Last week we started to peek inside your refrigerator to make sure you have the fixings for a healthful meal. If you were to open your fridge right now, what’s inside? Would you be able to make a nutritious dinner with what you have in your fridge and cupboards? If the answer is yes, excellent! If the answer is no, then we may have some more work to do. But the good news is that you’re getting there!
It’s often easier to think of foods in terms of groups, and last week we looked at a few dairy foods that you might consider keeping in your refrigerator. Milk, yogurt, and sour cream were all covered, but we didn’t quite finish: there are a few more dairy foods that I wanted to mention.
- Eggs. I’ve written before on the health benefits of eggs, but because there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding them, I figure it doesn’t hurt to repeat a few things. First, people with diabetes can eat eggs if they choose. Research has shown that eating eggs (even every day) does not have a significant effect on blood cholesterol. However, because we need to learn more about how eggs affect people with diabetes, it may be prudent for now to limit your egg intake to one per day (or go with egg whites, which you can eat every day).
Eggs contain protein, iron, B vitamins, choline, and lutein. One egg has just 75 calories and 0 grams of carbohydrate. Eggs aren’t just for breakfast, either. Hard boil a few to have as a quick snack or to add to your salad at lunch. Whip up an omelet filled with vegetables and feta cheese or a frittata for a quick supper. The possibilities are endless! Eggs will last for several weeks in your fridge as long as they’re not cracked. By the way, not sure what a frittata is? Try one out with this recipe.
- Butter/margarine. This is a bit of a tricky one because neither butter nor margarine are health superstars. As we’ve talked about before, some of the most healthful types of fat for your heart are the unsaturated vegetable oils, such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, corn oil, and safflower oil. Fats that are solid at room temperature tend to be more saturated, which, in turn, has the effect of raising LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. One tablespoon of butter contains 7 grams of saturated fat, which is pretty high, especially when the goal is no more than about 10–15 grams of saturated fat in a day. Yet margarine isn’t necessarily a better choice, especially the stick margarines that may contain trans fat, an equally heart-harmful fat that some scientists consider to be even worse than saturated fat.
A way to get around the saturated fat and trans fat dilemma is to use a tub margarine, or vegetable oil spread, that is trans-fat-free (it will say so on the container). Another option is to use light butter, which is 50% lower in fat than regular butter (but still contains several grams of saturated fat per tablespoon). Or, you can shy away from all of these types of fat and stick with vegetable oils. The issue, for some, is what to put on that English muffin in the morning. Sometimes olive oil isn’t quite right. Peanut butter or jam is an option. Or, you may decide that a little bit of “real” butter is OK to use as long as you don’t put it on everything.
You can see that there are choices, and that there isn’t one right choice for everybody. And while cooking with vegetables oils instead of butter or margarine tends to work just fine, bakers know that swapping out oil for butter in recipes doesn’t always work out so well. Whether you keep butter, margarine, or neither in your fridge is up to you. Fortunately, both unopened butter and margarine will last for several months in the fridge, so you might decide to keep one or the other on hand.
- Kefir. I wanted to briefly mention kefir, since you may have seen this in your supermarket and wondered about it. Kefir is a cultured milk drink made from cow, goat, or sheep milk. Kefir “grains” that contain good bacteria and yeast, along with protein, fat, and sugar, are added to milk. The result is a fermented milk drink with a tangy flavor, similar to thin yogurt or buttermilk. While the health benefits of kefir haven’t been widely studied, it’s thought that drinking kefir may help with gastrointestinal problems, such as lactose intolerance, as well as boosting the immune system.
You can drink kefir “straight” or make a smoothie out of it. You can even use it as a salad dressing. Keep in mind that plain kefir has about 12 grams of carbohydrate per 8 ounces (similar to milk), but kefir comes in different flavors, which means more carbohydrate. Always read the label. For more information on kefir (including information on how to make your own), check out www.kefir.org.