Posted in Healthy, Opinions & Commentaries, Recipes

My Opinion to “Juicing”

Juicing has been in the media for a couple of weeks now.  My 8-year- old daughter (a mini me in the making – God help the world :)), comes home and says “Did you know? They are getting rid of juices in the Food Guide.”  And yes it was stated like that – a fact.  I smiled and corrected her so that she could understand it was a debate right now.

So myself and Deb from ‘NSTEP discussed juicing a year ago (us grassroots charity people tend to be in-the-know and on the ground to know the trends earlier than what mass media can express).  It was definitely a one-sided conversation (no wonder I like working with her!).

I teach with ‘NSTEP in schools and I even tweaked lessons to be used at a local girls camp held at a university in town.  What do I teach – whole foods are way better than parts of it.  We use language like “healthier” instead of “bad” and “good” – it’s called positive reinforcement.

My problem with our North American society right now is that we are starting to classify even whole foods that come from nature.  One day a new “super food” is being promoted, and the next day we are villainizing another.

Learn from this old gal and goes along with a presenter at the Southern Ontario DC Conference this year – we do not know EVERYTHING!  I worked for Agriculture & AgriFood Canada for many summers and as well at 3 different locations across Ontario.  One fall, I was in a chemistry lab trying to discover the phytochemicals in strawberries in the late 1990s.

Strawberry in hand

We “know” now that a component in red wine (resveratrol) and healthy fats (olive oil) can possibly help with heart disease as we look to a Mediterranean diet (my dad is Italian and I can tell you this is not always the case when you live in Canada and your diet changes).

We “know” that blueberries are full of antioxidants that help prevent cancer to a point – but really who studied the blueberries and not the chemistry they are made up with?  (Petri dish vs pills/nutraceuticals vs whole foods)  We don’t know what combinations exist in nature to split everything up and give praise or blame to one part.

We “know” so many things that we didn’t “know” before.  Why do I put it like this – because like the presenter at the conference said (I’m paraphrasing here)- even if we don’t know something now, we cannot ignore the fact that we might not have discovered the health benefits of some food or diet – even if science cannot back it up at the moment.

Advice – Take everything with a grain of salt – good or bad.

I’m a huge believe in scientific studies as I have helped with enough in my days.  I believe that there is so much proof about many things we do actually “know”.  But there is a business behind publishing studies that the public might not know – many studies never get published…. this is based many times on how any magazine would publish things including public interest, funders, the people reviewing the studies as well as if the study came back with NO significant results.

I think the best approach to reading mass media in this over-information age is to stick with tried and true.  Whole foods have many health benefits.  A peach (Niagara native here), cheese, eggs, beef, wheat – why put one on a pedestal (or ditch completely) because of the one study a popular newspaper or the Dr Oz-of-the-day goes on about.

So here’s what I teach – an orange is better than the juice itself.  It has all that fiber that you are missing by having the juice. This helps to slow the digestion of all the components in the orange making less (natural) sugar spikes as well as keeping you fuller for longer. Nature made things more “perfect” in my opinion than whatever concoction we can come up with in a lab or factory or with a (juicing) machine.  And juice is better than an orange “drink” or “beverage” or “snack” that is not 100% juice.

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We live in a world where there is convenience and products being marketed to us constantly.  I don’t see fig trees promoting themselves as the new best thing – they grow, they exist, they are not the only food in the world.  They have great things in them even if there isn’t enough funding for massive studies, promoting the figs themselves or assisting the farmers to, or we haven’t discovered yet or “know” what beautiful benefits nature has in those juicy, sweet and delicious treats this Canadian-Italian girl has stolen from the ants in her dad’s garden after the mulberries were snatched before the birds ravished the tree’s harvest.

Figs Fig tree

Listen to your body.  Eat whole foods.  Let’s get back to the basics.  Back to nature.  And oddly enough, we might have to do a bit of cooking as well along the way. Everything that is old is new again (and I don’t mean Kraft Dinner 😉 ).

Me & Mulberries

Stay tuned for my solution to “juicing” leftovers with my “worst client” 🙂  Post coming this week!

(For more info on ‘NSTEP please visit http://www.nstep.ca)

Posted in Gluten Free, Kid Friendly, Product Testing

Testing out NuPasta’s Gluten Free Pasta

NuPasta Instagram Em

So I was doing some foodie research and on a local market’s Facebook page (Remark in Hyde Park, London, ON) was this NuPasta featured on a post.  Someone was given a sample to try and said she liked it. It was gluten-free AND low-calorie, high fiber?  And it tasted good.  I have loved functional foods and food inventions since I was in my classes at the University of Guelph.  So, being the knock-on-door, take initiative type – I emailed the company.

They were happy to provide me a sample as they were just starting to come on the market to consumers.  Before I received them, I started researching the main ingredient (konjac flour).  It came from a natural source (made from a root of the konjac root) and then blended with soy flour.  Konjac flour has a soluble dietary fibre called glucomannam.  So for anyone new to food science – soluble fibre will expand with water (think oatmeal not lettuce).  This is how NuPasta is 95% water and 5% fiber and hardly any calories per serving compared to pasta (1/10th says the card).  And hence it is not made from the usual gluten-free starchy (re: carbs/calories) flours (potato, rice or tapioca), and finally we have a gluten-free product (no certification yet) that is NOT high in calories and carbohydrates.

I received the packages in the mail.  Yes, pasta in the mail.  It is shelf stable until opened!

NuPasta Packages

Then I read the information it came with.  This sounded so easy a baby could cook with it.

Babies usually need to be in the oven for 9 months, and they don’t rent them for foodie experiments so call in my oldest “baby” who is 11 years old.

Emily Mulberry

So we were on a mission…. see if this kid (who does have food skills because she has a parent teaching her at home) could make this without really cooking.

(Warning: Parent Trick for Picky Eaters)

But I tricked her… even though she is not usually a picky eater (the younger one takes the cake on that one!), it was getting her involved in cooking that would even distract her from asking “what is it made with”.

She picked spaghetti over the fettuccine and angel hair options we were given.

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“Step 1. Drain the water in the pack, rinse NuPasta under cold water for a short while, drain excess water and NuPasta is ready to use.”

This was super easy except getting into the packaging.  We did have to use a knife to cut the clear film top as the edges didn’t help to pull it off.  Other than that, super easy.

Draining NuPasta

“Step 2. Prepare the topping and sauce.”

Emily loves butter and grated cheese on her pasta, myself – tomato sauce for this saucy Italian-Canadian.  So we decided with not much time before a cheap movie theatre night, we were going to use the microwave method and KISS with NuPasta.

Toppings and sauce for NuPasta

“Step 3. Mix topping, sauce, and NuPasta and heat with a skillet or by microwave (use proper microwave container).”

 Splitting NuPasta       IMG_0620

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“Don’t over-cook or NuPasta can become chewy; its nutrition value will remain unchanged.”

So we tested it out and with heavy bowls and no bulky additions to it.  We gave it 2 spins of 35 seconds and it was warm enough to eat right away.  This obviously depends on your taste, microwave, bowls and other added ingredients.  It was not chewy at all for us.

“If you wish to serve NuPasta cold, pre-chill the pack for 2 hours then do the drain and rinse.  You can cut it into shorter strands and add to salads or other cold dishes.”

We didn’t do this, put think of the possibilities if this comes in rotini or penne?  A great summer pasta salad recipe without the cooking on a super hot day before a picnic – NuPasta would definitely be considered convenient!

“Since NuPasta is sodium-free and sugar-free, add seasonings to your own liking.” 

This is a huge advantage for anyone trying to have convenience foods that are not preserved with lots of salt/sodium.  That would be anyone following a DASH diet for cardiovascular diseases.  As well, sugar-free means that this would be a great product for perhaps patients trying to control blood sugars (diabetes, hypo/hyperglycemia, etc).

But the disadvantage of this is about to be revealed….

Emily wanted her butter and freshly, grated cheese on top.  She threw some cheese on mine too. (So yes now we had sodium added in, so be careful what toppings and sauces you choose.  Read food labels!).

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So here is her honest to goodness reaction…..

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She said it tasted bland. I was so disappointed.  So I dug into mine.  I had an idea after I had my first taste.

I said to her to try mine even though I knew she “didn’t prefer tomato sauce”.

Low and behold….. “that’s so much better” she said.  We agreed it was a great product with additional flavours and toppings.  And ta dah, I even got her to eat tomato sauce which she usually doesn’t.  I even said a thai-based sauce would be great with NuPasta.  Think stir fry frenzies for gluten free noodle lovers.  (It does have that kind of consistency if you’ve cooked with those type of noodles that come soaked as well.)

So the verdict is:

Yes, I would recommend this product.  It is very kid friendly too. My guinea pig agrees too. Cheers to that (forks will have to do.)

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I would like to do my own research more carefully on glucomannam for the science geek that I am. I know that some soluble fibres in products (ex: inulin) can cause GI upset in some people if taken in high quantities.  The little bit of searching I did show that if taken as just as a supplement, lots of water is required with it (due to its high water absorption ability).  Since it is cooked and soaked/stored in water, I can’t see NuPasta having this safety issue at all.

Update:  New study showing components of glucomannam & chitosan can help people feel full longer leading to a possible weight management strategy. 

Link here to news article & study reference: http://mobile.foodnavigator.com/Science/Mixing-two-well-known-ingredients-could-be-key-to-new-weight-loss-foods-Study


Plus consumers are really different tastes.

As a Professional Home Economist that loves experimenting in the kitchen, I would encourage you to try it if you are looking for a pasta alternative for whatever reason.

Highlights of this product:

  • Gluten-free AND low-calorie (hard to see that together on the food market shelves right now)
  • Super easy to prepare
  • Kid friendly
  • No cooking necessary
  • Convenient – pre-cooked AND shelf-stable (ready to use)
  • Sodium/salt free
  • No added sugars
  • Very versatile – flavours, sauces, extra ingredients can be added; hot/cold options

 

 

So one last thing to touch on.

It is something that I find I have a major issue with, with many blogs out there with posts about new product testing:

This is absolutely a product review.  By ME.  I was not asked by the company to do so.  I will never sell out my true self.  My opinion of a product will never be anything but super honest.  If I ever try a product I do not like and asked to write about it – I’d prefer to not write at all.  My mom taught me best – If you do not have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  So with that in mind, this and ALL reviews (ever) will be my opinions alone and will never reflect anything but (unless a quote from someone else who was helping me).  Companies should want the feedback (good and the not-so-good) to improve their product for their customers.  A fluffed up opinion to market a product rather than reflect the honest truth will never make a product or that company successful in the end.  We all have to sleep at night.  I’d like to make sure I keep my little bit of space here, free for me to be me. It’s the only person I can be.  )

So happy looking and cooking for new food products too.