March 25, 2015

Cookbook Review: Recipes for Health

My Cookbook Challenge proved to be a valuable tool for accountability this week when I really wanted to cruise on my usual protein + salad + roasted veg standbys and not crack one of the anointed cookbooks. But crack the books I did, and I was glad. I really do enjoy cooking, and the recipes I was testing weren't difficult or time consuming, but they were fresh and fabulous.

I'm focusing on Martha Rose Shulman's The Very Best Of Recipes for Health this week. I bought this book when it came out in 2010, and I'm embarrassed to say that in spite of wanting to make almost every recipe in it, I had not made more than one or two until this month. Sad, very sad.

I've got a million sticky-tags poking out of it, but so far I've had the chance to make the Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes, the Grated Carrot Salad, and last night we came home and made the Mediterranean Chickpea Salad while sipping San Pellegrino and catching up on our days. We served it over greens with some leftover grilled chicken that I'd rubbed with harissa powder. Easy and delicious.

There are several more recipes I want to be sure to sample this month, including the Warm Chickpea and Broccoli Salad, the Warm Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese, the Main Dish Tuna and Vegetable Salad and the Red Lentil Soup and the Lentil Soup With Lots of Cilantro. There are others that I'll wait to make until summer, because they rely heavily on multiple fresh herbs, such as the Mushroom and Fresh Herb Salad and Bulgur Pilaf with Chickpeas and Herbs. 

In case you're curious, while most of the recipes are vegetarian, there is a slim chapter with some delicious looking fish and poultry recipes. I'm so glad I finally plucked this book off my shelves and finally started putting it through it's paces. It's truly a keeper.

I highly recommend buying Shulman's book, but you can also find a wealth of her recipes in "Martha Rose Shulman's Recipe Box" on NYTimes.com.

March 23, 2015

On Nutrition: Are you getting enough protein

Happy Monday! The topic of my On Nutrition column in yesterday's Seattle Times, "Protein: Are you getting enough in your diet?" is near and dear to me, because I talk about it all the time with individual patients and in talks I give.

At Northwest Natural Health, I see patients with a variety of nutrition and health concerns, but most of my patients are going through cancer treatment or are cancer survivors who are working to regain their overall health and wellness. Protein is a huge consideration, because their bodies are going through a lot, or have been through a lot.

At Menu for Change, I work with patients whose goals include a healthier weight and overall good health. Protein is also a huge consideration, because it helps satisfy hunger for longer and promotes stable blood sugar levels.

Among all of my patients, getting adequate protein is a key component in maintaining or building lean muscle mass (of course, strength and resistance training is equally if not more important, and I talk a lot about that, too).

Some patients are gobsmacked when I tell them how much protein they should be eating, based on their body weight. Almost universally, my patients don't get enough protein at breakfast. Dinner is usually pretty good, although I have some patients who are eating tons of vegetables (awesome!) but aren't rounding out their wonderful veggie dishes with enough plant-based or animal-based protein. Lunch is a total tossup.

One thing I encourage my patients to do is to take a look at what they typically eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and assess how much protein they tend to get right now, and see how far away it is from both the 20-30 grams-per-meal sweet spot for optimizing the body's protein usage, and from the overall goal of 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight (i.e., your weight in pounds divided by two). That provides goals to work toward.

Generally speaking, one ounce of protein contains 7 grams. Examples of ounce equivalents are:
  • 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cooked beans or lentils
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut or other nut butter
  • 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds
  • 2 ounces of tofu
  • 1 ounce of tempeh
  • 1 cup of milk, soymilk or "regular" yogurt
  • 1/4 cup of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
  • 1 ounce of cheese

Whole grains also contain protein, to various degrees. Check out the Nutrition Facts Panel on breads, cereals, and yogurts you frequently buy to find out how much protein they contain. While your at it, check out how much added sugar they have, too. I'm a fan of sprouted whole grain bread, but some varieties have 5 or more grams of sugar per slice (the brand I buy, Silver Hills Bakery, has 1 gram of sugar and 6 grams of protein) and some yogurts have more sugar than a candy bar. Most cups of Greek yogurt have about 5 grams of natural sugar (lactose) so anything beyond that is added sugar.

March 19, 2015

A few recipes I'm loving

I know I'm supposed be cooking from this month's three anointed cookbooks (and I am), but I can't help it when a wayward recipe grabs my attention. Here are a few I'm thinking about making soon:

  • This recipe for Salmon al Forno combines healthy fats from salmon (omega-3s!), avocado and olive oil with dark leafy greens (I love the peppery bite of arugula) with phytonutrient-rich rosemary and garlic. What's not to love. I need to make this while I still have a ripe avocado in the fridge!
  • It hasn't felt like winter in Seattle for months (we've been very lucky this year, unlike the East Coast), but the idea of making Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Farro for Winter still appeals. It helps that I am a fan of the relatively hands-off nature of roasting, and that farro is one of my very favorite whole grains.
  • I'm planning to make this Turkey and White Bean Chili tonight, only with ground chicken, since that's what I have on hand at the moment. I just need to pick up a can of tomatillos, because I'm out, but I have all the other ingredients in my fridge and pantry.
  • Finally, I'm not sure if I'll make these soon, but these Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Bars look intriguing.