Food: Breakfast

In the last food blog I wrote, I discussed breakfast, and the notion that this was the most important meal of the day.  In my mind this fact has not been proven 100%.  I decided to look into this further, and started to go to sites that discussed breakfast, with various points of view.  Before I do an overview of all the studies and sites, and I looked at about 20 of them, I must define and explain Circadian Rhythm.  Circadian Rhythm is a natural internal process, that regulates the sleep wake cycle, and repeats every 24 hours.  There is a Circadian Diet, which advocates eating more in the morning and less at night, and eating basically from sunup to sundown. Once the sun goes down you should stop eating.  For this reason, breakfast is really emphasized, for those who believe, that the Circadian Rhythm should be constant.  This philosophy believes you go to bed the same time everyday, and wake up the same time everyday.  This subject could be another blog, but you can not look at breakfast studies, and not see this come into play.  What did I find out about breakfast?

Despite all the benefits of breakfast, on average at least 30% of adults skip breakfast, on a regular basis.  One of the biggest studies on breakfast, included 50,000 people.  These people belong to the Seventh Day Adventist, which is a religious group.  In this group 93% eat breakfast every day.  In this group 37% consider dinner their biggest meal of the day.  In the general population, well over 90% consider dinner their biggest meal of the day.  Even though this is a very large study on breakfast, some of the conclusions are tainted, because this is not what the general populous does.  There were many other studies on breakfast, not as large as the one mentioned, but on more of a cross section of the population.  So what can be derived from most of these studies.  Breakfast eating is not a major factor in weight loss, or weight gain.    Skipping breakfast does seem to lead to some increase health risks.  Skipping breakfast can lead to a 27% increase in coronary artery disease and a 20% increase in acquiring type II diabetes.   One oddity was a decrease in bone density in Japanese men, who skipped breakfast.  One study showed that college students did significantly better on exams if they ate breakfast, compared to students that skipped breakfast that day. Eating breakfast seemed to make children behave better, and not gain as much weight.  Skipping breakfast seemed to make people more lethargic, and less active in the morning.  A lot of the studies did not touch upon what type of breakfast, people were having.  There was little mention of the what I call the traditional breakfast of bacon, ham, or sausage, with eggs and toast, plus potatoes.  Those that did mention what to eat, advocated eating more protein and less carbohydrates and to stay away from the processed breakfast cereals.  Of course, pastries and donuts are big no no.  There is more talk of eating non traditional foods for breakfast, such as fish, chicken beans and nuts.   The Circadian Rhythm people feel one should make breakfast the biggest meal of the day.  This is not new thinking.  Adelle Davis, nutritionist of the mid 20th Century, wrote eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.

After reading all this over the last two days, will this change the way I look at breakfast.  I believe it will.  I will make more of an effort to eat breakfast, before I leave the house or start my day.  I like the fact that there is this trend to get away from the more traditional foods for breakfast.  Will I make breakfast my largest meal of the day? I do not think so, but I will make it second.  Dinner to me is more of a social gathering and I am not going to make any major changes in that process or what I eat for dinner.  Again after reading all of this I know there is a lot of work to be done on what and how to eat.  For the next 3 months I will make this effort to eat more for breakfast and see how it goes.  Let’s face it anytime you are going to eat more of something how bad can it be. Will report on this in three months.

Food: Eating Healthy

This would seem like an easy thing to do, have a healthy diet.  When you google eating healthy, there are many hits.  There are medical websites, nutrition websites, and weight loss websites. They all have similar things to say, with just a little bit of a twist, here and there. Some websites have things to sell, which is always a red flag on how legitimate their advice is on eating healthy. All the  sites are better at telling you what to avoid, rather than what to eat.  In general, they tell you to eat a wide variety of foods, mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein.  That about sums it up,  end of blog.  No, it is definitely not that easy.  You would think that eating healthy and weight loss would go hand in hand. Unfortunately it does not. These sites do not break down foods well enough, to balance the good and the bad. I am  going to break down foods, that I consider overrated and some that are not given enough credit, for being healthy.  I am going to discuss some nutrition “facts” that in my view, are far from proven. I looked through about 50 websites.  What follows is a composite of these websites and with my views sprinkled in. I can not rank any website as outstanding and most of what they say is the same thing, so I am not going to mention any particular site.

First, lets get to the easy stuff, what is bad.  The first and foremost is soft drinks.  They have not one redeeming quality.  I know I love a Coke once in awhile, so I can’t say I never drink them, but I try to limit them to 2 per month.  Fatty meat is a big no no.  It is hard to not like  fat,  when you here on the food channel, that fat is the flavor.  One thing everybody can do when they buy a steak is to trim off more fat.  Every little bit helps.  Sugar is bad, which is what makes pop so bad.  Stay away from sugar if possible.  Think of it as a dessert only food. This can help you avoid it,  during the day.  Please stay away form diet pop, it is even worse for you than regular pop, but that is a whole other blog.  Stay away from the typical snacks, they are high in fat, and calorie dense. Stay away from highly processed foods, like bacon, lunch meats, and energy bars.  Some processed foods can be better than others, but it is best to stay away. Eating these things in very limited quantities, is the best way to go. The one that is the hardest to avoid is bacon, because everything is better with bacon.

Now, for the so called good stuff, that may not be as good as you think.  I feel the most over rated food is the nut.  The so called benefits of nuts, is far out weighed by how calorie dense they are, and this is any nut you can think of.  An 8 ounce container of peanuts has over 1600 calories. I could eat that in less than a half hour.  I saw none of this emphasized, on the sites I visited. The second overrated food is fruit.  Now, fruit has more benefit than nuts, but it comes at the cost of sugar.  Some fruits are worse than others, but even the so called lower sugar fruits have 7 to 9 grams of sugar per serving.  Some of the low sugar fruits are not even the kind you eat, like lemons and cranberries.  So if you are watching calories or sugar, go easy on the fruit.  On the other side of the coin I consider dairy products the most underrated food.  Skim milk is a great source of Vitamin D and protein.  Eggs are low fat and high in protein.  Yogurt has many positive effects for you intestinal tract and health.  Even cheese is not all that bad for you, but  limit some cheeses, due to the fat content.  The big knock on dairy products is their digestibility. The lactose intolerant group can not eat dairy products, and this is understandable, but the entire world is not lactose intolerant.  There is a theory that we were able to digest milk when we were infants, but as we age our ability to digest dairy becomes less.  Again, this is not true for most of us.  If you have no problem with dairy products then eat more, because it is very nutritious with very little down side. Vegetables are definitely the super food.  The more you eat, the better your health is  going to be. But certain vegetables, you still  have to be cautious.  Any vegetable that is high in Vitamin A, such as carrots,  you must eat with some moderation. Vitamin A is stored and processed in the liver and consuming large amounts of Vitamin A could cause some liver issues if done chronically.

Then there is the one nutrition saying, that states breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  This statement has been far from proven.  There are lots of studies on this, although you could argue not enough, and the conclusions are still variable.  First, the number one reason that people don’t eat breakfast in the morning, is they do not have enough time. Maybe the results of not eating breakfast in morning, such as low energy, eating unhealthy snacks, and binge eating, could be attributed to a lack of sleep, and rushing in the morning. To me, the so called controlled studies about eating breakfast, were not all that well controlled.  Why not make sure that people are getting enough sleep, get up early enough to leisurely get ready for school and work, then skip breakfast, and see how they feel the rest of the day, compared to people, who did the same thing, but ate breakfast.  For me when I get up in the morning after a good nights sleep, I am not hungry.   Why should I eat?  This is the other area where I think nutrition falls short, and that is listening to you own body.  If you are not hungry in the morning why should you eat?  Despite what I wrote about the foods I think are underrated, if any of those foods make your digestive tract uncomfortable, then by all means avoid them. That doesn’t mean if potato chips are something easy for you to digest, that you should eat a half of bag full during the day. Remember to listen to your body, and that all foods have some drawbacks, even if they are reported to be healthy foods. There are plenty of choices out there, so stay away from the definite bad and still be cautious on what is supposed to be good.   In future blogs I will touch upon some of these things in more depth, especially the breakfast thing, which I find fascinating.

Food: Back in the Saddle

Haven’t blogged about food for awhile for various reasons.  I tried, despite what I wrote in a previous blog,  to lose that extra 10 pounds, and again failed miserably.  The reasons I did this, was that I thought it would be a good opportunity, because I did not have the stress of working and I was scheduled for cataract surgery on December 4th.  I thought this might give me some extra incentive, but I should have known better, because in reality this extra 10 pounds I am lugging around is not a major health hazard. The incentive was not really there.  It was the wrong time of year to try and do something like this,also.  The weather is getting colder and the body wants to retain fat, not lose it.  I think that is why so many New Year’s resolutions fail, when it comes to weight loss.  It’s in the middle of winter, and the body is fighting like mad to hang on to that fat, to help it keep warm.  The cataract surgery went well, and I am over all this nonsense, and can get back into enjoying food.  I have been cooking food for about 10 years now and I am a very good amateur cook.  But that is the key word amateur.  I do not think that people that  teach cooking realize, this is all people want to be, is good amateur cook.  We do not need to chop an onion in about 15 seconds.  If I tried to do it that fast, I probably would lose my fingers first, and I’m not too sure how good they would taste in the sauce or soup, I was making.  I  think not enough is mentioned about cooking to taste.  Cooking things that you like. Grilled portabella mushrooms may be great, but not if you do not like mushrooms. The thing I like most about cooking is that you learn the basics, then you can create.  Here are some of my basic ideas when it comes to cooking and keeping it simple and flavorful.

First, don’t  get all worried about chopping onions, peppers, carrots or celery all the same size.  I always chop these vegetables a larger size than most.  They still cook up fine, and I feel you can taste them better, in whatever you are making.  I always sauté some kind of vegetables first when I am making rice. Once the veggies are softened, I add the rice and coat it with the olive oil for about 60 seconds, pour in the water.  It makes the rice more flavorful  and keeps it from foaming up and spilling, making a big mess.

Any time you are making a sauce depending on what it is, always add lemon juice or ketchup to it, my “secret ingredients”.   Horseradish and Mayonnaise is another one for a white sauce.  Horseradish heavy for cocktail sauce with lemon juice. Hot sauce used in small amounts add some real flavor to sauces with out adding any heat to the sauce.

Rubs work better than marinades. I find that rubs make meats more tender and flavorful, than marinades, and it’s easier.   I rub round roast, flank steak, pork roast, pork shoulder, tri tip, pork chops, turkey breast, chicken, ham and just about any meat I am going to grill or roast.  I usually put the rub on in the morning and refrigerate for 5 to 6 hours or will even do it overnight.  My basic rub is Montreal Steak seasoning, Paprika, Chile Powder, then smaller amounts of Cumin and Garlic Powder.  Put the rub on liberally.  For roasts the rub should cover the meat so you do not see the meat. Only slightly less for steaks, chicken parts, and pork chops.  For steaks I usually just do Montreal Steak seasoning, doing both sides.

Brining is the new thing for the Thanksgiving day turkey, and now you can  get turkeys that are already brined.  Its worth the time, or the cost, if you don’t want to do it yourself. It makes a huge difference in the tenderness of the white meat.  The  only other cut of meat that I think should be brined is the boneless pork chop.  It’s easy and it makes the pork chop so tender.  It is the difference maker when it comes to grilling pork chops.  There are plenty of brining recipes for pork chops and I don’t think there is one better than the other.  The key to brining, whether it’s the turkey or the pork chop, is to thoroughly rinse the food when you are done to remove all the salt.  With pork chops, you do not want to over brine.  You should only brine them for about 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on how big they are.  I wasn’t all that impressed on what brining did for chicken, so I don’t bother brining the little bird.

Finally, make sure that you know thy grill.    Where are the hot spots.  Know how long it takes to cook every cut of meat that you grill, even if it takes a little bit of trial and error. You do not want to keep lifting the lid of the grill, and peaking every 60 to 90 seconds.  Even though I am big believer in the statement, the fat is the flavor, you should trim some of the fat off, of what you are going to grill.  The same thing for burgers, get the 90% lean at least.  The reason being, if the cuts are too fatty, as the fat drips into the flames it has a tendency to make giant flames, which can just burn the hell out of the meat. You want to keep that lid of the grill down for at least 4 to 6 minutes per side depending on what you are cooking.  Turn off the middle burner if you need to cook things through like chicken or pork.

That’s it for now. Will have some more tips and ideas in future food blogs.  The main thing here is to learn to cook.  Food Network is a great place to learn, and get started. I think cooking food makes you appreciate it more, and makes the whole consumption process more enjoyable.

Food

Food should be such a simple thing. We need to eat to survive, but most of us really enjoy eating. A lot of that enjoyment is taken away from us by so many food rules, developed by God knows who. Foodist have written more things about food, and the things they have written about over the years have, at times, changed dramatically. Let’s go through just a few, which is just the tip of the iceberg. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or not. Eat complex carbohydrates, or not. Do not eat after 7pm, or go ahead its no big deal. Eggs are good for you, or not. Drink or don’t drink water during a meal. Stay away from red meat, or not. You can eat too much fruit, or not. Dairy products are bad because you are older than 6 months, well maybe. Eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day, or not. Sugar is bad for you, but it still not as bad as artificial sweeteners, which does not get enough publicity. Do you think money has anything to do with that. I could go on and on about this, but you get the picture.

The big advice out there, is you should listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are full. I don’t know about you, but I could say that I never feel hungry when I eat. The dictionary defines hungry as feeling an uneasy or painful sensation, from a lack of food. However, another definition is the desire or need to eat food. Now I have felt that baby, every day. So when are you supposed to listen to your body. Are you supposed to wait until you feel pain to eat. I hope not. Forget about all that nonsense about waiting until your hungry to eat. When you feel like eating, then eat and if you don’t feel like eating then don’t. Don’t feel like you have to eat at a certain time. I skip breakfast more than I eat breakfast. I think it is more important to listen to your body, after you eat. I am not talking about the full thing either. Who knows when your “full” and who cares. I am talking about how you generally feel after you eat. Without a doubt you should feel better. I think there are many idiosyncrasies that people can have to one particular food. I do not care what kind of food it is supposed to be, like really good for you, if you do not feel right after you eat it, then stay away from it. This could be a subtle feeling, like you just don’t feel right, or it could be more distinct like abdominal pain. You never want to get into the trap of eating something because this is what you should eat. Broccoli may be considered a super food but if every time you eat it, you double over in pain, then stay away from it. Always eat things that you like, and that make you feel good, after you eat them. It almost should be a form of relaxation.

Now I know there are proven intolerances to Lactose and Gluten, but being tested for a lot of other food issues, to me, is unnecessary. Your body will tell you if a food is not agreeing with you and when it speaks just listen and avoid that food. I think a lot of health issues regarding food are related to not listening to your body after you eat and stressing over what you should eat. Just remember there is no bad food. So enjoy the food that makes you feel better and stop trying to get it right.