Category Archives: small dietary changes

How to make brown rice — UPDATE

I’m always messing about with cooking — who knows, tweaking a bit might make it better, right?

This version makes rice that is fluffy and less starchy, which brings out the nutty flavor of the rice.

  • 1 cup of brown rice, rinsed and drained (removes excess starch)*
  • Bring 2.5 cups of water to a boil in a covered pot before adding the rice.*  Set a kitchen timer for five minutes and head off to open mail or tidy up.
  • Once the water boils, add the rice and give the pot a shake to distribute the rice evenly.*
  • Leave the lid almost closed, but with a little space to vent (or the rice will foam and create a mess)
  • Set the timer for 25 minutes and go live a little.
  • When the water is at the same level as the top of the rice, turn off the heat, close the lid and walk away for another 15 minutes.
  • Fluff and enjoy.  Makes about 3 cups.

*These are the only steps that differ from my original post, but oh, they make a difference.  In the first post, the rice goes from the bag to the pot of water before heating it all to a boil.  The result is more starchy, sticky rice (which is nice if you prefer it that way, or are making sushi).

 

FDA proposes sweeping changes for food labels

Well, I can’t wait to see the fighting on this one, because this is one of the best pieces of information-based legislation consumers have if they want to make good decisions regarding their food choices.  So far that’s not been saying much, since the Nutrition Facts label has been so difficult for most people to interpret that they largely ignore it.  These changes would be mighty helpful.  Here’s what the FDA is proposing:

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When you see what half that pint will cost you, they'll need smelling salts in the aisle.  *sigh*

When you see what half that pint will cost you, they’ll need smelling salts in the aisle. *sigh*

The press release may be found here.

The comment period, which will last for 90 days, will begin Monday.  Anyone can comment, and I highly suggest you do.  My first-read has me poised to ask the FDA to include calories from added sugar, not just grams (but in case you were wondering, it’s a teaspoon for every 4 grams  Currently, though, sugars from fruit and sugars from added sugar are included under the same category).  The Daily Values have not been updated in so long that the upper limit for salt (2300 mg) is LESS than the current daily value listed (<2400 mg — which to most people means 2400 mg.  The current recommendation for sodium is generally 1500 mg).  It’s way past time. Look for a food fight here, but Ms. Obama is building a serious legacy with this one.

Get your fingers on the keyboard if you like the idea of having quick reference to what is in your food.

How changing your diet is like the winter solstice

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The sunset on 12/20/13.

Today is the winter solstice — the start of the shortest day of the year.  According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, today we’ll see just 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight.  In contrast, the summer solstice gave us 14 hours and 26 minutes of daylight.

That’s a lot of difference, right?

The amount of daylight we receive changes minute by minute, day by day.  Except during the period surrounding each solstice, and for periods of a couple of days where the amount of daylight remains the same, we either gain a minute of daylight a day, or lose one.  From today until June 21st of 2014, we will slowly, very slowly, gain daylight until we have amassed more than four extra hours of daylight a day!

What does that have to do with changing your diet?

Day by day and hour by hour, what we eat can change us, even if it’s by only a tiny change from what we normally consume.  If today you decide to eat one cookie instead of two, or take one piece of bread out of the restaurant basket instead of two or decide after overdoing it at a get-together not to keep overdoing it today out of self-loathing and a sense of defeat, you’ve inched a bit closer to success.  Eating better, exercising and taking care of ourselves are not about the big, dramatic moves, but about the little tiny ones that are less painful and therefore are read as less important.

Minute by minute and day by day, how will you be when the next solstice arrives?

What to eat at Starbucks

Starbucks Coffee Company

The official drink of The Voice, and my husband. They should have a platinum card for guys like him.

There’s a lot out there about what NOT to eat, but how about a post about what constitutes a good choice?

Starbucks has a lot of food and drink with under 400 calories, which is a good caloric neighborhood, beverage included, when you’re making a stop to fuel up.  If you’re watching your calories, it’s a good idea to choose a beverage very, very low in calories (iced tea with one packet of sugar or one pump of sugar, coffee with one sugar and a very small hit of cream) if you’re having a snack.  I would keep the snack at or below 200 calories; you need to save room for other healthful foods throughout the day.

I will assume you are looking for a drink and a nibble…

  • First, remember that whipped cream adds 45-100 calories depending on the size of the drink.  If you want whipped cream, the obvious choice is the smaller-sized drink (the short with whip is 45, give it up: a grande has 60 calories for the whip and is more realistic).
  • Each pump of syrup adds a teaspoon of sugar, which is about 20 calories.  Caramel drizzle adds 15 calories, and chocolate adds just 5.
  • Protein/fiber powder adds 30 calories and is entirely unnecessary (only adds one gram of fiber?!  Let’s have bakery instead!).

Beverages (200 calories or less):

  • Iced brewed coffee or tea.  Get it without the added syrup, or just one pump, and add milk or soy milk.  If you add the milk, and choose nonfat and Tall, it’s 80 calories.  If you’re feeling spartan, a plain iced tea or coffee contains 0 calories.
  • Continue reading

Small change #14: Buy and/or make a new food

Do your best old lady voice: What’s all this I’m hearing about kale?  What is this here Quinoa (KEEN-wah)?  How do you make an eggplant anyway?  

Buy a little kale, quinoa, or some other food you haven’t yet experienced.  Look online for a recipe or instructions on how to make it and give it a try as a side dish with dinner.  You might discover something you couldn’t believe!  You’ll also round out your diet with balanced, healthy foods.

I was asked recently by a lady in her 60s how to cook fresh broccoli as I was adding some to a bag.  I was so happy she asked! (You can boil broccoli for 2-3 minutes, but I prefer to make a shallow pool of water in a wide skillet, put the lid half on and let it steam for a few minutes.  Add a little grated parmesan over the top, and/or add a tiny bit of butter to the pool of water for serious yum.)

A couple of years ago a kid from my daughter’s school was visiting and wondered if she could taste vanilla soy milk.  She loved it, and I was moved by her enthusiastic response: “I could have gone MY WHOLE LIFE and not had this!”  Tasting one new food made her realize the importance of new experiences.  And she was all of 9 years old at the time.

 

Small change #11 Split dessert the selfish way

When we dine out and the server delivers dessert in the form of 1/4 of a pie, we have a tendency to abdicate responsibility for our ability to finish whatever is put in front of us (“I didn’t put that on the plate, I’m just the lucky recipient!”).   In fact, this is part of the reason many people enjoy dining in restaurants.

It’s probably a good idea to split dessert.  The caveat: Never share a plate. That thing where they deliver the enormous slab of cake and 4 forks inevitably leads to an eating contest to get the delicate sliver at the tip, then the icing off the back…you get the picture.

Ask for your own plate, or to have the thing pre-split.  Tell the server you aren’t good at sharing.  They always seem to believe me when I say it..

If your partner eats like a raptor and goes after yours, you can always stab at him/her a little with your fork, though I don’t recommend this on a first date (unless there won’t be a second date or they seem litigious about being assaulted with a fork).

What?  You are eating with someone on some diet who doesn’t want dessert or is just not really human and doesn’t have a sweet tooth?  Don’t forgo dessert because of them.  Order dessert and ask to have it split, with the other half placed in a to-go container.  Tomorrow there will be more dessert for you! If, while you enjoy your guilt-free serving, you notice sad-doggy looks, they won’t belong to your happy face.

Always leave a good tip for a server who goes the extra mile.  They’ll be thrilled to help you get that torte into a to go container next time.

Small change #10: Find out how many calories you need in a day

Once in a while I’m asked how many calories a person needs in a day.

It depends on the person’s height, weight, gender, age and activity level.

All of which you can enter right here to find out the answer quickly, along with how much you should eat in a day if you were being a perfect angel.  Click Create profile, and you will be prompted with boxes for the above information before the site will calculate your caloric needs.  If you want a quick estimate without considering exercise or the factors above, look here.

Even if you’re feeling a little less heaven-sent, this will give you guidance.  Moderation in all things, even perfection!