off your butt and spend more time in the kitchen!

photo(4)Did I mention in 2010, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world?

photo(1)I was so giddy when I met him! I wanted to tell him I used his research to complete a policy analysis on school nutrition, and that I used his articles to debate the reorganization of government agriculture subsidies, or at least tell him that he is my hero, but instead all I got out was: “Thank you, thank you so much, really thank you.” I didn’t even take a breath in between those three identical phrases. Gah!

photo(2)We love each other already.

Also, I cannot fail to mention that during the question/answer portion I was selected to ask my question. ME. Out of 15 people raising their hands. And it was like magic because as he was answering my question, he stared right at me. He literally granted me 5 minutes of uninterrupted eye contact. It was like no one else was in the room. Just he and I. Now would also be a good time to mention that I am happily married to my #1. MP comes next though!

P.S. I titled this celebrity night because Ty Burrell was also there. Local celeb night.

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Coconut Oil

coconut-oil-2Coconut oil is a tropical oil made from the dried fruit (or nut) or coconut palm tree. It has been a topic of controversy for a while now. Up until a couple of years ago it was labeled as one of those “bad fats”. It is a saturated fat which we all know is the type to be avoided, or at least consumed from < 10% of our daily fat allowance. So why all the talk about the coconut oil miracle and the newest “good fat?”

Let’s review some of the supposed benefits easily found searching the www:

  • Coconut oil may prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s disease
  • Coconut oil can relieve symptoms of hypothyroidism by boosting metabolism and raising body temperature to support a healthy thyroid
  • Coconut oil can support weight loss
  • Coconut oil can support healthy hair and skin
  • Coconut can be beneficial for insulin resistance and supporting healthy blood glucose
  • Coconut oil can support a healthy immune system by resisting viruses and bacteria and fighting off fungus and candida
  • Coconut oil can raise “good” HDL cholesterol
  • Coconut helps digestions of fat-soluble vitamins

So, I use the word supposed because most of these points have caveats or are not thoroughly proven or reviewed. For example, Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is like cancer, in the fact that there are so many possible etiologies and treatments. The reason coconut oil is said to be beneficial is because it supports healthy blood glucose and resistance to insulin dysfunctions. Alzheimer’s is sometimes referred to as type 3 diabetes because the root may come back to our bodies ability to maintain healthy blood sugars and insulin function. Coconut oil is a fat, and if you remember, fat and protein help to slow the digestion of sugars and provide a steady release of glucose into the blood stream rather than a quick spike when sugar is digested alone. But in that case, any sort of fat or protein could be considered beneficial against Alzheimer’s disease. I guess I just need to see more research and specifics before I go crazy over coconut oil to preserve my memory.

Coconut oil is a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil. This is a unique quality because in normal fat digestion, our bodies need bile (released from the liver) to coat the triglyceride chains in order for them to be packed into micelles and absorbed across the intestinal wall. However, because MCT chains aren’t as long and complex, they can be absorbed whole into the inner intestinal wall and eventually into the blood stream. This  is beneficial especially for those with liver disorders or other upper intestinal illness, because MCT oils can still be absorbed even when the liver or pancreas are unable to produce bile or the appropriate enzymes, respectively, to start the absorption process.

And then there is weight loss. If you pop into a health food store, any associate will be quick to direct you to coconut oil supplements if you inquire about weight loss solutions.  This probably has to do with coconut oils role in boosting metabolism, especially in the abdominal region. MCT oils cannot be stored in adipose tissues (aka “fat cells”, like the kind that contribute to body fat). However, according to the Mayo clinic, coconut oil has only been proven to reduce waist size, not BMI or actual pound loss. So don’t get too excited about popping a couple of pills a day and watching the weight melt off. It won’t most likely. And don’t forget, fat grams = 9 calories each, so that’s something to keep in mind when considering calories in/calories out.

Coconut oil contains lauric acid which is a fatty-acid that raises both HDL (good) AND LDL (bad) cholesterol. That isn’t the best news, but there are few proven ways to actually raise HDL cholesterol (exercise and red wine) so it isn’t something to so easily dismiss. If you are able to watch and maintain your LDL levels, coconut oil may be great to help you raise your HDL. In the end LDL:HDL ratios are the important thing to look at when considering risk for coronary artery disease.

The Huffington Post posted this cool article about using coconut oil for beauty. I am pretty excited about using coconut oil as a natural moisturizer. By all means, don’t be afraid to use coconut oil for your hair and skin, it’s rich in Vitamin E and moisturizing components.

So at the end of the day, I do personally like coconut oil- in moderation. It has a sweet and nutty flavor. It is perfect for curries and fish, and I’ve even substituted it for butter when baking. It’s solid at room temperature and when you heat it up in the pan it starts to melt and give off a nutty coconutty heavenly scent that is so yummy! I recommend picking some up at the grocery store. Look for extra-virgin and try these brands:

coconut-oilSPE-11201-1They’re just the ones I like best. Check out this book for much more detail, but remember keep a moderate midset. And don’t miss the new recipes in the recipe tab using coconut oil!

Meal Planning

It seems everyone wants a meal plan. Whether you are looking to loose weight, support your blood sugars, or just feel healthy in general, I have come up with a quick one week plan. Even though I am a dietitian and this should be my natural forte, I get nervous because everyone eats differently and likes different things. So if you are interested in following this little plan, feel free to tweak it. I’ll include recipes too so it’s extra easy for you!

Remember this? This is essentially what each meal is based around. So when the week of my ideas is up, don’t give up, figure it out yourself. Also I would HIGHLY recommend visiting this site. There are awesome resources and tools.

Breakfast

  1. Whole wheat English muffin, with 2 poached eggs (or over easy if that’s too technical), spinach, tomato slice, and optional ham. Skip the hollandaise sauce and season with lecithin granules.
  2. Green smoothie. Check out this green smoothie girl, she knows what’s up. Or just try a cup of spinach, one banana, one orange, 5 strawberries, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1 tbsp of flax meal, with some ice cubes. Feel free to get creative, that’s just my favorite blend.
  3. Omelet with mozzarella and goat cheese, tomatoes, bell peppers, red onion, asparagus, and spinach. Again, go crazy with your favorite veggies, these are just mine.
  4. Plain or unsweetened greek yogurt (I recommend chobani, hello 14 grams of protein), with granola (remember my greatest) or millet, berries, and flax meal or chia seeds, and agave to sweeten.
  5. Large apple sliced in half, topped with peanut butter, banana, and raisins. Make it like a sandwich if you will.
  6. Left over dinner. Sounds crazy, but it would be a totally balanced meal and will get your day started right to have good protein and veggies rather than cereal loaded with sugars. Try having the zucchini skillet, chicken curry, or salmon (see dinner ideas).
  7. Protein bar or smoothie. This is sort of a cop out breakfast but it can be a good idea for busy mornings or after an early morning work out. Here are my favorite ones: Bluebonnet Whey Protein IsolateVega, Biochem Greens and Whey, Stinger Bars, Think Thin Bars, Balance Gold Bar. Another time I will elaborate on why I love these. Consider adding fruit with this breakfast.

Lunch

  1. Deli meat sandwich with a twist. Choose your favorite meats, cheese, veggies, and condiments but wrap it in a large green lettuce leaf and pass on the bread. Compliment with some fruit and a cup of milk.
  2. Green salad with smoked salmon, turkey or chicken breast, dried cranberries, feta or goat cheese, almonds or walnuts, capers, and drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil, and agave.
  3. Soup. This is a good chance to practice budgeting and meal preparation. Consider cooking when you have some time, doubling the recipe and freezing so you can have some later for another lunch or dinner. Here are some of my favorite soup recipes. chickpea chicken noodle soup, thai coconut soup,two-bean kale soup, pumpkin, barely, and sage soup.
  4. Mix tuna with a little mayo, mustard, relish, cheddar cheese. Eat with veggies, on a leafy green salad, or as an open faced sandwich on wheat bread.
  5. Tilapia (saute with a little olive or coconut oil a vwa la!) with steamed veggies and brown rice. Or try this recipe: honey ginger tilapia.
  6. Halve a spaghetti squash, cook face down on a aluminum lined baking sheet at 400 for 40 minutes. Scrap out squash into a bowl so it looks like spaghetti noodles, top with your favorite marinara and veggies. Or try Loaded potatoes (or sweet potatoes). Bake a potato and cover with favorite low sodium chili, low-fat sour cream, chives, and season
  7. Tex mex rice and black beans

** This is a lot of options for lunch. I usually like to eat leftovers and salads. But this gives you a lot of choices.

Dinner

  1. Zucchini Skillet. With this one I use quinoa instead of white rice. Did you know quinoa is the only grain source that is a complete protein and offers 6 grams per serving? Fancy. I also like to add some black beans to add some extra fiber and proteins. Also, I would recommend NOT adding the extra water.
  2. Thai Red Curry. I would recommend using shrimp or tempeh instead of tofu. I am not a huge tofu fan (I will need to go into that another time), so if you want to go meatless and soy try tempeh which is fermented tofu. Serve over brown jasmine rice.
  3. Three bean mole chili. Good one to do in the crock pot and so spicy delicious! Find the recipe under “recipes” above. Thank you to my mother-in-law for the recipe.
  4. BBQ Chicken Salad. Combine your favorite salad greens, black beans, corn kernels, red onion, green onion, avocado, mexican blend cheese, and bbq chicken (in the winter, stick some chicken breasts and BBQ sauce in the crock pot in the morning, shred, and throw in your salad), cover with BBQ sauce and low-fat ranch.
  5. sweet potato and kale pizza. This isn’t exactly the best choice if weight loss is the goal, but it is so so delicious. Use a whole wheat thin crust, make it margarita style with a small amount of fresh mozzarella, and try not to eat the whole thing.
  6. Fish Tacos. See “recipes” above. Ditch the tortillas and eat over lettuce if you want.
  7. Grill or bake a salmon with a little dollop of plain yogurt or low fat sour cream. Season with your favorite spices, wrap in foil, and cook. Serve with a spinach salad with nuts, fruit, and a raspberry vinaigrette. Steam some asparagus and brown rice if you want. This is my favorite meal of all time.

Snacks

  1. Trail mix with seeds, nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate
  2. Cottage cheese and peaches
  3. celery sticks with peanut butter
  4. Apples with cheddar cheese or peanut butter
  5. Crackers with laughing cow cheese (mmm so good)
  6. Almonds and craisins
  7. Sliced raw veggies in a yogurt dip

*** All these snacks consist of a carb and a protein. This is a must for every snack. The carb will give you energy but the protein will feel you up so you don’t keep snacking and snacking. Notice how easy it is to eat a whole bag of potato chips, but would you do the same with a bag of almonds and dried fruit??

I know this is a very long post but I have a couple of comments. I don’t count calories so much, but I have tried to balance out the carbohydrate intake. If you are dying to know the grams per meal comment below and I will include them. Keeping carbohydrates balanced throughout the day and including protein in every meal is really the key to weight maintenance, balanced blood sugars, and satiation.

Notice I don’t recommend anything with red meat. This is kind of more a personal thing, but I really don’t think we need beef in our lives. If you love the stuff please don’t feel you have to deprive yourself. Look for lean cuts like “loins” and skim off the fat (see Nutrition for Dummies tips). Do however consider being moderate.You may have noticed I love fish. A good nutritionist will recommend having fish at least twice a week, so I took the at least part and ran with it.

Some of the recipes may seem overwhelming if you aren’t a cook. Don’t panic, just remember the plate method and try to make sure whatever you can cook covers all those areas. Now I didn’t include fruit and grains in all the meals because I think those things can be spread out throughout meals and snacks. Aim for at least 3 servings of fruits, So whether or not you want to get those all in during the morning meal is up to you.

And finally, if you are really serious about weight loss I would recommend cutting out all the grains in the meals I have suggested. Skip breakfasts and lunches with bread, forget rice as a side and add extra veggies. I don’t have suggestions for waffles, cereals, pastas, paninis, etc for a reason. Try it for one week and you will likely notice a difference that fast. And you might realize it’s not as hard as you think (this is coming from me a die hard cereal junkie)!