bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Follow Friday: Toast to Food @toasttofood

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While I firmly believe that it’s too early for Christmas (music, decorations, store displays…) it’s never too early to learn new cooking and recipe tips. Toast to Food has created a great tutorial series on holiday food. Toast to Food will highlight a holiday staple in each post and readers are encouraged to comment, add their own tips, feedback, and recipes. It’s a great communal way to share ideas for holiday cooking and to learn something in the process.


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Follow Friday: Smitten Kitchen and Ambitious Kitchen

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This Follow Friday goes out to a couple of my current favourite recipe blogs:

Smitten Kitchen has provided me with many delicious recipes from pizzas to salads (one of our faves of the summer: Summer’s Last Hurrah Panzanella pictured above… I added cubed cheese) to amazing sandwich slaw pickles to desserts.

Ambitious Kitchen provided me with the recipe for some Nutella (I know, I know… dietitian horror!) stuffed brown butter chocolate chip sea salt cookies. They were as time consuming to make as the name suggested but well worth the effort. She also has some amazing salad recipes like the crunchy cashew quinoa salad. Although the smoothie recipe I made (vegan detox green monster) left something to be desired.

 


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Do you know how many calories are in that fast food meal?

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Results of a study published in the BMJ last week indicate that many consumers underestimate the number of calories they’re consuming when they eat at fast food restaurants.

Researchers approached customers exiting fast food restaurants and asked them what they’d eaten and how many calories they thought that they had consumed. They then determined the actual number of calories consumed by accessing the nutrition information posted on the company websites (more about this to follow). It was found that, “At least two-thirds of all participants underestimated the calorie content of their meals, with about a quarter underestimating the calorie content by at least 500 calories.” The average caloric estimation was under the actual caloric content by about 175 calories.

175 calories may not sound like many but that can add-up pretty quickly. Especially considering that many people eat fast food on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the best statistic I could find was from the 2004 Overview of Canadians’ Eating Habits which indicated that on the day before the interview 1/4 of all respondents had consumed something purchased at  fast food restaurant.

I would also argue that these caloric estimations may be even less accurate than they appear. Nutrition information posted on restaurant websites is notoriously inaccurate. While it tends to be even worse for non-fast food outlets as chefs and cooks may be more inclined to take liberties and portions are less controlled, it’s still often the case that the calories posted for fast food items are optimistic. They’re going to use the best case scenario and try to portray their food in the best light possible.

The authors conclude that including caloric information on menus might help to improve consumer estimation of calories. Beyond this, I think that this study should serve as a reminder that you’re never in control of your food unless you’re preparing it yourself. Always assume that you’re eating more calories than you think that you are when you eat out and try to prepare as many of your meals as you can at home.

 


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Is Jamie Oliver making us fat?

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I already blogged about the first study claiming that celebrity chefs are fuelling the obesity epidemic with their calorie and saturated fat laden cookbooks. Now that another study, supporting these findings, has been published I felt compelled to add a little bit more ranting.

Yes, many recipes in celebrity chefs’ cookbooks are not exactly healthy. Does that mean that they’re driving the obesity epidemic, no. How many people do you think are regularly consuming meals that they’ve prepared using recipes in these cookbooks? Probably not many. And, how many of these people are obese? We don’t know the answer to this question. It’s foolish to extrapolate from the findings to state that celebrity chefs’ cookbooks are making people fat. It’s far more likely that a lack of home-cooked meals is contributing to the obesity epidemic.

I’d also like to point out that people do have the ability, and sometimes the wherewithal, to modify recipes that they prepare from cookbooks. Yes, we are capable of using less oil and butter, of not adding salt, of bumping-up the vegetable content, etc. Go ahead, use Jamie Oliver’s cookbook and just tweak the recipe to optimize its nutrition.


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Follow Friday: cookbook edition

I thought that I would share a couple of my favourite cookbooks with you today. My most recent favourite is Vegetarian by Alice Hart. There’s a lot of recipes in there that should satisfy many carnivores. Recipes range from quick and simple to more gourmet. She also has great “how to” features on things like making your own yoghurt or sprouting beans. I’ve loved every recipe that I’ve made so far.

Another one of my favourites is Kitchen Seasons by Ross Dobson; I actually found this gem at Winners! It’s divided by seasons and each season features a variety of dishes and courses. Most of the recipes are quite simple, which is often the key to a delicious meal. I recommend the chickpea pancetta soup, pumpkin and gorgonzola risotto, and ricotta stuffed chicken, among others.

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