HBH Guide to Ethnic Cuisine: Asian

As the holidays approach, it becomes more common to eat out (at least I know it is for our family)! Whether it’s because our schedules become filled with events and a quick meal is needed or it is the focus of a social gathering, the amount of times we cook meals at home dwindles.  One of our goals of starting this blog was to provide our readers with the tools to eat healthier! Our Quick Bites posts that provide suggestions on foods to order while eating out at specific restaurants have been extremely popular. However, it may be hard to look up the nutritional facts of every restaurant you go to especially local places where they do not provide the facts. Instead, we wanted to provide some common tips on various cuisines so you can be prepared to choose healthier options. First up: Asian cuisine!

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When eating out at any Asian restaurant, fat and sodium content are going to be some of the larger issues to be aware of. Here are some tips for maneuvering these type of restaurants without sacrificing your healthy lifestyle.

Go for the veggies: Many of these establishments do not provide nutritional facts to look at (especially local places) but a general rule of thumb is to choose an entree that contains vegetables. The more that the dish is filled with colorful vegetables and less of fried protein and carbohydrates like large amounts of noodles, the healthier the dish likely is. And, are you a fan of edamame? Make sure to ask how it was prepared. Steamed with water is a much better option than cooked in oil!

  • Choose: Vegetable spring rolls, vegetable dumplings or Moo Goo Gai Pan for an alternative to other dishes.

Ask for sauce on the side or for less of it. When possible, choose steamed dishes with minimal sauces. If a sauce is included, ask for it on the side to prevent excess calories, fat and sodium.

  • Choose: Don’t be afraid to ask if your favorite dish could be steamed with sauce on the side. If you need more flavor, mix a small amount of the included sauce with a small amount of low sodium soy sauce! A perfect example of the nutritional difference between steamed and stir fried is at PF Changs – choose Buddha’s Feast Steamed for a healthier version (250 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 300 mg sodium) over Buddha’s Feast Stir Fried (480 calories, 1 gram saturated fat, 3860 mg sodium!)

Go Whole: Choose whole grain carbohydrates when possible. As we have previously talked about, whole grains are filled with fiber which not only keep you fuller for longer, but also provide other health benefits.

  • Choose brown rice over fried rice or Lo mein noodles for a healthier option!

Watch portion size: Many of the portions provided at Asian restaurants are large enough for multiple people to enjoy! Try sharing with others you are dining with or ask for a to-go box when the entree is brought to you to prevent from over eating. For rice, try to not eat more than a fistful size at one sitting.

Have soup first. By having soup as an appetizer first, you are preventing yourself from eating more than you should later on.

  • Choose: Wonton, hot and sour, or egg drop soup for a broth based appetizer option that fills you up without excess calories.

Talk to us! What are some of your favorite healthier Asian dishes?

 

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Mediterranean Skillet with Farro

Pinterest is my absolute favorite source of recipe inspiration, but I’m also a huge fan of modifying recipes based on ingredients I already have on hand. I came across this recipe from Paleo Newbie and was determined to make it in some capacity! I love anything with sun-dried tomatoes, and it incorporates a good variety of vegetables which is perfect for my less than adventurous husband.

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The recipe came together fairly quickly and made enough for a couple of lunches as leftovers. The recipe didn’t call for any grains, but I served the skillet over a bed of faro to incorporate some healthy carbs and make the dish a little more well rounded. If you’re not a fan of any of the ingredients, you could easily sub in another veggie and it would still taste great!

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Mediterranean Skillet with Farro
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 small red onion- finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic- finely chopped
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes- thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes- chopped
  • 1 8 oz jar artichokes
  • 1 8oz container of mushrooms- sliced
  • 1# chicken thighs- chopped into bite size pieces and baked or sautéed
  • 5 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 cup farro- cooked
  • Crumbled feta cheese for topping
Instructions
  1. Prepare Farro according to package instructions
  2. Prepare chicken by baking or sautéing with olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Saute onions and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil
  4. Add mushrooms and cook until partially softened
  5. Add another tbsp of olive oil and balsamic vinegar with tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes
  6. Mix in spices (parsley, oregano and basil)
  7. Add cooked chicken and stir well
  8. Add spinach and cook until slightly wilted
  9. Serve over a bed of faro and top with feta cheese as desired

 

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Caffeine 101

Do you find yourself confused about whether or not coffee is good for you? Have you had someone tell you that caffeine is bad for you? Caffeine (and coffee in particular) have always seemed to get mixed reviews about the health benefits or risks and it can be hard to discern what is accurate and what is not. One minute coffee is full of antioxidants and you’re being told you should be drinking multiple cups per day, and the next minute you’re being told that caffeine can cause health problems and should be consumed only sparingly. This is definitely frustrating when you’re trying your best to live a healthy life, so today we wanted discuss all things caffeine to help clarify fact vs fiction!

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What is caffeine and where is it found?

Caffeine is defined as a compound that stimulates the central nervous system, and for this reason it is classified as a drug. Caffeine is commonly found in various foods and beverages, most notably including: coffee, tea and chocolate.

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Other beverages such as sodas and energy drinks have added caffeine. Caffeine can also be found in some pain killers, cold medicines and diet supplements. The table below shows the range of caffeine content for some common foods and drinks containing caffeine.

Substance Serving size Caffeine Content
Brewed coffee 6 oz 80-150 mg
Espresso 1 oz 30-50 mg
Decaf coffee 6 oz 2-10 mg
Brewed Tea 6 oz 30-90 mg
Canned or bottled tea 12 oz 8-32 mg
Soft Drinks 12 oz 20-70 mg
Milk Chocolate 1.5 oz 2-10 mg
Dark Chocolate 1.5 oz 5-35 mg
Pain Medicines 2 tablets 65-130 mg
Weight loss pills 2-3 tablets 80-200 mg

 

How does caffeine act in the body?

Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts blood vessels, thereby reducing blood flow throughout the body which can lead to increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Other potential side effects can include reflux due to increased stomach acid production, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety and insomnia.

The caffeine molecule is similar in structure to adenosine, a naturally occurring compound in the brain. There are various adenosine receptors in the body, which when bound with an adenosine molecule act to help the body relax, or make it sleepy. Since caffeine is a similar shape to adenosine, it can also bind to the receptors, making adenosine unable to bind to the receptors, and therefore keeping the body awake and alert (Source).

 

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Caffeine Molecule (Source)

 

Studies show that consuming greater than 100 mg of caffeine daily can lead to physical dependence and potential withdrawal symptoms in the absence of caffeine intake (Source). The average American citizen is consuming 280 mg of caffeine daily.

Caffeine is contraindicated in various conditions including pregnancy, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), anxiety disorder and insomnia due to effects it has on blood circulation and stimulation of stomach acid.

Fact vs Fiction

Caffeine increases your risk of cancer: Fiction

There are no studies to support the notion that caffeine intake causes cancer, in fact some studies suggest it may have protective effects against cancer due to its high antioxidant properties. NIH studies also show coffee may decrease risk of Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease, Type II Diabetes and various other conditions (source).

Caffeine intake causes heart disease: Fiction

There are no studies linking caffeine intake to increased incidence cardiovascular disease. Those who have high blood pressure may want to moderate caffeine intake due to the temporary rise in blood pressure as a result of vasoconstriction in the blood vessels.

Caffeine causes dehydration: Fiction

Though caffeine can have a slight diuretic effect, studies fail to prove that caffeine itself causes dehydration. Make sure to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day to offset any fluid losses from caffeine.

Caffeine is harmful to pregnant women: Fact/Fiction

The general recommendation regarding caffeine intake during pregnancy is less than 200 mg/day (or about 2 cups of coffee) as higher caffeine intakes have been linked with increased risk of miscarriage.

Caffeine is addictive: Fact/Fiction

Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system and chronic consumption can lead to withdrawal symptoms if caffeine intake is stopped, though moderate caffeine intake is not linked to a physical dependence on the substance.

Conclusion

Moderate caffeine intake is safe. Coffee in particular has some additional health benefits likely related to the antioxidant properties. Pregnant women and children should have limited caffeine intake, and those with existing cardiovascular disease may want to discuss their caffeine intake with their doctor. Avoiding high doses of caffeine found in supplements and energy drinks would be best as high doses of caffeine may have some adverse effects.

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Be sure to check out our post about healthier ways to flavor your coffee for all of you coffee drinkers! And if you are still on the pumpkin spice train- don’t miss this clean eating pumpkin spice creamer!

Talk to us: Do you drink coffee? How much caffeine do you have in a day?

 

 

 

 

 

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Baked Honeycrisp Apples

Today’s recipe is like fall wrapped up in one {healthy} dessert! My kitchen smelled heavenly when these were cooking! Not only is this recipe delicious but most of the ingredients are likely already in your pantry. The possibilities are endless on what you can include in the “stuffing” of the apple, but I went with some of my favorite flavors – pecans, craisins, and oatmeal! This would be the perfect dessert to prepare ahead of time and then bake during dinner, so the apples are warm and ready when dessert time hits. The best part is this dessert is low fat and gluten free (with GF certified oats) – perfect for a variety of guests that you may have at your house for the holidays!

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To prepare the apples, I used a pairing knife to cut out the top of the apple core and then a small melon corer to scoop out the rest of the middle of the apple. You should have a bowl like shape when you are done scooping. Mix together the pecans, craisins, oatmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar in a separate bowl. Fill each apple with the oatmeal mixture evenly and top off with 1/4 Tbsp butter. Place the stuffed apples in a baking dish and pour the 1 cup water at the bottom of the dish.

Cook for 50-60 minutes (mine were done in 55 minutes) at 350 degrees. The apple should be soft when done with a wrinkled outside texture.  Make sure to monitor the water level at the bottom of your baking dish while the apples bake. If you see all of the water has evaporated, make sure to add more.

Serve by itself warm or with a scoop of yogurt for additional flavor. Or, maybe with a small scoop of Halo Top ice cream for a special treat. Enjoy!

Baked Honeycrisp Apples
 
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Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 Honeycrisp apples (or sweet apples of your choice)
  • ¼ cup pecans
  • ¼ cup reduced sugar craisins
  • ½ cup oatmeal
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup hot water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare the apples (cut the top off and scoop out the middle).
  3. Mix together the pecans, craisins, oatmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar in a separate bowl.
  4. Fill each apple with the oatmeal mixture evenly.
  5. Top off with ¼ Tbsp butter on each apple.
  6. Place the stuffed apples in a baking dish and pour the 1 cup water at the bottom of the dish.
  7. Cook for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.

 

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Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I know I have mentioned this before, but the crock pot is by far one of my favorite kitchen appliances. I love the ability to prepare a meal in advance so that when dinner time comes, most of the work is already done and the meal is on the table quickly! As the cooler weather approaches, I rely even more on the crock pot for ready made dinners like this Green Chile Chicken Soup and this Veggie Loaded Baked Potato Soup; however, my husband is not the biggest fan of “crock pot food”. The usual complaint is that it is too dry. I have managed to come up with a few non-soup, non-casserole crock pot meals that pass his taste test- and this is one of them!

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