May 31, 2012

Summer Fun

Summer is almost here and I'm pretty excited. Mostly because baby #2 comes in early August and I'm dying to hold him in my arms rather than my belly. Thanks to all the kicking and squirming, I'm feeling like a human punching bag lately.

But there are other reasons I'm excited for summer. The change of season feels like a good time to try something new. This summer, I've got a few things on my list. Some are healthy and some.....well, let's just say they allow me to take advantage of the extra 500 calories my body is burning in the 3rd trimester. Don't we all scream for ice cream?! Yes we do....

Summer-Fun List (Foodie Edition)

2. Better Yet, Get My Summertime Garden In Shape 
3. Make Ice-Cream!
4. Make Strawberry Jam
5. Host a BBQ (friends just make life better)
6. Make Sure There's Watermelon Strawberry Lemonade
7. Pick Fruit at a Local Farm
8. Make Pina Colada Pops
9. Try a New Whole Grain. For starters, Aramath Hot Cereal with Cherries and Walnuts
10. Try A New Hairystyle At Least Once A Week (not foodie-related, but absolutely necessary) 

So those are some of my plans, how about you??

May 22, 2012

Potatoes and Your Nutrition

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a sweet potato and a yam? Are they the same? Is one healthier than the other? And what about potatoes? Should you be eating them? Let's talk about this topic via the latest reader question.


Dear Tiffany the Dietitian,
I’m confused about potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams. I’ve read that sweet potatoes are “much more nutritious” than potatoes, but those same articles include pictures of things that look more like yams. And I recently read an article saying the yams aren’t terribly nutritious, which was even more confusing. Leaving aside the sugary, fatty or salty toppings that sometimes accompany these foods, can you please explain the nutritional profile of potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams so I can figure out how these food fit into our diet? -- Jen


Thanks for your question, Jen. Seems like since the Atkins diet has waned in popularity, now potatoes and other starchy vegetables are back in business. To which I say, Hoooray! Potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams are all healthy foods to eat; they're plants and therefore contain plant-nutrients (called phytochemicals), which may reduce the risk of cancer. However - while all healthy - potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams have slightly unique nutritional profiles.

Let's talk definitions first. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, what we typically call "yams" in the US (the more orange vegetable) are actually sweet potatoes. Real yams are rarely grown here and are more common in Central and South American, Asia and Africa. Yams can be white or yellow, even purple or pink. They have less vitamin A than sweet potatoes, but are loaded with fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

Sweet potatoes have the highest amount of Vitamin A out of the three, while also containing fiber, potassium and other vitamins and minerals. Traditional (white) potatoes offer a good source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium, but lack vitamin A. 

The take-home point is that potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes are all nutritious foods. Vitamin for vitamin, mineral for mineral, I would say sweet potatoes win the battle. But variety is important, so we typically eat all three kinds of potatoes at my house. I serve it as a "starch" side dish, since potatoes are quite high in carbohydrates.

Steaming, baking or roasting with a little olive oil, salt and pepper usually does just fine, but when I'm in the mood for something different, I like these recipes:

May 14, 2012

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Our new place has beautiful rose bushes. Can I show you their awesomeness?
This week, my friend Jen came over for lunch and brought along some whole wheat pastry flour for me to try. I love it when friends come over.....and bring stuff. I had been meaning to try whole wheat pastry flour because of it's whole wheat health benefits and how amazing it tastes in baked goods.

In most cases, whole wheat pastry flour is whole wheat flour ground to a very fine consistency that allows baked goods to retain a very light, delicate texture. It's the best of both worlds: the healthiness of whole wheat plus great taste. Now obviously the whole butter/sugar addition isn't healthy, so portion control is still necessary. But whole wheat pastry flour at least provides a source of whole grains.

I'm not going to lie; these lemon poppyseed muffins by Annie's Eats are the result of a very specific pregnancy craving for anything involving lemon and cake.

I subbed whole wheat pastry flour for white flour and the result was just as promised: light, delicate, and fluffy. No heavy whole wheat texture at all. I'm sold!

Now I couldn't have done it alone: I had a big helper (note evidence of poppyseed batter on face). I asked him if he ate any, but of course he denied the whole thing.

I enjoyed my poppyseed muffin with a nice cup of tea
It was the perfect end to a long day.

On your next baking endeavor, give whole wheat pastry flour a try. It's super yummy and I bet your family won't even be able to tell a difference. It's okay to be sneaky that way; it's for their health.

May 9, 2012

Iron and Pregnancy

Last week, I was at the doctor to get some routine pregnancy labs done and low and behold, results revealed I'm slightly anemic (low blood iron in my case). It surprised me because I generally eat a healthy, balanced diet. But after some thought, I realized I really could benefit from eating more iron-rich foods.

Here's pregnant me, needing more iron (thanks instagram!).

Anemia during pregnancy is fairly common and usually can be prevented by eating a healthy diet and taking a pregnancy multivitamin. Pregnant woman need about 27mg of iron per day, and most pregnancy multivitamins contain more than 100% of our daily needs. But some of us (ahem, me apparently) need a bit more help. Maybe it's a second baby thing? I dunno.

Iron is a pretty important mineral; one of it's main duties is to help transport oxygen to our cells. How nice of iron to help us out like that. The demand for it during pregnancy increases as our blood volume increases. Interestingly, babies are born with about 4 to 6 months supply of iron. This is a really cool example of how our bodies support the baby first - even at our expense! Thanks.... no really, thanks. A deficiency can result in symptoms like dizziness, lack of energy and a decrease in the immune basically everything I've been experiencing this month!

Of course, iron deficiency anemia can affect anyone (not just us prego ladies) so it's always a good idea to include iron-rich foods in your diet which include lean beef, dark meat turkey, top sirloin, fortified cereals, lentils, beans, spinach, tofu and more. For a complete list, click here.

The only way to truly know if you're iron deficient is through a blood test ordered by your doctor. Many people take iron supplements just because they suspect they're deficient, but this is not a good idea because too much iron can be toxic. For most people, eating a well balanced diet that includes foods high in iron will help prevent deficiencies and promote a healthy body - no pricey supplements needed.  

Here's my supplement in the dose my doc recommended. There are a variety of dose choices, so be sure to consult your MD before taking a supplement.

May 7, 2012

Spruce up your salads

Spring is here and that means it's time for gardening. Okay, well at least at my house. I absolutely love spending time outdoors and seeing my little plants grow. Thanks to apartment living, I've always used small potted gardens (with variable success). But now I'm in a house....and this house, oh man, a garden it has! The planters hadn't seen much TLC in the last few years, so I gave them a little face lift and bingo, a garden is reborn.

My planters currently sport spinach, bell peppers, cilantro, basil, strawberries and tomatoes. From having grown spinach and tomatoes before, I'm confident I won't kill those (sorta).The others, well that's a gamble. I'm crossing my fingers that the odds will be ever in my favor (love hunger games!).

When I'm making recipes with fresh-from-the-garden produce, I want to make sure the other ingredients are super-fresh too. I like to make raw salads because it allows you to really taste the freshness of the veggies. Homemade salad dressings are not only easy, but they really compliment the ingredients nicely and don't have that artificial taste because....they're not!

So here are a few of my favorite salads and their homemade dressings:

Asian Salad Dressing from The Pioneer Woman
Lemony Vinaigrette Dressing from me!
Apple Cider Vinaigrette from Food Plus Words
Simple Greek Salad Dressing from Shutterbean

I always make extra dressing to keep on hand. It just makes life easier so that when I pick some spinach from the garden...

It becomes a yummy salad in no time...

Do you have a garden? What are you planting?