The Novice Foodie

Just eating real foods, lifting heavy things and learning about it along the way


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Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive

Here’s a quick tip for those of us on a budget. I buy frozen green peppers (Kroger brand) and shake a few into the pan with my eggs in the morning. As for eggs, I use one cage free natural fed egg and a splash of liquid egg whites. It surprised me how many big name brands of liquid egg whites had so many fake ingredients in them. As long as you check the ingredients list and see only what you’re looking for, you’ve just saved time and cash, both on the initial purchase and the race against fresh food rotting. Of course, fresh is always better, but I keep these in my freezer for days I don’t have fresh in the fridge.

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Up Front and Center

It’s making an appearance, and it’s sweeping menus everywhere!

Next time you eat out, beware–there might be some extra numbers beside your menu options.

My first encounter was innocent enough. I opened my menu at Olive Garden and begin browsing. Name, description, price…calorie count? Select nutritional information was listed right there on the menu!

As a health-conscious person, I was delighted yet surprised to see the little (or not so little) numbers printed alongside each dish. I was conflicted. The health side of me thought, well this is convenient to have this listed right here, while the rest of me thought the menu was being a little rude. Calories have always been a little taboo, haven’t they? Especially at a place like the Olive Garden, where patrons are (or should be) prepped to indulge.

In disbelief, I glanced around. It didn’t seem to stop anybody from ordering the traditional dishes, like the seemingly harmless spaghetti and meatballs (a whopping 1,110 calories). I realized that I instantly had the power to make judgements about everyone in the restaurant.

But, did I really want this information shoved in my face right away? I will admit that I have read the nutrition facts online before, and I knew what selections were some of the lesser evils (Cheese ravioli is 660 calories) and which ones were the worst (Tour of Italy at 1450…no surprise there.) But it still caught me a little off-guard to have the numbers in my face like that. And totally prevented me from cheating.

I was at dinner with family, but looking at the couple across the room, I thought how awkward this may or may not be for the self-conscious dinner date. I know I would be more likely to choose something with fewer calories if I was with my significant other (salads anyone?)

A few weeks later, I stopped in Panera to grab breakfast on the go. There on their menu was a listing of nutrition facts as well. This time, I took it as more of a convenience factor. It made my decision easier–The Power Breakfast Sandwich it was. No picking my brain to make a guess at the best option.

In retrospect, shouldn’t nutrition facts always be this easy to find? Subway did it. Arguably, packaged products have been doing it forever, even if we are trained to ignore them. And, I had spent the time looking online to find nutrition facts at both establishments prior to seeing the info. printed on their menus anyway, so having it there just does the work for me. It makes it easier to make healthy choices–no more looking it up and trying to remember it.

Overall, I think it’s a great initiative. Packaging may mislead, but nutrition facts are facts, after all. Maybe raising awareness about them is just what this nation needs.


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“That’s not good for you”

If the whole journalism thing doesn’t work out, I would gladly go to school to become a nutritionist /dietitian. I am continually trying to figure out what really is healthy and what is just an fad. It is very difficult as a consumer to decipher the good from the bad when it comes to foods, unless you want to spend hours in the grocery store reading labels.

For instance, I know that nuts are a great source of protein and generally deemed “good for you.” So, I started eating almonds as snacks (because I am allergic to peanuts.) I now know that almonds are actually high in fat (good fats, but fat nonetheless) and only appropriate in small doses. The better choice would be a walnut, which contains omega 3 and antioxidants.

So, where exactly do I turn for real health information? What is a credible source that can tell me what is actually “good for you?”

The latest in nutrition seems to be organic and natural foods, such as those offered at Whole Foods Markets. The concept makes sense, that the less processed the food product, the less chemicals you consume and the better it is for your body. But beyond that is where I fail to find clear guidelines.

Tips listed on the Whole Foods Market include:

Plant based

  • Simply put, eat mostly plants
  • No matter what type of diet you follow — including those that incorporate dairy, meat and/or seafood — eat more plants, like raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, legumes and beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains
  • Eat a colorful variety of plants to ensure you’re getting the best nutrients for your body, which leads to feeling satiated

Real food

  • Choose foods that are whole, fresh, natural, organic, local, seasonal and unprocessed
  • Eliminate the consumption of refined, highly processed foods and foods void of nutrients, such as artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats

Low fat

  • Get your healthy fats from plant sources, such as nuts and avocados
  • Minimize extracted oils and processed fats
  • If eating a diet that includes animal products, choose leaner meats and seafood as well as low-fat dairy products

Nutrient dense

  • Choose foods that are rich in nutrients when compared to their total caloric content; also known as foods with a high nutrient density
  • Build your menus around plant-based foods to ensure highly nutrient-dense meals
  • Choose foods with a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants
  • Look for the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) scoring system to guide you on healthier choices

The tips have been reiterated countless times, but to really put them into practice takes more than a list of ideas. I am in search of one-on-one, customizable, personal counseling to guide me to healthy eating. Resources I am aware of are of course MyPyramid.gov and the FDA, and Cleveland Clinic Health, however, they do not provide the personalization for my peanut-allergy, fish-loathing, mushroom-and-onion-disliking self.

So, digging deeper into the Whole Foods website, I noticed more specific guidelines for the “20-39 year old woman,” which are as follows:

Protein

Reproductive health and sexual function depend on a healthy diet with adequate nutrient intake, including sufficient amounts of protein.

Protein builds and maintains muscle tissue and helps the body to heal and repair itself.

Protein is found in abundance in fish, beef, poultry, wild game, eggs, dairy products, soybeans, and legumes.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

A number of studies have found that B6 relieves PMS symptoms and decreases the intensity and duration of menstrual cramps.9

Not stored in the body, Vitamin B6 needs to be replaced by whole foods or supplements within eight hours. Good dietary sources include meats, eggs, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. Vitamin B6 is generally available in a multivitamin formula or a basic Vitamin B complex.

The RDI for Vitamin B6 is 2 mg per day.

Folic Acid (folate)

An adequate supply of this B vitamin is important for women, in particular during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Studies have shown that supplementation with folic acid around the time of conception can reduce the risk of having a child with neural tube defects.10 Folic acid is also extremely heart-friendly.

Folic acid is found in leafy greens, citrus fruits, beans, and wheat germ, and is generally available in a multivitamin formula or a basic Vitamin B complex.

According to The National Academy of Sciences, all women of childbearing age need to have 400 micrograms daily (600 micrograms when pregnant).

Iron

Many young women do not get enough iron, a critical mineral that can be lost while menstruating.

Iron is necessary for good energy as it increases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Fatigue, weakness, pale skin and lips, and a tendency to feel cold may be signs of iron deficiency anemia.

A diet including iron-rich foods (such as, liver, lean red meat, shellfish, and dried beans) may also be complemented by a supplement.

The RDI for iron for women in this age group is 15 mg (30 mg when pregnant).

Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

Grown in Mediterranean countries and central Asia, vitex has a long history of medicinal use. Well-respected as a woman’s herb, vitex was recommended by Hippocrates for a wide variety of conditions.

Although it does not contain hormones, vitex acts upon the pituitary gland to increase progesterone production and helps with regulating the menstrual cycle. One study found that women taking vitex have significant relief from symptoms ranging from breast tenderness to cramping and headaches.

Chaste Tree is available in herbal and supplement form.

And on the Cleveland Clinic Site:

If you are trying to watch your weight…

Watching your total caloric intake is important when trying to lose weight. Finding foods high in fiber can help make you feel fuller longer and helps prevent between-meal snacking. Reading food labels for serving size is also an effective measure towards weight loss.

While these tips are helpful, I am still on the look out for straight guidelines about what to eat, like specific foods to buy at the store.

Today, I visited the Whole Foods Market for the first time upon recommendation from a co-worker. Although I enjoyed a place where I know most anything I pick up is probably “good for me,” I was overwhelmed with healthy choices and options. Problems I have with grocery shopping:

  • What specific products should I be looking to incorporate into my diet? So you say ____ is “good for you,” but what is the BEST kind? What, out of the ten options on the shelf, should I put in my cart?
  • What actually tastes good? You say flax seed is “good for you,” but how can I sneak it into my diet in a way that actually tastes good? I have definitely had my share of healthy foods that end up tasting terrible.

I wish I could just have a personal health guru by my side to make me a shopping list of delicious, healthy, affordable products. But until that day, please share any resources to help make good decisions!


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Blood Type Diet?

Has anyone ever heard of eating for their blood type?

I know I hadn’t until a co-worker mentioned the theory. I can’t say that I know what my blood type is, but I definitely want to find out after learning about this.

I just hope I’m not a type B….they are advised to avoid all of my favorite foods 😦

“For Type Bs, the biggest factors in weight gain are corn, wheat, buckwheat, lentils, tomatoes, peanuts and sesame seeds. Each of these foods affect the efficiency of your metabolic process, resulting in fatigue, fluid retention, and hypoglycemia – a severe drop in blood sugar after eating a meal… Another very common food that Type Bs should avoid is chicken. Chicken contains a Blood Type B agglutinating lectin in its muscle tissue.”