If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a simple gal with simple taste. Basically, I want healthy food that tastes good, but doesn’t take forever to create. I came across some frozen shrimp while grabbing ice earlier and it put me in the mood for seafood. I’m a fan of trying new new flavors, but almost always include my standbys of garlic, salt and pepper.
On a nutritional note, I have a personal mission of eating at minimum- 1 cup of leafy greens a day. Regular intake of leafy greens has been found to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and dementia. Today I combined shrimp with spinach, anise seed and leftover rice. Anise has a lovely licorice-like flavor that really complimented the shrimp and spinach. Let me tell you- it was delightful! Below is the recipe:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. anise seeds
15-20 baby shrimp
2 cups frozen spinach
1 cup cooked rice
salt & pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Using a medium sized skillet, heat olive oil to medium heat.
- Add shrimp, garlic and anise seeds and sautee for 5 to 7 minutes until shrimp is opaque.
- Add cooked rice and frozen spinach. Cook for another 3 minutes until spinach is bright green.
- Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese.
Makes 2 servings. Recipe can be doubled or tripled to feed a bigger crowd.
Gone are the days of Barbie lunch boxes and Dora thermos. I have teen age girls now. In 12 years of being in school, they have never bought their lunches. Not because I didn’t let them. I was lucky that they typically liked what I packed in their lunch and never had to deal with chicken nuggets or pizza. We saved those battles for dining out.
These days are different. One has gone through a vegetarian phase while the other is suffering with orthodontic pain having had her braces tightened. It was easy to pack their lunches when they were little. But until they are able to drive and spend money on groceries (no times soon, unfortunately), we parents are still in charge of what goes in their lunch boxes.If your child does have braces, it can make eating a really unpleasant experience (for both of you)!
Here are a few ideas if your child has braces since they can’t live on just fruit cups!
- Yogurt- if your child will eat Greek yogurt, this is a lower sugar option with a thicker texture. It has more protein, which will fill them up between meals. If they’re not fond of Greek yogurt, get them traditional, blended yogurt without fruit chunks.
- Bean or lentil soup- this is a great option for both the vegetarian and kid with braces. It’s high in fiber and protein and you can make a big batch and freeze it if needed. Soup can be pureed or further processed to make “chewing” easier.
- High calorie supplements- I am normally not a “meal replacement” person, but if your kid absolutely cannot chew, this will get therm through the morning until they can resume oatmeal or toast. Ensure Plus, Boost or a store brand will do in these cases. Try different flavors to keep things interesting.
- Fruit cups- get a variety- applesauce, fruit cocktail, diced peaches or pears, etc. Pineapple not welcome right now!
- Nut or seed butters like Justin’s or 88 Acres. While your child might not be able to chew toast, soft crackers like saltines might be tolerated OK with a smooth nut butter.These come in convenient pouches that can be packed in your child’s lunch and eaten as part of a meal or for after school snack.They’re a great source of protein and healthy fat.
- Pudding- yeah, I recognize this is “dessert”, but when your child needs calories, let them eat what they can!
I wrote this post on community gardens for Today’s Dietitian’s “RD lounge”. My mom had a tiny garden in our yard when I was a kid and I loved having fresh basil and tomatoes at our fingertips. Sadly, my yard is not conducive to gardening. We have a small, shaded plot of land that the neighborhood deer run through often.
If you’re not traditionally a gardener, this is a great place to meet people, start a plot and learn from other gardeners that know the ropes. Check out https://www.civicgardencenter.org/ in Cincinnati to find a community garden near you!
Get Cooking in Community Gardens
Could your brain cells be the next weapon to fight the obesity epidemic? Scientists from the UK believe it could happen. With over 30% of the population defined as obese and between 15-20% of children and teens in this category, the discovery is welcome news. Nicholas Dale, a neuroscience professor in Warwick and his team discovered a group of cells called tanycytes that talk to the brain directly and tell it to stop feeling hunger. Tanycytes are glial, non-neuronal cells found in the hypothalamus that may control body weight and energy levels. The cells have been discovered to control satiety, the feeling of fullness, based on certain nutrients in our food.
Scientists already knew that tanycytes could find glucose in cerebrospinal fluid, but new studies find that essential amino acids can trigger these cells to make us feel less hungry. Calcium imaging was used to make cells fluorescent and easier to track in vivo. Several essential and non-essential amino acids were added to the brain cells. Tanycytes reacted to lysine and arginine, two essential amino acids, by sending signals to the hypothalamus which controls appetite. After deleting genes which detect umami (savory) taste in mice, scientists discovered that tanycytes did not respond to the amino acids.
The scientists concluded that amino acids are identified by umami taste receptors, and coordinate the relationship between amino acids and the brain. Umami is responsible for savory taste in humans and most non-aromatic amino acids in rodents. According to professor Dale, “Amino acid levels in blood and brain following a meal are a very important signal that imparts the sensation of feeling full.” 1
Sources of lysine and arginine include meat, poultry, avocados, apricots, almonds, lentils, mackerel and plums. These foods could possibly make us feel fuller sooner. The scientists suggest that dietary interventions could alter hypothalamic brain circuits responsible for appetite. Research shows that tanycytes can make new neurons and can be remodeled by dietary interventions. 2 While more research is needed, it certainly can’t hurt to add lentils to your diet a few times per week, almonds, plums or apricots as snacks and fatty fish like mackerel into your meal plan. Add avocado to salads or sandwiches as well.
1. Greta Lazutkaite, Alice Soldà, Kristina Lossow, Wolfgang Meyerhof, Nicholas Dale. Amino acid sensing in hypothalamic tanycytes via umami taste receptors. Molecular Metabolism. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molmet.2017.08.015.
2. Timothy Goodman and Mohammad K. Hajihosseini. Hypothalamic tanycytes—masters and servants of metabolic, neuroendocrine, and neurogenic functions. Front Neurosci. 2015; 9: 387.
If you’ve been hearing a lot about “taking care of your gut”, it has more to do with the inside of your abdomen than the paunch many Americans may be worried about losing before bikini season. Your gut, or biologically speaking, intestines, are the home to millions of strains of bacteria known collectively as microbiota or the gut microbiome. And just like snowflakes, everyone’s gut microbiota is uniquely different.
The bacteria in our guts is responsible for metabolizing nutrients from food, acting as a protective barrier against infections in the intestine and making fat-soluble vitamin K, which is needed to help make proteins that help clot blood. In addition, researchers are just scratching the surface about how the microbiome may impact health conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer. 1
There are several factors that influence your gut microbiota including age, diet, genes, environment and medications, in particular antibiotics, which can significantly alter gut bacteria. Of these factors, diet may be the most controllable.
Microbes thrive on various components of food such as fiber. Some microbes make compounds that seems to keep us healthier, while others produce substances that may worsen our health. For example, a scientific study found a link between pediatric obesity and antibiotic use early in life. Research has shown that in mice, a diet high in fat increases gut permeability and raises gut absorption of endotoxins that foster weight gain, inflammation, obesity and diabetes. 2
Our gut microbiota is very complex and it’s difficult for scientists to identify which bacteria would be the most beneficial in preventing disease. According to Dr. Hohmann, who works in infectious diseases division at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, a few dietary tweaks may make a big difference, though gut microbiota change slowly over time and not overnight. She suggests adding the following foods to our diets:
- Fermented foods that contain natural probiotics include miso, yogurt, kefir and kimchi. Sauerkraut and pickles are also fermented, but may need to be limited in those with high blood pressure due to high sodium content.
- High fiber, complex carbohydrates such as beans, lentils, whole grain breads, cereals and grains such as barley, bran, bulgur, farrow and quinoa. The more variety of plant-based foods, the more diverse our bacteria become. 3
While it may be tempting to take an over the counter pro-biotic and call it a day, scientists suggest that probiotics do not typically change the gut microbiota on a permanent basis. Research indicates that a few strains of probiotics have been found to modify the gut, but once they’re stopped, the gut microbiome may reverse back to its previous state. Probiotics may be useful in treating loose stool related to antibiotic use, but for the most part, the data of their effectiveness is not very convincing. 4
Until research proves otherwise, our best bet for a healthy gut is to eat a high fiber, plant-based diet with fewer servings of high fat animal foods, salt and refined carbohydrates. This will not only improve the inside of our guts, but may also give us a more flattering gut on the outside.
- Kei E Fujimura, Nicole A Slusher, Michael D Cabana, and Susan V Lynch, PhD Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435–454.
- Cani P. et. al. Diabetes 2008; 57: 147-81.
- Mary Ellen Sanders. How do we know something called “Probiotic” is really a probiotic? A guideline for consumers and health care professionals. Functional Food Reviews 2009: 1; 3-12.