Friday, February 27, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food For Kids : Lower Their Glycemic Index With Pickled Carrot Sticks


The other day, we went to a fascinating exhibit called, "Food: Our Global Kitchen" at the National Geographic Museum in D.C.  Not only did we take a journey through the history and culture of food, but we learned about food systems, food transport, and food engineering.  In an effort to feed the hungry, farmers and scientists have mass produced wheat and corn, increased crop yields, and selectively increased the size and sweetness of our food.  For instance, instead of eating wild watermelons that are small and bitter, "...breeders gradually turned watermelons into huge balls of sugar and water."

Although sweeter and bigger may seem better, neither are necessarily healthier.  What happens when you take a melon that is high in glycemic index, make it sweeter and bigger, and then feed it to an overfed population? 

If you have been following my blog, you know that I consider foods low in glycemic index as healthy and those high in glycemic index as unhealthy.  Even foods that are considered healthy, such as carrots, can be made unhealthy by what you do to them.  For instance, the glycemic index of a raw carrot is 16 while that of a boiled carrot is 49.  Understanding how foods change through cooking and processing becomes ever more important in a food environment where foods are genetically engineered or bred to be ever sweeter and ever bigger. 

You can lower the glycemic index of the foods you serve your kids by:
  1. Sticking to whole, unprocessed foods.
  2. Keeping fiber intact.
  3. Serving starchy vegetables in raw form.
  4. Adding acid through fermentation.
These principles are particularly important for foods that are generally high in glycemic index such as grains and starchy root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, and corn.  Try this recipe for dilly carrots, which uses all of the above principles to lower glycemic index.  Your kids will love this crunchy, sweet, sour, and healthy snack!


Foster-Powell K et a.  International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002.  Am J Clin Nutr.  2002.

Liljeberg HGM & Bjorck IME. Delayed gastric emptying rate as a potential mechanism for lowered glycemia after eating sourdough bread: studies in humans and rats using test products with added organic acids or an organic salt. Am J Clin Nutr 1996;64:886-93.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How to Get Healthy - Tell Your Story

Whether you are trying to lose weight, get healthy, or serve as a role model for your kids, it's important to tell your story. Your story can inspire others to face their own challenge. However, sharing your story is also personally meaningful.

Keeping a food journal has been demonstrated to be a useful tool towards adopting a healthy lifestyle. Not only does it help you keep track of your food choices and hold yourself accountable, it also serves as your personal memoir. Over time, a collection of meals becomes a rich story about change, growth, and personal betterment.

Last year, I decided to do a spoof on the Oscars by throwing myself an imaginary award ceremony I entitled, "The OsKos". This year, as the Oscars approached, I wondered if I should put together another OsKos. In the end, I decided it would be personally meaningful for me to do so. Like compiling a year's worth of random photos into a photo album, the OsKos is my way of reflecting on my blogging and vlogging experience over the past year.

Producing weekly cooking videos has been my way of making a commitment to cook healthy for my kids. As an added bonus, my videos record my children's lives for posterity. Setting a goal to cook and write about one healthy meal per week has been both a goal and a reward. While the goal itself has been an external motivator to hold myself accountable, I have found the experience of achieving that goal to be personally rewarding and fulfilling.

I have learned so much about food, cooking, and health. I have applied those lessons towards personal and professional betterment. Along the way, I have also learned the value of sharing my experience with others. Thanks for tuning in and being part of my story!  Without further ado, on with the OsKos!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food For Kids : Why I Love My Instant Pot

Roses are red. 
Violets are blue. 
Let me count the ways, 
that I love you.

You a wonderful slow cooker,
that takes the work out of cooking.
You have a shiny exterior,
which makes you good looking.

Slow cooker, pressure cooker, and steamer
all in one,
your multi-function capability 
makes cooking so fun.  

Just press your button
and I'm out the door. 
You even have a timer, 
which I absolutely adore!

When I come home from work, 
a meal is waiting for me. 
Cooked to perfection, 
and oh so tasty!

Stews, braises
soups galore!
Try making this pinto bean dish. 
What are you waiting for?

Happy Valentines Day!  Check out this romantic short film of a man who falls in love with his own instant pot:

Friday, February 6, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Substitute Jicama Fries for Potato Fries

In The Third Plate: Field Notes on a New Cuisine, Dan Barber argues good food arises from good farming practices. A James Beard award-winning chef, Barber practices what he preaches by serving up delicious food at his restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The food at his restaurant is sourced from local farms in the Hudson Valley as well as his own farm, the Stone Barns Center. Moving beyond the farm to table movement, Barber promotes whole farm cooking, where cuisine is developed from what the landscape provides. For instance, he offers a seasonal dish called, "Rotation Risotto", which features whole grains, legumes, and a puree of brassicas instead of rice.

Barber laments the industrialization of our food, which converted the diverse land of the midwest into a grain producing machine. He notes that more than 80% of American farmland is in grain production—corn, wheat, and rice, mostly. In contrast, vegetables and fruits occupy just 8% of our farmland. Corn sweeteners and wheat are the primary sources of grain in the American diet, with the average American consuming 130 pounds of wheat per year.

Not only is the great majority of farmland in America devoted to just a few grain crops, the industrialization of our food has led to a homogenization of our food. Early domestication of wheat yielded diversity of flavor and species. Then, Norman Borlaug, a scientist working for DuPont, discovered that adding fertilizer to wheat production tripled growth. However, growth was too rapid and the variety of wheat he was cultivating rotted. Borlaug then used samples of a short-straw wheat from Japan and began growing new semidwarf crosses which grew rapidly and thrived. By 1963, ninety-five percent of the wheat grown in Mexico was of the semidwarf variety, which now dominates U.S. farmland as well. Not only did semidwarf wheat increase yields, but the harder wheat was also better suited for processing by steel roller mills, which enabled mass production of highly refined flour.

Wheat isn't the only example of monoculture in our food supply. Food industrialization also homogenized the potato industry. An article in The Modern Farmer notes, "In the early 1900s, the Russet Burbank was just one of thousands of different types of potatoes grown in the U.S. By the late 1980s this single variety made up the vast majority of U.S.-grown potatoes and is still the most familiar potato in the country today. Why? Well, it’s an all-purpose potato that holds up all right—though by no means ideally—whether baked, boiled, or mashed. But its most common and popular form is also the main reason for its rise to dominance: the McDonald’s French fry."

While some may argue industrialized food feeds the masses cheaply, it comes at a significant cost. Industrialized food lacks diversity. The loss of food diversity reduces flavor variety. Humans are designed to seek out a variety of foods and flavors.  From an evolutionary standpoint, eating a variety of different foods in the wild ensured all vitamins and minerals would be accounted for. By moving towards a food system that supports monocultures, we run the risk of developing micronutrient deficiencies.

One way you can combat food homogenization is to diversify.  Introduce a variety of colorful vegetables into your child's diet and constantly expose them to new types of foods.  For instance, instead of the same old french fry made from Russet potatoes, diversify with spicy spiralized shoe string jicama fries.  Jicama, also known as the Mexican turnip, is a tuberous root whose crispy white interior resembles that of a pear.  Unlike other root vegetables which are typically starchy, jiicama is low in carbohydrate density and glycemic index. Incidentally, I found these jicama fries to live up to their spicy name.  I recommend cutting the chili powder and cayenne pepper down to 1/4 teaspoon for the kids. These jicama fries are a great way to get away from the monotony of our industrialized food system, as I demonstrate in the following video:


Barber, D. (2014). The third plate: Field notes on a new cuisine.

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