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This post is not health-related, but it is certainly relevant. Many people who are passionate about food like to share photos of their meals. The better your picture, the more likely people are to get excited about your meal and engage in discussion. As a food blogger and photographer, I’ve been taking pictures of my food for years.

I use a Canon digital SLR. I recently upgraded to the Rebel T3i from my Rebel XS. Regardless of the camera, a digital SLR has a lot of advantages. Here are some things I recommend when choosing equipment.

1. Digital SLR. SLR cameras (Single Lens Reflex) have large lenses that can be removed from the body of the camera. If your budget allows and you aren’t inconvenienced by the larger size, these cameras take superior photos. Removable lenses allow you to switch to different lenses for different shooting needs (macro lens for close-up photos, for example). These cameras also have the most customizable settings to optimize light, movement, and focus.
2. High Image Resolution. If you’re not ready to commit to SLR, there are many point-and-shoot cameras that take high-quality pictures. Look for high image resolutions and shoot at the highest quality your camera allows.

Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t do all the work for you. Here are some photography tips to keep in mind when shooting to optimize your photos.

1. Light. Photography is all about light. You want to avoid using the built-in flash on your camera, so make sure your food is in a well-lit place. Avoid direct sunlight because of the dramatic shadows it creates, unless that’s the look you’re going for.
2. Presentation. Make sure your food is prepared in a way that looks appealing, even if it’s not the way you’d ultimately eat it. You are composing a tiny work of art, so keep in mind colors, shapes, lines, and composition. Also make sure you don’t have anything distracting or unattractive in the background. A blank slate is best—try to find a place where you can have a plain backdrop.
3. Hold steady. If you’re shooting on an automatic setting, your camera will adjust the shutter speed based on how much light there is. If light isn’t plentiful, it will likely leave the shutter open a bit longer, which means your photos can come out blurry. To avoid this, hold very still while you take the picture, or consider using a tripod. Ideally, you will have enough light that your shutter speed will be fast.
3. Edit. Even the greatest photographers edit their photos. Ideally, professional software like Adobe Photoshop is best, but Aperture, iPhoto, and many other photo-editing programs work well. Adjust saturation, contrast, and re-crop for the ideal shot. Many programs offer a way to lighten areas of shadow, which can be very handy for showing all the detail in your food.

Hopefully this inspires photography newbies to snap some shots of their food. Do you have any tips you’d like to add?

Emily Davidson, creator of Healthy Eating, Naturally and Historically Incorrect, is a blogger and copywriter at Lela.com. Lela is a fun, interactive online shopping tool that helps parents find the perfect electronics and baby products using unique and intuitive technology and personalized Product Ratings.

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Eating right is of the utmost importance to me. I believe that good nutrition is the solution to almost any ailment and is the source of true well-being. I think eating right and fueling your body properly is essential to being a happy, balanced, and vibrant person. It is truly a tragedy that nutrition in America is lacking more than ever. The importance of a good diet can not be emphasized enough. Sadly, the standards for a “good” diet in America are very loose allow a great deal of unhealthy choices that can be counterproductive to your good efforts.

I have a plethora of reasons for eating consciously and thought I’d share some.

Weight Control
I mention this reason first not because it is necessarily the most important, but probably the most popular reason people start to eat healthy. I’ll admit that it is what initially got me interested in adapting a better diet. My first semester of college was filled with late-night pizza, pints of Ben & Jerry’s, and all-you-can-eat buffets for every meal. I gained about 15 lbs for the first time in my life and completely panicked. When I started fueling my body with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other healthy foods, I watched the weight disappear. As many of us know, being overweight can lead to a great deal of disease and health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential to good health. Plus, most of us feel better about ourselves when we are at our ideal weight and confidence is a beautiful thing.

Immune System Strength
Your body only functions properly when it is provided with all the necessary vitamins and nutrients. Besides making sure to get your daily recommended intake, it is also important to avoid foods high in sugar or chemical additives that weaken your body’s natural functions. When you eat a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, your immune system is strong. Even as a college student, I rarely get a cold or feel run-down nearly as much as my peers. Getting sick doesn’t just come from exposure to germs. If your body is running properly, germ exposure won’t cause you to catch a cold or get sick.

Energy
Another thing I notice with my [unhealthy] peers is that they always seem to be tired. They can sleep for 12 hours on the weekend and still walk around exhausted with dark circles under their eyes. Making sure to get the right balance of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein provides stable energy throughout the day. I also strongly recommend eating four to six small meals a day instead of three larger ones; this keeps blood sugar levels stable and makes for more reliable energy. When you consume high quantities of sugar, refined carbs, and caffeine, you are going to feel exhausted regardless of how much sleep you get. The pick-me-up one gets from eating junk food is only temporary and leaves you in a slump when it’s over.

Skin, Hair, Nails
When you provide your body with essential nutrients, especially the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, it truly shows. Your hair is shinier and thicker, your skin is clearer and more vibrant, and your nails are stronger. Diets high in sugar, additives, and grease make for break-outs, lackluster complexions, and brittle nails. What shows up on the outside is very much controlled by what’s going on inside. Before you splurge on an expensive new hair product or face cream, think about solving the problem at the source first.

Digestive Wellness
Digestive problems are far too common in America. It is directly related to our diet of chemically-ridden, over-processed foods that are devoid of nutritional value. Laxatives and antacids are among the highest selling over-the-counter remedies in the US. It is imperative not to look to drugs or pills but at the true source of these problems. A diet centered around vegetables and high in whole grains and fiber can alleviate digestive problems and keep your stomach and intestines running smoothly.

Mood
Many people equate their feelings or mood to specific things going on in their life. However, we all have those days where we feel unexplainably happy or sad. Emotions and moods are far more complicated than what is on the surface. Much of it is governed by brain chemicals like serotonin, which is a feel-good brain chemical, and cortisol, which is a stress chemical. Eating a diet that provides adequate nutrients and regulates blood sugar helps keep these chemicals in balance and regulate mood swings. Depression is actually a common symptom of a number of vitamin deficiencies. And remember, when you feel good about your weight, your energy levels are stable, your complexion is radiant, and you are feeling well, it is much easier to be a happy and pleasant person!

I think the best thing you can do for yourself and your body is develop healthy eating habits. “You are what you eat” is a very accurate statement. Your body is made up of cells. Your cells are created and reproduced by the nutrients that enter your body. Essentially, your body becomes the food you put into it. I urge each and every one of you not to turn to the medicine cabinet for every ailment. Take a look at what you’re eating (or what you’re not eating) and if you can regulate your body through making healthier choices. Everything we eat has some effect on our body. Determine if it is positive or negative and choose where to go from there. Do your own research, and gain the knowledge to empower yourself. Remember that health claims on products are for marketing purposes only. If you educate yourself on what a healthy food really is, you can make the best decisions.

You have the power to change and transform your life through what you eat!

If you find these articles at all interesting or helpful, please subscribe!

Eat healthy,
Emily

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I’m sure most of us couldn’t imagine a life without bread: sandwiches, toast, bread baskets, bread bowls, and so forth. It is an integral part of our food culture and seems to be a major player in every meal. However, with the rise of low carb diets, the concept of “good carbs” and “bad carbs,” plus the new offerings of “whole wheat” everything, it’s easy to get confused about which breads are healthy and which are not.

All the bread I’ll be talking about here and pretty much all commercial bread is wheat bread, meaning it is made from wheat. Some people confused “whole wheat” with “wheat,” but all regular bread is made from wheat. The difference is the refining and manipulation of the wheat grain.

Wheat Background
The wheat grain is made up of three parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran and the germ are the outer, fibrous layers of the grain that contain nearly all the nutrients and fiber.

Bread Making in America
However, in order to make white bread, these outer layers are removed, stripping the wheat of most of its nutrients. What’s left is the measly endosperm, containing no real vitamins or minerals. In order to replace some of what is lost, factories and bread manufacturers “enrich” their breads with arbitrary amounts of chemically synthesized vitamins. The fiber is not replaced. What is left is a product devoid of the natural nutrition of the wheat grain in order to make it more soft and fluffy. However, it doesn’t stop there. Commercial bread manufacturers then add a plethora of chemicals and additives in order to make the bread shelf stable and cosmetically pleasing. This refinement process, besides removing vital nutrients, makes bread very high on the glycemic index. This means it causes rapid blood sugar crashes and basically converts into your body as sugar. Refined bread is also higher in calories because the endosperm, the most caloric part of the grain, is most prominent.

Refined Bread… It’s Everywhere
It is obvious to most of us that a piece of white Wonder Bread is refined and therefore not whole wheat and lacking in nutritional value. However, in America, virtually everything is “white” bread unless otherwise specified: french baguette, ciabatta, focaccia, tortillas, hot dog and hamburger buns, and crackers. Even breads labeled “whole wheat” usually contain white (refined) flour as well and are merely supplemented with some whole wheat flour. It is imperative to read the label and see “100% whole wheat flour” and no mention of “enriched,” “bleached” or “unbleached,” flour is there. To make it simple: if it doesn’t say “whole,” it has been refined. Even home-made breads or bread fresh from the bakery is made with white flour unless otherwise noted.

“Whole Wheat” and “Whole Grain” as a Marketing Scheme
Whole wheat and whole grain have become terms that automatically mean “healthy” to most consumers. However, as stated before, many breads labeled “whole wheat” are mixed with a hefty amount of white flour as well. “Whole grain” is a somewhat meaningless term in the world of conventional bread; they may have added some “whole” grains (like rye) to the bread, but those grains could still be surrounded by white, refined flour. Again, check the ingredients, and when something claims to be “whole wheat,” truly investigate that is made only with whole wheat flour. Sometimes breads are even dyed to appear darker in color and look healthier.

How To Find A Good Bread
After ensuring you find a bread that is made exclusively from whole wheat flour, there are other things to look for. Breads often include the harmful additives high fructose corn syrup or trans fats known as partially hydrogenated oils which should be avoided at all costs. I suggest avoiding added sweeteners like honey or molasses as well as they are not necessary for making a great-tasting bread. And, a general rule of thumb: don’t buy something with a lengthy list of ingredients you can’t pronounce. Things labeled “to retain freshness” is their kind way of saying chemical preservatives. None of these things make for a healthy choice. It is the easiest to find whole wheat breads devoid of these additives at health food stores or natural markets. Chain grocery stores do not make at easy, but at health food stores you’ll have a number of choices. Bread is not a food that was originally designed to stay fresh for a week at room temperature. Real bread made from the whole grain is so nutrient dense that it spoils easily and usually does better in the refrigerator. When you want a piece, simply toast it for a minute or two.

A Superior Alternative: Sprouted Grain Bread
Sprouted grain bread is often made without flour. A number of whole grains such as wheat, barley, and spelt are sprouted by being submerged in water. The sprouted grains are then used to make a nutritionally superior bread to regular floured wheat bread without any additives. When these grains sprout, they produce a number of vitamins and minerals and are metabolized in your body more as vegetables than as bread or flour. My personal favorite is Ezekiel 4:9 bread, available at health food stores (and some really great chain grocery stores, too). It is almost always in the refrigerated section.

Ezekiel bread, which comes in a variety of flavors, combines wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt. The combination of grains makes for the proper balance of amino acids to provide a complete protein. One slice has only 80 calories but 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, which is more substantial than even the best whole wheat breads. Oh, and it tastes GREAT. It may be made from sprouted grains, but it doesn’t taste like a veggie loaf. It’s a rich, nutty, and bread-tasting. My favorite flavor is Sesame.

Hopefully that clears up some of the bread confusion!

Eat well,
Emily

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