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Robinsbite: June 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"I'm Robin and I'm Lactose Intolerant" Great news for People Like Me!

I'm feel like I just was released from a huge bear hug.

Never have I felt so supported by virtual strangers before in my plight with lactose intolerance. You see, I've just returned from the recent Lactose Intolerance Forum-hosted by the National Dairy Council and Lactaid. Yes, that's right-an entire forum dedicated to research and new information regarding LI.

Managing my LI now for nearly 20 years, I've often avoided the products that I know will cause the, ahem, unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects that simply are LI.

When I was 23, I remember having dinner at a friends house who was well know for her Southern cooking. In this instance, Southern cooking mean copious amounts of cream, butter, milk and cheese in nearly everything she cooked. Within 1 hour, I was doubled over in pain, had severe cramps and spent a bit of time in the bathroom. Long story short, I had to cancel the rest of the plans for the evening and head home. And so began my plight with dairy.

I could tolerate small amounts of hard, aged cheeses (Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella) as well as frozen yogurt and regular yogurt but absolutely no ice cream or milk. I began drinking soy milk and eliminated ice cream from my diet. I definitely reduced my dairy intake over the years and as I got older, began to worry about vitamins and minerals that I knew I must have been lacking without the proper amount of dairy in my diet. Obviously osteoporosis was at top of mind, but also the other diseases that were plaguing Americans-obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure/heart disease, etc. The studies I was reading all had correlations with dairy. I began drinking soy milk and calcium fortified orange juice-and also ate many of the non-dairy products that contained calcium.

At the LI Forum, we talked LI all day long. Literally. I've been introduced as many things before, but I'm not sure I've ever been introduced as "This is Robin Plotkin. She has Lactose Intolerance, too!". There were expert speakers and excellent research presented. The recent recommendations by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are that people with lactose should be able to tolerate up to 12 grams of lactose per day.

The NIH Panel concluded that:

"Many people with real or perceived lactose intolerance avoid diary and ingest inadequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, which may predisposed them to decreased bone accrual, osteoporosis and other adverse health outcomes. In most cases, people don't need to eliminate dairy consumption completely."

Dr. Gilman Grave, Chief, Endocrinology, Nutrition and Growth Branch, National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health

You see, since so many of us self diagnose (which we shouldn't-our MD can order at Hydrogen Breath test to confirm a diagnosis of LI), we also overestimate our symptoms. And because we do that, we often completely eliminate dairy from our diet so we don't have to experience those symptoms. The problem is that when we completely eliminate dairy from the diet, we often times are eliminating excellent sources of calcium, Vitamin D, potassium and magnesium. Over time, when we don't feed our bodies with these vitamins and minerals, we become even more at risk for those diseases mentioned above and, in some cases, even malnutrition.

So, here's the good news! That 12 grams of lactose per day will help us get those nutrients we need AND reintroduce dairy back into our diets! Sure, I was skeptical at first too, but I've been working on it for a few months's working!

Below are some tips and some strategies to manage LI and to incorporate dairy back into your life!

Sip it-introduce dairy slowly into the diet. You'll have to build up to the 12 grams, so start small. Maybe 1/4 of a glass of milk on days 1-5 and gradually increase from there. ( An 8 ounce glass of milk has about 12 grams of lactose)

Stir it-mix milk in with food. Try adding milk to mashed potatoes, mac n cheese, smoothies or cereal.

Slice it-Try a slice of cheese on a sandwich or with whole grain crackers. Start with about 1 ounce. Cabot Creamery has naturally lactose free Cheddar Cheese as well as 50% reduced fat Cheddar Cheese. Yep-thanks to the aging process, it's naturally lactose free! I've done work for these good people and they can explain the entire process to you if you'd like.

Shred it-Shred cheeses over soups or in tacos and enchiladas. Sprinkle some in your salad.

Spoon it-Try yogurt mixed with cereal or with fruit. Always choose yogurts with active live cultures. The cultures are also helpful in breaking down the natural sugar in dairy that causes lactose intolerance symptoms to occur.

Try it-Try lactose free milk and milk products. I've recently become a big fan of Lactaid. In the past, I'd only tried their cottage cheese...but their regular milk, chocolate milk and ice cream ROCK. I'm a believer now! (note: Lactaid is REAL COW's MILK-just with an enzyme added to it to make it tolerable for people with LI).

I encourage you to try incorporating dairy back into your diet. It's worth it to try these foods again and get the nutrients you may be lacking. I never thought I'd be able tolerate as much dairy again, but I do! Just remember to go slow and enjoy.

Need to know how much calcium you need? Check here.
How much lactose is in certain products? Check here.
If you'd like more information about improving your diet, see at Registered Dietitian!

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cucumbers + Onions + Vinegar = SUMMER

Nothing says summer to me more than the good old Cucumber and Onion Salad. Growing up, we always had a bowl of this in the fridge-white onions, Kirby cucumbers, vinegar, water, salt and a bit of dill. My mom would write it on the grocery list as "cucs -n- onions"-that way she knew all the ingredients she needed for the dish. Today, there is a Tupperware container that sits in my fridge- nearly all summer long- that is full of the same ingredients. I simply replenish each ingredient as needed. (Don't worry-I wash out the container once in a while, too.)

When I make these, I emphasize the vinegar. That's right-the more vinegar, the better. I love the sour/bitter taste it leaves when the first drop hits my tongue. I know, I know....some of you will say it tastes sour, some will say bitter and some will say it just tastes---vinegar-y.

A normal ratio would be 2-3 parts water to 1 part vinegar, but I prefer mostly vinegar with a large splash of water. Now I know that there are no quantities listed-and that is for a reason. For this salad, you go by taste-not measurement-to get the flavor you are looking for to make it refreshing on a hot summer day. Trust yourself. You can't screw this up-I promise!

Cucs -n- Onions
English Cucumbers-washed, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
White Onion-sliced in rings or crescent shapes
Fresh Dill
White Vinegar
Salt to taste

Many people ask "what about sugar?". Yes, many recipes for this type of salad call for sugar. Truth be told-its not needed. One quick way to eliminate added sugar from your calories! This salad is so light, cool, thirst quenching--not to mention filling!

There is so much to know about vinegar-there are so many types-balsamic,red wine, white wine, champagne, sherry, rice, apple cider, malt, fruit infused, etc. My favorite right now is white balsamic vinegar. Try drizzling it over salads mostly with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.

The folks over at the Vinegar Institute are serious about their calling. This site gives more information about vinegar-uses, recipes, FAQ's and an excellent overview of market trends with regard to sales and consumption of vinegar (if you're into that kind of stuff). It's actually a professional organization with members from around the world. Check it out in your spare time.

What says summer to you besides the old stand-bys of watermelon, sweet corn, home grown tomatoes and fresh picked blueberries? Would love to see what food memories summer conjures up for you!

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gotta Grill? Grill Once, Eat for a Week!

"I just don't have enough tiiiimmmeeee!" It's what I hear most often when it comes to eating healthfully. That doesn't mean going on a diet, it doesn't mean never going through fast food restaurants, it doesn't mean missing a meal with your family because you are going one directions and they are going 5 other directions. It means just what I said: Eating healthfully. This blog is about ONE WAY we can make it easier on ourselves to eat healthier when our lives seem out of control.

We make choices-at least 30 a day it seems-with regard to what we put into our mouth. I'm making a choice to sit on my computer and type this blog. I'm also grilling my vegetable for the week. Yep, the week. How many times have you said on your evening walks around the neighborhood "someone's grilling-I can smell it"? Why not do it all at one time? I've got the following on the heat right now:

Carrots-did you know you can grill them?
Red Bell Pepper
Green Bell Pepper

Some of these veggies will go with me tonight to a grilled dinner party. Some will go into a vegetarian pasta dish (hot) and some will go in a salad. This could be pureed and made into soup base or a sauce and they can also be toppings for pizza.

Here is the beauty of these veggies-they don't have to be prepped beautifully- a rough chop is all you need plus olive oil, salt and pepper. That's it. There is no need to dilute a beautiful ingredient with anything else. Trust me.

Next up on the grill today will be sweet potatoes (cut in rounds), corn and a test recipe of a Nutella and banana quesadillas. I'll also do chicken. Last week, I did enough chicken to feed 6 for a Memorial Day party and enough leftovers for the entire week. Where did that chicken go?
2 entree salads (chicken, cranberries, walnuts)
1 sandwich wrap
1 as is for my lunch protein
1 for baby food

Can I tell you how nice it was to open the fridge and see it all staring back at me? Yep, it took a bit of work and some extra time, but it is so well worth it. So many ingredients can be grilled-of course meat and other proteins-but think about pizzas, breads, desserts, fruits, side dishes (i.e. open up a can of beans, drain and wash, season and put in a pot on the grill-no need to fire up the stove top or the oven)

So does it take time? Yes. Does it take some planning? Yes. Does it take less time than I spend on my computer? Absolutely. Again, it's about choices. It doesn't have to be fancy-just good food for you and your family.

Gotta go check my grill---

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