Friday, June 22, 2012

An apple a day and some other fruit...makes everyone a little healthier

After a couple of posts of doom and gloom...courtesy of sugar, soda and some harsh facts about where we are as a country, it is time to get busy eating a little healthier and feeling better about ourselves.

It is a fact that we are very much what we eat. As we load up on food considered as 'junk', our bodies react accordingly. Too much processed foods and sugars and we feel a high, then just as quickly we crash and feel tired, irritable and even depressed. Try grabbing a fresh apple, orange or banana the next time you are getting a craving for something sweet. Fruit is an excellent substitute and has some great benefits which can improve health, mood and give you that much needed energy.

Fruit has even more benefits then just being a healthy substitute. Eating fruit has been known to help fight certain types of cancer, espicially Colorectal Cancer, the reason being is that fruit helps aid in the health of the digestive tract. Antioxidants inside of the fruit work to prevent cell damage caused by Free Radicals, which are unstable molecules in our bodies. When the cells in the body become damaged by these molecules, the cells themselves begin to breakdown causing a chain reaction that left uncontrolled can cause severe damage to the body. If you want to find fruits loaded with antioxidants, look no further then these choices...

Pomegranate Seeds

Looking to lose a little weight, while trying to cut back on the refined and processed foods? You are in luck!! Fruit can also help you lose weight in many different ways. We get fiber and water from fruit, which helps to make us feel full, cutting back on those urges to eat foods that are not as good for the heart or the waistline. A medium size apple or cup of fresh blueberries is a great snack, plus it won't leave you feeling empty. It contains zero chemicals or artifical ingredients and the best part is that it contains less than 100 calories.

Looking for even more good ideas? How about a Spinach and Blueberry Salad or maybe a Watermelon Salad with a Lime Mint Vinaigrette? Both are super easy to make and are packed full of fresh fruits to keep you going all day long!!

Watermelon Salad With Lime Mint Vinaigrette

1  Medium sized, seedless watermelon
2  Limes
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1  Orange
1 Bunch Basil Leaves, Fresh
2 Tbs Honey

Start this one off by peeling the rind away from the watermelon. To do this cut the end off of one side, then slice the watermelon in half, placing the flat section down on a cutting board with the end being straight up. Place the other half off to the side. Using a sharp knife, begin to cut away the rind by cutting down across the outside. You will notice that the rind is white and turns to pink the closer you are to the fruit. Trim off all of the rind. Cut the watermelon into medium sized chunks. Discard any seeds. Place the cubed melon into a bowl. Peel the orange in the same manner and add these pieces into the same bowl as the melon.

In a separate bowl add together the oil and honey. Cut and then squeeze the juice of each lime into the bowl. Take the basil and chop thinly until you have about a 1/4 cup. Combine this into the bowl and add a small amount (1/4 tsp) of salt and pepper into the bowl as well. Mix together and taste. Add in more lime juice or honey to make it more tart or sweet, depending on your own tastes.

Pour the vinaigrette over the fruit and mix together by tossing. Use caution when mixing with a spoon, as it could break apart the melon. Serve alone or over a bed of mixed greens. You can add a variety of other items into the salad as well, such as Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts, Grapes, Strawberries or Almonds.

Take the other section of watermelon and serve it as slices for a nice dessert or use it to make an entirely new salad with some goat cheese sprinkled over the top.

Blueberry & Spinach Salad

1/2 Cup Sunflower or Olive Oil
1/4 Red Wine Vinegar
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Honey
1/2 tsp Salt
1 package or 10-12 oz Fresh Spinach Leaves
2 Tbs Goat Cheese
1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
1/2 Cup Toasted Pecans

In a bowl combine the first 5 ingredients and whisk together. Check the flavor and add more honey for sweetness or more vinegar to add some bite. Set the dressing aside. In a large bowl toss together the spinach, blueberries and pecans. Slowly pour the dressing over the top and toss gently. If you are not in the mood to toast your own pecans, they can be found in almost any supermarket. If you do want to make your own toasted pecans, the recipe is pretty simple. Heat your oven to 350 degrees, while that happens melt about 2 Tbs of butter in a micowave safe bowl, stir in about 1/2 Tbs honey and a few pinches of salt. Stir this together and add in the pecans. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Make sure the pecans are not clumped together. Toss the pecans once or twice while toasting. The whole process should take between 10-15 minutes. Let them cool and add to the salad. Crumble the goat cheese over the top and enjoy!

What to look for over the weekend and next week...fresh vegetables and the recipes to go with them, my first food journal and diet notes, herb gardening on your patio or deck, a wine review of Sonoma- Cutrer Chardonnay, Mind and Mood Foods, our new website and a whole bunch more!! As always your feedback is welcome and appreciated.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Are we really what we eat? Look in the mirror to find out!!

Thanks for stopping by!! I am sitting outside on what is going to be the hottest day so far this summer and at 8:30am on a Wednesday morning I could not be happier. It isn't always easy trying to figure out the path in life you want to take, however after almost 40 years on the planet I can say that being a husband, a dad, a chef and hopefully soon enough an author is pretty damn exciting.

I am not what some people would call a 'healthy' eater. If you fall into that category then I applaud your choices and determination. I want to say right now before you read any further, that I am not a dietitian or a nutrition expert. Having been a Chef for many years, working with an elderly population for several of those years, I do have some insight in what eating healthy is all about. The sobering fact is that inside of the United States we are not healthy and much of that comes from how we eat. Here is a listing of some of the more scary facts that are associated with where we are now...

The Healthy People Goal for 2010 was not met by any state. The goal was to have obesity rates at or below 15%. The failure of this can be magnified by the fact that the closest state to achieve this goal was Colorado with a 21% rate of obesity.

In 2000, not one state had an obesity rate over 30% by 2009, 9 states went over the 30% mark with several more states at or over 28%

Here in the northeast, we range around 24%, in MA we fall slightly below that at 23% and if you live up north in NH you fall slightly higher at 25%

Obesity can lead to several health problems not limited to Type 2 Diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, heart disease, stroke and even death.

How about walking in these?
Are all these problems just because we went out and ate that cheeseburger and didn't run a pair of 5K's each day? Absolutely not!! It doesn't matter if you count calories, add more proteins or cut your carbs down. The secret is eating in moderation, controlling portions and yes...getting some real exercise, even if it means just going for a 20 minute brisk walk each day. For myself the first step was going from a few 20oz bottles or more of soda, down to 1 or 2 12oz cans each day. It meant giving up the Dunkin Donuts drive-through and eating a bowl of cereal. The biggest change I have
made is the addition of walking almost everyday. It is hard for me to admit, at my heaviest, I weighed 267 pounds. Back in my high school and college days, I had a 29 inch waist...I didn't have that when I was 267!! Happily I have lost over 20 pounds by being smarter and I have set a goal for myself to be back below 225 pounds by the time I go on vacation this coming October. People in my life have been equally successful at losing weight and being healthier, like I whatever will work for you to be healthier. I know that my wife and kids want nothing more than to keep me around for years to come. Beginning Friday, the 22nd of June I am going to post a daily food journal, this way you can see that it is not always easy to eat better while preaching about doing it. I am also going to be writing about some ways that you can improve on your own eating habits.

Coming on Friday...Chef Seans Food Journal along with some tips on how eating fresh fruit helps you be healthier, including a pair of delicious fruit recipes that are super easy to make as well as being wallet friendly!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

To Drink A Soda...Or Not To Drink A Soda, Thats The Question!!

Sometimes when I come up with an idea or when a random thought gets stuck in my head, it makes sense for me to write about it. Being new at writing and trying to figure out my style is always somewhat of a treat, or nightmare if you are the poor soul who is tasked with editing my thoughts. I have noticed that many posts do not in fact even include recipes, which is ok. Food and the ideas that swirl around the world of the before mentioned food is not always about what to cook for dinner.

Today for example is an attempt at being more healthy! As the title implies, I want to talk about soda or whatever you may call it. Before I even begin talking about the things I have been learning about, I have to go on record as saying that I am a fan of soda. In fact over the years my breakfast has consisted of a Pepsi and a Snickers Bar (please insert respective name branding and copyright materials here). My local Dunkin Donuts knows me by the order I place almost everyday while the baby and I are out doing stuff together. I pull up to the speaker and get a bottle of Pepsi along with a cup of ice and I am smiling for the next several hours.

Here is where life takes a turn though. This coming July I am turning 40 years old. Most days this is just a number for me, I really dont care about my age and have never liked the birthday party idea. These last few weeks have got me to thinking about my overall health. I am not 25 years old running around NYC having fun each night of the week...nope these days I am all about the kids, my much better half and getting to bed at an early hour so I am not sleeping all day long. Yard work takes a little longer and the thought of running around after a newborn child has me staring in the mirror at my stomach. This is the same stomach that my daughter enjoys curling up on to fall asleep.

Here is my idea. I am going to cut my own personal soda consumption by extreme measures and post about it here and over on Facebook. Over the space of a month I am going to see if it makes a difference in how I feel and how I look. During this time I am also going to be eating some healthier choices and at the very least trying to exercise each day. There will be no trainers shouting at me and no gyms for me to work out at. I am going to do this by myself and see what happens.

Time to bring out the food journal, put down that 12 ounce can of goodness and pick up that bottle of water. Time to say hello to my scale and sneakers, along with a hearty wave to the streets each day as I go walking.

Decide on your own what is healthy for you. It is not for me to decide what or how anyone should eat or live their lives. If you happen to be similar to me and wonder sometimes about the effects soda has on your body, please keep on reading through these facts. Consuming anything these days could be bad for you...lets face it, we hear all the time about what is good and bad. Practice moderation and make smart choices. When it comes to soda...this is my way of making a smart choice.

Did you know...

~  People who drink soda regularly are more susceptible to gaining weight. A 12 ounce can of soda can have up to 9 teaspoons of sugar. Combined with the fact that many of us have more then one can of soda per day, this extra sugar known as 'empty calories' increases the chance of obesity.

~  Drinking more than one can of soda per day can lead to a condition known as Metabolic Syndrome. This is a grouping of conditions that includes high blood presssure, an increase in blood cholesterol levels and insulin resistance which could lead to diabetes.
~  Caffeine much like other addictive substances, is found in many soda varieties. The addiction causes people to drink more and more soda throughout the day. Withdrawl symptoms can include headaches or go as far as causing nausea and other flu like symptoms.
~  Soda contains not only caffeine but also phosphoric acid. These both can be hazardous to bone health because they remove calcium directly from your bones.
~  When you drink a soda to quench your thirst, you actually become thirstier. This is because of the sugars and caffeine. Soda is a diuretic and causes an increase in urine production by the body.

So again, what does this all mean at the end of day before you head off to bed? Perhaps by reading this, you will take a few minutes to regulate your own soda intake or maybe you will, like most people continue drinking away. For me though, it is time to take a small step forward and become healthier...not just for me, but for my children, my wife, my family and friends...all of them want me around for the long run!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

I am a mad scientist in need of test subjects...

So writing is going great, new recipes and ideas are flowing freely and summer sunshine is finally back. While doing all this fun work and finding a renewed sense of myself and my dreams, a small problem has crept up from some dark corner...
Who can I test all this food on?

I have tons of recipes that are just waiting for a hungry soul to arrive and begin eating. The kicker is that in order to do all this while sitting at home, I have to make all my family and friends eat the food. By the time I get through a couple of hundred recipes...everyone is going to be the size of a house. I have and plan on making some very healthy choices for the book and school.

Watermelon Salad With Lime and Mint Vinaigrette
Apple and Cranberry Salad
Grilled Salmon With Orange & Basil Relish
Pan Seared Sole With Zucchini Slaw

(However, good food sometimes means it isn't all low-fat either)

Fall Harvest Pumpkin Bisque
Applewood Bacon Wrapped Scallops
Whiskey Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Cinnamon and Sugar Duck Breast

So, if anyone reading is feeling kind of hungry and wants to volunteer some time towards eating...please let me know!! My other plan which is a new idea as part of the school, would be to develop the ideas and recipes as part of the schools' fund raising program. Preparing the food and serving it at tasting stations inside the dining room. People attending would get score cards to evaluate the different variations of the foods. I know all this is still in the dream phase, it just seems like a really good time to me!! Although, I could just post all these delicious recipe ideas online over at facebook and see what people think of them, Anyone have an opinion on where to start or when you want to eat?