Healthy Travel Flying Tips!

Travel is fun, but eating healthy can be tricky. Here are some tips for your next flight! Whethe you're traveling for vacation or business, you want to feel good and get the most out of your trip. That can be a challenge when there aren't a lot of healthy food options around. Plus, there are some restriction on what you can bring if you're flying. While here at VidCon 2016, I thought it would be fun to show you everything I packed to make sure I ate well on the flight over and while at the event. I'm also sharing a couple mistakes I made that you can learn from!


[x_video_embed type="16:9"][/x_video_embed]

July 2014 Favorites! Healthy Food, Recipes, Gardening, and More!

July is over and that means it's favorites time! I'm telling you all about the healthy food and recipes I've been loving this month, some exciting gardening news, and more! [x_video type="16:9, 5:3, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2" m4v="" ogv="" poster="" hide_controls="" autoplay="" embed='' no_container="true"]

Egg Comparison: Duck VS Chicken

Eggs are a hot commodity at my farmers market, especially now that the weather is getting cooler and the hens are slowing down in their egg production. I got there a little too late last week and there were no chicken eggs to be found. I was a little disappointed, but I also understand that we gotta work with what the chickies can do. However, just when I had accepted the fact that I wouldn't be able to get any eggs this week, my egg lady mentioned that she had a few duck eggs, if I was interested. I definitely was, so I bought those bad boys right away!


I've had duck eggs once before in college. A farmer there sells them, in addition to chicken eggs, and he finds that they are a big hit with those suffering from chicken egg allergies. Interestingly enough, some with chicken egg allergies find that they can eat duck eggs with no problems at all. Even if you aren't an allergy sufferer, duck eggs are a nice way to switch things up.

Ducks eggs are typically larger and have a thicker shell. They also have a higher proportion of yolk. These two factors together result in an egg that is higher in calories, fat, protein, and most vitamins and minerals.

Duck Egg and Chicken Egg Comparison

In the end though, I don't really care too much about that stuff. I figure everything works itself out in the end. Just know you'll probably need fewer ducks eggs to give you the same satiety as chicken eggs would. As far as flavor goes, duck eggs are a little richer due to their larger yolk, but they don't taste incredibly different. Jasen couldn't tell a difference when we had them for dinner the other night.

Duck Egg and Chicken Egg Comparison

As you can see in the picture above, the duck egg has a higher proportion of yolk and everything is much firmer/holds its shape better than in the chicken egg. I think they're a fun addition to our food routine!

Have you ever had duck eggs? If so, how do you like them compared to chicken eggs? Share in the comments below!

7 Tips for Easier Meal Planning!

plannerI'm sad to say that there is no Body Revolution post for today. :( The muscle I hurt in my back a few months ago was bothering me and I did NOT want to go down that road again. Pain + not being able to do anything except lay around was not what I wanted. Instead, I did some walking and gave myself a break. Real life here people. Things will pick back up this week so we will be on track to talk about week 10 next Monday. So, instead of exercise, let's talk about food! If you are a regular reader, you know I'm all about scratch-cooking and making as much stuff yourself as you can. It's definitely a constant process, and I am always evolving in this area, but those slow gradual changes are what make things stick. As you begin to make more and more things yourself, there is one thing you can't deny: eating whole, real food does require more time in the kitchen than popping a frozen entree in the microwave. Now, I don't think that's a bad thing. Why should something as important as the food we eat become another chore or afterthought? Still, I also know that we are all incredibly busy and with so many responsibilities, some things are gonna fall by the wayside. While I can't eliminate your need to cook all together, I do have some tips that I think make things a whole lot easier.

  1. Make a Meal Plan. We're starting at square one here. It surprises me how many people don't have a plan at all. Running by the store on the way home from work fretting about what you're going to cook for dinner or digging through the fridge and pantry hoping a great idea will pop out at you is way too stressful. All of that time running about like a crazy person could be spent preparing a meal that's on your calender with all of the ingredients on hand.
  2. Keep Your Old Meal Plans. I do all of our meal planning in a notebook. That way, if I'm struggling to come up with a dinner idea for Thursday, I can flip back through the last few weeks for inspiration.
  3. Be Flexible. When you're cooking with fresh, local ingredients, you can't always have what you want. I never plan our meals before I've been to the farmers market. Now, if you're going to the market regularly, you will have some idea of the things you're likely to find, but there are no guarantees. Something in abundance last week could be limited this week or a new item might have ripened and be overflowing out of the bins. You have to work with what they got.
  4. Take a Picture. If you're following me on social media, you know that I post a photo each week with everything I get at the farmers market laid out on our kitchen table. This is partially because it's pretty and people seem to like it, but it has the added bonus of making meal planning much easier. I can simply look at the picture and see everything we have to work with. Then I can make my meal plan, keeping everything in mind, and go shopping for any additional items we might need like meats, milk, and spices.
  5. Roast Those Veggies. We have roasted veggies at least one night each week. It doesn't matter what they had at the market because everything can always be roasted. Plus, roasting makes vegetables delicious!
  6. Just Plan Dinner. Breakfast and lunch will work themselves out. Most people eat the same few things for breakfast and lunch and we are no different. Lunch for us is usually leftovers from dinner. Easy.
  7. Have an Optional Meal. Every Friday on our meal plan is the same thing: pizza. It is one meal that I can make with ingredients we always have on hand. The toppings can be flexible depending on what we haven't used during the week and any extra veggies can get used up as a side dish. In the end, we don't end up having pizza every week due to the random things that happen. If we find ourselves eating leftovers for dinner one night because something came up and I didn't have time to cook or we have an unplanned dinner with friends or our parents, the pizza meal can fall off the calendar and there are no worries about ingredients going bad.

Do you have any meal planning tips? Share them in the comments below!

What I'm Reading: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

AnimalVegetableMiracleNothing better than when something good comes out of a bad situation. A couple months ago I hurt my back (working out I think) and was out of commission for a few weeks. I pretty much just lied around all day and answered cooking questions from the couch as Jasen made the dinners I had planned. Once I was finally pain-free enough to be useful, I decided to make walking my workout of choice until I was sure things had healed up (still not there by the way). I decided these walks would be a good time to get into some audio books I purchased a while back. My first pick was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbra Kingsolver. Simply put, it has become one of my favorite books ever.

The basic premise of the book is this: Barbara and her family move from Arizona to a farm property in south western Virginia. Here, they challenge themselves to live for an entire year eating only foods that they grow themselves or obtain from local sources. Barbara's writing ability (she's an author in real life)  makes a huge difference as she takes you through a year of this way of living. Not only does she provide great information, but she weaves it all into a great story. Being able to learn from their experience and go through each season with the family shows the reader how a life like this can still work in today's world. There are also small sections written by her husband on food system issues and her daughter provides recipe and menu planning ideas along the way. This is an excellent starting place for anyone interested in producing their own food, whether you're just starting out or are looking to expand your gardening efforts. For me, it also brought back memories of helping my grandma plant her garden, being sure to place the seeds however deep and far apart she instructed, and sitting at her dining room table shelling peas.

Do you plan to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? What book should I read next? Let me know in the comments below!


Where's the Fruit? A Look at Processed Foods

This morning I saw a tease on the Today Show for a segment about misleading food labels (for some basics on label reading click here). You know me. I live for this stuff. I had to head out the door before the segment aired, but I watched it online when I got home tonight. You can watch the clip yourself here. The gist of the segment is that many processed foods including cereals, frozen waffles, yogurt, and bars come in packages that are covered with images of beautiful berries with claims like "made with real fruit." Some consumers may buy these products because they think it's a more nutritious option. Well, in fact, the amount of fruit in most of these products often ranges from none to might as well be none. The truth is, these bits of "fruit" are actually sugar, oil, flavoring, coloring, and maybe a little bit of the actual fruit. Many contain no fruit at all. To me, this was no surprise, but, from watching the segment, I began to realize just how surprising it was for many people. In fact, some of the people interviewed seemed to feel victimized.  With all of this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the matter.

1. What do the labels really mean?

It's important to know how to navigate these labels. The most essential piece of advice I have on this is flip the box over and read the nutrition label. Ingredients are key. Don't rely on the company's claims on the front of the package. They're obviously going to present their product in a positive light. Also, think about wording and don't assume. "Made with real fruit" means just what it says. It doesn't mean there is a substantial amount and it doesn't make the product healthy. Would you drink bleach if I told you it was made with real broccoli? I sure hope not.

2. Who's responsibility is it?

Food companies argue that their packaging isn't misleading. If a consumer reads all of the information provided, there should be no question about what a product contains. While you may think their behavior is unethical, it is, in most cases, legal. For some reason, consumers seem to trust a lot of the jargon on food products. This doesn't seem to apply to other industries though. You don't expect Barbie's Dream House to come with her twelve friends complete with wardrobes, even though they are pictured on the box. In the end, it's on the consumer to be savvy. No matter how many regulations we may have, there are always technicalities. And I would argue that this trust in the all-powerful FDA is the core problem. When consumers feel someone else is supposed to be checking up on these things for them, they stop thinking about it themselves. Read a label. Make your own decisions.

3. What can you do?

My answer probably won't surprise you. The key is choosing whole, real foods and skipping the processed junk. Make your own blueberry pancakes. Buy plain yogurt and mix fruit in. I know the convenience of some of these products can be tempting, but it comes down to priorities. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" or "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" marathon as much as the next person (I watch the news too, don't judge). However, this is time that can be put to better use cooking up a large pot of soup or making a double batch of waffles and freezing the leftovers for quick weekday breakfasts. Rather than feeling victimized or hopeless, be empowered by your knowledge and take control of your health!

Did this news report surprise you? Have you ever felt duped by a misleading food label? Sound off in the comments! :)

The Basics to Building a Healthy Meal

Today, we're going back to basics. I write a lot about the intricacies of the food system and the current issues I feel passionately about. However, sometimes I think we get so caught up in the details that we can miss out on the foundations of healthy eating. Generally, I don't subscribe to specific meal plans. Everyone is different and what works for one may not work for someone else. With all that said, my experience so far as an intern has shown me one approach that seems to resonate with a lot of people: the plate method. Now, this is similar to USDA's MyPlate, but it has a few difference that I like better and it came around long before the government's new graphic. The basic principle behind this is using the visual of a plate to teach appropriate portions of different food groups. When building your plate, follow these principles:

  1. Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. This includes greens, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, peppers, onions, summer squash, eggplant, asparagus, and many others.
  2. Fill a fourth of your plate with whole grains and/or starchy vegetables. Think pasta, rice, potatoes, peas, corn, beans, and bread.
  3. Fill a fourth of you plate with protein. This can be in the form of meat, nuts, seeds, and the like.
  4. Add a serving of fruit and/or dairy on the side. Not required, but worth considering.

Long story short, you're filling up on nutritious veggies! This can be an especially helpful guide when going to a potluck or family get-together. Just fill your plate accordingly and, as always, eat mindfully.

Nutella Lawsuit: What It Really Means

It seems like there has been a lot of food in the headlines here recently.  From mad cow disease in California to pizzas with a cheeseburger crust, the food industry has been showing itself (in more ways than one). One story that struck a nerve with me was this one from the Huffington Post about a $3 million class-action lawsuit settled against Ferrero, the maker of Nutella. The reason? A California mother claims that she was deceived by advertisements for the product, as well as the language on the label, to believe that Nutella was a healthy option to feed her child. To rectify this issue, Ferrero is paying out to consumers and will also have to change advertisements and other media messages (website, packaging, etc.) so they are no longer deceptive in this way. While some may be shouting for joy for a victory over the industry, I think a more important issue is at hand. While I agree that companies should not be making false claims or taking advantage of consumers, the answer goes far beyond policing suggestions or implications made by advertisements. The real problem at hand is the fact that consumers are vulnerable to such ploys because they are unable to analyze corporation claims and nutrition information to decide for themselves whether or not a product is healthy and appropriate for the needs of their families.

It seems to me, in this case, one of two things happened. This mother either read the nutrition information and ingredients and  could not interpret it or, more likely, simply trusted the message she received from advertisers as true, rather than investigating further. This is perfect example of how much education is truly needed, as Nutella is not by any means one of the more confusing products on the market.  After all, it has 8 ingredients (much fewer than many processed foods) and the first ingredient is sugar. The fact that a consumer cannot come to the conclusion that such a product is not a health food shows that there is a serious disconnect.

Have you ever felt deceived by a food advertisement or marketing scheme? What about nutrition do you find confusing?

NNMC Whole Grains: Hooray For Oats!

To finish up this week of the challenge, I wanted to say a little something about oats. Oats are a yummy grain that can be great for you. They're a good source of fiber, phosphorus, and selenium and a very good source of manganese. Plus, they're filling and easy to cook. The problem is, they often show up on people's plates in highly processed forms, such as granola bars and instant oatmeal packets that are full of additives. The best way to enjoy your oats is the regular/rolled and steel-cut varieties, which you can buy in bulk for cheap. They do take longer to cook, but an easy way to get around this inconvenience is a slow-cooker. Cook them on low overnight and you will have breakfast ready when you wake up in the morning. You can get started with my recipe, but once you know the basics you can change it up to fit your tastes. Another option is to top plain oatmeal with an egg for a savory version.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy oats?

NNMC Whole Grains: Change Your Pasta

When making the change to whole grains, a simple switch you can make is to use whole grain pasta. Nowadays, not only can you buy whole wheat varieties, but other grains are being used too, such as spelt, kamut, and even brown rice. Some people might be worried about the taste or texture of whole grain pastas compared to those made with refined flour. However, it has been my experience that most people don't see a difference when they switch over and, if anything, find that the whole grain pastas have a heartier texture. Another plus is that dried pasta is a cheap and quick meal that can be made on a busy weeknight and can be totally transformed depending on what toppings you use. It can also be added to soups or used in a casserole (lasagna anyone?). If you're still unsure, try mixing refined and whole grain pastas 50/50 in a dish and see how you like it. This can help you transition to eating only whole grain pastas by gradually increasing the amount of whole grain and decreasing the amount of refined pasta.

Lab-Grown Hamburger: Smart or Scary?

In the news today, there was an update on efforts to create lab-grown beef by scientists in the Netherlands (for the article, click here). Basically, they are using bovine stem cells to grow thin layers of muscle cells and will then combine that muscle with lab-grown animal fat to create "hamburger." Despite the initial "yuck" reaction that some may have, it's important to look deeper at both sides of the argument. cow

Supporters of this new technology tout its potential for alleviating environmental strains as well as feeding the world. Meat production in its current incarnation uses a considerable amount of land space. Between the feed lots where the animals are raised to the acres of GMO corn that are grown to feed them, the impact is undeniable. In addition, the run-off from the farms and feed-lots  pollutes the surrounding areas. Also important to consider is the inhumane treatment that these animals are subjected to and unnatural conditions that encourage the growth of E.coli and other potentially harmful bugs. In addition, with an ever-growing population, could this be a solution to feeding hungry mouths?

On the other hand, many question the nutritional value of this new product, as well as flavor and texture. How will it measure up to the real thing? Another concern is its safety. Are there unforseen health implications to consuming this new product?

In my opinion, lab-grown meat is not something we should be eating. While I agree with the concerns about the environmental implications of raising meat on factory farms, the solution is not lab-grown meat. Rather, it is to return to the most physiological method: pasture-raised beef. Cows are designed to eat grass, not corn. It's when we feed these animals corn that dangers such as E. coli begin to flourish. When cows are fed grass (what they're supposed to eat), these issues are practically non-existent. This method also grows the soil, rather than degrading it, eliminating the problem of toxic run-off. As far as "feeding the world" is concerned, it is important to note that individuals in developed nations generally consume far more meat that is necessary and have a propensity towards obesity. The issue isn't a lack of calories, but the distribution and quality of those calories. Food waste is another problem which results in much of the edible food on our planet spoiling before it can be consumed.

In short, many of the problems that lab-grown meat is proposed to solve already have a viable, well researched solution without the problem of unknown product quality or, even worse, negative health implications.

Tell me, what are your feelings about lab-grown beef?