Part 1 of 4: How to recognize your food cravings?

Food cravings are normal and happen to the best of us. So, please do not blame yourself or feel guilty about them. Half the battle for a food craving is won if you are able to pinpoint what is going on.

In this weeks video I talk about how to recognize the food craving, how to figure out something is going on. Pay attention to what is going on so you can make some changes to get that craving under your belt.

Go ahead, watch the video and let me know what you think?

 

Now you have 2 tasks after viewing this video:

  1. Share with me and all of us about your technique to recognize a craving.
  2. Are you able to recognize that a food craving is on its way?

Post your comments in the comment box below.

Stay well!

alka

9 ways to manage your carbohydrate intake when you have diabetes

9 ways to manage your carbohydrate intake when you have diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes Canada (the new name for Canadian Diabetes Association) defines diabetes as  a chronic, often debilitating and sometimes fatal disease, in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. The body needs insulin to use sugar as an energy source. In short when you are living with diabetes, you need to control your carbohydrate intake, since the major source of blood sugar in the body is carbohydrates.

Now, what are carbohydrates and how do they affect blood sugar? Carbohydrates make a large part of our daily meals. Foods such as breads, pasta, rice, beans, potatoes, cookies, crackers, soft drinks, pies, pastries and so on all contain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates come in a variety of forms the most common being:

  • Sugars
  • Fibers
  • Starches

Each one of these affect blood sugars differently. Let us see how.

Sugars: Sugar is a simple or a fast-acting carbohydrate. In simple words it means that sugars raise your blood sugars very quickly. You may want to view this video on “Blood sugar responses to various food groups” There are two main types of sugar:

  • Naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk or fruit
  • Added sugars such as those added during cooking and processing. Example in canned fruit in syrup, or in desserts, ice-cream, cookies, cakes etc

On a nutrition facts label, the number that you see for sugars includes both added and natural sugars. When reading nutrition labels look for names ending in “- ose”. That will tell you the particular ingredient is a sugar. For example glucose (also called dextrose), fructose (also called levulose), lactose and maltose. The chemical name for sugar is sucrose. Fruit sugar is fructose and the sugar in milk is lactose. Sugar also has several different names. For example include table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, beet sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar, turbinado, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar and sugar cane syrup.

Fiber: Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods and comes from plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. When you eat dietary fiber, most of it passes through the intestines and is not digested. The increase in blood sugar for fibre containing foods is way slower than for foods that do not contain fibre. The fibre in the food slows down the increase in blood sugar, and that is what you need to manage your blood sugar and diabetes. Adults need to try to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day. Most adults do not consume nearly enough fiber in their diet. Most of us only get about half of this amount. It is a good idea to aim for this goal. Fiber also contributes to digestive health, helps to keep you regular, and helps to make you feel full and satisfied after eating. Fiber has been know to have benefit in reduction of cholesterol levels. Good sources of dietary fiber include:

  • Beans and legumes – black beans, kidney beans, pintos, chick peas (garbanzos), white beans, and lentils.
  • Fruits and vegetables, especially those with edible skin (for example, apples, corn and beans) and those with edible seeds (for example, berries).
  • Whole grains such as:
    • Whole wheat pasta
    • Whole grain cereals (Look for those with 3g of dietary fiber or more per serving, including those made from whole wheat, wheat bran, and oats.)
    • Whole grain breads (To be a good source of fiber, one slice of bread should have at least 3 grams of fiber. Another check point: look for breads where the first ingredient is a whole grain. For example, whole wheat or oats.) Many grain products now have “double fiber” with extra fiber added.
  • Nuts — try different kinds. Peanuts, walnuts and almonds are a good source of fiber and healthy fat, but watch portion sizes, because they also contain a lot of calories in a small amount.

In general, an excellent source of fiber contains five grams or more per serving, while a good source of fiber contains 2.5 – 4.9 grams per serving. It is best to get your fiber from food rather than taking a supplement. In addition to the fiber, these foods contain many important vitamins and minerals. It is also important that you increase your fiber intake gradually, to prevent stomach irritation, and that you increase your intake of water and other liquids, to prevent constipation.

Starches: The 3rd type of carbohydrate is starch. Foods that contain starches include:

  • Starchy vegetables like peas, corn, lima beans and potatoes
  • Dried beans, lentils and peas such as pinto beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas and split peas
  • Grains like oats, barley and rice.

Grains are of 2 kinds:  Whole and refined grain. A grain contains three parts: bran, germ and endosperm You can read about the parts of a grain in this post here. http://www.alkachopra.ca/9-facts-about-whole-grains-you-absolutely-need-to-know/ The important thing to remember is that the whole grain contains the bran, germ, and endosperm and will provide you with all of the nutrients that whole grains have to offer. As a result, the increase in blood sugar when eating whole grains is very slow due to the fibre and protein. On the other hand refined grains have undergone a fair bit of processing and contain only the endosperm or the starchy part. Most of the vitamins and minerals have been removed. Difference between whole wheat and whole grain Common myth: whole wheat and whole grain are the same. Whole wheat flour is still refined, has undergone a fair bit of processing in which a significant portion of the germ and the bran is removed. This results is a loss in vitamins, minerals and fibre (though whole wheat does contain more fibre than white flour.) In contrast, whole grains include the whole kernel, including the bran and the germ. As a result whole grains are nutrient packed. Similar to fibre containing foods the increase in blood sugar for whole grains is way slower than refined grains. The fibre and protein in the food slows down the increase in blood sugar, and that is what you need to manage your blood sugar and diabetes.

Protip: Choose whole grains over whole whole wheat Now lets us get to the real reason of why I started writing this post i.e strategies to manage your carbohydrate intake when you have diabetes.

  1. Now that you know how to recognize sugars, read food labels. If there are ingredients that you do not understand on the label, do not buy the product. You cannot afford to put anything in your body that you know nothing about and don’t even recognize the name.
  2. Choose water over fizzy sugar-sweetened drinks to keep you hydrated. If you do not like the taste of water, invest in an infuser bottle. Slice up your favorite fruit and fill up with water. Keep refilling. You can even use sparkling water if you are crazy about the fizz.
  3. The simplest one – don’t keep sugary drinks in the house. If they’re not easily accessible, you can’t drink them. Save them for time out with family and friends or your vacation. In any case these drinks were never meant to be staples. They were meant as a real treat. Remember, the good old days when you were younger!
  4. If you really must have juice in the morning, limit to ½ cup and water it down to a 1 cup.
  5. Choose Unsweetened so you can control the amount of sugar being added. Example unsweetened chocolate, unsweetened oatmeal, unsweetened peanut butter, unsweetened soymilk and so on.
  6. Do not go “Cold turkey”. In my experience when people go cold turkey, they fall off quickly. Slow and steady wins the race. Try reducing the amount of sugar to half of what you take in your coffee, or cut back on the portion of ice-cream or cake or pudding. Give yourself a good 2 weeks for the change to sink in. If you fall off in between. Get back on track. DO NOT GIVE UP.
  7. Go stronger on sweet flavors like vanilla rather than on the sugar. For instance you can order an unsweetened latte and add flavor with cocoa or vanilla powder. You could skip the flavored oatmeal and add a sweet kick with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. A big advantage when sprinkling on the cinnamon: according to a meta-analysis in the Journal of Medicinal Food, cinnamon has been shown to naturally regulate blood sugar, which helps control your appetite. That sure is a win win. What say!
  8. If you are a dessert person, set some rules for yourself for frequency, occasion and portions and stick to them. Be mindful of your actions. Before you grab that killer cheesecake, count backward from 10 to 0 and think about the past week. I promise the effect of this simple trick will be enlightening.
  9. Often times sugar cravings set in when you are hungry. Get in the habit of pairing protein or fat with whole grains for your main meals. This practice will control your hunger and your sugar cravings will gradually fade away.

Do you have any strategies that you can share? Did you try any of these strategies? How was your experience?

Share in the comment box below!

References: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/types-of-carbohydrates.html?referrer=https://www.google.ca/

http://www.diabetes.ca/about-diabetes/types-of-diabetes

http://www.chatelaine.com/living/whats-the-difference-between-whole-wheat-and-whole-grain/

10 simple ways to use Yoghurt for variety and taste in your daily meals

10 simple ways to use Yoghurt for variety and taste in your daily meals

A few years ago, when I was teaching Food Safety at a Community College, a discussion started about good old yoghurt. I went on to describe the method of making yoghurt at home and how I grew up eating yoghurt every single day. One of the student made a comment “Oh my god, are you saying that yoghurt is spoilt milk! I am never going to eat yoghurt ever again”. When writing this post, I can visualize her expressions. It was quite funny and the entire class burst into laughter. Some good memories!

Regardless of whether yoghurt is spoilt milk or fermented milk with some healthy bacteria I love yoghurt and use it in a variety of ways in my cooking daily. Before sharing my 10 best ways of using yoghurt I thought it may be helpful for all of you reading this post to understand the types of yoghurt that you commonly find in grocery stores.

  1. Balkan-style or Set-style Yogurt

The warm cultured milk mixture is poured into containers then incubated without any further stirring. Balkan-style or set-style yogurt has a characteristic thick texture and is excellent for enjoying plain or using in recipes.

  1. Swiss-style or Stirred Yogurt

The warm cultured milk mixture is incubated in a large vat, cooled and then stirred for a creamy texture, often with fruit or other flavourings added. Swiss-style or stirred yogurt is often slightly thinner than Balkan-style or set yogurt and can be eaten as-is, in cold beverages or incorporated into desserts.

  1. Greek-style Yogurt

A very thick yogurt that is either made from milk that has had some of the water removed or by straining whey from plain yogurt to make it thicker and creamier. Greek-style yogurt tends to hold up better when heated than regular yogurt, making it perfect for cooking. It is also referred to as Mediterranean or Mediterranean-style yogurt and is often used for dips such as Tzatziki. A Balkan-style yogurt that has 6% M.F. or more makes an excellent substitute for Greek-style yogurt.

I took this information form the Dairy Goodness website. You can read more details about yoghurt here:

https://www.dairygoodness.ca/yogurt/types-of-yogurt

Now let us get to the real stuff. These are some of my favorite ways to add yoghurt for your daily meals.

  1. Savory Yoghurt and vegetables as a snack: Surprised! Savory Yoghurt? Yes, you read it right. In India, a variety of vegetables are added to yoghurt. Some examples:
  • chopped tomatoes, cucumber and onion
  • Onion only
  • Tomato only
  • Roasted eggplant
  • Grated cucumber and mint
  • Mint only
  • Grated cucumber only
  • Fried okra
  • Grated carrots and green onions
  • Grated carrots
  • Cooked spinach
  • Boiled potato
  • Cooked and grated bottle gourd
  • Roasted beets, carrot, green pepper and onion

Season with some salt, pepper and cumin powder. You could even make a big batch for the entire week. Comes in very handy. Makes an excellent snack when you come back from work and are starving.

  1. Yoghurt as a marinade for chicken, fish and shrimps: Instead of using sour cream, try yoghurt. It gives a nice tangy taste. You could probably use it for beef as well. I have not tried it, since I do not eat beef. Here is my recipe:

4 chicken breasts, 1 cup yoghurt – 2% works well, 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of ginger, 2 green chillies (can omit if you do not like spicy food), tandoori masala (available in international section of most grocery stores), 1 tsp salt, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon any vegetable oil.

Place all ingredients in a freezer bag and marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator and then cook in the oven or BBQ.  If you wish you can also freeze the marinated meat. Marinated meats freeze very well – up 6 months (http://www.eatrightontario.ca/EatRightOntario/media/ERO_PDF/en/Food%20Safety/Food_Handlers_Storage_Guide_2005.pdf).

When freezing, use freezer bags (and not zip lock bags) or freezer safe containers to avoid freezer burn. Be sure to defrost before cooking.  Take out from the freezer at least 24 hours ahead and place on the lower shelf in the refrigerator to thaw and then cook as usual. Pair the meat with any of the above savory yoghurt recipes along with some naan or pita bread. Now that is a luxurious meal!

  1. Yoghurt sandwiches: This one you want to eat fresh. A great choice over grilled cheese sandwiches. Use the savory yoghurt recipe and as a sandwich filling. Cook on a pan just like a grilled cheese sandwich. I will recommend to only use Greek/Balkan yoghurt since you do not want a runny spread. Have a fruit along with it and that makes a fantastic snack or even a weekend breakfast. Also, makes a wonderful addition to the cuisine of a vegetarian.
  2. Use as a substitute for mayonnaise in your salad dressing: when you use yoghurt, you are cutting down on calories and adding lean protein to your meals. You could even use Greek yoghurt. A quick recipe for you:

1 cup boiled chick peas (canned will work well), ½ cup thick yogurt, 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped onions, chopped peppers (red, yellow, orange etc.), tomatoes, any other vegetable you like, salt, pepper, chilli powder to your taste. You can add ¼ -1/2 tsp of vinegar of you like. Chill and enjoy.

  1. Coleslaw sandwiches: Use Greek yoghurt instead of mayonnaise in your coleslaw sandwiches. All you need to do is substitute the mayonnaise with Greek yoghurt. Add some salt, sugar, vinegar and a dash of pepper. Mix with shredded cabbage and make your sandwiches. Some times I even add grated carrot. You could even go half and half. It works well. If you would like to carry this as a packed lunch, carry the bread and slaw mix separately so you can make the sandwich at work. Pairing with a soup will make a lovely lunch.
  2. A great alternative to cream cheese: You can make this in bulk. Place regular, Balkan or Greek yoghurt over a cloth lined strainer for 2 hours. Add some olive oil, lemon zest, salt, pepper, chives, thyme, tarragon and basil to the thickened yoghurt, and let the flavors blend. Use this as a dressing, sandwich spread or even a marinade. The water that gets strained can be used in cooking soups e.g. tomato soup or butternut squash soup.
  3. Topping for pancakes/waffles/crepe: Mix in honey or maple syrup, chopped fresh or frozen fruit, a dash of cinnamon to regular plain or Greek yoghurt to make a delicious topping. My salivary glands are very active right now!
  4. A fresh yoghurt drink: can be enjoyed sweet or savory.

For those sweet taste buds: mix ½ cup plain yoghurt with 1-1.5 tsp rose syrup and ½ cup water. Mix well and enjoy. You can also add rose syrup to milk for refreshing drink.

For the savory taste buds: ½ cup plain yoghurt + ½ cup water, salt, pepper, cumin powder. You could also add some fresh mint or cilantro. This makes a refreshing drink. You could even try pink salt instead of regular table salt. The taste is entirely different.

  1. Nachos and dip: Mix plain yoghurt with mashed avocado. Add your seasonings and salsa. And there you have it. Enjoy with toasted pita or tortilla chips.

I found this neat recipe if you wish to give it a try:

Super-Greek Nachos with Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients

  • Pita chips
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 tsp. Dak’s Super Greek Seasoning (you could use any greek seasoning that is easily available to you)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (we used 0%)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped dill, plus more for topping
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives
  • 4 oz. fresh Feta cheese, crumbled
  • English cucumber, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

     Directions

  1. In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil, half of the garlic, Dak’s Super Greek Seasoning, salt, pepper, and chickpeas. Stir every 1-2 minutes for about 15 minutes, or until chickpeas are cooked through, and remove from heat. Add half the lemon juice and toss.
  2. Prepare the yogurt sauce: in a bowl, combine Greek yogurt, dill, the remaining garlic, remaining lemon juice, red wine vinegar, remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until combined.
  3. On a platter, assemble the nachos: create a base layer of pita chips, and top with grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, chickpeas, and cucumber, alternating between layers of pita. Top with feta and fresh herbs, and drizzle yogurt sauce over the top. Serve with yogurt sauce on the side as well.

Recipe Source: https://hatchery.co/super-greek-nachos-with-yogurt-sauce/

  1. Low fat butter chicken: I saved the best for the last. Marinate chicken as in point no 2. Cook in oven or BBQ. Now make the gravy: Chop 1 medium onion and stir fry with garlic – for about 5 minutes or until they appear soft. Add 4 large chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 – 7 minutes. Place the entire mix in a blender and run on high speed. Now strain this mixture through a soup strainer (this could be painful – I pour my mixture into the strainer and leave it for about 30 minutes, occasionally stirring it up). After straining, return to fire and cook until the mixture boils. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Now take 1 cup plain yoghurt and mix with water. Add this mix to the boiling gravy. Season with some salt, red chilli powder if you like, 1 -1/2 tbsp sugar. Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add juice of 1 lemon and the cooked chicken. Cook for another 10 minutes and you are done. Sometimes I add chopped green pepper towards the end. You can even add some fresh cilantro.

 

Happy Cooking!

Now tell me do you have any favorite uses of yoghurt?

Post in the comment box below.

13 Quick & Easy Unconventional Uses of Marinara Sauce

13 Quick & Easy Unconventional Uses of Marinara Sauce

A staple in the Indian cuisine is a sauce that is made by sautéing tomatoes, onion, ginger, garlic and green chillies. The spices used are usually salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder and cumin seeds and cumin powder.  It is called as “Tadka” in Hindi.  This sauce can be used to prepare meat, lentils and even vegetables. Variations can be made by adding milk, cream, coconut milk etc. depending upon what you are cooking. When I came to Canada, this is the only sauce I was familiar with. Luckily for me, I grew up with my mum cooking foods from different cuisines. So, I was truly multi-cultural when I arrived in Canada 15 years ago. Now, in India I had a lady who would come everyday and cook for me – what a luxury! That was totally missing in Canada. And cooking that sauce became a bit of a hassle with a full-time job, house hold chores and kids. I am sure lot of will be able to relate to this. Then began my hunt for something close to the “Tadka” and I came across a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs that called for “Marinara Sauce”. Initially I did cook the marinara from scratch a few times. Later I found it on the grocery shelves and that was magic. I could use this magical sauce for all my Indian dishes because the ingredients used for both the sauces are quite similar. Now, I do cook the Indian “Tadka sauce” on occasion.  So a staple in my pantry is the magical Marinara Sauce.

In this post, I am sharing some of my favorite recipes that use marinara sauce. You can use the bottled one and any brand or variety will work well.

  1. Lentil/ Bean Curry: Cook the lentils/beans as usual. I use my favorite kitchen appliance – the slow cooker to cook them and add Marinara Sauce when there is about an hour left for the cooking to complete. Adjust seasonings as per your taste. The seasonings I use are typically salt, cumin powder, chilli powder and some turmeric powder.
  2. Mixed greens – Spinach, Rappini, Swiss Chard: Take 1 bunch each of green, or your favorite with minced ginger and garlic. Blend with a hand blender and add marinara sauce. Cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat. Add 1 cup of milk to get a creamier taste. Add some salt, chilli powder and cumin powder. If you would like you can also add leftover chicken or beef to this.
  3. Marinade for chicken, fish and shrimps: This is my favorite marinade: 4 chicken breasts, 1 cup yoghurt – 2% works well, 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of ginger, 2 green chillies (can omit if you do not like spicy food), tandoori masala (available in international section of most grocery stores), 1 tsp salt, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon any vegetable oil. Sometimes I add ½ cup of marinara sauce to this and reduce the yoghurt to ½ cup. It gives the meat a sweet and sour taste. Yum Yum.
  4. Cauliflower and pea vegetable: Add some oil in a wok. Add some cumin seeds and let them splutter. When they stop spluttering add the cauliflower and peas. Stir fry for 5 minutes and cover for about 10 minutes. The vegetables should now be soft. Add some marinara sauce (maybe 2 tbsp), salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder and cumin powder. Cook for another 5 minutes and you are done.
  5. Pea Potato Curry: You can make this in either a slow cooker or in a wok. Add the pea, potatoes, marinara sauce, water and seasonings all together. Cook accordingly: wok – probably 30 minutes and slow cooker – on a 5 hour settings.
  6. Lasagna: Use Marinara Sauce as your tomato sauce for the layering.
  7. Gravy for Butter Chicken: Mix 1 cup marinara sauce, 1 can V8, 1 can diced tomatoes and ¾ tin of tomato paste. Cook everything on medium heat until everything is well mixed. Add 1 cup whipped yoghurt to this mix. Add the cooked roasted chicken (use recipe no: 3) and cook for another 15 minutes or until you don’t see the water separately. Finish off by adjusting the seasonings – salt, cumin powder, chilli powder and a bit if garam masala. At the very end add the juice of 1 lemon. Sometimes I like to add diced green peppers.
  8. Roasted Eggplant and peas: Sounds like an odd combination! Trust me. Try this. You will need the whole large eggplant for this. Roast the eggplant in your mini oven or whichever oven you have. You may want to put one cut on the top to avoid any explosions (I have had that). It will take at least 45 minutes. Be extremely careful when you take it out from the oven. Now chop the head off and remove the skin. It should peel off very easily. In a heavy bottom pan add a bit of oil and add the roasted eggplant and garlic. Mash it nicely. Now add 2 cups of marinara sauce, mix well and cover. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Now add 1 cup peas. Cover again and cook for another 10-15 minutes. The mixture will be a little thick and there should be no separation. Add seasonings: salt, chilli powder. You can enjoy this with pita or even rice. It makes a deadly combination with yoghurt.
  9. As Pizza sauce: In my house we use marinara sauce as the pizza sauce. Give it a try.
  10. Macaroni/pasta with meat balls: Substitute pasta sauce with marinara sauce.
  11. Tomato soup, minestrone soup: Add some marinara sauce into your tomato based soups.
  12. Grilled cheese and marinara sauce: Have some warm marinara sauce with your grilled cheese sandwich. Bonus: you can count it as your vegetable serving.
  13. Scrambled eggs, marinara and salsa: Mix some marinara with salsa when having scrambled eggs.
  14. Egg Curry: pesto, chilli garlic sauce, coconut oil, boiled eggs, salt, red chilli pepper, cumin powder, cilantro/fenugreek/parsley

Some articles that you may be interested in:

Marinara Sauce from scratch: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/marinara_sauce.aspx

Indian Tadka from scratch: http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com/Recipe/Onion-Tomato-Masala-KhaanaKhazana.html

An artcile on the use of sauces: http://www.cooksmarts.com/cooking-lessons/creating-flavor/sauces/

 

Now tell me do you have any favorite sauces that you use in your cooking?

Post in the comment box below.

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