The Silly Nutrition Undergrad

Posts Tagged ‘fiber

[This picture isn’t the best quality, but considering I was in a rush to enjoy it, this was my best shot! Next time I eat it, I’ll take better photos…]

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Oatmeal, hands down, is the ultimate healthy breakfast option for me, the perfect wake-up call to a busy weekday morning.

Today is the start of the school week, and it is also the finish-the-leftovers day. So, combining the goal of pumping myself up with fuel for a busy day at school and the objective of getting rid of last week’s leftover produce, I came up with a crazy oatmeal  flavour. It is a meatless dish that includes bean sprouts and Taiwan cabbage as the key ingredients, infused with Sichuan flavour (inspired by one of my favourite Sichuan dish, Dan Dan noodles).

Quite frankly, if I didn’t need to finish the not-so-fresh product, I would never have thought about putting bean sprouts and Taiwan cabbage in oatmeal. And I would definitely would never consider extracting the flavours of Dan Dan noodles and working it into my oatmeal. Even as I was cooking the dish, I knew this was a risky attempt and I prepared myself that it might not taste as good as it sounds in my head. But somehow, in the end, my oatmeal turned out creamy, spicy, peanutty, and overall, very flavourful. I enjoyed every bite.

So far, my adventure to discover new ways to enjoy oatmeal has taken me in all directions; I’ve tried many new food combinations and played with the sweet and savory flavours. But this episode has really got beyond my imagination, and I must say, from the looks of it, this adventure will only get more crazy, more exciting and more dangerous. Can’t wait until a new crazy oatmeal idea pops into my head!

Oatmeal, Sichuan flavour

What you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup cooked steel cut oats (regular / quick oats work as well, just not instant oatmeal)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon chili sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon Chinese sesame paste
  • A drizzle of sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup Taiwanese cabbage, shredded (Taiwanese cabbage is a different variety from Green Leaf cabbage; it has a sweeter flavour and a more tender texture.)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock, low sodium preferably
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped

What to do:

  • I’m assuming that you have already cooked up a big patch of steel cut oats and have them in individual servings sizes alright — If not, follow these instructions and make some now!
  • Boil a pot of water, put in bean sprouts and Taiwan cabbage, simmer on medium heat until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In the same pot, pour in chicken stock and stir in the oatmeal and the veggies. Heat mixture on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together chili sauce, peanut butter and sesame paste. If mixture is too thick to stir well, add in a splash of hot water to help the paste blend together better. Set aside.
  • When oatmeal is heated thoroughly, add the sauce and scallions. Stir well. (At this point, you can adjust the seasoning to taste – if you want a more prominent sweet, nutty flavour, stir in more peanut butter, or if you are looking for more heat, add in chili sauce or chili oil for an extra kick.)
  • Remove from heat, cover pot and let sit for 2 – 3 minutes (let the flavour of the scallion infuse into the oatmeal). Drizzle on sesame oil before serving.

This is really a delicious way to start the day. I can savour the flavours of my favourite lunch dish while treating my body to a bowl of whole grain goodness.

If you’re the type of person who prefers savory breakfasts over sweet ones (and if you enjoy hot and spicy food), then you’ve got to try this recipe, it won’t disappoint you. I promise!

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Picture by sweetbeetandgreenbean

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To me, brown rice is craveable. I eat it everyday. Whenever I cook a dish that needs to be served over something, brown rice is my number one option. There are a lot of reasons why I enjoy brown rice and here I have boiled them down into 4 main points:

Brown rice is a whole-grain option.

As a population, we overconsume refined grains and gravely underconsume whole grains. Refined grains are highly processed food products and hence, they are stripped of virtually all nutrients (even though food manufactures will enrich their final product, the added nutrients will not completely replace what has been lost). Essentially, refined grains offer nothing but empty calories.

Whole grains, on the other hand, undergo minimal processing. Much of the nutrients are retained and they act in a synergistic manner that offers many health benefits:

Heart Health – Whole grain consumption has been shown to have strong inverse correlation with heart disease risks; the ability for whole grains to help control and lower LDL (bad cholesterol) plays a strong part in contributing to this potential effect. Brown rice is also rich in magnesium; this nutrient is involved with coordinating muscle contractions and considering that our heart is a major muscle group, magnesium will have an important role in keeping the heart going.

Diabetes management – Whole grain foods often have low Glycemic Index (GI) scores because they contain a whole lot of fiber which helps to slow down digestion and prevents rapid fluctuations in blood glucose level.

Weight management – Fiber is the major player here. The indigestible fiber bulks up the whole grain foods and make them less energy-dense. Fiber will also makes you feel fuller and more satisfied; it helps to lowers the tendency for you to nibble and stack on extra calories after your meal.

There is so many good reasons to choose brown rice more often. If you’re interested in finding out the scientific evidence about how brown rice can benefit your health, I strongly encourage you to visit WHFoods: Brown rice and to take a thorough look over at the nutritional analysis of brown rice vs white rice.

Brown rice is not just a whole-grain, it is an intact grain.

Under the new FSA guidelines, “whole grain” is defined in a more elusive manner.

“Cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis – should be considered a whole grain food.”

To consumers, what this really means is that now when you see a food product that is labelled “whole grain”, you cannot be absolutely sure that it does contain the goodness of wholesome ingredients because the food processors could have easily broken down the whole grains, processed it in crazy ways and then just added back in components of whole grains to make their products fulfill the criteria to be called whole grain.

In this recent journal article, researchers looks at the impact of the new FSA guideline. They reviewed past studies that involved whole grains and tried to apply the FSA new definition  and see if the health claims of whole grains’ ability to reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases could still hold true. They found that most studies done in the past defined whole grains on broader terms. Based on only a handful of studies that fulfilled the FSA definition, the researchers were unable to find strong evidence to suggest whole grain consumption could reduce cardiovascular risks.

So, it would definitely seem to be wiser to choose whole grains that are wholesome and intact, rather than whole grain products that have been processed and packaged into a box.

The bottom line is choose intact grains, like brown rice, and pass on processed whole grains, like whole-grain pasta.

Brown rice is the ultimate substitute for white rice.

If you are a huge rice lover, brown rice is definitely the choice for you.

Don’t even think about white rice — it’s a refined grain and it is no different from dumping white sugar straight down your throat. Brown rice is a lot more nutritious for you (re-read the long list above!).

It’s really simple to kick the white rice habit. All you got to do is pick up a bag of brown rice from the grocery store today. Then, you just prepare it like you would with white rice (rice-cooker, stove-top or oven-baked, you name it). Just keep in mind that brown rice is chewier and so if you’re looking for a more soft, more mushy mouth-feel, just add more liquid and cook your rice longer.

Brown rice can replace white rice in any recipes. This exchange will not reduce your dining pleasure. In fact, it will most likely enhance your meal, making it taste more full-body, more satisfying and more deliciously healthy!

Brown rice taste good!

Let me repeat myself: it taste good! You have to believe me on this. I come from a Chinese background where I lived and breathed white rice my entire life. Considering that I’ve been fed white rice all my life, and now I say that brown rice is more tasty than white rice, then it definitely is! Period. No doubt about it.

If you say you’ve tried brown rice before and it just didn’t taste good, it’s probably because it wasn’t prepared in a way that brought out the goodness of it. Give it one more chance and bake it – it is the foolproof method for making brown rice sing.

When I first made the switch to brown rice, I prepared it with a rice cooker. It tasted similar to white rice, nothing extraordinary. Then, I tried the stove-top method using chicken stock instead of water; that method made brown rice more aromatic and gave it more flavour, but it also made it slightly too salty for me. Then, I tried the oven-baked method by Alton Brown. The method was easy; it required only water and salt and 1 hour unstirred and covered cooking time in the oven. And the result? Unnnnbelievably flavourful brown rice that was not too chewy nor too mushy, just right. This method is truly a 5-star method. Try it and you’ll love it.

Brown rice is seriously better tasting than white rice. If rice is a blank canvas that allows a dish’s flavour to shine, then brown rice is the top quality canvas that has the magical power to turn a ordinary dish into a good dish and turn a good dish into a remarkable dish. Trust me on this one! And if you are still not convinced, read what Siri has to say about brown rice!

Conclusion: Buy brown rice now and start cooking!

If the idea of eating more healthily has crossed your mind lately, then you should making brown rice the first thing on your to-do list for tomorrow! Adding brown rice to your diet or substituting it for white rice is only a small change in your diet, but it can really make a huge difference in your health!

As a bonus, here are two recipes that pair perfectly with brown rice: Ginger, Jalapeno & Coconut Cauliflower and Creamy Coconut Tofu Rice. YUM!

Photoby FotoosVanRobin

Photo by FotoosVanRobin

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Meat tastes good and I’m definitely not saying eating meat is a bad thing!

Meat provides various essential nutrients, including iron, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins. However, I will say that consuming meat can significant increases our health risks, especially chronic health problems such as coronary heart diseases if we continue to eat meat the way we do right now.

What’s wrong with the way we eat meat? Here’s two big issues:

Outrageous portion sizes. Over the years, our perception of portion sizes has dramatically inflated. We tend to think a 8oz steak is a normal serving of meat, but that amount of meat is actually 2 -3 servings of meat, according to the Canada’s Food Guide. Try comparing portion sizes 20 years ago to portion sizes now, you will most likely be surprised at how much smaller sizes are back then.

Choose meat too often. We seem to view meat as being an integral part of our diet, and so we rarely consider choosing meat alternatives (we seem to forget about their existence unless we have certain dietary concerns). A common misunderstanding is that these food options are inferior to meat, in terms of their nutritional value. This statement is partly true in that meat does provide us with complete protein, but what we do not realize that these options can provide additional health benefits that are absent from meat.

So how can we deal with these two problems? One simple solution to cut back our meat consumption. It can be a very difficult challenge, but one small step you can take today is try to substitute meat with meat alternatives.

Here are my top three favourite meat alternatives:

Tofu

Why is it good?

Tofu is a high-protein, low-fat and low-calorie product, perfect for those who are weight-conscious. Certain types of tofu, especially the firm ones, are also a good source of calcium. Because tofu is made from soybeans, it does not contain cholesterol by nature, which may be preferable for those who are concerned about cholesterol.

How to use it?

It’s a super versatile ingredient. Soft or silken tofu can be a star ingredient in different appetizers and desserts. Try making an Edamame “Hummus” Dip or a Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding. Firm tofu is a great addition to any stir-fry. To make things fancy, you can also try to make Caramelized Tofu as a main dish, or how about try making Grilled Tofu Satay with Peanut Sauce? Here’s another must try vegetarian recipe featuring tofu — Fried Rice with Scallions, Edamame and Tofu.

Beans

Why is it good?

Not only do they provide protein, beans are also an excellent source of fiber (half a cup of cooked beans will fulfill nearly 25% of your daily fiber needs). Getting enough fiber is essential to maintaining a healthy digestive system. Like tofu, beans come from plant sources, and so theynaturally do not contain cholesterol.

How to use it?

Chili is a great way to introduce more beans into your diet. Make your own hummus using dried or canned chickpeas and serve it as a dip for vegetables or pita chips for a delicious, healthy and fulfilling snack or side dish. In this Creamy Broccoli and White Bean Soup, beans are added in to create a creamy texture without needing to add cream. Beans can also be a star ingredient in pasta dishes!

Nuts and Nut Butter

Why is it good?

Nuts and nut butter have similar nutrition profile as meats, but without the saturated fats. Instead, they contain heart-healthy oils which have protective effects against heart diseases. These oils will help to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and boost HDL (good cholesterol) and ultimately improving your overall blood cholesterol and lipid profile.

How to use it?

Instead of reaching for jam or butter, try spreading nut butter onto your toast in the morning. Or, throw in a handful of nuts into your salad instead of topping it with a big chunk of meat. Nuts also make the perfect, fuss-free snack when you’re on the run. Another way to enjoy nuts is making your own granola — here’s my favourite recipe by Alton Brown (absolutely heavenly!).

Meat has become less dominant in my food world, and it can come true for you too! Just dive in and try these recipes today!

More Resources:

Tofu @ World’s Healthiest Foods

Tofu Recipes and Cooking Tips @ WebMD

Health Benefits of Beans and Lentils @ HealthCastle.com

Beans: Protein-Rich Superfoods @ WebMD

Health Benefits of Nuts @ HealthCastle.com

Thai Pasta Salad -- the perfect light and healthy lunch option for a lazy and relaxing Saturday afternoon!

Thai Pasta Salad -- the perfect light and healthy lunch option for a lazy and relaxing Saturday afternoon!

Photo by Stephanie Chung

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I’m constantly on the lookout for new ways to enjoy pasta. A few days ago I came across Casual Kitchen and found this amazing Thai Pasta Salad. It takes only a few minutes to put together and the flavour is so light and refreshing, perfect for a lazy and relaxing Saturday lunch!

The recipe itself is already a healthy and well-balanced lunch option. But to make it even more nutritious, I decided to use whole wheat spaghetti to boost the fiber content and also added in more vegetables and skipped out on the meat (I’m trying to cut down my meat consumption :))

As for the dressing, I followed the instructions precisely and it turned out really tasty (only a tad bit more sour than I would have liked, so I’ll probably use less lemon juice next time around).

Note: The original recipe made clear that the cilantro is an essential part of the salad — I totally agree! It really enhances the dressing’s flavour and really pulls the dish together. (Don’t even think about skipping cilantro, it’s a must!)

Thai Pasta Salad

You will need:

  • 2cup broccoli, cut into mini florets
  • 1 cup sweet peppers, diced
  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 – 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 4-6 oz whole wheat spaghetti

To make the dressing…

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp hot chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions. During the last minute, add in the broccoli.
  • In the meantime, you can cook the vegetables and prepare the dressing.
  • Heat olive oil in small non-stick skillet, sauté onions until slightly soften. Add in garlic and continue to sauté until fragrant. add in sweet peppers and cook until slightly softened. Remove from heat, add in remaining ingredients to finish making the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • When the pasta and broccoli is ready, add them to the skillet and stir well. Stir in cilantro leaves.
  • Served at room temperature or chilled. Serves 2 (big generous servings, loaded with veggies!)

I really enjoyed the Oriental flavour of the dressing. I highly recommend adding in broccoli into the salad as it really soaks up the dressing!

For next time, I’m planning to add in a difference mix of vegetables and substituting rice noodles or vermicelli for the pasta. Yummy!

Thai Pasta Salad on Foodista

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Why are vegetables important? They contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals. They are also a good source of fiber which keeps the digestive system healthy. They also deliver phytochemicals and  antioxidants which are essential for preventing cell damage and removing toxins from our body.

Canada’s Food Guide suggests that the average adult should eat about 7 – 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. For some people, meeting this guideline can be a huge challenge (especially those of us who aren’t big salad eaters)! However, by planning ahead, you can easily incorporate more vegetables into your meals and add on a few more servings of vegetables to your diet.

Here are three simple tips to sneak in more vegetables into your meals:

Make your own tomato sauce. Tomato Sauce

Instead of using store-bought, chemical-laden tomato sauce which are often high in sodium, try making a homemade version (here’s a simple recipe to try — Five Minute Tomato Sauce). Making your own sauce gives you the freedom to add in more vegetables, such as onions, bell peppers, carrots and celery. By adding in extra veggies, you enhance the sauce’s flavour and give it an instant nutrition boost! Experiment with different herbs and spices and use it as pasta sauce, pizza sauce or meatball sauce…the list is endless.

Curry by [cipher]

Puree vegetables into curry sauce.

Caramelized onions is the ultimate best option because it adds a lot of sweetness to the sauce. Other good options include carrots, bell peppers and corn kernels. Pureed vegetables will give a creamy texture to the sauce and the additional sweetness will definitely help to offset the spiciness of the curry flavour. By pureeing vegetables, you will be able enjoy the benefits of consuming more vegetables without risking to ruin the texture and flavour of the food.

Try mashed sweet potatoes or add in mashed cauliflower.Mashed Sweet Potatoes by Foodista

Most people can’t resist rich and creamy mashed potatoes. Although it is a vegetable option, the healthiness of it decreases as you stir in the butter and milk. However, by adding in some mashed cauliflower, you can add back in some healthiness. Another option to mashed potato would be mashed sweet potatoes. The flavour and texture will be similar, with an added hint of sweetness and a great boost in fiber and beta-carotene (essential nutrient for keeping your eyes, skin and immune system healthy!).

If these options still cannot encourage you to eat more vegetables, perhaps it’s time to try through cookbooks that offer fail-proof recipes for more ideas on sneaking in healthy fruits and vegetables. Here’s two websites to get you started: The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious.

What are some tricks you use to incorporate more vegetables into your meals?

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Everyone should eat oatmeal! It is such a wonderful breakfast option – healthy, simple and delicious! Oats is a whole grain with many essential nutrients and a whole lot of soluble fiber which can have a cholesterol-lowering effect in your body. Plus, it is super easy to make and you can pretty much add in any food you want and it will taste great.

To prepare basic oatmeal, all you need to do is:

  1. Boil 2 cups water in a pot.
  2. When water boils, stir in 1 cup oatmeal (quick oats, regular oats, steel cut oats – whatever you like).
  3. Turn down the heat to minimum and let the oatmeal simmer until it absorbs the water and becomes a thick goo (it becomes slightly chewy and gives a very creamy texture!).
  4. if you like it creamier, add a bit more water and boil it until the water is absorbed.
  5. While the oatmeal is hot, stir in the desired ingredients to create your personalized oatmeal breakfast!
  6. If you have leftover, just place into a container and put it in your fridge when it’s cool. When you want oatmeal again, simply reheat it in the microwave.

3 savory (crazy!) flavours:

  1. My childhood favourite: ground beef and egg. Add marinated ground beef when the oatmeal is almost done. Make sure the ground beef is cooked thoroughly. Then, while constantly stirring, add in a beaten egg to get streaks of egg immersed in the oatmeal (make sure you are stirring the whole time or else you get big chunks of egg and the egg flavour will become too overwhelming!).
  2. My recent new attempt: cheese. Grate some old cheddar, or your favourite cheese, into the bottom of your bowl, then pour in the hot oatmeal. Stir well and enjoy! To me, cheese oatmeal is  like eating a healthy version of Mac n’ Cheese.
  3. Unbelievable tasty: soy sauce + scallions. Stir in 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of soy sauce into 1 cup cooked oatmeal and then stir in about 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped scallions for an Oriental flavour. Don’t skip the scallions, it adds aroma and a lot of flavour. If you skip it, your oatmeal will taste funny…  By the way, try to use low-sodium soy sauce to prevent sodium overload!

Oatmeal is so versatile. It is actually possible to have it everyday and you will not get bored because you can have different flavours each day! Because it doesn’t have a strong flavour itself, you can really play with the flavour by adding in whatever you want and the oatmeal will adapt to what you add in.

For my next crazy attempt, I’m planning to mix oatmeal with mashed Kabocha squash with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. Any other wild combinations that you can think of but never had the courage to try? Share it with me and maybe (just maybe!) I will be brave enough to test it for you…

Question: How do you like to enjoy your oatmeal? Sweet or Savory? What do you add in?

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Running from one place to another place with nothing to eat? Instead of wasting precious time lining up at a fast food joint, why not try preparing your own healthy snacks to keep your keep your energy level up and hunger level down!

Yogurt + Granola

Try to pair a small container of low-fat yogurt with homemade granola for a delicious, nutrient-dense snack. Try to choose plain yogurt to avoid the sugar-laden and chemical-filled fruit yogurts. Buying plain yogurt also gives you more variety – you can choose to add different toppings to make it interesting. Try a drizzle of honey, handful of dried cranberries / raisins, some fresh fruits, or even a spoonful of nuts to add new dimensions!

Crackers + Cheese

All you need to do is buy some cheese, cut it into thin slices and put them between crackers and you have prepared a tasty, crunchy, cheesy snack for yourself! Minimal preparation yet very flavourful! Try buying whole wheat crackers for a chewy and nutty flavour. To make it even more interesting, try buying sharp-tasting cheese, such as Old Cheddar. For Brie cheese for a creamier texture, or try Bleu cheese for a sharp, intense experience!

Bite-sized Veggies with Dip

When you prepare vegetables for dinner, try washing and cutting up some extra and put them in ziploc bags or tupperware so when you’re in a hurry, you can just grab and go! Some good options include celery sticks, broccoli florets, red pepper slices and carrot sticks. Along with your veggies, pack some dip, such as hummus, peanut butter, or cottage cheese to make the veggies a little more tasty.

DIY Fruit Cup

Cut fruits into cubes and mix them into a leakproof tupperware container for a fresh, flavourful DIY fruit cup. Mix together some crunchy fruits (Ex. Apples) with some soft fruits (ex. Kiwi), and toss them with some seasonal fruits (Ex. Barlett pears) or add in your favourite fruits to make the fruit salad super yummy and super healthy! To prepare browning of fruits, make sure you dip them into lemon water or else they will look less appealing over time! For simplicity sake, you can also just wash a fruit and chow down when you hungry as well! Even less cutting and cleaning up, but just as enjoyable and nutritious.

Nuts / Trail Mix

It’s super easy to make your own trail mix. Throw a large handful of whatever dry cereal you have on hand (or try toasting rolled oats), then add in a bunch of nuts and some dried fruits, and you’re all set to go! To boost the health aspects of your trail mix, try choosing cereal is that higher in fiber and low in sugar.

Making these healthy snacks only take about 5-10 minutes but when you’re running late for class, that could mean disaster! So make sure you plan ahead, ideally the night before or even try mapping out your snacking plan during the weekend when you have more time.

Question: What’s your favourite healthy snack when you are on the run?

Bonus: Make your own granola!

Want to avoid the store-bought granola that is loaded with sugars and oil? Then, try making your own version! Here‘s my all time favourite recipe. It doesn’t ask you to add in a lot of sugar and oil, but it has a very unique sweetness that comes from the coconut shreds and a lot of heart-healthy fats from the cashews and almonds. Plus it’s super easy to make, just toss all the ingredients together, mix well and toast it in the oven for an hour. Then when you room starts to smell heavenly, you’ll know it’s ready! Once you try it once, I guarantee you will never buy store-bought granola ever again!

Question: What’s your favourite healthy snack when you are on the run?