Tag Archives: health

Nutritious Meets Delicious!

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Follow the Big Red Apple (symbol of nutrition, not just the Real Housewives of NYC) as I lead a quick tour of what Dietitians learned (and sometimes laughed about ) at the annual Food and Nutrition Conference #FNCE organized by our professional organization the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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Thousands of registered dietitian nutritionists from across the nation and around the world met in Boston this week to hear the latest on food, nutrition and cuisine.

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Did someone say Boston? Well then where are the Lobster Rolls?

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Here they are! I had 3…they were small.

My registered dietitian colleague Janet Helm, author of Nutrition Unplugged blog is a trend spotting master. Here she is in action on the exhibit floor of FNCE where food companies, big, small, new and classic strut their nutritious stuff to see if dietitians will bite. Sometimes we love it and tell you all about it…and sometimes have to spit it out. But thanks for trying food folks.

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Registered dietitian Janet Helm, top taste trend spotter!

Here are a few of Janet’s food photos from FNCE and a few of mine. Thank you Janet Helm.

Build a better noodle: noodles made from beans, peas and other ‘pulses’ to boost protein and add variety to the ever-lovin’ noodle category.

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Classic pastas count for good nutrition too! I like Barilla pastas with a boost of protein from beans in the mix.

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Go to Gut Health:  Sure gluten-free is a trend but nutrition advice goes way beyond gluten to help folks improve their gut health. Pro-biotics is a hot topic because these foods (vegetables, fermented foods such as yogurt and even sauerkraut, and other foods and drinks packed with friendly bacteria are emerging as a lively category).

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Seeing Seeds Everywhere: Who doesn’t love sunflower seeds? sesame seeds? Well, guess what they’re good for our health because they are little power packs of good nutrition. How do you think a plant grows from a seed? I like to add a handful of toasted sunflower seeds to salads for taste, crunch ( instead of friend croutons) and great nutrition.

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Sprouted grains ( from the seeds of the plant) are trending in baked goods too. Small bakeries may have started it but now even old favorites such as Pepperidge Farm are in on the sprouted grains trend. I like the nutty taste.

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YO! There’s a LOT of Yogurt here! 

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Chobani cheers for savory recipes using their Greek Yogurt including whole milk yogurts.

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Grab a spoon because yogurt is a pro-biotic food, good for your gut, made of delicious  dairy with so many nutrients including protein, calcium and potassium. Guess what? Even folks with lactose intolerance can often enjoy cultured dairy products, such as yogurt.

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Hey Siggi, all the way from Iceland, going BIG for Icelandic “SYR” their deliciously rich and creamy yogurt. That’s #therealSiggi in the photo.

And Dannon, which I remember to be the original yogurt introduced to American palates, is still going strong. I love their Light & Fit yogurts. They threw a yoga party for dietitians. Oh wow, aerial yoga? Ever try this?

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Serious Sides for Nutrition Truths Today:

-Remember that nutrition is a hot topic so it attracts a lot of click bait on the internet, which means NOT all of the information is going to be accurate!

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-Trust a registered dietitian nutritionist RDN when they are quoted in the media. We are trained academically and professionally to translate the latest research findings into easy to understand food shopping, cooking and eating out advice.

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Rachel Berman of Verywell.com, Janet Helm and I…presented a session called “Consulting Dr. Google” – how to navigate the choppy waters of nutrition advice on the web today.
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Love sushi? Fish, all kinds, are a lean protein. Some fish, salmon and tuna are higher in healthy Omega-3 fats.

-The 2015 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans are 500 pages long, recommending we cut back on sugar, salt and saturated fats and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins…but can be translated (by me) into this little phrase:

“Eat a little bit of naughty, and a lot of Nice.” – Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN LD

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For more information on Food, Nutrition and Healthy Cuisine have fun visiting  the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for all kinds of great ideas for good nutrition.

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See you next year #FNCE for the 100th Anniversary of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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Thank you RDN pals, Jenna Braddock, Holly Grainger and so many more….

 

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Marvelous Mexico City Cuisine

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The vibrant art, historic monuments and architectural treasures of Mexico City continue to lure visitors in search of inspiring cultural experiences.

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Sampling the country’s culinary treasures is a portal to the past as well.

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Mexico’s cuisine is influenced by centuries of food customs from the indigenous Mayan to Spanish conquerors.

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Today chefs leading the lively food scene in Mexico City add contemporary flair to taste traditions.

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Recently opened Fonda Mayora is set in a park filled residential neighborhood of Mexico City.

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Chef Gerardo Vazquez Lugo and his team of young chefs serve smoked oysters, roast pork stuffed with chorizo and pineapple ……

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…and grilled whole fish presented with black beans, tender blue corn tortillas and a fresh selection of green and red salsas.

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For the adventurous, there’s a sauce spiced with tiny ants. It’s the one on the left in the middle. The little dots are ants. Dig in!

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“Mexican food is a way to get right to the spirit of the country,” said Paco de Santiago with Eat Mexico culinary tours. It’s a taste discovery that defies the stereotypes. “There’s a myth that Mexican food means hard taco shells, sour cream and all spicy food,” said Eat Mexico tour guide Anais Martinez.


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One of the most sought after reservations in Mexico City is at intimate Pujol where internationally renowned chef Enrique Olvera celebrates Mexican ingredients using ancient and modern techniques.

Courses included octopus with ink tostado, smoked baby corn with coffee and chile mayonnaise, a lamb taco with avocado leaf adobo and avocado puree and a suckling pig taco with smoked tortilla, chickpea puree, coriander and red jalapeno. One of the showstopper dishes was a circle of richly bright ‘new’ mole sauce surrounded by a dark and intense ‘mother’ mole sauce made 990 days ago.

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“Mole sauces are made with over forty ingredients including tomatoes, onions, nuts and seeds and not always chocolate as many people think,” said Santiago.
Mexico City Markets

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One of the best ways to leap into local cuisine is to visit a city food market such as the Mercado San Juan where Mexican avocados and limes are piled high, moles come in an assortment of flavors, tortillas are hand made and just caught Pacific coast seafood glistens on mountains of crushed ice.

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Chefs from the St. Regis Mexico City hotel lead guests on market tours including a lesson in choosing the freshest fish and a sampling of Mexican cheeses.

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“This one is like a Spanish manchego,” said executive chef Sylvain Desbois, who leads the hotel’s elegant La Table Krug eleven course Krug Champagne tasting menu.

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The dessert courses (yes there’s more than one dessert) include a salute to Mexican chocolate as warm chocolate sauce is poured over and into a sponge cake shaped like a cacao pod.

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Need more chocolate?

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The Mucho Chocolate Museum of Mexico City is a chocolate lovers dream come true with rooms filled with delicious displays about chocolate history, chocolate agriculture and chocolate cuisine over the centuries.

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Don’t miss spending a few moments of bliss in the little room with walls covered in fragrant deep dark chocolate.

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I think I’ve found my new home in Mexico City! Truly a magical culinary destination.

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Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Elevates Taste and Health

Aspen Heights of Food & Wine

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They come for the food, the wine and the wisdom.

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“A young chef adds and adds and adds to the plate. As you get older, you start to take away,” said French born chef Jacques Pepin, author of over twenty cookbooks and celebrated host of over 300 television cooking shows. The audience of loyal foodie fans for Pepin’s cooking class with daughter Claudine filled a ballroom at the St. Regis Hotel, just one of many culinary seminars featured at the 34th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Assisting her father in demonstrating how to make vinaigrette salad dressings Claudine Pepin advised, “Use a really good olive oil. You know the one you’re saving because it’s too good to use everyday? Well, throw that away because it’s rancid by now and go buy a new one.”

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Over five thousand food lovers and wine aficionados attend the festival to meet top named chefs and wine makers from around the world. Spirits have taken a more central role with the rise of interest in craft cocktails.

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Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem created food pairings including honey glazed salmon and pork ribs with ginger and peach to match sips of Glenmorangie single malt scotch and a citrus infused whiskey cocktail.

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“Summer time is barbecue time and the spiciness goes with the sweetness and smokiness of the scotch whiskey,” said Samuelsson.

 

Fresh New Heights of Cuisine

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Aspen’s chefs know to put on a show when their rocky mountain town fills up with world-class foodies. “They literally eat it up,” said Matt Zubrod, executive chef of The Little Nell Hotel. “It’s a cool crowd who ask really good questions about food such as ‘where did you get the meat for this tartar?’”

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Executive Chef Matt Zubrod, Element 47 restaurant, The Little Nell Hotel, Aspen

Zubrod’s menu at the Relais and Chateau hotel’s Element 47 restaurant features plates as pretty as the Aspen scenery garnished with edible flowers and fresh herbs such as pineapple sage and chocolate mint and grown steps away from the tables. And just as the mountain air requires adding a layer of clothing with changing temperatures, Zubrod layers flavors in dishes, “Its evolved where I like to do a layer of pureed, then cooked and then raw of the same ingredient such as peas, corn or artichoke.”

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Halibut cheeks are served on a layer of pureed ratatouille with fresh corn and fava beans.

 

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Nilou Motamed, Editor in Chief, Food & Wine Magazine enjoys the tasting tents and saying hello!

Health and wellness was in focus on a panel led by Food & Wine Magazine’s editor in chief Nilou Motamed who noted, “I think in the last ten years the conversation have moved from a message of moderation to where our food is coming from.”

 

 

 

Octogenarian Jacques Pepin replied,

“It can go to far if we wonder where every carrot is from. I’m not a doctor, I’m a chef, but my best advice is finish your food.”

Thank you Jacques, that’s the best view in Aspen.

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Frozen Food Aisle is Hot!

 

For those who are concerned frozen foods aren’t as nutritious as fresh; I say “Let it go!”

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That’s how we kicked off the segment on Atlanta & Company! Watch the segment here.

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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.

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Nature’s Pause Button- Easy Frozen Flower Decoration

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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The Lady of the Refrigerator Thanks You!

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!

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Food & Fitness Escape to Mexico

Under the Tecate Sun
Although my first choice for a vacation usually would not include all the flaxseed you can eat and dinner without a wine list, my week at a health spa in Mexico was an escape to a place dedicated to the joys of fitness and relaxation. 

My pretty little casita. I was told Robert Redford stayed here! 

Before

After…just kidding. This is me in the middle of a morning hike up the mountain.

Founded in 1940, Rancho la Puerta Fitness Resort and Spa is south of San Diego in the border town Tecate.


Set on 32 acres of lush gardens with hummingbirds flitting among the flowers, 
Literally on the wagon….there is no alcohol served with meals at the Ranch…but stay tuned…
the resort attracts visitors interested in improving their well-being through sunrise hikes on mountain trails 
Ssssstrrrreeeeccchhhh…after the uphill, then downhill hike then race everyone to breakfast.
and days filled with yoga teachings, Pilates lessons, fitness classes, spa treatments and — welcome in the desert heat — swimming pools and water exercise workouts. 

The quiet villa pool where I spend solitary afternoons listening to birds.
From body sculpting with weights to actual sculpting with clay, there are classes to stretch body and mind.

Sculptor in residence, Jose Ignacio Castaneda, helps turn clay into creations. 

I was just walking by one afternoon and Jose invited me to join the class. Next thing I knew
…..I was a sculptor too.

The beauty and bold flavors of Rancho La Puerta Spa Cuisine

Salads are a thing of beauty

Bold flavors of Mexico highlight the menu
All of the physical activity certainly helps work up an appetite, so it’s rare to see anyone late for a meal in the dining hall.

Just in case you’re so hungry you lose your way…..
The four-course dinner the first night started with leek potato spinach soup with caramelized carrots and an heirloom tomato salad with smoked cheese, baby greens and basil dressing. 

Fresh shrimp from the Baja California on the menu at Rancho La Puerta
It’s a principally vegetarian menu here, with many dinner meals featuring fish dishes such as citrus garlic tilapia with red mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a roasted red bell pepper sauce. There’s no sugar in sight. Beverages and desserts including a dark chocolate tiramisu with mango sauce are sweetened with agave nectar.

The beautifully presented plates are prepared with produce plucked daily from the ranch’s organic farm where there’s a cooking school called La Cocina que Canta (the kitchen that sings). 

Virginia Willis, far right, as guest chef at the cooking school. My recipe pal is Lorren Negrin of  Seattle.
Atlanta cookbook author Virginia Willis was the guest chef during my vacation week. Her hands-on cooking classes featured a spa-style Southern menu. “Saying that Southern food is only fried chicken is like saying Chinese food is only egg rolls,” says Willis, author of “Bon Appetit, Y’All!”
Lorren (a registered dietitian like me) and I were asked to create a dish from seasonal vegetables picked just moments before.
The pink things are lightly sautéed radishes! 
Cook healthy, eat healthy
Laura White and Becky Jackson, guests from Atlanta, learned Willis’ recipe for bread-and-butter pickles using the organic garden’s cucumbers. Jackson said, “I’m making these at home. Most people think making pickles is hard, but in 20 minutes, we’re done!”
Don’t worry, you get dessert too. Virginia Willis’ recipe for strawberry shortcake was light and luscious!
Her secret- no sugar in the whipped cream and canola oil with butter in the pastry. 
Also on the menu: asparagus salad, cornbread-crusted halibut, and stone-ground grits with fresh greens.
“I didn’t know about stone-ground grits before,” said Lorren Negrin, a registered dietitian from Seattle. “Now I can tell my patients who are originally from the South they should try these, because they’re healthier than refined grits and they taste better.”
Guests get to keep a beautiful embroidered apron.
Deborah Szekely, 91, who founded Rancho la Puerta and still presents inspirational lectures to guests, says, “Your body makes new cells all the time, so every day you wake up a little younger. Take care of your body so it can take care of you.”

Alex’s tree, a focal point at Rancho La Puerta seen with a full moon still hanging above the mountain at 6am. 
I gave my guy a beret. I couldn’t figure out how to make the hair.

 Lessons learned at the Ranch



> Try to limit meat. Plant foods are the stars of the meal here with small but satisfying servings of fish or shrimp. The typical American plate is dominated by large servings of meat.

> Try something new. Gina Christman, of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Magazine tried acidopholus milk (good for digestion) at Ranch La Puerta, “I’ve taken this habit home. It tastes like buttermilk.”
  I tried flaxseeds sprinkled on cereal (good source of healthy omega 3 fats) because I heard it’s good for shiny hair and healthy skin! 

Gina Christman and I successfully reach Alex’s Tree on a morning hike. Yes, it’s already really hot!

> Try less sugar (and alcohol). A vacation away from favorite indulgences is an adventure, too. I drank water and hibiscus tea instead of wine this week. —- think of the calorie savings!

OK, we did find a wine lounge with Baja wines!

The wine lounge in a cute little casita is a new addition at The Ranch.

Guests can taste Baja whites, reds and roses in the afternoon before dinner, or after dinner.
My definition of health and happiness! 

> Try mindfulness. Appreciate the colors, textures and tastes of each component in a meal. It slows you down a bit and gives your body and mind time to appreciate a meal.

Tasting the variety of produce at the Ranch’s organic farm will help you appreciate dinner even more!

> Try keeping track. Guests wear pedometers at the Ranch to measure how many steps taken each day. Aim for 10,000 steps a day as a fitness goal. Wow, that morning hike got me half way there even before breakfast!

Don’t worry there’s plenty to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and look how much I piled on my tray for lunch. 

Yes, that’s a cookie with a chocolate kiss in the middle. Friday treat of the week.

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Eat the Whole Thing!

Whole Lot of Flavor: My recipe for Georgia Pecan Confetti Quinoa
with yellow squash, zucchini and carrots!
Recipe Below

Whether it’s snacking on a granola bar made with whole grain oats, ordering a whole-wheat hamburger bun or choosing the sushi made with brown rice, it’s getting easier to enjoy healthy whole grains in your favorite foods. Chefs and home cooks are giving side dishes a whole grain makeover too as mashed potatoes and egg noodles get pushed aside in favor of couscous, quinoa and whole-wheat pastas.
See the Grains section of My Plate? Make half your grains whole grains for good health.
That’s a good thing since U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that  all Americans eat at least half their grains as whole grains–that’s at least 3 to 5 sixteen-gram servings a day for most of us. Nutrition advice to eat the “whole” thing is based on evidence that diets that are rich in whole grains and low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol can help promote proper digestion and reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.  Whole grains may also play a role in insulin management and weight control when eaten as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. So, whole grains have a whole lot to offer!
Had Whole Grains Today?

So, have you had your whole grain breakfast granola cereal today? How about a slice of pizza on a whole-wheat crust? If your answer is “yes”, then you’re doing pretty well – since according to The Whole Grains Council most folks consume only one serving of whole grain per day and over 40 % of Americans never eat whole grains at all!

But, that may be changing as whole grain options move to center stage for delicious meals and satisfying snacks. For example, all of Sunbelt Bakery’s tasty granola and fruit & grain bars have at least 4 grams of whole grains. Some have as many as 9 grams.    

Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bar with whole grain oats
from Sunbelt Bakery with a glass of fat free milk.

 

Also, all Sunbelt Bakery products are made without any preservatives or high fructose corn syrup. Their fun flavor varieties include chocolate chip and banana, and their Family Pack bars are just the right size for portion control. And because they are delivered to communities each week, Sunbelt Bakery’s snacks and cereals have a bakery-fresh taste. It’s great to feel good about this win-win for taste and nutrition!

What’s a Whole Grain?

Whole grains, or foods made from them, contain all of the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed.  A whole grain is made up of three layers–the bran, the germ and the endosperm. If the grain has been cracked, crushed, rolled or milled into flour and the proportions of the three layers remain the same, then it contains the same balance of nutrients found in the original grain seed.

Add a sprinkling of crunchy whole grains for fitness, fiber and fun.
Greek yogurt “parfait” with berries and Sunbelt Bakery granola cereal
 What Counts as Whole Grain?

Some examples of whole-grain ingredients include buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, rolled oats, brown or wild rice, whole-grain barley, whole rye, and whole wheat. That’s a whole LOT of choices. And remember you can mix things up. Try half white rice and half brown rice or other rice and grain blends. 

All Sunbelt Bakery bars, for instance, are made with whole grain oats or whole grain wheat.  One my favorites is Sunbelt Bakery’s Golden Almond Chewy Granola Bar. They’re only 130 calories and contain 6 grams of whole grains per bar.

Disclosure for this post: I am thrilled to serve as the official Registered Dietitian for Sunbelt Bakery. Though I am compensated, all views and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own, and are based on my knowledge and experience as a Registered Dietitian. 


RECIPE: 
Georgia Pecan Confetti Quinoa

Quinoa is a delicious gluten-free grain that cooks up light and fluffy like rice but contains more protein. This super side dish recipe featuring confetti colored sprinklings of orange, green and yellow veggies is flavored with garlic and rosemary. Crunchy Georgia pecans add even more great taste and nutrition because pecans are a super source of heart healthy fats and antioxidants. 

By Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD co-author The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!

Yield: 6 half-cup servings 

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ cup diced carrots

½ cup diced zucchini squash

½ cup diced yellow squash

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups cooked quinoa (prepared to package directions)

¼ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves

¼ cup toasted pecan halves or pieces (reserve 2 Tablespoons for garnish) 

Preparation:

Heat oil in large skillet and add carrots, zucchini, yellow squash and garlic. Cook until crisp tender. Fold in the cooked quinoa, rosemary and pecans. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Present quinoa on a large platter and garnish with additional toasted pecans.




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Culinary Cocktails with Healthy Punch

“Hey who took my basil?” a chef might complain and the answer could be the bartender. Restaurants are raising the bar on the culinary offerings on cocktails menus with a ‘farm to table’ philosophy filling glassware, too.

The Hummingbird Cocktail at The Old Edwards Inn: vodka, broccoli, pea shoots and a dash of local honey.

Mixologist Thomas Keenan created 5 wellness cocktails for Old Edwards Inn
“The demand for fresh, seasonal food from the kitchen carries over to the bar,” notes

Nancy Kruse, Atlanta based menu trends analyst and contributor to Nation’s Restaurant News.  At Ammazza fresh basil is just as likely to end up in a crafted cocktail as on their Napoletana-style wood fired pizzas.  At Holeman & Finch Public House,mixologists are masters at blending bits of citrus and a hint of honey in cocktails with intriguing names such as “She” made with mescal, dry curacao liqueur, grapefruit, lime and tonic.

The cocktail menu at The Optimist raids the kitchen too with potent potables such as the gin based “Mother of Pearl” spiced with celery salt, black pepper, fennel frond and celery leaf.

The high art of high balls made with produce and herbs is perhaps best displayed at chef Grant Achatz’s TheAviary in Chicago where bartenders give cocktails four-star restaurant attention as they whisk, whir, stir, foam and shake spirits in what they call “a state-of-the-art drink kitchen.”  There’s even an ice chef on staff to create just the right cube, ball, shard or snow to compliment the cocktail. 

Drink Your Vegetables

A collection of culinary cocktails is on the menu with spa treatments at The Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina. So instead of herbal tea or lemon infused spring water, spa goers can sip refreshing blends of beet juice, broccoli, cucumber, herbs and edible flowers with a little kick from vodka, tequila, rum, brandy or moonshine. Because the drinks are made with vitamin and antioxidant rich fresh fruit and vegetables they could be considered a health and beauty treatment and each drink calls for only an ounce or ounce and half of spirits, “We are trying to focus on flavor and nutrition with less alcohol,” says executive chef Johannes Klapdohr.

Farm to Bar Table
To Your Health

Since these hand-crafted and often pretty pricy cocktails are meant to be sipped and savored in a sophisticated setting registered dietitians like the trend because it encourages moderation in alcohol consumption. Dietitian Rachel Begun, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says they’re drinks with benefits, “Cocktails made from fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs do deliver nutrients and are better options than drinks made from processed mixers both from a taste and nutrition perspective.” 
Drink Your Beets
There’s even a research study from the U.S.D.A’s Agricultural Research Service Department that shows treating strawberries and blackberries with alcohol boosts the fruit’s antioxidant activity.
Registered dietitian Cynthia Chandler is serving a holiday herb cocktail at her Thanksgiving Day feast made with tequila, lime juice and fresh sage, “Sage is a member of the mint family and is one of the oldest herbs used for both culinary and medicinal purposes and sage has been used to help digest heavy meals.” So here’s a toast to your health to help kick off the holiday season.  

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Balancing Act of Great Food and Good Nutrition

Nobody’s perfect, and that’s especially true when it comes to eating a healthy well balanced diet. “All these years and we still know that balance, variety and moderation are the keys to good nutrition and that includes enjoying occasional splurges,” says dietitian Jill Melton, editor of Relish Magazine. Melton and more than eight thousand nutrition expert colleagues meeting at The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference in Philadelphia gathered to learn the latest research and sample the best new healthy food products.

How to find a happy balance between healthy living and enjoying great foods was the focus of a series of lively panel discussions held in the spacious and welcoming Nestlé́ exhibit booth designed to look and feel like a home.  Dietitians gathered around an oversized dining room table and spilled into the aisles to listen to leading nutrition experts and expert observers talk about the challenges of promoting nutrition through the lifecycle from infancy to the elderly.  Invited by Nestlé́, I served as the moderator for four fast-paced 20-minute chats and – woah – did I learn a lot!  First off – Nestlé́ is the world’s largest food company with a commitment to nutrition, health and wellness. 

Good Food, Good Life

Nestlé́’s headquarters is in Switzerland and is most associated worldwide with their wonderful chocolate. But did you know that Nestlé́ USA develops and distributes so many other popular leading brands including Lean Cuisine, Stouffers, Buitoni, Libby’s Pumpkin, Juicy Juice and Carnation Breakfast Essentials? Nestlé́ Waters hydrates and quenches the thirst of millions with such iconic brands as Perrier, Acqua Panna and S. Pellegrino, as well as Nestlé́ Pure Life purified bottled waters in the U.S. 

Nutrition Numero Uno

I learned more about the broad reach and respect for the Nestlé́ Nutrition Institute (NNI), too. NNI shares state-of-the-art science-based information and education with nutrition and health experts all over the world. And while most of us are familiar with their consumer brands – including childhood faves Ovaltine and Nesquik – Nestlé́ Health Science works with nutrition professionals to offer products for people with special health needs such as Boost, the nutritional supplement beverage for seniors who need a boost of protein, vitamins and minerals. 

Nestlé́ Professional, serving healthcare institutions, restaurants and schools, offers unique services, balanced products and valuable resources for the food pros specializing in away from home eating experiences.

Start Healthy – Stay Healthy

Now that you’ve glimpsed the scope of the company’s core mission to help people start healthy and stay healthy throughout life – here are some highlights from the hot topics of Nestlé́’s nutrition panels held during the 2012 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition held in Philadelphia.

Healthy Hydration

Officially titled “Nourishing Healthy Living: Nutrition Throughout the lifecycle, including healthy aging, super foods and balanced eating,” this panel discussion got right to the heart of the matter – how nutrition can make a difference in the support of good health throughout the lifespan – from infancy to the elderly to support wellness and when we’re not that well to help nurture us back to health.  

Each of the dietitians on the panel are experts in working with the elderly and in medical care settings so have been on the front lines of seeing health declines in patients that could have been prevented. One of the simplest yet most important observations is that many elderly patients are dehydrated.

“Some elderly people don’t know they’re thirsty and can end up in the emergency room by not being hydrated, which affects brain function,” says Carol Siegel, MS, RD, Head of Medical Affairs, Nestlé́ Healthcare Nutrition. Another challenge – the elderly are more at risk of dehydration because their mobility problems may discourage them from drinking water (they might not be able to run to the restroom!) and due to physiological changes.  

“The body becomes dryer as you get older,” says Val Wendel, MS, RD, LDN, Healthcare Channel Sales Manager, Nestlé́ Professional. Adding more nutrition to hydration – as with Boost beverages and Trio soups – can offer a solution. Wendel says, “Fortified soups and beverages provide an excellent source of nutrients and hydration.” 

Easy To Swallow Solutions

Simply sipping soup and enjoying a cool glass of water is a big challenge for folks with swallowing problems that may be caused by stroke or as a side effect of radiation. “Swallowing difficulties can increase the risk for malnutrition,” says Maureen Huhmann, DCN, RD, CSO Manager, Clinical Sciences, Nestlé́ Nutrition.

Huhmann, a specialist in oncology nutrition, described how the odorless starch-based thickener called Resource Thicken Up Clear is used to thicken liquids to help patients with dysphagia (swallowing problems).

Drink Up Before School Kids!

Kids are vulnerable to dehydration too. In fact, “64% of kids go to school dehydrated,” says Carol Savage, MS, RD, Manager, Beverages Division, Nutrition, Health & Wellness, Nestlé́ USA. So when you send the kids off to school, whether on the school bus or when helping them put on the seat belt in the car, hand them a bottle of water or a container of Juicy Juice. By the way, milk hydrates, too – even chocolate milk.

Think About Your Drink

The take home from this panel of nutrition experts: dietitians care about keeping folks healthy and hydrated and a lot of the solutions are pretty simple – and tasty! You just have to know the power of proper hydration to think about your drink.

Nestlé́ products like Nestlé́ Pure Life help address a hydration deficit occurring in the elderly and in kids,” says Chavanne Hanson, MPH, RD, LD, Nestlé́ USA Wellness Champion.

Mindful Eating

The second panel was packed with nutrition experts, including Dr. Barbara Rolls, Penn State University Nutritional Sciences Guthrie Chair, Dr. Wahida Karmally, dietitian and Director of Nutrition, Columbia University and Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Director of Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Washington. Diving into the discussion about nutrition, cognition and mindful eating, Dr. Karmally, whose research focuses on pediatric nutrition, shared this important fact,

“Eating habits are established in the first 6 years of child’s life.”

And while most everyone agrees that nutrition is key to proper growth of body and mind, Dr. Karmally says the reality reveals big improvements are needed. “One in eight kids miss breakfast!”

In a hurry? I remember my mom giving me Carnation Instant Breakfast as I ran to catch the school bus. My favorite flavor is strawberry. I was always late because I couldn’t decide what to wear.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Carnation Breakfast Essentials offers a great breakfast substitute,” says Wendy Johnson-Askew, PhD, RD, MPH, Director, Public Policy, Nestlé́ Nutrition.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner – what family meals look like today is the research focus of Dr. Drewnowski, who says, “The family meal is evolving.”  That means the balancing act of sitting around the kitchen table versus running off to sports practices and all of the other dinner time distractions is shaping the family meal today. 

The good news is that Dr. Rolls, author of “The Ultimate VolumetricsDiet”, wants parents to know that the balancing act of good nutrition can include occasional splurges. “You can eat anything in moderation,” She says.  And snacking is AOK in her book, too. “Find your healthy snacking pattern.”

Foods for the Future

What’s really a lot of fun is when discussions about nutrition burst into enthusiasm about great tasting, healthy foods. Leading the surge in discussing Foods for the Future, Lucien Vendôme, Director of Culinary Operations for Nestlé́ Prepared Foods says “We must all be passionate about nutrition.”  Vendôme, who is the creative genius behind the recipe development for Lean Cuisine, Buitoni and Stouffer’s Frozen foods, shared that frozen foods offer a tasty, nutritious and convenient solution for busy folks and families. 

Registered dietitian Jill Melton, blogger and editor of Relish Magazine, notes, “We are a microwave generation.” So it’s good news when food companies such as Nestlé́ stock the grocer’s freezer with delicious and nutritious microwavable options.

Melton, who was one of the founding editors of Cooking Light Magazine, observed that the word ‘light’ used to have a stigma; folks just assumed light foods wouldn’t be as good. But today that’s changed, and light eating is appealing and sought after.

Have Some Fun

Teaching the next generation to balance lighter choices with fun ‘splurge foods’ is an important goal for foods for the future.  And the lessons begin very early.

“The hardest transition for babies is from baby food to table food. Eating patterns begin to form at 18 months, and are set at two years of age,” notes Wendy Johnson-Askew, PhD, RD, MPH, Director, Public Policy, Nestlé́ Nutrition. Johnson-Askew also noted that one-third of kids’ calories come from snacks, so those snack choices should count towards good nutrition.

Balanced Eating

In the final panel, we get closer to ‘wear the rubber meets the road’ so to speak and that of course is the power of portion control, taste, enjoyment and the pleasures of the table.

While one of the USDA’s current nutrition messages to combat obesity is “Enjoy your food, but eat less,” Dr. Barbara Rolls, professor of nutrition at Penn State University, argues that the message should be to eat more of certain foods to fill up the plate. “People tend to eat a consistent amount of food. If you tell them to just eat less they don’t like it because they don’t want a plate that’s half empty.” Dr. Rolls’ research shows that eating more foods – which are higher in water content such as fruits, vegetables and soups – adds volume to the plate and satiety to support weight management.  

Easy Veggies

Making it easier to get more vegetables into meals, frozen vegetables and frozen entrees that include veggies offer simple solutions for complicated modern days.

“I always recommend mixing prepared foods with fresh foods,” says Katherine Brooking, RD, blogger, author, media personality and founder of Appetite for Health.  Blogger Colleen Padilla, known as Classy Mommy, says “Moms are always looking for more convenience.”

And with taste and style in mind Kristen Colapinto, blogger at Social Vixen, suggests, “One trick I use is taking prepared food out of their packages and placing on a plate to make it seem more presentable.”  I love this idea! Especially because I have a passion for pretty plates and even collect them at yard sales. Treat yourself and set a pretty table even when you’re smart to save time by choosing delicious frozen entrees.

Write it if you bite it!

Helping people keep track of what they’re eating and how much was discussed, and Katherine Brooking emphasized the power of the pen and recommends her nutrition minded clients keep a daily food journal. After a week they get a snap shot of where those extra calories may be coming from.  I say “if you bite it, write it.”

Dietitian Chavanne Hanson, MPH, RD, LD, Nestlé́ USA Wellness Champion, sums it up very nicely, “Pleasures, balance and understanding are core pillars of what Nestlé́ wants to convey to the marketplace.”

So, the delicious lesson learned  (and echoed throughout the four nutrition expert panels for Nestlé́) is to find a happy balance in your food life – seeking healthier options for every day and enjoying occasional splurges. Oh, and don’t forget to drink some water!

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