Spicy gingerbread cake for rainy day baking

October 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

Like most (though not all) of the known universe, I am a sucker for baked goods, and I have a definite sweet tooth.  This is the main reason I don’t bake very much at all – if I don’t bake it, I won’t have it around to eat.  If I do bake it, I try to wrap up at least half of it in tinfoil and a ziplock and put it in the freezer immediately, so it’s not readily available.  (But it defrosts quite nicely if I need it)  Doing this, like getting half of your restaurant meal wrapped up before you even start eating, is one of those obnoxious health-fanatic pieces of advice that we hear over and over again and that can turn out to be surprisingly difficult to put into practice (not to mention kind of annoying, I mean, who wants to be that person).  But, study after study shows that if a food is right there you’re far more likely to eat it, even if you’re not hungry.  And, the more food you have around you the more you’ll eat.  Interestingly, willpower has almost nothing to do with it!  This is because willpower comes from the conscious control part of our brain, while our response to the sight and smell of food in front of us happens in the part of our brain we have no control over.  Our biology is set up so that if there is more food and a greater variety around, we actually physically have to eat more in order to feel satisfied!  This means that the claim food companies make that eating should be only about personal responsibility, so they shouldn’t be regulated, is a bunch of hooey.  But, in places where we do have control, for example what foods we keep around in our house, it makes it all the more important to focus on good, real foods. « Read the rest of this entry »

How to cook random greens: method 1

September 18, 2009 § 8 Comments

I think it’s a fairly safe thing to say that virtually all of us know we’re supposed to be eating more vegetables. It’s become a cultural mantra: “eat your veggies.” And, at the very top of the list, the most hallowed of vegetable choices, are the leafy greens…you know, the very ones most people push to the side of the plate with a skeptical look as they turn to food choices that are, well, less green.

The reputation of leafy greens as a super food is actually pretty well deserved. They’re a good source of about 90% of the various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and such and so, that help the body function. Need vitamin A? Leafy greens! Need iron? Leafy greens! Need potassium? Leafy greens! Need xeaxanthin? Leafy greens! (I know we all spend a lot of time musing about how to get more xeaxanthin in our diets…In case you’re wondering, it helps prevent eye damage as you age.) More important than the nutrients, in my opinion, is that overall diet patterns that include lots of leafy green veggies tend to be associated with better health. Plus, they’ve got lots of fiber to keep everything in your system, ahem, moving.

In general we’re failing miserably to include enough greenery in our diets. We are trying though. Broccoli, is by far and away the most frequently chosen green. I recently saw some analysis of national sales data, showing that broccoli consumption is something like 13 times higher now than in 1960. But there’s so much more to the leafy green category than broccoli – or spinach for that matter, in spite of the persistent message of Popeye – however it seems that most of the greens out there are intimidating to people. I have friends who are good cooks, have even studied nutrition, yet they cower when they are faced with kale or collards. « Read the rest of this entry »

Cocktail Party Nutrition-Bite (or, the devious ways nutrition can be used to justify eating almost anything)

September 2, 2009 § 1 Comment

At a party, or almost any social situation, when people find out that you study nutrition you instantly become a resource to answer burning questions about the most recent health headlines or dietary controversy. I appreciate this, but I also find it frustrating that nutrition seems confusing and controversial to so many people because, at its most fundamental, what we can say about nutrition so far is pretty simple (borderline dull!): eat a variety of minimally processed foods in reasonable amounts; avoid tons of sugar and manufactured foods; and (this is my own philosophy that has yet to be scientifically proven, but I’ll put it in for good measure) allow yourself to enjoy what you’re eating, taking some time to savor it.

That said, one of my favorite “party tricks” is to share some tasty scientific morsel about a nutrient in a particular food so that we can pretend it’s a healthier choice than it probably is (some of the foods I scientifically justify are, indeed, healthy choices, but they’re still not super-duper-amazing-cure-all foods, even if their labels or some tag line in a women’s magazine claim they are). One of my friends once told me that one of her favorite things about me was the way I could justify eating ice cream or a bacon cheeseburger with a flourish (I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this being considered one of my best attributes, but that is as it is…) Don’t worry, I then try to put the food back in context, which is more than the headlines usually do. So, as part of this blog, I plan on sharing some of my favorite “cocktail party nutrition-bites”, and without further ado I’ll begin with one of my favorites: ice cream. « Read the rest of this entry »

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