Super Foods with Super Promises

lemonDrink lemon water to detox your liver, battle depression and dissolve gallstones!

coconut oil1

Consume coconut oil for shiny hair, clear complexion and a healthy heart!

green tea1


Sip green tea to lose weight and boost your immune system!

You may have heard these so-called ‘super food’ claims.

Yes, what we eat and drink certainly can help ‘cure what ails you’ and protect against ill health. But the temptation to promise a wee bit more than science supports is rampant in marketing messages and perhaps always has been.
Food fads and fallacies are widespread. Consider this sage advice.

“No subject lends itself more readily to misuse than diet. Fakers fatten and grow rich on gullibility of the public when it comes to selling ‘pointers’ to beauty and health. It is only through education conducted by individuals who possess a thorough knowledge of nutrition that such fakers can be denounced and their pernicious advice refuted.”

– Fairfax T. Proudfit, professor of nutrition at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine and author of Nutrition and Diet Therapy, first published in 1918.

Yup, 1918. I keep this old textbook on dietetics close to my desk. It’s been revised eight times and mine is the 1942 edition.


Nutrition science may have advanced by leaps and bounds since then, but truly the basics haven’t changed that much. Eat your vegetables, choose whole grains, seek out high quality protein, and eat a wide variety of foods to get a wide variety of nutrients. Limit sugar, fat and salt and remember to drink water to stay hydrated.

Way back when in Proudfit’s day, nutrition experts were concerned about under nutrition and vitamin deficiency diseases whereas today we’re focused on over nutrition and obesity related diseases including diabetes and cardio-vascular disease responsible for three out of five deaths worldwide.

Let’s get back to the lemon water.


Every tall tale includes a kernel or two of the truth. Here’s why each of these ‘super foods’ can be healthy additions to your diet.

Lemon Water- The nutritional advantage of drinking water flavored with a little lemon juice is that it provides some vitamin C and the mineral potassium which are important for good health. Adding lemon, orange or a splash of any fruit juice can help make water taste a bit better so that you might drink a bit more to stay hydrated.
Research shows that offering water that is cooled and flavored increases fluid intake.
Proper hydration aids in digestion and supports all bodily functions including support of heart health and the brain. When you are dehydrated you can feel lethargic and even cranky. So, if drinking lemon water helps you stay hydrated that’s a good thing for the body and the brain. Other than that, I see no miraculous health advantages for adding citrus to drinking water. And actually you should make sure that the exterior of lemons and any other fresh fruit is cleaned before slicing to prevent bacterial contamination of the drinking water.

Coconut Oil-  wow that’s a lot of usefulness! Hmmm….too good to be true? 

While coconut sure tastes good in a Pina-colada or a coconut cake, coconut oil isn’t all it’s cracked up to be as a ‘super food’ according to the US Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has issued warnings to marketers of coconut oil over misleading and unsubstantiated health and nutrition claims.

Coconut oil, like any fat, is a concentrated source of calories with 120 calories per tablespoon. And coconut oil is more than 90 percent saturated fat, the kind of fat associated with elevating blood cholesterol levels. By comparison, butter is 65 percent saturated fat. So using a bit of coconut oil to cook dishes such as Thai cuisine is delicious way to enjoy vegetables, but downing coconut oil by the spoonful won’t work miracles for your health.

Green Tea- Wow! you had me at “fights against aging.”


As registered dietitian trained to advise folks on food and fitness to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, I do like to recommend drinking unsweetened hot and iced tea because it’s hydrating, provides a non-caloric beverage and provides a gentle lift without the jitters often associated with drinking too much coffee. Green tea and black tea both contain the amino acid L-theanine, which research shows can help you feel alert and calm at the same time. That’s tea-rific!

Note that green and black tea come from the same plant- camellia sinensis. Matcha green tea, enjoyed in tea ceremonies in Japan, is more concentrated than other green teas so will taste, some say, a bit ‘spinachy’ with a strong vegetal flavor. So it’s an acquired taste.

Some of the health claims for green tea include information on the high concentration of antioxidants, but there are lots of foods that are rich in disease fighting antioxidants including most fruits and vegetables, nuts and other kinds of tea, too.


So, when you read about the ‘super’ effects of ‘super foods’ on your health, take a moment to digest the facts before you waste your money on empty promises.

National Registered Dietitian Day

closeup picture of screaming businesswoman over white

Could it be anymore exciting?

It’s National Registered Dietitian Day.


Eat right and take a bite of something indulgent.


That’s what we RD’s do everyday.

Untitled I’ll have what she’s having!

SO what’s registered dietitian day all about?

Here’s some ‘food for thought’ from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“It’s no secret that the nutritional health of our nation is of peak concern,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy Spokesperson Tamara Melton. “That’s why it’s important to take a moment to remind consumers where they can go to seek expert clarification in the muddy sea of nutrition advice – the registered dietitian nutritionist.”

Since 2007, the second Wednesday in March has marked Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, when the Academy acknowledges the significant work RDNs do as advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world.

“Virtually anyone can call him or herself a ‘nutritionist,'” Melton said. “In these cases, consumers don’t know if the individual has five minutes or five years of experience – or any training at all. But when you consult a registered dietitian nutritionist, you can know you are receiving advice from an educated, trained and trusted expert.”


Registered dietitian nutritionists meet stringent academic and professional requirements, including earning at least a bachelor’s degree, completing a supervised practice program and passing a registration examination. RDNs must also complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration. More than half of all RDNs have also earned master’s degrees or higher.

Exciting personal message:



I have a Masters Degree in Nutrition with a specialization in Communication from Boston University! Go Terriers. But it all began with my Bachelors Degree in Nutrition from Florida State University. Go Noles! I completed my dietetic internship at the VA Hospital in San Diego where I loved working in the hospital almost as much as going to the beach. Oh, and ( see photo above ) I am the Lady of the Refrigerator nutrition expert on Alton Brown’s Good Eats series, which airs on the Food Network. 


The majority of RDNs work in the treatment and prevention of disease (administering medical nutrition therapy, as part of medical teams), often in hospitals, HMOs, public health clinics, nursing homes or other health care facilities. Additionally, RDNs work throughout the community in schools, fitness centers, food management, food industry, universities, research and private practice.



This sign was probably not written by a registered dietitian, but I like the guidance. 



“Consumers and health professionals alike can seek the expert guidance of an RDN virtually anywhere and anytime food plays a role,” Melton said. “From football fields to crop fields, school cafeterias to home kitchens, grocery store aisles to the halls of Congress, RDNs are working to help all Americans improve their health, prevent and manage disease and achieve and maintain a healthy weight, all through the power of food and nutrition.”


If you need a pro to help you remember what you should be eating for good health and great taste – I suggest working with a registered dietitian.  You’ve got a hair dresser, right? Favorite nail place? Dental hygienist ? Maybe even a personal trainer?  How about adding an RD to your health and beauty team?


 RD’s can even help you fit a few of these into your daily diet.

Now that’s a bubbly and beautiful lifestyle!

Learn more about what a registered dietitian nutritionist can do for you and find an RDN in your area at

Nutrition News: What to Eat Now

What’s on the menu now if you’re trying to eat a healthier diet?


Well, the exact recipe for good health keeps changing as nutrition science evolves. The tough job of following the science and translating the latest and greatest into nutrition recommendations is the task given to health expert members of the US. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee every five years. Their list of things to eat and drink for good health has been released and delivered to the US. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to help federal nutrition officials decide on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That report is expected later this year.

What’s New in Nutrition?

It’s no surprise that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines advisory committee found that Americans are not eating enough vegetables and are consuming too much sugar, salt and saturated fat. But the devil’s in the diet details.

Yikes! The report states that overall, nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population did not meet daily vegetable intake recommendations.

The proposal is over 500 pages long, but the committee provided this summary statement:

“The U.S. population should be encouraged and guided to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains. These dietary patterns can be achieved in many ways and should be tailored to the individual’s biological and medical needs as well as socio-cultural preferences.” – excerpt from the Executive Summary of the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report.

Shout outs and Call outs

The report includes mentions of specific foods and food categories including the following.

-Cholesterol containing foods got a reprieve. Foods such as eggs and shrimp, according to the committee’s round up of research, are not the villain in raising blood cholesterol levels. Meanwhile, saturated fats found in animal products (such as beef, bacon and whole milk) as well as plant sources of saturated fats such as coconut and palm kernel oil figure strongly in the stuff we’re supposed to limit to prevent elevated cholesterol levels.  Bottom line: Don’t hold the mayo. But, limit burgers and cream.

-Farmed and wild fish are both recommended as sources of good nutrition and the health benefits of eating fish outweigh the impact of potential environmental contaminants. Bottom line: eat more fish for good health

-Coffee was given a clean bill of health if consumed in moderate range (3 to 5 cups per day or up to 400 mg/d caffeine) and associated with reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Bottom line: enjoy your java but limit the sugar and cream.

-Sustainability is addressed for the first time in the 2015 advisory committee report. More plant foods in the diet are encouraged to improve sustainability of the foods supply but the committee included this statement, “Of note is that no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve sustainability outcomes over the current status.” Bottom line: enjoy 5 ounces of beef on a kabob with grilled vegetables instead of a huge steak.

3937_00 Steak Kabobs with Wild Rice and Mushrooms_pwm

-How we eat is part of the focus, too. The committee recommends the dietary guidelines include recommendations to increase physical activity, decrease screen time, and encourage family meals and self-monitoring of body weight to improve optimal health related to dietary habits.

Food for Thought

Expect to see and hear a lot of table talk about the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report as the release on February 19th signals the start of a 45-day public comment period. Nutrition and health experts, food producers and consumers are invited to hash out what they think is good, bad or potentially confusing at .




Vacation Homes: Healthy Alternatives and Adventures


Blizzards be gone! At least in your dreams you can start thinking of summer vacation. Winter’s chill  inspires warm thoughts of sunny holidays ahead. Whether getaway goals involve beach views or mountain vistas interest in renting a home away from home, rather than a hotel room, is heating up for many travelers.


Pluses include the extra space and freedom to define your way to relax. Some might get up early for a run and others in the group might get up late and eat a bowl of cereal in their pajamas.


Dining out is part of discovering a destination’s charms, but it’s nice to be able to cook at least some meals in a vacation home.


It’s often less expensive and can be a healthier alternative because you have more control over meals prepared in your own kitchen.


Kitchen Adventures

Cooking on vacation is part of the fun for food lovers.

That’s what I experienced when visiting the Dordogne region of southwestern France.


The dream setting of Chateaux Le Secretary located near the Medieval village of Monflanquin was our base.


We shopped open air markets for regional cheeses, honey, breads, fresh fruits and vegetables and locally produced wines.

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The fully equipped outdoor kitchen complete with a long wooden farmhouse table overlooking the swimming pool was the ideal spot to dine and imagine you actually lived in a French chateau.



Venturing out to explore the countryside and cobblestoned villages

led us to excellent restaurants for dinner.


But it was back to the chateau to lounge in the living room for late night drinks

IMG_9066and then up in the morning for leisurely breakfasts in the cozy kitchen.


The formal dining room is  reminiscent of “Downton Abbey.”  I think I caught a glimpse of a ghost waiting for the French version of Carson to pour the claret. Well in this case malbec, which finds its origin in this part of France. ( more on malbec wines very soon )


Culinary adventures included a hands-on cooking class at La Cambe.

IMG_8997Owner of Gourmet Cooking Holidays and cookbook author Jane Whalley led us through lessons in French cookery including a roasted red pepper and aubergine (eggplant) terrine with local goat cheese and a dessert tart with almond paste and fresh pears.

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Dinner is served and we helped!  A beautiful experience in a lovely setting.

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The portfolio of places you can arrange through international travel companies such as Wyndham Vacation Rentals has all kinds of options.


My week in France was split between the restful chateau and operating a houseboat on the River Lot.


With the help of a French instruction book thankfully translated into English


you learn to open and close the river locks yourself,

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climbing up and down ladders and


throwing lines to fellow shipmates.

IMG_8880No, it wasn’t easy or relaxing but it was a work out.


I decided I’d be best as captain of the galley and deliver hot tea and French pastries to the braver souls navigating up on deck.

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One thing for sure vacation rentals can turn fantasy into reality, even if it’s just for one fabulous week.

Sunset view from my bedroom at the Chateaux Secretary.

Hey Kids! Here’s to 2015 Healthy Families!

mkids Watermelon eaters 10a

Thank you registered dietitian colleague Elisa Zied for including me in this inspiring and delicious round up of nutrition advice for parents to help feed their kids better in 2015. This post can be found on Elisa’s blog The Scoop on Food for !


12 Tips for Eating Better in 2015 by registered dietitian  Elisa Zied.     

Since 2015 is here, I thought I’d put together a list of some great ideas to help you help your kids eat better during the upcoming year.
Don’t worry—I’m not suggesting any kind of complete dietary overhaul. But I do recommend all of these no-fuss strategies suggested by some top dietitians to help move kids’ diets and habits in a more healthful direction.
Whether you choose several strategies at once or one for each month in 2015, all are sure to help your kids incorporate more nutrients in their diets. And they’ll certainly make your meals even more delicious.
Read on for 12 expert tips to help your kids eat better in the New Year and beyond.
1. Create a produce calendar. Creating a produce calendar can help organize meal planning and help kids feel like they’re part of the process. It can also help them feel like they have some control over what is served and get them excited about produce. To do this, you can assign each family member one or two days a week to choose the daily fruit and veggie meal stars. For instance, Mom might have Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Bobby might have Wednesdays and Fridays (you get the drift). You can then write up a calendar and let each person choose the fruit and veggie star for his or her day. You can choose whatever fruit or vegetable you like or use a seasonal list like this one to guide your choices. Kids can help wash the fruit or vegetable and observe or help with their preparation depending on their age.
2. “Cook” in class. You can volunteer at your kids’ school by offering a hands-on no-cook cooking class. It’s a great way to highlight the fun you can have even if you’re not baking, but instead making nutritious items like fruit kebabs with yogurt dip or an edamame salad.
3. Take the rainbow challenge. For the game lover in all of us, Healthy Kids Concepts (HKC)*, a non-profit that encourages healthy eating habits through color-inspired lessons in pre-K and grade school children, offers check sheets (they can be downloaded for free here) to help kids keep track of how many different colors of fruits and veggies they eat each day. The goal is to eat the rainbow every day for an entire month.
4. Just dip it. Kids love to dip things, and studies suggest they may eat even more vegetables if they use them as dippers. So, why not make some tasty and affordable dips to offer the kids with their meals and snacks. You can buy canned chickpeas or garbanzo beans, rinse, and whir in a blender or food processor with some olive oil and a squirt of lemon. Frozen, thawed green peas plus olive oil, lemon juice and some minced garlic, salt and pepper can also work. You can also serve new dishes or foods previously disliked with a dipping sauce. For example, you can serve steak strips with no sugar added cranberry sauce or grilled chicken strips with some honey mustard.
5. Make your own fruit fantasy. Create your own edible fruit arrangement by slicing watermelon into popsicle shapes on popsicle sticks or fan orange segments out on a plate in a pattern that looks like the sun with a banana circle center. Making fruit look good can certainly make it more appealing to kids.
6. Let ‘em eat with their hands. Add edamame sprinkled with a little sea salt to your kid’s lunchbox. It’s a fun, hand-held, easy to eat food that’s rich in filling protein not to mention other key nutrients (it also counts as a vegetable).
7. How ‘bout veggies before dinner? Because so few kids meet their daily quota for vegetables, how about making it a rule to eat veggies in the hour leading up to dinner? Noshing on baby carrots, cucumber slices, celery sticks, plum or cherry tomatoes, plain or with a little Italian dressing or a tablespoon or two of dip can help kids eat enough vegetables to meet their needs and prevent them from noshing on nutrient-poor snacks that will fill them up and spoil their appetite before you can even say, “Dinner’s ready.”
8. Plant a garden. You can do this in your backyard or, if you live in an apartment, in a box on your terrace. Planting, watering, and picking vegetables, herbs and spices can teach your kids where food comes from and give them a sense of ownership and pride when the planted items are ready to be incorporated into meals.
9. Swap some usual foods. Once in a while, instead of offering the same old same old, mix things up a bit. For example, instead of carrots, offer parsnips. They offer myriad nutrients and have a similar taste and texture to carrots. Try them anywhere you’d use carrots, like in a stir fry dish or in a winter vegetable chili. And how about replacing some of the broccoli in dishes with cauliflower. You can buy it fresh or frozen and serve it in a mixed dish or by itself, chopped and steamed.
10. Rate your plate. Ask your kids to do a taste test at one meal each week. You can offer them several food options and have them give each a score of 1 to 5 on their color and taste.
11. Shape ‘em up. Because kids love pizza, spaghetti, French fries and pancakes, why not encourage them to try more vegetables by having them help you make new versions of each of these. For example, you can make matchstick parsnip fries; portabello mushroom, eggplant or cauliflower-crusted pizza; beet or carrot pancakes; or zucchini muffins. You can also use a veggie spiralizer (the kids can even help) to make colorful, nutrient-rich “pasta” out of steamed or grilled zucchini, baked sweet potatoes or fresh cucumber. If you don’t want to make the switch to all veggie noodles, try mixing some in with pasta noodles.
12. Go fish! Kids and parents tend to not eat recommended amounts of fish in their daily diet. That’s a shame, especially since fish is a key source of high quality protein and potent omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These essential fatty acids are important for development and health of the brain, nervous system, heart, skin, and immune system. Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend anywhere from 3 to 8 or more ounces of fish weekly depending on kids’ needs and total calorie intake (see my recent Scoop on Food post for more information). Because that really isn’t that much, why not simply replace one or two of your family’s weekly meat dishes or one family meal and one of your child’s lunches with fish. Lower mercury fish options include salmon, shrimp, pollock, tuna (light canned), tilapia, catfish, and cod. White (albacore) tuna can also be consumed, but should be limited to no more than 6 ounces a week.
Sources: Patricia Bannan, MS, RD; Stephanie Clarke, MS, RD & Willow Jarosh, MS, RD co-owners of C&J Nutrition and board members of HKC*; Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN founder of Nutritioulicious; Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide; Lindsay Livingston, RD; Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CFT, a.k.a. The Nutrition Twins, authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure; Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD, LD, author of The Slim Down South Cookbook and nutrition advisor to; Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RD, HFS; and Rebecca Subbiah, RDN.
Image of 2015 written with food via shutterstock.

How to Indulge without the Bulge

Slim and Trim Tips for Keeping Your Holiday Sparkle


‘Tis the season for holiday office parties, festive dinners, cocktail gatherings and sweet temptations just about everywhere you look. Welcome to the dreaded holiday weight gain season. Or is it?

For years, it was popular knowledge that folks gained between five and seven pounds during the holidays as they swilled eggnog and piled plates high at party buffets. But, the truth is most folks don’t gain that much.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that most people gain only one pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. But before you grab another sugar cookie grab this – if you don’t lose it in the New Year -one pound a year over ten holidays equals ten unwanted pounds no matter how you do the math.

So here are some tips to help avoid holiday weight gain:

Party Time



-Try to eat regular meals and snacks so that you are not famished when you arrive at a holiday party and might tend to overeat

-Remember that holiday gatherings are for enjoying time with family and friends; make that the focus not the food

-Don’t deprive yourself of holiday food favorites; you may crave them even more

-Practice portion control; take small portions of high calorie favorites and savor them

-If you overeat one day; try to cut back the next. It’s about balance over a span of days.

-Fill your plate with a balanced selection of foods from the buffet; make a meal instead of mindlessly eating

 Naughty and Nice Foods


-Know what you’re getting into; did you know eggnog has 360 calories per cup?

-Healthy holiday favorites include: boiled shrimp, turkey, roast beef, sweet potatoes, winter squash, steamed green beans, and fresh fruit salads.

Holiday Recipes on WGN Midday Fix

-Deck the halls with boughs of holly but accessorize foods with care. Adding nuts, cheese, cream sauces, gravies, whipped cream, or syrups adds extra calories.

Liquid Calories were involved!

-Liquid calories can add up quickly as you enjoy holiday libations. Champagne and dry rose wines are among the lowest in calories per glass; sweet and creamy drinks such as spiked eggnog or chocolate martinis among the highest.

More tips on holiday healthy in this video from Fox 5 Good Day Atlanta

 Holiday Hustle

-Take advantage of every calorie burning opportunity during the busy holiday season; climb the stairs instead of taking the escalator or elevator and park further away at shopping centers.

-Remember that exercise helps fight stress; take a walk for vanity and sanity!

-Holiday lists aren’t just for gifts! A study from Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research found that those who kept daily food and physical activity records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. Researchers say the process of seriously reflecting on what you eat and how much helps dieters become more aware of habits and face the facts. It also puts the brakes on mindless munching such as grabbing an extra handful of chips at a holiday party or snacking on bits of brownies when food diaries demand an honest record of every bite.


Energize with Healthy Gifts – If the demand of buying last minute holiday gifts is dragging you down here are a few bright ideas in the healthy living category.  

  • Salad spinner- create a gift basket with olive oils, mustards and vinegars.
  • Slow cooker- one of the best ways to tenderize tasty cuts of lean meat in stews packed with tasty vegetables.
  • Microplane grater – for zesting citrus, grating whole spices to add flavor without calories
  • Specialty spices – more expensive spices like cardamom, vanilla, saffron, smoked paprika and curry powders are elegant gifts to add flavor 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.
  • Fitness bands – one of the hottest healthy gifts this year. Wearable digital fitness bands keep track of activity, food intake, and sleep patterns.
  • Fresh herb garden kits – a great way to get fresh, seasonal taste in foods with little containers of fresh herbs that can start to sprout now on winter windowsills.






Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!


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 some inventive ideas to add a deliciously healthy twist to menu traditions.
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. That way you have room for a bigger slice of pumpkin pie. Yes, you can indulge without the bulge.

Here’s the How to Indulge without the Bulge segment for #HealthyThanksgiving I did for WGN TV with Chicago food stylist Connie Pikulas.


Enjoy Winter Salads

Look at these beautiful Brussels sprouts!

The very first Thanksgiving’s mission was to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. Chefs turn to the season’s harvest for culinary inspiration. Salads are often overlooked in the parade of roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.
At newly opened Paces & Vine, chef Ian Winslade’s Tuscan kale salad with mandarin orange dressing, crystalized ginger and local radishes, is a great winter produce idea. The Thanksgiving to-go menu at Murphy’s, also under Winslade’s direction, features a winter salad of mixed greens, pears and walnuts as well as butternut squash soup with the flavors of apple and ginger cream.
Sweet New Ideas
What Thanksgiving spread would be complete without sweet potatoes? Sweet potatoes are rich in healthy fiber, potassium and beta-carotene. Chef Carvel Gould suggests roasting sweet potato wedges and tossing them together with parsnips and rutabaga wedges cooked in a non stick pan with some garlic and shallots for about four minutes until their tender but still have some texture.

Chefs at Seasons 52 restaurants, who specialize in creating just-as-tasty but lighter, lower calorie dishes are serving maple-glazed roasted butternut squash with their Thanksgiving menu this year.

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 diet needs including a nut allergy, a gluten intolerance or are vegetarian or vegan. No doubt whoever’s cooking the meal will feel a bit challenged. Sous chef Cooper Miller of JCT Kitchen says, “We are used to special diet requests so we create a bunch of sides that anyone can enjoy without nuts, bacon or breadcrumbs. Then we throw in a few dishes loaded with all of those ingredients for those who want to splurge.” An easy idea for home entertaining: create a condiment platter of ingredients so each guest can customize their plates depending on allergies or food preferences.

Everybody’s happy on Thanksgiving.


How Not to Get Over Stuffed on Thanksgiving

• 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.

Dietitians Dish on What’s New in Nutrition

Did you know were supposed to be feeding the friendly bacteria

that naturally live in your gut?

That’s just one of the hot topics in nutrition research presented to registered dietitians gathered in Atlanta for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2014 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE).

“Increasing the intake of foods such as yogurt and kefir with live and active cultures and fermented foods including sauerkraut or kimchi helps add more good bugs to our digestive tracts,” explained Jennifer McDaniel, an Academy spokesperson and private practice dietitian in St. Louis, Missouri. Studies presented at the conference show that a healthy balance in the population of good versus bad bacteria in the gut called the “microbiome” is related to improved immune function, a smaller waist circumference and even improved cognitive function.

Kale is good for a healthy micro biome too.

“Most folks have heard they need to eat more fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains for overall good health but these plant-based foods feed the microbiome too,” said Lauri Wright, registered dietitian nutritionist and professor of Public Health at the University of South Florida.

Health coach help

If it seems like you read something new and confusing about nutrition every day, then you’re not alone. There’s an emerging specialty in nutrition coaching. Taking one lesson to improve your tennis serve or golf swing can’t significantly change your game.

The same goes for handing out a list of diet do’s and don’ts to lower cholesterol, manage diabetes, treat hypertension or lose weight. Atlanta registered dietitian nutritionist Caitlin Russell who specializes in weight control said, “I know that one visit is not enough. For long term weight management success, people need a personalized lifestyle plan so I can coach them through challenges along the way.”

The dietitian is in

We dietitians get pretty excited about nutrition. Me (left) with Janet Helm, MS RDN (center) blogger at Nutrition Unplugged and Liz Weiss, MS RDN (right) blogger at MealMakeoverMoms

Dietitians are moving beyond the clinical setting to a grocery store near you. Many retail food companies are employing dietitians to help source specialty products from gluten-free bread to reduced-sodium soups, teach cooking classes and work with pharmacists to create displays of foods that support the treatment of high blood pressure and diabetes. Registered dietitian Jane Andrews, of Wegmans Food Markets based in New York, said, “While registered dietitians help shoppers improve their health, it’s also healthy for the supermarket business because we’re building strong customer loyalty.”


Rooting for Root Vegetables


handsimagesCarrots may enjoy a starring role on restaurant menus year round, but other less commonly consumed root vegetables take center stage in the fall. The slightly sharp flavors of parsnips, rutabaga, beets and turnips are a great compliment to hearty braised meats featured on cold weather menus.

“The parsnip has that dynamic light licorice flavor that lifts your palate with heavier dishes such as duck,” says executive chef Mike Deihl of Atlanta, currently the Southeast Regional Vice President of the American Culinary Federation.

Demonstrating his enthusiasm for the autumn harvest, Deihl prepared a salad of roasted parsnips, carrots and golden beets at the Taste of Atlanta food festival recently. “I call it my culinary fall trinity,” he says. “They’re roasted first to concentrate the flavors kind of like reducing a sauce.”


Roots on the Menu

A quick survey of online menus posted by Atlanta restaurants proves chefs are rooting for root vegetables this time of year. At Woodfire Grill braised pork shank is served with roasted parsnips and an apple cider glaze. An apple, walnut and rutabaga compote complements roasted duck at Babette’s. Creamy parsnip soup is on the menu at Canoe and braised baby beets with burnt honey vinaigrette is offered at South City Kitchen. An arugula salad at The Optimist is topped with pickled turnips and carrots.

“What I like about root vegetables is their flexibility. You can eat them hot, cold, room temperature, pureed, braised, stewed and grilled because they’re so strong and hearty,” says Deihl. “I’ve even made a golden beet sorbet!”

Grounded in Good Nutrition


While root vegetables come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors they’re all really good sources of dietary fiber, which promotes digestive health and is associated with lower rates of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Turnips and rutabaga are high in vitamin C.   And as with most members in the produce aisle, root vegetables contain the mineral potassium, which helps support healthy blood pressure. Rutabagas and turnips are in the same cruciferous family as broccoli and cauliflower known for cancer-fighting antioxidant nutrients that help boost the immune system. So, while you’re enjoying the seasonal taste treat of root vegetables this fall know that you’re also adding some pretty powerful nutrition to boost your health to help ward off the winter chills ahead.


Healthier Halloween….with or without Candy Corn

Scary Good Advice for a Healthier Halloween

When I was a kid after a night of neighborhood trick or treating, I’d take off my witch’s hat, pirate girl wig or angel wings and dump the sweet loot on the living room floor to size up the cache collected on Halloween. Then I started categorizing. Chocolate bars earned the highest value and candy corns the very least. Temporary tattoos and spooky pencils even ranked higher than candy corn. (They still do.) This year, according to the National Retail Foundation’s 2014 Halloween Consumer Spending Survey, we’ll spend over two billion dollars on candy. That’s a lot of bubble gum, candy bars, peanut butter cups and yes, candy corn. So, how do registered dietitian handle Halloween’s candy fest? Here are some scary good tips for treating kids and adults to a healthier Halloween.

Good Goblin Gobbling– serve those zombies a well-balanced dinner before trick or treating to fill tummies with filling protein foods and whole grains so they aren’t as tempted to dive into collected candies right away.

“Try a ‘Mini Mummy Pizza’ made on whole wheat English muffins with pizza sauce, slices of protein-packed mozzarella cheese and sliced olives for the eyes.”  -Lanier Dabruzzi, registered dietitian, Atlanta, Southeast Dairy Association

“Why not break up the candy monopoly and include a bit of fall plant-based flavor in your Halloween menu? Think pumpkin smoothies, stuffed acorn squash with quinoa, carrots served with hummus in a hollowed out mini pumpkin, roasted spiced pumpkin seeds, and baked apples with cinnamon.”  -Sharon Palmer, registered dietitian and author of Plant-Powered for Life

Healthier Treats – fun sized small candy bars come portion controlled. That’s good for adults handing out the treats using the join-the-fun ‘one for you, two for me!’ trick. But small bars may not include important information to detect any possible allergens.

“Miniature forms of candy do not contain a listing of ingredients on the individual package. These ingredients can be found on the larger package.” – Jill Castle, registered dietitian, food allergy expert.

Another way to limit sugary treat intake is to give candy that takes longer to eat. “These include hard candies (Jolly Roger), Starburst Fruit Chews, fruit leather, boxes of raisins, licorice, Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops, lollipops, licorice and gum.” – Julie Upton, registered dietitian at Appetite for

Savor the Sweet Treasure – happily none of the dietitians I interviewed suggest costuming carrots as candy. In fact, Halloween is a good time to teach kids how to splurge in moderation.

“Instead of trick or treating with the largest bag you can find, use a small plastic pumpkin so the kids fill their buckets but bring home less.” – Marisa Moore, Atlanta registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

“Instead of making Halloween treats and candy off-limits, teach your child balance by encouraging them to enjoy special treats as part of an overall healthy diet.” -Jessica Cox, registered dietitian,

“I do think it is important to keep treats from being forbidden fruit or they become that much more attractive and desirable.” Alice Henneman, registered dietitian University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.

After Halloween, Cox says, “Put leftover candy away and out of site. Combine candy with whole-grain cereal and nuts for a homemade trail mix that contains protein and fiber.”

Frighteningly Fit

 The best thing about Halloween is that is usually involved walking and often running from house to house to gather as much sweet treasure as possible.

“We have a steep driveway and have noticed many trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood pass us by even though it is obvious we are passing out treats. A neighbor suggested setting up table at end of driveway. I said no. We are giving out candy so folks can trek up the driveway!” – Marilyn W. Yon, registered dietitian,

The best way to eat candy corn

BONY FINGERS. Fill clear plastic gloves (the type designed for wearing in the kitchen when preparing food) with popcorn, which is a whole grain food high in fiber and low in calories. Tie the end with ribbon or yarn. Add a few pieces of candy corn at the end of each finger for fingernails. Source:

So the real trick on Halloween is to treat the costumed crew to a short but sweet trip through candy land while making sure the rest of the day includes healthy food choices and the night includes fitness for a frightfully fun time.



Crazy Good Nutrition Advice for Crazy Busy Times

Do you feel like you’re crazy busy right now?

closeup picture of screaming businesswoman over white

I sure do. My big annual conference where all of the dietitians get together to listen, learn and share libations happens this week and this year it’s in Atlanta!

All dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians. Look for the RD or RDN credentials. And look for all of us out on the town in Atlanta October 18-21st.

Look out folks as 7,000 dietitians populate the city’s restaurants and just might act a little like Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally” as they enthusiastically order everything on the side, with this or without that. I’ll have what she’s having……..

UntitledWelcome to one and all attending The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo ( FNCE ).



The fall is often a busy and productive season for all of us.  Got a Power Point to finish? Trying to polish that resume? Trying to stay ahead of stress induced memory loss?



Preparing for a job interview, school exam, special event, music recital or business presentation is vital for success but what you consume before the performance can make a difference too.

Meal choices can make or break your mental powers.


Protein punch

While a biscuit or bagel can be fast for breakfast, nutrition scientists say eating nothing but carbs is a bad choice for a big day. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study compared two groups who ate either a high-protein or high-carbohydrate breakfast. Two hours later the carb group had levels of the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan that were four times higher than the protein group. Add an egg to that breakfast biscuit and some peanut butter or smoked salmon to a bagel to boost protein content.

Greek Yogurt is a good source of protein. Try it in savory recipes too. It’s not just for fruit and smoothies.

Lean protein foods such as eggs, milk, Greek yogurt, chicken and fish support the production of neurotransmitters needed for smart thinking.

Brain cells crave choline

Found in egg yolks, the nutrient choline helps support the brain’s messenger service and new memory cell production.



Attention egg white omelet fans: chances are you’re not getting enough choline if you skip the yolk. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Ward said, “It’s a nutrient that’s frequently under-consumed by those who need it most. In fact, fewer than 10 percent of older children, men and women meet the recommended Adequate Intake for choline.”

My dietitian pal Liz Ward is pretty smart and really pretty!  Liz says one egg, which contains 125 milligrams of choline, can help close the gap.

B alert

B vitamins, such as folate or folic acid, play a key role in forming the brain’s memory cells and have been shown to improve alertness in adults. The vitamin can be found in orange juice, green vegetables, cantaloupe, and whole grain foods including those enriched with folic acid such as breads, cereals, pasta and rice.

Pay attention with tea


Coffee may be the go-to beverage for go-getters but too much caffeine can cause nervous jitters.

So switch to tea.

teaimagesJohn Foxe, Ph.D. professor of neuroscience, biology and psychology at City College of the City University of New York found that theanine, an amino acid in the tea plant increases alpha brain-wave activity which induces a calmer, yet more alert, state of mind. Theanine is found in green, black and oolong teas.

Water for the brain


Dehydration can make you feel listless and lethargic and contribute to concentration problems. If your brain feels a bit fuzzy, you might just be thirsty.  I know this week, I’ll be drinking water…in between each of the culinary cocktails I’ll be enjoying with dietitian friends.



Fall in Love with Fall Menus: Healthy and Happy


Autumn’s harvest of apples, pears and turnips will be tumbling onto restaurant menus and into supermarkets soon.

To help home cooks up their veggie know-how the James Beard Foundation has released a new smart phone app featuring vegetable recipes from famous chefs with photos and shopping lists.

app mockup copy_0

The Glazed Baby Turnips by celebrated chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in Napa Valley look delicious and actually pretty easy to make.


I always look forward to cozy fall fashions after a summer of sheer fabrics in whites and brights. The same goes for fall meals with warm plates of earthy and robust flavors, compared to the lighter and often chilled tastes of summer.

colorUnknownThere’s a change in the air and on the menu.


Woodsy notes from shitake mushrooms transform chef Zeb Stevenson’s grilled whole trout into an autumnal treat at Parish in Inman Park where the dish is served with Swiss chard and spritzed with juice from a grilled orange half.


Braised kale and the hearty grain farro (similar to brown rice in consistency and related to wheat) accompany grilled salmon topped with a sweet-tart rhubarb salsa at Food 101 in Sandy Springs.


At 4th & Swift, chef/owner Jay Swift dresses flank steak for fall with satisfying sides of squash, corn puree, and king trumpet mushrooms. Swift’s duck breast entrée salutes the season’s appetite for more robust flavors with mustard seed, sauerkraut, Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes. Apples and pears star on fall dessert menus all over town.

Fall’s Healthy Harvest: What’s inside?


Apples- vitamin C and fiber. There are five grams of fiber in one medium apple. Have a baked apple for dessert.


Brussels sprouts – fiber, vitamin C and folate. There are three grams of fiber in four sprouts.


Cauliflower- vitamin C and folate. Very low in calories-25 calories in a cup. Watch the cheese sauce!


Collard greens, turnip greens and kale- vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and calcium. That’s right! The mineral calcium famous for being in milk, is also found in these greens. All that and it’s National Kale Day this Wednesday.


Mushrooms- very low calorie, high in Riboflavin; good source of niacin. Mushrooms add rich flavors to soups and stews.


Winter squash and pumpkin- vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, fiber and folate.  Try cooked pumpkin in savory dishes. It’s not just for pies!

sweet potatoes imagesSweet potatoes- fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. Count 100 calories for one medium sweet potato. Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars. No need for added butter or brown sugar.

So much to be thankful for when fall serves up the food!



Tiny Wild Blueberries Deliver Big Nutrition


 Good things come in small packages.

The same can be said of the tiny wild Maine blueberry being harvested this time of year on otherwise barren rocky fields.


In fact, the land in northern Maine where these short scruffy bushes grow is referred to as ‘the barrens.’


About one third of the size of cultivated blueberries commonly sold in most supermarkets, Maine’s petite deep purple wild berries have been popping up on their own without human help for more than ten thousand years.

Merrill Blueberry Farms is the first and only company to process organic wild blueberries for the frozen market.

“The plants are not fast growing but they’re long lasting,” says David Yarborough, wild blueberry specialist and professor of horticulture at the University of Maine. “I eat my way through the fields and have wild blueberries with oatmeal for breakfast every day.”

David Yarborough also likes wild Maine blueberry ice cream.  So does Hannah Richards, mommy blogger and editor at Ethos Marketing.

To learn how wild blueberries are different from the tame (that’s what the US Department of Agriculture calls cultivated blueberries) I joined a group of food bloggers for an educational farm to table tour called “Blog the Barrens!”

Regan Miller Jones RD of Healthy Aperture , Danielle Omar of Food Confidence and I visit Wyman’s of Maine.
Liz Weiss, fellow dietitian and blogger at MealMakeoverMoms and I celebrate wearing blue in blueberry land! Blueberry fields forever.

We braved a little cold and rain but blessed the weather conditions as ‘good for the berries!’ and enjoyed wonderful meals together as we tasted and talked – it was all about the wild Maine blueberry.


At Havana restaurant in Bar Harbor, wild blueberries find their way into blueberry butter, blueberry vinaigrette sauce for scallops, and blueberry compote for goat cheese cheesecake.  We were greeted with a wild Maine blueberry Mojito since Havana’s theme is a latin inspired menu.


We also spotted a very famous and discriminating ‘foodie’ and fellow blogger…Martha dining right next to us at Havana.


No we didn’t get a chance to chat but the Martha sighting had me craving more berries and appreciating the gorgeous views!


The bartenders at the Bar Harbor Inn shakes up blueberry martinis and executive chef Louis Kiefer makes a variety of wild blueberry salsas.




RECIPE: Wild Blueberry & Tomato Salsa 


1 cup Wild Blueberries

1 cup quartered Cherry Tomatoes

1/4 cup diced Yellow Bell Pepper

Chiffonade of Fresh Basil Leaves

Pinch of Sea Salt & Cayenne

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons Walnut Oil (or olive oil)

1-2 tablespoons of Fruit Vinegar (Champagne vinegar, Blueberry vinegar! or Red Wine Vinegar for instance)

Mix well and serve- great with tortilla chips (duh) or on top of grilled fish ( as in photo above)


It’s easy to find blueberry pancakes and blueberry ice cream on just about every menu in Maine. (And as a design on table linens and other decor) Let’s get another look at that wild blueberry ice cream!

IMG_8074 If they’re not using the state’s wild berry, I’m pretty sure they’d be run out of town.


Yarborough explains that while blueberries grow wild in Maine, farmers manage the fields where they grow to control competing weeds and insects to ensure a healthy crop. This year will be a banner year for wild blueberries because the weather was ‘honeybee friendly’ during the critical pollination phase.



Speaking of the harvest….there are mechanical harvesters but much of the crop today is still gathered as it has been for years…by raking the berries into a toothy contraption in back and forth motions so the berries tumble into the catch. It’s back breaking work and I had enough of it in five minutes. Cheers to those humble heroes who harvest our sweet crops!


Big Nutrition, Small Berry

Wild blueberries offer banner nutrition too. Because the berry is tiny there’s more skin to flesh ratio so the wild blueberry is twice as high in fiber and much higher levels of antioxidants as compared to bigger cultivated berries. Registered dietitian Kit Broihier, who works with the Wild Blueberry Association of North America says, “Tiny is huge when it comes to nutrition. The wild blueberry has concentrated levels of nutrients that support eye, heart and brain health.”


While the savoring of fresh wild blueberries is an annual celebration during harvest in Maine, the majority of the state’s crop heads immediately to the freezer. “It’s nature’s pause button,” says Yarborough. Freezing maintains the color, shape, and flavor of the fruit and creates a food product that’s available year round and worldwide.


And studies show that freezing not only protects but actually increases the availability of nutrients in blueberries. You can find wild Maine blueberries in most supermarkets in the frozen fruit section. Or….you can head to the state of Maine for the late summer harvest next year. Besides it’s the best time of year to visit Vacationland.





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.