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Vegan Before Dinnertime February 27, 2009

Filed under: Nutritional Wellness — aprasek @ 5:12 pm

Over at the Well Blog,  there was an interesting article about Mark Bittman, the Times food writer. He shares his “Vegan Before Dinnertime” diet. It’s quite interesting… I’ve been a vegan for about 2 years now. It’s definitely a process and can be hard at times. I’ll sometimes have some dairy or meat (rarely) If I know the farm where the animal was raised and can be assured that it is living (or lived) a happy life. 

Everything that Bittman discusses is wonderful, but I’m not sure if I dig the “indulgent” dinner idea. Calorically and nutritionally, it would be better to have the indulgent meal in the morning so that daily activity can burn off and digest everything. Additionally, the “permission to binge” concept may not be helpful for some individuals.

I do tend to find some good recipes on Bittman’s blog though…

What are your thoughts about Bittman’s “Vegan Before Dinnertime”? 


Beans, Beans the Magical Legumes… February 26, 2009

Filed under: My favorite things! — aprasek @ 7:06 pm

Here’s my cowboy salsa recipe and my quick & easy hummus recipe… apologies in advance for my lack of recipe writing skills. I can’t follow them and I can’t write them…


Cowboy/Cowgirl Salsa

1 can black beans

1 can black-eyed peas

About 1 pound tomatoes (best with romas), chopped

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1 avocado, chopped

1 Bell pepper, chopped

Small can chopped olives

Squeeze of fresh lime

2 cloves garlic (less or more of you rather), minced

 Hot peppers (optional)


This is easy:  Just put everything in a big bowl. Dress with a cold-pressed EVOO and season with sea salt, pepper, cumin and some hot sauce for extra heat. Of course, if you rather not use canned products, prepare the beans accordingly. You can also use different types of beans (I’ve used kidney, pinto and others). Get creative with the ingredients- change ’em up to make your own yummy salsa.

To serve my cowboy salsa, I add it to chopped cabbage and make a sort of salad. It’s also a great dip for jicama and carrots. It’s fabulous over a potato or wrapped in my favorite brown rice tortillas (with a little hummus spread in the tortilla). Of course, chips are also quite yummy. So many options!



1 Can garbanzo beans

1 Tablespoon EVOO

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 Cloves garlic

1/2 Teaspoon cumin

Sea salt and pepper to taste


You can throw all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. However, I like to mash by hand (well, I use a big fork) and have the hummus a little more chunky. Get creative if you like and add some hot peppers, roasted peppers, kalmata olives or other ingredients to liven your hummus up.


Share your yummy bean recipes here! I need some new ones, especially ones that make good snacks…



“11 Small Tricks for Big Weight Loss” February 25, 2009

Filed under: Nutritional Wellness — aprasek @ 7:35 pm

The MSN homepage had an interesting little slideshow, “11 Small Tricks for Big Weight Loss.” Check it out and see what you think. Of course, I had to disagree with a few of the “tips”…


1. Blot“Use a paper napkin to blot a teaspoon of fat off a pizza slice.”

OK, I agree with the first one. Reducing saturated fat is a good thing. Blot the grease off the pizza… we’re off to a good start…

2. Drink More Milk. “Consuming 1,800 milligrams of calcium a day could block the absorption of about 80 calories.”

This is silly advice. First, you would have to consume at least 4 servings of milk to get close to 1800 mg of calcium (which would be over 300 calories). Additionally, there’s solid research to support that dairy is NOT the best source for calcium. Here’s some great info from the Harvard School of Public Health about calcium.

3. Buy Cut Veggies.  “They cost more, but they’ll pay dividends later-because you’re more likely to snack on them than on some other, less healthy food.”

Disagree. Pre-cut veggies are sometimes disinfected with chemicals. These chemicals can remain on the veggies and can degrade nutritional value. If you buy them, it’s a good idea to wash them again- even if they claim to have been washed. Here’s more from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (be sure to look at the “Related Projects” in the right sidebar).

Additionally, these convenience items often come in wasteful packaging. Save some plastic and some dough by purchasing whole and cutting them yourself. I get fresh veggies once a week and spend 10 minutes on Sundays and another 10 on Wednesdays chopping them up into snack sizes. I save money and enjoy the meditative chopping and increased connection with my food. I’m a firm believer that the more you connect and find gratefulness for your food, the less you will eat. This equates to weight loss.

4. Get watered down.  “A recent German study showed that drinking water burns calories. Drinking about two cups of cold water-no warmer than 72 degrees-used up roughly 25 calories. Drink a liter a day and you’re talking five pounds a year.”

There’s a lot of controversy over the perfect drinking water temperature. It’s known that the body will absorb warm water more easily than it will absorb cold water. Because of this, it may be possible that drinking warmer water would hydrate you more efficiently and could then decrease overall caloric intake (because you would be more hydrated).

In my opinion, research on water temp and increased caloric burn is just a waste of money. The simple point is to drink enough water to stay hydrated. If you like your water cold, hot, with lemon, with lime or with 1oz of cranberry juice mixed in (mix the cranberry with 8 oz of water- makes for a nice change); however you like your water, make it that way and drink more of it.

5. Go smaller.  “Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. Studies show that putting your portions on smaller dishes means you’ll end up eating less at a meal.”

Yay! I agree!

 6. Dilute juice.  “Add water to your fruit juice to reduce calories.”

I kind of agree… I mix the “potent” juices (cranberry, cherry, pomegranate, etc.) with water to make my own healthy faux Gatorade. But, I would never put water in my high pulp orange juice. Ick. No watery OJ for me. Of course, liquid calories are not so great. Our bodies don’t “register” liquid calories quite like solid food, so it’s likely that you’ll still be hungry after that glass of OJ (versus eating a full orange). My solution is to have a small glass (4 oz or so) of a quality OJ and enjoy the sweet flavor and texture of the juice- no added water.

7. Make your drinks count.  “Have a V8 or tomato juice instead of a Diet Coke.”

Very much agreed.

8. Have a power snack prepared.  “Mix three different kinds of beans and sprinkle in some low-cal Italian dressing. Have it as a snack all week.”

Good advice, beans are nutritional super-stars, so eating them as a snack is a great idea. I’m a hummus and cowboy salsa fan- both of these are full of beans. I’ll post my recipes for them tomorrow. If you have some healthy bean recipes that would make good snacks, please share them!

9.  Think about eating.  “Eat without doing anything else-no TV, no reading, no working.”

Ahhh yes, eating mindfully. This is a great way to connect with your food. If you have less distractions and more attention to the experience of eating, you will take in fewer calories. You will also enjoy your food more. Serving Fire is an amazing book that discusses more about mindful eating and connecting with your food.

10.  Stop mindless snacking.  “Chew a strong-flavored gum like cinnamon while you’re cooking. Sneaking a taste of the food will be less appealing.”

I’ve never been a big fan of this tip. I believe that a full-flavored herbal tea is a better choice. If you sip a strongly flavored tea (like a mint or cinnamon) while cooking, it’s likely that you will stay away from grazing. As a bonus, you’ll be hydrating your body, getting the benefits of the real herbs and you won’t be ingesting some of the crappy ingredients that are in a lot of gums. I also like to put some veggie sticks out to nosh on while I cook.

11. Tighten your belt.  “When you feel a craving and temptation to gorge, tighten your belt a notch-as a reminder of the size you’d like to be.”

This sounds like it might backfire. If I did this, I would have the following conversation with myself, “Stupid belt. Now my love handles are hanging over the sides. This is so tight. I think I’m constricting blood flow to my legs. I have red marks now, how embarrassing. Screw it. Pass the donut.”  I would then remove my belt, unbutton the top button and likely have another donut.

This tip seems like a really negative behavior to engage in. Additionally, focusing on external goals (what size you want to be, having a 6-pack, etc.) is often not a helpful focus for weight loss. It would be more advantageous to focus on health benefits (e.g., reducing diabetes risk, sleeping better, decreasing symptoms of depression) than to focus on looking hot in a swimsuit.


So, there’s my breakdown of MSN’s 11 tips. Share your thoughts- what tips do you agree with? What tips do you think are a joke?


Should We Lower the Drinking Age? February 23, 2009

Filed under: Miscellaneous — aprasek @ 2:54 pm

60 Minutes did a really interesting story about the debate over lowing the drinking age. Check it out:

Watch CBS Videos Online 

MADD is strongly against lowering the drinking age. The organization believes that a drinking age of 18 will just result in more deaths. MADD responded to the 60 Minutes report in more detail on their website.

What do you think? Will lowering the drinking age just increase the number of binge drinkers and alcohol-related fatalities?


Racial Disparities in Cancer Death Rates February 19, 2009

Filed under: Physical Wellness — aprasek @ 5:36 pm

The latest biannual report of the American Cancer Society details the disparity in cancer death rates for African Americans. The attention to this topic is a powerful reminder that health disparities are still a real problem in our healthcare system.

The ACS writes:

Cancer death rates among African Americans have been steadily decreasing since 1991. However, the numbers are still much higher than in whites. According to the report, cancer death rates in 2005 were 33% higher in African-American men and 16% higher in African-American women than in white men and women, respectively. Still, that gap is narrowing: in 2003, rates were 35% higher in African-American men and 18% in African-American women compared to whites. 

For all cancer types, African Americans are far more likely than whites to be diagnosed in advanced stages of disease, when the cancer is less treatable. African Americans are also less likely than whites to survive 5 years after a diagnosis, regardless of cancer type and stage of diagnosis, the report found.

The stats may seem startling because this issue is not often brought up in mainstream health news. You can read the ACS release (which gives a nice summary) or check out their full report.

Obviously, the reasons behind these disparities are complex. Share your thoughts; what do you think is contributing to the disparities?


Presidential Health

Filed under: Physical Wellness — aprasek @ 12:53 am

I’ve found a website to waste lots of hours on… it’s quite fun 🙂 Here’s a quote from the site:

On January 13, 2002, Bush lost consciousness while sitting on a couch in the White House, watching a football game. His head hit the floor, resulting in an abrasion on his left cheekbone and a small bruise on his lower lip. The incident was blamed on a combination of (a) Bush not feeling well in previous days, and (b) an improperly eaten pretzel. Their combined effect was to slow the President’s heart. (The description suggests a vaso-vagal attack.) The period of unconsciousness was brief.  

The rest of the GW health file is strangely entertaining (it seems as though GW is a bit accident prone… I can definitely relate). You can discover more about the health of our past presidents in the “Medical History of American Presidents” section. Just click on a president name to find more info (names can be found near the top in the small blue text). 

Who knew George Washington was always dealing with infections? And Lincoln’s health is of course, very fascinating… I’m off to waste time 🙂


Twittering During Sugery February 17, 2009

Filed under: Medical Ethics?,Physical Wellness — aprasek @ 10:35 pm

Apparently, some surgeons are now “twittering” from the operating room:

As Rogers worked away on his robotic machinery, the chief resident, Dr. Raj Laungani, Twittered: “Dr. Rogers is saying because the tumor is so large he may have to do a radical (total) nephrectomy.”

This is no joke, check out the full CNN story.

I’m not sure how I feel about this… Would you let your surgeon twitter during your surgery?