Sunday, September 29, 2013

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Cauliflower Rice Recipe

Abracadabra!  Wait.  Nothing happened.  I once took a course in college on religion and magic.  I fell asleep during the lecture and when I awoke, it was magically over.  For most adults, magic is inevitably disappointing.  I think it has to do with a pragmatic inability to suspend disbelief.  Kids, on the other hand eat the stuff up.  Kids have yet to develop a sense of healthy skepticism and are better able to embrace the art of illusion.  Now you have it.  Now you don't!  Woah!  That ability to allow one's mind to be seduced by illusion can create a fantastic experience of amusement and awe.

As a parent, you can tap into your child's wonderment by becoming a food illusionist.  Some foods like vegetables, are eschewed by kids when presented in their natural form.  However, if you employ some clever manipulation, you can get your kids to eat their vegetables and open them up to a fantastic and new experience.

Cauliflower is not only a great source of vitamins and minerals, but it is also a versatile vegetable that can be transformed in multiple ways.  As the following link demonstrates, cauliflower can be disguised as a soup, puree, or even a pseudo grain.

In the following video clip, I demonstrate how you can transform cauliflower into rice and become a food illusionist.  Considering that most rice is high in glycemic index, substituting cauliflower for rice is not only a healthy substitution, it is also a great way to encourage your kids to eat their vegetables.  Your kids won't believe their eyes...or their mouths!   

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Many thanks to my cousin Elissa Huang for introducing this recipe to me, which can be found at the following link:
If you have recipes you recommend for kids or want me to feature, just post your ideas and links in my comments section.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Make Pecan Encrusted Fish Recipe

What is the best meal you ever had?  Food is a sensory experience.  I have distinct memories of amazing meals based on what sensory notes they hit.  In Barcelona, I enjoyed a sumptuous meal at a stand while listening to the lively buzz of La Boqueria, the local open air market.  In Montreal, I inhaled the fragrant aroma of garlic and herbs emanating from a warm bowl of bouillabaisse.  In Greece, I enjoyed the feel of the pleasant night air while eating a savory and delicately cooked fish al fresco.  In Japan, I was visually delighted by a beautiful and inventive meal served omakase style while sitting at the chef's table.  And at Nougatine in New York, I tasted the most deliciously chickeny piece of chicken I have ever had in my life.

What do all of these meals have in common?  They were expensive.  But aside from the dent in my wallet that these meals left me with, they also left me with an unforgettable impression that I will cherish for the rest of my life.  I have had many meals that I enjoyed eating but I don't recall exactly what I ate.  Good food prepared well is a good experience.  But good food enjoyed with a loved one is simply unforgettable.  I can distinctly remember each of these meals not only because they were sensory delights, but because they were special occasions I experienced with Cassie, the love of my life.

One of Cassie's favorite meals was a simply prepared but delicious pecan encrusted trout, which she had on one of our dates when we lived in Atlanta.  I remember that night vividly because after dinner, we went to a drive-in movie theater and watched Kill Bill Volume 1.  Very romantic.  That meal was also associated with another type of dent--a dent in my car.  But despite that dent, I still remember that evening with great fondness.

Sadly, the restaurant that served up that nice piece of trout has since closed.  Nonetheless, that meal inspired me to use nuts as a coating for a fish dish.  Many dishes that coat fish or chicken call for breadcrumbs.  However, as discussed in my previous post, most processed breads are high in glycemic index and therefore unhealthy:

You can achieve the same effect by smashing up nuts like pecans or walnuts and using that to coat your fish or chicken.  Nuts are high in protein, good fats, and fiber.  They are low in glycemic index and very satisfying.  One study found that women who ate nuts at least twice weekly had less weight gain than those who rarely ate nuts.  Studies have actually demonstrated that nut consumption increases fat burning!  Therefore, replacing nuts for breadcrumbs is a great way of replacing a bad carb with a good carb.  In the following video, I show you a simple and tasty method of making pecan encrusted fish and introduce you to a very nutty dance craze that you and your kids are sure to go nuts over. 

The recipe for pecan encrusted fish that I used in the above video can be found at the following link:

What is the best meal you ever had?  Feel free to post in the comments section.


Cassady BA et al.  Mastication of almonds: effects of lipid bioaccessibility, appetite, and hormone response.  Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89:794–800

Tey SL et al.  Nuts improve diet quality compared to other energy-dense snacks while maintaining body weight. J Nutr Metab;2011:1-11

Sabate J.  Nut consumption and body weight.  Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(suppl):647S-50S.

Bes-Rastrollo M et al.  Prospective study of nut consumption, long-term weight change, and obesity in women.  Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89;1913-9.

Claesson AL et al. Two weeks of overfeeding with candy, but not peanuts, increases insulin levels and body weight.  Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2009;69(5):598-605.

Mattes RD et al.  Impact of Peanuts and Tree Nuts on Body Weight and Healthy Weight Loss in Adults. J Nutr 2008 ;138(9):1741S-1745S

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids: Make Healthy Zucchini Pizza

Zucchini is a healthy substitute for the refined flour that typically makes up pizza dough.  A special thanks to Sabrina Keller for introducing me to the following recipe for zucchini pizza:

The beauty about making your own homemade pizza is you can choose whatever toppings you want on your pizza!  Instead of the suggested toppings in the above recipe, I topped my pizza with pancetta and diced red onions.

For the chipotle barbecue sauce, I used a recipe from Kristen Leidelmeijer, the personal chef that teaches my patients how to eat healthier:

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

  • 2 cups ketchup (avoid ketchup with high fructose corn syrup)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
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How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Make Healthy Pizza Recipe

Nothing says love like a big pizza pie. And, if there's anything kids seem to universally love to eat, it's pizza. If only there was a way to get kids to love eating vegetables like they love eating pizza. But that's impossible. Or is it? The problem with vegetables is once kids see their green skin, they automatically reject them. To kids, vegetables mine as well be from Venus.

Rather than force kids to embrace eating green vegetables head on, you can get your kids to love eating vegetables by transforming them into something they already love to it--pizza!  Over the next few posts, I will present tips for substituting unhealthy carbs such as highly processed and refined grains with healthy carbs like vegetables and nuts.  For justification for why I classify processed grains like bread, rice, and cereal as unhealthy, see my previous post: 

In the following video, I show you a delicious way to serve vegetables to your kids in the form of a zucchini pizza.  Your kids are sure to ask for a second slice!  Vegetables may be from Venus, but pizza is universal!  

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Healthy Pasta Recipe

Pasta as Comfort Food

"On top of spaghetti!  All covered with cheese!  I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed!"

When I was a kid, I loved belting this song out at the top of my lungs.  And, not only did I love singing about spaghetti, I loved to eat it too!  My mom made it for us nearly every other weekend, so I definitely consider spaghetti to be a comfort food.  What makes spaghetti so appealing to adults and kids alike?  Perhaps its the chewy texture or the pleasing way that spaghetti sauce clings to it.  Secretly, I think it has to do with the act of slurping up the noodles, which is not only fun to do, but is purported to enhance the flavor of the noodles. 

Pasta as Cure to Diabetes?

Like other grains, you might expect pasta to be high in glycemic index.  Surprisingly, the average glycemic index of pasta is fifty, which is considered medium in glycemic index.  This is because pasta starch is absorbed at a slower rate than starch from other grains.  For example, when you boil rice, the starch granules swell and the structural matrix is disintegrated.  This process is called gelatinzation and it results in the release of sugar molecules from the starch granules, exposing them to digestive enzymes.  To read more about this, see my other post:

In contrast to rice, pasta starch granules are physically entrapped within a network of protein molecules called gluten.  Yes, gluten.  The much maligned gluten that plagues people with celiac disease is also responsible for the lower glycemic index of pasta!  When you boil pasta, the gluten impedes the gelatinization of the starch granules.  Consequently, digestive enzymes have limited access to the sugar molecules contained within the starch granules, resulting in slower digestion and absorption of pasta starch and a lower glycemic index.  

The lower glycemic index of pasta makes it a healthier alternative to other grains like processed bread.  In fact, one study found that diabetics who ate more pasta and less bread were able to lower the overall glycemic index of their diet and improve their blood sugar control! 

Pasta as Beans?

And while the average glycemic index of pasta is lower than that of most processed breads, cold breakfast cereals, and rice, the glycemic index of pasta is still not nearly as low as most vegetables and legumes.  The trick is to figure out how to get your kids to go from eating a mountain of spaghetti to a mountain of spinach or beans.  But that's impossible.  Or is it? 

Enter the mung bean noodle.  Mung bean noodles are noodles that are made from the starch of mung beans.  Mung bean noodles have the same qualities that kids love about other noodles including a chewy texture, an ability to hold sauce, and the capability of being slurped up.  Plus, because mung bean noodles are made from the starch of legumes, they have a low glycemic index.  Studies have demonstrated the glycemic index of mung bean noodles to be as low as twenty-eight!

I sang the praises of beans in a previous post: 
In that post, I mentioned that one of the advantages of beans is their high fiber content.  However, mung bean noodles are low in glycemic index even though the fiber of the mung bean has been removed.  This is because legumes are made up of significant amounts of resistant starch that are absorbed slowly.  Legumes contain 30-40% amylose and 50-70% amylopectin in their starch granules while most other starchy foods contain 25-30% amylose and 70-75% amylopectin.  I discussed how amylose is absorbed at a slower rate due to its linear structure in a previous post: 

Mung bean noodles are also called cellophane or glass noodles because of their transparent appearance.  However, mung bean noodles should not be confused with rice vermicelli noodles, which are also clear, but much higher in glycemic index.  To ensure that the noodles you are buying are indeed mung bean noodles, make sure the first ingredient on the label is mung bean starch.  Mung bean noodles are widely available at Asian grocery stores, but mainstream stores such as Whole Foods are now selling them as well. 

In the following clip, I show you a deliciously easy Korean dish which celebrates the mung bean noodle, called Japchae.  I'll bet your kids will eat a whole bowlful and not even realize they're eating beans!

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Here's the link to the dish featured in the above video:


Bornet FR et al.  Insulinemic and glycemic indexes of six starch-rich foods taken alone and in a mixed meal by type 2 diabetics.  Am J Clin Nutr 1987;45(3):588-95. 

Lin MH et al.  Glycemic index, glycemic load and insulinemic index of chinese starchy foods.   World J Gast 2010;16(39):4973-9.

Sung WC & Stone M.  Microstructural studies of pasta and starch pasta.  J Mar Sci Tech 2005;13(2):83-88. 

Buyken AE et al.  Glycemic index in the diet of european outpatients with type 1 diabetes: relations to glycated hemoglobin and serum lipids.  Am J Clin Nutr 2001;73(3):574-81.  

Englyst KN et al.  Rapidly available glucose in foods: an in vitro measurement that reflects the glycemic response.  Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:448-54.

Thorne MJ et al.  Factors affecting starch digestibility and the glycemic response with special reference to legumes.   Am J Clin Nutr 1983;38:481-488.

Wursch P et al.  Cell structure and starch nature as key determinants of the digestion rate of starch in legume.  Am J Clin Nutr 1986;43:25-29. 

Yadav BS et al.  Resistant starch content of conventionally boiled and pressure-cooked cereals, legumes and tubers.  J Food Sci Technol 2010;47(1):84-88.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Make a Chirashi Kid Bowl

Chirashi Kid Bowl


  • 1 scoop cooked basmati rice                                                                          
  • 1 egg sunny side up
  • 2 oz can of fatty fish such as herring, sardines, or anchovies
  • Sliced roasted red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canned corn
  • 2 tablespoon edamame
  • Rice vinegar to taste
  • Furikake rice seasoning, salt & pepper to taste
  1. Cook basmati rice accordingly:                                                             
  2. Add rice vinegar to rice, up to 1/2 cup per 1 cup of rice.
  3. Top with your child's favorite vegetables and suggested toppings above. 
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How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Carbs Gone Bad - You Can't Judge a Rice Grain by its Color

The Significance of Rice

When it comes to my family, rice is much more than just a grain.  In fact, saying "Hello" in Taiwanese literally translates to "Have you eaten rice yet?"  My dad's sister was a farmer, so he was always very mindful of the labor that goes into harvesting food.  To ensure that I wouldn't let my food go to waste, he used to tell me that my future wife would have a face blemished by the uneaten grains of rice in my bowl.  If you've ever met my wife, you'd agree that I didn't let a grain go to waste!  

And while this grain has been culturally engrained in the Asian diet for centuries, many former rice enthusiasts have reduced their rice intake due to a fear of diabetes.  Indeed, using the best statistical methodology available, a recent analysis of over 100,000 subjects found that a high consumption of white rice was associated with a 55% higher risk of diabetes compared to a low consumption of white rice amongst Asians.  Also, across all ethnic groups, each additional serving per day of white rice consumption was associated with an 11% increase in risk of diabetes. 

What About Brown Rice?

It may not surprise you to hear that high white rice consumption is associated with diabetes.  After all, white rice is produced by removing the husk, bran, and germ layers of whole rice grains, resulting in a refined rice grain with a high glycemic index.  In fact, these days many health conscious individuals have switched from white rice to brown rice.  However, in my last post, I debunked the myth that brown whole wheat bread is significantly healthier than white bread: 
Likewise, you can't judge a rice grain by its color. 

For instance, the average glycemic index of both boiled white rice and boiled brown rice is considered high, at seventy-three and sixty-eight, respectively.  This might explain why one study found that substituting brown rice for white rice for sixteen weeks did not substantially affect blood sugar, body mass index or waistline measurements in Chinese subjects. 

You may be asking yourself, "If brown rice is a whole grain, why does it have such a high glycemic index?"  The answer lies in understanding how cooking rice exposes the starch to digestive enzymes, regardless of whether rice is white or brown.  Rice is comprised of starch granules that contain tightly packed chains of sugar molecules called amylopectin and amylose.  When rice grains are cooked by boiling them in hot water, the grains undergo a process called gelatinization.  During gelatinization, the starch granules swell and the structural matrix is disintegrated, exposing the starch to digestive enzymes.  Both white and brown rice are readily gelatinized when boiled, explaining why both types of rice have high glycemic indices.  

Short Grain Versus Long Grain Rice

Starch structure is more important than rice color!  While all types of rice undergo gelatinization when boiled, rice that is comprised of higher amounts of amylose and lower amounts of amylopectin are digested more slowly and have lower glycemic indices.  This is because the compact linear structure of amylose molecules is less accessible to digestive enzymes than the branched structure of amylopectin molecules. 

Short grain rices tend to be low in amylose, which results in grains that stick together and have a higher glycemic index.  On the other hand, the starch in long grain rice like basmati rice (common to Indian cuisine) is made up of a higher percentage of amylose.  That's why basmati rice grains tend to stay more separate and why basmati rice has a lower glycemic index (forty-three) than other rice grains.

Basmati rice isn't exclusive to Indian cuisine!  Substituting basmati rice for dishes that typically use short grain rice is a great way to lower the glycemic index of the meals you serve your kids.  For instance, I recommend using basmati rice in a homemade chirashi sushi bowl instead of sushi rice.  A chirashi bowl is a Japanese rice dish meaning "scattered" bowl.  Rice is topped with a scattering of colorful accompaniments like fish and vegetables.  Adding vegetables and vinegar to the rice also helps to lower the glycemic index of this dish.  

You can learn how easy it is to make your own homemade chirashi kid bowl in the following movie entitled, "The Chirashi Kid".  

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I will now be posting recipes in their own separate post.  This way, you can organize your recipes in a folder in your e-mail and start your own virtual recipe book.  Simply submit your email using the tool on the right of this blog.  Try this chirashi kid bowl with your kids; I'll bet they won't let a grain go to waste!


Hu EA et al.  White rice consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis and systematic review.  BMJ 2012;344:1-9.

Atkinson FS et al.  International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008.  Diabetes Care 2008 Dec 31(12):2281-3

Zhang  G et al.  Substituting white rice with brown rice for 16 weeks does not substantially affect metabolic risk factors in middle-aged chinese men and women with diabetes or a high risk for diabetes.  J Nutr 2011;141:1685-1690

Aston LM et al.  Determination of the glycaemic index of various staple carbohydrate-rich foods in the UK diet.  Eur J Clin Nutr 2008 Feb; 62(2):279-285. 

Fardet A et al.  Parameters controlling the glycaemic response to breads.  Nutr Res Rev 2006(19):18-25.

Holm J et al.  Degree of starch gelatinization, digestion rate of starch in vitro, and metabolic response in rats.  Am J Clin Nutr 1988;47:1010-6.

Ostman E et al.  Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects.  Eur J Clin Nutr 2005;59:983-988. 

Sugiyama M et al.  Glycemic index of single and mixed meal foods among common Japanese foods with white rice a reference food.  Eur J Clin Nutr 2003;57:743-752.

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