Vinegar: The New Healthy Condiment

I love adding vinegar to recipes and meals because it adds tanginess and flavor to excite my taste buds without adding loads of calories or tons of additives. Vinegar also contains anti-bacterial properties, but other nutritional benefits are not well known. More research is needed especially for apple cider vinegar.

Important to note: Do not take apple cider vinegar as a daily supplement without speaking to your Doctor or Registered Dietitian. Taking vinegar on a daily basis as a supplement is an unproven treatment. But, for cooking–go right ahead and use it!NAKANO rice vinegar

Mizkan (company that makes a variety of condiments) was kind enough to send me some free NAKANO rice vinegar to try. They have natural rice vinegar as well as some flavored varieties.

My favorite so far is the red pepper seasoned vinegar. It is a little sweet (does contain 5 g sugar), but spicy, and salty all at the same time. So,  of course I love it. The only thing I would caution is to watch how much you use because if you go overboard with the condiment, you could be adding too much sugar to your food. But, you only need a tiny amount because the flavor is so strong (which is good).

1 Tbsp = 20 calories

Here are some meal ideas that I have already tried adding these rice vinegars to:

cabbage apple slaw

Vinegar in Apple Cabbage Slaw Recipe

grilled romaine

Vinegar as condiment for grilled chicken.

Do you use vinegar as a condiment?

Thai Salmon Salad

simple thai food bookI recently joined this Blogging for Books program where I get free books of my choosing in exchange for a blog review about them after I am done reading them.

I chose the book, “Simple Thai Food”, by Leela Punyaratabandhu since the author is a fellow foodie blogger and I have been dying for some legit Thai recipes.

All of the recipes look tasty, but I tried the Thai Salmon Salad recipe first. It is a marinated salmon mixture (no lettuce here) that you can serve with brown rice or I chose to serve it with whole wheat couscous.

I won’t reveal her secret recipe because that would be giving away information in her tasty cookbook. But, I will explain all of the ingredients for you!

thai salmon salad

You have to at least somewhat like fish flavors to enjoy this recipe because it uses a good amount of the fish sauce (3 Tbsp).

Ingredients:

  • Fish sauce
  • Lime juice
  • Shallots
  • Lemongrass
  • Thai peppers
  • Mint
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • Salmon

You bake or steam the salmon in bite size pieces, and meanwhile chop all of the remaining ingredients. Then, when the salmon is finished, you add to the lime mixture and stir to combine. Top with mint at the end, and serve about room temperature (I do not like mine too cold!).

By now you might be thinking this recipe is a little wacky, but it contains flavors you probably have never tasted together making it a party of flavors.

This recipe is also pretty darn healthy due to the healthy fats from the salmon, herbs, and fresh ingredients.

Overall, I can’t wait to try more of Leela’s recipes due to the authenticity of them and how easily she has broken it down and explained everything about Thai cooking for me. This makes it much easier to understand. Other Thai recipes I have tried have never come out very well because they didn’t explain as much. Some might complain that the recipes still have a lot of ingredients. But, that is what it takes to make good Thai food!

Muesli: Easy, Quick, and Healthy Breakfast

Over the last year, I haven’t eaten much cereal at all because I was just tired of all the junk ingredients in most cereals. But, recently I started eating more muesli because I can create variety with it, and I get a balanced meal out of it.

What is Muesli?muesli: easy healthy breakfast

The idea for muesli came from the Swiss and Germans. The base of muesli is just raw rolled oats like you would use for oatmeal (uncooked). Then, you combine the raw oats with other grains like barley or rye, and some nuts, seeds, and dried (or fresh) fruit–whatever you like! You take the dry ingredients, and you can soak them overnight (or leave them dry like I do). In the morning, you add cold milk of your choice or yogurt, and enjoy.

Tip: Since I keep my oat mixture dry, when I pour in my almond milk in the morning, I let it soak for about 10 minutes before eating so that the ingredients hydrate a little bit.

You can make muesli as sweet and sinful (some add cream and lots of honey or fruit juice) OR as healthy and low sugar as you like.

My Recipe

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats, dry, plain
  • 2 Tbsp. rye flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. seeds (chia seeds and/or pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds)
  • 1 Tbsp. dried blueberries (or raisins/dates)
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries (or any other berries)
  • Top with a few raw unsalted almonds (about 6-10)
  • 1/2-1 cup coconut/almond milk blend (if it is unsweetened almond milk, I add 1 tsp. local honey)

This quick muesli recipe is for one serving. You can make more ahead of time and store in an air-tight container for ease in the morning.

how to make muesli

My version of a super fast muesli. Oats on the bottom, then fruit, nuts, and natural peanut butter on top.

I mix and match my ingredients. Sometimes I add sliced banana. Other times I add a spoonful of a nut butter on top.

Don’t like raw plain dry oats? Toast them ahead of time! Lay out dry oats on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little bit of oil and honey and bake until they turn a little golden. Allow to cool. This will make your oats crunchier and more like a granola.

Muesli is typically healthier than granola because it contains less added sugars, and usually more fiber, protein, and healthy fats (if you add more nuts and seeds).

No time to make your own Muesli?

Here are two brands that I bought recently for convenience.

Trader Joe's and Bob's Red Mill Muesli

One is Bob’s Red Mill brand of muesli that you can buy at most grocery stores or order online. The other is Trader Joe’s muesli. If you buy these, make sure to check your portion size because muesli portions should be fairly small due to the higher nutritional density of ingredients.  Tip: Add fresh fruit to make your serving look larger!

Do you eat muesli?

New Healthy Snack: Super Seedz

Super Seedz sent me a bunch of their flavored pumpkin seed snacks. I was super excited when they arrived at my door, and even more excited when I discovered how tasty and healthy they are.

I get tired of eating nuts all the time for my snacks, so these flavored seeds will help me add some variety to my diet.

super seedz

They have spicy flavors, plain, gourmet flavors, and sweeter flavors as well.

What are Super Seedz?

They are flavored, shelled pumpkin seeds that you can eat for a snack like nuts.

cocoa pumpkin seeds

These are the “cocoa joe” flavored pumpkin seeds. They only have 3 grams of sugar per serving, but taste sweet and tasty to me! My favorite so far.

Nutrition Facts*

super seedz nutrition facst

Nutrition facts for the spicy pumpkin seed flavor.

*For shelled pumpkin seeds and SuperSeedz

  • up to 9 grams of protein per serving
  • 15% RDI for zinc (which can be hard to get if you are vegan/vegetarian)
  • 15% RDI for iron (also can be a difficult nutrient to fulfill when you eat less meat)
  • 60% RDI for manganese (manganese is a cofactor for a powerful antioxidant)
  • Contain a specific type of vitamin E that may be more beneficial than other forms of vitamin E (more research is needed)
  • Good source of lignans (a plant chemical) which acts as an antioxidant and have anti-inflammatory benefits (similar to lignans found in flax seed). You can read more here about lignans.
  • Gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free
  • Non-GMO
  • Clean, natural ingredients

Yum yum. I love it when food is tasty and super healthy. Have you tried these yet? I am sure you could make your own version of these as well. But, SuperSeedz gets the flavor just right ;-)

My Picks: Healthiest Breads

There is this gluten free craze going around these days, and more and more people seem to be avoiding bread like it’s the devil. Bread is NOT bad. You just have to be selective about what you buy, and check your ingredients label.

The key is to look for all whole grains, aka whole wheat, whole oat, whole rye, etc. No enriched flour which means plain old white flour.

And look for as little additives as possible, meaning, you should be able to decipher the ingredients. Lastly, make sure the sugar content is not too high. Here are my picks for the healthiest breads:

My Favorite Breads

1. Ezekiel Breadsprouted grains ezekiel bread

Food for Life, 7 Sprouted Grains

This is my go-to bread choice at the grocery store. You can find this in the freezer section of the grocery store. Since it has no preservative, they must refrigerate it. I like this flavor better than the traditional Ezekiel Bread because it has a better flavor.

Ingredients: Organic Sprouted Wheat, Filtered Water, Organic Malted Barley, Organic Sprouted Rye, Organic Sprouted Barley, Organic Sprouted Oats, Organic Sprouted Millet, Organic Sprouted Corn, Organic Sprouted Brown Rice, Fresh Yeast, Organic Wheat Gluten, Sea Salt.

Yes, it does contain gluten and wheat. But, there is no need to avoid these ingredients unless you have an allergy or have Celiac’s disease. Wheat in its’ whole, clean, unprocessed form is an excellent source of nutrients. And gluten is what holds the bread together!

2. Silver Hills Bakery Breadhealthy flax bread

Mack’s Flax Bread

This brand of bread I found at a Super Target in the bakery section. I was very excited to find this bread. It may become my new favorite. They have a lot of healthy varieties including a hemp seed bread that contains 7 grams of protein per serving (a great choice for vegans and vegetarians). Even the flax bread contains 6 grams of protein per serving, very low sugar, and high fiber. And, it is tasty.

Ingredients: Organic whole sprouted wheat, organic flax (organic whole flax seeds, organic ground flax seeds), water, vital wheat gluten, organic cane sugar, yeast, sea salt, cultured wheat flour (wheat flour, bacterial culture)

3. Mestemacher Breadhealthiest rye bread

Rye Bread with Muesli

This is a German bread company that makes many rye bread varieties. True rye bread. Not the white flour rye bread blend that you find in American grocery stores. I decided to try this bread after coming back from a trip to Denmark where I first had this type of bread. We took a Baltic cruise, and I kept spotting this bread at many restaurants and shops. After that trip, I found it in Aldi stores, Whole Foods, and some Kroger stores.

If you like rye flavors, you will love this bread. I like the muesli flavor toasted for breakfast with a little almond butter on it. The muesli flavor contains seeds and hazelnuts. Yum. Did you know: Rye bread may help with weight loss due to the type of fibers it contains.

Ingredients: Crushed whole rye grains (30%), whole meal rye flour, oat flakes (4%), water, non-sulphurated sultanas (5%), hazelnuts (2%), sunflower seeds (2%), linseed (2%), salt, oat fiber, sesame, yeast.

4. Food for Life Brown Rice Wraps or TortillasBrown rice wraps

This is not sliced bread, but it has to be mentioned because it is one of my favorites. And, if you are looking for a healthy gluten free option, this is excellent. The flavor is amazing, it holds it shape better than other gluten free products, and I like the texture. Delicious. This one you will also find in the freezer section. I purchase it at Publix.

Ingredients: Brown Rice Flour, Filtered Water, Tapioca Flour, Safflower oil, Rice Bran, Vegetable Gum (Xanthan Gum, Cellulose), Sea Salt.

5. Trader Joe’s Bread

Sprouted Rye Bread

Trader Joe’s has many healthy bread options, but this is one of my favorites due to flavor. The slices are also very thin and light, so if you are watching your calories, this would be a good choice. I don’t have a package in my freezer right now, so I don’t have the full nutritionals for you. But, I will post them when I buy it again.

What is your favorite bread?

Steel Cut Oat Breakfast Cookie

Steel cut oats can take forever to cook if you want to make oatmeal in the morning. We had so many steel cut oats and they were not getting eaten, so I was determined to make a breakfast “cookie” out of them.

Wait… What is a Steel Cut Oat?

Steel cut oats are the whole inner portion of the oat kernel making it a clean, healthy, whole grain choice. Oats that you find labeled “quick cooking” oats are made out of steel cut oats. These “rolled oats” are husked and then flattened, or rolled out. The nutritional benefits are very similar.

steel cut oat breakfast cookie

Steel Cut Oat Breakfast Cookie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry steel cut oats
  • 2/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup unsalted almonds
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. stevia/stevia blend
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (I use Himalayan salt or iodized)
  • 2 eggs (or you can make "flax eggs" if vegan)
  • 1/2-1 cup milk of your choice
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Prepare the oats by microwaving with 1 cup of water in a large mixing bowl for about 4 minutes. Stir, and then microwave 2 more minutes until most of the water is absorbed. Let stand for about 10 minutes to cool off and absorb more water. Microwave 1-2 more minutes if you still have a lot of water in the oat mixture.
  3. Once the oats have cooled off a little, add about 1/2 cup of milk, and all remaining ingredients except the eggs and chocolate chips. Stir to combine.
  4. Beat your eggs into the oat mixture.
  5. Check the consistency. You may need to add more milk if you mixture seems a little dry.
  6. Stir in your chocolate chips.
  7. Using an ice cream/cookie dough scooper, form 1-1 1/2" balls and place on baking sheet with parchment paper (or non-stick baking sheet). Flatten out the balls with a spoon so they form a cookie shape.
  8. Bake 20-22 minutes until the edges turn golden.
http://nicolesnutrition.com/steel-cut-oat-breakfast-cookie/

Tip: If you will not eat these within 2-3 days, make sure to freeze or refrigerate. There are no preservatives, so they will go bad quickly if left out.

healthy oat breakfast cookie

Approx. Nutrition Facts (Recipe makes about 30 cookies; serving is 2 cookies): 159 calories, 6.5 g fat, 21.5 g carbohydrates, 5.5 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 5 g protein; 5% DV iron.

How to Make a Healthy Smoothie

A common question I get is: “what smoothie recipe do you recommend?” or “what’s the healthiest smoothie?”.

The main thing I recommend is to avoid adding extra sugars to your smoothie. Limit added concentrated juice, and do not add pure sugar. It is also important to include a healthy fat and/or protein source in your smoothie. This helps to balance out the fruit sugar content and slow the absorption of carbohydrates in the bloodstream.

Anyways, I have made a simple diagram to help explain how to make a healthy smoothie!

how to make a healthy smoothie

Tip: The colder your berries are, the more liquid you will have to add. Feel free to put the frozen ingredients into the microwave for a few seconds so that they will be easier to blend.

Six Pack Abs Are Not Always Healthy

are six pack abs healthyI was having a conversation at dinner with Mr. Lego Man (formerly Mr. Triathlete… hobbies change), and he was saying how even 12 or 14 years ago when he was swimming full time he didn’t have six pack abs. I said, “The only time I had six pack abs was when I weighed 90 pounds!”.

I don’t desire to have six pack abs because I don’t see the need to strive for something that seems so stressful (and unrealistic) for me. Why would I want six pack abs when I feel 100% healthy without that look? Isn’t a flat, strong abdomen healthy? I think so!

For some, I understand why they work towards it. They may have a body building or figure competition they are working towards. That is the only reason for six pack abs that I can think of.

Having a strong core and strong abdomen is a different story. For example, Pilates focuses on having a strong long and lean core, but they do not promise six pack abs. The priority of Pilates is to align the body properly and strengthen as healthily as possible. They do not target the exercises to produce a “six pack”.

After all, strength is very important as it helps to maintain overall good health, proper posture, and strong bone mass.

Overall, I just feel bad that the media portrays the six pack abs as ideal. Does it really matter? No. Who cares if you have a little bit of fat over top of a strong core? I’m sure you still look beautiful :) Plus, for women, we need a little more fat on our body to stay healthy. Once a woman’s body fat drops below 16-17%, she may start to put her body at risk for osteoporosis and more.

So, if someone tells you in order to have six pack abs, your body fat needs to be 13%, how do you feel? Not so healthy.

As long as your waist circumference is below 40 inches (for men) or 35 inches (for women), you stay physically active, and you are happy, that should be all that matters!

Easiest Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

By now we have all come to love chia seeds, right? Or maybe some of you are wondering what a chia seed is and how you are supposed to eat it.

1 oz. (a little over 2 Tbsp.) of chia seeds contains: 137 calories, 9 grams of healthy fats, 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of complete protein, 18% of your recommended intake for calcium, 4.9 grams of omega 3 fatty acids, and many other minerals!

Chia seeds are one of the rare plant-based complete protein sources. This means when you eat chia seeds as a vegetarian or vegan, you are able to consume all of the amino acids needed to make complete protein molecules.

How to Eat Chia Seeds

Toss in a blender with a smoothie, add a tablespoon to your water for more fiber, add a spoonful to soups and stews, mix into granola bar recipes and muffins, or make a delicious and nutritous pudding!how to make chia seed pudding

Easy Chia Seed Pudding

Easy Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients

  • 7 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 cups almond or coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. stevia and/or honey (depending on how sweet your milk is; unsweetened milk will require more sweetening)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract or almond extract

Instructions

  1. Whisk the chia seeds and milk together for 1-2 minutes until all clumps are broken up.
  2. Add remaining ingredients. I usually will just add what I have on hand.
  3. Refrigerate 4 hours. You can speed up this process by putting in the freezer for 30-45 minutes, stirring, then putting in the refrigerator for 2 more hours.
  4. Enjoy with a few nuts or fresh fruit on top! Or, eat it by itself for a quick snack!
http://nicolesnutrition.com/easiest-chia-seed-pudding-recipe/

chia seed pudding

You have to wait for the seeds to soak so that they will hydrate and expand to form a tapioca pudding-like consistency. It may look a little funky, but it is fun to eat and healthy!

And here is my video to explain it all:

Thoughts on New Artificial Sweetener Advantame

sugar and artificial sweetenerSurprise, surprise! The FDA has approved a new artificial sweetener called, advantame. It does not have a brand name yet, but look out for it to hit the grocery store shelves soon.

Advantame is very similar to aspartame. So, don’t get too excited about it. Advantame was made to be a good alternative to those who suffer from phenylketonuria and can not intake anything with phenylalanine (which aspartame has). But, do we really need another sweetener for this?

The FDA concludes, “In evaluating the safety of advantame under the petitioned conditions of use, the FDA reviewed data from 37 animal and human studies. The safety studies were designed to identify possible toxic effects, such as reproductive, neurological, and cancer-causing effects. The FDA concluded after a thorough evaluation that advantame is safe for human consumption under the petitioned conditions of use.”

My opinion is that I will continue to avoid artificial sweeteners because more research should be done. This is what I tell my patients: It is good to get used to foods tasting less sweet because it will help you get used to other foods with lower sugar contents and help you avoid the habit of using added sugars in your diet.

More solid evidence tells us that those who use more artificial sweeteners tend to weigh more than those who don’t use the zero calorie sweeteners. Moderation is key. Limit the artificial sweeteners AND added sugars. Consume plenty of natural, freshly sweet fruits, and maybe a tiny teaspoon of local honey or pinch of stevia here and there.

Do we really need artificial sweeteners? No. Even Diabetics can have a healthy diet without artificial sweeteners. However, these sweeteners can help Diabetics transition away from sugar added foods and help them enjoy a sugar free treat once and a while.

Thoughts?