even more reasons to eat BEEF

I went on a farm tour!  Each summer, the New York Beef Council sponsors a few farm tours in various areas of the state for those of us in the dietetics profession.  I attended the tour on Saturday, April 29 at Librock Farm in Gasport.  They have about 20 head of cattle on the farm right now.

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Did you know 99% of beef farms in New York State are family-owned?  We exceed the average here by 2%.  There are about 13,500 beef and dairy farms in New York, and members of the beef council try to visit a bunch each year.  According to one of the farmers, it takes about .5-1 acre per head of cattle here, while out west (where most of the cattle farming is), it can take upwards of 50 acres per cow, depending on the size of the animal, average rainfall and type of grass.

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We each wore tall plastic ‘boots’ over our shoes for ‘bio security,’ which refers to protective measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases or foreign species to crops and livestock.  It’s likely more important for those going from farm to farm, and less-so for us ‘city gals’ not often found on farms.  However, BONUS! No dirty feet!

During the morning, we learned about the lifecycle of a beef cow.  On average, cattle are raised on pasture for most of their lives, then grain-finished for the last two months before slaughter.  Cattle are ready for processing around 16-18 months old. Approximately 75% of a cow’s diet is grass during its life.

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This cow, above, weighs about 1275 lbs and will be a youngster’s 4H project this year.  The man in green, another local farmer and educator at Cornell University, discussed the use of antibiotics with us.  He stressed that they are used incredibly sparingly and only for two main infections, one of which is pink eye and the other is similar to a common cold, and that often less than 1% of a herd has received the antibiotic.  Additionally, there are ‘withdrawal’ periods unique to each drug that dictate when it’s safe to slaughter the cow.

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A cow on the Librock farm will eat about 20 lbs of grain (a mix of corn and wheat) per day for its last 60 days.  Also, you know those giant white ‘marshmallows’ you see all over farms?  It’s fermenting hay, called ‘silage’ and has increased protein and tastes like candy to cows.

After out tour, a visit to the pasture to see mommas and their babies and our antibiotic discussion, we moved inside for more info and lunch.  We started with a blind taste-test between two pieces of beef: one 100% grass fed and the other grain-finished.  While preference certainly is a personal decision, the grain-finished won for it’s increased flavor, tenderness, juiciness and visible marbling.  I know from personal experience that 100% grass-fed meat tends to be harder to cook, as it has less fat.

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After our tastings, we ate beef on weck with beef from the Librock farm.  You know you’re in a group of dietitians when all the plates are piled high with green salad, the macaroni salad and cookies go untouched and everyone is drinking bottled water!

We started with a presentation on the nutritional benefits of beef, given by the lead RD for the beef council, Cindy Chan Phillips. While I’ve always been a big proponent of eating red meat (a good source of protein and many essential vitamins and minerals!) as part of a healthy diet, even I was surprised by some of the figures!

Check out these stats:

  1.  There are multiple cuts of beef (3 oz servings) that have LESS saturated fat than a serving of olive oil (1 T = 2 grams sat fat).  They include: Top Sirloin (1.8 g), Top Round (1.3 g) and Bottom Round (1.9 g).
  2. A 3 ounce serving of beef provides 25 grams of protein in only 154 calories.  To get the same amount of protein, you’d need to eat 3 cups of quinoa (666 cals), 6 T of peanut butter (564 cals), 1 3/4 cups black beans (382 cals) or 1 1/2 cups edamame (284 cals).  Research shows that we should be eating 25-30 grams of protein per meal, which is more than was commonly accepted (15-20 grams).
  3. For equal size and leanness, beef has a better nutritional profile than turkey.  Beef provides 162 cals, 7.5 g total fat, less cholesterol and more protein, iron, zinc and Vitamin B12.

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Lastly, we discussed GMO (genetically modified organisms) with a graduate student in the field at Cornell, and some common misconceptions about the beef industry.  I think the biggest thing I learned was that ‘buying local’ can include buying from the supermarket.  Each farmer decides how they want to sell their meat, and often chooses to diversify their avenues, selling some at a local farmer’s market, some at auction and some to a local distributor, who will then sell to your local Wegmans or Tops.  You could be buying beef from down the street at a large chain store!  Additionally, the farmers impressed upon us how skewed and biased cattle farming is often presented in the media.  They really wanted us to know that all farmers truly love what they’re doing (both the Librocks have other jobs, too!!) and care for their animals.

I left the farm tour knowing a whole lot more about cattle farming, having even more reasons to encourage others to eat lean, red meat, and able to feel good about buying meet at my local grocery store…although I don’t remember the last time I did–we’re still eating the beef from the cow we split with friends last year!

Speaking of buying a cow…  Many farmers offer consumers the chance to buy all or a portion of an animal for a very reasonable rate (I think we paid something like $4/lb).  It’s a cost-effective option for those who eat beef and have enough room in a freezer to store the meat.  I love the convenience of simply running down to the basement to grab a pound of ground beef or a roast!

Click here for an easy recipe finder for beef, and for more information about the nutritional profile of beef, including beef and heart health, click here.

 

 

the Easter there was no sugar 

Unfortunately, Easter falls smack-dab in the middle of our ‘No-Added-Sugar’ Challenge.  Sorry, guess you’ll have to pass on inhaling all that extra sugar this year (insert sarcastic voice). Seriously, don’t we all regret that (first/second/third…) bag of jelly beans?

(If you’re really that broken up about it, there’s nothing stopping you from stashing a bag to eat May 1. It’s your sugar rush, not mine.)

Back to Easter.  Andrew and I have done baskets for each other every year since we got married, and for the last four or five years we’ve spent the holiday with his grandmother in Indiana.  I happily fill their baskets and–let’s be real–most of mine.  Andrew throws a couple surprises in for me, too.  He’s actually a fantastic gift-giver; over the years I’ve gotten floral running tights, stacks of books, a beautiful journal and tons of ‘healthy’ treats like fun granola, energy bars and specialty chocolate.

This year, I wanted to show everyone how easy it is to find no-added-sugar items for everyone’s Easter basket!  After a quick trip to Wegmans and TJMaxx, (and grabbing some of our own items from around the house), I put together some ‘themed’ baskets:

  1. For the ATHLETE:

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Obviously, this one is near and dear to my heart, and features some of the items that will go into my basket.  New running socks, dry shampoo, hemp seeds, Evoke ‘Athlete Fuel’ cereal, Sunbutter (no added sugar version), a KIND fruit bar and a BondiBand sweat band. (You can get 10% off your order at BondiBand with my coupon code ‘healthypineapple.’)  To read my post on how AMAZING these sweat bands are, click here.

2.  For a WOMAN:

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I had grandma in mind when I built this one, although it’s not exactly what she’ll be getting, since she reads the blog!  EOS hand lotion, nail file and polish, Bath and Body Works shower gel, Tom’s bar soap, a tea sampler and a lavender shave gel as well as a KIND fruit bar and a lemon Larabar. Since MY grandma isn’t doing a sugar challenge, I got her a couple treats, too, that aren’t shareable so Andrew and I won’t be tempted.

3.  For a MAN:

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I don’t know about your hubby, but mine LOVES his everything-flavored bagels, so these pretzels were a must-buy when I saw they didn’t have sugar. Also in the basket: an adventure book about the Adirondacks, ‘manly’ hair gel, my favorite Project 7 gum (gotten get that everything-breath fresh!), beard soap and a trail mix.

4.  For a CHILD:

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I realize this basket is a little anemic and girlie, but bear with me.  I grabbed some of my favorite childhood books, colored pencils, KIND fruit bars and a little board book I intend to give my bestie’s daughter when we see them just before Easter.  Kids are perhaps the easiest to satisfy, as small stickers, toys and trinkets will fit into plastic eggs. I’m always a huge fan of books as gifts for any occasion, and coloring books are all the rage these days.

Happy Easter-basket filling!

 

tips for surviving a sugar challenge

Welcome to Day 2!

I started my morning with a banana and 1 T almond butter and coffee (with about 1/2 tsp sugar, my norm) before an epic 8.5 mile run.  I don’t think I’ve run that far all year!  I followed that up with two eggs scrambled with a little goat cheese atop a slice of toasted Ezekiel bread and 1/2 C Kale Blazer on our way to church. Afterward, the family decided to go to Red’s, a local ‘burger and hot-dog’ 50’s joint with WAY too many options on the menu–we were all overwhelmed!  But, I always appreciate variety and opted for a chicken souvlaki salad, water with lemon and passed on the baskets of fries on the table.  So proud of Andrew–he ordered his burger without ketchup and drank water, too.

Before we get too far into this challenge, I thought I’d add some helpful hints gleaned from both my experience with Whole30s and as a dietitian.  I hope they’re helpful!

  1.  Keep it all in perspective.  You decided to give up added sugar for 30 days, not your lifetime.  Nor did you just get diagnosed with a fatal disease, lose a loved one or become a prisoner of war.  It’s 30 days of eating healthier foods, skipping sweets, making a few tweaks to established routines and–hopefully–feeling a lot better in the end.  You will get through this.
  2. Keep your motivation high and the whining low.  Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on all the delicious things you can.  Surround yourself with others who want to eat well, and try new recipes.
  3. Easter is but a day, and NOT about sugar.  Because Easter falls in April this year, you’ll have to pass on all the candy going around.  But–did you really want to binge on mediocre chocolate eggs and pseudo-stale marshmallow bunnies?  First of all, there are so many things you can put in an Easter basket besides candy (blog post with ideas coming tomorrow!), and Easter isn’t about the bunny or eggs or candy, anyway.  If you still need more convincing about giving up your jelly beans, see number 1, above.
  4. Out of sight, out of mind.  Put those treats away!  Throw them out, give them away or otherwise stash them somewhere other than your pantry.  Hopefully you’ve already relocated all the sugar-containing items (candies, chocolate, baked goods, dressings, etc.) to somewhere you won’t ‘accidentally’ consume them.
  5. Plan ahead.  I can’t say this enough.  Whether you’re watching what you’re eating or simply eating, planning meals ahead of time streamlines your whole week. Check out my Meal-Planning 101 for my method and helpful hints.
  6. Read your labels.  Scour ingredient labels for sugar in all its forms, including honey, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, agave, etc. Sugar is hiding in sweet and non-sweet things, like condiments and spaghetti sauce. Once you find some go-to brands without sugar (or other additives you should avoid, like soy), it will get a lot easier.
  7. Be prepared. Don’t leave home without an RxBar; I don’t!  RxBars, and other no-added-sugar snacks, like Larabars, compliant beef jerky, nuts and dried fruit come in handy if you’re out running errands later than you thought. Also, don’t be afraid to bring your own meal to gatherings; it may be awkward to bring a salad to your in-laws’ when everyone else is having pizza, but at the end of the day, you’re in charge of your own health.
  8. DON’T substitute sugar for sugar.  If you usually snack on a candy bar or rice krispie treat at your desk in the afternoon, don’t simply replace that with a Larabar. Sure, fruit-and-nut bars like Larabars have more nutritional value than a candy bar, but you aren’t helping yourself overcome that sugar craving.  Instead, eat a larger meal at lunch or bring a non-sweet snack, like veggies and hummus.
  9. DO substitute non-sugar for sugar.  If you’re like me and always want something sweet before bedtime, opt for a fun herbal tea (unsweetened) instead. Or replace your lunchtime soda/sweet tea/diet drink/juice with a seltzer water–they don’t have added sugar or artificial sugar and add a little bubbly and flair to any meal.
  10. Embrace something new. Use these 30 days to not just subtract added sugar, but to also add something healthy to your life. For some of you, that’s eating more fruits and vegetables.  For others (myself included!), it might be something that relieves stress, like meditation or exercise or reading. Make these 30 days the BEST 30 days!