December 3, 2013
Many people associate Hanukkah with December, but last week Hanukkah coincided with Thanksgiving for the first time since 1888.
(The next time will be in 2070, so for many, this was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.)
I was born and raised Jewish, and I often get questions about the culture and traditions. What most people want to know is, why do the holidays fall on different days each year? The answer is simple: The Jewish calendar is lunar, and the Gregorian calendar follows the sun. That's why Hanukkah can fall as early as Thanksgiving or as late as Christmas.
So what does all of this have to do with nutrition and health? Well, many American Jewish traditions revolve around – you guessed it – food. Like other traditional dishes, ours can be loaded with fat and calories, too. So what's a good Jewish dietitian to do?
I recently had a conversation with a friend about why braised brisket is such a popular dish on Jewish tables. There are probably lots of reasons. Brisket is relatively low in cost compared with more expensive steaks – although I'm pretty sure you don't have to follow a certain religion to appreciate that fact.
It also doesn't take a lot of baby-sitting. That is, you set it in the oven and forget it, at least for a few hours. Another thing I like is that it can be used for several meals if you get a larger brisket. Freeze the extras and thaw during the week for a quick meal. To help retain moisture when reheating, I like to simmer in beef broth on the stove until it reaches 165 degrees.
Those are all great reasons, but when my friend asked me that question, only one thing really stood out in my mind. It just tastes good. Unfortunately, that can be attributed to brisket's high fat content. But I insist on having my brisket, and you can, too. Just trim off the excess fat before serving and enjoy a reasonable portion of 3-4 ounces (about the size of an iPhone or a deck of cards).
Another perennial favorite is a noodle casserole called kugel. Kugels can be sweet or savory and usually have a base of egg noodles and a mixture of eggs, cream cheese, sour cream or cottage cheese with fruit like apples or raisins. There are also variations that use potatoes – shredded or pureed – mixed with onions, eggs and spices and then baked.
Kugel can be a meal in and of itself but is usually served as a side dish. It works great for brunch, too. To boost the nutrition, I like to double the fruit and use higher fiber noodles in the sweet kugels. I also use lower-fat versions of dairy to cut down on fat and calories while keeping the protein and calcium.
Here are two of my favorite Jewish cuisine-inspired recipes that I'd love for you to try. Hanukkah is now drawing to a close, but you can enjoy these dishes any time of year. Who knows? They just might become traditions for you, too.
The first is a Texas Beef Council recipe:
Baked Beef Brisket
4 pounds boneless beef brisket
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large onions, thickly sliced
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Place brisket, fat side up, in a 13-by-10-inch shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle brisket evenly with salt, pepper and garlic. Top with onion.
Bake in 350-degree oven 1 hour, or until onions turn brown.
Add 1 cup hot water and cover pan tightly with aluminum foil. Reduce oven temperature to 300 and continue cooking 2 hours or until brisket is tender.
Remove brisket and onions to warm platter. Skim fat from juices or use a gravy separator.
To make gravy, combine 1 cup water and cornstarch. Add to juices in pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until gravy boils and thickens.
Carve brisket across the grain into thin slices.
Here's a recipe from the University of Illinois Extension osteoporosis website (urbanext.illinois.edu/osteoporosis/index.cfm):
Cottage Cheese Noodle Kugel
1-pound package of medium egg noodles, cooked and drained
1 pound low-fat cottage cheese
1 pint low-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1/8 to 1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup light or dark raisins (soft)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup corn flake crumbs
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Beat eggs in a large bowl with wire whisk until light and frothy. Add cottage cheese, sour cream, salt, sugar, raisins and nuts. Add lemon juice, starting with smaller amount and adding more as taste dictates. Stir in noodles and mix all ingredients very well.
Pour about half of melted butter into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, coating sides and bottom completely. Pour in batter. Sprinkle with corn flake crumbs (cover entire top). Drizzle remaining melted butter over the top. Bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees. Serves 12.
November 19, 2013
As the holidays round the bend on the calendar, we're sure to see plenty of articles, blogs, and posts about how to prevent holiday weight gain. Normally, I'm one who would be sharing such information with you. This year, I'm taking a different approach. I'm not saying that the issue of holiday health isn't important, because it certainly is. But for dieters, diabetics, and weight watchers alike, it is all too easy to become consumed with this task. It's all too common that in our attempts to eat right, we spend an inordinate amount of time on deciding which hors d'oeuvres to pick from the plate or controlling ourselves at the buffet. Before you know it, another holiday season has passed by in a blur and we're back to New Year's resolutions.
I'm going to propose a radical idea. Forget about restricting and restraining yourself from indulging in favorite dishes and treats. At family gatherings, parties, and other celebrations between now and New Year's, focus on just one thing – your hunger. According to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, dietitians specializing in intuitive eating, it's important to learn to honor your true hunger and eat accordingly. Personally, I think it goes beyond simply honoring your hunger. It's about honoring yourself as a whole, respecting your body and its innate wisdom.
We're all born with the ability to know when we've had enough; kids regularly push away their half-full plates. But as we grow up, we often start to ignore those signals saying, "hey, I'm full!" We may also ignore our hunger, which can lead to eating too much. So how do you know when it's truly time to eat and when you've had enough?
The hunger scale is a tool incorporated into mindful or intuitive eating practices. It goes like this: hunger is rated on a scale from 1-10. A score of 5 is neutral and you feel neither hungry nor full. Going down the scale corresponds with getting hungrier. At a 3, hunger has set in and your stomach is probably growling. A 1 means you're downright starving and might even feel sick.
Going up the scale corresponds with fullness. At a level of 6, you're comfortable and could run down the block if you had to. At a 7, you start to feel your stomach stretch and are full. At a 10, you know you ate way too much and you may be in pain or feel ill. Tribole and Resch recommend starting to eat between a 3 and 4 and stopping between a 6 and 7 on the hunger scale.
At any given time, we may eat for reasons other than physical hunger: social pressure, temptation, availability, boredom, sadness, stress, anger, and even happiness. The holidays are no exception and in fact, many of these emotions may be magnified. It's important during this time, more than usual, to pay attention to those internal signals.
If you feel the urge to eat when you aren't physically hungry, stop to ask yourself why. What thoughts are going through your head? What emotions are you feeling? Find alternate ways to cope. Whether it's taking a bath, unwinding with a book and a cup of tea, or going for a fast and furious run, it's so important to take care of yourself.
So go ahead, give yourself permission to enjoy Mom's famous pumpkin swirl cheesecake and Nana's green bean casserole. Now, this isn't license to go off the diet deep end. You can enjoy the foods you love, but I challenge you to really listen to your body and stop when you are full, even if another mouthful of mashed potatoes is calling your name. Indeed, I consider it your duty to yourself – at the holidays, and every day of the year.
If you're looking for more healthy holiday ideas, I'm happy to oblige. Come join me for the fun and interactive workshop "Lighten Your Holidays." We'll talk about ideas for "fit gifts," holiday food safety, ways to use up leftovers, traditional dish makeovers, strategies to prevent winter weight gain, and more. Each participant will receive recipe and informational handouts, get a new meat thermometer, make a "fit gift" to take home, and sample healthy recipes.
The fee is $10 per person to cover the cost of materials and refreshments. The program will be offered from 6-8 PM in Champaign on December 4 and in Danville on December 5. Register by calling the Champaign office at 333-7672 or Danville at 442-8615. You can also register online at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv.
November 5, 2013
Although the symptoms of diabetes have been documented for thousands of years, medical professionals didn't start to look for a cause and treatment for the disease until 1910. Almost thirty years later, the classifications we know now as types 1 and 2 were made.
But now we've encountered a new problem. Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes, while type 2 has traditionally been called adult-onset diabetes, as it typically appears later in life. Is that the case now?
Over the years, we've (thankfully) made leaps and bounds in our understanding and management of diabetes. We now have portable glucose meters, insulin pumps and pens, and oral medications just to name a few.
But changes in the American lifestyle are forcing us to rethink our definitions. There is a simple equation that says it all: poor eating habits + inactive lifestyle = obesity. It used to be rare to see kids diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but now it's becoming more common. On the flip side, we're seeing more adults diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Talk about a major flip-flop. Now there's also talk about diabetes type 1.5.
This new diabetes subtype is called latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). Diabetes 1.5 may account for up to 10% of people with diabetes, affecting more people than Type 1. LADA is actually a variation of type 1, which explains why it starts causing problems later and how it can be misdiagnosed as type 2.
LADA patients don't need immediate insulin therapy like type 1. Yet, they don't usually need oral medications for insulin resistance. So how do we best tackle this subtype? Researchers are still working on a set of criteria for diagnosis. Hopefully once that is clearer, a set plan for those with LADA can be established.
In the spirit of November's Diabetes Awareness Month, I'd like to bring your attention to a variety of helpful resources available through University of Illinois Extension. For the tech-savvy, a few are even available as apps!
Try this delicious pie recipe from our Recipes for Diabetes website. It's one of my favorites.
Pear Pie with Cheddar Cheese Topping
Total time: 45 minutes
Preparation time: 15 minutes
3 pounds pears, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup Splenda
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 (9-inch) unbaked frozen pie shell
½ cup shredded, low-fat cheddar cheese
½ cup flour
3 tablespoons margarine, melted
¼ cup Splenda®
1/8 teaspoon salt
Servings per Recipe: 8
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 45
Total Fat 5 g
Cholesterol 2 mg
Sodium 131 mg
Carbohydrate 28 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Protein 3 g
Exchange 1 starch, a fruit, 1 fat
Carbohydrate Units 2
October 29, 2013
Try this tasty Halloween-themed treat for a healthy snack or guilt-free dessert!
¼ cup diced pineapple
¼ cup mandarin orange sections
¼ cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
2 tablespoons light whipped cream
3-5 candy corn pieces
October 23, 2013
So many recipes call for chicken broth, whether it's soup, stuffing, risotto, mashed potatoes, or gravy, to name a few. There's no doubt that chicken broth adds flavor, but unfortunately, it can be sky-high in sodium. Reduced-sodium options are certainly an improvement, but can still pack around 600 milligrams of sodium in just one cup. Whenever possible, it's best to go for unsalted broth or stock, but guess what – you can do it better, at home.
A full-bodied broth starts with vegetables like carrots, celery, and onion, which add lots of flavor without salt. I like to add a few bay leaves for seasoning, but you can also try adding parsley, thyme, rosemary, or others for unique flavors.
One of the benefits of making your own broth, apart from having better control over the sodium, is that it can be cheaper than store-bought. Buying bone-in meat is usually cheaper than boneless skinless meat, and can give a meatier flavor to the broth. To save even more money, purchase a whole chicken and butcher yourself. If that's too intimidating, do as I do and get the whole cut-up chicken.
To be as healthy as possible, it can be tempting to use only chicken breasts, but it's crucial to include the dark meat for a richer tasting broth. Although we use the higher fat pieces, there are still ways to keep the broth light. Simply remove the skin before cooking. Otherwise, chill the broth in the refrigerator and scrape off the visible fat layer.
Another cost-saving aspect of making broth at home is that you can reserve the meat for other purposes. Shred up the lower fat breast meat and use in soups, quesadillas, casseroles, salads, or any other recipe calling for cooked chicken. If you don't think you'll use it all within a day or two, freeze the meat in airtight containers or freezer bags.
The broth can also be frozen for later use. I like to measure out amounts that I know are called for in my favorite recipes and freeze in containers. These can easily be microwaved to defrost quickly for cooking. Broth can also be frozen in ice cube trays for use in pan sauces, gravies, or recipes that call for small amounts.
Try these step-by-step instructions from Iowa State Extension to make your own broth. Before you know it, your kitchen will be filled with the heady, comforting scent of home cooking and you'll have plenty of broth for all of your favorite cold-weather recipes.