One-week challenge: dairy

One-week challenge: dairy

One-week challenge: dairy

Because I believe that there is no one diet, fitness regimen, daily routine, or productivity program that suits everyone, I would like to begin conducting one-week challenges (alternating elimination or inclusion of a specific food item/group). Experimenting through trial and error is a great way to figure out what may or may not work for a person and, while there has been a lot of hullaballoo about dairy products—from causing lactose intolerance to acne to cancer—not all reports and studies pertain to every person on the planet; therefore, I invite you to join me (yes, I will be including myself in these challenges) for one week, from Thursday, 12/5/13 – Wednesday, 12/11/13, to find out how we react to eliminating dairy from our diet. As a thank you, anyone who participates in this challenge will be entered into a random drawing to win a FREE one-hour nutrition consultation with me ($125 US value).

According to the USDA, dairy is defined as “fluid milk products and foods made from milk that retain their calcium,” which means that cream cheese, cream, and butter are not included in the dairy group, but calcium-fortified soymilk is. For this challenge, however, I would like to include all products that are made from animal’s milk, meaning that we would eliminate fluid milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, etc., but can keep soymilk in our diets for the week.

What you need to know: fluid milk products contain carbohydrates (lactose, a milk sugar), protein (casein and whey), fat (saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated, and cholesterol), vitamins A, D, and B2 (riboflavin), and the minerals calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sodium chloride, and sulfur. Many fermented milk foods like cheese and yogurt contain less vitamins and carbs than their fluid counterparts since most are lost in production, but they still contain protein, fat (mostly saturated and cholesterol unless you choose a low-fat or non-fat version), and the minerals calcium, phosphorous, zinc, and sodium.

What you need to substitute: to be sure you’re replacing the beneficial nutrients you’d normally be getting in dairy, I suggest you consider the below as viable options.

  • vitamin A – sweet potato, carrots, spinach, kale, collard greens
  • vitamin B2 – whole grain Total cereal, oatmeal, eggs, mushrooms
  • vitamin D – salmon, sardines, or go play outside for 20 minutes every other day
  • calcium – collard greens, sardines, kale, salmon, eggs, and calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice and tofu (note: spinach, while high in calcium, has a low bioavailability/absorption rate due to the naturally occurring oxalates found in it, so you wouldn’t be getting quite the calcium bang for your buck on this one)
  • magnesium – halibut, spinach, black beans

Should you choose to take part in this challenge, please e-mail me or submit a note in the comments below by 8pm ET on Wednesday, 12/4/13. I will ask you to take a starting weight (which you will not share publicly) and keep a daily log of your progress including any issues that arise or seem to lessen. You may document your progress in the comments here daily, if you wish, though, at the end of the challenge, I will send you an anonymous survey to complete and then post the results on this blog.

Thanks in advance to those of you interested in participating. I look forward to seeing what this challenge holds for us!

Photo credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Recipe: Simply Seitan-ical

I ate my meal so quickly the other night that I didn’t stop to photograph it, so you’ll just have to use your imagination while you read (or look at it yourself when you make your own version).

When I got my first apartment back in 1994, one of my favorite meals to make for myself and when I invited friends over was honey-mustard chicken with two side dishes: (1) glazed onions and carrots and (2) egg noodles with butter.  It would take no time at all to cook up and it was super yummy served immediately or as leftovers.

I’ve moved into a more vegetarian way of eating these days and was craving that meal recently, so I thought I’d make a decent substitute with the ingredients below (serves about 2-3), replacing the chicken with seitan and the buttered noodles with vegan mac & cheese.  If you want to make the original, I’ve included that information here as well.  Either way, if you whip up this easy dish, please let me know how you like it.

Part 1

1 pkg cubed seitan1
1 Tbsp olive, canola, or grapeseed oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp ground kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Part 2

8 oz short/small pasta, like farfalle, penne, egg noodles or elbow macaroni
1 tsp olive, canola, or grapeseed oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp vegan shredded cheddar, like Daiya2
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast2

Part 3

1 12-16 oz pkg peeled baby carrots, washed
1/2 c yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 Tbsp olive, canola, or grapeseed oil
1 Tbsp “buttery” spread, like Earth Balance or Smart Balance3
1 Tbsp maple syrup4

1if you’re using chicken, go for 2 skinless breasts sliced into strips
2if you’d prefer to use dairy cheese, then substitute these ingredients with a flavorful cheese of your choice instead, like shredded cheddar and grated parmesan; or, skip the cheese entirely and just toss pasta with about 2 Tbsp of olive oil, butter, or margarine
3feel free to substitute regular butter or margarine here
4if you ever even think of using some kind of “pancake syrup” made of corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup, I will find out and be very angry with you; invest in a bottle of locally tapped maple syrup and toss out that other crap immediately…I cannot stress this enough

Toss all “Part 1” ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and place bowl in refrigerator for about an hour, tossing mixture again every 15 minutes. After an hour, remove from fridge, and cook mixture in a medium-hot pan for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. (No need to add extra oil in pan since seitan has already been coated with plenty of it.)

Cook up the pasta from “Part 2” according to directions on package.  Drain, reserving about 1/3 cup of cooking liquid. Toss pasta and liquid well with remaining “Part 2 ingredients.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Fill a medium pot with water (leave about one inch from top) and a sprinkling of salt; cover and bring to boil over high heat. Uncover, lower to medium-high heat and cook carrots (“Part 3”) until soft, about 10 minutes. Simultaneously, cook the sliced onion from “Part 3” in a pan with the 1/2 Tbsp oil over extremely low heat, stirring often, until very soft and translucent. Add carrots to pan with onions when done cooking and mix in buttery spread and syrup until everything is coated nicely with the butter-syrup glaze. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, you could place all three parts separately on a plate or spoon the honey-mustard seitan over the mac & cheese.

Recipe Remix: Chili-stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Remember this chili recipe? Well, here’s a super simple way to rejigger it: make it, but omit the sweet potato/carrot in the mix. Instead, while the chili’s cooking, roast a sweet potato1 in the oven, then stuff each half of the potato with the chili and sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese2 when ready to serve.

Stuffed Potato

Added bonus: sweet potatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin A, which gives us healthy skin, teeth, and bones.

1using one well-scrubbed sweet potato for every two servings, slice the potato lengthwise, pierce the outside of it well all over with a fork, wrap it in aluminum foil (halves together) and place in oven at 400 degrees for an hour or until the inside is soft and tender; I don’t use a microwave, so you’ll have to research the comparable nuking time yourself
2I used Daiya dairy-free in the pic here