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Quinoa Salad with Pineapple Salmon – YUM!

Someone recently asked me, “quinoa sounds great, but where do I find it in the store?  I looked everywhere!”  Unfortunately, not all stores are on-the-ball when it comes to carrying this super grain.  But more and more, I’m seeing it in major chains across the country, so hopefully you won’t have too much difficulty.  It’s usually located near the rice, cous cous, pasta, and other grains (super, or otherwise).

One of my family’s favorite ways to eat quinoa is in this adapted version of a delicious recipe from Shape Magazine’s July 2011 issue.  It’s easy, flavorful, and blends several delicious flavors into each bite.

Smoky Pineapple Salmon With Quinoa Salad

 (serves 6)

For the salmon:

1/2 C fresh orange juice

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

3 T pineapple juice

1 1/2 lbs salmon fillet

3 1/2-inch thick pineapple rings

For the quinoa salad:

1 C quinoa

2 1/2 C water

3 T dried currants (or cranberries)

1 tsp dried cinnamon

1 T smoked paprika

1 tsp sea salt

2 C diced cucumber

1. In a small bowl, combine orange juice, olive oil, paprika, and pineapple juice.  Place in a plastic bag with salmon and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

2. Rince and drain quinoa.  Place in a large saucepan with water, currants (or cranberries), cinnamon, paprika, and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

3. Place quinoa in a bowl and fold in cucumbers.  Set aside.

4. While quinoa is cooking, heat grill to medium-high.  Place salmon skin-side down on a piece of foil and grill for 10 minutes for each inch of thickness.  Slice into 6 portions.

5. To serve, divide salmon among six plates and top with a piece of salmon with pineapple.

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Have You Tried This SUPER Grain?


If you haven’t tried this ancient grain, you should!  It’s high in protein (8 grams/cup) and fiber (5 grams/cup ), and is good source of iron.  It’s also packed with other vitamins and minerals and is incredibly versatile.  You can use it as you would rice, you can bake with it in flour form, it can be used for any meal, including delicious desserts, it’s even great for cold salads (bento box lunch anyone??)  What am I talking about?  Quinoa!  Pronounced keen-wa, it’s an ancient grain that has made quite a comeback in recent years and is certainly one of the healthiest foods we can eat.  The best part of quinoa is that it absorbs just about any flavor you cook it with and it cooks in a very short period of time, usually 10 minutes.

When my kids were babies, I used to serve them quinoa mixed with pureed vegetables, but these days, it needs to be more interesting, so I add it to their oatmeal in the morning, I make stir-fry’s or risotto like dishes with it, and I even tried this yummy dessert which we all loved, Chocolate Peanut Butter Quinoa (I omitted the cashews and maple syrup) and will try it for breakfast without the chocolate.

Stay tuned for a more quinoa recipes this week.

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Powerful Food Combinations: 1+1=3

When it comes to nutrition, mosts of us know that the choices we make in front of the refrigerator directly impact our overall health.  However, you may not realize that many foods are most impactful when combined with another.  This is what some call the “one plus one equals three effect.”

Need iron?  Throw in some vitamin C.  Iron available in chickpeas, dark leafy greens, and other plants is not as easily absorbed as iron found in meats and seafood.  But vitamin C rich foods like citrus, bell peppers, and stawberries help the process along by raising the acidity in the intestines.  So, make a spinach salad and throw on some mandarin oranges or strawberries.  Or chop up some red peppers and serve with chickpeas.

Looking to add the powerful antioxidant lycopene on to your plate?  Add some “good fats”.  Lycopene is the red-tinted pigment in fruits and vegetables.  Think: watermelon, pink grapefruit or tomatoes.  It helps prevent cardiovascular disease and some cancers, among other things.  Because it’s fat soluble, lycopene is best absorbed with fats.  Fortunately, there are some delicious options with this pairing.  Salsa and guacamole or warm bruschetta with chopped tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil.

Selenium (a mineral found in fish, meats, eggs, nuts, and mushrooms) binds with proteins in our bodies to make enzymes that protect us from free radicals.  Eating sulforaphane (a plant compound found in cruciferous vegetables like brussel sprouts and broccoli) can help the effect of selenium up to four times more than selenium can achieve on it’s own.  Stir fry some beef and broccoli.  Enjoy a steak with a side of brussel sprouts that are baked in olive oil and sea salt.

Both folate (which is found naturally in beans and vegetables) and B12 (found in animal products) help produce new cells.  However, too much folate and not enough B12 can lead to muscle weakness and diminishing mental agility.  Stay on top of your game with a spinach feta omelet for breakfast or a romaine salad topped with tuna for lunch. 

Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-B12/NS_patient-vitaminb12/DSECTION=evidence and  http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2009/feb/18/combining-foods-can-help-body-absorb-nutrients/ and http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=121#nutrientinteractions and O, The Oprah Magazine, November 2011

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Processed Foods May Lower Your Child’s IQ

According to Science Daily, children with a diet high in processed foods may suffer lower IQs, as measured in later childhood.

Yet another reason to provide a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, vitamins and nutrients instead of unnecessary fats and sugars.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110207225943.htm

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USDA makes changes to school lunches – do you think it’s enough?

Breaking news out of Washington yesterday.  The USDA released new nutrition standards for the nation’s school lunch program for the first time in 15 years.  Although we have not been silent about this is the past (tomato sauce is a vegetable Congress?  REALLY?!) we hope that these changes actually start to raise awareness on the health and wellness of our children.

This chart (http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Governance/Legislation/comparison.pdf) provides a great comparison between what was and what is now accepted.  Some highlights are:

  • More fruits and vegetables
  • A greater range of vegetables
  • A requirement for whole grains
  • All milk to be 1% or less
  • Only non-fat milk to be permitted to be flavored

An example of how this will translate to actual school lunches in elementary school, a sample lunch “could be whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce and a whole wheat roll, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, kiwi, low-fat milk, low-fat ranch dip and soft margarine.  That lunch would replace a meal of a hot dog on a bun with ketchup, canned pears, raw celery and carrots with ranch dressing, and low-fat chocolate milk,” according to Reuters.

I was reading comments attached to the articles reporting this story last night and I was shocked to find a number of parents writing in sarcastic messages of “good luck” in getting their children to eat more vegetables and fruit in school.  It made me sad to read these comments.  As I observe any parenting choice, I know I should keep my opinions to myself.  It’s always easier to judge another person’s situation when it’s not my own.  In this case, however, I have to believe we can do better.  Although no school lunch effort is perfect, I hope that these small changes help us all take our children’s nutrition more seriously.  

http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE80O2K020120125?irpc=932 and http://www.foodpolitics.com/2012/01/cheers-for-usdas-new-nutrition-standards/

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Do You Really Need To Eat Organic?

You can find just about as many opinions on this as you can organic products in the market.  From food to mattresses, you can find the organic version of almost anything these days, but usually at a significant premium.  The main reason that organic products are so much more expensive than non-organic products is because they require much more manual labor.  In a conventional farm, pesticides are sprayed by machine, whereas in an organic farm, the crops are weeded and trimmed by hand.  Price aside, is it truly necessary to eat organic in order to be healthy?   Experts have varying opinions, some will argue that it’s most important to eat fruits and vegetables that are organic, others claim that it’s most important to eat organic meats, and some say everything should be organic including the clothes we wear.   After reading all the research I could get my hands on, I have chosen to buy organic fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat, and while that increases our grocery bill, I feel better knowing that I am reducing the number of pesticides and toxins we ingest.  I personally don’t feel that there is enough of a significant difference between organic and non-organic processed foods to warrant the price premium.

In order to help you decide, the Environmental Working Group used data from the FDA and USDA to compile a list of the “Dirty Dozen”, ie. vegetables and fruits who tested positive for a variety of chemicals when grown conventionally (as many 4-5 dozen pesticides AFTER the food was washed, YIKES!!!).  They also compiled a list of the “Clean 15”, ie. fruits and vegetables that had little or no trace of pesticides when grown conventionally.

Dirty Dozen:

  • celery
  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • apples
  • domestic blueberries
  • nectarines
  • sweet bell peppers
  • spinach, kale and collard greens
  • cherries
  • potatoes
  • imported grapes
  • lettuce

Clean Fifteen:

  • onions
  • avocados
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • mango
  • sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • kiwi fruit
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • sweet potatoes
  • sweet onions

This shoppers guide also provides guidance on a wider variety of foods and the pesticides that they may carry http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/.  Here are some other resources to help you decide:

http://www.nwitimes.com/niche/get-healthy/nutrition/does-eating-right-mean-eating-organic/article_77de76a7-a234-537b-ba1b-407ce0607044.html

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organic-food/NU00255

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/19/why-organic-_n_837794.html#s255280&title=Beef_

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“What were we thinking?!” (A business update)

“If you need me, I’ll be under my bed.”   This is exactly what I said to my husband after I got off the phone with our food scientist (Derek) at 10p, Wednesday of last week.  The words IN OVER YOUR HEAD kept flashing across my mind like a neon sign from the 80’s.  Ugh.

After two very productive rounds of samples, our granola bar bites are honing in on greatness.  The flavors!  The texture!  The nutritional content!  We are really pleased with the progress in such a short time of actual baking.

Unfortunately, my food scientist chat didn’t end with notes on the product.  Derek is also our partner in helping get us off the ground as a new business.  He is the link in helping us find the other partners we need to make this whole operation work.  And oh, by the way…these next couple partnerships won’t come easy.

First, we need a co-packer.  That is the all-important partner who makes, packages, and help distribute the product.  We’ve called, searched, and scoured every option from here to Seattle.  The trouble is not finding someone good.  It’s finding someone good who can help a new, tiny company like MySuperFoods.  Most co-packers require HUGE minimums.  We’re talking, “honey, we need to take out a second mortgage” minimums.  In the absense of a viable co-packer, we will need to rent out a commercial kitchen and spend several days baking ourselves.  While that doesn’t sound too bad (it would be great to have that kind of oversight and quality assurance) it’s easier said than done.  After all, we aren’t 23 anymore.  Many of these kitchens are only available when they aren’t in use (ie: 2am).  I struggle to find a scenario where I can pull an all nighter, up to my elbows in granola bar bites and pull myself together for the 2-year-old twin adventure that will follow the next day.  At least for any length of time.

The second piece that is equally challenging is the packaging.  What size, what form, how many?  The possibilities are endless and before we commit to anything, we need to make sure our co-packer can fill it easily.  Or, more precisely, cheaply.  The costs and complexities of this add up fast.  The big challenges here are sticking with our innovaative ideas that resonate with the mom’s we’ve surveyed as well as what our bank book can withstand.

Too bad we need to find solutions to both of these issues at the same time.  One won’t work without the other.

Let’s just say we’ve had more than a couple “what were we thinking” moments this week.  Good thing there has been no shortage of those since we shook hands on this idea last summer.  We try to remember, if this were easy everyone would do it.

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A Good Source Of That, An Excellent Source Of This: What Does It All Mean?


Most of us find nutritional labels and claims confusing and difficult to decipher, surveys actually show that people find them unhelpful.  Over the past few years more and more companies are making a slurry of claims on their packages, some which matter and other that may be irrelevant and almost misleading, but ultimately it’s important to know what it all means in order to make the right decisions on what to buy.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version:

Types of Claims

1. Nutrient Content Claims:  These are the claims that state whether a a product is a good or excellent source of something, or whether it’s a “light” version.  A “good” source of a nutrient is one that has between 10-19% of the daily recommended value of a (DV) nutrient and an “excellent” or “high” source is one that provides at least 20% of the DV.  For example, the FDA recommends 25 grams of fiber per day for adults, so any product with 2.5 grams can claim to be a good source, but that hardly means that you have come close to meeting your daily requirement.  A good source is better than zero, but keep in mind that it can be as little as 10% of your DV.

A reference to “light” means it must have fewer calories or less fat than a representative product and the company must explain by how much, for example, “this light pizza has 1/3 fewer calories than our regular pizza”.   If the regular pizza has 750 calories, this “light” version still contains 525 calories, not exactly a light snack or meal.  It also doesn’t explain the fat content, which may still be very high.

2. Health Claims:  These are claims that state that the presence of a certain nutrient in the product can reduce the risk of a disease, like the claim on some oatmeal packages that the fiber may reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.  These claims must be approved by the FDA and require a high level of scientific evidence.  However, some companies take it too far.  Cheerios made a claim that it could lower cholesterol by 4% in 4-6 weeks and the regulators asked them to remove it. Dannon was also asked to remove its claims from Activia and DanActive which implied their products could ensure “regularity” and a “stronger immune system”.  While some of these claims may be true, others are far fetched, so if seems too good to be true, it probably is.

3. Qualified Health Claims: These claims have less supporting evidence than Health Claims and must state so, for example, “supportive, but not conclusive research shows….”  These claims have limited supportive evidence, so take them with an even larger grain of salt.

4. Misleading Claims:  These claims are factual, though can be misleading, such as a product claiming to have 0 trans fat, but being loaded with saturated fat, or a product claiming to be made with “whole wheat” yet has little to no fiber.

So how can you navigate these murky waters and make the best choices, here are a few tips:

  • Don’t take any claims at face value, read the ingredients and the nutrition label.
  • Be aware of how many servings are in the package.  This is a common mistake with beverages, where a 16oz bottle has 2-2.5 servings, more than doubling the calories and sugar listed on the label.
  • Ingredients are listed in order of prevalence in the product with the first 2-3 ingredients being most important, so pay the most attention to those.  If you pick up a loaf of whole wheat bread and the “whole wheat” is the third or fourth ingredient after enriched wheat flour, it’s probably not the best whole wheat bread.  Similarly, if high fructose corn syrup or brown rice syrup is the first ingredient, there may be better options.
  • Same is true for whole grain products, if it claims to have whole grains, then you should see whole oats, brown rice, or any whole grain as one of the first two ingredients.
  • Pay close attentions to the claim “made with real fruit”, which can mean the product contains only fruit juice concentrate, yet have lovely pictures of fruit all over the package.  This is particularly true in products marketed at children.
  • The words “natural” or “organic” don’t necessarily mean healthy.  Natural simply means all of the ingredients are derived from a natural source, for example, high fructose corn syrup is considered all natural because it is derived from corn, yet it is not a healthy ingredient.  Same is true for “organic”, which can be filled with sugar and fat, yet be made with organic ingredients.  The term “natural” is loosely regulated by the FDA, “organic” requires approval.
  • Pay attention to the nutrient panels and the percentages, particularly calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar.  Most of those have a Daily Value % next to it in order to give you an idea of how much you are consuming (based on a 2000 calorie diet), but sugar does not.  When it comes to sugar, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: 1. one teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams, so if you are eating a granola bar with 20 grams of sugar, that is 5 teaspoons of sugar (some may be naturally occurring, such as from raisins, some may be added), 2. compare the grams of sugar to the weight of the product, ie. if that same granola bar weighs 40 grams (always labelled on the bottom right of a package), then HALF of the bar is sugar.
Hope this helps you decipher the not so transparent world of food labels.

sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nutrition-labels/MY01340

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/FoodLabelingNutrition/FoodLabelingGuide/ucm064928.htm

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/six-meaningless-claims-on-food-labels/

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How Much Food Do You Waste?

Ok, I admit it.  I waste food.  A half empty box of stale (fillintheblank), a forgotten tupperware of uneaten leftovers, the occassional moldy or shrivled piece of produce.  I like to think it’s not as much as the worst offenders, but if I’m wasting anything I can hardly point the finger with confidence.

Whole Foods blogger, Anna Madrona hit close to home with “Budget Booster: Trim Your Food Waste.”  Aside from the monetary implications (which resonate with all of us these days!) It hit home for me because although I like to think I’m making a lot of smart food choices for myself and my family I tend to ease up on my choices once the meal is served.  I also tend to fall back on the old, “living in a NYC apartment doesn’t really allow for much gardening.  ha….ha….”  Although it’s true, there are still ways to make smarter choices about avoiding food waste.  In the city that never sleeps, the last thing we want keeping us up at night is too much garbage.  Trust me, we already have more than enough.  But no matter where you live, there are changes to be made.  Especially since Madrona reports that we waste upwards of 40% of our food, which requires “300 million barrels of oil” to cart away!  Ouch.

To do my part, I’m going to work harder to buy bulk (even if that means storing quinoa under my bed) and get smarter about ordering out.  That probably goes hand in hand with eating my leftovers.  A two-for-one.  How efficient!

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. – New England Proverb

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4 Easy Ways To Get More Omega-3’s

We know they are critical for a child’s development, but are children getting enough Omega-3’s?  If your kids eat plenty of fish and nuts, then I wouldn’t worry, but in case they are not jumping for joy when you say “salmon for dinner”, try these tips to ensure they are getting plenty of this healthy fat.

1. Flax or Chia Seed – sprinkle it anytime you can, on oatmeal, cereals, smoothies, in the batter of baked goods, on ice cream, wherever, whenever. Just one teaspoon of flax seed has 570 mg and one teaspoon of chia seed has over 800 mg!

2. Use Walnut or Almond Butter – trade in the peanut butter for these tasty and nutritious nuts, while they can be more expensive, there are easy ways to make them at home (here’s a walnut butter recipe).  Though most nuts have Omega-3’s, the Harvard Family Medical Guide lists walnuts as the “stand out” nut for having the only type of Omega 3 that you can find in a plan based food.

3. New ways to eat Salmon – Salmon doesn’t just have to be served at dinner, you can place a filet in your toaster oven, drizzle olive oil, sprinkle salt and bake at 350 for 12 minutes.  Once done, flake it, remove bones and use it in an omelet or scrambled eggs, or mix it with plain yogurt and mayo and use in sandwiches like you would tuna.

4. Serve Edamame as an appetizer or snack – Edamame has about 500mg of Omega-3’s per cup, and is offered in the freezer section, just boil for 2-3 minutes, sprinkle a little salt and voila!

PowerUp, Naturally!

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