New Dietary Guidelines – Who Knew?!

NewsUpdate6As if there weren’t enough people in the world telling you what to eat – you’ve got your parents, you’ve got us… A few days ago, a panel of top nutrition experts submitted their report to the federal government, describing changes that they think would benefit the average American diet. Wait, what?! A group telling the government how they think I should eat – wait, what?! Well just hold your horses if this is the kind of thing that distresses you. These folks are no joke when it comes to nutrition recommendations.

The panel includes Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health; Marian Neuhauser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA; and Alice Lichtenstein, the vice chairwoman of the dietary guidelines committee and a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University. This is no group of average know-it-alls. When it comes to nutrition, they may actually know-it-all, or at least know that which is already known… The panel took a look at previous nutrition guidelines, pulled them apart, took in all the most recent research and the latest medical findings and you know what they want you to do? Eat more vegetables.

Yep. Eat your veggies people, and not so much of the other stuff, especially red meat, processed meat, and sugar. All that fretting about coffee? Keep your consumption in check and it might actually be good for you. All that worry about cholesterol? Again, stay out of the deep fat fryer and you’re probably just fine. But red meat, processed meat and sugar… yeah.

For the first time this committee looked not at particular nutrients (i.e. Vitamin D) but looked at the benefits and detriments of whole diets. Looking across your days, weeks, and months – what are you eating the most of? They’d suggest veggies, fruits, whole grains as a big part of that answer. Legumes, nuts and seafood also feature heavily as does lower fat dairy (why lower fat if the whole cholesterol thing is not an issue, but I won’t quibble as I don’t eat it). That’s a lot of really good things to eat if you ask me. I think I could live that way. Wait, I think I do mostly live that way. And for me, and I suspect for many other people, it is the mostly that matters here.

Changing the way we eat is often a question of shifting our ratios. Seeing a positive change in eating habits as an act of deprivation is a sure-fire way to experience a great deal of failure and frustration in my experience. Seeing a positive change in eating habits as a shifting of percentages (lowering meat and raising veggies) or as the opportunity to experiment with abundant foods that are new and exciting, now that’s something that motivates, and something that has a better shot of sticking. Here at the pantry we’ve never claimed to have a corner on the market of dietary advice. There are lots of good ways to go about improving the quality of what you eat and improving your health. When you line up all of that expert advice and look for commonality, it starts to look a lot like these recommendations from these very prominent physicians, which oddly enough also sounds a lot like our friend Michael Pollan (Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual): “Eat real food, mostly vegetables, not too much.”

If you’re inspired to get things going, feeling like just maybe you could feel better, we’d really be happy to help (see our E-Book: Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals for details). We’ve thought a lot about food. Actually, we’ve thought an embarrassing amount about food. We’ve changed, and are still changing. You can too, if you want. The great thing about it is you get at least three chances every day to try to get it right. Eat well, be well friends!

More about the panel and their findings here and here.

Remedy Testing and a Super Easy Treat

I don’t know what’s going on in your neck of the woods, but here in Central Maryland it seems like EVERYONE is sick. Flu is rampant. Adenovirus is on the loose. Stomach bugs abound. It is a minefield out there. Good thing it’s a least a quiet, stay at home time of year…. yeah. We got hit weeks ago and while everyone else is done, Momma has been sick for over 2 weeks now. I knew it wasn’t the flu, because the fever and aches never got THAT bad, so I avoided the doctor’s office so I wouldn’t get the flu while there…. And I proceeded to try to prepare for and do the whole Christmas thing…

I cut out a bunch of stuff I normally do. I asked people to bring food to events I usually cook for. I let my husband send me off to bed a few times. BUT with all that, I probably didn’t do enough to take care and protect myself. So this thing has dragged on and on, and anytime I thought it was getting better, a new sign of unwellness would erupt. I began to do some searches… if I don’t want to go to the doc and get antibiotics to change the color of the gunk coming out of my head and lungs (sorry, TMI), what can I do to change that color? If I’ve had so much honey for my cough that I feel like I’m going to toss, but still need an expectorant, what can I do? If I’m supposed to sing at church and my throat hurts and sounds scratchy, what can I do?  If I am not up to making Christmas cookies with my kids but they really, really really want to make them, what can I do? I’ll start with the remedies and end with a super easy and marginally healthy sweet treat.

Please understand that I am not a medical professional and that my N=1 study of natural remedies does not constitute science. I’m just sharing what has helped me so you can give it a go if your doctor’s office is flooded with flu patients as well. Please do seek professional medical attention if you need it.

Problem #1:  Respiratory Infection

I think it’s likely that my cough became an infection. Again I say this because of the color of the junk my poor tired body was producing. In desperation, I turned to turmeric, specifically turmeric and honey… huh? I used this recipe after a friend pointed it out to me and I read why it might be a good idea. It seems turmeric can be a super great natural antibiotic. I mixed about 3 ounces of raw honey with a TABLESPOON of turmeric. Yes, you need to use that much, and yes, it will taste nasty. Sorry. I like turmeric, but wow. That’s a whole lot. The protocol is for three days: first day 1/2 t every hour (I do NOT wake myself for medicine because sleep is more important, IMO); second and third days 1/2 every 2 hours. This wiped out my whole supply and during the second day everything coming out of me turned clear and I felt like I’d made more progress in healing that I had in over a week. Nicely done turmeric.

Problem #2: Junk Stuck in the Lungs

It’s wretched to cough and cough and cough. It’s even worse to do it and not have it do what your lungs need it to do. I had exhausted my tolerance for honey, and while it helped, I wondered if I couldn’t do better. A quick search showed that I could indeed get a better response without having to keep tasting so much honey. I gave this recipe for a homemade decongestant and expectorant to the test. I took the first dose and about an hour later noticed that my nose was more clear than it had been for over a week. I also noticed that I was still coughing, but not so violently and always bringing stuff up – sorry, gross I know, but necessary when it’s stuck in there. VERY impressed with this little number.

Problem #3: Scratchy Throat

This one came from my pal, a nurse and singer. Sounds like a good combo when you’re looking for throat relief, right? This one is super simple and is very similar to the master cleanse drink, if you’ve ever done that. I squeeze the juice from one whole lemon into a large mug, add about 2 t honey (more honey, oy), and a shake of cayenne pepper. Add boiling water to fill the mug or travel cup if you’re planning to go sing somewhere. This magical potion restored my singing voice very quickly. Another great one to keep in the files.

Problem #4: Disappointed Cookie Makers

Ironically the problem here is not so much that we wouldn’t have cookies. I’d already given up the idea of handing out treats to neighbors, and we just don’t go through treats very quickly. During one of the last days of school before the holidays, I donned plastic gloves and made my awesome Crancherry White Chocolate Cookies. I chose these because they are gluten free, so our first set of guests (Bigg Sis, Mr. Bigg Sis, and child of Bigg Sis) could eat them sans consequence. They are not, I discovered, my daughter’s favorite. Shocker. I discovered in talking to here, that what she wanted was to make cookies with me. She was craving the ritual and the joy of us creating a Christmas treat together. So I did some quick thinking. I needed to give her the experience without it taking a long time so I could get some more rest and/or do 1 of approximately 8,000 more chores before people started to show up. I bought whole wheat pretzel rods. I bought dark chocolate chips. Yeah, you know where I’m going.

I melted the chips in the microwave (try to contain your horror, desperate times people). I set the timer for just a couple of minutes and put it at half power. You should know that sometimes the chips hold their shape even though they are melted. You should stir them after a couple of minutes to see if they are actually melted. Err on the side of less time – burnt chocolate is a tragedy.

So we stirred the melted chocolate to melt the last few little bits. Then grabbed a pretzel rod each, dipped it in the chocolate and swirled the end around a bit, then held it up so that the chocolate would work it’s way down the rod. It is not necessary to coat the whole rod for these to taste amazing. Lay them on wax paper on a tray to cool. Wait until they are completely cooled to remove them. Remove to a storage container if you can keep the wolves in your house from eating them all. This was a HUGE hit. It was messy fun that landed us with chocolate on our hands that the kids were more than happy to lick off when done. Took us about half an hour and we made plenty to share. DEFINITELY a great quick treat trick, and a nice time spent with my kids, even if it wasn’t really cooking. ;-)

I hope your holiday has been healthy, peaceful, and soul satisfying. If you’re ill, know I’m thinking about you and urging you to take better care of yourself than I have. If you’re in that New Year’s Resolution making place, check out our E-Book, Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals, for some help with cleaning up your eating habits and filling your life with delicious real food. Eat well, be well friends.

Almonds Recalled

FSNBRaw almonds sold through Whole Foods markets recalled because of a higher than average level of the natural chemical hydrogen cyanide. Not clear to me from these reports how that would happen, but something worth checking into for sure.  Check details on this one here and be sure to share with nut eating friends. Eat well, be well friends.

Macadamia Nuts, Apple Cider, and Sausage Products Recalled

FSNBRaw macadamia nuts recalled for salmonella. Details here. Unpasteurized apple cider for E. Coli, sold in Canada,  additional details here. Okay, so I blitzed through those, because I just had to get to this last one. My title was a little abbreviated. The actual description from Food Safety News was “sausage-like product.” I’d hoped to not have to ask what on earth as “sausage-like product” is, really. While I didn’t particularly want a description, I figured I’d encounter one. Near as I can tell these babies have a lot of rice in them, which perhaps takes them to some meat to “other” percentage that prevents them from being able to say just “sausage;” I seriously don’t know. At any rate, these particular food product items were subject to “temperature abuse” and “may contain an emetic toxin produced by Bacillus cereus” according to the FDA. I don’t know what that is either, but I’m pretty sure if the FDA says no go, I’m like get me the heck away from that. Feel free to read the details here, especially if you eat “sausage-like products.” Eat well, be well friends.

Salmonella in Carob, Cashews, and Chiles

FSNBHeads up people. Apparently salmonella can be on just about anything. Z Natural Foods Organic Carob powder recall details here. Deep raw cashew pieces too; details here. A variety of peppers details here. Check your pantry. Check your fridge. Check your friends. Salmonella’s bad news. Eat well, be well friends.

Chicken and Crabmeat Recalled

FSNBAntioch Farms partially prepared chicken products (sounds appetizing, right?) recalled for possible salmonella. Please see details here. All Natural Jonah Crab Meat recalled for listeria. See here for details, and ignore the picture as it doesn’t seem to match the description of the container being recalled… Eat well, be well friends.

Serrano Chilis and Dietary Supplements Recalled

FSNBBummer news in perfect chili season…. serranos recalled for possible salmonella. Details here. For serrano-less chili, see our picadillo or 30 minute bean and bulgur chili.

Shark cartilage supplement has also been recalled for salmonella. Shark cartilage? Hunh? Am I missing something great besides possible salmonella? Details here. Eat well, be well friends.

Weekly Meal Plan Plan

The word on the street is that I’m not the only one who struggles to plan my meal scene. After a few weeks of experimenting with a more regimented approach, I have to admit that the results I expected have once again proven true. Planning my meals ahead of time made my life easier in a variety of ways: 1) no last minute scramble, 2) a sensible, shorter, and more complete  grocery shop, and 3) less money spent at the store. What’s not to love about that? With all those pros, it seems like I could hardly fail to plan my meals…. except that I do fail to plan my meals and after a couple of weeks doing just great I stumbled and we had a chaotic week with weird food and greater expenditures at the store.

So, here I am, putting all my meal planning cards on the table. I am going to attempt to post my meal plans here. I’d like to say that I’ll do it every week, and I plan to. I know you’ll understand if life gets the better of me from time to time. Just in case you’ve always wondered how Little Sis’ family eats all week, here you go.

Monday: White Bean and Kale Stew (Kathy Hester’s The Vegan Slow Cooker)

Tuesday: Crock Pot Burritos

Wednesday Potato Pancakes with Cashew Cream & Apple Sauce

Thursday: Asian Varia-Bowls

Friday: Homemade Pizza (Mr. Little Sis is awesome)

Saturday: Dinner at a Friend’s (Yay!)

Sunday: Homemade Pasta (Again, Mr. Little Sis provides)

Yes, that’s a lot of slow cooker going on. We have fall sports going on and I’ve found the Crock Pot to be a great help on these evenings. Nothing better than coming home from the gym or field to great smells and hearty dinners. As for the planning, I know there are a lot of systems out there. I am a luddite. Here’s my meal planning system.

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Not terribly high tech, but totally user friendly and CHEAP. So I make a plan and then make a grocery list from the list. Has taken less than 40 minutes every time.

So there you have it. All planned up and grocery store bound at some point.Here’s to better grocery trips and home cooked meals! Ta Da!

150 Food Products Recalled

FSNBI’m reasonably certain that what is meant here is not that 150 individual items were recalled, but rather 150 different kinds of prepared foods have been recalled. I can’t find any specific number of the total being recalled, and I’m going to admit I might be glad about that at the moment. 150 Food Products. I DO love when it’s called a food product. At any rate, these particular food products may have listeria, so you may want to give this list a check, especially if you live in the South and eat any one of 150 different types of food products. Eat well, be well friends.

What Makes It Halloween for You?

 photo IMG_0830.jpgI saw purple candy corn the other day at the store. Purple candy corn. For me that is wrong on so many levels, but I should confess that I am not, nor have I ever been a lover of candy corn. It is, after all, just sugar, corn syrup, and marshmallow. Yeah, I didn’t know about the marshmallow either. And really, that’s mostly just more sugar and corn syrup (I love it when they have both). At any rate, I didn’t mean to go on specifically about the candy corn, but the purple stuff got me to wondering. How did we get here? How did Halloween come to be a night to go gather an enormous bag of candy? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know my kids usually come home when their load is too heavy to carry any more.

What is Halloween about? That’s the funny bit. It seems that the march of time, cultural domination, and social realities have made Halloween about everything and nothing at all, all at the same time – a characteristic I would argue many of our holidays share at times. Halloween WAS about the fading of the sun, the rise of the dark. Then it was about honoring the dead. Then it was about pranks, and then, family fun (and CANDY).

As with all of our holidays, I sense that we sometimes forget what they CAN mean, and get caught up in a bit of what they seem to mean – thus the multiple aisles devoted to candy (as opposed to just the usual two) and the rush on costumes that have nothing to do with any of the original purposes of Halloween (lest you think I am throwing too many stones, I confess that I will be sending Elsa the Snow Queen out in a largely purchased costume because I couldn’t stand to say no to something else). I am taking this minute, right here in front of you like a intellectual and philosophical exhibitionist, to remind myself that I get to do Halloween my way, too.

This day of madness and mayhem gets to be whatever my family and I decide it should be. When I think back to Halloweens in my past, I remember with the greatest fondness being paraded around the neighborhood by Big Sis, coached about how best to approach the doorbell, and defended from the couple of neighborhood punks who sought to lighten my load. I remember costumes that were put together, fashioned as a project with my Mom; they were never perfect, but they were fun, and I remember feeling great about them. I remember crunching in the leaves, turning on the flashlight when the dark became too much, and moping on the occasions when I was forced to wear a coat over my beloved costume. I remember my Mom making salty roasted pumpkin seeds. And finally, I remember my neighbor’s popcorn balls. I would have given up everything else in that bag for another of those popcorn balls.

So where does that leave me in my own celebrations? What traditions do I wish to highlight, to start, to pass on? How is this night of candy hoarding about me and my family (cause I really do need everything to be about me ;-))?

 photo IMG_0825.jpgOur costumes will be hybrid. I bought big parts. We will use face paint and other special bits to make them extra awesome. We will work together and talk about the costumes to get them just so, to eke every bit of pleasure out of the dressing up that we can. We will decorate with creepy things to remind ourselves that death is a part of this great life as we stomp through the leaves that have indeed begun to fall. We will celebrate the abundance of the late harvest by picking pumpkins and roasting their seeds, maybe even making some pesto with them. And I am going to attempt to make popcorn balls without corn syrup (I’m looking at these, but have not settled for sure), in honor of the woman who I suspect kept my mother sane during my early years. I will hand out popcorn balls in a small bag with our name and address on it so people won’t be afraid to eat them and if we run out, there will be plenty of spider rings, glow sticks, and maybe a little dark chocolate for the truly worthy.

And when it’s all over, I’ll break the news to my kids that they can’t keep ALL the candy. They will not be surprised as I’ve been working up to it, and they still have some from last year. This year, we will take advantage of the candy buy back at a local dentist, and they will send it to our troops. Sounds like a good plan to me. Happy almost Halloween!