Category Archives: Food and Travel

Lose Weight While You Sleep!

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.

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“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.”

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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

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Not saying that 1000’s of years ago we were more fit…but this is motivating!

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.

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Beth Hubrich, MS RD of the Calorie Control Council, Dr. James O Hill of University of Colorado during FNCE 2015.

“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.

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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.”

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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.”

By Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD, author of The Slim Down South Cookbook and nutrition advisor to Calorie Control Council

 

 

 

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Fine Tuning Cruise Fare


Ahoy there from the Sunny Med!

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Hello from the Nieuw Amsterdam, one of the elegant ships of Holland America Line, as we sail on a 12-day dream cruise from Venice to Barcelona with many exciting and beautiful ports of call.

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View of the Nieuw Amsterdam from one of the ship’s tenders. Port of Kotor in Montenegro.

On the Menu Out to Sea

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Small plates are making big waves in cruise ship cuisine. From tiny dishes of mozzarella with fresh tomato or hummus with feta cheese, dolmades and olives, an artfully arranged selection of tastes from breakfast to late night snacking is set out for passengers dining casually in the Lido Market on Holland America Line ships.

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There’s no shortage of comfort food favorites such as roast beef and mashed potatoes and vacation treat foods including burgers and fries.

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But gone are the serve yourself steam table vats and buffet style trays that passengers used to fill to capacity.

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How about a Mediterranean meze plate?

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Now at each step of the way from the salad bar to the hot entrees, members of the culinary team smile and place what you want on a plate and hand it to you.

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The salad bar is a fresh cornocopia of creative ingredients

Prettily packaged sandwiches such as chicken salad with arugula on freshly baked multi grain bread take the place of a deli concept where you’d typically stand in line.
There are three distinct dining advantages here.

-Fewer people handling the food improve food safety. -Portion control allows passengers to enjoy a wider variety of tastes and decreases food waste. -And because the culinary staff create and garnish the plates they look much better for your vacation food photography.

Foodies at Sea

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My recent vacation on the Nieuw Amsterdam to celebrate a rather big birthday served up a bucket-list Mediterranean itinerary and a peek into current cruise fare philosophy.

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So much fun to dress up at night and enjoy dressed up dishes.

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I took notice that menus afloat from the elegant Manhattan Dining Room to made-to-order thin crust pizzas on the pool deck reflect dining trends ashore.

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There’s a sushi bar in Asian inspired Tamarind and shared platters of salumi and pastas at Italian themed Canaletto.

Popup dinners such as a special evening of dishes from famed New York restaurant Le Cirque add more glamour to gourmet meals in the Pinnacle Grill.

Lobster salad with grapefruit is a Le Cirque classic.
Lobster salad with grapefruit is a Le Cirque classic.

Specials on the Distant Lands menu connect to the local cuisine of each port of call. While docked in Dubrovnik, I sampled Croatian foods onboard including pastry stuffed with seasoned beef, meatballs with coriander sauce and a flaky cheese pie called Burek Sa Siron.

Croatian traditional dishes served with view of Croatia!
Croatian traditional dishes served with view of Croatia!

Chefs’ cooking demos and mixology classes add extra entertainment for food lovers on board.  After completing a series of four mixology classes you get a diploma!

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Nice work guys!
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Of course I joined the class!!

Galley Ho!

A behind the scenes tour of the ship’s gleaming galley leads guests everywhere from the dishwashing to dessert stations.

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I learned that 137, 000 pounds of fresh vegetables are consumed by two thousand guests in a typical week.

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Oh, and nearly 1700 pounds of butter.

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“At the start of the week passengers eat a lot because they’re excited about all of the choices,” says Martin Van Winden dining room manager of the Niew Amsterdam’s Pinnacle Grill “Then we do see a decline in food consumption as the cruise continues.”

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The elegant Pinnacle Grill on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

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Ship Shape

Special diet requests and food allergy concerns are taken seriously with gluten free choices and creative vegetarian fare such as barbecue tofu with creamy grits one day for lunch.
While there’s a fabulous fitness center and spa on board, my chosen exercise was taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

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When you walk up and down from deck 2 to deck 11 a few times a day it’s a work out. Especially when realizing you’re looking for a place that’s aft when you’re at the stern so have to walk another five minutes. Then you forget something in your stateroom……we racked up a lot of steps!

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There were 2300 passengers on board for the 12-Day Mediterranean Romance Cruise on the Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam.

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Actually the liveliness of this shared community at sea added so much enjoyment to the journey.  Traveling with my friend Liz McDermott, we never felt that any space was crowded or had to wait for a drink! We even got to meet Captain Edward G. Van Zaane for a special tour of the bridge.

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Did you know there are no paper navigation maps anymore? But still a tradition of handsome Captains at sea.

Now, how about a recipe from Allen and Antonio, our favorite bartenders and the “professors” of the mixology class series on board? Bon voyage!

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Chocolate Martini

Garnish chilled glass with chocolate sauce in swirled pattern

Shake 1 oz Vodka with 1 oz Creme de Cacoa White in a cocktail shaker with some ice.

Strain and pour into the glass.

Enjoy and you’re on your way to earning your very own bartender certificate.

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Stay tuned as we set sail for more foodie destinations on shore in my next blog post.

A cruise is a great way to explore and discover the traditional foods, exemplary eateries and exciting markets in ports along the way.

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Liz and I stumbled upon one of the best lunches of our lives at the tucked away and affordable Dior restaurant in St. Tropez. More to come……

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Active Travel a Healthy Trend

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While there are still plenty of vacationers looking for ‘find me a hammock’ rest and relaxation time, the real action in vacation planning includes a lot of action. Paddle boarding, hiking, biking, kayaking, hot air ballooning to hot yoga.

“I call it the kale, quinoa and cardio trend in travel,” said Jack Ezon, president of New York based Ovation Vacations. “Fitness is a huge part of their daily life so they want it to be part of their vacation life. We hire guides to jog with clients in the morning to see the city,” said Ezon. You don’t even have to pack your fitness gear. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, for instance, provide guests with workout shoes and clothes through a partnership with Reebok.

On The Go

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Ezon joined a panel of travel advisors attending Virtuoso Travel Week held recently at the palatial Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas.

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Billed as ‘fashion week’ for the luxury travel industry nearly five thousand Virtuoso members including travel advisors, tour operators, tourism officials, hotel and cruise line executives met to talk shop, swap business cards and share top trends.

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Active travel is popular for all age groups. Look out; grandma wants to go zip lining now.

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“Even older clients are not looking for sedentary travel. They want adventure,” said travel advisor Tony Huffman, chairman of Huffman Travel. Cruising on big ships is still big business but ‘excursions cruises’ on small luxurious vessels that get closer to Mother Nature are becoming wildly popular.

Food and Travel

Gastronomic adventures are high on the high-end travel list too. “Food is the most important beyond anything.

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Does the Bellagio Resort have great food? You Bet! These are salads with romaine, avocado and bacon.

They want to experience local flavors with a cool vibe,” said Kelly Grumbach, travel advisor with Quintessentially Travel. “If they’re going to be stuck on an island for a week it’s not just about menu options. It’s the quality of the ingredients and being creative.” For health conscious baby boomers and older travelers Huffman says, “Sauce on the side is a food group.” But Grumbach who plans trips, often very last minute, for the millennial age group says, “It’s a high maintenance generation. They want gluten free, want or don’t want diet drinks in their room, demand no bread basket at their table and might add they’re allergic to feathers.”

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My idea of wellness. It was 102 degrees F in Vegas. You don’t walk!

Making it a bit harder for travel advisors ( yes, we used to call them travel agents) plan a wellness focused vacation is the fact that not everyone has the same vision for wellness. That’s why Anne Dimon of Travel to Wellness  created a questionnaire for travel planners to use, “Some people might want to meditate and eat vegetarian foods while others define wellness as walking tours by day and fabulous meals paired with wines at night.”

Seeing friends is good for your health. Hello John Romfo of The Resort at Paws Up in Montana. That explains his fashions.
Seeing friends is good for your health. Hello John Romfo of Resort at Paws Up in Montana. That explains his fashions.
Paws Up has been doing active travel since the letter A was invented. Giddy up!
Paws Up has been doing active travel since the letter A was invented. Giddy up!

With all of the on line resources to plan (or implode) your own vacation, it’s important to note that travel advisors (AKA travel agents) are busier than ever. Matthew Upchurch, chairman of Virtuoso said, “It’s the hottest new thing that never went away.”

 

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Fashion footnote: Vegas has the best worst souvenirs!

 

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Nantucket Oasis for Summer Food and Wine

 

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Nantucket Island, thirty miles from Massachusetts’s mainland, is a summer vacation oasis of grey-shingled cottages surrounded by green lawns, blue hydrangeas and pink roses.

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Sailboats bob in the harbor and sea birds soar overhead. The leisurely pace is a simple mix of bike rides and beach days. But, the summer fashions are lively with splashes of nautical stripes, Lily Pulitzer’s eye-popping prints and the iconic pink known as Nantucket red.

It's not pink. It's Nantucket red.
It’s not pink. It’s Nantucket red.

Happily, the island’s summer menus are as lively as the landscape and the lifestyle. Pineapple salsa and jalapeno cilantro slaw brighten up the fish tacos at the White Elephant’s Brant Point Grill. Dinner al fresco on the ocean view deck at Topper’s in the elegant Wauwinet Inn features an appetizer of marinated Jonah crab with pickled cucumbers, lemon drop melon, fresh dill and edible nasturtium flowers.

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“My favorite thing about food on Nantucket is that local chefs embrace the local farmers,” says registered dietitian Liz Weiss who is a family nutrition expert and co-founder of www.mealmakeovermoms.com. “The fish are locally caught and chefs pair dishes with farm fresh produce and herbs.”

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Liz Weiss and I in her fabulous kitchen in her Nantucket summer home. FYI: the island doubles as a ping-pong table.

At Topper’s I enjoyed a pristine piece of halibut served with squash, roasted eggplant, and Nicoise olive vinaigrette.

Weiss chose raw blue fin tuna with artichokes, basil and Bartlett’s Farm tomato preserve. She said, “There are so many farms here and I think local produce really brings out the best in seafood. It’s just more fun to eat.”

So what does a seafood-loving dietitian say about New England’s on-just-about-every-menu lobster rolls? “Well there’s usually a lot of mayo in the dressing and butter on the toasted roll, but I say it’s OK to splurge on vacation,” said Weiss. “You can always go on a longer bike ride.”

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A lighter version is available on the menu at the Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant where you can skip the roll and ask for the succulent lobster salad splurge served with a green salad.

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My stay at the White Elephant Village was a retreat within a retreat with elegant modern suite, a super comfy bed, sparkling pool and even more sparkling friendly staff. You can hop on a complimentary bicycle to explore the town or (my choice) greet the day sipping  coffee with a fresh baked pastry and pretending to read the New York Times in the spacious lobby.

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Who needs the beach? Must less sand at the White Elephant swimming pool. (:

Another Nantucket nutrition tip from Weiss – vacation time can be the best time to introduce kids to seafood. “I have found that picky eaters are more apt to try new flavors with the positive peer pressure and excitement in a restaurant.”

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Yes, that’s a white elephant at the White Elephant!

 

In the Pink

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Rose wines, more popular than ever this summer, are perfectly paired with seafood and the pretty pink color of lobster.

Liz and I enjoying sunset at Topper's at the Wauwinet Inn
Liz and I enjoying sunset at Topper’s at the Wauwinet Inn

“The dry roses of France are light and crisp and compliment the richness of lobster,” said Atlanta based interior designer Liz McDermott; another vacation friend and Nantucket fan.

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The pale orangey pink of Whispering Angel rose from Provence – which seemed to fill the majority of wine glasses at sunset on the island – was also a perfect match for the Nantucket red shorts, pants and sweaters worn by so many visitors enjoying this gourmet summer getaway.

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Greek Yogurt’s Got Protein Power


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Greek style yogurts are taking over the dairy aisle…and apparently the airline aisles! Photo above is my snack on Delta Airlines flight to Syracuse, New York. You’ll learn in a minute why on earth I was flying there in July!

The rich and creamy texture of these strained Greek yogurts combined with the win-win of their high protein and low fat content are driving demand as consumers seek foods that meet taste and health expectations.

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“Greek yogurt has two times the protein as compared to regular yogurt,” says Rob Post, senior director of nutrition and regulatory affairs for Chobani.

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Here’s Rob at dinner seated next to my registered dietitian colleague and nutrition writer Bonnie Taub-Dix. Dr. Post is one of the great minds who built the MyPlate nutrition icon at the US Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. 

Ah ha! I flew to Syracuse because one of Chobani’s two processing plants ( the other one is in Idaho ) is in the tiny western New York town of New Berlin.

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I was invited by Chobani with a group of other registered dietitians and nutrition writers and food bloggers to meet, greet and eat our way to better knowledge about the nuances of making Greek yogurt. That, of course, started down on the farm.

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Look at this state of the art ( the girls love the milking merry-go-round ) Rotary Milking Parlor at Sunnyside Farms in Scipio Center, New York.  600 dairy darlings are milked per hour in a ten minute round trip per cow. No antibiotics are used, unless an animal becomes sick and is then removed from the milking crowd. So, it’s in the dairy men and women’s plan of best practices to keep the cows healthy with good food (grass, alfalfa, corn, citrus pulp, canola seeds and more), plenty of clean water and fresh air. The dairy barn was open on the sides allowing  fresh breezes from the rural hills beyond to flow through the area.

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Rotary Milking Parlor- take a spin!

We also visited the impressive processing plant where Chobani yogurt is made, flavored with fruit, packaged, and shipped.

IMG_2799There are many steps along the way and each of them included above and beyond safety and sanitation oversight by professionals especially trained in each and every position along the way. Each of us suited up in factory fashions to ensure we weren’t dragging in any dirt. Spotless processing equals safe dairy; very very important in a world where listeria monocytogenes can be hiding.  Chobani pasteurizes their milk to above regulation temperatures to ensure any lurking bacteria are killed.  Go get ’em!

Protein Power Points

Greek yogurt even beats eggs in protein power and with fewer calories. One cup of Chobani Greek yogurt contains 22 grams of protein and 130 calories. Two large eggs contain 12 grams of protein and 154 calories.

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Muscles are beautiful. Now you’ve got my attention!

What’s so important about protein? More than just a muscle builder this major nutrient is the focus of important emerging research on weight control.

Heather Leidy, professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, leads studies measuring the impact of high protein diets (100-130 grams of protein per day) on weight management. “We see more weight loss and more fat loss”, says Leidy. “Protein improves appetite control and satiety. There can be a reduction in food intake of over 400 calories per day.”

Salad dressing with Greek yogurt dressing at The New York Pizzeria in New Berlin, NY. A Chobani staff favorite!
Salad dressing with Greek yogurt dressing at The New York Pizzeria in New Berlin, NY. A Chobani staff favorite!

Protein timing is critical too. Rather than consuming a huge steak for dinner, Leidy suggests eating about 30 grams of protein per eating occasion throughout the day. Snacks should provide protein too because they’re more satisfying for a longer period of time.
The kind of protein consumed impacts overall health, too. High quality protein foods containing all of the essential amino acids for building and repairing body cells are vitally important.

“Most people consume plenty of protein but we’re not really sure they’re getting high quality protein,” says registered dietitian and protein researcher Nancy Rodriguez of the University of Connecticut-Storrs.

“Animal foods such as dairy, eggs, meats, fish contain the twenty essential amino acids needed for numerous functions in the body.”

Savory Swaps
Yogurt is enjoyed mostly as a breakfast food with fruit or as a sweet snack but executive chef Tim Reardon of Chobani wants to help change that by popularizing savory yogurt recipes.

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“You can easily substitute half of the mayo in coleslaw or chicken salad or the oil in a salad dressing with Greek yogurt,” says Reardon.

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“As a marinade it tenderizes meats and adds moisture to baked goods,” says Reardon.

Hey look! A pizza recipe on a Chobani yogurt container!
Hey look! A pizza recipe on a Chobani yogurt container!

And by substituting Greek yogurt for mayo or oil or sour cream…..

you’re not only cutting calories in recipes, you’re adding good nutrition, too. 

You're welcome!
You’re welcome!
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Fitness Vacation a Deliciously Healthy Retreat

 

IMG_2500Summer vacations often mean a time to let loose and have fun with no particular goals except to drink cold beers at the beach or pool and read the latest popular page-turner.

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But I chose an escape from the ordinary that required hiking shoes, work out clothes, and swim suits actually designed for swimming.

The Activity Pool: did you know exercise in water takes 25% more effort?
The Activity Pool: did you know exercise in water takes 25% more effort?
Craig Stuart of HYDRO-FIT led the water classes.
Craig Stuart of HYDRO-FIT led the water classes.

IMG_2629As a gift to myself in advance of a really big number arriving on my birthday in July, I spent a week at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.

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The menu is vegetarian, except for seafood choices at dinner, and there’s no alcohol served with meals. But this was not about deprivation.

Actually, wines from Baja region are available at the Ranch's new Sol Bazar. The rose is pretty good.
Actually, wines from Baja region are available at the Ranch’s new Sol Bazar. The rose is pretty good.

Dinner is a perfectly portioned four-course affair with soup, salad, entrée and dessert.

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One night the menu included spinach soup with toasted almonds and balsamic reduction, a roasted vegetable salad with walnuts, goat cheese and tomato oregano vinaigrette, Florentine lasagna with black lentil and yellow pepper sauce and lemon tiramisu with macerated berries.

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“Great flavors allow us to enjoy food more while actually eating less, “ says Executive Chef Denise Roa, who oversees the Dining Hall and La Cocina Que Canta cooking school. All of the meals feature a bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs fresh picked from the property’s organic farm. “I believe that many people have forgotten or never experienced what food can taste like in-season and at its peak of freshness,” says Roa.

Chef Virginia Willis and the happy cooking school class at Rancho La Puerta
Chef Virginia Willis and the happy cooking school class at Rancho La Puerta

The guest chef at the cooking school during my week’s stay was Atlanta based Virginia Willis, author of the Lighten Up Y’all! Cookbook.

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She led a group of eager guests through the garden to pluck cucumbers and edible flowers and then assigned us to re-create her recipes in the Mexican tiled kitchen.

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I was on the Makeover Broccoli Mac n Cheese team. The recipe called for a calorie cutting one-to-one ratio of broccoli florets to whole-wheat pasta. Willis’ lump crab and celery remoulade recipe lightens up the dressing. “It’s OK to keep some of the ingredients you crave. I like to substitute half of the mayonnaise with low fat Greek yogurt and add some mustard and horseradish so there’s plenty of flavor,” advised Willis.

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Dessert shines! Spa-ah Peach Cobbler
Dessert shines! Spa-ah Peach Cobbler

My fitness focused week at ‘the ranch’ is what I call a ‘slim-cation’ of satisfying, nutritious meals and busy days that began with an early morning mountain hike and included an entertaining mix of activities from Pilates and weight training to water aerobics and tennis lessons.

Ground hog day! Two mile minimum hikes each morning at 6:30. Already getting hot!
Ground hog day! Two mile minimum hikes each morning at 6:30. Already getting hot!
Work it!
Work it!
Tennis anyone?
Tennis anyone?

It helps to have a buddy at the Ranch. My good friend and registered dietitian colleague Janet Helm who blogs at Nutrition Unplugged was with me every step of the way as we hiked and tried new fitness finds including barre classes and pumped iron. Oh there was spa time too of course!

Fitness days and farm to table nights.
Fitness days and farm to table nights.

“Health is within everybody’s reach,” says petite and peppy 93-year-old Deborah Szekley, founder of Rancho La Puerta. “You just have to reach out.” During an inspiring evening lecture on aging, Szekley advised making a weekly schedule to plan and time for fitness and shopping for healthy foods. “I have maybe ten years left in my life and I’m excited about it. You have to value your time.”

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They say it takes at least one week to establish new habits. I made an effort to drink more water, which wasn’t difficult in the desert heat; especially since there were water sources everywhere on the property and stations with iced herbal teas.IMG_2483

Each afternoon there was a tasting of fresh fruit smoothies at the new juice bar by the activity pool.

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Did I lose weight? Maybe a little.  But I gained a renewed spirit to prioritize my health for many more birthdays ahead.

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