Condiments are one of the easiest ways to amp up the flavor in your foods. While the addition of some condiments provides flavor and little else, some can actually ramp up the health factor of your meal, while some of your favorites may be heaping hundreds of calories and unnecessary sugar, fat, and salt onto your already healthy meals, sabotaging your efforts to eat lighter and cleaner.
Anything in excess can be bad for you, so just because a food is low in calories doesn’t mean it’s free license to eat as much as you’d like. To keep our condiment analysis true and accurate, always stick to recommended portion sizes.
Salsa: 1 oz, 8 calories, .9g sugar
Veggies, herbs and spices, what could go wrong? If you’re whipping up your own, not much, but grabbing a jar of name brand salsa off the shelf can mean you’re pouring on preservatives, chemicals, loads of sodium, and even added sugar if you’re a fruit salsa fan. Big companies will pump their salsa full of preservatives to keep it shelf stable. Think about it — how else can “fresh” veggies sit on a shelf for weeks and still be edible?
If you go fresh and all natural, salsa can be an amazingly healthy and delicious option for just about anything. If buying from the store, you should be able to recognize every ingredient on the label. If making your own, dice up fresh roma tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic and a little jalapeno and pile that pico high to sneak in an extra serving of veggies. Try it on eggs, over chicken, or mixed with brown rice and kidney beans for a satisfying meatless Mexican filling. (more…)
Surely you’ve all heard about oil pulling by now, right? It’s the latest natural health trend that has blown up over the last several weeks. You’ve probably seen the images all over Facebook as so many have been experimenting with this seemingly odd practice of swishing cooking oil in the mouth to improve a myriad of symptoms. The technique is ancient, but does that mean it’s effective?
For starters, oil pulling is a simple procedure. You choose a vegetable based oil, like coconut, sesame, sunflower, or olive oil, you take anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon, put it in your mouth and swish it around for up to 20 minutes.
Depending on the source, people claim the art of oil pulling whitens teeth, strengthens gums, improves the pain associated with sensitive teeth, prevents cavities, eases the symptoms of migraines, detoxes the body, clears out the sinuses, improves sleep, improves halitosis, and even aids in the recovery of a hangover. The list could go on and on…
The practice of oil pulling is believed to be about 3,000 to 5,000 years old. The technique falls under the blanket of Ayurvedic medicine, referring to ancient Indian medicine created in India.
Being a granola-head with loads of skepticism, I was anxious to try oil pulling and research the validity of it’s claims at the same time. So, that’s what I did. I swished organic coconut oil around in my mouth for several evenings, while I read articles and reached out to experts. (more…)
Fat makes you fat, right? Wrong.
For years, all fats have been made out to be a delicious incarnation the devil. As a health and nutrition coach, I get questions all the time from my clients about low-fat diets and avoiding avocados and olive oil in case they cause weight gain. Some have even justified eating an entire bag of Twizzlers because it says, “No Fat”.
Listen up: Fat is not the enemy! At least, not entirely.
Let me be clear in saying that there are many kinds of fats, including the saturated and trans fats found in candy bars, processed foods, and T-bone steaks—these are generally no good. But there are also the natural fats found in whole foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, salmon, coconuts, and olive oil, which are so, so good!
The tide seems to be slowly shifting away from demonizing fat. While my family doctor admits my cholesterol is “so good it isn’t even on [her] chart,” she still isn’t comfortable with the fact that I cook with lard. Coconut oil and olive oil, however, are much more acceptable fats for food preparation. Fat is not unhealthy; it supplies energy, helps us feel more full, balances blood sugar, promotes cell growth, decreases inflammation throughout the body, and regulates hormones.
Not all fats are equal, though. Trans fats, or “hydrogenated” fats, have been considered contraband at my house for years. In addition to lard, coconut oil and olive oil are staples in my kitchen. The question of which to use for a specific recipe is more complicated than just the ingredient list. There is a bit of a science to cooking (and shopping) that can help you ensure that the recipes you use provide the full nutritional benefit to your family and do not create unintended health consequences.
Why the Smoke Point is So Important
When fats or oils reach a certain temperature, they begin to break down and lose nutritional value and flavor. At this point, called the smoke point, carcinogenic oxygen radicals are also generated. Recipes need to be evaluated by comparing the oils used with the temperature at which they are prepared. (more…)
Even though I have lost several hundred pounds, this has not diminished one iota my love of good food. Even when I was tipping the scales at close to 450 pounds, I adored fine dining, unique flavors, and overall great food finds. You see, I wasn’t that morbidly obese guy who spent all day eating fast food. Did I eat drive thru? You bet I did, but I also have more of a refined palate than that.
I had the good fortune of being in Baltimore for the FitBloggin’ convention last fall, which helped me network with tons of like-minded people in the health and fitness world, as well as aid me in furthering knowledge on my health journey. It just so happened that the natural products expo (Expo East) was right next door! I wandered over there and was like a kid in a candy store! Being the foodie I am, one of the booths that stuck out was Seitenbacher’s selection of oils.
Being a foodie I not only enjoy EATING the food, but also COOKING it (so I can then eat it). There are some bad food oils out there that aren’t too good for you, but this, being the natural products expo, I was expecting something exceptional, and I was not disappointed. (more…)