Lead the whey This yogurt byproduct is good for your gut

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We’re all about the probiotics.

Whether we’re dipping a spoon into GMO-free yogurt, sipping kombucha or popping open a jar of zesty sauerkraut, those tiny nutrition powerhouses are foremost in our minds.

So it came as a surprise when we found out that we were leaving a delicious and distinctive source of probiotics out of our regular rotation: whey.

Our discovery is thanks to Homa Dashtaki of The White Moustache, a line of Persian-style yogurt made with local milk sans preservatives, salt, sugar or cream. Her thick yogurt requires straining, and whey is the byproduct of this process. It turns out that the fresh liquid contains all the calcium and probiotics of yogurt without any of the calories of milk fats.

A product has to have 1 million parts per serving to be considered probiotic. Homa’s products have over 100 million parts per serving that are live, active and raring to go.

“There’s no good way to say this marketing wise, but it helps you poop.” – Homa Dashtaki on the properties of whey!

As such, whey is a gut-health superstar. Homa told us, “There’s no good way to say this marketing wise, but it helps you poop.” Look for her refreshing tonics in flavors like passion fruit with pear juice, honey-lime, ginger and sweet beet in 16-ounce glass bottles ($5) at area Whole Foods.

In addition to being a great alternative to kombucha or coconut water, you can cook with whey as well. Homa loves to use the slightly tart liquid in place of chicken broth, to make a silky sorbet or in a raw cauliflower soup to preserve the probiotics. And it can be substituted for liquid ingredients in your favorite cakes and pastries. Come Thanksgiving, she will be selling five gallon buckets ($35) of whey for turkey brine.

Chefs around the city are scooping it up too. Chef Rob Newton of Brooklyn’s Nightingale 9 tenderizes his beef in it; the nearby Smith Canteen mixes it into a juice with spinach, ginger, celery and mint, and Foragers in Chelsea is spiking brunch cocktails with it.

So what are you whey-ting for?

Where to buy White Moustache products

(Photo credit: Nicole Franzen)

Pasta express Hungryroot turns vegetables into delicious noodle dinners

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We love noodles. We love vegetables. Simple math told us that we were really going to love Hungryroot’s organic, fresh-cut vegetable noodles.

We were right.

Hungryroot is the very tasty brainchild of Ben McKean, Greg Struck and Franklin Becker that just launched in New York and several other cities east of the Mississippi.

Each convenient pack of spiralized vegetable noodles can go from package to plate in seven minutes or less. Even better: Every Hungryroot meal is under 500 calories, non-GMO and gluten-, antibiotic- and hormone-free. To keep with the simple feel, each dish is $10, with the option to add free-range grilled chicken for an additional $2. Shipping is free for every order over $40 and you don’t need to be home to receive the delivery thanks to cold gel packs and insulated Mylar liners. Typically, Hungryroot receives the vegetables from the farm the same day the meals are shipped out and they are guaranteed to stay fresh for 10 days in the refrigerator. The sauce and the additions (like the nuts or cheese) all come in separate recyclable containers, so you can customize your meal to your liking.

One of our favorites, the zucchini noodles with tomatoes and Parmesan and a gremolata of basil, pine nuts and raisins.

 

Chef Becker (of The Little Beet fame) dreamed up the six delicious options. Our favorites were the zucchini noodles with tomatoes and Parmesan and a gremolata of basil, pine nuts and raisins, and sweet potato noodles with a creamy vegan cashew alfredo sauce. Other options include beet noodles with a sesame sauce and for pad thai lovers, carrot noodles paired up with a tangy Sriracha peanut sauce.

Founder Ben McKean told us that only 6 percent of the population eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables (yikes!). He says, “I think part of that has to do with an overall perception that vegetables are less-than-satisfying and sometimes intimidating to prepare. We’re hoping to change that perception by filling a void in fast and healthy home cooked meals.”

With Hungryroot, there’s no reason to not have vegetables in the smack-dab center of your plate.

Spread the word: Hungryroot plans to expand to nationwide shipping by the end of 2015.

Hidden Kitchens Get home schooled (literally) at a League of Kitchens class

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Step onto Sunny’s porch in Bayside, Queens and the first thing you’ll notice is a crock of soy sauce fermenting.

Step inside her kitchen and you’ll learn the secrets to making watercress salad with toasted sesame seeds and pajeon (scallion pancakes) made with organic eggs and just the faintest dusting of flour.

The only way to gain entrance to Sunny’s place? That would be League of Kitchens.

League of Kitchens is an immersive culinary adventure where immigrants teach intimate cooking workshops in their own homes ($95 to $145).

The idea was cooked up by Lisa Gross, the grandchild of a Korean immigrant. Lisa’s grandmother was so intent on making sure that her grandchild studied that she kept her out of the kitchen. As an adult, Lisa had a B.A. from Yale to show for her efforts, but couldn’t replicate the flavors of her grandmother’s cooking. “Nothing I made ever tasted as good as my grandmother’s food,” she says.

League of kitchens is a hands-on cooking class under the guidance of a seasoned home cook.

This experience led her to dream up League of Kitchens, which can connect you with instructors from every pocket of the world, including Trinidad, Afghanistan and Greece. Many of the instructors also grow their own produce—like Sunny, who grows 20 varieties of vegetables and six different fruit trees.

The experience of being in a stranger’s home means this is an intimate cooking experience, best for those adventurous at heart. However, any lingering awkwardness is easy to gloss over when you are welcomed so warmly with green tea and personal tales. The benefit of learning next to a seasoned cook means you’ll get to pick up on those subtle but important techniques and tricks that so often get left out of written recipes.

After cooking alongside the instructor, you will sit down to enjoy your dishes and hear more stories. Best of all: The leftovers go home with you, along with new recipes and a huge helping of inspiration.

Blender Bender The no-excuses smoothie now comes to your door

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This December you have zero excuses for not starting your morning off right.

Zip, nada, none.

That’s because these new brands are making sure you have your smoothie daily—delivered straight to your doorstep. Think of them as your smoothie concierge: ready to keep you on-track and feeling good, no matter how holiday crazed you might be.

Daily Harvest: Rachel Drori turned her at-home trick of freezing ready-to-blend smoothie ingredients into a business that would provide the “convenience of being able to blend and run without having to shop, think or create any mess.” We love this service for its total simplicity: All of the ingredients are measured into one pack, meaning there is absolutely no shopping, rinsing or chopping required. The current seasonal blend uses a 100 percent organic mix of pomegranates, cranberries, beets, rooibos tea, pecans, bananas, ginger and dates ($32.50 for 5 smoothies). Holistic health and wellness coach Sarah-Jane Mercer designs all of the blends to make sure everything is both tasty and nutritious.

Ginger cranberry smoothie from Green Blender’s holiday smoothie collection.

Green Blender : Founders Jenna Tanenbaum and Amir Cohen say, “At Green Blender, we believe that in order to live a sustainably healthy lifestyle you have to indulge in your health, and do things that you love. That’s why we started this company. We’re making it easy and fun to start your day with a healthy decision.” This service ($49 for 10 smoothies) is best for someone who is OK with a little prep work, namely chopping pre-portioned ingredients and following a recipe. Plus, if you know someone who isn’t based in NYC, pass on the word: Green Blender will be expanding from Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens into the Northeast in 2015.

Clean Habits: Nick Anderer How Maialino's chef keeps it clean

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It’s hard out there for a chef. (To stay fit and healthy, that is).As the executive chef of MaialinoNick Anderer is surrounded by swaths of food every day—everything from the restaurant’s morning oatmeal to dinner’s braised local suckling pig. However, Anderer is also one of the fittest guys we know.

With that in mind, we asked him to spill his tried-and-true secrets to staying healthy with us. His Clean Habits will come in handy come August, when Anderer will add more to his already-full plate when he opens Marta, a thin-crust pizzeria that emphases local ingredients.

What’s a typical day of eating like for you?
I eat a lot of small meals and bites throughout the day, either via recipe testing, quality control or just straight snacking. Rarely do I sit down to a full plate of food on a workday. I don’t follow any strict diet, but as a meat-lover, I try to balance my meat consumption with a healthy dose of raw fruits and veggies. And I also try not to eat anything after 10 pm and to limit my carb intake during the second half of the day.

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He even cycles for charity! (photo Credit: Jordan A. Mermell)

How do you stay balanced and healthy while working in the restaurant industry? 
You need a lot of restraint from the temptations of constant pecking. And you need to find time to stay active outside of work. With a job that requires you to be on your feet all day, I’ve been focusing more and more on keeping my core as strong as possible so that my lower back is supported—in the chef world, that’s usually the first part of your body that gives out. 

Has your healthy lifestyle rubbed off on the menu at Maialino or the upcoming Marta?
Definitely. We are always talking about more healthy ways to serve Italian food. We stopped toasting our almonds in butter or oil, and are instead leaving them raw and unseasoned. With really good Sicilian almonds, not only are they healthier raw, but they actually taste better. We’ve added extra fish options to the menu and are sure to keep them predominantly carb-free, utilizing as much raw vegetables as possible and dressing with light vinaigrettes as opposed to heavier sauces or purees. At breakfast, we’ve focused on serving more healthy grains, even adding a house-made, whole-grain cereal to the menu.

How do you stay fit?
I try to do something active with my body at least five times a week, going heavy on cardio and peppering in light doses of strength training and stretching/ lengthening. I probably SoulCycle at least twice a week, and when it’s nice out, I opt for long runs along the East River. And every so often I do one-on-one Pilates sessions, which focus much more on balance and muscle lengthening than on traditional ab work.

 

Move! With free outdoor fitness classes

Step aside, green juice Why we're crazy about LuliTonix juice and veggie blends

Blend, blend baby

With so many fresh juices jostling for space in the New York market, we were invigorated to discover a totally new kind of product.

Lianna Sugarman (official title: Chief Blending Officer) doesn’t deny that green juices deliver a nutritional roundhouse kick of the good stuff, but she swears that once you try her blended LuliTonix potions, there will be no going back.

To maker her LuliTonix products, Sugarman blends—rather than presses or juices—organic and raw greens, fruits, herbs and spices. Why blend? Sugarman says the process ruptures the cellular wall of the greens, releasing nutrients and making them more easily digestable. Her mission is to “seduce people who don’t like green juice at all and also those who consider themselves total green heads.”

Discover the delicious and fiber-packed result in drinks like “Kick!” ($11 for 16 oz.), which uses copious amounts of kale, lettuce and chard, along with an extra punch of chia seeds, cinnamon, mint and lemon.

She advises that getting more greens into your diet doesn’t only need to happen through hardcore cleanses, but that “anyone can add one green blend to their day and see how that shifts you intro craving cleaner foods every day.”

We’ll drink to that.

CHECK OUT: Lulitonix

Dear Clean Plates: Are Granola Bars to Blame for My Bloat?

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Though I always aim to eat whole foods, I’ll sometimes grab a granola bar when I’m on the run. I thought their fiber was supposed to be gut-healthy, helping to manage weight and good digestion, but it seems like I’ve been bloated since I started eating them. Why might this be?

Sincerely,

Bloated & Bummed

Dear Bloated & Bummed,

It’s very possible your granola bar is guilty as charged. While foods like beans, Brussels sprouts and milk are the most recognized for causing bloat and gas, if your granola bar contains a certain high-fiber additive called inulin, it could be causing that flatulence instead of a flat belly.

Chicory root extract, a type of inulin, is one of the most popular ingredients in “high-fiber” products like granola bars. Inulin is a polysaccharide, which means it has long-chained sugar units that are hard for the body to break down. In addition, inulin is made of fructan, an indigestible molecule that feeds off the bacteria in the bowels. Between the body’s difficulty in breaking down inulin’s complex chemical makeup and the byproducts of fructan-feasting bacteria, it’s no wonder your belly feels (and shows!) some unhappy side effects.

And that inulin-induced discomfort isn’t just limited to granola bars. Foods such as Fiber One Cottage Cheese and Yoplait Light with Fiber each contain five grams of fiber, the majority being inulin. Fiber One Chewy Bars can have up to nine grams.

All this being said, the addition of inulin to foods is actually well intentioned. A good source of soluble fiber and a prebiotic (it helps to grow healthy bacteria in the colon), inulin is considered a nutrient-booster. Many foods contain inulin naturally, such as leeks, bananas, and asparagus. So just be aware of where your inulin is coming from. Plus, being a processed food, granola bars might have other additives working in tandem with inulin to cause that gas and bloating. Artificial sweeteners and coloring, sugar alcohols and other additives may be to blame, as well.

There is no RDA for inulin. We recommend you tune in to how specific foods make you feel after eating them, and eliminate the ones that cause discomfort. Stick to whole foods as often as possible, and next time you grab a granola bar, reach for a brand with as few dubious ingredients as possible before biting in.

Photo by Angie Garrett

On Our Radar: Creative Juice Café

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With flu season in effect, and celebrities touting the power of juicing, you may be asking, “Should I try a juice fast?” But at Clean Plates, we think a better way to power up is to add organic, fresh juices to your diet (it may even help to stop a food sensitivity cycle).

That’s why we’re excited about the freshly opened Creative Juice Café.  Inside the 50th and 76th Street Equinox locations, the new café is helping gym-goers supplement their diets with innovative concoctions that can cleanse your system while you continue a healthy diet. Co-created by Equinox and NYC restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer, the café offers high-nutrient, cold-pressed, organic juices in addition to smoothies, baked goods, and sandwiches.

Quiet_The_Riot_19Expect unusual produce combos, and most of the juices on the menu—designed by chef Michael Romano and New York nutrition specialist and Equinox health advisory board member Dr. Jeffrey Morrison—contain no more than 200 calories.

Dr. Morrison offers these five powerful ingredients for DIY juicing:

  1. For belly and body aches, pineapple is high in bromelain, an enzyme that helps with digestion and also inflammation. “So this is a useful ingredient for people with stubborn, achy joints.”
  2. For trimming your waistline, jicama is “a root vegetable with surprisingly low calories and high in fiber and an non-digestible sugar called inulin; inulin tastes sweet, but has very few calories, which makes it a great addition to a shake for people looking to lose weight.”
  3. For a hangover, young ginger is a root with a spicy flavor. “It’s a great aid for digestion and anti-nausea. Think of adding ginger if you’ve had too much to eat or drink the night before.”
  4. For post-workout pain, try jalapeño (with only a few seeds). “[The] seeds are high in a nutrient called capsaicin, which is an amazing anti-inflammatory. So this is great for people with muscle or joint achiness.”
  5. For muscle cramps, parsley is high in potassium. “This is a great ingredient to add if you suffer from muscle cramps.”

Equinox
633 Broadway at 50th St.; 212 541-7000
1429 2nd Ave. at 74th St.; 212 249-3917

“On Our Radar” features restaurants that might meet Clean Plates standards, but haven’t yet been thoroughly vetted and reviewed. For a directory of reviewed restaurants, see our Restaurant Finder.

Locavore BBQ: How to Make the Best Burger

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Though the end of summer is bittersweet, we love celebrating with a good ol’ fashioned BBQ full of big, juicy, chin-dripping burgers. That’s right, a healthful burger, made right, can be created entirely from local, artisanal ingredients. The best part? You can combine your shopping with one last summery excursion: All of the ingredients, whether for a conscious carnivore or thoughtful vegan, can be found on Sunday morning at the New Amsterdam Market on the South Street Seaport  — though please note, the market will not be open this coming Sunday, September 2nd. But next weekend, mosey over for the best fresh and local offerings, then fire up the grill! Continue reading

NYC’s Soda Ban: Healthier Options for Soda Lovers

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It’s official: soda is evil.

Ok, maybe that’s an overstatement, or at least unnecessary judgment. But with Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on sales of the stuff (in quantities of 16 ounces or more) and other cities considering similar action, there’s more attention than ever on soda’s failing nutritional report card.

Why the bad rap? First, soda is loaded with sugar, typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, which has been shown to contribute to two of our country’s most serious health problems, obesity and diabetes. (Diet soda may not be any better for you; see here and here.) Second: “The most popular, mainstream sodas — Coke, Pepsi and the like — are full of chemicals that do a sum total of absolutely nothing good for our bodies,” says Clean Plates founder and nutritionist, Jared Koch.

So what’s a soda fan to do? Here are a few options. Continue reading