Food Allergies Can Cause Nutrition Gaps

    Jackphoto The first mission in creating safe meals for children with food allergies is avoiding the offending ingredient. But, there can be a downside to diets that miss out on the nutritional value found in foods kicked off the menu. A study in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (JAND) cautions that inappropriate elimination diets can induce vitamin and mineral deficiencies, anemia, and other symptoms affecting a child’s growth and nutritional status.

    “Food allergies and intolerances are on the rise,” says registered dietitian Vandana Sheth, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “But it’s important that we identify that kids are actually allergic (through proper testing) before we avoid those foods unnecessarily.”

    The eight foods that account for more than 90% of childhood cases of food allergies include milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, pecans), wheat, fish and shellfish. Food intolerances such as lactose and gluten add even more children to the at-risk list for nutrient deficiencies.

    “A parent should always offer a variety of different foods within a food group,” says registered dietitian Cheryl Orlansky, president of the Greater Atlanta Dietetic Association. Gluten free grains inlude rice, corn and quinoa. Sheth says if a child is allergic to peanut butter, substitute sunflower seed butter.

    Registered dietitian Toby Amidor, author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen says, “If you skip dairy you skip its nine essential nutrients. Studies show people with lactose intolerance may tolerate up to a cup of fluid milk, which has 12 grams of lactose. Cheeses, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are much lower in lactose.”

    Mind the Gap

    The food allergy study in JAND measured the benefit of dietary counseling in preventing and correcting nutrient deficiencies in children with food allergies. Results from the multi-center study in Italy showed that advice on what foods to eat to help fill in the gaps helped kids get enough calories, protein and other needed nutrients. “I think it’s fascinating,” says Sheth. “They showed that dietary counseling really helped and growth patterns were improved.”

    Sheth says, “A lot of kids outgrow allergies to eggs and milk by age 16. But other allergies such as nuts may be life long.” Her knowledge comes first hand. Her son was diagnosed with over 20 food allergies as a child, “Now he’s a healthy JV football player. He’s down to four or five allergies including all nuts. I always feed the team so I can keep an eye on what he’s eating!”

    Visit for tips on feeding kids with food allergies.



      Breakfast Skippers Stay Slim

        Screen shot 2013-04-04 at 11.22.11 AM

        Are you a breakfast skipper? Then you’ve probably been lectured about breakfast being ‘the most important meal of the day’ as the culinary kick-start you need to fuel a healthy day ahead. But, take heart. Two new studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, one conducted by a self-proclaimed breakfast skipper at the University of Bath in England and the other by obesity researchers at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), conclude that folks who say no to the bacon and eggs, or granola and toast are not more prone to weight gain.

        David Allison, director of UAB’s Nutrition Obesity Research Center says their study comparing weight loss in breakfast eating and breakfast skipping groups of overweight and obese adult dieters found that the morning meal made no difference in weight loss over 16 weeks. The study in Bath found that breakfast didn’t rev up the metabolism, a commonly held nutrition notion. Those who abstained from breakfast did in fact ‘save calories’ because they ate fewer calories over the whole day as compared to breakfast eaters. But, eating breakfast was associated with burning more calories because these folks were more physically active in the morning. Hungry yet?

        Breakfast Benefits

        There’s more to the morning meal than calorie counts. Nutrition research supports the fact that the body best uses protein to maintain muscle mass when protein-containing foods are eaten throughout the day, not in one sitting. So eating a huge steak at dinner is not the best plan for bodybuilding. Ideally, each meal should contain about 30 grams of protein. Ditto for 30 grams at lunch and dinner. 30 grams is about three ounces. So, the protein in Greek yogurt, milk with cereal or scrambled eggs at breakfast helps build, repair and maintain our muscles.

        Other research links eating breakfast with improved cognitive function throughout the morning. Hello back to school families! Breakfast eaters do better paying attention in morning classes.

        Did you know even if your quickie breakfast is a just a latte you’re getting some good nutrition? A typical 12-ounce coffee latte with milk contains about one third of the calcium needs for the day and other milk provides other needed nutrients including protein and potassium.

        So, while skipping breakfast may not cause you to eat more the rest of the day resulting in weight gain, it’s still vitally important to enjoy a nutrient rich morning meal to boost the health of your body and brain.





          Let’s do lunch! School Lunch!


            The smiling and some not-so-smiling faces in first day back to school photos posted on Facebook inspired me to think about what’s on the menu for school lunch this year. And wow school nutrition folks are getting a A+ for menu makeovers and building dedicated teams of chefs, dietitians, food safety pros and local farmers to bring good nutrition and great taste the cafeteria table.  It’s almost as much fun as checking out that cute new guy who moved into town this year.  Wait! Isn’t that a school cafeteria scene from Twilight? 

            Healthy School Lunch Menus 

            Can’t decide whether to get the Turkey Cobb Salad, Italian Vegetable Sandwich on a Whole Grain Wrap or the Sweet and Sour Chicken with Vegetable Fried Rice and Asian Vegetable Blend? Well, then you could be in line for lunch at one of Atlanta Public School’s high school cafeterias. Don’t forget to check out the daily ‘Salad Bowl’ offering of leafy greens, cucumbers, and tomatoes with a rotating selection of tasty toppings from kidney bean salad to slices peaches. In fact locally grown peaches are August’s ‘Produce of the Month’ on the Atlanta Public Schools’ School Nutrition website where daily menu items are listed for all grades and include gluten free and vegetarian options.

            Director of Nutrition Services for Atlanta Public Schools, Marilyn Hughes says, “We are listening to our customers who are our students but we’re following nutrition guidelines too of course.” So while kid-pleasing pizza is served, the crust is whole-grainand the cheese is reduced fat. The colorful website includes student and parent friendly links to nutrition and fitness information including shared webpages created by school districts across the nation with timely nutrition tips for adding more produce to home meals, too. Here’s a sample-

            Harvest of the Month for August is corn:

            • Add corn to your favorite salad recipes using fresh, frozen, or canned corn.
            • Stuff corn and black beans into whole-wheat pita pockets for a healthy sandwich.
            • Sprinkle corn kernels on pizza for a new take on toppings.
            • Add frozen or canned corn to your favorite casserole or soup.

            Cobb County School menus go the extra mile to promote eating more vegetables by creating a daily cafeteria category called “vivid veggies” including Broccoli Dippers and Garden Spinach Salad.

            Nationwide,  milk got a makeover too. Now only 1% milk and fat free flavored milks are served. All milk contains the same nine essential nutrients. Truth is  - if there’s only white milk offered, many kids will skip it totally. So flavored milks ( made with way less sugar than before!) are a great way to get those 9 needed nutrients consumed.

            What’s not for lunch?

            Foods containing trans fats and whole milk have been kicked out of school. Fried foods are limited. In a response to concerns about childhood obesity and overall wellness public schools nationwide must follow nutrition plans regulated by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act enacted in 2012.

            Many who continue to criticize school lunch programs may not be aware of the efforts being made to teach the ABC’s of good nutrition by improving what’s on our children’s plates. Hughes says, “I believe if more parents knew the full team dedicated to their children’s health including certified chefs, registered dietitians, sustainability and food safety specialists they’d realize we’re working to pack the best nutrition into every bite.”   In many school districts you can add local farmers to the list, too. Farm to school programs are cropping up nationwide including the Georgia Grown initiative.

            But Will They Eat It?

            Just as adults can easily speed past the listing of ‘light entrees’ on restaurant menus to order high fat favorites; kids and teens can ignore the sweet potatoes in favor of the pizza. Hey why not sweet potato on the pizza? Stay tuned. It may be showing up for class at a school near you. I can’t wait to see what’s for lunch tomorrow.

            Parents Teach Your Children Well

             • Be a positive role model for your child. Ask what they ate for lunch today and review choices to emphasize the need for a variety of food groups.

            • Remember that children ages 7-10 should be getting 3 servings from the milk group, 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 5-6 servings of grains, and 2 servings from the meat/bean group daily.

            Want some suggestions on how to pack a healthy, tasty lunch from home? Watch this fun video from as I shop for foods appropriate for different ages. After all, the tiny second grader doesn’t eat the same thing as the big football playing senior!

            Now let’s start having fun- it’s time to go BACK TO SCHOOL!









              Peru Holds Adventures for the Palate

                Quinoa is one of Peru’s most popular culinary exports

                Peruvian Culinary Treasure Chest 

                The spiritual draw of Machu Picchu combined with the gastronomic fame of Peru’s cuisine lured me to Lima and the Andes mountains.

                I joined grazing llamas and fellow travelers to explore the stone structures and staircases throughout the majestic and mysterious mountaintop ‘lost city of the Inca.’


                Discovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, archeologists still do not know why the Inca built Machu Picchu.


                It’s a reminder that civilizations of the world– ancient and modern- have much to reveal and share with visitors from afar.

                Peru Rail is the way to “climb” the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu from Cusco to Aguas Caliente


                The popularity of quinoa in the U.S. has people talking about Peru where it’s a staple of the traditional diet.


                Though technically a seed not a grain, quinoa is nutritious and high in protein. It can be served like rice and comes in a variety of colors including black and red. A crunchy quinoa salad with fava beans and corn on the menu at La Huaca Pucllana is chef Marilu Mandueno’s contemporary spin on classics, “I want to keep tradition to show where the modern interpretations come from. It’s my way of rediscovering ingredients.”

                Marilu is one of Peru’s top chefs and has a beautiful cookbook of Peruvian traditional dishes kicked up with her marvelous modern touches


                Peru is celebrated for ceviche, too. From tiny stalls in bustling city markets to gorgeous restaurants, the art of raw fish slightly marinated in citrus juice and chili peppers is not to be missed.


                Peru is the perfect for potato lovers where there are over 3000 types including purple, red, and yellow and all shapes, sizes, and textures.

                Ode to the Peruvian potato at Palacio del Inka in Cusco. Potato soup and the best potato chips you can imagine

                One of the most delicious Peruvian recipes is causa, which combines mashed yellow potatoes with olive oil, lemon juice and chili.

                Causa is so pretty and so delicious! I like the idea of making mashed potatoes with olive oil and lemon.

                Moray, an Inca archeological site in the Cusco region is believed to be an ancient agricultural experiment station to develop potato and corn varieties for varying altitudes.

                Moray is believed to be site of Incan crop breeding

                Each Ingredient is Prized in Peru

                A dish called “diversity of corn” is presented on the ‘elevations’ tasting menu at the ultra contemporary Central restaurant in Lima, home to chef Virgilio Martinez. I first met him at the Worlds of Flavors conference at the Culinary Institute of American in Napa Valley.



                These are the same little plants that grow in the stone cracks in Machu Picchu. Dishes at Central are edible jewels


                Another course, called ‘dry Andes’ is a tiny bite of grey colored clay with citrus flower garnish.


                “Peruvians like impactful flavors,” says Gregory Thomas Smith, formerly of Atlanta and wine director at Central. “If they eat an orange they want the most passionate orange they can find.”

                Look who I found in Lima! My Atlanta pal Gregory Smith, now the wine director at Central restaurant

                Peru’s bounty from the ocean, plains, mountains and jungle is celebrated at Astrid & Gaston in Lima, recognized as one of the finest restaurants in the world.


                Roasted potatoes are served table side, unearthed from steaming black dirt.

                Dining in Peru is an adventure.

                A T-shirt pokes fun at Peruvian chefs cooking cuy, or guinea pig, a national food favorite

                Get ready to discover fish and fruit from the Amazon, the flavor of cuy (guinea pig) and learn that alpaca isn’t only for sweaters. Alpaca, raised by certified purveyors, is a lean meat and tastes a bit like venison.

                The restaurant at Tambo del Inka Resort in the Sacred Valley elegantly serves grilled alpaca with native potatoes, lavender flowers and cocao sauce.


                Not so daring? Have an empanada and a Pisco sour.

                Amazon Adventure

                While many people associate the Amazon River with neighboring Brazil, nearly twenty percent of the Amazon basin lies within Peru. A living laboratory of nature’s biodiversity, the Amazon supplies chef Pedro Miguel Schafino’s groceries for Amaz restaurant in Lima, the first restaurant to showcase the history and culture of the jungle region. “Nobody’s doing this. One hundred percent of our menu is from the Amazon,” says Schafino. The menu at Amaz is a colorful, tropical mix of fruit and vegetables including pomelo (ancient cousin of grapefruits), sugar cane and hearts of palm cut into spirals and served like pasta. “We’ve introduced forty new fruits into Lima,” says Schafino. “It’s a very healthy cuisine integrated with nature and these plants have high levels of vitamins and antioxidants.”

                The pasta looking dish on the left is shaved hearts of palm at Amaz restaurant in Lima

                There are four different kinds of Amazon River fish on the menu (of the 20 to 30 Amazon natives currently consume) prepared ceviche style or in flavorful stews. For the adventurous palate there are river snails and fresh water clams too.
                When I tell Schafino that I thought I was going to eat piranha at his restaurant he smiles and says, “Oh there would be piranha if I could find a consistent quantity and good quality!” Check the menu if you visit Amaz on a trip to Lima. Maybe piranha will appear on the menu. Of course, not to be missed are the two most famous flavors of the Amazon- chocolate and coffee, both indigenous to the region.

                High Altitude Help

                Welcome to Cusco! A little coca tea perhaps to begin your stay at the glamorous  Palacio del Inka Hotel

                When traveling to cities such as Cusco above 10,000 feet and the archaeological site Machu Picchu at about 8000 feet a lot of folks can feel the effects caused by less available oxygen in the air.


                This so called “thin air” makes it harder to breath and speeds up dehydration. It can cause insomnia, dizziness and nausea. At first, I felt like I had boulder on my chest. Taking your time while climbing steps on a city tour and hiking trails is critical as well as drinking plenty of water. Go easy on the Pisco sours, too.

                Feeling AOK in the high altitude at Machu Picchu.

                Professional tour guide, Jaime Vasquez, who has led over 650 groups traversing the mountainous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu says, “While it’s offered at some hotels, I don’t recommend using oxygen because it will take longer for your body to acclimatize to the altitude. Instead take aspirin, drink a lot of water and slow down.”

                Pretty fancy display for Mate de Coca at Inka Terra Machu Pichhu Peublo Hotel in Aguas Calientes

                Mate de coca, tea brewed from coca leaves (yes, that kind of coca but legal in Peru) is a time honored folk cure for soroche in the Andes. It’s provided in hotels, restaurants and sold in tea bags at the market. “Coca tea has alkaloids so it helps stimulate the system,” says Vasquez. Just don’t try to bring any souvenir coca leaves home to the USA.

                You can bring back all the Inca Kola you like…kind of like Mountain Dew, well Andes Mountain Dew

                For great information on all things Peruvian and planning travel to Peru I recommend connecting with the Peru Trade Commission office Los Angeles.  Gracias!!!


                  Celebrating with Seafood and Champagne


                      Really Good Nutrition Research Starts with a Pie Chart


                    As a registered dietitian who’s been writing about food for more than two decades, I’m always worried that what I know and what I share will ultimately be proven wrong. After all, there’s a cavalcade of new studies, reports and surveys released just about every day. The conclusions roll in and I read through the facts and try to figure out what’s best to advise based on better science.   And as The Lady of the Refrigerator I am obsessed with the cold, hard facts!


                    It’s my birthday this week so I thought I’d review the benefits of celebrating with seafood and wine.


                    Cheers to Your Health – What’s a Champagne lover to do?

                    Pour over the research reports very carefully.

                    A new study published in the British Medical Journal found that a group of subjects, who do not drink alcohol because of a genetic expression that causes nausea and facial flushing, had lower rates of heart disease than those who were light-to- moderate drinkers. The researchers said they couldn’t prove cause and effect prompting this word of caution from Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, “It is clear that the patients with this genetic variant have a reduction in alcohol intake, but it is unclear if this in itself is the factor improving their cardiovascular outcomes.” She says don’t dismiss the many studies showing the antioxidants and other compounds in wine are beneficial for heart health.


                    Celebrating Seafood – If you like sautéed trout, grilled salmon, baked cod, crab cakes and steamed shrimp then you’re dining for taste and health. Fish and shellfish are a great source of protein, essential minerals and heart healthy omega 3 fats. But what about the mercury contamination? This is a tale of balancing risks and benefits.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has drafted updated guidance to match the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendations for everyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children, to eat eight to 12 ounces (two to three servings) per week of a variety of low mercury seafood. Fish higher in mercury include tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel.

                    “A large percentage of women are simply not eating enough fish and as a result they are not getting the health benefits that fish can provide,” says Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the F.D.A.’s acting chief scientist.

                    Picked stone crab served with peppery tomato broth at Everleigh restaurant in Los Angeles


                    My favorite birthday splurge is succulent crabmeat with a flute of chilled Champagne, so it’s good to know what makes me happy can help me enjoy more birthdays ahead.


                      Grilling Secrets from Montana Master Grillers

                        IMG_6276 Montana is my 50th state. Not on purpose, just because.  Even though I traveled all over the place with CNN for so many years as a correspondent covering food, health and then travel; I realized I hadn’t been to three states: Alaska, Wyoming and Montana. Last summer I took a cruise to Alaska with my family. Check! This winter I went to Jackson Hole to visit my daughter Katie in Wyoming. Check!


                        But Montana eluded me until I was invited to attend the Montana Master Grillers weekend at Paws Up Resort outside of Missoula.



                        So here’s where the story begins……..



                        Montana Master Grillers- The Thrill of the Grill in Montana 

                        BBQ master Sam Huff of Marietta, GA in his element


                        Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.






                        And for fans of grilling and barbecue there’s nothing more captivating than gathering around the hallowed hot embers to listen to an expert reveal some recipe secrets.


                        “It’s dangerous knowledge to cook really great ribs,” says Sam Huff, chef and owner of Sam’s BBQ1 in Marietta.     “People will beat a path to your door.”


                        Huff’s popular Pork U classes where he shares behind the scenes BBQ know-how gained during a decade of competition cooking fill up pretty fast.

                        But I didn’t meet him in Marietta. I sampled Huff’s lip smacking food and attended his BBQ cooking demo in Montana. Huff was one of five featured chefs at the annual Montana Master Grillers event held at The Resort at Paws Up, near Missoula.

                        Yup, this is where that movie was filmed.



                        Billed as a 37,000-acre backyard barbecue,






                        the weekend of Montana ranch meets fine food and drink


                        included activities such as fly-fishing (with Napa Valley winemaker Dennis Cakebread),


                        trails rides,


                        and even a cattle drive.


                        Among the meaty lessons on gourmet grilling: Chef Joe Davidson of Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas led guests through the art of butchering


                        while chef Danny Fischer of Baby Blues BBQ in Venice, California showed how to properly pepper a beef brisket.


                        Huff says, “People are tired of fast food and BBQ is the opposite of fast food.” Huff told his audience, “Only rich folks ate high on the hog. Barbecue was for the tough meat cuts with long protein strands so folks had to figure out how to cook them slow and low.”



                        Huff  likes an average cooking temperature of no more than 240 degrees over indirect heat with a lot of patience, “If you’re looking you’re not cooking!” Another tip for tender meats is placing a pan filled with liquid in the cooker. “It adds flavor and stops the dripping fat from causing flare ups,” say Huff. “I use whatever compliments. With pork I’d use apple juice, beef maybe some red wine and with chicken I use chicken stock.”


                        Healthful grilling


                        Avoiding the black char caused by flare-ups is important for good health, too. When proteins in meats are cooked at searing temperatures, carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) can form. Registered dietitian, Sarah Krieger, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says, “And emerging research suggests marinating meat for at least 30 minutes can reduce the formation of HCAs.”

                        Montana Menus

                        A chuck wagon lunch by the river served up grilled elk and duck sausages, colorful salads and bowls of the region’s beautiful berries.

                        Paws Up executive chef Ben Jones (left) heads up the Montana Master Grillers weekend.
                        A river of grilled sausages runs through it…

                        A Montana inspired dinner prepared by chef Brian Howard of Comme Ca restaurant in Las Vegas perfectly captured the grilling and ‘glamping’ spirit at Paws Up.

                        Chef Brian Howard (right) with sous chef and grill mate Daniel Ontiveros of Comme Ca, Las Vegas

                        Dishes included grilled and smoked oxtail and fire roasted elk short loin with grilled ramps and caramelized onions.




                        Paws Up perfect for the tuxedo bachelor party crowd!











                        For dessert? Marshmallows and s’mores enjoyed under the stars toasted over the flames of the campfire, of course.

                        And Crystal Bowersox performed!









                        More Montana Magic at Paws Up Resort


                        Sure, you can put on your boots and saddle up but at Paws Up you can pause to relax in a Cowgirl Princess kind of way. Spa services are found in Spa Town’s tented luxury.


                        And every detail in the accommodations are fascinating to notice. Hey! Isn’t that the Paws Up logo over the stove in the gourmet kitchen?

                        Hope to see you next year for the Montana Master Grillers Weekend at Paws Up Resort in….yup….MONTANA!!





                          Healthy Demand for Splurge Foods

                            Healthier Menu Options Don’t Appeal to Everyone 


                            From soft tacos topped with fresh pico de gallo salsa at Taco Bell and whole-wheat linguine with pomodoro sauce at Olive Garden to braised kale and baked sweet potatoes on many menus; there’s definitely a healthy selection of more nutritious options at restaurants today.

                            But that doesn’t mean diet-conscious dishes are leading the charge at the cash register. “We’re committed and it’s our responsibility to make these options available but they’re not big sellers,” says Jonathan Blum, chief public affairs and global nutrition officer for Yum! Brands (parent company of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut). For instance, Taco Bell’s Fresco menu items with less than 350 calories and fewer than ten grams of fat are a dietitian’s dream but sales are skinny compared to the cheese covered classics on the menu. Blum says, “Consumers aren’t demanding healthier choices as much as we’d like.”

                            Speaking at The National Restaurant Association’s annual trade show in Chicago Blum and other industry leaders discussed the current state of nutrition.

                            “We’re integrating nutrition into the menu development process but it’s not always easy,” says Steve Hilton, vice president of global government and public affairs of McDonald’s. To address recommended calorie levels for children, McDonald’s shrunk the portion size of fries in their Happy Meals several years ago but Hilton says, “There were a lot of parents and children not happy about it.”

                            Registered dietitian Cheryl Dolven director of health and wellness at Darden Restaurants says that choice, variety and innovation lead menu development for healthy options but customers don’t want what they consider indulgent special occasion foods to disappear, “Moms tell us ‘I feed my kids broccoli and grapes at home so when we dine out we want to enjoy the fries and a soda.’ We have to listen to how they use our restaurants. It might be only four times a year.”

                            Menu Labeling

                            Whether you care about calories and sodium or not when you’re dining out, the Food and Drug Administration is finalizing regulations to require restaurants (with more then 20 units in operation) to make nutrition information available on menus, websites and in-store signage. Dolven says it surprised her that more than fifty percent of folks in focus groups reacted negatively to the concept of nutritional numbers being listed on menus, “They said ‘I don’t need to be told about what to eat.’ And in fact we don’t know if the information will change diet behavior. About sixty studies have been done and half show menu labeling changes what people order and half showed it didn’t.”

                            Nutrition Know How

                            One way I think nutrition information on menus can help with the enjoyment of eating and nutrition education is by helping to make quick comparisons. Checking restaurant websites, which are already listing nutrition information, reveals that the burger you might really want actually has fewer calories than the entrée salad you thought you were supposed to order. Case in point: Five Guys Burger at 700 calories vs Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad at 780 calories. But, calories and fat alone do not tell the whole health story. The salad has more fiber than the burger.

                            “It’s not what to delete, but what to eat,” says registered dietitian Janet Helm who writes the blog Nutrition Unplugged.


                              Diner’s Education to Enjoy the Ride

                                Better driving is dependent on knowing the rules of the road. Your journey toward more nutritious eating also begins with careful navigation. Whether the eats are at a happy hour with co-workers or dining out at a restaurant with family and friends, basic dining detours such as passing on the bread basket or taking the “carpool” approach and splitting a meal with someone at the table can make a big difference.

                                See this cute info graphic on

                                Diner Education Infographic

                                Watch the Video on WGN

                                These simple detours can help you determine a better route to nutritious eating, navigating away from Overload Road to a more pleasant Lean Street – avoiding any unfortunate “crashes” into excess calories, fat or sodium.
                                Whether you’re dining at the local eatery or just looking for a quick bite at the airport or mall, the Restaurant Road Rules  from registered dietitian Carolyn O’Neil on WGN’s Midday Fix can keep you well fueled and in the driver’s seat.

                                Remember you’re in the driver’s seat…..when you’re dining out. I see a sign!








                                  Let’s Eat Out!

                                    Dining with friends at The Purple Pig in Chicago enjoying great food and great fun. Good thing we had a 5:30 pm reservation. The place was packed during the National Restaurant Association Show.
                                    Purple Pig fave: Turkey leg cooked in a confit of duck fat. It was like dinner on The Game of Thrones.


                                    Let the gourmet games begin at the 2014 National Restaurant Association Show welcoming thousands of restaurant owners, chefs and food service suppliers.  Attendees buy everything from vegan entrees to vacuum cleaners.









                                    So what’s on the menu for restaurants? I spent three days spotting trends and talking to pros in the food biz.

                                    Supreme seafood at Halpern’s booth in the NRA Exhibit Hall. Who needs the Deadliest Catch, Halpern’s bring the legs to lunch!

                                     BUZZ WORDS ABUNDANT



                                    Fresh, natural, authentic, hand crafted, made with ancient grains, and high in protein.

                                    These and many more buzzwords related to better eating were trending big time at the in the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) annual trade show held in Chicago.

                                    “It’s OK to say the ‘h’ word now,” observes Cynthia Harriman, Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies for the Whole Grains Council.
                                    Harriman spoke at one of the educational sessions focused on nutrition and healthy living. While whole grains used to be minority players on menus, Harriman says they’re center stage now. “It may surprise folks to know that the 45% of the rice ordered at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is the brown rice.”

                                    Chicago’s Kiki’s won an Innovation Award from the NRA for their Deep Dish Gluten-Free Pizza

                                    Registered dietitian Cheryl Dolven, Director of Health and Wellness for the Darden Restaurants says, “We have to change what’s in our pantry to change what’s on the plate. Our customers are asking for healthier items. At Darden we’re lowering calories and sodium and enhancing children’s menus with more vegetables.”

                                    So, joining the big bowls of pasta at Darden’s Olive Garden chain are dishes such as Chicken Abruzzi made with cannelloni beans and kale.

                                    Nutrition on the Menu
                                    The NRA exhibit hall showcased products operators need to address special dietary needs including gluten-free, allergy-friendly, vegetarian and vegan options.


                                    Steve Schimoler, chef and owner of Crop Bistro & Bar in Cleveland says, “It’s not unusual for a table of six guests to announce that one can’t have raw onions, one has another allergy and one is a vegan.”





                                    Schimoler is a member of the Research Chefs Association; specialists in product development that meets specifications such as lower in sodium and sugar without sacrificing appeal.

                                    Chobani chefs demonstrated ways to use Greek yogurt in savory sauces, soups and dishes.

                                    Dolven says, “We’ve got to show people that healthy foods can taste great.”

                                    What’s new on the menu? 
                                    Combing the exhibits I spotted sweet potato wraps, parsnip fries, Greek yogurt sold for savory recipes, meatless ‘meats’ such as a sprouted quinoa chia burger and a range of chicken, fish and meat substitutes from Gardein made with quinoa and other grains.







                                    A fishless fish filet?

                                    “Protein is a big nutrition trend,” says registered dietitian Janet Helm author of the blog Nutrition Unplugged. “People want a variety of vegetable based proteins even if they’re not vegetarian or vegan.”

                                    Janet Helm, Chief Nutrition Strategist for Weber Shandwick and author of Nutrition Unplugged blog with me as we present our session “Nutrition on the Menu: trends for restauranteurs.” Packed house by the way!

                                    But it’s not always easy catering to the health conscious consumer. They may be into Meatless Mondays one week and craving steaks on the Paleo Diet the next.

                                    Gluten-free was everywhere at the NRA Show but so was attention to artisanal breads.

                                    Life is better with better bread!








                                    Long time critic of the restaurant industry lack of nutrition focus Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest told an audience gathered to listen to a panel discussing  the state of nutrition in the restaurants today, “I think things are moving in the right direction but very slowly.”









                                    Years ago, Jacobson dubbed fettuccine Alfredo ‘heart attack on a plate’ and continues to call for change, “Restaurants have got to cut the salt and add more fruits and vegetables.”

                                    Well, you got it…one way or another!







                                      What’s Not on Menu?

                                        On the Menu

                                        Here’s some food for thought. No additives, no preservatives, no antibiotics, and no growth hormones. These phrases meant to highlight healthy intentions by focusing on what’s not on the menu are starting to overshadow nutrition information about what’s actually in the dishes we order at restaurants.

                                        According to marketing research from Technomic, the healthy halo for foods today is created not so much by touting the good nutrition they provide. It’s more about delivering against what consumers perceive as undesirable substances.

                                        “I am so exhausted by the dialogue that I think confuses and even scares consumers into eating in ways that are ultimately unhealthy and unattainable,” says Washington, D.C.-based registered dietitian Lisa Katic.

                                        Case in point. Burger places may boast about all-natural beef and never-frozen fries, but that doesn’t change the fact that the meal can serve up a day’s worth of fat and calories.

                                        “It seems that we are giving ourselves license to eat what we crave — big juicy burgers and a heaping pile of fries — if they are free of the current no-nos in the food supply,” says registered dietitian Christine Palumbo of Benedictine University in Chicago. “Do a reality check on portion sizes. Just because your burger is hormone-free, doesn’t mean it is calorie-free.”

                                        Words to watch

                                        When you see “we only use natural ingredients” listed on a menu, it might not mean what you think. The claim “natural” is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture only for labeling meat, poultry and eggs and does not include standards regarding farm practices. The term “organic” is closely regulated for use on all crops, livestock and agricultural products that meet USDA standards. Note that federal regulations have never permitted hormones or steroids in poultry, pork or goat.

                                        According to Technomic research, other restaurant terms associated with healthfulness include “homemade,” “house-made,” “real” and “made from scratch.” But the ice cream and bacon can be house-made, and the heavy cream and sea salt can be real. If weight management or heart health is a concern, these terms are not the perfect guide to finding the healthiest choice on menus.

                                        So isn’t it a good thing that restaurants are meeting demand for what consumers perceive as healthy for people and the planet?

                                        “It is in the eye of the beholder if these production factors are a misplaced concern or not,” says registered dietitian Melissa Musiker, who specializes in food and nutrition policy at APCO Worldwide in Washington, D.C.

                                        She says, “In my mind, I think we’d make more progress by encouraging the availability of more healthy substitutions — salad or fruit instead of fries, unsweetened ice tea or even smaller portion size options.”

                                        Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and author of “Southern Living: The Slim Down South Cookbook.” Email her at

                                          Yeah Spring! Farmer’s Markets Open!

                                            Spring signals new beginnings and the re-opening of area farmers markets.


                                            Farmers meet shoppers one-on-one to sell their just-picked crops and suggest the best ways to cook them. Friends and neighbors, many with kids and dogs in tow, chat about the week and compare purchases.


                                             Checking Georgia Organic’s list of what’s in season for April, shoppers can expect to see asparagus, English peas, radishes, spring onions and leafy greens such as arugula, kale, cabbage and collards.


                                            Crop O’Goodness


                                            There’s often a good crop of freshly baked breads and locally made cheeses, sausages and honey at markets, too. Don’t know what to do with fresh turnips or kale? Most farmers markets have weekly chef demonstrations.

                                            Chef Kevin Gillespie of Gun Show in Atlanta gets ready to roll!
                                            Chef Kevin Gillespie of Gun Show in Atlanta gets ready to roll!

                                            At the Peachtree Road Farmers Market at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Buckhead, chef Jeb Aldrich of 4th and Swift Restaurant recently showed shoppers how to create a kale salad with turnips, oyster mushrooms and spring onions. Produce came from Heritage Farms and Burge Organics, both with booths at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market.

                                            Burge Farm farmer!
                                            Burge Farm farmer!

                                            Harvest of Benefits

                                            The taste benefits drive flavor-seekers to farmers markets but the health benefits of enjoying freshly picked fruits and vegetables are a big attraction, too.


                                            Add to that the good feeling of supporting local farmers and food producers with your purchases and farmers markets are a great place to shop.  The USDA’s National Farmers Market Proclamation lists multiple benefits including, “ markets play a key role in developing local and regional food systems that support the sustainability of family farms, revitalize communities, and provide opportunities for farmers and consumers to interact.”


                                            The Heritage farm - all in the family!
                                            The Heritage farm – all in the family!

                                            To Market, To Market:

                                            -Try to get there early to buy the pick of the crop. Look on line for a list of farmers and food producers who attend each market to help plan ahead.

                                            -Jump into the season: what’s seasonal now? If it is in season it will taste best and often cost less.


                                            –Try varieties of fruits and vegetables you’ve never tasted before. Talk to the farmers, if they grew it, they are happy to tell you how to cook it. Don’t be shy. Move aside chefs!  Farmers are the new food celebrities.

                                            -Buy some ripe, and buy some not so ripe, so you have a nice selection for the week. For instance, with tomatoes and peaches, choose really ripe ones to eat that day. Choose firmer ones that will ripen on the kitchen counter to eat a few days later.

                                            -Imperfections can taste best. The ‘ugliest’ tomato is likely to be an heirloom variety with more tomato flavor.

                                            -Bring your own reusable bags. Make sure they’re clean because dirty bags can contaminate your perfect produce.

                                            - Have small bills in cash for faster transactions. Some farmers take credit cards, but cash is easier for all.

                                            -Note that many farmers market accept EBT/SNAP benefits (food stamps). Some double the value through a partnership with Wholesome Wave Georgia to make healthy food accessible to more shoppers.

                                            -Food safety is important. Look for perishable foods such as eggs, cheeses, yogurts, meats, seafood and sausages displayed on ice or in refrigerated coolers.  And have an insulated cooler with ice in your car to place perishable purchases. For more good stuff on food safety and nutrition visit BestFoodFacts.

                                            -Enjoy the experience. In general, farmers markets are leisurely, and most people peruse the goods at a relaxed pace. Have fun!!

                                            Wholesome Wave helps shoppers using Snap benefits ( food stamps ) stretch their dollars to afford more fresh produce. Now that’s a crop of goodness!

















                                              Wonderful Wyoming

                                                Appetite for the Tetons


                                                 A spring break visit to Jackson Hole promised moose sightings, snowy mountain vistas, world class skiing and plenty of cowboy boots. Add herds of grazing elk, galleries popping with contemporary western art and tickets to the see the Moose hockey team slap shots across the ice at the Snow King Center and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful time in Wyoming.

                                                My kids Katie and Jack with me at the Moose hockey game in Jackson, WY
                                                Go Moose!! Note the billboard ad on the wall for broken limb repair!
                                                My friend Liz McDermott and I with…of course…the cuddly Moose mascot!










                                                Jason WIlliams and I stalking the wild elk herds.

                                                “There’s no way I could live in the city again,” says Jason Williams, owner of Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris. A trained geographer and skilled wildlife photographer, Williams toured us through the National Elf Refuge handing out binoculars and pointing out big horn sheep and telling us about the wolves and bears in the surrounding Grand Tetons.

                                                Me, Beatrix Kondor, Liz McDermott and the Grand Tetons!
                                                Liz found a moose in the town of Jackson! #antlersarein

                                                Wildlife is part of the landscape. In fact, the speed limit on area roads goes from 55 mph during the day to 45 mph at night so drivers have more time to avoid hitting a moose or other animal.

                                                Leaning Local on the Menu

                                                Birthday lunch for Bea at the Handlebar at Four Seasons Resort in Teton Mountain Village. We loved the burger there!!! Wyoming angus beef.


                                                The menus on restaurants feature local fare including craft beers, cheeses, wild huckleberries and game meats.

                                                The window at Local restaurant in town square of Jackson.

                                                “Buffalo and elk have a huge draw on the menu,” says executive chef Kevin Humphreys of Spur Restaurant at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village.  He says, “Buffalo is similar to grass fed beef. It’s a lean meat and has a dry aged beef flavor.”

                                                Originally from St. Simons, Humphreys moved to Jackson fifteen years ago. “I came out for a summer and fell in love with it.”

                                                Popular dishes on the menu at Spur include buffalo sliders and fries covered in elk gravy, a play on the Canadian dish called poutine.


                                                Yup, fries with elk gravy….

                                                “We braise buffalo and elk for seven hours and then shred into the gravy and top with a local farm house cheddar,” says Humphreys.

                                                At Hayden’s Post in the Snow King Resort state products proudly star on the menu such as a Wyoming Whiskey Manhattan and a Wyoming Angus Beef Burger on buns made by artisan bakers at 460 Bread located just across the border in Idaho.

                                                Couldn’t resist this little guy! Hello from a local!

                                                “There’s an emerging dining scene here and the majority of restaurants use local ingredients as much as possible,” says Humphreys. “I like to use beer from Snake River Brewing to make an ale mustard and to braise buffalo.”

                                                There’s even a restaurant called Local. On the menu there – seared coffee rubbed elk medallions with a huckleberry demi-glace.

                                                In the summer months, when visitors flock to hike, bike, and go fly-fishing and river rafting there’s plenty of trout on the menu and locally grown vegetables.

                                                The bloody mary with cured bacon garnish at Spur.

                                                If you’re not game for game, the Jackson dining scene is diverse.


                                                Bin-22 is a wine and tapas bar with charcuterie platters and creative salads.

                                                Gavin Fine welcomes Liz, me and Bea to Bin 22!!

                                                The menu at Il Villaggio Osteria features Mediterranean fare for mountain appetites including house made fennel sausage for pizzas and pastas and dark chocolate “salami” for dessert.

                                                Chocolate salami- what a great idea! Thank you Gavin Fine, owner of the Fine Dining group of restaurants including Bin 22 and il village osteria and the Kitchen where my daughter Katie will be working this summer. (:

                                                The fresh cold air and abundance of outdoor activities can really ramp up an appetite for mealtime in the mountains.

                                                Jackson Hole Mountain Resort as seen from the cozy fire on the terrace at Handebar.

                                                Allison Arthur, an editor of Dishing, which is a guide to dining around Jackson Hole and Teton Valley, says there are advantages to living with chilly temperatures, “Your body has to work harder to stay warm, and you can consume more calories. Not that we need another excuse to eat and drink but every little bit helps.”

                                                Something for everyone on the menu in Jackson, WY. Three different bubbles at Bin 22 for Beatrix, Liz and me.

                                                Game On Nutrition

                                                Both buffalo (bison) and elk are lean meats with less than 200 calories per four ounce serving. As with beef and lamb, bison and elk are good sources of vitamin B12 and the minerals iron and zinc.

                                                My favorite salad at Bin 22. I’ll be back…..this summer.


                                                  Spring Menus Sprouting



                                                    The arrival of spring in Atlanta with happy daffodils popping up and pink blossoms budding out on trees is even more wonderfully welcome this year after shivering through an unusually icy cold winter.

                                                    Restaurant menus are showing signs of springtime, too. “Artichokes are starting to arrive and we’re so excited to see asparagus, which is a really good price right now,” says E.J. Hodgkinson, executive chef of JCT Kitchen and Bar. The bar menu gets a spring makeover too with floral notes such as a touch of St. Germain elderflower liqueur in a tequila and grapefruit cocktail.

                                                    photo 2

                                                    Just as you want to keep a cozy sweater or light jacket handy – braised lamb shanks, slow cooked stews and hearty soups are still appreciated with the chilly temps of March. But there’s a seasonal menu change in motion as we move closer toApril. “I’m really tired of root vegetables,” says Daniel Porubiansky, chef partner of Century House Tavern in Woodstock. Porubiansky, who’s participating in Downtown Woodstock’s Restaurant Week (which runs through March 30th), serves seared halibut on a bed of sautéed baby sweet peas, artichokes and fava beans, “I season them with what I call my magic herb mixture of fresh rosemary, thyme and parsley.”

                                                    For vegetarians and pasta lovers, also on the spring menu at Century House Tavern, gnocchi with artichokes, sweet peas and mushrooms.

                                                    photo 4

                                                    The Italian word for spring is primavera and you’ll find Arroz Primavera on the menu at Eclipse Di Luna; a pretty dish of spiced Basmati rice with wild mushrooms, red pepper,green beans and spring peas sauteed in basil butter.

                                                    Sweet Taste of Spring

                                                    Another sign of the warming times is just picked strawberries. The Century House Tavern’s dessert menu features the sweet spring crop in a strawberry shortcake and crème caramel with strawberry compote.

                                                    photo 1

                                                    Porubiansky says, “I like Florida strawberries better than California because they’re a deeper red color and taste more like a strawberry. In two weeks we’ll start seeing them from South Georgia.”

                                                    Spring Into Good Nutrition

                                                    Artichokes are rich in bone-building magnesium, immunity boosting vitamin C and as much heart-healthy potassium as a small banana.

                                                    Asparagus spears are good source of the hearth-healthy B-vitamin folate, as well as vitamins A, C, E and K.

                                                    Fava beans are an excellent source of vegetable protein with 13 g protein per cup and good source of iron and dietary fiber.

                                                    Green peas are a good source of folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, dietary fiber and vegetable protein with 8 grams of protein per cup.

                                                    Strawberries are very low in calories with only 50 calories per cup. And did you know that eight strawberries provides more vitamin C than an orange? Sweet


                                                      Food Label Lingo Gets a Makeover

                                                        Making its debut in a supermarket near you…here’s the star of the show!

                                                        The Nutrition Facts label, required by the US Food and Drug Administration to reveal what’s in the box, can, bag or package of foods we buy, is getting a long awaited, much needed makeover.

                                                        Michelle Obama announced the proposed changes at the White House on Feb. 27 joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg.

                                                        The First Lady said,
                                                        “Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family.” 

                                                        So, what’s new and different and better?

                                                        Registered dietitian, Janet Helm, author of the Nutrition Unplugged blog site summarizes the improvements:

                                                        • Calories are bigger and bolder.  You can’t miss the number of calories now.  That’s important because it all comes down to Americans eating too many calories.

                                                         My thoughts: When you grab a bag of cookies or start pouring on the salad dressing chances are greater you’ll say, “Woah! didn’t know there were that many calories per serving!” 

                                                        • Serving sizes get a reality check.  Servings are closer to what people actually eat — instead of 1/2 cup of ice cream, it’s 1 cup (although many people probably fill their bowl with even more).

                                                        My thoughts: Makes sense. But are we encouraging folks to eat a cup of ice cream, when they might have chosen to eat a half cup?  Maybe “sticker shock” when you see how many calories in a cup will stop you from over-indulging?  Here are some comparisons from the dietitians at 

                                                        Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Fudge Core Ice Cream: 600 calories per cup instead of 300 calories per 1/2 cup

                                                         Haagen Dazs Frozen Yogurt Vanilla Lowfat: 340 calories per cup instead of 170 calories per 1/2 cup

                                                        • Single servings are clearer.  Instead of a 20-ounce bottle of soda being labeled 2.5 servings, it will be 1 serving.  If a bag contains more than 1 serving, larger type will yell out: 8 servings per containers

                                                        My thoughts: I like it! This way folks who chug down a sports drink, won’t think it’s only 70 calories- which was for half the bottle. Now they’ll know they’re downing 140 calories.

                                                        • Added sugars will be added.    This is a big one.  Now you’ll find “added sugars” broken out under the “sugars” category, which includes  both natural and added sugars.  It seems sugar has become the new trans fat, and more people are trying to reduce table sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners. Now many companies will be motivated to reformulate products to help reduce the amount of sugar that’s added to foods and beverages.

                                                        My thoughts: This is also good for dairy products such as yogurt. DId you know up to 20% of the sugar content listed is for the naturally occurring lactose sugar in milk? Now you can compare which yogurt brands are adding the most additional sugar to sweeten.

                                                        • % DV goes first.  The percent daily value was moved to the left of the label so it’s first thing you see.  This helps put the number of grams or milligrams into context — is it high or low?  how does it fit into the rest of your diet?

                                                        My thoughts: Will help folks figure out if a food is a good source of vitamin C or potassium; rather than just seeing the nutrient is in there. 

                                                        • Calories from fat are gone.  This is good.  No one knew what that meant. We’re past the low-fat era, and the type of fat we eat is more important than the amount. That’s why it’s good to still check out saturated fat and trans fat on the label. Some people thought “trans fat” would disappear from the new label since this artery-clogging fat is supposed to be disappearing from the food supply. That didn’t happen, but it may in the future.

                                                        My thoughts: Way to go!  It’s about the heart healthy quality of fat than the overall quantity. Although, still wise to watch your total fat intake. Connie Crawley, an extension nutrition and health expert at the University of Georgia in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences says,  “Leaving off calories from fat is probably a good idea. It was poorly understood, and now we are more interested in the quality of fat and not so much the quantity of fat.”

                                                        • Vitamin D and potassium are added.  These two “nutrients of concern” replace vitamins A and C (which are optional now).  This is good news because the American diet is low in both of those nutrients — so it makes more sense to highlight vitamin D (important for bone health) and potassium (benefits blood pressure), along with calcium and iron.

                                                        My thoughts: We gotta focus on the gap nutrients, the ones we’re most likely to  be short on in our diets. Potassium is a nutrition darling these days. Guess what? It’s the good guy in blood pressure control. You need more of it…found in potatoes, fruits, vegetables and milk. 

                                                        • Fiber gets redefined.  If approved, the “fiber” on a label will no longer include purified, processed fibers such as maltodextrin and inulin that are added to fiber-fortified foods.  Only the intact, unprocessed fiber in whole foods would count.

                                                        My thoughts:  Guess we’re learning not all fibers are created equal or have the same health benefits. Fiber types  will be dueling for attention on the new food label.  Chew on that!

                                                        Millennials don’t remember a day before food labels. 

                                                        Did you know that the Nutrition Facts Panel is more than 20 years old and many believe does not reflect the current food environment or recent scientific research.

                                                        “It was time for a change, and the FDA is making progress in the right direction,”says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Dr. Glenna McCollum. “It’s a big win for consumers. There has been so much new research about consumers’ use of food labels, chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and how specific nutrients affect our health.”

                                                        The FDA press release on the proposed changes can be found at





                                                          A Fresh Look at Foods


                                                            Nutrition Know How from International Food Conference


                                                            Sometimes you have to get away to look at things a different way. So it was with Food 3000*, a recent conference presenting the latest in nutrition research and food trends.


                                                            This annual meeting of invited food and nutrition experts and writers from the U. S. (including myself) is a four-day emersion into what’s new in the science and psychology of healthy eating.



                                                            Set this year in the Dutch city known for flowers, canals, Rembrandt and bicycles – where cheese is served with spicy mustard, mashed potatoes are mixed with kale, herring snacks are sold on street corners, and pancakes are a high art – Amsterdam set the scene to get us thinking differently about diet.


                                                            First topic of discussion, since the Dutch developed a way to make cocoa powder from chocolate in the early 19th century famously called Dutch process chocolate; what does the word ‘processed’ mean to consumers today? A lot of folks say that they want to eat fewer processed foods to improve their eating habits, but in their efforts to eat ‘farm to fork’ maybe they don’t realize that most foods go through a chain of events to make them safer, more palatable and yes, even more nutritious.

                                                            Little bites of beet meringues to start the meal at Restaurant Fyra in Amsterdam
                                                            Little bites of beet meringues to start the meal at Restaurant Fyra in Amsterdam

                                                            “Processing can increase the nutrients we want in foods and decrease the things we want to limit such as fat and sodium,” says Julie Miller Jones, professor of foods and nutrition at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. “Badmouthing processed foods is not a solution.”

                                                            From orange juice fortified with calcium to vegetables frozen almost immediately after harvest, many processed foods deliver on taste and nutrition. Eric Decker, professor of food science at the University of Massachusetts reminds us about the convenience factor, “In the late 1800’s people spent most of the day preparing foods and now we’ve got it down to an average of 33 minutes a day.”  Then there’s the matter of mystery ingredients on food labels listing additives and preservatives. Janet Collins, president of the Institute of Food Technologists acknowledges, “We need to let people know why ingredients are used and explain scientific sounding names.” For instance, a preservative derived from vitamin E might be used to prevent oils in grain products from going rancid.  Decker adds, “Processed foods are part of the solution. We have to figure out more ways to make them more healthy.”

                                                            Cracked Plates

                                                            No, I’m not talking about the pretty blue and white Delft china butter dish I bought in Amsterdam. It was wrapped carefully in bubble wrap and made it home safely.

                                                            Delt china tiles at the Ruks Museum in Amsterdam.

                                                            Another topic of diet discussion at Food 3000 focused on the nutrients too many Americans are missing. “Our plates are cracked and things are falling through so we have to focus on food sources of these gap nutrients,” says Katherine Tucker, professor of health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston. Interesting to note that many of what nutritionists call “short fall” nutrients –including vitamin A, C, and potassium- are found in fruits and vegetables, which we know folks aren’t eating enough of today.  If you like white potatoes ( even fried ) you may be surprised to know they’re a good source of potassium and vitamin C as well as fiber. Another nutrition myth busted: white foods can be good for you.

                                                            We experienced a taste test comparing frying methods for potatoes to sample those lower in fat and sodium. Oil and temp matters!
                                                            We experienced a taste test comparing frying methods for potatoes to sample those lower in fat and sodium. Oil and temp matters!

                                                            Where’s the Joy?

                                                            Fellow dietitian Kathleen Zelman, Director of Nutrition for WebMD, and I team up to bake the winning Dutch apple pie at the DeKookFabriek cooking school. Well, we thought we should win!

                                                            Finally an ingredient we all need a little more of in our meals. Dr Paul Rozin, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, studies life satisfaction in a field called Positive Psychology. He points out, “When you ask the French what’s important to them when it comes to food they say the joy in eating and when you ask people in the U.S. they say health is important. But it’s funny because the French are actually healthier than we are. So maybe we need a little more joy on our plates.”

                                                            Dietitians and "Meal Makeover Moms" Liz Weiss and Janice Bissex find food joy at the "tiniest restaurant in Europe" a pancake place in Amsterdam.
                                                            Dietitians and “Meal Makeover Moms” Liz Weiss and Janice Bissex find food joy at the “tiniest restaurant in Europe” a pancake place in Amsterdam.


                                                            “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right!” is the theme for 2014 National Nutrition Month. (By the way this slogan was first used in 1990 and I was the one on the national committee  that came up with it. I felt we needed to emphasize the pleasure in eating good foods, not just the importance of good health.)

                                                            ENJOY THE TASTE OF EATING RIGHT!


                                                            Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right! Slogan on apron as my cute son Jack helps cook dinner in the 90′s! He’s 25 years old now.

                                                            *Disclosure: Food 3000 is organized by Porter Novelli. Since 1998 has been the public relations company’s not for profit signature annual meeting designed to provide education opportunities for food and nutrition communicators. The event meets the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics criteria for continuing education credits for registered dietitians.















                                                              We Heart Red for Valentine’s Day

                                                                valentines_day_card Seeing Red in Healthy Foods

                                                                Heart shaped boxes of chocolates, bouquets of blooms, Valentine’s Day cards and even cute little stuffed animals are all dressed up in the signature rose colored hues of February.

                                                                But, another shade of red is showing up on Atlanta restaurant menus as winter pomegranates celebrate their season.

                                                                pomegranate-1000Slightly sweet and citrus-like fresh pomegranate seeds (called arils) are added to a mixed green and goat cheese salad at Metrofresh in Midtown. There’s pomegranate ketchup at Flip Burger, pomegranate barbecue sauce at the Sundial restaurant, pomegranate vinaigrette at the Cheesecake Factory and pomegranate juice being whisked into cocktails all over town.

                                                                The ruby red arils, which resemble little jewels, are low in calories while being rich in nutrition.  Fresh pomegranates are an excellent source of dietary fiber (you can tell by chewing the crunchy seeds).

                                                                Marisa Moore
                                                                registered dietitian in Atlanta

                                                                “At just 105 calories each, a medium pomegranate is a good source of potassium and vitamin C,” says Atlanta registered dietitian Marisa Moore.  Pomegranates, with botanical origins in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, are known for their high antioxidant content associated with heart health benefits so pair perfectly with Valentine’s Day menus.

                                                                Moore says, “The juice concentrates the nutrients and phytochemicals making it more potent than the seeds. Preliminary evidence suggests drinking pomegranate juice may reduce blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.” Count 140 calories for a cup of pomegranate juice.


                                                                February is National Heart Month with the American Heart Association’s Go Red campaign to promote heart health through good nutrition.  As long as we’re seeing red, pomegranates aren’t the only stars in the produce section.

                                                                “From cherries to strawberries, tomatoes and red cabbage, red fruits and vegetables are a great source of heart healthy components,” says Moore.


                                                                Color Me Healthy

                                                                Red, blue, green, purple and orange pigments of foods are indications of the phyto- chemicals or plant nutrients that lie within. Phyto is the Greek word for plant. Red pigments are a sign that plant foods contain lycopene, beta-carotene and anthocyanin. These antioxidant dietary good guys are associated with promoting heart health, protecting cells from damage, improving memory function, aiding blood sugar control and a lowering risk of certain cancers including prostate cancer.

                                                                dark redimages

                                                                Shades of Red

                                                                Generally foods with darker pigmentation are richer in antioxidant concentration. So, a ruby red grapefruit would be higher in antioxidants than a white grapefruit.   Moore says, “While all grapefruit varieties contain pectin, a fiber that helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, red grapefruit gets its signature color from lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that helps prevent heart disease, vision loss and lowers the risk of some cancers.”

                                                                Researchers estimate that there is up to 4,000 different phyto-chemicals in plant foods and only a small fraction have been studied closely. For instance, you can take a vitamin C supplement but fresh strawberries are an excellent source of the vitamin and a whole lot more.

                                                                So this Valentine’s Day rather than buying a box of calorie-laden candies for the object of your affection tempt their taste buds and boost their health with a selection of dark chocolate covered strawberries.


                                                                And toast to your love with a Pomegranate martini!



                                                                  Sweet and Slim Savvy Desserts

                                                                    In Praise of Dessert

                                                                    Baked Pears…mmm… in season during the winter….pears are perfect for dessert!

                                                                     Skipping dessert to eat a bit healthier and cut come calories in the New Year?

                                                                    Attention chocoholics and ice cream lovers. There’s no need to go completely cold turkey on the cakes, cookies, pies and frozen treats if you adopt dessert savvy dining strategies.  Prioritizing your craving for something sweet is the first step. Chances are if you try to ignore it and it may emerge as a bon-bon binge gone bad. In fact, registered dietitian Jill Melton, editor of Relish Magazine says she asks waiters to see the dessert menu first, “They may think I’m a bit crazy but I want to know what’s on the dessert menu before I order anything else. That way I know not to get an indulgent appetizer to start.  I’ll save my calories for dessert, thank you.”

                                                                    Sarah Koob thinks about dessert first, too. Of course, she’s the executive pastry chef at Canoe restaurant in Atlanta and creates all of the tempting treats for the restaurant.  “Dessert is a forethought here at Canoe not an afterthought,” says Koob.  Her desserts change with seasons, just like the rest of the menu and she takes her cue from the savory side, “What are the appetizers, entrees and specials on the menu and how can dessert compliment the guest experience?”

                                                                    The nutty slightly sweet flavors of pistachios are her inspiration now with a pistachio brown butter cake, pistachio butter cream stuffed macaroons with candied blood orange compote and a roasted pistachio ice cream on the winter dessert menu. She says, “The flavors with all nuts are enhanced when roasted because the aromatics and the oils release their flavors.”

                                                                    Oatmeal scones are topped with toasted pecans for great crunch and good nutrition. Slim Down South Cookbook


                                                                    While most folks think the primary purpose of dessert is to satisfy the sweet tooth, pastry chefs know that other flavors including salty, sour, bitter and sometimes a little heat (think chile spiced chocolate) combine to make a truly memorable dessert. “I think in ever aspect you want to take the true flavors such as  lemon or lime with tart and bright clean flavors. Or really taste the peanut butter or chocolate distinctively, “ says Koob.  “Sweet is the back bone but you don’t want to taste just sugar.”


                                                                    One of the strategies for long-term weight control success is to slow down and truly savor the flavors in our foods so you’re satisfied with sensible portions. (Just like those French women, who don’t get fat.)  The same goes for dessert which is the last bite, even if it was the first thought, “Dessert I think adds a crescendo and a grand finale for the meal,” says Koob who offers an orchestra of choices including warm Apple-Cinnamon Crumble Tart, Popcorn Ice Cream Sundae and a selection of seasonal sorbets. It’s your choice if you want to savor your own dessert or share a few selections and multiple spoons for the table.

                                                                    Screen shot 2013-04-04 at 4.10.15 PM




                                                                      Winter Citrus Delicious and Nutritious

                                                                        bowlUnknown Sure it’s easy to find plenty of fresh fruit under the summer sun, but did you know that wintertime is the best time for citrus?

                                                                        The seasonal tasting menu at Bacchanalia puts the word right up front with a selection of Winter Citrus Sorbets including blood orange, tangerine, grapefruit and Meyer lemon.


                                                                        The slightly bittersweet tang of grapefruit is paired with Gulf crab fritters, Thai pepper and avocado as a second course at the restaurant. “I love grapefruit,” says Anne Quatrano executive chef and co-owner of Bacchanalia, Floataway Café and Abattoir. She says grapefruit finds its way into just about every course when it’s in season, “I love the way it cuts the richness of lobster to make it even better. We use it in cocktails and I love grapefruit combined with tarragon for desserts.”

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                                                                        Raw fluke served crudo style with blood orange and pink grapefruit makes its dining debut at newly opened St. Cecilia in Buckhead.

                                                                        The menu at this chef Ford Fry restaurant is inspired by the cuisine of Mediterranean coastlines featuring seafood and pastas with bold flavors including the bright notes of citrus. From the bar tangerine juice is paired with bourbon in a craft cocktail created by beverage consultant Lara Creasy.

                                                                        Seafood with citrus at The Optimist. Another Chef Ford Fry restaurant foodies rave about.

                                                                        The Grapefruit League

                                                                        Pink, white and ruby red grapefruit from Florida, at the peak of availability now, are tumbling into supermarket produce sections and ready for you to section into fruit bowls, over salads, into salsas and on top of ice cream for dessert. Grapefruit not only brightens up winter taste buds; it offers a terrific source of vitamin C, the mineral potassium, folic acid and dietary fiber. Grapefruit has a “diet-friendly” reputation because it contains less sugar than most other fruit so is lower in calories. One-half of a medium grapefruit contains only 60 calories and with fewer than 100 calories per 8-ounce serving, grapefruit juice contains fewer calories than many commonly consumed fruit juices.

                                                                        Pink and ruby red grapefruit are higher in beta-carotene (vitamin A) content compared to the white varieties.dark redimages

                                                                        The darker the red pigment, the higher the beta-carotene content.

                                                                        Brighten Up to Lighten Up

                                                                        Capi Peck, chef at Trio’s Restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas says the bright flavors of citrus help lighten up dishes- her stay slim secret shared in my Slim Down South Cookbook. “Instead of butter, I’ll use a citrus sauce on fish.” She improves the nutritional profile of fried green tomatoes by frying in heart healthy canola oil and serves them with a rémoulade sauce made with light mayonnaise, fresh herbs, capers, and lemon.

                                                                        Pairing Citrus with Wine

                                                                        Winemaker, Janet Trefethen of Trefethen Family Vineyards in Napa Valley, suggests pairing grapefruit’s aromatic flavors with un-oaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay, “The bright acidity and citrus character of the wine would play beautifully with the dish and I think they would complement each other. Yum, I’d like a bite please.”

                                                                        Grapefruit Footnote:

                                                                        Natural compounds in grapefruit can interfere with the way certain medicines are metabolized making them more potent than they should be – including statin drugs, calcium channel blockers and some ant-anxiety medications. So check with your physician or pharmacist to be sure your prescription allows you to safely consume winter’s fresh grapefruit. If not, enjoy the oranges and tangerines!


                                                                          Lady of the Fridge reappears on Alton Browncast


                                                                             Alton Brown’s podcast “The Alton Brown Cast” is a rollicking, frolicking and fact filled conversation about food and fitness for the New Year and really all year. I’m a guest with Alton’s personal trainer ( and Good Eats alum ) Roger Scott.  Alton says Roger’s the reason and regimen he was able to trim down and tone up. From Flab to Fab – he kind of says.

                                                                            Alton tells the tale of the creation of The Lady of the Refrigerator, my  role as a recurring nutrition expert on Good Eats, who appears through the icy fog of the fridge to impart dietary, foodie wisdoms.

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                                                                            The Lady of the Refrigerator in her bag blue prom gown….beckons from the back of Alton Brown’s fridge. Nickname: The Fridge Fairy
                                                                            Lady of Fridge in Barrel
                                                                            Alton liked to torture me in a Hitchcock and blonde kind of way. Here he put me in a barrel of brine to talk about food preservation.

                                                                            Have some fun listening to the Alton Brown Cast to find out more about The Slim Down South Cookbook.  Can Southern be Healthy???!!! You bet your biscuits!

                                                                            Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well an Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon!
                                                                            Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well an Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon!

                                                                            And find out what Alton wants to know about Best Food  I’m the nutrition advisor and we’ve got over 150 experts ready to roll to answer your questions on food, nutrition, food safety, cuisine and agriculture. Talk about a healthy harvest!!!

                                                                            Quick quiz: where does Alton record his Browncast. Listen and learn……

                                                                            I’m going back in the fridge now.

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                                                                              New Year New Tastes

                                                                                Cheers! Food and Nutrition Trends Now and Ahead



                                                                                It’s a healthy tradition to take stock of where we’ve been and where we’re headed as a new year begins.  When it comes to food and nutrition trends it’s fascinating to see annual changes in what’s hot and what’s not.

                                                                                Sorry, kale we’re getting a bit burned out on you.

                                                                                Quinoa, we like you, but booming demand for a limited supply of your healthy ancient South American grain has pushed up the price. Brussels sprouts keep appearing on menus and thanks to oven roasting, more folks are eating and enjoying this low calorie, fiber rich, cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetable.

                                                                                Our love affair with all things “local” continues to go strong.

                                                                                Top of the list of 20 Trends identified by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) What’s Hot 2013 Chef Survey includes locally sourced meats, seafood and produce. So, look for more farms being identified on restaurant menus and look around the dining room – you may spot a farmer.  If a restaurant tends its own garden out back, or on the roof in the case of Ecco restaurant in midtown, this is called “hyper-local sourcing.”  Take a stroll along the Chattahoochee River bank in front of Canoe restaurant in Vinings and you’ll find a vegetable garden complete with chickens and bees.

                                                                                Consumer demand for figure-friendly and overall healthy foods when dining out continues to increase with requests for smaller portions for a smaller price and more healthful kids meals.  The NRA asked chefs, members of the American Culinary Federation, if they were making adjustments to dishes to make them healthier by cutting sodium and adding more fruits and vegetables. More than half said, “Yes, always.”  Our compliments to the chef!

                                                                                Trans Fats Fading

                                                                                Trans fats get the boot next year as new Food and Drug Administration regulations go into effect removing these artery clogging fats from the list of food ingredients considered “generally recognized as safe.” In recent years, food manufacturers have been doing a good job eliminating trans fats in recent years, but they still exist in some foods such as stick margarines, microwave popcorn and frozen pizzas.

                                                                                Gluten Free Not Fading

                                                                                Gluten free menu items and food products continue to rock to the top of trend lists. Avoiding gluten (a protein in wheat, barley and rye) is vital for those with a clinical disorder such as celiac disease. But there’s lack of evidence to support eliminating wheat or other gluten containing grains for weight loss or other health improvements. Gluten free chocolate chip cookies, are still chocolate chip cookies.

                                                                                Home Canning Comeback

                                                                                One of the top spiking recipes searched on Yahoo in 2013 was for home canning.

                                                                                “It’s like pearls. They never go out of style,” says  Martha McMillin, owner of Preserving Place, a retail store of house-made canned goods from sweet onion confit to lemon tomato jam,  in Atlanta’s Westside Provisions District.  McMillin’s pretty shop features a teaching kitchen and offers classes in home canning starting with Canning 101. She says, “I like to think I’m helping to spread the gospel of canning.”

                                                                                Feeling Adventurous?

                                                                                When chefs were asked what they think we want to eat in the year ahead; looks like we fall neatly into two opposing categories with half of consumers seeking new tastes and foods they can’t make at home and the other half craving favorite and familiar foods when dining out.  Confuse them all by ordering meatloaf with sriracha sauce.

                                                                                Nutrition Know How

                                                                                Our appetite for nutrition and diet information continues to be insatiable, according to dietitians polled by Today’s Dietitian Magazine. According to 66% of the respondents, consumers’ interest in nutrition and weight loss will only grow in 2014.  That’s good news for this dietitian who writes about food, nutrition and cuisine.

                                                                                Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year!