Ok, Ok we all know that we’re supposed to eating less sugar. The average American consumes between 22 and 30 teaspoons of sugar per day and according to advice from the new US Dietary Guidelines it should be more like 11 or 12 teaspoons per day. Whoops! Time to cut the sugar habit in half.
US Dietary Guidelines advise we limit Added Sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories. So, if you’re an average adult consuming 2000 calories per day, that means 200 calories for added sugar – or about 12 teaspoons. This DOESN’t include the natural sugars in fruit and dairy. That’s good news.
Which I shared on NBC Atlanta & Company this week with happy, healthy host Christine Pullara. She was game for a blind fold taste test! Tune in here: SWEET NEWS
Sweet Treats with Healthy Taste
If you want to keep the sweet without busting your sugar budget try some of the delicious new products -such as Chobani SImply 100 Greek yogurt -sweetened with natural sweeteners such as evaporated cane sugar, stevia and monk fruit. Monk fruit is a tiny melon grown in Asia and is so super sweet that a tiny bit of it adds big sweetness to foods and drinks so it’s super low calorie. And it’s super to work with Chobani on nutrition education projects such as this!
Chobani Simply 100 Greek Yogurts are a great choice because they contain 75% less sugar than regular yogurt and because it’s Greek yogurt, they’re a great source of protein ( 12 grams per serving) and chicory root is added to up the fiber content to 5 grams per serving.
What’s the 100 stand for? 100 calories. (:
If you want some crunch in your yogurt snack Chobani Simply 100 Crunch contains a little ‘side car’ of dried strawberries and dark chocolate covered rice crisps. Sweet, crunchy and still 100 calories.
So Why is Sugar Limited in the Diet?
Here’s the sour situation. Consuming too much sugar racks up the calories which can ratchet up the extra pounds on the scale leading to obesity which increases your odds of getting diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Is sugar poison? NO! It’s just that too much sugar is just, well TOO much for our bodies.
Think of it like sunshine. A little sun is good and actually boosts our body’s ability to create healthy vitamin D. But, as we ALL know too much sun leads to sunburn which leads to skin cancer.
So, let’s get a little sun for good health and enjoy a little sugar for happy taste buds.
“When I got the position I made a list of ingredients I needed for the kitchen and I was told you can’t bring those in,” said Brandt.
No blue cheese, no cherries, no chia seeds and no imported citrus to name just a few of the foods tightly restricted by Ecuador’s biosecurity regulations for the Galapagos.
The goal is to prevent the introduction of invasive species and pests that could threaten indigenous plants, many vitally important to the islands’ world famous wildlife.
The Galapagos Islands have become a mecca for ecotourism attracting over 250,000 visitors a year who arrive with binoculars and cameras in tow ready to spot giant tortoises, sea turtles, penguins and unique birds including the blue-footed booby.
Galapagos National Park rules control the number of people and time limit spent in wildlife areas and you must stay at least six feet away from the creatures.
Birds don’t fly away when you walk by and curious cute baby sea lions hop towards you.
“They thrive because there are no predators here,” said Andrew Balfour, general manager of the boutique eco-property Pikaia Lodge where rooms include a copy of “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin.
Guests drink in the DNA Bar…
….and dine in the Evolution dining room.
“The magic of the Galapagos is that you see nature in an intimate way and see how the adaptation of the species is crucial from island to island,” says Balfour.
Chef Brandt, from mainland Ecuador, has enthusiastically learned to adapt to his new environment by getting to know local farmers, discovering wild cherry tomatoes and showcasing Galapagos seafood including tuna, grouper, octopus, and spiny lobsters.
On the menu is a seafood Carpaccio with peppers from chef Brandt’s kitchen garden and the crunch of yucca chips with seafood terrine. Some imported foods are allowed but restricted and undergo close inspection. Chef Brandt has to make his grocery list at least 9 days in advance,
Avocado, passion fruit, and oranges are grown here planted by early settlers.
Dairies produce milk but only fresh cheeses.
“So I’m trying to make my own aged cheese,” said Brandt.
He showed me a small wheel of yellow cheese. “I want to wait for two or three months more. It’s an experiment so we’re all learning about it.”
He makes his own red wine vinegar and ages the local grass fed beef so it’s more tender.
Traditional tastes of Ecuador at the Pikaia Lodge including a quinoa risotto and Arriba chocolate mousse with passion fruit chili coulis add a gourmet touch to Galapagos adventures. What’s a pikaia? It’s the first organism discovered with a spine. See the design with little dots in the dessert above? That’s a pikaia.
Weight loss regimens are a national obsession especially at the start of the New Year when fitness centers fill up with new converts and supermarket carts fill up with salad fixings.
Whether your goal is to trim a few pounds or overhaul eating habits for the long haul, here is a round up of fresh nutrition wisdoms from registered dietitians who specialize in health coaching.
It’s All About You
One size does not fit all fits all when it comes to nutrition. Changing what you eat can make you feel better and your jeans fit better but it can’t make you into a six-foot tall supermodel. So have realistic expectations.
“People, like dogs, come in differing sizes and shapes,” says registered dietitian Nancy Clark, author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “There are St. Bernards, greyhounds, Labs, poodles and Chihuahuas. Be proud of your ‘breed’, honor your genetics, and treat your body with respect,” says Clark.
Phone a friend. Registered dietitian Annette Schottenfeld, of Nett Nutrition says, “Walk with a co-worker. Meet new friends in dance class or team training at the gym. Stay connected with fitness friends to ensure you will show-up, motivate each other and share successes.”
Some Like it Hot
Fed up with cold rabbit food? “Rather than trying to eat more and more salads, cook vegetables the way Mediterraneans do by roasting or stewing them with olive oil, onion, tomatoes and herbs,” suggests registered dietitian Elena Paravantes, health editor of Olive Oil Times.
Learn by Example
Demand for home delivered kits of pre-measured fresh ingredients with easy to follow recipes is heating up nationwide. Mary Alice Shreve, registered dietitian with Atlanta based meal kit delivery service Peach Dish makes sure recipes feature healthful foods with seasonings that add flavor without relying on salt. How about a Super Foods Salad with kale and sunflower seeds or Red Quinoa Parsnip Stew? Shreve says, “It’s all about getting people back in the kitchen. If you can put olive oil in the pan you can handle these recipe.”
Add to Your Diet
Registered dietitian Toby Amidor author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, advises setting short term goals, “It’s very important to establish short-term benchmarks and achieve different ones every few weeks,” says Amidor. “Short-term goals should be positive. For example, eat a fruit during at least one snack time each day.”
On your mark, get set, go! The brand spanking new US Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) have just been released. They’re based on the latest and greatest food and nutrition research and are translated into advice on what we should be eating MORE of and what we should be eating LESS of to promote good health and prevent chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. US Health and Human Services Secretary Syliva Burwell says, “We can’t get broccoli to taste like ice cream but we can give Americans tools to choose healthier eating patterns.” That’s my favorite quote of the day!
Here’s a link to my sassy summary of the new DGA’s on WXIA Channel 11, Atlanta.
Go to www.choosemyplate.gov and you’ll find an easy summary and how-to follow for the new dietary guidelines which are good until until 2020, by the way. The guidelines are released every five years. A lot can change and a few things did this time, too.
Sweet call out– for the first time the advice on sugar is to limit added sugars to less than 10% of total calories. They are referring to the extra sugar added to coffee, tea, sodas or even to yogurts. They’re not talking about the naturally occurring sugars in dairy products and fruit. So keep an eye on the grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts Label on foods and drinks you buy. Bonnie Taub Dix, registered dietitian nutritionist, explains it really well here.
“Sugar: The guidelines suggest that added sugars should not account for more than “10 percent of total energy.” So what does that mean? Here’s the quick math: The average caloric recommendation equals 2,000 calories (even though that’s more than many of us need). So 10 percent of 2,000 calories equals 200 calories. Then 200 calories of sugar equal 50 grams (g) of sugar. One can of cola soda has 35 g of sugar. One bottle of water has zero grams of sugar.”Bonnie Taub-Dix, MS RDN
Cholesterol Gets a Pass- Sort of:
Dietary cholesterol, found in foods such as eggs and shrimp, is NOT associated with increased blood cholesterol levels, so the new DGA’s no NOT include a limit on dietary cholesterol. Enjoy your eggs as part of the list of healthy protein foods encouraged. How about celebrating with a low country shrimp boil from the Slim Down South Cookbook?
But, saturated fat, the kind in heavily marbled beef and in bacon, IS associated with increased blood cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease so the new DGA’s limit saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total calorie intake.
Bonne Taub-Dix to the rescue again, “Less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. The Nutrition Facts label can be used to check for saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.”
The recipes and road rules for slim and trim healthy eating in The Slim Down South Cookbook follow the new US Dietary Guidelines in a delicious and nutritious way.
How about starting with eating more vegetable based protein with a Slow Cooker Veggie Chili. A super food for the Super Bowl. Great for game day or any day!!!!
Here’s the recipe!
Slow-Cooker Veggie Chili
Corn, beans, and squash are known as the Three Sisters in Native American agriculture because they can be grown at the same time in the same soil. This tasty, easy recipe makes enough to feed you and up to 15 sisters.
Makes 16 servings
Hands-On 20 min.
Total 8 hours, 20 min.
4 medium carrots, diced (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, diced (½ cup)
1 medium-size sweet onion, diced (1¼ cups)
Vegetable cooking spray
2 (8-oz.) packages cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 large zucchini, chopped (2 cups)
1 yellow squash, chopped (1 cup)
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. seasoned pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1 (16-oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16-oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15.5-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like on a river cruise then hop on board and take off with me along the Rhone River on the elegant Scenic Emerald. Best part?
Well there are so many best parts…but if you’re like me you’ll really relax and enjoy the cruise from morning to night because Scenic is all-inclusive.
That means no pesky bills to sign for shore excursions or adult beverages.
Pop goes the Champagne from breakfast to bed time.
All aboard who’s going aboard!!!!
The first difference you notice is that the river ship glides along calm waterways instead of riding choppy seas often associated with ocean cruising.
These long sleek ships built to transport passengers along wide European rivers, past picturesque villages and vineyards are gaining momentum as a sought after vacation experience.
Virtuoso ranks river cruises in the top five 2016 travels trends.
On a seven-day cruise on the Rhone River in France aboard the Scenic Emerald, I discovered many delightful advantages of traveling by river.
The pace is leisurely with pastoral scenery in view from large windows or on open decks.
There’s an impressive display of crew navigation as the ship traverses river locks with only inches to spare on either side of the ship!
On the top deck you can chat with the Captain as he guides his Scenic “Space Ship” carefully through the locks.
Please don’t try to distract him.
Another bonus for travelers ready to explore, when docked in town you’re in walking or biking distance to most of the sights.
In Arles…..or Arlys…
…we walked in Vincent Van Gogh’s footsteps.
The wharf here inspired the artist’s iconic painting “Starry Night.”
The bakeries in Arles inspired me; where fresh strawberry tarts are a culinary work of art.
France on the Menu
On board the Scenic Emerald, meals feature the regional foods and wines of France with many of them produced in the Rhone River valley.
Menus are hyper-local with cheese selections changing to include varieties from the area we were cruising through that day.
Don’t know the difference between a goat’s milk Rigotte from Lyon and a cow’s milk Charolais from Burgundy? Join the cheese class with a dozen French cheeses to sample.
Adding to the laid-back luxury, wines and cocktails on Scenic cruises are all inclusive. Pop some bubbly for breakfast and end the evening with a cordial in your coffee. It’s all part of the gastronomic experience included in the fare.
For passengers craving a deeper dive into what’s for dinner, executive chef Tamas Kiss leads a tour through the bustling Les Halles market in Avignon.
He chats with butchers and bakers and offers sample tastes of local breads, cheeses, and produce of Provence.
“It was great to see the foods of summer,” says Kiss.
“But now it’s autumn and there are exciting new things like mushrooms and different olives in the market.”
Chef Kiss caps off the visit with a tasting of freshly shucked oysters.
Hey look! Someone found a pearl!!!
Meanwhile back on board the Scenic Emerald things are really cooking!
It’s literally all hands on deck to provision the ship as boxes delivered to the ship in Avignon are loaded into storage areas near the galley by all of the crew. Even the bartenders, housekeepers and piano player help in the ‘bucket brigade’ to get the groceries on board!
All of this exceptional teamwork leads to exceptional meals from beautiful buffets…
…to elegant dinners.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are highly anticipated adventures for the palate.
This Scenic culinary team is serious ……
…..without taking themselves too seriously!
Thank you Chef Tamas Kiss. You can take a little break now.
The menus are inspiring and exciting and miraculously appear from this tiny galley!
One evening we’re treated to dinner featuring dishes from the great chefs of France.
Your every whim from sushi to sensational desserts are on the Scenic menu.
Late night craving for BLT with fries? Whoops, that was for me after a night of dancing to the late night disco music. (:
From artichoke truffle soup to whole roasted lamb, menus are marked with indications to alert those with food allergies. Even more good nutrition on the “Vitality Corner” vegetarian menu with entrees such as bulgur risotto with mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and spicy basil salad.
As we celebrate the holidays and look ahead to January it’s time for the annual tradition of making predictions for the New Year.
Food and nutrition experts are part of the crystal ball gazing game. What will be in grocery carts and on restaurant menus in 2016? Here’s a sample of taste trends in the foodie forecast from those who know nutrition.
Clean Labels Spread to Fine Dining
“This year was marked by tons of major food companies, in addition to fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, announcing the ‘healthification’ of their menus through the banning of artificial ingredients or additives. In 2016, we can expect to see this effect ‘trickle up’ to fine dining sit-down restaurants where consumers are going to demand more than ‘locally produced’ or ‘made in house’ to signify a holistic approach to health.”
—Kelly Hensel, Senior Digital Editor, Institute of Food Technologists
Sweet New Interest in Bitter
“Bitter, once a flavor even foodies avoided, is now enjoying a place in the limelight. Bitter beverages, chocolates and greens like escarole, endive and frisee are getting more attention and will be showing up more on menus in 2016. If you’re new to bitter leafy greens combine bitter with sweet: Bitter greens go great with raisins, pears, roasted pumpkin or baked sweet potato.”
-Ashley Koff, registered dietitian for Earthbound Farm
Savory Yogurt Dishes
“Greek yogurt has been popular for quite some time, and manufacturers are now getting creative with flavors. Trends include mixing fruit with a savory twist like ginger and orange, feta and watermelon, as well as olive oil, seeds and spices. Greek yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse loaded with protein, probiotics to promote healthy gut bacteria, Vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D. New flavors will make this healthy food even more versatile: dip with crudités, use as sauce for chicken or fish.” -Tanya Zuckerbrot, registered dietitian, author the F-Factor Diet
Pulses on the Plate
The crop category for beans, peas, lentils and other legumes, pulses are moving from humble to hero status. In fact, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 the “Year of Pulses” recognizing the role of pulse crops in sustainable agriculture and healthy diets worldwide. Heart healthy pulses are gluten free and a good source of fiber, vegetable protein, B- vitamins, potassium, and iron.
Spice it Up
McCormick, the company famous for spices, shares an annual flavor forecast. For 2016 the six emerging flavor trends identified include hot and spicy flavors paired with tangy tastes. The company’s forecast report says, “Spicy finds a welcome contrast with tangy accents such as lime, rice vinegar, yuzu, tamarind, Meyer lemon, cranberry, kumquats and ponzu to elevate the eating experience.” Sambal sauce, a spicy Southeast Asian condiment is an example of this trend made with chilies, rice vinegar, sugar and garlic.
Win-Win for Taste & Health
Does it seem like advice on nutrition changes with the daily headlines? In a move to help clear up confusion about what to eat for good health in 2016, nutrition researchers met in Boston recently at a conference organized by Old Ways and Harvard University School of Public Health.. “At the end of the day, there are many different ways to eat well,” said Cynthia Harriman, Oldways Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies. “Whether you like your foods spicy or plain; whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or omnivorous; whether you live in Beijing or Boston — the good news is that there are many different foods and flavors that all lead to better health.” Bottom line: nutrition experts agreed that food can and should be good for human health, good for the planet and simply good and delicious.
If you’ve got a ‘foodie’ on your holiday gift list or someone who wants to become one in the New Year here are some simple, affordable and fun suggestions in the culinary category.
Watch the segment with Christine Pullara and me with all of the gift ideas on NBC Atlanta & Company right here!
“The designers in the housewares industry are truly ‘building a better mousetrap or cheese knife’ every day,” says Mary S. Moore, owner and founder of Atlanta based Cook’s Warehouse. “For instance the tofu press has totally changed and made effortless the process of removing moisture from tofu, from hours of squeezing to placing in a press and walking away. There are thousands of examples of this kind of ‘aha and/or duh’ innovation.”
Healthy eating begins with healthy cooking and the easier the tasks become the easier it will be to enjoy time in the kitchen preparing meals to help support weight management goals all year round.
Gifts for Healthy Cooking
Salad spinner- create a gourmet gift basket and fill the salad spinner with olive oils, mustards and vinegars for making vinaigrettes.
Slow cooker- one of the best ways to tenderize tasty cuts of lean meat in stews packed with tasty vegetables.
Non-stick pans – great for sautéing vegetables with just a little bit of oil.
Microplane grater – for zesting citrus and grating hard cheeses and whole spices.
Great gadgets – make fruit and vegetable prep a breeze and a lot of fun with produce specific gadgets such as a jalapeno corer, cherry pitter, citrus juicer, strawberry huller, avocado cuber, garlic peeler and ginger grater.
Specialty spices – more expensive spices like cardamom, vanilla, saffron, smoked paprika and curry powders are elegant gifts to add flavor without sodium and healthy antioxidants with no calories.
Immersion blender – make rich and creamy textured soups and sauces from cooked vegetables without the need for much or any cream.
Spiralizer- to make oodles of ‘zoodles’, these great gadgets turn vegetables such as zucchini into pasta-like swirls.
Cooking classes – great gift for the gourmet or the kitchen beginner.
Moore, who offers over 800 cooking classes per year, says, “Our most popular cooking class is Knife Skills 101. It’s a great building block and helps the student to become more confident in their abilities and feel more at ease in the kitchen.”
Fit for Fitness
Fitness sensors – they just keep getting better and better and even talk to your smart phone! Wearable digital fitness bands keep track of activity, food intake, and sleep patterns.
Fitness Gear – Clothes or equipment for an activity someone does or wants to try such as yoga or Pilates mat, yoga blocks, hiking poles, sports specific workout clothes and shoes.
Gifts for Gardeners
Little garden kits – Snip fresh herbs to add healthy seasonal taste to recipes. Small decorative containers of grow–your-own fresh herbs can sprout now on winter windowsills.
Big garden help – wrap up a brand new shovel, rake, or garden hose and attach vegetable seeds packets to plant in the spring.
The Ruffino Bruschetta Board by Noble Goods is hand crafted from walnut and is designed to beautifully display toppings for bruschetta such as olives, cheese, roasted red peppers and hummus. And introducing the perfect stemware for enjoying Champagne. Meet the Riedel Veritas Champagne Wine glass. Yes, even better than Champagne flutes for savoring the delicate nuances of Champagne.
The holidays are in full swing ushering in a parade of parties. Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. If your goal is to indulge without the bulge don’t forget to count the liquid calories in holiday cocktails.
The standard 1.5 ounce serving of 80-proof alcohol has 96 calories – before you add any mixers. Whether you’re drinking a beer or a Bellini; the higher the alcohol content, the higher the calories. For example: 80-proof vodka (40% alcohol; most common) contains 64 calories per ounce. 100-proof vodka (50% alcohol) contains 82 calories per ounce. Too much math? Just remember to drink a glass of water in-between cocktails to hydrate and moderate consumption.
Drinking in moderation is easier when cocktails are so delicious you want to sip slowly to savor the flavors. Case in point is a unique cocktail created by Ben Yabrow for the bar menu at Himitsu, a newly opened lounge in Buckhead.
Called the Toryufu and served in a tall flute this drink is a fragrant and sparkly mix of pear vodka with white truffle scented honey, grapefruit juice and tonic. You had me at white truffle.
Caterer Sean O’Keefe slows down the pace of holiday drinking by going ga-ga for garnishes in a whimsical set up for a build your own Bloody Mary bar. “Why not offer guests a choice of garnishes way beyond celery sticks?” says O’Keefe. “Anything that can go on a stick will work from hard boiled eggs to beef jerky or even tuck in a crab claw!”
By the way, the protein in those garnishes will help slow down the absorption of alcohol.
Dessert in Disguise
Martinis lined with chocolate sauce or Key lime pie martinis with graham cracker cookie crumbs on the rim are sweet and creamy and loaded with up to 400 calories in a five ounce drink. If you must imbibe say hello to your liquid dessert!
Now, about that pomegranate martini that sounds so heart healthy. Most studies looked at the effects of 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day for 45 days- not eight drops in a martini on a Friday night. Same goes for green tea infused vodka. There’s not enough in the mix to pack a health promoting punch. Enjoy the flavor. It’s a cocktail not a cure all.
Under 200 Libations
Martini (2.5 oz): 160 calories –This is a small martini by restaurant standards.
Red wine (5 oz):120 calories- Higher alcohol reds have more calories.
White wine (5 oz): 120 calories- Sweeter whites have more calories.
Champagne (5oz): 106-120 calories- ook for brut Champagne, lowest in sugar.
A great resource for counting calories in foods and drinks over the holidays and any day is the website of the Calorie Control Council. I am one of the nutrition advisors for the Calorie Control Council.
What are you making for Thanksgiving dinner this year? If your answer is “reservations”, you are among the 33 million Americans who rely on restaurants for all or part of their Thanksgiving feast. According to the National Restaurant Association, Thanksgiving has become the number two busiest day of the year for eateries. (Mother’s Day is number one.)
Whether you’re doing the cooking at home, taking a dish to a gathering or making restaurant reservations for Thanksgiving dinner Atlanta area chefs offer delicious ideas to add an inventive and healthy twist to menu traditions. Move beyond the green bean casserole and be inspired by the vegetable dishes chefs create with seasonal produce. After all the mission of the very first Thanksgiving feast was to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. The menu at 103 West includes a butternut squash soup garnished with fragrant truffle oil and the turkey dressing is made with Granny Smith apples and fresh rosemary. Seasons 52 serves caramelized Brussels sprouts seasoned with crispy bacon, garlic and Parmesan.
Salads are often overlooked in the parade of roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. A crisp and colorful salad perks up taste buds and lightens up the menu a bit. At Southern Art the kale salad is garnished with bourbon macerated mission figs, cherry tomatoes and pecans. The poached pear, watercress and endive salad at The Shed at Glenwood is topped with goat cheese and peanuts. Another inspiring salad idea for a Thanksgiving spread is 103 West’s Boston Butter Lettuce Salad with apples, celery, currants and toasted walnuts.
Modern Family Menus
From the head of the table to the kids’ table, there are bound to be a few folks at Thanksgiving gatherings this year who have unique dietary needs including vegetarian, vegan, nut allergies, gluten or lactose intolerance. So no doubt whoever’s cooking the meal will feel a bit challenged to please all of the pilgrims.
An easy idea for the big feast is to create a selection of ingredients so each guest can customize their plates depending on allergies or food preferences. For example, simply roast sweet potatoes and steam green beans then offer nuts, bacon crumbles, toasted breadcrumbs and shredded cheese on the side in little bowls. Just about everyone can enjoy a seasonal mix of roasted vegetables, even the kids who might claim to be “allergic” to parsnips and rutabaga.
Restaurants and caterers are used to adapting recipes for special dietary requests. Matthew and Lynda Phillips of ADAiRE Personal Chefs offer a list of gluten free side dishes on their catering menu for Thanksgiving. Need some ideas for the non-turkey eaters at the table? Vegetarians and everyone else would enjoy the lady pea and okra succotash or the Carolina gold risotto with autumn squash and sage featured on the menu at South City Kitchen.
While Thanksgiving is not a day for dieting, it’s certainly smart to up the flavor appeal of holiday favorites with creative recipes that help keep the calories down. Use smart swaps such as Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, sour cream or whipping cream in all kinds of recipes from salad dressings to pancakes. Chobani has a great offering of holiday recipes in Chobani Kitchen. I work with Chobani on some nutrition communications projects and love the fact that their Greek yogurt comes in 0%, 1%, 2% and now 4% milk fat varieties.
I love the seasonal flavors Pumpkin Spice and Cinnamon Pear as toppings on Pumpkin Pie!
Chobani’s yogurts for kids and tots in tubes and pounces are 25% lower in sugar than other yogurts marketed to children and since Greek yogurt is strained, Chobani yogurts for kids and adults is twice as high in protein as other kinds of yogurts. #client
Yes, you can indulge without the bulge.
Fill your plate with your personal holiday favorites first. Don’t waste your calories on foods you can eat all year long.
Turkey and all the trimmings may be the draw, but remember the main event should be sharing time with family and friends.
Start a new tradition by taking a walk with family and friends after the big meal and serving dessert after the stroll. You’ll feel better and dessert will taste even better.
Give thanks that even dietitians believe Thanksgiving is not a day to diet. You may not lose any pounds over the holidays, but if you maintain your weight you’re doing great.
Traditional pecan pie may have met its match because creative cooks are introducing new ways to showcase pecans.
They can literally be used from soup to nuts. Gathered at a culinary event in the Serenbe Farms community south of Atlanta organized by the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA) professional chefs rose to the recipe challenge.
Think beyond sugar laden pecan pies and pecan praline candies. “Europeans often ask me ‘why is it you take such a healthy product and turn it into such an unhealthy product?’ so I’m very interested in the recipes developed here,” said Bruce Caris, of the Green Valley Pecan Company and chairman of the NPSA.
The second culinary challenge- rather than relying on perfect pecan halves – invent sweet and savory dishes using pecan pieces and pecan meal. “We need to educate culinarians how to use the lesser known pecan ingredients,” said Christian Hallowell, executive chef for Delta Air Lines.
Pick up the Pieces
Some of the first recipes demonstrated by Leif Eric Benson, chef for Oregon’s Department of Agriculture included a soup of pureed pecan pieces flavored with chipotle peppers and roasted lamb with a topping of pecan pieces cooked with garlic and thyme.
Chefs, in a cook-off style contest worked together in teams at Serenbe’s Bosch Experience Center to create exciting new recipes with pecans and pecan products including pecan meal and pecan oil.
“Pecan pieces are very absorbent and pick up the flavors of spices when cooking,” said Benson.
Other inventive uses in the culinary world include using pecan meal as a meat extender or substitute. “Pecans can be used as a protein ingredient and we made a meatless all pecan pate today,” said Hallowell. “You roast and grind the pecan pieces to make a plant based protein dish.”
How about a pecan inspired cocktail? I made ginger ale from scratch using fresh ginger root, added sugar and fresh lime juice and then used Cathead Distillery Pecan Vodka to create a Pecan Mississippi Mule!
Trent Page, chef for Google at the company’s You Tube headquarters, created a recipe for a miso pecan vinaigrette salad dressing using pecan pieces and pecan oil.But, when making menu changes affecting thousands of employees, he’s aware allergies must be considered. “You have to be transparent in menu signage because tree nut allergies are very serious,” said Page. Here’s a great resource on tree nut allergies.
Of course we made dessert! Pastry chef extraordinaire Kami Smith of Dawn Food Products quietly worked her magic to create a pecan desserts including a sumptuous pecan bread budding!
Pecans, like other tree nuts including walnuts and almonds, are an excellent source of heart healthy fats, are rich in protein and a good source of fiber as well as other nutrients including vitamin E and potassium. What sets pecans apart from the rest of the nut pack is that they are the only nut native to North America and compared to other tree nuts have the highest concentration of antioxidants. Pecans are a win-win for taste and health.
The restaurant trend reports are tumbling in with predictions for what will be “in” on menus in 2016. Topping the charts are vegetable focused meals. The National Restaurant Association puts “locally sourced produce” in their top ten. And food industry trend specialist Andrew Freeman says, “People want less animal protein and are requesting that veggies are ramped up to their fullest creative potential.”
That taste trend has already emerged on Atlanta menus as vegetable side dishes multiply and vegetarian entrees get more chef love. Along side the meat centric South African inspired cuisine at newly opened Cape Dutch, chef Philippe Haddad offers a vegetable curry with South African spices and butternut squash ravioli with a peri-peri sauce.
Even if you begin your meal at Cape Dutch with a bite of Biltong, traditional South African beef jerky, registered dietitian Sharon Palmer author of Plant-Powered for Life says you can practice ‘flexitarian’ eating by ordering the vegetarian entrée.
“It is hopeful to see the trends going on where meat is now at the side of the plate and veggies are front and center,” says Palmer. “Chefs are in love with farmers’ markets and post the farms where their produce hails from all the time. This has made an impact on consumers. Look at what’s going on with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. They’re cool!”
Wine Pairing with Produce
A sea change from menus focused on meats and fish first to vegetables on center stage means morphing wine list suggestions too. At the Century House Tavern in Woodstock, known for locally sourced produce, general manager Jon Hayano suggests pairing the Butternut Squash Soup and Spaghetti Squash salad first course selections with brut Champagne.
“We often think of animal products such as cheese, red meat, and fish when it comes to wine pairing, but with plant foods you can also make beautiful pairings,” says Palmer. “Try pairing the seasonings and sauces with wine. A citrus sauce or Asian flavoring goes nicely with white wines; tomato and chili sauces pair well with red wines.”
Wine director and co-owner of Flyte World Dining & Wine Bar in Nashville Scott Sears, who is a vegetarian, says, “In general, when pairing wine with vegetable-based meals, you want a low-alcohol, low-tannin, not-overly-oaked, balanced wine.”
More Sip Tips from Sears:
-“Make note of the spice level. To balance the spice, select wines with a touch of sweetness to them, such as Riesling or Rose.”
-“Avoid highly tannic reds made from grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon to avoid the dry, course mouth feel tannin causes when it can’t bond with fat. Tannins can overly-emphasize any earthy favors present in the vegetable dish.”
-“The wine should add dimension to the dish without adding any elements that clash with the texture. Sparkling wine is a great option for just about any vegetable dish, as are bright, light, crisp whites.”
Freezing is “nature’s pause button” and preserves the taste, texture and nutrients in foods. Flash freezing at the time of harvest means fruits and vegetables are picked at the premium point for freshness and great taste. It also means nutrients are at their highest level. In fact studies show that some frozen fruits, including blueberries, are actually a bit higher in antioxidant and vitamin content as compared to fresh.
Frozen Foods Aisle Really Heating Up!
I was shopping recently for my favorite frozen foods staples (chopped spinach, lima beans, sweet peas, and individually quick frozen chicken breasts) and I was amazed at the selection and variety of frozen vegetables and vegetable blends including vegetable blends with beans and grains. So fast and easy to prepare! You know how long it can take to cook brown rice so I like buying the frozen precooked packages of brown rice to quickly cook up on stove top or in the microwave oven. I love butternut squash and buy it fresh all of the time to roast in the oven, but I also keep packaged frozen butternut squash which is cut up into cubes to add to soups or to prep quickly as a dinner side dish.
Also, a big improvement is that frozen vegetables in cream sauce or cheese sauce seem to be on the wane. And there’s a new wave in chef-inspired frozen entrees such as Lean Cuisine‘s line of delicious and nutritious culinary creations such as Chicken Pecan with white and wild rice, pecans, sweet potatoes, apples and cranberries. One of my favorites is the Sweet & Spicy Korean-Style Beef. To balance the meal just add some vegetables on the side such as broccoli florets or green beans. #balanceyourplate
Did you know that Lean Cuisine entrees have been pleasing palates for three decades? And guess what? Chefs and dietitians working together in the Nestle USA Culinary Center in Solon, Ohio have developed recipes to lower the sodium content from 1000 mg of sodium per serving to less than 600 mg per serving by adding flavors from herbs and spices. Now that is a win-win for taste and health!
Let’s Make a Pizza!
Frozen pizzas are one of the most popular items in the frozen food aisle. I like buying thin crust cheese pizzas and topping with lots of vegetables to create a fabulous and balanced pizza meal. Toss a side salad for even more good nutrition and great taste. Here are two ideas with DiGiorno Thin Crust Four Cheese pizza. #sponsored
Healthy dining advice on the pizza box tells us that one serving is one fifth of the pizza. Delicious by the way!
Taco Pizza – top with precooked ground meat seasoned with chili powder, salt and pepper or a taco seasoning mix, place green pepper slices on top of the meat and bake pizza according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped tomatoes, salsa, avocado slices and fresh cilantro.
Tuscan Pizza– top the pizza with fresh mushroom slices and bake according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped canned artichoke hearts, sliced black olives, thinly sliced deli ham (optional) , and lots of arugula.
Here’s a great resource from Nestle USA that reveals 7 Facts why Frozen is Fabulous for taste, health, easy meals, reducing food waste and saving money.
There are lots of recipes in The Slim Down South Cookbook that feature frozen ingredients including Tomato-Lima Bean Relish ( made with frozen lima beans ) and Sweet Pea Crostini, which is a hummus like spread made from frozen green peas, olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt and pepper. It’s an appetizing vibrant green color and a hit at parties. Top with feta cheese crumbles. For a holiday look and for vegans, top with pretty red pomegranate arils!
First, introducing the best worst souvenir in Paris.
Yes, I bought the chef’s hat that says France!
Now, let’s go to Paris!
To Marche to Marche!
Bustling with shoppers, even in the rain, the weekly street market stretching along the Avenue du President Wilson in Paris was an eye-popping spectacle of peppers and pastries, spices and seafood, flowers and fromage.
While I’m not used to finding fresh rabbit and blue lobsters in my supermarket at home, seeing these foods and more in the open-air markets of Paris was a big part of the foodie fun during my recent trip to the City of Light.
Visiting the Louvre and other must-see Parisian sites was on the list, but my travel objectives were motivated by mealtime.
My first lunch was a leisurely paced three-hour tour of tastes in the elegant Le Gabriel restaurant at La Reserve Paris Hotel and Spa quite near the famed Avenue des Champs-Elysees.
The elegant dining room draped in the soft light of a September afternoon…we knew we were in for something very, very special.
Let the games begin!!!
Our first treat….surprising savory bites of foie gras in dark chocolate. Oh and some caviar.
Then the delightful dishes just kept on coming…..
The highlight of the culinary adventure was experiencing chef Jerome Banctel’s specialty dish of cocoa marinated pigeon (or squab) with the bird’s little feet intact served with organic buckwheat pasta.
A cheese course preceded no fewer than three desserts including cloud-like marshmallows with a tart sorbet of aloe and lime…..
….a wild strawberry creation under an envelope of strawberry glee…
…then a plate lined with hazelnut chocolate you scooped up with tiny brioche and sticks of meringue.
Wait! If this is how those French women stay so trim, I’m moving here!
As author of the best selling book French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano recommends bread, Champagne, chocolate and romance as key ingredients to a balanced diet and lifestyle.
I was willing to put it to the test and while in France take some time to observe the eating habits of French women.
A young woman who works at the Dior restaurant in St. Tropez told me that she was taught to eat slowly so that the meal is more satisfying. Dinner most nights might be a simple soup with bread, a piece of cheese and fresh fruit.
Portions are definitely smaller in France as compared to the U.S.
But that’s a good thing because it allows for a variety of more tastes.
The multi-course lunch Liz and I enjoyed with our new friend, Marie Dumarest-Petavi, at the one-star Michelin La Table restaurant in the Hotel Lancaster Paris left me feeling satisfied and energized, not stuffed and tired.
An ample two-ounce portion of beef was paired with mushrooms and sautéed red grapes.
One of the very special members of Leading Hotels o the World, The Lancaster Paris, was home to film legend Marlena Dietrich. You may stay in her suite of rooms if you want to feel like a movie star.
Of course life in Paris comes with a hefty serving of walking and many days we racked up six kilometers on a Bea’s fitness app.
Add to that the breath-defying 284 step climb up the Arc de Triomphe and running to catch Metro trains and Paris measures up as a great getaway for food and fitness.
Get Enough Sleep and Get Moving: Keys to Weight Control Success
Lose weight while you sleep! You may have heard health claims such as this connected to nutritional supplement or fad diet advertising. Well, it turns out that there may be some truth to the promise that getting a good night’s sleep can help with weight management. Research presented at annual Food and Nutrition Conference (FNCE) of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics held in Nashville, Tennessee this year included studies on the effect of sleep deprivation on food intake. Bottom line: the less you sleep the greater your odds of weighting more. Registered dietitian Devon Golem, professor at New Mexico State University explained that lack of sleep can disrupt the hormonal regulation of appetite leading to increased total calorie intake and intake of high-fat, high-sugar foods.
“When you’re exhausted you’re not making the best decisions about what to eat,” said registered dietitian Tamara Melton, program director and clinical instructor at Georgia State University and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You might seek out high calorie comfort foods or snack often to stay awake. Plus you may be too tired to exercise.”
Another excess calorie source: when most sleepy folks reach for caffeine they’re not ordering black coffee. It’s more likely to be the higher calorie specialty coffee drinks with cream and sugar. Choose low calorie sweeteners and fat free milk to lighten up coffee drinks that perk you up.
Melton said asking patients about their sleep patterns is an important part of a nutrition appraisal. “People are trying to look at all things in their life that affect their health holistically.”
How much sleep is healthy? According to the National Sleep Foundation adults should get between 7 to 9 seven hours. Meanwhile, the national daily average is 6.5 hours. “Sleep deprivation is an epidemic in the US,” said Katherine Finn Davis researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Shedding Light on Shedding Weight
The continuing battle against rates of obesity in the US was a big focus for nutrition professionals at FNCE. There’s good news and bad news here. “I think we’re at a turning point,” said Dr. William Dietz of George Washington University. “In the last ten years we’ve seen no significant difference in the incidence of obesity.”
Some states including New Mexico and Mississippi have even seen declines in obesity rates.
“It’s sort of leveled off,” said Dr. James O. Hill, Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. “Is it something we’re doing right? I don’t even think we’re close to knowing.”
Hill pointed out that while diet and exercise plans work well to help people lose weight, the real challenge is helping them keep it off for the long haul. “We are wildly successful at losing weight but also wildly successful at gaining it back.” So research on obesity treatment has turned to the psychological components of mindset and motivation to help dieters find their individual purpose for weight loss goals. “It’s like a light switch going on,” said Hill.
Co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry, which follows over 6000 people who’ve lost weight and kept it off permanently, Hill is the author of State of Slim.
He says weight control is no longer a simple math problem of balancing calories in with calories burned through physical exercise. Anyone who’s ever walked on a treadmill and seen how long it takes to rack up 100 calories will be happy to hear this. Hill said, “There are so many positive side effects of physical activity. Exercise does way more than burn calories. It helps regulate appetite and metabolism. It’s more than calories in and out.”
In other good nutrition news presented at FNCE, fruit and vegetable offerings on restaurant menus are up 28% since 2010. But, registered dietitian Elizabeth Pivonka of the Produce for Better Health Foundation says overall consumption of fruit and vegetables in the US has sadly declined 7% since 2010. Not to be disheartened she says there are pockets of improvement, “Millennials are eating more vegetables than five years ago.”
Fall in love with the flavors of Fall! Warm up with a Low Country Boil featuring shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes. #lovethsouth #slimdownsouth
Get the flavor of a shrimp boil without the mess—or the calories! These skewers are perfect for a backyard party and already portioned for you.
Makes 24 servings
Hands-On 30 min.
Total 1 hour
24 (6-inch) wooden skewers
2 Tbsp. butter
¾ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 medium ears)
½ to ¾ tsp. Creole seasoning
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
¼ cup Old Bay seasoning
24 baby red potatoes (about 1 lb.)
½ lb. smoked sausage, cut into 24 slices
24 peeled and deveined, extra-large raw shrimp (about 1¼ lb.)
Soak skewers in water 30 minutes. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat; add bell pepper and next 2 ingredients, and sauté 4 minutes. Stir in corn and Creole seasoning, and sauté 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in parsley and vinegar.2. Bring Old Bay seasoning and 5 qt. water to a boil, covered, in a large stockpot. Add potatoes, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add sausage, and cook 3 minutes. Add shrimp; cook 3 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink and potatoes are tender. Drain.
3. Thread 1 potato, 1 shrimp, and 1 sausage piece onto each skewer. Arrange on serving plates or a long shallow platter. Spoon corn mixture over skewers.
Hello from the Nieuw Amsterdam, one of the elegant ships of Holland America Line, as we sail on a 12-day dream cruise from Venice to Barcelona with many exciting and beautiful ports of call.
On the Menu Out to Sea
Small plates are making big waves in cruise ship cuisine. From tiny dishes of mozzarella with fresh tomato or hummus with feta cheese, dolmades and olives, an artfully arranged selection of tastes from breakfast to late night snacking is set out for passengers dining casually in the Lido Market on Holland America Line ships.
There’s no shortage of comfort food favorites such as roast beef and mashed potatoes and vacation treat foods including burgers and fries.
But gone are the serve yourself steam table vats and buffet style trays that passengers used to fill to capacity.
Now at each step of the way from the salad bar to the hot entrees, members of the culinary team smile and place what you want on a plate and hand it to you.
Prettily packaged sandwiches such as chicken salad with arugula on freshly baked multi grain bread take the place of a deli concept where you’d typically stand in line.
There are three distinct dining advantages here.
-Fewer people handling the food improve food safety. -Portion control allows passengers to enjoy a wider variety of tastes and decreases food waste. -And because the culinary staff create and garnish the plates they look much better for your vacation food photography.
Foodies at Sea
My recent vacation on the Nieuw Amsterdam to celebrate a rather big birthday served up a bucket-list Mediterranean itinerary and a peek into current cruise fare philosophy.
I took notice that menus afloat from the elegant Manhattan Dining Room to made-to-order thin crust pizzas on the pool deck reflect dining trends ashore.
There’s a sushi bar in Asian inspired Tamarind and shared platters of salumi and pastas at Italian themed Canaletto.
Popup dinners such as a special evening of dishes from famed New York restaurant Le Cirque add more glamour to gourmet meals in the Pinnacle Grill.
Specials on the Distant Lands menu connect to the local cuisine of each port of call. While docked in Dubrovnik, I sampled Croatian foods onboard including pastry stuffed with seasoned beef, meatballs with coriander sauce and a flaky cheese pie called Burek Sa Siron.
Chefs’ cooking demos and mixology classes add extra entertainment for food lovers on board. After completing a series of four mixology classes you get a diploma!
A behind the scenes tour of the ship’s gleaming galley leads guests everywhere from the dishwashing to dessert stations.
I learned that 137, 000 pounds of fresh vegetables are consumed by two thousand guests in a typical week.
Oh, and nearly 1700 pounds of butter.
“At the start of the week passengers eat a lot because they’re excited about all of the choices,” says Martin Van Winden dining room manager of the Niew Amsterdam’s Pinnacle Grill “Then we do see a decline in food consumption as the cruise continues.”
Special diet requests and food allergy concerns are taken seriously with gluten free choices and creative vegetarian fare such as barbecue tofu with creamy grits one day for lunch.
While there’s a fabulous fitness center and spa on board, my chosen exercise was taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
When you walk up and down from deck 2 to deck 11 a few times a day it’s a work out. Especially when realizing you’re looking for a place that’s aft when you’re at the stern so have to walk another five minutes. Then you forget something in your stateroom……we racked up a lot of steps!
There were 2300 passengers on board for the 12-Day Mediterranean Romance Cruise on the Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam.
Actually the liveliness of this shared community at sea added so much enjoyment to the journey. Traveling with my friend Liz McDermott, we never felt that any space was crowded or had to wait for a drink! We even got to meet Captain Edward G. Van Zaane for a special tour of the bridge.
Now, how about a recipe from Allen and Antonio, our favorite bartenders and the “professors” of the mixology class series on board? Bon voyage!
Garnish chilled glass with chocolate sauce in swirled pattern
Shake 1 oz Vodka with 1 oz Creme de Cacoa White in a cocktail shaker with some ice.
Strain and pour into the glass.
Enjoy and you’re on your way to earning your very own bartender certificate.
Stay tuned as we set sail for more foodie destinations on shore in my next blog post.
A cruise is a great way to explore and discover the traditional foods, exemplary eateries and exciting markets in ports along the way.
While there are still plenty of vacationers looking for ‘find me a hammock’ rest and relaxation time, the real action in vacation planning includes a lot of action. Paddle boarding, hiking, biking, kayaking, hot air ballooning to hot yoga.
“I call it the kale, quinoa and cardio trend in travel,” said Jack Ezon, president of New York based Ovation Vacations. “Fitness is a huge part of their daily life so they want it to be part of their vacation life. We hire guides to jog with clients in the morning to see the city,” said Ezon. You don’t even have to pack your fitness gear. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, for instance, provide guests with workout shoes and clothes through a partnership with Reebok.
Billed as ‘fashion week’ for the luxury travel industry nearly five thousand Virtuoso members including travel advisors, tour operators, tourism officials, hotel and cruise line executives met to talk shop, swap business cards and share top trends.
Active travel is popular for all age groups. Look out; grandma wants to go zip lining now.
“Even older clients are not looking for sedentary travel. They want adventure,” said travel advisor Tony Huffman, chairman of Huffman Travel. Cruising on big ships is still big business but ‘excursions cruises’ on small luxurious vessels that get closer to Mother Nature are becoming wildly popular.
Food and Travel
Gastronomic adventures are high on the high-end travel list too. “Food is the most important beyond anything.
They want to experience local flavors with a cool vibe,” said Kelly Grumbach, travel advisor with Quintessentially Travel. “If they’re going to be stuck on an island for a week it’s not just about menu options. It’s the quality of the ingredients and being creative.” For health conscious baby boomers and older travelers Huffman says, “Sauce on the side is a food group.” But Grumbach who plans trips, often very last minute, for the millennial age group says, “It’s a high maintenance generation. They want gluten free, want or don’t want diet drinks in their room, demand no bread basket at their table and might add they’re allergic to feathers.”
Making it a bit harder for travel advisors ( yes, we used to call them travel agents) plan a wellness focused vacation is the fact that not everyone has the same vision for wellness. That’s why Anne Dimon of Travel to Wellness created a questionnaire for travel planners to use, “Some people might want to meditate and eat vegetarian foods while others define wellness as walking tours by day and fabulous meals paired with wines at night.”
With all of the on line resources to plan (or implode) your own vacation, it’s important to note that travel advisors (AKA travel agents) are busier than ever. Matthew Upchurch, chairman of Virtuoso said, “It’s the hottest new thing that never went away.”
How does a food become super? It’s amazing to me how many times I read about the powers of a new nutritious ‘super food’. It could be a tiny berry from the South America, a rare wild green foraged from the forest floor, sea algae selected by whales or an ancient grain discovered by archeologists. Are they super interesting? Yes. Could they be super high in antioxidants or other vital nutrients? Yes. Do they taste good? Maybe. Are they a practical part of our everyday diets and menu plans? No.
As a registered dietitian what matters to me are criteria that matter to the majority of us looking for good tasting healthy foods. These are the foods ‘super’ in a few important categories: super tasty, super easy to prepare, super nutritious, super easy to find and super affordable.
Here’s a video round up of Super Foods for All on NBC Atlanta and Company.
Super Food for All
From peaches and peanuts to rice and beans and foods we drink such as tea (green and black tea) there are many commonly consumed foods that provide great taste and health benefits. Taking a closer look at one example of what I consider to be a ‘super’ food let’s peel back the layers on the humble onion.
First off, onions are fat free, sodium free and low in calories but provide a big flavor punch in a wide variety of recipes from all over the world. One medium onion -one cup chopped- contains only 64 calories. Nutritionally, onions are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and the mineral potassium, which is important for blood pressure control. Research has linked onion consumption to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. One of the natural phytonutrients in onions, called quercetin, has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties linked to fighting disease. Other vegetables contain quercetin too but since onions are often consumed in higher volumes on a regular basis in so many foods from soups to salads to sauces and stews, the onion is a more powerful vehicle for this healthy compound.
Red, white, yellow or purple onions come in a huge variety of sizes and sweetness.
“You’d be hard pressed to find a vegetable with more versatility from raw to caramelized or pickled onions are unique in the vegetable kingdom,” says Kim Reddin who blogs as Onionista for the National Onion Association. “Onions are eaten all around the globe. In fact when I look at an onion I picture a map of the world.”
Just learning to cook? Reddin says novice culinarians at home or in school programs should grab an onion. “An onion is a great teaching tool. They’re inexpensive so you can use a lot of them to practice knife skills, how to sauté and other basic cooking techniques.”
Yes, they’re tasty, healthy and a kitchen staple. But, they’re not ‘super’ at fighting the flu as falsely claimed. Based on a myth that dates as far back at the 1500’s placing a cut raw onion in a room will not attract germs in the room. And if the fear of bad breath steers you away from raw onions, try following it up with a bite of fresh parsley. “I wish they still garnished plates with a sprig of parsley,” says Reddin. “It’s not just a decoration you know. It was there as a palate cleanser and to aid digestion.” Parsley, the new super food?
I’ve decided to avoid giving nutrition advice that includes the phrase “avoid processed foods.” There are many popular terms we use to describe the foods we eat that beg for a better definition. Baking bread, making yogurt, canning tomatoes and turning cucumbers into pickles all require a process. So, you can see that throwing out the term ‘processed’ foods to refer to foods that are perceived to be ‘unhealthy’ doesn’t always apply.
In fact, certain food production processes can actually boost nutritional content such as adding calcium to orange juice or whole grains to pasta. Other processes such as freezing vegetables help to preserve vitamin content at the time of harvest. “The term ‘processed foods’ evokes a wide range of assumptions and beliefs about what is a healthy food,” says lead Connie Weaver, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Department Head, Nutrition Science, Purdue University. Weaver, a member of The American Society for Nutrition, contributed to a statement on the nutritional benefits of processed foods published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The statement concludes that making food selections based on nutrient composition and not extent of processing is a better way to determine nutrition adequacy. For instance, compared to fresh tomatoes, which are higher in vitamin C, canned tomatoes have a higher concentration of disease fighting nutrients such as lycopene and beta-carotene.
“Maybe processed food isn’t such a bad thing after all,” concludes food historian Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine & Empire: Cooking in World History. Here’s an excerpt from one of her articles in the publication Gastronomica discussing the mealtime merits of processing foods:
“So to make food tasty, safe, digestible, and healthy, our forebears bred, ground, soaked, leached, curdled, fermented, and cooked naturally occurring plants and animals until they were literally beaten into submission. They built granaries, dried their meat and their fruit, salted and smoked their fish, curdled and fermented their dairy products, and cheerfully used additives and preservatives—sugar, salt, oil, vinegar, lye—to make edible foodstuffs.”
“Clean” is another popular term today meant to imply a ‘healthier’ food product or restaurant dish has very few ingredients. But, Julie Miller Jones, PhD, professor of foods and nutrition at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN points out that additional ingredients can improve a food’s health profile, “If we add more of an oat fiber called beta-glucans to oatmeal and other foods we can double the cholesterol lowering power.” Talk about cleaning things up.
Adding ascorbic acid (better known as vitamin C) helps preserve the freshness and safety of many packaged foods. But, when it comes to frozen vegetables, for instance, I say go for the ‘plain Janes’ and not the ones with added calorie and fat boosting butter and cheese sauces.
If you’re trying to find foods higher in fiber or a particular vitamin or are cutting back on the amount of sodium or sugar in your diet, the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods is still the best tool for seeing what’s inside. Label reading note: ingredients are listed in order of prevalence on packaged foods.
Nutrition education, it seems, is a process too.
WebMD recently posted a very helpful and comprehensive article examining the pluses and minuses of marketing foods with so-called “clean labels”. Simplifying things in an attempt to cut through the clutter of consumer confusion can really complicate the situation. I say if an ingredient has a scientific name I want to know, especially if it best describes the ingredient. Again, Ascorbic acid is Vitamin C.
Want something that sounds more natural so you can be sure it’s safe? Well, don’t forget that snake venom is natural too and olive oil is a processed food. Which do you want in your salad dressing?
So on we go. The more you know, the more you can eat.
Nantucket Island, thirty miles from Massachusetts’s mainland, is a summer vacation oasis of grey-shingled cottages surrounded by green lawns, blue hydrangeas and pink roses.
Sailboats bob in the harbor and sea birds soar overhead. The leisurely pace is a simple mix of bike rides and beach days. But, the summer fashions are lively with splashes of nautical stripes, Lily Pulitzer’s eye-popping prints and the iconic pink known as Nantucket red.
Happily, the island’s summer menus are as lively as the landscape and the lifestyle. Pineapple salsa and jalapeno cilantro slaw brighten up the fish tacos at the White Elephant’s Brant Point Grill. Dinner al fresco on the ocean view deck at Topper’s in the elegant Wauwinet Inn features an appetizer of marinated Jonah crab with pickled cucumbers, lemon drop melon, fresh dill and edible nasturtium flowers.
“My favorite thing about food on Nantucket is that local chefs embrace the local farmers,” says registered dietitian Liz Weiss who is a family nutrition expert and co-founder of www.mealmakeovermoms.com. “The fish are locally caught and chefs pair dishes with farm fresh produce and herbs.”
At Topper’s I enjoyed a pristine piece of halibut served with squash, roasted eggplant, and Nicoise olive vinaigrette.
Weiss chose raw blue fin tuna with artichokes, basil and Bartlett’s Farm tomato preserve. She said, “There are so many farms here and I think local produce really brings out the best in seafood. It’s just more fun to eat.”
So what does a seafood-loving dietitian say about New England’s on-just-about-every-menu lobster rolls? “Well there’s usually a lot of mayo in the dressing and butter on the toasted roll, but I say it’s OK to splurge on vacation,” said Weiss. “You can always go on a longer bike ride.”
A lighter version is available on the menu at the Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant where you can skip the roll and ask for the succulent lobster salad splurge served with a green salad.
My stay at the White Elephant Village was a retreat within a retreat with elegant modern suite, a super comfy bed, sparkling pool and even more sparkling friendly staff. You can hop on a complimentary bicycle to explore the town or (my choice) greet the day sipping coffee with a fresh baked pastry and pretending to read the New York Times in the spacious lobby.
Another Nantucket nutrition tip from Weiss – vacation time can be the best time to introduce kids to seafood. “I have found that picky eaters are more apt to try new flavors with the positive peer pressure and excitement in a restaurant.”
In the Pink
Rose wines, more popular than ever this summer, are perfectly paired with seafood and the pretty pink color of lobster.
“The dry roses of France are light and crisp and compliment the richness of lobster,” said Atlanta based interior designer Liz McDermott; another vacation friend and Nantucket fan.
The pale orangey pink of Whispering Angel rose from Provence – which seemed to fill the majority of wine glasses at sunset on the island – was also a perfect match for the Nantucket red shorts, pants and sweaters worn by so many visitors enjoying this gourmet summer getaway.