The old saying “you can’t believe everything you read” shouldn’t refer to the black and white Nutrition Facts label printed on packaged food products.
While marketing words such as ‘all natural’ and ‘made with whole grains’ are often part of the manufacturer’s package design; each line listed on the Nutrition Facts panel is closely regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. But, it’s not always easy to translate milligrams into choices for healthier meals. That’s why the FDA recently announced a new and improved version highlighting the nutrients considered most important. Calories will be printed in bigger, bolder print and serving sizes will be in amounts usually consumed. The current Nutrition Facts label may identify a serving of pickles as ¾ of a spear. Who eats ¾ of a pickle?
“Our understanding of a ‘serving size’ has changed over the years. The new Panel now lists serving size as what is typically eaten in one sitting,” says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson registered dietitian Lori Zanini.
The serving size for soft drinks will increase from eight ounces to 12 ounces. Bagels and muffins will increase from two to four ounce servings.
One of the sweetest improvements to the Nutrition Facts label is adding a new line revealing how much sugar has been added to a product above and beyond the sugars naturally occurring in food such as milk and fruit.
“The new labels will help consumers looking at labels for things like yogurt, jams, or cereals know how much of the sugar comes from fruit or milk, and how much comes from added sugars,” said Michael F. Jacobson, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI first petitioned the FDA to put added sugars on Nutrition Facts labels in 1999.
Say goodbye to Vitamin A and C which will no longer be listed on labels because most Americans are already getting the recommended amounts.
Say hello to Vitamin D and potassium which will be listed for the first time and needed for bone and heart health, respectively. “Many people do not consume these nutrients in sufficient amounts,” Zanini said.
Let’s hope easier reading will lead to healthier eating. Registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix said, “Read it before you eat it.”
Learning to make a basic vinaigrette is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Actually you don’t even need the 2! The ratio for making a vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid.
I like red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. But there’s a world of other vinegars to use including Champagne, White Balsamic, Apple Cider and Rice Wine vinegars…just to name a few.
Once you learn to make a basic vinaigrette you can get creative! Whisk in orange marmalade and add minced chives to make an Orange Chive Vinaigrette. Or why not start with Sweet Tea or Bloody Mary Mix? These recipes are from The Slim Down South Cookbook where you’ll find many more ways to Dress to Thrill with healthy and happy spring salads.
Sweet Tea Vinaigrette
Make the dressing up ahead and allow it to cool; otherwise it’ll wilt your salad. Store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Makes 6 servings Hands-On 10 min. Bring 1 cup sweetened tea to a boil in a saucepan over medium-low heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer 9 to 10 minutes or until reduced to ⅓ cup. Remove from heat; cool 20 minutes. Whisk in 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, ¼ tsp. honey, ¼ tsp. Dijon mustard, and a pinch of table salt. Whisk in 6 Tbsp. canola or olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Serving size 2 Tbsp. CALORIES 137; FAT 14.0g (sat 1.0g, mono 8.9g, poly 3.9g); PROTEIN 0g; CARB 3.3g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 28mg; CALC 0mg
Bloody Mary Vinaigrette
Whisk together ¼ cup spicy Bloody Mary mix, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1½ tsp. prepared horseradish, ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, ½ tsp. hot sauce, ¼ tsp. celery salt, and ¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Serving size 4 tsp. CALORIES 44; FAT 5g (sat 0.6g, mono 3.3g, poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 0g; CARB 1g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0.1mg; SODIUM 105mg; CALC 4mg
Let’s have some fun. Play with your food. Why not think of things a little bit differently to shake up meals to include festive ways to include more fruits and vegetables.
Crazy mixed up pizza topping idea: Ever thought of adding sliced fresh strawberries to DiGiorno pepperoni pizza? I did and it’s great! I shared the idea on NBC Atlanta & Company this week. Watch the VIDEO here!
Now that we’re exciting about new pizza topping ideas….let’s play Pizza Party Twister!
Follow the colors of Twister- red, green, yellow and blue and fill little bowls with colorful foods such as green edamame beans, yellow peppers, blueberries (why not?!) and red radishes. SPIN and choose your pizza topping. Even more creative topping and flavor pairing ideas from the chef at California Pizza Kitchen.
Puzzled by Pizza Portions? Here’s a great guide from the good folks at Nestle.
We’ve all heard of enjoying pizza with a side salad…..but what about pizza IN a salad? Pizza-zanella Salad is a take on the Italian classic Panzanella salad which stars leftover bread tossed in with fresh veggies. Just cut up leftover pizza and toss into any green salad for super delicious pizza flavored croutons! Bonus: you just made salad more fun and tasty.
It’s all Balancing Your Plate to include healthy side dishes when enjoying the deliciousness of pizza. Pizza by the way is a combo dish that includes grains, cheese which provides the nutrients in dairy (including calcium, potassium and protein), sometimes meats and many times veggies!
Pair your pizza with additional fruits and vegetables for a delicious and (bonus!) balanced meal.
Add even more veggies to the mix by tossing a creative side salad such as my recipe for:
Sweet ‘n Spicy Brussels Sprouts Slaw with carrots, golden raisins and sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds even sound fun.
Here’s the recipe:
Sweet ‘n Spicy Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Carrots, Golden Raisins and Sunflower Seeds By Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN, author The Slim Down South Cookbook.
Makes 12 servings (one half cup each
2 pounds Brussels Sprouts (about 6 cups trimmed and sliced)
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
½ cup shredded or matchstick carrots
¼ cup sunflower seed kernels (one tablespoon reserved for garnish)
¼ cup sweet n’spicy dressing
Trim ends off Brussels Sprouts and cut into thin slices.
Place in a large bowl.
Add raisins, carrots and sunflower seeds.
Dress with 1/4 cup of Sweet ‘n Spicy dressing, tossing well to combine.
Garnish with 1 T sunflower seeds.
Sweet ‘n Spicy Dressing
Makes 12 servings (1 Tbsp.)
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup honey
2 tsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. celery salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.
DIsclosure: I worked with the good folks at Nestle who bring us the great frozen pizza brands of CPK and DiGiorno to create this blog post. Thank you!
What ethnic cuisine do you feel like eating tonight? If you said ‘Italian’ then you’re in the menu majority.
Sixty-one percent of people polled by the National Restaurant Association said they choose Italian food at least
once a month when dining out, followed by Mexican and Chinese. While Italian
American classics such as huge portions of cheese-laden lasagna and chicken Parmesan are still popular, many menus have been modernized to reflect the style of dishes enjoyed in Italy.
After all, Italian ingredients including olives, olive oil, whole grains, seafood and vegetables are at the very heart of healthy Mediterranean diets.
“It’s great news that restaurants are lightening up Italian menus and featuring more authentic Italian dishes,” said Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Oldways, a non-profit food and nutrition education organization. “Now, Americans will get the true and healthy tastes of Italy and the Mediterranean Diet.”
Case in point is Carrabba’s Italian Grill. With over two hundred restaurants nationwide the restaurant chain recently introduced twenty new menu items. “It was time for a different way to approach Italian food,” said Jay Smith, head chef for Carrabba’s. “It’s lighter and brighter.”
So joining the classic chicken Parmesan is a new option called ‘Parmesan-crusted chicken arugula” which sautéed chicken breast crusted with panko bread crumbs and topped with fresh arugula, tomatoes and shaved Parmesan cheese with a lemon vinaigrette.
During a visit to the test kitchens of Carrabba’s in the Tampa headquarters of parent company Bloomin’ Brands, I had the opportunity to taste some of the new dishes, many of them featuring fresh vegetables.
Additions include wood-grilled salmon topped with tomato, cucumber and dill. Grilled chicken with a Chianti sauce is served with an arugula salad tossed with apples, grapes, and toasted hazelnuts.
“We wanted to find new ways to add vegetables to the menu,” said registered dietitian Maria Caranfa, who works on recipe development with Bloomin’ Brands’ chefs. “There’s grilled asparagus now wrapped in prosciutto and other small plates such as chicken with vegetables served in romaine lettuce wraps.”
Italian dining doesn’t have to be a special occasion feast. “Over fifty percent of the menu items at Carrabba’s are under 600 calories so guests can feel good about eating here on casual nights out,” said Katie Knight of Bloomin’ Brands.
Many dishes are served with a grilled lemon half so guests can up the flavor without adding calories. Small plates and platters meant for sharing have been added to the menu including a tomato caprese with fresh burrata mozzarella.
“You don’t have to be in the mood for pasta to enjoy Italian,” said Justin Cross of Carrabba’s.
But if diners are in the mood, chefs take pasta seriously here where it’s imported from Italy and cooked to order. “We are passionate how pasta is cooked,” said Smith.
They’re available now, but chefs were reluctant to put whole grain or gluten free pastas on the menu until they found acceptable products.
New school Italian it seems is moving closer to old world demand for quality.
There’s more than one fish in the sea, as the saying goes.
Relatively new to the U.S. seafood scene is a premium white fleshed fish called skrei, a wild caught Norwegian artic cod available only from January through April.
The name skrei (pronounced “sk-ray”) comes from the old Norse language for “the wanderer” because the fish is caught in cold winter months when it’s swimming to spawning grounds in northern Norway. “They swim against the current so they have more muscle and are very lean and have a delicate clean taste,” said chef Espen Larsen. “The meat has more body than other cod.”
Larsen, who owns the Culinary Academy of Oslo, visited Atlanta recently to teach the culinary and wait staff at Legal Sea Foods how to best prepare skrei and describe the fish to guests. One of the menu items sampled was pan-roasted skrei with fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts, olives and Meyer lemon. “You don’t want to over power the delicate flavor of the fish,” said sous chef Alexander Clyatt.
“The texture is awesome. Customers always ask about the flavor and texture of a fish and whether it’s wild or farm raised,” said server Lance Brady. “The more information the better.”
The fish is so revered in Norway that every part is utilized. The tongue is a delicacy.
“It’s only available for a short time seasonally,” said Larsen. “For me it’s like looking forward to other seasonal foods like spring asparagus.” Premium prices for the short-term treat means strict protection. “There are fish police who make sure regular coastal cod is not being mislabeled as skrei.”
The Dish on Fish
Whether you’re discovering your first bites of skrei, enjoying a favorite fish taco or lunching on tuna salad, adding more fish and shellfish to your diet is a healthy habit. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we eat at least two four-ounce servings a week. “The guidelines tell us we’re eating plenty of protein in the U.S. but we should shift the types of protein to include more fish,” said registered dietitian Jennifer McGuire with the Marine Fisheries Institute.
Let’s lighten up family favorite comfort foods including mac n cheese, honey grilled pork tenderloin and baked pears for dessert. Watch the recipes come together on Atlanta and Company. Watch the video by clicking on the show name.
Here are the recipes from my Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon. Order a copy clicking here or on the title of the book!
Crunchy Pecan Slaw
You’ll have slaw left over; keep it covered in the fridge, and serve it within a day or two.
Makes 10 servings
Hands-On 20 min.
Total 28 min.
1 head napa cabbage, cut into thin strips
1 Braeburn apple, cut into thin strips
½ cup sliced radishes
½ cup Sweet-and-Spicy Dressing
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
Toss together cabbage and remaining ingredients in a large bowl until blended.Serving size 1 cup CALORIES 141; FAT 9.9g (sat 0.9g, mono 5.7g, poly 2.9g); PROTEIN 2.3g; CARB 13.7g; FIBER 3.7g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0.8mg; SODIUM 136mg; CALC 49mg
Makes 12 servings
Hands-On 5 min.
Total 5 min.
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. celery salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 days.Serving size 1 Tbsp. CALORIES 43; FAT 2.4g (sat 0.2g, mono 1.5g, poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 0.1g; CARB 6.1g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 146mg; CALC 1mg
Baked Smokin’ Mac & Cheese
Creamy, cheesy, a crunchy topping, and plenty of carbs: No wonder mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. It’s even made appearances as a side on Southern meat-and-three plates. Not only is this version lighter, it’s got a little ham, too. Use elbow pasta if you can’t find cellentani, cork screw shape!
Makes 8 servings
Hands-On 30 min.
Total 1 hour
1 lb. uncooked cellentani (corkscrew) pasta
2 Tbsp. butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups fat-free milk
1 (12-oz.) can fat-free evaporated milk
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
½ cup (2 oz.) shredded 1.5% reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese
3 oz. fat-free cream cheese, softened
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground red pepper, divided
1 (8-oz.) package chopped smoked ham
Vegetable cooking spray
1¼ cups cornflakes cereal, crushed
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare cellentani pasta according to package directions.2. Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Gradually whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and evaporated milk until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Whisk in Gouda cheese, next 3 ingredients, and ⅛ tsp. ground red pepper until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in ham and pasta.3. Pour pasta mixture into a 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Stir together crushed cereal, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, and remaining ⅛ tsp. ground red pepper; sprinkle over pasta mixture.4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Note: We tested with Barilla Cellentani pasta and Cabot 1.5% Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese.
Tenderloins are one of the leanest cuts of pork with 120 calories per 3-ounce serving—about the same as a skinless chicken breast.
Makes 8 servings
Hands-On 21 min.
Total 3 hours, 21 min.
2 (1-lb.) pork tenderloins
¼ cup lite soy sauce
½ tsp. ground ginger
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
Garnish: fresh cilantro
Remove silver skin from tenderloins, leaving a thin layer of fat. Butterfly pork tenderloins by making a lengthwise cut down center of each tenderloin, cutting to within ¼ inch of other side. (Do not cut all the way through tenderloins.) Lay flat.2. Combine soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a shallow dish or zip-top plastic freezer bag; add pork, turning to coat. Cover or seal, and chill 3 hours, turning occasionally.3. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat. Stir together brown sugar, honey, and sesame oil in a small bowl.4. Grill tenderloins, covered with grill lid, 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145°, turning occasionally and basting with honey mixture.
Preheat oven to 375°. Peel pears, and cut in half, cutting through stem and bottom ends. Scoop out core and some pulp to form an oval hole in center of each pear half. Place pears, cut sides up, in an 8-inch square or 11- x 7-inch baking dish.2. Combine honey and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir in nuts and cranberries.3. Spoon honey mixture into center of pear halves. Pour orange juice into baking dish.4. Bake, covered, at 375° for 15 minutes; uncover and bake 12 more minutes or until pears are tender and thoroughly heated.
5. Place pear halves on individual plates; drizzle orange juice mixture evenly over pear halves. Spoon 1 Tbsp. yogurt onto each pear half, and sprinkle each pear with about 2½ tsp. Toasted Oat Topping. Serve immediately.
Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together ⅓ cup uncooked regular oats and 2 tsp. light brown sugar in a small bowl; add 1 tsp. butter, melted, tossing to coat. Spread mixture evenly on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 14 to 16 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring after 7 minutes.
If you’ve ever had the gut feeling that there’s more to eating well than counting calories and watching your cholesterol then you really should trust your gut. Research on the world within our intestinal tract shows that the mixture of microbes in the gut can make or break the body’s overall health. Referred to as the microbiome, the population of friendly bacteria that live in the gut aid digestion, help absorption of nutrients and boost immune function. “It’s the control center for human biology,” said Justin Sonnenburg, PhD co-author of The Good Gutand researcher at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. Sonnenburg and co-author wife Erica, also at Stanford, are leading the charge to place the microbiome at the center of the discussion about optimal health today. “We have more bacteria than cells in our bodies. We are more microbial than we are human,” said Justin Sonnenburg.
So what does a good gut look like? According to the Sonnenburgs and other researchers focused on intestinal health the quantity and variety of bacteria is key.
A poor diet lacking dietary fiber can wreck the microbiome’s health because fiber is what they feed on. Fiber in plant foods is considered a ‘prebiotic’ because it’s the preferred food for intestinal bacteria.
When they don’t get their ‘food’ from what we consume the bacteria can eat away at the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract and eventually perish. “Low fiber intake leads to reduced bacterial diversity in the gut,” said Erica Sonneburg. “It’s diet-induced extinction of the gut bacteria.”
The average American consumes about 15 grams of dietary fiber a day. The recommended amount for good health is between 25 and 35 grams per day.
“You have to feed your bugs, not just your body,” said registered dietitian Regan Miller Jones. “It’s yet another reason to eat more vegetables and whole grains.”
Fermented dairy foods such as yogurt and kefir with live active cultures as well as fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi help add good bacteria to the gut so are called ‘probiotic.’
“There’s an explosion of probiotics foods and beverages in the dairy aisle with beneficial live microbes,” said Erica Sonnenberg. “But keep in mind that probiotic supplement pills are unregulated and are often mislabeled. And what might work for one person might not work for others. It’s highly personalized.”
Another note of caution for fans of ‘detox’ regimens including colonics that ‘flush out’ the GI tract. Justin Sonnenberg said, “Colonic irrigation is not safe or effective for the health of the microbiome.”
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.
Getting to the Galapagos and Getting Around
From Atlanta I flew to Quito, Ecuador which is super high altitude at over 9,000 feet above sea level. Took my breath away, literally.
But so did the fabulous hotel we spent the night in before flying to the Galapagos islands the next morning.
The historic and gloriously luxurious Hotel Gangotena in Quito, right of the wide San Francisco Plaza, is a member of Virtuoso. It’s beautiful.
I had the best, the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever experienced. What a way to get ready to launch off to wilds of the Galapagos! Hey, even the airport in Quito was super nice.
Check out the sleek and modern airport bathrooms!
Souvenir shops in the airport got us primed and ready to experience Galapagos wildlife viewing …blue footed booby neck pillow anyone?
But….why oh why didn’t I buy that Blue Footed Booby throw pillow?! I love it! OK, next time for sure!
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
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.
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.
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!
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.”