Food & Fitness After 50: It’s a Good Time to Pass Along Kitchen Tips and Family Recipes

Keeping our social distance, my neighbor, Amy and I were talking (well, sort of shouting) across our yards and she said she had an idea for this blog. After listening to her ideas, I am posting a Q&A to share her great suggestions for passing along her favorite kitchen hacks and family recipes to the next generation. Thank you, Amy Clark!

fuel-nutritionMost of us value family meals and for good reasons. A recent systematic review confirms that family meals improve fruit and vegetable intake and improve family connectedness, communication, expressiveness, and problem-solving. And, sharing family heritage through cherished family recipes and teaching children some easy kitchen tips and tricks can improve the bond between the generations.

Question: What made you think about sharing recipes with your family at this time?

Self-isolation and family lock-down is a perfect time to teach kids some kitchen basics that they can use for a lifetime and help to instill the love of cooking. I also think that showing our children how to master simple tips can help making cooking more streamlined to save time in the kitchen. This can help them realize that cooking isn’t a daunting task.

Question: What are your top tips to engage younger kids in the kitchen?

For the younger kids, get them to help with some easy tasks. We probably all know that overly ripe bananas can be peeled and frozen and used in banana bread*, muffins, or pancakes, but another use for bananas is this trick that I use. Have kids peel ripe bananas and slice into ½-inch to 1-inch slices and lay them on baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Slide the tray into the freezer for an hour or two and then transfer to a gallon-size freezer bag. I like to stack the layers on top of each other inside the freezer bag by reusing the parchment or wax paper. They don’t take up much freezer space and it prevents food waste of those tasty bananas.

The kids can pull out the slices when they want to make smoothies, put on cereal, or make pancakes. I like to use them for a breakfast bowl.

Amy’s Breakfast Bowl

½ cup uncooked oatmeal

1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1 Tablespoon of shelled, raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Handful of frozen blueberries

4 or 5 sliced frozen bananas

Mix together in microwave safe bowl and microwave for 40 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir and microwave for another 40 to 45 seconds.

LemonAnother kitchen hack that is easy to pass along to kids is how to save time by having lemon zest and juice at the ready. Wash lemons and grate the zest. Show kids how to use a cheese grater (carefully, of course!) by grating the lemons on the side of the grater with the smallest holes. If you have a zester, that works well, too. Wrap the zest/peel from each lemon in a piece of parchment paper and store flat in a sandwich-size freezer bag. Once zested, cut the lemons and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup, removing seeds in the process. Pour the juice into ice cube trays and freeze. (Your kids may have never seen an old-fashioned ice cube tray!)  Once frozen, remove the lemon cubes and store in freezer bags. One of my absolute favorite recipes for lemon zest and juice is a Lemon Dutch Baby, which the kids will love. If you’ve never tried it, search online and you’re bound to find several recipes using lemon juice and zest. Kids can easily help with this recipe. I like making it in a cast iron skillet because it crisps the crust and some of the iron from the skillet gets absorbed into the food, making it a richer source of dietary iron.

Question: You said that this is also a good time to pass down recipes from one generation to another. What treasured recipes do you have that you want to share with your sons?

I get concerned that some family recipes may be lost over time.  All three of my sons enjoy cooking and grilling but would rather come up with something on the fly or go online to look up a recipe. I want to not only share family recipes but teach them how to make them. My favorite recipes are those passed down from my husband’s grandmother, Estelle.  Grandma Estelle was an amazing woman and fabulous cook who lived to be 99 years old. Maybe she got her love of cooking because one of her first jobs was working at a dairy farm testing the milk for safety. My two favorite recipes are her amazing pie crust (for her famous Coconut Cream Pie) and chicken and dumplings. Both comfort foods to be sure, what we could all use a little comfort right now!

Homemade pie crust is easier to make than you might think. It is cheaper than buying a frozen or refrigerated crust and the taste and flakiness is unbeatable. Pie crust is a good recipe to make with your kids and watching them learn to use a rolling pin is priceless! The crust can be used for pies, of course, but also for homemade chicken pot pie. Once made, the dough can be frozen in individual balls until you are ready to thaw and roll out, which saves you time.

Chicken and dumplings
Amy’s version of Grandmother Estelle’s chicken & dumplings

Our family’s favorite is Estelle’s chicken and dumplings. To make the recipe a bit less daunting, I substitute a large rotisserie chicken for a raw broiler chicken. I remember watching her make it when she would visit us in the summer. I’m sure many of her generation cooked and baked the same way and trying to pin down the exact measurements was a challenge. She would say, “just use a little of this and splash of that.” But even though she didn’t measure a single ingredient, it always came out just right.

Even at 50+, I am still discovering unique family recipes that I can pass on. Last summer, when my husband Randy and I were visiting his parents, I saw his dad cutting up the entire rind of a watermelon. When I asked him what he was doing, he shared another family recipe I did not know about. My mother-in-law showed me how to cook the rinds down and create Watermelon Preserves. She learned how make the preserves from watermelon rinds when she was young from her mother-in-law! The preserves have a unique flavor and we really enjoyed it. When I got home, I made a batch and shared a jar with my son and his fiancé. (See photos below.) I told her the story and she was excited for me to teach her how to make them…another mother-in-law inspired recipe! I love how that recipe, which was created to use every part of the watermelon, is now something preserved (pun intended) and is being passed down by to another generation.

Question: What do you think is a good way to pass along the family recipes?

tgn_080918_nfmm_consumer_infographics_-14-outline_002Some of us have a little more time at home right now so it is a good time to clean up your recipe files and pass along your favorites to your kids…. you can create a recipe box, a recipe book, or more likely for this generation, a digital file shared on a flash drive! Along with each recipe, write a little history of the origin of the dish or why you like it. No matter which way you choose to share the family recipes, I think your kids will appreciate them for years to come.

Banana bread

 

*One of Chris’ favorite recipes for banana bread comes courtesy of California Walnuts, Old Soul’s Banana Walnut Bread. After baking and cooling the banana bread, it freezes well. I have a loaf in my freezer right now! Click here for the recipe.

 

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: What I’ve Learned About Obesity

I’ve been a registered dietitian for 45 years and I still have a lot to learn about the disease of obesity.

I had the chance to meet and interact with medical experts in the field of obesity medicine at a recent sponsored conference and through a webinar on World Obesity Day (March 4, 2020) on changing the narrative on obesity by addressing weight bias and stigma.

Here are the big takeaways:

  • Obesity is a disease. That’s right, obesity is a disease and was classified as such in 2013 by the American Medical Association , but most of us were slow to catch on. “Obesity is a disease of abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.” This from Dr. Gabe Smolarz, Diplomat, American Board of Obesity Medicine. “Obesity is a chronic disease and is marked by progressive weight gain over many years.”
  • Because obesity is a disease the words we use matter. You wouldn’t call a person who has cancer by her disease (“she is cancer”) yet we routinely say, “she is obese.” Changing the way we talk about obesity can help chip away at the bias and stigma surrounding the disease.
  • Obesity is underpinned by genetics. Seventy percent of obesity is determined by genetics. Yet many, including health care providers, still think obesity is a lifestyle choice. “Eat less and move more” might be the only medical care that a person with obesity receives from his or her doctor.
  • Personal choice is important but should be viewed in the context of the disease. As Ted Kyle, founder of ConscienHealth puts it, “genetics sets the table and the environment serves it up.” We should all be eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity, but we wouldn’t tell a person with serious heart disease or advanced cancer to only eat well and exercise. We would provide quality medical care to address the underlying disease while helping them modify their lifestyle. And, another myth is that exercise is the cure for obesity. To be sure, it is crucial for good health, but a “cure?” No.
  • Bias towards those with obesity is strong. Explicit bias towards weight (the things people say) is going down, yet implicit bias (Ted Kyle describes this type of bias as the “knee jerk” reaction we have to an issue) is going up. We have many demeaning stereotypes of people with obesity as shown on this slide from Ted Kyle.

Ted's slide

In a recent episode of the Hulu series, Shrill, starring Aidy Bryant as a young journalist who lives in a larger body, her character has an emotional conversation with her roommate. This honest scene really touched me and brought to life all the demeaning stereotypes listed on the slide. Her character Annie says, “You don’t think I know that the whole world isn’t constantly telling me I’m a fat piece of s__ who doesn’t try hard? Every magazine and commercial and weird targeted ad telling me to freeze my fat off and at this point I could be a licensed nutritionist because I’ve literally been training for it since the 4th grade.” (To hear an interview with Aidy Bryant on NPR’s Fresh Air, click here. It’s worth a listen.

Shrill

  • Weight bias and stigma leads to stress which can make the disease worse and people sicker. To recognize this a Joint International Consensus Statement for Ending Stigma of Obesity was recently published in Nature Medicine calling on health professionals, the media, and basically all of us to think about our actions to end the stigma surrounding obesity. In addition, a campaign and pledge to end obesity stigma was started and you can click here to lend your support by taking the pledge. I did.
  • For a video on stigma and obesity, watch this one from Ted Kyle.

And, stay tuned for a PBS Nova special, “The Truth About Fat,” airing April 8 at 9 PM. I’m set to record!

Thanks to the experts, Dr. Gabe Smolarz, Dr. Matthew Hutter, Dr. Robin Blackstone, and Ted Kyle for their insightful presentations.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Eating Well in the Time of Coronavirus

keep-calm-and-eat-healthy-125Coronavirus is everywhere…on the news, in our social media feeds, on our minds, and, most worrying in the air! Good nutrition and feeding your family is never old news but now might be a good time to plan to:

  1. clean out your pantry, freezer, and fridge to use up those hidden gems or toss those that have gone bad,
  2. manage your supplies so you don’t have to run to the grocery store,
  3. think about what staples you should have on hand in case things get worse before they get better.

refrigerator-22592466Let’s start with #1. Many of you are food hoarders. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but you might have more food hiding in the cupboards or the freezer than you realize. I am sure we’ve all bought cans of tuna on sale only to realize that we had plenty of it on hand. So, start with a thorough inventory of what you already have. I like this comprehensive approach from Real Mom Nutrition, registered dietitian, Sally Kuzemchak. She has tools to help you inventory and organize everything from your pantry to your freezer. While you are taking everything out of pantry, fridge, and freezer, take time to clean the spaces. We are concerned about the spreading the coronoavirus, we often forget basic food safety practices, including cleaning food storage spaces. Toss anything that is old (I found a box of granola that had a 2017 date; clearly time to toss!)

Next step, rotate food by “use by dates”, just like they do in the grocery store. Then, get creative. Find recipes or assemble meals based on what you have on hand. Today I am making a lighter version of sweet and sour chicken in the crockpot because I had a couple of chicken breasts, a red bell pepper, half an onion, and 2 carrots that I wanted to use. I added some chicken stock, low-sodium soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Thai chili paste for the sauce. I will stir in some pineapple juice mixed with cornstarch to thicken the sauce and serve it over steamed rice for dinner. If you struggle with meal assembly, go online to any of the hundreds of websites to help you find a way to use the foods you have on hand.

Managing your supplies means keeping track of what is in your fridge, freezer, and pantry to plan meals. I know, planning sounds like a lot of work, but many of us have a little more free time right now and planning saves you money and reduces food waste. Did you know that up to one-third of all of world’s food is wasted? That food could feed 3 Billion people….or the equivalent to 10 times the population of the USA! 

Picture1

Lastly, if you do need to restock, consider keeping these staples on hand (personalize as needed for preferences, allergies, etc.)

1389969431643For the pantry:

  • Canned beans, black, kidney, garbanzo, baked beans (I am partial to Bush’s Beans because they keep their texture in soups, stews, etc.)
  • Chicken, beef, and vegetable stock
  • Canned soup
  • Pasta
  • Rice and rice mixtures
  • Canned tomatoes and/marinara sauce
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Dry lentils and split peas
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly or Jam
  • Crackers
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Oatmeal
  • Shelf-staple milk
  • Potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Yeast

For the freezer:

  • Chicken (whole, parts, breasts, etc)
  • Lean ground beef and turkey
  • Pork loin
  • Lean beef (flank steak, strip steaks, top round, Tri-Tip roast)
  • Fish fillets
  • Shrimp
  • Frozen vegetables (I prefer bags to boxes)
  • Frozen fruit
  • Veggie patties (I like MorningStar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burger and Original Chick Patties)

For the fridge

  • Cheese
  • Yogurt or kefir (good for gut health!)
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Apples, Oranges, Mandarins
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Carrots

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, just the basics with longer shelf life in case you aren’t able to get to the store. Take some time to learn some new culinary skills…I plan to learn to perfect pizza dough (hence, the yeast on this list) instead of the cardboard crusts found in most grocery stores and take out pizza!

For more tips on eating well check out Food & Fitness After 50.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Lessons from a Late Blooming Ballroom Dancer

FoxtrotNYDF20
Chandra and Ian Folker doing Foxtrot

At the age of 55, Chandra did something that not many of us would do. Sure, we might take up weight training or pickleball, but ballroom dancing? That is exactly what Chandra did and ten years later she is competing in smooth ballroom dances…waltz, foxtrot, tango, and quick step. “Ballroom dancing is the ultimate full body and mind exercise,” she says.

A Valentine’s Day Surprise

It started with social dancing with her husband and he surprised her with ballroom dance lessons one Valentine’s Day. While he “retired” from dancing, she went full steam ahead. After working with a few different dance teachers, she found the ideal teacher, Ian Folker, and they have been dancing together for the past three years. “Ian has helped me meet my goals and competing was one of those goals. Ballroom dancing is like other sports…first you have to learn the fundamentals and then improve on that skill set with practice and repetition.”

FoxtrotNYDF20bJPG
Foxtrot

Chandra practices 4 to 5 times each week and competes on a regular basis. “Competing is intense, as intense as any sport!”  She also practices restorative yoga to help her dance movement and finds it mentally and physically therapeutic.

Functional and Integrative Nutrition

Least you think that this is her full-time job, it is not. Chandra has a private nutrition practice and has gravitated toward functional and integrative nutrition as a wholistic way to help clients reach their goals. (To learn about her nutrition practice, click here for her website, Nutrition in the Now. Prior to starting her business, she worked in clinical nutrition research at Emory University. “While running clinical trials on the role of different diets in treating breast, lung and colorectal cancer, the medical director wanted everyone working on the project to try the diets. I did and found the lower fat diet felt good for me.” The goal of functional nutrition is to identify the foods and nutrients that function to keep your body healthiest.  Chandra reminds her clients that “Food Is Your Medicine.”

Using Foods to Manage Disease

TangoNYDF20c
Tango

Chandra, the mom of 2 girls, was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia during her first pregnancy which is a form of high blood pressure. “I basically had pre-hypertension.  I was later diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse.  Given these pre-cardiovascular disease conditions, I understood how important lifestyle was in managing my disease risks. I have learned to understand the way sodium and salt affect me and I am very attuned to reading labels to look for the hidden salt.” She eats a whole foods diet with minimal processing, as salt is a main ingredient used to process and preserve foods. Her favorite meal is fresh seafood; something she can readily find when she spends time in Florida or California. “Walking to the docks and buying fresh seafood as it comes off the boat makes for the perfect meal.”

She has also learned to appreciate the role of nutrition in treating disease through her yearly visits to Germany. Her daughter, a neuroscientist, introduced her to a European way of treating disease. “They rely much less on medications, as we do in the U.S., but use herbs (botanicals) and spices and food as restorative, healing agents. That approach may take longer, but they use significantly less drugs than we do and have good results.” We agreed that most Americans are quick to take a drug but slow to change their lifestyle.

Challenges to optimal aging

When I asked Chandra to identify challenges to healthy aging, she said that she is trying to live a life as stress-free as possible. Spending time with her daughters and four grandchildren makes her realize that what is important is relationships, not things. “I am really trying to declutter…we have so much but want more and more and living with less can help reduce stress.”

Chandra’s tips for healthy aging include:

  • Have a vision for your life.
  • Have a support system to help you reach your vision.
  • Live the best you can live and aim for inner peace.

And, while she didn’t name laughter as a tool for healthy aging, we laughed a lot during this interview!

P.S. The photos in the post are from Chandra’s most recent ballroom competition. “The competition was so exciting as well as overwhelming.  It was the largest US Ballroom competition this year.  For a beginner, I was pleased; of course, a little nervous, however, once I began dancing, I had to remember all my coaching instructions.  I competed from 8:30 am and my last competition was at 6:30 pm.  I was completely exhausted, hungry and so out of energy. My lesson learned, I have to be sure and fuel the night before and during!”

WaltzNYDF20b (2)

 

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: What is Clean Eating?

A funny meme circulated among my dietitian friends. The first woman says, “I can’t eat that, I’m trying to eat clean.” The second woman (probably a dietitian) replies, “It’s banana bread, Susan, not heroin.”

clean eatingIt’s funny and sad at the same time. Many people limit delicious, healthful foods (banana bread) because they don’t fit into what they consider “clean” eating. Some people rely on the front-of-pack “free-from” claims to judge if a food is worthy…. free from sugar, white flour, gluten, additives, colors, GMOs, and on and on.  Which leads us to the concept of clean eating. Most dietitians don’t like the term because the opposite of clean is dirty and no one wants to say they are eating “dirty.”  Saying you eat clean implies a certain moral superiority to the rest us who are microwaving a frozen meal.

But it doesn’t matter if I like it or not, the term clean eating is here to stay. I counted over 70 books for sale on Amazon with “clean eating” in the title.

At a recent conference, I learned from Kris Sollid, a registered dietitian and senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council, that clean eating was the the number 1 diet trend in 2019. Some people think clean eating is diet of whole, unprocessed foods. Some people are OK with processed foods if they don’t contain artificial coloring or flavors with hard to pronounce ingredients. Other think foods labeled organic tick the clean eating box, while some ascribe a vegan diet as the only way to eat clean.

2019 Diet Trend for CR

But, when it gets down to the definition of clean eating, it depends on who you ask. “The bottom line is that while the definition isn’t clear, ‘clean’ is often used as a proxy for ‘healthy’” adds Sollid.

Hand-in-hand with clean eating is a trend in the food industry to develop “clean” labels. Many food manufacturers are reformulating products to limit the number of ingredients to satisfy consumer demand.  In many cases this is a good thing; finding ways to reduce salt by using fewer sodium-based ingredients or lowering sugar by finding the sweet spot of less sugar without changing taste are all good moves. But, when a product simply replaces sugar from sugar beets with “pure cane sugar” and makes you think it is healthier, well, sugar is sugar and just because the word “pure” is front of cane sugar it doesn’t make it a healthy ingredient.

So, instead of focusing on eating clean, let’s just focus on healthy eating. Some ways to do that are:

  • Focus on the positives in a food, not the negatives. Choose foods with nutrients that you need, like vitamins, minerals and fiber instead of focusing on sugar or fat content. Sugar and fat are important but take a wider view when choosing foods. For example, as we age, we still need bone building nutrients: calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium. Look for foods with those nutrients and keep in mind that not all dairy foods or plant-based alternatives to dairy contain vitamin D.
  • Ignore the buzz words like “all natural,” “real ingredients,” or “minimally processed.” They don’t mean anything.
  • Recognize the value of processed foods, like frozen berries, canned tomatoes, or ready to eat breakfast cereal. These foods provide big nutrition for little money. Amy Cohn, a registered dietitian with General Mills reminds us that cereal is the number 1 source of whole grains, fiber, B-vitamins, iron and zinc for all Americans at breakfast. And, when paired with milk, the “average bowl of a Big G cereal is about fifty cents.”
  • Don’t be afraid of words you can’t pronounce on list of food ingredients: pyridoxine hydrochloride may sound strange, but it just the chemical name for vitamin B6.

For more tips on healthy eating, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Disclosure: I attended a sponsored conference where both Kris Sollid and Amy Cohn spoke, but I was not asked to or compensated to write this post.