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Wednesday
Jun102015

MetaBiotic: Good-For-You Bacteria

Chances are, you know what probiotics are and may even be using them. These microscopic bugs are naturally found in our bodies, by the trillions. They're dubbed "good" or "helpful" because they're believed to promote healthy digestion, which in turn supports a healthy immune system (did you know 70% of our immune system resides in our gut?). Although all healthy individuals house a balance of both good and bad bacteria, probiotics are also naturally found in high amounts in foods such as yogurt and kefir made with live cultures, fermented products such as kombucha and tempeh, and some vegetables including artichokes and leeks. Because some of the probiotics from these foods are destroyed during normal digestion, they're also available as high-dose supplements (some are still destroyed but enough survive to be beneficial).

Probiotic-rich foods

Supplements can be useful to replenish low levels of healthy bacteria that may occur in certain conditions, such as undergoing prolonged stress or an illness, using antibiotic medications, or eating a highly refined low-nutrient diet. These situations can produce symptoms of bowel troubles, gas and bloating. Doctors may suggest probiotic supplements for digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and diarrhea.

There are many types of probiotics, each with slightly different benefits. Two of the most common and well-researched strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. I was happy to see that P&G included a probiotic called MetaBiotic in their new line of Meta wellness products. It contains Bio-Active 12 (Bifidobacteriumanimalis), a patented strain of bacteria that helps to promote a healthy immune system* and maintain digestive balance* when used daily.

Two concerns about probiotic supplements are that they are sensitive to heat and moisture, which can destroy them. Because of this, some supplements require refrigeration. If they are freeze-dried and stored in special packaging to keep out moisture, this lengthens their shelf life. MetaBiotic has been freeze-dried so it does not require refrigeration and is encased in a blister package, so it remains effective for two years (until their "best by" date). Each MetaBiotic capsule contains five billion live bacteria when manufactured. 

So far health experts agree that probiotics are safe to use if you are healthy, and there is not a risk of toxicity. (If you have a weakened immune system, check with your doctor first before using them.) If you suffer from any digestive problems, supplements with Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria may be worth a try. As always, let your doctor know of any supplements you are taking.

For more ways to incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your diet and information on probiotic supplements check out A Healthful Dose of Bacteria — Yogurt Is the Best Probiotic Source, but Clients Do Have Other Options published in Today's Dietitian magazine.

Disclosure: I've partnered with P&G on this sponsored post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more information at MetaWellness.com.

Friday
May292015

Review: My Vegetarian Experience at Burtons Grill

I was invited to check out Burtons Grill, a chain restaurant with ten locations on the east coast, five of which are in Massachusetts. I'd never heard of it so was curious to try. I noticed they offer a vegetarian menu, so I was especially interested! When I hear "grill" I think of a heavy menu featuring meats and seafood, along with the usual fattening sides. I wouldn't expect a meat-focused restaurant to offer tasty or innovative vegetarian dishes.

I chose the Burlington location just outside Burlington Mall. The inside decor was modern and pretty, and friendly staff greeted us. We arrived off-hours around 3:00 pm so service was quick. I ordered the Roasted Beet Salad and Wild Grain & Vegetable Bowl. Hubby ordered the Fish Tacos and my son chose his usual chicken fingers and French fries from Burtons "Choosy" kids menu, which is based on the MyPlate healthy eating guidelines. For kids 12 and under, for $7.95 they can choose a protein (five options including a vegetarian black bean patty) and up to four sides. You can view the side options below. 

To be honest, with the commercial strip location, mostly American-inspired entrees, and decor that reminded me of a typical family restaurant (but nicer looking), I wasn't expecting anything special. So yes I was very surprised how delicious my two entrees tasted. All of the ingredients were very fresh. In my salad, the beets were perfectly cooked and the crispy candied walnuts, roasted onions and salty creamy goat cheese created over-the-top flavors. It was so SO good that I didn't want the bites to end.

The exceptional Roasted Beet Salad with goat cheese, roasted sweet onions, candied walnuts, baby mache (type of salad green) and mustard vinaigrette My rice vegetable bowl didn't look as exciting and the portion appeared very small. Hubby thought it was an appetizer! But again, the flavor was completely gratifying from the first bite. The quinoa and rice were cooked perfectly (not soggy as is often the case with quinoa and not hard as brown rice can be), tasting like they were prepared in a light broth. I would have loved more vegetables as I saw only about two each of broccoli florets, cauliflower, button mushrooms, zucchini, carrot and red onion but the portion was suprisingly filling and just the right amount for me. It tasted light but every ingredient was seasoned just right. The chive olive oil vinaigrette added even more great flavor without overpowering.

Wild Grain & Vegetable Bowl with red quinoa, brown jasmine rice, roasted vegetables and chive vinaigrette

Fish Tacos with fish (not sure what type), jicama radish slaw and mango salsa

There were no complaints from hubby about his fish tacos. He just wished there were more! My son's lunch came with four good-sized chicken fingers, fries, a small bowl of plain pasta (he added butter), diced cucumbers and a bowl of frozen yogurt...a good deal for the price. He finished mostly everything.

Jake enjoying his chocolate frozen yogurt. He'd finished most everything on this plate, which is unusual.

Overall the food and experience was excellent. If there were a location closer to me, I'd be ordering the beet salad and grain dish regularly as take-out! Because they offered such tasty vegetarian items, I'm curious to try the rest of the vegetarian menu soon. An important detail to add is that we'd questioned our waitress on providing a dairy-free meal for hubby. They were accomodating and made sure the bread and his fish tacos were devoid of cheese and butter. I'd read great reviews of Burtons Grill on Yelp with several reviewers noting their attentiveness to various food allergies. Check out family-friendly Burtons Grill if you can. You will not be disappointed!

Disclosure: I received a gift card from Burtons Grill to help facilitate this post. The thoughts and opinions expressed are my honest evaluation of the menu items.

Monday
May252015

Roasted Edamame and Peas

Roasting is such a delicious way to create a high protein, high fiber snack from legumes. I recently roasted chickpeas for the first time and was hooked. So now I'm experimenting with other types. This time I tried edamame (young soybeans) and peas, because I had both in the freezer. I didn't cook them before making the recipe below, just defrosted by rinsing under warm water and letting sit for a few minutes. I'd forgotten how satisfying edamame taste! Completely unadorned, they are already rich and buttery.

As a change I used my toaster oven instead of regular oven to save some electricity, because it was a hot day and I was only making a smaller portion. They came out great! As you can see from the nutritionals below, this super delicious snack is packed with protein and fiber and is quite filling. Definitely better than the dried packaged versions at the store that are loaded with sodium. As with most savory snacks, I have trouble eating controlled portions so I purposely prepared only 2 cups of legumes. They were so filling that 1 cup was plenty.

Roasted Edamame and Peas (makes two 1-cup servings)

Ingredients

1 cup frozen edamame

1 cup frozen peas

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Onion and garlic powder (as much as you like)

Parmesan cheese, grated*

Directions

  1. Rinse edamame and peas under warm water and let drain in a colander for a few minutes to defrost. Press out any extra water with paper towels to get them as dry as possible.
  2. Move beans to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with onion and garlic powder. Mix with hands or a spoon to evenly incorporate oil and spices.
  3. Spread beans onto a baking sheet covered with foil or parchment paper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.
  4. Bake at 425 F for 30-45 minutes, until desired tenderness (the longer you bake, the drier and crunchier they become). 

*For a vegan option, check out this easy recipe for vegan Parmesan cheese made from cashews and nutritional yeast.

Nutrition information per 1 cup (made with 1 tablespoon oil): 250 calories, 20 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrate, 12 grams fat, 140 mg sodium, 8 grams fiber