April 6, 2015

On Nutrition: Dietary Guidelines

Happy Monday! If you haven't read my On Nutrition column in yesterday's Seattle Times, "New science on cholesterol, eggs and vegetarian diets," check it out.

I wrote this column essentially because a few fellow registered dietitians begged me to, in light of some of the bad reporting that followed the release of the 2015 scientific report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 

One of the most often cited offenders was Nina Teicholz in her op-ed, "The Government's Bad Diet Advice," for The New York Times. She's been a NYT darling since publishing her book The Big Fat Surprise. I highly recommend reading the brilliant, meticulous rebuttal to her book's cherry-picked data by my friend and former co-podcaster, Seth Yoder (Part 1 and Part 2).

If you believe Teicholz's op-ed, the government told us to eat sugar and refined carbohydrates instead of saturated fat. Not true. Even if (when) the government doesn't heed the science-based recommendations of the DGAC due to political and food industry pressures, the government never told the public to eat more sugar and refined carbohydrates (and scientists certainly didn't). That was the work of the food industry. 

We heard "eat less fat." The food industry delivered foods that said "low-fat" and "fat-free." It never occurred to us to check if these foods were full of sugar and white flour...and in most cases it didn't occur to use that this was something we should be concerned about. What we should have been eating was more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthier fats (preferably whole, intact fats like nuts, seeds, olives and avocados).

Now, I don't think that saturated fat is the dietary devil that it's long been made out to be (I do buy a quarter of a locally raised, grass-feed steer every year, after all), but I don't think that drinking butter in our coffee is the way to go either, based on what the science says about the pro-inflammatory effects of excess saturated fat. As past columns testify, I am in favor of getting enough protein (from quality sources, ideally) but also eating tons of plant foods. Vegetables, fruits and other plant foods are the common denominator of any healthy diet and, as I said in the column, we are not eating enough of them.

I also wanted to provide a few links to back up the mention at the end of my column about Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calling the DGAC a bunch of 3 year olds when he spoke at the Commodity Classic. I like how he asserted that he would stick to nutrition and diet when writing the guidelines. That's right, because a lawyer should be dismissing the carefully researched recommendations of a bunch of people who have advanced degrees in nutrition, food science, medicine, public health and agriculture.

The DGAC report is very, very long and I only had space in my column to focus on a few small aspects of it. This Food Politics post from Marion Nestle gives an nice overview of areas I wasn't able to touch on.

April 2, 2015

2015 Cookbook Challenge: April (in Paris)

Another month, another three cookbooks. I didn't fully delve into all three of my March picks, partly because of a crazy evening schedule, partly because I was so enamored with Recipes for Health. I did squeak in under the wire by making a curried cauliflower soup out of Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers and an Asian marinade for chicken out of Spices of Life

I actually thought I might cull Spices of Life from the herd, but it is a lovely book and there truly are enough recipes that I can envision making. While I love having 200-odd cookbooks, I also see the folly of holding onto books that don't inspire me to cook from them. The good news is that while choosing my April picks, I found two books to let go.

It was easy choosing a theme for this month's picks. Since I'm headed to Paris at the end of the month, I decided to pick French cookbooks. The difficulty comes from the fact that I have several French cookbooks...each of them excellent contenders! I ruled out Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I and Volume 2, because those are classic books and I already have cooked enough from them to know they are fabulous.

My first pick was easy: David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories. I borrowed the book from the library right after I returned home from Paris last year, fell in love with it, and put it on my Christmas list (and a big thank you to Santa my mother-in-law). We actually had a chance to go to one of his book signings while we were in Paris, but it was our last evening in Paris and we'd spent the day in Versailles. We were wicked tired.

Anyway, one book down, two to go. It really wasn't hard to choose Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen, because, well, Paris. That and I've been perusing her blog since forever.

I really wavered on pick number 3. Would it be Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table, or Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking. Dorie's book is big and beautiful, with gorgeous photos. And I have long been an admirer of her other works (under her own "headline" and as a writer of books for other chefs). On the other hand, I remember drooling over Bistro Cooking a few decades ago in a bookstore somewhere, and only acquired my own copy a few years ago. What to do? Well, I decided to go with Dorie (I think the photos won me over).


Bon app├ętit!

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Affiliate program, which means that if you buy one of the books mentioned in this post after clicking on an embedded link, I may earn a commission. This fact does not influence what books or products I mention on my blog. My opinions and recommendations are always 100 percent my own.

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.