Monday, November 28, 2011

Creative ways to use your leftovers: Cranberry sauce

I have a love-love relationship with leftovers. And Thanksgiving leaves some of the yummiest leftovers of the year! Many of the one-time-a-year dishes served at Thanksgiving dinner can be easily incorporated into everyday meals. In an efficient kitchen, nothing goes to waste! And leftovers are an amazing time-saver too. But cranberry sauce might be one leftover that you don't know what to do with; and this year it's my favorite! My so-simple recipe for cranberry relish, below, can be easily enjoyed post-Thanksgiving. If you don't want to use it right away, just freeze it in an ice cube tray for the perfect portion later on.

Cran-orange relish at Thanksgiving

With your leftovers, try a 1-2 tablespoon portion (only 20-40 calories) used as:
  • Jam/spread on whole wheat toast or waffles
  • Topping for Greek yogurt
  • Spread for turkey sandwich (also made with leftover turkey)
  • Side for roasted pork tenderloin
  • Mix-in for oatmeal
Relish atop plain Greek yogurt. Does this not look indulgent?
Well it is...but without the guilt!

Why worry about saving it? Cranberries are a great source of some very potent antioxidants (or phytochemicals), which have many health benefits and are shown to prevent cancer. It's better to enjoy fresh cranberries versus canned because you can control how much sugar is added (you could even substitute some sugar substitute)--and quite frankly, they're better!

Cranberry-orange relish
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 (12 oz.) bags fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
  • Zest, juice and pulp of 1 orange
  • 1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cranberries will start to soften and pop within 2-3 minutes. Stir until most of the cranberries have popped and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat to cool and thicken. Refrigerate.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Makes 16 (1/4 cup) servings.
Nutrition information, per 1/4 cup:
75 calories, 0g fat, 0mg sodium, 19g carb, 2g fiber.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine

Wait-don't throw your leftovers away just yet! And that includes your pumpkins, if they're still around. Stay tuned for more holiday recipes and creative ways to use them. Be sure to freeze any leftovers you won't be using immediately by TOMORROW (that will make 5 days in the fridge)!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Are you one of 1 billion?

Believe it or not, 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine vitamin," because it can be synthesized in our skin while we're out in the sun. We've known for years that inadequate vitamin D can affect your mood (heard of the winter blues??), but we continue to learn that it can affect much more.

Researchers have found that there are vitamin D receptors on the pancreas, the prostate, breast tissue, the colon, macrophages (which protect your immune system), the kidneys (regulate blood pressure) and the parathyroid gland. Woah! How many common health problems could be related to insufficient levels of vitamin D?

Although this subject has been getting tons of attention lately, I'm bringing it up now because I attended a great seminar last week on vitamin D. So good in fact, that I even found myself wondering if I could possibly have insufficient levels of vitamin D. Dietitians aren't perfect after all (however hard we may try)! But it makes sense--there aren't that many food sources that contain vitamin D, they're easily eliminated from people's diets and most of us don't go out in the sun that much any more. If you don't eat fish, don't consume several servings of dairy a day and/or aren't in the sun (with most of your body exposed) for at least 15 minutes per week, you could be one of the 1 billion with a low vitamin D level.

The good news is that this problem is easily remedied. The Institute of Medicine now recommends that people ages 1 to 70 consume 600 IU vitamin D daily. If you are overweight or obese, you might require 2 to 3 times more vitamin D! The best food sources of vitamin D are fortified dairy products and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines (double bang for your buck here--you also get a good helping of healthy omega-3s).

You can get all the vitamin D you need "naturally" by consuming three servings of fortified dairy products daily, fatty fish at least twice per week and basking in the sunlight without sunscreen (or yes...getting UVBs from the tanning bed) once a week. Give it your best shot because getting our nutrients from food is best, if possible. However, most of us would probably benefit from a low-dose supplement just in case we're lacking for the day. But this should be just insurance! A plain-old multivitamin typically contains 400 IU vitamin D and is a good back-up plan. But if you're already deficient in vitamin D, this won't be enough to increase your levels back to normal range. And of course, there are many causes of vitamin D deficiency, not just inadequate diet. If you feel symptoms of low vitamin D (muscle pain, fatigue, decreased immunity) or think you may be at risk, discuss vitamin D testing and supplementation with your doctor.

Although evidence-based and as accurate as possible, advice given in this column should not be used as a substitute for personal medical attention from your physician. Always check with your physician before making any changes to your medications, over the counter or prescription.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trying to diet? See how your plan ranks!

Last week, U.S. News & World Report released their evaluation of the Best Diets for healthy eating. Diets were given a "healthiness" score from 1 to 5 (5 being the best) for safety and nutrition. According to the panel's analysis, which included health experts and dietitians, the Dash Diet received the top ranking and the Atkins Diet came in at number 20 (out of 20). Surprising? Not really. The Atkins, Raw Food and Paleo diets (new trend...the paleolithic diet) received low scores because they were too restrictive to provide adequate amounts of healthy nutrients. Top-ranking diets, including also the Mediterranean diet and the Mayo Clinic diet, were similar in that they relied more heavily on vegetables, fruits and whole grains with a modest amount of lean protein, non-fat dairy and healthy fats.

Overall, this is a nice overview of popular diets with sound evaluations. We hear so much information relating to food and nutrition that it can be difficult to decide between myth and fact! It's good to have a reminder of what a healthy diet really is. Bottom line: if you're eliminating entire food groups or focusing on a single nutrient, your diet is not likely to help you achieve health and lasting weight loss. Click here to read the report. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The perfect time to STOP Diabetes is NOW.

That's right.  Even if the thought of diabetes has never crossed your mind. NOW is the time to start paying attention: before you develop diabetes or even pre-diabetes.

I'm bringing it up now because November is National Diabetes Awareness month, dedicated to all people who have any type of diabetes, including type 1 and type 2. And today (11-1-11) marks the first annual Type 1 Day (T1Day), a new campaign led by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. November 1st is a day especially dedicated to commemorating the lives, accomplishments and triumphs of people living with type 1 diabetes.

I think National Diabetes Month is also a time to recognize how big a problem diabetes is becoming in America. And also to realize that there is so much we can do to prevent and control it! Type 2 diabetes is very much a preventable disease, or at least a disease we can put off, even if the risk is in our genes. Not to mention, if you have diabetes, the risk of complications can be minimized by controlling blood sugars.

Did you know that...
  • Nearly 26 million children and adults have diabetes
  • 79 million people have pre-diabetes or are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes
  • Diabetes kills more people each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined
  • The CDC projects that 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by the year 2050 unless we take steps to stop diabetes.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, amputations and kidney disease.
We have to face it and take action now! There are simple steps you can take to improve your health and risk of diabetes. (I'll be sharing them throughout the month).

For starters, take this quick quiz to find out if you're at risk for type 2 diabetes. If you need help, don't be afraid to ask. I've spent thouands of hours helping people manage diabetes. If you're not local, there are diabetes educations programs around the country. Wherever you go, diabetes educators are here to help you learn, manage your health and provide support.

What do you think about the diabetes epidemic?