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Healthy Dessert 4: 5-Minute Baked Apple November 30, 2010

Healthy 5-minute Baked Apple: small fresh apple, a few drops of honey, generous dash of cinnamon, splash of lemon juice.

5-Minute Healthy Dessert: Microwave Baked Apple

My friend Ken Lee has made some delicious slow-cooked baked apples this semester (which he very generously has invited my suite to come and eat). I really enjoyed them and decided that I should find a recipe to make more on my own.

I took ideas from a few and put this one together. It turned out really well and was extremely easy to make.

Try it At Home

1. Take an apple and cut out the core. If you have a specific tool to do this, use it, but if don’t have one you can just carefully cut out the core with a knife.  Place it in a non-plastic microwavable container with a lid (I used a glass bowl and covered it with a glass plate).

2. Sprinkle with a generous dash of cinnamon and just a faint dash of nutmeg.  Add a dash of brown sugar or honey and a splash of lemon juice in the middle.

3. Cover and microwave on high for 4 minutes.

Optional Extras: You can also add oats for some added crunch and texture. If you add them, carefully remove the lid (it will be very hot) and sprinkle in the oats after 3 minutes so that they cook for the last minute. If you prefer crunchier oats, you can add them on top at the end and if you really want to get fancy, toss in some chopped pecans or almond slices.

Thanks Ken for the inspiration!


Finals Survival: How to Shake Stiffness When Glued to Your Desk November 29, 2010

Ditch your chair and grab a ball to help reduce stiffness from sitting for hours (and strengthen your core while you study!)

Don’t sit still. Well, not too still, too long anyway.

Logging hours at your desk may leave you feeling stiff especially at this time of the year when final projects and exams leave many of us all too familiar with our desk in every shade of day and lamp light.

I know for myself that if I don’t get out and take a break to exercise and stretch properly that the time I “save” skipping a workout ends up getting wasted when tension sets in. Any kind of exercise will feel good and make a big difference in how well I can concentrate but I try to make sure that I include yoga at least once/week to make sure I put in the proper stretch time.

Meanwhile, there are some things you can do to make the hours at your desk feel better. I’ve been using an exercise ball instead of a chair since high school. The ball allows me to sit comfortably at my desk without feeling too stiff. It’s really helped strengthen my core and improve my posture because I always try to sit up straight while I’m working, which requires some work from the abdominal and lower back muscles to keep me stabilized.

Feeling pressure as work piles up is hard to avoid but here are a few strategies to help make your desk a less stressful place to work.

An exercise ball makes a great desk chair. You can then use the ball for many at-home exercises in your free time.

Try it At Home: Desk De-Stress

1. Get an exercise ball. You can order them online, pick one up from the bookstore, or at Target, T.J. Maxx, or most athletic stores.  Don’t ditch your chair completely as it may take you a while to adjust. Try using the ball as your chair for short periods at first, and gradually increase the amount of time you use it compared to your chair. When sitting at either, try to sit up straight and avoid hunching your shoulders.

2. De-clutter. If your desk feels cluttered it will be harder to concentrate on the task at hand. Get organized and clear away items that you think will distract you (including very tempting food that you were planning to save for later).

3. Keep Water Handy. Food can be a distraction but neither hunger nor thirst should be ignored. Have a tall glass or bottle of water at your desk side to sip on whenever you want it. When you do get hungry, do a quick hungry test by asking yourself “am I hungry enough that I would want an apple (or other raw fruit or veggie) right now?” If the answer is no, then it’s probably not hunger, just stress or boredom.

4. Take Stretch Breaks. At least once every 90 minutes give yourself a 5 minute break to get up and stretch. If you’re using a ball you can get a great shoulder and chest-opening stretch by lying with your back on the ball so that your feat are on the floor, your chest is pointing towards the ceiling and your arms are opened (palms facing up) so that they rest on either side of your body.


Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie November 27, 2010


Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie: Handful of fresh cranberries, unsweetened soymilk, ripe fresh banana, non-fat kefir, frozen blueberries, frozen strawberries


Now in Season: Cranberries November 25, 2010

Fresh cranberries: most people would not eat fresh cranberries on their own (they have a naturally very tart flavor) but they can be delicious when thrown in smoothies, salads, breads, and in other tasty holiday dishes.

Now in Season: Cranberries

A tart, potent berry, cranberries pack a lot of flavor and nutritional oomph into their brightly colored skins. These berries are naturally low in calories and sugars, and high in fiber, antioxidants (particularly vitamin C), and phytochemicals (including Proanthocyanidin).

Proanthocyanidin, a phytochemical that helps prevent bacteria from sticking to certain body surfaces, gives the cranberry its reputation for aid in prevention of urinary tract infections, tooth decay, and some food-borne illnesses.

Cranberry Juices: 100% Juice not Always What it Seems
100% cranberry juice, in the unsweetened version, is very tart but most of the cranberry juices on the market are sweetened with other fruit juices or sugar. OceanSpray, for example, offers a “100% Juice Cranberry”  with “no sugar added.” This juice is still sweet because the company blends in other, much sweeter juices to give the juice a more palatable flavor. If you love cranberry juice, this kind would definitely be a much better choice than the cranberry juice “cocktail” variety, which is laden with added sugars, (and in my opinion doesn’t taste very good). Even the natural juice blend, however is still very high in sugar. To cut down on your calorie and sugar intake, mix the juice with sparkling water to make a tasty juice spritzer.

Cranberry Dishes
Try to find cranberry dishes and drinks that take advantage of the cranberry’s tart tangy flavor instead of masking it with tons of sugar. I like to add a handful of fresh or frozen berries to fruit smoothies, and I love Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Instead of adding lots of sugar to your dish, try pairing cranberries with naturally sweet fruits like baked apples or pears. Here’s one delicious recipe that tastes tangy and sweet without piling on the sugar: pear cranberry sauce.


Childhood Foods Not to Outgrow: Chocolate Milk November 23, 2010

Chocolate Almond Milk

Childhood Foods Not to Outgrow: Chocolate Milk

Now, before you think that chocolate milk as a health food is just too good to be true… it is. I am not suggesting that you replace your servings of unsweetened low/nonfat milk with chocolaty sweetness. What I am suggesting is using chocolate milk as your not-so-guilty pleasure food instead of an extra cookie, brownie, or soft drink.

Yes, chocolate milk is high in sugar (so don’t go crazy!) but there is a lot good stuff packed in one delicious cup. A cup of low fat chocolate milk can be a rich source of potassium, calcium, vitamin D and–if you buy chocolate almond milk–even vitamin E.

Look for the kind that has no more than 22 g sugar per 1 cup serving and stick to the serving size. For a more grown up new flavor, try chocolate almond milk. It’s slightly lower in sugar than dairy chocolate milk (though still pretty high) but unlike regular dairy, provides a hefty 50% of your DV for vitamin E. If you don’t think you’re getting enough vitamin E in your diet and are looking for ways to boost your intake, adding almond milk is a great way to get a major boost.

Another great strategy: To cut the sweetness and boost the health benefits (while still enjoying the chocolate flavor) stir in some unsweetened milk, almond milk, or soy milk. Pouring a little bit (about 10%) unsweetened soymilk to regular chocolate milk, for example, tastes great and will help tone down the dessert-to-health-food ratio.



Where to Find It: Brown Rice Sushi November 22, 2010

Alix with her Miso Soup

Tufts Culinary Society (TCS)  E-Board members went out for dinner at Snappy Sushi in Davis Square last night.  I love sushi so I would have been excited if we were going to any sushi restaurant but from a nutrition perspective I have to point out something that I especially love about Snappy Sushi: brown rice.

If you’ve ever tried to make your own sushi (Ben and I did last winter break) you will have probably developed an appreciation for how difficult it can be to make the rice look clean-lined and perfect the way it is served in a restaurant. White sushi rice is usually preferred for use because it is easier to work with and is the traditional rice used in sushi dishes.

Alexandra with her Tuna Tar Tar

Snappy Sushi brings you the best of both worlds, great tasting, beautiful sushi and the health benefits of brown rice (which is a whole grain).  I’ve had brown rice sushi to-go from Whole Foods before as well. I haven’t seen many other places serve it. If you know of more, please share them!

Tuna Tar Tar


Better Bread: How to Tell the “Real” Wheat Bread from the “Fake” November 21, 2010

Look for "Whole Wheat" as a first ingredient. Breads labeled "multigrain" or "wheat" are often not really made with whole grains.

The Dish on Whole Grains
How to Spot the Real Wheat Bread from the Pretenders

It’s easier and easier to find wheat options of our favorite breads and snacks in supermarkets and restaurants as percentages of wheat bread vs. white bread consumption rise.  What appears like a major leap in whole-grain consumption however, turns out to be a bit too good to be true. Many of the wheat bread products on the market are not true whole wheat breads, making them little more nutritionally than white breads in disguise. Here’s how to spot the real whole grains from the fakes:

What to Look For
If it’s real whole-grain bread you should see “whole wheat,” “whole grain corn,” “100% rolled oats,” or other terms that clearly specify the inclusion of “whole” grain ingredients. Usually whole wheat flour is used in whole grain breads and cereals may include oats or whole grain corn. Make sure that the whole grain is the first ingredient–some cereals advertise that they are “made with whole grains” on the front of the package but when you look at the ingredients the whole grains added are low down on the ingredient list, which means that they are not added in large quantities.

The “Fakes”
“Honey Wheat,” “Country Wheat,” “Mulitgrain Bread,” or simply “Wheat Bread,” may throw in some specks of grains to appear healthier (or add some high-fructose corn syrup to help give the bread a healthful-looking brown color) but are not necessarily much different nutritionally from white bread. Some of these products may be made with whole wheat flour, but the only way to really tell is to check the ingredient list. “Enriched wheat flour” is not the same as “whole wheat flour.”

Why not? While whole grains are good sources of fiber and many essential vitamins and minerals, only a few of the vitamins lost during processing (turning whole grains into refined ones) are added back to enriched flour. None of the minerals contained in whole grain bread are added back except for iron.

Whole-Grain Bread Perks

  • A slice of whole-wheat bread usually has about 2x the fiber of a slice of enriched wheat or white bread
  • Whole-grains are good sources of vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, zinc, fiber and phytochemicals (refined grains are poor sources of these nutrients)

Want to learn more? Check out the Whole Grain Council website here.