‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Juicing: Healthy Habit or Half-Witted Hypothesis? Pt II

In part one of Juicing: Healthy Habit or Half-Witted Hypothesis? we discussed what juicing is and why associated cockamamie claims don't stand up in a court of science. Now, we can discuss the proverbial cousins of juicing and the juicer: The smoothie and the blender. Jump in, strap up and prepare to be pulverised.

A smoothie is made in a blender from a mix of ingredients, traditionally fruit, but often includes a combination of ice, milk, yoghurt, honey, chocolate, vegetables, seeds, peanut butter, etc. Unlike juicers, blenders do not extract the liquid (juice) from the plant tissues (fiber). Rather, blenders hold onto all the good stuff. Yep, you can tell that pretentious friend of yours who is 'juicing', that smoothies are a better choice.

Because smoothies contain that wonderful fiber, it takes your body longer to digest, compared to juice. But (and there's always one), let's not forget that blender blades 'cut' and obliterate plant cell walls, liberating their contents. This means your body doesn't have to work as hard or as long to digest it compared to a whole, unpulversised fruit or vegetable.

Here's a definite reason for smoothie lovers to fist bump (or flump, though that sounds a bit suggestive... But I don't mind). As we said earlier, smoothies generally incorporate one or more forms of dairy: Yoghurt and/or milk (sadly, smoothies are not really a place for cheese). But as we know, dairy is an excellent source of protein and many vitamins and minerals. Take that, all you juice junkies.

Smoothies can be ideal meal replacements because they contain fiber and dairy, thus providing a fairly balanced and nutritious option. The dark side of these creamy, blended beauties often lurks in those you find outside your home AKA: The commercial ones. As with anything made by a corporation, they are manufactured to taste as delicious as possible so you buy it again... For smoothies, this means adding plenty of sugar.

The take home messages and tips?
  • Smoothies hold on to fruit and vegetable fiber, where juice does not
    • More economical because you're using the whole item, not chucking the majority out
  • Smoothies will keep you fuller for longer
  • Make your smoothies with low fat milk and/or yoghurt
  • Be aware of portion sizes (homemade and bought)
    • Just as with juice, you wouldn't eat 4 oranges at once, be mindful of how much fruit you're blending
    • Blending doesn't remove calories
    • If you're buying, get the small or kiddie size
Original (610ml) smoothies contain ~450cal
Kids (350ml) smoothies contain ~200cal

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Juicing: Healthy Habit or Half-Witted Hypothesis?

Let's talk about a fabulous (or is it?) trend that has people squawking and gobbling all over the place: Juicing. So, when I hear someone say, in a very pretentious voice: 'oh I'm juicing', I can't help but think of Violet Beauregarde from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory... Because she was sent to the juicer... C'mon, you know what I'm talking about! Let's centrifuge out the facts, (pulp) fiction and watered down claims.

Juicing is the act of extracting liquid (juice) from plant tissues using a juicer. This article discusses the act of juicing, next week's article "Juicing: Healthy Habit or Half-Witted Hypothesis? Pt II" will discuss smoothie-ing (yes, there is a difference).

Juicing became popular back in the 90s, when proponents professed it could reverse everything from aging to chronic diseases.

It has since evolved in our polar society where some of us are health obsessed and others are, well, the complete opposite. People and companies with their finger on the juicer button shout similar claims from their atop their soap, or in this case, juice boxes.

Here are some common claims, and here's why they're not worth they juicer they leaked out of:

Claim 1: Your body absorbs nutrients better from juice
Theory: Fiber is 'taxing' on your digestive system and it impairs digestion of nutrients from fruit and veg
Why it's rubbish: Our bodies evolved eating whole fruit and veg because that's what existed in nature. Your digestive system is not only equipped and designed to deal with fiber (hence why we have gut bacteria), but high fiber diets are implicated in better intestinal health and lower cancer risk. After all, caveman didn't run around with juicers.

Claim 2: Juice clears 'toxins' from the body
Theory: I've no idea...
Why it's rubbish: There's no scientific evidence to support that claim. But if that isn't enough, try this: Your kidneys and liver are very capable organs that evolved to eliminate body toxins.

Claim 3: Juice aids with weight loss
Theory: Not sure, perhaps an extrapolation of the fact that fruit and veg are low in calories, therefore drinking them help with weight loss?
Why it's Rubbish: Weight loss is largely dependent of the amount and quality of calories taken in. But there are a couple of other reasons this claim is rubbish, follow the logic:
A fun fact about insulin: It prevents lipolysis (fat breakdown), not such a great thing for weight loss...

Here are some other things to think about:
  • How many oranges does it take to make 1 cup of OJ?
    • The answer is ~4, each orange yields about 1/4 cup of juice (not much bang for your buck there)
    • Would you sit and eat 4 oranges in one sitting?
  • Piggybacking on that thought, if you were to eat 4 oranges at once, would you stay fuller for longer compared with drinking 1 cup of OJ?
    • Yes
    • Why? Because 4 oranges have 12.5g of fiber compared with the stingy 0g in 1 cup of OJ
    • Also, juice is liquid (duh), and liquids pass through your stomach much faster than a solid meal
  • What about protein and fat?
    • Juices have minimal protein and little to no fat, that's good, right? Wrong! Protein and fat take longer to digest, thus meals containing them keep you fuller for longer
The take home message:
Juice can be a useful way to increase your nutrient intake, but remember you're discarding the skin and fiber which are loaded with antioxidants and other goodies important for digestive health. Juice is fine every now and then, but come on... Put a real meal in your pie hole.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lunch Boxes For Picky Pie Holes

Back to school is here! Sending pint-sized pie holes to school with a healthy lunch is important for their health, eating habits, brain function... Yada yada yada. We all know why it's important. Let's discuss some ways to get kids not only eating their lunch, but also excited about their lunch.

When kids are young, often they are happy with the same, or similar foods on a daily basis. But as kids get older, their palates develop and their food repertoire increases.

A starting point is finding out what your kids want for lunch. Of course, there are boundaries: 3 hot dogs, an ice cream sundae and a spit roast don't really fall into the 'healthy' category. But seriously, getting kids involved in their lunch choices and lunch preparation is a sure-fire way to increase the likelihood of them eating it - as a side note, it's also a 'teachable moment', where parents can explain and show how to pack a balanced lunch (a life skill).

Lunch ideas:
PB&J - But not the one you're thinking of
  • Use wholemeal or wholegrain bread
  • Use peanut butter where the only ingredient is 'peanuts'
  • Substitute jam with sliced seasonal fruit (strawberries, apple, pear, etc)
Other sandwiches
  • Lettuce, tomato, left over chicken/turkey slices. Sub the mayo with avocado or hummus
  • Tuna salad: Made with minimal mayo, spice it up with some dried dill and garlic, get crazy and add tomato slices and/or a piece of cheese
  • Roasted veggies (from last night): A mix of capsicum, zucchini, eggplant (or whatever veggies they like) sliced, thrown on a baking sheet, brushed lightly with olive oil and spices - voila!
Wraps - The sandwich alternative
  • Wholegrain or wholemeal tortilla/flat bread
  • Add a base: Hummus, avocado, salsa or mustard are good choices
  • Add fillings that include either fresh veggies like lettuce, tomato, shredded carrot, sliced pickles or olives, or cooked/roasted veggies
  • Add a meat or 'meat alternative' like beans (legumes) if you're going to burrito style, a sliced hard boiled egg, or the traditional chicken/turkey leftovers
  • Make it colourful
    • Good thing veggies are multicoloured
  • Be a bit fancy
    • Cut the sandwich diagonally 
    • Slice the wrap into 2 inch thick 'pinwheel' slices 
  • Add a frozen pack (or even a small frozen water bottle) to the lunchbox to keep items chilled
  • Low fat/non fat yoghurt
  • Sliced cheese
  • Fruit
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Popcorn (plain is best, or for extra flavour add some dried herbs)
  • Granola (homemade is best because it'll be lower in sugar, salt and fat)
  • Celery with cottage cheese or peanut butter spread in the crevice

'Sometimes foods' like the individually wrapped bags of chips, a homemade cookie or muffin are definitely acceptable a couple of times a week. In many ways, this is also a 'teachable moment' because you're demonstrating healthy moderation and portion control, rather than imposing impossible restrictions.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Healthy and Affordable: An Oxymoron?

Personally, when I hear "eating healthy is so expensive" or "I'm on a budget, I can't afford to eat healthy" or "multivitamins are expensive but necessary", I want to strangle the vocal cords responsible for vocalising those statements - but violence isn't the answer. People have such complicated ideas about eating healthy and so many ridiculous excuses for why they can't. One such reason, perpetuated by the media for its headlining ability is that it's cheaper to eat fast food. Is there some small print missing? Some bits of information deliberately withheld? But of course...

When the media reports that fast food is cheaper than healthy food, they are comparing the calories you get per dollar. With that knowledge, I pose this question: Will a combo meal of fried chicken, wedges and a 20 oz (600ml) Pepsi have more calories than a homemade chicken salad sandwich, an apple and glass of water?

This question of course, or at least, I hope, is rhetorical. The goal is, eat enough food to keep our bodies healthy and working optimally, not put in as many calories as we possibly can. Otherwise, why not chow down on a bucket of lard, cram some non-dairy creamer, or better yet, chug some clarified butter?

A recent study set out to identify which vegetables provide the most nutrients per unit cost. This was based on 9 beneficial nutrients (protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium) and 3 nutrients to limit (saturated fat, added sugar and sodium). A little different than comparing foods based on their calorie content, right? Most vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients, precisely the opposite of fast food.

The study assessed an assortment of vegetables including fresh, frozen and processed (canned vegetables/soups). Findings read something like this:
  • The most nutrient rich vegetables were:
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Tomato juice/tomato soup
    • Dark green leafy vegetables
    • Non leafy vegetables
    • Winter squash
    • Pumpkin
  • The most affordable vegetables with optimal nutrition were:
    • Sweet potato
    • Tomato juice/tomato soup
    • Pumpkin
    • Carrots
    • White potatoes (baked, boiled)
    • Dark green vegetables
  • Soups including tomato, beet, cabbage, bean soups and green vegetable soups were comparable to fresh/frozen vegetables in terms of nutrients and affordability
  • Dark green vegetables had the lowest calories/100g and the highest cost/100g
  • White potatoes had the highest calories/100g and lowest cost/100g
  • Lowest cost fiber sources were beans and legumes
For my own interest, I ran the nutrition numbers on the aforementioned KFC combo meal (2pcs original recipe dark meat chicken, wedges and a 20 oz Pepsi):
  • Total calories: 950 
    • About half of what a grown man's energy requirements are
  • Total fat calories: 390 
    • Of the 700 cal from the chicken and wedges, 55% are calories from fat
  • Total sodium: 2,095mg 
    • Recommendations are <2,500mg/d, this meal is 84% of that
  • Total fiber: 3grams 
    • Daily fiber is 25g for females and 38g for males - this meal provides a measly 12% or 8% respectively
All this costs about $US5. You'd have to put 2.9kg (6lbs) of spinach or 1.7kg (3.8lbs) of pumpkin in your pie hole to get that many calories... Now that would cost more than $5.

Tips and messages to write home about:
  • Frozen and canned vegetables/vegetable soups can be good alternatives to fresh veg
  • Buy vegetables that are in season and/or on sale to save money
  • Given that it's nutrients, not calories that are important, you get a lot more bang for your buck with vegetables
  • Vegetables are thrifty and nifty
With that, I leave you this image to meditate on: