Saving Calories & Time–Air Fryers & Instant Pots

instant pot with tomatoes and vegetables

Maybe you got one of these popular cooking devices for a holiday gift, or are considering giving one of them a try. Here’s some info on each, and a few recipes to try.

Low Fat Frying

Pretty much everybody loves the crispy crunch and moist insides of fried foods. But they do make the guilty pleasure list. At 294 calories and over 14 grams of fat, a battered deep fried chicken breast is definitely not health food. Frying in fat turns an innocent little baked potato (93 calories and 0 grams of fat) into French fries containing 

319 calories and 17 grams of fat. 

The air fryer to the rescue!  It works like a super-hot (around 400 F) convection oven to move air around your food, browning and creating a crispy exterior and keeping the inside soft. You can choose to toss the food in a bit of oil before cooking and try some of your deep-fried favorites.

A Few Drawbacks

There are various models available and a few complaints. Users say they are bulky and do take up a lot of counter space. A really big one is necessary to cook enough food for a larger family. And, noise is a factor. It takes a powerful fan to move the air around and that makes the fryer as loud as a vacuum cleaner or dishwasher. Also make sure you get a model made of BPA-free plastic.

Air Fryer Recipes

Cooking Light offers lots of air fryer recipes, see them here.

Try the Cauliflower Tots, Chicken Tenders, Avocado Wrapped Bacon, and Air Fryer Spicy Chicken Taquitos from Delish.

Not Your Mom’s Pressure Cooker

Another hot item is the Instant Pot cooker. The Instant Pot is the most well-known brand but there are other manufacturers, like Breville and Fagor. They have become very popular in the past couple of years. The appeal of this type of cooking is not necessarily to cut calories – but to save time. They also are multi-taskers, not only are they electric pressure cookers, but also slow cookers (like a crock pot), they sauté, steam rice, and some make yogurt. And unlike the old pressure cookers they now have safety features that prevent the explosions and burns that did happen back in the day. 

How They Work

The pressure cooker feature is the real time saver, especially for meats. It works by creating a very tight seal which raises the boiling temperature of liquids up to as much as 266 degrees. This higher temperature, and the pressure in the pot forces the hot steam into the ingredients, cooking them much faster. If you are cooking meats for bone broth, or a pork shoulder for pulled pork, this is a definite shortcut. It also cuts down the cooking time for dried beans.

Melissa Clark, of The New York Times Cooking, was not thrilled with what her Instant Pot did for a whole chicken, leaving it “flaccid and unappealing.” She also says it doesn’t do crispy or crunchy well, and makes vegetable limp, with the exception of beets and artichokes. Here’s her Instant Pot How To, and list of foods best cooked another way. 

Instant Pot Recipes

Corned beef for a Rueben sandwich in 2 hours? Oh yes, find the mustard!

Here’s the recipe.

And while we’re on sandwiches that usually take all day – here’s BBQ Pulled Pork, also in 2 hours. 

And in this video are 4 easy Instant Pot meals to try.

This year more people than ever are in the kitchen cooking and trying something new. Cooking at home is a way to eat a healthier diet, and sometimes new tools and methods can be inspiring and fun. 

Hurray for Fermentation!

three containers of kombucha

When we hear the word we often first think of wine, beer, and maybe sake – all made from turning fruits or grains into alcohol using the natural process of fermentation.  

But hey, it was not invented just so we could have happy hour. 

Fermentation is an ancient technique that humans have used for thousands of years to preserve food and enhance flavor. It refers to the chemical conversion of carbohydrates such as starches or sugars in food by beneficial bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms into alcohol, acids, or gases. It is the alcohol, acids and salt that provide protection from destructive bacteria and preserve the foods, while making a friendly environment for good bacteria. 

There Are Different Kinds

Here are the basics:

Alcoholic Fermentation

Wine, beer, spirits, vinegar and kombucha (a fermented tea drink) are produced by alcoholic fermentation using yeast. 

Lactic Bacteria Fermentation 

This is a type of acid that’s produced upon the breakdown of sugar in an oxygen-free environment. Examples of lacto-fermented foods include products like:

  • yogurt, kefir, sour cream, buttermilk 
  • cheese 
  • meats 
  • sourdough bread 
  • olives 
  • sauerkraut 
  • kimchi
  • other pickled vegetables 

Mold Fermentation

Two common mold ferments are:

  • Koji kin is a mold that is used to ferment rice or barley in Japanese foods such as sake, mirin and miso. (Miso is a seasoning made from fermented soybeans, often used in soup.)
  • Tempeh is a mold culture from Indonesia used to ferment soybeans turning them into a hearty, savory protein.  

Microbes to the Rescue

These foods are apparently very good for your health. Although more research is needed, many animal studies have shown wide ranging health benefits from eating fermented foods. One main reason could be that fermentation also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, known as probiotics.

Your Gut Biome

Researchers are learning a lot more about how essential the bacterial ecosystem in our gut is to our digestive health. Fermented foods are rich in beneficial probiotics and have been associated with a range of health benefits, starting with better digestion. To learn more about the benefits of probiotics and gut health read my blog Probiotics and the Gut Biome.

A 6-week study in 274 adults with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) found that consuming 4.4 ounces of yogurt-like fermented milk product daily improved IBS symptoms, including bloating and stool frequency. Fermented foods may also lessen the severity of diarrhea, bloating, gas, and constipation. 

It could be that fermentation helps make our food easier to digest by breaking it down before we eat it, making the nutrients more available for absorption. For example, those with lactose intolerance are usually okay eating fermented dairy like yogurt and kefir, because lactose, the sugar in milk, is broken down during fermentation into simpler sugars–glucose and galactose. 

More Possible Benefits

Mental Health: A few studies have linked the probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum to a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is because of the all-important brain gut connection. Both probiotics are found in fermented foods.

Heart Health: Fermented foods have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. The process of fermentation can produce vitamins, anti-oxidants, and molecules that lower blood pressure and inflammation.

And They are Delicious

People have been happily eating these foods and drinking these beverages forever just because they taste good. Fermentation adds acid and usually salt which gives the food a special tang, and savory sourness. If you haven’t tried some of these foods, do give them a try. You may love them, and you’ll be doing your biome a big favor.

A Conversation About Racism for All Health Care Providers

multi ethnic wallpaper of people

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Brad Snyder, NP and Barb Dehn, NP

Bio: We became friends while volunteering at FAME Hospital in Tanzania several years ago. As the fight for racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement evolved, we both felt compelled to reach out to all of our healthcare colleagues to start and continue a dialogue on racism that impacts our patients, our communities, and our colleagues. 

We Need to Do better

Our world is in peril. In this unprecedented moment, two global pandemics are coalescing to reveal some of the deepest wounds in this country: a broken healthcare system and systemic racism. As nurses and nurse practitioners (NPs) we are inundated with conflicting COVID guidelines and nebulous information about how best to care for our communities, while simultaneously feeling the streets tremble as millions rally in the fight for racial justice. While there is no doubt that we are doing our very best to tackle COVID, when it comes to racial justice – We Need To Do Better!  We are talking to ourselves and specifically those of us who comprise the vast majority of all healthcare professions – that’s right, white clinicians and providers. We all have a responsibility to do better, not just now, but for the long-term.

To Our Colleagues: Black, Brown, Indigenous and People of Color 

We know you are hurting. We acknowledge your resilience as you muster up the strength to go to work and give of yourselves given the current state of our country. While we will never know what it’s like to walk in your shoes, our hope is that after reading this article more people will do the hard work of recognizing how they perpetuate racial injustice and work to fix it. We admire your courage and recognize the invaluable roles you embody as clinicians, leaders, educators, advocates, and role models. Please know that we see you and we’ve got your back. We will fight side by side with you for justice. Your lives matter to us. 

This is About Black Lives

We are writing this as two white NPs, specifically to our white nurse and NP colleagues, and also to all of our colleagues in healthcare, in every role, who work tirelessly to save lives. We are not experts by any means, on the contrary, we feel like we’re only dipping our toes in as we try to figure out how best to show up. We also want to be clear about what this article is about – supporting Black Lives – Because They Matter. This is about starting an uncomfortable and necessary discussion about the inequitable systems that may be invisible to us as white people and examining the realities and impact of our own internal biases and the realization that our actions or inactions are contributing to and perpetuating racism. 

Our Collective Discomfort

If you’re feeling uncomfortable, let us reassure you that we are too. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we do know that diving deep into the pursuit of more understanding and the difficult work of honest, inward reflection are essential steps. And while it’s ok to acknowledge that this is hard, we must also admit that we as white people and white clinicians, we get a pass. We are so used to deferential treatment that it seems like the norm and well, just the way it is. Most of what we take for granted is not experienced by Black, Brown, or other People of Color – this is our white privilege and it’s real and it’s pervasive and it’s unfair.

As white healthcare providers and as white people, we have been wearing some pretty thick blinders that have been shielding us from acknowledging tragic truths for far too long. For some, it feels right to rip off the blinders and completely immerse yourself in this work of changing the status quo, while others may start with a deep dive into examining their beliefs and biases and start with the tough internal work. There are many paths leading toward justice. No matter how you walk this path, the goal is the same – We as white nurses, clinicians, and providers, must confront racism and do the hard work to change this reality.  

For white people, confronting racism is uncomfortable; for Black people it’s a battle far too often resulting in death. For those of us who are serious about doing our part, experiencing some discomfort is the least we can do to show solidarity with Black, Brown, Indigenous and other People of Color who are friends, family, colleagues, patients and our larger community. It’s a choice for us, it’s not a choice for them. Merely thinking and reading about this is not enough – We are calling upon you to take action. 

The Problem with “All Lives Matter”

Of course, all lives matter. We wouldn’t have dedicated our lives and careers to helping others if we didn’t believe this statement.  However, as white healthcare providers, we never have had to question or wonder if our lives matter. We take this for granted. Black Lives Matter does not mean that “only” Black lives matter, but rather it draws direct attention to the fact that America has repeatedly implemented structures to oppress Black people starting with slavery, then Jim Crow Laws, police brutality and the alarming reality that Black people are imprisoned five times more than whites. 

Black people get disproportionately profiled, targeted and killed by the police, face housing discrimination, and earn less pay.  As clinicians and people entrusted to care for others especially, we must examine the science and admit that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) experience worse health outcomes, more maternal mortality, more illness and premature death compared to white people.1,2  Remember, what’s happening to Black folks is not new – the movement is gaining traction and more white people are waking up to these realities. This is why we explicitly say “Black Lives Matter” because this is where our attention needs to be focused. 

Here are a few analogies. When nurses’ unions fight for better pay, they are not suggesting that social workers shouldn’t also get better pay, they are focusing on a particular issue that needs attention. Think of it like triage. Right now, there are many critical needs in the Black community which need to be addressed immediately because people are literally dying and being killed. This doesn’t negate essential issues in other communities, rather support for the Black community should be a priority when considering energy and resources. The reality is our lives are not equal and our experiences are far from fair. 

Letting Go of Denial

Pervasive racism might be difficult to grasp, but it is our shared reality. Fortunately, there are many resources including Brené Brown’s podcast with Dr. Ibram Kendi, the author of How to be an Antiracist to help illuminate many of the issues.  To paraphrase Dr. Kendi’s wisdom “You have no umbrella, and you don’t even know that you’re wet with those racist ideas, because the ideas themselves lead you to believe that you’re dry. Then someone comes along and says, ‘You know what, you’re wet, and these ideas are still raining on your head. Here’s an umbrella.’ You can be like, ‘Thank you! I didn’t even realize I was drenched.’”

As white people, we have the privilege of being able to “look the other way” when confronted with the harsh realities of racism or disengage when we feel it’s magnitude. Perhaps, like many, you find your mind searching for thoughts to make you feel a little more comfortable like “slavery was a long time ago” or “I’m not racist, I have Black friends” or “I didn’t do this, why is it my responsibility to fix it?” 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just try for a moment to imagine what People of Color are feeling, and they don’t have the luxury of “looking the other way.” Denial of these problems directly halts progress towards justice and in many ways reverses the arduous work that has already been done. 

What White People, Specifically Nurses and Clinicians Can Do

If you’ve come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. But, if you’ve come, because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson

To quote Dr. Andrea Jackson, “Nurses are in a very unique position to immediately start working to be anti-racist. A good place to start is by going into work tomorrow and listening honestly and openly to your Black patients.” 

With pervasive, justified mistrust in the healthcare system among communities of color, we can start here and have a direct impact – and you know we as nurses and Nurse Practitioners are great listeners and like to have a direct impact. We must also listen to our colleagues of color and not only “make space at the table” but actually do the work of collectively redefining what the table looks like, bringing in more voices and supporting their ideas. We must restructure how things are done in our homes, clinics, and organizations because we live in a system doing everything in its power to convince us that white is superior to black and superior to brown and a little bit more special and entitled.  

We implore you to take a deep breath, call on your courage, and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Pull down your walls, forget the political soundbites, and the echo chambers of social media for a moment and tap into your humanity. Tap into the feelings you had when you decided to care for others. This work starts in the heart, not the head. From this place of courageous compassion, we can find the energy to be part of the solution and then act! 

Getting Started: 

  • Increase your awareness by listening and learning with an open mind and an open heart.
  • Educate yourself about these issues without burdening our BIPOC colleagues to teach us and make it easy or absolve us from our collective discomfort and guilt. 
  • Have difficult conversations in your home and community with family and friends. 
  • Be actively “Antiracist” by calling out racist ideas, policies and actions at home, work and in our communities (see Dr. Ibram Kendi’s book below)
  • Don’t just have the books on your shelf – Read them and then start changing your behaviors.
  • Get involved by joining a committee, professional organization, or community group that’s devoted to racial equity.
  • Work alongside your colleagues of Color as an ally to make your organization arc toward justice.
  • Listen honestly and openly to your Black, Brown, and Patients of Color to directly counter the inequities of our healthcare system and to show them that their lives matter.

Resources

We have compiled some resources that we’ve been using to help get us started and want to share them with you. These are just the tip of the iceberg in the journey toward more understanding of racism and what we can all do. This is the moment to do what is right. This moment is our opportunity to rise up and stand united against racism.  We must do better and we must start with ourselves. We owe this to our friends, colleagues, patients, and communities so they can trust and believe that we’ve got their backs. Let’s prove to ourselves and the wider world that this is who we are as Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, and Healthcare Providers. Let us stand together for justice! 

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Podcasts:

  • Courageous Presence with Racism – Tara Brach
  • The Seeing White Series – Scene On Radio
  • Unlocking Us Podcast – Brene Brown, PhD MSW interview with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
  • New York Times Audio Series: 1619 – 

Books

  • The Inner Work of Racial Justice by Rhonda Magee
  • How to be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi 
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad
  • So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Neshi Coates   


*And while you’re at it, we recommend buying your book from a Black owned bookstore https://lithub.com/you-can-order-today-from-these-black-owned-independent-bookstores/

Many thanks to our reviewers for their time and expertise


Dr. Irene W. Bean, DNP, FNP/PMHNP-BC, FAANP

Dr. Scharmaine Lawson, DNP, FNP-BC, PMHNP(C), FAAN, FAANP 

Dr. Andrea Jackson, DrPH

Andrew Ollero, MSW, MPA

References

  1. National Center for Health Statistics (US). Health, United States, 2015: With Special Feature on Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics (US); 2016 May. Report No.: 2016-1232.
  2. The Department of Health and Human Services, United States (HHS). National partnership for action to end health disparities: Offices of Minority Health. Washington, DC, 2011.