Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Week 14, Not Eating Healthy? Blame Your Nutritional Gatekeeper.

"Nutritional Gatekeeper" is a term that was coined in the 1940's. America was entrenched in a World War and meat shipments to the troops threatened to create a protein crisis at home. The goal of researchers was to educate families about alternatives to meat. However, it wasn't clear to whom to direct the information. It was generally thought that those consuming the meals factored heavily into what was eaten at home. Rather, it was found that the Nutritional Gatekeepers were the moms; the ones buying and planning the meals.

Fast forward to 2009, the term Nutritional Gatekeeper is still relevant and has surfaced again. However, this role is not only assumed by mothers but by fathers , grandparents, housekeepers or nannies. Researchers claim that these Nutritional Gatekeepers influence more than 70% of the foods that we eat. This isn't just in the home, but in children's lunches, snacks eaten outside of the home and even what family members order at restaurants. Because the Nutritional Gatekeeper determines what the family will be eating, they are essential in determining the overall health of the family. "A Gatekeeper who struggles with unhealthy eating choices will typically pass those problems onto family members. By the same token, gatekeepers who improve their habits can improve the health of the whole family." (Source: Parker-Pope, Tara. Who's Cooking? (For Health, It Matters). The New York Times: March 17th, 2009).
The revived relevance of the Nutritional Gatekeeper relates to both the economic downturn of our country as well as to childhood obesity. Both are incredibly significant issues our country is currently facing, and both are actually intertwined with each other.

When times are tough and people are strapped for cash, the general tendency is to buy "cheaper" food. These foods tend to be packaged, processed, high in fat, higher in simple carbohydrates and loaded with sodium. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, food executives worry that shrunken nest eggs - along with an overhang of home foreclosures, personal bankruptcies and credit-card debt - may cause shoppers to tighten the purse strings indefinitely. As a result, these companies are marketing heavily at the Nutritional Gatekeepers. In an attempt to boost sales Campbell’s for example, is setting up in-store displays which contain all of the ingredients to make a meal as well as recently launching an ad campaign promoting its soups as inexpensive meal options.

Expanding waistlines are setting our children up for unprecedented rates of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems that could cut years off their lives. Faced with the prospect that our children may be the first generation to live shorter lives then their parents, feeding them packaged, processed food may not be the right answer. Nonetheless, there is a misconception that preparing fresh food every night is more expensive then buying packaged which is why these types of foods tend to be "recession proof". However, even with rising food costs, breakfast, lunch and dinner can be had for less then 10 dollars a day. The United States Department of Agriculture's Recipe Finder Database, (http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/) is a useful tool in order to do this. There are also some great tips on how to get your kids to help out in the kitchen!

As parents , Nutritional Gatekeeper or not, we are the greatest role-models for our children. Kids aren't going to eat their broccoli if we don't, and they aren't going to live a healthy, active lifestyle if we don't. Don't think that we are off the hook either. Results from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 66 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese. It's just common sense: eat healthy and exercise more. That being said, every once in a while indulging in a "Big Mac" and French fries or a piece of chocolate cake will only help keep you from going insane!


Irish Lamb Stew**, Braised Short Ribs with Honey, Chipotle and Black Beans, Stir-Fried Shrimp and Scallops with Cashews, Brown Butter Gnocchi with Spinach and Pine Nuts.
**cooked in a slow-cooker

Items already in your pantry or fridge:
butter, salt, ground black pepper, dried oregano, Parmesan cheese, vegetable oil, olive oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, Dijon mustard, ground cumin, honey, red wine, Worcestershire sauce

Shopping List:**
1/2 pound fresh scallops
1/2 pound large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb
4 pounds beef short ribs, cut into individual rib portions
1- 3/4 pounds white potatoes
3 large leeks
3 large carrots
3 stalks of celery
1 (12 ounce) package of fresh green beans
3 chipotle chilles
1 cup of cashews
1 bulb of garlic
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 large onion
1 large red bell pepper
1 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (14 ounce) cans of chicken broth
1 (14 ounce) can of beef stock
2 cans of black beans
sesame oil
brown rice
1 (16 oz) package vacuum-packaged gnocchi
pine nuts
1 (10 ounce) package of fresh spinach

**Most recipes are for 4-6 servings. If you are making more, or less, you will need to adjust the shopping list accordingly**

Irish Lamb Stew ( Source: The Palm Beach Post: Jim Romanoff for the Associated Press. March 4, 2009).

Serves 8
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 3/4 pounds white potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 large leeks, whites only, halved, washed and thinly sliced
3 large carrots peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
14- ounce can chicken broth
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

In a 6 qt slow cooker, combine the lamb, potatoes, leeks, carrots, celery, broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir well. Cover the slow cooker, then cook on low until the lamb is fork-tender, about 7 to 8 hours. Stir in the parsley just before serving.

Braised Short Ribs with Honey, Chipotle and Black Beans (Source: The Palm Beach Post: "Divas of Dish", Pam Brandon and Anne-Marie Hodges. March 4, 2009).

Serves 6
4 pounds short ribs, cut into individual rib portions
salt and black pepper to taste
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup of dry red wine
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 cups of beef stock
3 chipotle chilles, chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp honey
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

Season the ribs with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, big enough to hold all
ingredients, heat the olive oil over high heat. Sear the ribs in batches on all
sides until nicely charred and caramelized. Remove from pan and reserve. (If the
ribs are particularly fatty, pour off some of the fat.)

Reduce heat to medium and saute the onions and red pepper, stirring often until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then pour in the wine, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to reduce for about 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, mustard, cumin, oregano, beef stock, chipotles, Worcestershire and honey. Return the ribs to the pan and bring to a simmer. cover and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender.

Remove the ribs. If the sauce is too thin, turn up the heat to reduce (uncovered) until thickened. Stir in the black beans and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve ribs atop beans and sauce with crusty bread.

Stir-Fried Shrimp and Scallops with Cashews (Source: Paula Deen's Quick and Easy Meals-2009).

serves 6
2 tbsp of vegetable oil, divided
1/2 pound fresh scallops
1/2 pound
large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 (12 ounce) package fresh green beans, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 2-inch pieces
1 cup chopped cashews
1 tbsp mined garlic
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
Hot cooked brown rice
Garnish: toasted and chopped cashews

In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add scallops, and cook for 3 minutes. Turn scallops, and add shrimp to pan; cook for 2
minutes. Remove scallops and shrimp from pan; set aside, and keep warm.

In the same skillet, heat remaining 1 tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add green beans, cashews, and garlic; cook for 1 minute.

In a medium bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, and sesame oil. Add broth mixture to green bean mixture, and cook for 1 minute. Return shrimp and scallops to pan, stirring to combine. Serve immediately over brown rice. Garnish with cashews, if desired.

Brown Butter Gnocchi with Spinach and Pine Nuts (Source: Cooking
Light, January/February 2009).

4 servings
1 (16-ounce) package vacuum-packed gnocchi
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10 ounce) package fresh spinach, torn
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) Parmesan cheese

Cook gnocchi according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts to pan; cook 3 minutes or until butter and nuts are lightly browned, stirring constantly. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute. Add gnocchi and spinach to pan; cook one minute or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly. Stir in salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.