Monday, March 21, 2011

McDonald's Horrifying Nutrition Facts

So let's say you decided to hit McDonald's for a Big Mac, some fries, a coke and one small Oreo Mcflurry! And the nice lady on the cashier asks if you would like to super-size it Sir, and you go "What the hell!" Pretty common conversation, no?
Well, truth be told, we are talking about:
  • Big Mac >> 540 calories with 29 grams of fat, 10 of which are saturated, 70 mg cholesterol and 1020 mg sodium
  • One large fries >> 560 calories with 27 g fat, 4 g saturated 430 mg sodium
  • A large coke >> 320 cals with and 82 g sugar!
  • One Oreo Mcflurry >> 500 calories, yes, with 17 grams fat, 10 g saturated, 60 grams sugar and 330 mg sodium
Lots of fat, sodium, cholesterol, saturated fats and sugar no? And a total of 1920 calories is more than I can have in a whole day! So say hello to heart diseases, stroke, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and obesity!
So before you decide to go for McDonald's and other fast food restaurants, check McDonald's Nutrition Facts for the unbelievably huge unwanted amounts of extra fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium you are adding to your diet!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fruits and Veggies - Blended Creatively in your Diet

Modifying recipes without compromising taste does not actually require extra time or effort, you just need few ideas to spark your creativity especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables and incorporating them in your family’s dietary habits. Focus has been put more on the importance of including fruits and veggies as a part of everyone’s personal eating habits with variety, moderation and balance built in.

Now even though fruits and vegetables’ content varies enormously, in general, they are low in fat, low in sodium, they are high in fiber and water, they supply many vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, B 6, potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium and they provide lots of phytochemicals and antioxidants .

So here are few ideas that might help you fit a rainbow in your and your children’s diets:

Kalyn's Kitchen
Grate your way – Add grated shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach, carrots and cabbage to mashed potatoes, meat dishes, rice, bulgur, wheat or lasagna.
Be fruit saucy – It’s time to experiment with fruits: make strawberry puree, banana, apples, peaches or pears and try them on grilled seafood or poultry, pancakes, toasts or even mix them with skimmed milk and crushed ice!
Toss in dried fruits – Try adding dried mangoes, papaya, raisins, prunes or apricots in whatever meal you are having whether you are baking homemade breads or cakes or in salads, sandwiches, rice, pasta, milk or pancakes.
Creative pizza – You’ll probably think I’ll suggest adding zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, bell pepper strips and tomatoes to your pizza, and yes, it’s true. But I also suggest you trying to experiment with fruits as well! Try adding pineapple slices, raisins, mango bits or even apple wedges. They will sure taste different – good different.
Mix fruits and veggies – Make a quick stir fry or boiled rice or pasta and add both fruits and vegetables to them! Start with small bits of raisins and experiment with one meal as a start.
Expand – Try new vegetables that you haven’t tried in your life. These could be local or not; either way give them a shot in a stew, salad, with rice or rice!
Lunch then fruit – Make a habit of packing one fruit for every member of the family to have after lunch.
Toss up a vegetable, fruits and legumes – Add colorful vegetables, legumes and fruits in your salad. Try adding rocket with strawberries, kiwi with romaine lettuce, beets with cabbage and chickpeas or carrots with spinach, lentils and raisins. Weird, yet creative and delicious combination!
Check this recipe from Italian food net
Make dips and spreads – spicy salsas can be made with bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices. For a new twist, add pineapples, peaches or mangoes! You can make baba ghanouj form eggplants with tomatoes and pomegranates seeds as a topping or chickpeas hummus with mint and strawberry bits! 
Stuff omelette time with veggies – In Lebanon, we have the habit of scrambling eggs with mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and probably onions on the side. This time try mixing your choice of onions, bell pepper, tomatoes, carrots or spinach with the eggs and baking them altogether.

Through these “out of the box” creative and colorful recipes, you, as a family, will probably learn how to enjoy fruits and vegetables for their vibrant colors, crunch and wonderful different flavors and in the same have enough fruits and vegetables fit in your diet. This way, you will sure increase your intake of healthful foods and stick to a hearty diet!

Source: American Dietetic Association - Complete food and Nutrition Guide, Roberta Larson Duyff

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hummus - Just Deee-licious!

Pureed chickpeas may not sound very appetizing, but Hummus, the pretty famous Middle Eastern chickpeas spread, is just de-licious (especially my mom's)! 
Now we often take hummus for granted here in Lebanon, but it's actually a hot food trend abroad! Hummus has virtually taken over the “refrigerated flavored spreads” category, which enjoyed sales of more than $300 million in 2009, according to data from a Chicago-based market research firm.

Even though you can find pre-made hummus in supermarkets, it's just not the same. Now it's actually pretty easy to prepare so here's a the Lebanese quick version which I got verbatim from The Food Blog:
  • Soak chickpeas overnight with a spoon or two of sodium bicarbonate
    Courtesy of The "yummy" Food Blog
  • Boil the hell out of the chickpeas. (now this step will definitely cause your chickpeas to lose some nutrients during the boiling process, diffused in the water).You want to be able to turn it into mush by simply pressing on the grain between your index and thumb
  • Drain but keep the cooking liquid as you will need it, especially that it has some leaked chickpeas' vitamins!
  • Put in a food processor with no other liquid and blend.
  • If the food processor is not blending properly, add tiny amounts of cooking water, and I mean by the tablespoon just to get it going
  • Keep blending until very smooth. If you put too much liquid, it will not get smooth enough, and remain yucky and grainy
  • Add garlic, salt and lemon juice, blend again and adjust to taste.
  • Add tahini paste/sesame seed butter (a bit at a time), blend and taste.
  • Tahini will make the dip seize up, so add a bit of cooking liquid (or lemon juice if it needs it) to loosen it all up, but not too much. It should be be thick and creamy, not liquidy in any way. Have a look at how it holds its grooves in the picture above.
  • Adjust garlic, salt and lemon juice, plate up, make a sort of well in the middle and fill it with good olive oil! (I would say just put 2 tsps of olive oil when you put hummus in your plate because you are already taking your fat in this meal from the tahini)
Now for more chickpeas facts (which are also called garbanzo beans), they are one of the world's oldest cultivated foods, dating back to the Neolithic period in what is now Sicily, according to The Food Encyclopedia. During the Roman Empire, chickpeas were shipped in jars from Sicily to the rest of Italy. But the Middle Eastern region is thought to have created hummus hundreds of years ago by combining pureed chickpeas with lemon juice or vinegar, tahini (sesame seed butter), garlic, and olive oil. 

Most importantly, whether you're new to hummus or a longtime fan, like moi, here are the nutritional benefits which it offers you!

Chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, are rich in fiber and lean proteins to start with. They also offer you vitamins and mineral such as folic acid, calcium, zinc and magnesium!
Now beans in general have been linked to lower bloog cholesterol and lower risk of cancer because they are rich in enzymes and antioxidants (such as saponins, protease inhibitors and phytic acid)!
On another hand, tahini (sesame seed butter) is rich in mono-unsaturated fats (the fat that helps to increase the "good" cholesterol HDL) and has additional calcium, proteins and fiber.
And not to forget, last but not least, the vitamin C lemon juice offers you, the monounsaturated fat the olive oil contains and the rich anti-oxidant heart healthy garlic potential!

Balila, courtesy of The food Blog

So be creative and enjoy your hummus:- As a raw vegetable dip: put your hummus bowl in the center and surround it with a rich combination of stick veggies such as cucumbers, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflowers, etc.
- As a sandwich spread with mint, cucumbers, tomatoes, rockets and olives
- In sandwiches, instead of mayonnaise >> this way you'll cut down your fat intake

- Diluted in water, broth or even wine to make such a delicious dressing for cold pastas
- Mix in a food processor with spices or ketchup to get a different taste and red color or with mint to get green creamy texture
- You can add small bits of lean grilled meat + pine nuts on the top and have it as a main dish with
fattouch on the side (my personal favorite lunch!)
- You can even keep the chickpeas intact (no food processing) and make yourself a nice bowl of "Balila" mixed with garlic, lemon juice, oil and pine nuts!

Now food aside, I was inspired to write this "nutritional' post about hummus because of the Lebanese smart/sarcastic Hummus Nation Blog well, has nothing to do with food!

Sources: WebMD, The Food Blog and The Food Encyclopedia

Sunday, March 13, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Green Cookies!

Courtesy of Taste of Beirut

It's pretty known that on March 17th,  St. Paddy's Day, you either Go Green or Go Home!

So in order to celebrate this day in a delicious crispy way, I think it's definitely fine to have something sweet. This is why I found this chocolate-minty cookies recipe which I highly recommend to check here, especially if you love the mixture crispy-chocolate sweet-refreshing minty taste!

However, you know I can't but add: A little chocolate is good for the heart, so have these cookies in moderation and try to avoid beer binge drinking on this lovely day!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coffee - Everyone's Morning Ritual

An innocent cup of coffee can become a morning ritual, right? Well it has probably happened to you! However, it's important to know the facts!

A cup of plain black coffee contains around 10 to 15 calories tops! And moderate intake of coffee - a cup or 2 per day - provides you with rich antioxidants and is actually linked with lower risk of diabetes type 2, heart diseases and Alzheimer's! But be warned, this is only linked to plain black coffee!

BUT - Ordering from the fancier side of the menu, say at Dunkin Donuts perhaps, you decided to go to a coffee coolatta with cream. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but this contains 400 calories, 23 grams of fat and 43 grams of sugar! Even if you chose the skim milk version, you will end up with 210 calories and 49 grams of sugar!

So let's say you dropped by Starbucks:
If you go for its Frapuccino, we are talking about 450+ calories and even if you decide to go for "lighter" or simpler options such as the iced falvored Latte with only 2% fat milk, this is more like 250 calories with 6 grams fat and 34 grams of sugar! Cocoa whole milk (venti) is 600 calories, Mocha whole milk (venti) is 500 cals, caramel Machiato whole milk (grande) is 300 cals, mint Mocha chip frappucino (grande) is more like 500 cals and white chocolate mocha with whipped cream is 470 cals, I mean just to name a few!

So now you're probably asking "What can I order then?"
  • First of all, stick to one cup a day! Skip all the rituals of one cup in the morning, one on the break and another in the afternoon! You don't need this much caffeine in your body. Keep in mind that too much caffeine is linked to bone loss, fertility problems, headaches, irritability, little sleep, back pain, heartburn and ulcerpain! Moreover, try to avoid other caffeinated foods and beverages throughout your day such as carbonated sodas, tea and chocolate
  • Watch your order size, always go for the smallest cup
  • Ask for skim milk or 1% fat milk (low fat)
  • Avoid adding sugar
  • Avoid the whipped cream topping
  • Avoid sugary syrups like the chocolate/caramel/vanilla ones!
  • AND, lay off the extra doughnuts, croissants, muffins, brownies, cookies and cakes that may accompany it! Just think of the blueberry muffin at Starbucks: it's 360 cals, apple bran muffin 470 cals, apple fritter 490 cals, butter croissant 350 cals and vanilla cupcake 340 cals!
So enjoy a good warm cup of coffee without those fancy mixings and extra calories, fat and sugar!

Source: Everyday Health

Monday, March 7, 2011

How to Manage Your Diet This Lent

It’s the first day of Christian fasting (aka Lent) here in Lebanon, and most people are confused about how this could affect their overall health. So I got a good straight to the point newsletter from Sohi Wa Sarih Clinics and elaborated on it a bit. You can actually check their website and apply to get their healthy weekly newsletter as well.

Now there are mainly 4 types of fasting that can be applied separately or together, depending on your own preference, physical condition, age and/or religious sect:
• Fasting until 12 pm
• Deprivation of food(s) you like
• Abstinence from meat for the whole fasting season
• Deprivation of all types of animal products, including meats, dairy products and eggs

Fasting until 12 pm:
Well, it has no effect on health at all since your body will not reach its starvation mode yet. It may be harder on night workers or people who wake up really early but it’s usually not recommended to exceed a period of 14 hours without food between dinner and breakfast. So keep track of how long you are staying without providing your body with food and fix your diet accordingly!
Giving up chocolate
Deprivation of food you like (could be chocolate, potato chips, soft drinks):
These foods are not necessary, and yes guys, they can be left out of your diet. They will sure not affect your health or physical well-being, on the contraire, they will push you to focus on healthier food options such as fruits and vegetables as snacks! This way you'll cut the junk and increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, fibers and anti-oxidants!
Abstinence from meat:
Some people could also choose to cut down on their meats. Meats contain iron, a mineral essential for the body, found in legumes and vegetables too, but in a different and less effectively absorbed form. So when you give up meats, make sure to have enough legumes (7boub, such as beans, chickpeas, peas and lentils, along with dark green leafy vegetables). Throw a lemon on the side because Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron whether it's in its meaty or vegetable form! Moreover, make sure to have at least 2 servings of grilled or canned fish (I mean if you haven’t given them up as well) to ensure appropriate amount of proteins and omega 3 in your diet.
All vegan diet
Deprivation of all types of animal products (Vegan Diet):
This type of fasting consists of abstinence from red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, butter and all animal products whatsoever. This would compromise protein, calcium, zinc and vitamin B 12. Animal foods provide all 9 “essential” amino acids (protein building blocks) needed to make “complete proteins”, whereas plant foods are considered as incomplete, meaning they lack one or more essential amino acids.
Lentils and Rice. Don't forget
the complementary lemon-y salad
on the side!
Now to outsmart this >> Go for “complementary” protein sources, such as grains and legumes consumed together in the same meal, thus providing adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. For example mix beans with rice (fasolia w rez) or lentils with rice (mjadara or mdardara) along with cabbage salad with lemon juice on the side (remember the Vitamin C effect on iron in legumes) 
As for milk and milk products, calcium should not be a concern if abstinence is limited to the 50 days’ fasting period. Osteoporosis takes much longer than 50 days to develop!  However, keep in mind that dark green vegetables such as broccoli and canned sardines (with bones) provide considerate amounts of calcium in your diet.

Drink at least 8 to 10 cups
of water per day
Last but not least, consume slow-digesting foods having fibers such as vegetables, legumes, whole wheat carbs and fruits more than fast-digesting food like juices, white bread, sweets and sugary drinks because the fast digesting ones make us feel hungry again (low filling effect) after 2 to 3 hours of eating and increase the risk of constipation!
And even if you are fasting till 12 noon (and maybe fasting from drinking water as well) make sure to drink enough water, 30 ml/kg X your weight in kilograms throughout your day!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fattouch with Sumac - Most Delicious Salad in My World!

Photo courtesy of DKS and Greedy Gourmet blogs

Fattouch - a pretty famous salad we have here in Lebanon - is my favorite salad of all time! It's quite rich in various vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and water because of all the vegetables in it.

If you want the recipe, and I highly recommend giving it a try, you can check Dirty Kitchen Secrets's Beth's post on the Greedy Gourmet blog! The salad is pretty easy to prepare and contains the rainbow you need to include in your plate: lettuce, purslane, mint, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, onions, pomegranate molasses, bread, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper and Sumac. Some (like my Mom) even throw in pomegranate seeds, parsley, rocket and sometimes cabbage.

Now this salad would not have been the same without Sumac!
Sumac is dried and ground from dark red-purple berries from the sumac bush but could be somewhat hard to find outside the Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Italy. It adds a very tarty astringent delicious taste to any dish whether it is rubbed on meats, potatoes, eggs, hummus, vegetables, in thyme to make our famous zaatar for the man'ouche, in pies (fatayer), in soups or in salads, you name it! It can be added in the cooking process or sprinkled at the end.
If it's not available, it is often replaced by lemon or vinegar, though it is not really as sour; nothing can actually compensate for the rich taste sumac gives!
It is quite rich in antioxidants such as tannins that show antibacterial and antiviral potential; aiding the body to fight diseases. It also contains vitamin C, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus!
Note that sumac should be bought from a store and not picked from roadsides because some of the bush's varieties could be poisonous. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Taste Lebanon - A Culinary Journey Across Lebanon

Dirty Kitchen Secrets, in collaboration with the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism, is organizing the 2nd edition of Taste Lebanon - a culinary journey across Lebanon for all the foodies out there who would love to combine tourism with food appreciation.
It will take place from April 28th till May 6th 2011.

Now what I found interesting is that this tour will be very personalized where people will be invited to Lebanese homes across the country to learn the authentic cooking techniques. 

The 7-day tour will include some of these activities, depending on seasonal variation:
  • Fish your own - boat trip
  • Harvest your own - with a short discussion on local farming
  • Demonstration on Arabic bread and Saj bread, sujuk and basterma (Armenian sausage and cured meat), Kebbe making, Baklawa and/or halewet el jebn (Lebanese sweets)
  • Kitchen workshop on Lebanese mezza (delicious range of appetizers)
  • Visits to old and new souks
  • Dairy farm visit
  • Visit to a butcher and a bakery in order to watch the process of making the Lebanese sfiha (miniature minced lamb pies)
  • Visit oil groves and olive oil pressing
  • Visit a vineyard with wine tasting
  • Visit an Arak distillery (Lebanon's national alcoholic drink - similar to ouzo and pastis)
  • Visit wild Zaatar (thyme) fields
  • Demonstration of how to make Moune like Kkshek, bulgur, awarma. etc. (traditional Lebanese food storage techniques)
Amazing and exhaustive list of foods you always see in Lebanese delicious recipes, yet you never know their origins. So it's a great way to visit Lebanon and get more acquainted with our yummy food! More details for costs, hotel, meals, detailed schedule, terms and conditions, etc. please check Dirty Kitchen Secrets (DKS).
You can also check the DKS blog for many creative recipes!

Roadster Diner Goes Light

Roadster Diner in Lebanon introduced a new light menu section of burgers & sandwiches!
These include beef grilled patties & chicken breasts for burgers and sandwiches of either chicken, tuna, turkey and beef filet. This is great news for those who are watching their diets and figures because all these items contain less than 500 calories, served with vegetables in brown breads and buns!

I loved the Fit n' Burger made with grilled patty, rocket leaves, grilled onions, grilled tomatoes, grilled fresh mushrooms and their light sauce served in a mutli-cereal brown bun.Yum yum! 

Now calories and health aside,I have one tiny note:
Should all light/healthy meals in Lebanon be really that expensive? This is probably a very important aspect to tackle. I mean if you saw the same burger in a menu:
  • The first considered as unhealthy and dipped in saturated fat, luring you with extra mayo, bacon and cheese
  • And the second is all grilled, healthy in brown bread - BUT - around 5000 LL more expensive??
It's not that we can't afford it, it's more like making it impossible for people to make healthier and lighter choices without making them pay extra for it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fruit and Veggies' Month

During this National Nutrition Month of eating right with color, don't forget to include various fruit and vegetables more abundantly in your dietary habits.

Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium, low in fat, free from cholesterol, high in fiber, important sources of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium and folate, increase your fullness factor and are an integral part in any healthy and or weight loss diet program.

Recommendations differ between one person and another, by age, height, weight, gender and physical activity.
However, in general, daily recommendations are:
>> 2-3 servings of fruit per day
>> 3-4 servings of vegetables per day

 (but what counts as serving?? This will follow next week)

& 30 mL of water per kilogram of your weight! Water is essential; especially when you gradually start to increase your fiber intake.

For many more cartoons, please visit Randy's site @

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rainbow Plates this March!

March is considered to be the annual month of Nutrition with this year’s theme being “Eat Right with Color”. A rainbow of fruits and vegetables creates a palette of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals on your plate, each with a different bundle of healthful benefits.
It is important to know that variety within each food group is essential because each offers unique nutritional benefits and supply different nutrients.
Green produce indicates antioxidant potential and may help promote healthy vision and reduce cancer risks. Fruits and vegetables that are green are rich in phyto-nutrients and antioxidants that
Fruits include avocado, green apples, green grapes, green pears, kiwifruit and limes whereas vegetables include artichoke, asparagus, zucchini, dark green leafy vegetables, spinach, mloukhiye, green peppers, broccoli, parsley, rocket, peas, okra, cabbage, mint and the list goes on! This is the most abundant variety we have in Lebanon from which we can benefit a lot when making our famous Fattouch salad!
Orange and deep yellow fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that promote healthy vision, healthy heart, better immunity and reduce the risk of some cancers.
Fruits include oranges, mango, cantaloupe, tangerines, pineapple, apricots, peach, papaya and yellow figs while orange vegetables include carrots, yellow pepper, pumpkins, sweet corn and sweet potatoes.
The rich orange color offers antioxidants such as carotenoids, bioflavonoids and the antioxidant vitamin C. The deeper the yellow/orange color, the more carotenoids these foods have!
Purple and blue options may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health, recurring infections and reduced cancer risks. Fruits that are purply are blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisin and purple figs while vegetables are eggplants and purple cabbage. These contain phenolic antioxidants and anthocyanins, which is responsible for the dark purple color.
Red and pink color indicate produce that may help maintain a healthy heart, vision, immunity and may reduce cancer risks. This color group delivers lycopene, a powerful carotenoid, as well as anthocyanin. Reddish fruits include strawberries, pomegranate, cranberries, red or pink grapes and watermelon and the vegetables can include beets, red onions, red bell pepper and tomatoes
Last but not least, the last member of the palette is white, tan and brown foods that contain nutrients promoting heart health and reduce cancer risks. These include fruits such as banana, pears, dates and white peaches in addition to vegetables such as cauliflower, mushroom, onions, turnips, potatoes and garlic. Selenium in mushrooms and allicin in garlic and onion are of great antioxidant potential.
In whatever meal you are having, always include a bowl of colorful mixed vegetables followed by a snack of delicious fruits!
For more information, check Eat

Kalyn's Kitchen Creative Salad Recipes

Recipe for napa cabbage, red cabbage and peanuts from Kalyn's Kitchen
Since it's fruit and vegetables' month with eating with colors and all, one smart and creative blog I love to get inspired from is Kalyn's Kitchen, especially her exhaustive salad selection.
In her blog, salads are divided either with:
  • Tomatoes and cucumbers
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Greens (arugula, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, etc.)
  • Carbs source (pasta, grains, beans, rice, etc.)
  • Or with a protein source (cheese, eggs, different types of meats)
Now if you select one one the above mentioned types, hundreds of salad recipes appear, and that's the best part! I mean how creative can you really be?
Just check the Salads with Tomatoes and Cucumbers for instance and get inspired.

As for my personal favorite, I love the selection of "salads with vegetables and fruits" because salads are divided by fruit/vegetable type: whether with radishes, asparagus, avocado, snow peas, carrots, celery and the list goes on!

Who said you can't have one different salad every day of the year?
So here are few delicious photos of few salad ideas from Kalyn's!