alannacabrero

The Breakdown on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

Whole Foods has received a lot of acclaim recently for announcing that it will be the first grocery store chain in the US to require labeling for Genetically Engineered (GE) foods. But don’t run out to your local Whole Foods quite yet. This change won’t take place until 2018. 

While Whole Foods has taken an important first step toward identifying genetically modified foods in its stores with clearly marked labels, this is not a new idea. The topic was first broached as early as the 1970s. A few decades later, a member of congress tried to pass legislation requiring GMO labeling. It stated that foods that were “materially changed” should be labeled because the public had “the right to know.” The bill did not pass due to overwhelming opposition from both government and industry, including the Food & Drug Administration. Proposition 37, an initiative that would require all genetically engineered  foods be labeled, met similar resistance in November 2012. 

Why exactly all the resistance? If you ask me, the reason for the lack of transparency in marketing GMO foods is pretty simple. As stated by Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, if foods are labeled as genetically modified you may choose not to buy them, and that would have a huge negative impact on the food industry.

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The Power of a Sweet Potato

(Sweet Potato Crostini - Recipe below)

Sweet potatoes don’t get the positive attention they deserve. Maybe it’s because we typically associate the word potato with heavy carbs and French fries. The truth is, sweet potatoes are actually healthy, nutrient rich carbohydrates. I even recommend them as a pre/post-workout snack!

Nutrition Lowdown

Sweet potatoes are extremely high in vitamin A, specifically the carotenoid called beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A that has shown to support the immune system, protect body cells and act as a great antioxidant. Beta-carotene is linked with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and anti-aging. It has also been associated with reducing the risk of vision loss known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Sweet potatoes are the richest source of vitamin A. One small sweet potato contains more than 400% of your daily requirements! And the darker the orange pigment, the higher the antioxidant content.

Sweet potatoes are also a great source of vitamins B, C and E, in addition to manganese, potassium, dietary fiber and protein. Did you know that potassium helps regulate blood pressure? Sweet potatoes are even higher in potassium than bananas! A medium-sized sweet potato has about 100 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. 

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Homemade Granola. A classic! 

Granola can be served on top of yogurt, as a topping for whole wheat pancakes, or as added crunch to peanut butter spread on toast! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 ½ TBS Agave nectar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 TBS flax seeds
  • ¼ cup of walnuts or almonds or hazelnuts 
  • ¼ cup of golden raisins or cranberries or cut-up dried apricots 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 300F. 

2. Mix oil, Agave, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. 

3. Slowly add flaxseeds and oats to the bowl. Mix well, until oats are fully coated. 

4. Spread out granola onto a parchment paper or baking dish and bake for 10 minutes. 

5. Stir well, add nuts, and bake for another 10 minutes or until oats are golden.

6. Add raisins and allow to cool. 

FYI. Oats will get crispy as they cool, so don’t worry if they seem soft when they’re hot. 

Thank you to Margot Q for the added inspiration. 

Declutter to Destress

A New Year brings the opportunity for a fresh start, not only in regards to our health but also our environment.  Take a look around your home; is it just overflowing with stuff? As New Yorkers, we know the value of real estate so why do we fill it up with clutter?  Here are a few decluttering techniques that will help you destress for the New Year.

Start in the kitchen! 

  • Go by the expiration date, not the sell by date to decide whether or not to toss those goods.  The sell by date is a marker for grocers to keep track of their perishable inventory and the expiration date is for you to know when it might be time to discard an item.
  • Did you know that spices lose their flavor over time? Because many spices contain essential oils, they can also go rancid. 
  • Next clean out your fridge – out with the mold and in with the new! Just remember to keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible in order to preserve energy and retain the cool air that promotes food safety.
  • Now that you’ve created some space, rearrange your kitchen for a more fluid cooking experience. Are your measuring tools easily accessible? This will help with portion control. When it’s time to restock your fridge and pantry, make sure to store the fruits and crudités front and center, and hide the junk food in hard to reach places.  If you have to get out your step stool to get those cookies you are more likely to opt for the easy to reach fresh berries. 
  • Want to really save space and reach your health goals, do away with all bottled and canned single serve beverages like soda and juice and fill up that Brita with all natural zero calorie water. 

Small changes like these can make a big difference in influencing better choices. Consider how much more likely you’ll be to make a home-cooked meal versus ordering in (again) if your kitchen is clean, orderly and chock full of delicious natural foods. 

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Traveling Light

With the arrival of summer comes the oh-so-anticipated summer trip. For some people, this is synonymous with weight gain since no one wants to diet while on vacation. But the truth is that you can indulge and fully experience every plate…I mean place, without ruining a year’s worth of hard work.

By adding these six healthy tips to your travel routine, I promise you will be able to savor every moment of your trip without the nagging guilt of breaking from all your healthy habits.

Tip 1: Always carry healthy snacks with you. Airports, airplanes and vending machines do not offer healthy options and they’re tough on your wallet. By having healthy snacks handy you will make better choices and avoid overeating. Here are some of my favorite travel snacks: granola bars (watch the sugar content), trail mix with dried fruits and nuts, individual packets of nut butters (so delicious on fruit), whole-wheat crackers with reduced-fat cheese, dehydrated kale chips, dried coconut slices, and salmon/turkey jerky (look for brands with low sodium and no added preservatives). 

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Crazy for Caffeine

When people first see me for a consult they often tell me, very proudly, that they have cut caffeine from their diet. I always ask, why?

After a roller coaster of bad press, caffeine, found in its natural form in foods like coffee, tea leaves (green tea specifically), kola nuts, and cocoa beans (chocolate), has been proven to possess true health benefits. To be clear, natural caffeine is NOT the same as the synthetic form used in soft drinks, energy drinks, and medications.

According to coffee lovers all around the world and mounting research, caffeine sharpens your mind, provides a vital boost of energy, and makes you more alert. Most studies have found that 2-4 cups of coffee (300-400 mg) per day can:

  • Increase longevity in women
  • Protect against heart disease (Note: blood pressure increases with intake from caffeinated soft drinks, but not natural sources.)
  • Lower risk of breast cancer and type II diabetes

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Pumpkin Madness

It’s that time of the year again! Halloween is just around the corner and if you are thinking of making an awesome pumpkin carving here are some ideas on how to use the yummy pumpkin insides.

Idea #1: Make Oatmeal & Pumpkin Spice Balls. This snack/dessert is great for office gatherings, feeding hungry kids and can be enjoyed as a filling breakfast!

Portions: 24 balls

~ 90 calories/ 1.5 grams of fiber/ 2 grams of protein

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole, old fashioned oats
  • 1 cups of brown sugar
  • ½ cup of pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • 1/3 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts or raisins
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp of powdered sugar (optional)

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Spice Up Your Guac!

Avocados are my favorite fruit. I honestly can eat them with anything (or even on their own). That said, I can’t get enough guacamole! So, I decided to break down the infamous guacamole recipe.

Spicy Guacamole

Servings: to share.

Ingredients:

  • 4 avocados
  • ¼ white, medium-sized onion (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 ½ limes
  • 1 handful of cilantro
  • ½ medium-sized tomato (preferably organic or local)
  • ½ - 1 red chile serrano (optional, but delicious!)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Step 1: Mince white onion and red serrano. Place in a cup. Ahem, the Mexican flag with veggies…

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Doughnut vs. Fruit: Does it really make a difference?

I was once asked if a doughnut a day versus fruit really makes a difference? And especially, what happens if you are on a health-kick, doing really really well (eating fruits, veggies, drinking lots of water) and poof! it all starts failing again. What can you do to get back on track?

My answer still stands.

Point 1- An average doughnut (no glaze, no filling) has at least 200 calories and the average piece of fruit has 60 calories. Eating a doughnut every day increases your caloric intake by 140 calories, which is 4,200 additional calories a month. That’s approximately 1 pound of additional weight gain per month. In a year, you can add up to 12 pounds to your frame by making one dietary change. Therefore, one dietary change CAN make a difference to your overall health.

Point 2- Nutrition is not one dimensional. It is not based ONLY on what you ate for breakfast or what you put in your coffee. If you messed up at breakfast, don’t wait until the next day to fix it, just eat a healthier lunch! People always do weekly (or even monthly) resolutions saying, ‘Monday I will start my diet’ or 'I will start running by next month.’ When we “fail” (fyi- I abhor that word…), we tend to give up and say we’ll fix it later. So, instead of waiting a week or even a day, get back on track one meal at a time. It lessens the guilt and the pounds. Fix it at the next meal, it works!

Adapted from Girl Habits Interview.
Pic by uberculture on Flickr

Tortilla Española



When you think about a Tortilla Española or the Spanish Omelet, you don’t particularly think about how nutritious it is. But learning how to make it (in the midst of Hurricane Sandy) with my good friend Monica, I realized it wasn’t so bad after all!

Ingredients:

  • 6 small potatoes (red potatoes are best)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 7 medium eggs
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

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Sandy-Inspired Recipes: Huevos a la Napolitana

For those of you who are stuck indoors because of Hurricane Sandy, I wish you all the best during these next few days. And I hope these recipes keep you warm and healthy.

For all other readers- enjoy! 

The following recipe is probably the best egg dish I’ve ever tried in my life! Huevos a la Napolitana are light and fresh, and so easy to make. Thank you Monica for introducing me to this recipe! 

Servings: 4 

  • 3-4 medium-sized tomatoes 
  • 4 medium-sized eggs (preferably free range)
  • 2-3 TBS Olive oil 
  • Handful of fresh basil 
  • Salt & Pepper to taste 

Step 1.Cut tomatoes into small cubes as well as half the handful of basil into small strips. Heat 2 TBS of olive oil in a 10" saucepan and add tomatoes and basil at low heat for approximately 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soup-like. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. 

Step 2.Add whole eggs on top of tomatoes, making sure egg yolks stay intact. Cover immediatly and leave covered for 5-7 minutes or until the eggs reach the desired consistency (runny or fully cooked). 

Step 3.Splash the last tablespoon of olive oil before serving. Serve with a few slices of whole grain toast/baguette and a garnish with basil.  

Stay tuned for additional recipes!

My counseling hours are posted below. I am offering a complimentary 10-minute phone session for those interested in learning more about the nutrition programs.

  • Tuesday & Thursday: All Day. By appointment only. 
  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 6 to 9pm. By appointment only. 

Contact me at bushwicknutrition@gmail.com

While Traveling à la Pinterest

I recently went on vacation. My husband and I wanted to do it as the Europeans do it… so went for three weeks!

On our time off we visited inspiring places, breathed in the old (very old) and the new, and tried traditional as well as fusion foods. 

I also wanted to keep a mental and visual list of things we can all do while on vacation to fully experience each place (including all the rich foods and sweets drinks) without falling off the proverbial wagon of healthy eating or regular exercising. 

The following are some of the highlights with a few theories inserted in between.

(For more tips visit my “While Traveling” Pinterest page, which is sort of new and which I’m loving.)

Tip 1. Only eat two meals per day- indulge in a substantial breakfast and an early dinner- and feel free to try important local delicacies in between. When we travel, we tend to overeat. If you only eat two meals per day, you give yourself the opportunity (and space) to try regional foods without feeling overly stuffed. Important to note, this rule does not apply if your “delicacies” are a sundae at McDonald’s. 

Tip 2. Somewhat related to tip 1, but in order to “have your cake and eat it too” you need to 1.) have the smaller portion and 2.) share (your cake) whenever possible. 

Tip 3. Always take healthy snacks with you, or else you’ll end up with little to no choices. 

Tip 4. Drink water whenever you can. Try not to fill up on empty calories and save your calories to try new foods!

Tip 5. If you follow tip 1, your early dinner will provide more than enough time to walk after your meal. There is no better way to digest than walking and giving your body a time to catch up. Try to avoid eating too late, which will only disturb your sleep and make you feel bloated in the morning. 

For more tips, click here! 

I hope you’ve been enjoying the new Bushwick Nutrition. It is a practical, exciting, fun, tasty, and affordable tool to help you learn to love healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. 

NEW!! Follow me on Pinterest as I plunge into the complicated world of healthy eating while traveling. Expect a lot of olive oil and fresh food while I drive a rental Fiat through Italy and Greece! 

Tumblr posts will reconvene October 2nd. Subscribe to email notifications of new posts or simply through the RSS reader. The twice-a-week posts are short, informative and fun! 

In addition, starting in October, Bushwick Nutrition will be available for individual nutrition counseling at the Bushwick office or from the comforts of your own home, office, or by phone/gchat. Stay tuned for special fall program promotions!  

See you on Pinterest and stay healthy! 

Oh Canola Canola

So, initially, I was a huge supporter of canola oil because it’s one of the healthiest choices in terms of fat breakdown. It’s a good source of monounsaturated fats that can help reduce “bad” cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease. It’s also the richest cooking-oil source of ALA, the omega-3 fat that has been linked to heart health. But most importantly, it was my “go-to” oil since it is so versatile- the taste is neutral, it has a medium-high smoke point (meaning I can cook it above 300F unlike olive oil), and I could use it for baking as well as sautéing! But, when I finally got around to doing my research, I discovered a few disappointing facts:
  1. Canola is not a seed, plant, or nut; it’s a made up word composed from “Canada” and “Oil” i.e. Canadian Oil.
  2. It is, however, made from the rapeseed plant (part of the mustard family), which by nature can be toxic in large quantities, and engineered to be “canola.” Granted, since 1991, rapeseed production has shifted to rapeseed “double zero” that has low content of the toxin erucid acid. And canola oil is not genetically engineered like soy or corn oil, but selectively bred to enhance certain desirable traits, much like Fuji apples.
  3. Manufacturers say it is safe to use, but it has been linked to respiratory distress, constipation, anemia, irritability, and even Mad Cow Disease (rapeseed was being given as animal feed, until humans started getting sick). The research is a little iffy on this, so it’s simply speculation, but still!
  4. Rapeseed oils have been naturally used for industrial purposes such as insect repellent, lubricants, fuel, soap, plastics, and synthetic rubber. Yet canola is altered rapeseed oil.  
WHAT TO DO? I honestly do not buy canola oil anymore. This decision has led me to venture out and try other, more natural oils. If you have canola in your cupboard, don’t throw it out, but think about a healthier alternative on your next cooking oil-run. The below are equally versatile, healthy oils. They are listed from high (>400F) to medium smoke points:
  • Almond (high smoke)
  • Avocado (unrefined raw)
  • Hazulnut (very nutty)
  • Sunflower (high oleic)
  • Peanut (perfect for stir fry)
  • Sesame (nutty, keep refrigerated)
  • Walnut (high in omega-3)
  • Flaxseed (*no heat oil!) 

If you are interested in a 10-minute complimentary consultation, contact me at bushwicknutrition@gmail.com. Include your name, number, and best time to reach you. 
SoyaTech Cleveland Clinic  EatingWell The Skeptic Detective 
Snackin' Smart

Not because it’s summer, it means that we should give up on all our hard work during the long winter and spring months. On the contrary- this is the time we should continue our healthy habits and in the process, show off some skin! 

Some of the tricks, or strategies, I’ve found helpful for healthy snacking are the following!

1) First and foremost, snacking should have a purpose. Whether the purpose is to speed up your metabolism, avoid overeating, get a boost of balanced energy, control blood sugars, or help gain/maintain weight, make sure that your current snacking habits have a purpose.

2) A good caloric guideline is to not exceed 200 calories per snack. Oh, and a maximum of 3 snacks per day! 

3) Plan ahead. Preparation is key to healthy snacking (and eating, actually). Helpful tips are packaging your snacks in advance by using reusable containers, sandwich bags, or foil wrap. And as long as you practice safe cooking- it’s awesome to use leftovers! 

4) Redefine a healthy snack. Of course- it would be great if you could eat fruit and nuts as a snack, but when push comes to shove, maybe those options are not available (while traveling, stuck at work, etc). So, the next best thing is to eat a smaller portion of the unhealthier snack. 

Below are some healthful snacks- all below 200 calories. These are just some ideas to get you snackin’. 

The Sweet Stuff: 

  • 6 oz fat free frozen yogurt with 1 cup of fruit or ¼ cup of granola 
  • 2 rice cakes with 1 TBS nut butter  and 1 tsp of honey or Agave nectar
  • PB&J: 2 slices of reduced-calorie whole wheat bread with 1 TBS of nut butter and 1 tsp of jelly 
  • smoothie with 1 cup of rice/almond milk (unsweetened), 1 cup of fruit, and ½ cup of ice 
  • 1 medium banana with 1 TBS of nut butter and a few raisins
  • ½ cup of trail mix 
  • 1 cup of fruit 1 with 12 almonds, 12 cashews, 20 peanuts, 29 pistachio nuts
  • nutrition bars: Luna, Zone, Kashi, Kind 

A Salty Goodness:

  • 1 part skim string cheese with 1 small apple 
  • 1 cup of veggies (i.e. bell pepper strip, carrots, etc) with ½ cup of hummus 
  • 4 whole-wheat or 2 wasa crackers with ½ cup of cottage cheese
  • 2 TBS of guacamole or ½ cup of salsa with 1 oz of sprinkled cheddar cheese and 15 to 20 baked tortilla chips
  • 1 cup of edamame beans with salt to taste (do not pack tightly..)
  • 3 cups of light popcorn with 1 tsp of olive or flaxseed oil and salt to taste 

Inspired by J Schaeffer. Smart Summer Snacking. Today’s Dietitian. June 2012. 

What's in a label?

Truth. Reading a nutrition facts label can be daunting, or if anything confusing. Therefore, making healthy choices becomes not only harder but burdensome.

So, I broke it down for you. When you are in doubt, remember these simple steps and how they apply to you.

Food Item: Dairy-Free Veggie Pizza


1) Serving Size & Servings per Container.
This is an important piece of the puzzle, because it gives you the big picture. For instance, now I know that if I eat the whole pizza (not recommended…) I have to multiply it by 3, because there are 3 servings in one container.

2) Calories. As I mentioned in a previous post, calories are important, especially when it comes to weight management. If you are looking at this serving of pizza as a meal, it might be a good option (combined with a green salad, of course), but this particular food may be too high in calories to be considered a snack.

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