Thursday, February 28, 2013

Eat healthfully for a pittance: "Superfoods" that also are incredibly inexpensive

You might think that healthy eating has to be pricey eating. And it's true that eating away from home tends to be that way. Fast food is cheap and, for the most part, dreadfully unhealthy. At fine dining establishments, at least you can order fish and vegetables -- although I must add that those choices usually still come on plates glistening with oil and butter, packing on calories that we really don't need.
But whether you eat these foods at home or order them at health-oriented restaurants, here's a list from Eating Well magazine of foods that pack a nutritional wallop for pennies a serving.

1. Lentils (15c per one-cup serving)
2. Oats (10c per 1/3-cup uncooked oats)
3. Kale (60c per cup, cooked)
4. Almonds (60c per ounce)
5. Tea (price varies, but listed as 10c per tea bag)
6. Oranges (35c each, or more depending on variety)
7. Tuna (about 75c per three-ounce serving of canned tuna)
8. Peanut butter (depends on the kind you buy, but can be as low as 25c per 2-tablespoon serving)
9. Apples (listed as just 25c each, but the ones I get are closer to $1 each -- large, Honeycrisp yummies)
10. Eggs (20c or less per egg)
11. Carrots (25c per cup of cut-up carrots)
12. Cabbage (25c per cup of shredded cabbage, as for coleslaw)

Click here to read why each of these foods is so good for us.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Eat adventurously: 25 foods to try at least once

A reader sent in a link to her posting on another blog; it's called "25 Foods Everyone Should Try at Least Once." Click here to read that list.
While not everything on the list meets healthy-foodie standards -- lobster thermidor, poutine, fried plantains, for instance -- I can't argue with the logic that eating something once can't hurt, and it could well broaden your foodie horizons.
Many listed foods aren't that exotic for us these days, even though we may not eat them often. How many of the 25 have you tried? I'm at 20 or 21, best that memory serves. My favorite? Definitely black truffles, a rare and marvelous treat. Here are a few of the items, some of which come from my own photos, others from the Web.
Fettucine with BLACK TRUFFLES (foreground)
Shrimp and chicken GUMBO

Friday, February 22, 2013

Not all soups are created equal: go for the good ones

Even though spring is just around the corner -- thank goodness! -- we still have some cold weather around.  In the U.S., soup consumption peaks in January and February. But not all soups are created equal. Canned or packaged soups can be problematic due to high fat and sodium content, so be selective in the soup aisle. (And then there's the issue of BPA in canned foods, another potential health threat.)
Best practice when it comes to soup? Make your own. A reader sent me this link to an article "21 Blogs Featuring Soups That Will Warm Your Soul This Winter" (long title).

And here's an excerpt from "February, When Soup Consumption and Heart Awareness Converge" from the great website Natural Wellness (www.naturalwellnessonline).

Not So Heart Healthy Soups

Unfortunately, many soups have surprisingly high levels of sodium, fat and sugar.
Salt is one of the biggest problems faced by consumers of canned soup. Even soup labeled as low sodium may not be low enough. A popular brand of reduced-sodium soups lists their sodium content as 470 mg per serving. Since many of us consume at least two servings at a time, that is over 900 mg for a bowl of soup! This sodium total is more than half of the U.S. dietary guidelines of 1,500 mg per day for those with heart disease.
Many upscale restaurants add cream or bacon to their soups in an effort to produce a creamy texture or rich flavor. While these additions can be sinfully delicious, they also add a sinful amount of unnecessary, artery-clogging fat to your bowl of soup.
We don’t usually think to check the sugar content of soup, but perhaps we should. A popular brand of tomato soup contains 12 grams of sugar per serving. Again, since most of us consume at least two servings at a time, that is equivalent to 24 grams of sugar in a bowl of soup. To put that into perspective, there are 24 grams of sugar in a package of two Twix cookie bars.

Heart Healthy Soups

Even though manufacturers and chefs often add sugar, fat and salt to boost soup’s palatability and longevity, they are not necessary for tasty creations. Thankfully, it’s easy to make soups that are heart-healthy: full of vegetables, low in fat, low in sodium and low in sugar. There are plenty of delicious soup recipes that focus only on healthful ingredients. Some ideas include:

  • Carrot ginger soup
  • Roasted butternut squash soup
  • Vegetable bean soup
  • Black bean soup
  • Minestrone
  • Lentil soup
  • Vegan potato leek soup
  • Thai seafood soup
  • Mushroom barley soup
  • Chicken soup with wild rice
  • Borscht
  • Curried pumpkin soup
  • Vegan cream of broccoli
  • Tomato soup
When made in your home, each one of these soups can be prepared with very little fat, sugar or salt. In fact, making soup is one of the easiest ways to create a heart healthy meal. As we look for ways to warm up during this frigid February, soup can provide a welcome, nourishing, comforting respite from the cold. By reading labels and/or preparing it yourself, consuming veggie-packed, low sodium, low sugar soup is the perfect way to practice heart health awareness.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beefing (or tofu-ing?) up the Protein

My trainer told me I needed to have at least 60 grams of protein per day, and he'd like me to ramp it up closer to 100 grams. Sounds fine until you start trying to add protein without also adding overall calories to your daily intake. I've discovered over just the week or so since he gave me this directive, that it's very hard to eat that much protein.

Luckily for me, I do eat animal products, which are good protein sources. But most of my diet consists of fruits, vegetables and grains, with meat, cheese and other dairy products as supplements. To reach that 60-100-gram goal, it would mean figuring out palatable ways to add eggs or dairy to my ("good") carb heavy breakfast; to always have meat or cheese at lunch; and to make sure there's a slab of protein on our dinner plates every night. Tall order!
I have purchased protein powder, but a scoop of it (dissolved in water) gives me only 14 grams along with 80 calories. (I don't really have room in my daily calorie total for "extra" ones, so I have to stop at one dose of the powder.) Beans, edamame and other forms of soy, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and peanut butter also provide hits of protein, although it takes quite a few helpings to get anywhere near that 60 grams. Truly, the fastest way to get there seems to be with meat.
Oh, and why did the trainer insist on this dietary change? It has to do with making my muscles more efficient along with giving me better results of the time I put into strength training and other exercises. Also (I searched on Google for more info) protein gives us energy, helps fight off illness and is essential for tissue repair after any injury.
All that said, this list will give you some ideas about protein sources. As you can see, once you get outside the range of meat, it takes some effort to get a daily total above 60 grams.

FOOD                                                    GRAMS OF PROTEIN
Steak, 6 ounces                                        42
Hamburger, 4 ounces                                28
Chicken breast, 4 ounces                          35
Tuna, 6-ounce can                                    40
Salmon fillet, 4 ounces                              24
Pork tenderloin, 4 ounces                         30
Milk, 1 cup                                                8
Egg, 1 whole                                              6
Cottage cheese, 1 cup                              15
Yogurt, 1 cup                                         6-10
Cheeses, 1 ounce                                   6-10
Tofu, 1/2 cup                                          20
Soy milk, 1 cup                                      8-10
Beans, 1/2 cup                                       8-10
Peanut butter, 2 T                                    8
Other nuts, 1/4 cup                               3-9

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Metropole Restaurant -- in 21c Hotel

Metropole Salad
We had another meal at Metropole, the restaurant in the new 21c Hotel downtown. I had a delicious cocktail made with rye whiskey and clove soda, which sounded strange but worked really well. And we were delighted with the healthy choices we were able to pull from the menu. This was all prior to going across the street to the ballet, Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet (absolutely wonderful, that).
Photos show a sugar snap salad (with various nice accompaniments) and my husband's vegetarian entree, a chick-pea panisse (that's what they called it -- basically, a baked fritter) also with good extra ingredients. He also had a different salad, I had a swordfish entree.
Yum and more yum.
Vegetarian entree at Metropole

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Trying Seasons 52

BBQ chicken salad with Flatbread, Seasons 52
I'm sure this restaurant in Hyde Park/Norwood will continue to be a hit. The location in the middle of all those appearance-conscious Hyde Park women couldn't be more perfect. Why? Well if you haven't heard, one thing that makes Seasons 52 stand out is its pledge that no food item on the menu exceeds 475 calories. (One can't help but wonder how accurate that calorie count is in some instances, but I certainly appreciate the effort. At the very least it means that the kitchen staff has been trained not to dump butter, oil and cheese on every dish to enhance the flavor.)
The interior is quite appealing, all dark wood and enough barriers between sections to keep the large room from seeming cavernous. It has a nice bar, too. There's an extensive wine-by-the-glass selection that includes a few adventurous choices, which always is a hit with me. I must say though that my eyes popped at the $18 price tag for a glass of Godello, a Spanish white wine varietal that I like but have never seen in that price range.
Above is a shot of our lunch -- barbeque chicken sandwich, and a tomato and cheese flatbread.
I'll report more information about this place after subsequent visits and perhaps a chat with management.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Another OTR Hot Spot

The hits just keep on coming downtown at the Gateway Quarter -- the section of Vine Street off Central Parkway with a few blocks of the hottest cluster of restaurants in the metro area. Sure, there are good -- some would say better -- places to eat around town. But nowhere else will you find the variety of worthy grub, and drink, than in this section of OTR (Over-the-Rhine, if you're not from around here). Expand a few blocks over to Main Street and you have even more choices, with Mayberry for food and Japp's for drinks and music.
But I digress.
Grilled meat at Kaze

Last weekend we dined at Kaze, a new eatery billing itself as a "Japanese sushi bar, Gastro Pub and beer garden." Like everything else along those few blocks, the joint was jumping. Unlike the other good restaurants and watering holes in the area, (my favorites are Bakersfield and Abigail Street, but Senate and A Tavola, among others, also have a bazillion fans) this one takes reservations. That's a great thing on a Saturday night at 7:30, believe me, when the wait for a table at these other spots can easily run an hour or even more.
Kaze has a large front dining room dominated by an open kitchen. It's very loud, unless you happen to hit the place early on a weeknight. There's a back room, with its own entrance around the side, featuring a large bar and young people getting looped and flirting.
We enjoyed the food! Japanese cuisine tends toward the healthy side, which is great for us, although I was a bit surprised by the small appearance of vegetables on the menu. It's very protein oriented, with an emphasis on seafood (sashimi, nigiri and sushi, along with cooked dishes) and pork preparations. We tried quite a few things -- portions generally are small -- and tended to like the sashimi and sushi best.
All in all, our party of four agreed that Kaze is a worthy addition to Cincinnati's dining scene.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

High triglycerides? Here's what you can do about it

When you get your blood work, be sure to consider not only the "good" (HDL) and "bad" (LDL) cholesterol readings; also ask your doctor to assess whether that third thing the test measures -- triglycerides -- is within a healthy range.

Most of the sources I read say that a level at or above 200 is cause for concern.
This is a measure of fatty substances in your blood, and too high a reading can lead to significant health problems, including heart disease or stroke.
Here's advice (from Web MD) about ways to bring down your triglyceride reading.
  • Moderate exercise on five or more days each week can help lower triglyceride levels.
  • Losing 5%-10% of your weight can lower triglycerides. People with a healthy weight are more likely to have normal triglyceride levels. Belly fat is associated with higher levels.
  • Reducing saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in your diet can improve triglyceride levels and help manage cholesterol. Eating less carbohydrates in your diet will also help lower triglyceride levels.
  • Drinking alcohol can raise triglyceride levels. Some studies show that drinking more than one drink a day for women or two for men can raise triglyceride levels by a lot. Some people with high triglycerides may need to cut out alcohol entirely.
  • Eating more fish high in omega-3s can lower triglyceride levels. Fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon are high in omega-3s. It may be hard to get enough omega-3s from food to help lower your triglycerides. Your doctor may recommend a supplement or prescription omega-3s.
If these steps don't provide enough relief, you may have to go on medication. This is something you'll have to take up with your physician.
Because I drink alcohol, I tend to have elevated triglycerides. That along with other considerations does cause me to cut back on drinking -- from time to time, at least.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The World's Healthiest Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is the healthiest (and yummiest) in the world. It's not a "diet diet," meaning something you do for a short period to drop pounds. It's an eating plan for life. And if you can follow this plan, over time you WILL become slimmer and in better health. You'll feel fewer hunger pangs -- because you are eating nutrient-rich foods -- and have more energy.
But you probably won't be able to succeed with this plan unless you cook some of your own meals. Fast food and the Mediterranean diet don't go together very well, nor does restaurant dining (alas -- I love to eat at nice restaurants!).
Health wise, this diet, loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats and proteins, not only keeps your weight down but also is great for your heart, blood pressure, and blood sugar. You'll avoid obesity, heart disease and diabetes if you follow this wonderful and delicious plan. Some research also suggests this diet can ward off dementia as we age.

Here is one of my favorite Middle Eastern style recipes to get you started -- easy as pie, and taste great.

RECIPE: Couscous Salad with Orange and Olives Serves 4-6

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat couscous
  • 1/4 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped black olives, (4 scallions)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives, (12 olives)
  • 1 navel orange, peeled, sectioned and diced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Stir together couscous, orange juice concentrate, oil, mustard, thyme, orange zest and salt in a large bowl. Stir in boiling water, cover and set aside until the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.
  2. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Add parsley, scallions, olives, diced orange and lemon juice; toss to blend. Season with pepper.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

New -- and new-ish -- and notable dining in our town

I've recovered from a virus that laid me low, and am getting back in the game of dining around Cincinnati.
Staff at Eat Well Cafe
--Went with a friend to the new breakfast/lunch spot in O'Bryonville, called Eat Well. (The spot used to house What's for Dinner.) The new owners have painted, redecorated, and redesigned the space, and the food was quite good. Lunch was packed on a Friday, mostly with groups of women, trying an array of soups, salads and sandwiches. We had a vegan corn chowder, served with a couple of slices of pita toast. It was good! The place also features a small selection, changing daily, of gourmet-to-go items designed to be brought home for dinner.

--We ducked into the new Japanese restaurant in the Gateway Quarter downtown (14th and Vine) and made dinner reservations for next weekend. The room is open, spacious and well lit, and the hostess said she loved the food. Will report on it soon; Japanese cuisine tends to be quite healthy, so I have high hopes that this will get a healthy-foodie stamp of approval.
--Also enjoyed tacos and cocktails at Bakersfield -- also on Vine Street -- and wine with appetizers at our neighborhood favorite, La Poste in Clifton.
Great tacos, Bakersfield

Clifton's Fine Dining Option