Is Your Fullness Feedback Loop Out of Control?

Obesity may be the result of  hormones controlling hunger and satiety being out of balance. Historically, we would feast when finding pleasurable food because famine was not far away. This homeostatic process is out of balance when hormones like ghrelin and 2-AG override the impact of the vagus nerve and the hormone leptin telling us we are full. Try altering those recipes you crave to make them healthier, tastier but not so pleasurable you feel out of control.  See my section on recipe substitutions on Great Day Houston and try these sample recipes below:

Rules for Healthy, Delicious Recipe Substitutions

Berry Lemon Cheesecake

Makes: 16 servings Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 25 min (1 slice= 170 calories, 6 g fat (2 saturated),  24 g carbohydrate, 6 protein, 240 mg sodium)



1 pound 1-2% cottage cheese

2 egg whites

1 whole egg

½ cup evaporated skim milk

1/3 cup Splenda® Blend

1 Tbsp grated lemon rind

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp corn starch





Kiwi Slices


Preheat oven to 300⁰F.
In a blender, combine all ingredients, except for fruit that goes on top. Blend well until smooth. Pour the filling into graham cracker crusts.
Bake the cakes for about 25-30 minutes or until the filling is set. Cool cakes slightly and put in freezer for an hour to an hour and a half.
Add sliced fruit on top. Begin at edge of the pie and work to the center. Finish with 3 slices of kiwi in the middle.

Carol’s Healthy Mac & Cheese

Makes: 16 servings           Prep Time: 15 min           Cook Time: 30-35 min (2/3 cup 110 calories, 2 g fat, 16 g carbohydrates, 7 G protein, 150 mg sodium)


8 oz. whole grain Penne pasta

8 oz. 2% sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

12 oz. 2% low-fat cottage cheese, small curd, drained

8 oz. non-fat plain yogurt

¼  cup Parmesan cheese, low sodium, grated

½ cup dry whole grain bread crumbs

2 Tbsp. reduced fat spread, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta, and cook until done; drain.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together pasta, all cheeses and yogurt and then spread into a 9 in. pie pan.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle topping over macaroni.
  4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until top is golden.


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Delicious and Healthy Foods for Your Tailgate Party

It is football season! Whether you are headed to the game or kicking back in your favorite chair to view the event from home, game time snacks are part of the occasion.  You can get in the spirit and enjoy foods that bring satisfaction while not blowing your game plan. Here are some delicious recipes that are sure to be winners!

(see news piece:

pistachios-45Skip the chips and enjoy Wonderful Pistachios. Why waste 160 calories for only 12-15 chips (a snack size bag) when for less than 150 calories you can have 45 pistachios? It just so happens that #45 is the jersey number for The Texans full back, Jay Prosch.

Keep stats on how many Wonderful Nuts you have devoured by counting the shells. Pistachios are a great source of protein and fiber, plus 90% of its fats are mono and polyunsaturated (the “good for you” types). Compared to potato chips, pistachios give you three times the fiber, protein, and number of pieces per serving!

Pita Chips with Pistachio Hummus

Homemade Whole Grain Pita Chips Make your own pita chips to go with pistachio hummus, tuna dip, and chili.


  • Whole Grain Pita Bread
  • Extra Virgin olive oil in a pump spray
  • Italian seasoning blend


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut each pita bread into 8 triangles. Open some of the triangles to create a single layer for extra crispy chips. Leave some folded. The folded chips can be used to stuff a dip inside if desired.
  3. Place the triangles on a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  4. Spray both sides of pita triangles with the oil.
  5. Sprinkle Italian season on top of pita.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 10 minutes, flipping chips over after 5 minutes. Make sure chips have browned slightly.

Pistachio Hummus ( Adopted from )


  • 1 can low sodium Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup roasted pistachios + ¼ cup chopped
  • 1 ½ T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water (divided)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • Add pepper to taste


  • In a food processor add ½-cup pistachios, olive oil and half cup of water. Process until a paste is formed.
  • Add in chickpeas, garlic cloves, lemon juice and remainder of water. Process until hummus consistency is reached.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup of chopped pistachios and pepper.

Serve with veggies or pita chips.

Avocado Tuna Dip

It is always good to eat more seafood. To help you get the recommendation of at least 2-3 seafood meals weekly, try this delicious tuna and avocado dip.  It’s easy to make and getting in your omega 3 fatty acids never tasted so good.


1 can (12 oz) drained or 2 pouches (5 oz or 6.4 oz each) tuna.tuna-dip-pita
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted
 and mashed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons freshly minced onion
4 drops hot pepper sauce


In a medium bowl, flake tuna and gently fold in remaining ingredients. Serve with your pita chips, fresh cut vegetables or create an original and festive holiday serving dish by using the hollowed-out avocado shells to hold the dip. It also makes a great stuffing in a whole wheat pita.

Serves 6. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 90       Total Fat: 1 Protein: 8g

Bean and Corn Chili

Enjoy a meatless chili.


2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, dicedchilli

1 tsp Cayenne pepper

1/4 cup chopped cilantros

2 tsp dried oregano

2 cups of corn (frozen or sautéed corn cut from 4 cobs)

2 (14.5 oz) cans stewed tomatoes Mexican style

1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans, no added sodium or drain and rinse

2 tsp chicken bouillon granules

1-cup water

¼ tsp black pepper

1 ½ cup tomato sauce, unsalted

2 Tbsp tomato paste unsalted

12 oz shredded reduced fat cheese

optional: add 1/2 pound of extra lean browned ground turkey


  1. In a large pot, cook onion and cilantro in oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Stir in the cayenne pepper and oregano and cook 1 additional minute.
  2. Stir in the corn, tomatoes, kidney beans, chicken bouillon granules, water, pepper, tomato sauce and tomato paste.
  3. Cook uncovered until heated and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
  4. Place chili in a bowl, sprinkle ¼ cup of shredded cheese on top. Place whole grain chips around sides of bowl for dipping or eat it as a wrap.

Grilled Vegetables and Portobello Mushroom Burgers . Adopted from

full-portabella-sandwichWho needs a burger?  Grilled Portobello mushrooms are sumptuous, juicy and a mouthful!  This large meal is less than 400 calories.


  • 3 mini bell peppers (red, yellow, green)potabella-spread
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Portobello mushroom caps (stem removed)
  • 4 slices red onion
  • 4 teaspoons reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 ounces reduced fat cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices tomato
  • 16 fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 4 Whole grain hamburger buns


1. Remove grill and spray with oil. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat, or for charcoal grill wait until charcoal has turned white.

2. Place bell peppers onto the hot grill and cook until skin is completely charred on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Place the pepper into a paper bag, seal the bag, and let the pepper cool. When cooled, remove the charred skin, remove the seeds and then thinly slice the peppers into halves and set aside. Add the onions and grill until slightly browned, then set aside.

3.  Mix pepper into the olive oil in a small bowl. Brush the smooth side of the mushrooms with the seasoned oil and grill, oiled side down, until the mushrooms show grill marks (about 3 minutes or up to 10 minutes per side on a charcoal grill). Brush the grilled sides of the mushrooms with more seasoned olive oil, flip the mushrooms, and grill until the mushrooms are softened and juicy. Keep the mushrooms warm.

4. Toast the buns on the grill.  Mix the mayonnaise and garlic in a bowl.

5.  Spread each roll with garlic mayonnaise. Add 1 mushroom cap, 1 ounce sliced cheese, 1 slice of tomato, 4 basil leaves, 1 slice of grilled onion, and 1/4 of the roasted red pepper slices per sandwich.

Something to drink besides beer! Get an infusion water bottle and create a fruity delicious drink to sip on between alcoholic beverages. Cut your alcohol calories in half and cutting back on the “spirits” will help you remember what happened during the game.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 9.52.20 AMLayer oranges slices and grapes into the bottle’s infusion chamber, then let the water infuse for 30 minutes to 1-hour at room temperature. You can infuse overnight in the fridge.

I hope your team wins!


Chris Nocera, producer ABC 13 KTRK-TV

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Power Eating On The Road and Across Time Zones

Whether hitting the road for a family vacation or flying across multiple time zones, traveling can play havoc on your body. Use the information below to help ensure you get adequate nutrition and rest to help you think clearly and feel you’re best.

If you get stuck eating at an airport, consider using the apps IFlyPro or GateGuru to tell you what restaurants are nearby. It will help you make the best choices.

Drink plenty of fluids on the plane. Bring your own large water bottle to fill and drink at frequent intervals. Get up and walk frequently when you are not sleeping.

Bring your own snacks. Now more than ever there are healthier meal choices on flights but having your own snacks to munch on between meals will be helpful. Skip the fast food on the road. Consider packing some of the non-perishable items below in your suitcase or car so you can stock healthy foods in your hotel room.

Good travel snacks include:nuts

*Unsalted nuts. Bring 1 oz bag so you don’t over consume at one time.
Beef Jerky*Jerky, low sodium (under 200 mg/serving). Field Trip is sold at Starbucks

KIND BAR PICTURE*Low sugar, high protein bars. Check the label to keep the added sugar to 6 g or less. Several KIND bars Lara bars make the cut.

Justin and cheese picture*Nut butter packets and low-fat cheese wedges come in handy. Try Justin’s Nut Butter and Sonoma Jacks cheese.

Tuna pictiure*Packets of Starkist Low Sodium Chunk Light Tuna packed in water

*Packets of Chicken of the Sea Pink Salmon

Dr. Kracker*Whole grain crackers. Bag several individual servings.

*Packets of instant oatmeal

*Microwave low fat popcorn (94% fat free)Popcorn Picture

*Decaf Green tea bags (when you want something healthy to drink besides water)Tea picture

Request a hotel room with a mini frigerator and microwave. Stock your room with bottled water, fresh fruit, vegetable tray with hummus, and low-fat Greek Yogurt. Ask room service to remove foods and liquor to make room for your goods vs. the junk food and alcohol in the refrigerator (if you remove the items yourself, they may charge you for them).

Do not skip meals and consume your snacks between meals. Ask room service for shrimp cocktail and the vegetable platter to snack on in your room.

Exercise. Take time to use the exercise facility and/or walk to your destinations when possible. If you are up for it, bring a jump rope with you and use it in your room. Stretching and meditating will make you feel refreshed and relaxed.

When dining out, plan alcohol consumption. Keep it to 1 or 2 glasses of spirits and drink non-alcoholic beverages between orders. Overindulging does not help you make the best business or food choices. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people consume an extra 433 calories from alcohol and food when they consume spirits. Watch for automatic wine refills by the waiter. Keep a coaster on top of your glass or let the waiter know you don’t want your glass refilled without asking you first.

Use green salads as an appetizer. Keep the dressing on the side. Studies show people eat 11% fewer calories when starting with a salad as an appetizer. Order vegetables cooked with limited or no fat. Request that your protein foods be grilled with no butter. Keep sauces on the side so you can control calories. Consider splitting a dessert. You can still enjoy the local goodies but limit it to one dessert daily.

Avoid buffets when possible. If you have no choice, make sure green salads and fresh fruit take up half the space on your plate. Keep your trip to the buffet table down to one visit unless you are reaching for more produce.

Thirst often masquerades as hunger. Dehydration may also cause fatigue. Carry a water bottle with you. Drink enough so that you are urinating several times during the day and that the urine is only slightly colored and the volume is a decent amount.

Flying Across Multiple Time Zones?

If you have trouble keeping your body clock (circadian rhythm) ticking consider using a melatonin supplement. Taking melatonin may help your body adapt to local time. Your body treats melatonin as a darkness signal, and generally has the opposite effect of bright light. The time at which you take melatonin is important. If you’re flying east across multiple time zones, you should take melatonin at local bedtime until you have adapted to local time. When flying west, melatonin should be taken in the morning.

Doses as small as 0.3 milligram seem just as effective as doses of 5 milligrams or higher for most people. Avoid alcohol when taking melatonin. Side effects are uncommon but may include dizziness, headache, daytime sleepiness, loss of appetite, and possibly nausea and disorientation. Some examples of brands on the market include:

  • Herbatonin Plant Melatonin. Each pills provides .3 mg of melatonin.
  • GNC Melatonin Cherry Vegetarian Lozenge. Each lozenge provides 1 mg.
  • Pure Encapsulations Melatonin Liquid. A half-dropperful provides 1.25 mg

Establish a healthy habit and routine when traveling just like you do at home. When a routine is not possible, you’ll be ready because you packed and stocked up on some great foods.

Happy and successful travels!

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Will You Benefit from Buying Organic?



Mary's frig 2

Mary’s well stocked Frig.

KBR  employees like Mary and Judit have been doing more grocery shopping for healthy produce and reorganizing their refrigerators to help ensure nutritious foods are readily available.  One topic covered in the KBR Good Nutrition and Healthy lifestyle class is whether to buy organic foods or choose    traditional farming methods.


Judit's reworked frig.

Judit’s reworked frig.

Selection of pesticides with small ecological footprints is key in developing sustainable agricultural systems. Policy that guides the selection of pesticides often emphasizes natural products and organic-certified pesticides to increase sustainability. Some studies call into question the assumption that organic pesticides are more environmentally benign than synthetic ones.

Pesticides on Organic Crops

Organic farmers utilize:

Gail's Organic Garden

Gail’s Organic Garden

  • crop rotation to manage weeds,
  • use beneficial insects and birds,
  • use mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease,
  • apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.

Organic farmers are allowed to use pesticides from an official list of substances approved by the USDA for organic farming ( Critics of the list of pesticides approved for organic farming claim that the USDA is too lenient with the current guidelines. The amount and frequency of pesticides utilized vary from farm to farm.   For consumers who desire tighter regulations, there are various organic agencies that provide additional certifications. Two such programs include SCS certified-pesticide-residue-free ( and Oregon Tilth. In 1997, Oregon Tilth helped form the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which evaluates materials for use in organic farms and processors . Today, Oregon Tilth is the third largest USDA accredited organic certifier, serving over 1,450 processors and growers, restaurants and retailers that represent the entire food chain, from seed to fork. (

Consumers who are concerned about the use of pesticides on their produce can be assured about their food choices by visiting their local farmer’s market and talking to the growers to find out what standards they use for organic farming. The website will help you find a farmer’s market near you.

Are Organic Foods More Nutritious?

A 2012 Stanford University study found no significant difference in the nutrition component of organic over conventional foods. A larger 2014 meta-analysis study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, however, found substantially higher concentrations of a whole range of antioxidants and phytochemicals in many fruits and vegetables. The added nutritional value is theorized to occur in two ways. Less nitrogen administered from fertilizers to organic plants means they grow slower and have more time to develop chemicals that may offer health benefits. Additionally, organic plants tend to be exposed to more stress from insect attacks and that results in the development of more phytochemicals to protect the plant. Organic beef and milk contain about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than the non-organic sources. Cows that are allowed to forage on grasses rich in omega-3 fatty acids pass this healthy polyunsaturated fat on to the consumer. (

Regardless of whether you buy organic or traditional farm products, all Americans would benefit from getting more fruits and vegetables, and our planet would benefit from greater scrutiny over the types of chemicals we put into our environment. (

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KBR Houston Puts Healthy Food on Their Plates and In Their Kitchens

The KBR Houston Good Nutrition and Lifestyle class participants have spent the last 3 weeks reshaping their plates to include more fruits and vegetables. Class members have reorganized their refrigerators to include more fresh produce, low fat dairy and lean protein foods.  Pantries have been stocked with a variety of nuts, seeds, whole grain products, nut butters and vegetables meant to be stored in a cool dry place.

Check out the pictures they have shared.

Silvia's Green Bean Salad

Silvia’s Green Bean Salad


Frelynn’s Meal

Frelynn’s Frig

Abigail Organizes

Ruben's meal

Ruben’s plate with healthy carbohydrates

Rachel's Plate

Rachel’s Plate loads the green stuff

Stacy's counter

Stacy’s counter


Stacy puts salmon on her plate next to the good stuff

Abigail's Refrigerator

Abigail’s Refrigerator gets organized for the work week

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Favorite Holiday Recipes Made Healthy

Cooking demo

Cooking with KBR Employees

As discussed in my last blog Rules for Healthy, Delicious Recipe Substitutions, there is a science behind making recipe substitutions, and I’ve applied several of those to some of my favorite holiday recipes listed below.

This green bean casserole has 160 calories and 85 mg of sodium in a one cup serving vs 283 calories and 780 mg of sodium in a typical recipe that uses cream of mushroom soup. You might think that using a fat-free substitute would be a healthier alternative; however, substituting fat-free soup only reduces the calories to 268 and adds 718 mg of sodium!  My modified Eating Well recipe offers 7 grams of fiber and only 85 mg of sodium per serving. You’ll also get the benefit of vitamins C, D, folate plus the minerals calcium and potassium.

 Green Beans Fresh Herbs and Onions Casserole

Makes: 8 servings      Prep Time: 40 min     Cook Time: 50 min


2 ½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch pieces

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil  Green Bean Casserole pic

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3-5 Tbsp whole white wheat flour

¼ tsp pepper

½ Tbsp fresh chopped sage

½ Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

2 ½ cups low-fat milk

1 ½ cups fresh whole wheat bread crumbs, crumbled


  1. Position racks in upper and lower third of oven. Pre-heat oven to 425°F.
  2. Place prepared green beans in large bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Divide the beans between 2 baking sheets and spread out evenly. Roast 10 minutes, stirring halfway through and then switch pans. Roast 10 additional minutes or until beans start to brown. Remove from the oven.
  3. While beans are cooking, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion slices and cook until soft and brown. Add flour, pepper, sage, and thyme and stir for 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk and cook about 4 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add more flour if needed.
  4. Pre-heat the broiler. Place one pan of beans into a 2-quart casserole dish. Put half of sauce over beans. Spread 2nd pan of beans over sauce. Add remaining sauce and spread evenly.
  5. Place breadcrumbs in a small bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Distribute breadcrumbs evenly over green beans.
  6. Put the casserole dish under the broiler and cook until the breadcrumbs brown.

 Chipotle Sweet Potato Casserole

Makes: 12 servings              Prep Time: 45 min           Cook Time: 30 min

A typical sweet potato casserole has 258 calories in a 1/2 cup serving due to a generous amount of butter, brown sugar and marshmallows.  This modified Smart Balance® original recipe reduces the calories to 140 per 1/2 cup.  The dish is a good source of vitamins A and C, and it provides you with calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous.



Chipotle Sweet potatoes pic [FILLING]

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

3 Tbsp. reduced calorie vegetable oil spread

½ cup evaporated skim milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¼ cup dark amber agave nectar

½ Tbsp. chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced

Non-stick cooking spray


2 Tbsp. reduced calorie vegetable oil spread

⅓ cup agave nectar

¼ cup pecans, chopped

½ cup whole wheat flour


  1. Peel and chop sweet potatoes. Add potatoes to a pot with enough water to cover. Boil until tender (about 20 minutes).
  2. Drain sweet potatoes & put in a blender. Add remaining ingredients to the blender, then purée until smooth.
  3. Lightly spray pie dish with non-stick spray and pour purée into pie dish.
  4. Mix the topping ingredients together with a fork and spread evenly over the sweet potatoes.
  5. Bake at 375⁰F for 30 minutes.

Carol’s Healthy Mac & Cheese

All that cheese in a Mac & Cheese recipe brings a good deal of saturated fat.  Substituting fat-free yogurt and cottage cheese for some of the ingredients leaves a great taste and 110 calories in a 1 cup serving vs 400 calories in a typical recipe.

Makes: 16 servings           Prep Time: 15 min           Cook Time: 30-35 min


8 oz. whole grain Penne pasta                                 MAc & Cheese pic

8 oz. 2% sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

12 oz. 2% low-fat cottage cheese, small curd, drained

8 oz. non-fat plain yogurt

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, low sodium, grated

½ cup dry whole grain bread crumbs

2 Tbsp. Reduced calorie vegetable spread, melted


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta, and cook until done; drain.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together pasta, all cheeses and yogurt and then spread into a 9 in. pie pan.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and melted vegetable spread. Sprinkle topping over macaroni.
  4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until top is golden.

Whole Grain Carrot and Spice Cake

Makes: 24 (1.8 oz) servings           Prep Time: 60 min           Cook Time: 35-40 min

Skip the cream cheese, butter and sugar and still have a delicious, moist carrot cake from this modified Jane Brody recipe. You can reduce your calories from 575 for a 1.8 oz serving to 140 calories.  You will also get 66% of your vitamin A for the day with this healthy dessert!

Whole Grain Carrot Spice CakeIngredients:

4 cups carrots, grated

½ cup water

1 cup Stevia for baking

¾ cup vegetable oil spread (70-80% fat)

1.5 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup enriched white flour

½ tsp. freshly ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda, no added sodium

½ tsp freshly ground dried nutmeg

½ tsp baking powder, no added sodium

2 eggs

½ cup raisins

½ cup chopped walnuts


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees after placing the rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Combine carrots, Stevia, water and vegetable spread in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Allow mixture to cook 5-10 minutes.
  3. Sift together the flours, spices, baking powder and baking soda into a mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, use a mixer to blend 2 eggs. Stir in the cooled carrot mixture.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture and then fold in the walnuts and raisins. Stir until blended.
  6. Pour into a stick proof Bundt pan that has been sprayed with vegetable oil.
  7. Begin checking firmness after 30 minutes. Cooking time varies depending on the type of sugar substitute used as discussed in the rules for substitution blog.

Enjoy these recipes and create your own healthy versions of your favorite dishes.





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Rules for Healthy, Delicious Recipe Substitutions

Keep your good nutrition program intact during the holidays and still enjoy some of your favorite recipes with a few recipe substitutions (next week I’ll share 4 of my favorite recipes with you).Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 3.52.09 PM

There are numerous ways to alter ingredients in your favorite dishes without sacrificing flavor in order to make them healthier . It is important to know what role each ingredient plays to be successful with your substitutions. In a recipe, ingredients are typically divided into 3 main functions:Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 3.52.40 PM

1. Structure ingredient
➢ Forms the main structure or contributes to the chemistry of the dish. For example, flour in bread is crucial to the structure of the product.
2. Key or signature ingredient
➢ Gives the dish its identity. For example, gumbo depends on roux to make it a unique dish.
3. Enhancer ingredient (accent or garnish)
➢ While not critical to the dish, it tends to enhance the flavor of the recipe. For example, feta cheese crumbled over a tomato, cucumber and olive salad adds something extra to the taste.

Since a structure ingredient has the greatest impact on a recipe, this blog will address some of the many successful substitutions you can make to enhance the nutritional value of a favorite dish.

Rules for Fat Substitutions

Keep in mind that replacing fat in baked goods often requires a shorter baking time. Low-fat batters can become dry and overdone very quickly, so check your product for completion approximately 10 minutes earlier than the unaltered recipe would suggest.

• If the recipe calls for melted butter, an equal amount of oil can be substituted. This rule only applies if the recipe calls for melted butter. Oil is 100 percent fat, while butter, margarine and other solid shortenings are lower in fat on a volume-for-volume basis.
Solid fats help incorporate air into a batter when it is whipped with other ingredients such as sugar and eggs. If you try to whip these ingredients with oil, your baked product is likely to be more compact and oily in texture.
• Tub fats vary in water content with some having as much as 40% water. Butter and   margarine are approximately 80% fat which helps prevent a product from becoming dry or tough. Reduced fat tub spreads containing more than 30% water can make a soggy, unpredictable baked product.
• Check the calorie content of your margarine. It should be at least 70-80 calories per tablespoon meaning it is 70-80% fat.
Recommended brands with higher fat content: Promise® Buttery Spread, Fleischmann’s® Original Buttery Spread (80 cal., 2 g saturated fat), Fleischmann’s® Original Buttery Spread, unsalted (80 cal., 2 g saturated fat).
• Fruit purees can be used in place of some fat when baking. This type of substitution is most effective with sweet breads and muffins.
• Another option is to reduce fat in a recipe if calorie reduction is your goal. Replacing fat in baked goods often requires a shorter baking time. Low fat batters can become dry and overdone very quickly.
• Avocados containing about 70% monounsaturated fat can be used as a substitute for butter or oil in baked good recipes like cookies, cakes or muffins. Generally, you can assume a one-to-one substitution of avocado for butter; however, when substituting avocado for oil it may be necessary to add another liquid to prevent the batter from being too thick.
• One cup of mashed banana can replace one cup of butter or oil in bread or muffin recipes.
• Cut the fat from recipes calling for cream cheese by using equal parts yogurt or strained cottage cheese.

Rules for Flour Substitutions  Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 9.48.06 PM

• Replace no more than half the all-purpose white flour with whole-wheat flour. Too much whole-wheat flour in a recipe that calls for all-purpose flour might result in a reduced volume and a heavier product.
• You can bake with 100% whole white wheat for foods like chocolate cake, fruit cake, or gingerbread because a white product is not necessary.
• You can swap out a can (15 oz.) black beans (drained and rinsed) for 1 cup of flour when baking.
• When cooking gluten-free, add xanthan gum to a recipe, and use about 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour. Blend it evenly into your dry ingredients before mixing. (King Arthur Flour)
• Xanthan gum is produced through the fermentation of sucrose, glucose, and lactose. After the fermentation period, the resulting moist residue is dried and then ground into a fine powder. When mixed with liquid, this powder becomes viscous and turns gel-like.
• Xanthan provides elasticity and stickiness in doughs and batters, a role gluten typically plays. It acts as a binding agent for the flour, helps hold onto some moisture, and helps give the baked good some structure.

Rules for Sugar Substitutions

• Substitute applesauce for sugar in a 1:1 ratio, but for every cup of applesauce you use reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup. One cup of unsweetened applesauce contains about 100 calories, vs. 770 calories for a cup of sugar. This swap works well for oatmeal raisin cookies and brownies.
• Vanilla may replace some sugar in a recipe. Try cutting 2 tablespoons of sugar and adding an extra ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract.
• Sugar substitutes may be used (BBC good food).
• If you decide to use sugar substitutes when baking or cooking, there are a few important things to know ( The American Diabetes Association).
• Real sugar has a caramelizing/browning effect and artificial sweeteners do not.
• Volume and texture may be lower.
• Cook time may be altered.
• Taste may be slightly altered if you are sensitive to the sweetener’s aftertaste.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 9.49.47 PM

The bottom line is that recipe substitutions requires experimentation, but once you get it right the results will provide new healthy and delicious holiday dishes to pass on to family and friends!

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Wholesome Food Supports Your Immune System

Wondering why you feel run down? Do you have a cold you can’t seem to shake? Squash the Flu TablesMaybe you need a nutrition check-up just like the Houston KBR Inc. employees are getting.  They are also making sure they get their flu shots. Information being shared with the KBR staff includes examples of foods that help keep their immune system healthy. Goals to shoot for includes:

  • Adequate energy:  Ensure adequate calories, protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats for energy balance.
  • Antioxidants: Eat 5-9 servings of colorful vegetables and fruit daily to combat oxidative stress.
  • Protein: Choose lean protein foods, especially those high in zinc, selenium and iron while being low in saturated fats.
  • Omega 3’s: Fatty fish and some nuts and seeds have omega 3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Vitamin D: Fortified milk, egg, Chinook salmon, shrimp, cod, trout, herring, mackerel, Yellow Fin Tuna, and mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light.

Examples of Foods that Boost Your Immunity

  • PistachiosAmino acids glutamine and arginine found in meat, fish, dairy, raw cabbage, beets, legumes, nuts, eggs, and whole grains.
  • Vitamins A and C found in apricots, peaches, cantaloupes, watermelon, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, greens, red peppers, oranges, and hot chili peppers.
  • Minerals selenium, zinc and iron: snapper, halibut, cod, Yellow fin Tuna, trout, spinach, Swiss chard, asparagus, shrimp, lean beef, chicken, thyme, and Romaine lettuce.

Good nutrition is the best medicine and KBR, Inc thanks Siggi’s yogurt, Wonderful Pistachios, and Simply Protein Bars for giving us some healthy snacking options that our bodies need!Siggi's and AnnaSimply Protein Bars

            Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 9.08.50 AM

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Five Great High Protein Breakfast Ideas

According to recent research, eating more protein at breakfast could help reduce spikes in blood glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes. Here are five great high protein breakfast ideas you may want to try.

Scrambled Eggs and Toast – Scramble the egg in a non-stick pan with cooking spray.  Add to your plate a slice of whole-wheat toast topped with nut butter spread or avocado spread.  Include skim milk for more protein and get some Vitamin-D and calcium in while you are at it.

Breakfast Wrap – Sauté onions, spinach and peppers in a teaspoon of canola oil. AddScreen Shot 2015-10-04 at 10.18.15 AM an egg, fresh ground pepper and scramble together. Place the egg mixture in a warmed whole-wheat tortilla, sprinkle with 2% fat cheddar cheese, add two wedges of avocado, a dollop of non-fat yogurt, and salsa with no-added salt. (Try La Tortilla Factory, high protein, low carb tortilla).

Nuts, strained yogurt and Fruit – Take your plain low-fat high protein yScreen Shot 2015-10-04 at 9.08.50 AMogurt, pre-bagged ounce of unsalted nuts, along with your berries or some other fruit to work with you. Try Siggi’s brand yogurt with “less added” sugar than most yogurt choices.

Oatmeal & nuts with berries on top.–  Go for plain oatmeal and add raw or roasted nuts to add the protein and healthy fats. Sweeten with fresh berries.  All berries are high in fiber, particularly raspberries, with 8 grams of fiber per cup.

Turkey PattiesTurkey patties. – Purchase extra lean or lean ground turkey. Mix 4 oz. of turkey meat with 2 ounces of 100% whole Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 9.10.21 AMwheat bread that has been torn into small pieces. Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped onion, 1 tablespoon of red bell pepper and 1 whole egg. Grind some fresh black pepper into the ingredients. Mix together well and then create 4 turkey patties. Spray a non-stick skillet with canola oil. Heat pan to medium high and cook patties. Add some fresh fruit as a side dish.

The great thing about the above mentioned meals are that while they are high in protein, they offer nutritious carbohydrates and healthy oils, without all the sodium.

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Reshape Your Plate Along With Your Kitchen

KBR, Inc. Employees are reframing the look of their kitchen and their plates!

Houston KBR, Inc, employees joined 3 different teams to compete for KBR top wellness nutrition honors. These teams include the Fit-odies, the Wellness Warriors, and The Tower of Power.

To earn team points, these competitors are taking tips from The United States Olympic Committee ( USOC ) and University of Colorado, Colorado Springs Sports Nutrition Graduate program led by sports nutrition expert professor Jackie Berning, PhD, RD, CSSD. Our KBR teams are making their plates look like the easy training, weight management plates used by USOC Olympic athletes. Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.28.41 AM
Take notice of how lower calorie fruits and vegetables make up half the plate and more starchy, caloric foods take up just a quarter of the space. The plate is well balanced, with lean protein, healthy oils, and dairy.  Herbs and spices are shown for adding flavor.  The salt shaker represents increased sodium needs that may occur in hot, humid conditions or during a demanding workout when a large amount of sweat is lost.  If you are not experiencing this kind of training, substitute herbs and spices for sodium to add flavor to foods.  It is an interesting fact that 75% of the sodium Americans consume is not from the salt shaker at home, but rather from processed foods and dining out. Eating fresh foods at home is always a good idea.

Clara's Labor Day PlateTeam Member Clara from Tower of Power proudly showed off her new plate look during Labor Day. She opted for more green beans and fewer baked beans, and she revealed that she left a whole chicken thigh on the plate.  Way to cut back Clara!

Not to be out done, her teammate Anna whipped up 3 delicious meals. She utilized salad, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots to complement the legumes, salmon and other great foods on her plates.
Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 2.46.51 PMScreen Shot 2015-09-14 at 2.49.04 PM   Anna fish dish

Fit-Bodies team member Arlene shared her kitchen makeover pictures from our first class assignment: Kitchen makeover ideas.

Tower of Power team member Miriam shares her over-crowded refrigerator “before and after” pictures. I think you can tell which is which. Notice the super organized makeover allowing her to easily find fruits, yogurts and vegetables.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 2.56.07 PM        Miriam Frig

Not to be overshadowed by her teammate, Marissa shows the results of her refrigerator redo. The top shelf offers healthy liquids and the second shelf offers easy to grab, nutritious hummus and ready-made salads and Greek yogurt.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 3.04.54 PM        Close up Marissa's frig

Clara not only gave her refrigerator a new look, but she re-organized her pantry, so she can find everything she needs when she first opens the door.

Before:                                       After:

Clara after Pantry picture        Clara the real after pantry

Now that our teams have their kitchens shaping up, they are ready for a grocery shopping tour.  Check out next week’s blog to get the best ideas on what to buy at your local grocery store to support your healthy lifestyle!




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