Lent season is approaching. It is March 1st through April 13th this year, a 42-day span of time. Every year during Lent season, people give up a type of food or food product to which they attribute some wicked property. We all have vices – I don’t know if food is what was intended or the best thing that one can come up with to atone or give up for six weeks. I do feel that if there is something sabotaging your efforts to lose or maintain your weight, and you are one to observe Lent and practice self-denial during this period, then this may be the right stimulus to get you going in the right direction!
I have compiled a list of alternatives to the normal foods people give up for Lent, like sweets, sodas, desserts, etc. It’s ALWAYS a good time to decrease your intake or to avoid those things! I wouldn’t look at it in terms of “depriving” yourself – I like to tell my clients that when you give up something, you may gain something in return that is ultimately more important to you.
1. Eating out – This will not only save your waist line, it will save you money! I know people are extremely busy and find it hard to squeeze in shopping and meal prep. Try something different – companies like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron offer healthy meals that aren’t time consuming to cook and they deliver your ingredients. Also, you can try a grocery delivery service like Peapod, if grocery shopping is a problem.
2. Negativity – Negativity about yourself or your body translates into failure to accomplish your goals, so GIVE IT UP! Plus, negativity is contagious, and who needs that in their relationship or household? Try doing the opposite, and increase the positive messages that you say to others and about yourself.
3. Stress – Just like negativity, stress directly and directly affects our weight. Stress causes behaviors such as sleep deprivation, emotional eating, decreased activity, negative self-imagery, and it increases our internal inflammation, which can influence our weight. You can’t necessarily “give up” whatever is causing the stress (i.e. job, boss, spouse, kids), but you can change how you respond to stress.
4. Television and/or excessive perusing on Social Media – Hmmmmmm. When you watch TV, or spend time on your smart phone looking at Facebook, you are SITTING, most likely. I have had so many people tell me that they can’t fit in 20 minutes of activity, 3 days per week, yet they have no problems being able to watch at least an hour of TV a week (more like an hour a day) or spending 20 minutes a day on Facebook and Instagram. For people that snack or eat in front of the TV, this will help you in more ways than one!
I don’t like it when I talk to clients and they tell me that they can’t eat rice or other grains. It’s almost always because they think that because rice is a “carb,” they can’t eat it because carbs are the reason that they have weight issues. Then they act surprised when I say, “if you like rice, EAT IT!” Granted, I try to encourage people to try multiple types of rice, including whole grain varieties, which has a higher nutrient content. For different varieties of rice, I recommend checking out this site: The Whole Grains Council – Types of Rice. Remember, whole grains contain important nutrients like iron, B vitamins, fiber and protein.
Grains can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle – it’s not the grain itself that causes problems with weight – it’s the quantity in which we eat it AND all the extra fatty and/or sugary substances that we add to it. Not many people would eat cups of plain rice. An appropriate dinner or lunch portion of rice is between 1/3 and 1 cup cooked, depending on how many other carbohydrates are included in the meal and other factors such as your sex, age and weight. My advice to clients is that grains can be a great ACCENT to your meal. In other words, mix it in, but don’t make it the main feature on your plate or in your bowl. Vegetables and protein should be the main players. Also, I recommend consuming rice about twice a week, while incorporating other nutrient-rich grains and/or starchy vegetables throughout the rest of the week. Other grains include buckwheat, quinoa, Kamut, cornmeal (Polenta), oats and farro. There has been concern raised about the levels of inorganic arsenic in rice (rightfully so)- and this remains an ongoing investigation by the FDA, as to whether or not stricter regulations are needed to limit or remove the amount of arsenic in rice grains and products. Cooking rice in excess water (like pasta), and draining the water after cooking, can reduce arsenic content. For more information on arsenic in rice, I recommend these websites: FDA report, Consumer ReportsArsenic in Your Food(which has a nice chart comparing different brands) and a follow-up article Which Rice Has the Least Arsenic? .
Cooking rice or other grains does not have to be a burden for busy people. Cooked grains keep in your fridge for up to 5 days. Various types of steamable grains and vegetables are available in the frozen section at the supermarket. Don’t run to Chipotlè or a fast food place to get your next quick or easy meal. I am all for recreating some of your favorite dining out choices at home, to save money and to be healthier. I love a rice or grain bowl because it is an entire meal in one dish, and it can be prepared quickly. It’s a great choice for left-overs, because the foods often taste better the next day, after all of the flavors have fused and had a chance to absorb. Rice bowls can be adapted to many different dietary needs, and there are infinite different combinations possible.
The purpose of this post is not to provide a bunch of recipes, but to provide ideas and suggestions for some of my favorite grain bowl combinations. When I make a grain bowl, I use 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cooked grain (like rice/quinoa/farro), due to the carbohydrate contribution of the vegetables. If you are adding starchy vegetables such as corn or beans, I use about 1/4 cup per bowl or serving. The “meat” serving size should be from 2 to 4 ounces (cooked). Remember that beans and corn contribute protein as well. An egg can be tossed in any of these, as a meat substitute. If I sprinkle cheese on top, I keep it to 2 Tbsp and keep my other protein portion to the equivalent of 2-3 ounces.
Hawaiian: grilled & cubed ham steak, sautéed red & yellow peppers, onions and pineapple.
Thai: sautéed protein (shrimp, pork, chicken), red bell pepper strips, cucumber or radish slices, curry powder or sauce and/or common Thai ingredients and seasonings such as fish sauce, lime, jalapeño pepper slices, cilantro, basil leaves, lemongrass, peanuts, shallots or garlic. Jasmine rice is great for this.
Chinese: think of a healthy version of fried rice – scrambled egg with stir fried onions, red bell pepper, shredded cabbage or bok choy, broccoli florets, and peas.
Japanese: grilled fish or cooked soy beans/tofu with sautéed sliced onions, carrot, shiitake mushrooms and daikon radish, soy sauce.
Farmer’s Market: cooked chicken, fresh beef or boiled/fried egg, mixed with wilted fresh greens, and sautéed diced tomato, onion, bell pepper, squash and celery.
Italian: grilled chicken or seafood (scallops/shrimp) cooked with garlic and olive oil (or cannellini beans for meat alternative) with spinach or kale, diced tomatoes, basil, olives, and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
Mediterranean: steamed or roasted salmon or sea bass (cooked in olive oil and lemon juice), roasted vegetables such as eggplant, beet, zucchini, red pepper, onion and/or artichoke hearts with goat or Feta cheese sprinkled on top.
Southwestern: cooked protein (beef, chicken, pinto beans, or black beans) with corn, onions and bell peppers, black olive & jalapeño slices, sprinkled with shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese.
Mexican: red or black beans, corn, cilantro, diced tomatoes or salsa, avocado, jicama slivers and other traditional Mexican ingredients or spices such as cumin, chipotles, tomatillos, chiles, pepitas and sprinkled with queso fresco or cotija cheese.
Cobb Salad: grilled chicken (1 oz) and/or chopped boiled egg (1), real bacon bits (2 Tbsp), diced tomato (raw), avocado or black olives (2 Tbsp), minced red onion, shredded iceberg lettuce (optional) or spinach.
German: cooked, sliced Bratwurst with steamed cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, and peas.
Cheeseburger: cooked ground beef (or poultry or meat-alternative) with sautéed onions, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and shredded cheddar cheese on top.
Cuban: I love the flavors in Cuban food! Rice and beans are a staple of Cuban cuisine, so this is in addition to a typical Moros y Cristianos or a Cuban Arroz con Frijoles dish. Shredded pork or beef mixed with a seasoned (common to Cuban dishes are garlic, oregano, cumin, lime, coriander) tomato sauce and cooked, diced sweet potatoes or plantains, onions, & green pepper. Here is a link to a recipe for a make-it-yourself Sazon seasoning.
My toddler became a picky eater once he advanced from baby and soft foods. My pediatrician suggested that it was a control issue – my toddler’s way, amongst the numerous other ways, to try to establish independence and test boundaries. I was not prepared for this, because my first child ate anything and everything. Before my son turned two, I had no idea the challenges that lie ahead when faced with trying to feed a child with a very sensitive and limited palate. My son pretty much eats no vegetables – a Dietitian’s worst nightmare. Not even the starchy ones like potatoes, peas, corn, etc. His lunch and dinners consist of protein, fruit, and yogurt. I guess it could be worse, but I get tired of fixing the SAME THING all the time. Other than that, he will eat pizza, pasta, rice, bread, or any kind of snack food or dessert. He did not drink milk and never did, even chocolate milk (which I don’t buy). He HATES mixed textures, so I can’t mix little chunks of vegetables in with the rice or pasta sauce. He hates it so much that he will gag and vomit if I “force” him to take a bite. He loves cheese, but won’t eat something with cheese melted on it unless it’s a grilled cheese. He only likes water if it is “laced” with juice. I have an inner battle every day: the Dietitian vs the tired, stressed mom.
There are things that I do to try to increase his intake of vitamins, minerals, and protein, but I do not stress myself out to try to worry about it each and every day. I look at the big picture – if 5 of the 7 days have been pretty good, then it has been a good week. My husband, daughter and I will “ooh” and “aah” when we eat our dinners, and all he does is say matter of factly, “You like that. I don’t like that.” There’s enough to stress about as a mom. Dinner time should be a pleasant experience for everyone. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of sitting down together as a family for at least one meal a day. My son has had berries, yogurt, cheese and dry cheerios for many dinners. As long as a child is growing and gaining weight and pooping appropriately, and there are no outward signs of deficiency, then don’t give yourself or your little one a hard time. This is my educated professional and personal opinion – others may challenge me. Obviously, a parent should speak with their child’s pediatrician if there are abnormalities or questions regarding health issues that may be related to nutritional intake. I am not talking about a child who doesn’t consume enough or omits most of the food groups from their daily intake. I am talking about a child that refuses to try different and new foods, omits one food group, or challenges you at the dinner table to eat something on their plate.
The good thing for me as a Dietitian, is that I can empathize and completely understand what parents of picky eaters are going through. I have worked with parents and children with selective palates for various reasons, such as lack of weight gain, excess weight gain (due to over-consumption of fast food and snack foods), constipation, and general concern for nutrition. I, myself, choose not to fight, fuss, and argue with my three year old about food. He’s three – he can’t reason with me. It’s not worth it. I DO NOT, however, make different meals from my own every night, based on his few preferences. I am not a short-order cook that works in a diner. I give him a multivitamin with Calcium and Vitamin D, a Probiotic, and try to feed him the healthiest versions of the foods that he likes. With time he is likely to broaden his preferences and try more foods, mainly because we eat everything in our house and I am a pretty darn good cook (I wouldn’t say so if it weren’t true). When he is an adult, it will be his prerogative. I can only do my best to set a good example, encourage him to at least try different foods, and continue to teach him the benefits of eating healthily with a sense of balance.
My tips for dealing with a picky eater:
1.Eat a varied and well-balanced diet yourself! Children model their behaviors, so if you rarely drink milk or eat anything green, then don’t expect them to.
2. Encourage your child to just try a food – not to eat an entire portion on their plate.
3. Don’t give up if your child doesn’t like something the first or second time. Maybe try to cook something a different way.
4. If your child won’t eat vegetables, then allow them to have vitamin-rich fruits in their natural form (not as juice, dried, or canned with syrup).
5. Use smoothies as a way to increase protein and vitamin/mineral intake. You can blend greens and vegetable puree in smoothies. Here is my recipe for a smoothie that I give my toddler: Picky Eater Smoothie
6. Try to “disguise” vegetables in other foods that your child likes by mincing or pureeing them, however don’t wear yourself out trying to make vegetable puree for your next batch of muffins. Put them in sauces, soups, and smoothies. Adding vegetables often alters the color of the product, so if your child doesn’t want a green smoothie, then you shouldn’t add kale to a vanilla smoothie or muffin mix.
7. Don’t reward trying a piece of broccoli with a full serving of dessert or something sweet and unhealthy. I always recommend avoiding food rewards, however if you are going to trade ice cream for broccoli, it should be one bite for one bite!
8. Sometimes reverse psychology works. If you say, “I don’t want you to eat any of those peas,” then sometimes the rebellious ones will take a bite.
9. Encourage your child to participate in meal planning and cooking (for the older ones). Often if they feel included and are given a sense of independence, they will surprise you and be more willing to explore new flavors and foods.
10. Teach your child about the benefits of eating a variety of foods in the different food groups in a way that they relate and can understand. There are many great children’s books that are creatively encouraging them to eat their veggies.
I feel compelled to write this post because Thanksgiving is around the corner, and it is both a beloved and miserable holiday for me. Beloved, because of the history involved, the nostalgia, the feeling of fellowship, and yes, the vacation from work or school. Miserable because of the horrible traffic, the hours of work required for preparation of a meal that disappears in less than 15 minutes, and the substantial gluttony. As a dietitian, I am shunned from November until mid-January when all of the New Year’s resolutions are made and people are feeling the side effects of their gluttony. I don’t use this term loosely, but I chose it specifically because it is what I witness and it is what is often described as someone grievously explains and rationalizes their weight gain during the holiday months. The weight gain is completely preventable folks.
I am here to say, bluntly, to Americans, “Stop making Thanksgiving (and like-holidays) all about the food!” Let’s get back to the root of Thanksgiving and do as our ancestors did. Let’s come together in friendship and good faith, and celebrate. Lord knows, doesn’t the country need this right now after the tumultuous aftermath of the presidential election? The New England settlers and the Native American allies celebrated for several days after a bountiful corn harvest, because the settlers WOULD NOT HAVE SURVIVED if it wasn’t for the efforts of the Native Americans to teach them how to survive in a harsh environment with infection running rampant throughout the settlement. Therefore, I say, focus on the celebration of life and enjoyment of being with friends, family, loved ones, and companions, instead of how many different types of desserts you are going to try next Thursday.
Getting back to the roots doesn’t just refer to the meaning behind Thanksgiving, but also the food that is served. If we truly were traditional and celebrated with the same or even similar culinary dishes that the Pilgrims and Native Americans had, maybe there would be less stuffing (no pun intended) of faces and opened pant buttons to allow for more room. The first banquet, that we now call Thanksgiving, certainly had wild fowl for protein (smaller birds such as ducks geese and pigeons), as well as deer (venison). Other proteins included smoked mollusks and roasted nuts. Their meats weren’t stuffed with our type of “dressing” that uses bread of some type, but rather with seasonings,nuts and perhaps fruits and vegetables. Corn was a staple (Flint corn that is multi-colored), and it was ground and made into a simple porridge (no milk or cream or butter or frying into cornbread)- I bet there are few people that would eat plain mush made from cornmeal. There were vegetables – boiled or roasted – like beans, pumpkin, carrots, turnips and squash that were not slathered in butter or canned gravy. You can assume that they did not have an issue getting fiber!
No doubt that the settlers and Native Americans alike enjoyed this feast – my point is not to suggest that we don’t enjoy the meal. My message is that we can celebrate the holiday in a more traditional and historically accurate fashion, in order to nourish ourselves both mentally and physically. Let’s keep it simple – good, wholesome food served in a reasonable amount, celebrating each other and the things we can be thankful for. Yes, it sounds cheesy, and I know that everyone looks forward to some relative’s pecan or pumpkin pie every year. But if you are one of the millions of Americans who struggles with your weight OR the stress and depression around the holidays, you might want to consider this. All the trimmings, all the heavy starches and desserts, the huge portions, the grazing, the drinking, etc. – these things do not really make us happy and feel good about ourselves. They are not what it’s about. Now go start actually enjoying the holiday.
If you want to read more on what was most likely served at the first Thanksgiving, here are two articles:
Taco Tuesday is a popular night in many homes. We can have tacos in my house any night, really. Tacos are one of my favorite meals to make because you can use just about any protein, it’s not a difficult or time consuming meal to make, they are kid-friendly (kids love finger food), and you can include a lot of veggies! Taco night isn’t just for a family dinner, it is also a less-expensive way to feed a crowd. Tacos can be simple or creative and they can incorporate other ethnic and cultural foods and flavors.
My favorite tacos are fish and shrimp tacos, but that is because I am not much of a beef or pork eater, however I am selective where my fish and shrimp come from. I really like veggie tacos as a close second or third (butternut squash, corn and beans, please). Often when I make tacos for my family, I have a taco salad for myself – which is a total excuse for me to have MORE AVOCADO. I always try to have left-overs. Besides having them the next day for lunch, I often use my taco filling to make a delicious omelette or breakfast burrito the next morning.
These recipes are not for the tacos themselves, but for accompaniments. I have included a corn relish and a slaw recipe that I think would be best for shrimp or fish tacos, but really could go with just about any taco recipe.
Corn and Pineapple Relish
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup canned or frozen corn (thawed), prefer roasted
1/4 red onion, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (with or without seeds as desired)
1/4 red bell pepper, minced
8 oz can crushed pineapple in its own juice, drained
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Let sit out at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving. Refrigerate left-overs, but keep in mind that refrigeration changes the flavor of the tomatoes.
This is a really quick recipe if you have a Cilantro Dressing like the one from Bolthouse Farms or Trader Joes. If not, you can use these recipes: Cilantro Dressing 1, Cilantro Dressing 2. I use Greek Yogurt in my homemade Cilantro Dressing, NOT mayo. This recipe make a LARGE bowl of slaw, so if you are just going to use the slaw on the taco and not as a sort of salad on the side, then I would halve the recipe.
1 bag of cole slaw mix or sliced cabbage (10 oz bag)
1 cup slivered or matchstick carrots
1/2 small red onion, cut into thin slivers
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Mix together in a large bowl.
Mix the following ingredients together in a small bowl: 1/2 cup Cilantro dressing, 1 Tbsp Apple Cider or White Vinegar, 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice.
Pour dressing and mix through slaw. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
Sriracha Yogurt Sauce
1/2 avocado, mashed
1/2-1 tsp Sriracha sauce (more or less depending on preference for heat)
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (or light sour cream is okay)
If you see me looking at myself in the window as I walk by the facade of a building, or checking myself out in the mirror when I pass in front of one, please don’t assume that this is the result of vanity. On the contrary, I am looking at myself due to an insecurity, probably giving myself more self-depreciating messages about how bad my hair looks, how I wish I looked more stylish, how I can see the pimple on my face, how I wish I looked thinner in these shorts. Some people are familiar with BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) but more are familiar with the various forms of disordered eating patterns that can make people very thin or heavy. What you may not recognize is someone who is confident on some levels regarding their personal lives, but who is extremely insecure about their body and appearance. Self-loathing, in any form, is a type of confinement. It prevents you from doing things, and it prevents you from enjoying moments. It is not healthy. People with body hatred come in all shapes and sizes – it can be the fittest person at the gym. I decided to write this article to help those who suffer (yes, it is suffering) from this particular form of self-hatred, and to help those who are either friends, family, or significant others of self-loathers, better recognize the signs and to know what does or does NOT help move us in the right direction. This is a self-reflection.
Me, young and confident, around age 8
My self-loathing started very early. I remember being invited to pool parties in the 6th and 7th grade, and not wanting to go in fear of being seen in a bathing suit. I hated to go to the beach with my family and be in a bathing suit next to my mother, who was (is) a tall, thin, stunning beauty. I was noticeably flatter in the chest than most of my friends throughout the school-age years. That didn’t go unnoticed by the boys. I had a gap between my two front teeth that did not go away with braces and surgery. I had keratosis pilaris on the backs of my arms and on my thighs, so I didn’t want a boy to touch me there. I was told that I had an “athletic figure,” which translated to me as, “you’re built like a boy.” I had big feet at an early age and long toes, so I never wanted to wear flip flops or sandals and I would hide them in the sand at the beach. No one actually teased me excessively or bullied me – I just started hating little parts of me. But when people did point out specifics, like “my wide mouth,” the wounds just became deeper.
Feeling chunky at 10 or 11
I suffered in silence. Now, looking back, I had no reason to be ashamed of myself. I was of average weight and height, I had a nice face, and I was very fit from being a competitive swimmer. I was insecure about my “swimmer’s body” from the time of adolescence until ……..well…….I still have some insecurities. “You have swimmer’s shoulders.” Boy that one, sucked. “You could be a wrestler.” That one was devastating when I heard it my freshman year in college. Interestingly enough, I spent 2 years at an all-girls boarding school for high school, and my horrible body image was at an all-time low there. You may find it interesting that I do not believe that it was because I was not at a co-ed school. I believe that it was the supportive atmosphere that fostered self-esteem and growth and celebrated individuality. My worst years of self-loathing had to be in college. I was a proud member of a prestigious and well-known sorority. I would not change my decision to join a sorority, because I valued the sisterhood. I did, however, spend 4 years of my life feeling like the ugly duckling, the most unattractive of all my friends. I found myself in a catch-22 situation: I had beautiful friends, therefore guys would come talk to us at parties. I had beautiful friends, therefore I was going to be the last one the guys would ask out, if they believed they had a chance with my friends. In college, I absolutely loved the mixers, but I hated the dances when we had to dress up. Cocktails meant cocktail dresses, which were usually fitted. The thought of someone being able to better see my form and figure was appalling. I even avoided any intimate contact, to a great extent, because I knew that a guy would be disgusted if he could see or touch me.
The college years. I liked my face, but hated my body.
In an attempt to figure out what has been causing my daughter’s numerous and chronic mouth ulcers, I have tried elimination of certain foods or ingredients that may be triggers. I am not going to lie and say that trying to eliminate gluten from a 10-year-old’s diet is easy. The hardest part of taking out this combination of proteins is when your child receives meals and snacks from school, goes over to another child’s house, goes to a birthday party, or goes to their grandma’s house and is offered lots of treats.
Snacking is just a part of childhood, and can ensure that children, not only get the nutrients that they need, but also get some energy to stabilize their mood (aka getting “hangry”). GF options are prevalent in supermarkets now, but often the products are so much more expensive than their gluten-containing counterpart. Following a GF diet does not have to break the bank or ruin your food budget. When you buy GF foods, you just want to make sure that they say “Gluten Free,” because it can be hidden or cross-contaminated in ingredients that would appear harmless to the untrained eye.
I have come up with a list of suggested GF snacks that your children will enjoy and won’t deplete your wallet. These suggestions don’t include the obvious choices such as veggies and dip, apple with peanut butter, etc. Clearly, almost any snack that has fruit or vegetable is going to be on the healthy choice list. I didn’t feel that I needed to include those types of snacks on this list. Suggestions on this list are not high in added or total sugar content. My daughter and I have personally tried all of these suggestions, and I have only included ones that we liked or loved.
1. Cheerios – Serve dry or with milk, on top of yogurt, mixed with raisins and nuts in a trail mix. I have even crushed cheerios to use in a crumb topping.
2. Snap Pea Crisps – Different flavors exist, but our favorite is the original plain with salt. You have to be careful with these – They are addictive. My advice is to put a serving in a bowl and put the bag away.
3. Gluten free pretzels with nut butter, bean hummus, or string cheese – Okay, okay, occasionally I give Nutella.
4. Rice crackers with hummus (edamame hummus is my fav with these), cheese and turkey (cut into small squares or circles), goat cheese and grape tomato halves – Rice cakes can also be used for smothering in a spread and topping with fruit slices or veggie slices.
5. Corn chips and salsa – these, too ,can be addictive
6. Annie’s Homegrown Gluten Free Granola Bars – I found these at the supermarket and Target.
7. Fruit and yogurt parfait with Gluten free granola – gluten free granola is not necessarily cheap, but if you’re only sprinkling it on top of yogurt, then it will go a long way. You can make it yourself. Here is one recipe on my Pinterest Page: Gluten Free Granola. I suggest using 1/4 cup granola for a snack, 1/2 cup is okay for a breakfast portion. Along the same lines, in the summer you can make frozen pops in molds with Greek yogurt and fruit.
8. Smoothies – probably my children’s favorite snack. Possibilities are endless. Like the parfait, you want to make a snack-size portion, which is usually about 1/2 of a normal recipe, or about 6 ounces.
9. Chocolate covered frozen banana bites – you can buy these in stores, but it’s cheaper to make them yourself. Here is one of my favorite recipes on Pinterest: Frozen banana Bites. (or here’s the recipe on the web: Frozen banana bites)
10. Cheese Quesadilla on Corn tortilla – you can add salsa, a touch of guac or sour cream as desired. I try to get some veggies in my family’s quesadillas, but a lot of kids are picky. Smashed black beans, Corn and cheese make a good combination. Heat the corn tortilla in a pan before you add filling and fold, because they can tear easily. I use white corn tortillas, just because my family likes them better. You could also make a veggie and cheese taco with a hard corn shell!