I hope everyone had a good April Fool’s Day. Just to clarify, I’m not going back to meat and this blog is not going to be retitled “The Hungry Carnivore.” Especially after I just unveiled the new banner!
The following is a repost of an article from some freelance writing I did for the Northwest Asian Weekly in January. You can view the article on their website here as well.
As 2013 kicks off, so do the New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier. Yes, getting in shape means changing your diet, but that doesn’t mean that you need to give up your favorite Asian foods! After all, Asian cuisine can be great for you.
“Asian diets tend to be higher in variety of vegetables, fruits, and fish, which have a lot of benefits,” said Minh-Hai Tran MS, RD, a nutritionist and owner of Mindful Nutrition.
Here are 10 tweaks you can make to improve your culinary habits:
An easy substitution to make, brown rice is much healthier and filling than white rice. (Photo by Dan McKay)
Eating at home
1. Replace white rice with brown rice at least twice a week. White rice tends to be a staple in Asian cuisine. Unfortunately, as Tran points out, it is higher on the glycemic index, meaning that it spikes your blood sugar. Yuchi Yang MS, RD, nutritionist and owner of American Nutrition Counseling suggests switching to brown rice twice a week, which is higher in fiber and can make you feel more full faster.
“Eating brown rice can lower the risk of being overweight and type 2 diabetes,” she said. “You don’t have to eat it every day to see the benefits. Add a little bit more water to brown rice and it can still taste very good.”
2. Take the proper precautions to battle diabetes. Due to genetics, Asians tend to be more susceptible to diabetes. In addition to eating more brown rice, Tran suggests increasing consumption of whole grains overall, eating a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables whenever possible, getting enough sleep, and decreasing stress.
3. If you’re lactose intolerant, choose one of the many calcium alternatives available. Lactose intolerance is a common problem amongst Asians, but that doesn’t mean you should skip out on the ever-important calcium. Opt for calcium-fortified soymilk, almond milk, and rice milk as alternatives.Green leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified tofu, and fish bones are also rich in calcium, Tran said. Yang also suggests that many with lactose intolerance may be able to handle yogurt and use Lactaid, an enzyme supplement that helps digest lactose.
Kimchi and other fermented foods are great for digestion. (Photo by Craig Nagy)
4. Include fermented food in your diet. Many Asian cuisines are rich in fermented foods, such as kimchi and miso. “Those have probiotics and help with digestions and boosts immunity,” Tran said. Consider starting Japanese meals with a bowl of miso soup or keeping kimchi in your refrigerator as a snack or appetizer.
5. Read the nutrition and ingredient labels of processed foods. “I noticed that a lot of Asian parents are not accustomed to reading the nutrition facts and ingredient lists,” said Yang, who specializes in infants and children. “They purchase a lot more processed food than before.”
It’s best to choose fresh produce, but if you must choose processed food, make sure to read the labels keeping sodium, fat, and hard-to-pronounce words in mind as red flags.
6. Parents: when feeding children, keep the Ellyn Satter process in mind. Nutrition and eating experts, the Ellyn Satter Institute, reminds parents that the responsibility in feeding is on them. “Remember what, where, and when,” Yang said. “The parents are responsible for the meal time schedule, the food, where they will offer it, and how much they’re going to eat.” Yang also said there is nothing like a home-cooked meal. “One of the things that we encourage them to do is have a family mealtime,” she said. “Studies have shown that children who eat with families are happier, healthier, and perform better in school.”
Japanese cuisine often for goes unhealthy red meat for seafood. (Photo by Mike Saechang)
7. Keep sodium and MSG in mind. When eating out, meals can often be much higher in sodium and MSG. “Go easy on the soy sauce,” Tran said. Make sure to ask for low sodium soy sauce. “In Japan, they just lightly dip it in the soy sauce,” she continued. “In America, we just drown it.” Tran is cautious about tips regarding MSG. “There’s no definitive research that MSG is bad for you,” she said. “It doesn’t sound good. There are some people that are sensitive to it and react to it and get headaches and migraines.”
“If the restaurant is willing to modify their cooking, you can ask them to add less MSG or sodium,” Yang said.
8. Remember to keep the meal balanced. Don’t forget your goals just because you’re out on the town.
“First of all, nowadays, a lot of restaurants have big portion sizes,” Yang said. “Watch out for how much you eat. Look at their plates. When we go out, we often order a lot of meat and seafood and not enough vegetables.”
Vietnamese food often includes shell fish and fresh herbs. (Photo by Geoff Peters)
9. When in doubt, go Vietnamese or Japanese.
Tran suggests these cuisines for the healthiest Asian options. Vietnamese cuisine contains less fried foods and Japanese food emphasizes healthy fish options.
While eating out, heed the advice of the Japanese as well.
“The Japanese have that saying, ‘Stop eating when you’re 80 percent full,’ ” Tran said.
10. Keep things in check. Asians have the stereotype of generally being thinner, but that brings even more problems. “It appears that Asians are less likely to be obese compared to white, Black, or Hispanic people,” Tran said.
“One thing I’ve noticed in the Asian culture is that there can be more body shame,” she continued.
“There are more fat jokes and idealizing thinness, which I think leads to more body shame. This can lead to dieting, which increases the risk for obesity, binge eating, and eating disorders. When people feel bad about their eating or weight, they actually have a harder time maintaining healthy habits.”
Whether cooking at home or eating out, there are easy ways to develop healthier eating habits for a lifetime. Keep these tips in mind at the grocery store, in the kitchen, or the next time you are scouring a menu.
Last weekend (March 23-24) marked my favorite annual festival in Seattle: VegFest. Held at the Seattle Center by the Vegetarians of Washington, VegFest attracts huge crowds of vegetarians and curious food enthusiasts. I have two theories as for why: 1. There are hundreds of samples and items to take home 2. These samples are all for the very reasonable price of $8. Though it may seem small, I love that the event is so prepared, they give everyone PCC paper grocery bags as they enter.
VegFest is a celebration of vegetables, natural foods and healthy eating…sort of. I’ll explain:
There were several trends featured throughout the show:
There were the usual faux-meats: Tofurky, Morningstar Farms and a local favorite: Field Roast Grain amongst others. I have always loved all three. Tofurky has great deli slices, Morningstar Farms make my favorite breakfast sausage patties and veggie burgers and Field Roast Grain makes sausages in a variety of flavors from Eggplant to Mexican Chipotle to Smoked Apple Sage. I had a chance to try their Frankfurter sausages which were quite yum.
I’m a huge tea aficionado and was excited to see all the different tea brands there including Numi, Traditional Medicinals and Dilmah. There was also a lot of chai. They were good but I still like —don’t laugh— Trader Joe’s best. I enjoyed chatting with Dilmah because I have a huge tin of Harrod’s Ceylon tea at home and wasn’t too familiar with it. Dilmah gave me tons of samples of Ceylon Supreme, Earl Grey and Ceylon Green tea that I’m looking forward to trying. Numi really piqued my interest because they gave out samples of vegetable based savory tea including Spinach Chive and Carrot Curry. Unfortunately, I just brewed the Broccoli Cilantro and well…I can’t finish this. It seemed like it would be a cool tea that tasted like soup but this isn’t for me. Luckily they gave me a Mint Morrocan tea as well so that should go better.
There are a lot of drinks there from Silk soy milk to cane sugar sodas and fruit and vegetable juices. I enjoyed the RAAW juices. I’m not normally a fan of vegetable juices but the Strawberry Purple Carrot didn’t taste like carrot at all. The vendor also told me it’s one of the only juices with Purple Carrot. The Very Berry Wheatgrass was all berry-no wheatgrass in taste.
There is always a ton of snack foods- chips, granola bars, dips, doughnuts and the such. I’m not really into snack foods but I liked the Plentils lentil chips. I also received samples from Food Should Taste Good, Raw Revolution, Harbor Creek Farms, Better Bean, Mighty O Doughnuts and other generous vendors.
Indian food is always a popular vegetarian choice. Photographed above was my mom’s favorite vendor Indian Life. They carried a variety of products including a bean mix my mom liked. Tasty Bite gave us a full-size package of Bombay Potatoes which I’ve had before. It’s a good quick basic meal.
My biggest takeaway was probably the sugar substitutes including honey, syrup and stevia products. Hey Shuga had an organic cane syrup and a syrup-stevia blend that piqued my interest in stevia. I have always been hesitant to try weird trendy sugar things since those fake sugars are horrible, but I do need to cut down on sugar products and this event has me researching sugar alternatives (for a whole other blog post).
VegFest is a lot of fun. They have talks about health and cooking and a book fair as well. I attended a talk about using diet to prevent cancer which emphasized eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
This brings me to my only criticism about the event: VegFest isn’t really about fresh vegetables. I understand that it isn’t a farmer’s market, but it’s too bad because fresh produce really does make up the majority of my diet. I did receive one organic apple from Tiny’s Organic. VegFest is more about plant-based processed foods. Some of these items are delicious, a great meat substitute and good source of protein and iron but as with everything, it’s important to eat it in moderation as they are often high in sodium, carbohydrates and cholestrol.
One of the best parts about Veg Fest (aside from the samples I already waxed poetic about) is that it raises interest and awareness on vegetarianism and it welcomes all types of diets including mine. Getting people interested in eating maybe even a little better is a win in my book and I know I’ll continue attending.
Juicy Cafe is my favorite lunch spot in downtown Seattle and truly opened my eyes to the magic that is the brown rice bowl. They pride themselves on fresh produce and healthy, organic food. After all, one of the first things you see upon entering is wheatgrass growing!
There’s always a long line outside at lunchtime but it’s oh-so-worth-it. Juicy offers salads, sandwiches, oatmeal balls and smoothies, but my favorite is by far, the brown rice bowls. It is delicious, healthy magic in a box!
They come in a variety of options. My favorite is the Italian pesto bowl, but I also love the zesty cilantro lime, lemon dill-ite and Juicy rainbow (photographed above) bowls. These things are chock full of vegetables and are easy to mix and match with different proteins including chicken, tofu, tuna and salmon. The tuna is no longer listed on the menu but tip: they’ll still make it if you ask for it (-it’s my favorite).
Juicy Cafe is located in the Washington State Trade and Convention Center. You can see the website here. Ditch the usual sandwiches and fast food for a healthy, delicious lunch today.
I got this recipe from my girlfriend Maria’s Facebook/Instagram. This isn’t on her blog but she does have a great food blog on Tumblr.
This recipe is a favorite of mine. It’s simple and can be combined with pretty much anything in the refrigerator. Some vegetables I like to throw in include kale, spinach, red peppers, green peppers, mushrooms, green onions, asparagus and onions.
It was “what-in-the-fridge-needs-to-be-used-up” night: faux carbonara with mushrooms & baby kale. Faux because there’s no bacon/pancetta.
To prepare: while pasta is boiling, heat EVOO in a skillet and sauté whatever veggies you have on hand (baby kale, spinach, onions, whatevs) season with red pepper flakes, garlic (again, whatever you have on hand). Once the pasta is cooked, drain, and immediately add two eggs. Scramble into the pasta until the egg is cooked. Top with fresh tomatoes, and parmesan.
One Sunday afternoon, my friend Arturo and I wandered down to Pike Place to shoot some photos. It was eerily quiet and I found parking easily. It took me a minute and then it hit me: it’s Superbowl day and we were the only people not cooking or drinking hours in advance in anticipation for one of America’s favorite pastimes. Hah! Oh well. We have our own pastime.
So while we were shooting, we got hungry—of course— and I decided it was time for me to try the beloved and famous Le Panier Very French Bakery.
As I said, this place is very popular and the lines very long.
So I’m getting a little bored- what can I say? (And yes, my hair looks kind of crazy here.)
Look at those beauties- they are clearly meant for photographing!
I am a pain au chocolat girl. I always have been!
Arturo , on the other hand, loves raspberry -filled pastries.
I still stand by that macaroons are incredible to photograph but it turns out I feel the same way about French macaroons as I do American ones- not a fan. Arturo liked them though. These are pistachio and citron.
T’was a lovely Sunday afternoon! Big thanks to Arturo for his help with these photos.