How To ‘Whole Grain’ Your Culinary World

One of my favorite places to grab lunch on campus is the food court’s salad bar. The eatery features dozens of ingredients that you can mix-and-match to create a customizable salad. This semester, one of the ingredient choices is red quinoa, and each time I frequent the salad bar I’m reminded of what a super smart idea this is!

While many think nothing of adding croutons to salad, I’d say it’s less common to add a scoop of whole grains atop a salad–whether it’s red quinoa or even bulgar and buckwheat. I’ve written many a blog posts about the superior nutritional content of whole grains versus white, refined carbohydrates, and this week I wanted to share some lesser-known tips and tricks to make your culinary world even more whole grain.

Did you know that if you have oats in your cupboard or pantry, you also have the makings of oat flour (with the nifty help of a blender of course!) Simply grind a few cups of whole oats in your blender until they reach a flour-like consistency. Next, add your DIY oat flour to pancake, scone, or waffle batters. This option is fantastic, particularly if you’re not a fan of oatmeal’s consistency or texture, and it will also ensure that your baked goods receive a boost in nutrients.

If you don’t have the time to make DIY whole-grain flours like oat flour, then make it a point to purchase whole wheat flour rather than white flour at the grocery store. If you’re having trouble adjusting to its different taste, opt to use whole-wheat flour for half of a recipe’s needed amount of flour. As your taste buds grow to tolerate the whole-wheat flour, you can increase the amount of it that you use, and eventually transfer your recipes completely to whole-grain flour. 

This same process of gradually transferring from white flour to whole-wheat flour can be applied to rice. Start purchasing brown rice at the grocery store, and substitute it for half of the white rice that a recipe calls for. I personally think that it’s easier to adjust to the taste of brown rice than it is to adjust to the taste of whole-wheat flour, because often times rice recipes include aromatic spices or herbs (i.e. ginger in vegetable fried rice) that completely masks the taste of the rice itself.

What’s your favorite source of whole grains? What’s your go-to tip for incorporating more whole grains in your diet?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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Frito-Lay’s Simply Organic Doritos. Yes, You Read That Sentence Correctly.

Have you seen the newest grocery-store arrival to Frito-Lay’s lineup of snacks?

Simply Organic Doritos. I must admit, those are three words that I didn’t think I’d ever use in the same sentence!

Fooducate, one of my favorite food literacy and nutrition apps, published an analysis comparing the ingredients in Doritos Supreme Cheddar to the ingredients in the newest organic version, Doritos Simply Organic White Cheddar. Although the organic version is produced without artificial additives such as Red 40 that are found in its counterpart, Fooducate noted that this organic certification hardly makes the new snack a nutrient-dense option.

I’m reminded of Michael Pollan’s summation of the changing landscape of organic food products featured in his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto: 

“Organic Oreos are not a health food. When Coca-Cola begins selling organic Coke, as it surely will, the company will have struck a blow for the environment perhaps, but not for our health. Most consumers automatically assume that the word “organic” is synonymous with health, but it makes no difference to your insulin metabolism if the high-fructose corn syrup in your soda is organic.”

Applying Pollan’s reasoning to Simply Organic Doritos elucidates the fact that this organic certification does not substantially change the nutrients (or lack thereof) in this food product.

What is the rationale, then, behind Frito-Lay’s decision to introduce this product to supermarkets?

The word organic holds a positive connotation within American food culture. And, as this same food culture who glorifies smoothies simultaneously vilifies Frito-Lay’s products on the grounds of environmentalism, ethics, and nutrition, it certainly behooves the company to attempt to win-over certain publics through this organic certification. If nothing else, the move is strategic.

How does Frito-Lay’s decision to produce Simply Organic Doritos change your perception of its brand? What factors do you think drove this business decision?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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Repost: How ‘Bout Them Apples? You Won’t Want to Miss These 5 Apple Pairings…

As the leaves begin to turn from green to auburn, apples of all varieties abound! These quintessential autumn fruits taste delectable on their own, but they also pair wonderfully with savory and sweet elements. Check out my favorite autumnal apple pairings below:

  1. Slice apples and dip the slices into peanut butter. Not a fan of peanut butter? Try almond butter or cashew butter instead!
  2. Calling all cheese connoisseurs…enjoy a slice of Parmesan cheese atop a round of apple. The apple rounds serve as a crunchy substitution for crackers.
  3. Cube apples into bite size pieces and roast with cubed root vegetables such as beets, carrots, and parsnips.
  4. Dip apple wedges into Greek yogurt, and then sprinkle granola on top. This Greek yogurt parfait–reversed–is fun to make and to eat!
  5. Take a riff off of vegetable chips and prepare apple chips. Sprinkle the raw apple chips with a bit of olive oil and then top with cinnamon and nutmeg for seasoning. Roast until crunchy.

What are your favorite varieties of apples? What are your favorite ingredients to pair with apples?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

Food literacy is at an all-time low. Here’s what you can do about it…

I recently came across an astounding article in The Washington Post, entitled “The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.” Author Caitlin Dewey uses surveys and studies to make the case that the American public’s food literacy is at an all-time low. From elementary-school aged children to adults, the U.S. citizenry is unaware of the agricultural and commercial processes that occur as sustenance is transported from fields to factories to food marts.

“Project Lunchbox: Let’s Eat!” aims to debunk food myths, inspire informed food choices, and instill in families the belief that they are capable of igniting change within the global food system: through their united voices and their collective wallets.

To that end, here are five action steps to implement in your household to ensure that your family is food literate:

  1. Take your kids with you to the grocery store. As you’re placing items into the cart, explain to your children that although food is purchased at the grocery store, it doesn’t come from grocery store.
  2. Plan a family visit to a local farm…’tis the season for apple and pumpkin picking! I’ve discovered that many farms offering CSA shares also provide free agriculture and food programming for kids.
  3. Bring the farm to table concept to life by planting a family garden. Yes, even in the season of autumn, there are steps you can take to ensure a bountiful harvest next spring. Did you know that planting garlic during the autumn months ensures a plentiful growing season the following summer? Food for thought…
  4. Cook with your child. As you prepare a recipe, explain to your child the difference between a whole food and a processed food. Then ask your child to tell you whether each ingredient is either a whole food or a processed food. 
  5. If your child is old enough, read books about the food industry together. Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Readers Edition provides an age-appropriate overview of the global food system, and the differences between how whole foods and processed foods come to be.

Do you agree that food literacy is at an all-time low in America? What steps have you taken to ensure that your family is food literate?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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Reading Recommendation: Real Food Fake Food by Larry Olmsted

Has anybody read Larry Olmsted’s Real Food Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About It?

I recently picked it up, and I’m impressed by Olmsted’s knack for breaking down the American food industry’s fraudulent practices in bite-size chunks. 😉 His comprehensive analysis of how some grocery vendors and restaurateurs misguide consumers by mislabeling food products will compel you to act.

One of my favorite parts about the book is that Olmsted’s writing style is empowering. This is not a book that will make you throw you head in your hands, lament the way things are, and feel as though the problems are too big and too complex for you to make a difference. Instead, Olmsted shows you how you can take matters back into your own hands and become a savvy sleuth skilled at detecting real food versus fake food.

From Kobe beef to Parmesan cheese to sushi, Olmsted cleverly devotes each chapter to a food product that’s sold in America as something that it’s not. He sifts through the historical information, food politics, and statistics to provide you with the relevant research you need to determine what fake food is and how to avoid it.

What books about the food industry are on your must-read list?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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Panera Bread takes your health into its hands by disclosing the amount of added sugar in its beverages

Has anybody ate at Panera Bread lately?

If so, you may have noticed the restaurant chain’s cups sporting a new look. Seven of its beverages are now poured into cups disclosing the number of calories and the teaspoons of added sugar contained in the drinks. 

If your local Panera Bread chain hasn’t rolled out this initiative yet, don’t worry. The company will implement this change at each of its locations throughout September 2017.

How cool are these new Panera Bread cups?

Super cool! I’m thrilled to see Panera Bread continue to establish itself as a brand invested in providing pertinent nutritional information to its customers (Psst…remember the restaurant chain’s 2015 publication of the “No No List,” a consolidation of the chemicals it pledged to eliminate from its menu offerings?) 

It’s also refreshing to see such a prominent corporation in the food industry transparently communicate the added sugars in its drinks. While Panera Bread certainly could have printed these quantities of added sugars in grams, it chose to print this information in teaspoons. I think that this metric is easier to visualize than grams, which takes me back to the chemistry laboratory at my high school.

Looking for more information about added sugars and their affect on your diet?

Check out my app recommendation for a hassle-free way to determine the natural versus added sugars in food products, and discover the many pseudonyms masking as added sugars on nutrition labels!

How do you feel about Panera Bread’s decision to publicize the amount of added sugars in some of its beverages?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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Is how you eat as important as what you eat?

Does this sound familiar?

You sprint to your car at 6:30 a.m. (and you’re somehow already running behind schedule?!) so you race to the nearest drive-thru to grab a bagel and a coffee. As you shove your food down in the car, you hastily check breakfast off the seemingly never ending to-do list. But at what cost?

In Western culture, how we eat is often overlooked. A kitchen table is often substituted for the driver’s seat of your car, the bus stop, or the desk chair of your office.

Have you ever thought about how these various places you eat may affect your health and well-being? In many cultures across the globe, mealtime is not viewed as a check off the to-do list, but rather an experience to be savored and shared with others.

This week, make mealtime an authentic dining experience to be savored and shared with others, rather than a time to multitask.

Enjoy a meal with family and friends, rather than with your cell phone or other electronic device. Eat at the table, rather than in a car or on a couch.

When you do these things, you’re more likely to have cooked the meal yourself. The majority of homemade meals are nutritionally superior to processed food options.

Also, when you don’t multitask while enjoying a meal, you’re more likely to consume your meal mindfully. By pacing yourself as you eat, your digestive system is able to keep up with your consumption.

Do you think that how you eat is more, equally, or less important than what you eat?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

Children’s Menus…Lacking Common Sense?

Chicken tenders, French fries, hamburgers, hotdogs, mac-and-cheese…

This hodgepodge of nutrient-devoid fats, carbs, and processed meats appear on virtually all children’s menus at restaurants, regardless of cuisine.

The concept of children’s menus lacks common sense.

Why is it that elementary school-aged kids are only offered a menu of salt, sugar, and fat, at such a critical point in the development of their eating habits? How is it that only once a young person becomes an adult are they offered a healthier menu when dining out?

There are, of course, exceptions. Some restaurants incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as lean proteins and nutritious fats into children’s dishes. However, this is the exception, not the norm.

Imagine a restaurant without a separate menu for young children. Instead, children ordered the same food as adults.

We only live what we learn.

Next time you’re out to eat with your child, consider sharing your meal with her or him. This approach will not only enhance your eating habits, it will also cultivate your child’s palate.

Restaurant entrées are supersized. By sharing your meal with your child, you’ll either avoid the urge to overeat or avoid wasting food. You’ll also save money, and who doesn’t love that?!

Your child will also reap the benefits of sharing a meal with you. Not only will she or he foster nutritious eating habits from an early age, they’ll also expand their culinary horizons. Not to mention the fact that a meal shared with you will be much more nutrient-dense than an option from the children’s menu.

Looking for more tips to make your family’s restaurant experience healthful?

Check out why happy meals make me unhappy, and discover how to improve the nutrition of your next restaurant meal.

What’s your take on the concept of children’s menus?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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A nutrient-dense chip? I’m in!

Have you tried Beanitos black bean chips?

NO? Then you MUST.

Why, you ask?

How about:

Five grams of protein per serving.

Five grams of fiber per serving.

Zero grams of trans fat per serving.

Zero grams of sugar per serving.

And oh…

They taste phenomenal.

While they’re spectacular on their own, they also do well in group settings 😉 when paired with homemade salsa or guacamole.

Looking for other nutritious snack ideas?

Check out my recipes for cheesy, crunchy, salty, (and nutritious!) eggplant chips and zucchini chips. Also, revisit my post on smart snack switches to make simple nutrition upgrades to your shopping cart.

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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Season with herbs using these 15 suggestions

One of the local farms my family frequents is harvesting its herb crop. The bounty includes sprigs of cilantro, leaves of parsley, and stems of basil.

Do you grow an herb garden? Whether you plant herbs on raised beds in your backyard, planters on your deck, or pots on your kitchen counter, one thing is for sure. There is no dearth of herbs this time of year!

To ensure that you make the most of this growing season, implement these tips for incorporating herbs into diverse recipes:

1. Sprinkle a handful of finely sliced chives on scrambled eggs.

2. Tear basil leaves into spring mix or your other favorite salad greens.

3. As you knead pizza dough, add leaves of oregano into the dough.

4. Chop parsley leaves and sprinkle them onto roasted asparagus spears.

5. Add two tablespoons of thinly sliced cilantro to your favorite guacamole recipe.

6. Prepare basil ice cubes by incorporating equal parts water and a chiffonade of basil to ice cube trays. Also, check out my post on healthful hydration for more suggestions for herb-infused waters and ice cubes.

7. Prepare herbed butter by combining a single clove of garlic, four tablespoons of salted butter, and sprigs of thyme.

8. Stir finely sliced chives into sour cream to create a topping for baked potatoes or zucchini pancakes.

9. Chop up a few teaspoons of thyme and incorporate into your favorite shortbread recipe.

10. Chiffonade basil and add to a fruit salad consisting of watermelon, cantaloupe and pineapple.

11. Stir leaves of oregano into a few ounces of goat cheese and enjoy over salad.

12. Top chicken or fish tacos with cilantro leaves.

13. Add parsley to the breading mixture for baked chicken tenders or fish fillets.

14. Tear leaves of basil into steamed peas.

15. Sprinkle chopped parsley onto roasted potatoes, smashed potatoes, or mashed potatoes (polenta works too!)

What’s your favorite herb? How do you incorporate herbs into your diet?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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