coffee-licious

Three words: I. Love. Coffee. The love affair began back when I was about 9 or 10. I was more of a Frappuccino girl back in the day, but since then, I’ve expanded my taste buds and discovered espressos, Americanos, and soy lattes (due to lovely lactose intolerance), as well as appreciating the daily ritual of coffee brewing and sipping. And yes, coffee is definitely a ritual: inhaling the grounds as you spoon them into the filter, hearing the coffee drip drip drip down into the pot, watching the milk unfold in that beautiful murky abyss, that first sip…

Swoooooon. I told you it was love 😉

The inspiration behind this post came from a deeee-licious coffee that was given to me by my friend, the one and only Miss Raluca – last name withheld to protect the innocent 😉 The name of the coffee in case you’d like to hunt it down and brew to your heart’s content? Joy French Diva-Nilla. Yeah, yeah, girly name, I know, but day-aaam is it GOOD OR WHAT. And it comes it a cute lil pink polka-dotted bag, too.

IMG_2697

And guess what? Coffee….in moderation, of course….can be good for you! Here’s some quick facts to feel better about your daily cuppa Joe:

  • The brains: 3-5 cups of coffee daily is associated with 65% less likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia when compared to non-coffee drinkers (1).
  • It can cut your risk of developing certain cancers. Drinking coffee can reduce your risk of developing liver cancer by 41% (2), and if you’re a fellow, drops your risk of developing prostate cancer by 60% (3). And head and neck cancers? Those who are regular coffee drinkers have been shown to have 39% less risk of developing these diseases (4).
  • The heart: Drinking 1-3 cups of coffee daily can drop your risk of cardiovascular disease by 24% (5) and risk of stroke by 19% (6).

But there are also some things to be on the lookout for, too. Coffee is a stimulant, which means too much can cause rapid heart beat and the jitters. And those who have been diagnosed with arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms that are too fast or too slow than normal) should steer clear of caffeine, or eliminate it all together. That also goes for those with high blood pressure since coffee is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it makes the veins shrink up – the veins that are sending valuable oxygen to your brain and other organs. Therefore, in certain individuals, coffee can actually cause headaches, and it raises blood pressure for a wee bit in even the most healthy folk. So…drink decaf, you say? If you’re part of the population who really needs to stay away from caffeine, I’m sorry to say that even decaf brews have a small amount of caffeine in them, since the decaffeination process is not able to remove 100% of the caffeine.

And what about dehydration? Can that be caused by drinking coffee? Not necessarily. If you’re used to drinking 3 cups of Joe daily, it’s not going to affect you. But if you decide one day it’s a stellar idea to down 6 cups because you’re feeling wild and crazy (or more like, extremely sleepy), then yes, you might throw off your body’s water balance a wee bit. As a rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to stay hydrated – whether or not you’re drinking coffee – to keep your bod in check.

So what did my cup of Joy coffee come with this morning?

IMG_2742THIS! Scrambled eggs with spinach and homemade bread. Yummm.

And…National Coffee Day is September 29th! I know it’s far away….but pencil it in on your calender and feel some extra lovin’ for your mug of deliciousness that day 🙂

And one more thing, non-coffee related – this morning, I stumbled upon this show on the Cooking Channel called Grow Your Own Drugs, hosted by British botanist James Wong. No, we’re not talking about sketchy substances here, but more like all-natural ways to help out minor ailments. Lots of cool information, not too mention the ever-so-lovely shots of the UK’s countryside that were sprinkled in his show 🙂

Please pardon my not very accurate list of references. It’s Saturday morning, and writing a full-blown bibliography is not exactly appealing right now 😉
1) 2009 study from Finland and Sweden
2) Hepatology journal 
3) American Association of Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention
4) Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal
5) Iowa Women’s Heart Study
6) 2009 Harvard Medical School Study
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whole grains = good for the soul

Last Monday, I did a whole grain spiel for the high school kiddies. We talked about how to identify if a product is a whole grain (there’s a lot of misleading food stuffs out there!), good sources of fiber, what fiber does in our bodies, what happens to a whole grain when it is refined, among other things, like how whole grains keep you fuller for longer, which helps you maintain a healthy weight.

Oh, and for the record, saying “poop” in front of high schoolers definately works if you need to get their attention.

And then we made homemade granola bars to celebrate whole grain goodness! My friend and fellow MPHer, Mita, and I came up with this recipe during our food service rotation at Dexter School System. We tested it out on Dexter High’s finest guinea pigs…erm, I mean students…and we got rave reviews from them! The students on Monday also confirmed to the deliciousness of this granola bar, so I’d say that this recipe is a winner. The great part about these granola bars is that you can mix and match ingredients to make a different recipe every time! Some other delicious additions include:

Dried cranberries
Walnuts
Almonds
Diced dried apricots
White chocolate chips
Carob chips
Almond extract (instead of vanilla)

These granola bars are great for a quick and easy breakfast as you’re racing out the door. They’re a scrumptious pseudo-energy bar, as well. They also can be dipped into nutritious things like yogurt, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. Top one with fruit! Zap it in the microwave! (This will make it warm and cookie-like). Use your imagination!

Chocolate-y Raisin Granola Bars

3 cups oatmeal
½ cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup raisins, chopped
½ cup chocolate chips, chopped
2 tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
½ cup canola oil
½ cup applesauce
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup honey
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, raisins, chocolate chips, cinnamon, and salt.
Make a well in the center, and pour in the egg, oil, applesauce, vanilla, and honey. Mix well.
Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut. DEVOUR.

how sweet it is: breakfast make-over

So have I got the breakfast recipe for you that is perfect for this beautiful spring/summertime weather we’ve been getting in the Mitten! Yes. COLD oatmeal. Maybe some of you have had oatmeal made like this before. I just discovered this recipe during my food service rotation with Dexter School District back in January, and man, oh man, I think it’s delicious. The best part? This recipe lets you mix n’ match what goes in it to make and endless combination of oatmeal yumminess – a great way to prevent breakfast from becoming ho-hum. Today’s concoction? Cinnamon banana walnut oatmeal!

Lately, I’ve been making this oatmeal with thawed out strawberries and blackberries that are in my freezer, which makes me feel like I’m getting a sneak peak of summer. Freezing berries from the summer is a GREAT was to extend their life, and you can eat them all through the winter months if you freeze enough of them! Just make sure to pre-freeze them first by laying them out on a cookie sheet. This makes sure that they don’t clump together to form a lovely ginormous ball of ice. After they’re rock solid, transfer your now nicely frozen berries into Ziploc bags. Currently, mine are in gallon-sized bags, but snack-sized bags are a good idea since then you can take the berries out in more realistic sized portions.


However, I probably could eat at least a half gallon bag of frozen berries….they are just that delicious.


Showing off my summertime oatmeal, berry-style, is for another day, though. Let’s talk about this concoction right here and how you can make it, too.

Summertime Oatmeal
1/2 cup uncooked oats
1/2 cup milk of choice (Lactose-intolerance has made me an almond and soy milk fan, so that’s what I usually reach for)
Mix-ins of your choice! Some good ideas are: Chopped walnuts, almonds, raisins, bananas, berries (all kinds!), cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, Greek yogurt, the sky’s the limit! The nuts are especially good sources of monounsaturated fat that will help keep you satisfied.


Mix up the oats and milk into a bowl. Stir in any fruit or nuts that you want to add. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, take out your oatmeal and top it with any flavorings you like – this means spices or natural sweeteners (like a few drizzles of honey or flavored Greek yogurt – more on this in a second). Stir it up, and devour!

A great thing about this oatmeal is that it is sweetened naturally and without the extra sugar that you might find in those oatmeal packets. Think of the ones that come in Peaches N’Cream, Cinnamon N’Suga, and even Dinosaur Eggs flavors. If you currently add a decent amount of brown sugar, sugar, maple syrup, etc. to your daily bowl of heart healthy goodness, why not explore some alternatives? According to the USDA in 2000, an average of 31 five-pound bags of sugar were consumed per capita (or per person) each year. 



It is almost no wonder, then, that complications with type 2 diabetes is in the top 10 leading causes of death and that more than one-third of American adults are obese. Extra weight gain also puts us at risk for obesity-related conditions like heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.


So what can we do?  Well. The first step is to start eliminating unnecessary sugars from your diet. Gradually, of course. Cold turkey is just a recipe for disaster. Since many breakfast cereals, oatmeals, and granola bars usually have a good dose of sugar in them, a good start to reducing your sugar intake is taking a look at what you eat in the morning. Let’s start with this oatmeal that we’ve been talking about.


Soy milk and almond milk have a different kind of flavor and sweetness than non-fat milk, and using it in this recipe is a great way to utilize it as a natural sweetener. However, it’s important to be aware that almond milk has only about 1 gram of protein per 8 oz. serving, while most soy milks have about 6-8 grams per 8 oz. serving (non-fat milk has 8 grams). Both, when calcium fortified, will provide you with about 30-45% of your daily needs for calcium (depending on the brand). Just make sure it is fortified with vitamin D, as well, or all that calcium will be for naught, since vitamin D is necessary for our bones to take up the calcium we consume.


Fruit is another great natural source of sweetness, and adding loads of it to this recipe can help satisfy your morning sweet tooth. I also mentioned in the recipe that adding some flavored Greek yogurt (about 1/4 cup might do the trick) is another way to amp up the sweetness in your morning grub, without adding spoonful upon spoonful of sugar. The protein-boost in Greek yogurt will also help to keep you full and satisfied until your next meal or snack comes along.


Try these tips a few times a week and see what happens. Listen to your body. Do you feel satisfied after eating a more protein and whole grain rich, naturally sweetened breakfast? Maybe you will notice that you are able to concentrate better during the morning hours and are able to keep your focus until lunchtime without that sugar rush and crash that refined sugars tend to give us. Give it a whirl!


we are the [breakfast] champions, my friends

Good morning, y’all! And a big, fat, HAPPY REGISTERED DIETITIAN DAY to you and you and you! And here’s a little bit of some beautiful music to make those good feelings come alive.


So when you wake up in the morning, or more like, tumble out of your bed and stumble to the kitchen (or maybe this is just what I do), what’s the first thing you reach for? Is it that pot of joe? Your cereal bowl? Energy drink? A granola bar or piece of fruit? We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and guess what? It is. Even if you’re not hungry, eating a little bit of something helps to light your fire…errrm, furnace, if you will…and gets your metabolism going. Not breaking the fast in the morning keeps our body in a semi-starvation mode, a sneaky little biological response our body does to help us survive. This means that when we skip breakfast, our bodies hold on to the energy stores (fat) it already has to keep our muscles moving, heart beating, and mind working as it should, even though we don’t give it energy when we wake up. That’s pretty smart of it, huh?


Now for the clincher: there are tons of reasons why we do not always eat breakfast. I like to call them Breakfast Pet Peeves and maybe some of these sound familiar to you:

BREAKFAST PET PEEVES
“I’m not hungry.”
“I don’t have breakfast foods in the house.”
“There’s no time in the morning to eat breakfast or prepare it, for that matter.”
“Breakfast foods? Ewww, I don’t like them!”
“The morning is insane! My kids are insane, and YOU’RE insane for wanting me to eat breakfast!”



I know that I have fallen victim to some of these reasons, too, so you are not alone. The good thing is, however, is that there are realistic solutions to all of these problems with breakfast. My biggest breakfast pet peeve is not being hungry in the morning. However, I know that if I go without, I will be absolutely FAMISHED within 4 hours and then proceed to consume everything that happens to cross my path. This means the friendly donut that calls out to me, the slab of coffee cake in the break room that tells me it wants to be in mah belly, and the candy bar in the vending machine that seems to grow legs and walk into my eager little hand. 

Sound familiar, anyone?


There are a few solutions to this problem. One is to think about what you ate the night before. Did you eat a lot right before you went to bed? Maybe sticking to a smaller snack when eating close to bedtime is a good solution for you. Alas, some people just aren’t hungry in the morning, regardless of what they ate, or didn’t eat, the night before. Well, you are in luck my friends, because eating breakfast does not mean eating something right as your feet hit the floor. The key is to eat something within 2 hours of waking up, or even split your breakfast up into two parts. Drink a glass of low-fat milk before racing out the door and then eat a banana and a granola bar with 3+ grams of fiber once you get to your destination. Some more portable breakfast components include baggies of cereal (with 3+ grams fiber!), pieces of fruit, yogurt, a tupperware of last night’s pasta dinner – whatever you will tolerate in the morning. Which brings us to another solution of these breakfast pet peeves. Breakfast foods don’t need to be “breakfast foods”. So go ahead and eat leftovers for breakfast! The key is to have breakfast contain at least three food groups:
This means a dairy with a fruit and grain, or a protein with a grain and dairy, etc. I’m wishing right about now that I had a handout of breakfast ideas to post along with this blog post, but I think this is something that could be done in the near future. So check back soon, and there just may be some fun lil handouts waiting for you!

Lastly, we have our last breakfast pet peeve to tackle: the T-word.

Time.

We’re always talking about how we wish there was more of it, there’s not enough of it, and how it goes by too fast. Well, I can’t give you more time (I wish I could, I really do), but I can help you save time in the morning when you want to eat breakfast but the kids are screaming or you’re later than you’ve ever been in your life or any other reason why time seems to slip away. One thing I like to do to save time is to actually set out everything you will need to eat a balanced breakfast the night before. Everything. This means, for example:

Cereal in the bowl covered with plastic wrap
Spoon
Banana

…all laid out at your kitchen table, waiting for you, and happy to see you when you wake up. You could even go so far as to pour the milk that you will drink in the morning into a glass and cover that with plastic wrap and place it in your fridge. This might sound silly at first, and you may think, “Really? It takes 5 seconds to pour milk into a glass!”, and yes, this is true. It does not take a long time to pour milk. BUT! I challenge you to try this for a few days and see if it works. Most times it does because everything is literally right there that you need to eat a balanced breakfast.

What do YOU do to make time for breakfast? Is there an unusual food that is your favorite to eat for breakfast? Got any good ideas for breakfast-y deliciousness? Post ’em! I’d love to hear what you have to say!