Monday, October 27, 2014

Radio Interview WSRQ, Part 2 - Tips for making healthy lifestyle changes

Recently, I was interviewed about how to make healthy lifestyle changes on Health Check with Heidi Godman.

Check out the post from October, 19, 2014 for Part 1 of the interview, or jump right in by clicking here to listen to Part 2. 

Courtesy of Harvard School of Public Health's Nutrition Source:

Heidi: Welcome back to health check, I’m Heidi Godman. If you’re just tuning in my guest is Dr. Michelle Hauser who is an internist at Stanford University focusing on heart disease prevention and she also went to culinary school, so she has a great perspective on this we’ve been talking about the importance of a healthy diet on your health.

Listen to learn more about:

- Difference between a diet and a lifestyle change
- Tips on successfully making lifestyle changes
- Tips to make healthy changes when you don’t have a lot of money
- How much exercise should you be getting?
- What is the healthiest diet?
- Simple changes you make to make your diet healthier
- How much alcohol can you have and still be healthy?
- Will I be hungry all the time if I eat healthy?
- Tips to control portion sizes

- Tips to make snacks healthier

(Note: there is no transcript for this part, follow the link about to listen to the audio)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Radio Interview on WSRQ, Part 1 - Sugar, salt, fat and weight control

Recently, I was interviewed about risk factors for heart disease and diabetes on Health Check with Heidi Godman.

Here is a link is to Part 1 of the interview - Click to here to Listen or Read Transcript below.

Oil, Salt, Sugar*

10/8/2014 -- Transcript:

Heidi: Welcome to Health Check, I’m Heidi Godman. You know doctors are always telling us to eat a healthy diet and that sounds fine until you’re trying to figure out how to make your dinner taste great, too. But, we have some help for you today. Dr. Michelle Hauser is an internist who also went to culinary school and she joins us now from Stanford University.

Michelle: Hi, Heidi. How are you?

Heidi: I'm great! I'm glad you're here. I interviewed you when you were at Harvard University and we did a number of nutrition stories together when you were at the medical school. Oh wait, it was your residency, right, when you were at Harvard Medical School?

Michelle: Yes, that's right we first met when I was in residency.

Heidi: Okay, so you just going to Stanford. Tell us what you're doing.

Michelle: Okay, so now that I'm done with my internal medicine residency, and I'm feeling like a real doctor with a license and whatnot…

Heidi: Yes, congratulations.

Michelle: Thank you. I'm doing a postdoctoral research fellowship where I am basically studying the effects of healthy lifestyle change on disease prevention like diabetes and heart disease.

Heidi: Well, that's very interesting. So, what is it that you are hoping to do with the rest of your career?

Michelle: For the rest of my career, I'm hoping to have a mix of doing the sort of research that I just mentioned, seeing patients in an academic medical center where I'm able to teach med students and residents, and hopefully take what I've learned from research and help change public-policy to help make it easier to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Heidi: Fantastic, and I know you also have that policy background. Tell us about that.

Michelle: Oh, so while I was in the middle of med school, quite a few years ago now, I went to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and got a degree which focused on public policy and public administration.

Heidi: Fantastic. You are so well-rounded and you have this wonderful approach -also made even more wonderful because you went to culinary school. In fact, you went there long before you went to medical school, right?

Michelle: Yes, definitely.

Heidi: Tell us about that. Why did you go to culinary school?

Michelle: That was about 15 years ago, now. Oh my gosh. And, I went there because I - it's a longer story than we have time for today, but the gist of it is that I grew up in a pretty poor family and no one had a lot of faith that I would really end up being a doctor. I was trying to find my second passion to focus on so I ended up going to culinary school because I thought that would be what I would do with my life. Now, I guess I'm still doing something with it. But, I decided I would try out the medicine and that’s working out okay.

Heidi: Yeah, I think you've done very, very well. Congratulations on all of your success so far. So this nutrition approach, I know gives you a really great perspective on treating all kinds of diseases - especially heart disease which is what you're focusing on now. Tell us about that perspective.

Michelle: So, that perspective really stems initially from some personal changes that I made. That is, when I was growing up I had some extra weight and was doing all the unhealthy things that we talk about. I was drinking a lot of soda, eating a lot of fried and fast foods. When I made the changes in my life, when I learned what they were and figured out ways to do them, I just feel like a totally new person. So, while I was in my premed classes, I was also teaching at a culinary school. At that time, I started researching nutrition on my own. My students at the culinary school would ask a lot of questions about what they could do to make something healthier.  After awhile, their family members started telling me stories about how they didn't have to be on a blood pressure medicine or that they were off insulin - or they cut down their insulin - for their diabetes, or were off anti-depressants. I think I was really hooked for the long term at that point on. When I really realized I could make a big difference if I focus on healthy lifestyle changes.

Heidi: Incredible. Well, what about the mistakes that people have been making that you've noticed. Have you been able to help them change their diet, change what they’re eating? But what is it that they were doing that wasn't right?

Michelle: There are quite a few things, and I mean we really pay people a disservice by focusing on people not having enough "willpower.” But, it's really over the years as we've grown more obese and overweight as a nation that the food environment has really changed. The things that are easiest to eat and easiest to make are the things that tend to be the least healthy for us. They also tend to be less expensive because of the way we subsidize our food in this country. So, you know, things like sugar sweetened beverages – which are sodas and juices - fast food, fried food and basically anything that's really far away from how it started out when it grew from the ground. Things like cookies and things that come in boxes and packages in the store.

Heidi: Things that are very processed.

Michelle: Very processed, yes.

Heidi: Well, I do want to talk about some of the consequences of eating this food because we know, generally speaking, it's bad for us. But, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. So, you mentioned sugar sweetened beverages. The statistics on how much added sugar people are eating everyday are very disturbing. So, let's talk about sugar and what it can do to our bodies. Why is too much sugar not a good thing?

Michelle: So, the biggest risk of too much sugar - and I think you made a good point that the sugar were talking about is added sugar. So, I'm not telling anyone they should be cutting out fruit or sugars that are naturally occurring. That's a separate issue. Added sugars, we don't actually need any to survive and they do present an increased risk of diabetes and weight gain. And the weight gain plays into the risk of diabetes and also into heart disease and other risk factors that go along with that like high blood pressure.

Heidi: What is it about sugar when it gets into the bloodstream? I know it's making high blood sugar, and what else is it doing physiologically to us?

Michelle: So, when we eat added sugars what happens is that an organ, kind of right where you would point to your “stomach” if you said, “oh, you know, I'm really hungry,” is an organ called the pancreas which makes our natural insulin. When we have a bunch of sugar, it will spit out a bunch of insulin - usually more than you would really need to digest and use that sugar. What happens then is that after your blood sugar goes up really high, that extra insulin makes it go down really low, really fast. What that does is it makes you hungry right away, as soon as your blood sugar gets low, even though you didn't do enough work for burn off enough calories to take care of whatever it was you just ate. It's a vicious cycle.

Heidi: Sure.

Michelle: You don't have enough willpower to fight that. It’s a thing that’s been there as long as we've been humans. We can't really fight it.

Heidi: And sugar is also linked to inflammation and diabetes and heart disease and there was a big study that just talked about the link between added sugar and heart disease. So yeah, added sugar - you definitely want to avoid that. What about the consequences of fat? Fat, I think, it's a very confusing topic. Some fat, the unsaturated fats, are good for us in a limited amount. Of the saturated fat, the trans fat, what are the problems with those?

Michelle: Right. As you said, fats are a complicated thing. There are a lot of experts who are very well respected who will say low-fat diets, or higher fat - as long as they are good fats - are fine. So where everyone agrees, I think, is that we should be cutting out trans fat as much as possible. The government says that we should get less than 1 g per day. But, really, if you get none, that would be best. That's because trans fats cause our bad cholesterol to go up and our good cholesterol to go down. It has the worst effect of any type of fat on our cholesterol. That means, I think that one of the statistics was, 200,000 heart attacks and deaths could be avoided, at the peak of our trans fat consumption, if we cut trans fat out of our diets. It really  leads to a lot of cholesterol problems. Where you get trans fat in your diet is mainly hydrogenated vegetable oils. There's a little bit naturally-occurring in beef and red meat and dairy fats. But I think the jury is out for little bit on whether or not those are quite as bad as the ones that are artificially made with the vegetable oils.

Heidi: Right, right, and what about the saturated fat? Because, because you're mentioning beef and things like that which, of course, are full of saturated fat.

Michelle: So, saturated fat. So, we know saturated fat, it's found in things like meat and dairy products, like butter and cheese, and fast foods and desserts, that puts us at increased risk of things like heart disease, bad cholesterol going up, and what not. But, it's not as bad for you as trans fat, and, I think, the studies really give a complicated picture. The way that I read through them is that it's good to cut out saturated fat - if you replace it with how the fat with fruits and vegetables. But, if you just replace the saturated fat with things like added sugars and a lot of processed food, it actually makes you less healthy. So, you really have to be careful when you cut out saturated fat, what you're putting your diet to replace it.

Heidi: Excellent point. And I think a lot of people don't think about that. They just think, “oh, I'm getting rid of this one thing and now I can fill it with all this other stuff.” So, very good to bring that up. Then we should also mention salt, sodium. So many foods have it - restaurant food and so many different things – but salt is also a risk for high blood pressure and our heart. Tell us about that.

Michelle: The thing is with salt is that we eat about 1 1/2 to 2 times twice as much as we should per day. And, that is, when we say how much we should eat, it's actually a maximum of what we should eat. So, we actually need a very, very tiny portion of what we take in to actually survive, because we need a little. I don't think there's anyone out there that has to be concerned about getting enough salt - unless you're a marathon runner or some sort of really elite athlete. The main problem with salt is that it raises blood pressure, and for some people it raises blood pressure a lot and for some people it doesn't have quite as much of an affect. The tricky part is just that testing it out on yourself you don't really know whether or not you're one of those people that it affects a lot or little. So, anyone that has high blood pressure would really benefit from trying to cut out - even if it's for a short time, as much as they can and really get the level down low to see if their blood pressure improves. If it doesn't improve that much, they should still stick to the recommended amount, but, you know, maybe they need to look elsewhere, like weight loss and exercise and what not to get at lifestyle factors that affect their blood pressure.

Heidi: Yes and weight-loss and weight control, at least, we should say has a huge impact on good health. Tell us about that.

Michelle: Yes, weight control is one the most important things we can do, because a lot of the risk factors that we talked about before really are tied to, and you can't separate them from, weight control. Because a lot of bad habits and things that we do to ourselves travel together. Many of them lead to increased weight, so if you're gaining weight, or you're quite overweight or obese, then you're a much higher risk of not only heart disease and stroke, but diabetes, cancer, worsening arthritis for sure, infertility - which a lot of people don't think about - and a lot of problems with sleep, like sleep apnea. Then, when you don't get enough sleep, or enough good sleep, it actually makes you hungrier and you eat more and that's also a vicious cycle. So, it's very important.

Heidi: Alright, well these are all excellent points, and now we want to find out what to do about it, but we need to take a quick break. So, everybody don't go away. More with Dr. Michelle Hauser from Stanford in just a minute. You're listening to Health Check with Heidi Godman on WSRQ.

*Photo credit:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

All Those Apples!

It's fall! You know what that means - Apples!

Apple pie, apple cider, apple donuts and apple fritters, apple cake...I sense a theme here.

I'm the first to admit that the first slice of apple pie made with freshly picked apples or warm, fresh-pressed cider on a cold day cannot be beat. Unfortunately, we can't - or more likely, shouldn't - live on sugary apple treats alone.

After pecks of apples have been picked, and baked and pressed, what can you make that's a bit more health-conscious? Beside the obvious - eating the apple as nature intended - here's a recipe that fits the bill and celebrates all things fall. Make as is for a delicious side dish or try one of the alternatives below to make it a meal.

See the Knife Skills Series - #2 Apples video to learn some techniques for using apples and to see how I chopped the apple for this recipe.

Knife Skills Series - #2 Apples

Fall Quinoa Apple Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

1-1/2 cups quinoa, uncooked
2-1/2 cups water

Lemon Vinaigrette:
2 medium lemons
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Other salad ingredients:
1 Granny Smith Apple, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (do not peel)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup roasted walnuts, chopped
(see Fig post to learn how to roast nuts)
3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (about 1/2 bunch)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Bring water to boil in covered pot.

2. Meanwhile, rinse quinoa thoroughly with water by placing in a bowl of water, swishing around and draining with a strainer. Repeat the rinsing process. Shake as much of the water out of the quinoa (now in the strainer) on the final rinse.

3. Stir quinoa into boiling water and turn temperature down to medium-low. Cover pot again. Set timer for 12 minutes. Quinoa is done when the grain is nearly translucent or only a tiny white dot remains in the center.

4. Remove from heat and transfer quinoa to a medium-large mixing bowl. Let sit out until nearly room temperature or speed up cooling by placing the mixing bowl into the freezer. Stir occasionally until it reaches nearly room temperature (~15 minutes).

5. While quinoa is cooling, prepare remainder of the ingredients. Zest one of the lemons using either method shown below.

6. Then juice the lemons over the chopped apples in a small bowl. Do this over a strainer to catch seeds. Toss apples to coat with juice to prevent browning.

7. Holding apples back with your hand, drain lemon juice into a small jar or whatever container you plan to make vinaigrette in. I use a small canning jar so that I can shake the dressing to mix the oil and lemon juice before serving.

Lemon Vinaigrette - made in a canning jar.

8. Vinaigrette: To the lemon juice (about 1/4 cup), add olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Close lid tightly and shake to combine well immediately before each use. Alternatively, you can stir with a spoon but this doesn't work quite as well.

9. Add apples, walnuts, cranberries, parsley, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the mixing bowl of quinoa. After shaking vinaigrette to combine, measure out 1/4 cup of the dressing and drizzle over the quinoa mixture. Season with more pepper, if desired.  Stir to combine all ingredients.

Serves 6

Finished Fall Quinoa Apple Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Finished Fall Quinoa Apple Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

1. Make it a meal! Slice and cook vegetarian chicken breast substitute or 2-3 small-medium chicken breasts (see picture) and stir into quinoa salad. Use the extra lemon vinaigrette to dress salad greens. Serve quinoa salad over the salad greens.

I used 3 Gardein (vegetarian) "chicken" breasts in this picture:
Making it a Meal - add vegetarian or regular chicken breast, cutting into strips and browned.
Fall Quinoa Apple Salad with Gardein "Chicken"

Fall Quinoa Apple Salad with Gardein "Chicken" and Salad Greens tossed in remaining Lemon Vinaigrette

2. Substitute almonds, pistachios, cashews or pinenuts for walnuts.

3. Add other fall fruit like pomegranate arils or figs.  You can also substitute pears or another other crisp apple for the Granny Smith apples.

4. Make just the vinaigrette for use on any salad, or marinade for vegetables, fish or chicken.

Zesting Lemons 2 Ways

1. With a knife.

Take a paring knife and peel off only the outer, bright yellow, portion of the peel of a lemon (or any citrus fruit). Once you've peeled the lemon, then use a chef's knife to either chop very finely or slice into paper-thin strips.

2. With a microplane.

The tool in this picture looks like a wood rasp with a handle - that's because it is. In the cooking world, this is called a microplane. To get the fine zest pictured at 6 o'clock here, hold the lemon in one hand, microplane in the other, and either grate the microplane on the lemon or vise versa. This will remove only the very outer, flavorful portion of the lemon peel without any of the bitter, with pith.

Knife Skills Series - #2 Apples

Purely for ease of finding, here is the video for:

 Knife Skills Series - #2 Apples.

This video shows how to peel, core, slice, and dice apples.

For full post, check out All Those Apples! which contains a recipe for Fall Quinoa Apple Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Knife Skills Series - #1 Bell Peppers

Just can't get enough of chefs chopping at lightening speed on TV? Time for you to take a stab at it!

Unless you dedicate hours a day (for years) to chopping, you probably won't match the speed of the TV chefs, but you can drastically improve the safety of chopping at home and speed up your dinner preparation. Just make sure to start with a sharp knife!

In the Knife Skills series of videos, I'll walk you through how to slice, dice and chop a variety of types of produce. Along the way, I'll throw in tricks of the trade that make it possible for chefs to chop the way they do. Throughout, I'll go slowly so that you can see what is happening. To get faster, just practice, practice, practice. That's it!

We'll start with bell peppers. Why? Because that's what I was chopping for breakfast at a time when I had a willing videographer. It's all in continuing with the spirit of fitting healthy things into your day where you can. Anything that takes a lot of planning is unlikely to happen in most kitchens, right?

Knife Skills - Chopping Bell Peppers

The techniques in this video work for all bell peppers, banana peppers, gypsy peppers, California peppers, poblano pepper or any large, relatively rounded pepper that is MILD. For tips on dealing with smaller, SPICIER peppers, check out the video Jalapeño - How to remove seeds and finely chop at the end of the post Summer - The season for salsa .

Finally, no post would be complete without some nutrition facts!

Did you know that 1 serving of red bell pepper (1 cup chopped) has all of the vitamin A you need in a day, 300% of the vitamin C, 3g of fiber, 10% of your daily potassium needs, vitamin B6, folate and a smattering of minerals - all with 0 fat and only 40 calories?! Bonus - plant foods have no cholesterol and negligible sodium.

Photo credit: