February 2012 Archives

I heard on the radio that IHOP is celebrating National Pancake Day today. Who doesn't love pancakes? There are so many different variety's and toppings, it's hard to not like them!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily advocating for IHOP pancakes. I think it's generous of them to celebrate pancakes and encourage people to donate to charity. However, I can't advocate so much for the nutrition value of their pancakes. Yes, they have a "Harvest Grain 'N Nut Pancake" that is supposed to be whole grain. However, I'm quite confident that it is not 100% whole grain.

Here's the nutrition breakdown for 4 of them:

Harvest Grain 'N NutĀ® Pancakes
  • Calories 920
  • Total Fat 49g
  • Saturated Fat 11g
  • Trans Fat 0g 
  • Sodium 1810mg
  • Total Carbohydrates 95g
  • Fiber 10g
  • Sugar 22g
  • Protein 25g

First off, 920 calories and 95g of carbohydrate at one meal might be a bit much for most people. The pancakes are probably pretty large, so you would be best served having one of them and a side of fruit and an egg. Yeah, right!

Instead of suffering through an experience of only eating one "not really whole grain" pancake when you have a stack of 4, why not celebrate National Pancake Day at home. You can still donate to charity!

Healthy Pancake Recipes

Try these two recipes and see what you think. If you're the "pancake mix" convenience kind of cook, there are some great whole grain pancake mixes. I've tried Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix and we've really enjoyed it. I've also had a friend who made jars of pancake mix to give away as gifts. It was great! All we had to do is add milk, eggs and a little oil. Just make sure that if you purchase a mix, read the ingredient list for whole grains. If it says 'enriched', then it's not whole grain.

pancakes front and center

pancakes front and center (Photo credit: digiyesica)

Pumpkin Pancakes

Use canned pumpkin puree, freshly prepared puree, or frozen puree which has been thawed.


  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (if you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, you can use 1/2 cup all purpose and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup molasses or maple syrup
  • 3-4 tablespoons fat free buttermilk or skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or hazelnuts, optional


  1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, beat egg slightly. Add pumpkin or squash puree, molasses or syrup, milk or buttermilk and melted butter or margarine. Mix until smooth.
  3. Blend in the dry ingredients all at once. Mix until batter is smooth. Allow batter to rest for 30 minutes or more.
  4. Stir nuts into batter, and add additional tablespoon of buttermilk or milk if batter is too thick.
  5. To make pancakes, spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter onto a lightly greased preheated griddle or heavy skillet. With the back of the spoon, flatten batter to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cook slowly until bubbles appear on top and bottom is golden brown. Lift edge to check. Turn and cook until other side is golden brown.
  6. Place on a platter and set platter in a warm oven. Continue making pancakes until all batter is used. Makes about 24, 3-inch pancakes. Serves 4 to 6 people.
Oatmeal Pancakes


  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 egg


  1. Place flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, vanilla, oil and egg in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour the the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Healthy Pancake Toppings:

Here is something that my husband and I do to make our pancakes even healthier. Rather than topping with butter and syrup, we often will top with one of the following (or a mix):

  • yogurt
  • marmalade or fruit jam
  • peanut butter
  • honey
And we almost always top that with some fresh or frozen fruit! Or even better, we make a berry compote. But that's a recipe for another article!

Happy Pancake Day!
- Julie

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Who knew!?! Chia seeds are not just to make little terra cotta pot animals known as "Chia Pets". I can already hear the commercial jingle... "Ch Ch Ch Chia!".
Chia Pet Homer

Image by misterbisson via Flickr

I decided to cover this topic because in two weeks, I've had people ask about Chia seed in two completely different presentations!

I did some research on what I could find out about the plant. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

"Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Salvia hispanica seed is often sold under its common name "chia" as well as several trademarked names. Its origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. The seeds of a related plant, Salvia columbariae (golden chia), were used primarily by Native Americans in the southwestern United States."
Nutrition Benefits of Chia

The following nutrients are found in Chia seeds:

  • protein
  • fiber
  • calcium
  • omega 3 fats
  • antioxidants
Chia has been studied for several different health related issues including:

  • glucose control
  • cholesterol management
  • weight loss
I could not find any good studies on Chia and cancer. However, the following 2 studies are from 2009 and give a summary of what was found regarding Chia and health:

  • Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. No group differences were measured for changes in blood EPA and DHA. Pre-to-post measures of body composition, inflammation, oxidative stress, blood pressure, and lipoproteins did not differ between chia and placebo for both sexes. In conclusion, ingestion of 50 g/d chia seeds for 12 weeks by overweight/obese men and women had no influence on body mass or composition, or various disease risk factor measures. [Nutrition Research Journal 2009].
  • Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in alpha-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacylglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats. The present study provides new data regarding the beneficial effect of chia seed upon lipid and glucose levels in an experimental model of dislipidaemia and insulin resistance. [British Journal of Nutrition, 2009]

Basically, a human study found no changes in body mass or disease risk over 12 weeks. The other study, on rats, showed a benefit to lipid levels and insulin response.

What's The Bottom Line?

Chia seeds are a good sources of healthy nutrients. While there's not consistent evidence that it will significantly improve your health, it doesn't appear to be harmful. I say it's worth a try. Let me know what you think!

How can you use it? Chia seeds work well as an addition to yogurt, sprinkled on cereal, and in smoothies.

Warning! Because they are a good source of fiber, they are best introduced starting with 1 or 2 Tbsp per day. Otherwise, you might be dealing with some gas and abdominal discomfort!

Want to read more evidence based information regarding Chia? Check out these articles:
What are Chia seeds?
Dietitian writes on Chia

Share your thoughts and recipes on the Cancer Dietitian Facebook Page!
- Julie
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Lunch is sometimes just something to get you from breakfast to dinner. There are days when you have to eat something, and just about anything will do. I had one of those days this week with our kitchen at home under construction. Bringing lunch has been an extra challenge and has NOT been happening!

I went out for a day or two, but by Thursday, I didn't want to go anywhere, I just wanted to eat. And had almost nothing. So... I ate peanut butter on bread (we had some in the office). And then I had a 'dessert' of frozen berries that I microwaved. Unfortunately, I had put them in the work freezer about a year ago. They weren't bad... but they weren't good either! At least I had something.

Then I got this email from a friend- 

"One of my 'resolutions' for February is to bring my lunch to work more often (or ya know.. at all...) but I hate frozen lean cuisine-type lunches, and am not sure what would be easy besides sandwiches... I would love any ideas you have, for good, easy, healthyish lunches!"

And what did I think? HEY! That would be a great article for the website! And then... I wrote her back. : )

Don't Miss Out on Cancer Fighting Lunches!

First off, remember that in order to get at least 4 cups of fruits and vegetables (combined) each day, you need to include them at EVERY MEAL. That means that you should aim to get 1 cup of vegetables and a fruit at lunch. That's a good starting point for your meal planning.

If you don't plan to get some fruits and veggies at lunch, then you probably won't get them. And it will be hard to make up for that after you get home at night. My 'last-minute-ditch-effort-lunch' wasn't too bad after all. I probably had a cup of berries (freezer burn and all) but I was lacking vegetables. On the positive side, at least it wasn't 6 cookies, a bowl of pretzels and a milkshake!

Healthy 'Bring Your Own' Lunch Ideas

lunch-2007-04-03a (Photo credit: flakyredhead)

Here are the things I suggested to my friend plus some extra that I have come up with since doing a little more thinking and research:

  1. Leftovers - this is my FAVORITE! It's pretty easy to put food away after you cook in the evenings and store them into lunch size containers. If you have a lot of leftovers, you can even freeze them in lunch size portions. This is also good for your budget! The most common leftovers that I take to work are soups (try the minestrone soup recipe) (I freeze it in pint size jars), chili (toppings optional if you have time to grab some - cheese, sour cream, diced tomatoes), and casserole or curry (get a recipe here for chickpea curry)
  2. Sandwich - Egg Salad (recipe here) PB&J (or PB & banana) with veggies leftover from night before, or carrots and peppers
  3. Carrots and crackers dipped in hummus with some fresh fruit
  4. Beans and rice topped with roasted peanuts. 
  5. Veggie Burger on sandwich thin, wrapped in tortilla or on a bagel 
  6. Trail mix, salad, 1% milk
  7. Burrito - bean, cheese, salsa, chopped lettuce, guacamole or avocado wrapped in a tortilla - can be made in bulk and frozen. They are great reheated in the microwave!
I came up with a few other ideas, including the following recipe, from Fitness Magazine's article on 20 lunches under 400 calories.

I really like this recipe idea because I think it's so easy. Most of the things you can buy ready to eat and you just have to throw it together. You can even skip the dressing and just use oil and vinegar. Voila!

Greek Chopped Pita Salad

  •  2 cups romaine lettuce
  •  2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  •  1/2 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  •  1/2 cup cucumber, sliced
  •  1 whole wheat pita, chopped
  •  2 tablespoons low-fat vinaigrette

Emergency Lunch Back Up

Another important aspect to bringing your lunch is the back up plan for when you forget it at home, or don't have time to pack. Hence... why I had frozen berries in the fridge from one year prior. My suggestion though... eat them up sooner!

Here are the things I keep at work:
  • cans of Annie's soups (Costco had sold some in packs of 8)
  • fruit (dried, fresh or frozen)
  • individual packs of flavored oatmeal
  • 100 calorie packs of popcorn
  • peanut butter
  • crackers
  • tea bags (not necessarily a lunch item, but great to have around!)

You can even bring some things in on Mondays to last for the whole week. Or get together with your co-workers for who is going to bring what and then the office can share!

Share your lunch ideas on the Cancer Dietitian Facebook Page, or comment here!

- Julie

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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