Follow me by email!

Friday, August 31, 2012

10 Reasons I Love Chipotle Mexican Grill

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good Chipotle burrito. They know about my daily cravings for a tortilla wrapped piece of heaven. Quite honestly, I can't get enough.

So I thought I would share the Top 10 reasons I love Chipotle...and why you might too.

  1. Their advertising - never lame. Always clever. Always cool.                              
  2. It tastes awesome. It is quite literally a gourmet burrito - for less than $7!
  3. Chipotle supports sustainable agriculture and purchases much of its food from local, family farms who use sustainable methods in raising animals and crops - I went and visited one actually. Back when I managed the Chipotle in Coon Rapids we all had to take a field trip to Iowa to see one of our largest providers of pork, Nyman Ranch. They had free range pigs, they rotated their crops each year, and they were involved in a project to restore native prairie land (I went and saw it!). Chipotle intentionally chose to purchase food from them because of these practices. (Did you know that you can actually ask your local Chipotle manager which farm your meat came from? It's written on the box that the meat came in. Although you may want to wait a few weeks to go into the Elk River Chipotle and ask...they're getting real sick of me.)
  4. Free Range Chicken and Pork - this is both a health and humanitarian plus. The chickens and pigs that Chipotle uses are not couped up in pens like on industrial farms (which is not only cruel, but also leads to a less healthy meat). They roam chickens and pigs are meant to. This actually makes the meat tast better, too! (Yes, I realize the irony of raising the animals humanely only to later kill them for food. This is something that still causes dissonance for me.)
  5. No growth hormones or antibiotics - The meat from Chipotle is chemical free! This is more natural for the animals (some cases of growth hormones being pumped into chickens actually make the chickens too large to simply walk around on their own. It's weird. It produces a bigger pay day for the farmers, but is awful for the chickens. And don't forget, whatever the chicken ingests, so do you if you eat that chicken meat.) So eat up professional athletes (not that you care about ingesting chemicals, anyhow...)! Too soon?
  6. I can see the kitchen that my food is being prepared in! I can watch what the chefs are doing and how they are preparing the food. No tricks. No dubious additives being mixed in behind closed doors. No dudes walking around with their feet in my lettuce...ahem...Burger King. 
  7. No microwaves - no microwaves means that nothing is being re-heated. It's all cooked fresh and ready to eat. And none of those weird red heating lamps, either. 
  8. No can openers - their veggies don't come in cans, they come from the fields directly to the store. 
  9. Their brown napkins - the napkins are brown because they are not dyed white (and they are made from recycled material). I'm cool with that. Thanks, Chipotle for not making me wipe my grill with dye. 
  10. White cheese - do you know what makes cheese orange? Not milk. Milk is white. What makes cheese orange is more dye. I'll take the naturally white cheese please. 
  11. BONUS: Did you know that because of Chipotle's large demand for Daisy Sour Cream, Daisy now makes sour cream without RBGH (growth hormone often used in cows that ends up in milk and then in the sour cream that you ingest)? Chipotle has become quite a power player in the industry and continues to demand that food is done right. Daisy listened. As Chipotle continues to grow, the need for healthier farming and food production will also increase. When Chipotle first started, they couldn't find enough cattle ranchers who met their naturally raised standards - but since Chipotle's demand has increased, they now source 100% of their beef from ranchers who meet the standard! Remember, for years restaurants like McD's and Burger King (and others) largely dictated how ranchers would raise cattle. Chipotle has spawned a revolution! And farmers have begun to change their ways. Viva la revolution!
An Actual Chipotle Cow

Monday, August 27, 2012

Eating Salads Can Ruin Your Health!

Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad with Oriental Vinaigrette
1,430 Calories!
Salads are healthy, right? A great option for any meal, right? (even though we'd probably give you a second look if you ordered one for breakfast). Salads have leafy greens, veggies, and often times some type of added protein, like chicken. So far so good, right? But what if I told you that I once came across a salad that weighed in at over 1,500 calories! Yes...1,500. Two zeros. Not one. 1,500 calories...for a salad. And what if I told you that five of six unhealthiest salads in America (according to Yahoo Health) topped the 1000 calories barrier? It might be enough to quit eating salads.

So what happened to our healthy salad? Well, it was hijacked by a throng of calorie monger thugs who filled it with all sorts of unhealthy ingredients...all but poisoning our once nourishing dish. The main culprits? Ingredients such as cheese, deep fried croutons, and enough high-calorie salad dressing to drown a fish. Toss enough of these together into a bowl and it doesn't really matter how much spinach, tomatoes, or cucumbers you won't be enough to undo the damage.

When choosing a salad at a restaurant be sure to explore the ingredients. Ask the server to leave the croutons off and ditch large amounts of cheese (or cheese altogether if you're up for it). If there is a protein added make sure that it isn't deep fried protein, but grilled. And probably most importantly, take it easy on the dressing. If you are really hard core about eating healthy and/or losing weight, just ask the server for some olive oil, salt and pepper, and a lemon slice/lemon juice and then add these to your salad to taste. If you are not as hard core, simply stay closer to the vinaigrette dressings and the "Light" dressing and don't overdo it. A few tablespoons is all you really need. When making salads at home, toss your salad ingredients into a large zip-lock baggie with your salad dressing (a few tablespoons) and shake it up. This will help coat ALL the leaves with the dressing, ensuring a flavor burst with each bite and helping you to avoid the temptation to soak the veggies with more.

Another way to give your salad a boost is to stick with dark leafy greens as opposed to the whiter/lighter lettuce. Ice burg lettuce won't hurt you, but it doesn't really help you either. Mostly water, ice burg lettuce has little nutritional value at all. Instead, opt for the spinach, romaine, kale, or other dark leafy greens. (Do this at places like Subway, too, which is notorious for its ubiquitous ice burg lettuce, but which also has a fresh spinach option, though less publicized).

A lot of restaurants refuse to disclose their nutritional stats, so be careful. The "Eat This, Not That!" app for the iPhone might be worth the download! (the books are great, too! and they have a "For Kids" version!)

It's time we take back the salad! Who's with me?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Add a Blast to Any Smoothie

Well done, my man. Well done.
So over the last year or so I have become quite the smoothie connoisseur. And I don't mean just by buying pre-made smoothies mixes from the grocery store or from the guy selling "SMOOTHIE BOD-X" products (or whatever they call those products). In fact, as a connoisseur, I consider buying pre-packaged products cheating. It's like hiring someone else to win that colossal stuffed Dora doll at the Minnesota State Fair and then giving it to my daughter, as if I won it on my own. We all know it's not the same. I, myself, want to spend the $42 to toss that ball (made from moon rubber...which scientists have shown to be 7X's more bouncy than normal rubber) into that bamboo basket which is actually made from a trampoline powered by rocket fuel to reject your moon ball! And then I want to be the one to carry that Dora doll, the size of a small NY city sky scraper, around the Fair all day, knocking over little children and taking up three seats on every ride.

So by connoisseur, I guess I mean that I have experimented over the last year with smoothie recipes made from natural fruits and veggies, and I have discovered some great ideas for smoothie making. (In all seriousness, those pre-packaged smoothie mixes or the "SMOOTHIE BOD-X" products are actually great ideas and better than nothing. They are quick and easy and filled with some smoothie essentials. But they also cost a lot more than just making your own. A lot more.)

Here are two of the things that I have learned about smoothie making:

  1. If you want to add a blast of nutrition to every smoothie, drop in a handful of fresh spinach. We all should be eating "greens" at every meal anyhow, so this is a good way to get some in while drinking a smoothie. Spinach is awesome for you, and you really can't even taste it in the smoothie - trust me. If you have the extra coin, buy organic baby spinach, since spinach is on the dirty dozen list and the baby spinach contains the most nutrients. But, if you are like me and trying to save some coin, just buy pre-washed (or wash it yourself using this homemade recipe) spinach of any type (not necessarily the baby spinach). I like to buy mine from either Wal-Mart or Costco. To add some greens to your lunch, make a spinach salad, with the same spinach, with some fruit and homemade vinaigrette. 
  2. If you want to sweeten up any smoothie, don't add sugar, add an apple. Apples are packed with fiber (and other vitamins) and are a natural sweetener. They make a great addition to any smoothie. If an entire apple makes your drink too much to drink down in one sitting, use a half an apple. 
So live dangerously and experiment with your own smoothie recipes. Toss in some fruits and veggies and blend away. Add some spinach for a nutrition blast, and an apple to sweeten the deal. You could also add some honey or agave nectar as a sweetener. And when tossing the moon ball at the Fair, aim low and let the ball bounce up, keeping it in the basket. You might just save a few bucks and impress your daughter.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Frequent Feeder

As you may have guessed...I love food. I could probably eat all day long as I also really enjoy the eating experience. I like the tastes, the colors, the friends and conversation that often comes with eating. One of my achilles heals, in fact, is that I eat when I'm bored...because it somehow makes things more interesting. (Don't do this, by the way.)

No, bud...this is not what I mean.
So you may not be surprised to hear that I am what people refer to as a "Frequent Feeder." I typically eat...all day. Well, actually I eat six times a day. Yes, six times. Now I don't eat six large meals a day. I'm not Michael Phelps. Most of my meals are smaller meals, or snacks. So I wanted to share with you when I eat, and why I do it this way.

7:00 - Breakfast (I typically have a very large breakfast - especially if I have just worked out at the gym. This is when we "break our fast," so I like to celebrate it by making it a feast. Actually, it's just a good way to kick-start the metabolism and fuel up the body for the day. If you are not a big fan of breakfast, try having something small to eat right after waking up. Then follow it up with a larger snack about an hour later. This will help you to start waking up hungry, which is a good thing. Skipping breakfast entirely isn't ideal.)

10:30 - Snack (Sometimes I'm not always hungry at this point in the day, after my large breakfast celebration, but I try to put back something...especially with protein. For this snack I might drop a handful of almonds and maybe a slice of fruit. Just something to keep my metabolism fired up.)

12:30 - Lunch (Chipotle today at noon, anyone?)

3:30 - Snack (Something light, but which contains protein. Maybe an apple with some peanut-butter. You can never really go wrong with fruit/veggies and peanut-butter. If you have an extra dime to drop, use almond butter.)

6:00 - Dinner (I try to eat a smaller dinner to signal to my body that it is time to start winding down. I don't need as much fuel later in the day.)

8:30 - Bedtime snack (I keep this one really light. A small bowl of cereal is my favorite bedtime snack. Whatever you do, don't overeat at this meal. Remember, your body doesn't need a lot of fuel at this point. Plus, it gives you crazy dreams...and not the fun kind.)

Eating frequently helps you not to overeat at your next meal, too. Typically when we wait long periods before our next fuel-up, we show up to it feeling starved. So our bodies tell us to eat more in order to avoid feeling like this. But eating regularly signals to the body that it will get fed again in a bit, so to chill out with the cravings.

I also like how eating regularly keeps the metabolism fired up. Your body will continue to burn fat instead of store it up (which is what tends to happen when you starve the body for long periods of time).

The key, though, is to eat good foods at each meal and to decrease the size of each meal. We, Americans, already struggle with gargantuan sized take it easy, Kobayashi, and eat smaller meals with healthier foods.

What is your eating schedule like? Share with us in the comment section below!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thank you, McDonald's French Fry Guy!

I love(d) French fries. Back when I used to eat at McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants, the French fries were the darling of my meal. I would often ask the pimply faced teenage kid at the register to wait until a new batch of fries were made to serve me up some golden goodness because who wants old fries, right?

Actual Size
But alas, just like the boiled meat from Taco Bell, the dinosaur shaped “chicken” from McD’s, and the Super Big Gulps from 7-11 that were large enough to drown a small deer in, I have had to say “goodbye” to this old friend.

After a few months in a French-fry-less stooper, in which I walked around like an NFL player with a concussion (sorry, too soon?), I discovered an alternative. (Cue the hallelujah chorus!) Homemade Sweet Potato Fries!

Here is why the Sweet Potato is worth a look:
·      They are packed with antioxidants
·      These fibrous vitamin (C, iron, calcium) bombs are great for digestion
·      They are high in folate
·      They come loaded with potassium which can aid in muscle cramping and prevent injuries
·      You can grow them yourself!

While reading Tony Gonzalez’s All-Pro Diet book, I stumbled upon a recipe for making sweet potato fries, which brought me out of my stooper. Tony Gonzalez, remember, is the All-Pro NFL Tight End who decided to become a vegan and shares his secrets in his book. Here is the recipe:

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼” thick slices
2 tablespoons of oil (Tony recommends macadamia nut oil which requires a bank loan for most of us to continually purchase, so I use olive oil)
Sea Salt
Ground Black Pepper
Pinch of ground red pepper (or another of your favorite seasoning…just don’t overdo it on the sodium)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
2. Sprinkle the potato slices with oil and then toss them in the mix of seasonings
3. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes on each side or until golden brown and soft on the inside (I tend to bake mine for longer since I like them crispy)

I still love fries…just a different kind these days. And I still check on that pimply-faced teenager every now and again. He quit McDonald’s and got a job working at Chipotle Mexican Grill. He worked his way up to become General Manager, got married, had a couple of kids and lives in the country. A happy ending for both of us. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I love Seinfeld! (the OTHER Seinfeld!)

I'm not a fan of the Seinfeld TV show. Not my thing. I don't get it and I rarely laugh. It's probably just me, but I'd much rather watch 30 Rock...or read a Philosophy book.

But, guess what. I am a fan of his wife's book Deceptively Delicious! It's a cook book that helps you get your little ones to eat more fruits and veggies (and they don't even know it!). Who doesn't love that, right?

Jessica Seinfeld (the more talented of the Seinfelds), sneaks fruits and veggies into recipes by creating purees using a steamer and a blender. It's pretty easy. For example, my kids LOVE Macaroni and Cheese. But have you ever looked at the ingredients on a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese? Not much in that box is nutritious. And the cheese isn't usually even real cheese (it's what we in the biz call "Franken-Cheese"...whatever "the biz" means). So one way to add some veggies to your Mac and Cheese is to steam a head of cauliflower for several minutes and then blend it all up (using the water from the steamer). Once it is blended, you can either add some of it to the Mac and Cheese right away, or you can freeze it and add some of it later. Why cauliflower? Because the kids won't even notice it as cauliflower is white and blends right in! Genius. You should, however, introduce the new taste gradually, as too much will tip the kids off as kids have the nose of a bloodhound and the taste buds of a...well, something that has strong taste buds.

Jessica has several other recipes as well, that are all pretty good. And once you get the hang of things, you can just start creating your own! There is some prep time involved, but how about adding some carrot puree to your spaghetti sauce? Or maybe some sweet potato puree into your pancakes or waffles?

And if you think that Jessica has made enough money already (via her moderately funny husband) and would rather not throw more her way...check out The Sneaky Chef instead. Some reviews suggest tastier recipes in there, but both look great to me!

Has anyone out there tried either of these books? Or have you perhaps done fruit and veggie puree on you own? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Taste the Rainbow

(Is that copyright infringement? Uh...sorry, Skittles. I’m small time; you don’t want to hassle with me.)

Fruits and veggies are awesome for you. There is really no way around it. They are all natural (or at least they should be – steer clear of the Applenana…that was a college science experiment gone horribly wrong), and they contain so many vitamins and nutrients as well as belly filing fiber (an apple alone has nearly 4.5 grams of fiber). Not sure how many servings you should eat? Click here for a serving calculator provided by the CDC.

At my house, we eat tons for blueberries, bananas, apples, carrots, and frozen green beans and peas. While it’s tricky to get little ones to swoon over veggies; smoothies do a great job of hiding the taste, so might adding a bit of tomato sauce over fresh cooked veggies. Or, you could check back tomorrow for my Friday blog and I’ll tell you about someone who has discovered another great way to disguise veggies for youngsters (hint: she has a very famous husband).

But the bottom line is this: taste…errr…eat the rainbow. It’s best to try to gobble down a variety of different fruits and veggies, absorbing the range of vitamins and minerals offered. The best way to vary your servings is to think about eating all sorts of different colors.

Here are a few ideas for what fruits and veggies to look for from each color:

Red apples
Red grapes
Red peppers (these vitamin C bombs contain twice as much C as the green ones)
Watermelon (my favorite. I’m still convinced that I could devour an entire large watermelon in one sitting. I’ll let you know if I try)

Lemons (try substituting water with lemons for your regular lunch drink)
Sweet potatoes (great for making sweet potato fries!)
Pineapple (great for smoothies!)
Carrots (great for seeing in the dark…at least that’s what I tell my kids.)
Yellow tomatoes

Broccoli (toss a few florets into your smoothie…but not too many…)
Green grapes
Peas (We LOVE frozen peas with dinner! Cover them with a bit of tomato sauce for the kiddos!)
Limes (You could do lime water, too.)
Green peppers
Asparagus (makes for interesting bathroom trips later…)

Purple grapes
Prunes (also makes for interesting bathroom trips later...but in a different way...)

Mushrooms (We dice these and add them to our spaghetti! Our kids never even know!)

So go on…taste the rainbow! Copy right infringements be darned!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Eating Smart On The Road

Taming the Wild Beast in Guatemala City

So first things first…I am sorry for the delay in posting. I know I promised to post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday…and I realize that I have left you hanging for two days now. But I do have an excuse – which makes it better, right? I have been traveling. First to Guatemala, and then on a family vacation up to Door County, WI – both incredibly amazing trips. I tried to drag myself to the computer to post, but getting off the grid felt so good that I thought I’d just post when I got back into the grove. I know you understand.

The trips did get me thinking, though; about how easy it can be to eat smart when I am at home and how difficult it can be to eat smart when I am on the road traveling (which I do a fair amount).

At home I am surrounded by all my stand bys – my intrepid smoothie maker (aka: the blender), granola bars, my stash of almonds, fresh fruit and veggies, and of course my evening bowl of cereal. But on the open road it’s much easier to find stand bys of the past – McDonald’s, fried food, donuts, and of course the infamous and mysterious gas station hot-dog that incessantly rolls back and forth on those steel rods, begging to be chosen from amongst his equally mysterious and sweaty friends.

So over the years, I have developed a plan for eating when I travel, and I thought maybe I’d share are few tips from it with you.

1.     Fiber supplements – this is a relatively new gem I discovered. As our diets change, so does our digestion. Changing diets, especially away from a healthy norm, can lead to what my Mom calls “bathroom problems.” Indeed, Mom. Indeed. So to help keep things moving, take a fiber supplement at each meal. Not a laxative. A fiber supplement. (There is a difference, trust me.) Fiber supplements offer anywhere from 3-5 grams of fiber per serving – great for fiber starved travel times (and not “laxative” enough to keep you tethered to a toilet).
      2.     Airplane Tomato Juice – this is an airplane gold mine…if you can tolerate the taste. If you can’t tolerate the taste, just plug your nose and chug it down anyway! It’s well worth your while to skip the free soda drink, or even the sugary orange or apple juice and instead opt for the tomato juice. It’s tough to get veggies into a diet when traveling and this is an easy way to do so. So drink down some cancer-preventing lycopene and vitamins and minerals! It’ll be over before you know it – and be sure to grab a water for a chaser.
      3.     Can of V8 juice – toss a few of these bad boys into your bag if you are on a road trip, or pick some up at your destination if you are flying. They are a cheap (check Wal-Mart) and an easy way to get some veggies in your tummy. So, again, close your eyes, plug your nose, and “bottoms up!”
4.     Pack your own snacks – make up a few small baggies of some healthy goodies and bring them with you instead of buying something from a gas station or airport store. Pack some almonds, pistachios, dried fruit, dark chocolate, granola bars or even some sandwiches. Your stomach and waistline with thank you later. Plus, you’ll avoid the price gouging at most airport stores and gas stations and be able to afford the overpriced flowers to bring to your loved one instead.
5.     Multi-Vitamins – Sure, you can do the Flintstones ones. But steer clear of the “gummie” ones that often contain high fructose corn syrup. Break it in two and take half with your breakfast and the other half with your dinner to supplement what you might be missing while on the road. And hey, don’t stop once you return home. Vitamins can be a boost for you in the friendly confines as well! I opt for a generic multi-vitamin – nothing flashy needed here.

What are some travel tips that you have for eating healthy? Share them in the comments below.