Awesome Smoothie Ingredient

Lately I’ve been back into using my Vitamix to make protein-rich smoothies for breakfast, which I pour into an insulated bottle (this one) and drink when I remember them, which is usually around 11 AM.

My usual recipe: 8 ounces of unsweetened almond milk, a scoop of vanilla protein powder, and frozen fruit.

Even though this process only takes five minutes, I’m always on borrowed time in the morning and I’m all for anything that streamlines my routine.

And confession: I also recently discovered that the estimated portions of frozen fruit that I have been using – measured with the time-tested technique I refer to as “eyeballing” the amount – are roughly double what they should be.

Last weekend I picked up this bag of frozen mango chunks at the grocery store:

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But what I didn’t realize is that inside this bag, there are five pre-portioned bags of mango chunks.

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Each bag is eight ounces, which is the perfect amount for a smoothie. The stats aren’t bad, either, since each bag contains 90 calories and there is no added sugar.

 

 

 

Travel Snacks

Right now I’m trying to avoid airport/airplane and otherwise bad-for-you travel food whenever possible.

This takes some planning, but with multiple trips back-to-back, I need to buckle down on healthy eating.

Here’s the latest crop of snacks that made it into my carry-on.

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Mary’s Gone Crackers. These gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan crackers come in seven varieties.

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Go Macro bars. Stats: 260 cals, 9g fat, 10g sugar, 10g protein, 1g fiber. The fiber is the weak link here, but I’m ok with this as an overall meal replacement.

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The Think Thin name kind of throws me off (seems a bit too Slim Fast-y for me), but I was attracted to the low sugar content of these bars – only 2g! 

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This 22 Days bar was an instant favorite. Although I’ve only tried this bar, I’m intrigued by the company’s manifesto. Vegan home delivery meal service? I would actually love to try that.

Other staples: plain water, mineral water (I almost entirely gave up soda six months ago), and my old friend, coffee with a splash of milk.

While it’s still healthier to make your own food and eat at home, I still figure I’m better off with these choices than, say, the Panda Express at Gate 75.

 

 

Kale Scramble

Do you like savory or sweet things for breakfast?

If I had to pick just one category, I’d pick savory, but I like both.

I only go out to brunch about once a year, which is more than adequate since I unfortunately tend to eat my body weight in things like muffins, omelets and hash browns when given the chance.

My usual breakfast is either a mid-morning Greek yogurt with berries, eaten at my desk between patients when I’m in clinic, or a smoothie made from almond milk, vanilla protein powder and frozen fruit – usually consumed when I’m on the go.

But lately, when I have enough time, I’m really digging veggie and egg white scrambles smothered with Sriracha.

I am so, so addicted to Sriracha, and this is a perfect vehicle for it.

Here was my breakfast last Saturday:

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Ingredients:

  • Coconut oil spray for pan
  • 2-3 cups raw kale
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup egg whites or egg substitute
  • Sriracha, salsa or other hot sauce of your choice

Directions:

  • Spray a saute pan with coconut spray.
  • Add cherry tomatoes and sauté on high heat. Ok to let tomatoes blister and split.
  • When tomatoes are thoroughly cooked, add a few handfuls of chopped, raw kale.
  • Spray the kale leaves with a little extra coconut spray and season with coarse salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes (optional).
  • Cook the kale until softened, then add eggs to pan and scramble.
  • Smother with Sriracha and inhale. 

Any veggies can be used for this, but one reason kale is great is because it is less watery than other greens like spinach. When I make this with spinach, I usually have to drain out excess water before adding the eggs.

I try to limit the amount of cooking spray I use, so the end result usually involves some serious scrubbing of my pan.

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Still worth it, though.

 

On and Off the Wagon

candy

Argh.

Ok, I hit a speed bump last week with leftover Halloween candy.

Consuming fistfuls of miniature Hershey bars wasn’t quite in my plan, but that’s where I found myself.

This week I’m back on the wagon, but I was left thinking about something I heard several years ago, namely that if you’re going to indulge, make it special.

I can tell you right now that there was nothing special about the pile of Halloween candy I ate.

It wasn’t Great-Grandma’s toffee recipe, lovingly re-created once a year for the holidays. It wasn’t even Cadbury Crème Eggs, available only at Easter.

You could buy any of the leftover treats I shoveled down my gullet from a random vending machine, and some of them even seemed a little stale. Ick.

I’m so mad at myself for falling into the trap of mindlessly overindulging on nutritional garbage, but I’m going to learn my lesson and soldier on.

Resolution: with the holidays approaching, if I choose to indulge, I will enjoy something that is unique, not readily available and worth it.

This Japanese proverb is also proving helpful:

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This just made me laugh:

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Fresh Persimmons

I was so excited to see that our local food co-op had fresh persimmons.

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Have you tried them?

I didn’t grow up eating persimmons, so these sweet fruits are relatively new to me.

There are basically two kinds of persimmons available in the U.S., Fuyu (what’s seen above) and Hachiya (below).

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Fuyus are more tomato-shaped versus Hachiyas, which are like acorns.

Both types should be eaten when fully ripe. 

(Hachiyas will taste bitter and chalky if you eat them too soon, but Fuyus are a bit more forgiving).

The fruit should be soft and the skin becomes almost translucent. The entire fruit is edible minus the leaves and stem.

You can slice off the top and scoop out the flesh with a spoon (it almost becomes a pudding when super ripe), or slice like a tomato.

I also like to refrigerate them right before eating, so the temperature is cool and they’re easier to prepare.

Their flavor is hard for me to describe, but it’s very mild, sweet and sort of melon-y. 

They are delicious.

Here’s a bowl I sliced for breakfast last weekend:

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Yum.

 

World Vegetarian Day

Today’s World Vegetarian Day, if you keep track of these types of things.

After being a strict vegetarian for more than a dozen years, I slowly started to eat seafood when I was in medical school.

Ironically, it was Gross Anatomy class that made me reconsider my position. I asked myself why I thought it was ok to dissect another human body yet I was totally grossed out by eating a Filet O’Fish?

Further review reinforced that Filets O’Fish are still pretty disgusting, but every once in a while I would eat high quality seafood, which now boils down to about 4-6 times a year.

If health is your goal, consider Meatless Mondays. My Uber health conscious friend G. has been doing this for a few years and swears by its power. Stumped for recipes? Look here.

Some final words with a bit of humor from A. Whitney Brown:

I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants.

 

 

 

Make A Splash

Fact: I need to consume more water.

Another fact: Plain water is pretty boring.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – you can make “spa water” by infusing regular water with slices of citrus fruits or even herbs.

But this will kick it up another notch: Get fancy with your ice, too.

One way is to add frozen berries or fruit slices to your spa water.

Another is to fill an ice cube tray with coconut water, freeze and use the cubes to give water a subtle hint of the tropics. This would be great with frozen pineapple slices as your “ice.”

 

 

Aaaah-vocado Toast

I’ve posted about my love for avocado toast before, but lately, this version has been front and center.

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Ingredients:

Yum! Big, big yum.

Coconut Oil

I asked my good friend A – a dietitian and wellness coach – to fill me in on coconut oil, which seems to be everywhere (everywhere!) right now.

Is it a bandwagon worth jumping on or a flash in the pan?

A. was kind enough to guest blog for me today:

Coconut oil is a hot nutrition trend.

While it may have health benefits, bottom line is it is a source of saturated fat.

Since there is not a lot of research on coconut oil (compared to other oils like olive oil), the verdict on its health benefits is still out. The clinical evidence that coconut oil is a super oil and delivers health benefits is very limited, especially on disease outcomes.

Like any saturated fat, if you can work it into your calorie budget…go ahead and enjoy it. Coconut oil should be limited to 7%-10% of calories because it can increase risk for heart disease, according to the AHA and 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

Best nutrition advice when it comes to oils…use a variety of healthy oils and watch your portion.

Here are A’s top picks for oils based on levels of antioxidants, monounsaturated fats and Omega 3s:

  • Cold Pressed or Expeller Olive Oil: 1 T.=119 cal./13.6 grams fat/9.8 grams monounsaturated fat. High in Omega 3 fats. Great for sautéing, making salad dressing and for dipping whole grain bread. Choose a European, first cold pressed/expeller-pressed olive oil to retain nutrients avoid chemicals used during the heating process.
  • Grapeseed Oil: 1 T.=120 cal./13 grams fat/2 grams monounsaturated fat. High in antioxidants and neutral taste. Use for high heat cooking. Look for brands that are expeller-pressed, a chemical-free mechanical method of oil extraction.
  • Organic Canola Oil: 1 T.=125 cal/13 grams fat/5.8 grams monounsaturated fat. High in Omega 3 fats. Perfect substitute for butter in cooking and baking. Choose organic canola oil to limit pesticide levels.
  • Flaxseed Oil: 1 T.=120 cal/13 g fat/ 2.5 grams monounsaturated fat. Generally taken as a supplement and not used for cooking.
  • Coconut Oil: 1 T.=126 cal/14 grams fat/0.5 grams monounsaturated fat. This unique oil is very high in saturated fat therefore more research needs to be done regarding using large amounts.

Her overall advice:

Use a variety of oils as they each have their own unique features and health benefits. Stay clear or use sparingly: palm oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, vegetable oil and trans fats/hydrogenated oils. Conventional corn and soy are genetically modified and the long term health risks of genetically modified food are unclear. As always, read the label!

If you buy coconut oil, make sure it’s virgin coconut oil (don’t get a blend, which can also contain trans fats). Because of its high saturated fat content, coconut oil is solid at room temperature. Also note that the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 16 grams of saturated fat per day, which is just a smidge above a tablespoon for coconut oil.

 

Healthy Eating On the High Seas

In a few months, we’re going on vacation. The same vacation we’ve taken four years in a row, a Disney cruise.

We’ve taken this trip over and over for the same reasons: our kids are still little enough to believe Mickey is a real friend to them and they genuinely delight in the organized, sanitized magic of it all, I’ve figured out many tricks to maintain my sanity among the masses (separate post about that in the future), and there is a kids’ club where they can be checked in to spend hours and hours a day, exhausting themselves in supervised Disney fun, while I relax in the spa and Spouse naps in the sun. Bliss.

Someday, we’ll do an adventurous trip to, say, Nepal, but that’s not happening right now. This crew? Forget it.

Cruises get bad raps for legitimate reasons. I get it. I really do. I would not want to aimlessly float for days at sea in a toilet-less incapacitated ship, for sure.

Food is almost always one of the things people complain about when they deride cruising.

To quote Woody Allen in “Annie Hall:”

There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”

Except that on cruises, the portions are ginormous. Quality can still be meh, as this is food prepared for the masses, not by a private chef. But one thing’s for sure: there are opportunities to eat 24/7.

So how do you stay healthy and avoid weight gain on a vacation like this?

My friend A., a dietitian, coach and my fitness inspiration, just came back from a cruise, and I asked her how she stayed slim and sane. Her tips:

• Pack a healthy mindset.
• Be active: take the stairs, use the track on the sun deck, rock climb, golf, play basketball.
• Go to the spa and relax. Enjoy some lemon or cucumber infused water.
• My top pick…Use side salad plates rather than the buffet platter. Be sensible with your portions. Don’t put yourself into a food coma.
• Don’t order room service for breakfast before you go to the dining room for breakfast [Sidenote from me: This is a thing? I didn’t realize people even could or would do this. Wow].
• Always choose the salad option as a starter. Order your dressing on the side.
• Cruise lines pride themselves in service so ASK how things are prepared and if you can get a substitution for a healthier option.
• Ask your waiter not to bring bread before dinner…that’s a meal in itself.
• Order double vegetables.
• Seafood is usually a healthy option but make sure it’s not swimming in butter or cream sauce
• Bring healthy foods with you like raw nuts, protein bars, Shakeology (protein drink)
• Avoid the umbrella drinks. A 7oz pina colada has 500 calories and 17 g fat. Opt for vodka with a splash of juice or a Corona light for 110 calories.
• Be mindful. Stay in the moment. Practice conscious eating.
Did I mention you should pack a healthy mindset?

Thank you, A!

I really appreciate this advice. Some of the things I do:

  • Run on the deck. Every day. It’s fun and challenging, as one side usually has a terrific headwind and the other a tailwind. Go as early in the morning as possible to avoid languid shuffle boarders.
  • Take the stairs. Elevator lines are often long when everyone is trying to get to the same place, like a show or dinner. Take the stairs! You could easily tally 20 or 30 flights a day if you just walk up and down.
  • Eat things that are special or unique, and try to avoid things that are easily available at home (unless you are hungry for it and it is a healthy choice, like fresh fruit). Last year I signed up for a chocolate and wine tasting, and this was worth it!
  • Stop eating things that don’t taste good. Last year I found myself eating stale tortilla chips and lame salsa at a late-night buffet, and I thought, ick, this is gross. I tossed it. I felt a tiny bit of guilt for the waste, but it wasn’t worth the calories to keep eating. Just walk away.
  • Better moral of the above story would be to avoid the late-night buffet altogether and eat only at regular mealtimes.
  • But don’t force yourself to eat if you’re not hungry. A frequent pattern for us is that I will wake up the earliest, before everyone else (a curse of doctor-dom, waking at the crack of dawn after so many years of practice), and quietly head out to run on the deck for an hour or so. By the time I get back, the rest of the crew is waking up, and then it still takes a bit of time to get everyone presentable enough to show up for breakfast. This usually puts us in the position of eating much, much later than usual, and when lunchtime rolls around shortly thereafter, I’m usually not into it. I might have a snack later in the afternoon so that I’m not famished at dinner, but if I’m not hungry for lunch, I don’t force it.
  • Stay hydrated. With water. Bring your own water bottle and use it.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol during the day. Just because it’s five o’clock somewhere doesn’t mean it’s cocktail hour on the boat.

P.S. Here’s some more sensible advice for cruising here and here.