Friday, December 25, 2009

Smart Restaurant Strategies

Restaurants can be intimidating to people who are trying to eat healthy, and vacations don't have to sabotage your weight loss program. With a little planning and research, you can enjoy your restaurant meal with out abandoning healthy eating. Consider meal options at different restaurants and look for places with a wide range of menu items. Know menu terms and cooking basics. Look for foods that are steamed, broiled, baked or grilled, and limit fried and sautéed items or foods described as "crispy," "rich" or "au gratin." Alfredo sauce, for example adds an alarming number of calories to a dish; opt for the marinara! Don't be afraid to speak up and ask how something is prepared, and ask for an alternative method or ingredient. Many restaurants will honor requests. Restaurants typically serve huge portions, sometimes enough for two or three people. Cutting your meals in half and taking the rest home also makes good economic sense these days! Also, eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are no longer hungry. Fast eaters often are over-eaters, while slow eaters tend to eat less and are still satisfied.
Food choices away from home are important to your health and weight because many of us are eating more meals away from home. Fortunately, making healthful and delicious choices in restaurants is also easier today. Restaurants of all types are responding to customers’ desires with more options in portion sizes, preparation methods and menu items. Again, be assertive. Your voice is your best advocate. Bon Appetite!
For more info about healthy dinning, go to

Friday, December 18, 2009

Persimmon; the Japanese Orange

This brilliant orange-red glossy fruit arrives in markets just as summer is ending, and are not available after December. Don't miss out! Persimmons are well worth trying not only for their exceptional flavor but for their vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium, B-6, and lutein.
There are two types of persimmons - astringent and non-astringent. The astringent persimmon such as the Hachiya, has two personalities. When ripe, it possesses a rich, sweet, spicy flavor. Unripened fruit tastes quite bitter. To ripen the fruit, store in a paper bag at room temp. Ripened fruit will keep in the fridge for 3 days.
How to eat them? Scoop out the sweet jelly-like flesh with a spoon and eat them on-the-spot, or add to plain or vanilla yogurt. Fuyu persimmons remain firm when ripe, so they can be chopped and added to salads and salsa. One persimmon provides approx. 70 calories.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


What is broccolini? Also referred to as baby broccoli; a cross between traditional broccoli and Chinese kale and can be found in the produce section of your local grocery store. Broccolini is the trade name and was introduced to the U.S. in 1998 by Mann Packing Co. It looks like broccoli but with a longer stem and smaller flowering buds.
As with most green vegetables, broccolini is loaded with vitamin C (130% of the daily value), vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and iron. An eight stalk (3 oz.) serving provides only 35 calories and is nearly sodium free. The taste has hints of asparagus, with a sweet and peppery flavor which becomes milder when when cooked. Unlike broccoli, the stalks aren't woody or chewy, and is completely edible from flower to stem.
Sautee broccolini with sliced garlic in oil from a bottle of sun-dried tomatoes, and top it off with a few of the diced tomatoes. Or toss with a little olive oil and roast at 450 degrees F on a baking sheet for 12-15 minutes. Season with a sprinkle of lemon juice, freshly ground pepper, and parmesan cheese. Or just steam and drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette or toasted sesame oil.
Put a new twist to your traditional holiday meal this year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In A Nut Shell

Nuts and seeds are good foods. Most are rich in unsaturated fats, magnesium, copper, protein, fiber and iron. They are also high in calories. The term "energy rich" does not mean that you will feel more energetic or stronger, as some labels imply. Energy is just a term for calories. When shopping for nuts, don't let the so called health claims boost your calorie intake. Here is what we know about nuts:

Nut eaters. People who eat more nuts are less likely to die of a heart attack. That's partly because nut eaters are typically leaner, non-smokers, and more active.
Unsaturated fats. LDL (bad) cholesterol is 2-19% lower when people are fed almonds, peanuts, pecans, or walnuts than when they don't eat nuts. Most other nuts aren't well studied, but odds are that they also lower LDL. Brazil nuts, macadamias and cashews, however, do not lower LDL.
How much? Researchers gave people 1&1/2 to 3&1/2 servings of nuts a day, which did not significantly lower cholesterol. 3 &1/2 servings provide a whopping 600 calories!
Beyond fats. Nuts may lower damaging triglycerides, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and relax artery linings. So far, the evidence is only preliminary.
Salt. Salted nuts typically have 100-300mg of sodium in every 1 oz (1/4 cup) serving. Check the nutrition facts label; if it says "unsalted" or "raw," you can dodge it all.
Dry roasted, oil roasted, or raw? It doesn't matter. Roasted nuts, with or without oil, are no higher in saturated fat or calories.
Calories. Nuts are calorie dense and hard to resist. If you use them to garnish salads, rice, or cereal, you may be less likely to go overboard.
Peanut butter. In theory, peanut butter should have the same impact on cholesterol as peanuts; assuming it contains no partially hydrogenated oils. Yet, unlike nut eaters, peanut butter eaters have no lower risk of heart disease or obesity. It could be due to the other ingredients in peanut butter such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and oils not naturally found in nuts. Again, check the labels and avoid products containing added ingredients.

Will nuts keep you alert, as the T.V. commercial claims? Absolutely not. Are they a good alternative to say, red meats? Absolutely.
~ CSPI, 2009 ~

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Food Allergy Dilemas

The holidays and other food-focused celebrations can be a challenge for those with food allergies and special dietary needs. Most dishes are made from scratch by cooks who don't have to think about allergens or cross-contamination on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there is no rule book or etiquette guide to help us through these occasions. Here are a few tips that may be helpful this holiday season:
  • Prepare at least one special "safe" dessert for guests with allergies or special needs such as diabetes.
  • If you are serving foods that contain your child's allergens, make it clear to well-meaning relatives that only you will serve your child. Someone may decide to give your child gravy, not realizing that you have a gluten-free version set aside for your little one.
  • Traces of allergens on utensils have caused severe and even fatal allergic reactions. Allow your guests with special dietary needs to serve themselves first at the buffet with clean utensils before there is any chance of the dishes becoming cross contaminated. You might also allow your guest to prepare their plate in the kitchen if they prefer, and you can offer to set aside some safe second portions in labeled containers for them.
  • Ask about other guest's special dietary needs, and let your guests know exactly what you plan to serve. Save the product labels and recipe cards for your guests to view, and serve sauces and dressings on the side.
  • Don't be afraid to ask about the ingredients when attending dinners, and let the hostess know about yours' or a family member's special needs ahead of time. If need be, bring along a safe plate for your child. Especially if multiple food allergies are involved.
  • If your child has "only" a peanut or nut allergy and you're certain that he or she can consume dinner safely, desserts are a high risk food category with the majority of severe reactions coming from this food category. You can almost never have too many desserts so bring along a safe one to share.
Make the holiday about more than just food. Most children do not like to discuss their food allergies or special food needs on occasions like these. Gently let your friends and relatives know that there is no need to fuss over your child's special meal nor do they need to pity the child. Most kids just want to fit in. Focus on family traditions and activities, and enjoy the company!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Keep the Holiday Nibbling From Becoming a New Year's Resolution

The Holidays are here with all the parties, cookies, and beverages. It's enough to sabotage the regimen of even the most dedicated health nut. Which is why I won't be posting a list of goodies to avoid. It's the holidays after all, enjoy them! Just be realistic and practice moderation. Don't try to micro manage your food, starve all day before a dinner party, drink gallons of water, or limit yourself to eating the celery. The worst way to approach the buffet table is with an empty stomach. Have a light snack before leaving the house. (A glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast in skim milk works for me!) You won't be so compelled to pull a chair up to the fondue pot. Keep "portion size" in mind. SAMPLE your favorite things; just don't go back for seconds, thirds.... and keep in mind that alcohol packs a lot of calories (7 calories per gm. as opposed to other carbs that provide only 4). Don't take the cookie plate from your office party back to your desk. Unconscious nibbling is disastrous.
At the end of the day, it's all about the calories. Adjust your exercise routine to compensate for any additional calories. An extra 15 minutes is usually adequate.
When preparing party dishes, DO substitute low fat or non-fat dairy ingredients or cheeses where ever possible; your guests will never miss it, especially where alcohol is being served! DO substitute diet sodas in mixed drinks and beverages. A few drinks can provide more calories than the meal.
Have a safe and healthy holiday season!