The Best Air Fryer vs. The Best Oven

The air fryer has literally changed cooking completely. There are not many people in this world who do not like to eat fried burgers and similar fast food style takeaways. If you ask me, there is only a small number of people who wish to avoid incorporating these into their diet because they are really bad for our wellbeing. Most people on the other hand tend to ignore these health warnings and are tempting to eat fast food and takeaways very easily. Fried food in particular is delicious and extremely palatable.

An air fryer is definitely a healthy alternative to an oven.

In recent years, we have started to use an oven to make French fries and burgers. However, the emergence of this device is something that has allowed us to make amazing tasting food that produces a very crispy texture that is normally created by frying with oil. The only difference is that the best air fryer will use up very little or no oil whatsoever and the machine usually uses a similar strategy to ovens.

This kitchen appliance functions according to the simple strategy of cooking with hot air. In basic terms, this hot air attacks the food from every side and cooks it thoroughly eventually leading to a relatively crispy surface, golden brown appearance and delicious taste. The end-result is very similar to a deep fryer except for the fact that you will be using very little oil at most. This obviously means that there are a lot more health benefits. This is definitely a very impressive mechanism of action though you should still read an air fryer review of a particular model before buying it. I will re-emphasize this point because there are so many kitchen appliances out right now and due to the popularity, the number of different products entering the market is at an all time high. Reading lots of reviews will ensure that you get a good quality machine that will produce impressive results and will satisfy your requirements.

To go back to the mechanism of action, it’s important to note that most top air fryers are almost like a convection oven. The fast moving air cooks the food from every side and this technology will allow you to bake and even grill foods alongside frying them. This is not the case with an oven because you can only use it to bake food. Having said that, a lot of ovens these days come with a grill so there should not be an issue with this. In addition to the variety of jobs you can carry out with this machine, you can also cook food a lot quicker than an oven. Usually, French fries or chicken can be cooked with 10 to 15 minutes whereas in an oven, the same task may take double the time.

An oven is not quite as fast as the best air fryer.

In terms of the effects on health, both appliances perform on a similar level. This is because they both require very little or no oil at all. If you are baking pre-cooked fish or French fries, you will not need to use any oil as these foods have already been prepared with oil. If you are cooking something that you have prepared at home, you would normally coat the food with a tiny amount of oil and then put it into the frying basket or line the tray with oil as in the case of an oven.

So there you go, these are the main differences between the best air fryer and the best oven. The mechanism of action of both appliances is relatively similar alongside the beneficial effect on health. However, the oil less fryer is capable of carrying out all kinds of tasks that include frying foods to a relatively similar (but not quite the same) level as a deep fryer. This is something that cannot be achieved by the an oven, which will not be able to provide that crispy texture, taste and appearance.

Due to the above advantages, I would definitely opt for the best oil less fryer money can buy. However, when it comes to selecting the right one, you must carry out quite a lot of research. For this reason, I would always recommend reading an air fryer review in detail if you come across a model that seems to be quite popular and high-performing.



Building Another Healthy Habit: Eliminating BPA

Great, this makes my day, another report on federal regulators failing to act on a potentially (more like proven) toxic chemical: Bisphenol-A, or BPA. BPA, for those of you who continue to live under that nice comfy little rock of yours, is a nasty, hazardous chemical found in many different types of plastics — from baby bottles (could there be anything worse?) to water bottles (even some of the reusable kinds) to cans of food and receipts at the grocery store. Yep, it’s everywhere.

BPA can be a lot more harmful that you would think.

What’s so bad about this is that BPA imitates estrogen in the body, confusing the heck out of your standard endocrine and/or reproductive system, which is linked quite clearly to higher rates of breast cancer. But this is not just a concern for women; BPA can also damage your kid’s brain, yielding latent neurologic effects on men, women and children. The stuff stinks, frankly, and as a now-educated and responsible adult, you should be doing everything possible to avoid BPA. How? Let me count the ways:

  • Avoid plastic. Yeah, sounds pretty drastic, I know. Food-storage containers, bottled water, children’s toys, and cups you drink out of — it’s all plastic, and it’s NOT all safe. Get rid of your plastic drinking glasses like I did, replace food-storage containers with glass when you can, and seek out greener, more natural types of entertainment for your little one to suck on. The idea is to do what you can, when you can. I know not many of you will be ripping the plastic joystick out of your son’s hand as he practices his tennis swing on the X-Box, but there are about a zillion ways you can start weaning yourself from plastic in your daily life so keep your eyes peeled for a more detailed post on this in the future. It’s simply too much to address in one sitting.
  • Buy frozen, not canned. Because just saying “don’t buy canned food” would have come off too harsh, right? If you try to save on fruits and vegetables when out of season by buying the canned kind, skip it. Eat what IS in season or buy it frozen (preferably organic in the case of berries, for example). BPA can leach into your food while it’s sitting in the can (it’s even found in some canning lids if you do it yourself!), and whether or not YOU use it the very day you buy it, you have no idea how long it’s already been on the shelf, potentially contaminating the food you and your family are about to eat. Just. Skip it. Look for alternatives whenever possible, like boxed stock and soups or homemade fruit salad rather than fruit cocktail — which is almost always sold in plastic or cans. Even baby formula is said to be unsafe when it comes in a can…unbelievable.
  • Wash your hands after handling receipts. During cold and flu season it should become a habit to wash your hands after coming home from practically anywhere (skip the hand sanitizer, dummy) but wash up especially enthusiastically after shopping whenever you keep the receipt. Shove it in your wallet and get it off your skin as quickly as possible.
  • Take action. The government is clearly taking their sweet time banning this harsh chemical in the USA, so click here to be directed to a petition that you can sign asking Congress to get rid of it. Seriously. It takes 30 seconds, people. Just fill out your basic info and click “sign now.” Easy!
  • Read labels, but cautiously. BPA-free has almost become a buzzword these days, like “green” or “eco-friendly.” Just because something is BPA-free doesn’t mean it’s safe; you don’t necessarily know what the company replaced the BPA with during the manufacturing process and if it’s any better for you than what they removed in the first place. Be a conscious shopper and support companies you trust; it becomes second nature to walk through stores as if you had blinders on when you know you don’t need another plastic sippy cup for Bobby or a quick bottle of Coke to go.

This is an ongoing issue, so be vigilant. In fact, be suspicious. You can never be too careful, but take baby steps and it won’t seem so overwhelming. Replace plastics with glass when they become damaged or dinged. Cut out the canned soda and bottled water and get yourself a cute aluminum to-go bottle. Make your own lunch instead of heating up a TV dinner. Get the picture? Good. I don’t like explaining myself twice.


Food Memories

I’ll start off by saying that I went into this morning with $50 in my wallet for the farmer’s market, the bread store and whatever we need tomorrow, which felt AWESOME. Our favorite restaurant was packed last night because we got our evening started too late after I had a doctor’s appointment, so we got take-out instead (with a coupon!), which saved us some money. Now, after buying some eggs, blue cheese, peaches, tomatoes, coffee, iced tea, orange juice and a reduced-fat scone (“for the baby”/ we actually took some home with us after for the first time ever), I have $13 left for my bread, so we’ll definitely pick up two loaves. I always love to store one in the freezer so that if we run out during the week I don’t have to worry about making the trip with the baby on a weekday.

I've had plenty of awesome food memories.

The food memory happened today in the kitchen, after the market, with the juiciest peach, by far, that I’ve ever had in my life. My son kept reaching for something on the counter, and I figured it was a tomato, because he always wants to hold them in his hand, bite them, or try to bounce them on the floor like a ball — but he was reaching for a peach, which he’s never had before fresh from the farm. Let me tell you — he almost at the whole thing in one go! I had maybe four bites, and it was dribbling down his chin, his leg, his clothes, Daddy’s arm, a rag we were using to wipe our faces with, it was everywhere. It made me think back to when we polished off the season’s first blueberries on the kitchen floor just a month ago, and got me wondering if he’ll remember these times some day/what my earliest food memories are.

Really, I don’t recall anything specific. My general associations around food as a child are either positive — sitting around the table or sitting in front of the TV with my sister — or negative — not being allowed to eat chocolate and fried foods when I had mono in kindergarten. A pretty stark contrast, something I’d like to explore a little more. But regardless, even though I’m pretty sure my son is too young to remember any of this moving forward, I hope that we can create more moments like these — pure joy, healthy food, supporting local farmers. It’s been a fun day so far already, and I’m looking forward to the library and some errands when he wakes up from his nap.

Hope you are enjoying the weekend as much as I am. Have a great Saturday!


Food Cures

Since the last few weeks, I’ve had it on my mind to write about how food can be used to cure common illnesses and perhaps even provide relief for people suffering from symptoms of more complex diseases.

Food can cure so many illnesses.

Of course I take the occasional anti-inflammatory after an appointment with the chiropractor or when I’m stressed and have a splitting headache, and I’m not claiming in any way that cabbage cures cancer. But did you know that familiar foods you can find in the grocery store can be used to treat a wide range of everyday ailments? The following is a list of ordinary health complaints and what you can eat (or drink) to feel better fast:

  • Headache — Drink water! It may sound too obvious and too easy, but at the very least guzzle a tall glass with your aspirin. Oftentimes a headache is simply a sign of dehydration.
  • Insomnia — Try a bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal is a natural source of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. Who knew?
  • Upset stomach — Try a grilled chicken breast on a whole-wheat roll. Once you’re past the dry toast stage, add a little protein to the mix. Lean cuts like chicken are easily digested.
  • Heartburn/indigestion — Munch on saltines or soda crackers. They absorb stomach acid and are bland — in other words, they won’t cause further heartburn.
  • Fatigue — Grab a handful of trail mix. The complex carbohydrates in the raisins combined with the protein found in nuts will give you a perfect boost of healthy energy.
  • Body aches — Cook something in olive oil. Research has shown that olive oil is an anti-inflammatory, so it may assist in suppressing pain.
  • Common cold — Eat an orange. Lots of over-the-counter remedies have zinc and vitamin C to decrease the severity of cold symptoms, but why not get it naturally? Opt for the whole fruit rather than a glass of juice and you’re also arming yourself with healthy, filling fiber.
  • Fever — Drink lots of clear liquids (water in particular). As the saying goes, “Feed a cold, starve a fever.” Don’t actually starve yourself of course, but do focus on fluids rather than on foods. Your appetite will return when the fever starts going down.
  • Hay fever — Seek out some local honey. Eating locally harvested honey may help get your body used to the pollens unique to your region, lessening the severity of allergy symptoms. Stir it into tea or yogurt, or drizzle over fresh berries.
  • Sunburn — Try watermelon. Sunburn often causes dehydration, so aside from making sure you’re getting lots of fluids, raw, juicy fruits will also keep you from getting weak and dizzy.
  • Stress — Drink a cup of peppermint tea. Studies show that peppermint calms anxiety. If you don’t like the mint flavor, find your favorite and stick with it — the simple act of holding a cup of steaming tea can release calming feelings that help reduce stress.
  • Flu — Have a turkey sandwich. Protein is important to keep your body strong, and turkey is also a source of vitamin B6, which is a powerful immune booster.
  • Sore muscles — Eat a banana! Bananas are potassium rich, which will help you recover more quickly if eaten one to two hours post workout. For added protein, gob on one to two tablespoons of heart-healthy nut butter.
  • The “blues” — Grill some salmon. This fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are proven depression fighters. Come on, get happy!

So the next time you’re tempted to open the medicine cabinet, try opening the fridge instead. Be sure to make an appointment with your doctor if something just doesn’t feel right and you’re experiencing a recurrent health issue, but for life’s everyday ailments you don’t always need to pop a pill.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to prevent these and other more serious conditions, and remember: You’ve got to eat great to be great. If you know your body and you feed it well, it will surely bounce back in no time.


The Fake Meat Debate

Fake meat is nothing new — and by fake I typically mean soy based — veggie burgers, soy hot dogs and artificial breakfast sausages have been around since before the new millennium. Of course, just because something’s been around a while doesn’t mean it’s good for you; but that’s not what really presents the quandary to me. My concern, although I can’t even eat most meat alternatives because of my various food allergies, is that it’s just one more category of manufactured, processed food. Further away from our roots and natural eating habits, although vegetarians and vegans would argue that doesn’t justify the consumption of animal products either.

A recent news article gave a new perspective on this issue (it was by an author who visited a soy “meat” factory). What’s the deal, after all, with non-meat eaters wanting foods that resemble meat in the first place? What is with our obsession with protein? Or, trying to resemble the last burger they remember eating? None of those reasons, to me, are good excuses to eat something that comes frozen, wrapped in plastic, boxed in colorful cardboard, shipped from California, instead of, say — if you really want to stick with the vegetarian theme — mushroom whole-wheat naan pizzas. There you go; cheese has protein, and everyone loves pizza. (Vegans, you’ll have to bear with me — I don’t know enough about the subject because usually, when I explain my soy, corn, pea, walnut, peanut and shellfish allergies, suddenly sympathetic vegan ears run the other way and I’ve never been able to get assistance in the what-do-I-eat-as-a-vegan-with-food-allergies department.)

Yes, I understand the reasoning that ANY shift away from factory farming of cows and chickens is a step in the right direction. I do. I’ve seen the footage; I eat meat sometimes only once a week; I know a lot of facts and figures linking red meat consumption to chronic disease and cancer. But it’s really hard for me to agree with a “back to basics” cookbook author and food expert that anything fake is better than a real alternative. To point out the obvious, I would say that real food is best, and part of the obesity problem in our country is directly related to the production and consumption of packaged and processed foods. Is there anything more processed than a fake chicken nugget? It almost sends a pink-slime shiver down my spine.

There has been various debates regarding fake meat.

I think one solution to the problem — and it is a problem, because let’s be honest, do you really think the people who are ordering the fried chicken salads will eat the “fake” chicken salads instead? I’m guessing they’ll just order a turkey burger or a veggie pizza rather than take that leap — is to continue preaching the plant-based diet, protesting GMOs and spreading the news of stories similar to the recent red-meat uproar. I know I’m not living in the inner city, on food stamps, with minimal education (about nutrition especially, perhaps), but I’ve certainly changed my eating habits and I could direct you to thousands of others who have also. It IS a movement, and however fast or slow moving, I’ve got to believe it’s helping. Fake chicken, fake hot dogs, fake hamburgers…I just don’t see them catching on when I can make you a delicious organically grown steak or — on both the cheap and vegetarian side, just for argument’s sake — some bean griddlecakes (don’t laugh!) topped with your favorite condiments, from pico de gallo to dijon mustard. People know beans. They know salads, and vegetables, and sandwiches (which can be made on whole-wheat bread, with healthy toppers and low-fat spreads). The thing is that I don’t actually know anyone who knows a fake chicken.


Cooking as Therapy

Two years ago this March, my beloved Grandfather passed away at the ripe old age of 93. (Being stubborn in my family actually tends to translate into living a long and proud life.)

I was — to be blunt — devastated, and all I wanted to do was gather my family around me and just, well, be together. So after the initial shock had passed, I washed my face at my husband’s suggestion. I cleaned the kitchen. I called my sister, I called my mother and luckily (for my sanity) they decided to come over.

“Can I bring anything?” My mom suggested customarily. At first I couldn’t think of anything that could possibly make the situation better, but a deep emptiness nagged at a familiar feeling inside of me.

Cooking is a great way to take your mind off things.

“Are you hungry?” I asked quickly. “I’ll make breakfast.” And while they were en route, in an involuntary flurry I preheated the oven, got out the eggs and dove head first into the most comforting recipe I had on hand, which was for some Breakfast casseroles.

At some consolation, I actually had all of the ingredients in the house already. Usually I make long lists of ingredients for recipes I never end up making (cost trumps enthusiasm). But something in the universe allowed this to come together for me — to keep me together, in a sense. It was easier to think about milk and cheese than anything else.

And I’ll never forget that brunch. The clink of the forks on my red Waechtersbach, the requests for coffee and tea refills, the quiet conversation that floated above the table like the steam rising from our food. I’m sure we all felt alone in our own way, but around that table, sharing that meal, for a few moments we were together in our sadness and in our mutual attempt to find joy in the memories we had. After all, shared memories and shared meals go hand in hand.

I still think about my Grandfather every day, and sometimes I wonder if he is my spirit guide. He was a smart, handy, no-nonsense kind of guy, and although they only knew each other for about five years he and my husband also got along famously. My eyes well up each time we visit him at the cemetery, but we always come away glad that we went and it forces us to remember more clearly his soft hands, the way his eyes smiled and the joy that constantly radiated from his humble heart. And although no meal will ever fully emulate being on the receiving end of that energy, looking back on the meal I shared with my family on that cool October day brings me peace. It was my saving grace, a temporary but vital exercise in therapy.

I know this is a heavier post than usual, but I wanted to demonstrate that it’s not always about getting in all your veggies or making sure that your portion size isn’t too big. Luckily this therapy session did not turn into an emotional eating stint for me, and by all means I do not recommend emotionally charged binges. But for me at that time, it was not so much about food as it was about distraction and consolation.

If you have the opportunity to cook for someone in a time of crisis — a neighbor, a teacher, a sick family member — even if food is the last thing on your mind and all you have are four or five ingredients, take the 15 or 20 minutes to whip up something simple and nourishing. Put your energy and love into it. Go ahead: Invest a bit of your self and feel what it means to be vulnerable. Your stomach, your soul — and whoever you feed — will surely thank you.


Portion Control

There are lots of ways to say it: Portion control, everything in moderation, calories in/calories out. Although it wouldn’t be healthy, you could eat donuts all day long if the portion sizes were reasonable and met your daily caloric requirement. Although weight loss is a mystery to lots of us, when it comes down to it the idea is simple — it’s just hard to put into practice: Keep your portions small, and you won’t gain weight.


So what exactly is a “small” portion? And isn’t just hearing the word “small” an instant turnoff? It’s almost like the word “diet” itself. Lots of women only have to hear the word diet before they start feeling instantly deprived and begin hoarding calories as a sort of last supper. Pizza, ice cream, cookies, Coke, give it all to me now, and fast — I’m about to have to face a grim reality. Portion control basically refers to the calories in versus the calories out. With skyrocketing obesity rates in our country and others, it’s clearly something we need to repeat over and over, ingrain into our brains and make into a daily (or several-times-a-day) mantra.

It's very important to not overeat and stick to small portions.

Below are some accurate healthy portion sizes. Don’t be shocked if you have to cut back on something you love — just try filling up on high-fiber foods as your sides, or foods that naturally contain a lot of water — like broth-based soup, watermelon or salad. It is doable, and we can all use some help combating the outrageous portion sizes that have developed during the past 50 years.

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast: Three ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. What’s good with chicken? Healthy, filling brown rice and sauteed veggies are perfect. Make a stir-fry out of it!
  • Whole grains (notice I don’t even mention the white kind): The obvious is one piece of sliced bread — Ezekiel is by far my favorite, it’s so filling — but when it comes to pasta, the correct portion size is actually only one-half cup. Gasp! I know that only sounds like a little, and it better be whole wheat, but again — throw some veggies into the mix. Try a red sauce with eggplant, my new favorite, or sauteed zucchini and peppers. Note: If you’ve saved on carbs during the rest of the day, perhaps you can afford to splurge on a bit more now (1-1.5 cups, max). For whole-wheat crackers, you can top them with low-fat cheese, add a piece of fruit, below, and you have yourself quite a healthy snack.
  • Fresh fruit (again, notice I say fresh — I’m a big advocate of eating in-season local produce, but frozen is OK if you’re on a budget; just avoid anything canned in heavy syrup): Your obvious choice again is one unit. An apple, an orange or a pear is great. They should be about the size of a tennis ball, so if you have a giant Pink Lady or a mammoth banana, count it as two servings. Now, it is actually hard to eat too much fruit. But remember the calories in/calories out equation. If all of your fruit is oversized, it could very well throw your food budget out of whack. For fresh-cut fruit OR 100% fruit juice, limit yourself to one-half cup again.
  • Fresh veggies: Here’s where you get to go big. Noshing on spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce or mustard greens is ideal. In fact, you can eat two whole cups! If numbers are your game, veggies are the winner. Looking to crunch on some raw celery or carrots? Cut it back to just one cup, which will also fill you up — trust me. For chopped, cooked or canned vegetables (watch the sodium in anything canned), stick to the ever popular one-half cup. That number keeps coming up, doesn’t it? Not hard to remember, so don’t use it as an excuse when you’re on the go.
  • Low-fat dairy: When drinking 1% or skim milk, you can guzzle a hefty cup-full. Low-fat or fat-free yogurt can be consumed in the same quantity, but avoid yogurt with the fruit already mixed in. Try Greek yogurt, or mix fruit, honey or maple syrup into plain yogurt — even skip the vanilla flavor there because it’s likely unnatural and code for pure sugar. For low-fat cheeses (mozzarella, feta, etc.), eat just one ounce, or about the length and width of your index finger.
  • Skinless fish: Three ounces, just like chicken. My favorites are the Mahi-mahi, cod and wild Alaskan salmon. Do not eat farmed fish, no matter how many times “they” tell you to eat tilapia or catfish. It’s just not safe in the long run because we can’t be sure of the side effects of all those chemicals in fish farms. If you’re a big fish eater, stick to the wild kind.
  • Beans and legumes: Serve up one-half cup, or about the size of an ice cream scoop. Canned beans (rinse first, please) are delicious in salads or with rice for a simple vegetarian meal. Heat and season them with a little olive oil, cumin and chili powder and you have a great Southwestern-style entree or side, and it’s a complete package — protein, whole grains from your rice and healthy fats in the oil. Who can beat that? Toss in some onions or, better yet, stuff the mixture inside a tomato or pepper, bake it in the oven and you even have your veg taken care of.

Until you’re comfortable eyeballing portion sizes, keep the measuring cups handy. There’s no shame in that. And, of course, when you’re out at a restaurant or the quantity is out of your control, first try eating half of what’s been served to you. Eat slowly, taking it all in, put down your fork in between bites, you know the drill. If you’re still hungry, try eating half of that half. Continue that process (or not) and you’ll be much more conscious of your satiety level so you can know when to stop.

What’s the other side of the coin? Remember that phrase “everything in moderation.” It can apply to most foods (except for trans fats, for example), but it’s also something you have to learn. If you can stick to one pour of wine (four ounces or a little bit less than half of a standard glass), have it with dinner. If you don’t immediately devour all evidence of chocolate once it’s in the house, have a square or two for dessert. But remember, until you have a good idea of the calories you need to maintain or lose weight, you should try the measuring and counting thing. Once you’ve got these portion sizes down, it’s a bit of knowledge you’ll never forget.