Monthly Archives: March 2010

Gifts for Seniors

You know your parents or grandparents best, but it can still be hard to buy them a birthday or Christmas gift . As people age, they naturally have certain health problems or conditions, whether large or small, that could be
helped by a thoughtful gift.

An inexpensive idea is a set of playing card holders for those with arthritis or another condition that makes it difficult to hold playing cards.

Slightly more expensive is the very useful magnifier on a stand, which is perfect for reading small print in telephone books or newspapers.

For those seniors who aren’t eating right or who are just tired of cooking,  consider meals from MagicKitchen.com. With two menus, you’ll be able to find just the food gift your senior will appreciate. And we have a diabetic
friendly menu!

If you’re worried about a visually impaired person cutting themselves, how about the Kitchen Finger Protector?

Seniors with computers appreciate the advice of a younger person. Show them a website they haven’t seen, or an easier way to use a program they are using. The key is to work slowly and be patient!

Most important, take some time to visit and have a chat with them. Seniors appreciate that most of all. And who knows, you might learn something!

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How to Take Great Food Photography Shots

Use all-natural light

First and foremost, the lighting has to be right. The right lighting will make the food glow! If you’re in a restaurant, choose a table near a window. Never use a flash.  “The flash flattens everything out,” says photographer John Kernick. The ideal set-up is a next to a large window, with a white curtain to diffuse the light. These carrots are a good example, but the photographer didn’t focus correctly, so they are not crisp. Which is critical in all ways for carrots!

Learn to color balance.

Especially in situations where natural light is unavailable, your photos can have a yellow or blue cast that makes food look terrible. Use the white balance setting on your camera, or adjust the color digitally later on with a program like Photoshop or Paintshop Pro.

Choose a setting that enhances, but doesn’t distract from your food.

MagicKitchen.com's Portabella/Shiitake Mushroom RavioliPick a simple, plain background or tablecloth. Use plates whose color contrasts with or harmonizes with your food, but not ones that are the same color. Be sure surfaces are free of smudges and greasy fingerprints, says food stylist Alison Attenborough. In good light, they really stand out. For food to look delicious, it needs to look fresh.

Pay attention to backgrounds and clear out any elements you don’t want in the final shot.

Using a wider aperture to blur the background will help.

Hold still.

In low-light situations like restaurants and kitchens, long exposures will register any camera movement as blur. Use a tripod whenever possible. If you don’t have one, try resting your camera on a water glass or the back of a chair. Or make yourself a string tripod.

Take lots of pictures.

Move around the food and see what angle looks best. The picture may look great in the tiny lens of the camera, and not when you get home. So take tons of pictures.

Get in as close as you can.

Use the macro setting on your camera if it has one. Fill the frame with the food, so the viewer can almost taste it.MagicKitchen.com's Portabella-Shiitake Mushroom Ravioli
Or widen the aperture to reduce the depth of field, which allows you to focus on foreground details—say, the crusty corner on a dish of macaroni and cheese—and keep the background soft.

Have fun!!

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Customer Story

The Diabetic Friendly meals are not just “Friendly” but very complete as to the actual needs of Diabetics. Low sodium, low fat, low carbs, higher in Protein and the choices enable one to pick and choose things the individual likes and keeps one from becoming bored with meal choices.

I am very happy to report to MagicKitchen.com that, because of all I have learned via the last three months on the Diabetic Friendly MK Meals Special Menu, that I am now able to order from the regular MagicKitchen.com menus. Yes, I take into account the valuable information about sodium content, and carbohydrate content and all the other items of reliance to my needs as a Diabetic, like lower fat, lower to no sugar and higher protein, but all of that is easily available to me from the MagicKitchen.com menus.

I recently went into the Local VA Hospital for a complete Left Hip replacement. While there I was put on the Hospital’s Diabetic and non salt menu. I was fed mashed potatoes, spaghetti, white rice with everything all out of proportion to protein content and as a result was put on Insulin for the first time ever. In the Hospital, under direct Medical care of my own primary Care Physician and the Orthopedic Doctors, my Diabetes was aroused to the point of me having to be put on Insulin.

Unbelievable!, but true. I went to see my Primary Care Physician on the day I was to leave the hospital, showed him my record of glucose under my “care” because of being on MagicKitchen.com meals, and told him that once I returned to my home and my chosen menus from MagicKitchen.com I would not need Insulin and/or Metformin pills as had been necessary in the Hospital. He fully looked over my glucose meter log, agreed with me and cancelled my orders for Metformin and Insulin.

My choice and my education from the MagicKitchen.com site has allowed me to not have to take medicines to properly treat myself for my Diabetes and within eight hours of return to my own care and my choices from MagicKitchen.com, my glucose meter readings are back where they belong.

Am I happy with my choices and my relationship with MagicKitchen.com?, YOU BET I am, I get BETTER care for my Diabetes through my interaction with MagicKitchen.com than I do from my local VA Hospital, I am grateful for the care I get from the VA, but I am THANKFUL for the care I am able to give myself via using MagicKitchen.com.

I don’t feel I could find any better care that that which I find throughout MagicKitchen.com, fantastic information all over the website, and responsible answers to all my questions, via email and phone.

By the way, I love all the food choices and look forward to my next order, everything is VERY delicious!

Jim, Albuquerque

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The Truth about Sodium

Sodium is essential in many bodily processes, including the maintenance of optimal fluid levels within the body.

In the digestive system, sodium assists in the process of metabolizing foods into energy. It protects the stomach lining by preventing the acids inside the stomach from burning it.

Sodium also maintains the acid/base level within the body, usually expressed as the pH balance. Additionally, it helps in the relaying of nerve impulses into the skeletal muscles, through a mechanism known as the sodium/potassium pump, where sodium and potassium act in concert to maintain the electrochemical balance within the muscle cells that permits the impulse to reach the muscle fiber.

Sodium is a good thing!! Although like all things in life, it needs to be taken in moderation. Today’s fast foods, processed foods and junk foods are loaded with sodium. Eating whole grains, lean protein and lots of fruit and vegetables without added salt is the way to go!

The recommended daily intake of sodium for an adult is 1500mg (your doctor may have you eating less). Here are some tips to help you lower your salt intake.

Tips At the Store

  • Remember that unprocessed, fresh foods are good for you and are naturally low in sodium.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts label and check the sodium content. Try to avoid high sodium products with over 400 mg sodium per serving. Go easy on those with a medium sodium content of 200 – 400 mg per serving. Look for those products that are less than 200 mg per serving.
  • Be aware of the serving size – how many servings are you intending to eat? For example breads and cereals are a significant source of sodium in our diets because we consume many servings.
  • Soups, processed meats, convenience and prepared foods are loaded with sodium.
  • Different brands may have differing sodium contents. The lower sodium brands may be located on the top or bottom of the shelf rather than at eye level. They are also often hidden in the “organic”, “wholefood”, or “natural” sections of the supermarket – ask for assistance and complain if low-sodium brands are not available!
  • Be wary of products bearing health claims. These claims are mostly dubious and are often used to promote processed “foods” containing unhealthy doses of sodium.
  • Cut the salty snacks. Instead of chips try fruit, plain popcorn or unsalted nuts.

Tips In the Kitchen

  • Cooking from scratch give you control of the sodium content. Add progressively less salt when cooking – as you get used to the taste cut it out completely.
  • When cooking, remember that stocks and sauces are often high in sodium, especially steak, soy and fish sauces.
  • When baking, note that baking powder and self-raising flour are sources of sodium.
  • In the preparation of packaged foods, try to cut back on the sauces and avoid adding the seasoning mixes which are loaded with sodium.
  • To reduce the sodium in canned vegetables, drain and soak in cold fresh water for 10 minutes then drain again before use.Or try MagicKitchen.com’s frozen vegetables without preservatives. Look for the blue circle saying LS for the lower sodium sides.
  • At the table don’t salt your food! Sea salt contains almost as much sodium as table salt. Try adding a twist of lemon juice, herbs and spices, or sodium free seasonings as an alternative to salt. Allow your taste buds to get used to enjoying the subtle flavors of food with less salt. Just as with giving up sugar in coffee, it only takes a short time for your taste to adjust.

Tips at the Restaurant

  • Take the time to read the nutrition information on the websites of your favorite fast food restaurants. Make a note of items with the best nutritional profile. Remember that an adequate intake of 1,500 mg of sodium per day implies around 500 mg per meal.
  • Pizza, sandwiches, subs, burgers, and hot dogs account for a large amount of sodium consumption. Eat less of these meals and avoid those that have “extra” prepared meats and cheese.
  • “Healthy” choices can also contain surprising amounts of sodium. Ask for your salad dressing on the side and use sparingly. Request no soy sauce or MSG in your stir-fry. Soups, even the vegetable varieties, are almost always high in sodium.
  • Chain restaurants may have nutritional information on their web sites – get the facts before you go and plan your meal based on informed choices.
  • Tell your waiter that you want to limit sodium (salt) and don’t be afraid to make special requests.
  • Be wary of “healthy” options on the menu – ask about the sodium content.
  • Serving sizes at restaurant are often extreme. Ask for a half portion, split a meal or take home part for later.
  • Steer clear of the soups, sauces and salad dressings.
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Good Nutrition & its Effects on Blood Glucose

In the course of the development of MagicKitchen.com‘s menu, we were impressed by a series of articles written by Moll Boll.  Molly Boll, MBA, is a member of the Trilogy at Redmond Ridge Community in Redmond, Washington. She has been a Type II diabetic for 27 years, and has developed the Diabetes Wellness Group, a community-based diabetes educational group that gives seminars throughout the Seattle area.

She’s given us permission to post some of her articles here, and we’ll be posting them now and again. We hope you enjoy them!

Good Nutrition & its Effects on Blood Glucose

Food is the fuel and energy source for our bodies. Food cannot be used for energy until the body changes it into a simple sugar called “glucose.” Our blood carries glucose (blood sugar) to every cell throughout the body. Without glucose, cells do not have the energy to work.

Glucose needs help to get inside each of the cells in our body. The helper that carries glucose inside the cells is called insulin, which is made by the pancreas. For a person with diabetes, food is changed into glucose just as it is in those without diabetes. For those with Type I Diabetes, however, the body does not generate a sufficient amount of insulin to control the glucose level. For those with Type II Diabetes, the body does not respond correctly to insulin (insulin resistance), and does not allow it to carry glucose into the cells. In both cases, the glucose that is not able to get into the cells builds up in the blood. This causes high blood sugar, which can lead to diabetic complications.

What is Good Nutrition?

Good nutrition entails eating a variety of different foods in combinations that provide both necessary nutrients and good blood sugar control. Good nutrition also means limiting your fat and cholesterol intake.

Food contains nutrients and energy. The nutrients in our food supply form the building blocks of the body. Food also contains energy, which is measured in calories. Calories come from carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and alcohol. The following is a quick summary of the different types of food and how they affect the blood glucose in our bodies.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, and can be found in the starches in breads, cereals, and most vegetables, and in the sugars found in fruits and milk. Complex carbohydrates should be a big part of your meals and snacks. Vegetables, lentils and legumes, beans and peas, whole grain unprocessed breads, cereals, rice and pasta are all examples of complex carbohydrates. These tend to slowly raise blood glucose, and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. The sugar that is found in candy, cake, pie, jam, jelly and honey is also a carbohydrate. One hundred percent of the carbohydrates that we digest are broken down into the energy packet glucose. This happens quickly, from five minutes to three hours.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not used for energy. It does not raise blood sugar because the body cannot digest it and break it down into glucose. Insoluble fiber is useful for promoting regularity and feeding the good bacteria in the gut; it may decrease your risk of colon cancer. Examples of insoluble fiber are whole-wheat products, vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, corn, and spinach. It is interesting to note that soluble fiber sources form gels and slow down absorption of sugars into the blood. Good sources of soluble fiber are oats, beans, fruits, and vegetables such as asparagus, green beans, cabbage, and celery.

The American Diabetes Association suggests that diabetics eat 20 – 35 grams of fiber per day. The average American adult, however, eats only 10 – 15 grams daily. To help you determine where and how much fiber is in your food choices, please note the following average amounts of fiber per serving:

Whole grain breads, cereals and crackers = 2 grams
Starch vegetables (potatoes, corn, yams) = 3 to 4 grams
Legumes (beans, peas) = 3 to 4 grams
Raw vegetables = 3 grams per cup
Cooked or canned vegetables = 2 grams per cup
One cup of fresh fruit = 2 grams
Frozen or canned fruit = 3 grams per half-cup

Protein

Proteins are used to build and repair the body. Proteins are found in meats, fish, poultry, cheese, milk, eggs, and nuts. Proteins also break down into energy. Fifty to sixty percent of the protein we consume breaks down into glucose. This process happens slowly, over three to six hours.

Fats

Fats pack a large number of calories, and therefore energy, in a small bundle. Foods that contain fats are oils, margarine, butter, meat, and salad dressings. Use fats sparingly if you are trying to lose weight or if your blood fats are high. The body will store the majority of fat and will only break it down to smaller energy packets for use in emergencies. Only ten percent of the fat we consume raises our blood sugar directly, over a period of eight to ten hours. Fat is a form of stored energy that is broken down at a later time; it is the preferred source of fuel for muscles at rest. Which fats are healthier for you? Margarine is preferable to butter, but olive oil is the healthiest choice of the three.

Alcohol

Alcohol has calories, but little nutritional value. It is interesting to note that alcohol actually lowers blood sugar levels. It is suggested that people with diabetes snack while drinking to ensure that their blood sugars do not go too low. They should also limit their intake to one drink.

Since nutrition is a key component to managing one’s blood sugar, it is important to learn to put together healthy meals from the various food groups. The food pyramid offers an easy approach to healthy eating. This guide shows that healthy meals and snacks should contain lots of carbohydrates that are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber (lentils, legumes, vegetables, and yogurt, for example). All carbohydrates become glucose in blood within five minutes to three hours after they are eaten. These foods have a significant effect on blood glucose. The best ones to choose are those that are full of nutrients instead of those that just offer empty calories (soda, cakes, and candy, for example). You should eat antioxidant-rich vegetables that are high on the glycemic index scale, such as spinach, broccoli, yellow squash, and tomatoes.

Healthy eating also means avoiding foods that are high in fat and cholesterol. These foods have been linked to atherosclerosis, the fatty build-up inside blood vessel walls. This can lead to heart disease or stroke. People with diabetes have a two to three times greater risk of getting atherosclerosis. Therefore, when choosing proteins and fats in your diet, opt for lean cuts of meat, and eat more fish, chicken, and turkey (without the skin). Use nonfat milk or low fat milk products. Limit fried foods, gravies, cream sauces, butter, and margarine.

How much should I eat?

Logically, the key to maintaining your weight is watching the amount of food you eat. For good diabetes control, you must be consistent from day to day. Plan your day to be sure that you eat the right foods, in the right portions, at about the same times every day. Here are several examples of what constitutes a serving size:

1 slice of bread
1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal
1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables
1/2 cup of non-leafy vegetables
1 medium apple
1/2 cup of cooked/canned fruit
1/2 cup of fruit juice
1 cup of milk or yogurt
1.5 ounces of natural cheese
2 ounces of processed cheese
2-3 ounces of cooked meat, poultry, or fish

In addition to eating healthily, it is crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Start your day out with an eight-ounce glass of water, and continue to drink water throughout the day. Water dilutes the blood and therefore has some degree of influence on lowering your blood sugars.

CONTINUING GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR DIABETES MANAGEMENT. REMEMBER – YOU CAN DO IT!!! YES, YOU CAN DO IT!!!

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