Posts Tagged ‘Health’

ID-100101588Here is a list of some interesting and no-so-popular ingredients you may want incorporate into your menu:

  • Scorpion Chile – Sorry Ghost chile, there is a new, (not really that new) king of fire in town. This is a variety in the capsicum chinense family that on average, has a SHU measurement of 1.2 million.  That is face melting heat, and the current world record is held by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion burning at over 2 million SHU’s.  New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute regulates the testing and authentication of these chiles.  These chiles also have a a sweet, fruity flavor profile which you may forget after your tongue falls off.
  • Wiri Wiri Chile – Averaging at around 70,000 SHU’s, this chile still packs a punch but add a delightful fresh, bright flavor when used.  Works great when blended into a hot sauce sweetened with fruit.
  • Yellow Eye Steuben Bean – This bean has a mild flavor and a beautiful mustard colored spot on a off white background.  The hold up exceptionally well when cooked and make an excellent carrier for strong flavors.  They are actually related to the kidney bean.
  • Chinese Black Rice – This is a medium grain glutinous rice perfect for all kinds of interesting recipes.  It is relatively sweet and slightly sticky, but will impart its deep indigo color to anything you cook with it.  Stop using a boring all purpose white rice already!
  • Grano – This is an ancient whole kernel pearled wheat berry from Italy. It has a texture between al dente pasta and brown rice, but with a vibrant golden hue.  Grano is made from durum wheat, the same used to make most upscale pasta. This grain holds up great after cooking, so use in soups, salads, and pilaf dishes, and can be ground then used like a hot cereal.  (I used it to make this salad.)
  • Kaniwa – A close relative to quinoa and also a member of the goosefoot family.  It is used just like quinoa in many applications and has all of the same nutritional benefits, Kaniwa has the added bonus of not containing saponins, which sometimes causes quinoa to be bitter.
  • Fregola Sarda – This is a toasted form of couscous and comes in a variety of sizes.  It has a rough texture which help sauce cling to it, and the toasted gives it a beautiful browned color and and firm bite.
  • Sumac – The North America variety is poisonous, however varieties grown in the Middle East impart a sour flavor the same way you might use lemon or lime juice.  It also has a dark red color which makes for a fantastic presentation.
  • Black Garlic – Originally made by letting garlic cloves ferment over vats of soy sauce, black garlic imparts a deep molasses-like profile with tangy garlic undertones.  The texture becomes soft and gooey similar to dried fruit.  It does not leave you with the pungent fresh garlic flavor or odor you may be used to.
  • Long Pepper – This was the first pepper variety brought to the West.  It has a more intense flavor compared to traditional peppercorns, as well as sweet undertones.  It can also be ground just like it’s black or white peppercorn brethren.
  • Fleur De Sel – Most chefs and foodies will know this is the purest, most pricy sea salt available.  Produced in France, it has a bright white color, a wet, grainy texture, and is best used to finish a dish, as well as up-charge your guests.
  • Hemp Hearts – Considered a ‘super-food’ due to their nutritional value, they are the soft, creamy nut inside the hemp shell.  Very high in plant protein, vitamin E, and omega-6 fatty acid, they make a great alternative to those with nut allergies.

What are some of your not-so-familiar food ingredients???

ID-100142619The American diet as it relates to calories has actually changed very little over the past 80 years.  There has been a switch from a high carbohydrate and animal fat diet in the past, to a high vegetable fat based, higher protein diet in more recent years.  We also have the addition of increased fiber, understanding of healthy fats, as well as an increase in raw vegetable and fruit consumption.  This shift, specifically over the last 40 years, does not proportionally match the increase in the obesity problem. So what is the cause?

Due to the breakthroughs in technology, the average calorie expenditure of individuals has DRASTICALLY decreased, especially starting in the 80’s.  A reduction in jobs requiring manual labor, new modes of transportation, and a huge increase in the tech. industry has wiped out the need for the population to get their hands dirty, focusing more on computer skills and less on physical activity, as well as the use of things like the internet, TV, and video games.  (For the record, I love the internet, TV, and video games.) This basically means that the diets of the average person has remained relatively unchanged (with a slow and steady caloric increase,) while our way of life has drastically reduced general physical activity.  In the 60’s over half of the private jobs required some kind of manual labor, but now it is less than 16%.

Although red meat still reigns supreme in the US diet over the past years, chicken consumption increased drastically since the 1970’s as did the average fruit and vegetable daily intake.  Although the vegetable and salad oil use has increased a good amount over this same time period, most likely due to the availability of fried foods and snacks, the use of butter and margarine spreads at meal times has decreased along with a huge swing from whole milk to lower fat varieties.  There has been an obvious increase in carbohydrate consumption over the years due to things like HFCS as well, but as stated before, this does not proportionately reflect the skyrocketing obesity rates. Also, the diets of previous years had a larger portion of calories coming from carb. sources like breads, pasta, white rice and potatoes.

Americans have drastically increased in eating out as opposed to cooking at home, but the options available at restaurants have shifted to healthier options, even if a good portion of consumers still do not choose them.  The American consumer also forged the path to larger portion size.  They demanded greater value and their purchasing habits reflected this, however the actually content of the food has remain steady of the years, which supports the fact that the food industry should not be directly to blame for this obesity epidemic, but the US lifestyle should.  Just like any industry, it reacts to the purchasing habits of its consumers, and the food industry is no exception. That being said, the food industry could defiantly do a better job in promoting low calorie, fresher foods.

I just want to leave you with one more interesting fact…the average person is now 33 pounds heavier then they were in the 60’s and also burn almost 200 less calories a day, which can account for almost 60% of those extra pounds.  Add just a bit more of physical activity, we can start shedding the weight.

 

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This post will not involve lining your pockets with bricks or chugging water right before your initial weigh-in.  If you are planning on doing a weight-loss challenge at work, school, gym, or just for yourself, why not try and do it right.  I will also not be talking about tricks for your final weigh-in to nudge past your competition.  That being said, here are a few points to have a successful and healthy weight-loss competition:

  • Have fun and be a team – Even though you want to destroy Sally in HR or make Steve in Accounting cry, you will not be successful unless you and your fellow participants are working together to achieve the goal for the greater good.  Some appropriate, motivating smack talk and competitive strategy is great, but if there are people lagging behind in the contest, motivating them will be beneficial for them AND for you.  Leading a weight-loss charge makes a fun and exciting challenge right through the final weigh-in and beyond.
  • Plan ahead – Do you have a big lunch meeting scheduled and feel obligated to eat? Plan ahead by reviewing the menus online to find an appropriate meal that fits within your diet restrictions.  Will you not have time to run out for lunch tomorrow?  Make sure you have a supply of healthy and readily available foods at home to bring for lunch or if you are traveling.
  • Read your food label or menu – Nutritional callouts like ‘low-fat’, ‘low-carb’, or ‘cholesterol-free’ don’t necessarily mean LOW-CALORIE.  Make sure you are eating the appropriate type of foods for whatever your dietary goals might be.  Do a little research into the ingredients used to make your choices.  Understand what a real portion size is as it relates to the ‘per serving’ ingredient and nutritional labeling.  Some choices may be better than others in some circumstances, however it might not be appropriate for YOUR diet.   For instance, olive oil has more health benefits compared to butter, however both are fats which contain about 9cal/gram, meaning they both have the same amount of calories, and if you are on a calorie restrictive diet, supplementation is not as good as reduction.
  • Keep Eating – Metabolism is a tricky thing, however if you don’t eat enough calories, your body will shut down and you will not lose any weight.  Take a look at my previous post on metabolism to understand how  it works.
  • You have time to work out – Anyone who says they have no time to workout is lying.  In the morning before work, at lunch, right after work, while traveling, with your family or co-workers are all possible as long as you plan accordingly.  When you have limited time, a quick, high intensity workout is going to separate the losers from the real-losers.
  • Weight-loss diet is temporary, weight-maintain diet is permanent – There is nothing worse than losing a whole bunch of weight, only to put it back on after the competition.  You have to remember that once you reach your weight-loss goals, your diet needs to evolve into a weight-maintain diet.  Read my previous post about the weight-maintain diet and make sure you adjust accordingly so you don’t bounce back.
  • Write it down – Keeping track of your food and beverage consumption can really put into perspective what your calorie and nutrient intake is like.  Writing down meal plans, exercise schedule, or list of appropriate foods for your diet allows you to stay on track without losing focus on your goals.
What are some of your tips for a successful weigh-loss challenge???

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For those who are just starting out on their diet adventure, unlike what most personal trainers and nutritionist say , your restrictive diet and exercise plan is only temporary! Too often, people do not adjust their plans after achieving their goals.  After you have shed those unwanted pounds or even start to see the outlines of what almost could be a six-pack, you have to adjust your eating habits and exercise schedule for your next goal.

I recommend that starting out (assuming you are in the weight/fat loss stage,) you consume a low fat/lower calorie volumetric diet as well as an exercise plan based around using your fat stores as energy.  You will want to eat a lot of low calorie but nutritionally dense foods to keep you full and energized (chicken, lean fish, vegetables, whole grains…) along with more frequent, smaller meals.  You will want an exercise regiment consisting of 30 to 45 minute activities followed by a small intake of calories.  If you like to spend a lot of time at the gym, make sure you are still consuming calories every 30 to 45 minutes which will keep your body using some of your stored fat along with the protein/carbs you are consuming (see my previous metabolism post.)

The wonderful part about this plan is when you do finally hit your target goal…lets say you lose the 30 pounds of fat you didn’t want, you can now switch your diet to more of a weight maintain version of your previous plan.  Along with adding back some of the fat you removed, you can now be a bit more lenient overall and increase some of your portion sizes.  At this point you will also be increasing the difficultly of your workout (same routine but faster paced or increased weight and reps).  This ALSO means that you will have more muscle mass, and will be burning more calories, which ALSO means you can eat more calories throughout the day and still maintain your current weight!

This applies to both men and women.  Women do not have to be bulky to increase there muscle mass and benefit from this type of diet plan.  I feel that this system overall help with those fluctuating dieters who try to stick to a super intensive plan only to fall off the wagon and have to start over again.  This plan rewards you by allowing you to eat more food as time goes on.  It also stresses more of the exercise portion to be the buffer when you feel like a sunday afternoon BBQ feast.

Do you have any tips or trick for anyone looking to follow this type of diet/exercise plan?

ID-100170122I feel that the most important thing people should learn in the modern world is fact finding.  Due to technological advances, most humans (especially in the US) are trampled with information.  This could be advertisements, interviews, reviews, news articles, magazines, social networking, blogs plus everything else you can think of.  The problem is that with this increased stimulation of information, there is also an even greater amount of bad information.  Word of mouth accounts, false reports, endorsements, negative feedback, consumer reviews, viral trends, and outright opinionated information that is spun to sound ‘factual.’

As this relates to food and consumer packaged goods, most people do not have a real grasp of what they are eating. Words like low-fat, low-sodium, cholesterol free, trans fats, GMO’s, preservatives, gums, strange long words on the ingredient statement…your opinion of these things may be negative, but how much of your opinionated conclusion is based on fact? How much is based on what some non-expert told you, or what you read in the news, or from an advertisement paid for by the company trying to sell it to you, or a pro/anti group with their own opinion bias?

I am not here to show support, or to give my negative opinion on these topics, but I will say my opinions of things in the food industry are based on facts.  In some cases, I do not have factual information, but I will NOT supply a stream of negative information because I assume something is bad.  I will stir up the pot with one example, and would love to hear your thoughts on fact finding in the food industry:

There is not enough 3rd party, extended testing done on GMO foods to conclude if it is harmful to the masses.  Everyone has their opinion, and yes, some companies that handle to production of GMO products may not be using appropriate methods to make money, but both sides of the good/bad for you argument do not contain enough information for a valid conclusion.

Thoughts???

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I like to eat, and I like to be full!

This weight reducing diet is what helped me lose a good portion of the weight I have dropped over the last few years.  This diet is not for everyone, and has some conflicting theories to traditional diet plans.  I personally feel that this weight loss diet is a good way to learn about caloric density of food, to train yourself to eat more meals throughout the day, and is the perfect supplement for those of us who can eat like it’s our job. (For some of us..it is our job)

Basically, this diet plan involves being able to eat larger volumes of food, as long as the food has very low caloric density.  To put this into perspective, place a 100 calorie slice of pizza next to 100 calories worth of celery, and you will see the difference.  Again, in my opinion, I like the idea of eating food until I am full, not eating a specific amount of calories per meal.  However, you will have to do work upfront to understand which foods will fit into a low caloric density category:

  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Lean meats and seafood
  • Broth based soups and sauces
  • Fruits with high water content

High caloric density foods would be items like:

  • Fats, oils, butters
  • Nuts
  • Candy and soda
  • White flour or high starch based foods

This diet also promotes relatively high fiber content which can slow down how fast your body absorbs calories.  Brown rice, whole grains, and certain fruits will allow you to stay full longer, which makes timing your meals much easier.  Any doctor or nutritionist will tell you that a diet lower in fat and calories with an increase of lean protein, vegetables, fruit, and whole grain is a winning combination.

There are of course a few tidbits of info I am going to bring up which have helped me along the way that everyone might not agree with.

  • First of all, SALT CONTAINS NO CALORIES! You can argue all day long, but salt itself has negligible caloric density, and since you will be eating a low fat diet (fat being flavor) I recommend using salt to compensate for this. Yes, salt with increase your water weight, but that is not FAT and can be flushed out with physical activity. There are of course other health concerns involving a high sodium diet, but physical activity can counter act those negative effects.
  • Which brings up my second point, physical activity. Starting out, you wont be running marathons, but as time goes on you should be increasing your physical activity as you become more ‘fit’. At the same time, you can start to slowly transition from very low caloric density foods and incorporate other items like nuts, healthy fats, and caloric dense fruits. Once you build up your ability to burn calories, you can start being a little more lenient on your diet.
  • Fat is fat is fat.  Yes I know that olive oil is more ‘healthy’ than butter HOWEVER when speaking about caloric density, they are the same. Fat contains 9 calories per gram if it’s olive oil, corn oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, butter or margarin. Starting out, you will want to limit your overall fat intake. Once you increase your physical activity, you can then start incorporating these healthy fats back into your diet, as well as reducing some salt intake since fat is the greatest thing to happen to food since bacon.
  • This diet is not designed for you to drop 10 pounds in a day. You need to stick this out and try to lose 2 or so pounds a week. This is much easier to do while also being full.  This is also not the type of diet to weigh yourself every day. The good part is you get to eat a large volume of food…the not so good part is your weigh will fluctuate more day by day.
  • This diet is made to fight boredom. Many people eat for comfort, boredom, or out of habit. If thats the case, grabbing those low caloric density foods is perfect compared to grabbing that bag of chips. Loading your fridge with fresh veggies and low-calorie dressing (SALT SALT SALT) make them a convenience food as well!

There are some fundamentals of the Atkins diet that can apply here as well, but I do not believe in a carbohydrate free diet.  The nature of humans is to use fat AND carbs as energy, but choosing the right carbohydrates at the right time is key.

If you like being full, enjoy finishing your plate, not necessarily following a calorie counting diet, or are a boredom eater, this might be the diet plan for you!

Please feel free to comment with questions other useful information!

  • Skinny – You get to wear smaller sized cloths and look good
  • Fit – You get to wear tighter fitting cloths and look sexy

 

  • Skinny – Success is measured in pounds
  • Fit – Success is measured in inches, and how many pounds you can move

 

  • Skinny – You save money on food because you don’t eat much
  • Fit – You get to eat a LOT of food, and work it off if needed

 

  • Skinny – It is easier for your significant other to pick you up
  • Fit – It is easier to pick up your significant other

 

  • Skinny – Perfect…if you like doing nothing
  • Fit – You can run up stairs, pick up heavy stuff, and not struggle when trying to stand up

 

  • Skinny – You are breakable
  • Fit – You break stuff

 

  • Skinny – Things still jiggle
  • Fit – Rock solid

 

  • Skinny – Results from doing nothing
  • Fit – Results from doing things other people can’t

 

Please add some more if you have any!

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“When I was your age, we used to go outside and play!”  We have all heard this line before and it basically proves my point about why the food and beverage industry should not be at fault for the obesity problem.

Quick history lesson…potato chips were first massed produced and the first fast food restaurants were introduced in the 1920’s, 7up and Hostess Brands like Wonder sliced white bread were invented in the 30’s and  soda fountains, ice cream parlors, candy stores, and television were all rising in popularity, TV dinners and frozen pizza were introduced in the 50’s; THEN the current obesity problem didn’t start creeping in until the mid 80’s and 90’s.  So for all those years and many generations, the US consumer enjoyed prepared and manufactured foods, all was good with the world.

But now, the food and beverage community is being blacklisted for providing what is now considered unhealthy foods and the cause of the current health and obesity problem.  Does anyone else see a problem with this?  We have at least 60 years when the American consumer utilized prepared and manufactured foods in there diet without an obesity outbreak.  So what else could be the cause?

The wonderful and historical modern technology I am using to communicate this message to you is the cause in my opinion! We are texting, tweeting, facebooking, searching the internet, using smart phones, gaming, staying indoors, working at our computers, and letting technology do everything for us.  People are no longer encouraged to work outside, have jobs that involve manual labor, walk instead of drive, or exercise.

That being said, I love video-games as much the next person, and TV, movies, and the internet are utilized more than they should at my house, but I balance this with physical activity.  Everyone loves to pull information from movies like ‘Super-size Me” or discuss what is being served at schools, but have we discuss the activity level of your average person between the 30’s, the 60’s, the 90’s and now?  I have a feeling you will see a DRAMATIC drop in calorie expenditures while the calorie intake level will have a much slower, steady increase.

20% of an elite Kenyan runner’s diet consist of plain old SUGAR, an average professional athlete is consuming 3000 – 4000 calories a day, and olympic level athletes have been quoted as eating what you might call ‘junk food’ to achieve the 6000 calories needed for top performance.  Michael Phelps can sustain on a 10,000 calorie a day diet which includes: eggs, french toast, pancakes, pizza, and energy drinks, but he has the physical activity to back it up, which proves my point that it’s not what you eat, but how to use it.

Am I the only one who feels activity level is the cause of our obesity problem, and not the food?

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Here is a quick explanation on how metabolism works in regards to your diet.  Yes, many factors affect your overall metabolism (age, sex, muscle, physical activity), but this analogy will discuss why smaller meals more frequent is the way to go for successful weight loss.

  • YOU ARE A MACHINE – You are a car.  You run on fuel, and get a certain amount of miles per gallon (this is your metabolism).  Some gas is better than others, however for this explanation,  we are converting gas into general calories.  So to sum it up, the amount of miles you travel compared to how much gas you have in the car will represent how well your metabolism is working.
  • RAN OUT OF GAS – Let say you have no gas in your car.  Your car will, of course, not move.  It is a fact that when you consume little to no calories, your metabolism is inactive.  Your body will stop utilizing gas (calories) as its energy, and start breaking down the internal car parts to move.  I don’t think I have to tell you that this is bad.  Many people who are on a very calorie restrictive diet who also work out a lot will find it hard to lose weight because your body is trying to hold on to as much as it can to function normally, while using what it does’t think is important as energy. YOUR CAR WON’T MOVE WITHOUT GAS.
  • TO MUCH GAS – Your car has a gas tank that can expand and can hold WAY more gas than it needs.  You can fill it up as much as you want, and your car will work VERY hard, but your car will move SLOWLY.  All of that gas is weighing your car down and decreasing your miles per gallon.  You are producing excess exhaust and making your engine parts dirty.  Overfilling your gas tank will cause some gas to spill out and unfortunately, your car absorbs this excess weight as ‘hard to use gas’ aka…fatty fat fat.  YOU DON’T NEED ALL THAT GAS.
  • JUST RIGHT – When you fill up your gas tank just enough to get to your next destination, you win.  You have found that happy medium of the right amount of gas for the right amount of miles. When you are traveling, and you are running out of gas in this mode, you will coast to the next gas station to refuel (coasting is my way of saying fat/weight loss).  You are getting the best miles per gallon because you are not being weighed down, and you have gas to move.  Your parts are running very efficiently and your system know how to handle the waste.  For longer road trips, you can add more gas to the tank, but just enough to handle the extended distance. JUST ENOUGH GAS IS GOOD.

As stated earlier, this is in regards to your diet.  If you have a high tech car with super premium gas, you will have better performance.  Certain model cars just work better than other.  Upgrading your car parts will increase its ability to run.  Now how hard is that to understand???

Eat smaller meals more often Speed-Racer!

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I am a rare breed of culinary professional.  I started my career, like most chefs, working in kitchens. I have worked in fine-dining, country clubs, banquet, and many other facets of the industry, and went to one of the top culinary schools in the nation.  What makes me different is half way through my career, I made the decision to be an R&D chef.  You know…the ones that create consumables for corporate chain restaurants, supermarkets, schools, hospitals, and the military; the ones who blend their knowledge of the culinary arts with food science, manufacturing, sourcing, and consumer science; the ones who research recipes, ingredients, trends, and you (the consumer).  It seems that lately, the food industry has been targeted due to the health and wellness of the products it develops and offers to the general public…but I am here to defend the food industry, and purpose an alternate way for the consumers in the USA to get healthy, natural foods.  BUY THEM!

It is unfortunate that the real demand for healthy, natural food items, usually stem from consumers that already have a healthy diet.  They may have loud voices, but this message does not translate into increased sales of ‘healthy’ food choices.  Most of your top restaurant chains and supermarkets already have great choices in the health and wellness arena, (low sodium, low fat, low calorie, increased fiber, increased nutrients, etc…) but consumers find excuses not to buy them.  Healthy food items are no more expensive than ‘junkfood’, are equally available,   and can be just as convenient as traditional prepared foods.  I have personally developed numerous ‘healthy’ food options that taste great, are affordable, and are easily recognizable, but you don’t buy them.

Although it is fun to play the blame game on the food processing community, it all boils down to consumer preference.  Lets say as soon as I can eat solid food, I am on a steady diet of ‘fastfood’.  Once I get to a place where I need to choose my meals, lets say a school cafeteria, am I going to pick the fresh organic salad or the ‘junkfood’ I am familiar with?  In my opinion, as opposed to taxing ‘junkfood’, removing unhealthy food items from restaurants, a blaming the food industry for being fat, maybe we should teach ourselves to eat healthy from the start.  There are a large number of consumers who utilize convenience foods in their daily lives, and are still considered healthy (me being one of them).  Lets also remember that this does not take into account physical activity, portion size, and a balanced diet.  Is the food we eat unhealthy, or is it our lifestyle?

What are some of your ideas to fight the health problems in America?

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