Don’t Buy Shrimp From Thailand: Save the Fishing Cat

 

Exotic fishing cat killed by shrimp farming in Thailand

Exotic fishing cat pushed to extinction by shrimp farmers

Not very long ago, I was in a major Chicago suburban grocery store planning to buy some frozen shrimp. With the globalization of our food supply, I am in the habit of checking where a food item originates from in order to be “respectful” to the planet. I would prefer to avoid purchasing seafood from the other side of the world. This shopping day, I was actually unable to find any frozen shrimp other than shrimp from Thailand. I put the shrimp back, as I just had an unsettled feeling about making such a purchase. So, why am I saying don’t buy shrimp from Thailand? The beautiful exotic fishing cat seen in the photo is becoming extinct due to the shrimp farming in Thailand.

 

Extinction of an exotic fishing cat when you buy shrimp from Thailand

This week, tuning into the late hour US ABC Nightline news show, there was a story about a beautiful exotic cat from Southeast Asia which is becoming extinct. This wild cat, called the fishing cat, is a native to the wetland areas of Southeast Asia. These same wetland areas of Southeast Asia are also being utilized for the farming of shrimp. And, much of that shrimp ends up in the United States. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen frozen shrimp in a grocery outlet that is not from Thailand! This includes all my local Chicago area grocery store chain shopping options : Whole Foods, Jewel, Walmart, Target, Marianos, and Trader Joe’s.

According to the ABC Nightline story, the shrimp farmers take over the wetlands and encroach on the native home of the fishing cat. Now, the fishing cat population has declined to near extinction. As this exotic web-footed cat actually swims in the water for food, this encroachment by shrimp farmers has affected the natural habitat as well as the ability to access fish for food. With diminished capacity to find fish to eat, fishing cats are often forced to hunt for alternative food sources. They may resort to farmers’ livestock, which then allows them to meet their death with a shotgun.

Shop locally

Regardless of how you connect to this story, it points out there are multiple good reasons to purchase food locally. If purchasing shrimp raised closer to home stops extinction of a species, that means a lot to me. If it means our planet degrades less quickly, it should mean the world to you.

 

The Pressure (Cooker) is On: Make Food Fast

modern pressure cookersI was a child in the 50s. Mothers back then frequently cooked with a “scary” piece of equipment called the pressure cooker. I remember being afraid of the loud sounds it made. I distinctly feared that the rattling piece of metal sitting atop the lid would fly off. When my mother gave me her pressure cooker after I myself became a mom, it sat in my cabinet and was never used. It was just way too intimidating to me with three small children to feed. After all, I was also concerned for their “safety”! But, oh times have changed, and modern pressure cookers are much less scary!

Fast forward to now. Like most people, I am very busy. I still work and I will always want to be eating healthier foods. Pressure cookers made today are much different than in the past.

Modern pressure cookers

The newer pressure cookers seem to be the perfect solution to preparing healthy food in limited time. They are equipped with a variety of settings, such as browning, sauteing, and warming, along with both low and high pressure settings, making it easy to prepare a complete gourmet meal in no time. For instance, rather than going through the hassle of soaking lentils overnight, with a pressure cooker you can cook with them immediately.

What’s more, modern pressure cookers have safety features to help prevent kitchen accidents. There are many other benefits to using a pressure cooker. Aside from saving time, using a pressure cooker limits nutrient losses. Because all the recipe components are in one pot and the liquid is part of the main dish, all nutrients are retained. Additionally, preparing a meal with a pressure cooker saves money. Tough and more economical cuts of meat can be used very successfully in the pressure cooker because the high pressure will tenderize the meat. Two of my favorite pressure cooker recipes can be found on this website.

So, if time is tight and healthy eating is a priority, consider lessening your personal pressure by increasing the pressure for cooking.

Do you have any favorite foods you enjoy making in your pressure cooker?

Grapes and Dogs: Keep the Grapes Out of the Dog Bowl

grapes and dogs

Grapes are a healthy and easy snack for adults. And for toddlers, they are a great finger food. They are a rich source of cancer fighting phytochemicals. One-half cup of grapes have about one gram of fiber and only 60 calories. As a dietitian, I am eager to recommend grapes to my patients as part of a healthy eating plan. But, grapes for dogs is another story. This fruit has to stay in the fruit bowl for humans and far away from our furry friends. As a dog owner, I wish to share a story and a word of caution about how dangerous this fruit can be for our four-legged dog friends.

My story about grapes and dogs

Recently, my family gathered together for a Sunday dinner. My beautiful one-year old granddaughter was “eating” grapes, but really just sucking the juice out of them. After she sucked the juice out of the grapes, she pitched them on the floor. With all the dinner chaos, most of us hadn’t noticed that the grapes were ending up on the floor. Our family dog, Mollie, came over to help “clean up”  the scattered food on the floor.

My family did not know grapes are poisonous to dogs. Being the animal lover I was, I knew better.  As I saw what was happening, I yelled out a warning that “Dogs can’t eat grapes!”  My family, aghast, was thinking perhaps I was mistaken or overreacting. They proceeded to verify the dangers of grapes for dogs online. As they went online, I immediately called the animal hospital. After very little discussion, the vet’s office decided it was best to bring our dog Mollie in. Vomiting was induced. Ultimately, we found that Mollie hadn’t actually eaten any grapes. But had she, she might have suffered kidney damage or death. The harm from eating grapes to a dog comes within a short time-span. Those grapes can hurt the kidneys in as little as six hours, unless the necessary precautions are taken.

A family learned a lesson on grapes and dogs

dogs and grapes

Pay attention to what’s on the floor when your pets are with you, especially if there are young children around!  Let’s face it, kids love to throw food on the floor. So, until they stop, you will always need to keep on eye on the floor while your dog is around. And, be aware, that the ASPCA Poison Control Center also sounds an alarm for the following foods which are toxic to dogs:

  • raisins
  • chocolate
  • avocados
  • onions
  • garlic
  • coffee
  • tea leaves
  • Macadamia nuts
  • raw yeast dough
  • salt
  • alcohol
  • artificially sweetened foods

Our pets are counting on us to keep them safe, so I hope my sharing this experience will help keep other pets safe as well. For more information on preventing pet poisoning click here.

Does anyone else have a story to share about keeping their 4-legged friend safe from poisonous substances?

Fabulous Flaxseed: Easily Add to Your Diet

add flaxseed to your diet

Whole flaxseed

It’s relatively easy to add flaxseed to your diet in order to reap some significant health benefits. Flax seed is a rich plant based source of omega-3 fatty acids, making for a nice dietary alternative to fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are protective against heart disease, hypertension, certain cancers, and some autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Americans typically do not eat enough of these healthful essential omega-3 fatty acids so, understanding how to add flaxseed to your diet can help improve your diet.

Flaxseed and fiber

Flaxseed is a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber aids in reducing blood cholesterol and insoluble fiber prevents constipation. The anti-cancer benefits of flaxseed are due to plant estrogens called lignans. Flaxseed contains more lignans than any other known plant material.

 Easy ways to add flaxseed to your diet

  • a topping for salad
  • a thickening ingredient for soups
  • a topping for cottage cheese
  • adding to yogurt
  • adding to condiments such as mustard or mayo when making sandwiches
  • using as part of a baked product recipe or pancake mixture*
  • adding to hot and cold cereal

Purchasing and storage

Flaxseed can be purchased as a whole seed, or a milled or ground meal. Whole flaxseed, such as pictured above, is shelf stable for up to a year, but needs to be ground up to derive the health benefits. If the product is purchased already ground or milled, once the package is opened it should be kept in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to 3 months.

Nutrition information

One tablespoon of flaxseed has 45 calories, 2 grams of fiber, a little protein, and a large amount of the omega-3 fatty acids. This is definitely food worth chewing on. Here’s a great recipe to use up that garden zucchini and get your flaxseed eaten:

Add flaxseed to your diet with this easy muffin recipe

*Chocolate Zucchini Muffins~ Recipe makes 24 muffins

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup ground or milled flaxseed
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups finely grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and ground flaxseed in a bowl. Cream the margarine, oil and sugar in another bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and the applesauce. Then, add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients and lightly mix. Lastly, add the grated zucchini.

Use paper baking cups to line muffin pan or generously oil or use baking spray on muffin pans. Fill tin or paper cups half way. Bake about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean. Remove, cool and enjoy.

Nutrition information 

Calories-175             Fiber- 1 gram               Potassium-85 mg

Sodium-250 mg        Fat-6 grams                Carbohydrate-26 grams

Do you have a favorite recipe or way you add flaxseed to your diet?

For more detailed information on flaxseed, visit this site. 

Healthy Eating Strategies to “Beat the Clock”

 

beat the clock eating strategies

Are you constantly feeling like you’re up against the clock when it comes to getting a meal on the table? Healthy eating strategies must be planned, as healthy meals do not magically appear on the dinner table. You most likely have been in the situation where you had no food to pull a meal together. The lack of food staples for meal preparation then became an excuse to dine out or order in. Poor planning when it comes to grocery shopping can lead to the same scenario. If you constantly rely on food prepared by others, chances are pretty good that you are eating too many calories. And most likely too much sodium, total fat, and saturated fat as well!  Do this too often, and your overall health will eventually decline while your waistline goes the opposite direction.

Time management is key for healthy eating strategies

One key aspect to eating a healthy diet is time management. And, its imperative to apply your time management skills to your food activities. Considering the huge impact one’s diet has on health, it seems wise to budget a certain amount of time for meal planning. This planning can make a huge difference in getting healthy meals on the table for you and your loved ones. While eating is basically instinctive, healthy eating needs some thoughtful planning.

Suggestions for pulling off healthier eating

Dinner planning is also key for healthy eating strategies

As dinner is typically the most problematic meal, take about 20 minutes on the weekend to map out your dinner eating strategies for the entire work week. This advance planning allows you to think through your evening commitments and plan appropriately. For instance, you can keep dinner very simple if you need to run to a school function or evening meeting. For the tough evenings, you can plan on cooking ahead or purchasing already cooked entrees such as a roasted chicken. Or, with some advance planning, you can use a slow cooker or pressure cooker/instant pot.

Have a well stocked kitchen

Having a well stocked kitchen can allow you to eat a healthy meal without any effort. There is nothing wrong with cereal, milk, and fruit for dinner or a sandwich and fruit. Such labor-free meals can easily have the same nutrients as a hot meal. Granted, a hot meal is more comforting, but nutritionally speaking it really makes little difference to your health!

Prep your produce well in advance of eating

While most people say they like fruits and vegetables, very few people eat the 5 servings a day recommended by the National Cancer Institute. I have concluded, in part, this is due to the fact that fruits and vegetables can take some time to prepare and even eat.  A little planning and preparation for the week’s menus can cut down on the struggle to find the time during the week to get these foods into your diet.

Chopped vegetables for the week. Planning ahead for healthy meals.The above photo is from an organized mother of an infant and toddler. She works full-time and still manages to feed her family an extraordinarily healthy diet. With her well thought out eating strategies for the week, she is ready to start cooking with either a slow cooker or on the spot when arriving home. All she needs to do is pull her ingredients out of the refrigerator to pull this off.

Her family will be dining on Rose Family Baked Stew and another family favorite of penne pasta with chickpeas, tomatoes and low-fat feta cheese. She will also be serving several slow cooker recipes including sweet potatoes with red beans and rosemary chicken with white beans.

Once we learn to manage our food related activities as well as we mange our work and recreational activities, we are on the way to reaping the enduring health benefits of good nutrition.

What tips can you share?