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    Archive for the ‘saturated fat’ Category

    Burger King’s New Breakfast…. Is More Of The Same

    bk-new-breakfast-menu-items-590Hyperbolic press releases, pricey media campaigns, and plenty of advertising fanfare accompanied the recent unveiling of Burger King’s new breakfast menu.  Higher-ups were quick to point out that the addition of these items to the Burger King breakfast lineup  were the company’s “largest menu expansion ever”.  Like, OMG!

    According to Mike Kapitt, the chain’s chief marketing officer for North America, this menu was designed to “compete to be America’s wake-up call”, and he had no doubt the “quality, variety, and value” on the menu would make Burger King the “breakfast destination”.

    If these new items are America’s wake-up call, then the U.S. of A should smash its alarm clock against the wall and keep snoozing.  Let’s dissect the nutritional bombs unveiled by Burger King, from least to most explosive:

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    You Ask, I Answer: Protein Bar Guidelines

    zero impact barWhat things should I look for in a protein bar?  I use them when I’m on the go at times when I know I will need something, but don’t want to do fast food.

    — Tammy Edwards
    (Via Facebook)

    Wonderful questions.  When it comes to protein bars, I am “on the fence”.  Allow me to explain.

    On the one hand, I don’t think they are terrible and should be shunned.  Sure, there are some horrific protein bars out there (and, in a little bit, I will give you specific parameters to help you choose the better ones), but a smart choice can make for a great snack or meal replacement in a pinch.

    Continue Reading »

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    Who Said It?: Reveal

    dr-oz-0304-lg-85334211Interviewer: Is all seafood good for you?

    Our subject’s answer: “Nope. Some of the crustaceans have cholesterol — shrimp, crab, lobster.”

    This is what Dr. Oz told Esquire magazine last year.  Granted, the rest of his nutrition-related answers (except for one other, which I discuss below) are accurate.  However, I am extremely surprised that someone who considers himself a nutrition expert is not up to date on dietary cholesterol research.

    When it comes to issues of heart disease, dietary cholesterol is waaay down on the list of troublemakers.  Trans fats, excessive omega-6 intake, insufficient omega-3 intake, high intakes of sugar, and certain saturated fats (mainly those in the meat and milk of corn and grain-fed cattle) are of much more concern.

    Shrimp, crab, and lobster are not “unhealthy” because they contain cholesterol.  Besides, wild salmon contains cholesterol, so why is Dr. Oz singling out crustaceans?

    In an attempt to avoid cholesterol in crustaceans, many people instead opt for red meat which offers lower levels of cholesterol but significantly higher levels of problematic saturated fatty acids (and not a single milligram of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids).

    Another one of Dr. Oz’s misguided tips — he recommends eating “wheat crust” pizza.  This is one of the most aggravating tips, because… well, it isn’t a tip at all!  White flour is made from wheat; ergo, it is wheat crust.  “Wheat” does not mean whole grain.  The real tip is to aim for “100% whole wheat” crust.

    The whole “wheat bread is healthier than white bread” idea needs to be squashed immediately.  Too many times, breads simply labeled as “wheat” are made from white flour with caramel color or molasses thrown in to give it a healthy-looking brown tint.

    It is statements like these (along with others I have pointed out on the blog) that truly make me wonder why Dr. Oz is viewed as a “nutrition” guru.  The two tips mentioned in this post are basic Nutrition 101 information.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Quinoa Vegetable Ginger-Curry Burgers

    quinoa11And so we come to the last vegan burger recipe.

    This is by far the most time-intensive, as it requires you to use cooked quinoa, and then refrigerate the burgers for a few hours before cooking them. Actual prep time, though, is not long at all.

    Of course, you could very well plan ahead slightly and, next time you cook quinoa at home, make an extra batch to have handy for this recipe.

    YIELDS: 4 patties

    1 cup quinoa, cooked (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 cup baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
    1/2 cup shredded carrots
    1/2 cup red peppers, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 cup baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    Pepper, to taste
    1/2 tsp curry powder
    1/8 tsp ground ginger
    3 Tablespoons scallions, chopped
    1 teaspoon tamari
    3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Once hot, add the baby portabella mushrooms and shredded carrots. Cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the red peppers and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown. Add the spinach leaves and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

    Allow vegetables to cool for five minutes.

    In a food processor, process the cooked vegetables and spices for 20 to 30 seconds.

    Empty the contents of the food processor into a large bowl. Add the quinoa, tamari, scallions and breadcrumbs; mix together with your hands until you achieve a dough-like solid mass.

    Refrigerate the “burger dough” for two hours.

    After the two hours have passed, take out burger dough from refrigerator.  Form “burger dough” into four individual patties and cook to your liking (either pan-fry for a few minutes on each side or bake on a lighty oiled baking sheet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 7  minutes on each side).

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per patty):

    248 calories
    1 gram saturated fat
    250 milligrams sodium
    3.5 grams fiber
    5 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Folate, niacin, thiamin, monounsaturated fatty acids

    Good source of: Magnesium, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: “No Flour? No Problem!” Pancakes

    oats-280wThis recipe was created out of true laziness one morning when I craved pancakes and quickly realized I had no flour of any kind in my kitchen.

    Oh, yes, I could have walked all of three minutes to the store around the block to buy some, but… then you wouldn’t be reading this.  It was all part of the plan!

    Some quick FYIs before we get to the deets:

    1. While sturdy, these pancakes have a more delicate texture than conventional ones.

    2. Some of the ingredients (i.e.: xanthan gum, unsweetened shredded coconut) are only available at health food stores (or Whole Foods).  They are not expensive, though, and all you need is one short trip to buy them all.

    3. The inclusion of whey or hemp protein (as optional ingredients) is for individuals looking for a more substantial meal, as is the inclusion of extra nuts and seeds.  I like to have these pancakes for brunch, so I like making them in a way that keeps me satisfied for several hours.

    4. A large majority of the saturated fats in this recipe come from coconut products, which are significantly less damaging than other saturated fats.  You are welcome to use other plant oils if you would like, though coconut oil is my favorite for this recipe.

    5. For optimal flavors, these pancakes should be generously topped with blueberries, strawberries, and banana slices.

    Yields: 2 large pancakes

    INGREDIENTS:

    2 Tablespoons ground flax
    5 Tablespoons water OR milk of choice (ie: dairy, almond, soy, etc.)
    1 cup quick-cooking oats
    1.5 teaspoons double-acting baking powder (if aluminum-free, even better)
    1 teaspoon xanthan gum (can buy this at any health food store)
    1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    2 scoops protein powder of choice (optional; if including, I highly recommend unsweetened, but flavored, whey or hemp)
    1/4 cup chopped nuts of choice OR 1/4 cup seeds (i.e.: chia, hemp) (optional)
    2 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    2 teaspoons coconut oil

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    In a small bowl combine the ground flax and liquid.  Allow to rest for five minutes.

    In large bowl, combine oats, baking powder, xanthan gum, vanilla, cinnamon, protein powder, nuts/seeds, and shredded coconut.

    Add applesauce and coconut oil to ground flax mixture.  Stir briefly.

    Add contents of small bowl to large bowl.  Fold wet ingredients into dry ones.

    On stovetop, heat griddle at medium heat until surface is hot.

    Add 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil or vegan butter or conventional butter.  Use paper towel or spatula to spread evenly on surface.

    Pour batter onto griddle and form two pancakes.

    Cook pancakes until top surface begins to bubble.  Flip, cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

    Serve.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per pancake, made with whey protein, chopped pecans, and using water for flax mixture):

    512 calories
    7.5 grams saturated fat
    360 milligrams sodium
    8 grams fiber
    24 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Alpha-Linolenic omega-3 fatty acids, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, thiamin

    Good Source of: Folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C, zinc

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    You Ask, I Answer: Dark Chicken Meat

    20090106seared_chickenWhy is dark chicken meat less nutritious than chicken breast?

    — Stefania Pereyra
    (Location Withheld)

    It isn’t, really.

    Yes, dark chicken meat is slightly higher in saturated fat and cholesterol than chicken breast.  However, dark meat still provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals (some of them in higher quantities than you would get in chicken breast).

    As I always like to remind readers of this blog, though, dietary cholesterol does not have as much of an impact on blood cholesterol as trans fats and saturated fats from red meat and dairy.

    A commercial muffin may be cholesterol-free, but if it is loaded with trans fats (as most of them are), it is much worse for your cardiovascular health than a roasted chicken thigh.

    Frankly, I wish people would care more about what the chicken they are eating was fed and how it was treated at the farm it came from than whether or not there’s an extra two grams of fat in the thigh.

    If those were the top priorities though, though, 99% of chicken consumers would think twice about ordering sliced chicken breast over their Caesar salads.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Spiced Lentil & Quinoa Bowl with Avocado Dressing

    lentejas_-lensculirnarisI consider this a perfect year-round dish.

    In the cold winter months, the warm lentils and quinoa, along with the spices, make for a comforting dish.

    Once summer hits, I love this as a cold salad!

    This is also one of those meals that keeps you full for a very long time, as it combines heart-healthy fats, soluble fiber, and protein.

    Don’t be let the long steps fool you; this is a very simple recipe.  The lentils and dressing can both be prepared while the quinoa cooks.

    By the way, if you don’t have a food processor (or don’t feel like taking it out, using it, and cleaning it), you can always replace the dressing with some fresh avocado slices.  Even if you don’t have avocados handy, the lentil and quinoa combination in itself is delicious!

    YIELDS: 4 servings (1 cup quinoa + 1 cup lentils + 2 TBSP dressing)

    INGREDIENTS (Quinoa):

    2 cups quinoa
    4 cups water
    Pinch of salt

    INGREDIENTS (Spiced Lentils):

    2 TBSP olive oil
    1 cup onions, chopped
    1/2 cup carrots, shredded
    1/2 cup red pepper, diced
    1/4 cup green pepper, diced
    1 cup mushrooms, chopped
    2 T garlic, minced
    1/2 t cumin
    1/4 t cinnamon
    1/2 t curry powder
    1/3 t salt
    1/4 t paprika
    1/8 t black pepper
    1 cup dried lentils, rinsed (any color; if you can find sprouted dried lentils, even better!)
    3 cups water
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice

    INGREDIENTS (Avocado Dressing):

    1 large avocado, pitted
    2 t lime juice
    1 garlic clove
    2 t ginger
    1/4 t salt
    1/4 c water

    INSTRUCTIONS (Quinoa):

    In a small pot, combine quinoa, water, and a pinch of salt.

    Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer until all water evaporates.

    Fluff quinoa with fork.

    INSTRUCTIONS (Spiced Lentils):

    In a large pot, heat olive oil.  Once sufficiently hot, add onions, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, and garlic.

    Stir frequently over the course of 2 minutes over medium-high heat.

    Add spices.  Stir frequently for 2 more minutes.

    Add lentils and water, stir and bring to a boil.

    Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring two or three times.

    Turn off stovetop, uncover, add lemon juice, and stir one more time.

    INSTRUCTIONS (Avocado dressing):

    Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until evenly combined.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    538 calories
    2.5 grams saturated fat
    450 milligrams sodium
    15 grams fiber
    18 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Folate, manganese, monounsaturated fats, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K

    Good Source of: Iron, phosphorus, vitamin E, zinc

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    In The News: Undersizing!

    story.blizzard.courtesyKudos to Dairy Queen (those are four words I never imagined writing!) for going against the “bigger, bigger, bigger!” trend and announcing that starting this July, they will offer “a 7-ounce Mini Blizzard [frozen dessert], 5 ounces tinier than its current “small” frozen treat.”

    As it stands now, a small Blizzard adds up to a mighty powerful:

    • 550 calories
    • 10 grams saturated fat (half a day’s worth)
    • 410 milligrams of sodium
    • 12 teaspoons of added sugar

    We can therefore roughly estimate that the new Mini Blizzards will provide:

    • 400 calories
    • 7 grams saturated fat
    • 320 milligrams sodium
    • 8 teaspoons added sugar

    While certainly not a “healthy” item (it’s almost as artificial as Heidi Montag), I am at least encouraged by the fact that consumers will now be able to order a smaller portion if they so choose.

    I would never suggest tracking down a mini Blizzard for an afternoon snack, but I live in the real world.  Almost every client I work with occasionally visits a fast food restaurant, and the availability of smaller portions certainly helps.

    International Dairy Queen’s associate vice president of communications Dean Peters, meanwhile, is clearly on a different page than I.  While he recognizes that this new Mini Blizzard will appeal to “smaller appetites”, he also states that the fast food chain “felt there was an opportunity with a smaller size Blizzard to perhaps bundle it with a combo meal or a food meal, as well.”

    I’ll take “brown nosing the stockholders” for $1,000, Alex.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Baked Salmon Burgers

    Canned-SockeyeI eat seafood roughly once a month — mainly at sushi restaurants.  The biggest factor behind that frequency (or lack thereof) is the incongruous relationship between my kitchen and raw fish.

    I’m convinced supernatural powers have determined that no matter how beautiful and ecologically responsible a fillet I purchase, no matter how closely I follow a recipe, and no matter how wonderful my intentions, the finished product is in some way, shape, or form, a bit of a letdown.  Either that or I haven’t yet mastered the art of cooking fish.

    In any case, I was very pleased to find a super easy recipe for delicious baked salmon burgers over at my former New York University nutrition classmate Erica Neuman’s blog, Erica Miss America.

    Since Erica is gluten intolerant, her recipes utilize alternative grains creatively and are accessible to almost everyone!

    Added bonus about her baked salmon burgers?  They utilize canned salmon, which is usually wild (and, consequently, significantly  healthier and more nutritious).  If the wild salmon you purchase contains bones (which are soft and edible), it is also a great source of calcium.

    YIELDS: 6 – 8 patties

    INGREDIENTS:

    15 oz (2 cans) of salmon, drained
    2 egg whites (Andy’s note: 4 Tablespoons, if using liquid egg whites)
    1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
    1/2 cup ground oats (Andy’s notes: this refers to oats you grind up in a food processor.  You’ll need roughly 2/3 cup oats; if gluten intolerant, look for ones certified gluten-free)
    1/2 cup finely chopped celery
    1/4 cup chopped scallions, green & white parts included
    1 tbsp cilantro, chopped (Andy’s note: I used dill instead)

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Preheat oven to 450 F.

    Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

    Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Divide the mixture into 6-8 patties.

    Baked for 15 minutes, then carefully turn the burgers over and bake for an additional 8 minutes.

    To prevent them from falling apart, let them rest for 10 minutes before serving.

    NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (for 2 patties):

    255 calories
    1.7 grams saturated fat
    457 milligrams sodium
    1.5 grams fiber
    34 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Calcium, magnesium, manganese, niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, vitamin D

    Good Source of: Iron, riboflavin, thiamin

    PS: to increase fiber content, enjoy these burgers with a whole grain or sprouted whole grain bun, or accompany them with sauteed greens!

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    Who Knew Sunshine Tasted So Good?

    southwest“Veggie burgers” are often touted as the “healthier choice”, but many people aren’t aware that a large percentage of vegetarian burger products are made from highly processed soy, low in fiber, contain a significant amount of sodium, and, in some cases, artificial colors and dyes.

    One scrumptious exception?  Sunshine Burgers!

    Developed by a woman named Carol — after much encouragement from friends and family who loved her homemade vegetarian burgers — these patties offer a wonderfully simple ingredient list, significant nutrition, and excellent flavors.

    One Southwest flavored (my favorite!) Sunshine Burger delivers:

    • 240 calories
    • 1.5 grams saturated fat
    • 240 milligrams sodium
    • 9 grams fiber
    • 6 grams protein

    The ingredient list tugs at my nutritional heartstrings:

    Organic cooked brown rice, organic ground raw sunflower seeds, organic carrots, organic black beans, organic bell peppers, organic cilantro, organic garlic, organic jalapeño peppers, organic ground cumin seeds, organic onion and sea salt.

    Keep in mind that since the ingredients are whole foods, you get far beyond what the Nutrition Facts panel highlights — especially health-promoting phytonutrients, antioxidants, and flavonoids!

    Since Sunshine Burgers are precooked, no oil is needed when preparing them.

    I love to eat them on a sprouted whole grain bun topped with arugula, grape tomatoes, onions, and honey mustard.

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    The Omega-6 Problem

    Many food products proudly advertise their omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content.

    I partially understand why.  Unlike other fats (like omega-9 fatty acids), we must get these two polyunsaturated ones from our diets.  That is precisely why they are known as essential fatty acids.

    As I have mentioned in previous posts, our present omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is completely off-balance, largely in part to highly processed diets that contain significant amounts of plant oils high in omega-6 fatty acids.  Since soy is a subsidized crop, soybean oil is an inexpensive by-product commonly used in low-nutrition, low-cost snack foods.  Corn and cottonseed oils are also very high in omega-6, while offering negligible amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

    While saturated and trans fats are constantly mentioned in the realm of degenerative diseases (especially cardiovascular ones), dietary advice should also recommend limiting omega-6 fatty acids.

    While I do not think saturated fats are absolutely harmless, I certainly do not consider all of them (remember, there are many different saturated fats) to be horrible fats we must avoid like the plague.

    What is most interesting, though, is a simple look at consumption patterns over the past forty years.

    Among 18 – 44 year olds in the United States, saturated fat consumption clocked in at 30 grams per day in 1970, and 27.8 grams per day in 2005.

    Omega-6 fatty acid intake, however, was at 9 grams per day in 1970, and almost doubled to 17 grams by 2005.

    High intakes of omega-6 fatty acids have been linked to cellular inflammation — one of the main factors behind a substantial number of degenerative diseases.

    This is why I think everyone should prioritize omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, then consider healthier saturated fats (like coconut and cacao), and leave omega-6 fatty acids and less healthy saturated fats (like that in cheese, pork, and chicken skin) last.

    Although omega-6 fatty acids are essential, they are so prevalent in so many foods that you would have to try extremely hard (and eat a significantly and dangerously limited diet) to not meet your daily requirement.

    I want to finish by making sure the main points of this post are understood:

    • Omega-6 fatty acids are NOT intrinsically unhealthy.  We need to consume a certain amount every day for optimal health.
    • Very healthy foods are good sources of omega-6 fatty acids.  I am not advocating total avoidance of foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids.
    • However, our consistently higher intakes of this particular fat need to be curbed, since more is certainly NOT better.

    FYI: in reference to this post’s accompanying photograph, there is no reason to ever supplement omega-6 in pill form.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Sweet Potato, Kale, and Coconut Soup

    kaleI modified this recipe from an original — and wonderful — one whipped up by Registered Dietitian Jane Harrison of My Optum Health.  If you are on Twitter, you can follow Jane there.

    My version retains 95 percent of Jane’s original (I mainly changed a few ingredient proportions and tacked on a few more spices).

    Jane is absolutely right when she explains that “this hearty soup has it all, including fiber, protein, antioxidants, and a host of vitamins and minerals.”  I was very happy when I tallied information for the recipe and came up with the terrific values posted towards the end of this post.

    I made this soup slightly more caloric than the original recipe, so depending on your calorie needs, it can be followed by a standard entree, a half-sandwich, or a salad.

    YIELDS: 4 servings

    INGREDIENTS:

    1.5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    3 large garlic cloves, minced
    1 small onion, diced
    6 cups raw kale (pictured, right)
    1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
    4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
    1 can low-sodium chickpeas
    2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
    2 teaspoons curry powder
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/2 teaspoon paprika

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    1. Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium-high flame, until lightly browned.
    2. Add kale and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes.
    3. Add broth and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.
    4. Add garbanzo beans and coconut milk. Stir for 2 – 3 minutes.
    5. Add spices, stir for 30 seconds, and serve.

    OPTIONAL: Top with chopped scallions

    NUTRITION FACTS (per serving)

    354 calories
    7.2 grams saturated fat (see NOTE)
    300 milligrams sodium
    10 grams fiber
    6 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Manganese, monounsaturated fat, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K

    Good Source of: Calcium, copper, iron

    NOTE: The saturated fats in coconut — along with those in cacao — are the least harmful of the saturated fats.  Coconuts are high in lauric acid, a saturated fat which increases LDL cholesterol but also simultaneously raises HDL cholesterol.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Spicy & Decadent Satay Marinade

    peanut-sauce-lrgThis delicious Thai-inspired marinade is extremely easy to make and imparts wonderful flavors.

    Although traditionally paired with chicken, I have only had this marinade with tofu and tempeh, where it works wonderfully!

    Don’t let the long ingredient list dissuade you — preparation is super quick.

    YIELDS: 1 cup (4 servings)

    INGREDIENTS:

    2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    1 Tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
    1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons nut butter (peanut, almond, or cashew; natural and unsalted recommended)
    2 Tablespoons canned coconut milk
    2 medium garlic cloves
    1 Tablespoon dried ginger
    2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
    2 teaspoons Thai chili peppers, chopped
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/4 cup basil leaves
    2 teaspoons chili powder OR cayenne pepper
    1/4 teaspoon cumin
    2 teaspoons honey or agave nectar
    2 Tablespoons lime juice
    1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    5 teaspoons water

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until evenly combined.

    To get optimal flavors, marinade food for at least 4 hours, covered, in refrigerator.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    198 calories
    5 grams saturated fat (see note, below)
    300 milligrams sodium
    2 grams added sugar

    Excellent Source of: Manganese, monounsaturated fat, niacin

    Good Source of: Magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin E

    NOTE: The saturated fats in this recipe come exclusively from the nut butter and coconut milk. Coconuts’ saturated fat is less atherogenic than that of full-fat dairy. Additionally, if using peanut or almond butter, their saturated fats are packaged along with extremely heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Choosing Cheese

    bocconcini-lgCan you recommend some cheeses that might be healthier than others to add to a salad?

    — Terri Korolev
    San Francisco, CA

    The key is to use cheeses that provide plenty of flavor but not a lot of saturated fat or sodium.

    Remember — the saturated fats in full-fat dairy are more atherogenic than those in other foods (like coconuts and cocoa beans).

    The absolute best choices are grated hard cheeses like romano and parmigiano-reggiano (also known as parmesan).

    In the case of romano, two tablespoons only add:

    • 40 calories
    • 2 grams saturated fat
    • 170 milligrams sodium

    That same amount of parmesan cheese, meanwhile, clocks in at:

    • 44 calories
    • 2 grams saturated fat
    • 152 milligrams sodium

    Another good addition to salads is bocconcini — fresh mozarella balls packaged in liquid (pictured alongside this post).  Two pieces of bocconcini provide:

    • 140 calories
    • 4 grams saturated fat
    • 40 milligrams sodium
    • 20 % of a day’s worth of calcium

    An ounce of whole milk ricotta also delivers strong flavors with a very decent nutritional profile:

    • 49 calories
    • 2.4 grams saturated fat
    • 24 milligrams sodium

    If you prefer cheeses higher in saturated fat and/or sodium (i.e: blue cheese, feta, Swiss, etc.), you can still include them.  The key is to plan out the rest of your meals accordingly.

    For example, if you crave a feta cheese-arugula-pear salad for dinner, make your breakfast, lunch, and snacks that day are low in saturated fat and sodium.

    Vegans: you can also enjoy cheeses in your salads — and I don’t just mean shredded-cheddar or shredded-mozarella imitations made from rice or soy.

    Dr. Cow, for instance, makes delicious nut-based cheeses.  Most of them also include acidophilus, which helps mimic the texture and flavor of aged cheeses (and offers health benefits of probiotics!).  I personally enjoy the aged cashew and crystal algae “cheese”.

    Similarly, there are a variety of vegan alternatives to grated parmesan cheese.

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    Calorie Counts Are Helpful, But Not The Answer

    Starbucks caloriesI know, I know.  I have been — and still am — a strong supporter of mandatory calorie labeling at fast food establishments and chain restaurants since day one.

    I am, however, concerned that too many people view caloric awareness as the sole key to health.

    While it certainly helps to know that breakfast item A can save you 400 more calories than breakfast item B, there are other important factors to keep in mind.

    Take a look at some items that are calorically decent but nutritionally horrific!

    Remember that for saturated fat, someone on a 2,000 calorie diet should not surpass 20 grams a day.  While I believe that value can be more flexible if saturated fats are mostly coming from cocoa or coconuts, the items listed below contain vast amounts of the very atherogenic saturated fats in dairy.

    For sodium, the recommended limit is set at 2,400 milligrams.

    Au Bon Pain:

    • Mac & cheese soup: 442 calories; 16.5 grams saturated fat

    Chili’s:

    • Guiltless Grill chicken salad: 361 calories; 1,385 mg sodium

    Denny’s:

    • Broccoli and cheddar soup: 374 calories; 19.5 grams saturated fat
    • Chicken wings & buffalo sauce appetizer: 300 calories; 1,940 milligrams sodium
    • Side of everything hash browns with onions, cheese, and gravy: 480 calories; 3,820 milligrams sodium (!!)

    Dunkin’ Donuts:

    • Strawberry coolatta (16 ounces): 300 calories; 16 teaspoons of added sugar

    Olive Garden:

    • Minestrone soup: 100 calories; 1,090 milligrams sodium

    Panera Bread Company:

    • Clam chowder: 320 calories; 18.7 grams saturated fat
    • French onion soup (with croutons and cheese): 174 calories; 1,784 milligrams sodium

    Quizno’s:

    • Chicken noodle soup: 260 calories; 2,580 milligrams sodium
    • Fat-free balsamic vinaigrette: 120 calories; 1,170 milligrams sodium; 4 teaspoons added sugar

    Red Lobster:

    • Broiled seafood platter: 280 calories; 1,660 milligrams sodium

    While calorie counts are helpful for weight concerns, health is about many other factors.  Even if, down the road, all chain restaurants in the entire country provide calorie information, it is not a green light to make them a dietary staple.

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