4 Wedding Food Trends to Make Your Big Day Healthy & Hip!

myfitnesspal wedding food trends copy

Weddings are a grand celebration, and whether yours is big or small, black tie or DIY, it’s important to have a party that represents you and your love. I encourage my clients to throw a party that represents them as a couple. It’s a big day and as the saying goes, “Food is love!” But that doesn’t mean you have to go overboard with the butter and the trimmings. It’s hip to serve healthy food at your reception now.

If you’ve adopted a healthy eating mantra to get ready for your big day, why not stick with it through your reception? I recently worked with a bride and groom that don’t eat processed meats, so they didn’t serve bacon or sausage at their brunch reception—and none of the guests missed them. Heavy, run-of-the-mill dinner buffets, and fat-laden passed apps are no longer expected or required. In fact, the catering trends for 2014 are looking fresher, healthier, and tastier than ever! Here’s how to break away from the usual sad-looking chicken drowned in cream sauce:

Join the Farm-to-Table Movement When interviewing caterers, ask where they buy their ingredients. Look for companies that source food locally, and use as many fresh, organic ingredients as possible. The demand is there, so the right caterer is there, I promise!

Keep Cocktail Hour Light and Creative I love working with caterers who really care about the food and the overall guest experience. (Event caterers should not serve frozen mini quiches!) Culinary Eye in San Francisco picks up produce from farmer’s markets and sources meat from local ranches to create dishes that are simply delicious. Fresh foods always taste better than processed ones—and no one will miss the old standbys! Here is some of the low-calorie fare Culinary Eye will be serving this summer: canapés of heirloom melon, Thai basil, torn burrata, and balsamic reduction; pea tartar with mint, Meyer lemon olive oil, and shaved Manchego cheese; and compressed cucumber, smoked salmon, and fresh chive on silver spoons. Yum!

Serve Dinner Family-Style This option allows guests to pass platters to each other, so it’s perfect for those big round dinner tables, and it’s a cool way for guest to get to know each other and break bread—literally. Family-style menus also present an opportunity to serve more dishes. Typically, you can choose three main course items and several sides, which means you can have waist-friendly entrées placed on every table. When beautiful salads and bright veggie platters are being passed from guest to guest, everyone will partake. Of course, you can still serve your great-aunt’s famous mac and cheese—but with so many options on the table guests are likely to take a smaller helping so they can try a little of everything.

Beer and Wine Only, Please! This trend in beverage service is here to stay—and I love it!  Not only does skipping hard alcohol cut down on your reception costs, just serving beer and wine also prevents guests from taking shots at the bar and potentially getting rowdy quickly.  Plus, beer and wine offer more heart-healthy antioxidants and often contain fewer calories than mixed drinks made with sugary juices and sodas. This is one idea even a Jameson loving groom can get behind!

 

Christy Daly Matthews 2Christy Daly Matthews is a certified wedding consultant and a busy mom of two boys (both under 5!) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Christy believes in marriage equality, to-do lists, and parties. She enjoys creating a seamless event that celebrates your love, you way. @ChristyDaly has a weakness for stinky cheese; she relies on classes at The Daily Method and a trusty jogging stroller to help her stay fit. (Photo Credit: Gavin Farrington) 

Butter is Back, Baby!

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It’s been an uphill battle, but after bearing a bad reputation for over half a century, it appears butter is back. According to The American Butter Institute, last year butter consumption reached its highest level in 40 years here in the U.S, and the shift is being attributed to a change in consumer preferences for simpler ingredient lists and fewer artificial ingredients.

There’s a simple food movement happening.

When it comes to food purchasing, health-conscious consumers are looking for simpler ingredient lists. In recent years, less has become more when it comes to ingredients and processing as they relate to our health. And with just cream, or cream and salt, butter’s ingredient list fits the definition of simple.

We’re turning our noses up to trans fat.

The invention of artificial trans fats (also known as partially hydrogenated oils) once made margarine a lower-calorie, and therefore “healthier,” alternative at the height of the war against saturated fats. But as it turns out, those trans fats in margarine actually do more harm to cholesterol levels than their saturated counterparts, by increasing “bad” LDL cholesterol and decreasing our “good” HDL cholesterol. Talk about a double whammy! The evidence to support this has been so strong the FDA recently declared trans fats as “potentially unsafe,” which has many consumers demanding they be banned altogether.

As trans fats take a tumble, the evidence suggesting we go back to butter is mounting. Just last month, a study published in the Annals of Medicine* found that people who ate more saturated fat did not, in fact, have more heart disease. Also worth noting, the study did not find less disease in people eating more amounts of unsaturated fat, like olive or corn oil. This analysis looked at nearly 80 different studies and included more than a half million people, making it one of the most comprehensive dietary fat studies to date.

The latest research suggests butter can be part of a healthy diet (I certainly include it in mine), but this shouldn’t be interpreted as an excuse to eat butter with abandon. It’s best to keep your sources of fats balanced and to consume it in moderation.

Regardless of whether you’re going to stick with margarine or move back to butter, butter has certainly made a comeback.

What do you think? Will you be putting butter back on your table?

 

*Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014 Mar;160(6):398-406.

5 Reasons to Eat Chocolate

myfitnesspal 5 reasons to eat chocolate

If it replaced your daily cholesterol and blood-pressure medications, you’d pop a chocolate pill, right? The idea might seem farfetched, but for an upcoming study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Mars Inc., researchers will try to prove such tablets have a positive impact on heart health.

Before you get too excited, these pills won’t exactly be candy-coated. Instead, they’re filled with concentrated flavanoids, heart-healthy compounds found in the cocoa bean. Super-high in antioxidant activity, previous studies indicate flavanoids may play a role in improving blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin levels, artery health, and heart health factors. By putting these flavanoids in pill form, scientists will be able to study the effects of the compounds without the associated fat and sugar of chocolate that can lead to weight gain—a risk factor of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.

Still, when indulging your sweet tooth, you could do worse than a brick of flavanoid-rich dark chocolate. Need more convincing? Here are five good reasons to eat chocolate:

1. Portion (and weight) control When you buy individual bricks of dark chocolate, and eat just one for dessert after a meal, you’re less likely to overdo it than if you were scooping out ice cream or slicing into a cake. “A once-ounce portion of dark chocolate will cost you roughly 150 calories—much better than most cookies and cakes, and lower in fat, too,” says Jackie London, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian in New York City. “And as long as you stick to that one portion, individuals who eat chocolate with increased frequency are shown to have lower BMIs.”

2. Antioxidants Antioxidants abound in cocoa, and they have a laundry list of associated health benefits. Think: anti-inflammatory effects, better immunity, cancer-fighting properties, a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as better skin integrity and wound healing. What’s not to love?

3. Stress reduction You are not imagining it: your worries do melt away when you eat chocolate. At least, the associated symptoms do. “Some studies have demonstrated that an intake of daily dark chocolate can impact the physical effects of stress on the body,” says London. These range from reducing the urinary excretion of stress hormones to positively affecting the gut.

4. Caffeine It might not be a bad idea to have your daily choco-fix after lunch, possibly as an afternoon pick-me-up at work. “Dark chocolate can contain caffeine, which serves as a central nervous system stimulator, resulting in improved alertness and cognition,” says London.

5. Happiness Whether you’re having a rough day at the office or dealing with a breakup, chocolate really can help. “Dark chocolate, in particular 85% cacao, contains tryptophan, which is a precursor of serotonin—a neurotransmitter that serves as a mood-booster,” says London.

Go ahead: have a serving! Just remember to be choosy about chocolate. London explains the more processed the chocolate, the fewer health benefits, and the worse it is for you. So…

Look for a high percentage of cacao The fewer ingredients in the chocolate, the better. “The problem with a lot of commercial chocolate is food additives and ingredients that you may have otherwise not considered, such as soy lecithin,” London says. “The general rule of thumb is that the more heavily processed any food is, the greater the depletion of health benefits. Therefore, what you’re looking for are ones that are higher in cacao percentage, while still retaining a sweet and satisfying flavor that you will enjoy.” To nab benefits and get great taste, aim for the “sweet spot,” which is 70% (or higher) cacao.

Lose the add-ons There’s a reason Snickers and Twix bars, while chocolatey, are not healthy. “Add-ons rack up the caloric content and decrease the cacao content, thus decreasing the health benefits of the chocolate,” London says. “Avoid additional toffee, caramel, nuts and dried fruits to keep the caloric content at bay.”

Seek organic or fair-trade Seek out organic, fair-trade, and locally-sourced dark chocolate to get maximum health benefits. “These tend to be the ones with the fewest additives, and are essentially close to natural form as possible,” London says.

What do you think? Will this sweet treat land in your shopping cart this week?

 

Jenna BirchJenna Birch is a health and lifestyle writer. She has written for many web and print publications, including Marie Claire, Runner’s World, mom.me and WomansDay.com. As a nutrition and fitness junkie, she’s a lifelong athlete, major college sports fan and developing yogi — but still can’t resist the allure of an occasional chocolate lava cake. (Everything in moderation, right?) For more, visit her at jennabirch.com or follow her on Twitter.  

Veg Out! 7 Meat-Free Protein Sources that Satisfy

myfitnesspal seitan with capers

Lorimer Street KitchenIf you’ve checked your Twitter feed in the last few hours, chances are #MeatlessMonday has popped up at least once. The goal of this trend is to kick-start your week with veggies, and become more aware of what you are eating in general, so you can make healthier choices all week. Why go meat-free for the day? Cutting back on your meat intake comes with tons of healthy benefits—to name a few: it decreases your chances of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

If the idea of avoiding meat, even just for one day, leaves you wondering, “How will I get enough protein?” You’re not alone—it’s a worry plenty of people have. But it turns out getting enough of this important nutrient is easier than it seems. There are plenty of plant-based sources of protein that are easy to cook and taste amazing, too.

Tofu & Tempeh Tofu is probably the first food that comes to mind when thinking of vegetarian meat substitutes, and for good reason! Tofu and tempeh are made from soybeans, and they’re incredible sources of protein. Tempeh contains 15 grams of protein per half cup, while tofu offers 20 grams! Both have unique textures that easily absorb the flavor of whatever you are cooking, making them ideal in stir-fries, or seasoned and baked.

Seitan While not as well known as tofu, seitan is a versatile meat substitute made from wheat gluten that packs tons of protein—32 grams per half cup! It’s a great replacement for poultry, and is very simple to cook.

Quinoa Most grains are low in protein, but quinoa has more than 8 grams per cup! Quinoa is delicious as a side dish (try it in place of rice), and works well as a hot or cold breakfast. You can also toss a handful of cooked quinoa into soup or chili to thicken things up.

Beans Beans are little powerhouses of nutrition. High in both protein and fiber, they keep you feeling full longer and provide your body with tons of energy. How much protein are we talking about? 1 cup of kidney beans is loaded with 15 grams of protein, and 1 cup of black beans contains 42 grams! Keep in mind: canned beans tend to be high in sodium, so be sure rinse them before using.

Nuts & Nut Butters Nuts get a bad rap for being fattening, but they are packed with both healthy fats and protein. Most varieties have 5 to 6 grams of protein per ounce, which means you don’t have to eat too many to get a protein boost. To maximize the health benefits, look for unsalted, raw, or roasted nuts, and opt for nut-butters made without any added sugars or oils.

Seeds Like their nutty counterparts, seeds, such as sunflower, sesame and poppy, are filled with protein and healthy fats. Sunflower seeds, for example, have almost 15 grams of protein per cup. They’re delicious toasted and sprinkled on top of a salad.

Greens While green vegetables may not be the protein powerhouses that beans, nuts, and seeds are, ounce for ounce, they still hold their own. Packed with fiber to keep you feeling full, 2 cups of spinach (easy side salad!) contains 2 grams of protein, and a cup of broccoli has 3 grams.

Need help planning a plant-based meal? Try this easy Lemon & White Wine Seitan with Quinoa and Broccolini dish that I created just for MyFitnessPal. (The recipe is in the database for easy logging!)

What do you think of #MeatlessMonday? Are you planning a meat-free meal today?

 

Jennifer Pantin HeadshotWriter, lawyer, and healthy-eating proponent, Jennifer Pantin loves experimenting with new, healthy recipes in her Brooklyn kitchen. Her blog, Lorimer Street Kitchen, is where she shares this passion for food and the belief that healthy recipes can be good for you and delicious, too. Connect with Jennifer and Lorimer Street Kitchen on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

The Truth About Rice Cakes

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During the low-fat, high carbohydrate craze of the late 1980’s and 1990’s, rice cakes quickly became one of the ultimate diet foods. So we bought them in bulk thinking that, if we swapped our cookies and crackers for 70 calorie rice cakes, we’d lose weight and look great.

They may be low in calories, about 35 a pop, but when eaten alone they can actually sabotage weight loss. If you look at the Nutrition Facts Label on a package of rice cakes, you’ll see a whole lot of nothing. No fat, no fiber, minimal vitamins and minerals, and maybe 1 gram of protein–all important nutrients that nourish your body, improve satiety and actually keep your mind off of snacking.

The truth about rice cakes is this. Rice cakes are little more than refined carbohydrates (which are quickly digested and converted into sugar) that have been sprinkled with salt, and possibly sprayed with some artificial flavoring. Their glycemic index, an indicator of how a food affects blood sugar, ranks pretty high at 82 compared to pure sugar which tops out at 100. Instead of taking your mind off of food, snacking on rice cakes on an empty stomach can induce a spike in blood sugar that might just leave you feeling sluggish and craving, you got it, more rice cakes.

Instead of reaching for those rice cakes the next time hunger strikes, try choosing a nourishing snack with healthy fats, protein and fiber. Here are five quick and easy ideas:

  • A whole grain wrap with peanut butter and sliced banana
  • Greek yogurt sprinkled with granola and berries
  • Hummus with veggies and a serving of pita chips for dipping
  • A 1-ounce (28g) serving of almonds and a small piece of fruit
  • 100% whole grain toast with topped with a sliced hard boiled egg, avocado and a sprinkle of salt & pepper

And if you can’t entirely let go of rice cakes quite yet, fear not. Buy the plain variety and flavor them yourself with something nourishing, like a tablespoon of almond butter and fresh peach slices!