Simply beautiful...

Simply beautiful...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quinoa - the Mispronounced Grain Option

As a wife and mother trying to cook healthfully for my family... I have sometimes found myself at a loss as to what to serve for dinner. In the past, I would put our weekly menu together and find myself tired of the same whole-grain choices: brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, etc. When I went through my dietetics program, I was introduced to a vast array of foods in our cooking courses. One of the things introduced to me for the first time was quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). This single grain has given my cooking a boost for several reasons.

I consider quinoa a powerhouse grain in that it has more to offer nutritionally than others. It is higher in protein (7g per serving) than other grains and is considered a complete protein, providing all eight essential amino acids. Quinoa cooks faster than other grains and is a good source of fiber (3g per serving), magnesium, iron, folate and phosphorous. I love that it can be fairly versatile, being able to be used in place of rice, pasta or other grains and is great as a hot cereal or as a salad or side dish. Quinoa is also becoming more and more available at regular grocery stores. So next time you're trying to think of a side dish or a grain option for your meal... check out quinoa and see why it's become a staple in my kitchen.

Try one of my favorite quinoa recipes that I found in a Cooking Light magazine:
Quinoa Salad with Peaches
(makes 4 servings)

***To cook the quinoa:
Bring 1 and 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; add 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Fluff and cool quinoa slightly.

***For the salad stir in:
1/4 cup minced red pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onions
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 & 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 & 1/2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 sliced ripe peach

Chill salad, serve and enjoy!

Serving size is ~1 cup. Calories: 196; Fat: 7.1g (sat 0.9g); Sodium: 245mg

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Understanding the Nutrition Facts Label

The concept may seem basic to most, but I've been surprised and reminded recently that many people simply don't know how to interpret the Nutrition Facts Label on food items. In light of our country's state of health (particularly in regards to obesity) I believe this is a crucial concept to educate not only ourselves about, but also our friends and family members.
Here's a quick highlight of the nutrition facts label and what's most important to know:
  • Start by checking out the serving size and how many total servings are in the container of food you are about to enjoy. So often we don't check this and wind up eating more than we should have.
  • Next, look at the "calories" and "calories from fat". This number is per ONE serving. If you eat 2 servings, then you must multiply the calories by 2. As a general reminder, try to keep the "calories from fat" to less than 50% of the calories.
  • Look then, at the columns "total fat", "cholesterol" and "sodium". These are the nutrients you want to limit. If you are comparing items, choose the one with the lowest number in each of these categories.
  • Alternatively, the next columns to look at are the nutrients you want to get enough of, such as "vitamin A", "vitamin C", "calcium" and "iron". Again, if you are comparing items, choose the one with the highest number in each of these categories.
  • The "footnote" is the section that follows, however it does not appear on all foods if the package is too small to include it. It is important to note that the footnote is the SAME on ALL labels and does not change from product to product. The purpose is to show nutrient daily values that are generally recommended for most Americans. This changes according to the number of calories a person eats in a given day.
  • Lastly, it is important to look at the "% daily values" (which are based on a 2,000 calorie diet) to give you a gage of whether or not a food is high or low in a certain nutrient. As a quick guideline to %DV: 5% or less is low; while 20% or more is high. Take special note that there are NO %DV's for trans fats, protein or sugars in a product.
For a more complete guide to the nutrition facts label, click here and for another great article on how to read food labels, click here! For those with families, there is a great resource for teaching your kids about it on this website. Education starts with yourself, so take a moment to do a little reading on how you can better understand what you're putting into your body!