There's a certain formula to building a good salad.
First, you need a hint of creaminess -- perhaps some avocado, fresh cheese, or hummus. Then there's the matter of sweetness, acidity, and crunch.
But it doesn't have to be fussy. Get creative and construct salads based on what you have in your kitchen. If you're using light, leafy greens as a base, try a delicate dressing like lemon juice and olive oil. If you're working with a sturdier green like kale, play with bolder flavors. Think balsamic vinegar, garlic, whole grain mustard, or even anchovies. Coated in rich dressings, kale can more than hold its own.
Always finish your dish with something crisp. Here, we created a nut- and gluten-free salad with plenty of healthy crunch. So here's to showing the crouton how it's done!
Kale salad with Tomato Basil Chickpeatos, goat cheese, and roasted tomatoes
For the tomatoes:
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 sprigs thyme
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp raw honey
Salt, to taste
2 to 3 cups mixed baby kale
2 tbsp goat cheese
6 tbsp (about 3 to 4 ounces) Tomato Basil Organic Chickpeatos
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Arrange the grape tomatoes skin-side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and top with thyme and salt. Bake for about an hour or until the tomatoes have slightly dried. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, whole grain mustard, raw honey, and a pinch of salt. Whisk to combine. Add the baby kale and toss with your hands, making sure every leaf is fully coated. Serve the kale salad with the roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, and Tomato Basil Chickpeatos.
If you're switching to a healthier lifestyle, be prepared. That's not a warning -- or a scare tactic. It's advice. To eat healthfully, you should plan most meals in advance. Take lunch, for example. Grabbing a sandwich and chips at the corner store is convenient. But if you brought lunch from home, you'd likely have a better meal.
Here's our guide to making healthy work lunches. Our method calls for cooking on the weekends -- about two to three hours of kitchen time. But during the week, you just throw ingredients together before heading to work.
Is it worth the extra effort? Definitely.
1. Go shopping on Saturday or Sunday.
At the store, stick to the produce, bulk, and refrigerated sections. Buy the base for your lunch: greens like butter lettuce, kale, romaine, or arugula. Buy toppings: green beans, tomatoes, avocado, herbs, cauliflower, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts, as well as fruits like pomegranate or berries. Then head over to the bulk section and buy nuts, quinoa, brown rice, lentils, or beans.
If your diet allows dairy, eggs, and meat, pick up fresh cheese and a dozen eggs. If you eat fish or meat, pick up a whole organic chicken or a piece of meaty fish like salmon.
2. Preheat the oven while you unpack the groceries.
As soon as you get home, get cooking. Organize your ingredients according to what you're going to do with them. Set up a station for cleaning and another for prep work like peeling and chopping.
3. Roast vegetables and fish or meat.
Grab a couple of sheet pans topped with parchment paper. Chop the vegetables that are going into the oven -- carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, etc -- and arrange them separately into the pans. Finish with salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Start roasting, set your timer, and get to work on the rest of your ingredients.
If you're roasting a chicken or fish, place it on a baking dish, season, and throw it in there with the vegetables.
4. Cook lentils. Boil eggs.
Unlike chickpeas or black beans, lentils don't require soaking. They take about 20 minutes to cook (around the same time it takes to roast those vegetables!) and they're great in salads. Rinse them, place them in a pot with water, and simmer until tender. Do the same with quinoa, if you'd like. For the eggs, boil them separately using this handy guide from Bon Appétit magazine.
6. Clean greens.
Rinse your greens. Dry them thoroughly in a salad spinner or with two clean dish towels. Wrap in damp cloths and stash them in a reusable container in the fridge.
7. Make vinaigrette.
The easiest way to make vinaigrette requires a Mason jar. Combine vinegar, mustard, honey, and salt. Shake, add olive oil, and shake again. Use this for the whole week!
8. Put everything away. Clean up.
Take the vegetables and meats out of the oven. Drain the lentils, flake the salmon, pick apart the chicken, and run the eggs under cold water. Allow everything to cool down before putting it away in the fridge.
9. In the mornings, before going to work, assemble your lunch.
Try different combinations of what's ready, and be sure to check out our tips for building a perfect salad. Use the roasted vegetables for dinner, too. They're great as side dishes.
10. You're done!
Remember to keep a bag of Organic Chickpeatos at your desk for some extra crunch.
They're more than just a snack. Our Organic Chickpeatos are seasoned with ingredients you can recognize: rosemary, basil, oregano, cayenne pepper, chili powder. And after you're done enjoying them, you might notice some spices cling to the bag.
Don't throw them away! Our five ounce Chickpeatos pack can yield about a tablespoon of spices -- exactly what you need to season a pound of chicken breasts. You can add them to stews, soups, and roasted vegetables, as well.
Here's one recipe to try.
Chicken cutlets with Tomato Basil Crispy Chickpeas spice mix
Ingredients1 pound chicken breasts, preferably responsibly-sourced1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon Tomato Basil Chickpeatos spice mix Salt, to taste
1. Slice each chicken breast in half. Place the chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound gently with a mallet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with Tomato Basil Organic Chickpeatos spice mix and salt.
2. Heat a cast-iron grill pan or outdoor grill over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken breasts until its juices run clear.
We're finally catching up to Canada: while our neighbors to the north removed dietary limits on cholesterol from their nutritional guidelines years ago, we are just coming around, with our new dietary guidelines likely suggesting that cholesterol is no longer a problem nutrient.. The evidence has been pretty one sided for quite some time - eating cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease. Period. And now our guidelines are likely to reflect the best of our current scientific understanding, at least when the scope is limited to just cholesterol.
To understand how cholesterol became so inappropriately vilified, it helps to understand a bit about why we used to think it was a bad guy in terms of heart disease. In the medical world, you can learn a lot from autopsies. Studying how people die teaches us about disease and helps us come up with ideas about how to prevent and treat it. If you look at the arteries of someone who died of a heart attack, you see plaques that have built up in some of their coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply the heart). These plaques have cholesterol in them, which would seem to implicate cholesterol as a causative agent of heart disease. But biology isn't so simple - we don't just simply eat cholesterol that gets dumped into the arteries around our heart.
Every cell in our body needs cholesterol to function. Its presence is necessary for cell membranes to function and for hormones to be synthesized. But cholesterol isn't soluble in water; just like oil and water separate, cholesterol and water separate in a similar way, so it can't travel through blood without help. And that's where lipoproteins come into play - these are proteins that can carry cholesterol through the blood to the organs where it needs to go. I'm sure you've heard of LDL and HDL, the "bad" cholesterol and the "good" cholesterol, respectively. These aren't different types of cholesterol, they're different lipoproteins that carry cholesterol. To oversimplify a very complex process, LDL is the carrier that tends to drop off cholesterol at the arteries while HDL tends to pick it up and take it away. LDL litters and HDL is the trash man.* What we've learned is that eating cholesterol doesn't lead to LDL dropping more cholesterol off in our blood vessels. And eating cholesterol certainly doesn't lead to more heart attacks or strokes.
So our guidelines are catching up to the science. And this is a good thing, even if its happening slowly. It's just unfortunate that the cholesterol dogma has become such a big part of pop nutritional science. We've gotten to the point where everyone knows that cholesterol is bad for you. Just google "low cholesterol diet" and see how many supposedly reputable sources will tell you how to enjoy cholesterol free meals that are "heart healthy." It's a real tragedy that inaccurate ideas have become so ingrained in our cultural understanding because of dietary guidelines released in the 1970s that were based on incomplete and unsettled science. I'm glad that we're moving forward on this one, and I hope that it doesn't take too long for cholesterol to be acquitted in the court of public opinion.
*This is an oversimplification a much more nuanced and complex process, but this model can be helpful for a cursory understanding of the process of heart disease
Looking for a gluten-free dessert option for this Thanksgiving? Or maybe you want something you can make ahead of time, so it’s one less day of recipe. Or perhaps you’re tired of the kids arguing over which is the bigger piece of pie. Whatever the reason, these mini pumpkin cheesecakes are the answer! Made with a Cinnamon Toast Crispy Chickpea crust – replacing traditional Graham Crackers while upping the seasonal spice – and baked in individual muffin tins, they’re a fun and tasty twist on the classic.
- 1 and 1/4 cup Cinnamon Toast Organic Chickpeatos
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 heaping teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
- 1 tablespoon sour cream or Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
To Make Crust:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners
- Crush Cinnamon Toast Crispy Chickpeas in a food processor, using on/off pulses until they resemble coarse crumbs (makes about 1 cup ground). Add melted butter and brown sugar; pulse until mixed.
- Press crumb mixture into the bottom of each lined cupcake tin to form crust.
- Bake 3-5 minutes. Keep an eye on them while you’re baking because the Crispy Chickpeas can burn (you will start to smell them smelling a littttle too toasted!). Remove from oven and set aside.
To Make Filling:
- Beat the cream cheese and brown sugar with electric mixer or in the food processor on medium speed until light and fluffy.
- Beat in pumpkin, sour cream and salt, scraping bowl frequently.
- Add egg, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger; beat until well blended.
To Assemble & Bake:
- Put approximately a heaping tablespoon of filling in to each of the crust-lined cups. Divide all of the filling evenly between the 12 cups (you can fill them pretty full, since the cheesecake does not rise like a normal cupcake.
- Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until set.
- Cool completely in pan, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight – they’re better after they’ve had time to sit, we recommend making them a day ahead.
- Serve with whipped cream, or sneak one straight from the fridge for a Thanksgiving morning breakfast (c’mon, you’ve got a long day ahead!)
At the end of 2013, the Washington Post's Wonkblog ran a pretty cool series on "Graphs of the Year." The one that I found most interesting was the post from Bill Gates on "Causes of Untimely Death." While I find population level stats interesting, my take-home point wasn't one about the numbers. It had to do with what Mr. Gates said in his explanation about his graph of choice:
"I love this graph because it shows that while the number of people dying from communicable diseases is still far too high, those numbers continue to come down. In fact, fewer kids are dying, more kids are going to school and more diseases are on their way to being eliminated. But there remains much to do to cut down the deaths in that yellow block even more dramatically. We have the solutions. But we need to keep the up support where they're being deployed, and pressure to get them into places where they're desperately needed."
The point about how much we've done is pretty amazing. And it's true. Deaths from preventable infectious diseases are coming down because of the work of the Gates Foundation. They are saving huge numbers of lives and reducing even more suffering. What Bill Gates has decided to do with his fortune from Microsoft is truly one of the great humanitarian achievements in the history of the world.
But that wasn't the part I found most interesting. "We have the solutions," he writes. This is a case where success isn't about making the greatest advances or coming up with the most brilliant new ideas. Making progress in the realm of childhood mortality comes from properly implementing ideas that we've already figured out. It's about execution and following through. Creating bed nets to prevent malaria doesn't matter if you can't distribute them. Inventing a new drug to beat tuberculosis is just an academic exercise if no one takes it. A vaccine to prevent the rotavirus from killing infants through dehydration doesn't save any lives if no one gets their shots.
A lot of changing the world for the better is about coming up with great ideas, but when push comes to shove, ideas aren't the most important part of positive change. We need to take action and we need to execute plans. It's a great reminder to hear Mr. Gates reflect on all that's been done with a call to action. Time to get to work!
When it's time to cook vegetables, don't blanch. This step -- dropping food in boiling water then immediately submerging it in an ice bath -- is often unnecessary. Many recipes call for it before sautéing, but this leads to two problems. One, it makes vegetables easy to overcook. And two, there's another pot to clean!
Vegetables look and taste best when they're slightly crunchy. In the case of carrots and green beans, all you have to do is throw them in a hot skillet with olive oil, season with salt, and cover with a lid. The sauté will slowly wind down to a soft murmur. The carrots and green beans won't scorch. Instead, they'll release their own juices and cook perfectly.
Sliced almonds are the traditional pairing for this recipe. But Rosemary Chickpeatos add more flavor -- and extra crunch.
Carrots and green beans with Rosemary Chickpeatos
Serves 4 as a side dish
Ingredients 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled 6 oz carrots, julienned 6 oz green beansSalt, to taste 2 tbsp parsley, chopped 2 tbsp Rosemary Chickpeatos, crushed Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about three minutes. Add the carrots and green beans. Season with salt and cover with a lid. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the carrots and green beans have released their juices but still retain their shape. Add the parsley and Chickpeatos stir, and serve warm.
Finding time to work out when you have a full schedule is tough. You get home at the end of a long day and the last thing you want to do is go to the gym. It feels impossible to exercise when you leave home before sunrise and come back after sunset. You’ve been focused all day and you’re exhausted when the day ends; the thought of doing anything besides sitting on the couch and zoning out with trashy TV is too overwhelming to contemplate. I’ve spent enough time sleep deprived and overworked to know this situation backwards and forwards.
Over the years my exercise routines have changed a lot. When I worked as a personal trainer and basically lived in the gym, I worked out 90 minutes a day at least 5 days a week. On top of that, I was playing pick up basketball, soccer, softball and any other sport I could get involved with. When I started med school, my routines changed a little bit, but I was still getting to the gym 3-4 days a week and playing basketball at least once a week. Then I started my clinical rotations. My schedule became chaotic as I started getting up earlier and working later than I ever had before. I fell off the wagon completely. I’d go weeks between workouts and when I finally got to the gym, I was so out of shape that I’d be sore for 6 days after each workout.
My problem is that I was still working out the same way as when I had a wide open schedule. It was only after I adapted my routine to fit my limited time that exercise became a sustainable part of life again. I spent a lot of time researching how to maximize efficiency in coming up with my workout plan for busy people. This article from Men’s Journal is an awesome first person account of a guy who learned how to stop wasting time in the gym. Mark Rippletoe’s Starting Strength is a barbell training bible that brought 5×5 workouts to a broader audience. The 4 Hour Body inspired me to keep track of my progress and Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Fitness taught me about the importance of play.
With the help of these influences, I’ve been able to develop a sustainable workout plan with about an hour a week of actual exercise that keeps me sane. It works for both the guy who wants to get bigger and stronger as well as the woman who wants to stay lean. Here are the principles I focus on:
- Strength training should be heavy and focus on big muscle groups
- Sprinting at high intensity causes growth hormone release that keeps you lean
- Don’t waste time on exercises that have no metabolic benefit like bicep curls and riding the exercise bike
- Keep track of how much you’re lifting and add weight each workout (provided you completed all the reps last time)
I work out twice a week on average, never for more than 30 minutes at a time, and usually for about 20.
- Workout A: squats and weighted pullups, each 4 sets of 5 reps, with 90-120 seconds rest between sets
- Workout B: deadlifts and bench press, each 4 sets of 5 reps, rest as above
- Every other week, I do 10 sprints of 20-30 seconds as fast as I can, with about 90 seconds between sprints
That’s it. Literally. I don’t do anything else unless I’m on vacation or happen to be working a normal schedule, which is exceedingly rare. And I’ve found that it’s about 90% as successful in keeping me strong and lean as my hours in the gym used to. There are also tons of ways to vary this workout when/if you get bored, which is a topic for another post. The point is that having a limited schedule doesn’t mean you’re doomed to watch your muscles atrophy and your pants get tighter.
In an attempt to combat the obesity epidemic, the FDA is proposing big changes to mandatory food labels. As you can see above, the new labels are going to use different font sizes to better emphasize calories and servings per container. The major goal of the new labels is to help draw our attention to how much we're eating because the food industry has become really good at getting us to consume lots and lots of calories. More minor changes highlight percent of daily values and create the new category of "added sugars." Overall, the labels have gotten pretty good initial reviews from major influencers in the world of nutrition like Marion Nestle and Mark Bittman.
I'll agree, the new proposals are definitely and improvement over what we have right now. Making it easier to decipher portion sizes and drawing attention to added sugars are vital aspects of any good nutrition label. Thanks to larger portion sizes, Americans have been eating more food than ever before. And our added sugar consumption has skyrocketed over the past few decades (which is at least partly due to the increasing availability of HFCS made possible by agricultural subsidies). So by drawing attention to some of the big problems in the SAD, the new FDA labels provide a great nudge forward.
Despite these positive steps, I can't help but think that the whole discussion of nutrition labels is barking up the wrong tree. When we're trying to help people make better food choices, doesn't making a better nutrition label sort of miss the point? We need to pay more attention to the ingredients that we're ingesting rather than the nutrient breakdown in our foods. When we fall pray to the One-Nutrient-At-A-Time logic, we set ourselves up to be taken advantage of by marketers and charlatans. Sure, we've been able to categorize how our bodies process vitamins, minerals, and even macronutrients, but nutrition is clearly way more complicated than that.
The more we study, the more we realize how much we still have to learn. Plants are loaded with tons of biochemically influential compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids. Everyday we're learning more about how these phytonutrients interact with our bodies to influence our health. We've talked about probiotics and prebiotics before on this blog - I don't see them referenced anywhere on the FDA's new proposed labels!
My point isn't that to be perfect, the FDA's new labels need to incorporate the newest advances in the ever-changing world of nutrition to do a good job of helping us make good choices. It's that when we focus on nutrients, we miss out on the bigger picture. I agree that it's a big step forward to make calorie counts more clear. But the foods that we eat interact in so many more complex ways that calories only tell a small portion of the story. Michael Pollan is right when he tells us to "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." So we're moving forward. Now we need to continue to emphasize making smart choices with the foods that we eat, not just with the nutrients that we consume.
As a proud alumnus of Tufts University, I'm always excited to read their online publications. There are always interesting articles about faculty research and its applicability to modern human life. A new piece* looks at the work of Dr. Emmanuel Pothos who investigates the neuroscience of obesity in animals. The crux of the article is that Dr. Porthos' work demonstrates that the brains of obese animals have messed up reward circuitry in the brain. Curiously, the obese animals exhibit the same pattern of dysregulated dopamine (the primary reward hormone) as animals undergoing starvation. Initial research from this lab suggests that this problem with reward circuitry can become permanent without intervention (and the intervention they recommend is exercise, which seems to correct our own endogenous reward pathways).
I don't know the specifics of this research - and I haven't read any of Dr. Porthos' papers - but it's worth noting some of the questions raised by this work and how they relate to the way that we think about obesity. This isn't the first time that researchers have noted similarities between the two states, which would seem on the surface to be opposites. In fact, the alternative hypothesis of obesity suggests that these states are two sides of the same coin. Many patients with obesity, the alternative hypothesis suggests, have elevated levels of a hormone called insulin, which screws up its ability to act normally in the body. Insulin is the key that allows cells in the body to take up nutrients that are required for their normal activity. When insulin levels are chronically high, most of your cells become resistant to its action; at this point, your body can't use food for fuel and instead locks it up inside of fat tissue. So while your fat cells are getting bigger, the rest of your body is starving, at least according to the alternative hypothesis. The relative cellular starvation then increases your appetite, which only makes you put on more weight.
To see additional connections between starvation and obesity that change the brain in similar ways is curious. While it isn't evidence of an alternative hypothesis at play, it does raise a number of questions.
*I don't want to be too critical here, but I'd be remiss if I didn't note that I disagree with the very premise of the article - that the only way to lose weight is to eat less. The article ends with a platitude about eating less and exercising more - the exact conclusion you might reach if you ignored the last decade or so of obesity research. Most researchers will agree that the hormonal influences of food, particularly that of insulin, play a crucial role in weight changes and energy partitioning.