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    Archive for the ‘brown rice’ Category

    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Cocoa-Tahini Brown Rice Crispy Squares

    Rice Krispies treats originated as a homemade snack in the 1920s. As a testament to their popularity, they are also available in prepackaged form.  Of course, that means means they come bundled with partially hydrogenated oils, petroleum-derived artificial flavor, sketchy preservatives like BHT, and the usual genetically modified suspects (high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, etc.).  No, thank you.

    Vegans are out of luck, too; traditional recipes for Rice Krispies treats contain butter and marshmallows (made from gelatin). Homemade versions can be made with vegan marshmallows, which are nevertheless empty calories that usually contain likely GMO ingredients, like soy and corn byproducts.

    This no-bake recipe — my adaptation of an original one found in the excellent cookbook Vegan Bites by Beverly Lynn Bennett — saves the day. It offers whole grains, healthful fats from whole foods, not too much sweetness, and is a snap to make.

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    You Ask, I Answer: What Makes Brown Rice Healthier?

    b6-brown-rice-lgWhy is brown rice considered so much better than white rice?

    The food labels for each one aren’t all that different.  Brown rice just has a little more fiber.

    So, what’s the big deal?

    — Jessica Bracanti
    (City withheld), CT

    As helpful as food labels can be in guiding our food choices, they barely tell the true tale of a food’s whole nutritional profile.

    You are right — strictly from a food label standpoint, brown rice doesn’t seem to have many advantages over white rice.  It’s what you don’t see on the food label that makes all the difference!

    Brown rice contains significantly higher levels of phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, selenium, and vitamin E.

    If there were no enrichment laws (those which require that nutrients lost in processing be added back to refined grains like white rice), brown rice would also contain higher levels of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, iron, and vitamin B6 than its white counterpart.

    Remember, though, that vitamins and minerals are only part of  a food’s nutritional profile.

    Since brown rice is a whole grain, it offers you its bran and germ components — and all their health-promoting phytonutrients and antioxidants..

    Some preliminary research indicates that specific components in rice bran oil lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.  Add to that to brown rice’s soluble fibers (which are also implicated in decreasing LDL cholesterol) and you have a heart-healthy one-two punch.

    These are the same fibers, by the way, that help achieve a longer feeling of fullness more quickly.

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    Two Healthy and Tasty Pantry Must-Haves!

    748404287930Considering the nutritional horrors that are often consumed due to time constraints, I am always eager to share products I personally come across — and try out for myself — that make it possible to whip up tasty and healthy food in minutes.

    First up– Seeds of Change’s microwaveable rice pouches.

    Four of the six varieties are 100% whole grain:

    It gets better.  All varieties are already seasoned with organic spices and a variety of organic vegetables (not vegetable powders — REAL vegetables!).

    While many boxed and seasoned grain products contain ridiculous amounts of sodium (as much as 600 or 700 milligrams per serving), Seeds of Change gets brownie points for offering, at most, 380 milligrams per serving (the average sodium content of these four products is an outstanding 268 milligrams per serving).

    Each of these pouches also offers, on average, 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein.

    Next up — Tasty Bite’s Simmer Sauces.

    Need to quickly and effortlessly dress up beef, chicken, seafood, tofu, tempeh, seitan, or some stir-fried vegetables?  Look no further.

    These sauces use real food — as opposed to flavored chemicals — and a variety of spices to liven up your dish of choice.

    Consequently, each serving contains no more than a practically non-existent 45 milligrams of sodium (Two-thumbs-up-FYI: a serving is half the pouch, not a quarter of a teaspoon!).

    Even varieties like the pad-thai simmer sauce, which packs in several teaspoons of sugar, are fine if you are using half a pouch for a meal that serves three or four people.

    Go ahead and add these to your “I want something healthy and delicious… and I want it NOW” shelf.

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    Five Must-Have Foods

    The latest video on the Small Bites YouTube Channel singles out five must-have foods.

    Having these in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer will make healthy eating simple, quick, and convenient.

    This is not an end-all-be-all “five healthiest foods on the planet” or “five superfoods that reverse aging” list, but rather just one of many practical ways in which nutrition can have a place in your kitchen.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    Forty percent of adults in the United States consume a grand total of ZERO whole grain servings every day.

    Not the most encouraging of statistics.

    Although whole grains are increasingly more available, I suspect this has to do with a lack of education and knowledge.

    Many people, for instance, think multigrain bread is a whole grain. It’s not.

    Additionally, the overwhelming majority of new whole grain products come in the shape of sugary cookies or cereals “made with whole grains,” which can mean that as little as 5% of the total wheat flour used is whole.

    Not the best approach.

    If your whole grain consumption isn’t up to par, here are some ideas.

    — Whether at home or at a restaurant, opt for brown rice. Kitchen-phobes have no excuse. Many companies now offer brown rice that cooks in 10 minutes in the microwave. Nutritionally, it is equal to regular, longer-cooking varieties.

    — Enjoy whole wheat pasta, like DeCecco whole wheat fusilli (pictured at right). If you are brand new to it, make your dishes with half regular pasta and half whole wheat.

    — Eat whole grain bread (at least 3 grams of fiber per slice and ‘whole wheat flour’ as the first ingredient).

    — Experiment with alternative grains like quinoa and whole wheat couscous (they cook the exact same way as rice. All you need is a pot and water).

    — Add barley to your soups.

    — Start your morning with plain oatmeal (sweeten it up with fruits; add fiber and protein with walnuts or almonds)

    — Make sure your morning cereal is whole grain (again, look for whole wheat or oat flour as the main ingredient).

    — Snack on popcorn (air pop it or make it at home in a pot with a little bit of olive oil).

    — Make waffles and pancakes with whole grain mixes. If you buy frozen varieties, make sure they are whole grain.

    Remember, whole grains offer more health benefits than non-whole grains with extra added fiber.

    If you need more assistance, check out the Whole Grains Council’s amazing and extensive list of whole grain products. It’s the perfect supermarket assistant!

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    More Numbers, More Problems

    Behold the latest curveball thrown at supermarket shoppers — “grams of whole grains”.

    When this trend first started in early 2007, I inwardly cringed and hoped for its quick disappearance.  Far from it — I keep seeing it on more and more products!

    It is my suspicion that with whole grains and fiber being the latest hot topics, food manufacturers hope to confuse shoppers looking to increase fiber intake by boasting about the grams of whole grains in their foods — two very different concepts.

    Consider this your “advertising-proof” tutorial on whole grains.

    Let’s start at the beginning.

    According to MyPyramid (also known as 2005’s “food pyramid 2.0”), adults who ate 2,000 calories per day should consume 6 servings of grains.  The USDA defines a serving of grains as one ounce (28 grams). Remember that figure, it will come in handy very shortly.

    MyPyramid distinctly called for half of those 6 grain servings to be whole (i.e: oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat cous cous, barley, etc.), rather than enriched (i.e.: white bread, white rice, etc.).  Strangely, the recommendation wasn’t “at least three whole grain servings,” but simply “three.”

    This is where it all starts to get confusing.

    If one ounce equals 28 grams, and we are asked to make three grain servings (AKA three ounces) whole, then the recommended daily intake of whole grains adds up to 84 grams (28 grams x 3 servings).

    Alas, if you look up whole grain serving recommendations, you’ll see a daily suggestion of 48 grams per day.  Some simple math (48 grams divided by 3 servings) tells us, then, that one serving of whole grains equals 16 grams.

    “But I thought one serving of grain equaled 28 grams.  Why isn’t a serving of whole grains also 28 grams?” you may wonder.

    Well, most whole grain products contain a variety of ingredients; not just flour.  It turns out, in fact, that a one-ounce serving of whole grains contains, on average, approximately 16 grams of flour (the other 12 grams are other ingredients, including yeast, salt, oils, etc).

    Although food labels do not list grams of whole grains, you have two ways of finding this information out.

    One is by claims on the packaging (such as the “Now with 5 grams of whole grains per serving!” stated on boxes of Teddy Grahams).

    Usually, though, these claims are made by products that sprinkle a little whole wheat flour on top of a product that is virtually refined grains.

    Considering that you need at least 48 grams a day, 5 grams is a pretty pathetic figure to bother writing about in such large font.

    The other is via the Whole Grains Council stamp (pictured at top left), which specifically lists the grams of whole grains per serving in a product.

    Some companies are still using old versions of the stamp, which classified foods as “good” (8 – 15 grams of whole grains per serving) or “excellent” (16 or more grams of whole grains per serving).

    What about fiber? How does it tie into all this?  An item high in whole grains is high in fiber, but products high in fiber are not necessarily high in whole grains.

    An Atkins chocolate peanut butter bar, for instance, contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber.  Since this is a low-carb bar, you certainly won’t find whole grains flour anywhere on the ingredient list.

    So how is this value achieved? Thanks to a polysaccharide known as cellulose.  Keep in mind that while this kind of fiber helps keep things moving, there are specific substances in whole grains that have been targeted in nutrition research as helpful in reducing the risk of several diseases.

    So, how do you put all this together without going insane?  Simple. Try to consume 25 – 30 grams of fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds every day.  Generally, the foods that boast “x grams of whole grains per serving!” claims are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Wild Rice

    I have seen wild rice dishes at a lot of restaurants lately.

    Is it a whole grain? Is it nutritious?

    — Andrea Pandetti
    Jacksonville, FL

    Although often referred to as a whole grain, wild rice is actually a water-grass seed native to the Great Lakes (as well as parts of China and Africa).

    The only reason why it’s referred to as “rice” is because of its shape and the fact that, once it rises to the surface of lakes, it resembles rice paddies.

    Is it nutritious? Yes!

    It is certainly steps ahead of its traditional white relative, and even surpasses its brown counterpart!

    One cup of cooked wild rice delivers 17 percent of the daily zinc requirement, 23 percent of a day’s worth of manganese, and is thisclose to being a complete protein (it’s a tad low on lysine).

    All these qualities (along with three grams of fiber and six and a half of protein) make it a must-try side dish for those looking for nutrient-dense plant foods.

    Its crunchy texture and nutty flavor are also a great plus!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Wild Rice

    I have seen wild rice dishes at a lot of restaurants lately.

    Is it a whole grain? Is it nutritious?

    — Andrea Pandetti
    Jacksonville, FL

    Wild rice is indeed a whole grain, although that’s a misnomer!

    Wild rice is actually a water-grass seed native to the Great Lakes (as well as parts of China and Africa).

    The only reason why it’s referred to as “rice” is because of its shape and the fact that large amounts, once risen over lake surfaces, often resemble rice paddies.

    Is it nutritious? Yes!

    It is certainly steps ahead of its traditional white relative, and even surpasses its brown counterpart!

    A cup of wild rice clocks in at 166 calories, 50 less than that same amount of brown rice and eighty lower than white rice.

    That cup also delivers 17 percent of the daily zinc requirement, 23 percent of a day’s worth of manganese, and is thisclose to being a complete protein (it’s a tad low on lysine).

    All these qualities (along with three grams of fiber and six and a half of protein) make it a must-try side dish for those looking for nutrient-dense plant foods.

    Its crunchy texture and nutty flavor are also a great plus!

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    A standard pad thai entreé at a restaurant contains 1,350 calories.

    Woah — that’s equivalent to six slices of a 12 inch Domino’s cheese pizza.

    Although the obscenely large portions of pad thai usually doled out at restaurants are behind this obscene figure, the main culprit is the large amounts of oil that go into making the dish.

    As delicious as Thai cuisine is, options range from healthy to heinous.

    Accompanying pad thai in the “tread carefully” category are spring rolls (deep-fried and offering very little nutrition) and meat dishes labeled “crispy” (think additional fat and calories).

    Fortunately, Thai restaurants also offer several healthy and delicious options.

    Summer rolls are my favorite appetizer. Wrapped in a soy paper sheet and filled with carrots, basil, grilled tofu and chopped peanuts, they are a refreshing low-calorie treat.

    Chicken or tofu satay (basically grilled and skewered) is another smart appetizer choice. However, watch the accompanying peanut dipping sauce, as it is higher in calories than other varieties.

    When it comes to entrees, look for grilled, baked, or steamed chicken, shrimp, fish, or tofu with vegetables.

    Any of the above in their stir-fry versions is still better than any sort of curry, but will definitely contain more oil than the choices just mentioned.

    If the dish comes in a sauce, ask the waiter or waitress to order it “light on sauce”. This could save you as much as 500 milligrams of sodium and 150 calories.

    If your dish comes with a rice, ask for brown — extra fiber always helps.

    Even conventional white rice is a healthier choice than the fried counterpart, which contains 250 calories per cup!

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    Eat Your Tea

    Convenience is a huge factor behind our food choices.

    Whether you’re pressed for time or away from a kitchen for a few days, snacking on-the-go is part of many people’s daily routine.

    It certainly doesn’t help that most convenience foods comes in the shape of chips, cookies, candy, sugary sodas, and protein bars that are often loaded with sugar and saturated fat.

    Alas, I am happy to add Tzu (The Tea Bar) to my Hall of Fame – which currently includes Lara Bars, Clif Nectar Bars, and Pure Bars.

    I knew Tzu was worth looking into when I stumbled across it at my local deli and read the ingredient list: sprouted whole grain brown rice, whole grains (oats, buckwheat), whole grain rye, sesame seeds, green tea leaf, green tea powder, konnyaku fructose, flax seeds, sapporo brewer’s yeast, and bamboo salt.

    Do you see all the pluses? No artificial ingredients, no syrups, no sugary soy and rice crisps, no hydrogenated oils, and fructose is not one of the first five ingredients.

    I do wish the flax seeds were included in their ground state (since, in their entirety, they are completely undigested by our bodies), but I consider that to be a very promising ingredient list.

    The nutrition profile is very nifty, too. Each bar contains a mere 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 35 milligrams of sodium, and 2 grams of sugar.

    It also offers 4 grams of fiber, 60% of our vitamin C needs, 15% a day’s worth of calcium, 20% of the daily magnesium recommendation, and 20% of the recommended daily intake of selenium.

    The best thing about it is — this is all done with real food (not by injecting synthetic vitamins and minerals into the bar, as so many other products do)!

    As you all know, I do not recommend a product on my blog until I taste it. Tzu passed that exam with flying colors. If you like the taste of green tea, you will absolutely love this bar.

    So what about the inclusion of green tea?

    At 3 grams per bar, that’s equal to 2 cups’ worth. Most studies showing health benefits (mainly on cardiovascular health) from green tea involved participants drinking 4 to 6 cups a day.

    While Tzu bars contain a fair amount (which, if anything, helps rather than hurts), their virtues go well beyond that, as they are low-fat, low-calorie, tasty, and a good source fiber, vitamins and minerals.

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