3 Food and Nutrition Claims Challenged

 cappucino in a mug at a coffee shop 

In this age of online media it seems like everyday I read nutrition advice that makes me cringe a little bit. When reading a sensational headline or one of those "why you should avoid x" articles, there's probably a lot more to the story and you might want to proceed with a skeptical eye. This can be a hard skill to master, but something that I always find helpful is to ask myself - what would be the opposition to this opinion and why might they think that way? Then I do a literature search to see what else is out there on the topic (#nerdalert).

Here are three specific examples of food and nutrition claims that you might want to challenge. 

1. avoid {insert food here} because some people have a sensitivity to it 

I find the most common examples of this one to be gluten and dairy, so here's the story on that. Gluten is problematic for people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. I also have a hunch that many people believe to have issues with gluten when in fact any adverse effects are related to another food, or even just stress from having to constantly worry about avoiding said food. Very few people actually have celiac disease (somewhere around 1% of people in the U.S.) and even less have a diagnosed wheat allergy. 

Similarly, dairy is an issue if your body does not produce lactase, the enzyme that helps digest the lactose in milk. Although fairly common (about 35% of Americans), not true for everyone (source). Even those with lactose intolerance can typically consume small to moderate amounts of dairy without any adverse effects and there are several benefits to consuming it, so I wouldn't eliminate without cause unless you actually dislike it or choose to for ethical reasons.

2. Fear and Misinformation around farming and agriculture 

The latest "Dirty Dozen" list was released a couple of weeks ago so there was much conversation around the topic of organic versus conventionally grown crops as a follow-up to that. However even the so-called "dirtiest" crops on the list are entirely safe to eat. For instance, I could consume 454 servings of strawberries in a day without adverse effects even if they have the highest pesticide residue recorded for strawberries by the USDA. Also, I once heard a farmer say that the Dirty Dozen list is inherently flawed because it always has to include 12 crops and I thought that was pretty brilliant. Farmers do not "douse" their crops in dangerous chemicals. Chemical applications are the last resort for weed and pest control in both conventional and organic agriculture because that stuff is mega pricey. 

There are multiple reasons why one might choose foods cultivated via one type of agriculture over the other (availability, environmental considerations, etc) but don't let the safety piece be one of them. For more information on this topic I love following the work of Rebecca Larsen, Kevin Folta, and James Wong.

3. Making the case for {new diet} by way of the standard american diet

Rarely does someone compare a new dietary pattern to a "mostly plant-based eating pattern that incorporates a modest amount of dairy and meat while still limiting highly processed/refined foods". Instead, it is almost always compared to the Standard American Diet, which we know is notorious for it's connection with adverse health outcomes. Something I would encourage you to do when questioning the effectiveness of the latest diet trend is to ask yourself - what is being compared to? 

Here's what I mean by this. If someone starts just about any new plan out there, he/she will probably notice a dramatic difference in a short amount of time if adding in cooking, more whole foods and eating regular balanced meals (regardless of whether it's paleo, Whole30, vegetarian, etc.). Can you accomplish similar effects by following the same behaviors but not restricting anything? We are all different and there is likely no one perfect diet, but it sure does make life simpler when you have the option to eat more foods versus less.

Share a food/nutrition myth that you have recently come across in the comments!

3 Recipes, 2 Kitchen Hacks, 1 Cookbook

It's been a minute since I last published a lately post so I thought it would be a good time to change things up. In case you missed it, I declared March recipe month around here (in honor of National Nutrition Month) and put up a new recipe every week to celebrate with some tasty plant-powered eats. I'm really wanting to get more consistent with recipe development and photography so hopefully you found those fun. 

Today is all about the behind-the-scenes of some favorite meals and snacks of late. If anything, I hope this gives you some inspiration or new ideas in the kitchen. Make sure you read all the way to the end and leave me a comment with some of your recent favorites!

BA's Best Buttermilk Pancakes

 buttermilk pancakes with butter

You guys. I have been meaning to try these for ages and I finally remembered that I had extra buttermilk from when we made Irish soda bread on St. Patrick's Day. The Food Director of BA (who is frequently on their podcast) swears by these as the magazine recipe that she makes consistently, and that's coming from a chef. I made them on Saturday and they were fluffy and perfect. I still love Kodiak Cakes for the heartiness and staying power, but these are the perfect once in awhile weekend breakfast. You must make them! Find the recipe here.

Buffalo Chicken Naan Pizzas

 buffalo chicken naan pizza with chickpeas

Here's a kitchen hack for you to try. We had some leftover naan to use up so Jacob had the idea to turn them into pizzas. Conveniently enough, we already had most of the stuff on hand to do the buffalo chicken thing with one small issue - we only had enough chicken for one. To bulk it up, I opened up a can of garbanzo beans and mixed them in with the chicken and sauce. And it was actually really delicious! Also, I need more naan pizza in my life. 

Butternut Squash & Jalapeno Tacos 

 butternut squash tacos from the pretty dish
 butternut squash and black bean taco

I pre-ordered Jessica Merchant's The Pretty Dish cookbook and MAN is it a good one. As a huge fan of the How Sweet Eats blog I'm probably biased and would love anything she does, but there are so many recipes in there that I want to make. This was the first one that really stood out to me when I was flipping through the pages so we had them last week and they turned out so well. Such an interesting flavor combination with the chipotle crema and caramelized squash. We will definitely be making them again. As a bonus, the ingredients made for a legit lunch salad the next day too (I turn pretty much everything into a salad at some point). Tacos are so versatile!

On Wednesdays We Wear Pink

 hibiscus lime wheat chain reaction brewery

Have you ever met a beer with a more interesting name? Whether that's the reason I ended up choosing it is beside the point. One of our neighborhood breweries has really interesting beers and a great patio, so J and I met there for an impromptu happy hour one night after having a gorgeous 70 degree day. This was a hibiscus lime wheat and so perfect for what I was wanting. At first I was hesitant because I always worry that anything with lavender or hibiscus is going to taste like floral perfume but it was awesome. Anyone else notice these floral flavors are super trendy right now in beer and cocktails? 

Morning Glory Breakfast Cookies 

 morning glory breakfast cookies with kodiak cakes mix

I shared this breakfast cookie recipe last week and it seemed to be a hit! I started with Kodiak Cakes pancake/waffle mix and bulked it up for a quick grab and go breakfast with oats, walnuts, raisins and carrots. I love stuff like this to pair with coffee in the morning and it's a bonus if they actually have staying power. Find the recipe here if you missed it.

Quick Pickled Shallots

 quick pickled shallots

Another find from The Pretty Dish - these were for a kale salad that we made on Saturday night. A "quick pickle" basically entails soaking something in a vinegar/sugar/salt solution (I think these only took like half an hour?). I found them to be incredibly simple and now I want to start pickling all the things. Plus could they BE any prettier?

Spring Roll Bowls 

 pinch of yum spring roll bowls 

Lastly, these gorgeous Spring Roll Bowls by Pinch of Yum that are basically loaded with all of the flavors I like best.  I've been super into these really thin brown rice noodles because I find that they don't stick together as much as the larger/flat ones and it's easier to toss them with all of the other add-ins. This recipe had a tip for avoiding the dreaded stickiness - to soak in cold water, then drop into a pot of boiling water for just a minute before draining. That seemed like a lot of work to me but I did it anyway and it worked! OH, and the best part about having made this recipe was that the Pinch of Yum folks shared my photo in their Insta story and it pretty much made my day (#bloggeridol). 

What have you been eating lately? Share in the comments along with your all-time favorite cookbook (as if I need any more). Have a great week!

Spring Strawberry Salad with Orange Champagne Vinaigrette

 strawberry feta salad individual portion

Easter is coming guys. If you're anything like me, you wait until the last minute to figure out what your contribution to the big family brunch will be. If this is the case, I have the easiest fresh and seasonal salad that will definitely go over well with any crowd. It has everything a spring salad should - fresh leafy greens, seasonal fruit, salty feta, toasted almonds and a homemade dressing that leaves people asking - what was in that? I'm all about contrast with my salads and this one covers all the bases. 

 strawberry feta spring salad in salad bowl

As a side note: somehow I developed a reputation as the resident salad-contributor to a lot of social events. Not even because I'm a dietitian but because I like coming up with different combinations! Most people think the salad is the boring part of the meal but I like to think of it as the perfect compliment. Vegetables should never be obligatory and with a salad this good, the greens can absolutely be a favorite side. Anyone else agree? 

 strawberry feta salad with easter linen

With this one I started with the traditional components of an Easter salad but made it just slightly more gourmet with toasted nuts and a dressing that really pops. Both of these are insanely easy, so you can impress without learning any complicated new techniques or having to search for out-of-the-box ingredients. And while you can certainly add the almonds without toasting, PLEASE just do me a favor and do not skip this step. It takes just a few extra minutes and seriously amplifies the flavor. Similarly, adding fresh-squeezed orange juice isn't totally necessary, but it is a special occasion so I say just go for it. 

 spring strawberry salad with orange champagne vinaigrette
print recipe
Spring Strawberry Salad with Orange Champagne Vinaigrette
The perfect side dish for Easter dinner (or any spring occasion).
  • 12 oz spring mix
  • 16 oz strawberries, halved
  • 4 oz feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 medium orange (I like Cara Cara)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • to taste salt and pepper
1. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat; add almonds and stir frequently toasting until fragrant and browned (watching carefully not to burn). Transfer to a plate and cool completely in a single layer. 2. Make the dressing: add vinegar, orange juice and honey to a 16 oz jar and mix with a fork until well combined. Then add olive oil, screw the lid on and shake vigorously. Season with salt and pepper to taste.3. Add greens to a large salad bowl along with the chopped strawberries, feta cheese crumbles and toasted almonds. Add dressing per preference (you likely won't need it all) and toss well. Serve immediately. Store any remaining dressing in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8