The Pulse on Pulses

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about pulses – that they’re the new “it” food of 2016. I’ve heard that they provide ample health benefits and are replacing things like quinoa, kale, and other exotic-sounding foods (that are bound to be hard to find and expensive) as the new life-changing power food. The word itself is ugly, and reminds me of a beating heart, and something that I definitely do not want to eat. I will be the first to admit that I actually had no idea what a pulse is. Have you heard of them? I was additionally reluctant to research them to find another nutrition fad that seems utterly ridiculous to me (sorry, Bulletproof coffee fans). But, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised to learn what pulses actually are, and to find that I’ve actually been eating them fairly regularly throughout my entire adult life.

What is a pulse?

A pulse is the dried seed portion of a legume. A legume is a plant whose fruit is enclosed inside a pod. Common legumes include soy, peanuts, and peas. Therefore, examples of a pulses are basically dried legumes. The most common types of pulses include dry lentils, chickpeas, dried peas, and dried beans.

What are the nutritional benefits?

Pulses are a filling part of any meal due to their high fiber and protein content. They are also very low in fat, so they’re a good choice to incorporate into your daily life if you’re looking to lose weight. The high fiber content helps protect against cardiovascular disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels. High fiber also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels by preventing spikes in blood sugar (which will later cause you to crash). Pulses contain a lot of protein for a plant source. For instance ½ cup of lentils contains approximately 9 grams of protein – more than an egg, which contains only 6 grams. Pulses are also nutritionally dense; they pack in a lot of different vitamins and minerals that are essential for energy production and metabolism in a very small package and for not a lot of calories. Pulses deliver a high amount of B-vitamins, folate, thiamin, and niacin, which are all important for neurological function and for energy fuel. The one downside to pulses? They may cause some gastrointestinal discomfort when eaten in large amounts, or if you’re not used to eating them all of the time. If you want to increase your pulse intake, add them into your diet slowly, and make sure to drink plenty of water to help things move through your digestive system smoothly.

How can I eat more pulses?

If you don’t feel like eating straight up beans, you can incorporate more pulses into your diet by eating foods that already contain them! Good sources include hummus, bean spreads, chili with beans, lentil soups, and dips. If you don’t care to be adventurous, you can add lentils, peas, and beans straight into your salad in place of higher-fat meat toppings. I personally love making a baked sweet potato and topping it with black beans, plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, and salsa for a cheap and SUPER filling dinner.

So, there you have the new, fabulous, exotic, and trendy food of 2016. As you can see, they’re really not so scary! Do you normally eat pulses? What’s your favorite way to get in these nutrition superstars?

source.

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Blueberry Banana Avocado Breakfast Smoothie

As previously posted, I’m trying really hard to find a way to incorporate avocados into my diet. Little did I know, my dislike for the super fruit runs in the family. My aunt and mom confessed that they, too, are afraid of avocados, but have joined me and challenged themselves to find a way to like them. My aunt discovered the concept of blending the fruits into smoothies, and found it to be a great success. So, I figured I would give it a try. I whipped together 1/2 of an avocado, a handful of blueberries, a banana, some vanilla almond milk, vanilla whey protein powder, and a little bit of Nutella (a smoothie game changer), and the smoothie was a great success! In my opinion, the creaminess of the avocado amplified the smooth texture provided by the banana. Even better – the flavor of the avocado didn’t peak through at all! So, I think I found my way to keep avocados in the weekly rotation via a nutritionally-loaded breakfast smoothie using my Nutribullet. Keep reading for the recipe and nutritional information!

Blueberry Banana Avocado Breakfast Smoothie (dare you to say that 5 times fast – may need to think of a catchier name).

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 30 seconds (really).

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

1/2 avocado

1 frozen banana*

1/4 cup blueberries

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 scoop vanilla whey protein

1 tsp Nutella

1 packet Splenda

*Pro tip: Buy a bunch of bananas, peel them, place them in a plastic bag, and keep them in the freezer – this negates the need to ever waste space in your blender with ice.

Directions:

1) Cut the avocado in half and scoop into your blender.

2) Add the rest of the ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth.

3) Drink the smoothie and enjoy =)

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This is completely customizable – feel free to add your favorite mix-ins like chia seeds, spinach, flax seeds, honey/agave, etc etc etc.

Nutrition Info (as written): Calories: 372, Total fat: 15g, Cholesterol: 45mg, Sodium: 154 mg, Potassium: 815 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 46g, Fiber: 9g, Sugars: 23g, Protein: 21g.

Do you have any creative ways to eat avocado? Are you obsessed with smoothies like me? Let me know in the comments!

Fuel for Thought


Hope everyone had a great Labor Day! Now that we’re on this side of September, the 10k that I signed up for seems to be looming closer than ever. I signed up for this race at the beginning of the summer, and I can’t believe it’s only 3 weeks away. But, through my training – going on runs about 3 times a week using this app and by joining class pass (a ticket to a lot of boutique fitness classes throughout NYC), I have found myself in quite the dilemma: how do I fit eating into my new busy and active lifestyle. Even more pressing: what do I even eat?

Yes, I get that as a dietitian, answering the question, “What do I eat?” should be a no-brainer in any and all situations, especially when it comes to what I personally put into my mouth. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret; sports nutrition is NOT my forte. I don’t find it that interesting, and I’ve never really had any desire to take an elective about Sports Nutrition in my masters classes. I just didn’t really care….before this summer. No one’s perfect, and we all don’t know everything!

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, but here are the main things that I found to be the most helpful…

1) Eating before a workout

  • Try not to eat a large meal less than 3-4 hours before exercising.
  • If you’re going to eat a snack, eat 1-2 hours before, and pick one that’s made of complex carbohydrates and some protein. Try to avoid too much fat and fiber, as they slow down digestion and take a lot more effort to digest. This can divert energy away from your muscles (where you need it). Additionally, complex carbohydrates are released much more slowly into the blood stream than simple carbohydrates and can supply energy throughout a longer workout, while the protein will prevent hunger and help supply muscles with energy.
  • My pre-workout snacks aren’t fancy and often include: apple with peanut butter, whole wheat slice of toast with peanut butter, bananas and peanut butter, (I think I like peanut butter),  greek yogurt with fruit, cheese stick, a handful of nuts and a slice of cheese, etc.
  • Experiment, because everyone is different. For instance, I know that if I eat less than 1.5 hours before working out or going for a run, well, it’s not pretty and I’ll leave it at that.
  • That being said, if I run or exercise first thing in the morning, I’m not going to wake up early enough to eat a light snack and let it digest. I make sure to drink a lot of water the night before so I don’t wake up dehydrated and will keep it super simple with a few whole grain crackers or a piece of toast and head out the door, and I make sure to eat a good recovery breakfast when I get back, which leads me to….

2) Congrats, you survived (of course you did!). Now how to recover?

  • If you’ve just come back from a rigorous workout, your body is likely to be depleted of some glucose stores that were used for energy, and if you sweat you’re most likely in need of some electrolytes.
  • If you’re not planning on eating a full meal within an hour after you exercise, have a snack that’s similar to your pre-workout snack that has complex carbohydrates and protein (for muscle repair). Since you’re no longer going to be running around/jostling the remains in your stomach, feel free to get a little more creative (i.e. stray from the peanut butter if you’re me), and try a glass of chocolate milk; some hardboiled eggs and avocado on toast; or some quick brown rice, beans, and salsa.
  • If you’re going to eat a meal rather than a snack, aim for a balanced plate consisting of protein, fats, and complex carbohydrates. Grilled chicken, fish, lean steak, pork, lentils, beans, tofu, cottage cheese, and eggs are all excellent sources of protein. Mix these up with your favorite sauce, a little bit of butter, or oil with different colorful veggies like peppers, onions, broccoli, spinach, onions, and carrots.

And lastly, the most important thing to remember is to HYDRATE. If you’re feeling any sort of wooziness, dizziness, nausea, or headaches during or after your workout, chances are you’re dehydrated. Remember to take a water bottle with you on your run or be sure that there are water fountains on your route, and bring a water bottle to your workout class. When you’re done, KEEP DRINKING. If you’re exercising for greater than 60 minutes, you may want to try a sports drink or other beverage with electrolytes, like coconut water, to replete what you’ve lost in your sweat.

When you commit to exercise, you really don’t need to get fancy with expensive protein drinks or designer snacks. You also don’t have to overthink your sports nutrition needs! Really, have fun with it. To end this, here’s a picture of me chowing down on Umami burger after a fast-paced 5 mile run last weekend (and shamelessly Instagramming it, no less), and I enjoyed it even more knowing that it was providing my body with the protein and carbs that it so desperately needed (also it just happened to be situated at the finish line and it looked DELICIOUS).

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Avocados. I like them?

As a dietitian I am probably going to humiliate myself by admitting to this, but I’m just going to come right out and say it: I do not like avocados. The only time I will excitedly eat an avocado is if it comes in the form of guacamole or on a tuna avocado sushi roll, but that’s about it. You won’t catch me eating trendy avocado toast or putting sliced avocados on top of my salads. I really couldn’t tell you why, but I can tell you that this is a travesty. Avocados have done nothing wrong to garner such harsh opinions from me. If anything, the avocado is a wondrous fruit (yes, a fruit) with many gifts to give, and so I set out on a quest to determine a way to like them. Whether you’re iffy on avocados like me or if you are already an avid lover, keep reading.

What’s so great about the avocado?

Avocados are one of the most nutrient-dense fruits available. More specifically, they provide ample amounts of monounsaturated fats and fiber. Monounsaturated fats, which can also be found in foods like salmon, olive oil, and almonds are cardio-protective, help fight against inflammation in the arteries, and reduce cholesterol. Avocados are also super high in fiber, which also helps lower cholesterol, produces feelings of long-term fullness, and evens out blood sugar spikes. A half of an avocado dishes up about 5g of fiber, so not too shabby (the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the daily goal of dietary fiber for women is 25g/day for adult women and 38g/day for adult men). Other nutrients packed into the avocado include potassium, vitamin K, folate, antioxidants vitamin C and E, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and magnesium.

What else should I know?

A ripe avocado will have a little give when you squeeze it; it shouldn’t be hard and should feel a little mushy. The best time of year to buy avocados is in the summer during warm weather. Additionally, once cut open, avocados will oxidize and turn brown quickly. A good way to slow this process down and to save half your avocado for later is to squeeze some ascorbic acid onto the flesh (think: lemon juice or lime juice – not just used for flavoring in guacamole!!). Then, place in tinfoil or a plastic bag in the refrigerator and eat within 1-2 days.

Stop talking about them, let’s eat them.

Again, I’m forever dabbling into different ways I can enjoy the avocado a little more. One way I’ve found is to mash half of an avocado into plain 2% Greek yogurt and mix in ranch seasoning. This can be used as a spread for sandwiches or a dip for veggies. Another favorite I’ve uncovered is this tuna salad. Check out the recipe below!

Avocado Tuna Salad on the Half Shell

Serves: 1

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: less than 1 minute

Ingredients:

1/2 ripe avocado

1 pouch or can of albacore tuna in water (i prefer the pouch)

1 Tbs honey dijon mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste

Additional optional ingredients: chopped onion (red or white), chopped celery, chopped carrots, chopped apples, olive oil, sliced almonds, apple cider vinegar, you can really customize this to your preference, but I chose to keep mine simple.

Instructions:

1) Slice the avocado in half and remove the pit.

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2) Score the avocado in a lattice/criss-cross pattern. Remove the flesh with a spoon into a bowl.

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3) Mix in the tuna, honey dijon mustard, and any other ingredients with the avocado. Taste as you go and add the salt and pepper as you mix.

4) Scoop the tuna back into the skin, which will serve not only as a bowl but an effortless way to look fancy and impressive.

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Nutrition Facts: Calories: 234, Total fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 45g, Total Carbohydrate: 9g, Dietary Fiber: 5g, Protein: 20g.

The verdict: I LOVE THIS and this may have turned me into an avocado believer. The fat from the avocado is reminiscent of those really high-mayo tuna salads from the deli that I love (but without the artery-clogging type of fat), and the protein from the tuna combined with the fat and fiber of the avocado are seriously satisfying.

Tell me – what’s YOUR favorite way to eat an avocado? Also do your avocados look as messy as mine??

Want to learn more about them? click here and here (sources).

Super Sweet Potatoes

Kale. Chia. Quinoa. Goji Berries. These trendy super foods are blowing up everywhere, and while they do have many health benefits, to me they just seem inaccessible, expensive, and difficult to work into my daily routine.

Enter: the humble sweet potato. Lumpy, brown, and covered in dirt, but when cut open offers a brilliant shade of orange and is bursting with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A medium sized sweet potato offers more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and 50% of the RDA of Vitamin C. Both are important antioxidants that help fight free-radicals (hello beautiful skin), protect against carcinogens, and boost immune health. The sweet potato is also a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, as well as essential vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. All of these micronutrients, along with the flesh’s complex carbohydrates, work together to help protect against diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and wound/skin breakdown.

So, if you’re having trouble keeping up with the latest trends in super foods, there’s no reason to stress. Put a sweet potato in your weekly rotation to reap all of the benefits this non-pretentious root has to offer. For instance, I love to cook a sweet potato by poking holes in it with a fork, sticking it in the microwave for about 6 minutes, then slicing it open and topping it with pretty much anything I can find (example: black beans, salsa, sour cream, and cheddar cheese). For a side dish, nothing is better or easier than these sweet and spicy sweet potato fries. They are SO easy to make, and you can customize them to your liking. This recipe is meant for 2 servings but to be perfectly honest they’re so good I almost always end up eating them all by myself (and I’m not sorry).

Sweet Potato Fries 

serves: 2

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: Anywhere from 20-30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 dash sea salt
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • 1 dash crushed red pepper
  • 1 dash ground cinnamon

Instructions:

1) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (and wash your hands!).

2) Take the large sweet potato, slice in half and marvel at how beautiful the inside is (life metaphor).

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3) Proceed to cut the sweet potato into quarters. If you wash the sweet potatoes beforehand, make sure they are VERY dry, otherwise they will come out soggy and sad. Take each quarter and slice into fry-shaped pieces. Allow for varying sizes and shapes to make the final product more interesting.

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4) Place the fries onto a tin foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil. Then, sprinkle the salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and cinnamon onto the potatoes. Use the amount of each spice to your liking, or, use your own ingredients like rosemary and basil to customize this however way you like it. Then, toss the fries with your hands until they are evenly coated with the olive oil. Arrange on the baking sheet evenly, making sure not to overcrowd any of the fries or they will again likely come out soggy and sad.

5) Place in the oven for about 14 minutes. Then, take them out and flip them over using a fork, and continue to bake for about 11 minutes. If you like your fries more crispy and burnt, keep them in for a little longer. If you don’t like them as crispy, go for a little shorter. I like a good mix and find that 14 minutes on one side and 11 minutes on the other works for me. Experiment with the time to find your happy place.

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7) Let the fries cool for about 5 minutes and enjoy with your dipping sauce of choice. I personally like mine plain in order to allow for the wonderful flavor to shine through!

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 117, Total Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 972 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 13g, Dietary fiber: 2g, Sugars: 3g, Protein: 2g. 

How do you like to season your sweet potatoes? Have interesting ways to incorporate trendy super foods into your daily diet? Let me know!