Too Many Vegetables? How To Prevent Gas and Digestive Problems Caused By Healthy Eating

by | Sep 30, 2013

Photo by toehk

Maybe you’re embarrassed. Maybe you’ve been too polite to ask me. Whatever the reason, know that you’re not alone.

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For the Love of Food

by | Sep 6, 2013
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week video games reverse age-related cognitive decline, “natural” foods aren’t so natural, and fruit juice takes another hit.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

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For the Love of Food

by | Aug 2, 2013
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week vitamin supplements are accused of causing cancer, real food gets defensive, and fruit (sugar and all) is still good for you.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

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10 Simple Kitchen Tips You Wish Someone Told You Earlier

by | May 22, 2013

Photo by me and the sysop

For myself and people of my generation, cooking represents the worst kind of irony. Feeding ourselves is our most basic human need, but for some reason no one bothered to tell us how to do it (or even that it was important to learn).

So we grew up, left the house and became dependent on restaurants and instant meals, only to find out 10 years later that this “food” has been killing us slowly.

Now what are we supposed to do?

Learning to cook is important, but can be intimidating if you’ve never done more than boil water, open cans and zap frozen entrees. Navigating the kitchen is much easier if you know a few simple tricks that seasoned chefs take for granted.
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The Foodist’s Plate

by | May 13, 2013

Foodist Plate

 

Few things annoy me more than rules about eating. Rules remind me of restriction, which reminds me of deprivation, which smells an awful lot like dieting. And as every foodist knows, dieting does more harm than good toward your health and weight loss efforts, and saps the fun out of life. Thanks, but no thanks.

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10 Tasty Carbs That Won’t Make You Fat

by | Mar 20, 2013

Photo by Denna Jones

We all know the story. Eating carbohydrates causes a spike in blood sugar, which results in a surge of insulin. Insulin shuttles all that extra sugar into your fat cells and you become obese. Over time, your poor helpless organs become resistant to insulin and you develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, thereby shortening your life by 7 years.

All of that is true.

The story is more complicated, however, because all carbs are not created equal.

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Healthy Snacks For After Your Workout

by | Nov 5, 2012
Delicious Nuts

Delicious Nuts

“When I work out at the gym, I am there for a couple of hours and by the end of the first hour, I am still energized but start getting hungry. I read your article on packing food for lunch but wanted to specifically ask if you recommend any specific store bought bars.”

I frequently get questions about different nutrition and energy bars. Generally I think they are a bad idea, since they are usually just processed food with added vitamins and/or other trendy diet ingredients—a hallmark of food from the Matrix.

Energy and meal replacement bars serve only one purpose: convenience. Some may be better than others (check the ingredients to be sure), but don’t fool yourself into thinking these are health foods.

That said, I understand that quick calories can be incredibly useful, particularly when intense workouts are a regular part of your day. If you get hungry and don’t have anything around to eat, the chances of you breaking down and eating something you’ll really regret increase substantially. But I think there are better things to carry around than energy bars.

My quick snack of choice is nuts or trail mix. I always have a small stash of nuts hidden somewhere in my gym bag (which comes with me everywhere). My personal favorites are almonds, pistachios, cashews and macadamia nuts. When I’m feeling ambitious I’ll combine a few different kinds together in a plastic zipper bag along with some dried fruit, just to mix things up.

One of the only drawbacks of snacking on nuts is if you are really hungry it is easy to eat too many and ruin your appetite for dinner. Too many nuts can also be difficult to digest. To avoid this I recommend getting into the habit of counting the nuts you eat, drinking water and waiting 20 minutes before eating more. The protein and fat in nuts can be very satisfying, but it takes awhile for the satiety signals to reach your brain.

For almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts 10 is a good number to start with. For shelled pistachios and peanuts, 15-20 nuts is more realistic. You are aiming for a single serving size of 1/4 cup. After some practice, eating the proper amount will come naturally to you. But at the beginning you should either count the nuts or measure them out in advance so it is easier to make good decisions.

There are a few other easily transportable foods that can serve as good substitutes for energy bars. Fruit is a great option, particularly filling fruits with lots of fiber like apples and oranges. Be careful with soft fruits, however, or you may end up with a gym bag filled with goo. Yes, I’m speaking from experience.

(Read: How to transport soft fruits and vegetables)

Another option that I don’t often use but am not opposed to is jerky. Beef and turkey jerky are generally high in protein and very satisfying. Just be careful about the teriyaki flavor that is often high in added sugar.

As a final thought, I wonder if you are maybe spending too much time in the gym? For weight loss and fat burning, more than an hour is really overkill and may actually work against you. If you are training for a specific athletic event, you’ve gotta do what you gotta do. But for the rest of us mortals one hour in the gym is more than enough to accomplish our goals. Maybe your hunger is a signal to you that it’s time to shower up and head home?

One of the most essential aspects of a great healthstyle is planning for moments of hunger throughout your day, but processed foods are hardly ever the answer, no matter how convenient.

What are your favorite post-workout snacks?

Originally published November 16, 2009.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Oct 19, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week we learn that multivitamins might fight cancer, TV is killing us all, and less exercise may be better for weight loss.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

by | Aug 1, 2012

Photo by basheertome

I pity the fool who puts health over pleasure every time they enter a restaurant, but if you eat out often all those French fries could get the better of you.

When nothing on the menu perfectly fits my preferences (particularly at low to mid-range places more tailored to the Standard American Diet crowd), I don’t hesitate to swap out whatever I don’t want with something better.

Whether it’s to avoid processed foods or simply add vibrance and color to my plate, here are 10 simple swaps to make the most of your restaurant meals.

10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

1. Mixed greens instead of ice burg or romaine lettuce

I enjoy cobb salads, but for some reason they’re usually served with boring industrial lettuce. Most places these days carry mixed greens or spinach as well, and are usually happy to make the switch.

2. Fruit instead of toast

I’m not sure why breakfast spots think you need two giant pieces of toast on top of your potatoes, eggs and pancakes, but if you don’t want it they’ll often offer you fruit instead. This is one of the best upgrades you can get away with.

3. Salad instead of potatoes

Speaking of potatoes, while they are real food and have their place in a healthy diet, they’re so often fried in rancid industrial oils that it’s best to skip them. Swapping them out for salad or cooked greens is rarely a problem.

4. Avocado instead of mayo

Real mayonnaise, the kind made from egg yolks and olive oil is perfectly healthy (and delicious). Unfortunately that isn’t what most places are putting on your sandwich. Instead commercial mayos are typically made with soybean or canola oils, AKA hyper-processed industrial oils. It may cost a little extra, but avocado is a fantastic alternative to gooey up your lunch.

5. Cheese plate instead of dessert

One of the things I love about France is that it’s perfectly acceptable to have cheese after dinner instead of sugar. If everyone is ordering crème brûlée and you don’t want to be a party pooper, get the cheese plate instead. Good cheese is healthy.

6. Brown rice instead of white

I don’t mind white rice in small quantities, but if I’m stuck eating somewhere I know the food isn’t very healthy I swap out my white rice for brown (and order as many vegetables as possible) if the option is available.

7. Drink wine instead of cocktails

Dinner often starts with a drink selection. While wine certainly has calories, cocktails usually have hundreds more thanks to the liqueurs and syrups typically used. Mixed drinks have their place, but if you’ll also be eating  a few hundred calories then wine is a better choice.

8. Beans instead of rice

If I see beans or lentils anywhere on the menu I’ll often ask if the kitchen can use them instead of one of the faster digesting starches on my plate. Your waiter may be confused, but he’ll usually do it if you ask.

9. Olive oil and vinegar instead of sugary dressing

At some point in the past 20 years salad dressings started being made with ridiculous amounts of sugar and salt, probably to cover up the completely flavorless vegetables from the industrial food chain. Good ol’ fashioned olive oil and vinegar is a better choice, and most kitchens have them.

10. Anything instead of American cheese

Have you ever looked at the ingredients for American cheese? Besides water, the first ingredient is usually trans fat. The second is cornstarch. All the way at the bottom it says, “Contains: Milk.” Replacing it with real cheddar, gruyere, provolone, or even nothing would be healthier.

What are your favorite restaurant substitution tricks?

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What To Look For When Picking Fruits And Vegetables

by | Aug 17, 2011

Photo by Vvillamon

Most people know instinctively to avoid bruised or blemished produce, but there is much more involved in the art of choosing fruits and vegetables.

While buying fresh food is always a little bit of a craps shoot (and not every rule will apply to every piece of produce), these tips will give you the basic skills you need to hold your own at the farmers market.

What To Look For When Picking Produce

1. Bright color

After you’ve checked for bruises, blemishes and pests (harder to see on vegetables like cauliflower and cabbage, so double check), look for fruits and vegetables with the brightest, most inviting colors. The tastiest, vine-ripened produce should be vibrant, with its skin entirely saturated with color. If the item has a dull color or whitish sheen that means it is either not fully ripe or was deprived of sun or nutrients.

For fruits like cherries look for stems that are green instead of brown, since these fruits will be fresher.

2. Heavy weight

Generally you want to pick produce that is the heaviest relative to the rest of your options. Light weight produce is more likely to be dry and mealy, but heavier produce will be juicy and crisp.

The best way to tell is to pick up two similarly sized fruits, one with each hand. After you’ve tried a few it will be obvious that certain fruits are much heavier than the rest, and those are your best bets. This applies to both fruits and vegetables, but mostly to fruits.

3. Firm, but not hard

Because the best produce is moist and juicy (see point #2), it should also be perfectly plump. This means that it will be firm to the touch—think crisp and succulent—but not hard, squishy or limp.

While the perfect amount of firmness will vary for each type of produce, comparing within the batch can be very informative. For soft fruits, gently picking a piece up should tell you if it’s too soft or hard.

For vegetables with stalks like carrots and broccoli, be sure the ends don’t give too much when you try to bend them (but don’t try too hard or they might snap).

While this tip works as a general rule, keep in mind that it doesn’t apply to everything. Figs, for example, are better very soft, as are certain kinds of persimmons.

4. Fragrant aroma

Probably the most telling test of the quality of your fuit is how it smells. Unripe fruits smell like nothing, or at best the cardboard it was packed in. But ripe produce almost always smells faintly (and often overwhelmingly) of how it is supposed to taste.

Hold the part of the fruit that was attached to the stem close to your nose and breathe deeply. Compare a few of your options. The strongest smelling fruit will be the most ripe and ready to eat immediately. If you’d like your fruit to last for a few days, it is best to go with a piece that still smells good, but has a less overwhelming scent.

It’s also worth smelling your vegetables, though this tip does not apply to them all (eggplant is a notable exception). Green leafy vegetables and herbs are particularly fragrant. But even carrots, artichokes and squash can have a distinctive smell. Peppers are my personal favorite.

What are your tips for picking perfect produce?

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