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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Plant-Based Kicked Meat-and-Potatoes Ass on National TV!

I am not one to brag...but I think that Chef AJ and I might have made plant-based history today....

As far as we know (and please correct me if I am wrong), there has never been a plant-based team competing in a reality TV cooking show. Chef AJ and I auditioned and were accepted to compete against two other meat-and-potatoes teams on the new TLC show called Kick-Off Cook-Off. We spent a day baking ourselves in the sun (we both look like lobsters) on a football field with a famous football star, a famous Chef judge, and AJ's famous recipes competing for the title.

There was so much resistance to what we stand for by the other teams, the hostess, and the judge. Nobody hesitated to make commentary about their preferences for fast food, junk food, and their beloved meat and potatoes. Heaven forbid we should mention the ease and health benefits of cooking without oil. It was a huge controversy that it is possible to use only whole food ingredients when preparing full meals. In fact, the judge and competing team members kept coming over to see what we were doing and check our ingredients!

Now, of course, I cannot reveal the results (that would be too easy...and, anyway, it is much more fun to actually watch the show)...BUT, the judge, who had never had a plant-based team before on this show and had never heard of the majority of our ingredients (apparently, miso, cacao, and date syrup are not yet popularized in the world of traditional chefery), LOVED our food! His eyes lit up and he had nothing but wonderful comments to make...surprised as he was!

Regardless of what the ultimate results were, AJ and I are thrilled that- even though we were laughed at, heckled, and not taken seriously- the food walked the walk and we were able to show the world that plant-based whole foods can not only compete with the Standard American Diet...but can exceed the expectations of all those closed-minded folk. We make "healthy taste delicious" so watch out world, here we come!

The Chef and the Dietitian Episode 2

Back by popular demand...Chef AJ and I decided to turn our experimental initial episode into a series! This second show documents us making Chef AJ's famous Caramel Fakkiato...it is a delicious and refreshing smoothie to enjoy anytime. It particularly makes a decadent dessert or snack on a hot day! Cheers!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Chef and the Dietitian


Watch Chef AJ and myself show you how to make two healthy and easy recipes, where we make healthy taste delicious!

Since Chef AJ thinks she is a dietitian and I think I am a chef, we pair up for a great team! In this preview, we make an incredibly sumptuous chocolate smoothie that is chock-full of health-promoting deliciousness! Also, Chef AJ demonstrates how to make her brilliant brownies that magically hide a bunch of fiber and B-vitamin-rich black beans!!!

Try them...you won't be disappointed! And surprise your friends and relatives by not telling them the secret ingredients...they will never notice!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Plant-Based Food Guide Pyramid

There are almost as many food guide pyramids out there as there are diet books. I have yet to find one that meets my standards for an optimal plan. Thus, I decided to work with my graphic designer, Sherri Nestorowich, to create a visual guide for the whole food, plant-based diet I recommend to my clients and students.

What makes mine unique is the fact that I have fruit and vegetables at the bottom (right above the need for daily exercise and fluid consumption). Although people may disagree with this decision, I made it based on evidence showing a strong association between higher intake of fruit and vegetables and decreased incidence of chronic disease:
In the vegetable category, it includes carotenoid-rich and starchy vegetables. Carotenoids are high in antioxidants (protect cells from damaging effects of free radicals); provide a source of vitamin A; enhance immune function; and help reproductive system function. Specifically, it includes: carrots, greens, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers. The starches are rich sources of complex carbs, fiber and include potatoes, squash, and corn.

Fruit contributes vitamins A, C, some B vitamins as well as some minerals. Dried fruit may contain iron. This section contains all whole fresh fruit and frozen fruit (which should be the priority and majority of fruit consumption) even though it can also include dried fruit, whole fruit juices, canned fruit (in order of health-promoting capacity).

Further, I have a separate category for leafy green vegetables additional to the foundational vegetable recommendations. My new quote that I tell my clients and students is "Let thy greens be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy greens". Leafy greens are chock-full of macro- and micronutrients, including calcium, fiber, folate, vitamins C, B6, B2, E, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phytochemicals (such as lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene). This category of vegetables include kale, collard greens, spinach, mustard greens, beet greens, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, bok choy, Swiss chard, rainbow chard, Brussels sprouts, sea vegetables, broccoli, Napa cabbage. See my previous blog, The Greatness of Greens, for more about the undeniable superhero-esque power!
I can go on and on about the beauty of greens...but there are so many other topics to delineate with respect to why I chose the food groups I did.

Moving on up the pyramid...

Whole grains are the backbone of the plant-based diet as they contribute calories, fiber, protein, iron, B vitamins, trace nutrients in whole grains. This category includes: corn, brown rice and sprouted tortillas; whole grain breads; cereals (i.e. oats); bulgur; brown rice; couscous; millet; quinoa; whole grain pasta; polenta; wheat berries; popcorn; wheat germ and bran.
Legumes provide a supporting role in the diet. They are used extensively in international cuisines and provide protein, fiber, iron, calcium, zinc, selenium. Legumes include cooked & dried beans (adzuki, anasazi, black, black-eyed peas, cannellini, chickpeas, great Northern beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, soybeans), lentils, peas, split peas, and soy products (tempeh, tofu).

At the top of my pyramid, I have listed high fat whole foods, dairy substitutes (which are great sources of fortified vitamins B12, D, and sometimes calcium), and whole food sweetened treats (which can be done by using dates, date syrup, pure maple syrup and other fruits). High fat whole foods refer to olives, avocado, nuts and seeds, which are important in order to consume adequate omega 3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, fiber, protein, fat, iron, calcium, and trace minerals. All of these items should be used sparingly and less in situations where weight loss is a goal or when there has been a diagnosis of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol or other metabolic conditions.

Overall, I hope that this pyramid is used as a guideline. The serving sizes are not necessary to perfect...it is more important to look at it as a way of proportioning out what a day's worth of food should look like. The foods closer to the bottom should be a mainstay or foundation of intake and those near the top are to be used as support.

I also highly recommend everyone consume a vitamin B12 supplement of either 10μg daily OR 2,000μg weekly and have their serum vitamin D levels checked. If your serum 25 hydroxy D levels are less than 35 ng/mL, it is necessary to increase sun exposure (during peak hours and with no sunscreen for a few minutes a day...without allowing any reddening of the skin to occur) and possibly add supplemental D2. Please speak with your physician to address this issue.