November 6, 2014

Powdered Creamer: the bad, the worse and the ugly

Recently on a plane, I requested coffee as the attendant came around. Being from Seattle and Chicago, I’m somewhat of a coffee fiend and when I’m traveling I’ll take what I can get. Recent studies keep touting the health benefits of coffee so I’m drinking it (in moderation) guilt-free these days. But use caution when adding sugar or cream…this is where you can get into trouble. 

She handed me a creamer packet and I glanced at the ingredients.  To my horror, this tiny powder packet contains a bunch of chemicals and products some states are banning due to their known detrimental health effects.  Beware! Let’s break this packet down:

Corn Syrup Solids: dehydrated, concentrated corn syrup

Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil: TRANS FAT!!

Soy Lecithin   something to make it taste creamy and not separate; an emulsifier

Artificial flavor: Artificial flavors can be a variety of generally petroleum-based chemicals that flavor foods.

Sodium Caseinate: a milk protein (caution with dairy allergies)

Dipotassium Phosphate: a protein stabilizer so the product won’t clot up when hot water is added.  This product is also commonly used in fertilizer and can act as a skin, lung and eye irritant. 

Sodium Silicoaluminate:  anti-caking agent and controversial source of dietary aluminum     

Artificial color:  A combination of the seven approved artificial food dyes including Blue 1 and 2, Green 3, Red 40 and 3, Yellow 5 and/or 6.  Food dyes are petroleum based.   

Mono and Diglycerides: Made from soy, cottonseed, sunflower or palm oils, these compounds helps fat blend into water, another emulsifier. Mono and di-glycerides do not qualify as trans-fats since trans-fats are considered “tri-glycerides”. However, these can be a source of hydrogenated fatty acids without the label - tricky! Vegetarians and vegans use caution since mono and diglycerides can be either animal or plant-derived.  It’s very hard to know if not labeled. 

            All that being said, I drank my coffee black. Read your labels carefully, everyone!  

October 23, 2014

Spicy Vegan Lentil Soup

I wanted a savory autumn classic but I wanted it spicy!  This soup is so simple and makes perfect leftovers. Use up the last of your Farmers Market produce and enjoy this high-iron, high-fiber, antioxidant-rich twist on a basic lentil soup. Feel free to sub in other veggies you have for the ones listed in the ingredients. This is the ultimate multitasking recipe; prep the veggies and spices, then you can complete the steps in quick succession towards dinner.


Makes ~8-12 cups


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup French dry green lentils, rinsed well and drained
  • 1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomato
  • 4 cups vegetable stoc
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper 
  • Hot sauce as needed

  1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, and parsnips and cook, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent. Add bay leaf, oregano, cumin, chili flakes and garlic to the pot and cook for another minute. Add wine and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add rinsed lentils to the pot along with potato, tomatoes and stock. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and allow the soup to simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes. Add water, as necessary, ½ cup at a time if needed but a thicker consistency is best.
  3. Near the end of the cooking time, add spinach to the pot and stir in. Cover soup for the remaining 1-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add in salt and cracked black pepper, to taste. Garnish with hot sauce of your choice if desired.

**Soup will keep in the fridge for a few days and will only get better with time as the flavors develop. For long-term storage, freeze individual portions for up to 1 month.

Original recipe by Ginger Hultin MS RD LDN

October 11, 2014

Five Reasons to Avoid Halloween Candy This Year

Go to Halloween parties, wear a costume, drink cider, bob for apples and carve pumpkins but I strongly suggest avoiding eating candy this year.  Halloween treats are big business; Americans spend over 2 billion dollars each year on candy for this holiday specifically with Reese’s Peanut Butter cups being the most popular choice. Here’s why you should consider cutting way back on the candy you eat October 31st:

1.  It makes you feel terrible.

When you eat concentrated sweets like sugar or corn syrup, your blood sugar spikes up causing a cascade of hormones which will tell your body to store this energy as fat.  Once these hormones pump out at an increased level, your blood sugar comes crashing down again leaving you irritable and hungry for more.  Get off the roller coaster by avoiding concentrated sugar and candy, especially when you're trying to enjoy your holiday.

2Candy is filthy.  

There is an assumed natural and unavoidable level of defects in food that reportedly pose no health threat to humans including: maggots, insect fragments, mold, rodent hair, and insect/mammalian feces.  The USDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has rules for how much is allowed into candy as well as other food products.  That’s a Halloween trick you weren’t expecting. 

3.  Sugar is addictive.  

With studies this year pouring out about how bad sugar is for your health, you’ve probably heard that you should avoid it.  Keep in mind that sugar may be an addictive substance, with some researchers comparing it to alcohol, nicotine and even cocaine because of the way it stimulates our brains.  A lot of my patients find stepping away from sugar almost impossible and aren’t surprised to learn that people get addicted to it. For some, an all-or-nothing approach is best and this can be one tactic to survive a candy-laden holiday.

4.  Halloween candy is a low quality food. 
If you are concerned about the quality of your food including topics such as organic, genetically modified ingredients, food colors and preservatives then you should know about what’s in the candy we consume. Corn syrup is a common first ingredient in most candies.  You’ll often find hydrogenated oils (aka: trans fats), other low quality oils such as palm or vegetable oils, and at the end, a list of food coloring: Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1.  FYI corn, soy and oils are all on the most GMO food products list. 

 5.  The holidays are coming.

The ‘holiday’ season is generally specified as mid-November until mid-January but I argue that it really starts in late October with all the Halloween parties and increased candy consumption. Studies are mixed, but research has shown that people do gain weight during the holidays and folks who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for weight gain during that time period. Do yourself a favor and enjoy a healthy holiday!