Monday, March 29, 2010

Greek Yogurt, Part 3

I just ate one more brand of Greek Yogurt. This time, it was Fage Total 2% (all natural lowfat Greek strained yogurt.) This is the first yogurt I've had lately that was not fat-free. As for nutrition, an individual 7 oz. serving contains 130 calories, 4 g fat (3 g saturated), 8 g carbohydrates, 17 g protein, and 20% RDA for calcium.

Man, that 4 g of fat sure made a difference. This was like eating cream cheese compared to the fat-free yogurts. It was wonderfully smooth and thick, and very very mild in flavor. Very much like the missing link between yogurt and yogurt cheese. :) It only contains two yogurt cultures: L. Bulgaricus and S. Thermophilus, so if you're looking for Acidophilus, you're going to need to keep looking. I know I didn't mention this for the other two yogurts, but Fage has a little statement on the container that their milk suppliers pledge not to treat their cows with rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), which is a good thing, in my book.

Final verdict: I would totally share and enjoy this yogurt.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The little things

When I got home from work yesterday, I was tired. The drive home had been particularly taxing, so all I really wanted to do was throw myself down on the bed for a nap. However, I was hungry, so I had tea and (honey-sweetened) cookies. Then I worked on a few odds & ends and debated whether I'd go running before music rehearsal. Part of me said, "I've got too much to do. I should just take care of a few domestic activities and take it easy before rehearsal." Then another part of me countered that with, "But I really want to try out that new iPod holder armband that I bought last night."

So I threw on some exercise clothes and headed down to the park.

Where I, with electronica in my ears, somehow managed to find my stride and I ended up running 4 laps, walking 1, and running 4 more. A lap around the park is essentially 1/3 mile, so I was, for about the second time in my life, jogging more than a mile at a stretch. It wasn't particularly fast, only about 6.5 - 7 mph, but my friend (and Ironman triathelete) always says that speed will come with time.

The moral of the story, for me at least, is that any little detail that you can find that helps you feel good about yourself will help you get out there and exercise. It may be some good exercise clothes that are comfortable and stylish. It may be a new album of music in your iPod. It may be a variation to your exercise routine, like a dance class or running on the beach instead of on the treadmill. Whatever it takes to help you achieve your fitness goals is worth it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Greek Yogurt, Part 2

A little over halfway through my 45-minute bike ride just now, I felt my legs start to turn to jelly. I just didn't have the energy to pedal at all. Plus, my stomach started growling; not loudly, but nonetheless fiercely. I managed to get home, but was completely ravenous as soon as I walked through the door. The split pea soup I'd started before I left was nowhere near done, so I reached into the fridge and pulled out another yogurt.

This one is Chobani Greek Yogurt. Like the one I consumed yesterday, it is also plain and nonfat. One 6 oz container has 100 calories, 7 g carbohydrates, 18 g protein, and 20% of the RDA for calcium. The ingredients are nonfat milk and 5 live active cultures.

The texture is rich and creamy smooth, as it says on the container, but this one definitely has a very strong plain yogurt taste. Maybe it was the tartness, or maybe it was the sugar depletion after exercising, but I had to have something sweet along with it. I can imagine stirring a tablespoon of fruit preserves in, but for this evening I went with a banana on the side.

Of the two I've tried so far, I like the Brown Cow better, because it's a little more mellow.

Dinosaurs love bananas!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's all Greek to me

Since a friend introduced me to it last year, I've taken a shine to "Greek" yogurt. (I put it in quotation marks since all of the Greek yogurt I eat is produced in the U.S.) Lately my body has been telling me to get more protein, preferably some complete animal protein, so I'm going to see how it likes low-fat dairy choices. Yesterday, while at Whole Foods, I stood in front of their wall of yogurt for some minutes, finally deciding to try three different brands to see if any one in particular stood out from the rest of the herd.

Tonight's snack (after a rigorous tap dancing class) is Brown Cow All Natural Greek Yogurt. The plain, fat-free variety contains nothing but nonfat milk and 5 different cultures. The individual serving of 5.3 oz packs a mere 80 calories, 15 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, and 20% of your RDA for calcium. It's incredibly smooth and creamy. The tang characteristic of plain yogurt is a little bit mellow, and it overall has an excellent flavor. Definitely picked a winner to begin the taste testing.

Bravo, Brown Cow!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beans & Greens! To stay leans and means!

This recipe is simple, hearty, delicious, and the epitome of comfort food. Just sitting there, sadly, in a small bowl, this dish does not come even close to expressing how much I loved eating it. I should have had my roommate take a picture of me with a spoonful in my mouth, and a big smile on my face.

Take note, this recipe has a day of prep time, as it does require that you cook up some dried beans, which may be daunting, at first, to anyone who has not done it before. However, once you break that seal and discover how tasty home-cooked beans can be, you'll automatically put them on to soak the night before.

Black-Eyed Peas with Swiss Chard
1 C dried black-eyed peas
1 bunch swiss chard
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
ground cayenne pepper

To cook beans from dried, first you must soak them: cover the beans with plenty of water and let sit at room temperature at least 8 hours. (Or you can do a quick soak: again cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, cover, turn off the heat, and let soak for 2 hours.)

Drain off the soaking liquid, and add enough water to cover the black-eyed peas by about 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for many hours. At least three hours. What you want to have happen is for the beans to be so cooked that they start splitting open and falling apart a bit. Once this occurs, remove the lid, and increase the heat a bit so the water starts boiling off. You want nearly all the water to be removed from the pan so that you can mix the peas up and have them close to the consistency of refried beans. At this point, cover and remove from heat completely.

Next, wash the chard leaves well. Remove the white ribs so you have only green leafy parts. Cut this into small strips.

Heat some olive oil (say, a tablespoon) in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add the chard and cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the leaves are wilted and tender.

Add the mashed black-eyed peas and stir well. Season to taste with salt, and shake in some ground cayenne pepper. Even if you don't like spicy foods, add a pinch or a dash. It'll give the dish some depth of flavor without a lot of heat.

One 1/2 cup serving of black-eyed peas alone provides 120 calories, 5 grams fiber (20% DV) and 10 grams protein (about 20% DV). Plus, they contain about 20% of the RDA for iron, 4% for calcium, and some supply of potassium.

One 1/2 cup serving of cooked swiss chard provides fewer than 20 calories, 2 grams fiber, and about 1 gram protein. It'll also kick in over 100% of your RDA for Vitamin A, 25% of Vitamin C, 5% of calcium, and 10% of iron.

As comfort food goes, this packs a serious nutrition punch. I enjoyed this dish along with cornbread (thus the previous post) for a couple of evenings, and then with rye crispbread spread with fruit-sweetened superfruit spread. Although the potential iron content is high, both beans and greens contain natural compounds that can interfere with iron absorption in the intestines, so it's a good idea to get some extra Vitamin C with the meal to help that iron get into your system.