Fiber: The Real Deal vs. The Imposters

While, browsing the isles of the food store recently, I’ve come across numerous products touting ‘Great Source of Fiber’, however, many food companies are attempting to fool consumers such as you and I about the fiber in their products.


Start by taking a look at your favorite products, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to see a whole slew of ingredients such as modified food starch and other additives.  And what will you not see? Well, many of these products do Not list whole grains–therefore they’re serving up processed junk that has been stripped of its nutritional value and fiber content.  Many of my clients face stomach discomfort and GI problems, including myself, when these additives are consumed.

When reading the ingredient list on a food package, be sure to recognize fiber impostors such as inulin, modified starch, maltodextrin and polydextrose and understand that if the packing is touting ‘Fiberific” and these ingredients are listed…it’s time to put the product back on the shelf and reach for a whole grain product with ‘real’ fiber.

These fake fibers that I listed above do not provide us with the health benefits that we get from real fiber in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.  Be sure to watch out for fiber fortified products from brands such as Fiber One, Splenda, Post and General Mills cereals, crackers and desserts.

Be aware of the false advertising on packages of yogurts, cookies, ice creams, diet drinks and brownies.  These foods contain polydextrose, which I mentioned above and is synthesized from glucose and sorbitol, a low-calorie carbohydrate.  It’s one of the many new fiber imposters along with inulin and maltodextrin that is showing up in baked goods and dairy products that previously had very little or no fiber.  Sadly enough, the FDA  allows manufacturers to add polydextrose to more products than previously permitted, allowing food companies to entice consumers such as you and I to buy the ‘good tasting’ fiber foods.  These fiber additives serve two purposes-they can be used as bulking agents to make reduced-calorie foods taste yummy such as fat-free ice cream and pudding and they appeal to consumers by appearing on the Nutrition Facts as ‘dietary fiber’.  Don’t be fooled!

I encourage you to steer clear of these fiber impostors which make us believe that fiber ‘tastes good’ unlike the cardboard taste that many fiber rich products have.  Transitioning your family to increase their fiber content can be a struggle, however, do not let these processed foods become a part of your daily fiber intake.  Try to reach for fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes.  Make sure your fiber is coming from oat bran, whole wheat, beans, peas, prunes, almonds and other plans as these foods  naturally contain fiber.

As we all know from my previous post on Fiber, there are two forms.  Insoluble, which forms bulk and regulates acidity in your stomach and Soluble, which helps regulate cholesterol and blood sugar.

Insoluble is found in foods such as whole wheat products, quinoa, brown rice, bran, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds.

Soluble is found in foods such as oats, barley, rye, potatoes, fruits, veggies, dried fruits and legumes.

So, stick to the basics and don’t let your food get too complicated.  If grandma wouldn’t recognize it…put it back on the shelf and head to the perimeter of the food store where you will find fresh fruits and veggies with ‘Real Fiber’.

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Get Smart n’ Get Snackin’…

Are You a Smart Snacker?  Here are a few of my tips to help you navigate through the snack drawer.  Be aware of those processed, store-bought ‘treats’ and opt for your own homemade, nutritious snack packed with vitamins and nutrients to keep you happy and healthy all day long.

nutttt

Traveling for the New Year? Pack some of my portable snacks to keep your tummy satisfied whether you’re in the car, on the plane or train…these healthy nibbles are sure to keep your taste buds happy and your belly trim…just in time for the New Year.

Happy New Years Eve!

Be Mindful of Why You are Eating.

Are you stressed? Thirsty? Not eating enough? Ask yourself these questions before you dig in.  Be sure to keep healthy snack options in your office for a quick go-to when you’re in need of a quick fix.  When eating your meals, plate it,  sit down and savor your food…chew each bite and relax.  Plating your food and sitting down will give you visual of how much you have consumed. Many of my clients eat breakfast standing up, lunch at their desks and dinner in front of the television, this will not only disrupt your digestion, but leaves you unsatisfied and yearning for more!

Portion Control.

Know your weaknesses and your triggers.  If you’re known to eat a box of cereal or cookies in one sitting-reach for your Ziploc bags as soon as you purchase these foods and make yourself portion controlled snacks.  This way, when you are in the mood for cereal or cookies, you can easily reach for one bag, sit down, put it on a plate or in a bowl and enjoy your snack without mindlessly over-doing it.

Don’t Skip Meals.

We all know the most important meal of the day is a hearty breakfast.  Be sure to follow up with a mid-morning snack, a filling lunch, an afternoon nibble and a nutritious dinner.  Do not skip meals; this will only set you up for failure.  Keep your blood sugar steady and your body and brain fueled by eating a 3 balanced meals with 2 snacks each day.  This may not work for everyone, many of my clients prefer to have 3 meals and a dessert or they have learned that eating mini-meals throughout the day works for them.  Whatever works for you is what you should stick to-we’re all different people with different needs, therefore the is no cookie cutter way of how many meals and snacks you should be eating each day.  Just be sure that you feel energized and satisfied; if you are hungry, reach for a smart, healthy option.


Decipher Between Snacks and Treats.

Those ‘100 calorie’ packs that you see in the food store are not snacks–they’re treats! Take a looksy at the nutrition facts and ingredients- you’ll be surprised by the amount of sugar and additives in each little pouch.  Instead of reaching for processed treats, opt for a more nutritious whole food option such as a whole grain cracker with cheese, a small Greek yogurt with apple slices or a banana with nut butter.


Don’t Wait Until Your Tummy is Rumblin’.

I encourage my clients to eat every 3 to 5 hours.  If you let yourself go any longer, you can damage your day and set yourself up for an overeating fest.


Reach for Lean Protein, Good Fats, Fruits and Veggies.

When you eat a snack of protein, healthy fat and produce you can achieve a satisfied feeling rather than reaching for a sugar-laden treat.  Try pairing a nut butter atop celery, a few slices of cheese with an apple or a handful of pistachios and grapes.


Cook in Bulk for Easy Prep.

Purchase store bought rotisserie chicken and you can easily toss it into your morning omelet, afternoon chicken salad sandwich and evening pasta  dish.  On a Sunday evening, try to cook up a batch of inexpensive pantry staples such as potatoes, rice, pasta and beans.  Store leftovers in the fridge for the week in Tupperware containers, therefore when you are ready to eat, you can simply reach for these precooked foods and whip up a nutritious snack meal in no time.


Have Fun, Get Creative
.

Eating should not be a chore; take a look at my On-the-go-Snacks and More Snacks for healthy ideas between meals.  Don’t be afraid to try new things, instead of a peanut butter and jelly white bread sandwich, opt for a whole grain bread with all natural nut butter and jelly without added sugars.

Take a look at Cooking Light Magazine’s ’10 Healthy Habits in 2010′ for some great ways to kick off your New Year on the right foot.

In The News…

A&P Features Printable Coupons

Safety of Food Spotty at Airports

Gluten-Free Menus Make Their Way to Small Towns

USDA Program Aims To Simplify Foods’ Nutritional Values

Have a safe and enjoyable New Years Eve!

Get Those Kids Cookin’…

Ever wonder how to get your kids involved in the kitchen? Here are a few tips that I offer to my clients…whether you have young children, nieces, nephews, neighbors, family or friends…these tips are sure to get your little ones active and entertained in the kitchen.


  • Cucumber Caterpillar: Slices of cucumber held together with natural peanut butter. Place the Caterpillar on ‘greens’ to look like grass.
  • Taco or Burrito Bar: Serve brown rice, black beans, onions, hot peppers, sprouted grain or gluten free tortillas, broccoli, arugula, cauliflower, guacamole and  salsa.  Add nuts, seeds and spices in tiny serving dishes to jazz up the flavors!
  • Salad Bar: Spin your greens in a salad spinner, then dress dry greens with a lime dressings made by combining sesame oil, fresh lime juice, low-sodium tamari, cayenne pepper, agave nectar, balsamic vinegar and water.
  • Mashed Potato Parfaits- Sweet Potatoes, Parsnips and carrots mixed together…topped with raisins, cinnamon, shredded coconut and agave nectar
  • Individual Pizzas: Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Choose gluten free or sprouted whole grain tortillas, caramelized onions, spinach, red onion, mushrooms, kalamata olives, artichokes, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Add each ingredient atop each tortilla and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Panini Party: Gluten Free or sprouted whole grain bread, SoyaKaas Gluten Free/Dairy Free cheese, tomato slices, eggplant slices, fresh basil leaves, balsamic vinegar, avocado, zucchini and squash slices.  Add all ingredients to 2 slices of bread.  Place onto a panini maker (sprayed with cooking spray); cook until cheese is melted and veggies are warm and cooked.  Dip into marinara (red) sauce.
  • Stir-Fry: Switch up your usual recipe with unique grains such as millet, quinoa or buckwheat.
  • Fruit Salad: Add exotic fruits to spice up the flavors.  Use a melon baller and serve in a wine glass to add to the allure of this meal.  Add a dollop of plain Greek yogurt atop each fruit salad serving and sprinkle with cinnamon and stevia.
  • Slaw Wraps: Cabbage, celery, carrots, bok choy, mushrooms, peppers, snap peas, bean sprouts, snow peas, green beans and Napa Slaw can easily be combined and wrapped in rice paper.  Liven up this dish by pairing it with a special sauce of grapefruit juice, ginger, balsamic vinegar, lemonade and seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower.  Toss with fresh apples or cumin roasted chick peas.  Adding berries such as blackberries, raspberries and cherries add a nice antioxidant punch to these wraps.
  • Peanut Butter Chicken Fajitas: The best way to make a good peanut sauce is by combining organic peanut butter, fresh ginger, cayenne pepper, agave nectar and low-sodium tamari/soy sauce.
  • Frozen Basil and Banana Pops: Blend together 2 cups ice, 2 cups fresh basil leaves, 1 ripe banana, 1 cup fresh mint leaves, 1 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup agave nectar in a blender.  Blend well and pour into glasses! This is a wonderful treat for a healthy dessert!

Have fun and experiment with some of my ideas above…Getting the kids active in the kitchen is fun…and who knows, your kids may just start to ‘enjoy’ their veggies!!!

Tofu Macadamia Stuffed Squash

acorn

Last weekend, while visiting the Union Square Green Market, I purchased a few acorn squash in hopes to prepare a stuffed squash dish this week.  After browsing through the endless pages of my cookbooks, there was not one stuffed squash recipe that stood out to me…Story of my life, and we all know what happens next…Yep, you guessed it… Amie digging through the pantry and refrigerator for ingredients to toss into a yummy acorn squash.

I stumbled upon a container of dried cranberries, a bag of macadamia nuts (from my nut splurge last week at Whole Foods) and a fresh orange.  Hmmm, I thought…with a quick trip to the corner market I purchased some fresh mushrooms and before I knew it I was in my kitchen chopping away and creating a healthy squash masterpiece.  I didn’t have any rice in my pantry, however, I did have a nice firm block of tofu in my fridge, which I thought would be a perfect way to bulk up my stuffing and add a nice protein kick, as well.

After a few minutes of mixing and experimenting…I was ready to stuff my squash and pop it back into the oven for a hearty, warm dinner.  The end result: Perfecto.  A ’10’ in my book for sure…and if you happen to purchase a few acorn squash this fall, be sure to stuff ’em with my tasty Tofu n’ Cranberry Stuffing.

Acorn squash is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium along with smaller doses of vitamins C and B, manganese and magnesium.  It’s an easy squash to pick out at the market due to it’s cute ‘acorn’ shape and harvest green skin, which is speckled with orange patches and pale yellow-orange flesh.  Acorn is one of my favorite varieties of winter squash because of its sweet and nutty flavor combination.  Do you enjoy acorn squash?  If so, what’s your favorite way to prepare it? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 block Nasoya Firm Tofu, pressed and cubed
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. agave nectar
  • 4 cups whole grain/ gluten-free bread cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp. dried cilantro
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp. spicy mustard
  • 2 cups yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice (from a small orange)
  • 1/2 tsp. orange peel zest
  • Dash of sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • On a baking pan, drizzled with olive oil, place squash halves cut side down.  Add 3/4’’ of water and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.
  • Marinate tofu in balsamic vinegar, spicy mustard, agave nectar and orange juice.
  • In a large pot, sauté onions and mushrooms in the olive oil; cook for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add spices and vegetable stock.
  • Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Slowly add tofu, orange juice, balsamic vinegar and bread cubes; sauté for another 4-6 minutes; remove from heat.
  • Add in macadamia nuts, dried cranberries, basil, cilantro, orange zest , sea salt and pepper; mix well.
  • Transfer the filling into the baked squash halves and return to the oven to bake for another 20 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Continuing with my fall harvest theme, I have created a delectable Pumpkin Bread Pudding that will knock your socks off, leaving your taste buds yearning for more.  I was excited to use a fresh loaf of Nature’s Pride Soft 100% Whole Wheat bread, which has an incredible consistency and is perfectly suited for bread pudding.  Thanks to the pumpkin, whole wheat and ground flax, this tasty treat packs a healthy dose of beta carotene, whole grains and fiber.

pumpkin

Ingredients

  • 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1 can can canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 5 slices of Nature’s Pride Soft 100% Whole Wheat bread, cut into cube-like pieces
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped in food processor
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Plain Greek yogurt, for topping
  • Ground flax seeds, for topping
  • Handful of fresh mint, for topping

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, combine egg yolks, pumpkin, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Slowly add in milk; mix well.
  • Fold in Nature’s Path Soft 100% Whole Wheat bread cube piece, chopped macadamia nuts and dried cherries.
  • In a small bowl, beat egg whites until peaks form.
  • Slowly fold egg whites into the bread mixture.
  • Transfer into a baking dish.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.
  • Serve warm with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, fresh mint and a sprinkle of ground flax seeds.
  • Enjoy.

Sunflower Seed Oat Balls

MMMM

Plant some new seeds into your diet and reap the health benefits.  If you are looking for an alternative to your ordinary bean and nut balls or perhaps looking for a way to get more nutrients in your diet, take a glance down the ‘seed’ aisle of your local market.  Unlike nuts, seeds are not common allergens- which is great news for those of you who suffer from food sensitivities.   Furthermore, seeds are packed with nutrients such as Omega 3 Fatty Acids.

Last week, I was venturing through the aisles of Whole Foods Market when I stumbled upon the ‘seed’ section…suddenly, a tiny light bulb went off in my head and I began brainstorming seed recipe ideas…(yes, these are the crazy things that I do in the food store..and the reason that it takes me hours to get through one trip).  I whipped out my handy-dandy tiny note pad and started jotting down seed recipe ideas…Let’s just say you’ve gotta lotta seed recipes coming your way because I literally bought five different types of seeds because I simply couldn’t decide on one.  Plus, it’s more fun when you have five fun seeds to choose from in the pantry instead of one lousy option, right? Well, that was my thought…I had created eleven recipes right there in the seed aisle of Whole Foods Market…I finally had to move out of the way since I was ‘hogging’ the aisle amongst many rushed Manhattan folks.  Eleven recipes was enough, I thought, so I tossed the five different seeds into my cart and went on my way…Can you take a guess as to what the other four seeds are?  Well, you’ll see them soon enough…they’ll be popping up in my recipes within the next few weeks because I have ten more exciting seed recipes to share with you.  I hope you enjoy baking these delicious balls; let your imagination run wild and toss in a new grain or seed of your choice…let me know how your balls turn out!

This recipe can easily be made with sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and flax seeds.  I enjoy using sunflower seeds with these balls, however, your seed opportunities are endless- get creative and have fun. Many of us are familiar with the mild nutty taste of sunflower seeds, which make a great snack and can easily be tossed into salads, stir fries and baking recipes.  A handful of sunflower seeds will curb your hunger while supplying you with a healthy dose of vitamin E, selenium and magnesium. So, go ahead…have a ball in your kitchen and create these tasty balls for your dinner tonight!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2  cup rolled dry oats
  • 2 cups water (to cook oats)
  • 1 Tbsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked
  • 1 cup crispy whole grain cereal
  • 1 cup bran crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. oregano
  • 2 cups finely ground sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. wheat-free tamari
  • 1 tsp. spicy mustard
  • Dash of cumin
  • Dash of pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; mix well until texture resembles cookie dough.
  • Roll mixture into golf-ball sized balls and place on baking sheet.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Serve with tomato sauce and vegan Parmesan cheese topping.
  • Enjoy!

Cha-Cha-Cha Chia Chips

chips

Last night I had a bit of fun with my new chia seeds. Do you remember those commercials from the 90’s for the chia pets? Who would have thought chia seeds were a superfood and incredibly good for you?  For centuries this tiny little seed was used as a staple food by the Indians of the south west and Mexico.  It was known as the ‘running food’ and was used as an energy endurance source dated as far back as the ancient Aztecs.

Chia is a source of protein, rich in calcium and the richest vegetable source for the essential omega 3 fatty acid.  After researching chia seeds and their benefits, I decided to incorporate them into a tasty chip recipe, which is simple and easy to prepare.  These healthy chips pair perfectly with a dollop of guacamole, salsa and Greek yogurt!

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • Gluten-free or Whole Grain tortillas
  • 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. grain mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • Dash of chili powder
  • Olive Oil

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spread tortillas in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • In a bowl, combine chia seeds, chili powder, sea salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, mustard and lemon juice; mix well.
  • Slice tortillas into triangle shapes.
  • Brush each tortilla with olive oil and sprinkle mixture over triangle pieces.
  • Bake for 5-10 minutes or until tortillas are brown and crispy.
  • Enjoy dipped into guacamole, Greek plain yogurt or salsa!