Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is Sushi Safe To Eat?

Rice is often the first food infants are given because it’s unlikely to cause allergic reactions and it’s easily digested. Rice also figures prominently in many cuisines and is consumed in greater quantities by those on gluten free diets, as rice is gluten free. Plus, if you have people list the “good” carbs, brown rice is high on the list. The news that Consumer Reports found most white and brown rice samples to contain worrisome levels of arsenic is concern for many people.

We talked about arsenic in apple juice last year. It was Dr Oz pushing the envelope with testing. Many criticized him for blowing the scare out of proportion. Even after 200 rice samples were tested by Consumer Reports and many found to exceed the acceptable arsenic content for water (acceptable?)  the FDA isn’t alarmed. “We’re not prepared, based on preliminary data, to advise people to change their eating patterns.” And to my surprise (sarcasm), the Rice Federation agrees “there is no documented evidence of actual adverse health effects from exposure to arsenic in U.S.-grown rice.” This reminds me of a client who recently called her doctor’s office complaining of chest pains. They told her they didn’t have any openings.

FDA and rice peops how’s this for alarming info:
“In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that people drinking arsenic-contaminated water at 10 parts per billion would have a 1-in-300 risk of developing cancer over their lifetimes. Recent research suggests that people ingest about that much arsenic in a just a half-cup serving of rice, not an unusual amount for millions of Americans.”
 To see how your rice stacks up here’s a link to a handy and depressing chart.

So how did the arsenic get in the rice? Aren’t arsenic-containing pesticides banned? They are now, for the most part, but they weren’t in the past. Actually fields where cotton used to grow are suggested to figure into this situation. Remnants of the arsenic remain in the soil. Since rice gets flooded with water as it grown, it’s the perfect chemical storm. It absorbs the arsenic to a degree other crops do not. Rice, from Southern states, has higher arsenic levels than California or Asian rice according to this first round of testing.To add insult to injury, brown rice may have higher levels of arsenic than white rice. The fibrous bran layer, removed and polished in white rice, remains in tact in brown rice. The very part of the grain that’s ups the nutritional ante here acts like a chemical sponge. Before you switch back to white, less arsenic doesn’t mean safe.

Now that I’ve hopefully riled you up, what should you do? First, think about how often you eat rice. For some, rice is mainly a sushi ingredient. Note that brown rice syrup is also used as a sweetener. Perhaps you eat pad thai or rice cakes or rice milk? I liked this arsenic quiz to assess potential arsenic in your diet.We contacted the manufacturers of Foodtrainers’ products that contain rice. We immediately received a response from 22-Day Bars. They told us their brown rice protein was from Axiom Foods. They sent us a link for their independent testing for arsenic. I would hope other companies would take matters into their own hands.

When you cook rice at home (I say stick to brown) wash it well. You can also cook it ala pasta in a lot more water than you normally do. This is an Asian method and at the end of the cooking time you can drain excess water. We are suggesting our prenatal clients skip rice altogether.  For the rest of us, these are completely my own guidelines but I would keep rice to once per week. If you have a baby eating rice cereal ask your pediatrician about switching to oats instead.

Representatives from NY, NJ and CT are trying to introduce legislation for the FDA to set limits for arsenic in rice (the only limit in place is for water). The bill, appropriately titled the R.I.C.E Act, or Reducing food-based Inorganic and organic Compounds Exposure Act will hopefully accomplish that.
This is scary stuff. If there’s any way to see a bright side it’s that maybe I have a way to have clients control their sushi intake…but the mercury in the fish didn’t do it so I’m not sure.
Where do you get rice in your diet? Have you changed your rice intake since learning of the arsenic concerns? Any steps I didn’t mention to safeguard yourself or your family?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lady Gaga's Weight Gain, More to it Than Lasagna

Photo via Radar Online

Lady Gaga has gained some weight. In a recent radio interview she estimated it was about 25 pounds. She didn’t have to comment on it but she did. She said her parents recently opened a restaurant and her father wants her to eat there. Gaga went on to say she loves pizza and pasta and every time she goes there she gains 5 pounds (what a plug for “Joanne Trattoria” which happens to be on the Upper West Side).  She has no issue with her fuller figure saying “I really don’t feel bad about it, not even for a second”. Sounds good right? She loves to eat, supports her parent’s business and isn’t bothered by putting on a few, or twenty-something, pounds.

Is this the same person who tweeted about doing back-to-back spin classes with hashtag #popsingersdonteat? In the radio segment she mentioned that she  constantly has to be on such a strict diet  and she’s trying to find some sort of balance. Let’s be clear, this isn’t the case of a celebrity gaining 3 pounds and media blowing it out of proportion. This weight gain seems to have happened in a couple of months (for the record Joanne’s has been opened for over a year), so it’s been quick, and strikes me as sad coming from the “born this way” singer whose lyrics advise us “just love yourself and you’re set.”

Gaga has been open about her love for booze and recently lit a joint on stage at a show in Amsterdam. She also has a history of bulimia. At a conference in California she opened up about this “I threw up all the time in high school. I wanted to be a skinny little ballerina but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl whose dad had meatballs on the table every night. I used to come home and say, ‘Dad, why do you always give us this food? I need to be thin.” So this struggle is not new.

Lady Gaga has started an anti-bullying foundation and my guess is that she wants to put a brave face forward about this. So although when I asked a friend about the food at Joanne’s and she said, “it’s not Foodtrainers-friendly” I wouldn’t chalk all of this up to calamari. I am a lady gaga fan, it’s ironic to think that someone who seemed the epitome of marching to the beat of her own drum (or piano) is a little beaten down by expectations when it comes to weight.
When celebrities open up about their weight does it invite more commentary? Do you buy Gaga's explanation about her father's restaurant? Do you think it strange that both as a child and adult she blames her dad for her weight?

Monday, September 17, 2012

When Your Kids Use the "F" Word

I thought about this post a lot. At first, I decided not to discuss this because it’s a conversation I had with one of my children. Then I realized I could present the scenario but not attribute it to anyone in particular. That didn’t seem the way to go. I then was going to write about another topic altogether like how Paul Ryan “forgot” his marathon finish time or the Times article that concluded organic foods are no better. But why waste time on lies? I’m going to tell you something truthful.

My boys were away at camp for seven weeks this summer. We can email or occasionally call them but their only means of communication with us were letters (no technology, love it except the spelling errors).  One son would give us the date and time and a maximum of two sentences. His brother, on the other end of the information spectrum, told us everything. I would’ve been fine without knowing every score of every game or when they were “robbed” but my sentimental side comes out while they are away. One letter in August talked of a visit to a girl’s camp. “They had a carnival with rides and delicious food.” Interesting. “And all the girls thought I was cute.” Whoa, did he write “girls” and “cute” if it weren’t for the handwriting and abundant sports scores I would’ve thought this was written by another child. His lack of modesty aside, I was happy he shared that information and I didn’t say another word about it until he came home.

First night home (within an hour of seeing him) I couldn’t contain myself:
“So you mentioned girls, they thought you were cute?”
“Yes, it was strange, I’ve never heard that from girls my age.” I let the age thing go and skipped to “and did you think they were cute?”
“No mom, they were all fat.”

I wasn’t prepared for that. Especially with my profession, “fat” is not something he’s heard me say. I may say way worse words, such as the original "F" word especially when I cut myself cooking or get cut off while driving but not fat. I may say I feel “gross” or “bloated” or many other not-so-positive things but I stay away from fat.

“You know it wouldn’t hurt somebody’s feelings if they were called that.” I said. “Mom, I didn’t call them that and I’m not being mean, they were fat.” Some people are fat and some are thin.” My head started to spin. This poor child was enjoying his first hour home in his house and I was thinking of a frat house with him surrounded by older versions of his camp friends as they discussed various females and their appearance. Was I raising one of “those” guys?

I went off. I told him that girls develop sooner than boys. He had learned about puberty at school or as he said “when you get hair in all sorts of places”. I added it’s what’s on the inside that counts. I gave alternate words for fat such as large and overweight and rotund. My mother always pinned everything on my friends so I told him if others were saying hurtful things about girls, he shouldn't join in. And then I realized this kid will never share anything with me again so I said “I’m happy they had good food at the carnival, it sounds like a fun day.”
We spend so much time working on girl's self esteem and body image do you think we neglect speaking to boys? We are all influenced by appearance how to we make sure boys get right message? What would you have done in this situation? And if you'd like to chime in about Paul Ryan or organic food that's fine too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Healthy Indian Food at Restaurants and at Home

We are having dinner with good friends tomorrow night. As we made plans, my friend said, “you pick the place, we’ll do anything except Indian.” In no way did I have my heart set on Indian but in a city where even toddlers eat sushi and Thai, I find my friend’s Indian avoidance is way too common. Plus it’s probably my very favorite cuisine. While some people are coming around to Indian food, many remain unfamiliar.  Clients are often flummoxed when they’re headed to Indian either because they’ve never been or perhaps they feel it’s an unhealthy cuisine. Time to clear up the confusion.

Here are some simple suggestions for healthy Indian restaurant food:
  • Indian is mainly a carb challenge with the most delicious delicious breads and rice. If you’re having a carb at Indian choose between roti, sort of like whole-wheat naan, and rice but not both. 
  • Select items cooked in the tandoor oven. Tandoori salmon, shrimp and chicken are smart selections. These will be flavorful but less caloric as there’s no sauce (less sauce, less carbs to soak up sauce). 
  • In terms of vegetables cauliflower, okra and spinach are good choices.  
  • For appetizers, soups are your best bet. Mulligatawny is a nice lentil soup. 
  • Indian is usually shared so watch your portions; remember the one-plate rule.
Of course, the best way to sure healthy Indian is to take matters into your own hands.
So while we’re likely going to a seafood restaurant tomorrow, I was thrilled to be was sent a copy of “Vegan Indian Cooking” by Anupy Singla. This chef’s “Indian Slow Cooker” book made our ski weekends much more delicious last winter and both the chicken curry and chicken tikka masala were favorites.

I have enjoyed this book just as much. The book starts out with basic recipes such as one for cashew cream to replace dairy in recipes. There are fantastic ways to use grains from dosas (which my family loves from Hampton Chutney in New York) to my new favorite Chickpea Flour Crepes. My kids have been loving the Spiced Stovetop Popcorn. There are also handy recipes for beans and lentils to be cooked in the slow cooker.  And for you Brussels sprout people how about Masala Brussels sprouts? Some of the recipes can be found on Anupy’s blog Indian AS Apple Pie. I can see this book being the go-to resource for healthy Indian home cooking.

I don't usually read the forward in cookbooks but I did in this case. There's a great section in the opening pages entitled Indian Food Myths. Indian food doesn’t have to be spicy, heavy or unhealthy. It doesn’t have to be complicated either. Naan isn’t served in most Indian homes and finally the slow cooker is Indian (you’ll have to get the book to figure that one out, interesting). I may send these myths over to my friend to see if I can convert her.

In honor of my 500th blog post (not really, just realized that as I started writing), Anupy is giving two hungry readers a copy of Vegan Indian Cooking. To be eligible, comment and tell us where you are on a scale of 1-10 in terms of Indian food love. What are your favorite Indian foods? Or, you can tweet about our Indian Cookbook giveaway @Foodtrainers on twitter. 
You have until Friday 9/14 to enter. Congratulations to the Olove winner Ameena.

I decided to refresh my spices before doing any recipe testing.
Spices and Tease NYC, the tease is that the tins of spices are impossible to open (see below)
All fun and games until a turmeric explosion
On the breadbin, not so bad but white (now yellow) countertops? Oy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Are You Skinny Fat? Find Out Why.

 When it comes to meals there’s breakfast and lunch but then there’s brunch. A similar combination exists when it comes to weight, there’s skinny and fat and then skinny fat. Skinny fat is a person who’s thin for the most part but has a high body fat percentage. Skinny fat can also apply to that friend who you think can eat “whatever she wants” and stay skinny. Skinny fat people may weigh the right amount for their height, they may look fine in clothes but under it all there’s extra, some mush, less muscle mass.
What type of exercise makes you skinny fat?
For some reason cardio, in particular spinning, takes a lot of heat for its connection to skinny fatness. A trainer named Charles Poliquin was asked about spinning in Oxygen magazine and let’s just say he was not a fan.
In spinning exercise, the body adapts by storing both intra-muscular and subcutaneous fat in the thigh and hip areas to provide a more readily available source of fuel for the aerobic recovery periods. The body figures out, if I store fat there it reduces the time to get to the muscles to provide the energy source. Result: Kobe beef thighs and butt, all plump and marbled with fat inside.”
 I enjoy spinning (I’m a Flywheel fan) but I think the key word in the harsh (Kobe beef thighs?) quote above is “adapts”. Our bodies adapt to anything. I think those most in danger of being skinny fat, or not changing their bodies, are those who only spin. We need more than spinning and ultimately more than cardio too. Whether it’s superslow training, barre, Crossfit you need some strength work and variety. Getting better at something may be when your body gets worse. And let’s face it,  some skinny fat people don’t exercise at all.
When you eat may make you skinny fat
Another ingredient for skinny fatness is erratic eating.  Some erratic eaters skip breakfast, others “save up” for dinner. Or the biggest clue when I’m talking to a client when it comes to skinny fat is “I’m not hungry.” You’re not hungry when your body assumes food isn’t coming in regularly, so it hangs onto that fat. Hungry people are the ones burning through all their food.
This information was relatively new to me. I mentioned it when reviewing Drop Dead Healthy. Sitting isn’t bad because you’re not moving. It’s worse than that. Lipase helps muscles absorb fat. When we sit, we don’t produce lipase so fat can “go off and do naughty things”
Does Veganism Make You Skinny Fat?
Vegan Diets get picked on for making people skinny fat. I’m not a vegan but it’s not all vegan diets it’s vegan diets or any diet missing one of the following
  • Protein- I know I’m going to hear it (read some of the comments in “are meat substitutes worse than meat”) but when I drop my animal protein down, I feel a little skinny fat. Organic chicken, wild fish, grass-fed beef, if you aren’t morally against them, may help. And yes, some vegans get plenty of protein.
  • Good fats- certain types of fat, consumed strategically can decrease body fat. Omega 3’s in fish, omega 3 eggs and chia seed. We’ve also discussed the power of sunflower seeds. And finally, a little coconut oil is a good saturated fat.
  • Vegetables- every 10-gram increase in fiber decreases body fat by over 3 percent in a couple of years. Not everyone who avoids animal products is automatically consuming enough fiber and certainly the same can be said of most omnivores. Salad is not enough. Try for produce at every meal and hone in on crucifers: broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and kale. I also think cabbage needs more love.

We can joke at this skinny fat term but doctors are seeing lots of young people who aren’t overweight but exhibit signs of pre diabetes. You can be skinny fat on the inside too. Mark Hyman writesthey are normal weight but metabolically obese with all the same risks of disease and death as the obese. One in seven normal weight kids has pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes.”
There are also some skinny fat variables are out of our control. Getting older with the natural decline in muscle mass can lead to complaints of skinny fat. And some may feel skinny fat is fine. The New York Times documented the hipster belly among men that don’t want to be muscleheads. Just one more way I’m not hip.
Are you aware of the term skinny fat? What do you think it's about? If you spin, are vegan or sit a lot I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

RefrigeRaider: How to Organize a Healthy Fridge

My fridge, I swear it looks better in person
I love a website called Well and Good, their content is smart and they’re onto things in NYC often before we are (and our clients keep us fairly current). They have a feature called Refrigerator Look Book where they look into the fridge of various chefs, fitness instructors or other health professionals. I love this feature as I do feel your fridge says a lot about you (dating ladies, the fridge is the new medicine cabinet) but I have an issue with many of the featured fridges. You see, while I should be focused on what super healthy ingredients are displayed I really want to climb into my laptop screen and organize what I see. I’m a Virgo, what can I say?

As you reboot from summer fun, your refrigerator is a great place to start.
  • Purge, I know it’s strange coming from a nutritionist but you need to be able to see what’s in there. If you haven’t used something this summer, it can go. When we do RefrigeRaider sessions we first remove everything a shelf at a time and toss, toss, toss.
  • Put items you want to eat at eye level. You’re more likely to eat the first things you see so precut veggies, fruit front and center eye level. Use those middle shelves for a smaller middle. I’ve talked about these ceramic baskets before but I love this vegetable garage (it’s designed for picnics, you can put ice underneath but we repurposed it).
  • Have a master fridge list for basics:
Omega 3 Eggs
Organic Half and Half (Ronnybrook)
Organic Vegetables for crudité (radishes, jicama, celery, carrots, cucumbers)
2-3 Fruits
Greens for salads and juicing
Fresh Herbs
Organic cheese
Organic Sliced Turkey
Applegate Sunday Bacon
Organic Milk (2% or Whole)
2% Greek Yogurt (Fage or Siggis)
Harmless Harvest Coconut Water
Almond Milk
Nut Butter
  • Success starts Sunday- this is your time to make iced tea, hard boil eggs, wash greens
  • Rewrap- I love this cheese paper from Murray’s. Cold cuts paper dry out too try foil, plastic wrap or airtight container in meat drawer.
  • Place fresh herbs or asparagus in a glass of water to retain freshness.
  • Place eggs toward back, where it is colder and not on the door.
  • Label sauces, stock or leftovers so you know when you put them in. I use these, yes I know they're called Freezer Labels, it's ok. 

  • Consider a charcoal odor absorber, I find these work best I use one called Fridge-it.
Your fridge is going to set you and your family members up to eat well. I put the veggie garage on the table when the kids come home from school and they're excited to see what's in it. They can come and easily grab organic grapes or a yogurt, they know where everything is. 
When's the last time you organized your fridge? What are your staple items? What sets you up well for the week? Tweet or post a photo, I shared it's only fair.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Enough Summer, New For Fall (and Giveaway)

 This weekend, I sat in a lounge chair watching my boys amuse themselves on the diving board. Part of me was thrilled that they were old enough to do this without additional supervision other than the lifeguard at the pool. I was also envious of their ability to do the same thing for long periods of time without tiring of it. I started out the day in heaven, with a fully loaded kindle looking up at a cloudless sky. Before too long, my kindle battery was dying and despite an umbrella I felt sweat trickling off my body. I was ready to go inside, enough.
I feel the same way about summer. It may be a coping mechanism to deal with the inevitable. Around this time of year, I’m done with brightly colored toes, zucchini, al fresco everything and swimsuits (though I’m also finally immune to swimsuit fear). I want something new. Bring me a comfy sweater, fall foliage or a delicious, organic apple. Our clients are equally “new” obsessed always asking us what the latest snack or workout is. Have no fear, new stuff is here.

We decided to branch out from kale chips. There’s nothing wrong with kale and we still have kale chips but thought you’d like to crunch on something else. Enter Just Pure Foods veggie chips. The onion is my favorite dusted with sunflower and hemp seeds and seasoned with mesquite powder. I’ve never had those canned crunchy onions but I hear they’re like a healthy version of those. And if you’re still clinging to summer, be sure to try the zucchini sticks too.
Snacks don’t have to be comprised of snack foods. These individual olive packs from Oloves are genius. I knew they were a winner when, on an airplane, my husband tried them. He’s not an olive guy and adored them. We tracked down the Olove team between their summer vacations and have both the Mediterranean (most popular) and Hot Chili Mama in stock. You can guess which flavor I like…or maybe you can’t. And these packs of satisfying goodness for the afternoon? Only 50 calories.
So we have something for crunch, something for your salty tooth and finally a secret weapon for any of you who may be heading into fall with a summer “souvenir”. A while back I posted about Safslim. I reviewed the promising research but suggested getting the benefits similar to Safslim from food. Many clients reading about the Safslim research wanted to give it a try. They did and reported back with glowing reviews. The blog post generated a lot of feedback too. The drawback was that Safslim was unwieldy to travel with. We’re excited to offer the individual Safslim packets. Belly bulge be gone.
Inevitably, in a few months, I  will miss the extra daylight, rose’ and sunshine. I will never tire of olives and a flat belly (even if it’s buried beneath a chunky sweater). For more newness check out our fall Monthly Morsels goodness. newsletter
The Olove people are excited about fall food too. They have a box of their Mediterranean Oloves for one lucky reader. To be eligible:
Comment and tell us why you’re excited for fall and what your favorite type of olive is.
Tweet “Fall love @Olove_ #giveaway @Foodtrainers"
*Enter by Thursday 9/6, winner announced on Monday’s post.
And I'll be back with regular "new" posts, can't wait.