Celebrating 300 episodes

by Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN on September 29, 2014

300th EpisodeRecently, my wonderful team at Quick and Dirty Tips and I celebrated a milestone: the 300th episode of the Nutrition Diva podcast! Over the past 6 years, the podcast has been downloaded over 18 million times, and I’ve had the opportunity to correspond and become friends with hundreds of listeners, readers, and colleagues. My cup runneth over! (And, thanks to my generous and festive friends at QDT, with a very nice Pinot Noir.)

To mark the occasion, I usedthe 300th podcast to reflect on ways that my own diet has changed over the past six years, in response to things I’ve learned or tried  while researching the podcast. Here, as well, are five things of the most important things I’ve learned about diet and nutrition over the past six years.

For the the 301st episode, I turned the tables and took a look at how America’s eating habits have changed over the past decade.  Also, as a quick follow up to a recent question on liquid smoke, here’s a Q&A on smoked fish: is it a healthy choice?.

I also had an opportunity to drop in on my friends at WOSU Radio in Columbus, Ohio, last week! I’ve been a regular guest on All Sides with Ann Fisher for a while now, talking about nutrition news and trends. Usually, however, I am speaking with Ann on the phone from my home in Baltimore. So it was a real treat to join Ann in the studio for a live segment. touching on the latest research on artificial sweeteners, snacking, fast food trends, and more. You can listen to the podcast of our conversation (or watch the video stream) on their website.

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My guest on last week’s show was psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendricksen, who gave us 9 signs of disordered eating and four tips for those who suspect that their relationship to food is not as healthy as it could be.  Great stuff, as always from the Savvy Psychologist!

For those who are curious about the 80/10/10 diet that seems to be making the rounds, here’s a look at the pros and cons of this new diet fad. (I’m not entirely sure it doesn’t satisfy one or two of the signs of disordered eating…)

A reader wonders whether there’s anything to the folk wisdom about eating black cherries to alleviate gout or arthritis.  And another wrote to ask whether liquid smoke flavoring is safe to use.

Finally, here’s a little something I’ve been working on: a fun little mobile app that calculates your “nutritional grade point average.” Still needs a little work but what do you think so far? View it in iTunes.

NGPA

 

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This week, beer nutrition, back to school tips, life-hacking, and more

by Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN on August 30, 2014

MP900314313[1]You can easily look up the nutrient content of foods these days. But how much of that potassium, or iron, or whatever are you actually absorbing? In this week’s show, I talk about all the many (!) things that affect nutrient absorption and what you should being doing about it.

It’s a little harder to look up the nutrient content of your favorite micro (or home) brew but here are some surprising nutrition facts about beer.

Kara Rota of the Clever Cookstr podcast was my guest on last week’s show. Listen in on Kara’s conversation with Chef Scott Liebfried about blending culinary art and nutrition science.

And of course the kids are heading back to school. Here’s some new research on how physical activity can help boost academic performance.  You’ll find lots more Back to School tips–everything from packing healthy lunches to making friends to tackling homework at QDT’s Back to School Portal.

Come Spark with Me!

I am so excited to be taking part in Spark Weekend DC next month. It’s a two-day “life-hacking” camp designed to spark positive, lasting changes in your life. In the mornings, you’ll learn techniques for improving your health, productivity and well-being from experts (including me!). In the afternoons, we’ll get to work integrating these changes into your life. If you’re successful with your goals after 30 days, you get cash back!

Join me on September 13 and 14 in Washington DC be a part of an incredible community, eat delicious organic food, and check out the latest technology for change. As a Nutrition Diva listener, you can save 20% on your registration. Just go to dc.sparkweekend.com and use the discount code “DIVA”.

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Sushi RollsThis week I have a pair of episodes on the trending Low Histamine Diet. In the first, I explain who might benefit from reducing their dietary histamine load–and why.  Spoiler alert: Although it’s shaping up as the next diet fad, a low histamine diet is not a panacea for quick weight loss, clearer skin, or boundless energy.

But maybe, after listening to the first show, you’re thinking that histamine intolerance could be be an issue for you. In that case, you might want to experiment with some dietary modifications. In the second show, I try to make sense of a lot of conflicting advice about the histamine content of foods.

Speaking of conflicting advice, a listener recovering from diverticulitis is understandably confused by the information he’s gotten on fiber.  Should he be loading up or laying off? My recommendation here.

If you’ve been enjoying my series of Nutrition Cheat Sheets, here’s another one to bookmark:  Sodium in sushi.

Our ReViVer restaurant team was delighted by this write up in the Wall Street Journal and this profile on Fox News. If you’re in New York City, I hope you’ll stop by for a healthy lunch!

Perhaps because he couldn’t make it to New York, Matt Purdy, our intrepid Senior Producer at Maryland Morning (WYPR FM), recently attempted to live for a week on Soylent instead of food. Host Tom Hall and I sample the Soylent and debrief Matt on his experiment.

And finally, one last reminder about the Can It Forward live webcast from the Brooklyn Boroughs Hall Farmer’s Market with Hugh Acheson. Tune in Saturday August 16 at 10am Eastern for canning demos, tips, and to post your questions to the experts.

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Product Review: Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System

by Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN on August 9, 2014

Canner

 

Although I’m not a prolific canner, I usually put up a few things from my garden every August, using an ancient enameled canning pot I picked up years ago at a yard sale.  Baltimore in August is steamy enough without giant pots of water boiling on the stove for several hours, so I was intrigued by a recent review of a new electric canning appliance from Ball–and delighted when the folks at Ball offered to send me a unit to review.

Having spent the weekend playing with my new toy, here are some thoughts–in case you are considering purchasing one.

Pros of the Ball FreshTECH canner:

Energy Efficient. The canner uses much less water than a canning pot and heats it up far more quickly. That keeps the kitchen a whole lot cooler–probably the chief advantage for me. You could even use it outside!

Automatically Adjusts for Altitude. Although my city sits at sea level, those who live at higher altitudes have to adjust their processing times to ensure a safe product. The FreshTECH unit automatically senses and adjusts for your local altitude, which is very cool.

Maintains Proper Temperature.  Processing foods at the proper temperatures for the proper length of time is also essential to product safety. You’d be amazed at the difference in water temperature between “starting to boil” and “rolling boil”–a distinction that most home canners fail to recognize. The FreshTECH keeps the water at the right temperature and times the processing precisely.

Easy to Use and Clean. The unit is easy to clean and the push button dashboard is intuitive and easy to operate. The unit takes up less space than my old canning pot and made the whole process (preparing the empty jars, filling them, processing them) quick, easy, and tidy.

Cons of the Ball FreshTECH canner:

Small Capacity. The unit only handles small batches–just 3 quarts, 4 pints, or 6 half-pint jars at a time. I tend to can in pretty small quantities because I have a fairly small garden, but even I often have more than 4 pints of peppers or pickles to put up–something that my old canning pot can do in a single batch. The instructions also discourage you from making large batches and processing them sequentially.

Recipe Restrictions.  After writing this article on canning techniques, I had a heightened appreciation for the importance of following precise recipes when canning.  Fiddling with the ingredients or proportions can raise the pH to the point where harmful bacteria can thrive, for example. But I expected to be able to use any approved canning recipe in the automatic canner. The instructions repeatedly emphasize that ONLY recipes optimized for the FreshTECH canner should be used–which struck me as unnecessarily limiting.

The book came with a fairly limited number of recipes–none of which were for the vegetable I had on hand (hot peppers).  Fortunately, there is a much more extensive selection of “optimized ” recipes on the FreshPreserving.com website, including a few for hot peppers.

I also thought the unit would allow me to can lower-acid foods that require pressure canning. Without a pressure canner, these recipes have always been off-limits to me–and with the FreshTECH canner, they still are. Despite its resemblance to a pressure cooker, the canner does not have this capacity.

I also found it irritating that so many of the recipes (which ostensibly must be followed exactly) require Ball brand ingredients like spice mixtures and pectin. Although some aspects of a recipe (such as the amount and type of vinegar or salt) are crucial, it’s hard to believe that using my preferred pickling spices will threaten my safety or success.  In my opinion, having more choice and flexibility would make the FreshTECH canner even more appealing.

Bottom Line

Although it was disappointing on a few points, on balance, I am glad to have the FreshTECH Automatic Canner.  Being able to put up a few jars of jam or pickles with so little muss and fuss (and steam) will probably encourage me to can more frequently. With a footprint of about one cubic foot, I can definitely justify a spot for it on my basement shelves–although due to its small capacity, it would not completely replace my old canning pot.

Some might find the price tag of $300 off-putting, compared to the $30 you might spend on a lower tech set-up–but it will save you water, energy, and sweat. The unit has a usable life of about 1o00 hours, which translates into several thousands of jars of home-canned goods.

The FreshTECH Automatic Canner would make a FANTASTIC birthday, anniversary, wedding, Mother’s or Father’s Day gift for someone who’s into the whole preserving scene.  And from now through October 31st, Ball is offering free shipping on the units.

Disclaimer: I have received no compensation for this review and receive no commission on purchases through this or any site. I did receive a unit (value $299) for review purposes.

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canitforwardThe summer harvest is upon us! For those who enjoy canning, mark your calendars for August 16th, which is International Can-It-Forward day. The day includes a live webcast from the Brooklyn Borough Hall Farmer’s Market, with canning demos and live Q&A,  hosted by celebrity Chef Hugh Acheson and other experts. Twenty five farmers markets across the country will also be hosting Can-It-Forward Day celebrations! I’ll have more details in the coming days on how you can participate (and win free stuff!).

Meanwhile, can you believe there is actually something called National Junk Food Day? Neither could I! Fortunately, it is now safely behind us. But in the spirit of “all things in moderation,” I did participate by putting together some tips on how to do junk food right.

Just in case too much junk food has resulted in dental problems, here are some nutrition tips for those who need to follow a soft or liquid diet for a period of time.

We also  have two new installments in the Know Your Nutrients series: What you Need to Know About Vitamin K and BloodThinners  (plus a Vitamin K Cheat Sheet) and The Many Faces of Vitamin E (plus a  Vitamin E Cheat Sheet)

And last but not least, there’s still time to enter to win 2 free copies of Secrets for a Healthy Diet (one for you and one for a friend).

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Pitcher of Red BeverageLast week I kept a real-time photo/audio diary of everything I ate over the course of a single day. You can see the results of this experiment here. It wasn’t a nutritionally “perfect” day, but that was sort of the point. Lots of you wrote to ask for more “day in the life” diaries, reflecting different seasons or types of challenges, such as traveling. Happy to comply!

For those who are ready to move beyond food once and for all, this week’s podcast is a review of Soylent, a new product that claims to make food a thing of the past. What do you think? Are you ready to give up eating? (I’m certainly not.)

This week’s newsletter has a somewhat counter-intuitive tip for controlling cravings. Although researchers found this method to be effective, I (and lots of you, apparently) have doubts.

If you’ve failed to curb that craving and succumbed to a sugar binge, is there anything you can do to undo the damage? That’s what a Nutrition Diva listener wants to know. Here’s my answer.

Finally, next Monday, July 21st is National Junk Food Day.  My thoughts on that here.

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Chilled Cucumber Soup recipeAhoy there! (Or, for those of a more piratical bent: Avast!)  Here in the Northeast, U.S.,  the hot weather has arrived in earnest. If your will to cook is wilting along with the salad greens, this refreshing Chilled Cucumber Soup may be just the thing.

This week’s podcast, “Are Some Calories More Fattening Than Others?” was inspired by an ongoing discussion I’ve been having with nutrition professor and fellow myth-slayer, LeeAnn Simons.  You probably won’t be surprised that we’ve staked out a middle ground between the extreme poles of “Calories Don’t Matter” and “Calories are All That Matters.”

The previous week’s podcast offers nutrition and diet tips for the growing number of young women dealing with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS.  If you don’t have any ovaries yourself, please feel free to share it with someone who does.

In this week’s newsletter, a question about brown rice (and the surprising answer). And in last week’s Smart Nutrition segment on WYPR-FM, Tom Hall and I try to sort through confusing new research on protein: Are you getting enough? Are you getting too much? Listen to our conversation here.

The latest issue of Food and Nutrition Magazine is all about dairy, and includes my article on kefir–the fastest rising star in the fermented food firmament.

Thanks to Sarah Klein of Huffington Post for letting me rant a bit about detox in her roundup of popular nutrition nonsense and to Emily Ho for including me in her great article on the nutritional and culinary benefits of sprouted grains.

So much for the week’s business! Who has interesting vacation plans? Who has a spare room in their Tuscan villa or Caribbean island?

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