It all started with a Luna Bar.

Hello! So school is over.. like actually over, not just “starting a new degree in the Fall” over. And I have been busy studying to take my upcoming board exam – after which I will (hopefully) finally be an RD! I have been working as a waitress in the meantime at a local Lebanese restaurant, which has become the only time I am able to force myself to stop overthinking the Nutrition Care Process. And my daily handwritten, highlighted to-do lists include a collective 30 minutes a day to “eat”. So lets see, a 23 year old purse strings conscious, time-crunched dietitian to be. What do I turn to? Granola Bars.

My roommate Kelsey has recently turned me on to Luna Bars! I. am. addicted. They are “Nutrition for Women” bars, and include iron, calcium, folic acid, and Vitamin D – which are all nutrients that women typically need more of than men. They are one of the few granola bars I have found that truly satisfy your hunger (and sweet tooth) without contributing a large amount of calories to your diet. Some protein bars can add an extra 300 calories a day! As I always say, check your labelsūüôā

Unfortunately I came to find out that Luna Bars are also expensive (Womp, Womp). So I started to hunt for a cheaper alternative. I came across a box of “Clif Kid Z Bars” while I was rummaging through Big Lots one day and figured I would give them a try. Success! Besides the fact that they were cheap (.70 cents a bar!), they are also certified organic – which means more than 95% of the ingredients in the food have to be organic. And if you love clif bars, you will love these. The Z bars have more limited flavors than the Clif bars, but are around 100 calories less – all of the Z bars I have had are 130 calories.

Also – here is an easy method to baking your own delicious granola bars!

Ingredients:
– Grains, 2.5 C (ex. oats, barley, rye)
– Nuts/seeds/spices, 1 C (sliced almonds, flax seed, and cinnamon are my favorite)
– Sweetener, 1/3 + 1/4 C (you can substitute agave as a healthier alternative to refined sugar)
– Dried fruit, 1 C (I LOVE CHOPPED DRIED FIGS)
– Binder, 1C (apple sauce, peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower butter, pecan butter, brazil nut butter (I’m not even joking))

Directions:
– Set oven at 325 degrees
– Whisk together dry ingredients
– Combine your “wet ingredients” (honey, apple sauce, any extracts)
– Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in increments, stirring in between.
– Pack into an 8×8 pan and bake for 25 minutes and enjoy!

It’s Blueberry Season in the Bayou!

Which presents the perfect opportunity to incorporate these antioxidant rich berries into just about anything. I, under the influence of my sweet tooth, opted to use them in a dessert. I was torn between baking a blueberry pie, blueberry cobbler, or blueberry crisp. In an effort to yield the most delicious product I decided to utilize all options and bake a blueberry pie crumble. I had bought a 48oz bag of frozen blueberries earlier in the week (for $10 might I add) at Hollygrove Market Рmaking this creation an eligible dessert for the Eat Local Challenge. At first I was weary of using frozen instead of fresh blueberries. But except for a minor issue which I will get into later, they were a perfect substitute for fresh berries. This is good news for anyone who wishes to bake with berries when they are out of season. Depending on what you use frozen berries for you may need to tweak the amount of liquid the recipe calls for, since frozen berries will add more liquid to the mix than fresh berries will. If you are lucky enough to go berry picking for the real deal, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries can be stored unwashed in your refrigerator for up to 7 days until they need to be used.

Some tips before you get started:

1) Make sure all utensils, butter, shortening, and liquid used for a pie crust are chilled. This will ensure a flaky, tender crust.

2) Do not overwork the dough. Add chilled water to dry ingredients and mix until the minute the dough forms, not a second longer.

3) Always roll dough from the center out to the edge.

4) Placing strips of aluminum foil around the edge of the crust during baking will prevent excessive browning.

For this dessert I used Paula Deen’s “Perfect Pie Crust” recipe. It’s too bad Paula Deen went off the deep end because this crust really is perfect. I know I may come under scrutiny for this, but I did substitute lard for shortening. You really can’t skimp out on the fat when it comes to some things. And I believe pie crusts, along with biscuits, fall under this rule.

Crust РI halved the original recipe since I was only making enough for the shell

– 1 1/4 C all-purpose flour

– 1/8 tsp fine salt

– 1 1/2 tbsp sugar

– 2 tbsp lard or shortening

– 6 tbsp butter, cold and cubed

– 1/4 c – 1/2 c ice water

Filling

– 6 c blueberries

– 1 c sugar

– 4 tbsp cornstarch

– 1/2 tsp lemon zest

– 2 tsp lemon juice

Crumble

– 1 c all-purpose flour

– 1 c packed brown sugar

– 1 1/2 sticks butter, cold and cubed

Crust Procedure:

In large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the shortening(/lard) and break it up with fingers to coat the flour. Cut in cold butter cubes using a¬†snapping motion with your fingers. You may also use a pastry cutter if you’re not up to digging dough out from under your nails. Work quickly so the butter doesn’t get too soft. Continue until mixture is the texture of coarse cornmeal.

Add the ice water 1 tbsp at a time until the mixture forms a dough. Bring dough into ball, careful not to over mix, and flatted into disc shape. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Remove chilled dough and roll into circle on a lightly floured surface using rolling pin. Place crust in 9 in pie pan, cover with foil, and place dried beans (uncooked rice, or pie weight) in center and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil, reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 5 minutes until crust is lightly brown on the edges. Place on wire rack to cool until needed.

Filling Procedure:

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Crush about half of the berries so the juice mixes with the cornstarch and thickens the filling. *This is where I hit the road block. Frozen berries are HARD to crush. You can allow them to thaw slightly before this step or do as I did and transport the bowl onto scorching Louisiana pavement and slave over it until juice forms.

Crumble Procedure:

Combine flour and sugar in a bowl. Add chopped cold butter and mix until a crumble is formed. If not using right away, store in refrigerator to ensure butter does not soften.

Fill the pre-cooked pie crust with filling and top with crumble. Cook for 60 minutes at 350 degrees, rotating 180 degrees half way through to ensure even browning. Should be aromatic and bubbling near crust when done. Serve with vanilla ice cream and enjoy! ..In moderation, of course.

Blueberry Pie Crumble

The RD, Explained.

Lately, I have been giving a serious amount of thought to the question “What do I want to be when I grow up?” With graduation from my dietetic internship program looming in the near future (one week, eek!) most of my precious free time is being spent on indeed.com, hunting for the perfect job. One conundrum I frequently run in to are the job descriptions that include “nutritionist” but not “dietitian”, even though an RD could fulfill the job duties just as well, if not better, than said “nutritionist”. Also, why are dietitians not as frequently quoted in newspaper articles and on TV segments as “nutritionists” are? Why do I continue to find that 95% of people I introduce myself to as a dietetic intern look at me like I’m Cerberus. (To the gentleman I met at The Bulldog whose response to my introduction was ‘Oh, so are you like, an engineer?’, I’m talking to you.) It is like dietitians are these phantom “food police” officers who should not be spoken of.So here we go…

The FAQs

Who are we?

We are the all-knowing, ever powerful, omnipotent food and nutrition experts. Okay, I am exaggerating slightly. But according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics the food and nutrition expert part is true! And to set the record straight, we have credentials. Any Joe Schmo with a studio art degree can get a job giving nutrition advice and he is magically transformed into a “nutritionist”.¬†Don’t get me wrong, I love art, it is important. And i believe we need artists who will work to preserve as well as evolve all art forms. But¬†just be aware of who it is you are taking nutrition advice from. Sorry, Dr. Oz, you¬†did not make the cut for the list of legitimate sources for diet advice.

What kinds of places do we work in?

Fun fact: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Рformerly, the American Dietetic Association Рwas originally created with the intent to help preserve food and improve the nutritional status of the public during WWI.

We have come a long way. In this day and age you can find RDs in hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, and fitness centers. We work in corporate wellness,¬†culinary nutrition, and are on staff for professional athletic teams. Companies like Kellogg’s, Heinz, and Whole Foods have benefited from employing RDs. You can find dietitians articles in Cooking Light,¬†Self, Fitness, and even The Wall Street Journal. So, why again it is so hard for me to find a job?

What exactly DO we eat?

Everything.¬†If it won’t make us nauseous, cause us abdominal discomfort, or result in a breakout of hives and we can get our hands on it, we’ll eat it. Most dietitians agree that everything in moderation is the best “diet” to be on. I, among a majority of other RDs, don’t agree with the quick-fix/crash/cleanse/starvation/smoothie/low-carb/high-protein/green tea extract/african mango fruit/hollywood cookie diets that are advertised disproportionately to good ole’ fashion diet and exercise. (Although there are obviously diseases that warrant out of the ordinary diets.)¬†You will find us eating our daily salad and grabbing water instead of juice, but we also love to indulge in the occasional donut or five. There is nothing we hate more than being seen as the food police. And we love MyPlate. Make half of your plate fruits and veggies, people!

Anyone and everyone who wants to make a healthy, sustainable, lifestyle change can benefit from working with a Registered Dietitian. I, for one, am always open to answering even the simplest of questions. The dietetics profession is expected to grow by 21% from 2012-2022. And I believe we are entering the work force with a bang during the time when we are most needed. According to the World Health Organization, poor diet and physical inactivity are the two leading risk factors of chronic disease worldwide. They are also both modifiable. An RD is trained in how to help the population make lifestyle changes that will reduce the incidence of chronic disease. We’re talking the health of the WORLD. So please call to schedule your appointment with your local dietitian today!ūüėČ

One more thing, before I go. This may be shocking but what I am about to disclose is the secret behind every weight loss nutrition prescription that a dietitian has ever had anything to do with. Here it is… calories in<calories out = weight loss. Take this knowledge and apply liberally.

Forget What You Heard, Carbs Are Your Friend.

Anyone who has eaten brown rice, whole grain bread, bulgur, millet, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, farro, or one of the hundreds of other kinds of whole grain foods will attest that they do really keep you satisfied longer. Unlike their wimpy counterpart products that have been refined, bleached, processed, and treated with chlorine dioxide gas, whole grains are still intact just as they are in nature.¬†You can think of fiber as being the “skin” of the foods that contain it. For instance, in fruits such as apples, peaches, and kiwi (YES, you can eat kiwi with the skin on, it takes some getting used to, but it will change your life) fiber is found primarily in the skin. This, along with other things, is why eating a whole apple as opposed to apple sauce and a fresh peach instead of those canned in their own juice is healthier for you. As far as grains go, the fiber is found in the outer hull, bran, and germ, the part that is stripped from the grain during processing. Some fiber is then added back in during the enrichment process. One thing to be weary of – this goes for all you FiberOne lovers – is synthetic fiber. Synthetic fiber is usually found as “chicory root extract” or “inulin”, so make sure you read those labels! This synthetic fiber affects people differently than natural fiber does. I will be the first to admit the awful stomach cramps I get when I eat a FiberOne bar. Also, unlike natural fiber, synthetic fibers do not offer the same heart healthy benefits – such as lowering cholesterol.

Foods that contain more than 5g of fiber can be labeled as “High Fiber” foods. In order for any product to be labeled as “High”, “Rich In”, or “Excellent Source Of”, it must contain at least 20% of the recommended daily value for that nutrient. And The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends we consume 25-30g of fiber per day.

Here is a recipe for Barley Fried “Rice” to help you incorporate more whole grains into your diet!

Barley Fried ‚ÄúRice‚ÄĚ

3 C Water

1 C Pearl Barley

 

2 Rainbow Carrots – peeled and sliced

2 Stalks Celery – sliced

1 Egg

1.5 C Raw Curly Kale

1/2 Yellow Onion

2 Tbsp Fresh Ginger Root – Minced

 

1/2 C Soy Sauce

1 Tbsp Honey

 

Chili Powder

Black Pepper

 

Place barley and water in a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and allow to simmer for about 40 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside until needed.

Place 1 tsp oil in a wok (any large, deep pan will work, I recently learned what a rondo pan was, which is what I used). Whisk egg and 1 tbsp water and add to pan. Allow the egg to flatten and cook for about 1 minute. Scramble the egg, add the celery, carrots, ginger, and onions and cook until carrots are tender and onions are translucent.

*Tip – the easiest way to remove the peel from fresh ginger root is with a spoon. It comes right off!

While the veggies were cooking, I made a simple reduction with soy sauce and honey – I did not reduce it all the way, only for a few minutes.

Add the kale and soy sauce to the wok and mix well. Let cook until kale has wilted and then add the barley, combine, and enjoy! I also added chili powder and pepper to taste.

 

Incorporating different fruits and vegetables into this recipe is always an option. Remember to eat a rainbow every day!

Barley Fried %22Rice%22

Myth: Cookouts are no place for healthy eaters

My friends and I busted this myth last weekend when we decided on a whim to have a cookout. Things we were lacking included: charcoal, lighter fluid, grilling utensils, a table, chairs, food, and a grill. I guess you could say we started from scratch. Our cookout came together nicely though. One trip to Rouse’s, a few nagging texts to the next door neighbors about borrowing their grill and table, gathering an assortment of chairs from around the house, and we were set!

As future dietitians we felt the need to break away from the usual hotdog/hamburger/junk food cookout norm. We decided to toss fresh salmon filets and a slew of fresh (might I add, local!) veggies on the grill and call it a night. Here’s an idea of what we were working with…

IMG_2261Local vegetables: Squash, zucchini, peppers

Other vegetables: Onions, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower

I know this smorgasbord of veggies is not ideal for most tailgating and/or cookout scenes. But it is especially good for summer cookouts if you’re trying to maintain your bikini body!¬†Grilling vegetables is a fast and easy cooking method. A bonus is the delicious smoky flavor you can only get from the grill. I love talking to clients about vegetables because it is one of the few foods I say they can have as much as they want! If you’re grilling at home you might as well add as many vegetables as you have on hand. I think everyone can benefit from a few extra servings of greens, and you can always store leftovers in the refrigerator. If its possible, try to grill the vegetables first and snack on them as an appetizer so you don’t consume as much of the hotdogs and hamburgers that are packed with saturated fat. If you’re going to a friends house, why not BYOV! I’m sure the ladies who are trying to maintain their figure will appreciate you for it.

A few healthy cookout ideas:

1) Cauliflower “Steaks”. I recently (as in last night) heard about this and I think its a cool idea. Roughly cut a head of cauliflower into steak size slabs and grill it on both sides. It may work better if you lightly steam or boil the “steaks” first to tenderize them and then finish on the grill. You could probably use broccoli as well! If anyone dares to try, please let me know how it turns out.

2) Alternative appetizers. I already mentioned snacking on grilled vegetables before your meal, but if you’re looking for a more mainstream idea try homemade tortilla chips. My friends and I actually made these last Saturday at our cookout. It was the first time I had experimented with homemade chips and they were DELICIOUS. The recipe was from the mind of Chef Kerri Dotson (my new roomie! One of the perks of being in the nutrition field is making friends who are chefs. More of Kerri’s recipes to come!). Cut small corn tortillas into 8 pieces and arrange on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt, pepper, etc. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Make sure you are checking periodically that they are not burning. Serve these with homemade salsa, guacamole, or hummus.

3) Grilled desserts. Unfortunately I had to leave our cookout before dessert, I did do the prep work though! I sliced fresh yellow peaches that I bought at the crescent city farmers market in half and removed the pit.¬†We used metal skewers for the peach halves and placed them on the grill. I was trying to follow Bobby Flay’s recipe¬†but after I left I think my friends just heated them on the grill and served them with ice cream. Still equally delicious I’m sure.

 

The Spices of Life

Using fresh herbs and spices to season your food is a great way to get an extra boost of nutrients in your diet. Louisiana’s summer months offer the perfect climate for growing an abundance of these natural flavor enhancers that you can use to spice up your meals without adding salt, fat, or sugar! 

For hundreds of years people have recognized the use of herbs and spices for their culinary and medicinal properties, herbs being the leaves of plants while spices are the dried aromatic seeds, berries, roots, and pods. In more recent times we have come to discover that phytochemicals Рthe non-nutritive compounds such as pigments and antioxidants Рfrom these plants are the greatest contributor to their potential human health benefits. Notable benefits include: antioxidant effects, detoxification, increased immune function, antibacterial effects, and decreased inflammation. 

Substituting natural herbs and spices for seasonings that are high in salt, sugar, and fat is an easy way to decrease your risk of adverse health effects. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends we keep our daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, the recommendation falls to 1,500 mg if you are 51 or older, African American, or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease. Unfortunately salt is a sneaky seasoning. Just 1 teaspoon provides 2,325 mg of sodium, exceeding the Academy’s recommendation. On the other hand one of the highest sodium spices, chili powder, contains only 51 mg of sodium per teaspoon, and others such as rosemary, oregano, ginger, and thyme contain barely any! 

So how should you go about incorporating these health promoters into your diet? For starters, you should always wash fresh herbs and pat them dry with a paper towel. One excellent warm-season herb is basil, which contains flavonoids that are known for their antibacterial properties, and beta-carotenes which are powerful antioxidants. Basil combines well with rosemary and thyme, which are known to have anti-inflammatory and improved gastrointestinal effects. Spices such as cumin and curry powders may have anti-carcinogenic effects and are good to use when cooking ethnic dishes. You can add almost any herb or spice to salads and dips for added color, flavor, and nutrition. Fresh herbs should be wrapped in a paper or cloth towel and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Their dry counterparts can last for up to one year and should be stored in a cool, dry, place.

Eating Local Challenge

Hello world! Time for me to tell you what my second favorite thing about New Orleans is (the first is that anything and everything is worth celebrating). First runner up is year-round fresh, local produce. I mean, this city is a future dietitians dream. In addition to the plethora of restaurants whose menus change daily depending on whats available, there are multiple farmers markets and local grocery stores that offer people a chance to use local ingredients to create nutritious, colorful, seasonal, decadent meals at home. Farmers markets are a great way to get organic, nutrient-dense foods without breaking the bank.

Starting yesterday, hundreds of people committed to New Orleans’ 4th annual eat local challenge. It is a 30 day challenge to only eat foods that have been grown, caught, or raised within 200 miles of New Orleans. You can read more about it here:¬†http://www.nolalocavore.org/eat-local-challenge-2013/rules-of-challenge/

I am not fully committed to the challenge, for obvious reasons, if you’ve been following this “blog”, but I am going to use it as inspiration to start using more local ingredients in my meals. Two weeks out of the month I usually purchase “the box” at Hollygrove Market and Farm – the best market around in my opinion. Unfortunately some weeks I would find myself wasting entire heads of cauliflower, bunches of mustard greens, herbs, etc. To be honest it is usually due to my lack of motivation to research new recipes and ways to cook these items. A girl gets tired of eating roasted veggies, no matter how much she loves them. Just as I like to tell people during my nutrition education sessions, big change happens by taking little steps at a time. I am going to use the Eat Local Challenge as motivation to take baby steps and slowly broaden my cooking skills. Of course, all of you are welcome to come along for the ride and see what wonderful (and maybe not so wonderful) things I will come up with!

Yesterday – 6/1/14

I technically did not even decide to take some part in this challenge until I realized how many local ingredients I had used earlier this day! I had incorporated slicing celery from Hollygrove Market into the juice I made (along with apples, grapefruit, and carrots). For a mid-day snack I added locally grown blueberries to my yogurt, I also threw 2 tbsp of milled flax seed in to add fiber and omega-3’s. Around 2 pm, in an effort to further procrastinate studying, I decided to start making dinner. I used Tastespotting (my FAVORITE foodie website) to search for recipes with broccoli and I found myself drooling over a broccoli and cheese soup recipe. This is rare. I live in New Orleans. It was 90 degrees and probably above 90% humidity but it had been a dreary weekend so I was in the mood. This is how I fell into making my own vegetable stock from scratch.

Stock Recipe

Local Ingredients: 1 onion, slicing celery, parsley

Other Ingredients: 5 Carrots, 3 cloves garlic, 4 stalks celery, salt and pepper

Stocks are soooo easy – who knew! The idea always just seemed so intimidating to me. Basically you just roughly chop and throw everything in a pot with enough water to cover the veggies, bring the water to a simmer and allow the vegetable goodness to infuse the water for about 1.5 hours.

 

Broccoli Soup Recipe

1.5 L homemade stock (I used a little less, about 4 cups)

Local Ingredients: 2 large red potatoes, 1/2 onion, 1 head broccoli cut into florets

Other Ingredients: 1 cup cheddar cheese

In a stock pan, fry the sliced onion in a small amount of oil until translucent. Add the peeled, cubed potatos and allow to cook until the potatos begin to soften. Next add your stock and bring to a simmer. Add the broccoli florets and allow to simmer for a few minutes until the broccoli begins to cook. Add the cheese and stir. You can use an immersion or standing blender to blend the soup to the desired consistency.

 

Today – 6/2/14

Fusilli with Seasonal Vegetables and Red Sauce

Local Ingredients: 1/2 zucchini, 1/2 baby zephyr squash (a new food for me to try, yay!), 1 cup creole tomato sauce, fresh parsley

Other Ingredients: 2 cups dry fusilli, 3 cloves garlic

For the sauce: Slice zucchini and squash and sauté on medium heat until cooked. Add minced garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Turn down the heat to medium low and add pasta sauce to the veggies. I threw the parsley in just a few seconds before I added the pasta to the pot Рnot sure what the protocol on adding herbs to sauce is, I am open to feedback!

For the pasta: Bring stock pot of water to a boil, add salt, and noodles. (Hint- you should always add the salt after your water is boiling because salt raises the boiling point) Cook according to package directions Рmine was al dente in 9 minutes. Drain noodles and add to sauce mixture. Adding the pasta to the sauce instead of visa versa is a trick my Dad taught me, it really is better that way!  Garnish with fresh herbs and enjoy!