Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nutrition Nerd Alerts!

So excited today to have purchased my very own domain name!  And even more excited to get Nutrition Nerd Alerts up and running on a more regular basis.  I've been waiting for this for a long time!!!

More details coming soon!  Thanks for being so fabulous, nutrition nerds!

:) - Jenn
The Nutrition Nerd

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vegan "PB&J" Pancakes

I woke up this morning and wanted to write a blog.  I'm also on an intense budget this summer while my job at school is on temporary hiatus and I've been focusing on volunteer experiences instead of paid ones (SO worth it!).  So ... I decided to see what I could come up with from my pantry, fridge and freezer that is easy, quick and healthy to make (and FREE since it was with ingredients I already had!).

The first thing I found was my whole grain kamut pancake mix in the refrigerator that I needed to use by the end of this month (Do you store your whole grain flours in the refrigerator or freezer? You should!) I bought it to play around with different ingredient substitutions anyway, so this was the perfect opportunity to do something fun and creative.  If you don't have a mix to start with, this is a great vegan recipe where you can do your own substitutions or follow along as-is :)

The original recipe called for:
1/2 cup pancake mix
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup (+1 Tbsp) milk

I didn't want to use the last of my good local honey and had always wanted to remove the canola oil from pancake recipes ... and it hit me!  I'll substitute homemade blueberry jam a friend had sent me (thanks Teej!) for the honey and tahini leftover from a hummus recipe in place of the canola oil!  I wanted to try to keep this vegan (something I try to do at least once a week, in addition to Meatless Mondays) so the milk was out and water was in.

With my new recipe in hand I prepped my work station

and got to mixing.

I like my pancakes thick, but even this was too thick for me.  I added an extra 1/4 cup water and was ready to cook.

I used the lightest of sprays of olive oil and cooked until large bubbles formed on the top.  A quick flip and lightly browned the second side.

All done!

Played around with presentation (note to self: powdered sugar is easy to get everywhere when you only meant to sprinkle a little here and there!).

My favorite photo of the day is actually from my phone:

The final recipe:

1/2 cup pancake mix
1 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp blueberry jam
3/4 cup water (add up to 1/4 cup more if you like your pancakes thin)
olive oil spray
fresh/frozen fruit
cinnamon/nutmeg (freshly ground)
1/4 cup measure
Mix ingredients (with whisk or fork) until lumps in batter disappear.  Heat non-stick pan on medium-low.  Spray very lightly with non-propellant-based olive oil.  Pour pancakes from 1/4 cup measure into heated, oiled pan for perfect individual-sized cakes.

Cook on first side until top has large bubbles (about 3 minutes).  Flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes until lightly browned.  Top with fresh fruit or a small dab of jam used in the pancakes.

This creation is dedicated to the lovely Nutrishh, who will love the Malliard reaction reference :)

- Try not to mix too much past the point where the lumps disappear (not including the lumps created by using a chunky jam).  Working the gluten (protein in wheat) too much and cause the pancakes to be tough!  This is mostly a note for those using an electric mixer.
- You can easily omit the olive oil spray if you have a high-quality non-stick pan.  I am slowly diminishing this habit myself.
- The time for cooking pancakes depends on your pan, heating sources, and altitude.  These may need to be adjusted based on how long it normally takes to cook pancakes on your stove.
- Lightly browned (completed Malliard reaction for you nutrition nerds) is a good thing, but don't let the pancakes get too dark.  Starchy foods like pancakes can begin to form acrylamide (a carcinogen) if they get too dark.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Reduce Your Impact. Improve Your Health."

What a fantastic slogan.  It says so much by saying so little.  This is the slogan of the Environmental Working Group's 2011 Meat Eaters Guide - what an incredible resource.

First, did you know that lamb has a 50% larger (aka 1.5 times greater) carbon footprint than beef?  Although we often think of beef as the big bad culprit of agricultural carbon emission increases (and it still is due to the huge beef industry in the United States), it looks like we need to mind our lamb, too.

For the comparison of all protein sources (including a comparison of lamb and beef) - check out this detailed infographic.

And for those seeking even more info, there is a 25-page PDF that describes how they collected their data and general recommendations for improving your environmental impact while making smarter choices :)  My favorite facts compare reducing meat consumption to other environment-saving ideas.

So now that you know all this, what should you do?  Great tips from EWGNote:  For even better, earth-friendly sustainable seafood options - try this site from NRDC.

Please, please, please check out the guide.  The earth and your body thank you :)

- Jenn
The Nutrition Nerd

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I know that 90% of the world has seen this already.  But if you have not - check it out.  You will not be dissapointed.  There is truth to every joke.  Sometimes more truth than humor :)

Conan O'Brien's Dartmouth Commencement Speech - June 12, 2011

A few of the snippets that inspired me today:
"There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized."

"It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It's not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right - your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention."

"Whether you fear it or not, dissapointment will come. The beauty is that through dissapointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes true originality."

"Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen."

Here is a full transcript, too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nutrition Nerd Alert: National Artichoke Hearts Day!

Are you obsessed with artichokes like I am?  I lived in Los Angeles during part of my childhood until I was 12.  When I moved back for graduate school in 2007, it was one of the first things I bought at the farmer's market and cooked for myself that summer.  Artichokes used to intimidate me because they can be difficult to prepare.  I stuck to baby artichokes and artichoke hearts canned in water to add to antipastos and chop salads.  I tried repeatedly to steam them myself but always struggled to prepare them without losing half of the heart.  I was so traumatized over a ruined batch a few years ago that I did what I always do - consult my mom!  She studied horticulture in college and is a self-taught cook (her homemade bread or grilled, well, anything are not to be missed).  She's one of those people who have an idea for any question you can come up with.  She's incredible (Love you, Momm!!).  Thanks to her tips I've had the confidence to steam them myself ever since.

So why all the trouble to prepare the artichokes myself when I could buy them prepped already?  Well, for starters the Nutrition Nerd in me knows that fresh is better than processed vegetables (that includes the chopping and preparation needed to can artichokes and artichoke hearts).  Artichokes also increase their antioxidant capability (by up to 15 times) when steamed.  Antioxidant capability is just a fancy way of saying the antioxidants are more bioavailable (aka more active and effective).  Boiling, the second best option, can increase antioxidant capability by 8 times (still great!).

Some of my favorite artichoke heart nutrition facts:
  • Artichoke hearts naturally contain both vitamin C and iron.  That means you absorb this non-heme iron source better than from plants that do not contain vitamin C.  Add a squeeze of lemon to enhance this effect and brighten the inherent flavors, too!  Not too much, though, as too much acid tends to make artichokes taste bitter.
  • Artichokes contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are in the carotenoid antioxidant family.  That means artichokes are great for your eyes!  While artichokes are relatively fat-free, carotenoids are fat-soluble.  Paired with a light vinaigrette including a small amount of healthy oils will help absorb these eye-protecting wonder antioxidants!
  • Being from the thistle family, artichoke hearts contain silymarin.  Silymarin is an antioxidant known to be hepatoprotetive aka liver-protecting.  With its 10% of daily fiber, it's great for your digestion in other ways, including cholesterol reduction!
  • Talk about nutrition density!  For a minimal number of calories, artichokes also contain potassium, folate, phosphorous, and calcium.  Artichokes are also a good source of magnesium and chromium (meaning 10-19% of your daily value).  Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body.  Chromium enhances the activities of insulin, making it vital to diabetes prevention.
If you've ever had canned artichoke hearts (even if they're in spices and/or oil) - the flavor is nothing compared to freshly steamed artichokes.  They're also a great food for kids.  It's fun to peel off and eat the bits of the heart that remain on the leaves.  Just be careful of the "choke" - a sure sign that they are part of the thistle family.  In fact, they're a perfect green category addition to National Nutrition Month!  BONUS!

Artichokes grow wild in southern Europe to this day and have been cultivated in California since the 17th century (thank you Spanish settlers).  Originally, artichokes were deep fried and served to the noble class in ancient Rome.  They're even mentioned in Greek mythology!  Today, there are many healthier ways to serve them (although I have to say I'd love to try a fried one someday!).  Just over 80% of our artichokes in the US come from one place - Castroville, California.  Who wants to go with me to the Artichoke Festival in May?!

If you're new to artichokes, I recommend starting with the NY Times Recipes for Health link here.  Tips for selecting them at the farmer's market or grocery store are here.  It's a little early for seasonal artichokes, but there's plenty of time to learn a few tricks before they're ready for you!

Special note:  Thanks to my fellow RD-to-be classmate, Nancy, for inspiring me to write a Nutrition Nerd Alert today!  I've been wanting to start these for AGES.  They'll be shorter than this, normally, but I got too excited about artichokes :)

Peace, love, and nutrition,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Guest Post - Nutrition Round Up: The National Nutrition Month Edition (PART 1)

Factual Fridays Guest Post on Healthy Men Today (Friday, March 4, 2011)

PART 1: Add One New Color to Your Plate Every Week

Eat Right With Color. That is this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month. Over the month of March I’ll share some of my favorite tips that help make small changes in the colors of your plate that can lead to BIG benefits. This week’s post includes tips that can help you add one new color to your plate per week this month (that’s 4 extra servings of fruits and vegetables if you start this weekend!).

Half of Your Plate = Fruits and Veggies

The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines were released on January 31, 2011. As part of these guidelines, the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services released tips for consumers. Among these: make HALF your plate fruits and vegetables. You can do this in many creative ways. Here are a few of the tips that I have used to implement this in my life:
  • Adding seasonal fruit to breakfast every morning
  • Switching from a side salad at lunch to an entrée salad (more veggies, not more dressing)
  • Keep easily transported fruit (i.e. bananas, apples, pears, grapes, kiwis, citrus fruits) with you through the day for snacks
  • Focusing on a vegetarian entrée for dinner several nights a week
  • Shrinking meat portions (or replacing them with a plant-based protein)
  • Browse the produce aisle for easy pre-made fruit salads, chopped salads, and healthy veggie side dishes that you can take with you on-the-go
  • Try a new fruit or vegetable
What’s On Your Plate? Spin that Color Wheel

More than just overall fruit and vegetable tips, it’s important to focus on colors. Each color (green, orange/yellow, blue/purple, red, and white/tan/brown) provides unique benefits. Start by thinking about your typical plate for dinner. Does it include all of the colors of the rainbow (including the clouds at the end!)?

For a helpful list (and a really fun challenge for the month of March) see Inspired RD’s blog post from this week.

Completing that Rainbow

Once you’ve determined which color(s) is/are missing, pick a color to add this week. In addition to the tips above, you can also use resources that help you add color to your meals and snacks.

The simplest option is to add fresh produce to meals and snacks you already have planned. If you’re not sure where to start, try getting the smallest box at your local CSA as a trial box. This is a common practice for many CSAs and will help you experiment with fruits and vegetables you’ve never tried before. Even better, most CSAs include recipe ideas with their produce boxes. This is also a great opportunity to focus on local foods and help local businesses. Even if you live in a colder winter area, many of these CSAs are about to come out of hibernation!

Frozen produce is a great option if the fresh produce section of your local supermarket or a CSA is not an option. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great way to get added colors that may be hard to find in your area and have equivalent nutrition. This also means that you can find many foods year-round, reaping their benefits. Try organic when you can (usually only a marginal increase in price).

Canned fruits and vegetables are also an option. If you think this is the only change you will make, go for it! Any change is a good change. 

You can add a new recipe with the color you chose. There are many sites with healthy food recipes, but a few of my favorites are here, here, and especially here. There are great healthy snack ideas, too!

I hope this blog post helps you get started by trying at least one new fruit or vegetable this week (especially if it’s a color not normally on your plate). I hope you’ll share your adventures with me and keep adding a new color every week this month. In the coming weeks I’ll explore ways to help your kids eat more colorful plates, what all these colors in your foods mean, and how to sustain a more colorful plate beyond the month of March.

Happy eating!

Jenn Jackson, MPH 
The Nutrition Nerd

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What is your favorite food fact?

One of my favorite things is food facts!  What is your favorite?

The Nutrition Nerd