12/11/09

Chocolate, Walnut and Raisin bite-sized scone

One thing comes to mind when I think of Scones.

Starbucks is always on our itinerary when we travel. That Blueberry Scone always stares me in the eye, behind that beautiful desert window, when I order my Tall Coffee. However, I've never tried it but heard it is quite wonderful for the tastebuds.
Here's the nutrition facts behind the Starbucks Blueberry Scone:
Calories: 460
Fat: 18g
Saturated fat: 8g
Cholesterol: 50mg
Sodium: 400mg
Carbs: 68g
Fiber: 3g
Sugars: 24g
Protein: 5g

Here's a common recipe for a blueberry scone:
3 3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. shortening
2 tbsp. cold butter
1 c. blueberries
3/4 c. milk
2 eggs

The weight of a scone at Starbucks is 128grams. At Panera, the Golden Raisin scone is 390 calories and 118grams. Now, one would think that if restaurants and fast-food places would serve smaller portions (less grams) you would save calories. Well, kinda. Take the Caribou Coffee cinnamon chip scone. At 120grams, the scone comes in at 500 calories. At Caribou Coffee, they have a reduced fat cranberry orange scone at 128grams. but for 380 calories you may as well have ordered the "real thing" at Starbucks (Golden Raisin Scone). Confused??? I'm with ya!
I think we live in a society of portion distortion. Whether you are trying to cut back on portions in order to still enjoy some of your favorite foods or trying to order "healthier" options, restaurants and fast food places want you to feel satisfied and happy with your selection. It is more likely that a cook will take out some fat and add in some sugar in order to make a fat-free or reduced-fat option for the liking of the diet-conscious individual rather than make your favorite delectable treats smaller than normal.
Heaven forbid that 7-eleven would ever take away the Double Gulp, Extreme Gulp and Big Gulp


and only serve you a small cup for your 12 ounce coke.

If a 12 ounce coke has 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar, I would need to get out my calculator to find out the calories and grams of sugar for the 64 ounce double gulp. Answer: 746 calories and 206 grams of sugar. YIKES!

I decided to make my own healthy version of a scone which will make it super easy to pass on the scones at Starbucks. No need to feel guilty with this crunchy and slightly sweet treat. I cut each scone into bite sized treats so that you can enjoy the scone any time of the day.
Enjoy!

Chocolate, Walnut and Raisin bite-sized scone
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp smart balance butter
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup skim milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine Flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.
3. Add butter and mix with fork to ensure that butter is broken into small pieces.
4. Stir in vanilla, walnuts, raisins and chocolate chips.
5. Slowly add milk and stir. Dough should stick well together. You want to avoid soft dough so if your dough begins to not stick to your mixing spoon, stop adding milk.
6. On a baking sheet, lined with tinfoil and sprayed with non-stick spray, place a spoonful of dough in individual rows on your sheet.
7. You will get messy, but form each pile of ball into long, 1 inch tall scones.
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until top of scone is firm and golden brown.
9. When scones have cooled, diagonally cut each scone into 1-2 inch pieces.
(you can also make cookie-drops with this dough rather than long scones if you want to avoid the mess)








12/9/09

Falafel anyone?

If you know anything about Falafel's, you know I needed to do some major reconstruction on this recipe in order to make it healthy.
Falafel is an Arabic word, popular in Egypt and the Middle East. You can typically find Falafel as a fried ball or patty made from spiced chickpeas or fava beans. Although you may see a ball when you order Falafel, it is usually served flat/crushed in pita-bread or flat bread.
Palestinians and Yemenite Jews historically made Falafel from chickpeas and parsley whereas the Egyptian version uses only fava beans. The beans in Falafel are not cooked, unlike a typical bean patty, but rather soaked with bicarbonate of soda and ground with onion, parsley and spices (ex. cumin and coriander). After the mixture is formed, the ball is deep fried.
Although the Falafel is found all around the world, if you happen to go to Egypt you can just go to McDonald's and order the Mcfalafel.

(I tried really hard but couldn't find the calories for the McFalafel. I can only imagine that it is not kind for an Egyptians' waistline).

There are many types of oils that are used for cooking. While deep frying foods is not recommended, there are several oils that contain excellent fats for your heart-healthy diet.
Here are popular oils:
Canola oil
Coconut oil
Corn oil
Flaxseed oil
Grapeseed oil
Rapeseed oil
Hazelnut oil
Olive oil
Peanut oil
Safflower oil
Sesame oil
Sunflower oil
Walnut oil

Here are your healthy fats:
Monounsaturated fat - Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds
Polyunsaturated fat - Vegetable oils (such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils), nuts and seeds
Omega-3 fatty acids - Fatty, cold-water fish (such as salmon, mackerel and herring), flaxseeds, flax oil and walnuts
Mono and polyunsaturated fats will help to reduce the total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in your blood as well as lowering your risk for heart disease.
Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fat and may decrease the risk of coronary artery disease as well as decreasing blood pressure.

Here are your unhealthy fats:
Saturated fats - Animal products (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter), and coconut, palm and other tropical oils
Trans fat - Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, commercial baked goods (such as crackers, cookies and cakes), fried foods (such as doughnuts and french fries), shortening and margarine
Saturated and trans fats increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Trans fats are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated by nature but they are altered by partial hydrogenation. Partial hydrogenation changes the oils, which are naturally liquid at room temperature, to become solid (from cis to trans formation), therefore modifying the fat so it is more similar to saturated fat. Because Trans fats (hydrogenated) allow foods to have an extended shelf life, baked goods, as well as packaged and fried foods, will typically be high in trans fat.
*But be aware:Under FDA regulations, "if the serving contains less than 0.5 gram [of trans fat], the content, when declared, shall be expressed as zero."
Therefore, if a food claims to have zero grams of trans fat, but you see the words "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredients list (typically near the front of the list) it is likely that you are consuming at least .5grams trans fat if you eat more than 1 serving of that food. For example, a serving of crackers may have .3g of trans fat but according to FDA, the box can list 0 for trans fat grams. However, if you eat 4 servings of crackers in one sitting, you are likely eating 1.2g of trans fat.

*Information in this blog post was taken from wikipedia.org and the Mayo clinic website.

I hope you enjoy my non-fried version of Falafel. Your heart can definitely feel good with this recipe.


Heart-healthy Falafel


Balls:
1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup chopped onions
4 large whole mushrooms (chopped)
2 fresh chives (chopped)
2 large Roma tomatoes (chopped)
A pinch of: cumin, no salt garlic and herb, pepper, paprika and coriander.
1 tbsp fresh parsley (chopped)
2 tbsp soy flour
1 egg
2 tsp olive oil
1-2 ounces of your favorite cheese

Crust:
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp Italian bread crumbs
1 tbsp caraway seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Blend chickpeas, oil and egg in food processor (or blender) until smooth like hummus (may need to add a tbsp or two of water to get the chickpeas going).
3. In a large bowl, add blended chickpeas to veggies.
4. Add spices and flour and mix well.
5. Form balls with chickpea mixture (a bit smaller than a tennis ball). Place on a baking sheet, lined with tinfoil (sprayed with a little non-stick spray).
6. In each ball, poke a hole in the center of the ball with a knife and insert a small piece of cheese (yummy surprise!). Close the ball.
7. Lightly sprinkle the coating mixture (after combining in a bowl) over each ball. Because you will likely have extra coating all over the baking sheet, gently move the chickpea balls over the extra coating mixture in order to use extra coating.
8. Cook for 30-45 minutes or until chickpea ball is firm or coating begins to brown.
9. Serve on top a beautiful salad of dark greens, green peppers, carrots, onion, celery, peanuts, green apples and raisins.












12/8/09

Biggest Loser Finale

I've watched every episode of Biggest Loser this season. I typically catch up on my DVR'd shows on the weekend, as I relax after my enjoyable long weekend workouts. I know there are a lot of die-hard Biggest Loser fans out there but I don't mind waiting 4 days to see who is "not the next biggest loser".
My favorite show right now is Top Chef and in a close second, I'm really enjoying this new show called Chopped on the Food network and Chef Academy on Bravo. Come to think of it, I love every cooking show but nothing beats Top Chef.
As I watch Biggest Loser, I keep a very open mind. I think there is a lot more that I don't agree with during this season, compared to other seasons, and because of it I am really worried about the general public who watches the show. At the beginning of the season I wanted to blog about what I didn't like about each episode but as my notes exceeded two pages as I watched each show, I figured my blogs would take forever to read.
I try to not get too offended when I see TV personalities giving out nutrition and exercise information. As you know, I am not a registered dietitian but I am well on my way to getting those two letters behind my last name. I feel confident with my coaching abilities because of my extensive graduate education in Exercise Physiology. As far as nutrition, I have successfully completed the required dietetic courses for a dietetic verification statement to apply for accredited dietetic internships. I have been really involved with the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) for the past 4 years and I hold a certification in Sports Nutrition by the ISSN. This is a very difficult certification to obtain and you must have a formal education in exercise science in order to sit in for the certification exam. Just recently, as you know, I wanted to learn more about weight management so I decided to travel to Denver, CO. for the American Dietetic Association Adult Weight Management certification course which included a pass/fail pre-test (before you could attend the conference), followed by a pass/fail post-test after the conference. There's no need for me to brag about my certifications and education because there are many other people out there with way more credentials than I could ever afford. Yes-these credentials come with a hefty price. I am not jealous of others who have 5+ credentials behind their names but I am more inspired to continue to learn as much as I can in order to try to keep up with the most current research available to professionals. I really appreciate all of my blog readers for inspiring and motivating me to help others and to continue to pursue my dreams, goals and ambitions as I continue this long educational journey. I pray that I don't decide to pursue my PhD because I can only imagine my life as I dive into another 4 years of formal education.
The reason why I talk about these credentials is because it is very important for the people in your life, which you trust to help you reach your fitness and weight loss goals, have the right education to keep you motivated with realistic health and fitness suggestions. There are a lot of people out there who have exceptional speaking and writing skills but lack the formal education to allow them to be a "professional" in their field of choice. Then again, there are many people who have the credentials but are very strong-minded in their opinions and have an all-or-nothing approach to health and wellness. Often, confusing and misleading the consumer.
I think it is very important that we realize that the "professionals" we see on a weekly basis on the Biggest Loser are not trained in nutrition or fitness. Sure, one of the two trainers has two certifications in fitness but anyone can get a certification in personal training. Back a few years ago I had a few personal training certifications from AFAA and IFPA. I think I payed between $150-$300, attended a one day or three day course and then passed the exam. I thought my certification was appropriate because my under grad major was exercise science and I felt really qualified in my field once I was certified. But, it didn't land me on a talk show or TV program.
I think it is great that there are many dedicated professionals out there who want to learn more about personal training (or are currently fitness professionals and want an additional certification) but a certification is quite different from a formal education such as an undergraduate degree, masters degree, PhD or registered dietitian degree. But then again, it is never too late to obtain a formal education if you really want to learn more about your true passion.
If you go to the Biggest Loser main website, you can find out more about the Biggest Loser Staff.
There is a team of 8 people who help out with the Biggest Loser contestants.
There is a Registered Dietitian, two personal chefs, a certified athletic trainer, a clinical psychologist, two Medical Doctors and a physician. It looks like the Biggest Loser contestants are in great hands there on the Biggest Loser campus.
As for the rest of us, who just watch the show for inspiration and a few great exercise and nutrition tips, we have learned that we should eat Lara bars for snacks, use zipp lock bags, eat Subway, drink Brita water and chew Extra Sugar Free gum to curb cravings. Oh yeah, we have also learned that in order to lose weight we must be screamed at, pushed beyond our limits (unless you die you probably aren't pushing hard enough) and must overcome our inner demons which are causing us to fear the success of weight loss.
Tonight you are going to see dramatic results. Biggest Loser will not disappoint us, that's for sure. However, it is important that we all realize that the Biggest Losers have a team of qualified personnel to jump start a dramatic weight loss program. After 12 weeks on the ranch and 60 days at home, the contestants are now competing for $250,000. Sounds like a good incentive to be 100% committed to a lifestyle of healthy eating and disciplined exercise.
As I was reading the bio's of the Biggest Loser team, I started to think about the life of an Olympic triathlete (or any Olympic athlete for that matter). There is typically a chef to prepare healthy meals and registered dietitian to ensure that the meals meet the athlete's daily needs. There is a psychologist to help overcome fears or negative thoughts. There is a coach to provide workouts. A trainer or massage therapist to prevent or heal injuries and perhaps several other teams members to keep each other motivated and inspired.
In my mind, the Biggest Loser Contestants are trained athletes competing for the big day....aka, the big weigh in. If the hard work pays off, the purse prize is worth every sweat, tear and obstacle. But for the many people sitting on the couch as they watch the show tonight, typically eating (hopefully healthy foods, but I've heard from many people that pizza and biggest loser go quite well together), it is important that you realize that the Biggest Loser Contestants have created a lifestyle, supported by trained professionals, which supports their quest to be the next Biggest Loser winner.
As you watch the finale tonight, remember that your weight loss and/or fitness goals need to be realistic. Depending on your lifestyle, your support system, your personal goals, your income, your job responsibilities you have the rest of your life to lose weight. However, let it start today. Although there are lots of books out there, from fitness experts who want you to eat this and not eat this, in order to reach your goal weight in 6 weeks, listen to the qualified experts and stick to a plan that works for your lifestyle. If you have an unrealistic exercise routine, or a strict diet regime, which is going to help you achieve your "goal" weight, ask yourself if your unrealistic weight and fitness goals will allow you to truely enjoy life and your eating and exercise routine. Remind yourself that you are not competing for $250,000 and likely, you can't afford a team of 10 qualified professionals to help you reach your weight loss and fitness goals. However, you CAN start to enjoy life by learning to love nutritious food. You CAN stick to a realistic exercise routine so long as you don't set your expectations too high and start slow. You CAN lose weight to help you get to a healthy weight so long as you make healthy changes which are long-lasting. And most of all, you CAN keep reading my blog because I hope to help you learn to love the value of food and exercise and all of the wonderful things that a healthy and balanced lifestyle can bring into your life.

12/7/09

Eating for health

There's been a lot of napping here lately. Karel is sick. I thought we were indestructible with our super healthy eating habits but I guess not. Unfortunately, Karel came down with a bad cough and a horrible head cold. He's avoided a fever but has no energy. This is day 3 of the sickness and I'm hoping this is the end.
Although healthy eating can't ward off the common cold...it can sure help.
Karel has not been sick since 2005. I think that 3+ years of no virus is an excellent record. Since we met in 2006, I'd like to think that our enjoyment for healthy nutrients has helped us stay cold-free. No missed days of work and pure enjoyment for life and our training. The last time I was sick was in June 2007, after I returned from Las Vegas for a conference. I guess when it rains it pours because when I got sick...I was out for a few days.
Maybe it isn't certain that we can prevent cancer with healthy eating, but it wouldn't hurt to try. I know I can't prevent a broken bone if I fall off my bike but my future employer will be happy to know that my immune system is super strong and I am not one to ask off for sick days.
I know we all love the aesthetic side of eating healthy (lean or muscular body, x-weight, x-size of jeans, spandex everything, etc.) and sure, your confidence is raised when you like the way you look in the mirror but I'd like to think that the results of healthy eating start from the inside. Sure, there are people with a great looking outside and eat poorly. And, there are those who eat exceptional well but tend to carry around 10-20 extra lbs. Sure, you may be envious that some people can eat french fries and pizza for lunch on a daily basis, drink beer every night, eat donuts for desert and snack on candy bars but in my opinion, that isn't the kind of life that I would like to live.
Last time I checked, I didn't see any long term research studies on the health benefits of donuts in the prevention of prostate cancer. I don't recall any of the Nurses' Health Studies demonstrating that a diet of pizza and french fries will combat disease and illness later in life, as opposed to a diet of fruits, veggies, complex carbs, lean/low fat protein and healthy fats. I also haven't read any research studies about performance benefits of a high fat, high calorie and high sugar diet, regardless of current BMI or prior fitness level.
Next time you have the option of choosing an apple or a candy bar....choose the apple. Sure, it seems like common sense as you read this blog but take a moment and check inside your fridge, pantry and possible, office snackroom. Are you making the necessary changes to eat for health?

Do you feel that eating healthy has helped you prevent illness or disease? I'd love to hear your story!

On another note...check out who are BFF's. They can't get enough of each other.