Archive for November, 2011

1)   46 million turkeys are raised every year just for this holiday alone.

The turkeys on our tables are fed incredibly high-calorie diets so that they grow much larger than any wild turkey would, and at an unnaturally fast rate.  Today’s farm raised birds become so top heavy that their legs can barely hold them. Their

beaks and toes are cut so that they don’t scratch each other. Modern factory-farmed turkeys cannot even breed naturally due to all of their malformations. All turkeys we buy in the supermarket rely on artificial insemination to reproduce.

2)   Turkeys carry creepy pathogens. There’s this bug called campylobacter. It’s the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States. Campylobacter is a dangerous little critter, estimated to infect more than 2.4 million Americans each year. Turns out a whopping 90 percent of turkeys produced in America are contaminated with our friend Mr. Campylobacter.  This is a consequence of birds being housed in super crowded cages with less than three square feet of space to move and being regularly dosed with antibiotics.

3)   Antibiotics: Turkeys produced on factory farms are fed a disturbingly large quantity of antibiotics as a routine preventive measure to ward off illnesses between them and to accelerate growth.  When you eat turkey, those antibiotics don’t suddenly disappear-they are transferred directly to you.  This is scary because when you ingest unnecessary antibiotics by eating Mr. Gobble-Gobble, your own healthy intestinal bacteria get wiped out, making you less able to fight off diseases. Oh, and the bacteria that the drugs are designed to kill eventually morph into stronger, more powerful versions of themselves.  Scarily, these bugs can transform into superbugs in which we, nor the turkeys, can form a natural resistance.

4)   Turkeys are full of synthetic hormones: the turkeys sold in supermarkets are routinely pumped full of artificial hormones to promote muscle growth, and those hormones are passed directly to you if you eat it.  That might sound good to all the bodybuilders I know are reading this article, but actually our bodies work hard to keep a natural balance of hormones in our circulation and eating animal products treated with hormones equals trouble for this healthy balance.  Excess hormones increase your risk of cancer.

5)   More toxins in turkey: eat turkey and you will be getting a nice helping of dioxin too.   Dioxin happens to be one of the most toxic chemicals known to science and is recognized as a cancer-causing demon among the scientific community.  It is estimated that 93 percent of our exposure to dioxin comes through eating animal products.

It’s hard to believe that a seemingly “harmless” bird could contain all this junk, right? I find it hard to believe myself.  If you want to eat a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving, I will encourage you to load up on all of the other delicious Thanksgiving meal alternatives instead.  Savory sweet potato pie, roasted vegetables, a hearty vegetable stew, cranberry relish, and berry cobbler are dishes that I look forward to. So even though eating turkey might not be the best idea considering the pathogens, dioxin and all that jazz, I’m still a big foodie and am looking forward to some good holiday eatin’ and my adrenaline rush inducer of choice (aka working out the next day!).


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If you’ve talked to me before, you know that I stick to my own philosophy and nutrition approach. Before that, I shifted to many strategies in order to best target these 3 main objectives: health, workout performance (supporting my training), and body composition (keeping lean and optimizing fat loss). One element that has always been a key to my success is my happiness as it relates to my diet. It’s not just about carbs and proteins and calories – it also has to be about whether or not, on a whole host of levels you actually enjoy your diet. Call me crazy but I want to enjoy preparing and eating my super clean healthy food.

Food is not just an energy source. Food is also about enjoyment, creativity, expression and social interaction. We should enjoy the creative process of preparing our meals as much as we enjoy eating them and sharing them with our friends and family.

So having these 4 goals in mind: health, workout performance, body composition and happiness, I have decided to sticking to my nutrition approach is the best way to go!

Every once a while I will be posting my own thoughts and talking to you guys on a personal level, but for a start here is a quick sum up the rules to my approach:

1. Eat as much foods and avoid processed food as much as possible.

2. Eat as many fresh veggies as possible.

3. Complex carbs and fruit in moderation.

4. Try to include protein in every meal. This does not mean that you have to eat meat with every meal. You can use a protein supplement or you  can get your protein from other whole food sources.

5. Drink water as your go-to beverage. Avoiding processed foods also means avoiding artificial sweeteners and soft drinks.

6. Dairy in moderation.

7. 1-2 glasses of dry red wine a night if you so choose.

If the word “moderation” throws you into a fit of panic and uncertainty – relax. This is about balance so eat for energy not for storage. Most portion sizes are huge. I often easily split a single restaurant portion meant for just 1 person. Use your hands to measure your portions and you won’t go wrong.

As a general rule:

1. Meat portions should be the size of the palm of your hand (2 palms for guys).

2. Veggies – 2 hands cupped together (but basically you can eat as many veggies as you like).

3. Bread – 1 slice of whole wheat bread per meal.

4. Potatoes ,Pasta, Rice, Oats etc – 1 cupped hand (cooked).

5. Fruits – I enjoy fruit 1-2x per day – a piece in the morning and a piece for a snack later in the day.

Cheat days are out – moderation will also apply towards deserts and sweets. I am not in the habit of eating deserts on a regular basis anyway, and I may choose to enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate with my coffee now and then. Obviously you have to strike a balance between your diet and your goals, but we can enjoy a treat now and then.

So to sum up this post:  Use your hands to control your portions and everything in moderation. For a list of superfoods, make sure to check out the recipe tab!

Have a great weekend everyone 🙂

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For those who do not make bread every weekend or have an obsession with baking cakes, it is important to know the difference between all-purpose flour, pastry flour and cake flour.

First, what’s the same about all these flours is that they are all made from wheat. What makes them different is how they are milled, what kind of wheat they’re made from, and even what time of year the wheat was actually harvested. But what it really all boils down to is the protein content.

Protein content is directly related to how much gluten can be formed using that particular flour. Gluten helps create the structure and determine the texture in your final baked good. Flours with low protein contents will generate less gluten and flours with high protein content will create more.

To get the light and airy structure of cakes such as Angel Food cake, you want flour with very little protein. But to form the dense chewy structure of bread, you want flour with a lot of protein so that you can create as much gluten as possible.

Here is the approximate protein content of all the common types of flour:

  • Bread Flour: 14 – 16%
  • All-Purpose (AP) Flour: 10 – 12%
  • Pastry Flour: 9%
  • Cake Flour: 7-8%

The exact protein content varies by brand, region, and also by country. However, the name given to the flour is usually an indication of how it’s intended to be used. If you’re having trouble with a recipe written by someone in another country, try to figure out the protein content of the flour they’re using and then find your local equivalent.

Substituting flours with different protein contents can get a little tricky. For most intents and purposes, you’re safe using pastry and cake flour interchangeably. You can also always use all-purpose flour for either pastry or bread flour.

If all you have is all-purpose flour, you can approximate cake and pastry flour by adding 2 tablespoons of corn starch to a cup of AP flour. Likewise, you can bump up a flour’s protein content (and it’s gluten potential) by adding a few tablespoons of vital wheat gluten.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me!

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I’m hooked on “The Biggest Loser” TV show. Maybe because I get to watch lives being transformed and new behaviors shaped or because I feel gratified that these changes are a result of improvements in nutrition and exercise, areas in which I have expertise in, rather than the promise of a fad diet, magic pills or surgery as a solution. But I was always so curious about what goes on behind the scenes. So you can imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to learn from the dietitian and the medical physician for the show at a conference held in Chicago last year.

First off, they both admitted upfront that one of the reasons the people lose so much weight consistently is because of their new environment. All the barriers that usually exist to behavior change (job/life stresses, family and friends, lack of time, lack of knowledge about what to do) have been removed. Their new job is to exercise, learn about good nutrition habits, and practice them every day. This is one of the keys that contributed to their success. They get enough time in the new environment that once they leave they have enough knowledge and motivation to keep it going. Essentially, they transform their lifestyle.

Biggest Loser Diet

  • 45-30-25: Modified 45% of calories from carbohydrates (mostly fruits, vegetables and some whole grains), 30% of calories from protein, and 25% of calories from healthy fats or oils (seeds, nuts, avocado, olive oil)
  • Whole foods, elemental ingredients
  • 4-3-2-1: daily 4 cups minimum of fruits and vegetables, 3 servings of healthy proteins (e.g. fish, skinless chicken breast, 93% lean ground turkey), 2 servings of whole grains, and 1 serving of healthy fat.
  • Aim to have 1 serving of fish daily.
  • 1 optional treat per day.
  • Cereals must contain a minimum 5 grams of fiber per serving and less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. This limits the cereals to certain oatmeals, bran cereals, or other high fiber cereals on the market.
  • Goal of 7 calories per pound of body weight for daily caloric intake. This is recalculated after significant weight loss.

Participants are provided with calorie counting resources and a food and exercise diary which they must maintain daily. This helps to raise awareness of past behaviors and develops an understanding for calorie balance through diet and exercise.

Their diets are analyzed daily by the show’s nutritionist. The nutritionist reported a 70% adherence to the diet. The nutritionist also reported as a result of the diet, the contestants experience decreased risk for diabetes because the measure that is used to diagnose diabetes decreases from “at risk” to a healthy range.

Biggest Loser Exercise

  • A goal of 7 hours per week of exercise
  •  Incorporate weight training, coaching, teamwork, and competition

What a Typical Week at the Ranch Consist of

Before getting started, participants undergo extensive medical tests, including a physical, stress test, DEXA (to measure accurately percent body fat and lean mass), and “Bod Pod” (to measure resting metabolic rate). Participants also undergo psychological evaluation and the support network at home is briefed on the program so they know what to expect when the person returns home.

All participants get a full nutrition consult, including a week of food journals review. They discuss any GI symptoms they are having as well as eating schedules and cooking and shopping strategies.

Common Characteristics

In 3 seasons, they found many common characteristics, including:

  • No idea of the number of calories they need or what they actually consume
  • Most skip breakfast and snacks and let a long time go between meals
  • Most consume very little fruits and vegetables
  • Most are not getting enough protein, and what they do get is high in saturated fat
  • Most get very little whole grains
  • Most have too much refined flour and sugar
  • Little planning of meals, mostly on-the-go eating and dining out
  • Most were meeting their daily caloric needs through beverages alone (e.g. caloric sodas, juices and fruit punch)
  • Many consume very little water
  • Nearly all reported limited to no exercise
  • Nearly all prioritize everything and everyone else in their life ahead of their own health

I found that list to be insightful. It is easy to see why they are struggling with their weight when you look at behaviors they have in common. The goal of the Biggest Loser, just like any other actual weight loss program, to restructure that lifestyle and get them on the path to better health and wellness.

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Many of my clients who are trying to lose a few pounds are telling me about how wonderful these cranberry raisins are. But are they really worth it?

Answer: It is true cranberries are almost a perfect diet food, as they are high nutrition while being low carb, low calorie, and high fiber. Unfortunately cranberries are so tart that most people don’t like them “in the raw” form. As a consequence, most commercial cranberry products are loading them with sugar. This is especially true of dried cranberries, and that changes them from a very low carb fruit to a high carb choice.

Now, some people tolerate sugar better than others. For those people, the calories are probably more important. But for people who do well on low carb diets, avoiding extra sugar is one of the most important goals.

That’s actually what inspired me to figure out a way to try to make dried cranberries using artificial sweetener. It turns out that due to the soluble fiber in them, which attracts water, it was a bit tricky to figure out how to do it. But I came up with a way that works, and it isn’t difficult but very time consuming.

Sugar-Free Dried Cranberries

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 6-8 hours!


1 bag (12 oz) fresh whole cranberries

1 Cup sugar substitute

1/2 C water


1. Preheat oven to 200 F.

2. Put cranberries in large skillet, and pick through to remove soft and/or brown ones.

3. If sweetener is powdered, dissolve in water. Pour over cranberries and stir.

4. Heat on medium high until cranberries pop, about 4-5 minutes. Stir every minute or two. When all seem popped, turn off the burner and let them cool for 10 minutes.

5. Squish them down with the back of a large spoon. Don’t worry if it seems they are melding together. Let cool another 5 minutes or so.

6. Cover baking sheet with three layers of paper towels and a piece of parchment paper.

7. Spread cranberries on the parchment. Have faith — they will mostly “individuate” again as they dry. If unpopped ones remain, squish them down now.

8. Put in oven and turn heat down to 150 F.

9. In 2-4 hours, replace parchment and flip paper towels over. (You don’t have to do this, but it speeds up the process.)

10. Start checking after 6 hours. Total time depends upon humidity and other factors. It usually takes me about 8 hours. It also depends on whether you want to dry them to the point where they still have some “give” or whether you like them “crispier”.

11. Separate them, and store covered (zip-type bags work well).


The whole recipe has 25 grams of effective carbohydrate and 16 grams of fiber.

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Recipe Substitution is very important!

Use these techniques to reduce the fat, calories and sodium in your favorite recipes.

1. Reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt

You often can reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt without sacrificing flavor in healthy recipes.

2. Make a healthy substitution

Healthy substitutions not only reduce the amount of fat, calories and salt in your recipes, but also can boost the nutritional content.

Use whole-wheat pasta instead of enriched pasta.

3. Cut back some ingredients

In some recipes, you can eliminate an ingredient altogether or scale back the amount you use.

Eliminate items you generally add out of habit or for appearance, such as frosting, coconut or whipped cream toppings, which are all high in fat and calories.

4. Change cooking and prep techniques

Healthy cooking techniques include braising, broiling, grilling, poaching, sauteing and steaming. Using nonstick pans or spraying pans with nonstick spray will further reduce the amount of fat and calories added to your meals.

5. Downsize the portion size

Check portion sizes. Many portions today are so large you may not realize what a true portion or serving is. Train yourself by using smaller plates, spoons and cups. And learn to use common visual cues to understand servings — one serving of whole-grain cooked pasta is about the same size as a hockey puck.

***Check out Cook With Jessy for a delicious Baked Chicken Salad!


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