Demand for fried churros dusted in sugar and dipped into chocolate sauce begins at breakfast and continues all day at Mexico City’s historic El Moro churreria open since 1935.
Street food carts at busy intersections in this sprawling city of nine million serve up sweet corn slathered in butter and crispy chicharron fried pork skins.
Bustling food markets such as the Mercado Merced boast rows of colorful candies to exquisitely shaped marshmallows.
But Wait!!! There’s Good Nutrition News too!
But, there’s a healthy side to Mexican food emerging in this city’s exciting culinary scene. Fish flown in daily from the Pacific coast is simply grilled and presented on top of wilted greens and sliced golden potatoes with a side of locally foraged mushrooms at chef Jair Tellez’s newly opened Amaya restaurant and wine bar.
“We serve good food and strange wine,” said Tellez, who offers an entirely Mexican wine list.
A light dessert at Amaya is a sampling of Mexico’s unique fruits including bright pink prickly pear and dark orange mamey served with a touch of fresh cheese scented with anise.
Rooftop Vineyard in the City
At Vinicola Urbana, a restaurant set in a demonstration vineyard planted on a rooftop, the Baja California grown wines are paired with traditional dishes for modern palates including squash blossom soup and yellow rice wrapped in nopales (cactus leaves).
Mexico City’s Healthy Moves
There’s a fitness trend in Mexico City. Central streets are closed to traffic and open to cyclists and pedestrians only on Sundays.
The St. Regis Mexico City hosts yoga classes with skyline views and the bartenders mix up breakfast fruit smoothies including one with orange, papaya, agave honey and oatmeal.
Quinoa salad with dried mango chips and an avocado topped pizza are popular menu items at the hotel’s J&G Grill.
“Many people who travel a lot like to take care of themselves,” said Manuel Aceves, a St. Regis Mexico City dining manager.
On the streets there’s healthy fare to find, too.
A day spent with Eat Mexico Culinary Tours led our group to a woman on a street corner shaping and cooking blue corn tortillas filled with huitlocoche (corn fungus) and to a tiny shop specializing in Pavos (turkey) Tortas (sandwiches) made with roast turkey, avocado and chipotle salsa.
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
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
Summer 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.
But I chose an escape from the ordinary that required hiking shoes, work out clothes, and swim suits actually designed for swimming.
As 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.
The menu is vegetarian, except for seafood choices at dinner, and there’s no alcohol served with meals. But this was not about deprivation.
Dinner is a perfectly portioned four-course affair with soup, salad, entrée and dessert.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
“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.”
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.
Each afternoon there was a tasting of fresh fruit smoothies at the new juice bar by the activity pool.
Did I lose weight? Maybe a little. But I gained a renewed spirit to prioritize my health for many more birthdays ahead.
Drink lemon water to detox your liver, battle depression and dissolve gallstones!
Consume coconut oil for shiny hair, clear complexion and a healthy heart!
Sip green tea to lose weight and boost your immune system!
You may have heard these so-called ‘super food’ claims.
Yes, what we eat and drink certainly can help ‘cure what ails you’ and protect against ill health. But the temptation to promise a wee bit more than science supports is rampant in marketing messages and perhaps always has been.
Food fads and fallacies are widespread. Consider this sage advice.
“No subject lends itself more readily to misuse than diet. Fakers fatten and grow rich on gullibility of the public when it comes to selling ‘pointers’ to beauty and health. It is only through education conducted by individuals who possess a thorough knowledge of nutrition that such fakers can be denounced and their pernicious advice refuted.”
– Fairfax T. Proudfit, professor of nutrition at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine and author of Nutrition and Diet Therapy, first published in 1918.
Yup, 1918. I keep this old textbook on dietetics close to my desk. It’s been revised eight times and mine is the 1942 edition.
Nutrition science may have advanced by leaps and bounds since then, but truly the basics haven’t changed that much. Eat your vegetables, choose whole grains, seek out high quality protein, and eat a wide variety of foods to get a wide variety of nutrients. Limit sugar, fat and salt and remember to drink water to stay hydrated.
Way back when in Proudfit’s day, nutrition experts were concerned about under nutrition and vitamin deficiency diseases whereas today we’re focused on over nutrition and obesity related diseases including diabetes and cardio-vascular disease responsible for three out of five deaths worldwide.
Let’s get back to the lemon water.
Every tall tale includes a kernel or two of the truth. Here’s why each of these ‘super foods’ can be healthy additions to your diet.
Lemon Water- The nutritional advantage of drinking water flavored with a little lemon juice is that it provides some vitamin C and the mineral potassium which are important for good health. Adding lemon, orange or a splash of any fruit juice can help make water taste a bit better so that you might drink a bit more to stay hydrated.
Research shows that offering water that is cooled and flavored increases fluid intake. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2756057
Proper hydration aids in digestion and supports all bodily functions including support of heart health and the brain. When you are dehydrated you can feel lethargic and even cranky. So, if drinking lemon water helps you stay hydrated that’s a good thing for the body and the brain. Other than that, I see no miraculous health advantages for adding citrus to drinking water. And actually you should make sure that the exterior of lemons and any other fresh fruit is cleaned before slicing to prevent bacterial contamination of the drinking water.
Coconut Oil- wow that’s a lot of usefulness! Hmmm….too good to be true?
Coconut oil, like any fat, is a concentrated source of calories with 120 calories per tablespoon. And coconut oil is more than 90 percent saturated fat, the kind of fat associated with elevating blood cholesterol levels. By comparison, butter is 65 percent saturated fat. So using a bit of coconut oil to cook dishes such as Thai cuisine is delicious way to enjoy vegetables, but downing coconut oil by the spoonful won’t work miracles for your health.
Green Tea- Wow! you had me at “fights against aging.”
As registered dietitian trained to advise folks on food and fitness to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, I do like to recommend drinking unsweetened hot and iced tea because it’s hydrating, provides a non-caloric beverage and provides a gentle lift without the jitters often associated with drinking too much coffee. Green tea and black tea both contain the amino acid L-theanine, which research shows can help you feel alert and calm at the same time. That’s tea-rific! http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328
Note that green and black tea come from the same plant- camellia sinensis. Matcha green tea, enjoyed in tea ceremonies in Japan, is more concentrated than other green teas so will taste, some say, a bit ‘spinachy’ with a strong vegetal flavor. So it’s an acquired taste.
Some of the health claims for green tea include information on the high concentration of antioxidants, but there are lots of foods that are rich in disease fighting antioxidants including most fruits and vegetables, nuts and other kinds of tea, too.
So, when you read about the ‘super’ effects of ‘super foods’ on your health, take a moment to digest the facts before you waste your money on empty promises.
While charcoal and gas fed flames burn brightly year round in restaurant kitchens, Memorial Day weekend signals the official start of the summer grilling season.
This year everything from wagyu beef to watermelon is hitting the grill….is that cabbage?
Joys Dubost, Phd, RD is a joy and did you know she’s a competitive ice skater?
“Grilling is one of the most popular preparation methods in restaurants,” says registered dietitian Joy Dubost of the National Restaurant Association, “ It’s partly because of its appeal to health-conscious consumers and its impact on enhancing the flavor of food items.” Hey, we love a win-win for taste and health!
All Fired Up
At newly opened King + Duke restaurant in Buckhead, the dining room features a showcase of open hearth cooking where hickory wood fires are expertly tended by chefs grilling octopus, steaks and artichokes over high heat on one grill; while slow roasting chicken, rabbit and beets over calmer embers.
See the steering wheel things? They rotate the grill up and down.
Using what looks like a steering wheel, grates can be raised or lowered over the fires to control the heat applied to the food. The menu describes the North Georgia Brook Trout as “boy scout style” which means sautéed in a cast iron pan over the fire. Carrots, kale, eggplant, scallions and the vegetables for ratatouille are roasted on the hearth. King + Duke chef and restaurateur Ford Fry says, “Our executive chef Joe Schafer even makes his own charcoal. Just about everything is cooked over the fire here. It’s an art and a science but the flavors are worth it. ”
King + Duke has really cool chairs, too.
Beverage director Lara Creasyeven uses fresh grilled pineapple to make King + Duke’s Pisco Punch.
Why Grilling’s Healthy
Grilling foods is considered a healthy cooking technique for a few reasons. Excess fats drip off of meats lowering the total fat and calorie content; the fire concentrates flavors and adds textural contrast so small portions are satisfying and the high heat caramelizes natural sugars in fruits and vegetables making them taste a bit sweeter.
Registered dietitian Katie Sullivan Morford, author of the blog Mom’s Kitchen Handbook, says there’s some concern about carcinogens in grilled meats and poultry, “The key is to avoid burning and charring. Some research has found that using marinades as well as serving meat with antioxidant-rich vegetables helps offset the damage.”
To over charr is to err when grilling.
Take these precautions and grilling can be one of the tastiest and healthiest ways to cook.
Bigger Can Be Better
This is a Porterhouse Steak. It’s a strip steak on one side of the bone and filet mignon on the other.
While ordering a petit filet may seem like the smart menu choice for weight conscious diners, chef Dave Zino of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association suggests a new twist on portion control, “Why not order a larger steak for ‘planned overs’ in mind? Restaurant steaks are high quality beef and they’re fired at temps consumer grills can’t reach so are more flavorful.”
Chef Dave Zino knows a lot about beef.
Considering price per ounce on the menu, larger cuts are often more economical. Ask the server to box up the portion you want to take home, enjoy the portion you want for dinner and the next day you can make a sliced steak salad or sandwich for lunch. Tasty tip from Dave: Enjoy leftover grilled meats cold because reheating can create an undesirable ‘warmed over flavor’ and make them less tender.
Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD is the co-author of Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! You can email her at email@example.com